Aki Day 13 Preview

Aki Post Banner

This has been a weird basho. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. When watching Day 12 inside the arena, I found myself alternating between shaking my head and cheering enthusiastically. The tournament has swung wildly between some of the most exciting sumo we have seen in ages, and slippy/slappy/pulldown action.

Less than sixty top division bouts remain, and we will see a victor crowned. What sort of victor will it be? Well, three names were culled from the race on Day 12, and the yusho arasoi should get thinner than a 40 year old’s oicho-mage after another day of action.

Day 13 is also a pivotal day as it will crown several lower division yusho winners.

Aki Leaderboard

Leader: Takakeisho
Chasers: Mitakeumi, Okinoumi, Takarafuji, Meisei, Tsurugisho
Don’t Stop Believin’: Goeido, Asanoyama, Yutakayama

Three Yusho Decided Day 13

Let’s start off with a quick sweep of the nether regions, where the wheat will be separated from the… slightly less sellable wheat. Wheat that’s perfectly good for the mill but not the sort of stuff you’d see in a high-end depachika.

Jonokuchi: The very first bout of the day decides the yusho, with former blue chip prospect and Ms1 Murata looking to seal the deal against less-heralded fellow injury returnee Omura.

Jonidan/Sandanme: Both of these divisions has 3 undefeated rikishi, so it’s splitsville with one of the divisions being won outright on the day and the other heading for a playoff over the weekend:

  • In Jonidan, bottom ranked 6-0’ers Aomihama and Sadanohana do battle, while…
  • In Sandanme, top ranked 6-0’ers Tsushida and Sadanohikari lock horns. Both sets of winners will hope that…
  • Sandanme’s Fujinowaka and Jonidan’s Motobayashi lose their match against the other.

Motobayashi is of course no stranger to strange yusho permutations having beaten two of his Naruto-beya stablemates to the Jonokuchi yusho last time out. Tsushida is the only other prior yusho winner – also in Jonokuchi.

Makushita: The highlight bout of the title matches on the day is unquestionably an intriguing battle of two former Makuuchi favourites. Immediate injury returnee Chiyonokuni takes on the most prominent rikishi in the unsalaried tiers: former Ozeki Terunofuji, who continues his long old slog up from Jonidan. They’ve met twice, each winning once. Neither will be promoted to Juryo with a win, but the winner will be much better placed for promotion in November.

In Juryo, the highlight of the day sees leader Ikioi against his nearest chaser Kotonowaka in a match which won’t decide the title, but may go some way to clearing it up.

What (Else) We Are Watching Day 13

Takanosho vs Azumaryu – Back to the top division then, and Takanosho gets called up again in a sneak preview of Fukuoka action, having clinched his kachikoshi from Juryo 2. Azumaryu has a 3-2 edge over his rival and has cooled off a bit in the preceding days.

Yutakayama vs Enho – After being pulled up to the dizzy heights of second half action, burgeoning superstar Enho finds himself near the bottom of the day’s fight card against an opponent who is just barely on the fringes of the title race. Somehow, this is their first ever meeting. It has been said ad nauseum on the commentary this tournament that Enho fights better against much larger opponents, and I tend to agree his chances will be improved here against an opponent who may not be able to cope with his dynamism and movement. While I correctly predicted he might struggle to finish off Takarafuji, I think this match gives him a bit better potential to score his kachikoshi and end the giant Yutakayama’s spirited title challenge.

Onosho vs Nishikigi – I’m glad this is happening now because it has all the hallmarks of one of those horrible Day 15 Darwin matchups. These guys are indeed both .500, but have a couple days to work out their winning record regardless of what happens. It’s a clash of styles, with Onosho’s dynamic pushing attack against Nishikigi’s preference to lock up his opponent’s arms. Onosho’s in good nick right now so I think he’ll win the day – provided he can stay on his feet.

Shohozan vs Meisei – Shohozan’s unlikely dalliance with title contention ended on Day 12, and Meisei’s took a real hit. Both will want to turn things around for different reasons: Shohozan can seal kachikoshi and Meisei still finds himself just one win off the pace and in with a real shout of a special prize. Their meetings have been split one apiece, but I think Meisei is just about in the better shape here, especially if it’s a mawashi battle. Shohozan has still got it but appears to have lost a step, compensating with increased work on the belt. That plays into Meisei’s hands though, so I’m tipping the energetic youngster.

