Kyushu Day 2 Highlights

Ugly, brutal day in the top ranks as day 2 shows that in transitional eras, you can’t count on rank to indicate how a match is going to play out. Furthermore, we saw two big men stunned or injured in their matches today. But it was a feast of great sumo, and I credit the new generation of rikishi for really knowing their craft and executing it with skill, strength and purpose. While there is still plenty of ring rust hanging around, its clear that some of the “double wide” Komusubi corps are going to be contenders at least until day 10.

I note with great sadness that Goeido did in fact go kyujo from that ankle twist on day 1. While normally this kind of injury might be ranked as minor, given the amount of medical reconstruction he has had on his ankle, this might be the kind of injury that puts Goeido in a position to retire. While I do give Goeido a hard time, please note its mostly because we know he can be a complete badass, but many times he can’t quite bring himself together enough to do it. I hope his injury is not serious, and he can make a return.

Highlight Matches

Wakatakakage defeats Daishoho – Wakatakakage shows some fine form as he grabs Daishoho’s right arm and takes him for a spin. I am still trying to put my finger on why Wakatakakage’s sumo seems to be higher energy than most of the other top division rikihsi.

Nishikigi defeats Daishomaru – Straight ahead match where Nishikigi got the better of the tachiai and just kept advancing. We are still deep into ring rust territory it seems.

Chiyomaru defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi does literally bounce off of that enormous beach-ball belly of Chiyomaru, and never really recovers control over his feet. Chiyomaru’s thrusting technique is good enough that he can keep you moving off balance if you ever lose your footing.

Kagayaki defeats Takanosho – Kagayaki keeps his hands low at the tachiai, which makes it look quite odd, but it seems to work well today as he briefly establishes a right hand inside grip. While Kagayaki is not intent on a yotsu match, its enough to make Takanosho react to the situation, and just like that Kagayaki is controlling the match.

Shimanoumi defeats Ishiura – High marks to Ishiura’s evasion techniques here, but it’s not fooling Shimanoumi for a moment. In spite of getting maemitsu, Ishiura can never get his feet set, and Shimanoumi wears him down.

Shodai defeats Chiyotairyu – No cartoon sumo today, just solid defense. Shodai absorbs Chiyotairyu’s big tachiai and gets to work. Still encrusted with ring rust, Chiyotairyu’s follow on attempt to pull him down goes nowhere, and its Shodai’s match.

Yutakayama defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku tries again and again to set up the hug-n-chug, but Yutakayama’s defensive form is excellent. He keeps his hips lower that Kotoshogiku’s, and continually deflects to Kyushu Bulldozer’s forward thrust away from center.

Tsurugisho defeats Shohozan – “Big Guns” Shohozan starts a brawl, delivering blow after blow to Tsurugisho’s face. But Tsurugisho keeps backing Shohozan up, until he can finally interpose his enormous fleshy chest to stop the pommelling from Shohozan, and forces Shohozan out. Tsurugisho did not look quite right following, and took a moment to get his wits back.

Sadanoumi defeats Kotoeko – Sadanoumi kept pushing straight ahead and gave Kotoeko no room to set up any kind of thrusting attack. This was probably the way Sadanoumi had hoped the match would go.

Onosho defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama tried for some kind of haymaker blow during the tachiai, and it left him hideously off balance. Onosho took the gift that was offered and helped Aoiyama continue the motion all the way to the clay.

Enho defeats Ryuden – Enho’s low tachiai folded straight into a circle to the left, and Ryuden tried to meet him head on. This left him balanced on only his right leg, and an easy pick off for Enho, as Ryuden had very little distance to get his footing.

Tamawashi defeats Takarafuji – Like so many of his matches where he is out gunned, Takarafuji’s approach seems to be to stalemate, absorb the attacks, but stay upright and in the ring. This was working very well until Tamawashi lost his balance and Takarafuji went in to finish him. No longer focused on defense, Takarafuji was not able to square his hips, and Tamawashi pushed him out.

