Senshuraku (Harvye Hodja reporting) Sometimes
the tale is told so clearly nobody can miss it, and the tale of this tournament
is awful political bout fixing leading to a native Japanese yusho for the first
time in a decade. On Sumotalk, the story of this basho has been an informed,
informative, and mostly good-natured debate in the comments section that focuses
on the question of whether the yaocho and mukiryoku we all see is real and
backed up by manifold evidence, or is in our minds and created by bias and
expectations. I'll get to the matches in a few moments.
But first, briefly, I want to compliment the comments sections writers for their
contributions; I always read and am influenced by the comments section.
Positive, negative, or indifferent, it informs my thinking and lets me know what
I need to address in the sport (and in my writing).
Second, I want to lay out my conclusions on exactly what bout fixing in the
sport is. The evidence that it exists, is widespread, and is an integral part of
the sport as currently constituted is incontrovertible. This cannot be debated.
What I believe that we do not have is a solid tool for assessing when it
happens. In my opinion, Mike applies an excellent but also fallible tool:
in-bout breakdown of technique. However, I agree that the sport often moves too
fast for anyone to use this tool effectively, that mistakes and injuries often
have an invisible effect, and that the nature of chance and randomness may
create false patterns or obscure real ones. Nevertheless, to quote Simon, who
once wrote for this sight, we can use our eyes. Sometimes, like with Hakuho's
loss to Kisenosato yesterday, the mukiryoku is so obvious we might as well just
say so. Could I be wrong? Yes. But I would say that just as I can see very
obviously with my eyes that Kagayaki is a poor upper division wrestler,
sometimes yaocho is equally plain. In addition, yaocho is salted throughout the
sport and I believe there is actually more, not less, than Sumotalk calls. I
think that when people call yaocho and mukiryoku, they often get it right and
sometimes they get it wrong. Nevertheless, evidence indicates some wrestlers do
have nearly their entire 15 days fixed in some bashos, like Harumafuji's initial
yusho (Mike had an excellent list of additional compromised yusho in yesterday's
report). Bout fixing becomes especially prevalent the higher you go in the
banzuke, and the later you go in the tournament, but sumo is rife with bout
fixing throughout the fortnight and up and down the ranks. Mongolians do it,
Japanese do it, and other foreigners do it: it is usually not part of a plan to
uphold a certain narrative, but is an endemic element of the sport. (The
commenter calling himself "The Storyteller"--go back a few days--was
particularly eloquent on this.) There are also many, many straight up,
competitive bouts. That is why although we see certain narrative fixing patterns
that I do believe exist--like the propping up of Japanese Ozeki--we do not see
others, like actual yusho by those same Ozeki. That is because yaocho is spread
throughout, making it difficult to shift the actual narrative. Bout fixing is,
in short, another competitive element.
Third, I want to unequivocally state that this is bad for the sport and should
be rooted out. There are many who say this is a Western way of thinking, and
that sumo should be thought of not as a sport, but a separate cultural edifice:
therefore yaocho is okay because it is an inextricable part of this fabric. I
disagree. Accepting yaocho on this basis is an insult to Japanese culture: do we
really believe Japan wants to be characterized by notions of privileged
otherness left over from the 1850s? The world is an increasingly integrated one,
sumo is to a degree integrated as well, and they are selling a product in a
market that bases sales at least to a degree on authenticity of results. Just as
Volkswagen should not be allowed to cook the books on the rules it has agreed to
abide by, nor should sumo be exempt from an expectation to be played clean and
straight up. Unless it wants to opt out, it should own up. Nor should we apply
principles of subjective values ("cultural relativism"). Some things are
objectively better than others, and we should have the courage to stand up for
those things. Two of those things are honesty over dishonesty, and fair play
over cheating. These things should not be culturally determined--they are
positive values that should be universal and defended.
How, then, to root match fixing out? If I am going to pontificate, let me offer
a prescription. One, wrestlers should be expelled, no mercy and no exceptions,
for bout fixing. This means Hakuho should have been summarily expelled years ago
when he and Asashoryu were implicated in a taped yaocho admission by an oyakata.
If this leaves us with no wrestlers, very well--start over. Like in baseball,
where Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson have never been readmitted, the rules
should be clear, firm, and draconian. Two, the sport needs to be run not by
former wrestlers, but by a third party--they need a commissioner like Fay
Vincent was in baseball: someone independent from the incestuous power
structure, an ombudsman with ultimate authority. They should be run be a company
interested in income, not a cabal interested in protecting what resembles feudal
fiefdoms. Three, the sport needs to generate its own revenue. No subsidies, no
NHK deals of questionable profitability. Move the bouts to later--upper division
matches should be live between 20:00 and 22:00--and compete in the free market.
Four, and very important, ban fan club contributions and strictly monitor income
sources for young wrestlers. There is a contention that fan clubs run by
organized crime groups are a primary source of income for underpaid young
wrestlers--a brilliant way of tying them to the system, making them beholden to
uphold the current system and its cheating later on. Pay them better from honest
revenue, and strictly ban interaction with these clubs.
So, as we conclude this demoralizing tournament which, if we have eyes to see,
clearly has a championship outcome determined in large part by subjective
influences not in keeping with good sports ethics, this is where I sit on this
beautiful sunny Sunday in Japan. In the meantime, let's cover the sumo.
FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP
S Tochiohzan (6-8) vs. M7 Toyonoshima (12-2)
This match as a leaderboard bout was somewhat of a red herring: Toyonoshima's
path to the yusho was improbable, requiring him to win, then losses by
Kotoshogiku and Hakuho, followed by a two way playoff with Kotoshogiku. Or, if
Hakuho won, a three-way playoff in which they would go in round robin until
someone beat the other two consecutively (no way Toyonoshima manages that).
Nevertheless, as this tournament has demonstrated that anything can happen,
let's cover it. Bottom line: if Toyonoshima loses this bout he's out. If he wins
he's alive--for the moment.
Tochiohzan hit Toyonoshima hard off the tachi-ai and had the mo' going all his
way. His last thrust was a bit wild and left them widely separated. At that
point the match went into slow motion as Tochiohzan didn't seem sure whether he
needed to close and finish it, and Toyonoshima teetered on the straw and then
let it go and stepped back and out, unmolested. Toyonoshima had no intention of
winning here, as all he did was give a bump at the tachi-ai, arms wrapped
tightly against his own chest, then let himself be pushed backwards while
fumbling about with his hands. So, this red herring has been devoured down, and
we can concentrate on the real yusho candidate: Kotoshogiku.
O Kotoshogiku (13-1) vs. O Goeido (4-10)
Kotoshogiku wins it's over: champion. If he loses, Hakuho has to win to force a
playoff. Amazingly, "Ozeki" Goeido came into this having lost eight in a row
this tournament. He'd also lost his last three tournament match-ups with
In the end, it was simple stuff. Kotoshogiku got hold of a compliant Goeido,
throwing a left arm bar that he turned into an arm inside around the body, held
Goeido around the body outside on the left, and drove him back to the tawara.
There, I expected him to gaburu Goeido out: it would have been a fitting way for
him to finish off his championship, as he built his career on that move.
However, instead, he stepped back and slung Goeido way, way too easily to the
I will not dwell on the maudlin screen cut-out showing someone (probably his
mother) holding a framed picture of his beloved grandpa. I will not dwell on
Kotoshogiku's father in the crowd, who covered his face and cried--and good for
him; that was nice, actually. I will not dwell on the nauseating certainty that
there will need to be Yokozuna promotion speculation for Kotoshogiku at the
March basho. I will not dwell on the totally unexcited, bland as milk aftertalk
of the announcers. I will not dwell on the curiously calm venue: yeah, people
cheered. But except for the father--and I like fathers, so congrats to him--this
wasn't exciting at all. If we want to dwell on this, go back and read my intro,
or Mike's yesterday. The tournament ended here, ignominiously and sadly.
Y Harumafuji (11-3) vs. Y Hakuho (12-2)
Because Kotoshogiku won, this match was entirely irrelevant, of course. So, the
two pantomimed a face-first burial of Hakuho. They hit lightly off the tachi-ai,
then Harumafuji hopped lightly to the side, nimbly grabbed Hakuho by the back of
the belt, and tipped him forward to the dirt, uwate-nage: Hakuho actually KNELT
on the dohyo: one knee and two fists down, head bowed. Submission. Corpse of the
great, a pauper's grave.
M10 Chiyootori (4-7-3) vs. M13 Takekaze (10-4)
All too easy. Chiyootori spiked his opponent in the head, then held on up high
while hunched over and pushed. Takekaze didn't or couldn't get his little arms
onto the belt, and didn't or couldn't evade left or right (um… this is Takekaze,
folks) and was pushed straight out, oshi-dashi. I say didn't.
M12 Shodai (9-5) vs. M9 Gagamaru (7-7)
Something on the line for both: a prize for Shodai, a special prize for
Gagamaru. This was good stuff. Basically you had Gagamaru delivering a beating
and Shodai trying to resist, plus Gagamaru getting dangerously out of position
and separated and lumberingly trying to square back up. Lots of wicked slaps up
high and neck shoves by Gagamaru, and some tries at throws from Shodai. Gagamaru
was also in there with an arm wrench at the end. However, the end result was a
yori-kiri win for Shodai. The key to this match was that some of Gagamaru's
thrust work was sloppy, and that Shodai's resistance featured concentration and
focus. I'll give him a prize, too: Best of the Young Guns. He has a chance to be
very good, and his defining element has been presence.
M9 Sadanoumi (6-8) vs. M12 Chiyotairyu (8-6)
Very typical Chiyotairyu here, unfortunately. Extremely forceful hit off the
tachi-ai… then a hard pull. Sadanoumi had a very disappointing tournament, but
he didn't miss this one; he easily took over the momentum from there and scored
the yori-kiri win. I'm afraid Chiyotairyu is right where he belongs on the
banzuke, and there he will stay for spring. Good.
M8 Myogiryu (7-7) vs. M15 Homarefuji (4-10)
Myogiryu drew a false start from his man; he should just get after it. If he
can't waste this opponent, he doesn't deserve a kachikoshi (winning record). In
the actual bout, he did come hard, but did it dangerously, standing up too tall,
and, after a series of wicked thrusts and a couple of nice neck shoves, took
Homarefuji down by moving backwards, hataki-komi. He had plenty of room and
skill to do this, but a disappointing denouement nonetheless. He may have the
kachi-koshi, but for him this tournament is best forgotten.
M16 Kagayaki (3-11) vs. M7 Tamawashi (5-9)
Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki) may have had the worst debut tournament I've ever
seen; this was his best bout of the skein, and it was nothing special. Nice,
low, driving tachi-ai by Kagayaki, then Tamawashi evaded out and reversed the
momentum. Mosquito was on top of it, though, evading in turn at the right moment
and watching his foe step out; couldn't believe this was called tsuki-otoshi.
Sigh. Mosquitoes only draw a tiny, tiny bit of blood.
M14 Toyohibiki (8-6) vs. M6 Okinoumi (9-5)
Nothing to lose or win on either part; let's fight. Instead, Kerosene Burp
(Toyohibiki) was baiting Lake Placid (Okinoumi) be being slow in getting his
fists down, resulting in two false starts. Looked to be working, as off the
tachi-ai Kerosene had a nice arm bar pushing a tentative Placid backwards.
However, Placid is the better wrestler, and moved placidly to his right at the
tawara, and Burp fell easily to the clay, tsuki-otoshi.
M6 Tokushoryu (3-11) vs. M11 Amuuru 7-7)
Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) was saucy in this one, employing a simple post-tachi-ai-contact
henka to let Amuuru, with a winning record on the line, fall to the dust,
hiki-otoshi. Amuuru was partly at fault, as at the key moment he was looking up
into Sauce's face as if to determine what he was going to do next rather than
concentrating on his core and what he needed to do there. Still, blech. Next
tournament they'll be ranked about the same and we'll see how that goes for this
useless blimp, Tokushoryu.
M15 Kitataiki (7-7) vs. M5 Sokokurai (7-7)
Both guys had it on the line in this one: good. It showed. Both started out with
their cans slung back, cautious yet straining hard. Seeing there would be no
easy win, they moved in chest to chest and got on the belts; It's Dark There
(Sokokurai) got a dominant left inside grip he was to keep throughout. For a
moment Kitataiki had dual grips, and got It's Dark There near the edge, but the
grips were very shallow, just pinches on the top of loose folds of mawashi, and
It's Dark There was able to shake free and drive the match back to the center.
Being younger and stronger, Sokokurai worked his man back to the edge in this
lengthy affair, then had to truly "force" him out: there was no giving up here.
They both fell hard, and Sokokurai saved the match for himself by making sure
one of his legs, which got loose and was flying up, toed back down inside rather
than outside the tawara, looking like a wide receiving with a tiptoe touchdown
catch on the sidelines in the U.S. National Football League. Great yori-taoshi
win caps a good tournament for him, and nice effort here from an always
hardworking veteran in Kitataiki.
M13 Takanoiwa (9-5) vs. M4 Kotoyuki (8-6)
Nice match-up of two guys finishing off superior tournaments. Kotoyuki hit very
hard with two hands off the tachi-ai, and that almost finished it, but give
Takanoiwa credit for sticking with it and coming right back inside. Problem was,
that was no place to be. Kotoyuki kept up the directed and effective neck and
face hits and thrusts; it was a bit violent looking in there. Eventually
Takanoiwa, frustrated and almost done, tried a roundhouse punch of his own,
missed, and essentially fell down of his own momentum off of his wild shot.
However, give all the credit to Kotoyuki; this was an impressive tsuki-otoshi
M4 Kyokushuho (6-8) vs. M10 Mitakeumi (5-7-2)
The Bully (Mitakeumi) hasn't been too bad this tournament, but he's a run of the
mill guy. This was a battle of thrusts, and Bully sold himself out by going for
a pull midway through. Kyokushuho is experienced and a rising mid-career
professional, and he was easily able to advance forward off of the momentum
shift and score the oshi-dashi push out. Bully likely survives to hang on at the
bottom of the Makuuchi banzuke, but he'll need to take the big time a little
more seriously in March.
M3 Ichinojo (2-12) vs. M3 Kaisei (4-10)
By god. What an awful performance by Ichinojo, and a fitting end to his
tournament. He stood up slowly at the tachi-ai and fell into Kaisei's arms like
he was doing trust falls in a team building exercise at a retreat. He then
allowed Kaisei, who had a nice one-side-belt, other-side-body hold, walk him out
yori-kiri. Slug (Ichinojo) did his usual recent thing of not playing it out,
walking voluntarily and carefully across the straw. He's walking right down to
about M13, but right now he looks like he's not interested.
M2 Takarafuji (8-6) vs. M8 Takayasu (10-4)
The key here was whose game they played: Takayasu's. It started with Takayasu
standing Takarafuji up at the tachi-ai. Takarafuji never got close to the belt,
and had to trade slaps. Takayasu was on him hard, and soon thrust him out,
oshi-dashi. He kept his hands on Takarafuji's neck and face, and this seemed to
work. Other wrestlers take note.
M2 Aoiyama (6-8) vs. M1 Shohozan (5-9)
Wow. Blue Mountain (Aoiyama) said, "you want to see thrusts? I got thrusts. You
don't think I got speed? I got speed." Blue unleashed a debilitating barrage of
rapid, descending face smacks. Darth Hozan spent the whole match looking at the
"sold out" banners hanging above. Except he couldn't see them because he had his
eyes closed. Blue then moved onto him like The Blob devouring a victim in
Antarctica, smothering him out, yori-kiri. In case you haven't noticed, I like
Aoiyama in the second week very much.
K Ikioi (4-10) vs. M1 Aminishiki (6-7-1)
So many henkas by Aminishiki this tournament. One too many? Ikioi had to be
ready for it and survived. Aminishiki was game after that, too, holding Ikioi
back with a stiff-arms to the neck, but he didn't accompany it with any
follow-up move other than a pull, and Ikioi has grown enough not to fall for
that either: glad to see him capitalize for an oshi-dashi win. Ikioi needs
another year or so before we can tell whether he's a late bloomer who can hang
up here a bit, or a never wuzzer who'll settle in at lower ranks.
K Tochinoshin (6-8) vs. S Yoshikaze (7-7)
Weak effort here by Tochinoshin. Yoshikaze was tenacious underneath, and did a
good job of lifting Tochinoshin's arms up and off of him. Eventually he also got
a deep grip on the back of Tochinoshin's belt and removed him from the dohyo,
yori-kiri. Surprise, surprise: Yoshikaze holds serve as Sekiwake. As long as he
can keep the energy level where he's had it the last six months, he's welcome.
Tochinoshin is welcome, period, but I'd like to see him allowed to see if he is
ozeki material or not. Y Kakuryu (10-4) vs. O Kisenosato (8-6)
These two guys basically beat each other up a bit, like some proxy punishment
for what had just happened (chronologically this followed the Kotoshogiku
victory). Lots of wild hitting each other in the face, as if letting out the
frustrations of "what is this fracking sport all about anyway?" As if to say,
"let's just have it out here on each other a bit, because why Why WHY?" As if to
say, "yeah, it's all a bunch of dumbass bullcrap; let's beat each other
senseless." After a while they tired of it and moved in on each other's bodies
and Kisenosato oozed Kakuryu over the edge.
I'm spent, this tournament's bought, and that's it.
Day 14 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
or nine years ago, I uttered that infamous prophecy, "If Japan produces a Yokozuna
in the next 10 years, his name will be Goeido." Thank the gods that I used the
qualifier "if" in that statement, and while I obviously whiffed on my choice of
Goeido, I did have the foresight to see just how bleak the next decade would be
for Japanese rikishi. Now, that prophecy will ultimately be fulfilled since we
won't have a legitimate Yokozuna from Japan in the next couple of years, but I'm
here to utter yet another prophecy:
The next Japanese rikishi to legitimately take the Makuuchi yusho will be
So who is Kotokamatani? He's the 18 year-old son of former Makuuchi mainstay
Kotonowaka, or current Sadogatake-oyakata. Kotokamatani got every centimeter of
his father's height, and who cares what sumo skills he got from the paternal
side. The kid is the grandson of former Yokozuna Kotozakura whose sumo was so
tenacious he was branded the Boar. Kotozakura's daughter married Kotonowaka, who
was coincidentally branded the Bore, and the union produced Japan's legitimate
next. Kotokamatani won the Jonokuchi yusho this basho in his debut, and as my
day 13 broadcast started, they showed Kotokamatani standing next to Yoshida
Announcer in the interview room. Kotokamatani took up so much space and was so
huge, Yoshida Announcer looked like a tiny moon that rotated around
body. The interview went on as long as I've ever seen from a Jonokuchi rikishi,
and during the interview, they showed a clip of Kotokamatani's yusho bout. I'm
telling you already...the dude has it, and he will be the next Japanese rikishi
to legitimately capture the Makuuchi yusho. I know the quality isn't great, but
I did capture video of the bout for everyone to see:
Remember the prophecy. Kotokamatani.
Okay, let's shift our focus from thoughts on a future legitimate yusho race to
our current faux yusho race that has come down to the following rikishi as
Up first was M7 Toyonoshima who had a much more formidable task in today's
opponent, Sekiwake Yoshikaze. Yoshikaze used tsuppari up high to keep
Toyonoshima away from the inside, but he backed up and to his left quickly as if
to set up a pull. That allowed Toyonoshima to rush in and secure the left arm to
the inside while Yoshikaze countered with the right outer grip. After the two
gathered their wits for a second or two, Yoshikaze mounted a force out charge
leading with the outer grip, but the dude is not a yotsu guy and was completely
out of his element here, and so at the edge, Toyonoshima was able to slip to his
right and execute the perfect counter tsuki-otoshi move pushing into Yoshikaze's
left side with the right arm as he vacated harm's way. As Yoshikaze (7-7) fell
to the dohyo, he attempted to trip up Toyonoshima's left leg but ended up
causing Toyonoshima to fall awkwardly to the dohyo instead, and so despite the
nice win from Tugboat, he came up limping afterwards.
Toyonoshima moves to 12-2 with the win and should be fine tomorrow. His final
duty before exiting the arena was to offer the chikara-mizu to Ozeki
Kotoshogiku, who we all know had to solve Sekiwake Tochiohzan today in order to
keep his yusho hopes alive. With the crowd absolutely electric prior to the
bout, Tochiohzan quelled everyone's nerves a bit by executing a false start. As
the two reloaded and went for reals, Ozeki Kotoshogiku came with a fabulous
underhand hari-te that connected squarely with Tochiohzan's face and had the
Sekiwake reeling from the start. Keeping his momentum, Kotoshogiku secured the
left inside position with the right kote grip and immediately began his
force-out charge. Tochiohzan looked to move right and counter with a
tsuki-otoshi with that right arm, but he was too far gone as the Ozeki quickly
forced him back and across the ropes before a counter move would come. Throughout the entire bout, Tochiohzan had
his eyes closed and his face grimaced as if in pain likely from the sweet
hari-te delivered by Kotoshogiku. So was the bout mukiryoku? I dunno. I
certainly thought Tochiohzan (6-8) could have put up a little bit better fight,
but you have to give Kotoshogiku credit for having a plan and executing it to
In the intro to my day 5 comments, I stated that things were going along as
normal, which meant that the Japanese Ozeki were at the mercy of their
opponents. And over the previous four days for sure, Kotoshogiku was at
the mercy of his opponents charging forward without a plan and hoping to come
away with his favored left inside position. The Mongolian Yokozuna all complied
and allowed him to get that position before assuming the role of practice dummy
and going along with the Ozeki's whims. Yesterday against Toyonoshima, it was
the exact same story from Kotoshogiku in that he was completely at the M7's
mercy, and that's why it was so easy for Toyonoshima to pull the Ozeki forward
and down in mere seconds. Today, however, Kotoshogiku came with a plan and
followed through on it, so credit him with the good sumo regardless of how hard
Tochiohzan tried. With the win, Kotoshogiku stayed atop the leaderboard at 13-1
and could only wait for the results of the Yokozuna bouts.
For the record, I think we actually got a straight up bout yesterday between
Hakuho and Kakuryu. Sure, Kakuryu gave up those last few steps, but he was
turned around 180 degrees by then with Hakuho firmly in the Brokeback position.
I don't blame rikishi from giving up from that position in order not to get hurt,
but I thought the two actually fought straight up to that point. So, would we
get another straight up fight between Yokozuna Harumafuji and Yokozuna Kakuryu?
Sadly no. The two hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the get-go, but
Harumafuji neither grabbed the solid left inside belt grip or the right outer
grip even though both were there for the taking. With HowDo just standing there,
Kakuryu clued in pretty fast and just executed a right kote-nage easily spilling
Harumafuji to the dirt right there in the center of the ring. Before watching the slow mo replays and confirming that
Harumafuji denied himself actual belt grips, I knew he just took a dive here.
How so? When your opponent goes for a throw, if you want to win, you at least do
something to counter. I mean, look at Yoshikaze a few bouts earlier. It was ugly
for sure, but he at least scrambled for something. Harumafuji did nothing just
hitting the clay and taking his lumps. Afterwards, they caught up with
Harumafuji in the hana-michi, and he made the excuse that he felt out of sync at
the tachi-ai. Whatever. Let's move on as the loss knocks Harumafuji out of
contention at 11-3 while Kakuryu moves to a meaningless 10-4.
My partner in crime coined the phrase "The Storyteller" when speaking of Hakuho,
and after all of the crazy action we've seen up to this point, here we are once
again in the final bout of the day with Hakuho holding all the cards. To say
that he had to solve Kisenosato would be a joke. He only had to do one thing
today: make the decision of whether or not to fight straight up.
Hakuho's actions were obvious once the bout started, but I'm pretty sure the
decision was made for him instead of Hakuho calling the shot with his stable
master. The Yokozuna's sumo was extremely calculated today and not just his
choice to lose the bout. If we must, Hakuho stood straight up from the tachi-ai
and put both arms forward in defense as if he was a leedle girl instinctively
warding off the oncoming blows from the boogey man. The boogey man Kisenosato
ain't, but with Hakuho upright and his arms extended, Kisenosato just walked the
Yokozuna back and across the straw finally making legitimate contact at the edge
of the dohyo.
I mean, this wasn't even acting on the part of Hakuho. Everybody knew that this
bout was thrown, and in my opinion, Hakuho acted deliberately like this to send
the following message: I do not agree whatsoever with what you are all asking me
to do, and to show my utter disdain for all of this, I'm gonna make it obvious
that I am stepping aside, and the Sumo Association can deal with the
repercussions. And damned if he didn't do just that.
How could anybody watching the bouts today not feel absolutely betrayed after
this one? Shame
on anyone who tries to defend this brand of sumo as legitimate and straight up.
Shame on anyone who comes onto the comments section of this website and dares to
try and call this anything other than what it really is. I can understand people
wanting to bury their head in the sand and pretend that it's all real, but if
you've watched the action this tournament up to this point and still think that
yaocho is not rampant in sumo, you are a dumbass. Let me repeat: you are a
And what's worse are the people who have been reading Sumotalk and my rock solid
takes for years but still try and paint me as a charlatan. I'm the charlatan??
You come on here high and mighty thinking that because you have an education
from some liberal university or because you live in Ryogoku that you are all
experts, educated, or better than me and my readers. Wrong. You guys are as
acute as Toyonoshima's gut, which is manifest by your rambling sumo takes. I often say after watching an obvious yaocho that my
intelligence is insulted, but I get it now. You've believed that everything was
straight up all these years because you absolutely lack the intelligence to be
insulted. To quote the best line from the movie Platoon, "I shit on all of you."
Its fine to disagree with me, but to paint me as the fraud is just pathetic, and if that declaration means that I lose readers from this
site, good. As the faithful Christian that I am, it galls me to no end that all these years
I have been casting my pearls among such swine as yourselves.
Okay, now that I've gotten that off of my A-cups, let's review the implications
from the previous bout. With the win, Kisenosato picks up a predictable
kachi-koshi at 8-6 while Hakuho falls one off the lead at 12-2. Heading into the
final day, the official leaderboard is as follows:
12-2: Hakuho, Toyonoshima
I thought at the end of day 12 that Kotoshogiku's yusho chances were at about
60% because I knew he was the underdog in two of his next three bouts. After
today, that number goes up close to about 80%, but these Japanese Ozeki are so
clueless and inept, it would not totally surprise me to see Ozeki Goeido
actually win tomorrow. Look, if Goeido comes out with the intent to win
tomorrow, it's a fifty-fifty chance. I don't expect that to happen, but yaocho
is extremely difficult to predict. If you had put a gun to my head today and
asked me "Hakuho or Kisenosato?", I would have taken the Yokozuna. Kotoshogiku
is obviously in the driver's seat in terms of the yusho, but there's still one
more day to go, and as we learned on day 13, anything can happen.
Just when you thought things couldn't get worse for Ozeki Goeido, they
apparently did. Against M2 Takarafuji, the two hooked up in the hidari-yotsu
position, and like Kotoshogiku the bout before him, I really thought Goeido was
out there trying to make something happen instead of just charging forward with
no plan. The problem was that Takarafuji is the superior rikishi, and once he
dug in with that left inside as if to set up a charge, Goeido panicked and
stepped out wide setting up a meager kote-nage throw with the right, but he
could never really fire on the throw as Takarafuji was charging into his craw.
Now near the tawara, Goeido just abandoned everything and tried to escape to his
left pulling at Takarafuji as he went, but in the process, he grabbed a handful
of Takarafuji's hair and yanked the M2 off balance to the point where he hopped
along the tawara like a drunkard before collapsing on the other side of the
straw. The chief judge called a mono-ii to confirm the hair pull, and they
awarded the victory to Takarafuji by disqualification. Not the greatest way to
pick up kachi-koshi, but Takarafuji will take it as he moves to 8-6. As for
Goeido, he falls to 4-10 and assumes the role of Storyteller-minor tomorrow.
M1 Aminishiki henka'd to his left against Komusubi Tochinoshin grabbing the
quick and dirty left outer grip, but Shin was able to square up with the pretty
good position to the right inside, and after Aminishiki tried to spin around the
ring to keep the Private on the move, Tochinoshin was finally able to halt the
action and gather his wits in the center of the ring. With the solid right
inside, Tochinoshin used his brute strength to try and bully Aminishiki into a
tsuri-dashi, but Aminishiki's a big dude himself and was able to stay grounded.
While the tsuri-dashi didn't work, Tochinoshin was able to grab the left outer
grip, and he immediately went for the force out kill, but Aminishiki executed an
incredible utchari at the edge leaning to his left and forcing Tochinoshin's
left foot to just step beyond the straw before Aminishiki crashed to the dirt.
They ruled in favor of Tochinoshin, but a mono-ii was called, and replays showed
that Tochinoshin's left foot did step out before Aminishiki crashed to the dohyo.
