The middle Sunday is upon us so it’s time to start looking at the yusho race in earnest. With no Yokozuna left in the competition and no wrestlers left with unblemished records, this is a free-for-all. Ten men are tied for the lead or one win back, and even those with two (or even three) losses are not out of it yet. The winner may not need 13 or 14 wins. If 11 or 12 can claim this, more than half the field are still technically “in it”. And for some odd reason, the Kyokai has chosen to have many so called Darwin bouts today to thin the herd quickly.
As for the other big storyline that Leonid has already mentioned, the Ozeki situation is getting dire for Takayasu and Goeido. Both men sit on three wins but Takayasu needs seven more while Goeido still needs to win five of the final eight to avoid Takayasu’s fate.
What We Are Watching Day 8
The Enxo bout – This is the first ever meeting of Endo vs Enho. Endo is a yorikiri specialist. His footwork and beltwork have been spectacular this tournament and he’s won the bouts he has needed to and seems to be enjoying sumo again. Sometimes when he was wearing the Gold mawashi he’d carry himself with his head down and just not look happy to be there. I think Enho will be a very interesting puzzle for him. I don’t think The Prince of Throws will get craned out or squished but we’ll have a fascinating technical bout.
Takakeisho vs Okinoumi – This is the big Darwin bout this early in the basho. With Shodai’s fall last night, Takakeisho is the top-ranked rikishi in the lead for the yusho. Okinoumi is one back so both men should have extra riding on their wins today as the yusho talk will start in earnest. The winner will be still in it. If Okinoumi loses, he may well be out altogether while a Takakeisho loss will tip Endo for the crown.
Shodai vs Asanoyama – Yesterday’s sole leader fights against the lead prospect for Ozeki status. Quite frankly, this is a battle between two future Ozeki and one may walk away from this tournament with the cup.
Yutakayama vs Terutsuyoshi – Lower down on the banzuke, we have another up-and-comer in Yutakayama who will grapple with a top pixie. Terutsuyoshi is having his best start to a tournament since July when he picked up the jun-yusho and a special prize to boot. Yutakayama, on the other hand, is off to his best start in makuuchi.
Kagayaki vs Aoiyama – This is a strength vs strength bout. Both men are oshizumo specialists so this will be a slapfest and not a grappling bout. Aoiyama’s technique, however, relies on a hatakikomi kicker. If Kagayaki can shift things to the belt, he’ll likely have the edge.
Hokutofuji vs Takayasu – Takayasu needs this. He can only lose one bout this week to reclaim his Ozeki status. There will be no easy wins against aging Yokozuna. Instead, he’s got to fight his way through a lot of top ranked Maegashira with their own sanyaku ambitions. Unfortunately for Takayasu, Hokutofuji’s oshizumo strength is Takayasu’s weakness and Hokutofuji is pretty successful at keeping opponents off his belt.
Abi vs Goeido – Goeido is pretty successful at getting to his opponent’s belt. Will he be able to force the issue with Abi? The worst news for Abi is that even when Goeido is forced into an oshi bout, he wins more than half the time, though he’s very susceptible to hatakikomi, especially when he’s not in the mood to move forward.
We enter the middle weekend with no Yokozuna, one Ozeki in the yusho chase and the other just trying to survive. The pall of injury seems to hang over the tournament and it may yet have claimed another key player in this drama.
Kaisei defeated Tochiozan. Tochiozan had the more aggressive tachiai and was the instigator. It evolved into a belt battle. Tochiozan worked the pair over to the edge and forced the issue by tipping over but Kaisei was able to maintain his balance for a split second longer as they both fell. Kaisei is credited with an uwatenage but it seemed more like Tochiozan lost by gravity from his own throw attempt.
Azumaryu defeated Nishikigi with a quick pull after the solid tachiai. He put his arm on Nishikigi’s back and pushed down as he pulled back, text book hatakikomi.
Terutsuyoshi defeated Kiribayama in their first ever meeting. As Kiribayama charged at the tachiai, Terutsuyoshi pivoted in the direction of the gyoji, grabbing Kiribayama’s arm and wheeling Kakuryu’s protege around and out. Kotenage.
Tokyushoryu defeated Kotoeko. Kotoeko seemed very genki at the tachiai, appearing to want to drive things but Tokyushoryu wrapped Kotoeko up very quickly easily securing a belt grip and forced the lavender mawashi back and out for the yorikiri win.
Kotoshogiku defeated Ikioi. Ikioi met Kotoshogiku head on with a solid tachiai but Kotoshogiku was able to charge forward through the injured Ikioi who offered little resistance. The tawara provided no help, either as Ikioi stepped out. Yorikiri.
Chiyomaru defeated Shimanoumi with a Missy Elliot-themed pivot and pull. Chiyomaru sent blast after blast aimed at Shimanoumi’s face, forcing Shimanoumi high, then quickly “Reversed It”, pulled to the side while pushing down for a nicely executed hatakikomi.
