Hello again sumo fans! It’s Bruce back on the basho beat after being kyujo for the first week. I salute blog creator Andy for filling in while we welcomed our second child into this big wonderful world of ours. With the baby safely home and in regular rotation, it’s time for me to return to tournament coverage, and give Andy a well earned break.
That’s right – I know some of you are now going to be disappointed that the king of typos and odd terms has made is return. If you find the Bruce commentary too tedious, I would encourage you to check out the amazing sumoforum.net – with information from actual sumo experts rather than some junkyard, half-assed guy in Texas. Trust me, you will be glad you did!
We are starting the middle weekend of the sweltering Nagoya tournament, and I think most sumo fans around the world stare at the sole leader – Nishikigi – in abject amazement. He’s 32 years old, and he has been a journeyman Maegashira since 2016. But that includes him frequently dipping back into Juryo to tinker on his sumo. In fact, his most recent Juryo posting was January of last year. He can’t see squat without his glasses, so he fights via hearty application of a fierce “battle hug” yotsu. Now he has 5 straight wins on the clay, a kinboshi and one fusensho – what the hell?
I think we may be seeing a run similar to Tokushoryu’s magical 14-1 yusho in January of 2020, where everything aligned just right for him and he completely dominated all opponents. If that same kami has a hold of Nishikigi, it could not happen to a nicer fellow, but he has 9 more matches to go.
What We Are Watching Day 7
Endo (5-1) vs Hakuoho (4-2) – Endo is slumming down at M16e for one reason only, injury. Facing the prospect of being ranked in Juryo for the first time in nearly 7 years, the guy found some mojo. He is a high-skill rikishi who has a whopping 7 kinboshi over his 62 tournament career history. But this is his first time fighting Hakuoho, who is nothing short of phenomenal. I look forward to Endo applying some of his razor sharp technique in today’s opener.
Shimazuumi (3-3) vs Takarafuji (4-2) – Shimazuumi is up from Juryo today to fill the banzuke gap against a thankfully resurgent Takarafuji. Like Endo, the years of battling it out in the top division have resulted in a number of performance limiting injuries that have cut back his ability to dominate his matches. This is the first time he has matched against Shimazuumi, thought I am quite certain they will go chest to chest at the tachiai. Could be a strong yotsu battle today.
Ryuden (2-4) vs Aoiyama (2-4) – Both of these veterans are on the path toward a make-koshi as of the middle weekend. Aoiyama has only managed to beat Endo and Bushozan so far this July. Like the other vets, the years and injuries take their toll, and both are at risk of dropping to Juryo for September. Ryuden has won 3 of the last 4.
Bushozan (1-5) vs Kotoshoho (2-4) – After a blistering 10-5 in May, Bushozan has only won a signle match in his second posting to the top division. His prior tour was in March where he finished 5-10, and seems to be on course for something similar. Kotoshoho is not doing much better, and I expect will struggle quite a bit in the second week against the likes of Endo, Aoiyama and Takarafuji.
Gonoyama (5-1) vs Shonannoumi (4-2) – I have been itching to write about Gonoyama. He’s Goeido’s disciple, and living proof that upgrades can happen. It’s been years since anyone has been running a stable version of GoeiDOS, let along using it to win matches. The guy even looks a bit like Goeido with that strong Jomon face. He has won against Shonannoumi in 3 of their 4 prior matches, all of them in the 3 prior tournaments this year.
Kotoeko (3-3) vs Daishoho (2-4) – What? Kotoeko struggling with a middling score going into the weekend of a tournament? I think we will see him on target for a 7-7 a week from today. He once again has “Darwin written all over him”.
Chiyoshoma (3-3) vs Myogiryu (3-3) – To funnel or not to funnel? I am looking at the 2-4 / 3-3 / 4-2 all facing each other, and I get the feeling that the schedulers, after taking a few tournaments off, are trying this pattern over the weekend. Maegashira 10 seems to be a bit of a “sweet spot” for Myogiryu, so he should be right on the 7-7 line through next week.
Tsurugisho (1-5) vs Hokutofuji (5-1) – I had to check and re-check, but yes, this is the first time that Tsurugisho and Hokutofuji have ever fought. Tsurugisho is having a bad tournament, likely due to injury, so he will be donating white stars for the remaining 9 days. Thankfully he is ranked high enough at M11w that with a few more wins he should be safe in the top division.
