Tokyo November Day 14 Highlights

Fans have noticed it, the commentators on the video-casts have noted it, and it’s time to talk about it. The gyoji have picked up some kind of matta fetish this basho for the paid ranks, but most especially for Makuuchi. It’s ruined a few really solid matches, and frankly its gotten quite annoying. Are some rikishi not getting their hands completely down? I do think so. But like any point of human endevour, there is a factor of “close enough”. I say let these guys fight it out, thats what we are all tuned in to see. Not some strict adherence to a rule. Of course, because it’s Japan, there is a fascination with rules and absolute adherence from some folks.

It’s all going to come down to the final match of the final day, as we see Terunofuji face off against Takakeisho. A second Terunofuji yusho this year would be quite the event (he won the cup in July), and there would be quite a bit of talk about how high this rebuild kaiju could go. A Takakeisho yusho would be the start of a rope run for him, and would net him a 14-1 final score.

It’s going to come down to that first step off the shikiri-sen. Takakeisho must keep Terunofuji from getting his hands inside and especially from establishing any sort of grip. Should the kaiju get his fingers on Takakeisho’s belt, I anticipate him bowling at least one frame of shimpan, scoring no worse than a 3-7 split.

Highlight Matches

Chiyoshoma defeats Ishiura – Ishiura tired a diving attack after a stalemate at the tachiai, and missed Chiyoshoma’s legs. Nice idea, but not today, Ishiura. Chiyoshoma picks up win number 8, and will remain in the top division a while longer.

Yutakayama defeats Sadanoumi – I think all of the frustration of having a really sucky basho boiled over today for Yutakayama. He blasted Sadanoumi off the dohoyo, and there was an air of “Thats more like it”. But already make-koshi (5-9), he’s just working to cushion the fall now.

Chiyotairyu defeats Meisei – Cannonball tachiai followed by some righteous denshamichi, classic Chiyomaru, and it was nice to see. Having perfected a low-velocity tachiai this basho, his opponents no longer can count on him launching at the start of the match, and now his brutal blast off catches people full in the chest again. Chiyotairyu improves to 9-5.

Tokushoryu defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka struggles to shut down a Tokushoryu gaburi-yori, and gets belly bucked around while Tokushoryu gets his hands set up to force him out. Tokushoryu gets his kachi-koshi, and Kotonowaka ends at 7-7, nominating him for a Darwin match tomorrow.

Akua defeats Kotoeko – This probably was going to be a good “throw down” match, but the matta fetish blew both rikishi’s attack plans, and this is what resulted. Congrats to Akua for his 8th win, and condolences to Kotoeko for his 8th loss. I do with the gyoji would just let these guys fight.

Ichinojo defeats Aoiyama – A friend of mine, an Army vet and tank driver, once told me a story about how they would take their 60 ton Abrahams tanks, and put them over jumps at speed. Prior to this match, I could only imagine what that was like. But here we have Ichinojo with a henka against Aoiyama. The Boulder rolls to the side, pasty white Bulgarian breast-meat goes jostling about, and a man in a blue mawashi hits the clay. And the result? Ichinojo gets a day 15 match against Chiyoshoma to decide his make/kachi-koshi. You can see that henka coming from a day away. At least we know the schedulers have a sense of humor.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Enho – This battle of the sad, battered pixies ends with a seldom-seen sotokomata, when Terutsuyoshi picks up Enho’s leg and drops him like a sack of gravel. Both of these guys need to regroup. But at least they are out of the maelstrom that will be the Hatsu joi-jin.

Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – I have to think that somehow Tochinoshin got some use of that right knee back, or he would never be able to put that much lift underneath Kaisei. The former Ozeki powered up and Kaisei could do little more than go for the ride. Tochinoshin picks up win 8, and kachi-koshi while Kaisei takes loss number 8 for his make-koshi.

Tamawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – Again the matta storm robbed us of a match I had been looking forward to for 2 weeks. These two should have been beating each other to a pulp, but instead Tamawashi ran a discombobulated Chiyonokuni out of the ring for his 8th win. Better luck at Hatsu I suppose?