I think the video judges were focused on Tochinoshin's left foot because
Aminishiki's right heel was already across the straw and likely touching sand,
but they ruled in favor of Aminishiki in the end. As Kane mentioned to me, we
saw the very worst and best of Aminishiki in the same bout as he moves to 6-8
while Tochinoshin's make-koshi becomes official as well at 6-8.
Before we move on, you watch a bout like this and then compare it to bouts where
at least one party will let up, and it's easy to call mukiryoku sumo. I'm not
saying that every bout has to end with a spectacular crash at the edge, but you
can see when both parties are trying to win.
M3 Kaisei persisted forward in his charge against Komusubi Ikioi looking for the
right inside and left frontal grip, but he couldn't quite get a hold of Ikioi who
just backed out of the yotsu contest and went for a quick pull that briefly
threw Kaisei off stride. The Brasilian regrouped quickly, however, and got the
right inside for reals followed up with the left outer grip, but as he mounted
his force-out charge, Ikioi countered well with a right scoop throw. Once again,
Kaisei's momentum was halted briefly, but he still had a grab on Ikioi's belt,
and so he stepped outside and dragged Ikioi down to the dirt via the dashi-nage
move. Kaisei led this one throughout as both parties end the day at 4-10.
M1 Shohozan lurched into moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M3 Ichinojo and
immediately went into gaburi mode trying to keep the Slug up high, but Ichinojo
moved a bit left and went for a left kote-nage throw while Shohozan went for a
simultaneous right scoop throw creating a rare nage-no-uchi-ai where neither rikishi
had a grip of the belt. The result was a slippery finish where both rikishi fell
to the clay, but Ichinojo put his hams down first in an effort to break his
fall. It was close, and they called a mono-ii, but the initial decision was
upheld. The explanation to the mono-ii was quite comical: "We called a mono-ii
to determine that Ichinojo's hands touched down first. And they did!" Darth
Hozan moves to 5-9 with the win while Ichinojo falls to 2-12.
M10 Mitakeumi looked to stand toe to toe against M2 Aoiyama in a tsuppari
affair, but the veteran Aoiyama said, "Bro, you ain't got no hiss," and then
promptly showed Mitakeumi how it's done firing paw after paw into Mitakeumi's
face and neck. Mitakeumi stood his ground well, but over time, he was just
battered back and across the straw. This was great stuff from Aoiyama whose long
arms and experience proved the difference. He moves to 6-8 with the win while
Mitakeumi falls to 5-9.
M13 Takekaze obviously thinks he can best M4 Kotoyuki at a tsuppari fight
because he was in KotoLoogie's grill from the tachi-ai knocking him back from
the initial charge and then timing a pull that sent Kotoyuki off balance.
Kotoyuki was very much alive despite the pull attempt, but Takekaze was in his
head at this point, and so the smaller Takekaze used a great tsuki at the side
of Kotoyuki's right shoulder to knock him back upright and to the side, and
instead of attempting to square back up, Kotoyuki decided to pirouette
needlessly allowing Takekaze to push him out from behind. Takekaze was in
command throughout as he moves to 10-4 while Kotoyuki falls to 8-6.
M14 Toyohibiki struck well at the tachi-ai against M4 Kyokushuho with his usual
tsuppari attack, but the de-ashi weren't behind the move, and it allowed
Kyokushuho to evade to his right and go for the counter pull with his right hand
at the back of Toyohibiki's left arm and left hand at the back of the head, and
as Chiyonofuji said afterwards, "His legs just couldn't keep up." Kyokushuho
moves to 6-8 with the win while Toyohibiki's kachi-koshi is still intact at 8-6.
M12 Chiyotairyu meant bidness against M5 Sokokurai for two steps plowing
Sokokurai back to the edge in an instant, but Sokokurai had a hold of
Chiyotairyu's sagari and used them for leverage as he darted out left. Normally
the sagari will pull free from the belt, but with Chiyotairyu's large gut
keeping them in place, Sokokurai was able to evade left, and the move completely
befuddled Chiyotairyu. Instead of switching gears and making a right turn in
attempt to finish off his gal, he aligned his feet and went for a stupid pull
allowing Sokokurai to score the easy push-out win. Sokokurai stays alive at 7-7
while Chiyotairyu is coasting now at 8-6.
M12 Shodai and M6 Okinoumi hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position where Okinoumi
actually came away with the right outer grip, but the veteran did nothing but
stand there and allow Shodai to execute an inside belt throw that sent Okinoumi
to the dirt in seconds. Okinoumi obviously let up here on purpose as the flow of
the bout was not natural. If your opponent attempts an inside belt throw, you
counter with the strong outer in a stance called nage-no-uchi-ai, but Okinoumi
just wilted over and down like a wet rag. Even Chiyonofuji in the booth said, "I
thought the position favored Okinoumi in one." Yeah, it did, which is why the
yaocho is an easy call here. There's no way a veteran with an outer grip goes
down that easily against a rookie. Both dudes end the day at 9-5.
M6 Tokushoryu henka'd to his left against M16 Kagayaki, but he wasn't serious
about a pull or slapdown and just squared his body back up with Kagayaki and
allowed the rookie to push him back and out with no resistance. Way to try and
mask the yaocho with a henka bro, but you need to "act" the entire bout, not
just at the tachi-ai. Both rikishi end the day at 3-11, and Kagayaki's three
wins have been two yaocho and a freebie due to the withdrawal of Endoh. Not the
best debut to go on one's résumé.
M7 Tamawashi and M15 Homarefuji engaged in the expected tsuppari affair with
Tamawashi taking charge thanks to his long arms of the law and timely shoves to
the face, but as Homarefuji was driven back near the edge, you could just see
Tamawashi think about the pull for an instant allowing Homarefuji to slip left,
but in the end, Tamawashi thought better of it and resumed his tsuppari charge
earning the tsuki-dashi win in the end. Tamawashi one-ups his foe record-wise at
5-9 while Homarefuji falls of course to 4-10.
M15 Kitataiki and M8 Takayasu hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, but
both kept their hips back and away from an outer grip. The two slow danced in
this position for fifteen seconds or so before Takayasu finally succeeded in
latching onto the right outer grip, but when he did, instead of setting up the
normal yori charge or outer belt throw, he basically attempted a dashi-nage
without the nage. In short, the bout went from Kitataiki having his back against
the tawara to Takayasu turning the tables by placing himself in between
Kitataiki and the edge without doing anything with the outer grip. With Takayasu
now standing on the tawara, Kitataiki tried to push him across but Takayasu
countered with a desperate sideways swipe that sent Kitataiki out before
Takayasu stepped out. Afterwards they asked Takayasu about that move, and his
explanation was that he was "kata-sugiru," or too tense. Takayasu picks up
double-digit wins at 10-4 while Kitataiki's still got one more to go at 7-7.
M8 Myogiryu executed his usual tachi-ai going for his opponent's throat in an
effort to make him stand tall, and M13 Takanoiwa's defense was half-assed at
best. About two seconds in, Takanoiwa ducked down and offered his left arm
forward as if to gain the inside position, but the emphasis should be on "ducked
down" because Myogiryu just drove a tsuki into the back of Takanoiwa's left
shoulder sending him to the clay with ease and more importantly keeping
Myogiryu's kachi-koshi hopes alive at 7-7. Dare I suggest that Takanoiwa's move
here was intentional. I believe I do. He's 9-5 after the loss.
M11 Amuuru and M9 Gagamaru charged with Gagamaru's left fist easily 20 cm off
the ground (or 8 inches as we say in Utah), and it looked as if the Georgian
held up thinking the bout would be called back, but everyone stayed quiet, and
so Amuuru just slipped into moro-zashi and escorted Gagamaru back and across
without argument. From the referee to the judges to the NHK Announcers, everyone
stayed quiet about the false start non-call just to get this bout out of their
hair I'm sure. Both fellas end the day at 7-7.
Finally, M10 Chiyootori attempted to keep M9 Sadanoumi at bay with a right paw
to the neck, but it was timid allowing Sadanoumi to easily swipe it away, get
the left arm to the inside, and then double-down with the right outer grip near
the front of Chiyootori's belt, and Otori (4-10) was long gone by this point as
Sadanoumi scored the methodic force-out win moving to 6-8 in the process.
Well, we are obviously on the brink of the first Japanese rikishi yusho in 10
years. I think...no...I hope we all feel a bit betrayed by the way it's played
out over the last few days. It's not that any of us don't want to see a Japanese
rikishi yusho; we just want to see it done properly, and we want to see it
awarded to someone whose actually worthy to put together an entire tournament
worthy of the yusho. We've all been numbed down over the years to accept the
fact that rikishi will be given the yusho if they mostly do their part.
Harumafuji's first yusho was the case; Baruto's first and only yusho was the
case; and it was the same for Kakuryu and Terunofuji. We could clearly see that
Terunofuji and all of the other guys were putting together performances worthy
of a yusho, so okay...Hakuho steps aside for one day and gives it to them
officially. Watching this basho play out, however, has been a travesty, and I
just hope the scars created by giving Kotoshogiku the yusho (assuming he gets
it) are worth having his portrait hanging in the rafters for the next six
years...just to make the Association feel good about themselves. Job poorly done fellas.
Day 13 (Harvye Hodja reporting) When
Kotoshogiku beat Hakuho two days ago I took it in stride--what are you going to
do? But I have to admit I emotionally expected Harumafuji to beat Kotoshogiku
the next day and put the world back right side up. When that didn't happen, to
my surprise, I finally felt depressed. The whole thing just seemed so farcical.
I suppose I've been waiting for something like it to happen for years, but that
means also I was in denial all those years about how deep the cheating runs. Why
should I think this Kotoshogiku run is any worse than the dozens of other thrown
key matches I've seen? Why should I think an engineered yusho for Kotoshogiku is
any worse than the engineered yusho given to Terunofuji last year? But yes--it
bothered me. It just seems so obvious. Kotoshogiku just isn't this good. Heck,
even amongst our most critical commenters, as of this writing not one person has
stood up to say the Kotoshogiku win over Hakuho was straight up. The whole thing
just feels so overcooked. And so do I.
So, I prepared a whole different intro today, not the one you're reading,
talking about how the tournament is a joke, so I might as well have some fun
too. I had a Star-Wars-content sideshow report planned, all humor, little
But then something happened, and I couldn't write that report. Let's talk about
O Kotoshogiku (12-0) vs. Toyonoshima (10-2)
Pre-match, these guys looked bored and far away to me, their faces sad. I
thought, "yeah, even they can't believe everybody is actually going through with
this thing." Then the match started. A simple little tachi-ai, both guys with
their arms bundled up, not hitting too hard, bumping. Toyonoshima started moving
backward, as expected. But then, in the blink of an eye, it was over, and it was
Toyonoshima moving back and left while Kotoshogiku kept moving straight forward.
A simple little tottari arm pull by Toyonoshima dumped Kotoshogiku, fresh off
three easy defeats of Yokozuna, to the clay.
I couldn't believe it. I actually yelled out and did a double fist pump and rose
half out of my chair. My brief euphoric feeling was, "so there is some good in
the world after all!" An outpouring of relief that the travesty of a Kotoshogiku
zensho would not happen. I'm still very happy about that.
But it's a funny thing. Our commenters have had n smart, spirited battle over
the idea of whether the expectation that yaocho will happen makes a person think
it did, whether it did or not: bias. It's a strong point, and something I try to
guard against, but there is no doubt of its pull. Yes: I expected Kotoshogiku to
win this, and would probably have suspected mukiryoku if he did. So by that
logic I should celebrate this Toyonoshima win as (pre-determined by my biased
viewpoint) legitimate. Yes?
But no. The more I watched the replays, the more THIS looked weak. Kotoshogiku
didn't even try to move his arms at the end. He didn't turn. He didn't go for
the belt. He just moved forward and fell down. Really? Really. This stuff will
drive you crazy. Shall I construct a conspiracy theory for you? Shall I yell mea
culpa and blue-sky cry, "holy lord, it's clean!" Shall I just try to ignore that
this looked weird to me, chalk it up to my own imperfect knowledge, and describe
the match as if it were normal?
No. I'm not going to go down any of those rabbit holes. I'm going to go back to
the actual sumo: it looked to me like Kotoshogiku gave this one up. I suppose I
should just do what I've been doing for years: accept it and move on. What do I
know? What does it mean? I don't know. But I won't make an idiot of myself--or
treat you like a fool--by pretending this looked right. I'm sure glad it
Y Kakuryu (9-3) vs. Y Hakuho (11-1)
So, naturally, my interest was piqued for this one. Would THIS be thrown? This
wasn't great sumo. It started with a cat slap by Hakuho, then weak effort from
him as he was driven backwards. There were a couple of momentum shifts after
that. The first got Hakuho back to the center. He then tried a throw while
lifting Kakuryu up on the other side with his leg. When that didn't work, he
tried a throw in the other direction which he finished off by holding back
Kakuryu's knee with one hand and spun Kakuryu around to face away from him.
After that Kakuryu was easy pickins; Hakuho walked him out okuri-dashi with no
effort to resist from Kakuryu, even though he had half of the dohyo available to
him. No, not pretty stuff at all. These guys looked to be going through the
motions in a tournament so heavily compromised over the last few days it's hard
to take any of it seriously.
Y Harumafuji (10-2) vs. O Kisenosato (7-5)
Which brought Harumafuji nominally back into the yusho race--anything truly
could happen. Harumafuji rammed his head into Kisenosato so hard it made a
popping sound like a Toyota hitting a rubber mat. That was the one and only move
of the match: after that Harumafuji fell straight down to the ground like a
log--I wondered if he's been knocked out or stunned--while
propelled backwards off of the dohyo. Instant replay clearly showed that
Harumafuji hit the dirt before Kisenosato stepped down outside the ring, but the
mono-ii resulted in a do-over, which was fair in spirit if not in literal fact:
Kisenosato was well past the straw and flying.
On round two, it started with another identical impressive popping sound, their
heads smacking together, again on Harumafuji's initiative. After that Kisenosato
had nothing. While he was still thinking, "wow, he did that again?," Harumafuji
was getting a deep left inside grip so fast nobody saw it until it was done, and
the yori-kiri force out was immediate.
Which leaves us with a leaderboard like this:
Kotoshogiku, Hakuho 12-1
Harumafuji, Toyonoshima 11-2
Where it goes from here lord only knows, thank god--and I'm not sure I can do
anything but shake my head. All righty then. Let's rewind to the beginning and
see what else happened today.
M16 Kagayaki (2-10) vs. M11 Amuuru (5-7)
Amuuru did what you are supposed to do: get low and try to force your opponent
upright. Like, 60 times. This took way too long against an opponent having a
tournament this bad. Amuuru eventually got an okuri-dashi win, but he's looked a
little tired this tournament.
M10 Chiyootori (4-5-3) vs. M15 Homarefuji (3-9)
Homarefuji came with a volley of lively, hard face hits, the best he's looked
all tournament, and despite a long arm to the neck, Chiyootori was bent
backwards and in trouble from the beginning in this oshi-dashi push-out win for
M13 Takekaze (9-3) vs. M9 Gagamaru (6-6)
This was a serious size mismatch, and props to Takekaze for playing it straight
up. However, it didn't work: Gagamaru didn't have to do much more than lean down
on top of him, and soon crushed him out, oshi-taoshi.
M12 Chiyotairyu (7-5) vs. M8 Takayasu (9-3)
The good: Chiyotairyu hit hard and drove forward without trying to pull. The
bad: Takayasu did try to pull. The ugly: Takayasu just kind of gave up, standing
on the tawara waiting for Chiyotairyu to finish him off oshi-dashi, a guy on the
street corner looking around for his bus.
M8 Myogiryu (5-7) vs. M15 Kitataiki (7-5)
Hard working bout here. Myogiryu quickly got both hands inside, moro-zashi, but
it was extremely shallow, and Kitataiki had him pinched off at the wrists,
"kime" style. Eventually, Myogiryu had to pull out of it and give Kitataiki a
shove to get the oshi-dashi win.
M10 Mitakeumi (4-6-2) vs. M7 Tamawashi (4-8)
The Bully (Mitakeumi) came with some long-armed, reaching slaps, and fortunately
for him, Tamawashi had pull on his mind, so Mitakeumi was able to get the body
for a dominant hold after that and drive his opponent down and out, oshi-taoshi.
M13 Takanoiwa (9-3) vs. M6 Okinoumi (8-4)
Okinoumi went for an ultra-low sweep-up with his hands at the tachi-ai, and got
better position underneath. Takanoiwa responded by hunching down, but took it
too far; Okinoumi just responded by ceasing his forward pressure and springing
an overhand throw trap for the uwate-nage win.
M14 Toyohibiki (7-5) vs. M5 Sokokurai (6-6)
Very good performance by Toyohibiki here, who brought an enormous post-tachi-ai
push that completely overwhelmed Sokokurai. However, that wasn't the best part.
Right at the end, Sokokurai had the presence of mind to move to the side, and in
Toyohibiki's case, that is where he usually loses: once his forward momentum
stops, he is easily beatable. Not this time. He responded by moving to the right
with Sokokurai, albeit walking backwards into him, and knocking Sokokurai out
sideways on the rare winning technique ushiro-motare, or "backwards lean out."
It was sloppy and half by mistake but it was all Kerosene Burp needed.
M4 Kyokushuho (4-8) vs. M9 Sadanoumi (5-7)
Sadanoumi put his head down too far, didn't bring his feet forward, and was
pulled down, hataki-komi.
M12 Shodai (8-4) vs. M2 Aoiyama (4-8)
Lest you think all the ridiculous nonsense in this tournament has embittered me
to sumo, not so. This was a great one to look forward to: a sizable young guy
having a good basho against a dynamic and powerful jo'i behemoth. Blue Mountain
(Aoiyama) gave no quarter here. He started with shoves to the chest, and when
that didn't work sufficiently, looked annoyed and switched to the face, which
bent Shodai back consid'rble-like. Aoiyama moved forward and continued with the
blasting, and knocked Shodai cleanly and emphatically off the dohyo in a very
dominant display, tsuki-dashi. After the bout down off the clay, Shodai threw
his head back for a few moments as if to say, "whoo! I'm not broken am I?" No.
Just broken in.
M6 Tokushoryu (3-9) vs. M1 Shohozan (3-9)
Darth Hozan may be mean and wicked and all, but he doesn't belong at this rank.
To save some semblance of honor, he needed to win this one: he had a relatively
skills-free opponent, a big man also too high ranked. He needed to show what his
fire can do even when outsized. He did win, but it was ugly: he tapped Special
Sauce (Tokushoryu) on the shoulder as if to pull for a split second at the
tachi-ai, then moved forward out of control, falling down as he pushed Sauce
out, oshi-dashi. This guy was at juryo #6 just two tournaments ago, and he
belongs probably around M12, and he'll get there soon enough.
M1 Aminishiki (5-6-1) vs. M4 Kotoyuki (7-5)
The battle for King Nasty. Will it be Kotoyuki, with his pre-bout theatrics, or
Aminishiki, with his in-bout theatrics? Lo! Kotoyuki said "I'm King Nasty
before, now, and forever, dude"--he out nasty'ed nasty, pulling out the instant
in-bout theatrics, going the whole hog with a henka of The Master himself.
Aminishiki tumbled to the ground, hataki-komi, and you've to enjoy the henka
when it's employed in bouts by guys with histories like this. Fun stuff.
M3 Kaisei (3-9) vs. K Tochinoshin (5-7)
These guys went after it the old fashioned way, heavy and head to head. They got
on each other's belts and went for a weight-lifting gold medal. Tochinoshin
controlled it with an inside right grip, then in the end moved his hands up
around the torso in order to take advantage of an opponent he'd stood
sufficiently up, giving him the yori-kiri win. Could he still get his
kachi-koshi? Let's hope so, because he's looking great.
K Ikioi (4-8) vs. S Ichinojo (1-11)
Ichinojo swept upwards with his hands off the tachi-ai, but didn't get much out
of it, ending with one arm dangling and an outside grip on the other side.
Ikioi, meanwhile, had to be pleased: he had both hands inside around the fatty
uppers of Ichinojo. Ichinojo did eventually drape his other arm over as well,
and worked with a seriously loose belt on Ikioi (when you're wearing your
mawashi in your armpits, you need to have it tied tighter). And that was the way
it stayed for a few minute, chest to chest. Tochiohzan did try a force out and
had The Mongolith at the straw, but in this bout Ichinojo did everything he used
to do well: looked heavy and simply impossible to get over that ten-foot-tall
tawara, and leaned on his opponent long and hard to tire him out. Eventually,
right at the end, he pulled one arm out in a maki-kae and got an inside grip of
his own. Position now shored up, he was able to slide a spent Ikioi out,
yori-kiri. There is no doubt this was a good match, but in the context of this
tournament it served to remind us of weaknesses in both men: why couldn't Ikioi
take down this vulnerable butter ball who has been so bad against nearly
everybody else this tournament? And why has Ichinojo been so bad every day when
he is capable of doing this?
M2 Takarafuji (7-5) vs. S Yoshikaze (6-6)
Ridiculous. Takarafuji just flailed around, came in too high, made weak attempts
to grab the belt with uncommitted body and arms, and let himself be body-hit out
at the end while standing waiting for the oshi-dashi at the tawara and not
moving left or right. Ridiculous.
S Tochiohzan (5-7) vs. O Goeido (4-8)
Smack and drop. After a good hard tachi-ai, Tochiohzan was holding Goeido up with
two hands to the inside, but then stepped slightly left while Goeido was trying
to swipe him to the right with two hands: an odd looking move that left Goeido
100% wide open and vulnerable on his own right. No matter--it was academic as he
dropped to the clay, hataki-komi. Didn't look natural. But why wouldn't it be? I
don't know. But it didn't.
Mike fries up fresh bacon tomorrow.
Day 12 (Mike Wesemann reporting) Several
times this basho I've mentioned a prop that's used as part of the elite
referees' costumes: a dagger. If you watch closely, the referees who work the
final bouts of the day will have a dagger stuffed into their sashes as you can
see from the picture at right. In the early days of sumo, the elite referees
would actually use the dagger to commit Harry Carry (as we say/spell it in Utah)
if they ever botched a call that involved an elite rikishi. I've brought this up
several times during the basho as the referees have made mistakes implying that
watching such an episode of hara-kiri would be a lot cooler than watching the
actual sumo in the ring these days, and while that comment is mostly in gest--mostly,
Harumafuji entered the day 12 bouts with a virtual dagger tucked into the folds
of his mawashi. With one fell swoop, Harumafuji had the power to disembowel the
hopes of an entire nation, and so the largest question heading into the day was
not whether or not Kotoshogiku could upset the Yokozuna, but would Harumafuji
let it happen? I mean, I can't remember when I've anticipated a bout of sumo so
much, and the actual content of the sumo incredibly had nothing to do with it!
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, however, let's review the leaderboard
at the start of day 12:
with the two-loss rikishi, M8 Takayasu kept his elbows out wide at the tachi-ai
allowing M12 Shodai to gain the left inside, and even though the clear path was
open for Takayasu to get his own left arm to the inside, he brought it out wide
giving Shodai the advantageous moro-zashi position. Shodai sensed his advantage
and immediately began to mount a charge, and Takayasu's response was a
half-assed maki-kae attempt with the left arm, the same limb he could have
gotten to the inside from the tachi-ai. With Takayasu having lost any momentum
due to that maki-kae attempt, Shodai just bulldozed him back and out in like two
seconds. Takayasu was completely mukiryoku here. Either mukiryoku or just plain
stupid, but I'm sure it's the former. Nothing in his sumo made sense today, and
for whatever reason, he allowed Shodai to skate to a kachi-koshi and an 8-4 mark.
As for Takayasu, he falls to 9-3 with the loss, and he wasn't going to chase
down the leaders and steal Kotoshogiku's thunder anyway, so it's all good in the
end...except for the sumo.
next, M7 Toyonoshima needed to solve M5 Sokokurai today in order to keep pace
with the leaders, and despite a horrible tachi-ai from both parties who were out
of sync, Toyonoshima was able to get his right arm inside before just driving
Sokokurai back and across without argument. And when I say without argument
here, I mean that Sokokurai was completely mukiryoku and not that Toyonoshima's
sumo was any good. First, this should have been called a false start, but I
think the lazy tachi-ai from Sokokurai indicated his intentions from the
beginning. I realize that Toyonoshima probably has the advantage anyway, but
Sokokurai (6-6) did nothing here to dig in and defend, and he just walked
backwards instead of moving right and attempting a tsuki-otoshi move that was
available. Course, Sokokurai did attempt that oft-seen lift up your knee at the
edge for no reason as depicted at left, so it might have been all straight up.
Who knows? Anyway, Toyonoshima moves to 10-2 with the win, and it sets up
a very interesting matchup between Toyonoshima and Kotoshogiku tomorrow. You old
schoolers will know that those two were rivals all the way through the ranks.
They both entered professional sumo exactly 14 years ago as Kotokikutsugi and
Kajiwara, and they both achieved sekitori status a few years later one basho
apart. Toyonoshima jumped out to the early lead in the rivalry taking the yusho
in both Jonokuchi and Jonidan in his first two basho, and Toyonoshima also
reached sekitori status first, but Kotoshogiku has overtaken him of course in
recent years with his promotion to the Ozeki rank. The fact that these two are
going to face each other on day 13 with serious yusho implications on the line
was a good move by the Sumo Association.
to the one-loss rikishi, Yokozuna Hakuho was ready to gift Ozeki Goeido the easy
win today, but the Ozeki is so hapless that he completely whiffed on the offer.
At the tachi-ai, Hakuho immediately put both hands up high and at the back of
Goeido's head while aligning his feet wide apart as he shaded right, but Goeido
was completely inept charging blindly straight forward and never once trying to
adjust to his opponent's position. With Goeido already stumbling forward, Hakuho
just offered a light shove to the Ozeki's left side that officially sent him
down for good in an all-around ugly affair. Some may have classified this as a
henka on the part of Hakuho, but he was absolutely giving Goeido an opening with
that ugly tachi-ai. The end result is Hakuho's moving to 10-1 and Goeido's
falling to 4-8 making his make-koshi official. Before we move on, I just need to
comment on the dame-oshi that Harumafuji
to Goeido after their bout yesterday. You remember that HowDo just plowed the
Ozeki back and out with zero resistance, and with Goeido standing there beyond
the straw, Harumafuji nudged him with his right shoulder knocking him off the
dohyo altogether. The move drew no criticism from the NHK Announcers as they
watched the replays, and I didn't see any mention of it in the media. And for
good reason because Goeido absolutely deserved it. Well, he actually deserved a
harder shove that the Yokozuna gave him, but you cannot come into a tournament
ranked as Ozeki and just stink it up as Goeido as done and not draw the ire of
your peers. It's a Yokozuna's place to keep these guys honest, and I don't care
what the race of the Yokozuna is. Harumafuji's giving him that dame-oshi was a
clear message that people are just disgusted with Goeido's sumo of late.
Okay, with that off of my manly chest, let's turn to the featured bout of the
day, Yokozuna Harumafuji vs. Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Harumafuji got the early left to
the inside against Ozeki Kotoshogiku and had the clear path to the inside right
a second in, which would have given him moro-zashi, but he pulled that right arm
outside in a faux attempt to grab the outer belt in the next second. I say faux
attempt because Harumafuji's right arm was right there in position to grab the
solid right outer that would have pinched Kotoshogiku's left arm useless, but
Harumafuji pulled away from that as well settling for the straight up
hidari-yotsu position. I'll pause here and post pictures from the first two
seconds of this bout, each of which shows the Yokozuna in a seemingly dominating
position. Once he pulled out of 1) moro-zashi, and 2) a stifling right
outer grip, it was clear from this point which direction the match would take:
After refraining from the two dominant positions in the first few seconds of the
bout as seen above, Harumafuji did what his fellow Mongolians did the two
previous days, which was to play no defense and just wait for Kotoshogiku to
make his move.
undoubtedly sensed the Yokozuna's intentions at this point, and so he quickly
made said move by bellying Harumafuji back near the edge before shifting gears
and felling the Yokozuna with a right tsuki into Harumafuji's left side as easy
as you please. Like yesterday, there was a smattering of zabuton thrown in the
arena, but it was nothing like the Asashoryu - Kotooshu bout they showed early
on in the basho. Look, the people know what's going on, and they know a true
upset when they see it, and so a few people threw cushions at the prospect of
the first Japanese yusho in 10 years, but I doubt anyone threw a cushion because
they felt they had just witnessed a true upset. I mean, when was the last time
any rikishi has beaten the three Yokozuna in the same basho much less on
three consecutive days? The true surprise here is that the three Mongolians
actually let it happen, not that Kotoshogiku achieved anything of his own
After the bout, Yoshida Announcer excitedly called up to the booth from the back
halls of the venue signaling he had an update. As if on cue, NHK coincidentally
showed a replay of Hakuho in the hana-michi watching the match on one of the
monitors, and right next to him was Yoshida Announcer just waiting to oil his
way in for comment. With the image of Hakuho watching the bout, Yoshida
Announcer eagerly reported that he asked Hakuho for his impression of
Kotoshogiku's sumo, and the reply from the Yokozuna was, "Kanpeki ni chikai,"
or it was about as perfect as you can get. Fujii Announcer and Kitanofuji both
chimed in that, "Yes, even the Yokozuna acknowledges how good his sumo is!"
