Dear lord, what a mess. As previewed last night, the yusho race was a chaotic jumble, but with the results of day 8 in the books, it’s actually somewhat worse now. A few years ago, we worried that the top division was starting to look more like Juryo, where nobody was really dominant, and everyone kind of milled about having sumo matches and winning a few here and there. I think it may have been Josh who described it first. Sometimes when you see the possibility of something stupid, people use a bit of hyperbole as a warning against trying the stupid thing out. Well, here we are.
The two guys was 1 loss picked up their second loss, several of the rikishi with 2 losses picked up their third, and the whole assembly has failed to differentiate itself from the funnel by the end of day 8. This could in fact end up with a multiple way 10-5 yusho playoff on the final day. It may be kind of exciting to watch, but its really bad for sumo.
How did it get to this? We have an injured Yokozuna, and a moribund Ozeki corps. Out of the 4 of them, only two have winning records, and neither winning record is strong. I joked earlier in the basho about angry old men faxing hate notes to the NSK, but if you want to hear the Yokozuna Deliberation Council get spun up, just let things continue as they are going now.
Kotokuzan defeats Hidenoumi – Kotokuzan finally picks up his first win, which was a bit of a surprise. I think a middling Juryo rikishi is probably the right opponent for this poor fellow, and he will do much better there. Soon enough. He improves to 1-7.
Chiyotairyu defeats Azumaryu – Chiyotairyu did work on the traditional formula of “Stand him up and throw him down”, but the part where he took Azumaryu down was a bit more exotic than his normal form. Placing a left arm around Azumaryu’s waist, it was a mad dance across the dohyo with Azumaryu landing outside the bales. Chiyotairyu improves to 5-3 with five straight wins.
Meisei defeats Midorifuji – First in our category of “What the hell was that?” is this match. Reasonable tachiai, then Midorifuji leaps to the side and tries for a some kind of slap down, completely misses any part of Meisei’s body, and pancakes himself to the clay. Kimarite was assigned as “tsukite”, a non winning move. Both end the day in the middle of the funnel at 4-4.
Yutakayama defeats Myogiryu – Yutakayama refuses to drop out of the bottle edge of the funnel, on to the make-koshi track, with a win today. Yutakayama showed some really solid foot work today, and it kept him in the match. He was able to get Myogiryu turned to the side, and then walked him out from behind. Yutakayama improves to 3-5.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Sadanoumi – Ichiyamamoto knocks Sadanoumi out of the lead. He delivers a strong tachiai, and begins his thrusting attack. Sadanoumi pays off as he is able to get to the side of, and behind Ichiyamamoto, and works to push him out from behind. But somehow Ichiyamamoto reaches around and slaps him out of the ring. Crazy sloppy sumo, but brilliant at the same time. Mark this as another in the “What the hell was that?” group. Both end the day at 6-2.
Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki had the offense, the body position and the foot work here today. But he was not able to keep his balance at the edge when Nishikigi slapped him to the side, and he toppled out of the ring. Nishikigi improves to 4-4 and remains in the funnel.
Kotoshoho defeats Oho – Oho gave it a good try today, but Kotoshoho kept his balance, kept centered and endured Oho’s early attacks. As well as Oho was doing, he could not find enough power to get Kotoshoho out or down. Kotoshoho found a moment where Oho’s feet were poorly placed, and swung him around, sending him out of the ring. Kotoshoho improves to 5-3.
Shimanoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – Shimanoumi did a great job of shutting down every attack attempt that Terutsuyoshi employed. After stalemating at the center of the ring, Shimanoumi advanced and drove Terutsuyoshi from the ring. Shimanoumi improves to 4-4.
Chiyoshoma defeats Takarafuji – Takarafuji was able to set up and execute his “Defend and extend” brand of sumo, but it was still a loss for him today. He has a perfect 0-8 make-koshi at this point, and its frankly a bit depressing. It was an excellent endurance battle, and I gave Takarafuji high marks for keeping the sumo on his terms for that long. Chiyoshoma now 4-4, in the middle of the funnel.
Okinoumi defeats Kotoeko – After a flurry of grip changes following the tachiai, the two locked up chest to chest in the middle of the ring. Okinoumi used the moment to consolidate his grip with his left, then advanced and attempted a uwatenage, which took Kotoeko out of the ring. Both finish 4-4 are are inducted into the funnel.
Ura defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin did not reach for his left hand outside grip at the tachiai, instead focusing on setting up a left hand nodowa, perhaps trying to keep Ura back. It was pretty clear Ura was setting up and under shoulder swing down, and Tochinoshin rushed to push Ura out before he could complete the motion. He did not make it, and hit the deck before Ura tumbled off the dohyo. The win improves Ura to 5-3.
Wakamotoharu defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama put all of his chips on a slap / pull down as his second step, and he never got that far. With Aoiyama’s chest wide open, Wakamotoharu attacked center mass, and drove Aoiyama from the ring. Great, efficient and effective sumo from Wakamotoharu, dropping Aoiyama out of the lead, and elevating his score to 5-3.
Tamawashi defeats Tobizaru – Superior focus and concentration by Tamawashi today was the key to this win. He did not worry about what kind of crazy stuff Tobizaru might produce, he found his mark at the top of Tobizaru’s chest, and just went to work. Sumo’s flying monkey could not hold ground under that attack, and was quickly sent back out of the east side from whence he came. Tamawashi improves to 6-2 and is, oddly enough, now a co-leader.
Kiribayama defeats Hokutofuji – Kiribayama affirms Hokutofuji make-koshi track by attacking strongly into a Hokutofuji pulling attempt at the second step. A rapid oshidashi, and Kiribayama is 5-3.
Kotonowaka defeats Wakatakakage – Well, it was high time for another WTF moment. Wakatakakage was fighting well, he had superior body position, and was in charge of this match. He surged forward to take Wakatakakage out of the ring. But as Kotonowaka is spread-eagle, toppling forward, somehow that right hand mawashi grip provides just enough leverage to swing Wakatakakage out before Kotonowaka can hit the clay. Ok, not sure what is going on here, but that was odd. Kotonowaka goes to 4-4, and is part of the funnel.
Abi defeats Takayasu – Much love for Takayasu, I have been a fan for a long time, but he just can’t compete at this level any more. Sure he can mount the dohyo and look large and burly, but Abi completely dominated him today. In fact Abi has won every match since he came back from his suspension. Abi improves to 5-3.
Mitakeumi defeats Endo – Endo was so low at the tachiai, I would guess he was counting grains of sand on the dohyo. When presented with a low flying Endo, why not just crush him down to the clay? Mitakeumi did, and picked up his 4th win.
Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – Takakeisho was firing hard at center-mass, but Daieisho was able to get his feet on the bales, and rather than try to power through that, he chose to pull Daieisho forward. Risky move, as Daieisho almost kept him feet, but a well placed push downward on Daieisho’s shoulder sent him to the clay, and both men end the day 5-3.
Shodai defeats Hoshoryu – It it was “What the hell was that?” day, you know Shodai had to play his part. The real Shodai was on the clay today, and completely overwhelmed Hoshoryu. Well, at least until they got to the edge of the ring. Watching the replay, it was not clear that Shodai did not touch down and out first. Probably should have been a monoii, but they never called it. At least Shodai could get a second win, improving to 2-6.
Takanosho defeats Terunofuji – Terunofuji’s defense failed, as he let Takanosho get a solid grip and advance strongly against the Yokozuna. Terunofuji attempted a rescue throw, but his foot had already stepped on the janome outside of the ring, and it’s kinboshi time for Takanosho, as he improves to a co-lead spot with 6-2.