At the completion of the Kyushu basho, perpetual runner up in all things sumo earned an important achievement. Kisenosato was recognized for the most wins this year in Makuuchi, a distinction normally claimed by Hakuho. As Hoakuho sat out all of Aki, the contest was wide open, with Harumafuji and Kisenosato tied until the last week in Kyushu.
Kisenosato’s final record for 2016 stands at:
69 Wins – 21 Losses
Not a stunning run, but it’s nice to see Kisenosato finally win something, and earn some recognition. In spite of the fact that I make him the butt of jokes, he is a solid Ozeki, probably one of the more dominant in a while. In this world of superlatives, everyone feels that he must become a Yokozuna to really have mattered. I would point to the mighty Kaio as an example of a fantastic sumotori, who continues to contribute to the sport, but never was promoted past Ozeki.
Sadly, our Kyushu basho has come to a close. Kakuryu has won his third tournament in solid, convincing fashion. I’ve been critical of him in the past and will continue to be critical of him. I still feel he was elevated early. We expect this performance from our yokozuna every tournament. We need to see this carry into the next year with Kakuryu in contention again. The same goes for Harumafuji…who was in contention this tournament and had FOUR yusho under his belt as an OZEKI. I think it is always a better legacy to be a great ozeki than an underperforming yokozuna.
As I review the tournament I will revisit the key story lines we raised before the matches started.
Terunofuji survives as Ozeki, barely. His first few bouts were painful to watch. But he must have eaten his spinach after Day 2 as he won his next seven straight.
Shodai and Endo both put on a show. Endo sure shocked me by beating three Ozeki and Hakuho in his first week. Things cooled off for him and he just missed getting a winning record, and likely a special prize. His losses weren’t to pufters, though, either. He fell to Tochiozan and Yoshikaze who both ended on worse records but are clearly solid former sanyaku wrestlers. As for Shodai, his easier schedule sure helped him as he DID get a special prize. His biggest victory was likely the spoiler win against Kisenosato at the end of the first week. The Ozeki was in contention but Shodai’s win ended up being decisive. He’ll face a much harder schedule as shin-sekiwake in January. Both times he went through the ringer as Maegashira 2, going 0-6 and 0-7. Personally, I’m more impressed with Endo this tournament, in spite of the worse record and it’s great to see him competing well at this level.
The sinkhole got fixed in a week. Efficient.
Hokutofuji and Ishiura had very successful debut tournaments. Ishiura’s performance was a bit more electric as he was even in yusho contention well into week 2, garnering a special prize. Hokutofuji finished with one fewer win but I feel he will fit better among the middle maegashira in January.
Mitakeumi’s sanyaku debut was quiet as his only win during week one was to the poor-performing Kotoshogiku. He picked up much needed wins in week two against easier opponents but is clearly not ready to take on championship caliber competitors.
Yay, Hakuho’s back! His loss to Endo was quite the shocker but a 90% Hakuho is still a great competitor. He finished with 4 losses which is better than his previous 10-5 record in July. I’m not going to break out a crystal ball and prognosticate about how many more tournaments or how many more years he’s got of competitive sumo ahead. I’m just looking forward to January.
Takayasu’s path to Ozeki will need to start again at square one. He was unable to secure even a winning record but he may not drop out of sanyaku altogether. He’ll likely be komusubi in Tokyo.
Ichinojo under-performed but it was probably a good thing. He’ll stay in the lower reaches of the makuuchi and can hopefully work on his technique and speed. We saw speed from Aoiyama, now the big man in the division. Ichinojo will get there with more training.
As always, a big Thank You to Bruce for his great contributions (and the new look)!
The last day of sumo for 2016, and it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch. The Kyushu basho has taken us on a wild and exciting ride, but now it’s time to bring this glorious and unpredictable tournament to an end.
As Andy mentioned, there are still a few more rikishi who are fighting for their winning record (kachi-koshi), and there are few “test matches” on Sunday’s card. The following men are on the bubble, and their matches will be the ones to watch.
Endo – He had some great successes during this basho, but he has been inconsistent. He would likely receive several special prizes if he can secure his winning record. On Sunday he takes on Tamawashi: Komusubi and soon to be Sekiwake. This will be no easy match.
Myogiryu – He has really been hit or miss, and he has been matched with Maegashira 16 Gagamaru for this final bout. A loss here would not demote him out of Makuuchi, so make-koshi is not a total loss this time for Myogiryu
Ichinojo – Ichinojo is clearly still healing up, but he has managed to almost achieve a winning record. His final match is against Takekaze, who I would guess can bottle up the big Mongolian and put him down if he wants to. Ichinojo needs to summon everything for one final push.
Other Notable Matches
Hidenoumi vs Kagayaki – As mentioned by Andy, Hidenoumi had to be wheeled out of the Fukuoka stadium on Saturday, and I would be surprised to see him back. There is nothing to be won by fighting the day after a concussion.
Ishiura vs Tochinoshin – Another test match for Ishiura. He had to re-match against Shodai, but did fairly well in his first bout. Tochinoshin dispatched Kisenosato on day 13, then lost to Gagamaru on day 14. Who can tell which version of Tochinoshin Ishiura will face.
Yoshikaze vs Aoiyama – After Aoiyama’s day 14 henka, I am going to be eager to see what Yoshikaze can apply to the giant man from Georgia.
Hakuho vs Goeido – It would be very useful for Goeido to finish with double digit wins. Hakuho would love to finish with a win, and possibly tie with Harumafuji should he lose to Kakuryu.
