Senshuraku Comments (PZ Kelly reporting)
sorry to have been ausente this bash-oh! but damn, my new work has me on a
keyboard 11/6, so I have little compunction to log on once home and write about
men to whom I am but a gnat to be crushed on their way to glory and god. Since I
have remained wholly unaware of the circumstances of this basho, I have decided
to check neither the daily reports nor the paths the men battling today took to
reach Day 15 of the Tokyo Grand Sumo Summer Tourney before writing this report,
which I will be writing off a link of all the bouts uploaded to the Web by some
guy in chronological order. It is my fervent hope that this tickytack tactic
results in some fresh and hellaciously entertaining sumo rayporTAHGE!
First off, props to our man Kagamio, who took the Juryo yusho. "Kagamiooooooo,
Kagamioooooo, Kagamio juryo. Magnifico-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho." You're NOT just a poor
boy and EVERYBODY loves you.
Starting off, Jokoryu henkad Chioytairyu and still lost in a heartbeat, the
bugger. Chiyotairyu gets 9 wins and will definitely be taking one spot in
Makuuchi whilst Jokoryu will vacate same. What a tangled web, indeed.
Toyohibiki, at 5 wins and perched precariously low in the division, went a
slappin at Kotoyuki, who with his 8 wins in the bag had little interest in the
days proceedings. The Zit may hang in Makuuchi, but with the way Chiyotairyu
fought, will there be room?
Fellow Kokonoe man Chiyomaru had a tough basho evidently, and today it was not
improving, as Kyokushuho at 8 wins wanted 9 and got it with some straightforward
but uneventful yotsu.
Kyokutenho had 8 wins coming in, so against He Who Maketh The Panty Wet, the one
and only Endo sitting at 5 wins, the former Mongolian put on a good show and
likewise let himself be worked out with nary a struggle as well.
Two men with 7-7 records went at it, and the one with the reputation for
tachi-ai hijinks took the envelopes as Takanoiwa hedged his bet at the start so
as not to be made a henka fool of, and when he guessed wrong, Takekaze brought
some strong shoving to which Takanoiwa responded quickly with forward movement,
but Takekaze had moved to the side and was able to get behind his foe and
manlove him out with no trouble. Solid sumo today by Takekaze, but built on a
career of evasive malfeasance.
Amuuu You had no reason to risk incurring the gods' wrath today by playing
around, with his KK in the bag, and so gave Sadanofuji a straight up shoving
battle, trying his best to budge the gargantuan W7 through sheer gonadability.
Alas, Sadanofuji was in no mood to lose to a lighter and less accomplished
rikishi today, and stayed his slide down the ranks somewhat with his 6th win in
convincing yorikiri fashion. The Russian got worked today, but I still wouldn't
mind having that dude's body for my own. (That came out a little differently
than I intended, but since I'm dictating this report, it cannot be taken back!)
Okay. The day's first surprise and what a surprise it IS! Yoshikaze
mathematically in the yusho race at 10-4 means not only that someone screwed the
pooch BIGtime, but that that someone is Hakuho (unless he dropped out?)
Yoshikaze took on Gagamaru, who was looking for his 7th win but more importantly
looking to play the role of spoiler. Big Gaga bided his time, letting Starbuck
make the occasional foray into his space, which at one flash resulted in
Gagamaru connecting on a big shove and sending the wee Yoshi back to the edge
where he was sacrificed to the gods of
Resisting the urge to look ahead or behind to find out just what is going on, I
next watched two guys in a frenetic bout but was too stunned by the knowledge I
now possessed to focus. All I know is some guy whose shikona ends in "awashi"
won via a resounding uwate-nage. I also noticed the guy uploading the videos has
a really corny sense of humor. Must be a foreigner.
Next up were two fellas at 3-11. NEXT!!
Aminishiki came in with his MK, but he was not of the mind to let Sadanoumi
simply waltz to his KK 8th win. A furious scramble led to both men throwing each
other by the belt at the edge, and I think it was called a do over, but I was
watching the semi-hot female dressed in pink in the front row who reminded me
of. . . fellatio (on a related note, I've always felt a touch of pity for gals
named "Felicia," just ahead of girls named "Gina"). As it turns out, they did
call for a rematch and this time Sadanoumi ran The Bedroll back and out tout de
Tokushoryu may not have sent Toyonoshima a postcard from the Land of Henka, but
he dropped off a travel brochure at his dressing room. Minimally hitting and
then bouncing to his right, Tokushoryu got his hand on the back of Tugboat's
mawashi and gave him the bum's rush.
Tochinoshin came back from looking like he was beaten when Homarefuji got the
deep inside moro-zashi from the gun, but the Private was able to find a left
belt and used his right arm to kind of twist the cap off Homarefuji's bottle.
The E9 misses his KK.
Another 10-4 rikishi went down as Takarafuji (lots of fujis in Makuuchi at the
moment) kept himself at a kind of 90 degree angle to Ikioi and backed him down
and out over the course of 30 seconds or so.
Yet another 10-4 guy was up, but what surprised me was that it was not Ichinojo,
but his foe Kaisei. The two oversized foreigners locked up in some classic
yotsu, and it was Ichinojo winning via a pedestrian yori-kiri. Kaisei had
nowhere to run at the edge, and was smothered so completely he could not even
find the leverage for a counter attempt. Nice to see the Mongolith get 8 wins
Seemed to me that Okinoumi was not intent on defeating 7-7 Komusubi Tochiohzan.
Why else would Okinoumi win the tachi-ai, drive the Komusubi back, and then just
let a perfect inside left arm dangle weakly while at the same time staying high
and picking up his right leg to make it easy for Tochiohzan to push him back?
The Komusubi turned the 9-5 W10 around and rammed him out. It's possible it was
just poor sumo strategy by Okinoumi, but lucky for Oh Snap either way.
Takayasu was also 10-4 and he had Sekiwake Myogiryu, who was already MK at 6-8.
Still, win and you likely remain in Sanyaku. Myogiryu was the aggressor,
knocking Takayasu back and getting in close. So close, in fact, that Takayasu
figgered he'd go for an armbar. Problem is, he didn't the chutzpah, the moxie,
the sand to finish that armbar off like former Ozeki Kaio used to, wrenching and
wrenching while whispering, "Stay down, Luke." After his second armbar attempt,
Myogiryu slipped out of it and with one might shove knocked the W8 into the
expensive seats like a discarded muppet.
That's four guys at 10-4 falling to 10-5.
So next we had Terunofuji vs. Aoiyama. Terunofuji is 12-3 and so now I see what
is happening. The Sekiwake easily snatched hold of the big, bad Bulgar and
worked him around and out with no worries. Then the story was plastered on the
screen--Hakuho is also 12-3 and if Hakuho loses to HowDo (I do know that Le Coq
is out for this tourney) then Terunofuji becomes an Ozeki. Hmm. What are the
odds Hakuho will lose? I'd say pretty high. If he is going to give Geeku and
Kisenosato and Goeido their Ozekihoods, why not his countryman? And really,
winning seven yusho in a row for a second time in his already beyond comparison
career is kind of being greedy.
So next up we had Kisenosato, who had been obviously eliminated from the yusho
race in the previous bout, against Kotoshogiku, who had clinched his kadoban
status for July. Playing for pride I guess, Geeku got in tight and then just
became the immovable object, leaning in on his fellow Ozeki and making the fans
feel like something was happening. Eventually Kisenosato wore him down and
backed him out via yori-kiri. The anti-climactic in the room could be felt in
this one. As throughout his entire career, Kisenosato was denied a shot at glory
by a Mongolian.
Hakuho took on Harumafuji. The two kept their distance after the tachi-ai, and
then Hakuho started moving forward. At the exact moment Hakuho made this
ludicrous looking two handed push move that resembled nothing so much as a half
gainer at the Sarajevo Olympiad, HowDo happened to squat down like he was using
an ancient Japanese toilet, causing his foe to whiff bigtime. Leaping up from
his crouch, Harumafuji slammed into Hakuho's ribs. Hakuho extended it a bit by
turning his back to the ropes and forcing HowDo, now bent over into Hakuho's
mostly perpendicular form with a nearly invincible moro-zashi (while Hakuho held
onto his fellow Yokozuna's arm like it was a life preserver), to wait for
several moments until making his push forward, which Hakuho tried to counter
with a throw and was unable to do.
Okay, just went back and read the daily reports and learned what transpired.
Then I watched some of the key bouts. Seems like Terunofuji earned his yusho,
but Hakuho losing to both Kisenosato and Goeido tells us all we need to know.
I think Hakuho was legitimately surprised by Ichinojo on Day 1, intentionally
rushed it vs. Goeido on Day 12, should receive a Razzie for yesterday's bout,
and today was not interested in winning.
As it turns out this report was anything but hellaciously entertaining, but I
may well be finished with this gig by July, and back in bidness to write two or
three times with verve and panache, so see yall then.
Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)For
the day 14 broadcast, they put former Yokozuna Chiyonofuji in the booth, and
around the 5 PM point of the broadcast, NHK actually produced a graphic showing
the similarities between Chiyonofuji and Terunofuji when they were both ranked
at Sekiwake and on the brink of promotion to Ozeki. Both started with average
kachi-koshi from the M2 rank; both then scored double-digit wins as
newly-promoted sanyaku rikishi; and then both followed that up with double digit
performances from the Sekiwake rank. Chiyonofuji finished his third basho at
11-4, and with Terunofuji coming into the day at 10-3 with just Myogiryu and
Aoiyama left to battle, it's pretty safe to say that he will end up at least
11-4 as well.
That points us to the next basho. In
Chiyonofuji's case, he went 14-1 and ended up capturing his first career yusho,
which cemented his status as a new Ozeki, so it will be interesting to see how
Terunofuji does in July, the basho where he will presumably clinch promotion to
Ozeki. Even if Terunofuji loses out here in May the rest of the way, he still
heads into Nagoya with 23 wins over the last two basho meaning he'd need to go
just 10-5 to reach the unwritten mark of 33 wins over three basho. His promotion
to Ozeki is a foregone conclusion, and I think NHK showed that graphic to
emphasize to the Japanese fans that not only is Terunofuji going to be an Ozeki
sooner rather than later, but get ready for him to capture his first career
yusho. That's not to say it's gonna happen in July, but as I stated sometime
during this basho, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see it happen before
the year is done.
As they showed the graphic, Fujii Announcer asked Chiyonofuji to compare
Terunofuji to himself at this same stage in their careers, and the Wolf kind of
laughed and said, "He has a lot better arsenal than I did." (Motto motto
haruka ni ii mono wo motte imasu.) Chiyonofuji went on to praise Terunofuji
for his dedication to keiko, and then he correctly stated that having a Yokozuna
in his stable and other rikishi with whom to spar helps. Damn straight it does,
and you can just see the progression Terunofuji has made in just this year. I
mean, go back and look at his last five losses. Four of them were total flukes
with his only real legitimate loss coming at the hands of Hakuho this basho.
Fuji the Terrible is the future of sumo, and those in the know can already see
Okay, let's now turn our attention to what would turn out to be a wild day 14 by
first examining the leaderboard:
10-3: Terunofuji, Kaisei, Ikioi
As I'm wont to do, let's start at the bottom of the leaderboard and work our way
up in chronological order, and then I'll comment on the rest of the bouts
working in descending order.
First up is M11 Kaisei who had his hands full with my favorite rikishi this
basho, M1 Tochinoshin, and the Private showed why crushing his foe at the
tachi-ai and coming away with the right inside position and left outer grip.
Tochinoshin was also burrowed in lower keeping Kaisei upright, and while Kaisei
actually managed to grab a brief left outer of his own, Tochinoshin wrenched him
back upright breaking it off with ease. Tochinoshin made sure he had his gal in
snug taking about 10 seconds to do so before mounting an outstanding yori-kiri
charge that sent Kaisei beyond the straw and off the leaderboard in the process
at 10-4. Tochinoshin clinches kachi-koshi with the win at 8-6, and this is the
exact type of sumo I expect to see from anyone ranked at Ozeki or above.
If you thought Kaisei had his hands full with Tochinoshin, what about M10 Ikioi
who needed to solve Komusubi Ichinojo? Similar to the previous bout, the
higher-ranked rikishi exhibited a smash-mouth tachi-ai coming away with the
right inside position and solid left outer grip, and Ikioi was out of options at
this point. Normally, a rikishi in this position will counter with the right
inside, but Ikioi's right arm was lost throughout, so by the time he remembered
to grab Ichinojo's belt with it, the Mongolith was already making his force-out
charge easily schooling Ikioi for the yori-kiri win. Ichinojo is still alive at
7-7 while Ikioi is knocked off the leaderboard at 10-4.
In the battle between our two Sekiwake, Terunofuji secured the right inside
position from the tachi-ai and followed that up with the left kote grip
smothering Myogiryu back and out in mere seconds. What's so scary about this
dude is that Myogiryu actually had the left outer grip, but it doesn't matter
against Fuji the Terrible. I mean look at that picture at right...that is an
ass-kicking. You give Terunofuji the position to the inside, and he will
beat you unless your name is Hakuho. Great stuff from Terunofuji who scoots to
11-3 and has a great shot to finish 12-3 again tomorrow. If he does, he will be
sitting at 33 wins the last three basho, but with that first basho having come
from the M2 rank, they'll likely make him wait until July. As for Myogiryu, his
make-koshi becomes official at 6-8.
With the three loss rikishi out of the way, that leaves us with our sole leader,
Yokozuna Hakuho who faced Ozeki Kisenosato. Thanks to Terunofuji's win, the
yusho would be extended to senshuraku regardless of the outcome of this bout,
but Hakuho made sure we'd all be watching tomorrow. After slapping the Ozeki
hard in the face with the right hand at the tachi-ai, Hakuho secured the left
arm easily to the inside, but he failed to do anything with the right arm
keeping it up high and inside. Despite only having one arm in the game, Hakuho
yet another reckless charge against an Ozeki forcing Kisenosato back near the
edge. The right outer grip or the right inside position was there for the taking
throughout, but Hakuho monkeyed around with a few weak gaburi attempts surely
thinking to himself, "Make your counter move already ya dumbass." Kisenosato
finally responded with a right tsuki to Hakuho's shoulder with no oomph behind
it, but the way the Yokozuna hit the dirt, you'da thought he was just hit with a
wrecking ball...with that gal Miley Cirus riding on top of it!! If only that was
the case...we'da at least got our money's worth catching a glimpse of Miley in
her tight outfit. Anyway, the same points that I made after the Hakuho - Goeido
bout are easily applicable here, so I won't rehash them as this was obvious
yaocho. Just look at Kisenosato's awful footwork there in the pic at left.
That kind of stance is going to send the Yokozuna crashing to the clay against
his own volition? Uh...no.
After the bout, they spent considerable time with a camera up close in
Kisenosato's face, and you could just tell that the dude knew he didn't deserve
it. There was no emotion, no adrenaline, no read face, and not even a drop of
sweat on his brow. Dude knew it, but there's nothing he can do about it. His
reward is a 10-4 mark, and don't look now...but Kisenosato is back on the
leaderboard at 10-4! As for Hakuho, he falls to 11-3 tied with Terunofuji
heading into the final day.
I have no idea what's in store tomorrow, but I'm almost certain that both
Terunofuji and Hakuho don't go down in defeat, so your yusho will come from that
twosome while everyone else at four losses is just meaningless fluff.
Following the Hakuho - Kisenosato matchup, Yokozuna Harumafuji chose to defeat
Ozeki Kotoshogiku, and he did so by catching the charging Ozeki in the
moro-zashi grip and just holding onto the slippery fish until he secured him in
tight, and once that happened, the yori-kiri came without argument. With the
loss, Kotoshogiku's make-koshi is official at 6-8, but ya know, a 7-8 is the
same as a 4-11 for an Ozeki. They still hold their rank; he should get his eight
in July; and the wins he needed were put to much better use elsewhere (just look
at the leaderboard at the end of my comments). As for Harumafuji, he improves to
10-4 and jumps back on the leader board. Who else joins him? Let's get to the
rest of the bouts and find out.
The lead story heading into the day was the withdrawal of Ozeki Goeido citing an
injury to his left shoulder. He reportedly broke or cracked a bone in the joint
in his win over Hakuho and required a cortisone shot before his henka against
Kaisei yesterday to secure kachi-koshi. You know what? It was actually nice not
having him around today because it meant more straight-up, hard-fought sumo. M8
Takayasu benefits from the Ozeki's absence moving to 10-4 with the freebie and
finding himself back on the leaderboard. As for Goeido who will finish yet
another basho at 8-7, you know what they say when a rikishi lets up in the
ring...someone's bound to get hurt. Sure enough.
Komusubi Tochiohzan struck M4 Tokushoryu well at the tachi-ai coming away with
the left inside despite Tokushoryu's tsuppari attempts. Sensing he was danger
after having given the Komusubi the solid inside left, Tokushoryu attempted a
counter right kote-nage, but Oh survived the move and used it to turn the tables
by slapping Tokushoryu down to the clay kata-sukashi style. Tochiohzan is still
alive at 7-7 while Tokushoryu falls to 5-9.
M1 Takarafuji and M10 Okinoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where
Okinoumi actually grabbed the right outer grip, but the banzuke rarely lies, and
so Takarafuji's strength advantage was able to keep him in the bout despite
giving up the outer grip to the lower-ranked Okinoumi. Okinoumi really needed to
make his move after grabbing that uwate, and when he didn't, he allowed
Takarafuji to settle in, break off Okinoumi's outer grip, and then send Okinoumi
flying with a sweet inside belt grip. Takarafuji picks up kachi-koshi at 8-6
while Okinoumi is still one better at 9-5.
M8 Takekaze hit M2 Aminishiki hard at the tachi-ai standing him straight up, and
as Aminishiki tried to duck back into the fray, Takekaze predictably just
slapped him down to the dohyo. I'm not a huge fan of the hataki-komi win, but if
you set it up with a superb tachi-ai, more power to ya as Takekaze survives at
7-7 while Shneaky suffers make-koshi at 6-8.
M5 Tamawashi used some outstanding choke holds against M2 Toyonoshima keeping
him perfectly upright before The Mawashi timed a right tsuki to the back of
Toyonoshima's left shoulder sending Tugboat over the edge. Great stuff from
Tamawashi who never did let Toyonoshima get a sniff of his belt (not that anyone
would want to sniff his belt, but you know what I mean). Tamawashi improves to
5-9 while Toyonoshima is 4-10.
M3 Sadanoumi took full advantage of M11 Kyokushuho at the tachi-ai securing
moro-zashi and then immediately mounting a force-out charge. Kyokushuho tried to
evade at the edge and go for a pull, but Sadanoumi tripped his foe back for good
with a right hand to the back of the thigh (fresh!) scoring the nifty
watashi-komi win in the process. Sadanoumi improves to 7-7 with his best sumo of
the tourney while Kyokushuho is stuck at 8-6.
M5 Kitataiki just jumped to his left at the tachi-ai sending a vicious henka M12
Arawashi's way causing Arawashi to tumble to the dirt hard. Not sure why you'd
have to henka a guy coming in with just two wins when he's seven ranks lower
than you on the banzuke, but whatever. Kitataiki moves to 3-11 with the grease
job while Arawashi falls to 2-12. Remember the good ole days at ST when I
used to rant about henka rather than the Ozeki?
M6 Aoiyama met M14 Yoshikaze with some decent tsuki at the tachi-ai, but he
quickly tried to parlay that into a stupid pull that failed to work. With his
momentum now compromised, Aoiyama looked to try and square back up with his gal,
but Yoshikaze just yanked hard and downward at Aoiyama's left teet pulling the
former Sekiwake down by what looked like the boob. Ouch! Yoshikaze is 10-4 if
you need him and somehow backs his way onto the leaderboard...on day 14! Aoiyama
settles for 9-5 and will likely have to go braless for the next day while he
lets the swelling go down.
M6 Gagamaru and M15 Kotoyuki both stuck to their tsuppari guns in a great
shoving match that saw the larger Gagamaru use his legs nicely and stay in front
of his opponent the entire time, and the result was a dominating oshi-dashi
victory from Gagamaru as he moves to 6-8. Kotoyuki settles for 8-6 and still
draws his biggest applause by hocking a loogie into his fist prior to each bout.
M7 Sadanofuji used moro-te-zuki against M14 Kyokutenho at the tachi-ai, but his
legs quiet weren't into it, and so as he plodded forward timidly, Kyokutenho was
able to dart to his left and pull Sadanofuji down by the back of the head with
the right arm and the left arm locked up and under the Sadamight's right
shoulder. Pretty good stuff from Tenho who clinches kachi-koshi at 8-6 while
Sadanofuji falls to 5-9.
M9 Endoh hit senpai M15 Jokoryu with some great tsuki at the tachi-ai sending
him upright and allowing Endoh to work his way inside for the left inner
position. His tachi-ai and follow up advance to the inside was so good that the
right outer grip was there for the taking, and once obtained, the yori-kiri was
swift and decisive. This was Endoh's best sumo by far as he moves to 5-9, the
same record held by Jokoryu.
M16 Amuuru stayed low at the tachi-ai constantly trying to duck to the inside
against M9 Homarefuji who was intent on using tsuppari to set up a pull. He got
two pretty good pull attempts in, but the Russian survived them both and was
finally able to grab the back of Homarefuji's belt with the left outer, and once
he secured the right inner, he made his yori charge. Homarefuji tried to slip
left at the edge, but Amuuru was tripped him up on his way earning the
kiri-kaeshi winning technique. If Amuuru knows to shore up his gal with both
hands before making his charge, surely Hakuho is aware of such a basic move.
Anyway, Amuuru improves to 9-5 while Homarefuji falls to 5-9.
M12 Toyohibiki clobbered M16 Takanoiwa so hard with a right tuski to the throat
from the tachi-ai that it knocked Takanoiwa back onto his heels like a drunken
salaryrman. With his de-ashi in perfect form, Toyohibiki finished off Takanoiwa
with a final shove scoring the impressive oshi-taoshi win improving to 5-9 in
the process. Takanoiwa falls to 7-7.
J1 Seiro moved closer to his Makuuchi debut by grabbing the front of M13
Chiyomaru's belt with both hands and lifting up Maru completely upright setting
up the solid yori-kiri win leading with that moro-zashi gained from the
tachi-ai. At 7-7, if Seiro can win one more, we'll see him up here in Nagoya.
Chiyomaru falls to 3-11.
And finally, J2 Chiyotairyu just pulverized M13 Fujiazuma (3-11) back and out
with his forward tsuppari attack that was actually good enough to put him up in
the Makuuchi jo'i for a spell. It amazes me that he ever abandoned it in the
As we head into senshuraku, the leaderboard shapes up as follows:
11-3: Hakuho, Terunofuji
10-4: Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Takayasu, Kaisei, Ikioi, Yoshikaze
It'd be nice if they had Terunofuji - Aoiyama fight first, so we wouldn't even
have to put up with the senseless yusho talk surrounding the four-loss rikishi,
and just the fact that the four-loss dudes are still in the running on
senshuraku tells you how crappy the basho has been.
I think Kane said it best this morning when he messaged me saying something
like, "I'm just going to pretend that everything up to this point was real and
get me a burger and root beer float and just enjoy the action." And
speaking of enjoying senshuraku...you know him, you love him, that Kelly feller is back
tomorrow to wrap 'er all up!
