Wrapping Up The July Basho

Tachiai congratulates former Ozeki Terunofuji (M17e, 13-2) on his incredible comeback and storybook victory. The “Kaiju” should be ranked much higher in September, and will likely face a regular slate of san’yaku opponents. If he can retain his current form, I wouldn’t bet against a repeat performance. Let’s take a look at what the results mean for other moves up and down the banzuke.

Yokozuna and Ozeki runs

A 12-3 jun-yusho was a strong performance by Asanoyama in his Ozeki debut, but should not put him on any sort of Yokozuna run. Neither Sekiwake will be promoted to Ozeki despite excellent 11-4 records. Shodai, whose previous result was 8-7 at Sekiwake, probably needs a 14-win yusho to be promoted in September; more likely, he’ll need double-digit wins in the next two basho. With 10 wins at M3 in March, including a 5-2 record against san’yaku opponents, 11 here, and his long record of consistent san’yaku performances, not to mention 2 yusho, Mitakeumi may be the more likely of the pair to get the nod at Aki, possibly with 11-12 wins.

The san’yaku ranks

Both Sekiwake will remain at the same ranks. After his breakout performance, Komusubi Daieisho (11-4), is, in my opinion, likely to get an extra Sekiwake slot, despite two of his wins being fusensho. This would also open up the West Komusubi slot for M1e Endo (8-7), and free the banzuke committee from having to either not promote him or create a precedent-setting extra Komusubi slot. M2 Takanosho (8-7) and M5 Hokutofuji (9-6), the only other upper maegashira with winning records, will have to settle for the two M1 slots.

The demotion picture

We have three clear demotions to Juryo: M15 Chiyomaru (4-11), M17 Kotoyuki (6-8-1), and M13 Kotonowaka (4-6-5). Two additional rikishi have demotable records: M16 Nishikigi (6-9) and M9 Ikioi (3-12). M12 Shohozan (5-10) secured a stay in the top division with three victories (one by default) in the final three days. My guess here is that Ikioi saved himself with his final-day victory, as there isn’t a strong enough promotion contender to take his place (see below). Nishikigi, on the other hand, should be returning to the second division, his reputation for Houdini-like escapes notwithstanding.

Promotions from Juryo

Three promotions are certain: Juryo yusho winner J1e Meisei (10-5), J2e Tobizaru (9-6), who just missed out last time, and the star of “A Normal Life”, J5e Kyokutaisei (10-5). I believe that they will be joined by J6e Hoshoryu (10-5), who will take Nishikigi’s spot. Narrowly missing out will be J5w Ichinojo (9-6), who lost his “exchange bout” against Shohozan.

The Juryo-Makushita exchange

Three rikishi will be dropping out of Juryo: J10 Asabenkei (3-12), J14 Chiyonoumi (6-9), and J13 Takagenji (6-9). With Tochiozan’s retirement, that’s four open slots. These will go to the Makushita yusho winner, former top-division mainstay Ms 12 Chiyonokuni (7-0), Ms2w Oki (5-2), Ms3e Nishikifuji (5-2), and Ms3w Kitaharima (5-2). Three members of the Makushita joi (Ms1-Ms5) will not move up to Juryo despite winning records, including former Komusubi Ms4w Jokoryu (5-2) and Ms5e “Prince” Naya (4-3).

The field for the new Makushita joi is crowded. The contenders include the 3 Juryo dropouts, although Asabenkei could fall below Ms5, Ms1 Kotodaigo (3-4), and the trio missing out on ptomotion: Ms4e Sakigake (4-3), Jokoryu, and Naya. That fills either 6 or 7 of the 10 slots. Two more will go to Ms6e Kaisho (5-2) and Ms10w Shiraishi (6-1). And a lack of strong winning records above him likely means that fan favorite Ms19 Ura (6-1) should continue his comeback from within the promotion zone!

I think that’s it, but if there’s anything I didn’t cover, please let me know in the comments. I will cover the Juryo promotions when they’re announced on Wednesday, and will have a full banzuke prediction post up in the coming weeks.

