Goeido Pulls Again…

As reported, Yokozuna Harumafuji was ready for Goeido’s sidestep and ushered the Ozeki over the tawara, FTW. In this case, though, maybe I should say FTY (For The Yusho)? Or FTM (For The Macaron)? In their first bout, Goeido tried to bring it to the Yokozuna. He tried the bulldozer, but the horse brushed him aside. This loss then set up a great battle for the yusho.

With any great work of literature, any great drama, there is a protagonist and an antagonist. Today was no different as Goeido’s early victories clearly left a bitter taste for many sumo fans. It also left an open question: would he dare henka in the final? The Juryo playoff heightened the possibility as we saw a few of them there. He did not henka but he did backpedal, an attempt to absorb and sidestep Harumafuji’s powerful charge. Let’s face it, if Hakuho didn’t have the political capital to avoid the jeers and boos of a senshuraku henka, Goeido wouldn’t dare. In the end, our champion used his best tackling technique, wrapping the Ozeki up with the right arm as the crowd erupted in cheers.

Despite the injuries, this was one heck of a tournament and an enjoyable drama but clearly a sign of things to come. Borrowing from Herouth’s Western showdown analogy, one must wonder when this crop of heroes will ride off into the sunset. If we compare the Aki banzuke to that of Aki 2010, we see the end is nigh. Kotooshu, Baruto, Aran and Kaio have long since retired. Hakuho, Kisenosato, Kakuryu were kyujo and Tochiozan and Harumafuji shadows of their former selves. This group will not see 2020. But who will still be on the banzuke in 2019? Even 2018? Takekaze, Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, Aminishiki, Sokokurai…all of these names were on that 2010 banzuke. Solid rikishi with solid careers.

Meanwhile, today’s tadpoles sit in wait. Some will live up to the hype and be our champions in five years time. Others will be fail to reach that champion status but will have solid, exciting careers – if their health prevails. I fear Terunofuji, the promising ozeki, falling like Baruto. I really hope he sits out long enough to heal. In that same camp, I’m glad to see Osunaarashi’s positive, if cryptic tweet from today. I am eager to see where his career goes. Will we see him with a Sandanme yusho, like Jokoryu? Mopping up as he hopefully begins a steady progression back (like Tochinoshin…another name on that 2010 banzuke).

Demotion is a difficult status change, a hard prospect. But for guys with the passion, like Aminishiki & Kotoshogiku, it’s far preferable to intai. I will increase my effort to highlight these guys in the future, though footage becomes increasingly difficult to find. Satoyama’s kachi-koshi is a great sign but I doubt he will be back in Juryo. Another 2010 name, Toyonoshima continues to put together good bouts in Makushita, as well. It may even be a sign of improving situation in stables. Hopefully if wrestlers are not hazing their younger kohai, those who drift back down due to injury will not be hazed, but respected. Hopefully there will be more guys like Shunba, Terunofuji’s steady guide.

12 thoughts on “Goeido Pulls Again…

  1. I’m still curious on how rikishi feel about dropping out of juryo, and whether it’s worth hanging on and fighting back up the ranks. I guess it can go both ways if the demotion was due to injury and recovery time, vs having a permanent reduction in fighting ability. There’s people older than Aminishiki in jonidan after all…

    Kyokutenhō was one of the commentators on the final day, and I was amazed at the length of his career. It seems like a really hard road to perform consistently for years in the top division, so more power to Harumafuji and Hakuho for their persistence.

    • I was thinking the other day about Orora. What are the prospects for that guy once he goes intai? He will probably have to go back to Russia, where medical care worse than the USA. He will be too large and slow for any physical work, and I don’t think his education will land him in, say, the high-tech industry.

      Living in a Sumo heya can be a good solution for some people, even if they don’t get a proper salary. They have proper medical care. They have food, clothing, a bed, and regular exercise. All they need to do is climb up to the dohyo. The worst that will happen is that they’ll end up in jonokuchi. So while dropping from Juryo means giving up privileges and salary, sometimes the alternative could be worse.

      • Yeah, it seems like a socialist lifestyle, centered on competition-based meritocracy with the fascinating money-motivation dynamic in the upper levels. It tickles my econ brain to no end.

        • Yeah, I was thinking “Kibbutz” (the Israeli model of communal lifestyle), though that lifestyle has all but disappeared for lack of sustainability. The only Kibbutzes that still exist unprivatized are the ones that own successful companies that provide nice income for all. The sumo heya system produces high rankers who, in turn, produce entertainment which produces income. Unlike a Kibbutz, they get privileges for this, but as nobody else see those privileges as unjust, the whole system is sustainable.

      • It’s also good to have veterans around to train the kids, even if they don’t have a proper title for doing that work. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are heya slots reserved for elder statesmen like Orora for this very reason.

  2. Andy this is a great post, you touched on a lot of things I have been thinking about lately.

    The stories of guys who tumble down the banzuke only to stubbornly/determinedly work their way back up are great stories!

    To your point, it will be interesting to see how many of the current crop of oldsters manage to stick around and for how much longer, and who the first intai domino to fall will be. The Aminishiki story is great, and I think the Kotoshogiku story is still being written (personally, I was hoping for Kotoshogiku day – he is a firm fave of mine).

    Another knock on effect here is that the presence of not just veterans but more significant rikishi among the Makushita rankings will increase the difficulty to win and hopefully the quality of young rikishi coming through to Juryo and beyond.

    • I’m warming to the Geek now that he’s not under the expectation to perform at ozeki-level, day in, day out. His bumpity-bumpity isn’t hacking it anymore. Witness how he couldn’t get it done against Uncle Taka and had to throw him instead of yorikiri.

      But yeah, these stories looking at lower-ranked wrestlers will likely happen before some of the map/data vis things I wanna do.

      • An interesting subtext here that Herouth touched on with Harumafuji tribute is that these older rikishi are not going to be able to purely rely on “their brand of sumo” as they age – they are going to need to be able to read, react and win against younger opposition and beat those guys at their own game. It’s how Hakuho went 29-1 this summer against a really wide variety of opponents.

        Kotoshogiku obviously doesn’t have all of that in his locker but it is nice to see him executing more throwing moves, he did that multiple times this basho. It’s good to see that even with his limitations and at his age he can still get better in some areas, as his old talents lose some of their effectiveness.

        • I’ll also add that even if we call him a one-dimensional guy, I’ll take “his brand of sumo” over the likes of Aoiyama and Gagamaru and Ishiura’s single tactics any day

          • How can you call pulling mawashi by the butt-strap and running around rikishi holding on to their mawashi knots a “single tactic”? Pshaw!

          • I think he only ever intends to get in hilariously low at the tachiai (unless he tries a henka) and get a double inside grip to use his insane arm strength to throw off the opponents balance and then execute a throw. I think that’s what Ishiura’s “style of sumo” really is at its best.

            However what I think usually happens is that he doesn’t execute that tachiai the way he’s intending, and then has to do all of that Benny Hill style improv


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.