After a short break, I’m back with a short review of the 2019 Hatsu Basho. In this video, I briefly discuss the biggest ups and downs of the Hatsu Basho, surprises and disappointments, the Banzuke picture for the upcoming Haru Basho, and the big stories coming out of January.
I want to thank Bruce for encouraging me to post this to the front page. I’ve been brainstorming some new videos and content and I’m very excited to try them out.
There was a time, in the earlier days of sumo, when we were blessed with a dai-Yokozuna, named Chiyonofuji. He had been dominant for a long time, and people wondered how he could ever be bested. But as time marched on (and time is the great equalizer), the demands of sumo, and the damage it accumulates in the body, wore him down to the point where he become quite a bit more beatable. He still dominated, and still took most yusho, but being able to beat Chiyonofuji became the litmus test for passage to the top ranks.
Its tough to know what is ailing Hakuho right now, there are a number of options ranging from the surgery he had just a few weeks ago, to the influenza virus that seems to be touring Japan. But it’s clear that in the past few days that the Yokozuna is not at his best. Does this mean he is done for? I should think not. He already has a Yokozuna’s kachi-koshi, and he is disappointing nobody but himself right now. But his string of 3 straight losses has turned this Hatsu basho into the much desired brawl that sumo fans will enjoy.
Sadanoumi defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama provided most of the offensive power for this match, but Sadanoumi had the experience to stalemate his opponent until he was off balance, and applied a tidy uwatenage for the win. Yutakayama is dangerously close to make-koshi now, and this far down the banzuke it might cause him quite a bit of trouble.
Abi defeats Kotoeko – Abi adds some garnish to his kachi-koshi, while at the same time I am sure Kotoeko is wondering about which division he will compete in come March.
Daishomaru defeats Takarafuji – I admit that I am puzzled in that it seems that Daishomaru is starting to get some of his sumo back. It’s far too late to save him from Juryo, but I am interested to see him get inside of a surprisingly docile Takarafuji.
Ikioi defeats Kaisei – A somewhat heroic tale for Ikioi, who is pushing through quite a few injuries and problems to prevail no matter what and get his 8th win. The “thud” from the tachiai was probably felt out on the street.
Daieisho defeats Chiyoshoma – Another member of the walking wounded, Chiyoshoma, gets his make-koshi. There are a good number of rikishi in the bottom quartile of the Makuuchi banzuke who are make-koshi, and its going to make the promotion / demotion race a bit interesting this time.
Daiamami defeats Ryuden – The accidental head-butt at the tachiai seems to have briefly stunned or disoriented Ryuden, and he goes down for his 8th loss. His over-promotion at Kyushu seems to have impacted him, and we hope that the extended break (with no jungyo) following Hatsu will allow him and others to get their bodies and their sumo back in order.
Yago defeats Onosho – Yago finally finds his 8th win after 4 consecutive losses. Onosho seems to be struggling quite a bit after a fierce start to Hatsu. Again, given his recovery, he will be doing well if he can get his 8th win, which is likely in the final 2 days. There were a number of rikishi who seem to find traction problems with the dohyo today, and Onosho was a good example.
Kagayaki defeats Yoshikaze – A weird set of matches. The first one saw Yoshikaze more or less demanding that a matta be called, leading to embarrassing confusion among pretty much everyone. But the judges called for a do-over, and Yoshikaze lost a second time. Given how poorly he is doing, todays match just compounds the pain for his fans.
Aoiyama defeats Endo – Strong opening attack by Aoiyama, but as with Onosho, Endo looks like he loses traction and goes down.
Asanoyama defeats Okinoumi – This was all Asanoyama, and Okinoumi seemed to been completely out-matched. Asanoyama’s recovery from a horrible start to the basho is both dramatic and welcome.
Nishikigi defeats Shohozan – Shohozan’s matta / early launch did not seem to rattle Nishikigi, who delta Shohozan his make-koshi with good forward motion, and efficient application of force.
Shodai defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan also picks up his 8th loss. Shodai was able to get the inside position against Tochiozan, and wasted no time in standing him up and pushing him back. Shodai’s tachiai actually looked pretty good today.
