10 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
habitually write my intro before watching the bouts, not after, so depending on
how far ahead I'm getting a headstart, sometimes that means I haven't read
Mike's report from the previous day yet. That was the case today. So I was
interested to see when I opened Mike's Day 9 that we'd written intros on the
same topic (the leaderboard) and said many of the same things. Part of me said
hey, okay, I should rewrite this now because otherwise we're repeating
ourselves. But the other part of me said no, leave it. So here's a second voice
on the same topic.
It is brass tacks time. While the tournament has been fascinating with the lack
of top contenders fighting well, at the same time it has not felt right to talk
about the leaderboard when guys like Chiyotairyu and Daieisho are up there. We
can't avoid it anymore, though. Here is everybody within two of the lead:
On the one hand, this is a legitimate mess, and it is hard to see how it could
play out. Not a single one of these guys played each other today, meaning the
winnowing will continue to be slow. I would expect that on the final weekend
we'll still have to be talking about at least one of the also-ran Maegashira
guys hanging around in this group. However, we can also parse a bit. More than
half of today's matches--10 out of 18--features a guy on the "leaderboard." In
other words, the "leaderboard" is still largely a smokescreen. Let's clear it a
Takarafuji, Daieisho, Arawashi, and Asanoyama you can forget about: they are too
low on the banzuke to be seriously considered for the yusho, don't have the
skills, and 6-3 is just a good record, not a great one. They're on the
leaderboard because it is still early and that is it. Daishomaru is mostly the
same, but with one less loss and ranked at a spot on the banzuke where he can
excel, he is a good candidate to be a guy hanging around when the weekend comes.
He cannot win, though. Takanoiwa could potentially pull a Kyokutenho and slip
into the yusho by mistake if everything falls apart, but give that a 1% chance
of happening (thought I did notice that Kyokutenho was on the broadcast as an
announcer on Sunday, probably to help pad the idea of an Onosho victory, though,
not a Takanoiwa surprise). Count Takanoiwa out too.
Chiyotairyu deserves a word here. He is not good enough to win--not by a long
shot--but he is the surprise of the tournament. He's rarely showed well enough
to even hang on in Makuuchi, let alone the jo'i, and predicting, say, a 2-13
finish for him was the sensible way to go. However, he's looking mean and nasty
and dominant: it has been a ton of fun. The bottom line on a storyline like
that, however, is that it is plenty by itself: there is no reason to tolerate a
yusho from him, as even 9-6, for example, would count as a great tournament for
him. 10-5 is a borderline miracle. He's already done enough; his story is fixed,
and he just needs one more win to grab a special prize. That's the real focus
So, that leaves us with the only three real contenders: Goeido, Onosho, and
Harumafuji. As I've said before, this is setting up well for Goeido. If I were
him and his stable, I'd be busy cashing in chips, because an opportunity like
this won't come around very often and the narrative of a win for him will be
publically acceptable and easily fits in with the Hakkaku Revolution. His
chances to yusho are very, very strong.
Onosho has a yusho chance because he's pretty good, and that's a good thing. But
could he win it on his own? No. Would it be a terrible travesty if he won? No.
Just premature and overreaching. It could happen, but he's in a similar (but
slightly better) boat to Chiyotairyu: this is a star making tournament for him
already, whatever else happens. I think his yusho chances are pretty small.
So, then there's Harumafuji. He needs only two things to happen: 1) Win out. He
can do this if he chooses. 2) Somebody else also decides to beat Goeido. That
can happen, like how Toyonoshima spoiled Kotoshogiku's perfect tournament. That
scenario then puts them in a 12-3 playoff, where Harumafuji would have yet
another chance to decide whether to give Goeido the tournament. I'll be rooting
for his comeback.
Let's see what happened today.
M14 Endo (5-4) vs. M15 Tokushoryu (2-7)
Endo is making progress: for once, I thought, "Endo is clearly the better
wrestler and should win this." Unfortunately, the results were a little shaky.
They went chest to chest and Endo had a right inside and left outside. However,
he couldn't turn this into a force out or a throw. Tokushoryu, who only had an
arm under the pit on Endo's body, twice used his superior size to leverage with
that arm and almost throw Endo--he got so close you had to wonder why he
couldn't finish it. Why indeed. Sigh. Since he didn't finish it, though, Endo
was left to finish it with a little left step aside and jerk on the belt,
collapsing Tokushoryu to the dirt in the vacated space, uwate-dashi-nage.
LEADERBOARD MATCH: M13 Nishikigi (4-5) vs. M16 Asanoyama (6-3)
Asanoyama looked pretty good here. Wasted some time with some quick tsuppari to
the face, but then gave a solid surge to the body on which he grabbed a fistful
of belt on the left. He used that to promptly turn Nishikigi around and dump him
at the tawara, uwate-nage.
M13 Kaisei (5-4) vs. M12 Sadanoumi (0-9)
As we've established, Sadanoumi has nothing in the legs due to the injury that
kept him out most of the first week. Opponents know that too, and so now have no
fear in closing and pushing. That's what Kaisei did; Sadanoumi was not fast
enough to get away and was caught, and the yori-kiri win was quick and decisive.
M14 Okinoumi (4-5) vs. M11 Chiyomaru (4-5)
Okinoumi is performing absolutely terribly this tournament, whether through
choice or some decline I don't know, but today it looked like choice. He
tsuppari'ed around at Chiyomaru's face, which is not his game, then decided to
close his arms and push--also not his game, as he's a belt guy. Against a weak
opponent like this, he should have had no fear of setting the pace and making
the match run his way. Instead, he was up there lamely goofing around with silly
business, so Chiyomaru took pity on the match and pulled Okinoumi down,
LEADERBOARD MATCH: M15 Yutakayama (4-5) vs. M9 Arawashi (6-3)
Arawashi showed a lot of his toolkit here. He cat slapped, he reached in for
belt but didn't get it, he was swift-thinking enough to immediately compensate
by trying something else, he tsuppari'ed, he moved back in quick and got the
belt, and he used his lithe strength and competitive oomph to drive Yutakayama
kinetically out, kabooming him bodily over the edge with the full force of his
torso, yori-otoshi. Did I mention I like Arawashi rather much?
LEADERBOARD MATCH: M8 Chiyoshoma (3-6) vs. M12 Daishomaru (7-2)
Nice forearm to the face from the sometimes slightly wicked Chiyoshoma. It
actually didn't do anything, but as Daishomaru didn't do anything either (he was
too busy trying to set up a pull), Chiyoshoma squared to him, pushed him hard
once, maybe twice, and drove his ineffectual opponent from the ring like
ragstock, tsuki-otoshi. Whoa, is the wrong guy from these two on the leaderboard
LEADERBOARD MATCH: M10 Ishiura (2-7) vs. M8 Takarafuji (6-3)
Wow. We'd been fortunate over the last two matches to see some appropriate
dominance, and I expected the same here. That's not exactly what happened, but
we got to see something interesting anyway: the better guy survived an almost
totally helpless position, because he's better. Takarafuji was dominating the
early portion of this match by keeping Ishiura at a distance and driving the
little dude slowly back. However, Ishiura is no dummy, and managed to slip out
near the tawara and get behind Takarafuji. From there, the okuri-dashi
rear-force-out is usually academic. However, serious credit to Takarafuji, who
performed a smart and complicated dance, spinning first one way and then the
other like a jazzy whirling dervish, each time putting one arm behind him to try
to usher Ishiura back in front. Ishiura, of course, tried to anticipate the
moves and stay behind him. Ishiura was also trying to push, but as Takarafuji's
swirling defenses were working, Ishiura couldn't focus on that, and it didn't
work. Takarafuji did four separate twists--I counted--and the last worked:
Ishiura moved slower than he did, and Takarafuji was able to spin quick and far
enough to face back up to him. Takarafuji knew it was on: he promptly mangled
Ishiura's face and neck and bent him like chaff in the wind while hurling him
from the claytop, oshi-dashi. Was this bout pretty? No. But it was great fun,
and showed excellent survival instincts and technique from Takarafuji.
LEADERBOARD MATCH: M7 Chiyonokuni (5-4) vs. M11 Daieisho (6-3)
Both of these guys fight pretty lively, so I expected… a sloppy mess. Lively and
good are not the same. As Yoda would say, "control, control, you must learn
control!" Sure enough, decent head butt, then some demonstrative mutual
up-swipes at the face, before Chiyonokuni stepped to the side and downed
Daieisho in your classic, common, mid-match henka, tsuki-otoshi. This is not
your father's leaderboard. M10 Takekaze (3-6) vs. M7 Ikioi (4-5)
Ikioi was patient and did just what he needed to do: kept his hands on
piece-of-toast-Takekaze's shoulders and didn't risk too much forward motion.
Toasted-Takekaze got one weak little pull attempt in, then tried to run away,
and Ikioi knocked him down from the side as he went past, tsuki-otoshi. Mmmm,
LEADERBOARD MATCH: M6 Ichinojo (5-4) vs. M9 Takanoiwa (7-2)
As I've said repeatedly, I think Ichinojo is a sloppy, lazy mess. But when he
wins, boy does he ever win. Then I'm not sure. Takanoiwa is strong and has some
good game. Takanoiwa also got in low here. Takanoiwa also had a belt grip. But
Ichinojo didn't move an inch. Nor did he even need to use his size. Instead, he
grabbed the arm by which Takanoiwa was holding his belt, lifted Takanoiwa up by
it, and flipped him to the ground, kote-nage. My goodness. Normally you only see
invulnerable-looking sumo like this from Yokozuna. Hmmm…
M4 Shohozan (5-4) vs. M6 Kagayaki (2-7)
Confidence vs. fear. That's what I see here. Shohozan is way better than his
body should indicate because he is not afraid to be all he can be and believes
he can win. Kagayaki is way worse than his body should indicate because he is
full of fear and hesitation. The bout, however, was brief and a mess: basically,
their arms got tangled up with each other while they prepared to do some fierce
tsuppari, and Shohozan, getting the weird kimari-te of tsuki-hiza, fell down.
Courtesy of the Japan Times: "Tsuki-hiza (knee touch down) - Tsuki-hiza is
recorded outside sumo's official listing of winning techniques. A rikishi
stumbles without any real contact with his opponent and loses by touching down
with one or both knees." Yes. They need to give honest kimari-te like this more
LEADERBOARD MATCH: M1 Tochinoshin (1-8) vs. M3 Chiyotairyu (7-2)
I was waiting for the "boom" of two bodies colliding and one being driven
backwards. Instead we got the "shlurp!" of two bodies glomming sweatily together
at the chest as they reached for each other's belts. That should favor
Tochinoshin, bigtime. However, puzzlingly, he didn't try any throws or lateral
movement, and Chiyotairyu was able to size up a linear force-out charge.
Chiyotairyu executed it impressively, first lifting the burly Tochinoshin off
the ground tsuri-dashi style, then doing some gaburi belly-hump work
Kotoshogiku style, and finally letting go and pushing Tochinoshin the last few
inches out with a two-handed "get away from me you drunken letch!" shove to the
LEADERBOARD MATCH: M3 Onosho (7-2) vs. M1 Kotoshogiku (5-4)
Fortunately the Kotoshogiku-magic-tournament thing is over, as he has sunk to
5-4. However, the Onosho-magic-tournament thing was about to be over too. Onosho
let Kotoshogiku gaburi him way too much, but I was patiently waiting for him to
say "enough of that" and turn the tables easy as peas in a bowl and toss
Kotoshogiku to the ground. Nope. The opposite happened--Kotoshogiku abandoned
the gaburi attack, reversed gears, and drag-threw Onosho to the grit,
tsuki-otoshi. Why oh why must we do this?
K Tamawashi (3-6) vs. M2 Hokutofuji (4-5)
Hokutofuji needs to grab some belt, spread his feet, successfully mount a charge
or throw, and get his confidence back in a clean match that follows his style.
Instead, he had two false starts, got in a push-and-slap battle with a guy who
is pretty good at that, resorted to a desperate, fearful pull that didn't get
near to working, and retreated frantically around the tawara until he was forced
embarrassingly way, way out, oshi-dashi, by Tamawashi in
god-of-destruction-Shiva mode. My, my is Hokutofuji ever a mess right now.
S Mitakeumi (5-4) vs. M2 Aoiyama (0-9)
Aoiyama is just like Ichinojo. When he is being passive, slow, and foolish, he
looks really, really bad. Like, "how can you possibly be this bad, you big giant
you," bad. But when he is being good, you wonder how anybody ever beats him.
Now, he didn't display palatable sumo here--he retreated and pulled Mitakeumi
down by the head, hataki-komi--but he made it look so easy. So easy. His arms,
for a moment, looked bigger than Mitakeumi's ample chest. His belly looked big
enough to swallow the world. And Mitakeumi was a gnat on a summer day, being
turned to splat by your palm. Yow.
M5 Shodai (4-5) vs. S Yoshikaze (5-4)
I think Shodai really needed to win this one. In this star-free tournament, like
Mitakeumi he has to come out with a good record or his hype looks ever more
dubious and pale. Consequently, he came hard, smashing up with his right
fore-arm and trying to get in underneath with a grip. However, that's hard to do
when you're standing fully upright, which he was. Yoshikaze, on the other hand,
had his can slung back where it belonged, so he put his head on Shodai's chest
and drove him out so hard Vanilla Softcream slushed meltily all over the first
few rows of fans, oshi-dashi. My goodness, we are seeing some dominant
performances today by some of the winners.
LEADERBOARD MATCH: K
Tochiohzan (3-6) vs. O Goeido (8-1)
Tochiohzan was passive and mukiryoku and easily defeated. He was a bit slack, so
Goeido drove him swiftly back. Tochiohzan then walked around a bit while Goeido
tried to pull him. Finally, Tochiohzan offered some weak hand taps in place of
tsuppari while Goeido put his hard little hands to him and blew him out,
oshi-dashi. I'm not a betting man, which is good because otherwise I'd be
betting a lot of money on Goeido winning this tournament. And that wouldn't be
any fun at all.
LEADERBOARD MATCH: M5 Takakeisho (5-4) vs. Y Harumafuji (6-3)
Harumafuji played Takakeisho's game and lost, and it's as simple as that. Do I
think he did that on purpose? The "played his opponent's game" part, yes. The
"lost" part, not really. But he was willing to accept that possible consequence
decided to see how it would turn out if he let Takakeisho fight his way
(something Hakuho also does… all. the. time.). After a bit of honest-to-goodness
grappling, Harumafuji and Takakeisho repeatedly stood apart from each other,
crashed into each other briefly, and retreated back to their face off. This is
how Takakeisho always fights--but not Harumafuji. Thus it stands to reason that
Harumafuji was a sitting duck for the quick pull and slap-down, hataki-komi,
that soon felled him. He was just standing there at that point, much like Hakuho
last tournament, when Hakuho gave us the "I'm tired of this, so bring it, mutha"
thing. The difference is, when Hakuho did this, he STILL won: he had his arms
up, and wanted to win mano-a-mano. It was an invitation, not an insult.
Harumafuji, on the other hand, had his hands down and was doing a stare-down.
It was "I dare you." That's a lot different, and he paid.
Since I started with it, I suppose it is incumbent upon me to reiterate the
leaderboard. However, if you've followed today's action, and the
leaves-in-autumn results for some of the guys on the leaderboard, I think you'll
agree it's really all just Goeido now. Yes, time to focus on and enjoy your
personal cheeseball lower Makuuchi guys, because the yusho race is over.
Tomorrow Mike toggles the joystick at the zen arcade.
9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
on the day 7 henka, but reporting on sumo is not at the top of my priority list,
so I will on occasion miss my weekend shift when other things keep me occupied.
I was able to watch the sumo on both days over the weekend, however, and I
always look forward to the mini-documentaries NHK produces for the weekend
broadcasts. On Sunday morning, they had a sit-down with Isegahama-oyakata to
relive the May 1992 basho, a basho which started with four Yokozuna on the
banzuke but ended up with just Isegahama-oyakata crossing the finish line. There
are obvious parallels to that basho with the current Aki basho, but I was happy
to see NHK showcase it for more reasons than one.
The first full basho I ever watched as a new sumo fan was the May 1992
tournament. Knowing nothing about sumo, I was largely a deer in the headlights,
and the key points I can remember when watching it was: Takahanada beat
Chiyonofuji on day 1 and the crowd went wild: Chiyonofuji retired on day 3 after
being beaten by Takatoriki; Konishiki was unbeatable; and the utter shock when
Asahifuji came back to beat Konishiki twice on senshuraku to take the yusho.
As is the case with anyone watching sumo for the first time, the thought that
any of it is orchestrated never enters one's mind, and so I moved on waiting for
the next tournament without ever considering the possibility of politics in
They began the documentary on day 8 by panning in close to the denkouban and
pointing out that two of the four Yokozuna were already kyujo (Hokutoumi and
Onokuni), and then at the end of day 3, Chiyonofuji announced his retirement,
and so that was one more Yokozuna off of the board. The attention then focused
to Asahifuji, the remaining Yokozuna.
Asahifuji was crowned Yokozuna the year before, and he started out the first
four basho as a Yokozuna by failing to yusho. The overall impression from the
Japanese fans--then and now--is that Asahifuji was a weak Yokozuna. Perhaps weak
is too harsh of a word, but let's just say he never stood out to anyone...sorta
Well, the 1992 Natsu basho began with Konishiki winning his first 14 bouts with
Asahifuji's going 13-1 over that same stretch. Asahifuji was paired with
Konishiki on senshuraku, and they showed us that senshuraku bout and
then the playoff where Asahifuji defeated Konishiki in succession for the
comeback yusho. I remember at
the time while watching it that I couldn't figure out how Konishiki was defeated
twice so easily, but as they showed the replays today--the first time I have
watched the bouts since 1992, it all looked eerily similar to what we're
watching in sumo today.
In the senshuraku bout, Konishiki did nothing at the tachi-ai giving Asahifuji
moro-zashi and allowing the Yokozuna to force him straight back step by step. At
the brink, Konishiki actually made an effort to lift Asahifuji off of his feet
sorta how you'd set up an utchari, but he didn't go for an utchari nor did he
even attempt to move laterally. He just pulled Asahifuji straight into his own
body as he stepped beyond the straw. In defeat Konishiki didn't look pained or
emotionally spent or anything. His demeanor was completely nonchalant.