Tokyo July Basho Senshuraku Highlights

Octagon Presents Terunofuji the Emperor’s Cup

Leonid did a great job of explaining what’s at stake today. One thing that I can’t get over, though, it is August 2nd. The July basho yusho was, oddly enough, decided in August after being fought in Tokyo. One Ozeki on the torikumi for senshuraku and zero Yokozuna confirm we are in a time of flux on the dohyo. But off the dohyo, the whole damn world is in flux. However, the drama of this past fortnight has served as a wonderful distraction.

Terunofuji’s Championship serves to demonstrate that our substantial challenges can be overcome. The next time we get together, we will be confident for the health and safety of all involved and that we can all breathe a deep sigh of relief. The coronavirus reminders have been everywhere and lapse in protocols may end up costing Abi very dearly. The virus robbed Terunofuji’s triumphant return of much of the pomp and celebration he’s due. No parade. No senshuraku parties. Supporters are beyond arms reach, though we are with him in spirit. I hope he gets to party properly after his next title.

Highlight Matches

Sadanoumi (8-7) defeated Nishikigi (6-9): Sadanoumi hot off the line, wrapped up Nishikigi and walked him back and out to pick up his kachi-koshi. Yorikiri.

Tochinoshin (10-5) defeated Kotoshoho (8-7): Tochinoshin got the better of the initial charge, forcing Kotoshoho back a step. Kotoshoho pivoted but Tochinoshin followed and got his big left paw up around the back of Kotoshoho’s neck and pulled down violently. Kotoshoho had no choice but to touch down. Hatakikomi.

Kaisei (6-9) defeated Shimanoumi (5-10): Shimanoumi tried to drive forward into Kaisei but Kaisei’s trunk was well set at the center of the ring. Kaisei shoved Shimanoumi backwards twice, hurling the matching orange mawashi out of the ring. Tsukidashi.

Wakatakakage (10-5) defeated Ishiura (4-11): Ishiura seemed to pull something in his right leg. He was unable to put much weight on his right foot. Wakatakakage blasted the hopping Ishiura off the dohyo. Ishiura limped back up onto the dohyo. Oshidashi.

Kotoeko (10-5) defeated Terutsuyoshi (8-7): Terutsuyoshi’s ashitori worked once but Kotoeko was ready for it. He dodged out of the way and regrouped grabbing for Terutsuyoshi’s belt. Taking a page from Tochinoshin, Kotoeko landed his left on the back of Terutsuyoshi and pulled him down to the floor. Hatakikomi.

Ryuden (7-8) defeated Kotonowaka (4-6-4): Kotonowaka still could not put much weight on his left leg. Ryuden was able to get Kotonowaka sliding backwards to the bales and over. Yorikiri.

Hokutofuji (9-6) defeated Kotoshogiku (8-7): Hokutofuji met Kotoshogiku head on but stepped to the side with his right arm up on Kotoshogiku’s shoulder, forcing Kotoshogiku to the ground. Hatakikomi.

Chiyotairyu (6-9) defeated Aoiyama (5-10): Aoiyama was a bit over-eager, charging forward off balance. Chiyotairyu pulled with his left hand up on Aoiyama’s shoulder applying sufficient pressure to force Aoiyama down. Hikiotoshi.

Ikioi (3-12) defeated Kagayaki (5-10): Ikioi showed some strength and wile for the first time this week. Driven to the bales by Kagayaki he drove forward, forcing Kagayaki back. However, Kagayaki wasn’t going to go over the bales easily, either. Kagayaki grabbed Ikioi by the mawashi, forcing him back but Ikioi deftly slipped to the side and pulled Kagayaki down. Shitatenage.

Halftime

Kiribayama (6-9) defeated Takarafuji (5-10): Takarafuji wiggled and retreated, trying to keep Kiribayama off his belt. But Kiribayama was relentless and able to slip both hands on there. Once he was secure in the morozashi, queue deathspin throw. Uwatenage.

Onosho (2-13) defeated Chiyomaru (4-11): Follow the bouncing Chiyomaru. Onosho got the better of the tachiai but Chiyomaru used his mass to arrest Onosho’s progress and started moving forward. Onosho pivoted several times in retreat to stay away from the edge of the ring but as Chiymaru forced him along it, Onosho executed a throw. Shitatenage.

