13 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
tournament, for the first time in a long while, I found myself actually looking
forward to seeing bouts the next day. I'm not sure, however, how much of that
anticipation is due to interesting stuff waiting to transpire upon the dohyo or
just the general feeling of change brought about by the changing of the
generations. Yeah, it's official, Kotooshu finally decided to call it a career,
and I guess that means it's about time I started looking for a new "official"
But before the public announcement, let me just say a few words on him. As some
of you might remember, Kotooshu is the primary reason I started following sumo
way back in 2005. Before seeing the large Bulgarian on TV, I was under the
erroneous but widespread impression that sumo wrestling is just this odd
ceremony where some fat Japanese guys push each other around using their bellies
(!), but that came under a big question mark as soon as I noticed there's no
belly on Kotooshu and he's not even Asian. That prompted me to start looking
closer at the whole thing and I got hooked faster than you can say "Kotooshu is
a handsome bastard, ain't he?", which I'm pretty sure most female fans thought.
If I had to name an exact instant for it, I'm guessing it'd have to be Nagoya
2005, day 8, when Kotooshu won a very close nage-no-uchi-ai with then
big-cheese-in-town Asashoryu. Ah, those were the days. To be completely honest,
more often than not it was frustrating to be Kotooshu's fan, as his peak came
sometime around the end of 2005, with the run which secured his promotion to
Ozeki – the 2008 yusho fluke notwithstanding. But I guess that made the
occasional victories against his more successful foes all that much more
enjoyable. If not for the injuries, who knows? Best of luck to him securing a
Moving on to the action, it was funny to see Asahisho overwhelmed from the
tachi-ai when his sloppy footwork resulted in moro-zashi for Masunoyama of all
people and a nearly instant subsequent yori-kiri. Mirroring 6-7/7-6 records
dictate that the two are likely to stay in their current divisions.
Young Mongol (youngol? hmm...) Terunofuji played brick wall to Chiyo the Round's
charge and may well have stifled Sir Cumference's hopes for a division debut
Kanto-sho. A well-timed grab at the front of Chiyomaru's mawashi and the ensuing
force-out ensured at least one other chance for Terunofuji to avoid make-koshi.
Chiyomaru falls to 8-5.
Satoyama persisted in his arguably hazardous habit of ducking under his opponent
at the initial charge (on the plus side, this sometimes can result in more
aesthetically pleasing kimari-te, like izori or Satoyama's own specialty,
tsutae-zori, but you'll rarely see those above Makushita). While Satoyama did
manage to get a deep inside grip and keep Myogiryu upright for most of the bout,
I dare say the match was lost then Myogiryu locked the little guy's left arm
very early on, as the differential in size and strength ultimately proved
Satoyama's undoing. Myogiryu improves to 6-7 and sends Satoyama into double
digit loss territory with the hard-earned kime-dashi win.
Gagamaru was henka'd into make-koshi by Mongol Azumaryu, who keeps kachi-koshi
hopes alive at 6-7.
Jokoryu won the tachi-ai against Kyokutenho, getting a deep right inside while
denying the ex-Mongol the left uwate. Tenho put up some token resistance, but
without the mawashi, Jokoryu's youth and strength proved too much to handle.
Nevertheless, Kyokutenho is 8-5, whereas Jokoryu still need to win one more to
be on the safe side.
Takarafuji produced a very passive tachi-ai, opting to merely stand up, but
Kagamioh's charge wasn't anything to write home, either, so the two just stood
there for a while, hugging. After World Peace Day commemoration was over,
though, it was Takarafuji who took the initiative by locking his foe's left arm
and deploying a kote-nage which set up the okuri-dashi finish, taking Jackpot
(yeah, I'll keep hammering at these until someone notices) over the kachi-koshi
line. Kagamioh (5-8) mirrors (heh, heh, geddit?) his foe's record.
Chiyotairyu enjoyed a great start in his tussle vs. Tokushoryu, hitting home
with a double thrust to the face which brought his foe to the straw, only to
miss the finishing shot and see the tables turned on him. Tokushoryu had him on
the back foot and, after running him once around the dohyo, got into yotsu for
the final push, but at that moment Chiyotairyu (can one's shikona possibly get
more epic? I mean, come on, a thousand generations of great dragons?) sensed the
opening and deployed the precision tsuki-otoshi, felling the committed
Tokushoryu like so much lumber and evening their records at a safe, if
Takekaze for some reason seems to have more trouble against the smaller, quicker
and overall more agile types (like, say, all the Mongols) than against the
larger white types. Takanoiwa took his medicine like a man, aptly survived the
inevitable pulldown, then quickly served Takekaze some spirited pushing,
finishing the job by oshi-dashi and improving to a very decent 9-4. Kaze can
still hope to get some love out of this basho, as he falls to 7-6.
Osunaarashi today was more the victim of unpolished sumo technique than injury,
when Aminishiki capitalized on Sandman's very high tachi-ai and eventually
secured a frontal belt grip which he used to drag the big Egyptian man off
balance and down to the dirt. Sneaky gets kachi-koshi with the technically sound
win, while Osunaarashi still has a couple more shots at it. Incidentally, I'm
surprised he's still being paired with guys ranked in the 5's and 6's. I guess
the guys in black are really scared of his potential, huh?
Ikioi muscled his way into moro-zashi right from the tachi-ai against Kitataiki,
and he gained enough momentum with the move to be able to finish off his
opponent even after losing the double inside near the edge. Both guys are
limping this basho with only 5 wins apiece.
In a duel of really large dudes, Kaisei bodied his way into a strong right uwate
which he used to drive Sadanofuji to the edge and over without pausing much for
sightseeing along the way. Kaisei "improves" to 4-9, whereas Sadanofuji crashes
and burns at 1-12.
Tochinowaka actually got moro-zashi in his loss to the older and more
experienced Okinoumi, but the normally advantageous grip was shallow and allowed
Okidoki to get a double grip on the mawashi and clamp Lee's arms into
uselessness. Okinoumi inexorably drove the action towards the tawara, where he
even broke down the double inside grip and worked his way to Tochinowaka's side.
The yori-kiri win does little more than mere damage control for the 3-10
Okinoumi. Lee isn't faring much better at 4-9. That's life in the jo'i for you.
Toyohibiki and Tamawashi engaged in a rather entertaining slugfest, riddled with
violent thrusts, slaps, whiffs, shifts in momentum and, in the end, one large
thrust from Toyohibiki which sent Tamawashi stumbling several feet before
inevitably succumbing to gravity. The Mawashi is banished to double digit loss
territory, while Hibiki improves to a still shaky 6-7.
got yet another schooling in terms of sumo, this time from Takayasu, whose usual
MO, the barrage of tsuppari, visibly bothered the youngster (and this feels
weird, doesn't it? because he and Takayasu are roughly the same age, but
Takayasu's been around for what feels like ages in the division) but wasn't
enough to seal the deal. One misplaced thrust was enough to immediately turn
things in Endo's favor, who got a deep left inside, but Takayasu countered with
one of his own. A long stalemate followed, but Takayasu eventually took
initiative, forcing his way into a double grip and preventing the same from
Endo, who could only be a helpless spectator to the uwate-nage that soon
followed. 6-7 is alright this early and this high up on the banzuke. Takayasu
improves his already losing record to 5-8.
Bulgarian Aoiyama suddenly found himself the top Bulgarian on the banzuke and
looked to avenge Kotooshu's grief at the hands of Shohozan (8-2 against the
senpai). He did it and even earned kachi-koshi in the process by keeping
Shohozan away from him with well-placed tsuppari to the head, then capitalizing
on Cheetos's (5-8) overcompensation with a well-timed pull.
Yoshikaze proved it's never too late to progress, breaking his record for the
highest rank to achieve kachi-koshi by two full ranks when he won the tachi-ai
vs. Toyonoshima and got a very advantageous inside grip which he used to drive
his heavier foe straight back and out with little resistance. Toyonoshima falls
Chiyootori got his first taste of san'yaku opposition and, as expected, he was
schooled harshly by one of the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke at the
moment, Tochiohzan. Otori appeared to get the upper hand at the tachi-ai,
driving Oh slightly back as a result of superior momentum derived from superior
mass, but Tochiohzan reloaded and inserted a nigh insurmountable left on the
inside, which he then immediately used to force his younger foe right back and
out. Tochiohzan needs another one for the kachi-koshi, while Chiyootori (8-5)
must be looking forward to his first ever honbasho bout against an Ozeki, facing
of which, Kisenosato ended his campaign against the Mongol horde with a nice,
round 0-3, after being on the wrong end of a tsuki-dashi vs. Kakuryu. Kisenosato
charged with the clear intention of getting some left inside, but the Kak kept
him well away from the belt and took him off balance with a well-timed pull, and
the finished the job calmly, earning his 12th win and a legitimate shot at
promotion to the highest rank. With Hakuho left to face tomorrow and Kotoshogiku
on senshuraku, it's a bit of a tall order, as my guess is he needs both wins to
even be taken into consideration. However, if I were to put my tinfoil hat on,
thinking a bit from the NSK's perspective, a THIRD Mongol Yokozuna would be
about as useful for sumo as a pair of gloves for a hippopotamus. Something tells
me Kakuryu will humbly lose the remaining two bouts, but we shall see, eh?
Kisenosato falls to 8-5, if anyone cares.
Harumafuji lost his second in a row when he was blitzed at the tachi-ai by
Goeido and the desperation throw which usually produces miraculous results
against Goeido failed to save the Mongol from being thrown out of the dohyo. Of
course, now that things are becoming relevant in the yusho race, I'm starting to
wonder if it was legit. I mean, just how often does Harumafuji lose to Goeido?
The first thing in favor of the mukiryoku theory is, as Mike duly pointed
earlier in our chat, the phantom swipe at Goeido's head when Ex-Ama initiated
the throw at the edge. It's pretty common for this kind of throw to be assisted
with the other hand, which usually pushes down on the back of the opponent's
head, but today Ama was completely unable to find the Father's noggin for some
reason. One could argue, of course, that it was all according to the flow of the
bout and Goeido's momentum prevented the success of the maneuver, so I guess
it's inconclusive so far. The second red flag is the very unnatural way in which
Ama's right leg went up in the air right after the tachi-ai. Again, the Devil's
advocate could argue it was just Goeido's momentum blowing Harumafuji away, but
I simply find it more likely that Ama just didn't give it 100% - it's good for
sumo as a whole if the local boys have more success. The Yokozuna falls to 11-2
but is still mathematically in the race, while Goeido improves to a dubious
the last match of the day, though, things were a lot clearer, as Hakuho's hands
got nowhere near Kotoshogiku's mawashi as he was being humped ever so closer to
his first loss. Giku looked for the left frontal mawashi grip from the tachi-ai
but failed to get it and proceeded to just move forward without any sort of
solid... anything. Thankfully, Hakuho not only refrained from getting the
mawashi, despite having a few very clear openings, but he also was content to
simply stay in front of the gaburi-ing Ozeki, without as much as THINKING about
attempting to move laterally or wrench the upright Geeku down using the right.
If yaocho were unlikely, this kind of behavior would be highly unnatural, but we
know better. Conclusion: while the previous bout might, for the sake of the
argument, get the benefit of the doubt, this one is as fake as a $3 bill.
Now, you know I like to make predictions, but this time I'm very much in the
dark – anything can happen. If it weren't for the specter of the general policy
of the powers that be to promote Japanese sumo (and, if that means undermining
the Mongols, so be it), I'd call Kakuryu a shoo-in for getting the rank by
beating Hakuho tomorrow and making it to a play-off on Sunday. In the current
context, however, I find that rather unlikely and will state again that Hakuho
should win easily – not that this isn't the expected result anyway. Anything
could happen, in theory, but my money's still on Hakuho to win the yusho. The
special prizes are as tricky as they can be, because there are few guys with
enough wins so far to be in contention, and I wouldn't give any prizes to any of
them except maybe the Chiyo bros.
See you guys next basho, I guess. In the meantime, keep calm and carry on...
reading Mike's reports.
Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
biggest news of day 12 was of course the retirement announcement of former Ozeki
Kotooshu. Martin stated as early as day 6 this basho that Kotooshu was probably
done, and then when his make-koshi became official on day 9, there was no choice
but to call it a career. We've been saying for the past year or so that
retirement can't be too far on the horizon, and you can just see when a rikishi
has given up. Today, Kotooshu's former stablemate, Kotonishiki, was perched in
the mukou-joumen chair, and the broadcast of course started off with talk of
Kotooshu, and Kotonishiki was asked about his thoughts regarding the former
Ozeki. Kotonishiki stated that he retired before Kotooshu entered the stable,
but as a young oyakata, he would still sometimes spar with the rikishi. He
recalled doing keiko with Kotooshu, and Kotooshu could never beat him, and he
remembered well Kotooshu's giving him a look as if, "how in the hell is this
little man beating me?"
Many of you will remember that Kotonishiki was very short in stature, but he was
one of my favorite all time rikishi. Dude fought like a bulldog and took two
tough yusho in his career despite his lack of size. Anyway, I enjoyed the
comment, and it was indicative of a young Kotooshu and his desire to win. NHK
next showed clips of when Kotooshu first entered the division, and to watch him
back then was truly a treat. He was so fast, so tall, so skilled, and most
importantly...so good looking that he quickly became a fan favorite among
Japanese fans and foreigners alike. There was a tangible hunger present in those
early clips that provided an excellent contrast to the lack of any hunger we've
seen in Kotooshu for the last few years. The few years before Kaio retired, you
could see that the mind still wanted it but the body was too weak. In the case
of Kotooshu, however, the mind just lost its hunger...similar to Aran last year
and then Baruto before that.
It's always sad to see these guys go, but you could argue that Kotooshu has been
gone for a year or two now. For those still anxious to get their Kotooshu fix,
keep a sharp eye on the broadcast as rikishi walk back down the hana-michi
because there in a dull navy jacket and gray slacks will be Kotooshu-oyakata
sitting on a cheap folding chair pulling security duty. Incidentally, Kotooshu
has yet to obtain a share of oyakata stock, but his former rank allows him to
remain with the Sumo Association for three years as Kotooshu-oyakata. Hopefully
the dude saved up enough caish to procure a share of oyakata stock or his only
choice in three years will be to remain in Japan as a TV talent or go home to
Turning our focus back to the basho at hand, it's been known since about day 3
that this basho was coming down to the three Mongolians. As noted a few days
ago, NHK was generous to extend the leaderboard all the way down to two losses
just to keep a handful of Japanese rikishi on the board, but by day 11 the
closest Japanese rikishi was three back'a the pack, so the only storylines left
now are what doorknobs is Endoh going to lick and how many more rikishi will
just stand there and let Goeido beat them?
work our way down again today starting from the leaderboard meaning first up was
Ozeki Kakuryu facing Yokozuna Harumafuji in the day's final match. Harumafuji
was reckless in his charge going for Kakuryu's neck I suppose, but the Kak just
brushed him aside and pushed the Yokozuna sideways and nearly down with a
lateral swipe with the right hand that connected to the side of Harumafuji's
face. While Harumafuji didn't entirely hit the dirt, before he could stand up
and turn back around, the Kak just pushed him out from behind. I thought
the Yokozuna went down a little bit too easy after that first swipe, but who
knows...the thing was over in less than two seconds, and NHK was so pressed for
time that they couldn't show slow motion replays from the various angles.
Regardless, the win brings Kakuryu even with Harumafuji at 11-1 and technically
keeps Kakuryu's Yokozuna hopes alive. Even if Kakuryu doesn't end up attaining
the prestigious rank, this basho of his has been far more impressive than
anything Kisenosato and Goeido have put together combined in their so-called
day's penultimate bout featured Yokozuna Hakuho vs. Ozeki Kisenosato, and we
were treated to two blatant false starts--one from each rikishi--and then a
third false start before the thing even began. I didn't have a problem with
them, though, because I knew the false starts would produce more action than the
bout itself. When the two finally did get going, Hakuho came with a right
kachi-age and a lazy left tsuppari into his opponent before attempting a quick
and harmless pull that did nothing but give Kisenosato an opening...the he
couldn't capitalize on of course. Hakuho turned things on at this point and got
his left arm to the inside where he immediately mounted a force-out charge that
the Ozeki could not answer. Hakuho cruises to 12-0 with the win while Kisenosato
fades from the headlines at 8-4.
I thought the demeanor of Hakuho in this bout was a perfect example of the way
the Mongolians currently approach sumo. We all know that Hakuho could have come
out and just kicked Kisenosato's ass getting moro-zashi from the gun and driving
the Ozeki back in less than two seconds. However, he let up just a bit today
with a right kachi-age and lazy left shove that did create an opening for
Kisenosato. When the Ozeki failed to take advantage, Hakuho got down to business
and finished his foe off.
I think it's an example of how the Mongolians will create openings for their
opponents, but they just won't lie down if their foes don't notice it and take
advantage. In a similar fashion, we have seen the Mongolian rikishi drop bouts
here and there to keep the yusho race exciting, but they won't just lie down and
gift someone the yusho; the Japanese rikishi has got to largely achieve things
on his own and then the Mongolians will cooperate. Sure, the two Yokozuna and
Kakuryu could have started losing from day 9 when the Japanese rikishi started
falling behind, but no one had done anything to create excitement, and so the
three have just turned on the gas and taken over the basho.
The result of the day's final two bouts means that Hakuho is once again in sole
possession of 1st place at 12-0 while Harumafuji and Kakuryu linger behind at
11-1. It's possible that Hakuho may drop a bout the final three days, but I'd be
shocked if he dropped a bout plus a playoff for the yusho. The Sumo Association
has done all they can do to try and create a domestic rival for Hakuho, but I
don't think they have any choice now but to sit back and take their medicine as
Hakuho claims the all-time yusho mark possibly by the end of the year.