In the playoff bout, Asahifuji henka'd to his left grabbing the quick outer grip
to which Konishiki countered with the right inside. Then the two rikishi
switched places in the center of the ring, and Konishiki brought his right arm
from the inside out. I've brought this up before, but there is no name for such
a move in sumo because it's so destructive. It's opposite is the maki-kae where
you do anything you can to get to the inside, but they don't even have a term
for bringing your arm from the inside out because it's a boneheaded move in
Well, Konishiki surrendered that inside position, which was just as well because
he didn't use it to lift his opponent upright or off balance, and once he
gave that up, he just stood around and waited for Asahifuji to dashi-nage
him and then pull him down. Never once during the two bouts did Konishiki ever
attempt an offensive move; never once did he attempt to counter; and the only
describable move he made was bringing that right arm from the inside out during
the playoff bout.
I actually recorded the two bouts and will show them here for reference, and
just try and identify Konishiki's attempting to do anything constructive in
In short, Konishiki was mukiryoku throughout both bouts as Asahifuji would come
back to win his first and only yusho as a Yokozuna. Incidentally, Asahifuji
would retire less than a year later serving as Yokozuna for just nine basho, so
that lone yusho as a Yokozuna was a gift from Konishiki.
While that ending didn't make sense to me at the time, like anyone who starts
watching sumo wresting, I took it all at face value never once considering that
sumo wasn't anything but straight up. Over time as I got more used to the sport,
I would notice favors done here or there. There's the easing up against 7-7
rikishi on senshuraku; there's letting a veteran Ozeki win late in the
tournament to ensure his eight; and then I began to notice that Akebono and
Musashimaru would let up for each other to the benefit of the guy higher up on
So through the early nineties, I learned to identify what I would justify as
harmless yaocho, but then in 1996 a news story was published about an oyakata
who died suddenly due to reported respiratory problems just before he was to
release a book that detailed yaocho and other scandalous behavior in sumo.
Onaruto-oyakata had allegedly been feeding information to tabloids in Japan when
all of a sudden he along with a cohort (Seiichiro Hashimoto) died in the same
hospital just hours apart. Once again, my mind tried to justify it all away.
"Well, that stuff happened in the past. What I'm seeing now is real."
Then you had Itai and his coming out party in early 2000 where he claimed that
about 80% of bouts were fixed on a given day. You had a tape surface where
Hakuho's stablemaster admitted to paying Asashoryu for a bout at the 2006
Nagoya basho. And then you had the yaocho scandal itself in 2011.
Every few years there was hard evidence about yaocho in sumo...none of which has
ever been refuted, and during this entire span, I was learning more and more how to
correctly analyze sumo bouts.
It's been interesting to look back on the past 25 years and analyze the
progression of my mind and how I've chosen to deal with the stark reality that
sumo wrestling has always been corrupt and sumo wrestling always will be
corrupt. I know the mindset of, "I don't want it to be true, and so it isn't"
because I dealt with it for close to two decades, but by the time the last
legitimate, elite Japanese rikishi left the banzuke (Kaio), I understood what
sumo was, and I've been able to nail my analysis of it ever since. It is my
opinion that until you come to your own reconciliation of what sumo wrestling
is, you will always have that nagging feeling in the back of your mind; you will
continue to find ridiculous reasoning that explains away obvious yaocho; and
you will most definitely hate my expert analysis.
With that said, let's start today off with talk of the yusho. Despite what the
bloated leaderboard says today, the leading candidates to yusho are as follows:
I don't see how anyone not in that threesome hoists the cup in the end.
Harumafuji still has to be the favorite because he's the best rikishi on the
banzuke still fighting. Nobody can beat him straight up, and if he wants to win
out, he'll win out.
Goeido is the likely favorite, but he's a guy where Itai's 80% formula is
applicable meaning about four out of every five of his wins is due to a
mukiryoku opponent. As a result, the faux-zeki will still have to rely on favors from the majority of
his remaining opponents to yusho.
As for Onosho, there's a couple factors in place. First, his sumo has been fair
at best this basho. Yes, he's winning for the most part, but the majority of his
content has been pull sumo. Four of his wins were via yaocho with all four of
those coming from foreign rikishi (he's undefeated against the furreners...imagine
that), so like Goeido, he still needs help to yusho. What hurts Onosho is that
Goeido is the senpai, so in the senpai-kohai system, Goeido trumps Onosho.
Okay, enough said there; there's yaocho waiting to be told, so let's start the
day with M13 Nishikigi against M14 Okinoumi. Nishikigi's tachi-ai was horrible
with both arms out wide, and so Okinoumi assumed moro-zashi getting the left arm
in first and then maki-kae-ing with the right as he slowly moved left. Problem
was, Okinoumi wasn't looking to do anything with the advantageous position, and so
Nishikigi pressed him slowly to the edge and went for this strange over the top
of the shoulder kote-nage type thing that of course caused Okinoumi to twist
himself down and park his fanny beyond the straw. This was quite a fake fall to
start things off, and to think that a veteran like Okinoumi couldn't kick
Nishikigi's ass with moro-zashi was laughable. After the bout they caught up
with Nishikigi and called up to the booth saying, "Nishikigi said that his form
was bad..." and the word they used for form was "katachi."
As soon as they uttered the phrase "bad form" everyone in the booth laughed
abruptly because they knew his form was awful. And yet, he somehow miraculously won with ease. I don't know
what the politics were behind this bout, but it was fixed as both dudes end the
M15 Tokushoryu and M12 Sadanoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai,
and with Sadanoumi fighting that right lower leg injury, Tokushoryu had his gal
pushed back and across before Sadanoumi could set up a counter pull. Sadanoumi
is just asking for more trouble trying to fight here as he falls to 0-9 while
Tokushoryu ekes forward to 2-7
M11 Chiyomaru struck M16 Asanoyama with some nice tsuppari from the tachi-ai,
but he was shading backwards for no reason instead of moving forward. With
Asanoyama spending the majority of the bout fending off the thrusts, there was
no reason for Chiyomaru to retreat...unless he was doing the rookie a favor.
Which was exactly the case here as Chiyomaru went limp handing the rookie a 6-3
record while Chiyomaru lands on 4-5. You don't think Maru's gut is that big
because he pays for his own meals do you? At the end of this one, Fujii
Announcer declared with a bit of surprise, "Asanoyama won with oshi sumo today!"
Dude's listed as a yotsu guy.
M11 Daieisho took command early against M15 Yutakayama firing nice tsuppari into
his younger opponent and forcing Yutakayama to play defense, but just like the
last bout, Daieisho didn't capitalize on a number of openings. Early on he had
the clear path to the left inside but pulled the arm out. Next, Daieisho moved
to his left and went for a nice pull, but with Yutakayama leaning forward and
down, Daieisho chose not to finish his foe off. And then in the end, Daieisho
put both hands to Yutakayama's throat with no de-ashi waiting for a light shove
from the side, and at that point Daieisho allowed himself to be thrown off
balance where he was pushed out in the end. Afterwards, they went to Terao in
the mukou-joumen seat, and his analysis of Yutakayama's sumo was "yoku kangaeta,"
or he thought things out well. He did?? He didn't employ a single offensive
maneuver until Daieisho just stood there and let him get shoved out. Yutakayama
moves to 4-5 with the gift while Daieisho still has room to yaocho..er..breathe
M9 Takanoiwa was looking pull from the start against M14 Endoh after securing a
quick right kote grip, but credit Endoh for catching his foe with a nice right
tsuki to the throat that sent the Mongolian dangerously to the edge, but there
was too much separation between the two, and as Endoh looked to catch up,
Takanoiwa slipped to the side and pulled his opponent down for good. Good
adjustment from Endoh who just came up short at 5-4 while Takanoiwa cruises to
They showed a list of M12 Daieisho's kimari-te so far this basho (he came into
the day at 7-1), and I looked at all those badass tsuki-otoshi thinking to
myself "what a crock." I've been calling yaocho all basho in this guy's bouts,
and sure enough the debtor came calling today in M8 Takarafuji. Takarafuji led
with a nice left kachi-age and patiently waited for an opening as Daishomaru
could do nothing. His feet were aligned and he looked lost throughout as
Takarafuji shaded left fighting off Daishomaru's light shoves while nudging him
close to the edge. Finally, Daishomaru whiffed on a pull attempt leaving him
completely exposed, so Takarafuji rushed forward for the kill easily sending the
listless Daishomaru out. That was a 7-1 rikishi coming in?? Looked more
like one of the
worst performances I've seen this basho as Daishomaru falls to 7-2 while
Takarafuji easily outclassed him moving to 6-3.
M13 Kaisei's fall yesterday against Yutakayama was so phony I nearly peed my
pants, so I was looking forward to this all furry matchup today against M8
Chiyoshoma. Kaisei got his left arm in early and threatened his right arm
pushing into Chiyoshoma's left armpit causing the Mongolian to retreat and go
for a pull. Kaisei had the de-ashi working, however, and easily stayed square
with his foe pushing him out in about two seconds. Chiyoshoma came up lame
favoring his left foot, which was bandaged heavily, so there was no chance
today against the Brasilian who moved to 5-4 with the win. Chiyoshoma looks to be in a
bit of trouble with that bad hoof already at 3-6.
In the best bout of the day, M9 Arawashi and M7 Ikioi hooked up in hidari-yotsu
from the tachi-ai where Arawashi had the right outer grip. Ikioi was probably
long enough on the other side to grab a right outer of his own, but his game is
more of a kote-nage / scoop throw style, and so Ikioi settled for the kote grip
with the right. As Arawashi looked to apply pressure, Ikioi's belt came loose
sending Arawashi's grip on one fold up high, and so with reduced leverage, Ikioi
countered first with the right kote-nage throw, and as Arawashi looked to dig in
against that, Ikioi switched gears going for a nice left inside belt throw as
the two danced across the ring. This was great sumo from both parties, and how
nice is it to see Ikioi get a win like this? The dude has nothing thrown his
way; yet, he's one of Japan's best as he moves to 4-5. Arawashi falls to 6-3 for
The most hapless rikishi by far this basho was M10 Takekaze, but after that
disastrous o'fer start, his camp has been buying his wins again. And today was
no exception, unfortunately, as he stepped into the ring against M7 Chiyonokuni.
Chiyonokuni came out lively as he usually does easily fending Takekaze off as
the latter looked for a pull here and there. Problem was that Takekaze is so
hapless he couldn't do anything, and so with his feet perfectly aligned,
Chiyonokuni fired light shoves Takekaze's way placing them higher and higher
until Takekaze had no choice to assume moro-zashi. Still, Takekaze didn't know
what to do with it, and so he threatened a left soto-gake that had no momentum,
and so both rikishi were left standing there upright with nothing doing.
Chiyonokuni must have sensed that Takekaze had nothing left in the tank, and so
he went for a right maki-kae followed up by a left dashi-nage, and while he
easily could have slung the hapless Takekaze out of the ring, he instead slung
himself over to the edge, turned 180 degrees, and then just crumpled to the
dirt. I mean, I've seen some bad acting in my day, but this fall was an instant
classic. I can just see Chiyonokuni's mind working. "They're paying me to lose
this, but this guy ain't doing shat. What am I supposed to do?" Fortunately for
the broadcast, it was half time at this point, and they couldn't cut away
quickly enough to the latest typhoon information. The result of the bout was
Chiyonokuni's falling to 5-4 while Takekaze now finds himself at 3-6. Looks like
Oguruma-oyakata is following my earlier advice about putting a crowbar to his
wallet to keep his guy in the division.
M6 Kagayaki has been overlooked of late in terms of getting bouts thrown his
way, so I'm sure he was glad to see M10 Ishiura standing there across the
shikiri-sen. Ishiura attempted this lame ducking maneuver at the tachi-ai, but
Kagayaki caught him square with both hands to the neck lifting Ishiura upright
before finishing him off once, twice, three times a lady. Easy win for Kagayaki
as both guys end the day at 2-7.
M6 Ichinojo is such a team player. This guy is easy Ozeki material, but it's
just not in the cards these days to give the foreign rikishi any run, and so he
kicks his opponent's ass one day and then throws them a bone the next. Today
against M4 Shohozan, it was time to throw the Japanese rikishi a bone, and so
Ichinojo played the lethargic Mongolith standing there in migi-yotsu with his
foe before graciously going Konishiki and bringing his right arm from the inside
out. That not only gave Shohozan moro-zashi, but when Ichinojo went for a fake
kote-nage with the right, he just backed himself up halfway easily allowing
Shohozan to finish him off. Shohozan beating Ichinojo in three seconds...in
linear fashion? Yeah, right. Both rikishi end the day at 5-4.
For those of you who scoffed at my intro when I said that M3 Onosho's sumo has
been fair this basho, let's just take a look at his winning techniques:
Day 1 against Mitakeumi: hataki-komi (legit win)
Day 2 against Yoshikaze: oshi-taoshi (legit win)
Day 3 against Tamawashi: okuri-dashi
Day 4 against Terunofuji: hiki-otoshi
Day 5 against Harumafuji: hataki-komi
Day 7 against Hokutofuji: oshi-dashi (legit win)
Day 8 against Tochinoshin: hiki-otoshi
I mean, that's an okay resume, but there's just too much hiki and hataki in
there for my liking. He's already shown that he's one of Japan's best, but the
problem with that much yaocho is that he's not prepared for a real fight. And
that's exactly what he got from m'gal M3 Chiyotairyu today. Tairyu just bruised
the darling at the tachi-ai with some loud slaps as he pressed forward with
sweet de-ashi. He was slapping Onosho so silly that the latter had no
wherewithal to counter, and so as Onosho looked to somehow lean back into the
bout, Chiyotairyu switched gears on a dime and pulled Onosho down in about three
seconds if that. Too bad there's no "tsuki-hataki-komi" kimari-te because Chiyotairyu
just kicked his ass. The crowd was in shock at the sound defeat, but those who
read Sumotalk should not have been surprised. I like Onosho, and he's got game,
but he is not the rikishi the Japanese media is making him up to be. Yet anyway.
When he gets there, I'll let everyone know, but he's not there yet, and today is
a good example of how he still has work to do. As the dust settled here, both
rikishi ended the day at 7-2, and so we'll see how Onosho's opponents handle him
the rest of the way.
I hope M1 Tochinoshin gets a helluva Christmas bonus because he's propping the
Japanese dudes up like no other. Today against M1 Kotoshogiku, Shin was his
usual limp self in their hidari-yotsu affair as Tochinoshin let the former Ozeki
get the right outer grip and then just run Tochinoshin over to the edge and out.
Normally, you'd say "force out" for a yori-kiri win, but this was just
Tochinoshin stepping this way and that before walking out. In a normal
bout, both guys would go chest to chest and dig in a bit, but this was as
awkward of a yotsu-zumo but as you'd care to see. The result is favorable,
though, for Kotoshogiku, who is gifted a 5-4 record while Tochinoshin takes the
bullet falling to 1-8. I mean seriously, these guys are both ranked at M1
fighting the same schedule. Is Kotoshogiku really the five-win guy at this
Like Onosho, another guy we've been watching closely is M2 Hokutofuji, but like
Onosho, he's had way too many bouts thrown his way, and so it's seriously
messing with his sumo. Today against Komusubi Tochiohzan, you'd think that
Hokutofuji would have a good chance with the moro-zashi-or-bust rikishi, but he
was intimidated by Oh's strong charge as he got the left hand inside. At this
point, Hokutofuji was looking pull all the way as he evaded right, but the
Komusubi stayed in the youngster's craw finally securing moro-zashi that he used
to force Hokutofuji upright before slapping him down by the shoulder. Hokutofuji
(4-5) should not get dominated like that, but he did today against the savvy
veteran, Tochiohzan, who moves to 3-6 with the win.
Sekiwake Yoshikaze and Komusubi Tamawashi butt heads at the tachi-ai that opened
that wound back up over Yoshikaze's left eye, but Tamawashi's tsuppari were soft
and high allowing Yoshikaze to assume moro-zashi whereupon Cafe promptly drove
his foe back to the straw. He didn't quite have the oomph to sill the dill in
one fell swoop, and Tamawashi could have moved either way and scored on a
tsuki-otoshi, but that wasn't in the cards today as Tamawashi allowed himself to
be forced back and across. Tamawashi falls to 3-6 after the loss as Yoshikaze
improves to 5-4. Gotta have Yoshikaze at a sweet rank heading into Kyushu.
M5 Takakeisho won the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Mitakeumi and drove him back a
step or two, but you could just see the hesitation in Takakeisho's sumo. Do I
keep up this forward momentum? Or do I resort to my usual shtick, which is to
push and retreat. In this state of indecision with Takakeisho's arms extended
forward, Mitakeumi moved left going for a quick swipe, but he didn't really need
it as the momentum shift caused Takakeisho to just fall forward and down. The
look on Takakeisho's face said it all. He totally dominated the bout, but since
his brand of sumo is not to go balls to the wall forward, it cost him today. On
the whole, this was a terrible bout of sumo between two Japanese rikishi as they
end the day at 5-4.
M2 Aoiyama coulda pounded Ozeki Goeido today with his tsuppari attack, and he
blasted him back a full step and half from the tachi-ai, but as Goeido moved to
his left, Aoiyama chose to still move forward allowing the faux-zeki to easily
slap him down in maybe two seconds. If you have the chance to watch the replay
of this, notice how Goeido's feet are aligned the ENTIRE time. Then of course
you have the fall from Aoiyama where his knees don't even touch the dirt.
When a dude breaks his fall with one or both palms and no other part of his body
hits the dohyo, his fall is planned. What a joke here
as Aoiyama gifts Goeido kachi-koshi. At 8-1, Goeido should take the yusho, but
once again, it wouldn't surprise me to see Harumafuji choose to win out.
Goeido's opponent's probably won't all be obligated to throw their bouts against
him, so let's see what happens moving forward. As for Aoiyama, his official
record is 0-9.
