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Kenji Heilman


Roundtable Report

Well folks, the 2003 Natsu Basho is in the books and it turned out not to be an Asashoryu run-away as it looked like it might be.  In fact, the guy chasing him, Chiyotaikai, wasn't even in the picture on senshuraku.  We also had two Ozeki fighting for dear life to prevent demotion and one grizzled veteran dangling at the bottom of Makuuchi trying to extend his colorful  career one more basho.  Some of these stories produced highly unlikely results. Likewise, Kyokushuzan, of all people, managed not only 8 wins but garnered the shukunsho by way of his stunning upset of Asashoryu.  Mike and I both made some premature comments along the way, which goes to show that it is in fact true when they say, "it ain't over til the fat lady sings".  Or in this case, until "Kimigayo" plays over the loud speakers at the close of each basho.


In the end Asashoryu did manage his first yusho as a Yokozuna with a 13-2 record, but it did not come easy.  He dodged a bullet in the form of a hard-charging Kaio, who really came into his own in the home stretch only to lay an egg on day 15.  Therefore Asa didn't have to win against Chiyotaikai to close the basho, but Asashoryu comes to win no matter what the stakes.  He showed in no uncertain terms that there would be no lapse in concentration even though he had the yusho wrapped up, as he manhandled the fading Chiyotaikai (10-5) with a lightening quick tachi-ai that secured moro-zashi before Chiyotaikai could say "Uh-oh" and even think about a hiki-waza.  He was ushered out in seconds.  After a respectable first half, Chiyotaikai showed why he is not Yokozuna material on the last two days of this basho.  With a bad tachi-ai, Chiyo dosn't win.  It's as simple as that.  A Yokozuna can win despite a bad tachi-ai.


Kaio faced Musoyama on the bout prior with enormous stakes on both sides.  Kaio was trying to make history as the first rikishi to win a yusho after trailing the leader by two losses at the close of day 13, and also become the first to win after consecutive losses to open a basho.  What a tremendous accomplishment this would have been.  He looked so strong the day before in beating Asashoryu that you had to think that if only he could get another chance to face the Mongolian, he would be the favorite.  But alas, Kaio broke out his "box of chocolates" sumo in which he followed yesterday's gem with a chocolate egg against longtime rival and friend Musoyama.  Muso kept Kaio at bay with his oshi-zumo and twisted the stiff looking Kaio down with relative ease.  Kaio finishes at 11-4 and Musoyama pulls out an improbable 8th win after starting 3-6 against rank-and-filers.  I thought this guy was done, and he finishes 5-1 against the cream of the crop to retain rank.  My bad, folks. I've got to hand it to Musoyama; I'd say that's one of the most spectacular comeback kachi-koshis I've ever seen.


Sekiwake Wakanosato (9-6) overpowered the remaining Ozeki, Tochiazuma (8-7), to round out the sanyaku bouts on day 15.  Waka got inside with both arms and just muscled Azuma out.  While Musoyama deserves high regard for his 8 wins, the same cannot be said for Tochiazuma.  As Mike mentioned, Azuma got his 8th with an embarrassingly cheap side-step at the tachi-ai not worthy of Ozeki sumo, then was outclassed by the lower ranking Wakanosato in a straight-up bout to end the tournament.  Tochiazuma has the skills to be Ozeki, but he must ask himself what got him there in the first place and search to regain that tenacity. 


The other Sekiwake, Dejima, came THIS CLOSE to 8 wins but it wasn't to be.  He freight-trained M1 Takamisakari (6-9) in true Dejima style, but the crowd favorite somehow stood ground at the tawara to stave off the furious pushing, then beautifully turned the tables to force out the Sekiwake.  Tough luck Dejima started 5-1 but falls just short of the coveted kachi-koshi at 7-8.  It was a valiant effort on bad wheels, but he'll be demoted in July.  If this guy could just stay healthy he can be Ozeki again for sure.


