The ancient and venerable battleground of the sumo ring has been the scene of many greats for centuries. Sumo wrestling, a Japanese form of full-contact wrestling, is deeply rooted in tradition and has a rich history. Dressed in nothing more than a ‘mawashi’ (a special belt or girdle used in sumo wrestling), these imposing warriors have captivated audiences for generations with their brute strength, deft technique and unwavering determination.
In this article we list the ten best sumo wrestlers of all time. But before we start, it’s important to understand some terms. In sumo, there are several ranks, of which the yokozuna is the highest, followed by the Ōzeki. The term ‘yusho’ refers to a tournament victory.
10. Konishiki Yasokichi
Konishiki “Dump Truck” Yasokichi was the first non-Japanese wrestler to reach the rank of Ōzeki. The heavyweight from Hawaii tipped the scales at a dazzling 287 kg, making him the heaviest sumo wrestler ever at the time. What was even more impressive is that with this mass he achieved amazing speeds and was able to move with dexterity.
9. Inazuma Raigorō
Inazuma Raigorō was a pioneer of modern sumo. This man, whose name translates to ‘Lightning’ in Japanese, was a true heavyweight who left the sweat and tears of many opponents on the clay surface of the dohyō. In his time he was the irresistible force and the immovable object in one.
8. Wajima Hiroshi
Wajima Hiroshi was a poetic giant whose unique style and technique lit up the Sumo ring. Wajima’s favorite grip was hidari yotsu (right hand out, left hand in), and he was famous for the power of his so-called “golden left arm” which he would use to take down his opponents.
7. Musashimaru Kōyō
Musashimaru Kōyō, another Hawaiian giant, was a true phenomenon in the sumo world. He proved that in the world of sumo, size does matter. With his enormous size and strength, he was able to easily overwhelm opponents.
6. Tanikaze Kajinosuke/h2>
Tanikaze Kajinosuke, a legendary figure of the 18th century, was one of the earliest stars of professional sumo. This giant of a man pioneered the sport, and his legacy lives on in the many wrestlers who have followed in his footsteps ever since.
5. Asashōryū Akinori
Asashōryū Akinori, the ‘Blue Dragon of the Morning’, was a dominant figure in the ring. This Mongolian Yokozuna was famous and infamous for his aggressive style and boisterous behavior both in and out of the ring. Asashōryū was the untamed beast of the sumo world, as terrifying as he was imposing.
4. Harumafuji Kohei
Harumafuji Kōhei, also a Mongolian Yokozuna, was a technical master in the ring. He was smaller than most of his opponents, but made up for it with his extraordinary technique and speed. Harumafuji’s career has been filled with impressive wins, and he remains an inspiration to wrestlers looking to prove that size isn’t everything in sumo.
3. Taiho Koki
Taiho Koki is known as one of the greatest yokozuna’s of all time. With a record 32 yusho (tournament wins), Taiho was a dominant force in the 1960s and 1970s. His graceful style and unyielding determination made him a fan favorite and opponents nightmare.
2. Kitanoumi Toshimitsu
Kitanoumi Toshimitsu was a living legend in the sumo world. This powerful yokozuna also achieved 32 yusho and dominated the sport in the 1970s and 1980s. Kitanoumi was a commanding presence in the ring, intimidating his opponents with his sheer size and strength.
1. Hakuho Sho
At the top spot is none other than Hakuho Sho, the yokozuna who defined the modern sumo world. Hailing from Mongolia, Hakuho has achieved an unparalleled record of 44 yusho and has broken many records in his illustrious career. His combination of strength, technique and strategic insight has made him the undisputed king of sumoring. Hakuho’s influence on the sport is so great that he is rightfully recognized as the greatest sumo wrestler of all time.