2014 Haru Pre-basho Report (Page 2)
Getting back to the Ozeki ranks, Kotoshogiku and
Kisenosato round things out behind Kakuryu, and there's nothing to say about
either of these guys other than Kisenosato is kadoban. Whoopdeedo! There is
absolutely no drama surrounding Kisenosato and whether or not he can get his
eight wins, and one reason why 99% of the focus is on Endoh is because the story
behind these two Ozeki has grown so tired. I must reiterate...elevating
Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku to Ozeki and keeping Goeido at Sekiwake has been a
farce. Endoh on the other hand is legit, and that's why he's being hyped so much
without having really accomplished anything in the division. Give Kisenosato
10-11 wins while Kotoshogiku will need the usual charity to get his eight.
For the first time in a long time we have three Sekiwake on the board, and
credit Tochiohzan for staying consistent enough to where the Association had no
choice but to promote him. If you eliminated all of the foreign rikishi and had
a hon-basho where every rikishi fought straight up, I think Tochiohzan is the
favorite to yusho. From his tachi-ai to yotsu-zumo skills, I think he's
currently the best Japanese rikishi on the board, and his only weakness really
is a lack of mental toughness, but who among the Japanese rikishi is mentally
tough? I'll tell you a few paragraphs down. I see Tochiohzan winning 8 or 9 and
maintain his Sekiwake rank.
It will be interesting to see if Tochiohzan will become the next candidate for
"project Goeido." In other words, is the Association going to abandon Goeido and
start hyping Tochiohzan as the next Ozeki? There'd be nothing to lose. Because
we are in Osaka, I expect Goeido to threaten double digit wins, but I fear the
decline in his career starts after the Haru basho.
The final Sekiwake is Kotooshu, and I read a couple of months back that he and
Tokitenku received official Japanese citizenship status meaning they can remain
with the Association after retirement as oyakata. And why not? What, with Vlad
Putin getting a hard on for the former Soviet Union territories again, if I were
Kotooshu I'd continue getting fat in Japan too after my fighting days. I guess
the point is that Kotooshu is set for the rest of his life, so what's the point
in trying hard in the ring? I see him finishing with about eight wins and not
giving a shat about it.
After the Sekiwake, things really drop off fast. The Komusubi rank of late has
been all about "who can we get to fill the slots?" Toyonoshima enters in from
the East while Shohozan occupies the West rank, and I don't see either of these
guys impacting the basho at all. What I want to see from the Komusubi this basho
is how well Endoh can do against them. The guys in Sekiwake on up are all
veterans and know what it takes to fight at this leve, but the Komusubi are
going to be a great litmus test for Elvis. Give the two Komusubi a combined 11
wins and let's move on.
We've already talked bout M1 Endoh at length, and across the aisle is...hold
on...let me rub my eyes and clear my head...yes, I guess I am reading that
correctly. Sitting in the M1 West slot is Tamawashi. You have a choice of two
things going on here. 1. Tamawashi is enjoying a resurgence in his career. 2.
The rest of the division is so bad that Tamawashi climbed this far by default. I
won't bother telling you which one I think it is.
M2 Okinoumi is really in the same boat as Tamawashi. Is this a legitimate
awakening, or is his body big enough to allow him now to hang around the jo'i? I
really like Okinoumi and think he's been fighting harder the last few basho, so
I see him as the biggest threat to regain the Komusubi rank. I'll predict 7
wins. His counterpart is Tochinowaka, a rikishi whom I've yet to figure out.
Like Okinoumi, he's huge and has game but just doesn't seem to apply himself in
the ring. I don't think Tochinowaka survives his rough week 1 schedule and see
him finishing with about 5 wins.
The M3 rank is solid with two former sanyaku members in Kaisei and Takayasu, but
can they make an impact on the basho? I don't see it happening, and where Endoh
is really going to need to prove himself is against the M2's and M3's on this
banzuke. If he just gets his ass kicked, a lot of this overhyping on the part of
the media will be in vain.
Let's skip down to M5 populated by Chiyootori, the rikishi who I think shows the
strongest mental toughness of the Japanese rikishi. This guy is a rock and has
quietly risen the ranks sticking to yotsu-zumo and using his body to perfection.
Just outside of the jo'i, I'd really like to see Chiyootori make a legitimate
push for the sanyaku this basho.
Two ranks down is stablemate M7 Chiyotairyu, and dude should be embarrassed that
he is no longer the kashira-rikishi in his stable. I suppose he's going
to have a kick-ass basho, but I can no longer hype the dude until he starts
performing among the jo'i.
Sliding even further to the M10 rank, we have Myogiryu and our first rookie in
Terunofuji. Myogiryu should just clean up down here. I mean, you have a guy who
has been fighting basho in and basho out against the best in the division, so
when he comes out at this level his first reaction should be "when did everyone
become so soft?" This is assuming that he's 100% healthy again, and with all the
news focusing on Endoh, who knows? I expect Myogiryu to easily win ten.
As for Terunofuji, I have seen him fight a few times, and what stands out most
about him is he's huge. Oh, and he's also Mongolian, so you combine great sumo
skills, size, and Mongolian blood, and the prospects for Endoh's saving the
future of sumo dim quite a bit. Terunofuji may take a few lumps getting used to
some of the veterans who know the tricks of the trade, but I expect him to
kachi-koshi quite easily.
Osunaarashi checks in at M11 coming off of his first kachi-koshi in the division
back in January. He came up just short in Kyushu before posting a 9-6 at the
Hatsu basho, and it wouldn't surprise me to see another two-bout improvement
from him in the win column. I was hoping we'd see sounder sumo from the Ejyptian,
but the kid is still so young and new that once he settles into his own style,
he's going to be a bitch to handle.
Our other Makuuchi rookie is M12 Chiyomaru, the older brother to Chiyootori. I
have yet to see Maru fight, and I have yet to see a rikishi who entered the
division after his younger brother and was ultimately better than him. A recent
example is Aminishiki and his older brother...um...er...see what I mean? I'll
save judgment for Chiyomaru until I've seen him fight a few days.
Let's conclude with two rikishi who suffered make-koshi last basho and still
managed to stay in the division. The first is M15 Takanoiwa, a rikishi I really
like and one who had a disappointing debut. The kid does have two things going
for him. 1. He handed Endoh a loss on senshuraku in January denying Elvis the
Ginosho and improving his own record to 7-8 which kept him in the division. 2.
He's the prodigy of Takanohana and the first sekitori that the former great has
guided into the division. It'd be a lot better story in the eyes of the Japanese
fans if Takanoiwa wasn't Mongolian, but the connection to Takanohana is still
something the Association can play off of.
The second rikishi is M16 Satoyama who held onto the last slot in the division
for one simple reason: he became a fan favorite seemingly overnight due to his
small frame and unorthodox style. The Sumo Association knows they can get more
run by having him in the division than by having him in Juryo, and it's really
as simple as that. You'll remember that Satoyama was denied kachi-koshi and a
Ginosho last basho due to a hair pull of Takayasu's wig on senshuraku, but the
powers that be brought him back for one more dance since the Japanese fans seem
to like rikishi with little quirks struggling to survive in Makuuchi (i.e.
Masunoyama and the former Takamisakari). I'm actually okay with keeping Satoyama
around for the simple reason that I know I'll take notice of his bout each day
just to see what happens.
The Osaka basho has the famous catch phrase of "areru Haru basho," which
means anything can happen. I just hope the "anything" isn't something fake, but
nothing would surprise me. As always, I will make my predictions assuming all of
the action will be fought straight up:
Yusho: Hakuho (14-1)
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