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2016 Haru Post-basho Report

With nothing really to talk about among the sanyaku, let's drop down to the Maegashira ranks where M1 Kotoyuki supposedly had a stellar basho finishing 12-3. Look, I think I've given this kid more credit than most, especially when he first entered the division. In fact, I liked him a whole lot until he dissed Hakuho by refusing to stop that barking gimmick before each bout. Still, I would constantly single this dude out early on and say that I thought he had potential, so I have every right to say now that his 12-3 record in Osaka was a complete fraud. Just consider this:

Harumafuji: 9-6
Kakuryu: 10-5
Kotoyuki: 12-3

And that's fighting the exact same schedule. Someone who can go 12-3 in their jo'i debut is a future Yokozuna. And frankly, that's what kinda scares me. It's my fear that Kotoyuki is being set up to become sumo's next Ozeki. Let's face it, Kotoshogiku was done three years ago, and both Kisenosato and Goeido are now 30. Something has to be done to fill the void that is coming soon, and so you can just see the Association working to fill it with the following rikishi in this order:


I put Shodai first because the possibility still exists that Sadogatake-oyakata just bought and paid for this basho similarly to what he did for Kotooshu's only yusho, but if you were to single out the rank and filers who have the most bouts thrown in their favor, it's the three I just mentioned. Now, I don't believe that Kotoyuki was accommodated prior to this basho, so we'll have to just wait and see how he's handled from here on out. Look, the dude is obviously better than the three Amigos, and I'd rank him right now as probably the 5th best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke, but he's definitely not a 12-3 guy in his jo'i debut. If we go back and feature a few prominent rikishi and how they fared their first time ranked in the Makuuchi jo'i (M3 and higher), here's how it shakes out:

Hakuho: 8-7
Asashoryu: 8-7
Takanohana: 9-6
Akebono: 8-7
Kitanoumi: 6-9
Taiho: 11-4

You look at these numbers, and you can really see just how screwed up everything is these days. All I can say about Kotoyuki is this: I really like that he comes with his bread and butter tsuppari attack every bout. I really like how he tries to use his de-ashi every bout. I've really liked him from the beginning. I do think he's a top 5 JPN rikishi at the moment. But having said all that, he should have gotten his ass kicked at the Haru basho. Let's just see what happens with him from here.

I liked the efforts from both M2 Okinoumi and Tochinoshin who finished 8-7 and 6-9 respectively. You really gotta hand it to Tochinoshin. He forfeits so many bouts to inferior Japanese rikishi and yet he just plods along without a care in the world. The thing is with this guy is that he knows that sumo is his job. It's what earns him serious cash both from his monthly paycheck and under the table. He eats well every day, and he's surrounded by hot chicks. To him it's just work, and so he shows up, throws the usual bouts, wins 6 in his sleep, and then collects that sweet paycheck. Just another day on the job for the Private.

Same goes for M3 Aoiyama.

Like M3 Kotoyuki, M4 Ikioi's 10-5 was a sham as well. I actually like Ikioi, and I think he uses his size well, but his 10-5 was a direct result of his being an Osaka native.

M6 Myogiryu looked good in posting a 10-5 basho that will propel him back up to the jo'i for May. He's one of the better Japanese rikishi on the board who never receives help from anyone, so it's refreshing to watch him basho in and basho out. I also think that he was the last guy to legitimately beat Hakuho in a hon-basho when he did it two or three years ago. Counterpart Shodai finished 9-6, and even that record was inflated. You're just going to have to trust me if you can't see it, but guys lay down for this youngster all the time to the extent that I still can't tell just how good he is. I mean, he's got good size and his technique is versatile, but I want to see him struggle and earn his keep. I go back to Terunofuji just over a year ago and his rise up through the rank and file. It was not anything fancy, but you could literally see him work his way out of jams and learn how to win.

M7 Kaisei finished 11-4 in a basho that included two yaocho bouts in favor of Takanoiwa and Chiyootori. It's a quiet yet effective example of just how good the foreign rikishi are, and Kaisei is hands down better than any Japanese rikishi on the board. Of course, it won't appear that way in May when he's back up among the jo'i obligated to throw more matches.