At Komusubi we have a tale of two rikishi going in opposite directions.  Kyokutenho wooed us all with his yotsu-zumo technique and made himself a case for being an Ozeki candidate to be reckoned with.  He sure won me over.  Despite his slip-up against Toki (10-5) on day 15, Kyokutenho's efforts won him the Kantosho (fighting spirit award).  I still think the Ginosho (technical merit) is more appropriate but nonetheless we have another Mongolian force on our hands.  He turns in a strong 10-5 at Komusubi and can use this basho as a first step to 33 wins over three basho for Ozeki promotion.  I wouldn't consider him the next Ozeki yet, but he's now on the radar screen.  Kyoku's counterpart Tosanoumi suffered a different fate this basho, finishing with a paltry 4-11 record.  He even lost convincingly in a straight-up oshi-zumo match against the much smaller Hokutoriki (6-9) on day 14 that served as evidence that Tosa didn't have his A-game this basho.  He'll drop considerably, but don't look for this guy to wallow in the rank-and-file for long.


M1 Tochinonada faced red-hot M7 Aminishiki on senshuraku and was given the Shukunsho nod if Kaio pulled off the comeback yusho.  After all, Tochi did beat 3 of the 4 Ozeki this basho, including Kaio.  Not only did that not pan out, the pint-sized Aminishiki put him in his place with an agile dashinage.  Tochinonada fades to finish 8-7 but should be promoted to sanyaku in July.  Meanwhile Aminishiki quietly posts an excellent 11-4 record and steals the Ginosho.  I've always liked this guy but he kind of gets lost in the shuffle because of his non-flashy style.  He certainly showed he can take it to anyone if he can get a hold of 'um.  Look for him to make a huge jump to join the Makuuchi joi' for Nagoya basho.


While we're on the subject of sansho, we might as well cover M-3 Kyokushuzan (8-7).  He secured kachi-koshi on senshuraku against Tamarikido (7-8) in typical fashion.  Moro-te at the tachi-ai, then retreat in an exaggerated pull-down, so much so that he has to jump to avoid stepping outside the ring. How this guy got 8 wins is beyond me, but I've got to admit I'll enjoy seeing what Mike looks like with a black tooth on the cover of our web page.  Hey, I've got an idea. Since Kyokushuzan not only won 8 but also got a kin-boshi and a prize too, how about one black tooth for the kachi-koshi, a gold tooth for the kinboshi and an extra black one for the Shukunsho (outstanding performance)?  At least give us the gold tooth, Mike.  Come on!


Others winning their 8th on the final day were M-4 Mr. Ippun Kotonowaka, who showed M-12 Buyuzan (9-6) how difficult it is to sustain a 9-2 start from the lower Maegashira, and M-14 Otsukasa, who dropped M-9 Jumonji to 8-7 after a sparkling 6-1 start. 


Oh, and Asanowaka finishes 8-7.  Go figure.  10-win rank-and-filers include the aforementioned Amininishiki, Toki and M-5 Miyabiyama, who finished 10-5 after dropping his first three this basho.


Finally, I'll fittingly end this report with a remark on Akinoshima.  I don't mean to sour a great career by any means, but why not fight on day 15 for the fans?  I am truly disappointed in his (or whoever's decision it was) to not fight out the basho.  You deserve the opportunity to win your last bout, and the fans deserve an opportunity to see the record holder for most kinboshi one last time.  It would have been a wondrous ovation to close the curtain on a remarkable Makuuchi run, regardless of the outcome.  And I agree, Mike, Gojoro should be lynched for his shenanigans on day 13.  Anyway, hats off to one great warrior in Akinoshima.  We look forward to seeing you in the analyst booth to enjoy the coming basho with us as fans.  See you all in July, and don't forget about our first fantasy sumo banzuke.  It'll be rolled out in conjunction with the real banzuke a week or so before shonichi, when we'll do this all over again.  Cheers.


Day 12 Comments

Asashoryu continued to roll today but thanks to a rare perfect attendance in the Ozeki rank, the home stretch of this basho presents some interesting match-ups that may turn this thing into a barnburner after all.  


Asashoryu (11-1) was just too much for Tochiazuma, who like Musoyama and Akinoshima has a 6-6 record and will keep us all on the edge of our seats over the weekend to see if these greats will hold their rank. Tochi gave it his best shot by squaring up against Asa and keeping his head down.  He even solicited a pull from the Yokozuna but he could not capitalize; Asashoryu is just too fast.  His sense of urgency is unmatched.  When he pulled back and realized it wouldn't work, he turned the tsuppari into overdrive and simply overwhelmed Tochi.  Asa gets Musoyama tomorrow; look for a good one there. 