Sadanoumi vs Takagenji – Takagenji is clearly impacted by off-field activity and will hope to be back soon. Sadanoumi has to be unforgiving and punishing, as this is as good an opportunity as any to score one of the two remaining wins he needs this tournament. Sadanoumi leads the rivalry 2-0, and I’m backing him to make it 3.

Tochiozan vs Kotoyuki – Speaking of losing a step, Tochiozan has looked a bit blasé in this tournament, which isn’t a very good recipe for a match against the pushing attack of Kotoyuki. What he does still have however is ring sense, something that is very much his opponent’s achilles heel. Kotoyuki has lost at least two matches in this tournament from winning positions, and can’t afford to do that again here. I think Kotoyuki will win the tachiai with his trademark thrusting attack, but whether he’s able to actually put the veteran away is another matter.

Terutsuyoshi vs Ishiura – Terutsuyoshi must have summoned the henka genie with his olé move on Day 12, as the genie has arrived to battle him on Day 13! Ishiura has faded badly in terms of results since his hot start and at 6-6 needs to find the wins needed for this tournament to be a success. For makekoshi Terutsuyoshi, it’s all about damage limitation to make sure a bad situation doesn’t get worse. Ishiura tends to henka in desperate situations… surely he won’t here, right? These guys will see plenty of each other in keiko sessions given the close relationship of their heya, so I think we’ll see some straightforward little man sumo, and it could be a bit feisty.

Tsurugisho vs Takarafuji – These guys both improbably find themselves one off the pace heading into the final weekend. What a story! Tsurugisho has exceeded all expectations in his top flight debut. Takarafuji, meanwhile, did very well to stick to his incredibly disciplined style of sumo to take Enho out of the equation on Day 12. This is a first time matchup. Tsurugisho would do well to start with a pushing attack because he doesn’t want a mawashi battle against a more experienced yotsu practitioner who will have designs on simply wearing down the opponent until he can sniff out and exploit a weakness. While a win for the rookie would add to the chaos that has been this Aki basho, I’m going to tip Takarafuji to stay right in the yusho race with a win here.

Okinoumi vs Kagayaki – Okinoumi upended his cold spell and the yusho race by knocking Meisei off the top of the leaderboard in some style on Day 12, and keeping himself in unlikely contention. Kagayaki is 5-7 and will be desperate to avoid makekoshi, but Okinoumi really shouldn’t lose this. While Kagayaki is very good when it comes to his ring sense and overall control, I don’t think he’s better than a healthy, in-form Okinoumi at oshi or yotsu-zumo, including the execution of throws. I’m going to tip the veteran to grab his 10th win.

Daishoho vs Kotoeko – Daishoho is makekoshi and faces a 5-7 rikishi hoping not to suffer the same fate. As evidenced by his win over Tochiozan on Day 12, Daishoho does seem like a rikishi who performs better when the pressure is off. This will be a belt match, with both rikishi preferring the mawashi. The previous 12 meetings have been split evenly. This is kind of a boring one so the boring analysis is: the winner will get a better grip from the tachiai and win by trying to move forward. Prove me wrong, guys. Woof.

Daieisho vs Chiyotairyu – I know I have been singing Daieisho’s praises to the heavens in this tournament, but this guy has just had a really good basho for a 5-7 rikishi. He is establishing his style of sumo all the time, and he backed that up by how he dealt with Asanoyama. Chiyotairyu on the other hand has been neither been able to establish his style of sumo from the tachiai nor recover in order to get his pushing and thrusting attack going. If he were a little more genki this might be the closest we’d get to a good old fashioned street fight in this tournament, but Daieisho might see the light at the end of the tunnel here and keep the chains moving in his quest for an unlikely winning record.

Tamawashi vs Asanoyama – Tamawashi has ended the title challenges of Abi and Endo in consecutive days and the arm-breaking cavity merchant will look to make it a hat trick by finishing off Asanoyama’s slim hopes at a second yusho. As with yesterday, Asanoyama does not handle Tamawashi’s style of sumo particularly well as evidenced by the goose egg he’s sporting from three prior meetings. That all being said, I’m going to break with the prediction I made yesterday and tip him to upset the form guide in this one, as Tamawashi can be a little vulnerable to being escorted out by an opponent who’s able to land a quick belt grip. And that might just keep things interesting into the weekend.

