It’s the end of act 1 of the Haru basho. Act 1 is where we try to knock the ring rust off of the competitors, and we see who is hot, and who is not.
Hot List: Hakuho, Asanoyama, Mitakeumi, Takanosho, Ishiura ,Aoiyama
Not List: Takayasu, Tokushoryu, Myogiryu, Tochiozan, Nishikigi
The hot list contains names you might expect, with Takakeisho (whom I thought would compete for the yusho) sadly nowhere to be found, and Ishiura and Aoiyama making most welcome guest star appearances.
The not list has at least one tragic outcome, the now badly injured Takayasu. Word is that he damaged one of the ligaments in his knee in that failed throw attempt against Yokozuna Kakuryu on day 4. As a fan of Takayasu, I am deeply saddened to recognize that a grave injury, like this, at age 30, likely ends his sumo career. But given that he is a Tagonoura deshi, damn near anything could happen with his medical treatment, including being fed grubs and left in an open field to “heal naturally”. Take some advice from a yankee gaijin, go find yourself a real doctor, most honored former Ozeki.
What We Are Watching Day 5
Azumaryu vs Kotonowaka – Azumaryu won their only prior match, and they come in with matching 3-1 scores, they are evenly matched in size and weight, so its tough to tell if the advantage goes to the veteran (Azumaryu) or the shin-maku (Kotonowaka) rikishi.
Daiamami vs Chiyomaru – Daiamami is off to a terrible start this March, but perhaps he can take advantage of his career dominance of Chiyomaru (5-2) to pick up his second win. Chiyomaru was a bit too eager with the pull down on day 4. Hopefully he’s not going to repeat that.
Meisei vs Nishikigi – One of the few rikishi fighting worse than Meisei right now is none other than Nishikigi. With a monumentally bad 0-4 start, the optically challenged man from Iwate remains stubbornly in the zero win quarantine club.
Kaisei vs Shimanoumi – Shimanoumi won their only prior match, so maybe I would give him some advantage today. But on day 3 we finally saw Kaisei muster some fighting spirit. When he’s engaged, there is just far too much of him to defeat without extreme effort.
Tsurugisho vs Aoiyama – Well, Tsurugisho is a poorly consolidated bundle of aches, pains, and poorly functioning joints. He’s never won against Aoiyama, and Big Dan is undefeated, fighting like a bear. Good luck!
Ishiura vs Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku has won all 3 of their prior matches, but the former Ozeki is fading fast. In fact he can only muster forward pressure for brief moments or bursts of effort tells me he’s just struggling to compete. He faces 4-0 Ishiura who is looking seriously genki right now. So maybe day 5 will mark Ishiura’s first win.
Sadanoumi vs Ikioi – Sadanoumi’s speed tends to win out over Ikioi’s more force / strength focused sumo. He olds a 5-3 lead over Ikioi, but Ikioi comes in with a 3-1 record vs Sadanoumi’s 1-3. Their last meeting was Osaka 2019, and Sadanoumi has one their last 2 matches.
Terutsuyoshi vs Tochinoshin – First time match between the compact powerhouse and the injured and barely functioning former Ozeki from Georgia. We have seen one day where Tochinoshin was able to muster enough genki spirit to attack, and maybe Terutsuyoshi’s small body will allow him to fight today.
Takanosho vs Chiyotairyu – I don’t expect this match to happen, given that Chiyotairyu damaged an ankle in his day 4 match against Ishiura. Most likely a fusen-sho win for Takanosho, boosting him to a 5-0 start for Haru.
Tochiozan vs Kiribayama – Tochiozan is part of the winless quarantine group, and to my eye he’s hurt and can’t move well at all. I expect Kiribayama will rout the veteran Tochiozan in short order, giving Tochiozan a 0-5 start.
Myogiryu vs Shohozan – Both of these rikishi are off to terrible starts, with Myogiryu winless at 0-4 and Shohozan just behind him a 1-3. The good news is that one of them is going to exit the dohyo with an additional win after day 5. They have a 24 match career record that favors Myogiryu 14-10.
Tamawashi vs Onosho – I think this could be one of the highlight matches of the day. Both are strong, fast oshi-zumo specialists, and I think that Tamawashi (1-3) is due to bounce back. Onosho has managed to bypass his typical basho cold-start losing streak, and has been winning matches consistently (3-1).
Ryuden vs Takarafuji – Both have a 2-2 record, and Takarafuji holds a 3-1 career lead, with their last match during Hatsu of 2019. Takarafuji’s patient, “defend and extend” sumo tends to frustrate Ryuden, who wants to attack vigorously at all times. This plays well into Takarafuji’s strategy, and likely accounts for his career match advantage.
Kagayaki vs Abi – I am actually quite excited for this match, as it pits Kagayaki’s slow, lumbering sumo style that is heavy on the fundamentals against Abi’s frantic thrusting volleys. They are tied up 4-4 over their career, and its really anyone’s guess which way this is going to go.
Okinoumi vs Enho – Both rikishi have had poor starts to Haru, coming in with matching 1-3 records, and a series of disappointing losses. Okinoumi won their only prior match, but Enho needs to bounce back and begin to rack some wins.
Hokutofuji vs Daieisho – I think I say this every tournament – Hokutofuji fights better than what his score indicates. I know it’s an opinion, but he has honestly been fighting hard this first 5 days, and he goes against Daieisho, who has only one win. That one win was over Ozeki Takakeisho, whom he completely dominated. Many fans are looking to Hokutofuji to begin to put together an Ozeki campaign this year, but that will hinge on him upping the consistency of his winning streaks.
Endo vs Shodai – Shodai seems to have a workable formula for beating Endo (4-2) that he can use about three quarters of the time. In addition Endo has not really been on a hot streak this March, and may be working just to make kachi-koshi. Shodai seems to have not let his one loss effect him mentally, and I expect him to continue strong until week 2.
Asanoyama vs Takayasu – I don’t expect this match to happen today, or really any time this year, if ever. Takayasu seems to have damaged or destroyed a knee ligament. At his age, that’s probably a career ender. The fusen-sho win will take Asanoyama to 5-0.
Takakeisho vs Mitakeumi – Tadpole fight! Its the Grand Tadpole (大蝌蚪) Takakeisho vs the Original Tadpole, Mitakeumi. Normally you would take the Ozeki, but Takakeisho is entering the dohyo today with a middling 2-2 record, including a complete weak-sauce pulling attempt day 4 that was nothing close to Ozeki sumo. He goes against 4-0 Mitakeumi, who is looking like his basho-winning form. They are split 7-7 over their 14 career matches.
Yutakayama vs Kakuryu – Its true that “Big Unit” Yutakayama has never beaten Yokozuna Kakuryu in their 2 prior matches, and I don’t expect that to change. But given how much energy Yutakayama puts into offense in any match, it’s going to be interesting to see how Kakuryu deflect and dismantles him.
Hakuho vs Tokushoryu – Hey, Hakuho. The old guy is on a joi-jin holiday. Please don’t hurt him too much.