Day 13 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
leaderboard is so thick with rikishi it is groaning with the weight, a happy
thing for this stage of the tournament. Friday the 13th day of the tournament is
sometimes where the winner gets decided. Not this time, as we have eight guys
within one win of each other, but nominally this should have been a good day for
drama. Instead, match quality was weak--there was no signature "match of the day"
today--and the day thinned out the leaderboard field, setting us up for a likely
The last third is a time in the tournament where story lines have settled in and
sumo sometimes takes a backstage to exhibition, as falls and giveaways become so
abundant trying to point it out is like a game of whack-a-mole. Matches that
earlier in the tournament would be straight up are now turned over for
best-play, and wrestlers who set their roll on days one through six or so now
see others take the reins and help them steer their now petrified momentum
edifice to the destination everyone has determined is right and proper. This is
true at the higher levels, where it matters most and big decisions are made, and
at the lower levels, where agendas opaque to us play out, and in all sorts of
directions, for crowd favorites, against them, for Mongolians, against them, for
the love of god, against nature. It is as if you play half a match of football
(soccer), then the coaches and teams get together in the locker room at half
time and say, "all right, Bayern München, you've been playing pretty well, you
go ahead and win, give us two goals to make it exciting, we let you out with the
3-2 victory." In this way the best team still wins, but it is part real play,
part constructed narrative, and little is left to chance (see Goeido vs. Kaisei
today). Meanwhile, across town the Stuttgarter Kickers may be in a true dogfight
because their narrative didn't matter enough to get culled and pickled (see Endo
vs. Takanoiwa today).
Let's narrate the narratives.
Leaders: Nine Wins
M9 Homarefuji (6-6) vs. M10 Okinoumi (9-3)
Homarefuji did some spinning around to keep Okinoumi off balance, and Okinoumi
made loud slapping sounds as he flailed at the belt of Homarefuji but couldn't
hold on. Frustrated, Okinoumi then tried a pull, but Homarefuji moves forward
well; he used the failed pull to drive Okinoumi out yori-kiri. One down.
M14 Yoshikaze (9-3) vs. M7 Sadanofuji (4-8)
Yoshikaze was doing a fine job of keeping Sadanofuji upright with upward shoves,
but probably needn't have been so careful against this schlub. He hung around
too long, and when he ducked in too low after a bit, Sadanofuji slapped him on
the back of the head and Yoshikaze staggered through a lurching fall to a
hiki-otoshi loss. Two down.
Sadanoumi (6-6) vs. M10 Ikioi (9-3)
I like Ikioi a lot; he shows good concentration, works very hard in the ring,
and doesn't play a lot of tricks. However, he has seriously underperformed at
higher levels. His 9-3 performance from M10 is expected and has been satisfying
to watch, but he'll need to repeat it in the jo'i next time. This match showed
promise for that: Sadanoumi has built himself into a jo'i guy, and Ikioi
obliterated him with an overpowering oshi-dashi force out. Ikioi stays on the
leaderboard for today, but tomorrow his story will be put to bed until July with
a loss to Ichinojo.
S Terunofuji (9-3) vs. M8 Takayasu (9-3)
After the initial hit with weak arm action by Takayasu, Takayasu deliberately
turned his back to The Mountain of Terror (Terunofuji) and let himself be walked
out okuri-dashi (watch the overhead slow-mo replay). Hign ‘n' Easy (Takayasu)
wasn't trying. Does The Future (Terunofuji) need that kind of help? Nope. Did he
get it? Yep. But why, why??? Hard sayin', not knowin'.
Kisenosato (9-3) vs. Y Harumafuji (8-4)
The key here was that while these guys had their foreheads together and hands on
each other's elbows during a lull after the tachi-ai, Kisenosato had his feet
aligned and Harumafuji didn't, allowing Harumafuji a very easy grab of
Kisenosato's head and long-length, good-looking, pull-down hataki-komi win.
Repeat readers will know I think Kisenosato is a legit Ozeki, and while he is
nowhere close to as good as the explosively powerful Harumafuji, he must have
owed Harumph (Harumafuji) something today, because he let this happen too
easily. Hey, I call ‘em like I see ‘em, and I see ‘em both ways. The boys are
busy narrating. Four down.
Leaders: Ten Wins
M11 Kaisei (10-2) vs. "O" Goeido (7-5)
Goeido henka'ed a bit, but didn't need it. Kaisei slapped him lightly on the
shoulders thereafter in what was meant to look like a shove, then compliantly
let Goeido get a right hand grip and sling him down uwate-nage. Kaisei put out
his hand to break his fall before he had even lost his balance on the throw.
Kaisei has no business being in the true yusho race, and now he isn't so much
Y Hakuho (10-2) vs. O Kotoshogiku (6-6)
match was a carbon copy of the Harumafuji/Kisenosato match: tachi-ai, then
moment of sussing out during which loser (Kotoshogiku) aligned his feet,
allowing winner (Hakuho) to pull him forward and out in an easy uwate-nage long
toss. Kotoshogiku helped out by taking leetle baby steps forward, a tottering
tot, as Hakuho began his throw. Kotoshogiku also took as pretty a little "whoo!
This is fun!" roll out of the dohyo as you'll ever see. I don't think
Kotoshogiku had an interest here. That's right: I'm calling mukiryoku against,
rather than by, Hakuho, and for the second time by an Ozeki against a Yokozuna
today. And why would that be? Why, gumdangit, why!! Again, that is hidden. As I
discussed on day 9, we have little predictive power here, and no sight into the
smoked glass world of the backcourt. All comers at this height of the banzuke
get to participate in the storyboarding.
The Rest of the Sanyaku
K Tochiohzan (5-7) vs. K Ichinojo (6-6)
Giveaway here by Ichinojo, as he draped his ample, fleshy arms over Tochiohzan's
and let himself be driven out, quivering like struck tofu, oshi-dashi.
M4 Tokushoryu (5-7) vs. S Myogiryu (5-7)
Prack! Good tachi-ai. Flash-fast, Myogiryu had his left arm inside. Special
Sauce (Tokushoryu) was struggling, and when he lifted his arm on the other side
to try to get a better grip, ‘Mon Git You (Myogiryu) stuck his other arm inside
for mono-zashi. Then he did a little flip throw for the yori-taoshi win; I like
it when they do this: on most throws the loser topples from the fulcrum of his
foot, but in this type of throw the fulcrum is the center of the loser's body,
as the feet are dislodged from the ground one way and the torso goes in the
other. An uprooting. Takes some strength.
M15 Jokoryu (4-8) vs. M13 Chiyomaru (3-9)
Chiyomaru had a nice double-choke hold going here, but decided to go for the
pull, and Jokoryu punished him with quick, respondent oshi-dashi revenge.
M13 Fujiazuma (3-9) vs. M16 Amuuru (7-5)
Easy to say when a guy has a winning record, but yes, nice tournament for
Amuuru. Here, he quickly got a long inside left and a weaker overhand right.
Plenty effective as Fujiazuma grunted and struggled, but couldn't move or get
any worthwhile grips himself, so once Russian River (Amuuru) was sure of
himself, he worked Fujiazuma out with solid yori-kiri sweepstakes.
M16 Takanoiwa (6-6) vs. M9 Endo (4-8)
two friendly fellows spent a long time cheek to cheek and on the belt with each
other. We can blame it on the knee, and I'm happy to give him a break, but Endo
may not have enough power to push out or throw down Takanoiwa no how, so he
tried a couple of pulls in there, but eventually ran out of gas and Takanoiwa
ran him out yori-kiri. Takanoiwa's belt was so disheveled after this one he
looked like the bad chick in a bad Showtime late night bad flick smoothing down
his bad garment after the bad bathroom scene with the bad boy so he can return
to his bad high school class. That up-ruffled dress told you all you need to
know: Endo yanked and yanked at it, but Takanoiwa was the only one who powered
through to satisfaction
M8 Takekaze (5-7) vs. M11 Kyokushuho (8-4)
Takekaze patiently rolled-the-barrel with Kyokushuho for a few moments, then,
with his opponent sufficiently upright, pulled, stepped aside, and swiftly
squared back and pushed his man out oshi-dashi. We saw two weak pull-caused
losses by Okinoumi and Chiyomaru earlier. If you are going to pull, take Sunday
School class with Takekaze-sensei: as the announcers said, "veteran no umasa"
M15 Kotoyuki (8-4) vs. M6 Aoiyama (8-4)
Kotoyuki decided to challenge Aoiyama at his own game: a thrusting battle. You
ain't all that yet, kid. Aoiyama destroyed him for the oshi-dashi win; better
guys usually beat lesser guys, but nobody demonstrates this visually so plainly
M6 Gagamaru (5-7) vs. M14 Kyokutenho (6-6)
Kyokutenho stood around high and weak, but Gagamaru felt for the belt, let it
go, and dropped flat on the ground on purpose like a sturgeon slapped onto a
marketplace counter. Kata-sukashi. Who knows why?
M5 Kitataiki (2-10) vs. M12 Toyohibiki (3-9)
Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) tries to win every match by simple
straight-line-force; here it worked, oshi-dashi. Kitataiki looked really bad in
dropping to Juryo a few tournaments ago, and based on this tournament looks like
his Indian summer is over.
M12 Arawashi (2-10) vs. M2 Aminishiki (5-7)
If you wanted to win a sumo match, would you head butt a guy in the stomach with
your arms back by your hips, then dive face first in the dirt? Me neither, but
Aminishiki not only did that but got a win out of it (following a mono-ii
stoppage), as Arawashi brushed his foot out first. Oshi-dashi win for
Aminishiki, but part of me thinks he was saying "here, slap me down now,
two-win-sad-patsy! Oh, crap, too slow, man!"
M5 Tamawashi (4-8) vs. M1 Tochinoshin (6-6)
After some slaps and grabs of the face and such, Tochinoshin settled in with a
strong left overhand grip which he parlayed into a convincing yori-kiri
dismantling of Office Worker (Tamawashi).
M1 Takarafuji (6-6) vs. M1 Toyonoshima (4-8)
Lottery (Takarafuji) moved Toyonoshima nothing but backwards in this one, and he
is strong and was able to leverage a good grip around Toyonoshima's shoulders
into a simple, swift kote-nage throw and victory. Out with the old, in with the
Ikioi, Kaisei, Terunofuji 10-3
Y Mike (13-0) vs. Y Mike (13-0)
Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
talked a bit yesterday in my intro about the implications of Hakuho fighting
Terunofuji on a Wednesday, especially if Hakuho won the bout, and when Hakuho
ended up defeating the Ozeki-hopeful, the basho was over at that point. That
realization was definitely felt at the start of today's broadcast as NHK first
reviewed the leaderboard and next reviewed Hakuho's remaining opponents, which
shape up like this:
Day 12: Goeido
Day 13: Kotoshogiku
Day 14: Kisenosato
Day 15: Harumafuji
The names of the three Ozeki stood out like a sore thumb because it was clear
that there were no roadblocks ahead of the Yokozuna, and both Yoshida Announcer
and Kitanofuji were in a sober mood as they discussed the prospects. I always
like to note the general feel of the day's broadcast because I don't believe
anything is really spontaneous, and after seeing that graphic and listening to
the discussion, I scribbled in my notes, "The only suspense now is whether or
not Hakuho will throw a bout to one of the Ozeki." And really, that's all this
basho has left to keep it alive, so let's get right to the action beginning as
always with a review of the leaderboard at the start of the day:
10-1: Hakuho, Kaisei
9-2: Kisenosato, Takayasu
Going in chronological order among our leaders, M11 Kaisei got the early right
to the inside looking to hook up in yotsu-zumo, but M6 Aoiyama backed out of it
forcing the Brasilian to give chase. In the process Aoiyama scored on a nice
series of pull attempts that really neutralized Kaisei's momentum and forced the
bout to a tsuppari-ai, a style that favors the Bulgarian. With the probability of
running out of gas at this pace growing, the two then hooked up in a lightweight gappuri hidari yotsu
position, and I say lightweight because they were not burrowed in chest to
chest. With Aoiyama staying low, Kaisei went for right belt throw, but with just
one fold of the belt, he had no momentum and Aoiyama was able to dump him with a
counter left scoop throw near the edge. The loss sent Kaisei to 10-2 meaning
that Hakuho at this point was the sole leader of the basho. As for Aoiyama, he
picks up a deserved kachi-koshi with the win standing at 8-4. Before we
move on, as I was scanning the headlines the next morning, I saw one that mocked
Kaisei saying, "Yappari, chikara busoku," or "Of course he wasn't strong
enough." What? You mock Kaisei and give the Ozeki a pass?
Unbelievable. As may dad likes to say, the Japanese media has more gall
than a bladder.
Up next was M8 Takayasu who stepped into the ring against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, and
this was really a damned if you do damned if you don't situation, so what would
the leader choose? He decided to keep his arms wide at the tachi-ai and just
stand there waiting for Kotoshogiku's charge, so the Ozeki led with the left arm
and just bulldozed Takayasu back and out in under two seconds in a bad movie
that I've seen one too many times. With the loss, Takayasu is knocked off of the
leaderboard at 9-3, and dude better be compensated somehow. You work all the way
to get into this position on the leaderboard only to have to give it up to an
Ozeki. It's hard to stomach as Kotoshogiku improves to 6-6 on paper.
In probably the most compelling bout of the day, Sekiwake Terunofuji rammed his
right shoulder into Ozeki Kisenosato at the tachi-ai knocking him a bit to the
left, and the two came out of the fray with mutual left inside positions, and
the chess match was on. Both rikishi kept their hips back denying the other an
outer grip as they jockeyed briefly in the center of the ring, but Terunofuji
must have sensed an opening because he brought his hips forward and planted his
left leg firmly to the dohyo. As he did, Kisenosato grabbed the right outer
grip, but Terunofuji was already executing a powerful left scoop throw that sent
Kisenosato over and down with some oomph. I thought this was by far Kisenosato's
best effort of the tournament, and his ability to kinda hang with these guys at
times is what sets him apart from those other two clow...er...uh...Ozeki, but
the difference in power and technique here was obvious as Terunofuji skates to
9-3 while Kisenosato falls to the same level. It was interesting to read all of
the headlines after day 11 regarding Terunofuji "missing out" on promotion to
Ozeki. He's not missing out on anything. He's got 22 wins banked already with 18
bouts to go. How does he not go 11-7 over that stretch?
With both Kisenosato and Takayasu having been knocked off of the leader board,
we turn to Yokozuna Hakuho who holds the fate of every basho firmly in his grip.
Today against Ozeki Goeido, I guess you could say the Yokozuna had a few choices
to make as well. Choice number one was his approach at the tachi-ai. Hakuho's
tachi-ai is easily defined as a forceful charge forward where he looks to get
the right arm to the inside in order to set up the left outer grip. He's
demonstrated that tachi-ai a few times this basho against the likes of
heavyweights Terunofuji, Tokushoryu, Tochinoshin, etc. all with favorable
results. So a question I have is...would there be any reason why he wouldn't use
that tachi-ai against a certain rikishi?
Against Goeido today, he abandoned his bread and butter tachi-ai offering two
hands to Goeido's neck before turning it into a slap that sent Goeido over to
the edge. Instead of following his gal and finishing the Ozeki off, Hakuho
waited to square back up, and when Goeido came close, Hakuho got his left arm
deep to the inside and wildly drove Goeido to the straw. Goeido had no choice
but to wrap his right arm around the Yokozuna's neck (the same thing he did
against Harumafuji yesterday), but Hakuho was in complete command here crashing
himself into the clay with the right shoulder while Goeido just hung on for the
ride sorta like a rodeo clown whose lassoed a raging bull and trying to just
hold on. The referee of course pointed in the Ozeki's direction as the crowd
went wild, and Hakuho looked around feigning surprise like, "What? I won that
right? He touched down first, right?"
Nope. You lose Hakuho. Beaten by Goeido again!
If you were looking at the finish of this bout and trying to detect something
that Goeido did in order to send the Yokozuna down to the clay first, you're
missing the forest for
the trees. I already talked about the tachi-ai. Why would
Hakuho not move forward against Goeido and look for the right inside position?
Then, after swiping Goeido to the side, why would Hakuho not be in hot pursuit
and shove the Ozeki out from behind? And then, when he did square back up
getting the left to the inside, why would he commit on such a reckless charge
before shoring his gal up with the right outer grip or right kote position? You
don't have the best rikishi in the history of sumo make such blatant errors
against a hapless rikishi like Goeido. Well, not if the Yokozuna's intention was
to win. And then there's the simple physics surrounding the bout. In
order to successfully mount a kubi-nage throw, you have to be planted to the
dohyo and use your hips...two aspects curiously missing from today's finish.
I approach my comments each day as if all subsequent bouts will be fought
straight up, and so my attempt yesterday was to paint sort of a dire straits
picture in terms of a basho that lacked any potential for excitement the rest of
the way. Terunofuji's Ozeki run...done. Chances of a Kaisei or Takayasu yusho...implausible.
Kisenosato's yusho hopes...done with the loss to Terunofuji. I'm not sure at what
point Hakuho made his decision, but instead of a lifeless basho the final three
days, we now have a contest on our hands and an exciting leaderboard as we
head towards the weekend! Hakuho is such a team player that it really burned me
up when the media was on his case after his candid comments in January, and once
again, he has snatched up a basho that was circling the drain and suddenly breathed
new life into it. Make no mistake, Hakuho will take the Natsu basho yusho, but
his act today has given a renewal of life to a tournament that was done as of
As for Goeido, he is now 7-5, a mark he hasn't seen at this point
of a basho as an Ozeki, well, ever. His situation today kinda reminded me
of that Tom Cruise movie, Edge of Tomorrow. Tom Cruise is totally hapless
and incompetent in the beginning, but by some stroke of luck, he happens to get
that alien's blue jelly into him, so he becomes the hero of the day and gets to
spend the rest of the flick with a hot chick in tight clothing.
Before we get to the new leaderboard, let's move to the final bout of the day where
Yokozuna Harumafuji kept his arms out wide as he stood straight up at the
tachi-ai offering a meager pull attempt allowing Sekiwake Myogiryu to just plow
straight into him sending him back and across the straw wildly in under two
seconds. While Myogiryu is a more capable rikishi than his stable mate, I still
have the same questions about Harumafuji's sumo today, especially in regards to
his tachi-ai. What's the point of standing there with your arms wide open if
your intent is to win the bout? It just doesn't compute with me and insults my
intelligence, but the loyal Japanese fans are not acute enough to logically put
it all together, and so we end day 12 with the arena all abuzz and me sick to my
If we must, let's reshuffle the leaderboard, which has now conveniently dipped
down to the three-loss rikishi:
10-2: Hakuho, Kaisei
9-3: Kisenosato, Terunofuji, Takayasu, Okinoumi, Ikioi, Yoshikaze
In the eyes of the Japanese sumo fans, that's a lot more compelling than the
Turning our attention to other bouts of interest, Komusubi Ichinojo got the
right arm to the inside and latched onto M3 Sadanoumi's left arm at the
tachi-ai, and there was nothing Sadanoumi could do at this point sucked into the
abyss. Ichinojo quickly transferred that left kote grip into an outer grip
scoring the force out win easy as you please as both dudes end the day at 6-6.
Komusubi Tochiohzan stayed low fishing for moro-zashi, and while he didn't get
it to the extent that he was burrowed in tight, he neutralized M5 Tamawashi's
ability to thrust forcing him into retreat mode. The Mawashi didn't really look
to evade and really didn't do anything to counter as Tochiohzan just worked him
to the side and out. Tamawashi's hands were wide at the tachi-ai, and I really
didn't see any effort to thwart his opponent's attack, so I suspect that the
Mongolian was mukiryoku here sorry to say. Tochiohzan is still alive at 5-7
while Tamwashi falls to 4-8.
M1 Tochinoshin got the right arm to the inside against M2 Toyonoshima denying
him moro-zashi, and with Toyonoshima pressing in tight looking for a maki-kae,
Shin gave him a nice gaburi shove back creating a bit of separation. As they
hooked back up, Tochinoshin got his left arm to the inside and right arm to the
outside of Tugboat's belt, and he used it to drag Toyonoshima over and down near
the edge. Tochinoshin has been one of my favorite dudes to watch this basho as
he moves to 6-6 while Toyonoshima's make-koshi is official at 4-8.
Credit M1 Takarafuji for attempting to get to the inside with the left arm
against M6 Gagamaru, but there's too much girth there to really work with, and so
he retreated and attempted to grab the back of Gagamaru's belt with the right
hand and drag him down. His hand slipped off, however, leaving him standing
there at the rope and upright, but Gagamaru conveniently whiffed on a shove-out
attempt allowing Takarafuji to shift right again and send Gagamaru down by
yanking at his extended left arm. Gagamaru's fall was a bit too wild for my
taste considering the light amount of pressure applied, and this bout just
didn't look natural to me. Probably yaocho here as Takarafuji moves to 6-6 while
Gagamaru couldn't care less about his 5-7 mark. He'll gladly take that kin-boshi
over Harumafuji in exchange for a loss to the Yokozuna's stablemate,Takarafuji.
M4 Tokushoryu kept his hands wide at the tachi-ai allowing M2 Aminishiki the
clear path the inside, and Shneaky complied with a series of shoves straight up
into Tokushoryu's torso and neck. Tokushoryu feigned a few pulls as he was
driven back, but there was no intent to counter here as Aminishiki scored the
easy pushout win. Tokushoryu was mukiryoku here from the tachi-ai as both
parties finish the day 5-7. Wait...has there been a bout of sumo today I've
called that hasn't been set up?
At least we know the M9 Endoh matchup will be real thank the gods. M5 Kitataiki
was wide and half-assed at the tachi-ai gifting Endoh moro-zashi, and Elvis took
advantage straightway forcing Kitataiki back to the edge. Kitataiki
instinctively positioned himself for a right counter kote-nage, but you gotta
move right to execute it. He didn't opting to put his right arm up around
Endoh's neck just keeping it there as he stayed square in front of his foe
allowing himself to be pushed out with ease. Endoh improves to 4-8 with the gift
while Kitataiki falls to 2-10.
M7 Sadanofuji kept his eyes locked on his opponent offering beefy thrusts
straight into his neck, and with Sadanofuji's length, there was just nowhere for
M15 Jokoryu to hide resulting in the Sadamight literally choking his opponent
upright and across in the end. Both fellas end the day at 4-8.
M8 Takekaze smelled blood against M13 Chiyomaru coming hard with his thrusting
attack that worked to drive Chiyomaru back and around the ring, but in the
process, it looked as if Takekaze's thrusts were sliding upwards due to the
curvature of Maru's gut, so with Takekaze pushing up high, Chiyomaru was able to
sneak to the side and then catch Takekaze with a left shoulder / shove that
pushed him across the straw for the comeback win. Chiyomaru improves to 3-9 with
the win while Takekaze falls to 5-7.
M16 Takanoiwa grabbed onto the early frontal belt grip with the left causing M9
Homarefuji to panic and evade left, but Takanoiwa stayed snug keeping his arms
to the inside allowing him to take advantage of his retreating foe, force him
back to the straw, and then send him across with a couple of shoves. Good stuff
from Takanoiwa as both gentleman stand at 6-6.
M10 Okinoumi--who will be featured on the leaderboard tomorrow!--ducked his way
in between M16 Amuuru's probing tsuppari to get the left to the inside where he
just planted it into the Russian's side and shoved him sideways and out before
Amuuru could evade to his left. Pretty straightforward stuff here as Okinoumi
improves to 9-3 while Amuuru is still searching for kachi-koshi at 7-5.
M10 Ikioi and M11 Kyokushuho hooked up in migi-yotsu whereupon Ikioi drove Shuho
straight back to the edge and then reversed gears dumping him back into the
center of the ring with a nice scoop throw. Kyokushuho actually had the left
outer grip but was completely mukiryoku here adding an exaggerated spin as he
was thrown. With the win, Ikioi improves to 9-3 and will join the other on the
leaderboard tomorrow while Kyokushuho falls to 8-4.
M12 Toyohibiki offered two hands into M12 Arawashi's throat and then just stood
there waiting for Arawashi to shove him sideways with a single swipe. Toyohibiki
went down just as they teach 'em in practice each morning, and that was that as
Arawashi moves to 2-10 while Toyohibiki falls to 3-9.
M15 Kotoyuki used repeated tsuki into M13 Fujiazuma's torso to easily walk him
back and across in a boring affair as Kotoyuki moves to 8-4 while Fujiazuma is
And finally, M14 Yoshikaze shaded left against M14 Kyokutenho, hooked his right
up and under Kyokutenho's left, and then shoved him down by the side in two
seconds flat. Yoshikaze earns leader status now at 9-3 while Kyokutneho's
engines have cooled a bit at 6-6.
