Mock Natsu Day 1 Highlights

The first day of the mock Natsu basho is in the record books. Both Ozeki start the tournament with a loss, and for Takakeisho, he can ill afford to lose some of these easy opening matches. As a kadoban Ozeki, he needs to win 8 in this tournament to hold onto his rank. In the lead up to the basho, the rikishi have not really been allowed full contact (or any contact) in training until 1 week before the start of the tournament. As a result, I am fairly sure quite a few of the competitors are far short of the necessary condition to fight.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki defeats Terunofuji (Oshidashi) – Everyone’s hopes are high around the former Ozeki, but today he seemed to struggle with mobility as Kotoyuki showed zero ring rust, and seems to be back in his genki form which saw him kachi-koshi at Maegashira 4 last November. He kept Terunofuji turning to face his blistering slaps, and the former Ozeki found himself out of the ring. The dismount looked a bit rough, but seemed ok.

Nishikigi defeats Kotoeko (Oshidashi) – Kotoeko is an odd hot / cold streak rikishi, and it’s clear that he has a lot of ring rust to start Natsu. He went chest to chest with Nishikigi, who attempted his double arm bar hold, but Kotoeko was able to escape, but a solid shove from Nishikigi as Kotoeko broke contact saw the Sadogatake step across the bales for a loss on opening day.

Chiyomaru defeats Kotoshoho (Tsukiotoshi) – Welcome to the top division, Kotoshoho! As a welcome gift, nearly 200 kg of curry chugging Chiyomaru. I think Kotoshoho was surprised by how quickly Chiyomaru came off the shikiri-sen, pushed inside and unleashed a relentless torrent of thrusts center-mass. Clearly overwhelmed, Kotoshoho went down in a heap. At Maegashira 15, a genki Chiyomaru could really clean up this May.

Kotoshogiku defeats Wakatakakage (Yoritaoshi) – Wakatakakage’s first match against the Kyushu bulldozer was a lesson in what not to do. He went for an outside grip at the tachiai, and Kotoshogiku had morozashi at the second step. Finding himself locked in a burly embrace, the hug-n-chug power assault was relentless, and Wakatakakage went down hard just shy of the tawara. For an old guy on the fade-out part of his career, it’s great to watch Kotoshogiku play his greatest hits.

Takayasu defeats Kotonowaka (Oshidashi) – What busted elbow? A thousand thanks, Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan! I think Kotonowaka was not sure what to expect, given how fragile Takayasu has been since Tamawashi’s arm breaker kotenage last July. But it was a shoulder blast, then relentless forward drive against the much smaller Kotonowaka. A good escape move from Kotonowaka after Takayasu’s initial drive, but the former Ozeki lunged back into the fight and took the highest ranking Sadogatake rikishi out. Dare we hope Takayasu is genki?

Sadanoumi defeats Shohozan (Yorikiri) – Shohozan went for a big hit at the tachiai and missed, and Sadanoumi’s speed had Shohozan pinned to Sadanoumi’s chest, and completely off balance a heartbeat later. With a strong push forward, Shohozan was back and out. I worry that Shohozan, who is now 36(!) is starting to fade.

Shimanoumi defeats Tochinoshin (Oshidashi) – It’s painful to watch Tochinoshin struggle in matches like this, but unless some miracle brings his knee back from the happy hunting grounds, this is probably the best Tochinoshin can do. The limited training regimen prior to Natsu has clearly dampened whatever fighting edge he has left.

Kaisei defeats Myogiryu (Oshidashi) – Myogiryu took the fight to the big Brazilian, and manhandled him to the bales before loading a throw. But there’s just so much Kaisei to move that even the best placed pivot is a risk. Both men collapsed into the throw, and the gumbai went to Myogiryu. Replays show Myogiryu touching down first, and the gyoji ended up revised, giving Kaisei an opening day win.