Takayasu (10-5) defeated Takanosho (8-7): Takayasu’s aggressive tsuppari pushed Takanosho up and back. A well-timed pull sent Takanosho to the clay. Hikiotoshi.

Yutakayama (5-10) defeated Enho (5-10): Enho eager to get things started but Yutakayama. Yutakayama advanced forward, keeping his weight low. His effective tsuppari targeted Enho’s face and shoulders. He attempted two hatakikomi pulls, the second of which was more effective in getting Enho off balance but Enho sprang backwards. Yutakayama pursued and forced Enho out. Oshitaoshi.

Endo (8-7) defeated Tokushoryu (7-8): Our sole Darwin bout? Tokushoryu allowed Endo in to the belt far too easily. Endo bounced Tokushoryu to the edge where Tokushoryu’s foot slipped from the bales. They give Endo the yorikiri.

Sanyaku

Tamawashi (10-5) defeated Okinoumi (9-6): Tamawashi is a bruiser and Okinoumi was ready for a brawl. Okinoumi chased Tamawashi around the ring with effective slaps and thrusts. Tamawashi won on the belt, though, throwing Okinoumi at the edge. Uwatenage.

Daieisho (11-4) defeated Myogiryu (10-5): Daieisho ducked to the side, as Myogiryu was pitched too far forward. A disappointing end to Myogiryu’s fantastic basho. Hikiotoshi.

Terunofuji (13-2) defeated Mitakeumi (11-4): Showtime. Wow. Morozashi from Terunofuji and Mitakeumi was done. Terunofuji advanced, marching Mitakeumi out. Yusho Terunofuji! Yorikiri.

Asanoyama (12-3) defeated Shodai (11-4): Asanoyama bulldozed into Shodai who’s back to a less-than-impressive tachiai. After yesterday’s bout with Terunofuji, I was expecting more fire from the Daikon. However, Asanoyama corralled Shodai effectively, working Shodai back to the edge. Shodai nearly pulled the Ozeki down but Asanoyama recovered. Oshidashi.

Terunofuji has been here before. But I NEVER would have thought he’d storm back in his first makuuchi tournament. The pink macaron! Congratulations, Terunofuji!!!

Aside from the yusho, Terunofuji picked up the Outstanding Performance and Technique Prizes. Daieisho and Mitakeumi also collected Outstanding Performance Prizes. Not to be left out, Shodai was given the Fighting Spirit Prize for actually having a solid tachiai against Kaiju. See what you can do?

Thank you for enjoying this tournament with us. Time to clean up and get ready for September.

What’s At Stake On Senshuraku

The yusho race

Former Ozeki Terunofuji (M17e, 12-2) remains the sole leader. He is trailed by the three highest-ranked men retaining in the tournament, new Ozeki Asanoyama and the Sekiwake duo Shodai and Mitakeumi, all 11-3. And all the leaders are matched up in the final two bouts tomorrow, making for what could hardly be a more exciting conclusion to the tournament. First, it’s Terunofuji vs. Mitakeumi (head-to-head 4-2). If Terunofuji can prevail, he lifts the Emperor’s Cup for the second time in his career. If Mitakeumi wins, both participants enter a three-way playoff with the winner of the final bout between Asanoyama and Shodai!

Yokozuna and Ozeki runs

If Asanoyama can take the yusho, he would be on Yokozuna watch at Aki, although a 12-3 playoff win against a diminished field would likely require nothing less than a strong second yusho in September for promotion.

Both Sekiwake are in somewhat complicated situations. Shodai’s last two basho results were a 13-2 jun-yusho at M4, with a 5-1 record against san’yaku opponents, followed by 8-7 at Sekiwake. A 12-3 here would give him 33 wins in 3 tournaments, and several successful Ozeki runs have started at upper maegashira, so he could get the nod, especially if he lifts the Cup. Otherwise, he’ll probably need 13-14 wins in September to earn promotion.

Mitakeumi had a losing record in January, so he certainly can’t be promoted this time. But 10 wins at M3 in March, with a 5-2 record against san’yaku opponents, combined with at least 11 here, and his long record of consistent san’yaku performances, should put promotion within reach with 11-12 wins at Aki.

