It’s now less than two weeks until the Banzuke for the Aki Basho in Tokyo is released. For sumo fans, we are eagerly awaiting to see the new ranking, and to begin anticipating 15 days of sumo starting September 11th. Before we get into handicapping who we think ends up where in the ranking sheet, let’s take a moment to look at the outcome of the Nagoya Basho. In short – a bloodbath. There were 14 Rikishi with winning records, 21 Rikishi with losing records (likely demoted), 2 Ozeki went Kadoban (角番), and there were 5 Rikishi out with injuries, including Yokozuna Kakuryu.
Gory details after the jump
in the world of sumo – winners advance and losers are demoted. With the exception of the Yokozuna (and to a limited extent the Ozeki), you are only as good as your last tournament performance.
For someone reentering sumo fandom after a 20 year absence, the Summer Basho at Nagoya was hugely entertaining. Simply put it was like watching a magnificent ground battle take place over the course of 15 days. My analysis on the results of Nagoya, which will feed into the next post where I handicap the Banzuke for the upcoming Aki (Fall) tournament in Tokyo.
Harumafuji took the tournament win (Yusho), but it was a rough road. Along the way the Yokozuna threw off 4 kinboshi (金星), which happen when a rank and file Maegashira defeats a Yokozuna. Hakuho broke his winning streak, and in the process looks like he picked up an foot and maybe knee injury. Frankly, Hakuho looked hurt going into day 15. Harumafuji also looked damaged at the end, falling to the dohyō after finishing off Hakuho in the final bout. Kakuryu had to withdraw after the 3rd day, also injured.
It was Kadoban (角番) season in Nagoya. Terunofuji saved himself from demotion on the final day, but Goeido and Kotoshogiku are on the bubble for September. Of course, as always, Kisenosato left frustrated, unable to win a tournament and advance to be the first Japanese Yokozuna in a while.
Sekiwake / Komusubi
Here is where it got ugly. Traditionally these ranks are tough to hold, as rank and file Maegashira now have to match against all of the upper rank Rikishi. 3 out of 4 in this rank had losing records, with the stand out being Kotoyuki going 2 and 13. Somewhat better was Tochinoshin at 6 and 9. Kaisei had a losing record as well. Then there was Takayasu, who turned in a fantastic performance in Nagoya, winning 11, and earning the -shō (技能賞) / Technique special prize. In my opinion, Takayasu (高安) is one to watch, especially with 2 Ozeki on the bubble headed into the Aki basho.
The Maegashira action was bloody, in fact quite literally. 4 Rikishi in this rank withdrew at some point due to injury. One of them (discussed in a moment) was clearly injured but refused to give up. 13 Maegashira had winning records (kachi-koshi [勝ち越し]) and 18 had losing records. Many Maegashira are facing demotion going into the September tournament.
Maegashira who dropped out due to injury include Osunaarashi, Toyonoshima and Aminishiki. Special note on this is Chiyonokuni, who secured a winning record then dropped out to heal.
Stand out among this group: Takarafuji (宝富士), who went 10-5, dropped Hakuho for a kinboshi, and picked up the fighting spirit award. In my opinion Takarafuji was aggressive, poised and in very good form. I can’t wait to see what he brings to Tokyo in September. On the subject of kinboshi, Ikioi also dropped Hakuho in a heartbreaking match. Hakuho started strong, but his right knee collapsed in mid-attack.
Takanoiwa – This guy nearly went into a 3 way playoff for the Yusho. His 12 – 3 record tied Kisenosato, and he end with a Kantō-shō / Fighting Spirit award. Clearly he is going to get a fairly big promotion in the ranks, and face a much tougher set of opponents in September
Ok, I left Yoshikaze for last, because at least for Nagoya, he was the Chuck Norris of Sumo. This guy once again had a cut over his eye that he picked up early in the tournament. Every day he came out with a bandage or something over it. His opponents naturally tried to re-open the wound. Yoshikaze is an amazing whirlwind of sumo energy anyhow. This just seemed to wind him up further. The best example of this was when he faced Harumafuji on day 9. To a viewer at home it looked like a brutal street brawl, with Harumafuji repeatedly slapping Yoshikaze’s eye. Instead of submitting, Yoshikaze entered what I am going to assume was some sort of “Berserker Mode” and matched the Yokozuna blow for blow. It was not long before Yoshikaze caught Harumafuji off balance, and pushed the Yokozuna to the dirt.
Let’s recap Yoshikaze at Nagoya: 10 wins, 5 losses, 1 kinboshi for putting the eventual tournament winner into the clay, Shukun-shō (殊勲賞) / Outstanding Performance award for generally kicking significant ass the entire 15 days basho, and never giving up.
Just to add to the “Chuck Norris / Berserker” label – Yoshikaze ended up doing a turn in a hospital for repairs once everything was over. I expect we are going to see a new rank for Yoshikaze in September, and a well earned return to san’yaku (三役) ranks.
DISCLAIMER: I am a huge fan of Yoshikaze