Myogiryu defeats Hoshoryu – Thank you guys for giving us several long painful seconds of pushing on each other’s faces. I am sure it was brutal. I can only guess that Myogiryu’s face gave up first, as he tried to pull, and Hoshoryu ran him down. Myogiryu is headed for a deep drop down the banzuke, and Hoshoryu is headed for a day 15 Darwin match.

Endo defeats Kagayaki – Endo is easy to anticipate these days, shallow grip attempt at the tachiai. Every single time. Kagayaki did not have much response at first, but rallied at the edge to push ahead, and nearly take the match. But Endo broke contact, circled right and attacked. Endo gets a “stay alive” win to head do a day 15 Darwin match against Hoshoryu.

Hokutofuji defeats Onosho – I don’t know if it’s by plan or by necessity, but we have seen Hokutofuji go chest to chest quite a bit this basho, and his absolutely cleaning up. I would love to see this as the new Hokutofuji sumo style, as it’s powerful, dominant and effective. Hokutofuji improves to 10-4, while Onosho is make-koshi for November.

Daieisho defeats Ryuden – Ryuden’s shiri-zumo / but wiggle seems to have run out of power to mesmerize and distract his opponents. Daieisho runs him out of town like a cop chasing down a hobo. Both end the day at 9-5.

Tobizaru defeats Kiribayama – Tobizaru is make-koshi, which I am sure bruises his ego (you can’t get this far in sumo without really believing in yourself). But I do like how he has focused on agility and rapid combo attacks in week 2. Kiribayama is injured and fighting poorly this basho, and I hope he can heal up and bounce back. for January. Tobizaru improves to 6-8.

Wakatakakage defeats Okinoumi – A big story is just how badly Okinoumi hit some kind of wall on day 9, and has now lost 6 straight. Okinoumi has a chronic pelvic injury that requires surgery and about 6 months to repair. So when it’s calm, he can fight like a champion, and when he’s hurt, we get this. Like Tobizaru, Wakatakakagi seems to be working on consolidating his sumo style, and I think it’s going to help him a lot in 2021.

Terunofuji defeats Shimanoumi – I give a lot of credit to Shimanoumi in making this one competitive. He kept calm, kept his head in the match and worked hard. But I also have to remake just how different this reconstituted Terunofuji is from his original form. He was meticulous, and slowly wore Shimanoumi down until he could get his left hand placed. Now at 12 wins, he is Ozeki material if he can keep his knees together.

Kotoshoho defeats Takayasu – I can’t begin to describe my frustration with Takayasu (I am nominally a fan). Is sumo is inefficent and relies on wild shifts of force and balance. So much so, he can’t keep his feet most of the time. He lets a punter like Kotoshoho shut him down and throw him about. Dear Takayasu – some time around your Ozeki promotion, you went back to your old, bad ways of your pre-Sekiwake era. It’s not working. Kotoshoho gets his kachi-koshi, and Takayasu gets to face Tamawashi for a chance at kachi-koshi.

Takanosho defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji had a moment to set p a marginal defensive stance following the tachiai, but Takanosho’s hand, hips and foot placement was superb. He powered into Takarafuji, and then through his center of gravity. Unable to recover balance, Takarafuji went out fighting to the last. A well earned kachi-koshi for Takanosho. Chiganoura oyakata has to be loving this.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – There is no way that Mitakeumi is not injured. Normally these two are a raucous smashy-slappy fight of tadpole power. But Takakeisho got locked onto center-mass at the tachiai, and just drove Mitakeumi around like a loaded delivery van. Win 13 for the lone surviving Ozeki, and make-koshi for Mitakeumi.

14 thoughts on “Tokyo November Day 14 Highlights

  1. Some of the matta calls have been just ludicrous, and I don’t see why they are being called… unless they are running ahead of schedule and need to spin things out a bit.

    Neither Terunofuji nor Takakeisho are much good at play-offs, with a collective record of 0-3. I’m going to make a wild prediction which is probably wrong but will make me look super-smart if it comes off. Terunofuji henkas and slaps Takakeisho down in the final match. There is a somewhat negative response from the crowd. In the play-off Terunofuji gets the belt grip on the human sphere and hoists him over the bails for an emphatic victory. And no-one knows whether to cheer or boo.

    • Hoist him over the bails after a henka? That just wouldn’t be cricket.

