With day 1 providing a delightfully solid start to this odd Hatsu basho, sumo fans are eager to see what act 1 will be. At Tachiai, we divide the 15 days of the basho into 3 5 day acts, each of which seems to have its own goals and drivers. For act 1, its remove ring rust and see who is hot and who is not. With just one day in the record books, the only thing we can say is that the ring rust seems to be pretty minimal given the reduction of normal pre-basho join training.
The only non-kadoban Ozeki, Takakeisho, has a rare opportunity to bid for promotion to Yokozuna, should he manage to win this tournament in a commanding fashion. But sadly he let Mitakeumi dictate the terms of the match after he had a fairly strong opening. Several fans have noted that he does not look quite right, and I agree. His already massive body seems to have become even larger in the last 2 months, and I think he’s not really up to full power sumo at this size.
Meanwhile, the kadoban twins Asanoyama and Shodai had a mixed start. Asanoyama was unable to establish an offense or a defense, and got completely disrupted and defeated by Daieisho. Shodai on the other hand, as Tachai’s own Herouth put it, was “playing Sokoban“. For those of you who may not know, Sokoban is a kind of video game where you play a warehouse worker, doing much the same as Shodai did to Hokutofuji.
What We Are Watching Day 2
Shohozan vs Akiseyama – Welcome back Shohozan! “Big Guns” returns to visit the top division to help balance out the banzuke. This is a rematch of their November day 5 match, which went to Akiseyama. Truth be told, as Shohozan “ages out” of the competitive ranks, he is less able to overwhelm his opponents. But it’s great to see the old guard in action. Shohozan has a slim 3-2 career edge, going back to 2009!
Sadanoumi vs Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka came up 10% short on day 1, and he is going to be looking to bounce back against Sadanoumi today. Sadanoumi looked really sharp on the shonichi opening match, and he is due for a strong performance after falling to the final slot on the banzuke.
Yutakayama vs Midorifuji – First time match for these two, and it’s Shodai’s sparring partner (Yutakayama) vs yet another Isegahama pocket battleship. Both of them won their opening day matches, but I note that Midorifuji had the brass to try a flying henka in his first match ranked in Makuuchi. Had it not be called a matta, he might have made it pay off, too!
Ichinojo vs Hoshoryu – At least 80 kg different between these two, and if Ichinojo continues the form he showed day 1, it’s going to be ice cream time at Minato heya. While I love watching Hoshoryu fight, I think he has maxed out for what is current sumo can support. We are all hoping that he can evolve and reach higher levels of sumo intensity, but we know it’s going to be a challenge.
Akua vs Terutsuyoshi – The other Isegahama pocket monster has a track record of taking Akua’s booze money (6-1 favoring Terutsuyoshi). Both of them lost day 1, so maybe we can get some solid alternate-reality stuff like an Akua flying henka for a win here.
Shimanoumi vs Kotoeko – Shimanoumi went 11-4 in November, and on day one he looked like he had not slowed down at all. He will have to overcome a 9-1 career deficit to Kotoeko, who also took his day 1 match in decisive fashion.
Tokushoryu vs Aoiyama – Time to tell if Aoiyama simply got the timing of his tachiai completely wrong on day 1, or if he is hurt. I personally hope he is on the upper side of genki, as I would love to see him bludgeon his way though the middle of makkuchi this January. He holds a slight 6-5 career advantage over Tokushoryu.
Myogiryu vs Kiribayama – If Kiribayama actually did injure his knee in the pre-basho workup, this is going to be a rough 15 days for him. At Maegashira 8, he’s probably not going to risk demotion if he has a bad tournament. But for a bright young start, it’s terrible to see them take a set back that could require 2-3 tournaments to resolve. This is his first ever match with Myogiryu.
Ryuden vs Tobizaru – Both of these guys started a bit goofy, and lost day 1. I expect Tobizaru to focus in quickly and get a big push underway to return to joi-jin for March, where I think Ryuden is at a pretty comfortable rank right now. Tobizaru has a 2-1 career advantage, but that may not count for much on day 2.
Meisei vs Kagayaki – “I see a gumbai and I want it painted black…”
Tochinoshin vs Okinoumi – A healthy 16 career matches between these two, with Okinoumi taking 2 of the last 3. Both won their day 1 matches, and I am eager to see if Tochinoshin really has picked up enhanced skills in tsuki-oshi style sumo.
Endo vs Tamawashi – Another long running rivalry, with 23 career matches favoring Tamawashi 13-10, But Endo has taken 3 of the last 4 as Tamawashi ages out of high stakes sumo. I love watching him work, but he is slowly losing power and maneuverability as the injuries accumulate to his body.
Takarafuji vs Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi is probably feeling very energized after the gyoji handed him a diorama of Mt. Fuji made with kensho envelopes at the end of that day 1 pasting of Yokozuna hopeful Takakeisho. He has a strong track record of overwhelming Takarafuji’s defend and extend sumo by taking his tadpole power toe to toe against Isegahama’s neckless wonder. Could be a really tasty match in the second half.
Terunofuji vs Onosho – I love Onosho sumo, but your spheroid shape will only serve your undoing, dear tadpole. Did you know that Terunofuji, being a kaiju, bowls overhand? The legends say there is a secret special prize if he can get Onosho into the upper deck of the Kokugikan and take out at least 4 members of the sumo press.
Kotoshoho vs Takanosho – Now I fear Andy’s prediction, and I am very interested to see Kotoshoho put Takanosho in the clay. He won their only prior match, and that’s good enough for me.
Go! Go! Koto-sho-ho!
Do it fast, or do it slow!
Beat that rice ball
Takakeisho vs Daieisho – Dear Grand Tadpole. We know it’s really cool to think you might win PowerBall or a Yokozuna promotion. But put that stuff aside and start knocking some heads. Today if possible. Wave action at level 3, if you would please. I want to see Daieisho’s molars stay behind as he rockets into the stands.
Asanoyama vs Hokutofuji – Ol’Stompy might make Asanoyama question his own worthiness as a sumotori if he can get that handshake tachiai into the Ozeki’s throat. I really like Asanoyama, so he’s going to have to gamberize like mad and just overcome whatever brutal, high speed sumo Hokutofuji deploys today.
Takayasu vs Shodai – Shodai holds a 10-8 career advantage, and I am going to say that if Takayasu comes out with his big grunt and slam tachiai, he’s done for. The 2017 Takayasu is in there, still. The guy with nearly endless endurance who would grab an opponent and just slowly crush them into jelly. That, in my opinion, would be most effective against Shodai indeed.