With day 3 done and dusted, and day 4 on the horizon, here are a few quick thoughts on some of the lower Makuuchi matches that I wanted to give a little extra time and attention to.
1. Mr. Happy and the Day 3 Blues
Let’s start with one of my favorite rikishi, Mr. Happy himself, Asanoyama. Today he went head to head with Kagayaki, who not only defeated Asanoyama but also beat his own archenemy, gravity. In September, Asanoyama remarked that he felt jinxed by the east entrance early on in the basho, as his first two losses came from that side of the dohyo. He doesn’t seem to be jinxed in Kyushu so far, as he has now lost on the east and the west side, marking the first time Asanoyama has had consecutive losses in the top division. This is not the start he or his fans had hoped for. It is still very early in the tournament though, and it will be interesting to see how Asanoyama handles this setback.
2. Shodai Comes Alive
Now where has this Shodai been!? After two lackluster basho, Shodai appears to have found a bit of the fighting spirit that had carried him to such great success in 2016. His match with Endo began with a shocking turn of events, as Shodai actually looked like he took a step forward at the tachiai! From there, the two young mawashi-grapplers fought with some uncharacteristic otsu-sumo thrusts. Despite Endo putting up most of the offense early in the bout, once he strayed into Shodai’s grip he was done for, and quickly found himself on the wrong side of the tawara. Shodai showed some much-needed passion today, and I hope this is the beginning of an upward trend for him.
3. What is Up With Chiyomaru?
On the opposite side of the passion spectrum, was Chiyomaru. The rotund rikishi looked deflated (not physically of course), and put up no resistance against Daishomaru. This has led me to speculate that he may be dealing with an as of yet undisclosed injury. Considering his physique, it would not be a surprise if he is dealing with back or knee issues. Chiyomaru could benefit from following Kaisei’s example and shedding a bit of mass to improve his health and sumo. I’d hate to see sumo lose its most kawaii rikishi because of injury.
4. The Great Wall of Ichinojo
There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes, and a genki Ichinojo is nearly impossible to push around. Today it was Hokutofuji’s turn to take on the immovable object, but he was not up to the task and immediately fell to the clay after making contact with Ichinojo’s mighty frame. The giant Mongolian is undefeated thus far and could be a major force in the yusho race. With Terunofuji a shell of his former self, Ichinojo could one day find himself taking on the mantle of sumo’s resident Kaiju.
5. A Look on the Bright Side
With the shadow of the Harumafuji scandal cast on this basho, it is important to recognize that there are still many positive stories coming out of Fukuoka. For starters, the young crop of rikishi continue to make their mark in the Makuuchi division and their matches remain competitive and enjoyable. Kisenosato and Takayasu seem up to the task of competing this basho, with the later of the two looking like an early contender for the yusho. Finally, Hakuho appears focused and determined to make more history this November, and become the first man to ever to win forty yusho. With so much to look forward to, let’s remember that there is still some great sumo to come.