A couple of seconds later, someone else called up to the booth and reported that
they had tracked Harumafuji down and repeatedly asked him for his thoughts on
the bout, but regardless of what they asked the Yokozuna, he would just reply
with a sigh (nani wo kiite mo, tameiki). I mean, you couldn't script
it any better than this, could you??
The end result is that Kotoshogiku stands atop the leaderboard at 12-0 trailed
only by Hakuho with one loss and now Harumafuji and Toyonoshima with two losses.
As mentioned, Kotoshogiku will get Toyonoshima tomorrow; he'll likely get
Tochiohzan on Saturday; and then he should fight Goeido on senshuraku. It
doesn't matter that the Ozeki is the underdog in two out of three of those
bouts. What matters is that the Mongolians have graciously stepped aside and put
everything in the hands of the Japanese rikishi, and I would be absolutely
shocked if either Toyonoshima and/or Tochiohzan fought straight up the next two
With Kotoshogiku safely through, the final bout of the day was the last thing on
anyone's mind, but if we must...
Yokozuna Kakuryu struck forward and low into Sekiwake Tochiohzan, and
Tochiohzan's response was to go for the immediate pull. Bad decision as Kakuryu
just charged straight forward pushing the Sekiwake back and out in about two
seconds. Kakuryu is out of the yusho picture at 9-3 while Tochiohzan's back is
up against the wall now at 5-7. I think you easily sacrifice kachi-koshi,
though, for the first Japanese rikishi yusho in 10 years.
In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Kisenosato came with his usual bad tachi-ai
where he's unable to establish something to the inside, but M3 Kaisei returned
the favor with a lost charge of his own leaving both guys fiddling around for a
few seconds before finally hooking up in hidari-yotsu. Kaisei played defense at
this point content to just lean in on his opponent while extending his right arm
towards Kisenosato's belt should the Ozeki happen to walk into it. After a 10
second stalemate, Kisenosato finally took charge demanding the right outer grip
that came with just one fold of the belt, but it was enough to allow him to sure
up his position and score the ultimate force-out in the end. This was a huge win
for Kisenosato, who moves to 7-5, because he's got the three Mongolian Yokozuna
the final three days. Let's see how graceful the Mongolians act, especially in
light of forfeiting the yusho, but surely one of them will let Kisenosato slide
through. As for Kaisei, he falls to a meaningless 3-9 record today and probably
could have put up a better fight.
M1 Aminishiki henka'd to his left against Sekiwake Yoshikaze, and as the smaller
Yoshikaze looked to recover and square back up, Aminishiki greeted him with yet
another mammoth pull, this time swinging Yoshikaze around and down for good.
Seems to me that the only way that Aminishiki can win this high on the banzuke
is with a henka. He moves to 5-7 with the quick and dirty win while Yoshikaze
falls to 6-6. Remember the good ole days of Sumotalk when a tachi-ai henka like
this would get me riled up? Now I see a henka and go, "At least it wasn't
Speaking of henka, M1 Shohozan's dark ways were on display today as he offered a
slight shift to his left that threw Komusubi Tochinoshin off just enough to
where Darth Hozan came outta the fray with the solid moro-zashi grip.
Tochinoshin is no slouch, however, and latched onto Shohozan's belt with the
left outer grip over the top, and the battle was on. You had the clearly
superior rikishi, Tochinoshin, in a pickle from the tachi-ai, but could Shohozan
overcome his opponent's strength and height advantage? After an entertaining
twenty seconds or so where Shohozan attempted to keep Tochinoshin upright enough
to score a force-out charge, the Komusubi's strength finally won out as
Tochinoshin was able to dump Shohozan over and down near the edge with that left
outer grip. Watch the way that Tochiohzan dug in here after giving up
moro-zashi, and then contrast that to the three Yokozuna in their bouts against
Kotoshogiku where they only gave up one arm to the inside. Tochinoshin is
still alive at 5-7 while Shohozan falls to 3-9.
M2 Aoiyama made some sweet hissing sounds at the tachi-ai against Komusubi
Ikioi, but his tsuppari were nowhere to be found, and with Aoiyama's arms high
and out wide, Ikioi easily assumed moro-zashi. For his part, Aoiyama did move
right and feign a right tsuki into Ikioi's left shoulder, but he was mukiryoku
all the way allowing Ikioi to score the easy force out win in short order. Not
sure what the yaocho implications were in this one as both guys fall to 4-8, but
Aoiyama was mukiryoku.
M2 Takarafuji and M4 Kyokushuho hooked up immediately in the hidari-yotsu
position where the better belt fighter, Takarafuji, grabbed the stifling right
outer grip. Kyokushuho did well to counter with a right scoop throw that threw
Takarafuji off balance briefly, but he was able to square back up and mount a
successful charge leading with that right outer grip. I always enjoy a good belt
contest like this one as Takarafuji moves to 7-5 eyeing at least one of the
vacant Komusubi slots while Kyokushuho falls to 4-8.
At this point in the broadcast, they announced the retirement of former Makuuchi
rikishi, Daido, whose claim to fame was of course being the brunt of many a
dildo joke at the hands of former ST writers.
M7 Tamawashi shaded left using an inashi shove at the back of M3 Ichinojo's
right arm to push the Slug off balance before Tamawashi just ducked inside and
worked his left arm in deep before Ichinojo could straighten his body up and
counter. I don't know if Ichinojo is so fat now that he can't move or if he's
completely out of shape, but I think the Sumo Association should float us all a
check to compensate us for being forced to watch this awful sumo. Tamawashi
moves to 4-8 with the win while Ichinojo continues to flounder at 1-11.
In a compelling bout between two thrusters, M12 Chiyotairyu blasted M4 Kotoyuki
off of the tachi-ai with a nice shove using the right arm, but he immediately
shifted into pull mode from there attempting to pull down at Kotoyuki's extended
arms, but as Chiyotairyu backed up thinking pull, Kotoyuki just plowed forward
and had Chiyotairyu pushed out in seconds. After the bout with Chiyotairyu
having been pushed off the dohyo altogether, Kotoyuki just stared at him as he
walked back over to his side of the dohyo with this incredulous look on his face
as if to say, "What are you...some kind of dumbass?" I'll answer that one as
both rikishi end the day at 7-5. Yes!
M13 Takekaze greeted M6 Okinoumi with a shove at the tachi-ai before skirting
out to his left throwing Okinoumi off balance with a really nice inashi shove at
the back side of Okinoumi's right biceps area, and Okinoumi was so off balance,
his only answer for Takekaze as he charged in tight was a pull threat with hands
up high. Takekaze just laughed that threat off and easily pushed Okinoumi out in
a matter of seconds moving to 9-3 in the process. Thank the gods that
Kotoshogiku is still undefeated or Takekaze would actually be on the
leaderboard! Okinoumi's recent slide continues as he falls to 8-4.
M15 Homarefuji shaded to his left at the tachi-ai against M6 Tokushoryu, who was
never really able to recover trying to tsuppari his way back into the bout up
high rather than trying to establish something to the inside, and so with
Tokushoryu still flailing away, Homarefuji just continued to move left throwing
Tokushoryu off balance enough to where Homarefuji just rushed in at the end and
scored the push-out win. Ho hum as both dudes end the day at 3-9.
M8 Myogiryu has lost that spring in his step at the tachi-ai and went forward
timid again today against M10 Chiyootori focusing a right arm into Otori's neck,
but there were no de-ashi behind the attack, and so Chiyootori was able to
easily get the left arm deep inside after a failed Myogiryu swipe
downwards, and now chest to chest, the larger Chiyootori was able to belly
Myogiryu upright and back across the straw with little argument. Wasn't Myogiryu
a Sekiwake mainstay the last half of 2015? Dude's now dropped to 5-7 while
Chiyootori fights to keep himself in the division at 4-8.
M13 Takanoiwa showed some serious stones burrowing deep into M9 Gagamaru's girth
with the right inside, and then he fully committed to the chest to chest affair
by grabbing the left outer grip. Before Gagamaru could settle in with a left
outer of his own, Takanoiwa began testing the uwate-nage waters, and with
Gagamaru hopping off balance near the edge, Takanoiwa was able to spill him to
the dirt for the nifty win. Just think how many guys are afraid of going chest
to chest against Gagamaru, so credit Takanoiwa who moves to 9-3 while Gagamaru
drops to 6-6.
With M16 Kagayaki reeling, M9 Sadanoumi didn't need to do much, and so his
forward-moving tachi-ai was half-assed because he was really looking for the
opportunity to pull. With Kagayaki completely lost at the tachi-ai and arms out
wide, Sadanoumi kind of nudged his shoulder into the rookie and then moved out
right pulling the taller Kagayaki down by the shoulder in less than two seconds.
Akinoshima should bring Wakanosato back to teach Kagayaki how to get to the
inside from the tachi-ai because the kid will go nowhere with sumo like this.
He's been awful as he falls to 2-10 while Sadanoumi stays alive at 5-7.
Just great, M10 Mitakeumi! With his make-koshi fate sealed, the youngster
henka'd M14 Toyohibiki jumping out to his left in an attempt to grab the left
outer grip, but it was a poorly executed move forcing Mitakeumi to man up and
face Toyohibiki for reals. Luckily for him, Toyohibiki had no momentum from the
tachi-ai, and so Mitakeumi was able to work his left arm to the inside and
eventually work Toyohibiki around and down with a left scoop throw. I really
wish Mitakeumi had lost this bout because I hate to see youngsters get rewarded
for such poor sumo. Regardless, Mitakeumi moves to 4-8 while Toyohibiki falls to
Finally, M15 Kitataiki and M11 Amuuru hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the
tachi-ai where both combatants had a right outer grip, but it was Kitataiki who
retooled his outer onto more folds of the belt and then used that to pinch in on
Amuuru's inside position as he led the force out charge with the lower body
pressing into Amuuru's left hip area. Normally, I'd favor the younger, taller
rikishi in a gappuri belt contest, but Amuuru isn't exactly a chest to chest
guy. Sure, I guess you could label him as a yotsu guy, but he's more of a mover
laterally than he is a straight up yotsu guy, and that's why the veteran
Kitataiki was able to school him from the gappuri yotsu position. Kitataiki is a
step closer now at 7-5 while Amuuru falls to 5-7.
Well, we are on the brink of the first Japanese rikishi yusho in exactly 10
years. It could come as early as Saturday, especially if Hakuho decided to
give Kisenosato kachi-koshi. I mean, it'd be a nice touch on things
considering what we've seen the last few days. There is incentive for
Toyonoshima (rivalry) and Tochiohzan (kachi-koshi) to fight hard against
Kotoshogiku, but I don't think you can afford another 2012 Natsu fiasco, so
let's just get this over with so everyone can move on.
Harvye picks things up tomorrow.
Day 11 (Harvye Hodja reporting) As
everyone knows, there was only one match today. Dominant Yokozuna Hakuho came in
10-0, carrying the weight of 35 career yusho, all of them during the 59
tournament drought of zero native Japanese wins of the championship--one basho
short of ten years. Kotoshogiku, aging Ozeki, never having won a tournament,
also came in 10-0, creaky with the weight of four plus years at this rank,
during which he's gone kadoban five times, won eight matches eight times, and
won in double digits just seven times in 25 tries. It was David against Goliath,
or Goliath against David. Let's waste no further time.
THE BIG TIME
O Kotoshogiku (10-0) vs. Y Hakuho (10-0)
41 banners marched by during the work up for this, while the crowd ate it up,
loving it especially when Kotoshogiku did his patented pre-match "here I am"
back stretch. That's almost one banner for each of the 46 times Hakuho has
beaten Kotoshogiku, and more than ten banners for each of the four wins for
Kotoshogiku in their series. For his part, Hakuho marched nonchalantly about.
Here we go. The tachi-ai was cat quick for both men, with Hakuho offering two
hands high and tight, then bringing them to the outside for a hold around the
upper body, while Kotoshogiku concentrated on getting inside, and had a snap
hold immediately, a left inside and a right out. Neither man would ever get a
belt; within one second they
had upper body holds, with Hakuho in the slightly higher position, being much
taller. Sensing his advantage, Kotoshogiku swiftly began the intense and fiery
gaburi body-humping we've seen from him years ago at his best, and again often
in this tournament, especially over the last few days. From here, Hakuho was
essentially along for a ride, making ineffectual reaches for the belt, mostly
just hanging on. There was one slight direction shift; Hakuho, backed towards
the edge but still with room, did his resistance-hops in such a way as to spin
them 180 degrees to face the other direction. However, this was no change in
momentum and the basics of the match--Kotoshogiku body-humping furiously, Hakuho
resisting--were consistent throughout. Backed to the tawara at the other side,
Hakuho mounted no lateral evasion; Kotoshogiku sealed the deal by pulling his
right arm out at the very end and applying his hand to Hakuho's chest for a
shove that sent Hakuho gently over the edge and jumping nimbly into the crowd,
defeated by force-out, yori-kiri, while the cushions began to rain down (though
not as many as I expected). Hakuho turned back to the dohyo, put both hands on
it, and leaned forward, as if to feign disappointment, and concern about where
his sumo is going.
So the inevitable questions arise. Was this mukiryoku? My view on the question
is there above, but I've tried to leave it as Hakuho left it--muted and hidden.
The match was skillfully done by both rikishi; this was a good looking and, for
those with a mild and passing interest, exciting win for Kotoshogiku. It did not
make me gnash my teeth or tear out my hair; it is too much par for the course of
late to get upset over or even be very much surprised about. However, I too lean
on the dohyo in concern, wondering where the sport goes from here. There will
now be four days of chase; the yusho is not in the bag yet, and there could
easily still be a Hakuho or, more likely, Harumafuji victory--they are one match
off the pace, and Harumafuji controls his own destiny as he plays Kotoshogiku
tomorrow. But the cement shoes of the basho seem to be setting, and the
symbolism is too ripe not to notice: the ten years weigh heavily. Most ozeki get
at least one career yusho; Kotoshogiku is getting a little old for his--so what
a perfect time for him to get it? If you look it at that way. Which I don't and
won't. I will be rooting hard for Harumafuji against Kotoshogiku--in a grim and
The Storyteller lost; I don't like this chapter of his book. But his themes are
consistent, his tone impeccable, and his protagonist picked. You will and no
doubt already have made your own decision--some of our very sharp commenters
have been clear already, and know their stuff--but for me, sumo remains about
what it has been about for many a year now: the decision by the Storyteller and
his acolytes whether they will win or not. The remaining days offer more of that
Meanwhile, as always, I'll enjoy the lower bouts. We'll get to those in a
minute, but first let's cover Harumafuji as he pursues the pace.
Y Harumafuji (9-1) vs. O Goeido (4-6)
tachi-ai was slow and he was reaching in a bit timidly for the belt; Goeido was
staying lower and doing the same, and I thought Harumafuji might lose. However,
Goeido's arms were too short, and he got nowhere near the grip he needed, and
not fast enough. After a second of this, Harumafuji gave up on it and changed
his approach, bringing his arms up and around, and blasted Goeido emphatically
out of the ring, oshi-dashi. Goeido, at 4-7, is spitted for roasting, but
Harumafuji, at a dominant and enjoyable 10-1, will get to decide tomorrow how to
approach Kotoshogiku. A win gives us a wild three man race for the yusho (him,
Hakuho, and Kotoshogiku all at 11-1). A loss probably wraps it up for the Ozeki
for three days of marching to glorious victory. A ticker tape parade.
For now, though, Harumafuji is a fierce and dominant rikishi with a will of his
own who, for the second day in row, only barely resisted a dame-oshi of his
already beaten foe into the first few rows of the crowd. Today it was with his
elbow that quivered in readiness; unleash his will and it wreaks destruction.
Let's see if he unleashes it tomorrow.
Okay, let's start over at the beginning. Ah!
M13 Takanoiwa (7-3) vs. M11 Amuuru (5-5)
Aside from one ill-advised head pull early on, Takanoiwa was in the zone for
this one, working hard and with sufficient reserve to keep his head; they worked
for each other's belts, but the key was a pull-out from an unfavorable position
for a new grip by Takanoiwa followed by him dragging an unbalanced and
overcommitted Amuuru around by the belt for a kote-nage sling down.
15 Homarefuji (1-9) vs. M10 Mitakeumi (3-5-2)
Glad to see Mitakeumi back from the flu--that'll teach him to take a dare from
Aminishiki and eat a whole bowl of vomited-in chankonabe!--but sad to see him
henka'ed by a guy 1-9 and already guaranteed demotion to Juryo. After that it
was a very easy oshi-dashi win against an admittedly rusty and tired looking
opponent by Homarefuji. They should just ban the henka, same way as they ban
false starts. Easy to do, easy to enforce, done. I'll work my way into Hakkaku's
inner circle and get this done, folks, just give me a couple of years.
M10 Chiyootori (3-4-3) vs. M12 Shodai (6-4)
With shades of Kakizoe, Shodai put both fists on the ground and waited. However,
though he did a good job of trying to wrench Chiyootori up on the left side,
Chiyootori had the better, lower position, and was working him steadily back. At
the tawara, Shodai showed his signature "I'm not a veteran" veteran presence,
stepping to the side with a surprisingly effective lateral shove at Chiyootori
that caused the bigger man to just barely step out, one toe brushing the dirt as
recalibrated, too late, at the edge. They kept fighting--I didn't see the
toe-out at first and probably neither did they--and Shodai was much too easily
removed immediately thereafter by a quickly recovering Chiyootori, but the
(oddly designated) tsuki-otoshi win for Shodai had already been called.
M16 Kagayaki (2-8) vs. M9 Gagamaru (5-5)
I thought this was one Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki) could handle, as Gagamaru's
slow pace could lend itself to Kagayaki's passionless sumo, and at first that
looked to be the case as Mosquito was driving Lord Gaga backwards, but near the
edge Gagamaru simply unloaded with a right arm to the side and dumped the
Mosquito unceremoniously to the clay, tsuki-otoshi. Another bad loss for this
M9 Sadanoumi (4-6) vs. M15 Kitataiki (5-5)
Nice chest to chest stuff here by two gamely straining rikishi, but Sadanoumi
was outclassed by a deep, superior right outer / left inner hold by Kitataiki
for the nice yori-kiri win. Time for Sadanoumi to reload.
M14 Toyohibiki (7-3) vs. M8 Takayasu (8-2)
Normally guys beat Toyohibiki at the edge when he runs out of gas on his forward
charge, but Takayasu is so much the better wrestler he didn't need that; he
stopped Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) in his tracks off the tachi-ai, then dropped
him disdainfully with a masterful uwate-nage overhand throw. Nice work from here
by Takayasu as thus far throughout the fortnight.
M8 Myogiryu (4-6) vs. M13 Takekaze (8-2)
This one should have had some intensity, as Takekaze has a chance to close in on
a special prize and Myogiryu has only a little more time if he wants to recover
from an inferior tournament and pull out a kachi-koshi, or winning record.
However, they both looked half there on the first go round, with Myogiryu
forcing Takekaze out as he fell to the dirt, so I was glad they called for a
do-over: too close to call whether Takekaze's step out or Myogiryu's belly flop
out came first. They were little better the second time though, trading slow
motion ineffectual slaps. Takekaze, true to form, went for a pull, and that was
the mistake Myogiryu needed to move in close and push him out, oshi-dashi.
M7 Toyonoshima (8-2) vs. M12 Chiyotairyu (7-3)
Simple one: one hard slap off the tachi-ai, then Toyonoshima pulled the
post-tachi-ai henka, moving out back and left, and Chiyotairyu fell to the dirt
on his momentum line, tsuki-otoshi. On the one hand, disappointing strategy from
an excellent rikishi, Toyonoshima. On the other hand, what can Chiyotairyu
expect? Mike and I are constantly on him for doing too much pulling and not
moving consistently forward, as he has a very powerful attack. However, it's not
quite fair, because what I've seen over the last few basho is that against the
better guys it doesn't work--they just evade and beat him. This was well planned
in advance by Toyonoshima, seamlessly executed, and a very obvious and easy way
to defeat a guy whose attack is one dimensional. I'm not sure where Chiyotairyu
goes from here. Mixing in pulls is clearly not the answer, but to be honest and
fair, simple blast-em' sumo also can't be the answer.
M6 Okinoumi (8-2) vs. M5 Sokokurai (5-5)
Lake Placid's (Okinoumi's) characteristic lack of fire cost him here. After a
sufficiently contactful tachi-ai, there came a moment of separation where they
stared at each other, Lake Placid waiting for Sokokurai to make his move. And
that he did, moving sharply in and getting a lower position. Placid needed to
take the initiative there and force his size advantage. Not having done so, he
was now helpless. Big and strong, it did not happen right away, but you could
see he was struggling: too high up, he just couldn't get any pressure or grip.
He tried a maki-kae but looked rather pathetic, just a guy wiggling his arms, as
Sokokurai had him wrapped up and soon completed the flawless yori-kiri win.
Sometimes when you're watching the bigger, better guy's mistakes you miss the
lesser guy's determined, smooth, technical win. Sokokurai is holding his own
well this tournament, and I'm curious to see what he could do in the jo'i. It
will be a struggle, but he'll struggle well.
M3 Ichinojo (1-9) vs. M6 Tokushoryu (2-8)
Right now Ichinojo has nothing, and he was thoroughly schooled here by a bad
wrestler having an awful tournament. Well, that makes two of them. These guys
have similar advantages--size and girth--and similar weaknesses--slow moving,
un-dynamic sumo that leaves them vulnerable to easy manipulation because of
their unwieldy size. Being the bigger of the two, Ichinojo should have had the
advantage. Instead, Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) deaked him repeatedly in the
face, kept him at bay and upright, and then stepped easily to the side when the
moment was right, turning to usher Ichinojo out for the very easy okuri-dashi
("send-out," but I like to think of it as "escort out") win. I have been down on
Ichinojo, thinking his best shot now is to have a long high Maegashira career of
slow wins like Kotonowaka, but at this point he's so lost and without an
effective attack that he's going to have to rethink things to do even that. He
has looked absolutely terrible this tournament, and little better for many
months, and a stint in low Maegashira to see if he can gather any focus is just
what he needs.
M7 Tamawashi (3-7) vs. M2 Aoiyama (3-7)
Prediction: win for Aoiyama. As I said yesterday, now that we're in the second
week and his opponents are both politically and technically beatable, he's
cleaning up. He looked like an Ozeki here; he went for a two-arms hold-and-push
instead of his trademark meat thrusts, and it worked just fine as Tamawashi,
despite his excellent konjo (fighting spirit), was pushed quickly out,
oshi-dashi, finished off by some smothering face and body shoves at the edge.
M1 Aminishiki (3-6-1) vs. M1 Shohozan (3-7)
Someone in the comments was asking for more credit for Aminishiki, and let me
give some: I respect his style and love this guy often. Not always, but often.
Objectively, his long and tenacious career shows him by far the better wrestler
than upstart yo-yo Shohozan, so it was very satisfying to see him school him
here. They are equally ranked this tournament, but miles apart in terms of
presence and average level of day-to-day skill. Darth Hozan went for volley of
angry, biting face slaps, but Aminishiki just weathered it, then pulled his man
forward and down, hataki-komi, like a guy walking to work in a rainstorm and
making sure to tip his umbrella into the rain. Wait, did I just praise pull
sumo? Yes. You don't get a 15 year Makuuchi career without knowing what you're
doing out there, and Aminishiki knows how to win. If there was less pulling in
the upper division in general, we'd celebrate this kind of beautiful use of an
opponent's weaknesses. Beautiful stuff from Aminishiki--this is allowed by the
rules, and he did it perfectly.
M4 Kotoyuki (6-4) vs. K Tochinoshin (3-7)
I was looking forward to this: Kotoyuki is the true rising star right now (give
Shodai time), and Tochinoshin is the most improved wrestler of 2015/16 and
probably the fifth best guy on the banzuke right now. This was power shoves vs.
belt strength, and was a great demonstration in practice of how those techniques
balance out for these guys right now. Tochinoshin let Kotoyuki dictate the pace
early, kept off the belt and battered hard by Kotoyuki. Tochinoshin went at it
with him, but was at a disadvantage as he let Kotoyuki play to his strength.
However, to his credit, Tochinoshin in the end let Kotoyuki advance onto him,
but didn't move back himself; suddenly those face slaps were hitting the air
behind his head, and Tochinoshin found himself inside with grips on the body.
Now they were playing HIS game, and he dominated from there, getting the
yori-kiri win. This should be a lesson to Kotoyuki: like Tochinoshin did here,
he is going to have to be able to develop and respond to other techniques than
his own, or the best guys are going to work him hard.
K Ikioi (3-7) vs. M2 Takarafuji (5-5)
I'm not an Ikioi believer, and this looked very, very easy for Takarafuji. He
put both fists on the ground, waited, absorbed Ikioi's slightly hyperactive
attack, got a hold of him, waited to see where it was going and whether he had
an opening, discovered he did, and flung his struggling opponent to the clay,
sukui-nage. I don't like his passive sumo--too much waiting, even here--but this
is a good example of how much strength and technique Takarafuji can bring to
bear, which he should demonstrate more often.
S Tochiohzan (4-6) vs. M4 Kyokushuho (4-6)
Remember how I praised Aminishiki for his pull a few moments ago? In this one,
Kyokushuho demonstrated the limits of the move. It is not his forte, and he was
facing a superior rikishi, and in those conditions, a pull is not going to save
you. Very simple stuff: Tochiohzan drove forward, Kyokushuho went up top for a
linear pull, and Tochiohzan just kept moving his de-ashi forward and drove his
opponent out, oshi-dashi. Like Kotoyuki and Sokokurai, Kyokushuho is one of your
quietly rising, not too bad mid-Maegashira who may make a sanyaku appearance
before long, and this hasn't been a bad tournament for him, but like Kotoyuki
today he got worked by a superior opponent who's see it all. Kyokushuho is
Tamawashi a few years later.
O Kisenosato (6-4) vs. S Yoshikaze (5-5)
this match Kisenosato displayed all his weaknesses, and I will not bleat in his
favor today. Open at the tachi-ai, he let Yoshikaze get in on him and dictate
the pace with slaps and shoves. Not sufficiently reactive in the ring, he came
up with no effective defensive response or shift of the bout's momentum. In
trouble, he began to lean hard forward, to grip for Yoshikaze's body and try to
force the bout to yori-kiri, but he was slow and ham-handed, and Yoshikaze
capitalized by ripping him forward to the ground, kata-sukashi. All right, so
we're near guaranteed another sanyaku tournament by Yoshikaze. I'll admit it's
been a blast to watch him go hard day in, day out--a poor man's Asashoryu minus
the speed, power, and charisma--so I'll relax and enjoy it.
Y Kakuryu (7-3) vs. M3 Kaisei (3-7)
Kakuryu has been in his normal role of "also ran" this tournament, but he was
calm and solid here. He worked low and in for the belt, didn't like his position
enough, pulled out, considered and rejected a pull, then dove back into the
fleshy nethers, this time getting two arms around the body, from where he worked
the befuddled Kaisei, who was reaching over the top for long, fruitless belt
trys, out for a yori-kiri win. Kaisei does not have the speed or focus to beat
opponents of this caliber when they are trying.
Mike burns down this house tomorrow.
Day 10 (Harvye Hodja reporting) Both
in his pre-basho report and his podcast, Mike predicted 2016 would be much like
2015. So far that is much the case. Yes, we have developments--the withdrawal of
Terunofuji raises questions about his immediate and long-term future that didn't
exist when he was cleaning up the field in July of last year. Mitakeumi's
temporary withdrawal (back tomorrow, though) and Kagayaki's terrible performance
take some air out of the Three Young Guns (Mitakeumi, Shodai, Kagayaki)
storyline that has foreign audiences, including me, perked up a bit.
However, the only real storyline remains Hakuho: will he, or won't he? Despite
his wild and often deliberately undisciplined sumo, so far it appears he will
take the yusho and remind everyone he is still The Storyteller. Harumafuji and
Kakuryu remain just behind him, at one and two losses respectively, to vulture
up the yusho should Hakuho falter. This is essentially the same as every 2015
tournament. Kotoshogiku's presence on the yusho line, coming in undefeated with
Hakuho at 9-0, is also par for the course. Though usually it is Kisenosato in
this position of threatening for the yusho, we've seen hot starts from
Kotoshogiku and others in the past as well.
