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2013 Aki Post-basho Report (Page 2)

Moving across the aisle, it's really hard for me to criticize Yokozuna Harumafuji, and I go back to that rule about limiting the number of foreign rikishi in the sport. I mean, ask yourself...why even implement such a rule? I think the answer to that question is the reason that HowDo has been finishing with just 10 or 11 wins of late. I know his sumo didn't look great this basho, and I know he avoided his opponents on more than one occasion from the tachi-ai, but I'm of the opinion that he could turn it on if he wanted to and consistently finish a basho with 13 wins. Nuff said there.

Ozeki Kisenosato is like a broken record always finishing with the most wins among his Ozeki peers and always keeping his name on the leaderboard. And, he always finds a way to take himself out of it in week 2 despite bones being thrown his way here and there. I think the Kid is too set in his ways to change, so continue to watch him leave himself open at the tachi-ai, use his strength advantage to mostly bully the Maegashira rikishi and Komusubi, and go about .500 against his fellow Ozeki and the Yokozuna. Can you see why sumo needs an Endoh already?

Everything I said about Harumafuji also applies to Ozeki Kakuryu. His finishing 9-6 is not in direct relation to his ability on the banzuke. Consider this: Kakuryu is 0 for his last nine against both Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku, and in his last 14 bouts against Kisenosato, he's just 2-12. To think that Kakuryu and his superior technique could not find a way to get inside of Kisenosato's wide open tachi-ai is just ridiculous. And the same could be said for Harumafuji who is a curious 0-4 in his last four bouts against Kisenosato. These two guys would much rather be dining on yaku-niku and twerking in the Tokyo clubs than bundling up and sipping hot goats milk out on the bitter steppes, so something tells me neither care too much about their recent head to head against the Japanese Ozeki. A final comment on Kakuryu before we move on; the ease with which he was able to become an Ozeki 18 months ago must have the elders in the Association wringing their hair in frustration.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku like Kisenosato has already peaked and is a non-factor anymore at the tournaments. It used to be that Ozeki were guaranteed at least one career yusho, but the gap between the foreigners and the Japanese rikishi has become so vast that it's just not obtainable anymore. The struggles for Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku is all the more reason for Japan to get excited about Endoh.

As for Ozeki Kotooshu who withdrew with yet another injury midweek 1, retirement can't be far on the horizon. You could see that Aran, who just announced his retirement, didn't care anymore, and I'm seeing the same sign in Kotooshu's sumo as well. If there's anyone built to just shred this banzuke it's Kotooshu, but when was the last time we saw a sound tachi-ai similar to Hakuho's where he looks to establish the quick inside position to set up the solid outer grip? It's just not there anymore, and like Aran admitted at his press conference, I don't see any desire from the Ozeki nor his ability to capitalize on his strength. Kotooshu is getting injured because his sumo has become so unorthodox that his body just can't keep up with the weird throws and falls anymore.

In the Sekiwake ranks, Myogiryu was a huge disappointment at 6-9, but whose going to fill his shoes? A Sekiwake cannot afford to lose to both Komusubi and two Maegashira rikishi and still hope to maintain his prestigious rank. Myogi Bear will be back here soon, however, because there simply isn't anyone there able to replace him on a consistent basis.

Sekiwake Goeido looked great this basho, and the reason was that he looked to fight straight-forward from the tachi-ai more often than not as opposed to skirting laterally. He still has his flaws but just the way in which he kicked Kisenosato's ass was a thing'a beauty and shows his potential. With Goeido, it's all mental, and I wish he had a better stable master who knew how to handle him. On the bright side, the kid did win 11 bouts, but that already has the media talking Ozeki run again...something I don't think is good for Goeido's psyche. I think it's too much to expect 11 wins or more every basho from the Father, but with his ability he should be hovering close to 10.

Komusubi Tochiohzan's 8-7 was no surprise since he's in the top five of current Japanese rikishi, but this dude has yet to show that he can make his presence felt at the Sekiwake rank. You'd have to say his signature win of the basho was on day 13 against Endoh; otherwise, he didn't necessarily impress.

Komusubi Takayasu didn't exactly strike the fear of the gods into his opponents in his sanyaku debut. In fact, he looked just plain lost among the sanyaku rikishi. There was a bit of ballyhoo prior to the basho because Takayasu is the first sanyaku rikishi born in the Heisei era, but after this basho, I'm not sure if I want to see any more.

I kind of want to get excited over M1 Shohozan's performance, but Clancy nailed it in his senshuraku report when he said that Shohozan's trying to pick up his kachi-koshi and a special prize with a henka on the tourney's final day was just plain sad. I loved the fire he came out with early in the basho catching a Yokozuna and a coupla Ozeki by surprise, but that henka at the end... I'll give him a pass and let's see how he does among the sanyaku in Kyushu.

