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2011 Aki Basho Post-basho Report   |   Pre-basho ReportHelmut Newton sumo.
It's been a long time since we've had a basho with no scandals that has generated so many talking points. I've also noticed a lot more coverage by the media, but I believe that has been orchestrated to a degree in order to hype Kotoshogiku's Ozeki run and subsequent promotion. So much bad news has surrounded sumo for so long, it had to be a large boost for the Sumo Association to actually have something positive to hype to the general population again. The dynamics of Kotoshogiku's promotion and how he got there were quite fascinating, so much so that I've devoted a separate blog entry to it, but in this post-basho report, let's focus on the sumo as there are so many rikishi I want to talk about.

We must begin with the yusho rikishi, Hakuho, who reached a significant milestone by picking up his career 20th victory. It's a feat that's so hallowed that if you're actually Japanese, the Sumo Association will create a new oyakata name that the rikishi can use until his retirement. The media was quick to point out that since Hakuho has yet to obtain Japanese citizenship (something for which he has yet to even apply), he won't qualify for the special status, but if dude hasn't applied by now, it should be clear that he intends on leaving the Association upon his retirement. Regardless of that, how sweet is it that a guy can actually drop two bouts on purpose and still breeze his way to the yusho? It kills me how people think that Hakuho has lost a step because he lost on consecutive days to the two Sekiwake or because he needed over a minute to beat Baruto. The Yokozuna can do whatever he wants to whomever wants end of story.

Regarding where Hakuho goes from here, I liked how he came right out at his yusho press conference and said, "my next goal is Takanohana's 22." Dude firmly understands his position in the sport right now, and while he's got a great shot to surpass Taiho's 32 career yusho, he's obviously giving back to the Association who has allowed him to get so fat. I was reading in the latest edition of Playboy for Mormons known to most people as National Geographic, and they did a story on the capital of Mongolia, Ulan Bator. The article talked about the huge population of people who live in round tents called ger on the outskirts of the city. Those people have no running water, and for entertainment they showed a bunch of kids splashing in a river so dirty that even Augustus Gloop wouldn't dare drink from it. Most of the town is powered by coal, which makes the capital city one of the most polluted cities in the world.

I could go into even more detail, but suffice it to say that Ulan Bator ain't Tokyo. Hakuho understands that he has the best life anyone could hope for. He has a beautiful family and a ton of caish in the bank. So to him, dropping bouts here and there for the Japanese rikishi are mere drops in a bucket. With no one in the short term who can consistently threaten Hakuho for the yusho, expect him to win an average of 5 per year for the next few years. And all this while he's openly demonstrated that he's willing to forego the yusho for the betterment of sumo. It's shocking that a guy could actually threaten the sport's most hallowed record and be so charitable at the same time.

In the Ozeki ranks, it's seems so long ago that we were even speculating on Harumafuji's tsuna-tori run. Hakuho has shown that he's willing to lose to guys to enable their promotions, but Harumafuji's gotta realize he needs to do his part namely beating scrubs like Takekaze and Yoshikaze. Once he failed to do that, the question soon became could he even win eight bouts? Some of the pre-basho talk focused on Harumafuji's nagging injuries, but that had nothing to do with it. His being the second lightest guy in the division did. Harumafuji opted to use that fierce nodowa tachi-ai where he tries to choke his opponents back and out from the start, but he had no mustard behind the move, so time and time again he'd be tripped up near the edge...by Maegashira rikishi. Once he abandoned that tachi-ai and looked to use his superior technique by fighting from the belt, he reeled off five straight wins to clinch kachi-koshi, but he was so off in Aki, no one remembers who actually took the yusho in July. Harumafuji is a decent Ozeki, and that's that. If anyone is even thinking of flirting with the Yokozuna rank, rule #1 is you can't lose to Maegashira rikishi. Quick, name the last time Hakuho gave up a kin-boshi.

Ozeki Baruto has apparently forgot the meaning of the two words: "work" and "ethic." Given Homasho's excellent basho, it's understandable that the Ozeki was jumped on day 1, but losing to Yoshikaze and Gagamaru was inexcusable. Bart can basically show up and win 10 bouts...which is exactly what he did in Aki. According to recently retired Mario, Bart has about two more years on the dohyo, and then he's gonna hang it up, move back to Estonia, and become a rancher. Actually, Mario told me this after last year's Aki basho, so the Estonian's shelf life may be shorter than we think. Here's the skinny on Baruto: dude's an Ozeki and hasn't taken a yusho yet. One is there for the taking as Harumafuji demonstrated in July if Baruto can get in shape and focus on sumo basics, but I just think the paycheck is far more important than the sumo. His biggest contribution to the basho was kicking Kotoshogiku's ass on senshuraku providing an excellent contrast to the Geeku's two previous bouts, which were thrown in his favor.

