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
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
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
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
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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