Shodai vs Aoiyama – As Bruce related, Shodai is better than his 2-10 record. With both of these guys in such poor form (five wins between them from 24 matches in this tournament), it’s the kind of match you mark down as “toilet break” or “refill the drink.” Make it fast though, because this should be over quickly. If Aoiyama gets the V-Twin firing and can move Shodai back from the tachiai, he should win this. And if he doesn’t, Shodai will grab the mawashi and get his third win.

Hokutofuji vs Tomokaze – Rescuing us from that dreariness is another first time matchup, and a thoroughly intriguing one at that. Tomokaze is 6-6 and needs to find two wins from three to keep his amazing kachikoshi streak alive, after he started pulling again for some reason yesterday. Hokutofuji is in his now typical strong finish, fighting back with five straight wins and some fantastic oshi-zumo this week. Here’s a stat for you: Hokutofuji is 16-5 over the final weekend (Friday-Sunday) of his past seven tournaments. That’s some indication of his perseverance. He will open up with his typical pushing-thrusting attack here, and Tomokaze in current form is probably going to look for a pull. That isn’t quite as awful as it sounds in this case, as Hokutofuji can be very prone to the hatakikomi/slippiotoshi. Hokutofuji is the favourite, but only just.

Kotoshogiku vs Endo – Kotoshogiku is on the brink, but managed to keep himself afloat with his comfortable win over Tomokaze on Day 12. Endo started strong but has fizzled in the second week. These matches have been split pretty evenly since Kotoshogiku’s Ozeki demotion and I think this hangs on Endo’s focus as much as anything. After all, we know what Kotoshogiku is going to give in every match.

Abi vs Shimanoumi – These guys lock horns for the second time, Abi having won the first earlier this year. Shimanoumi has a decent oshi-attack, but I don’t think it’s on the level of Abi’s tsuppari. Shimanoumi is already make-koshi and while he will be still looking to finish strong, Abi has a chance to lock in his san’yaku position for another tournament and I expect him not to have to wait until Day 15 to do it this time.

Mitakeumi vs Myogiryu – Myogiryu came back from injury strong on Day 11, but then just flat out collapsed against Takakeisho on Day 12. Mitakeumi, meanwhile, rebounded from his own collapse with a thunderous win in a very tense, high stakes, matta-strewn affair against Tochinoshin. These two are actually fairly similar in terms of their ability, Mitakeumi simply operating on a higher level, perhaps apart from when it comes to throws. But I don’t think this match is going to get that far. Mitakeumi is the person that needs to keep the title race relevant into the final days, and he needs to establish a strong oshi attack. I don’t think Myogiryu defends particularly well against high level opposition so if Mitakeumi takes the initiative, he should win.

Tochinoshin vs Ryuden – Ryuden has been all over the shop lately, and we got to see a lot of him against Goeido in a match that was run multiple times due to various matta. For Tochinoshin’s part, he simply needs to win every match to avoid demotion. Their head to head record is 1-1, Ryuden winning most recently in Nagoya. Ryuden is in some ways a good opponent for the Georgian, in that he will allow Tochinoshin to get the belt. But he is also in some ways the absolute worst opponent, because very few rikishi manage to defend at the edge after giving up a belt grip like Ryuden. That effort, and his ability to turn losses into wins at the tawara, has won many fans. There’s nothing worse than seeing your heroes die a slow death and I think Tochinoshin will probably draw the pain out further by just about winning this.

Takakeisho vs Goeido – This is an enormous match to end the day, and for both men. The subtext is perhaps the most interesting. Goeido is safe from demotion, but this is a yusho he should have contended for, and a loss here will officially knock him out of the running. A Takakeisho win may be a symbolic changing of the guard and a big moment in the transition to the new generation of stars. Goeido leads the rivalry 7-3, and has beaten Takakeisho fairly consistently over time. As an all-rounder with a blistering attack, he is one of few rikishi with the tools to overwhelm the perplexing youngster. Goeido is certainly prone to the type of slap down technique that Takakeisho has mastered, but I think the youngster may find it harder to win just with oshi-zumo than against other opponents. I’m going to go out on a limb and tip the veteran Ozeki for the win here.

