Natsu Day 1 Highlights

Natsu Day 1

No Surprises

The Natsu basho got started on form, with no real surprises, but some good sumo. Fans, do keep in mind that for the first few days, many of your favorites will be working to find their groove, and we may see some “ring rust” as John Gunning puts it. Most basho follow a 3 act process. Act 1 is all about finding who is hot, and who is not. Act 2 is all about who can compete for the yusho, and Act 3 is where we separate the winners from the losers, and crown the champion. In the early stages of Act 1 (the first few days), you are likely to see some unexpected events. Today was not populated with the unexpected, but keep your eyes open.

Highlight Matches

Nishikigi defeats Aminishiki – Uncle Sumo ups the record as the oldest man ever to start a Makuuchi bout, and we salute him. But Nishikigi dispatched him with little trouble.

Myogiryu defeats Kyokutaisei – This match had one of everything, a Monoii, a Matta, and a Torinaoshi. The first version of this bout was an excellent mawashi match, with both men working hard to set up a throw, and each move being countered expertly. Both men hit the clay at the same time, so the Shimpan signaled a rematch. The second try saw Kyokutaisei try a henka, but Myogiryu landed a belt grip and controlled the match for the win. Nice sumo.

Sadanoumi defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama started strong, pounding away at Sadanoumi, who endured the blows and pushed to get inside. He achieved that, and then proceeded to move Aoiyama backwards and out. Aoiyama (in my guess) suffered some severe ring rust today, and will likely bounce back by day 3.

Asanoyama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura attempts to step to the left, but Asanoyama’s wide-armed tachiai traps him, and they grapple. At this point Asanoyama’s superior mass and better body position allows him to dominate the match.

Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – New sea-foam green mawashi for Takakeisho, perhaps it will change his luck? Takakeisho took the match to Hokutofuji’s face and shoulders early, and nearly overwhelmed him. But Hokutofuji rallied at the tawara, and counter-attacked. A deft side step by Takakeisho left Hokutofuji, and gave Takakeisho the win.

Yoshikaze defeats Chiyomaru – Yoshikaze launched low and hard against Chiyomaru’s chest, standing the hungry-man upright. From there Yoshikaze drove him back. Chiyomaru was never able to regain balance or set up a proper defensive or offensive stance, and it was all Yoshikaze.

Takarafuji defeats Ryuden – Ryuden came straight at Takarafuji, perhaps hoping to overpower him, but found that Takarafuji was in a firm stance, and had the power to resist his attack. Ryuden never was able to recover, Takarafuji took him back and out.

Ikioi defeats Chiyoshoma – I am sure they heard that tachiai at the adjacent Edo museum! Both rikishi bounced back after that mighty collision, and went straight for competing throws. In Ikioi’s favor, Chiyoshoma landed first, but a monoii was called and the win went to Ikioi.

Shodai defeats Kotoshogiku – An impressive win by Shodai. Maybe he is genki this time? His tachiai looked decent, and he kept Kotoshogiku of being able to square his shoulders and begin the hug-n-chug. The Kyushu Bulldozer tried it anyhow, but Shodai deftly used the uneven thrust to maneuver Kotoshogiku, get him off balance and thrown. Nicely done!

Chiyotairyu defeats Yutakayama – Chiyotairyu has a favorite opening – blast off the line with the force of a freight train, lock up his opponent and just keep moving forward. Yutakayama give him the opening, and it was over fast. Please note the kati-infused sideburns are in full effect on Chiyotairyu, and there were plenty of sumo-grannies who received a Yutakayama visit, as it looks like Chiyotairyu put him in the 3rd row of zabuton.

Mitakeumi defeats Daieisho – A whiplash tachiai from both, but Mitakeumi pushed ahead with fierce vigor, and Daiesho never really had a chance to set up any offense or defense. Solid fundamentals from Mitakeumi this time.

Ichinojo defeats Abi – I will compliment Abi on coming up with a plausible battle plan. He went for a neck attack at the tachiai, and while Ichnojo pushed forward to attack, Abi shifted right and tried to grab the mawashi. Sadly he missed, and ended up chest to chest with the boulder. It only took 2 ½ shoves from the 225 kg Ichinojo to propel Abi down range.

Tochinoshin defeats Shohozan – I was impressed by Shohozan’s lightning fast tachiai, closing the distance to Tochinoshin before the big Georgian could finish standing from his starting crouch. In a move that showed a lot of moxie, he took a hold of Tochinoshin’s mawashi and started pivoting for a throw. He almost go away with it, but Tochinoshin rallied and started to work Shohozan’s rather lose mawashi, marching forward. Shohozan was able to stop him, so Tochinoshin simply lifted Shohozan (twice) and placed him out.

Goeido defeats Kaisei – Goeido lands a shallow left hand straight into the tachiai, and uses that to control Kaisei completely. The Brazilian could never find his footing and was sideways to Goeido’s continued attack. Clean, easy, fast.

