Act 1 of the Hatsu basho is in the records books, and several of the 4-0 rikishi did not make the cut to 5-0 today. What we. are left with are two rikishi with prior yusho experience, and a very genki Abi. I think it’s time (I hope) to start putting Abi up against the higher ranked rikishi to test his mettle. The last thing sumo needs is another “down the banzuke” yusho during a Hatsu basho, where the winner never really faced the top men in the sport. With Takakeisho out, Shodai looking moribund and Terunofuji trying not to put weight on that left leg, this rotation into the named ranks needs to happen sooner rather than later.
But damn, Abi looks really dialed into his sumo right now.
Kagayaki defeats Oho – I had guessed this might be a big grinding clash of sumo fundamentals, and we did get that. I have to wonder where this Kagayaki was in Kyushu. He muscled Oho’s hands out of the way at least half a dozen times to dominate the inside lane, landing his hands center mass and pushing with all he had. It worked, as it always does when done with power and skill, and Kagayaki advances to 3-2.
Tsurugisho defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama opened with a rather tepid version of the V-Twin attack, but surprisingly went chest to chest with Tsurugisho about 10 seconds in. He furthermore let Tsurugisho change his grip around, which led to the yorikiri. Aoiyama must be pretty hurt, as this was low offense, low defense sumo against a clearly injured Tsurugisho, who picks up his first win of the basho to improved to 1-4.
Tochinoshin defeats Kotoeko – Well, Tochinoshin is not quite ready to limp off into the sunset. I had no idea if we would ever see another tsuridashi from him, but we got one today. Kotoeko got a bit too frisky in his attack, and the former Ozeki found he could in fact lift Kotoeko, and out he goes!
Kaisei defeats Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka took a strong start, but sometimes being enormous is a valid sumo strategy. Try as he could, Kotonowaka could not get Kaisei to move very much at all, he’s just too huge. Eventually though, even Kaisei decided he had had enough, he dropped his hips and advanced. Three steps later, Kotonowaka was out, and Kaisei improves to 3-2.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Yutakayama – Really fun to watch Ichiyamamoto cycle through combination attacks that rapidly. It disoriented Yutakayama for a bit, but Yutakayama did settle into an inside thrusting attack, just in time to decide to try and pull Ichiyamamoto down. Of course we know what happens then, with forward pressure released, Ichiyamamoto lands a solid shove center mass and out goes Yutakayama. Ichiyamamoto is now 3-2.
Chiyomaru defeats Wakamotoharu – Sumo fans, I have not seen this version of Chiyomaru in a long long time. I take no points away from Wakamotoharu who had a solid grip, fine footwork, and relentless drive. But what the hell, Chiyomaru? Every time Wakamotoharu had him a split second from going out, Chiyomaru would find an escape. Eventually (and yes, it took a while) Wakamotoharu decides to go bigger in his finishing attack, and Chiyomaru finds an escape to the side, sending Wakamotoharu to the clay. The Shimpan want to look it over, but somehow that round mass of sumo stayed inside while Wakamotoharu ate clay. Chiyomaru improves to a very nimble 4-1.
Sadanoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi attempts a flying ashitori, and ends up completely off balance, and in a flat spin. All Sadanoumi had to do was apply a modicum of downward force, and Mother Nature did the rest. Shame Terutsuyoshi did not get that leg hold, that would have been brilliant. Sadanoumi improves to 3-2.
Chiyotairyu defeats Akua – In the battle of the winless, it was the diminished sumo thunder god who was able to score his first win of the basho. A traditional Chiyotairyu “Stand them up, slap them down” combo, and it was kensho time for Chiyotairyu, improving to 1-4.
Ishiura defeats Myogiryu – Rapid hit and shift by Ishiura to start the match. This took Myogiryu off his sumo, but to his credit he reacted with equal speed. Ishiura was ready to follow through, and drove Myogiryu back with power, sending him out moment later with a “ramming speed” blast amidships. Myogiryu picks up his first loss of the basho, and Ishiura improves to 3-2.
