Hatsu Day 2 Highlights

What universe is this?

Takagenji visited makuuchi today from Juryo to face Daiamami but left empty handed. After a well met tachiai, it was all Daiamami as he drove through the Chiganoura beya youngster for a swift yorikiri win, his first of the tournament. Both men are 1-1. Chiyonokuni followed up, dispatching Kotoeko with a few forceful slaps to pick up his second win. Before the bout, my money was on Chiyonokuni by hatakikomi but as it worked out, he got the tsukidashi win before he even needed to pull. Kotoeko falls to 1-1.

Chiyoshouma studied Daishomaru and feared the oshidashi loss, effectively neutralizing the threat posed with a glorious henka – to the groans of the spectators. It was the smart move. Chiyoshoma is a solid grappler, winning mostly with throws but vulnerable to oshidashi…and yorikiri. Chiyoshouma picked up his first win while Daishomaru fell to 0-2.

Yutakayama and Yago offered up a great bout of very similar competitors yet different styles. Yago’s mawashi is a bit darker but both sport the royal purple with very similar builds. Yago favors the belt but Yutakayama is a much more committed oshi/pusher-thruster. Which style would prevail? Yutakayama’s forceful nodowa immediately after the tachiai effectively kept Yago from getting a grip and backed to the edge. Rather than be forced completely out, Yago circled and regrouped to the center. The fatal mistake was going for the hatakikomi. The backwards pull worked to his opponent’s advantage as he followed through with a successful oshi attack. Yutakayama is off to a great 2-0 start while Yago’s setback has him at 1-1.

Kotoyuki put another W in the win column for Team Oshi as Meisei allowed him to fight their bout his way. Relentless pushing-thrusting favors the Sadogatake man and Meisei had nowhere to run, eventually shoved out hard, nearly landing face first in the salt basket. Kotoyuki’s on 1-1 while Meisei is still looking for his first win, 0-2.

Two bouts into the tournament and Kagayaki draws blood yet again, this time from chasing Sadanoumi. Kagayaki came charging like a Pamplona bull, as Sadanoumi tried ducking, twisting and turning any which way of escape. This time, though, I worry for Sadanoumi’s knee as it buckled awkwardly. He was slow to get up but made it back down the hanamichi under his own power. Kagayaki and Sadanoumi are 1-1.

Ikioi charged out like a barnstormer yesterday but I hope he goes kyujo after today’s bout with Abi. Abi’s slaps could not be contained and as Ikioi tried to weather the storm, I’m afraid he may have been briefly knocked out as he dove straight forward, face first into the tawara when Abi side-stepped. In the fall he appeared re-injure his ankle. He also reopened yesterday’s headwound but that may have come from Abi’s tsuppari. Ouch. Both are 1-1. As a side note, Ikioi is a big guy. I’m not sure if he’s still the tallest guy in makuuchi, but it’s really surprising. It doesn’t really sink in until he’s standing there next to a guy like Abi, making Abi look small.

Takarafuji has yet to wake up from his “long winter nap,” as Kaisei barely shifted and Takarafuji lost his balance. It wasn’t a henka. Takarafuji just fell. Hopefully the ring rust will be knocked off by the end of Act One? Takarafuji falls to 0-2 while Kaisei takes the gift to move to 2-0. Endo followed by convincingly backing Asanoyama over the straw bales. Endo also improves to 2-0 while Asanoyama falls to 0-2.

Ryuden was too eager to get things going against Chiyotairyu, initiating a matta. But once they got things going, he grabbed Elvis in a bear hug and then just barreled through, forcing the Kokonoe man into the first row of seats. Ryuden picked up his first win, 1-1, while Chiyotairyu falls to 0-2.

Shou-time (sorry) as Onosho tangled with Daieisho. After a well met tachiai, Onosho backed to the edge where he used the leverage from the tawara to slip to the side and allow Daieisho’s own momentum to force him out and pick up his second win while Daieisho falls, literally, to 1-1.

Aoiyama never let the hug-n-chug get going, nearly breaking Kotoshogiku in half with a forceful hatakikomi. Aoiyama is 2-0. I know it’s early but he has been in yusho races before, only to fold under the pressure of top level bouts. Will he be in the hunt at the weekend? Definitely one to watch. Kotoshogiku is at 1-1.