In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji was Harumafuji against M5 Shodai,
which meant he struck hard at the tachi-ai getting the left arm inside and
following that up with the right outer grip, and since the Yokozuna meant
bidness today, he easily forced Shodai upright and off balance to where he
rushed him back across the straw. In the process, the Yokozuna put his left hand
at the back of Shodai's leg in watashi-komi fashion, but he didn't need it as
Shodai is largely defenseless in his sumo. Harumafuji moves to 6-3 with the win,
and I don't see the yusho line staying at two losses, so it's entirely up to the
Yokozuna as to whether or not he'll yusho. As for Shodai, he falls to a quiet
4-5 with the loss, and if the dude had more marketable game, he'd be up there
along with Onosho in terms of hype.
The NHK leaderboard is an eclectic group for sure as follows:
8 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
interest is often suppressed in sports writing and broadcasting. In some ways
this is natural: if it's a nationally broadcast game of American football, for
example, you don't want the play-by-play guy from Boston to be an open homer and
infuriate everybody in San Francisco. But sometimes it seems silly: even guys
who do 162 games a year with the same baseball team are sometimes looked down on
if they use pet nicknames for the players or get overly excited when the team
they cover does well. This isn't always true--the Chicago White Sox announcers
are famous for their over-the-top bias, for example--but many announcers quietly
follow this ethic and are surprisingly neutral. And when's the last time you saw
your hometown paper go ahead and inject a bunch of partisan personal opinion
into the write-up of last night's game?
In sumo the same is true--there is very little open rooting--but of course you
can often feel an announcer or journalist's particular bent slip into his or her
tone of voice, commentary, writing, etc. And as Mike has pointed out time and
again, the between-bouts topics of the broadcast give thumpingly loud signals.
But my writing on Sumotalk ain't professional journalism, so over the last three
years I've more and more often just plain said who I hoped would win. Here we
are on Day 8 of this fascinating tournament, nakabi or the middle day, the heart
of the dog days in the parade, so it is a good time to throw in something a
little different. (Don't worry, no Star Wars or made-up Gullah-esque dialect
today.) I figure since my bias is often on clear display anyway, I might as well
just go ahead and be explicit about it. So today, for fun, in each match I'm
going to say who I am rooting for, and why.
You can't decide to root for someone. It just happens naturally. My parents
attended a football game at my high school, us against the arch rivals from
across town. My school won, but played in a boring, sloppy way. The other team
was the underdog. Afterwards my parents told me they were secretly rooting for
the other team to win: the enemy's style of play was just more fun, and their
circumstances more appealing. It's like that. So, when I describe who I'm
rooting for, the deciding factor is what I feel.
M13 Nishikigi (2-5) vs. M15 Tokushoryu (1-6)
Rooting for Tokushoryu: Nishikigi is like my high school football team: boring.
I dunno. Mike said on the FightBox pod cast the other day that the kanji in the
names of the wrestlers matters. I never thought about that before, but it's
totally true. I just like Tokushoryu's name, which leads to his nickname,
Special Sauce. I also like his ungainly round bad sumo: he feels like an
underdog to me every time he's out there.
Match: Off the tachi-ai, Tokushoryu was too high and wide, then very slowly
tried to maki-kae his left arm inside. It kind of worked--he got it in
there--but it was too late, as Nishikigi was ignoring all that: Nishikigi had a
belt grip and was driving Special Sauce out, yori-kiri.
M15 Yutakayama (2-5) vs. M13 Kaisei (4-3)
Rooting for Kaisei: Kaisei has this open, unflappable demeanor that makes him
look like a nice guy plugging along in a hard man's world where he'd rather not
have to be so macho. I may be totally wrong--he may be a jerk--but he's
appealing. And his bulk is interesting. It does also help being from an odd
place--if there were a wrestler from Liechtenstein, you can bet I'd root hard
for him. On the other side, Yutakayama is just a guy.
Match: Kaisei drove forward low and bent over, but in a lackluster manner, and
Yutakayama far too easily twisted Kaisei's arm up and dumped him to the nearby
M16 Asanoyama (4-3) vs. M12 Sadanoumi (0-7)
Rooting for Sadanoumi: How can you not root for a guy who is 0-7, coming back
from an injury, and whose name starts with "sad"? It's underdog city here.
Normally I don't root for him, but match-to-match circumstances do matter. Both
of these guys are pretty much non-entities for me, but today Sadanoumi had my
Match: Sadanoumi has just been flailing about with his arms since coming back
from five days of injury, but really has nothing: no power or drive in his legs.
Asanoyama grabbed hold of him chest to chest with a right inside on the body,
held on, kept moving forward, added a left outside belt grip, and got a dominant
M11 Daieisho (6-1) vs. M14 Okinoumi (3-4)
Rooting for Okinoumi: Daieisho's style doesn't appeal to me; I lost interest in
tsuppari years ago, and tend to find the taller guys more interesting than short
guys. Okinoumi on the other hand always feels like a package of skills ready to
burst out. I also admit that I often like older guys better: I get used to them
as they grow on me over time. They're like friends: we've spent years together.
Also, I'm older myself now, and I think wanting to see guys have long careers is
natural: hang in there buddy, against the dying of the damn light. Finally,
Okinoumi has a smooth, strong body that shouts "sumo." Wish he showed more grit.
Match: Daieisho gave Okinoumi some purposeful shoves in the face, and for a
while Okinoumi played that game too, including a nice uppercut. But that's a
losing technique--playing to your opponent's game--so he eventually let Daieisho
come in close enough that he could get one inside body grip and one outside belt
grip and toss Daieisho convincingly down at the straw, uwate-nage.
M14 Endo (4-3) vs. M11 Chiyomaru (4-3)
Rooting for Endo: I'm totally not into the Endo hype, but he's come to seem
underdoggy because he so thoroughly does not live up to expectations. And he has
never seemed to have an ego to match his public persona: pretty level headed.
There's something gracious to him. As for Chiyomaru, despite my fondness for
Tokushoryu and liking tall guys like Okinoumi and massive ones like Kaisei, I'm
generally disdainful of guys who look to me like they're trying to overcome lack
of sufficient skills by piling on the fat. Tall? Yes. Bulky? Yes. Flabby like a
ball of gel? No.
Match: Endo fought well here, first ignoring suffocating body pressure and then
weathering a lot of tear-your-head-off shoves. He went right down inside and
reached in hard for a right-handed grip on the front underneath of the belt,
then used that to power Chiyomaru over the straw, yori-kiri.
Daishomaru (6-1) vs. M10 Takekaze (2-5)
Rooting for Daishomaru: This was a tough one, because I'm down on both of these
guys right now. Daishomaru, a useless puller, may be my least favorite guy on
the banzuke. But Takekaze is an inveterate puller too, is past his point of
having a point, and I'm now rooting for him to retire, respect him though I
have. In the end my emotions were with Daishomaru today, in a pale kind of way.
Heck, he's 6-1 and on my Fantasy Sumo roster, so go for it, man. This is as thin
as rooting interest gets.
Match: Blech. Daishomaru retreated quickly and pulled the advancing Takekaze
down by the head, hataki-komi. Even from underneath and while advancing,
Takekaze was pawing up at Daishomaru, trying to find a pull-chance in the sky.
Not there. Youth was served in The Battle of the Shameless Pullers.
M7 Chiyonokuni (4-3) vs. M10 Ishiura (2-5)
Rooting for Ishiura: As I said two days ago, I'm not into nationalism much, and
Chiyonokuni oozes that aesthetic. I just can't get into him. Ishiura I generally
have no passion for either, but the scrappy underdog thing is his appeal, and
it's enough to get him the nod here. And it's fun to call him Stone Ass.
Match: Chiyonokuni took advantage of Stone Ass's Ura-esque ultra-low tachi-ai by
not moving backwards at all and driving down on whatever he saw in front of him:
the head, shoulders, and then back of Stone Ass, who put his hands on the dirt
right there at Chiyonokuni's feet as a result. A boring bout, no question, but
also a well-executed plan by Chiyonokuni.
M9 Takanoiwa (5-2) vs. M7 Ikioi (3-4)
Rooting for Ikioi: Takanoiwa is boring as boring gets. He also looks kind of
mean and unfriendly. He may be the nicest guy in the world. Dunno. But he looks
ogrish. He's a guy who I've surprised myself by disliking from start to finish.
Why? He just does nothing for me. So it goes. On the other side, I'm not one of
those big Ikioi boosters, but like Okinoumi, he's a guy you're always waiting to
see break-out. Frankly, he should be better than he's been. There's no doubt
he's just plain likeable; too bad he doesn't have a consistent style.
Match: Takanoiwa went for the neck, then inside for the belt, but neither
attempt scored. Unfortunately for Ikioi, instead of using the moment to
counterattack, Ikioi tried a little head pull. Takanoiwa responded smartly by
surging inside underneath in response, and soon sent Ikioi to the knackerman,
M6 Ichinojo (4-3) vs. M8 Takarafuji (5-2)
Rooting for Takarafuji: A lot of people think Ichinojo is holding back. I don't.
I think he is sloppy, slow, and passive out there, and Hakuho's slap of him a
couple of years back pretty much summed up my feelings, too: wake up, dude. I'm
comfortable being with Hakuho. Can't go wrong there. Takarafuji is in with
Okinoumi and Ikioi for me: oh, wouldn't it be nice if one of these good-bodied
Japanese Maegashira would rise up and give us even a Wakanosato-esque career.
Takarafuji never does, but I'm always secretly hoping he will.
Match: Ichinojo kept Takarafuji at arm's length with his long meat-clobbers,
moved his feet forward little by little, grabbed Takarafuji about the midriff,
and forced him very, very easily out, yori-kiri. Um, maybe he's holding back.
M9 Arawashi (5-2) vs. M6 Kagayaki (1-6)
Rooting for Kagayaki: Both of these guys are favorites of mine. Years and years
ago Mike spotted Kagayaki in the lower divisions and said he'd be something.
It's been a slow rise and a lackluster Makuuchi career, but I'm still hoping.
And he seems so hapless sometimes. He needs a friend. And there is the
opportunity to say "Fried Mosquito." Arawashi I like for a similar
selfish/foolish reason: a year or two ago I compared him to Kakuryu; now I'm
cursed by that, as each time he fights I'm waiting for him to start his Yokozuna
run. Life's funny that way: I trapped myself into liking this guy by being
absurdly wrong about his skill level (I do like the kind of skill he has--lithe
and dynamic). I'll take Kagayaki over him today because of the records; Kagayaki
is in the doldrums as usual. I'm here with you, man!
Match: Kagayaki was all blappity-slappity, hard and fierce, at Arawashi's
noggin. That wasn't going to work; Arawashi is too clever for that. Arawashi
just waited until the right moment of over-extension, then stepped aside and
knocked Kagayaki down with a little blow to the left shoulder, tsuki-otoshi.
M8 Chiyoshoma (3-4) vs. M5 Takakeisho (4-3)
Rooting for Chiyoshoma: Another match-up of guys I like. I've liked Takakeisho
ever since I attended in person in Kyushu and saw him absolutely clock Ura in
Juryo; the sound resounded throughout the arena. But Chiyoshoma is just like
Arawashi for me: too much pulling, but lots of sneaky strength; if he puts it
all together he could be great. He won't, but I'll be waiting anyway.
Match: Very good stuff. Takakeisho was not allowed to do his typical
hit-and-retreat thing, as Chiyoshoma quickly wrapped him up in hidari-yotsu.
This, then, was going to be a good test of Takakeisho's grip and versatility,
fighting against type. Chiyoshoma launched a frontal assault while enjoying
grips on the belt on both sides, but Takakeisho's size helped him: Chiyoshoma
just couldn't get him out. Takakeisho may have the biggest ass, thighs, and
calves of any wrestler I've ever seen; just massive: a lot of muscle, not flabby
hanging fat. Takakeisho spun Chiyoshoma off his charge line, broke off his grip,
and briefly had both arms inside and lifting at the armpits. A little
side-wrench, then a counter-attack force-out charge of his own, and Takakeisho
finished Chiyoshoma off with some disdainful shoves up high, oshi-dashi. I liked
M5 Shodai (4-3) vs. M3 Chiyotairyu (5-2)
Rooting for Shodai: I've been calling Shodai Japan's next Yokozuna for a while,
half in jest, half in tribute to the sport's politics. And I meant it, but there
is no way he looks ready to earn it; he's been terrible for quite a few basho in
a row, as well as soft and bland, so I'm calling him Vanilla Softcream. But I
still ridiculously want him to explode, bloom, and fulfill my prediction.
Chiyotairyu, meanwhile, is Mike's guy, not mine. His style is too simplistic for
me, the results too often woeful: he's frustrating.
Match: Chiyotairyu destroyed Vanilla Softcream. Pushed him back at the tachi-ai,
held him up with a Walter-Payton-stiff-arm, retreated minimally, and Shodai
looked discombobulated sufficiently so Chiyotairyu stood there and watched
Shodai fall down in front of him, hiki-otoshi. Yikes! Chiyotairyu is on fire
Tochinoshin (1-6) vs. M3 Onosho (6-1)
Rooting for Tochinoshin: Smooth-bodied and fat, Onosho reminds me of Chiyomaru
too much. I'm not on his bandwagon. The gritty, respectful, dour Tochinoshin is
an absolute favorite though: for years he's been one of the toughest, best belt
fighters around, and I love to watch him throw and win. Strong.
Match: Onosho dominated this one with upward and backwards pressure from below,
following the overwhelmed but game Tochinoshin around the ring as Tochinoshin
resorted to evasion and pulls. Onosho then pulled him down hiki-otoshi when he
sensed Tochinoshin had nothing effective going on except resistance to going
backwards: "okay, come forward then…" and down.
M1 Kotoshogiku (4-3) vs. K Tochiohzan (1-6)
Rooting for Kotoshogiku: I shocked even myself with this one, but you have to be
honest about your emotions. There's something about Kotoshogiku's post-Ozeki
long journey into the darkness of night that has turned me around on him: I want
to see how long he can stick it out. Meanwhile, Tochiohzan has been one of
Japan's best for a long while, and I usually root for him, but at 1-6 and in his
career twilight, there isn't much left to root for. It was close, though: I
changed my mind twice while writing this up.
Match: Meanwhile, the thing I feared was that the only way Tochiohzan would
actually lose was if he wanted to, and the match bore that out. Tochiohzan
pulled a pretty big but pretty bad henka, as he didn't turn to capitalize fast
enough and didn't use any slaps, and actually impeded Kotoshogiku's progress by
leaving his arm behind in the path of Kotoshogiku to bump into. No matter.
Tochiohzan bodied up, let Kotoshogiku drive him back a little bit, then, alley
oop!, heaved himself through the hemispheres on a massive sukui-nage
momentum-leveraging dumping-destruction of Kotoshogiku. My goodness.
S Mitakeumi (4-3) vs. M2 Hokutofuji (3-4)
Rooting for Hokutofuji: With a more traditional style and less hype, Hokutofuji
is much more up my alley. I like Mitakeumi all right, but like I've said before
his looks and demeanor ooze junior high school bully. I'm warming to him slowly
Match: Great stuff, people. Hard mutual head butt, then putting their chests
together and pushing on each other in a test of strength. And hallelujah! During
that head-butt Hokutofuji had gotten lower down and grabbed the front of
Mitakeumi's belt. He drove him out, looking very powerful, yori-kiri. Since
today's report is focusing on rooting interest, I will go ahead and say this was
the bout that made me happiest. Guys I was rooting for were 3-11 so far (!), and
it is great when the guy you have a sneaky suspicion is better but is facing a
more popular opponent goes ahead and stuffs that guy. Yay.
M4 Shohozan (4-3) vs. S Yoshikaze (3-4)
for Shohozan: Shohozan has a great nickname (Darth Hozan), perpetual underdog,
little guy with attitude. I have a soft spot for the tenacious Yoshikaze, but he
is kind of tired.
Match: Tsuppari then push, tsuppari then push: Shohozan was doing his thing. He
threw in a pull and was driven clear across the dohyo as punishment, but he went
back to his thing: tsuppari then push, tsuppari then push… But I think Yoshikaze
was just too good for him. Yoshikaze may be a little used up, but he's got a lot
of skills, and he just plain wasn't vulnerable to Shohozan's attack. Eventually
in this kinetic match Shohozan got a little tired and paused--"like, why isn't
this working, man?"--and Yoshikaze said, "okay then, here I come," and went in
and got a belt. The yori-kiri win came quickly thereafter in a very good match
for Yoshikaze…. the fourth-highest ranked wrestler in this tournament. Wow.
K Tamawashi (3-4) vs. O Goeido (6-1)
for Tamawashi: The epileptic mayfly, Goeido, is one of the most frustrating and
annoying rikishi on the banzuke. I can't think of the last time I rooted for
him. Whereas Tamawashi has been electric over the past year with his
hard-hitting late-career surge. Loved it.
Match: Goeido gave Tamawashi a little slap, grabbed him by the body, and drove
him out, yori-kiri. I have a hard time taking this seriously (Tamawashi kept his
hands up high, attempted no grips, and helped by pulling), but Goeido remains
the real favorite to win this tournament.
M2 Aoiyama (0-Injured) vs. Y Harumafuji (4-3)
Rooting for Harumafuji: I can't stand front-runnerism, but then again I root for
greats to be great every time, so I'm pretty much always in Hakuho and
Harumafuji's corner. It's just fun to see someone who is the best in the world
at something be the best.
not consistent about it, but Harumafuji regularly gives us awe-inspiring
demonstrations of what Yokozuna sumo should look like. I'll root for that every
day. I do like Aoiyama when he's being nasty, but he's very, very sloppy and too
Match: Harumafuji grabbed the outside left on the tachi-ai, then used it for a
risky but effective yank of Aoiyama clear from the center of the ring to sling
him out across the tawara, shitate-dashi-nage, while Harumafuji ended with both
heels against the tawara and balancing. He often loses this kind of thing--hell,
talk about sloppy, Harumafuji is King Sloppy--but when it works, even that
sloppiness can't obscure impressive skill and power. He is, after all, a
Now, for the round-up question: who am I rooting for to win the tournament?
Consulting my tender feelings, I find it is Harumafuji, natch. Go dark horse,
go. Now I can root for an underdog and a Yokozuna all at once.
Tomorrow Mike conducts a metal circus.
