(Mike Wesemann reporting)
The wild and
crazy Haru basho turned out to be exactly that. My intention was to skip
commentary today since the yusho had been determined in my mind and then just
wrap everything up in my post-basho report, but senshuraku provided many more
talking points that I cannot pass up. For the first time in six months, the
yusho race had been extended into the tournament's final day, and there was
plenty of drama for everyone regardless of what your view is on sumo. Let's
examine the significant events that occurred today starting with Sekiwake
Kakuryu, who needed to simply defeat M6 Goeido in order to pick up his first
career yusho, a rikishi whom he held an 8-3 advantage over coming in.
In the useless trivia department, a Sekiwake has not taken the yusho since
Kotomitsuki accomplished the feat at the 2002 Aki basho. Next, the last time a
rikishi from the Izutsu-beya (Kakuryu's stable) took the yusho was in 1992 when
former Ozeki Kirishima hoisted the cup, and the stable can only boast 5 total
yusho in its history. Also, nine previous foreign-born rikishi have taken the
yusho, and if successful, Kakuryu would be the first to do it from a rank other
than Ozeki or Yokozuna since Akebono did it way back in 1992.
successful" was the key phrase in that last sentence, however, since Kakuryu
first had to solve Goeido's attack. And like most bouts, this one was determined
at the tachi-ai where Goeido went for a quick hari-zashi move slapping with the
left hand and then seeking to the get the right on the inside. On the flip side,
Kakuryu defied all logic by putting his right hand high at the side of Goeido's
neck and his left arm over to top of Goeido's right shoulder as if to attempt to
grab an outer grip over the top although it's clear from the pic at right that
Kakuryu is not going for the belt. The result of course was Goeido getting
moro-zashi and bulldozing Kakuryu back in mere seconds for what would have to be
called a huge upset.
There's really nothing to break down in this bout. It was a suicide tachi-ai
from Kakuryu, so the question is was it just a case of nerves or was it
intentional? As we've gone through each day of the basho, I've pointed out in my
comments aspects of various bouts that just didn't seem right to me, and this
was yet another such instance where logic and reason were thrown out the window.
I mean, the first 14 days of the tournament, Kakuryu's attack has been so
precise, and he's known exactly what he needed to do in order to win. His bout
against Baruto and then his performance vs. Kotooshu were two prime examples.
And while I believe Hakuho should yusho every tournament and predict as much
coming into a hon-basho, Kakuryu's sumo this basho as been worthy of the yusho
in every aspect, so to see him come out with a tachi-ai like that is a huge red
flag in my mind. Perhaps it's just the way I choose to view sumo, but after
watching this bout, my opinion was that Kakuryu had no intention of winning. I
can't explain it any other way because a guy who has fought the last year at
this level and posted the third highest win total over that span is not nervous
Pervis facing an M6 with the yusho on the line. Regardless, when the bout was
finished, my only thought was "oh boy, I can't wait to see what happens now." As
for Goeido, he finishes a cool 12-3 picking up a Kantosho to boot.
The big question now is how would Hakuho react to Kakuryu's loss. If you asked
me before Kakuryu's bout, I would have said he would drop this bout against
Baruto since I didn't think he had any intention of standing in Kakuryu's way,
something I stated just a few days ago reasoning that Hakuho made himself
vulnerable in order to give other guys a shot at the yusho like Harumafuji and
Baruto, so why not Kakuryu? But that assessment was made under the
assumption that Kakuryu would try and win out. The Sekiwake's throwing that bout
to Goeido on purpose just opened up a new dynamic that I had yet to consider.
With that in mind, let's fast forward to the day's final bout where Ozeki Baruto
won the tachi-ai obtaining a left outer grip near the front of Hakuho's mawashi
that could have been used to pinch in on Hakuho's right arm. I saw it that way
because Baruto didn't cuff the Yokozuna on that side when he had the chance, and
he would pay for it in the end. After about three seconds of inaction giving
Hakuho plenty of time to prepare his attack, it came in the form of a maki-kae
with the left arm enabling the Yokozuna to grab moro-zashi and then easily spin
the Ozeki over to the side and out via yori-kiri. It was strange to me that
Baruto did not mount an offensive attack despite his obvious advantage at the
tachi-ai. Here's one guy who has a great shot at beating Hakuho even from the
gappuri-yotsu position, so when it looks to me as if he has the Yokozuna in a
bind at the tachi-ai, he doesn't even try to capitalize on it. Baruto was
completely passive and reactive in this bout even though he had the upper hand
the first half not to mention the lower positioning. Why he chose that course of
action is beyond me. All I know is that he had a golden opportunity and didn't
even try to apply pressure to the Yokozuna, and when a guy is actually trying to
win a bout, does he ever go out of the ring sideways as Baruto did today? The
end result is a 10-5 for Baruto while Hakuho catches up with Kakuryu at 13-2
setting up a playoff for the yusho.
had no idea what to think at this point, so let's go to the tape and see how the
climax would unfold because the craziness was not finished. From the tachi-ai,
Yokozuna Hakuho actually henka'd Kakuryu! Now, this was not a jump to the side
where he pulls his guy down; rather, he stepped out wide left and grabbed the
ill-gotten outer grip on that side coupled with the firm inside grip on the
other. Kakuryu had nary a pot to piss in at this point and performed the only
action available, which was a maki-kae with the left arm, and while he did get
it giving him moro-zashi, Hakuho was already pressing him to the edge. At the
edge, Kakuryu dug in his heels against the tawara and arched his back lifting
Hakuho up on top of him just as one would do going for an utchari or an evasive
tsuki-otoshi, but the twist to the side never came. Rather, Hakuho raised one
leg off the dohyo and bent it at the knee as if he were a gal being kissed by
her sailor who had just entered port. After this..."moment" between the two,
Kakuryu staved off the attempt and looked to force the action back to the middle
of the ring while still maintaining moro-zashi, but Hakuho said enough of the
funny bidness and spilled the Kak on the dohyo with a left outer belt throw. And
just like that, Hakuho picks up career #22 tying him with Takanohana while
Kakuryu is denied what would have been an improbable run to the Emperor's Cup.
As I alluded to in my intro, regardless of your stance on sumo and whether or
not things are always on the up and up, this finish provided something for
everyone. If you believe that all of the fighting was straight up this basho,
you had a helluva yusho race where a Yokozuna came from behind to tie one of the
sport's greatest. If you are of the opinion that these guys will do each other
favors from time to time, there was plenty of unorthodox sumo like the first
three bouts I've covered in these comments to make you wonder. If you're curious
what my take is regarding this whacky finish, it's this:
The Sumo Association had to save face. With Hakuho continuing to set the
precedent that he is vulnerable, it was better for sumo in the end that a
Mongolian Sekiwake not show up the Japanese Ozeki by posting a 14-1 yusho while
the latter both languished at 9-6. I've worked enough in Japan, lived enough in
Japan, and breathed enough Japan that I'm fairly confident there is serious
politics going on behind the scenes...all in the name of restoring sumo's good
image, which can only be accomplished in the public's eye by having Japanese
And I'm completely fine with that and the outcome of the Haru basho. I believe
Hakuho shoulda and coulda gone 15-0 defeating Kakuryu along the way. The
Sekiwake was robbed of nothing this tournament. He was a legitimate 13-2 jun-yusho
rikishi in the midst of a legitimate Ozeki run. The Yokozuna giveth, and the
Yokozuna taketh away. It sounds as if Kakuryu will be thrown a bone in the end
by being promoted to Ozeki, but there's no way they can't promote him after
elevating Kisenosato with just 32 wins. While I was scanning the headlines this
morning following the crazy senshuraku, one that really stood out to me was from
Nikkan Sports where they actually included a Kakuryu quote in the headline that
read "Mada hayai to iu koto," or "I guess it was still too soon." I hear ya
brother. Kakuryu's employer is the Sumo Association; he's gotten extremely fat
thanks to the Sumo Association; and he won't have to work another day in his
life due to the Sumo Association. He gets it, trust me.
I guess there were a few other happenings atop the dohyo today, so let's cover
some of the other bouts of interest. Ozeki Kotooshu and Ozeki Harumafuji showed
about as much disinterest atop the dohyo as possible. Harumafuji drove Kotooshu
back from the tachi-ai with two hands to the throat, and with the Bulgarian of
no intent to move forward, HowDo's shoves actually created some separation. With
Harumafuji waiting in the center of the dohyo, Kotooshu just walked into a left
uwate-nage throw that sent him somersaulting to the dirt just as if this was
butsukari-geiko. If you've ever been fortunate enough to visit morning keiko,
you know the last drill of the day includes the rikishi actually practicing how
to fall properly. It's said this is done to help prevent injury, but trust me,
there's an unspoken part of the exercise as well. Anyway, if you watch the
rikishi practice it, they roll in a perfect ball landing on their forearm and
somersaulting over only to land in a position where they can get right back on
their feet. Watching this bout reminded me of that. And I'm not saying it was
yaocho as much as I'm saying neither rikishi gave a shat. Now that it's all said
and done, Harumafuji finishes at 11-4 while Kotooshu posts a bland 8-7.
Coming in with just 17 wins between them, I think it was apparent that the 8-6
Kotoshogiku would get the win over the 9-5 Kisenosato. The Kid didn't even try
as Kotoshogiku got him in moro-hazu (simultaneous pushes at the teets) and
backed his fellow Ozeki out of the ring in no time. Moro-hazu from Kotoshogiku?
When did we last see that? Like the previous bout I described, I don't think
Kisenosato cared about this one, so they may as well give Kotoshogiku the win
leaving both at 9-6.
M4 Aran wasted a chance at winning in double-digits by only focusing on a
pull-down win against Sekiwake Aminishiki. The gimpy shneaky isn't exactly known
for charging ahead full throttle, so he methodically followed the retreating and
pulling Aran around the ring before pushing him out in the end. Not a bad basho
for Ami at 7-8, but he failed to capitalize on a quick start. Aran is 9-6, and
this bout was to see who would occupy a Komusubi slot in May.
Komusubi Gagamaru's sumo the last two days is a good example of how to suspect
yaocho or funny bidness in the ring. Yesterday against Homasho, Lord Gaga just
stood there and allowed Homasho to pull him down in two seconds with a marginal
inside grip. Today, though, against M3 Kyokutenho, Gagamaru charged hard, got
his left arm on the inside, and forced Kyokutenho back and had him parallel
parked in 2 - 3 seconds. Am I the only guy that notices stuff like this? If you
have the means, go back and watch both bouts. Gagamaru is a completely different
rikishi on consecutive days. Anyway, the Komusubi comes up short at 6-9 while
Kyokutenho is 5-10.
Komusubi Tochiohzan showed little life by actually losing to M5 Wakakoyu in a
yotsu sumo bout. After trading shoves the first few seconds, the two hooked up
in the hidari-yotsu position, but the Komusubi couldn't budge the Wookie. Oh did
go for and get moro-zashi, but Wakakoyu (7-8) pinched in from the outside on
both arms and scored the easy kime-dashi win sending Tochiohzan to an abysmal
In other bouts of interest in the rank and file, M4 Toyonoshima cemented the
Ginosho with a methodical force-out of M13 Kitataiki stemming from a
hidari-yotsu affair. Nothing special in this one other than Toyonoshima's
experience aided him in keeping Kitataiki (9-6) upright as much as possible and
forcing him back despite an outer grip with the right hand. At 11-4, Toyonoshima
will return to the sanyaku where he belongs.
M5 Homasho also posted his 11th win by sticking to a pushing match while M9
Miyabiyama (8-7) was interested in the pull. That will work nine times out of
M7 Takayasu survived a decent right kote-nage throw from M16 Shotenro in their
hidari-yotsu contest before squaring back up and forcing Shotenro back and out
in the end. Takayasu posts a solid 10-5 and will challenge the jo'i in May.
Shotenro ends up 9-6.
M9 Okinoumi at 7-7 had to have been thrilled to see that he was paired against
M16 Takanoyama today. Dude just choked the Dummy from the tachi-ai with two
hands, shook him silly for an instant as he drove him back, and then shoved him
clear off the dohyo and down to Juryo via tsuki-otoshi. My kids, who were
watching over my shoulder during a lazy Sunday morning breakfast, couldn't stop
laughing at the way Takanoyama was violently thrown about. I piled on of course
and rewound the bout several times for some good family fun. Okinoumi earns the
easiest eighth win he'll ever come by while Takanoyama worked little magic at
M10 Aoiyama picked up his kachi-koshi today as well using a consistent tsuppari
attack against the hapless M15 Hochiyama (4-11). When Hochiyama refused to be
shoved completely back and started evading around the ring, Aoiyama kept up
rather easily and finally yanked Miss Saigon to the dirt with some oomph.
And finally, M14 Ikioi's forgettable debut was capped off with an uwate-nage
loss at the hands of M12 Daido. Ikioi (5-10) looked to take charge throughout
the migi-yotsu contest, but he wasn't strong enough to knead the Dough, and it
didn't take much for the victor to unleash that outer belt throw that dusted off
the rookie leaving Daido at 7-8.
Having commented nearly every day this basho, I don't know what more I can say
in a post basho report, but I will try and wrap this shootin' match up within
the next week.
(Mike Wesemann reporting)
With all of
the pre-basho attention focused on Ozeki Baruto's push for the Yokozuna rank,
Sekiwake Kakuryu flew completely below the radar. In fact, the only keiko report
I read concerning him had him declining a keiko session with Hakuho citing a
nagging injury. It looks like now that he was sandbagging there, but if we go
back and run some numbers from last May to the current basho, it shouldn't be
any surprise what Kakuryu is doing here in Osaka. Through day 14, if we add up
the total number of wins the last 365 days, the breakdown of sumo's top 7 looks
So not only is Kakuryu ranked number three, he's also well ahead of the Ozeki
named Baruto. With just 20 wins the last two basho and Baruto's yusho in
January, nobody had Kakuryu on their mind in Osaka, but damned if he isn't going
to take the yusho. Since number four on the chart above actually has a yusho, I
guess it's only fitting that number three gets one as well. Furthermore, if
Kakuryu can beat Goeido on senshuraku, that will put him at 34 wins the last
three basho including a yusho. Based on the lower standard set by Kotoshogiku
and Kisenosato during their Ozeki runs, there is no way the Sumo Association
cannot promote Kakuryu.
As long as it's all Kakuryu all the time, let's start with the Sekiwake who was
faced with an extremely tough matchup in Ozeki Kotooshu. The Ozeki is too long
for Kakuryu to really set anything up with tsuppari, and then trying to get in
deep isn't exactly a healthy proposition either. And it showed today as Kakuryu
fired two quick volleys into the Ozeki's face before ducking in low and grabbing
a right frontal inside grip and a shallow outer grip on the other side. Kotooshu
complied with equal grips of his own, so it was technical gappuri-yotsu, but two
weren't chest to chest. With Kakuryu hunkered down low and driving his head into
the Ozeki just below Kotooshu's jaw, the Ozeki's only real option was to keep
that firm outer grip with the left and counter when Kakuryu made a move. The two
felt each other out for about 25 seconds and then Kakuryu sensed the timing was
right going for a right inside belt throw and brilliantly using his right leg on
the inside of Kotooshu's left to life the taller Ozeki up and over for the
Kakuryu's sumo this basho has been a complete joy to watch, especially the way
he's dismantled Baruto, Harumafuji, and now Kotooshu. At 13-1, he only needs to
defeat Goeido on senshuraku to capture his first career yusho regardless of what
Hakuho did today or does tomorrow. Kotooshu falls to 8-6 with the loss and was
simply beat by a better rikishi today.
So let's move to the Yokozuna who had to beat Ozeki Harumafuji in order to force
the yusho run into the final day. Thankfully Harumafuji came in straight at the
tachi-ai (you'll remember his henka last basho), and the Yokozuna was ready for
him using a right kachi-age tachi-ai and then getting a left arm on the inside.
Harumafuji countered with an upright tsuppari or two and then just ducked in
towards the Yokozuna with no plan. Hakuho's reaction was to pivot right and pull
the Ozeki down softly to the dohyo, so that when Harumafuji hit the dirt, he did
so with both hands and knees touching down. Do I even dare say it? If you want
to hear my honest opinion, I don't think Harumafuji was trying to win the bout.
Regardless, Hakuho moves to 12-2 with the win while Harumafuji has still looked
good this basho at 10-5.
Our sole Ozeki duel today featured Baruto vs. Kisenosato, and the two quickly
hooked up in the gappuri hidari yotsu position, and unlike the Kakuryu bout,
these guys had chests aligned. If you didn't know the outcome, and I told you to
guess the result, what would you say? My first guess would probably be that
Baruto tries to lift Kisenosato off the
ground for a tsuri-dashi. My second
guess is that the Estonian pulls the trigger on an outer belt through. And then
my third guess would be that Baruto forces his fellow Ozeki back for the win.
Turns out that none of my guesses would have been correct as Kisenosato shook
his hips a bit breaking Baruto's right outer grip, but he didn't do anything
after that. Baruto retook the hold and this time went for a half-assed outer
belt throw, but his hand slipped to one fold of the mawashi and then off. Now,
without an outer grip, Kisenosato took advantage and drove Baruto across the
dohyo and out for the yori-kiri win. Um...I don't if I even dare to tell you
what I thought about this one. Read between the lines and note how Baruto exited
the ring as the Yokozuna candidate falls to 10-4
while Kisenosato improves to 9-5.
Okay, ready for a straight-up bout? Rounding out the Ozeki, Kotoshogiku caught
M4 Aran at the tachi-ai with a fierce tsuppari to the neck, but the Russian held
his ground and got survived with the right inside position. As the Ozeki
abandoned his shove and settled for the belt, he was out of position giving up
as firm a left outer grip as you please. Aran completely held the cards in this
one, and Kotoshogiku was helpless and force the two to turn a bit looking for
some sort of opening. Finally, the Geeku brought is left arm inside as if to get
moro-zashi, but Aran grabbed the front of his belt with the right outer
completely pinching in on the Geeku's left arm, and that was all she wrote.
Aran's sumo was so dominating today, it made me wonder who the real bride in
this one was. Aran moves to 9-5 while Kotoshogiku falls to 8-6.
In an uneventful affair, Sekiwake Aminishiki waited for M5 Wakakoyu to go for
his usual pull. The wait was about two seconds and Aminishiki read it and pushed
the Wookie out with ease. Both guys are 6-8.
Komusubi Tochiohzan has been floundering the last week, and today against M3
Kyokutenho it was the same ole story as the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu before
Tenho pulled the Komusubi down in short order for the uneventful win leaving
both guys at 5-9.
The Komusubi bad luck continued as Gagamaru put his right hand at the back of M5
Homasho's head but did nothing with it. Homie simply grabbed Lord Gaga's belt
with the left shitate and threw him down in two seconds. You know, Itai once
claimed that 80% of the bouts on a given day were...ah, what's the point?
Homasho moves to 10-5 and is primed to take over Gagamaru's rank as he falls to
The highest profile bout among the rank and file saw M16 Shotenro come hard at
M4 Toyonoshima and actually push him around pretty well, but Toyonoshima is just
too slippery, and he eventually darted this way and that before sneaking into
moro-zashi at the edge to force Shotenro back and out. Toyonoshima is a cool
10-4 while Shotenro's slide continues at 9-5.
