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.

Exciting Matches, Dramatic Yusho Race: Hakuho, Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Takayasu

I love the fact that we’re now more than half-way through the tournament and we’ve still got four leaders and a further four wrestlers one loss off pace. Today lived up to its billing with several great bouts. When I see that the On-Demand highlight show is available, I’ll post the link. In the meantime, enjoy the fan vid from Kintamayama. Harumafuji had his hands full with the young Shodai but prevailed in a thriller. Terunofuji had just scraped by with a win against the Tasmanian Devil, energizing the crowd, when the yokozuna and maegashira squared off.

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Shodai Counters the Brutal Nodowa

Harumafuji lunged forcefully with an effective nodowa, momentarily surging forward until a quick chop from Shodai’s left hand dislodged the vise-like grip. Shodai then pivoted and pulled the Mongolian to the edge where Harumafuji’s expert footwork kept him inside the dohyo. The back-and-forth finally ended after he spun Shodai backwards, slapped him as he turned around, then propelled the pair off the dohyo with full force. One heck of an entertaining yorikiri.

Ichinojo fell off pace by virtue of a stunning effort from Chiyonokuni. Kaisei needs to earn his kachikoshi as he’s benefited from two fusen default victories. He was effective against Mitakeumi but will face a challenge in Tochiozan tomorrow. Sadly, Kotoyuki and Endo are winless and now officially makekoshi.

 

Ichinojo Effective, Kotoshogiku Out

The crowd enjoyed Ichinojo’s come-from-behind victory. Tamawashi forced the monster to backpedal with a strong nodowa but couldn’t quite get enough momentum and was stopped at the bales. Ichinojo was able to spin the pair and put Tamawashi into reverse, finishing with an effective yorikiri; at 6-1 he’s the low maegashira on the leader board joined by Takarafuji, and then Hakuho, Harumafuji, Kisenosato and Takayasu from the sanyaku ranks.

Hakuho, Harumafuji and Kisenosato each quickly dispatched their opponents. Takarafuji outlasted Yoshikaze and Takayasu flipped the winless Kotoyuki to remain in the leadership pack. Endo’s sadly still winless after a thrilling back-and-forth with Chiyonokuni. There’s no doubting his effort. His confidence is pretty low, however.

Kotoshogiku joined the long list of kyujo wrestlers. With 1 win to his credit, he will be kadoban next tournament. As sumo’s resident armchair doctor, I question the decision to compete in the first place. If a wrestler is 75%, he’s not going to be effective without yaocho fishiness. It’s best to sit the entire tournament, like Osunaarashi.

 

Well, Now Everyone’s Defeated. Wide Open Yusho Race…For Now

Unfortunately, the field is beset by injury. Aside from all of the kyujo wrestlers (Tokitenku is way down in Sandanme – retirement coming?) we’ve got a multitude of walking wounded. Kotoshogiku’s left leg cannot overcome the weakness in his right and Terunofuji is clearly not 100% but is giving a valiant effort in trying to retain his rank.

With the injuries, all yokozuna with losses, Kisenosato’s surprising loss yesterday and an under-performing Goeido, Takarafuji and Takayasu are in contention from the very difficult position.

As I mentioned to Celina, I did not think Sadanoumi had it in him to take down Ichinojo but in retrospect, I should have seen it coming. The way he bulldozed Kitaharima the day before should have foreshadowed his ability to get Ichinojo off balance from the tachiai. Once that big guy starts going backwards, physics takes over and he won’t stop. Everything is up for grabs!

I’d also like to pass along my condolences to readers in France. The events in Nice last night were shocking.

Ichinojo Rises Above

Hakuho gives a gold star to Takarafuji. Kisenosato fell to Tochiozan but stays in contention with Hakuho’s surprising defeat. Terunofuji’s loss to Shohozan was a bit less unexpected. Ichinojo’s dominance of middling maegashira isn’t entirely surprising and I don’t think Sadanoumi will be able to stop him tomorrow.

Nagoya 2016, Day 4: Hakuho, Kisenosato, Terunofuji Lead

Let’s get this out there, this contest is already down to Hakuho and Kisenosato. Will Kisenosato flinch in the first week? Or will we have drama deep into week two? Unfortunately, several wrestlers appear to not be 100%. Terunofuji is one, despite his unbeaten record. On the other side, we can see that Kotoshogiku’s not here through his winless record.

My bout of the day was Chiyonokuni’s parry of Daieisho. Both rikishi set out with forceful slaps to the face. Daieisho appeared to have the edge as his barrage made Chiyonokuni retreat toward the straw bales. Once at the edge, however, Chiyonokuni cheekily dodged to his right, putting Daieisho off balance. From there it was a simple matter of finishing Daieisho off with a shove.

Kakuryu Out, Giku Winless

Kakuryu’s fall yesterday looked bad and may have been bad. I need to go to work but I hope to get more info for you all this afternoon. Giku is 0-4 for the first time since 2009, before he was an Ozeki. He was maegashira 1 and lost his first 6 bouts against the sanyaku gauntlet. As an ozeki, he’s supposed to BE the gauntlet. His leg strength has not been there so I’m hoping he’s not injured but he appears to be at least diminished strength.

The Forecast Didn’t Call For Rain…

…But the zabuton rained down today. Two yokozuna and two ozeki lost. In honor of this sanyaku smack down, I give you Phil Collins:

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Terrible.”

Harumafuji dropped a weak challenge from Okinoumi as he tripped off the dohyo and Kakuryu took a surprisingly hard tumble off the cliffs of Kochi. Prior to those two falling out of contention, Goeido and Kotoshogiku seemed jealous of Terunofuji’s kadoban status and will need to turn things around if they hope to have a winning record…yusho chase hopes dashed.

Endo needs to learn how to fall safely. There’s no reason he should have landed that hard. Terunofuji’s looking 80%. Hopefully he gets his kachikoshi on Sunday and sits out the rest of the tourney – and the next one. It won’t happen, though, because then he’d still be in the yusho race. That race is down to three very quickly: Hakuho, Kisenosato, and Terunofuji. Four more rank-and-filers are technically in the race, too, for now.

On a positive note, Kaisei was solid today against Tochinoshin. He wants to stay in the sanyaku and demonstrated persistence and strength.

Kotoshogiku Out of Gas

We’re two days in to the tournament and what have we learned?

  • Hakuho is still on top of his game – yet somehow the NHK video opens with championship hopes of Kisenosato?
  • Kotoshogiku has had zero of his usual leg strength. He was quickly backed to the edge by Tochiozan and provided no challenge to Takayasu
  • Terunofuji could manage 8 wins, as for Giku I’m not so sure
  • Osunaarashi injured
  • Ura and Ishiura thrilling in Juryo
  • Fan feeds still provide much needed value for longtime: more bouts and more insight. The NHK highlight show was good to see but it’s clearly targeting a newbie audience. I hope they’ll discover that the real viewership will come when they step things up a notch. Thanks to Kintamayama for the Juryo bouts and insightful commentary. Great insight and coverage from Jason, too.