Intimidation factor is something that cannot be discounted when it comes to finding reasons for success in sumo.
Some of the greatest yokozuna of all time struck such fear into their opponents that many bouts seemed decided before they even stepped into the ring.
For an up and coming rikishi, having to face a yokozuna for the first time is a daunting task. In the case of yokozuna like Hakuho and Asashoryu, not only are they faster, stronger and more experienced than you, but in the unlikely event you earn the win, it’s virtually certain you’ll be treated to harsh training at the hands of the same man prior to the next tournament.
Kitanoumi dominated the 1970s in a similar fashion. Known for his stern demeanor and powerful attack, the Hokkaido native also rarely offered a hand to help defeated opponents up and was famously terse in interviews.
The youngest ever yokozuna (he was promoted just after his 21st birthday) Kitanoumi had fierce rivalries with opponents such as Wajima and ozeki Takanohana who were far more popular with the general public.
Kitanoumi’s 24 Emperor’s Cups were the second-most all time when he retired and he was given special one-generation stock and allowed to continue as an elder under his ring name.
Kitanoumi was also one of the youngest men ever to head the Japan Sumo Association when he was named chairman in 2002, and he later became the only man to hold that position twice when he returned to the role in 2012.
His reign at the top of the sumo world coincided with numerous scandals but Kitanoumi’s only direct involvement with any of them was when one of his wrestlers was kicked out for match fixing.
He passed away from multiple organ failure in November 2015 and a memorial service was held at the Kokugikan in Tokyo a month later.