There’s a First Time For Many Things
We enter the middle weekend of the Nagoya basho missing 3 rikishi from the Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks. It is actually somewhat unremarkable in that we have seen similar problems for most of the last year. As we have written about frequently on Tachiai, the current crop of Ozeki and Yokozuna have all faced significant physical challenges in the past 18 months, and none of them, except maybe Hakuho and Takayasu, would be considered fit for action. For sumo this can quickly turn into a brand and marketing problem, as these top names are what bring in the bulk of the fans. Even in Japan, there are only a limited number of hard-core sumo followers (like the people who read this site), and that hard core group is not enough to really carry the sport.
On the up side, we had some fantastic matches today, including a couple of first time wins. Rikishi finally defeating a foe they had not been able to best in all of their prior matches. It is clear that both Mitakeumi and Ura are still ascendant, and along with Hokutofuji, and probably Takakeisho in a year or two, there is a core group of sumotori for the future.
Nishikigi defeats Sadanoumi – Nishikigi improves to 5-1, but he looks very stiff today for some reason. With 9 bouts remaining, he has a very strong chance of kochi-koshi, and solidifying his escape from Juryo.
Shohozan defeats Daishomaru – Really a great bout! Both rikishi were on pushing / slapping attack mode, and twice Daishomaru had him in trouble. Shohozan battled back strongly and and prevailed. For whatever reason, Shohozan has been looking really sharp this basho.
Chiyotairyu defeats Tokushoryu – Interesting because Tokushoryu attempted a henna, but Chiyotairyu saw it coming and made Tokushoryu pay. Note how Chiyotairyu keeps his eyes on the center of Tokushoryu’s chest during the tachiai. That’s how it’s done, lads!
Okinoumi defeats Ishiura – So good to see signs of life from Okinoumi! For those of you who may not know, Okinoumi has a significant lower pelvic injury, the repair of which would end his career. When it is acting up, he competes weakly. When it does not, the man can really deliver some great sumo. This bout ended with a Monoii, and the shipman determined Ishiura stepped out first.
Aoiyama defeats Takanoiwa – For reasons that defy my mind right now, Aoiyama remains undefeated, and tied with Hakuho for the lead of this basho. Takanoiwa really seems to have nothing to offer this tournament, so this was hardly a tough contest. I would expect the schedulers to give Aoiyama some more challenging opponents soon.
Onosho defeats Daieisho – Onosho continues to excel, and he dispatched Daieisho without much work or fanfare. Unless he suddenly chokes, I would expect Onosho to be ranked much higher in the fall.
Chiyoshoma defeats Ichinojo – Another excellent match, Chiyoshoma threw everything he had at Ichinojo in a bout that raged across the dohyo for a decent amount of time. Lots of good “distraction slaps” from Chiyoshoma helped keep the Mongolian giant reacting instead of winning.
Tochiozan defeats Kagayaki – Tochiozan is another veteran rikishi who has been doing very well this tournament. Today he dominated Kagayaki, riding him around the dohyo like a rented mule. Tochiozan improves to 5-1.
Ura defeats Takakeisho – The first time in his career, Ura wins a match against Takakeisho. He did it by employing a henna, which Takakeisho swallowed whole. Guidance to Takakeisho, study what Chiyotairyu did today. Ura executed that really well – being small and incredibly fast, I do hope he does not become a henka artist.
Mitakeumi defeats Yoshikaze – Mitakeumi continues to impress. Yoshikaze gave him the full measure, including a mini-henka at the tachiai, but Mitakeumi stuck with it and prevailed. This was the first time in 4 matches that Mitakeumi was able to win one from Yoshikaze.
Tamawashi defeats Goeido – Tamawashi really dialed it up to 11 in his match against Goeido, starting with a tachiai so strong it rocked the Ozeki onto his heels. Impressively, Goeido escaped from Tamawashi’s attempt to finish him and battled back strongly. This was a solid match, and a really nice win by Tamawashi.
Takayasu defeats Tochinoshin – Takayasu is at his best (in my opinion) when he engages in a battle of strength and endurance. He is better at this than anyone in sumo today. The man has the endurance to power a small city for a week. To be honest, an epic match like this would not have happened if Tochinoshin were not nearly his equal. But Takayasu, when faced with a bout like this, wears his opponent down – as long as it takes, and once they tire, still has plenty left to take them out.
Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Not really anyone left who can credibly stop the boss. Match was notable by yet another display of Hokutofuji’s outstanding etiquette. More of this please. sumotori!
Harumafuji defeats Ikioi – Ikioi is really looking like he is at ⅔ normal energy. I hope whatever is ailing him, it can be resolved by Aki. Harumafuji appears to have found the means to keep his obvious pain under control long enough to win a match.