      I’m starting to believe in your story though sadly…

    • I’ve been mentioning this on Twitter.

      Terunofuji has not performed a single henka since the Kotoshogiku debacle. He got some racist slurs at the time and I think a serious talking to back in the heya. I think he knows better than to draw fire towards himself and the other foreign rikishi by doing that to a crowd favorite again even if he had a mind to get off the wagon.

      Furthermore, he did not set the yusho as a target in any interview or comment that he made. He repeatedly said his aim for this basho and the next two is to get to Ozeki again. His comment for tomorrow: “I will do my best for one last match”. So does he want a yusho? Probably. He won’t just stand on the dohyo and give Takakeisho the Emperor’s Cup on a silver platter. Does he want it bad enough to position himself, instead of the “comeback hero”, as the sport’s cowardly villain, hurting his future kensho prospects? I don’t think so.

  2. I agree that “Close Enough” should be the rule, Bruce. However, if the Gyoji are calling mattas more often, my assumption is that there is enough evidence of rikishi “swiping at the ground while doing a squat” for them to enforce the rule more often. As you stated in your quasi-preview of tomorrow’s Takakeisho/Terunofuji match: the first step is what matters. If rikishi are pushing the envelope of “touching the ground with both hands” too often, then the ruler should be cracked across their knuckles. I personally hate seeing replays where rikishi shake their arms at the ground without getting anywhere near it and then watching them win. If the Gyoji and their callouts get everyone to put one hand on the ground solidly, I’ll be happy.

    Kudos to Tobizaru and Watatakakage for doing well for their first time in the meat grinder. They could both easily be 2-12 right now.

  3. With Ura’s jaw-dropping defeat of Azumaryu on Day 14, I figured that I’d seen everything. Then came the Ichinojo henka. We’ve entered some weird alternative dimension of sumo.

  4. Enho needs to put on 10-15 or so kg to remain competitive in the top division. The difference between him and the other pixies is that he can’t win anything on strength. Ichiura, Terutsuyoshi and the others can occasionally use a combo of a good angle of attack and strength for a pushout. I think today’s bout has shown that Enho will keep struggling, even against similar sized rikishi, unless he can build more muscle. Enho tried his belt throws today and should have had a chance to win but Terutsuyoshi was too stable to be thrown. Who wants to contribute to the Enho chankonabe fund?

    • I found an old sumo video on youtube not too long ago (with Pat Morita commentating, oddly), that dated from around 1985 with Konishiki, Takanosato, and Wakashimazu, and I think the announcers said Chiyonofuji was kyujo. No one was putting their hands down in any of those bouts. Konishiki never even got close. A far cry from what we see now.

        • Around the Chiyonofuji era. I circulated that video on Twitter at some point. The heads of the NSK at the time came and lectured at the rikishi-kai, about the proper way to do the tachiai. Put one fist to the ground, and then touch the other quickly and go. You can see Chiyonofuji there asking style questions. I think that’s the time gyoji switched from “te wo oroshite” to “te wo tsuite” (though the “oroshite” can still be heard occasionally). “Te wo tsuite” means actually touching the ground vs. “orosu” which is just lowering them.

  5. What a day of sumo. A ushiromotare by Ura and a sotokomata by Terutsuyoshi. According to sumodb the last sotokamata in salaried ranks was in 2005. Ushiromotare seems to be a fairly new kimarite, as the first occurance in sumo db is around 2001. Looked pretty cool, but to my surprise less rare than the sotokamata. I didn’t recall it, but Hidenoumi beat Wakatakakage that way in March this year.

    I totally agree with Bruce on Takayasu. He is mightily frustrating me this basho. To me things started to go wrong about the time of Kise’s injury/his Ozeki promotion. It starts with his tachiai that just got so much worse.

    For the matta I don’t agree thought. It’s a bit annoying and some calls are surely a bit too much, but it’s equally annoying when some guys ignore the rules to gain an advantage. It might need some time adjusting, but if it’s strictly called, people will do a proper tachiai. Doesn’t matter that the rules were different 40years ago.

    I’m proud of Shimanoumi. He lost both fights, but he didn’t look lost. Yesterday he was probably closer to a potential upset than to do. Hope he can stay focused tomorrow and finish 12-3.


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