Kyushu Basho Day 1 Preview

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Welcome, sumo fans! The final basho of 2019 is upon us. Cooler temperatures may have already come to Japan, but the action on the dohyo is set to be intense, with many intriguing storylines set to be resolved over the next couple of weeks. I will be joining the action at the Kokusai Center later in the basho, and hopefully will find some more intriguing details to share.

Set the controls for the heart of Hakata, because the Day 1 torikumi has been posted!

What We Are Watching on Day 1

Daishomaru vs Wakatakakage – Arashio’s relatively new heyagashira makes his makuuchi bow against the returning Kansai meatball Daishomaru. These fellas have met in the four preceding basho with honours even. Wakatakakage tends to be a slow starter, so it would be nice to see him set the jitters aside and get an early trip to the interview room. Certainly his soon to be incoming oyakata Sokokurai will want to see that as well.

Terutsuyoshi vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi returns to his spiritual home of Maegashira 14 where he meets a Terutsuyoshi who had a rough basho last time out, and will be looking to replicate the success he found four months ago. Terutsuyoshi wants to establish a pushing attack from down low here, as any devolution into a grappling battle will favour the larger man.

Takanosho vs Chiyotairyu – It’s a little bonkers to see these two drawn against each other, what with Takanosho having spent most of his recent days in Juryo and Chiyotairyu having been a regular fixture in the joi. Chiyotairyu needs to rediscover his cannonball tachiai if he is to have a chance of rebounding up the ranks, so this match should tell us a bit about his genki level.

Shimanoumi vs Yutakayama – This will be an interesting basho for Shimanoumi, as we get to see how he rebounds from his first real setback to his top division career. Yutakayama looks to continue his renaissance, and probably possesses the more powerful thrusting attack here when he is on song. Shimanoumi won their only ever meeting, earlier this year in Osaka.

Kotoshōgiku vs Sadanoumi – Sadanoumi has done a decent job of stabilising himself as a mid-table rank and filer, and faces an opponent who should draw loud cheers on his homecoming. Kotoshogiku hasn’t been ranked as low as M9 for a year, when he reeled off double digit wins in front of his adoring home fans. We all know the score here: if he sets the hug-and-chug then it’s game over. But can he? Narrative fans rejoice: The former Ozeki leads the career series 5-2 and a win here would take him closer notching his 800th career win in his shusshin later in the week.

Shohozan vs Kotoeko – Another homecoming, and another veteran who performed very well in front of his hometown supporters a year ago. Shohozan also sits within touching distance of a 500th career win that we can expect him to achieve this basho. He’s developed in to a much more able grappler which adds intrigue to a match against an opponent who is very able on the mawashi but perhaps possesses less street smarts than Shohozan. The 35 year old is 2-0 against Kotoeko and I’m tipping him to win again here.

Tsurugisho vs Enho – Much has been made of Enho fighting now at by far his highest rank and the new, higher level opponents he will encounter. First things first, however, as he meets a known rival. Tsurugisho is also now fighting as his highest rank and has taken all four previous encounters from the Ishikawa fire pixie. As ever, Enho’s mobility will be the key to a victory, and Tsurugisho will be attempting to lock his movement out of the gate in order to usher the tricky customer towards another shiroboshi.

Onosho vs Ryuden – A lot of what we can expect to see here depends on the health of Onosho, whose career has been blunted by injury but who slowly seems to be getting himself back on track. Ryuden has faced some brutal trips into the joi. At Maegashira 5 he will no doubt be called upon to face high level opponents later in the tournament when the kyujo announcements begin to roll in, but he has a good opportunity to pick up key early wins in the meantime. Onosho’s pushing attack has proven too much for him in the past however, and the popular tadpole owns a 3-0 record over Ryuden.

Aoiyama vs Kotoyuki – This is a bit of an undercard play, but it’s probably the best shot we have at a good old fashioned bloodbath on Day 1. Ever the pugilist, Big Dan takes on an entertaining opponent in Kotoyuki who has been in inspired form for the past several months. Both men somewhat improbably are past sekiwake. While conventional wisdom would dictate that the gunbai will fall in favour of the man who can establish a pushing attack, look for Aoiyama to hit the slap down against an opponent who is notoriously wild on his feet: several of the Bulgarian’s seven wins against Kotoyuki have come via this strategy.