Kotoyuki defeats Tomokaze – Again we see Tomokaze work almost exclusively for a pull, and Kotoyuki knows its coming. But Kotoyuki focuses center-mass and just keeps attacking in the face of Tomokaze’s focus on Kotoyuki’s neck. Sadly Tomokaze may have injured his knee in the bout, and we saw him taken back to the dressing room in that giant wheelchair.

Meisei defeats Endo – Endo twice put everything into landing a shallow right hand grip on Meisei’s mawashi, both times he missed. But his left him wide open to Meisei’s counter attack, sending Endo out and into the zabuton. Solid sumo from Meisei to score his first ever win against Endo.

Hokutofuji defeats Mitakeumi – This match did not disappoint. Mitakeumi opened strong with a rapid thrust combo that had Hokutofuji turned to the side an off balance. Hokutofuji unwisely went for the neck and a pull down, but had no room and no leverage. But it did leave him with a solid grip opportunity, and Hokutofuji took it. Mitakeumi pushed with everything he could muster, but Hokutofuji held his ground. If you can freeze-frame this match, you can see the point where Mitakeumi is pushing so hard he lifts himself up against Hokutofuji’s iron strong defensive footing. This is what makes me think Hokutofuji has a lot of room to move higher on the banzuke. Some of his sumo is just wonderful to watch. Mitakeumi continues to push, but Hokutofuji just keeps nibbling away, and it’s working; Mitakeumi starts yielding ground. Mitakeumi realizes he’s losing ground, and rallies directly into a second Hokutofuji pull down attempt, which finishes the match. Nice sumo from the Komusubi.

Myogiryu defeats Tochinoshin – Once again we see Tochinoshin set up the left hand outside “Sky crane” grip, but unable to square his hips for set his feet. Myogiryu slowly duck walks in reverse, denying Tochinoshin to platform to lift him, but keeping the former Ozeki increasingly off balance. A twist to the right and Tochinoshin is on the clay, with a heartbreaking 0-2 start to a basho where he needs 10 wins.

Asanoyama defeats Takakeisho – The clash of styles payed off as Asanoyama is able to set the terms of the match, and Takakeisho is unable to delivery any meaningful offense. Once Asanoyama had a hold of Takakeisho’s body, the Ozeki was solely focused on escape while Asanoyama put him on the clay. I still have hopes that Takakeisho will make his 8, but Asanoyama once again shows why he’s a rising star.

Abi defeats Takayasu – Day 1 Takayasu looked like Takayasu from a year ago. Day 2 Takayasu looked like Takayasu from last week. Disorganized, right hand only sumo that Abi dismantled and sent packing. Bad day for the Ozeki corps.

Daieisho defeats Hakuho – Sure, it can work on the Yokozuna too! I am really not sure what happened here. Hakuho had a solid start, but he bared his chest to Daieisho, and Daieisho obliged by applying a surprising amount of force, knocking the boss back to the tawara. To me it looked like Hakuho decided that was it, and stepped out. Most unusual. Congratulations to Daieisho for the kinboshi! I hope this is not an indicator that Hakuho’s gamey big toe is acting up again.

Kyushu Day 2 Preview

Day 2 has some great matchups, some great clashes of sumo style, and one first-time meeting. Keep in mind, dear readers, Act 1 is where we knock the ring rust off the rikishi, and start to see who is hot and who is not. On to the matches!

What We Are Watching Day 2

Wakatakakage vs Daishoho – Wakatakakage has a habit of taking Daishoho’s walking-around money—he comes into this day 2 match with a 3-1 career advantage. I expect Daishoho will try to stay mobile and keep the man-of-many-syllables away from his belt.

Daishomaru vs Nishikigi – As one of our commenters pointed out, Nishikigi has a lot of tape on his left ankle, which, coupled with his poor eyesight, leaves him at a bit of a disadvantage for Kyushu. Things get no better on day 2 when he meets up with Daishomaru, who holds an 11-2 career advantage.