NSK Rikishi Health Checks

Tochinoshin Undergoes Routine Health Screening, Courtesy NSK Twitter Feed

With the Aki basho just over 2 weeks away (and this being banzuke weekend!), it’s time for the semi-yearly rikishi health checks. The twice a year parade of sumo favorites undergoing the routine provides some excellent opportunities for sighting of missed former stars of the top ranks, and today was no exception

Yes, that’s our dear grumpy badger and stalwart brawler Chiyonokuni reporting for his check up. After dropping out of the Hatsu basho in January, he has been kyujo for knee repair. He was ranked in the Makushita joi-jin for Nagoya, and will likely fall further down the banzuke before he returns. He’s a fearless competitor, so we look forward to his campaign to re-take his place in sumo’s top division.

But the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan was not done, none other than fan favorite, and fellow knee patient Ura was present today as well. We don’t expect him to re-enter competition until next year, and may battle back from the very lowest ranks.

Haru Day 1 & 2 Comments

Mitakeumi Calls The Tune During His Day 1 Match With Yokozuna Kakuryu

Although Andy was kind enough to put together a day 2 preview, I wanted to add a few comments as well. My thanks to Team Tachiai for covering during my day 1 kyujo!

It’s great that everyone in the top division was able to start the basho, with the exception of Chiyonokuni. For those of you who might have missed it, he destroyed his knee during Hatsu, and frankly I would be surprised to see him back before summer or fall.

It was evident that Hokutofuji was not mentally ready to bring any sort of serious challenge to Hakuho day 1. Though he lined up well and launched into the tachiai with vigor, you can see him close his eyes and almost wince as he comes up against the Yokozuna. Hakuho, who I am convinced sees at about 240hz, had a brief “what is this?” Look on his face before grabbing Hokutofuji’s forearm and guiding him to the clay. For day 2, Hokutofuji faces Goeido, who is in front of his home-town crowd. My biggest worry about Goeido? That day 1 match where Endo was propelled out of the dohyo – some fans noticed Goeido had stepped out. Rather his foot slipped off of the top of the tawara onto the janome. That’s the same foot he underwent reconstructive surgery for, that took titanium screws to rebuild.

Hakuho will get Endo for day 2. Frankly we don’t know what kind of condition Hakuho is actually in yet, and as happens in prior basho, his first match (or several) he finds way to win without using much in the way of mobility. As cited above, Hokutofuji did most of the work himself. Endo had little to offer Goeido on day 1, and I think he won’t have much luck with Hakuho either.

Kadoban Ozeki Tochinoshin did not reduce the worry level of his fans day 1. His reverse-gear sumo with a pull was not the kind of move you expect from Tochinoshin, who wins with his overwhelming strength applied vigorously in a forward direction. Can we assume that Tochinoshin’s still fairly injured? Too soon to tell. But his day 2 match against Myogiryu is no push-over. Myogiryu is a tough competitor who knows how to beat Tochinoshin, even when the Ozeki is healthy.

Call it a simple hunch, but Takayasu looked a lot less frantic on day 1 than I recall for many moths. Takayasu is at his best when he is calm, strong and forceful. This really gets put to the test day 2 when he draws Mitakeumi, who in spite of an injury that he might want to see surgery for, delivered a win against Yokozuna Kakuryu. Mitakeumi did little to practice before the basho due to the injury, and I am certain that every day is a struggle for him.

On the subject of Kakuryu – I don’t think that his chaotic day 1 loss to Mitakeumi is a sign he has problems. Kakuryu’s matches are frequently a “seat of the pants” affair, and it’s clear that the Yokozuna’s first gambit failed, and left him with little room for recovery. Against Kaisei, he won’t have to worry as much about mobility as he did against Mitakeumi, but there is the question of the Brazilian’s enormous mass.

Tamawashi struggled a bit more than might be expected against Nishikigi, who seems to be in the joi-jin for the long haul now. As Tamawashi himself noted prior to the basho, the number of collateral obligations he had as the yusho winner impacted his training program leading up to the basho. Daieisho may not provide too much of a challenge on day 2, and I expect the Hatsu yusho winner to continue to file down his ring rust for the first 5 days.

Takakeisho’s day 1 match was as close to his preferred blueprint as you might ask. He was low, he went for center-mass oshi straight away and he kept the pressure going for the win. His day 2 match against Nishikigi might have a surprise or two, as Nishikigi continues to show remarkable persistence, and an unexpected tendency to find ways not “not lose”, usually to the frustration of his opponents.

