Top 6 Best Sumo Wrestlers of All Time
Rooted in a Shinto ritual dance where men display their strength in front of the gods, sumo wrestling is now a popular hand-to-hand combat sport. In Japan, there are annually around 650 sumo wrestlers, also known as rikishi, who compete in six divisions of sumo. Listed below are 6 of the greatest wrestlers in sumo history.
Who are the best Sumo Wrestlers of all time?
- Hakuhō Shō
- Konishiki Yasokichi
- Akebono Tarō
- Yamamotoyama Ryūta
- Futabayama Sadaji
- Taihō Kōki
1. Hakuhō Shō
- Won 45 Total Makuuchi Division Championships
- Became the 69th Yokozuna
- Most Career Wins of Any Sumo Wrestler
Originally from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, Hakuhō Shō is arguably the greatest sumo wrestler of all time. During his two-decade career, he won 45 Makuuchi Division Championships and has the most career wins of any sumo wrestler, retiring with 1,187. In addition, he broke the record for most wins in a calendar year by winning 86 out of 90 bouts in the 2009 season. Seven years into his prestigious career, Hakuhō was given the title of Yokozuna, the highest rank possible in sumo wrestling. Between his many world records, Hakuhō Shō is undoubtedly one of the best sumo wrestlers of all time.
2. Konishiki Yasokichi
- 730 Total Match Wins
- Promoted to the Rank of Ozeki in 1987
- Heaviest Wrestler to Ever Compete in Sumo History
Though a Hawaiian native, Konishiki Yasokichi is one of the best sumo wrestlers of all time. Weighing in at a peak of 287kg (633lb), he is the heaviest wrestler to ever compete in sumo and was known popularly by the nicknames "Dump Truck" and "Meat Bomb." During his 15 years on the professional circuit, he won 730 matches. He was steadily promoted until he reached the status of Ozeki, the second-highest rank in sumo wrestling, in 1987. Ten years later, Konishiki turned to a career in television and film and retired as one of the greatest athletes in Sumo history.
3. Akebono Tarō
- First Non-Japanese-Born Wrestler to Become Yokozuna
- Won 3 Consecutive Top Division Championships
- Represented Japan at 1998 Olympics
Born in Oahu, Hawaii, Akebono Tarō is easily one of the most famous sumo athletes. From his debut in March 1988, Akebono won six special prizes and four kinboshi prizes. After only two years, he reached the makuuchi division and began competing at the highest-ranking tournaments. Between then and his retirement in 1995, he won 11 top division championships, even achieving the rare feat of winning three consecutive tournaments. In 1993, he became the first non-Japanese-born wrestler to become Yokozuna. Thanks to his stellar record and infamous rivalry with Takanohana Toshiaki, Akebono will forever be remembered as one of the most famous and successful sumo wrestlers of all time.
4. Yamamotoyama Ryūta
- 2-time Division Champion
- Heaviest Japanese-Born Sumo Wrestler
- Maegashira-Ranked within Makuuchi Division
Nishi-Ku native Yamamotoyama Ryūta is one of the most famous names in early 21st-century sumo wrestling. Weighing in at a peak of 265kg (584 lb), he is the heaviest Japanese-born Sumo wrestler in the sport's history. Since his debut in early 2007, Yamamotoyama won championships in both the Makushita and Jonidan divisions. In 2009, he made it to the makuuchi division and competed for two years until he retired at the esteemed rank of Maegashira. After the match-fixing scandal that ended his career, he began participating in reality television and minor film roles. Still, he will always be remembered for his mark on sumo wrestling.
5. Futabayama Sadaji
- All-Time Record Most Consecutive Bouts Won
- Became the 35th Yokozuna
- Won 12 Makuuchi Championships
USA-born Futabayama Sadaji was the greatest sumo wrestler of the early twentieth century. Since debuting in 1927 at only 15, Futabayama was a landmark athlete. By 1932, he reached the makuuchi division and became known for his long winning streaks against his opponents, even breaking Tanikaze Kanjinosuke's 160-year record of 63 consecutive wins. With a winning streak of 69, Futabayama holds the all-time record for most consecutive bouts won. Since he set this record in the late 1930s, many consider his record unbreakable. In 1938, he was made the 35th Yokozuna. After a seven-year reign, he retired as one of the very best in sumo history.
6. Taihō Kōki
- Second Best Winning Streak in Sumo History
- Won 32 Makuuchi Championships
- Became the 48th Yokozuna
Hailing from the northern island of Hokkaido, Taihō Kōki is considered by many to be the greatest sumo wrestler of the postwar period. From his 1956 debut, it took him only four years to enter the makuuchi division. Another year after that, at the age of 21, he became the youngest wrestler to become a Yokozuna. He won 32 Makuuchi championships during his career, a feat that was record-setting for six decades. He also won 45 consecutive times between 1968-1969, the best streak seen in the sport since Futabayama thirty years earlier. When he retired in 1971, he became a coach as well as a legend.
Who is the greatest sumo wrestler of all time?
Between his unparalleled and record-breaking amount of total career wins, his record number of wins in a calendar year, and an altogether stellar performance history at the highest division possible, the greatest sumo wrestler of all time is undoubtedly Hakuhō Sho. After becoming the 69th Yokozuna in 2008, he held the peak position for an extensive thirteen years before retiring as a permanent part of sumo history.
Which sumo wrestler holds the record for the most career wins?
The record for most career wins is held by the 69th Yokozuna, Hakuhō Sho. Between his debut in May 2001 and his retirement in July 2021, Hakuhō won a total of 1,187 matches. In addition to this record, he also set the record for most wins in a calendar year by winning 86 of the 90 matches in which he competed in 2009.
Which sumo wrestler holds the record for the most consecutive wins of all time?
Futabayama Sadaji holds the record for the most consecutive wins of all time. Before him, the previous record of 63 consecutive wins was held by Tanikaze Kanjinosuke, the fourth Yokozuna, in 1782. Over 150 years later, Futabayama surpassed this record during his 1938 season. He continued this streak by winning six more matches until he was finally defeated in early 1939 by Maegashira Akinoumi after suffering from a bout of amoebic dysentery.