Sir Paul and Sumo

Admittedly, this isn’t news. It’s an annecdote from last year’s Fukuoka tournament. I was talking to my wife about this year’s basho and she mentioned how Paul McCartney is a big sumo fan and was a sponsor at last year’s tournament.

Since I learned how affordable it is, I’ve wanted to pay kensho-kin to have my name paraded around when one of my favorite wrestlers prepares to fight. If I am actually successful at starting my own business, I WILL DO IT. I was really surprised that it was so affordable. Apparently, each banner is about $600 which is about 10x cheaper than I thought it would be.

I thought I’d open this up for a poll. I started with the high profile and prize winners from this basho but left it open if anyone wants to suggest others. If I get some real traffic on here, I’ll publish the results. Not sure which wrestler I would sponsor, though. If Homasho makes it back, he’d definitely be on the list.

November Tournament: Day 15

Hakuho has tied Taiho. He defeated Kakuryu pretty quickly to win his 32nd yusho.

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The Outstanding Performance prize was awarded to Takayasu, who finished with an excellent 10-5 record and, most notably, two gold stars by defeating Harumafuji and Hakuho. It was that victory that really added a lot of drama to the latter half of the tournament as Kakuryu took the lead.

Fighting Spirit prizes went to Kyokutenho and Tochinoshin for garnering 10 and 11 wins, respectively. Tochinoshin’s 11-4 record makes for a very impressive return to makuuchi off injury. Hopefully he’ll find himself back as komusubi next tournament.

Endo picked up his 10th win pretty quietly. I don’t think he got an award because he lost so many times the first week. Ikioi lost to Kaisei and will surely drop to a maegashira 3 or 4 in January. He’ll be back, though. His first week schedule was a pretty rough one.

I look forward to January when Hakuho will likely move ahead of Taiho and become the undisputed greatest ever. I’m also hoping Homasho will be healthy enough to return, probably to lower Juryo rank.

November Tournament: Day 14

The tournament will come down to Day 15 but Hakuho is virtually assured of winning his 32nd yusho. With his quick disposal of Harumafuji, Kakuryu is the only one in a position to play spoiler. However, Kakuryu will need to beat Hakuho twice to claim victory and deny Hakuho his place alongside the legendary Taiho.

If Kakuryu loses to Hakuho, he will be tied with Tochinoshin, who’s had a very impressive tournament, on 3 losses. Tochinoshin will surely be replaying his loss to Ichinojo in his mind, wondering what could have been. Surely he’ll get a special prize, and he might even get a jun-yusho and promotion to komusubi next tournament. If he stays healthy, he’ll have a great rivalry with Ichinojo.

As for Ichinojo, with his 8th win today against Kisenosato, he has secured himself an impressive winning record against the top wrestlers. What’s scarier is that some of those losses seemed to be a bit lethargic. If he’s 100% on, I think it’s pretty clear he can contend with the big boys and he’ll hopefully be contending for titles in the new year.

With the tournament pretty well decided, many of the wrestlers seemed to be just going through the motions and there wasn’t much drama in bouts today. Kotoshogiku and Goeido face demotion if they cannot improve next tournament. Kotoshogiku has faced demotion a few times and seems to always pull out the wins needed to stay Ozeki. Goeido hasn’t shown consistent strength at this level so perhaps it’s for the best that he develop a bit more at the sekiwake rank.

November Tournament: Day 13

Entering the final stretch, Hakuho takes the lead! The superzuna claimed sole posession of the lead by throwing Kotoshogiku after a decent belt battle. In the match before, the first yokozuna battle of the tournament, Harumafuji was able to secure a belt hold on Kakuryu, get a lower position and use that leverage to push Kakuryu out.

Kakuryu is alone chasing Hakuho now because Tochinoshin had lost to Ichinojo in a great belt battle. Though he may fall out of the hunt for this title, Ichinojo v. Tochinoshin could definitely become an epic rivalry. Tochinoshin is one of the few wrestlers with the size and strength to match Ichinojo, which he’s proven with two victories in their previous meetings. There were a few points in this match where it looked like Tochinoshin might actually be able to lift the Mongolian new comer out of the ring. I’m excited to see where their careers take them and how this rivalry grows.