Yoshikaze never got going against Okinoumi. Rather than a nodowa, it seemed Okinoumi wanted to force Yoshikaze’s cheeks into his ears. Ho-po-wa? I don’t think I’ve seen that attack before. With the backwards force, Yoshikaze’s left knee gave out. Koshikudake was the call, with Okinoumi picking up his first win while Yoshikaze fell to 0-2.

Finally, sanyaku. Takakeisho fought Takakeisho’s bout. Shohozan was just along for the ride. Once those T-Rex arms get going…look out. If you’re in the crowd, you may end up with a rikishi in your lap. So, while Shohozan (0-2) conversed with the second row spectators, Takakeisho (2-0) strolled over to pick up his kensho envelopes.

Tamawashi learned from Takakeisho’s bout and blasted Shodai off the dohyo. The blueprint against Shodai is just like what you learn playing tennis and golf. Follow through. Rather than bouncing off at the initial charge, you’ve got to just keep running through and do not let Shodai get a hand of the mawashi or space to regroup. Tamawashi was all attack and picked up his second win while Shodai is 0-2.

Takayasu picked up his first win in controversial style against Myogiryu. This was a gift as Takayasu was clearly down first while Myogiryu was still in the air. Takayasu was looking solid, had good tsuppari going and great position in the center of the dohyo. But then he lowered his shoulder and bulldozed into Myogiryu, who appeared to everyone to successfully jump out of the way as Takayasu fell to the dohyo…but no mono-ii.

Take Nishikigi and Tochinoshin, plop them in the middle of the ring, both with firm two-handed grips of each other’s mawashi. I ask you, “Who wins?” Not in a million years would I have said Nishikigi. Tochinoshin even did his textbook lift today but it came up a few feet short, and that appears to be the difference. As Nishikigi’s feet came down, he was able to use his belt grip to throw Tochinoshin. Two Ozeki scalps in two days and the same absolutely bewildered look as he picked up another fat stack of kensho-kin.

Goeido gave it his all against Hokutofuji today. His mistake, the pull. He drove Hokutofuji to the edge but couldn’t get him over. So they regrouped in the middle of the dohyo. Rather than be patient and try again to drive forward, Goeido decided he wanted to end it now. So he backed up but ran out of real estate as Hokutofuji maintained his balance and ran the ozeki out for his second loss in two days. 6 ozeki bouts, 5* losses…with an asterisk on the one win. Unbelievable. Well, pretty soon they’ll be facing off against each other so some will have to win.

Someone finally got it through to Kisenosato that he needs to shift his style because of his injury. He tried with all his might to push the big boulder it was for naught. The pivotal moment came early when Kisenosato was laying into Ichinojo but Ichinojo was able to easily manhandle the Yokozuna and yank him around like a My Little Pony. Rather than try to expend energy and drive through Kisenosato, the Mongolian used his positional advantage, and adequate space for a pull, to unleash a hatakikomi pull down. He claimed a gold star and made it look effortless. This Ichinojo is dangerous, and 2-0. Kisenosato is 0-2 and on intai watch.

Mitakeumi sent more shockwaves through Kokugikan as he simply pushed Kakuryu off the dohyo. Kakuryu seemed to want the leverage of the tawara, letting Mitakeumi drive him like a blocking sled to the edge. But when his feet hit the tawara, Mitakeumi’s attack kept coming and the Yokozuna never had a chance to offer a counter-attack or to try to deflect and dance his way to victory. Kakuryu falls to 1-1 and is likely only saved from his own intai-watch by the hapless Kisenosato.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, however, was saved for the Boss. His Houdini-like escape from a Tochiozan throw only emphasizes the dire state of the senior sanyaku. We saw a tantalizing glimpse of the old Hakuho against Myogiryu yesterday. We were so eager for him to destroy the maegashira from Kochi and show us all that he’s back and ready for another yusho run.

All that was shattered, however, as Tochiozan got his left hand on the Boss’s mawashi, spun the Boss around and up to the very edge. Hakuho’s tune-up must have come with a new set of brakes because just as it looked like he was done and Tochiozan had the biggest kinboshi story, screeeeech! Hakuho brought his momentum to a stop and gently guided Tochiozan out. Tochiozan falls to 0-2, Hakuho escapes and improves to 2-0. He’s clearly still the Boss…but for how long?

