I will come out and say it, Kyushu 2018 is Aki’s battle injured uncle with PTSD. You love them, but you keep wondering if they are going to snap. The two tournaments seem to be night and day different. Aki was a parade of sumo’s top guns, all performing fairly well and dominating the ring. Kyushu continues the prior trend we have been watching for the past few years; the fading away of well loved veterans as their bodies break down and their sumo fails them.
The biggest story of the tournament is Kisenosato, and his dismal 0-4 start. As Team Tachiai writer Herouth has pointed out, “The last time a Yokozuna had 4 consecutive losses from the start was in January 1931. 29th Yokozuna Miyagiyama got his first win on day 5. He ended up 5-6 (this was before the 15 day basho system) and retired by the next basho.” Fans of Kisenosato, or even people who have come to respect his ability to keep pushing through the challenges no matter what should prepare themselves.
But with the lone Yokozuna in career trouble, the door is wide open for the yusho. This includes Kisenosato’s kohei, Takayasu, who has yet to win a tournament. Make no mistake, retirement of the only active Japanese Yokozuna would be a blow to the sport, and nothing could staunch that wound better than to shift focus to that Yokozuna’s understudy.
Daiamami defeats Chiyomaru – The banzuke team gave Chiyomaru a last chance to rescue his Makuuchi self, but it seems that whatever physical problems are plaguing him, he is not yet healed. The guy is hugely popular in Japan, so I am sure he will be ok, but for fans of “Spheroid Sumo”, the future is not looking good, with Planet Gagamarus relegated to the outer solar system and other giants continuing to struggle.
Meisei defeats Arawashi – Fast fun match that ended with both rikishi trying to throw the other, and the first monoii for the Makuuchi division this tournament. The result was a somewhat novel interpretation of the “dead body” rule, that confirmed the gyoji’s gumbai and awarding the match to Meisei.
Aoiyama defeats Chiyoshoma – Aoiyama seems to have reconnected with his sumo, but he’s looking fairly rough and sloppy. His match against Chiyoshoma was fairly chaotic, as if the big Bulgarian was throwing anything he could at his smaller and more agile opponent. But any white start you can grab counts.
Endo defeats Takanosho – Endo also seems to have gotten enough ring rust removed to execute working sumo. At Maegashira 12, he should be paving with these opponents, but thus far he is only 2-2. Endo represents another “Great Japanese Hope” that has yet to pay off, and the calendar is not his friend now.
Okinoumi defeats Yutakayama – Okinoumi made it look easy, and it seems to this sumo fan that Yutakayama is still moving well, but can’t generate any power offensively or defensively. At Maegashira 10, he’s probably going to stay in the top division for new years if he can get at least a couple of wins. But right now that looks like it might be a struggle.
Abi defeats Takarafuji – I know I keep hyping for Abi to unleash something new, but like any successful organism, why evolve when you keep winning. At Maegashira 7, the double arm thrust is probably enough for a kachi-koshi most times. But it’s not going to be universally effective in the top ranks.
Ikioi defeats Takanoiwa – Ikioi finally gets his first win, but both rikishi looks like they could use a tune up. Both are in the same boat as Aoiyama, painfully throwing everything they can muster in hopes of getting enough wins to hang on.
Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Kagayaki continues to dominate their matches, and the normally challenging Shohozan. When Kagayaki can get the right kind of opening, he knows how to win. He is surprisingly powerful in a handful of attack styles, and as long as the match can be squeezed into those parameters, he’s a force of nature.
Takakeisho defeats Shodai – For the first time in a long time, I think we are going to be watching for an endurance check against a rising star. Takakeisho made easy work of Shodai, and remains unbeaten. It’s always tough for rikishi to elevate their sumo into the second week, when a strong winning record against a shattered Yokozuna / Ozeki corps starts to work on a person’s mind. But I think we are going to see Takakeisho show the world what the future of sumo looks like.
Myogiryu defeats Mitakeumi – As mentioned in the day 4 preview, I would like the Sekiwake to stop phoning it in. Mitakeumi seems to have thrown in the towel after being shut out of his Ozeki bid at Aki, and he’s failing to impress his opponents. While a 2-2 record is just fine, it’s not the kind of effort that propels a rikishi up the banzuke. However veteran Myogiryu seems to have found his genki, and is exceeding expectations.
Hokutofuji defeats Ichinojo – Ichinojo finds it impossible to maintain fighting form, plain and simple. When he’s on, he’s awesome. But he seems to only be able to muster that about ⅓ of the time. Much respect to Hokutofuji who seems to have fired up and is on a run.
Tochinoshin defeats Kaisei – As is usually the case, you have to wonder why Kaisei came back from kyujo. Tochinoshin had him wrapped up in a hurry, and effectively deployed the left hand lift and shift.
Takayasu defeats Nishikigi – My heart goes out to Nishikigi, who shows up to fight these huge battle wagons, and gives it what he can each day. Today, he may have surprised himself when he was not atomized by Takayasu’s nuclear tachiai.
Goeido defeats Tamawashi – Goeido gets his Mongolian challenger off balance at the tachiai, and does not fail to exploit his advantage. Tamawashi is better than this, but again this basho is a parade of folks performing below their capabilities.
Tochiozan defeats Kisenosato – For whatever reason, Kisenosato is not even fighting at Komusubi level right now. He’s unable to generate offensive pressure to his left side, and everyone knows it. They all attack from the left, and the Yokozuna can only stalemate them for so long. Game-set-match. Tochiozan’s sumo has not looked this good for some time, it’s great to watch as he employs some moves that are not seen anywhere else.