Reviewing the sanyaku rikishi, Sekiwake Tochiohzan got the deep left inside at
the tachi-ai and briefly had moro-zashi forcing Ozeki Kotoshogiku towards the
edge, and when Kotoshogiku tried to shake off one of the inner grips by moving
to the side, Tochiohzan capitalized by slapping him down by the shoulder. This
was a perfect example illustrating how Tochiohzan has risen above the two
Japanese Ozeki and quietly become the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke. Both
dudes end the day at 6-6 but the Geeku has yet to fight both Yokozuna. Ouch!
say one thing about Sekiwake Goeido's 9-3 start...as fake as it's all been, the
acting hasn't been terrible. Today M4 Yoshikaze was his usual feisty self
dictating the pace of the bout early on with some wild tsuppari, but he
purposefully took any lower body out of his attack and then offered up an
extended left arm for Goeido to grab and throw him down kote-nage style. I mean,
you look at this fall Yoshikaze is taking in the pic at right ,and it's totally
exaggerated and the result of a rikishi going mukiryoku in the ring. If
someone tries to throw you down with a kote-nage, you counter with a scoop throw
or inner belt throw of your own...with at least one foot planted!
Regardless, Goeido moves to 9-3 as mentioned before, but I'm not buying any of
it. I don't think they'll hype Goeido for Ozeki in May just because we all know
how it will turn out. The Sekiwake is simply being propped up in his hometown of
Osaka, nothing more. Yoshikaze falls to 7-5 but should easily get his
The reason nobody cares about Goeido anymore outside of Kansai is because of M1
Endoh, who is on the brink of reaching the sanyaku. Can you imagine the hype for
his sanyaku debut? The fans will be like Goeiwho? Endoh's opponent
was Komusubi Shohozan who was clearly out to send a message in this hidari-yotsu
affair forcing Endoh back quickly to the edge using his brute strength and a
stifling right outer grip, but Endoh survived at the edge thanks to the tawara
and Shohozan's unpolished yotsu-zumo skills. Forcing the action back to the
center of the ring, Endoh fished for a righter outer of his own, but Shohozan
was a man on a mission forcing Endoh to the brink yet again, but the youngster
survived a second time this time grabbing a right outer grip to counter, and
counter he did using his superior yotsu skills to drive Shohozan back across the
ring and out for a swell comeback win. Endoh moves to 6-6 with the win, and
while everyone would like to see him get his eight, seven wins for his first
go-around among the jo'i would be a success. As for Shohozan, he falls to 5-7
and was pissed. I think the first lesson someone taught me in Japan while
watching sumo was that the guys who have been around awhile hate losing
to the young guns who get all the hype. You could see that in Shohozan's
Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Toyonoshima was on defense from the start in
his migi-yotsu clash with M3 Takayasu, but Takayasu's force-out attempt was
really grounded to the dohyo, and so as the couple neared the edge of the ring,
Toyonoshima moved laterally and easily dumped Takayasu to the clay with a left
kote-nage throw. Toyonoshima's still got life at 5-7 while Takayasu's was
snuffed out officially at 4-8.
In bout of interest from the hiramaku, rookie Terunofuji really took it to M3
Kaisei in a migi-yotsu contest where the rookie had the left outer grip. I know
that Kaisei hasn't exactly been striking the fear of the Gods into anybody this
basho, but he's a big, seasoned veteran with tons of experience fighting this
high, so to see Terunofuji go chest to chest and force Kaisei out in just a few
seconds was quite impressive to me. Kaisei (3-9) tried to dig in, but Terunofuji
was just too powerful and too good on this day as he moves to 5-7.
M4 Ikioi was looking for something inside, but he didn't set it up with a good
tachi-ai. M10 Myogiryu on the other hand did charge hard easily getting the
inside position and forcing Ikioi back so quickly, he couldn't move laterally
and provided the big push-out dummy in the end. Ikioi's make-koshi becomes
official with the loss while Myogiryu has somehow stayed alive at 5-7.
M11 Osunaarashi came back from his kyujo today and why not? At 7-4 coming in he
only needs one more win to clinch his eight, but M5 Aoiyama was a tall task for
him today. These two couldn't get in sync at the tachi-ai, and Osunaarashi came
out the worse for wear as Aoiyama immediately pounded him backwards with the
hissing tsuppari. Osunaarashi sorta regrouped, but you could see that he
couldn't put significant weight on his right leg, and so his counter attack was
reduced to these ugly, wild girl slaps that of course had no effect as Aoiyama
easily rushed in and pulled the Ejyptian down hataki-komi style. Both rikishi
end the day at 7-5 and should pick up kachi-koshi.
As for Osunaarashi's injury, I think there's been a bit of confusion because the
injury has been reported to be at the base of his leg (ashi no tsukune).
Well, the base of one's leg is actually where it meets the torso, not down in
the foot area, and so that's why Osunaarashi has taping so high up on his thigh.
I actually had this exact injury last fall that I suffered playing volleyball.
In my case, it was my left leg, and I injured it on the front row trying to
plant my foot as I went up to swing. The injury was nagging, but it wasn't
something that kept me from continuing to play. It was tough to get any leverage
though on that front row whether I was swinging or whether I was going up to
block, and I can only imagine how tough it would be to try and defend myself
against a dude weighing 180 kilos trying to rip my head off. I'm rooting for
Osunaarashi to get that final win due to his sheer grit.
M11 Tokushoryu picked up his eighth win today striking hard against M5
Chiyootori and going for the immediate offensive pulldown. I don't mind this
move because it's set up with a hard tachi-ai, and I'm sure Chiyootori (8-4)
either let up a bit or was hung over after celebrating his kachi-koshi the night
M12 Chiyomaru and M6 Takekaze felt each other out (as opposed to up) from the
tachi-ai hoping for the cheap pull, but with neither dude on offense, it
resulted in a stalemate. Finally, Chiyomaru did what he should have done from
the tachi-ai and blazed forward shoving Takekaze out with authority using his
nifty oshi attack. It's Chiyomaru's turn to hit the bottle tonight at 8-4 while
Takekaze should still get his at 7-5.
As much as I enjoy watching M15 Takanoiwa fight, it was nice to see M6
Aminishiki just pick him apart today using his long arms to keep the Mongolian
completely away from the belt, and then timing a perfect lunge for the outer
grip, which he used to drag Takanoiwa clear outta the ring in just a matter of
seconds. Aminishiki improves to 7-5 with the win while Takanoiwa will live with
it at 8-4.
M7 Chiyotairyu continues to impress as long as the word "hiki" is not
part of the equation. Today he was balls to the wall again battering M13 Jokoryu
back so hard and fast that Jokoryu was nearly able to counter at the edge as
Chiyotairyu created so much distance due to his power. Jokoryu tried to slip
left at the edge and grab Chiyotairyu's belt to assist him out of the ring
first, but by the time Chiyotairyu stepped out, Jokoryu was well beyond the
plane of the dohyo--not just the tawara, so it was an easy call in favor of
Chiyotairyu, who incredibly finds himself at 7-5 after that horrific start.
M8 Kyokutenho picked up kachi-koshi today in a migi-yotsu bout against M14
Azumaryu (5-7) where the Chauffeur enjoyed the left outer grip. This was a
fairly methodical force-out win as Kyokutenho looks to fight well past the age
Finally, let's end with M8 Takarafuji, who is one of the few hira-maku rikishi
who actually has the balls to go chest to chest with M9 Gagamaru in a straight
up belt fight. Today the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu, but T-Fooj demanded and
got the right outer grip. As he began a methodical force-out charge, Gagamaru
attempted a nifty counter tsuki-otoshi with the right hand that really woke
Takarafuji up, and he wasted no time from there committing on a belt throw that
twisted Gagamaru around 180 degrees setting up the easy manlove pushout in the
end. I loved everything about Takarafuji's sumo today as he moves to 7-5 while
Gagamaru is outta room at 5-7.
Martin makes a rare but welcome return tomorrow.
Day 11 Comments (Matt
Before we get started, I just need to answer Kane's question from the
end of his Day 10 report. We all win, baby. We all win.
Howdy, neighborini! It may help to check the
online. Plus, Araibira now has a nice quick recap of the bouts (see
here), which saves me from having to plow through all details and
instead pick out the interesting bits.
The Mongolian Triumvirate
Entering Day 11, we are already down to three contenders for the cup.
Hakuho, naturally. Then
who may be starting to put something together here after a rather weak
four-basho stretch from Haru through Aki last year. And now our
theoretical Yokozuna candidate
Having read the reports so far, you know why it's theoretical. I'll just
add that I heard the Day 9(?) color commentator (Mainoumi, I think) talk
about how Kakuryu is not doing his brand of sumo. This is nothing new if
you're reading Mike's reports, as Kak has been backpedaling and all over
the place, but it means that the media and the Association are making it
clear that a promotion is not in the cards this time.
And they are smart to send a clear signal, lest Hak and HowDo get any
ideas about helping out their countryman too much right now, at what
would be the wrong time. Not that I think those two are so dumb -- not
one, not two, but THREE red and blue and red flags representing the top
rank in Japan's national sport at the same time? Yeeekers, Sneekers. It
does mean that we can expect this to all come down to Day 15 and that a
sitting Yokozuna will win out. I'd guess that HowDo may yet drop a bout,
in which case a HowDo win and subsequent loss in the playoff might be
the likely outcome. In any case, I'm not optimistic for a clean finish,
so keep your eyeballs (and other balls ... like, basketballs, and
Chiyomarus) tuned to Sumotalk for Mike's analysis.
I do wonder, though, whether Kakuryu really could put together 15 days
of glorious forward-moving sumo and bank 13-14 wins every basho if he
just wanted to. Would he really dominate guys who are solid on the
mawashi and bigger and stronger? Kise has dominated Kak pretty
consistently and Geeku holds a career edge on Kak, including four of the
last six bouts. Okinoumi has won his last three against the
Ozeki. Meanwhile, Kakuryu dominates over smaller opponents, going 15-0
against Takekaze and 8-0 over Shohozan, for example. Also, at 28 years
old, Kak is just five months younger than Hakuho and a year younger than
HowDo. He's not going to get stronger. Will he develop more moves or
technique that push him to the top? I would guess not. I suspect that he
moves backwards because he has to -- the competition is too strong for
him to consistently drive out with a full frontal attack.
And I don't think he's just taking a step back, either, at least not to
the extent that Mike seems to suggest. There are BIG, BIG rewards for
being Yokozuna. If he could do it, really on his own, he would just go
for it and take the big prize. Good for the sport only matters so much
compared to good for me.
As for his sumo today? Kak faced off against
against whom he had a 16-15 record coming into the bout. Oh Snap is just
about 10 kg heavier than Kak and is good at getting inside position,
where Kak's skills may not be as useful. Today, the Sekiwake indeed got
that inside position after a slappy tachi-ai, at which point the Ozeki
backpedaled and slapped him down before any belt action could
occur. Kakuryu remains in contention at 9-1, while Oh Snap has most of
his hard bouts out of the way and could turn 5-6 into at kachi-koshi
I'll finish this section with a short recap of the bouts of the two more
likely contenders. Harumafuji got off to a quick start against
driving the Ozeki back with a pushing attack. Kise spun to his right,
getting the Yokozuna off balance a bit, but HowDo quickly recovered and
re-started his pushing, also mixing in a quick slap-down attempt between
hits. The Kid couldn't keep up with the activity level, and HowDo (11-0)
committed more fully to a hataki-komi that brought his opponent (8-3)
down. Nothing to say about Kise -- he's where he belongs, more or less.
As for the other Yokozuna, The Apex Predator of Sumo faced some
delicious-looking prey in Sekiwake
and devoured him quickly. At the tachi-ai, both men got right inside
position, but Goeido had slightly better position and drove forward. So
Hakuho quickly shifts into koto-nage mode on Goeido's right arm, swung
his partner 'round, and then let go so as to shove him out. Carna-licious.
Goeido's still happy with his 8-3 mark.
Young Guns, a.k.a. the Endoh Section
So, I managed to not start a sumo report with Endoh, but we gotta cover
it because that's what all the fans want. Right?
Hype or not, the kid has some skills. We didn't have a Day 5 report, but
that escape at the edge over Kisenosato? Holy shit! You never see a
guy just standing in the ring doing nothing while his opponent jumps
out. I think he tapped Kise on the arm on his way out, and that's
it. Impressive timing and agility to move at just the right moment.
A few days ago, the color commentator did a nice breakdown of the
Day 8 bout
between Endoh and Osunaarashi (quick aside: really too bad that the
Egyptian got hurt. He's also a great story for sumo). He pointed out
that Endoh had great ring sense to not try for a right outer grip,
because Big Sand (we've got to call him that, right? Sandman would be
obvious if this were boxing, but it ain't) already had a strong grip
with the outer right and would gain a powerful double grip if Endoh
didn't stay away. Sure enough, Endoh could trust in his ability to
counter at the edge, which he did beautifully, in part by keeping his
own grip up to the last second.
That said, the problem I see so far is that Endoh NEEDS to
counter so often to win. He's really good at it, and it shows real sumo
talent, but he's cut from a very different cloth than the typical fast
riser (like Mr. Big Sand -- a strong guy who has a chance to learn more
on the job, as it were). It's no sure thing that he'll be able to
develop enough power for a forward-moving attack to become his mainstay
diet, with the counters at the edge as a particularly potent spice. If
he doesn't, it's hard to see how he could do anything but disappoint the
enormous amount of hype. It's very fortunate that he seems to have the
mental makeup to deal with it all in stride.
All that said, today's Endoh match did feature some forward-moving sumo
from the M1 against Komusubi
It was a straightforward tsuppari affair, with Endoh ending a little
back-and-forth by getting some good hand position on Tugboat's chest and
moving him back and out to go to 5-6. Toyo (4-7) needs to win out for
I'm out of Sumo-writing time, so just a few more things. The two rookies
have looked like they belong in Makunouchi. Terunofuji is only 4-7 so
far, but has a sumo body and good fundamentals. Chiyomaru is 7-4 and
moves well for being so round.
Satoyama's Day 8 win over Gagamaru was epic. I love the David and
Goliath part of sumo and enjoy watching the little guys find a way, any
way, to pick up wins against the 200 kg behemoths. Unfortunately, I
don't think the Slimy Potato can stick around the division.
Koto-o-shit is in trouble much faster than I thought would happen. I
guess that when you lose it, you just lose it. It was fun to root for
the guy back when he went full bore. I guess a proper obituary will be
Day 10 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
fans seem to lean kinda towards the home team (more like homeland team). These
days with the Mongolians wiping the turf with anyone from Japan it must feel
like being from New York and watching the Boston Red Sox beat your beloved
Yankees into the dirt every frikkin' time!
to have guys hyped into the stratosphere for two months and then knocked
back to earth by their own lack of (fill in the blank) has gotta be like finally
getting to see your favorite celebrity in person and they're in a bad mood!
report or two ago Mike explained the reasons for the cool response the Osaka
crowd has been throwing at Kakuryu's performance. And as I mentioned a week ago,
this kinda thing must wreak havoc with Kak's sense of reality. I know the Ozeki is used to working in
the shadows, but dayum, the lack of interest in his sparkling sumo skill set is
deafening. I get the whole "root for what you grew up with" but geez looeez…Not
like it's a big deal for the guy or anything…just a Yokozuna run!!!
alas I know that nothing I write or say will get the Sumo Association to make
any changes to their beloved indigenous sport…
And I often forget that we as gaijin won't ever quite understand the ins and
outs of ancient cultures that are not our own.
But hey…I dig this sport like waking up next to the right set of (again fill in
the blank)! So let's stop waxing the short hairs 'cause Haru Basho 2014 Day 10
has finally arrived like a souped up road bike!...let's grab our cheap shades,
steel toed boots, leather gloves and leather jackets and start pedaling!
Masunoyama (4-5) is starting to remind me of an uber-orbicular Yoshikaze. It's
easy to understand why…you can almost see the oxygen tank gauge sliding down as
soon as his bouts begin…so as soon as the party begins he wisely picks up the
buffet table and just throws it at his dance partner.
This being the case, describing his match would require way too much ink (Mike
said he wants to cut costs on office materials) so lets just say Juryo mainstay
Asasekiryu (5-5) was befuddled by a prolonged deluge of lunch meats, finger
cakes and waffles and succumbed to a breathless kime-dashi by the great Swami
Color commentator Mainoumi said Satoyama is skilled at the shite-nage but he
needs more neck strength and I say we can all use a little more of whatever he
was saying there….
The ever short Satoyama wiggled his way to Makuuchi last basho and now it seems
he may be half-piking his way back to Juryo. Everything went right (in Satoimo's
alternate sumo dimension) against M10 Mongolian, Terunofuji. Slimy Potato got
his head dug in right around belt level and worked some kinda moro-zashi forcing
his opponent to stand up straight and grab the back of his belt with both hands.
When Terunofuji would attempt okuri-nage to toss the little guy outta the ring,
Sato would spread his legs and drag his feet along the clay. Finally, Terunofuji
(3-7) worked the persistent Satoyama (3-7) down for a well earned uwate-nage
Takarafuji got the jump off the line against M12 Chiyomaru and was literally
halfway across the shikiri-sen before his unusually small faced foe had time to
Chiyo did recover well (mostly because Takarafuji chose to stand up straight)
and greeted his opponent with a half decent nodowa. Fuji was somehow able to use
his chest to shove Chiyomaru (who chose not to grab any belt) back and
eventually out of bounds. Strange bout that left Takarafuji at a symmetrical 5-5
and Chiyomaru at 6-4.