We can definitely say the same thing about no work ethic for Ozeki Kotooshu, who thankfully withdrew after a 1-6 start citing wounded pride. In Bart's case, when he first entered the division and started throwing the rank and file around giving George stiffies in the process, I believe I pointed out that he was lacking in technique. It was still clear that Baruto could do some serious damage, but he was a bit uncoordinated and vulnerable to guys who weren't afraid to fight him. Kotooshu on the other hand has as fine'a sumo body as we've seen since Chiyonofuji started beefing up on roids. Along with his physique, Kotooshu also had brilliant technique and for a time threatened to reach the sport's highest pinnacle. A triumvirate of Mongolians in Asashoryu, Hakuho, and Ama/Harumafuji eventually sapped Kotooshu of that will to reach the top, and the Ozeki has been in decline ever since. Like Baruto, Kotooshu is coasting and hoarding as much yen as possible until he retires. Unlike Baruto, Kotooshu has begun leaving himself wide open from the tachi-ai, and the guys with a stronger work ethic (i.e. everyone) are now able to push him around like he's a skinny Kotonowaka. Kotooshu is embarrassing the Ozeki division and has now become Chiyotaikai in the twilight of the Pup's career scrapping like hell to win just eight bouts every two basho. It's sad to watch.

Alright then, let's get to Sekiwake Kotoshogiku who clinched the rank of Ozeki in as unimpressive of a fashion as I can remember. If you go back and look at his body of work in Aki, you'll be hard pressed to really find a single highlight. He failed to beat any rikishi ranked above him of his own accord, which means his biggest wins on paper were against Kisenosato, the two Komusubi, and Homasho. And considering how fast Kisenosato went down, I'm not so sure that that bout wasn't rigged too (we'll find out in Kyushu). If you look at Kotoshogiku's three losses, none of those bouts were even close. Both Kakuryu and Tochiohzan exposed Kotoshogiku's weak tachi-ai, and then Bart threw him outta the ring like a hundred pound sack'a potatoes. There were just too many contrasts this entire basho for me to take any of Kotoshogiku's bouts seriously. Strange bouts all throughout week 1 and then basically alternating wins and losses in week two with the exception of the Hakuho and Harumafuji fixed bouts.

I don't have anything against the Geeku, and I understand why his promotion was necessary, but I can name two guys right off the top of my head that were a lot better than Kotoshogiku who never made the prestigious rank in Akinoshima and Wakanosato. I guess what I'm trying to say is Kotoshogiku has yet to reach the level of Ozeki. We saw potential in him early on, and I remember Clancy specifically saying that Kotoshogiku would become an Ozeki one day, but dude didn't earn it. It doesn't mean he can't still become one, but I'd be shocked if he's able to win 33 bouts over three basho now that he's reached the rank. I see Kotoshogiku as a 9-10 win guy basho in and basho out. And since when did the Sumo Association start promoting guys to Ozeki again after just 33 wins? There wasn't even a debate. The media had him crowned as soon as he beat Harumafuji on day 14, which tells me more than a few people knew it was coming, but I talk about that in detail in my blog.

As for Sekiwake Kisenosato, he looked a lot better to me than Kotoshogiku. His first four bouts were won using kimari-te that included "tsuki" (you know my interpretation of what that means), and overall, his bouts just looked real to me...well, except for the one against Hakuho. Kisenosato has become a bit of a bruiser where before he was a guy just satisfied in a belt fight because he was more than likely stronger than his opponent. Like Kotoshogiku, I still think Kisenosato needs to polish his tachi-ai, but the Kid is destined to become the sport's next Ozeki, prolly as early as November where he'll only need to win 11 bouts to clinch by Kotoshogiku standards. The highlight of the Sekiwake's basho and the area where he has improved the most is he didnt' suffer a single bad loss. He fell to Kotoshogiku, Baruto, and Harumafuji. There's no shame in losing to that trio. With Harumafuji's Yokozuna run a thing'a the past, Kotoshogiku having clinched, and Hakuho having reached yusho number 20, the talk of the Kyushu basho will be entirely focused on Kisenosato. Hope dude's up for the pressure. It got to the Geeku in Nagoya, so maybe Kisenosato's run is pushed back to Hatsu of next year.

Sekiwake Kakuryu was a mental mess at the Aki basho. Prior to the basho he indicated he wanted to focus on fighting from the belt through to the end of his bouts, and after getting burned on days 2 and 3 by Wakanosato and Tochiohzan, he next went into pull mode. That worked against the two Komusubi, but when Okinoumi and Kisenosato got him on consecutive days, he was sitting at 3-4 with hopes of Ozeki dashed. The Kak did settle down from there finishing 6-2 with those losses coming to Harumafuji and Hakuho, and he kicked off the second half of the basho by handing Kotoshogiku his first loss day 8, but his henka against Baruto shows that he wasn't trusting his sumo. The bottom line is that Kakuryu is a Sekiwake mainstay and will flirt with the Ozeki rank again. My thoughts are he's already forgotten about his terrible start in Aki and should settle down testing the double-digit waters in Kyushu.

Komusubi Toyonoshima just couldn't pull off an upset in Aki (no, that day 2 win over Kotooshu wasn't an upset), but he did what you have to do to stay in the sanyaku, which is beat everyone ranked below you. He did lose to Homasho on day 8 to finish 1-7 for the first half, but Toyonoshima reeled off 7 straight wins to secure kachi-koshi. The bottom line with Toyonoshima is he's a solid Komusubi but not quite big enough to stay in the sanyaku. He can upset anybody except Hakuho, but you need guys like this in the jo'i. Toyonoshima is good for sumo right now.

