Senshuraku Comments (PZ Kelly reporting)
been in the States for nigh on three years now, and I've started to get back
into the swing of things, grooving on being a real American once again. One
thing this means, of course, is that I've become a glutton for punishment, am
not ball and chained to outdated notions such as believing what I see and hear
with my own eyes and ears. I'm red, white, and blue blooded, and love a good
alternative fact as much as the next fella.
So obviously continuing to follow sumo is right up my alley. The Japanese may be
famous for their ability to mimic and then improve upon successful business
models, but when it comes to spinning a deliciously sweet alternate reality
mountain of watagashi (consider this your JPese language assignment for
the day, my googly eyed goombahs) they are trailblazers.
Heading into Day 15, I was anticipating being the one to handle the first yusho
of The Kid, a lad I've been watching since he was just a little hagiwara fish
back in the day. Marked for glory, it's been mostly non-story. A likely Yokozuna
in any era not linked to Ulan Bator, Kisenosato has toughed out a decent but
unspectacular career in the upper ranks, for the past several years as Ozeki,
and has defended his tiny parcel of land without remark.
SoI expected a big finish, a day I could really enjoy, but in his 14th tussle
Hakuho lost to a low level guy, all the built up energy just trickled away, and
now I have to spend an hour or so writing about pretty much nothing. Not the
most appealing prospect, but I can't say it's the first time a huge climax has
slipped through my fingers. And at least I won't have to wash just one tennis
sock after the report.
The first bout of note had Sokokurai and Takanoiwa both at M10 and both at 11-3.
Sokokurai, who looks more like a guy charged with maintaining a clean water
supply for the village down at the local yakuba than a sumo rikishi, played
defensively with Takanoiwa's madcap thrusting. At about nine seconds in, having
led his horse to water, Sokokurai dropped him into the drink mostly by getting
his way. Takanoiwa looked a tad flustered, seemingly unsure of how he could have
put in so much effort and wound up with naught but sand in his grasp. I'm sure
Secretary Clinton feels your pain, brother.
E13 Gagamaru, already spitting teeth with 9 losses, essentially lent his chest
to a fellow European Kaisei, who was 7-7 and tryin to get to heaven. If you've
ever watched sumo practice, you've seen this bout.
After three years in Juryo, Okinawan rookie Chiyooh was gunning for a
shin-Makuuchi kachi-koshi. Unluckily for him, university lad Hokutofuji, in only
his second Makuuchi event himself, was not in the mood to be generous, snatching
a deep and crippling inside left at tachi-ai that stood the E15 up and rendered
any attempt he might make to escape feeble indeed. No sweat for the E8 who will
be looking to continue his blistering run of needing two basho only to escape
Juryo (incl. a 12-3 yusho) and two 9-6 to begin his career in the top flight.
Next we had two guys with Terao like frames coming in at 7-7, and that normally
means intensity in ten cities (a BOC shout out to my homies!) Sadanoumi,
teetering on the brink of demotion, came in guns ablaze vs. one of the 13,769
Kokonoe wrestlers in the upper division, Chiyoshoma. The Kumamoto man broke like
a bear, getting the hidari yotsu left hand inside, forcefully and with great
fury driving his foe
across and out. I'm glad he won, because if he hadn't, we probably would have
seen some tweet like, "Sadanoumi lost. Sad."
Endoh came in needing one to get his eight, was definitely the aggressor in this
contest, but Takayasu, fighting despite doctor's warnings to avoid strenuous
activity this close to the delivery date, timed a leap away, kind of like the
type of move you do when your letting little kids chase you around trying to tag
you, and you wait till they're right in front of you and then bend your torso
and leap back and to the side
as they swipe in, leaving them wondering how in the world you do that voodoo
that you do. Endoh gambled on that final push, and now will have two months to
his master's voice just utterly berate him for being a pretty boy who gets all
the fine ladies. As for Takayasu, Musashimaru called. He wants his belly back!
Tamawashi and Takekaze fighting in the third to last bout on Day 15 is
pretty hard to fathom, but this is where we find ourselves, so stop your
whining. She lost and that's all there is TO it! Oh, wait, where was I? Yes,
Takekaze, stupefyingly still going strong at nearly 38 years old, straight up
Mongolian with a powerful charge right to the titties that left Tamawashi with
no option other than capitulate. The last time Takekaze got his KK from this
high up, a 9-4 from W4 in 2014, he was promoted to Sekiwake. WTF?? So who knows what'll
happen this time. A 10-5 from E5,maybe Yokozuna?
I'll admit that I've paid more attention to my duodenum over the past three
years than to sumo, but WHAT happened to Terunofuji? Dude had that crazy run of
48-12 with two runner ups and one championship, but for the past eight basho,
it's been straight KK, MK, KK, MK, KK, MK, KK, MK 4-11 today as he let a
battered and beaten Kotoshogiku thoroughly destroy him with his signature
gaburi. I suppose since this is possibly The Geeku's last bout ever, it made
sense. Still, hard to see this skilled, young man performing so poorly. Who knew
a collarbone was so important to sumo rasslin?
So finally we came to the sole Yokozuna against his arch enemy, Ennui. Sorry, as
you were. Against his longtime slapping bag Kisenosato who, as noted above, had
already secured his first ever yusho. This battle was a near repeat of their
Nagoya 2016 bout, as Hakuho came in hard charging nearly out of control, as if
to say, "Yo, I gotta be proactive against this titan or else he goan KEEL me!"
charging sumo has two advantages. One, it gets the fins flappin, and two, it can
more readily appear legit when it's not because the tiniest mistake or
deflection has disastrous results.
Unlike in Nagoya, where the Yokozuna slipped off and to the dirt
almost immediately after pushing Kisenosato to the ropes, today he centered
himself a bit more on the Ozeki's frame, allowing for some crowd pleasing
thrusts leading up to the rapturous moment when the most skilled and intelligent
sumo wrestler of all-time makes his boner dive to the side. After 12
jun-yusho, The Kid gets his first yusho.
That's GOTTA be a record.
This win is of course all the ammunition the YDC needs to finally, FINALLY crown
a JPese Yokozuna once again, and with it my 19 year wait is over. I am formally
retiring from sumo, truly and forever, as I cannot enjoy it any longer. While I
lived in Japan, it was easy to accept the back scratching and deferring because
that way of seeing the world pervades the culture.
But being back in the States, in the bosom of our Great Leader, I no longer can
rouse myself to give a damn, about much of anything these days, truth be told.
So it's been a great ride, 12 years of writing alongside the best sumo expert
I've ever come across. I hope it continues for decades to come. I'll be watching
from afar. Thank you all.
Day 14 Comments (Don Roid reporting)Kisenosato
has such a track record of dropping the ball in clutch situations that he
couldn't possibly win today, right? But Hakuho's sumo has been so reprehensible
as of late that anything's possible heading into today. If we're really lucky,
it might come down to a playoff on day 15. With most of the top rikishi dropping
like flies and with the kind of matchups we have today, though, you'd think the
Emperor's Cup is literally RIGHT there for Kisenosato's taking. So, let's just
jump into the belly of the beast straightaway.
Ozeki Kisenosato (12 - 1) vs. M13 Ichinojo (10 - 3)
There is a small heard of ham-and-eggers pervading the upper banzuke this
glorious day, one of them being Itchynojo due to the fact that he's got quite a
decent record this month and also that it's day 14 and there's really no one
else for Kisenosato to face except for Hakuho, which has to be saved for
This one started off weird. Both guys obviously had some butterflies. Kisenosato
was squatting with both fists dangling an equal centimeter or two just above the
dirt, staring down Itchy. Ichinojo made his move for the tachi-ai, but
Kisenosato just sat there staring into oblivion. The Mongolian got the idea and
placed both fists flat, putting the ball into Kisenosato's court. They collided
like rusty bumper cars at an old carnival, shifting slightly clockwise. It
looked like Ichinojo was looking for the left arm outside grip but was cut short
by Kisenosato. They both appeared to be quite nervous and Ichinojo began trying
to push forward on the chest, but Kisenosato was able to thwart his every
attempt with quick hand movement. Nojo then tried to go for the left hand again,
but Kisenosato fought it off and managed to get a double inside grip. He got it
by getting his left hand under the right armpit of Ichinojo, propping him
upwards and sliding his right arm inside, then keeping a low, powerful base as
he pushed forward. It looked like he may have had him a bit off balance with his
left leg as well.
I think this bout was straight up. Both guys were obviously pretty nervous and
it showed. Kisenosato now moves to 13 - 1. That means that if Hakuho loses, he's
pretty much got it made in the shade. But there would be a few popcorn matches
before we'd find out.
Ozeki Kotoshogiku (4 - 9) at this point is kind of like watching Old
Yeller being put down. Even though he's a guy who has never produced like an
Ozeki is expected to, you still feel bad for him when it's time to go. These
last two days must be DRAGGING for him. It's
probably like staring at the clock
during the final few minutes of class on the last day of school. M3 Ikioi (7 -
6) is a guy I like to watch and a guy who's got some skills, but something about
him just tells me he's not fully matured as a fighter yet. He looks like he's
panicking when he's in there sometimes, especially against higher ranked
He did well today, though, despite not getting that right arm inside, like he'd
wanted to. As Geeku started coming at him, he kept his distance, moving
backwards and to his right, again looking for the right arm inside. As Old
Yeller moved forward, Squeaky turned him with his right arm deep under Geeku's
armpit. He planted his left leg and lifted his right hip to off-balance his
opponent, then gave him an extra bump or two to finish him off. Solid, patient
sumo from Ikioi today. He also gets his kachi-koshi and will be movin' on up in
Both Ozeki Terunofuji (4 - 9) and Sekiwake Shodai (5 - 8) are already make-koshi
and are just out there for $hitS and giggles today. For Fuji, I guess it really
doesn't matter if he loses another match, as it won't affect his rank next
tournament (besides having to win at least 8 bouts in March), but for Shodai,
every loss is important here and could affect how low he drops. They've fought
four times before with both of them wining two apiece.
It looked like Terunofuji got a great jump on Shodai. Even though he's not 100%,
you could really see that even a 60% Terunofuji tachi-ai would flatten a normal
man. Shodai absorbed it though, and spun out of danger's way. You'd think that
Fuji would just be in "screw it" mode today, but no. Shodai had a solid grip and
began working for that yori-kiri, but the Ozeki fought it off and put on his
rally cap. Shodai backed off and regrouped, getting the same grip (left out -
right in) once again. This time it was curtains for Terunofuji and he seemed to
let up a bit just at the very end when he knew the inevitable was coming,
probably just for safety's sake. After he stepped out, he trapped Shodai's arms
hard, to avoid stepping backwards off the dohyo and re-aggravating that leg
So during the last two bouts we had a chance to use the John and we've made a
peanut butter, banana and peach jam sandwich and we're ready to see if this
January is any more miraculous than last year as Yokozuna Hakuho (11 - 2)
faced M10 Takanoiwa (10 - 3). This is a guy who debuted in 2009, having his first top
division bout exactly five years later. He then bounced back and forth between
Juryo and Makuuchi for a while, climbing over a mass of bodies in Maegashira to
have a peek at what the valley looks like from the top of the mountain, but he's
never fought The Storyteller before. He's already snuck in the doors of Mordor
and got right up to that little cliff inside the volcano. All he has to do now
is just toss the ring into the lava and without Kisenosato doing anything else,
he'll have given him his first yusho. If he doesn't, Kisenosato and Hakuho will
continue this family feud in the Fast Money round on the final day.
Hakuho again went to the chest, as he's been apt to do this basho, which denied
Takanoiwa any kind of belt access. They both scrambled momentarily before ending
up with left out, right in positions. From my point of view it looked like
Hakuho was in complete control at this point. He had his hips well back, and
even though he didn't have a deep grip with the right hand, any time Hakuho gets
in this kind of a position, he's almost impossible to beat.
Hak seemed to settle in first, but didn't attack at this point. He seemingly
waited for his opponent to make his move. It was here that I noticed Taka try to
trap the right arm of Hakuho with his left. He kind of slipped his left wrist
under Hakuho's right elbow too at the same time. He had a decent grip with his
right hand to boot. So Taka made a charge, forcing the bigger, strong, taller,
more experienced, higher-ranking, recording-setting Yokozuna back to the hay.
Hakuho hunkered down and gave him a fight, but was eventually put out.
My gut instinct on this one was ...confusion. When Hakuho put up a fight at the
end, it kind of told me that he was really trying to win. But then when I
watched it back several times I think he had a few opportunities to really be
offensive, but he wasn't able to (or chose not to, however you look at it) take
advantage. His facial expression just after the bout was hard to decipher. If he
did throw the bout, he did a MUCH better job of making it look like it wasn't
fixed than he normally does. I'd also much rather see him throw THIS bout than
have to see a repeat tomorrow of his bout against Kisenosato from Hatsu last
Ssssooooooooooo, anyway …
Have you ever had a really awesome dream? One that you woke up from saying 'Hot diggity dog, now THAT was really something'? (Maybe one of those dreams where
Obama and all the other ex-presidents jump up during Trump's inauguration and
shout 'Just kidding! You didn't really think we'd let him take the oath, did
you'?) Then you go to the first person you see and tell them all about it and
they're like '...uh, yeah that's great'. Isn't it weird how your dreams are so
incredibly intriguing and fascinating to YOU, but not to others? I feel like I'm
listening to someone else's amazing dream when I hear all the excitement over
Kisenosato winning the yusho. Double 'uyf'.
There's certainly not many highlights for Kisenosato here. He didn't even have
to fight Harumafuji or Kakuryu, he got a freebie against Goeido, and he actually
LOST to Kotoshogiku who will be demoted next tournament and who pretty much
everyone has beaten this time around. He did have a good bout versus Terunofuji,
but that guy is injured and not even close to fighting at 100% right now. I
don't see any valid reason why he should be considered for Yokozuna promotion
and I facepalm when I think about what might happen against Hakuho tomorrow. And
while it's probably good for the sport in general to have another Japanese yusho
and for Japanese Yokozuna rumblings to start again, I really don't think anyone
wanted to see it happen this way, including Kisenosato.
Oh, and I guess some other bouts happened too, but to be honest, I just breezed
over most of them. But here's a few that caught my attention.
J3 Ura (10 - 3) vs. M15 Sadanoumi (7 - 6)
If you haven't been following Ura this tournament, you're really missing a lot
of entertaining matches. He's fighting much better this month than he has been
the past few tournaments and he's pulled out more than a few crazy kimari-te.
He's up from middle school today to take on Sadanoumi, who will get his
kachi-koshi if he is victorious.
Ura got REAL low at the tachi-ai. I mean, his back was fully horizontal and
about waist high on Noumi, who hit his shoulders with the palms of his hands.
They fell into what looked to be a right in - left out position when Ura stepped
backwards, pulling his opponent with him. Then he grabbed him by the back of the
head with his left hand and flipped him off the dohyo like a pancake. Ura's
right heel was pretty close to going out, but by this point Sadanoumi was
already in mid-air sailing towards the front row.
Mike and Harvye seem to think Ura will not be a major factor in Makuuchi any
time soon and I'd be hard pressed to disagree with them, but man, it sure is fun
to watch this guy.
M12 Takakeisho (6 - 7) vs. J2 Daieisho (10 - 3)
This match was brutal. Daieisho was out for blood right from the get-go and was
going to the face and neck with powerful thrusts and slaps. When this created
some space, Takakeisho followed him in, but Daieisho got on his bicycle and
started backpedaling. Taka started putting on the pressure with pushes of his
own, but Daieisho countered with what can only be described as a right uppercut,
using the open palm of his hand, which cleaned the clock of Taka and send him
halfway across the dohyo. Wicked.
M16 Osunaarashi vs. M9 Ishiura (5 - 8)
I'm going to be writing a blog for FightBox soon about how sumo is structured
and what implications that has for wrestlers who are injured. It's hard to watch
guys like Osunaarashi struggle through the tournament and continue to fight
despite being injured. And even though Ishiura could have probably taken the
injured Egyptian's best shot and kept going, he chose to perform the most
outlandish henka in recent memory and Osunaarashi bought it hook, line and
This match was a dud. Osunaarashi will be back in Juryo again next basho and it
doesn't really seem like he can just "tough it out". If he tries, his future in
the sport is questionable, at best. Unless he takes several months off, gets
surgery and makes a comeback from rock bottom, I don't really ever see this guy
fighting again in the upper Maegashira ranks or higher.
Oh, and one other bout I wanted to mention. It actually didn't even happen
today, but on day 12 in the Makushita division when Sd1 Tomisakae took on
Ms59 Musashikuni (Musashimaru's nephew). Musashikuni railed him with a right elbow at
the tachi-ai, knocking Tomisakae out cold for literally like 5 or 6 seconds,
leaving him lying flat on his back, waiting for the arena lights to slowly come
back into focus. You can see the bout
here. It kind of reminded me of when
Hakuho KO'ed Myogiryu some time ago.
Clancy makes his return tomorrow to tie a bow on the 2017 Hatsu. If you want to
stay in touch, you can follow me on my
Facebook page or on
Twitter. I'll be
trying to land some more sumo interviews for my
podcast and I'm sure I'll have
the Sumotalk crew back on a few times this year as well. Cześć.
Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
big news as we head into Day 13 is that Goeido suddenly announced his withdrawal
after that epic bout with Endoh yesterday. But you know what they say...if a
rikishi lets up in the ring then someone's gonna get hurt. Goeido was supposed
to face Kisenosato today, and usually when a rikishi's withdrawal will affect
the yusho race by giving a contender a freebie, they will reshuffle the day's
bouts, but not so today. And I can't really blame them. Back on Day 2 when they
asked the commissioner in an interview on NHK what he thought about Kisenosato's
chances at Yokozuna, he really didn't know what to say, and the reason is that
he knew that they sure as hell couldn't trust in Kisenosato's sumo. When you're
at the mercy of every one of your opponents during a basho, it's just too tough
to make a firm declaration.
Even now, Kisenosato's yusho is not a given despite where he finds himself this
late in the contest. It's not a given because he still has to face two guys that
he cannot beat, and you never know when someone is going to come out and decide
to fight straight up. At this point, I'd say that Kisenosato's chances of taking
the yusho are about 60%, but I don't see how they can make him a Yokozuna. It
doesn't mean they won't, but I think they'll take the stance of "We'll let him
yusho, but let's hold off on promotion." The problem with promotion is two-fold:
1) By promoting a guy like Kisenosato, you severely harm the integrity of the
rank. And 2) you have to sustain him at the rank, and the only way to do that is
with continued yaocho, so the best case scenario is to have him get injured and
retire before he can do too much damage.
The problem then of course is that now you lose Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato from
the elite ranks, and you don't have anybody ready to fill their spots. Well, you
have Tamawashi, but you know what I mean. It's just this ongoing chain of things
that have to be covered up. It's like when a person lies and then gets caught in
the lie and so they have to lie more to cover it up. That's what persistent
yaocho like this has done to the integrity and the quality of sumo, and so what
we're witnessing here truly is a sport that's selling its soul to Asashoryu. I
mean the devil.
But I'm only here to expertly break it all down, so let's start with M16
Osunaarashi who welcomed J2 Kyokushuho up from Juryo. Kyokushuho just dominated
the bout, which went migi-gappuri-yotsu from the tachi-ai, but it was the
Mongolian who took charge wrenching Osunaarashi upright with the left outer and
step by step working him over and out. This was quite a simple bout; yet, there
are a handful of rikishi higher up the ranks who are incapable of doing textbook
sumo like this. Osunaarashi falls to 3-10 and is hobbling around like a dude 10
years his senior. Kyokushuho moves to 8-5 and will seal his promotion to
Makuuchi for sure next basho with one more win.
M11 Kagayaki came with his usual moro-te-zuki at the tachi-ai against M12
Daishomaru standing his foe upright before getting his left hand underneath
Daishomaru's right pit while fishing for the right outer grip. Daishomaru has
proven that he isn't a yotsu guy, and then he's at a further disadvantage
against the taller foe, and so as Kagayaki naturally drove him straight back, he
went for a counter pull but was too far gone. Took about three seconds as
Kagayaki clinches kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Daishomaru falls to 5-8. It's been
nice to see Kagayaki learn the ropes lower in the division, and this will
ultimately benefit him in the future.
M9 Ishiura shaded left against M13 Gagamaru, but you gotta henka the Georgian
more than that. YubabaMaru easily squared back up with a right paw to the neck
as he fired a few tsuppari once, twice, three times a lady sending Ishiura back
and out before he could sufficiently evade left. Miyagino-oyakata, Ishiura's
stable master, was on the broadcast and was emphatically stating how Ishiura's
sumo was weak and that his prodigy lacked power. Fujii announcer, who set up the
question reminding us that Ishiura got the Kantosho last basho, didn't seem to
want to accept Miyagino's explanation referring back to the last tournament, but
Miyagino kept breaking down the negative aspect of Ishiura's sumo almost as if
to say, "Aren't you listening to me ya dumbass? I'm the master!!" I can relate
to that feeling...believe you me. Both rikishi end the day at 5-8.
M15 Sadanoumi has been the perfect study in yaocho and the way it can work at
the lower levels where nobody's paying attention. The dude stormed out to a 5-0
start, but it was so uncharacteristic. His opponents weren't putting forth any
effort, and his bouts were lasting like two or three seconds. On day five, I
called him on it and said the dude would not finish better than 9-6, and it's an
easy call to make because I could see what they were trying to do. At the bottom
rung of the banzuke, his stable master wanted to give him a cushion to ensure
kachi-koshi. The problem is he still had the other 10 days to fight and entered
today's bout against M9 Kaisei at a precarious 7-5. With no confidence in his
straight up sumo, he moved right at the tachi-ai, but henka is not his game, and
so despite getting his right arm to the inside, he didn't knock Kaisei off of
his perch at the tachi-ai, and so the Brasilian slowly worked his right arm to
the inside as Sadanoumi attempted to drive him back, and a half step before the
tawara, Kaisei sprung the scoop throw trap using his right arm to hoist
Sadanoumi over, out, and down to a 7-6 record. As for Kaisei, he stays alive
with the opposite mark at 6-7.
M8 Chiyonokuni slammed both hands into M11 Nishikigi's throat at the tachi-ai,
but he was shading backwards instead of trusting in sound de-ashi, and so
Nishikigi plodded forward as Chiyonokuni fired defensive tsuppari into his
opponent. Near the edge, Chiyonokuni all of a sudden switched gears and went for
a quick pull that felled Nishikigi down to the dirt easy peasy Japanesey. Yes,
you want to see a dude winning while moving forward, but credit Chiyonokuni for
setting it all up with effective tsuppari to the throat of his opponent.
Chiyonokuni picks up kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Nishikigi falls to 4-9
M7 Aoiyama came with a powerful kachi-age against M14 Chiyotairyu, who was too
timid to even try and blow his opponent off the starting lines, but Chiyotairyu
wasn't looking pull, and I think he knew that his opponent would be ready for
it. I mean, Aoiyama can cover so much distance so fast that he would have sent
his foe two rows deep if the pull had come. It didn't, and so with no
confidence, Chiyotairyu tried to exchange tsuppari with Aoiyama until the
foreigner just moved in getting the right arm to the inside. Chiyotairyu
complied with his own right to the inside, but damned if Aoiyama didn't maki-kae
with his left hand giving him moro-zashi. Chiyotairyu's sumo is so bad he
couldn't take advantage of the momentum shift, and so Aoiyama eventually
succeeded with the maki-kae giving him moro-zashi, and I needn't tell the rest
of the story as Aoiyama moves to 7-6 while Chiyotairyu's make-koshi is official
at 5-8. While the dude's in the booth weren't laughing outright, they came close
when talking about Aoiyama...and a maki-kae?? That only works against a hapless
dude like Chiyotairyu.
M7 Myogiryu and M15 Chiyooh hooked up in migi-yotsu at the tachi-ai, but Chiyooh
is just too big size-wise for the ailing Myogiryu to bully around. Myogiryu did
try and wrench his foe upright with the right inside belt grip, but Oh's belt
loosened up a bit in the process allowing Chiyooh to grab the left outer grip,
and the power of an outer grip in a belt fight was on full display here as
Chiyooh yanked his gal upright and then scored the easy force-out win from
there. Chiyooh is still alive at 6-7 while Myogiryu falls to 4-9
M6 Kotoyuki hopped a bit at the tachi-ai, but he was moving forward against M14
Chiyootori intent on using his full-on tsuppari attack, and he caught his foe
well enough so that Chiyootori could not set up anything offensively, and so
Kotoyuki trusted his game and just plowed forward with his legs and firing the
tsuppari as he went, and the result was a dominating tsuki-taoshi win that sent
Chiyootori sliding down the back of the dohyo. Both rikishi end the day at 6-7.
Ichinojo stood his ground well as M6 Chiyoshoma struck and then tried to slap
and pull his foe down creating some separation, and as Chiyoshoma looked to come
in for round two, Ichinojo slapped his left arm aside and got his own right arm
to the inside, but he didn't commit to pulling his gal in tight nor did he
really go for the clinching left outer grip, but then he again he really didn't
need it as he had Chiyoshoma up against the edge. Still, Ichinojo simply wasn't
applying any pressure, and so he let Chiyoshoma maki-kae with the left and just
reach up and under around Ichinojo's right shoulder and pull him down to the
dirt. I guess "pull" isn't quite the most appropriate word here because Ichinojo
was already just sliding down to the dirt of his own accord.
This was one of those bouts were the official kimari-te was merely a move to try
and catch up to the dude already mid-dive, and Ichinojo was simply taking
himself out of the yusho race with this one. When I looked at the day 14
pairings prior to the start of today's action and saw that Ichinojo was paired
against Kisenosato tomorrow, I was like sheesh, that's a tough matchup, but I'm
afraid that he just signaled his intentions here by graciously removing his name
from the leaderboard. Who knows as he falls to 10-3 while Chiyoshoma improves to
7-6. After the bout, they caught up with Ichinojo, and he said, "I should have
been more aggressive. I was kind of stiff out there." Yeah, kinda. Once again,
when yaocho occurs the focus is never on actual technique. What did Chiyoshoma
do to win? Nothing. It was Ichinojo who just failed to apply pressure as he
stood stiff as a board at the end. When bouts are compromised, you can never
discuss the technique because it's all missing.
Next up was M4 Tochiohzan facing M12 Takakeisho, and the rookie actually struck
Tochiohzan pretty well with a right paw to the neck, but he wasn't confident in
a forward moving charge, and so he started backing up and looking for a pull.
Fortunately, he did enough damage winning the tachi-ai because as Tochiohzan
pursued and committed on a do-or-die push to the rookie's gut, Takakeisho danced
right and just managed to pull Tochiohzan down to the dohyo floor before he
stepped across himself. It was close, and I was disappointed to see Takakeisho
not trust the sumo basics, but gunbai to the rookie who moves to 6-7. As for
Tochiohzan, he's kinda fallen into that same rut as Okinoumi where the two are
like jilted lovers totally forgotten in favor of the younger, better looking
girls. Tochiohzan is a meager 3-10.
M2 Arawashi henka'd to his right against M8 Hokutofuji, and as the youngster
looked to recover, Arawashi next darted to his left pulling Hokutofuji forward
and off the dohyo by the back of the shoulder. This bout lasted about two
seconds, and the fact that Arawashi decided to henka Hokutofuji is a sign of
respect for the kid in my opinion. Arawashi and his dirty pool move to 5-8 with
the cheap win while Hokutofuji falls to 8-5. It's just fine for Hokutofuji to
slowly move up the ranks and solidify his craft prior to his eventual rise to
M2 Shohozan and M5 Yoshikaze clashed fast and then both immediately began firing
wild tsuppari towards one another, but in reality, they were more like looking
for the pull. Still, the two were churning so fast it's not worth describing
each blow, so after a few seconds, Shohozan just lurched into moro-zashi and
forced Yoshikaze back and out from there surviving a late kubi-nage attempt from
Cafe. It's funny, the wild tsuppari is Shohozan's bread and butter, but he
didn't attempt a single thrust against Shodai yesterday just opting to hook up
at the belt and play blowup doll from there. Strange how that works innit?
Shohozan improves to 5-8 while Yoshikaze is on the brink now at 6-7.
was looking forward to the M10 Sokokurai - M1 Mitakeumi matchup just to see what
Sokokurai would do. He and Mitakeumi hooked up in the grapplin' position from
the tachi-ai where both have a hand at the shoulder and another at the elbow,
and after a few seconds of wrangling, Sokokurai shaded left swiping at
Mitakeumi's right arm, and as the two resettled, they were now in the
hidari-yotsu position as Sokokurai still maintained a bit of separation by
ducking his head and pushing it into Mitakeumi's left shoulder. At this point,
it was clear that Sokokurai was dictating the pace because the majority of his
bouts flow like this where he attempts to stay out of harm's way until he can
move in for the kill. Said kill came a few seconds later as he struck quick as a
cat pushing Mitakeumi's left arm away and then lifting the overly-hyped guy
upright with his own right hand, and then in true Sokokurai fashion, he worked
his hands to the front of the belt and forced Mitakeumi back and across without
argument. Hate to beat a dead horse here, but did Mitakeumi display any
technique in this one?? Sokokurai dictated from start to finish and was never in
trouble as he simply filleted his foe. It's laughable how people always try and
discredit my takes using arguments that focus on everything except what happens
in the dohyo, but the proof's right there in the pudding..er..uh..technique.
