That is a long, hideous title. I’ll think of something better as the basho rolls on. This series of posts is for those who are sick of the “hawt mess” in sanyaku. I’ll just say that sumo deserves an Ozeki who doesn’t tuck-tail and run from Tobizaru. That was utter capitulation. I’m looking forward to reading Bruce’s take on it. Anyway, as I’ve done in the last few tournaments, I’d like to look at the developing talent in the lower divisions. Lately, the recruiting classes have been small so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to just focus on Jonokuchi as I had been doing, so I thought I’d provide some updates across the lower divisions.
Josh kicked things off with a great tournament preview for all of the guys in the second division. In an effort to keep that going, let’s track a few of the highlight bouts:
Tsurugisho started things off with a good ‘ole slap to the face (harite) of Bushozan but he quickly found himself in danger as Bushozan drove forward, forcing Tsurugisho to the edge. At the edge, Tsurugisho found leverage along the tawara and slapped Bushozan down. They called it a kotenage but I found it could have been more likely a katasukashi. (Oooo, look at you, Mr. FancyPants, challenging the kimarite!)
Hidenoumi demonstrated power, endurance, and superior position as he eventually forced Mitoryu out over the bales. Mitoryu found himself attacking Hidenoumi from above which immediately put him on the defensive. While Hidenoumi found himself a win, stablemate Kinbozan wasn’t quite so fortunate. Kotokuzan roughed him up pretty good before winning with a well executed pull-down. Hokuseiho showed a bit of patience, overpowering Chiyonokuni. Chiyonokuni’s gameplan was to be as wild and mobile and disruptive as possible but Hokuseiho wore him down; Chiyonokuni made the first mistake by stepping out.
The best bout, in my humble opinion, was Enho’s shitatedashinage win over Kaisho. First of all, I love to see Enho take someone on head-to-head, fighting big man sumo. He went right at Kaisho and didn’t get discouraged when his initial pull-down attempt failed. He re-engaged but as he couldn’t quite muster the strength to drive Kaisho back, he instead frustrated him with a solid left-hand belt grip which he used to pull down. Kaisho barely maintained his balance and tried to free himself from the pixie’s grasp. But as he stood tall to wrench Enho’s arm free, Enho drove forward forcing Kaisho to the bales. Enho then finished him off with a last, quick, hard pull on the mawashi.
Schedulers pitted the two Juryo division rookies, Tsushimanada and Roga, against each other on Day 1. Tsushimanada was raring to go and launched out at his opponent. Roga countered by slowing things down and forcing a belt battle. However, Tsushimanada proved too powerful today as he pivoted and threw Roga into the waiting gyoji. I’m eager to see this rivalry take off. Let’s hope both men have good tournaments and work their way up the banzuke in 2023.
The big story in Makushita for this tournament will again be Asanoyama. He came just short of the division title in the last tournament but his otherwise dominant performance catapulted him into the Makushita joi, where his competition will be the most fierce since his return from suspension. Here, he’s going to face a potpourri of fading former top division wrestlers, borderline sekitori, and more recent hopefuls. Last night he took his first step to likely re-promotion by cautiously wrapping up Daiseiryu and walking him back over the bales. Slow and steady.
Ishizaki weathered Tochimaru’s tsuppari storm and won with a quick shift and thrust down at the edge. Up-and-comer Hayatefuji had a strong showing against Makuuchi veteran Akiseyama. He displayed excellent speed and power but Akiseyama’s wiles turned the tables on the youngster, pivoting at the edge for a hard fought win. Fujitoshi used his head, literally, to knock out Nabatame. Nabatame met Fujitoshi’s fiery tachiai head on, but when the crown of Fujitoshi’s head met Nabatame’s jaw the Futagoyama youngster crumpled to the dohyo. We’ll see if he has to go kyujo.
Setonoumi won his first bout against Kainoshima. Readers may remember Setonoumi from his lower division yusho as he came back from a neck injury. He’s now reached his highest-ever rank at Makushita 26. With the hay-makers he was throwing last night, he’s aiming higher. He charged out at Kainoshima from the word, “jump,” with aggressive harite and a high-energy, free-wheeling oshi-tsuki style.
Nihonyanagi pancaked Miyagi and Mukainakano greeted Wakatakamoto with similar treatment. Both Miyagi and Wakatakamoto bounced back up and neither appeared to be injured despite rather scary falls. Lastly, Mudoho met his match in Okinofuji. Okinofuji was too big and powerful to drive back so Mudoho tried a poorly executed pull/throw-thing at the edge. Yeah, I’m not too clear on what he was doing, and it seemed neither was he. When he ended up with his back to Okinofuji, it was over in the most ignominious way possible, okuridashi.
After 26 years, Dairaido is still plugging away and finding wins. Today he powered his way to a win over Ryutsukasa…who was born a year after Dairaido joined the sumo world. Takeoka chased Ishii around the ring, forcing the Miyagino-beya hopeful out. Hitoshi started off with a quick, dominating win over Ebisumaru. I can’t help but reminisce whenever I see Ebisumaru’s name about the great times I had in Ebisu in Tokyo. And shrimp. Especially the Cajun shrimp I used to get in New Orleans when we’d visit from Biloxi, Mississippi. But I digress… Hitoshi will find his way up the banzuke quickly. Ishii needs a bit of a rethink as his strategy against Takeoka looked more like a retreat, from the beginning.
Our Jonokuchi yusho winner, Otani, started Kyushu off with a win as Terutaka’s henka attempt went awry. I don’t think Terutaka’s heart was really in the henka but he sure didn’t want to take Otani head-on. That’s like playing chicken with a dump truck — whose driver’s blind. Anyway, Otani’s my favorite for the Jonidan yusho.
This tournament, there are two wrestlers making their debuts but the big story is the return of Kyokutaisei from injury. Newcomers may not know him but while he’s had a few appearances in the top division, he’s really been a solid Juryo mainstay for a good six years. Needless to say, he put away the outmatched Fujinonami with 1 and 1/2 good shoves. Of the two debutantes, Takerufuji will hope to challenge Kyokutaisei for the Jonokuchi yusho. His Nihon University pedigree gave zero f***s about his opponent, the hapless Higohikari, tossing him unceremoniously off the dohyo. The eventual highlight bout between Kyokutaisei and Takerufuji will likely be all she wrote for this yusho race, hence the scope creep for my posts this tournament.
Why does Higohikari never have a chonmage? He always wears his hair in the free, zambara-style. He debuted nearly 20 years ago and his official Kyokai profile shows a picture of him with a chonmage. If anyone knows, feel free to share in the comments. It’s just one of those curiosities that I don’t seem to find an answer for.