We come to it at last, senshuraku. We had no way of knowing it would play out in this manner back on day 1, as we started off the Osaka tournament. What a great run it has been, and what a fine closing day for this tournament. With Yokozuna Terunofuji out of action with leg problems, it was an open call for the yusho, and a fantastic cast of rikishi responded.
Takayasu fans have been waiting a long time to see their hairy beast hoist the cup. His performance on day 14 gave all of them (myself included) fits. On the cusp of triumph, we saw him break out his bad habits from his Ozeki days, and lose the match to Shodai. He let Wakatakakage have a chance to take the cup from him, and he just may do it.
Wakatakakage has been working hard for years to get to this point. He has many things going for him. He’s young enough at 27 to still have several years of peak performance. He put in his time in Juryo honing his body and his skills. He’s probably ready for higher rank, and what a blazing way to start an Ozeki run from the East Sekiwake slot. Even if he does not take the yusho on Sunday, we won’t have to wait long to see him hold the banner.
Kotonowaka at 24, he’s early in his career. This ties with his best performance ever, at his highest rank ever. Is this the new normal for Kotonowaka? Or is he just having one hell of a basho. He should be in the joi-jin for May, so we will get to see how he handles the big leagues soon enough.
Mitakeumi fell out of the yusho race on day 14 with a bit of a poor move, but with at least 10 wins, he has nothing to apologize for. Some fans may forget, that even as a shin-Ozeki, he already has 3 yusho to his name. This has been one of his best second weeks ever, and we hope this is his new normal too.
The final three matches, for the third day in a row, hold the key to how the yusho will be decided. The contenders are Takayasu and Wakatakakage, with Kotonowaka waiting in the wings should things go poorly for them both.
Should one man lose and the other win the winner will take the cup. Should both men win, they will fight again after the final match (Wakatakakage faces Shodai). Should both men lose, we could have a 3 way playoff if Kotonowaka also wins. I know which one I want – a grand brawl to end it all, with everyone who can be, involved to fight it out to the end.
Don’t get me started on the Darwin matches, this final day of sumo is wall to wall.
I am laying in and extra supply of fine distillates for tonights action. I apologize in advance if the write up tomorrow is a bit kooky.
What We Are Watching Day 15
Hidenoumi vs Ichiyamamoto – For reasons no one can explain, Hidenoumi is in the top division as a visitor for the second day in a row. Not that I mind him putting the challenge to 7-7 Ichiyamamoto. Hidenoumi is already kachi-koshi, and it’s a shame that we could not arrange for Ichiyamamoto to face a proper 7-7 opponent to give him a real do-or-die battle.
Kagayaki vs Terutsuyoshi – We probably say farewell to Kagayaki who, with a make-koshi, is eligible to ride the Juryo barge of the damned. Even thought he has a 6-3 advantage over Terutsuyoshi, his sumo has been fairly crummy this March, and I frankly want to see Terutsuyoshi use another katasukashi.
Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin tries for double digits against 6-8 Myogiryu, who holds a marginal 16-13 career lead. I am not certain what magic gave Tochinoshin some knee power back, but at this low of a rank, an even slightly healthy former Ozeki is big trouble.
Shimanoumi vs Kotokuzan – Our first real Darwin match of the day, and I am going to drink a toast to both of these knuckleheads. Kotokuzan, its his first time in the top division, no harm having some troubles. Shimanoumi, you should be good enough to make this work, sir. It’s their first ever match, so lord knows who has any sort of advantage.
Nishikigi vs Wakamotoharu – This match pleases me greatly. Two kachi-koshi yotsu guys having a fight to see who gets the bigger boost up the banzuke. Wakamotoharu has a 3-1 career leader over Nishikigi, who is fighting like his 2018 self right now. Much as I have enjoyed Wakamotoharu’s sumo, the sentimentalist in me wants to see Nishikigi hit double digits.
Chiyoshoma vs Kotoshoho – Well, 8-6 Kotoshoho had to fight someone. Maybe we can get a flying henka out of 5-9 Chiyoshoma today. I am keen to see Kotoshoho work his way up the ranks, but a slow and steady grind higher is probably the best path for him now.
Hokutofuji vs Yutakayama – They should have had Ichiyamamoto fighting Yutakayama, except they already fought day 9. Bugger, robbed of a perfectly good Darwin match. Yutakayama has a 3-0 career advantage over already kachi-koshi Hokutofuji. But their last match was 2 years ago. On the other hand, Hokutofuji may be feeling a bit out of sorts not currently owning the “Most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”. Maybe he an cough up a final loss to just to let us all know his heart is in the right place, even if he accidentally hit his 8th win.
Akua vs Ishiura – Two guys who should just skip the venue, get drunk and sing karaoke on Abema instead. Seriously, it might be more entertaining. Ishiura was wincing again after his day 14 win, so I am guessing his neck is still boogered up. Both have double digit losses, and Akua may be the bosun of the Juryo barge with those kind of numbers.
Takarafuji vs Chiyonokuni – Matching 5-9 scores, this one is to see who gets to finish with a double digit losing record. Chiyonokuni is still hurt, Takarafuji seems to be less that genki, and I think that it’s anyones guess which one is going to be more hurt when they mount the dohyo today. But it is worth noting, Takarafuji has won the last 10 matches against Chiyonokuni.
