We have already reached day 5 of the Kyushu basho – the end of act 1. The crew at Tachiai tend to look at any basho as a composition of 3 five day “acts”, each that has it’s own purpose and goals. For act 1, we try to knock the ring rust off of everyone, get them tuned up to honbasho intensity, and start to find out who is hot and who is not.
The day 4 action did quite a bit to pull the rug out from under than last goal. Not a single rikishi will end act 1 with a perfect 5-0 record. I am sure some sumo fan who is far more into the numbers than I am can tell me the last time that happened. But instead now we have a broad group of 2-2 rikishi heading into day 5. Years ago when the podcast crew were discussing the (at that time) impending post-Hakuho future, Josh wisely suggested that given that most of the rikishi were all showing up from the lower ranks with more or less the same level of quality, that the future of Makuuchi was going to look a lot like Juryo at that time. Only a handful of high performers, who would not be able to consistently turn in strong records.
That prediction as certainly been playing out in the past year or so, as each tournament we end up with a large number of athletes who finish the tournament without standout performance. I am quite certain this is a transitory state, and that new champions will arise to dominate the sport.
Due to everyone turning in middling performances so far, expect a lot of 2-2 vs 2-2 match ups today. More or less everyone has a participation trophy right now, unless you are from Isegahama.
What We Are Watching Day 5
Kagayaki vs Atamifuji – I, for one, am looking forward to the first match in the top division today. We got to see Atamifuji get out of “sumimassen” mode on day 4, and maybe he’s decided he’s done showing glowing respect for everyone in the top division, and will now proceed to fight them with his best sumo. He has a 1-1 record with Kagayaki, and like half of the top division, both of them come into today 2-2.
Tsurugisho vs Azumaryu – Tsurugisho is today’s Juryo visitor, and you can tell he’s not from the top division because he does not have a 2-2 record. Instead, he’s got a 4-0 record (gasp!) and in promotable range. Maybe he can turn in a solid record and return to the top division yet again. He’s had 23 matches against Azumaryu, and won 15 of them.
Ichiyamamoto vs Hiradoumi – These two could have been conformists, and shown up today with a 2-2 record, but decided to be a bit different, and they both have 3-1. Way to make everyone else look half hearted guys. Ichiyamamoto has never lost to Hiradoumi, so I the chances of them both exiting the dohyo with matching records are zero.
Okinoumi vs Terutsuyoshi – A battle of the non-conformists. Not only do neither one of these rikishi have the decency to show up with a 2-2 record, they don’t even start the day with matching scores. Terutsuyoshi is from Isegahama, and he does not need to have a 2-2 record. In fact, he’s banged up and should be getting treatment. But for some reason here he is, handing out white stars day after day.
Kotoeko vs Oho – These two have 3-1 records, so it’s a bit more comfortable. Maybe if both of them could give one of their wins to the other person as a loss, they could find a way to get back to 2-2, but I don’t think they could get the proper forms faxed in by the start of the day, so its out of the question. Instead they are going to have to fight it out, and decide whose 3-1 record is best. Maybe Oho will continue to fight like he’s ready to win today.
Onosho vs Chiyotairyu – This is unsettling. Not only are these two not at 2-2, their scores are mirror images at 3-1 and 1-3. It’s as if they are trying to mock the high standards of the top division. But given how Onosho is fighting that much better than Chiyotairyu right now, I expect Onosho will have a strong chance of picking up his 4th win today.
Aoiyama vs Kotoshoho – Aoiyama’s upper body seems to be as potent as ever, but his suspension system and drive train are probably in need of a complete rebuild at this point. Hopefully Kotoshoho studied Chiyoshoma’s day 4 win, and has figured out that if you just can endure the beating long enough to get in close to Aoiyama, you can move him around like a fridge on a furniture dolly.
Takanosho vs Abi – I really hope Abi did not do something to mess up that damage ankle on day 4. Out of all the perfect score people on day 4, I expected him to hang onto his zero loss streak. Now that he’s given that up, he needs to be careful that Takanosho does not come underneath his double arm thrust, find his belt and battle hug him to victory. Abi has a 5-1 series lead.