6 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
lot of things have already been said about this tournament. Blue-skiers have
called it weird and bizarre. On the other side, it has been called awful and
depressing. I'm going to tell you my honest feeling: I still feel the way I felt
on Day 1. It's exciting. Yes, I like to see the best be the best. My best sumo
memories over the years are Asashoryu's power and speed, Hakuho's icy dominance,
Kaio's throws, Tochiazuma's technique. But I've also had favorites everybody
else probably hated. Back in the day I doted on a really terrible tsuppari guy
called Toyozakura. He was old and an underdog and heck, I just liked him. More
recently, I developed an affinity for Tokitenku, who I saw as a bitter survivor
sticking it to everybody in his path. And I still delight in stuff like
Tokushoryu, whom on the one hand I find ridiculous, but on the other hand I'm
always secretly rooting for to show us something unexpected with all that
ungainly girth. To prove worthy of the nickname of Special Sauce.
So I like the way this tournament is going. Yes, really. Yeah, it wouldn't
surprise me if two-thirds of sumo bout results are prearranged, and yeah, that
is always spoiling everything. But set that aside--and after 17 years with this
sport, that's what I've mostly settled on--and as a fan of underdogs and the
improbably, how can you NOT like a tournament where the winner is going to be
something undreamt of just two weeks ago? It's kind of like Detroit Tigers
pitching these days: I enjoy looking at their box scores a lot more than those
of the Cleveland Indians. I know who Corey Kluber is, but I'm still learning
about Warwick Saupold and that guy Stumpf. Just like I know who Harumafuji is,
but I'm still learning about Onosho and that guy Yutakayama.
My prediction is in tatters: on Day 1 I said the winner was going to be
Harumafuji or Takayasu, period. Well, it ain't. And I'm half glad. I'm sad to
say I'm quietly putting my money on Goeido right now, but I'll ride along on the
Onosho bandwagon for a bit as a guest.
M13 Nishikigi (2-3) vs. M14 Endo (3-2)
Endo kept it low and tight at the tachi-ai, then reached way, way in on the
left. Nishikigi kept that arm high in defense, but it was a feint for Endo: on
the right, he got a sneaky, tight right-hand grip. He then used that to power
Nishikigi out, yori-kiri. This was very good stuff for Endo, who is probably
fighting at the right level here.
M14 Okinoumi (2-3) vs. M13 Kaisei (3-2)
Something seems wrong with Okinoumi, who was tentative on the tachi-ai and weak
and compliant in the match. Like Endo before him, Kaisei was working with an
outside right grip, but whereas with Endo the force-out looked manful, here it
was boring, as there was nothing going on with Okinoumi.
M12 Daishomaru (4-1) vs. M16 Asanoyama (3-2)
Daishomaru started this one off nicely with some good dual paws to the neck that
seemed to be holding his young opponent back. I thought ol' pully-pull
Daishomaru would actually get a force out win. However, when it took too long
(even though it wasn't long at all), Daishomaru evaded out of it with a side
slap and commenced the pulls. Against a better wrestler this wasteful momentum
change would probably have spelled doom, but against the inexperienced
Asanoyama, Daishomaru was simply fighting successfully at his most effective
style, pulling dude down in a few moments tsuki-otoshi.
M15 Yutakayama (1-4) vs. M12 Sadanoumi (0-Injured)
Oh ho ho, lookee here. Maybe Sadanoumi figured "I'm only oh and five. If I come
back from my injury today, looking at the field, there is still time for me to
go 10-0 the rest of the way and take the yusho!" Thank the behoozus, saved by
Sadanoumi! As the rikishi drop like flies, our man is here to rescue the day,
swooping in from the infirmary to buoy up our enthusiasm! Well, okay. But I'd
rather have someone come back than yet another guy go out. Sadanoumi looked
pretty genki here: he was the aggressor throughout, driving Yutakayama this way
and that around the dohyo. However, Yutakayama knew Sadanoumi didn't have much
behind it, and tried a series of wrenching side-throws when in danger. The last
one worked. As they both tumbled to the dohyo, with Sadanoumi having launched a
left inside throw, Yutakayama responded by pushing him down with a kote-nage
winning body throw of his own. Not bad.
M15 Tokushoryu (1-4) vs. M11 Chiyomaru (2-3)
Blubberfest! They sure looked silly on fast forward on DVR in the bout run-up,
twirling their stumpy little arms about, stomping about, and wiping the sweat
out of their armpits. Monstrous lively chicken dance. Oh, I'm going to enjoy
this one. Chiyomaru's belly sticks out so flat and straight you could use it for
a writing desk. He put a paw in Tokushoryu's meaty jowls to start things off,
but while he was doing that Special Sauce got inside and under on the right. But
while HE was going THAT, Chiyomaru impressively reached down and got grips on
both sides, one right, one left, and yori-kiri'ed the big hamburger out.
M10 Ishiura (2-3) vs. M10 Takekaze (0-5)
Stupidly--too stupidly?--Ishiura stuck both of his arms out and put his head
down, like a guy praying to a vengeful sun god. Takekaze was like, "what, on a
platter like that?" He grabbed that old head and pulled Stone Ass (Ishiura)
down, hataki-komi. You don't offer bloody meat to a lion, nor rotten eggplant to
M11 Daieisho (4-1) vs. M9 Arawashi (4-1)
Hi there, yusho contenders! One, two, three times a man Daieisho hit Arawashi
upright: right! left! body! blam! and drove Arawashi duskily into the crowd,
M8 Chiyoshoma (2-3) vs. M8 Takarafuji (3-2)
Takarafuji has looked solid, patient, and strong this tournament. That's easier
when you're at M8 than at M1 and such where he usually is. Chiyoshoma was
reduced to pulls immediately while running into Takarafuji's brick wall, and
looked fidgety and ineffectual. Takarafuji tipped him over, uwate-nage.
M7 Chiyonokuni (3-2) vs. M9 Takanoiwa (4-1)
My private nickname for Chiyonokuni is "The Nationalist." I tuned in on time
today to see the ring entering ceremony, and there was Chiyonokuni in his big
red Japanese flag do-up. His name could mean something like "a thousand ages of
the country." As an undersized guy with spunk, he's perfect for right-wing
sentiments of certain sorts. On the one hand, I respect people with opinions who
know what they think and stand up for it. On the other hand, his isn't really my
cup of sake, so it's always held me back from really rooting for this guy. But I
can get behind him well enough. He did his thing here, hyperkinetic tsuppari
slaps. Took him two rounds of it--this way, but survival by opponent, so then
that way, and opponent gets off balance and pulled down, hataki-komi--but it
worked just lovely. Kimi ga yo.
M6 Ichinojo (3-2) vs. M6 Kagayaki (1-4)
Kagayaki often has a problem by going for it in an ungainly and befuddled, oddly
slow-motion way that leaves him no retreat when guys take advantage of his
inability to shift strategies mid-bout, but I thought this was a good place for
him to do that anyway: Ichinojo is so slow and passive, this was a ripe time for
Kagayaki to pretend his opponent is a practice dummy and see what happens when
you really beat the hell out of him. No one will ever give him a better chance
to use that strategy than this. And he did try that, battering and pattering in
a forceful and effective-looking way at Ichinojo's grill. But I say "effective
looking" because it wasn't actually effective... just effective looking.
Ichinojo did not fall down and was not driven back, and he grabbed Fried
Mosquito (Kagayaki) by the belt and put a stop to all that attempted-flummoxing.
You knew Kagayaki was toast. The Mongolith leaned on him for a bit, then decided
to demonstrate to us all he's not necessarily so slow after all: he took one
quick step to the side and pulled powerfully with his right belt grip, leaving
Kagayaki rolling on the ground like a cheese barrel tumbling out of a poorly
loaded pick-up truck, uwate-nage. This was a great demonstration of contrasting
strategies and skill levels.
M7 Ikioi (2-3) vs. M5 Takakeisho (3-2)
As you can often see, Mike and I do not always agree. Takakeisho is a good
example. I think he hits pretty hard, which is a good thing, and is cautious
enough not to fall prey to Chiyotairyu-style over commitment. That's also a good
thing, but sometimes it makes him look bad and fraidy-cat in the ring. It's
okay--he'll get there. He's learning. Don't worry, I don't see this guy becoming
a future Yokozuna or anything. But he has the right combination of forward
moving sumo, impactful power, and appropriate wariness and technique to make
something of himself. M5 is right about where he belongs right now, and he'll go
higher. He's still just 21, folks. I think he's lucky to be able to fly under
the radar while guys like Mitakeumi and Onosho get the bigger hype, and this is
no Kotoyuki who will melt in the summer sun. We should be seeing him for a long,
long time. Which is all prelude to him hitting Ikioi once fairly hard, stepping
to the side, letting Ikioi rush by, then driving him the last bit out when he
turned to him, oshi-dashi. What would he tell us, outside of the glare of the
everybody-says-the-same-thing interview room? "Hey, it's a win." And it was
ugly. But this is 2017. He's playing for 2022. More to come.
M2 Hokutofuji (3-2) vs. M4 Shohozan (3-2)
I'd rather be singing the praises of Hokutofuji than Takakeisho. But his solid
sumo may be out of step with the modern era a bit, and we're seeing his
opponents take advantage of his overly-serious, inside sumo. I really hate to
say this, but do you have to have a bit of Takakeisho in you to survive these
days? Well, anyway. Here Hokutofuji left himself wide open at the tachi-ai for
the third straight day--so much for solid sumo--going all Kisenosato on us, then
put his hands on Shohozan's shoulders and closed his eyes while he got darthed
smartly in the face. 'Hozan promptly drove him forcefully out, yori-kiri. I
still like Hokutofuji a lot, but he's looking a bit lost of late.
K Tamawashi (2-3) vs. M1 Tochinoshin (0-5)
Tamawashi thought he would take advantage of Tochinoshin's broken knee and
general downtroddenness, torpedoing into his chest and pushing hard. But
Tochinoshin isn't that lame just yet. Pushery of this sort isn't really
Tamawashi's game, and Tochinoshin knew it. Tochinoshin was going backwards, yes,
but slowly, and he gathered his wits and knocked Tamawashi down at his feet,
kata-sukashi. You go, soldier.
Mitakeumi (2-3) vs. M1 Kotoshogiku (4-1)
This was one to watch. If Mitakeumi wins, it means the youth revolution is
really on and we're not going to see a bunch of really ridiculous silliness with
Kotoshogiku and celebrations of the dinosaurs of yesteryear. If Kotoshogiku
wins, welcome to dum dum town. Thankfully, Mitakeumi gave no quarter. It took
him two tries, but he was in total control. He scooped up with both arms at the
tachi-ai and had both inside right away. His first force-out stopped short, but
he still had those prongs under the armpits, so he switched tactics and toppled
Kotoshogiku over with a nice sukui-nage. Thank goodness. With all the dropouts,
anything else than a winning record at Sekiwake will be unacceptable for him.
K Tochiohzan (1-4) vs. S Yoshikaze (1-4)
With a signature match between top contenders Onosho and Goeido (like, really!)
coming up, no one was paying attention to this tired match-up of last-gasping
old battle horses who somehow managed to find their way into the sanyaku one
last time--and have managed one paltry win apiece there. I like both these guys,
but their deck is being cleared. It was a pretty good match. They started off
trading tsuppari, but Yoshikaze then got his left inside and it was on for real.
Tochiohzan resisted this well by keeping his butt back and pushing down on
Yoshikaze, but he needs inside position or he's crippled, so Yoshikaze had no
real trouble gathering his oomph and forcing Tochiohzan out, yori-kiri
O Terunofuji (1-4) vs. M5 Shodai (3-2)
Serving some principle of unfair cosmic fate, Terunofuji was karmically forced
to withdraw in order to allow the gods to give us Sadanoumi back. Hmmm, doesn't
seem quite fair and balanced. Anyway, actually Terunofuji was apparently unable
to walk this morning; they say he needs two weeks to recover from his injury.
He'll be demoted for Kyushu. His career has been stagnating for a long while off
of his wrecked knees, and now looks to be in actual decline. It's a shame, as he
was the most excitement we've had in oh, five to ten years when he rose up. But
mother nature can catch up with you quick when you weigh that much. Bad luck. I
hoped for a Musashimaru-like career. Baruto may end up being a better analogue.
Onosho (5-0) vs. O Goeido (4-1)
I don't care, man. It's great to have a bout like this, between such normally
second tier guys that you wouldn't pay any attention to the match in a normal
tournament, be a featured bout that may decide which way the tournament goes. I
can't help it. I'm enjoying this. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the fighting
itself here. Onosho got Goeido going backwards, but was too linear and
simplistic. Goeido snuck out of there near the straw, and oops, Onosho found
himself a sitting duck for the easy force-out in one finishing push, oshi-dashi.
Let's say that the experienced guy taught the inexperienced guy a thing or two
here. And who did I say was the favorite to win the tournament?
Chiyotairyu (4-1) vs. Y Harumafuji (2-3)
Harumafuji cat slapped Chiyotairyu, which I continue to think is a dumb move,
and of course was simultaneously doing something more important: beating
Chiyotairyu to the tachi-ai punch. Normally, Chiyotairyu is blasting guys out of
there, and then they have to decide how to survive after that (it isn't hard,
but they do have to do it). Here, who was the guy with the white lines behind
his ass after the tachi-ai? That would be Harumafuji. Chiyotairyu's tachi-ai,
meanwhile, was awful, arms open wide and high, and he found a Yokozuna
underneath and inside on both sides. He tried to evade and toss the accelerating
Harumafuji down, but the champ meant to win and did, surviving the brief
misdirection and recovering quickly to finish off a yori-kiri victory. Boy, I
would have liked to see him fight his best this tournament. Note: with Onosho's
loss, Harumafuji is just two off the pace with ten days to go. Could he still
win? He could. It isn't likely, but this one is wide open, people. Enjoy it.
Tomorrow Mike flips your wig.
5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
basho is quickly turning into a three-ring circus. I'm still watching sumo
because I frankly enjoy blogging about it and analyzing Japanese culture, but if
I didn't have this little hobby of mine, I'd be long gone. It's just really hard
for me to have my intelligence insulted, and it happens nearly every other bout
these days. Sometimes I get lucky and get a string of legitimacy as occurred on
day 2, but that gets all wiped out the last 35 minutes of the broadcast when
things just get ridiculous.
I'm almost afraid to relive day 5, but here we go.
The day began with M16 Asanoyama and M14 Okinoumi hooking up...sort of. Neither
rikishi really bumped chests at the tachi-ai, and any time you see Okinoumi not
attempt to go chest to chest and establish the inside position from the start,
it's a major red flag. Instead, Okinoumi maintained a half-hearted left
kote-nage that eventually morphed into migi-yotsu as both rikishi danced in the
center of the ring not really committing to anything. Finally, Okinoumi seemed
to load on a right kote-nage grip when out of nowhere, he just slipped backwards
to the dohyo. Because Asanoyama had a left grip of Okinoumi's belt, they said it
was shita-te-hineri, but if you've ever seen a real shita-te-hineri move, then
you'll know that the position of Asanoyama and his movement was all wrong. Easy
yaocho call here to lead things off as Okinoumi falls--literally--to 2-3 while
Asanoyama is gifted a 3-2 record. What a joke to think that the rookie has a
better record than Okinoumi in these parts!!
Well, well, well, Kotoyuki made an appearance today from Juryo, and he was
paired against M14 Endoh. I actually liked Kotoyuki when he first emerged in the
division, but then they gave him that fake 12-3 run the same basho that
Kotoshogiku won, and he's been in decline ever since. I wasn't sure what to
expect today, but he just came out and kicked Endoh's ass choking him at the
tachi-ai and yanking him forward, chasing him down as he tried to escape, and
then pummeling him back and out so hard he drew a legitimate tsuki-dashi
technique. On one hand it was pretty impressive stuff from Kotoyuki, but on the
other hand, he was fighting Endoh (3-2).
M15 Tokushoryu attempted to push at M13 Kaisei's neck from the tachi-ai, but
Kaisei had other plans, namely a straight forward oshi charge for which
Tokushoryu had no answer. This was done in two seconds as Kaisei dominated his
opponent. I watch a bout like this and see the huge gap between the foreign
rikishi and the domestic rikishi, and then you take into account that all of the
right elements were there including a solid tachi-ai and proper de-ashi, and my
only conclusion is that the gap between the foreigners in the division and the
best Japanese rikishi is probably larger than most people think. Kaisei improves
to 3-2 with the win but should be right back to throwing bouts for cash soon. As
for Tokushoryu, he falls to 1-4 after the drubbing.
M15 Yutakayama took charge against M12 Daishomaru using a nice push attack that
quickly led to a great left tsuki into Daishomaru's neck, but Yutakayama just
stopped his momentum for no reason and put both hands up high around
Daishomaru's melon as if to pull. The problem was he never pulled and just
aligned his feet perfectly in the center of the ring so that when Daishomaru's
pull attempt came, he was in the perfect position to just flop forward and down.
Nothing was right about this bout's flow from Yutakayama's surrendering his
momentum to Daishomaru's hard-on for a migi-yotsu position even though he's a
pull and evade guy. A good indicator of yaocho that was present in this bout is
the simple lack of contact and bruising sumo. I mean, I've witnessed harder
hitting in the mosh pit at a Wang Chung concert. Wait, did I just admit that
I've seen Wang Chung live?? Damn. At any rate, Daishomaru's camp continues to
buy bouts as he moves to 4-1 while Yutakayama is still cutting his teeth on the
way things really work in sumo as he falls to 1-4.
M11 Daieisho and M11 Chiyomaru engaged in a straight up oshi affair, and
Daieisho simply couldn't work around Chiyo the Hutt's gut. Credit Chiyomaru for
using good de-ashi, and he just went with the flow as Hakuho likes to say
scoring the easy push-out win in linear fashion. They ruled this one
tsuki-dashi, but I'll take the liberty to downgrade it to oshi-dashi as
Chiyomaru moves to 2-3 while Daieisho is saddled with his first loss at 4-1.