Komusubi Aran is not. In fact, he's everything that's bad about sumo. He and Ozeki Kotooshu are probably tied right now for biggest underachievers with the best sumo bodies. Aran had one good bout against Tokitenku, the only belt contest he won. Everything else was henka and pulldowns. He's just useless up here, but the problem is he'll turn things around in the lower ranks and be right back up. That won't last for too much longer, however, because the up and coming young guns will gradually force the Bride down the ladder.

My favorite rank throughout the entire basho was M1 featuring Homasho and Okinoumi. How Homasho didn't win a special prize for finishing 10-5 that included a clean sweep over the Ozeki is beyond me. Course, three of the four special prizes awarded went to Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato, and you know those were already earmarked for the two before the basho started. It's unfortunate that a canned Ozeki run stole the spotlight from Homasho because he was the highlight to me. The only loss to someone ranked below him was against Goeido, which is understandable, so from the M1 rank he's doing exactly what I've said about other rikishi...beating everyone below him. Add to that his trifecta over the Ozeki and you have a double digit basho. The thing I love about Homasho is he fights everyone straight on with the attitude that he is going to kick their ass. He does fall short against the truly elite rikishi, but dude defines the term fighting spirit. Has anyone also noticed that NHK will make it a point to show Homasho as he heads back to the tunnel and gives that final bow? He truly defines the ideal rikishi, and now that he's 100%, he's a joy to watch. I only wish he hadn't started his professional career at the age of 24.

But leave the youth to Okinoumi, who mirrors Homasho in many ways. Back when our eye on sumo page was active, I highlighted Homasho for two reasons: 1) he had fighting spirit coupled with good technique, and 2) he was handsome. Japan is such a quirky nation, which explains why they fell in love with Takanoyama, so if you have a rikishi who stands out for something that's not sumo-related, he has potential to become a star. In Takamisakari's case, he stands out for being a sandwich or two short of a picnic. In Takanoyama's case, he stands out for redefining that Weird Al Yankovic song, "White and Nerdy." In Okinoumi's case, he stands out for his good looks, which is extremely beneficial in Japan. He is also a bit taller than Homasho, and he's got more skill when fighting at the belt. Okinoumi got off to a great start picking off two Ozeki and then Kakuryu a few days later, but a string of tough competition and an Aran henka left him at just 4-7 after eleven days. Dude manned up, however, and reeled off four straight against some decent competition and the henka-happy Asasekiryu who was also 7-7 on senshuraku. There may not be enough room for Okinoumi to assume the Komusubi rank thanks to Toyonoshima's comeback, but Okinoumi showed me a lot in Aki. He's one of the few rikishi that has me so excited about sumo's future.

M2 Wakanosato showed his age by finishing just 4-11 from the M2 slot. The jo'i is so cutthroat that a rikishi far past his prime will struggle mightily. I think we can restore the Barometer moniker, though, and now redefine it as "losing to Wakanosato from the jo'i demonstrates mental weakness." For the Aki basho that would apply to Kotooshu and Kakuryu. Check and check. Counterpart Yoshikaze did well to finish 6-9, and his list of scalps include some quality names in Baruto, Harumafuji, and Tochinoshin. Still, there was no stability to Yoshikaze's sumo, so his final record was a bit of a fluke in my opinion.

M3 Takekaze cemented his status this basho as henka-phile. There's absolutely no benefit from having this guy in the jo'i. There is benefit of having counterpart Tochiohzan in the jo'i but dude's gotta learn how to finish. After a 6-1 start that included wins over Kotooshu and Kakuryu, Tochiohzan somehow found himself with a make-koshi record by basho's end. His lone victory the final eight days? Kotoshogiku. Like Wakanosato, Tochiohzan will take advantage of vulnerable rikishi, but he's just not a bruiser, and so he only finds himself ranked in the sanyaku when there's nobody else to rise up. He's a frustrating guy for sure.

M4 Tochinoshin was primed for a double-digit basho from this rank, but the withdrawal of Kotooshu meant Shin would now face guys like Hakuho and the other two Ozeki. If you factor in a fluke loss to Yoshikaze and another loss to a Tokitenku tachi-ai henka, you can easily see how Shin's 8-7 turns into 10-5. Regardless, Tochinoshin will find himself in the thick of the jo'i for next basho, which is good. Boot out Takekaze and replace him with Tochinoshin any day. No comment on counterpart Tokitenku who finished 6-9 thanks to a handful of tachi-ai henka.

M5 Miyabiyama overachieved finishing 7-8 while counterpart Goeido underachieved at 10-5. Goeido wanted no part of the belt the first five days or so, and the result was a 3-2 record that included a bad loss to Takayasu. He righted the ship after that getting back to his strength, which is fighting in close from the belt, so it was no surprise to see him finish 7-3 losing to two guys who won special prizes and Kyokutenho in a fluke belt fight. Still, Goeido's gotta make a bigger impact on the sport. In my opinion, his skill far outweighs the likes of Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato, but mentally, Goeido just takes himself right out of the basho. If he can learn to trust in his sumo, he can become that sanyaku mainstay and even threaten the Ozeki rank. Prior to each tournament, he should be forced to sit down and watch his debut basho in the division. Until he returns to that straight-forward battering ram sumo, he'll continue to flounder.