There has been little discussion in these pages of the change in Sumo
Association leadership from the death of hallowed former Yokozuna Kitanoumi to
the inauguration of hallowed former Yokozuna Hakkaku. That is because there is
little to discuss: Hakkaku is cut from the same cloth as Kitanoumi, and offers
no change of direction, style, or tone. The smooth transition from one
traditional, old-style leader to another is meant to reassure: all is well, no
change in the offing--sorely as it might be needed.
But! I've proved a very bad predictor in the past, so it is worth saying that if
Kotoshogiku wins this tournament, things will indeed be different. I agree with
those who say that he has looked much better this time around, with an
unaccustomed vigor to his hump 'n' dump. But there have been at least three
matches so far where his opponents looked to be sapping their own strength.
Hence, if Kotoshogiku is allowed to take the yusho off of a performance like
this, it will signal that things have changed after all: an unwelcome
willingness to be more aggressive in creating fan-pleasing outcomes. I don't
expect that to happen--we have a phantom challenge from a native son pretty much
each and every basho, all of which have come to naught for ten years
running--but there is tingle of uneasy excitement yet again around the
possibility of "what if it really did happen?" Here are the remaining legitimate
contenders for the championship this basho:
Let's handle those first; all fought in the last three bouts of the day.
Kakuryu (7-2) vs. O Kotoshogiku (9-0)
The surging Kotoshogiku got his first taste of the Yokozuna line-up today, and
against someone he's fared well with in the past, winning 18 of 38 match-ups. He
rocketed up and under and in close, getting inside on Kakuryu's open right, then
began to intensely hump; his insistence was rewarded as Kakuryu, helplessly
dangling on him in an upright position, was pushed back and swiftly out with no
apparent chance for evasion to the side for the impressive yori-kiri win for the
Geeku. The key to this one was the hard-smacking tachi-ai in which Kotoshogiku
got in position to keep his opponent's arms high and useless. Kotoshogiku
continues to be a fiery and confident presence this basho, and looked good here.
The intrigue continues.
M3 Kaisei (3-6) vs. Y Hakuho (9-0)
Kaisei is no match for Hakuho and came in winless against him in six tries. His
static tactics on the dohyo leave him vulnerable to the speed and ability to
switch techniques the Yokozuna has. Also, Kaisei has no tools to take advantage
if Hakuho plays around: he isn't quick enough. Finally, even if Hakuho fights to
Kaisei's strength and they get in a body battle where this heavy behemoth leans
on him, we all know Hakuho has too much power for that to be a safe strategy for
Kaisei: Hakuho has the power to roll him. Hakuho brought his beautiful best
here. He went back to the old standard: he leapt immediately in for an outer
left and an inside right grip against this slow-moving opponent; sensing better
leverage, he then changed to a right outer grip, but one so intimate it squashed
Kaisei's left arm against his chest and gave the big man no advantage. Hakuho
then changed again on that side, going back inside, this time on the body,
pushing up at the armpit. Finally, as Kaisei was, at least, stubbornly hard to
move, being heavy and all, Hakuho showed us what he can do, something a match
against a roly-poly like this begs for: he up and uwate-nage'd him. It wasn't
easy--it's a large load to lift--but this is the strength that allows him to own
this rank, and the Yokozuna tipped this milk cow with the inevitability of a
meat-factory brain-hammer for the cow. Loved it.
Y Harumafuji (8-1) vs. S Tochiohzan (4-5)
2016 is looking just like Kyushu 2015 for 'Maf: weak, shaky start with an early
loss that tempted me to write him off, followed by a string of dominant
performances featuring an electricity Hakuho has lacked of late, leaving 'Maf
one off the pace as we go into the home stretch. If he wins this basho, it may
be the beginning of The Year of Harumafuji, but he has some work to do yet. His
first job was to see what he could do with Japan's best, Tochiohzan. 'Maf hit
him so hard off the tachi-ai his own feet slipped out from under him backwards,
and he was lucky to recover, but it worked on the front end: Tochiohzan was
slipping his hands in towards moro-zashi, but 'Maf's impact was so forceful he
was driven back off it. The sound of this tachi-ai was unique: a clean, loud
slap, all done with the hands, sharp and crisp. It was also classic sloppy
Harumafuji: he went all out, and it almost cost him--but it left us shaking our
heads at his sheer raw ability. After this, Chestnut (Tochiohzan) was already
compromised: up high and moving the wrong direction. So, he tried a little
slap-down pull, but it was nearly invisible and 100% useless, as 'Maf had
recovered from his foot slippage, and his second forward-moving shove ended the
match, oshi-dashi. 'Maf was so keyed up his hands were still in thrust mode
after it ended--there was a bit of comedy as he pulled the power from his hands
just in time to leave him giving Tochiohzan's cheek a nice, cradling caress at
the salt basket. Ah, romance. 'Maf remains one off the pace.
With the legitimate leader board done, let's look briefly at the...
M16 Kagayaki (2-7) vs. J3 Daieisho (5-4)
What is Endoh without the hype? Kagayaki: a powerless, befuddled bottom-dweller
on his way down to Juryo, fighting straight up but just getting creamed doing
it. Give Daieisho full credit: his attack was immediate, intense, and effective,
with two stun-gun neck-thrusts, delivered from low and inside, like a logger
holding up and then knocking back a falling tree, giving Daieisho the immediate
tsuki-taoshi win. Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki) has spent the entire tournament in
the bug lantern, and is hereby officially demoted from the Young Guns.
M15 Kitataiki (5-4) vs. M12 Shodai 5-4)
I thought this was a good test for Shodai. Kitataiki is past his prime but is no
pushover and knows a thing or two about sumo. The most noteworthy aspect of
Shodai's sumo this tournament has been the depth of his calm and his smooth ring
sense: time and again his sumo has been unremarkable, but his poise and response
to pressure effective. This bodes well for him. He was in control throughout
this match, and demonstrated impressive power. He brought his two forearms up
like the tongs of a forklift, and impaled Kitataiki on them with dual inside
penetration as he forced him back. He then reversed direction and turned and
swung Kitataiki about on the ends of those forearms like a Raggedy Andy doll,
slinging him off the clay platform for a very convincing sukui-nage win. I won't
make predictions or overhype him, but let me put it plain and simple: his
excellent sumo makes his matches a lot of fun to watch.
With the main events covered, back to the start for the rest of the matches.
M12 Chiyotairyu (6-3) vs. M15 Homarefuji (1-8)
These two guys have opposite momentum paths right now, and give Chiyotairyu--oft
criticized for being mentally weak--credit for reading that and going for a
"no-fear" linear force out of this wilted foe. This two second tsuki-dashi
dismantling is all to the good, but the test for Chiyotairyu will be whether he
will stick to these powerful guns once he goes higher--and if he does whether
the simplicity of his attack will remain effective against better wrestlers. For
M13 Takekaze (7-2) vs. M11 Amuuru (5-4)
These two went hard at the tachi-ai; Takekaze got both hands tight and inside
against Amuuru's sternum; he then backed up a little and Amuuru just fell down,
hiki-otoshi. Either Amuuru's knee gave out, he slipped (though I didn't see
that), or he wants to help Takekaze win a special prize. Let's move right along.
M14 Toyohibiki (7-2) vs. M9 Gagamaru (4-5)
Two round pushers. Gagamaru won this battle of similar styles by adding evasion
to the mix: they were holding on to each other's arms off the tachi-ai, and it
looked like a straight oshi battle, but Lord Gaga pulled out an arm with a
smooth maki-kae, moved lightly to the side, and threw Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki)
down kote-nage, using Kerosene's own momentum against him.
M13 Takanoiwa (7-2) vs. M8 Takayasu (7-2)
Takanoiwa is by far the lesser wrestler, and needed to play this one perfectly
to win. He made good on that at the beginning, keeping his derriere back, his
torso low, and forcing up Takayasu's arms. However, Takayasu is skilled and no
dummy, and he risked enough backwards movement to wrench free of Takanoiwa's
grip. Once accomplished, that left him plenty of time and space to bait, hunt,
and kill an unmoored Takanoiwa, hataki-komi.
M7 Toyonoshima (7-2) vs. M9 Sadanoumi (4-5)
Perhaps I don't like change or have a bit of crusty front-runnerism in me, as I
do dearly love to see the old vets do well. What a pleasure it has been to see
Tugboat (Toyonoshima) bully opponents around with that stick-outy belly of his
this tournament. He made Sadanoumi look like a weak blotch of nothing. Tugboat
lurched off the tachi-ai into a good body-hold. Finding himself in moro-zashi,
Toyonoshima then bounded forward like a low fat frog for an easy yori-kiri win.
Sadanoumi was so open at the tachi-ai here I wonder if he and Amuuru have a
wager on whether Takekaze or Tugboat is a better candidate for a special prize.
M10 Chiyootori (3-3-3) vs. M7 Tamawashi (2-7)
Bouncy Butt (Chiyootori) tried to follow my simple doctrine: he was nice and
low. Tamawashi had the same plan--good for him!--but Bouncy was moving forward
better and had him on the run. Bouncy was almost felled from above, but having
good forward moving feet allowed him to recover. He then went for a pull-down.
Instantly Tamawashi, who I respect as a technician, was on him and drove him
back; Tamawashi finally won by getting hold of Bouncy's arms, now two low, and
pulling them down to the dirt, hiki-otoshi, but this loss was all set up by
Bouncy's pull attempt.
M4 Kyokushuho (3-6) vs. M8 Myogiryu (4-5)
Myogiryu's game is fast, intense attacks that leave his opponent no room to
breathe, think, or move. He went with that approach, but made two fatal
mistakes. He got Kyok' near the tawara, but paused, letting up just a split
second that let his opponent get back in the match. Then, when Kyok subsequently
drove the action back to the middle, Myog' tried a quick pull with evasion. It
didn't work, and led to a pull from Kyok' that did work, sending Myog' to the
clay while Kyok' pivoted on the tawara for a hataki-komi nick-of-time win (could
have been a mono-ii, but the gyoji got this right).
M2 Takarafuji (5-4) vs. M4 Kotoyuki (5-4)
You could not have a better contrast in passive vs. aggressive styles. I've
never liked Takarafuji's passive work, and my grudging admiration for Kotoyuki's
aggressive no-nonsense sumo made me sense he had the advantage here. In fact, he
completely worked Takarafuji in a lopsided affair that saw him drive his
inactive, reactive foe around the ring at will until Takarafuji stepped lazily
out at the end, all done, oshi-dashi. It's my opinion that aside from Aoiyama
there's no one for giving up bouts like Mr. Wait-For-A-Mistake, Takarafuji, but
then again maybe I just don't get his sumo, and what looks like mukiryoku to me
is just his ineffective passive approach. Dunno. Meanwhile, don't look now, but
Kotoyuki is demanding a solid position in the jo'i.
M6 Tokushoryu (2-7) vs. M2 Aoiyama (2-7)
Yaocho doubters please skip to the next match. On the topic of Aoiyama's
mukiryoku, let's spend a little bit of time. See if you think my hat is tin foil
or a green bookie's visor. Aoiyama started out 0-7, giving up matches right and
left as, out of his M2 slot, he got a steady diet of top-ranked guys. All seven
losses were to the four dominant Mongolians or to guys who the fans and
Association like to see win right now. Here is the roster: Goeido, Yoshikaze,
Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Hakuho, Kakuryu, Kotoshogiku However, once he got to 0-7
and started fighting guys like Tokushoryu, we're seeing a totally different
wrestler. The three wins (yes, he wins today): Aminishiki, Kisenosato (yes,
Kisenosato--at 5-3 the guy was already limp and out of the yusho race, but in
little danger of make-koshi, so fair game), Tokushoryu. All dominant wins. He's
a mafia soldier who hopes someday to be promoted to capo if he plays nice for
enough years. I hope we get to see that promotion, because when he bring the
meat, it drips with bloody gravy juice. Special Sauce (Tokushoryu), the worst
too-fat, immobile butter-ball in the upper division, was helpless against
Aoiyama's ruckfudder armed annihilation aggression, and lost in seconds,
M1 Aminishiki (3-5-1) vs. M5 Sokokurai (4-5)
Ami played this one straight up at first, and as It's Dark There (Sokokurai) is
an underrated, tenacious dude with moxy, that didn't work very well. Finding the
pressure intense, Ami decided a little horseplay was called for, and pulled down
Dark's head, distracting him long enough to let Ami get inside with both arms
and on the belt. Give Dark credit: he kept on working at it, evading and
twisting, and though they both fell down at the same time, the judge pointed to
Dark for the kote-nage win. He's a fun dude.
K Ikioi (3-6) vs. M1 Shohozan (2-7)
Whamma blamma bang bang bang! Darth Hozan went for nuclear-strike-force
thrust-and-slap intensity, and it worked: Ikioi was helpless and lost,
oshi-dashi. They're both over-ranked this tournament and their records show it,
but then again I was surprised when I saw their records because they've shown
well in their losses.
M3 Ichinojo (1-8) vs. K Tochinoshin (2-7)
I went camping in a big canvas tent on a rise in the Tanzanian bush once, and
down in the ravine at dusk some lions sent up some rippling, echoing roars in
the dimming light. It didn't sound like a cheesy movie roar of rage--it sounded
like something unnatural tearing the air, ripping a hole in the fabric of
existence and letting the void in. Tochinoshin, given more decibels and some
sustain, sounds ready to go down into the ravine and test his will. He and the
Mongolith (Ichinojo) hooked up with dual right-inside, left-outside grips for a
classic sumo belt battle, but Lion-no-shin rent the atmosphere with grunt-growls
of all-out effort. Slug (Ichinojo) seemed to mostly just hold on, and "being
heavy" is not a winning technique, so eventually Lion lifted him out, yori-kiri,
after lots of heavy roaring, and dined on his flesh.
M6 Okinoumi (7-2) vs. S Yoshikaze (5-4)
Another contrast-in-styles battle here, Lake Placid (Okinoumi) vs. The Possessed
(Yoshikaze). Love it. Smartly, Placid decided to dial it up to eleven. Normally,
it is not in your interests to play your opponent's game. However, "placid" is
not a nick-name of flattery, but criticism--if Okinoumi's style is as smooth and
bland as wonder bread, that's a bad thing. The real way to play into Yoshikaze's
hands would be to be placid, and let him school you with corresponding focus and
energy. Instead, Okinoumi went fast and hard, and with his superior size, his
battering thrusts and forward motion overwhelmed Yoshikaze for an impressive
oshi-taoshi victory. If he brought the same stuff he brought today more often,
he wouldn't get slaughtered at Komusubi like he will next tournament.
O Kisenosato (5-4) vs. O Goeido (4-5)
Let me close out with one more attempt to try to bring balance to our Kisenosato
analysis. Yes, yesterday he was roundly slaughtered by an M2, Aoiyama. However,
I just don't buy it that an Ozeki shouldn't ever lose in that way. A dai-Yokozuna,
perhaps. But everybody else is going to have their off days, and in the parity
pool that should exist just under the best of the best, guys like Kisenosato and
Aoiyama, both of whom have outstanding skills in their line, will have their
good and their bad days. Moreover, because of the sandwich banzuke (dominant
Yokozuna bread on top, vulnerable chewable Ozeki meat in between, under-ranked
bruiser foreigner bread below), Aoiyama is under-ranked: he belongs more at the
Sekiwake rank, or challenging for Ozeki, than at M2, and saying Kisenosato was
schooled by an M2 isn't right: he was schooled by a peer. Happens. An Ozeki just
has to be very good: not godlike. As for Goeido, he does not qualify as "very
good." He will be protected in Osaka and come out with a rank-saving winning
record--count on it. But his peers have not always seen fit to protect him when
he is not kadoban, and he's having another hideous non-kadoban tournament. In
nine tournaments as an Ozeki, including the current one, he finishes today with
an overall record of 65-65. Unlike Kisenosato, he is not in the
Ozeki-parity-pool. He belongs as a yo-yo mid-to-high Maegashira. Indicative of
this, Kisenosato humiliated him. Kise was in control throughout, and looked
pissed off, starting with a false start that included a disdainful, nonchalant
shove, and ending with a bit of baiting during separation in the ring where
Kise's body language was, "come and get it." Goeido did drive Kise back at the
beginning, but Kise is bigger and better and maintained easily and with poise
under attack. He then drove Goeido back in turn; Kise is far stronger, more
powerful, and more effective at pressure. After the brief "you want some? Here I
am" interlude, Goeido, tiring of the face slaps, lurched right into Kise's
embrace, and Kise promptly and easily flung him derisively to the clay by the
upper body, oshi-taoshi. This match was an excellent demonstration of the
relative ability of these two Ozeki. Sometimes Kisenosato is dominant, sometimes
he gets dominated by other rikishi. When was the last time you saw Goeido
Tomorrow Hakuho and Kotoshogiku fight each other, both 10-0. If Kotoshogiku
wins, we have an exciting game of "catch" on our hands for the rest of the
tournament. If Hakuho wins, that leaves it up to him and Harumafuji. I'll be
covering it, with bells on.
Day 9 (Mike Wesemann reporting) I
always enjoy day 9 because we can finally focus on the leaderboard and let a few
of the others fall by the wayside. There is also a bit of drama this basho with
Kotoshogiku entering the day a perfect 8-0. Most of the Ozeki's wins have been
due to mukiryoku sumo on the part of his opponents, which isn't a new concept
for anyone paying attention, but he's also had some decent wins and looks worthy
to the Japanese fans, and so it adds a bit of extra drama to things to see
Kotoshogiku in this position. I only wish that the final 30 minutes of sumo
lived up to the actual yusho race, but they wrapped up day 9 today with
everything except good sumo.
As I am wont to do in the second week, let's being the day with a review of the
leaderboard, and I'll go two losses deep since I'm pretty sure the yusho line
this month is 14-1 at best:
Let's go in chronological order today starting with the leaders meaning we go to
the M13 Takekaze - M8 Takayasu matchup first. Takekaze was relentless against
Takayasu from the tachi-ai firing shoves into Takayasu's upper torso followed by
regular hari-te (face slaps). You have to credit Takayasu for standing his
ground, but Takekaze connected hard on a few of those slaps, and it threw
Takayasu off to the point where Takekaze was finally able to slip left and turn
Takayasu around 180 degrees setting up the push-out from behind. Takekaze almost
blew this one going for a few pulls early on, but I think he clued in pretty
quick that those face slaps were working, and so he stuck with them and ended up
scoring the upset win. Both rikishi end the day at 7-2.
Up next, M7 Toyonoshima attacked M11 Amuuru with a quick right hari-te at the
tachi-ai, but he ruined that plan with an even quicker pull. Luckily for
Tugboat, Amuuru didn't make him pay for his mistake, and so the two were able to
dig into the hidari-yotsu position where Amuuru enjoyed the right outer grip.
Toyonoshima was pressing upwards into Amuuru well, however, keeping him from
setting up an attack with that outer belt, and the longer the stalemate
continued, the more you thought the veteran would make his move, and move
Toyonoshima did breaking off Amuuru's outer grip before dragging the Russian
this way and that before finally pulling him forward and down with a right grip
to the belt. If you're Amuuru (5-4), you can't just stand there and let a
veteran rikishi dictate the pace of the bout. As for Toyonoshima, he stays on my
leaderboard for the time being moving to 7-2.
M6 Okinoumi has been one of the better rikishi this basho, and the dude should
have been undefeated coming into the day, but none of that mattered here as he
ran into a brick wall in the name of M12 Chiyotairyu, who was all business
charging hard from the tachi-ai and using a series of tsuppari to just pummel
Okinoumi back and out once, twice, three times a lady. I watch sumo like this
from Chiyotairyu and can't help but think "what if he was mentally tough enough
to attack like this everyday?" I mean, Okinoumi could do nothing here as he
falls to 7-2, and it's a great display of Chiyotairyu's potential, but I already
know that Tairyu will never live up to it. Oh well. He's at least 6-3 now if you
the scrub leaders out of the way, let's move up to the Ozeki ranks where
Kotoshogiku looked to overcome a formidable opponent in M3 Kaisei.
Unfortunately, Kaisei was completely mukiryoku from the tachi-ai against the
Ozeki in a migi-yotsu affair that saw Kaisei do nothing with his right hand. He
even turned his body towards a Kotoshogiku left outer grip that was so deep, the
Ozeki's hand was beyond the back strap of the belt. This was just ridiculous as
Kaisei kinda hopped on his feet as Kotoshogiku swung him around and out for the
three second win. I can't remember the last time Kotoshogiku and his crocodile
arms managed an outer grip that was beyond the back vertical strap of his
opponent's mawashi, but he got it today thanks to a complete lack of effort from
Kaisei. I'm not sure how many of the Japanese fans bought this one today, but
who cares? Kotoshogiku is now 9-0 and firmly planted on the leaderboard. As for
Kaisei, he falls to 3-6 with the loss and couldn't care less. His stable master,
Tomozuna-oyakata, is a member of the board of directors, and he obviously
understood the implications of this bout.
of the ugliest bouts of sumo you'll ever see, Yokozuna Hakuho put his right hand
towards Sekiwake Tochiohzan's face as if he was going mahikari on him and giving
him a blessing down by the station, but then he suddenly pulled that hand away
and moved left delivering a henka that sent Tochiohzan forward and down in a
half second. This one wasn't quite as bad as it looked actually. Tochiohzan saw
that right paw coming directly towards his grill, and so he closed his eyes in
an attempt to ward off the blow, and the next thing you know he was stumbling
forward and down as Hakuho made it official grabbing the left outer and just
yanking the Sekiwake forward. The crowd was really upset at this point, and you
can't blame them. A tachi-ai henka is bad enough, but when you have an entire
fan base on edge due to the 10th anniversary of the last Japanese rikishi yusho,
the move by Hakuho today was really uncalled for.
The fans really let Hakuho have it after this one, and I don't know when I've
heard them jeer as loudly as they did against the dai-Yokozuna. If there was a
silver lining to all this, as Hakuho waited to administer the chikara-mizu to
Kotoyuki, there was an old lady dressed in a lovely fuschia blouse who looked
just like Myogiryu giving the Yokozuna the business.
I have no explanation for Hakuho's sumo today, but
the dude does move to 9-0 and remains tied with Kotoshogiku for the lead. As for
Tochiohzan, he falls to 4-5 with the loss and wouldn't have beaten the Yokozuna
up, M4 Kotoyuki struck Yokozuna Harumafuji well at the tachi-ai, but he seemed
too timid to really unleash his full tsuppari attack, and so he opted for a
mediocre shove into Harumafuji's neck. The move actually drove the Yokozuna back
a full step, and after Harumafuji swiped Kotoyuki's arms away, his right side
was completely vulnerable to a left tsuki from Kotoyuki, but Kotoyuki hadn't
calculated things that far in advance, and before he could really reload,
Harumafuji ducked to his left, got the left arm deep inside, and then twisted
Kotoyuki around 180 degrees before mounting him from behind and just riding him
to the dohyo in Brokeback style. All in all, it was an ugly bout that helped
contribute to my frustration with the day as a whole. Harumafuji keeps pace with
the win moving to 8-1 while I thought Kotoyuki blew a great chance here as he
falls to 5-4.
out the day, Yokozuna Kakuryu came with a right hari-te while Ozeki Goeido came
with the left hari-te as both rikishi slapped at the initial charge. Kakuryu's
slap actually connected pretty well, but he immediately backed up and went for
his usual pull when he wants to create an opening for his opponent, and with the
Yokozuna wide open and in pull mode, Goeido panicked and went for a do or die
shove too far away from the edge. They initially pointed in favor of Goeido, but
the Ozeki's right forearm touched down before Kakuryu had stepped all the way
out of the ring. A mono-ii was called where they correctly reversed the decision
giving the Yokozuna the ugly win. This was a case where Kakuryu was opening
himself up for a loss, but Goeido was too sloppy and couldn't receive the gift.
The last thing on anyone's mind at this point with Kotoshogiku 9-0 is Goeido's
4-5 record, and we'll see if they quietly buoy him up to eight wins. It's gonna
be tough to do, but the Ozeki does have a history of upsetting Hakuho ya know.
As for Kakuryu, he improves to 7-2 with the win, but I don't see him factoring
into the yusho race in the end. Finally, if you're scoring at home, this
was the fourth time in three basho that the referee, Shikimori Inosuke, has
blown the call in the final bout of the day. Man, I wish those daggers stashed
in the referee's sash weren't just for show these days.
With the dust settled from the day 9 bouts, NHK's leaderboard only went down to
the one-loss rikishi meaning it looked like this:
9-0: Hakuho, Kotoshogiku
Hakuho draws Kaisei on day 10, and I don't see him taking the loss. Kotoshogiku
gets Kakuryu, and it was timely for the Yokozuna to go for his bad pull habit
today (wink, wink). It doesn't mean that Kakuryu is going to let Kotoshogiku
win, but if he does, it will be due to similar sumo that he displayed against
Goeido today. Darn that pull habit!!
If precedent from previous basho holds, I expect a two-bout losing streak from
the Geeku coming up shortly. It just seems that the Mongolians are too feisty
when it comes to the yusho. They'll play along with the ruse about creating
parity in the division among themselves and the Japanese rikishi, but there's no
reason for them to release their stranglehold on the yusho.
In other bouts of interest on the day, Ozeki Kisenosato was his usual wide open
self at the tachi-ai, and M2 Aoiyama took complete advantage hissing his way
into a tsuppari attack striking with the right and then catching the Ozeki with
a left choke hold that backed Kisenosato all the way up to the straw where
Aoiyama just shoved him back and out from there. I know there has been some
discussion as to whether or not Kisenosato is a legitimate Ozeki, and I think
what gives him credibility is the fact that he's the most consistent of the
Three Amigos, but his tachi-ai is not worthy of an Ozeki, and Ozeki don't get
their asses kicked like that to a rikishi coming in with just one win. Today's
bout was embarrassing as Kisenosato falls way out of the discussion at 5-4 while
Aoiyama moves to just 2-7. Curiously, I could not find a pic from this
bout on the wires.
Sekiwake Yoshikaze charged hard and low against M1 Shohozan, and the Darth Hozan
had nothing but pull on his mind, so the question now was could Shohozan back up
faster than Yoshikaze could charge forward? After a quick pull of Yoshikaze that
signaled Shohozan's intent to retreat, he moved right and tried to pull the
Sekiwake off balance, but Monster Drink added that extra shot of caffeine and
just bulldozed both rikishi off of the dohyo and into the expensive seats. This
was ugly, but Yoshikaze will take it as he moves to 5-4 while the Dark One falls
Komusubi Tochinoshin looked like Hakuho today at the tachi-ai grabbing the right
inside and left outer grip immediately from the tachi-ai against fellow Komusubi
Ikioi, but Tochinoshin's yori charge after that was so poor that I'm sure he was
mukiryoku. Without really doing anything after that superior tachi-ai, he just
let Ikioi drag him over and push him out with a mediocre right grip to the belt.
This one just wasn't plausible after that tachi-ai, and after watching the
replays, I saw nothing from Tochinoshin that showed he wanted or even tried to
win this bout. Ikioi moves to 3-6 with the upset while Tochinoshin falls to 2-7.
Aminishiki henka'd to his left against M4 Kyokushuho grabbing the solid left
outer grip, and as Kyokushuho tried to recover, Aminishiki executed a pretty
good suso-harai move sweeping his left foot into the back of Kyokushuho's right
leg, and it was good enough to trip the Mongolian up enough to where Aminishiki
just shoved him down by the face. They prolly could have awarded a few winning
techniques here, but they ended up going with the suso-harai. That leg trip was
sweet, but it was set up with a dirty henka. Aminishiki couldn't care less about
doing sumo like this as he climbs to 3-6 while Kyokushuho falls to the same
M2 Takarafuji saw M7 Tamawashi's tsuppari attack well focusing on swipes with
the left hand of The Mawashi's extended arms. Takarafuji never held still moving
left, moving left before finally latching onto Tamawashi's extended right arm
and pulling him off balance and to the side setting up the tottari win. It's
good to see Takarafuji at 5-4 while Tamawashi falls to 2-7.
M3 Ichinojo - M5 Sokokurai bout was interrupted three times by the ref calling a
false start presumably against Sokokurai, and by the time they went for reals,
Ichinojo had no response for Sokokurai's henka to his left. As Ichinojo looked
to square up, Sokokurai greeted him with moro-zashi, and Ichinojo was able to
briefly back up and pull Sokokurai out of the grip, but Sokokurai used his
superior speed to burrow back in tight into the heart of the Slug, and as we've
seen him do on multiple occasions this basho, Ichinojo just backed up that last
step giving Sokokurai the ill-gotten yori-kiri win. Nothing about this bout was
right as Ichinojo falls to 1-8 whereas Sokokurai has some life left at 4-5.