Dangit, for once Chiyotaikai has the balls not to back up against Dejima and wouldn't you know Dejima does it today!  When have you ever seen Dejima do a tachi-ai henka (side step)?  This is just proof that he is not himself.  In fact, Chiyo (10-2) stated he read Dejima during the shikiri and knew he was going to try the side stepping.  Dejima (7-5) will have to wait another day for that coveted 8th win.  Chiyo keeps pace one loss behind Asa but interestingly has losing records against all three remaining opponents: Kaio, Musoyama and Asashoryu. 


Speaking of Kaio, he couldn't have asked for better positioning today against Kotonowaka.  Mr. Ippun practically gave Kaio (9-3) his left hip as if to say "Here, go ahead and lock your powerful right hand that is said to crush apples with one squeeze right on to my mawashi".  Well, that he did and down Koto (6-6) went with a crushing uwatenage.  Makes you wonder what these guys are thinking sometimes.  Kaio can crash the party these last few days.  Unlike Chiyo, he has winning records against all of his remaining opponents: Chiyotaikai, Asashoryu and Musoyama.


Musoyama (6-6) defeated Wakanosato (7-5) in somewhat of a suspicious match.  I question the ease with which Wakanosato went down.  Sure, Musoyama had a strong taichi-ai and put quite a bit of pressure on Waka by not allowing the Sekiwake any kind of belt positioning but that spill to the dohyo looked like a dive to me.  Yes, I guess I'm playing the yaocho (sumo was fixed) card here.  Tell you what.  Wakanosato should face Dejima on day 15.  Keep your eye on that one to see if Dejima takes a dive to return the favor, being that Wakanosato is "owed one" by Musashigawa-beya (Musoyama and Dejima).  If anything, it'll make watching that match interesting right?


Kyokutenho (8-4) secured kachi-koshi for the first time as a sanyaku rikishi.  While he did it today in a not so spectacular fashion by pulling down Tamanoshima (6-6), I believe Kyoku deserves the Ginosho, or technical merit prize, this basho.  He has made a believer out of me with his prowess on the belt.  I would have guessed he'd be the guy to have a weak basho but instead it's his Komusubi counterpart and my fave, Tosanomi (3-9), who lost again today to Kyokushuzan (6-6).  Ouch.  That hurts to see my guy struggle like that, but I'll take it in order to get a laugh out of seeing Mike's tooth blacked out if long shot Shuzan can actually "pull" out 8 wins.


Others securing majority wins today were Aminishiki, Kotoryu and Miyabiyama.  Buyuzan was rewarded for his stellar showing thus far by being matched against M1 Tochinonada, and promptly lost.  You knew it was coming.  Toki lost to officially fall out of the race, so it's down to four:  Asashoryu with one loss, Chiyotaikai with two losses, and Kaio / Buyuzan with three loses.  Buckle your seat belts, this could be a fantastic finish after all.


Day 10 Comments

Besides two upstarts who continue to hang in with two losses, the yusho race was narrowed today to Asashoryu and Chiyotaikai.  Of course anything can happen as we saw yesterday with Kyokushuzan, but it's a pretty safe bet that one of these two will take the cup on Sunday. 


Asashoryu, who drew criticism from Kokonoe (moto-Chiyonofuji) and Kitanoumi as lacking Yokozuna-like dignity after his actions immediately following his stunning loss yesterday, came out angered and with purpose to up his record to 9-1 against Dejima (6-4).  It was vintage Asashoryu:  Nodowa from the tachiai to disrupt opponent, lock onto the belt while opponent still copes with the tsuppari, then dispose of opponent, which today came in the form of a nicely executed kirikaeshi.  All in a whirlwind of movement that is too fast for opponent to mount any offense.  Can you imagine if Dejima had attempted a pull-down today after what happened yesterday?  For those of you who missed it, Asa and Shuzan accidentally rubbed shoulders on the way back to bow.  This infuriated Asa, who stopped in his tracks to stare down Shuzan and then whipped his sagari (decorative strings that hang from the mawashi) at him, kind of like we do at home to nail somebody with a towel.  Boy, if he does that on live national tv, I'd hate to be a subordinate of his in private.  Yikes.