Shimanoumi defeats Chiyonokuni – Sadly, this was not the day that Chiyonokuni picked up his first win. His thrusting attack is as sharp as ever, but that bandaged left knee tells the story. It seems to have robbed him of the ability to take or hold ground on the dohyo, and Shimanoumi ran the show today. Shimanoumi improves to 3-2, Chiyonokuni 0-5.
Hoshoryu defeats Tobizaru – Hoshoryu spent this match showing us excellent form, while Tobizaru when monkey-crazy and was tossing everything he could into the fight. It was quite the contrast to see Hoshoryu calmly working to get the win and Tobizaru flailing away. Eventually Hoshoryu decided to just take whatever came his way, and slapped down a lunging Tobizaru to advance to 3-2. Solid effort from both.
Takarafuji defeats Onosho – Picking up his first loss of Hatsu, Onosho allowed Takarafuji to set up his “Defend and Extend” sumo, and is almost always the case, you can fight all you want but you are just going to end up dirty when that happens. Masterful display of defensive sumo from Takarafuji today, and he advances to 4-1.
Abi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji had a brief window to establish the dominant position in this match, and he missed. You can see his opening combo fall flat as Abi connects with his first double arm salvo. The match was more or less over at that point, save the formality of Hokutofuji exiting the right. Time to send Abi up against the higher ranks, or he’s going to challenge for the yusho without a serious challenge.
Chiyoshoma defeats Endo – Chiyoshoma hits at the tachiai, lands a right hand outside grip and immediately circles right. This robs Endo of any chance of forward attack, and put him in the position of having to also track right to keep Chiyoshoma to his front quarter. With all of this lateral / circular motion, it was a sure bet someone was going to lose their footing, and Endo hits the clay for a loss. Chiyoshoma advances to 2-3.
Daieisho defeats Okinoumi – Also in the “can’t buy a win” column is dear old Okinoumi. To his credit, Okinoumi opened strong, and even had Daieisho’s heels on the tawara. At that moment, Daieisho landed a nodowa, and proceeded to run Okinoumin out. Daieisho improves to 2-3.
Meisei defeats Ura – Meisei came in strong against a crouching Ura, who could not hold position against the attack. Sliding back bustsugari style, Ura quickly found himself at the bales, where he caught a Meisei push full in the chest that sent him out of the ring. Meisei improves to 3-2.
Wakatakakage defeats Takanosho – Takanosho opened strong, but got his feet tangled up with Wakatakakage’s defensive stance. Not one to waste a moment of weakness, Wakatakakage attacked in response, surprising Takanosho with a quick trip to the clay for his first win of Hatsu, improving to 1-4.
Mitakeumi defeats Kiribayama – Kiribayama opened with a thrusting combo, and in response, Mitakeumi deftly twists him around, completely disrupting any offense Kiribayama may have been ready to employ. What struck me about this match is just how efficient Mitakeumi’s sumo was today. Very few moves, but each one of them with significant force. Kiribayama finds himself with his heel on the tawara, his chest wide open, and Mitakeumi’s hands on his chest. We know what happens next in this process, and Kiribayama steps out, giving Mitakeumi his 5th win for a perfect start to Hatsu.
Tamawashi defeats Shodai – I could talk about this match, but Twitter sumo commentator “Sumo Soul 相撲魂 (@TheSumoSoul)” supplied this translation of NHK commentator Mainoumi’s remarks: “Sure Washi caught him high but an ōzeki should be able to overcome that” and “the NSK’s purpose is not to make weak ōzeki” and “you’d think he could do more”. I share Mainoumi’s frustration. I know Shodai has some top-flight sumo in him, and just wonder what has happened to lock it up and keep it from being used on the dohyo. Tamawashi improves to 4-1 in a disappointingly one sided match.
Terunofuji defeats Ichinojo – Unlike some of his earlier matches this basho, there was no opening moment of hope for Ichinojo. It was straight into the throw factory for him. But it was impossible not to notice Terunofuji trying to keep weight and pressure off of that left leg. That is indeed a worry. But the Kaiju is a perfect 5-0.