30 thoughts on “Hatsu Day 2 Highlights

  1. Myogiryu was clearly robbed, and it wasn’t even close. Is it just me, or does Takayasu benefit from an unusual number of these decisions? His “win” against Mitakeumi in Nagoya comes to mind…

    • The crowd ABSOLUTELY didn’t agree with that decision. The amount of negative murmuring that happened was flat out stunning. I agree with them too. That was a shady as hell decision.

    • I didn’t think it was clear at all. I was surprised that Takayasu got the nod w/o a judges conference but Myogiru’s forced leap away landed him well out of the ring and even off the clay entirely. As soon as he left the ground he had no chance of remaining in.

      That’s not to say I 100% support the call, takayasu hit the ground a lot faster than the typical ‘flying corpse’ (or whatever they call it) ruling. But I don’t think it was inherently out of line with past calls generally.

  2. The commentators mentioned that Kotoyuki has all four fingers taped together, rather than two and two, and in a way that makes it impossible to grab a mawashi. Conclusion: he is gambling entirely on oshi. If you get him by the belt, it’s bowling time. But Meisei didn’t get that grab.

    Takarafuji didn’t just fall. Kaisei pulled him by the arm.

    Re Takayasu, we had this argument several times in the past. If both wrestlers are flying, it doesn’t really matter who touches down first. The decision is based on who initiated the attack.

    What I loved about Nishikigi/Tochinoshin wasn’t just Nishikigi’s apparent new Popeye-the-sailor-man-on-enhanced-spinach power. It was that return makikae. Tochinoshin got a makikae and nearly had him in a fatal morozashi, but nishikigi used that transition to perform one of his own, so they ended up in hidari-yotsu instead. And then he goes and performs that lovely uwatenage. It’s not just muscle, it’s also technique.

    Goeido’s right arm can’t produce any force. That muscle tear is seriously limiting him. He couldn’t give Hokutofuji his normal pincer attack. Then he had to pull, then it was over.

    The Ichinojo-Kisenosato bout followed a series of mattas that broke whatever spirit the faux-Yokozuna still has. Ichinojo has lately become his kryptonite.

    Kakuryu underestimated Mitakeumi’s combination of muscle and weight.

    Hakuho… always has a plan B, plan C, and apparently, a plan X. He planted his right foot in the small space he had between himself and the tawara and used it to give himself that angular momentum for a pirouette above the bales. If he hadn’t had that surgery, the rain of zabuton would have started for sure. That wry grin. He escaped by the skin of his teeth, but those teeth seem to have quite a few layers of skin. Someone noted on Twitter that Hakuho practices – and tells his stablemates to practice – staying in the ring as much as possible. Not to give up even in practice sessions (which is something common – you see a wrestler pushed to the bales so he just gives in and tries another bout).

    • Is it here that I’ve seen Kotoyuki called “The Penguin” because of how his hands are taped? I agree with your assessment about his strategy because he definitely can’t grab anything.

      Watching the replay, as soon as Tochinoshin went to put him down Nishikigi shifted his feet for that uwatenage. An absolutely stunning reaction and perfectly done.

      After seeing the mattas between Kise and Ichinojo I was wondering if Kise was trying to get Ichinojo to let him control the tachiai. That obviously didn’t work.

      • Don’t think you can blame Kise for those matas. They were almost comical and iniated by Ichinojo. I guess Ichinojo was a bit nervous, because it has been a long time that he was favoured against a Yokozuna. Later on he proved exactly why. Kisenosato just had no juice at all to move him even the slightest.

    • Nishikigi’s technique and balance seems to have a reached a new personal best level in the last few bashos.

    • After the genuine sadness of Kisenosato’s bout, that twinkle* in Hakuho’s eye when he twirled his way to victory was kind of delightful. You can all but hear him think “yeah, the old man’s still got it!”

      Twinkling offer not valid in Nihon Sumō Kyōkai. Consult a doctor if your twinkling last past 2020 Olympics.

  3. Andy, you wrote: “Kagayaki came charging like a Pamplona bull.” Exactly, and he did it repeatedly. And, most importantly, he did it with his head down. In the past, he’s employed a head-up, relatively upright style. At least in this bout, he abandoned his usual style and charged forward like a human battering ram with his head down. Inevitably, this approach resulted in at least three head butts, the last of which opened a wound in Sadanoumi’s forehead. I’d guess that this style will make him unpopular with opponents if he continues to deploy it.