A few more quick hits

Ichinojo – Whoa! That was big, strong sumo day 1. I wonder about his posture post-match. He did not look right. But let’s hope the boulder is strong for the next 14 days.

Shodai – I do in fact think he is getting better on his tachiai. If this is real, watch out. His sumo mechanics are excellent otherwise.

Tochiozan – After a fairly dismal Hatsu, the “good” Tochiozan seems to have shown up day 1. Though aging out, he’s a sumo force of nature when he’s feeling healthy.

Aoiyama – Day 1 match featured some really excellent combat sumo from the Man-Mountain. Abi had no way to really keep Aoiyama from doing exactly whatever the big Bulgarian wanted.

Kotoshogiku – He sumo looked strong at Hatsu, even though he ended with disappointing 6-9 record. His day 1 tachiai was especially sharp. Day 2 he’s against Takarafuji, who always seems a half step behind now.

Ikioi – If you have not seen his day 1 match, it ended with a shove worthy of Superman himself. Shohozan nearly took flight from the force of it, and it was a welcome change from seeing Ikioi as the walking wounded.

Ishiura – Wow, this guy! I remember him! He burst into the top division at Kyushu 2016 – he was strong, fast and always had 2 attacks going at the same time. Then he devolved into a henka machine, and got boring. But look who is back! More of this, please!

Yutakayama – It hurts to watch this guy. Once the leader of the Freshman cohort, his visit to the joi at Aki 2018 saw him kyujo for 3 days, and never quite right since. I personally hope he can pull it together, as I think he has a lot to offer sumo in the years to come.

Haru Day 1 Recap

EDION Arena Interior - Makuuchi Match
The EDION Arena, Osaka

With Day 1 of the 2019 Haru honbasho in the books, the most unique tournament in sumo is officially underway. I have to say, I like the Haru basho the most of the non-Tokyo venues, and am looking forward to bringing everyone coverage of the tournament live from Osaka later this week.

What notable news do we have to report? Well, Terunofuji is IN, and Ura is OUT – and to those asking – unlikely to be seen before Aki at the earliest. At the top level, Chiyonokuni is the first makuuchi name to hit the kyujo list. As for Terunofuji, he fought – and won – in his long awaited return to the dohyo on Day 1, but it was clear that he’s not in anything resembling sumo form, never mind the Terunofuji we know from his heyday. It would be wise to maintain measured optimism for the rest of his tournament without looking too far down the line, on the basis of the early evidence. We’ll see our first glimpse of our favorite Texan sumotori, Wakaichiro, on Day 2, as he makes his return to Sandanme.

So, how did the top rankers get on? After we’ve seen several tournaments chock full of early shocks, did we have any today? You’ll just have to read on…

Day 1 Results

Chiyoshoma defeats Shimanoumi – Chiyoshoma just can’t henka soon enough. This bout was so anticlimactic, and not the way you want to open a basho. It was hard to learn much from that, apart from that Juryo visitor Shimanoumi will have to get streetwise to the henka if and when he does make it to the top division.

Yutakayama defeats Daishoho – Welcome to the top division Daishoho! Yutakayama starts with a nodowa and then blocks all of Daishoho’s attempts to get anything going, before finishing him off with a simple oshidashi. This is the sumo Yutakayama needs to show on a consistent basis.

Ishiura defeats Kotoeko – There are about four matches in this match. Ishiura predictably starts low and gets to the side, locking up Kotoeko’s arms. He drives him back several times before losing his grip, and it looks like Kotoeko may seize the advantage when Ishiura tries to pull. But, the little man reacts wildly with a number of (missed) roundhouses before dragging Kotoeko back across the dohyo, where Kotoeko gets twisted down very awkwardly on his knee and looks visibly pained. Good stuff from Ishiura, and the knee will be a worry for Kotoeko.

Toyonoshima defeats Terutsuyoshi –  The crowd is very appreciative of Toyonoshima’s win on his top division return. Hiro Morita actually predicted him as a yusho contender in the NHK Preview show, so if you thought Andy was wild with his Tamawashi yusho prediction last year, think again. Terutsuyoshi takes the initiative from the tachiai twice, driving the larger man back but can’t finish him off. The vet ultimately hits the pulldown. Again, if there’s a teachable moment to a newcomer, it’s that maybe Terutsuyoshi can be more streetwise at this level.