M8 Myogiryu rushed his tachi-ai against M12 Shodai diving straight into the
moro-zashi grip from his opponent. Shodai may be young, but he knew exactly what
to do, and so he moved forward keeping Myogiryu upright to the point were a
pretty good kubi-nage counter throw from Myogiryu failed to knock the rookie
over. This one was over in about three seconds and marks one of the better wins
for Shodai in his short Makuuchi career as he moves to 5-4. This was a tough
loss for Myogiryu, and he fell to a surprising 4-5 before quickly dashing back
to the dressing room and changing into that wig and a fuchsia blouse just in
time for the Hakuho bout.
M9 Sadanoumi pressed well from the tachi-ai leading with the right hand against
M13 Takanoiwa, but he was unable to really latch on and keep Takanoiwa where he
wanted, so the wily Mongolian moved back and to his right scoring the pull down
win in a matter of seconds. Takanoiwa is a cool 7-2 with the win, but I will not
be adding him to the leaderboard. As for Sadanoumi, has the dude already peaked
in this division? He falls to 4-5.
M15 Kitataiki and M9 Gagamaru bumped chests in a straight-up hidari-yotsu
position, but it was Kitataiki who forced the bout laterally using a right outer
grip to dump Gagamaru down to the clay. Gagamaru just never could pull his gal
in tight, and he paid for it in the end falling to 4-5. Kitataiki one-ups his
foe moving to 5-4.
And finally, M14 Toyohibiki smelled blood against M16 Kagayaki (who doesn't??)
opening up with a potent thrust attack that the rookie actually fended off well
eventually getting his right arm to the inside to turn the bout to yotsu-zumo,
but Toyohibiki had the de-ashi and thus the momentum, and so he was able to
polish Kagayaki off yori-kiri style leading with a right inside grip of his own.
Toyohibiki stays hot moving to 7-2 while Kagayaki is on the brink at 2-7.
After a well-deserved vacation, Harvye returns and gives you all the business
Day 8 (Don Roid reporting) Desperate
times call for desperate measures and it seems like Mike has become desperate
enough to take me up on my offer to write a report for Sumotalk if he suddenly
found himself shorthanded. So here I am standing on the ring apron, ready to
take the hot tag from Mike.
Sorry, if my pro wrestling lingo gets in the way, but I've been doing it for 15
years and it's second nature. So what that basically means is that I wear an
unnatural amount of spandex, rub baby oil all over my body and simulate a real
fight. Weird. Anyway, a hot tag is when the bad guys have singled out one of the
good guys in a tag team match (2 vs. 2) and proceed to give him a good
thrashing, preventing him from tagging in his partner. Then, in a last ditch
effort, the babyface (good guy) struggles, strains, crawls his way to his corner
and dives at the last possible second, tagging in the fresh man who then storms
the ring, cleaning house and taking out both of the bad guys.
It sort of reminds me of what the Mongolians are doing right now. There are four
of these barbarians right up there at the top, dominating everyone and even if
one of them goes down with an injury, or even two or three, there's always
someone else ready to take that hot tag and jump right in and win the
tournament. And it's everyone else, foreigners and Japanese alike, who take the
heat (the long thrashing before the hot tag) during the majority of the
tournament. So with Terunofuji out of action, the Cup still seems to be well in
hand for one of the others, most likely Hakuho, or at least it seems, thus far
on this cold January day, in the shadow of the 10th anniversary of Tochiazuma's
Getting into day 8, we are now entering the second week of the tournament, so
the pleasantries are over and it's time to get down to the nitty gritty.
pop my SumoTalk cherry with M4 Kyokushuho vs. M7 Toyonoshima.
Toyonoshima has always been a fun guy to watch for me. He's undersized for his
sport, as I am, but somehow often manages to find a low center of gravity to
move his larger opponents around. In today's bout he absorbed Kyokushuho's
tachi-ai and managed to get both arms inside and started to move his opponent
backwards. Kyokushuho may have even stepped out early in the bout as he was back
tracking, but he stepped out again anyway just before Shima hit the dirt.
I usually don't watch the earlier bouts in the Makuuchi division nor do I really
pay a great deal of attention of the other divisions unless there happens to a
particular match that catches my eye, such as Ura or Homarenishiki. That's how
FightBox has always done it as well. They usually start each episode at about
the half way point of the Makuuchi division bouts.
Takayasu took on M4 Kotoyuki in the next bout. Kotoyuki is another
guy I enjoy watching. He doesn't always win, but 9 times out of 10 his bouts are
entertaining to watch. This was another fun one with both guys coming out
pushing. During the melee Takayasu sidestepped and Kotoyuki fell, doing a face
plant on the hay bales and rolling out of the ring.
M1 Aminishiki is back after trying to henka the flu for a few days to
battle M2 Aoiyama. With Aminishiki you never know what the hell you're
going to get. Whether you don't mind the henka or you think it should be banned,
for me, it always seems okay when Aminishiki does it for some reason. He seems
to pull it off as "just another move in his arsenal". It's expected to see some
kind of shenanigans and trickery out of him and he didn't disappoint today. He
immediately leapt like a toad, right from the get go, almost landing in an
identical position to where Aoiyama had started the bout in. Before Aoiyama even
realized what had happened, the fight was over. A good henka gone bad.
An awkward tachi-ai between M2 Takarafuji and Komusubi Tochinoshin
left both men imposing their will on the other for just a second before the
Georgian attempted a left hand inside grip, which was thwarted by Takarafuji,
giving him the green light to get some momentum on Tochinoshin and a double
inside grip to boot. Takarafuji wins by yori-kiri.
Sekiwake Tochiohzan and M1 Shohozan have fought 13 times before,
so they must be quite familiar with each other. Shohozan tried to take a page
out of Aminishiki's book by sidestepping to his left, which almost paid off as
Tochiohzan was nearly sideways when Shohozan started to go on the offensive, but
a quick slap to the face by Tochiohzan really disrupted Shohozan's balance and
he started to crumble to the ground. Tochiohzan slipped to this right and
finished him off quite easily.
of being familiar with each other, Ozeki Kisenosato and Ozeki
Kotoshogiku have met 58 times previous to this bout with Geeku winning 31 of
those to Kisenosato's 27. Wait a minute, let me stop right here for a moment.
WTF, it's the 6th bout I'm covering so far and NO mention of yaocho yet? Well,
don't worry folks, that's ALL about to change. Kisenosato seemed a little bit
antsy at the tachi-ai and I thought he was going to get a good jump on the geek,
but alas, Kotoshogiku hit him hard, moving him backwards, nearly to the bails,
but Kisenosato rolled with the punches well, placing his left arm under Geeku's
right armpit (a pleasant experience, I'm sure) with his right arm pointing
upwards and gave him a shove, but the Geeku planted his left leg hard to absorb
the blow and came powering back and they both fell into a left hand inside,
right hand outside grip, with Geeku having the momentum and advantage. As
Kotoshogiku started doing the Humpty Hump, as usual, Kisenosato tried to stick
his left leg into the geek, but to no avail.
So where does the yaocho come in? It doesn't. In my opinion this bout was
straight up and Kotoshogiku really has a lot of fighting spirit this basho. Good
for him. He improves to 8 - 0 and is, for now, among the three undefeated left
at the top of the leader board. Kotoshogiku's face at the end of the match told
me "Yeah, take that sucka. I'm on a roll".
Next up are M3 Kaisei and Ozeki Goeido. Huge weight advantage for
Kaisei. That's actually one of the reasons I like to watch sumo. There are no
weight divisions and you can fight anyone regardless of how much you weigh.
Besides pro wrestling, there really aren't any combat sports which allow for
that. Historically, Goeido has gotten the better of the big Brazilian, beating
him 9 times out of 12, but it certainly didn't look like that today. Goeido got
a double inside grip on the front of the mawashi, but no matter what he did
Kaisei had an answer for it, powering him backwards and dumping him off the
dohyo very awkwardly, with Goeido falling backwards to the ground on to his
derriere with a hairy, 190 kg Brazilian on top of him for the ride.
we get to the cream and pudding as Yokozuna Harumafuji (6 - 1 coming in)
goes up against Komusubi Ikioi. Ama is a perfect 6 - 0 against Ikioi,
who's been having exciting matches this tournament, but is still on the losing
side of things at 2 - 5. Ikioi is ready for action in this one as he's got his
right hand on the clay and his left hand hovering about an inch off the dohyo,
locked and loaded. Classic Harumafuji technique here as he meets him with a soft
tachi-ai, then deflects up and to his left, squeaking to Eeeky's backside,
exposing an undefended right hand grip open for Harumafuji who uses a tug and
Ikioi's own momentum to easily throw him off the mound.
This is as close to poetry in motion as you can find in sumo. When Harumafuji is
good, he's REALLY good. He's a small guy and I'm really in awe sometimes at how
foolish he can make his opponents look with this particular move that he has
mastered over the last several years. But when he loses, he's sometimes looks
pathetic against a larger opponent, because of his size. Great move by
This next one between Yokozuna Kakuryu and M3 Ichinojo seemed to
me, on paper, to have everything pointing in favor of Kak including 12 years of
pro experience, he's eight years older, he's got a WAY better record coming in,
and... well, he's a friggin' Yokozuna and Ichinojo is pretty much the runt of
the Mongolian litter, it appears. But that's not how Ichinojo was going about
his business today. Kakuryu was stopped short at the tachi-ai, trying to get a
grip on Ichi as Nojo slipped his hips to the backside and started marching
forward like a man on a mission, plowing Kak back to the bails. But this ain't
Kakuryu's first rodeo and he fought off the onslaught of Ichinojo, thrusting
forward with a solid grip on the mawashi. Ichinojo mustered up another offensive
though, once again forcing Kakuryu back to the edge of the ring.
where things really go weird for me. It seems like Ichinojo just gave up once
Kakuryu started pushing forward. If you watch carefully, when Kakuryu has his
left foot planted on the ring's edge and is about to start his push forward,
there are a lot of muscle groups at work here. Ichinojo is definitely trying
REALLY HARD to push Kak back and Kak is using his left leg to stabilize himself
against the pressure. You can see the muscle systems hard at work as the two
forces square off against each other. There's no funny business going on.
Kakuryu gets his leverage, takes a few steps forward and Ichinojo feels the
pressure, trying to stick his right hip into Kakuryu to go for a counter throw,
but Kakuryu has too much leverage at this point and drives him backwards off the
The thing that bugs me is, after Ichinojo went for that throw attempt, he really
stopped fighting 100%. Kakuryu could also feel this "letting up" as is super
obvious by the gentle manner in which he moves Ichinojo out of the ring.
Ichinojo stops fighting back and Kakuryu didn't have to man up at the edge in
order to force his opponent out.
So what happened? Did Ichi let up on purpose to give Kakuryu the win or did he
simply know he was a beaten man and let Kakuryu finish him off? I'd tend to go
with the latter. I think he just gave up at the end there, because he knew he
had given Kakuryu his all in those two attempts that got him to the edge, but
somewhere deep inside his gut he also knew he had nothing left to battle back
I don't think it was yaocho because what would Kakuryu have to gain at this
point? Okay, he's 5 - 2 and he's not in a great position to win the tournament,
but if he doesn't lose anymore until he starts facing the other Yok, he could
still have a shot. But there's no way, in my opinion he can't beat Ichinojo
straight up and would sink to that level. Ichinojo on the other hand, has
nothing to lose by accepting the offer to throw the bout. He's 1 - 6 coming in
and has NO chance of winning the tournament. So what the hell, right? Why not?
But the better explanation for me is that he just quit out of frustration. He
knew he had no chance of winning the tournament coming in and most likely he
will also be make-koshi as well, so he went for broke against the Kak and nearly
had the bugger, a few times, but when he felt it slipping away, he said "screw
it" and gave up. The only thing Ichinojo was thinking at the end was "throw" and
he couldn't pull it off, so he had no choice to give in to Kakuryu. But maybe
I'm over thinking, it. I don't know...
Now THIS is a match I was really looking forward to. THIS is a match that should
be fireworks given the fact that more than any other rikishi in the division,
Sekiwake Yoshikaze has been fighting with a lot of heart. He is out there to
do one thing and one thing only and that's to win at all costs. There's a fire
in this kid that cannot really be seen with many other rikishi at the moment.
The only problem? Today he's got Yokozuna Hakuho, so good luck with that.
He has beaten him once before, but that match was REALLY weird.
So here we go, Yoshi has both of his fists down on the dirt, waiting for The
Great One to make his move and Hakuho comes out with an open left hand, fingers
spread wide, right to the face like he's trying to palm a basketball.
The only thing worse than having to fight Hakuho is having to fight a pissed off
Hakuho. There's some distance between the two now and it's almost like déjà vu
at this point as a pushing battle breaks out, just like it did the time
Yoshikaze won in September of last year. At one point Yoshikaze even pie-faces
the supreme commander with his right hand, maybe getting a little revenge for
the tachi-ai!! This didn't sit too well with King Tut as he decided play time
was over and it was time to put the kid to bed. He got his left arm up under the
armpit and stood Yoshikaze upright and started working him, kicking and
screaming all the way (unlike Ichinojo) to the ring's edge, held him there for
juuuuust a second... and then... thud! He gave him an extra, unnecessary throw
off HIS dohyo right onto the shimpan's lap. Hakuho wins by yori-kiri.
Now, clearly there is a moment when Yoshi has completely stopped fighting and
Hakuho has won the bout, then... plop... he's thrown off the mound with
Yoshikaze fighting it, but unable to defend himself. Obviously, that's against
the rules, I think. Once someone steps out, the bout is over. And there's
probably some unwritten rule about respecting your opponent and not doing
anything after they step out. But this kind of thing happens from time to time,
especially when you've got two alpha males in there going tit for tat with
provoking types of offense, like pie-facing and slapping. It's true, Hakuho did
start it with his face-palm of Yoshikaze, but Kaze wasn't having none of that
and gave just as good as he got, even actually sneaking in a second, smaller
pie-face as Hakuho was driving him off the dohyo. That may have been all Hakuho
could take. No one is going to disrespect the all-time yusho leader like that,
are they? Hell no. Especially not some Johnny-come-lately like Yoshikaze. Hakuho
tried to punk out Yoshikaze, but he gave it right back to the Yokozuna and in
the end it was Hakuho who got the last laugh. Point made, loud and clear.
At the end of day 8 we're more than halfway through the tournament with Hakuho
and Kotoshogiku (yes, I said Kotoshogiku) unbeaten at 8 - 0, Harumafuji,
Okinoumi and Takayasu are trailing at 7 - 1 and a group of five more are behind
them including Kakuryu and a few others who will lose pretty soon at 6 - 2. I'd
guess that either Hakuho or Harumafuji will win it, but could there be? Would
there be? Is there any chance for a miracle? We shall see.
So what do you think? How did I do? If I totally crapped the bed and have no
idea what I'm talking about, feel free to rip me a new one in the comments
section. I'm a pro wrestler, I can take it. I've got thick skin. If you enjoyed
it, let me know and feel free to check out my blogs and podcasts on sumo over at
www.fightbox.com. And if you haven't heard it already, you can listen
episode 52 of The FightBox Podcast with Kane
and Mike as my guests. I usually talk about sumo as it's ongoing in other
episodes as well. And a big thanks to Mike for the opportunity to write here and
thanks to Kintamayama for uploading today's bouts on to Youtube.
Day 6 (Mike Wesemann reporting) The
day started off on a bit of a subdued note with the withdrawal of three rikishi.
Jokoryu was no surprise after being whisked out of the arena on a wheelchair
following his bout with Chiyotairyu, but the withdrawal of stablemates
Terunofuji and Aminishiki was more of a surprise. In Aminishiki's case, he's
suffering from the flu, so we may see him return later on. As for Terunofuji,
it's being reported that he has a broken right collar bone. I haven't read a
projected date for his return, but the possibility exists that he could miss the
Haru basho as well, which would mean his demotion from the Ozeki rank. Of
course, he could easily regain the rank with 10 wins in May, and if I was part
of the Terunofuji camp, I'd say sit out until May and let the shoulder AND the
knees heal up. Falling from Ozeki is nothing; Terunofuji is a future Yokozuna as
long as he can stay healthy.
With three guys out, we have a shorter docket to cover today, so let's start
from the beginning as usual. M15 Homarefuji dictated the pace throughout firing
his tsuppari into J2 Sadanofuji's bulk, and when I say bulk, I mean bulk! At one
point Homarefuji's knees practically buckled at the task ahead of him, but he
was persistent and eventually turned the Sadamight around 360 degrees setting up
the final push-out. Homarefuji picks up his first win of the basho at 1-5 while
Sadanofuji's return to the division is looking shady at 2-4.
M13 Takekaze (4-2) picked up a freebie today with the aforementioned withdrawal
M16 Kagayaki and M13 Takanoiwa literally bounced off of each other at the
tachi-ai, and then as they looked to hook back up the second time, Takanoiwa
darted right pulling Kagayaki forward and down about two seconds in with a
henka. Kagayaki falls to 1-5 with the loss, and he does not look the least bit
comfortable in this division. As for Takanoiwa, he improved to 4-2 with the not
so straight up win.
M15 Kitataiki was obviously watching the previous bout and thought, "Hmm...a
henka. Sounds good to me!" Problem was it was poorly executed, and so M12
Chiyotairyu squared back up with ease and just pummeled Kitataiki downwards
before pulling him down by the back of the belt making it official. Chiyotairyu
improves to 4-2 with the win while Kitataiki is 3-3.
M14 Toyohibiki showed M12 Shodai what a big league nodowa was jamming his right,
beefy paw into the rookie's neck and just plowing him back and to the side.
Shodai showed his toughness by persisting near the edge, and so Toyohibiki got
the right arm to the inside and bodied Shodai back and across that final step
yori-kiri style. Great stuff from Toyohibiki who improves to 5-1 while Shodai
still showed some toughness in defeat as he falls to 4-2.
M10 Chiyootori made his return from kyujo, so they fed him M11 Endoh. Or was it
the other way around in let's give Endoh as easy of an opponent as possible?
Regardless, Endoh musta felt he had the upperhand because he inched his way
forward from the tachi-ai with a timid tsuppari attack, but it was going nowhere
fast, and so Endoh decided to reverse gears and go for the pull. That move was
timid as well, and so Chiyootori pounced finally driving his legs forward and
pushing Endoh back and across without argument. I briefly scanned the headlines
for day 7, and there's no mention of an Endoh kyujo yet, but the dude does not
look right at 1-5. I mean, Endoh has never shined in this division, but he looks
bad right now even for him. Chiyootori picks up his first win meaning he's 1-5
M9 Gagamaru was a man on a mission today repeatedly slamming both paws
simultaneously into M10 Mitakeumi's neck and chest driving the youngster back
quickly. Mitakeumi's only hope at this point was to evade laterally and counter,
so he moved to his left and offered a lame swipe down at the charging Gagamaru,
but the move's only effect was to set Mitakeumi up as this huge target that
Gagamaru just sent to the dirt with two final pile driver thrusts. Both rikishi
end the day at 3-3, and Gagamaru can be a mean sumbitch when he wants to be.
M8 Takayasu demanded the left inside at the tachi-ai against M11 Amuuru and then
used nifty de-ashi to force his way in close where he next grabbed the right
outer grip. The location of the outer was near the front of the belt allowing
Takayasu to pinch Amuuru' left arm inwards and useless, and from this point,
Takayasu swung Amuuru over to the edge and out leading with that right outer
grip. Easy peasy half Japanesey as Takayasu soars to 6-0 while Amuuru falls to
point of the broadcast, they reviewed the Makushita Jo'i bouts, and it looks
like Ura won again pushing his record to 3-0. From the MS 6 rank, if he can
reach five wins, he's got a shot at Juryo, and six wins will all but sill the
dill. As I was scanning the wires for pics, I came across one of Ura's
bout that I'll post here. I didn't see how the bout played out, but you
can tell by this pic that it was unorthodox as usual.
M7 Toyonoshima kept his arms in tight denying M8 Myogiryu from the initial
charge, and then Tugboat got both arms to the inside leading with the right arm
as shallow as it was. Myogiryu was able to quickly maki-kae with his right arm
causing Toyonoshima to go for the kill, but his hands kind of slipped off of his
foe causing complete separation. After a few seconds of separation, Myogiryu
dove back in only to be greeted by moro-zashi again, but Myogiryu had the
momentum and bodied Toyonoshima back to the straw before throwing him down with
a right kubi-nage. The two meant well I'm sure, but the sumo here was not great
as both rikishi end the day at 4-2.
At this point of the broadcast, NHK took a trip down memory lane showing
Kotooshu's first ever win over Asashoryu at the 2005 Nagoya basho. Kotooshu was
in the booth today providing color, and so they chose arguably the best win of
his career. Ranked as Komusubi, Kotooshu engaged Asashoryu in a tight belt
contest where the Bulgarian executed a brilliant right belt throw using his
right leg to trip Asashoryu over and into a complete summersault across the
clay. The arena erupted with zabuton flying everywhere as the Announcer screamed
so loud his voice started cracking like a 13 year-old boy going through puberty.
You watch the electric sumo from back then and the reaction of the crowd...and
even the announcers, and it's really hard to return to reality and get excited
about the jo'i bouts these days.
Moving right along, M7 Tamawashi came with his usual tsuppari in an effort to
keep M9 Sadanoumi away from the belt, and as Sadanoumi persisted, Tamawashi went
for a right scoop throw that had little effect other than letting Sadanoumi hook
back up in moro-zashi, and from there, Tamawashi's counter kote-nage throw with
the right arm was insufficient as Sadanoumi plowed both rikishi right off the
dohyo. Sadanoumi is even steven again at 3-3 while The Mawashi falls to 2-4.
M6 Tokushoryu shaded right at the tachi-ai pushing into M5 Sokokurai from the
side, and as Sokokurai extended his right arm in an attempt to get it to the
inside, Tokushoryu just fired a beefy tsuki shove into his side sending him to
the dirt in about two seconds. You gotta wonder about Sokokurai's effort here,
but regardless, Tokushoryu picks up his first win as both rikishi now sit 1-5.
M4 Kotoyuki was rebuffed at the tachi-ai by M6 Okinoumi who disallowed
KotoLoogie his machine gun tsuppari attack and threatened to get to the inside
with the left arm. With Kotoyuki quelled and forced to think yotsu-zumo, it was
Okinoumi who bodied him back and then used a nice shove right into Kotoyuki's
melon to stand him perfectly upright and shove him out from there. Kotoyuki, who
fell to 4-2 with the loss--needlessly rolled about two rows deep as he was
pushed off the dohyo. Kids! Okinoumi moves to 6-0...er...uh 5-1 with the nice
M2 Takarafuji and M3 Kaisei struck hard in the ai-yotsu position that ended up
with both guys getting the left to the inside with right outer grips. Takarafuji
had the advantage here, though, because he had his right hips back leaving
little support for Kaisei and his inside position. After gathering his wits for
a few seconds, Takarafuji executed the decisive force-out charge capping off a
great bout of straight-up yotsu-zumo. What ain't so great are the records of
these two who end the day at 2-4.
Sekiwake Yoshikaze was fully caffeinated today firing his tsuppari into Komusubi
Ikioi with little effect, and the more subdued Ikioi was ultimately able to grab
Yoshikaze's left arm in a right kote-nage grip, so it was now Ikioi's turn to
wildly attack with a series of kote-nage throws. Yoshikaze stayed in tight,
however, using that left arm to keep Ikioi upright enough to where he was
finally able to dump him across the straw and down to the venue floor. This was
sloppy sumo from parties as Yoshikaze continues his hot streak moving to 4-2.
Ikioi is the opposite at 2-4.
M3 Ichinojo came with a right kachi-age and left paw pushing into Ozeki
Kisenosato's right breast before the two turned a bit in the dohyo ending up in
migi-yotsu. Ichinojo had the firm right inside grip at this point, and while
Kisenosato had a left outer grip, he didn't have the right established enabling
a charge, so Ichinojo just
there in an effort to tire the Ozeki out. After about a minute and a half of no
action, the Slug finally made his charge starting with a right scoop throw and
then grabbing the left inside as well, but Kisenosato darted to his left near
the edge dragging with that left outer before shifting gears and going right
setting up a beautiful tsuki-otoshi move at the edge. This one was close, but
with Ichinojo thinking Kisenosato would continue moving left, the counter
tsuki-otoshi burned him enough to where he crashed down to the dohyo an instant
before Kisenosato flew out of the dohyo himself. This was a veteran move from
the Ozeki that earned him a big win, and there was no way the judges were going
to the video tape on this one. Kisenosato won it fair and square as he moves to
4-2 while Ichinojo's funk continues at 1-5.
Before we move on, just after the tachi-ai when Ichinojo got the right arm
firmly to the inside, the NHK Announcer instinctively said, "Migi-yotsu ni
natte shimatta!" If you've studied Japanese at all, then you know that you
put "natte shimau" or "shite shimau" at the end of a sentence to
denote a negative meaning. You often hear the Announcers say "hiite shimatta!"
when a guy goes for dumb pull because it implies that the stupid decision led to
a loss...a negative result. When two rikishi simply go to migi-yotsu, however,
there's no reason to say "shimatta!" The reason the dude said it because
he--like all of us--thought that Kisenosato was doomed at that point, and so he
blurted it out not knowing that he was doing it. I bring it up because it's
these little nuances that indicate that there is a definite bias in sumo.
Shohozan henka'd slightly to his left against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, but it was a
terrible tachi-ai that even Kotoshogiku was able to read with ease and respond
appropriately by just driving the compromised Shohozan back and across without
argument. This was a senseless move by Shohozan if he wanted to be competitive
in the bout, and he falls to 1-5 as a result of the blown tachi-ai. As for
Kotoshogiku, he's now 6-0 if you need him. I just don't see Hakuho letting the
Geeku beat him when that time comes, but nothing surprises me these days.
At this point, Terunofuji's kyujo was announced giving Tochiohzan the freebie
and a 4-2 record. You could see yesterday that Terunofuji was in serious pain
after his clash with Kyokushuho, and now the dude has significant injuries to
three of his four limbs.
Rounding out the Ozeki, Goeido also enjoyed a free pass today with Aminishiki's
withdrawal moving the Father to a 4-2 record.
Yokozuna Hakuho easily assumed his preferred right inside left outer grip from
the tachi-ai, and while Komusubi Tochinoshin admirably dug in for a few seconds
with the right arm inside, Hakuho was a cat just toying with a mouse here as he
wrenched the Private in tight before dumping him with a methodic left belt
throw. It's still in Hakuho's hands as he moves to 6-0 while Tochinoshin falls
Yokozuna Harumafuji shaded left at the tachi-ai grabbing the left outer grip
first and then shoring up his position against M4 Kyokushuho with the right to
the inside. Because the Yokozuna moved left, he was able to keep his can back
far enough away from a Kyokushuho outer grip on that side, and so Harumafuji
wormed his way in tight grabbing the right inside belt as well, and once that
was obtained, he wrenched Kyokushuho back and forth all the way across the straw
leading with the right inside grip. Harumafuji moves to 5-1 and should factor
into the yusho race while Kyokushuho falls to 2-4.
Finally, M2 Aoiyama came with his usual tsuppari against Yokozuna Kakuryu, but
it was more in an effort to keep him at bay than it was an all-out attack, and
so Kakuryu just patiently warded off the two-ham attack from Aoiyama and worked
his way inside with the deep left, a position from which he could now attack
quickly driving Aoiyama upright, off balance, and then beyond the straw in the
corner of the dohyo by the little salt basket. Pretty methodical stuff as all
three Yokozuna coast to victories. Kakuryu lags behind a bit at 4-2 while
Aoiyama simply lags at 0-6.
It's yours truly again tomorrow, and we'll see if we can get Don Roid to post
some comments one of the days over the weekend. Nja.
Day 5 (Mike Wesemann reporting) As
we wrap up the joubansen, or first five days of action, it seems as
though everything is pretty much par for the course. The Mongolian Yokozuna not
named Hakuho are dropping their obligatory bouts, the Ozeki are still largely at
the mercy of their opponents, and Hakuho seems to be in cruise control ready to
dictate yet another ending to a basho. Since there's nothing of significance
that has stood out to me the first five days, let's begin today's discussion
with Ura, a rikishi currently in the Makushita division making some serious
I may have mentioned Ura in passing previously since the dude receives a lot of
press in the Japanese media, but he is on the cusp of sekitori status, so I
think it's worth discussing him here so when he really starts to dominate
the headlines, there will be sufficient background information on him. Ura comes
from a little known college in the Kansai area called Kwansei University, and he
really gained fame by medaling in the world combat games a few years ago. The
dude only stands 172 cm tall, but he's cat quick and is great at obscure moves
that involve attacking his opponent at the legs. Since joining professional
sumo, he's gained the most popularity by executing the izori move, which is sort
of like a fireman's carry where you then jump backwards causing your foe to hit
the dirt first. As the rikishi get bigger, Ura's sumo has morphed from the more
difficult izori move to the more practical ashi-tori move, but it's still
exciting to watch because you rarely see someone do his brand of sumo on the
In the recent FightBox podcast we did, Kane and I discussed Ura a bit with Don
Roid, and Kane rightly compared him to Satoyama in terms of stature and style,
but the similarities end there. Namely, Ura is young and fearless, and he has as
much speed as I've ever seen in a rikishi, so while he will attack low at the
tachi-ai like Satoyama, the difference is that Satoyama's purpose is to avoid
getting his ass kicked. Ura's purpose is to kick his opponent's ass and make it
look spectacular if possible.