M7 Chiyotairyu worked hard working M15 Takanoiwa back hard delaying the
Mongolian's hard fought kachi-koshi with sound, forward moving power sumo
(hard). That Chiyotairyu…I tell ya these kids today! Chiyo is unnecessarily 5-5
while Takanoiwa sits at 7-3.
M11 Osunaarashi withdrew from the tournament with an ankle injury he suffered
during his loss to Endoh. His oyakata said he doesn't want to pressure him but
although the doctor suggested he wait a week Osu still may return to the Haru
basho being so close to an important kachi-koshi. M5 Chiyootori gets the 7-3
default win and him achieving kachi koshi or double digit wins this basho can
only be good for sumo. Kokonoe heya is a big deal and the two new Chiyo kids are
making some welcome noise.
Injured M10 Myogiryu took his sweet time getting into his crouch and that made
M4 Yoshikaze wait even longer while he bounced and stared at everyone's favorite
wired wonderboy. Monster Drink finally had enough, bitch shoved Myo and glared
at him with great disdain. He didn't even do the apologetic bow and karate chop
that we've all grown to love so very much.
But no matta, they got it right on the do over and Yoshi shoved Myogiryu off the
hill with a potent blend of strong tachi-ai and some momentum charged tsuppari
attack. Yoshi, at 7-3, approaches kachi-koshi while Myogi falls to 4-6 and let's
hope he heals up 'cos he's way below his normal performance level.
M1 Endoh (4-5), who has already been graced with some hefty kensho (50 by day 9)
has been tossed around and rolled off of the dohyo a lot this basho. I'm sure
some out there are beginning to doubt his abilities after getting clobbered so
Jo'i Bar and Grille.
Is he a pretender to the throne? I'm gonna wait and a see how the year plays out
and in the meantime enjoy watching the "kid" find his place in the red sun.
Stepping up on the knoll on this night I'm sure he was hoping to pull off some
kinda sumpin' if for no other reason than to grab some of that kensho dough that
tumescently wealthy fans are throwing at him. Evidently Sekiwake Tochiohzan
(also 4-5) was thinkin' the same thing.
They met each other hard and low at the tachi-ai and both men felt equally solid
impact as they stood up straight in tandem and then got busy. Now Endoh was
unable to gain migi-yotsu and Tochiohzan was similarly unable to grab
hidari-yotsu as a potential stalemate seem probable.
if they hired the same choreographer, they each started to work their opponent's
upper body and the erratic Sekiwake locked up Endoh's armpits, started to twist
him back and forth and the two rikishi finally fell off the dohyo together like
overweight synchronized swimmers. I swear if they'd crossed the rope at the same
time it would have been a perfect performance but alas Endoh messed up the whole
thing and went out first.
I hope the slightly richer Tochiohzan (5-5) at least tipped the now 4-6 Endoh.
Goeido injected henka into the stream of stellar wins he's pulled off this basho
and M2 Okinoumi kinda said "Awww maaaannn... just forget it!". Goeido grabbed
Oki's belt, spun him around and worked him back. As he walked Okinoumi into the
loser's circle I felt like I was already there to greet him. Goeido rockets to
kachi-koshi (8-2) and stays within striking distance of the basho as Okinoumi
canoes his way down stream to an early make-koshi.
It's safe to say that the faltering M4 Ikioi (3-6) does NOT have the rep of a
henka meister like say Takekaze. So I'm gonna say that an injury may be the
reason he stepped out of the way of Mr. Weak Tachi-ai himself, Ozeki Kisenosato
(7-2). Kise recovered quickly and pursued Iki Shuffle as the suddenly action
paused mid ring.
The two men kinda leaned against each other's chests for a bit and Kise then
easily walked / belly bumped his man backwards and off the dohyo. Other than a
brief belt grip (hidari-yotsu) and then release by Ikioi not much took place in
the way of strategy after the initial henka. Kisenosato bags kachi-koshi and
stays in the yusho hunt while Ikioi falls to 4-6.
Kotoshogiku (5-4) needs some rehab. He starts each basho off kinda sorta healthy
but mid-basho he appears to be in a lot of pain. He and M3 Takayasu (3-6)
barreled into each other at the gate but neither man gave an inch. Koto started
working his trademark belly bump technique (gaburi-yori) and did move Takayasu
back towards the line but tweren't like it used to be.
After the initial charge, Taka wasn't moved by Kotoshogiku's repeated attempts
to shove his way to a win. Takayasu made no bones about what he wanted and after
his third sukui-nage effort he finally tossed the aching Ozeki to floor.
Takayasu improves to healthy 4-6 while Kotoshogiku needs someone to kiss his boo
boos at 5-5. He was really favoring his right arm after the loss so lets hope he
gets healed up soon.
Komusubi and honest sumo athlete, Toyonoshima (4-5) won the tachi-ai getting
solid inside grip on Ozeki Kakuryu's (8-1) torso but Kak went into this potent
extra level we rarely get to see and violently shook off his opponent. Kak
suddenly gained a secure outside migi-yotsu and a strong inside hold of Toyo's
torso and shoved him hard off the dohyo for a rocking' yori-kiri vic. Compare
this to his somewhat casual loss to Okinoumi. Mike's had this Kakuryu ((9-1)
pegged for a while and no telling' what kinda damage he could do if he was full
Yokozuna Hakuho (10-0) picked up the tissue paper that is Sekiwake Kotooshu
(1-9) and blew him to the ground with what looked like a demonstration of
correct uwate-nage kimari-te.
natured Yokozuna Harumafuji (10-0) exercised some aggressive nodowa / tsuppari /
bitch slaps to quickly shove the always smiling Komusubi Shohozan (4-6) out of
the winner's circle.
brought to mind that Colombian coke dealer in Scarface as he gave Shoho a F. U.
chest bump long after the bell just to further endear himself to a loyal and
adoring Japanese sumo public!
I tell ya…this second Monday spot is a comfy seat to be in…I have the benefit of
a weeks worth of sumo talk veterans thoughts and insights in my databank…the
rikishi and announcers have shown their cards and I know I got a truckload of
basho ahead of me! Yeah baby…sweet!
Let's just hope the sumo titans offers us some real surprises as the Haru
contest rumbles forward...and speaking of contests…I wonder who won this classic
Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
aspect that made former Yokozuna Asashoryu so great was that he was never run
down from behind to give up the yusho. In other words, if at any point he was
the sole leader of a basho, he took the yusho without fail. And as great as
Asashoryu as, Hakuho has been even better continuing on that legacy of never
being run down from behind. It wouldn't surprise me if Harumafuji was run
down eventually in his career, but it won't happen to Hakuho in his prime, so as
we kick off week 2, the yusho is already in the bag for one of the Yokozuna,
which means that Kakuryu's run is over (not that anyone took it seriously to
begin with) and the probability of a Japanese rikishi capturing the yusho ended
before we even hit the weekend (first weekend or middle weekend...take your
pick). Since I want to instill a ray of hope in all of you, however, I am going
to extend my official leaderboard down to the two-loss rikishi just so we can
all feel good about having some Japanese rikishi on the board.
With that said, as we entered day 9 the leaderboard shook out like this:
8-0: Hakuho, Harumafuji
7-1: Kakuryu, Osunaarashi
Kisenosato, Goeido, Takekaze, Takanoiwa
Let's start from the top and work our way down beginning with the leaderboard,
which means first up his Yokozuna Hakuho who entertained Sekiwake Tochiohzan.
Tochiohzan actually shaded left and swiped at Hakuho's right arm at the tachi-ai
denying him the early right inside position, but Hakuho squared back up so
quickly and this time got Tochiohzan in moro-zashi sticking the fork in his foe
at that instant rendering the subsequent yori-kiri academic. I've still yet to
detect a bead of sweat on Hakuho's body as he moves to a comfortable 9-0 while
Tochiohzan falls to 4-5.
Yokozuna Harumafuji used a right nodowa at the tachi-ai pushing Sekiwake
Kotooshu back to the edge, and as the Sekiwake leaned back forward to try and
stave off the choke hold, the Yokozuna shifted gears to his right and
yanked/slapped Kotooshu down by the right arm and shoulder for a win even easier
than Hakuho's. Harumafuji is cruising as well at 9-0 and whatever happened to
those bum ankles of his? Kotooshu's make-koshi becomes official, and I don't see
how he doesn't retire before the end of the basho.
With both of our undefeated rikishi safely through (yes, I did type that with a
straight face), let's move to the one-loss rikishi starting with Ozeki Kakuryu
who gained the immediate right outer grip from the tachi-ai against M3 Takayasu.
This was one of those bouts where the outer grip was so wide open that you have
to grab it, but Kakuryu next needed to establish an inside presence before he
attacked. With Takayasu standing a bit sideways, the Ozeki never could mount a
full frontal charge, so he tried a dashi-nage and suso-harai in quick
succession, and while neither of those moves felled Takayasu, they did throw him
off balance enough to where the Kak firmly got to the inside as well and was
able to force his opponent back and across the straw. Kakuryu clinches
kachi-koshi at 8-1 while Takayasu (3-6) was largely a prop in this one.
M11 Osunaarashi got a taste of a rikishi higher up in the ranks for the second
day in a row with M6 Takekaze, and the veteran's style really plays right into
Osunaarashi's hands since the Ejyptian doesn't come head first out of the gate
and is largely henka proof. After an ugly tachi-ai from both rikishi,
Osunaarashi had a clear path to the left inside and right outer grip, but he
opted to just try and bludgeon Takekaze down with a pull maneuver. When he
struck out the first time, he tried it again after some movement and then a
third time, but you get into a strictly pull affair with a veteran dude who has
made a living off of pull sumo, and the momentum shifts to the older guy, and
Takekaze showed why exploiting Osunaarashi's green sumo and shoving him out in
the end. Don't look now but Takekaze has pulled himself even with Osunaarashi at
Moving to the two-loss rikishi on the day, Ozeki Kisenosato faced fellow Ozeki
Kotoshogiku in a pretty good clash of yotsu-zumo. Kotoshogiku jumped out of the
gate with left inside, but the Kid dug in well, and neither could grab that
clinching outer grip, so after about 20 seconds, Kisenosato went for a left
inner belt throw that knocked the Geeku off balance and all the way over to the
edge where he would finish him off straight way with the force-out win.
Kisenosato improves to 7-2 while Kotoshogiku falls to a precarious 5-4
considering his competition the rest of the way.
The most anticipated bout of the day for the domestic fans was Sekiwake Goeido
vs. M1 Endoh. Even the NHK announcers were speculating whether all the buzz in
the arena prior to the bout was for Endoh or the hometown favorite, Goeido. The
Sekiwake shaded left at the tachi-ai and came with a left hari-te that connected
harmlessly at the side of Endoh's head, and so with Goeido moving to Endoh's
right, Elvis showed off one of the greatest moves I've ever seen in sumo (or
not) spinning 360 degrees to his left...the opposite way that Goeido was moving!
up facing the center of the ring near the edge after his useless pirouette, and
Goeido was right there to hammer the final nail in the coffin with some shoves
to the chest sending Endoh sliding down the side of the dohyo on his back. I
think even the Japanese fans could tell this bout was fake, especially after
watching the replays. With Goeido moving to his left, the obvious reaction from
Endoh is to turn to his right in an effort to stay square with his opponent and
get the right arm to the inside, something he could have easily done if he
wanted to compete in this bout, but he made the decision to give the hometown
boy the glory, and I can't really blame him. Win or lose...kachi-koshi or
make-koshi, Endoh is still the biggest story in sumo, so there was zero harm
done in giving up this bout. The end result is Goeido's improving to 7-2 and
staying on the leaderboard while Endoh should be able to overcome his 4-5.
Our final two-loss rikishi was M15 Takanoiwa who used a right kachi-age to keep
M13 Jokoryu upright and away from Takanoiwa's belt, and with Jokoryu trying to
get back in close, Takanoiwa snuck into moro-zashi, forced Jokoryu (4-5) back to
the edge, and shoved him out for good with a few paws to the chest. At 7-2,
Takanoiwa should be paired with a few dance partners higher up the ranks, and
I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do. Remember how he schooled Endoh
With the dust settled surrounding our leaders, this is how the leaderboard
shapes up now:
9-0: Hakuho, Harumafuji
7-2: Kisenosato, Goeido, Takekaze, Osunaarashi, Takanoiwa
In other bouts of interest, Komusubi Toyonoshima was caught by the long arms of
Tamawashi, and the Komusubi never could get a good sniff of Tamawashi's belt (oof...can
you imagine?). Frustrated, Toyonoshima (4-5) moved laterally to shake things up,
but The Mawashi was on his every move turning Tugboat around and easily scoring
the okuri-dashi win in the end. Tamawashi is now 2-7 if you need him!
Komusubi Shohozan forced his bout with M2 Okinoumi into hidari-yotsu and then
stayed low keeping his hips back and away from an Okinoumi outer grip. Okinoumi
seemed content with letting his partner lead, and so Shohozan sprung a right
kote-nage throw that yanked Okinoumi (2-7) all the way over to the edge setting
up the oshi-dashi for Shohozan (4-5).
I think the Kokonoe-beya musta held a family council last night after their
horrible performance over the weekend because all three rikishi came out today
and won their bouts. First up was M5 Chiyootori who drove with his legs from the
tachi-ai against M2 Tochinowaka pressuring T-Wok to go for a counter pull, and
when he did, Chiyootori was on the move like stink to bait forcing Tochinowaka
(2-7) out for the easy win. Chiyootori gets back on track at 6-3.
M7 Toyohibiki used a right nodowa from the tachi-ai against M3 Kaisei and never
relented until he needed the right hand to execute the final push-out with
Kaisei straddling the rope. Total domination for Toyohibiki who improves to 3-6
while Kaisei has been just plain listless at 1-8.
When M7 Chiyotairyu's sumo includes de-ashi and doesn't contain a nonsensical
pull, the outcome is usually devastating for his opponent. Today's victim was M4
Ikioi, and I'm baffled why Chiyotairyu doesn't do this day in and day out. 4-5
is still underachieving for Chiyotairyu while Ikioi falls to the same record.
M9 Gagamaru jumped the gun against M5 Aoiyama and knew it, but just as he let up
to reload, Aoiyama charged forward never having touched his left fist to the
dirt, and the result was the immediate force-out win for Aoiyama before Gagamaru
could even utter WTF? He glared at the chief judge as he should have, but the
referee and judges were all lazy in this one as Gagamaru got jobbed by the false
start that was never called. I'm not saying Gagamaru (3-6) was going to win this
one, but when the referee and judges fail to do their job, he has a legitimate
beef. Aoiyama skates to 6-3 with the gift.
It's been hard to figure out how injured M10 Myogiryu is, but I'm sure he's not
100%. Still, if you know that M6 Aminishiki is not going to charge hard, why not
take it to him yourself? And that's exactly what Myogiryu did using a right
nodowa to send Aminishiki back near the hay bales, and as Shneaky looked to duck
back towards the center of the ring, Myogiryu gladly assisted him with a reverse
pull that sent Aminishiki to the other side of the dohyo where Myogiryu easily
pushed him across for good. Both gentlemen end the day at 4-5.
Getting to our final Kokonoe rikishi, M12 Chiyomaru greeted M8 Kyokutenho with
two hands to the throat followed by a quick pull. It was a dangerous tactic
against an experienced guy like Tenho, but it worked today as Kyokutenho just
stumbled forward and down to the clay. I thought a potent Chiyomaru oshi attack
could have kept his older foe away from the belt today, but Chiyomaru will take
the win and his 6-3 record. Kyokutenho falls to the same mark.
M9 Kitataiki is clearly injured this basho. His left hamstring is heavily taped,
and you can just see him wilt as soon as he's forced to put any pressure on the
stump. Today in his migi gappuri clash with M15 Tenkaiho, all Tenkai the Hutt
had to do was put his weight on him and Kitataiki collapsed down and across the
straw. Both combatants leave the dohyo 3-6.
M10 Terunofuji got lazy and mounted a quick charge against M16 Kagamioh before
he really had his opponent secured. Teru's left inside was so light that as he
fruitlessly plowed straight ahead, Kagamioh (3-6) had more than enough room to
move left and execute the perfect tsuki-otoshi counter move at the edge.
Terunofuji is now on the brink at 2-7.
You cannot beat M16 Satoyama if your feet are not moving, and even M12
Sadanofuji figured that out driving his legs and letting his tsuppari attack
force Satoyama off balance and back near the straw. There was just no escape for
Imo who was pulverized by the heretofore winless Sadanofuji (1-8). Satoyama
(3-6) had a hard luck finish to his basho in January, but his shtick is
obviously not working here in Osaka.
And finally, M3 Tokitenku gained moro-zashi against M14 Masunoyama who managed
to maki-kae with the left, but Tokitenku's now right outer grip had a similar
effect, and so the Mongolian kept Masunoyama in close and in the center of the
ring tiring him out for about 15 seconds before Masunoyama just crumbled from
exhaustion. Smart play by Tokitenku who didn't allow Masunoyama to counter and
just bided his time knowing his opponent would run outta air. And that he did
falling to a 4-5 record.
Right on schedule, Kane spells me tomorrow.