Tomokaze defeats Kagayaki – One thing that’s remarkable about Tomokaze is that physically he looks very much the part of a top division rikishi. If you were bracing for an oshi fight, he’s not going to oblige, and it’s clear from the off he’s not one of these pusher/thrusters that comes up to the top division with no plan B. This match is over in a second and it’s very good sumo from the new man. Kagayaki tried to get under his arms and lift him up from the tachiai, and as the tall man is bent over, Tomokaze simply pulls him down by the head in a very simple and decisive motion.

Yoshikaze defeats Meisei – Meisei goes with the silver mawashi/towel combination, which is a strong dedication to a colorless existence. He starts with all kinds of verve however and I even thought he might have even jumped the gun for a matta. Yoshikaze deals well however, and it’s a third consecutive pulling manoeuvre for a win. Meisei launches with all kinds of intention and flailing arms, but Yoshikaze won’t be moved. Eventually the veteran gets his arms on top, gets a hand on Meisei’s head and pulls for the white star.

Ryuden defeats Yago – Three Oguruma-beya rikishi take the dohyo in succession, but this time, the vaunted stable comes up empty. They say “start as you mean to go on” and so it’s no surprise that Ryuden, as usual, opens with a matta. This guy can’t get enough matta. Both men get a decent left hand grip, but Yago can’t really do anything with his, Ryuden is much more stable and pulls the throw, a shitatenage.

Ikioi defeats Shohozan – Ikioi’s ready for a new tournament with a whole suite of fresh looking bandages. He looks genki in front of his home crowd, and Shohozan is a great opponent for some heavy metal sumo. Shohozan pulls a hit and shift, but Ikioi isn’t buying any of it. It’s a brilliant move when it works against someone who lunges as much as Ikioi does, but if you don’t execute then you’re in trouble and Ikioi shoves the older rikishi out in one strong maneuver, and then picks up the spare by bowling him directly into the salt barrel in the process, with salt flying everywhere. There’s always something very fulfilling about seeing a rikishi flung straight into the salt barrel.

Kotoshogiku defeats Sadanoumi – Abema leads into this match with a very cheery Kotoshogiku interview. He utterly dominates Sadanoumi, even lifting him briefly off the ground at the tachiai. This is vintage Kotoshogiku. He immediately starts the hug and chug, and it’s over less than 4 seconds later.

Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – This ends in a nice sukuinage from Asanoyama. As predicted, Takarafuji plays a mostly defensive game, as Asanoyama has to work to turn his initial tsuppari attack into a winning strategy. Eventually Asanoyama is able to lock both of Takarafuji’s arms. His winning move ultimately could be the “chug and hug.” After moving Takarafuji clear across the dohyo, and having both arms inside, he finally gets the leverage to toss him down.

Aoiyama defeats Abi – Again, as predicted, this ends up with a furious Abi flailing arms at the boobous Bulgarian, whose strategy is just to keep him at arm’s length. As they hurtle toward the edge, Aoiyama steps to the side and Abi goes flying into the shimpan in comedy fashion, limbs spread everywhere.

Onosho defeats Okinoumi – Onosho has a lovely bow in his hair for his Abema interview. He starts right on the shikiri-sen while Okinoumi is well back, most of the way to the tawara. The run up does not work in Okinoumi’s favor as Onosho takes control of this from the beginning, keeping Okinoumi high, starting low, driving the man from Shimane-ken back and out. No ring rust from Onosho here.

Ichinojo defeats Chiyotairyu – Ichinojo looks pretty genki here, though we did say that at the start of the last basho as well. Let’s see if he keeps it up 14 more days. Ichinojo takes the hit from Chiyotairyu, which moves him back briefly, but then lands a number of strong shoves which ultimately move Chiyotairyu off balance. He finishes the Kokonoe man with a tsukiotoshi.

Tochiozan defeats Shodai – In the lead up to this match, which happens just as NHK World went live, Abema shows more of the actual shiko while NHK decides to just show pictures of Takakeisho walking around and sitting down. Shodai spends most of the match in trouble and on the run after absorbing the tachiai, but he does show a lot of tenacity at least to stay in the match. This is kind of like watching your drunk friend on a mechanical bull – everyone knows they’re going to fall off but every second they stay on seems an order of magnitude more impressive. This all being said, Shodai doesn’t really get an opportunity to regroup and go on the offensive, and eventually Tochiozan wins with the katasukashi under shoulder swing down.

