I want to start today with something we have not seen in 8 months, a Yokozuna dohyo-iri.
Savor that one folks, I fear we won’t have too many more of them, and it’s grand and wonderful to see this grand ritual return to sumo for the first time since July of 2020. Of course, I know that we won’t see Hakuho retire tomorrow, and there is the open question of Kakuryu. But both of the top ranked men in Sumo are edging closer to retirement, and it could be some time once they leave active competition before we see another rikishi gain the rope.
The current Ozeki and the Ozeki hopeful have their fans, and rightfully so. However I watch them, and I don’t see Asashoryu, or Harumafuji, or even Kisenosato. I see solid Ozeki. That means that one of them will need to make a step change to evolve to another higher form. This might take a while, if it should ever happen. While I can see a post Hakuho era with a lot of strong Ozeki sumo, getting one of the current bunch to have back to back yusho may be a tall order just now.
What a glorious first day of sumo.
Daiamami defeats Tokushoryu – Interesting clash of opening gambits at the tachiai. Tokushoryu went for Daiamami’s face, and Daiamami kept his hands lower. This resulted in Tokushoryu getting a good combo in on Daiamami’s face, but when that ended, Daiamami was in control. With his power focused center-mass, Daiamami owned the rest of this match. An attempt at a last ditch defense at the tawara by Tokushoryu ended when his right foot skidded onto the janome. I really liked Daiamami’s focus and discipline today.
Hidenoumi defeats Kaisei – After coming back from COVID-Kyujo in January, it would seem that Kaisei has a fair amount of ring rust. Hidenoumi struggled quite a bit to capitalize on Kaisei’s poor balance and even worse footwork. There is just so much giant Brazilian to try to move. A final stumble as Kaisei tried to set up a rescue throw at the edge sent him tumbling from the dohyo, and I have to hope he did not injure himself with that one.
Yutakayama defeats Tsurugisho – Was looked like a fairly straightforward chest-to-chest battle took a worrisome turn as Tsurugisho’s knee appeared to give out and he tumbled down the dohyo. I know I gasped when I saw this, and Yutakayama’s body language could be read from Dallas – “Oh damn!” But Tsurugisho managed to get up, and seemed well enough.
Kotoeko defeats Chiyoshoma – No henka from Chiyoshoma today, but there 14 days left for us to see the “Flying Mongolian”. Chiyoshoma looked to have tried a hit and shift, but ended off balance and vulnerable. Kotoeko read this perfectly, and with a right hand on Chiyoshoma’s face, applied a massive thrust that put into the salt box. Points to the Yobidashi who yanked the chikara-mizu bucket out of the way before Chiyoshoma ended up with a swirly as well.
Aoiyama defeats Terutsuyoshi – There are matches where I think Big-Dan Aoiyama is going through the motions. Then there is today, where this giant bag of muscle and mayonnaise can surprise you. He opened with a V-Twin thrusting attack, and when Terutsuyoshi circled left to set up his attack, Aoiyama used Terutsuyoshi’s body position to hurl him to the clay. Nice move.
Akiseyama defeats Kotoshoho – Akiseyama also really over-performed today. He took Kotoshoho to his chest, which I think Kotoshoho was not quite quite expecting. With a solid right hand inside grip, Akiseyama went for a yorikiri, but Kotoshoho found his footing and ramped up the forward pressure. Akiseyama deftly converted and took one measured step back, and Kotoshoho hit the clay.
Chiyotairyu defeats Ryuden – Chiyotairyu without sideburns is a bit unsettling, possibly to Ryuden as well. In the past we have discussed the possibility that some minor kami resides in them, so this basho he may be without that boost in power. Chiyotairyu kept the pressure on Ryuden’s face and shoulders from the tachiai, and Ryuden never really had a chance to set up much if any offense. But did Chiyotairyu steal Midorifuji’s katasukashi?
Midorifuji defeats Hoshoryu – It seems Midorifuji mounted the dohyo to find that his prize katasukashi was missing, and he needed to do something else. By all accounts, Hoshoryu was not paying attention today, as he launched. hard and fast into the tachiai expecting Midorifuji to try for a shoulder / under-arm hand placement. Instead the Isegahama power pixie had stepped to the side, and Hoshoryu got a face full of Kokugikan clay.
Chiyonokuni defeats Tobizaru – I had high hopes for this match, but a clumsy Tobizaru tachiai mostly made Chiyonokuni’s win a foregone conclusion. Better luck day 2!
Kagayaki defeats Kotonowaka – Yeah, I know I mentioned Kotonowaka as a candidate for a breakout basho in the podcast. Perhaps I have now doomed him? Goth mode Kagayaki, who may have been humming the chorus from “Bella Lugosi’s Dead”, kept his feet heavy and is hips low. In response, Kotonowaka had. Well, frankly, nothing.
Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – You can forgive Tochinoshin for thinking that he should start the match with the assumption that Ichinojo was going to use his brand of sumo. That is to be large, heaving and immobile (aka “The Boulder”). Instead, Ichinojo was on the move from the first step, and came in aggressive and strong. Once Tochinoshin was off balance and mostly relying on his damaged right knee, he was an easy mark for Ichinojo’s throw.
Okinoumi defeats Tamawashi – This match was unique, in that the outcome stumped the unflappable Konosuke, who had his eyes on the moment when both men stepped out, and came away with the expression of “hell if I know…” has he pointed both east and west with his gumbai, tossing it to the shipman and the replay crew. The replay was equally as baffling as you can see two high-skill vets undertake the most amazing series of footsteps each defying physics and human body mechanics to keep their feet inside the ring. At the end, it seems that the replay crew concurred and flipped a coin, giving the win to Okinoumi. On the NHK replay, I saw the fine sand from the janome fly about thanks to Okinoumi’s heel. But I am sure the replay crew had access to more cameras (in 4K!) than I do. Kimarite was listed as isamiashi, or a non-winning technique of “Inadvertent step out”.
Myogiryu defeats Endo – Well, better luck day 2 Endo. There was a solid clash at the tachiai, and Endo either bounced away off balance, or tried to hit and shift. Either way, Myogiryu was ready for it, delivering a fast win for his shonichi.
Shimanoumi defeats Kiribayama – Shimanoumi’s first every win over Kiribayama. He had his hands inside and lower at the tachiai, and it was straight into an armpit attack that disrupted whatever Kiribayama had planned. Kiribayama finally was able to break Shimanoumi’s attack, but by that point Kiribayama was too high. Shimanoumi dropped his hips, dropped his head, squared his shoulders and drove forward. Nothing Kiribayama tried could do any better than stalemate until Shimanoumi’s finishing drive took them both out.
Meisei defeats Takayasu – Takayasu had this won at least twice, but Meisei’s higher mobility shut down Takayasu’s attempts to drive him from the ring. Takayasu had really sharp foot placement today, its a shame that he let Meisei hook a leg in when Takayasu drove forward to finish the match. Nice recovery into a kakenage for Meisei.
Takanosho defeats Wakatakakage – It seems that these two watched the Okinoumi / Tamawashi, and declared “hold my beer”. I am not sure I have ever seen more elaborate efforts to keep your feet in while your opponent is off balance from two rikishi. Once again the result was “hell if I know”, but this time it was declared a torinaoshi, and they fought again. The second match – Takanosho kept his focus and power on center mass, and quickly drove Wakatakakage from the ring.
Terunofuji defeats Hokutofuji – My compliments to Hokutofuji for a well fought match. He used the handshake-tachiai into a right hand nodowa. With his left hand on Terunofuji’s chest, he dialed up the pressure and began to advance. The risk of this attack strategy is that the attacker’s body is wide open. Terunofuji found easy handholds and collapsed the nodowa by taking Hokutofuji to his chest. In response, Hokutofuji shifted to defense smoothly, dropping his hips and pressing forward with his shoulders. But Terunofuji’s left hand found a mawashi grip, and moments later the Kaiju’s powerful shitatenage sent Hokutofuji tumbling. Nine more to go.
Takakeisho defeats Onosho – I really like both of these rikishi, but Takakeisho looked strong and healthy today, and I was happy to see him in good form. Onosho made contact first, but his hands were just an couple of inches too high. Takakeisho had an open route to center mass, and his feet were in excellent position. Realzing he was 2 steps from defeat, Onosho tried to pull and twist against Takakeisho’s head. But with his balance centered, his hips low and his feet heavy and wide, the pull failed, giving Takakeisho his first of 8 wins to secure his Ozeki rank.
Asanoyama defeats Takarafuji – Asanoyama got his preferred stance and grip at the tachiai, and Takarafuji found himself face first in the clay one step later.
Mitakeumi defeats Shodai – I had high hopes for this match, and it did deliver. Shodai was high at the tachiai, and his feet were in poor position. While Shodai tried to sort out his body, Mitakeumi went for the chest and began his attack. Shodai quickly set up a left hand outside mawashi grip, shutting down Mitakeumi’s chances for a quick win. Mitakeumi broke Shodai’s grip, and re-took command and bodily threw Shodai over the edge of the dohyo before the Ozeki could unleash any of his trademark cartoon sumo.
Hakuho defeats Daieisho – After sitting out for several months, I am expecting a lot of ring rust on Hakuho. He looked a bit shaky in his first competition match since July, and he let Daieisho set up a throw in the face of Hakuho’s overwhelming forward advance. But The Boss made sure that Hatsu yusho winner Daieisho went out first, and picked up his first win for March.