November 2015, Day 15: Storylines

  1. Harumafuji Yusho
  2. Special Prizes
    1. Technique: Yoshikaze
    2. Fighting Spirit: Ikioi & Shohozan
  3. Homarenishiki 6 Wins, Promotion to Sandanme
  4. Goeido Kachi-koshi
  5. Death of Kitanoumi
  6. Injuries

20002308YushoThe first storyline from this month’s tournament is that Harumafuji picked up his 7th Yusho. He’s the fourth different winner over the last four tournaments: Terunofuji(五月), Hakuho(七月), Kakuryu(九月), Harumafuji (十一月). The last time there were four different winners in a row actually wasn’t that long ago. Coincidentally, it was also the last time there were four winners all in the same calendar year, 2012: Baruto(一月), Hakuho(三月), Kyokutenho(五月), Harumafuji(七月).

Special PrizesYoshikaze had another great tournament. As Myogiryu and Tochinoshin faltered, he will likely be able to take over the vacated sekiwake spot. He was only just able to pick up his kachi-koshi on Saturday, losing on Sunday to Ikioi.

Ikioi had another stellar tournament and won the fighting spirit prize along with Shohozan. They finished the tournament tied with Hakuho with 12 wins. It was Ikioi’s 4th fighting spirit prize, his second in a row. Ikioi is particularly strong in these middle maegashira ranks. As I’ve noted before, he’s had a lot of success when ranked M4-M6. I really appreciate how he goes after every bout with the same intensity.

HomarenishikiThe up-and-coming Canadian wrestler, Homarefuji, is doing well and is moving quickly up the ranks. He’ll likely jump into the top half of Sandanme division, likely into the Sd40s.

Goeido Remains Ozeki. Barely.I’m not a big fan of people who just do the minimum. So with Goeido seemingly kadoban every other tournament, I just wonder how much longer this can go on. At sekiwake, he was so solid, almost never going make-koshi over the course of 14 tournamets & more than two years. Only twice he finished with 7 wins and five times he had 10 wins or more. However, as ozeki he has yet to win 10 bouts in a tournament. He can’t string together more than four wins in a row and it’s usually just two in a row…if that.

November 2015, Day 14: Harumafuji Goes for Yusho

Harumafuji hit Kakuryu with the same fierceness he displayed against Hakuho…and Kakuryu bumbled as he did against Terunofuji. With Hakuho’s iffy loss to Terunofuji, Harumafuji leads alone. Hakuho met Terunofuji at the tachiai rather softly and then they leaned against each other for a long while before Terunofuji drove Hakuho out. Terunofuji secured kachi-koshi with that win and I expect him to pull out, giving Kotoyuki a 9th win tomorrow.

Ikioi will fly up into sanyaku, likely taking over the komusubi slot which will be vacated by Tochinoshin. Yoshikaze’s impressive win over Goeido will likely bring promotion into sekiwake. If Goeido loses tomorrow, he could take the sekiwake slot away from Yoshikaze but I think it’s highly unlikely. He fights Tochiozan, who already has his kachi-koshi and thus little incentive to do anything but keep himself from getting injured. However, if Tochiozan wants to start another ozeki run, 9 wins could be helpful.

Osunaarashi is out, injured, as is Kotoshogiku. Endo should be resting. He’s obviously hurt and will likely be little challenge tomorrow for Myogiryu, who’s been woeful with a weakened ankle.

November 2015, Day 13: Harumafuji Beats Hakuho

Harumafuji showed quite a bit of aggression in his win over Hakuho today. It’s his second straight over the 大横綱. In a very quick match, Harumafuji went right at Hakuho on the tachiai and appeared to headbutt the senior yokozuna. After breaking to the left and trying to get a belt grip, he made Hakuho spin around. Hakuho retreated and tried to regroup but Harumafuji was on him quickly and slammed him to the ground, perilously close to the salt container.

Normally, the fact that Hakuho has to fight Terunofuji would be an advantage to Harumafuji, who is prevented from fighting his stablemate. However, Hakuho will probably pick up an easy win from the injured ozeki who will need to beat either Hakuho or Kakuryu to avoid going kadoban. He should have sat out this tournament.