Tamawashi vs Tomokaze – Tamawashi has spent half the year as a sekiwake, but apart from his stunning yusho ten months ago, looks to be settling into a spoiler role in the joi late in his career. Tomokaze has a good early chance to respond to his first ever make-koshi, and we could learn much about his genki level from this match. He was clearly haunted by the loss of senpai Yoshikaze and struggling for form at the Aki tournament, but up against a high octane pusher-thruster, we should get an opportunity to see which tools the ivory tinkler has been able to sharpen over the intervening months.

Abi vs Takarafuji – Fresh from a much ballyhooed apology over the his recent bondage scandal, Abi looks to play the dominator as the Shikoroyama man has established consistency at the Komusubi rank and targets a yusho. Takarafuji, unfortunately, will likely play the role of the submissive in this encounter: Abi’s whole attack is the full throated thrusting that has become his signature, whereas there are few rikishi in the top division that have been able to make as much of a career of stalemating, defensive sumo as Takarafuji. Abi leads the career series 4-3, and would probably be the favourite if not affected by recent events.

Meisei vs Tochinoshin – The Georgian will attempt for the second time this year to regain his Ozeki status, and also for the second time in history to do it twice. The Ozekiwake starts his 10 win campaign against Meisei, who returns to the joi following a successful September meet which saw him spending much of the basho in the yusho race. This should be a mawashi battle and we should learn much about the state of Tochinoshin’s health in what should be a tenacious fight. Meisei has won their only prior meeting, but the smart money is probably on the veteran.

Mitakeumi vs Myogiryu – Not enough words have probably been said about how impressive Myogiryu’s return from kyujo was last tournament to snatch an unlikely kachikoshi. OK, now we’ve said that, we can focus on one of the huge stories of this tournament, current yusho holder Mitakeumi’s latest Ozeki challenge. With all of the high rankers starting the basho, Mitakeumi has to win probably half of the matches against those ranked above him and be flawless against those ranked below him. Both of these men are known for quick powerful manoeuvres from the tachiai, and while their lifetime rivalry is locked at 3 apiece, I have a hard time believing that the Mitakeumi’s Ozeki challenge will come undone on Day 1, so I’m going to tip him here.

Takakeisho vs Okinoumi – Day 1 throws up a number of rematches of critical bouts from Aki, and in this match, veteran Okinoumi gets a chance at revenge for his elimination in last tournament’s final day of action. Again, we will learn much about Takakeisho’s health and chances of success in this tournament here. Okinoumi typically should not be a match for his overwhelming oshi attack, but should the Shimane man get a chance to land a grip, then it is likely the Ozeki may not have the power owing to his recent injury to keep the veteran away. That said, I’m tipping Takakeisho to continue his good form, as he should be able to win this on ability.

Daieisho vs Takayasu – I almost ran out of superlatives for Daieisho in the last basho, as he notched a kinboshi and came from well down to win four in a row and score a kachi-koshi which leads to his highest ever placement on the banzuke here, at Maegashira 1. No matter the opponent or the odds, he simply did not stop doing his style of explosive oshi-zumo. And in this match, I am going to tip him to upset kadoban Ozeki Takayasu. It is clear that Takayasu is not in full health, with his brutally damaged elbow having not fully healed, and I don’t know that even someone as good as him, short of form and fitness, can blunt the thrusting attack of an awkward customer like Daieisho.

Goeido vs Endo – Another critical match from Aki replayed, as Endo scored a big time upset of the Ozeki which helped dismantle early hopes that Goeido could be a yusho challenger last time out. Endo went on to score his first ever sanyaku kachikoshi. Goeido will likely be looking for a manner of revenge here. Endo has won the last 3 and 7 out of the last 9 of their matchups, and with both men being very able technicians, Goeido is going to have call on his hallmark speed from the tachiai in order to overcome the popular pin-up.

Hokutofuji vs Hakuho – The last time Hakuho was seen on the dohyo, he was walking off clutching a broken finger having been upset by a thoroughly fired up Hokutofuji on Day 1 of the Aki basho. If there’s one thing you can say about Hakuho, the legend has a knack for a narrative. And while he’s more GOAT than Elephant, he certainly never forgets. With that in mind, a chance to settle a score and put things right straight from the off against the man ranked Komusubi 2 is probably exactly what Hakuho is looking for. And it will be most exciting to see what kind of technique the Yokozuna chooses from his library to blunt Hokotofuji’s amped up pushing and thrusting attack. I’m tipping the Yokozuna here to win a gripping match.