Looking to tomorrow’s matches, key will be the next yokozuna matchup: Hakuho v. Harumafuji. Since May 2012, Hakuho/Harumafuji has been the key Day 15 yokozuna battle to close the tournament. This time their battle will be on Day 14 but Harumafuji has a chance to really shake up the weekend. He’s lost their last two matches but the last time he lost more than two in a row was back in 2011. Harumafuji actually leads their rivalry in the four years since with 10 wins to Hakuho’s 9. However, if we look at the more recent record, Hakuho leads 6-4 since Harumafuji was promoted to yokozuna. In the previous 12 months, they’re tied with two wins each. It’s certainly the match to watch tomorrow.

This tournament will likely come down to a Hakuho/Kakuryu battle on Day 15 but it will certainly be more interesting if they’ve level records. For that to happen, not only does Harumafuji need to win tomorrow but Kakuryu needs to win against Kotoshogiku which is definitely a challenge. The two have a very competitive rivalry but Kakuryu does have the edge with four wins in five matches this year.

Kisenosato and Tochinoshin can keep things interesting Sunday if they win tomorrow. Both will face challenging battles. It will be Kisenosato’s turn to battle Ichinojo and Tochinoshin faces Myogiryu, who has rather quietly garnered 9 wins.

Losses
1: Hakuho
2: Kakuryu
3: Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Tochinoshin

November Tournament: Day 12

The Hakuho/Kisenosato matchup was the biggest match of the day and had the most potential for shaking-up the standings if Kisenosato could get the win. However, Hakuho showed great skill in throwing Kisenosato to the dirt. He’s clearly hungry for that 32nd title. Kakuryu had just beaten Goeido in the match prior, assuring the ozeki of a losing record and demotion is looking more certain. Kakuryu looked inspired by Hakuho’s near-henka the day before and pulled off an even better dodge, sending the hapless ozeki face first into the dirt. Harumafuji also won, but with three losses he’s 2 back of the pace set by his compatriots.

Kotoshogiku improved to 6-6 with a win over an uninspired Ichinojo. Ikioi persevered through Oosunaarashi’s blistering attack to force a great belt bout. Ikioi ended up throwing the Egyptian but both men wrestled well. Tochinoshin stays in title contention with a 10-2 record as he impressively carried Sokokurai out of the ring. Endo was able to counter Kotoyuki’s size advantage with a winning belt throw that sent both wrestlers bouncing off the dohyo and into the first row of spectators.


1-loss: Hakuho, Kakuryu
2-losses: Tochinoshin

November Tournament: Day 11

Day 11 brought more excitement to the tournament. Kisenosato has been performing very well and clearly wanted to be in contention for the title. He handed Kakuryu his first loss in a great bout. This shoving match seemed to be all about position not allowing the opponent to get inside and get a belt grip. For the most part it was Kisenosato on the attack and he was eventually able to shove a retreating Kakuryu off the dohyo.

Hakuho dodged a forceful attack from Goeido to get a quick 10th win, and thus secure a tie with Kakuryu at 1 loss. Harumafuji may have slipped out of contention entirely as he lost his balance in a weird one against Aoiyama. Aoiyama charged hard out of the gate, appeared to take a swing at the Yokozuna has he dodged away but as Harumafuji came back to re-engage, Aoiyama retreated to the edge of the dohyo resulting in the Harumafuji landing flat on his face.

Tochinoshin joined Kisenosato at 9-2 by outlasting Kyokutenho in an exciting matchup. Hopefully each will continue to rack up wins to keep this title up-for-grabs. Ichinojo, Endo and Ikioi also picked up wins.

November Tournament: Day 10

Two thirds of the way through and the title chase looks to be a battle between yokozuna: Kakuryu vs. Hakuho. Hakuho is alone at 9-1 after Kisenosato fell to Harumafuji and Kyokutenho lost to Jokoryu. Harumafuji looked surprisingly powerful, going right at Kisenosato and shoving him straight back and off the dohyo.

Neither Kotoshogiku nor Goeido looked impressive but Kotoshogiku got the win to get back to .500. Ichinojo rolled Aminishiki into the gyoji and off into the crowd. Ikioi’s losing record is assured and he’ll find himself back in the maegashira next tournament.

Tochinoshin won a bruising slapfest against Chiyomaru. Tochinoshin landed a strong right hand slap which seemed to totally take Chiyomaru out of it and thereafter he was quickly pushed over the bails. Osunaarashi won against Yoshikaze but it really looked like both should have been at home recovering from injury. Neither had the legs to drive their opponent, seemingly reliant on slapping eachother. Endo let Kaisei fall over as he retreated from the tachiai, he improves to 5-5.

