2014 Kyushu Pre-basho Report (Page 2)
So who was the rikishi who kept Ichinojo out of the East
Sekiwake slot? That would be Aoiyama who has actually looked quite good the last
few basho fighting from among the jo'i. Physically, Aoiyama can't move fast
enough to beat the Yokozuna, but with the huge drop-off between the Yokozuna and
everyone else, Aoiyama should be just fine even with his stand-up-straight
style. I expect eight wins from the Bulgarian.
Similarly to the Ozeki rank, the Komusubi rank has become a joke in sumo of late.
It's no longer populated by guys who make a stand from the jo'i. Rather, it's
populated by dudes who did well from about the M6 region and find themselves
here by default because no one above them could kachi-koshi. Okay, in the case
of Takekaze, he was demoted from Sekiwake last basho, but he achieved the
Sekiwake rank then due to a nice record from the middle of the Maegashira ranks.
To the West to the West (wasn't that a Beyoncé song?), we have Ikioi who slides
up from M5 with no one else worthy to round out the sanyaku. These two Komusubi
are incapable of creating excitement at this basho, so they're gonna hang around
in name only. Look for them to finish with about 10 wins collectively.
One of the few guys who does belong among the jo'i is M1 Tochiohzan who occupies
the top rank-and-file seat after falling from grace two basho ago due to an
injury. I'm on record declaring this guy as the best Japanese rikishi on the
banzuke, and while a shoulder injury threw a wrench in things the last two tournaments,
I expect Tochiohzan's presence to be felt once again in Kyushu. Look for a slow
2-5 start followed by a hot streak in the end and a kachi-koshi. It's really be
nice to have Oh at full strength and occupying the Sekiwake ranks moving forward
Beyond Tochiohzan, we have the usual tired names hanging around
these parts like Aminishiki, Toyohibiki, Takayasu, Kaisei, and Yoshikaze. Two
dudes I will single out from the bottom half of the jo'i are M2 Takarafuji and
M3 Terunofuji. I think it would be a career accomplishment for a guy like
Takarafuji to actually reach the sanyaku. He sits at his career highest rank at
M2, and while he's a guy that doesn't have the tools to really become a star in
sumo, I always find myself rooting for him, probably because he's a straight up
yotsu guy with decent strength. While I don't expect a kachi-koshi, I think he
can do it this basho if he can catch a few of the Ozeki by surprise.
As for Terunofuji, he's my obvious bromance interest at the moment. Currently at
the M3 slot, I think he's superior to all of the Japanese rikishi, and it's only
a matter of time before he will become a sanyaku mainstay. Hailing from the
Isegahama-beya (operated by former Yokozuna Asahifuji), I think the reins have
been pulled back on him a bit, especially in his contests with the current
Ozeki, but I like this guy more than Ichinojo. Ichinojo enjoys the girth
advantage on Terunofuji, but it stops there. The M3 is faster and clearly more
skilled at sumo than Ichinojo, and it would not surprise me to see Terunofuji
turn out to be the more consistent rikishi in the end. I just love everything
about him, and you know you've arrived in sumo when you're asked to step aside
here and there for Ozeki. Give him eight wins at least.
I think at a certain point, a rikishi has to demonstrate decent sumo skills to
survive, and that's why M5 Osunaarashi has struggled of late. Early on in the
division, the Ejyptian was able to survive on brute strength as he bounced guys
from the ring, but he's losing way too many bouts these days by being exposed at
the tachi-ai. In a back alley, this is the last guy you'd ever want to run into,
but since these guys can't rely on closed fists, you gotta show some of the sumo
basics, and Osunaarashi has been incapable of doing it of late. The upside is
he's still so young and green, so let's hope he learns to trust in the basics
like a sound tachi-ai, staying low, and fighting from the inside.
I think my favorite guy in the division right now is M7 Sadanoumi. Size-wise, I
don't think he's capable of continual success among the jo'i, but I appreciate
his effort and stellar yotsu-zumo skills. He still gets burned by going for the
kill too early, but he's my favorite guy to watch right now in terms of sumo
content and fighting spirit.
We've already talked about M8 Endoh, so lets slide back to the East and
concentrate on Tochinoshin. Dude entered the division six years ago and proved
to be another formidable foreigner albeit one who at times looked like he was
just in it for the paycheck. Back then, his highest rank was Komusubi, but now
that the banzuke has deteriorated so much the last few years, let's see if he
can best that and reach the Sekiwake ranks. Truth be told, I think he was in it
for the money until a leg injury sent him clear down to the Makushita ranks.
Once healthy, however, he's hardly lost as he's climbed back up the ranks and
just ruled the Juryo division the last two basho. My hope is that Tochinoshin
has new life and will try to continue this surge up into the sanyaku ranks. My
fear is that he will become complacent again and just hang around for the money.
If there's a single wildcard this basho, it's Tochinoshin. I expect him to shine
in Kyushu to the tune of about 10 wins, so let's hope he doesn't hit the wall in
a few basho when the competition gets measurably stronger.
I think M9 Chiyotairyu and Osunaarashi are two birds of a feather. So much
potential here, but it's all wasted with unsavory sumo habits.
I really don't see another talking point on the banzuke until we get down to M14
where Amuuru makes his Makuuchi debut, and even then, I really don't see a lot
of talking points. Amuuru is one of those guys whose rise up the ranks was near
record breaking. The problem is he was threatening records in terms of slowest
foreigner ever, etc. Dude did pick up a win in September visiting from Juryo,
and while he may be able to kachi-koshi considering the cast of misfits around
him, I don't think he lasts too long. It's like a rookie making a start in the
big leagues. He'll see decent success the first time he faces a team, but once
everyone has seen him a time or two, you'll never hear from him again.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge my man Kotoyuki back up from
Juryo occupying the M16 rank. After deciding to put his foot on backwards a year
or so ago in a bout, he was demoted deep into the Juryo ranks where he has
slowly rehabilitated himself and climbed back up to the Makuuchi division. I
love his thrusting style of sumo, and he should see success with his fiery brand
of sumo. Lately I've enjoyed the first half of the broadcast far more than the
latter half, and Kotoyuki will be fun to watch early on. If you've never seen
him before, he'll be the dude that sounds like he's hocking a loogie into his
fist right before his bout begins.
In conclusion, I expect the Kyushu basho to be more marketing and hype than sumo
substance; hell, I can't even think of good candidates for the sansho.
Hopefully, though, there are enough storylines to keep us entertained. Here are
Yusho: Hakuho (12-3)
Kantosho: Tochinoshin, Myogiryu
Back to page