M8 Takanoiwa was interesting this basho because for the first time he was having bouts thrown in his favor. He ultimately finished 8-7, which will nudge him up closer to the jo'i, and I'm pretty sure Takanohana was buying bouts for his protege to give the stable more legitimacy. For those of you who have been watching sumo for a couple of decades now, you'll remember just how good the Futagoyama-beya was. In fact, in my two plus decades of following the sport, I've yet to see a stable that could match the juggernaut that Takanohana's father put together, but since the son has taken over, the stable has just fallen to shambles relying on a Mongolian for years just to give the stable it's lone sekitori. Takanohana will finally have that monkey off his back in May as he's finally found a Japanese recruit able to reach sekitori status, so keep your eye on a dude named Satoh in the next little while.

Satoh was ranked MS9, and he took the Makushita yusho with a perfect 7-0 record, and I wonder if Takanohana-oyakata paid for any of Satoh's bouts?? I of course did not see any of them and can't comment for sure, but the Makushita ranks have this prestigous section called the Makushita Jo'i that consists of the top 15 ranks in the division both East and West. If you go 7-0 from the MS Jo'i then you're guaranteed promotion to Juryo for the next basho. Satoh actually reached the MS jo'i for last year's Kyushu basho where he went 3-4. In January still ranked in the jo'i at MS13, he did slightly better going 4-3. Now this basho from MS9, he won the whole shootin' match. It's a little bit suspicious to me because of what I saw in some of the Takanoiwa bouts, but let's just wait and see how Satoh pans out.

I speculated during the basho that I thought Takanoiwa was having bouts thrown in his favor in order give Takanohana's stable a bit more credibility because the former Yokozuna was a candidate for commissioner at the NSK elections held a few days after the Haru basho. There were a total of 8 votes cast with Hokutoumi (the current Hakkaku-oyakata) receiving six of them and Takanohana receiving two votes. I won't get into the politics of the election for commissioner here, but I do think that Takanohana is trying to build up the reputation of his stable by any means possible.

And before we move on, is it possible for a dude to get any weirder?? Prior to the Haru basho, Takanohana suddenly showed up about 30 pounds underweight and sporting a buzz cut. My first reaction when I saw him was the same one I had when I saw Bruce Jenner on that Keeping Up with the Kardashians show four or five years ago. My memory of Bruce from the 70's was of course this muscular athlete with hairy armpits and sweet hair, so when I saw him with the Kardashians I was like what the hell is going on with this dude? Of course, it turns out that Bruce was slowly transitioning to Cait, which helped explain a lot of things, so if I don't see a new show premier on Japanese television in the near future called I Am Takako, I'm really going to be worried about the oyakata.

Moving right along, M11 Ichinojo was a solid 11-4 showing flashes of brilliance and then slowing things down on purpose so as to not create too much buzz. Can't have any of the Mongolians stealing the spotlight, so expect another quiet outing from the Slug in May.

Down at M13 we find our first rookie, Daishomaru who finish 8-7 with some assistance in week two. The dude was okay, but mid-basho everyone had figured out that he was a one-tricky pony and not a very stubborn one at that, so it took obvious yaocho to get him to eight wins in the end. Big deal.

Across the way was Mitakeumi who had a solid basho at 10-5 even though some of his opponents handled him with kid gloves. Prior to the Haru basho, Mitakeumi was yucking it up with...well, have a look for yourself:

All I can say is that pretty much sums up Japanese sumo the last few years. What happened to those badass pictures of rikishi pulling dirty tires across the stable yard? At least give me images of someone pounding mochi with a wooden mallet.

Since this report is going downhill fast, let's finish with M16 Akiseyama whom Harvye aptly named the Waterbed during the basho. Wow, this had to have been one of the worst rookie debuts I've ever witnessed. After a 2-0 start, Akiseyama managed to clinch make-koshi over the next eight days and then needed two obvious yaocho after that just to leave him at a 4-11 record. I thought Kitataiki was light on him the first day, so his only likely legit win was over Satoyama. I always look forward to the Japanese rookies with high anticipation, but Akiseyama was a dud from the start.

As we look ahead to the Natsu basho that starts May 8th, you need to look no further than the Sumo Association's home page to see what's in store:

I must admit, that's a pretty sweet picture of Kisenosato, but is it too much to ask for an action shot of the Ozeki doing something besides throwing salt? Don't answer that. We'll find out soon enough starting May 8th.

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