Yes, in between the major honbasho, there are other sumo tournaments. In the 39th “大相撲トーナメント” Harumafuji defeated Ozeki Kisenosato in the finals with a strong, aggressive nodowa and oshidashi force out technique. In his post-tournament interview, Harumafuji was pleased to win but also noted the good turnout. He said that it’s great to win with a lot of fans at Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium.
Hakuho’s victory over Kakuryu sealed his perfect record in this first tournament of 2015. It was a tight battle but Hakuho prevailed with a powerful force-out win. In the previous bout, Harumafuji destroyed Kisenosato, perhaps a little bitter that his championship hopes were extinguished so early and with such a disappointing loss to Jokoryu.
Goeido will remain ozeki as Kotoshogiku rolled over like a lap-dog for the second day in a row to hand Goeido his eighth win and kachi-koshi on the final day. This bout was disappointingly uncompetitive but perhaps my least favorite was Ichinojo’s performance against Toyonoshima. Both had assured losing records and neither really demonstrated much effort as the 200 kg Mongolian basically let himself be slid to the side of the ring and sluggishly flopped over like a rag-doll. Even Ikioi didn’t seem to want to win today. He started out strong but his slip-up just seemed unnecessary. I mean a loss to Sokokurai? Really? Ikioi will surely fall into the lower third of the maegashira for the March tournament.
In perhaps today’s best match, Terunofuji forced out his Mongolian compatriot, Tamawashi, to secure not only an eighth win and a winning record but also a fighting spirit prize. It was the only special prize awarded after this tournament and rightfully so. The lower sanyaku and upper maegashira wrestlers were so bad Kitataiki will probably be sekiwake w/ Gagamaru as komusubi, fresh from Juryo, and leapfrogging over these maegashira.
All I can say is that in March, all of this drama around #33 will be over, Ikioi, Ichinojo, Aminishiki, Tochinoshin and Endo will all be back in the low-to-mid maegashira ranks with Oosunaarashi, joined by Gagamaru and Kitataiki from Juryo. These will bring some exciting bouts and a few will sweep up 10+ wins. We can finally get back a bit of normalcy.
I’ve never seen a water break in the middle of a match. Today, Ichinojo and Terunofuji’s marathon bout was a long stalemate for most of the match. It was really interesting to see how at 4 minutes in, they stopped the match and then the gyoji marked each wrestler’s position and allowed the combatants to get some water. After the break, they started back where they left off but it wasn’t long before Ichinojo finally overpowered Terunofuji, dragging him over the straw bales.
In the yokozuna bouts, Kisenosato assured himself of jun yusho hy beating Kakuryu. He was very aggressive and just too powerful today for the yokozuna, who fell to 10-4. Harumafuji also fell to 10-4, as he had nothing to counter Hakuho. He basically held on for dear life as Hak dragged him around the ring, and forced him out. Tomorrow, Kisenosato takes on Harumafuji with a share of the jun yusho on the line while Hakuho faces Kakuryu with a chance at sealing this tournament with a dominant undefeated zensho yusho.
Endo picked up an impressive quick win against Kotoshogiku while Goeido gave himself a chance to save his ozeki ranking with a nice throw victory over Aoiyama. Oosunaarashi and Okinoumi both picked up their all-important 8th wins. Down in Juryo, Kitataiki has the yusho wrapped up while Gagamaru’s 10 wins will hopefully be enough to ensure both wrestlers make it back to makuuchi.
The Empire is victorious. Hakuho has won his 33rd Emperor’s cup. He is the greatest sumo wrestler ever.
Kisenosato is basically our only hope to drop Hakuho and make this basho interesting. Today, he survived a bit of a scare against Toyonoshima in an entertaining bout. Tomorrow they will battle for the 50th time. The superzuna has a 38-11 advantage in this lengthy rivalry that goes back to Makushita when Kisenosato was known by his real family name, Hagiwara. The historical data at Sumo Games is fantastic and really interesting. Forgive the plug but I love data and this is fascinating. In this case it’s also really interesting to see how quickly in their careers Hakuho advanced into the makuuchi and became a Yokozuna.