Chiyoshoma vs Tochinoshin – I was surprised to find that Chiyoshoma actually had a 4-3 match advantage over Tochinoshin. Tochinoshin did not look strong or stable against Takarafuji on day 4, but at least he can take comfort that he has the highly prized 2-2 score to start the day. But I wonder if Tochinoshin’s knee is starting to give him trouble again.
Endo vs Myogiryu – Endo has only a single win so far, and he’s up against Myogiryu, who has a conforming 2-2 score. With 17 prior fights between them, the tally is 9-8 with a slight edge to Myogiryu, but both have won one against the other in the only two matches they have had this year.
Takarafuji vs Ryuden – Takarafuji has a 7-2 career advantage, but that hardly matters right now, as Takarafuji is hurt and should have been kyujo this tournament. He has an unbroken record of showing up for every match, and as far as I can tell, trying to keep that intact is the only reason he’s not getting treated right now. Seems silly, but then I am not a sumotori in any way.
Hokutofuji vs Nishikifuji – I am trying to figure out if once again Hokutofuji will attempt to attain “The most powerful make-koshi in all of sumo” this tournament, or if he really is trying to win. He has won the only prior match on the clay against Nishikifuji, but Nishikifuji is fighting better than he is so far. I think it will hinge on if he can land that nodowa at the tachiai, or if it will miss its mark as it did on day 4.
Nishikigi vs Sadanoumi – Finally, a match we can feel comfortable with. Both men are polite enough to make sure they showed up at the start of the day with a 2-2 score, and they have politely traded wins for the past few years, with them taking enough care to have a career score of 11-10. All social commentary aside, I think Sadanoumi will have the early advantage in this match, that tilts toward Nishikigi the longer the fight goes on.
Wakamotoharu vs Kotonowaka – For yet another tournament, Wakamotoharu is calling putting together a winning record. This is the stealth rikishi, and he’s never one to soak up attention, but can this guy win. Kotonowaka only found his first win on day 4, so maybe he’s not used to it just yet, but he does have a 4-1 career advantage over Wakamotoharu.
Daieisho vs Kiribayama – If I had to give an award for “most improved” from the end of Aki to the end of act 1 of Kyushu, it would go to Kiribayama. His sumo seems to really be calm, collected and patient. As much as I love Tobizaru sumo, I did enjoy Kiribayama stuffing him under his chest and keeping him there for a while. Today, he won’t get any such chance. Daieisho puts every gram of power he can into every push and hit, and Kiribayama will need to be careful to keep his feet.
Tamawashi vs Takayasu – These two have a 31 match history, and would routinely pound the stuffing out of each other every tournament. In fact, it was Tamawashi’s “arm breaker” kotenage that damaged Takayasu’s elbow. So I expect sparks to fly today.
Wakatakakage vs Ura – At first I was amazed that Wakatakakage lost on day 4, but now it all makes sense. He’s a really nice fellow, and was looking to make sure his score was a polite, and matching, 2-2. That being said, Ura has never won a match against Wakatakakage, and with him starting day 5 at a terrible 0-4 score, things do not look positive for him.
Tobizaru vs Mitakeumi – So far Mitakeumi has only lost a single bout, and in my opinion remains more or less on track for his 10 wins. He has a solid 3-1 career advantage over Tobizaru, but I would suggest his best approach is going to be the same as his win over Ura on day 4. Stay close, box him in, and don’t let him use his agility to get back in the fight.
Midorifuji vs Hoshoryu – For some odd reason, Hoshoryu has been unable to beat Midorifuji once in any of their 5 prior matches. I won’t be the least bit surprised to see make that 6-0 today. We may even see a third watashikomi in their series. It’s kind of funny because Hoshoryu knows its coming, takes active steps to shut it down, and then… Surprise!
Meisei vs Shodai – This needs to be a win for Shodai. Sure, he’s part of the polite group at 2-2, but this kadoban stuff is going to be a real problem in week 2 and act 3 unless he takes steps to get his record in solid positive territory this week. He has a 9-3 career advantage over Meisei, so this had better be a white star today.
Takakeisho vs Ichinojo – Ichinojo seems to have some of the fire which drove him to the yusho in July still hanging around, and I think that he may find himself employing his best sumo today against Takakeisho. Truth be told, Ichinojo is big enough that if he can set his feet, I am not sure that Takakeisho can really move him. I hope we can put that to the test today. They share a close to even 9-8 career record.