Chiyomaru vs Terutsuyoshi – A great big man / little man match early on day 2. Chiyomaru’s surprising mobility (for his bulk) is always a wildcard, but Terutsuyoshi’s size makes it easier for him to get inside Chiyomaru’s defenses.

Kagayaki vs Takanosho – Kagayaki frequently suffers crippling bouts of ring rust, and I think this will be another basho where he struggles to get comfortable in his sumo. As always, his fundamentals are good, but his consistency has suffered since last summer. To me that normally indicates some kind of nagging injury.

Shimanoumi vs Ishiura – Ishiura ran out of dohyo on day 1, and I hope he can fare better against Shimanoumi, whom he has yet to defeat.

Chiyotairyu vs Shodai – I actually think this could be a solid match. Shodai has uncanny “cartoon sumo” physics some days, and should he be able to survive Chiyotairyu’s tachiai, we could see the Acme kit make its first appearance this November. [These two usually meet much higher up the banzuke, and the head-to-head is almost even at 5-4. -lksumo]

Kotoshogiku vs Yutakayama – Battle of wounded knee here, with Yutakayama’s seeming to be doing fairly well, and Kotoshogiku working to get a bit more sumo from his. A local hero, Kotoshogiku may get a nice lift from the crowd, who are going to always cheer him on.

Tsurugisho vs Shohozan – Tsurugisho looked remarkably focused, intense and ready to fight on day 1. He goes up against another local favorite, “Big Guns” Shohozan. Maybe it’s the local fans, but Shohozan looked nice and fierce on day 1.

Sadanoumi vs Kotoeko – Interesting match as both of them will work toward being the one to set the form and tone of the match. Sadanoumi on the mawashi and Kotoeko with oshi-zumo. Even 3-3 career record.

Aoiyama vs Onosho – Oh let me see. Giant rikishi who loves to slap people down vs a compact and stout fellow who tends to get too far forward of his feet. Does anyone else think there is going to be a nice tadpole-shaped mark on the dohyo?

Enho vs Ryuden – Oddly enough, a first-time match. I am really interested to see what kind of an opening Enho deploys here, as Ryuden is enough of a technician that I am sure he has war-gamed out Enho’s normal attack modes.

Takarafuji vs Tamawashi – Takarafuji will be working a plan of staying on his feet, with his balance stable, and waiting for Tamawashi to over-extend or over-commit. Takarafuji’s task will be tough, as Tamawashi is a master disruptor.

Kotoyuki vs Tomokaze – I really don’t want to see Tomokaze apply more weak-sumo pulls. Can he win with it? Yes, clearly he can. But it’s really boring sumo.

Meisei vs Endo – Ok, lets just have the NHK guys interview Endo every day. Or Meisei, you take the interview room by getting your first win. Do Endo a solid and keep him away from that guy with the microphone.

Mitakeumi vs Hokutofuji – Oh goodie. This one promises to be rough and rapid, with what I am going to assume is our first use of the handshake tachiai this basho. I am going to guess Mitakeumi goes for an early slap down, and misses, forcing him to actually battle Hokutofuji. I am really looking forward to this match.

Myogiryu vs Tochinoshin – Come on Tochinoshin. Most of the sumo world wants you to get your rank back. Myogiryu is one tough, fast rikishi, and he knows how to take you down (10-12 head-to-head). Will we see the sky-crane today?

Goeido vs Okinoumi – I am going to be looking to see if Goeido can use that ankle today. He had it rebuilt by surgeons a couple of years ago, and I am sure they were cringing when they saw him twist it as he fell. While there are many titanium screws and pins involved, there is only so much damage that ankle can take.

Takakeisho vs Asanoyama – I think by Hatsu 2021, we may be thinking about Asanoyama trying for Ozeki, so this is his chance to show Takakeisho he’s going to be a contender. Takakeisho will try to take the fight mobile and stick to thrusts and pushing, Asanoyama will go for the mawashi. Whoever dictates the mode for this match will likely carry the day!