Day 8 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
day 8 broadcast kicked off with a documentary about the former perennial
Sekiwake, Hasegawa. The focus was on the 1972 Haru basho where Hasegawa captured
his first career yusho while ranked at Sekiwake for the 15th basho in a row. On
day 9, he lost a tough contest to then M4 Kaiketsu but managed to stay in the
yusho race where he defeated Sekiwake Wajima on senshuraku to set up a yusho
kettei-sen with none other than Kaiketsu. The day 9 bout and the kettei-sen were
identical, and Kaiketsu tried the same soto-gake move that worked for him on day
9, but this time Hasegawa was ready for it and made his yori-kiri move before
Kaiketsu could really get established. The result was a close bout, but the
gunbai and yusho went to Hasegawa.
As I watched the documentary and things started popping out like perennial
Sekiwake...first career yusho...wild and crazy Haru basho...I was like "where
have I heard all of this before?" but fortunately they didn't tie all of this
into Goeido in order to suggest that he might be on the brink of accomplishing
something big. Of course, they didn't need to tie it to Goeido because everyone
watching could easily make the connection themselves. NHK and the Sumo
Association were not setting the fans up for a wild and crazy finish, but I
believe they were giving the fans hope. Anything that can encourage the domestic
fans to just hang in there a little bit longer can and will be hyped.
Interestingly, in 1972 six different rikishi took the yusho that year: an M5,
two different Sekiwake, an M4 (Takamiyama), an Ozeki, and the Yokozuna at the
time, Kitanofuji. As I watched some of the sumo from dudes like Hasegawa,
Kaiketsu, Wajima, etc...it was all so powerful and legit. To have rikishi strong
enough to yusho throughout the jo'i is an indication of just how difficult the
banzuke was. When I began watching sumo full time in '94, the banzuke was very
similar. You actually feared rikishi ranked between M1 and M5 as they could
defeat anyone above them on any given day. Now, however, it feels as if they
have to struggle just to fill out the Komusubi rank, and even then, the Komusubi
constantly get their asses kicked and contribute nothing to the basho. The same
can largely be said for the Sekiwake rank and what say ye of the Ozeki? Sumo
doesn't need a Japanese hero to come and save the sport; they need a host of
young guys who can produce powerful sumo each basho and give us tournaments like
the 1972 Haru basho.
With that said, let's get to the day's bouts starting with our leaderboard that
shaped up like this at the start of the day:
7-0: Hakuho, Harumafuji, Osunaarashi
6-1: Kakuryu, Goeido
penultimate bout featured Yokozuna Hakuho vs. M3 Takayasu, and the Yokozuna
controlled the bout as expected from the start easily gaining the right inside
position. Takayasu complied on the other side, and the two dug in both reaching
for the left outer. At this point, Hakuho took his sweet time similar to a cat
who has caught the mouse and then keeps him alive just to play with him before
getting bored and going for the kill. Hakuho showed no urgency, and as the bout
wore on, the roar of the crowd increased, which meant that the fans were getting
their money's worth. Hakuho tried a few maki-kae attempts, and while they didn't
work, Takayasu's inability to capitalize shows you just how done in he was.
After about 20 seconds, Hakuho finally grabbed the left outer grip and dumped
the M3 to the clay in short order. Despite the length of the bout, this was yet
another stroll through the park for Hakuho as he moves to 8-0. Takayasu dug in
well but still comes up short at 3-5.
In order to keep pace, Yokozuna Harumafuji needed to dispatch of M3 Kaisei, and
he did so in less than two seconds shading left at the tachi-ai, grabbing the
cheap outer grip, and sending Kaisei down with an easy peasy Japanesey
uwate-nage. Harumafuji has show us a few henka this basho, but it doesn't
matter. He'll kick Kaisei's ass every day this way until Tuesday, so whether he
does it with a few choke holds or a lazy henka, it doesn't matter. He's 8-0 and
making a statement that the yusho will come down to the two Yokozuna. Kaisei
falls to 1-7 for his troubles.
With both Yokozuna safely in at 8-0, let's move to the next undefeated, M11
Osunaarashi who climbed way up the charts today to fight M1 Endoh. Osunaarashi
was high again today at the tachi-ai gifting Endoh the left inside, but he used
his own left well to keep Endoh upright on the other side and deny him the
outside grip. Osunaarashi's length gave him a stifling right outer grip early
on, and so the contest was established: Osunaarashi with the upper hand and Endoh
needing a way to wriggle out of the mess. Both dudes dug in valiantly, but after
about 12 seconds Osunaarashi made his move forcing Endoh to the edge with the
right outer grip, but at the tawara Endoh spun right pushing into Osunaarashi's
left side managing to force the Ejyptian down to the clay tsuki-otoshi style an
instant before Endoh crashed own himself. This one was so close that half of the
audience didn't know who won, but when they signaled the gunbai in favor of
Endoh, the place erupted as expected.
This was a good example of how Osunaarashi
will have to hone his sumo skills in order to compete higher up on the banzuke.
I'm gonna say right now that the only guy on the board stronger than him is
Hakuho, and so if he can polish up his tachi-ai and learn to fight a little bit
lower, he's capable of doing some severe damage in the division. Osunaarashi
drops to 7-1 with the loss while Endoh has even stevened his record at 4-4, and
despite his average record, the rest of the basho is going to focus on Endoh
milestones like going above .500, kachi-koshi, double-digit wins, and ultimately
a special prize if he can win 9 or 10.
The one-loss rikishi faced each other today with Ozeki Kakuryu taking on
Sekiwake Goeido, and similarly to his bout on day 1 against Endoh, Kakuryu was
wide open at the tachi-ai and not moving forward with his legs at all. After the
two crashed off of each other, Kakuryu focused solely on retreat/pull sumo, but
Goeido was still no match for him, and so the Ozeki spun him off balance and won
by tsuki-dashi in the end. Yes, it would have been convenient to have Goeido win this bout and keep himself in the yusho race mathematically, but I think
Kakuryu gave him enough as it was with that tachi-ai and those pull tactics. If
Goeido was actually fighting at a yusho-worthy level, he'da won this bout
easily. As it stands, Kakuryu moves to 7-1 while Goeido falls to 6-2.
So, as we wrap up the leaderboard on day 8, it now looks like this:
8-0: Hakuho, Harumafuji
7-1: Kakuryu, Osunaarashi
With nothing but furries left in the race, it gives the media all the more
reason to focus the attention on Endoh and the little hurdles he clears, and so
that what we're going to get all throughout week 2.
In other bouts of interest, Komusubi Shohozan henka'd to his right against Ozeki
Kotoshogiku, and before the Ozeki could truly square back up, Shohozan assumed
moro-zashi, spun away from a Kotoshogiku yori attempt, and won with a left scoop
throw near the edge. It's an Ozeki scalp on paper, but it was obtained by dirty
pool as Shohozan sheepishly moves to 3-5 while the Geeku falls to 5-3.
Ozeki Kisenosato was wide open at the tachi-ai as usual, but M2 Tochinowaka
couldn't take advantage, so the two settled into a routine migi-yotsu contest
where the Kid eventually got the right outer grip and worked Bruised Lee over
and out yori-kiri style. There really nothing to say about this one...just
commenting on it out of respect for the Ozeki rank. Kisenosato improves to 6-2
but took himself outta this basho early. Tochinowaka is 2-6.
I think the odds are fiddy-fiddy that this is Sekiwake Kotooshu's final basho,
and you hate to see a guy go out so poorly. Today against Komusubi Toyonoshima,
Tugboat came in high at the tachi-ai leaving himself vulnerable, but the
Sekiwake could do nothing except move right and try a useless kote-nage throw
with the right hand. Toyonoshima didn't even have moro-zashi but with his foe
drifting right applying no pressure whatsoever, the Komusubi just bodied
Kotooshu across the straw for good. This was far too easy as Toyonoshima moves
to 4-4 while Kotooshu falls to 1-7. Chances are good that he'll withdraw from
the basho before getting his ass handed to him by the Mongolians.
Sekiwake Tochiohzan looked good against M4 Yoshikaze using a bruising tachi-ai
that gained him the left inside, and Cafe just didn't have anywhere to escape
except for back, but the Sekiwake caught him near the rope and pushed him out
with easy moving to 4-4 in the process. Oh has dropped too many bouts too early
because he's got the guns coming in week two. As for Yoshikaze, he sits on a
comfortable 5-3 mark.
M2 Okinoumi was a bit early at the tachi-ai, and I think he hesitated a bit
after that not sure if it would be called back because he was completely
overpowered by M1 Tamawashi's tsuppari attack in a matter of seconds. Doesn't
matter at this point as Okinoumi falls to 2-6 while The Mawashi picks up his
first win at 1-7.
I feel bad for rookie M10 Terunofuji who nearly had his elbow yanked out of
joint on day 2 at the hands of a Tokushoryu henka. I've actually seen this dude
fight a bit in Juryo, and he is not himself since being greased early on, but he
still gave M4 Ikioi all he could handle in their migi-yotsu contest today.
Wasn't meant to be, however, as Ikioi worked hard for his yori-kiri win moving
to 4-4 while Terunofuji falls to 2-6.
We haven't had a hisser like M5 Aoiyama in the division since Tosanoumi, and
today he took full advantage of a half-assed M9 Kitataiki charge, and once Aoiyama
realized that Kitataiki wasn't coming forward, he hissed his way forward with his
powerful tsuppari attack earning the tsuki-dashi win in seconds as he improves
to 5-3. Kitataiki is the opposite at 3-5 and looks dinged up to me this basho.
M5 Chiyootori looked hesitant again today against M6 Takekaze offering a weak
tachi-ai that Takekaze (6-2) easily exploited by pulling the youngster forward
and slapping him down. Not sure if Chiyootori was expecting a henka, but he had
no de-ashi today and paid the price falling to 5-3.
M11 Tokushoryu cooled off a bit today after a decent tachi-ai where he actually
moved forward and baited M6 Aminishiki into a pull, but Tokushoryu (5-3)
couldn't capitalize, and his answer was a pull maneuver himself that Aminishiki
(4-4) has seen plenty of in his career, and he knew exactly what to do when it
came pouncing forward for the oshi-dashi win.
M7 Chiyotairyu continues to struggle, and I know he beat Sadanofuji (0-8) today,
but he did it by hiki-otoshi. You have a guy like Sadanofuji who is largely
useless this basho and nothing but a big target; yet, you opt for a pull? I
mean, it worked due to his opponent, but what does it say about Chiyotairyu's
mental make-up? So much potential here going to waste as Chiyotairyu limps
forward to 3-5 while Sadanofuji is still an o'fer.
M14 Masunoyama was far too relaxed at the tachi-ai allowing M8 Kyokutenho the
left inside and solid right outer grip, and once the Chauffeur had his bearings,
it was a swift yori-kiri. Not sure what Masunoyama was thinking today as he
falls to 4-4 while Kyokutenho continues to cruise at 6-2.
M15 Takanoiwa started with tsuppari to wisely keep M8 Takarafuji away from the
belt, and Takarafuji failed to ever get in close as Takanoiwa never stayed put
and finally got the left inside allowing him to pounce and barely shove
Takarafuji (4-4) out before he stepped out himself. Takanoiwa is quietly putting
together a good basho at 6-2, and he's a possible Ginosho candidate if he can
M16 Satoyama valiantly struck forward against M9 Gagamaru and then got the hell
outta there circling the ring before getting his left arm to the inside where he
somehow stayed alive until he could grab the front right grip. Once obtained,
Imo applied the pressure and the game was on as the two went for a
nage-no-uchi-ai with Satoyama throwing with the left inside and Gagamaru the
right kote-nage. Both survived, but it allowed Satoyama to get in closer and on
round two, he used his right leg at the inside of Gagamaru's left stump to throw
him over and down for good. It was great to hear the Osaka faithful going crazy
during this bout as Satoyama ekes forward to 3-5 while Gagamaru falls to the
M12 Chiyomaru abandoned his tsuppari for the second day in a row keeping his
arms wide open at the tachi-ai and just giving M10 Myogiryu moro-zashi. Part of
me wonders if this tactic was on purpose, but regardless, a guy who has seen
plenty of action among the jo'i isn't going to blow that opportunity, and this
one wasn't even close as Myogiryu moves to 3-5 while Chiyomaru still has room to
work at 5-3.
And finally, J2 Homa sho am sweet by clinching kachi-koshi staying low with his
arms extended against M16 Kagamioh. Homasho baited Kagamioh into enough pulls to
where he finally got moro-zashi in the end forcing out his gal for an 8-0 mark.
Homasho brings 10 times the excitement to the division compared to Kagamioh
(2-6), so it was a welcome victory.
Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
favorite part about the weekend broadcasts are the guests they bring into the
booth to take advantage of the larger weekend audience, and today's guest was
Hidekazu Akai, a popular boxer back in the day from Osaka who holds the record
for 11 straight bouts where he knocked out his opponent. Long since retired, the
dude is currently an actor and a television talent, so it's a good example of
how NHK is playing every angle to try and prop up the sport...as they should. I
was a bit surprised by the first question out of Ota Announcer's mouth because
it didn't include the word "Endoh." Rather, he asked Akai-san why he liked sumo
(the intensity of a bout from start to finish) and who his favorite rikishi was
(former Ozeki Daikirin).
Akai was flanked on either side by NHK's Ota announcer and former Yokozuna
Chiyonofuji, and when they introduced the former great, they showed clips of his
first ever yusho way back in 1981 where he defeated Kitanoumi in a yusho
kettei-sen. These flashbacks are some of my favorite parts of the broadcast, and
the reason is largely due to the electricity in the arena and shots of the crowd
packed shoulder to shoulder...two elements that we just don't see anymore
unfortunately. The Sumo Association is well aware of this, and so they're
attempting to set the stage for a semi-revival by constantly hyping Endoh. In
order to create these memorable moments, it just can't be the result of the
bout. Rather, it has to be a rikishi who can create the moment with worthy
sumo...something a Japanese rikishi has been unable to do since the likes of
former Ozeki Kaio, Chiyotaikai, and Tochiazuma. So while I think they're taking
things a bit too far with the hype of Endoh, I get why it has to be done.
Speaking of chores we can't overlook, let's get to the day 7 bouts starting with
bouts of interest from the hiramaku.
I think it's safe to say that rikishi have figgered M16 Satoyama out. Imo
actually got moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M15 Takanoiwa, but the
Mongolian just pinched in tight from the outside and wasted no time yanking
Satoimo over and out. The guys that are beating Satoyama (2-5) know that they
have to take it to the smaller rikishi from the start. The guys who lose are
content to just stand there and wait. Takanoiwa improves to 5-2 with the
M12 Sadanofuji fell to 0-7 after a lengthy contest of ozumo against M14
Azumaryu. The problem with Sadanofuji is he's aligning his sumo to his opponent
and not trusting in his own attack. Either that or his problem is that
he's...well...Sadanofuji. Today in a bout that lasted about a minute,
Sadanofuji was content to get into a belt fight...with a Mongolian rikishi...and
he paid the price in the end as Azumaryu (3-4) felled him with an inside belt
Osunaarashi continued his hot start against M14 Masunoyama, but he's not doing
it with truly sound sumo. Getting away with the strength of a grizzly bear down
this low is one thing, but seeing success with it higher up the banzuke will be
difficult. Today, Osunaarashi was way too high as he usually is at the tachi-ai,
and fortunately for him, Masunoyama was unable to nudge him back with his
tsuppari attack, so about three seconds in, the Ejyptian got the left arm to the
inside, stood Masunoyama (4-3) fully upright, and then pushed him over
forcefully with a right hand at the side of Masunoyama's shoulder. This was a
powerful win that earned the tsuki-dashi kimari-te, but Osunaarashi's tachi-ai
won't fly higher in the ranks. He draws Endoh tomorrow in what should be another
great contest of strength vs. technique.
M13 Jokoryu was cooled off a bit by M8 Takarafuji in a classic belt fight where
both rikishi had the left inside position (hidari-yotsu) before Takarafuji
gained the upper hand...literally...grabbing the right uwate, and once secured,
the yori-kiri was swift and decisive as both combatants end the day at 4-3.
I was really interested to hear what Chiyonofuji had to say about his three
rikishi in the division, so we start with M7 Chiyotairyu who looked to overpower
an ailing M10 Myogiryu. Chiyotairyu came out of the gate fast with good de-ashi
knocking Myogiryu back a full step, but he immediately went for a quick pull,
and as soon as he did that, he found himself backpedaling. Myogiryu wasn't
exactly onto him like white to rice, so when Chiyotairyu mounted his second
attack, Myogiryu just stepped to the side and easily pulled the M7 down in the
process. Chiyonofuji expectedly pointed out the stupid pull maneuver early on,
and I don't know why he doesn't drill it into his prodigy. You can point to an
unnecessary pull as the cause of the majority of losses suffered by Chiyotairyu
who falls to 2-5, the same mark as Myogiryu.
I was hoping M12 Chiyomaru would turn the tables for what's fast becoming my
favorite stable, the Kokonoe-beya, but M7 Toyohibiki had other plans storming
into Chiyomaru with both hands to the neck and then an oshi attack aided by
another dumb pull from the Kokonoe prodigy that had Maru pushed back and down in
a flash. As for the comments from the oyakata, Chiyonofuji said that Chiyomaru
(5-2) has about as much shoving power as any rikishi, but his strategy to go for
a quick pull was senseless. After a horrible 0-5 start, Toyohibiki has sorta
gotten back on track at 2-5.
Before I move on, prior to the last bout, Chiyonofuji gave great insight into
the two brothers, Chiyomaru and his younger brother Chiyootori. He said that
Chiyomaru hates to do keiko and never works hard, but he always seems to do well
at the hon-basho, something that puzzles his stable master. Chiyootori, on the
other hand, is the more diligent of the two brothers, and it has shown by his
rapid ascent up the banzuke. I could sit and listen to the former greats all day
candidly give insights into the sport. Great stuff.
