Welcome to the end of act 1 of our mock basho. Act one exists to knock the ring rust off of the competitors, and to figure out who is hot and who is not. I can say with some confidence that this has been accomplished, though the process can make one scratch their head. But the biggest head scratcher may be that at the end of the first 5 days, the sole undefeated rikishi is Ishiura (5-0). In fact, this may be the best fighting form for Ishiura since his debut basho, and while I don’t expect him to hoist the cup on senshuraku, it’s great to see a rikishi who had been the butt end of a lot of comments on poor form fighting and winning with strength, skill and the occasional “did you see that?” moment.
But day 5 was filled to overflowing with crazy. Both Yokozuna and one Ozeki lost. There was a veritable flock of mono-ii, and the accompanying Shimpan parades. I would say that the gyoji may be rusty as well at this point, as frankly there should not be this many calls discussed or reversed.
Nishikigi (4-1) defeats Chiyomaru (1-4) Oshidashi – I am beginning to wonder if its a return to Cinderella mode for Nishikigi as he starts the basho with 4-1, today taking out the bulbous Chiyomaru who is definitely struggling. Nishikigi went low at the tachiai, hoping to miraculously get some manner of grip around Chiyomaru’s belly, while Chiyomaru went high delivering a right forearm to to Nishikigi’s face. As Nishikigi fumbled for a grip, Chiyomaru went to work on Nishikigi’s face and shoulders. But Nishikigi had the sumo sense to turn Chiyomaru, and in spite of blasting away at Nishikigi’s face, Chiyomaru found himself perilously close to the tawara. A pair of thrusts to the lower chest later, Nishikigi had Chiyomaru out.
Kotoshogiku (4-1) defeats Terunofuji (0-5) Oshidashi – A pair of former Ozeki square off on the lower half of the torikumi (this will happen several times this basho), and neither one of them looked strong. Terunofuji’s tachiai was weak, and he led with his right shoulder, and attempted to shift during the initial clash. Grabbing Kotoshogiku’s left arm, he pulled strongly sending Kotoshogiku skidding off balance, but in the process, Kotoshogiku found a left hand grip. Charging forward, Kotoshogiku brought his right hand to Terunofuji’s chest and pushed with the force of a hop behind it, sending Terunofuji reeling. A follow up double hand thrust finished Terunofuji, who landed near the salt basket. It’s heartbreaking to exit the first 5 days and see Terunofuji winless.
Kotonowaka (2-3) defeats Wakatakakage (3-2) Hikiotoshi – Wakatakakage got the better of the tachiai, making 2 hand contact with Kotonowaka’s shoulders before Kotonowaka could even finish coming off the shikiri-sen. Thrusting upward, he rocked Kotonowaka and up, Kotonowaka’s back bending in an attempt to keep his feet planted. In a brilliant move, Kotonowaka thrust towards Wakatakakage’s head, and then dropped his hands, disrupting the follow on thrust that Wakatakakage already had in motion, and forcing him forward, initiating a fall. With lightning speed Kotonowaka’s hands swept up and guided Wakatakakage to the clay. Brilliant sumo.
Takayasu (4-1) defeats Kotoyuki (3-2) Uwatedashinage – After finishing act one 4-1, I am going to declare Takayasu genki and dangerous. He’s big, strong and when he’s healthy he has Ozeki class sumo. All of the fading stars and young hopefuls at the bottom of the banzuke are in for a series of dirty, painful matches. Today it was a resurgent Kotoyuki on the receiving end of Takayasu’s sumo. Kotoyuki powered in strongly at the tachiai, but may have been surprised to find rather than Takayasu’s traditional shoulder blast, it was a deep left hand reach around, grabbing the back of his mawashi. At that moment it was pretty clear that Kotoyuki knew what was coming, as mid-charge you can see him work to change his stance. Takayasu’s right hand pulled down as his left arm pulled in, launching Kotoyuki into the zabuton.
Shohozan (2-3) defeats Kotoeko (2-3) Uwatedashinage – Kotoeko was too high at the tachiai, and rather than go for a Oshi-battle, Shohozan took a right hand to Kotoeko’s face while he reached for a left hand inside grip. As Kotoeko ramped up the forward pressure, Shohozan consolidated his grip, then released his left hand, pulling with his right. Suddenly unbalanced, both went skidding to the clay, with Kotoeko’s knee touching first. A mono-ii (first of many) reviewed the footage and confirmed Shohozan as the winner.
Kotoshoho (2-3) defeats Sadanoumi (3-2) Hatakikomi – Sadanoumi executed a bit of a delayed tachiai today, and allowed Kotoshoho inside. The two traded thrusts, with Sadanoumi circling away, but found Kotoshoho standing him up, and in a flash pulling him down. Not a fan of pulling moves, but Kotoshoho sold this one today.
