Hello dear readers, and welcome to the final basho of 2018 (also the final Kyushu basho of the Heisei era)! Where the Aki basho was a brutal pounding applied by the Yokozuna and Ozeki, this basho features two Yokozuna sidelined prior to day 1. Where the upper Maegashira bore the brunt of that pounding during Aki, Kyushu may be a bit more survivable for rikishi who have been ranked in the upper slots.
I must also apologize for the absence of news and commentary in the run up to the opening day. My personal and professional life kept me from writing, and as a result there were many interesting topics left undiscussed. With luck they will get raised on their own during the basho, and will make fine fodder for our excellent readership.
At the head of that list is the re-assignment of several top division rikishi from the now closed Takonohana-beya to Chiganoura. The chaos and distraction of this move may impact Takakeisho, Takanoiwa and other former Takanohana rikishi down the banzuke. Takakeisho turned in a solid 9-6 performance at Aki, and is back at his highest ever Komusubi 1e rank. Takanoiwa was kyujo for the fall jungyo tour, and may be in difficult shape.
What We Are Watching Day 1
Yago vs Chiyomaru – Due to Kaisei’s kyujo, the banzuke is unbalanced from day 1. As a result, Yago gets his chance to visit Makuuchi. With any luck NHK will show this match, as Yago is an impressive young man with a likely debut in Makuuchi in 2019. Chiyomaru managed to stay in Makuuchi through some excellent banzuke luck and ranking chaos as a result of the bloodbath that was Aki. This is only Yago’s tenth basho, seven of which he has been ranked in Juryo. He’s no small fellow, but with the enormous Chiyomaru, I am looking for a great deal of huffing and puffing before it’s all done.
Meisei vs Daishomaru – The first ever match between these two. With Meisei freshly back from his one basho return to Juryo, he’s probably the favourite, as he was looking quite genki during Aki while Daishomaru is looking to recover from an ugly 5-10 Aki basho record.
Chiyoshoma vs Takanosho – Both rikishi came away from Aki with 8-7 kachi-koshi, but it was clear that Chiyoshoma was still nursing injuries on the final day. He has beaten Takanosho twice in their three-match history, but I would give Takanosho the edge on day 1.
Onosho vs Endo – What are these two doing down here? Never mind, both are solid rikishi who have had problems this year. Onosho with a knee injury followed by surgery, and Endo undergoing more extensive repair on his undercarriage. Onosho has yet to beat Endo, and I would guess most of that is mental. Both are looking to bounce back from make-koshi in September.
Chiyonokuni vs Yutakayama – In today’s demolition derby, two powerful rikishi who could not buy a win at Aki. Yutakayama was kyujo for a few days, and Chiyonokuni seemed unable to finish most of his opponents. They are more or less equal (1-2) in their career matches, but I would give the edge to Yutakayama. I am assuming he has healed up, and needs to get back on his sumo. For Chiyonokuni, the inability to finish his opponents is all about how is mind is working.
Kotoshogiku vs Takarafuji – Veteran battle ahoy! As part of the Aki Takarafuji cheer squad over on the West side, I say the guy needs to turn his sumo around. Ex-Ozeki Kotoshogiku continues his slow fade into the sunset, but it’s still nice to see him come out on the dohyo and play bulldozer for a few seconds of high-intensity hug-n-chug. Kotoshogiku leads the career series 13-8.
Ikioi vs Shohozan – Another pair of fierce competitors who took a beating in September. Ikioi rocketed up the banzuke for Aki based on a well-executed over-performance in Nagoya, and is returning to the middle reaches with equal velocity. Shohozan found his street-brawler technique underperforming against the San’yaku, and is back to battling with the rest of the scrappers. Both men are fast, strong and at times brutal. This is likely a match that will feature some fierce pushing and slapping.
Abi vs Kagayaki – Probably the highlight match of the first half, sadly it will likely happen before the NHK live stream picks up. Rumor has it that Abi-zumo has picked up a few new moves, and we are eager to see them on display. Kagayaki never fights with flair, but rather uses fundamentals to win in fairly unsurprising matches. Can you say stylistic clash?
Takanoiwa vs Asanoyama – Time to see if Takanoiwa actually is hurt, as he faces off against perpetual optimist and steadily improving Maegashira Asanoyama. A healthy Takanoiwa should prevail, but there is that injury question again. This is their first ever match.
Chiyotairyu vs Yoshikaze – Chiyotairyu’s cannon-ball tachiai against Yoshikaze’s face and subsequent frantic sumo attacks. Chiyotairyu has about two seconds to get Yoshikaze contained or off balance before The Berserker unleashes doom.
Shodai vs Ryuden – I want to see Shodai employ that improved tachiai he showed us a couple of times in September. Ryuden has continued to improve, but many fans will be looking for some manner of “ugly matta” from this guy who seems prone to them. Shodai has an uncanny knack to survive these kinds of matches, at times looking out of control but always losing last.
Nishikigi vs Ichinojo – Welcome to the joi-jin, Nishikigi! Here, we have a nice boulder for you to play with. For Nishikigi’s sake, I hope Ichinojo is in some kind of Mongolian hibernation mode. [Seems likely. –PinkMawashi]
Mitakeumi vs Tochiozan – Tochiozan has gotten some hype this year that the 31 year old veteran might make one last push for higher rank. He clearly has solid technique, but has a difficult time consistantly putting together a string of winning tournaments. Mitakeumi needs to rebuild his Ozeki bid, and will be looking to expand his 6-1 career lead over Tochiozan day 1.
Tamawashi vs Tochinoshin – I am hoping Tochinoshin is healthy and ready to go. If he is back on top of his sumo, we should see him make short work of Tamawashi. Tamawashi, meanwhile, will try to stay mobile and keep the Ozeki away from a mawashi grip.
Myogiryu vs Takayasu – Some fans are in favor of a Takayasu yusho bid for Kyushu. He starts against veteran Myogiryu, who has an 11-4 career advantage over the Ozeki. It’s been some time since the two have squared off, and it’s going to be interesting to see if Myogiryu can pick up an early win against the Ozeki. They last fought in September of 2016 when Takayasu was Sekiwake 1e.
Goeido vs Hokutofuji – With two of the Yokozuna in dry-dock, Goeido has an excellent shot at his second yusho. Upstart Hokutofuji seems to have gotten his body healed, his sumo together and is pushing for higher rank. Hokutofuji is quite a bit slower than Goeido, who tends to have you defeated before you even know the match has started. This will likely be a good test for Hokutofuji, but I predict Goeido will expand his 3-1 career lead.
Kisenosato vs Takakeisho – The final match of the day is a replay of Aki day 2, when Takakeisho threw the kitchen sink at Kisenosato, and kept the Yokozuna quite busy. In the end Kisenosato was able to restrain, contain and eliminate the bowling ball with legs, after Takakeisho make the mistake of focusing his attacks primarily against Kisenosato’s injured left chest. Hopefully today he will focus his powerful thrusts center-mass, and unleash his “wave action tsuppari” with maximum effect.