Osaka 2023: Day 14 Highlights

Late-breaking news before today’s action was that Wakatakakage withdrew due to injury. This effectively decapitates the banzuke as all of the Top 3 wrestlers are now kyujo, with unclear status for May. As disappointing as that is, there sure is a host of top talent vying feverishly to earn their own chances at promotion. We’ve also seen how this opens the door to dark horse runs from rank-and-filers, like Midorifuji. He has faltered the last few days as they’ve turned up the heat and thrown him in the thick of it. But today he’s pitted against the leader in a bout that’s sure to set up a thrilling senshuraku.

A lot has been said about the state of competition in makuuchi but what seems truly missing isn’t competition, it’s dominance from one or two real leaders. Sanyaku and the joi is clearly a meat-grinder where a half-dozen guys from that group will be in the hunt. In January, we thought Takakeisho might have staked his claim as leader but he has lacked durability and stamina throughout his tenure. That means others will fill in the gaps. For me, that’s been very exciting. The idea that in Juryo the competition is “better” because Ichinojo and Asanoyama are clearly dominant…is silly (to me).

The Action

Shonannoumi defeated Mitoryu – The bout started with some oshi-zumo but settled into a grapple. As the pair maneuvered to the tawara, Mitoryu attempted a throw. The throw failed to budge Shonannoumi and exposed his back to his opponent. From here, it was simple for Shonannoumi to get behind Mitoryu and force him out from behind. Okuridashi. Shonannoumi picks up his kachi-koshi, 8-6. Mitoryu will try again tomorrow, 7-7.

Oho defeated Myogiryu – Oho’s patience paid off as he steadily cut off access to the dohyo, and pressed forward. Myogiryu got in a slap but Oho shrugged it off. Oshidashi. Oho improves to 7-7 while Myogiryu falls to 5-9.

Nishikifuji defeated Tsurugisho – Nishikifuji pulled Tsurugisho forward and sidestepped after the tachiai. This forced Tsurugisho off balance a bit, and back to the tawara. Nishikifuji followed up with some strong thrusts and shoved Tsurugisho over the edge. Tsukidashi. Nishikifuji, at 9-5, will seek double-digits and possibly a special prize, tomorrow. Tsurugisho falls to 7-7.

Aoiyama defeated Bushozan – Bushozan pressured Aoiyama back to the edge with strong thrusts. But as Aoiyama’s feet planted in the tawara, he was able to wrap up Bushozan, twist right and then swung back to the left, twisting Bushozan down to the clay. I have been enjoying Aoiyama’s yotsu game. Sukuinage. Aoiyama 6-8, Bushozan 4-10.

Hokuseiho defeated Hiradoumi – Hirodoumi had a strong early bout, keeping Hokuseiho high and unable to get his right hand on Hiradoumi’s belt. Hirodoumi pressed and pressed but could never quite get Hokuseiho back to the straw bales. When Hokuseiho was finally able to get his right arm under Hiradoumi’s arm, he quickly prevailed with a twisting throw, sukuinage, like Aoiyama before him. Hokuseiho kachi-koshi (8-6), preserves his Makuuchi status, as Leonid will discuss. Hiradoumi, make-koshi (6-8).

Takarafuji defeated Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto shunned the Abi tactics here as he consistently tried to get a migi-yotsu, right hand grip. When Ichiyamamoto got his grip, he pulled backwards and pushed Takarafuji down…but a mono-ii confirmed the gyoji’s call that Ichiyamamoto’s heel was over the tawara and touched outside before Takarafuji went down. Oshidashi.  Takarafuji 7-7, Ichiyamamoto 4-10.

Ura defeated Azumaryu – Standard Ura sumo here. He keeps his body low, and pressed forward wherever Azumaryu went. Azumaryu shifted left along the tawara and pulled but Ura pursued and pushed him out before Ura, himself, fell to the clay. Gunbai goes to Ura. Azumaryu was out before Ura landed. Oshidashi. Ura 8-6, Azumaryu 3-11. It’s looking like another hat draw for the tickets contest. Stay tuned this weekend.