Tsurugisho defeated Ishiura. Despite being carted off the dohyo yesterday, Tsurugisho showed up for his bout with Ishiura…only to vanish after the tachiai, leaving Ishiura to fall forward. Tsurugisho braced against Ishiura’s shoulders and pushed down while pulling away, using Ishiura’s forward momentum but aiming him at the clay, hikiotoshi.
Chiyotairyu defeated Yutakayama. Chiyotairyu attempted to follow Chiyomaru’s game plan with the upward blasts leading to a pull but Yutakayama snuffted it out, maintaining his balance and advancing toward the tawara. However, Chiyotairyu unleashed another powerful thrust from the side that sent Yutakayama sprawling. Tsukiotoshi.
Takanosho defeated Kagayaki by keeping his balance. Kagayaki really lost this one by ceding ground with a pull. He tried to push Takanosho down but stepped out first.
Sadanoumi defeated Aoiyama. Big Dan got the tsuppari engine going, laying into Sadanoumi but Sadanoumi grabbed hold of his right arm and pulled, forcing Aoiyama off balance. Another gentle shove sent Aoiyama over the straw bales and out for the hikkake win.
Ryuden defeated Shohozan. Shohozan was the aggressor, laying into Ryuden raining blows right to the head, preventing Ryuden from any sort of belt grip. But his follow-on pull was poorly executed as he seemed to forget to actually pull Ryuden with him…so Ryuden just stayed standing in the middle of the dohyo. Shohozan re-engaged but this time Ryuden grabbed Shohozan and flung him forward and out. Okuridashi.
Tochino-henka defeated Takarafuji. Hatakikomi. Let us move on.
Onosho defeated Meisei with raw power. Meisei locked up at the tachiai but Onosho dug his head right into Meisei’s face. That seemed rather uncomfortable and did the trick. Putting all that weight into Meisei got the pair moving forward. With Meisei effectively wrapped up there was nowhere to run but backwards and out. Yorikiri.
Okinoumi defeated Enho. Okinoumi led Enho back to the tawara and then squished him. At the start, Enho tried to keep Okinoumi away but Okinoumi continued to advance. Once he wrapped up Enho at the armpit, he moved forward, forcing Enho onto his back. Oof. Yoritaoshi.
Purple Endo defeated Tamawashi. Endo met Tamawashi with a weird, weak tachiai. As Tamawashi put his head down to drive forward through Endo, Endo shifted to the side and let Tamawashi bull himself forward over the bales. Is this the Imperial Roman purple? Tottari.
Mitakeumi defeated Daieisho. Mitakeumi used his considerable power to drive Daieisho to the bales but instead of redoubling his efforts to force him over, Mitakeumi tried for a pull. Daieisho kept his balance but his position was bad as he was half turned. Mitakeumi used that to then push Endo’s Oitekaze stablemate out the other side. Yorikiri. Mitakeumi seemed to tweak the knee in the win and was not able to squat with it, instead squatting with one leg, keeping the left out to the side. He also needed Yobidashi assistance to climb down from the dohyo.
Takayasu defeated Myogiryu. Myogiryu brawled and tried real hard to keep Takayasu away from his belt which was a smart idea, had he followed through. After Myogiryu wore himself out, he stood at the center of the ring, keeping Takayasu at bay. Takayasu seemed content to just wait him out and perhaps Myogiryu should have just let the stalemate continue, awaiting Takayasu to advance? Instead Myogiryu got bored and drove into Takayasu. This body contact allowed Takayasu to counter by getting a belt grip and as they tussled, Takayasu shifted his grip and improved it to the point where he was holding onto Myogiryu’s belt near the knot. Since Myogiryu was now sideways into Takayasu, the Sekiwake ushered Myogiryu forward and out. Oshidashi.
In this bout, Takayasu reminded me of fly paper or of those sticky mouse traps. As Myogiryu would wriggle to try to get free, Takayasu would envelope more of his opponent until he had him in that extremely awkward, sideways position.
Asanoyama defeated Hokutofuji. Solid tachiai. Asanoyama got a quick grip with the right hand in the front of Hokutofuji’s belt and simply drove forward through Hokutofuji. Hokutofuji tried to peel him off by thrusting at Asanoyama’s glowing face but power sumo prevailed. Yorikiri.
Goeido defeated Shodai. Bruce’s departure from Tokyo broke the enchantment Shodai had over this tournament. Shodai was the aggressor, pursuing Goeido throughout the bout. But at every turn Goeido thwarted Shodai’s advance and kept his balance at the straw bales. Goeido parried Shodai’s final charge, getting in behind and then pushing the leader over. Okuritaoshi.
Takakeisho defeated Abi. Abi’s slaps are often just a prelude to a pulldown. They’re not threatening or powerful on their own. After an initial slapfest from both, Takakeisho thrust out knocking Abi to the right and close to the bales. I do not know why Abi would choose this terrible position to try his hatakikomi pull but he did. With zero space behind him he effectively backed out. Oshidashi.