M6 Takayasu scored one good win over Goeido and then basically beat make-koshi rikishi for his 6-9 finish. I love Takayasu's background, and he's such a hard-nosed kid, but he's too light for the division. It doesn't mean he can't turn that around, but he's got some physical issues to work out. I see him potentially becoming sort of a Ryuo, a guy who constantly gets beat at the belt so he turns to finesse sumo (i.e. pull sumo). The good news about Takayasu is he's still young, but he's kind of at a critical point in his career where he needs to dedicate himself to becoming a bulldog instead of a lightweight. No comment on Wakakoyu other than he's discovered that moro-te tachi-ai followed by the quick pull. It worked okay for him as he finished 6-9, but we'll see how long it takes for his peers to clue into it.

M7 Fujiazuma tasted a bit'a reality this basho fighting from the mid-Maegashira where he basically got his ass handed to him the first week. After a 1-8 start, the NSK mercifully started pairing him against guys with equally horrible records, so he was able to make it look respectable at 6-9 in the end. This guy has a decent oshi attack, but it doesn't work against bulky rikishi. Rikishi like my man Takanowaka whose only bad loss was to Shotenro. At 9-6 some people may not take note, but he's still a kid learning how to win in the division while dominating the lower ranks. Take his loss to Sagatsukasa by ippon-zeoi, a common move in judo. That was a total fluke, and those things will happen early in a guy's career, but in a year's time, Tochinowaka should be a firm sanyaku rikishi. I really don't see a flaw in his sumo, so once he learns everyone's quirks, he'll be able to take full advantage of his size and bully his way high up the ranks. I'm stoked to see what he can do next basho when he should get a taste of the jo'i. If only his last name wasn't Li, or Japan would be totally hyping this guy.

I distinctly remember a pre-basho news account where Tomozuna-oyakata chewed Ozeki Harumafuji out for supposed "rough keiko" against M8 Kaisei. Uh, would the oyakata care to offer the Ozeki an apology? Sounds to me like he was toughening your boy up. What the hell was that, Kaisei? After a 3-2 start, Kaisei managed to lose nine straight bouts before somehow overcoming Yoshikaze on senshuraku to finish 4-11. All of a sudden, Kaisei turned into the slowest rikishi in the division, and if he was any hairier, I'd start calling him Snuffleupagus. Now that I think about it, way back in the day when I used to loiter around as many stables as possible when the sumos came to Fukuoka, the two biggest asshole oyakata were Tomozuna and Oshima. I actually like Kaisei, so I'm putting this squarely on the shoulders of Tomozuna. Kaisei's counterpart, M8 Toyohibiki, is like a zit 24 hours after you pop it. Sure, it's still a tiny bit red, but it has long lost it's punch.

I already commented a bit on M9 Masunoyama after he was forced to withdraw after accidently stepping into his left leg backwards while fighting Tochinowaka. Bottom line is dude has huge upside in this sport, but he's gotta get into better shape. It's like when my old man calls me up and says, "hey let's go play some tennis." I'll hit with anyone, but when my dad has trouble getting in and out of my car, I know I won't be practicing my drop shots. No, Masunoyama is not old, but I can actually see some limitations in his movements, so he's got to add more muscle and reduce some fat. A guy in better shape doesn't get his foot stuck in the dohyo like that. Konishiki proved that you can be too fat for your own good and still reach Ozeki, but it greatly shortens the window of time where you can be an effective rikishi. Still, of the young guys in the division, Tochinowaka and Masunoyama clearly have the most upside. It's hard to diss on counterpart Sagatsukasa, so I won't.

M10 Kyokutenho's 11-4 performance surprised me. The Chauffeur used to always win like this lower in the ranks, but he hasn't done so in awhile. What this means is...absolutely nothing.

M11 Kitataiki's 10-5 was rather meaningless as well considering the rank he achieved it from. All you need to do is look at his last three opponents and note he got his ass handed to him: Homasho, Goeido, Toyonoshima. Those are all solid guys but rikishi who we wouldn't classify as the "big boys." I know I'm treating Kitataiki a bit like a scorned lover here, but...well, it's just too painful to continue. Counterpart Gagamaru had a very similar basho to Kitataiki, the difference being Gagamaru actually upset Baruto when he was matched up against the real big boys. Lord Gaga's footing is what's making the difference in his sumo. He used to be an easy pulldown victim, but his footwork is allowing him to square with his opponents, so now instead of hiki-otoshi losses, we're seeing losses by yori-kiri. I don't care who you are, you don't want to get into a belt fight with this guy. We'll see how far they catapult him up the ranks for Kyushu because there's a ton of difference between M3, M4, and M5.

M12 Aminishiki finished 10-5, but you look at his list of kimari-te, and they're all over the map. There's no stability from Shneaky, and he can no longer kachi-koshi from within the jo'i ranks, so milk it for all you can bro and continue to get a great night's rest on that bedroll. I was happy to see counterpart Asasekiryu suffer make-koshi. It's not because I dislike the guy; rather, his sumo was full of henka throughout the fortnight, and you never like to see that rewarded. The sumo gods were looking down on the sport when they allowed Okinoumi to beat Suckiryu when both guys faced each other at 7-7.

