With the conclusion of the Nagoya basho, I have posted the “omnibus” page with easy-to-navigate links to consolidate Tachiai’s coverage of the tournament. It was a very interesting tournament with many twists and turns, and some controversy. I hope you all enjoyed coverage of the Jonokuchi division yusho race and found yourselves fans of new wrestlers. There is a lot more of interest in that division than just the Shonanzakura losing streak.
In the Top division coverage, there are also many exciting storylines aside from the yusho race. This whole tournament brought back Hakuho and provides sumo fans a bit of clarity with new “White Hat” rival with a White Belt in Yokozuna Terunofuji. (It’s pretty exciting to be able to refer to him that way.) Hakuho seems to be everything Terunofuji is not and I am eager to see Terunofuji take on his nemesis in September.
That said, one of the big talking points coming out of the tournament will be Hakuho’s antics on the dohyo, particularly his euphoric shout on senshuraku and this shocking tachiai against Shodai. (*Edit* My son pointed out that the video below has more DISLIKES than Likes by a long shot.)
Personally, I think Hakuho was sending a deliberate message to Shodai during the now infamous tawara tachiai. If we go back to last year when Hakuho stood up during his bout with Takakeisho, goading the Ozeki to challenge him, we see more of that behavior in this bout with Shodai — and even earlier with Tobizaru. While Terunofuji was an Ozeki, worthy of his challenge, Shodai has only once cracked 10 wins as Ozeki. His “brand of sumo” is derided by sumo fans as “cartoonish” and his tachiai is notoriously weak. I believe Hakuho was saying, “I am tired of playing cat and mouse. I do not give chase. You come to me, ‘Ozeki’.”
His knee is obviously a concern, as are the numerous injuries and chronic ailments of other top-division wrestlers, not least of which are those of new Yokozuna, Terunofuji. But Hakuho was able to put together an undefeated run in his first tournament back from knee surgery, facing the sport’s top competition. Standing back a few feed did little to protect that knee from the strain of a top-level sumo bout. This did force Shodai to move forward and come to him.
Before the tournament, I had thought we would be lucky if he finished all fifteen days. With this win, though, and with Hokuseiho’s imminent promotion to Juryo, I have to wonder if he might stay around long enough to have Hokuseiho join him during his dohyo-iri. He has already said he wants win #900. But before he retires, others need to start beating him and they need to bring out their best sumo — even if Hakuho is displaying his “worst.” Rather than a drop-off in quality from the “prime-Hakuho” era, sumo fans deserve a clear transition where others are able to beat him, consistently.