Wow, what a day of sumo. Since I of course write all of my comments in
chronological order as I watch the broadcast, you can imagine my frustration when
I got to the final two bouts of the day. Of the 19 bouts today, it's my opinion
that rikishi were mukiryoku in nine of them. Contrary to what many of you
believe, I'm not looking for bouts of sumo to be fake. What I am looking for are
tactics from both parties that factor into the result of the bout. When I see a
guy with both arms wide open at the tachi-ai--and he's not ranked as an Ozeki, I
get suspicious. When a guy's fall to the dirt doesn't match the action of his
opponent who sent him sprawling, I get suspicious. When a losing rikishi doesn't
even attempt a counter move, I get suspicious.
It makes no sense for a guy like Toyohibiki to purposefully lose to Arawashi,
especially when you consider that he's never beaten the dude to begin with, but
you watch this bout and the replay, and Toyo the Hutt is clearly just standing
there employing no de-ashi waiting to be pulled down...all against the worst
rikishi in the division at the moment. It doesn't make sense that a
guy would allow himself to suffer a key loss like this that could result in his
demotion to Juryo, but it still doesn't mean that Toyohibiki wasn't mukiryoku.
He absolutely was, and if I see a guy that isn't trying, I'm going to point it
Nuff said for today. Harvye tries to make sense of it all tomorrow.
Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
day 11 broadcast opened with a graphic that showed a list of rikishi who spent
just three basho or less in the Komusubi / Sekiwake ranks before being promoted
to Ozeki. The only dude on the list that I saw fight with my own eyes was
Miyabiyama, who took three basho, and while his stint at Ozeki was a disaster,
there were other notable Yokozuna on the list like Futabayama and Yoshibayama
who took two basho and then Hagurozan and Taiho who joined Miyabiyama at three
basho. This theme was of course in reference to Terunofuji and his current quest
for the Ozeki rank. Prior to the basho, several of the directors in the
Association stated for the record that 13 wins and the yusho would likely get
him promoted, but I've stated several times in the last few weeks that I thought
that was too soon. Let the kid earn it the old fashioned way by winning 33 bouts
or more over the span of three basho while ranked from the sanyaku. Regardless,
NHK led with this theme today in order to hype the most anticipated match of the
tournament: Hakuho vs. Terunofuji.
After slipping up twice to Maegashira rikishi, Terunofuji had to beat Hakuho
today in order to keep those Ozeki hopes alive for May. With a Terunofuji win,
the basho is literally turned up a notch as the Sekiwake would share the lead
with Hakuho (just disregard any other rikishi) heading down the stretch. And
with Harumafuji, Terunofuji's stablemate, sitting there on senshuraku to run
interference, the more favorable schedule would belong to the Sekiwake. A Hakuho
win, however, saddles Terunofuji with his third loss and puts the Yokozuna in
the clear driver's seat the rest of the way.
Had Terunofuji been able to make it this far with maybe just one loss, I think
they would have considered moving their date back a bit, but with Fuji the
Terrible coming into the day with two losses, you couldn't show him that respect
by prolonging his matchup with the Yokozuna when you have other two-loss rikishi
as well, especially when one of them is an Ozeki. The Sumo Association really
had no choice but to have them face off today, but it's kind of risky to play
your biggest hand on a Wednesday, especially if the Yokozuna wins. I suppose
we're getting ahead of ourselves a bit, however, so let's review the leaderboard
at the start of day 11:
9-1: Hakuho, Kaisei
8-2: Kisenosato, Terunofuji, Takayasu, Okinoumi, Kyokushuho
Let's start with the leaders first in chronological order and then we'll go in
reverse order from there the rest of the way.
M11 Kyokushuho offered a left hari-te that took too long to develop, and so M14
Yoshikaze slipped right, grabbed Kyokushuho's right arm in the kote fashion, and
then yanked him over to the rope where he then assumed moro-zashi and scored the
yori-kiri win from there. Yoshikaze picked up kachi-koshi in the process and
knocked Kyokushuho down to the same record and thankfully off of the
leaderboard. I have nothing against Kyokushuho, and I've appreciated his
fighting spirit this basho, but having these low Maegashira guys "hanging
around" is nothing but an annoyance. I know there are probably some that think,
"Well, he's still technically in it. He could win out ya know." No, he's not
technically in it, and if the Sumo Association was really taking him seriously,
they wouldn't be having him fight as a leader in just the third bout on the
docket. Case in point is Kaisei, who stands atop the leaderboard with Hakuho at
one loss. They're so scared of him they're giving
Aoiyama on day 12. Pair 'em against Terunofuji, and now they're in the
Speaking of M11 Kaisei, he kept both arms in low and tight denying M16 Takanoiwa
the inside, and from there he just lumbered forward nudging Takanoiwa back near
the edge using his right arm to lift up beneath Takanoiwa's left, and it was
good enough to disallow Takanoiwa an evasive maneuver, and so Kaisei just
finished him off with two methodic shoves at the edge. Easy peasy Japanesey as
Kaisei improves to 10-1 while Takanoiwa drops to 5-6.
M10 Okinoumi and M10 Ikioi clashed in hidari-yotsu, but Ikioi pinched in tight
with his right outer position so much so that he was able to grab the right
outer grip a few seconds in, and then it was text book from there: wrench your
opponent upright and then dump him with a sweet belt throw. We never see
such a basic tactic from the Ozeki.
And while we're on the subject of the Ozeki, I've been having a bit of
difficulty describing in actual words the content of their sumo collectively. I
think part of it is I'm frustrated by what I'm NOT seeing from them, and so it's
hard to describe something that isn't there. Perhaps Kane sensed my frustration
because he put it perfectly into words when he messaged me right before the day
11 bouts saying, "I keep thinking they should drive a small clown car onto the
dohyo and all of the Ozeki jump out one by one and run around bouncing off each
other." In a single sentence, he nailed it. And of course I had to have a
picture to go along with the words, so I sent Kane a rough mockup, he provided
the finishing touches...and I'm proud to introduce my first ever collaboration
with Kane Roberts. It may not be a sweet rock n' roll song, but a picture is
worth a thousand words indeed.
Okay, where were we? M8 Takayasu connected on a beautiful right hari-te against
M16 Amuuru getting the left inside and right outer grip with such precision that
the Russian didn't even know what hit him. Takayasu wasted no time in stepping
to the side and wrenching Amuuru over and out, and it was smart move because if
you go chest to chest with the taller dude, there's always the risk of a counter
attack. Great stuff today as Takayasu keeps himself firmly on the leaderboard at
9-2 while Amuuru's kachi-koshi must wait another day at 7-4.
M4 Tokushoryu got the early left inside position from the tachi-ai against Ozeki
Kisenosato but just stood there and let Kisenosato nudge him back, grab the
right outer grip, and score the three second yori-kiri. I'm sorry I ever called
this dude a clown as Kisenosato moves to 9-2 while Tokushoryu falls to 5-6.
now it's time for the grand poobah. Yokozuna Hakuho gained moro-zashi from the
start leading with the deep right, and instead of just crushing Sekiwake
Terunofuji back and out--something he could have easily done, he let Terunofuji
survive and actually maki-kae with the right arm turning the bout to migi-yotsu
although the master maintained the left outer grip. The two dug in at this point
for a few seconds, and Terunofuji proactively went for a right scoop throw to
try and set something up, but it didn't even budge the Yokozuna, who used the
momentum shift to wrench Terunofuji off balance using the left outer before
putting his right hand at the back of Fuji's head and just dragging him down by
the belt in about 10 seconds. Ballgame! Yusho to the Yokozuna.
This bout didn't even have to last that long, but you can't have the most
anticipated bout of the tournament end in two seconds as a one-sided affair. And
even though this thing played out for 10 seconds, it was still as one-sided as
they come. The fact of the matter is that Terunofuji can let anybody else get
moro-zashi on him and still survive, but not Hakuho. In choosing to lower the
bar in the content of his sumo basho in and basho out, Hakuho has created the
semblance that he is vulnerable, and Terunofuji walked right into it today. And
while I don't think Hakuho was trying to send a statement with this match, he
sent a statement that he is still far and away the best rikishi in the field as
he moves to an insurmountable 10-1. As for Terunofuji, he falls off of the
leaderboard at 8-3 and must wait until July at the earliest for promotion to
Ozeki, but I honestly don't think the dude cares about Ozeki promotion this
basho. The key for the Sekiwake is to learn from his mistakes, and his mistakes
today were to let Hakuho breeze into moro-zashi and then stand there chest to
chest thinking he was in some kind of stalemate. I'm confident the kid will
learn and progress just as he has done the last few basho, and I still expect
him to improve to a level where he can defeat Hakuho all on his own sometime
next year. This third loss won't phase the kid, and besides, there's no room for
him in that Mini Cooper anyway.
With the leaderboard reshuffled at this point, the race for the yusho is as
10-1: Hakuho, Kaisei
9-2: Kisenosato, Takayasu
Fortunately, Kaisei and Takayasu are fighting well enough and low enough to
continue to make this interesting on paper. As for Kisenosato, he's got his work
cut out for him tomorrow against Terunofuji. Let's see what the Sekiwake decides
to do in this one.
In other bouts of interest, Yokozuna Harumafuji demanded the right inside
position at the tachi-ai from Ozeki Goeido and then easily grabbed the left
outer grip aligning his chest with the Ozeki. Goeido was unable to mount a
counter move or apply sufficient defensive pressure, and so Harumafuji gathered
his wits and just steamrolled Goeido back and out. On his way back, Goeido went
for a senseless maki-kae with the right, but that just left him vulnerable for a
wicked trip off of the clay had Harumafuji chosen to send him flying. Thankfully
he didn't, and as far as I could tell, Goeido came away largely unscathed with
the rouge on is cheeks still intact. Harumafuji clinches kachi-koshi with the
easy victory while Goeido slips to 6-5. Don't look now, but he draws Hakuho
Ozeki Kotoshogiku offered a timid left hari-te against M6 Aoiyama, and then he
was just up to the mercy of his opponent. Aoiyama wasn't in a giving mood today,
unfortunately, getting the right to the inside with ease and demolishing the
Ozeki back and out in about two seconds. The Geeku falls to a dangerous 5-6 and
must stop the beast known as Takayasu tomorrow. Something tells me
Takayasu will go easy on him.
Sekiwake Myogiryu and M5 Tamawashi traded a few tsuppari with the Sekiwake
looking to get to the inside while Tamawashi was trying to shove his foe off
balance. A few seconds into the fray, Myogiryu timed a pretty good pull move
that knocked Tamawashi off balance and off of his game, so by the time The
Mawashi squared back up, Myogiryu was finally able to get to the inside that he
covets and score the force-out win. Both fellas end the day at 4-7.
Komusubi Tochiohzan got the early right arm to the inside and looked to mount a
charge, but M3 Sadanoumi grabbed the left outer grip and just retreated
dangerously towards the edge looking for a quick pull. With Tochiohzan committed
to the push, it was now a question of whether or not Sadanoumi could keep his
last foot on the ropes before Tochiohzan crashed down. The referee saw it in
Oh's favor, but a mono-ii reversed that decision as Tochiohzan's left elbow
clearly touched the dirt before Sadanoumi was out. Tough break here as
Tochiohzan falls to 4-7 while Sadanoumi is poised to take over that Komusubi
slot at 6-5. I still don't think Sadanoumi's been kicking ass this basho, and
his act today didn't help that perception, but he's one of the most formidable
dudes Japan has at the moment.
M2 Aminishiki came with a right choke hold into Komusubi Ichinojo's neck (yes,
Ichinojo has a neck!) keeping the Mongolith upright, but the question from there
was, "How does Shneaky get to the inside?" Due to weak de-ashi, he didn't, and
he was ultimately forced turn to the bout to migi-yotsu, and from there,
Ichinojo got his right arm easily to the inside and lifted Aminishiki over and
back without argument. Ichinojo plods along to 5-6 while Aminishiki is 4-7.
M1 Takarafuji and M1 Tochinoshin hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai as
you'd expect, but Takarafuji kept his hips back and away from the outer grip.
Both rikishi jockeyed like this for eight seconds or so until Tochinoshin timed
a perfect maki-kae with the right hand giving him the clean moro-zashi.
Takarafuji didn't anticipate the move and was had at this point as Tochinoshin
scored the methodic force-out win from there leaving both dudes 5-6. Ya know,
with Tochinoshin ranked up high on the banzuke of late, there's no doubt he's
taking notes from the Ozeki and learning all of these sweet sumo moves from
them. Or not.
M5 Kitataiki charged hard into M2 Toyonoshima who was looking for moro-zashi all
the way, but he only got the right to the inside while Kitataiki kept his left
arm up high and in tight. This defensive tactic from Kitataiki was okay, but it
didn't give him an opening to attack, and so Tugboat started up the diesel
engines and just bodied the upright Kitataiki back and out with relative ease on
his way to a 4-7 record. Kitataiki is not only battered physically, but he's way
over matched at this level on the banzuke falling to 2-9.
M12 Toyohibiki won the tachi-ai with some good tsuppari against M6 Gagamaru, and
it actually set up the path to easy moro-zashi, but Toyohibiki just stood there
and let Gagamaru readjust securing the left to the inside while grabbing the
right outer grip. Toyohibiki looked to dig in at this point with his own left to
the inside, but he just let Gagamaru drive him back and out offering little
resistance along the way. There was like this weird pause just after the
tachi-ai, and it was Toyohibiki refraining from continued forward movement until
Gagamaru could get settled. Not sure of the politics behind this bout, but
Toyohibiki was mukiryoku here no doubt. He suffers make-koshi at 3-8 as a result
while Gagamaru improves to 5-6.
M7 Sadanofuji struck hard at the tachi-ai gaining the deep left inside position
and right outer grip against M13 Fujiazuma, and from there he just powered
Fujiazuma back to the edge causing Mainoumi to declare his position as "banzen
ni yuuri," or the complete advantage, but for some inexplicable reason,
Sadanofuji just released his right outer grip and pressed his palm into
Fujiazuma's gut. And when I say "pressed" I mean lightly pressing a gauze pad
against an open wound. From there, Fujiazuma was able to grab his own outer grip
and turn the tables forcing Sadanofuji out in the end. The announcers were just
befuddled at Sadanofuji's actions, and why not? You can't explain such sumo.
Both rikishi fall to 3-8 as a result of Sadanofuji's gift.
M8 Takekaze came with both palms extended against M9 Endoh and then lightly
swiped downward at Endoh's dickey do throwing Elvis off balance, and at this
point Takekaze moved in with the right hand at the back of Endoh's head and left
at the shoulder. Just like yesterday, Endoh was in a pickle at this point, but
just like yesterday, his opponent graciously let him out of the hold, and so
Endoh was able to square back up and "survive" Takekaze's meager pull attempts
from there on his way to what would turn out to be the easy oshi-dashi win.
Hallelujah! Endoh's gonna stay in the division as he improves to 3-8 while
Takekaze takes one for team sumo falling to 5-6 in the process.
M9 Homarefuji used some good shoves right into M15 Jokoryu's grill and upper
torso forcing him back near the edge where Homarefuji just reversed gears
springing the pull trap and yanking Jokoryu forward and down. Good thing
Homarefuji had Jokoryu pushed all the way to the brink because he needed every
centimeter of the dohyo to keep himself in the ring going the opposite direction
as Jokoryu tumbled to the dirt. Homarefuji gets his head above water at 6-5
while Jokoryu falls to 4-7.
M14 Kyokutenho came with the early left inside and right kote grip against
ailing M12 Arawashi, and the force-out from the Chauffer took two seconds...if
that. Kyokutenho moves to 6-5 with the win while Arawashi is completely
defenseless at 1-10.
And finally, M15 Kotoyuki and M13 Chiyomaru engaged in a tsuppari affair where
both dudes had their knees locked meaning there were a lot of shoves thrown
around with little effect. Kotoyuki was the more proactive of the two, and it
seemed as if Chiyomaru spent most of his energy waxing on and off against
KotoLoogie's onslaught, but it didn't matter in the end as the livelier Kotoyuki
scored the tsuki-dashi win. That was ruled tsuki-dashi?? Kotoyuki is 7-4 while
Chiyomaru falls to 2-9.
I'm back again tomorrow, and one of these days I'll keep my promise to keep the
Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
got a text from Kane this morning (after watching the day 10 bouts) that simply
said, "What the heck was that?" Not only has Kane learned to cuss like a Mormon,
but he understands bad sumo when he sees it. I knew right away that he was
referring to the Harumafuji - Gagamaru matchup specifically, but as we briefly
chatted back and forth, it was clear that we had both witnessed the worst day of
sumo this basho, and it may have ranked even higher than that, but with
Takamisakari finally seated in the mukou-joumen chair, it's hard to have a
really bad day of sumo. Since we are well into week 2, let's focus our
attention on NHK's leaderboard, which dipped down to the two-loss rikishi
meaning it shaped up as follows:
8-1: Hakuho, Kaisei, Kyokushuho
7-2: Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Terunofuji, Takayasu, Okinoumi
First up among the leaders was M11 Kaisei who kept his arms in low and tight
befuddling M16 Amuuru who likes to duck low and fish to the inside, and with no
momentum from the Russian, Kaisei began a methodical charge with average shoves,
and Amuuru's response was a weak move to the left and a pull. Kaisei was all
over that like stink to bait scoring the easy push-out win. He's your first 9-1
rikishi if you need him while Amuuru has cooled just a bit at 7-3.
Next up was M10 Okinoumi who faced the semi-hot M15 Kotoyuki who offered his
usual thrusts at the tachi-ai into Okinoumi's torso, but his legs weren't into
the affair allowing Okinoumi to back up going along for the ride and then spring
the tsuki-otoshi trap at the edge moving to his right and sending KotoLoogie
down using his forward momentum against him. The key here was Kotoyuki's lack of
confidence that was manifest in his poor footwork, and so Okinoumi was able to
clinch kachi-koshi at 8-2 and stay on the leaderboard with a purely defensive
Two of our leaders clashed where M11 Kyokushuho was beat at the tachi-ai by M8
Takayasu's sheer force as Takayasu gained the left inside forcing the bout to
the belt and then grabbing the right outer grip a few seconds later. When
Kyokushuho felt that outer grip, he immediately went for a left counter scoop
throw, but Takayasu was nestled in too tight and was able to take advantage of
the momentum shift to fire off two outer belt throws felling Kyokushuho down to
the clay on the second attempt. Pretty good sumo from Takayasu who moves to 8-2
tied with Kyokushuho.
Sekiwake Terunofuji gave up moro-zashi to M2 Toyonoshima at the tachi-ai, but it
mattered little as he just pinched in tightly from the outside and used his size
and gut to force Toyonoshima back and across with little argument. The key to
the bout was lifting Toyonoshima upright, and that's the same tactic that
Tokushoryu used to beat Fuji the Terrible yesterday. Lift 'em off balance and
attack; it's beautiful sumo. Terunofuji is a cool 8-2 with the win while
Toyonoshima falls to the brink at 3-7.
Kisenosato and Ozeki Goeido hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where
Goeido forced his gal back a few steps before Kisenosato dug in and forced the
action back the other way. As he back pedaled, Goeido went for the stupid
kubi-nage throw with his right completely compromising his position and allowing
Kid Sato to just continue moving forward and knock Goeido across the edge. This
match was so lightweight with little force exerted from either party that it
hardly looked like two Ozeki fighting. Is it too much to ask two belt fighters
to go chest to chest and jockey for belt grips? In the case of these two, the
answer is clear. Sorry folks, but this was not Ozeki sumo and just looked
awkward. I mean, how often do we see a slap on the back from the
victor at the edge? At any rate, Kisenosato is in the hunt at 8-2 while Goeido
falls to 6-4. With Terunofuji and both Yokozuna still to go, Goeido has no more
room to spare.
In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho simply demanded moro-zashi from the tachi-ai
driving the hapless M4 Tokushoryu back and out so fast that Tokushoryu was
actually airborne at one point. Wow! We haven't seen this from the
Yokozuna yet this basho, and it's not as if Tokushoryu is a total slouch. Look
what he was able to do against Terunofuji yesterday. I'm of the opinion that
Hakuho could do this every day if he wanted, and while beating his opponents in
two seconds is unrealistic, he can absolutely get an inside position and use his
powerful legs to body anyone back and across the straw. This was fantastic stuff
as Hakuho makes a statement at 9-1. Tokushoryu is doing well to stay at 5-5.
If we must, Yokozuna Harumafuji put his left hand at M6 Gagamaru's shoulder and
did nothing better with the right hand kind of backing up a bit from the start,
and so Gagamaru planted a stump into the dirt and caught Harumafuji with a
single left shot to the throat that sent Harumafuji back to the edge where he
sloppily stepped out as he turned to see where he was in the dohyo. This bout
was riddled with mistakes from the Yokozuna, but we see this
from Harumafuji where he fights with reckless abandon and loses in ridiculous
fashion. The difference between Harumafuji and the Ozeki is that Harumafuji can
help it, and I've commented before why I think he intentionally gets sloppy. At
7-3, he's out of the yusho picture while Gagamaru picks up his first ever
kin-boshi at 4-6. Before we move on, they fortunately had enough time left in
the broadcast to bring Gagamaru into the interview booth, and the dude went on
and on and on. I think they asked him a total of two questions, but he just
started baring his soul all the while breathing heavily into the microphone.
They finally had to cut him off and send it back up to the booth, and Kariya
Announcer laughed as he said, "I think he could have gone on for another 30 more
minutes." I find that I'm enjoying these candid moments of the broadcast more
than I am the sumo.
Before we move to the other bouts of note, let's reshuffle the leaderboard.
9-1: Hakuho, Kaisei
8-2: Kisenosato, Terunofuji, Takayasu, Kyokushuho, Okinoumi
The only two guys capable of taking the yusho from that bunch are Hakuho and
Terunofuji, and while Hakuho may let Fuji get him again this basho, he won't
fall to him twice.
In other bouts of interest, Sekiwake Myogiryu got the firm left arm to the
inside against Ozeki Kotoshogiku at the tachi-ai and had his choice of
moro-zashi with the right or an effective frontal belt grip, but he let his
right float out wide so the Ozeki could get established to the inside himself.
As is usually the case, the Ozeki just charged forward at the mercy of his
opponent, and luckily for him, Myogiryu just stayed upright and failed to
counter as he was driven back and across with little fanfare. If you watch this
one from the reverse angle, you can see Myogiryu's great position from the
tachi-ai, but he just wastes it in favor of padding the Ozeki's record. And he
needs all the padding he can get moving to 5-5 with a brutal schedule yet to
come. Myogiryu falls to 3-7, but he'll have his reward.
Komusubi Ichinojo used a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai to keep M1 Takarafuji completely
upright and away from the inside with continued hams to the face. Takarafuji
moved laterally looking for an opening, and just when he looked to get the right
arm to the inside, Ichinojo countered with a right scoop throw sending
Takarafuji down to the clay. Ichinojo was fully in charge from the start in this
one as he moves to 4-6. With a light load the rest of the way, Ichinojo's got a
great shot at kachi-koshi. It would be nice to see him take his rightful place
to the West of Terunofuji in the Sekiwake ranks. Takarafuji falls to 5-5 and is
still in good shape to take over Ichinojo's Komusubi seat.
Komusubi Tochiohzan took advantage of an M2 Aminishiki right hari-te by getting
the left to the inside, but before he could get established, Aminishiki backed
up reaching his long left arm over the top grabbing Tochiohzan's belt and
dragging him down in two seconds flat. Oh was caught napping here as both
rikishi finish at 4-6.
M1 Tochinoshin offered a left hari-te at the tachi-ai that never connected and
then used some surprising tsuppari to keep M3 Sadanoumi at bay, but Shin's legs
weren't into it allowing Sadanoumi to easily slip out left, and when Tochinoshin
attempted to square back up, Sadanoumi got the easy right inside and left outer
grip mounting a forward charge that Tochinoshin answered by just leaning back
and then stepping across without an attempt to counter. Sadanoumi was way up
high at the edge and there for the tsuki-otoshi taking, but Shin just walked
back leading me to believe that this bout was bought and paid for in some
manner. Sadanoumi moves to 5-5 with the win while Tochinoshin falls to 4-6.
