At last we are on the cusp of the first tournament of 2020, and as we count down the last few hours till Shonichi, sumo fans are giddy with the possibility that we may have a more or less full roster to start the basho. Both Yokozuna are starting, though Kakuryu seems to be a bit fragile. We have a high stakes drama with Takayasu needing 10 wins against the toughest men in sumo to re-take his Ozeki rank. All of this against the back drop of the transition era, where the old guard are having to fend off increasingly genki young challengers.
Expect some sloppy sumo, expect some ring-rust from the rikishi, the shimpan, the gyoji, maybe even some on the yobidashi. It takes a day or two for everyone to snap into basho condition, especially after the new years break.
With the dohyo now consecrated, it’s time to start fighting.
What We Are Watching Day 1
Hey, I am going to be in the Kokugikan, I am watching it all!
Chiyoshoma vs Tokushoryu – Chiyoshoma visit from Juryo to make up for the lack of Kotoyuki in the top division. He has a habit of handing Tokushoryu losses, so it may be a tough opening day for the bottom man in Makuuchi.
Kiribayama vs Kaisei – Welcome back to Kaisei. He looked solid and confindent in Juryo in November, and we hope he continues his good sumo into January. Kiribayama can use his superior mobility as a distinct advantage here, and may be able to start with a win.
Tochiozan vs Ikioi – Battle of the storied veterans. I am so excited to see Ikioi back in the top division! Tochiozan has the speed and technique advantage. Ikioi has a size, strength and just sheer force of will advantage. I expect ring rust galore in this match.
Azumaryu vs Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi had a tough tournament in November (6-9), and he’s up against the Juryo yusho winner in Azumaryu for their first match.
Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoeko – Kotoeko finished Kyushu 5-10, and he’s going to get a face full of power-pixie to start January. Their records show them as evenly matched, but I would give an advantage to Terutsuyoshi on opening day.
Kotoshogiku vs Chiyomaru – Oddly enough, these two have only fought once before, and Chiyomaru won their November match. Due to problems with his body, Kotoshogiku continues to fade, and I would expect him to struggle in January.
Tsurugisho vs Kagayaki – Mr Fundamentals (Kagayaki) turned in a roaring 10-5 performance in November, and I have to wonder how he only moved up 2 ranks. Ah well, the banzuke committee may have had other problems to fix. Tsurugisho will be trying to bounce back from his regrettable 6-9 score in Kyushu.
Chiyotairyu vs Ishiura – Ishiura took a fine and a repremand from the sumo association for a practice session that devolved into blows with a junior rikishi. Let’s hope that overflowing fighting spirit sustains him through January. I would love to see him continue to implement his high strength small-man sumo.
Sadanoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama is still on the road to recovery form his injury in 2018 that saw him relegated to Juryo. For a time, he was a peer of Asanoyama, and I think that is his rightful place, if he can fight his way back to that level. Sadanoumi is no easy start for Yutakayama, as Yutakayama has a 3-5 career deficit against him.
Takanosho vs Ryuden – Another injury story, after getting hurt in late 2018, Takanosho limped his way down to Juryo, and muddled about there for almost a year. He came back with vigor, and ended Kyushu with an excellent 10-5 score. He takes his sumo agains Ryuden, who has not been fighting well the past 2 tournaments. I expect some ring rust in this match.
Aoiyama vs Onosho – I really like Onosho at this rank, he is just outside of the joi-jin, and I think that he’s poised to cause some real trouble in mid Makuuchi. Of course his balance continues to be a trouble, and his tendency to get too far forward is one I am certain Aoiyama is eager to exploit.
Shohozan vs Tochinoshin – Is there much that is more sad that former Ozeki Tochinoshin kicking around in mid-Maegashira? Maybe facing “Big Guns” Shohozan on day 1 can cheer him up. That damaged knee of Tochinoshin’s is the thing to watch. If he’s gotten that under control, he is going to be lifting and shifting anything and everything he can grab.
Takarafuji vs Enho – Takarafuji is the epitome of methodical sumo. He’s going to have a tough time with the high-mobility, high-energy Enho will have in his first match at this, his highest ever rank.
Meisei vs Shodai – Meisei has yet to win once against Shodai, and frankly I hope that Shodai comes in with a minimum of ring-rust, and is looking sharp and aggressive.
Abi vs Okinoumi – This match has heaps of potential, Abi’s long-arm technique against the veteran Okinoumi, who has shown in the past he can break up and disrupt Abi-zumo.
Tamawashi vs Takayasu – Takayasu’s long, hard climb back to Ozeki starts with the man who gave him the injury in the first place. Is there a score to settle here? I would think there is, but Takayasu is a consummate professional. I expect he will calmly blast Tamawashi from the dohyo.
Asanoyama vs Mitakeumi – Two under-card 2019 yusho winners head to head on day 1? What a great idea! Mitakeumi has a very difficult path to re-take san’yaku after his disastrous 6-9 in Kyushu. But I think that Asanoyama is going to be strong still than what we saw in November. This is probably going to be a good, solid fight.
Hokutofuji vs Goeido – Both of them are fast, and throw everything into their opening move at the tachiai. I would guess that if Hokutofuji can blunt Goeido’s opening gambit, he will frustrate the Ozeki, and then he just has to wait for Goeido to try and pull.
Takakeisho vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu has never won against Takakeisho, and I would expect that the Grand Tadpole will once again give Myogiryu a wave action ride to a black star.
Endo vs Kakuryu – Time to check to see how fragile Kakuryu is. He was only moving forward about half the time in work-up bouts leading up to the start of this tournament. He’s facing down master technician Endo, who is facing down a 2-12 career record against the Yokozuna.
Hakuho vs Daieisho – The Boss starts his tournament with an unpleasant 135 kg reminder of this kinboshi he gave away in November. Oh, and an earlier kinboshi at Aki 2 months before. I think Daieisho is not Hakuho’s favorite rikishi, but Daieisho is going to try to surprise the Yokozuna again. I bet Hakuho is so ready for a bit of pay-back that you have to hope nobody gets hurt.