Sokokurai moves to 10-3 with the win while Mitakeumi falls to 9-4.
M5 Takekaze henka'd to his left against M1 Takarafuji trying to catch
Takarafuji's left arm in the kote-nage position, but he couldn't execute the
throw before Takarafuji squared back up, got the left arm to the inside, and
then shoved Takekaze's henka arse off of the dohyo. I always enjoy
Oguruma-oyakata's excuses for his guy when he's in the booth and Takekaze henkas...which
is every time Oguruma-oyakata is in the booth. Regardless, Takekaze falls to 8-5
wile Takarafuji inches forward to 5-8.
Takayasu went for a right kachi-age at the tachi-ai against M10 Takanoiwa, but
Takanoiwa struck and quickly moved left forcing a tsuppari fest for a few
seconds, but Takayasu's hands were up too high, and so Takanoiwa ducked down
gaining moro-zashi. From there, he shored up his position a bit and mounted a
powerful yori charge...that he suddenly stopped just short of the tawara of
course going limp and allowing Takayasu to fire a counter tsuki with the right
hand that easily spilled Takanoiwa to the dirt. Takanoiwa actually landed on his
back and look at the pic at right and explain how Takanoiwa ends up on his back
based on a move that came from Takayasu. But that will happen when you "chikara
wo nuku" or refrain from exerting any pressure, and the Mongolian was simply
following suit after Ichinojo earlier in the day who took a strategic loss to
remove himself from the leaderboard as well. Afterwards as Fujii Announcer and
Oguruma-oyakata were breaking down the slow motion replays, they kept going back
to just how good Takanoiwa's position was, and they were right. But...politics
was in play here as both rikishi end the day at 10-3.
I think M3 Okinoumi is getting sick and tired of all this shull bit surrounding
the big six, especially when he clearly has more game than all of
them...probably put together. Today against Sekiwake Shodai,he came with the
right kachi-age keeping Shodai upright (something that's not difficult even
without the kachi-age), and then the two grappled for position in hidari-yotsu
swapping places on the dohyo before Okinoumi reached for and got the right outer
grip. From there, he repositioned his left inside and then just used his
superior position to easily escort Shodai over and out. As I like to say, the
only real drama in sumo these days is will they are won't they? Thankfully
Okinoumi didn't, and he picked up the easy win moving to 3-10 in the process.
Shodai was exposed yet again as he falls to 5-8.
Sekiwake Tamawashi caught M3 Ikioi by the neck with both hands keeping him
upright, and when Ikioi wasn't able to swipe Tamawashi's arms away, the
Mongolian just used the de-ashi to push Ikioi over, out, and off the dohyo with
little argument. Just dominating sumo here from the Sekiwake who moves to 8-5
while Ikioi falls to 7-6. Tamawashi has been a pretty good measuring stick of
what a legitimate rise up the ranks is like, and although he did defer to
Kisenosato earlier in the basho, he showed today that he can turn it on when he
At this point they announced the withdrawal of Ozeki Goeido giving Ozeki
Kisenosato the freebie and a 12-1 record. Funny thing is...today was the first
time in a long time where the broadcasters didn't call into question the content
of Kisenosato's sumo, so he's at least got that going for him. Goeido falls to
8-5 and will safely avoid kadoban status as we head into Osaka.
With Ozeki Terunofuji safely at make-koshi already, he feebly offered his arms
straight forward against M4 Endoh, who promptly moved to his right, grabbed the
Ozeki's left arm, and then yanked him over and out in two seconds and no
resistance whatsoever. What a joke, but this bout reflects the entire basho as
Terunofuji harmlessly falls to 4-9 while Endoh moves closer to kachi-koshi at
day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho gained moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against
Ozeki Kotoshogiku but then let the Ozeki square back up by getting his left arm
to the inside sending the bout to hidari-yotsu. With Hakuho leaning in tight, he
fished a few times for the right outer grip, but feeling no pressure from the
Geeku, he moved left put his right hand at the back of Kotoshogiku's head, and
then just dragged/dumped him to the dohyo with ease leading with the left inside
grip. Kotoshogiku's lucky that the Yokozuna let him hang around as long as he
did, but I think it's Hakuho's way of showing a bit of respect with the Geeku on
his way out. Hakuho moves to 11-2 with the easy win while Kotoshogiku will
undoubtedly announce his retirement after the basho at 4-9 now.
I haven't really entertained the concept of a leaderboard all basho because this
isn't a yusho race. It's politics hard at work in order to prop up the Japanese
rikishi, and of course Kisenosato has been the key beneficiary to now. As it
stands, Kisenosato is up by one at 12-1 with Hakuho trailing at 11-2. All others
have effectively eliminated themselves from the contest, so it will come down to
either Hakuho or Kisenosato. Despite everything pointing in the direction of a
Kisenosato yusho, it's not quite a slam dunk yet for the simple reason that he
still needs his final two opponents to let up for him unless Hakuho decides to
just fall tomorrow and make it official a day early.
Don Roid gets lean and mean again tomorrow.
Day 12 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
is my last outing this basho, so let's look back at the storylines I listed on
As predicted, Hakuho has been a story, but only in the negative sense. The story
hasn't been, as it should be, "will Hakuho take another yusho?" It has been
"will Hakuho prevent Kisenosato from taking the yusho?" We could see that coming
already on Day 2, when I finished up my report with this: "Who is your lone
Ozeki with two wins? Kisenosato! Let's get silly-bold and give ourselves a
day-two leaderboard: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Kisenosato." With the exception of Kakuryu
dropping out, we're still in the same boat on Day 12. I also wrote this about
the potential Kisenosato storyline on Day 2: "Kisenosato, next Ozeki to crown
the ant hill? Seems like a remembered 2016 mirage, but is a likely 2017
reality." During the two months off from sumo over the holidays, the idea of
Kisenosato as a champion faded from consciousness--it was just too hard to
believe in, as there's not enough that meets the eye in the ring to back it up.
It is only in reality that we can make such a truth stranger than fiction. So,
let's visit our two contenders:
O Kisenosato (10-1) vs. M3 Ikioi (7-4)
As usual, Kisenosato stood wide open at the tachi-ai and gave up the inside
position. Ikioi drove him back right away, but then chose to pull on his arm in
order to get things back in the middle of the ring and to tsuppari a bit. Waste
of time for a strong lad like this, methinks: should have just shoved him out.
Well. Now it was Kisenosato's turn to give Ikioi a few smackerls in the face,
but we ended up back where we started: Kisenosato was still wide open, so Ikioi
nestled back in underneath and inside on the left, with one arm overhand on the
right, though I dare say he could have put that inside too if he'd wanted. We
now began a dance around the rim, with Kisenosato with his back to the center
and Ikioi with his back to the ropes. They were standing tall, these fellows,
and nobody had any belt. Ikioi kept reaching over Kisenosato's back and pawing
for the belt above the ass there, but he couldn't get it sometimes, let go
another time. He changed, trying a maki-kae to get that arm inside, but
Kisenosato denied it. At that point Ikioi decided he'd spent enough effort in
this one, relaxed, and let himself be gently pushed over the straw, yori-kiri.
Does that sound exciting? It wasn't. The word for this, somehow, was flabby. And
so we draw a day closer to the possible Hokutoumi Triple Crown, a neat row of
Ozeki Championships for Japan, Kotoshogiku-Goeido-Kisenosato.
Y Hakuho (9-2) vs. M4 Tochiohzan (3-8)
The Storyteller (Hakuho) still has a say in that though. In fact, he still
controls his own destiny. Win out and he takes it. Easily done for the Hakuho of
old. But this was really horrible stuff from him today. The Hakuho of new.
Hakuho hit Tochiohzan once out of a wide open stance, then stepped back, and
Tochiohzan fell on his face, hiki-otoshi. Even Hakuho looked embarrassed at how
easy this was. And kind of bored and disappointed. With that, Hakuho kept one
off the leader, but if this is excitement, I'm a dead dog. Frankly, I hate to
say this, but Hakuho has looked so bad on the way to his 10-2 record that I hope
HE DOES NOT take the yusho. He's made winning-Yokozuna-sumo look about as awful
as possible this basho, and without Harumafuji's wild throws or Kakuryu's
competence around to leaven things, it's tough to take. We've had to enjoy
Hokutofuji and Sokokurai and stuff, but the top of the banzuke has been
particularly unappealing this tournament.
Storyline number two was Kotoshogiku's possible demotion. That has lived down to
the hype; he's had, really, a typical basho for him--we've seen him kadoban so
often in his career--so we're finally nearly to the end of this story. Yay?
Except, I don't want to read another book. If Takayasu is going to be an Ozeki,
when do we have to endure a Takayasu yusho one of these days? Think about that.
Let's check in on them both:
S Tamawashi (6-5) vs. O Kotoshogiku (4-7)
And goodbye, Ozeki Kotoshogiku, at long last. Tamawashi made it look
ridiculously easy. He grabbed Kotoshogiku by the neck right away and slid him
effortlessly back to the rope. He then let go and gave one solid, easy shove,
oshi-dashi, and the demotion of Kotoshogiku was complete. I'm on record as
predicting Kotoshogiku retires the day he gets this demotion-clinching make-koshi,
so that means by the time you read this he should have announced it. Hope I'm
right; there would be no point in coming out for a silly, likely embarrassing
swan song in March.
K Takayasu (8-3) vs. M2 Arawashi (4-7)
Who's had the better tournament, renewed Ozeki candidate Takayasu and his shiny
8-3 record, or quick-twitch bundle of filament and grit Arawashi, with his 4-7
record but his scary demonstrations of speed? I'd say the latter. But. Arawashi
was hit hard on the tachi-ai and stood off Takayasu. Takayasu then gave him a
little pull and Arawashi went demonstratively dancing forward limbs all akimbo
and touched the dirt with one hand, hataki-komi.
For minor storylines on Day 2 I listed Shodai's hypefest (fizzled), Kakuryu's
yusho defense (frazzled), and Terunofuji's continued mediocrity (um, success?).
Here's how they fared today:
M2 Shohozan (4-7) vs. S Shodai (4-7)
If you've been following this site the last few tournaments, a theme has been
that a lot of top guys don't have a defined style or signature move; Goeido is
the ultimate example of this to me, but Mike pointed out that new stars Shodai
and Mitakeumi are also hard to define, and he's absolutely right. So I assigned
myself a little project to see if I could concentrate better and figure that
out. Last time it was Shodai, this time Mitakeumi. Last time I came up with this
for Shodai: "he is smooth and smart in the ring, takes advantage of mistakes to
win defensively, and will try to get inside and push on the body to win
offensively." I also dubbed him Vanilla Softcream, as there was something bland
and creamily boring about him. Interestingly, this all evaporated this time:
Shodai hasn't fought much like that at all, and I am back to not knowing who the
hell he is. He's also just plain fought badly. I'm on record as saying he or
Kisenosato will be the next Yokozuna, and I stand by that. Probably this guy.
But that comes purely, and I mean Vanilla Softcream purely--from reading the
political tea leaves, because man is he uninspiring to watch. If I have to watch
Yokozuna Shodai and he still looks like this, I may quit. You know who the three
guys who my eyes and instincts say could put things together and turn into
Ozeki are? It's not Shodai, Mitakeumi, and Endo. It's Tamawashi, Arawashi, and
Chiyoshoma. And I'll add in Hokutofuji, though it is still a little early on
him. So let's hope their talent is unleashed, rather than a sleepwalk in the
Garden of Earthly Shodai.
As for the match, this was one of those odd looking ones where the loser seems
to be pulling the winner rather than being pushed by him. Yes, winner Shodai had
one arm inside under the pit, but the match was keyed by Shohozan, who was
pulling that arm and pretending to try to throw with it, which gave Shodai all
the momentum and an "oops, I guess I won" oshi-dashi victory. People will think
I mean that Shodai can't beat Shohozan straight up. That's not it at all. It's
just that they decided not to chance it. Hence Shodai remains one of those guys
who not only doesn't have a style, but we have little idea how good he really is
O Terunofuji (4-7) vs. M5 Takekaze (7-4)
Wow, what a weird looking match. It looked like it was in slow motion, as
Terunofuji refused to advance, defending against the inevitable pull. This left
him a sitting duck, though, so Takekaze punched him smartly in the face once,
then gave him a little pull on the cheeks, like a pinching uncle. When
Terunofuji ducked his head in off of that (why??!), there came the inevitable
pull: Takekaze put his hands on the back of Terunofuji's head and sunk him,
hataki-komi. How many times can guys know Takekaze is going to pull them, yet
fall to it? And Terunofuji is kadoban yet again. Think parity.
Let's cover the rest of the bouts in chronological order. Yes, there are
"leaders" sprinkled in there, but as I said, the only two who really matter are
Kisenosato and Hakuho.
M15 Chiyooh (4-7) vs. J1 Hidenoumi (5-6)
The pride of Yoron Island (Chiyooh) grabbed Bright Wildebeest Ass (Hidenoumi),
shook him off his belt, and worked him out with a good overhand right grip,
yori-kiri. First time I've seen Chiyooh fight well this tournament--and it was
against a Juryo visitor, natch.
M12 Takakeisho (4-7) vs. M12 Daishomaru (5-6)
Takakeisho, who looked like a hard-hitting, compact bundle of something pretty
good in Juryo, has looked lost, ineffective, and forgettable in Makuuchi. He
needs to regroup, or early returns have him looking like nothing more than
another Hidenoumi or such. Fortunately for him he was paired with the absolutely
awful Daishomaru today, who tried one big push, then immediately went for the
pull as he almost always does, but Takakeisho expected it and followed him
close. In the face of even this mild pressure, the disappointed Daishomaru
actually turned away and trotted out of the ring, okuri-dashi. I think I have a
M11 Kagayaki (6-5) vs. M15 Sadanoumi (7-4)
Kagayaki is really big, folks, and he's shown improvement this basho. This was
the third time, after initial haplessness the first few days, that I saw him
respond to lateral movement from his foe by sticking to the guy and winning. His
first few basho he seemed timid, limp, and slow. Nervous? Overwhelmed? There was
none of that in this bout, as his tsuppari landed home like a storm of
sledgehammers, and Sadanoumi looked small and destroyed, tsuki-dashi. If
Kagayaki can continue to make strides and fight like this more often, we may be
looking at a Makuuchi mainstay rather than the embarrassing Juryo bait he has
been thus far.
M10 Takanoiwa (9-2) vs. M11 Nishikigi (4-7)
I continue to think the face slap at the tachi-ai is a dumb move. Takanoiwa
tried it here, and all it did was leave his arm there for the picking; Nishikigi
grabbed him by it and things looked bad for Takanoiwa. However, he did nice work
from that point, shaking and pushing free of it. When Nishikigi then whiffed on
a knockout revenge-punch attempt, Takanoiwa was on him with impressive speed and
depth, wrapping him up and driving him out, yori-kiri, and even got a bit of a
dame-oshi in. The Lil' Yokozuna II.
M9 Kaisei (4-7) vs. M16 Osunaarashi (3-8)
Match-up of foreign bruisers having uninspiring outings. Osunaarashi looks
pretty lame of late, and was all defense here. He was able to use the straw
well, once or twice avoiding being pushed out by leveraging his feet on the
bales, but if that's all there is to praise you're being damned with faint
praise. Basically Kaisei pushed him here and there around the
ring--offense!--until he found a spot where he finally get him out, yori-kiri.
Both men need to meditate a little and reload for March.
M14 Chiyotairyu (5-6) vs. M9 Ishiura (4-7)
Good fun, if stupid-looking. Chiyotairyu went with just about the dumbest
possible tachi-ai, looking like he was trying to reach up and over both of
Ishiura's shoulders and grab the back of his belt, which would look pretty nifty
if it worked and he then upended Ishiura forward like a baby getting dangled
from his diaper, but of course it didn't work that way and probably couldn't,
unless against a tiny child, as Chiyotairyu came away with nothing except
Ishiura underneath him in a deep, deadly moro-zashi. Ishiura pushed him swiftly
over the straw and knocked him down, yori-taoshi in this nonsense match.
M8 Hokutofuji (8-3) vs. M13 Ichinojo (9-2)
An intriguing match of contrasting powerhouses. The slow, sloppy,
deflated-looking yet massive and hard-to-move Ichinojo against the explosive but
sometimes overeager forward-moving focus of Hokutofuji. These styles played
themselves out here, but Ichinojo looked like the guy with the better tools.
Hokutofuji manfully tried to push him out, starting with good push at the neck
and then at the chest, but he gave in and tried a little pull, too, and that
just draped Ichinojo onto him like a barrel of rotten gelatin. From there it was
curtains, as The Mongolith (Ichinojo) moved Hokutofuji irresistibly back and
M7 Myogiryu (3-8) vs. M14 Chiyootori (6-5)
Kind of sad match of underwhelming nobodies who once looked promising. Decent
sumo in this one, though. A bit of arm grappling, but when Myogiryu finally got
an overhand grip, he used that to immediately pull Chiyootori through towards
him, using his other hand on Chiyootori's head to help him along, and slung him
all the way across the ring and to the straw, where Myogiryu turned and stood to
him and yori-kiri'ed him out.
M13 Gagamaru (4-7) vs. M7 Aoiyama (5-6)
You can simulate this match at home. Open two cans of spam. Dump into large iron
kettle. Tilt kettle left side down and the right side up. Aoiyama was the denser
spam, ploughing into Gagamaru and spamming him out with arms of congealed spam,
M6 Chiyoshoma (5-6) vs. M10 Sokokurai (9-2)
This was an arms-on-shoulders, keep-a-distance match, and later even a
lean-over-and-hold-hands match, as these two wily contenders spent more time
feeling each other out than going for it. However, young Chiyoshoma is already
the better wrestler, and he eventually reached in, got the front of the belt,
and controlled the match from there, pulling Sokokurai forward into a little
M8 Chiyonokuni (6-5) vs. M6 Kotoyuki (5-6)
With Chiyonokuni's small size and Kotoyuki's big attack, I thought this one
spelled henka. It did not, but Chiyonokuni can also spell p-u-l-l, his next best
noun, so he spelled that at the straw and belly-flopped Kotoyuki to a
M3 Okinoumi (2-9) vs. M5 Yoshikaze (5-6)
Lake Placid (Okinoumi) grabbed onto Yoshikaze high up. Way, way too high up. Lo!
Yoshikaze found himself in moro-zashi and pushed Lake Placid out, yori-kiri.
M1 Takarafuji (4-7) vs. M1 Mitakeumi (8-3)
The Mystery of Mitakeumi, Part VI. What's a waza? Waza who? Whazzap! Thus far
the days I've covered Mitakeumi he has not done a single henka or pull. He has
spent about half his time on the belt, and half in tsuppari. However, in every
single match he has surged inside at the end and smothered his opponent out with
close, aggressive pressure (yes, he won all six days I covered him). Perhaps he
would like his waza to be setting the guy up with tsuppari and then getting
inside for oshi-dashi or yori-kiri wins. That's more or less what he did,
standing Takarafuji up with effective neck thrusts, then putting both hands
tight on his belly and pushing him out, oshi-dashi. So, as The Mystery of
Mitakeumi ends, I feel satisfied I can describe him at least as aggressive
forward movement, lots of tsuppari, and good finishes close in on the body.
However, as with Shodai, who knows? That may all evaporate. Yes, I think I more
or less have him pegged. But I also think it is telling that it is so hard to
get to that point. As I did with Shodai, I feel more like I'm trying to keep an
amoeba in the focus of my microscope than being wowed by an elephant.
M4 Endo (5-6) vs. O Goeido (8-3)
This looked a little silly. Goeido had his left arm inside and was pushing Endo
back, but he didn't bring his right foot along, so when Endo removed himself
backwards from the grip Goeido crumpled to the dirt, tsuki-otoshi. If this is
Ozeki sumo, then I don't want any Ozeki at all, please.
And here's your "Hakuho's Patented Excitement Leaderboard!" as we head into the
10-2: Hakuho, Takanoiwa, Ichinojo
9-3: Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Sokokurai
Mike beheads Sir Lancelot tomorrow.
Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It means technique, and it's one of the most important words in the sumo
lexicon, especially if you're in the business of expert sumo analysis. In order
to correctly analyze a bout of sumo or a rikishi's ability, you have to
understand sumo technique and how it's employed during a bout. And as important
as technique is, the majority of sumo fans have little idea what it is or how to
analyze it correctly.
Technique is so important to sumo that they actually have a special prize called
the Ginoushou that gets awarded to the rikishi who displayed the best technique
during a tournament. It's a hard award to come by, and you may remember that I
commented on a news article that I read last year that said the Ginoushou hadn't
been awarded in 15 of the last 20 basho. Of the five awards given, two of them
were granted to Yoshikaze for the 2015 Aki basho and Kyushu basho, and you may
remember that's when they were hyping him up and feeding him wins because they
had an exhibition in his home town of Saiki, Oita Prefecture after the Kyushu
basho...which conveniently sold out.
In other words, sumo had a stretch of three or more years where no one was
fighting worth a damn, and so it was fruitless to give out the award. Just ask
yourself what kind of sumo was being displayed generally from the start of 2013
up through the 2016 Haru basho. After the dearth of Ginoushou the last few years
was reported in the media, the Association has promptly ensured that the award
be given every basho since even though it's still the same old crap sumo with
You also have technique come up as part of the ever-important shin-gi-tai
equation when considering a rikishi for promotion to Yokozuna. They say that in
order to be promoted to Yokozuna, you have to have heart (shin), gi (technique),
and tai (the body), and one reason Hokutoumi struggled mightily in his day 2
interview when asked if Kisenosato could be promoted to Yokozuna after this
basho is because this is how he fares in the equation:
It's not just Kisenosato, though, and his lack of technique. Konishiki correctly
pointed out that nobody is fighting with any heart these days either, and so you
couple that with the obvious lack of technique, and the result is sumo that is
so bad quality-wise that when Don Roid asked Konishiki about the rikishi these
days in particular the Ozeki, he just let out this big, long sigh.
The problem with sumo is that an agenda established by the Association meant to
build up Japanese rikishi is utterly destroying the quality of sumo we see atop
the dohyo because rikishi with real game (i.e. foreigners) are being asked to
tone it down, and all rikishi are made to feel obligated to throw bouts in favor
of a select handful of Japanese rikishi that can be marketed to the herd. When
you compromise the quality of sumo or sound technique, the result is the type of
basho we have on our hands now, and they same type of tournaments we've seen over
the last year.
Day 11 started with a rikishi in M13 Ichinojo who has been asked to tone it down
big time so as to not steal the spotlight from more important guys like Shodai
and Mitakeumi. Ichinojo was paired today against M16 Osunaarashi in a bout that
saw the Ejyptian come with moro-te-zuki only to be rebuffed by Joe who demanded
the right inside pulling his gal in chest to chest in order to set up the left
outer grip. Osunaarashi tried to move laterally to slow his certain death, but
just as soon as Ichinojo got that left outer, he forced the M16 back with ease.
Ichinojo moves to 9-2 with the win and used the solid yotsu-zumo technique that
he's capable of when he tries to win. Osunaarashi falls to 3-8 for his troubles.
M11 Kagayaki fired a right paw into M11 Nishikigi's neck at the tachi-ai while
inserting his left arm to the inside, and with Nishikigi up so high, Kagayaki
was able to force him back quickly causing Nishiki's right knee to buckle, and
that allowed Kagayaki to get moro-zashi and score the nice, yori-kiri win.
Proper technique here was a solid tachi-ai from Kagayaki and the ability to keep
his opponent upright with that right paw to the throat and left arm to the
inside. Solid, solid stuff as he moves to 6-5 while Nishikigi flounders at 4-7.
And speaking of hyping up small-town exhibition events, has Nishikigi gotten any
run since the Morioka Exhibition held in his hometown concluded?
M12 Takakeisho came with a timid tsuppari attack against M10 Sokokurai, and so
the latter just patiently waited for the rookie to tire using good tsuppari of
his own and threatening a pull here and there to keep Takakeisho from really
committing. After dancing for about 10 seconds, Sokokurai finally worked his
left arm to the inside, and Takakeisho was had at this point as Sokokurai set up
the right inside as well (hence moro-zashi) easily forcing the rookie back and
across. Very smartly played by Sokokurai today who knew that he only needed to
get to the inside, and so he patiently waited for the opening knowing that
Takakeisho was too afraid to commit on a real forward charge. Sokokurai moves to
a fantastic 9-2 while Takakeisho has maybe won one legitimate bout this
tournament at 4-7.
M12 Daishomaru caught M9 Ishiura with a nice right paw to the neck as Ishiura
tried to shade left, and the blow put Ishiura on his heels from the get-go. The
two briefly squared up with a hand to the neck and one to the elbow, but having
lost his momentum at the tachi-ai, Ishiura was a sitting duck and so Daishomaru
plowed forward using a nice tsuppari attack that was so effective he caught
Ishiura mid-air as the dude tried to escape laterally at the edge. Nicely done
for Daishomaru who moves to 5-6 with the win while Ishiura continues to struggle
M9 Kaisei has been very generous this basho, but there was no point in
deferring to M15 Chiyooh, and so the Brasilian struck hard at the tachi-ai
demanding the right inside, and as Oh tried to escape to his left, Kaisei had
him forced back and out before he could even grab the left outer grip. Excellent
tachi-ai from Kaisei who can move forward like this when he wanna against the
rank and file. He improves to 4-7 while Chiyooh falls to the same mark.
M8 Chiyonokuni was too high in his charge against M15 Sadanoumi, and with the
latter moving forward well himself, Sadanoumi was able to secure moro-zashi from
the get-go, and it was so deep that Chiyonokuni could barely think to move
laterally before Sadanoumi crushed him back and down for the beautiful yori-kiri
win. Sadanoumi improves to 7-4 with the win while Chiyonokuni falls to 6-5.
M'gal M8 Hokutofuji learned his lesson the other day against Takekaze who
henka'd the youngster and pulled him down in short order. Guys with decent game
will learn quickly, and so you know that Hokutofuji was aware of how much his
opponent, M14 Chiyotairyu, likes to pull and move side to side, so when the
henka came from Chiyotairyu, Hokutofuji kept his balance and was able to square back up
with his foe and stand toe to toe with Tairyu in a virtual bar room brawl.
Chiyotairyu mainly looked for a pull opportunity, but he also used his beef to
throw a punch here and there, but Hokutofuji never panicked continuing to stand
toe to toe with his large foe and trade equal punches and pull attempts. In the
end, Chiyotairyu got frustrated and committed to pull sumo, and once he did,
Hokutofuji got the right arm to the inside and scored the immediate force-out
win from there. Hokutofuji picks up a stellar kachi-koshi at 8-3 and as he
walked back down the hana-michi, I was like "Too bad the dude is fat and ugly
because they could really market a guy with his tenacity and dare I say...definitive technique?" Granted, all of these guys are fat, but they're not all ugly, and so
the ones that have the looks these days are the younger guys that get all the
hype (Endoh, Mitakeumi, and Shodai). As for Chiyotairyu, who falls to 5-6, his
technique is very definable. He has a great tsuppari attack when he's confident,
but more so than not, he can't overcome his penchant for the pull, a technique
that definitely detracts from his overall sumo.
M7 Aoiyama used nice tsuppari to bully M14 Chiyootori back and eventually
upright to where the Bulgarian was able to rush in and get the right arm to the
inside. Chiyootori can prove slippery, and so Aoiyama twisted him upright with
the right arm in a move called kaina wo kaesu, and with his left arm pointing up
to the rafters, all Chiyootori could do was try and slither out of the move and
catch Aoiyama off guard. The plan never worked, though, because as he tried to
moved to his left, Aoiyama grabbed hold of his right arm with both hams and just
twisted Chiyootori down and out kote-nage style. Aoiyama moves to 5-6 with the
nice win while Chiyootori falls to 6-5.
Next up was M13 Gagamaru who pushed M7 Myogiryu back from the tachi-ai a few
steps after some decent resistance, and as Myogiryu looked to move to his right
and catch YubabaMaru by surprise with a pull, Gagamaru quickly regained his
wits, pivoted well, and then fired a roundhouse with the right arm that
connected to Myogiryu's dome knocking him down to the clay in a spectacular
display. Whenever I see a blow like this, I immediately go back to my childhood
days and that Punch Out! video game where the nasally announcer shouts, "Knnnnock out!!"
