Who is the most famous sumo wrestler

Japan's 12 most famous sumo wrestlers

Sumo, the national sport of Japan, is known to most people as a modern Japanese martial art. However, the origins of sumo go back several centuries when the sport was developed as a way of following the ancient traditions of the Shinto , a Japanese ethnic religion. Today, elements of the Shinto religion remain an integral part of sumo wrestling, while the sport's greatest fighters are elevated to celebrity status. We take a look at the lives and times of the biggest names in sumo.


Taiho is a legend in Japan. Regarded by the locals as the greatest sumo wrestler of all time, he reached the rank of at the young age of 21 Yokozuna (the highest in sport). He also carries the distinction of winning 45 consecutive matches between 1968 and 1969.


Chiyonofuji was considered to be easily standing on its feet by sumo standards and weighed 120 kg. What he lacked in size he made up for in technology; His dramatic throwing movements and powerful left grip - known to fans and commentators as the "death grip" - made him one of the most successful and entertaining wrestlers in the game. After retiring, he opened his own sumo stable, which he ran until he switched from pancreatic cancer in 2016.

Wrestling | © Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861) / Wikimedia Commons


After Mainoumi was turned down by sumo society for not meeting the height requirements, he convinced a doctor to inject silicone into his scalp to add a few more inches. Despite his relatively small stature, he was widely recognized for competing against competitors twice his size. The Sumo Association would continue to change the height restriction to prevent other wrestlers from following in his footsteps.


Futabayama holds the all-time record for consecutive bouts with a winning streak of 69. Having in the 1930s, many sumo fans became convinced that his record was indestructible.

Yokozuna | © Mitoizumi


Known in the sumo world as the "salt shaker", Mitoizumi earned his nickname from his pre-match ritual of throwing huge amounts of cleaning salt on the ring, much to the amusement of overseas sumo fans.


Takamisakari is famous for his eccentric personality and over-the-top warm-up routine. He became a celebrity in the sumo world. Nicknamed "Mr. Roboto" and "Robocop", his warm-up exercises are more like American professional wrestling than traditional Japanese sumo.


Yamamotoyama, who weighs an astonishing 265 kg, carries the accolade of being the heaviest Japanese-born sumo wrestler in history, and many consider him the heaviest Japanese who has ever lived. He was forced into retirement in 2011 due to his involvement in a match fixing scandal.


Akebono, born and raised in Hawaii, initially planned a career in hotel management until he was introduced to a family friend and respected sumo stall owner. After joining the stable, Akebono rose quickly through the ranks, becoming the first non-Japanese to hold the rank of Yokozuna reached.

Sumo wrestler in Tokyo | © J.Drevet / Wikimedia Commons


Hailing from Ulaanbataar in Mongolia, Hakuho is known for his strength in the ring and his ability to anticipate the movements of his opponents. He holds the record for most wins in a calendar year, winning 86 of 90 fights in 2009.

John Tenta / Kototenzan

Tenta started out as a WWF Canadian wrestler known as "Earthquake" and moved to Japan for a sumo stable in 1985 after a chance encounter with a former Yokozuna in Vancouver. He received a lot of press coverage when a western sumo wrestler was incredibly rare in the 1980s, and while his professional career lasted less than a year, he won all 24 of his fights.


Konishiki, born and raised in Hawaii, achieved the flattering nicknames "Meat Bomb" and "Dump Truck" with a top weight of 287 kg. He is the heaviest wrestler ever to have competed in sumo. the aforementioned Yamamotoyama is the heaviest Japanese born sumo wrestler. Although he never got the rank of Yokozuna he went on to enjoy a successful career in entertainment and was featured in film, television and radio.

Japan's national sport of sumo wrestling | © Nakatani YOShifumi / Flickr


Born Kim Sin-Rak in southern Hamgyong, Korea, Rikidozan moved to Japan to qualify as a sumo wrestler. In 1940 he made his debut as a Korean wrestler in a traditional Japanese sport. In the course of his career he was exposed to great discrimination and left sumo in 1950 for professional wrestling. He soon became Japan's greatest wrestling star and has a reputation for popularizing the sport of professional wrestling in Japan. Tragically, Rikidozan was murdered by a yakuza gangster in a nightclub in 1963.

Author: Victoria George

Victoria George is a 41 year old journalist. Certified music expert. Travelaholic. Pop culture advocate. Introvert. Web fan. Researcher. Beer Geek. Thinker. Zombie specialist. General organizer.