After a week of action, Shodai stumbles early in his prospective yusho run. So, to answer my question from the photo? Goeido can stop him. Goeido plays the hero in today’s drama. Wait, what? Anyway, now a crowded field of five leads with one loss, headed by Takakeisho. This pack includes Endo and Shodai from the Maegashira joi and Terutsuyoshi and Tokushoryu from the bottom of the banzuke. Sekiwake Asanoyama heads up a chase group of five more competitors one win back. Asanoyama is accompanied by a merry band of Okinoumi, Yutakayama, Kagayaki and Azumaryu.
Kakuryu has gone Kyujo. This is his third consecutive kyujo tournament since winning in Nagoya. He follows Hakuho’s early exit leaving no Yokozuna in the Hatsu Basho. His sole win came on Day 2 against Abi, handing out kinboshi to Endo, Hokutofuji, and Myogiryu. Both Endo and Myogiryu doubled-up while Hokutofuji claimed the fusen victory today. Mitakeumi will get the freebie win today.
With a few asterisks, we’ve concluded Match Day 1 for rikishi from the lower four divisions. The men from these divisions only fight seven times during the tournament, so the first half fought on opening night and most of the rest (who aren’t kyujo) fought last night. So on the first night we got to see the return of Wakaichiro and Ura’s first bout was last night.
I figure I’ll start here with the rookies, Mudoho, Nihonyanagi, and Dewanoryu.
Two willow trees, Nihonyanagi was next, (“Over the oka and through the mori, to Roppongi we go”). Conveniently, he fought against our other debutant, Dewanoryu. Both were introduced by Herouth in the article link above.
Nihonyanagi secured a morozashi quickly after a rather defensive (oshi-minded) tachiai. Once he secured that left hand inside, right hand outside, he began to yank Dewanoryu around at will. to the side of the dohyo. Dewanoryu’s next match is scheduled tomorrow against Hattorizakura, one of our asterisks, in that he has not fought yet. Taiga is also kyujo to start this tournament and he will likely compete once to stay on the banzuke. Ryuden did this several times before storming back and becoming the Maegashira mainstay we know and love today. May Taiga be so blessed.
In Jonidan, we’ve got Senho who jumped from Jonokuchi into the midst of the division at Jd74 (of 108 ranks). Unfortunately for him, he lost against the more experienced, dedicated pusher-thruster in Harada. And unfortunately for us, I’ve not been able to find video anywhere because Harada won by yoritaoshi and I’m very curious about how that worked out. But the headliner in Jonidan is former maegashira Ura in his second tournament back. He dominated Sorakaze from the outset, with an oshidashi win. After a good tachiai, he worked his left hand inside Sorakaze’s right arm, grabbed him by the armpit, and ejected him from the dohyo. All of his wins last tournament were of the oshi-tsuki variety.
Unfortunately, in Sandanme we have the late-timed intai of Kaishu for personal reasons. He was still on the banzuke and his retirement came as quite the surprise. He’s been active on Instagram, where he’s been updating his story from what looks like the Philippines? Yesterday Kobayashi-san was riding along a road as an apparent passenger on one of those hire-bikes. The day before he was at a water park. We wish him well in his post-sumo endeavors and we’ll keep people filled in on his future successes.
Wakaichiro fought against Baraki on Day 1 and unfortunately came away with a loss. He was a bit off balance for a lot of the bout and it looked like he’d recovered well for a moment but Baraki was able to finish him off. Sadly, I can’t find video. This is surely a lamentable predicament for the former American Footballer since studying one’s past games and those of one’s opponents is such a crucial part of practice in that sport, and he’ll need it for his next fight against Fujinowaka. Both men are Oshizumo specialists, so it will likely be a strength vs strength bout.
Hokutenkai on the West, or left side, of this video faced off against the appropriately named Azumasho. The Mongolian has had an exceptional start to his career with a 6-1 debut followed by the Jonidan yusho in Kyushu. He’s proven himself comfortable with oshizumo but he is able to win on the belt as well. The strong blast at the tachiai pressed the bigger Azumasho back on the defensive. Azumasho hunkers down and forces a shift to a belt battle. Hokutenkai is not shy about it and starts to get to work. Just as Azumasho’s foot gets to the bales (and I’m sure he could have withstood a yorikiri attempt) Hokutenkai executes a great uwatenage overarm throw.
Up in Makushita, we got another great uwatenage from Kitanowaka against Narutaki.
Roga battled Onami Jr, sorry, Wakatakamoto but I can’t find video. Sorry.
A bit further up we get a humdinger of a bout between a former Makuuchi regular, Chiyonokuni, and Mudoho’s big brother Naya. Chiyonokuni wound up and tried to deliver a whopper of a slap to Naya but landed two – rather ineffectively – at his shoulder/armpit instead. The younger man forced the issue and kept bringing the oshi-battle to the grizzled veteran. As Chiyonokuni ducked away, Naya pursued, and thrust his prey out with a forceful final blast. I may be over-stating this point but that’s the kind of power I’d like to see Abi develop behind his attack to get to the Ozeki level.
Well, action has already started for Match Day 2, so I bid y’all adieu.