While M13 Yoshiazuma is still considered a newcomer, he's also an old-timer at 34. It was sort of entertaining to see him figure out early in the basho that he could win by henka and then see guys catch onto it in the end resulting in an 0-5 finish. Counterpart Tamaasuka's prolly got a sore neck after looking back and forth so many times at his own 4-11 record and Takanoyama's 5-10 thinking how the hell did he one-up me? For those of you new to sumo, Tamaasuka was actually a very promising rikishi when he broke into the division 6 years ago, but a major knee injury has sapped too much of his power to allow him to succeed in this division. He'll do fine in Juryo where you see a lot of cat and mouse sumo and strange kimari-te, but in the big dance, you have to have a lower body.

M14 Tosayutaka was injured most of the basho, and the problem with this guy is his small frame has taken such a beating the last few years that he needs time to recuperate. His 4-11 from these parts will allow him to do just that in Juryo in November.

M15 Daido had the vibe about him again this basho. He quickly figured out that there were enough weaklings on this banzuke that he could take care of bidness against them and then just survive the rest of the way. His 8-7 means the ST staff is already laughing like Beavis and Butthead in anticipation of more jokes. As for counterpart Takanoyama, I don't know what was more embarrassing...watching him try and survive atop the dohyo or my acknowledging earlier in the report that I was familiar with a Weird Al Yankovic song.

Back when they booted out those 17 guys for yaocho, I commented that we were going to see some guys in Makuuchi that didn't deserve to be there, and so the early bouts would be largely unwatchable. I know that some fans disagreed with me there thinking, "you never know...if someone gets a shot up there it will be extra incentive to fight real hard." Uh, no. Takanoyama did fight real hard, and he still resembled a chew toy in the jaws of a Doberman pinscher. And it's not just his weight. We've seen lighter guys survive in the division like Mainoumi, Kyokudozan, and Tomonohana. All three of those dudes fought in the jo'i time and time again. Yes, all three employed gimmick sumo from time to time, but they could also burrow in tight and beat guys at the belt. Takanoyama's only belt win came against the injured Tosayutaka. Everything else was like springing a trap on unsuspecting prey. If he shows up in Kyushu with a coonskin cap with the tail tied up into a mage, MAYBE I'll start giving him some run.

And finally, M16 Kokkai showed flashes of his old self with a quick start, but then he'd lose to rikishi with game, panic, and inevitably resort to pull sumo. Five of his nine wins were hataki-komi or hiki-otoshi for what it's worth. I don't mind having an old-timer like the Georgian around, but he'll be figgered out again soon.

Hey, it's only the first Friday after the basho and you have a post-basho report AND a blog entry. Must mean I'm excited about something.

2011 Aki Basho Pre-basho ReportHelmut Newton sumo.
I had to chortle a bit when a thread on our forum entitled "Sumotalk is dead, long live sumo" was brought to my attention a few weeks ago. I presume it was created because not only did I fail to write a post-basho report for the first time in nine years, but I also didn't update anything on the news page in between basho. Regarding the post basho report, I said what I had to say at the end of the tournament in my day 14 comments. I'm not going to fabricate a post-basho report when there's nothing new to say just for the sake of writing one. Regarding the lack of news updates in between basho, that was due to the fact that there was no news to post. I watch NHK news daily, and I figured if there was something newsworthy regarding sumo, NHK would have reported it. Hakuho sending 10 thousand cups of instant ramen to the victims of the tsunami/quake isn't news to me. It's filler. I'd much rather spend my time teaching my kid how to throw a curveball in the back yard.

Seems like the Yokozuna Deliberation Council has my back on this one as well. Prior to each hon-basho held in Tokyo, the grand event prior to the basho is what's called the Yokozuna Deliberation Council Soken keiko session. All Makuuchi rikishi are expected to attend the event, which is now held in the Ryogoku Kokugikan's main arena and open to the public free of charge. I assume the event got its name because the Sumo Association needed to find something worthwhile--at least on paper--for the YDC to do. The premise is that members of the YDC and Sumo Association officials dress up in suits (or Jedi robes in the case of former YDC member Makiko Uchidate) and then scrutinize the level of keiko and overall fitness of the top rikishi. After the session, the media gathers sound bites from the chairman of the YDC, and we sort of have a gauge on what to expect for the upcoming basho.

Well, prior to the Aki basho, not even half of the YDC bothered to show up for the event, and the committee chairman was absent as well. If you're familiar with Japanese culture, then you know how obligated people feel towards the group or an organization to which they belong. People have paid vacation at their jobs, but they don't take it because they feel obligated to stay at the office with the rest of the team and slave away. In Japan, things like family and personal interests are sacrificed for the good of the group or organization, so prior to a basho where a rikishi is actually up for promotion to Yokozuna, how is it possible that less than half of the members of the YDC bothered to even show up for their event? I guess it also goes without saying then that since the Association began opening the doors to the general public, the Aki basho soken keiko session was the least attended on record.