M6 Goeido earned the right to fight Kakuryu tomorrow by moving to 11-3 after
getting a solid left inside position against M9 Okinoumi, using superior de-ashi
to drive him back, and then securing the right frontal belt grip to life
Okinoumi nearly off the ground before nudging him across. Okinoumi falls to a
precarious 7-7. I thought this was Goeido's best sumo of the tournament, but
we'll see how well it works against the Kak tomorrow. Watch for Kakuryu to bait
Goeido into a hard forward charge only to evade to one side and force the Father
out from behind.
(Mike Wesemann reporting)
Day 13 is what
I like to call moving day because by the end of the bouts the list of rikishi
who can yusho gets whittled down to whoever is in the lead and the rikishi just
one loss behind. Yeah, I know it's mathematically possible for a guy two losses
back to still have a chance, but in an era where there is a dominant
dai-Yokozuna, he doesn't have a chance. So, with all three yusho contenders
fighting different guys--one of them being Baruto, there was plenty of drama
heading into the day. I only wish I could say the same after the bouts wrapped
up, but the yusho has now been determined.
start with the first bout featuring a yusho contender and then work our way up
the charts from there so we can get a better sense of the drama as it unfolded
today. First up on the docket was an Ozeki duel that featured down-and-out
Baruto vs. the resurgent Harumafuji. Baruto caught Harumafuji solidly from the
tachi-ai with a right kachi-age under HowDo's jaw that raised him entirely
upright. And before Harumafuji could react, the Estonian launched a beefy left
paw into the Ozeki's neck that knocked him clear back to the straw and so
upright, he was rendered useless. As soon as Baruto's legs caught up with his
upper body, he sent his foe off the dohyo with a final shove to the torso
capping as dominating of sumo as we've seen the entire basho from him. Both
rikishi are now settled at 10-3...fine records but not quite enough to remain in
the yusho hunt.
Before we move to Kakuryu, this was the exact way that Baruto beat Harumafuji
last basho. I remember Clancy's questioning the sense in Harumafuji just
standing right in front of Baruto last basho, and it was a valid point. You've
noticed this basho that I've been questioning over and over why much smaller
guys seem hellbent on facing Baruto straight up and settling for ordinary belt
fights (two examples that readily come to mind are Yoshikaze and Myogiryu). Part
of me after watching this bout live today had me questioning Harumafuji's
decision to take Baruto on straight up, especially in light of what happened to
him in January fighting in the same manner, but as I watched the replays of this
one, it looked to me that Baruto's one two punch of that kachi-age and left
tsuki were so effective in driving Harumafuji backwards that the smaller Ozeki
simply didn't have the wherewithal to move to either side nor swipe at Baruto's
arms. The end result is a thoroughly dominating bout from Baruto that justly
earned the tsuki-dashi kimari-te. So, the question is...where was this sumo all
along? That Baruto waited until day 13 when he had just been humiliated twice in
a row shows us a window into his mental make-up. Dude has relied on his size for
so long that he's got to learn if he's serious about this Yokozuna bidness,
he'll have to raise the bar in his sumo. It's too little too late this basho, so
let's see how he reacts in May. Finishing out 2-0 is crucial in terms of keeping
Yokozuna hopes alive for Natsu.
So, with Harumafuji knocked out of the yusho hunt just as quickly as he joined
it, let's move to the Kakuryu - Kotoshogiku matchup that featured brilliant sumo
from the Sekiwake. Kakuryu stayed low at the initial charge getting his left arm
to the inside, but Kotoshogiku quickly responded with the left inside of his own
leaving the combatants in
After testing the waters for a second or two, Kakuryu understood that in his
current stance he could not afford to risk a straight-up belt fight with a
larger rikishi, so he demanded the right inside grip by executing a maki-kae
that frankly I don't think Kotoshogiku was ready for as he made no push forward
during the Sekiwake's attempt. Now in moro-zashi, Kakuryu held all of the cards,
and he began his methodical force-out of the Ozeki. Kotoshogiku's only chance
was to re-establish an inside position, and so he too went for a maki-kae with
his left arm, and I guess he got it, but Kakuryu reacted the instant he went for
it and used his right arm to forcefully drag the Ozeki across the straw and out
dashi-nage style starting from the center of the dohyo.
I love to break down bouts like this because you can pinpoint the exact
occurrence(s) that proved the difference in the bout. When Kakuryu went for his
maki-kae, Kotoshogiku wasn't ready and ultimately had to allow it. When
Kotoshogiku went for a maki-kae of his own, the Kak was ready and pounced
straightway leading to a dominating victory in the end. It's an example of how
each of these rikishi have approached the basho mentally. Kakuryu is exuding
confidence in his own ability while I think Kotoshogiku's facing the reality
that he didn't earn all 33 of those wins during his Ozeki run, and now he knows
he really doesn't have the ability to raise the bar. He's doing the best he can
do, but that translates into his current 8-5 record. As for Kakuryu, allow me to
be the first to congratulate him on the yusho as he moves to 12-1.
How can I make such a statement with so many variables still in place? It's
clear to me that Yokozuna Hakuho has no intention of winning the Haru basho, so
while I guess it's still possible for Kakuryu to drop his final two bouts and
make things difficult on himself, I do know that Hakuho will not be standing in
his way. The Yokozuna still holds so many cards, but let's first talk about his
bout today against Ozeki Kisenosato.
Now, if you had not seen the bout today and I told you, "Kisenosato whooped
Hakuho in under 3 seconds winning by oshi-dashi!" what would go through your
mind? For me, I'm sure I'd start with "did Kisenosato henka him?" and then I'd
go to "or did Hakuho slip at the tachi-ai?". The reason a rational mind would
start there is because Kisenosato was 7-5 coming in, he hasn't done impressive
sumo in a year, and his tachi-ai of late has left him exposed. If the Ozeki had
10 or 11 wins and was kicking everyone's ass using a tsuppari attack, then yes,
such a result would be plausible. But when Kisenosato hasn't impacted a basho in
such a long time, his being able to manhandle Hakuho in 2 - 3 seconds using
oshi-dashi is simply implausible. So, even after watching this bout in real time
where everything looked quite legitimate, I would think a reasonable person
would still have to think "how did that just happen?".
Well, I'm here to tell you exactly how it happened. Neither rikishi won the
tachi-ai in what was shaping up to be a migi-yotsu bout with Hak on the right
inside, but somehow Hakuho forgot to realize everything that the right inside
He first put his right hand against Kisenosato's mawashi as if to feel the
fine-twined linen in all it's glory, but he sure as hell wasn't looking to grip
it nor raise his arm up into Kisenosato's left side which was high and
completely exposed. He did make a nice adjustment, though, a second later when
he actually went for that well-known powerful position of gripping your
opponent's sagari (those string things that hang down from the front of the
belt). From this position, Hakuho next yanked down with his right hand, but he
wasn't tugging at anything and certainly not at the Ozeki's belt. This downward
swipe into thin air allowed Hakuho to step forward to his left, and with the
Ozeki's hand high at Hakuho's right shoulder from the get-go, the reaction was
almost instantaneous allowing Kisenosato to adjust and use a very legitimate
shove to push the Yokozuna over the straw for the decisive oshi-dashi win.
Much of what I've just described like the fistful of sagari and phantom swipe
cannot be seen from the main camera angle, but those who watched the different
replays from NHK's feed will know exactly what I'm talking about. Even
Murray Johnson and his color guy in the booth sounded puzzled while watching the
replays as they tried to pinpoint how Kisenosato had accomplished the feat.
In the end, Murray finally offered, "I guess it was that ottsuke." Sorry
bro, but it wasn't. From an ottsuke you push your foe off balance to the
Kisenosato's shove in the end was genuine, and he dominated the last half of
this bout, but he did so because Hakuho purposefully put himself into position
to be shoved out like that. It's really as simple as that. Once again, watching
this live, you could not pick up on what Hakuho was doing with that right hand
due to the camera angle, but when have we ever seen the following tactics from
1. Put hand against but don't grab opponent's mawashi
2. Grab opponent's sagari instead of raising arm up to the inside
3. Phantom yank downward while grabbing nothing but thin air causing a
While he's monkeying around with those three things, of course Kisenosato's
gonna clue in and take care of bidness in short order. It's completely fine to
disagree with me on the subject that Hakuho threw this bout, but no one can
disagree that his movements with the inside arm defy all logic. Then there's the
question of what caused Hakuho to step forward. It certainly wasn't Kisenosato's
brilliant footwork because there was none, nor was it the Ozeki's left hand high
up at Hakuho's shoulder. Look at the pic above, a push from that angle
sends Hakuho sideways, not forward. Go ahead and YouTube the bout.
You won't get the better angle, but there's nothing that Kisenosato does to
cause Hakuho to take that giant step forward. That hand at the left side
I know that those troubled by the continued occurrence of yaocho will often say
"why did he throw the bout...what's the conspiracy theory?". Well, there is no
conspiracy theory. I'm simply telling you what happened and then speculating as
to why it just happened. But before I expound on that, let me pose three
questions that you must answer logically in order to convince me that it's not
possible that bouts are being thrown:
1. Why don't members of the same stable fight each other at hon-basho?
2. Why don't actual brothers fight at hon-basho even if they hail from different
3. What is "gachinko"?
I mean, if yaocho was eradicated last year on the heels of the bout-fixing
scandal, why not repeal the rules from questions 1 and 2? And you cannot say,
"well...I think exceptions are sometimes made on senshuraku for 7-7 rikishi or
for rikishi in danger of falling to Juryo, but I don't think the top guys are
involved." That line of thinking isn't rational. Yaocho exists or it doesn't.
And if it exists, it doesn't exist just to the extent that you find it
Now, others who cannot provide logical explanations that counter what we've just
witnessed in the ring and the arguments I've just presented will adopt this line
of thinking in order to make themselves feel better: "you say that yaocho is
occurring but you can't explain why."
To that my answer is "of course I can't explain why it's happening." Hell, I'm
far more interested in drafting a decent little league baseball team and
wondering if I'll get any action tonight (not in that order of course). I live
6,000 miles away from Japan and have zero connections within the Sumo
Association, so with a lack of any so-called inside scoop, the only thing I can
do is speculate.
Now, during the Hatsu basho when I stated that Hakuho threw his bout against
Kakuryu on day 10, it caught everyone off guard including myself because it just
didn't make any sense for Hakuho to do that. Why lose to Kakuryu and not to
someone else? Well, I didn't have the answers then but I did speculate as to why
I thought he might do that in the comments section located at the bottom of each
report. I went back into the archives and copied verbatim my speculation as to
why Hakuho deferred to Kakuryu, and remember, this was before Hakuho lost to
Harumafuji and Kotooshu in very suspect fashion a few days later:
* He wanted to bring the yusho line down closer to Kisenosato's level
* He wants to help Kakuryu reach Ozeki since he's clearly on par with
Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato
* Every Ozeki is entitled to at least one yusho and there's a definite window
for Baruto this basho
* He wants to appear vulnerable so that when he throws one to give a JPN rikishi
the yusho it's less conspicuous
* All of the above
The only item from that list that no longer applies is the one about allowing
Baruto to take a yusho, but it very well could have been relevant at the time.
But now with the luxury of being able to look back on things, that was the least
applicable item anyway. I am convinced that item #4 is the underlying reason why
we have seen Hakuho clearly throw bouts to Kakuryu and then to Kisenosato and
Kotoshogiku before that. With Hakuho purposefully lowering the level of his sumo
in order to give the Japanese rikishi a chance to catch up, the ones taking
advantage of this much to the chagrin of the Sumo Association are the foreign
rikishi! Harumafuji in July, Baruto in January, and now Kakuryu in March.
I think this basho is a perfect example of what you'll see when a Japanese
rikishi finally takes a yusho. Kakuryu is now in the lead at 12-1 compared to
Hakuho's 11-2. Let's say that Kakuryu loses tomorrow against Kotooshu (a very
likely scenario since it's a tough matchup for the Kak), Hakuho then has the
luxury of throwing another bout in order to ensure that he doesn't stand in the
way of Kakuryu's yusho run. And I'm not saying that this is what will
unequivocally happen this basho; I'm saying that Hakuho is setting a
precedent--and has been since the two Japanese rikishi were getting all the run
last summer--so that when a Japanese rikishi does put himself in a position to
win it all, it will not look strange at all when the Yokozuna conveniently loses
down the stretch. That's what I mean when I say that Hakuho holds all the
Now, Hakuho cannot decide prior to a basho, "I think I'll arrange it for such
and such a rikishi to take the yusho." He can't do this because he has no
control over how that rikishi performs 14 of the 15 days. But, if a rikishi can
do the majority of the work on his own (as Kakuryu has done this basho and
Baruto last basho), Hakuho has clearly shown that he will not stand in the way
of someone else grabbing the Emperor's Cup. And that's all I have to say about
that. Kisenosato conveniently clinches kachi-koshi at 8-5 and has now bested the
Yokozuna twice in their last four meetings.
was a lengthy tangent. Getting back to the action in the ring, let's wrap up the
Ozeki ranks with Kotooshu doing battle against M4 Aran. The tachi-ai was
uneventful with the two ending up in migi-yotsu. With Aran content to fight
straight up, the Ozeki easily grabbed the left outer grip and forced Aran back
and out...into the first row. How many times have we watched Kotooshu overdo
things at the edge? There's this great phrase in Japan called simply "KY". Now,
the Beavis and Butthead in me is laughing just at the two letters and wanting to
add Jelly at the end (that'd be cool), but they actually stand for the Japanese
words "kuuki yomenai," or translated directly into English, "can't read
the air" and then correctly into English, "can't read the situation." KYotooshu
has got to learn that when an opponent is done he's done, and you can't keep
knocking guys clear of the dohyo when unnecessary. Regardless, both rikishi end
the day at 8-5.
Sekiwake Aminishiki dictated the pace of his bout against M2 Tokitenku driving
him back off the starting lines with a nice push attack, and then when Tokitenku
fled to the other side of the dohyo with Aminishiki in tow, he tried a stupid
pull move that only allowed Aminishiki to stick the oshi-dashi fork into him.
Aminishiki improves to 5-8 but really blew a good chance to kachi-koshi this
basho. Tokitenku falls to 3-10.
M1 Myogiryu went for and got moro-zashi against Komusubi Gagamaru, and the move
showed serious nads since it's not necessarily an advantageous position when
such a size difference is involved. Lord Gaga showed why driving Myogiryu back
using both arms wrapped around the outside, but fortunately for Myogiryu, he had
the wherewithal to abandon the position at the edge, slip to the side, and grab
a left outside position that he used to nudge Gagamaru across the straw for the
close win. Both rikishi finish the day at 5-8.
Komusubi Tochiohzan (5-8) picked up the freebie after M2 Yoshikaze (3-10)
withdrew, and M8 Chiyonokuni gave it his all this basho but finally withdrew
giving M3 Tochinoshin a much needed freebie. Both guys are 3-10.
Sandwiched in between that, M3 Kyokutenho henka'd to his left against M1
Tochinowaka seizing the ill-gotten right outer grip in the process that he used
to immediately throw T-Wok to the clay. Both fellas are 4-9.
M4 Toyonoshima continued his push for another sanyaku berth by barely evading a
mammoth charge and push attack by M7 Toyohibiki from the tachi-ai, and once to
the side of his opponent, Toyonoshima jumped into moro-zashi and quickly doused
Toyohibiki's hopes with an inside throw using the right arm. Classic counter
sumo from Toyonoshima who improves to 9-4 while Toyohibiki is still alive at
M10 Aoiyama inched towards kachi-koshi in a very unstable oshi contest with M5
Wakakoyu. Neither of these two were committed to the push, but then neither
dared go for a pull. Anyway, Aoiyama is 7-6 while the Wookie drops to 6-7.
Could see M5 Homasho back in the sanyaku as well after he improved to 9-5 by
defeating M13 Kitataiki in a hidari-yotsu match. Kitataiki wanted to get inside
but Homasho stayed low and kept fighting off his advances eventually pushing him
off the dohyo for the win. Kitataiki (8-5) struggled to get back on the dohyo,
and then limped back to his edge favoring the right leg (the left leg is always
the one heavily bandaged). Dare I say this guy's on his last...never mind.
M13 Wakanosato picked up kachi-koshi after M6 Shohozan attacked too high
resulting in his right arm up to the level of his eyes. A veteran like
Wakanosato will prey on that this way to Tuesday easily shoving Shohozan outta
the ring using a kimari-te I'll label as sukui-dashi-nage. Shohozan's on the
brink at 6-7.
Damn, how did I overlook the final guy on our leaderboard in the first part of
my report? M6 Goeido showed how as he slammed into M16 Shotenro at the tachi-ai
and then quickly went for the pull down. It worked like a charm because Shotenro
(9-4) was never in contention to begin with. A guy who could truly threaten for
the yusho woulda taken full advantage of Goeido's dumb sumo today. Goeido
improves to 10-3 and could take over a Komusubi slot for May.
M7 Takayasu finally picked up kachi-koshi against M15 Tamawashi, but it was no
gimme. The Mawashi actually dominated this one from the tachi-ai as he secured a
right outer grip to the side to the side of Takayasu who barely had a pot to
piss in with the left on the inside. Still, Tamawashi showed why he's only an
occasional visitor to the division because he just couldn't put Takayasu away.
Took about a minute, but Tamawashi musta been exhausted at the end because
finally Takayasu had the room to execute a left inside belt throw that felled
Tamawashi to the dirt. At 8-5, even if Takayasu wins out he may have played
himself out of a special prize (I was thinking Ginosho the first half of the
basho). Tamawashi falls to 7-6.
No sumo report is complete without some bashing of M16 Takanoyama. Oh wait, he
actually won today. Course, he had to henka to his left to do it, and after
jumping to the side, he showed us that new signature move of bear-hugging his
opponent's arm, in that case M11 Asasekiryu's right appendage. Seki eventually
shook the Dummy off and the two assumed the hidari-yotsu position where
Takanoyama snaked his left foot tightly around Seki's right leg lifting him up
and throwing him over via kake-nage. As much as I want to praise the move, I
can't get the fact outta my mind that this was all set up with a tachi-ai henka.
Both Juryo wannabes are 4-9.
And finally, M14 Ikioi's ikioi was halted as the dude was just pounded
today by Juryo visitor Kotoyuki. This one wasn't even close as Kotoyuki
unleashed a fierce tsuppari attack that quickly knocked Ikioi back and out
causing him to trip over the basket of salt in his corner of the dohyo. I know
that these guys aren't separated by that much on the banzuke (Kotoyuki's J1),
but you can't get worked like that by a Juryo dude. Just ask Hochiyama. Anyway,
Ikioi's hopes for kachi-koshi were dashed as he falls to 5-8.
Can't wait to see what tomorrow
(Mike Wesemann reporting)
The word of
the day is "naiyou," which can directly be translated into English as
"content." Whenever a rikishi is being considered for promotion or even a
special prize, the content of their sumo is always taken into account (listen
for the term "sumou-no-naiyou"). A topic that's been bandied about this
tournament, for example, is Takanoyama and whether or not he belongs in the
division. Proponents for the dude will argue that he's been promoted repeatedly
now, and he's proven he can win 4-5 bouts per basho, but opponents like me base
our argument on the content of his sumo. My intent here is not to bring up the
innocuous subject of Takanoyama (has this basho lost that much steam?); rather,
I bring it up to discuss the prospects of Baruto's promotion to Yokozuna, which
was the key storyline heading into Osaka.