Tamawashi defeats Ikioi (Kotenage) – Both of the rikishi have more injuries than is reasonable, but they mount the dohyo with grim determination and fighting sprit. But you have to wonder when Tamawashi is going to stop using that Kotenage. Ikioi took it today, and it seems to have been bothering him following the match.

Ishiura defeats Chiyotairyu (Tsukiotoshi) – As most fans know, I am not usually in favor of a henka, but today’s flying leap was a graceful work of sumo art, and thunder god Chiyotairyu went blasting forward at the tachiai, sealing his doom. Ok Ishiura, don’t make a habit out of that.

Tokushoryu defeats Terutsuyoshi (Okuridashi) – Am I too sentimental? Maybe. Terutsuyoshi got the better of the opening move, and took inside position at the tachiai. But as he drove forward, Tokushoryu set up his side step at the tawara that took him to the yusho this January. But points to Terutsuyoshi who read it well enough to stay on his feet and in the ring. But he was turned around to the point where a firm shove from behind by Tokushoryu sent him into the timekeeper’s lap.

Ryuden defeats Enho (Kotenage) – The first thing of note, Ryuden mounted the dohyo with un-stiffened sagari. Rather than some manner of sumo faux-pas, I have it on reasonable authority that those are / were Shobushi sagari! Enho’s opening gambit found it’s mark with a frontal grip on Ryuden’s mawashi, but in a deft move he was able to circle against Enho’s pivot, and was rewarded with a grip across Enho’s upper arm. Ryuden dropped his inside hip and launched Enho to the clay. Nice move from Ryuden today.

Abi defeats Hokutofuji (Hikiotoshi) – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai had zero chance today as Abi had his hands at Hokutofuji’s neck in the first step. Finding himself trapped, he pushed forward to find Abi stepping to the side, sending Hokutofuji to the clay. Messy fight for Hokutofuji.

Kagayaki defeats Aoiyama (Hikiotoshi)- A clean sweep for the Takadagawa rikishi, Big Dan Aoiyama opened strong, but Kagayaki was able to keep his feet and keep low. I love watching how heavy his feet are in this match, just damn impeccable footwork again from Kagayaki. As can happen with Aoiyama, Kagayaki caught him to far forward and Kagayaki helped him to the clay.

Daieisho defeats Kiribayama (Tsukuinage) – Daieisho got inside at the tachiai, but could not really dominate Kiribayama in the opening moments of the fight. The two locked up in the center of the ring for a few moments before Daieisho loaded a throw and unleashed a brutal Tsukuinage. He put so much energy into the twist that he went down with Kiribayama. It was close enough that the Shimpan wanted to review it, but the gyoji’s verdict was upheld, giving Daieisho an opening day win.

Mitakeumi defeats Takarafuji (Uwatenage) – I don’t know, but I was a bit surprised to see Mitakeumi look, well, hard. He’s still a giant bulbous tadpole, but he seems to have a bit of fire in his enormous belly right now. Takarafuji worked to stay mobile, and kept Mitakeumi moving until the moment that Mitakeumi found a handful of mawashi and unlaced an unexpected Uwatenage, tossing Takarafuji to the clay.

Shodai defeats Onosho (Yorikiri) – I love Onosho, but what the hell – you had to know that if you went chest to chest with Shodai he was going to own you. I am happy that Onosho was willing to give it a try, but it was doomed from the start.

Takanosho defeats Asanoyama (Hikiotoshi) – Ugly way to start your first basho as an Ozeki, and we once again get to see the power and versatility of Takanosho. Asanoyama takes Takanosho to his chest, and instantly goes for that classic sumo stance. But Takanosho deflects his forward power, turning him and pulling him forward by the arm. A surprisingly fast take down of the shin-Ozeki.