M5 Tamawashi kept M5 Kitataiki away from the inside with his tsuppari attack,
and then near the edge when Kitataiki attempted to get his left arm to the
inside, Tamawashi immediately committed on the right kote-nage throw sending
Kitataiki down with ease. Tamawashi moves to 4-6 while Kitataiki suffers
make-koshi at 2-8.
M6 Aoiyama rammed a left shoulder into M10 Ikioi and then grabbed the early left
outer grip, but he relinquished that grip for no reason and then kept his arms
out wide allowing Ikioi to just plow forward with moro-zashi and score the quick
yori-kiri win. Not sure of the political implications behind this one, but
Aoiyama gave him the victory. Ikioi moves to a safe 7-3 while you know both
Aoiyama (6-4) and Tochinoshin will eat well tonight. I really think these two
Easter Eur-ape-eans are in the top eight or so in the sport in terms of ability,
but they likely exchange wins for caish here and there, and how can you blame
M7 Sadanofuji came with tsuppari at the tachi-ai, but used no legs for the
attack just standing there with his arms extended, and M12 Arawashi figured it
out pretty fast yanking his opponent forward and down by his extended arms. This
was clearly mukiryoku sumo on the part of Sadanofuji who falls to 3-7 while
Arawashi picks up his first win against nine losses.
M12 Toyohibiki used a proactive charge from the tachi-ai extending his arms and
looking to set up a shove attack, but M8 Takekaze had mawari-komu on his mind
from the start skirting and pulling Toyohibiki down with a tug at his extended
left arm. Takekaze moves to 5-5 and nobody still cares while Toyohibiki is 3-7.
Endoh drove M13 Chiyomaru back quickly from the tachi-ai, but Maru dug in and
returned fire in the form of even better tsuppari that drove Endoh all the way
back to the other side of the dohyo, but he dialed down the force at the edge
and lamely pushed into Endoh's face allowing Endoh to grab the front of the belt
and force the action back to the center of the ring. Chiyomaru instinctively
went for a pull with a right to the back of Endoh's head and a left at the back
of his shoulder causing Endoh to slump forward and face the dohyo much like an
85 year-old o-baachan pushing her little shopping cart down the street, but
Chiyomaru let him out of it, and in the end, Endoh squared back up and mounted a
yori charge where Maru just stood there and took his medicine like a man. I've
said it before and I'll say it again, I'll stop calling yaocho when the rikishi
stop doing it. Endoh moves to 2-8 with the win, and he only needs two more to
stay in the division for July. Chiyomaru falls to the same paltry mark.
M9 Homarefuji used busy tsuppari to keep M14 Kyokutenho away from the belt, and
as Kyokutenho advanced with tsuppari of his own, Homarefuji quickly moved out
right with an average pull and then jumped in with a right to the inside. While
the sumo wasn't great here, Homarefuji's speed allowed him to get to the inside
and score the quick yori-kiri win over the aging Kyokutenho. Both fellas are
even steven at day's end.
M15 Jokoryu came with the early left from the tachi-ai ot the inside, but m13
Fujiazuma tsuppari'ed his way out of the yotsu-zumo contest and then went for
the kill looking to have Jokoryu dead to rights, but quick as a cat, Jokoryu
moved out right and threw Fujiazuma down with a right belt throw at the edge. I
don't know how Jokoryu's has managed even a 4-6 record while Fujiazuma falls to
And finally, M14 Yoshikaze offered two hands at the tachi-ai and then quickly
moved left pulling M16 Takanoiwa (5-5) down in a second flat improving to 7-3 in
I'm back at it again tomorrow and will likely just comment on the leaders and
the jo'i in the interest of time...something I don't have a lot of these days.
Day 9 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
tournament continues to be characterized by a large number of high win guys,
including three of the four pre-tournament most likely champions: Hakuho,
Harumafuji, and Terunofuji (minus long shot Ichinojo). With them among a fun
pack of six guys at 7-1 today, that gives us plenty of interest to ride through
week two. A possible break-out performance for Sadanofuji and a quiet sanyaku
push by Takarafuji also make good storylines. Endo's terrible, broken-down
performance is a story, but only because Endo still qualifies as "famous for
Day nine is the tail end of the dog days of the tournament--Harumafuji is paired
against Tamawashi, land's sakes!--so today let's do an experiment and talk about
If I'm due to write a report, I often write the intro the day before, and I may
also jot down some sentences of things I want to say about individual wrestlers
and bouts. This saves a lot of time on game day and helps organize my thoughts.
At its best, it ends up dovetailing perfectly with results, and the writing
flows smoothly. However, the opposite often happens, too: the intro I wrote has
nothing to do with or is at odds with the feel of the actual day, the individual
bouts don't resemble anything I imagined, and I have to reconstruct or even
scrap and rewrite.
How much predictive ability do we actually have? For most of us, not much. This
is not news: that's why betting on sports is fundamentally attractive to
people--you can beat long odds often enough to make people go back to the well
again and again. But the oddsmakers usually are closest of all to right: that's
why they have that job. This site states that it offers "expert analysis." I do
know a good bit about sumo--though reading the forum and the comments tells me
most of you know equally much and that there are a handful of you well more
versed than I am. Nevertheless, no false modesty today: for the purposes of
today's exercise, let us admit I do mostly know what I'm talking about, and am
to a fair degree qualified to be the predictor today. Therefore, my expectations
of what will happen in a bout should mostly be on target. Right?
Let's find out. Here's how it works: for each bout I've written up an
"expectations" blurb before watching any of the matches of the day, which is
narrative rather than "pick ‘em" style, but includes a prediction of the
outcome. I will then write up the actual report after watching that bout. At the
end I'll sum up how it went. In keeping with the theme, this intro was written
before the day; the outro will be written after.
M14 Yoshikaze (5-3) vs. M15 Kotoyuki (6-2)
Expectation: Kotoyuki is feeling confident and is earning it; he is using his
size well and dominating opponents with battering wins that remind me of
Aoiyama. I've feared this guy was going to take a leap forward for a few
tournaments now, and it is happening. Yoshikaze is still the better wrestler,
but he may over-think and over-dance this one and find a loss while he still
thinks he's setting something up.
Result: Kotoyuki looked over-cautious and got turned around in a tsuppari battle
and was pushed out okuri-dashi. He also came in too high, and so lost this one
from the tachi-ai.
M15 Amuuru (6-2) vs. M12 Toyohibiki (3-5)
Expectation: Amuuru is looking good; has he found his Makuuchi feet a bit? I
will say yes but still can do no better than give him a retreating
jump-out-of-the-way-at-the-edge-as-the-other-guy-falls-down win here.
Result: Nice match here, though it was keyed by evasion. Aggressive, head
butting tachi-ai, and Toyohibiki had the initially momentum. However, Amuuru put
a quick end to that by stepping out to his left, then re-engaged with a strong
left inside belt grip, followed by an impressive shitate-nage: Kerosene Burp
(Toyohibiki) is big and experienced, but Amuuru didn't let him move much once he
had him wrapped up. Could we be seeing the wind-down of Toyohibiki as a Makuuchi
M12 Arawashi (0-8) vs. M15 Jokoryu (2-6)
Expectation: I expect bad sumo. This is one Arawashi can win; with the bad knee
Jokoryu can't keep up with the pace in this one. Expect evasion and maybe a
tottari win for Arawashi.
Result: This one was close, and they got on the belt and battled it out in the "nage
no uchi ai" where each guy tries to use his grip to win a simultaneous throw. As
Arawashi had gotten inside by a minor tachi-ai henka, happy this worked out in
the end for lame but game Jokoryu: during the throw-test, he not only leveraged
with his winning shitate-nage grip, but pushed in with his body, causing
Arawashi to fall down partially backwards. Nice work by Noni (Jokoryu).
M16 Takanoiwa (5-3) vs. M11 Kyokushuho (7-1)
Expectation: Working from the top down, I found I predicted hardly any backwards
moving or pull wins. That in itself is interesting--who wants to imagine crappy
sumo?--and polyanna-ish, so I'll put a pull here. Kyokushuho may be
overconfident and there is nothing in it for anyone for this guy to be in the
yusho race; time for him to take a fall.
Result: Takanoiwa henka'ed mightily, but Kyokushuho was ready for it, and spun
with Takanoiwa, then stopped the momentum and turned the match in the other
direction, knocking Takanoiwa down with a disdainful tsuki-otoshi about the
shoulders. Thank you.
M14 Kyokutenho (5-3) vs. M10 Okinoumi (6-2)
Expectation: Hmmm. I love it that Kyokutenho is getting it done lately,
surprising me for like the 18th basho in a row, but at this point in their
careers Okinoumi is the better wrestler and I think he gets a no-no-nonsense
win; I'll even give him an uwate-nage.
Result: Okinoumi just looked younger, faster, more powerful, and better: he got
a quick moro-zashi and ushered Kyokutenho out yori-kiri so easily it looked like
he was doing a "fantasy camp" courtesy bout against someone like me.
M13 Fujiazuma (1-7) vs. M9 Endo (1-7)
Expectation: Sigh. I wish I expected that Endo would take this weak opponent as
a chance to display his superior technique and get a satisfying, clear win, but
I don't. I think we continue to see how far Endo has fallen and how much his
injury is affecting him in a dominant oshi-dashi win by Juryo/Makuuchi
Result: It started with oshi-dashi progress by Fujiazuma, but Endo prevented the
quick loss by stepping to the side. Fujiazuma sought him quickly and they
grabbed each other by the belt. There were a few moments of honest struggle
after that, but Fujiazuma worked Endo to a confident yori-kiri tune. The sad
thing this match is that the best thing Endo had going for him was evasion, and
even that he executed poorly: he had Fujiazuma with his back to him but didn't
get to him quickly enough to take advantage, and was dead meat once Fujiazuma
was back on track. I will give Endo credit for not doing a lot of evasion
normally, but he is getting killed straight up.
M11 Kaisei (7-1) vs. M8 Takayasu (7-1)
Expectation: Funny to find it so early in the day, but this is today's marquee
match-up. Both guys are not only fighting well, but still have some potential.
Kaisei is not young, but has learned to use his bulk better and more
consistently the last few tournaments, and Takayasu is young and still has an
outside chance of putting it all together. I like him better when he fights on
the belt, but I think he goes tsuppari here in deference to Kaisei's size and
wins it. I also expect both wrestlers to go all out; they want that eight and an
inside track to a special prize. I'm looking forward to this one.
Result: Interesting. Nice, loud slapping chesty tachi-ai, and Takayasu trying
and succeeding in getting a quick left grip and intending to turn and sling
Kaisei out. However, Kaisei used his weight and power well, and instead of being
slung out he used the momentum of Takayasu's turn to swerve-drive him over the
bales, keeping him pulled in close despite having nothing but one tight arm
around the upper back. Dominant yori-kiri work.
M8 Takekaze (3-5) vs. M9 Homarefuji (4-4)
Expectation: Blech. Homarefuji please show me your quiet 4-4 is a sign of slow
and steady improvement… but no, Takekaze is too experienced and should eat up a
bout like this with a little henka, evasion, and tsuki-otoshi.
Result: Takekaze dominated this one with experience and a plan. His hard,
pushing tachi-ai neutralized Homarefuji, then Kaze mid-match-henka'ed heavily to
his right, letting Homarefuji lurch into imbalance. Takekaze approached
Homarefuji and applied pushes and light tsuppari, but it was already academic as
his disoriented opponent pretty much just fell down hiki-otoshi.
M13 Chiyomaru (2-6) vs. M7 Sadanofuji (2-6)
Expectation: Meh. Two big roundies. I think Sadanofuji is just better, and I'll
give him a yori-kiri win.
Result: Sadanofuji went in way too high off the tachi-ai, and that let Chiyomaru
get the momentum and push him backwards. However, Chiyomaru has minimal reaction
mobility, and when Sadanofuji very easily stepped to his side, Chiyomaru got
gummed-up and put on the defensive. Sadanofuji went in very hard with blasting
thrusts to a spinning Chiyomaru, finishing it off by returning to what he
started with, hard-hands-to-the-face, and his scouting report on that must have
been good as he got this excellent oshi-dashi win. The bottom line here was
Sadanofuji had more presence in the ring as well as more power.
M6 Gagamaru (3-5) vs. M10 Ikioi (5-3)
Expectation: Ikioi should be able to befuddle Gagamaru with hyperkinetic
tsuppari and knock him over like an overweight bowling pin in 5-10 seconds.
Result: One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand,
four-one-thousand, five-one-thousand, six-one-thousand… no toppling necessary!
Ikioi pushed Gagamaru out in six seconds oshi-dashi, and didn't need any
tsuppari to do it, just hands to the body. Nice Force by Ikioi. When you can
beat your opponent in his area of strength, it shows a clear difference in
level, and these guys' ranks will properly re-order next basho.
M5 Kitataiki (2-6) vs. M6 Aoiyama (5-3)
Expectation: Mismatch. Aoiyama destroys Kitataiki tsuki-dashi.
Result: Aoiyama was cautious, and in a tsuppari battle, backed up and pulled
Kitataiki down with a carefully considered and skillfully applied hataki-komi.
He was fully in control here, but should practice being The Man, not imitating
lesser flesh. This reminded me of a lot of Hakuho's whoopsy-daisy wins over the
last year or so.
M2 Aminishiki (3-5) vs. M1 Tochinoshin (3-5)
Expectation: 3-5 at M2 is pretty good for Aminishiki, and with guys like
Osunaarashi dropping out and Sadanoumi coming back to earth, Aminishiki may once
again rise out of the mess for a surprise 8-7. If so, he needs some heady, genki
trickery here. I don't think it will happen--Tochinoshin is too good right now.
Expect Aminishiki to look like a dead mealy bug instead here--happens to him
Result: Tochinoshin actually henka'ed, and Aminishiki was too surprised by this
turning of the usual tables to come up with any "oh yeah but watch this!"
sassy-creative retort. After Aminishiki found his balance, Chestnut Heart
(Tochinoshin) was on him immediately for an easy tsuki-dashi win. Dead Mealy Bug
(Aminishiki) had the ironic bad grace to look pissed off with a "yeah, okay, I
M2 Toyonoshima (3-5) vs. K Ichinojo (2-6)
Expectation: Ichinojo is looking slow and beatable, and Toyonoshima can exploit
this. I'm calling for an upset here with Toyonoshima getting underneath the Iron
Blob of Gravity Grease and leveraging him out with max belly effort, putting the
stamp of surety on this disappointing, weakness-exposing basho for Ichinojo.
Result: Toyonoshima tried damn hard here, maintaining, keeping a careful
distance, and weathering some powerful slaps and thrusts by Ichinojo, who looked
like a cat playing with a macramé mouse. After a minute of this they paused to
think about it, then both decided chest-on-chest might work better: Zoooooop!
they sucked in towards each other like two magnets your kid finally gets close
enough to each other to make ‘em slide across the carpet. Ichinojo then used his
size: pinched both arms from above, and let Toyonoshima have both arms inside,
which was useless as in this position Toyonoshima's brief belt grip was
fingertip-quality. The Mongolith then dragged Macramé around the ring, bounding
about on fat pins, and belly flopped on top of him as he felled him backwards
over the straw yori-taoshi. Both guys looked good here, I think.
K Tochiohzan (3-5) vs. M1 Takarafuji (5-3)
Expectation: Interesting battle between an excellent guy unfortunately taking
the first steps on the road to has-been and an up-and-comer who doesn't want to
end up going from a maybe-someday to a never-wuzzer (to steal words from a great
quote about the 1969 New York Mets). I think they're about even: I want and hope
to see a tight, tense belt battle and my sense is just that Takarafuji's day may
have already started--give it to him yori-kiri.
Result: Excellent pre-tachi-ai strategizing as Takarafuji put both fists down
and focused mightily while Tochiohzan took that opportunity to watch his
opponent carefully, hold his wrists back from the dirt, and go at the exact
moment he wanted to. Tochiohzan worked hard to get moro-zashi, but Takarafuji
did not let him get it, leading to Tochiohzan resorting to a pull. This turned
the momentum in Tochiohzan's favor, however; when Takarafuji didn't advance hard
and fast enough, Tochiohzan reversed gears, finally got his arms to the inside,
and when Takarafuji tried to escape, ran him down to an oshi-taoshi loss.
S Terunofuji (7-1) vs. M4 Tokushoryu (4-4)
Expectation: Against competition like this, Tokushoryu is a useless blubber
ball. Terunofuji should be smelling the glory rolling in, and I expect him to
grab, dump, and destroy Tokushoryu likkety-split.
Great match. The Future (Terunofuji) put both hands on the dirt and patiently
waited with a look that said, "you got nothing. Let's go." However, the match
was all "guess again." Yeah, Teru got Special Soysauce (Tokushoryu) moving
backwards, but Saucy easily evaded at the tawara. On try #2 Fuji the Terrible
(Terunofuji) got Special about half way across the ring before Saucy again did a
little lilting turn that changed the momentum. Finally, Special Sauce pounced:
he had an overhand right grip, and he heaved hard on it, impressively sending
Terunofuji right to the tawara (which is exactly what Teru did to Ichinojo the
other day). From there, Sauce stuck his left hand up onto Terunofuji's body,
keeping Terunofuji bent backwards and unable to apply any pressure, and chugged
his legs hard and pushed The Future out to a yori-kiri loss. This was a shocker.
So much for expectations.
O Kisenosato (6-2) vs. M3 Sadanoumi (4-4)
Expectation: This is an excellent test of Sadanoumi. Does he smell kachi-koshi
and go all out, or is he satisfied with four in the first week (great from this
position) and give one up here? I think he goes for it. I also still think
Kisenosato is better than him, Sadanoumi is too small, and Kisenosato grabs him
and patiently pushes him out and back oshi-dashi.
Result: That's what happened (‘cept yori-kiri, not oshi-dashi). Hey! Glad I get
to say that at least once today.
"O" Goeido (5-3) vs. O Kotoshogiku (4-4)
Expectation: Pure theatre here. Kotoshogiku has fewer wins, so needs one, and
may get the trade in on his old Chevy. Expect Goeido to heave mightily about as
if he just can't do anything about Kotoshogiku's vaunted gaburi power.
Result: Lurch! Pull! Ug! Blart! These two went at it hard and close, Kotoshogiku
looking for drive and Goeido looking for pull opportunities, and Goeido found a
nice moment to twist Kotoshogiku and push him down by the head sukui-nage. I
will give them credit: I saw no theatre here.
Tamawashi (2-6) vs. Y Harumafuji (7-1)
Expectation: Sometimes Tamawashi does well in the jo'i, but he belongs just
below it, and he has looked lackluster this tournament. No reason for Harumafuji
to lose today, and I expect he will blow the beejeezuss out of Tamawashi.
Result: Ridiculous. From the moment I heard the announcers talk about how
Tamawashi was still seeking his fist kinboshi I suspected we might be in
trouble. And Harumafuji just kind of stood there thinking of the beauteous
waters of Lake Kucherla as his friend battered away at him. However, the
battering did so little to the Yokozuna that Office Worker (Tamawashi) had to
step back to reconsider; Harumph (Harumafuji) looked at the huge separation,
thought, "well, okay," and nonchalantly ducked in there with a gimpy lurch,
allowing Office Worker to knock him aside, at which point Harumphy clumsily put
his foot outside of the ring and the gyoji called it for Tamawashi by
tsuki-otoshi. Mukiryoku all the way. AAAAAGGGGGHHH!
Y Hakuho (7-1) vs. S Myogiryu (3-5)
Expectation: These days Hakuho likes to deek around with little breast pokes and
such against guys he's giving a chance to, but dominate guys he's giving a
message to. No message needed here--Myogiryu is not a threat and not making
waves--so I expect the former: cautious looking little hand jabs and some
retreat from Hakuho, but ultimately a win.
Result: I am happy to say I was wrong: Hakuho just watched the other two
important leaders lose, and his approach in this match seemed to say, "okay, so
I'm going to win the tournament now." He bulldozer-plowed out Myogiryu in three
and a half seconds kime-dashi.
What themes did I see in comparing expectations to results today? You are
intelligent readers, and may have drawn other conclusions, but honestly mostly
what I culled out of expectations vs. results was that there was very little
correlation between the two. That could mean anything, from an outlier day to me
being a bad prognosticator, but I think it means just what it suggests: sumo is
hard to predict. And I don't mean that in the results/betting sense (btw, I went
10-9): I mean in the way bouts will develop and what aspects of a guy you'll
see, what strategies will be chosen: my predictive ability was next to zilch.
Also, if you reread my opening paragraph, it has a very "yesterday's news" feel
(which of course it literally is--I mean, really, Sadanoumi as a primary story
line??): one day of matches ploughed up the earth of what had gone before. All
that is good: clear your mind, put away your pre-conceived notions, and enjoy
Half of the 7-1 guys lost today (Takayasu, Terunofuji, and Harumafuji), leaving
Hakuho at the top with also-rans Kaisei and Kyokushuho. The tournament is his to
lose. Let's see if he'll choose to do so--with a loss to Terunofuji, things
could get exciting again, especially if Harumpha decides to return to the dinner
table to eat his greens. Kisenosato could be there too (yes, really!). I have
high hopes for a hectic and tumultuous yusho race.
Mike expects people to try hard tomorrow.
Day 8 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
to a slew of baseball games and other responsibilities over the weekend, let's
try something a bit different this basho and offer a wrap-up of the weekend and
its storylines without detailing any of the bouts. As I've mentioned before, I
really love the weekend broadcasts because NHK knows it's got a larger audience,
and so they bring out the special guests and interesting documentaries. Not only
are the weekend pieces special, but I believe they are carefully planned in
order to prepare the fans for what's in store.
For example, Saturday began with a trip down memory lane going back to the 1973
Nagoya basho where a Sekiwake named Daiju posted a 13-2 performance earning all
three special prizes in a single basho, the first time such a feat was
accomplished. Daiju would eventually become an Ozeki, and for people of my
generation, he's best known as the conehead judge who used to sit around the
dohyo in the 90's. Daiju (current Asahiyama-oyakata) is getting on in age, and
so you rarely see him anymore, but NHK spent considerable time interviewing
Daiju and showing highlights from that basho.
Kitanofuji, who was providing color analysis on the day, recalled what a
hard-worker Daiju was in the keiko ring. He said Daiju used to come to the
stable every morning for keiko, and he wouldn't show up around 8:00 or 8:30 like
the normal sekitori, but he'd arrive a few hours earlier and constantly work.
Kitanofuji laughed and said he was a real pest, and at times I just wanted a
break from him. It was a good story about how hard sumo rikishi used to
work because that same work ethic can't be found among the Japanese rikishi
today, and the ultimate reflection of that is the banzuke.
Anyway, they went on to display the following graphic, which lists the five
rikishi in history who have captured all three Sansho in a single basho.
That list reads as follows:
Daiju at the 1973 Nagoya basho while ranked
Onishiki at the 1973 Aki basho while ranked at M11
Takahanada at the 1992 Hatsu basho while ranked at M2
Dejima at the 1999 Nagoya basho while ranked at Sekiwake
Kotomitsuki at the 2000 Kyushu basho while ranked at M9
To me, I immediately saw the parallel between Sekiwake Daiju of 1973 and
Sekiwake Terunofuji of 2015. And while Terunofuji's picking up all three Sansho
isn't a guarantee this basho (he'd need to beat Hakuho again to do it), NHK
relived the moment to emphasize that history is likely in the making with
Terunofuji. As for the Sekiwake's sumo over the weekend, he gave Ozeki
Kotoshogiku an eight second or so fight before easily scoring the yori-kiri win,
and then on Sunday he stayed calm against a feisty Tamawashi managing to fell
his countryman in fairly short order with a kote-nage throw. As I watch
Terunofuji fight, he reminds me of watching the Ozeki of yesteryear, and I can
already tell that his time at the Ozeki ranks will be short-lived. He is easily
the second best rikishi on the banzuke, and I think that he surpasses Hakuho as
the man in about two years. Currently at 7-1, his bout with Yokozuna Hakuho
should determine the Natsu basho yusho, so we'll see if the Association waits
until day 14 to pair him with the Yokozuna. They should.
