With a chance at glory, Kisenosato choked against Kotoshogiku and simultaneously handed Hakuho his 25th career title at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
It made little difference anyway after Hakuho defeated rival yokozuna Harumafuji in the final match of regulation to finish with a perfect 15-0 record at the Tokyo meet.
Kisenosato, who lost to Hakuho the previous day in a heated matchup of undefeated wrestlers, had a chance to set up a playoff with his nemesis had he beaten Kotoshogiku and Hakuho lost to Harumafuji, but a final showdown was never in the cards.
Hakuho won his 25th title to put him in a tie for third on the all-time list with compatriot and retired yokozuna Asashoryu. It was his second straight tournament going 15-0 and his record 10th career “zensho-yusho,” or title victory without a loss.
The Mongolian yokozuna claimed his first title in Tokyo since the 2011 autumn basho.
“I think I have been able to repay another debt of gratitude. I finally was able to win a meet here in Tokyo after two years,” said Hakuho. “I want to praise Kisenosato. He had a great tournament and because of him I was able to push myself to win. I even have bruises on my arm (from our bout) for the first time in a long time,” he added with a smile.
These two have been at each other’s throats since Kisenosato famously ended Hakuho’s winning streak at 63 bouts at the 2010 Kyushu basho, and the rivalry has only grown in intensity since.
Kisenosato was aiming to become the first Japanese-born wrestler to win a championship since Tochiazuma did so at the 2006 New Year meet.
“I was prepared to fight no matter which way it turned out, but I have to say that I felt a sense of relief when he (Kisenosato) lost. It made it easier for me to relax in my match against Harumafuji,” said Hakuho.
Harumafuji, who had an early slipup after losing two bouts in the first five days and later losing to Kisenosato, was easily brushed aside by Hakuho and finished his campaign on 11-4.
Kisenosato (13-2), who made a strong case for a possible bid at yokozuna, never got rolling out of the gate against Kotoshogiku, who bulldozed his rival over the straw bales in a matter of seconds to pick up an 11th win.
Relegation-threatened Bulgarian Kotooshu just escaped by the skin of his teeth after beating Kakuryu, notching his eighth win to save his ozeki status.