Tochiazuma (6-4) dropped Kaio (7-3) from the yusho race for the time being with a good tachiai that put his fellow Ozeki on the defensive the entire bout.  Kaio was pretty much back-tracking the whole time, and was finally unable to keep his balance as Tochiazuma pulled him down at the end. Tochiazuma is two wins away now.  Tomorrow he has Chiyotaikai.  Let's hope it doesn't become a pull down fest.


Musoyama (4-6) beat Kaiho (3-7) for a badly needed win.  For a second there, I thought it was going to be the same old story.  He started strong and pushed Kaiho back, but then there was a pause.  Can he not even finish off the little Kaiho?  But alas, Muso twisted him down with a nice slap to the face.  He still faces a tough road to 8 wins.


Chiyotaikai (8-2) looked strong in dominating big Kotonowaka (6-4) to stay in the hunt.  Chiyo used his left in a suffocating "ottsuke" where he handcuffed Kotonowaka's attempt to go inside with his right.  After this, it was a couple of shoves and game over for Mr. Ippun.


Tochinonada (6-4) disposed of Wakanosato (7-3) to remind everyone that he isn't going to continue faltering.  He was the aggressor from the get go, driving Waka back with his strength and weight.  At ring's edge he secured moro-zashi and promptly dropped Waka like a bad habit using a nicely timed sukuinage.  Almost picture perfect, but I've got to give that nod to the next guy...


Kyokutenho (6-4) is emerging as a legitimate Ozeki candidate these days. In another brilliant yotsu-zumo display, he completely manhandled Takamisakari (3-7) despite Takami being in his revered migi-yotsu position. Kyokutenho was all over him, locked on the belt on both sides while the crowd fave had no leverage.  Absolutely picture perfect; if you're a belt guy, this was textbook stuff.


In a not as spectacular but still solid belt bout, Takanonami handled Tosanoumi with relative ease once the match settled into a hidari-yotsu contest.  Taka bellied up and used his strong legs to drive Tosa out for a yorikiri.  Both veterans stand at the brink of make-koshi with 3-7 records.


The best of the rest include Toki and Buyuzan, who both won to secure kachi-koshi on day 10 with 8-2 records.  These upstarts look good for sure, but don't expect them to stay in the race until the end.  A couple of more wins and by the weekend they'll get a harsh reality check against the big boys.


Day 8 Comments

Asashoryu defeated Kotonowaka (5-3) to win his first 8 bouts in 5 of the last 6 tournaments, and is pulling away from the Natsu basho field in a hurry.  No longer is there a one-loss rikishi.  There are now 6 two-loss rikishi but none that can make up the ground to turn this basho around. 


Just when you thought Chiyotaikai (6-2) had conquered his demons, they reared their ugly head today to show the world why he is undeserving of the Yokozuna rank.  Chiyo hits Wakanosato; good morning.  Chiyo is stopped in his tracks and offers a weak pull-down; good afternoon.  Chiyo is blasted out of the ring helped by his own backward momentum; good night.  Wam, bam thank you ma'am, and back to the drawing board you go for tsuna-tori.  Wakanosato improves to 6-2.


Let's face it, Dejima (5-3) was ROBBED today in a torinaoshi that shouldn't have been.  In a match where both rikishi resorted to pulling down, Dejima clearly pushed Tochiazuma (4-4) out.  The video showed not only that the ball of Tochiazuma's left foot was touching clay, but that his right foot was also down before Dejima fell to the dohyo.  But Dejima's body was "flying", you say?  Then what do you call Tochiazuma's position, in which the only part of his body that was in the ring was the front half of his left foot?  And who won on sumo content?  I can't believe they rewarded Tochiazuma with a second life after a weak desperation hataki.  What were they smoking in the video room?  They blew a good call from the gyoji, and Tochiazuma goes on to pull-down his way to evening his record, a huge "win" in his quest to remain an Ozeki. 