So the real question is can Ura succeed in the Juryo and Makuuchi divisions? The
answer is absolutely. If you go way back to the late 80's and early 90's, you
had guys like Kyokudozan, Mainoumi, Tomonohana, and Kyokushuzan, the first
Mongolian to fight in the Makuuchi division. All of those guys had a style
similar to Ura, and all of those guys made it to the sanyaku. It's interesting
to note that none of them ever made it to Sekiwake, so they were just good
enough to reach Komusubi, but their schtick never translated into consistent
kachi-koshi performances from that rank. Still, the banzuke was more difficult
back then, so if those guys were able to succeed then, Ura can absolutely make
some noise now. There's not a lot of guys around in the upper division where
that izori move will work, but he's young enough and quick enough that it will
take some time for everyone to adjust to him. So far, he's in his second
go-around in the Makushita division, and he's currently 9-0 following a perfect
They showed Ura's bout yesterday, and so I thought I'd record it with my phone
and post it here so you can get a sense for his style. Get used to it...probably
before the year is out.
On that note, let's focus our attention to the day 5 bouts that began with M15
Kitataiki striking low at the tachi-ai and securing the early right outer near
the front of M16 Kagayaki's belt, but Kitataiki wasn't set up on the inside with
the left, and so he swung the freshman around near the straw setting up the
force-out win. As for Kagayaki, he actually had moro-zashi here with his hands
and not his arms, and if he's going to succeed in the division, he's got to
learn to capitalize on this. Kitataiki's right outer was definitely pinching
Kagayaki's left, but he's got to burrow to the inside with the other arm and
lift his opponent upright and dig in. Not only does Kagayaki let his opponents
get to the inside easily, but I've yet to see him take advantage of his height.
His sumo is mistake-ridden, so let's see how generous Akinoshima is in buying
off other rikishi because there's no doubt Homarefuji just wilted for the
rookie. With the win, Kitataiki moves to 3-2 while Kagayaki falls to 1-4.
M15 Homarefuji's strategy to tsuppari M13 Takanoiwa away from the belt was a
good call, but the Mongolian was just wily enough using timely counter shoves to
keep himself in the ring with room to move laterally. About five seconds in with
Homarefuji in complete control, Homarefuji went for a right tsuki into
Takanoiwa's side, and the Mongolian came out of the fray with the left arm
finally to the inside. From there, he charged hard leading with that left and
using his right elbow pushing into Homarefuji's torso. These kinds of counter
moves are exactly what's lacking in regards to Kagayaki as Takanoiwa advances to
3-2 while Homarefuji is still winless.
M13 Takekaze looked to strike quickly and move left at the tachi-ai, but M14
Toyohibiki read it perfectly and drove Takekaze straight back and out with a
right tsuki. It wasn't as if Takekaze's tachi-ai was horrible; Toyohibiki just
read it perfectly and was ready with de-ashi when the opportunity arose. Good
stuff here as Toyohibiki moves to 4-1 while Takekaze ain't so shabby himself at
For some reason, M12 Chiyotairyu just loves to pummel M14 Jokoryu, and today was
no different as Tairyu came out with guns blazing and good de-ashi. Jokoryu
tried to escape right, but with Chiyotairyu bearing down, Jokoryu wasn't able to
sufficiently plant his right leg at the perfect angle, and the pressure from his
opponent's attack caused the knee to buckle and Jokoryu to just collapse in
defeat. They salvaged the old wheelchair from the Pawn Stars folks and
unfortunately wheeled Jokoryu out of the venue. I'm still waiting for the day
when m'gal, Chiyotairyu, approaches his bouts everyday just as he did against
Jokoryu. He's 3-2 in the meantime while Jokoryu is surely done at 2-3.
The most intriguing bout of the first half featured M10 Mitakeumi vs. M12
Shodai, but it came up a dud. I know, I know, it looked real, but Mitakeumi was
mukiryoku from the start. Mitakeumi struck low supposedly looking to get to the
inside, but he brought his left arm to the outside for no reason giving Shodai
moro-zashi. Shodai didn't exactly have his gal pulled in snug as he made his
yori charge, and it allowed Mitakeumi to maki-kae with the left arm as he
retreated. Then, in the process Mitakeumi's body actually reacted instinctively
as he began a counter tsuki-otoshi move at the edge, but the tsuki was
half-assed and he didn't move completely to the side allowing the rookie to push
him out in the end. Intentional or not, Mitakeumi was mukiryoku here the whole
way, and I hate to see Mitakeumi lose his sumo virginity like this. Going back
to my pre-basho report, I have no idea if Mitakeumi's oyakata advised him of
this strategy; I don't know if the Shodai camp sent over some cash; nor do I
know if Mitakeumi just decided this on his own. The "why" doesn't matter. I'm
just pointing out the "what." Shodai moves to 4-1 with the gift while Mitakeumi
falls to 3-2.
M9 Sadanoumi came with both hands to the neck against M11 Endoh before quickly
getting moro-zashi before Endoh knew what had hit him. Because Sadanoumi was
looking shove at first, he wasn't able to just bulldoze Endoh back without
argument, but he did mount his charge straightway. In the process, Endoh was
able to maki-kae with his right moving the bout to migi-yotsu, but Sadanoumi is
simply the better rikishi, and when Endoh made the mistake of thinking he could
easily maki-kae with his left as well, Sadanoumi polished him off with a
textbook yori-kiri. They were talking afterwards about how all of the Japanese
fans seem to be let down when Endoh loses, and you really gotta feel for the
kid. All of this hype and these unrealistic expectations aren't his doing as he
falls lower to 1-4. Sadanoumi sorta rights the ship at 2-3.
M9 Gagamaru was slow at the tachi-ai allowing M8 Takayasu to grab the left
inside and right outer grip to boot, and Takayasu wasted no time in pivoting to
his right and firing on the uwate-nage with the right outer. Gagamaru is such a
load that the throw didn't come straightway, but Takayasu kept dragging and
ultimately got the Georgian off his feet providing for a spectacular fall.
Takayasu is a shweet 5-0 while Gagamaru has been subpar at 2-3.
M8 Myogiryu struck with a right kachi-age against M11 Amuuru, and with the
Russian ducked down low, Myogiryu quickly switched gears and went into pull mode
yanking Amuuru forward to the straw, and as the Russian looked to square back
up, Myogiryu was onto him like white to rice and had his opponent pushed out
with ease. Myogiryu hasn't looked great this basho, but he schooled Amuuru today
leaving both rikishi at 3-2.
Toyonoshima quickly gained moro-zashi at the tachi-ai, but it's tough for him
with that stature to dispatch a much taller guy like M6 Okinoumi in short order.
As Toyonoshima drove him towards the straw pushing up into Okinoumi, Oki was
able to finagle the right frontal belt grip that quickly turned into the right
inside, and with this new position, he was able to continue moving right and
fire a counter tsuki-otoshi that sent Toyonoshima belly flopping to the dirt.
For whatever reason, the ref pointed towards Toyonoshima instead of Okinoumi,
and after the bout Toyonoshima was standing up like the loser while Okinoumi was
squatting in the winner's pose, but the ref corrected them, and there was no
mono-ii. They showed replay after replay, but there was no indication that
Okinoumi stepped out at any point. I mean, Okinoumi's toes and feet were close
at times, but he left no marks in the sand. This was the kind of decision where
the ref would have been obligated to put that dagger in his belt to good use
afterwards because this was a horrible call. Shame on the judges too for at
least not calling a mono-ii in this one. Okinoumi was flat out robbed due to an
old man's eyesight and lazy judges as both rikishi end the day confused at 4-1.
M6 Tokushoryu came out with a few tsuppari against M7 Tamawashi, but The Mawashi
was able to move right and counter with shoves of his own that kept Tokushoryu
upright, and from there, the nimble Tamawashi easily drove Tokushoryu back and
into the first row. Tokushoryu's sauce is anything but special this basho as the
dude looks sickly falling to 0-5. Tamawashi hasn't necessarily been kicking ass
and taking names on that dohyo, but he does improve to 2-3.
M3 Ichinojo committed a sloppy false start against M4 Kotoyuki, and I wonder if
it made him hold up for the do-over because Kotoyuki connected on some great
right nodowa that kept the Slug upright and far away from Kotoyuki's belt, and
so Kotoyuki kept the de-ashi turning shoving Ichinojo off balance and out of the
dohyo for the surprising win. This one lasted mere seconds as Kotoyuki surges to
4-1 while Ichinojo has been curiously lethargic falling to the inverse mark of
M5 Sokokurai looked to get moro-zashi from the start, but M2 Takarafuji yanked
him out of it by the left arm, and as the two looked to square back up,
Sokokurai got moro-zashi again, but Takarafuji used a series of counter
tsuki-otoshi attempts to keep himself in the ring and ultimately regain the left
arm to the inside. Sokokurai responded with the right outer and the chess match
was on at this point. After catching their breath from the initial fray,
Sokokurai made his move leading with that right outer, but he wasn't
sufficiently planted to the inside with his left enabling Takarafuji to somehow
survive, and so the two dug in again with the crowd showing their appreciation.
Sokokurai stayed low and eventually backed out of everything leaving the two in
the grapplin' position, and eventually (to the tune of three minutes and thirty
seconds), Takarafuji finally grabbed the right outer grip, but that was just
insurance since the real force-out came from his left inside. Easily the best
bout of the basho so far as Takarafuji demonstrates the importance of the inside
position picking up his first win at 1-4 while Sokokurai can keep his head up
after this effort as he falls to the same 1-4 mark.
Sekiwake Tochiohzan kept his arms in tight from the tachi-ai as M1 Aminishiki
attempted an oshi attack, and while Ami was able to drive the Sekiwake back a
step or two, Tochiohzan slipped into moro-zashi and turned the tables. In a
pinch, Aminishiki went for a quick pull, but Tochiohzan knew it was coming and
sent Aminishiki into the first row for his troubles. Pretty methodical stuff
here as both guys end the day 2-3.
Sekiwake Yoshikaze jumped the gun against Ozeki Goeido committing a blatant
false start, and that was definitely on his mind the second time because when
the two went for reals, Yoshikaze actually let up as he came out of his stance
thinking the tachi-ai wasn't in sync. The ref ruled otherwise, however, and
Goeido responded by grabbing the left frontal grip. Yoshikaze responded with the
left inside and was actually able to bully the Ozeki upright and away from that
left belt grip. Just incredible that an Ozeki would blow a tachi-ai like this,
but sure enough, it was Yoshikaze who dictated the pace from here burrowing in
low with that left arm forcing Goeido to attempt to counter with a right
kubi-nage, but Yoshikaze proved too nimble grabbing Goeido's right leg and just
lifting him off balance before dumping him across the straw with ease. I mean,
Yoshikaze let up at the tachi-ai and Goeido was still unable to force the action
to the Sekiwake's half of the dohyo! Unbelievable as both guys end the day 3-2.
Kotoshogiku charged hard and stayed low against Komusubi Tochinoshin coming away
with moro-zashi, and the Ozeki kept his gal in tight and more importantly
upright as he began to force him this way and that around the ring. Tochinoshin
tried to gaburi Kotoshogiku away just enough to grab an outer belt grip, but
every time he reached his arm, Kotoshogiku would counter with a scoop throw that
kept Tochinoshin upright and off balance. After about eight seconds, the Ozeki
had pinned his foe to the edge setting up the ultimate force-out win in the end.
I don't think we've seen a bout of sumo from Kotoshogiku like this in several
years as he stays perfect at 5-0 while Tochinoshin falls to 2-3. As for calling
this bout straight up, I've maintained all along that I think these Ozeki can
win two or three bouts a basho on their own, and here's one of them for the
Geeku. Once he got those lunch lady arms up tight into Tochinoshin's armpits, he
took away the Komusubi's movement and did it beautifully. This was an upset win
for sure, but I always give credit when credit is due...even if I have to wait a
year or two.
Terunofuji went for the quick hari-zashi with the right at the tachi-ai, but M4
Kyokushuho shaded a bit left grabbing the right outer grip in the process and
hunkering down low so the Ozeki couldn't raise him upright with his left inside.
Normally, Terunofuji would use that left inside to lift his gal upright, charge
in tight, and then make his move, but Kyokushuho was positioned perfectly for a
dashi-nage should Terunofuji advance and the Ozeki knew it. A stalemate ensued
here for close to 30 seconds before Kyokushuho retooled his grip from one fold
of the belt to the whole belt, and sensing that Terunofuji had nothing with
which to attack, he made his force out charge pinning Terunofuji up against the
straw. The Ozeki was unable to move laterally, and he just couldn't dig in any
longer due to that right knee finally just giving up and letting Kyokushuho
force him out in the end. Terunofuji was visibly in pain after this one, and the
longer he keeps participating in hon-basho, the longer it's going to take for
those injured knees to heal. Terunofuji falls to 3-2 with the loss while
Kyokushuho improves to 2-3.
M1 Shohozan had the clear path to moro-zashi against Ozeki Kisenosato, but he
brought his left arm back for whatever reason and just stood there as Kisenosato
pushed him over and out. I mean, Shohozan didn't attempt a single move here in
the five second affair, and this was either mukiryoku sumo from Shohozan or bad
sumo from Shohozan. Take your pick. Kisenosato improves to 3-2 with the win
while Shohozan's lone victory was that bout against Harumafuji. Seems to me that
if you were able to hurl a Yokozuna into the first row in mere seconds earlier
in the basho, surely you'd try and regain some of that magic against someone
Speaking of Harumafuji, the Yokozuna came with the right hand to the neck of M3
Kaisei and the left arm to the inside, and after bullying Baby Huey this way and
that, the Yokozuna secured the right outer grip, and from here it was a perfect
display of sumo where Harumafuji avoided the chest to chest affair with the
larger dude and just finessed his opponent into a position where he could push
in at his left leg (the harai move) and throw with the left inside at the same
time sending Kaisei over and down with a beautifully executed left belt throw. I
watch this kind of sumo from Harumafuji and then even Kyokushuho's skill against
Terunofuji, and I tell you, these Mongolians have taken the sport to a higher
plane. It's just unfortunate that we don't get superior sumo all the time, but I
understand why we don't as HowDo scoots to 4-1 while Kaisei falls to 2-3.
sooner do I praise the Mongolians than Yokozuna Kakuryu comes out lamely against
Komusubi Ikioi keeping both arms out wide allowing the taller rikishi the path
to moro-zashi. With Kakuryu just fumbling down low, instead of body him up Ikioi
just moved a bit to the left and pulled the Yokozuna down in about three
seconds. Kakuryu put both hands to the dirt with no other part of his body
touching the dohyo, and when that happens, you know the dude just took a
dive, and in watching the replays, there really wasn't any move employed by
Ikioi to send a rikishi to the dirt much less a Yokozuna. This was just a sloppy
affair all the way around, the the fans seemed to sense it too because there was
little buzz and excitement in the arena afterwards. Ho hum as the Kak drops to
3-2 while Ikioi is 2-3.
day's final affair, Yokozuna Hakuho righted the Mongolian ship by getting his
right inside and the left outer grip against M2 Aoiyama, and the Yokozuna wasted
no time in just dispatching his foe via uwate-nage. For what it's worth, Aoiyama
was quite mukiryoku here, but I think he was just resigned to his fate. It's
like hooking a trout in the winter time. If being caught is inevitable, expend
as little energy as possible and hope the angler practices catch and release.
Hakuho is a perfect 5-0 while Aoiyama is a listless 0-5.
Okay, five days in the books and it's business as usual. I'll be back tomorrow.
Day 4 (Harvye Hodja reporting) We
all know the storyline is Hakuho and whether he will gather up another yusho or
perpetuate more fade. So far that storyline is well in hand, as amongst the best
wrestlers on the banzuke he is already the only one with no losses. Next we have
about ten days of seeing how that holds up.
Fortunately there is another brewing storyline, and that is the trio of young
wrestlers, Makuuchi rookies Shodai and Kagayaki and sophomore Mitakeumi, who
bring a note of freshness because they are all new Japanese entrants with youth
and some pedigree that makes them interesting and generates a fun parlor game on
who'll be the best of them. I won't say "who's next," because the phrase is
overused and because, as has already been pointed out on this site, such hype
does them no good. It's half unavoidable: we're so keyed up to see a young
Japanese talent rise and show domination that every new comer is stared at the
way a 25 year old guy who's never had a date stares at every woman he meets,
wonders "is this my future wife?" and scares the bejeesus out of her. So I'll
admit my own keen interest in them as well, but will hold off on whether they're
Yokozuna or Ozeki material or other such unfathomables, and restrict myself to
saying I hope at least one of them will be really good in a year or two.
So far, Kagayaki, who has the best body and age statistics in this group, has
looked like nothing on the dohyo, with no speed, presence, or charisma. I'm
pretty much ready to say he won't be anything interesting. Mitakeumi has
impressed, in a negative sort of way, with his haughty attitude, youthful pride
and exuberance, and bullying, aggressive sumo in the ring. I still say he is too
small to really capitalize, but he certainly is displaying the presence and
swagger star athletes need. Shodai is a quieter presence, but thus far I've
liked his basics and his poise. So, watching to see which of these has the best
tournament will continue to be fun, and I'll look forward to when they fight
each other--which we get our first instance of today.
M13 Takekaze (2-1) vs. M15 Kitataiki (2-1)
When two grizzled veterans have drifted so low they host the opening match of
the division, you know you shouldn't spend a lot of time breaking it down.
Kitataiki worked on a belt grip, got one, was knocked off it by Takekaze, and
then was in trouble, as Takekaze was able to play his game, keeping his man off
balance until he could find a moment for the hataki-komi pull win.
M14 Jokoryu (2-1) vs. M13 Takanoiwa (1-2)
Jack Nicholson (Jokoryu) also went for the pull, which made this one also very
easy to break down: Jokoryu consequently lost, as Takanoiwa didn't pay any
attention to the pull, just concentrated on moving his feet forward and keeping
pressure to his opponent, and got the very easy looking and well-earned
oshi-dashi win as a reward.
M16 Kagayaki (1-2) vs. M12 Shodai (2-1)
And here we go! I keep hoping for Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki) to break out; I love
his name, his belt color, his physique, his history (paid a lot of dues) and
that fact that Mike spotted him as a prospect like six years ago already.
However, the match was illustrative of what I indicated in my introduction:
Shodai seems to have "it," and Kagayaki manifestly does not. Mosquito left
himself open at the tachi-ai, and seemed to be looking to get low and inside but
forgot to bring his arms with him, while Shodai surged in, swept Kagayaki's arms
backwards, and it was all over but for the finishing of it. Mosquito tried to
get his arms down and in use, but Shodai kept sweeping them back up so easily
they looked like fresh wet udon at Tanikawa Beikokuten. To say Shodai had
moro-zashi is to understate his dominance here; he also had body position, ring
sense, and pressure as he got the yori-kiri win. He looked like a veteran, while
Mosquito looked like the rookie he is. That sort of precocious presence bodes
well for Shodai, who is off to a hot, good-looking start.
M11 Endo (0-3) vs. M15 Homarefuji (0-3)
as I was about to write "time to make fun of Endo," Homarefuji fell down and
lost, tsuki-otoshi. I was looking forward to this one, as I always look forward
to Endo bouts (though for vastly different reasons than the crowd does), as with
Endo winless I knew it was time for him to get a present, but wondered if
Homarefuji would be willing to deliver, being winless himself and at the
perilous bottom of the division. The match told the tale: Homarefuji had no
problem moving Endo back with shoves and pushes, and Endo did nothing to knock
him down, but half way to victory Homarefuji's balance bailed out on him, and
viola! (pronounced "vee-oh-la" in northern Wisconsin), Endo got a win.
M14 Toyohibiki (3-0) vs. M11 Amuuru (2-1)
Toyohibiki's game is all about momentum: he needs to push his opponent out or
down on his first attack, or he loses, period, as he has no ability to counter
or adjust. So, after a very few seconds of pushing Amuuru around, when Amuuru's
game was brought into play--staying low and reaching in for the belt, often on
the front, then being patient and waiting for his opponent to make a mistake--I
knew it was over for Toyohibiki. Indeed, after a few fruitless moments of trying
to escape the grip of the Love God (it's Amuuu-ru!), Toyohibiki was literally
dropped onto the clay, shitate-nage, as instead of throwing him Love God just
let go of him at the right unbalanced moment. Plop. Done.
M12 Chiyotairyu (1-2) vs. M9 Gagamaru (2-1)
This one may have been a giveaway for whatever reason, as Gagamaru lowered his
head, kept his arms in tight without using them--basically a standing fetal
position--took two steps, and waited to be pulled down, which Chiyotairyu was
more than happy to do, hataki-komi.
M10 Mitakeumi (3-0) vs. M8 Takayasu (3-0)
Bully (Mitakeumi) still has a lot to learn. High 'n' Easy (Takayasu) looked
pumped for this one. His emphatic hand clap before his final squat said, "let's
see who's young and talented." It isn't that long ago that he was being hyped
for being one of the first two rikishi born in the reign of the current emperor
to make the upper division, and he's had enough success and shown enough grit
that I still haven't given up on him developing into a jo'i fixture or regular
sanyaku guy. The bout was a good one, but classic experience vs. inexperience.
The Bully had the momentum and slid High 'n' Easy back to his last life line,
but couldn't quite push him out, and when Takayasu wisely shaded to his right to
get better ring position, The Bully foolishly went for the pull. At that moment
High 'n' Easy immediately reversed the momentum, turned Bully around, got him to
the tawara, and pushed him over it yori-kiri. Mitakeumi is going to have plenty
of bouts like this.
In today's tale of the rookies, the ranking is very easy, and fits what I'd seen
the first three days as well: Shodai #1, Mitakeumi a solid #2, and Kagayaki a
very distant #3.
M6 Tokushoryu (0-3) vs. M9 Sadanoumi (0-3)
A match of two fading never-wuzzers. It is always gratifying to see guys try to
pull and get soundly beaten as a result. That's all Special Sauce (Tokushoryu)
offered here, and as Sadanoumi was already on his belt, the resultant yori-kiri
win for Sadanoumi was swift.
M8 Myogiryu (1-2) vs. M5 Sokokurai (1-2)
Myog's tournament was going down the drain--you could see he knew he needed to
turn it around and that to bring the fire was the way to do it. The far better
wrestler, he was able to re-gather a bit of self-confidence with an opponent
like this and swiftly get up close into Sokokurai's face and body up to him; he
then handled a few moments of separation well by staying centered toward his
opponent and reaching in for a neck grip so deep his hands looked much bigger
than they have a right to. He then destroyed Dark Warehouse (Sokokurai)
oshi-taoshi. This was the right way for Myog' to get back on track; expect more
of this from him over the next few days.
M4 Kyokushuho (0-3) vs. M7 Tamawashi (1-2)
Lest it be said that we only call mukiryoku when it is a foreigner losing to a
Japanese rikishi (which I did with Gagamaru earlier…) let me say that the rapid
dismantling of Tamawashi, a savvy veteran, looked too good to be true here. This
was over in a about two seconds, with Kyokushuho knocking his man upright, then
pulling his seemingly blinded and befuddled opponent down, hataki-komi. I may
very well be wrong, as there was nothing wrong with Kyokushuho's technique, and
he hit hard and swiftly--could be he just got lucky here and everything went
just as he planned. But I think two guys were in on that planning.
M7 Toyonoshima (2-1) vs. M4 Kotoyuki (3-0)
As I didn't get to make fun of Endo today, at least I can take a moment to heap
derision on Kotoyuki. But wait! His sumo has been so good this tournament, I'll
forgive the ostentation pre-bout theatrics for a day. These two guys have a
similar physique, and I knew for damn sure there was no way Toyonoshima was
going to intimidated by Kotoyuki's attack rush, so this was a good match-up on
paper. In outcome, Toyonoshima perhaps showed us what Kotoyuki will be ten years
from now, calmly absorbing Kotoyuki's aggression, leaping nimbly out of the way
at the right moment, turning around, and yori-kiri'ing Little Snow (Kotoyuki)
out. However, I must be honest and say Kotoyuki's thrusts here were palsied,
pale imitations of his normal technique, and his forward movement ponderously
slow, so I did wonder what was going on.
M6 Okinoumi (3-0) vs. M3 Kaisei (2-1)
You could just feel Lake Placid (Okinoumi) had a good shot at winning this. He's
in his comfort zone at this rank, momentum is huge for these guys, and he is off
to a hot start. This match all keyed off the left inside arm Placid employed; he
used it to keep Kaisei's right arm off him and to leverage Kaisei up and keep
him moving left, just keeping going, slowly revolving, until he could tip Kaisei
over. It took two revolutions, and was assisted by a near invisible trip at the
end and by getting that same right grip down off the body and onto the belt, but
it worked, shitate-nage. Good match by Sea of Tranquility (Okinoumi) here.
S Tochiohzan (1-2) vs. S Yoshikaze (1-2)
Battle of the Sekiwake! And what an underwhelming one it is. Look at those
records. And while The Possessed (Yoshikaze) has been a whole amusement park all
by himself the last few tournaments, he is pyrite up here and I'm waiting for
him to go back where he belongs so we can get someone else more promising in.
That said, he played his game perfectly in this one, slapping wildly but with
good concentration and focus, never allowing Tochiohzan to get inside as he
loves to do. Tochiohzan did just kind of stand there, and there was a great
moment when Yoshikaze surged to the inside on a wide-open, dazed-looking 'Zan,
just like 'Zan likes to do when winning. After that it was an easy yori-kiri win
for The Possessed.
Kotoshogiku (3-0) vs. M1 Aminishiki (2-1)
Aminishiki has a reputation for being stubborn and refusing to play by the usual
mukiryoku/deference rules. Oh, he does it too, but he's more unpredictable than
some (Takarafuji, Aoiyama…). I'm sure guys hate to face him--you never know what
he is going to do. Here, he went hard for the pull, and it worked pretty well;
Kotoshogiku just managed to drive Ami out while falling full frontal to the
dirt; it could have gone either way but went to the Geeku, oshi-dashi. This is
as legitimate a win as you'll see from Geek at this rank at this point in his
M2 Aoiyama (0-3) vs. O Terunofuji (2-1)
Ahhhh! What a relief. We haven't seen THIS Mountain of Terror (Terunofuji) in
quite a while. He was patient, strong, and didn't do any standing up and limping
around. Blue Mountain (Aoiyama) is quite a big boy, and this wasn't easy for
Terror, but it was classic Terror in many ways. First Terror got a hold of both
of Aoiyama's arms sideways, pinned them, and tried to sling him down. Blue is
too big though and it didn't work. Then Fuji the Terrible (Terunofuji) went for
the belt, which was what he likes best. He had first one side, then the other,
and Blue is not a belt guy, so from here the win was academic, yori-kiri, though
it took some time because Blue did not want to lose. Good stuff. Terrible is so
good I'm always surprised when he comes on line so early in the day; when he's
on he still belongs right in there at the top.
O Kisenosato (2-1) vs. K Tochinoshin (1-2)
Great match. A grunting, lengthy belt battle. As anyone who reads this site
knows, the Japanese Ozeki get a lot of insults. But Kisenosato will not get them
from me without some balance. I think Tweedledum (Kisenosato) is a bad
strategist and has terrible ring flexibility, but I also think his grip is
strong and his yori-kiri willful and dominant. He is a legitimate but
unfortunate Ozeki who is simply outclassed by much better Yokozuna. He is night
and day from the embarrassing Kotoshogiku. As this match went on, it was 50/50
in a straight up fight who would prevail. I expected that to be Kisenosato--this
kind of belt match is his bread and butter, and guys do sometimes let up for
him. However, the scales tipped the other way, and in the end, it was
Tochinoshin ending this one with a beautiful shitate-nage. I won't break it down
except to say they both fought hard and
mightily, and one must lose and one must win. So, if we don't believe in
Kisenosato as a legit Ozeki, what do you say about this one? Do you say
Tochinoshin could have won easily and let it drag on to give Kise a chance? Or
are you more generous and says it was straight up and this shows Tochinoshin is
a better wrestler (which I agree is possibly true)? The key point is the time
BEFORE the outcome: if you're thinking mukiryoku, how do you justify the
outcome? And wouldn't you admit that if this was straight up, Kisenosato, even
though he lost, is pretty damn good? Sorry, this was great sum, period, and
showed the power and guts of BOTH of these legitimate powerhouses. If guys are
sometimes letting up for Kisenosato, they should stop--he doesn't need it. THIS
is what he needs. This is what we all need. Great bout.