Gagamaru stays alive at 4-7 while Myogiryu suffers make-koshi at 3-8.
M10 Takanoiwa knocked M6 Chiyoshoma back from the starting lines with some nice
tsuppari, and Chiyoshoma quickly went from taking swipes at the front of the
belt to moving right and looking for a pull, but Takanoiwa squared up well
catching Chiyoshoma with the right arm to the inside, but there was a lot of
real estate to cover, however, and so as Takanoiwa drove Chiyoshoma back, the
younger Mongolian had time to work his own right arm up and under his foe's left
side, and Chiyoshoma was primed to score the counter kote-nage win, but his feet
scraped the outside of the dohyo giving Takanoiwa the win in the end after a
high-spirited if not reckless bout. Takanoiwa survives moving to 9-2 while
Chiyoshoma gave it his best falling just short at 5-6.
M6 Kotoyuki kept M3 Okinoumi upright with some tsuppari at the tachi-ai, but
Okinoumi just didn't look into this one, and so Yuki managed to fire a right paw
to Okinoumi's left side turning him a bit sideways, and then Okinoumi just gave
up from there as Kotoyuki rushed him out from behind. You may have noticed that
I haven't called yaocho yet all day, and while I believe that Okinoumi's heart
wasn't in this one, I think it's more due to the fact that he's being forced to
watch these younger, less-skilled guys get all the run. In my opinion, the two
best Japanese rikishi in the sport are Okinoumi and Ikioi, but the two receive
little respect. Okinoumi falls to 2-9 with the loss while Kotoyuki improves to
M5 Yoshikaze committed a false start today awkwardly taking a short step to his
left against M2 Arawashi, but it wasn't called, and so the result was a bout
that didn't have any continuity from the start as Yoshikaze quickly got his left
arm to the inside ushering Arawashi back and across without much of a fight.
Arawashi loaded up a right kote-nage counter throw, but he was never able to
full pull the trigger it was over that fast. I'm not sure exactly what happened
here, so let's just chalk it up to both rikishi being out of sync at the
tachi-ai. Yoshikaze improves to 5-6 with the win while Arawashi falls to 4-7.
Wow, we've come this far, and I've yet to declare a single bout of yaocho, but
you know that's gonna change soon, and it could be as early as now with M1
Mitakeumi stepping atop to the dohyo to face M5 Takekaze. I talked a lot about
technique in the intro, and it's been interesting watching Harvye try and nail
down Mitakeumi's technique, but I don't know if he's gotten any closer to
defining his sumo. You can say things about Mitakeumi like he hustles and he
works hard, but what's his technique? What waza (that can also be plural)
defines his sumo?? The short answer is that it doesn't exist, and part of the
problem is that this guy has been propelled higher and faster up the banzuke
than he's actually ready for. Why not let these guys learn their craft down low
and then have them methodically rise up the ranks like everyone else? Having said that, if I had to rate the big six on
my own mini-banzuke, Mitakeumi tops my list as follows:
Today he faced a tough test against M5 Takekaze, but I could tell from the start
that Takekaze wasn't out to win the bout. The veteran put both hands to the back
of Mitakeumi's head at the tachi-ai and then quickly moved left, and normally
we'd see the pull come at this point, but Takekaze was actually looking down
towards his feet and away from his opponent!! Mitakeumi
employed no technique to
cause Takekaze to assume this position nor did I identify any other technique
that would have suggested Mitakeumi was in charge of this bout. After the let-up
on the pull attempt from the tachi-ai, Takekaze moved left and right as he's
wont to do swiping at the back of Mitakeumi's head and then getting his right
arm up and under Mitakeumi's left, but the veteran never once committed on a
pull attempt. Despite this, Mitakeumi couldn't keep up with Takekaze, and it was
obvious that the older dude coulda run circles around his foe and set up a nice
tsuki-otoshi, but it wasn't to be. At about the four second mark, Takekaze
grabbed Mitakeumi's right arm as if he was going to go for that same ipponzeoi
move he did against Kaisei the other day only instead of actually attempting the throw, he
just slid himself down Mitakeumi's right arm of his own accord falling to the dirt. And just
like that, we have our first yaocho of the day.
When they showed the slow motion replays and reverse angles, I was looking for
anything--anything!!--that Mitakeumi did to cause grief for Takekaze, but there
was nothing there. Takekaze dictated the pace of this bout and then took a dive
fully knowing his place in the sport. With the win, Mitakeumi moves to 8-3 and
will surely take over Shodai's Sekiwake slot for March. As for Takekaze, he
falls to a harmless 7-4.
After the bout as they were watching the replays, Mainoumi was unable to provide
a single technique employed by Mitakeumi to explain how he won the bout. He
surmised the performance by saying that Mitakeumi can "read his opponents well,"
and "he sure kept his cool in this one." These are just trite phrase that sounds
positive, but they lack any mention of technique used.
M1 Takarafuji and M4 Tochiohzan hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, and
Oh hates fighting without moro-zashi, and when he didn't get it from the start,
he resorted to a move left and a weak pull attempt, but Takarafuji was all over
it easily scoring the force-out win in about three seconds moving to 4-7 in the
process. It's a shame how inconsequential these two have become as Tochiohzan
falls to 3-8.
I talked about being unable to identify consistent
waza that can be associated
with Mitakeumi, and of course the same goes for Sekiwake Shodai. Today against
Komusubi Takayasu, it was the Komusubi's intent to win, and so the result was
Takayasu's driving Shodai back quickly from the start and then reversing gears
near the edge pulling Shodai down by his extended arms. This one maybe took
three seconds, but Shodai was completely dominated by Takayasu. Once again, when
guys actually try and win against the big six, the bouts aren't even close. A
parting shot regarding Shodai who falls to 4-7 with the loss. How can anyone
give this dude the time of day after his performance against Hakuho on day 1? If
you even remember that bout, Shodai meagerly went forward at the tachi-ai and
then just back-pedaled himself out of the ring at the first sign of contact. I don't know that I've ever seen
a guy come so close to shatting himself in the ring. Shodai's record is a huge
farce even at 4-7.
Sekiwake Tamawashi fired tsuppari towards M2 Shohozan, but Darth Hozan is a tough
target to hit, and he was able to fight off the Sekiwake's initial thrust attack
and slip into moro-zashi. Shohozan twisted Tamawashi over to the side, and even
though the Sekiwake was able to push himself out of the grip, his foot work was
shot and his body upright, so when Shohozan persisted with his feisty attack,
Tamawashi went for a pull only to be greeted by a paw to the teet that sent
Tamawashi packing for good. The Mawashi falls to 6-5 after the loss while
Shohozan improves to 4-7.
Ozeki Goeido henka'd out left against M3 Ikioi grabbing the cheap outer grip,
and with Goeido already heading towards the opposite end of the dohyo, Ikioi
could have easily used his right arm inside to force the Ozeki back and across,
but he just stiffened his body up like a board allowing Goeido to guide him down
with that left outer grip obtained from the tachi-ai. This was just ridiculous
sumo. First, you have an Ozeki whose afraid to take his opponent straight on,
and so he escapes to his left. Then you have Ikioi who could have demolished
Goeido had he wanted, but he just lamely fell to the dirt. I mean, how many
bouts that end in uwate-nage look like this? How many guys get thrown face down
after uwate-nage? This was a good example of a kimari-te not matching the actual
physics of the bout. Obvious yaocho here as Goeido his gifted kachi-koshi at 8-3
while Ikioi literally falls to 7-4.
When I ranked the big six above, I put Kisenosato at the bottom based on recent
performances against his peers. Remember last basho how Endoh just kicked his
ass? Then you had Kotoshogiku dismantle the Yokozuna "hopeful" a few days ago in
a bout that I think was over-analyzed a bit. Clancy has provided some
outstanding takes over the years, and one of my favorites was when he introduced
the philosophical principle of Occam's razor as it applies to bout fixing and
the propping up of Japanese rikishi that is so prevalent in sumo today.
"Stilling" as we say in Utah from WikiPedia, "The principle [of Occam's razor]
can be interpreted as stating among competing hypotheses, the one with the
fewest assumptions should be selected."
I think in the case of the Kisenosato - Kotoshogiku bout, it was as simple as Kisenosato leaving himself
open at the tachi-ai (something that I've harped on for years now) and then
Kotoshogiku getting the left inside grip. When talking of technique, Kisenosato
has one half move which is a lame tsuki with the left hand. Kotoshogiku on the
other hand has two distinct moves as part of his technique: he can get the left
arm to the inside at the tachi-ai, and he has the gaburi-yori move. That's a bad
matchup for a guy who can't protect himself at the tachi-ai and has nothing else
in his arsenal to dictate a bout.
Anyway, Ozeki Kisenosato was paired today against M4 Endoh, and I'll be damned
if Endoh didn't let him win. Sheesh, when Endoh starts doing you favors, you
know you're bad. Kisenosato's tachi-ai was horrible as he kept his hands
sheepishly high, and so Endoh did what he does well which is to get to the
inside initially. Today that came in the form of the
inside position, and as Kisenosato plodded forward, Endoh was able to run a
circle around the Ozeki grabbing the left outer grip, which he used straightway
to drag Kisenosato over towards the edge dashi-nage style. The crowd screamed in
horror as Kisenosato looked back with his footwork shot, but miraculously, Endoh
never finished the move!! As the two squared back up at the edge, Endoh now had
the left inside position and right outer grip, but he just let go of the right
outer (as you can see if you have the reverse angle replay) and just backed up
declining moro-zashi as he let Kisenosato drive him back across the ring with a
weak right kote-nage. I mean, Kisenosato was standing so upright with his knees
locked when "executing" that kote-nage grip that it was comical to see Endoh
just fall to the dirt in cartwheel fashion. When you set up any throw in sumo,
how do you do it? You have to plant your leg opposite the throwing hand, and if
you can somehow use your hip or thigh
in tight against your foe as a fulcrum all
the better. Kisenosato was in no such position today. In fact, the dude was
standing fully upright with no lower body to body to speak of. In the pic
at right, he's flat-footed with knees locked...the typical stance we see guys
take when they execute throws. Or not. But hey, he pulled it off in
the end. Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!
The philosophy of Occam's razor as mentioned above should always take precedent
when analyzing bouts of sumo IF actual technique exists. When it doesn't, then
you look for next simplest explanation. You already read my explanation and
analysis, and if you don't believe that, just go listen to Mainoumi's analysis
of this bout that he offered while they panned in close to the Ozeki after his
bout where not a single hair was out of place. There wasn't anything in Kisenosato's sumo that he was able to
point out, and his first words were, "Tada, sumo no naiyou ha imaichi desu ne, "
or the content of his sumo is just not there, and then he followed that up with,
"If Endoh's knee wasn't bothering him, he would have lost today." It's funny
because I don't see any tape or a brace on Endoh's knee, but they have to
explain it away somehow. What they couldn't explain is the technique that
Kisenosato used to win because it just wasn't there.
In the day's final bout,
Yokozuna Hakuho came with his patented right inside left
outer grip charge against Ozeki Terunofuji, and the Yokozuna wasted no time in
wrenching his foe upright and driving him back a step or two. Terunofuji is no
slouch, however, and he did have his own right inside position, and so he was
able to rebuff the Yokozuna briefly and force the action back to the center of
the ring. Terunofuji forced his can way back breaking off the Yokozuna's left
outer grip, and so the two stood in a stalemate in the center of the ring for
about eight seconds with Hakuho maintaining the lower stance. After the brief
stalemate, Hakuho made his move wrenching his right side into the Ozeki creating
separation before quickly rushing into moro-zashi and scoring the easy yori-kiri
from there. Terunofuji knew he was had after about three seconds of action and
didn't even bother with a counter move at the edge, and I think he an Okinoumi
are thinking along the lines of "What's the point?" The result is Hakuho's
moving to 9-2 while Terunofuji falls to a precarious 4-7.
The final bout slated for today never occurred as Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew
giving Kotoshogiku the freebie and giving the Geeku a slight glimmer of hope at
4-7. You can definitely say that the Mongolians have totally withdrawn
themselves early from this basho just as they did back at the 2012 Natsu basho.
My opinion is that they don't want to be the guys standing in anyone's way, and
it would not surprise me to see Hakuho drop one more bout as Harvye suggested
because I think he'd prefer to go into his senshuraku bout against Kisenosato
two losses behind. If the two do happen to be tied going into senshuraku, I
think Hakuho will choose to beat Kisenosato straight up, but as a I like to say,
the drama these days is will they or won't they?
As for Kisenosato, he has to be the favorite for the yusho at this point with a
one bout lead, but
regardless of what happens, I don't think he gets promoted to Yokozuna because
the substance of his sumo is simply not there. In fact, as they closed the
broadcast and faded out, Mainoumi's parting shot was, "It's still a mystery as
to what kind of sumo Kisenosato will do these last four days." Everybody in the
know knows that this run is all fake, and I just can't see them rewarding
Kisenosato with Yokozuna based on his sumo so far. Sumo which nobody can
Day 10 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
When I start writing my reports, I randomly type in some characters, as it makes
it easier to have something to highlight and set up the parameters. I then erase
the random characters when I have it set up and am ready to start writing.
However, today, getting ready to write, I looked up and saw that my fingers had
typed "uyf." I stared it at. Lo! It seemed providence has struck; "uyf"
is exactly how I feel about this basho. "Uyf." It's a sign. So I'm
leaving it there. Uyf.
In the spirit of uyf, and since it is Day 10, let's look at the leaderboard.
Moreover, let's go two-losses-off-the-leader deep, as it is entirely possible
(probable?) our two leaders will lose at least two more, and equally possible
their chasers will lose, by fate or choice, at least one each, leaving us with a
12-3 yusho. That is what the last two days of silliness has brought us to, so
let us enforce the consequences of said silliness, and see what it looks like:
8-1: Kisenosato, Takanoiwa
7-2: Hakuho, Ikioi, Hokutofuji, Sokokurai, Ichinojo
6-3: Goeido, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Takekaze, Sadanoumi
How many true yusho threats do you see in there? All the losing by the top guys
has made it "exciting," but that's just a smokescreen: there are only two
possible champions in that list, and it has been that way for days. They are The
Storyteller (Hakuho) and Kisenosato, as The Storyteller is insisting on keeping
Kisenosato's story loud and in your ear. Or, heck, maybe it will be Ikioi. Or
hell, Hokutofuji. Will Goeido save Japan? Could be Mitakeumi, right! Just
could!!! Just might!!!! Might could!!!!!
Nope. It will be either Kisenosato or Hakuho. But, as The Storyteller is telling
this story, we'll do it his way today, and play along by going in order of this
"Hakuho's Exciting Leaderboard Creation!" just to see what that feels like.
M15 Sadanoumi (6-3) vs. M13 Ichinojo (7-2)
Let's say for fun you slammed your head against a dump truck, and then the
driver turned the truck on and drove over you and your body fell off a cliff.
Well, then you would look like Sadanoumi did in this yori-kiri loss to Ichinojo.
M10 Takanoiwa (8-1) vs. M14 Chiyotairyu (4-5)
This is the second tournament of late with Takanoiwa hanging around on the
leaderboard, but don't worry, when you fight fourth on the day against an M14
with a losing record it means the Association isn't too worried about your yusho
chances. Nor was I. Takanoiwa also got wrecked here. He was grabbing at thin air
while almost falling backwards as Chiyotairyu blasted him across the ring, then
he fell forwards between Chiyotairyu's arms as Chiyotairyu executed a lightning
pull for yet another bad win, hiki-otoshi. And just like that, another
insignificant obstacle to Kisenosato's championship was shoved aside.
M16 Osunaarashi (3-6) vs. M10 Sokokurai (7-2)
Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) tried to get back to his bread and butter here, giving a
few wicked slaps right away and then lurching in for the belt; he got a nice
inside right. However, Sokokurai also hunkered down, and pretty soon they both
had right inside/left outside grips, and we were in for the long haul, testing
the question of who was stronger: the big bruiser with the bad knees,
Osunaarashi, or the wily Mongolian with the tensile strength. It was a long one,
and we saw something I'd never seen before: Sokokurai proved he has a good
laundress: his mawashi strings fell off, and stood primly on the dohyo like a
camera tripod, well starched. In the end Sokokurai slowly moved Sandy to the
edge and out, yori-kiri. Sandy needs, oh, a year off. But he won't get it.
Sokokurai stays hot.
M5 Takekaze (6-3) vs. M8 Hokutofuji (7-2)
This one was a perfect situation for Takekaze: young, inexperienced foe who
likes to move forward hard. So, even though he knew it had to be coming,
Hokutofuji still was taken by surprise by the skill and speed of the immediately
tsuki-otoshi pull, losing to experience in one second flat. Well, now he knows.
K Takayasu (6-3) vs. M1 Takarafuji (3-6)
Takarafuji did nothing here and let Takayasu stand him up and punch him out,
M1 Mitakeumi (6-3) vs. S Shodai (4-5)
I have to admit I was looking forward to this match-up of the New Hopes. It was
also The Mystery of Mitakeumi, Part V, although he doesn't look very mysterious
to me anymore: it's all aggression, whether going for the belt or tsuppari.
Shodai was smart about that at first, taking it to Mitakeumi inside and keeping
him off of him with big, upwards-moving roundhouse shoves that had him going
backwards. However, when Shodai turned to the side and tried to pull Mitakeumi
past him and down by the arm and it didn't work, that left him facing the wrong
direction and with Mitakeumi behind. Shodai recovered to not go out okuri-dashi,
but Mitakeumi put his smothering pressure on him then, and stood him up inside
on the body on the way to a yori-kiri win. Mitakeumi didn't look particularly
good here, but took advantage of a mistake well for the win. Another day of
smothering, close finishing for him.
O Kisenosato (8-1) vs. O Terunofuji (4-5)
Don was spot on about Kisenosato twice yesterday: one, the loss to Kotoshogiku
was deliberate, lord knows why. Two, it is hard to see what he is doing to win
when he does: he seems to exert not much effort or pressure at all, yet guys
can't get around him. My explanation of this has been that he is big and is
skilled at moving forward: he is an immovable object invalidating irresistible
forces. Mike's explanation has been that guys give in to him. This one was
pretty much par for that course, though he did make it look a little better by
doing a bit of gaburu here, a bit of straining and lifting there. Basically,
after the initial face push Kisenosato grabbed a hold of one fold of
Terunofuji's belt on the outside, and with his other hand alternately worked on
belt or pushed on Terunofuji's teat. They were both standing up quite tall, and
this battle was fought with chests. Terunofuji has been supremely mediocre the
last year or so, and so it is hard to say what is going on with him, but he was
hapless here, just kind of going along for the ride as Kisenosato juddered him
this way and that on the way to working out a yori-kiri win. If this is
excitement, well, I am an hedonic. Hand me another doughnut.
O Kotoshogiku (3-6) vs. O Goeido (6-3)
Kotoshogiku's surprise win yesterday had me wondering if he may escape demotion
after all somehow, while Goeido had quietly piled up enough wins to be on this
"leaderboard," so I was curious to see how this one would play out. Well, Goeido
destroyed Kotoshogiku. He stood him up with a solid charge, then reversed gears
and pulled him down, wrapping Kotoshogiku's arm up on the left and tugging him
by the shoulder on the right, sukui-nage. Goeido looked very good, but the big
question for me now with Kotoshogiku is won't a retirement right in the middle
of a Kisenosato yusho run be kinda an spotlight-stealing downer? Hmmmm...
M3 Ikioi (7-2) vs. Y Hakuho (7-2)
This would be a good one for Hakuho to lose, thought me, but with Kisenosato
staying ahead, well, a loss was also not needed. Yet Ikioi has a following, and,
well, where does Hakuho go from here? Down in the dumpers? So I was ready for a
Hakuho loss. In the event, it was typical crap sumo from Hakuho as of late, as
he stood tall and fired tsuppari. Ikioi tried giving back the same, and when
Ikioi ducked in low to go for the belt Hakuho pulled him down, tsuki-otoshi.
Nothing to see here, people. Hakuho keeps it close, and that's what just about
The revamped leaderboard:
9-1: Kisenosato (one Japanese)
8-2: Hakuho, Takanoiwa, Sokokurai, Ichinojo (four Mongolians)
7-3: Goeido, Takayasu, Mitakeumi, Ikioi, Takekaze, Hokutofuji (six Japanese)
M11 Kagayaki (4-5) vs. M13 Gagamaru (3-6)
Kagayaki industriously went after Gagamaru with slaps from below, like a guy
picking up pizza trays made of lead, and Gagamaru compliantly moved straight
backwards and out, yori-kiri. He needed to try some lateral movement here, but
then again, he's not really good at that, is he?
M14 Chiyootori (5-4) vs. M11 Nishikigi (4-5)
Nishikigi had an extremely deep grip over the shoulder with his right hand, but
he should have let go of it, because Chiyootori got a weensy little frontal grip
and pivoted around and bumped Nishikigi out with his hip while Nishikigi kept
holding on to that big belt grip--which was now next to the straw. Basically
Nishikigi followed the belt out of the ring, shitate-nage.
M12 Takakeisho (4-5) vs. M8 Chiyonokuni (5-4)
Takakeisho lost this one by showing his hand. After losing the first four days,
then winning the next four, after a day nine loss he undoubtedly was eager to
get back after it and reclaim momentum and his confidence and start another win
streak. Hence, he had two hands on the clay waiting, zapped to pop. He also
flinched in a near false start, showing how coiled and tense he was, and
Chiyonokuni knew what to do with that: hit the clay quick thereafter and got
things started before Takakeisho could pull back and regroup, and pulled the
over-eager-beaver right down, hataki-komi. Yeah, I hate the pull as much as the
rest of us, but sometimes it's pretty damn cool. You could see how this one made
sense, and Takakeisho got what he deserved.
M7 Myogiryu (3-6) vs. M12 Daishomaru (3-6)
Hoo, boy. Myogiryu had the distasteful Daishomaru's head between his hands and
was sliding him effortlessly backwards, but Daishomaru evaded to his left and
Myogiryu fell down in an ungainly way, looking way too surprised, as Daishomaru
did a little superfluous patty cake on the back of Myogiryu's head and shoulders
to get the tsuki-otoshi victory. This was an embarrassing loss for Myogiryu.
M15 Chiyooh (3-6) vs. M7 Aoiyama (4-5)
Aoiyama started it off with meat mallet thumps, but when that didn't work tried
a long, slow pull that also didn't work. He then had to go in the body, and was
in trouble, as he isn't good there. However, being so much bigger, he
nevertheless drove Chiyooh swiftly to the edge... where Chiyooh stepped
gracefully to the side and nonchalantly flicked him to the dirt, uwate-nage. I
thought this was a size and skill mismatch, but I was wrong: even Chiyooh has
better skills than Aoiyama.
M6 Chiyoshoma (5-4) vs. M9 Ishiura (3-6)
Both men were lightning quick in this one--Ishiura in moving away from tachi-ai
contact to his left, and Chiyoshoma in rushing forward to oblivion and falling
M8 Kaisei (3-6) vs. M5 Yoshikaze (3-6)
Oh, Kaisei. Sometimes you look so silly. The Funny Fat Kid. They were grappling
around in a fairly pointless way, one side pressed together and holding on, the
other side an arm wrestling match to see who could get control over there, when
Yoshikaze disengaged with the whole business: pushed Kaisei nimbly away from him
and stepped slightly backwards. Kaisei did a little pirouette as he fell into
the void, shitate-dashi-nage.
M4 Tochiohzan (3-6) vs. M6 Kotoyuki (3-6)
Tochiohzan stayed way, way back off the lines so when Kotoyuki henka'ed mildly
Tochiohzan was easily able to read it and square straight up to him: plenty of
room to react. However, it took him so long to get there Kotoyuki had time to
size him up, too, and was waiting with hot hands to a hard body: the tsuki-dashi
Kotoyuki victory was mighty and swift.
M3 Okinoumi (2-7) vs. M4 Endo (4-5)
Okinoumi had the momentum early, pushing Endo manfully in the face. However,
Endo lowered his head and reached in for the long inside left on the belt, and
Okinoumi backed up. Being bigger and better, he probably still should have won,
but he did not, never taking advantage of opportunities for grips his height
could have afforded him, and he stepped weakly and meekly out in one of those
lame "oh, okay, it's over" finishes we so often in bad matches, yori-kiri.
M2 Shohozan (3-6) vs. M2 Arawashi (3-6)
I tend to think the cat slap to the face is just a bit of ineffective
showmanship silliness. Shohozan snuck one in there against Arawashi--who
promptly grabbed Shohozan's arm and flung him through the air heedless and onto
the cold earth, tottari. Zoinks! Good stuff by Arawashi here, even if Shohozan
did keep his fingers away from Arawashi's body in a suspicious, crumply manner
after that first hissy slap. Anyway, am I going to have to dust off my old
Kakuryu comp for Arawashi? Should I start touting him as the next Tamawashi?
Y Kakuryu (5-4) vs. S Tamawashi (5-4)
Kakuryu had absolutely nothing and was summarily driven out by the wham, blam,
in your face, hard-hitting tsuppari charge of Tamawashi, tsuki-dashi. I love
this guy of late. Lookee, lookee who has the better record amongst these two.
Mike refuses to let Takekaze pull him tomorrow.
Day 9 Comments (Don Roid reporting)
"Superfly" Jimmy Snuka died, joining the ever increasing list of pro wrestlers
from the 80's that I grew up watching who are no longer with us. Another
wrestler on that list, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, had a great line one time: "Just
when they think they got the answers, I change the questions".
Is there letting up in sumo? Sure. Are there flukes in sumo? Sure.
Is there a bit of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours"? Probably. Can
even the most unlikely of rikishi upset the best on any given day?
Absolutely. Is there actual money exchanging hands for wins and losses?
Who knows? Having been a professional wrestler for 15 years and being
involved in a "worked" business where all the outcomes are predetermined and
having done commentary for FightBox TV, probably calling well over 1,000 fights
of all different styles (sumo, MMA, kickboxing, wushu, boxing, taekwondo etc.),
all I can say is that NOTHING surprises me anymore. In combat sports,
ALWAYS expect the unexpected. All we can do is watch and make our own
judgments. And for the record, reality is ALWAYS stranger than fiction.
Regardless of if you're aboard the yaocho train or the straight up train, I
advise you to keep an open mind to what you're watching. Sometimes even
careful observation, logic and reasoning are not enough to fully grasp what is
happening. Only the two guys up there on the dohyo know for sure what has
With that in mind, let's get to today's action. Usually I start my report about
halfway through the Makuuchi division, but I've got a soft spot in my heart for
Osunaarashi (M16) since he was the first sumo wrestler I interviewed on
episode 88 of The FightBox Podcast. Today he was facing Daishomaru (M12).
The Egyptian started off looking pretty good, but has lost a lot of firepower
recently as his leg injury is probably acting up again. With little choice
other than to drop to low Juryo or even Makushita, he continues to tough it out,
but it's just not in the cards for him. Today was no exception. Daishomaru
sidestepped to his left and drove Osunaarashi out in a heartbeat.
Fast forwarding to the meat and potatoes of today's action, sumo's golden boy,
Endo (M4) would take on Hokutofuji (M8) in an impressive showing
for Fuji. He really came to fight today and after the bout went strutting and
snorting, huffing and puffing like a badass back to his spot, obviously very
pleased with himself. Zack Morris was able to get his left arm inside at the
tachi-ai, but couldn't get to the belt. Hokutofuji slid backwards and regrouped
launching an offensive charge with his left forearm on Zack's collar bone and
shoulder. He even managed to pick up the spare by sending Endo off the mound and
taking out a judge at ringside.
Up next were (M2) Shohozan and (M4) Tochiohzan who got gridlocked
in a left-in, right-out position for several seconds before Shoho overcommitted
with the right arm. Tochiohzan was able to shrug him off and send him down to
the sand. Afterwards Tochiohzan had the "just another day at the office" look on
Sekiwake Shodai got the position he was looking for (or at least one that
worked for him) right from the get go on (M1) Takarafuji who tried just
about every trick in the book to better his grip, but to no avail. In a
last-ditch effort he tried taking a step backwards to help him weasel his left
arm inside, but by that time Shodai had pushed him back so far, it was already a
foregone conclusion. Shodai will have a lighter schedule in week two, so it will
be interesting to see if he can keep his rank or not.
The number that jumped out at me in the following bout was that Sekiwake
Tamawashi is 0 - 4 against (M1) Mitakeumi. Well, today he got
smoked again as Mitakeumi got a bit lower and blew him out of the water.
Afterwards Tamawashi looked pretty dejected. Back to the drawing board, I
guess. He's now 5 - 4 and is walking the razor's edge.
