20 Sumo Wrestlers You Should Know

20 Sumo Wrestlers You Should Know

To many people, sumo wrestlers are nothing more than gigantic humans wearing diapers. In reality, sumo wrestling is a highly respected sport that features some incredibly talented athletes. It’s a full-contact sport that requires a high level of training and intense discipline. 

Sumo wrestling originated in Japan and continues to play a major role in Japanese culture. It’s Japan’s national sport and is currently the only country that has professional sumo wrestlers. Sumo wrestlers live a strict, highly-regimented lifestyle that’s dictated by heavy traditions. 

The sport is governed by the International Sumo Federation for amateurs and the Japan Sumo Association for professionals. Each year, there are six Grand Sumo tournaments (honbasho) and six divisions – makuuchi, jūryō, makushita, sandanme, jonidan, and jonokuchi. 

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Who Are the Greatest Sumo Wrestlers of All-Time?

20 Sumo Wrestlers You Should Know
J. Henning Bucholz / Shutterstock

Sumo wrestling originated in Japan and dates back to prehistoric times, evidenced by rituals depicted in wall paintings. The sport was first mentioned in a Kojiki manuscript in the year 712. Back then, sumo wrestlers faced off in a match to determine possession of Japanese islands. 

By 1884, sumo wrestling saw an increase in popularity thanks to a tournament organized by Emperor Meiji. The sport has continued to grow and evolve over the past 140 years, but many of the traditions, rules, and customs remain – including the mawashi (belt) that they wear.

Over the years, several sumo wrestlers have earned global recognition for their dedication to the sport. They’re known as some of the greatest sumo wrestlers to ever walk this planet and should be celebrated as such. With that said, let’s meet some of these talented sumo wrestlers!

**For the sake of this articles, we are only including sumo wrestlers that achieved the yokozuna rank (highest rank), which means Raiden Tameemon is not included**

20. Tamanishiki San’emon

Tamanishiki San’emon was a professional sumo wrestler from Kōchi, Japan. He made his debut in 1919 and was named the sport’s 32nd yokozuna in 1932 up until his sudden death in 1938. He won nine top division championships and might’ve achieved more if not for his death.

He finished his career with a Makuuchi record of 308-92-17 as a member of the Nishonoseki stable. He eventually became the stable’s head coach while he was still active in the ring, which is a testament to how important he was to the sumo wrestling community at the time. 

19. Harumafuji Kōhei

Harumafuji Kōhei was a professional sumo wrestler from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolian People’s Republic. He made his debut in 2001 and was named the sport’s 70th yokozuna in 2012 up until his retirement in 2012. He won nine top division championships as a non-Japanese wrestler. 

Kōhei finished his Makuuchi career with a record of 712-373-85 as a member of the Ajigawa stable (now known as the Isegahama stable). Before being named a yokozuna, he earned a Gold Star (Kinboshi) when he defeated Asashōryū Akinori, the sport’s 68th yokozuna. 

18. Kitanofuji Katsuaki

Kitanofuji Katsuaki was a professional sumo wrestler from Hokkaidō, Japan. He made his debut in 1957 and was named the sport’s 52nd yokozuna in 1970 up until his retirement in 1974. He’s one of just 18 pro sumo wrestlers with at least 10 career top division championships. 

Katsuaki finished his Makuuchi career with a record of 592-294-62 as a member of the Dewanoumi and Kokonoe stables. After retiring in 1974, he served as the head coach of the Kokonoe stable from 1977-1992 and is currently a commentator in the sumo community. 

17. Wakanohana Kanji I

Wakanohana Kanji I was a professional sumo wrestler from Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, Japan. He made his debut in 1946 and was named the sport’s 45th yokozuna in 1958 up until his retirement in 1962. He finished his illustrious career with 10 top division championships. 

Also known as the ‘Devil of the Dohyō,’ Wakanohana had a career record of 593-253-70 as a member of the Nishonoseki and Hanakago stables. He earned a total of six Gold Stars in his career, defeating the likes of Haguroyama twice, Chiyonoyama twice, and Azumafuji twice. 

16. Tochinishiki Kiyotaka

Tochinishiki Kiyotaka was a professional sumo wrestler from Tokyo, Japan. He made his debut in 1939 and was the sport’s 44th yokozuna in 1954 – four years before Wakanohana – up until his retirement in 1960. Like Wakanohana, Tochinishiki had 10 top division championships.

Tochinishiki finished his Makuuchi career with a record of 513-203-44 as a member of the Kasugano stable. He earned one Gold Star for his defeat of Azumafuji Kin’ichi. Tochinishiki served as head coach of the Kasugano stable, as well as head of the Japan Sumo Association. 