Mitakeumi defeats Ichinojo – The injured Mitakeumi keeps the pressure on against the much larger Ichinojo, and once again Ichinojo goes soft at the tawara. This marks his 8th win, and given that he took several days off, and is fighting more or less on one leg, this performance is somewhat miraculous. With Myogiryu already make-koshi, Mitakeumi will at least be moving over to the East Komusubi lost for March.
Kotoshogiku defeats Myogiryu – This see-saw match had Kotoshogiku throw everything he could at the Komusubi, and eventually wore Myogiryu down. Multiple times, Kotoshogiku applied his hug-n-chug attack, but Myogiryu was able to escape. The end came with both men spent, but Kotoshogiku having just enough left to advance and heave Myogiryu out at the edge.
Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Tamawashi keeps the pressure on with todays win. Another case where a rikishi (Hokutofuji) seems to have lost traction and hit the clay. To be clear, Tamawashi had the pressure on high, but Hokutofuji lost as much as Tamawashi won.
Goeido defeats Takayasu – Very impressive Goeido. He came from a miserable start, nursing arm damage, and has battled back to the brink of his 8th win, and he beat Takayasu to do it. Goeido used his trademark speed to get the inside position and prevented Takayasu from generating much offense.
Takakeisho defeats Hakuho – How many fans remember the first match between these two? That odd affair in Nagoya in 2017 that devolved into something akin to butsugari, where Takakeisho was attempting to use his nascent “Wave Action” attack, and Hakuho more or less said “Isn’t that cutie”. Day after day, hour after hour, Takakeisho’s attack modes have been refined, honed and improved. Each time he has tested against Hakuho, it was clear he was getting stronger, better. Today, on his 4th attempt, he prevailed. Takakeisho is now just one win away from a bid to be promoted to Ozeki, and to some extent this was his final exam. Hakuho’s loss gives Tamawashi the sole lead for the Hatsu yusho, with Hakuho and Takakeisho one win behind. Fantastic way to hit the final weekend of a basho.
A brief reminder that Tachiai is not spoiler free.
Tamawashi succeeded in his task, and took Hakuho to the clay for a second day in a row, dropping him to 10-2, and blowing the yusho race wide open. There are 5 rikishi who have a shot at the Emperor’s cup, and that number grows to 7 should either of the co-leaders lose again. Though, in reality, the race is between Hakuho and Tamawashi, with an outside chance of Takakeisho – should he also prevail against Hakuho in their day 13 match.
It should be noted that Takakeisho defeated Tamawashi on day 3, and at 9 wins he needs 2 more over the next 3 days to stamp his bid to become Ozeki. Takakeisho’s final 2 wins are not a certanty, and many Ozeki candidates fail their first attempts. Should he finish Hatsu with 10 wins, his goal in Osaka is a mere 10 wins, thanks to his 13-2 yusho in November.
More than any prior basho in recent memory, the winds of change a blowing with purpose.
Sadanoumi defeats Meisei – Sadanoumi locks in his kachi-koshi, This lightning fast match saw the competitors switch from oshi to yotsu and then, in tandem, attempt a throw.
Ikioi defeats Yutakayama – Yutakayama is getting painfully close to a make-koshi, but Ikioi is some kind of battle-bot now, a mass of wounds and maladies that mounts the dohyo and defeats you. With his pain.
Takarafuji defeats Yago – Yago drops his 4th in a row, and is suddenly looking a lot less genki. A Takarafuji kachi-koshi would be his first since this time LAST YEAR!
Abi defeats Daiamami – Abi gets his first kachi-koshi since March of 2018, and proves that his style of sumo can still be effective, if you are far enough down the banzuke.
Asanoyama defeats Chiyoshoma – A rough and tumble match that looked like Chiyoshoma was still battling after he had stepped out. These two threw everything into this match, and it switched styles and forms multiple times, but Asanoyama kept fighting. Great sumo from both.
Ryuden defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru will be relegated deep into Juryo for March. He seems to have no forward pressure at all, and we can assume some manner of injury is keeping him from his full potential.
Daieisho defeats Kotoeko – A quick, ugly match that suffered from a false start. Both men are struggling, and it will probably come down to final day matches for both of them.
Endo defeats Chiyotairyu – Massive, brilliant match from both. Endo gets high marks for absorbing Chiyotairyu’s tachiai and subsequent attacks, and a great effort from Chiyotairyu, who showed his trademark strength, and uncharacteristic stamina.