Kakuryu vs Asanoyama – Growing superstar Asanoyama gets his sanyaku debut in this tournament, having scored his first yusho earlier in the year and his first kinboshi in the previous tournament against Day 1’s opponent. It’s yet another rematch of a key Aki battle, Asanoyama having dealt the Yokozuna his first of the consecutive losses which knocked him out of the tournament. This match in the musubi-no-ichiban is their third meeting. Asanoyama is one of few yotsu-specialists among the current crop of new stars, and the Yokozuna may be best served avoiding strength against strength if he can manage a pushing attack. Kakuryu is always susceptible to move backwards, however, and with questions over his health, this may be one of the more likely upsets we could see on Day 1.

Yokozuna Kakuryu Moving to Michinoku Beya

Kakuryu Dohyo-Iri

As reported by Herouth on Twitter, Izutsu beya will be absorbed by Michinoku after the death of Izutsu-oyakata. The stable was home to two other wrestlers, Sandanme-ranked Hagane (38) and Jonidan-ranked Kakutaiki (28).

The three men will join a stable headed by the former ozeki, Kirishima. The top-ranked rikishi there currently is Juryo’s Kiribayama, who is also from Mongolia. There are eleven other wrestlers, including two in Makushita. Hopefully the full house will bring more experience and rigor to practice and be mutually beneficial for both stables.

The move is not very far since both stables are quite in the Ryogoku area of Tokyo. However, Michinoku is just behind the McDonald’s there, catty-corner to Kokugikan stadium.

Aki Day 8 Highlights

The Kyujo Banner Defeated More Rikishi Day 8, and Is Currently Leading The Race For Kanto-Sho, Having Beaten Two Yokozuna and an Ozeki

The Aki carnage continues, as we lost two more competitors at the start of day 8. We now know that Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew due to injury to his medial collateral ligament (MCL) which is the connective tissued that runs through the center of the knee and connects the thigh bone to the lower leg. We hope it’s not serious. We also had Myogiryu pull out of the tournament with an injury to his right calf muscle. We have written extensively on sumo’s injury and training problems in the top division, but old institutions are slow to change. We hope that Myogiryu can bounce back soon.

This leaves Ozeki Goeido as the top ranked man in the tournament, with the badly injured Tochinoshin holding up the #2 slot. I am sure that injured Ozeki Takayasu is cursing his misfortune right now.

In the yusho race, it has been greatly simplified for the moment, both Okinoumi and Meisei won, leaving them as exclusive #1 and #2 while the rest of the 1 loss crowd added a second loss today. It appears that the scheduling team are done giving Okinoumi easy opponents, starting on day 9 with the somewhat questionable Ryuden. Readers should note that Okinoumi is a high-skill veteran that is more than up to the task of beating more or less anyone still in competition at this point. It’s his yusho to lose now. Be prepared for a possible Cinderella story in the making.

Highlight Matches

Tokushoryu defeats Ishiura – Tokushoryu read Ishiura’s intent to henka, and played it perfectly, capping it with a dismissive look of disgust at his opponent. Ishiura falls out of the group within range of Okinoumi.

Tsurugisho defeats Tochiozan – It’s odd to say that Tochiozan lost due to balance and footwork, but Tsurugisho performed an excellent push and pull combo at the tachiai to lay the veteran down on the clay. Tochiozan is in dire need of a rally before he finds himself on boat down to Juryo.

Kagayaki defeats Toyonoshima – Toyonoshima drove for and secured the inside position at the tachiai, but his body and foot position was poor, while Kagayaki kept his hips over the arches of his feet, and his shoulders square. A shrug and a push and Toyonoshima went reeling for the bales.

Shohozan defeats Takagenji – Shohozan took initiative, then gave it to Takagenji who could not keep himself balanced. Takagenji has had his ups and downs, but he’s been a mess this September, and with good cause.

Daishoho defeats Azumaryu – I am going to guess that Daishoho has finally found his sumo again, and is starting to fight like he wants to. Azumaryu had a soft, almost non-existent tachiai, and although he tried to load a throw against Daishoho, he could not complete and Daishoho escorted him out.