    Concerning this overlong Kisenosato psychodrama, it is entirely driven by the policy of not demoting yokozuna. If Kise was fighting at a rank appropriate to his diminished ability (as does former ozeki Kotoshogiku), it would be fun for everyone. Might there ever be some consideration given to changing this policy?

    • No? There is zero chance of them ever deciding Yokozuna is a rank that can be lost. Nor should that ever happen. Kisenosato is done. He could barely compete as an M8 at this point. Why would you want to diminish the value of a grand champion if the value in that is watching Kisenosato fumble around for a couple years as he falls down the banzuke and retires in Juryo?

    • The NSK once wanted to demote Yokozuna. There was such a public outrage about it, feeling that the NSK was abusing the ancient traditions under their custody. As a result the YDC was set up.

      No, there will be no Yokozuna demotions. What is a Yokozuna if he can be demoted? The title becomes meaningless. It would be like allowing the use of hands in soccer. It will no longer be soccer.

      The problem is not with that rule. The problem is that Kisenosato is not keeping his part of the deal. Sumo would have done well enough without him if he had retired a year ago. There are enough rikishi to fill the rank-and-file lines.

  4. I agree that Chiyoshouma’s henka was a smart move, but I’m pretty surprised he went for it this early in a tournament. I’d expect a HNH into a throw before an “OLE!” style henka. Perhaps that’s why he did it.

  5. Nishikigi has his eyes on climbing sanyaku, big time. He has exhibited good technique and composure under pressure against a number of top rikishi. We love to see it

    • It’s just so surprising for me. He was maintaining M13-M16 for so long. Now sanyaku? I don’t know… I want to see him against healthy competition. Can he take on Tamawashi?

    • Actually, he said he was aiming to become Yokozuna. I was thinking at the time “Good luck with that”. I may have to prepare an edible hat in a year or two…

  6. New here …but long time reader.
    The sleeping giant ? Is he finaly awake ? Perhaps…
    Nishikigi ? I nicknamed him “the black frog”, I dont know why , it sounds funny. The black frog suddenly starts to leap. This yusho he already did two big leaps. 28 years old, mediocre makuuchi riskishi … until last basho. Does his time come to prevail ?
    Hakuho , for sure, tooks , in his past, some lessons at Bolshoi Theatre :). His ballerina skill was awsome. He should be the prime solist in “Swan Lake” .
    Fakesato – I hope for intai. I am disgusted seeing what he shows, I never liked him but now it is just a shadow, a pale copy of what he shows in the past.
    I am a fan of Kak, but today, Mitakeumy over-POWERED him in big style. No-comment.
    Insane yusho . Let’s enjoy it !

  7. Did anyone besides me hear Murray Johnson’s muffled crack about John Gunning’s girlfriend Charity?

  8. myogiryu was robbed
    especially since he was the one who initiated the attack, flying nimbly into the air while throwing takayasu to the dirt

  9. Insane! Apart from my boys all going down on day2 the upsets are leaving me very happy (except for Myogiryu being robbed).. Hokutofuji, Ichinojo v2 , and our Hatsu poster boy Nishikigi 👓 – what’s day 3 gonna bring??

  10. The thing about Nishikigi is, he’s really big. Like, pretty huge, and with a great build for sumo. It’s just that he had middling skills, middling drive, and I think probably middling confidence. I don’t know if his fairy godmother is going to come back soon and demand her magic back, but somehow he’s jumped up several skill and/or luck levels. I’m not sure even he can believe the run he’s been on but if this is somehow permanent it would be the most shocking upheaval in sumo I could have imagined a year ago.

    God love him, the guy learned to fight!

  11. I wonder if Ichinojo was matta-ing because he was quite aware that the results of the match would influence the calls for retirement. That said, the match should’ve been over far faster once it did start. It shouldn’t have taken that long for Ichinojo to dispatch Kise in the latter’s current state =-\

  12. One of the basic pleasures that I love most about Sumo is seeing an enourmous guy suddenly twirl on his tippy-toes right at the edge and turn defeat into victory. So this was a wonderful day’s Sumo for me! First my beloved Abi pulled it off against Ikioi. Then Onosho pulls off an even prettier twirl against Daiesho. But the best is saved for last when the wily old demi-god himself executes a double-twirl escaping from Tochiozan.
    Bravo! Encore!

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