Making a Case For The End of “The Transition”

Everything goes in circles. Photo credit @nicolaah

No matter how you feel about Hakuho (which seems crazy even to write), the sumo world is absolutely rocked not only by his retirement but the manner of it: out on his own terms, no matter how many veiled – thinly or otherwise – “encouragements” he had received, and at the top, unbeaten in his final tournament, and with almost every meaningful record you could wish to have.

It seems impossible to eulogise Hakuho’s career now (although John Gunning has been first out of the blocks with an unsurprisingly strong effort as usual). The debates about the content of his sumo and what to make of his controversial legacy and what it means to be a champion will wait. 

What we can instead eulogise, in my opinion, is the end of a period of transition we’ve been discussing for the last few years. Or at least the end of the transition “out” of what was, as we now move “in” to what will be. While a handful of others from Hakuho’s era are still standing in some diminished status, he is the last meaningful domino to fall. And without his enormous presence casting a “will-he/won’t-he” shadow over literally every tournament – to say nothing of his other adversaries of the era: for example Kakuryu, whose own “should I stay or should I go now” drama was mostly informed by something as tedious as immigration paperwork – the next period can now finally begin in earnest.

Yokozuna Terunofuji of course has his own story, formed out of his battles with himself, and his own body, and it is right that he can set the tone for what is to come over the next few years. Whether or not his body can withstand the pressures of Yokozuna sumo for more than that is up to some substantial debate, but it is clear that he will be the wall that new talents will have to knock down. It seems reasonable to expect that for the next 2 years anyway, this will be the case.

It’s a clean time for the change, because everything below the Yokozuna is now up for grabs. There are no Ozeki runs in play, though Mitakeumi’s throughly uninspiring 9 wins from this tournament could eventually have meaning with a solid-if-unlikely 11+ in the next basho. We’ve seen it before. But while two enormous impediments in the shape of Hakuho and also Asanoyama have now been removed, the famous flat-track bully can’t seem to get it together to best his current score consistently enough to go to the next level. That the challengers from this recent tournament were all veterans unlikely to leave the rank-and-file does not speak incredibly well for the health of the division as a whole.

Relative newcomers like Kiribayama, Kotonowaka and Hoshoryu seem likely to have something to say about the shape of san’yaku to come, but it remains to be seen whether they can be more than this generation’s Okinoumi or Myogiryu or Endo. If there’s another rikishi who might be primed to take another step it could be the 26 year old Meisei, off the back of 8 consecutive winning tournaments. While he has a lower ceiling than the mercurial talents I just mentioned or even than those above him on the banzuke, he’s shown more consistency than any of them, as well as the ability to pull off upsets.

It’s also time to be honest about the state of the remaining veterans. For the Aoiyamas, the Tochinoshins, the Tamawashis, the Takarafujis… for sure their records may be informed by their various injury issues but the reality is that they are also of diminishing ability due to age and mileage. It’s probably fair to ask if we’ll see Takayasu in san’yaku again. Kaisei stated (credit to Kintamayama) during the basho that he simply had less power in his body with each passing year. Myogiryu’s face on senshuraku told us everything we need to know about his future: he knows that he would never have a better chance to win something. He’ll be 35 before the next basho. These guys may have, while the top division is a shadow of the quality it was five or more years ago, the chance to run into this kind of tournament one more time, but the reason for that is likely due more to the ability of the competition than their own ability to meaningfully challenge.

The new era is not going to take shape quickly. While there are interesting prospects, there are very few “can’t miss” talents banging down the door. A number of big prospects have fizzled recently atop Makushita (Roga, Oshoryu, Hokutenkai, etc.) and even for the next tournament, the Juryo promotees will be journeymen or slower moving college rikishi in their late 20s. Abi will almost certainly be the only Makuuchi promotee under 30 in the November tournament, and we know what he is already. It appears that there will be plenty of intriguing backing singers for this next era, but the identity of the frontmen is still very much in question.