I will continue to talk about M3 Chiyotairyu until I see another rikishi come up with more potential than him. Dude just couldn't get it going due to his rough schedule, but when I look at his wins and losses, he's beating his fellow Maegashira rikishi and coming up short against the sanyaku rikishi on up. His win against Kisenosato shows that he's a force to be reckoned with and if he can just keep to the sumo basics he will flourish. He's got to keep his feet grounded to the dohyo, and he's got to charge straight forward. I still think he'll supplant the two current Japanese Ozeki in time.

You gotta love M6 Kyokutenho going 9-6 after his 39th birthday. It'd be one thing if he was fighting like Takekaze and trying to finagle wins with crap sumo, but he's still charging forward and making guys beat him. Tenho has clearly lost a step in the ring, and more and more of his losses are coming so fast he doesn't have time to counter, but he's still one of the best rank and filers out there, and I think he can make it to forty and still kachi-koshi.

M7 Aran's retirement is a good thing. The Russian admitted to the media that he didn't have the desire anymore, and at least he was honest about it. I wish, though, that he was as straight-forward with his sumo as he was in his press conference. The skinny on Aran is this: his stable, the Mihogaseki-beya, was dissolved at the end of the Aki basho, and he frankly couldn't go anywhere else and be as lazy he was at Mihogaseki, so he made the correct decision to call it quits. I just hope he wasn't as stupid with his loot as Roho.

M9 Kotoyuki came up short at 7-8, but I like this guy and think he can one day rise to the sanyaku. He's sorta got Chiyotairyu-itis, and if he can fully recover from that and commit to straight forward sumo, what rikishi among the Maegashira can stop him?

I was happy to see M11 Tochinowaka finish 9-6, which is a pretty decent record when you consider he looked awful in a handful of his bouts. Tochinowaka reminds me of that little leaguer whose good enough to be a perennial all-star but wilts against a pitcher who throws pure heat. I've been around enough baseball for the last five years that you can easily see a kid who has fear when he steps into the batter's box against a dominant pitcher, and I think Tochinowaka is similar in that he doesn't like bruising contact at the tachi-ai. Come to think of it, if he doesn't like smashmouth tachi-ai, he'd fit right in with most of the sanyaku and Ozeki. Look at what Kisenosato's managed with his poor tachi-ai, so don't count Tochinowaka out.

Of the 32 Maegashira rikishi, only one managed double-digit wins, and that was M13 Homasho who finished 10-5. That spells a whole lotta average for three fourths of this division, so how can myself and the Japanese media not get a total stiffie when we see someone like M13 Endoh come along? He took Homasho for granted on day 1, he gave Jokoryu the win on day 5, and then his only really bad loss was to Gagamaru on day 8. In that Gagamaru bout, Endoh wanted no piece of Gaga The Hutt, which is crazy because Gagamaru has proven as soft as the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man lately. Endoh really only made two mistakes the entire basho: he tried to kill Homasho with the outer grip before he had anything inside, and he opted for cat and mouse sumo against a behemoth. He never repeated that first mistake the rest of the way, which tells me he learned from that, and he beat two other Hutt rikishi in Tenkaiho and Tokushoryu in week two, which suggests he learned his lesson from the Gagamaru bout. Against Tochiohzan, he apparently was fighting on a sprained ankle, which makes some sense although I think Tochi would'a got'im anyway. The point is, he's already such a polished rikishi, and on a banzuke like this, nobody's gonna stop him until he reaches the jo'i. He does need a little bit more punch to his tachi-ai, but he's been in professional sumo all of four basho now. He is worth the hype.

Getting back to counterpart Homasho, dude's 32 and still managed to rule the Maegashira roost. There isn't anyone who doesn't like Homasho, so it was great to see him reach double-digits, but as we discussed with Endoh, Homasho doesn't have that bruising tachi-ai either, and look what he can do on this banzuke. As long as Homasho can stay healthy, he's got a few more years in him and damn that boy Sho Am Sweet!  (I will never tire of that picture)

Let's conclude the Aki basho with mention of M15 Wakanosato, who is clearly on his last leg. I don't see how the dude fights in the division again, but he has been one of my favorite wrasslers the last decade. He's kind of like Kaio in that his timing couldn't have been worse in regards to when he entered sumo because if you took Wakanosato in his prime and put him on this banzuke, he'd waltz to the Ozeki rank and threaten the Yokozuna rank as well. It's sad to see him go, and he deserves tons of props for such a straight-up career.

So that's a wrap on the September festivities, and the Kyushu basho banzuke will be here before we know it. There are plenty of stories already brewing that will make the basho interesting, and this year has already shown there's plenty to keep our attention even in the absence of a legitimate yusho race.

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