The point in all of this is that it's not only the members of Sumotalk who seem disinterested towards sumo, and I would submit that the author of that thread on our forum got it backwards in his title. Remember that annoying kid you used to work with who was just starting his college courses and was required to take Economics 101? He'd come into work each afternoon after class and start reciting the contents of his economics lecture that day trying to sound all fisticated in talking about things like opportunity cost or supply and demand, and then you'd be like "bro, I took the class, and if you haven't noticed I seem to already be kicking your ass in the real world." Well son, your day has come, and those basic principles you learned in Econ 101 like ceteris paribus are certainly applicable to sumo these days. With a huge supply of entertainment options out there equally competing for our time, sumo has simply failed to adapt in order to create legitimate demand. When sumo produces real news or a talking point we've yet to address, you can bet that I will voice my opinion on the matter. Until then, I will engage in more productive behavior that likely has something to do with money or chicks.

On that note, we actually have a few talking points prior to the Aki basho, so let's get to it starting with Ozeki Harumafuji and his quest for promotion to Yokozuna. I'll start off by saying I hope he fails. It's not that I dislike Harumafuji; he just isn't Yokozuna material. And I can say that because I witnessed firsthand another guy who wasn't Yokozuna material who secured promotion in Wakanohana III. When you think about it, the two are quite similar. Both are undersized; both have/had sick technique; both have produced some stellar moments in sumo; both have relied on trickery at times to compensate for lack of size; both have taken legitimate yusho as Ozeki; but both cannot/could not sustain records worthy of a Yokozuna basho in and basho out.

Wakanohana secured promotion to Yokozuna at a time when the Musashigawa-beya ruled the jo'i and the banzuke was weakened by nagging injuries to Akebono and Takanohana, but the move to the top shelf was devastating to his career. He started out okay winning 10, 12, and then 9 in his first three basho, but those numbers wouldn't qualify for Ozeki promotion. He did go 13-2 in his fourth basho losing out to Sekiwake Chiyotaikai in a playoff for the yusho, and then after that his tenure at the sport's highest rank can most aptly be likened to a lame dog that needed to be shot. In his final seven basho ranked at Yokozuna, the best he could ever do was 7-8. Sure, he sat out three of those basho, but I remember...he wasn't injured. As for the four basho he started, he finished one...the aforementioned 7-8. Anyway, it was a case of a guy achieving the rank during a lull in the banzuke, but he clearly could not handle the burden of a Yokozuna.

I think there is a direct parallel between Wakanohana and Harumafuji, so for the good of HowDo's career, I think it's best that he doesn't achieve promotion. My gut feeling is that Harumafuji will finish with 10 or 11 wins. I think the pressure of it all gets to him, and he's still the second lightest guy in the division, only because rookie Takanoyama is a bean pole. Look for Harumafuji to come out with a lot of fight but to rush a few bouts here and there resulting in one too many bad losses. I say he finishes with numbers worthy of an Ozeki but not a Yokozuna.

Speaking of Yokozuna, I have nothing new to add regarding Hakuho. I think he'd like to see a fellow Mongolian promoted to Yokozuna, and if Harumafuji needs that final win against Hakuho to be considered for promotion, I think Hakuho gives it to him. Otherwise it will be business as usual: kick everyone's ass, and if someone needs a favor down the stretch, give it to 'em. Let's say 14-1 and the yusho.

Due to the focus on a handful of other rikishi, I haven't read much regarding Baruto and Kotooshu. Furthermore, since nothing notable has changed regarding these two, I see repeat performances from what they did in Nagoya with Kotooshu maybe finishing with one less win since there's no urgency to preserve his rank.

Like Harumafuji, there's plenty to talk about with the Sekiwake starting with Kotoshogiku, who is still technically in the hunt for promotion to Ozeki but who must win 12 to reach that magic number of 33 over three basho. The past few times rikishi have done it, they weren't promoted, but with Kaio gone and Takamisakari in Juryo, the domestic landscape is vastly changed, so you know 33 wins will git the job done for the Geeku. As I stated in my Nagoya pre-basho report, I don't believe that Kotoshogiku is ready for promotion. I think he's a solid candidate in the near future, but just not yet. His two losses to Okinoumi and Wakanosato were proof of that, but at least now the Geeku has more urgency than he did in Nagoya. I see Kotoshogiku maintaining his Sekiwake rank, winning in double digits, but coming up just short of 12 thus prolonging his Ozeki run into Kyushu where he would conveniently be in his home town giving it another run.

Across the aisle is Kisenosato, a rikishi that has actually been more consistent than Kotoshogiku over the years but who has failed to make any adjustment to put him over the Ozeki hump. Prior to the Aki basho, Kotoshogiku has been working on his tachi-ai. He understood that his half-assed approach against Okinoumi and Wakanosato got him in trouble, and so he's working to fix it. I don't ever read of Kisenosato trying to fix anything or increasing his stamina. One thing I've noticed over the years is that the longer a Kisenosato bout goes on, the greater his chance of losing it. The Kid is not in great shape, so that's one area that he can work on. Problem is, I never hear of him trying to get to the next level. As a result, look for him to hover around 10 wins but fail to grab this basho by the horns.