M10 Takekaze jumped the gun a tad at the tachi-ai against M13 Nishikigi, but it
didn't matter as Kaze barely put a scratch in Nishikigi's armor. Unable to budge
his foe at the tachi-ai, Takekaze moved left around the edge of the ring, but
Nishikigi easily spindled his way right keeping himself square with his foe, and
it really took one volley of shoves to send Takekaze packing. At M10, Takekaze's
0-5 start puts him in danger of falling to Juryo for next basho, but I think he
can survive down there for at least another year, so we'll see if they're
desperate to buy him enough wins to keep him in Makuuchi. As for Nishikigi,
that's about as easy of a win in this division that you could ask for. He
Arawashi and Takanoiwa hooked up in hidari-yotsu and circled the ring once where
Arawashi went for a quick outside belt throw whose only effect was to give
Takanoiwa the opening to moro-zashi, but before they could really settle in
chest to chest, Arawashi was able to maki-kae with the right hand sending the
bout now to gappuri-migi-yotsu. From this point, both rikishi dug in tight
similarly to how you see Mitakeumi and Shodai always fight. Or not. Anyway,
after about 10 seconds, Arawashi made his move leading with the right inside
belt throw, and I think the attack surprised Takanoiwa a bit as he tried to
counter with the left outer. Don't look now, but it was a legitimate
nage-no-uchi-ai in the center of the ring, and Arawashi's proactive attack paid
off as he was able to dump Takanoiwa with that inside position. It's bouts like
this that keep me sane as both rikishi end the day 4-1.
M8 Chiyoshoma fired hesitant tsuppari M10 Ishiura's way from the tachi-ai.
Hesitant because Ishiura is wont to move laterally, but he didn't today, and so
Chiyoshoma kept him well at bay with those initial thrusts and then rushed in
grabbing the left inside position and right outer grip. Ishiura doesn't have the
game let alone the size to counter that, and so Chiyoshoma demonstrated a linear
force-out charge easy as you please moving to 2-3 in the process. Ishiura finds
himself at the same record after the defeat.
M8 Takarafuji fished for the right inside frontal grip against M6 Kagayaki who
brought no pressure from the tachi-ai and decided to evade left, but Takarafuji
stayed square and just kept pace firing a mediocre left tsuki into Kagayaki's
side that sent him down far too easily. I think Takarafuji is the better rikishi
anyway, but Kagayaki was mukiryoku here for whatever reason. Ho hum as
Takarafuji moves to 3-2 while Kagayaki falls to 1-4.
Poor old M7 Ikioi. It seems as if rikishi seldom throw bouts in his favor, and
so when nothing is paid for, guys like M6 Ichinojo are going to gobble up the
wins where they can to compensate for everything they throw. And that's what
happened in today's bout that went migi-yotsu at the belt with Ichinojo's
maintaining a firm left outer grip. As he is wont to do, Ichinojo just dug in
leaning into his opponent, and after a few seconds Ikioi looked to go for
something with the inside right, but he couldn't budge the Mongolith, and with a
lot of energy now expended, Ichinojo took his turn setting up an outer throw
with the left that sent Ikioi down with ease. This was another good example of
where you can see the stark difference in sumo between the foreign rikishi and
the Japanese rikishi. Though bouts are rarely thrown for him, Ikioi is a
top-three Japanese rikishi. As for Ichinojo, he hasn't had a sniff of the jo'i
or sanyaku in awhile, which is testament to how many bouts he throws each
tournament. I mean, look at some of the crap that flows through the Sekiwake
thru M3 ranks these days, and then compare those dudes to Ichinojo. This guy
could be scary good if they'd just let him fight. I guess he'll have to settle
for his 3-2 record while Ikioi falls to 2-3.
A good example of the kind of crap that's allowed to fight from the jo'i
unworthily is M5 Takakeisho who was M1 last tournament. Today against a less
than mediocre M7 Chiyonokuni, both dudes came at the tachi-ai with decent
shoves, but Takakeisho's shoves are without any de-ashi, so when he reloaded for
round two, Chiyonokuni just side-stepped him to his right and sent Takakeisho
down and out with a well-timed hataki-komi. To even consider the premise that
Takakeisho could beat a guy like Ichinojo straight up is insulting, but sumo is
what it is these days. Both guys here end the day 3-2.
Kotoshogiku entered the day 4-0 and needed to solve M5 Shodai to keep his streak
intact. Well let me rephrase that: would Shodai make it five thrown bouts in
Kotoshogiku's favor in a row? Thankfully he would not as both rikishi clashed at
the tachi-ai before Shodai skirted out left swiping at Kotoshogiku's dickey do
as he went. Before Kotoshogiku could sufficiently adjust, Shodai raced in and
seized moro-zashi, and from there he scored the easy force-out win.
Kotoshogiku's sumo these days can be described as saying a prayer and charging
straight forward in hopes that his opponent will show him some mercy. As soon as
you see one of his foes make a move that will cause the Geeku to adjust, you
know the bout is real...and you know that Kotoshogiku will lose. Shodai is about
as weak as they come in Makuuchi, but he easily handled the former Ozeki today.
With the win, Shodai moves to 3-2 while the Geeku suffers his first loss at 4-1.
Komusubi Tamawashi came at fellow Komusubi Tochiohzan with thrusts up high
causing Oh to retreat a step, but it did allow him to flirt with moro-zashi. I
saw flirt because while Tochiohzan did have two hands to the inside, the rikishi
weren't chest to chest, and Tochiohzan was applying little pressure. This
allowed Tamawashi to insert his right arm as if to maki-kae, but then all of a
sudden The Mawashi's footing gave way and he fell backwards on his fanny. This
was one of those poor acting jobs where everyone's like, "Nothing to see
here...move along." They ruled it tsuki-otoshi, which is funny because there
wasn't a single tsuki from Tochiohzan to be found. Oh does pick up his first win
of the basho at 1-4 while Tamawashi falls to 2-3.
I am so glad that M2 Hokutofuji exhibited the same exact tachi-ai today that he
showed Harumafuji yesterday, and I'm so glad that Sekiwake Yoshikaze showed us
how easy it was to expose. With Hokutofuji shading left and arms setting up for
a pull, Yoshikaze just freight-trained him straight back sending him into the
judge's lap on the East side. Which is exactly what should have happened
yesterday from Harumafuji. And that's one of the big problems with the current
culture in sumo these days. Hokutofuji exhibits an awful tachi-ai against a
Yokozuna; yet, he's rewarded with a kin-boshi for it. Rikishi are getting
rewarded for flawed sumo, so how is anyone going to improve?
I hope everyone treasured Terunofuji's rise to the Ozeki ranks because it was
purely organic. We're just not going to see such a rise ever again. Even if
Onosho does end up being Ozeki material, his rise to this point has not been
organic. He's having a ton of bouts thrown his way, and even though he's got
game, it hasn't been organic. Sumo wrestling as we knew it for decades is simply
ruined, and that's what's so disheartening about it all. I just hate what sumo
has become. As Hokutofuji untangled himself from the judge's robe, he found
himself sitting at 3-2 while Yoshikaze picked up his first win of the tourney at
I'm glad at least the previous bout was straight up because every other bout
involving sanyaku rikishi on up was fixed not the least of which was the next
contest: Sekiwake Mitakeumi vs. M1 Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin came forward like a
wet rag allowing Mitakeumi to yank at his left arm, and as he recovered his
balance, the two kinda hooked up in migi-yotsu where Tochinoshin would actually
grab a left outer grip, but his effort was as lame as his tachi-ai, and he just
stood there limp and non-committal as the Suckiwake forced him back and across
with zero resistance. Just ridiculous as Mitakeumi is gifted the win moving him
to 2-3 while Tochinoshin continues to take one for team sumo at 0-5.
Chiyotairyu stared across the starting lines at Ozeki Goeido, I was thinking,
"Despite his flaws, Chiyotairyu is such a better rikishi than the Ozeki." But
sumo these days is all about politics, and Goeido is kadoban, so this was a
classic case of the senpai-kohai system ruling where the Chiyotairyu camp felt
obligated to give the Ozeki a win. Chiyotairyu eased up a bit at the tachi-ai,
but was still coming forward while Goeido was fully upright with his feet
aligned. Luckily for the faux-zeki, Chiyotairyu did not intend to win, so Tairyu
faked an offensive by slapping down at Goeido's shoulders with open palms as if
he was executing some sort of push attack. With no pressure applied to him,
Goeido moved out to his left and slapped his left palm into the back of
Chiyotairyu's shoulder, and Chiyotairyu's reaction was to just swan dive himself
to the dirt. I watch the slow motion replays of this and can't help but to
notice how bad Goeido's footwork is. From the tachi-ai his feet are aligned, and
he is no position to force Chiyotairyu any direction let alone down, but the fix
was definitely in here as both rikishi end the contest at 4-1.
ruin such a lousy streak of bouts by having Ozeki Terunofuji attempt to win
against M4 Shohozan? Keeping his arms wide at the tachi-ai, the Ozeki just
gifted Darth Hozan moro-zashi whereupon Terunofuji feigned briefly a motion to
lift Shohozan off balance with his left arm over the top, but that nonsense
lasted a second or two before the Ozeki just allowed Shohozan to methodically
force him back and across the straw. At 1-4, Terunofuji is likely on his way to
Sekiwake for Kyushu, but we'll see how he responds the final 10 days...if he
makes it that far. He supposedly needed assistance getting off of the clay
mound, and then he had a noticeable limp with the left leg as he walked back
over to his cushion ringside. I have no idea how he could be injured. The dude
actually exerts pressure in a bout maybe twice a basho. As for Shohozan, he
definitely breathes easy with the gift as he moves to 3-2.
usually the case these days, they saved the worst for last as Yokozuna
Harumafuji welcomed M3 Onosho. Onosho sent a right stiff arm the Yokozuna's way
at the tachi-ai, but Harumafuji shook that off and pressed in close as both
rikishi seemed to go to migi-yotsu. I say seemed because it's kinda hard to
fight in yotsu style if both guys are standing straight up, but that was the
case here. With the bout going no where, Onosho retreated back to the straw
whiffing on a pull attempt as he moved left, but Harumafuji failed to react just
standing there waiting for the next move. Said move was Onosho's continuing to
move to his left as Harumafuji just stood there not even bothering to square
back up, and when he finally looked Onosho's way, the M3 executed a series of
love taps at the back of Harumafuji head that sent him hopping on his left foot
and then down into a full frontal flip across the dohyo. I mean, I've seen some
shullbit in my days, but this one probably ranks as top three, which is saying a
lot in the current landscape of sumo.
Harumafuji tried to sell it the best he could as he picked himself up off the
dohyo shaking his noggin' as if to say, "What just happened?" This was yet
another pathetic ending to this pathetic basho. I mean, I'm used to Kyushu being
a wasted basho where everyone wants to take off early for the holidays, but
we're still in September. I press stop on my DVR each morning thinking that
surely things will get better, but incredibly each subsequent day seems to outdo
the previous in terms of silliness and absurdity. With the...um...win...Onosho
moves to 5-0, and usually the final 10 days is a long way to go, but in this
dude's case, there's no one there to really stop him. As for Harumafuji, he
falls to 2-3 and continues to deflect attention away from Kisenosato and his
I'm going to turn the reins back over to Harvye for tomorrow while I try and
find a place on my wrists that hasn't been slit yet this basho.
4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
news heading into day 4 continued to focus on the bizarre bout the previous day
between Harumafuji and Kotoshogiku. Usually once every two basho or so there's a
bout where a false start should have been called but it wasn't, and the rikishi
who wasn't prepared to charge stands up on instinct because his opponent, who
jumped out of the gate too soon, is just bearing down on him. The guy that
wasn't ready is usually beaten in about one second, and he stays limp throughout
the bout HOPING that at least one of the five judges or the referee will call a
false start. When the call doesn't come, the loser will get a sour look on his
face and stare at all the judges as if to say WTF?
Yesterday, though, was the first time that I've ever seen the aggressor of a
false start just give up and let his opponent win, and the reason Harumafuji let
that happen is because it was his intent to get beaten by Kotoshogiku from the
beginning. That little burping motion as Harvye called it was a split-second
decision on the Yokozuna's part to compensate for the fact that he had no intent
to go all out in this one. Why try and appeal to the referee or the judges like
that hoping they'll call it back when you were the aggressor? If Harumafuji
really wanted to win the bout, he would have destroyed Kotoshogiku and not even
cared about the false start. The fact that during a hand-to-hand combat bout
that he even stopped to think about being gentlemanly shows just how pathetic
the current culture of sumo has become. I mean, I come away from the daily
broadcasts these days thinking to myself, "Goodness, am I getting enough
The biggest headline of the basho so far is the number of prominent rikishi who
are are kyujo, and I have to chortle to myself when I read the speculation in
the funny papers as to what could be the cause. From those earliest days when I
was trying to sponge up as much information on sumo as I could, I often heard
the phrase, "If you let up in the ring, someone's going to get hurt." Damn
straight. These days, though, the rikishi are taking it to embarrassing levels,
and I just don't see how this kind of tripe can be sustained for too many more
years. Are people really that dumb?
I thought the start to day 4 was a perfect example of the yaocho culture in sumo
these days and the attempt to buoy up younger rikishi who have little game. In
one corner you had rookie M16 Asanoyama, who was gifted a day 1 win from
Sokokurai, and he was paired against M15 Tokushoryu, a crusty veteran who has
never really done anything in the sport, but a guy who is light years ahead of
some of these newbies. In their bout today, both rikishi hooked up in
hidari-yotsu, and on one hand you had Asanoyama who seemed hellbent on getting
the right outer grip and muscling his opponent back, and on the other side was
Tokushoryu who was just standing there with that one arm to the inside left
easily keeping his opponent at bay. After about five seconds and with Tokushoryu
near the edge, he just easily pivoted to the side and felled the rookie with as
light of a tsuki-otoshi as you'll see. I mean, Tokushoryu coulda had a smoke in
his right hand the whole bout and no ashes would have hit the dohyo it was that
easy. I don't know what's going to become of Asanoyama in the next little while,
but he and Tokushoryu belong in different divisions if not galaxies. Asanoyama
falls to 2-2 while Tokushoryu entered the day at 0-3 obviously thinking, "I
gotta get something here."
Next up was M15 Endoh paired against M15 Yutakayama, yet another youngster who
was hyped heavily but hasn't earned jack in the ring. I mean, the dude still
doesn't have his hair tied into the full oi-chou, but man is he out of his
element in the Makuuchi division. Case in point was his bout against Endoh where
he seemed to take charge with a nice-looking tsuppari attack, but Endoh easily
fought it off just moving around the ring to his left slow enough to where
Yutakayama never could find the kill shot. After about 12 seconds of action with
Endoh near the edge, he finally just slipped to his right and pulled Yutakayama
down and out while employing some fancy footwork to keep himself in the dohyo.
It was actually the first offensive move from Endoh the entire bout, but it
worked like a charm as he changed direction and then showed his agility. When I
watch an Endoh bout and come away thinking, "Hey, that kid's pretty good!" you
know that his opponent is weak. Endoh moves to 3-1 with the win and must be
thinking to himself, "Being a one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind ain't so
shabby." As for Yutakayama, he flounders his way to 1-3.
A fella we haven't seen in a good while was J2 Azumaryu, who graciously made an
appearance from Juryo to face M14 Okinoumi, one of my favorite active rikishi.
The two hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Okinoumi used his
length to grab the right outer grip as Azumaryu tried to force his right arm to
the inside as well. Okinoumi cuffed and stuffed that move well, but he had
trouble forcing his tall opponent back and across, and after standing his ground
well at the edge and giving up on his moro-zashi attempt, Azumaryu pivoted well
grabbing Okinoumi around the right arm and using that grip to throw Okinoumi
down with a nifty kote-nage. I just love to watch a rikishi employ a beautiful
counter sumo move, and this was one of 'em as both rikishi ended the day at 2-2.
The real sumo came to a screeching halt with M12 Daishomaru and M13 Nishikigi as
Daishomaru attempted some sort of push attack high into Nishikigi's body, but
the smaller Maru couldn't budge his foe whatsoever. Luckily for Daishomaru,
Nishikigi wasn't trying to set anything up, and so Daishomaru moved out right
and fired a weak right tsuki that of course felled Nishikigi immediately in the
center of the ring. When a guy takes a knee in the dohyo, or better yet, when a
guy puts both palms down flat and catches himself before his knees even touch
the dirt (think Terunofuji), you know it's a thrown bout. Easy call here as
Nishikigi unnaturally takes the knee sending him to a 1-3 record while
Daishomaru looks good on paper of course at 3-1.
The yaocho would continue with M13 Kaisei who refused to even try and grab a
hold of his opponent, M11 Daieisho. Kaisei barreled forward from the tachi-ai
causing Daieisho to retreat at the mere presence of a big guy supposedly coming
for him, but Kaisei never made an effort to to go for the belt or even fire
offensive shoves, and so Daieisho darted left and then right trying to set up
something. He never could budge the Brasilian, however, and after about 10
seconds, Kaisei purposefully whiffed on a right tsuki attempt that conveniently
turned his body just enough to where Daieisho could finally move in for the easy
kill. Zzzzzzz as Daieisho buys his way to a 4-0 record while Kaisei is in cruise
control at 2-2 and hoarding cash in the process.
Ugh, even more yaocho. Three legit bouts followed by three thrown bouts. M11
Chiyomaru kept himself open at the tachi-ai against M10 Ishiura allowing the
smaller rikishi to shade left at the charge and then shove his way inside before
bullying Chiyomaru back and across with no attempt to counter or do anything
from the Hutt. When was the last time we saw Ishiura win like this? The answer
is never. He knew he was going to win today, and that's why he was so confident
in his sumo start to finish as he moves to 2-2. Chiyomaru falls to 1-3 after the
gift and judging by the size of his gut, he does eat well, so I won't worry
about him getting properly fed tonight.
I don't necessarily root against guys, but the whole Takekaze scoring
kachi-koshi last basho was tired from the beginning, and so while I'm not
rooting for him to lose, I am rooting for any bout I can get to be straight up.
Today the M10 faced M9 Takanoiwa who was cautious at the tachi-ai as Takekaze
actually moved forward flirting with the left arm to the inside, but he
remembered who is was and promptly pulled that arm back out opting to go for
old-man swipes instead. With Takekaze moving around the ring looking for a cheap
pull or swipe, Takanoiwa just patiently stayed square before sensing an opening
and scoring on his first push-out attempt. Pretty basic stuff here as Takanoiwa
moves to 4-0 while Takekaze remains winless.