Kagayaki defeats Onosho – Hapless, make-koshi Kagayaki takes Onosho down. This underscores that Onosho is still not 100%, and is probably low on stamina at this point of the tournament. During the match you can see him favoring his right knee, and his ability to push against Kagayaki’s attack is certainly limited. The time he sat out to address his knee injury is impacting his sumo, at least for a little while longer. Onosho needs one more win for kachi-koshi.
Kaisei defeats Okinoumi – Like many Kaisei matches, it as a low speed – high force affair that played to the Brazilian’s massive body size and immense strength.
Nishikigi defeats Shodai – Shodai suffered the painful side of a kotenage in his make-koshi loss. Nishikigi has been fading since the middle weekend, and is on the knife edge of make-koshi himself. Can he battle back and win out for his kachi-koshi?
Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – High marks for Hokutofuji’s effort in this one. The much larger, much stronger Ichinojo fought him well up until he was backed to the bales, and then once again went soft.
Shohozan defeats Myogiryu – Shohozan engages in a surprising mawashi battle, and comes up the winner. Myogiryu resisted well, escaping at least twice from potential Shohozan wins, but “Big Guns” stayed with it, and took the white star.
Mitakeumi defeats Tochiozan – Now one win away from a kachi-koshi, walking wounded Mitakeumi applies a hit-and-shift tachiai, and follows it up with a strong grapple and forward attack against Tochiozan. I cringe watching him, but he’s getting results.
Takakeisho defeats Kotoshogiku – It was evident that Kotoshogiku was a bit lost on how to attack. Takakeisho’s thrusting attacks blocked him from setting up the gaburi-yori, and all attempts to return Takakeisho’s oshi attacks were blunted by the fact that Takakeisho is so damn short. Kotoshogiku found himself getting a lot of hair, and not much rikishi. Kotoshogiku make-koshi.
Goeido defeats Yoshikaze – To be fair, this is the depleted relic of Yoshikaze, but I applaud Goeido for battling back from doom to at least a 6-6 score. 2 more wins out of the last 3 and he can escape what seemed to be an almost certain kadoban.
Takayasu defeats Aoiyama – Impressive effort from Aoiyama, he managed to use his superior reach to keep the Ozeki’s offense more or less shut down, but even his mighty strength was not enough to close the deal. Takayasu took his time and waited for the moment he could get inside, and then powered Aoiyama out.
Tamawashi defeats Hakuho – The Boss has done a great job convincing everyone he was genki, but it seems that mask has dropped. Hakuho is an ace competitor, but he made a fatal mistake and broke contact with Tamawashi, resulting in him facing the wrong way. Tamawashi sprang to action and escorted the Yokozuna out in a rush. It’s not often we see Hakuho make a mistake that large, and my compliments to “The Crippler” for seizing the opportunity.
Day 11 featured some of the best sumo action of the basho thus far, as the Ozeki – with their backs against the wall – found the strength to put up a good fight at last. Lower down the torikumi, many fan favorites are starting to reach the safety of their 8th win. But day 11 was marred with kyujo, as both Chiyonokuni and Kotoyuki withdrew with leg and knee injuries.
Daiamami defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki is make-koshi yet again (now 4 times in a row), and we have to wonder what kind of chronic problem this lad is battling to overcome. His usually excellent sumo mechanics have been hit or miss this basho, and he seems to have lost confidence in his approach. In a perfect world we could see Araiso oyakata work with Kagayaki for a time, as their approaches are quite similar, but Kagayaki seems to have lost faith in his ability to prevail, something Araiso (Kisenosato) never lost, even in the depths of his injury.
Daishomaru defeats Ikioi – Daishomaru finally wins one, from Japan’s top ICU candidate Ikioi. How this guy keeps going, I will never know.
Chiyoshoma defeats Takarafuji – Readers know I am not fan of henkas, but when Chiyoshoma unloads his “Flying Henka” the entertainment value is off the charts. Takarafuji rolls out into the zabuton zone, and gets “encouragement” from an enthusiastic fan.
Asanoyama defeats Yago – Yago seems to have stalled 1 win from the kachi-koshi line. Yago also seems to be following the route of going soft at the bales, is it an approach to avoid injury? Asanoyama’s win keeps his kachi-koshi hopes alive.