(M2) Arawashi went up against Ozeki Terunofuji who, perhaps, is
still suffering from the never-ending injury. He looked to be favoring that knee
still, as he couldn't really keep a solid base, bouncing from time to time as he
tried to plant his left leg and throw his opponent. Normally brute
strength would have paid off for him, but not in this kind of condition.
Arawashi pulls off a hell of a throw here, sending Terunofuji head over heels.
When you see a throw like that, you know it's the real McCoy.
(M3) Okinoumi vs. Ozeki Goeido
Pro wrestling is fake. No shocker there. But when done correctly, it should give
the illusion of a real fight. In fact, when done well, you should not even be
thinking "Is this real"? You should just get so caught up in the
performance that you get sucked into the story and real emotions start to get
stirred up in you. The same thing happens when you're watching a good
movie and you start to cry, even though you know the characters aren't real,
they're just actors playing a part.
once in a while actors, pro football players, comedians, talk show hosts or
other celebrities get thrown into a pro wrestling match in an attempt to get
ratings, sell tickets and reach a broader audience. When these kinds of
matches happen, regardless of how fake the pro wrestlers may seem to you, the
celebrities are usually SO bad, that it's almost a parody of the sport.
It's impossible for you to suspend disbelief and let yourself just enjoy it for
what it is. So if you're the kind of person who used to watch Hulk Hogan
back in the day and say to yourself "Look at this guy! Why is his body
suddenly shaking uncontrollably and he's impervious to pain? That's SOOOOO
fake!" Then go back and compare Hulk Hogan and Mr. T from WrestleMania 1
and notice how GOOD the Hulkster looks when he's put in there with someone who
has absolutely no idea what he's doing.
In the match today, Okinoumi's performance was akin to Mr. T's at WrestleMania
1. Probably the most half-hearted effort I've seen in a while.
Goeido moves straight forward though Noumi with little or no resistance at all.
It was so bad, that he even had to fake his winner's strut back to the other
side of the dohyo.
Moving on …
When I asked former Ozeki Konishiki what he thought about the current group of
episode 106 of The FightBox Podcast, there was an awkwardly long pause
before he gave his answer. He must have been thinking about how to say "they
suck a skunk's stink gland" without actually using those exact words. Coming
into this match, Ozeki Kotoshogiku (2 - 6) is just two losses away from becoming
"Sekiwake Kotoshogiku" and he's still got to face all of the toughest
competition in the final week. His opponent is Ozeki Kisenosato (8 - 0) who he's
faced 62 times in the past.
gut instinct on this one tells me to pull my BS card, which, as you know, I
don't pull very often. However, Kisenosato has always been a hard wrestler for
me to figure out. I still have no idea where his power comes from. Sometimes it
looks like he's doing absolutely nothing and he's pushing guys around like
school children. Other times he's giving absolutely everything he has and he's
getting manhandled by weaker wrestlers. I just don't know what to make of him.
My problem with this match is that I can't really explain what happens,
technically, to allow Kotoshogiku to gain the upper hand. At about the 8 second
point of the bout Geeku suddenly breaks through, but I can't identify what
exactly happens which allows him to do that. I do know that Kisenosato looks
extremely awkward in this bout. He does this weird little thing with his right
foot about 3 seconds in and he looks completely off balance throughout the
fight. And honestly, Kotoshogiku is not really fighting much better in this bout
than I've seen him fight in other bouts this tournament.
even though I am pulling the BS card on this one, I find myself unable to
explain why Kisenosato would intentionally let up to give hippity-hoppity the
win. I mean, even if he does, Geeku still needs 5 more wins just to get the bare
minimum he needs for kachi-koshi. So, are the rest of the Ozeki and Yokozuna
going to play ball too just to delay his inevitable demotion? Doubtful.
Not with how piss poor Kotoshogiku has been performing this basho.
Otherwise everyone will start looking like Okinoumi. And not only that, but
Kisenosato is freakin' undefeated coming into this fight. Isn't winning
the yusho more important than keeping a sinking ship in the water for a few more
hours? It just doesn't add up.
Anyway, my final take on this bout is that it looked as if Kisenosato was
letting up, especially towards the end. I'm not sure why he'd do it (which makes
me think he didn't), but I can only call what I see. Option B - he choked …
which he's absolutely known to do. Seems more logical.
[deep breath] let's see how far down the conspiracy hole we can go, shall we?
WTF just happened in this match? Yokozuna Hakuho (7 - 1) comes out with
his left hand and right forearm to Komusubi Takayasu's (5 - 3) upper
chest. Hakuho then does this little moonwalk backwards. To me it
didn't even look like Yasu was pushing him that hard. But then again, I'm
not the one in there with Takayasu. Was he just trying to get some space
between him and his opponent? Were the pushes really that forceful?
Is that how Yokozuna fight now? Backwards? With no attempt to get
any kind of advantageous grip or position? Just slapping away at a Komusubi's
hands while tip-toeing around the edge of the ring?
Guys, we've all seen Hakuho fight for years. Is this the Hakuho we all remember?
The one that went undefeated for so long? The one that holds almost every record
in sumo? If this is the best he can do, maybe there really is something wrong
with him. Maybe the underestimating of his opponents really is causing him to
lose unnecessarily. Maybe he really is losing his touch. Or, maybe, just maybe,
there's a little BS in this fight too ;) There's not really even any
pillow-throwing going on which leads me to believe even more so that this was
another Mr. T performance. If you want to go full-on conspiracy theory,
maybe he saw Kisenosato lose and just decided not to make it any harder for him.
Or maybe it was just Takayasu's day. I don't like this kind of sumo from Hakuho.
Right now it's like he's trying to buy an Armani suit with a pocket full of
nickels and the clerk ain't takin' it. Look at his demeanor when he steps
off the dohyo. Look at the way he's looking downward. Sure, he's
taking care to look where the steps are and not to fall, but he's also in deep
thought for a second, and he's not happy with himself.
In the final bout of the day Yokozuna Kakuryu (5 - 3) took on (M3)
Ikioi (6 - 2). This one looked legit to me. Kakuryu looked to be fighting
the way he normally does with fluid, side-to-side movement and an unpredictable
plethora of techniques, but he just got caught by Ikioi who got low with both
arms, propped him up and drove him backwards off the dohyo. Maybe it was
something about how Kakuryu fell that made it seem real. I'm also really big on
facial expressions and body language after the fight as a signal of yaocho and I
didn't see that from either fighter. Ikioi had a "Don't fu€k with me mudder
fudder" look on his face afterwards. Full on bad-assery mode.
The most entertaining part for me, though, was the super fan who sits opposite
the hard cam, about six rows up a little bit left of center in the top hat and
jacket (does he have a name?). He looked like a maestro conducting an orchestra
with his fan. Friggin' hilarious. What a moment. You gotta love it. Great way to
finish a very entertaining day.
Mike and Harvye are back for the next several days, but I may make another
appearance if need be. Quick shout out to Kintamayama for uploading the day's
bouts to his Youtube channel. The pressure has never been greater for
Kisenosato, which makes me think he'll blow it again. Let's find out! I'll have
more thoughts on this week's and next week's edition of
Day 8 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
too was begeistert (something like "caught by the spirit," a good thing) with
Don Roid's interview of Konishiki. I have a child under ten, so most of my
exposure to Konishiki has been in the form of "Koni-chan," dressed up in an
orange jump suit with yellow lumps on it that look like dollops of turd,
entertaining children as a regular cast member on Japan's version of Sesame
Street. No, I'm not making that up. The amazing thing about the guy is he pulls
it off: he is gentle, charming, and good for kids. In fact, he can pull anything
off: at the same time, he can give an hour long interview where he pulls off
being a badass: with Don, he talked about wanting to kill guys, getting beat by
his coach, being aggressive, and in general displayed all the toughness you'd
expect from a combat sports veteran. Don then played a clip of his singing, and
damned if he didn't pull that off too--surprisingly beautiful.
But I digress. The substance of the interview was great, too--the sumo insights
are many and often reassuring (you think things look weirdly slack out there? So
does Konishiki). Mike has made several of these points already, and I recommend
you just listen to the whole thing [Mike: hyperlink?]; the guy has charisma in
spades and it's just fun to spend some time with him. But I want to key off of a
minor point he made; Konishiki talked about how many foreigners there are in the
stands these days, and actually recommending that there be more foreigners, not
fewer, in the ring. I think that's a non-starter, but it sure would improve the
level of fighting. To defend the idea, Konishiki pointed out that around 30 to
40 percent of the fans in the upper decks may be foreigners. That is a
guestimate, but it doesn't sound too far off to me. In short, the Sumo
Association is making a lot of money off us.
Today's broadcast was an acknowledgement of that, with a Japanese speaking, deep
voiced Caucasian Japanese TV "talent" named Patrick Harlan, an American who goes
by the name of "Pakkun," and is basically Demon Kogure level, in the broadcast
booth and later in the crowd for the Japanese broadcast, as well as Mongolian
former rikishi Kyokutenho, whose Japanese is amazing, in the booth. They showed
wrestler names in English, and between near every bout showed foreign fans in
the venue. Foreign fans and wrestlers were the topic throughout the broadcast.
This may grate on some--foreigners in Japan get tired of being treated as a
novelty, and Pakkun didn't have much relevant to say and knew it--trying his
best to cover up by staying positive and naively humorous--but it can also be
seen as a positive sign. Unless the sport and its fans recognize and internalize
the degree to which their sport has been internationalized, from its wrestlers
to those who pay to attend, it is going to remain easy to push
pro-Japanese-wrestler storylines, and hard to celebrate when the best of the
best happen to not be Japanese. Think about futbal or baseball, and your
favorite players: do you care even the slightest bit which country your favorite
players are from? Is there anybody on your favorite team, even a single person,
who is from the city where the team plays? These sports are fully
internationalized and we as fans have fully internalized that. Hideki Matsui was
so New York Yankees he felt like the next in the Lou Gehrig / Mickey Mantle hero
line. Sumo has a long, long way to go on this (and I think it is more likely to
go backwards, perhaps eliminating foreigners from fighting entirely, or
otherwise handicapping them, for example, rather than increasing their numbers
as Konishiki suggests). But today was an okay gesture and I'll take it.
And give Pakkun credit; asked about Japanese Yokozuna, he said he can't wait to
see one--but wants anyone who does it to earn it in the same tough, qualified,
undeniable way that the Mongolians did. He wants that person to be a real,
damnation Yokozuna. Amen to that.
M13 Gagamaru (2-5) vs. M15 Sadanoumi (6-1)
Nice head butt on the tachi-ai, two coconuts clunking, then good pressure while
slung low by Gagamaru. He stood up a bit and Sadanoumi was able to reverse the
momentum, but Gagamaru pushed him upright with a good meat paw to the face then
pulled him pretty easily down, hataki-komi.
M12 Takakeisho (3-4) vs. M1 Chiyotairyu (3-4)
Fourth straight win here by Takakeisho, who took advantage of Chiyotairyu's
predictability by backing up while being slapped at, then stepping just a little
to the left and watching Chiyotairyu fall on his face, hiki-otoshi. Chiyotairyu
looked terrible here, as if not even trying, just ploughing forward whatever
M11 Kagayaki (3-4) vs. M16 Osunaarashi (3-4)
Osunaarashi has been having a terrible tournament; none of the wicked, effective
fisticuffs aggression at the tachi-ai we've seen from him in the past, no action
on the belt thereafter, and it showed in this match. Kagayaki is a big dude with
some oomph in his own right, and he had Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) going backwards
from the very start, off balance and defending. Also, Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki)
must have been reading our reports and practicing hard, because for the second
day in a row he moved laterally and still won, taking care to keep Osunaarashi
in front of him and close enough to pound on as they circled around the ring on
the way to the yori-kiri win. Now, near the end Sandy did get some belt grips,
and I wondered why he let go of them, but he was dominated here and that has
been par for the course this tournament. He looked gimpy on those knees again,
M15 Chiyooh (2-5) vs. M11 Nishikigi (3-4)
Over winter break my family and I spent a few nights on Yoron Island. It's the
last island in Kagoshima Prefecture, way down in the forgotten Pacific towards
Okinawa. It's mostly sugar cane fields, and you can drive across the whole thing
in about 15 minutes. We saw the whole island twice or more, bumbling around on
bicycles or driving 30 kph per hour between the cane stalks while the green
leaves brushed the windshield, going to totally empty beaches and wading in the
brine, mounting minuscule hills for views of the ocean all around, visiting
whatever more-minor-than-minor tourist attraction that came into our heads
(someone built a picnic pavilion to mark an old castle foundation; it was
overgrown with weeds and had a big spot of accumulated bird dung in the center).
There were goats roped to trees, getting ready to be turned into dinner, and a
hotel had a sign outside: "please feel free to walk our dog." I drank lots of
the local sweet potato liquor, Shimayuusen, and they told us it used to be an
illegal homebrew that graduated to being sold. I reflected that really there
isn't any place much more remote in Japan than Yoron. Why am I telling this
story? Chiyooh is from this island. Why does this matter? Most sumo guys were
traditionally from provincial places like Yoron, or Hokkaido, Iwate, Kyushu
backcountry, etc. Why? Sumo was a way out, and sumo toughness partially came
from tough upbringings and hunger. We've dwelt on this at length on Sumotalk
before: guys from places like Mongolia have that hunger now, and increasingly
Japanese rikishi don't. Why? Well, even in Yoron, life is pretty nice nowadays.
I'm sure Chiyoo grew up in pretty unsophisticated rural isolation--we visited a
hilltop outdoor dohyo--these aren't very common in Japan, but can be found here
and there--and I can imagine him with nothing much else to do, spending weeks
and months upgrading his rural, farm-fed rough and tumble skills. Yeah, Yoron is
the kind of place big time sumo wrestlers used to come from, so on the one hand,
with a population of 5,000, it's odds of producing a rikishi are tiny. On the
other hand, having been there, it was "yeah, of course!" Unfortunately, Chiyoo
has done nothing to live up to that romantic pedigree, as he's been one of those
really terrible rookies who looks totally out of place in the top division. Here
he tried pushing hard off the tachi-ai, but might as well have been pushing at
the outer wall of the Kokugikan, because Nishikigi didn't budge. Chiyoo then
tried a pull so predictable and slow that Nishikigi followed it easily, driving
Chiyoo out with emphatic yori-kiri. I've been waiting to tell that Yoron story
for four eight days, hoping Chiyoo would have a good day and I could celebrate
him a little, but I finally had to just give up and tell it off a loss. Here's
to you, Chiyoo (raises glass of 30% alcohol Shimayuusen, straight).
M12 Daishomaru (2-5) vs. M10 Sokokurai (6-1)
Daishomaru, a pull expert with nothing else, is one of my new least favorites,
so I was hoping he would get worked here, and he did. Sokokurai didn't put him
away right away, leaving him open to be pulled, but then again maybe he didn't
put him away because he was being careful about that pull. Indeed, Daishomaru
did almost swipe him out at one point, and it was only Sokokurai carefully
arching his toes that saved him, as half his foot was over the straw. After that
he was even more careful, actually momentarily refusing to approach Daishomaru
at all, and we had one of those standing-there-looking-at-each-other moments.
But of course Daishomaru didn't dare approach Sokokurai either. So Sokokurai
finally said "oh well, flug it," cautiously advanced, and the meek and weak
Daishomaru was pushed out this time like a tuft of cotton dander on a spring
wind, oshi-dashi. This is the kind of sumo that results when so many wrestlers
fight defensively that guys are afraid to be aggressive. But I'm with Kane:
Sokokurai is intelligent in the ring and fun to watch.
M14 Chiyootori (3-4) vs. M9 Ishiura (2-5)
I've been enjoying watching Ishiura get dismantled this tournament--he's
underweight for this division and fairly helpless in a straight up fight--and he
was devoured here by Chiyootori, who wrapped him off a nice tight, forward
moving tachi-ai, both arms inside, and drove him out in a fraction of a second,
M13 Ichinojo (5-2) vs. M8 Chiyonokuni (5-2)
Huge size mismatch. Chiyonokuni did the smart thing in this one, going far and
fast to his left in a tachi-ai henka, but Ichinojo stopped his momentum and
faced up. Chiyonokuni was smart again, then, tsuppari-ing wildly in Ichinojo's
face, doing everything he could to keep The Mongolith off his body. It worked
too--disoriented, Ichinojo did eventually flop to his belly just outside the
ring--but it was too late, as Ichinojo had concentrated hard enough and
maintained carefully enough to push Chiyonokuni far enough back that he'd
already stepped out first, oshi-dashi.
M7 Myogiryu (2-5) vs. M10 Takanoiwa (6-1)
Takanoiwa is developing into a pretty good middle-of-the-banzuke talent--meaning
he cleans up when in the lower half and gets creamed when he is in the top half.
He's M10 this tournament and so, yes, cleaning up. Good, destructive sumo here;
powerful left outside grip on the belt, and stuck a fierce head-bending hand in
the face and up high on the other side when he needed it. Yori-kiri
Takekaze (5-2) vs. M9 Kaisei (3-4)
Kaisei needed to be cautious here, as this was another massive size difference.
He was--but not enough. When Takekaze inevitably spun away just after the
tachi-ai and tried to pull him down by the head, Kaisei held onto his belt and
spun with him. When Takekaze retreated, Kaisei stayed close to him and followed
him. However, when Takekaze turned on a dime at the straw and pulled Kaisei down
beautifully by the arm at the edge, ipponzeoi, well, Kaisei lost.
M8 Hokutofuji (5-2) vs. M5 Yoshikaze (2-5)
Great sumo here from a guy who does nothing but move resolutely forward,
hurrah!, Hokutofuji. Hard, linear tachi-ai, straight powerful force out,
oshi-dashi. Dude just put his head down and drove, and finished Yoshikaze by
flinging him over backwards by the neck. Even when losing I don't think I've
seen Hokutofuji fight badly yet this tournament, though he's fought a lot of
solid veterans like Yoshikaze. Good stuff.
M4 Tochiohzan (1-6) vs. M6 Chiyoshoma (4-3)
I've been pretty happy with the sumo today. Chiyoshoma gutlessly (and probably
needlessly, given how bad Tochiohzan has looked this tournament) henka'ed, but
Tochiohzan caught him, worked with the belt, and drove this flyspeck out,
M7 Aoiyama (3-4) vs. M4 Endo (4-3)
I've been saying Endo has good technique but lacks power for years now.
What do I mean by that? You rarely see Endo in unorthodox matches. He tends to
either go for the belt or to tsuppari, but there isn't a lot of henka, or
running around the ring, or pulling. He sets things up in a traditional way and
hopes he can then finish whoever he has set up off through superior position.
However, traditionally that led to great comedy with him, as all of the sudden
it would collapse and he would be utterly destroyed, as he didn't have enough
power to finish any of the stuff he'd set up. When the other guys realized he
couldn't close they just blew him away. But I didn't have any problem with his
sumo per se: he always gave an honest, solid effort. Lately, he's seemed to even
add some power--making him a threat for real, finally, in some of his matches. I
will tentatively buy it that injuries held him back some and we weren't seeing
the real Endo. But there's still a mirage element with him; today, as so often
in the past, he got blown away. He took the behemothic Aoiyama on straight up,
and Aoiyama punched him off of him with his forearms and out of the ring without
a second thought, tsuki-dashi. There is a bit of tragedy to Endo, because the
real Endo lies halfway between his good technique and straightforward fight that
I'd like to respect, and his vulnerability to the many, many guys who are
bigger, stronger, and better than him, no matter how comparatively sloppy their
technique may be.
M6 Kotoyuki (2-5) vs. M3 Ikioi (5-2)
Oh, Kotoyuki. He's reminding me a little bit of Chiyotairyu or Toyohibiki these
days: big tachi-ai attack, but once that doesn't work he's helpless and hapless.
He didn't try very hard here either. Yes, he got two big hands to the face off
the tachi-ai and a few more good blows to the nose and thereabouts thereafter.
However, after that he put his arms down and leaned in with his head, as if that
was his new chosen weapon of attack. And not very straight on. So Ikioi turned
and pushed him out, yori-kiri, like a guy knocking a wet sponge off the counter
into the mop bucket.
K Takayasu (5-2) vs. M1 Mitakeumi (4-3)
Oh oh--battle of "rising stars." Ignoring that for the moment--let's be
optimistic and hope for straight up--it was also time for The Mystery of
Mitakeumi, Part IV. Thus far, we'd seen him going always forward, twice on the
belt, once with tsuppari, and winning by crowding guys out. Today was right in
line with that. Very hard tachi-ai by both parties, bashing heads fast and
aggressively together. Then, Mitakeumi tried tsuppari, but it wasn't effective,
as Takayasu was all over him. However, to his credit, Mitakeumi kept his legs
unaligned, and slung his body at a good angle to resist being pushed out. Also,
when eventually reversing the momentum, he did it by bringing along excellent
footwork. He also surged inside on the body, moro-zashi, and bulled Takayasu
out, yori-kiri. After four days of observing him in order to be able to say,
"what's his style?," the results are pretty clear: forward moving, no tricks,
doesn't separate much, and will be very aggressive when he has the belt or the
body in his grasp. I consider tsuppari a weak technique and he has too much of
that, but I like his bullying sumo pretty well.
S Tamawashi (4-3) vs. M1 Takarafuji (3-4)
Ho hum. Takarafuji took a fall here. Yeah, Tamawashi was above him and can be
given credit both for good neck shoves to get Takarafuji upright, then a
hiki-otoshi pulldown, but Takarafuji wasn't doing anything, just standing there
and flailing his arms about, never going for a grip or making any moves and
falling down rather too compliantly. Looked like mukiryoku to me. Think parity.
O Terunofuji (3-4) vs. O Goeido (5-2)
Nice to see Terunofuji beat Goeido up a bit. Goeido kept low and was trying to
get inside, and Terunofuji bashed him in the neck with a forearm, stepped
disdainfully to the side, and chopped him down, hiki-otoshi.
Kisenosato (7-0) vs. M3 Okinoumi (2-5)
Round and round and round they went, and Kisenosato was in deep trouble. He'd
given up moro-zashi, as he often does, and was already pulling. However,
Okinoumi spent a lot more time going sideways than forward, and didn't seem
interested in any throws or going for anything better than the upper-body trips
he had, so Kisenosato kept his cool and, at the very end, pulled Okinoumi right
through the spinning momentum and to the clay, tsuki-otoshi. For the moment
(foreshadowing…), it's a nice, clean yusho race, folks: Kisenosato and Hakuho,
"good" vs. "evil," hope vs. boredom, Reality TV vs. the bite of reality... Think
M2 Shohozan (2-5) vs. O Kotoshogiku (2-5)
think the writing is on the wall for Kotoshogiku. He had Shohozan going
backwards with some tough inside pressure, and even had Shohozan's feet on the
straw. If Shohozan had wanted to give Kotoshogiku a gift, nothing would have
been easier: one more half step back and done. But instead Shohozan moved right
along the straw and dragged Kotoshogiku down by his arm, rolling him off the
dohyo like a barrel of peanuts, kote-nage. Two more losses and Kotoshogiku is an
Ozeki no more. So close… go ahead and retire, Kotoshogiku, and I'll write
something really nice about you!
Y Kakuryu (4-3) vs. S Shodai (3-4)
This one started off with a few mutual hard slaps to the face, and that was
okay. Shodai had nothing, and connected on none of his advances, while Kakuryu
clocked him pretty good more than once. But the key was that Kakuryu ducked in
low, brought his feet with him, and pushed hard, annihilating Shodai back into
one of the judges oshi-dashi, flying in an ungainly riot out of there like a
scarecrow torn up by a tornado.
M2 Arawashi (1-6) vs. Y Hakuho (7-0)
As much as the Mongolians are guilty of giving in to Japanese wrestlers, they
are even worse when fighting each other, from the ridiculous Asashoryu/Hakuho
choreographed "sumo" when both were Yokozuna, to unnecessarily gifting
Terunofuji a yusho he could have won on his own, to pretty much every match
between the current Yokozunae: those are yawners designed to support mutually
beneficial results. I thought Arawashi beat Kakuryu straight up the other
day--yes, I did. Kakuryu is the least of the three Yokozuna and though really
good is frequently vulnerable, too, and he looked mentally out of it.
is tough, limber, and a bag of tricks, and can beat anybody who doesn't take him
seriously and quickly wrap him up or just plain (carefully) flatten him.
However, I do find it highly improbably that he could beat Kakuryu and Hakuho
and nobody else this tournament. But that's what happened. And I find it very
credible that the Mongolian kingpins would get together, at least in spirit, and
give Arawashi a few "welcome to the jo'i" gifts. Did I see anything that was
clearly, incontrovertibly mukiryoku here? No. Did I see good sumo from Hakuho,
which he is capable of producing anytime, anywhere? No. But it was fast and
Arawashi did look good. They jumped onto each other and spun around, and
Arawashi pushed Hakuho out, yori-kiri. It was a very quick bout; Arawashi
grabbed a left outside grip, and they immediately spun a full 240 degrees. When
they stopped, Hakuho was off balance and stood up a bit and released what grip
he had of Arawashi, but he didn't have much choice, as Arawashi was on him like
melted cheese on a hot burger, and immediately pushed him out from there. Think
parity. Flash victory, storm of cushions.
Well, it ain't a nice, clean yusho race no more! The Hokutoumi revolution
remains in full throttle, as Kisenosato is set up for the third yusho by a
previously yusho-less Japanese rikishi in the last seven tournaments. …or will
he choke, like so often before? We've got a long, long way to go, and Hakuho
still controls his own destiny, but the pedal just officially touched the metal
(or, in my case, the dirty, gravelly floor mat with the hole in it where my heel
goes) for the remainder of the tournament.
Don takes the wheel tomorrow.
Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
biggest news heading into the day was the withdrawal of Yokozuna Harumafuji. I
didn't even bother reading what the injury was because the dude isn't hurt more
than any of the other guys usually are. Harumafuji made an acrobatic fall in his
bout yesterday against Tamawashi, and that will happen when you're not going all
out in the ring. In Don Roid's interview with Konishiki, when they got around to
discussing the current rikishi in sumo, Konishiki kept using the phrase "not
aggressive." Over and over he used that term because it's true. Well,
what's the antonym of aggressive? Calm. Easy-going. Laid-back.
Complacent. That describes sumo these days to a T, and I would sum up
those four words in a single Japanese word: mukiryoku.
With that in mind, let's get to the day 7 action starting with M16 Osunaarashi
who came with a moro-te tachi-ai, but he started slapping from above instead of
thrusting horizontally, so J1 Toyohibiki easily got the left inside and dug it
into Osuna's left armpit lifting him up and dumping him with an offensive right
tsuki-otoshi to the side. Osunaarashi limped back favoring his right knee after
the bout, and he also drops to 3-4 for his troubles.
M14 Chiyootori stayed low fishing for the front grip with both hands against M13
Gagamaru, and after a bit of wrasslin and wranglin, Otori came away with the
right frontal grip and then left inside giving him moro-zashi. From there it was
a walk in the park as he scored the easy yori-iri win moving to 3-4.
Gagamaru falls to a paltry 2-5.
M15 Sadanoumi and M12 Daishomaru bumped heads at the tachi-ai where Sadanoumi
came away with the left inside, and lately Daishomaru just quits at the first
sign of trouble (i.e. at the tachi-ai), and so as he lamely looked to go left,
Sadanoumi got the right inside as well and just danced his foe back and out
yori-kiri style. Sadanoumi's is 6-1 if you need him while Daishomaru falls
In a bout between two rikishi who don't fare well as soon as you take away their
bread and butter, M11 Kagayaki used his long arms to make contact first with M14
Chiyotairyu's neck moro-te-zuki style, and so Chiyotairyu quickly abandoned a
forward charge and moved left firing a tsuki into Kagayaki's right side. The
move threw Kagayaki laterally where he is usually vulnerable, but Chiyotairyu
didn't pounce and allowed Kagayaki to square back up in the center of the ring.
Once they started round two, Chiyotairyu only had pull on his mind, and Kagayaki
read that like a dirty manga on the subway easily scoring the push-out win from
there. Watching the replays, Kasugano-oyakata in the booth said of Chiyotairyu
after that first push to the side, "He had his chance." He did but couldn't
capitalize, and that is way too much analysis for this bout. Sorry about that as
both rikishi end the day at 3-4.