Let's talk some power sumo.  How about Tamanoshima (5-3) sticking it to Musoyama (3-5) in a display of sumo the way it is supposed to be done.  Butt heads viciously at the tachiai, earn your way to your preferred belt position (hidari yotsu in Tama's case) and plow forward strong and steady.  Picture perfect sumo.  If he does this tomorrow against Chiyotaikai, I wonder what Chiyo will do?  Musoyama, meanwhile, gets Tochiazuma tomorrow in a defining bout for both Ozeki.  


Kaio (6-2) defeated Kaiho (2-6) handily partly because the much smaller Kaiho went chest to chest against Kaio.  Stick and move, attack from the side!  What's wrong with these people?  Has anyone noticed though that Kaio has gotten his migi uwate (right outside grip) almost every bout this basho?


The only reason I won't give my picture perfect good label to Kyokutenho (4-4), who locked horns and battled Takanonami (2-6) in a one minute, 37 second belt war that was off the hook, is because there was too much pause in it.  Otherwise this baby was a beauty the way it went back and forth.  You gotta love the way Kyoku challenged Taka by giving him the right outside position he covets.  They were locked in hidari yotsu.  Taka did his thing where he stood ground with one left foot on the tawara, but in the end he could not overcome the tall Mongolian even with his defensive wizardry.  The kimarite was shitatenage but for some reason was determined to be yoritaoshi.  I'm not seeing eye to eye with the kyokai today.


That's it for power sumo.  Takamisakari (4-4) beat Tosanoumi (3-5) and Kyokushuzan (3-5) beat Tochinonada (5-3) by employing pull-downs.  Yes, Kyokushuzan beat Tochinonada.  I know, it's depressing to see such a gimmicky rikishi pull off unsubstantiated wins so often.  Five more wins and Mike's tooth is black on our front page.


Although he lost today, Jumonji along with Buyuzan and Toki round out the six chasing Asashoryu with 6-2 records.  It's Asa's basho to lose.  He won't.


Day 6 Comments

We've yet to have a day where all the Ozeki have won and today was no different.  Meanwhile Asashoryu is putting on a clinic and, again, today was no different.


Asa's (6-0) victim today was the upstart Takamisakari (3-3), who no longer looks intimidated when facing the top two ranks.  In fact, he was engaged in some fierce stare downs with Asa on a couple of occasions today to the delight of the crowd.  But this only served to fuel Asa's competitiveness even more.  He came at Takami with some mean tsuppari at the tachiai, then snuck in amidst all the movement to secure moro-zashi (inner grip on both sides) and bullied the crowd fave out.  Then he gave him an extra shove, which is becoming a trademark.  Asashoryu is doing what he needs to do, and that is recapture the hungry mentality he had when he was climbing to the top.  The extent to which he can continue with this mindset will determine the extent of Asashoryu's dominance in this sport.  Right now, he is pretty darn dominant.


Kaio (4-2) beat Takanonami (1-5) in a ho-hum bout barely worth mentioning, except maybe that it was nice to finally see the vintage right uwatenage employed.  Takanonami looks totally uninspired and disinterested this basho.


Old rivals Musoyama and Tosanoumi locked horns today.  When these two get together, break out the aspirin because heads'll be a smashing.  They didn't disappoint, and Tosanoumi (2-4) pulled off a nicely executed uwatenage to drop Muso to 2-4.  Yet again Muso had the upper hand early but could not finish an opponent off.  I'm telling you, he's afraid to throw with that shoulder of his.  Therefore his offense is simply his brute strength going straightforward.  I doubt it's enough.  He can only afford 3 more losses and he still has to fight Asashoryu, Chiyotaikai, Kaio and Tochiazuma. 


Not that Tochiazuma has been tearing it up.  He kept Kyokutenho in front of him today but got tangled up when the Mongolian pulled back.  With Tochi's arms locked up high, Kyoku took advantage of the moro-zashi and quickly escorted the Ozeki out.  Both stand at an even 3-3.  Tochiazuma has the better odds to retain his rank than Musoyama, but he's not exactly winning accolades with his sumo. 