After Baruto was defeated on day 4 at the hands of Kakuryu, there was little
harm done by the loss. It was such a well-fought bout by both parties and so
epic that I came away from that bought thinking, "wow, Kakuryu just beat a
Yokozuna." But contrast that to yesterday's loss at the hands of Kotooshu that
saw Baruto slide on his back down the edge of the dohyo and onto the arena floor
with his opponent riding him like those skeleton dudes at the winter Olympics,
and it was evident that the content of the loss hurt worse than the actual tally
in the record books.
Baruto's back was against the wall for sure after day 11, so it was vital that
he respond on day 12 with sumo whose content was worthy of a Yokozuna. Problem
was he didn't. Against fellow Ozeki Kotoshogiku, he took a page out of
Kisenosato's Tachi-ai for Dummies and left himself wide open allowing
Kotoshogiku to lurch into the moro-zashi position from the get-go. And not only
did the Geeku get moro-zashi, but his legs were driving hard, so there was
nothing Baruto could do as Kotoshogiku forced him back to the straw, used a few
gaburi bumps, and then forced Baruto down to the clay so hard that he slid off
the dohyo backwards...for the second day in a row. Ballgame.
I really feel for the Ozeki and all of the Estonian fans who had so much
invested emotionally, but the proof's in the pudding. It's not so much that
Baruto now stands as 9-3 as it is the way he has been beaten the last two days.
The content of one's sumo is everything, especially in the case of a foreign
rikishi who will not see the same coddling as say Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku did
when they were promoted to Ozeki despite average sumou-no-naiyou. It
doesn't mean Baruto can't reach the sport's pinnacle in the future, but he was
under prepared to face the challenge facing him in Osaka. Props to Kotoshogiku
for clinching his kachi-koshi with a superb win, and someone give me the recipe
of the Sadogatake-beya's chanko the last coupla days.
Baruto also eliminated from the yusho hunt with the loss, the focus now turns to
Hakuho and Kakuryu. What a joke that they paired Sekiwake Kakuryu with M16
Shotenro today simply because the latter was riding a 9-2 start. It's customary
to bring the hot rank and filers up high and test them with sanyaku rikishi, but
I want to see Kakuryu fight the best possible schedule if he's going to compete
for the yusho. And despite how close you think this bout may have been, it
wasn't. Shotenro used tsuppari to move Kakuryu back a few steps, but the
Sekiwake was in complete control and as merely waiting for an opening. It came
in short order as the unprotected Shotenro's belt was so wide open that Kakuryu
grabbed a right frontal grip that also happened to be an outer. All it took from
there was the Kak's left arm on the inside of Shotenro's right side, and the
force-out win was a given from there. I'm okay with the NSK continuing to feed
Shotenro (9-3) guys with good records, but this was too easy for Kakuryu who
skates to 11-1.
In his quest to keep pace with Kakuryu, Yokozuna Hakuho received a stiff
challenge from Ozeki Kotooshu who didn't just roll over at the tachi-ai.
Instead, he hit hard enough and came in low enough that the Yokozuna was far
away from an outer grip in the migi-yotsu contest. For an instant after the
tachi-ai, I thought Kotooshu actually had a shot to pull this one out, but he
never mounted a serious forward charge, and so Hakuho twisted his body a bit to
shake his man
in order to create an opening. The end result was migi-yotsu again, and this
time the Ozeki actually succeeded in a maki-kae with the left arm, but once
again, he really didn't couple that with good footwork, so Hakuho attempted to
counter with one of his own, and with Kotooshu's attention focused on defending
it, the Yokozuna said enough of the funny bidness and just yanked Kotooshu
across half the dohyo and out with a dashi-nage throw with the right arm.
Someday, we'll actually be able to comment on a legitimate Hakuho loss, but
today was not that day as Hakuho holds serve at 11-1. Kotooshu falls to 7-5 but
looked good in this bout.
In the day's penultimate bout, Ozeki Harumafuji welcomed Komusubi Tochiohzan
(4-8) as the two cautiously felt each other up...er...out with hesitant tsuppari
from the tachi-ai, and when it was clear that Tochiohzan wasn't going to come
forward, the Ozeki did pouncing into moro-zashi and making quick work of the
Komusubi from there. The swift force-out win boosts Harumafuji to 10-2, and he
still has Hakuho to face, so in a matter of just two days, the big three have
gone from Hak, Kak, and Bart to Hak, Kak, and HowDo with Baruto now assuming the
role of spoiler. Go figure.
Ozeki Kisenosato tsuppari'ed his way out of an M4 Toyonoshima left inside
attempt at the tachi-ai, and with his own left arm on the inside for insurance,
Kisenosato made short work of Toyonoshima continuing to fire thrusts into his
body until he was beyond the straw. This was a swift ass kicking but who has the
last laugh...Kisenosato at 7-5 or Toyonoshima at 8-3?
Remember those fast starts from Aminishiki and Tochiohzan? Didn't thinks so.
Anyway, Sekiwake Aminishiki seems all shenanigan'ed out because today against M1
Myogiryu, he put up little fight as the shorter M1 committed to a
straight-forward oshi charge that had the Sekiwake pushed out in seconds. It's
4-8 all around for these two.
Komusubi Gagamaru likewise committed on a straight -forward charge against M1
Tochinowaka albeit a much beefier attack than Myogiryu's. As he is wont to do,
Tochinowaka faced the attack head on and tried to find an opening, but it never
came as Gagamaru methodically pushed his way to a nice victory keeping
kachi-koshi hopes alive at 5-7. At some point, Tochinowaka (4-8) has gotta
realize that his strategy of playing a teppo pole is not working. He has
make-koshi now to show for it.
M3 Tochinoshin and M2 Yoshikaze were engaged in a wild tsuppari-ai from the
beginning, but Shin created enough of an opening to where he pounced into the
moro-zashi position. With both guys a step away from the edge, Christina
Aguilera was already on the second verse of I'm Beautiful even before
Tochinoshin (2-10) had finished his yori-kiri bidness. Yoshikaze falls to 3-9.
M8 Takekaze drove straight into M4 Aran who countered with his usual oxymoron
pull attack, and just when it looked as if Takekaze would take the bride as his
own, Aran slipped to the side and yanked Takekaze down by the top-knot. I can't
believe the judges didn't question it, and it was funny to watch Aran kinda look
around out of the corners of his eyes to see if anyone was going call a mono-ii.
They didn't, and Aran clinched kachi-koshi at 8-4 while Takekaze falls to 6-6.
Let's briefly touch on the day's first half bouts starting with M5 Homasho who
picked up kachi-koshi be securing moro-zashi against M11 Asasekiryu and bullying
his opponent out in short order. The Secretary's make-koshi became official as
M6 Goeido moved to 9-3 by charging straight into M13 Wakanosato's left side, the
arm Wakanosato intended to get on the inside. Didn't happen as Goeido bulldozed
Croconosato back and out to a not so shabby 7-5.
M6 Shohozan is even steven at 6-6 after taking advantage of an M15 Tamawashi
tsuppari attack that was way too high. Sho assumed moro-zashi, and it was wham
bam thank you ma'am from there.
In a mirror bout between two Hutts, M7 Toyohibiki was way too high in his
thrusting attack against M11 Tenkaiho, so Tenkaiho seized moro-zashi and quick
as a steamroller methodically worked Ibiki out of the ring always keeping his
foe in close against his girth. Who'da thunk Tenkaiho would be at 6-6 after that
horrendous start? Toyohibiki is 7-5.
M7 Takayasu is cooling off fast, and I believe part of the reason is he's
worrying more about his opponents' belts than he is his strength, which is a
tsuppari attack. He used the thrusts against M13 Kitataiki to dictate the pace
early on, but he went for moro-zashi part way through getting his right arm on
the inside but being rebuffed with the left arm. Now in migi-yotsu, the better
belt fighter prevailed as Kitataiki worked his way into a yori-kiri win earning
him a kachi-koshi while Takayasu is still one off at 7-5.
M14 Ikioi is still alive at 5-7 after getting an effective right arm on the
inside of M8 Chiyonokuni, and his left was close enough to the inside as well
that it was nigh unto moro-zashi. With Chiyonokuni focused on fighting off
Ikioi's inside position while retreating, the rookie reversed gears and
unleashed a wicked right scoop throw that sent Chiyonokuni flying down to a
painful 3-9 record. I sincerely hope the Chiyonokuni can live to fight in the
division come May. There is such a huge difference in his sumo this basho
compared to last that he has not recovered from his injury.
The only reason I'm going to comment on the M9 Miyabiyama - M14 Takarafuji
affair that lasted about 30 seconds is because the Sheriff delivered a sweet
uppercut at the ring's edge to finally knock his foe back and across. At 6-6,
Miyabiyama is all upper body these days, which really weakens the lumbering
tsuppari. Takarafuji is 5-7.
And I guess we should end with M10 Aoiyama vs. M16 Takanoyama, not because I
want to pick on the Dummy but because their contest actually produced some
drama. Aoiyama quickly and violently shoved Takanoyama back to the straw, but
Takanoyama used his heels well braced against the tawara (something Hakuho
somehow forgot to do against Kakuryu) to give him enough time to latch onto
Aoiyama's right arm and hold on for dear life. Aoiyama still bullied him back to
the edge driving him across the straw, but the judges called a mono-ii thinking
that Aoiyama might have inadvertently stepped out first (called an isami-ashi).
Replays showed that Takanoyama clearly stepped out first, but I guess they
wanted the drama because they called for a do-over.
round two, Takanoyama actually got moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but it was
useless as tits on a boar as Aoiyama wrapped around both arms from the outside
and bulldozed the M16 back via kime-taoshi. But Takanoyama went for an
utchari that sent Aoiyama down to the side in another bout too close to call.
They called another mono-ii to review the Aoiyama's hand and Takanoyama's feet,
but this time they didn't miss as Takanoyama's left heel touched out before
Aoiyama hand touched down.
As the dust settled, Aoiyama evens things up at 6-6 while Takanoyama has fallen
upon hard times at 3-9. Still, today was the most valiant sumo we've seen
from the Naruto native.
Looks like I'm going solo the rest of the way. There are enough key matchups the
next two days that I will likely do day 13 and day 14, and then wrap the
shooting match up sometime next week.
(Mike Wesemann reporting)
As we open the
shubansen, or final five days, this basho has clearly turned into a three
man race among Hakuho, Baruto, and Kakuryu. The interesting aspect for Kakuryu
is that he has already fought and defeated Hakuho and Baruto, so his four
remaining opponents are likely to be Shotenro, Gagamaru, Kotoshogiku, and
Kotooshu. Kotooshu could prove tough due to his length, but Kakuryu is the easy
favorite in the remaining three. So while Kakuryu will finish with 13 or 14 wins
barring a major meltdown, Hakuho and Baruto must still face each other in the
tournament's final match meaning if they still have yusho (hopes in the case of
Baruto) on their mind, they can ill-afford to drop another bout prior to Sunday.
Regardless, Kakuryu is the wild card this basho, and he is the one keeping
Before we get to the action today, what sumo desperately needs is a Japanese
rikishi to do what Kakuryu is doing in Haru and what Baruto did in January.
Sure, Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato recently enjoyed Ozeki runs, but we know there
was some cooperation involved from other rikishi, and neither of the two were
ever serious yusho contenders. Kakuryu's keeping this basho interesting is
putting fannies in the seats, but if a Japanese rikishi could rise up and
perform at this level, it would put the nation in a frenzy.
On that note, let's start at the top and work our way down beginning with
Yokozuna Hakuho who welcomed Ozeki Kotoshogiku. The Geeku actually got off to a
great start in this one securing a left outer grip on the front of the
Yokozuna's mawashi while following up with the standard right arm on the inside.
That's about all of the momentum that the Ozeki could muster, however, as Hakuho
broke that outer grip about two seconds in leaving both with right insides and
no outsides. Hakuho used his sheer size to right that wrong demanding the left
outer grip and then using it to force Kotoshogiku back and across without
further argument. Very textbook action and reaction from the Yokozuna who calmly
and collectively moves to 10-1 while Kotoshogiku falls to 7-4. Before we move
on, it's watching sumo like this day after day from Hakuho that makes calling
his yaocho so obvious.
the day's penultimate bout, Ozeki Kotooshu beat fellow Ozeki Baruto at the
tachi-ai grabbing a left frontal belt grip that was so potent it rendered the
Estonian's right arm useless. When coupled with the solid right inside position
on the other side, Kotooshu was in a stance just as effective as moro-zashi, and
when the tallest guy in sumo has you in this hold, you've got a pickle on your
hands. With Kotooshu down so low and keeping his hips far away from a dangerous
outer grip by his foe, Baruto had one choice only, and that was to try a
maki-kae with his left arm in order to establish some semblance of an inside
position, but Baruto is not the nimblest cat on the dohyo, and the Bulgarian was
ready seizing on the risky move from his opponent by driving Baruto back to the
edge and down hard for the brilliant yori-taoshi win.
Unlike the Baruto - Kakuryu bout, Kotooshu was so precise in this one that
Baruto had nothing to work with. Nothing. In fact, I can't recall the last time
someone dismantled the Estonian so completely in a belt fight. It was beautiful
sumo from the Bulgarian, but it also hurt to see Baruto succumb to a second
loss. Regarding Baruto's Yokozuna hopes, this loss was a lot costlier than the
first one, and it has nothing to do with the timing. The bout against Kakuryu
was a free-for-all with Kakuryu making a risky move by giving up the outside
position in order to grab moro-zashi, but it still took all he had and probably
a little luck to pull it off. Even at the edge, the bout could have gone either
way needing a Kakuryu watashi-komi at the end to sill the dill, but in this
contest, Baruto was defeated from start to finish in a manner that will hurt his
chances for Yokozuna promotion.
As I stated in my pre-basho report, there was little information coming out in
the media as to what Baruto needed to accomplish in order to secure promotion.
Just after the Hatsu basho, some schmuck from the Yokozuna Deliberation
proclaimed a jun-yusho and 12 wins would do it, but the YDC is a useless body
that has zero political power. The only report I read from someone on the board
of directors (Kagamiyama-oyakata) said Baruto would have to repeat his yusho
performance from January. Regardless of who is right, the Yokozuna run took a
serious hit on all fronts after this bout. I mean, just look at the picture at
left. Yokozuna don't lose like that. Let's see how Baruto responds,
and we're all looking forward to see what transpires when he fights Hakuho, but
for the time being, Ozeki Baruto is just that...an Ozeki who falls to second
place in the yusho race at 9-2. Kotooshu improves to 7-4 with his best win in
Our second Ozeki duel featured Harumafuji and Kisenosato in a bout that saw
HowDo easily get to the inside with the left arm at the tachi-ai, and the
Mongolian wasted little time in throwing his foe off balance with a scoop throw
that was effective enough to send Kisenosato to the edge. And while Kisenosato
did survive that first volley, Harumafuji was right there to clean up the mess
obtaining moro-zashi and ramming his body into the Kid's midsection sending both
rikishi down in the yori-taoshi victory for Harumafuji. At 9-2, Harumafuji
completely outclasses his fellow Ozeki who drops to 6-5.
Sekiwake Kakuryu welcomed M1 Myogiryu today, the second time these guys have
done battle in a hon-basho. In January, Kakuryu easily burned Myogiryu allowing
the kid to think he was pushing him back only to evade at the edge and send the
youngster out with ease. I remember commenting on the bout that Myogiryu should
learn from that first
and I think he did since he was much more ready when Kakuryu same tactic today
using defensive tsuppari to set up a pull attempt two seconds in. The move threw
Myogiryu off balance a bit, but he recovered nicely to resume his forward-moving
attack. That would last only for a brief moment as the Kak easily fought his
opponent off with more tsuppari that set up a shoulder slapdown attempt...one
that worked like a charm. Myogiryu must surely be frustrated, especially since
his make-koshi becomes official at 3-8, but I can see the progression in the
kid, and five wins from a jo'i debut happens even to the best of 'em. As for
Kakuryu, it was a smart win today as he moves to 10-1. When you're in the
driver's seat, there's no need to take any risks; thus is conservative sumo
Sekiwake Aminishiki looked to dictate the bout against M1 Tochinowaka by using a
tsuppari attack, but the Sekiwake just doesn't have the legs for a
straight-forward technique against a huge due like Tochinowaka who has proven he
can take a decent punch. And that was the case today as Tochinowaka sorta arched
his back reducing the effect of Aminishiki's shoves and enabling him to see his
opponent well, and the tactic paid of nicely when about 10 seconds in
Tochinowaka lurched for one of Aminishiki's paws, grabbed it, and spun the
Sekiwake around 180 degrees. I was a bit disappointed that the youngster didn't
embrace Aminishiki fully from behind in the manlove position opting to push him
in the back, but he'll learn. Both fellas are 4-7 and generally heading in
Komusubi Gagamaru has got to get it into his thick skull that his tsuppari and
de-ashi will work against the big guys, not just the little guys. Facing M2
Yoshikaze, Gagamaru went at hit full bore, and the tactic was successful as he
shoved Yoshikaze back by the neck and then landed a final shove that sent
Yoshikaze back across the straw before he could fully evade and send Gagamaru
stumbling out of the dohyo. Lord Gaga needed to balance at the straw just a bit
to let Yoshikaze land outside of the ring, but a win is a win as Gagamaru
improves to 4-7. Yoshikaze suffers make-koshi at 3-8.
I almost hate to type this but Komusubi Tochiohzan was too low at the tachi-ai
against M4 Aran. He just has to know the henka is coming from the Russian, but
sure enough, he charged low into thin air as the Bride pulled her train to the
left. I despise the henka and rikishi who rely on it (like Aran at 7-4), but as
dirty as it is, Tochiohzan still has to account for it. Instead, he drops to
And speaking of henka, M2 Tokitenku jumped to his left at the tachi-ai easily
pulling M3 Tochinoshin down as he tried to recover. Tokitenku (3-8) proves once
again that he can only win in the upper half of the division with trickery while
Tochinoshin has far more issues than just his 1-10 record.
It was typical M5 Wakakoyu as he shoved into M3 Kyokutenho's chest before
immediately reversing for the pulldown. Can't believe Kyokutenho fell for it
like this, but maybe that helps explain his 2-9 record. The Wookie improves to
5-6 showing that old habits are hard to break.
One of the best matches o' the day featured M7 Takayasu against M4 Toyonoshima
where Takayasu showed his maturity in the ring by finagling moro-zashi at the
tachi-ai against the former Sekiwake. But getting moro-zashi against a veteran
is one thing; beating him with it is quite another. The savvy veteran with the
toothless old man executed a maki-kae with the left arm turning the bout to
hidari-yotsu, but Takayasu responded just as he should have grabbing the right
outer and immediately driving Toyonoshima back to the edge, but the shorter M4
used the tawara to his advantage
up a counter scoop throw that barely sent Takayasu crashing to the dirt before
Toyonoshima touched outside the ring. This was so close, and Takayasu dominated
so heavily that the gunbai actually went to him, but a mono-ii was called for
where it was determined that Toyonoshima managed to stay in the ring long enough
for Takayasu to touch down. It was the correct judgment after watching the
video, but I would have liked to have seen a do-over called for since Takayasu
was so dominant. Still, it shows just how hard it is to win up high in the
ranks. Veterans like Toyonoshima (8-3) are roaches, and it's so damn hard to
kill them. Takayasu falls to 7-4, but he's had a very successful basho.