Amuru won a great bout against Shohozan. Amuru was aggressive and looked in control throughout. It started as a slapfest that turned into a proper belt battle. At the end it looked like Shohozan might lose his belt as well as the match but it thankfully stayed on while he landed on the floor. Amuru just seems like he leans/hunches over too much and I don’t get how he’s not constantly off-balance.

I’m looking forward to Kakuryu v Kisenosato and Hakuho v Goeido. Goeido’s been quite the thorn in Hakuho’s side, particularly when he’s not having great tournaments. He could definitely pull off yet another upset. If Kisenosato were also to win, this tournament would completely change as there are several wrestlers with two losses including Kisenosato and Harumafuji.

November Tournament: Day 9

Kakuryu used his leverage to work Aoiyama (5-4) out of the ring and stay in the lead with a perfect 9-0 record. Hakuho quickly threw Ichinojo to stay one back off Kakuryu’s pace and remain in the hunt for his 32nd title. Joining Hakuho, and also securing a winning record for the tournament, are the 40 year-old Kyokutenho and ozeki Kisenosato by up-ending Toyohibiki (2-7).

Harumafuji threw an over-eager ozeki, Goeido, off the dohyo to get his seventh win. Goeido dropped to 4-5. Kotoshogiku gave it his all and got the win against Takayasu but still seems a bit weak when trying to drive forward with his legs. At this point, his wins seem to come from the back and upper body.

Ikioi beat Aminishiki to improve to 2-7 and faces Tochiozan (4-5) tomorrow. Aminishiki (3-6) will face Ichinojo (4-5), and will surely live to fight another day. Yoshikaze came back from injury but lost, and fell to (0-6-3). He’ll face Oosunaarashi tomorrow, likewise winless (0-4-5) and coming back from injury. I wish both well. One will pick up their first win of the tournament. Endo picked up his fourth win of the tournament, already garnering more wins than September, against Amuru (2-7), who’s not having a great makuuchi debut. Endo faces Kaisei (4-5) tomorrow. He’s 2-1 against the Brazilian and I’m hoping he pulls off the victory and gets closer to kachi-koshi.

Of tomorrow’s matchups, I think I’m most looking forward to Hakuho v. Aoiyama. Though he’s never beaten the yokozuna, Aoiyama has been the best performing of the Sekiwake/Komusubi foursome and has been giving every match his all.

November Tournament: Day 8

My Day 8 update is a bit late. Had a busy day with early morning furniture delivery and then running errands, playing with the kids, etc.

My lead story is Ichinojo’s use of the fake-matta tactic. He’s used it successfully a few times, my favorite example was against Kisenosato, who, at the time, had a really slow tachiai. The process:

  1. He starts too early and bulls his way directly into the opponent,
  2. Bow to head judge,
  3. Dodge,
  4. Push opponent’s head down and hopefully the body follows for an easy win.

I don’t know why Ichinojo (4-4) tried his fake-matta-then-dodge-head-push tactic against a much lighter, weaker, maegashira Tochiozan (3-5) but I’m happy it failed. Tochiozan showed great balance as he probably knew what was coming after the matta. He stayed on his feet, shrugged off the weak head push, and seemed to gain leverage and better position by being lower. Thus in better position, he then pushed Ichinojo across the ring and out. Hopefully that’s the end of this matta-dodge-head-push. Or Ichinojo might go for a belt grab and really finish off his opponent.

Kakuryu stays in the lead with a perfect 8-0 record, and still undefeated against Ikioi. Ikioi (1-7) will really need to step on it and garner some wins to avoid dropping back into the ranks of the maegashira. He really needed to pick up a few more in that first week but I’ve got my hopes that he’ll be able to sweep his lower ranked opponents this week.

Hakuho gets himself into a little unnecessary drama by giving Terunofuji an extra little shove in the back after the match…but with the win stays one back of Kakuryu. He leads the chase group that has been whittled down to Hak, Kisenosato, and Kyokutenho.

Harumafuji (6-2) downs Takekaze (1-7), getting some revenge from kinboshi he gave up back in July. Kisenosato (7-1) took out fellow ozeki Kotoshogiku, who at 3-5 is having a terrible tournament. Kisenosato was on the ropes as it were, but Kotoshogiku’s knee just couldn’t get the final drive over the straw bales. Giku’s knee is not up to it. Goeido’s record (4-4) has not been much better as he lost to Takayasu (5-3). Goeido quickly got a belt grip but seemingly didn’t know what to do with it as Takayasu, with leverage, just drove him back and out.

