I think the headline today is that Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew prior to day 1 matches, leaving Hakuho as the lone Yokozuna for the tournament. Everyone hopes that he can survive all 15 days, but his recent history indicates that may not be a certain thing. Kakuryu went kyujo after injuring his lower back in practice. This is a part of his body that has given him a great deal of trouble in the past, and more or less would prevent a rikishi from doing much on the dohyo. We wish him a speedy recovery, though it is not incorrect to wonder if at 34 years of age the accumulated damage from years of high-intensity sumo have taken their toll. Asanoyama picks up a fusensho / freebie win on day 1.
But as is always the case with the first few days of any basho, there was a vast amount of ring-rust to be lost. Both from the rikishi (matta fest, Kyushu edition), the yobidashi and even the NHK commentators, who seemed at times to struggle a bit with the play by play. As Josh’s interview with Murray Johnson underscores – providing commentary for a sumo match is quite challenging, and even the pros at NHK World may need a day or two to tune up.
Azumaryu defeats Daishoho – Azumaryu gets a deep right hand inside at the tachiai, and in spite of some excellent defensive footwork by Daishoho, Azumaryu keeps pressing the attack and walks Daishoho out. Both men looked fairly rusty, but Azumaryu’s better sumo may underscore some of the “toss up” nature of the promotion / demotion groups coming out of Aki.
Wakatakakage defeats Daishomaru – The bottom man on the banzuke (Wakatakakage) underscores his status as a rising star of sumo. He comes in fast, low and strong against Daishomaru, who suddenly finds himself without a plan B. Congratulations to Wakatakakage for winning your first match in the top division.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Nishikigi – First try was a matta, and it looked like the second try should have been too, but the Gyoji decided they would fight on, and Nishikigi was a full step slower than Terutsuyoshi, who was lower and strong than Nishikigi. Although Nishikigi tried to set up his favored arm-lock hold, it was too late and he was already over the tawara.
Chiyomaru defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki got the better of the tachiai, and tried to guide the fight into a yotsu battle, but Chiyomaru stayed mobile, stayed thrusting and stalemated Kagayaki. Eager to once again close the gap between them, Kagayaki pressed forward strongly against little resistance from Chiyomaru, and got his weight well forward of his toes. Chiyomaru obliges with a Hatakikomi for the win.
Takanosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu looks encrusted with ring-rust. Get that man some WD-40 and a Scotch-Brite pad! Chiyotairyu charged forward with less than normal power, and immediately tried a neck pull, but Takanosho was ready and made Chiyotairyu pay. Takanosho showed superior defensive foot placement, and superior balance today.
Shodai defeats Ishiura – Ishiura went into this match knowing Shodai would bring a weak tachiai, and threw himself forward with gusto. But Shodai actually responded well, and although he remained far too upright, he advanced into Ishiura’s attack and drove the smaller rikishi back. Once Shodai had momentum, there was little Ishura was able to do to shut down Shodai’s advance.
Yutakayama defeats Shimanoumi – I am very happy that Yutakayama did not move too far up the banzuke, I favor a slow rise coming off of his injury that saw him relegated to Juryo for 2 basho. At first blush it might look like at Maegashira 16 with a 10-5 record he was under promoted, and his sumo today would support that view. Yutakayama focused on gaining and then exploiting the inside position. Once on defensive, Shimanoumi could do nothing more than respond. I still view Yutakayama as Asanoyama’s peer, and I am hoping for a strong and durable rivalry between these two.
Sadanoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Home town favorite Kotoshogiku goes out far too easily as Sadanoumi gets morozashi and never gives an inch. Kotoshogiku’s knees continue to slowly degrade, and his ability to transmit power to ground suffers as a result.
Shohozan defeats Kotoeko – Another local hero, Shohozan ejects a somewhat surprised Kotoeko with all of the nuanced subtlety of a bouncer at closing time.
Tsurugisho defeats Enho – Enho has not found a way to overcome Tsurugisho, and today was no exception. The traditional Enho submarine “pop” opening gambit set him up in his favored stance and position. Tsurugisho stayed calm and waited for Enho’s expected attack. When it came, and Enho raised Tsurugisho up, Tsurugisho expertly pivoted, pulling Enho off balance and down. Nice sumo.
Ryuden defeats Onosho – Onosho, too far forward and off balance? Why, yes! That is what happened today. I note this is the first match that Ryuden has won over Onosho in 4 attempts, so well done. I can’t help but think this match was lost when Onosho, at the tachiai, attacked Ryuden’s face and thereby gave up the center lane he would normally exploit for a thrusting attack. At least Onosho has the red mawashi on today.
Aoiyama defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki had the better tachiai, but there is just too much Aoiyama to be moved by normal means if his feet are set and his stance is stable. Kotoyuki found two meaty hands on the back of his neck pulling him forward, and that was the match.
Tamawashi defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze still seems to be willing to roll the dice on a strategy of always pulling, but pros like Tamawashi will stuff this back up your nose 9 times out of 10. Bring some better sumo, or learn to like the taste of Kyushu clay.
Takarafuji defeats Abi – Abi this he has this won, and maybe he mostly did. But up against Takarafuji, you can’t assume he actually stepped out. His ring sense is amazing, and his footwork is what you would expect from a master technician. Abi takes a defeat at the cusp of nearly certain victory. Watch this one in slow motion.. Abi’s footwork is wild and chaotic, Takarafuji controlled and efficient. Textbook lesson in defensive sumo.
Meisei defeats Tochinoshin – I have to say this is not a good sign for the Ozekiwake to make it to 10. Tochinoshin landed his preferred grip, and had control of the match, but could not convert it into a win. Part of the problem was Tochinoshin’s single minded focus on getting the left hand outside grip yielded morozashi to Meisei, and Meisei converted that to a smooth and effective shitatehineri.
Mitakeumi defeats Myogiryu – Good opening bout for Mitakeumi, he took the inside position against Myogiryu, and kept Myogiryu reacting rather than attacking. Mitakeumi stood him up, and then brought him down.
Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – Sloppy match from both men, but it was clear that Okinoumi was set up to absorb and deflect any wave-action attack that might come along. Takakeisho, instead of his normal double arm thrust, kept Okinoumi at an optimum distance with an armpit grip, and pushed with his lower body. Quite effective and somewhat unexpected. There was no apparent weakness on Takakeisho’s left side, which is great news.
Takayasu defeats Daieisho – Speaking of left-side worries, we can score none for Takayasu’s day 1 match where he dominated Daieisho. Takayasu looked strong, confident and committed to his attacks. Very good to see.
Endo defeats Goeido – In tradition Goeido style, he tried to win the match in the first 3 seconds, but Endo was able to absorb his opening gambit. From there it was a battle that increasingly favored Endo as the clock ran on. The biggest concern for me was the twisting fall Goeido took at the end, and appears to land on the ankle that was painstakingly rebuilt with surgery 2 years ago. We hope the Ozeki is ok. Oh yes, and the ultra-mega painful interview with Endo following the final match. If this guy ever gets a yusho, that interview will be one for the ages.
Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Hakuho gets his revenge for day 1 of Aki, as “The Boss” completely disrupts any offense the Koumsubi was hoping to bring. With Hokutofuji hideously off balance, Hakuho applies the hatakikomi and Hokutofuji gets a face full of clay.