In the day's most anticipate bout, Chiyotaikai (5-1) beat Tochinonada (4-2) to deny the latter from achieving the Ozeki sweep.  I imagined myself in the arena today as a spectator waving my broom, yelling "TOCHINONADA, SWEEP 'UM BABY!", and getting weird looks from the obasans and salary men in suits.  Anyway, it wasn't to be.  Chiyo came out strong today with his good oshi attack.  He did pull Tochi's arm with both hands, which got him in trouble but he was able to keep his balance long enough for Tochi to fall forward.  Because this wasn't a blatant 'cop out' type of pull, I won't criticize.  Of the five rikishi chasing Asashoryu with 5-1 records, you've got to give Chiyo the upper hand.  He's been solid after a shaky first few days.


Dejima forged ahead to up his record to 5-1 against Kaiho (2-4), who attempted a last ditch fireman's carry borrowed from pro-wrestling's playbook as he was being pushed out of the ring backwards.  My only thought was that if he'd have done that against Musoyama, the shoulder would've popped right out for sure.


Let's see what else do we have as we scan through the ranks.  Miyabiyama has now won three in a row after losing his first three.  Buyuzan and the surprising Jumonji round out the 5-1 guys chasing the Yokozuna.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, poor Takanotsuru, who made a splash just two basho ago as a rookie, is 0-6.  To make matters worse he lost to the master of bad sumo in Asanowaka today.


Day 4 Comments

We're only four days in and already down to two unblemished records, and the owner of one of those is limping considerably.  Mike made a gutsy call by giving the yusho to Asashoryu yesterday but if you look at the field there really is no one stepping up.


Asashoryu (4-0) had his revenge today against fellow countryman Kyokutenho (2-2) in a yotsu-zumo fan's delight.  Asa's tenacity was on display as he nestled in close and kept the pressure on the whole time.  Give Kyoku props for a furious last ditch defense on the tawara for several seconds, but it was to no avail.  Then for good measure, he received an extra push after the bout ended that knocked him clean off the dohyo.  In other sports this may be an unsportsmanlike "late hit" but in the world of sumo it's just Kyoku being reminded who's boss around here.


Speaking of boss, Tochnonada (3-1) sure showed Tochiazuma (2-2) who's boss today in a strong display for the oshi-zumo crowd.  See Mike, with Azuma looking like this it's no wonder he resorted to such a cheap tactic yesterday against Tosanoumi.  If he hadn't, he would have been steamrolled like he was today.  The bottom line is that Azuma needs wins to retain his

rank, so look for more cheapos in the days to come if he is to achieve kachi-koshi.


Chiyotaikai (3-1) took a risk and laid into Kyokushuzan (1-3), who mysteriously obliged by attempting to go toe to toe with the Ozeki at the tachiai.  For his efforts, Kyoku landed in the second row after two powerful thrusts.  The one time he decides to nut up, it's against Chiyotaikai.  What a bonehead.


While we're on the subject of puzzling decisions, how about Takamisakari (3-1) willingly locking up in hidari-yotsu against Kaio (2-2).  It looked like he actually wanted to position himself in the right-outside grip position (not preferred), which also gave Kaio the right-outside grip (very bad).  Takami also for the first time didn't display his comical psych-up ritual prior to the final salt throw, which had me and probably the whole arena scratching their heads.  In the end it was learned he did not know it was time to fight.  He must not have been concentrating today, which is very unfortunate for a guy who was only one of three left standing with a perfect record.


Just as I say Musoyama (2-2) is finished, he comes back and looks like Musoyama of old for the next two days.  Today he handled Takanonami (1-3) in brilliant fashion by driving upward in both armpits and not allowing the long meat hooks to embrace him.  But you know, it looked to me like Taka almost felt guilty about trying a kotenage because that kind of pressure might pop Musoyama's shoulder right out of socket again.  I think not only Muso is mentally affected but his opponents are, too.  Takanonami's gingerly arm movements today sure looked fishy to me, folks.