Kane and I were briefly chatting about what rikishi are interesting this basho
in terms of doing sumo that is fun to watch. I offered Hokutofuji first and Kane
came back with Sokokurai, and I heartily agree. M10 Sokokurai in the ring is
like Robert Langdon trying to solve his next puzzle. Today's riddle came in the
form of M15 Chiyooh who put up his best fight of the basho. Both rikishi came
out in migi-yotsu where Sokokurai looked to have the lower position. He
eventually reached for and got the left outer grip, but Chiyooh's mawashi was
loose today, and so as he pulled on the mawashi to try and lift his gal upright,
he didn't have the usual leverage, and this enabled Chiyooh to grab the left
outer of his own, and the gappuri migi-yotsu contest was on. Sokokurai used his
skill advantage to drive his foe back to the edge, but Chiyooh threatened an
utchari causing Sokokurai to give pause. After the rikishi moved slightly back
towards the center of the ring, Sokokurai regrouped and this time forced Chiyooh
to step out of the dohyo first. This was a great bout of sumo, and I can't
recall a single bout from the big five that was fought in this fashion where
sound sumo practices were employed and both rikishi wanted to win. You can see
genuine sumo when it occurs, and unfortunately, most of that is happening before
the five o'clock hour. Sokokurai moves to 6-1 while Chiyooh falls to 2-5.
The reason that Ichinojo is fighting at M13 of late is a result of compromising
his sumo, and today was a good example of that against M10 Takanoiwa. Despite
getting his right arm well inside of Takanoiwa, he did nothing with it opting to
hold it near the front of Takanoiwa's belly like a wet rag as Takanoiwa set up
his grips. After a few seconds of wrangling, Ichinojo pulled his right arm
outside giving Iwa the left inside and easy right outer grip, and from there,
Ichinojo just offered mild resistance as Takanoiwa worked him back to the straw,
lifted him upright a couple of times, and eventually pushed him across. Harvye
talked about these kinds of bouts yesterday in his intro and how you suspect
that something was fishy but that everything looked straight up. Ichinojo was
mukiryoku in this one all the way, but he had the room to do it falling to 5-2
while Takanoiwa surges to 6-1.
The mukiryoku sumo would continue in the next bout as well asM9 Ishiura
kind of shaded to his right going flappy bird against M12 Takakeisho never once
looking to get to the inside or offer a serious pull. With Ishiura moving slow
enough for Takakeisho to handle, the rookie squared himself up with a few
thrusts that were actually too high and would have gotten him in trouble against
an opponent looking to win, but Ishiura wasn't and so Takakeisho was able to
push him back and out in a matter of seconds. Prior to the previous bout, they
showed a bout between Takanohana and Akebono way back from the 1994 Kyushu basho
where Takanohana won on senshuraku clinching his promotion to Yokozuna, and so
it was a nice little set up to see all three Taka rikishi win on a weekend.
M9 Kaisei and M11 Nishikigi hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Nishikigi hunkered
down low in order to keep Kaisei away from the belt, and after a few seconds of
stalemate, Kaisei just pulled his left arm from the inside to the outside!!
There isn't a term to even describe that move because you're just telling your
opponent: here ya go...moro-zashi! It still took Nishikigi a few more
seconds to figure out what he had, but he once he mounted his charge, he lifted
Kaisei upright and forced him back with little resistance from the Brasilian.
Watching live and from the Shomen angle, it was tough to see anything with
kaisei's wide load in the way, but NHK graciously showed a replay from the
reverse angle, and from there it was obvious to see all of Kaisei's blatant
moves implemented in order to throw this match. I don't care what the
politics are behind this one or if money changed hands; Kaisei let Nishikigi
win, and it was obvious as both rikishi finish at 3-4.
If Kane has Sokokurai, then I have M8 Hokutofuji, who struck well against M8
Chiyonokuni and got his right arm planted firmly into Kuni's left armpit lifting
him upright and driving him back in a flash, but Chiyonokuni arched his back at
the edge, slipped right, and timed a perfect right tsuki-otoshi that send
Hokutofuji down at the edge. Afterwards as they were breaking down the bout,
Kasugano-oyakata said that there was nothing positive about Chiyonokuni's sumo,
and there wasn't. His hands were high at the tachi-ai, and he was only looking
for a pull, but a win is a win is a win. I watch a rikishi get dominated like
this yet still pull out the win at the edge with the magical tsuki-otoshi, so
when a rikishi doesn't make the effort to at least try against the big five,
it's a major red flag. Both rikishi here are a nice 5-2.
M6 Chiyoshoma looked to latch onto the front of M6 Kotoyuki's belt from the
tachi-ai, and while he eventually lost his grip, it unnerved Kotoyuki to the
point where he abandoned his tsuppari attack and looked to evade right. As
Kotoyuki looked to square back up after breaking off Shoma's grip, it was the
Mongolian's turn to move right and execute a pull for reals that sent Kotoyuki
down and out in an overall ugly bout. Chiyoshoma is on cruise control at
4-3 while Kotoyuki falls to 2-5.
M7 Aoiyama came with a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai into M5 Yoshikaze's neck and face,
and you could just see that Aoiyama meant business today. And the business is
exactly what he gave Yoshikaze just pummeling him back and out before Yoshikaze
could escape to his left. Afterwards, Kariya Announcer said of Aoiyama, "If only
he could do this sumo all the time..." Yeah, if only, but we all know why he
doesn't. Aoiyama improves to 3-4 while Yoshikaze falls to 2-5.
Here comes the roar of the crowd, so you know that M4 Endoh has just stepped
into the ring. His opponent today was M7 Myogiryu, who was proactive from the
tachi-ai firing his right paw into Endoh's neck and using the left hand to push
and back shoving into the armpit area. With Endoh's arms out wide and in no
position to defend, Myogiryu suddenly stopped his attack and faked a quick swipe
at the front of Endoh's belt before thinking about a pull of Endoh's left
shoulder. With Endoh still in no position to do nothing, Myogiryu fired a right
tsuki into Endoh that sent him dangerously low and to the side, but Myogiryu was
polite from here reaching over the top of Endoh and grabbing the very back flap
of his belt that allowed Endoh to finally position his left arm to the inside
and with Myogiryu voluntarily up high, Endoh grabbed the left grip and scored
the force-out win!! What makes this bout obvious is that Myogiryu stopped
his initial de-ashi for no reason and then he completely opened himself up to
give Endoh the stifling left inside and right outer in the end. There wasn't a
single thing that Endoh did to stop Myogiryu's charge or to set up his ultimate
nice yotsu position. Yaocho all the way as Endoh moves to 4-3 while Myogiryu
falls to 2-5.
M5 Takekaze easily survived a right hari-te attempt from M2 Shohozan, and with
Shohozan showing no promise of a decent charge, Takekaze just moved right and
pulled Shohozan down with ease. Shohozan falls to 2-5 with those two wins coming
against...wait for it...Terunofuji and Harumafuji. As if. Takekaze
improves to 5-2 while Shohozan is 2-5.
M2 Arawashi spent most of his time whiffing against M1 Takarafuji. In a bout
that could have gone to hidari-yotsu, Arawashi pulled his arm out and then next
when he found himself to the left of Takarafuji, he coulda grabbed Takarafuji's
right arm and yanked him out from there, but he whiffed on that move as well
just stepping out of the dohyo as Takarafuji tried to catch up with a left
swipe. Total yaocho here as Arawashi stopped short of executing the obvious
moves while Takarafuji did nothing to set his gal up or force Arawashi back in
the end. Arawashi falls to 1-6 while Takarafuji improves to 3-4.
Goeido exhibited a horrible tachi-ai with his arms wide giving Sekiwake Shodai
the path the right inside, and if you look at the pic at right, Shodai's left
hand is already up and under the Ozeki's right, but Shodai just abandoned the
path to moro-zashi and stepped out left to try a weak left inashi against
Goeido's right shoulder. That move alone was inexplicable. Isn't the point of
sumo to establish the inside position and go chest to chest, especially if
you're the bigger dude? From there, the outcome was obvious especially when the
two looked to square back up and Shodai actually had moro-zashi with Goeido
standing upright with hands above him, but Shodai not only let him out of it, he
abandoned his right inside position and lamely focused on a left outer grip. As
dumb as Shodai's moves were to this point, he still could have easily dashi-nage'd
the Ozeki over and out, but he just stood there and let Goeido square back up,
and as soon as he did, Shodai sloppily stepped out ending this horrible,
horrible bout of sumo. I must state that all of Shodai's dumb moves were
intentional. He coulda kicked Goeido's ass four or five times today, but he let
the Ozeki off the hook every time and just threw this bout to his senpai.
Goeido improves--I guess--to 5-2 while Shodai falls to 3-4.
Kisenosato and Tochiohzan struck in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai
with Oh also having his right arm to the inside of Kisenosato's left. If
you look at the pic at left, you can see Kisenosato's left arm out wide and
Tochiohzan's right elbow and arm creeping inside, but Tochiohzan didn't try and
work that right deep to the inside. He also didn't try and dig in, and he
never attempted a counter move at the edge. He just stood there like a
practice dummy and let the dummy Ozeki just drive him straight back.
Kisenosato moves to 7-0 with the gift, but the yusho is not in the bag. It
used to be that he had the Mongolian's lurking, but he still has everybody
except for maybe Kotoshogiku lurking. As bad as Kotoshogiku is these days,
he's still a tough matchup for the Kiddie because the Geeku can easily get
inside at the tachi-ai. Kisenosato is no even halfway to the yusho, and
while it wouldn't surprise me if everyone steps aside for him, there's still a
long way to go. Tochiohzan falls to 1-6.
Takayasu didn't play along with Ozeki Kotoshogiku by allowing the bout to go to
yotsu-zumo. Instead, he used a nice right kachi-age at the tachi-ai and then
displayed good tsuppari into the neck area of the Ozeki that stood him straight
up, and as Kotoshogiku tried to lean back into the bout, Takayasu reversed gears
and just pulled him down. Takayasu moves to 5-2, and I'm starting to see
those Ozeki headlines again. Takayasu? And Ozeki?? Course, he
already runs rings around the current JPN Ozeki, so whatever. Kotoshogiku
falls to 2-5, and remember the dude is kadoban, so this may be the end. On
one hand, I want to say let's hope so, but on the other hand, they're only going
to replace him with someone else who isn't worthy.
Ozeki Terunofuji actually moved forward at the tachi-ai against M1 Mitakeumi,
and seeing him do that kind of jolted me a bit because I'm so used to seeing him
stand there straight up and just let the other guy win, but Terunofuji meant
business today plowing forward and staying low completely disallowing Mitakeumi
anything to the inside. I guess I should say the deep inside. While Mitakeumi
had both arms inwards, they were only elbow deep as Terunofuji showed us his
signature kime-hold where he just bore down on Mitakeumi staying square as he
tried to move laterally, and when the timing was right, Terunofuji executed the
push-out kill with ease. Mitakeumi could do nothing here and curiously, the
flash from his previous curious wins this basho was missing. Terunofuji
limps to 3-4 while Mitakeumi is 4-3.
M3 Ikioi picked up the default win thanks to Harumafuji's withdrawal moving the
good fellow to 5-2.
Sekiwake Tamawashi moved left at the tachi-ai against Yokozuna Hakuho completely
avoiding a chest to chest clash at the tachi-ai, but Hakuho used his superior
speed to move laterally himself in response to stay away from Tamawashi's
tsuppari. After this awkward start, Hakuho just bore down, watched his opponent
well, and then connected with jab after jab to Tamawashi's face, and as the
Sekiwake looked in desperation to get close, Hakuho finally moved right and
pulled Tamawashi over to the edge where his big toe just stepped out ending the
bout just like that. Nothing too spectacular as Hakuho moves to 7-0 while
Tamawashi falls to 4-3. Before we move on, Konishiki stated that Hakuho's
sumo is all defensive, and while I agree with that, it's purely intentional.
If you had a tachi-ai where you could get the right inside and left outer every
time, why wouldn't you use it every time? Hakuho is just dinking around in
order to display sumo more on par with the rest of the field. Think
Yokozuna Kakuryu went for moro-zashi at the tachi-ai but was rebuffed by M3
Okinoumi quite well, but the Yokozuna kept his left arm to the inside and
dictated the bout from there using tsuppari to keep Okinoumi upright all in an
attempt to get that left inside and just stick. But Okinoumi proved to be a
slippery fish and traded Kakuryu's tit for tat well never letting him get fully
to the inside. Kakuryu made an adjustment going for the right outer without that
left inside, and he used that to dashi-nage his gal around, but Okinoumi used
his size and skill to withstand it all. At this point, you could see that the
bout was for reals, and these are two of the better guys in the division.
Kakuryu never did get that left firmly to the inside, but Okinoumi never had the
inside position either, so after about twenty seconds of quality action, the
Yokozuna finally won with that dashi-nage in the end.
A couple of points to take away from this one. Okinoumi is probably the best
Japanese rikishi in the sport right now. Another point is that once they
hunkered down in the center of the ring, there was no way that Okinoumi was
going to win that bout. The Mongolians are just too good and that far ahead of
their Japanese counterparts, so while it was the best bout we've seen this basho
the last 30 minutes by far, the Japanese rikishi cannot beat the foreigners.
For today's broadcast, they had singer songwriter Sada Masashi in the booth as a
guest, and when the day was done, they turned to him and said, "Who made the
biggest impression on you today?" Without missing a beat, he bleated out,
Of course. That answer was as expected as Harvye hitting the sweet spot
Day 6 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
other day someone asked me if I really through Mitakeumi beat Kakuryu straight
up on Day 4. The true, honest answer is I'm not sure. Calling yaocho is a dicey
proposition, and I've had to develop a strategy for how to approach it. It's not
something I want to deal with, but it's unavoidable. As this basho rolls on with
its wagonloads of questionable results, it is worth talking about that a little
bit. Let me reiterate my take.
My strategy has one main point: try to be honest with myself, and hence with
you. However, this cuts in two directions. First, obviously, if I see yaocho I
try to call it. If it looks obviously fake, I try to say so. Most of the time it
would be easier and more polite not to do so. But I don't want to make a fool
out of myself or you, so, much as it makes me roll my eyes and grit my teeth
with frustration, my deal with myself is that if I think the bout was fake I say
There is a trap there. The argument that bias can creep in and you begin to see
yaocho wherever you want--or wherever you expect it--has merit. So the other
part of the being honest is to ask myself, "did that really look like yaocho to
me, or did it just upset my expectations of who was going to win?" The
Kakuryu-Mitakeumi bout fell into this category. Yeah, I totally expected Kakuryu
to win, and when he didn't, yeah, I totally had my doubts. I watched the bout
about six times and wrestled with the question. (I wouldn't spend much time if
it was, say, Chiyooh vs. Daishomaru, but yeah, I care, and try to get it right.
Some of them it takes a while.) Those who think it was yaocho had plenty of
ammunition: For me, Kakuryu's pulls, which he should know are bad strategy--this
goes back to the "pull habit" press he was getting. Some say he has a pull habit
that gets him in trouble. Other say he needs to lose some so he created a "pull
habit" for himself. What's the truth? I dunno. But what I saw in the match was
bad sumo--too much pulling--but not enough obvious unnatural movement or weak,
flabby technique or effort to call yaocho on that particular bout. My feeling
was that, to be honest, I didn't "see" yaocho there. What I saw was a couple of
pulls that could be yaocho, but I had no evidence. Were those pulls yaocho?
Maybe. But if I go around calling all the bad sumo I see yaocho, I'm not being
honest anymore. I watched a bunch of New York Giants receivers drop passes in an
American Football game last Sunday, and I reflected that I could have easily
called yaocho on that--how could such great athletes drop such easy passes?
Well, it happens. And Kakuryu's loss looked enough like a dropped pass that I
left it at that.
Oddly, being honest with myself while writing isn't easy, and is a fine line to
walk. Often, I end up NOT being honest with myself. I write plenty of calls in
both directions that look silly to me the next day. Doubt creeps in. So, the
best thing to do is step back and give yourself the eyeball test again: what did
I actually see? A different way around it is to write something like the
paragraph I just gave you on Kakuryu/Mitakeumi: weasel around and say well maybe
it was maybe it wasn't. And to be fair I do that a lot, too. But my feeling is
most of the time it is better to call it. Make the call. Gather your guts and
say what you think. If I call yaocho, lots of people will roll their eyes. If I
don't, other people will roll their eyes. So, obviously, you have to forget
about all the people--all of them--and have the courage of your convictions and
stick to them. I knew when I wrote that the Kakuryu-Mitakeumi match was straight
up that people would question it--good. Good. I'm not here to "teach," and I
don't believe most of our readers--who tend to be pretty sophisticated--need to
"learn." Many of you know more about sumo than I do, and in any case, you can
and do make up their own minds. False modesty aside, yes, I'm reasonably well
informed, and my opinions should carry some wait. But I'm often wrong, and what
I offer is my expert opinion--something for you to consider and, if so inclined,
So, as long as I'm being contemplative and dishing a bit, let me lay a little
more honesty out there. Actually, I suspect there is way, way more yaocho and
mukiryoku than I write down: I want to be pretty sure, rather than running
around slapping that label on everything. If a guy suddenly hits 40 home runs in
major league baseball after a mediocre career and I jump up and scream
"steroids!" I'm being irresponsible and plain dumb. So I am
slightly-less-than-honest and hedge plenty. Clever readers will have long ago
noticed that when I say the sumo was bad or that the guy's move was
inexplicable, etc., I'm often hinting that yes, this bout was fixed. I try to
save the straight yaocho calls for the Barry Bonds moments.
That's enough discursive navel gazing for the day. Bottom line is this sport is
rife with bouts that are not straight up. As many as two thirds? Yes, I've
thought that at times. But I'm not clairvoyant--I just have eyes to see, and
some experience to interpret with. So I'm going to tell you what I see, with a
little interpretation based on what I know. And what I saw was Mitakeumi beating
Kakuryu with better sumo.
Okay, time to bite the muse on the nipple a bit. Bloody lipped.
M13 Gagamaru (1-4) vs. M16 Osunaarashi (3-2)
Osunaarashi stood up tall like a rod, grabbed Gagamaru by the golova, gave him
one shove, then tried to pull him. That was a bad idea, as Gagamaru stayed
lower, pushed consistently forward, and easily took advantage of that pull. As
they went out, Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) succeeded in throwing Gagamaru to the
dirt, but it was too late, as he'd already been oshi-dashi'ed to deliverance.
M15 Chiyooh (2-3) vs. M13 Ichinojo (4-1)
Chiyooh fights like a waffle soaking in melty butter: soggy and cooled down. His
one move here was to flap out of the way. The Mongolith (Ichinojo) grabbed him
and thrust him out, oshi-dashi, with one amazingly long arm, like a dude closing
the refrigerator door angrily to keep the goblins from swarming out of it.
M12 Takakeisho (1-4) vs. M15 Sadanoumi (5-0)
I've been patiently waiting for this new big clot, Takakeisho, to show us
something, and this was his first good bout this tournament. He dropped big fat
tsuppari on Sadanoumi like soup clouds raining steaks, kept those piggy legs
stomping forward in weensy little determined steps, and got his body leaned
forward in a good angle, not too steep, not to shallow, just right, like that
girl who visited the three bears. Sadanoumi tried to tsuppari back, but his arms
were knocked out like bad block towers, and he held on to destruction only,
M14 Chiyotairyu (2-3) vs. M12 Daishomaru (2-3)
Daishomaru did absolutely nothing here, staring down at the ground with his arms
hanging down like a plague stricken donkey, so Chiyotairyu, who hasn't won a
match in a positive way yet this tournament, was able to spank him with one good
tachi-ai shove and one good pull'n'roll. Donkey trotters for dinner,
M11 Kagayaki (2-3) vs. M14 Chiyootori (1-4)
These guys were working away at each other's faces, drunken plasterers slashing
daub onto wire-mesh store dummies when Kagayaki decided to pull, and whoops!,
there went the even-steven momentum, and there ploundered Chiyootori forward and
poundered Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki) out, oshi-dashi.
M11 Nishikigi (2-3) vs. M9 Ishiura (1-4)
Stone Ass (Ishiura) henka'ed left first, then skipped right second, and like it
would be for most of us that was enough jittery hardbody in front of his eyes to
dizzy Nishikigi. Hiki-otoshi, and Ishiura finally had that tricksy vicskstory
we've been waiting for him to resort to but wishing he wouldn't.
M8 Hokutofuji (4-1) vs. M10 Takanoiwa (5-0)
Hokutofuji drove his truck out of the yard, and danged if there wasn't a cow
right there and he hit it. Cow was ornery too, and started pushing back on his
truck and spinning the truck wheels out behind him, but Hokutofuji kept his foot
on the gas and his front bumpers hard 'gainst that cow, and pretty soon had that
cow all scared and back-arounds sideways, and he bash-crashed it through his
fence, yori-kiri. I got to get me one these trucks. This here is a pretty good
M10 Sokokurai (5-0) vs. M8 Chiyonokuni (3-2)
These two cheats sprung slowly at each other in the slow kind of tachi-ai you
see from guys who don't want to get henka'ed too bad. Little Chiyonokuni was the
first to pull his own ripcord, firing up a blast-o-matic of quick tsuppari, and
Sokokurai went to the edge off it but, surprise!, sprang to a different spot and
wasn't there to be pushed out after all. However, give credit to our little
nationalist, Chiyonokuni, as he quickly got back after it with more blender
arms. This was Chiyonokuni's game all the way, and when you fight at the other
guy's speed, you lose. Sokokurai eventually fell down in the face of it,
M9 Kaisei (2-3) vs. M7 Aoiyama (2-3)
Whale versus whale. Boobs versus boobs. Meat sweating on meat. Our best blubber
boats went at it in a fitting way, bodying all over each other like piglets in a
womb. They leaned on each other. The only real grip was a left outside by
Aoiyama, as they pressed one flank together and kept the other apart in this
fleshly long wrassle. Aoiyama tired of it first, tried a kick, tried a charge,
but that was rash, he had nothing to work with, and Kaisei stepped to the side
and push-rolled Aoiyama's ham shanks to the sawdust killing floor, sukui-nage.
M5 Takekaze (3-2) vs. M6 Kotoyuki (2-3)
Kotoyuki didn't look like he was trying too hard here, as he got all wrong-directioned
off the tachi-ai and was staring into the crowd, and when he turned back to
Takekaze he let himself be pulled down hataki-komi. Then again, he was facing
the wrong way because he'd just tried to knock Takekaze out with his elbow off
the tachi-ai and, well, it takes some doing to get your body into a position to
try that. Okay dude stop being so manly and just beat him reg'lar like, mebbe.
M7 Myogiryu (1-4) vs. M5 Yoshikaze (2-3)
Myogiryu struck Yoshikaze in the pumpkin, then grabbed him by his Michelin, then
menaced him close and personal like that guy with bad breath on the train.
Yoshikaze punched Myogiryu about the shoulders, which worked less well.
Oshi-dashi win, Myogiryu.
M6 Chiyoshoma (3-2) vs. M3 Ikioi (3-2)
This was a good hard working under-the-viaduct labor crew bout. Ikioi started it
by trying to tear Chiyoshoma's body off by the arm. Then they settled into a
brief stalemate, cans slung back, ridiculously long arms reaching, reaching,
reaching for far, far off belts. Chiyoshoma tried a force out from there, and
Ikioi won the match with a maki-kae, twisting one of his meat shivs to the
inside, whence he spun Chiyoshoma over him, past, and out, in the most beautiful
throw you'll see today, sukui-nage. It can be beautiful, people!
Takarafuji (1-4) vs. M4 Endo (3-2)
Takarafuji stood there so actionless, like a block of cheese upright on the
cheeseboard, I thought he was trying to lose. Endo pushed upwards at him
diligently. But Takarafuji-cheese was just being patient, because the next
moment he stepped aside and Endo rolled past him, a grape along the woodgrain,
and Takarafuji-cheese turned and pushed him out, oshi-dashi, juice.
K Takayasu (3-2) vs. K Tochinoshin (0-5)
Amazing! Tochinoshin picked Takayasu up, put him on his hip, whirled him around
two or three times, then slung him about ten meters into the crowd, hammer-throw
style. Wow! Okay, I just made that up. Tochinoshin withdrew with a knee injury
that was easy to see yesterday; Takayasu got the free win.
O Kisenosato (5-0) vs. S Shodai (3-2)
match between two of The Big Five, you kind of knew how this had to go. Like
I've said, Shodai likes to get to the inside, and he did that here. However, he
kept his left hand up high, didn't go for the belt, didn't try what looked to me
like some very obvious tip overs, and tapped his left fingers up and down on
Kisenosato's upper back like a nurse burping a baby. Neither guy looked like
they were giving it much more effort than you'd give to a fairly passionate hug.
Their white, creamy milk skin with its dusting of flour remained uncreased by
springing sweat rivers. Big Baby Kise stood there firmly, then bullied the
smaller Shodai out, kime-dashi. Hard won or sometimes not, Kisenosato's wins are
based on being the immovable object that beats the irresistible force: he
doesn't do much, just plays up his heaviness and solidity, keeps guys in front
of him, then slowly moves the mountain to the Maegashira. You may think it looks
like he isn't doing anything to win. Okay, YOU try to move him. He's one large
M1 Mitakeumi (3-2) vs. O Kotoshogiku (2-3)
The mystery of Mitakeumi, Part III. On our first two days of examination,
Mitakeumi was pretty consistent, getting a belt hold and keeping close to his
opponent, lots of aggression and forward, fairly upright movement. Would the
same hold try today? Except for the belt, yes. I think I'm kind of ready to say
his game is based on speed, aggression, and forward movement; he used all of
that here to gloriously dominate Kotoshogiku, springing forcefully off the
tachi-ai and jamming both arms deep underneath, so far he never had to go for
the belt. He then juddered forward like a boat trailer you just lost control of,
drowning Kotoshogiku in the docking bay, yori-kiri.
Could this have been Kotoshogiku's last match? 2-4 is precarious for him, and
going out on a loss to another of the big five would be fitting symbolism, and a
nice nod. Yeah, I'm skeptical of the speed of the rise of Bully Goat
(Mitakeumi), but you know what? There's a lot to like in his sumo.
O Terunofuji (1-4) vs. M4 Tochiohzan (1-4)
These guys were pogoing around the ring like low-slung jack-in-the-boxes,
holding onto each other's shoulders and arms, when Tochiohzan popped out of
there like a bottle cork, flipping his feet up behind him and putting his hands
on the ground. I am down, down, down on Terunofuji, and this looked unnatural as
hell. Terunofuji did nothing to make Tochiohzan fall. An optimist might say
Tochiohzan tried to step back too fast while still being held at the arms by
Terunofuji and hence lost his balance, but this "hiki-otoshi" by Terunofuji had
no hiki to cause the otoshi. Tochiohzan either fell by witchcraft or this match
M2 Shohozan (2-3) vs. O Goeido (3-2)
Look out, Goeido is a frenetic fiery fire frog on fire! As Shohozan lashed at
him from above like a tin wind chime in a typhoon, Goeido blasted beastly
battlegas beisterveldts all over his sternum, bongo drum beater bringing a
boatload of booty bester. Then it was all just too much and he relaxed and
reached down and grabbed Shohozan by the public underwear they all wear and
hugged him out that final intimate inch over the straw, yori-kiri. Goeido,
Dancing Gaslight Mayfly!
S Tamawashi (4-1) vs. Y Harumafuji (3-2)
me, when one guy does the splits and the other does a full body flip upside down
and onto his back out of the ring, who is the winner? This match started a lot
like the previous one, with lots of feisty arm grappling, but it ended wholly
differently, as the Yokozuna's momentum crushed Tamawashi down from above,
Tamawashi's legs going out in opposite directions as the laws of physics forced
his body down between them onto the straw and his body threatened to hit it
crotch first. However, in order to get in a position to exert this much downward
force, Harumafuji was soon upside down and completely in the air, head pointed
down, feet to the ceiling. He kept on going and landed hard on his back on the
edge of the ring, from whence he crashed the rest of the way down. There was no
question he was the winner, oshi-taoshi, as Tamawashi's corporeal obliteration
happened before Harumafuji's did, but was this a cost-benefit winner for the
Yokozuna? He was so beat up yesterday you could tell it hurt a lot even to squat
to draw "heart" in the air. This can't have helped. No textbook victory--just
Kakuryu (3-2) vs. M2 Arawashi (0-5)
During a lackluster tachi-ai by Kakuryu, Arawashi grabbed a quick outside left,
deep down on the belly in the belt, that he would never give up. Kakuryu then
followed him about a bit, but when Kakuryu paused to try to push Arawashi off of
him, annoyed, like a guy swatting at a fly, Arawashi swarmed onto him, a beard
of bees, and buzz-sawed him mercilessly straight out of the ring, yori-kiri.
Great stuff here from Arawashi--as the crowd waxed utterly indifferent--against
a demoralized and all done Kakuryu.
Y Hakuho (5-0) vs. M3 Okinoumi (2-3)
with legs that might as well be made of tempered steel, and a back like a sheet
of manganese, cobalt, and nickel, Hakuho placed wrought iron arms under the
fleshy ones attached to Okinoumi's mortal shoulders and drove forward,
horsepower and thresher mechanics driven to a high whine of oxidizing
performance by his engine busting coal to diamonds. And crumpled Okinoumi to the
straw, yori-taoshi, like grass in a wind of copper-zinc shrapnel. Wish I could
write that everyday about him, and probably could, if he'd let me.