Takanosho (1-5) vs Kinbozan (4-2) – Takanosho seems to be remarkably lucky. After a 11-4 jun-yusho in May of 2022, he has been fighting hurt for the past year. He managed a pair of 8 win kachi-koshi, but is meandering around his current Maegashira 9 rank. The man has a lot of skill and power, when he’s heathy. But I would say that after a year now, this is possibly something close to his new normal. He should be easy meat for Kinbozan today.
Takayasu (5-1) vs Nishikifuji (3-3) – At 33 and with 3 kyujo in the past year, we can safely say that Takayasu’s body has had just about enough sumo. It’s a shame because he’s had 7 jun-yusho in his career, but never hoisted the cup. Currently at 5-1, he has to be considered a contender at this point. I know his fans would love to see his picture added to the hall of fame in the rafters of the Kokugikan.
Hokuseiho (3-3) vs Tamawashi (5-1) – I adored Ura’s take down of Hokuseiho on day 6. Quite the well considered approach to fighting a man that big and that strong. But I think today we will see Tamawashi go more head on. Tamawashi fights best mobile, moving and striking his opponent with maximum force. This is a great opposite of Hokuseiho’s tendency to treat everyone like a piece of oversized luggage refusing to be loaded into the cargo hold. First ever fight, could be sparks flying.
Sadanoumi (1-5) vs Onosho (2-4) – I really want to see Onosho break out of this losing rut. He seems to have hot and cold streaks in his sumo, and this is certainly part of a cold streak. He tends to blast Sadanoumi away when he can connect with his big frontal power, which happens about ¾ of the time. They have both won one match so far this year against the other.
Hiradoumi (1-5) vs Oho (2-4) – I continue to view Oho’s sumo as pedestrian and lack luster. But he has managed to get himself to Maegashira 6 with that kind of sumo, so it’s working for him. He’s on the “make-koshi” side of the sorting funnel right now, possibly over promoted where his sumo can function well enough to win. I still expect that he has a lot more headroom in his technique and his power, so just another step along the way for him.
Midorifuji (1-5) vs Meisei (2-4) – Another pair on the make-koshi side of the funnel, it’s tough stakes for both of these men, who are not fighting well at all this month. Given how bloody terribly hot it is both in Nagoya and inside the venue, it’s an actual consideration if the environment is causing trouble for the athletes. It’s crummy enough there that I am tempted to start a fund raiser to buy Dolphin’s Arena an industrial cooling unit.
Shodai (2-4) vs Tobizaru (3-3) – Whatever robbed us of the “good” Shodai is certainly in effect this July. It’s a shame as I could really use a good dose of his brand of sumo this week. He has been kachi-koshi at Nagoya the last 3 years, but I think it’s kind of a tall order for 2023. He has beaten Tobizaru in 7 of their prior 9 matches, including all 3 this year.
Kotonowaka (4-2) vs Nishikigi (6-0) – Will the battle-hug sustain Nishikigi for a 6th straight match? I know that Kotonowaka uses a variation of that technique himself at times, so I would hope he has an antidote to it ready to employ. Much as it would delight me to see Nishikigi 8-0 at the end of nakabi, I think the chances of him picking up his first black star this weekend are strong. Kotonowaka holds a minor 3-2 career lead over Nishikigi.
Abi (3-3) vs Wakamotoharu (4-2) – Big thrusting power against one of the best yotsu men in sumo today. A pure classing clash of sumo styles, and it tends to go in Abi’s favor (5-1). Wakamotoharu will need to get inside of the thrusting attack and get some kind of hold to pick up a much needed win.
Ura (4-2) vs Daieisho (4-2) – Daieisho’s hopes for Ozeki are in peril, and he needs to dispatch Ura in the first moments of the match before “Plasticman” cooks up some kind of unlikely and physics defying combo to put him on the clay. History says it’s Daieisho’s match to lose with an 8-2 career lead, but I am certain Ura is powered up after that win against Hokuseiho.
Hoshoryu (5-1) vs Asanoyama (4-2) – They have only fought once before, in May of 2021, and that match went to Hoshoryu. I am eager to see Asanoyama fight his way back into the top ranks, and he’s going to have to tear up Hoshoryu to do it. Bonus motivation – Hoshoryu is working toward a goal of 12 wins to make a big for Ozeki promotion.
Mitakeumi (0-6) vs Kirishima (2-2-2) – The freshly minted but only competing Ozeki is looking solid after returning from kyujo on day 4. He should have an easy match against an utterly moribund Mitakeumi, who has yet to show us any real sumo this July. I don’t blame him. I was completely useless for a few months after my father died, too. Buckets of sympathy to the original tadpole, he must have been a heck of a man to raise someone with that kind of drive and determination.