With Day 1 of the 2019 Haru honbasho in the books, the most unique tournament in sumo is officially underway. I have to say, I like the Haru basho the most of the non-Tokyo venues, and am looking forward to bringing everyone coverage of the tournament live from Osaka later this week.
What notable news do we have to report? Well, Terunofuji is IN, and Ura is OUT – and to those asking – unlikely to be seen before Aki at the earliest. At the top level, Chiyonokuni is the first makuuchi name to hit the kyujo list. As for Terunofuji, he fought – and won – in his long awaited return to the dohyo on Day 1, but it was clear that he’s not in anything resembling sumo form, never mind the Terunofuji we know from his heyday. It would be wise to maintain measured optimism for the rest of his tournament without looking too far down the line, on the basis of the early evidence. We’ll see our first glimpse of our favorite Texan sumotori, Wakaichiro, on Day 2, as he makes his return to Sandanme.
So, how did the top rankers get on? After we’ve seen several tournaments chock full of early shocks, did we have any today? You’ll just have to read on…
Day 1 Results
Chiyoshoma defeats Shimanoumi – Chiyoshoma just can’t henka soon enough. This bout was so anticlimactic, and not the way you want to open a basho. It was hard to learn much from that, apart from that Juryo visitor Shimanoumi will have to get streetwise to the henka if and when he does make it to the top division.
Yutakayama defeats Daishoho – Welcome to the top division Daishoho! Yutakayama starts with a nodowa and then blocks all of Daishoho’s attempts to get anything going, before finishing him off with a simple oshidashi. This is the sumo Yutakayama needs to show on a consistent basis.
Ishiura defeats Kotoeko – There are about four matches in this match. Ishiura predictably starts low and gets to the side, locking up Kotoeko’s arms. He drives him back several times before losing his grip, and it looks like Kotoeko may seize the advantage when Ishiura tries to pull. But, the little man reacts wildly with a number of (missed) roundhouses before dragging Kotoeko back across the dohyo, where Kotoeko gets twisted down very awkwardly on his knee and looks visibly pained. Good stuff from Ishiura, and the knee will be a worry for Kotoeko.
Toyonoshima defeats Terutsuyoshi – The crowd is very appreciative of Toyonoshima’s win on his top division return. Hiro Morita actually predicted him as a yusho contender in the NHK Preview show, so if you thought Andy was wild with his Tamawashi yusho prediction last year, think again. Terutsuyoshi takes the initiative from the tachiai twice, driving the larger man back but can’t finish him off. The vet ultimately hits the pulldown. Again, if there’s a teachable moment to a newcomer, it’s that maybe Terutsuyoshi can be more streetwise at this level.
Tomokaze defeats Kagayaki – One thing that’s remarkable about Tomokaze is that physically he looks very much the part of a top division rikishi. If you were bracing for an oshi fight, he’s not going to oblige, and it’s clear from the off he’s not one of these pusher/thrusters that comes up to the top division with no plan B. This match is over in a second and it’s very good sumo from the new man. Kagayaki tried to get under his arms and lift him up from the tachiai, and as the tall man is bent over, Tomokaze simply pulls him down by the head in a very simple and decisive motion.
Yoshikaze defeats Meisei – Meisei goes with the silver mawashi/towel combination, which is a strong dedication to a colorless existence. He starts with all kinds of verve however and I even thought he might have even jumped the gun for a matta. Yoshikaze deals well however, and it’s a third consecutive pulling manoeuvre for a win. Meisei launches with all kinds of intention and flailing arms, but Yoshikaze won’t be moved. Eventually the veteran gets his arms on top, gets a hand on Meisei’s head and pulls for the white star.
Ryuden defeats Yago – Three Oguruma-beya rikishi take the dohyo in succession, but this time, the vaunted stable comes up empty. They say “start as you mean to go on” and so it’s no surprise that Ryuden, as usual, opens with a matta. This guy can’t get enough matta. Both men get a decent left hand grip, but Yago can’t really do anything with his, Ryuden is much more stable and pulls the throw, a shitatenage.
Ikioi defeats Shohozan – Ikioi’s ready for a new tournament with a whole suite of fresh looking bandages. He looks genki in front of his home crowd, and Shohozan is a great opponent for some heavy metal sumo. Shohozan pulls a hit and shift, but Ikioi isn’t buying any of it. It’s a brilliant move when it works against someone who lunges as much as Ikioi does, but if you don’t execute then you’re in trouble and Ikioi shoves the older rikishi out in one strong maneuver, and then picks up the spare by bowling him directly into the salt barrel in the process, with salt flying everywhere. There’s always something very fulfilling about seeing a rikishi flung straight into the salt barrel.
Kotoshogiku defeats Sadanoumi – Abema leads into this match with a very cheery Kotoshogiku interview. He utterly dominates Sadanoumi, even lifting him briefly off the ground at the tachiai. This is vintage Kotoshogiku. He immediately starts the hug and chug, and it’s over less than 4 seconds later.
Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – This ends in a nice sukuinage from Asanoyama. As predicted, Takarafuji plays a mostly defensive game, as Asanoyama has to work to turn his initial tsuppari attack into a winning strategy. Eventually Asanoyama is able to lock both of Takarafuji’s arms. His winning move ultimately could be the “chug and hug.” After moving Takarafuji clear across the dohyo, and having both arms inside, he finally gets the leverage to toss him down.
