It’s the final weekend of the Haru Basho, and as odd as it has been to have nobody in the stands, I must say, as the world has gone progressively more crazy, shutting down everything, how glad I am to still have sumo to watch. The weekend promises to be sort of spectacular, with a possibly multi-way challenge for the cup on the final day, and a really disturbing number of Darwin matches. If you have not read lksumo’s write ups of the story lines or the yusho race, go check them out now.
I am going to be very interested to see what the ratings are (in Japan) for this basho. Much as in the US and the EU, all sports have been shut down as the world holds its breath and hopes they don’t start to cough. With nothing else to follow, I suspect that sumo’s numbers will be up dramatically, and just maybe that will help some people re-connect with Japan’s national sport. For fans who have been urging the NSK to throttle back on the intensity and duration of the jungyo regional tour, the jungyo following the Haru Basho has been called off or at least delayed until next year. Following senshuraku (and no senshuraku parties, I am told), the stables will return to Tokyo. For the top men of sumo, that’s 6 weeks of sequestered training, rather than a grueling tour of Japan. We don’t know what will happen for the May / Natsu basho, but given that Osaka seems to have worked, they may conduct the next tournament in the same way. If so, most of the world will be 10 weeks into societal disruption of some level, and it will be wonderful to see the ranks of the top division come together for a brutal 15 days of sumo, fresh from 6 weeks of non-stop training.
What We Are Watching Day 14
Kotonowaka vs Nishikigi – After opening strong, Kotonowaka has lost his last 4, and just can’t seem to cross the kachi-koshi line. He had better win today, or it’s Darwin time for him. He won the only prior match with already make-koshi Nishikigi.
Ishiura vs Meisei – What a position. If Meisei loses today, it’s make-koshi time, and likely a trip on the Juryo demotion barge. If he wins, it’s into the hell of a day 15 Darwin match. He holds a 3-1 career lead over Ishiura.
Shimanoumi vs Ikioi – The converse for this match—if Shimanoumi wins, he reaches the safety of kachi-koshi, and if he loses, it’s Darwin for him as well. Though he won the only prior match with Ikioi, the Osaka native is looking fairly genki, so hold on tight, this one could get rough.
Chiyotairyu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh and the brutality continues! Winner of today’s match is kachi-koshi, loser goes into the Darwin pool for day 15. Now Kotoshogiku holds a 16-2 advantage over Chiyotairyu, and he seems to have found some magic knee grease to keep what’s left of his patellas moving. Chiyotairyu has about 3 seconds at the tachiai to take care of business, and after that I am sure the Kyushu Bulldozer will lower the blade.
Chiyomaru vs Terutsuyoshi – Can you sense a theme here? Winner: kachi-koshi, Loser: DARWIN! As a bonus it’s the spherical Chiyomaru vs the Isegahama mobile attack platform, Terutsuyoshi. Whose sumo will reign supreme? (Oh, sorry – this is not kitchen stadium…)
Azumaryu vs Tochiozan – They had to slide the battle of the damned in here somewhere, so let’s take a look at a couple of sad cases of violent, explosive demotion. Tochiozan could very well end up being the skipper of the Juryo barge. And I don’t see how he can prevent Azumaryu throwing him overboard to try to save his own Maegashira 16 self. [Note: this is Azumaryu’s 7th basho ranked in the top division. He sat out one, and finished make-koshi in each of the other 6, including the current one. Twice, he dodged demotion with a 7-8 record, most recently in January. -lksumo]
Shohozan vs Sadanoumi – It’s another game of “Blow the man down” as fellow grizzled veteran Shohozan takes on water. He holds a 10-4 career advantage over Sadanoumi and his speed sumo. But right now Shohozan is lacking quite a bit, probably due to injuries, and I worry he is gone from the top division after the next tournament.
Daiamami vs Tamawashi – In still more demotion follies, it’s Daiamami on the bubble for Juryo in this match, as already make-koshi Tamawashi works to muster enough genki to send the Oitekaze man into exile in the junior division. This is a first-time match between the two, so who knows what kind of fight they will choose.