One of the reasons why the debates about the content of Hakuho’s sumo and what to make of his controversial legacy and what it means to be a champion will wait is that, well… we’re going to have a lot of time to discuss it. If the new era starts now, and we don’t know what it’s going to be, then we can look at what was in better detail in the cold light of day where there is no more Hakuho. Well, no more Hakuho on the dohyo anyway, as rumours already swirl about a new $17M heya in swanky Nihonbashi. We can think about how all of that stuff from this past era made us feel, and what we want the next era to be. And hopefully as we analyse all of that, names will surface and performances will materialise that allow us to dream a bit again. 

While there is no Takanohana-defeating-Chiyonofuji moment here to provide the kind of punctuation mark that a satisfying transfer of power deserves, and the vacuum created by the absence of fond names can be a bit dispiriting, it feels like we can approach the next basho, the next year, and the tournaments and years to come with a renewed focus on the excitement of what could happen.

Aki Day 15 Highlights

Thus ends the 2021 Aki basho, what a tournament! We hope that you have enjoyed the last 15 days as much as Team Tachiai has. Solid sumo, and some truly amazing scores. I can’t even begin to imagine just how much churn there will be on the banzuke for November.

Congratulations to Yokozuna Terunofuji, who wins his debut tournament as a Yokozuna, an elite group that have been able to do that, the last one being Kisenosato, who did so at a hideous cost. We hope that Terunofuji serves long and happily, and that his knees are able to give him a few more years on the dohyo.

No fewer than six rikishi finished with double digit wins, none of which were in the lower third of the banzuke, which is a smoking radioactive crater of double digit losses. Ten men went home with double digit losses, including 3 men with 11 losses from the bottom margin of the banzuke. That sad fog horn you hear in the distance? It’s the Juryo barge of the damned, captained by Tokushoryu, setting sail down the Sumida.s

Highlight Matches

Kaisei defeats Daiamami – This was a good match for Kaisei, he did not have to compensate for a lot of lateral movement, as Daiamami is also very much an East-West kind of fighter. He was able to dig in and take his time, working to get enough leverage, and quality hand placement, to overcome Daiamami’s defenses and walk him out. Kaisei finishes Aki at 6-9.

Shohozan defeats Tsurugisho – I think the late called matta was the right move, it was clear that the two were not really ready to fight when Shohozan launched. I am surprised that the gyoji did not pick up on that. The second round was about the same as the first. I like the amount of effort Tsurugisho put into trying anything is body could support to stave off the loss. Shohozan could not find a way to push or force Tsurugisho out, and gave into the temptation to toss him to the clay. Shohozan finishes with double digits wins, 10-5, in Juryo, and maybe he will make a triumphant return to the top division in November.

Yutakayama defeats Chiyotairyu – Darwin match time! As expected, both of them had he sumo dialed up to 11 today. It was a mad thrusting battle, with Chiyotairyu moving his arms side to side, but Yutakayama focusing center-mass. No need to guess which one was more effective. Chiyotairyu realized this too, and moved to go chest to chest with a right hand inside. Yutakayama responded in kind, but pivoted into a throw that put Chiyotairyu down. Make-koshi for Chiyotairyu, kachi-koshi for Yutakayama

Kotoeko defeats Aoiyama – The second Darwin match, Kotoeko took a lot of punishmen from Aoiyama applied directly to his face. Kotoeko, to his credit, absorbed the pounding and focused center-mass. It was slow to take effect, but once Aoiyama took that first step back, it was all Kotoeko. I am so very pleased that Kotoeko was able to reverse his losing streak, rally and finish September with a winning record. Aoiyama finishes make-koshi at 7-8.

Tobizaru defeats Chiyonoo – Not sure where Chiyonoo was today, but it was Tobizaru time after a matta stopped the action on the first launch. Tobizaru finishes 7-8, Chiyonoo at 4-11, and needs to go pack his bags for the Juryo barge.

Endo defeats Okinoumi – It came down to who could get superior hand placement first, and it was Endo. He always puts a lot his fortunes into that frontal grab at the tachiai, and today he was able to convert it against Okinoumi. I did like the pulling variant of the uwatenage he used today. Nice touch as there was no way he was going to get that going forward against Okinoumi. Endo finishes Aki 11-4, Okinoumi ends with a respectable 10-5.