K Ikioi (1-2) vs. O Goeido (2-1)
Two false starts here by Ikioi. That was all just theatre to set up the loss by
Ikioi, which Goeido almost screwed up by falling down. Goeido smothered his way
forward off the break and these guys were pasted against each other like two
glue sticks in elementary school art class. Then Goeido backed up while pulling
Ikioi by the neck; Ikioi just went along for the ride on that and lost,
kubi-nage ("neck throw"), while Goeido fell on his butt. Mukiryoku, dumb sumo
all around, or both.
Y Kakuryu (2-1) vs. M1 Shohozan (1-2)
These two guys bodied up and got on the belt pretty good. Kakuryu drove the
Brown Bunny (Shohozan) back to the edge, then was driven back to the center
himself, though he seemed to be dictating the action; perhaps he was looking to
adjust his grip or re-position, because when he drove Bunny to the straw a
second time, he deposited him down and off the dohyo with a yori-kiri dump like
a guy stuffing a rotten head of lettuce down the kitchen garbage disposal. I
love it when the Yokozuna finish off their wins so emphatically. That's why
they're Yokozuna: "I can do THIS."
M2 Takarafuji (0-3) vs. Y Hakuho (3-0)
This was very easy for Hakuho, as Takarafuji was his usual passive self, just
standing there doing basically nothing. That may work with lesser guys, letting
you wait for an opening, but it ain't gonna work with a Yokozuna. Hakuho's story
today was that he's going to go to 4-0. Like, right now, dude. Hands to the face
and neck to create distance. Lighting move to get arms to the body and belt and
create pressure and movement. Arms moved up under the pits and around the torso
to control while moving his opponent out yori-kiri.
Y Harumafuji (2-1) vs. M3 Ichinojo (1-2)
Delicious potential here if they don't decide to be nice to each other. They
didn't. Harumafuji challenged The Iron Blob of Gravity Grease (Ichinojo) front
on, and went for his hard-smack tachi-ai featuring evil dual-handed neck
strangulation. Then he let go, backed up, and gave Ichinojo a couple of slaps.
That didn't work, or course--the man is The Mongolith, for goodness sakes!--and
Harumafuji looked kind of unhappy about that, so the 'Maf then attacked instead,
putting his head into pile-driver mode and convincingly scoring the linear
yori-kiri force out. Ichinojo was just standing there waiting for it all, but
that's what he does anyway. Works pretty good against lesser guys. It's no
wonder the Yokozuna get frustrated with his effort level; he's going to have to
have more than "I'm big, I stand here, you try and fail to beat me, I smother
you" against the Yokozuna. They didn't get to the top by standing around.
Twelve wrestlers on the banzuke matter. Their records at the end of today: The best: Hakuho 4-0, Harumafuji 3-1, Terunofuji 3-1, Kakuryu 3-1. The Ozeki: Kotoshogiku 4-0, Goeido 3-1, Kisenosato 2-2 The second best: Tochinoshin 2-2, Tochiohzan 1-3, Ichinojo 1-3, Aoiyama
0-4, (Osunaarashi out with an injury.)
Given the relative skill levels in these groups, the Association will take it.
(Hands microphone politely to Mike.)
Day 3 (Harvye Hodja reporting) (Picks
Mike's microphone off the floor. Doffs top hat and snaps spats at the audience.)
Well, ladies and gents, gather round for some scrumpdiddlyumptious sumo action!
The fat will fly! The foes will fall! Sweat and salt will be ground together
into a fine layer of gooey grit atop the swept clay! See giants of strength do
battle while holding nothing but straps of cloth! See smaller men burrow amongst
the folds of other men's obesity! Will the G-Gr-Gra-Graaaand Champions of
Mongolia sling native sons into the front rows of startled spectators, or will
they crumble in shameful defeat, earned or picked, at the feet of victorious
opponents, to the roar of the ravening masses? What will become of dozens of
lesser tubbies, who must do their bestest to testest their mettlest against
each-others bulging bosoms? Find out right here, folks, for a nickel, or free!
M15 Homarefuji (0-2) vs. M16 Kagayaki (0-2)
You pull you lose, or so it should be in these parts and all others. This was a
battle of upper limbs a'bangin' on shoulder fronts, but Mountain of Praise
(Homarefuji) chose to let up midway through, not even a pull really, just a
beat, a sigh, a doom, a decay, and Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki) moved leadenly in
response across the baked earth and forced him out, oshi-dashi, to get off the
hard times killin' floor. Both looked like lambs already slaughtered and bought.
M14 Jokoryu (1-1) vs. M15 Kitataiki (2-0)
Northern Carpenter (Kitataiki) was lightning off a surprise-quick tachi-ai,
jerking 'em hands up snake-strike way, but Jack Nicholson (Jokoryu) was even
quicker, stickin' 'em his own paws out front as if to say "whoah, woah, there!"
and stopped the Carpenter from getting inside. Instead, it was Heath Ledger
(Jokoryu) who got inside off this odd tachi-ai job, and Carpenter had to respond
by pinching 'em arms of his, as if to say, "now now, now!" But Jack was sneaky,
and the Carpenter didn't pinch tight enough, so Jack sneakily slid one of those
python limbs effortlessly down in and got a hold of the cloth, and drew the
Carpenter's curtains, oshi-dashi.
M14 Toyohibiki (2-0) vs. M13 Takanoiwa (1-1)
Both wearing belts of the palest gray or silver, they looked like ghosts in the
moonlight. Two wrapped cadavers at dawn. Ghouls in a graveyard. Two shroud
weavers drinking tea. Takanoiwa got a belt, but with the fallen trees of
Toyohibiki's hammy arm hocks falling on his skull, it was kind of like what
happens if you reach your hand in to grab the spools of moving plague-cart
wheel: you have to let go. Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) bodied up upon him with
the smothering embrace of the finality of time and knocked him over the way
winter wind reaps the shredded corn stalks, oshi-taoshi.
M12 Chiyotaikai (1-1) vs. M13 Takekaze (1-1)
If Takekaze were a bottle rocket, he went off here. A tricky little jumping frog
and runner-about, he sometimes shows that sumo can still mean a pick-pack of
punch-up; stand forward to pummel your foe, no matter 'a small you is, and
sometimes that works. Takekaze burst from the tachi-ai, Chiyotaikai tried one
ridiculous pull of his hairy pate, and Takekaze removed his foe into mid-air
from mid-dohyo; Chiyotaikai disappeared left off my screen, like a flock of
kites torn from the shipmaster's hands in gales off of Cape Horn, oshi-dashi.
M12 Shodai (1-1) vs. M11 Amuuru (2-0)
As I often find announcers annoying, I often watch sports with the sound off.
The whole Packers-Redskins game this weekend was accompanied by a Pharoah
Sanders, Eddie Harris, and Huun-Huur-Tu soundtrack, and I missed no Aikmanbuck.
However, I'm glad I had the sound on for this one, because the match keyed off
the thwacking platsch of Shodai's sheathed musculature bodying mightily into
Amuuru's sleek physique--a sound you don't hear enough in sumo these days. Ol'
Shodai put both fists down, Kakizoe-style, then catapulted up into Amuuru, WHAP!
After that Amuuru looked like a sneak thief trying to climb over a barbed wire
fence, and bleeding out on it, as Shodai got all in up underneath him and lifted
him away, oshi-dashi. All you need to get over a barbed wire fence is a ladder
and a rug, but Shodai stole his.
M11 Endo (0-2) vs. M9 Gagamaru (1-1)
Lord Gaga gazed down from his seat on high and saw a smooth faced child across
the hall. "Who brought this fresh boy to fight me, his face yet un-nicked by
razors?" thundered the Lord. "Lord, do not be deceived, a man he is," the
retainers cringed, as light shone from the handsome visage of the unblemished
cherub who now squatted before the Lord. "Hrrng. I will go easy," grunted the
Lord, half to himself, and lumbered from his throne, mangling at the boy, afraid
he would crush him to powder like fall leaves under steel boots, were he to roll
his Lordliness down upon him like he would upon men. And well, too, that he took
such care, for within moments the stripling stepped out under the Lord's close
and sweaty pressure, all too easily vanquished, withering before him oshi-dashi
but not killed as the Lord had feared: merely beaten. "This is not a man,"
muttered the Lord.
M9 Sadanoumi (0-2) vs. M10 Mitakeumi (2-0)
This match was identical to the previous, with your man on the right, The Bully,
Mitakeumi, battering your man on the left, Sadanoumi about like a farmer dumping
a wheelbarrow full of rotten cabbage over a stone wall. Get under, push up,
drive in. Oshi-dashi for the sixth match out of seven so far today (and the
other was oshi-taoshi). Surprising dominance by Mitakeumi in this one (but then
again Sadanoumi is following that typical career pattern of the
good-but-not-particularly-so: rise to the sanyaku, fade to mid-Maegashira for a
long, comfy stay).
M8 Myogiryu (1-1) vs. M7 Tamawashi (0-2)
A battle of slips and slaps. Snack Break (Tamawashi) slipped first, right off
the tachi-ai, and in response Myog' tried to pull him down by the head. Maybe
shoulda gone in hard instead. In fact, Myog' is pretty good, and shoulda tried
his luck at the belt with this guy: just get the f*** in there and see how he
likes that action, jock! I bet he doesn't! The second slip, after a lot of back
and forth, was by Myog', tripping over his own toes and falling down, for a
kimari-te of tsuki-hiza, ending it rather anti-climactically just like that.
That's the price he paid for letting this one linger.
M7 Toyonoshima (2-0) vs. M8 Takayasu (2-0)
Oooh, said Takayasu, let me put me hands on yer face, on yer face! Let me feel 'em
velvety cheeks! Let me massage 'em vein-bulged temples! Let me hold your
slaverry jowls in my hands. Oooh, said Takayasu after that, let me put my head
to your head. Let's lean over to each other and rub our hair together and quiver
and twitch our sweet brain cribs while we fondle each other's forearms, ooh, let
me stroke that coarse, sweat-dampened arm-hair, grip the undulating muscles
above your crackling wrists. Then let's just stand here a minute and hold each
other this way, let's. Ooooh, said Takayasu finally, you are lulled to near
sleep; let me rest my callused palm upon your suet-sheathed back just one
millisecond and fling you down to the unforgiving soil, hataki-komi; I've waited
for the right moment and the time is perfect and the throw is as beautiful as
M5 Sokokurai (1-1) vs. M4 Kotoyuki (2-0)
Bleeeaaarrrrggghhh! Kotoyoki arm-swing! Mwwwaaaaaggghf! Kotoyoki in yo' face,
Inner Mongoloser! Brrraaaaggggghhhhl! Kotoyuki move forward and urggggulllgrrrg
get down and aaaagggghhhf, I'm all up in you, It's Dark There (Sokokurai)!
Mrrrraaaaaggggghhhhh! Oshi-dashi! I'm the next Ozeki! I'm a god among men! I'm
M4 Kyokushuho (0-2) vs. M6 Okinoumi (2-0)
Tippty-dancy, light and nimble, tiptoe forward went Okinoumi and cleverly,
daintily grabbed his man round the torso. That's called getting' low and inside.
Pedro Martinez couldn't paint the black any better. And out goes Kyokushuho.
Yori-kiri win for Lake Placid (Okinoumi).
M6 Tokushoryu (0-2) vs. M3 Kaisei (1-1)
While Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) was focusing on looking up and reaching up with
his too-short arms to grab the neck and face of his looming opponent, Kaisei was
focused on pummeling down and in, lowering the boom. This was simple force-out
oshi-dashi stuff, completed in seconds, leaving Tokushoryu like a dish of
scrambled eggs served lukewarm and spat upon.
S Tochiohzan (1-1) vs. K Ikioi (0-2)
Off the tachi-ai Ikioi was quick and his arms were tight and scooping forward
and up, preventing Chestnut Mountain (Tochiohzan) from getting his favored grip,
moro-zashi. After that, Japan's Best (Tochiohzan) had very little, and looked
like a lesser wrestler as Ikioi slid him across and out, oshi-dashi. (To be
true, I had forgotten to pay attention to who the opponent was, and rewound to
check which mid-Maegashira ne'er do well Ikioi had manhandled, and was surprised
to see it was our man the 'Zan.)
M3 Ichinojo (0-2) vs. O Terunofuji (2-0)
lame. The Mountain of Terror (Terunofuji) was moving forward and had a left
overhand grip, but he let go of it too easily, couldn't get it back, and did a
weak job of trying as The Mongolith (Ichinojo) worked his right arm to keep
Teru's left away from the belt and worked him back. Then The Future (Terunofuji)
did one of those "oh, okay, I guess I lost, I'll just step out myself here and
look chagrined" things that is about as inspiring as a sandwich of pounded
daikon pulp on crustless Wonder Bread. To be fair to The Iron Blob of Gravity
Grease (Ichinojo), he was moving more and better than he usually does, kept his
feet un-aligned, was relatively low, and did have some nice inside right
position. But I found the second half of this bout utterly unconvincing on Fuji
the Terrible's part. Yes, this was good Ichinojo, but it was bad Terunofuji. The
good news is the knee doesn't look to have bothered Teru at all yesterday or
today. And I admit to some awe in watching the amount of sheer poundage at work
here: combined 341 kilograms.
O Kisenosato (1-1) vs. M2 Takarafuji (0-2)
Kisenosato reminds me a lot of Tweedledum when he bobs up and down out of synch
with his opponent in the pre-match face offs, staring poker faced and
over-serious silly, blinking madly. I like this guy, but it must be hard to try
and try and try and try and you just can't find how to be smart! You wish you
had more smarts and look so hard for them but you just never will really
understand. Anyway, this was a good belt-battle. They both had inside lefts and
went chest to chest. The turning point was that Kisenosato was able to add an
inside right to finish it off, yori-kiri, while Takarafuji did not add such
like. This match's analysis sponsored by Miyabiyama's shoulder bump.
K Tochinoshin (0-2) vs. O Goeido (2-0)
Loved it. As the gyoji, dressed in shimmering verdant green like an iguana in a
Kankan tree in Suriname, raised the gunbai slowly as if he was about to flick
out his tongue and draw Goeido in like a ripe dragonfly, Tochinoshin did just
that: lurched skillfully forward and absorbed Goeido in his massive awesomeness.
Goeido, I think, probably expected Tochinoshin to let go or evade or dance about
like he was tripping on bad yeast, but instead, lo!, Tochinoshin continued to
simply move forward. Even though he didn't have the best grips, he stuck with
it, smothering Goeido with a left arm hooked around the outside from above and a
better right arm wrapped around the body inside. Goeido was too small, and too
outclassed on the power front, and despite superior position had no ability to
apply any pressure. Tochinoshin just lizarded him out yori-kiri. Very good sumo
here from this physical powermonger.
Kotoshogiku (2-0) vs. S Yoshikaze (1-1)
I was looking forward to this: Kotoshogiku is a slow old clown and Yoshikaze is
a wild old crazy horse on fire. Should have been a contrast in styles.
Unfortunately, The Possessed (Yoshikaze) had been exorcised, and as Kotoshogiku
offered a right arm full of Valium and a left full of Prozac, Yoshikaze dozed
off and stepped out of the ring under Kotoshogiku's avalanche of bromide,
M1 Shohozan (1-1) vs. Y Hakuho (2-0)
Although he did not employ one of his sounder techniques, Hakuho looked kind of
angry today: "I'm going to show what I can do." He likes to play around with
different techniques in the ring and usually win anyway, opening himself up to
the occasional loss and lots of weird looking sumo: "look ma, I can even win
while standing on my head with an egg beater clenched in my bellybutton!" Today
he went with face slaps, neck thrusts, and generally good, mean puncher stuff.
Interestingly, once he got Shohozan right on the bales with this, The
Storyteller (Hakuho) surged in for a belt grip and upper-body-on-you domination,
then thrust powerfully with both legs, sending both of them three rows back into
the crowd. It was a dame-oshi--Shohozan had already stepped out and Hakuho's own
feet were at the tawara when he launched this explosion--but it was also about
as emphatic an "and now I'm going to make sure I've finished you off" as I've
ever seen. Compare that to the lame, cynical end of the Ichinojo-Terunofuji
bout. No apologies: this is the way to do it.
Y Harumafuji (1-1) vs. M2 Aoiyama (0-2)
The 'Maf zapped right in to moro-zashi, and whereas Aoiyama tried his best to
sling him this way and that--moro-zashi opens you up to significant sideways
leverage by your opponent--Spring My Fuji (Harumafuji) has too good of balance
to lose that way. And Aoiyama did NOT try his best at the end. Losing and about
to be dame-oshi'ed like Shohozan, he lifted both arms off of Haru as if to say
"okay, okay, it's over." Yeah, it was: but stick with it, and if he doesn't have
the sense to let it go, take him down with you.
Y Kakuryu (2-0) vs. M1 Aminishiki (1-1)
rejected nicknames for Kakuryu: Stumpy the Firenut. Ball of Guts. Gutball. The
Invisible Yokozuna. The Stealth Yokozuna. The Occasional Bomb. Hello, My Name is
Kakuryu. (The last one is my favorite) Anyway, fascinating match. On the one
hand, if you watch Aminishiki, it looks like a legitimate win for him. He did a
half-cheating tachi-ai where his hands barely touched, giving him time to get
those hands up and brain Kakuryu on the top off the noggin for an effective pull
that had Kakuryu stumbling forward. And Aminishiki was very quickly on his
compromised opponent to then force him out, oshi-dashi. Also, there is clearly
nothing Kakuryu could have done at that point--he tried to evade, but had
nowhere to go and no balance or position. However, if you watch off the
tachi-ai, you may note that in the space in which Aminishiki fit in three
moves--the finger-sweep of the ground, the initial tachi-ai hit, and the
pull--Kakuryu never did a thing: his arms just dangled. So I would say he let
himself be pulled, and if that finally got him in gear, well, it was too late
for those gears to do anything but grind. The good news here is that people
actually realized Kakuryu is a Yokozuna: they threw cushions! Invisible no more!
Early Leaderboard-Of-My-Own-Creation Look
For some reason I always really expect that all the Yokozuna and all the Ozeki
are going to win all their matches the first five or six days, and I'm
shocked--shocked!--when bunches of them drop early ones. This is, of course,
stupid of me: it is more normal these days to have a loss or two amongst the
Yokozuna and even more amongst the Ozeki at this point, and that is what we have
this time, too. There is nothing new under the sun, and as Mike forecast, 2016
is looking a lot like 2015. I said on day one there are only twelve guys on the
banzuke who matter; here is how they are doing, with Strata A (Yokozuna plus
Terunofuji) in red, Strata B (Clown-Zeki plus Tweedledee) in green, and Strata C
(repressed foreigners plus Tochiohzan) in purple:
Zero losses: Hakuho, Kotoshogiku
One loss: Kakuryu, Harumafuji, Terunofuji, Kisenosato, Goeido
Two losses: Tochiozan, Tochinoshin, Ichinojo
Three losses: Aoiyama, Osunaarashi (out)
And that's pretty-much a three-day microcosm of how the last year or so has
played out. Watch for Kotoshogiku to fade in the second week and red to hold
It's you and me again tomorrow, pal.
Day 2 (Mike Wesemann reporting) I
consider myself a glass half-full person, but I'm also a realist. I don't let
outside sources make up my mind for me, and just because something is printed in
the media, published on the innernet, or even written in a book, I don't believe
it until I can analyze all of the facts and then make an educated decision. For
example, I don't invest money into a company because I want the stock to go up.
I invest money in a company because I think the stock will go up based on a
careful analysis of fundamentals and precedent. I start my day 2 like this
because I want to come into the new year and say I'm looking forward to a better
year of sumo, but I just don't see the fundamentals that would back up that
assessment. Without rehashing previous takes and beating a dead horse, the
ultimate problem with sumo right now is you get to the jo'i bouts and nobody
wants to beat the hell out of anybody.
Rikishi are going soft on the Japanese Ozeki; the Mongolians are letting scrub
rikishi beat them; and then the Mongolians go soft against each other...for
whatever reason. You watch the content of the sumo the last thirty minutes and
it's just different. In the two bouts surrounding the Kisenosato - Aminishiki
fiasco, there wasn't a good tachi-ai or a single move by either rikishi that
amounted to sound sumo. Then you had Hakuho executing this wild tsuki-otoshi
move where he flails himself to the dohyo in the process for no reason. And all of this is on
the heels of guys just taking dives against Goeido and Kotoshogiku, so when you
get to the final bout of the day where Harumafuji locks Tochinoshin up in
textbook yotsu fashion before dumping him emphatically to the clay with an outer
belt throw, you're like, "Wow, where did that just come from?" It used to be
that 80% of the bouts among the jo'i were like the day 1 Harumafuji -
Tochinoshin matchup and then 20% of it crap sumo thanks to gimmick guys trying
to cat and mouse their way to wins, but now it's the complete opposite: crap
sumo 80% of the time with the occasional pleasant surprise.
On that note, let's get to the day 2 bouts where speaking of gimmicks, NHK
introduced a new interactive approach to the broadcast where they posted various
survey questions and trivia questions for the fans and then posted the results a bout or two later. I
get what NHK is trying to do here with this, but I go back to what I've been
saying for years now: why can't we let the actual sumo content sell the sport,
not these little mascots and gimmicks? If Japanese rikishi were dominating the
sport, you wouldn't need all of these distractions to try and over up for what
happens the last 30 minutes of the broadcast.
As I go along in my comments, I'll introduce the various survey questions asked
along with revealing the results (hold onto your hats!!) because I think it
gives great insight into the core fan base and why sumo is so popular right now
despite a dearth of good, Japanese rikishi. Let's start with the first question
posed as they waited for the Makuuchi bouts to begin:
Who do you consider the strongest Yokozuna ever? Hakuho, Taiho, Chiyonofuji, or
Before they had tallied the results from the fans, they went to the mukou-joumen
booth occupied by the former Tamanoshima, who offered his answer: Takanohana.
Tamanoshima's explanation was that Takanohana was the strongest Yokozuna because
he never allowed Tamanoshima to do anything in the ring.
It's kind of a curious pick considering Tamanoshima fought Takanohana exactly
one time in his career while he faced Asashoryu 25 times and Hakuho 8 times, but
there's your answer from the first horse.
After showing some graphics of former greats like Taiho, Futabayama, Asashoryu,
and the late late Kitanoumi, they finally revealed the fan survey results, and
the winner? Chiyonofuji! Second place was Taiho, "Other" came in third place,
and then Hakuho checked in at a distant fourth as seen below (Hakuho's blue,
Taiho is red, Chiyonofuji is green, and Other is yellow):
Chiyonofuji was great for sure, but when did he retire? He retired in 1992, and
so his selection as the winner gives you a glimpose into the age demographic of
your average sumo fan in Japan. Based off of the results from the sumo fans and
Tamanoshima's reasoning, we can deduct the following theories from the survey
1. There is a bias towards the nationality of the rikishi
2. There is a bias towards older rikishi suggesting the age demographic of the
typical sumo fan is old
3. Records don't matter
Judging the choices by Tamanoshima and the fans in general, I think this single
survey question helps to explain why the venue is selling out 95% of the time
these days. It's not about the records; you need a gullible population to pull
this off; and an obvious bias exists in favor of the Japanese rikishi. Use the media
to put spin the Japanese rikishi in a good light prior to the basho and project
the Mongolians as vulnerable, and Wa Law! (that's how we spell Voilà in Utah)
Leading off the day was M15 Kitataiki who entertained a tsuppari affair ever so
briefly before latching onto J1 Fujiazuma's belt with the left hand and swinging
him over to the edge setting up the easy yori-kiri win. Kitataiki is a methodic
2-0 to this point.
Okay, next survey question (and this is how you really know that they're
catering to old, Japanese people): What season does Hakuho resemble the most?
I think we're all waiting to see something positive from M16 Kagayaki, who
shaded to his left with a henka against M14 Jokoryu and coming out of the fray
with left kote-nage grip. After a weak attempt to bully Jokoryu over to the
side, the two created separation and jockeyed for position where it was clear
that Kagayaki has a penchant for letting his opponents inside too easily as
Jokoryu secured the deep left inside position. Kagayaki used his long arms to
grab an outer grip, but he wasn't set up on the inside himself, and so after a
brief stalemate, Jokoryu pounced with a left inside throw that sent Kagayaki off
balance and down. Terunofuji the rookie ain't as Kagayaki falls to 0-2 while
Jokoryu improves to 1-1.
Okay, I know I was shamelessly teasing you all by not answering the previous
survey question, so Aki was the correct answer! Yes, Aki!! If I was a true sumo
expert, I'm sure I would be able to add insight into that question and answer,
but I was so befuddled at this point that I found myself actually looking forward to
the Toyohibiki - Homarefuji matchup.
M14 Toyohibiki exploded from the tachi-ai and didn't give M15 Homarefuji any
sort of opening shoving his foe back and out with such force that he drew the
tsuki-dashi technique! Toyohibiki moves to 2-0 with the dominant win while
Homarefuji falls to 0-2.
Next survey question: Who determines when it's time for the rikishi to start
their bout? The referee, the judges, the yobi-dashi, or the rikishi themselves?
M12 Chiyotairyu came with his thundering tsuppari against M13 Takanoiwa followed
by his stupid pulls, and the tsuppari were good enough to knock Takanoiwa off
balance to where Tairyu was able to pull him down while barely keeping his feet
on top of the tawara. They actually called a mono-ii to look at Chiyotairyu's
feet, but there was no detectable sand flying, and he didn't leave a mark just
beyond the rope, so the initial decision stands. Both rikishi end the day at
If you're new to the sumo broadcast, it's the judge sitting on the mukou-joumen's
East side who gives the go-ahead. When I was a newbie to sumo, it took me about
three basho to figure that one out...although way back in the 90's, it was
stylish for rikishi to go on their own before the judge gave his okay if both
rikishi wanted to and were in sync.
M13 Takekaze was quick out of the gate shoving upwards into M12 Shodai and
knocking him back and then to the side. Shodai's only hope was a quick pull, but
Takekaze had all the momentum and looked to shove Shodai back and down in a
matter of seconds. But wait! They actually pointed the gunbai towards Shodai,
who used a desperation right kote-nage like tug to pull Takekaze to the dirt.
They called a mono-ii and correctly overturned the call giving Takekaze the win,
and my question is...if Shodai can come that close to winning at the edge with
an ugly kote-nage tug, why don't more rikishi among the jo'i who lose to the JPN
Ozeki try something like this instead of just walking straight back? Justin wondering.
One of the most anticipated bouts in the first half featured M11 Endoh vs. M10
Mitakeumi, and it was Mitakeumi who took charge with a right nodowa and a left
hand up and under Endoh's right elbow that knocked Endoh back and down in such
easy fashion it was silly. I mean, there's nothing to break down here. Endoh is
a weak rikishi, and it showed today as Mitakeumi is a cool 2-0 while Endoh falls
M8 Myogiryu was quick outta the gate sort of shading to his left leaving M9
Gagamaru to just charge straight forward into nothing. Myogiryu easily pulled
him down with the right to the back of the head and left hand pulling at
Gagamaru's right arm. Shame, shame, everyone knows Myogiryu's name as he moves
to 1-1 while Gagamaru is pulled to the same mark.
Next trivia question: What gets announced every day during the zen-han (first
half) Makuuchi bouts?
M8 Takayasu and M9 Sadanoumi engaged in non-committal migi-yotsu bout meaning
both rights were placed to the inside, but their chests weren't aligned as if
they wanted to pull out of the move at any time. From this stance, Sadanoumi
grabbed the left outer belt, but he wasn't positioned properly to the inside,
and so Takayasu was able to back up and pull Sadanoumi forward with the right
inside at the belt and his left arm pulling at the back of Sadanoumi's shoulder.
Pretty easy bout here as Takayasu bruises his way to 2-0 while Sadanoumi is
At this point in the broadcast, they revealed that the Juryo matchups for the
following day are determined during the zen-han Makuuchi bouts and then
announced. Once the dust has settled from the Juryo bouts, they quickly
determine the next day's matchups and then run that over to a small printing
room in the venue. The Juryo bouts are printed up on a half size sheet of paper
and then distributed to the various parties concerned. Stop me if all this trivia talk has
you too hot and bothered.
M7 Toyonoshima and M6 Tokushoryu hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, and
while Tokushoryu had the right outer grip, he was poorly positioned to the
inside with the left arm, and so Tugboat just plowed forward forcing Tokushoryu
back so fast he could only offer a meager pull that didn't come close to
working. Yet another bout that shows just how important it is to attack once you
have an arm established to the inside as Toyonoshima sails to 2-0 while
Tokushoryu ain't so special at 0-2.
