At the close of Act One, some of our storylines have already reached their conclusion. There will be no rope for Takakeisho. Shodai and Asanoyama appear strong enough to shed their kadoban. Hakuho is safe, healthy, and has recovered from the Corona virus. Our list of kyujo remains unchanged from Day One.
In their place, we find some fun new threads. Will Akiseyama be the next low-ranker to make a push for the yusho? Where did this giant-killing Daieisho come from? Ichinojo is showing signs that he’s back! Might we see other sanyaku rikishi making moves for Ozeki?
Sadanoumi (3-2) defeated Yutakayama (3-2) Yutakayama sure let Sadanoumi have it with both barrels. Sadanoumi sure earned my respect with the way he weathered the storm of thrusts from Yutakayama and escaped whenever it appeared Yutakayama had him dead to rights. Finally, Yutakayama appeared to tire and Sadanoumi wrapped him up with the left and pressed forward, sending the pair off the dohyo and into Isegahama-oyakata. Both fighters spent, it took them a while to muster the resources to get to their feet and climb back to the playing surface to conclude the bout. yorikiri
Hidenoumi defeated Midorifuji (3-2) Hidenoumi, our Juryo visitor, prevented any attempt at an early throw by keeping Midorifuji at arm’s length from the outset. Hidenoumi shook off Midorifuji’s tsuppari from their brief oshi-battle. Once he worked the smaller Midorifuji to the edge, he pounced, seeking out a belt grip. Midorifuji retreated by skirting the edge of the ring but Hidenoumi gave chase, cut off all exit and ushered him out. yorikiri
Akiseyama (5-0) defeated Hoshoryu (0-5) Hoshoryu had the advantage early and backed Akiseyama to the tawara but Akiseyama composed himself and brought the action back to the center. Hoshoryu lashed out with a trip…but Akiseyama wasn’t moving forward. Instead Akiseyama bided his time to reach in underneath. As he pushed forward from below, Hoshoryu had nowhere to run. yorikiri
Kotonowaka (4-1) defeated Terutsuyoshi (2-3) The two tussled for advantage out of the tachiai, with Terutsuyoshi seeking position from below, while Kotonowaka was left with the high ground. Kotonowaka may have not really known what to do because Terutsuyoshi took the initiative and drove forward into the Sadogatake youngster. As they neared the bales, Kotonowaka pivoted on his left and swung Terutsuyoshi out with his right-hand belt-grip. uwatenage
Kotoeko (2-3) defeated Akua (1-4) Kotoeko met Akua’s tachiai with a shoulder blast. As Akua primed Kotoeko’s head placement for some vigorous slapping, Kotoeko launched his top-knot into Akua’s face. The lavender lothario then wrapped up his quarry for a cuddle and started in with some rather asynchronous gaburi-yori hip action to drive Akua back and out over the tawara. yoritaoshi
Ichinojo (4-1) defeated Shimanoumi (2-3) Shimanoumi’s had some good runs lately but when Ichinojo is focused, there’s not a lot one can do. Ichinojo got in a nodowa just after the tachiai and with all that mass behind a nodowa, Shimanoumi just knew he needed to search for a soft place to land. oshidashi
Aoiyama defeated Myogiryu: At the tachiai, Myogiryu pushed Aoiyama, holding him at arm’s length. As Bruce mentioned in his preview, we were expecting a brawl. Just when I thought Aoiyama would start pounding with some tsuppari, he pulled and tried to force Myogiryu down. But Myogiryu maintained his balance. As Myogiryu advanced, Aoiyama circled behind and wrapped up Myogiryu’s arms, looking for a kimedashi. Myogiryu resisted, briefly at the edge and when Aoiyama adjusted his grip, Myogiryu tried to dance on the tawara but Aoiyama pushed him out. yorikiri
Kiribayama defeated Tobizaru: Kiribayama met Tobizaru head-on at the tachiai but as Tobizaru tried to sneak under for a belt grip, Kiribayama shifted to his left and came over Tobizaru to secure a left-handed belt grip back near the knot. Tobizaru’s own right-hand inside grip seemed a bit ineffective as his right arm was more extended – like he was just trying to hang on – while Kiribayama controlled the action and spun around. Tobizaru then let go with the right and tried to wrap up Kiribayama in a head-lock. Kiribayama continued with the spin and wrangled Tobizaru down to the ground. shitatenage
Meisei defeated Tokushoryu: Tokushoryu won the advantage at the tachiai and looked to usher Meisei out but Meisei had a solid left-hand grip and used that leverage to attempt his own throw near the edge. Tokushoryu pivoted and as they jostled to re-engage, Meisei moved forward, forcing Tokushoryu out. yorikiri
Okinoumi defeated Ryuden Like a pair of old mountain goats, Okinoumi and Ryuden locked horns at the tachiai. As they circled, Okinoumi snuck his right hand up behind Ryuden’s head and pushed down, forcing Ryuden to the clay. Evolution may favor the goat who thinks to wrap that front leg up over his opponent. katasukashi
Kagayaki defeated Endo: Kagayaki pushed forward with a strong tachiai, not giving Endo a chance to set his feet or even think of a belt grip. By the time Endo could compose his thoughts, he was already out. oshidashi
Tamawashi defeated Onosho by near decapitation. As Onosho drove forward with his tachiai, Tamawashi grabbed his head like a beachball and shoved back, hard. Onosho’s lower half still drove forward so Tamawashi shifted left and threw Onosho’s head down, to lay on the clay with the rest of his body. Ouch. tsukiotoshi