Nishikigi defeats Enho – Nishikigi successfully blocked Enho’s attempt to go in and under, and left the fire-pixie switching the plan B. But Nishikigi, to his credit, continues to shift and attack at Enho’s center-mass. One of the better “Beat Enho” matches in a while, Nishikigi used a simple and effective plan to win.

Yutakayama defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki showed some great strength and timing today, although Yutakayama won the tachiai, Kotoyuki drove for and got the inside position for his thrusting attack. Kotoyuki’s gambit forced Yutakayama back, but Kotoyuki did not survive Yutakayama’s pivot at the tawara to rescue the match.

Okinoumi defeats Onosho – Onosho took the fight to the yusho race leader, but Okinoumi keep the distance close enough that Onosho could neither maneuver with much effect, nor push with much force. Having boxed Onosho, Okinoumi used his body to ram Onosho back and out. Okinoumi has, in the past, faced a few really ugly health problems, and I marvel at his performance thus far. Tomorrow he starts climbing the torikumi, facing Ryuden in a test of how far the man from Shimane is going to take this.

Sadanoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – It looked like Kotoshogiku was not quite sure what he was going to do at the tachiai. Hit and shift? But Sadanoumi took away any room he had to recover by attacking furiously and keeping the former Ozeki from getting his feet set for defense.

Meisei defeats Kotoeko – Kotoeko had only one brief burst of offense, but the match was really all Meisei, who picks up the white star and remains 1 behind Okinoumi.

Shimanoumi defeats Terutsuyoshi – I have to applaud Terutsuyoshi’s effort here, his sumo was strong and powerful, but he managed to get just a bit too far forward as he tried to put his whole weight on Shimanoumi’s belly to force him out. Shimanoumi had the skill to swing Terutsuyoshi around for the loss.

Ryuden defeats Daieisho – Yep, its about time for Ryuden to rally. Daieisho made him work for it, and his thrusting attack was well executed, but ultimately off balance. Ryuden gave ground and used the tawara to pivot the off-balance Daieisho to rescue the win. Although Ryuden has long legs, he tends to keep a very low, wide stance that tends to frustrate his opponents (as it did today).

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – I got happy when Aoiyama opened up with the big V-Twin thrusting attack at the tachiai. I thought, “Yeah, here we go, Aoiyama is back into his sumo”. But Big Dan seems to be a bit hurt, and Asanoyama is that good. An attempt by Aoiyama to pull Asanoyama down left him chest to chest with the Natsu yusho winner, and that was all it took. Aoiyama put up some resistance, but quickly realized he was done, went soft and prevented any injury.

Hokutofuji defeats Abi – Hokutofuji chances out of the silver mawashi, and just like that his sumo seems to spring back. This is one of the things I really love about Hokutofuji: you can beat his upper body bloody, but his lower body seems to be an independent creature, moving forward relentlessly no matter how much damage his face and chest sustain. Abi lands blows like summer rain, but nothing stops Hokutofuji’s advance. I want to see Hokutofuji vs Okinoumi in week 2, should it please the Great Sumo Cat.

Endo defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu looked like he was out for blood today, that was some forceful sumo applied with conviction. Endo took it all in and kept fighting for his opportunity, and when it came he made Chiyotairyu taste the clay.

Takakeisho defeats Mitakeumi – Some fans wonder what happened to Mitakeumi today, but did you see it? The “Wave Action Tsuppari” attack at last. The first massive double arm shove landed before Mitakeumi could finish his tachiai. Then again and again. There was really nothing for it at that point. Takakeisho’s one moment of weakness was an attempt to slap down Mitakeumi, but man from Nagano could not exploit that brief opening. 4 More to go, please hurry. Sumo is terribly short of workable Ozeki right now.

Tomokaze defeats Goeido – I guess this is what we get from Tomokaze now? Yes he is winning, but as we have seen over and over again, the guys who are always pulling eventually get figured out. I guess he can and should enjoy it while it lasts. I was hoping for a contender.

Tochinoshin defeats Shodai – Tochinoshin had the good fortune of landing a right hand mawashi grip, and never let go. This drastically reduced the amount of chaos Shodai could generate, and I think was the key to his win. As with his prior matches, the damage to that heavily bandaged knee prevents him form his normally enormous forward strength. If he can make his 8, I am going to consider it a petty miracle. But he has just enough room to probably do it.