I think a little bit too much is being made of M8 Kyokutenho's quick start
despite his age. His success these days has a lot more to do with the weak
banzuke than it does his actually ability. The dude is crafty and still knows
how to beat a passive and dumb rikishi, but M5 Aoiyama put his ability in a bit
more perspective today. When you think of Aoiyama's sumo, the first thing that
comes to mind is someone who stands upright and waits for his opponent to charge
so he can spring the pull trap. Today against Kyokutenho, however, Aoiyama knew
what he was dealing with and charged hard outta the gate getting the left arm to
the inside, and he never stopped driving with his legs until Tenho was pushed
back and out in mere seconds. If only Aoiyama approached every bout with this
much passion... Regardless, he moves to 4-3 with the win while Kyokutenho falls
on the day, M5 Chiyootori provided the final chance to give his stable master a
win on the day with him providing color in the booth, but M9 Gagamaru proved to
be too powerful. Chiyootori was hesitant in his charge largely standing upright
and aligning his feet producing nothing but a big ole target for Gagamaru to
shove. And the simultaneous shoves came that were so powerful they knocked
Chiyootori back near the straw from the center of the ring, and there was just
nowhere to run as Gagamaru was on his gal in a flash and pushed his opponent out
for the sweet oshi-dashi win that only lacked the expressions of "BIF!"
and "POW!" to highlight the landed punches. Chiyonofuji mentioned that
Chiyootori still lacks sufficient power, which was a bit of a surprise to Ota
Announcer, but when you think about it, Chiyootori's best trait is his
persistence, not a superior tachi-ai. Chiyootori falls to 5-2 with the loss, and
I have to wonder if the Kokonoe boys knew that their stable master was in the
booth today and so were extra nervous hoping to impress. All three of them were
frankly off of their game and made silly mistakes that took them out of the bout
from the first second. Too bad because I have a mancrush on all three of them.
I was hoping that M2 Okinoumi would make another surge towards the sanyaku this
basho, but giving up moro-zashi to M4 Yoshikaze a second into your bout isn't
going to get it done. Cafe knew exactly what to do with the grip forcing
Okinoumi back in two seconds improving to 5-2. Okinoumi falls to 2-5 and can't
afford to get worked in this manner. It's an example of how Okinoumi rarely sets
anything up from the tachi-ai despite his big frame.
In the sanyaku ranks, Sekiwake Tochiohzan settled for the hidari-yotsu contest
against Komusubi Shohozan, but instead of going for moro-zashi or the right
outer grip, he went for a stupid kata-sukashi pull that had little effect on his
opponent. Luckily, Shohozan doesn't actually redefine great sumo, and so the two
hooked back up into the same hidari-yotsu position. And once again, instead of
going for a forward move, Tochiohzan went for a pull, and this time Shohozan got
him scoring a quick pushout without having set anything up himself. Stupid sumo
from Tochiohzan who falls to 3-4 while Shohozan checks in a a paltry 2-5.
Kotooshu had no plan today against M1 Endoh, and so Endoh put both hands at the
Bulgarian's neck at the tachi-ai and just yanked him down to the dirt in a
second or two. I had no problem with the pull move here because Endoh does not
want to get into a straight up belt fight with Kotooshu, but this wasn't sumo to
rave about. Kotooshu came in way too high again at the tachi-ai setting the
table, but credit Endoh for recognizing this and acting accordingly. Just like
that Endoh now stands at 3-4 with much easier competition waiting for him in
week 2. Course, I don't know how it can get much weaker than the hapless
Kotooshu at 1-6. We'll find out if Osunaarashi is for real tomorrow or whether
this recent success is due to his current rank on the banzuke.
In the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato reached for the early right outer belt grip
against Komusubi Toyonoshima, who easily gained moro-zashi on the wide open
Ozeki, but instead of driving his legs forward, it looked to me as if
Toyonoshima just stood there and allowed Kisenosato to throw him over and down
with a left kote-nage. I don't know why Kisenosato would need this win today,
but it just didn't look natural to me as Kisenosato improves to 5-2 while
Toyonoshima will gladly settle for 3-4.
Sekiwake Goeido charged hard and straight into Ozeki Kotoshogiku, which was the
first red flag in the bout, and as the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu, Goeido
spun his opponent around a half turn before just dumping him to the clay with a
left sukui-nage throw. This was way too easy, and the persistence that
Kotoshogiku displayed against Endoh in a mirror bout was nowhere to be seen.
That Goeido is out to a 6-1 start in his hometown of Osaka shouldn't be a
surprise to anyone while Kotoshogiku falls to 5-2.
was a bit of a disturbance in the force prior to the next bout as a section of
fans were actually whooping it up for...M2 Tochinowaka? I think I was more
surprised by the fact that a rikishi with foreign blood in his veins was getting
this kind of a reaction from Japanese fans, but there is a large contingent of
Japanese-Korean people in the Osaka area. Facing Ozeki Kakuryu who came in
like a wrecking ball, the two immediately hooked up in the gappuri hidari-yotsu
position and then began the most awesome display of twerking I've ever seen atop
the dohyo. Back and forth they went at the edge taking turns shoving their
crotches into the other person so much so that I heard even Robyn Thicke and
Miley Cyrus inquired about joining the Association. In the end, of course the
Kak won out as the Ozeki moves to 6-1 with the yori-kiri win while Tochinowaka
falls to 2-5. Not only does Kakuryu keep his tsuna-tori hopes alive, but I
happened to watch this bout with my wife, and we're both excited to try out a
few new things we learned today in the bedroom.
Yokozuna ranks, Harumafuji caught M3 Takayasu with a sweet right nodowa and a
few shoves that turned the M3 sideways, but after grabbing the right outer grip
at the back of Takayasu's belt, the Yokozuna went for a suso-harai move with the
right leg that was so sloppily executed, it actually created separation between
the two rikishi. Takayasu attempted to tsuppari his way into something, but
Harumafuji ducked in low, secured moro-zashi, and then ran Takayasu
unnecessarily off of the dohyo and into about the fourth row. It's sumo like
this that saddles Harumafuji with a bad reputation among the domestic fans, and
it's not totally undeserved. This was going a bit too far, but Harumafuji is
at the end of the day while Takayasu falls to 3-4.
Finally, Yokozuna Hakuho dined on his usual meal consisting of the right inside
position and left outer grip, and while M3 Kaisei (1-6) actually used his long
arm to grab a left outer of his own, it didn't matter as Hakuho dumped him with
a left belt throw a few seconds in. I still don't think Hakuho has showered
after any of his bouts it's been that easy as he matches Harumafuji's 7-0 start.
With day 8, we get our first glimpse of the leaderboard as we set up week two of
this fairly interesting basho. The dominance of the three Mongolians is so
obvious, but there are plenty of other storylines to keep us watching and the
Japanese media occupied. Back again tomorrow.
Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
of my favorite sayings goes something like "Discretion, not procrastination, is
the better part of valor". Preparing for today's report, I was searching the
interwebz for material on a pet theory I've been entertaining lately, i.e. that
motivation, the broad term, is linked to testosterone levels, because, you know,
as another saying goes, "Success is only as big as your drive" (and I honestly
can't remember whether this one was coming from a psychologist, a golfer or an
IT hardware salesman). Inevitably, I got sidetracked and ended up reading SIX
articles on the reasons for female infidelity in relationships. As it turns out,
behind all the "power game" bullshit you'll read in Cosmopolitan columns, it
essentially comes down to means and opportunity, not motive, and that still
seems counterintuitive, but not if you really think about it (it's pretty much
the same for males as well) – you see a guy/girl you like, the opportunity
presents itself, you don't need a motive to follow through, you need a damn good
one NOT to. Most of the time, the reason to not do it is risking your current
relationship (and judging from the statistics, that one isn't too solid either).
And, if you were wondering, no, I'm not really going anywhere with this, because
the initial problem was how testosterone levels link to motivation – they do,
but only if that motivation is to get laid – the more juice you got running
through you, the more cat you'll find yourself wanting and chasing. So I guess
testosterone indirectly leads to better overall success, because women are high
on the priority list of most males. And to all feminists and LGBT activists or
any PC's (yeah, it can function as a noun if I want it to) out there who've
noticed how all this is written from the point of view of the heterosexual male,
the lot of you can go suck an egg – this article is about sumo wrestlers and
you're obviously on the wrong page, so go ‘way already.
But seriously, where am I going with this? Today's rant was sparked by the
current domination of the few over the many in the few sports I'm following and
I'm somewhat intrigued by this aspect (the ghost of Sigmund Freud lurking in
everyone might be tempted to say there are good subconscious reasons for this,
like wanting to emulate the dominators in order to usurp my father's position of
power and stuff, but I assure you there's no such motive, as nature and tobacco
already took care of dad for good). However, I permanently find myself thinking
domination isn't as surprising as most would think. A small edge most of the
time makes the difference between victory and defeat, and I was fortunate enough
to experience this sumo-wise first hand, in a few mock sumo matches with another
guy, about as big as I am, slightly stronger, with similar practical experience
(i.e. close to none) but no theoretical knowledge other than common sense. To my
surprise, I got my arse handed to me pretty badly, except a couple of matches
when I could employ theoretical subtleties gleaned over years of careful
scrutiny (i.e. a morozashi and one komatasukui, or reaching down and grabbing
the opponent's inner thigh, lifting him off balance). Other than that, I could
hardly move him. Now, you can probably imagine what the outcome would have been
if he'd also been familiar with the sport, at least on a theoretical level. A
lot of my lifetime was spent with the belief (which I'm now starting to
seriously doubt) that at pro levels mental strength is really what makes the
difference. In a way, I guess it is, but sound technique and strength seem to me
a lot more important right now, and mental strength usually makes the difference
if there isn't a significant gap in these above (and by significant, I mean as
little as 5%, in whichever scale you want to use).
You might wonder what got into me all of a sudden with the long intro and all –
it's kind of a burden I'm starting to feel, with Clancy and most of the other
old school Sumotalk writers gone (in fact, I'm pretty sure the only current
writer who's been with Sumotalk longer than me is Mike – Kenji might contradict
that directly with a report, but I'm not holding my breath). So that kind of
pressure can get to a guy – aside from the obvious problem which has been oozing
from my reports for at least a couple of years now, i.e. that I'm not into it
nearly as much as I used to be.
With that out of the way, let us gently make our way to some action. M14
Azumaryu greeted veteran Asasekiryu who was visiting from Juryo. Sexy won the
battle at the tachi-ai when he got the left outside and denied his younger and
less experienced foe any mawashi grip of his own. Yori-kiri was a mere formality
from that point on, and Asasekiryu improves to 3-3 and will look to take
Azumaryu's spot, as the other Mongol falls to 2-4.
Jōkōryu looks more jō and kō than joke this tournament, as he improved to 4-2
with a solid win against rather diminutive Mongolian Kagamioh (2-4), who was
overwhelmed from the tachi-ai and could only muster token resistance in delaying
Makuuchi newcomer Chiyomaru, who may or may not be related to Chiyootori (same
family name, written with the same kanji, and hailing from the same stable,
Kokonoe), looked great so far this basho and won his 5th in a bout against
Satoyama which reminded me of Mainoumi with his very low, squatting charge.
However, Chiyomaru's huge, round belly proved a little too much to handle for
the little guy, who was quickly demolished by oshi-dashi by the adequately named
Maru (it means round, if you're wondering). The two Chiyos are definitely
showing a lot of promise and it probably helps sumo as a whole they're not
Mongolian. Oh, Satoyama falls to 2-4 with the loss and looks headed to Juryo.
Tenkaiho won the duel of the disenfranchised, gaining moro-zashi quickly and
finishing off Sadanofuji faster than you can say "Tenkaiho got his first win in
6 tries" (ok, that's not too fast, I guess). Sadanofuji is still an 0fer.
On the opposite end of the win-loss spectrum, Osunaarashi survived a half-assed
henka attempt by Mongolian Takanoiwa and regrouped, catching the evading
trickster with a perfectly executed kote-nage to improve to 6-0. The Rock falls
Myogiryu's troubles don't seem to be coming to an end any time soon, and it's
becoming pretty clear he's still injured. Today he fell to 1-5 after having
Masunoyama of all people turn his back on him. Myogiryu hit hard at the initial
charge, stopping the big man's momentum and gaining a right outer, which he
sacrificed to great effect, but somehow could not finish the guy off, even after
getting behind him for a split second, so Masunoyama recovered and got an arm
inside, winning with a throw which seemed more lucky and surprising than
desperate. Masunoyama improves to 4-2.
Kyokutenho is still looking pretty good at almost 40 years of age, improving to
5-1 with a win over Tokushoryu showcasing his superior technique. Tenho lost the
tachi-ai, relinquishing a right outside, but quickly canceled that advantage by
getting the arm deep under his foe's pit. Tokushoryu kept trying, but without
the mawashi to rely on, Tenho had no trouble manhandling him into submission at
his feet. Tokushoryu is at 4-2 despite the loss.
Mongolian rookie Terunofuji slumped to a 2-4 start in the division after he got
a taste of Toyohibiki's killed tachi-ai. The whiz kid, who debuted in May 2011
and has only suffered two make-koshi since, in mid-Makushita, was on the back
foot the whole time and could not really get any sort of offensive initiative,
ending up pushed out of the dohyo in a couple of seconds' time. He'll learn in
time, though, and with all the lack of interest and excitement in sumo lately, I
can already tell it'll be extremely interesting in the not so far future to
watch him duke it out with the likes of Osunaarashi, the Chiyo brothers, Endo or
Tatsu as Ozeki or above.
Chiyotairyu kept Kitataiki well away from any mawashi grip throughout their
bout, snaring the pulldown after a few tentative shoves. It worked like a charm
and Kitataiki could only watch powerlessly as the ground was closing in and his
opponent was retreating out of the way. Both guys are an irrelevant 2-4.
Takekaze seems to have hit upon a good recipe for dealing with sluggish East
Euro types, which consists of hitting very hard at the tachi-ai, then keeping
the lugs off balance with a series of pushes to the side. Gagamaru was
particularly powerless against this technique, and Takekaze wasted little time
in sealing the deal by oshi-dashi, improving to 4-2 and sending his large foe
down to 2-4 in the process.
Chiyootori soars to 5-1 as well with a hard-earned win against Takarafuji, whom
he deftly kept away from his belt despite losing the momentum at the tachi-ai.
Takarafuji came pretty close to winning at some point, working Otori to the
edge, but he recovered and finished the job by more oshi-dashi after surviving
some evasive maneuvers in the end. Like I said above, it'll be interesting to
see this guy's career develop, if he manages to stay away from the injuries
which have, so far, plagued his career. Lottery (I'm too lazy to check if anyone
nicknamed him before, so apologies if this isn't original) is a lackluster 3-3.
Ikioi finally got a 2nd win to kill off a 4-strong losing streak by pushing out
Aminishiki despite the latter's half-assed pulls and slaps. Sneaky falls to 3-3
and isn't looking too sharp.
Takayasu bullied his way into moro-zashi vs. Aoiyama with a courageous tachi-ai
and managed to win by yori-kiri quickly and convincingly, despite actually
losing the inside grip on the right side. Both guys are right on the .500 mark.
Endo and Tamawashi had been fed a steady diet of Ozeki and Yokozuna for the past
5 days, so it must've been a relief to face each other. It was Endo who came out
on top in the end, brushing off a moro-te tachi-ai from the Mongolian and
grabbing the nigh insurmountable double mawashi grip. Despite the finish being
yet another seemingly uneventful oshi-dashi, the damage was done down the
stretch with a well-timed dashi-nage by Endo, who records his 2nd win in as many
days. Despite being crushed like a bug under an iron heel against the very top
guys, I'm still looking forward to seeing this guy develop. Tamawashi's 0-6, on
the other hand, leaves me completely flaccid and I wouldn't be surprised to see
him finish 2-13 or thereabouts.
Toyonoshima laughed off Shohozan's more bark than bite tsuppari and pushed the
smaller guy out in about three seconds to record his 3rd win against a san'yaku
opponent this fair basho. Shohozan is 1-5 with his lone shiro-boshi coming
Speaking of whom, the one word I can think about when looking at his dismal 1-5
record, with four of those losses being straight yori-kiri, is "retirement". But
I'll give the guy a break and hope maybe, just maybe, he's somehow gonna recover
from his ever-accumulating injuries and maybe survive around the division for a
few more years. I'm not holding my breath, though. Today's tormentor was Goeido
who used nothing but straight domination and a solid right under the pit to deny
the big Bulgarian any sort of offensive position (i.e. a left uwate). The end
was a matter of time, and Goeido improves to 5-1.
Kotoshogiku used similar tactics against the similarly taller Okinoumi, but he
had to work a lot harder and for a moment I almost thought he could lose.
Okinoumi was definitely the more determined wrestler at the initial charge,
driving the bigger Geek back in the process of fishing for the preferred right
outside, but the tables were turned on him after continually being denied.
Kotoshogiku ended up using his superior mass to belly his silenced foe out for
the 5th win. Okinoumi falls to an honorable 2-4, having faced all the Ozeki and
Yokozuna, with his win over an in-form Kakuryu standing out.
Speaking of the Kak, he capitalized on Kaisei's lack of speed to demand a quick
migi-yotsu position right from the tachi-ai and ended it faster than you can say
make-koshi, which Kaisei is pretty sure to get. Kakuryu is the last of the bunch
of guys with 5 wins and could potentially play a role in the outcome of the
basho (i.e. he might upset Harumafuji and force a playoff or something like
Kisenosato was outwitted at the tachi-ai by an opponent he should NEVER lose to,
when the slippery Yoshikaze exposed Sato's lack of sharpness by wriggling his
way into a decisive double inside which he immediately used to throw the
Yokozuna wannabe onto his back. Both guys share a 4-2 record, but that doesn't
mean both records are good – Kisenosato's is actually abysmal.