15. Tsunenohana Kan’ichi

Tsunenohana Kan’ichi was a professional sumo wrestler from Okayama, Japan. He made his debut in 1910 and was named the sport’s 31st yokozuna in 1924 up until his retirement in 1930. He finished his career with 10 top division championships, including three consecutive in 1927.

Kan’ichi finished his Makuuchi career with a 221-58-66 record as a member of the Dewanoumi stable. His retirement came as a surprise, especially since he was at the height of his powers. He served as head coach of Dewanoumi and chairman of the Japan Sumo Association. 

14. Ōkido Moriemon

Ōkido Moriemon was a professional sumo wrestler from Hyōgo, Japan. He made his debut in 1899 and was named the sport’s 23rd yokozuna in 1912 up until his retirement in 1914. He finished his Makuuchi career with a 143-20-22 record and 10 top division championships

Moriemon would have achieved much more as a professional sumo wrestler, but he suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage that led to his retirement in 1914. Between 1908 and 1909, he recorded 28 consecutive wins. He died on November 7, 1930 at the age of 52 years old. 

13. Inazuma Raigorō

Inazuma Raigorō was a professional sumo wrestler from Awazaki, Hitachi Province, Japan. He made his debut in 1821 and was named the sport’s seventh yokozuna in 1830 up until his retirement in 1839. He finished his professional career with 10 top division championships. 

Raigorō had a Makuuchi record of 130-13-73 as a member of the Sadogatake stable. He was 6-foot-2 and 313 pounds and died on March 19, 1877. He is one of the sport’s earliest stars and had a career winning percentage of 90.9% – a rarity that not many have ever achieved. 

12. Akebono Tarō

Akebono Tarō was a professional sumo wrestler from Waimānalo, Hawaii, United States. He was born Chadwick Haheo Rowan and made his debut in 1988. He was the sport’s 64th yokozuna – and first American-born wrestler to do so – in 1993 up until his retirement in 2001. 

Akebono finished his career with a 654–232–181 record as a member of the Azumazeki stable. He earned four Gold Stars in his career, defeating the likes of Hokutoumi Nobuyoshi, Ōnokuni Yasushi, and Asahifuji Seiya (twice). He won 11 top division championships in his career. 

11. Tachiyama Mineemon

Tachiyama Mineemon was a professional sumo wrestler from Toyama, Japan. He made his debut in 1900 and was named the sport’s 22nd yokozuna in 1911 up until his retirement in 1918. He finished his career with nine official top division championships, as well as two unofficial. 

Mineemon, also known as Azumazeki, had a career Makuuchi record of 195-27-73. He had intense strength and pristine skill, which was on full display between 1909 and 1916 when he won 99 out of 100 matches (not including draws). He was a member of the Tomozuna stable.

10. Musashimaru Kōyō

Musashimaru Kōyō was a professional sumo wrestler from American Samoa. He made his debut in 1989 and was named the sport’s 67th yokozuna in 1999 up until his retirement in 2003. He finished his career with 12 top division championships, one of just 10 wrestlers to do so.

In Makuuchi matches, Kōyō retired with a 706-267-115 record. In addition to his 12 top division championships, he also had one championship in Jūryō, Sandanme, and Jonokuchi. He was a member of the Musashigawa stable and founded his own stable under the same name. 

9. Futabayama Sadaji 

Futabayama Sadaji was a professional sumo wrestler from Usa, Oita, Japan. He made his debut in 1927 and was named the sport’s 35th yokozuna in 1937 up until his retirement in 1945. He’s tied with Kōyō with 12 top division championships under the elder name Tokitsukaze. 

Futabayama finished his professional career with a 345-113-33 record as a member of the Tatsunami stable. He earned one Gold Star in his storied career after defeating Musashiyama Takeshi. He holds the record for most consecutive victories with 69 between 1936 and 1939.

8. Wajima Hiroshi

Wajima Hiroshi was a professional sumo wrestler from Ishikawa, Japan. He made his debut in 1970 and was named the sport’s 54th yokozuna in 1973 up until his retirement in 1981. He’s one of just eight yokozuna wrestlers with at least 14 top division championships in their career. 

Hiroshi is also the only yokozuna in sumo wrestling history to have a college degree, which he earned at Nihon University. He finished his professional career with a 673–234–85 record as a member of the Hanakago stable, which he also served as a head coach between 1981-1985.