Tomorrow Mike winds the good clock 'til the springs shatter the frame.
Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
start off the day reviewing a significant piece of Japanese culture spawned by
an interesting occurrence yesterday that I have never before seen in sumo. It
came after the Kisenosato - Shohozan match where the referee got caught in the
line of fire of the bout's flow and had to duck out of the way at the end of the
contest. He knew who had won, but he was a bit disoriented, and so he
emphatically yet mistakenly pointed his gunbai in Shohozan's favor. He could
just tell by the reaction of everyone and the general atmosphere in the arena
that he was pointing in the wrong direction, so he sheepishly pointed back over
towards Kisenosato and started to explain something verbally to the head judge.
It caused some confusion generally, and so they called a mono-ii just to make
sure everyone was on the same page.
The mono-ii was expectedly short because the bout was not that close, but the
chief judge, Tomozuna-oyakata, couldn't explain the situation. He fumbled and
stuttered and paused and fumbled and stuttered and paused again and took a
really long time to explain what had just happened with the conference. Even
then, the explanation was not concise, and it was an extremely awkward situation
that took longer than the actual conference itself. And it wasn't just me
because after he declared Kisenosato the winner, the first words out of
Shirasaki Announcer's mouth were, "He really struggled with that explanation" to
which Mainoumi said, "I was starting to get nervous there myself."
I was quite fascinated by Tomozuna's inability to communicate the mono-ii, and
the problem was that the referee's actions were a first for everyone, and there
was nothing that either of the rikishi did with their footwork or actions that
made the bout close either. Everything fell outside of the normal script that
the chief judge uses when he explains the mono-ii, and so Tomozuna-oyakata
didn't know how to explain it.
While the script is not set per se, they all say the same exact thing with the
same cadence as follows:
Tadaima no kyougi ni tsuite setsumei itashimasu.
(I will now give an explanation of the conference)
Gyouji no gunbai ha [rikishi name] ni agarimashita ga,
(The referee pointed in favor of so and so, but...)
At this point they'll point out what action caused them to question the call
like so and so's foot looked to have stepped out first or so and so's body may
have touched down first, and then they give their final judgment.
The problem, though, was two-fold: 1) the referee pointed in one direction, and
then he pointed in another direction...a circumstance that just doesn't happen.
And then 2) there wasn't a definitive move by either of the rikishi that
warranted the conference, so there was nothing to explain on that front either.
The result was Tomozuna-oyakata's complete inability to communicate because the
circumstance didn't follow the normal script. He got the first line of the
script right because there was indeed a conference that needed explaining, but
he was at a complete loss for words beyond that. Even the referee was a bit
confused when he initially made the call because he wasn't sure if he was
allowed to point in one rikishi's favor after emphatically pointing to the other
guy. And then the judges took turns kind of half raising their hands as if to
say, "Do we get up to discuss this?" Everybody knew who had won, but everything
broke protocol, and so no one was sure how to handle it.
In Japanese culture, there's a popular saying that translates to, "The nail that
sticks out gets hammered down." And so nobody wants to stick out. Nobody wants
to break away from the norm. People just accept the way things are, and they
don't question them. Everything is canned from the responses given by rikishi
after a win or kachi-koshi to the explanation given by the chief judge after a
mono-ii. I don't know how many times I've been watching Japanese news and they
interview someone on the street after an accident or a natural disaster or
whatever, and I'm
like, "I know exactly what they're going to say before they say it." The same goes for the "Hero Interview" after a sports event when they
interview the star of the game, who repeats the same old clichés that end with,
"kore kara mo ganbatte ikitai to omoimasu. Hai!" (I will continue to try my best
hereafter). Then there's my favorite line at the end of every single newscast on
every single channel in Japan: "Nyu-su wo o-tsutae shimashita," or "We just
conveyed the news." Yeah, I know. I've been sitting here for 15 minutes
watching; you don't need to tell me you did something that I just watched you
The whole point of this intro is that it's far easier for the Japanese public to
accept what's going on in sumo rather than to question it. Nobody wants to
disturb the system and nobody dares to think outside of the box, and so what the
media says goes; the results on the dohyo are straight up; Endoh is a rikishi to
get excited about; Kisenosato is a legitimate candidate for Yokozuna; Shohozan
and Mitakeumi are legitimate multi kin-boshi guys this basho; and the Mongolians
are vulnerable. On and on the headlines go, and on and on the venue outside of
Fukuoka sells out every single day.
It's all a brilliant scheme, but it goes back to my question in an earlier
report: where's the substance? I talked about the mindset of a female Endoh fan
a few days ago, and I will tell you exactly how her mind would flow if you asked
her the question: Why do you like Endoh?
First thought unspoken: I like him because he's kakko-ii, or handsome, but if I
admit that I'll appear shallow.
Second thought also unspoken: I can't think of any other reason why I like him
Actual verbalized response if she's semi-bright: I like him because he tries
People like Endoh because they're told to like Endoh, and that's just how this
society operates. I'll watch the last 40 minutes or so of a broadcast where
usually two-thirds of the bouts are obviously fixed...always to the benefit of
the big five, and it amazes me that people can't clue into it.
Enough of that. These are just the types of thoughts that roll around my noggin
when the sumo isn't enough to keep up my interest (in other words, all the
As we move to the day's bouts, we begin with M13 Gagamaru who had a tough time
budging M13 Ichinojo from the tachi-ai, and when Ichinojo got his right arm up
and under Gagamaru's left, he nudged him off balance enough to where he could
easily fell him with a methodic tsuki-otoshi shove down. Ichinojo is a cool 4-1
while Gagamaru falls to 1-4.
M12 Daishomaru's henka to his left was slow developing, but M15 Chiyooh is
proving to be as hapless as they come, and he couldn't adjust allowing
Daishomaru to move fully left and then just place a cheap shove into the
rookie's side to send him across and out in a lackluster affair. Both of these
guys finish the day at 2-3.
Let's set up the next bout with a multiple-choice question.
The following is M12 Takakeisho's expression after...
1) He lost on day 1
2) He lost on day 2
3) He lost on day 3
4) He lost on day 4
5) None of the above
Against M16 Osunaarashi, the bout briefly looked to go to migi-yotsu, but the
Ejyptian just pulled both arms out wide as if to pull or something. Fact was, he
was just leaving himself vulnerable to whatever Takakeisho could muster, and the
rookie probably sensed what was happening, so his attack came in the form of a
bland oshi-dashi with Osunaarashi just standing there all mukiryoku. I took the
snapshot above after Takakeisho clinched the bout, and sheesh, you'd think a kid
would be happier having just won his first career Makuuchi bout. Problem was, he
knew it was given to him, and all it does is just fluster him further. Getting
your ass kicked by Chiyooh is insulting enough, and then to actually have the
message sent of, "Hey, you're not good enough so let me BUY you your first win."
That expression up above is just teeming confidence, and Takanohana-oyakata obviously
read my day 3 comments and finally put a crowbar to his billfold and bought the
rook a win. As for Osunaarashi, I'm sure he's content hoarding cash at 3-2.
M15 Sadanoumi struck well getting his left arm to the inside against M11
Nishikigi, but he put his right arm up high as if to position for a neck throw.
It was a curious move, but Nishikigi was of no mind to counter, and so Sadanoumi
just bullied him back and out in mere seconds chest to chest. Something doesn't
add up in Sadanoumi's 5-0 start. Nishikigi falls to 2-3, but he coulda and
shoulda put up a better fight than this. Look for Sadanoumi to
buy...er...uh...obtain a quick kachi-koshi and then fade down the stretch to a
9-6 record or thereabouts. At M15 on the banzuke, he has no room for error this
M10 Sokokurai couldn't stick in close against M14 Chiyotairyu at the tachi-ai,
so he got the hell out of there moving to his right as Chiyotairyu chased with
arms extended. Tairyu never did connect with a full-on punch, and so the crafty
Sokokurai was able to get the left arm firmly inside and force the bout to the
belt. Chiyotairyu never did let him get that right outer grip, but he didn't
need it. Chiyotairyu's own left inside grip was getting looser by the second as
Sokokurai's belt unraveled, and in the end, Sokokurai just spun his foe around
and down with that left inside belt throw. Good stuff form Sokokurai who moves
to 5-0 while Chiyotairyu falls to 2-3.
M10 Takanoiwa struck M14 Chiyootori with a nice right kachi-age that knocked
Chiyootori much higher than he wants to be, and when he attempted to rush back
in and duck down, Takanoiwa just moved to his right timing a perfect slapdown of
his hapless foe. Shooting fish in a barrel for Takanoiwa, who is a sweet 5-0 if
you need him while Chiyootori is 1-4.
M11 Kagayaki came with a right paw to M9 Kaisei's throat that had little effect,
but Kaisei's reaction was to pull his right arm out of the inside position and
up around Kagayaki's neck as if he was going to set up a neck throw. When was
the last time we ever saw Kaisei try and set up a neck throw two seconds out of
the gate. Who does he think he is? Goeido? It was all a ruse in order to give
Kagayaki the easy moro-zashi, which he used to bulldoze Kaisei back and out in a
I mean, let's just break this all down rationally. Kaisei is a proven rikishi
and a bitch at the belt. Kagayaki is a mediocre push guy if that who can't do
anything once his initial linear momentum is broken. Does the flow of this bout
even make sense? Well, it does if the bout was thrown in Kagayaki's favor, which
was the clear case here as both rikishi end up at 2-3.
Though M9 Ishiura posted a better record last basho than M8 Hokutofuji when both
were rookies, it was clear as day that Hokutofuji had more game, and it showed
today as Ishiura moved left looking for a cheap tsuki to the side, but
Hokutofuji showed good speed in order to square back up and get his left arm up
and under Ishiura who ducked down low. With the smaller Ishiura wadded into a
ball, Hokutofuji easily grabbed the right outer grip over the top and just flung
Ishiura over and down with a brilliant uwate-nage. Hokutofuji's yaocho-less 4-1
has been my favorite performance of the basho by far. As for Ishiura, he falls
to a yaocho-less 1-4.
I suppose I'll mention at this point two old ladies dressed in pink sitting in
the second row directly behind the judge who gives the orders to go. Oh wait,
one of those two people is actually a dude!! I still haven't figured out which
one, but this couple is what's referred to in Japan as "o-warai," or comedians.
The ironic thing is that there's little comedic talent involved here, and so the
two wear costumes that are bright and gay--usually in pink--to mask the fact
that they're not actually funny. Their names are Hayashiya Pe and Pako, and part
of their shtick is to take pictures of them out and about and turn it into
perceived comedy. Well, just prior to the Ishiura bout you could see Pe get all excited
as if he was going to ...uh...Pe his pants (bada boom!) and get out the camera and point it directly towards Ishiura. My question is
what prompted them to get all excited about Ishiura? Was it because of his sumo
this basho? Was it because of his sumo last basho? Or was it because the media
hyped him to no end in November completely disregarding the content of his sumo?
M7 Aoiyama used his bruising tsuppari to keep M6 Chiyoshoma away from the belt,
but credit Shoma for trying again and again to get inside. Aoiyama wasn't going
to let this one go, however, and after enough bruising shoves, he was able to
work his left arm to the inside and use his length advantage to grab the right
outer, and Chiyoshoma knew he was done at this point because the dude just let
up and allowed Aoiyama to walk him back and across without further argument.
Aoiyama moves to just 2-3 with the win while Chiyoshoma cools a bit at 3-2.
M5 Takekaze put both hands up high at the tachi-ai as if to set up a pull, but
all that did was allow M8 Chiyonokuni to get to the inside moro-zashi style.
Kuni's not exactly a belt guy, so instead of enjoying a nice snug hug, he opted
to tsuki-dashi Takekaze back and out, but regardless, it was a lopsided affair
in favor of Chiyonokuni as both rikishi end the day 3-2.
M6 Kotoyuki offered two hands into M4 Endoh's throat at the tachi-ai, but there
were no de-ashi nor resolve to the charge, and so Endoh easily shaded right and
shoved at Kotoyuki's left side spinning him around 180 degrees setting up the
okuri-dashi win. This one was too easy, but you gotta build up Endoh somehow. He
moves to 3-2 with the gift while Kotoyuki sacrifices a lot of kensho money
falling to 2-3.
M7 Myogiryu shaded to his left against M4 Tochiohzan, but what good does that do
if you're not going to full out henka? None is the answer because Tochiohzan
easily squared back up against his opponent securing moro-zashi, and as Myogiryu
tried to squirm out of it, Oh was right there to just push Myogiryu back and out
for good. Both rikishi end the day at 1-4, but Myogiryu looks done in this
M3 Ikioi used his length to tsuppari M5 Yoshikaze away from the belt causing the
two to grapple in the center of the ring for a few seconds before the bout
ultimately turned to hidari-yotsu. Yoshikaze positioned himself at an angle
disallowing the firm inside position from Ikioi, but Ikioi's got that kote-nage
in his arsenal, and so he used it to swing Yoshikaze around and eventually down
to the dohyo. This was just a soft bout all around and reflected the general
theme of sumo we see these days. Ikioi moves to 3-2 while Yoshikaze falls to 2-3.
I was kind of hoping we'd get a better send-off into the yaocho portion of the
broadcast from that last bout, but oh well. In a predictable bout, Komusubi
Tochinoshin kept his arms way outside against Sekiwake Shodai allowing the
big-fiver to get moro-zashi, and once obtained, Tochinoshin attempted one of
those kote-nage throws where you stay in front of your opponent, and the result
was the Private just taking a backwards dive to the dirt abise-taoshi style.
Abise-taoshi?? Every time I see that kimari-te, I think back to the 1995 Kyushu
basho playoff when Takanohana took a similar dive against his older brother,
Wakanohana, in the yusho playoff bout. This spill was absolutely comical to me,
but apparently the two ladies in pink above didn't seem to get it. Oh well. Shodai continues
to be propped up at 3-2 while Tochinoshin falls to 0-5 and, ours isn't to
question. I see from the wires that Tochinoshin has now withdrawn from the
tournament citing an injury to the meniscus on his right now, but as the saying
goes, "Let up in sumo and someone's gonna get hurt."
M1 Takarafuji gave up moro-zashi to Ozeki Kotoshogiku from the get-go, so
Kotoshogiku just did what he always does: charge straight forward at your
opponent's mercy. There would be no mercy today, however, as Takarafuji easily
pivoted to his left near the bales and felled the hapless Ozeki to the dirt with
a nice outer belt throw. That was just Takarafuji's first win of the tournament,
but you can't blame him for at least trying to get something during the
joubansen. Kotoshogiku falls to 2-3, and when are they going to put this guy out
of his misery?
Ozeki Terunofuji continued to display intentional lackluster sumo standing there
today against Sekiwake Tamawashi, who used a nice choke hold to stand the Ozeki
even more upright and then thrust him back and out in less than three seconds
with zero resistance. There's no question that Terunofuji was mukiryoku here,
and as much as Tamawashi has been on a roll the last few basho, he doesn't have
the game to pull of this kind of win if Fuji the Not So Terrible is trying. The
legitimate Ozeki candidate this basho moves to 4-1 while Terunofuji falls to
Ozeki Goeido kind of stutter-stepped forward at the tachi-ai against M2
Arawashi, who was just standing there defenseless, and so Goeido got the right
inside and left outer grip and forced Arawashi back and out in maybe two
seconds. Arawashi may as well have been a blow-up doll because that's the kind
of resistance he showed his attacker. He falls to 0-5 and just adds to the
string of horrible bouts the last portion of the broadcast. As for Goeido, he
moves to 3-2 with the gift.
Kisenosato and M1 Mitakeumi hooked up in kind of that awkward stance where
each guy has a paw to the neck and the other paw at the elbow. In that fashion
they circled around the center of the ring a few times before Mitakeumi got the
left inside position. He instinctively used it to force the Ozeki back, and he
had the Kiddie back against the straw with the clear path to the right outer
grip and an easy victory, but he refrained of course allowing the Ozeki to force the youngster back
to the center of the ring, and after another turn or two where Mitakeumi refused
to grab the outer grip the entire time, it was Kisenosato who wouldn't ya know
it finally come away with the right outer in the end. At that point, Mitakeumi's
mission was accomplished, and he just gave up allowing himself to be walked back
and out nice and tidy. It's so painful watching this kind of "sumo" as
Kisenosato moves to 5-0 while Mitakeumi falls to 2-3. For the record to you
slow'uns, Mitakeumi coulda kicked the Ozeki's ass if he wanted to. Course,
most of the major sports dailies attempted to portray the opposite be choosing
to run the following photo accompanied with grand headlines:
Yokozuna Kakuryu used bland tsuppari against Komusubi Takayasu, but there were
no de-ashi involved, and so the two just stood there in the enter of the ring
trading ho-hum shoves. Kakuryu could have bulldozed his foe out at any time
because Takayasu didn't deliver a single effective shot, but at around the
five-second mark, Kakuryu suddenly lurched to his right and found himself on the
dohyo floor thanks to...well, thanks to nothing. Takayasu delivered one of those
try and catch-up shoves with the left, but Kakuryu just flailed himself to the
dohyo giving Takayasu the win. More than doing Takayasu a favor here, Kakuryu
was sending the message of, "Hey, I'm not going to stand in anyone's way this
basho." He's keeping his commitment too at 3-2 while Takayasu improves to the
Yokozuna Hakuho used a right kachi-age against M2 Shohozan at the tachi-ai
before shading to his left to do nothing but let Shohozan back into the bout,
and so the two traded shoves in a wild and unstable affair that actually saw
Hakuho pushed back near the straw, but he took advantage of an extended right
arm from Shohozan and just shoved him up and under sending Darth Hozan down to
the clay to the disappointment of the crowd. This was ugly sumo from both
parties, and all Hakuho's doing here (and as he's done most of the basho) is
just project this image of sloppy sumo so that when the time is right, he'll
take that dive and none of the sheep will think anything of it. For the time
being, though, Hakuho is 5-0 while Shohozan falls to 2-3.
In the day's final affair, Yokozuna Harumafuji demanded the deep inside position
with the left against M3 Okinoumi, and when Okinoumi fought off the right outer
belt attempt from the Yokozuna, Harumafuji shifted gears and just spun Okinoumi
around and down with a nice left belt throw. Easy peasy Japanesey as the
Yokozuna ekes forward to 3-2 while Okinoumi falls to 2-3.
If you haven't listened to it yet, you MUST listen to
Don Roid's podcast with
Konishiki. He is the best link to the past that we have because he came onto the
scene early enough to fight many of the legends from the 80's. Guys like Akebono
and Musashimaru rose to prominence as well and were key factors to sumo's
success in the 90's, but they were a few years after Konishiki and missed some
of the true legends. To hear Konishiki's story and recollections from the late
80's and early 90's is almost worth his fighting weight in gold.
Harvye's back tomorrow.
Day 4 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
going to dispense with a traditional intro today and go straight to Sekiwake
Tamawashi and his match. Give credit to Mike for saying yesterday it is
Tamawashi (2-1) who looks like the legit next Ozeki. I've thought that myself
several times over the last few tournaments, but never had the guts to actually
say it. He's just too old. Yoshikaze and Tochiohzan both had similar big years
in 2015 and 2014 respectively, but eventually cooled down, and I expected
Tamawashi to do the same starting this tournament. However, here he is,
continuing to dominate and looking just great. In this one he bullied 2-1
Komusubi Takayasu (speaking of competing Ozeki hopefuls!) out oshi-dashi in no
time flat, like beating up some scrub in the practice ring. The guy I keep
thinking of to compare Tamawashi to, trajectory wise, is Kakuryu, who surprised
everyone when he followed five and half year of solid but unspectacular Makuuchi
work by getting to Ozeki, then another couple of years and a surprise Yokozuna
bubble-up. But he was years and years younger than Tamawashi when he became
Ozeki: still just 26, whereas Tamawashi is already 32. The more appropriate
comparison for Tamawashi may be Kyokutenho, who had some very strong stretches
in his 30s and even grabbed a yusho at age 37. My suspicion is that Tamawashi's
just as good as we're seeing, and after years and years of putting in his time,
finally said "my turn now," cashed in some chits, and is being all he can be.
Or, it's Indian Summer--but a nice long one. Whatever it is, let's enjoy it
while it lasts. In either case, there is no question, hype and blinders aside,
that he is the most exciting rikishi on the banzuke right now.
Let's get to the rest of the story.
M16 Osunaarashi (3-0) vs. M15 Sadanoumi (3-0)
What's gotten into Sadanoumi? Very good tachi-ai here; they smacked up hard and
Sada got a right inside and a left outer. Osunaarashi had matching grips, but
was a bit higher up, and that made the difference, as Sadanoumi was impressive
in winning the power battle, yori-kiri, tipping Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) out as
they both fell off the dohyo.
M13 Gagamaru (1-2) vs. M14 Chiyotairyu (1-2)
Gagamaru hit hard and went in nice and low, but he was looking at the ground and
never extended his arms for the belt, making him a sitting duck for the pull by
Chiyotairyu, hataki-komi. Chiyotairyu has looked very bad this tournament.
M12 Takakeisho (0-3) vs. M15 Chiyooh (1-2)
Would love to say our two rookies participated in a high spirited, electrifying
bout of aggressive, youthful sumo, but this was as limp and uninspiring a
Makuuchi affair as you'll see. Takakeisho has looked terrible the first two
days, and so came out firing hard with the tsuppari, but it didn't last, and
wasn't very effective--Chiyooh, who has also has looked really terrible the
first three days, was returning damp-looking tsuppari of his own, or just
holding on to Takakeisho's arms when they landed softly, but that was enough to
stay alive. After a few moments of this they tired, and wrangled with their arms
for position at the head level, standing-around-like. Eventually Takakeisho
bulled in underneath and looked to have the momentum to win--but collapsed wetly
to the ground under a slow and weak looking at-the-edge comeback-pull-down
tsuki-otoshi by Chiyooh. Yeesh!
M14 Chiyootori (0-3) vs. M12 Daishomaru (1-2)
Having three Kokonoe guys go one after the other day and in and day out at the
very bottom of the banzuke is not a good advertisement for the stable. Sometimes
Chiyotairyu has some flair, but otherwise these three represent a bag of
mildewed cement. In this affair Chiyootori can be credited with keeping low,
pushing fairly consistently, and bringing his feet along on the way to an
oshi-dashi victory, but Daishomaru wasn't doing much but pushing a bit himself,
and he's bad at that.
M13 Ichinojo (2-1) vs. M11 Nishikigi (2-1)
Hoo, boy, I'm falling asleep. These two gentlemen stood up so slowly and gently
and I thought it was a false start, but it wasn't, and they snuggled lazily into
each other. Well, Nishikigi did try a bit of a flesh-on-flesh upper body force
out, but that was soon smothered, and there they stood. Ichinojo wormed his
right hand slowly along to the belt inside on the right, then leaned on
Nishikigi. In all fairness, this represented pretty good strategy from Ichinojo,
as after a minute of this Nishikigi was no doubt tired, and Ichinojo's yori-kiri
force out, during which he added an outer left grip and contributed an extra
post-victory shove, was powerful. Okay, I'm waking up.
M9 Kaisei (2-1) vs. M19 Sokokurai (3-0)
Every day I'm like "Kaisei already?" He's a much better wrestler than M9.
Sokokurai represented danger for him, though, in that the guy is wily and that's
definitely something the un-limber Kaisei is not. So, Kaisei knew what he had to
do: as Sokokurai spun this way and that around the dohyo, Kaisei had to follow
him, keep his feet moving forward, keep Sokokurai in front of him, and keep his
back to the center of the ring. Eventually he also moved in close enough to wrap
Sokokurai up, and I thought it was curtains from there. But Sokokurai did well
here, continuing to evade and spin, and lasted until the moment he needed:
Kaisei took a little break and stretched back instead of forward, and Sokokurai
pulled him in and dumped him down, uwate-nage. Unconventional, but in a match
against a behemoth, that is how you do it.
M11 Kagayaki (1-2) vs. M9 Ishiura (0-3)
This was also pretty much a speck against a behemoth; Kagayaki is very tall and
Stone Ass (Ishiura) is very small. I was all set to type, "Ishiura finally gave
up and henka'ed wildly," but he didn't do that at all: give him credit for the
straight up fight from the beginning. As usual, he was getting creamed at it,
too. However, near the tawara he ducked in underneath (plenty of space for him
down there) and got both arms inside. He then wisely (finally!) changed the line
of the match, moving out to his left and taking Kagayaki with him. A little
spinning and there you go, Kagayaki was all in a muddle and found himself being
forced out, oshi-dashi. Same basic principal as in the previous match: a little
guy beating a bigger guy with evasion.
M10 Takanoiwa (3-0) vs. M8 Chiyonokuni (2-1)
I don't know why I don't like Takanoiwa, but I don't. Something in his facial
expression reminds me of "The Li'l Yokozuna," Hokutoriki, perhaps? Anyway, this
match will do as reason enough. Chiyonokuni was slapping away at him, and
Takanoiwa stepped back, made a couple of flailing windmill pulls, and dashed
Chiyonokuni to the ground, tsuki-otoshi. Chiyonokuni needed to do a much better
job of bringing along his feet, too. Bad sumo from both guys.
M7 Myogiryu (0-3) vs. M7 Aoiyama (1-2)
This was the worst match of the day, an inexplicable affair of two guys standing
up tall and pushing on each other's heads. Myogiryu started it with a bit of a
backwards-and-left tachi-ai cheat, but somehow when he then pushed on Aoiyama's
head, that was enough to skate his huge opponent swiftly out of the ring,
oshi-dashi. I almost wrote, "I refuse to report on this match." But I didn't!
M8 Hokutofuji (2-1) vs. M6 Kotoyuki (2-1)
"I am the master of my own happiness." Repeat to self ten times. Enjoy sumo.
Hokutofuji was very helpful in this. He offered relentless, smothering pressure,
pushing up in torrents on Kotoyuki's teats, chin, and face, and drove him
methodically off the dohyo, yori-kiri. Kotoyuki added to the fun by continuing
to stagger backwards even after he'd touched down outside the dohyo, falling
over his tea kettle on the other side of the gyoji like a pin on bowling night.
M5 Takekaze (3-0) vs. M6 Chiyoshoma (2-1)
Someone finally did something smart against Takekaze: pulled him. It was just a
matter of who was going to do it first in this one, and Chiyoshoma gave one good
shove and then reversed, hiki-otoshi.
M5 Yoshikaze (2-1) vs. M4 Endo (1-2)
an indication of how far Endo has come that Yoshikaze really wanted to beat him
here but just couldn't. Yoshikaze lined up with both fists on the ground
Kakizoe-style and right up at the white lines, and came out hard with shoves and
tsuppari. He drove Endo this way and that around the ring, throwing in a pull
here, a wicked arm-wrench there. But none of it got Endo out of the ring. Endo's
main role here was to maintain: keep his eyes on Yoshikaze, resist. Eventually
Yoshikaze rolled off him in the wrong direction in some of this caffeinated
hyperactivity, and Endo was there to push Yoshikaze out, oshi-dashi. Endo ain't
great, but he isn't bad, and my fear is that that will translate into a
Goeido-like future for him when somebody decides, "okay, I guess we can go ahead
and make chicken salad, at least." He's okay right here, right now, just like
M3 Okinoumi (1-2) vs. M4 Tochiohzan (0-3)
Tochiohzan is toast. Burning in your toaster. Smelling like a scorched chestnut.
He loves moro-zashi--for years it was the sole but formidable tool in his
game--and he got it here. But Okinoumi held onto him in that position,
Tochiohzan's moro-zashi as deep as tepid lagoon water, and walked him back and
out, oshi-dashi. Charcoal.
Terunofuji (1-2) vs. M3 Ikioi (1-2)
Much as I'm down on Terunofuji of late ("Fuji the Terrible" has taken on
unfortunately new meaning), the result in this match was nonsense. Terunofuji
had Ikioi all wrapped up and was driving him back, then reversed momentum of his
own accord, went backwards, then all of sudden released Ikioi on the left side
and awkwardly fell down across him, putting his hands on the dirt on his right
side, sukui-nage, popping unnaturally out of there like a fat snap-dragon.
M1 Takarafuji (0-3) vs. O Goeido (1-2)
Push, push, push by Goeido. Hang on, hang on, hang on by Takarafuji. Goeido had
both arms inside, which helped, and did a little adjustment that brought his
head lower late in this one and let him finally drive Takarafuji to his end.
Takarafuji tried to unleash a pop-out throw at the bales, but it was too late
and he went down, sukui-nage, in this good looking bout.