Chiyoshoma defeated Hokutofuji – Chiyoshoma layed into Hokutofuji from the start with kachiage to his face at the tachiai. He followed up with some forceful thrusts as he tried to force Hokutofuji down. Hokutofuji squared up and Chiyoshoma laid into him with a wild haymaker. Chiyoshoma re-engaged driving, Hokutofuji’s back to the tawara and then driving the pair over the edge. Yoritaoshi. Chiyoshoma 9-5, Hokutofuji 7-7.

Takayasu defeated Kotoeko – Takayasu was too strong for Kotoeko today. He pressed forward and shoved Kotoeko out quickly. Kotoeko’s only decision making here was to find a soft spot to crash land. Oshidashi. Takayasu 9-5, Kotoeko 8-6

Kotoshoho defeated Kagayaki – Kagayaki did his best to establish his bullet-train style of sumo. He charged forward with his head down and right hand inside but couldn’t force Kotoshoho over the edge. Instead, Kotoshoho pivoted and threw Kagayaki at the edge. Shitatenage. Kotoshoho 6-8, Kagayaki 5-9.

Takanosho defeated Mitakeumi – Mitakeumi’s struggles continue. Takanosho got the best of the tachiai and as Mitakeumi moved forward to re-engage, Takanosho forced his head down and pushed him toward the edge, finishing him off with a shove from behind. Okuridashi. Mitakeumi 4-10, Takanosho 8-6.

Kinbozan defeated Abi – Kinbozan weathered Abi’s tsuppari and blasted Abi to the tawara. Abi teetered at the edge, and possibly could have saved himself, but he was in no position to attack and stepped out. Oshidashi. Kinbozan 10-4! Abi 8-6. Kinbozan’s probably looking at a special prize.

Nishikigi defeated Ryuden – The battle of the over-promoted. Both are make-koshi, Ryuden deeply so. The bout may have also exposed Ryuden’s injury. While his left foot is not wrapped, he did not seem to bear weight on it. He seems fine walking but the pressure of two wrestlers is far too much. Nishikigi pressed forward, Ryuden bearing that weight with his right leg, and drove Ryuden out. Nishikigi 5-9, Ryuden 1-13.

Sadanoumi defeated Tamawashi – Tamawashi charged forward into Sadanoumi and Sadanoumi leapt high in the air, landing on the shimpan below. The question for the mono-ii was, did Tamawashi’s hand touch, or was Sadanoumi dead in the air? The answer: “both of you did terrible sumo. I mean seriously, what the hell brand of sumo was that? Stooge Sumo? Try again.” In the redo, Tamawashi pressured Sadanoumi with forceful tsuppari, nearly taking his head off as he drove Sadanoumi back. But Sadanoumi dipped cleverly at the edge. This forced Tamawashi off balance and Sadanoumi followed up by pushing him out from behind. Okuridashi. Sadanoumi 6-8, Tamawashi 3-11.

Shodai defeated Daishoho – What’s Daishoho doing up here fighting in the joi? He just got to makuuchi and it’s not like he’s had a barnstorming tournament like Midorifuji. Oh, it’s Shodai. Ura already beat him and Takayasu would play too rough. Gotta give him an easy one. I’m being serious here. I really don’t know why this bout happened. Daishoho still had the better tachiai, driving the former Ozeki back strongly at the initial charge. The initial charge was not enough to get an upset win. Shodai recovered, contained the Maegashira 13 and pressed Daishoho out. Oshidashi. Shodai 9-5, Daishoho 8-6.


Tobizaru defeated Meisei – Tobizaru-zumo isn’t so much a flying-monkey style as it is “cat-and-mouse”. Meisei played the role of the cat today, pursuing the clever mouse as he scurried around the dohyo. Meisei’s charge would nearly force Tobizaru out but Tobizaru evades capture. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Shikashi! Tobizaru has a trick up his sleeve. He lured Meisei to the middle of the ring and kicked out with a leg sweep; the cat goes down to the clever mouse. Kekaeshi. Tobizaru 5-9, Meisei 4-10.

