Now that the training bouts and special events are over, it’s showtime. Blood has been shed, kensho has been claimed, salt has been brushed away, and power water has been purged, we have learned a bit.
Race for the Yusho
Even with one kinboshi yielded on the first day, the Yokozunae are still the favorites to win. But who are we kidding, Endo’s still in it! He’s just got off to a rough start, knocking off a bit of ring rust. Or more precisely, having the ring rust knocked out of him by the sport’s new top dog. With Hakuho still in recovery, Kakuryu is rightly anchoring the East.
Clearly, Hokutofuji’s off to a great start, and he was absolutely chuffed after today’s fantastic win. The way he drove forward reminded me of…Goeido from the bout before. Juggernaut’s strength is bulldozing his opponents, advancing. Always advancing.
Takakeisho is hunting for 10, certainly not 15. I doubt anyone out there, even among his most ardent supporters, was expecting him to bounce back competing for a title in his come-back tournament. He had his hands full against Daieisho and that is not a good sign. It was a surprise he kept his feet and won this bout.
Race for the Exits
Tochinoshin’s knee is looking terrible. Gunning called it after the quick Ichinojo throw when he noted that GETTING UP was difficult. He had to keep the leg straight. I was reminded of when my Grandmother was in her eighties. OK, that was harsh. I was reminded of the aftermath of last month’s 5K when I couldn’t bend my knee after pushing myself to a fourth personal best in a row. Dr. Google calls it an IT Band and says no one really knows how to cure it. Ice and heating pads are good, maybe some pre-race stretching will help. I really hope his doctor is better than Dr. Google.
Hakuho’s loss was troubling for me. A slap to start the bout and full retreat from there, ending in a light shower of purple rain. As Bruce reported a few days ago, the Dai-Yokozuna has been granted Japanese citizenship. That was followed soon after by an announcement from Sokokurai along the same lines, as Herouth noted below. He looked positively spry crab-walking Kotonowaka out of the ring for his first win of the tournament, though. While Tochinoshin’s exit, due to injury, may be upon us sooner than any of us expected, these two are making moves off the dohyo to start their next chapter.
Race for Sanyaku
Enho’s win against Onosho today was an absolute gem. On the ropes at several points during the bout, it was definitely his bout to lose…until he twisted around and plucked a win from thin air. Terutsuyoshi dispatched a resurgent Kotoyuki. That pixie dust is potent. Of the four, who do you think will reach sanyaku first? One of those who has been there before? Or one the pixies?
Tomokaze’s even more rapid rise continues. His opponent today, Abi, is by this point a seasoned Makuuchi wrestler. Tomokaze studied that hatakikomi vulnerability and wasted no time dispatching the tadpole. Should Tomokaze be granted tadpole status? Or is his rise something else?
Race for Sekitori
In makushita and below, we’re only half-way through the first set of bouts. Several key ones are tonight, with Hoshoryu against Akiseyama and Chiyootori facing Tsurubayashi. With Naya losing his first bout against the veteran Toyohibiki, sekitori hopes for 2019 are likely for naught but 2020 is around the corner. The makushita joi is rough but the churn in the top ranks has yet to settle.
Chiyonokuni’s return was marked with a slapfest. I would put money on all seven of his bouts being fought this way, far from the belt. I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes kyujo if he manages four wins early in the tournament but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he’s hoping for yusho. Chiyonokuni’s injury forced him to fall much lower than his abilities and a return to the salaried ranks in early 2020.