I was looking forward to a fun chess match between two Mongolian rikishi who had
no reason to defer to the other guy, but M9 Arawashi ruined it all by henka'ing
to his left from the tachi-ai. M8 Chiyoshoma came so hard that he couldn't
recover and just slipped down as a result of the initial lube job. Too bad as
Arawashi slimes his way to 3-1 while Chiyoshoma falls to 1-3.
I felt as if I was watching a road race in Cuba with two classics going head to
head in M8 Takarafuji and M7 Ikioi. After a hard clash, Takarafuji stepped to
his left grabbing Ikioi's right arm from the outside threatening a kote-nage
throw, and so Ikioi attempted to escape out of the threat by back pedaling and
going for a pull, but Takarafuji would have none of it easily pushing the
compromised Ikioi back and out in three seconds or so. Both rikishi end the day
at 2-2 in this slow motion bout.
After all of the goodwill M6 Ichinojo provides for the sport, it was nice to
seem get that freebie yesterday due to the withdrawal of Ura, so could he pull
even steven today with a win against M7 Chiyonokuni? Thankfully, the answer was
yes, which means the bout was straight up. Knowing he wasn't going to win moving
forward, Chiyonokuni shaded left at the tachi-ai throwing a few sporadic swipes
for good measure, but Ichinojo wasn't fooled and stayed square as Chiyonokuni
tried to stay on the move. The problem was that Ichinojo takes up so much real
estate that Kuni had nowhere to go but back, and as he offered a few meager cat
swipes, Ichinojo just stayed true and shoved his foe off of the dohyo
altogether. Fish in a barrel for Ichinojo who moves to 2-2 while Chiyonokuni
shares the same mark.
M5 Takakeisho came with his usual timid attack of one shove forward two pulls
back. I actually thought he had a good tachi-ai today against M6 Kagayaki, but
he just couldn't help himself, and so Kagayaki stayed square with his foe and
answered each retreat with nice jabs of his own. If you take two steps back for
each step forward, you're eventually going to run out of room, and that's what
happened to Takakeisho who found himself straddling the tawara after one of his
retreats, and that point, Kagayaki committed on the kill, and quite a kill it
was as he sent Takakeisho off of the dohyo altogether with the youngster flying
spread eagle backwards into the first row of sheep. It was nice to see Kagayaki
pick up his first win, and I always love to see a fraud like Takakeisho get his
ass kicked. He's 3-1, which is indicative of just phony his "success" in sumo
Don't look now, but my gal M3 Chiyotairyu is in hot pursuit!! Today against M4
Shohozan, Chiyotairyu couldn't help himself by going for a pull, but that came
after a nice tachi-ai where he led with a left kachi-age and then grabbed
Shohozan by the neck with both hands before yanking him forward and down.
Chiyotairyu moves to 4-0 with the win while Shohozan falls to 2-2.
of fraud, I wish M5 Shodai rhymed with something cool so I could make fun of him
as he stepped into the ring against Komusubi Tochiohzan, and I was sorry to see
Tochiohzan go for exactly zero moves as he danced here and there looking for who
knows what? With Shodai not making any advances offensively, Tochiohzan
finally faked a pull where he really just hopped over to the edge allowing
Shodai to finish him off from there. It bugs me to no end that Shodai is now 2-2
while Tochiohzan falls to 0-4.
through the sanyaku, Suckiwake Mitakeumi failed to take care of Komusubi
Tamawashi even though the latter was mukiryoku (not to mention injured). You'd
think that if your opponent came into the day hobbling that you'd go for the
juggler, but Mitakeumi opted to shade to his left at the tachi-ai absorbing
Tamawashi's continuous push motion from the start. With Tamawashi pushing
straight forward no matter what, Mitakeumi moved left and attempted a weak, left
scoop throw that Tamawashi took in stride as he continued to just plow his way
outta the dohyo altogether, but in the process of executing that scoop throw,
Mitakeumi carelessly stepped out before the Komusubi had hit the dirt. This one
was close, and the biased ref even ruled in favor of Mitakeumi, but a mono-ii
was called and replays showed that Mitakeumi did indeed step out prematurely. As
for Tamawashi, it was as if he was fighting with his eyes closed. When Mitakeumi
moved left, he just kept going straight forward dragging his feet along for the
ride, so it was the Sekiwake's inability to to execute that scoop throw--against
a mukiryoku opponent no less--that cost him. This was actually the first win for
Tamawashi head to head against Mitakeumi in nine tries, which is a good example
of just how much they're trying to prop Mi-fake-umi up. As the dust settled,
Mitakeumi fell to 1-3 while Tamawashi evens things up at 2-2.
We'll see how long guys continue to roll over for M1 Kotoshogiku. Today it was
Sekiwake Yoshikaze's turn as the two rikishi hooked up in hidari-yotsu where
Yoshikaze kept his feet aligned and applied zero pressure to his opponent, and
so the Geeku was able to pivot to his right, latch onto the outside of
Yoshikaze's left arm, and then throw him down with no
When a guy's feet mimic and NFL receiver who is dragging both feet as he makes a
catch along the sideline, then you know it's yaocho. I bring up the
nage-no-uchi-ai all the time because it's such a basic move in sumo. Well, it
used to be. If one guy goes for a throw, then the other guy has to counter it,
and he does that by planting the outside foot and preferably using the other leg
to trip up his opponent's inside leg. These days we see a fall like we got from
Yoshikaze today or we see the guy throwing the bout lining his body square up
against his opponent's as he's being forced back all but guaranteeing a loss. I
mean just look at where Kotoshogiku is standing in relation to his
opponent...after the throw. Sumo is so bizarre these days as Kotoshogiku
moves to 4-0 while Yoshikaze is winless.
Kane is my witness, I told him (and I think Harvye) after day 2 that M3 Onosho
was a favorite to yusho. When you have one elite rikishi in a basho and he
decides to drop two bouts in four days, then you look for a couple of other
factors in deciding a yusho candidate: 1) whose got game to win bouts on his
own, and 2) whose a guy who often has opponents let up for him? I know, it's
kind of a strange combination but Mitakeumi is a great example of a rikishi who
ain't got game but still has his opponents let up for him. Anyway, Onosho could
very well be the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke right now. It's hard for
me to make that call because a ton of guys still let up for him, but he does
He wouldn't need any game today against Ozeki Terunofuji, who did nothing at the
tachi-ai and just waited for Onosho to put a hand on him. Said hand came in the
form of a left palm against the Ozeki's right shoulder, and in a flash,
Terunofuji found himself pulled down. Problem was, Onosho really didn't execute
a pull. I mean he tried to catch up, but the Ozeki was comically just throwing
himself to the dirt less than two seconds in. Any angle you look at the bout,
that was just a love tap from Onosho, hardly the kind of blow that would topple
a genuine Ozeki. The crowd reaction to the bout was polite applause, but
everyone knew that this one was thrown. One of my favorite all-time rikishi was
Tosanoumi, and when he made his jo'i debut
Makuuchi, he beat Akebono and Takanohana on days 7 and 9 respectively of the '95
Kyushu basho (I didn't even need to look it up I remember it so well). Well, the
crowd knew that Tosanoumi was an up-and-comer, and they were going crazy for him
when he defeated those two Yokozuna. The wins were considered huge upsets, and
there was definitely electricity in the air. After this bout, you coulda filled
the entire arena with natural gas and you never would have had a spark to ignite
the whole thing. Sometimes I look at the reaction of the crowd after what should
be mammoth upsets, and I'm like, "Are they reciting poetry at the library here?"
With the win, Onosho moves to 4-0 while Terunofuji falls to 1-3, and before I
move on, without even going back to watch those two Tosanoumi victories, I'm
pretty sure the fix was in for both of 'em. I've come to know sumo too well
With the tension lessening bout by bout, Ozeki Goeido welcomed M1 Tochinoshin
into the ring in the day's penultimate contest. Normally, this is the time for
an Ozeki to step up and establish himself with so many other guys out, but we
are talking about Goeido here. At the tachi-ai, he executed a piss-poor henka to
his left not even making contact, but Tochinoshin played along and just ran
himself forward to the edge of the dohyo. About the time he squared back up,
Goeido was there to offer the final push sending him a few steps up the West
hana-michi. Once again, I've witnessed more excitement at a funeral that I
detected after this one which saw Goeido move to 3-1 while Tochinoshin falls to
The day's final bout featured Yokozuna Harumafuji's welcoming M2 Hokutofuji, and
I guess you could say it was Hokutofuji who did the welcoming in the form of
arms out wide and a slight retreat back and left at the tachi-ai. It definitely
wasn't a henka, and it resembled more the type of tachi-ai we see from the
Mongolians when they want to give someone the easy
Harumafuji seized the right inside grip (how could he not?), but he refused to
move forward at all, and so I knew the outcome of the bout at that point.
Hokutofuji really hadn't a pot to piss in with his left arm lamely high and
trying to wrap around the Yokozuna's right from above, but when your opponent
has no intention of winning, you can do whatever you want and still win. With
Harumafuji not pressing, Hokutofuji was able to evade to his right and go for a
feeble pull, and with Harumafuji still standing there like a wet rag, the M2
grabbed a right outer grip and forced the Yokozuna up against the straw. Of
course there was the half-hearted obligatory struggle from Harumafuji ad
depicted at right, but that just ended with the Yokozuna staying square and
allowing Hokutofuji to force him out with ease. If you're curious what a
horrible, ineffective tachi-ai looks like, take a look at Hokutofuji's initial
charge today. There's no way that a Mongolian rikishi let alone a Yokozuna
doesn't take advantage of that mess. Well, if he's trying to win. Harumafuji
obviously wasn't as he falls to 2-2 now. As for Hokutofuji, he's gifted a 3-1
record, and I classify him in the same category as Onosho: young rikishi with
game but who still have a helluva lotta bouts thrown their way.
And that's how the day ended...six consecutive fixed bouts in favor of Japanese
favorites. The only highlight was Mitakeumi and his sloppy footwork as he
actually managed to lose against a mukiryoku opponent. There is just very little
to get excited about right now, and I pose the question again: how can sumo's
popularity be sustained with this kind of sumo?
Looks like I'm back at ya for day 5.
Day 3 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
days ago I confidently announced that the winner of this tournament would be
either Harumafuji or Takayasu. Now, with Takayasu joining the long list of
wounded, we have a further Armageddon of high ranked guys, and I suppose I'm
left saying Harumafuji is going to win, period.
And yes, that's a safe bet.
The guy I mulled putting on the list of possible winners on day one but left off
was Kotoshogiku. It didn't pass the sniff test, the skill test, the sense test,
the shullbit test, any test you like. It was possible only because it was
possible, if you see what I mean. But what a story it would make--which is why
with Takayasu out of the running I find I do turn my lonely eye to Kotoshogiku.
Partly in fear, mind--in fear. But today is a good day to touch on this magical
possibility, as he faced Harumafuji. By the end of today we'd know if a fairy
tale would be allowed to bloom for a few brief Indian Summer days, or whether it
would turn into a pumpkin. A smashed and rotten one, slimy with goo.
So, before we get to that, let's dwell on Kotoshogiku for a moment. What he is
doing by fighting on and on as an aged demoted Ozeki is without recent
precedent. Yes, Dejima and Miyabiyama were demoted from Ozeki and fought for
years thereafter--but they had been youthful over-promotions and a correction
was in order. They fought only 12 and 8 tournaments, respectively at the Ozeki
rank. Kotoshogiku? He's aged long-time Ozeki unquestionable on his past-prime
decline. I have to admit right now I like him better than I've liked him in
years. He's bucking "the normal way" by hanging in there and hanging in there
and hanging in there... everybody, including me, has been howling that he should
But why? Why not fight on until you can't go anymore? Death on the battlefield,
man. Sports careers are over soon enough as it is--might as well squeeze every
Consider all the Ozeki removed from the rank in the last 20 years: Kaio,
Tochiazuma, and Musoyama all retired at rank (and Kotomitsuki was dismissed
while still an Ozeki). Chiyotaikai went one tournament at Sekiwake and hung it
up, Kotooshu two. Baruto hung on, injured, for five tournaments and actually
ended up ranked in Juryo--props to him for sticking it out. But he fought zero
bouts in his last two ranked tournaments. The late, great Takanonami, who was an
Ozeki for six years, went on to fight another 24 post-demotion basho--four
years--before retiring as M13. But he was just 28 when demoted (as was Baruto),
and retired at 32. Kotoshogiku was older than that when he fought his first
demoted tournament, aged 33 and is now in his fourth post-demotion tournament.
So these are unchartered waters in the modern era. More power to him. I now want
to say: keep going.
Let's see how far his fairy fire flew last night.
M16 Asanoyama (1-1) vs. M15 Yutakayama (1-1)
Nice resounding slaps on the belt from Treasure Mountain (Yutakayama) in the
lead up. Too bad he then got worked. This was a pretty good match, with lots of
inside action on the body, but at a certain point Treasure Mountain lost the
momentum, started going backwards, and was tipped over, oshi-taoshi. The key was
that in there Yutakayama, who had Asanoyama's left arm all wrapped, tried to use
it to pull Asanoyama more than to throw him. After that Yutakayama was going the
wrong direction. These matches really can turn on the smallest dime, and this
one did. First real match for Asanoyama, and he looked good.
Tokushoryu (0-2) vs. J2 Aminishiki (2-0)
I was distracted by the cadaverous presence and strange,
sepulchral-yet-obsequious voice of the uncomfortable and off-putting
ex-Takanohana in the booth, but remembered in time to say, yay!, look, it is the
much-bundled Aminishiki in the ring. Welcome back. The gyoji was beautiful in
white with purple rings. Tokushoryu is a useless blubber ball, and I hoped
tricksy Aminishiki would beat him. Lo! He did. After a moment of
backpedaling, Aminishiki lifted his hands away in classic "I didn't do it"
manner, and Tokushoryu tumbled off the dohyo like a barrel of rotten halibut,
tsuki-otoshi. Vintage Aminishiki.
M14 Endo (1-1) vs. M13 Kaisei (2-0)
I can't help thinking about Takanohana in the booth. Too much. What is it that
bothers me about him? My sense of him is this. Fresh off being an uber-popular
Yokozuna, he tried, too early, to start a revolution in the oyakata ranks and
become the dominant force in the sport behind the scenes. Now, what's wrong with
this? Shouldn't I celebrate it? Doesn't the sport need fresh blood? Isn't he
seen as a reformer in some ways? Yes. But my feeling is that Takanohana had no
intent of injecting new blood, but in extracting it. He has a vampirish demeanor
that suggests he wanted to take over the old boys network, not to upend it, but
to put in his own old boys. To be the new Bela Lugosi, not a cleansing Van
Helsing. I don't know. There is something unwholesome about his efforts, his
presence, his manner. I trust him not at all. Consider this, from Wikipedia, as
well as the unseemly family infighting and machinations that have dominated his
press clippings post-retirement: "In July 2010, in the wake of a scandal
involving several wrestlers admitting to illegal gambling, he denied he had
connections with members of the yakuza underworld after media reports that he
was seen with a mobster during a visit to Ehime Prefecture to recruit new
apprentices... [later] he and his wife were awarded ¥8.47 million in damages by
the Tokyo High Court over 13 articles published by the Shukan Gendai and Gekkan
Gendai in 2004 and 2005 concerning match-fixing allegation.." Judge for
yourself. But this paragraph is supposed to be about the match between Kaisei
All right. Kaisei resisted Endo's attack. A blue-skier would say passivity led
to his yori-taoshi loss, while Endo's concerted attack underneath and inside is
to be commended (as it is). A cynic might focus on Kaisei's unwillingness to
grab the belt and inability to commit to any sort of attack and say it signaled
a willingness to lose. And my feeling is that, bat-like and watchful, Takanohana
liked this just fine. This, people, is sumo.
M12 Daishomaru (1-1) vs. M14 Okinoumi (2-0)
Hmmm. Daishomaru, a fierce puller, took on the superior Okinoumi and beat him at
his own game with a linear yori-kiri force out: attack, push, win. Daishomaru
stayed nice and low, but this didn't make any sense.
M11 Daieisho (2-0) vs. M13 Nishikigi (1-1)
Daieisho was busy doing his rapid-fire tsuppari, interrupted by purposeful and
repeated pushes by Nishikigi. So I was hoping Nishikigi would survive the silly
buzz saw and survive. However, as it so often does, this match really revolved
around a pull. At the edge, Daieisho gave up the slapping and did the slipping:
to the side. From whence he was able to thrust down Daieisho at the edge,
M11 Chiyomaru (0-2) vs. M10 Takekaze (0-2)
Takekaze absorbed Chiyomaru's lightning-strike attack and spun--and that is all
he has to offer. After that, according to his plan Chiyomaru was supposed to
fall down or otherwise succumb. But he didn't. There he was, still standing
there. Chiyomaru then gave Takekaze a concerted battering in the face, neck, and
chest on his way to an oshi-dashi win. Nicely done.
M9 Takanoiwa (2-0) vs. M10 Ishiura (1-1)
Here was Takanohana's boy, Takanoiwa, against Stone Ass (Ishiura). Ishiura was
ferocious in this one, quick and persistent in his assault from underneath and
his tries for the front of the belt. But he's just too small. All this
buzzing-bee flight didn't move Takanoiwa enough or knock him sufficiently off
balance, and in the end one good shove from Takanoiwa was enough to get Ishiura
off balance and make him fall down instead, tsuki-otoshi. Sometimes physics and
the laws of mass are the winner.
M9 Arawashi (1-1) vs. M8 Takarafuji (1-1)
Hard hitting tachi-ai by Arawashi, but Takarafuji absorbed it and the
counterattacked, driving Arawashi promptly to the straw. But lo! There Arawashi
paid off his back-pedaling--the real reason he went to the straw, rather than
Takarafuji's volition--with the wicked arm pull that it had bought, and drove
Takarafuji to the dirt at the edge, tottari. Does this look weak to you, or at
best risky? It was nothing but a well-executed win.
