We enter the final weekend to a compelling yusho race featuring many of our favorite names. With talent up-and-down the banzuke and such evenly-matched competition every night has brought more drama and, most importantly, amazing action. Tonight was no different. We didn’t just get excellent action when a winning or losing record was on the line. Many of the bouts which were far removed from the yusho race, or even from kachi-koshi, featured heated contests and great finishing moves. It is really difficult to pick a favorite out of today’s bouts.
That said, we have to start with the yusho race. Atamifuji came into tonight with a share of the lead with Takakeisho. His two consecutive losses, in particular the loss to Takakeisho, had this sumo fan wondering if his charge was over. His confidence always appears shaky. You get the sense that he’s a gentle young guy, just amazed to be here.
When he’s ringside, he seems deferential to everyone around him. Sitting on his cushion, as shimpan and fellow wrestlers squeeze by, he seems to try extra hard to make himself small so he doesn’t bother anyone or get in anyone’s way. In the build-up to his match with Abi, he charged forward early. You could almost read his mind as you saw him back up, take his time, look up at the roof above. “Calm down, man. You deserve to be here.”
That changed in a flash at the tachiai. When Abi pulled a henka and slapped Atamifuji in the face, it just seemed like the big man’s demeanor changed. “Oh, you bastard.” He recovered, composed himself, and took his revenge. Today might have actually been the most pivotal day of the basho. And I hope it’s a turning point in Atamifuji’s rise. He deserves to be here and fight with the best. Will he win his first top division yusho tomorrow? It’s an exciting prospect.
They haven’t posted tomorrow’s torikumi yet. And they probably will do so momentarily. But my bet is that they’ll make him earn it. If he has to face Hoshoryu, that would be brutal. Hoshoryu will be fighting for kachi-koshi. Atamifuji would have to deny an Ozeki kachi-koshi, or beat one in a playoff. I think that’s a fair path. What do you all think?
While you mull it over, let’s take a look at the action.
Myogiryu (9-5) defeated Chiyoshoma (2-12): Chiyoshoma jumped early with a false start, and made contact with Myogiryu before the tachiai. For me, that usually signals that a henka is coming. But no henka. Chiyoshoma attacked head-on but Myogiryu deflected him and forced Chiyoshoma down to his left. Hatakikomi.
Takarafuji (7-7) defeated Kagayaki (4-10): Kagayaki came in too high. Kagayaki drove forward, rather mindlessly, at the tachiai. Takarafuji met Kagayaki head on but was able to shift around and nearly get behind Kagayaki. This allowed him a belt grip that he used to keep the Kagayaki train headed west and over the tawara. Yorikiri.
Hokuseiho (10-4) defeated Tsurugisho (8-6): After a solid initial charge, both men locked in with right-hand inside migi-yotsu grips. Tsurugisho did his best to hang on as Hokuseiho ushered him, gently, over the tawara. Yorikiri.
Midorifuji (9-5) defeated Daishoho (3-11): Midorifuji met Daishoho’s initial charge, wrapped his right arm behind Daishoho’s left shoulder to pull him forward and then shoved him down. Katasukashi. What else?
Aoiyama (5-9) defeated Kotoeko (6-8): Aoiyama’s tsuppari did not seem to be making any headway with Kotoeko. So he escalated with a nodowa. Kotoeko reciprocated and then hit Aoiyama with a powerful slap. This angered the ginat. A powerful slap staggered Kotoeko, who lunged in for a belt grip. Aoiyama then twisted and forced Kotoeko over the bales with a brutal arm-bar. Kotoeko make-koshi. Kotenage.
Hiradoumi (5-9) defeated Nishikifuji (4-10): This was a wild brawl between the two merlot-mawashi’d combatants. Nishikifuji tried to force Hiradoumi down multiple times but Hiradoumi maintained his balance. Nishikifuji shoved Hiradoumi to the edge and went in for the kill…but whiffed. The last second, deft misdirection gave Hiradoumi the win. Tsukiotoshi.
Ryuden (6-8) defeated Kotoshoho (5-9): Ryuden won this lengthy belt battle, I believe, by using his head. Literally. As a weapon. He had his oichomage embedded in Kotoshoho’s face for most of the bout. When he got up under Kotoshoho’s jaw, he drove forward. Kotoshoho tried to move his head away, and this lifted his body, giving Ryuden an opening to force Kotoshoho out. Yorikiri.