Daieisho defeated Midorifuji – Powerful, solid sumo from Daieisho today. Midorifuji shifted left at the tachiai but Daieisho had upgraded to a laser-guided tsuppari system. There would be no misdirection. Daieisho locked on target and pursued Midorifuji as the latter retreated, before blasting him out of the ring. Daieisho maintains his yusho lead at 12-2. Midorifuji falls out of contention, 10-4.

Wakatakakage vs Kiribayama – Wakatakakage pulled out of the tournament, kyujo after suffering an injury in his fall yesterday. Kiribayama got the fusen win, staying in the yusho race. Kiribayama stays in the yusho chase at 11-3. Wakatakakage 7-7 and will end the tournament with a mild make-koshi, 7-8. Again, Leonid will go into detail but this looks like a massive log-jam again in the lower sanyaku. WTK will lose his Sekiwake status and drop to Komusubi.

Endo defeated Kotonowaka – Kotonowaka had one plan, push Endo down. Endo did not comply. Endo evaded the hatakikomi attempt, moved forward into Kotonowaka, corralled him at the edge and pushed him out. Oshidashi. Endo and Kotonowaka both 9-5. Frankly, this is the strongest I’ve seen Endo perform in quite some time. I wonder if a nagging injury is now behind him. He’ll firmly be in the joi in May. Wouldn’t it be something if after all these years, Endo makes a run?

Hoshoryu defeated Wakamotoharu – Hoshoryu appeared to have this bout won before it started. The stare down lead to a bit of an awkward, hesitant tachiai from Wakamotoharu. Hoshoryu engaged, wrapped up Wakamotoharu. Wakamotoharu used all the strength he had to swing Hoshoryu around but Hoshoryu’s lower body slid along with the pair, maintaining his balance. From here, Wakamotoharu’s position was too high and Hoshoryu took advantage, twisting to his left and throwing Wakamotoharu. Uwatenage. Both men end the day 10-4, just out of yusho contention but possibly vying for Ozeki promotion. How wild is that?


Yes, the 33-in-3 myth is a myth but it’s a nice yard stick. Right now, Hoshoryu has 29 with one to go, all from the rank of Sekiwake. Might 30 wins be enough? This very strong tournament from Wakamotoharu might be the first rung of his own Ozeki run, obviously made stronger if he can get win #11 tomorrow, ensuring Sekiwake promotion. He’s had three strong tournaments in the sanyaku/joi rankings but will need to continue that for the next two tournaments at Sekiwake. That will be a challenge with the looming return of Terunofuji and Takakeisho.

33 thoughts on “Osaka 2023: Day 14 Highlights

  1. I would hope the losses to Ichinojo and Oho (in particular) cooled people’s jets on Asanoyama. He’s going to be a shot in the arm to the top division for sure but the idea that he’s going to easily storm up the ranks and regain Ozeki if not higher like it’s nothing is pure fantasy. Throughout his run back up he’s dropped critical bouts and looked shaky if not lucky in others. When he’s “on” he’s still a top tier competitor but the inconsistency is going to matter a whole lot more in the top division.

    I don’t buy for a second that Makuuchi is somehow the way it is for a lack of skill or talent. I think it’s the exact opposite; the top half of Makuuchi is overflowing with talent that sees no one but Terunofuji and Takakeisho (when both are healthy which is never) have any consistent excellence. Everyone else is stuck in a meat grinder of equal footing and injury where any particular person can go on a streak for whatever reason. I don’t think we’ll see an era of dominance any time soon from anyone unless Terunofuji can come back healthy which is a very, very big If.

    Hokuseiho has got to change up his tachiai. Almost every single one of his losses have come from him giving up position at the charge and getting pushed around. Several of his wins like today’s he was very close to losing before finding a way out. He’s been like this for as long as I’ve seen him but now it’s the top division and he’s been figured out already. You can’t have a glaring weakness like that and not have it exploited in the top division. He’s been using the same style since Makushita but if he can’t fix it, I don’t see him lasting in Makuuchi.