M7 Chiyonokuni (1-1) vs. M7 Ikioi (2-0)
Another excellent, whapping tachi-ai, and Chiyonokuni won it, coming out with a
nice inside grip and lower position. From there it was a moment of straining
before Chiyonokuni lurched out of it and capitalized with a skillful, quick
pull, hiki-otoshi. I don't usually like the pull, but you have to like them when
they're good. This was a beautiful one.
M8 Chiyoshoma (0-2) vs. M6 Kagayaki (0-2)
Chiyoshoma took some long-armed grabs at the hyperactive Kagayaki's belt, but
his real purpose was to get out of there and let nature take its course. When
Chiyoshoma stepped to the side, trying-too-hard Kagayaki was easy hiki-otoshi
M5 Shodai (1-1) vs. M5 Takakeisho (2-0)
Mike has given us a good line on Takakeisho's method, as well as a way of
evaluating his effectiveness and relative skill. Right now, nobody is easier to
break down. Push and back up a bit, push and back up a bit: that is Takakeisho.
Except when he is the weaker wrestler, he'll do this more. When he is the better
wrestler, he'll do it less, and push forward more. Here, his back-ups were few
and short, and his attacks sustained and confident, giving him a quick and
convincing oshi-dashi win. He needs to do this more, gain confidence, and build
on what he has. He can beat more guys like this, but he has to trust it.
M6 Ichinojo (0-2) vs. M4 Ura (1-1)
Ura joins the parade of injury withdrawals, and the fans, foreign and local, cry
sad tears. Sideshow clown Ichinojo picks up a useless first win.
M3 Chiyotairyu (2-0) vs. K Tochiohzan (0-2)
Chiyotairyu has looked like a new Chiyotaikai or something with his
utter-destruction, totally unexpected jo'i wins the first two days, making me
think only, "it is only a matter of time before someone exploits his
one-dimensional attack." I think his first two opponents suffered from
over-confidence: he's looked so bad in the lower ranks, they thought they could
even beat him at his own game. But he's a pro, and they can't. There's plenty of
other ways to beat him, though. Yet, mystifyingly, Tochiohzan also didn't learn
the lesson, standing his ground and going toe-to-toe. Kind of: he wasn't doing
much out there (I guess I'm not so mystified). At the tawara Tochiohzan tried a
little evasion-and-slap-down, but it was too late: Chiyotairyu pushed him out,
barely, oshi-dashi. Have no fear: this too will end.
K Tamawashi (1-1) vs. M3 Onosho (2-0)
their very odd mutual-limp-fest yesterday, it looked like Takayasu and Tamawashi
might both drop out of the tournament, but only Takayasu did. Tamawashi lives to
fight another day, refusing to join the astonishing seven wrestlers (out of 42)
to withdraw from the top division bouts this tournament. Meanwhile, your new
sneaky star for this tournament is not Mitakeumi: it is Onosho. Who just killed
Tamawashi here, looking to some eyes like the better and more experienced guy
even though he isn't. He carefully drove Tamawashi back, ignoring Tamawashi's
famed power-slaps, then smartly stepped to the side, grabbed Tamawashi's belt,
and slung the man way, way past him en route to an okuri-dashi win. Too bad
Tamawashi wasn't very convincing in looking like he just couldn't avoid it all.
Anyway. Onosho is definitely your shiny new Insider's Excitement Man.
S Mitakeumi (0-2) vs. M4 Shohozan (2-0)
Mitakeumi needed to show something here, and his hard hands to the face followed
by an instant powerful pull down, hiki-otoshi, certainly did the trick. Shohozan
ain't much, but still, guys whose confidence evaporates can get beat by anybody.
Mitakeumi ain't that weak. He won't win this tournament, but could still well
end up one of its stars. Give him a week or so to see where he can go.
S Yoshikaze (0-2) vs. O Goeido (1-1)
Goeido just henka'ed out of there and won, XXXXXXX. And that's all I have to say
O Takayasu (1-1) vs. M2 Hokutofuji (1-1)
Hokutofuji gets the free win against the injured Takayasu. 7 out of 42 wrestlers
absent is nearly 20%--that's one for every six. And consider this: four of the
top five are out. If we assess their missed matches as losses, that means there
is a 3-7 record in the top five ranks so far (Takayasu won one before going
out). Or seven free wins to distribute. Whereas in an "ideal" tournament they'd
all be 2-0 today, 10-0 as a group. Even Ura and Aoiyama are in the top 19 ranked
guys, meaning even more free wins up top. If we take those six guys out--Hakuho,
Kisenosato, Kakuryu, Takayasu, Ura, and Aoiyama--that means there are, across
the tournament, 71 contested matches missing (you have to take out the ones
where they face each other and the ones Ura and Takayasu already fought). If we
were to put, say, the following conservative win totals on those six--Hakuho 13,
Kisenosato 11, Kakuryu 10, Takayasu 9, Ura 8, Aoiyama 6--that's 57 extra wins to
distribute around to others. Another way to look at it is to say that with those
six in, the top sixteen wrestlers goes down to Onosho at M3. Without them, it
goes all the way to down to Ichinojo at M6. That makes for a very different
atmosphere. I still say it's kind of exciting. Guys who normally wouldn't have
chances to win, for either political or skill reasons, will find the floor
opened up for them a bit.
O Terunofuji (0-2) vs. M12 Tochinoshin (0-2)
Great back and forth belt stuff here, and I kind of felt Tochinoshin didn't have
a chance. The Ozeki wasn't going to open up 0-3. Injuries, politics, and
anything else aside, in a pure match up Terunofuji is just a shade better.
Tochinoshin had the belt first and Terunofuji was in trouble, but Teru reached
in to get off the body hold and evened it up. Eventually, working with a hard
outside left grip, Terunofuji put his head on Tochinoshin's body and drove him
to death, yori-kiri. More of this, please.
M1 Kotoshogiku (2-0) vs. Y Harumafuji (2-0)
the match we'd all been waiting for. If Harumafuji wins here, he's probably
cruising to the yusho. If he loses, all bets are off and hell, Onosho could be
your champion. Or Revenant Princess Kotoshogiku himself. If Harumafuji wins,
nails and ice. If he loses, grand theater's curtain rises. In fact, we got
vaudeville. Harumafuji jumped forward, stood up, and slapped Kotoshogiku on the
back. He then burped him like a baby. Literally. Harumafuji pattered away at
Kotoshogiku's back gently with that hand while stepping back and out
"yori-kiri." Like, really--no exaggeration. It wasn't a fight, it was a farce.
Every time we see bad fakery we say "I've seen bad acting, but this is the
worst." Then we say it again anew. Everybody was disgusted. Kotoshogiku even
shook his head ruefully as he walked into the locker room. The head shimpan
looked like he'd been served a moldy pear. It was insulting, really: I said it
looked like Harumafuji was burping a baby, and it did. But it also looked like
he was saying, "there, there, go ahead and have your win, congrats, you're a
nice enough guy." The excuse made will be that Harumafuji thought it would be
called back as a false start. Nonsense. Yes, he pathetically raised a hand to
the judges in appeal after he was pushed out. But HE had his hands on the dirt,
HE was the one who started the match, and he needed to be as ready for whatever
and was. He wasn't saying, "call this back, Kotoshogiku cheated." He was saying,
"call this back, I cheated." Insincerely. Nope. This was nothing but on purpose,
and it was ugly, strange, and made a mockery of the sport afresh. Crap.
Tomorrow Mike discusses the new day rising.
2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
really nailed his day 1 report, and at the end of the day, I was in complete
agreement with him that Takayasu was the likely favorite to yusho this
basho. Now, we all know that if Harumafuji wants to yusho in Aki, he will yusho,
but as day 1 demonstrated--and as Harvye pointed out in his report
yesterday--there is so much politics going on that it's getting ridiculous. I
stopped reporting on pre-basho keiko stories several years ago when yaocho began
to seep into practice sessions, but I never thought I'd see the day when we'd
have political kyujo. That's exactly what we have this tournament, however, with
three Yokozuna sitting out.
Kisenosato's sitting out is due to an effort to hide his utter ineptness in the
ring. It's one thing to propel a dude to the Yokozuna rank with rampant yaocho,
but how are you supposed to sustain him at that rank? There's only one answer:
more rampant yaocho. But the problem with Kisenosato of late hasn't necessarily
been the yaocho; rather, it's been the bouts where his opponents have decided to
fight straight up because they just go out there and kick his ass. And we're not
talking elite rikishi here. We're talking the usual early opponents for
Yokozuna: scrub rank-and-file rikishi.
Kakuryu has been mirroring Kisenosato with his kyujo in order to give the
impression that other Yokozuna struggle and need to take time off as well, and I
think Hakuho's withdrawal has to do with giving the young up-and-comers a boost
this tournament. I know that Takayasu isn't necessarily a young dude, but he's
part of the new crop of rikishi that the Association is trying to hype. I mean,
how much longer can they pretend that Kisenosato and Goeido can carry the sport?
Kotoshogiku bit the dust a few tourneys ago thanks to the Isegahama Mongolian
rikishi, and the other two Amigos surely don't have anything left in the tank,
so they have to start building up the next generation.
I love to watch NHK's Sunday Sports News program on Sunday nights, and when they
got to sumo on the night of day1, the three names featured prominently at the
start of the piece were Mitakeumi, Onosho, and Hokutofuji. Mitakeumi and Onosho
fought each other in a straight-up bout that Onosho dominated, and then
Terunofuji fell nicely for Hokutofuji. They actually had the dude NHK
broadcaster put on a fake mawashi and step into a fake dohyo with the former
Tochinowaka. The NHK guy played the part of Terunofuji and Tochinowaka was
Hokutofuji. Tochinowaka explained that after Terunofuji got the right arm
inside, Hokutofuji released his left outer grip wisely and used that left hand
to shove Terunofuji back and out of his inside position resulting in the
ultimate fall by the Ozeki. If only it were really that easy.
The way you try and escape from an inside grip is to back up at your own peril,
go for a maki-kae, or quickly move laterally and go for a shoulder slap...moves
that are all extremely risky. Now, if your opponent graciously pulls that right
arm back from its inside position and backs up of his own volition--which is
exactly what Terunofuji did, THEN a youngster like Hokutofuji would be able to
push out of it moving forward, but the point is...they're hyping the next
generation, they're throwing bouts in their favor, and then they're coming up
with shullbit analysis to explain it all away. And the Japanese public buys
every word of it, and that's why sumo is still working in terms of ticket sales
Let's move to the first bout of day 2, which curiously looked like the start of
the Terunofuji - Hokutofuji bout yesterday. In this version, it was Juryo
rikishi, Myogiryu, getting the right arm to the inside against M15 Yutakayama,
and the youngster knew he was in trouble, and so he retreated creating some
separation that allowed him to attempt to tsuppari his way back into the bout,
but he didn't have any momentum, and so Myogiryu was able to squeeze his
opponent's melon with both hands threatening a pull before getting that right
arm to the inside again and plowing forward into moro-zashi as he scored the
yori-kiri win. Yutakayama was gifted his day 1 win, so it was no surprise to see
him get manhandled by Myogiryu as both rikishi end the day at 1-1.
M14 Endoh flirted with moro-zashi against rookie M16 Asanoyama getting both
hands inside, but it wasn't exactly both arms inside, and so the rookie was able
to squirm around like a fish and wiggle his right arm to the inside of Endoh's
left, but Endoh adjusted well grabbing the left outer grip and using it to dump
Asanoyama off balance to where he just pulled him down in the end. The way
Sokokurai gave up against Asanoyama yesterday was ridiculous, and so today we
were able to gauge the rookie better, and he was beaten pretty handily by Endoh.
Endoh is definitely in his element this low on the banzuke as both rikishi end
the day at 1-1.
M15 Tokushoryu came with a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai that stood M14 Okinoumi
upright, but the taller Okinoumi was able to move left and swipe at Tokushoryu's
arms as he went. Tokushoryu still had the momentum, so he was able to square
back up with the left arm to the inside, but he was unable to defend Okinoumi
from gaining the same position. From this point, it was beautiful watching this
bout play out. You had the inferior rikishi in Tokushoryu win the tachi-ai and
maintain the lower position, but he just wasn't able to fight off the superior
rikishi as Okinoumi used the gaburi move brilliantly to knock his opponent back
and upright, back and upright until he was ready to secure the right outer grip,
and once obtained, it was a textbook yori-kiri from Okinoumi. What a beautiful
bout of sumo that contained all of the right moves as Okinoumi breezes to 2-0
while Tokushoryu falls to 0-2.
M13 Kaisei fished for an inside belt grip from the tachi-ai as M12 Daishomaru
skirted to his left attempting to mawari-komu around the ring faster than Kaisei
could keep up with him, but Daishomaru ain't that fast, and Kaisei just covers
too much real estate, so with Daishomaru moving left, Kaisei just stayed square
always threatening an arm to the inside. After escaping along the entire
perimeter of the ring, Daishomaru still didn't have an opening, so he tried to
dart back right, but Kaisei was right there to bump him out with ease. Kaisei
looks sharp in that orange mawashi as he skates to 2-0 while Daishomaru suffered
his first loss.
Don't look now, but that's four straight-up matches in four bouts!!
M13 Nishikigi and M11 Chiyomaru squared up in a tsuppari bout that saw Nishikigi
look to take control early, and as soon as Chiyomaru went for a dumb swipe of
his opponent's arms, his momentum was lost, and so credit Nishikigi for taking
advantage of the momentum shift and blasting Chiyomaru back and out. Nishikigi
improves to 1-1 with the nice win wile Chiyomaru falls to 0-2.
M11 Daieisho caught M10 Ishiura at the tachi-ai with an arm to the head, and
with Daieisho on the prowl, as soon as Ishiura tried to duck away, Daieisho
slapped him silly and down in a bout that lasted a second flat. Daieisho is
enjoying the comfort of these parts as he moves to 2-0 while Ishiura falls to
M10 Takekaze henka'd to his left against M9 Arawashi, but he was too hapless to
take advantage of it as Arawashi spun on a dime and squared back up pushing
Takekaze back and across before he could escape further. Takekaze is a joke, and
his kachi-koshi last basho was bought and paid for as he falls to 0-2, and
Oguruma-oyakata better put a crowbar to his billfold if he wants to keep his guy
in the division. As for Arawashi, he moves to 1-1 with the easy win.
M8 Chiyoshoma got the left inside and right outer grip from the tachi-ai against
M9 Takanoiwa, but Takanoiwa countered well with a deep left inside that actually
allowed him to burrow in lower than his opponent as he dug in. Chiyoshoma was in
no position from this point to execute an offensive move, and so he tried a
quick dashi-nage with the outer grip, but Takanoiwa reacted well shouldering his
opponent upright before latching onto a right frontal grip, and with Chiyoshoma
now trying to squirm away, Takanoiwa caught him with a right frontal belt grip
as well lifting Chiyoshoma straight upright and preventing him from escaping,
and so he was a sitting duck as Takanoiwa just forced him back and out
moro-zashi style. This was a great bout of sumo as Takanoiwa outclasses his
countryman moving to 2-0 while Chiyoshoma falls to 0-2.
Chiyonokuni came with his usual wild tsuppari attack against Takarafuji, but
Takarafuji easily withstood the charge and moved left wrapping his left arm
around the outside of Chiyonokuni's extended right, and while Takarafuji wasn't
positioned to execute a kote-nage, Chiyonokuni was forced to back up, and as he
did, Takarafuji followed suit and just pummeled his foe back and off of the
dohyo altogether scoring the nice win in a few seconds. Takarafuji picks up his
first win of the basho as both dudes end the day at 1-1.
M7 Ikioi and M6 Kagayaki engaged in a tsuppari contest from the start with both
rikishi upright and not exactly committing to de-ashi, but with Ikioi committed
to his forward push attack, Kagayaki was flirting with tsuki to the side, but in
order to push at your opponent's side, you kinda need to move laterally a bit to
set it up, and so with Kagayaki leaning to his left, Ikioi took advantage of
that lateral momentum and pushed Kagayaki back and off the dohyo after about
four uneventful seconds. I really wanted to see someone go all out here, but it
was still a legitimate bout with the superior rikishi coming out on top. Ikioi
moves to 2-0 with the win while Kagayaki falls to 0-2.
If you're scoring at home...and I hope you are, then you've noticed that I have
yet to call a single yaocho on the day.
That would change as M6 Ichinojo stepped into the ring against M5 Shodai. From
the tachi-ai, Ichinojo grabbed a left outer grip allowing Shodai to establish
himself to the inside with the right, but Shodai was unable to apply any
pressure, and so Ichinojo just backed up to the edge sorta going for a pull
down, but the hapless Shodai couldn't push his compromised foe out. Ichinojo
eventually walked himself out of the ring, but not before Shodai just collapsed
off balance. The result was Ichinojo's left heel touching out as Shodai hit the
deck, and they called a mono-ii ruling the thing a tie. Which meant that we had
to watch another thrown bout in as many tries.
In round two, Ichinojo kept both arms outside allowing Shodai to get the left
inside, and this time, Ichinojo just moved straight back allowing Shodai to push
him out in the process. What a joke here as Shodai moves to 1-1 while Ichinojo
continues to defer to his over-hyped if not over-useless opponents falling to
a lightweight in M4 Ura, M5 Takakeisho knew that he didn't need his usual fraidy
cat attack where he offers a light charge and then backs up a step or two.
Facing a lightweight in Takakeisho, Ura actually thought he could win this one
straight up, and so he didn't bother ducking this way or that, and the result
was Takakeisho just pushing Ura back and out once, twice, three times a lady. As
Ura looked to dig in at the edge, his right foot got caught on the tawara
causing him to fall backwards with his leg still stuck in the dohyo, and the kid
was in obvious pain as he tried to climb back onto the dohyo. Well, maybe
"tried" isn't the word because he was in so much pain that all he could do was
lean against the dohyo thinking to himself, "Do I even try to get back up on the
mound?" It's probably good that he didn't because he couldn't limp down
the hana-michi even with assistance from one of the yobi-dashi. They finally had
to call the guys at Pawn Stars to send in the wheelchair, so let's hope the
injury isn't too bad. I noticed in the morning headlines that Ura has withdrawn
from the tournament, and we'll see if he can make it back in time for Kyushu.
Takakeisho moves to 2-0 with the win.