Kagayaki defeats Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi looked like he was attempting to channel Ura, and it fell to bits in an inglorious fashion. Kagayaki was very much “What the hell” as it unfolded, but too his credit he stayed into his attack plan, and crushed Terutsuyoshi to the clay. Kagayaki improves to 7-8.

Ura defeats Ichiyamamoto – Given Ichiyamamoto’s condition, there was only ever one way this one was going to end. Ichiyamamoto put up a reasonable defense to start against Ura’s probing attacks. But once the man in pink settled on a plan, it was high power delivered to center mass, and Ichiyamamoto did not have the lower body power to stop him. Ura improves to 7-8, Ichiyamamoto takes his hurt lower body home with a dismal 4-11, and a first class cabin on the Juryo barge.

Takarafuji defeats Tochinoshin – Another Darwin match. Tochinoshin allowed Takarafuji to set his feet, and get his lower body in position. At that point, there were few options that the big Georgian had, short of a throw, to overcome Takarafuji. He worked to get his hands set up for such a move, but all the while Takarafuji was moving him back. Takarafuji kachi-koshi at 8-7, Tochinoshin make-koshi at 7-8.

Chiyoshoma defeats Tokushoryu – Holy crap, it’s not like Team Tachiai did not spell out that the henka was coming some 12 hours prior. We could see it all way way from the United States! Ah well, better luck in November, Tokushoryu. We will always have your charming yusho speech. Chiyoshoma improves to 5-10.

Tamawashi defeats Onosho – Onosho’s opening volley did not connect with enough power to put Tamawashi on defense, and Tamawashi responded with a rapid fire combo. Onosho never recovered and ends Aki with a loss, missing out on a chance at a special prize. Tamawashi improves to 6-9.

Wakatakakage defeats Chiyonokuni – Wakatakakage caught Chiyonokuni off balance moments after the tachiai, and a single blow on the upper back brought him down. Both end Aki with matching 9-6 scores. Great run for Wakatakakage, and I am looking forward to him near the top of the rank and file in November.

Kiribayama defeats Chiyomaru – The one fact to know here, Kiribayama lifted Chiyomaru out for the win. I think everyone, including Kiribayama, were a bit surprised. Check out the smile as he awaits the kensho for his win. Kiribayama improves to 9-6 to end Aki.

Shimanoumi defeats Takanosho – Final Darwin match, and it was great to see Shimanoumi finish out with a kachi-koshi on a 4 match winning run. He’s been struggling since his 11-4 last November, and we saw a bit of that old fire today. Shimanoumi finishes 8-7 and is kachi-koshi, Takanosho make-koshi at 7-8.

Hidenoumi defeats Hoshoryu – I guess I would say – where the hell did that come from, Hidenoumi? That was a high quality move against a pretty tough opponent, ranked 8 slots above you on the banzuke. The twist down was a thing of beauty, and I wish he would be able to use this kind of sumo every day. Hidenoumi improves to 7-8, while Hoshoryu drops to 5-10 as a final score for Aki.

Daieisho defeats Ichinojo – Daieisho caps a 10-5 score at Aki with outstanding performance special prize. He found center-mass on Ichinojo (its about the same size as the broad side of a barn), and unloaded full force into the big man’s chest. I counted 4 steps to send him over the bales, and score his concluding win.

Meisei defeats Myogiryu – The yusho decider, Meisei gets his 8th win and knocks Myogiryu out of contention for the cup with a lightning fast katasukashi. Meisei finishes Aki at 8-7, and Myogiryu will have to settle for an awesome 11-4 and the gino-sho special prize. Nice work sir!

Mitakeumi defeats Takakeisho – Takakeisho went for an immediate pull into Mitakeumi’s second step. A disastrous mistake and the Ozeki exited in a hurry. 8-7 is kind of a crummy score for an Ozeki, but given that I think Takakeisho is still hurt, I don’t fault him for not putting up too tough of a fight. Survive and improve for November. Mitakeumi finishes with 9-6.

