It’s early days, but the current state of the scoreboard is a puzzle. No one ranked Maegashira 1 or higher has a perfect score. All of the Ozeki are below the make-kachi koshi line, while all of the Sekiwake and Komusubi are 2-1. Hey, this is no way to start a basho, and I am sure that the leadership are a bit flustered as to why their top talent are having a rough time of it. Some ideas
Mitakeumi – Probably the best of the Ozeki, he had a couple of matches go the other way, including his day 3 against Kotonowaka. I frankly was hoping for a rematch, but maybe they were short on time, and did not want to pre-empt the evening news.
Takakeisho – He’s hurt, it’s his right side, maybe his pectoral muscle again. He has had it worked on in the past, but I am guessing it never quite came back as potent as the original equipment. He does not use his right side at all in matches, and he’s kind of hapless now. His only win was by yorikiri, and we have not seen him do that since the last time he was hurt.
Shodai – No visible signs on injury. This basho is startlingly similar to Osaka, where Shodai started with a spate of lost matches. I was blaming it on long COVID, but it may have been lord knows what else. He’s back in the ditch now with a dismal 0-3 start, and I wonder if he’s going to get his sumo back together before the middle weekend.
What We Are Watching Day 4
Azumaryu vs Kotokuzan – Way to start the day, scheduling committee. A pair of 0-3 rikishi fight it out, and I guess the best news is that one of them will get their first win today. Both of them would love to somehow get back on a winning path, but I fear these two are going to have a rough tournament.
Kagayaki vs Yutakayama – Somewhat brighter prospects in the second match, as both rikishi are 2-1. They are both oshi-zumo specialists, and it will come down to Yutakayama’s greater size, or Kagayaki’s better focus. A couple of solid hits center-mass from Kagayaki, and it’s enough to move just about anyone in the top division.
Chiyotairyu vs Midorifuji – I am feeling wistful about Chiyotairyu, who has a terrible 0-3 start. He looks to be a shadow of his normal self, but he has in fact been fading out for most of the last year. There are limits to how many times you can crash into a fellow 170 kg person in a single lifetime, it seems, and few crash with as much vigor as Chiyotairyu has over his career.
Myogiryu vs Ichiyamamoto – I am thrilled that Ichiyamamoto has quietly put together a 3-0 start to Natsu, and he stands a fair chance of besting 2-1 Myogiryu today. Their last match was in January, which Ichiyamamoto won.
Oho vs Sadanoumi – Hopefully with day 4 both of these guys have overcome whatever ring rust the started with. They fought twice in Juryo last year, and in January in Makuuchi. Today will come down to Oho getting a grip, or Sadanoumi getting a clear lane to attack. If Oho can dictate the match go chest to chest, he will likely prevail.
Aoiyama vs Meisei – I dread that Meisei is going to have another rough tournament. He has a 1-6 career deficit against “Big Dan” Aoiyama, and right now Aoiyama is fighting quite well in a variety of styles, coming into today’s match with a spotless 3-0 record.
Chiyoshoma vs Nishikigi – This is a good match for Chiyoshoma, as he can use his agility against Nishikigi’s poor eyesight to prevent his opponent from doing much more than trying to grab him and battle hug him into defeat. Thus, Chiyoshoma needs to stay mobile, and only close in to finish Nishikigi off.
Shimanoumi vs Okinoumi – Shimanoumi is still looking for his first win. He has a 5-2 career advantage over Okinoumi, and today’s as good a day as any for him to pick up his first white star. Okinoumi is fighting well enough, but seems to be like the rest of the over 33 crowd, fighting as well as he can given the injuries and limitations.
Takarafuji vs Tochinoshin – Oh, what sadness lies in this contest? Both are 0-3, both look hurt to me, both are going to likely have a terrible basho. A 24 career match record breaks 13-11 for Tochinoshin, but given how far below their best both of these men are right now, I am not sure it matters.
Ura vs Kotoshoho – Ura has never lost to Kotoshoho, I think it’s because Ura’s grab and tug sumo works pretty well against him. Kotoshoho may not be able to keep his arms and legs away from Ura’s iron grasp that well, and once he latches on, lord knows what he’s going to do next. Both come into this match at 2-1, and I think that if Kotoshoho was going to rack up his first win vs Ura, today would be that day.
Terutsuyoshi vs Wakamotoharu – After Terutsuyoshi’s day 3 match where he lifted Tochinoshin, I am going to assume there is nothing this guy can’t actually do in the world of sumo. I am sure Wakamotoharu will try to grapple and use his greater size, but he Terutsuyoshi will naturally be lower, and be able to attack from below. Could be a really fierce match.
Kotoeko vs Tobizaru – Tobizaru has a 3-0 start to Natsu, and frankly it’s time someone put some dirt on sumo’s flying monkey. With an even 3-3 record, I think this one is a solid even match, and I expect there to be a great clash of sumo style. One thing you can count on, no matter who wins or loses, Tobizaru is going walkabout into the crowd.
Hokutofuji vs Onosho – Onosho looks dialed into his sumo right now. His balance is working well, his thrusting attacks are firm and potent, and he is probably on track to turn in one of his “good” scores. Hokutofuji, of course, is setting sail at the outset for “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo”.
Takanosho vs Tamawashi – Sorry, Takanosho, your 4-2 career advantage over Tamawashi probably does not mean squat today. Tamawashi seems to be in top form for a 30 year old rikishi, and incredible form for a 37 year old rikishi. Prepare for chaos.
Wakatakakage vs Daieisho – Both men have match 2-1 records, but at least to my eye, Daieisho is fighting much better than Wakatakakage is right now. Much as I would love to see Waka rack up another double digit score, I am not sure he will best Daieisho today. I am looking for an early head thrust / nodowa from Daieisho to set the tone of this fight.
Endo vs Abi – Abi has a 9-2 career advantage over Endo, and given that Endo does not seem to really be rid of his ring rust yet, he may be facing a double hand sandwich in his match today with Abi.
Hoshoryu vs Takakeisho – Takakeisho really looks poorly right now. His sumo is a mess, he can’t attack from the right, and he’s just throwing anything he can into his daily matches, hoping to get a chance to win. I can appreciate the guts it takes to do that when you are hurt, but it’s not going to result in Ozeki sumo.
Takayasu vs Shodai – (sigh) what the hell. Shodai, get that finger out of your ear and focus. We need you to be an Ozeki for the next few days, and it would help if you could show the rest of the san’yaku a bit of your sumo prowess. Give Takayasu the “Wall of Daikon” today, and all will be forgiven.
Mitakeumi vs Kiribayama – Mitakeumi at 1-2? Well, anyone who had Yokozuna dreams for the original tadpole can probably set them aside for a while. Forget about his week 2 fade, we need to reverse a possible week 1 fade! Ok, ok… too huge. He’s got a 4-5 career deficit against Kiribayama, but maybe he will keep himself inside the ring and upright long enough to win.
Terunofuji vs Kotonowaka – In spite of Terunofuji’s 2-0 career lead over Kotonowaka, this match worries me. Koto’s uses a lot of lateral motion in his sumo, and that’s very tough for Terunofuji to absorb. A Yokozuna loss today would be Kotonowaka’s first ever kinboshi.