The san’yaku ranks

Unless Shodai gets promoted and/or Komusubi Daieisho (10-4) forces an extra Sekiwake slot to be created with an 11th win against Myogiryu tomorrow (not guaranteed with two of those wins being fusensho), there won’t be any open san’yaku slots. What happens in that scenario if Endo (7-7) wins tomorrow? We know from last September that 9-6 at M1e is enough to force an extra Komusubi slot to be created, but it’s less clear if 8-7 is. The last time an M1e with this record was denied promotion was in 1969, but as far as I can tell, there have only been three instances since then of an extra slot being created in this scenario, with the most recent in 1995, when this practice was much more common. M2 Takanosho (8-6) would get the potential open slot should Endo lose.

Special prizes

I’m guessing these will be dominated by the trio of Shodai, Mitakeumi, and Terunofuji, with the exact allocation determined by tomorrow’s outcomes. Daieisho could also be in line for a prize. No other performances jump out at me, but I welcome speculation in the comments.

Darwin bouts

Only 3 rikishi enter the final day with 7-7 records, meaning that their make/kachi-koshi fate hasn’t been decided yet: the aforementioned Endo, who will feature in the only “Darwin bout” against Tokushoryu, and Sadanoumi, who is matched with Nishikigi (6-8). The latter also has a lot on the line, as discussed in the next section.

The demotion picture

We have two clear demotions: M15 Chiyomaru (4-10) will be headed to Juryo along with M17 Kotoyuki (6-8). Two additional rikishi already have demotable records, but could save themselves with final-day wins if there aren’t enough strong promotion cases in Juryo: M9 Ikioi (2-12) and M13 Kotonowaka (4-5-5). Two more can reach safety by winning their final bouts: M12 Shohozan (4-10) and M16 Nishikigi (6-8).

Promotions from Juryo

J1e Meisei (9-4) has clinched a return to Makuuchi. Others still in contention, and probably in this order, are J5e Kyokutaisei (10-4), J2e Tobizaru (8-6), J5w Ichinojo (9-5), and J6e Hoshoryu (9-5). Kyokutaisei and Tobizaru can guarantee promotion by winning, while Ichinojo and Hoshoryu need victories and some losses by the Makuuchi demotion candidates. In that regard, Ichinojo controls his destiny, as he fights Shohozan in a likely “exchange bout.”

The Juryo yusho race

Strap in everyone, this could get wild. Kyokutaisei and the last man on the banzuke, J14w Mitoryu, lead the field at 10-4 (Mitoryu defeated the top man on the banzuke, Meisei, in an excellent bout today). The leading duo is chased by six strong rikishi with 9-5 records. The matchups for tomorrow are such that all eight could end up with 10-5 records! How fun would that playoff be? Amazingly, this did happen once, exactly 19 years ago. In the key bouts for forcing a playoff, Mitoryu faces Hoshoryu, who likely also has top-division promotion on the line, while former Makuuchi regular Daishomaru (7-7) gets the task of slowing down Kyokutaisei.

The Juryo-Makushita exchange

Three slots are already open in Juryo: one by Tochiozan’s retirement, and the other two by the performances of J10 Asabenkei (3-11) and J14 Chiyonoumi (6-8). These will be taken over by the Makushita yusho winner, former top-division mainstay Ms 12 Chiyonokuni (7-0), Ms2w Oki (5-2), and Ms3e Nishikifuji (5-2). The final possible exchange will be decided in the crossover bout between J13 Takagenji (6-8) and Ms3w Kitaharima (4-2). Ms5e “Prince” Naya will spend at least one more basho in Makushita despite a winning 4-3 record in the promotion zone, and Tachiai favorite Ms19 Ura (6-1) will also be looking for a return to sekitori ranks at Aki, although it’s not clear yet whether he’ll make it into the Makushita joi (Ms1-Ms5), or need a 7-0 record for promotion from below “the invisible line.”