Abi vs Takayasu – Abi will work primarily with his right arm, and Takayasu will be protecting his left, and likely avoid a yotsu battle, A great scientist once said, “Perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything!” We will see about that.

Daieisho vs Hakuho – The Boss is going to be the man to beat for the first act, and Daieisho has only slim hope not to end up in one of Hakuho’s frequently photographed “Flying Lessons”. Daieisho has yet to take a match from the Yokozuna in 4 attempts.

Kyushu Day 1 Highlights

I think the headline today is that Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew prior to day 1 matches, leaving Hakuho as the lone Yokozuna for the tournament. Everyone hopes that he can survive all 15 days, but his recent history indicates that may not be a certain thing. Kakuryu went kyujo after injuring his lower back in practice. This is a part of his body that has given him a great deal of trouble in the past, and more or less would prevent a rikishi from doing much on the dohyo. We wish him a speedy recovery, though it is not incorrect to wonder if at 34 years of age the accumulated damage from years of high-intensity sumo have taken their toll. Asanoyama picks up a fusensho / freebie win on day 1.

But as is always the case with the first few days of any basho, there was a vast amount of ring-rust to be lost. Both from the rikishi (matta fest, Kyushu edition), the yobidashi and even the NHK commentators, who seemed at times to struggle a bit with the play by play. As Josh’s interview with Murray Johnson underscores – providing commentary for a sumo match is quite challenging, and even the pros at NHK World may need a day or two to tune up.

Highlight Matches

Azumaryu defeats Daishoho – Azumaryu gets a deep right hand inside at the tachiai, and in spite of some excellent defensive footwork by Daishoho, Azumaryu keeps pressing the attack and walks Daishoho out. Both men looked fairly rusty, but Azumaryu’s better sumo may underscore some of the “toss up” nature of the promotion / demotion groups coming out of Aki.

Wakatakakage defeats Daishomaru – The bottom man on the banzuke (Wakatakakage) underscores his status as a rising star of sumo. He comes in fast, low and strong against Daishomaru, who suddenly finds himself without a plan B. Congratulations to Wakatakakage for winning your first match in the top division.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Nishikigi – First try was a matta, and it looked like the second try should have been too, but the Gyoji decided they would fight on, and Nishikigi was a full step slower than Terutsuyoshi, who was lower and strong than Nishikigi. Although Nishikigi tried to set up his favored arm-lock hold, it was too late and he was already over the tawara.

Chiyomaru defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki got the better of the tachiai, and tried to guide the fight into a yotsu battle, but Chiyomaru stayed mobile, stayed thrusting and stalemated Kagayaki. Eager to once again close the gap between them, Kagayaki pressed forward strongly against little resistance from Chiyomaru, and got his weight well forward of his toes. Chiyomaru obliges with a Hatakikomi for the win.

Takanosho defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu looks encrusted with ring-rust. Get that man some WD-40 and a Scotch-Brite pad! Chiyotairyu charged forward with less than normal power, and immediately tried a neck pull, but Takanosho was ready and made Chiyotairyu pay. Takanosho showed superior defensive foot placement, and superior balance today.

Shodai defeats Ishiura – Ishiura went into this match knowing Shodai would bring a weak tachiai, and threw himself forward with gusto. But Shodai actually responded well, and although he remained far too upright, he advanced into Ishiura’s attack and drove the smaller rikishi back. Once Shodai had momentum, there was little Ishura was able to do to shut down Shodai’s advance.

Yutakayama defeats Shimanoumi – I am very happy that Yutakayama did not move too far up the banzuke, I favor a slow rise coming off of his injury that saw him relegated to Juryo for 2 basho. At first blush it might look like at Maegashira 16 with a 10-5 record he was under promoted, and his sumo today would support that view. Yutakayama focused on gaining and then exploiting the inside position. Once on defensive, Shimanoumi could do nothing more than respond. I still view Yutakayama as Asanoyama’s peer, and I am hoping for a strong and durable rivalry between these two.

Sadanoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – Home town favorite Kotoshogiku goes out far too easily as Sadanoumi gets morozashi and never gives an inch. Kotoshogiku’s knees continue to slowly degrade, and his ability to transmit power to ground suffers as a result.

Shohozan defeats Kotoeko – Another local hero, Shohozan ejects a somewhat surprised Kotoeko with all of the nuanced subtlety of a bouncer at closing time.

Tsurugisho defeats Enho – Enho has not found a way to overcome Tsurugisho, and today was no exception. The traditional Enho submarine “pop” opening gambit set him up in his favored stance and position. Tsurugisho stayed calm and waited for Enho’s expected attack. When it came, and Enho raised Tsurugisho up, Tsurugisho expertly pivoted, pulling Enho off balance and down. Nice sumo.

Ryuden defeats Onosho – Onosho, too far forward and off balance? Why, yes! That is what happened today. I note this is the first match that Ryuden has won over Onosho in 4 attempts, so well done. I can’t help but think this match was lost when Onosho, at the tachiai, attacked Ryuden’s face and thereby gave up the center lane he would normally exploit for a thrusting attack. At least Onosho has the red mawashi on today.

Aoiyama defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki had the better tachiai, but there is just too much Aoiyama to be moved by normal means if his feet are set and his stance is stable. Kotoyuki found two meaty hands on the back of his neck pulling him forward, and that was the match.

Tamawashi defeats Tomokaze – Tomokaze still seems to be willing to roll the dice on a strategy of always pulling, but pros like Tamawashi will stuff this back up your nose 9 times out of 10. Bring some better sumo, or learn to like the taste of Kyushu clay.

Takarafuji defeats Abi – Abi this he has this won, and maybe he mostly did. But up against Takarafuji, you can’t assume he actually stepped out. His ring sense is amazing, and his footwork is what you would expect from a master technician. Abi takes a defeat at the cusp of nearly certain victory. Watch this one in slow motion.. Abi’s footwork is wild and chaotic, Takarafuji controlled and efficient. Textbook lesson in defensive sumo.

Meisei defeats Tochinoshin – I have to say this is not a good sign for the Ozekiwake to make it to 10. Tochinoshin landed his preferred grip, and had control of the match, but could not convert it into a win. Part of the problem was Tochinoshin’s single minded focus on getting the left hand outside grip yielded morozashi to Meisei, and Meisei converted that to a smooth and effective shitatehineri.

Mitakeumi defeats Myogiryu – Good opening bout for Mitakeumi, he took the inside position against Myogiryu, and kept Myogiryu reacting rather than attacking. Mitakeumi stood him up, and then brought him down.

Takakeisho defeats Okinoumi – Sloppy match from both men, but it was clear that Okinoumi was set up to absorb and deflect any wave-action attack that might come along. Takakeisho, instead of his normal double arm thrust, kept Okinoumi at an optimum distance with an armpit grip, and pushed with his lower body. Quite effective and somewhat unexpected. There was no apparent weakness on Takakeisho’s left side, which is great news.

Takayasu defeats Daieisho – Speaking of left-side worries, we can score none for Takayasu’s day 1 match where he dominated Daieisho. Takayasu looked strong, confident and committed to his attacks. Very good to see.

Endo defeats Goeido – In tradition Goeido style, he tried to win the match in the first 3 seconds, but Endo was able to absorb his opening gambit. From there it was a battle that increasingly favored Endo as the clock ran on. The biggest concern for me was the twisting fall Goeido took at the end, and appears to land on the ankle that was painstakingly rebuilt with surgery 2 years ago. We hope the Ozeki is ok. Oh yes, and the ultra-mega painful interview with Endo following the final match. If this guy ever gets a yusho, that interview will be one for the ages.

Hakuho defeats Hokutofuji – Hakuho gets his revenge for day 1 of Aki, as “The Boss” completely disrupts any offense the Koumsubi was hoping to bring. With Hokutofuji hideously off balance, Hakuho applies the hatakikomi and Hokutofuji gets a face full of clay.