It was a tough day in the named ranks, as many of the top men in sumo struggled in their opening matches. I would shout out to Kiribayama’s excellent form, and Kotonowaka’s ability to stay calm in spite of that tachiai giving him an unexpected advantage.
How much of it is ring rust vs mechanical injuries in the top rikishi? We should figure that out over the next couple of days. But from our previews and work up for Natsu, it was clear that this joi-jin was going to be a brutal cadre for the named ranks. Fans should expect some tough matches for the Ozeki and the Yokozuna in act 1.
Kagayaki defeats Kotokuzan – This is the kind of sumo that Kagayaki had been known for. He had relentless focus on Kotokuzan’s center-mass. While Kotokuzan is working to attack Kagayaki’s head, Kagayaki is driving hard with control of the inside route. More like this please. Kagayaki starts Natsu 1-0.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Midorifuji – Midorifuji could not muster any response to Ichiyamamoto’s opening double arm attack volley. The first moments left Midorifuji moving back and attempting to circle away. But a bad step took his left foot onto the janome, and it was Ichiyamamoto’s match, giving him a 1-0 start.
Yutakayama defeats Azumaryu – Yutakayama’s nodowa attack carried the match for him. Azumaryu tried to rally and maintain footing, but Yutakayama dialed up the forward pressure and forced him back.
Meisei defeats Oho – Oho opened strong, but seemed to be focused on a strictly East-West match, and was not prepared for Meisei’s agility. As Oho moved to press his attack forward, Meisei circled away and counter attacked. A single powerful shove sent Oho out. Meisei – we are all counting on you to do much better than your 1-14 in Osaka. Good match sir.
Sadanoumi defeats Chiyotairyu – I really like Sadanoumi’s opening move here. Normally he leaps forward and attacks, today he changed up tempo, went in just a “regular human” speed and caught Chiyotairyu somewhat off tempo. Chiyotairyu immediately tried to pull him down, and Sadanoumi charged into the pull, sending Chiyotairyu out for a 1-0 start.
Myogiryu defeats Chiyoshoma – Chiyoshoma’s early try for a pull down wasted what was otherwise an excellent tachiai. Myogiryu kept his feet, and worked his hands inside and attacked from below with great effect. Once he had dismantled Chiyoshoma’s defenses, Myogiryu made quick work of sending him out.
Aoiyama defeats Nishikigi – Classic Aoiyama “Stand him up, slap him down” combo played out over the course of several seconds from the tachiai. This level of execution was more or less missing in Osaka, so it’s good to see “Big Dan” back in form and looking strong.
Okinoumi defeats Tochinoshin – A cold start is nothing new for Tochinoshin, and he looked unprepared for today’s opener to me. He tried for his left hand outside grip, but excellent hand placement by Okinoumi shut down any chance of Tochinoshin generating offense at first. While the former Ozeki tried to consolidate his position into anything useful, Okinoumi walked him out. 1-0 start for the man from Shimane.
Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoshoho – Terutsuyoshi gave Kotoshoho the slip at the tachiai, and from that moment forward, Kotoshoho struggled to figure out what the hell was going on. For a brief moment, Kotoshoho actually was able to switch to offense, but that just opened the door for Terutsuyoshi to conjure up a glorious under shoulder swing down. Been a fair number of days since we had a katasukashi from him, and it was wonderful to see.
Kotoeko defeats Shimanoumi – Kotoeko’s superior power to weight ratio with a healthy gob of stamina carried that match. Both men put a lot of energy into the fight, but you could see that Shimanoumi tired first. From there it was Kotoeko’s match to win, and his patience payed off. 1-0 start for Kotoeko.
Wakamotoharu defeats Takarafuji – I had anticipated a big yotsu match today, and both men delivered, but it went a different direction than I had expected. Normally Takarafuji would be able to set his feet and blunt any attack his opponent might deploy. But it’s a testament to Wakamotoharu’s sumo that he was able to unseal Takarafuji’s feet from the clay and keep him inching back.
Tobizaru defeats Ura – With these two fighting, it was going to be volley after volley of probing attacks, and they certainly employed those in quantity. But once they figured out there was no future in the grab and tug mode, they went chest to chest to hug it out. Tobizaru rallied first, Ura tried to rotate but cold not complete as Tobizaru tossed him into the zabuton, crushing gyoji Shotaro in the process.
Onosho defeats Takanosho – It seems the job of the first man to face Onosho in any basho has the duty to check his balance. Some time, Onosho shows up to week 1 quiet wobbly, but not today. Takanosho rocked Onosho’s head back at the tachiai, but his body kept driving forward. Onosho turned and pulled Takanosho past him to the right for a tsukiotoshi win.
Endo defeats Hoshoryu – I was curious how this one was going to go, and the results surprised me a bit. Endo had a very compact body position in the tachiai, and like some spherical sumo bollard, Hoshoryu seems to have deflected off Endo’s right side. Endo finished him with a quick push down, and it was 1-0 for Endo.
Tamawashi defeats Abi – We had suggested this match would come down to the power and placement for the first hit. It went to Tamawashi, and it disrupted Abi’s opening combo. By the time Abi reset, Tamawashi had him on the run, and made fast work of what was left.
Wakatakakage defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji was high in the tachiai, and allowed himself to be captured by Wakatakakage’s right hand. Unable to move or break contact, Hokutofuji’s thrusting attack was discarded for a straight yotsu battle. Wakatakakage never let him lower his hips, and Hokutofuji remained too high for the entire match, as Wakatakakage took him apart a piece at a time and racked up an opening day win for a 1-0 start to Natsu.
Kotonowaka defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho got in a single combo at the start, and could not get a second volley started. As a result, Kotonowaka was surprised to find himself in the driver’s seat, but moved the Ozeki back, and finished him. Hopefully this is just ring rust on Takakeisho, but he did not look fierce today.
Kiribayama defeats Shodai – Shodai’s back in sloppy tachiai territory again. He was wide open to Kiribayama’s opening gambit, which resulted in a Kiribayama left hand frontal grip. Should could not find a way to shake that hold, and Kiribayama used it to win the match. 1-0 start for Kiribayama
Mitakeumi defeats Takayasu – The moment I saw Takayasu on one foot, I knew which way this was headed. But hey, Tate-gyoji Inosuke once again got in the way of the match, and it was (in my opinion) a factor. I think maybe its time for the fellow to hang up the gumbai and let someone else hold the top spot. Mitakeumi starts 1-0.
Daieisho defeats Terunofuji – Daieisho connected early with Terunofuji’s chest, and the Yokozuna could not hold position. As we have worried, this may mean his knees are not able to transmit power to ground, and will cause him to struggle with defense. Daieisho kept up the pressure, and walked Terunofuji back for a win.