Sekiwake Kakuryu, who is actually the closest record-wise to Ozeki promotion, is also following Kotoshogiku's suit and identifying areas that he can work on. Namely, in his pre-basho keiko he's been working on grabbing the belt and defeating his opponents without letting it go. In the past, Kakuryu drew the ire of Martin for his sneaky and evasive ways, but all along you could see the tangible progression in Kakuryu's sumo to where he's become not only a sanyaku mainstay but a legitimate candidate for Ozeki. With weak rikishi ranked below him and Kakuryu's ability to upset rikishi ranked above him, he should continue the double-digit trend for the Sekiwake. With the Ozeki and Sekiwake all slated to win at least 10, somebody will have to lose when they all go head to head. Due to that, I don't think Kakuryu makes it to Ozeki, but I think he's closer than Kotoshogiku technique-wise.

Rounding out the sanyaku, I love Toyonoshima as a Komusubi and for obvious reasons roll my eyes when I see Aran across the aisle. I don't think anyone ranked below Toyonoshima is better than him, so he's at his rightful spot in the ranks. He can also kachi-koshi with just one or two wins over rikishi ranked above him. I expect Tugboat to finish with eight. There was a time when Aran was capable of winning eight at this level, but dude has dialed it in and is just in it for the dough. I expected him to be trodden upon to the tune of 10 losses.

Leading the way in the rank and file is M1 Homasho, the exact rikishi you want at this level. Homasho is demonstrating fighting spirit now tha this neck injury is healed, and he will keep the jo'i honest. Unlike Toyonoshima, I don't think Homie can quite kachi-koshi at this level and will finish with 6 or 7 respectable wins. Counterpart Okinoumi finds himself ranked at the highest level of his career. Whereas Homasho is a step down from Toyonoshima, Okinoumi is a step down from Homasho. Still, Okinoumi's size will allow him to run some interference among the jo'i. His upset over Kotoshogiku gives him confidence that he can win at this level, and I see him posting 5 to 6 wins.

The M2 rank is occupied by two veterans in Wakanosato and Yoshikaze who won't make a dent in the basho. Both guys are too old, and while they've learned how to win at this level, there will be nothing to compensate for their lack of size and speed. Five for Croconosato and Four for Cafe.

M3 Takekaze is my least favorite rikishi on the banzuke right now. There's just too much henka and pull for my liking. I guess he'll finagle five or six wins with unsavory sumo. Tochiohzan across the aisle is compelling especially since he's the last rung of the jo'i meaning he will fight as tough'a schedule as possible. On one hand, I'd say this is a basho where Tochiohzan can re-establish himself, but on the other hand, Oh hasn't shown that he gives a damn in at least a year. I see a lethargic performance with about five wins.

What a difference one rung on the banzuke will make. Tochinoshin checks in at M4, a rank that is just out of reach from the entire jo'i. As a result, Tochinoshin should get his eight, and I think he can flirt with double digits. This guys is still worthy of Komusubi, so I expect a decent push from the Georgian in Aki. Nine wins. Counterpart Tokitenku is surrounded on both sides by too many younger and better rikishi. Five wins for TokiDoki.

M5 Miyabiyama is way too high for his own good. He's literally slowed down a step the last year, and he will have guys running him all over the place. The Sheriff will have difficulty maintaining the law and will do well to finish with six wins. Counterpart Goeido has entered that status where I don't give a damn what he does this low anymore. What a disappointing basho he had in Nagoya, and as much as I hate t admit it, I don't think Goeido has what it takes mentally to live up to his full potential. I'll have to back and look up when I said it, but I remember once saying, "If Japan produces a Yokozuna in the next 10 years, his name will be Goeido." I'm confident that prophecy will hold true (the no Yokozuna for 10 years, not the Goeido part), but thank the gods I used that word "if." Give Goeido 10 wins.

M6 Takayasu is entering dangerous waters, but he's still far enough away from the jo'i that he won't get his ass totally kicked. My impression of this kid after watching a full basho of him is that he's sort of a Homasho guy in that he fight with spirit but lacks that extra layer of strength that would normally allow him to bully guys around. Takayasu's size forces him to be a finesse rikishi, and those guys never become sanyaku mainstays. Things could change if Takayasu fattens up a bit and learns how to win, but I don't see him causing much excitement in at least the next year. Seven wins. Counterpart Wakakoyu is turning out to be a decent rikishi. I don't see him every gracing the sanyaku, but I like that he fights straight forward and didn't seem intimidated by fighting among the jo'i in Nagoya. I'm liking this guy more and more, but he'll always be an average Joe. Six or seven wins.

M7 houses two promising young rikishi in Fujiazuma and Tochinowaka. Fujiazuma is shaped like a bowling ball and sorta reminds me of Dejima without the purple legs. Fujiazuma pushes more the Dejima, but this dude is a mini-bruiser. I like him to flirt with kachi-koshi thanks to his potent oshi attack. As for Tochinowaka, I see tons of promise in this guy, and to me he's the best thing Japan has got going for it right now. The only problem is you don't see this guy hyped in the media with the reason being his last name is Li. Yep, the Hyogo Prefecture native has Chinese blood in his veins, which is a no-no in Japan, a country that discriminates by blood instead of skin color. First, Tochinowaka is huge. Second, he's a helluva belt fighter. And third, at 23 he's still relatively young. It would not surprise me to see this guy in the Ozeki ranks. I'll have to watch him fight a few more basho, but I love what I've seen of him so far. Eight or nine wins for the Japanese rikishi.