While NHk was on the subject of Sansho, they also produced the following
graphic, which shows the all-time Sansho leaders:
That graphic reads as follows:
19 Prizes Akinoshima
18 Prizes Kotonishiki
15 Prizes Kaio
14 Prizes Tsurugamine, Asashio, Takatoriki
I've been fortunate enough to watch four of the guys on this list, and so I
think I have license to claim just how weak the banzuke is these days. If you
have a rikishi in this day and age as good as the top five on this list, they'd
make it to Ozeki so fast that they wouldn't have time to garner all of those
special prizes. The leader on this list, Akinoshima, was an absolute bulldog,
and the fact that he was never able to make it to Ozeki is a testament to just
how strong the Ozeki and Yokozuna ranks were back then. It's hard to really
describe it in words. You just had to have gone through it.
Once they were done with their discussion of Sansho records, NHK next introduced
the leaderboard for the first time, which contained a whopping nine rikishi all
entering the day at 6-1. The list read as follows:
Hakuho, Harumafuji, Terunofuji
Takayasu, Okinoumi, Kaisei
Kyokushuho, Kotoyuki, Amuuru
On the day, Kyokushuho defeated Kotoyuki while all of the other rikishi won. The
most notable bout on Saturday had to have been the Ozeki Kisenosato - M3
Osunaarashi matchup. In a wild affair, the Ozeki eventually shoved Osunaarashi
down at the edge via tsuki-otoshi, and Osunaarashi really crashed to the dohyo
hard cracking a bone in his left shoulder causing him to withdraw. It's really a
shame because the Ejyptian entered the day at 4-2 and was fighting marvelously
among the jo'i. But...you know the old adage in sumo...you let up in the ring
and someone's gonna get hurt.
Day 8 began with a pretty sweet documentary on M12 Arawashi, who promptly went
out and lost to Fujiazuma making him the only rikishi with an 0-8 start. Oops.
The documentary was already in the can and planned for the middle Sunday, and it
makes me wonder why Arawashi? Why now? I think they chose Arawashi because he's
got an interesting story that tugs at the heartstrings of the fans. Due to
a series of dislocated shoulders, it took Arawashi over 10 years to finally
reach sekitori status, but the kids has remained humble and shows the utmost
respect to the kamisan of the stable (the wife of his stable master).
Arawashi also talked about his own parents and said the reason that he didn't
quit sumo despite all of the injuries was because he wanted to see his father's
tears of joy when he made it to the big time. It really was a riveting
documentary, and it kind of reminded me of the special they did on Takamiyama a
few basho where the theme was the concept of having foreign rikishi in sumo
isn't that bad. I think they're trying to put as positive of a spin on
things as possible in an effort to prep the fans for what's coming for at least
the next decade and keep them buying tickets.
And for good reason. On a day that included zero upsets and began with eight
rikishi tied for the lead at 6-1 coming in, the leaderboard at the end of the
broadcast was displayed as follows:
From top to bottom in the division, the foreign rikishi are dominating sumo, and
I don't see anyone coming up through the ranks that's going to change it. On the
bright side, we do have a handful of Japanese rikishi at 6-2, but by the time
the yusho line dips down to that point, they'll be long gone at the Natsu basho.
And so the main storyline as he we head into week 2 is the continued emergence
of Terunofuji. Exempt from fighting Harumafuji, there's really no one to stand
in his way until he meets Hakuho, and don't be surprised if #69 steps aside
again for his fellow countryman. The yusho will already come down to one of the
three Mongolians, so you may as well prepare yourself mentally for it. The
Japanese fans are being prepped in such a manner.
Finally, the best picture from the weekend had to be the one below. Do you
recognize the two people in this photo?
This dates all the way back to 1991 when an undersized rikishi actually got
silicon injections in the top of his head so he could pass the physical sumo
exams back then that required rikishi to stand at a certain height. Yes, that is
the one and only Mainoumi, the best color analyst by far in sumo, standing there
in his boxer shorts being measured by Kitanoumi.
They went on to show a bout between Mainoumi and Kaio when the two were in the
Makushita division and both skinny as hell. Mainoumi survived a Kaio
kote-nage attempt (remember how potent those would become) and eventually felled
the future Ozeki with an inside belt throw. It was fun to hear Mainoumi
reminisce on the bout, his first ever meeting with Kaio. He said that Kaio
already had a name for himself, and so he was a bit surprised when he didn't
seem as strong as he thought. Things would quickly change, however,
because when Mainoumi started fighting him in the Makuuchi division, he said he
was one of the strongest rikishi around.
I just love to hear talk from the good old days because it reminds me when sumo
was good for all the right reasons.
Harvye opines tomorrow.
Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
the final bout ended on day 6, there was certainly a lot more to be desired in
terms of good sumo, and thank the gods for the weekend where NHK can bring out
the guns in terms of celebrities and other high profile people (I'm still
waiting for Takamisakari to grace the mukou joumen chair) to keep the broadcast
interesting. Now, chances are good that will also see some lively bouts as well
on the weekend, but we certainly didn't have any today, especially in the latter
half. As soon as we hit the sanyaku, every single bout was a complete dud in
terms of a hard fought contest where both parties either tried or were competent
enough to be fighting this late in the day.
I'm already on the record as questioning the competence of the Ozeki at this
level, but you can also see the Isegahama-beya effect in full play here. Since
stable mates don't fight each other at hon-basho, we have four rikishi from a
single stable ranked M2 or higher, and so that means the high-profile rikishi
from these stables dig down deeper in the banzuke to find opponents. For
example, Takarafuji has a much lighter schedule each basho than say Ichinojo
because Takarafuji has three stablemates all within his range on the banzuke,
and the only place to go in order to find replacement opponents is down. Instead
of fighting Harumafuji, Terunofuji, and even Aminishiki, Takarafuji will get
guys from the M5 - M6 range while Ichinojo doesn't have that luxury. That's just
the way it is and props to Isegahama-oyakata for building the best stable in the
bidness, but it sure doesn't contribute to interesting sumo matches in the dog
days of a basho.
Since we are still in week 1, let's start from the bottom up where old time
friend and former mancrush, J2 Chiyotairyu, came up from Juryo to battle M15
Kotoyuki (with Sokokurai's withdrawal, each day a Juryo rikishi will come up to
replace him). I expected a good bout between Chiyotairyu and Kotoyuki, but it
was Kotoyuki who was quicker out of the gate catching Chiyotairyu with two hands
to the neck early and shoving him back and to the side so hard he drew the
tsuki-dashi technique as he sent Tairyu into the lap of the chief judge. I'm
still hoping to see Chiyotairyu back up here in July as he falls to 4-2 while
Kotoyuki skates to a 5-1 start.
M13 Fujiazuma and M14 Kyokutenho hooked up in hidari-yotsu, and Fujiazuma
actually grabbed the right outer first, but just as he did, Tenho pivoted out to
his left and felled Fujiazuma with a nice scoop throw in a nage-no-uchi-ai just
inside the straw. Don't blink now, but Kyokutenho has reeled off four straight
to stand at 4-2 while Fujiazuma is still winless.
M13 Chiyomaru led with tsuppari against M16 Amuuru, but his legs weren't into
it, and so the Russian was able to dance to his left around the ring countering
with defensive tsuppari of his own until he was able to get Chiyomaru's back
turned to the edge, and from there, the taller Russian made his intentions known
shoving Fujiazuma back and out in a decent fight. Amuuru is a sweet 5-1 while
Chiyomaru is hapless at 1-5.
M16 Takanoiwa charged hard smelling blood against winless Arawashi shoving his
countryman back near the edge, but these are desperate times for Arawashi, and
he predictably was looking for a pull move along the way. It came a few seconds
in as he darted to his right, but Takanoiwa had to have been expecting it
because he survived it with ease, squared back up with his gal getting
moro-zashi, and then easily turned the tables for the force-out win. Two rikishi
here going in different directions as Takanoiwa moves to 4-2 while Arawashi is
still a bagel.
M15 Jokoryu admirably charged hard into M11 Kyokushuho with a right hand to the
neck that resulted in the migi-yotsu position, but unable to apply serious
pressure, Kyokushuho gained his right inside position and then quickly grabbed
the outer left, and once he did, he was able to dump Jokoryu to the clay with
little argument. Kyokushuho is cleaning up in these parts to the tune of a 5-1
record while you can't blame Jokoryu at all for his 1-5 record. I feel bad for
Two of the busier rikishi in the division hooked up today in M10 Ikioi and M14
Yoshikaze, and curiously, both opted to forgo tsuppari in place of keeping their
hands in tight looking for moro-zashi. Yoshikaze came out of the fray with the
decent left to the inside as the two hand-slapped around on the opposite side
denying each other position with both hands. Ikioi smartly used his size
advantage to counter Yoshikaze's left inside position with a powerful right
kote-nage grip, and the bout went to the edge at this point in a nage-no-uchi-ai
where Ikioi's kote-nage was just a bit better forcing Yoshikaze to the clay an
instant before Ikioi crashed down. This was one of the better bouts on the days
the two gentlemen end the day at 4-2.
M12 Toyohibiki met M9 Endoh with a stiff right ham to the throat, and with Endoh
unable to dig in due to his gimpy knee, Toyohibiki just maintained that choke
hold and churned his legs forward shoving Endoh clear off the dohyo by the neck.
Ouch! Toyohibiki is even again at 3-3 while Endoh is still winless. Can't wait
for that mini round-robin tournament among Arawashi, Endoh, and Fujiazuma over
the weekend. Stay tuned!!
M8 Takekaze charged straight into M11 Kaisei and then quickly backed out of the
fray wisely avoiding a belt contest. As Kaisei gave chase with a few shoves,
there was just too much distance between the two for his tsuppari to have much
effect, and near the edge, Takekaze slipped out to his right and timed a perfect
tsuki into the left side of Kaisei turning him around 180 degrees. Takekaze
knows manlove when he sees it, and so he rushed in embracing this larger man
from behind and escorting him beyond the ropes okuri-dashi style. After the
bout, they caught up with Kaisei and asked him about the fight, and his response
was, "I needed to close up the distance between us." Couldn't have said it
better myself as Kaisei is marked with tsuchi the first time at 5-1 while
Takekaze breathes a bit easier at 3-3.
Kaisei suffering a loss, that left M8 Takayasu as the only remaining undefeated
rikishi, and perhaps he felt the pressure because at the tachi-ai against M10
Okinoumi, he opted to put his left hand on Okinoumi's teet keeping his right arm
out wide...in hopes of an outer grip. But Okinoumi had different plans getting
his left inside firmly and forcing Takayasu to put up or shut up. Takayasu
responded with a half hearted pull maneuver, which easily gave Okinoumi
moro-zashi, and the former Sekiwake wouldn't waste the position forcing Takayasu
back and across so fast, Takayasu didn't even bother with a neck throw at the
end. Takayasu blew this one at the tachi-ai and paid for it with a hard fall as
he drops to 5-1 while Okinoumi improves to the same mark.
M9 Homarefuji and M7 Sadanofuji went toe to toe from the tachi-ai in a pretty
good shoving affair, and while Sadanofuji connected early with some good blows
to the neck, Homarefuji was able to move to his right and withstand them. With
Sadanofuji fighting mostly from the waist up, Homarefuji was able to time
another move to the right grabbing Sadanofuji's belt in the process and dumping
him down to the clay with a dashi-nage. Both of these fellas are still
struggling at 2-4.
M3 Osunaarashi delivered two hands to the throat of M6 Aoiyama at the tachi-ai,
and the Bulgarian responded by charging forward full boar with arms extended.
The crafty Osunaarashi quickly moved left, however, offering an inashi tug at
the back of Aoiyama's right arm, and the combination of Aoiyama's forward
momentum and that little inashi sent Aoiyama all the way to the edge with his
back turned to the Ejyptian. The okuri-dashi was academic at this point as
Osunaarashi is threatening a bid for the sanyaku at 4-2. Aoiyama falls to the
same mark and should return to the sanyaku in time.
M2 Aminishiki moved out left at the tachi-ai looking for the quick and dirty
outer belt grip against M6 Gagamaru, and while his hand wasn't able to latch on,
the mini-henka already had Gagamaru off balance forcing him to move
laterally...something the big lug doesn't want to do. As Gagamaru looked to
square back up, Aminishiki timed a nice inashi with the left that shoved
Gagamaru forward just a bit to where Shenaky then pounced in for a real left
outer grip with Gagamaru turned to the side, and the force-out from there was
akin to shooting fish in a barrel. It ain't no kin-boshi, but this win is better
than nothing as both rikishi finish the day 2-4.
M5 Tamawashi offered a few light shoves at the tachi-ai as he shaded to his
left, but M1 Takarafuji saw right through that funny business getting his right
arm to the inside and left arm at the back of The Mawashi's mawashi, and with
Tamawashi turned just a bit to the side, the yori-kiri came in three
seconds...if that. Takarafuji is in fine position at 3-3 while Tamawashi is
slowly fading at 2-4.
Terunofuji used a right kachi-age from the tachi-ai against M5 Kitataiki that
morphed into the right inside position on the front and the left kote-nage on
the other side. As Terunofuji looked to set up a kote-nage throw, Kitataiki
attempted to nudge him off balance with his hip but he got twisted around in the
process resulting in a sort of backwards kote-nage throw (if such a thing is
possible) from the Sekiwake. The bout lasted about two seconds, and they ruled
it a kiri-kaeshi leg trip in the end, but regardless of the kimari-te,
Terunofuji won this one with sheer size and strength as he skips to 5-1.
Kitataiki, who was clearly overmatched, falls to 2-4, and this is an example of
what I was talking about in my intro where the Isegahama guys are going to have
to go outside of the sanyaku to find opponents for three days.
Moving along, Komusubi Ichinojo got the right arm to the inside of Sekiwake
Myogiryu, but before he could reel his gal in tight with the left kote-nage,
Myogiryu jumped back creating separation. Ichinojo doesn't exactly define speed,
and the last thing he wants to do his chase his foe around the ring (just ask
Gagamaru), and it showed as he offered a lame pull that allowed Myogiryu to take
advantage of the momentum shift and pounce in close with the right inside and
left outer position that was good enough to body Ichinojo back across the straw.
Ichinojo's reaction time is so slow that a quick rikishi like Myogiryu seems to
give him trouble. Myogiryu rilly (as we say in Utah) needed this one as he
improves to 3-3 while Ichinojo falls to 2-4.
M3 Sadanoumi and Ozeki Kotoshogiku hooked up in the migi-yotsu position, and as
is usually the case, Kotoshogiku just charged straight forward hoping for the
best. He got it today as Sadanoumi applied no pressure with this right arm and
then feigned the tsuki position with the left hand, but he didn't even try to
move out left to set up the counter tsuki-otoshi just staying in front of the
Ozeki and getting plowed out of the ring in less than two seconds. Both dudes
end the day at 4-2.
Ozeki Kisenosato exhibited a good tachi-ai grabbing the early right outer grip
with the left sort of to the inside, and he executed his force-out charge
straightway nudging M2 Toyonoshima methodically back and across. As for Tugboat,
he really didn't do anything with his left inside, and there was no attempt to
really dig in and counter to either side, so make of it what you will. I just
didn't see much effort from Toyonoshima and would liken him to a fish who puts
up no fight as he's being reeled in. He's been here before as he falls to 1-5
while Kisenosato is a meaningless 4-2.
Ozeki Goeido slipped out left at the tachi-ai against M1 Tochinoshin offering a
henka, and Tochinoshin just ducked forward a step and went along for the ride as
the Ozeki swung Tochinoshin over and out in two sloppy seconds. It's funny
because Tochinoshin is now 1-5, but he shats on the three Ozeki with room to
spare. Goeido joins his cohorts at 4-2, and the strategy now for all three of
them is to get to eight wins as fast as possible as the week 2 competition
Moving to the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho looked to offer a right kachi-age at the
tachi-ai against Komusubi Tochiohzan, but Oh kept both arms in tight denying
Hakuho a path to the inside. No one makes adjustments faster than Hakuho,
however, so he resorted to an inashi pull with the left at the back of
Tochiohzan's right shoulder and moved out left easily pulling Tochiohzan forward
and down for the speedy win. Hakuho has recovered from his day 1 loss to stand
at 5-1, which is good enough for the lead while Tochiohzan falls to 2-4.
And finally, Yokozuna Harumafuji demanded moro-zashi at the tachi-ai against M4
Tokushoryu creating a large slapping sound as the two clashed chests, and there
was nothing Tokushoryu could do from this point as Harumafuji quickly rushed him
back and out. Harumafuji also moves to a sweet 5-1 with the win while Tokushoryu
falls to 4-2.
If you go back and start from the first sanyaku bout on the day (Terunofuji vs.
Kitataiki) and add up the duration of each successive bout, you wouldn't even be
able to fill up a time slot for a 30 second commercial. That's a tough way to
end the day, and it's why I'm looking forward to NHK's weekend presentation of
the bouts because the sumo sure ain't creamin' my Twinkie.
As for the weekend, expect brief comments from me on both days before Harvye
makes his return on day 9.
Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
think the biggest story right not only surrounding the Natsu basho but the
entire sport of sumo at the moment is the emergence of Terunofuji. If you go
back the last three basho and measure his progress against a formidable opponent
in Ichinojo, you'll remember the two clashed for nearly four minutes in January.
After a mizu-iri (water break) at the 3:30 mark, the two resumed their bout
where Ichinojo eventually forced Terunofuji out. Two months later in Osaka, the
two endured another epic bout that once again required a water break, but it was
Terunofuji who came out on top at the end of that one. The two were paired again
yesterday, and everyone was prepared for another long bout of o-zumo as they
aligned chests, but Terunofuji took charge from the start and had Ichinojo
defeated in under 10 seconds.
I believe I stated back in March that I thought Terunofuji was about 18 months
away from legitimately beating Hakuho, but after watching his progression the
last few months, I'm going to upgrade that number to within just a year. Back
when I did that radio interview with Don Roid, we talked about Terunofuji's
style of sumo, which was easily defined at the time of a defensive-minded
approach. That same style was still present at the start of the Haru basho, but
you can see in the dude now that he is learning how to fight offensively, and
the results are stunning.
I guarantee you there has been more than one sweaty forehead on one of the
sport's directors as they've sat around the executive roundtable and discussed
the current state of sumo. I'm sure the feeling six months ago was, "Let's bide
our time and keep the fans occupied enough until Hakuho retires." The
conversation now, however, is we have 12 more years of Terunofuji?? And if that
conversation hasn't taken place verbally yet, it's on the forefront of
everyone's mind. By the end of this year, it's conceivable that we could have
four Yokozuna atop the banzuke, and not only are all of them Mongolian, but
Japan's answer to that are Larry, Curly, and Moe. Then, you also have Ichinojo
waiting in the wings, and whose to say that Osunaarashi can't reach the Ozeki
rank if he can perfect that moro-te-zuki tachi-ai? PR-wise, the Sumo Association
finds itself in a difficult place, so expect them to continue to come up with
various gimmicks (like those Endoh picture panels) and keep the focus on
everything except what is actually taking place in the ring.
Speaking of action taking place in the ring, let's move our attention to the day
5 bouts. I should have seen this one coming, but I must admit the fast-forward
button on my DVR got the best of me, and I missed the pre-bout hype surrounding
M14 Kyokutenho. Apparently, the 40-something came into the day having fought in
1,444 Makuuchi bouts for a mark good enough to tie him with former Ozeki Kaio
who retired after 1,444 contests. NHK created a longevity graphic that showed
finally surpassing Kaio's mark pending his participation against M16
Amuuru today. At the tachi-ai, Amuuru kept his right arm out wide giving
Kyokutenho the left inside, and while the Russian had his own left inside
position, he did nothing with it and just let Kyokutenho body him straight back
and out in about two seconds. Amuuru did nothing to try and dig in, and there
was no attempt at a counter move. At first I was like, "What is going on here?"
but then when I heard "Housou-seki! Housou-seki!" and they went down to the
interview room where a glowing Kyokutenho was asked about celebrating his 1,445
milestone with a win, it all made sense. This kinda stuff actually appeals to
old people, so more power to 'em. But...what a way to start the day...with
blatant yaocho just so they can milk an interview with Kyokutenho afterwards and
ask him about his new record. Amuuru, who was a red-hot 4-0 coming into the
bout, settles for 4-1 and has officially lost his Makuuchi virginity. As for
Kyokutenho, he improves to 3-2 with the gift.
M14 Yoshikaze was as busy as I've ever seen him today against M15 Jokoryu doing
everything possible to keep his foe away from the belt. At one point, Jokoryu
leap frogged backwards going for a risky pull, but Yoshikaze survived and
ultimately grabbed the left inside belt which he used to dashi-nage the injured
Jokoryu around and down. I feel bad for Jokoryu, who is fighting through a bitch
of a knee injury as he falls to 1-4 while Yoshikaze improves to 4-1.
M13 Fujiazuma was his usual lame self at the tachi-ai allowing M16 Takanoiwa to
grab the left frontal belt, and he followed that up with the right inside
position as well giving the Mongolian moro-zashi. Fujiazuma's defense was as bad
as his tachi-ai allowing Takanoiwa the easy force-out win on his way to a 3-2
record. Without any fresh faces in the division for half a year, having guys
make their return like Fujiazuma and promptly start out 0-5 doesn't exactly help
M15 Kotoyuki smelled blood against the ailing M12 Arawashi and absolutely
released the hounds in the form of two hands to the neck and perfect de-ashi.
Arawashi had no chance to even try and move to the side Kotoyuki's charge was
that swift and decisive. Tsuki-dashi here all the way as Kotoyuki moves to 4-1!
Arawashi can't wait to be paired with Fujiazuma as he drops to 0-5.
M11 Kyokushuho and M12 Toyohibiki engaged in a tsuppari-ai where neither rikishi
was using their legs, and you just knew a pull attempt was coming at some point.
Kyokushuho struck first with a risky and committed head pull with both hands,
and I suppose it was good enough causing Toyohibiki to stumble over his own feet
and crash to the dirt before he could be shoved out. Ugly bout here, but
Kyokushuho will take the win as he moves to 4-1. Toyohibiki continues to sputter
A desperate M13 Chiyomaru henka'd to his left at the tachi-ai, and M11 Kaisei
almost fell for it. When you come into the day 4-0 and your foe is a paltry 1-3,
you have to watch for the move. Kaisei didn't and was pulled dangerously to the
edge, but he survived and was able to mawari-komu to his right countering with
effective tsuppari that drove Chiyomaru back across the dohyo and out. The
Brasilian is 5-0 if you need him while Chiyomaru falls to 1-4.
Not to be outdone, M8 Takayasu came out with tsuppari from the tachi-ai causing
M10 Ikioi to paint the fence so wildly that I swear Pat Morita tried to sit up
in the grave and take notice. After that wild start, the two eventually settled
into hidari-yotsu where they pressed their chests in tightly vying for the outer
grip. Takayasu, the better belt fighter, got it first, and once he obtained it,
he began his force out charge. Ikioi countered at the edge with an inside scoop
throw, but Takayasu's outer belt throw was forceful enough to send Ikioi down
first. Takayasu keeps pace with Kaisei at 5-0 while Ikioi has still been sharp
despite his 3-2 record. Since I haven't mentioned the Ozeki yet, why can't we
see a single bout from them that resembles the hard-fought contest of these two?
M8 Takekaze was looking pull all the way against M10 Okinoumi, but Okinoumi was
having no part of it charging forward hard and just slapping Takekaze's arse
down to the dohyo floor in mere seconds. Nothing to break down here other than
Goei...er...uh...Takekaze's incompetence as he falls to 2-3. Okinoumi is just
swell at 4-1.