In a battle of the "joint" challenged, Dejima (4-0) beat Kotomitsuki (0-4). You have got to feel for both of these guys battling through these ubiquitous injuries.  I wouldn't have taken Mike up on his bet that Kotomitsuki would sidestep a charger like Dejima, but he surely didn't.  He came with everything he had, and for this you've got to give him credit. Props also to Dejima for pushing forward on a bad knee.  His bad knee just so happens to be a little better off than Kotomitsuki's bad elbows, and thus the result.  Koto has a long road ahead with the way he's been looking, and Dejima's 8th win can't come soon enough with that limp of his. Hey, but he's half way there already.  Let's hope the knee holds up.


In the rank and file, Miyabiyama (1-3) finally picked up his first win while Aminishiki (3-1) suffered his first defeat.  "Seki" also looks good at 3-1, and don't forget about Buyuzan (3-1) either.  Akinoshima (2-2) looks like he's going to make us all sweat it out the entire way.  Who wants to bet he'll be 7-7 with his career on the line on day 15?


As for tomorrow, look for Tosanoumi to bring it against Chiyotaikai.  Let's just hope Chiyo doesn't give in to his 'hiki-waza' demons when the harsh reality hits that Tosa ain't gonna fly out of the ring like Kyokushuzan did today.  Bring your A-game tomorrow, Chiyo.  The sumo fans deserve it.


Day 2 Comments

It was Mongolia day at the Tokyo Kokugikan as all four Makuuchi Mongolians won, including even Kyokushuzan, contributing to an Ozeki fall-out in which three out of four lost.  Asashoryu (2-0) overpowered Kotomitsuki (0-2).  So much so that when Asa secured moro-zashi and started advancing, Koto gave up like a coward two steps from the tawara and backed right on out.  Picture perfect bad for Kotomitsuki and unacceptable no matter how painful his elbows are.


In a battle of the slightly injured, Dejima (2-0) bulldozed Kaio (0-2) to send the Ozeki to his second consecutive loss.  Kaio stopped Dejima's charge okay but couldn't hack his opponent's constant movement and broke the rope in a matter of seconds.  Not a good start for a guy who looked good coming in.


Kyokutenho (1-1) beat Musoyama (0-2) for the third straight time, showing his superior belt skill in the process. In hidari-yotsu position, Muso pressed forward to the brink of victory but looked like a desperate underdog in his futile attempt to follow through.  Kyoku calmly stood his ground not unlike Takanonami often does, then went on to turn the tables and force the struggling Ozeki out.  Folks, it looks like the beginning of the end for Musoyama.  He has no spunk left in him and I think the susceptible shoulder is affecting him mentally.  I say he retires within a year. 


Lo and behold, Kyokushuzan (1-1) beat Tochiazuma (1-1).  He did it in the only way he could, which was to disrupt his opponents's rhythm.  The kimarite?  Hikiotoshi of course.  Ring rust or otherwise, Tochi should try to put this behind him and get on with it; he looks to be in pretty good shape.


Chiyotaikai (2-0) was the lone Ozeki victor, shoving out Takanonami (0-2) with no problem.  He better have, or I would have been all over him after his shenanigans yesterday. 


Wakanosato (2-2) played into his opponent's game, but prevailed over Mr. Ippun (1-1) after 1 minute and 33 seconds of Kotonowaka trying to keep Waka from getting the migi-shitate.  In the end it didn't work.  See Mike, yesterday's quick win was a fluke.  You can't teach an old dog new tricks.


After a tetsuki-fujubun that wasn't called, Takamisakari (2-0) handled Hokutoriki (0-2) to collect a win for his 27th birthday.  Hoku came in like a rocket and, to everyone's surprise, went for the belt!  It didn't have much effect because he also positioned himself right into migi-yotsu and gave Takami the hidari-uwate.  Nice strategy. 


Tochinonada (0-2) beat Miyabiyama (0-2) in the best match of the day.  Miyabi came out with purpose, pushing and shoving and keeping Tochi on the defense the whole time but somehow it seemed as if Tochi was in control at all times.  He must be a mountain to move.  After patiently tolerating Miyabi's thrusts, he finally got the migi-uwate and ushered the former Ozeki out for the picture perfect bout of the day.  Speaking of picture perfect, tomorrow's bout matching Tochinonada with Asashoryu is not one to be missed.


