Many times the first few days of any basho are sort of obligatory. They are some crummy matches that sneak in because everyone is trying to get into honbasho form. But this Aki, the contests have been a tier better than the same days in Nagoya. Everyone is fighting pretty well, even if they are losing. I especially need to heap praise for the amount of enjoyment I am getting from the first half of the torikumi. Many times the lower ranks are a bash of whomever shows up ready to fight that day. But everyone seems really motivated, and ready to give it their all. Some solid technique, some excellent effort, and some highly entertaining sumo all around.
I point to the good number of 3-0 rikishi at the end of day 3 (six of them) and five with 0-3 records. I would love for there to be little or no chance for any kind of funnel nonsense this September, just a straight out, bare-knuckle sumo fest to the glorious end. I am starting to hope it might be exactly that.
Tsurugisho defeats Chiyonokuni – The good news – Tsurugisho got his first win of Aki. Conversely the bad news is Chiyonokuni is 0-3 near the top of Juryo, and he does not seem to be healthy right now. Chiyonokuni struggled to get any attacks to land center mass, and had to settle for hitting Tsurugisho in areas that would not move him back. It took a moment for Tsurugisho to realize he had his hands inside, and once he did he attacked with great effect. They only grappled for a moment before Tsurugisho finished Chiyonokuni off with a yorikiri. Tsurugisho now 1-2.
Hiradoumi defeats Yutakayama – As the last man on the banzuke, Hiradoumi is well motivated to reach the safety of 8 wins as early as possible. In fact he is following the pattern of many first time top division debuts, he is fired up and fighting like an Australian sailor in a seaside tavern. I loved today’s match against Yutakayama, and this is from someone who generally likes Yutakayama. His hands were inside early at the tachiai, and he did not pause a moment to consolidate or set his feet. Straight to driving forward, and Yutakayama was in the zabuton section in a heap before he even could say hello. Hiradoumi unbeaten at 3-0.
Chiyoshoma defeats Mitoryu – Man, I tell you – if I had an aggressive Chiyoshoma grabbing directly for my crotch, I would seek a way to end the match quickly. He latches on to Mitoryu’s mawashi just above his groin and establishes an iron grip. Mitoryu’s only response was an arm bar, which simply kept Chiyoshoma’s left arm in position to push. Without any real offense or much in the way of defense, Mitoryu was an easy mark for the sotogake that finished him off. Chiyoshoma improves to 2-1.
Ichiyamamoto defeats Terutsuyoshi – Oh dear, Terutsuyoshi is having one of “those” bashos again. Ichiyamamoto grabs his head with both hands and chucks him to the clay in one fluid combination. Down goes Terutsuyoshi to all fours. Ichiyamamoto improves to 2-1.
Oho defeats Ryuden – Dare we hope that Oho is finally comfortable in his bigger body, and he is able to execute his sumo? It’s starting to look that way has he polishes off Ryuden by simply overpowering the veteran. This includes Ryuden setting his feet for defense. That’s twice now we have see Oho just plow his way through an opponent. Watch out folks, he’s 3-0 and looking good.
Okinoumi defeats Kotoshoho – I am taking my Kotoshoho fandom, putting it in a box, and putting the box in the closet for now. For whatever reason, this bright youngster is having a miserable start to September. Today he was dispatched with ease by Okinoumi, who took a moment to place his hands, then immediately unleashed a kotenage to roll Kotoshoho to the clay. Okinoumi improves to 2-1, Kotoshoho winless at 0-3.
Takanosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Brilliant Chiyotairyu tachiai, that was total “thunder god” sumo at the start. Did it matter? Oh no, not at all. Takanosho had his response ready to go, he absorbed some of the initial charge, circled away, leading Chiyotairyu along and then rolled him to the clay. Takanosho at 3-0, with him being under ranked as much as he is, he’s got a real chance of competing for the cup this time. Sure if he continues to be hot, he will face higher ranks next week. But let’s be honest, when in good form, Takanosho can give all of them, even Terunofuji, a solid fight.
Myogiryu defeats Nishikifuji – Someone had to give Nishikifuji his first loss, and it came largely from his own over-commitment to forward pressure. I love how Myogiryu worked to narrow Nishikifuji’s axis for force as they pushed against each other, an when it was almost all directly ahead, stepped aside and pushing on his shoulder. Myogiryu advances to 2-1.
Tochinoshin defeats Kotoeko – Points to Kotoeko for a vigorous fight, with a lot of energy trying to get Tochinoshin off balance, out of position, or really create any kind of opening he could. But the former Ozeki got his left hand outside grip early, and you just know that is not going to end well when you consider the size difference. Show he could care less about physics, Kotoeko continues to attack, even trying a leg trip before that falls apart and Tochinoshin reverts to his early days as a nightclub bouncer and sends rowdy Kotoeko to the curb. Tochinoshin now 2-1.