M6 Aoiyama hissed beautifully at the tachi-ai against M9 Homarefuji just
pulverizing him with dual Christmas ham thrusts, and with Pat Morita having
rested himself comfortably in peace again, there would be no waxing on or off
here as Aoiyama pushed Homarefuji around and eventually down beating his
opponent so badly he drew the tsuki-taoshi technique. Aoiyama is a predictable
4-1 while Homarefuji falls to 1-4.
M6 Gagamaru stopped M9 Endoh in his tracks with a right arm to his side at the
tachi-ai that he used to shove Elvis back near the straw. As the two squared up,
Endoh looked in desperation for anything to the inside for himself, but with no
legs to dig in, Gagamaru simply used those attempt as kote-nage holds that Endoh
would not overcome. Endoh flirted with the right arm to the belt, but unable to
burrow in, Gagamaru just grabbed hold of that arm and used it to force Endoh
back and across kime-dashi style. No sense continuing to beat a dead horse here
as Endoh falls to 0-5 while Gagamaru breathes a bit easier at 2-3.
M5 Tamawashi and M7 Sadanofuji traded nice shoves into each other's necks as
they went back and forth in the ring with a fairly even steven tsuppari-ai. With
everything straight up, the better rikishi usually wins, and such was the case
today where Tamawashi's de-ashi and confidence were just a bit better. The
banzuke rarely lies as Tamawashi, who has consistently kept himself higher on
the charts, improves to 2-3 while Sadanofuji falls to the same mark.
At this point of the broadcast, they announced M7 Sokokurai's withdrawal after a
Tokushoryu fist cracked the bone around his right eye socket yesterday.
Sokokurai will end the festivities officially at 1-14 while Kitataiki improves
Speaking of M4 Tokushoryu, he used busy tsuppari in order to keep M3 Sadanoumi
away from the belt, and damned if it didn't work to perfection. After a few
seconds of no luck, Sadanoumi reached his right arm forward in an attempt to
grab Tokushoryu's belt, but Tokushoryu's shoves were too beefy allowing him to
tug at Sadanoumi's extended arm, move to the right, and pull the relative
newcomer down to the dohyo and his first loss. You could hear a few groans from
the crowd as the only full-blooded undefeated Japanese rikishi left suffered his
first loss, but this shouldn't have been a surprise. I believe it was day 3 when
I commented on Sadanoumi's quick start as having been inflated. If you've
followed ST for the last year, you know how much I dig this guy, but an inflated
start is an inflated start, so it should have been no surprise to see him
outmuscled here. Both rikishi are still hot, though, at 4-1 apiece.
All Komusubi Tochiohzan needed was a single arm to the inside against M2
Toyonoshima, and he not only got the right in so deep his hand was at the back
of Toyonoshima's belt knot, but he got the left arm inside as well. After
shoving Toyonoshima back to the edge, Tugboat just stood there and waited for
Tochiohzan to hurl him back into the center of the ring with an outer belt grip.
At the edge, Toyonoshima managed to maki-kae with the left arm, but he did
nothing with it, and after watching the replays, my yaocho antennae was as erect
as...well...let's just say it was erect. I'm not sure what the political
implications would be behind this one, and perhaps Toyonoshima thought he was a
goner anyway, but he clearly went Obi-Won Kenobi at the edge and just waited to
be hewn down. Regardless, Tochiohzan moves to 2-3, a record that's just fine for
a Komusubi while Toyonoshima stings a little more at 1-4.
As much as I've enjoyed Sekiwake Terunofuji this basho, M1 Tochinoshin has been
a close second. Today, the two hooked up in the immediate gappuri migi-yotsu
position and treated us to exactly the kind of bout we wanted to see where both
rikishi pressed in their chests and looked for openings. After testing the
waters for a few seconds, Terunofuji musta known that he had his gal because he
began lifting Tochinoshin off of his feet enabling him to force him back to the
edge and ultimately across. This was nearly tsuri-dashi Terunofuji was that
strong. I'll admit it...I'm totally in love as Terunofuji moves to 4-1 while
Tochinoshin is a quality 1-4.
Sekiwake Myogiryu got his left arm to the inside of Ozeki Kisenosato and flirted
with moro-zashi with the right as well. As is usually the case, Kisenosato had
no defense allowing Myogiryu to just press forward hard leading with the left
inside and the right arm pinning the Ozeki's left in tight. The force-out took
about three seconds as the crowd was shocked at the loss. Look, you have a guy
ranked Sekiwake, and he's coming into the day at 1-3, and he's got a tough
schedule ahead of him...what do you expect him to do? You can see the pattern
where guys will allow themselves slow starts, but by day 3 and 4, they're like,
"Sorry dudes, I'm gettin' mine today," and that's exactly what Myogiryu did. He
can rest a bit easier at 2-3 while Kisenosato loses even more luster at 3-2.
Ozeki Goeido exhibited his best tachi-ai of the basho forcing the migi-yotsu
contest against M1 Takarafuji. Goeido's limited abilities were apparent,
however, as he allowed Takarafuji to grab the left outer grip way too easily.
From this point, the dude with the outer grip usually makes his move, and
Takarafuji did begin the motions of an outside belt throw, but credit Goeido
with a nice right inside belt throw to counter and force the two to square back
up in the middle of the ring. From this point, they dug in for a few moments
before Goeido reached for the left outer grip, and just as he did so, Takarafuji
just leaned sideways and toppled over. Whether it was due to force from the
combination left outer push / right inside tug by Goeido, or whether or not
Takarafuji's intention was to lose, I really don't know. What I would like to
emphasize is that there were a few positives to Goeido's sumo today: 1) he
displayed a great tachi-ai, and 2) he countered with the right belt throw just
as Takarafuji was loading his own uwate-nage. The drawbacks from the bout were
Takarafuji's curious fall and the fact that the much larger rikishi in the
yotsu-zumo contest had the outer grip but did nothing with it. I'll indirectly
say that I think Luis Suárez was taking notes from Takarafuji, but who really
knows? It wasn't clear cut. Regardless, Goeido improves to 3-2 while Takarafuji
falls to 2-3.
Komusubi Ichinojo had two clear cut choices today against Ozeki Kotoshogiku: win
or lose. It was as simple as that. From the tachi-ai, the Mongolith actually got
his right arm to the inside, but he just let it hang there all limp like a dude
whose misplaced his prescription of Viagra. As for Kotoshogiku, he really has
one choice in his bouts these days...press forward and hope charity is on your
side. It was today as the Ozeki mounted an immediate charge that forced Ichinojo
straight back and out in a matter of seconds. I don't think even the Japanese
fans believed this one was legit as Kotoshogiku improves to 3-2 while Ichinojo
falls to 2-3.
In the Yokozuna ranks, M3 Osunaarashi was completely lost at the tachi-ai just
standing there with hands extended allowing Harumafuji to show his prowess by
simply demanding moro-zashi at the tachi-ai and driving Osunaarashi back and out
before he could finish his WTF just hit me? I have no idea what happened with
the Ejyptian today. It didn't look as if he was necessarily out of sync at the
tachi-ai, but when they blew the starting whistle, he was wide open and exposed,
and the Yokozuna easily took advantage with Osunaarashi giving up at the edge. Harumafuji moves to 4-1 with the win
while Osunaarashi is still an impressive 3-2. Some may think...Osunaarashi
clearly gave up in this one, so why wasn't this yaocho and you call yaocho so
much for the Ozeki? The answer is simple. You'll see this happen
with Harumafuji's foes twice a year maybe. With the Ozeki, you see their
opponents give up like this in 80-90% of their wins.
If I described the Yokozuna Hakuho - M2 Aminishiki bout blow for blow,
it'd take up so much bandwidth you'd all go over your data plans. Talk about a strange bout that began with a
half-assed right kachi-age from Hakuho and a couple of jabs to the throat as he
chased Shneaky around the ring like a dog in heat. Aminishiki eventually ducked
down beneath the Yokozuna's hot pursuit and looked to have the Yokozuna in some
trouble, but a left tsuki from Hakuho and a right inside position allowed the
Yokozuna to settle back in. Aminishiki countered brilliantly, however, with a
counter left kote-nage that sent Hakuho spinning around 180 degrees. Shneaky
grabbed back of the Yokozuna's belt and looked to have the clear path to shove
him out from behind, but he was out of gas at this point and just crumbled to
the dohyo at what appeared to
be a pending arm blow from the Yokozuna. If I knew
what happened in this one, I'd give you my opinion, but I was flabbergasted
after this bout. Suffice it to say that it was an ugly bout of sumo, and it's
unfortunate that any newcomers to the sport have to see the Yokozuna fight like
this. My opinion is that Hakuho could straight up kick anyone's ass every day if he
wanted to, and so I don't like to see such cat and mouse sumo. The end result of
the scuffle is Hakuho holding serve at 4-1 while Aminishiki just misses out on a
kin-boshi at 1-4. Switching to my girl side, there was quite a tender moment
after in the dressing room when reporters surrounded Aminishiki, and the dude
couldn't utter any words due to his tears bless his heart. Apparently his
tsuke-bito his retiring and he wanted to send him out with a kin-boshi.
It was too bad we ended the day on a bit of downer, so let's see what day 6 has in
Day 4 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
match of the day (the tournament?) was undoubtedly Terunofuji against Ichinojo,
and that deserves top billing. Also, one of the Yokozuna matches featured a
do-over, probably could have had another, and was a thing of odd and thrilling
beauty that could also rank as today's top story. We will get to those. However,
there is a something brewing here with the Ozeki, all three of whom would lose
today. In the comments, Brian wrote, "Re Mike's pre-basho report, Mike was
surely exaggerating - Kisenosato couldn't possibly be as bad as M5/M6 level! Even
Kotoshogiku couldn't be that bad. Goeido maybe." That was in response to Mike's
pre-basho report--which I am certain was no exaggeration--and to my limited
defense of Kisenosato (and let me by the way say thank you to all the commenters,
positive and negative, who have motivated me and pushed me to do better across
my reports--always much appreciated, and read and considered). I will stick with
saying that Kisenosato is a real Ozeki, earns it, and belongs there. However, I
can also agree with much of Mike's analysis: Kisenosato doesn't always get guys
going after him hard. Hence, there is no telling how good or bad he could be.
Perhaps this is also frustrating to him: he is swimming in manure soup out
there. And Mike is exactly right that if they were allowed to float, Kotoshogiku
and Goeido would sometimes be at M5/M6. I think they'd also get up to Sekiwake
from time to time, and you might see an M11 out of them, etc.--if Takekaze and
Tamawashi can get into the sanyaku, so could these Ozeki. And if guys like
Takayasu and Chiyootori can sometimes drop into the lower half, so could these
Ozeki: there is no significant difference to those wrestlers in their sumo
level, only in their fixed rank.
I went down the banzuke and did a mental exercise: which other wrestlers do
Goeido and Kotoshogiku most remind me of? For Goeido, it is Takekaze, an M8, and
for Kotoshogiku, it is Toyonoshima, an M2. Those would be perfectly normal,
acceptable ranks for these two Ozeki if they could float, and I do think they
are currently pretty much on a par with those guys (Goeido is slightly better
than Takekaze, though). The Ozeki have, in a sense, been cursed by getting to
their current rank. While Tochiohzan, who is probably better than them, gets to
fight like a man and see where fortune takes him, the Ozekis have to pretend
they're better than they are until they just can't anymore. Kaio, Chiyotaikai,
and Kotomitsuki did these for year after awful year to tarnish great, exciting
early careers. Ozekis are sentenced to fraud by the rulebook. Friends, it's a
dumb system, and what I feel for the Ozeki isn't disgust--it is something closer
Here are the recent records for Goeido (since becoming Ozeki) and Kotoshogiku
(beginning Fall 2012):
Goeido: 8-7, 5-10, 8-7, 8-7. Even WITHOUT any bout fixing, if he were allowed to
float, that 5-10 would have dropped him to, oh, M3, and he'd be back at Komusubi
or Sekiwake with the two 8-7s, which is a very acceptable rank for him. In
short: he is not an Ozeki by his record quality, even at face value. (And if you
haven't read Freakonomics on 8-7 finishes, you should.)
Kotoshogiku: 2-2-11, 8-7, 8-7, 8-7, 11-4, 9-6, 10-5, 1-2-12, 9-6, 8-7, 5-10,
12-3, 9-6, 6-9, 9-6, 8-7. Again, imagine that 2-2-11 was allowed to drop him to
M8 or so, and what do you get in subsequent tournaments? A competent jo'i guy
who floats up and down the high M ranks. No shame in that.
Yes, I know they did those records against the top 15 guys every time, and that
you can't argue the counterfactual (the thing I'm suggesting didn't actually
happen, so evaluating it has little meaning). Nevertheless.
Much as I respect Kotoshogiku and bear no ill will towards Goeido, they are not
worthy of the Ozeki rank. Not even if all their tournament records are
legitimate, because those records would not maintain them at their rank without
the rule that they must stay there. I'd like to see sumo ditch this rule, let
these guys have the title "Ozeki" forever, and some extra pay to go with it, but
let them float up and down in rank just like everybody else. It would take the
farce and sighs out of five thirty.
Now, to the bouts; we have some good ones today (and lots of bad ones). Only
fair to start with the Ozeki.
"O" Goeido (2-1) vs. M3 Osunaarashi (2-1)
It is not often you get to see a man do the hurdy gurdy during a match; I
actually laughed out loud. After Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) smartly put two hands
to the neck of Goeido and backed up to see what to do next, Goeido stood there
staring at him and doing nothing. Giant Sand (Osunaarashi) was so revved to go
he did a little dance of hand thrusts and foot stomps, like a guy on fast
forward in a shadow boxing video. Perhaps embarrassed by this silliness, he then
decided to try the move on Goeido's body rather than just thin air, and moved
forward and applied this to his still-immobile target. As Practice Dummy (Goeido)
still could not manage to respond, Big Sandy reached around to the belt and
slung him out, uwate-dashi-nage. Very nice. Oh, Goeido.
O Kotoshogiku (2-1) vs. M2 Aminishiki (0-3)
Aminishiki stepped to the side and pulled Kotoshogiku down. Look, I fit that on
O Kisenosato (3-0) vs. M1 Tochinoshin (0-3)
This was classic Kisenosato here: relentless and methodical, perhaps uncreative
forward drive; started with hands to the face, then went to elbows and arms.
However, Tochinoshin was also patient, and at the edge shifted to his right in
this quick-moving match and got his hands on top of Kisenosato, pushing him down
tsuki-otoshi as he himself went backwards and out. I'm not sure Tochinoshin
deserved the win, as from my angle he looked pretty far across the straw by the
time Kisenosato face planted, but them's the breaks, and Tochinoshin deserves a
break after his hard fought losses the first three days.
Y Hakuho (2-1) vs. M2 Toyonoshima (1-2)
This was crap. Hakuho backed up while twiddling around with little stabs at
Toyonoshima's face and uppers, then evaded to his right along the straw and
pulled him down to the hataki-komi loss. I don't think Hakuho was ever in danger
here--sometimes he seems to like to see how close to losing he can get and still
win, that devilish thrill seeker--but there were far too many bouts like this
today (you will see), and really, most our Yokozuna participate in that?
Y Harumafuji (3-0) vs. M3 Sadanoumi (3-0)
This was the last bout of the day; Sadanoumi's rise has been so slow and quiet
that I was just wondering, "did I miss Sadanoumi's match today?" when this came
on--I guess I still don't think of him as fighting Yokozuna. I mistyped his name
when I first started writing: Sadanofuji came out of my fingers. I rewound this
twice to watch what Sadanoumi did in it, because the first time I only noticed
the Yokozuna, and the second time I forgot that my express purpose in rewinding
was to watch Sadanoumi and again just simply paid no attention to him at all. On
the third watch I finally kept my eyes on Sadanoumi and he did… well, he hung in
there? The guy is small, has nothing particularly noticeable about his sumo, but
has gotten attention on Sumotalk for moving forward and fighting with sound
technique and spirit. That's enough for me, and I will continue to try to see
Harumafuji's most patented technique these days is to evade slightly at the
tachi-ai, and he did that here ever so slightly, moving out to get an overhand
left grip. "This one goes up to 11": he launched a belt throw so powerful both
rikishi flew into the air off the momentum of it and crashed painfully down
across the rim of the dohyo, a Rorschach blot of limbs and bodies. Great match,
if brief, and a do-over was called, which was appropriate given
the wild finish.
In the rematch, the same thing (but different) hapdpened: Harumafuji this time
played straight up and dominated his opponent, driving him out straight and
simple, except that he overcommitted and went flying out of the ring head-on as
Sadanoumi went out side-on; both guys did the splits with one leg below the
level of the dohyo and one leg above it in the air, like guys doing jumping
jacks while being hit by a bomb. Again I had no idea who won, and it looked even
in spirit if not in actual fact. As for actual fact, they gave it to Sadanoumi,
no mono ii. I'm okay with that, too; if you hang this tough with a Grand
Champion twice in a row, well, tie goes to the runner. This was a ton of fun.
Sekiwake vs. Komusubi
S Terunofuji (2-1) vs. K Ichinojo (2-1)
I will not deny I was very excited to see this on my ledger today. The crowd
felt it, too--they fell into a hush for this one. The two wrestlers felt it--there
was some nice stare down action, and a slow deliberateness to their prep work
that showed they felt each other's gravity. And oh, did I love the match. The
Future (Terunofuji) hit Ichinojo lightly in the face, then swiftly reached his
right arm under and in and all the way to Ichinojo's belt--that's a long way,
folks. My, did Terunofuji look lanky, big, and strong here. However, they also
both had grips on the side away from the camera, and Ichinojo used that to try
the first pull. It changed their orientation in the ring but not overall odds,
and Fuji the Terrible (Terunofuji) responded by staring down at Ichinojo's ass
and seeing that he had the opportunity to get in even deeper on the left. He
took that grip--he could have had the crack strap but took the waist belt--and
immediately wrenched hard on his foe, the heaviest guy in the division, mind
you, and Ichinojo lurched as Terror Mountain (Terunofuji) intended, his grip
broken off and The Future, fully in control, body facing the bales, both hands
on his man, one at the belt, one at the neck, emphatically smashed him across
the twisted straw, uwate-nage. This will make you cry for joy to see; makes me
remember why I love sumo and makes up for a lot of the dumb matches I had to
watch earlier today. Ah, ah! Yes. Yes, please.
S Myogiryu (1-2) vs. K Tochiohzan (0-3)
Noting here that much as I love Tochiohzan, compare the amount you perk up when
you read the names in this K/S bout as compared to the previous one: not much.
It is like comparing Vaduz to Berlin, a quail to Blakiston's Fish Owl, bamboo
grass to a Ponderosa. I like all six of those things, but. You may also notice a
difference in the nationality of the wrestlers that should make you sign with
existential sadness; Mike and I have been hyping this basho's Komusubi/Sekiwake
class, but the way they lined up today makes them seem very much like two
classes of two rather than one class of four. As if to prove this point, it was
a pretty good match and I think the better wrestler won, but it was just a bunch
of up high grappling in which Tochiohzan ran Myogiryu out oshi-dashi, and compared
to what we'd just seen, this ale was very pale.
M1 Takarafuji (1-2) vs. M5 Kitataiki (1-2)
Masterful sumo by Takarafuji here. Kitataiki tried to get inside for a grip but
Takarafuji stood him up and kept upward pressure from below on both of
Kitataiki's arms, allowing him to power Kitataiki back to the tawara. Once
there, when Kitataiki tried to step back forward, Takarafuji used that momentum
against him, unleashing a powerful left handed sukui-nage throw that Kitataiki
responded to with a beautiful attempt to maintain balance with one leg thrown
high in the air--but he also decided to save his face and put a hand down. Looked
kind of like a starfish. A dead starfish. Good match.
M7 Sokokurai (1-2) vs. M4 Tokushoryu (2-1)
Tokushoryu played this one very smart, bodying up close and tight to the smaller
Sokokurai, who was not able to get any grip around his massive girth, while
Tokushoryu was able to reach down for an overhand hold. After a little dancing,
Tokushoryu pulled the uwate-nage throw for the win. It's Dark There's (Sokokurai)
fall was so understated I'm not sure it was caused by the throw or perhaps by
some twinge or pang, for It's Dark there retreated to his bow-in-defeat corner
with skinks of blood spotted across his person.
M8 Takekaze (1-2) vs. M5 Tamawashi (1-2)
One of four matches today along this theme: bump, pull, done. Your bumper is
Takekaze, your faller-downer is Tamawashi. Dumb hiki-otoshi crap.
M8 Takayasu (3-0) vs. M6 Aoiyama (3-0)
I thought, "this ought to be good; two thrusters of different style, speed
against power." And that is what you got: a thrust battle. Was it also skill,
not speed, against power? Takayasu won this one when Aoiyama fell down first,
tsuki-otoshi, and I think it was because the bout was at Takayasu's pace: with
the speed of the thrusts being thrown, Bluey (Aoiyama) was playing High ‘n'
Easy's (Takayasu) game, and couldn't get as much behind his thrusts as he
M6 Gagamaru (0-3) vs. M9 Homarefuji (1-2)
Gagamaru looks tired and discouraged. Fortunately for him, Homarefuji isn't very
good, and tried to take him on straight up. Whatever else he is, Gagamaru is
very big, and keeping Homarefuji in front of him and thrusting hard, he had
Homarefuji on the defensive. Much as no one likes evasive sumo, Homarefuji
couldn't get inside or get any purchase, so he needed to evade more. When he
didn't, you could see Gagamaru's confidence surge: "hey, this is working!"
Gagamaru stuck with the brutality bludgeons for a satisfying oshi-dashi win.
M9 Endo (0-3) vs. M7 Sadanofuji (1-2)
I get a delicious thrill about reporting on Endo, because almost every day I
have him he gets absolutely destroyed. Before the match I thought Sadanofuji,
who isn't much, might be good for him to get going against. Nothing doing;
Sadanofuji badly overpowered him with meaty paws to the neck and face for the
dominant oshi-dashi win. Honestly, it seems bizarre to remember how hyped Endo
was, because now he reminds me more of classic discouraged underweight guys like
Toyozakura or Takanoyama rather than any rising star.
M12 Toyohibiki (3-0) vs. M10 Okinoumi (2-1)
Okinoumi is frustrating because he is inconsistent, but he is surely a better
wrestler than one-trick-pony Toyohibiki, who is famed for a powerful charge but
also inability to finish it off. Sure enough, Rich Kerosene Echo (Toyohibiki)
got in Okinoumi's grill and pushed him quickly back to the straw, but Okinoumi
calmly moved out to his left and let Toyohibiki chase him unsteadily and fall
down to tsuki-otoshi defeat.
M10 Ikioi (3-0) vs. M11 Kaisei (3-0)
I can't say "I told you so" because I didn't, but I sure did think it in my head
before the tournament oh yes I did I really did: lots of under-ranked guys this
tournament who are really cleaning up. These are two of them. Nice bout here:
Kaisei got a left outer off the tachi-ai and Ikioi looked to get a right inner
underneath it, but couldn't quite reach far enough. Kaisei smartly pressed the
advantage, and Ikioi smartly did what he could, trying to get out to the side
while bodying Kaisei into the air by using Kaisei's momentum to bounce him off
Ikioi's planted leg. However, Kaisei was able to turn ever so slightly back in
toward Ikioi rather than getting dumped over the bales, and crushed Ikioi out
underneath him for the yori-taoshi win. Fun.
M12 Arawashi (0-3) vs. M13 Chiyomaru (0-3)
One of the interesting quirks of writing online is that you torture yourself
later over rash stuff you wrote earlier--despite you probably being the only one
who remembers it. Let me remind you of one of those dumb things I said: a few
basho ago I compared Arawashi to Harumafuji. Arawashi has of course proceeded to
show himself to be ultra-lite, while I sweatily but hopelessly hope "maybe he'll
show his Yokozuna stuff today!" Today… well, today he ridiculously let Chiyomaru
give him a nice push in the neck, let Chiyomaru release him, and rolled neatly
across the dohyo. The whole thing was like some avant garde dance revue move.
