Before anime and video games became mainstream, Japan was known through popular culture for four things: geisha, ninja, samurai, and these big fighters known as sumo wrestlers. Big, rotund men whose objective is to throw the other man out of the ring, they are usually cast as Close Range Combatants per excellence in Fighting Games along the Boxing Battler, or as minor characters in different kind of stories.
It's Serious Business in Japan, where it could be described as the national pastime, and it is often interspersed with traditional Shinto rituals. Its rules are rather simple: you win by forcing your opponent out of the circular ring or forcing him to touch the ground with any part of his body except the soles of his feet. For this reason, matches usually only last a few seconds invested in big explosions of strength, making them short, dramatic and frequently spectacular, just what casual fans need to entertain themselves and keep watching. Indeed, although in the West it is often called a martial art and piled together with Judo and Karate, sumo wrestling could be much better described as a combat sport with religious undertones. While there are amateur associations in schools and colleges (as well as open circuits abroad), official sumo is a strictly professional competition which one dedicates his life to.
Contrary to popular belief, actual sumo techniques and training regimes are far more complex than it looks, as the open nature of the ruleset allows for more or less all wrestling moves, including those grabbing the opponent's loincloth (which is called mawashi). It also contains a rudimentary form of striking, as palm or forearm blows are legal, so knockouts happen with some frequency. Most notably, although there are minimum height and weight requirements, there are no weight divisions, meaning David vs. Goliath is an everyday scenario and a big factor on victory. Sumo wrestlers are called sumotori or rikishi, and after a certain level they compete under a shikona, a ring name formed by a given name (usually theirs, if they are native, or a Japanese traditional name if they are foreigners) and a surname with a meaningful, often poetically powerful composition (for instance, famous champion Asashoryu's means "Morning Bue Dragon").
Fictional sumo can be Big Fun guys or Fat Bastards, depending on their place on the moral spectrum, and tend to be Big Eaters. Almost always Japanese, much like real ones, although a few Brazilian and later Mongolian sumos exist. Tend to have their hair tied in topknots and rarely wear much other than a pair of shorts and sandals. Of course, real ones wear other garments when not competing or training.
Believe it or not, sumo wrestlers were not always fat. Older sumo wrestlers, while large, were far leaner with more traditionally athletic builds.note This began to change around the 80's, when heavier wrestlers became the norm due to their weight making them harder to throw and their fat and mass making them more resilient to impact. Even modern sumo wrestlers are less fat than they appear. Most sumo wrestlers only have around 15-20% body fatnote and under that outer layer of blubber is an astoundingly muscular physique.
This Trope is almost Always Male. Traditional and religious customs prevent women from participating in Real Life sumo, and a fictitious Distaff Counterpart would likely look pretty silly. This has been challenged occasionally in modern times by some like Governor Fusae Ohta of Okinawa, but is unlikely to change in the near future.
The sport is Older Than They Think, dating back many centuries.
This trope is about characters that are designed about the concept and sumo wrestling in general.
- Hinomaru Zumou resolves around the concept, being a shonen fighting series about sumo wrestling.
- Dragon Ball has involved at least two fighters designed after sumo wrestlers, both in Tournaments:
- Minor contestant Doskoi from the 9th movie, Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound, who was the only person outside the Z fighters to go very far in the Tournament. He is sadly killed by one of Bojack's henchmen.
- Dragon Ball Super: One of the Universe 10 fighters for the Tournament of Power is Napapa, a giant pink sumo wrestler with pig attributes. He is called the "magician of the edge ring", and is surprisingly tough, managing to avoid a ring out by Basil, another contestant from Universe 9.
- Android Moscov from EDENS ZERO is built to resemble a Sumoka and fights like one. Heck, he can even fly by palm-pushing the air above him... somehow...
- Fairy Tail, the obese, child-like Kain Hiraku, of the Seven Kin of Purgatory, fights with Sumo moves when not employing his Ushi no Koku Mairi magic. and is nearly unstoppable, easily defeating several Celestial Spirits unleashed against him.
- Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has Thor, one of the members of Ragnarok, the 7th fist, who specializes in competitive Sumo wrestling and challenges Kenichi to a Sumo match, intending to make him embrace Sumo if he wins. However, Kenichi is able to overpower him and Defeat Means Friendship follows.