On the opposite of the sharpness spectrum sits Yokozuna Hakuho, who was so
precise in his charge that Tochinowaka soon found himself in no man's land and
was so off balance Hakuho deployed a one-handed left uwate-nage and made it look
easy. Bruised Lee (why wasn't he called this sooner?! He sure gets thrown around
a lot) falls to 2-4.
and arguably least, Harumafuji henka'd a potentially dangerous opponent in
Tochiohzan, and despite there being some token contact, it was about 3 orders of
magnitude below anything resembling Yokozuna sumo. Nevertheless, Ex-Ama stays
perfect with the dubious win and must be having an eye on yet another yusho.
One look at the leader board screams yusho #29 for Hakuho, with only him,
Harumafuji and upstart Osunaarashi at 6-0, and a bunch of other guys at 5-1
(i.e. already hopelessly out of it). Sansho watch will be interesting this time,
and I'm pretty sure Chiyomaru can get a Fighting Spirit Prize. Also, I'm
guessing Osunaarashi has the NSK pretty spooked, because he's already being
paired with jo'i on day 8 (Endo) and I'm pretty sure he'll start getting
san'yaku guys if he wins that one.
I'll be back on day 13, most likely, but in the meantime you'd best be getting
ready for a heavy dose of more Mike, as we seem to be heavily understaffed this
Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
the end of day 3, the most prominent headline in the news was "Endoh fails to
break Musoyama's record for fastest kin-boshi ever." On day 2, they showed the
Akebono- Musoyama bout from day 4 of the 2004 Hatsu basho where Musoyama toppled
the Yokozuna after just seven basho and four days in the sport. Well, the 2014
Haru basho marks Endoh's seventh basho in the sport, and when he wasn't able to
beat Harumafuji on day 2, the last hope for him to break the record was beating
Hakuho yesterday, something that had zero percent chance of happening. And so
all of the media outlets lamented that Endoh was unable to establish the new
record, which got me thinking about the two points I'll lead off with today.
First, isn't it interesting that Endoh is being hyped for things he almost
accomplishes? Whether it's beating Kakuryu or setting a new record for whatever,
the biggest story is still that Endoh almost did it. I almost got Jessica
Simpson's phone number back in the day, and I almost invented Facebook first but
that Zuckerberg fellow beat me to it. It's so dangerous to hype Endoh to the
point where the biggest news of the day is what he almost accomplished because
there are so many other positives about the basho being overlooked. For example,
Chiyootori. Why is it that Kane and I are the only ones hyping this guy? I'll
bet Chiyootori reaches the sanyaku before Endoh, but don't worry, Endoh will
almost beat him to it. We can all see the potential in Endoh, and that's why
he's getting all of this hype, but let's celebrate him once he accomplishes
something, not areas where he fails.
Second, I'm glad that Musoyama was mentioned the last few days because it got me
thinking about the two rikishi (Musoyama and Endoh) and how they compare. Like
Endoh, Musoyama entered sumo out of college, and like Endoh, Musoyama fought in
the Makuuchi division before they could tie his hair into a knot. Unlike Endoh,
Musoyama rose up a much tougher banzuke, and unlike Endoh, Musoyama made an
impact from the jo'i as soon as he got there. He quickly became my favorite
rikishi because he had it all physically. He had a trademark tsuppari attack,
and if that didn't work right away, he was still a bitch at the belt. I loved
everything about him, and knew he was my new mancrush after watching
him just one basho, but he had a serious flaw: he was mentally weak. After the
2004 Aki basho when Musoyama went 13-2 taking the jun-yusho (how long will it
take Endoh to get to that same point?), he was on a Japanese TV variety show,
and they were asking him yes/no questions. He was holding two signs made from
popsicle sticks and paper, and one had an O on it for "yes" and the other had an
X for "no."
They'd ask him questions, and then he'd hold up the sign and give the answer.
Well, one of the questions was "can you become a Yokozuna in the next two
years?" and Musoyama's answer without hesitation was "no." I mean, no thinking
about it, no turning his head as if to ponder, no explanation of how difficult
it would be...just a quick and simple "no." I can't remember ever being so
disappointed in an athlete, but it was the first indication of how mentally weak
he was. The first time Musoyama was up for Ozeki promotion...I believe it was
Kyushu 2004...he started out 0-4 and ended up withdrawing with some phantom
injury. The dude was one of the most talented rikishi I've ever seen but didn't
have the mental strength to truly become one of the greatest.
Anyway, as I compared both rikishi in my mind, Musoyama was a better rikishi
than Endoh hands down. The upside to Endoh is that he's mentally tougher
("shin") than the former Ozeki, but in terms of "gi" and "tai," it's not even
close. Fortunately, Endoh doesn't have to work against the same banzuke as
Musoyama, but he's got a long way to go before he becomes a dominant rikishi. In
terms of the current Japanese rikishi...sure, he'll be one of the best, but you
just can't help notice foreigners like Terunofuji and Osunaarashi and Sakigake
who are the next generation of gaijin, and it will be something like 5 quality
foreigners against 1 quality Japanese rikishi. It's just too tough too compete
against those odds; just ask either of the two Japanese Ozeki now. My concern is
that this overhyping of Endoh is just going to lead to disappointment, the same
disappointment manifest in Kisenosato and Goeido's multiple runs at prestigious
ranks that ended up short.
Okay, enough of that. Let's turn our attention to the day 4 bouts and see if
Endoh almost won again!
It was great to see the Ho-ma Show visiting from Juryo, and he struck M15
Tenkaiho hard and then drifted right never letting Tenkaiho get his footing.
Homa Sho Was Sweet as he slapped his larger opponent down via hataki-komi
improving to 4-0 while Tenkaiho falls to 0-4.
M14 Azumaryu was way too relaxed against M16 Satoyama allowing Imo the left
inside, and as soon as the shorter rikishi grabbed the right frontal, he flipped
Ryu with ease. The cardinal rule when fighting Satoyama is don't just stand
there waiting for Satoyama (2-2) to do his thang. That's exactly what Azumaryu
(1-3) did, and it's why his stays in Makuuchi will be short.
M13 Jokoryu earned moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and immediately began his
force-out charge against M14 Masunoyama, and while Masunoyama maki-kae'd with
the left, he was already back pedaling, so Jokoryu kept pressing forward with
the right outer while slapping Masu's left away before toppling him yori-taoshi
style in a matter of seconds. Great sumo from Jokoryu who improves to 3-1 while
Masunoyama orbits to the same mark.
M12 Chiyomaru was a split second late at the tachi-ai, but he still caught M16
Kagamioh by the neck with both hands and just threw him to the side like an old
gnawed-up bone. Chiyomaru's 3-1 if you need him (and you do!) while Kagamioh is
hapless at 1-3.
M11 Tokushoryu didn't henka for once and grabbed the early right kote-nage
against M15 Takanoiwa never relenting until he had Takanoiwa hurled down to his
first loss leaving both dudes at 3-1.
M12 Sadanofuji pressed the action first with his tsuppari attack against M10
Terunofuji, but the rookie didn't panic and ultimately worked the bout to
hidari-yotsu so while Sadanofuji still pressed on, Terunofuji countered
beautifully with a shitate-nage, and after a lengthy stalemate, Terunofuji
rammed his left knee into Sada's right thigh and pushed him back from there for
the excellent yori-kiri win. This did not look like a rookie the way he showed
patience and countered, and despite his 2-2 record, this kids' gonna be great.
Unlike Sadanofuji who falls to 0-4.
M9 Gagamaru smelled blood as he should have using the quick tsuppari attack
against M11 Osunaarashi, but his feet weren't along for the ride, so when
Osunaarashi went for an ill-advised pull, Yubabamaru didn't capitalize.
Gagamaru still came forward, but Osunaarashi moved left and dragged Gaga the
Hutt down with a left outer as he tiptoed near the tawara. Gagamaru has to win
this bout after that start, but that's why he's 1-3 while Osunaarashi shines at
M10 Myogiryu got moro-zashi against M8 Takarafuji, but it was too high and
shallow, so Takarafuji pinched in well from the outside and didn't hesitate in
throwing mYogiBear down with a left kote-nage. At 1-3 you'd have to say that
Myogiryu is underachieving even with his injury. Takarafuji is a quiet 3-1.
M6 Aminishiki struck swiftly against M8 Kyokutenho and cheated right grabbing
the right outer in the process and swinging Tenho down before the 39 year-old
could get his footing. Great strategy from AminiShneaky as he moves to 2-2 while
Tenho suffers his first loss.
M6 Takekaze wriggled into moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M9 Kitataiki, and
while he's dumb, he ain't dumb enough to abandon moro-zashi, and so Takekaze immediately
forced Kitataiki back for the swift and decisive win. Takekaze improves to 3-1
which puts him on the fast track for a jo'i appearance in May...just what we
don't need. Kitataiki is 1-3.
M5 Chiyootori stood his ground at the tachi-ai trading tsuppari with M7
Toyohibiki, and as soon as Toyohibiki lurched forward, Otori stepped aside and
let him belly flop to the dirt. It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but Chiyootori
(3-1) is so collected on the dohyo that it's a shame he isn't receiving more
hype. Toyohibiki is a disastrous 0-4.
Speaking of disastrous, M7 Chiyotairyu engaged in a hurried tsuppari-ai against
M5 Aoiyama with no one really connecting. As he is wont to do, Chiyotairyu
panicked and rushed his charge allowing Aoiyama (3-1) to pull him down barely as
he kept his foot on the tawara. The difference here was the length of Aoiyama's
arms keeping Chiyotairyu (1-3) from really getting in deep and really connecting.
M4 Ikioi fiddled with moro-zashi while M3 Kaisei just took him back quickly with
the left kote-nage grip keeping him tight with the other arm. In a desperate
flurry at the edge, Kaisei finally got the right inside and the yori-kiri was
simple at that point. So much for the hometown hero making any noise as Ikioi
falls to 1-3 while Kaisei picks up his first win.
M3 Takayasu made a few mistakes namely keeping his hands high at the start and
during the bout, but he survived a bout so wild against M4 Yoshikaze that I won't
waste the bandwidth describing it. Suffice it to say that once Takayasu settled
down and finally grabbed the left inside position, he was able to set up Cafe
for the kime-dashi win. Both dudes end the day at 2-2.
Sekiwake Tochiohzan was up way too high against Komusubi Toyonoshima and
actually had a chance at moro-zashi, but Toyonoshima slipped to the right
getting that arm to the inside before maki-kae'ing with the left, and the
Sekiwake was done at that point as the Komusubi scores another impressive win
leaving both gentlemen at 2-2.
I've noticed a bit of a disturbing trend this basho from NHK, which is they show
two or three bouts a day from a camera angle off in the corner of the Shomen-West
side. I mean, if I'm going to attend an event and I have my first choice of
seats, I'm picking the seat front and center to the action, not off to one side
in the corner. I can't tell anything that's going on, and I don't get what's so
attractive about this camera angle. Speaking of things unattractive, Sekiwake
Goeido's sumo was off-centered again where he committed early to a right
kote-nage grip and evasive maneuver against Komusubi Shohozan, and while
Shohozan (0-4) almost made him pay for his retreating ways, almost only counts
in horseshoes, hand grenades, and rooting for Endoh, so the end result was a
tottari in favor of Goeido who's perfect on paper at 4-0.
M1 Tamawashi used a left nodowa and then dug his head in tight (atama wo tsukeru)
against Ozeki Kisenosato, and with the Ozeki on his heels, Tamawashi pulled the
trigger on a right kote-nage that sent the Ozeki to the brink, but Tamawashi's
foot slipped beyond the tawara in the process scarping the dirt and ending the
bout. It took quite a few replays for
them to determine a kimari-te but ended up giving the Ozeki yori-kiri in the
end. Isami-ashi was probably the correct call as Kisenosato moves to 4-0 while
Tamawashi is still winless.
Ozeki Kotoshogiku connected on a headbutt standing M1 Endoh upright and setting
up the deep left inside position for the Geeku. Endoh evaded laterally
(mawari-komu) well looking for an opening to counter with a sukui-nage or
tsuki-otoshi, but the Ozeki kept his left hand planted firmly in Endoh's chest
staying square with his opponent and pushing him out in about four seconds.
I thought this was good sumo from both parties, but it's clear how Endoh is in
over his head this high up against these veteran rikishi who have been molded
for years. The sliver lining in all of this is Endoh's presence here provides for at least one bout at the
end of the day that can be hyped even if Elvis keeps coming up on the short end
of things. Kotoshogiku improves to 3-1 while Endoh is of course looking
for his first win.
Both Ozeki Kakuryu and Sekiwake Kotooshu came in low at the tachi-ai butting
heads with Kotooshu using an extended right kachi-age to keep Kakuryu at bay, but
when the former Ozeki couldn't get inside, he stood upright giving Kakuryu the
simple left inside and right outer grip to boot, and that Kak's not gonna fumble
that gift away moving to 3-1 with the yori-kiri win while Kotooshu falls to 1-3.
Yokozuna Hakuho (4-0) secured the early right inside and left outer against M2
Okinoumi (2-2), and that spells b-a-l-l-g-a-m-e.
In the final bout of the day, Yokozuna Harumafuji used a nodowa against M2
Tochinowaka followed by a shaky pull, but Tochinowaka (1-3) was lost and couldn't
capitalize. Once HowDo gained the more stable left inside position with the
righter outer cherry on top, the yori-kiri was swift and academic. At 4-0, it
looks like this basho is going to come down to both Yokozuna in the end, and
with Osunaarashi the only hiramaku dude at 4-0, we'll likely see him paired with
some jo'i rikishi down the stretch.
I'm on the road tomorrow for a baseball tournament, so the day 5 comments will
Day 3 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
(雛祭り Hina-matsuri), also called Doll's Day or Girls' Day, is a special day in
Japan. Hinamatsuri traces its origins to an ancient Japanese custom called
hina-nagashi (雛流し, lit. "doll floating"), in which straw hina dolls are set
afloat on a boat and sent down a river to the sea, supposedly taking troubles or
bad spirits with them.
rather attractive Japanese girl happened to be watching last night's broadcast
with me (yes Japanese females DO roam free in the U.S. and some will on occasion
wander into my place…I keep a bowl of natto on rice at my doorstep just in case)
and as soon as the event started, she shook her head, "They're talking about
Endoh AGAIN?!". She also noted that all the footage is of him getting his ass
beat (she didn't say "ass"). As I pondered her comments (among other things) I
felt like we were watching the beginning of a "feel good" Hollywood movie…you
know where the young, dashing, gifted athlete gets his butt kicked all over the
room at the start but somehow learns a hard lesson and finds his way to the
championship - queue any Survivor song….ahhhhh YES!
But she was right, when all the unabashed Endoh hype pouring from the NHK Haru
Sumo broadcast is buttressed against Kakuryu's stunning pre-bout keiko session
record against Elvis (63-3) one begins to wonder "What the deuce?".
Is the disparity between the upper echelon sumo athletes and the (in this case
gifted) lower ranked rikishi THAT wide? Is Elvis The Great Off White Hope or
Then I thought about the road to glory athletes must travel in the sport of
tennis. What it's like for even the gods of Wimbledon to come up through the
ranks. Certainly, they all showed a great wealth of promise early on in their
careers and upon entering the pro ranks may have had flashes of brilliance that
indicated a potential top 10 status. But when they played against the elite of
their sport (oh how they felt honored to be on the court with their idols)…well
the defeats they suffered were stunning. First round love, love and love…pack
your bags son you'll be watching the rest of the U.S. Open on the telly.
But soon, after being sent back to play against the lower ranked mortals, their
bodies, their minds worked on a different, previously undiscovered level. They
felt quicker, stronger, sharper having stepped into that elite zone reserved for
only the best. Their "embarrassing" losses didn't discourage them for long…they
licked their wounds and got to work, hungering for another shot at that
seemingly unstoppable number 1 seed.
This is just the way of it…and it shed some light on Endoh's hard lessons and
also on why the Mongolian butchers let him in to their lair for a glimpse of
what it's like in the slaughterhouse. Stepping on to the dohyo, Endoh knew how
King Leonidas felt when he first faced off with Xerxes' army.
Despite Kitanofuji's assertion that in truth, Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kakuryu
wanted to see how to beat Endoh, I believe as Mike has stated, they wanted him
to walk with the giants down a speedier road to…that Japanese girl looked over
my shoulder and just laughed - "You're starting your report with Endoh too!" -
(OK I better get down to it…that explains my opening sentence…didn't want her to
Let's get it on Sumo loving brothers and sisters…Haru Basho 2014 - Day 3!
Up first was the man of the giant salt toss himself, Asahisho and a motivated
Mr. I Promise I'll Do Better This Basho, Takanoiwa. Both men had something to
prove as Taka had previously demonstrated a less than stellar debut and needs
badly to establish himself as a Makuuchi mainstay if for no other reason than he
has the assets to become one! Asahisho, on the other hand, has to justify the
pound of salt he throws every night so as not to seem like the salt vampire from
the original Star Trek.