Terunofuji defeats Shodai – Terunofuji stepped on the dohyo with the yusho secure, but he still had some sumo to share with Shodai. The Yokozuna exploited Shodai’s tachiai, and tucked in before the third step. Shodai looked like he wanted to change his plan, and you just can’t do that once Terunofuji has a hold of you. Shodai ends Aki with a 4 match losing streak, and looked like hell the whole way to the end. Terunofuji wins his 5th yusho with a solid 13-2.

This concludes Tachiai’s day-by-day coverage of the Aki Basho. Thank you dear readers for sharing the September tournament with us. We have had a lot of fun bringing you coverage of what has been a satisfying and thrilling basho.

Aki Day 15 Preview

So we come to the final day. The yusho will be decided in the final three matches. The first one pits M10W Myogiryu against S1W Meisei. Should Meisei win, Terunofuji has the yusho outright. Should Myogiryu win, he waits to see the results of Terunofuji vs Shodai, the final match of the tournament. A win by Yokozuna Terunofuji, and he takes home the cup for the 3rd time in the past year. In fact, every basho since we went kyujo on day 13 last September (with an 8-4 record), he has won the yusho or the jun-yusho. Should the unlikely happen, with Terunofuji losing against Shodai and Myogiryu winning against Meisei, I don’t think that Myogiryu stands a chance.

Earlier in the torikumi, we have four Darwin matches. A pair of 7-7 rikishi face off, and only the winner survives with a winning record. During an early, pre-COVID time, attending matches on the final day had a festive atmosphere. Most rikishi already had sorted themselves into winning or losing records, and many of the matches were for interest or amusement purposes. Folks were happy, relaxed and in good spirits.

While lksumo has been doing an expert job forecasting the promotion and demotion picture, the fact that there are three rikishi with at least 10 loss records at the bottom of the banzuke portends a big churn in the ranks for November. It could make for a wild and wonderful 15 days in Kyushu.

What We Are Watching Day 15

Kaisei vs Daiamami – Daiamami comes up from Juryo with a 7-7 record, needing one more win for kachi-koshi, to add his name to the promotion hopefuls. Kaisei at 5-9 needs one more win to avoid joining the crowd at the the bottom of the banzuke with double digit losses. I predict maximum sumo here.

Shohozan vs Tsurugisho – Hey, as long as we have the tram running between Makuuchi and Juryo, lets stick dear old “Big Guns” Shohozan on there, and have him see if he can pound a return promotion out of Tsurugisho. As we have seen this basho, Tsurugisho has been suffering with painful cellulitis that has turned him into a door stop. A loss today would add him to the double-digit crew in the bottom third of the banzuke.

Chiyotairyu vs Yutakayama – After the bloody ravages of the first two matches, what to have next? Yes, it’s time for our first Darwin match! Both are about the same size and weight. Both are tsuki/oshi fighters, and only one of them will exit the dohyo with a winning record.

Aoiyama vs Kotoeko – Why stop with just one? Its big man vs little man sumo. With Aoiyama perfectly capable of knocking Kotoeko into next Tuesday if he can get the V-Twin attack humming. I am sure Kotoeko is going to go low and try for a grab-and-tug attack to shut down Aoiyama’s primary offense. Another Darwin match, and the winner takes it all.

Chiyonoo vs Tobizaru – Somebody decided to send Chiyonoo back to Juryo with a tough match. He has never beaten Tobizaru in 4 attempts. Granted Tobizaru is not fighting well right now,, but it’s still a brutal thing to do to 4-10 rikishi. Both are make-koshi, so this is just to see how far down the banzuke Chiyonoo will fall.

Okinoumi vs Endo – Turn that frown upside down! Its a pair of 10-4 rikishi in a consolation match, with each having a 10 win record against the other. Both of them high skill, and ready to bring their lexicon of sumo to the dohyo today. This match should be fun to watch.

Kagayaki vs Terutsuyoshi – Terutsuyoshi has this one chance to avoid double digit losses by taking out the man I used to call “Mr Fundamentals”. Well, Kagayaki’s sumo is not quite as sharp as it was when I gave him that name, and I have to wonder if its ever coming back. At M13, his make-koshi does not put him at risk of joining the Juryo barge, but his last kachi-koshi was a 8-7 last September.

