It was a tadpole playoff for the cup, and you know I was overjoyed. Well done to all competitors who made the final weekend of the basho one to remember. Congratulations Mitakeumi on his second yusho!
Thus ends Aki 2019, which many fans (myself included) will consider a departure from what we have come to accept as normal. As the team at Tachiai have written in the past, in absence of strong ur-Rikihsi such as Hakuho in a basho, new heroes shall rise. If nothing else, the past 18 months in sumo has taught us that. Today we saw the second yusho for Mitakeumi. As with his prior yusho, he is on the path toward Ozeki again, and maybe this time he can finish the evolution. The departure of the “old guard” is accelerating now, and the field is being swept clean for a new order that will bring with it new rivalries, new defeats and new triumphs. It’s a great time to be a sumo fan.
It will come to no surprise to the readers of Tachiai that out of the new leaders, we find Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Takakeisho and Mitakeumi. These are rikishi we have been watching evolve, coming into the power band where youth, strength, stamina, skill and sheer determination create legends. But don’t expect the fading kings of sumo to go out without a fight. In fact I had expected this basho to be the one where Kakuryu and Hakuho were both genki and brutally beat the new generation at every turn. But perhaps the fade is harder and faster than I assumed, or maybe my timing is off.
Tachiai congratulates Mitakeumi on his second yusho, it was masterfully done, and your sumo continues to energize.
Chiyoshoma defeats Takagenji – Aannnnnd HENKA! (Like Hollywood, sumo seems addicted to crummy sequels)
Kagayaki defeats Azumaryu – Kagayaki stayed as low as he could, and stayed focused on center mass. Kagayaki really has not had his sumo “together” this basho, so I am wondering if he’s got some kind of injury that is disrupting his normally excellent form. The Azumaryu nostalgia effect is gone, and I think he’s going to be a candidate rebuild in Juryo.
Yutakayama defeats Shohozan – Yutakayama wins a yotsu match! Sort of an unusual form for these two to take, but I loved it. Check out Yutakayama’s footwork! He was employing almost a gaburi-yori attack there.
Onosho defeats Tsurugisho – I love the Onosho story for this basho. He came in still hurting from his surgery, his balance was poor, his sumo was disorganized. He put on his classic red mawashi that led us to label him on his first run up the banzuke “The Tadpole Red Menace”. After a fairly cold start, he closed with 6 straight wins to go 9-6. No knock against Tsurugisho, who opened 10-5 in his debut Makuuchi posting.
Enho defeats Sadanoumi – Enho tries, and eventually succeeds in getting a left hand inside grip, and uses that to run the table. What’s fun about Enho’s size is that he is small enough that his hips are about 4″ lower than Sadanoumi’s, so cocking the eventual shitatenage is rather simple mechanics for him. Enho will be mid-Maegashira for Kyushu, so some new opponents to test against, I can’t wait.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi tries for his favored arm-bar, but finds that the “death clench” works both ways. Terutsuyoshi grabs an arm and pulls him into a rarely seen sakatottari. Even if he is relegated back to Juryo, it’s wonderful to see Terutsuyoshi close out the basho with a great win and a great move.
Kotoshogiku defeats Tochiozan – Aannnnnd HENKA! Well, but it does not work, as Kotoshogiku is waiting for it. I don’t blame Tochiozan for trying it, he has to know he is facing demotion to Juryo, and would rather not end up there. And indicator of how hurt Tochiozan is would be how weak that henka attempt was.
Shimanoumi defeats Daishoho – Daishoho opened strong early, but Shimanoumi rallied and put him down. Both end with a miserable 5-10 recored for Aki.
Kotoyuki defeats Shodai – Shodai gets an opening to win a couple of times, but can’t make any of them pay out. Really sad to see him close out 3-12, but it was quite impressive sumo form Kotoyuki today, who threw everything he could at Shodai, and took the match.