- Notari Matsutarou is about a grown up man in the middle school who has the strength of a gorilla, who after defeat some Sumo fighters in a tour, quickly becomes a new star in sumo wrestling.
- One Piece: a few characters in the story actually employ Sumo-like moves, namely:
- In the Water Seven arc, the crew meet Yokozuna, a Sumo Toad who wears a Rikishi clothes and attacks Sea Trains with palm strikes, damaging them. He later proves to be a force to be reckoned with when he guards a breach from enemies and keeps them at bay for some time.
- Shichibukai Kuma uses Sumo palm-stikes and pose in conjunction with the powers of his Devil Fruit (which allows him to deviate anything and make air bullets) to launch a barrage of unstoppable air blasts.
- Sentomaru has the built of a Sumoka, and in spite of his gargantuan axe, his main fighting style involves sumo moves, which allows him to kick pre-Timeskip Luffy's ass with no effort. His technique contains a stealth pun on the traditional Sumo kiai Dosukoi.
- In the Wano Arc, as expected, we meet a Sumo wrestler in the form of the jerkass supreme Urashima, who eventually Luffy fights in a regular match. As noted by Luffy, he's not above using dirty tricks such as aiming for the ears or eyes.
- In an Older Than Television example, there's the 1931 animated short movie Doubutsu Sumo Taikai, in which Funny Animals fight to be the best in this sport.
- In a manga-only arc of Rurouni Kenshin, Sanosuke has to deal with a local crime lord who's a former Sumoka strong enough to leave an imprint in stone with his hand strikes. Sano kicks his ass in a few punches.
- Averted and Played for Laughs in Soul Eater: Kirikou is confronted by an artificial soldier who boasts about the hundreds of fighting styles and techniques programmed into him. Unfortunately, he alternates all attacks with the nearly-useless Sumo technique "Nekodamashi" note . After the third one, Kirikou just slugs him in the face and scolds him for considering "Two fatasses hugging each other" as a fighting style.
- An episode of Yatterman has the Doronbo Gang using tricked Sumo Matches to gather money for their Robot of the week. Later on, the heroes add the Sumo-themed Yatta Mecha to the roster.
- Averted in an episode of Lupin III (Red Jacket): the massive crime boss Tatsumaki is being pummeled by Jigen, so as soon as he gets some breath, he unrobes himself, assumes a Sumo pose, bellows "Dosukoi!"... and promptly falls unconscious for the beating.
- Bear Brute Jerome from Killing Bites is a former sumo wrestler who used to be quite successful if ostracized because he wasn't Japanese. One day, a lunatic hater tried to kill him with a knife, but Jerome killed him in self defense with a single slap. He then abandoned the ring, not because he felt guilty but because he enjoyed the feeling of killing someone with his bare hands. After being turned into a bear-man he's gifted with incredibly powerful arms which allow him to hit like a truck.
- Interesting Times, being set in the Disc's Imperial China / Wutai, features Tsimo wrestlers, ginormous, ogre-like humans with ravenous appetites and maybe a few neurons each. Rincewind uses them in a Give Chase with Angry Natives moment by claiming one of their handlers has a sandwich, causing a stampede that destroys a small garden and a pagoda.
- Dave Barry, in his book Dave Barry Does Japan writes about watching a sumo match. Afterward, one of the wrestlers drinks a a Diet Coke and belches hard enough to send a "surfable wave" of fat across his belly.
- "Man-Mountain Gentian" by Howard Waldrop revolves around the sport of zen-sumo wrestling, where psychic attacks and mind games have taken the place of physical exertion. Many of the traditional trappings of the sport remain, and zen-sumotori are still huge men dressed in mawashi.
- The Man with the Golden Gun: The Japanese tycoon Hai Fat has two statues of them on his manor grounds; when Bond comes at night on a dinner invitation, the statues are replaced with real ones whom he has to deal with.
- The Bud Spencer movie Piedone a Hong Kong features a Sumotori named "Yamada" as a friend of a woman involved in a drug-smuggling organization; Yamada attacks the hero thinking he was responsible for her death but, when things are cleared, helps him and shields him with his body from a hitman. Notably enough, he was the only guy in the movie capable of manhandling Bud around... for a while at least.
- The Japanese movie Sumo Do, Sumo Don't, about the travails of an amateur university sumo club.