    When it comes to Hoshoryu, the fact that he was injured last basho but still managed to get kachi-koshi then turns around obviously still somewhat injured to reach 10-4 is pretty remarkable. His progress has been steady and his very obvious hatred of losing means he rarely loses the same way twice. I think even if he gets passed up for promotion this time out; short of another injury, it’s only a matter of time before he gets Ozeki. Hoshoryu is still only 23 and time is very much on his side. I’m excited to see how far he can go.

    • Very good comment. Especially the part about the quality of the makuuchi division is speaking my mind. It simply isn’t logical to assume it was weak because there are no dominators.

      As to Hoshoryu I only can hope U‘re right. I‘m afraid we all want to see Asashoryu in him and therefore overlook that he isn‘t really progressing big style. And his henkas are truly not proving greatness.

    • For someone who’s been figured out, Hokuseiho is not doing too badly, with a kachi-koshi in his debut and a chance for 9 wins.

  2. During first week, it looked like Takarafuji’s demotion to Juryo was sure.
    I am happy that he was able to rack wins and save his rank.
    Hokuseiho is Kachi koshi in his first visit to Makuchi, that’s good. But his sumo needs to improve a lot and not yet worth the hype.
    Although Midorifuji has lost the last 3 matches, his sumo was strong. I hope he can reach Sanyaku this year.

  3. I think Kiribayama will have a stronger promotion case than Hoshoryu, having beaten him head to head, being in the yusho race on the last day, and having a better record in the last basho, 11 wins vs. 8. If he wins the basho, he’ll have 31 wins and a yusho. That ought to be good enough for a promotion.

    • Agreed – throw on top of that they are both Mongolian (so no Japanese son bias) and Kiribayama embodies the sumo code way more than Hoshoryu who acts the punk quite frequently. I enjoy the attitude and it would make the Ozeki rank interesting but I don’t think the JSA goes for that, especially from a foreigner. I could be wrong.

    • I very much doubt this. The last time 31 wins or less was enough for Ozeki promotion was 1985, so it is highly unlikely. It might happen after next basho due to the 2 Y/O rule, if Takakeisho cannot get 8 wins.

      • Kiribayama’s run makes a lot of sense for May since this was the first tournament at Sekiwake and he only had 8 wins in November. But the concern about waiting until May is that the best current runs might go belly up. If Hoshoryu gets 7 wins in May, for example, he’d have to start from scratch.

        • If the promotion were to take place after this basho, it is likely Sekiwake Kiribayama since he has most 30 wins and could get to 31 wins tomorrow and possibly yusho. Sekiwake Hoshoryu has 29 wins and could get to 30 wins tomorrow, with no yusho. Komusubi Daieisho has 29 wins and could get to 30 wins tomorrow and possibly yusho, his 2nd, but he had 7-8 in November. The numbers are not good for promotion, especially since Terunofuji has been absent since mid September.

          In May the situation might be better, since Daieisho will likely be Sekiwake then and he and Kiribayama currently have 22 wins and one of them will have 23 wins tomorrow, and one of them will have yusho, for an Ozeki run in May. It is quite possible that one of them even gets to 33 wins. Although there are BIG obstacles to this in May, Terunofuji should be back along with Takakeisho hopefully and for the joy of everyone Asanoyama and Ichinojo will be back and they will be in the low ranks. Even then one of them should get to the 30-31 wins, and if they fail Hoshoryu 18 (19 possible) wins, Wakamotoharu 19 (20 possible) and Kotonowaka 18 (19 possible) wins are a backup for getting to 30-31 wins if necessary. I would expect one of them to get to that in May.

          • How about this – Kiribayama wins tomorrow and gets to 31, then faces Daeisho again since they’ll be tied. Not an official 32, but if it makes them feel better, they could say 32 wins and a basho.

            As for May, it’s possible every single Sekiwake (4 of them!) will be on an ozeki run.

            • We now get to see in a few days whether this is enough for Ozeki promotion or not. I think they will wait until after May.

              • Yeah it’s a tough call. 32 would be enough almost certainly. 31, where 2 of those are walkovers, even with a basho? It’s going to be interesting, but given the Takekeisho situation last time, they don’t seem too desperate to lower their standards, so you’re likely right.