Ryuden defeats Meisei – The two go chest to chest and it quickly evolves into both men trying to finish a throw of the other first. Both go down in tandem but Ryuden touches last. Ryuden stays away from make-koshi for another day.
Onosho defeats Yutakayama – Onosho got the better of the tachiai, and focuses on a series of nodowa, which Yutakayama seemed able to withstand, and waited for Onosho to release, then took Onosho to his chest. Now outside his comfort zone, Onosho continues to try to thrust, and find some way to break contact. Yutakayama moves to the edge and throws, but the gumbai goes to Onosho.
Kaisei defeats Chiyotairyu – Great example of Kaisei-zumo. Chiyotairyu puts so much power into the tachiai, but Kaisei absorbs it all, and works to land his left hand outside grip. Once hooked, Kaisei advances and escorts Chiyotairyu out. Kaisei is kachi-koshi.
Endo defeats Yoshikaze – Rather the ghost of Yoshikaze. Whatever that sad remnant of Yoshikaze has going on, he has my sympathy. But with this rather disappointing match did give Endo his kachi-koshi.
Shohozan defeats Ichinojo – Shohozan does a great job of executing a Harumafuji style mini-henka, and Ichinojo’s combination of mass and forward velocity do all of the work.
Tochiozan defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi is fading toward make-koshi, and the surprisingly genki guy from Kyushu and the first half of Hatsu is just a fond memory. I suspect we will see him again, and he will turn up throughout the coming year.
Myogiryu defeats Shodai – If Shodai goes make-koshi and stays in the joi-jin I am going to be outraged. This puffball rikishi gets an insane amount of banzuke grace applied to him, and frankly it’s hurting his sumo. Make him grind through the bottom, or take a trip back to Juryo. It’s the only way he’s ever going grow into his potential.
Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – For an old timer with bum knees, Kotoshogiku shows remarkable agility and persistence. Tamawashi throws the kitchen sink into this match, and responds with skill and strength when Kotoshogiku lands his grip and begins to push. Holding Kotoshogiku’s head down, Kotoshogiku breaks off and rallies, but Tamawashi has him on the run, and knocks him out. Good sumo from both.
Takakeisho defeats Hokutofuji – As good as the prior match was, this match took things a notch higher. Both rikishi were blasting away with tsuki and oshi attacks, with advantage shifting every moment. Most opponents succumb to Takakeisho’s wave action attack after a few cycles, but Hokutofuji took them all, and kept fighting. Hokutofuji’s big weakness is his reliance on a nodowa, and Takakeisho defended against that with great skill, and it kept Hokutofuji from getting into a winning position. Meanwhile Takakeisho focused center-mass, and carried the day. Dare I hope for a long running rivalry between these two?
Takayasu defeats Okinoumi – Takayasu is back in form, and makes quick work of Okinoumi. Takayasu is now above the .500 line, and I am getting hopeful he can rescue a kachi-koshi out of this basho.
Goeido defeats Aoiyama – It was clear that Aoiyama was nervous going into this match, and Goeido knew what to do. Aoiyama has a habit of being very far forward the step after his tachiai, ands Goeido used that problem with Aoiyama’s balance to bring him down. Dare we hope Goeido can avoid going kadoban, even with that manky arm?
Mitakeumi defeats Hakuho – Day 11 had one more gift to offer. Coming back from kyujo, fans noted that injured Mitakeumi was given Hakuho for his first match. Thoughts of body parts being torn asunder and landing in the balcony came to mind. Instead we saw Mitakeumi come in low, hard and fast – he took the fight to the Yokozuna and kept control of the match. Hakuho immediately found himself in trouble, as Mitakeumi stayed Kisenosato low, and advanced. Normally Hakuho would have have an emergency exit move or two he could deploy, but Mitakeumi gave him no room to work with. Damn impressive effort from Mitakeumi, think I will go watch it again…
It was a rough day in sumo, full of heartbreaking injuries. We saw Ura, Chiyonokuni and Kotoyuki all go down hard, and wheeled away with injured knees. For fans of sumo it can be tough to watch, but sumo is a combat sport, and people do, sadly, get hurt.
Kotoeko defeats Takagenji – Takagenji is up from Juryo for day 10, and picks up his 7th loss. This was a high intensity, high entertainment thrusting battle. Both men fought well, but Takagenji picked up his 7th loss.