- The Hong Kong film Dr Wai In "The Scripture With No Words" had the titular doctor fighting two Giant Mook opponents, which are sumo wrestlers.
- The Quest is a movie about an international martial arts tournament where fighters from all corners of the world gathers to a mysterious island to fight each other for championship. The representative for Japan is a sumo wrestler, and also one of the longest-lasting fighters in the contest due to his Kevlard abilities.
- A few heroes in the Super Sentai franchise, usually The Big Guys, have used sumo moves in their repertoire. Of note is Sōtarō Ushigome from Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger, who is a retired sumo wrestler.
- The Ultraman 80 episode "The Mountain Sumo Boy", in which a sumo child youkai named Jihibikiran comes down to civilization to do what he must every few years — defeat 100 opponents in sumo wrestling. Hilarity Ensues, but it soon climaxes in Jihibikiran Hulking Out to a kaiju form that Ultraman 80 must placate with a good ol'-fashioned sumo match.
- Naturally, many professional wrestlers in Japan have been former sumo wrestlers, not only low-ranked ones (like Genichiro Tenryu, John Tenta, Nobutaka Araya, Toru Owashi and Ryota Hama) or amateur (like Kiyoshi Tamura and CIMA), but also grand champions (most famously Hiroshi Wajima, Koji Kitao and Akebono).
- Similarly, some American wrestlers have used sumo-themed gimmicks. The appropriately named Yokozuna and Rikishi are the best known.
- Amateur sumo champion and Guinness recordman Emmanuel Yarbrough also competed in Catch Wrestling Association in Germany.
- Wakashoyo, Takatoriki and Takatoriki's son Yukio are all sumo wrestlers who made the jump to pro wrestling in more recent times.
- In 2005, The Big Show made a sumo match against Akebono in WrestleMania 21 in a kayfabe version of sumo made in a wrestling ring with sumo rules, being Akebono the winner. This was also his first time as a wrestler, appearing few times before and after Wrestlemania, to few months later started as a proper wrestler in All Japan Pro Wrestling.
- The toyline for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) had Tattoo, an ally of the Turtles who had tried to be a Ninja, only to be "heckled for being humongous", and later join a society of Ninja Sumos. He eventually made it into one episode of the cartoon, where he was recast as a mutated hamster (who still looked like a human sumo).
- Amusingly, this character's tattoos would have made him unable to compete in sumo, as, in Japan, tattoos are usually a sign of Yakuza and are banned.
- The character of Edmund Honda, from Street Fighter II, a big and fast fighter who is inspired by the sumo wrestling sport. Currently, this trope picture and the Trope Maker for Fighting Games. Ironically, E. Honda's recurring character goal is to promote sumo as a valid martial art, but the style Honda uses is so divergent from the established canon of sumo that no traditionalist would consider him a sumo wrestler, which is a side effect of the changes Honda had to make in order to compete on equal footing in the Street Fighter tournaments.
- A popular archetype in Fighting Games, inspired by E. Honda:
- Ganryu from Tekken series.
- Taka-Arashi from Virtua Fighter series.
- Akatsuki-Maru from Buriki One.
- Gan Isurugi from Rival Schools series, who's also a Japanese Delinquent.
- Bo Rai Cho uses it as one of his styles in Mortal Kombat: Deception.
- In Psikyo's Battle K-Road, there're Mitsuji Tanimachi and Harimaoh (a half-Japanese half-Brazilian wrestler).
- Also in Fighting Games, there are some fighters that are out of the ordinary using this martial art:
- Hinako Shijo from The King of Fighters series is a petite schoolgirl practicing this sport. Being mocked in her school for wanting to start a sumo club, Hinako joined the Women Fighters Team in one of KOF tournaments to demonstrate her strength.
- In ClayFighter 63 1/3 and its sequel Sculptor's Cut, there's Sumo Santa, a Bad Santa that uses sumo as his fighting style as well he's one of the Big Bads and Final Bosses of the game.
- Robo no Hana is a robot sumo wrestler in the Hiryu no Ken series.
- Ballz has Tsunami, the fighter of the game that is a sumo wrestler. If by "fighters" you think in spherical characters, of course.
- In Super Mario World, the sumo brother is a large, fat Koopa that has the ability to stomp the ground and create columns of fire.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has a sumo wrestling mini-game. Link has to compete against the much larger Mayor of Ordon Village to advance the plot.