Tamawashi defeats Nishikigi – Tamawashi has abandoned his teal mawashi and that’s a real shame. I hate when rikishi have great success and then change up from a signature color. Teal was his signature look! The new mawashi is a very deep navy blue. This match requires a little more effort than Tamawashi maybe will have wanted. There’s a lot of hustle but not much bustle. One thing Nishikigi has been great at, especially in these last two basho in the joi, has been positioning himself as a less movable opponent. But it’s an oshi bout, and Nishikigi is not going to be able to go toe to toe with the reigning champion in that kind of fight. Eventually Tamawashi is able to pivot and march forward, shoving Nishikigi out.

Takakeisho defeats Myogiryu – The speed from Takakeisho in this bout is incredible and the crowd loves it. Myogiryu takes the tachiai head on and in this kind of form that’s going to be a mistake. This is overwhelming sumo from Takakeisho and what a response to the concept that his last match against Goeido cost him his promotion – this was everything that wasn’t. He wins by tsukidashi. Over in a second, straightforward, and as the NHK team agrees, he’s got (probably) nine more to go.

Tochinoshin defeats Daieisho – Tochinoshin has abandoned his purple mawashi and I’m here for it. He’s gone back to the filthy looking grey thing that he was so dominant in, winning yusho and throwing around lesser men like bags of rotten miso. In spite of this, Tochinoshin gets in all kinds of trouble from the start and pushed back from the tachiai, but at the tawara he manages to hit the pulldown. This was dangerous stuff from Tochinoshin, it was kind of a Aminishiki-esque pulldown at the edge, but you wouldn’t call it masterful. Perhaps the kindest thing you can say is it’s the kind of pulldown attempt that always seems to see Yokozuna Kakuryu lose, but the Ozeki managed to nail it. Ultimately, it was a match he needed to win and he did.

Goeido defeats Endo – Goeido gets a rapturous applause as he mounts the dohyo. The noise is everything I love about the Haru Basho and am looking very much forward to being in the arena later this week. We start with a matta from Endo. On the restart, Goeido responds straight away with a face slap. Don’t matta Goeido! Goeido attacks with the pace that he’s known for, and it’s him at his best. He’s got Endo facing the wrong way and Endo is driven back and shoved out in a flash. Goeido gets an enormous stack of kensho and we see him clapped by the fans in the hallway on his way out, another one of this unique basho’s hallmarks. I’d go home more often too if I had that to look forward to!

Takayasu defeats Kaisei – As Takayasu takes the dohyo, Araiso Oyakata looks on in his new blue jacket. Kaisei gets the better of the tachiai, but both men lock up and few men can move forward successfully out of an endurance battle like Takayasu. He’s got a better grip than Kaisei, who can’t manoeuvre his arm into a meaningful position. Takayasu moves forward and wins by yorikiri.

Mitakeumi defeats Kakuryu – It’s amazing to see Mitakeumi with no bandaging on his knee at all – he says he felt he just didn’t need any. I didn’t think Mitakeumi’s footwork looked all that good at the start of this match but certainly his knee didn’t seem hobbled. Kakuryu starts moving forward with a nodowa and Mitakeumi looks a little slippery, but he grows into the match. Mitakeumi finally gets planted and moving forward, and Kakuryu is in all kinds of trouble, eventually getting spun out backwards. You don’t see a Yokozuna lose by okuridashi that often. I still think the goal for Mitakeumi has to be 8 wins but let’s see if he can maintain this form at least through the next few days before revising that at all. In the interview room after the match, Mitakeumi attributes to the win to his ability to take advantage of Kakuryu’s moving backward. We’ve heard that before.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – The musubi-no-ichiban is a bit of a non event, and Hakuho doesn’t get tested much here. This win is ruled a tsukiotoshi but this was less a win for Hakuho than a loss for Hokutofuji. Hokutofuji tried to get an angle around the outside to Hakuho’s left from the tachiai, but just slips and it’s over in a second. We won’t know more about the dai-yokozuna’s fitness and form until at least Day 2.