San’yaku Bouts to Look Forward to on Day 5

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We have only completed four days of the Kyushu basho, but in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “it got late early.” This is especially true of Yokozuna Kisenosato, but there are other high-stakes bouts on tomorrow’s torikumi.

K1e Takakeisho (4-0) vs. S1w Ichinojo (1-3). Takakeisho has extended his rank-saving six-bout winning streak at the close of Aki with four straight wins to open Kyushu. If he continues his strong performance, he’ll be stating his case for promotion to Sekiwake, and perhaps starting his own Ozeki run. Could he even factor in the yusho race? His next challenge is Ichinojo, who is off to yet another lethargic start. Takakeisho holds a 5-2 edge in their rivalry, including victories in the last two basho.

S1e Mitakeumi (2-2) vs. K1w Kaisei (0-2-2). I still believe Mitakeumi could earn Ozeki promotion with 11 or more wins, but this question is being rapidly rendered moot by his lackluster performance. Kaisei has been his kryptonite, holding a 5-1 advantage. Mitakeumi’s only victory came in his breakthrough yusho-winning Nagoya basho; tomorrow is his chance to claim another against an opponent who is clearly less than 100%. By the way, I am not sure why we are getting two san’yaku pairings on Day 5, when there clearly won’t be enough of these to go around for the remaining ten days.

O1e Goeido (2-2) vs. M3e Nishikigi (0-4). Goeido has had an uneven start to the tournament, but this is a huge mismatch, as will be most of Nishikigi’s bouts at this rank. Unsurprisingly, this is a first meeting between the two.

M1w Hokutofuji (2-2) vs. O2w Tochinoshin (3-1). Hokutofuji has fought well, and his record is even, but his two victories came against struggling Kisenosato and Ichinojo. Tochinoshin recovered from his opening loss to Tamawashi with three straight victories, though he has yet to look like his dominant self from earlier in the year. The Ozeki has won both of their prior meetings.

M2e Tochiozan (4-0) vs. O1w Takayasu (4-0). Wow, a meeting between two of the three remaining undefeated rikishi on Day 5! Tochiozan has taken full advantage of the banzuke luck that elevated him to M2, while Takayasu has looked cool, calm and collected against underwhelming opposition. The career record actually favors Tochiozan 19-7, but most of those bouts took place years ago in Tochiozan’s heyday and before Takayasu’s rise to the upper ranks; they are 1-1 since the latter became Ozeki. Bout of the day.

Y2e Kisenosato (0-4) vs. M2w Tamawashi (2-2). Hoo boy. As of this writing, I haven’t seen anything about Kisenosato pulling out of the tournament, so we may indeed witness a winless Yokozuna ascending the dohyo on Day 5. Via the Sumo Forum, I’ve seen statements from members of the NSK that 8-7 would be good enough for Kise to continue his career, along with insinuations from forum members that he might be “gifted” some victories. Fun times. If the bout does take place, Kisenosato holds a 9-2 edge (not counting fusen), but those two losses came the last two times he’s faced Tamawashi, including their bout at Aki. Tamawashi has alternated dominant victories over Tochinoshin and Ichinojo with weak losses to Mitakeumi and Goeido; if this pattern holds, the prediction for tomorrow’s fight is [puts on Mr. T voice] PAIN 😮

Kyushu Day 4 Highlights – Not Spoiler Free

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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.

Highlight Matches

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 Gagamaru 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. It’s not going to be universally effective in the top ranks, though.

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 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 while, 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. [The future’s bright. The future’s round. –PinkMawashi]

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.

Kyushu Basho Drunk Driving Scandal

On 11/11, Otake Oyakata pulled himself out of his basho duties to tend to the suspected drunk driving of one of his deshi after he was involved in a car accident on 11/9 in Fukuoka. The deshi is not named in some articles but is listed as a Makushita wrestler. The only Makushita wrestler in Otake-beya is Shingaku, since Naya was demoted back to Sandanme 11 W after suffering his first makekoshi at the Aki tournament. Also, Shingaku is listed as having a fusen loss on Day 2 and is not listed on the torikumi for Day 4.

Rikishi are banned from driving cars so one must assume severe punishment, possibly forced retirement, will be forthcoming. Osunaarashi was recently forced into retirement after his own car crash scandal, though that case did not involve alcohol. His retirement was likely due to his changing story after first claiming his wife had been driving.

Wakaichiro Loses Day 4 Match

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Up against former Sandanme 17 wrestler Fujisato, Wakaichiro found himself outmatched from the start. Fujisato was faster off the line, and immediately landed a brutal nodowa. To his credit, Wakaichiro fought back and made a valiant stand at the bales, pushing Fujisato back for a moment before his opponent rallied and forcefully tossed him into the front row.

For Wakaichiro fans, the good news is that his technique continues to improve, and his strength is noticeably better.  But with the loss, Wakaichiro goes to 1-1 for Kyushu.  Tachiai will bring you video as soon as it shows up on YouTube.

Kyushu Day 4 Preview

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On the back of Herouth’s excellent write up, everyone is waiting to see which path Kisenosato will take as the days of the Kyushu basho tick by. As of the moment this is being written, it looks like he will gamberize and stay to course, continuing to compete each day. Of the 3 losses that mark his inauspicious start for the Kyushu basho, 2 of them are the kind of matches that a Yokozuna should clearly win. This will be difficult, but not impossible, for him to live down.