Ikioi (1-4) defeats Tochinoshin (1-4) Yorikiri – I think most fans are happy that Ikioi has finally gotten his first win, but quite a few wish it had not been at Tochinoshin’s expense. Both men crashed like thunder at the tachiai, but neither had any grip, nor any offensive position to work from. Clashing again, Tochinoshin attacked Ikioi’s neck while Ikioi reached for a left hand outside grip. In a heartbeat, both rikishi settled into left hand outside grips. Tochinoshin set his feet, and you could see him getting ready to lift, but as he flexed it was clear he did not have the strength to make it work. Ikioi rallied and drove forward against the unbalanced former Ozeki, taking him across the bales. Glad to see Ikioi overcome whatever is happening with that right arm and deliver a win.
Tamawashi (2-3) defeats Shimanoumi (4-1) Oshidashi – Tamawashi was higher and faster at the tachiai, and went immediately into his high power oshi-battle mode. Shimanoumi could do little at first other than absorb repeated blows to his face and shoulders, forcing him to twist about and putting him dangerously off balance. Tamawashi lunged in for the win, sending Shimanoumi staggering across the bales. Shimanoumi picks up his first loss and probably one prize of a headache to boot.
Chiyotairyu (3-2) defeats Myogiryu (2-3) Yorikiri – Chiyotairyu seems to be clear of his ring rust, and into fighting form. Expecting a thrusting battle, Myogiryu worked hard to get off the line first, and get inside. He got his wish, but found Chiyotairyu’s hands on his mawashi, and his enormous bulk pushing forward before Myogiryu could set his feet. It was a short quickstep back and out for Myogiryu, who picks up his third loss.
Ishiura (5-0) defeats Kaisei (2-3) Shitatehineri – Fans are going to complain about this, and it’s pretty clear that the Shimpan were out to lunch during this series of matches. Match 1 – Ishiura got inside but could not compensate for Kaisei’s size and power. A quick rally as Kaisei moved to finish him left them both on the clay together. To my eye it was clear that Ishiura’s gambit worked, and the gyoji thought so too. But the Shimpan wanted to review it, decided it was too close to call, and ordered a rematch. So they fight again, and for a second time it was pretty much all Kaisei, but Ishiura was doing his best Enho impression, pulling Kaisei’s arm and ducking in any chance he could find. With Ishiura latched firmly onto Kaisei’s belt and his head buried deep in the big man’s belly, they both lost balance and stepped over the bales. What do we get? Sure, another black robe huddle at the shikiri-sen, but this time the gumbai was overruled and the win went to Ishiura. Congrats on the 5-0 start, but it was a messy finish.
Tokushoryu (4-1) defeats Hokutofuji (2-3) Hatakikomi – Hokutofuji blasts into the tachiai just to find Tokushoryu giving ground and pulling him down before he could take a second step. I think Hokutofuji was airborne for a moment. You have to watch those willy oldsters, Hokutofuji.
Abi (3-2) defeats Terutsuyoshi (2-3) Oshidashi – It looks like Abi’s ring rust is sanded down and Abi-zumo is back on the menu, but once again it was chaos in the judges ranks. The first match featured Terutsuyoshi putting Abi flat on his back, but maybe dropping a hand a split second before Abi hit the ground. But of course a mono-ii was called and again they decided to have them fight again. This time it was solid Abi-zumo with blistering combination double arm thrusts that left Terutsuyoshi completely disrupted.
Aoiyama (3-2) defeats Ryuden (2-3) Oshidashi – Good to see Big Dan’s V-Twin running well today, he took Ryuden apart and sent him staggering across the bales. Ryuden got in a few solid hits, but with that much body, it’s tough to muster enough force to make the man-mountain move. Combo moves from Aoiyama? Check! Brutal blow to the face? Check! The only think missing were the fans in the seats to gasp as Big Dan poured it on.
Kagayaki (4-1) defeats Enho (1-4) Yoritaoshi – I am even more sure that Enho has some kind of injury going on. As much as I like Kagayaki, he should have had this match. Or maybe everyone has figured out Enho’s sumo and know what to do with him. Enho was able to execute his low tachiai, and ducked underneath Kagayaki’s arms, and completely disrupted whatever Kagayaki had in mind. While he was struggling to control and contain Enho, Kagayaki kept moving forward. Getting a hold of Enho’s mawashi, a failed Enho leg pick saw them both land in a heap. The win went to Kagayaki, and in addition to the loss, Enho had an unfortunate close encounter with Kagayaki’s crotch at the finish.