Ishiura defeats Tamawashi – The first of our Darwin matches features a false start, as both want this one badly, and both suspect the other of a henka at the tachiai. Ishiura gets inside quickly, and robs Tamawashi of his mobility, and rapidly focus his pressure on his abdomen and advances. It’s over in a hurry, and Ishiura manages his kachi-koshi, and rescues himself from the growing log-jam of Juryo-qualified Maegashira.
Tomokaze defeats Chiyotairyu – I apologize dear readers, but am I ever tired of the reverse-gear sumo from Tomokaze. A win is a win, but it’s a shame to see so much talent and so much potential sidelined for this kind of sumo. Chiyotairyu ends with 2-13, the lowest finishing score for any man who fought day 15.
Daieisho defeats Kotoeko – Second Darwin match, and boy did these two really turn up the power. It’s a full hybrid battle-plan as they swap between yotsu and oshi at will. But Daieisho prevails and takes his 8th win. Fantastic sumo from both today.
Meisei defeats Asanoyama – Meisei surprises Asanoyama with his first ever win, and I can tell he put a lot of thought and prep into this match. Meisei when right hand inside at the tachai, and kept himself close to 90° to Asanoyama, not allowing Asanoyama to advance and push Meisei back. Of course Asanoyama pivots to correct that, and Meisei uses this rotational force to whip Asanoyama around and put him on the bales. As Asanoyama is focused on rescuing himself from that mistake, Meisei goes mae-mitzu, and goes in for the kill. Nice sumo Meisei!
Ryuden defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama fires up the big V-Twin power today, but he is lacking the forward pressure from his lower body to make it work. Ryuden figures this out and steps to the side, grabs an arm and pulls Aoiyama to the clay. Tough basho for Big Dan the man-mountain. I hope he can get his health back soon.
Hokutofuji defeats Takarafuji – Here it was again, it’s as if Hokutofuji’s lower body is working on its own. After grappling at the tachiai, Takarafuji actually defeats the upper body of Hokutofuji. But Hokutofuji’s lower body is not conceding a thing, and keeps him in the fight, off-balance with arms spread at the tawara. Takarafuji assumes that’s the end, but that lower body is still fighting, turns more or less on it’s own to square Hokutofuji’s hips against Takarafuji and drives. A moment later the upper body catches up and puts both hands on Takarafuji’s chest. Odd but amazing sumo from Hokutofuji today. He won the last 8 matches in a row.
Myogiryu defeats Abi – First match was inconclusive as they touched down / out together, and a torinaoshi was called. The second match, Abi tried to pull as Myogiryu went inside and pushed, giving the match to Myogiryu. Congrats to Myogiryu for coming back from kyujo and picking up 8.
Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – Takakeisho goes for the armpits at the tachiai and never gives up the hold. Sort of a different attack style from the “wave action” one might expect, but it got the job done smartly.
Mitakeumi defeats Endo – Endo tried for a left hand inside grip at the tachiai, but quickly discovered this was a denshamichi match, Mitakeumi was in Shinkansen mode. The Tadpole playoff is a go!
Goeido defeats Tochinoshin – Goeido gets a excellent left hand outside grip and exploits Tochinoshin’s knee-less left leg with great effect. Tochinoshin has no power to stop the spin and push into the west side zabuton. I am really worried that Tochinoshin has nothing left in that knee, and we may not be seeing a graceful decline like we saw with Kotoshogiku.
THE PLAYOFF – Takakeisho’s propensity to push then pull at the tachiai has become easy to predict. Clearly Mitakeumi did, and figured if Takakeisho was going to give up forward pressure, he could take a trip to the tawara. Takakeisho realizes his opening gambit failed spectacularly, and tries to hold back Mitakeumi at the edge. But Mitakeumi lowers his hips and pushes, and wins.
Thank you dear readers for sharing your Aki Basho with us. We have had an absolute blast covering this tournament for the past two weeks. Be sure to stay with us as we cover the weeks leading up to the next tournament, November’s Kyushu basho.