In a very similar bout, M5 Homasho allowed M9 Okinoumi to get in close in their
hidari-yotsu affair, so Oki was able to capitalize on his height and dictate the
pace of the bout. As Okinoumi methodically forced Homie back, the veteran tried
the only move available, an evasive maneuver at the edge while pulling down on
his charging opponent. The move worked to perfection as Homasho was able to drag
Okinoumi down by the shoulder causing his right elbow to touch the clay a split
second before Homasho's arse crashed down. Once again, a mono-ii was called it
was so close, and once again, I agreed with the judgment in Homasho's favor but
would have been fine with a redo. Big win for Homie has he improves to 7-4 while
Okinoumi is underachieving at 5-6.
M6 Shohozan settled too quickly for a yotsu-zumo bout (not his strength) against
the larger M10 Sadanofuji (not a good idea). Sho did have moro-zashi, but it was
too shallow, and so Sadanofuji used his girth to lean in on Shohozan finally
thrusting him to the dirt for the well-fought win. I believe Shohozan (5-6) is
the better overall rikishi, but props to Sadanofuji for taking what was given to
him. He survives another day at 4-7.
M6 Goeido clinched kachi-koshi today by besting M13 Kitataiki in a hidari-yotsu
contest. The difference was Goeido's securing the right outer grip, which he
used to drag Kitataiki around until he finally spun him 180 degrees. The
force-out was a given from that point. Kitataiki falls to 7-4.
M16 Shotenro was the token Maegashira rikishi on the leaderboard coming into the
day with one loss, but he went for a pull shortly after the tachi-ai against M7
Toyohibiki, and the Hutt would have no part of it easily seizing the momentum
and forcing Shotenro back and out in seconds. I'm always amused when they have
these guys on the leaderboard since today was the perfect example of a rank and
filer having no business being mentioned among the real leaders. At 9-2, I
suppose Shotenro will get some run for another day, but it's all useless talk.
Toyohibiki improves to 7-4, and if you get your ass handed to you by Toyohibiki,
you ain't a yusho contender.
M8 Chiyonokuni has looked sickly this basho, but there's nothing quite like the
cure of having M16 Takanoyama facing you across the starting lines. Kuni charged
as hard as I've seen him, but when Takanoyama henka'd just a bit to his left, it
was all Chiyonokuni could do to stop his momentum by wrapping his arm around
Takanoyama's neck and holding on. The result was Takanoyama turned 180 degrees
in a reverse neck hold, and while he was able to back out of the move,
Chiyonokuni got his right arm on the inside of Takanoyama in a flash, and then
just drove him straight back and into the first row. Both guys are 3-8.
As an aside, on day 5 when Takanoyama defeated Ikioi by kawazu-gake, I'm sure
some furreners were amazed at the technique, but the comments from the Japanese
booth--particularly from Kitanofuji--were negative saying that this guy is lucky
he hasn't been seriously injured yet doing sumo like that. You don't see
kawazu-gake in the Makuuchi division for a reason, so Takanoyama's sumo is not a
breath of fresh air. It's entertaining for sure, but it doesn't mean he should
be in the division. In my two decades of watching sumo, I have never seen a bout
like this one where a guy is turned around 180 degrees with his opponent yanking
on his neck. Listen to the guys in the know on this one (i.e. the oyakata and
Let's conclude with M14 Ikioi (4-7) who staved off make-koshi by taking the
initiative against M15 Hochiyama in a migi-yotsu contest. While Hochiyama seemed
content to just nudge Ikio back, Ikioi fired on a coupla shitate-dashi-nage
throws that sent Hochiyama out of the ring in short order and to a make-koshi at
(Matt Walsh reporting)
Day 9 was
the big setup. We move into the home stretch with the pieces in place for a
really great finish. Day 10 kept everything intact.
Before we get to the action, I suppose I'll need to have my say about the big
loss by the Yokozuna. At this point, the patterns are too obvious and you can
find those detailed in Mike's report. But for me, the match was still fun to
watch. Without time to watch careful replays, and without as veteran an eye as
our other writers, it looked pretty legitimate. Some comments below suggest
otherwise, but I thought the Mongolian two-man show did a better job than in
January (except for the final step out, which was pretty weak this time). They
used a more traditional technique -- the maki-kae that gives your opponent a
moment's advantage -- to setup the final force out. It's fine theater, and it's
amazing that one rikishi (Hak) can be so far ahead of the rest of the field that
he has to throw bouts to let the 13-2 guy take a yusho.
The two interesting bits of speculation that we face now: (1) What happens if
Kak is 14-1? (2) To whom will Hakuho drop another bout? Kakuryu could go 14-1,
as his toughest remaining bout (for him) is probably Kotoshogiku. I'd put the
odds around 1/3, just because winning five in row is never easy at this level
and he may also face Toyonoshima. As for 2, it's still not totally clear to me
what is required for Baruto to get Yokozuna himself. I was really surprised to
hear the talk of him only needing a jun-yusho at 12-3, as I rather doubt that
they want to give away the rank too easily. Hakuho may not want to lose the
final bout of senshuraku but may want to give Baruto the "legitimacy" that comes
from beating the current top man. And on the third hand, maybe an earlier loss
can be used to set up a playoff. This is going to be fun!
Actual Bout Commentary
I'm only going to cover most of the second half plus a couple of others, top to
bottom, and keep it short and sweet.
Hakuho, a.k.a. the Company Man, seemed a bit more cautious at the tachi-ai
against Aminishiki, who had re-upped on his Shneaky moniker with a henka the
other day. After picking his spot, the Man (for short, still accurate I might
add) moves in quick to grab some belt and go for the the quick throw. The Man is
9-1, while Shneaky is quite alive for a KK at 4-6 and lesser competition ahead.
Harumafuji vs. Kotoshogiku should have been the highlight bout, and you could
already guess from the first half of this sentence that it wasn't. Kotoshogiku's
right foot slipped just as Harumafuji shifted after the tachi-ai and Harumafuji
(8-2) whiffed on a slap down attempt because the Geeku (7-3) had already hit the
Tochiohzan came in with a good effort against Big Boy Bart (a little resemblance
there, eh?), getting inside and pushing him back. But Baruto reached around the
little man and gave him a hug. Awwww. Then he swung this smaller Tochi 'round
and dumped him to the tsuchi (or whatever the special name for the dohyo dirt
may be). Tochiohzan (a respectable 4-6) probably needs to keep his hips farther
out and get more of a grip, but easier said than done against the 9-1 Estonian.
Kisenosato (6-4) and Myogiryu (3-7) got into a pushing match, where the smaller
and less powerful Myogiryu couldn't escape from the Ozeki's thrusts. In the end,
Kise knocked his opponent off the dohyo with a final big shove. This was called
an oshi-dashi and maybe that was technically correct, but it had the feel of a
tsuki-dashi ass kicking.
A mentally lazy Kotooshu went up against the much shorter Toyonoshima. I think
that if you average circumference with height, though, they match up pretty
well. Anyway, I emphasize the mentally lazy because the Bulgarian Bomber went
full steam into his opponent without establishing a proper grip or ensuring that
he had solid footwork and balance. Maybe that's a good approach against
Gagamaru, but not against a rikishi with as many moves as the Tugboat. And
Kotooshu should know better. After a quick dump to the dirt, they called it a
kata-sukashi (under-shoulder swing down) for the 7-3 M4 and a nomiso no onara
(brain fart) for the Ozeki (6-4).
Kakuryu had one of his toughest bouts so far this basho against youngster
Tochinowaka. After Kak come in with a slightly stronger tachi-ai, the M1
absorbed it, grabbed a grip and pushed towards the tawara. Here's where Kakuryu
showed his superior experience and (for now) ability. After recovering from
getting pushed around, Kak was able to take advantage of the tighter body
position of his opponent to get a solid left hand grip. During the subsequent
back and forth, Kak kept burying himself further inside, eventually improving
his grip to the other side of the mawashi knot. That is to say he had him around
the back, past the middle of the belt, all the way to the opposite butt cheek.
That was the advantage he needed to create leverage for the yori-kiri and the
9-1 record. A decent effort from Waka the Somber (3-7).
Gagamaru (3-7) practically used a choke slam (to use an American "pro" wrestling
term), grabbing Tokitenku (2-8) by the throat with one meaty paw and running as
fast as you've probably ever seen 200 kg. of person move with his own legs to
throw the veteran out of the ring. It's this kind of power that says that Gaga's
ceiling is definitely higher than Tochinoshin's, if he can put it all together.
Moving down a ways, Kitataiki met Okinoumi in a bout of two guys who could both
be in the top half again soon. Kitataiki was aggressive but a bit to high in his
tsuppari attack, driving Okinoumi back before finding himself in moro-zashi.
That should have been enough positioning to give Okinoumi the win, but Kitataiki
kept his wits about him, worked himself into a better position and drove his
opponent out of the ring. Kitataiki (7-3) is looking better this basho, even
considering the competition, though he could have been in prize contention if he
cut down on the mistakes.
Finally, Sadanofuji (3-7) of all rikishi showed the rest of lower Makuuchi a
textbook example of how to send Takanoyama (3-7) back down to Juryo. He's so
light that you don't need your most powerful shoves. Keep perfect balance, move
forward with caution, and keep the little guy in front of you. Based on this
basho, it may be a while before I get to see the Czech again -- too bad, because
I still think there are plenty of Makuuchi bottom feeders who haven't figured
this out yet.
Mike's back tomorrow.
(Mike Wesemann reporting)
Here we go
again, right? I was actually hoping this day would not come during this basho
because I desperately want things to be straight up. I also don't like to create
conflict in the minds of our readers, and I know my comments today will do just
that for many of them. It's one thing to debate a controversial judgment call in
a high profile bout or disagree on whether or not Takanoyama belongs in the
division--something I'm glad Matt challenged on day 6, but when you question the
legitimacy of the sport about which we're engaged here, it creates a conflict
among myself and the readers that makes me uncomfortable because I know how much
you want sumo to be what I sometimes say it isn't. So, I am going to give you my
analysis of the day 9 bouts, and if that analysis is incorrect, then there's
nothing to worry about on your end; it is I who is up in the night.
We must start from the top down today because the very things that didn't occur
in the day's final bout did naturally occur in the bouts that preceded it, and I
will use a comparison of the day's final bouts in order to explain my view on
what happened today.
Having said all that, let's get to one of the most anticipated bouts of week 2
featuring Yokozuna Hakuho and Sekiwake Kakuryu. Hakuho led with the oft seen
kachi-age with the right arm that knocked the Sekiwake back a half step
whereupon Kakuryu moved to his right and attempted a quick pull that sent the
Yokozuna forward a bit. Hakuho recovered well, however, and got his right arm on
the inside of Kakuryu, and actually had is left on the inside as well giving him
moro-zashi for an instant, but instead of Kakuryu fighting off the lethal grip,
Hakuho backed out of it on his own refusing to grab the belt even though he was
touching it, then keeping his left hand in no-man's land between the Kak's belt
and armpit for a second or two, and then inexplicably bringing it to the outside
and up high around Kakuryu's dome, the same tactic he employed in January (a
reverse maki-kae). So with Kakuryu now on the inside with his right thanks to
the gracious Yokozuna, he hunkered down tight to keep Hakuho away from a deep
right grip on the inside. The two stood in this position for about 15 seconds
and then turned 90 degrees revealing a right grip from Hakuho at the front of
Kakuryu's belt while the Sekiwake held a left outer grip near the back of
Hakuho's mawashi. The obvious move for the Yokozuna here would be to raise
his arm high into his opponent's armpit, and it was completely there for the
taking, but you'd only use that move if your intent was to win.
So, with Hakuho having neutralized his positions with both arms all on his own,
the two rikishi dug in for a migi-yotsu contest that would last for more than a
minute. Kakuryu really had no decent position with which to force the Yokozuna
back (or he would have at least attempted to do so as he did with Baruto), and
Hakuho refused to do anything with that right belt grip, so the two jockeyed for
the crowd awhile until Hakuho accidentally pulled the trigger with an inside
belt throw with that right hand. The move sent Kakuryu skipping towards the edge
and Hakuho instinctively put his right leg into Kakuryu's left as if to lift him
upright kake-nage style to aid the throw, but he stopped halfway allowing the
Sekiwake to recover his footing and hunker back down in the center of the ring.
After about 15 more seconds of this nonsense, Hakuho finally went for a maki-kae
with the left arm at the one minute 10 second mark of the bout. I'd normally
call that an ill-advised maki-kae, but something had to be done in order let
Kakuryu execute the force out because up until this point, Kakuryu hadn't
attempted a single offensive maneuver. As the Kak made that final spurt thanks
to the bad maki-kae attempt, there was no effort by the Yokozuna at the edge to
dig in. He had both
against the tawara for a half second or so but instead of bracing himself at the
edge, he just turned sideways and stepped out (the final red flag) giving
Kakuryu the force-out win. I mean look at the sequence at right:
Hak's straight upright, he's not using the straw to his advantage, and there's
no sign of a struggle. It's completely uncharacteristic of a guy trying to
win a bout. About five seconds in when Hakuho refused to grab the left
inside position and actually backed out of moro-zashi, I knew the outcome of the
bout, and it was just a matter of judging the acting from there. Regarding that
aspect, I thought these two sold it better in January, so a few of you should
have known this wasn't straight up today, especially after the ending.
I mean, just compare this to the Kakuryu - Baruto bout I commented on last week.
The only way that Kakuryu could beat Baruto in a belt fight was to get
moro-zashi. He got it twice, and even then the bout wasn't a cinch. Baruto dug
in so strongly and Kakuryu exerted all of his strength finally nudging the
Estonian back and across for the epic win. In this bout, Kakuryu didn't even
have moro-zashi; yet he was somehow able to outduel a rikishi far superior to
Baruto despite the absence of an offensive tactic until Hakuho opened the door
with that half-assed maki-kae attempt. It does not add up at all, especially
when I watched Hakuho take himself out of this one on both sides of the belt not
to mention lamely stepping out without nary a struggle at the straw. When
Kakuryu defeated Baruto, I jumped off the couch at the pure beauty of the sumo.
For today's bout, the emotion was gone five seconds in leaving me to spend the
next minute rolling my eyes and fretting the effect my comments today would have
on many of you. But remember, this is just my opinion.
As for reasons why Hakuho would let Kakuryu win this one, the reasons I supplied
last basho are still applicable here, and we have definitely seen a pattern now
where Hakuho will allow an Ozeki candidate to get him twice in a row to add
legitimacy to the run. That Kakuryu is one of the top five guys in sumo right
now is indisputable, but there is also no question in my mind that Hakuho gave
this one away.
For those keeping score at home, here are the following red flags that went up
as I watched the bout:
1. Hakuho refusing moro-zashi by moving his left hand off the Kak's belt, up his
side, and then high around his head
2. The shallow inside grip with the right hand when the much more effective deep
position was available throughout the bout
3. The abandoned shitate-nage throw halfway through the bout
4. Hakuho's refusal to dig in at the edge and that lame 90 degree turn and half
step out of the ring
None of today's sumo added up when you consider sound sumo basics and the
precision with which Hakuho normally fights. What does add up is Hakuho's agenda
in throwing yet another bout in Kakuryu's favor. I wasn't sure why he did it in
January; I only know that he did. As for this basho, I'm still not sure exactly
what's going in, but there's no doubt Hakuho is doing Kakuryu favors. Anyway,
with both rikishi now at 8-1, let's see what kind of horseplay unfolds the rest
of the way.
move to the penultimate bout that featured two Ozeki in Kotooshu and Kisenosato.
One reason why Kotooshu dominates his peer is because Kisenosato leaves himself
wide open at the tachi-ai, and the Bulgarian is able to easily get a long arm on
the inside and neutralize the Kid from there. Today's contest was a perfect
example as Kotooshu got his left arm to the inside of Kisenosato and then easily
raised it high into his fellow Ozeki's armpit lifting Kisenosato straight up and
setting him up for the two second force-out. For the record, Kotooshu dominated
so much at the tachi-ai that he had his right arm on the inside as well giving
him moro-zashi, but dude's gotta ease up just a bit at the edge and not send a
defenseless opponent into the first row unnecessarily. Kotooshu moves to 6-3
with the win, and you watch what he did with his left arm raising it high into
Kisenosato's armpit, and it's unconscionable to think that Hakuho wouldn't do
the same if he was trying to beat his opponent. Kisenosato falls to a precarious
Ozeki Kotoshogiku secured a left frontal grip at the tachi-ai against M1
Tochinowaka, and this one was an outer grip that completely rendered Tochi's
right arm useless. Riding the momentum, the Ozeki worked his right arm to the
inside as well, and once that position was obtained, he moved his left arm up
into Tochinowaka's right armpit charging the entire time resulting in an easy
force-out win that moves the Geeku to a quiet 7-2 record. Tochinowaka falls to
3-6, but once again, we see Kotoshogiku execute the sumo basics that Hakuho
somehow forgot today. It's not just that Hakuho lost; it's that he failed to
perform any of the basics that you see occur in every other legitimate bout.
Ozeki Baruto was dangerously high at the tachi-ai, but that will happen when
your opponent is the vertically challenged M4 Toyonoshima. Still, the Estonian
managed to keep his right arm on the inside, and Toyonoshima was had at this
point for all intents and purposes. How many bouts this basho have we seen
Maegashira try and fight Baruto at the belt where they were willing to give the
Ozeki an inside grip? It's certain death, and twas the case today as Baruto
grabbed the left outer over the top and executed the wham bam thank you ma'am
force-out while Toyonoshima (6-3) stood there like a helpless child. The win
moves Baruto to 8-1, but more importantly, that Hakuho loss means there's a trio
tied for the lead, and Baruto is among them. The only two guys who will threaten
Baruto from here are Harumafuji and Hakuho, so once again, we see just how
central a role Hakuho is playing in sumo right now.
Rounding out the Ozeki, M4 Aran really took it to Harumafuji at the tachi-ai
using an effective moro-tezuki shove into HowDo's neck completely rebuffing the
Ozeki off the starting lines, but he blew it all going for a quick pulldown that
enabled Harumafuji to gather his wits and create some separation. As the two
grappled for further position, the Ozeki wouldn't blow it this time working his
right arm deep to the inside that allowed him to run Aran (5-4) back and out
with a freight train yori-kiri. Harumafuji improves to 7-2 and still has some
say this basho down the stretch.
Komusubi Gagamaru used a fantastic moro-tezuki charge against Sekiwake
Aminishiki that drove him back to the edge in a flash, but Lord Gaga blew it by
going for a pull down instead of making good on that initial forward charge. Ami
survived the move, and as he tried to get inside at the belt, Gagamaru lowered
his head underneath Aminishiki's jaw and revved the engines again this time
driving Aminishiki back with such force that the Sekiwake was violently knocked
backwards off the dohyo hitting his head on the arena floor below not unlike
last tournament when that gyoji got knocked silly after the Baruto - Wakakoyu
matchup. Aminishiki got up in short order, but if he didn't suffer a concussion
there, then I bought the Hakuho - Kakuryu matchup hook line and sinker. Like
Kotooshu, Gagamaru has got to do a better job of realizing when his opponents
are toast and then easing up in order to avoid inflicting a serious injury. The
end result is just the second win for Gagamaru while Aminishiki cools off
quickly at 4-5.
My favorite bout of the day was courtesy of Komusubi Tochiohzan who brilliantly
read a lame keta-guri attempt from M2 Tokitenku driving the Mongolian out of
ring faster than you can shout "he's a fraud!".