M6 Okinoumi charged forward from the tachi-ai without a decent grip of his
opponent allowing M7 Tamawashi to slip into moro-zashi at the edge. With
Okinoumi's left arm up high around Tamawashi's neck, Okinoumi was there for the
taking, but Tamawashi simply didn't attempt a counter move despite enjoying
moro-zashi. Not sure why that was the case, but Okinoumi was able to swing
Tamawashi around and down with that weak kubi-nage. Intentional or not,
Tamawashi was clearly mukiryoku here never going for a single move the entire
bout. Okinoumi improves to 2-0 while Tamawashi falls to 0-2.
At this point, we finished up the first half bouts, and so NHK posed the
question: What zen-han bout would you like to see again? The Endoh - Mitakeumi
matchup was the runaway winner...of course. As they are wont to do, NHK panned
around the audience during the break, and I was pretty sure I could hear a lot
of bleating going on. BA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A. BA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A.
M4 Kyokushuho and M4 Kotoyuki bounced off of each other at the initial charge,
and with Kyokushuho standing up high, Kotoyuki easily plowed forward with his
potent tsuki attack knocking Kyokushuho back and across in short order. Because
Okinoumi was so limp here, there wasn't enough of an ass-kicking to give
Kotoyuki the tsuki-dashi win, but he'll take this one all day as he scoots to
2-0. The listless Kyokushuho is 0-2.
M3 Kaisei and M5 Sokokurai bumped chests at the tachi-ai before hooking up in
migi-yotsu. Sokokurai actually had the left outer grip, but Kaisei's chest was
positioned in so tight, Sokokurai had no room to maneuver, and so Baby Huey
just drove his legs forward sending Sokokurai back across the straw and
ultimately down into the front row of fans. The Brasilian giant finally awakens
moving to 1-1 while Sokokurai falls to the same mark.
M2 Aoiyama came with the hissing tsuppari against Sekiwake Yoshikaze, but there
were no de-ashi behind the shoves, and so Yoshikaze was able to slap his arms up
and under Aoiyama's extended arms slipping into moro-zashi in the process, and
having attempted no forward momentum from the beginning, Aoiyama was the easy
force-out project from there. Two popular Japanese rikishi and poor sumo both
days from Aoiyama who falls to 0-2 while Yoshikaze picks up win number one.
Okay, here's a doozy of a question: What does sumo need most to maintain it's
current popularity? Good sumo, fan service, Japanese rikishi success, or more
Kisenosato was wide at the tachi-ai giving Sekiwake Tochiohzan the left
inside, and Oh actually had the right arm positioned to get to the inside thanks
to the Ozeki's usual open stance (see picture at right...Oh's the one on the
left), but Tochiohzan never persisted with that right
arm allowing the Ozeki to settle into hidari-yotsu. With Tochiohzan clearly
mukiryoku at this point, Kisenosato attacked with a yori charge leading with the
right kote-nage grip, and as Tochiohzan was backed against the straw, he
instinctively began a counter tsuki-otoshi move slipping to his right, but he
never fired on that tsuki with the right hand allowing Kisenosato to square back
up and score the ultimate force-out win. This was so blatant, especially when
Tochiohzan threw Kisenosato off balance with the tsuki-otoshi move because you
actually had Kisenosato leaning over the edge of the rope as if he was at the
edge of a tall cliff, but the Sekiwake
never fired the kill shot and ultimately let the Ozeki survive and turn the
tables. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1, and I think a Kisenosato victory in
this one was about as predictable as it could get.
As for the answer to the previous survey question, the overwhelming answer to
the most important aspect in continuing on with sumo's popularity was the
success of the Japanese rikishi. The actual word used for success used in the
question was "katsuyaku," one of the words in the Japanese lexicon that does not
have an equal in the English language, but the closest nuance that I can come up
with is "producing successful results." So what in the minds of the Japanese
people would be considered successful results? I think the fans have been
programmed to accept frequent upsets of the Mongolians and prominent names on
the yusho leaderboard from Japanese rikishi, and that's exactly what's been
playing out the last few years.
M3 Ichinojo kept his arms wide at the tachi-ai allowing Ozeki Goeido to duck in
tight and just plow forward. Ichinojo could have dug in and gotten the inside
with either arm, but he just played nice backing up and feigning a pull with the
left arm at the back of Goeido's melon. Pure mukiryoku sumo for ya here as
Goeido stays unblemished at 2-0 while Ichinojo continues to hold back at 0-2.
Ozeki Kotoshogiku and Komusubi Ikioi hooked up in hidari-yotsu where instead of
using his superior height advantage to lift the Ozeki upright, Ikioi just stood
there and allowed Kotoshogiku to raise the Komusubi up instead leaving Ikioi a
right kote-nage grip with which to counter. Of course, he wouldn't even attempt
a counter move simply standing there and waiting for Kotoshogiku to make a move.
Said move came with a feeble left scoop throw attempt from Kotoshogiku, but
Ikioi complied just throwing his right elbow to the dirt as he fell over of his
own accord. That's two bouts for Kotoshogiku and two opponents who couldn't put
their elbows to the dirt fast enough as Kotoshogiku enjoys a 2-0 start while
Ikioi falls to 0-2.
At this point, I just need to comment a bit on Miyabiyama, who provided color
commentary today. I always liked Miyabiyama back when he was an active rikishi
and now as an oyakata. The dude has quite a sense of humor, and while that
wasn't necessarily on display today, the dude is a helluva snake oil salesman.
After watching the Japanese Ozeki bouts that were clearly thrown for each of
them today, he didn't skip a beat in trying to break it all down. There was no
hemming or hawing, just confident analysis that summed up how impressive the
sumo was displayed by the home team. They should really put this guy in the
booth more often because he sounds way believable.
Ozeki Terunofuji and Komusubi Tochinoshin hooked up in the immediate migi-yotsu
clash where Terunofuji had a frontal grip with the left that turned out to be an
outer. That frontal grip on Tochinoshin's belt was key because it totally
rendered Tochinoshin's right arm useless, and without the sufficient inside
position to dig in or mount a counter charge, Tochinoshin was yori-kiri fodder as
Terunofuji just wrenched him over by the belt before bodying him across. The
manner in which both Mongolians have handled Tochinoshin over the first two days
has been a thing'a beauty. And this is the kind of sumo I'd expect from the
Japanese rikishi as well if they really were true Ozeki and superior to guys
like Tochinoshin, Ichinojo, etc.
And just as soon as I heap praise on Yokozuna
Harumafuji for completely
dismantling Tochinoshin yesterday, he comes out and gets his ass handed to him
in seconds by M1 Shohozan. Er, allegedly. From the tachi-ai, Harumafuji's arms
were wide and uncommitted allowing Shohozan to get two hands to the throat and
stand the Yokozuna upright. Harumafuji offered a lame left shove to the face of
Shohozan before the M1 ducked in and grabbed moro-zashi. Still just standing
there like a bump on a log, Shohozan immediately went for a right scoop throw
that sent Harumafuji flying across the straw in spectacular fashion. The only
way that a Yokozuna is thrown like this is if he's not playing defense. Any
defense. And that was the case today as Shohozan picks up the gifted win and
kin-boshi. Of course the announcers brought up the fact that Harumafuji spent a
few days in the hospital with cellulitis, or whatever. As I pointed out in my
pre-basho report, the spin that these Yokozuna are vulnerable sets up perfectly
a bout like this to occur. Does anyone really believe that on his very best day
that Shohozan can dismantle a Mongolian in less than two seconds? If he's on his
best game, he can maybe win 5% of the time...if that, but destroy him in mere seconds? Implausible as both rikishi end
the day at 1-1.
As they showed Yokozuna Kakuryu warming up prior to his bout against M2
Takarafuji, they pointed out that during pre-basho keiko, Kakuryu was working on
"not resorting to his pull habit." Once again, here is another ruse setting up a
future Kakuryu loss against a strategic rikishi when he will inevitably go for a
dumb pull and then blame the loss on that. Guys with a bad pull habit are named
Chiyotairyu; they don't reach the Yokozuna rank.
Anyway, Kakuryu and Takarafuji looked to hook up in hidari-yotsu, but with
Takarafuji pressing forward, Kakuryu backed up and went for an offensive
tsuki-otoshi move with the right arm. It didn't knock Takarafuji over because
his position wasn't necessarily vulnerable to the move, but it did create
annoying separation and force Takarafuji to work his way back inside. He'd never
get there as Kakuryu was quicker to the punch using tsuppari to keep Takarafuji
upright before ultimately driving him back and across. Methodic stuff for
Kakuryu who moves to 2-0 while Takarafuji is still an o'fer.
In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho came with a migi hari-zashi slapping
with the right hand and then assuming moro-zashi as M1 Aminishiki's hands were
up high fishing for a pull attempt. That would never come as Hakuho had the
de-ashi working before you could say "de-ashi," and the Yokozuna had Aminishiki
shoved back and out in less than two seconds. As an aside, if the henka
Aminishiki displayed yesterday against Kisenosato--or even the sumo he displayed
in the first go-around for that matter--would also work against the Mongolians ,
he'd be doing more of it. Regardless of that, Hakuho skates to a 2-0 start, and
there will be no mention of his ailing left elbow until he gets upset...by a
Japanese rikishi of course. Aminishiki is 1-1.
(Droppin' the mic for Harvye tomorrow)
Day 1 (Harvye Hodja reporting) Welcome
to 2016. Hakuho remains the only story. 2015 was a year of decline, withdrawing
from a basho for the first time in many years and only (only!) managing to win
three tournaments (and one of the last four). There are plenty of nay-sayers
now: his sumo doesn't look dominant, wear and tear is starting to tell, he is
hurt, he is uninspired, they say. This last may be true, but I hope to god it
isn't. In a perfect world, 2016 gives us a Hakuho revival. He decides the others
have had their chance, that Terunofuji isn't ready, that he wants to show how
very not done he is. In a more likely outcome, however, the Storyteller wins a
basho or two--not more--and salts the earth with other Mongolians in the other
basho. Or...in a world which would be something like a relief for many parties,
including him, Hakuho decides to retire. Less going out on top than saying, like
the actor who played Bobby on Dallas, "I've got better things to do than hang
around this place." Really, if you had all that money, would you put up with the
humiliation? The scorn? The self-abnegation? If I had a chance to be the best
and show how very long I can be the best, yes. If not? No. But he's been a good
soldier, so I think he's got another few years of being one, and I am rooting
(against the odds) for forty yusho. Will he? Won't he? This year, as the last,
and the last, last, last, last, last, last, the story is Hakuho.
I'll boldly predict not just the winner of this tournament--Hakuho--but the
total tournament tally this year: Hakuho and Harumafuji two apiece, Kakuryu and
M16 Kagayaki vs. J1 Seiro
I'd been waiting for Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki) for quite a while, him being long
and tall and young, but in his few visits from Juryo he didn't excite, and that
continued today. I'm far from throwing him away after one Makuuchi bout, but
I've seen no fire from yet, ever. I figure you want to beat the Juryo visitor on
your first day in Makuuchi, and he couldn't even do that. He was cautious here,
and ended up with the higher position, while Seiro was aggressive and got
moro-zashi (both arms inside) and quickly drove The Mosquito out, yori-kiri.
M15 Homarefuji vs. M15 Kitataiki
These guys have both bounced off their ceilings, Kitataiki long ago, Homarefuji
last tournament, when he was helpless in his higher-ever rank in mid-Maegashira.
So he needed to win this one, and was fast off the tachi-ai, but wasn't very
inventive, and Kitataiki, an aged veteran now, was more willful and more active.
Homarefuji also stayed too high up; consequently he did not have enough leverage
to drive Kitataiki out, and gave Kitataiki space to work underneath. Homarefuji
had his man at the bales three times, but Kitataiki pushed back the first time,
evaded out the second, and the third did not have sufficient control of
Kitataiki's body; Kitataiki was sideways to him, and when he realized this,
Kitataiki pushed out with this left arm and knocked his too-straight-up opponent
over, oshi-taoshi. Two matches down, two skillful wins.
M14 Jokoryu vs. M14 Toyohibiki
Once upon a time Jokoryu looked like a prospect. Then he got injured,
disappeared into Juryo, and hasn't been the same. I am wondering if it is still
about the injury and at some point he will heal up and we will see a
Tochinoshin-esque rise. Nothing doing today, as he became the third youngish
wrestler who needs to start the tourney with a win today...to start it with a
loss. He had no power or effective technique; Kerosene Burp simply pushed him
around until he fell over, oshi-taoshi, like a man fighting a giant steel ball
bearing relentlessly rolling: can't grip it, can't stop it.
M13 Takekaze vs. M13 Takanoiwa
It is fun watching shriveling veterans try to work a way to a win. Takanoiwa
ain't much, but he hit pretty hard off the tachi-ai, and if he had driven
promptly forward, this would have been over quickly: a statement win. However,
he stood there staring at the dancing Takekaze, enjoying his home run, so to
speak, only to see it land well short of the fence. Takekaze did not go out, and
Takanoiwa had to re-engage. To his credit, he did this well, keeping in front of
Takekaze and repeatedly taking it to him, but I thought Takekaze was going to
win: give him enough chances (and he got plenty) and he'll eventually spring a
trap. The trap he finally sprung was an attempted inside trip; he had his leg
hooked in there pretty good. But Takanoiwa was very far inside and close on the
body, Takekaze couldn't get any leverage, and High Cliff (Takanoiwa) pushed
Takekaze out for the okuri-dashi win. This showed how little gas Takekaze has
left in the tank. I don't know if he'll make it through 2016.
M12 Chiyotairyu vs. M12 Shodai
Unlike Kagayaki, I thought Shodai looked good in his visits to Makuuchi from
Juryo, so I'm a little more hopeful here. He looked solid today, too, though
Chiyotairyu either gave it to him or was very stupid, rolling placidly to the
clay sukui-nage after a lazy step-out-to-the-left by Shodai, who was going
backwards and looked bored. Shodai looked like a snotty waiter wheeling the
dessert tray, then showing it with a contemptuous arm flourish: here you go,
crème brulee! It doesn't get any easier than this. Hope to see more fight for
M11 Endo vs. M11 Amuuru
I liked this match-up very much. On our left, someone everybody roots for, for
no good reason anymore. He just isn't very good, just handsome. On our right,
somebody nobody pays any attention too, but should: a late bloomer with a
stick-to-it-ive style and gritty potential. Amuuru is much better story than
Endo and has been for a while: I know who I'd buy a ticket to see. Anyway, both
wrestlers stayed low, but Amuuru has superior arm length, and Endo couldn't get
to his belt. Meanwhile, Amuuru could; he wangled a nice, easy right grip, used
it to turn his rag-doll around, then finished off with comedy: he had Endo
facing the wrong way. Endo tried to turn around, but couldn't, as Amuuru was
holding him by the back of the belt, a mule at harness. Hee-yah!! Giddy'ap, li'l
M10 Chiyootori vs. M10 Mitakeumi
Mitakeumi was just fine in his debut last tournament, underwhelming to a safe
8-7 record, but I believe he is simply too small to be a real sanyaku threat.
Like most guys of his pedigree, my expectation would be a steady rise to the
sanyaku, quick destruction there, and sinking back down to mid-Maegashira type
stuff for the remainder of a solid career. Let's see how it goes. He did very
well here with Bouncy Butt (Chiyootori--whose career has pretty much followed
the path I just described). I may sound like a broken record with this, but
Chiyootori was just too high. Mitakeumi kept his head sufficiently low, was
methodical with his shoves inside, and worked his compromised opponent out,
oshi-dashi. Nice win.
M9 Sadanoumi vs. M9 Gagamaru
Very nice bout here. Sadanoumi did everything right, but Gagamaru was just too
big for him. At the tachi-ai, Gagamaru tried pasting Sadanoumi in the face. When
that didn't work, he stood up even higher so he could paste him the face even
more. At that point he let Sadanoumi inside for moro-zashi, and I thought Lord
Gaga was toast. However, Gagamaru, a guy who looked clueless and as easily moved
as a frozen lump of butter on a hot cookie sheet a year or so ago, has come back
to Makuuchi and looked pretty good. As they are taught, he responded to the
moro-zashi by squeezing down and in on Sadanoumi's arms, "kime," thereby
neutralizing Sadanoumi's driving power. In the end he both collapsed Sadanoumi
and threw him, kote-nage, while himself falling down; Sadanoumi popped out of
there and tumbled to the ground like a ping-pong-ball out of a kid's spring-gun.
Gagamaru has my attention.
M8 Myogiryu vs. M8 Takayasu
Here there are: the two winners of the "underachiever of last tournament now
expected to clean up at this rank" award. Neither really went for it here,
though, and that cost Momentum Man (Myogiryu). Myog' was inside and low, but too
slow; Takayasu maintained sturdily against the rather passionless attack of his
foe. Finally Takayasu saw an opportunity for a slap down; it didn't work, but it
took Myog' out of the bout for a moment, and while he was recovering, High ‘n'
Easy (Takayasu) squared to him and forced him out, oshi-taoshi. Not bad sumo for
either man, but Myogiryu needs to fight with fire. If he doesn't, and is feeling
demoralized by his demotion, this could be a tough tournament for him.
M7 Toyonoshima vs. M7 Tamawashi
Why do so many guys try to break Tugboat's neck? It doesn't work. Looking
carefully at it when Tamawashi grabbed Toyonoshima's head and pushed it over
backwards, I decided maybe it is not a strategy wrestlers premeditate, but
something there for the taking: while Tugboat is disciplined about keeping his
arms low and in and moving forward off the tachi-ai, he is not disciplined at
keeping his head down, leaving it sticking up out there like a watermelon ripe
for beach-slaughter. However, that rugged noggin is cheese in a mousetrap,
because while Tamawashi fondled that greasy neck, Toyonoshima got a left outside
grip that he was able to do more with his stubby arms would seem to allow, and
drove Tamawashi out yori-kiri. This guy is a great reason to keep watching.
M6 Tokushoryu vs. M6 Okinoumi
We know what the Sea of Tranquility (Okinoumi) can do: he is good at ranks like
these, execrable when he floats up to the sanyaku. On the opposite side, this is
something of an important tournament for Special Sauce (Tokushoryu), I think:
while he has spent some time in the jo'i of late, to my mind he doesn't belong.
Mostly, instead of using his size as an advantage and ramming like a bull, he is
passive and his size and shape and consequent lack of agility makes him a docile
butterball, too easy to maneuver out. This bout lived up to expectations.
Special Sauce did pretty well in moving forward, but needed to be lower: he
should get under inside and blast upwards with his arms while driving forward
with his feet (some Kotoyuki type action). Instead, he was pushing too high on
Okinoumi's upper body, and Oki was able to maintain and eventually lean on
Tokushoryu in stalemate, which is bad for the heavily, more quickly tire-able
Tokushoryu. When wrestlers have identical positions, the superior physical
specimen will usually win, and Okinoumi did, ending this long one yori-kiri. I
expect a good tournament from him, and continued slow fade from Special Sauce.
M4 Kyokushuho vs. M5 Sokokurai
I've been thinking a lot lately about how little belt-sumo there seems to be
these days; Mike has been talking about this as well. It feels like a different
sport than it did fifteen years ago. Today has been a pretty good day so
far--very little backwards moving victory, no tachi-ai henka, etc.--but still,
there has been very little belt action as usual. Lo! These two started out like
two guys concentrating very hard around the table at a knot-tying class: they
got into one of those butt-back, head down, arms locked battles like they were
trying to demonstrate the top and two sides of a rectangle in a geometry lesson.
After a few moments of this, however, Sokokurai pushed his opponent up out of
this (key move: get your opponent upright and move him backwards), and then
Slap! Slap! Each man reached in turn inwards and firmly gripped that mawashi.
Magic. After that it was a test of strength, and Sokokurai won with a lovely
yori-kiri, lifting Kyokushuho off balance by the belt and driving him out. I
don't think it is a coincidence that: a) these two have both risen to their
highest ever rank right now with steady work; b) they got in a classic belt
battle with good basics; c) they are both Mongolians. Think about that.
M4 Kotoyuki vs. M3 Kaisei
Much as I loathe him for his pre-bout theatrics and attitudinal cheapness,
Kotoyuki's sumo has my increasing attention. Remember how I said Special Sauce
(Tokushoryu) needed to get lower and blast upwards with his arms like Kotoyuki?
That is exactly what the still relatively green Kotoyuki did against the highly
experienced, massive veteran, Kaisei. Now, Kaisei was off his game--at one point
he got the un-nimble Kotoyuki turned backwards, yet could not advance, and
Kotoyuki did a 360 and squared back up--but nevertheless Kotoyuki loses if he
doesn't work hard here. Kotoyuki also displayed power: Kaisei had him near the
edge, but Kotoyuki had good position and took that moment to sling Kaisei out
hammer-throw style, sukui-nage. This looked very good; he got a paw into the fat
meat under Kaisei's armpit, lifted up and in, unbalanced the giant can of Spam
in his hands, and tipped it out. Like Gagamaru, this boy has my attention.
S Tochiohzan vs. M3 Ichinojo
And just like that, we move from the also-rans to the big boys. Each bout
features at least one player of one kind or another from here on out. Here we
get our first sanyaku guy against a very dangerous M3. Let me say I am not with
Mike on Ichinojo: he may be faking it in some matches, but I just don't think
anymore he has the skills to be a consistent sanyaku guy. Yeah, he was dynamic
early on, but guys have him figured out: he is passive, lardy, slow,
manipulatable, and passionless. His sumo can also be dumb, like letting
Tochiohzan get his favored technique, moro-zashi. After that The Mongolith's
only chance was to use his bulk from above to dominate Tochiohzan into tired
submission, but Tochiohzan is better than that and used his healthy sumo body
and skills to bully Ichinojo around and, like in the previous match, lift up on
his opponent's armpit at a key moment near the bales and dump him out,
sukui-nage. Tochiohzan was in control the whole way and is the better wrestler.
(Yes, the top of the banzuke is a mess, with three mutually incompatible strata,
an Ozeki sandwich in foreign bread: a) Hakuho, Harumafuji, Kakuryu, and
Terunofuji dominant above, b) Kisenosato, Goeido, and Kotoshogiku as the all too
chewable meat, and c) Tochinoshin, Aoiyama, Osunaarashi, and Ichinojo below,
blocked by the meat. But this forgets one important guy, Tochiohzan, who fits
none of those categories--he can probably beat the Ozeki consistently and the
lower-strata foreigners occasionally to regularly. The twelve guys I named in
this paragraph are only twelve guys on the banzuke who matter, some for good
reasons, some for bad. What needs to happen is for the Ozeki-meat and the
foreigner-bottom-bread to flip positions. That not being allowed to happen is
screwing everything up. But these twelve carry the meaningful action. Everybody
else wants to be in here but ain't.)
M2 Aoiyama vs. O Goeido
Goeido is a terrible Ozeki, but he reminds me of Takekaze in his ability to
sometimes win with evasion and backwards-moving sumo. The difference is Takekaze
does that on purpose, whereas for Goeido is usually looks like a mistake. Goeido
seems to think he should win by moving forward, but since he doesn't know how,
resorts to winning however he can. Aoiyama came at him hard with hissing thrusts
here, and is no doubt the guy with more potential, but Goeido smartly stepped to
the side at the edge, and Aoiyama plashed to the dirt, hiki-otoshi. Can't say
much against that; yeesh. I'd do the same.
O Kotoshogiku vs. M2 Takarafuji
Kotoshogiku smacked hard at the tachi-ai, kept low, got an arm inside, and drove
his man to the tawara. There the comedy started, as Takarafuji played "Mary Had
A Little Lamb" in Kotoshogiku's fat rolls on one side, wiggling those fingers
nimbly, and the shorter "Hot Crossed Buns" on the other, agile digits
plinkety-plunkety into 'Giku's fat rolls. While he was concentrating on playing
the bagpipe-accordion that is Kotoshogiku's torso, instead of moving forward,
Kotoshogiku removed the instrument from his grip, backed up, and Takarafuji fell
down out of sadness, clutching forward for his pipes, tsuki-otoshi: boo-hoo!
Give my electric piano back! This was a bunch of ridiculous looking nonsense.
M1 Shohozan vs. O Terunofuji
Total. Mismatch. On paper. On screen. For our eyes. To our minds. Terunofuji
should absolutely destroy Shohozan. But he didn't. I'm starting to get worried
about him. Both knees are wrapped up pretty bad now--getting all
Aminishiki-bedroll on us. According to reports, he now has two injuries, the
second caused by favoring the first. And he has looked anything but dominant
since getting hurt in Aki 2015. Mike wrote in his pre-basho report Teru thinks
he needs this year to recover. In that case, he should probably go kyujo. If
not, it could be a long year for him. There is a very real possibility a
possible great career has already been derailed by knee problems that will never
really go away. (There is also a very real possibility someone told him, "look,
we just have too many Mongolian Yokozuna right now. Take it easy for a year,
Hakuho will retire, and then we'll let you in.) I hope I'm overreacting to the
injury, but let's just say I wouldn't sign him to a long term contract right
now. In this match, against a guy who was in Juryo in the same Aki tournament
where Fuji the Terrible got hurt, four months ago, it was a near even match-up.
Pretty straightforward: deep moro-zashi for Shohozan, heavy kime-pinching by
Terunofuji, who was standing straight up and looking very vulnerable. Shohozan
had him in danger at the edge often. However, the Mountain of Terror was just
too big for him, and in the end walked Shohozan over to the edge like a
lumbering bear and pushed him out, kime-dashi. Two basho ago I was writing "The
Future is Now." Now I'm wondering if The Future is The Past. Say it ain't so.
O Kisenosato vs. M1 Aminishiki
Tee hee. Two (too?) old battle horses here. Kisenosato spread his arms open wide
to give his mama a hug as she stepped off the airplane, but surprise! It wasn't
mama, it was Aminishiki! Who charged right into the hug, kept low, and reached
up to pull Kisenosato's head down for a nice kiss! No, wait, he's pulling him
down and to the ground by the head while leaping out past the tawara! This was
good stuff by Aminishiki, taking advantage of what was available, but a mono-ii
was rightly called, and a do-over. The second time was hilarious, as Aminishiki
pulled a huge henka, then turned around and hit Kisenosato so hard the man fell
over backwards with all his limbs flailed out, oshi-taoshi "Look, Ma, I'm a
Starfish!" Now, that's how to impress the emperor, boys!
Y Kakuryu vs. S Yoshikaze
Raise your hand if you are tired of Yoshikaze's sudden blazing glory! No hands.
Okay, raise your hands if you think Yoshikaze's possession by a ghost has been
fun, but also think it is a flash in the pan and he will turn into a pumpkin
this tournament! Lots of hands! This was a basic slap-fest, but Kakuryu is far,
far superior, and as long as he didn't resort to a pull he'd be fine. Oh, wait,
he resorted to a pull. Oh, wait, he won with it. Let's rewind. This match had
two phases. One: Kakuryu slappity-ed The Possessed (Yoshikaze) back to the
straw, but couldn't quite slap him out. Two: Yoshikaze slappity-ed Kakuryu back
to the center of the ring, where Kakuryu belted him to the ground, hataki-komi.
What happened here? Why did this pull work for the Nuclear Dragon (Kakuryu),
when last tournament it resulted in several losses? On previous pulls, Kakuryu
has been in tight on the body, and the pulls left him high, momentumless, and
his opponents close and moving forward. Here, since the slaps created distance,
when he pulled he had room to take his man down in front of him. More important,
he moved to the side: something he failed to do when being driven out on failed
pull attempts last basho.
K Ikioi vs. Y Hakuho
was wild stuff. Started out with Hakuho trying to get a left grip, but he was
just short. Ikioi was busy pushing up top. Then, Hakuho whiffed on his second
attempt to reach in and grab on the left: the airball left him off balance and
closer to the tawara than he liked. Ikioi tried to pounce, but Hakuho pounced
too, this time getting hold of Ikioi's hand/arm and pulling hard. This was the
move that propelled Ikioi out of the ring (and was ruled tsuki-otoshi, but felt
more like tottari to me). However, Hakuho used so much oomph he stumbled to the
ground too, twirling sideways along the tawara, at about the same time Ikioi
went out. The judges talked it over, but gave it to Hakuho, which was the
Y Harumafuji vs. K Tochinoshin
match-up: two of the strongest guys in the division. The result was slightly
disappointing, but only because Harumafuji's domination was so total. First he
got a throat grip and gave Tochinoshin some serious, vicious
backwards-head-removal business. Then he let go, brought him in, grabbed him,
and removed him from the dohyo with an effortless overhand throw, uwate-nage.
Let us posit for a minute that Hakuho is slipping: still lots of wins, but not
enough drive or domination anymore. Is it possible then that this will be the
year of Harumafuji? He was the more impressive of the two in winning the last
tournament with a long streak of dominant bouts, and he was easily the more
impressive today. We are one day in, so making year-long predications based on
one of the 90 matches each man will fight this year is patently ridiculous. So
let's kind of do it anyway! Harumafuji looked very, very good here against a
very good opponent.