- In Pokémon, Makuhita and Hariyama, both named after sumo rankings, are bulky Fighting-types that possess high HP and attack. The latter's appearance draws heavily from sumo culture, with large, open palms and sumo shorts and waist coat.
- There are a few Fighting Games entirely dedicated to this martial art, mostly seen in Japan only. The website Spritted compiled the most famous games about sumo wrestling in this article. Also Hardcore Gaming 101 has their own article about sumo video games in its old website.
- And about sumo video games, there's Sumo Fighter, a Platform Game for Game Boy that rarely was exported to Western audiences. In the game, there's a sumo wrestler named Bon-chan (aka Bontaro Heiseiyama) on his quest to rescue a beautiful Damsel in Distress. Fittingly, most of Bon-chan's moves are based on actual sumo techniques.
- From Pushmo series, there's his protagonist Mallo, a little Cartoon Creature akin to a sumo wrestler, who pulls and pushes on blocks to create platforms which he then climbs on to progress through the level.
- Geekwad Series: In Wacky Funsters: A Geekwad's Guide To Gaming, the first opponent faced in Ping, Tsunami Tso Tsume, looks like a sumo wrestler and uses Gratuitous Japanese.
- For Honor: The Shugoki class of fighters are heavily based on Sumo Wrestler. While they do use Kanabō, a giant wooden club with metal studs on it, everything else fits Sumo Wrestling to a T. They are large, Japanese warriors, who are are slow but hit like a truck. They have three moves (the most of any class) related to positioning the enemy fighter, making them the best class for pushing the enemy off ledges. They have the option to have a Genko style chonmage and use sumo wrestling moves as emotes.
- The Powder Keg Cannoneers from Battle Realms are sumo wrestlers conscripted to battle. Unlike most VG examples above, they are Long-Range Fighter Glass Cannon, as they are the only people with enough girth to handle the powder keg cannons. The lore mentions how the enemy would laugh at these fat, lumbering 'soldiers' making their way to the field — right until their massive cannons start ripping apart the enemy's lines.
- The Show Within a Show in the Ben 10 franchise, "Sumo Slammers", is our titular protagonist's favorite franchise series. In one episode, Ben travels inside a video game to meet the game's protagonist, Ishiyama, who has the ability to increase his size, durability, and strength.
- In Ed, Edd n Eddy, one episode is devoted to the Eds trying to make Jimmy famous by making him a sumo wrestler. They succeed in making him fit for the position, but sadly, sumo wrestlers only exist in Japan, making the plan completely pointless.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, one of the Earthbenders participating in Earth Rumble VI, using the Stage Name "The Big Bad Hippo", is a large, fat man dressed in nothing but a pair of shorts and a belt that resembles a sumo wrestler's.
- The infamous cartoon of Super Duper Sumos is about three big fat sumo fighters that fight Kaijus with their butts. Their form of handshake after a work well done is slamming their butts together.
- The Villain of Hanna-Barbera's Jonny Quest episode "Dragons of Ashida" has a hulking manservant named Sumi, who is quite corpulent and wears only a loincloth supported by a steel belt with rivets. Sumi is the only one powerful enough to keep the Mad Scientist's oversize komodo dragons leashed and controlled.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): a sumo was one of the crooks the Turtles had to deal with in a martial arts themed Bad-Guy Bar.
- Jackie Chan Adventures:
- Tohru is a Stout Strength fighter who claims he turned to crime because he was "too small for Sumo", although his stated weight of 480 pounds is actually typical for the sport. He actually does participate in a sumo match in season 3's opener; the opposing sumo and his fellows later join Tohru in fighting the allies of the episode's main villain.
- Season 4 introduces eight new tribes of Shadowkhan, including one based on sumo wrestlers, which are featured in the episode "Black Magic".
- Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama features a sumo ninja.
- Xiaolin Showdown had the episode Dreamscape, where the heroes had to face off against their greatest fears in one-on-one sumo matches. This caused them to all bloat up to larger sizes. Notably, Kimiko was included, providing a Rare Female Example.
- Rugrats in Paris: There is a scene where the characters are in a restaurant being served by sumo wrestlers who sing karaoke. The rugrats mistake them for giant babies.