It’s a tough time for fans of high ranking rikishi. Hakuho is out, Kakuryu is out, Takayasu is a long way from picking up his 10, and Goeido is struggling. Thankfully, Takakeisho is still doing well, and may even compete for the yusho this January.
But there is an enormous amount of high quality, exciting sumo taking place each day. Today the last rikishi who had not scored their first win, picked them up. For some it’s going to be a tough climb towards 8, but now everyone is at least on the path.
It’s been wonderful to be in Tokyo for the January tournament, and the sumo has been a notch or two higher than Kyushu, and that’s across the divisions. In Juryo, former Ozeki Terunofuji has started with a perfect 5-0, and is looking fighting fit and a bit unstoppable. Somehow we have Shodai, Kagayaki and Terustuyoshi all starting 5-0 in Makuuchi. The future is looking fantastic for sumo, and the talent just keeps rising to the top.
Day 5 Matches
Tokushoryu defeats Azumaryu – I don’t recall the last time I saw Tokushoryu this genki. The guy is really fighting well. Today he latched onto Azumaryu’s right arm and took complete control of the match. It was fast, effective, and I am guessing Azumaryu is still feeling it.
Kiribayama defeats Shimanoumi – A glorious battle of blows, each wanted to beat the other one into submission. Kiribayama focused his opening moves on Shimanoumi’s face, and Shimanoumi decided to return in kind. Grabbing, hitting, pushing, it was like lunch time at preschool. Kiribayama got a hold of Shimanoumi’s mawashi and ejected him with vigor. Great match.
Tochiozan defeats Kotoeko – Now that Tochiozan is back in good form, I am once again struck by just how efficient his sumo is. Every movement, every gambit is minimized, and expends not more movement than is absolutely needed to get the desired effect.
Kotoshogiku defeats Kaisei – As predicted, there was no lateral motion in this match it was grapple, hug and chug all the way. Kaisei always struggles with Kotoshogiku, and today was no exception.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyomaru – I thought in the opening moments, Chiyomaru was going to crush Terutsuyoshi’s head like a grape. But while Chiyomaru was pressure-checking Terutsuyoshi’s skull, Terutsuyoshi somehow defied physics and landed a mawashi grip on Chiyomaru’s expansive green mawashi. Too late Chiyomaru discovered that Terutsuyoshi seems to be made from some incompressible substance, just as Terutsuyoshi rolls him like the human bowling ball he is. If it were not for the camera gaggle that broke is motion, Chiyomaru might still be rolling.
Ikioi defeats Tsurugisho – Yay! Ikioi won a match! They went chest to chest at the tachiai, but Ikioi had the better body position and the better grip. After consolidating his hold, Ikioi advanced and unleashed an uwatenage. The crowd breathed a sigh of contented relief.
Kagayaki defeats Chiyotairyu – Mr Fundamentals wins again. Chiyotairyu wasted precious energy on an ineffective face slap, which left his arms high as Kagayaki connected at the tachiai, and immediately had the inside position. Chiyotairyu began raining blows on Kagayaki, but because he was working outside, Kagayaki’s counter-strikes carried more force. It’s fun to watch Kagayaki use simple sumo, superbly executed, to win matches. 5-0… wow.
Ishiura defeats Sadanoumi – I had to watch this a few times before it made much sense. I would call it “strike and retreat” from Ishiura. With the Ishiura’s rapid release of forward pressure, Sadanoumi tumbled forward into the clay. A clumsy win, but it counts!
Yutakayama defeats Takanosho – Brutal opening gambit from Takanosho, as he attempts to pry Yutakayama’s head from his shoulders. But in response Yutakayama, an oshi practitioner, instead goes for a belt grip. Oh really? If this guy follows Asanoyama into gaining yotsu skill, this is going to be amazingly good fun. Ok, battle hugs it is. Yutakayama has the better grip, and Takanosho knows it. An attempt to escape leads to a well executed pull down by Yutakayama, and the win.
Aoiyama defeats Ryuden – In the preview, we estimated this match would last about 2 seconds, as one of these men pulled the other one down at the tachiai. They both tried to set it up, but this is Aoiyama’s favorite move, and Ryuden took a roll in the clay.
Onosho defeats Takarafuji – Onosho finally gets a win, and maybe that ring rust is now flaking away. Takarafuji’s normal tactic of stalemating and waiting was in full effect. But Onosho managed to keep his balance, and stay upright long enough to catch Takarafuji turned too far to one side. A push from behind, and it was okuridashi for Onosho’s first win this year.
Enho defeats Shohozan – Brutal match, Shohozan took an early launch to give Enho a solid shove. Shohozan loves to pull these matta at times, and it’s pure intimidation. I don’t know what Enho had in mind originally for this match, but I am sure you can guess what happened next. The second tachiai was and Enho henka that gave Enho a firm grip on Shohozan’s right arm, and position behind him. At this point Shohozan is visibly agitated, and out come the “Big Guns”. Furious blows against Enho’s head and face, which bloody Enho’s nose. But in his fury, he loses balance and hits the dohyo. The look Enho gave him following the match – oh, there’s going to be some fire in that rematch come March.
Meisei defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s disastrous attempt at a slap down cost him that match. Poorly timed, poorly executed.
Shodai defeats Hokutofuji – An absolutely huge match, as somehow Shodai has started Hatsu undefeated. Has he ever looked this strong? I don’t recall, to be honest. Hokutofuji failed to connect his nodowa correctly to Shodai’s neck, and Shodai rushed forward, collapsing any offensive Hokutofuji might have deployed. Shodai expertly shifted to thrusting center-mass, and it was all over. Tack-sharp sumo from Shodai, I am not sure where this guy has been, but I am happy he is here.
Abi defeats Myogiryu – Abi is clearly hurt, and this match was more challenging than it might have otherwise been. I would guess Abi can only generate about 80% of his normal forward force from those double arm thrusts. But he nearly always strikes first, and can many time (as with today) control the match. A welcome win for the Komusubi.
Daieisho defeats Takayasu – Takayasu had this match won a couple of times, but could not finish Daieisho. I am starting to fear there is no reasonable path to 10 for Takayasu. It’s going to be a shame to lose him too. I place blame squarely on Tagonoura oyakata. If Takayasu can’t regain Ozeki, Tagonoura will have grossly mis-managed the careers of two kanban rikishi. Compare this with Takakeisho’s injury, and the way Chiganoura oyakata handled it. The results could not be more different.
Endo defeats Asanoyama – In our daily episode of “Endo the Unstoppable”, he dismantles Asanoyama. I really like how Endo cycled through plans A, B and then C to get this win. I have not seen that kind of flexibility in him before.
Okinoumi defeats Goeido – The first match ended with a joint throw that saw them touch town together, and a monoii decided to call for a rematch. Frankly, Goeido should not have struggled this much with Okinoumi. I would say that re-constructed ankle is just about out of structural integrity, and every day is a challenge for our last “Legacy” Ozeki. The rematch was a quick tottari for an Okinoumi win, and a 1-4 start for Goeido.
Takakeisho defeats Tamawashi – This was forecasted to be another “2 second” match. Takakeisho stood Tamawashi up, and slapped him down.