This is why we can’t have nice things. Look at what happened day 8! The entirety of the leaderboard hit the clay, and now Bruce gets his wish. A giant drunken barnyard brawl where half the banzuke is in contention for the cup at the start of week 2. I am sure the scheduling team is oscillating between giddy excitement and horrified concern about how they are going to bring this unruly cloud of rikishi together to determine a winner by Sunday.
Its clear to me, at least, that should either Ozeki pick up the yusho, there really should not be any talk about a Yokozuna promotion. Both of them are looking shaky, and that’s the last thing you need from a Yokozuna. I think both of them are still able to get 8, and maybe even 10. But total dominance on the dohyo is the sign of a Yokozuna, and neither of our current Ozeki have reached that level of performance yet. Furthermore, I think their path to get to that level of performance may have been damaged by COVID-19. With the shut down of join / inter-stable training, neither of the Ozeki has a chance to forge their technique to the level needed to become a Yokozuna. It takes a hard and hardy substance to forge strong metal. It’s no different in athletes. Without worthy competition to train against, frequently, the skills stagnate or worse yet, atrophy. With the 2 surviving Yokozuna injured and fading out, the future Yokozuna for a post-Hakuho era may be significantly handicapped.
I do think sumo will survive, and new champions will rise. But until the NSA opens up training rules, the best we can hope for is what 2 week 2 promised to be. Its going to be massive fun to watch, but for fans who long for the next Ozeki and Yokozuna – not happening any time soon.
Well, jump ball everyone!
Leaders – Takakeisho, Shodai, Terunofuji, Kiribayama, Takayasu, Wakatakakage, Onosho, Kotoshoho, Tobizaru
Chasers – Asanoyama, Takarafuji, Kagayaki, Chiyotairyu, Meisei, Ichinojo
Hunt Group – Mitakeumi, Takanosho, Tochinoshin, Aoiyama, Kotoeko, Shimanoumi, Hoshoryu
7 Matches Remain
What We Are Watching Day 9
Shimanoumi vs Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka comes to visit from Jury to fill the Yutakayama gap, and he is looking like a good bet to return in November. He is 2 wins away from his kachi-koshi at Juryo 2, so just a few more wins will put him into a promotable spot.
Shohozan vs Ishiura – Ishiura was able to overcome whatever doom is in his ankle to take his first win of Aki. Now he is against the paper-mache version of the formerly fearsome Shohozan. With any luck, lksumo might chime in with his idea of just how many wins Ishiura must gather in to maintain some toe hold on the top division.
Meisei vs Tobizaru – Co-co-co leader Tobizaru has yet to take a match from Meisei (3 tries), but he has been showing the best sumo of his career this September, and I would think that day 9 may be his time.
Hoshoryu vs Kaisei – Readers have noted that I have suggested that in matches where Kaisei can move and stay in control, he can win. Today, I think his enormity may be enough to confound Hoshoryu, who has never fought against Kaisei before.
Kotoshoho vs Onosho – A head to head battled between Co-co-co leaders, this will (thankfully) narrow the field. This is also a first time match between the lagging tadpole Onosho, and the young, fresh Kotoshoho. This will come down to who gets their hands inside at the tachiai, and if Onosho can keep his balance over his feet.
Enho vs Ichinojo – Good lord! He, schedulers – we know this is a quintessential big man / little man match. But its becoming aparent that Enho is not quite right. Lets not feed him to the monster just yet. Oh, it’s sumo and the monster needs to eat? Well then, in the name of the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, please don’t make him wear a pony costume today.
Tokushoryu vs Kotoshogiku – You would thing, “hey, to long-serving grizzled vets. They probably have like 218 matches between them”. But no, this is only their second ever match. Both of them are late in their careers, and running on what little sinew and gristle is left in their bodies.
Chiyotairyu vs Aoiyama – Now THIS is a match. To heavyweights in a clash of styles. Aoiyama loves to swat and bash his opponent into submissions. Chiyotairyu plays human wrecking ball and relies on his mass and lower body to provider his offense. Someone is going to hit the clay today.
Ryuden vs Kotoeko – Both of these rikishi are close to the make-koshi trend line, with Ryuden the more likely bet. His size will give him an advantage today, but only if Kotoeko agrees to stay in one spot long enough to get caught. Career record of 5-2 favors Ryuden.
Sadanoumi vs Kagayaki – Odd as it may seem, Kagayaki is 1 loss behind the yusho leaders now, and could conceivably contend for the cup. He may hav a slightly easier than normal time with Sadanoumi today, as it seems that taped shoulder continues to bother him a bit more each day.
Takayasu vs Wakatakakage – The only prior match featured a hearty tsukiotoshi sending Takayasu to the clay (July), Takayasu, who is a co-co-co-leader, is fighting better this tournament, and I give him a good chance to even the score.
Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – This Aki is the best I have seen Takarafuji look in at least a year. So I am going to give him a clear advantage over Tamawashi on day 9. I have to wonder if having a resurgent Terunofuji to train against has helped to greatly improve Takarafuji’s sumo.
Terunofuji vs Hokutofuji – Speak of the kaiju! This match is a real bell-weather, as Terunofuji has lost to Hokutofuji in all 3 prior meetings. The last one was November of 2017 (my how time flies), that featured a freshly de-frocked Ozeki Terunofuji unable to generate any effective offense.
Takanosho vs Endo – I admire Endo’s ability, and I keep hoping that “today” will be the day where it clicks for him and he fights like the bad-ass sumo assassin we all know he can be. He won the only 2 prior matches against Endo, so maybe he can at rack up a much needed white star.
Okinoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – Its sad that I look at this match and immediately wonder what kind of punk nonsense Terutsuyoshi might try today. I think Okinoumi has seen it all at this point, so I would urge Terutsuyoshi to fight a solid, fundamentals based match. It’s his best chance against a master technician like Okinoumi.
Myogiryu vs Mitakeumi – A sad thing seems to have happened in some parts of the US, or maybe it’s just the Dallas, TX area. I am having a tough time finding anything other than really poor grade or super high end sake right now. It could be global supply chain disruption due to COVID-19, or it could be the legions of Mitakeumi fans trying to drink their way through this basho. I would like to say that Mitakeumi is a clear favorite, but couple the 4-4 career record, and the fact that Mitakeumi has taken to sumo in reverse-gear, it’s anyone’s guess who has advantage here.
Shodai vs Daieisho – Shodai finds him back in the lead of this basho (along with 8 other really large men), but this may in fact energize him and drive him to higher performance. The 3-5 career record favors Daieisho – with Shodai losing 3 of the last 4! If prior matches are a guide, it will come down to Shodai’s right hand, and Daieisho’s ability to block Shodai’s primary weapon.
Kiribayama vs Takakeisho – Kiribayama won their only prior match. and I do hope that he keeps his eyes on Kiribayama during the tachiai. Both of these rikishi hold a share of the lead, so only one will remain at the end of this match.
Asanoyama vs Tochinoshin – Asanoyama should invite Tochinoshin to a hearty contest of strength today. I am fairly sure that bandaged knee could not maintain pressure against Asanoyama’s classic yotsu style. No tricks, no hopping about, just see if Tochinoshin still has the body for a straight up contest.