Yutakayama defeats Takakeisho (Tsukidashi) – Yutakayama found himself in the driver’s seat against Takakeisho today, who is not looking promising to defend his rank by making it to 8. Yutakayama got inside early, and kept up the pressure. Takakeisho was not able to set up much offense, but was able to stay on his feet and stay inbounds. A rescue move as Yutakayama lunged to finish the Ozeki appeared to work, but a Shimpan review showed that Takakeisho’s heal hit the janome before Yutakayama stepped out. Both Ozeki lose their opening day matches.

Kakuryu defeats Endo (Hatakikomi) – Endo goes for the frontal grip at the tachiai and immediately gets slapped down by the Yokozuna. Quick, brutal and effective.

Hakuho defeats Okinoumi (Yorikiri) – I was expecting an uwatenage, Okinoumi was expecting an uwatenage, I think even people who know nothing about sumo were expecting The Boss to give Okinoumi one of his famous flying lessons. Instead Hakuho kept it simple and scooted Okinoumi across the bales.

Chiyomaru Tests Negative For Corona Virus

Since the weekend, the sumo world has been waiting to read the results of a test for COVID-19 from none other than fan favorite, Chiyomaru. Over the weekend, the Kokonoe sekitori developed a fever, that actually went as high as 40°C (104°F). He was initially tested for influenza, which returned negative. Following that test, he was given a PCR test for COVID-19, which Tachiai has learned was negative.

Had he tested positive, the basho would have ended day 10. But thanks to Chiyomaru, and the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, the basho continues!

Aki Day 6 Highlights

It was a tumultuous day on the clay at the Kokugikan, which left us with a sole undefeated leader – journeyman veteran Okinoumi. The favored rikishi in multiple matches went out, went down, and handed the white star to the other guy. How bad was it? You will know once you watch the video feed. It was the kind of day that makes sumo fans frustrated. There were multiple “non-kimarite” finishes, and the crowning achievement was Yokozuna Kakuryu’s second kinboshi in 2 days. I am going to say the lone surviving Yokozuna may be hurt now, and we may be headed to a “nokazuna” tournament shortly.

Highlight Matches

Takanosho defeats Yutakayama – Juryo visitor and Juryo yusho co-leader puts the doom on Yutakayama with an overwhelming thrusting attack. This is Yutakayama’s forte, but Takanosho just attacks with no quarter.

Ishiura defeats Tochiozan – Ishiura seems to have found a nice “groove”, which looks similar to Enho’s, but is more maneuver / evade based. It’s working well, and today it pushed grizzled veteran Tochiozan back down to 3-3.

Takagenji defeats Toyonoshima – I am happy to see Takagenji get it together enough to win another one. Folks love Toyonoshima, but I am starting to worry he may have reached the end of his run in the top division. Takagenji went left hand inside, and was able to resist Toyonoshima’s considerable forward pressure.

Nishikigi defeats Azumaryu – Nishikigi once again employs that double-arm bar hold that takes his opponents upper body out of the fight. Most rikishi (like Azumaryu) immediately shrug hard to try and break their arms free. It also raises their center of gravity and gives Nishikigi the win.

Tsurugisho defeats Shohozan – Tsurugisho kept trying to pull, but eventually decided to just face Shohozan, who looked uncharacteristically disrupted today.

Onosho defeats Daishoho – Onosho continues to look rough, but he is piecing together enough wins to keep true on a kachi-koshi trajectory. Hapless Daishoho has yet to win a single match.

Enho defeats Kagayaki – I give a lot of credit to Kagayaki, who seems to have tuned his attack to Enho. He shifts his thrusting about 12 cm lower, and manages to put a lot of pressure on the fire-pixie. But Enho calibrates and adjusts rapidly, breaking contact and coming back lower still. He repeats this 2 more times, each time grabbing for a leg, and Kagayaki stops trying to attack and starts trying to get away. Now off balance, Enho picks him off with no trouble. Wow.

Terutsuyoshi defeats Sadanoumi – Terutsuyoshi has had a rough start, but he was on his sumo today. He found Sadanoumi’s unprotected belly at the tachiai, and kept thrusting.