M1 Myogiryu meant well by charging full boar into M2 Yoshikaze, but as has been
the case in plenty of Myogiryu bouts this basho, his veteran opponent easily
side-stepped him at the edge and pulled him down using his own forward momentum
against him. Kid'll learn, but for now he suffers through this 3-6 start.
Yoshikaze shares the same record.
In a legitimate yotsu contest that lasted over a minute, the two M3's in
Kyokutenho and Tochinoshin hooked up in the gappuri migi yotsu position meaning
both had right inside and left outside belt grips. From this point, it was
rather uneventful as neither dude tried to move to the side, break off his
opponent's outer grip, or go for a maki-kae. Took about 1:20 total, but the
Chauffeur eventually drove his opponent out and down in the end. Both guys now
stand at an ugly 1-8.
I believe that M8 Chiyonokuni's injury that caused him to withdraw last basho
has not completely healed because the dude is attacking the same as he did in
his successful debut, but there's just no pop to his thrusts. Today against M5
Wakakoyu, Chiyonokuni pushed the Wookie around but couldn't muster that lower
body strength to finish him off. In the process, Wakakoyu went for his usual
pull attempts, and while Chiyonokuni survived them for the most part, he lost
his footing in the end suffering the hataki-komi loss. Wakakoyu limps to 3-6
while Chiyonokuni is weak at 2-7.
Let's quickly hit on a few bouts from the first half, the first a contest
between M5 Homasho and M8 Takekaze. Not much to talk about, but (SPOILER ALERT!)
I always love to celebrate a Takekaze loss. Homasho knew what his opponent would
bring, and so his tachi-ai was cautious as he stayed low and kept his arms in
tight. Takekaze executed one effective pull attempt, but Homie survived it and
pounced getting his left arm on the inside while Takekaze's hands were still up
high, and from the this position it was ballgame as both rikishi finish at 5-4.
M6 Shohozan was proactive against M9 Miyabiyama using his livelier tsuppari
attack to push the Sheriff around the ring, but the longer the bout went on, the
higher the probability that Miyabiyama would spring the trap, and sure enough,
the M9 slipped to the side at the edge just as Shohozan went for a hug push
resulting in the younger Matutano (4-5) flying outta the ring with Miyabiyama
(5-4) managing a token slap to earn the hataki-komi kimari-te.
M6 Goeido quietly moved to 6-3 by staying low at the tachi-ai against M10
Aoiyama and forcing the Bulgarian upright. From there, the Father changed gears
with a pull attempt as he is wont to do, and while it didn't fell Aoiyama
outright, it threw him off enough to where Goeido latched into the kote-nage
position with the right arm to twist Aoiyama to the edge where a quick shove
gotter done. Aoiyama has cooled off at 4-5.
M7 Takayasu is making a strong case for the Ginosho this basho as he used a left
paw into the throat of M9 Okinoumi and a right ottsuke to gain the upperhand
initially, but the taller Okinoumi was able to work a gangly right arm to the
inside forcing the bout to yotsu-zumo. The position favored Okinoumi, and
Takayasu knew it, so he attempted a maki-kae with the right arm to which
Okinoumi responded with a righter outer belt throw. Oki didn't have quite enough
on the attempt allowing Takayasu to hold on with a left inside belt grip that he
used to yank the M9 over with while doing the hustle by driving his butt into
his opponent to nudge him out for good. Takayasu moves to 7-2 with the fine
performance while Okinoumi is fast becoming a dream in the night at 5-4.
M14 Ikioi picked up his third win in as many days by securing moro-zashi from
the tachi-ai against M10 Sadanofuji and then wrenching him back for the eventual
force-out. That Ikioi struggled even with the dominant position foreshadows to
me his future struggles in the division. At 3-6, he actually surpasses
And finally, let's conclude with my personal favorite, M16 Takanoyama, who
henka'd to his left, put M12 Daido's right arm in a bearhug, and then tried to
force him out from the side. The move had no effect, however, as Daidough easily
squared back up with his opponent and slapped him down so hard he drew the
tsuki-otoshi kimari-te. Incredibly, Takanoyama still leads Daido record-wise at
3-6 to Daido's 2-7. Go figure.
Matt and I will do rock scissors paper to see who gets reporting doody tomorrow.
Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
With Mike away on fat camp, I have the leisure of phoning my report in, and one
day late, I might add. Hopefully, y'all will be too hungry to notice I elegantly
skipped the intro. Oh, ok, I guess we can't simply jump into it like that, so
let me whet your appetite for Makuuchi with a bit of Juryo. Said division is
currently being lead by one Chiyotairyu, formerly known as Meigetsuin (the
potential for puns is limitless, I know), who easily dismantled Kokkai today
(yeah, he's still alive, struggling in the 10 cent division, if you were
wondering) to take the sole lead with 7 wins and one loss. What makes
Chiyotairyu really interesting is that this is only his second Juryo basho and
6th overall (having won his last tournament 13-2). Though already 23 (he started
out in Makushita), this guy, at 180cm and some 160kg looks like a Makuuchi
But let's get back to day 7 for now. Takanoyama slithered his way to yet another
win, befuddling Takarafuji long enough to be able to yank him off balance and
out of the dohyo via the not-so-often-seen hikkake. I know we at Sumotalk don't
like the slim Czech much, but props to him for managing to win despite the
sometimes huge weight difference. As long as they keep falling for his shit,
they probably deserve it.
Hochiyama employed a cautious kachi-age tachi-ai and briefly managed to get
moro-zashi against Kitataiki, long enough to force his foe to the edge. Mike's
ex fought bravely and even attempted a last-ditch utchari (which has worked for
him quite well in the past), but the damage had already been done, so Kitataiki
crashed to his 3rd loss. Hochiyama improves to 3-4.
Despite his short arms, Wakanosato was able to get a useful left uwate against a
bigger opponent, Daido, and ultimately use it to throw him to the dohyo. He even
made it look easy, although I'm sure it wasn't. Wakanosato improves to 4-3 with
the win, while Dildo has nary a pot to piss in at 1-6 already.
It's most ironic to see a guy with some monumental shikona like Tenkaiho (which
can be translated like "The Phoenix clad in godly armor") get his fat ass handed
to him day after day after day. Shotenro made really short work of him,
capitalizing on Tenkaiho's inferior speed to bully him straight out of the
dohyo. It's not even that surprising, come to think of it, if you analyze
Shotenro's own shikona – "The wolf soaring to the heavens". With the day 7 win
and the one today, Shotenro (7-1) stays in the chasers' pack, but look for him
to start losing as soon as he gets stiffer competition.
Tamawashi (4-3) was awarded a tsuki-dashi loss for his poor efforts against
Sadanofuji (2-5). It's short, I know, but there simply isn't anything else to
tell. I promise I'll try harder in the next one.
Ikioi (2-5) picked up a rare win in his debut basho, taking his time and
refraining from overcomitting against a nearly useless Miyabiyama, then
eventually getting on the inside and sealing the deal with a straight push-out.
The Fatman falls to 4-3. OK, so I lied.
In a scenario somewhat similar to the bout above, Okinoumi withstood
Fattyazuma's charge, patiently waited for an opening, got on the inside of the
larger man and drove him out by yori-kiri, using his taller body and longer
limbs. Fujiazuma falls to 4-3, while the man from Okinoshima gets win #5.
In a rare instance of decent sumo from Takekaze, Asasekiryu failed to gain any
sort of grip on the shorter, thicker man's mawashi, which eventually spelled
doom for the Mongol. It's nice to see the fat Kaze win without resorting to a
henka for a change (pun not intended, but welcome). Kimari-te: sukui-nage,
Takekaze: 5-2, Asasekiryu: 3-4.
Takayasu and Aoiyama went at it tsuppari style, and it made for a fairly violent
show. The larger Bulgarian eventually found the first opening and yanked his
smaller opponent down to his 2nd loss. Aoiyama rises above the .500 mark.
Matsutani the Ferocious looked like was going to be on the wrong end of a
tsuki-dashi against Chiyonokuni, but a well-timed inashi turned the tables
decisively, allowing Shohozan to get behind his opponent and throw him out of
the ring rather violently. Chiyonokuni slumps to 1-6, while Shohozan improves a
bit, all the way to 3-4.
In a bout similar to so many I've seen before, Toyohibiki, the pusher, kept
pushing, while Homasho, the more versatile one, resisted and kept looking for an
opening. Taken all the way to the edge, Homie managed to find his opening and
slipped both hands in to get the insurmountable moro-zashi. It was all over at
that point, despite token resistance from the pusher. Both guys share a 4-3
record (and a 4-4 one today, ha!).
Aran got early moro-zashi in his bout vs. Goeido, but, despite that, he was
unable to capitalize on it. In fact, he was on the defensive much of the bout
and, in the end, he won it by an evasive maneuver (his bread-and-butter
hataki-komi). Seriously, just remove this guy from the banzuke already. Like the
two above, these guys also share a 4-3 record (but, unlike them, today they
share a 5-3 record - yeah, I know, spoilers).
After six-odd years of watching sumo, I thought I understood most of it, but
every day some guy does something I totally didn't expect and makes me put my
hand on my head and start scratching vigorously in wild befuddlement. Such was
the case today, when Tokitenku simply stood up at the tachi-ai and let the
beefier Wakakoyu push him right out before he himself crashed on his belly. Then
again, this is Tokitenku we're talking about - I have a sneaky suspicion he had
even less of a clue as to what he was doing there.
Tochinowaka was thoroughly beaten by Myogiryu by sheer technique and proper use
of the basics, despite a 20-30kg disadvantage. The lighter guy survived the
Japanese-Korean's onslaught by keeping his stance lower, and then he turned the
tables and made it look good in the process. The oshi-dashi evens both guys at 2
Gagamaru scored his first win of the basho against an uninspired Tochiohzan, who
desperately tried to dig in, but was burned when Gaga moved slightly to the side
and slapped him down. I guess size does matter after all, eh? Oh Snap falls
below the .500 mark.
Baruto survived a shameless henka attempt perpetrated by Aminishiki (surprise)
when he managed to latch his right arm under his foe's pit. Give Baruto an
inside grip and it's pretty much over (unless you're Hakuho), as Aminishiki
found out less than five seconds into the bout. Baruto's Yokozuna run is still
on course, at 6-1, but "Baruto" and "Yokozuna" in the same sentence still seems
somehow horribly wrong. Of course, I might not be totally objective here, since
I've only witnessed two terribly dominant Yokozuna in my time following the
sport. I'll probably accept it if it does happen in the end, but I don't expect
him to win many more trophies from now on. Aminishiki goes on a sweet and
deserved 4-bout losing streak after starting out 3-0.
Ozeki Kotoshogiku (does that still sound weird or what?) survived after giving
up moro-zashi to Toyonoshima, only to get burned later, on the offensive, when
the Tugboat expertly slipped to his left and threw Giku down from the inside.
5-2 for both guys.
Yoshikaze produced the most passive tachi-ai you'll ever see him do, which
normally spells defeat for a guy his size against most everyone... except
Kotooshu. The slippery Kaze stayed in it without relinquishing a belt grip long
enough to be able to jump to the side at the edge and send his much taller foe
stumbling forward and out of the dohyo in painfully embarrassing fashion. With
the loss, Kotooshu falls off the leaderboard (as if...). Yoshikaze improves to
2-5, if anyone cares.
Kisenosato upped the score to 3-1 for the Ozeki with a straightforward, fairly
easy-looking oshi-dashi of Georgian Tochinoshin, who can't get out of the
meat-grinder fast enough (1-6). The Kid ain't a kid anymore, and he improves to
4-3 with the win. Meh.
The Kak showed great girth, strength and vigor in his valiant effort against the
last (and least, at least size-wise) of the Ozeki. Kakuryu and Ex-Ama went right
into yotsu-zumo from the tachi-ai, and Harumafuji even looked
like he had the
upper hand at some point, when he had a decent uwate while managing to prevent
Kakuryu from getting one of his own. But Kakuryu recovered nicely, threatening a
throw aided by his thigh, and was able to muster an outside grip of his own.
This stance would have to favor the... erm, longer guy (the Kak, in this case,
of course), and the bout was eventually over by yori-kiri in Kakuryu's favor.
Don't look now, but our man is still undefeated. Could another Ozeki run be in
the brewing? Ama falls to a quiet 5-2.
Finally, Hakuho thoroughly beat Kyokutenho, getting the deadly uwate while
preventing Tenho from getting one of his own. Curtains in less than 5 seconds
and 7-0 for the Dai-Yokozuna, while Tenho remains unsurprisingly winless.
A cursory glance at the leaderboard clearly indicates there's only one favorite
to win the Yusho (when isn't there?), but all the promotion scenarios might
somehow complicate the equation late in the basho. I won't dare speculate much
on the prizes, firstly because I rarely get anything right, and secondly,
because, other than Kakuryu, I don't see any other worthy candidates.
I'm looking forward to reading the new guy, Matt, and Clancy, who should be up
tomorrow, and I'll see you guys in two months' time.
(Matt Walsh reporting)
story line for Day 6 could be summed up as "No changes." No upsets near the top,
which means that all the story lines for the basho remain intact. But some good
actual sumo for me to chew on, which is where I'll put my focus. I'll even go in
order, especially since the bottom half was mostly pretty watchable today.
First Half Bouts
Hochiyama, who's apparently going to spend more time as a top Juryo man, managed
to lose (goes to 2-4) to not-so-mighty Takarafuji (4-2) after getting moro-zashi
at the tachi-ai. Not a bad match to start things off, at least.
Wakanosato and Tamawashi squared off, with the Not-a-mawashi man shifting,
Wakanosato weakly pulling, and both men barely managing to stay in the ring for
their troubles. As they recovered to go back to the middle, the Croc (3-3)
secured an inside belt grip and executed a quick pulling throw. Tamawashi, now
4-2, has looked like he belongs in the division after a short trip down to Juryo
Shotenro, also back in Makuuchi after a short demotion, is looking surprisingly
good so far this basho, now at 5-1. Today he pushed a rather lame-looking Daido
(1-5) around until Daido got turned to his side and then out.
A defense of Takanoyama: I really don't care that this guy isn't Makuuchi
material, he's fun to watch. I mean, would you really want to see more of Daido
or Miyabiyama (gee, a slap down) or one match a day with the undersized Euro?
The Takanoyama match is often exciting, fast-paced, and shows moves that we
rarely see at this level. The leg trips and arm bars are a nice change of pace.
Even the henkas aren't as bad on average as with other rikishi, since he's not
big and strong enough to bully someone out after getting to his side, meaning
that the match continues. All that said, today's match was a mostly forgettable
thrusting affair with Fujiazuma (4-2) and drops the pretty fly(weight) for a
white guy to 2-4.
Rookie Ikioi comes up with his first genki performance this basho and his first
win in the top division. Maybe he didn't care for Asasekiryu's shift at the
tachi-ai (though this didn't really show)? In any case, he was totally prepared
for it, faced his aite and launched in, grabbing an "above-the-ass" grip
with his left hand while giving up a less deep grip to the Secretary's right
hand. Ikioi got his veteran opponent (now 3-3) off balance by going for a pull
on the mawashi while pushing on his head, and that was all he needed to take
control and move him out.
Tenkaiho picked up his second win with the cool-sounding shitate-hineri
technique that was actually performed by convincing Kitataiki (4-2) to slip and
fall on his face during a belt battle that Kitataiki nearly had in hand. I
noticed that Kitataiki was pushing up so much into Baruto's sparring partner
that his right foot actually whiffed on hitting dirt a little before the actual
slip. He used skill and positioning to get that far but forgot his feet at the
Okinoumi and Aoiyama locked horns. Aoiyama has been better this basho than the
last couple, but he came into today without much of a plan against a superior
rikishi. Okinoumi (4-2) got into Aoiyama's (3-3) body, pushed up into his pits,
and dumped him on his side.
Miyabiyama (4-2) won a match by slap down. I know! I didn't think it was
possible either. Sadanofuji was the opponent (1-5).
Takayasu drops to 5-1 after chasing Takekaze around with tsuppari and watching
(not closely enough) as Takekaze (4-2) slipped to the side near the edge.
Takayasu also needs to keep his head up at the tachi-ai, but he's showed good
pushing power and movement overall.
Toyohibiki moves to 4-2 by blasting Chiyonokuni out of the ring with his
thrusts. He has has looked good this basho but needs to keep it up -- he was 4-1
to start last time around. Chiyonokuni (1-5) could still pull out an acceptable
basho if he can find his magic from January. His opponents have been all over
him this time.
Goeido (4-2) showed that he can push a guy out without a belt grip. Maybe I'll
need to be more specific and say that the guy is Wakakoyu (1-5), who gave up
moro-zashi and couldn't manage much lateral movement as he was being escorted
Shohozan came out with lots of energy against Homasho, as always, but he somehow
thought that against a bigger and stronger opponent with top-tier balance that
he could tsuppari his way to victory. Um ... no. A lack of lateral movement
meant that Homie (3-3) could just move forward, place a few good shoves amid the
flurry of activity, and work his opponent (2-4) out.
Tokitenku and Aran had a mawashi battle. No henkas, no shifting, no pulling --
these guys are not living up to their billing. We instead see a quick lock up at
the tachi-ai, a long delay while they fiddled with their positions, and a throw
plus leg trip by Tokitenku (2-4) to finish off his powerful but under skilled
opponent (3-3). Watch Harumafuji do it (kake-nage) better later in the day.
One of the better matches of the day went down between powerful but low-key
up-and-comer Tochinowaka and small but technically gifted veteran Toyonoshima,
who came into the bout with only one loss and looking ready to take his place
back in the sanyaku. Tugboat got the better of the tachi-ai, getting moro-zashi
and a strong position with his foe off balance. Without a belt grip though, the
sukui-nage throw attempt was doomed and allowed Tochinowaka to back out, pull
down on Toyonoshima's head, and separate. When they reconnected, Tochinowaka did
well to keep Toyonoshima from regaining the inside with both arms again.
Toyonoshima decided to switch tactics and got a good grip to pull on the bigger
man's right arm, but this was not backed up with some other leverage, like a leg
trip. So Tochinowaka (2-4) was able to simply shove the veteran out of the ring
with his free hand as both were headed the same way. Toyonoshima (4-2) made a
tactical error with that throw, underestimating the balance of Tochinowaka and
hoping for the quick win. While that sounds like a good thing for the youngster,
he's got to come out with better tachi-ai if he wants to hang with the big boys.
The Really-should-be-an-Ozeki-soon-but-now-its-crowded-up-there Sekiwake Kakuryu
faced Tochiohzan in a surprising pushing battle off of the belts. Both rikishi
were trying to prevent the other from getting a good inside grip as they moved
around the ring. It looked like Tochiohzan was the stronger man today as he got
the action moving forward, but he didn't keep his feet when Kak moved out of the
way. Kakuryu is now 6-0 and has looked good enough to get 12 wins and possibly
more if he gets a little help from his countrymen ranked above him. We'll see
some of how that goes tomorrow. Tochiohzan (3-3) is having a good enough first
week that he should stay in the sanyaku for next tournament.
Myogiryu came right after Kotoshogiku at the tachi-ai and got a moro-zashi for
just a second. Geeku immediately sensed danger and got in a maki-kae on the left
while smartly pulling up on the right armpit to throw his foe off balance and
ensure that the maki-kae didn't cost him position. The Ozeki then pulled on
Myogiryu's head to get him off balance, moved forward, and held up in the face
of a desperation pull. The effect of the pull and the pushing by the Geeku was
that Myogiryu slipped and fell on his face. Geeku (5-1) did what he needed to
against the aggressive but green youngster, who is getting a predictable taste
of the jo'i at 1-5.