Enho vs Myogiryu – Have you had enough brutality yet? No, you have not! Because here comes another. Myogiryu is already in the double-digit-loss column, and he’s headed south in a big way. No, not onto the Juryo barge, but he’s going to be able to see Juryo from where he ends up. Enho will probably use his high-mobility sumo this time, and may end the tournament 7-8. I have to wonder if he has some injury.
Yutakayama vs Tochinoshin – A Yutakayama win today, and he’s kachi-koshi. A loss and he joins the ranks of the Darwin meat grinder. Tochinoshin is already make-koshi, and clearly in a bunch of pain along with having mobility and power problems. So I am going to guess that the “Big Unit” is going to get his first win over the former Ozeki today.
Takanosho vs Mitakeumi – Yes! It’s the first of our big matches! Both are 10-3, both are fighting very well, and only one of them can exit with their 11th win. If its Mitakeumi, the Ozeki talk may start up again. He certainly has shown better sumo than injured Takakeisho, and sumo really needs like 3 more Ozeki. But then there is Takanosho. This guy really has over-performed this March, and I hope it’s the shape of things to come.
Okinoumi vs Kiribayama – And yet again – Winner is kachi-koshi, loser joins the Darwin crew for day 15. It’s going to be a blood bath of epic proportions Sunday, yes indeed. This is a first-time match, so some guesswork will be required by both rikishi as far as tactics to use. I expect Okinoumi to dive inside and try to get his favorite grip, and Kiribayama to try and stay mobile.
Kaisei vs Tokushoryu – Will kachi-koshi Kaisei take pity on the Hatsu yusho winner? I am not suggesting match fixing, but Tokushoryu is already at double digit losses, and these two have some history together (9-3 advantage Kaisei).
Daieisho vs Ryuden – Daieisho needs a win to avoid joining the Darwin crew on day 15. He’s up against make-koshi Ryuden, who has lost 5 out of the last 6 matches. Ouch!
Hokutofuji vs Kagayaki – Hokutofuji, who is also suspected of nursing some form of injury, is already at double-digit losses, and will be trebuchet’d down the banzuke with a resounding, fleshy thud. But if he drops into the double-digits of Maegashira land, and can recover his health, he is going to be an absolute terror in the next tournament. If Kagayaki wins – a nice kachi-koshi for March. If he loses to Cap’n Stompy – that’s right, MOAR DARWIN!
Abi vs Endo – Abi beat the stuffing out of Shodai on day 13, only to find that he was mostly made of sawdust and burlap moments before the golem of Shodai hurled him down. That would be enough to shake any man to his soul, but he’s going to try to give Endo the business today. Yeah, Endo has a one track mind of that right hand frontal mawashi grip. But if Abi can breath some life into the embers of his sumo, its… MOAR DARWIN FOR ENDO! Abi holds a 7-2 career advantage.
Takarafuji vs Shodai – Takarafuji is already kachi-koshi, and he’s really done a solid job of earning it this tournament. But how far does he want to run up the score? At Maegashira 7, he’s already a candidate for the joi-jin. If he beats Shodai, he’s going to be in the thick of it next time. If Shodai wins today, he’s going home with a well deserved 8th win, and a retention of his Sekiwake rank. If not, well… its… DARWIN TIME!
Takakeisho vs Onosho – Readers know I have been looking forward to this match for over a year. Yes, I had to wait to the penultimate day to get my tadpole battle Royale, but here it is. I just wish that Takakeisho were in better condition. They are tied 2-2 across their career, but I am going to guess that Takakeisho takes Onosho apart, which means the Ozeki gets to play with the Darwin troopers. A loss and he is kadoban.
Hakuho vs Aoiyama – A word to Big Dan Aoiyama. Fire up the V-Twin and open the throttle. Yes, the boss is probably going to put you on the clay, but ride this one out hard and fast. Give him everything in your powerful, moving forward style. It’s what the fans want to see, and you just might get the job done.
Asanoyama vs Kakuryu – High-stakes match. A win here and I am going to guess that Asanoyama becomes worthy of consideration for Ozeki. Even though the discussed number is 12 (and it should be), the NSK may look at the banzuke and decide they need another Ozeki, stat. He has beaten Kakuryu before, so it’s possible. But Kakuryu of Haru 2020 is a focused, forceful Yokozuna who has ample skill and power to deal with this upstart from Toyama.