Ura vs Ichiyamamoto – In another “Bring the pain” match, we have spritely and agile Ura against an injured Ichiyamamoto. This one should be pretty easy for Ura, and that could mean a 4-11 final score for Ichiyamamoto. I hear he is already in the engine room warming up the boilers for the moment Tokushoryu gives the order to begin the slow steam down the Sumida river back to Juryo land.

Tochinoshin vs Takarafuji – Its time for MOAR DARRWIN! This time its one time Ozeki Tochinoshin taking on defensive master Takarafuji. Takarafuji has lost 3 of the last 4, and certainly seems to be fading out. Not sure who has the advantage here, I just hope nobody gets injured.

Chiyoshoma vs Tokushoryu – The match that punctuates the roster of terrible scores in the bottom half of the banzuke, its a pair of 4-10 rikishi seeing who can get a 5th win. If I were Chiyoshoma, I would just henka the captain of the Juryo barge, Tokushoryu and be done with it. But I think the new Chiyoshoma is going to fight it out. Chiyoshoma holds a 8-3 career advantage.

Tamawashi vs Onosho – I am sure at this point, the schedulers were wondering what to do with Onosho. He had yet to fight former san’yaku mainstay Tamawashi, so lets tee that one up. Onosho took a fast route to the clay on day 14, and hopefully will have a bit better control of his center of gravity today, or Tamawashi will surely put him right back down on the deck.

Wakatakakage vs Chiyonokuni – First time match, and a chance for the last man of the banzuke to finish out with double digit wins. I tell you, the November ranking sheet is going to be NUTS! I like how Wakatakakage has been fighting this basho, but whatever plan he has to win this match will suffer greatly the first time Chiyonokuni lands a big blow to his face.

Chiyomaru vs Kiribayama – I suspect this match is to see if Kiribayama gets to be front of the line for a san’yaku slot. He has beaten Chiyomaru their only 2 prior matches, and I think that he has broken through whatever had him on that 3 match losing streak this week. Both are kachi-koshi, so this is all about figuring out rank.

Shimanoumi vs Takanosho – Our final Darwin match of the day. Both of them are quality rikishi, but both have been fighting well below their best this September. Winner exits with a promotion, loser with a demotion.

Hoshoryu vs Hidenoumi – As with a few other matches on today’s torikumi, I think this one is geared to help gauge how far down the banzuke to push Hoshoryu. Should he win today, I would call it a “soft” make-koshi for him, finishing with 6 wins, 7 losses, and 2 days kyujo. I think he will be back at the top of the rank and file soon, so they may not want him too far down the banzuke for November.

Daieisho vs Ichinojo – Speed and forceful attack at the tachiai vs large immovable boulder-like creature who has been known to toss ponies and eat ice cream by the truck full. Both are kachi-koshi, so I think this is to help sort our rank in November. Ichinojo has a distinct 6-2 career advantage.

Myogiryu vs Meisei – Meisei comes into today at 7-7, and a win would not only affirm his stay at Sekiwake, but would shut down any hopes Myogiryu might have for a first ever Emperor’s cup. He holds a 4-2 career advantage over Myogiryu, and I think he will be able to get the job done, in spite of Myogiryu showing us some of the best sumo of his career. A Myogiryu loss hands Terunofuji the yusho outright.

Mitakeumi vs Takakeisho – Somebody in the Japan Sumo Association loves team Tachiai. In spite of the fact that neither one can challenge for the cup, we get a final tadpole battle to tide us over until November. Unlike the last couple of days, I don’t expect either one of these battle-spheres to have any pretense of going chest to chest. Rather its going to be an oshi/tsuppari hell-storm. Both are kachi-koshi, so maybe they won’t “whip it one” at full power. But I do hope. The have a balanced 10-10 career record.

Shodai vs Terunofuji – The final match of the basho, it’s Shodai’s “Wall of Daikon” defensive sumo against Terunofuji’s slow, crushing attack. The only time Shodai has beaten him in teh current era was when Terunofuji was on his debut return to the top division, when he was Sekiwake 1E fighting the lowest ranked man on the banzuke. Since then it’s been 4 straight losses. I am looking for Terunofuji to pop him like a squeeze toy and then heave the remains into the zabuton zone.