Dumb hiki-otoshi match.
M13 Fujiazuma (0-3) vs. M11 Kyokushuho (2-1)
A virtual repeat of the bout above, only this time winner Kyokushuho moved back
a little bit while doing his pull and almost stepped out as loser Fujiazuma
fell. Dumb hataki-komi match.
M16 Takanoiwa (2-1) vs. M15 Kyokutenho (1-2)
Kyokutenho almost lost this one, despite being in a position he likes and doing
a classic Kyokutenho momentum-change at the end. I think he was gifted his win
yesterday, and that means he has one weak win in four days. Not good. Today,
Kyokutenho had his long, long arm over Takanoiwa's shoulder at the beginning,
then reached down and grabbed the belt. Unfortunately, there was a loose mawashi
effect so it did him little good; Kyokutenho looked like a guy playing the harp
trying to grab that thing. He also had a right inside… and couldn't do anything.
After a long, long stalemate, Takanoiwa did what I thought he should have right
away: force Kyok to the edge and make him prove he still has some strength. And
lo! Kyokutenho whirled Takanoiwa about to turn the tables. Here, though, it
almost went awry for Kyokutenho: Takanoiwa continued the spin, and honestly, I
couldn't tell whose foot went out first. This wouldn't have happened to
Kyokutenho in the old days. At any rate, he's happy to get anything right now,
declared for the win yori-kiri.
M14 Yoshikaze (3-0) vs. M16 Amuuru (3-0)
I'm not really sure what happened here; Amuuru had his left inside but no grip,
while Yoshikaze had his left inside but a grip. Yoshikaze is better, was in
lower position, and had Amuuru going back. However, Amuuru was able, while
turning along an edge-trodding path, to back out a little and use that moment to
pull/knock Yoshikaze down from above kata-sukashi.
M15 Jokoryu (1-2) vs. M15 Kotoyuki (2-1)
This was a dismantling. Without that leg, Jokoryu has to hope to get lucky and
sustain in less a low-energy bout; Kotoyuki gave him no chance with a flurry of
huge roundhouses that ended this one in a hurry tsuki-dashi.
For all the scrambled up mess of the first four days, things could shape up well
for the stretch: potential winners Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Terunofuji are all
3-1, while other prominent guys like Aoiyama, Kisenosato, and Osunaarashi are
the same. Sadanoumi, Takayasu, Kaisei, and Amuuru, in that order, provide
entertainment at 4-0.
Mike goes 21-0 tomorrow.
Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
on from day 2, I really don't have any new takes to introduce, but I can't help
but marvel at how fast Terunofuji is maturing in the ring. I'm still not sure if
that day 1 debacle was intentional or not, but this guy is reminding me more and
more of Hakuho when he was young in the division. Hakuho had a tougher banzuke
to deal with back then when Ozeki were Ozeki, but to see Terunofuji dismantle
some pretty damn good guys and make it look so easy, it signals more and more
that he's the sport's next Yokozuna. Too bad there isn't a way for him to just
hop over the Ozeki rank because to see him ranked alongside the likes of the
current threesome would sorta feel like he's been sent to Purgatory. Don't be
surprised a bit to see Fuji the Terrible pick up his first career yusho this
year, and when that happens, I'm quite sure Hakuho won't stand in his way as he
ascends to the next rank.
Before I get too stiff, I should cool down by starting from the bottom up as we
break down the day 3 action. M15 Kotoyuki blasted M16 Amuuru off of the starting
lines and back a step, but Amuuru was composed enough to grab Kotoyuki's
extended left arm and pull him towards the straw where the Russian next grabbed
the back of Kotoyuki's belt, kept him turned backwards, and easily escorted him
out from behind. Amuuru musta been all business today because he didn't even
sneak in for a few seconds of manlove as he moves to 3-0. Kotoyuki falls to 2-1,
and we see this sometimes where a thruster's tachi-ai is so good it ends up
hurting him in the end when separation is created.
M16 Takanoiwa struck hard and low into M15 Jokoryu coming away with the left
inside grip and right outer, and with Jokoryu's gimpy right leg, Takanoiwa
forced him back and out in mere seconds improving to 2-1. Jokoryu's lucky to
have that one win at 1-2.
M13 Chiyomaru just went through the motions at the tachi-ai with two hands at
M14 Kyokutenho's neck, and without his legs driving into the Chauffeur,
Kyokutenho stood his ground briefly, wrestled both arms inside to gain
moro-zashi, and then forced Chiyomaru back and across the lines with little
argument. More than Kyokutenho's age, this bout was the result of Chiyomaru's
half-assed tachi-ai as he falls to 0-3. Kyokutenho's relieved to pick up his
first winna the basho.
M14 Yoshikaze was too quick for M12 Toyohibiki at the tachi-ai getting his left
arm deep to the inside, so Toyohibiki could barely counter with a shallow left
of his own. Yoshikaze pressed forward hard keeping Toyohibiki upright, and the
instant MonsterDrink secured the right belt grip, he overpowered Toyohibiki back
and out. I love sumo like this as Yoshikaze moves to 3-0 while Toyohibiki
suffers his first defeat at 2-1.
At this point in the broadcast, the introduced a new rikishi from Canada
fighting in mae-zumo named Homarenishiki. The dude had a decent tachi-ai, which
is rare for whiteys, and if I didn't know any better, I'da thought it was Bernie
McManus in the ring 50 kilos heavier. Let's see how fast Bernie-nishiki can rise
up the ranks.
M11 Kaisei used a nice tsuppari attack to knock M13 Fujiazuma back to the edge,
but Fuji timed a sweet duck to the inside coming away with the rather deep left
inside position that forced Kaisei to mawari-komu around the ring as he
countered with the left inside of his own. Fujiazuma couldn't quite finish
Kaisei off, and so the Brasilian ultimately gained his footing, nudged Fujiazuma
back to where he grabbed the right outer grip, and then he dumped Fujiazuma near
the straw with a desperate belt throw. Kaisei had to sweat a few bullets here,
but he'll take that 3-0 start while Fujiazuma is still winless.
M12 Arawashi henka'd to his left against M10 Okinoumi, but Okinoumi isn't
exactly known for his balls to the wall charge, and so Okinoumi easily squared
back up with his compromised gal, secured the left inside, and added insult to
injury with the right outer grip at the front of the belt. The easy force-out
from there was academic as Okinoumi improves to 2-1. Arawashi is completely lost
When I pulled up the broadcast on my DVR this morning, I noticed it was split
into two segments for some reason. It just so happened that the first segment
stopped right as M9 Endoh and M11 Kyokushuho were ready to clash. The second
segment started well after the bout, and I didn't even bother looking it up. All
I needed to see was this pic on the wires, and it was obvious that Kyokushuho
smelled blood. The Mongolian improves to 2-1 while Endoh falls to 0-3.
It's so obvious that Endoh needs to withdraw, but his stable master is being
incredibly stubborn about the matter. I read yesterday where he said that
Endoh's problem was that he needs to do more keiko. The old timers to sumo are
of the impression that the way you overcome your injuries is by doing more
keiko, but forcing the guy to keep doing keiko and fight at this hon-basho is
ludicrous. Oite-kaze thinks he's being a hardass, but I'd say he's more of a
dumbass. The first time and last time you'll ever hear about this stable will
regard Endoh, so why force your prize asset to breakdown further?
M10 Ikioi maintained his ikioi by charging hard and keeping his hands low
and to the inside of M8 Takekaze. There was only one option at this point for
Takekaze, and Ikioi knew it, so as the meager pull attempt came, Ikioi's
footwork was ready as he easily shoved Takekaze back and across for the quick
win. Ikioi's 3-0 if you need him while Takekaze is 1-2.
M7 Sokokurai opted to match M9 Homarefuji's tsuppari tit for tat from the
tachi-ai, but he could do nothing to counter Homarefuji's busy arms, and the
moment Homarefuji connected with a right paw to the throat, Sokokurai was
knocked back and off balance enough to where Homarefuji pounced with the left
inside and finished his opponent off with a perfect dose of sumo technique.
Homarefuji picks up his first win as Sokokurai falls to the same 1-2 mark.
M6 Gagamaru and M7 Sadanofuji hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu position
where Gagamaru reached around grabbing the right outer grip first. Sadanofuji is
actually a beast from this same position when he has the right outer, and so
Gagamaru's task was to finish his gal off before giving up the equalizing right
outer. Despite his girth advantage, Gagamaru couldn't do it, and the instant
Sadanofuji grabbed the right outer, he demonstrated in short order how the
yori-kiri is executed. Great stuff from Sadanofuji who picks up his first win at
1-2 while Gagamaru falls to 0-3.
M8 Takayasu really laid the wood to M5 Tamawashi from the tachi-ai connecting
with shoves to The Mawashi's upper torso and face driving him back near the
edge. You could just see it in Takayasu's legs that he was a man on a mission,
and with Tamawashi struggling to even connect on a single punch, Takayasu
switched gears at the edge and pulled Tamawashi forward and down by the
shoulder. These are the pull moves you like to see...set up by a great tachi-ai
and solid footwork as Takayasu moves to 3-0. Tamawashi is a paltry 1-2.
M6 Aoiyama hissed his way forward a step at the tachi-ai against M4 Tokushoryu,
but as Tokushoryu resisted, Aoiyama's shoves were directed up too high giving
Tokushoryu that opening he was waiting for. Problem was that Tokushoryu
committed too early on his forward charge without really connecting on a blow
that would knock Aoyama off balance, and so as Tokushoryu advanced forward,
Aoiyama evaded and pulled him down with ease. This is the pull maneuver I don't
really care for, but credit Aoiyama for a good tachi-ai. He's a cool 3-0 while
Tokushoryu suffers his first defeat at 2-1.
M3 Sadanoumi and M5 Kitataiki hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the
tachi-ai where Sadanoumi enjoyed the right outer grip. Problem was that the
outer grip was on one fold of the belt, and Kitataiki could sense it because he
nudged his way forward shaking his hips nicely in an attempt to break off that
grip. He wasn't quite able to do it, but he was still advancing forward, and so
he kept pace only to fall into Sadanoumi's trap at the edge where the M2 slipped
out to his left and threw Kitataiki across the straw with his left inside grip
and right hand to the shoulder. While Sadanoumi is 3-0, he's had some unorthodox
bouts along the way and then that freebie over Chiyootori, so this start is a
bit inflated as much as I love the dude. Kitataiki is ailing as he falls to 1-2.
M3 Osunaarashi's two hands to the throat tachi-ai worked wonders today against
Sekiwake Myogiryu knocking him back a clear step and throwing him upright. The
Ejyptian nearly wasted the charge, though, by extending his hands too high
allowing Myogiryu to duck back into the bout, but having failed to gain any
advantage from the tachi-ai, mYogiBear couldn't stay square with his foe
allowing Osunaarashi to just slip left and yank the Sekiwake down at the edge by
his extended left arm. Once Osunaarashi learns to follow up that sweet tachi-ai
with sound middle relief, he'll be a worthy sanyaku rikishi. I've really enjoyed
watching him mature with that new tachi-ai as he moves to 2-1. Myogiryu falls to
a shaky 1-2.
Sekiwake Terunofuji offered a decent face slap with the right hand against
Komusubi Tochiohzan, but the Komusubi is the best in the bidness at securing
moro-zashi, and such was the case today. Problem is...moro-zashi against
Terunofuji is as worthless as a fax machine, and the Mongolian easily used his
left hip to knock Tochiohzan back enough that he lost his inside position on the
left side. Terunofuji instantly seized on the advantage inserting his right arm
to the inside rendering the bout to migi-yotsu, and from there, the force-out
was swift and decisive. Can't say enough about Fuji the Terrible who improves to
2-1 while Tochiohzan falls to 0-3. I've maintained that Tochiohzan is the best
Japanese rikishi on the board now for awhile, and Terunofuji handled him like a
of the Ozeki, Kotoshogiku and M1 Takarafuji hooked up into hidari-yotsu where
the Ozeki immediately charged forward going for the yori-kiri kill. And why
wouldn't he? He's been gifted his wins up to this point, and that was really his
only option here...go through the motions and hope for charity. Takarafuji
wasn't in a giving mood, however, and you can't blame him. After bowing to
Kisenosato on day 1 and facing the wrath of Khan on day 2, he needs wins to keep
pace. So, as the Ozeki pressed forward, Takarafuji slipped to his right and
shoved his right arm into Kotoshogiku's left gut sending him down to the clay
with ease. And when I say ease, Takarafuji's move was so nonchalant I could have
sworn he was whistling Dixie when he all of a sudden remembered, "Oh yeah, I'm
still fighting a bout of sumo here." Takarafuji picks up his first win while
Kotoshogiku falls to 2-1. With Kotooshu in the booth offering color commentary,
the others began speculating afterwards whether or not the Geeku's right
shoulder was bothering him. Uh, no.
Moving right along, Ozeki Kisenosato executed a horrible tachi-ai keeping his
arms wide and high, but Aminishiki failed to take advantage of it although his
hands were positioned nicely into the Ozeki's upper torso. Aminishiki's charge
was half-assed allowing Kisenosato to swipe him away effectively with the left
arm, but as they looked to hook back up, moro-zashi was right there for the
taking by Sneaky. He refrained, however, easily surviving Kisenosato's extended
arms (I can't really classify them as thrusts) as he moved left grabbing the
right outer grip with the left arm to the inside. He quickly repented of that
advantageous position and really just stood there waiting for Kisenosato to use
his own left to the inside to force Aminishiki back and across. At the edge,
Aminishiki wasn't even thinking about that last gasp evasion standing straight
up and just taking his medicine. The Isegahama-beya giveth in this one and
taketh away against Kotoshogiku. With the win, Kisenosato moves to 3-0, but at
some point, he's going to get his comeuppance. Aminishiki couldn't care less
about his 0-3 start.
the final Ozeki bout of the day, Sekiwake Ichinojo got the right arm to the
inside easily on Goeido, and the Ozeki's reaction was to duck low and push his
head into Ichinojo's right shoulder as he held on with his own right inside belt
grip. The two stood this way for a few seconds before Ichinojo awkwardly backed
up a step or two pulling the Ozeki down near the edge. Ichinojo's mechanics were
awful in this one, and his feet were aligned largely throughout the bout.
You can still see it in the pic at right; he's feet are aligned even as he
executes the pull. I mean how often do you see a guy pull his opponent
down in between his crotch as if to say, "Get a whiff of this, pal!" And yet,
Goeido was unable to apply any pressure throughout the entire match. When
Ichinojo backed up and went for his pull, Goeido had no response going down to
the clay far too easily for an Ozeki. In my book, if an Ozeki's opponent's feet
are aligned, you take advantage. If an Ozeki's opponent goes for a pull and
nearly stumbles over his stumps in the process, an Ozeki takes advantage. I
don't know if Ichinojo was creating openings for his opponent intentionally, but
Goeido was just clueless in this one as he's pulled to his first loss at 2-1
while Ichinojo jumps to the same mark. NHK's man on the hana-michi caught up
with Goeido for comment afterwards, and Goeido offered, "I wanted to use my left
arm more." And?? Ichinojo stifles Goeido's use of his left arm by getting his
own ham to the inside, and so you don't have plan B? I better move on since we
have 12 more days' worth of Ozeki bouts with which to draw my ire.
In the Yokozuna ranks, Harumafuji led with the right arm to the inside against
M2 Toyonoshima fishing for the outer grip with the left hand on the other side.
He'd get it easily as Toyonoshima pressed his chest in tight, and with the
Yokozuna enjoying the advantageous belt grips, he immediately began his force
out charge. At the edge, Toyonoshima looked to attempt an utchari shifting
right, but before he could set it up, Harumafuji just body slammed him down
across the straw for the emphatic yori-taoshi win. Harumafuji is a cool 3-0 and
leads the basho so far while Toyonoshima falls to 1-2.
The day ended with another excellent bout that involved two foreigners of course
where Yokozuna Hakuho and M1 Tochinoshin hooked up in the migi-yotsu position.
Shin denied the Yokozuna the left outer grip, however, while he maintained one
of his own. We rarely see Hakuho in this position in a yotsu bout where his
opponent has the outer grip and he has none, and fighting against a formidable
opponent like Tochinoshin, Hakuho turned into a caged bear fighting with
intensity that we rarely see anymore wrenching Tochinoshin upright and back
before he was finally able to cut off that right outer grip. In the process of
knocking Shin upright, Hakuho seized the moro-zashi there for the taking, and he
finally cooled off just enough to escort Tochinoshin back and across like a
gentleman instead of sending him into the crowd as he could have done. Hakuho
moves to 2-1 with the win while Tochinoshin falls to 0-3.
I think Tochinoshin has been the perfect barometer these first few days about
how a rikishi fights when he tries to win. Against Kotoshogiku, he just stood
there and then performed that over exaggerated summersault in the end. Against
the Yokozuna, however, he made the Mongolians earn it, and the best two bouts by
far have been Tochinoshin vs. Harumafuji and then Tochinoshin vs. Hakuho. Once
the first Sekiwake enters the ring on the day, I expect solid sumo from all
parties, but I just don't see it when the Ozeki fight.
Anyway, the dog and pony show otherwise knows and Harvye 'N Mike continues
tomorrow with my co-host back in the driver's seat.
Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I really enjoyed Harvye's
read yesterday, especially his intro where he talked about all things good in
life and with the banzuke, etc, but then he foreshadowed the day well in the
conclusion to his intro where he said, "It was not a particularly good day of
sumo to my taste." No, day 1 wasn't a good day of sumo. If you didn't have
access to the bouts and you only checked out the results of the day on paper,
you would have thought it was an exciting, phenomenal day, but if you actually
watched the action play out on video, you were likely left with a bland taste in
your mouth. Even the Japanese fans in the arena weren't really into it. I mean,
you have Yokozuna Hakuho go down--literally--on day 1 for the first time in
three years, you have Sadanoumi upset Terunofuji, and then you had the Ozeki
trio go 3-0, and yet...the atmosphere in the arena seemed nonchalant throughout
inasmuch as I could discern from the television.
It wasn't a good day of sumo to anyone's taste because, well, it just wasn't a
good day of sumo. After watching the bouts in the morning, I went back at night
to review the tape and noticed just how quickly each of the bouts were
finishing. The longest bout on the day I believe was the Kitataiki - Tokushoryu
matchup, and I'm not saying that a bout of sumo has to be long to be good, but I
am suggesting both parties need to fight their hardest, and I just didn't see
that on day 1.
To illustrate my point, I'll start out day 2 with the best bout seen over the
course of the first two days, the Yokozuna Harumafuji - M1 Tochinoshin matchup
where Harumafuji got his left arm at the front of Tochinoshin's belt and the
right arm to the inside from the tachi-ai. Shin defended moro-zashi by forcing
his right arm to the inside of the Yokozuna's left, but Harumafuji had the
better position with Tochinoshin more upright. The Yokozuna still had to figure
out how to bully the taller Private back, however, and so the two dug in
valiantly as Shin grabbed the right outer grip over the top. Both rikishi
applied pressure chest to chest looking for an opening. Eventually, Harumafuji
lifted Shin off balance just a bit with a right belt throw while getting his
right leg inside of the M1's left stump lifting him up spectacularly with the
leg throw and dumping him hard to the dirt with the combination right inside
I know that I take Harumafuji for granted at times because when you think about
the size difference in these two and the way in which the much smaller
Harumafuji was able to dictate the pace and finish the bout off, today's sumo
from the Yokozuna really was a true masterpiece. But I also applaud Tochinoshin
for his effort. That's all I ask for from these guys...effort and a semblance of
strategy. When I don't see effort, and I don't see any defensive pressure, and I
don't see an attempt to counter, it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.
Today's final bout had all of those elements. Harumafuji dictated the pace from
the beginning, but Tochinoshin countered his every ploy to the extent possible,
and the two treated us to a sweet chess match.
Day 1 was a bad day of sumo because in all of the key bouts, one of the parties
showed no effort. Well, I take that back. Tochinoshin's voluntary summersault at
the end of his bout with Kotoshogiku took SOME effort, but you know what I mean.
Even the Harumafuji - Tochiohzan bout where the Yokozuna won...he used a henka
at the tachi-ai to grab the cheap outer belt ending the affair in mere seconds.
All I ask day in and day out is effort from both parties in every single bout,
and when it doesn't happen, I'll point it out. Why one party chooses not to
output sufficient effort can be debated, but the response from the fans is a
good gauge of how well fought the bouts actually are. In Harvye's case, he
wasn't impressed. As for the Kokugikan crowd, there was little electricity.
With that said, let's build from the ground up starting with Juryo rikishi,
Seiro, who henka'd out left for the cheap outer grip, but M16 Takanoiwa
preservered with the firm right inside position, and as the two jockeyed around
the ring from there, Takanoiwa grabbed Seiro's right leg and just lifted it
straight up causing the Juryo rikishi to Hopalong Cassidy his arse back and out.
Both dudes end the day at 1-1, and I always love to see the rikishi who henkas
go down in flames.
M15 Jokoryu and M16 Amuuru hooked up in the quick hidari-yotsu bout, but
Jokoryu's grip was far too shallow while the Russian was firmly established with
his own left to the inside. As the taller Russian pressed forward, Jokoryu went
for a dangerous retreat/pull move that knocked Amuuru off balance a bit, but he
was able to survive, so with Jokoryu's positioning now compromised, Amuuru
grabbed him by the back of the left arm and just escorted him out easy peasy
Japanesey. Amuuru's 2-0 if you need him while Jokoryu falls to 1-1.
M14 Kyokutenho is really showing his age now. M15 Kotoyuki came in way too high
at the tachi-ai gifting Kyokutenho the left inside and clear pathway to the
right outer grip, but Tenho opted to try and pull his way out of the hold
allowing Kotoyuki to easily push him back and across in two seconds. Kotoyuki
was in a pickle here from the tachi-ai, but Kyokutenho let him off scott free
and just gifted him the oshi-dashi win with the poor decision to pull. We'll see
if Kyokutenho bothers to fight in Juryo, but he looks like a goner after this
ugly 0-2 start. Kotoyuki moves to 2-0.
M13 Fujiazuma paused just a bit at the tachi-ai not quite in sync with M14
Yoshikaze, but he put both fists down and stood up only to have Yoshikaze lurch
straight into his craw and shove Fujiazuma out so quickly, the crowd barely knew
what hit them. Fujiazuma (0-2) wishes he could have this one back, and it
illustrates the importance of being in sync with your opponent at the tachi-ai.
Yoshikaze is a cool 2-0.
In a tsuppari affair, M13 Chiyomaru's hands were out just a bit wide signaling
his looking for the cheap evasive/pull maneuver, so M12 Toyohibiki's thrusts
were directed straight into Maru's gut...and what a big gut it is! Chiyomaru
predictably tried to move laterally, but Toyohibiki was onto his every move and
eventually sent him across the straw before Chiyomaru could counter with a tug
at Ibiki's arm that was too little too late. Toyohibiki moves to 2-0 while
Chiyomaru falls to 0-2.
M11 Kaisei and M12 Arawashi hooked up in the immediate migi-yotsu contest, but
Kaisei quickly grabbed a left outer grip that was strong and defiant, and this
was no longer a contest as the Brasilian just powered his gal back and across
the straw without argument. This shows the difference in the banzuke between the
jo'i guys and the rank and filers. Sure, Kaisei was floundering about among the
jo'i the last few basho, but then he comes down here to the nether regions and
just starts kicking ass and taking names. He's 2-0 if ya need him while Arawashi
M11 Kyokushuho looked for the quick frontal belt grip with the left arm, but M10
Okinoumi shoved him back and outta the grip, and before Kyokushuho could really
get his own tsuppari attack going, Okinoumi persisted forward and feisty causing
Kyokushuho to resort to a pull maneuver that really never formulated because
Okinoumi took advantage of it that quickly gaining moro-zashi and driving
Kyokushuho back to a creeping death. Both combatants finish the day at 1-1.