At the tachi-ai Asahisho was determined to get a hold of some inner belt while
Takanoiwa seemed content to wrap his arms around his opponents torso possibly
seeking a maki-otoshi throw down. Takanoiwa found himself at the tokudawara as
Saltine dug in and started working his way to a yori-kiri victory. This is where
the bout both turned and got kinda sloppy. Takanoiwa muscled Asahisho off
balance by twisting his upper body and then spun the two rikishi towards the
center of the dohyo. Taka brought some effective tsuppari but had trouble
sealing the deal until his foe finally ran out of gas. Taka chucked him down for
a tsuki-otoshi and a 3-0 record while Asahisho returns to Juryo for a gallon of
Next up, new kid Kagamioh (0-2) stepped up against big man Tenkaiho (0-2) and
showed everyone how its done. Kagamioh yotsu-zumo'ed his opponent hard and
heavy…although he was a tad upright at the tachi-ai he survived Tenkaiho's
initial charge, grabbed inner and outer belt, lifted his heavy man and then
displayed strong footwork and impressive upper body strength as he chugged him
out for a sweet yori-taoshi victory and a 1-2 record. Tenkaiho (0-3) fell
awkwardly on his right knee so let's hope he's ok.
Masunoyama (2-0) mos def needs a good basho. Maybe he's been injured (he seems
to grab some body part at the end of every loss) but the Round Kid has been on
the downslide since he won the hearts of sumo fans that crave a touch of
Takamisakari's charismatic eccentricity. Tonight he faced off against the
inconsistent but solid mongoru rikishi, Azumaryu (1-1).
At the gun, Azza-madda-you (thanks Clancy) bounced off Spalding like a pebble
striking a basketball but not far enough to leave Masunoyama's orbit. Azumaryu
quickly grabbed a solid right outer mawashi grip and repeatedly attempted
uwate-nage but alas the planet's had evidently lined up in his rotund opponent's
favor. Much to the delight of his fans (pictured below), Spalding kicked Azu's
right leg from behind and sent him sprawling for a crafty soto-gake win and a
spiffy 3-0 tally.
Right before the next bout the NHK broadcast treated us with a pie chart
displaying the frequency of Mainoumi's winning kimari-te. Shitate-nage was
employed the most (114) as Mainoumi often used the momentum and weight of his
Just then another diminutive and uber motivated rikishi, Satoyama (1-1) brought
his quirky "whatever it takes except henka" style up against Jokoryu (1-1). What
kimari-te will the little taro root put to use was the question here but alas,
something was off at the tachi-ai. The timing, the feel…hard to say but it was
extremely lazy for both men. No matta was called and that's not gonna favor "el
slimo potato" one bit. Satoimo met the much larger Joker upright and was
immediately shoved backwards into the expensive seats. Jokoryu (2-1) will take
the win and here's to hoping Satoyama gets to do his thing more often than not
this basho. He can be fun to watch.
debonair young beast, Osunaarashi (2-0) has got his attitude locked down and I
do believe he'll be up in everyone's face in the coming months. He has size,
strength, not afraid to mix it up, he likes to clock his opponents HARD and he
shows signs of improvement every basho. With little hype people are sensing he's
gonna make some noise and it's time someone shakes things up around here (if he
ups his game after a round of jo'i matches he could make things interesting).
what appears to be a minor knee injury (Mike pointed this out on day 2) he
hunkered down against the cool new (and tubby) rikishi, Chiyomaru (2-0). Once
again, Osu stood up straight at the tachi-ai. He's actually almost upright
before the two men even meet, placing his head and shoulders above his opponent
and in the words of Consigliari Wesemann - "Hey thats sheza no good ay"..
Tubby Tompkins drove in low, shoved the upstart Egyptian fully upright and began
avigorous tsuppari onslaught and right here is where I dig this Osunaarashi
dude. When push comes to shove, Osu will turn thug on his opponent and he
started nailing Chiyomaru with a series of startling shots to the head. Where
his debut counterpart (Endoh) is a tactician and demonstrates sweet sumo
technique, Osunaarashi gets medieval on his opponent's ass if they get him riled
up. They could both benefit some by drawing from each others handbooks.
Once Osunaarashi "woke up", he worked Chiyo around the dohyo and eventually Osu
(3-0) spun his man around, crouched, grabbed mawashi and okuri-dashi'ed Tubby
Tompkins (2-1) out of bounds.
M10 Myogiryu (0-2) looked agile for the first time in a while against Kitataiki
(1-1). At the gate M. Yogisan turned Mr. K. sideways and stayed low whilst he
drove his nemesis to a quick and easy vic. Oshi-dashi was the correct call and
lets hope Myogiryu (1-2) is tarted to gain some wellness percentage points.
Something seemed a bit odd about M-8 Kyokutenho's (2-0) match with M7
Chiyotairyu (1-1). At the tachi-ai Kyokutenho grabbed moro-zashi (inner left /
outer right) while Chi Pet didn't once seem to be interested in his trademark
tsuppari. He then fell asleep and held on while the veteran favorite slid him
back and out. Standard yori-kiri win for Kyoku (3-0) while Chiyo (1-2) gets the
Sekiwake Goeido (2-0) is standing tall in front of his hometown crowd. And well
he should since he's been dispatching his foes with ease and a slight tinge of
pure jock attitude thrown in for good measure. And on this night as he stepped
onto the dohyo to dance with faltering Komusubi Toyonoshima (1-1) he, no doubt,
was hungry for the 3-0 slam dunk.
Goeido, struck the Tugboat with a solid right shoulder at the tachi-ai. Toyo
stood up straight and well kinda stopped doing very much in the way of answering
his opponent's attack. He did choose to grab Goeido's triceps instead of the
mawashi but then kinda froze up. Before long, Goeido (3-0) had his shoulder in
Toyonoshima's armpit (note Toyo's leg position in the second photo) and he
somehow twisted the fatter dude down and around for a shitate-nage something or
other. Let's hear it for Goeido as he feels gifted at 3-0 and Toyonoshima says
"What you lookin' at?"
Sekiwake Kotooshu (1-1) appears to have lost a little weight. Maybe this was why
mainstay Sekiwake Tochiohzan (1-1) was able to forego the belt, hook his biceps
under Oshu's armpits and stroll him off the dohyo with ease. As of late,
Kotooshu fights the way he looked that night after Asashoryu sent him onto queer
street with a thundering tachi-ai to the Bulgarian's brain shell. (if Clancy's
reading this - No, not that street in Manhattan)
Ozeki Kakuryu (2-0) has his ups and downs each basho. There's brilliantly virile
style to his best sumo and its a joy to watch when it happens. On the other hand
there are times he just seems to winging it almost as if his heart isn't into
the match and I believe Mike's got this behavior pegged. Mongolian dominance
doesn't help the cause so he knows he's gonna drop a few and that may in fact be
what we saw last night.
Now don't get me wrong…M-2 Okinoumi (1-1) can do damage when he's fired up and
yup, he came at Kak hard. As soon as he sensed weakness from his opponent, Oki
pursued him hard and Kakuryu's only answer was to try a bevy of half realized
techniques all the while backing up and eventually windmilling off the dohyo.
This is the same guy that spanked Endo 63 times in 3 days? Either way you see
it, both men stand at 2-1.
I like Ozeki Kisenosato (2-0) this basho. Without all the Yokozuna pressure
swirling around his head he's showing some serious nad. With a new attitude and
recently laundered mawashi Kise drove hard at the tachi-ai, got a serious belt
hold on Komusubi Shohozan (0-2) and pulled him in so tight he locked the grumpy
kid's arms like a morbidly obese python. Kise walked the strangle held Shazaam
to a yori-taoshi win and flattened him for good measure. Shohozan is at an
expected 0-3 and Kise proudly struts a legit earned 3-0 tally.
Yokozuna Harumafuji (2-0) seems all biz this go around and the Mongol Kings
always release the dogs on the lower ranked fellow countrymen…so it didn't bode
well for the ever dapper M1 Tamawashi (0-2). Haru showed off his best tachi-ai
and hit Tama so hard he saw stars. Harumafuji pounced on Tamawashi's brief
synaptic shutdown and pulled his head into the dirt. Hataki-komi rocks the
house! Tama staggers at 0-3 and Haru drinks his blood from a boot at 3-0.
M-1 Endoh (0-2) had met up with Hakuho (2-0) before. It was always gonna be a
hard lesson for Endoh…and when you practice with sumo's supreme beings, if the
Yokozuna cares, he'll make it extra painful. I remember seeing footage of Asa
slapping a young Hakuho in the face yelling at him to work harder. Asa cared
about his Mongol brother.
So yes, this night WAS the Haru basho…the Makuuchi "big show"…and yeah he's
gonna be competing for a win on the big stage against true royalty. But it was
equally in part an initiation. A rite of passage if you will for Elvis to put
his past accomplishments aside, leave his counterparts behind and (if he wants
it) get real.
chose not to work the new superstar too hard. Didn't go for that death knell
belt grip. Instead he targeted a quick hari-te to Endoh's bruised face and as
Elvis attempted some kind of belt grip, the Dai Yokozuna pushed down hard on his
head. Once Endoh was turned around Hakuho finished him off with an easy shove
for the okuri-taoshi win.
Its been rough couple weeks for Endoh. But I won't shed a tear cause he's
getting the opportunity of a lifetime and the brilliance of his future is truly
in his hands.
And speaking of hands let me give you all something to get busy with while you
wait for sumo talk's next foray into whats proving to be a sweet basho!!! Rock
Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
to day 2 where I'm officially announcing the sale of the domain sumotalk.com in
favor of endotalk.com or endoandthegang.com...I just need to figure out which
way the Association is going to move with the rebranding of their product. From
the bell today, Ota Announcer and the former Takanonami (Otowa-oyakata) couldn't
start talking about Endoh fast enough showing his close bout from yesterday
against Kakuryu and interviews with the dude prior to the basho. Even the prime
minister who was set to give a speech today on the eve of the earthquake/tsunami
disaster from a few years ago waited until the end of the sumo broadcast that
was running late before he walked to the podium. I could tell they were rushing
things when they showed half a replay from Hakuho's bout...you know...that guy
on the cusp of becoming the greatest of all time, and then we didn't get any
replays of the final bout of the day, the Endoh - Harumafuji matchup, and as
soon as NHK cut away from the venue in Osaka, they went to the live feed of
where the PM was about to deliver his speech, and perfectly on queue, Abe-san
walked out as soon as Elvis had left the building.
Prime Minister Abe taking a back seat to Endoh? The coverage and hype
surrounding this dude is unprecedented and simply incredible, and while Endoh is
a guy who can handle the pressure mentally even at this young age, what do you
say we dial back just a bit of the hype until he...I don't know...actually wins
something? It's really getting out of control, but if this is what it takes to
bring fannies back into the seats, then so be it. In case you weren't aware,
there were actually 20 other bouts fought today besides the Endoh - Harumafuji
matchup, so let's touch on each of them working our way in chronological order.
Visiting J1 Tamaasuka got the immediate left inside against M16 Kagamioh from
the tachi-ai and drove straight forward anchoring Kagamioh in place with a right
hand pressed in firmly into his foe's side. As has usually been the case the
last two basho, Kagamioh (0-2) had no answer and was forced out straightway.
M15 Takanoiwa secured the left inside position and right outer grip from the
tachi-ai allowing him to body back M15 Tenkaiho from the gate, and while Tenkai
the Hutt avoided immediate defeat as Takanoiwa slipped off of his outer grip,
Tenkaiho did nothing about it, and so Takanoiwa quickly reassumed the right
outer and pressed his foe back to the straw. The second time proved to be a
charm as Takanoiwa scored the yori-taoshi win falling on top of his opponent in
the process which was akin to diving on a bean bag chair in the TV room.
Takanoiwa is 2-0 if you need him while Tenkaiho is winless.
It was M14 Masunoyama's turn to solve the M16 Satoyama puzzle today, and he did
it to perfection charging hard at the tachi-ai and getting the left to the
inside, and before Satoimo could really burrow in, Masunoyama just kept driving
his feet forcing Satoyama to react. The problem was he was in no position to do
so and tried to wriggle out backwards and grasp for an ippon-zeoi throw, but it
would never develop as Masunoyama crushed him down to the dirt in about two
seconds. When rikishi stand around against Satoyama (1-1), it only gives him
time to sneak in deeper and plan his attack, but Masunoyama ((2-0) completely
took him out of his element today.
M14 Azumaryu briefly flirted with the left inside grip at the tachi-ai, but M12
Chiyomaru used another straight forward oshi attack pushing Azumaryu (1-1) away
from the belt before plowing straight into him leading with the tsuppari as he
went. This was so decisive they awarded Chiyomaru (2-0) the tsuki-dashi
kimari-te, and if a guy will just stick to sound sumo basics like this, it will
work wonders in the division.
M12 Sadanofuji (0-2) came with dual tsuppari up high but no de-ashi allowing M13
Jokoryu (1-1) to slip into the inside left, and from this point, the yotsu guy
will win every time as exhibited by Jokoryu's force-out victory.
In the most compelling matchup of the first half bouts, M11 Osunaarashi used a
right kachi-age that clobbered M10 Myogiryu in the face and set up the early
right inside position denying Myogiryu the moro-zashi that he needed to compete,
and before Myogiryu could muster plan B, Osunaarashi had the left outer grip and
dispatched the former Sekiwake with ease with an outer belt throw. As Myogiryu
fell, he hit inwardly into Osunaarashi's right knee, and the Ejyptian looked to
be in some pain as he got back up and stepped off of the dohyo, so let's see how
he comes out tomorrow. Despite that fluke hit to his leg, Osunaarashi was
phenomenal in this one as he moves to 2-0. Myogiryu falls to 0-2 and shouldn't
give up just yet. He's faced the two toughest guys around him the first two
days, and sound sumo basics should secure him eight wins even if he is still
M11 Tokushoryu henka'd to his left and yanked M10 Terunofuji (1-1) over and out
with a kote-nage that likely did some damage to the rookie's arm. I had
forgotten just how big of a scaredy cat Tokushoryu (1-1) can be, but henka'ing a
rookie? Are you serious? I think Tokushoryu has replaced Tokitenku as the leader
on my official shitlist, and it seems the dude is of the mindset that he can't
win unless he henkas. Hopefully Terunofuji can fight tomorrow because he's got a
lot to offer the division.
M9 Kitataiki, who has his left thigh heavily taped this basho, grabbed the early
left inside position against M8 Takarafuji, but Fuji stood his ground chest to
chest with his opponent, and Kitataiki (1-1) seemed flustered after a few
seconds because he went for an unnecessary maki-kae with the right arm that
failed miserably and resulted in the easy force-out win for Takarafuji (1-1).
M8 Kyokutenho managed the left inside against M9 Gagamaru, but the position was
shallow allowing Gagamaru to burrow his head and press forward. Pushed to the
brink, Kyokutenho somehow managed to escape to his right dragging Gagamaru down
in the process before his left heel touched out behind the tawara. A mono-ii was
called for where it was correctly determined that Kyokutenho's heel did not
touch out, and I wonder if Gagamaru (0-2) thought his opponent was already outta
the ring because he should have never let the 39 year-old Tenho back into this
one. Kyokutenho skates to a 2-0 start.
M7 Toyohibiki offered a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai against M6 Aminishiki, but there
was insufficient footwork behind the attack, and Aminishiki wasn't pressed that
upright, so at the edge, Shneaky had the wherewithal to push sideways at
Toyohibiki's right side and send the Hutt down at the edge. You actually get a
picture of the bout today since it marked Aminishiki's 1,170th appearance in the
division putting him 10th place all time in terms of longevity.
M7 Takekaze henka'd to his left and even though M7 Chiyotairyu survived, his
thrust attempts now came from up high allowing Takekaze to worm out of them and
force Tairyu to give chase. Chiyotairyu always looked to be in a position to
mount a charge, but with your feet out of sync from the start, he was done in by
the crafty Takekaze (2-0) who evaded just enough to pull Chiyotairyu off balance
and push him out. While I despise the tachi-ai henka, Chiyotairyu's gotta be
able to solve this one today as he falls to 1-1.
M4 Yoshikaze jumped the gun a split second before M5 Chiyootori put both fists
down, but watching real time it looked as if Chiyootori was late, and so no
false start was called. Yoshikaze literally jumped his foe before the newbie was
even out of his crouch, and with Chiyootori stumbling forward, Yoshikaze grabbed
him by the back of the belt and spun him out before he could counter with
anything. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.
M5 Aoiyama head butted M4 Ikioi in the lower right jaw from the tachi-ai causing
him to see stars, and even though Ikioi stayed upright on pure instinct, Aoiyama
tsuppari'ed him back and down in about two seconds flat. Ikioi got up slowly and
still looked woozy as he walked back down the hana-michi as both rikishi finish
the day at 1-1.
M3 Takayasu opened with a wild tsuppari attack as M2 Tochinowaka just swiped
upright at his extended arms knocking Takayasu over in an uneventful three
seconds. You really need to grab someone by the throat and push them back, not
just go wildly through the motions with bad footwork. Takayasu starts out 0-2
with the loss while Tochinowaka (1-1) wins yet another but simply taking what
was given to him by his opponent instead of just going out there and kicking
In the Sekiwake ranks, Goeido hooked up with M3 Kaisei in the gappuri migi-yotsu
position that saw Kaisei gradually press Goeido to the edge, but Goeido used a
few gaburi moves and a right knee into Kaisei's left thigh to keep him at bay
until he could turn the tables with a counter right inside throw that felled the
Brasilian to the clay. I thought Kaisei shoulda gone for the right outer throw
near the edge and not those fruitless force-out attempts, but I suspect he's
eating well tonight on Goeido's dime. From the straight up gappuri yotsu
position, the larger guy rarely gets thrown down at the edge by an inner belt
throw unless it's a nage-no-uchi-ai.