Aki Day 14 Highlights

Both top gyoji took to the clay today, as the action amplified on the penultimate day of the Aki basho. Both Kimura Tamajiro and Shikimori Inosuke got Kokugikan clay on their ornate robes as they found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully neither one was hurt.

We also saw what I would happily call the most polite ashitori in all of sumo from none other than Ura. No matter what you think of his sumo, he seems to always be a super nice guy in almost every facet of his life. Its what really highlighted him in his first rise up the ranks. Yes his sumo was creative and many times a lot of fun to watch, but he has always shown good character, and nice manners.

As expected, a lot of rikishi ended the day 7-7, fueling a big crop of Darwin matches for day 15, to compliment the last match of the day, which should decide the yusho.

Highlight Matches

Tokushoryu defeats Kotoeko – Tokushoryu is able to execute his “stand you up – slap you down” combo with great effect, ending Kotoeko’s 5 match winning streak, and relegating Kotoeko to a day 15 Darwin match. Tokushoryu improves to 4-10.

Chiyonokuni defeats Aoiyama – Aoiyama like Tokushoryu’s win so much, he decided to try it himself. He grabbed Chiyonokuni’s face, and pulled down. Sadly for him, he did not have an effective grip on anything and pulled hard enough he touched the clay. Kimarite is listed as tsukite, or hand touch down (non winning technique). This mechanical failure sends Aoiyama to 7-7 and a Darwin match against Kotoeko, while Chiyonokuni improves to 9-5.

Tobizaru defeats Ichiyamamoto – Ichiyamamoto was clearly on offense this match, and Tobizaru puzzlingly seemed content to just absorb whatever long-arm thrusting and hitting Ichiyamamoto wanted to try out. This nonsense continued until they started pulling each other, resulting in a helter-skelter tumble of off balance rikishi. Ichiyamamoto hits first, and the win goes to Tobizaru, who improves to 6-8.

Shimanoumi defeats Tsurugisho – Shimanoumi left hand mawashi grip was the deciding element in this match. He used to to get Tsurugisho on the move, and then swing him out. Tsurugisho’s sumo has been very soft since his cellulitis kyujo earlier in the basho, and it’s a real shame. Shimanoumi improves to 7-7, and gets to visit Mr. Darwin on day 15.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Chiyonoo – I really liked Terutsuyoshi’s “clockwork” kakenage. Chiyonoo got a grip early, and Terutsuyoshi carefully set his hands as the two were chest to chest. Then came the slow motion, tick-tock style throw, one little stop at a time. Terutsuyoshi improves to 5-9.

Ura defeats Kaisei – Ura had a good match plan, every breath, take a step to the side, to keep Kaisei turning. This preventing Kaisei from settling into a defense and allowed Ura to continue probing attacks. A matter of fact leg pick and walk gave us possibly the most polite ashitori ever seen in sumo. Ura improves to 6-8.

Chiyoshoma defeats Hidenoumi – At the tachiai, both go for a left hand inside position, with Chiyoshoma lower, and looking primed to control the match. Chiyoshoma executes a series of test moves, none of which find any opening in Hidenoumi’s strong defenses. A grip shift, and Chiyoshoma is set for a throw, that takes Hidenoumi to the clay, sending him to his 8th loss, and make-koshi. Chiyoshoma improves to 4-10.

Takarafuji defeats Kagayaki – Kagayaki gets a hazu-oshi (armpit attack) going immediately in the tachiai, and it moves Takarafuji back. Finding himself on the cusp of his 8th loss, Takarafuji executes a pivoting tsukiotoshi at the bales, sending Kagayaki to make-koshi, and improving Takarafuji to 7-7 and headed to a day 15 Darwin match.

Chiyomaru defeats Tamawashi – Tamawashi opens strong, and gets Chiyomaru into defense mode, and moving to the rear. But Chiyomaru manages to break contact, and sets up his favorite pull, a blistering hikiotoshi that drops Tamawashi to the clay. Chiyomaru picks up his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi for September.