M10 Ikioi plowed forward nicely using a tsuppari attack to send M9 Homarefuji
back and on the run, but Ikioi wasn't dictating the pace enough allowing
Homarefuji to evade and execute a desperate pull that looked to send Ikioi down
to the dirt first. A mono-ii was called where it looked as if Homarefuji's left
knee could have grazed the clay prior to Ikioi's belly flop, but I thought the
initial gunbai towards Homarefuji was the correct call. The win for Homarefuji
wouldn't have been deserved, but Ikioi hit first. The men in black saw it
differently, though, and called for a rematch.
In the do over, Homarefuji was sloppy yet again allowing Ikioi to pulvgrize him
a bit with tsuppari before connecting with a right thrust to Homarefuji's side
that spun him around and out to the arena floor below. Ikioi moves to 2-0 and
has been fighting forward well while Homarefuji (0-2) seems to have lost the
Makuuchi luster that he never really had to begin with.
you follow the Japanese headlines, you know that the biggest story coming into
the basho was the fact that Endoh is finally able to tie his hair up into the
official oi-cho (the style where they fan the knot out into the shape of a leaf
from a ginkgo tree). In an effort to bring more chicks to the venue, they
actually set up this series of panels outside of the Kokugikan that show Endoh
in all three stages of his different hair styles: long and slicked back, the
simple top-knot, and now the official oi-cho. In each panel, Endoh is seen
holding the body of a girl wearing a pink kimono in what's known as the "hime-sama
dakko" pose, and then the girl's face is cut out so fans can go stick their mug
in there and take a senseless picture. I'm quite sure that more drunk Japanese
dudes have taken pictures with these Endoh panels than actual hot chicks, but
it's a good example of how the marketing of sumo is focused on pretty much
action in the ring. And for good reason.
M9 Endoh fought the good fight in a tsuppari affair against M8 Takayasu, but his
effort was all from the waist up. Takayasu on the other hand was able to drive
hard with his own legs, and it provided the obvious difference in this four
second affair where Takayasu scored the easy oshi-dashi win against the injured
Endoh. I'm not sure how long they're going to let Endoh go out there and get
pulverized, but it does say something to his toughness as he falls to 0-2 while
Takayasu is a proud 2-0.
M7 Sokokurai managed a left arm to the inside at the tachi-ai against M8
Takekaze, and even though Kaze showed a decent charge driving Sokokurai back
near the edge, the Mongolian was able to stand his ground and shore up that left
inside position. From here, Takekaze was lost and worthless as he threatened
some sort of kubi-nage with both arms up high while Sokokurai's response was,
"I've got the better position here dumbass. Take this!" as he threw Takekaze
down easily with that left arm to the inside. Both dudes finish the day 1-1.
It's been awhile since I've heard the M6 Aoiyama hissing tsuppari, but against
these yayhoos in the middle of the ranks, it's as if Aoyama's just stealing
candy from a baby. M7 Sadanofuji's arms were out wide at the tachi-ai, and so
the Bulgarian just hissed his way forward and pulverized the Sadamight back and
out in mere seconds. Aoiyama moves to 2-0 while Sadanofuji falls to 0-2.
M5 Kitataiki henka'd out right grabbing the cheap kote-nage grip, and while he
wasn't able to fell M6 Gagamaru straight way, he worked the quick and dirty move
into moro-zashi and scored the ill-gotten force-out win from there. I guess I
see Kitataiki working. After getting dinged up against Tokushoryu yesterday, he
didn't want to delve straight into Gagamaru (who would?), but I still don't like
the henka under any circumstances. Kitataiki picks up the win moving to 1-1
while Gagamaru is winless.
M5 Tamawashi greeted M4 Tokushoryu with a right choke hold at the tachi-ai, but
Tokushoryu's legs were driving harder than the Mongolian's, and about two
seconds in, Tokushoryu connected with a powerful right neck thrust of his own
that caught Tamawashi off guard and sent him back near the edge. As the two
looked to reload, Tokushoryu was in tight setting up the left inside position
and right outer grip, but before he could make it official, Tamawashi stepped
beyond the straw as he looked to re-establish some solid footing. This was
actually really good sumo from Tokushoryu who moves to 2-0 while Tamawashi
(1-1), the superior rikishi, was caught off guard by that right hook. Good stuff
At this point of the broadcast, they announced Chiyootori's withdrawal meaning
that M3 Sadanoumi picked up the fusensho win moving to 2-0 in the process.
In a compelling bout, M3 Osunaarashi wisely came with the two hands to the
throat tachi-ai, and the result caused Sekiwake Terunofuji to stare briefly up
at the rafters, but Fuji the Terrible ain't no rank and filer, and so he was
able to survive the initial charge and firmly get the right arm to the inside
followed up by a left outer grip. The Ejyptian used his length to grab a left
outer of his own, but pure sumo took over here as Terunofuji just forced
Osunaarashi back and out for the overpowering yori-kiri win. Both rikishi end
the day at 1-1. As for his bout yesterday against Sadanoumi, for some reason
Terunofuji decided to attack from his outside position with the left arm that
was up high around Sadanoumi's left instead of his solid right inside position
on the other side. Whether that tactic was intentional or a colossal mistake.
I'll never know, but I'm quite sure that Terunofuji is the sport's next
M2 Toyonoshima looked for the right inside at the tachi-ai thrusting his round
gut into Sekiwake Myogiryu along the way knocking the Sekiwake upright, and even
though Myogiryu was able to maki-kae with the left and secure moro-zashi,
Toyonoshima was moving forward and had Myogiryu pushed completely upright using
his belly to do it. With Myogiryu near the edge and up high, he was able to
thrust his right arm into Myogiryu's left side and send him over with force to
the dirt. Due to Myogiryu's moro-zashi, he was able to counter with the left
scoop throw making this too close for comfort, but the mono-ii correctly
confirmed the win in favor of Toyonoshima. I don't know that I've ever seen a
guy use his gut quite like this, but if you've got it, why not flaunt it? Both
rikishi stand at 1-1.
Ozeki Kisenosato and Sekiwake Ichinojo clashed hard at the tachi-ai were Itchy
turned a right kachi-age into a pull attempt with the same arm that was
half-assed. With neither rikishi gaining the advantage at this point, both
offered a few shoves before Ichinojo instinctively got both arms to the inside
in a brief moro-zashi, but there was no pressure applied to the inside positions
by Ichinojo allowing Kisenosato to maki-kae with his left and turn the bout to
hidari-yotsu. The continued lack of pressure from Ichinojo gave Kisenosato the
right outer grip while the youngster monkeyed around with his own right up high
threatening nothing really, and so from here, the Ozeki scored the easy force
out win. There was no effort nor pressure applied from the Mongolith today, and
as far as I'm concerned, he was no different today than a tsuke-bito in the
hana-michi letting his superior just go through the motions. Kisenosato moves to
2-0 thanks to the lethargy of his opponent (you decide for yourself if it was
intentional) while Ichinojo falls to 1-1.
Ozeki Goeido's tachi-ai was awkward with his feet aligned allowing M2 Aminishiki
to put his right hand at the Ozeki's throat, but he never thrust forward with
his legs applying pressure before quickly pulling it back. Now with separation
between the two rikishi, Aminishiki ducked his head and methodically moved
forward allowing Goeido to move out left and pull Aminishiki out of the ring
with a methodical hataki-komi. I'm just not seeing the opponents of the Ozeki
put forth any effort these first two days, but perhaps I'm the one missing
something here as Goeido moves to 2-0 while Aminishiki falls to 0-2.
Komusubi Tochiohzan and Ozeki Kotoshogiku displayed an awkward tachi-ai where
both rikishi aligned their feet and never really came forward hard. Tochiohzan's
left arm was to the inside, but he kept his right arm way outside allowing the
Ozeki to get the left inside and right outer grip, and instead of digging in for
the struggle, Tochiohzan just backed his way up and
Kotoshogiku to force him back and out. No effort from the Komusubi today, which
caused me to declare, "She's faking it!" And hey, if you can fake it in the
bedroom, why not atop the dohyo? Tochiohzan graciously falls to 0-2 while
Kotoshogiku moves to 2-0.
Finally, Yokozuna Hakuho was quick out of the gate getting both arms to the
inside of M1 Takarafuji where he lifted up into his foe with the left arm and
forced him out in front of the chief judge's seat in a matter of seconds.
Takarafuji was surely wondering 'what happened to Hakuho's bout with vertigo
yesterday?' as he falls to 0-2 while the Yokozuna rights the ship at 1-1. The
best headline I saw post day 1 was Kitanoumi Rijicho's saying, "That loss isn't
even a 'handy' to him," referring to the term in Japanese used to describe a
handicap in one's golf game. In other words, that loss doesn't even put a dent
in Hakuho's armor. It's still fully up to the Yokozuna whether or not he chooses
to yusho this basho, and at least the Commissioner and myself know that fact.
We're still a long way away from senshuraku, however, so let's settle in and let
the drama play out.
Back again tomorrow.
Day 1 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
in May--the weather is just about perfect. Everything has already bloomed, and
the green in the parks has reached the shocking, lustrous green it will continue
to wax through all summer long. Some days are too hot, some days it rains, but
mostly you get pleasant sun, and Cool Biz rules have sunk in at the office, so
it is short sleeves, no ties, and you don't need a jacket for your lunch break
ramen run. On the weekends you can climb a mountain (small one like Tsukuba is
in easy reach) in the morning without getting too sweaty before catching the
basho in the late afternoon, then find one of these open-to-the-street
restaurant-bars to raconteur the evening away with friends, family while the
late-summer dusk eases in.
Tokyo doesn't get credit for what it is: one of the world's great cities, a New
York-esque center of talent, concentration of the best Japan has to offer, where
artists, performers, cooks, money makers, athletes, and waves of hopeful
migrants from the north gather to see if they, too, can be the best. And many
are: like New York, Tokyo is one of those places talent and hard work can bring
you all the way to the top of your chosen profession--there's a reason Bob left
So let us give thanks before this tournament starts that the best have gathered
up together at the top of the banzuke for May. Hakuho is here to dominate as he
wishes, alone and formidable, a legend alive, leaning into the twilight of his
career while he still burns supernova, light hours removed from the closest
others. Harumafuji remains palely brilliant, the moon to Hakuho's Sol. And this
time, a gang of angry little fires, the next best four wrestlers are gathered
just below in the Sekiwake/Komusubi ranks: Terunofuji, Ichinojo, Tochiohzan,
Myogiryu. Let's let the Ozeki be the air between these heavenly bodies, and
enjoy this early summer concentration of talent--in the center of the sumo
universe: Tokyo. We've earned it.
It was not a particularly good day of sumo to my taste, but the weather outside
was glorious, and I went on a picnic with my wife and played catch on the grass
with my son for hours.
We start in the Kuiper Belt.
Tokitenku (J1) v. Amuru (M16)
The slow motion tachi-ai here looked like a mistake, and it was a moment before
I realized the Natsu basho had actually started. Same for Tokitenku? He stayed
up high, tried a lazy pull, and gave away an easy left handed belt grip to
Amuuru, who kept his head down and cautiously but firmly--no mistakes,
now--drove Tokitenku out yori-kiri. If this is all Tokitenku has left, he
belongs in Juryo.
Takanoiwa (M16) vs. Kotoyuki (M15)
Much as I dislike his show-offy arrogance, Kotoyuki is a big boy and
self-congratulatory confidence can serve athletes well--this tournament may see
him jump it up a level. Today's match was a case in point; I thought Takanoiwa,
who stayed underneath in this slapper-flapper, was in better position, and
Kotoyuki's whaps to the face of Takanoiwa seemed poorly placed and ineffectual:
go for the body and use your strength! But, while I waited for Kotoyuki to lose,
he won by oshi-dashi instead: his strength and size were too much for his
opponent. Expect more of this.
Jokoryu (M15) vs. Kyokutenho (M14)
Two guys on their last legs? Jokoryu almost literally, as his bedroll rivals
Aminishiki's now, and Kyokutenho because you can't defy Mother Time forever.
Today, it was Jokoryu who looked like he's got a future; although Kyokutenho got
a left inner grip and they were bodied up good together in a way that made it
look to me like Kyok might be able to use his height, instead, Jokoryu, who
enjoyed a right outer, collapsed Kyokutenho with a soto-gake trip. This one
started strong and crumpled to nothing--I fear crumpled glory gone gray may at
last be where Kyokutenho's career will go this basho as well. Keep proving me
Yoshikaze (M14) vs. Chiyomaru (M13)
Yoshikaze loves to drop to this level then light himself on fire (in the best
possible way). Oftentimes there are guys who are just too good for the level
they sink to, and it is very obvious when you watch. I expect Yoshikaze to be
one of those guys this tourney: he isn't that far removed from his sanyaku
appearance, and he has great fighting spirit. So, to start proving it, he needed
to beat Chiyomaru, who is nothing but a big butterball and richly deserves this
rank, soundly. Viola, Yoshikaze stayed low, ignored some beefy paws to the face,
and won by a quick hiki-otoshi pull while, oddly, still going forward. Not
pretty, but does show how much better than Chiyomaru Yoshikaze is when he can
win even doing this.
Fujiazuma (M13) vs. Toyohibki (M12)
Nothing but slow motion upper body thrusts from these two bruisers as they tried
to establish momentum. Rich Kerosene Echo Burp (Toyohibiki) ain't much, but he'd
better be able to beat Fujiazuma when he challenges him in his own game, and he
did with a fairly easy oshi-dashi win. If all you're gonna do is spend it, a
quarter's always bigger'n a dime.
Arawashi (M12) vs. Kyokushuho (M11)
Nice work here by Kyokushuho, who kept Arawashi in front of him with a solid,
body-focused tachi-ai, immediately hooked his smaller foe underneath on the belt
like a UP'er fishing a grouper, lifted him upwards, and walked him back and out
Kaisei (M11) vs. Okinoumi (M10)
Here are two under-ranked guys, but I never have confidence in either of them
anywhere on the banzuke. Okinoumi is one of the most lackadaisical rikishi on
the banzuke--I can almost see his red-faced oyakata screaming at him in the
evenings, "focus, goddamn it, focus!"--and Kaisei has this strange Jekyll and
Hyde thing where he looks awful for long stretches, a slidy goo ball, and then
looks dominant, huge, and scary for stretches. Today it was the latter for
Kaisei--he was a wrecking ball on a forward swing, and Okinoumi a building made
of tin, looking, as so often, like he didn't care. Kaisei destroyed him for a
very easy yori-kiri win.
Ikioi (M10) vs. Endo (M9)
Endo, poor Endo, your motherland cries for you! You were roundhoused backward by
bigger, genkier Ikioi, and then you fell down tsuki-otoshi.
Homarefuji (M9) vs. Takayasu (M8)
Takayasu, oh Takayasu, your fans sigh for you. Why don't you try the belt? It is
only Homarefuji. Must you slap, pull, and win easily by hataki-komi at this
rank? This is not why I came.
Takekaze (M8) vs. Sadanofuji (M7)
Little birdy Takekaze did a wee hop forward at the tachi-ai--straight into the
long, strong arm of Sadanofuji, who proceeded to hold Takekaze by the face for
most of the rest of the match. The size imbalance looked ridiculous, like a dad
holding a tantruming kid at arm's length and chuckling. But lo! Actually,
Sadanofuji was just being cautious--he knows there is a reason Takekaze spends
most of his tournaments in the jo'i. And sure enough, when Sadanofuji couldn't
pull the trigger, patient little birdy Takekaze sprang up and in, got his eensy
liddle arm higher than it looked like it could go into Sadanofuji's armpit,
clamped down on the shoulder, and pulled Sadanofuji down tsuki-otoshi. Hey, this
is nobody's favorite technique, but I have a sneaking respect for Takekaze and
this is why. Experience.
Sokokurai (M7) vs. Aoiyama (M6)
Admittedly, I was starting to get a little fed up at this point: I needed a
shank of bloody, undercooked lamb instead of all of these chicken nuggets. On
paper this one promised a messy mismatch, rikishi on a spit: if Blue Mountain
(Aoiyama) is on his game, It's Dark There (Sokokurai) has no hope in this one,
and I hoped for wanton slaughter. Indeed, Baby Bluey (Aoiyama) brought out the
meat hammers and thrust It's Dark There out immediately, tsuki-dashi. Whew.
Gagamaru (M6) vs. Tamawashi (M5)
A few years ago, I expected Gagamaru to turn out like Aoiyama--too huge to lose.
But he proved docile, vulnerable, and bewildered, to the point where last time's
standout Makuuchi return performance was a surprise: this was not the lame duck
disappointment I had come to remember him as. And with a guy like that, there is
usually very little chance he can continue the hot streak when his rank shoots
up. His opponent Snack Break (Tamawashi) is boring as all get out, but is also a
seasoned pro who, like a couple guys I've mentioned earlier such as the two
Kazes, has enough skills to spend a lot of time in the jo'i. There wasn't a lot
to see here--a lot of up-high arm-push wrangling--but ultimately Gagamaru tired
first and had nowhere to go. Also, Tamawashi kept ducking in low, which Gagamaru
didn't try, and Tamawashi head-butted Gagamaru toward the end, silled the dill
pickle. Solid but unspectacular oshi-dashi win, emblematic of his career in
general, for Office Worker (Tamawashi).
Kitataiki (M5) vs. Tokushoryu (M4)
Two seriously over-ranked guys, one of whom you can expect here from time to
time (Kitataiki is a wrester's wrestler) and one of whom has always looked more
like an M16 to me (flabby and colorless Tokushoryu). However, size still matters
in sumo, and Tokushoryu has plenty of it. Kitataiki got underneath from the
tachi-ai, brought his feet with him, had Tokushoryu at the straw, and looked to
have a quick win in him. But Kitataiki let Toku dance to the side and shake
loose of his grip, and when they reconnected Toku was able to get an on-and-off
right outer grip. More important, he was able to squeeze down from above with
both arms, something like a kime position, and eventually just leaned on
Kitataiki and collapsed him for a yorikiri win. Time to stop underestimating him
perhaps? A Bushuyama of sorts?
Chiyootori (M4) vs. Osunaarashi (M3)
I was excited for this one, as both of these guys performed great last basho in
coming back from injuries, and could threaten for sanyaku. However, it fizzled,
probably through no fault of their own: Chiyootori looked to simply slip and
fall, ruled hataki-komi, after the first neck-grab by Big Sandy (Osunaarashi).
However, there are two pieces of news here: it was Chiyootori's bandaged left
knee that went out from under him--he may be in trouble. And for Giant Sand
(Osunaarashi), that neck-stab is what he was winning with last time. Stay tuned.
Aminishiki (M2) vs. Myogiryu (S)
Myogiryu knows Aminishiki is Shneaky, and that turned this one into a yawner:
Myogiryu tried a series of thrusts as well as pulls, but he also kept back far
enough that some of these never connected with Aminishiki's body: Myogiryu's
goal was to keep Ami in front of him and not fall prey to dastardism, rather
than go out and git sum. Luckily for him, Aminishiki looked about as lively as a
dugong, and Myogiryu's cautious approach worked like a charm for the oshi-dashi
Terunofuji (S) vs. Sadanoumi (M3)
Most basho there are two major players: the clear best (Hakuho for years now)
and some other guy who has buzz because you can FEEL he is on and looks
legit--without question Terunofuji. If you're human, usually you're rooting for
that second guy, and I certainly was here. Lots to like in the steady,
straightforward sumo of Sadanoumi as well, but zero buzz, as he and his little
self have flown under the radar all the way up to the jo'i.
may have been too cautious here. His weak tachi-ai gave the more aggressive
Sadanoumi the first belt grip. Fuji the Terrible almost immediately countered
with his own, then twisted Sadanoumi, feet floating, around to get his back to
the bales--but wheeled around just a tad too far, as Sada was able to use his
right inner grip to complete a 360 degree turn and put Teru back-to-straw
instead--and added a left outer grip as well. Sadanoumi then boldly went for it,
throwing his entire body into the air while being lifted again, both feet off
the ground, against Terunofuji's chest. He was lucky it worked out: Terror
Mountain stepped out into empty space just as an out of control Sadanoumi
sprayed sand with his over-the-straw foot, yori-kiri win. Terunofuji had
Sadanoumi 100% in the air twice in this one, but couldn't win. I will credit
Sadanoumi for aggression and poise.
Toyonoshima (M2) vs. Goeido ("O")
Toyonoshima appeared to be reduced to the need to merely resist, jerking
flipsy-dipsy, held-back arms up and down, as Goeido worked on a nice
inside/outside upper body hug and got a yori-kiri win out of it. Nothing wrong
with Goeido's sumo here, and if he fought like this more consistently--win or
lose--I'd consider taking the quote marks off the "O." (Or is that a zero?)
Tochinoshin (M1) vs. Kotoshogiku (O)
While this was slightly longer, it was a nearly identical match. Tochinoshin
resisted futilely as Kotoshogiku worked with a right inside grip. Eventually, we
saw Kotoshogiku's patented gaburi when he had The Private (Tochinoshin) at the
bales. When it didn't work, he used the inside grip to throw Tochinoshin,
combined with a leveraging left hand on the back of the neck, to a nice roll
across the dirt, shitate-nage. If this was real I'll take it any day. I hate
that the basho-to-basho, match-to-match quality of the O-zero-kis for years and
years forces me to wonder.
Kisenosato (O) vs. Takarafuji (M1)
I am sticking by Kisenosato, who I have always liked and still believe earns
this rank (Mike will explain the opposite to you tomorrow). Today against
Takarafuji Kisenosato showed solid, steady forward movement, calmly keeping
himself bodied up. Couldn't see the other side, but looked like Takarafuji had
the first grip, an inside left. Didn't matter. Kisenosato eventually had grips
with both hands off and on; Takarafuji stained, struggled, and wiggled his hips
to try to get loose, but was oshi-dashi fodder for the Ozeki.
(It should not be that all three Ozeki win and all three of those wins somehow
feel like upsets.)
Tochiohzan (K) vs. Harumafuji (Y)
La di da, ahem! Harumafuji here! Tochiohzan is pretty good so I, though I am big
and strong, will move out slightly to my left after initial tachi-ai
contact--don't worry, casual fans won't even really notice!--allowing me to
sling my opponent around and down for what will look like a ridiculously easy
uwate-nage win. Here we go… and hey, in fact, it was ridiculously easy! What,
you have a problem with that? I'm a Yokozuna, dummy! When I combine my skills
with a solid plan of attack and a bit of misdirection, how can I lose? Would you
like me to lose on purpose, or make myself bad on purpose? Do that yourself
instead, loser. This is what winning can look like. You think I got here by
playing the sheep? You think wolves give a rip?
Hakuho (Y) vs. Ichinojo (K) (Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun)
This was my most anticipated bout of the day, but unfortunately to my eye it
delivered drama only in outcome, not in process. One feels a little flat when
the best guy faces the biggest guy on day one instead of day fourteen--there
isn't enough build up time. Get the Mongolith (Ichinojo) and Fuji the Terrible
(Terunofuji) to Ozeki already.
It also drains the drama when the match is a two second pull and hand-touch-down
affair. (With that, you should have already guessed the winner.) Hakuho went
aggressively for the right inner grip, but didn't get it, while Ichinojo paid
attention instead to Hakuho's left side, doing a dipsy doodle of a quick
wrench-up-and-throw using his left arm--unusual speed for the Iron Blob of
Gravity Grease and his usual "thawing molasses" sumo--unbalancing Hakuho, who
put his hand down on the clay. I dunno. Did I not like it because Hakuho lost (I
like Hakuho!), or because I didn't like it? The upshot is this: start your
engines, gentleman. A dozen guys, from Amuru to Zakekaze, have a one-match lead
on the frontrunner.
Ah, Tokyo in May. I'm going to open the window wide, sleep deep, and dream that
Mike will play catch with us tomorrow.