Gagamaru and Kotooshu walked towards each other in the middle and had a
gentleman's agreement to grab grips on the same side. Kotooshu (5-1) then
twisted and threw the uber-hutt (1-5) to the clay. I heard from one of the
English language announcers earlier in the week that Gagamaru actually gained
eight kilos before this basho. I don't think that's what he needed in his
preparation, unless it was eight kilos of lower leg muscle.
Aminishiki and Kisenosato got into a shoving match. Kisenosato was winning,
Aminishiki was shifting, and then Shneaky just stepped out of the ring. Both are
now 3-3. Aminishiki may have lost some focus after his Day 3 win over Geeku to
Watching Tochinoshin in January, as he worked his way back up from a terrible
Kyushu basho in November, he looked to have plenty of strength and size and
balance. Defensively, he's a hard out, and on offense, he has the stamina to
slowly work out an opponent from an equal or better position. But his steady
approach and muscular efforts make for really slow matches. It looks like he's
lacking power, as in fast-twitch explosiveness like the runners in the 100-meter
dash use when blasting off the starting line. That lack of explosiveness is
costing him wins and making is path
every time out. Unless this is a lingering issue from an injury (totally
possible given his November performance), Tochinoshin will not be able to stay
in the jo'i. Oh, and for the match itself? The bigger M3 and the Ozeki grabbed
each other's belt with opposing hands and both used their hips to prevent their
respective aite from grabbing another grip on the other side. Tochinoshin went
for a shitate-nage -- a tough thing to pull off given Harumafuji's balancing
ability. It did have the effect of getting the two men squared up and they both
got a second grip. From here, the Ozeki (5-1) used his slightly lower position
to execute a nice kake-nage -- basically as shitate-nage plus leg trip. With
more power, No Shine (0-6) might have been able to turn the same position that
he was thrown from into his advantage and bully HowDo to the edge, at least.
Good to see the Ozeki recover from his terrible sumo on Day 5.
met winless veteran Kyokutenho in the middle of the dohyo with matching inside
right hand grips. Kyokutenho might have been better served by waiting for Baruto
to come at him and attempt to evade at the edge. As it was, he took one step
forward with his left foot, I suppose to get a better sniff of Baruto's
deodorant. Because otherwise it looked like he was going to try to simply
overpower Baruto from equal positioning. The deodorant idea seems more
plausible. Anyway, at this point, the bigger man (5-1) shifted his weight, spun
the not-very-small Kyokutenho (0-fer) around in a circle with a hand on the back
of his head, and let him slide to the dirt. Baruto seems to have come in with a
plan and executed it well, which makes me hopeful that his mental game is on.
Baruto's mental state means a lot to the potential drama in the second week.
What is Yoshikaze (1-5) doing up here in the musubi-no-ichiban? Taking it to the
Yokozuna, that's what! Okay, that's a bit overboard, but it was a surprise to
see Hakuho pushed around from a neutral position, even for just half a second.
Here, Starbuck came in with an extra shot of something (perhaps confidence off
of his not very convincing win yesterday), as he absorbed a solid shoulder block
from the Yokozuna and then just started running at him full speed.
when for the slap down and then spun to grab a couple of grips to his opponent's
zero. I have this paused on my DVR right now. Hakuho clearly has a left (though
he loses this in just a second) and we see later that he's got a right. He's
lower than his aite with pretty decent foot position (left forward, both
legs bent, well balanced). From this position, he's bested better opponents a
hundred times by moving forward and/or throwing. So it's really not in the
playbook that Yoshikaze pushes the Yok backwards several big steps to the tawara
and turns his belt grip disadvantage into one inside left grip for himself to
zero for Hakuho (knocked off in the surprise motion). At this point, we can't
say that Hak's in trouble simply because of what happens. Just like this was the
plan all along, Hakuho quickly moves his right arm into a solid over-the-top
grip of Yoshikaze's left (which has the belt grip) and swings him down for the
Again, to be perfectly clear, Hakuho (now 6-0) was never at risk of losing the
bout. But it does say something that I have so much to say about him losing
positioning to grab the more straightforward win. Yoshikaze (1-5) took big risks
and did everything he could to get ... wait for it ... one inside belt grip. The
grip itself turned into a weapon for Hakuho to end the match with. I guess the
something that it says is that Hakuho remains a long, long, looooong ways ahead
of the rank and filers. The risk of a kin-boshi may be as low as it has ever
been. Here's hoping that Baruto can get the promotion and give the Maegashira-tachi
(Mike Wesemann reporting)
Did today feel
like day 13 or what? Takanohana-oyakata can traipse around Osaka pre-basho all
he wants, a group of oyakata can form a barbershop quartet if they please, and a
dude dressed in a yellow bird costume and tights can skip around the venue for
hours, but what's truly going to bring fans back to sumo is quality action atop
the dohyo. To fix this sport and bring the fans back, the Sumo Association must
1) ensure straight-up action atop the dohyo, and 2) make sumo accessible to the
masses. Regarding that second item, I've already explained at length that the
best way to fill the seats again is to move the start time of the bouts back by
two hours since the Japanese public has shown they are unwilling to take time
off of work to attend the event, and the television audience is made up of
mostly the geriatric crowd. But the focus after day 4 has to be on the sumo. I
was so fired up after watching the day's broadcast, but that will happen when
you've just witnessed the best bout we will see all year and the Yokozuna
getting henka'd in the day's final match.
There's simply too much to talk about to feign interest in the first half bouts,
so let's start from the top and then move to the Baruto - Kakuryu bout since
today created the perfect opportunity to analyze what makes Hakuho so great and
what has kept Baruto from becoming a Yokozuna.
We've made it pretty clear that M2 Tokitenku is a useless entity this high on
the banzuke, and today was another demonstration why as the Mongolian actually
had the gall to henka to his left against Hakuho. Tokitenku rarely does anything
well these days, and today was no exception as the cheap tachi-ai was haphazard
and out of control. Who was in control the entire time was the Yokozuna whose
one foot forward one leg back tachi-ai is virtually henka proof, and it allowed
Hakuho to react on a dime and get his right arm to the inside of the compromised
Tokitenku's left side. You could also see at this point that Hakuho was pissed
off as hell, which is saying something because how often have we seen any
emotion from this guy...good or bad? It would be one thing for an established
rikishi like an Ozeki to sorta henka a Yokozuna by stepping to the side and
going for the cheap outer grip, but a total schmuck like Tokitenku simply cannot
disrespect the rank nor the sport in the manner he did today.
So bottle this rage and disrespect for Tokitenku's uncouth ways up into a
Yokozuna sukui-nage attempt, and the result was Hakuho throwing Tokitenku down
hard to the dirt via a scoop throw. This was a display of pure adrenaline
because normally Hakuho would never attempt a throw without establishing the
proper footing first, but today was different. Today the sumo gods were on the
side of the Yokozuna, and Tokitenku (0-4) was dispatched as hard as you'll ever
see in an upper body throw. My disgust for Tokitenku and his sumo the last year
or so was more than justified today as Hakuho moves to 4-0 and shows why he's
such a dominant Yokozuna. But more on that in a bit.
Let's get to the day's epic match featuring Ozeki Baruto vs. Sekiwake Kakuryu. I
mentioned yesterday that Baruto had yet to be tested this basho, but that would
change as he faced the two Sekiwake (and Tochiohzan). And the reason these two
Sekiwake will test Baruto is because they're smart enough not to just walk into
a yotsu contest that physics dictates they cannot win. As I pointed out
yesterday, the way to approach Baruto is to stick and jab forcing the Ozeki to
move laterally, and that's exactly what the Kak did coming out with tsuppari
from the tachi-ai and then quickly taking swipes at Baruto's own extended arms
aimed at the Kak's face. It took him about two seconds to create the opening he
needed, and when he did he burrowed into the moro-zashi position going for
broke. Baruto countered with the obligatory outer grips over the top, but
Kakuryu calculated this one perfectly. Nudging the Ozeki upright as much as
possible (which was key here...and where others in this position will make
mistakes..cough..clear throat...sputter "Tochiohzan"), the Sekiwake attempted
his first force out try making sure to stagger his steps to keep Baruto upright
and on his toes before attempting to swing him out dashi-nage style.
first attempt came close and actually caused the two to dance in a complete
circle twice as Baruto evaded and Kakuryu persisted, but the result was complete
separation of the two rikishi by about a meter. Sticking to his game plan,
Kakuryu wasted no time in diving back into the heart of Baruto and securing
moro-zashi again thanks to gassing his opponent by forcing him to survive that
initial force-out attempt. Once again, Kakuryu burrowed in tight raising the
Ozeki up, and Baruto countered with those dangerous outer grips, but when the
two were separated, you could see that Baruto had lost his wind, and there's no
doubt Kakuryu knew this as well because his second force-out attempt was linear.
The Sekiwake was able to manhandle the BioMass back to the edge, and despite
Baruto's use of his heels on the tawara and those outer grips, Kakuryu was able
to trip him back to his first loss with the right leg wrapped around Baruto's
left soto-gake style.
And just like that, David topples Goliath in one of the best tactical bouts I
have ever witnessed. The bad news for Baruto was that he suffered his first
loss. The good news is two-fold: 1) only one other rikishi can tactically
dismantle him like that (Hakuho), and 2) it felt as if Kakuryu had just beaten a
Yokozuna. That was a shukun victory, and even if Kakuryu can't beat Hakuho, he
should garner the Shukunsho for that bout alone. It was just incredible, and you
can't say enough about Kakuryu for coming into the bout with a plan, sticking to
it, and not panicking when said game plan meant delving deep to the inside of
the mammoth Ozeki...twice. Coupled with his first career "win" against Hakuho
last basho, Kakuryu firmly established himself as an Ozeki candidate again.
Damnation...sumo doesn't get better than this bout! Baruto falls to 3-1, but he
is very much alive in the hunt for Yokozuna. Though he lost, I thought Baruto
looked great, and unless he collapses mentally, dude's still good for 12 or 13
wins this basho.
Now, let's analyze Hakuho and Baruto from their sumo today to pinpoint a key
difference. As I stated earlier, Hakuho's sumo is virtually henka proof as he
slides his left foot forward bent at the knee and uses his left foot as the
anchor in the rear. He attempts to get an arm on the inside and then bring that
right foot forward alternating his steps to always keep himself well grounded to
the dohyo (the purpose of suri-ashi practice). No matter what you throw at the
Yokozuna, there is just no way to penetrate that tachi-ai to set Hakuho up for a
quick loss. Huge guys like Baruto and Kotooshu can occasionally catch Hakuho off
guard at the belt if they can get in low enough, and quick guys with a ton of
experience like Harumafuji and Kisenosato can force the Yokozuna to move
laterally in hopes of creating an opening, but Hakuho plays to his strengths at
the tachi-ai of every bout.
Where Baruto lost the bout today was just after the tachi-ai when Kakuryu made
it clear that he wasn't coming inside from the get-go. Instead of insisting on a
belt fight from the charge, Baruto not only played into Kakuryu's tsuppari hand,
but he focused on the Kak's face with his shoves, not the torso. I mean, dudes
wear a bullet proof vest for a reason, not a bullet proof veil. The torso is the
sure target, so Baruto's inability to make that adjustment on the fly is what
differentiates him from Hakuho. It's no slap in the Ozeki's face either since
very few rikishi can do what Hakuho does, but Baruto had full control of the
situation today and made the incorrect choice. Hakuho had much less control but
was in a position to react in order to bring the bout back into his favor. So
the difference between these two is that Hakuho has mastered the tachi-ai to
play to his strengths. Baruto wil sometimes relent at the tachi-ai knowing that
he has his brute strength as a solid back-up. It's a fine line, but it's what
separates the dai-Yokozuna from the rest.
Okay, I'm really getting carried away here, and it's only day 4, so let's make
like Kakuryu and dive head first into the remaining bouts.
M1 Myogiryu keeps settling for belt fights against much larger opponents. Today
he methodically complied against Ozeki Kotooshu in a migi-yotsu bout that saw
Kotooshu easily use his long arm to grab the left outer grip, or clear
advantage. There's absolutely no way Myogiryu can counter from this position as
the Ozeki swiftly drove him back. The kimari-te of yori-taoshi shows that
Myogiryu died trying, but he had no shot after his yotsu tachi-ai. These are the
kinds of mistakes the 0-4 Myogiryu (and plenty of others) have to learn from
after their first time in the jo'i. Kotooshu is a quiet 3-1.
Ozeki Kotoshogiku and M3 Kyokutenho also treated us to a migi-yotsu contest.
Well, "treat" might be overstating it a bit, but this was a methodical belt
fight where the Geeku grabbed the left outer, used it to mount a force-out
charge, and then used his left leg well to keep Tenho from moving laterally at
the edge. The Geeku is a shaky 3-1 while Kyokutenho is still winless.
Ozeki Harumafuji understood the passive nature from M1 Tochinowaka of late and
stormed into his foe at the tachi-ai leading with a fierce right nodowa that
knocked Tochinowaka up so high that he was never able to recover. This was a
wham bam thank you ma'am oshi-dashi win if there ever was one. HowDo moves to
4-0 and surely took notes of how Kakuryu handled Baruto today. Tochinowaka falls
to 1-3 and doesn't deserve the badass nickname I have for him of "T-Wok".
out the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato received a bit of a scare from Komusubi Gagamaru
who actually used great de-ashi to aid the right paw he was driving into
Kisenosato's throat. This bout was a case, though, where you can actually get
off to too strong of a start in an oshi contest because Kisenosato was knocked
off the starting lines fast enough and far enough that he knew he had to get the
hell out of Lord Gaga's path and counter. And that he did moving to his left and
countering with a wicked tsuppari of his own to Gagamaru's face forcing him near
the edge of the ring, and just as the Komusubi proved stubborn at the tawara,
Kisenosato literally used a right knee into the gut of Gagamaru to finally nudge
him across the straw. This was oshi-dashi with the knee if you're scoring at
home as Kisenosato recovers a bit at 2-2. Gagamaru falls to 0-4, but at least
he's getting his act together.
It's been funny to watch Aminishiki jump out to this early success, but I
believe we've been pointing out all along that he's not winning with straight
forward sumo. That finally caught up to him today against Komusubi Tochiohzan,
who used a moro-tezuki charge to knock Aminishiki out of position leaving him
really no choice but to go for a pull attempt. Tochiohzan was ready and obliged
the retreating Sekiwake by pushing him out with some oomph. You gotta love that
both of these guys are 3-1, but Tochiohzan's sumo has been much more impressive.
The laziest move by far today came from M4 Aran who attempted a hari-zashi
tachi-ai, but his slap was so slow it actually connected lamely with the side of
M2 Yoshikaze's melon. This actually ended up looking like a henka it was so
poorly executed, but the end result was the two rikishi separated by some
distance. Yoshikaze chose to close the gap by charging straight forward right
into...? An Aran pull down of course. This was fundamentally bad sumo from both
parties as Aran moves to 2-2 while Yoshikaze is winless.
M3 Tochinoshin exhibited a weird stand-up tachi-ai today, but when you consider
his opponent was M5 Wakakoyu, it's reasonable to believe that he was prepping
for the pulldown. Problem was it never came, and so the Wookie was able to
methodically drive Tochinoshin back and across the straw for the win.
Tochinoshin had to have been thinking "WTF?", and even Fujii Announcer on the
Japanese broadcast quickly pointed out that Wakakoyu actually didn't employ the
hiki-waza. I believe step 2 of the 12-Step program states, "Participate in a
single bout without going for a pull." Is Wakakoyu on the road to recovery?
Let's hope so as both dudes finish the day 1-3.
After the Baruto - Kakuryu matchup, my next favorite bout of the day featured M6
Shohozan vs. M4 Toyonoshima. Shohozan is way overmatched here in terms of ring
experience, but he caught the M4 straight in the neck at the tachi-ai and had
Toyonoshima upright enabling the youngster to get his left on the inside and a
right outer grip. He wasted no time in going for a huge belt throw, but
Toyonoshima has been here before and somehow survived it at the edge. As
Shohozan geared up for one more go, Toyonoshima used his own inside grip with
the left to drag Shohozan across the straw for the shitate-dashi-nage win. This
would have been the biggest win of Shohozan's career; instead he must settle for
2-2 while Toyonoshima (3-1) knows he got away with one here.
to the match, a steady rumble could be heard in the crowd that grew louder and
louder, so much so that it got m attention fast...and the attention of the NHK
cameras. It was right during the newsbreak NHK does just after 5 PM, so
the general public didn't see it, but none other than Asashoryu entered the
building escorting the prime minister from Mongolian and other dignitaries.
I was waiting the rest of the way to see if NHK would acknowledge Asashoryu, and
they did...probably because of his guests and not the Yokozuna himself.
You'll remember at last year's Kyushu basho he walked in without a ticket, sat
in the first row of masu-seki seats, but didn't get any run on the broadcast.
M8 Chiyonokuni's woes continued as M5 Homasho hunkered down low from the
tachi-ai and wouldn't let the kid inside. The M8's response was to back out of
it and create separation, but this kept him too high and vulnerable. Each time
Homasho would get close, Chiyonkuni would separate the two and on and one it
went until an exasperated Chiyonokuni went for an ill-advised keta-guri. It
wasn't even close and finally gave Homasho the opening he needed to force the
kids out to a 1-3 record. Homasho breathes a bit easier moving to 2-2, but you
gotta love watching these newcomers fight the veterans.
M6 Goeido stayed low at the charge against potential rival M7 Takayasu, and as
he is wont to do, the Father charged forward without really a grip on anything.
Dumb move as Takayasu easily evaded at the edge using a counter slap down to
send Goeido to the clay. Guys like Hakuho and Baruto can go for yori-kiri
without a grip...Goeido can't and pays the 2-2 price. Takayasu is a sweet 4-0.
A predictable match between M9 Miyabiyama and M7 Toyohibiki ended with a pull
down of course after the Sheriff kept Toyohibki upright for most of the contest
with tsuppari aimed high. Miyabiyama is a cool 3-1 while Ibiki is 2-2.
M10 Aoiyama knew the henka was coming from M8 Takekaze and easily squared back
up with his opponent reaching for and getting the inside position with the left.
With Takekaze severaly compromised, Aoiyama took out his (and everyone else's)
frustrations on Takekaze sending him into the second row via tsuki-dashi. For
those new to Sumotalk, let me help define the difference between oshi-dashi and
tsuki-dashi. Oshi-dashi means you pushed your opponent out of the ring;
tsuki-dashi means you just kicked his ass. Aoiyama is 3-1 while Takekaze gets
his comuppence at 2-2.
M9 Okinoumi was way too high at the tachi-ai against M11 Tenkaiho giving up
moro-zashi after a nifty maki-kae with the right hand from the Hutt, but the M11
has been so hapless this basho that Okinoumi still forced him back and across
with ease despite giving up moro-zashi. Okinoumi improves to 3-1 while Tenkaiho
is circling the drain fast at 0-4.
M10 Sadanofuji finally got off the shneid using his tsuppari attack on the
shorter M12 Fujiazuma and driving nicely wih the lower body. Fujiazuma really
never had a chance as he falls to 3-1 while the win for Sadanofuji was a run of
the mill oshi-dashi bout.