November Tournament: Day 7

Kakuryu brings order to the universe. The yokozuna fells Takayasu, with authority, and remains unbeaten. He faces Ikioi who will need to rack up a lot of wins next week to stay in the sanyaku.  Kakuryu is chased by a bunch of wrestlers with one loss, led by Hakuho. Harumafuji also won but was again very close to stepping out of bounds. Kisenosato won again and Goeido had a strong victory against Aoiyama, who’s been having a great tournament. Kotoshogiku lost again, this time to Toyohibiki. Ichinojo took out Ikioi.

November Tournament: Day 6

Suddenly, all eyes are on a Giant killer — Takayasu? Wait, what? Wow.

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Takayasu’s victory over the previously unbeaten Hakuho creates a brand new story line leading into Day 7 of the November Tournament. Takayasu benefited earlier this week from Harumafuji stepping out of bounds, so he picked up a gold star. It was actually the third he’d won off Harumafuji. But today he picked up potentially the biggest win of his career so far by knocking off Hakuho. Recently, Oosunaarashi was able to knock off two yokozuna in a row – particularly remarkable as it was the first two yokozuna he’d faced – but senior yokozuna Hakuho was able to put him in his place. Since both have had great matches together. It’s good to see Oosunaarashi’s aggression up against Hak.

Not only does Takayasu’s win put Hakuho’s 32nd yusho into doubt, it also raises the possibility that, should he pull off another stunning upset tomorrow against Kakuryu, Takayasu can claim gold stars from all three yokozuna in the same tournament. History is not with him. He’s faced Kakuryu 8 times and has only won twice, once when Kakuryu was sekiwake, and again as ozeki. Can he dethrone the yokozuna?

If Takayasu does pull it off tomorrow, the yusho would be a wide open contest as there are now seven wrestlers with one loss: from low-ranked maegashira like Sokokurai, Arawashi and Kyokutenho, middling maegashira Okinoumi, Toyonoshima, and Tochinoshin, ozeki Kisenosato, and now super-zuna Hakuho. The next few days should feature loads of great matchups.

Harumafuji and Kakuryu both won, Kakuryu having avenged himself against Ichinojo in a marathon bout that could leave him exhausted. Kisenosato’s one loss came after just such a grueling victory. For his part, Kisenosato was able to win a close one against Tochiozan, the outcome decided after a monoii.

Aoiyama (4-2) has been FIERCE. I like this Aoiyama. He was able to hand Ikioi his fifth loss. He’s not had much success against Goeido in the past, losing 9 of 10 meetings, but he’s been strong this tournament while Goeido has struggled a bit. I’m still hopeful for Ikioi to get kachi-koshi after he’s been through the sanyaku gauntlet. He’s got Ichinojo (3-3) tomorrow and surely a hungry Kakuryu after that but things should ease off a bit.

Goeido and Kotoshogiku have been struggling early in this tournament, and both stand at 3-3. Like Ikioi, they should benefit from weaker opposition in the second half of the tournament.

Kyokutenho will face a challenge in Endo who has struggled of late but is very talented and certainly capable of the win.

November Tournament: Day 5

Kakuryu contines to contest Hakuho for the tournament title. Both stand undefeated at 5-0. Harumafuji (3-2) continues his dominance over Ikioi (1-4) but his strength of schedule should ease off a bit in a few days since he’s already faced all the Ozeki and two of the three yokozuna. He’s got Aoiyama tomorrow and surely Kakuryu and Ichinojo after that. But from there he should start picking up wins and still has a good chance of getting kachi-koshi.

His fellow Komusubi, Takekaze, is also on a 1-4 record so at least they’ve gotten important wins in the first few days. Both sekiwake, Ichinojo and Aoiyama have been strong at 3-2. Their head-to-head went to Ichinojo but hopefully both will do well enough over the next 10 days to stay in their ranks. The top maegashira have also all picked up important wins in the first third of the tournament and will hopefully improve their records as they face lower-ranked opposition.

The Ozeki, however, have all racked up losses, especially Kotoshogiku (2-3). With those three losses, he faces Takekaze tomorrow and has yet to face a single ozeki or yokozuna. He will struggle to get kachi-koshi. Goeido didn’t start out strong but has picked up important wins over the past three days. He’ll have a tough one tomorrow against Aminishishiki. Meanwhile, Kisenosato has looked really strong this tournament, despite picking up his first tournament loss against Aoiyama. That’s not entirely unexpected, though, as Aoiyama has kind of owned the Ozeki this year, now having won 4 of their last 5 meetings. I should have put more weight behind their recent record rather than predicting Goeido as the ozeki upset.