Natsu Basho Pre-basho Report

Natsu basho is upon us!  Can Chiyotaikai maintain his momentum?  Can Asashoryu regain it?  Can the two Ozeki returning from injuries make an impact?  We'll find out in a matter of days.  My respective take on these questions is no, yes and no. 


Musashimaru carries the torch for sumo's injury plague for the third straight basho.  After he and Musashigawa oyakata proclaimed prior to the March tourney that "we want to ensure that healing is complete", they promptly went about trying to come back too quickly from left wrist surgery and thus have now prolonged the Yokozuna's absence.  A lot of good that does for the sport in need of healthy rikishi.  Am I being too harsh here?


Asashoryu succumbed to rookie Yokozuna pressures last basho and showed that he was human.  But have no fear.  As competitive as this guy is and judging by how he's slapped around Chiyotaikai like a rag doll in recent keiko sessions, I see nothing short of redemption in the form of a 14-win yusho similar to his sophomore Ozeki effort just a few months ago.


Regarding Chiyotaikai, is it not absolutely hilarious that Kitanoumi (Kyokai Head) stated "No promotion even if he goes 15-0.  A 12-win yusho line is not worthy of tsuna-tori consideration".  You gotta love this guy's frankness.  I couldn't agree with him more.  He's as unconvinced of Chiyo's fortitude as I am.  That said though, there's no previous case where an Ozeki wins two basho in a row and does not get promoted.  Interesting...


Tochiazuma takes sleeper status this month.  Coming off an injury, who knows what he will show us?  Expect some ring rust early, then anything from a narrow kadoban escape to a strong jun-yusho performance.


Musoyama is forced back from yet another dislocated shoulder because he wasn't granted exempt status.  Therefore he is kadoban and must compete and win majority or be demoted.  Question:  If Musoyama's injury, suffered during a hon-basho bout, isn't official, what is?  I have a bad feeling about Musoyama's future.  One more dislocation and it's game over for this guy.  You'd think the Kyokai would give this worthy Ozeki a break and let him heal so that he can mount another legitimate comeback.  We'll see, but I'll be cringing as I watch Muso in May.


There's not much to say about Kaio except for the fact that he is the wildcard once again.  There's no predicting this popular Ozeki's performances.  He's Jeckel and Hyde in a mawashi.


At Sekiwake and Komusubi, we have four rikishi coming off solid but unspectacular Marches in Wakanosato, Dejima, Tosanoumi and Kyokutenho.  Of note is Dejima, who last week felt sharp pain in his knee during practice and has had to scale back his final week of preparation in order to avoid withdrawing.  This is just another set back for tough luck Dejima, who has managed to climb back to Sekiwake for the first time in 10 basho.  He just can't seem to avoid the injury bug.  Look for one of these four to have a fall out basho in the form of single digit wins. 


Tochinonada and Takamisakari sit atop the Maegashira heap.  Tochi is a mule and should continue climbing.  Takamisakari is trying to become a mule by engaging in a bulk-up plan of increased food intake and protein shakes.  He is also diligently "de-geiko’ing" (visiting other stables for practice).  Looks like he doesn't want to stop at M1.  I think he does.


As for the rest, let's sum it up with the two most promising, the two least promising, the one most intriguing, and the one most inspiring.


Two most promising:  M13 Asasekiryu and M11 Shimotori.  I'm sticking with my guns on Seki.  He just needed a basho to wake up.  Shimotori is coming off an injury and should show his skill well at this level.


Two least promising:  M3 Kyokushuzan and M15 Asanowaka.  Bad sumo personified, squared.  I'd like to kick both these guys in the shins.


Most intriguing:  M6 Kasugao.  Can the promising Korean keep climbing?  He can if he fights like he did in week 2 in Osaka.  Doesn't Kasugao vs. Kaio sound like a barnburner?


Most inspiring:  M15 Akinoshima.  Quite simply, it's win 8 or retire.  Will he or won't he?  Either way, we'll be rootin' for you.  He is a warrior. 


It's days away, folks.  I see Asashoryu taking this one at 14-1 with Miyabiyama taking Shukunsho, Iwakiyama stealing the Kantosho and Asasekiryu sealing the Ginosho.


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