Aoiyama defeats Abi – Again, as predicted, this ends up with a furious Abi flailing arms at the boobous Bulgarian, whose strategy is just to keep him at arm’s length. As they hurtle toward the edge, Aoiyama steps to the side and Abi goes flying into the shimpan in comedy fashion, limbs spread everywhere.
Onosho defeats Okinoumi – Onosho has a lovely bow in his hair for his Abema interview. He starts right on the shikiri-sen while Okinoumi is well back, most of the way to the tawara. The run up does not work in Okinoumi’s favor as Onosho takes control of this from the beginning, keeping Okinoumi high, starting low, driving the man from Shimane-ken back and out. No ring rust from Onosho here.
Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – Ichinojo looks pretty genki here, though we did say that at the start of the last basho as well. Let’s see if he keeps it up 14 more days. Ichinojo takes the hit from Chiyotairyu, which moves him back briefly, but then lands a number of strong shoves which ultimately move Chiyotairyu off balance. He finishes the Kokonoe man with a tsukiotoshi.
Tochiozan defeats Shodai – In the lead up to this match, which happens just as NHK World went live, Abema shows more of the actual shiko while NHK decides to just show pictures of Takakeisho walking around and sitting down. Shodai spends most of the match in trouble and on the run after absorbing the tachiai, but he does show a lot of tenacity at least to stay in the match. This is kind of like watching your drunk friend on a mechanical bull – everyone knows they’re going to fall off but every second they stay on seems an order of magnitude more impressive. This all being said, Shodai doesn’t really get an opportunity to regroup and go on the offensive, and eventually Tochiozan wins with the katasukashi under shoulder swing down.
Tamawashi defeats Nishikigi – Tamawashi has abandoned his teal mawashi and that’s a real shame. I hate when rikishi have great success and then change up from a signature color. Teal was his signature look! The new mawashi is a very deep navy blue. This match requires a little more effort than Tamawashi maybe will have wanted. There’s a lot of hustle but not much bustle. One thing Nishikigi has been great at, especially in these last two basho in the joi, has been positioning himself as a less movable opponent. But it’s an oshi bout, and Nishikigi is not going to be able to go toe to toe with the reigning champion in that kind of fight. Eventually Tamawashi is able to pivot and march forward, shoving Nishikigi out.
Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – The speed from Takakeisho in this bout is incredible and the crowd loves it. Myogiryu takes the tachiai head on and in this kind of form that’s going to be a mistake. This is overwhelming sumo from Takakeisho and what a response to the concept that his last match against Goeido cost him his promotion – this was everything that wasn’t. He wins by tsukidashi. Over in a second, straightforward, and as the NHK team agrees, he’s got (probably) nine more to go.
Tochinoshin defeats Daieisho – Tochinoshin has abandoned his purple mawashi and I’m here for it. He’s gone back to the filthy looking grey thing that he was so dominant in, winning yusho and throwing around lesser men like bags of rotten miso. In spite of this, Tochinoshin gets in all kinds of trouble from the start and pushed back from the tachiai, but at the tawara he manages to hit the pulldown. This was dangerous stuff from Tochinoshin, it was kind of a Aminishiki-esque pulldown at the edge, but you wouldn’t call it masterful. Perhaps the kindest thing you can say is it’s the kind of pulldown attempt that always seems to see Yokozuna Kakuryu lose, but the Ozeki managed to nail it. Ultimately, it was a match he needed to win and he did.
Goeido defeats Endo – Goeido gets a rapturous applause as he mounts the dohyo. The noise is everything I love about the Haru Basho and am looking very much forward to being in the arena later this week. We start with a matta from Endo. On the restart, Goeido responds straight away with a face slap. Don’t matta Goeido! Goeido attacks with the pace that he’s known for, and it’s him at his best. He’s got Endo facing the wrong way and Endo is driven back and shoved out in a flash. Goeido gets an enormous stack of kensho and we see him clapped by the fans in the hallway on his way out, another one of this unique basho’s hallmarks. I’d go home more often too if I had that to look forward to!
Takayasu defeats Kaisei – As Takayasu takes the dohyo, Araiso Oyakata looks on in his new blue jacket. Kaisei gets the better of the tachiai, but both men lock up and few men can move forward successfully out of an endurance battle like Takayasu. He’s got a better grip than Kaisei, who can’t manoeuvre his arm into a meaningful position. Takayasu moves forward and wins by yorikiri.
Mitakeumi defeats Kakuryu – It’s amazing to see Mitakeumi with no bandaging on his knee at all – he says he felt he just didn’t need any. I didn’t think Mitakeumi’s footwork looked all that good at the start of this match but certainly his knee didn’t seem hobbled. Kakuryu starts moving forward with a nodowa and Mitakeumi looks a little slippery, but he grows into the match. Mitakeumi finally gets planted and moving forward, and Kakuryu is in all kinds of trouble, eventually getting spun out backwards. You don’t see a Yokozuna lose by okuridashi that often. I still think the goal for Mitakeumi has to be 8 wins but let’s see if he can maintain this form at least through the next few days before revising that at all. In the interview room after the match, Mitakeumi attributes to the win to his ability to take advantage of Kakuryu’s moving backward. We’ve heard that before.
Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – The musubi-no-ichiban is a bit of a non event, and Hakuho doesn’t get tested much here. This win is ruled a tsukiotoshi but this was less a win for Hakuho than a loss for Hokutofuji. Hokutofuji tried to get an angle around the outside to Hakuho’s left from the tachiai, but just slips and it’s over in a second. We won’t know more about the dai-yokozuna’s fitness and form until at least Day 2.