M2 Okinoumi implemented an effective right kachi-age from the tachi-ai that
thoroughly kept Sekiwake Kotooshu from establishing the inside on the left, and
Okinoumi seized the momentum using his own left inside position to force
Kotooshu over and out before the Bulgarian could even get established. It's
moments like these that still give me hope in regards to Okinoumi (1-1), but
then again, Kotooshu (1-1) has been sleepwalking his way through tournaments the
last few years.
Ozeki Kakuryu led with a right kachi-age and series of thrusts into Komusubi
Shohozan's face methodically driving him back, and when Shohozan tried to duck
back into the bout, Kakuryu shifted gears and just pulled him forward and down.
Another hataki-komi win for the Yokozuna hopeful, but Kakuryu's job this basho
is not to impress. Shohozan falls to 0-2.
Sekiwake Tochiohzan ran circles around Ozeki Kisenosato striking him with the
right shoulder and then offering a quick pull that threw the Ozeki off balance
and gave Tochiohzan moro-zashi, but instead of just driving the Ozeki back,
Tochiohzan seemed to fiddle with getting his arms just right, and in the
process, Kisenosato escaped left and slapped Tochiohzan down for the surprise
counter win. As I look at my initial notes just after watching the bout, I can't
help but notice my final comment, "I thought it was fake." Regardless,
Kisenosato is off to a nice 2-0 start while Tochiohzan is 1-1.
Komusubi Toyonoshima was quick at the tachi-ai gaining the early left inside
grip, and as Ozeki Kotoshogiku tried to fight off the inside right on the other
side and deny moro-zashi, Toyonoshima just kept pumping his legs driving
Kotoshogiku to the edge and across before the Ozeki could even counter. Both
rikishi end the day at 1-1 and if healthcare.gov is wondering where all of their
patches went, take a look at Kotoshogiku's body.
Yokozuna Hakuho got the right inside as M1 Tamawashi moved left throwing the
Yokozuna a bit of a change-up, but Hakuho never let go of that early right belt
grip and used it to drag Tamawashi (0-2) across and down near the dohyo edge.
Hakuho was never in trouble here even though it was a very unstable bout. Hakuho
moves to 2-0 and must now decide how to handle Endoh on day 3.
And speaking of Endoh, the most anticipated bout of the day of course featured
him against Yokozuna Harumafuji, who reportedly came into the basho dinged up,
so were things set up for Endoh's first career kin-boshi? Early on in the
broadcast, NHK took us on a journey down memory lane showing Musoyama's very
first kin-boshi against Yokozuna Akebono at the 2004 Hatsu just in case, but it
wasn't meant to be as
came with the quick moro-te-zuki that drove Endoh back fast, so the youngster
evaded to his right in an attempt to throw the Yokozuna off, but Harumafuji
caught him with a right inside scoop throw that did the trick in about two
Endoh just couldn't keep up with the Yokozuna's speed, but credit him for at
least having the sense to back his way out of that moro-te-zuki. Takanonami
praised Endoh after the bout saying it wasn't bad sumo, and I agree. Sure, the
evasive retreat didn't work, but at least he had the sense to try. The simple
facta the matter is that the Mongolians are two steps ahead of him right now,
but that will change over time, and Endoh will end up beating these guys
straight up in the end. Some may read my comments and think, "well, why don't
they let Endoh win at least one bout just to make it more exciting?" and the
answer is if you set that precedent too soon, Endoh has to defend it from here
on out...something he can't do. Just look at how well Kisenosato and Goeido have
handled these premature runs to Yokozuna and Ozeki respectively. Neither of
those guys were even close to Yokozuna/Ozeki material, and they fail so badly
because they can't take the pressure mentally knowing that they don't live up
physically. Keep the bouts against Endoh close; give him one out of every four
or five; and wait until he's truly ready to keep himself among the jo'i all on
Today was a bit anti-climactic since the final bout of the day appeared so
lopsided in comparison to day 1, and tomorrow Endoh draws Yokozuna Hakuho which
won't be pretty, but at least we have Kane coming to the rescue armed with his
kettle corn and PhotoShop.
Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
began the day 1 broadcast with a close-up of the man-in on-rei banners
hanging from the ceiling of the venue indicating a sell-out for the day, and the
first words out of Sanbe Announcer's mouth were, "Last year's Haru basho had 10
sell-outs, so how far can they take it this basho?" This lead-in was indicative
of the Sumo Association's agenda, which is to exhaust every avenue in order to
bring fans back to the sport, and as we learned pre-basho, the main engine for
this movement is the constant hyping of Endoh. NHK was very careful, however, to
properly go by rank down the banzuke and show interviews from Hakuho and
Harumafuji first, Kakuryu and Kisenosato second, and then finally get to the
hype of Endoh. If the M1 can get on some sort of a run, 11 plus sell-outs could
Overall, day 1 was a solid day of sumo, so let's get right to the action
starting from the bottom where M16 Satoyama ducked in low getting the left
inside forcing J1 Kyokushuho to unravel the little ball of fur. The Mongolian
used his left briefly to deny Satoyama the belt, but the moment he went for a
neck hold with the left, Satoyama got the right frontal grip and immediately
twisted Kyokushuho over and down shita-te-hineri style. I'm finding that I'm
actually enjoying Satoyama's bouts now, and my reasoning is that you know what
he's going to bring, and so let's see if his opponent has the game to solve it.
If you had a guy who constantly henka'd to his left...well, it wouldn't be a
henka anymore as long as you knew what was coming, and Satoyama has become a
feisty barometer of rikishi this low on the banzuke. Good start for Satoimo.
M15 Takanoiwa used a seldom seen thrust attack immediately driving M16 Kagamioh
back and down into a heap at the ring's edge. More than a killer attack from
TakanoEwok, I think this was just Kagamioh displaying a horrible tachi-ai and no
counter sumo ability.
M14 Masunoyama got the left arm inside against M15 Tenkaiho and immediately
began bodying back to the edge. TenkaiSlow went for a few counter kote-nage
throws with the right arm but slipped erratically out of both, and next thing
you knew Masunoyama picked up the easy yori-kiri win.
M14 Azumaryu and M13 Jokoryu hooked up in the hidari-yotsu contest where
Azumaryu maintained the right outer grip and thus the advantage. Jokoryu tried
to move and counter with a few left scoop throws, but Azumaryu pinned him
against the edge in the end and tripped him over with the his right thigh placed
behind Jokoryu's left.
If Masunoyama looked a little bit deflated today, it was because Makuuchi
rookie, M12 Chiyomaru, redefined what it means to be round. And not only does he
have a sweet belly, but he displayed excellent sumo today smothering M12
Sadanofuji's tsuppari attempts with shoves of his own while driving his
legs...and that belly straight into his foe. Sadanofuji lasted about three
seconds giving the rookie the impressive oshi-dashi debut. You rarely see a
rookie come into his first bout so relaxed and able to dictate the pace, so
major props to Chiyomaru with the emphasis on maru.
M11 Osaunaarashi was up high at the tachi-ai against M11 Tokushoryu who looked
to mount a charge leading with the inside left, but the Ejyptian stood his
ground well, seized the right outer grip, and then easily turned the tables on
his gal driving Tokushoryu back across two thirds of the dohyo and out for the
yori-kiri win. Two points in this one: 1) Tokushoryu's inability to do more
after that tachi-ai and position shows why he's a bottom feeder in the division.
2) Osunaarashi will be eaten alive if he continues to stay that high at the
tachi-ai higher up the ranks.
M10 Myogiryu looked to get off to a hot start against rookie M10 Terunofuji
today, but the former Sekiwake had just a bit too much tape on his right knee
and right ankle for my liking. As expected, Myogiryu did gain moro-zashi from
the tachi-ai against his larger foe, but Terunofuji showed great presence to
shake it off with a left kote-nage throw, and while Myogiryu managed to keep
both arms to the inside, Terunofuji hugged him in tight pinching hard against
the outside in the kime position, so with Myogiryu upright and no
leverage whatsoever, Terunofuji just yanked him sideways and forced him down
across the straw via kime-dashi. Myogiryu landed gingerly to the dohyo and
looked to be covering for that right leg, so maybe he hasn't fully recovered
from his injury. Regardless, Terunofuji showed great ring presence for a rookie,
and you can already see the potential in this guy.
M9 Kitataiki looked to avoid a straight-up yotsu fight against M9 Gagamaru
sliding to his left after the tachi-ai, but Gagamaru was able to get his left
arm to the inside to keep his gal in close. Gagamaru actually pressed the action
first, but instead of a right outer grip, he led with his right arm gripping the
outside of Kitataiki's left, and that enabled Kitataiki to counter with a right
outer of his own and show why that outer grip is so important in order to mount
and attack. Already pressed up against the edge, Kitataiki had nowhere to go but
laterally so he slipped to his right and pulled Gagamaru along for the ride with
that stubborn outer grip scoring the uwate-nage win in the process. Wasn't
pretty, but Kitataiki'll take it.
M8 Kyokutenho has definitely lost a step, but remember, he's been fighting close
to the jo'i for years, so get him down in the middle of the pack, and his yotsu
skills will still be effective. Case in point was his hidari-yotsu contest
against M8 Takarafuji where Kyokutenho's length enabled him to grab the key
right outer grip, which he used to drive Takarafuji back near the edge. When T-Fooj
began to show some resistance, Kyokutenho switched gears and used the right
outer to throw his foe back towards the center of the ring scoring the nifty
uwate-nage win. Fish in a barrel for Kyokutenho who looks as if he can go at
least another year as long as he's ranked this low.
As expected, M7 Chiyotairyu looked to be in his comfort zone down in the
mid-Maegashira ranks as he just blasted M7 Toyohibiki back from the tachi-ai and
scored the tsuki-dashi win with a once, twice, three times a lady thrust attack.
No going gaga over Chiyotairyu until he does this five ranks higher.
M6 Aminishiki was upright at the tachi-ai allowing M6 Takekaze to connect on a
brilliant left shove to his side forcing Aminishiki off balance near the ropes.
As he regained his footing and looked to charge back into the center of the
ring, the matador Takekaze just stepped to the side as the crowd yelled "Olé
!" and slapped the back of Aminishiki's left shoulder sending him out of the
dohyo okuri-dashi style.
M5 Chiyootori remains unfazed fighting at this level where he met up with M5
Aoiyama who came out with his usual tsuppari attack that lacked committed
de-ashi. Chiyootori was determined to get to the inside and so he hunkered down
and stayed on the move just enough to frustrate Aoiyama and disable him to
really connect on a thrust. While Chiyootori's tenacity and fearlessness were
impressive, Aoiyama never did commit to a strong thrusting attack, so after
about eight seconds of Aoiyama's thrusting and Chiyootori's defense, the younger
Otori timed a perfect evasive maneuver pulling the off balance Aoiyama down to
the dirt. Chiyootori could have easily played his counter pull card a second in,
but credit him for standing his ground and forcing his opponent to try and beat
him straight up. So much upside to this kid as we will continue to see.
M4 Ikioi knew that M4 Yoshikaze was incapable of beating him with a
straight-forward attack, and so he charged cautiously leading with the right
shoulder, and the moment Yoshikaze put both hands up high in an effort to pull,
Ikioi pounced and had his gal pushed back and out in two seconds flat. This was
largely a matter of Yoshikaze having no business fighting at this level.
In the Sekiwake ranks, Tochiohzan charged hard getting the right arm to the
inside against M3 Takayasu who looked content to just stand there and do
nothing. With Oh enjoying the forward momentum, he simply bodied Takayasu back
and out leading with the right inside and a left hand so close to the front of
Takayasu's belt, it had the same effect has moro-zashi. Tochiohzan was
unchallenged in this one and must win these bouts if he wants to entertain
thoughts of Ozeki promotion.
Sekiwake Kotooshu grabbed the left frontal grip against M3 Kaisei that turned
out to be an outer, and when you have a grip in so tight that's on the outside
pinching the opponent's arm to the inside rendering it useless, you are in full
command of the bout. All the Bulgarian needed now was the right inside to mount
his attack and Kaisei had no answer. The one thing Kaisei does have is bulk, and
so he attempted to stand his ground at the edge, but Kotooshu shifted gears and
dumped the Brasilian over with that left outer secured from the tachi-ai.
Sekiwake Goeido charged hard getting the quick right outer grip followed by the
left inside, and M2 Tochinowaka should have welcomed this position as he
maintained a right outer grip of his own, but he opted to do nothing with his
left arm keeping it up against Goeido's armpit but never attempting to raise the
Sekiwake upright. I don't know if this was intentional on his part or if it was
just Tochinowaka being Tochinowaka, but T-Wok's lack of pressure allowed Goeido
to strike first, and he did so by stepping out right and throwing/dragging
Tochinowaka down with his outer grip. Likely mukiryoku sumo here from
Tochinowaka, but it's hard to always tell with him since he's unintentionally
mukiryoku more often than not.
In the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato actually displayed a formidable tachi-ai against
M2 Okinoumi pushing his left arm up into Okinoumi's right and keeping the taller
Okinoumi upright while the Ozeki saddled in close leading with the left. With
the two no chest to chest leaning in on each other, it was a matter of who would
grab the right outer first, and it was the Ozeki who offered a belly shove that
got Okinoumi upright just enough to where he seized the right outer grip and
ultimately the bout scoring the uwate-nage in the end after Okinoumi tried to
resist. This was actually the best sumo we've seen from Kisenosato in a long
time, but it helps when you fight a passive guy like Okinoumi.
M1 Tamawashi's tsuppari attack against Ozeki Kotoshogiku was busy but
ineffective allowing Kotoshogiku to easily stay square with his foe and stand
his ground until he saw an opening. Said opening came in about five seconds in
the form of a left arm to the inside, and once secure, Kotoshogiku didn't even
need the right hand as he bodying Tamawashi back and across with little
Up next was the match everyone was waiting for featuring Ozeki Kakuryu and M1
Endoh, and it couldn't have played out any better. Ozeki Kakuryu charged
straight into his opponent driving the crown of his head into Endoh's forehead
drawing blood, and in the process Kakuryu went for and got the right outer grip,
but the Ozeki wasn't driving forward with his legs and instead
to create separation by moving out right. Endoh actually had both hands in
tsuppari fashion at the base of Kakuryu's neck, but if those tsuppari are
effective, Kakuryu gets driven upright or back...not to the side. With Kakuryu
having created separation by moving right on his own, he looked vulnerable, but
he was in complete control...for the most part. After delivering a right hari-te
to Endoh's face, the youngster actually connected on a left tsuki that sent
Kakuryu back to the edge and with the Ozeki upright and looking vulnerable,
Endoh went for the oshi-dashi kill. It wasn't meant to be, however, as Kakuryu
waxed off Endoh's extended left and then pulled the M1 down by the shoulder as
he tip-toed the tawara.
Oh so close...on the surface. I spent an entire paragraph in my pre-basho report
discussing how Endoh's bouts with the three Mongolians could be close despite
the ass kicking he took in the keiko ring, and this was exactly what I was
referring to. First, Kakuryu had no de-ashi from the tachi-ai. Second, he went
for the outer grip without the inside position. Third, he created separation by
moving right with no action required on the part of Endoh. Yes, Endoh's hands
were at the Ozeki's neck, but if those shoves have any effect, Kakuryu is moved
upright or back...not out right. That Endoh connected on that left shove made
this bout look close, but even as Kakuryu just stood there at the edge waiting
for Endoh's charge, he was in complete control and simply toyed with his
opponent. Feel free to disagree with me, but this bout was not close. There
wasn't single thing that Endoh did that dictated the pace. If you think that
Endoh "almost won," how did he do it? What moves did he use to set it all up?
Absolutely nothing. Yes, he connected on that one left sideways shove, but if he
was dictating the
(i.e. moving forward), the Ozeki would have been toast. That Kakuryu had to wait
for Endoh's final shove attempt is an indication that Endoh was along for the
ride, not in control.
That this bout appeared close is where everybody wins. When you're desperate,
"almost" at least gives you hope moving forward, and so now Endoh has already
established that he can fight at this level and that he can hang with the
Mongolians when absolutely nothing from the keiko ring prior to the basho
indicated this. Having Endoh bleed was just a cherry on top, and NHK milked it
heavily following Endoh down the hana-michi and out into the halls of the venue
with blood streaming down his face and looking like a comlete badass. And
that's all you can ask for at this point. Hope.
was Yokozuna Harumafuji who used a wicked left nodowa and de-ashi to drive
Komusubi Toyonoshima straight back, but the Yokozuna didn't have a hold on his
opponent, and so Toyonoshima was able to slip into moro-zashi at the edge
turning this into a contest. Harumafuji only had a kubi-nage attempt at this
point to survive, but he showed his brilliance setting up the throw by working
his right leg to the inside of Toyonoshima's left getting him off balance and
tipping him over to the dohyo a split second before Harumafuji landed on top of
his dome and somersaulted over. Wasn't pretty, but Harumafuji picks up his first
winna the basho. Up tomorrow is Endoh, and I would not be surprised to see the
youngster come away with a kin-boshi, not because he is going to
the Yokozuna but just because.
Capping off the day was Yokozuna Hakuho who slammed his left arm hard into
Komusubi Shohozan knocking him upright, and I thought Shohozan actually did well
to think of countering with a kote-nage throw wrapped around Hakuho's extended
left arm, but before that could even develop, the grizzly bear Hakuho was
bodying into Shohozan so fast that he was completely off balance and sent outta
the ring oshi-dashi style in just a few seconds.
I really thought it was a good day of sumo. Both rookies won and looked good
doing it. Satoyama picked up a win...Chiyotairyu and Kisenosato both looked
good, and then Endoh of course "almost" beat Kakuryu. Judging from the start
it's going to be an entertaining basho, which is exactly what the sport needs.