Tokyo July Basho Day 14 Highlights

The final weekend is upon us. After months of anticipation we have another yusho race but this one is certainly unexpected. At the start of the week, Hakuho looked to be on cruise control. Having locked up his Yokozuna kachi-koshi, a misstep against Daieisho and then injury against Mitakeumi cost him his title chance.

The young guns are making serious moves for promotion. Mitakeumi and Shodai will want to begin Ozeki runs here. No, I don’t think either are in one at the moment. With absent Yokozunae, Asanoyama will surely be looking for a belt but he needs to start winning tournaments first. And Terunofuji is leading the way from “the behind” again and wants to get back into sanyaku. How is he here? I mean this article pulled up by Herouth is a heart-wrenching AND stomach-churning two-fer.

So, the questions for today are many. Can Terunofuji lock things up today, with a little help? Will the young guns in san’yaku begin their own serious bids for promotion? How many of our fading heroes will fall from makuuchi? Why is Andy’s neighbor’s dog barking at 6am? Read on and we shall see…

Highlight Matches

Takayasu (10-5) defeated Nishikigi (6-8): Takayasu got the jump with a solid tachiai and quickly walked Nishikigi out. At least Nishikigi won’t have to worry about a senshuraku Darwin bout. Yorikiri.

Sadanoumi (7-7) defeated Kotoshogiku (8-6): Sadanoumi, on the other hand, will likely get a Darwin bout tomorrow with this win over Kotoshogiku. He quickly wrapped up the former ozeki and walked him out. Yorikiri.

Shohozan (4-10) defeated Kotoyuki (6-8) vs: Sadly, Kotoyuki is kyujo Shohozan picks up the easy win after his henka of Onosho yesterday. Shohozan got a freebie and Onosho got Ikioi…

Chiyomaru (4-10) defeated Shimanoumi (5-9): Another quick win. This time Chiyomaru chases Shimanoumi out. These early bouts aren’t exactly filled with Kanto-sho contenders, are they? Yorikiri.

Myogiryu (10-4) defeated Kotoshoho (8-6): Myogiryu met Kotoshoho with a solid tachiai. Then he absorbed Kotoshoho’s attack, sliding back to the tawara. At the last moment, he pivoted and brought his arm up to help Kotoshoho off the dohyo. A wily, experienced win. Hatakikomi.

Wakatakakage (9-5) defeated Tamawashi (9-5): Tamawashi came to brawl. With a strong tachiai and upper torso attacks, he forced Wakatakakage into reverse. A brutal nodowa at the edge and I thought the smaller man was done. However, Wakatakakage ducked to the side and under Tamawashi’s attack. His counter-attack was able to drive Tamawashi back and out. Oshidashi.

Tochinoshin (9-5) defeated Hokutofuji (8-6): Hokutofuji met Tochinoshin with a solid tachiai, set his head down to drive into the powerful former ozeki. Tochinoshin slipped his left arm to Hokutofuji’s mawashi and pulled his opponent forward for a well-timed throw. Uwatedashinage.

Kagayaki (5-9) defeated Kotonowaka (4-5-5): As Leonid mentioned, Kotonowaka’s presence on the dohyo today was not wise. Kotonowaka’s tachiai took effort. That left knee is not ready. Kagayaki wore the youngster out by letting Kotonowaka charge with his right leg and force their massive combined weight across the ring. Then he took advantage of the fact that Kotonowaka could not put all of his weight on that knee. By pivoting, Kagayaki forced Kotonowaka to the outside and into a position where he couldn’t lead with the left or resist at the bales, either. Yorikiri.

Takarafuji (5-9) defeated Kaisei (5-9): Takarafuji pounced with a quick left-handed grab under Kaisei’s right arm and pull. I realize “quick” is a relative term. Kaisei rolls down the banzuke. Tsukiotoshi.

Kiribayama (5-9) defeated Chiyotairyu (5-9): Kiribayama slipped under Chiyotairyu’s oshi attack, drove him back to the bales and walked him over. I woke up at 3am for this? Gonna get some tea…may put a nip of whisky in there. Yorikiri, btw.