O Kisenosato (3-0) vs. M2 Shohozan (2-1)
survived this one by three parts luck and one part guile. Darth Hozan is a tough
character and hits hard: he was giving Kisenosato nothing and driving hard from
underneath. Kisenosato had nothing going on: standing tall, no grip, no
momentum. However, as we've seen often today, evasion is the bee's knees if
you're getting outclassed, and Kisenosato turned Shohozan's line into an arc so
that when they reached the straw Kisenosato no longer had his back to oblivion,
but rather had it headed ever so slightly back towards the center, and he
flipped and pushed Shohozan down to the bitter defeat, tsuki-otoshi, right on
the straw. Not Yokozuna or championship quality sumo, but he'll take it.
S Shodai (1-2) vs. O Kotoshogiku (2-1)
Shodai sacrificed the tachi-ai momentum to make sure he stretched both arms down
in low and scooped inside onto Kotoshogiku, and it almost cost him as
Kotoshogiku drove him almost all the way out. However, Kotoshogiku's weakened
twilight-years power wasn't enough to finish it off, and Shodai used the inside
position he'd earned and worked out a yori-kiri victory.
Y Hakuho (3-0) vs. K Tochinoshin (0-3)
This was a classic match of chest-to-chest sumo by two big, strong wrestlers.
Hakuho instantly had the left outside, and a split second later the right inside
as well. However, Tochinoshin is a bear, and not so easy thrown, and was able to
get a grip of his own--but only off and on. Hakuho was hampered by a loose
mawashi on Tochinoshin that weakened the leverage of his left outer grip, but it
didn't matter in the end as he won this test of strength with a force out,
M2 Arawashi (0-3) vs. Y Harumafuji (1-2)
Harumafuji grabbed Arawashi by the belt, spun him around, stuck both arms
inside, and forced him out, yori-kiri, ragdoll vs.
combine-harvester-on-amphetamines style. And yet I read that the chair of the
Yokozuna Deliberation Council says if Harumafuji continues his weak showing,
he'll be asked to retire. What?!?? This guy won last July's tournament,
went 12-3 and 11-4 in the two tournaments after that, and now he gets two losses
and he's threatened??? Now, now people, now.
Y Kakuryu (3-0) vs. M1 Mitakeumi (2-1)
hard to play "The Mystery of Mitakeumi" game when he keeps fighting in critical
end-of-day matches. As I mentioned, I want to watch him closely this tournament
and try to figure out who he is as a rikishi. Two days ago, it was all belt.
Today, he started with tsuppari, kind of disappointing, and only went for the
belt at the very end. However, he did win moving forward again, and showed very
well after the tsuppari by being fast, aggressive, and sticking to his opponent
when his opponent retreated. I'd say the two things his victories had most in
common were a crowding his opponent out of the ring. Two is not much to go on,
but we'll have several more cracks at him.
But wait! Once again, I seem to have forgotten there was a Yokozuna in the ring,
and that Mitakeumi's victory represents a crowd-pleasing, startling kin-boshi
for an anointed Rising Star. So let us look at what said Yokozuna did in this
fight. He was beaten fair and square, because he did something stupid: he pulled
at Mitakeumi, a small one that got his momentum going the wrong way, and a big
one after that to really sink himself. Because whatever Mitakeumi is or isn't,
he's a bull, and was instantly able to respond to the pulls and translate them
So, as a result your patented Harvye Subjective Leaderboard on day 4 is as
Hakuho, Kisenosato 4-0
Tomorrow Mike's agate eyes cut like diamonds.
Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
broadcast began today with a piece on Shodai, who was newly-promoted to the
prestigious sanyaku for the current basho. I actually missed the content of the
interview because my feed started at the very end of the interview when they
brought out the cheese and concluded the piece by focusing in close on Shodai's
name up on the denkouban in the arena. Of course, I didn't need to see
the piece. The fact that they are choosing to build up Shodai only fits the
narrative I've been harping on the last year.
Essentially, you have the big five, and by that I mean the rikishi who receive
the focus of the attention in the media and benefit from the majority of yaocho
in the ring. Those five are the Japanese Ozeki, Shodai, and then Mitakeumi.
Concentration on Endoh is hit and miss based on his results from the previous
basho, and with Endoh hanging around the jo'i of late, they are of course
milking that too for all it's worth.
And I should point out that I don't have a problem with it. They're not selling
out the arena day after today because they're emphasizing the dominance of the
Mongolians. They're selling out because they've built the impression that the
Japanese rikishi are holding their own and then backing that up with results in
the ring based off of fake sumo. It's almost as if the elite Mongolian rikishi
have become mere obstacles in a giant obstacle course that you often see on
Japanese variety shows. The entire focus is on the Japanese rikishi trying to make it
through the obstacle course and not the greatness of the obstacles themselves.
Did one of the big five make it past the loose Hakuho rocks in the river? Were
they able to survive the oiled up Harumafuji monkey bars? Were they toppled by
the large Kakuryu boulders rolled down a huge ramp at the end of the course?
Harvye referred yesterday to an interview at the start of the Day 2 broadcast
with Hakkaku-oyakata where Kariya Announcer sat down with him live at the venue
for about 10 minutes right before the start of the Makuuchi bouts. It was a
pretty good piece, actually, and Harvye was spot on when they asked the
commissioner towards the end about Kisenosato's Yokozuna chances this basho. He
hemmed and hawed quite a bit, which tells me that he has no idea what's going to
happen. In order for Kisenosato to be promoted to Yokozuna, he needs cooperation
from 14 of his 15 opponents, and them's a LOT of variables in place that all have
to come together.
I was actually going to comment on that interview as well today. The feed for me
started with the first question (at least I'm pretty sure it was the first
question) which was: "So, what are your thoughts looking back on the year 2016?"
and without missing a beat, Hakkaku-oyakata rattled off, "Kotoshogiku and
Goeido's yusho were highlights as was Kisenosato's winning the Nenkan-Saitasho
award." That award is something I talked about around day 11 during the Kyushu
basho, and it's the award that goes to the rikishi with the most wins in the
calendar year. After day 9 when it was obvious that a Japanese rikishi would not
take the yusho in Kyushu, I started seeing headlines touting Kisenosato as a
possible Saitasho winner, and sure enough, Harumafuji faded enough down the
stretch while Kisenosato navigated through the Mongolian obstacle course to win
Care to guess the last time a Japanese rikishi won that award?? You have to go
clear back to the late 90's when Wakanohana won it with 67 wins. How is it
possible that one of the other Mongolians failed to win 69 bouts last year? It
all goes back to my prediction in July of 2015 when I stated that Terunofuji's
promotion to Ozeki now put four solid Mongolians at the top of the banzuke, and
there simply weren't enough wins to go around to the other rikishi unless
the Mongolians took themselves out of things. And that's exactly what's
happened. Hell, we're only three days in and already Harumafuji and Terunofuji
have taken themselves off of the yusho grid with two losses apiece, and this is
all in an effort to take the focus off of anything but the big five and
Sumo has become all about generating the headlines regarding Japanese rikishi
that will keep the sheep buying tickets to the event and keep them watching on
television, and Hakkaku-oyakata strengthened that meme as the interview went on.
The next question from Kariya Announcer was, "What are you looking forward to in
this new year?" and without missing a beat again, the commissioner mentioned
Shodai, Mitakeumi, and the Ozeki." While he didn't name the Ozeki by their
shikona, or fighting names, I'm positive he also had Terunofuji in mind as part
of that answer. Just sayin' you know.
Incredibly, throughout the entire 10 minutes, the commissioner never once
referenced one of the elite Mongolians until the very end when he was explaining
how they can try to appeal to young kids and get them interested in sumo when
you have more lucrative sports in the spotlight like soccer and baseball. So in
passing, he mentioned the phrase, "what we can pay Hakuho," but that was it. The
entire focus was on the big five when talking about rikishi, and the only time
he mentioned the word Yokozuna was in reference to Kariya's question of whether
or not Kisenosato can reach the rank.
If you look back on 2016, what rikishi made the most progress in the division,
especially the last half of the year?? The obvious answer is Tamawashi, who also
happens to be solidly perched at the Sekiwake rank, but nope, he's not on
anyone's radar because we need to be worried about younger guys like Shodai,
Mitakeumi, and Endoh, and then we also need the Japanese Ozeki to continue to
pull their weight in 2017.
If everything in sumo were spontaneous, wouldn't you at least pay some respect
to the Yokozuna? I mean, you do have three of them on the board, and one of them
is on the brink of 40 career yusho and the record for most wins ever in a
rikishi's career. People who cannot see all of this for what it really is are
simply obtuse. I realize that a lot of people don't have access to the Japanese
broadcast, and the only way they can view the bouts is on YouTube, and so I'm
here to explain the bigger picture using my expert sumo analysis in the process.
On that note, let's get to the action, and it would take quite awhile before we
got a bout worth any snuff. M14 Chiyotairyu struck M16 Osunaarashi without a
purpose and as he leaned forward, Osunaarashi just backed up causing Tairyu to
slip to the dirt face-forward. How about just coming out and trying to kick your
opponent's ass now and then? Chiyotairyu has been fighting so timidly hence his
1-2 record. Osunaarashi is 3-0 if you need him.
M14 Chiyootori stayed low at the tachi-ai keeping M15 Sadanoumi away from the
belt initially, but with Otori not applying pressure in his own right, Sadanoumi
eventually worked his right arm to the inside coupled with a left outer grip,
and he knew exactly what to do from that point. Don't look now but Sadanoumi is
3-0 while Chiyootori is a hapless 0-3.
Ever since the Wolf gave up the ghost, the Kokonoe-beya rikishi have noticeably
deteriorated in the quality of their sumo. Rookie M15 Chiyooh was so desperate
for a win he henka'd to his left against M13 Gagamaru causing YubabaMaru to just
belly flop to the dirt. Just great as both rikishi end the day at 1-2.
What the hell is M13 Ichinojo doing down at this level? When he chooses to fight
(hence win), the bouts are so lopsided. Exhibit A was his match against M12
Daishomaru who shaded left looking scared in the process, and the moment when
Joe got the easy right inside, Daishomaru just quit and walked himself out.
Ichinojo is 2-1 while Daishomaru falls to 1-2, and part of the problem with so
much acceptance of yaocho in this division is that rikishi don't give a fying
M11 Kagayaki threw two hands into rookie M12 Takakeisho at the tachi-ai and kept
up the tsuppari pressure using decent de-ashi to methodically drive Takakeisho
back and out before the rookie could swipe and evade at the edge. Dude, you
gotta move laterally after the first step against Kagayaki, not when you're on
your way out of the dohyo. Credit Kagayaki for sticking to his guns, and what I
really like about this dude is that you know what you're gonna get. He moves to
2-1 with the nice win while Takakeisho falls to 0-3. Before we move on,
Takakeisho rose to the division in a flash fighting under his given name of
Satoh. I really liked what I saw from this guy in the lower ranks, but he looks
completely lost the first three days. Time for Takanohana-oyakata to part with
some cash to get his rookie going.
M10 Sokokurai struck well at the tachi-ai against M11 Nishikigi getting the left
inside, and then he backed up a bit making Nishikigi give chase and allowing
Sokokurai to slip into the right frontal grip. Nishikigi used his sheer bulk to
survive the first force-out volley, but he was gassed on the second attempt, and
Sokokurai must have sensed it because he picked Nishikigi up off of his feet by
the front of the belt and escorted him across the straw drawing the tsuri-dashi winning
technique. It wasn't your typical tsuri-dashi win, but hey, Sokokurai will take it
as he moves to 3-0. As for Nishikigi, he had the size but not the skills to
counter as he suffers his first defeat at 2-1.
Where Takakeisho looks lost, stablemate M10 Takanoiwa is not. Good night!! Today
against M9 Kaisei, Takanoiwa connected on a brilliant right hari-te to Kaisei's
left jaw, and as he did so he moved left grabbing the outer grip sending Kaisei
down in a flash. Takanoiwa likely didn't need that left outer because Kaisei was
seeing stars after that initial face slap, and the collapse by uwate-dashi-nage
was indeed straightway. Takanoiwa is a cool 3-0 while Kaisei falls to 2-1.
M8 Chiyonokuni must have taken notes of the last bout from the base of the dohyo
because he came out against M9 Ishiura with a another quick right hari-te to
Ishiura's face. Kuni continued to move right as he executed his henka and caught
his foe with a tsuki-otoshi using that same right hand that sent Ishiura down in
a second flat...if that. Replays showed that Chiyonokuni's slap did not connect
with Ishiura's jaw, but still, that's gotta feel like a club to the head
nonetheless. Chiyonokuni moves to 2-1, but he used a henka to get there. I guess
what goes around comes around for Ishiura who falls to 0-3.
M8 Hokutofuji caught M7 Myogiryu with an early left tsuki from the tachi-ai that
baited Myogiryu into a pull attempt as he was knocked off balance, but Myogiryu
had no footwork or stability to execute that pull, so another left tsuki and
right push from the youngster sent Myogiryu down for good in mere seconds. This
was one of Hokutofuji's better wins of his brief career as he moves to 2-1 while
Myogiryu's Makuuchi days may be done. He's 0-3.
M6 Kotoyuki redefined ugly today with this weird henka to the right against M7
Aoiyama, but that's not Yuki's game, and so Aoiyama rushed in with tsuki of his
own before grabbing the right inside as the fat lady sung. Aoiyama picks up his
first win of the shootin' match at 1-2 while Kotoyuki falls to the same mark.
At this point there was a noticeable stir in the crowd, and then I remembered..."M4
Endoh!!" If I lived in Japan and someone mentioned to me that Endoh was their
favorite rikishi, I would ask them, "Why do you like him?" I can just picture
the person (it'd be a female) quickly processing that question in her head and
looking confused for a legitimate answer because the only reason people root for him is because they're
told to root for him. What has Endoh ever shown us in the ring to warrant such
hype? Whatever it is, it certainly wasn't on display today against M6
Chiyoshoma. Both rikishi charged hard assuming the hidari-yotsu position, but the
instant Endoh began to press, Shoma moved right and timed a perfect tsuki into
Endoh's left side sending him down with embarrassing ease. I mean, Chiyoshoma
just schooled Endoh in this bout, and when rikishi are out to beat Elvis, this
is the type of contest that results. Chiyoshoma moves to 2-1 with the easy win
while Endoh is below .500 at 1-2.
M4 Tochiohzan offered a mild strike at the tachi-ai against M5 Yoshikaze, but
when Café went for a brief pull, Oh had no de-ashi so when he did move forward
in a reactionary style, Yoshikaze was there to greet him with moro-zashi, and
Monster Drink wasted no time in shoring Tochiohzan upright before scoring the
easy force-out win. Tochiohzan falls to 0-3 with the loss while Yoshikaze is a
M3 Ikioi came with a right kachi-age against M5 Takekaze, but he hurried his
charge without his gal in close and snug, so Takekaze simply darted to his left
sending Ikioi stumbling forward on his way right out of the dohyo with a
perfectly placed left arm to the underside of Ikioi's right. I kind of
feel bad for Ikioi who falls to 1-2. He's a better rikishi than Takekaze, and
he's a superior rikishi compared to Endoh whom he deferred to yesterday, and I
think he saw an easy win today and the chance to get to 2-1, but he just hurried
his charge and paid the price. Don't look now but Takekaze is 3-0.
After the Shodai interview at the first of the broadcast, they showed a replay
of his bout against Arawashi yesterday where Arawashi had the stifling right
frontal grip and left inside while Shodai countered with a meager left of his
own. Course, the Mongolian let him off the hook so many times before bowing in
defeat thanks to nothing that Shodai did. As they showed the replay today, the
guys in the booth were trying to find where Shodai turned the tables yesterday
when Isegahama-oyakata finally attributed it to Shodai's having strong lower
back muscles (haikin ga tsuyoi). What?!
The dude faced a tall task today against fellow Sekiwake, Tamawashi, and I don't
know about any of you, but I knew this bout would be decided on what Tamawashi
decided to do. Fortunately for integrity's sake, he decided to fight straight
forward, and when Shodai was late in his charge, Tamawashi was onto him like
stink to bait with his usual feisty tsuppari attack to which Shodai simply had
no answer. This was such an easy tsuppari win for Tamawashi that he didn't
even need to shower afterwards. The Mawashi is already 2-1, a record that
includes a gift to Kisenosato, and if you had to consider who the next
legitimate candidate would be for Ozeki, it's easily Tamawashi. Unfortunately
for Shodai today, his back muscles didn't seem to have as much strength as he
falls to 1-2.
Two overly-hyped rikishi of late stepped into the ring next with Komusubi
Takayasu taking on Ozeki Goeido. Both rikishi got their left arms to the inside
before Goeido awkwardly leaned into his opponent looking for the right outer
grip. He eventually got it, but Takayasu shook his hips nicely breaking off that
outer grip causing Goeido to panic and go for a quick maki-kae with that right
hand. He didn't get it, and obviously frustrated at this point unable to do
anything, Takayasu just dumped him to the clay with an easy left inside throw.
While Takayasu let Goeido seemingly dictate the pace in this one, he was in
charge the entire time and easily defeated the faux-zeki moving to 2-1 in the
process. Goeido falls to 1-2, but the focus this basho is entirely on
Speaking of the devil, we'd get to see if M2 Arawashi was still in a giving
mood, and thankfully for the sake of the basho and the Japanese fans, he was!! The two rikishi hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Arawashi just
took the stance of a limp rag waiting for the right outer grip from the Ozeki...which came, and then
it was the easy yori-kiri with Arawashi upright and of no mind to counter. Where have I
seen this bad dream before? Kisenosato is an unsurprising 3-0 while Arawashi
falls to 0-3. Before we move on, I need to point out to the slow folk that I'm
not saying they're setting Kisenosato up for the yusho this basho. I'm saying
that his first three opponents let him win.
And the yaocho would continue as Komusubi Tochinoshin hooked up in migi-yotsu
against Ozeki Kotoshogiku who of course managed to grab a left outer with no
defensive posturing from Shin. Since Kotoshogiku's Viagra had yet to kick in,
Tochinoshin actually got a left outer of his own turning the bout to gappuri-migi
yotsu whereupon the Ozeki felled him with a right sukui-nage. As if! The ailing
Kotoshogiku moves to 2-1 thanks to the gift, and all I can say is that I hope
they're paying Tochinoshin (0-3) in cold hard yen and not that useless military
We would unfortunately end the day with zero good bouts from the Ozeki ranks as
Terunofuji looked to defeat M3 Okinoumi. Fuji the Terrible fished for the left
frontal grip at the tachi-ai before giving up a light moro-zashi to Okinoumi,
but before Okinoumi could really get established, Terunofuji moved laterally and
went for this little sideways tug that had no seeming effect other than it must have
freaked Okinoumi out because he just stumbled like a drunkard clear across the
dohyo and out. And it wasn't as if Terunofuji was in tow or anything. I think
Okinoumi just got to the edge and said, "Eh, what's the point?" because he did look
back and still just walked out. Once again, Okinoumi gets no love from the
Association even though he's likely the best JPN rikishi on the board these
days, and Terunofuji is willingly giving up bouts left and right probably at the
behest of his stable master, so you get these two guys in there who are so
disrespected, and what are they fighting for?? Obviously very little as they
both end the day at 1-2.
I hope I didn't spoil anything by declaring Yokozuna Harumafuji already off the
grid, but sure enough, he just couldn't quite figure out M2 Shohozan. And who
can these days?!! Shohozan actually executed a mild henka to his left that drew
zero reaction from Harumafuji. And when I say that, I mean that the Yokozuna
didn't even pivot to square himself back up. Instead, he offered light tsuppari
with no lower body in play giving Shohozan moro-zashi, and while Shohozan ain't
a great rikishi, he's surely not a dumbass, and he just drove the Yokozuna
across and out for the easy win dumping him on Hakuho's lap
for good measure. Harumafuji did offer a half-baked kote-nage
with the left arm as he was being driven back, but he was not committed to
winning here and completely nonchalant at the end. It was just like his bout yesterday against Mitakeumi. Go down and
look at the pic from Harvye's report. A guy at the Yokozuna rank who really
wants to win against mediocre rank and file rikishi does not end up backing
himself out of the ring at an odd angle to his opponent who's standing there
with feet aligned and arms extended as if to say, "What just happened?" Yaocho
just happened, and Harumafuji gifted another win and Kinboshi to Shohozan, who
improves to 2-1 while Harumafuji is done at 1-2. I saw a headline after
Day 3 that declared "This was Harumafuji's 31st kin-boshi!" Meaning what?
Harumafuji is unqualified as a Yokozuna or that he really knows how to play
Well, we've gone five bouts now with Ozeki and Yokozuna without a real fight, so
let's see what Yokozuna Kakuryu and M1 Takarafuji could conjure up. The Kak
executed a nice tachi-ai focusing on neck shoves against the M1, and Takarafuji
frankly had no answer. Kakuryu remained persistent in his attacking forcing
Takarafuji back until he sensed the timing was right, and he ultimately charged
in for the yori-kiri kill. It was pretty ho-hum stuff, but at least it was real.
Kakuryu moves to 3-0 while Takarafuji falls to 0-3.
In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho shaded left in an effort to grab the
left outer grip against M1 Mitakeumi, and when Mitakeumi had no answer, the
Yokozuna just yanked him over to the edge before bodying him back for good
adding a nice dame-oshi to boot.
While Mitakeumi did look confused here, at least he wasn't scared against the
Yokozuna like Shodai, but I do think that the Yokozuna was frustrated that his
opponent didn't put up a fight; thus the dame-oshi. Hakuho improves to 3-0 with the win while Mitakeumi falls
to just 2-1.
Three days in, I think the two main storylines are: 1) Will rikishi continue to
defer to Kisenosato, and 2) Is Tamawashi on the brink of an Ozeki run?
Speaking of Ozeki--or former Ozeki, our man Don Roid sat down with Konishiki
recently, and we'll be posting that interview coming up in the next day or two,
and you won't want to miss that.
Same goes for Harvye's day 4 tomorrow.
Day 2 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
the New Year, friends, all is fresh, the number "7" feels odd on the end of the
digits, the Emperor is in the crowd. The clouds are chilled and tremble, the
blue in the sky is bright. Seven is a lucky number they say, and the tournament
was sold out days ago. So what will the year bring? Luck?
(Note the letters in red; this is the graphic that greets visitors to the Sumo
As always, the storyline in sumo ought to be how many yusho the greatest rikishi
of all time, Hakuho, can take this year. Forty career yusho may come as soon as
warm weather. Or never. He's on a three tournament dry stretch, and if he
doesn't win in January it will be his longest gulch since 2006-2007, when he was
still an Ozeki. Look for Hakuho to either take the prize or for the prophets of
doom to grow deafeningly loud, me amongst them.
Storyline number two is Kotoshogiku, who looked ready for retirement in
November. I'm on record as saying he retires the day he gets his make-koshi
losing record this tournament--but he was made to look very good on Day 1, so
keep your horse pistol in the boot for the moment.
What else? Like me on several of those wonderful limbo days between Christmas
and New Year's, sumo took a nice long nap over the holidays. The current
tournament offers very little of the mad drama that chased the Japanese Ozeki
from tourney to tourney in 2015. No one is up for Yokozuna or Ozeki promotion,
no rookie electrified both the critics and the public in November. Things will
develop quickly, but today the weather is clear and for remaining storylines
your earnest reporter is left with bullet points, not paragraphs:
* Kisenosato, next Ozeki to crown the ant hill? Seems like a
remembered 2016 mirage, but is a likely 2017 reality. Will Mongolian ant-lions
slumber, or dig deep pits?
* Shodai: how quick of a development to Ozeki? Expect an off
tournament, but he will go like crazy at some point in 2016.
* Kakuryu: one can pretend, if one likes, that his attempt to stay
atop the Yokozuna pile holds interest. After the November win, not to mention
him at all seems disrespectful. So.
* Terunofuji: continued mediocrity or not? His storyline has been a
frustrating one, yet expect more of the same in 2017. Not healthy or good enough
right now to threaten Yokozuna, still too good to get demoted.
And really, that's your beer; everything else is happoushu.
M15 Chiyooh (0-1) vs. M15 Sadanoumi (1-0)
Low and inside fastball from Sadanoumi, and Chiyooh whiffed over the top of it.
Sadanoumi attacked hard with his head on Chiyooh's shoulder, his right hand
inside on the body, his left pushing at the belt, and got an easy, dominant
M15 Chiyootori (0-1) vs. M16 Osunaarashi (1-0)
Both these guys are just 24. Boy, Osunaarashi feels like he's been around a long
time, but is still surprisingly young. That's the mark of a guy holding on to
potential for a late-bloomer break-out. However, if healthy he should be
dominating at this low rank, and isn't so far. As with yesterday, he let his
opponent drive him to the bales--Chiyootori had a nice inside right. For the
second straight day, Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) looked like toast. But for the
second straight day he was strong in the end, resisting, picking Chiyootori up a
bit, moving a foot or two back towards the center, then stepping aside and
ushering his foe out for the uwate-dashi-nage win. These have been exciting, but
he needs to get off to better starts than this.
M14 Chiyotairyu (0-1) vs. M13 Ichinojo (1-0)
I figured Chiyotairyu had no chance in this one. His whole strategy is based on
whanging his opponent off the dohyo with an explosive tachi-ai, but there was no
way he wasn't going to just bounce off the blubber of The Blob (Ichinojo) like a
waffle hitting a rubber wall if he did that. I was right about part of
this--Chiyotairyu's attack went nowhere, and he was going right backwards.
However, I was wrong about the denouement, as Blob proved sloppy as he so often
does, and was loping, easy prey for the slow-looking, obvious, yet totally
effective step-aside-and-pull-down hiki-otoshi Chiyotairyu bested him with when
Ichinojo got him near the edge.
M12 Takakeisho (0-1) vs. M13 Gagamaru (0-1)
Everybody's Juryo attention was on the dynamic Ura in 2016, but the better
rising-star money may be on the solid, hard hitting Takakeisho, a compact
bundle, too short at 173 cm but embodying his 169 kilos well in a relatively
flabless way, and still just twenty years old. A born pusher. However,
Takakeisho showed none of his potential here: Gagamaru is even more compact, and
in a push and shove battle, Gagamaru was the bigger ball bearing. After a moment
Gaga got his right hand around on the back of Takakeisho's belt and finished him
off with convincing yori-kiri.
M12 Daishomaru (1-0) vs. M11 Nishikigi (1-0)
Very slow moving tachi-ai for Nishikigi--taking care to avoid the henka or quick
pull? Also stood up too straight. Also probably a false start. It all added up
to control for Nishikigi, though: Daishomaru wasn't sure what was going on, had
his best weapon taken away from him, and is helpless on the belt: Nishikigi
wrapped him up and slung him around and out, yori-kiri.
M10 Takanoiwa (1-0) vs. M11 Kagayaki (0-1)
I'm going to have to give the credit to Mike for me knowing what to watch for:
Kagayaki has shades of Toyohibiki in that it is straight-forward or nothing for
him: he was dominating this one with big slaps from his big core, but as soon as
Takanoiwa moved, with a little desperation, to the left at the straw, Kagayaki
staggered so badly he nearly fell down right there, and after that was adrift,
free to be driven swiftly out, oshi-dashi. Jeez. Keep throwing a guy the
curveball until he proves he can hit it.
M10 Sokokurai (1-0) vs. M9 Ishiura (0-1)
The miniscule Ishiura is going to be helpless in Makuuchi unless he henkas from
here to kingdom come, and his weakness has been definitively demonstrated these
first two days. Sokokurai is a minor guy, with minor power. Yet when Stone Ass
(Ishiura) did not henka him, he was unable to move him an inch. Sokokurai, no
stranger to trickery, stood his ground cautiously for a while, sizing the bout
up, then pushed out two hands that flicked Ishiura off the platform like a dead
M8 Hokutofuji (1-0) vs. M9 Kaisei (1-0)
I thought Hokutofuji had a great debut tournament in November, but that drove
him straight up the banzuke into guys like this. How will he handle it? Today,
just fine, thank you. He hit Kaisei hard and had something going on with a long,
thick neck hold and some low-slung, slow, patient momentum. However, he's still
awfully green, and when he slipped a little, Kaisei just slapped him easily
down, hiki-otoshi. Hokutofuji was also probably a little too low here.
M8 Chiyonokuni (0-1) vs. M7 Aoiyama (0-1)
I said Aoiyama better come to Tokyo angry, and it looked like he did, sticking
out those big meat-grinder arms hard, but he also did some really terrible
footwork here, stepping in high and far with one leg like a Las Vegas dancer
while leaving the other foot way, way behind. That landed him on top of
Chiyonokuni like a can of spam dropped on the kitchen floor, rubbery and
jiggling and now helplessly off balance. Chiyonokuni picked him up with a
tsuki-otoshi spatula and fed him to the cat.