Now that Santa pictures are over, I’ve got some time to wrap up the rest of Day 14 action. Kakuryu’s yusho is a lock and Goeido’s yokozuna hopes are dashed. Kisenosato’s sleeper run was put to an end the day before, so Terunofuji caught him in a bad mood; he’s lucky the veteran had not been able to wrap the mawashi around his neck rather than just up to his man boobs. Kotoshogiku’s continued presence is a bit of a puzzle to me. If he were injured, kyujo would have been a good option days ago. Today he just faced the ignominy of falling flat on his face, victim of an Aoiyama henka.
Other Notable Matches
Hidenoumi got knocked out by Kotoyuki. It was a tense several minutes as he laid still on the dohyo. Kotoyuki’s right paw caught got him under the chin and he was out cold. The scariest bit is the way he fell as his right knee seemed to twist. Several yobidashi scurried to help but I’m not sure how much medical assistance these guys are prepared to provide. There needs to be more medical attention ready ringside.
Gagamaru really wanted his kachi-koshi. I think Tochinoshin was the most surprised that he couldn’t beat his fellow Georgian. Endo just got flat beat by Tochiozan and will be battling a hot Tamawashi for his winning record. Given his performance in the first week, I would hope he’d be in the running for a special prize. Gotta meet friends for dinner…will finish later tonight.
As Bruce mentioned, Kakuryu has locked up the basho. Tomorrow he will close, win or lose, against Harumafuji. Therefore, the drama is in the jun-yusho. Can Harumafuji maintain his second place position? Will Kisenosato be a bridesmaid for the twelfth time? He’ll “battle” the Yokozuna’s stablemate Takarafuji. The Ozeki has dominated this matchup, winning 11 straight – mostly by yorikiri. Shodai has been great but did not have the insane schedule faced by Endo. By virtue of that lighter schedule, he’s in the running for the jun-yusho as well and will likely get it on the back of Arawashi, a Maegashira 10.
Congratulations to Yokozuna Kakuryu, who has had a long and difficult struggle to recover from injuries in 2016. The key to his victory in the Kyushu basho was adaptability. He was constantly on the move, and his approach to any given match could and would change in the blink of an eye.
With Kakuryu’s victory on day 14, there is no means that any other rikishi can catch him tomorrow, on the final day. With a 14-1 record tomorrow, or 13-2, the next closest would be Yokozuna Harumafuji, who could possibly finish 12-3 should he defeat Kakuryu.
Update: The original version of this post included discussion of a monoii for this match. Sadly this was my mistake given early morning match reviews via videos posted on the Grand Sumo app. Clearly I got that wrong, and I apologize.
The last weekend of sumo for 2016 is upon us now. While we now seem to have good indicators of who will with the championship for both Juryo and Makuuchi, I am sure that there are a few surprised, and several great matches left to enjoy.
The popularity of sumo seems to once again be on the upswing in Japan. Tickets are becoming harder to get, and venues outside of Tokyo are selling out more frequently. World wide, there are more opportunities today than at any other time in history for people do start following and enjoying sumo. Enough opportunities for me to suggest, short of some hideous scandal, that sumo is on the cusp of a broader global following.
There are distant rumors that NHK plans to expand sumo coverage as part of their world service, and frankly – I can’t wait. In fact, I have personally offered NHK heaps of my money on demand to let me stream the full Juryo and Makuuchi program at will. I have to imagine that I am not the only one.
Before we can close out Kyushu, we get to see the rest of the Yokozuna head-to-head matches, and watch the rikishi with marginal records scrap for the final wins, hoping to stave off demotion.
Myogiryu vs Arawashi – Myogiryu only needs to defeat Arawashi to secure his rank.
Takekaze vs Daishomaru – Can the veteran seal his winning record and deal a losing record to Daishomaru at the same time? Historically, the two are evenly matched.
Shohozan vs Sokokurai – Local sumotori Shohozan goes up against to try and finish with a winning record. These two are separated 9 slots in the banzuke, so it should be an easy win for Shohozan.
Ishiura vs Shodai – An even bigger mis-match than the previous bout, it’s time for rising star Ishiura to test his performance against Shodai, who has done very well this tournament. The mini-henka is not working against the upper Maegashira, so I am hoping that Ishiura deploys some real sumo today. Shodai already has a strong winning record, and will likely be san’yaku come January, so I am hoping for a really fun upset.
Tochiozan vs Endo – Tochiozan received a dirty henka on day 13 to deal him a make-koshi. Now it’s Endo’s turn to try and lock up a winning record, and a promotion towards the top of January’s banzuke. Historically, Tochiozan beats him up and steals his lunch money. So we will look for Endo to do something new and useful here.
Harumafuji vs Hakuho – Hakuho faded fast once he started his matches against the great San’yaku Battle Fleet. Now he faces his nemesis, Harumafuji. I am hoping the The Boss can escape without any further damage to his undercarriage. Under normal, healthy conditions – this is a Hakuho win. But for day 14, the edge goes to Harumafuji.
Goeido vs Kakuryu – The only thing to consider here is Goeido’s pride, and the yusho. If Goeido wins, there is a strong chance that the yusho will come down to the final day match between Harumafuji and Kakuryu. There is a great deal of rivalry between Goeido and Harumafuji, so it may worth considering that a loss by Goeido could put Harumafuji out of the running for the yusho. Ah, decisions decisions… My money is on Goeido taking his sumo to the Yokozuna. In the long game, Goeido must perceive that this is simply a warm up for his next Yokozuna run. However the career records strongly favor Kakuryu