As Team Tachiai has pronounced many times, we are in a transitional era in sumo. Some steadfast favorites are closing in on the end of their careers, and the next generation continue to build skill, confidence and strength. I had assumed that Hatsu would be the last stand of the old guard, before they faded into the soft focus of fond memories. But following day 3 at the Kokugikan, we may be deeper into the transition than I had thought.
It was a tough day to be a Yokozuna, it’s been a tough start for both Yokozuna: They are currently sitting at 1 win and 2 losses each. Goeido has a dismal 0-3 start, and only Takakeisho seems to be able to carry his rank as of today. It’s no coincidence that Takakeisho is also the vanguard of the new generation, the first to reach Ozeki, but I am certain he will soon have company.
The pressure on Hakuho and Kakuryu will be enormous at this point. Both of them have personal goals that demand they stay in the sport a bit longer. But to keep the young wolves snapping at their heels require that the Yokozuna muster the fighting spirit to return to dominance. This may get ugly.
Kaisei defeats Hidenoumi – Juryo visitor Hidenoumi finds massive Kaisei too much to handle, as he manages to be lower at the tachiai, and land a deep left hand mawashi hold moments later. From there it’s forward march, and Hidenoumi has no defensive footing to stop that much rikishi on the move.
Tokushoryu defeats Tochiozan – Tokushoryu’s “Cab Forward Design” robs Tochiozan of any real offensive positioning. Coupled with a broadside of tsuppari to the face, it’s another black star for Tochiozan.
Kiribayama defeats Ikioi – Ikioi fought like a lion to return to the top division, but he has suffered a cold start. Now at dismal 0-3, he can’t seem to find a path to a win. Kiribayama gives way at the tachiai, retreating with resistance and pivoting before the bales to guide Ikioi away.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Azumaryu – Terutsuyoshi has started 3-0, and is looking surprisingly well balanced and energetic. His shorter stature gave him the inside, low position at the tachiai, and Azumaryu struggled to follow through with any offense.
Kotoeko defeats Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi probably thought he was winning this, but a neat pivot against Shimanoumi’s opening advance gave Kotoeko the win. Shimanoumi seemed to stand outside the tawara in a moment of disbelief. Trust me, it was just as puzzling in the Kokugikan, as about 20,000 people said, “Huh?”, then cheered.
Kotoshogiku defeats Tsurugisho – This morning I begged.. “Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, grant Kotoshogiku just a little more cartilage so that he might go out in a blaze of glory.” Rousing from his catnip hangover, the wish was granted. Against all odds, Kotoshogiku engaged the hug-n-chug machine, and bounced his way to his first win of the basho. The crowd in Tokyo cheered almost as loudly to see Kotoshogiku win once more as they did for Enho’s athletics.
Kagayaki defeats Chiyomaru – Kagayaki opens 3-0, and I really love his tactics against Chiyomaru today: a constant hit and shift that kept Chiyomaru turning to face him. Chiyomaru turns in a slightly smaller radius than the planet Venus, and it was not long before Kagayaki had Chiyomaru off balance and at his mercy. Kagayaki’s school of sumo fundamentals carries the day again.
Sadanoumi defeats Chiyotairyu – I give credit to Chiyotairyu for trying to expand his sumo, but he had some gambits not work today. His tachiai was solid, and had inside position. But his attempt at a pull was a failure, and his recovery effort to load a throw went down in flames. I suspect that he’s going to get it together at some point, and we may see enhanced sumo from him.
Yutakayama defeats Ishiura – Ishiura joins the 0-3 crowd, in spite of fighting well, and using straight ahead sumo. Its just that everything he does ends up mistimed or not quite on balance. He took the fight to Yutakayama today, but his evasion was a bit too “lofty” and Yutakayama took him apart.
Takanosho defeats Aoiyama – Takanosho hands “Big Dan” his first loss of the basho. To me it looked like Aoiyama was working his preferred “attack the face, the slap them down” approach, but his hand may have gotten close to or caught in Takanosho’s mage. That moment when he draws back was all the opening Takanosho needed to drive Aoiyama from the ring.
Shohozan defeats Onosho – Has Onosho re-injured that knee? His normally poor balance is downright pathetic right now, and Shohozan made fast work of him, sending him straight to the clay. As an Onosho booster, this kind of thing is tough to watch. Onosho starts Hatsu 0-3.
Ryuden defeats Tochinoshin – Ryuden’s tachiai was near perfect, and he had Tochinoshin locked up and pinned before the big Georgain could even get started. From there Tochinoshin struggled to break Ryuden’s hold, but Shin-Ikioi was latched in for the ride. Tochinoshin tried everything sort of a cricket bat to peel away from Ryuden, but with no effect. The former Ozeki takes his second loss.
Enho defeats Meisei – Japan loves Enho. Enho loves Japan. Enho becomes not harmful. Enho is a friend of all childrens. Enho’s sumo makes nature smile and dance. By the skill of our one true Enho, Meisei starts Hatsu 0-3.
Shodai defeats Takarafuji – I have a theory that Shodai is eating some kind of custom, high test natto, and the effect is much like Popeye and spinach. That maki-kai was awesome and completely shut down Takarafuji’s stalemate strategy. Shodai starts 3-0.
Tamawashi defeats Abi – An injured Abi has to fight Tamawashi twice thanks to a monoii, and seems to have further tweaked his knee in the process. Tamawashi was on form today, and dominated Abi, who has to hope he can pick up 8 wins from somewhere.
Takayasu defeats Mitakeumi – Takayasu showed a surprising amount of strength on his left today, and that surprised me. He gave Mitakeumi a solid fight, and managed a well timed side step in the teeth of a Mitakeumi advance followed by a thrust between the shoulders for the win. 8 more to go, Takayasu. Its a long and ugly road you travel.
Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – Asanoyama got his left hand outside almost immediately, but Okinoumi is strong and accomplished yotsu rikishi. The chest to chest battle was intense if it was brief, and Asanoyama proved himself stronger. Short of injury, I don’t see how this guy is not destined for higher rank soon.
Endo defeats Goeido – Japan has a fever for Endo. The hype in the Kokugikan for Endo was dripping from the rafters and echoing from the walls. Their champion of the new year did not disappoint as he dispatched the winless Goeido with gusto to advance to 3-0.
Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – Daieisho succeeded in standing the Ozeki up at the tachiai, but Takakeisho was ready, and went on the attack. Daieisho must have known his doom when Takakeisho broke contact and lunged into a double arm thrust. Daieisho stood up to 3 rounds of thrusts, but even stone would give way to Takakeisho once he lunges.
Hokutofuji defeats Kakuryu – Another kinboshi dropped today as Hokutofuji was able to land the a nodowa at the tachiai. Kakuryu could not capitalize on Hokutofuji being too far forward as the Yokozuna broke Hokutofuji’s neck-hold. Kakuryu pulled at Hokutofuji’s neck, but only fueled his own demise.
Myogiryu defeats Hakuho – The Boss goes down 2 straight days to rank and file opponents. This is a troubling sign, and I do not like where this leads. Hakuho was caught by surprise, too far forward and took committed to his armpit attack on Myogiryu. Better luck tomorrow, Boss.