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.