Kotoshogiku came up noticeably lame after his kachi-koshi win against Myogiryu. Kisenosato may pick up a nice freebie win tomorrow. Myogiryu will have his hands full with Aoiyama. He has only won two matches so he’ll be plummeting down the banzuke. Aoiyama will fall, too, but likely only a few spots.

Thankfully, Myogiryu and Goeido are stablemates. Otherwise Goeido might have an easier time of preserving his rank. Today, Goeido beat Kisenosato in a rather weakly contested matchup. Tomorrow, Goeido will face Yoshikaze who is trying to get his kachi-koshi as well so he can stay in sanyaku and likely even be promoted to sekiwake. He lost a surprising one to Aminishiki. Aminishiki – with those bad knees – was able to get low position against the shorter komusubi and drive him out pretty quickly.

November 2015, Day 11: Kakuryu “Won” One

Our leaders are unchanged. Hakuho beat Kisenosato and Harumafuji slapped the crap out of Tochiozan. It looked like Kisenosato may have had a shot at a hatakikomi win at one point but couldn’t react quickly enough.

I’m sorry, but it looked to me like Kotoshogiku rolled over pretty easy on this one. It was just odd because Giku didn’t even seem to attempt any jack-rabbit thrusts. They clinched, and he “got thrown,” game over.

Goeido effectively lost twice today against Ichinojo, even after the uncalled matta. He will face Harumafuji tomorrow, likely with Yoshikaze, Myogiryu and Tochiozan still to go. It will be hard to pick up 2 wins in there.

Yoshikaze put up a great effort against Terunofuji but all for naught as the one-legged ozeki was able to score a great throw. The most amusing match today was Tochinoshin pulling a henka on Aminishiki. Beautiful.

NekoDamashi x2 + Henka = Angry Japanese Press

Okay, the hilarious Hakuho/Tochiozan match had more going on than I noticed when I watched this morning. I obviously saw the henka but I didn’t notice the hand-clapping. The clap is called neko damashi. Mainoumi, who is frequently the Japanese commentator for NHK, was famous for this move. Apparently the Japanese media is all aflutter because they think the trick is not becoming of a yokozuna, nevermind the fact that he did it twice and topped that with a henka.

Mainoumi could get away with it because he was tiny and needed to pull out all the stops to succeed. This is another bit of silliness.

November 2015: Kakuryu Falls

Kakuryu fell to Goeido in the final match and biggest upset of the day. Previously, Hakuho’s failed henka was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while. Tochiozan stopped his momentum before falling out, so Hakuho had to run over and shove him a few times to get him out of the ring.

After Shohozan’s loss to Ikioi, Takayasu’s loss to Kyokushuho, and Kisenosato’s loss to Toyonoshima (arguably a bigger upset than Goeido over Kakuryu), Harumafuji stands as the lone competition trailing Hakuho who still controls his own destiny. If Harumafuji wins out, including victories over Hakuho, he will win the tournament.

November 2015, Day 9: Hakuho Rules

Hakuho is back to his usual, dominant self. He forced Goeido out quickly, without trouble. Afterward, the camera panned to him as he sat ringside for Kakuryu/Tochiozan and he just seemed so bored. Tochiozan will be a more interesting matchup tomorrow as he looked great against Kakuryu today. He forced the yokozuna out so quickly, one has to wonder if Kakuryu is injured. They met head-on but Tochiozan was able to get a head of steam and send the Mongolian into the crowd with his third loss of the tournament, any yusho hopes dashed.

Ikioi proved to be a great challenge for Harumafuji in the sanyaku’s match of the day. This was a well-contested bout. The two met with a strong tachiai and Ikioi powered through Harumafuji’s nodowa, forcing a battle on the belt. Three times it looked like Ikioi might get the better of Harumafuji, forcing the yokozuna to the edge. On the third try, Harumafuji proved the master escape artist, forcing Ikioi to the ground and landing on top.