M11 Asasekiryu henka'd to his right, but it was half-assed allowing Takarafuji
to still make a game of it. The two ended up in the hidari-yotsu position, but
AsaSuckiRyu was lower and eventually scored the ill-gotten force-out. Both guys
M15 Hochiyama (2-2) toppled M12 Daido after a wardrobe malfunction disrutped the
good belt fight between these two. Daido has some mo too from the tachi-ai
unleashing a quick kote-nage, but such is life as he falls to 1-3.
After four false starts, M13 Wakanosato seemed frustrated...and hellbent on
pulling down M16 Shotenro. Sho had none of it staying in front of Wakanosato
nicely and pushing him down for the good win not to mention 3-1 start.
Wakanosato is 2-2.
I've been reminding you the first two days that as soon as M16 Takanoyama piled
up consecutive losses, he'd go cheap on us, and today was the day with M13
Kitataiki the victim. The Dummy henka'd to his left and slapped down the
befuddled Kitataiki to his first loss. I don't see how anyone can justify
Takanoyama's being in the division after watching these first four days.
And finally, the woes continue to mount for M14 Ikioi who couldn't solve M15
Tamawashi's thrusting attack. The Mawashi started high, nuded his gal back, and
then fired a few wicked shoves into his chest, and that was all she wrote.
Tamawashi is a cool 3-1 while Ikioi falls to 0-4.
Not sure what kind of effort you'll get from me tomorrow, but a new reporter us
up for Friday.
(Mike Wesemann reporting)
A few days
into a basho, you begin to get a pretty good read on the variables that will
affect the different storylines. For example, we're three days in, and we
already have the yusho narrowed down to three rikishi in Hakuho, Baruto, and
Harumafuji. Secondly, you can already see the rikishi who will be key for Baruto
to defeat in his quest for Yokozuna. He hasn't faced any of them yet (his
opponents up until now are 0-9) so it will be interesting to see how he looks
against guys like Tochiohzan and the two Sekiwake before he makes that final
push against the Ozeki and Yokozuna. So while there are still some things
unanswered at this point, we can definitely see the separation begin among
rikishi as to who is hot and who is not. With that, let's get straight to the
bouts going in chronological order.
Trust me, it's coming. What you may ask? The gimmick sumo from M16 Takanoyama.
Today he tried more straight-up sumo and ended up in the front row courtesy of
the Ho Chi Minh Express. M15 Hochiyama simply fired tsuppari straight into
Takanoyama's chest and dispatched him in short order moving to 1-2 in the
process. Takanoyama falls to 0-3 and looks like he should be doing my taxes, not
fighting Makuuchi rikishi.
M16 Shotenro handed M15 Tamawashi his first loss today in a shoving affair where
Shotenro's pushes were simply deeper into the body of The Mawashi. Both
combatants end the day at 2-1.
They say that the best defense is a good offense, but M14 Ikioi has neither. He
hasn't shown the desire to crack his opponent at the tachi-ai, and then he's
horrible at fighting off undesirable advances. Today, M13 Wakanosato secured the
left arm on the inside at the tachi-ai, and the rookie's response was to try and
back out of it. Wakanosato easily cornered Ikioi at the edge and then dumped him
with a scoop throw upping his record to 2-1. Ikioi is 0-3 and can't be paired up
with Takanoyama soon enough.
M13 Kitataiki dominated M14 Takarafuji in a migi-yotsu contest that saw
Kitataiki briefly grab the left outer grip, use a coupla gaburi belly thrusts to
drive Takarafuji to the brink, and then fell him with a kote-nage throw using
that same left arm that set everything up. Kitataiki moves to 3-0 stopping
Takarafuji's momentum at 2-1...and I can't believe I'm actually typing this as
if any of it matters.
I'm afraid M11 Tenkaiho was beaten down during keiko to the point of no
recovery. He couldn't even get a sniff at M12 Fujiazuma's mawashi (not that
you'd want to per se) until the end of the short contest, and when he finally
did touch any cloth, it was a weak left inner that Fujiazuma easily cut off with
a stifling right frontal grip of his own. From there, Fujiazuma just bodied
Tenkai the Hutt back and down across the straw for the yori-taoshi win not to
mention the 3-0 start. The fans in that wretched hive of scum and villainy, Mos
Eisley, can't be happy with this 0-3 start.
I forgot to record the day 3 broadcast last night and had to watch the action
via the innernet. So 35 seconds into the feed when M11 Asasekiryu and M12 Daido
hooked up in migi-yotsu and there was still 3/4 of the way to go, I said to hell
with this...I don't have the patience to watch such a meaningless match. It
ended with Daidough picking up his first win via a pull down and both dudes
sitting at 1-2. Exciting!!
M10 Aoiyama knew that M9 Miyabiyama could not beat him straight back and out
with his tsuppari attack, and so he waited patiently for the pull to come, and
when it came with both hands, Aoiyama pounced and pulled the compromised
Miyabiyama down with a sweet pull of his own. Great tactical bout for Aoiyama
although I was disappointed he didn't try to make the same kind of dent in
Miyabiyama's fat as he did in the Kokugikan wall yesterday after being henka'd
by Chiyonokuni. Anyway...both fellas are 2-1.
M10 Sadanofuji doesn't look quite right this basho, but then again Dejima was
famous for looking injured after an 0-3 start. For starters, Sada is a push guy,
so immediately settling for a belt contest against M9 Okinoumi from the tachi-ai
spelled his impending doom from the start. Okinoumi used a right frontal grip to
lock down Sadanofuji's left and totally set him up for the easy uwate-nage.
Wasn't even close as Okinoumi improves to 2-1 while Sadanofuji's woes should
continue beyond just 0-3.
My new mancrush is on M7 Toyohibiki for no other reason than he kicked M8
Takekaze's ass today. Ibiki used a kachi-age with the right hand into Takekaze's
throat from the tachi-ai and left it there the whole time as he forced Takekaze
back to the straw. He finally relented at the edge but only to fire a sharp
thrust into Kaze's chest that shoulda drawn a tsuki-dashi win but was downgraded
to oshi-dashi. Still, Toyo the Hutt will take it as both rikishi finish the day
Speaking of kachi-age (a fore-arm from the tachi-ai into your opponent's upper
torso), M7 Takayasu used the effective move against M8 Chiyonokuni keeping the
sophomore too far away to really fire off any effective thrusts. Takayasu
followed his victorious tachi-ai with some beefy shoves that were too much for
the skinnier Kuni. With Chiyo retreating, Takayasu pounced for and got the right
outer grip, and as he bodied up to his foe and threatened to do further damage,
Chiyonokuni stepped across the straw as he tried to escape. Solid yori-kiri win
for Takayasu who moves to 3-0 while Chiyonokuni (1-2) has got to be frustrated
with such an unorthodox start (thanks to Takekaze).
M6 Goeido got his left arm on the inside against M5 Homasho and actually
refrained from going for a pull-down. That enabled him to use his left arm to
keep Homie squared up in front of him, work him upright, and then subsequently
push him across the straw by the teets. I almost want to call this tenacious
sumo from Goeido (2-1), but I think Homasho's lethargy had more to do with it as
the veteran falls to 1-2.
M5 Wakakoyu should consider enrolling in the 12-step program...now. "Hello, my
name is Wakakoyu, and I'm an addict. I always ruin decent tachi-ai by going for
a pull down 2 seconds later." M6 Shohozan was waiting for it, and seized control
of the bout from there shoving the Wookie (0-3) back and out with relative ease
while moving to a hearty 2-1.
My interest would normally be aroused at the prospect of a straight-up belt
fight between M3 Tochinoshin and M4 Aran, but today's contest really didn't have
any teeth as both furries hooked up in the migi-yotsu position. Aran enjoyed the
lower stance, which is beneficial in such a bout, but he was fighting all upper
body, and so Tochinoshin was able to throw him over relatively quickly with his
left outer grip. Just not a lot of life from these two right now with
simultaneous 1-2 records a testament to that.
M3 Kyokutenho and M4 Toyonoshima began in the hidari-yotsu position, but the
Chauffeur was so lethargic that Toyonoshima easily worked his way into
moro-zashi. Kyokutenho is one of those rare rikishi who still has a fighting
chance despite giving up moro-zashi, and Toyonoshima remembered this not
committing too deeply on the position that would have made him susceptible to a
counter kime-dashi or kote-nage throw. Instead, he cautiously forced Kyokutenho
back before slipping to his side and executing a scoop throw in the process. It
was an awkward ending that knocked Kyokutenho over and down into the missionary
position right there on the dohyo. Fortunately for all of us, Toyonoshima was
standing to the side out of harm's way having picked up the victory that was
ruled sukui-nage, a kimari-te that is not mentioned in the Kama Sutra (unlike
the winning technique of ami-uchi for example). Toyonoshima improves to 2-1
while Kyokutenho has yet to...well...score.
Getting back to the theme of my intro, one more thing that has become pretty
clear three days in is that Gagamaru is useless when fighting from the jo'i. You
watch him last basho and then back in Aki when he was just on fire, and you see
a totally different rikishi. Now, I realize that when Gagamaru was making those
runs he was fighting from the middle of the banzuke, but that should only affect
his record, not his sumo. Look at Myogiryu, for example. Dude's 0-3, but he's
still the same Myogiryu we saw the last coupla basho. He's getting burned by the
experience of these guys atop the
for sure, but he's still charging hard and using his feet as he attacks his
opponents. Gagamaru isn't. Remember when Gagamaru beat Baruto in September in
something like four seconds? He did that with a great tachi-ai, perfect
footwork, and an inspired attack. This basho we've seen hesitant tachi-ai, no
footwork, and no offensive mindset. So today against Sekiwake Kakuryu,
Gagamaru's tsuppari from the tachi-ai were laughed off as the Kak easily
maneuvered into moro-zashi, wrenched his foe off balance just enough, and then
threw the Georgian over with a left scoop throw as easy as you please. Kakuryu
moves to 3-0 with the win, but the real story is the way Gagamaru (0-3) folds
from the jo'i.
In the Ozeki ranks, Harumafuji knew he had a vulnerable opponent in M2
Tokitenku, so he went straight for the neck at the tachi-ai driving Tenku back
with some force. Tokitenku's only hope was a quick slap down on the Ozeki's
arms, and it nearly worked as HowDo's hand came dangerously close to the
d'oh!hyo, but he recovered shortly, and when Tenku tried another pull,
Harumafuji shoved him out for good on his way to a 3-0 start. Tokitenku is
Like Yoshikaze yesterday, M1 Myogiryu was actually looking for a belt fight
against Ozeki Baruto sticking his left arm forward in an attempt to get to the
inside. The Ozeki's response was perfect: use de-ashi to start bodying Myogiryu
back and then polishing him off with a couple of shoves into his chest that sent
him back and out in seconds stumbling over that basket of salt in the process.
Unless you're a big dude, you have to stick and jab at Baruto so to speak in
order to make him chase you laterally and look for an opening. These smaller
guys trying to get into the heart of the BioMass is a huge mistake, and
something tells me Myogiryu won't make that same mistake in July. Regardless,
Baruto is spotless at 3-0 while Myogiryu falls to what must be a frustrating
Aminishiki is just exuding confidence these days, and he should be. He's veteran
enough that he knows how to win even at this level, and with a weak banzuke this
time out, he's taking full advantage. Today against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, Ami got
his left arm on the inside straightway, and then quickly went for a maki-kae
with the right arm as Kotoshogiku's charge was too rushed, unstable, and lacked
footwork. Aminishiki never got moro-zashi opting to read his opponent's gaffe
and just backed up to the side while slapping down on his shoulder. It's not
forward-moving sumo as Aminishiki improves to 3-0; rather, it's a reflection of
how this veteran knows how to win. Kotoshogiku drops his first of several more
this basho ending at 2-1.
Tochiohzan caught Ozeki Kotooshu by the neck at the tachi-ai and then quickly
went for the moro-zashi position. Having lost the tachi-ai, Kotooshu hurriedly
countered by attempting a maki-kae with the left arm, but the Ozeki's foot
slipped just a bit due to the Komusubi having totally set him up at the
tachi-ai, so Tochiohzan easily moved to the side as he thrust the Ozeki downward
to the dohyo in heap just a few seconds in. Tochiohzan moves to 2-1 in the
process, and I believe this brief resurgence is the result of two young guys in
his stable who are seeing success. The first is Tochinowaka, who was a stable
mate from the start, but I also believe having Aoiyama join the fray is going to
inspire Tochiohzan to remain the stable's senpai. Each basho with the release of
the banzuke, the stable has these little wooden panels (called fude) with
the rikishi's name written in kanji. They line these fude up each basho
according to the rank of each rikishi, and in Japan where the senpai/kohai
things is huge, I think it matters to Tochiohzan that he be the highest ranking
rikishi from the stable for as long as possible. Regardless, a vibrant
Tochiohzan is good for sumo. Kotooshu cools off at 2-1.
Ozeki Kisenosato picked up his first win today, but lest we get too stiff let's
consider his opponent, M2 Yoshikaze. The Ozeki caught his foe with a mean right
paw to the throat, and that was all the momentum the Kid needed to execute a
solid oshi charge for which the M2 had no answer. At one point during the bout,
Kisenosato looked like his foot caught in the dohyo causing a brief stop in his
movement, but Yoshikaze couldn't recover from the initial onslaught to take
advantage. Kisenosato limps to 1-2 while Yoshikaze remains winless.
And finally, Yokozuna Hakuho finally got that forward-moving win forcing the
bout to migi-yotsu, bodying up to M1 Tochinowaka and forcing him back with sheer
strength, and then quickly reversing gears with the left outer grip throwing his
opponent back into the center of the ring with style. Hakuho skates to 3-0, and
as I've said before, Tochinowaka (1-2) is far too passive these last two basho
for my liking.
We are seeing the patterns develop, but we'll probably have to wait until week
two to really see a shake-up. Hopefully that means extra drama.
(Mike Wesemann reporting)
The Haru basho
is off to a quiet start the first two days, and that's largely due to the quiet
crowds in Osaka. The "sold-out" banners were on display during day 1, but the
arena didn't even look 90% full. Just look at this enlarged picture of
Tochinowaka defeating Kisenosato on day 1 that shows
a large number
of vacant seats conveniently out of view from the main NHK cameras. And
while we're on the subject of quiet, the elections held at the end of January
where Kitanoumi and Kokonoe were restored to sumo's board of directors nearly
went under the radar. Contrast that with Takanohana's pimping of the Haru basho
where he visited the mayor of Osaka, appeared on a variety of television shows,
and showed up at numerous public events. The coverage of Takanohana's PR
work outranked coverage of the elections about 15 to 1. Why so quiet regarding
the elections? Well, the big boys who resigned from the board under pressure on
the heels of scandal after scandal were conveniently re-elected with Kitanoumi
being placed back in the commissioner's chair. The whole reason why I even bring
this up is that NHK began the day 2 broadcast with an extended question and
answer session with Kitanoumi Rijicho. Going from this interview into a largely
empty arena despite all of Takanohana's hard work shows you that sumo has not
changed a lick, and the same people who governed when sumo began its major
decline are back in charge.
On that cheerful note, let's focus our attention back to the dohyo. I realize
that I take a hiatus in between basho regarding the web site, but I do try and
keep at least one eye on the news wires just in case something big comes through
like Kushimaumi's death, but I must have missed the memo that discouraged
straight-forward sumo in place of tachi-ai henka and retreats. Things got
slightly better on day 2 as we opened the day's festivities with M15 Tamawashi
firing tsuppari straight into M16 Takanoyama's chest sending the Dummy back and
off the dohyo in less than two seconds. When you make Tamawashi (2-0) look like
the former Yokozuna Hokutoumi (today's color analyst for NHK), it's a sign that
you really don't belong in Makuuchi. Takanoyama falls to 0-2 and by day 4 or 5
should realize once again that in order to pick up a few wins, he'll have to
resort to gimmick sumo.
M16 Shotenro secured a nifty left inner at the tachi-ai against M13 Kitataiki,
but he abandoned it for some reason, so with Kitataiki (2-0) the one supplying
the de-ashi in this bout, he turned the tables nicely picking up the quick and
dirty force-out. Shotenro falls to 1-1, and I can't believe I've typed so much
regarding these first two bouts.
M13 Wakanosato got an early left inside position against M15 Hochiyama who opted
not to play any defense, so the result was an easy moro-zashi from Croconosato
who toppled Miss Saigon with an easy left scoop throw. Wakanosato is 1-1 while
Hochiyama is winless.
M12 Daido looked completely uncommitted to this bout as M14 Takarafuji came in
low and forced the bout to a grapplin' contest. Eventually Takarafuji got the
left frontal belt grip and forced DaiD'oh! back for the yori-kiri win. Of the
current Makuuchi rikishi, Takarafuji has historically performed terribly, so to
see Daido (0-2) get done like this speaks more to his indifference than it does
for any perceived surge from Takarafuji (2-0).
M14 Ikioi, our lone rookie, was bested again, this time by M12 Fujiazuma who
used an inashi with the left arm from the tachi-ai to send Ikioi back on his
heels. The rookie tried to time a quick evasive/pull maneuver as Fuji pressed
forward, but the latter caught Ikioi with a forearm to send him across the straw
before Fujiazuma (2-0) touched down.
I know it's probably too early to start mentioning the word "yaocho," but I
thought M9 Okinoumi's sumo was the perfect example of anti-yaocho sumo. Fighting
M11 Asasekiryu, the two quickly hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position, but it
was Okinoumi using his superior length to grab the right outer grip first. Once
secured, he pulled the Secretary in tight, bodied up, and then executed a
perfect yori-kiri fueled by his de-ashi. Every element of Okinoumi's sumo was
textbook, and as I watched the bout unfold, Okinoumi performed the next logical
move flawlessly until he had the victory secure. I guess it was the perfection
of this bout that made me think about other bouts when a rikishi's movements are
illogical and lead to an inexplicable loss. When that happens--especially to a
veteran rikishi, red flags are raised in my mind. Before I get too
philosophical, suffice it to say that both rikishi end the day at 1-1
If you count results of pre-basho keiko, M11 Tenkaiho came into the day at
something like 0-97. Well, make that 0-98 as M9 Miyabiyama used the lumbering
tsuppari to keep a desperate Tenkaiho away from the inside, and as the bout
began to wear on, Tenkaiho lost some steam enabling Miyabiyama to pull him down
after about 10 seconds. The Sheriff is 2-0 if you need him.
Aoiyama punched a hole in the Kokugikan wall after suffering a loss to
Chiyonokuni, and while he did apologize later to Takanohana-oyakata, I blame his
reaction squarely on Takekaze. After Chiyonokuni was lubed by a Takekaze
henka yesterday, he came into today's bout against Aoiyama feeling as if he
deserved to do a little taking of his own. The M8 stepped to his left at the
tachi-ai grabbing the cheap left outer grip that he easily used to spin Aoiyama
around 180 degrees before pushing him out from behind. This wasn't a full blown
henka, and contact was actually made before Chiyonokuni stepped left, but his
body was moving left from the start totally throwing Aoiyama off. Chiyonokuni
did not demonstrate such tactics last basho because he wasn't greased last
basho. Today's bout was a good illustration of the domino effect of tachi-ai
henka, and how it ruins sumo. Both rikishi finish the day at 1-1, and hopefully
Aoiyama can take the high road and fight straight up tomorrow.