Kagayaki defeats Daishomaru – Kagayaki reverts to his simple, basic sumo and wastes no time moving still winless Daishomaru (0-10) out of the ring.
Chiyoshoma defeats Meisei – Chiyoshoma attempted multiple times to pull and slap down Meisei, and one of them finally took. Not amazing sumo but Chiyoshoma needed the win.
Sadanoumi defeats Daiamami – Sadanoumi took to the mawashi immediately at the tachiai, and marched Daiamami out for his make-koshi.
Ikioi defeats Chiyonokuni – A straightforward match, with Chiyonokuni flailing away as normal, and Ikioi using his strength to drive forward. But Chiyonokuni collapses at the end, and is immobilized by pain, as his left knee sustains damage. Chiyonokuni needs help off of the dohyo, and is placed in a wheelchair, and taken for examination.
Takarafuji defeats Kotoyuki – As expected, Kotoyuki attempts to keep the battle focused on oshi while Takarafuji wants to go chest to chest. The match was a fantastic battle of styles, and it ended with Kotoyuki being turned around and boosted into the crowd with a firm shove from Takarafuji. This is usually not too big of an issue, as Kotoyuki loves to crowd surf. He lands face down next to Abi, and does not move. He is likewise hauled away in the wheelchair for medical examination.
Yutakayama defeats Abi – Pure thrusting battle, but when Abi goes down on one knee as he loses, fans gasp that perhaps a 3rd rikishi has injured themselves. Luckily, Abi seems to be ok, and Yutakayama picks up a much needed win.
Endo defeats Ryuden – Lengthy mawashi battle that saw Endo’s belt get loose with Ryuden’s hand on Endo’s mawashi knot, causing little old ladies across Japan to offer millions of hopeful prayers up at the same moment. Both men showed solid technique and fought with all they had. Excellent sumo.
Daieisho defeats Yago – Another wild thrusting battle that raged across every part of the dohyo, it seemed that Yago simply got tired at the end and Daieisho and grabbed a hold and walked him out. Yago may need to work on that stamina?
Asanoyama defeats Onosho – Onosho drops his 4th straight, and as I have been working to remind fans, Onosho is really aiming for a kachi-koshi at this rank. I am sure that given the surgical recuperation, he’s going flat out, and he dominated Asanoyama for most of the match, but Asanoyama caught him off balance and deftly applied a hatakikomi.
Aoiyama defeats Kaisei – It was over quickly, with Aoiyama’s getting inside, applying a nodowa and never letting up. Aoiyama really needed that win.
Shodai defeats Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze really seems to be in poor condition right now, and I feel sorry for him underperforming to this extent. He picks up a make-koshi today.
Chiyotairyu defeats Shohozan – Shohozan got one face slap in, and then Chiyotairyu went to work, overwhelming his opponent and tossing him out the North side of the dohyo.
Ichinojo defeats Tochiozan – Ichinojo decided to bring his energy to the dohyo today, and made quick work of Tochiozan by grabbing Tochiozan’s mawashi, containing him and just marching forward.
Hokutofuji defeats Myogiryu – Hokutofuji was able to get in inside position with the “handshake tachiai”, and kept low throughout the match. Myogiryu attempted to rally at the tawara, but could not produce.
Tamawashi defeats Nishikigi – Tamawashi has not looked this dialed in for many months. He took command at the tachiai, and kept moving Nishikigi back with little trouble. Tamawashi scores his kachi-koshi.
Goeido defeats Kotoshogiku – Goeido skillfully protects his injured right arm, and prevents Kotoshogiku from engaging his primary gaburi yori attack. I am impressed with Goeido’s ability to fight and win while this hurt.
Takayasu defeats Takakeisho – The tadpole took the Ozeki out for a rough ride, blasting him backward at the tachiai, and keeping the pressure up with wave after wave of double arm thrusts. But Takayasu timed his move with skill, and stepped to the side just as the next wave was landing, sending Takakeisho to the clay for a loss. Takakeisho’s campaign to 11 got a bit tougher, as he needs to win 4 of the next 5.
Hakuho defeats Okinoumi – Really no contest here, but it’s great to see Hakuho execute his sumo.