It’s been a while since Kisenosato got up to his matta-inducing trickiness. He baited Terunofuji today, I think wanting to make sure the young ozeki was committed to a strong tachiai and not prepared for a henka. However, with that bum knee he showed little resistance and Kisenosato forced him out. Kisenosato and Harumafuji remain the lone sanyaku challengers, one off Hakuho’s usual, dominant pace. Resurgent Shohozan and Takayasu are the lone rank-and-filers holding up to also get their kachi-koshi today. If they carry on, they’ll be in contention for special prizes and to find themselves back in the midst of the banzuke, where they belong.

Okinoumi picked up a great upset of Kotoshogiku. He met Giku strongly at the tachiai and defended well, for a while, against the jack rabbit thrusts. Once the ozeki had committed to going forward, Okinoumi retreated, pulling back as Kotoshogiku flopped on his belly. As such, Kotoshogiku will be hoping to play the role of spoiler tomorrow against Harumafuji, rather than as a contender.

Ichinojo looked back to his old self against Myogiryu. The sekiwake had nothing to counter the bulk and was forced out quickly. Myogiryu will face Terunofuji tomorrow. If he can’t beat the weakened ozeki, he is clearly not up to sanyaku snuff this tournament and will likely tumble down the banzuke in January.

Yoshikaze was utterly dominant versus fellow komusubi, Tochinoshin. The little guy met the Georgian head on at the tachiai and then produced drive, forcing Tochinoshin backward. Tochinoshin pivoted but Yoshikaze picked up his leg and then carried him out the other end. Yoshikaze’s probably already measuring space on his mantle for a few more special prizes. He faces Osunaarashi tomorrow while Tochinoshin will face Ichinojo. Tochinoshin has owned Ichinojo and Osunaarashi has a dominant 7-1 advantage against Yoshikaze but they should both be good matchups.

November 2015, Day 8: Hakuho Teases Myogiryu, Stays Perfect

Hakuho seems to enjoy letting guys *think* they’re going to win. At the end of their bout, Myogiryu pulled the yokozuna and it looked like he might deliver a stunning hatakikomi upset. But Hakuho demonstrated incomparable balance to not only allow Myogiryu’s momentum carry the sekiwake out first, the yokozuna stopped his own momentum cold…on one leg.

Kakuryu spun Tochinoshin till the later fell on his butt and Harumafuji sent Toyonoshima off the dohyo to his fifth loss. Toyonoshima and Tochinoshin are still in good position with three wins from their first 8 rough days. This week will ease up and they should get at least five wins this week…anything else will be bonus.

Goeido won his ozeki battle with Terunofuji. One has to wonder at why Terunofuji is even wrestling this tournament. Yes, he might still get his kachi-koshi…but he might not. And for him to get it, it’s likely he’ll have to contest this tournament will into day 13, 14, or 15. He’s an ozeki. I think it would have been better to take this whole tournament off, go kadoban, and then be ready for the next tournament. Even if he had to go kyujo for two tournaments, get demotion to sekiwake, and battle for 10 wins to regain ozeki status, I think the risk would have been better than risking his health further by contesting this tournament.

November 2015, Day 7: Hakuho Body Slams Okinoumi to Maintain Lead

Today featured quite a few thrilling bouts, punctuated by Hakuho vs. Okinoumi. Throughout the bout, winless Okinoumi looked to be giving the yokozuna a run for his money. As he began to push Hakuho to the edge, he gave a huge shove to force the pair out. But in a brilliant counter at the last second, Hakuho grabbed Okinoumi, pivoted mid-air, and body slammed Okinoumi.

Enjoy the video from Kintamayama….

For me, the ranks between Komusubi and Maegashira 2 are the real rough ranks – the “hot seat,” so to speak. Those wrestlers get blasted during the first week, facing ozeki/yokozuna-heavy bouts. Sekiwake gets a bit easier in the first week but to progress to ozeki, you need such a great record and you have to display some consistency. It’s worth it because a bad tournament at ozeki won’t automatically cost the wrester their rank. If they get all the way to yokozuna, there is no demotion – just retirement.