Am I calling for him to retire? Not even close. Kisenosato’s story has been an epic push to the top, and his 10-5 return at Aki was quite frankly a shocking surprise. Now stuck between poor performance, his duty as the only Yokozuna, and the high probability that the pressure on him to retire, I fully think he will choose to go out guns blazing.

Even if he struggles and stays in the tournament, his stable-mate Ozeki Takayasu is clearly the man to catch. This basho will likely be a crazy mad-cap runaway beer truck, careening down a mountain road with no breaks. As much of a brutal trench battle that Aki was, this one may be a daily dose of, “Dear lord, what next?”. [We all love your mixed metaphors. –PinkMawashi]

What We Are Watching Day 4

Onosho vs Daishomaru – Coming off of his day 3 loss, Onosho is going to be facing the capable Daishomaru who is also bringing a 2-1 record. The difference, I think, is intensity. Onosho seems to have about 80% of his old intensity back, and for this far down the banzuke, that is fairly dominant.

Takanosho vs Endo – Endo is off to a poor start, but his first ever match against Takanosho may give him a chance to even up his score. Given the 1-2 record this far down the banzuke, we can assume that Endo is continuing to nurse injuries, most likely a continuation of the knee injury he suffered at Natsu this year.

Okinoumi vs Yutakayama – Yutakayama seems to be continuing his horrific slide that started with an injury at Aki. Thus far he has yet to rack a single win, and he faces off against seasoned veteran Okinoumi, whom he has never beaten. It’s a bit early to start wondering if the bright young Yutakayama will be returning to Juryo before he starts to improve, but for his fans that has to be a worry.

Kotoshogiku vs Sadanoumi – The Kyushu Bulldozer and former Ozeki Kotoshogiku continues to hold his own at Maegashira 8, and it’s really great to see the crowd cheer him on. Sadanoumi has yet to lose, and has his best start since he won the Juryo Yusho at Osaka this year.

Abi vs Takarafuji – It’s been surprising how many opponents have tried to thrust against Takarafuji’s stump of neck this basho. Given Abi’s tendencies towards that end, we may see if he can “Find Takarafuji’s neck with both hands”. Takarafuji has looked sluggish since Nagoya, and while still competent, he is not inspiring right now.

Takanoiwa vs Ikioi – Ikioi’s sumo is in shambles right now. He can’t seem to muster effective offense, and his ability to resist pressure from an opponent is near zero. Takanoiwa seems to be off his sumo as well, so this may be the kind of match where you can nip off to the yakitori stand or the toilet.

Shohozan vs Kagayaki – Kagayaki has said in prior interviews that he is aiming for the top, and sumo fans applaud that. His focus on mastery of sumo fundaments is undeniable, but the Maegashira 6 range may be as far as that can take him. He holds a solid career advantage over Shohozan, so this may be a chance to even up at 2-2, but he does not seem to be “dialed in” yet.

Asanoyama vs Yoshikaze – Asanoyama gets a good chance to pick up his first ever win against Yoshikaze, who, in spite of being in front of his local fans, seems to be at a much lower level of genki than we saw in Aki. Asanoyama on the other hand seems to be off to a solid start.

Takakeisho vs Shodai – Takakeisho is certainly dialed in to his sumo right now, and everyone is giving him plenty of time to set up and execute the attack waves until he wins. This is going to be fun to contrast with Shodai’s use of cartoon physics, which seems to be surprisingly potent. The good thing is that Shodai’s tachiai continues to improve.

Mitakeumi vs Myogiryu – Maybe I have become far too jaded, but I have to wonder if Mitakeumi is just going through the motions. He lost his Ozeki run last time, and now he’s kind of plodding around. Yes, he is 2-1 to start, but I would also say his sumo looks a step slower than at Aki. Myogiryu should savor his win over Kisenosato, because he may take a lot of pounding until he’s done being a San’yaku chew toy.

Hokutofuji vs Ichinojo – If Ichinojo does not snap-to, I can’t help but hope this is the basho he gives up that Sekiwake slot. He was phoning it in during Aki, and he’s been phoning it in again now. With any luck, Hokutofuji is well motivated after his kinboshi and gives the Boulder a roll down the side of the dohyo.

Nishikigi vs Takayasu – Nishikigi’s tachiais have looked so tentative and almost apologetic. He goes up against the man who blasts off the line each and every time. I feel a bit of remorse for the guy, and hope that he exits Kyushu with enough working parts to remain married.

Goeido vs Tamawashi – Speaking of phoning it in, Goeido had a good first day, then he has been a sloppy mess since. Tamawashi’s time in the kitchen gives him a lot of practice with a sloppy mess, and I am going to guess Goeido will be caught trying to improvise once more.

Kisenosato vs Tochiozan – Do we have to? I have to think at some point even Kisenosato will try to save face. Tochiozan is a well known foe. They have had 41 matches, of which Kisenosato has taken 26. That would be the healthy Kisenosato. The broken one who is struggling to generate forward pressure might be untested against Tochiozan, and frankly I hate to watch.