7. Tanikaze Kajinosuke

Tanikaze Kajinosuke was a professional sumo wrestler from Miyagi District, Mutsu Province, Japan. He made his debut in 1769 at the age of 19 and was named the sport’s fourth yokozuna in 1789 up until his sudden death in 1795. He had 21 unofficial top division championships. 

Kajinosuke finished his professional career with a 258-14-112 record as a member of the Isenoumi stable. Before Futabayama broke it, Kajinosuke held the record for most consecutive victories with 63 between 1977 and 1986. Futabayama broke the record with 69 in 1939. 

6. Takanohana Kōji

Takanohana Kōji was a professional sumo wrestler from Suginami, Tokyo, Japan. He made his debut in 1988 and was named the sport’s 65th yokozuna in 1994 up until his retirement in 2003. He finished his career with 22 top division championships, the sixth-most in sumo history. 

Kōji had a 701-217-201 career Makuuchi record as a member of the Fujishima and Futagoyama stables. His father ran the Futagoyama stable up until Kōji took over in 2004, changing the name to the Takanohana stable. His father and brother were also successful sumo wrestlers. 

5. Kitanoumi Toshimitsu

Kitanoumi Toshimitsu was a professional sumo wrestler from Hokkaido, Japan. He made his debut in 1967 and was named the sport’s 55th yokozuna in 1974 up until his retirement in 1985. He finished his career with 24 top division championships, the fifth-most in sumo history. 

Toshimitsu had an incredible 951-350-107 professional record and 804-247-107 Makuuchi record as a member of the Mihogaseki stable. He was just 13 years old when he began his pro career and was the youngest sumo wrestler to be named a yokozuna at just 21 years old. 

4. Asashōryū Akinori

Asashōryū Akinori was a professional sumo wrestler from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolian People’s Republic. He made his debut in 1999 and was named the sport’s 68th yokozuna in 2003 up until his retirement in 2010. His 25 top division championships currently ranks fourth all-time. 

Akinori finished his professional career with a Makuuchi record of 596-153-76 as a member of the Takasago stable. He earned one Gold Star for his defeat of Musashimaru Kōyō and also earned three Outstanding Performance and three Fighting Spirit special prizes in his career. 

3. Chiyonofuji Mitsugu

Chiyonofuji Mitsugu was a professional sumo wrestler from Fukushima, Hokkaido, Japan. He made his debut in 1970 and was named the sport’s 58th yokozuna in 1981 until his retirement in 1991. His 31 top division championships currently ranks third in sumo wrestling history. 

Mitsugu finished his Makuuchi career with a 807-253-155 record as a member of the Kokonoe stable. He earned three Gold Stars in his career by defeating Mienoumi Tsuyoshi twice and Wakanohana Kanji II once. Between 1981 and 1988, he won the Kyushu eight straight times. 

2. Taihō Kōki

Taihō Kōki was a professional sumo wrestler from Shikuka, Karafuto, Empire of Japan. He made his debut in 1956 and was named the sport’s 48th yokozuna in 1961 until his retirement in 1971. His 32 top division championships currently ranks second in sumo wrestling history. 

Kōki finished his Makuuchi career with a 746-144-136 record and professional career with a 872-182-136 record as a member of the Nishonoseki stable. He won at least one championship each year of his top division career. He also had one Gold Star for defeating Asashio Tarō III. 

1. Hakuhō Shō

Hakuhō Shō was a professional sumo wrestler from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolian People’s Republic. He made his debut in 2001 and was named the sport’s 69th yokozuna in 2007 up until his retirement in 2021. He holds the record for longest tenure as a yokozuna (14 years). 

Shō also holds records for most top division wins, most career wins, and most top division championships. He finished his career with a 1093-199-253 record in Makuuchi matches, a 1187-247-253 pro record, and 45 top division championships – 13 more than the next wrestler.

Who Are the Best Sumo Wrestlers in 2022?

Sumo wrestling might not be as popular of a sport today as it once was, but that doesn’t mean the sport is dead. In fact, it’s far from it. The sport has a ton of fans, especially in Japan, and the top wrestlers are just as popular to their fanbase as celebrities are in the United States. 

Today, there is only one active yokozuna, the highest rank in sumo wrestling, and his name is Terunofuji Haruo. He was the 73rd yokozuna in sumo wrestling history, putting his name among some of the best sumo wrestlers of all-time. He has won six top division championships. 

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Other sumo wrestlers that are worth mentioning at the beginning of 2022 include Takakeishō Mitsunobu and Shōdai Naoya, both of whom are Ōzeki ranks. We should also mention Takanoshō Nobuaki and Mitakeumi Hisashi, both of whom are Sekiwake ranks. 

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