Ozeki Takakeisho, Asanoyama and Shodai made winning starts Sunday at the November Grand Sumo Tournament.
With Mongolian-born yokozuna Hakuho and Kakuryu out through injury, the ozeki trio came under the spotlight on the opening day at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.
All three are bidding for their second Emperor's Cup at the 15-day meet, which has been moved from its normal home in Fukuoka to limit travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
Shodai, who earned promotion to sumo's second-highest rank by winning September's championship, survived a close call against No. 1 maegashira Wakatakakage.
The 25-year-old Wakatakakage surprised Shodai at the opening charge, getting a double inside grip and driving him to the edge of the ring.
But the new ozeki managed to pull Wakatakakage to the ground as he fell backwards. After conferring in the middle, the judges ruled the maegashira landed outside the straw bales first.
Takakeisho was in control from start to finish in the day's final bout against komusubi Takayasu.
Opening with a hard shove, Takakeisho kept his foot on the gas to push out the former ozeki, who had won six of their 11 previous meetings.
In the penultimate bout, Asanoyama was too strong for Mongolian No. 1 Kiribayama, securing an easy win by force out.
Asanoyama wrapped up Kiribayama at the jump and quickly muscled him over the edge, improving to 3-0 in their head-to-head meetings.
The victory was a welcome start to the tournament for Asanoyama, who lost his first three bouts in September before winning his next 10.
Sekiwake Mitakeumi launched his bid for a third top-level championship by forcing out No. 2 Onosho in a rematch. The judges ordered a second bout after ruling both left the ring at the same time in their first try.
Mitakeumi made no mistake on the second attempt, getting an outside belt grip and driving Onosho straight over the straw.
No. 2 Daieisho handed sekiwake Takanosho a loss by thrust down in his first bout fighting from the three elite sanyaku ranks beneath yokozuna.
Daieisho, a sekiwake in September, opened with a thrusting attack before yanking Takanosho off balance.
Komusubi Terunofuji was victorious in his return to sanyaku, forcing out No. 3 Kagayaki. The winner of the July championship went inside and underneath from the opening charge to secure a quick victory.
The Mongolian is fighting from sanyaku for the first time in 17 tournaments. He had plummeted down through the divisions due to debilitating knee injuries before winning his second career championship when he returned to the elite makuuchi division in July.
No. 4 Tobizaru, who became a sensation after contending for the title in his top-tier debut in September, was unable to make a winning start, succumbing to a pushout against No. 3 Okinoumi.
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