Takanosho (4-1) defeats Daieisho (3-2) Yorikiri – Red-hot Takanosho continues to tear apart the upper ranks, bouncing back from his day 4 loss to Hakuho. At the tachiai, Daieisho went for center mass and Takanosho attacked Daieisho’s neck. Lifting Daieisho up, Takanosho was able to get a right hand inside on Daieisho, shutting down Daieisho’s mobility. Daieisho moved to break Takanosho’s grip, but in that split second where his weight was not planted over his feet, Takanosho rushed forward, and Daieisho’s left foot crossed the bales. The nearly split second precision of that rush was a thing of beauty. This guy is going to be trouble if he can stay healthy.
Mitakeumi (4-1) defeats Yutakayama (1-4) Oshidashi – While I am really pulling for Yutakayama getting at least kachi-koshi this tournament, Mitakeumi is not messing around. Mitakeumi’s thrust from below blast at the tachiai staggered Yutakayama back, and just like that Mitakeumi had the inside position. As Yutakayama worked to gain any sort of offensive advantage, Mitakeumi delivered blow after blow to Yutakayama’s chest and neck. He caught a lucky break and established a neck hold against Mitakeumi with his right hand. The two broke contact twice, each time lunging back to battle like wild me fighting over a pretty girl. But Mitakeumi wore Yutakayama down, and in the end tossed him across the west side tawara. We will be watching for any week 2 fade from Mitakeumi, but he looks as strong and focused as he has ever been.
Shodai (3-2) defeats Endo (1-4) Yoritaoshi – Points to Shodai for completely disrupting all of Endo’s battle plans and shutting down any offense. This soft of chaotic “what the hell is he doing?” kind of sumo is what I label “Shodai’s cartoon sumo”, and it seems just as baffling to Endo as it is to me. Shodai has been training with Kakuryu, and I think that reactive sumo is starting to kick in. Rather than try to win, it looks like Shodai put everything into misdirecting every attempt Endo made to get any kind of grip. Endo, being a master technician was ready for Shodai to go on offense and exploit any opening that might arise. But it seems that Shodai was patiently letting the match ramble on and confounding Endo. Yes, Shodai eventually had a tentative left hand grip on Endo, but all of his energy was still going to stalemating Endo’s attempt to gain advantage. As Endo became frustrated and fumbled for what to do next, Shodai’s right hand swung in and gripped, and in an instant Shodai lifted Endo and marched forward. Endo had his heels on the tawara as Shodai powered forward, and they fell together with Endo landing first. Interesting sumo you used there, Shodai..
Asanoyama (3-2) defeats Okinoumi (0-5) Oshidashi – Okinoumi can’t seem to buy a win. I know he has a chronic lower pelvic injury that flares up from time to time (and can only be resolved surgically), so maybe this is what took all of his energy away. It was an even enough tachiai, but Okinoumi just could not ramp up the forward pressure, and in no time Asanoyama had that right hand inside grip. I suspect the other rikishi know he is fighting hurt, as Asanoyama was fairly gentle with him once it was clear he was going to win.
Kiribayama (2-3) defeats Takakeisho (2-3) Uwatenage – Kadoban Ozeki Takakeisho is getting into real trouble now, as he drops a match he should have won. The kryptonite of course is when an opponent can get a hold of Takakeisho’s belt, there is little he can do to defend or attack. When they locked up, Takakeisho had a double inside grip, but just could not do anything with it save attempt to continue thrusting as Kiribayama loaded the throw.
Takarafuji (2-3) defeats Kakuryu (3-2) Oshidashi – I guess when you put two rikishi who love to defend and extend together you get this kind of mess. It was a drawn out complex dance where after the initial tachiai, neither rikishi wanted to commit to an offensive strategy. The balance of the match see-sawed back and forth, and it was Kakuryu who ran out of patience first. Moving back to pull Takarafuji down was a critical mistake. Not only because he has no neck to pull on, Takarafuji had to know the Kakuryu was going to do this at some point. He launched forward and blasted the Yokozuna out of the ring. Kinboshi #4 for Takarafuji.
Onosho (2-3) defeats Hakuho (4-1) Oshidashi – In a rematch of the March bout where Onosho picked up a kinboshi, I expected Hakuho to put him away at the tachiai. But it was at the tachiai where things started to go wrong. Hakuho’s was off tempo, and his tradition harite missed its mark, and that seemed to throw off his plan. Onosho was aim was true and he crashed head first into Hakuho’s face. Off balance and suddenly defensive, Hakuho double arm pushed Onosho back and to the left, but Onosho was ready and attacked again before the Yokozuna could set his feet and shift to offense. Again the Yokozuna tried to clear Onosho out and set his stance, but Onosho’s recovery and return attack where flawless. A poor foot placement by the Yokozuna gave Onosho the opening to lunge forward, sending Hakuho staggering back. One great push with both hands that sent Onosho to the clay but not before it sent Hakuho sailing off the dohyo, giving Onosho his 3rd kinboshi, and his second consecutive win over Hakuho.