M6 Chiyoshoma (0-1) vs. M7 Myogiryu (0-1)
The last and highest ranked of our five upper division wrestlers from Kokonoe
stable (Chiyooh, Chiyonokuni, Chiyotairyu, Chiyootori, Chiyoshoma; a sixth,
Chiyomaru, is at J3). However, this is far from being a dominant stable: their
ranks are all low, and these are a bunch of has-beens and never-wuzzers, with
Chiyoshoma checking in as their lone maybe-someday. I'm hesitant to grant even
that status for him, but keep coming back to the need to be honest and admit his
potential: Chiyoshoma is big on the henka, but you can't count him out like
Ishiura, because when he does go straight up he can be frighteningly strong with
those wiry limbs. It's an unpleasant combination from the sumo purist's point of
view, but there is no denying its effectiveness. We'll see; here's hoping guys
figure him out. Also: these Kokonoe guys are not quite as good as their rank
even, as they get an artificial bonus by being given a pass against four guys in
their vicinity on the banzuke. In other words, they hold each other up in their
weakness. If this stable had, say, a decent occasional Sekiwake type or better,
look out, but right now they are chaff in the breeze. Chiyoshoma was very
kinetic in this match. No henka. He did try a pull, but when it didn't work he
won with that fearful strength, sticking Myogiryu with a few sharp jabs, then
throwing him manfully from his side, shitate-nage, pulling on his own knee with
his other hand for fulcrum leverage--very cool looking. Hmmm. Those Mongolians.
Yeah, he is the best guy in this stable--and the only foreign entrant amongst
them. Ah, yes.
M6 Kotoyuki (1-0) vs. M5 Yoshikaze (1-0)
Lots of people will be looking for breakout years from Endo or Mitakeumi, but my
dark horse is Kotoyuki, who strikes me as intelligent, focused, and powerful
(all of which contributed to his early-career tendency to be a preening
prima-donna, all of which may eventually come together for him in the ring). He
set up his win here with big lateral movement at the tachi-ai, but after that he
won with relentless and effective tsuppari, knocking Yoshikaze over,
tsuki-otoshi. Nice footwork, hard hits, victory.
M4 Tochiohzan (0-1) vs. M5 Takekaze (1-0)
If I were facing Takekaze, I would just stand there. Literally. No tachi-ai, no
forward movement. Because nearly every win is with a pull, and they are
absolutely deadly. These two engaged for a few seconds, then Takekaze backed up
and pulled Tochiohzan down, hiki-otoshi. I'll give Takekaze credit for being
very, very good at this, but how can rikishi not either hang back or, if they
most go forward, make sure to bring their feet with them? Takekaze has become
very predictable, yet remains effective.
M4 Endo (0-1) vs. M3 Ikioi (1-0)
Ikioi is known for his strength, but he made Endo look strong here. This was a
battle of momentum and shifts, with both guys putting their hands at each
other's shoulders and looking for the right moment to break it off or push
harder. And, simply put, Endo found a place to push hard and drove his man out,
yori-kiri. Ikioi is pretty inconsistent, so I'll give Endo credit for simply
beating Ikioi straight up, and we're seeing a different Endo of late. Yes, I get
it why Mike made fun of "the return of Endo's power" yesterday, as Endo has
never been powerful in this division, but to be honest, yes, the difference I
see in his last 16 bouts is a sudden wealth of hitherto un-hinted strength. He's
always had good technique, but never had anything to back it up, and got lots of
bad looking wins because he couldn't put anything away and had to rely on
charity and flotsam. Lately, he looks recovered from depression, injury, or
both, and I actually like his sumo. He looks like a different guy--in a good
way. We'll see where this goes.
M2 Arawashi (0-1) vs. S Shodai (0-1)
These guys are fairly evenly matched, and Arawashi gave Shodai a hard run for
his money, staying lower and getting him very nearly out on the drive. However,
Shodai did a good job of returning his back to a position facing the center of
the ring, and won on a counter-charge, yori-kiri.
O Kisenosato (1-0) vs. S Tamawashi (1-0)
broadcast led off with an interview with the head of the Sumo Association,
Hokutoumi, and the last topic they covered before the first bout was Kisenosato,
showing his impressive win numbers from 2016. I wondered if this was The
Hokutoumi Revolution foreshadowing Yokozuna Kise 2017. However, I was gratified
to hear Hokutoumi say something we've been saying consistently here as well:
there is no sense in having a weak Yokozuna, because he will then need to
continue to go out there and perform well again tournament and tournament. In
other words, if I'm reading these chicken bones correctly, Kisenosato is not
going to get to Yokozuna unless he really, really earns it. (Which he can't.)
The match was nonsense. Lovely tachi-ai, with a big popping sound as the guys
head-butted and bounced off each other hard. Then Tamawashi did an effective
looking face hold. After that, however, Tamawashi turned and ran away from
Kisenosato and stepped out of the ring. Um, yes, really. An optimist would say
Kisenosato managed to get behind him, pushed him on the shoulder, and
Tamawashi's momentum carried him out of the ring, oshi-dashi. But. You can't
make this stuff up.
Okinoumi (0-1) vs. O Kotoshogiku (1-0)
Ah, here we go--I foresee Kotoshogiku's final spiral beginning here. If
Kotoshogiku wants eight, he needed this one. And Okinoumi did let Kotoshogiku
gaburu him around the ring a bit. "Hoo boy, really?" I thought. However, after a
few moments of this, Okinoumi easily shifted his leftward-moving,
Kotoshogiku-controlled momentum to the right side of his body by tilting his
torso, and dumped Kotoshogiku over from that side, shitate-nage.
O Terunofuji (0-1) vs. K Takayasu (0-1)
Terunofuji went in low, did not go for the belt, and was pulled down by the
head, kata-sukashi. Remember: last tournament Terunofuji was kadoban, and
Takayasu was up for Ozeki promotion. In our minds, Terunofuji had a good
tournament, because he cleaned up in the first week and quickly got out from
under kadoban, and Takayasu had a bad tournament, because his Ozeki run fizzled
quickly and he was never a factor. But in the hard, cold light of day one
finished 8-7 and the other 7-8. They're not that far away from each other right
K Tochinoshin (0-1) vs. O Goeido (0-1)
Beautiful stuff here by Goeido. Tochinoshin was lightning quick on the tachi-ai
and really wanted that belt, but he couldn't get it, and Goeido had a nice left
grip in the belt. When Tochinoshin drove too aggressively to get a dominant
grip, Goeido used that momentum and threw him to the ground, uwate-nage,
actually flinging this grizzly through the air.
Y Kakuryu (1-0) vs. M2 Shohozan (1-0)
stuff here. Hard tachi-ai, then a few ineffective deeks by Shohozan, so Kakuryu
drove powerfully forward and easily forced Shohozan back. However, Shohozan
alertly and strongly wrenched on Kakuryu's left arm and sent Kakuryu spinning
head over heels spectacularly out of and off the dohyo, his foot striking the
basket and sending up a salt geyser on the way. The emotional reaction was
"Shohozan did it!" and the gyoji went with that. However, as soon as the mono-ii
was called we all kind of knew Shohozan had stepped out first on his way to
glory, pressed too hard by Kakuryu's forward momentum, and the reply clearly
confirmed as much. Yori-kiri Kakuryu win on paper.
Y Hakuho (1-0) vs. M1 Takarafuji (0-1)
Takarafuji is supple and subtle, and with Hakuho ignoring the belt on his right
and trying to tickle Takarafuji in the armpit with his elbow and such,
Takarafuji drove forward and almost had the victory; Hakuho stopped himself at
the ropes just in the nick of time. Scared by that--I think he intended to toy
with Takarafuji but win, and was startled and alarmed when he almost
lost--Hakuho grabbed a meaty handful of inside right, oh did he ever, and within
seconds of that had put this one definitely away, yori-kiri. Just win outright,
dammit, you guy, you. Just win.
M1 Mitakeumi (1-0) vs. Y Harumafuji (1-0)
As a treat, we get to finish up with The Mystery of Mitakeumi. Last tournament I
set my sights on figuring out who the bland-seeming, ill-defined Shodai really
was, and after seven days of observation believed I had him pinned: Shodai will
take advantage of mistakes and win going backwards, as he has good ring sense,
but when going forward likes to be tight with his arms, go inside, and push on
the body. Mitakeumi has been riding a similar hype train to Shodai, and Mike is
right that he is another guy who, like Shodai, is ill-defined. I'll admit that
if you asked me in a bar to describe Mitakeumi's style, and I didn't have a
computer to look up any information, I plain wouldn't be able to do it. So this
tournament I'm going to study and learn him, just like with Shodai last
tournament. I'll start by looking up some facts on Mitakeumi: he prefers to get
on the belt and is a guy who moves forward, as his top winning technique is
yori-kiri at 47%, followed by oshi-dashi at 26%. That speaks well for him.
did he do in this bout? Got on that belt. He was too high on the tachi-ai, but
got a left inside and stuck with that. He got lateral to Harumafuji and "pushed"
him out from there, using his thigh, yori-kiri. Now, that is the Mitakeumi part
for you. Pretty straightforward belt stuff: we will build on that in the days to
come. However, as this is the top bout of the day, and lo! we have just had an
upset and the cushions are raining down, let us look at the Harumafuji part of
the match, too (I may have forgotten to mention there was a Yokozuna in this
bout). During that last part, when Mitakeumi looked to be bodying Harumafuji out
with his thigh, actually Harumafuji was pulling Mitakeumi aggressively towards
him, yanking him along. All the force of that movement came from Harumafuji, not
Mitakeumi--who was bouncing and jerking off the movements like a rubber ball on
a string. Eventually, Harumafuji ran out of room and went right out the ring,
followed by his yo-yo, Mitakeumi. An optimist will say that Harumafuji was in a
tight spot, tried to make the most of it, but just couldn't get any lateral
movement or purchase, as Mitakeumi kept him going in the right direction and
crowded him out. Other eyes will say Harumafuji pretty much chose where and how
to go out of the ring, and took an attached Mitakeumi along for the ride. My
eyes are stuck on those tines. The cushions will rain down regardless, 'cause my
impaled eyeballs don't sell tickets.
Quick! Who is your lone Ozeki with two wins? Kisenosato! Let's get silly-bold
and give ourselves a day-two leaderboard:
• Hakuho, Kakuryu, Kisenosato.
Tomorrow Mike furrows his brow and glowers.
Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
the Associated Press announced that the biggest news story of the year was the
2016 presidential election in the United States. That choice was a no-brainer,
but I've been fascinated with the news cycle after the election, especially the
topic of "fake news." I believe the term was first coined by the Hilary Clinton
camp when they said that fake news stories planted by the right wing media that
attempted to assassinate her character ultimately resulted in the election
swinging towards Donald Trump. Now in recent weeks, the headlines have
been dominated with more claims that the Russians hacked the election turning
the tide in favor of Trump in order to get him elected.
As I watch all of this play out, I can't help but notice the parallels between
these current headlines in the US and the same headlines surrounding the "fake
sumo" we see atop the dohyo. In one instance, you have a political party
simply making excuses to try and justify the reason they lost. In the
other instance, you have an Association creating fake results in order to cover
up the fact that domestic rikishi just don't have the same game as the foreign
rikishi. And the reason that so many people buy into what the media feeds
them is because they trust the headlines and ignore the actual content or
substance of the claims.
For example, the claim of "fake news" from the Clinton camp was a general
statement that alluded to all of the headlines generated by emails obtained by
WikiLeaks and released in the months leading up to the election. While the
Democrat Party and the Clinton camp made a fuss about being hacked and having
information stolen (regardless of whether or not the Russians were behind it
all), they never once actually denied the substance of any of the emails.
Rather, they tried to deflect the damning news by labeling Trump as misogynist
or a homophobe or a racist or whatever and once the election results were in,
the narrative quickly turned to: we were hacked by the Russians. Who
cares who did the hacking? What's more important? The fact that the
DNC and John Podesta's emails got hacked? Or the truths revealed by the
information released? The content of the leaked emails were all true and
never refuted by anyone, and so to deflect attention from that fact, much of the
media is crying foul over the hacking, and not the true content that shed light
on a politician and political party. Talk about missing the forest for the
As for the Russians influencing the election, I've seen plenty of headlines
stating that claim as if it were factual, but I have yet to see a single story
that actually detailed how they influenced the election or what voting
districts were compromised or where any illegal acts were committed. Then I
guess you also have the Russians just laughing at the people in the US making
these baseless claims. Look, the US and Russia have been trying to steal
secrets from each other for decades, so crying foul now is weak if you ask me.
In short, when something is plainly obvious and you want to direct attention
away from it, you do that by creating misleading headlines focusing the
attention off of things that really matter. And I'd say, the majority of the
people follow the headlines instead of the actual truths being manifest right in
front of their eyes. It is okay to question authority and think for oneself.
In terms of sumo, I've been pointing out for years now that the Japanese media
is using headlines to influence the mindset of the Japanese people and to create
this false narrative of parity in the sport all the while deflecting the
attention away from the fact that the Japanese rikishi simply suck and rampant
yaocho is needed in sumo these days to create a banzuke balanced equally with
Japanese rikishi and foreign rikishi and to provide enough headlines for the
media to point the general public in every direction except the actual content
in the ring.
Sure, I make my own claims here on Sumotalk which some may brand as
controversial, but I always back it up with concrete sumo analysis.
There are plenty who decry my claims and throw out watered down terms like
"conspiracy theorist," but what they never do is offer actual, substantive
analysis from the dohyo that counters my comments. I just find the
phenomenon interesting whether it's politics, climate change, or sumo wrestling.
As we turn our attention to the day 1 broadcast, NHK started out by having the
two guys in the booth (Mainoumi providing color and Nakatatsu-oyakata in the
mukou joumen chair) each pick a rikishi whom they had high expectations for in
the upcoming year. Without even watching the broadcast, can anyone guess who
those two rikishi were?
They were of course Endoh and Shodai. NHK showed clips from bouts by both
rikishi, and then they even had a recorded interview with Endoh. It all
looks fine and dandy at the start of a broadcast, but my question is: What
evidence did you see from either of these two guys in the ring last year to tout
them as rikishi with high expectations? Throw out the records. What
in the content of their sumo makes you excited about them? I can't think
of anything. Both rikishi scored some big wins on paper last year, and
both find themselves at favorable ranks on the banzuke, but how did they get
there? What technique or trend from either rikishi propelled them to their
I would contrast that with guys like Terunofuji and Tochinoshin. And when
I talk about Tochinoshin, I'm referring to Tochinoshin 2.0, the rikishi who
suffered a severe knee injury and fell all of the way down to Makushita only to
fight his way back up charts with sound sumo. The rise of Terunofuji and
Tochinoshin was completely organic. You could see the actual substance of
their sumo, and you can easily describe the tactics employed by both rikishi
even today. When it comes to Endoh and Shodai, however, nothing is
organic. They're two rikishi who have been constantly hyped in the media,
and their current status on the banzuke is the result of continual bouts thrown
in their favor. In my opinion, Shodai is a legitimate Makuuchi rikishi,
but he's shown nothing in his sumo to warrant his rise to Sekiwake. As for
Endoh, he should be one of those guys who primarily fights in Juryo and
occasionally rises to Makuuchi only to get beaten back down to Juryo.
But it's not just Shodai and Endoh. Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku, and Goeido
are not legitimate Ozeki and none of them achieved the rank with legitimate
sumo. Furthermore, there's nothing in their sumo that supports their
ability to continue to maintain the rank let alone start taking yusho with such
strong foreigners on the banzuke. Yet, there they sit in elite ranks along
with Shodai one notch beneath all in an effort to give the appearance of parity
in sumo when nothing could be further from the truth. And the truth is in
the content of the sumo, something that we will continue to masterfully break
down in January.
The day began with M15 Chiyooh who moved left at the tachi-ai going for the
cheap outer grip against M16 Osunaarashi resulting in a weak clash from both
parties. The rookie did get that left outer, but Osunaarashi easily hooked up in
migi-yotsu looking to counter. Chiyooh led a yori attempt with that outer grip,
but he didn't have his gal in snug with the inside position, and so despite
forcing the Ejyptian back to the edge, Osunaarashi turned the tables in the end
scoring a nice utchari win as his brute strength prevailed.
M15 Sadanoumi latched onto the front of M14 Chiyotairyu's belt from the
tachi-ai, and it unnerved Chiyotairyu just enough to where he quickly abandoned
his normal freight train attack and opted to look for an opening to pull. That
would never come to fruition, and with Chiyotairyu fiddling around this way and
that, Sadanoumi just pressed forward leading with that right belt grip that was
inside and then outside at the end. Chiyotairyu needs to stick with his bread
and butter and not panic at the first sign of a belt grip from his opponent.
M14 Chiyootori came in low at the tachi-ai against M13 Ichinojo looking for who
knows what, but Ichinojo easily rebuffed him with paws to the head on torso
keeping Chiyootori at bay. With Chiyootori in attack mode but no making any
progress, Ichinojo just stood there like a brick wall for about eight seconds
until Chiyootori ducked down near the edge with his arms extended as if he were
fishing for a pull, but he was clearly gassed and Ichinojo knew it finally
committing to a forward charge that knocked Chiyootori back and across with
ease. Go ahead and add Ichinojo to the list of rikishio whose rise up the
ranks was organic.
M13 Gagamaru and M12 Daishomaru struck lightly at the tachi-ai with each rikishi
looking more for a pull than to establish the firm inside position, and at the
two-second mark as Gagamaru looked to advance forward, Daishomaru just backed up
to his left and scored the easy pulldown win. This was bad sumo from both
parties, and if Gagamaru is not going to pay attention to sound de-ashi, then
he's not going to win a whole lotta sumo bouts.
M12 Takakeisho looked eager to take on M11 Nishikigi, and he showed it with a
false start out of the gate. Then, as the two reloaded, Takakeisho was early out
of the gate again, but they didn't call a false start, and it caused Takakeisho
to fidget in his footwork ever so slightly. The end result was Nishikigi getting
the left arm to the inside, and although Takakeisho fought that off, he never
had proper footwork to sustain his attack, and so Nishikigi next got the right
arm to the inside and used his left nicely pushing in at Takakeisho's torso
sending the rookie back and out with a patient oshi attack. I'm not sure how the
five judges and the referee all missed the false start, and it did end up
affecting Takakeisho's momentum...or lack of it.
M11 Kagayaki greeted M10 Sokokurai with two hands to the neck, but apparently
Sokokurai has been reading my scouting report on Kagayaki which says that he
can't win by moving laterally because Sokokurai moved back and to his right
swiping Kagayaki's extended left arm away before pushing him down with a sharp
slap to the left butt cheek. If Kagayaki can keep his gal chest to chest, he's
gotta chance, but the moment the bout moves side to side, he's done.
Next up was M10 Takanoiwa against M9 Ishiura in a bout that saw the smaller
Ishiura try and duck his way inside at the tachi-ai, but Takanoiwa rebuffed him
straightway getting his left arm to the inside coupled with a smothering right
outer grip, and Ishiura was had at this point as Takanoiwa lifted him upright
with the left arm before just slamming him down hard to the dohyo abise-taoshi
style. In reference to my intro, Ishiura was another rikishi who was being hyped
prior to the basho both in the headlines and on NHK. When I watched Saturday
Sports yesterday, they made it a point to keep your eye on Ishiura. Why? Because
he posted a good record last basho? My take is how did he do it? As we
constantly pointed out, this guy was scoring his wins with tachi-ai henka, but
the content of one's sumo doesn't matter. As long as he's Japanese and a
headline can be manufactured about him, everyone seems to run with it. Ishiura
got his ass kicked today in a straight up bout, and any hype surrounding this
dude is NOT based on sound sumo.
Up next was M9 Kaisei and M8 Chiyonokuni, which saw a busy Chiyonokuni try and
manufacture anything to keep Kaisei away from the inside. Kuni used a few feisty
shoves from the tachi-ai and then quickly moved left when Kaisei threatened to
get inside, and though Chiyonokuni forced Kaisei to give chase, there was
nothing in the content of Chiyonokuni's sumo that was going to keep Kaisei away
from the belt, and the Brasilian constantly had that right arm to the inside
whether it was fighting of Kuni's shoves or surviving a left neck throw. In the
end, Kaisei was simply the better rikishi and Chiyonokuni couldn't manufacture
sumo good enough to topple his superior opponent, and so Kaisei made it official
with a wicked shove to Chiyonokuni's stomach that sent him flying outta the
M8 Hokutofuji shaded left at the tachi-ai against M7 Aoiyama, but the Bulgarian
was not out for blood here just playing along and letting his opponent survive
despite Hokutofuji's being straight upright with in terrible position with his
hands. With the two rikishi in a supposed stalemate, Aoiyama just pretended to
slip and then took a dive down to the dohyo giving Hokutofuji the easy win and
giving us the first yaocho of 2017. After the bout, Mainoumi commented, "We see
Aoiyama just kind of break down like this a lot." Ya think?? Notice
how his Japanese foes aren't the ones breaking him down; he's doing it of his
own volition, and this bout should have been ruled koshi-kudake.
M6 Kotoyuki blasted M7 Myogiryu off of the starting lines with his signature
tsuppari attack, and as Myogiryu looked to duck back into the bout, Kotoyuki
reversed gears and slapped Myogiryu down in a flash. They called a mono-ii
here to determine whether or not Kotoyuki pulled Myogiryu's hair in the process,
but he didn't and won this bout fair and square by dominating the tachi-ai.
I was actually looking forward today was the M6 Chiyoshoma - M5 Yoshikaze
matchup, but the younger Mongolian kind of ruined it by putting his left arm up
around Yoshikaze's neck and going for the cheap pull from the start.
Fortunately, Yoshikaze wasn't fooled by the move and not only got moro-zashi as
Chiyoshoma tried to retreat out of the dumb pull move, but Cafe had Shoma by the
back of the belt with the left hand, and he used that to lift Chiyoshoma clear
up off the dohyo and then slam him down just outside the edge tsuri-otoshi
style. Hopefully that'll learn Chiyoshoma to rely on straight up sumo
instead of his stupid tricks and games.
As I was watching the Emperor and his wife take their seats, I all of a sudden
heard a huge roar from the crowd, and I was like, "What the?" And then
they showed M4 Endoh step up in the ring to take on M5 Takekaze. Leading
up to the bout, the guys in the booth were commenting on how it looks as if
Endoh has regained his power. Regained his what? Did Endoh ever have
power in this division? That was answered when Takekaze executed a
horrible tachi-ai giving Endoh the clear path to moro-zashi, but he couldn't
make it stick allowing Takekaze to step to his right and just yank Endoh out of
the ring in like two seconds. It's just ridiculous how people still believe the
hype surrounding Endoh.
Two of Japan's better rikishi, M4 Tochiohzan M3 Ikioi, hooked up today, and this
was a replay of Tochiohzan's yusho playoff bout against Kyokutenho a few years
ago. Instead of trying to attempt to get to the inside, Tochiohzan struck
and then immediately went for a pull, but the taller Ikioi made sure that his
hands were entrenched into Tochiohzan's gut, and he just went with the flow
pushing Oh back using his length before being slapped down to the clay.
Sekiwake Tamawashi faced another of Japan's best in M3 Okinoumi, and the
Mongolian completely dominated this bout getting a stiff right hand into
Okinoumi's neck and using great de-ashi to keep Okinoumi upright while applying
constant pressure. Okinoumi tried to evade and swipe that right paw away, but
Tamawashi was on a mission here and dismantled Okinoumi with ease. Regarding the
rise of Tamawashi of late, you can definitely define his tsuppari sumo. The
dude's results of late are all legit, which helps to put the banzuke in proper
M2 Arawashi came with a lame right kachi-age and left outer grip attempt against
Ozeki Kotoshogiku giving the Geeku the clear path to moro-zashi, but
Kotoshogiku's sumo of late can't be defined as stable, and so Arawashi moved to
his left threatening a pull that never came. What he did do is made sure
to stay in front of the Ozeki and keep his hands high and wide, and the
force-out win came a few seconds after that. This one actually looked good
for the Ozeki, but if Arawashi wanted to win, he wouldn't have refrained from
getting an inside position; he wouldn't have kept one arm high around the
Ozeki's neck; and he surely wouldn't have stayed square with his opponent
despite not having a pot to piss in. Any Mongolian is crafty enough to
solve Kotoshogiku in his current state.
Ozeki Terunofuji let M2 Shohozan do his thing at the tachi-ai just standing
there trading tit for tat eventually letting Shohozan get moro-zashi. Instead of
really clamping in tight and applying pressure, the Ozeki stopped short on a
couple of kote-nage attempts and just let Shohozan force him back and out.
Afterwards the guys in the booth were talking about Terunofuji when he was genki,
or more active, but this was just a case of a mukiryoku Ozeki. Some of the
guys speculated that his knee was giving him trouble to which Mainoumi added,
"Yes, like Endoh." Puh-lease. It was Mainoumi who picked Endoh has his
kitai rikishi this year, so I get it that he needs to hedge that bet a bit.
The bottom line here is that Terunofuji made no attempt to win.
Goeido and Mitakeumi bounced off of each other from the tachi-ai with neither
really attempting to get to the inside and stick, and after that start, Goeido
did what he does best which is to recklessly retreat around the ring with his
arms wide open. Mitakeumi took full advantage securing moro-zashi as light as it
was, and it looked as if Goeido might have a path to escape, but he went for a
kubi-nage instead. This was the same type of kubi-nage that worked against
Harumafuji a couple of basho ago, but today it had zero effect on Mitakeumi.
go figure. After that neck throw attempt, Mitakeumi made it official
with a yori-kiri that still needed some polish and stability. I say that
because the way Goeido presented himself today, Mitakeumi shoulda just kicked
his ass, but he still struggled despite Goeido's making mistakes at every turn.
I think it was a good indication of both rikishi and their limitations, but
credit Mitakeumi for the nice win.
In an extremely predictable bout, Ozeki Kisenosato left himself vulnerable at
the tachi-ai as Takarafuji grabbed the early left inside position, and he had
the right outer as well if he wanted it, but he refrained...of course.
From that point, it was the same old song and dance: let the Ozeki get his
own arm to the inside, inch forward so he can grab the right outer grip, and
then just stay fully upright and allow the Ozeki to force you back.
Afterwards as they showed the replays, there really wasn't anything that
Kisenosato did that you could point out. Mainoumi did comment that
Kisenosato was too high up and then he used the word "amai" to describe
Takarafuji's sumo, a word that means he was going easy. I mean, what else
can you say? Kisenosato didn't win the tachi-ai; he didn't set anything up; and
he was fully at Takarafuji's bidding, which is usually the case for this Ozeki.
that generated a bit of ink coming in was Sekiwake Shodai facing Yokozuna
Hakuho, but these two don't even belong in the same division. The only question
was would Hakuho allow a day 1 upset? Thankfully no as Shodai actually
looked scared at the tachi-ai refraining form striking forward and actually
retreating in fear. I really can't remember the last time I saw a rikishi
look that scared. Sheesh, this was embarrassing as Hakuho rushed forward
nudging Shodai to the straw, and instead of just humiliating him by sending him
three rows deep, he reversed gears and lightly pulled Shodai forward and down
without a fight. I just have to keep reiterating my stance regarding Shodai
since he entered the division: there's no substance there and if there is,
what is it?? The Japanese rikishi are fully at the mercy of the
foreigners, and Shodai definitely felt the fear of God today. Literally.
Harumafuji moved to his right as he is wont to do a few times a basho, and
instead of grabbing the right outer grip, he opted for the right kote-nage grip
instead, and he used that easily to wrench Takayasu upright and to the side
before easily pushing him out. I don't like this brand of sumo from the
Yokozuna, but let's see someone do it back to him.
In the day's final bout, Komusubi Tochinoshin stepped into the ring to face
Yokozuna Kakuryu. Really the only way for Tochinoshin to win against these guys
is to get moro-zashi, but the Mongolians are just too fast for him.
Exhibit A was Kakuryu today who lowered his head at the tachi-ai striking the
Komusubi upright before easily getting the right arm to the inside and then
using the left outer grip to spin Tochinoshin around and down in mere seconds.
There's really not much more to say here other than you can see the difference
between the elite Mongolians and a pretty damn good foreigner in his own right
when both rikishi go full bore.
I suppose my day 1 was a bit abrasive, but the current landscape of sumo is
really getting to me. During the year-end holiday, I noticed that NHK did
a year-end review of sumo in 2016, but I had zero desire to watch it, so I
didn't. What was I going to glean from it? Remember the good old
days when I used to do year-end reports of my own? Okay, maybe I shouldn't
use the adjective "good," but back in those days, you had a Japanese rikishi
legitimately win a basho and then go 13-2 the basho after and get denied
promotion to Yokozuna. You had a Japanese rikishi win 34 bouts over three
basho...twice in the same calendar year and still get denied promotion to Ozeki.
Back then there was actual substance to report on. These days it's pretty much
politics, and I have little tolerance for such nonsense.
Let's hope Harvye can find a silver lining tomorrow.