          • Kotonowaka will still be Komusubi and so not in the running for a May promotion. Wakamotoharu needs to beat him tomorrow to avoid being in the same position.

            • Komusubi will not be promoted unless Takakeisho does not get 8+ wins in May and all the Sekiwake get horrible results, so that Komusubi happens to have best record over last 3 basho and someone must be promoted. Would they rather promote a Komusubi with reasonable amount of wins over 3 basho and winning record in May or a Sekiwake with losing record in May, if someone must be promoted?

              Or they could just scrap that rule of 2 Yokozuna or Ozeki on the banzuke.

              • yeah that’s the risk of not giving an opportunistic promotion to Kiri now; they might be forced into something a lot less palatable in May

              • As the rule is crap, one would scrap it, isn‘t it?
                But Japanese and especially Sumo seem to be in love with traditions, therefore we have all these speculations here.
                Which is kind of fun, I guess.

              • Yeah, likely the scrapping of the rule will not happen, since they name a Yokozuna as Yokozuna-Ozeki when they have to.

                Does anyone know if Ozeki promotion due the 2 Ozeki rule has ever happened before?

              • Not directly (as in, there has never been a modern situation where they knew they’d drop down below 2) but there have been some soft promotions due to few and aging O/Y; not recently though

  4. I saw on Natto that WTK has ACL, MCL and cartilage damage, out for three months. Having had both ACLs repaired, I think that’s optimistic. If the ACL has ruptured, which seems likely if all three are damaged as above, then he’d need reconstructive surgery and will be out for a year or more. If it’s not a rupture, I estimate that he’d be out until September.

    • Wow. Yeah, that’s worse than I thought. Is it from his knee hitting the tawara? Initially it looked innocuous but going back on the replay it looked like his reaction was immediate.

      • The commentators on Abema seem to think that the impact with the tawara caused the damage. They replayed Wakatakakage’s fall several times, focusing on that moment. His knee looked like it bent in a direction that knees shouldn’t bend.

        I hope he takes the time he needs to heal, no matter what it does to his rank. Even if he takes two basho off and drops down to Juryo, once he’s healthy he will chew through the lower-rankers once he’s fit.

      • It looked like it twisted a bit and that plus the impact could be enough.

        It didn’t look like he was in a lot of pain at that moment but knees can be funny that way. My first ACL rupture was the most intense pain I’ve ever felt, but the second only hurt enough that I knew something inside had been damaged and I could walk on my own.

  5. “From here, Wakamotoharu’s position was too high and Hoshoryu took advantage, twisting to his left and throwing Wakamotoharu.” This is true but incomplete. H knew that W’s best way to improve his position was to try to get a right-hand grip on H’s belt and waited to throw until he felt W extend in that direction. This can be seen in the replay on Kintamayama’s video.

  6. There’s no way Nishikifuji gets a special prize. He got it a year ago as a newcomer to makuuchi; 10 wins is expected for someone who recently fought at M4/M5 and is slumming it down at M10.

  7. I totally agree that lack of dominance is not the same as lack of compete and I’ve really enjoyed this basho!

    Nishikifuji didn’t need a mid-basho mawashi colour change after all! His mojo is back! Could he really get a special prize, though? Aren’t there stronger contenders such as Midorifuji and Hokuseiho?

    Hokuseiho Hiradoumi was super fun.

    Gyoji overboard in Mitakeumi Takanosho!!! That was fun!

    Weird ending for Abi! What happened there?!

    Spectacular dive from Ura into kachi-koshi!!!

    Exciting from Tobizaru Meisei… so it was it a foot sweep!

    So sorry for WTK but good for tomorrow that we have Kiribayama at 11-3 with chance for a play off esp given WMH loss!

    • It doesn’t sound like Nishikifuji will be in the running for a special prize, after all. As far as Abi, I think he could have saved himself but didn’t… maybe out of courtesy? Dunno.

      • Alas! Courtesy from Abi? Hmmm I like Abi, but in my limited experience that’s not a word I’d associate with him! 😆

  8. If WTK’s knee injury was so serious, how could he win the rematch against Kotonowaka by pushing him out? I think he just aggreviated the nagging injury that he was nursing with.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.