So far, the only one with a winning record in these “hot seat” ranks is Yoshikaze, even if extended to sekiwake and M3. Losing records basically guarantee demotion by at least a rank, even lower depending on how bad. If these sub-.500 records hold for the rest, Yoshikaze will be looking at advancement to sekiwake and Ikioi would likely be jumping way up into sanyaku.

This is unlikely to hold, however, because the their load will lighten significantly after tomorrow, so those with 3 or even two wins are still well within striking distance of kachi-koshi records. Tochinoshin and Toyonoshima are thus in great shape, even with just three wins. Toyonoshima beat both sekiwake and Tochinoshin brought down two ozeki and a sekiwake. They get to face yokozuna Kakuryu and Harumafuji, tomorrow. If either Tochinoshin or Toyonoshima can get the upset, they’ll be in a great place for a strong finish and even special prizes.

November 2015, Day 6: Hakuho Leads Alone

Last year, on Day 6, Takayasu stunned Hakuho with a hatakikomi victory. This year, though, Toyonoshima was easy prey for the returning yokozuna. Harumafuji survived against Yoshikaze to stay one loss off pace. The peloton grows to include Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, and Chiyootori, all three losing fairly handily today. Ikioi put up the most resistance but basically all three had nothing in the tank today.

Kakuryu scraped by with a win against Okinoumi to stay two back.

November 2015, Day 5: Kakuryu Falls Off Pace

In the biggest upset of the day, a hungry, resurgent Myogiryu blasted Kakuryu. Terunofuji was the only ozeki to lose, Tochinoshin’s size was too much for his knee. Yoshikaze recovered from Hakuho’s henka, beating Tochiozan. Tochiozan, in the meantime is basically out of the ozeki running and needs to work hard to preserve his sekiwake status. He will face Kisenosato in the morning and still has all of the yokozuna to face.

Of our leaders, Ikioi and Chiyootori face the highest probability of losing. Ikioi will have his hands full with Kaisei and Chiyootori will need to demonstrate his best agility to take out Gagamaru. On the other hand, Kotoshogiku will face a dispassionate Ichinojo and Hakuho will face Toyonoshima, whom he hasn’t lost to since 2012.

November 2015, Day 4: Hakuho, Kotoshogiku, Ikioi, Chiyootori lead (updated)

This will be a quick update because I need to run. I hope to update later tonight with more analysis. Kaisei dropped off the lead pack but Ikioi and Chiyootori are hanging with Hakuho and Kotoshogiku…for now.

Kotoshogiku will have his hands full with Toyonoshima tomorrow. The maegashira 3 has beaten both Sekiwake and Endo and he’s beaten Giku the last four times they’ve fought. Hakuho will likely have no problem dispatching Aoiyama as Tochinoshin and Osunaarashi are bigger challenges, I think, especially the way the man mountain just sat down against Ternoufuji today. It seemed when he tried to brace with his left knee, it gave and he collapsed. As for Hakuho, I think everyone was surprised at his henka win over Yoshikaze.

Ikioi will face Endo who’s not been doing well this tournament and Chiyootori is still battling chumps at the bottom of the banzuke. Chiyootori will likely carry on undefeated for the first week, at least.

November 2015, Day 3: Hakuho, Kotoshogiku lead

Hakuho and Kotoshogiku lead the sanyaku after day three, joined by rank-and-filers Ikioi, Kaisei, and Chiyootori as the lone undefeated wrestlers in makuuchi. Ikioi, Kaisei, and Chiyootori are not really surprises, having early success at their low ranks. Ikioi and Chiyootori have been in sanyaku and Kaisei is a solid mid-range maegashira, having won 2 special prizes and even a Jun-Yusho when ranked lower on the banzuke. Chiyootori’s apparent return to form is encouraging as he’s coming off injury.

Ikioi’s position at maegashira 4 is right at the cusp of his range. At maegashira 3, a wrestler has a very difficult first week, fighting sanyaku wrestlers. He has had 5 previous tournaments at M4-M5, with a 45-30 record during those tournaments. Excluding the only makekoshi 7-8 and the 8-7 finish, he’s 30-15 in the remaining 3 tournaments. In short, if he’s ranked too high, he gets blown up by sanyaku wrestlers in the first week and can’t recover during the next week.