Hakuho defeats Tamawashi – Another of Hakuho’s strange pseudo-butsugari matches. Hakuho kept going for the mawashi, and Tamawashi kept landing blows to the Yokozuna’s shoulders and face. The Boss wins, but it was weird. Note that Hakuho reverted to deploying his left-hand face slap at the tachiai.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Classic Kakuryu sumo. He stalemated Endo in the early phase of the bout, which was all tsuppari, and waited for Endo to get too far forward, and pulled him down. Kakuryu’s reactive sumo is at times almost it’s own unique form, and I think a few decades from now, sumo scholars may study how he conducts his matches.

9 thoughts on “Natsu Day 1 Highlights

  1. It was great to be able to watch the full makuuchi broadcast in English today and some of the Juryo in Japanese. Some additional thoughts based on what I got to see:

    Kyokutaisei just didn’t have any gas left in the tank after the first matchup.

    Good to see Takakeisho looking up for it.

    Kotoshogiku’s big issue that has been persisting the last several tournaments is that if you look at his feet, he just can never get a solid traction anymore, and it’s preventing him from getting as close to his competitor as he needs to get to deploy his trademark move.

    John mentioned he thought Chiyotairyu would get a talking to for the extra shoves on Yutakayama “maybe he just doesn’t like him or something”

    We got loads of replays on Tochinoshin/Shohozan in the full broadcast. Good commentary again from John and Raja about how impressive it was that Shohozan really had Tochinoshin in a bad position but he was able to stay poised and rally. Also there were a lot of shots of him before the match getting amped up in the hallway and being even sweatier than usual.

    The Hakuho match… what can you say… he is just total box office, he entertains, he wins.

    Re: Kakuryu, John made another good point about what makes a yokozuna a yokozuna in his ability to stay patient, identify in a split second the moment where Endo got himself in trouble and then immediately do what was necessary to despatch him. It was good viewing.

    • I don’t know, I think I saw a totally different Hakuho bout than you did.

      I watched some of the juryo bouts in the morning (my time) before I went to work, and there was an intermission for the sanyaku greeting. I was looking at Hakuho and thinking “That man is ill. He is running a fever or something”.

      Later when I watched the bout it seemed to me like this reflected in his game. First, he went for a hari-zashi, which he promised he won’t. This may have been tactical or may have been dropping into his old habit, but that’s not the point here. The point is that he didn’t get the sashi part. He couldn’t get in fast enough. Then he started exchanging blows with Tamawashi, and went into that weird “come get me” stance. Tamawashi gave him a “You think I was born yesterday?” stare. And Hakuho was not stable on his feet in those two seconds, which is even weirder.

      Eventually the Yokozuna had to take the initiative, exposed himself, and drove Tamawashi out by sheer force. He said himself in an interview that he put himself at risk there. And he got both of them off the dohyo, which is something Hakuho doesn’t like to do – one of the reasons he is still intact after a zillion years in his rank.

      I’m not sure if that was ring rust or the supposed fever, but I wouldn’t call it being entertaining on purpose. Kakuryu had the more Yokozunish win of the day, despite winning by Hikiotoshi.

  2. Kintamayama says that Aoiyama has an injured right knee that he injured in the Jungyo. Sad news if it’s true.

    Not a lot of surprising results today, but that might be the standard for this basho. We’ve had a lot of topsy-turvy results recently, but things will eventually stabilize over time.

    Hakuho got away with one this time, I think. He’s not confident (which is why he slapped at the tachiai in my opinion, and Tamawashi was too scared to be assertive and engage him. Hakuho didn’t look confident at all when accepting his envelopes. Go look at his eyes. He’s not happy or staring at the shimpan like he usually does.

    • Excellent observation, and I think you are on to something. I worry is toes are still a bit mangled, as his mobility was not on display today. But with “the boss” it’s really hard to know what he is up to, and his actual condition. We will see if his day 2 match with Mitakeumi gives a different result.

    • I have to respectfully disagree. He was in total control from start to finish, looking every bit as lovably arrogant as usual. Tamawashi had no chance and Hakuho made sure everyone in the arena knew it. Is it my imagination or is the Hakuho bout ALWAYS the most entertaining of the day?

  3. Funny how the crowd loved the pseudo-butsugari. They were applauding warmly even though really nothing was happening. Not that I’m a long time sumo fan, but I have not seen two wrestlers staring down each other MID BOUT. Was it about the stare? The crowd likes the stare?

    Tam seemed more collected at that point, but Hak definitively shoved him out anyway.. :-)

    Is it Tamawashi who regularly gives Hakuho fits during the pre-bout ritual? If so, maybe Hakuho didn’t want to pass up the chance to slap him in the face. Or maybe he did it to intimidate his upcoming opponents who will now wonder if the slap is coming.

    • The butsugari seems such a rarity that people simply enjoy seeing something they don’t come across very often, and, therefore, they show their appreciation. I can’t recall ever seeing it done by anyone other than Hakuho. It’s such a wonderfully arrogant ”come get me” gesture. I love it every time he does it.


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