Halftime

Takanosho (8-6) defeated Tokushoryu (7-7): Tokushoryu tried to pull but Takanosho pursued brilliantly, driving into Tokushoryu and forcing him out. Excellent footwork from Takanosho. There aren’t actually many candidates for Darwin bouts so maybe Sadanoumi or Endo tomorrow? There’s no schedule yet. We shall see. Oshidashi.

Onosho (1-13) defeated Ikioi (2-12): Onosho was a bit too genki, drove into Ikioi early. Ikioi scolded him and an apologetic Onosho retreated back to the shikari-sen. However, the real deal was as one-sided as the matta. Onosho drove into Ikioi and through Ikioi. Ikioi had no ability to resist. Oshidashi.

Endo (7-7) defeated Ryuden (6-8): A solid tachiai from Endo and he quickly secured a right-hand grip on Ryuden’s belt. Ryuden tried to pivot and change direction but Endo followed with his left arm under Ryuden’s armpit. From here, Endo was ready to strike and executed a great throw. Endo vs Tokushoryu is set up for bout of the day tomorrow. Amirite? As Leonid mentioned, there aren’t many bouts for kachi-koshi tomorrow. Uwatenage, btw.

Yutakayama (4-10) defeated Ishiura (4-10): Ishiura met Yutakayama head on but shifted. Yutakayama shoved his forearm into Ishiura and kept it there, pushing Ishiura back. Ishiura pivoted and got Yutakayama to the edge but Yutakayama stayed low and used his size advantage to drive Ishiura back. Oshidashi.

Sanyaku

Daieisho (10-4) defeated Enho (5-9): Enho took on Daieisho as if he were six inches taller and 100 kilos heavier. That was not a wise choice as Daieisho stayed low and brawled with the pixie, going for his opponent’s head. Enho retreated but couldn’t find any weakness or point to counter-attack. Instead, he found the clay as Daieisho thrust straight through him, assuring there’d be no Takakeisho-style uncertainty. Tsukitaoshi.

Okinoumi (9-5) defeated Aoiyama (5-9): A great rumble and the Oki Sea rose at the tachiai, and enveloped the man-mountain. This tsunami’s angry torrent swirled around the mountain, lifted it from the very Earth and drove it into the valley below. Tsukiotoshi.

Shodai (11-3) defeated Terunofuji (12-2): Shodai was unafraid. I’ve not seen a stronger tachiai from Shodai. He drove straight into Terunofuji but Kaiju stood his ground and would not let him get all the way to the bales. Sensing the resistance and Terunofuji’s forward pressure, Shodai pulled Terunofuji back, pivoting on his right foot with a great throw and heaved him to the bales on the other side but Terunofuji stayed on his feet. The separation allowed Shodai to set up a final charge which left Terunfuji in a heap. A FIST PUMP FROM SHODAI! Yorikiri.

Mitakeumi (11-3) defeated Kotoeko (9-5): Kotoeko on the offensive here, forced Mitakeumi back. Mr. Lavender’s been eating his Wheaties. Mitakeumi on the defensive, retreating and turning as Kotoeko chased him around the ring. At the last moment, backed up against the tawara, Mitakeumi pivoted and forced Kotoeko out. Sukuinage.

Terutsuyoshi (8-6) defeated Asanoyama (11-3): Salt rained down on musubi-no-ichiban. Ready for the tachiai….Ashitori!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy crap!!!! A beautifully timed henka and leg grab from Terunofuji…oops, Terutsuyoshi. He ducked under Asanoyama’s advance, eyes set on Asanoyama’s left knee. Asanoyama advanced as if his eyes were closed, awaiting the impact that never came. Well, it just came later, after Terutsuyoshi picked up the leg and twisted up, forcing Asanoyama to the ground. ASHITORI!!!

It was great to listen to the Abema crew chatting during these sanyaku bouts. The drama built as we watched the bouts and the palpable excitement was refreshing to hear. The top half of the banzuke is living up to its billing. The bottom half…well, Takayasu and Myogiryu had a bit of spirit today. Kotonowaka had plenty of spirit but only one healthy knee. Technically, Terunofuji’s also from the bottom-half of the banzuke, I guess, but he’s sure worked his way back up the to the top of the torikumi.

While there aren’t many answers today, I do have one. Binky’s just crazy.