M8 Kaisei has a very similar body to Tochinowaka, but the latter's sumo is superior. I still like Kaisei, and he's strong enough and deft enough at the belt that he could rise as high as Sekiwake, but he needs a bit more polish. I still like him to win his eight though. Across the aisle is Toyohibiki who has too many miles on his flab anymore to make an impact. Five wins?

I really like M9 Masunoyama, our first rookie this basho. In Nagoya, Masunoyama was asked multiple times to fill a vacancy for a day in Makuuchi, and he coolly won his first two Makuuchi bouts. This is the second Heisei-born rikishi in the division behind Takayasu, but I think Masunoyama will surpass Takayasu's rank soon. Next to Tochinowaka, I think this kid has the most upside of anyone. I expect him to flirt with a Kantosho and take the mid ranks by storm. Nine wins at least. Counterpart Sagatsukasa has totally been overachieving the last few basho, and he can't continue this for much longer. According to his ability, he's a five or six win guy here.

No comment on M10's Tamawashi and Kyokutenho, two Mongolian's who should kachi-koshi.

Not much either on our M11's, Kitataiki who is limited by his knee and Gagamaru, who is too large to handle a savvy rikishi's counter attack. Give Kitataiki seven and Gagamaru eight.

M12 Aminishiki's body is finally breaking down. His right knee redefines the term gimpy, and he can no longer rely on his speed. The result is is current rank, and like Takamisakari the last year or so, Aminishiki is going to struggle just to keep himself in the division. Seven or eight wins. Counterpart Asasekiryu is another veteran who is slowing down and doesn't have the strength to constantly overcome the younger guys. Same fate as Shneaky.

M13 is occupied by our second rookie, Yoshiazuma. At 34 years old, this guy is the second or third slowest to ever attain the division. I guess those are fuzzy stories when they happen, but it's impossible for him to amount to anything in the division. This guy is here because 17 other sekitori were expelled from sumo for yaocho. Five wins would be an achievement. Counterpart Tamaasuka is another guy who just doesn't fit in this high. We've seen him three or four times before, but he hasn't amounted to anything. That he's two years older in between stops doesn't help matters either. Five wins.

I think we've seen M14 Tosayutaka's best shot. Dude's just too short to last too long up here, but how many other guys can say they've kicked Kotooshu's ass? Six or seven wins. Like Kitataiki, Shotenro cannot overcome a serious knee injury, so let's move on.

Let's briefly touch on M15 Daido, not because I think he really adds anything to the division but because of the nickname "Dildo" Mario saddled him with last basho. I must admit that when I see a rikishi's shikona for the first time, I immediately began forming nicknames in my head, and yes, Dildo was the very first name that popped into my mind for Daido, but it was so easy that I refrained from using it. Now that Mario has introduced the name, let me just publicly say that I find it childish and classless and will never again mention it in my comments.

Back to Daido, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from him last basho, but I felt he produced some good vibrations. The key was his penetration from the tachi-ai as exhibited on days 11 and 12, the climax of his basho where he won two bouts in a row. I sensed his batteries running low near the end of the tourney, but he did hit the switch again on senshuraku picking up a nice win to give him at least some after glow heading into the break. The point is, the dude isn't afraid to strap it on, and while I won't go as far to say he's the real thing, for the most part he gets the job done during these lonely days in the world of sumo. As for his record, let's go with 6-9.

Counterpart Takanoyama is our third rookie in the division, and it will be interesting to watch this native of the Czech Republic fight. First, dude doesn't even tip the scales at 100 kilograms. Second, he's 28 meaning it's taken him longer than any other foreigner to reach the Makuuchi division. And third, I get the sense that he's a nerd, and I mean that in a nice way...sorta like calling Bill Gates a nerd with his deep pockets and hot wife. I've never seen Takanoyama fight, but I have heard him speak Japanese. Dude's flawless with the tongue, but unfortunately, that prolly won't translate on the dohyo. There's a reason why the ultimate sumo body means putting on fat, something that Takanoyama lacks. Like Yoshiazuma, he's mainly here because of the 17 slots above him that opened up. Doesn't mean he can't succeed, but he's a flash in the pan at best. Give him six or seven wins.

M16 Kokkai makes his return to the division, but it's safe to say his sumo didn't get better in Juryo. I doubt he scores eight. Kimurayama will hover right around the eight win level, but he's one of those guys who struggles regardless of where he's at on the banzuke.

Let's conclude with Hochiyama who finds himself back in Makuuchi after something like four or five years. I had my eye on this kid when he was in the Makushita division, but he just didn't translate into a good Makuuchi rikishi due to his light weight. I see, though, that he has put on a few kilograms since then, so let's see how he does. Dude's taller than most rikishi and used to be cat quick with a decent tsuppari attack. Still, I don't think he's been here in a long time for a reason, so I expect this basho to be a one night stand with five or six wins.

My predictions for the basho are as follows:

Yusho: Hakuho (14-1)
Shukunsho: none
Kantosho: Masunoyama
Ginosho: Kakuryu






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