Sumo | Rikishi Files

Yama succeeds after sumo

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Life after professional sumo (for those who don’t qualify for elder status) is generally quite prosaic.

The vast majority of wrestlers end up working in regular jobs. Most slim down a lot, and within five or 10 years are often indistinguishable from anyone else in their chosen place of work.

If you’ve lived in Japan for any length of time, there is a possibility that you have unknowingly dealt with an estate agent, restaurant owner or massage therapist who is a former rikishi.

Some wrestlers, however, take a very different path. One of those is former top-division man Yamamotoyama.

More well-known these days simply as Yama, the 35-year-old has become something of a Hollywood star since moving to the U.S. in the wake of his dismissal from ōzumō for match-fixing.

The heaviest Japanese rikishi in history at 266 kg, Yamamotoyama had a very successful college career before making the jump to the professional ranks in 2007.

His first two years in ozumo went well and he made it as far as No. 9 maegashira before weight and injury issues saw him start to fall back down the banzuke ranks.

It didn’t seem like Yamamotoyama had been successful enough inside the ring to parlay his career into anything big in Japan, but the Nihon University graduate didn’t wait around to find out.

After taking part in an Indian reality TV show, he made the move to the United States and has appeared on numerous television programs there, even receiving roles in Ed Sheeran and One Direction music videos as well one of the John Wick movies alongside Keanu Reeves.

Virtually every American commercial made in the last few years featuring a sumo wrestler has Yama in it as well.

Yamamotoyama may not have conquered the professional sumo world in Japan, but he has a legitimate claim to being the most visible rikishi outside it.

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