Nagoya 2016: Special Prizes


Yes, I’m dragging this out because it’s going to be a long time until September. Four wrestlers took home special prizes and there were likely other candidates for special prizes, like Shodai and Ichinojo, if they had managed wins the last day. In all, four special prizes were awarded. That’s the most since September of last year.

  1. Technique: Takayasu (1st) – The technique prize hasn’t been awarded much over the past few years, only 6 times in the previous 21 tournaments. His 10 competitive wins came from using a variety of 7 different winning techniques.
  2. Fighting Spirit: Takanoiwa (1st) & Takarafuji (1st) – Takarafuji’s fighting spirit prize came by virtue of not only having 10 wins at the difficult Maegashira #2 position, but punctuating that record with wins over 4 of 7 sanyaku wrestlers faced: 1 Yokozuna, 2 Ozeki and 1 Sekiwake. It’s important to note that as a stablemate of Harumafuji and Terunofuji, he did not wrestle either of them. Takanoiwa’s strong second-place finish was rewarded with the Fighting Spirit prize…and likely a position in the rough-and-tumble top Maegashira ranks in September.
  3. Outstanding Performance: Yoshikaze (2nd) – Yoshikaze’s 10-5 record, including a critical win over cup-winner Harumafuji, ended a special prize drought of three tournaments. This time last year he started the remarkable streak of 4 special prizes and two kinboshi in 3 basho, propelling him to sekiwake. He’s fallen back of late from those highs but he still owns Harumafuji with a shocking 5-3 record against the yokozuna.

Harumafuji Yusho!


It was an exciting end to the tournament, and featured a hilarious appearance by a drunk Kawamura Takashi. Kawamura is the mayor of Nagoya and had to make a trophy presentation. Let’s just say that I don’t think Harumafuji understood most of the guy’s slurred speech. He definitely had his fans, though, laughing at his antics and posing for pictures with him. The dude was blitzed off his gourd and I can’t find any mention of it in the news. I believe the next speaker was the head of the regional newspaper and he was clearly not pleased. He said something to the effect of, “back to a real, formal ceremony.” Unfortunately, I was too far away to get good video or pictures. Next time, I’ll bring a zoom lens.

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My seat was pretty far away

Nonetheless, it was an exciting atmosphere. The final few matches were full of importance. Once again, Kisenosato was a bridesmaid. His victory over Goeido means we will have two kadoban ozeki, again. It also meant there was some real drama for the yokozuna face-off and potential for a three-way play-off. Terunofuji staved off demotion while dropping Kaisei with a little switcheroo move. I thought Kaisei was clearly disappointed to lose out on about $10,000 of kenshokin and going makekoshi, losing his sekiwake rank. Since two of his wins were fusen victories, I wouldn’t be surprised if he drops out of sanyaku altogether.

It was an amazing experience to be there on senshuraku. Ura has a lot of fans and should prove to be an exciting wrestler. He seems to have more support, even, than Shodai. I was shocked that he didn’t get a special prize but I bet he would have if he’d beaten Tochinoshin.

The couple in the box behind us were great and were strong supporters of Hakuho, as it seemed many were. They were there with me watching well before the makushita and we stayed through the end of the ceremonies. I think my daughter was on TV before Takekaze fought. We were sitting next to the commentator’s table, not the one with Mainoumi. There was another table on the other side. I joked with my wife that it would be funny if I was picking my nose or something during the shot because we didn’t notice that the camera was on us. Anyway, if anyone has footage, it would be interesting to see.

 

 

Harumafuji & Kisenosato: Who Wants It Most?


Hakuho and Kisenosato move into the lead. They also face each other today. I’m pretty excited because I’ll be able to watch live on TV. I won’t be in Nagoya until Sunday but I’ll watch from here in Tokyo. I was on the train yesterday for the makuuchi bouts so thanks, as always, to the fan videos for catching me up. If Kisenosato wins this tournament, we’ll likely have a new yokozuna. It’s a great time to be here.

Day 13 and Harumafuji is yet to face any Ozeki. He was way too fast for Kaisei today, throwing him to the side after a quick tachiai. He can’t face his stablemate Terunofuji, so he’ll have Goeido tomorrow and Hakuho on Sunday. Shodai’s a very strong up-and-comer. He was able to drive Kisenosato to the edge but the ozeki was able to brace and shove Shodai off balance to the right and pick up the yorikiri win.

Hakuho lost to an injury-depleted Terunofuji after a weird almost-henka-invisible-matta-redo fiasco. I didn’t see a false start. I thought both hands were down for both rikishi but the gyoji called matta. So, Hakuho eased up and they did it again. On the second try, Terunofuji was ready but he definitely didn’t face the best from Hakuho. Am I expected to believe that an 80% Terunofuji with a left hand belt grip would be able to spin and push Hakuho straight off the south edge like that? Guess so, but I sure don’t think Hakuho’s 100%.

Takarafuji Down, Four Leaders Remain


Takarafuji lost to Takayasu in the head-to-head bout to stay in the lead. The senior sanyaku leadership contingent all won but Goeido lost to Shodai who picks up his kachi-koshi with four days left. Hakuho picked up a yorikiri win over Kaisei while Harumafuji’s quick throw of Ichinojo was an anti-climactic end to the day. I blinked and missed it. He didn’t even do his half-henka and still sent the monster rolling.

Shohozan Henka Takes Out Kisenosato


Many people will be angry with Shohozan for his henka of Kisenosato, especially since Kisenosato had been leading with Takayasu. Since Harumafuji steamrolled Takayasu, Shohozan will get fewer death threats as Kisenosato remains a part of the 5-man yusho race. Ikioi just plain muscled Terunofuji off the dohyo.

Hakuho is one strong dude. Every time Tochinoshin tried to pick him up (he can lift Ichinojo), Hak countered and eventually maneuvered the Georgian over the straw bales for an authoritative yorikiri.

The leadership group, all with kachi-koshi 8-2 records: Hakuho, Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Takayasu, Takarafuji.

Hakuho Just Fell


I love Ikioi and I like seeing him win his first gold star. However, my reaction is like when Twitch was killed by Cypher in the Matrix:

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After a weird tachiai, almost completely without any contact, both wrestlers briefly grappled and backed up to size each other up. Ikioi had this look of, “What the hell am I going to do now?” Hakuho went in to attack, and stumbled.

He needed help from Ikioi to get up so I’m hoping he’s not injured. If he’s injured, they’ll never let me buy tickets to another basho. Everyone’s dropping like flies. I’ll be in Nagoya for Sunday so it’s great to have an exciting, dramatic tournament. But it’ll be disappointing if Hakuho’s not there and not in top form. I leave for Japan in a couple of days, so after tomorrow there likely won’t be any posts from me for a bit.