Hokutofuji defeats Aoiyama – Hokutofuji continues his dominance over hapless and injured (I assume) Aoiyama with a vigorous display of “center mass” sumo. No, that kind of fighting does not get old to me. Aoiyama has a strong opening combo, takes his first step forward, and that was all he could deliver. Hokutofuji responded with power and focus, and Aoiyama was done. Hokutofuji unbeaten now at 3-0.
Onosho defeats Endo – Onosho finally wins his first match. Endo almost gets out of the way of Onosho’s attempt to set up a “mega-thrust” but does not quite clear the lane in time. Caught with a brutal stiff arm, Endo is pinned and forced out by Onosho’s forward momentum. Onosho improves to 1-2.
Wakamotoharu defeats Takarafuji – Is it possible that Wakamotoharu has borrowed his brother’s inner fire? At 3-0, and each match looking very strong, I am starting to wonder which one of the Onami brothers is going to reach Ozeki first. You know what I loved about this match – Wakamotoharu’s show of calculating patience. He took the fight to the kind of “Defend and Extend” sumo, and bested him. This guy has stamina, indeed. Oh, and Takarafuji, great effort, but you could have guessed that utchari was inbound by the angle of Wakamotoharu’s hips.
Takayasu defeats Sadanoumi – Takayasu continues his complete domination of Sadanoumi (now 7-0), he starts with a combo attack before setting up a right hand under shoulder grip, and immediately unleashes the katasukashi to put Sadanoumi on the clay. 2-1 for Takayasu, and he continues to look solid.
Tamawashi defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi’s “magical mystery tour, chapter 2” hit a speed bump today in the form of sumo’s current iron man, Tamawashi. He has never beaten Tamawashi, and today was no exception. He started poorly, being late off of the shikiri-sen at the tachiai, and he was not able to close the gap and grapple the Mongolian. Tamawashi landed a left hand nodowa, and that was really the end of the match. Yes, Nishikigi rallied, but was badly off balance and Tamawashi slapped him down. Tamawashi remains unbeaten at 3-0.
Hoshoryu defeats Ichinojo – The Ichinojo hype balloon that was so big it filled the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium has a serious deflation issue now. Hoshoryu answers the question several of us had: What happens when you put that much rikishi on spin mode? Turns out Ichinojo is massive enough that he can in fact put the brakes on it. But as always, Hoshoryu is going to come after you with his feet. What’s for tea? Well it’s sotogake surprise, of course! Hoshoryu improves to 2-1.
Kiribayama defeats Wakatakakage – Ok, what’s going on with Wakatakakage? His sumo is about as sharp and aggressive as my son’s cuddly plush avocado toy. Honestly, Kiribayama completely owned this match, and Wakatakakage was left a step behind and a foot out of bounds before he knew what to do. Kiribayama advances to 2-1, while Wakatakakage is winless at 0-3.
Ura defeats Daieisho – Oh, the expression you can read into Daieisho’s tachiai. It’s like a poor fellow walking into an oral surgeons office. You don’t want to do this, but you know you have to. To his credit, Daieisho gets down to business soon enough, and starts beating the snot out of Ura, or so he thinks. The man in pink is absorbing it all, dialing up his aggression and power. He gains confidence blow after blow. He lunges forward to finish Ura off…. Where the hell is Ura? The man in pink improves to 2-1. The man is a self contained highlight reel.
Midorifuji defeats Shodai – Someone put an 18v battery in Midorifuji’s 9v socket today. He was making two sumo moves for every one that Shodai could deliver. He was attack furiously from multiple vectors at the same time. Normally I am critical of Shodai, but what on earth can you do with that. Midorifuji got the Ozeki disoriented, off balance and them shoved out to pick up his first win of the basho, improving to 1-2. Nice work!
Takakeisho defeats Tobizaru – Oh Lordy, that was nice. Did you see that stutter step from Takakeisho? It put his forward motion 180° out of phase, and he hit Tobizaru like a cement truck. That will wipe that kinboshi smile from his face, to be certain. Tobizaru ends up in the 4th row for a bit of fan service, and Takakeisho improves to 2-1.
Meisei defeats Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi, what the pulsating hell was that? You are bigger, stronger and more powerful than Meisei. There was no need to pull him and throw the match away. So bloody disappointing. Meisei improves to 2-1.
Terunofuji defeats Kotonowaka – I am happy that Terunofuji won, but for the second day in a row, the Yokozuna was not “heavy”. That’s all about the feet, and watch Terunofuji’s feet. He’s making little hops and leaps. This leaves you open to attack and counter attack. He’s at his best when his feet hardly leave the clay at all. You know who was super heavy most of the time? Kisenosato. I loved watching his footwork. But a win is a win, and Terunofuji advances to 2-1.