Kiribayama vs Kotoeko – Another double digit decider match. Both come in 9-4, and the winner gets a double digit winning record to plug into the wild and wacky banzuke machine. What? you have never heard of the banzuke machine? Its the magical bit or Edo era tech that they use to decide the new banzuke. Its never been photographed, and is only discussed in hush tones among an exclusive handful or oyakata. It seems it’s actually operated by a 103 year old guy from Kyoto, who also maintains it. He is the 14th generation from his family to have this job, and when he is gone, his son will take over. Rumor has it that lksumo got a glimpse of it once, and given his high IQ, was able to re-create some of it in software. This explains why his forecasts are known the world over as accurate and dependable.
Chiyotairyu vs Meisei – This is the match I have highlighted with yellow for tonight. Not because I think it’s going to be a raucous battle, but it’s when I forecast I will need to use the toilet.
Onosho vs Chiyomaru – I should be back in time for this one, if I am not too lit up by then. I think I may have over-done it at Mitsuwa today. I have a rule in my house, sake may only be enjoyed during honbasho. So by the time somebody lifts the cup, it all has to be gone. I think that I would like to see Onosho dial his forward power up to maximum, and discover that Chiyomaru is powered by the miniature black hole that impacted Russia in the early 1900s near Tunguska. They both come in with 5-9 records, and the loser will be sporting a fine double digit loss for that Edo period thing I was rambling on about a bit ago.
Endo vs Tamawashi – Is there anyone that deserves a Darwin match more than Endo right now? Maybe Shodai, but Takayasu saw to that on day 14, the big hairy goon. These two have 27 matches between them, and there is no shortage of big hits, powerful throws and outright sumo brilliance between the two of them. Winner gets kachi-koshi, loser gets to peel potatoes for Wakanohana’s curry supper.
Ichinojo vs Tobizaru – Word to Ichinojo, I call you the Boulder as a suggestion. Be big, be stationary, be stable. Let the flying monkey dance, and just make sure you keep your weight centered, and your arms under your control. Do that, and you may repeat your 10-5 final score from July of last year.
Okinoumi vs Ura – Well, someone had to fight Ura. I am just glad that Ura is not headed back to the hospital this basho. He has been fighting so poorly that he seems to really be over promoted, hurt or some of each. this may not be much of a contest for Okinoumi, who won their only prior bout. Maybe if we ask nicely, lksumo can forecast just how far down the banzuke a 3-12 from Maegashira 1 tends to fall.
Daieisho vs Aoiyama – The last of our Darwin matches, it’s “Big Dan” Aoiyama against plucky Daieisho. Both want to get a lot of forward attack power, though Aoiyama can probably bench press a house at this point, while Daieisho would max out on a Daihatsu utility truck. Even if Daieisho can connect center mass today, Aoiyama has built in crumple zones around his chest that make it kind of weird to attack. What’s a rikishi to do?
Kotonowaka vs Hoshoryu – Sometimes the Great Sumo Cat giveth, and some times he buries things in the litter box. As it happens, many of the 7-7 rikishi had already fought each other, and so to get all possible 7-7 together in a parade of zero-sum Darwin matches really could not happen, much to my profound disappointment, and to the great relief of my liver. So 7-7 Hoshoryu got the litter box today, as he has to beat Kotonowaka if he wants a kachi-koshi. Nothing big, just the guy in the #2 slot in the yusho race. You take care of that, please.
Takanosho vs Sadanoumi – Wow, one more steamer from the cat box before the big finish. Fine, we get a pair of 4-10 guys to see which one can eek out a 5th win. I may highlight this one in yellow as well, because the timing seems about correct.
Back from the loo, it’s time for BIG SUMO
Takayasu vs Abi – 7-7 Abi gets to try his luck against Takayasu. If week 1 Takayasu shows up, Abi will be lucky to have any bones left at the end of the match. If we get day 14 Takayasu, well, its going to be up to Wakatakakage to decide if he wants the cup or not. I know the temptation against Abi is to be quick to overcome his frantic thrusting attacks, But slow down, drain his energy, and then battle hug him like you would Kisenosato. Don’t let him escape, just stand him up and lean him back, give him a close look at Takayasu. Goal is a 6 minute match where Abi is begging to be allowed to fall down. You can do it.
Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – I have been looking forward to this once since day 1. Yeah, I know that Takakeisho is not really at 100%, but these two always whip it on. Its going to be who gets the first combo to connect. Takakeisho is going to blast center mass, and Mitakeumi is going to want to get his arms around Takakeisho. This probably will be a quick match, so do be ready for fast action.
Shodai vs Wakatakakage – Oh yes, Wakatakakage tries out for the big time. Traditionally the final match on senshuraku are the two top ranked athletes in the sport, which would be Shodai and Takakeisho. But Wakatakakage gets the nod for a chance at enough kensho to build a diorama of Howl’s Moving Castle. Will we see the “Wall of Daikon” today? Will we get cartoon sumo? Or will Wakatakakage channel his inner Yokozuna that is slowly working its way to the surface and give Shodai an Osaka clay facial and take the cup?