Day 1 got everyone off to a rather rusty and clunky start, albeit with some good sumo mixed in. It’s clear from the opening day that fans should keep their minds open for at least the first week, and it may take a few days for the top performers to get tuned up and ready to compete.
I think the stand-outs for day 1 were clearly Kagayaki, Shodai and Takakeisho. Kagayaki for quickly and effectively dismantling Abi’s favorite attack style, Shodai for containing then controlling Ryuden as effectively as he did, and Takakeisho for unleashing his “Wave Action Tsuppari” against a Yokozuna and making it stick.
The microphone setup in Kyushu seem to be an interesting departure from other venues, they seem to catch quite a good amount of crowd noise, and the venue itself is probably a lot more “live”, providing a lot of complex acoustics. The result seemed to be that there was a lot more detail to the crowd noise, and the crowd was more reactive to the action in the ring. Overall, I thought it worked.
What We Are Watching Day 2
Chiyomaru vs Meisei – Chiyomaru continued looking quite iffy, which was a trend that started at Aki. The man has a large and enthralled following, so I am sure everyone hopes that he can get his body in better health and remain in the top division. Today’s opponent, Meisei, won their only prior match.
Aoiyama vs Onosho – There is little chance that Aoiyama’s day 2 opponent will lure him into a losing mawashi battle, as Onosho prefers the oshi style. Aoiyama needs to over-perform this basho if he wants to break out of the bottom of the banzuke rut he finds himself in this year.
Endo vs Okinoumi – Endo will be looking to bounce back from his day 1 loss, and he may have trouble with Okinoumi, who looks genki for a change. Like many of these long-serving vets, Okinoumi can put together quite a powerful string of matches if his body cooperates. Endo is still trying anything he can to get his body, his sumo and his mind to work together during a basho.
Sadanoumi vs Chiyonokuni – Chiyonokuni looked strong and on plan day 1, and fans should note that he’s (if you average it out) a Maegashira 6 or 7 rikishi right now. So he will have a decent advantage at this slot in the banzuke. I am sure his fans are hoping he can even out his sumo and consistently produce wins. I am looking for an early attempt to pull or slap down from either man.
Ikioi vs Kotoshogiku – Two old veterans in less than awesome physical conditions will try their sumo, and the fans will be pulling for home-town favorite, Kotoshogiku, who we affectionately label the “Kyushu Bulldozer”. The two are quite evenly matched, and it will come down to if Kotoshogiku can land a grip and begin his “Hug and Chug” attack.
Takanoiwa vs Abi – Takanoiwa’s compact and nearly rectangular body may present an interesting puzzle to Abi’s preferred double-arm thrusting technique. We can hope that Takanoiwa studied Kagayaki’s day one match, and learned that coming at Abi’s elbows will break off the attack, and leave sumo’s favorite stick-insect momentarily perplexed. Then again maybe Abi will grab the mawashi from the tachiai and disrupt everyone’s expectations. To add more interest, this is their first ever match.
Kagayaki vs Asanoyama – A couple of ‘fundamentals’ rikishi in a great head to head match. Kagayaki has won all 4 of their prior contests, but Asanoyama is not the kind of person who lets that weigh too much on his mind. The advantage will go to whichever rikishi gets inside at the tachiai, and can focus center-mass. The fun part is that both men tend to do this when they are on their sumo. Could be a highlight match of the first half.
Shodai vs Chiyotairyu – Shodai’s weak tachiai against the Chiyotairyu cannon-ball. It may seem one-sided, but Shodai has this ability to get his opponents to make mistakes that he is quite expert at exploiting for a rapid change of fortunes. If he can absorb the initial charge, I expect him to work to get Chiyotairyu’s substantial body off balance and under his control.
Yoshikaze vs Ryuden – I find it amazing that Yoshikaze trails Ryuden 2-1 in their career series. This is possibly due to Yoshikaze having a pair of really tough basho, but he may have some specific weakness to Ryuden’s sumo. Ryuden will need to do whatever he is going to do in the first few moments, before Yoshikaze can set up his relentless, frantic offense.
Mitakeumi vs Tamawashi – To quote the immortal Sheldon Cooper, Tamawashi can look at Mitakeumi across the shikiri-sen and say, “you’re in my spot”. Both of these rikishi tend to put a lot of force into their thrusting attack, so this battle may not take long to decide. Mitakeumi has a 13-2 career advantage, but right now Mitakeumi looks rattled and off his sumo.
Tochiozan vs Ichinojo – Tochiozan impressed day 1 with a solid win over Mitakeumi, and today he faces the Mongolian giant, Ichinojo, whom he has a habit of defeating (8-4 career). Ichinojo’s day 1 sumo was lethargic against Nishkigi, but he decided not to go soft once his heels touched the tawara for a change, so perhaps there is some fight in the boulder for this tournament.
Goeido vs Takakeisho – Fresh from his win over Kisenosato, Takakeisho brings his sumo to Goeido. Takakeisho takes time to set up his offense, and always plays for time. Goeido, when he is in good form, is lightning fast and will defeat you before you can establish an attack. Whatever Takakeisho’s plan might be, it involves him buying enough time to get started.
Nishikigi vs Tochinoshin – Nishikigi is outclassed in this one. Tochinoshin will go for the mawashi straight away, and there will be little that Nishikigi can do about it. I am looking for a Tochinoshin “sky crane” moment with Nishikigi’s feet off the clay, kicking in the air.
Hokutofuji vs Takayasu – I am a fan of both rikishi, but Hokutofuji is likely outside of his range in this match. Both use similar sumo styles, and Takayasu is larger, faster and stronger. But Hokutofuji has a 3-1 career advantage over the Ozeki.
Kisenosato vs Myogiryu – I am looking for Kisenosato to get his sumo back together and stop dropping matches that should be easy for him. He holds a 16-4 career advantage over Myogiryu, with the last time Myogiryu took a match from him being 2015, so I am expecting the Yokozuna to put him away quickly and easily, or there could be trouble in the pumpkin patch.