Down in the Maegashira, Tochinoshin has been strong and faces Jokoryu though there’s still lingering concern over his knees. Okinoumi and Kyokutenho are both one loss off pace but are great to watch. Endo is still winless against Jokoryu and faces Toyonoshima tomorrow.

Looking Forward to Day 5

I’ve just been looking over the schedule for tomorrow and I want to highlight a few match-ups.

Plainly, Harumafuji needs a win against Ikioi. His eye seemed a bit swollen yesterday so I hope he’s good for tomorrow. He’s undefeated in three bouts against Ikioi, winning in July with an amazing “fisherman’s throw” kimarite. http://vimeo.com/100689508

Hakuho’s opponent tomorrow is Toyohibiki who does have one gold star against the super-zuna in their previous five meetings. I’ll be surprised if Hakuho is upset, though. The last few days he’s been showing the right amount of aggression and skill to keep his opponents off balance and not having much chance to control any part of the bout.

Aoiyama’s been strong of late against Kisenosato and the ozeki had a marathon bout today but he’s been on form this tournament so I give the edge to Kisenosato. If there’s an upset tomorrow, chances are strong it will be Tochiozan over Goeido. Their rivalry is very competitive and lately the maegashira actually has proven stronger, winning four of their last five meetings.

Endo’s lost both his bouts against Jokoryu. For some reason, though, I see him coming through on this one to get the win.

November Tournament: Day Four

Harumafuji gave up another kinboshi! This time the lucky maegashira is Tochiozan at maegashira #1. Hopefully Harumafuji can bounce back strongly and finish with at least 12 wins for the tournament. I just always expect Yokozuna to get 12 wins fairly consistently. Goeido might still pull off a good 10 wins as he got some revenge against Ichinojo, as he lost to “the monster” at the Fall tournament. Both wrestlers stand at 2-2 with Harumafuji and Kotoshogiku, who lost to Ikioi. I’m very happy to see Ikioi collect his first sanyaku win. IHe seemed to have a good match with Goeido yesterday and I thought he could almost take it, so it was nice to see him win today. It shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise, though, as Ikioi had a good head-to-head record against Kotoshogiku, and now actually leads in their rivalry. And Endo won again today to also improve to 2-2.

Screenshot (40)

Again, Hakuho and Kakuryu knocked off their opponents to stay perfect. Kisenosato outlasted Terunofuji in an epic bout, Okinoumi benefited from Osunaarashi’s forfeit, and Kyokutenho is still impressive at 40 years old. The three join Hakuho and Kakuryu with perfect records after Day 4. Okinoumi and Kyokutenho have looked pretty strong in the last two tournaments and I’m hoping they can stay strong as their competition gets more fierce.

With only those five having perfect records, you can infer that Tochinoshin lost today to Tamawashi. It looked like his knee may not have made a full recovery. I hope he’s up for it tomorrow or gets the recovery time he needs. Speaking of knees, sadly, Osunaarashi sat out due to injury and he’s not on the schedule for tomorrow. I hope he gets well and gets some rest.

November Tournament: Day Three

Harumafuji is my favorite Yokozuna. When I looked at the schedule and saw he was facing Takayasu, I got a little chill. Before Tuesday, Harumafuji had given up two kinboshi (gold stars) to Takayasu. Now, he’s given up his third kinboshi to Takayasu by accidentally stepping out of the dohyo. Before I continue, I must give a shout out to the SumoDB at SumoGames. They have fabulous data and a wonderful tool for drilling into historical tournament results. I queried the head-to-head record and saw Takayasu’s two victories against Harumafuji. Now, though, you’ll see three, this latest by the unusual kimarite of isamiashi:

Screenshot (39): http://sumodb.sumogames.de/Query_bout.aspx?show_form=0&shikona1=Harumafuji&shikona2=Takayasu

Both of the other Yokozuna won. Hakuho looks particularly hungry for this tournament. He’s been battling with some intense aggression. Goeido got his first victory against Ikioi who’s still looking for his first sanyaku win. Ichinojo’s size advantage was noticeably absent against Aoiyama but he still proved the better grappler. Kotoshogiku lost but Kisenosato stays unbeaten. Happily, Endo picked up his first victory of the tournament but Osunaarashi lost again and he seems a bit unstable on that left knee. Tochinoshin picked up his third win in his return to the makuuchi. He seems right at home among the big boys.