M4 Shohozan barely shaded left against Komusubi Tochiohzan using his feisty
tsuppari attack to keep Tochiohzan away from the inside. Oh either needs
moro-zashi or an opening to pull, but Shohozan just maintained too much pressure
to give Tochiohzan a chance, so with Tochiohzan trying to counter using shoves
of his own as he moved a bit laterally, he couldn't resist and finally went for
a meager pull. And at that instant, Shohozan pounced blasting the Komusubi back
and out of the ring. Good win here for Darth Hozan as he moves to 2-0 while
Tochiohzan falls to 0-2.
Sekiwake Mitakeumi is getting exposed a bit because his opponents simply aren't
letting up for him. Well, not yet anyway. M3 Chiyotairyu showed that he is the
superior rikishi today when things are straight up by blasting Mitakeumi back
from the tachi-ai, and instead of continuing the freight-train charge (as I
would have preferred), he switched gears and just pulled the hapless Sekiwake
down to the dirt in about two seconds. While it was hataki-komi in the end, it
was still an ass-kicking as Chiyotairyu moves to 2-0 while Mitakeumi falls to
loved the M3 Onosho - Sekiwake Yoshikaze matchup because it showed that Onosho
is clearly the better rikishi and Yoshikaze is clearly not Sekiwake material.
While acknowledging that Onosho has serious games, I've been soured a bit of
late by all of the yaocho in his favor, and it's a shame because the kid has
solid sumo skills. And they were on display here as he won the tachi-ai with a
quick jab to Yoshikaze's neck with the right before surviving a nice counter
attack from the Sekiwake and a few pull attempts to boot. Midway through the
bout, Onosho caught Yoshikaze with a nice stiff arm to the neck with the left
hand, and from that point, I think the message was sent because Yoshikaze only
looked to set up a pull from there. It wouldn't work, however, as Onosho focused
on applying pressure from the ground up, and in the end, Yoshikaze had nowhere
to go except back and out as Onosho scored the win after a final failed pull
attempt from the Sekiwake. Great stuff as Onosho moves to 2-0 while Yoshikaze
falls to 0-2.
Takayasu kept both arms wide at the tachi-ai allowing Komusubi Tamawashi to
easily thrust his way square into his opponent's chest, and The Mawashi was able
to push Takayasu back and across with little argument. As Takayasu was being
pushed back, he let both of his feet just slide to the tawara where his intent
was to dig in, but Tamawashi had too much forward momentum that disabled
Takayasu from executing a counter attack. With Takayasu on the brink and both of
his feet tangled in the tawara, the Komusubi had to exert a bit more pressure to
finish him off, and finish him off he did, but not before his right foot slipped
in the sand causing Tamawashi to roll his right ankle. No sooner did Tamawashi
come up lame in the center of the ring, but there was Takayasu coming up injured
as well at the side of the dohyo. In Takayasu's case, he suffered a right thigh
injury, and they quickly had to wipe Ura's sweat off of the antique wheelchair
and bring it back ringside for Takayasu. Goodnight this was a strange bout, and
I think all the mukiryoku sumo these days is contributing to these freak
injuries. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1 and we'll see if Tamawashi can live to
fight another day.
I guess Ozeki Terunofuji still hasn't sufficiently repented from his henka of
Kotoshogiku earlier in the year that led to Kotoshogiku's demotion from Ozeki
because for the second day in a row, Terunofuji felt compelled to throw the
match against his Japanese opponent. After getting the right arm to the inside,
he pulled it back out and focused on a grip of Kotoshogiku's right arm with both
hands, but the Ozeki didn't do anything with that double grip allowing
Kotoshogiku to get the left arm inside and then use his tired gaburi move to
force the Ozeki back and across. Kotoshogiku was extremely vulnerable to a right
tsuki-otoshi from the Ozeki, but instead of firing on that move, Terunofuji just
walked back and out giving Kotoshogiku the cheap win. Terunofuji falls to 0-2
with his second yaocho in as many days while Kotoshogiku is gifted a 2-0 start.
After being gifted the win yesterday against Terunofuji, it was time for M2
Hokutofuji to return the favor against Ozeki Goeido keeping his arms safely
outside and fishing for pulls that never came as he eventually let Goeido work
his left arm to the inside. Once established, instead of going for a logical
counter move, Hokutofuji went for a stupid right pull where he put his right
armpit over Goeido's head completely exposing his body to the easy force-out win
by the Ozeki. Talk about another let-down the last 30 minutes of the broadcast
as Goeido is gifted win one while Hokutofuji falls to that same 1-1 record.
In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji and M1 Tochinoshin hooked up in
migi-yotsu where Tochinoshin had the left outer grip, but the Yokozuna had Shin
up so high that he was able to burrow is right shoulder in deep and set up the
quick inside belt throw putting the stamp on a day that started out well but
came up lame in the end. Harumafuji is a cool 2-0 while Tochinoshin falls to
Harvye is right back at it tomorrow.
Day 1 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
back to Sumotalk for the fall tournament. Before we get to the action, let's
Want to write for Sumotalk? Then do it--now's the time. We're establishing an
"open season" for writer tryouts. Pick a day or a partial day, and give us a
sample write-up. Or, give us your history of watching sumo and tell us why you'd
like to write. Differing viewpoints from what is normally posted here are of
course welcome. If interested, contact us and/or send us a write-up at
email@example.com. In any write-up, you should in general cover key
matches. In addition, there are these general guidelines when writing for
1. Sumo expertise. You don't have to know as much as Mike, but you need to be
able to credibly offer informed perspective on the sport. Been watching for five
years? That may be enough--show us what you have.
2. Good writing. Writing needs to be concise, relatively mistake-free, and
readable. You know who you are.
3. Responsible. If you say you're going to write on Tuesday, you have to write
on Tuesday. And, if you have something to say but you're afraid to say
it--either to the readers or to us--you need to think carefully about how to say
it, then say it anyway. If you can't stand the heat, don't come into our
4. Mike also told me to add that you can't make any racial remarks or any
statements that denigrate one's religions with one exception: you can make fun
of Mormons, but it has to be original and funny or it will likely get cut.
Selecting new writers is 100% at the subjective discretion of Sumotalk, but
trust us, our standards aren't that high.
All right, back to my regular work.
The big news coming into the tournament is that three of the four Yokozuna have
withdrawn with injuries: Hakuho, Kisenosato, and Kakuryu. This leaves Harumafuji
as the sole Yokozuna fighting, so of course the tournament is his to take.
But does he want it? It is neither a foregone conclusion that Harumafuji
will take advantage of the absences, nor that he can. There is no question he is
the best rikishi in this tournament. But is he the most focused? If
he is, he wins. If, however, he goes sloppy on us, as he often does, the
field is wide open.
Then who? Okay, Harumph is #1. But think quick: who is #2? The
amazing answer is Takayasu. Because Goeido and Terunofuji are both
kadoban, coming off losing records, Takayasu, with his limp 9-6 record from
Nagoya, is the last man standing in the top ranks except for Harumafuji.
Does that make him a favorite to win? Absolutely. I don't think he
could take this tournament through skill alone, but this go-round does represent
a great opportunity for the Association to give Takayasu a quick yusho (if so
perhaps the only he'll ever get). Goeido already has his from last year,
but he is a distinct possibility in the same realm if this tournament becomes
another chance to flog the dead fake horse of parity.
Who else? I say Mitakeumi is the only real contender. He has emerged
from the soup of exciting and/or hyped young rikishi--Shodai, Ura, Takakeisho,
Hokutofuji, and Onosho are prominent others at the moment--as the best
combination of aggressive oomph and an excessive popularity, partly won by his
own charisma (I like this guy too) and partly a manufactured consensus. He
could very well ride that to an early career yusho ala Kotomitsuki in 2001.
Tamawashi and Terunofuji are Sumotalk faves, but Tamawashi doesn't have the
juice and despite his excellence his run of excitement is winding down, and
Terunofuji's body sadly probably leaves him out of future Yokozuna
discussions--and this or any other tournament's winner's circle. A couple
of years ago they decided to "stop the Terunofuji." It worked, and it
appears that result has been inaugurated as a permanent condition.
What does this all amount to? A very exciting tournament. In any
sport, when the top contenders go down, throngs below smell blood and drive
themselves hard to fill the gap. In sumo, the raw reality of that may be
swamped by the swamp, but we still have the opportunity here for a real scrum.
We have been talking about the youth revolution being on its way--and with the
wave of injuries, all of the sudden it may be here. Right now.
We'll see if Harumafuji lets that happen; I look for him to signal that in the
first three days in one direction or another.
To the front!
M16 Asanoyama vs. J1 Sokokurai
It's been a decade and a half since Takasago stable debuted a guy in Makuuchi,
and they celebrated by enjoying a little weak compliance from wily veteran
Sokokurai so that the newbie from Toyama, Asanoyama, could get the win. And
that's how our tournament starts in the sold-out Tokyo arena. Yep.
Asanoyama did fine here, setting up a right arm inside on the body with some
manful upward shoves at the neck area and finishing with a yori-kiri force-out,
but Sokokurai looked limp.
M15 Tokushoryu vs. M15 Yutakayama
A jot of jiggling up and down from Tokushoryu, a little attempt at a pull but
nothing else. Yutakayama grabbed Tokushoryu from underneath and yori-kiri'ed him
M14 Endo vs. M14 Okinoumi
At least one of these two guys, probably both, are going to clean up ranked this
low. Endo is the better bet to put up really spectacular numbers--the
Association still wants him--but Okinoumi is by far the better wrestler. So, I
thought this match might be a bellweather for their tournaments to come.
Fortunately, it didn't happen like I expected: rather, Okinoumi dominated. He
went for the belt in front on the left immediately but couldn't get it, but
switched easily to a powerful overhand belt grip on the right and dumped the
underpowered and vulnerable Endo summarily to the clay, uwate-nage. Nicely done.
M13 Nishikigi vs. M13 Kaisei
Kaisei, looking a lot like a pumpkin in a fresh orange belt, was working on
Nishikigi's left side, first grabbing the arm over there, then going for the
outside grip. However, it wasn't working out much, as when he tried a maki-kae
to get an inside grip there he lost the momentum and Nishikigi drove him to the
edge. No matter. Kaisei should be dominant in this match-up, and he kept his
feet apart at the tawara, body slung low, and when Nishikigi tried a force-out
charge, Kaisei used that surge against him by pivoting to the side and crashing
Nishikigi to the clay, sukui-nage.
M12 Daishomaru vs. M11 Chiyomaru
I don't like either of these guys. Daishomaru pulls too much and Chiyomaru is
too blubbery. The match lived up to that; after the tachi-ai Daishomaru stepped
to the side with a wee push and Chiyomaru lumbered uselessly past him.
Daishomaru got in behind, face in the back of the armpit, hand on the belt at
the small of the back, and removed Chiyomaru, okuri-dashi. Goodbye, Jell-O.
M11 Daieisho vs. M10 Takekaze
This was the liveliest match so far, but that was because of evadin, pullin',
and slappin'. Daieisho, who has some oomph most days, pushed Takekaze back
pretty well at the tachi-ai, and Takekaze predictably spent the rest of the
match trying to get away from him and finding little moments to try to knock him
over and down. Didn't work, as Daieisho was in there with busy hands and
concentration, and he pushed Takekaze out oshi-dashi in short order.
M10 Ishiura vs. M9 Arawashi
Full, effective henka here: Ishiura went all-out ole, whirled around, and pushed
Arawashi out, okuri-dashi. The gyoji sure had an immaculate white kimono,
M9 Takanoiwa vs. M8 Takarafuji
I liked the tachi-ai here--good hard smack from Takanoiwa--but Takarafuji had
him well squared and doesn't get done just like that, and by slinking Takanoiwa
to the side with a wee counterattack, Takarafuji took over and had the momentum
for most of the match. He's always been too passive, though, and doesn't have
signature-level power, and he couldn't finish Takanoiwa off: eventually
Takanoiwa squared up in his own right after a lame force out fizzle by
Takarafuji and drove Takarafuji out, yori-kiri.
M8 Chiyoshoma vs. M7 Ikioi
Both of these guys are kinetic and strong, and have kept their bodies from
getting stiff, unwieldy, and overly fat. They played to these strengths with an
active, mobile match. However, the difference was that Ikioi consistently tried
to scoop upwards, while Chiyoshoma tried to pull downwards and evade, giving
Ikioi an advantage that he took to the bank with an efficient oshi-dashi win.
M7 Chiyonokuni vs. M6 Kagayaki
Kagayaki traditionally starts terribly the first week before rallying in the
second. He seems like a big, promising guy hampered by a lot of jitters and not
a lot of confidence. Chiyonokuni is the opposite: a smaller guy who has made the
most out of his career by being stone cold focused on what he's got and what he
can do. Kagayaki pattered flabbily away at Chiyonokuni with his hands, so
Chiyonokuni stepped smartly to the side and whacked Kagayaki mercilessly down,
tsuki-otoshi. Often evasion is distasteful. Sometimes it is well-deserved.
M6 Ichinojo vs. M5 Takakeisho
Ugh. Ichinojo stood up and looked at his opponent, leaning slightly forward, and
waited for the match to develop. And that's it. Practice dummy. Dad playing with
child. Person scared of jumping dog but carefully facing dog anyway. Not sumo
wrestler. Takakeisho bashed away at Ichinojo from beneath, blappity bappity, and
eventually Ichinojo found his feet on the other side of the tawara, still
standing completely upright, an oshi-dashi loss. Ridiculous.
M5 Shodai vs. M4 Ura
shouting for this match. Hmmm. Fresh pink Ura has eclipsed the lame and weakly
Shodai in popularity--the crowd wasn't shouting for Vanilla Softcream. Ura
didn't do much here--back pedaled and stepped to the side--but that was enough.
Give Shodai credit for having the guts to attack "the wily Ura" (is that
trademarked yet?) all-out, but it was a pretty good demonstration of how
effective Ura's package is, as he grabbed Shodai's arm and pulled him to the
ground, tottari. As with many evaders before him, Ura's opponents have a
damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't choice: go all out and be a sitting duck
for the evasion and pulls, or be cautious and thereby give up the tachi-ai and
sell short your own strengths. I think I'd go with cautious and stay as low as
K Tamawashi vs. M4 Shohozan
I sensed Tamawashi's decline last tournament: after a stellar run of a year, the
edge just seemed off. Here are his win totals across the run, which crossed the
last seven tournaments: 9-10-10-9-8-10-7. That 7 was a big deal, and signaled
the end. He never turned the corner from scary to dominant, good to great, and
was fading back. He's too old anyway. As for the match, this pair represents a
couple of good pushers, but Tamawashi is better and should have destroyed
Shohozan, as they went ahead and had their expected up-high thrust-battle. It
went back and forth and Tamawashi never really rared back and hit hard enough to
make the difference. Eventually during one of the momentum changes Tamawashi
left his feet behind and got stretched out full length on the ground like a kid
doing a belly-flop off the side of the pool on a dive attempt while holding the
teacher's hands. Plap! Hiki-otoshi. The Tamawashi fun is mostly done.
M3 Chiyotairyu vs. S Yoshikaze
This rank should be absolute death for Chiyotairyu, and I expected Yoshikaze to
evade and school this ol' cannonball-or-nothing attacker. However, Yoshikaze has
his own pride, and has been on a late-career run of effectiveness much longer
than Tamawashi's. So, I think he thought he'd see if he could out-power this
visitor from the depths. Nothing doing. Yoshikaze has a lot of tools, but
outright power is not one of them, and if everybody played to Chiyotairyu's
strengths like this, Chiyotairyu would be perennial sanyaku. Which is a long way
of saying Chiyotairyu blasted Yoshikaze out with the linear force-out,
S Mitakeumi vs. M3 Onosho
no doubt Mitakeumi was the sexy pick this tournament. You could just feel it. I
even did it in my intro above. And Onosho, an even newer buzzy young option,
presented a great first day match-up for that atmospheric. The match was all
Onosho, and beautifully executed. Mitakeumi went with his typical aggressive
attack, but Onosho stood him up off it, stopping him dead in his tracks with
one, two hard hands to the neck. Then Onosho stepped back while pulling down,
tumbling Mitakeumi emphatically to the dirt, hataki-komi. I have nothing against
the pull when it is done like this: an absolute and appropriate working of an
overcommitted opponent. Advantage: Harumafuji--this signals that we won't get
the hoped for Mitakeumi premature emergence just yet.
O Terunofuji vs. M2 Hokutofuji
Another interesting match-up: stagnation on the left, slow rising fermentation
on the right. Terunofuji looked helpless and hapless, getting pushed back by
Hokutofuji's purposeful attack, off-balance and lurching, then falling
unceremoniously down to the dirt at the edge, hiki-otoshi. However, this was not
Terunofuji's best effort.
Kotoshogiku vs. O Goeido
This match-up, on the other hand, was interesting only in how useless it felt.
Like a time capsule or a relic. An anachronism. Kotoshogiku jumped diagonal at
the tachi-ai, got hold of Goeido's belt with one hand way in deep behind and
Goeido's head with the other hand, rotated around the place, got Goeido's back
to the straw, and forced him out, oshi-dashi. That said, I think Goeido rode the
same train to work this morning that Terunofuji did.
Takayasu vs. M1 Tochinoshin
After the Mitakeumi and Goeido losses, a loss by Takayasu would have really
taken the air significantly out of this tournament's balloon before day one was
even done. So, no surprise that Tochinoshin held back with a cautious hand to
the face, let Takayasu get inside and below and body him up, then forced
Tochinoshin easily out, yori-kiri. And just like that, yes, on day one, we can
see this tournament only has TWO contenders: Takayasu and Harumafuji. Mark it
down: the winner will be one of those two.
K Tochiohzan vs. Y Harumafuji
Power. Focus. Harumafuji can be truly great, and for the past year plus it has
been him, not Hakuho, who has most frequently demonstrated Yokozuna sumo in the
ring. He got a stifling outside grip on the left and snaked his right arm inside
on the body, simultaneously giving himself position and, more important, keeping
Tochiohzan out of the dual-inside-grips he favors. Harumafuji then held
Tochiohzan tight against him, tensed like a spring, for a few moments before
spilling him with speed and purpose uwate-nage. Good start for him; give him a
few days though to finish telling us what he's going to do.