Daieisho defeats Yutakayama – Daieisho is low and strong at the tachiai, and applies maximum force at center mass. In spite of Yutakayama’s fairly good defense, he can’t hold ground against Daieisho’s attack. Daieisho improves to 9-5 and Yutakayama goes to 7-7 to join the group eligible for Darwin matches on senshuraku.

Kiribayama defeats Tochinoshin – Kiribayama finally gets that 8th win, that has evaded him for the last 3 days. Kiribayama starts with a left hand inside, and puts Tochinoshin into an unworkable position. But they stalemate chest to chest. Both attempt a grip change, and Kiribayama gets both hands inside. He’s unable to really lift Tochinoshin, so he resorts to a leg trip, and topples Tochinoshin into the tawara. Tochinoshin ends the day 7-7 and joins the Darwin group, Kiribayama improves to 8-6 and is kachi-koshi.

Hoshoryu defeats Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu supplied all of the attack power today, with Hoshoryu being uncharacteristically defensive. Chiyotairyu had Hoshoryu moving back, and moved to finish him, but a last moment move at the bales sent both men tumbling, with Chiyotairyu hitting first. They listed to kimarite as tottari, and it added Chiyotairyu to the Darwin group, and improved Hoshoryu to 5-9.

Wakatakakage defeats Takanosho – Takanosho opened on offense, with Wakatakakage unable to really set his feet to defend, or find a route to counter attack. He instead gave a bit more ground than he needed, opening a gap that allowed him to execute a hatakikomi at the moment Takanosho rushed to close the distance. Wakatakakage picks up his 8th win and is kachi-koshi. Takanosho heads to join Darwin.

Ichinojo defeats Endo – Even a high-skill rikishi like Endo is bound to struggle with Ichinojo when he is genki, focused and has a goal. Endo’s early grip attempt misses completely, but he does get a hand inside. Ichinojo switches direction twice in two steps, completely unbalancing Endo and opening the thrust down, which lands like thunder and sends Endo to the clay. Ichinojo picks up his 8th win, and is kachi-koshi. Endo gives up the chase of yusho leader Terunofuji, dropping to 2 wins behind.

Okinoumi defeats Mitakeumi – When Okinoumi is genki, he can really wreck just about anyone on the right day. Today it is Mitakeumi’s turn, who finds himself captured and chest to chest yet again, and unable to really do much other than struggle in place. After a brief dance to get Mitakeumi in a good position, Okinoumi rolls him to the clay, sending gyoji Kimura Tamajiro scrambling. Okinoumi improves to 10-4, his best score in 2 years, which was an Aki basho where he was also ranked M8E. It must be his luck spot.

Meisei defeats Onosho – If you want to drop Onosho in a hurry, that’s the way to do it. As the junior tadpole lunged forward, Meisei managed to get both hands behind his neck and slap him down. Onosho never had a chance to get started, giving Meisei his 7th win. Sadly no Darwin match for him on day 15. Onosho drops out of the group 1 behind Terunofuji.

Myogiryu defeats Shodai – This match is exactly why readers here think I hate Shodai. This was total crap sumo from him, and Myogiryu knew exactly how to exploit his sumo malfunctions to make him a an accessory in this match. Rapid frontal grip, lift and heave him back and out. Myogiryu improves to 11-3, remaining one behind leader Terunofuji.

Terunofuji defeats Takakeisho – I used to describe Takakeisho as a bowling ball with legs. It warms my heart to see Terunofuji put that moniker in motion as he rolls Takakeisho to his 6th loss. Takakeisho gets a few good thrusts in, and then to my surprise, initiates the chest to chest belt battle. I thought Terunofuji was a bit surprised as well, and it almost gave Takakeisho a big offensive opening. But Terunofuji’s Yokozuna hallmark is to capture, control and wait. It pays off yet again when he sets up the uwatenage, and takes out not only the Ozeki, but tate gyoji Inosuke. Sadly there is no bonus kensho for such a result. Terunofuji improves to 12-2 and remains the sole leader for the Emperor’s cup.