If you couldn't tell, I loathe M8 Takekaze who couldn't get close enough to pull
M10 Sadanofuji down by the back of the head, so he danced around until he saw an
opening to pull at Sadanofuji's outstretched arms sending the youngster to an
0-2 start. One might say, "well, Sadanofuji shoulda gone harder at the
tachi-ai," to which my answer would be, "tell that to Chiyonokuni." Takekaze is
a totally ill-gotten 2-0.
M5 Wakakoyu's bread and butter can be effective, but today was a sign that his
opponents are beginning to catch on. Today M7 Toyohibiki withstood the
moro-tezuki charge and then timed a perfect oshi attack just as Wakakoyu began
his pull. The result was a tsuki-dashi win for Toyohibiki that saw the Wookie
actually just give up that last half step and walk out on his own he was getting
his ass handed to him so hard. Great stuff from Toyohibiki who picks up his
first win while Wakakoyu is 0-2.
I enjoyed the M7 Takayasu - M5 Homasho matchup because it featured two of sumo's
most likeable rikishi...one on his way up and the other in decline. Homasho
actually took the initiative in this one getting his left arm inside and using
an ottsuke shove to boss Takayasu around, but the younger rikishi stood his
ground well and managed to work Homasho over to the edge. Having lost the
momentum, Homasho tried to evade to his left at the tawara and grab the back of
Takayasu's belt, but Takayasu smartly just rammed his but straight into
Homasho's mid-section and backed Homie out of he ring in as beautiful of an
ushiro-motare as I've ever seen. I really like both dudes and hated to see one
of 'em lose, but props to Takayasu on his 2-0 start.
M6 Goeido looked to make short work of M4 Toyonoshima getting the right inside
grip and mounting a freight-train charge, but Toyonoshima slipped to his left at
the edge pushing down on Goeido's shoulder in the process. The Father went for a
watashi-komi leg trip to break his fall, but Toyonoshima dodged the move and
somehow managed to keep his feet from stepping out before Goeido's left arm
crashed to the dirt. They actually ruled in favor of Goeido he was that
dominant, but dude's gotta save the freight train charge until he has position
with BOTH arms...not just the one. Gunbai sashi-chigai in favor of Toyonoshima
as both guys finish at 1-1.
M6 Shohozan straight-armed M4 Aran out of the gate and away from a yotsu
contest, and as Aran tried to counter with some shoves of his own to keep
Matutano's charge in check, Shohozan was just too persistent with this footwork.
I knew the pull from Aran would eventually come, and thankfully so did Shohozan
who took full advantage when it happened sending the Russian back and across for
a dominating victory. Both fellas are 1-1.
Sekiwake Kakuryu has looked flawless in his first two bouts, so was he
sandbagging against Hakuho in the keiko ring last week? Today against M3
Tochinoshin, the two hooked up in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but
the savvy Kakuryu gained the left outer grip first. The problem was, though,
that the Kak really couldn't spurt since Tochinoshin threatened the counter
right outer grip if the Sekiwake tried to get too close, so as the two felt each
other up a bit in the ring, Tochinoshin was able to pull his gal in closer and
grab that right outer grip. There's no way that Kakuryu can win this
gappuri-yotsu contest against the taller Shin, so he quickly backed out of it,
reaffirmed his left outer grip, and used his left thigh to knock Tochinoshin off
balance enough to where the Sekiwake unleashed a beautiful outer belt throw to
sill the dill as we say in Utah. This was the best bout of the day as Kakuryu
boasts a 2-0 start. Tochinoshin falls to 0-2 and is not making good use of his
Look at Aminishiki jumping out to his own 2-0 start after easily getting
moro-zashi against M3 Kyokutenho at the tachi-ai. The key to this bout was
Aminishiki maintaining a light moro-zashi where he almost pushed his opponent
from the inside instead of trying to get in deep. Next to Baruto and Hakuho,
Kyokutenho is the toughest guy to topple via moro-zashi due to his size and long
limbs, and Ami's gimpy body would have proved a disadvantage in such a scenario,
so it was great to see the Sekiwake adjust the bout to his strength and score
the yori-kiri win in the end all the while maintaining that light moro-zashi
grip. The Chauffeur stalls to 0-2.
I TOLD you in my pre-basho report that Ozeki Baruto better watch out for M2
Yoshikaze! Oh wait. Cafe was doomed from the get go in this one as he tried to
get in deep at the tachi-ai only to be rebuffed by a solid right inside from the
Ozeki. With the huge size difference between these two in a belt contest with
chests aligned, Baruto lifted Yoshikaze so high in the air it reminded me of a
father lifting up his child to dunk a ball in a basketball hoop. Yoshikaze
didn't even fight it, and I don't blame him because the fork was stuck so far
into him it was protruding out the other side. Baruto gently laid Yoshikaze
across the straw and that was that as the Estonian waltzes to a second win. Not
sure what Yoshikaze was thinking trying to best Baruto in a yotsu fight, but at
least he's still in one piece at 0-2.
As limp as Yoshikaze has looked so far, I think M2 Tokitenku has been even
worse. Today against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, the two hooked up in migi-yotsu, and
then a half second later, the Geeku had the left outer grip. By the third dry
hump, the fat lady was just starting the second verse. Kotoshogiku is a much
Ozeki Kotooshu gave up moro-zashi to M1 Tochinowaka, but the Maegashira didn't
have any de-ashi from the tachi-ai. With his opponent standing there like a bump
on a log despite the dual inside grips, Kotooshu grabbed both outside grips and
forced Tochinowaka back and across without argument. This was a puzzling effort
from Tochinowaka who falls to 1-1 while Kotooshu is coasting so far at 2-0.
Ozeki Kisenosato was schooled for the second day in a row, this time at the
hands of Komusubi Tochiohzan. The two began in the hidari-yotsu position from
the tachi-ai, but Tochiohzan worked his right arm from the outside to the inside
in as casual a maki-kae as you'd care to see. Tochiohzan fights so well from the
inside, so once he had moro-zashi the kill came straightway. 1-1 is a fine
record for a Komusubi while Kisenosato at 0-2 is trying to outdo Kotoshogiku's
effort last basho. Kisenosato lost this bout at the tachi-ai because 1) he
didn't have a plan of attack, and 2) his arms are so wide open that even a
paraplegic could get moro-zashi on him (no offense to our paraplegic
readers...some of my best friends are paraplegics ya know). I think Kisenosato
is lost without a true stable master, and some of the other oyakata from the
Nishonoseki Ichimon should probably start taking notice.
Clancy was correct yesterday when he said that Komusubi Gagamaru "had this one"
against Baruto. His tachi-ai was perfect but then he just stood there failing to
use the de-ashi we saw from last basho. Lord Gaga did move forward much better
today against Ozeki Harumafuji, who attempted to stick his left paw in the
Komusubi's neck, but the Ozeki quickly found that Gagamaru doesn't have a neck,
so he quickly back pedaled and let Gagamaru do the rest stumbling to the clay in
his own girth. This wasn't pretty for the Ozeki, but when your opponent
outweighs you by a mere 75 kilograms, you have my permission to run like hell.
Harumafuji is 2-0 while Gagamaru is winless.
finally, Yokozuna Hakuho easily absorbed M1 Myogiryu's tachi-ai, tested the pull
waters as he is wont to do when he doesn't get inside, and then took a half step
to the side positioning himself for an ottsuke into Myogiryu's side that sent
the youngster to the dirt in short order. Two days in and Hakuho (2-0) doesn't
have a forward-moving win, but he hasn't been in any danger. He's taking what's
given to him and making his opponents play their cards. As for Myogiryu, this is
a position unlike anything he could have imagined. The rikishi are not only
bigger, faster, and better, but they know how to read their opponent's moves and
react before Myogiryu's quite knows what hit him. Still, the kid must continue
to learn the ways of the jo'i because he will be a mainstay in a year's time.
The "Areru Haru Basho" or wild and crazy Haru basho has yet to surface,
but give it some time. Everything's been even keel so far, but the talking
points will come. I'm up every day this week until Friday, so we'll see how long
it takes me to run on fumes. Oh, and for the record, I haven't been able to get
Kenny Loggins out of my head the whole day. Thanks for nothing, Clancy.
(Clancy Kelly reporting)
we are, back in Osaka for the first time in twenty-four months. Last time Naniwa
hosted a hon-basho was the first time Hakuho wrestled as the lone Yokozuna,
Asashoryu having been squeezed out after taking the 2010 Hatsu basho. Fittingly,
we find sumo on the cusp of returning to the more natural order of
dual Yokozunas as Ozeki Baruto, the Estonian (not to be confused with Bostonian)
giant who needs a strong showing and (as far as Im concerned) an ass kicking of
Hakuho to gain promotion to the sports highest rank. Course, as Mixmaster
Mikenstein mentioned in his pre-basho report, who can say what in hell will
occur? Sumo is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and covered in peanuts and
chocolate. What looks tasty could also be a load of shit, or vice-versa, as Carl
Spackler could attest to. One thing IS for sure, though: Nothing will happen
without Hakuho playing a central role. (Wow, Clanc, really going out a limb
Normally Id start the basho with some tale of licentious, ribald, mayhem (and
wouldnt you know it, I have a few to tell that have occurred since the New
Year). But seeing as how today is the one-year anniversary of Japans own
"eleven," namely "3-11," Im going to tone it down in the intro. Yes, most of you
who know me will be surprised that I exhibit any respect for the fate of others,
and that surprise I must admit is warranted. I typically do not get worked up
about people I dont know (Maggie Siff, who makes me stiff and whose quiff Id
like to sniff, being the lone exception), but the extent of this tragedy still
warps the otherwise placidly serene interior of my mind a year later.
Over 350,000 people homeless, and this is modern, industrial giant, long
wealthier-than-the-rest-of-Asia-combined Japan, you know, not Bangladesh, where
hearing that half a million are without clean water or decent food after a
cyclone makes you ask, How does that differ from their normal existence? I mean,
when you go from a steady diet of grasshoppers to rations of crickets, its not
like your falling from Olympian heights.
All kidding aside, one measure of suffering is the extent to which youve lost
what you had, and most of the people now living like refugees here have only
ever known the kind of plush, warm, safe, well-fed life that we Westerners know
and love and take for granted. So its gotta be brutal. Additionally, Japan is a
very private culture, and yet these people are living in futon cubicles crammed
into school gymnasiums and emergency evacuation centers. For a goddamned year!
Talk about having to look the other way. Top it off with a nuclear reactor that
is fubar and a crisis that has been handled by the government as if they are
following the orders of the NSK and its just not a great day for being jolly, ya
But there was wrestling on the docket, and so I watched and took note, and will
now make those notes available to yall.
In the first bout Shotenro, resurrected from Juryo, took on the The Dummy,
Takanoyama. Now, this nickname has naught to do with the young mans
intelligence. Rather, its a reference to a convo Mike and I were having about
how watching his bouts reminds us of those comedy sketch programs where they
have someone attacked, say, by a dog, and at the last second edit out the real
person and replace him with a dummy, which the dog then proceeds to shake and
tear the living shit out of.
At any rate, thats about what Shotenro did to him today, ramming him back and
off the dohyo in less time than it takes to come up with a witty line about how
little time it took. At least we got to see Takanoyama standing with one leg on
the floor and the other on the dohyo, flexibility being a key to sumo success.
As is being larger than a 7th grader. But hey, when you dismiss from sumo half a
generation of wrestlers, its going to take a few years for that gap to fill with
legitimate Makuuchi level guys, so settle in for a couple of more years of the
lower half of Maegashira presenting us with guys who are simply not built for
Tamawashi also made his return from a one basho descent to Juryo, successfully
ambushing Ho Chi Minh Yama, who was on the trail for his first Makuuchi win in
Big Boy Ikioi, who spent the past two basho running roughshod over Juryo, and
who hails from the Kitchen of the Nation, gave a good showing vs. Takarafuji,
but fell victim to a desperation throw at the edge.
Next Wakanosato had no answer for Kitataikis inside right that allowed the E13
to work the former Sekiwake mainstay out.
Flabby Daidough had Fujiazuma on the retreat, but as weve seen a billion times
in sumo, he made the mistake of lunging when his foe had room at the edge to
circle away, which is precisely what Fujiazuma did, and with no legs beneath
him, Daido came crashing down.
Asasekiryu smashed noggins with Tenkaiho, who got stood up and then released by
the Secretary to fall flat on his face. They called it a sukui-nage, but they
were being generous. Wonder if having to battle his stablemate Baruto so often
in prep for this tourney made him a little too forward leaning?
Aoiyama, after two false starts vs. Sadanofuji, managed to press in on his foe,
who was mauling the big white dudes tittys, and after one last shove at the
edge, let SaDanofuji come forward and receive a nicely executed sukui-nage, also
known as a "Five-O". Book em, Dano!
Miyabiyama kept Okinoumi at bay and for a spell, then started with the slap
downs on Okidokis head, and the final of several managed to send the E9 to his
first loss this basho after zero consecutive wins.
Chiyonokunis grandmother will be taking down that poster she has of Takekaze on
her kitchen wall after the asspounding he gave her boy. Leaping out of the way
like one of those people on a YouTube near miss death video, Takekaze reaffirmed
for us how pathetic he can truly be. Dude ought to be brought up on molestation
charges. Chiyonokuni, after extracting himself from the front row he had run
himself into, looked to be contemplating the beating his oyakata was going to
give him for falling for such trickery.
Takayasu showed some very nice skill and the strength of a goddamned bear by
flinging down 178kg Toyohibiki as the Hutt charged in. It wasnt a desperation
move, though, as the Naruto man seemed in control of his faculties the entire
bout. Impressive win. His senpai Kisenosato could have used some of Takayasus
Goeido benefited from a pesky Shohozan charging forward with too much chutzpah.
Like a mite, Goawaydo slapped him aside and let the Shoho go, yo, off the dohyo,
ya know? Goeido is also an Osaka nayteeboo, so perhaps he will make good on the
promise (he made to his pillow) to take the yusho this basho.
Homasho had a thoroughly Homasho-poi win vs. Wakakoyu, doing that sumo where it
looks like hes competing in the 200m butterfly, dipping down and then coming up
under his opponent again and again. Hes into the quarterfinal heats tomorrow vs.
Aran tried to cover his henka mugging of Toyonoshima by leaving his left arm out
and across Tugboats chest, but it ended up clotheslining the Jan. Sekiwake, who
has plummeted to E4 and must feel like nothing is going right for him these
days. Aran well and truly earned the nickname Bouncer today for that cheap
chokehold. Tugboat tried in vain at the edge to turn the tide, but even Aran
couldnt screw up these ill gotten gains.
Right after this bout, the cameras panned into the audience and showed that
common site, six or seven furries out enjoying the sumos (in the cheapest seats
and lying about like they own the place). There was one sort of hot blonde, and
some guy in a NY Giants parka, and so I am reminded to mention that yes, my
G-Men did indeed capture the Universe Championship of American football by
demolishing the...some other team whose name history will forget. Eli Manning
was born to be a colossus bestride the Earth!
Okay, so when my daydream (not "wet dream" because that came true on Feb 5th in
Indianapolis!) ended I was staring at my Kak, who was about to gain moro-zashi
over his former countryman Kyokutenho and use that to smother, kind of like the
Lord Humongous calmed his berserk right hand man in Road Warrior, the Chauffer
to an SBD yori-kiri win. I still chuckle recalling young Martin boldly stepping
up to the plate in his inaugural ST report and declaring Kakuryu, whom I had
previously deemed a keeper, to be a nobody who would be soon out of sumo. Ah,
the halcyon days!
Kotoshogiku was on Yoshikaze like hot wax on fingernails, and it hurt for only
that long as Starbuck was shown the door lickety split. Third basho at Ozeki,
has Geeku relaxed enough to give us provide us with some shambalaya?
I cant, even on my most creative days, conjure up a joi bout that Id be less
interested in than Kotooshu vs. Tokitenku. Kotooshu is a write off Ozeki at this
point, somnambulant, and Tokitenku has recently purchased a house on Kyokushuzan
Drive. Napster vs. Trickster. Course that doesnt mean the Bulgarian cant simply
destroy people, cause he can and did today. By the way he charged at and over
Tokitenku, it looked like he was trying to get to some frozen yoghurt stand he
spotted behind the E2. Seriously, he just ran up and swarmed him. Tokitenku
could only wail and start flailing his legs in hope that they might catch the
maulers leg, but they didnt, and Tokidoki ended up looking like a fucking
Rockette, high kicking it for the fans. In the end Kotooshu was obliged to crush
him out and sort of landing on top of him. Hilarious bout, when all was said and
Kisenosato looked downright afraid to take on Tochinowaka, and its no wonder,
cause when its all said and done, Tochinowaka will be recalled as the better
rikishi. The sophomore Ozeki tried to use a hand to the throat to stop the
oncoming W1, no doubt hoping for a slap/pull down, but the youngster kept his
wits about him and legs under him, moving forward and forcing The Kid back to
the ropes. One final mighty shove with his forearm and the Ozeki was flung back
to as final and humiliating a crash landing as youll see in sumo at this level.
Kisenosato, beaten like a red-headed stepchild.
Harumafuji seemed to know that Myogiryu was going to go balls out, and so he let
his foe come in, hugged him tightly, and then slung him around and down. A very
nice move by the Ozeki, but to be honest, Im kind of sick and tired of
backpedaling, countermove sumo from the top guys. We dont pay to see this kind
of shit. Maybe Kotooshu doesnt look like such a pussy after all.
So, finally we had the two bouts that matter, the two men in whose hands the
drama and destiny of the Osaka 2012 basho lay (well, Mike is the third guy in
this troika, but as he is not technically IN sumo, Ill omit him). Baruto was
taking on the ever dangerous (if youre a sandwich slathered in barbecue sauce,
that is) Gagamaru. In yet another Day One bout where the backward moving rikishi
pulls off a swing down, Biomass let Butterball drive him back, only to spank him
on the bottom with a perfect (if slow motion) uwate-nage overarm throw. Gagamaru
had this bout, or at least had a good chance, but he could not keep the Ozeki
centered in front of him.
Hakuho has to take care of pesky Tochiohzan, skyrocketed all the way up from M8
to Komusubi!! Wow. He certainly justified his promotion by bringing all he had
vs. the Yokozuna. In fact, he managed to get Hakuho to retreat, but here is
where one needs to consult the dictionary under "tactical retreat," because as
Mike pointed out in a Skype convo, Hakuho often will feel out the other guy in
the first few nanoseconds, see if hes open to a hataki-komi slapdown (the
Yokozuna being a smart guy and not wanting to expend more energy than is
necessary). When he senses that Tochiohzan was bringing his A-game, Kublai
smoothly moved back and waited for the inevitable opening. Yes, once again this
is not the sumo Im in love with, but itll do for Hakuho as he used what is
normally a desperation move to thrust Oh Snap to the clay.
Some might have noticed that Tochiohzan had the Hakuhos belt in this left hand
for the taking but did not, and imagine this to mean the fix was in, and that
Hakuho was the beneficiary. Au contraire, mein freund. Tochiohzan was simply
trying to keep his arms in, his left elbow pinned to his side so that the
Yokozuna could not get his own inside right.
At any rate, Mike will be up tomorrow to check the pulse, and Day 6 will bring
us a spanking new contributor name of Matt. Looking forward to that, as well as
our usual Day 7 from the Mighty Matra himself. Yeah, Mike, Martin, Matthew, and
Me. What a team. Makes me sad Mario left to plumb the secrets of existence. See
ya on Day 8.