Daieisho defeated Takayasu. This was a spirited oshi-zumo bout, Izutsu oyakata’s pick for his favorite bout of the day. Takayasu played ball but Daieisho was in control, advancing on Takayasu from the start, eventually tossing the former ozeki out of the ring. oshidashi
Takanosho defeated Mitakeumi: Mitakeumi showed spirit and strength as he forced Takanosho back to the bales with a dominant tachiai. As Takanosho resisted, Mitakeumi appeared to try to shift his right arm. Takanosho used this moment to attack and drove Mitakeumi back across the ring, through the gyoji and over the tawara. yorikiri
Terunofuji defeated Hokutofuji: Hokutofuji certainly brought it to Terunofuji and angered the kaiju with a strong nodowa. He even appeared to catch Terunofuji off-balance early but Big T recovered and wrapped him up in the middle of the ring. Terunofuji rendered Hokutofuji’s left arm virtually useless, flailing in the air with his right arm in Fuji’s armpit, while he sought out a belt grip with the left. Even in this state, Hokutofuji’s continued pressure forced an uneasy stalemate for some time there in the center. Terunofuji’s one good right leg would have to drive forward alone. The left appears to be there for only balance at this point. Hokutofuji started to back Terunofuji up but Terunofuji summoned enough power from his genki-reserves to drive Hokutofuji back again. As Hokutofuji tried to disengage and escape to the side, Terunoufuji pushed him over the bales. oshidashi
Takakeisho defeated Kotoshoho: Takakeisho gets his shonichi at the close of Act 1. Solid tachiai. Takakeisho attempted a nodowa off the bat, rather than moving straight into wave action. Kotoshoho resisted strongly…perhaps too strongly. The nodowa had forced him to stand straight up as he tried to bull his way through. Takakeisho caught him with his weight too far forward, released, and thrust Kotoshoho down as his momentum carried him forward. tsukiotoshi
Asanoyama defeated Tochinoshin: Asanoyama caught out Tochinoshin’s half-hearted henka. Tochinoshin slapped Asanoyama and shifted left, seeking a belt grab but Asanoyama recovered, drove straight into the up-right Tochinoshin, and forced the Georgian out quickly. yorikiri
Shodai defeated Takarafuji: Shodai rose to meet Takarafuji and absorb his tachiai but Takarafuji was not moving forward at a lightning pace, so the tachiai here was rather weak. Shodai reached under Takarafuji’s right arm with his left to try to get a belt grip. When Takarafuji clamped down with his right arm, Shodai pulled backward, pivoting on his right foot, trying to fling Takarafuji toward the tawara. Takarafuji arrested his momentum short of the tachiai but Shodai pivoted again on his right foot, and forced Takarafuji over the bales. Shodai did not seem happy with his sumo after the bout, but the win is a win. Yorikiri
A Yokozuna’s Discontent
After witnessing the night’s action, Asashoryu lamented this weak crop of wrestlers over on Twitter. While this is not a literal translation, he expressed dismay, “They’re all weak. Sorry, folks.” He lays the blame squarely on practice, saying they’re spoiled with this state of easy practice.
For context, I’ve linked below to a video of Asashoryu’s brand of practice. Alan Iverson may have paid more attention under this regime. Here is Asashoryu, beating the crap out of a rising 19-year-old maegashira named Hakuho during a degeiko trip to Miyagino stable. Hakuho appears to win a practice bout, then catches hell in some brutal-looking kawaigari.
We’ll probably flinch at that slap…but an Asashoryu slap in the ring would have been a bit harder than what was dished out here. At the 2-minute mark of the video, Hakuho, with mud still coating his back, thanks Asashoryu for the privilege of having had his butt kicked. He gives him a drink from his water bottle, this time, instead of splashing chikaramizu in his face. But we know how this story ended. After the dragon was banished, our Phoenix then rose from those fires to lay waste to all who opposed him on the dohyo as he reigned supreme for more than 10 years. Now, as the flames of age and injury lap at his back and begin to consume him, we ponder, “Who will rise from the ashes?”
As we recall, an overly-intense practice session between Hakuho’s stablemate, Ishiura, and a lower-ranker blew up as scandal when the fists started flying, nevermind the ladles of power water. Without such a fierce up-bringing, will the Blue Phoenix, who flew in from the North, be as resilient? I cannot imagine many parents signing off on the rough and tumble style of Asashoryu’s tutelage.
Those days are over. And let’s face it, the metal poles and wooden bats mentioned in this article have no place on a dohyo, or in a keikoba. Oyakata are tasked with raising wrestlers, not beating them and certainly not killing them. But with no degeiko at all, not even our 21st Century sanitized version, the quality of sumo and condition of the wrestlers may be subpar.
Still, hopefully, the sumo we see and discuss here will take our minds off the pandemic and problems that our world faces outside the heya’s walls. I’m eager to see who wins this tournament and what challenges that winner will face when all those well-rested Covid-kyujo wrestlers come back in March. The next ten days will be very fun to watch unfold.