As the smoke clears around the kokugikan, the camera zooms through the carnage, and among the rubble, only two are left. An Ozeki and a Yokozuna. And this dohyo is not big enough for the two of them. Hide your women!* It’s a showdown!
First down was, of course, Asanoyama. Onosho had him from the tachiai. The rank differences were stark and clear. No yusho for the rookie, but he can still earn a sansho, and will deserve it. Onosho still has a shot at double digits and equaling 38th Yokozuna Terukuni’s achievement (three consecutive double digits since advancing to Makuuchi – a record Hakuho didn’t match). Though of course Terukuni kept it up all the way into his Yokozuna-hood. Onosho still needs a good long training with a balance master before he thinks of going double-digits all the way to a white rope…
So we were left with the Ozeki and Yokozuna. And tate-gyoji Inosuke once again amazed the audience with his strange matta decisions. Two matta’s called which, it seems, only Inosuke saw. One thing was clear from both false tachiais – this time the Goeido we saw on the dohyo was the Ozeki, not his wimpy line-dancing identical twin. Once the actual bout started, the Ozeki also proved that he was well capable of keeping his balance in the face of sidesteps – which Takanoiwa tried three times. To use Bruce’s metaphor, Goeido booted up in version 2.1 Pro Edition.
On to the Yokozuna. Mitakeumi was desperate for a win to keep his sekiwake rank. He did manage to secure a rather firm morozashi. But perhaps he would have been wiser to keep the handhold on the Yokozuna’s upper body rather than his mawashi, though it’s not easy with a rival taller than you by 7cm. He held on to the Yokozuna’s mawashi, and the Yokozuna paused and considered the situation. The height difference also means that the Yokozuna has slightly better reach, so he was able to still have a firm grip even though both arms were outside. And with Mitakeumi passive, the Yokozuna took the initiative and pushed for the Yorikiri. If this was Mitakeumi of the previous basho, it might have ended differently. But the Yokozuna was clearly the better man on the dohyo today.
And with this we can safely say that the Yokozuna chased away the shade of the barber, securing what he himself calls a “Yokozuna’s kachi-koshi”. I am still not certain if, after the basho is over, he won’t decide that it’s time to retire anyway, given the huge struggle this basho has been for him. But I don’t think he will be under overt pressure to do so from the Kyokai or the YDC. Especially if he wins the yusho.
So tomorrow on the musubi-no-ichiban, if Goeido wins, he takes the Yusho. If Harumafuji wins, he forces a playoff. I know I’ll be on my chair’s edge, hitting the reload button again and again on the Kyokai’s results page (no live feeds here that I know of, and I’m at work anyway at that time).
But the Yusho race was not the only highlight of day 14. Actually, the arasoi rolled out much as expected, which can’t be said of some of the other torikumi.
Take Tochinoshin vs. Ishiura, for example. Desperate Ishiura tried to pull a henka on Tochinoshin, who managed somehow to brake a few centimeters short of the tawara. Once he turned back, he was pretty pissed off. And decided to find a clever and creative way to punish the small punk. So now he has a new kimarite under his belt (25 so far) – a Harimanage. Congratulations! And if you watch closely, you’ll see Ishiura once again trying to play around with Tochinoshin’s mawashi knot. I think he even got a hold onto the butt-strap. Luckily the bout ended before the wardrobe malfunction. Whew.
If you played Tachiai’s drinking game while watching, I’m pretty sure you’re fairly drunk just on the henkas of the day. The very first started with Takekaze’s attempt on Okinoumi. But like the above, Okinoumi sees the henka, and raises Takekaze a hatakikomi and a make-koshi. I hope Takekaze will not drop out of Makuuchi altogether. I want to see his bout with Aminishiki – “Sumo comes to Jurassic Park”.
And that comedy show between Arawashi and Yoshikaze… Matta! And then both matta and henka together! What does that score in the drinking game? Third time’s the charm… A monoii! Got another bottle of sake? Torinaoshi. That’s it. Yoshikaze has had enough, probably knowing that the next drinking challenge will require him to bleed. Arawashi gets the white star.
Chiyoshoma – Tokushoryu. Another matta. Hick!
Chiyonokuni vs. Kaisei was worth the price of admission. Chiyonokuni starts with a rain of nodowa, which doesn’t faze the Brazilian who advances. The Kokonoe rubber-band finds himself at the tawara, quickly side-steps. But Kaisei really knows where his feet are, and turns right back for a serious pushing attack at Chiyonokuni. This back-and-forth continues. Kaisei even tries an underarm throw, but somehow Chiyonokuni slips away, continues to attack and wins by tsukiotoshi. Bravo to both sides. Chiyonokuni kachi-koshi.
Ichinojo woke up and remembered his days as Sekiwake, apparently. Nishikigi no match, but really, seeing Ichinojo just move forward in a determined fashion is nice. I wish I knew what’s going on behind that sad, big face of his. He has a chance at kachi-koshi tomorrow, though Daieisho is no Nishikigi.
Sadanoumi wins again! This has not been a good basho for the rikishi of the single kanji (Ikioi and Kagayaki). Sadanoumi sidesteps. Kagayaki survives this, but hesitates a second, and Sadanoumi shoots at him as if he was completely healthy.
Shohozan rolls the Ever-round Chiyomaru down off the dohyo like he was a beachball. Kachi-koshi for Shohozan. Hick!
Tamawashi might still secure his kachi-koshi. Which Shodai will not. I was surprised Tamawashi didn’t have him at the Tachiai.
That’s it. Not sure if I was watching sumo, The Benny Hill Show, Abbot and Costello, or High Noon. But… tomorrow is going to be a brand new day! Senshuraku, here we come!
P.S. In Juryo there’s also going to be a showdown. Aminishiki and Homarefuji both decided they don’t want to risk an intra-heya playoff, and dropped out of the Yusho race (at least temporarily). Kotoyuki leads, with a list of 9-5s behind him, but only Abi able to do anything about it. That is, tomorrow Kotoyuki vs. Abi. If Kotoyuki wins, he has the Juryo yusho. If Abi wins – it’s a playoff between them – and any of the 9-5s who wins a 10th white star.
[edited: I didn’t figure the other’s 9-5s into Abi’s possible playoff in the first version].
* Make sure they have Internet and cable where you hide them, though, or you’ll have seriously angry women on your hands.