Shonannoumi (7-7) defeated Endo (8-6): Shonannoumi won some real estate at the initial charge, allowing him space for a pull. Endo charged forward, pushing at Shonannoumi’s midsection. Shonannoumi used his height advantage to reach over Endo, grab his belt, and pull him forward and out. Shonannoumi’s tight rope walk was reviewed by the replay booth. A mono-ii was called but he had not stepped out until Endo went flying into the crowd. Uwatenage.
Sadanoumi (7-7) defeated Takanosho (5-9): Takanosho drove forward, like Endo in the previous bout. Sadanoumi used the tawara to pivot and his belt grip to throw Takanosho over the edge. Uwatenage. Sadanoumi seemed to tweak his lower back. That might be significant as he fights for kachi-koshi tomorrow with a sore koshi.
Oho (5-9) defeated Tamawashi (2-12): A frantic brawl came to an end when Oho wrapped up Tamawashi’s right shoulder, pulled forward, and then forced Tamawashi down. This was a mirror-image of Midorifuji’s winning move from earlier in the day. Katasukashi.
Atamifuji (11-3) defeated Abi (8-6): Abi suckered Atamifuji into a false start. Abi HENKA! Atamifuji recovered well. Focused, invigorated, and pissed off, Atamifuji regained his footing and took control. He wrapped up Abi, lifted him twice to bring him close to the tawara and finally shoved him out. Yorikiri. Epic.
Shodai (7-7) defeated Asanoyama (8-6): Shodai powered Asanoyama out, puzzling Wakanohana and the sumo world. Yorikiri.
Ura (8-6) defeated Hokutofuji (8-6): Hokutofuji tried for a hatakikomi at the tachiai but Ura would not fall for it. Ura turned the tables and attacked. As Hokutofuji pulled, Ura locked on and shoved Hokutofuji out. Oshidashi.
Gonoyama defeated Meisei: Pure power. Gonoyama caught Meisei from below at the tachiai, driving him back to the edge. From here, Meisei was done. Gonoyama finished him off with a shove. Oshidashi.
Mitakeumi (9-5) defeated Nishikigi (5-9): Nishikigi had the upper hand after the tachiai. He drove Mitakeumi back to the bales but let up and attempted a slapdown. Mitakeumi used the break effectively to push Nishikigi back to the center of the dohyo, giving him space for his own pull. Mitakeumi finished Nishikigi off with a slapdown. Hatakikomi.
Takayasu (10-4) defeated Tobizaru (6-8): Takayasu chased and battered Tobizaru all over the ring. Tobizaru nearly slipped behind Takayasu at one point but Takayasu was alert, pivoted and recovered to batter Tobizaru again. In the end, Tobizaru couldn’t run away quick enough as Takayasu shoved him from behind and into the crowd. Okuridashi. Tobizaru make-koshi.
Kotonowaka (8-6) defeated Kinbozan (9-5): Kinbozan charged forward at the tachiai and forced Kotonowaka back. But it was a feint. Yet another uwatenage at the edge of the ring. Rather than go straight back, Kotonowaka curled back to the left a bit and lunged in for Kinbozan’s belt at the last minute, tugging Kinbozan off the dohyo’s surface first. Beautiful, but risky, gambit. Kotonowaka kachi-koshi. The Sekiwake will maintain their ranks while the Komusubi will fall back into the rank-and-file for November.
Wakamotoharu (9-5) defeated Onosho (8-6): This was a free-wheeling brawl. Onosho tried to end it early with a failed pull. The two finally locked into a grapple. As Onosho tried to keep Wakamotoharu’s right hand away from his belt, Wakamotoharu drove forward. Onosho ran out of space and the pair tumbled into the crowd. Yorikiri.
Daieisho (10-4) defeated Kirishima (8-6): Another bar fight here. Kirishima brought an end to the assault by grabbing and locking up both of Daieisho’s shoulders. Daieisho responded by arching backward and lifting Kirishima clear off the ground, twisting, and throwing the Ozeki. Impressive. Kotenage.
Hoshoryu (7-7) defeated Takakeisho (10-4): Hoshoryu grabbed a massive pile of kensho after this one. Hoshoryu seemed unaffected by Takakeisho’s tsuppari, lobbing powerful volleys of his own, over and over. The shin-Ozeki slid back to the tawara and when Takakeisho went in for the kill, Hoshoryu made his move. Hoshoryu shifted right quicker than Takakeisho could adjust, and with his right hand on T-Rex’s back he brought his left down on Takakeisho’s head, driving him to the clay.