Welcome to our Kyushu highlights, dear readers! Team Tachiai look at any basho as a series of three acts, each with its own character and goals. Act 1 – get started, remove the ring rust and see who is hot and who is not. Act 2 – Narrow the field and find out who has what it takes to compete for the yusho, and start sorting the survivors from the damned. Act 3 – Hopes get smashed, dreams get crushed and we hand someone the Emperor’s Cup.
Day 1 featured heaps of ring-rust, and it seems a lot of rikishi arrived at Kyushu in somewhat worn condition after the fall jungyo tour. In addition, many are still nursing injuries large and small from the fight-club that was Aki 2018. While day 1 is frequently rusty and a bit off the typical basho pace, there was some excellent sumo on display in the small and rather loud Kyushu arena.
Yago defeats Chiyomaru – As predicted, a lot of huffing and puffing, and it was clear that Chiyomaru lost stamina early. Getting that much mass in motion takes an enormous amount of energy, and it was clearly draining him. But a lot of credit goes to Yago who stood up to that much oshi and carried the match. Solid technique from an up and coming young man we are likely to see more of in 2019.
Onosho defeats Endo – They made a good fight out of it, and Endo put a lot of pressure into his attacks, but Onosho’s low center of gravity and impressive balance were the deciding factors. I would guess that at least for now, Onosho’s knees are good enough for some first class sumo. I will be interested to see how long into the basho his health carries him.
Okinoumi defeats Aoiyama – When the match evolved into a mawashi fight, it was clear that Aoiyama was in trouble. Okinoumi took charge and waltzed him over the tawara without too much drama. Aoiyama is still working to recover from injuries earlier in the year, and did not look ready to win.
Chiyonokuni defeats Yutakayama – A brutal tachiai that stood both men up, and Yutakayama quickly moved to get an inside position. Chiyonokuni’s lighting reflexes saved the match for him, as he took advantage of Yutakayama’s hold of his right arm and used Yutakayama’s grip to move him back. Yutakayama’s giant head was too tempting a target, and Chiyonokuni grabbed hold, hooked his right hand into his opponents mawashi, turning and pushing Yutakayama out. Excellent work from Chiyonokuni.
Sadanoumi defeats Daieisho – Notable in that the kimarite listed is the seldom seen okurihikiotoshi, but to my eyes it was more of a slippiotoshi.
Shohozan defeats Ikioi – After a Shohozan matta, the real fight was over in a moment, as Ikioi has his balance too far forward and Shohozan lets Ikioi’s inertia finish the job.
Kagayaki defeats Abi – The double-arm thrust at the tachiai was defeated through the master of low drama fundamentals. Kagayaki focuses on getting his hands on Abi’s elbows, and breaks the thrusting attack. Of course when this happens, Abi is quite far forward and not too difficult to route towards the nearest shimpan.
Asanoyama defeats Takanoiwa – A fine yotzu / mawashi battle from these two, and Asanoyama seems to be in the drivers seat. Asanoyama’s performance in this match is an example of why I think he has the potential for higher rank. He’s fast, decisive and controls the much more experienced Takanoiwa.
Yoshikaze defeats Chiyotairyu – Yoshikaze absorbed the cannon-ball tachiai and got inside of Chiyotairyu, who soon found himself on the receiving end of Yoshikaze’s blistering attacks. Chiyotairyu spent the rest of the match trying to get on an offensive footing, but always a half step behind local man Yoshikaze. A solid win against a heavier and more powerful opponent.
Shodai defeats Ryuden – Ryuden succeeds in exploiting Shodai’s weak tachiai, but gives up the morozashi (double inside grip) in the process. Shodai then calls the tune and forces Ryuden to dance. Shodai keeps his hips low, and his shoulders below Ryuden’s – really showing excellent form. Ryuden managed to rally, but it only served to put him off balance and set up Shodai’s win. Points to Ryuden for his tenacious grip on Shodai’s belt as he was receiving the shitatenage. Another local favorite racks up a win.
Ichinojo defeats Nishikigi – You have to admire Nishikigi, promoted higher and faster than he should be, he brings as much sumo power as he can muster against one of the largest men in sumo. Ichinojo lets Nishikigi push him around until his heels touch the bales, and rather than give up and go limp, Ichinojo defies his normal style and rallies. Impressively Nishikigi is able to halt Ichinojo’s advance for a time, but Ichinojo takes his time and overpowers his opponent for the win.
Tochiozan defeats Mitakeumi – The man who hopes to be Ozeki had his sumo thoroughly dismantled by the 31 year old veteran Tochiozan. Followers of Tochiozan have seen him absorb a nodowa neck attack well before, and he simply shrugs off Mitakeumi’s attempt to raise him up. Mitakeumi’s fans had hoped he would have re-grouped following Aki, but today’s match did not give them hope.
Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin knew he had made a mistake in the first second, as Tamawashi’s speed was too much for the Ozeki to overcome. Always looking to land his left hand on the mawashi, Tochinoshin’s plan was an invitation for Tamawashi to launch hard inside and apply his considerable pushing force center-mass against the Ozeki. The look of frustration on Tochinoshin’s face told the story as he absorbs a day 1 loss. Note to rikishi who want to follow the oshi-style: this match in slow motion is a fabulous example of the rewards of driving inside at all costs, and focusing on center-mass (rather than head or neck). There was no way to stop Tamawashi.
Takayasu defeats Myogiryu – Myogiryu had no means to stop Takayasu’s powerful, straight ahead sumo today. Myogiryu did manage to get inside at the tachiai, but by then they were chest to chest, and Takayasu’s considerable mass was pressing forward without resistance.
Goeido defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji clearly knew that Goeido was going to be fast, too fast off the line, and his tightly wound anticipation made him jump early for a matta, and likely blew his mental prep for this match. Credit to Hokutofuji, he gave the Ozeki a solid fight. If I had to guess, Goeido was not quite sure what to do with the guy after the matta, and he may have suspected that Hokutofuji was likely to try a henka. The oshi match was always going to favor Goeido, but Hokutofuji showed some solid technique, and won approval from the fans for his fighting spirit. This is an opponent Hokutofuji must learn to overcome if he aims for higher ranks.
Takakeisho defeats Kisenosato – One thing I love about Takakeisho, he is not intimidated by any opponent. He exudes an almost Hakuho level of confidence, and seems ready to take the fight to everyone. Kisenosato’s big mistake in this match was letting Takakeisho dictate the style of the match, and letting him set up the “Wave Action” attack. At that point, the Yokozuna was in trouble and he knew it. Stumped for what to do, Kisenosato tried to overcome Takakeisho’s attack on Takakeisho’s terms. A few waves later, the Yokozuna is too far forward and is slapped to the clay. Not a good match for Kisenosato, but textbook Takakeisho sumo.