Meisei defeats Kotoyuki – After a strong start, Kotoyuki has gone back to being a bit silly. Granted he was against Meisei, who is fighting well, but any time I see a post-bout jogging tour of the zabuton section, I have to wonder.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoshogiku – Kotoshogiku sets up the hug-n-chug straight out of the tachiai, but Takarafuji know Kotoshogiku’s horizontal hold is poor, and twists at the tawara to send the Kyushu Bulldozer over the edge in a heap.

Okinoumi defeats Shimanoumi – Really straightforward match that gave Okinoumi his 6th consecutive win, and by the end of the day, sole position atop the leaderboard. Shimanoumi got a left hand inside position at the tachiai, but Okinoumi had control of this match from the start.

Myogiryu defeats Chiyotairyu – I have not seen the wall-buster, canon-ball tachiai from Chiyotairyu yet this basho, and as a result he is 1-5. His balance is always poor, and with a lack of forward energy, its easy for Myogiryu bring him down.

Kotoeko defeats Ryuden – It’s time for the first WTF match! We have Kotoeko fighting well, and a moment of Ryuden’s hand on Kotoeko’s mage, but hey, they keep fighting. Kotoeko gets morozashi, but Ryuden man-handles the smaller Kotoeko out. Everyone gathers to conclude with bow, but Kotoekgo gets the envelopes? Yeah, seems Ryuden put a toe out. Kimarite is listed as isamiashi, which is ancient Yayoi for “Stink Foot”.

Tomokaze defeats Shodai – By the end of this match, fans might conclude that the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan was really hitting the cat nip. Again we see Tomokaze bring the weak sumo with “all pulls all the time”, but he manages to get Shodai in flight before he can try any of his cartoon sumo. But you have Tomokaze taking a good solid wrench during the final pull on Shodai’s mage as well. So we get a monoii, but its gumbai-dori. I give up, these guys should have tried again as this bout was a slop fest.

Abi defeats Aoiyama – Big Dan Aoiyama continues to struggle, and today its against Abi. Aoiyama is soft at the tachiai, and Abi more or less toys with him for a second before stepping aside and letting the Aoiyama sail past. Excuse me, sir? A bit more sumo please.

Mitakeumi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji’s handshake tachiai once again fails to find its mark, and leaves his center-mass wide open for Mitakeumi to attack. Attack he does, and Hokutofuji finds his narrow window for any offense quickly taken away, and a heartbeat later he is over the tawara.

Endo defeats Takakeisho – Endo had the upper hand on this one, as he closed in on Takakeisho and went to work while Takakeisho seemed to try a desperate pull down. But the important element of this match is in fact the kimarite: tsukihiza. As Endo was working to set up a throw, Takakeisho’s knee (the bad one) collapsed out from under him. Maybe he stepped on the gyoji’s sandal? Any way you slice it, more slop.

Asanoyama defeats Goeido – But the Great Sumo Cat was not done, oh no indeed. Asanoyama shows us his Yusho performance was a prelude to the future of sumo, as he grapples Goeido, shuts down his offense and extends his career record over the Ozeki to 3-1. As the match raged, the Gyoji took a dive over the East side, with the Tate Gyoji desperately rising to take over the match but slipping and falling down himself. Goeido looks to have Asanoyama pinned to the edge but in fact Asanoyama has Goeido locked for a throw. Ignore the gyoji antics and watch some first class yotsu-zumo from these two today.

Tamawashi defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin’s hurt, and is getting no chance to set up his lift-and-shift sumo any more. With Tamawashi you are in for an oshi-battle, and at first it looks like Tochinoshin had secured his much needed 3rd win. But once again the Great Sumo Cat, now bombed out of his mind on sumo and cat nip, summons the monoii, who identify that Tochinoshin likewise has a case of “stink foot” and awards the match to Tamawashi. Dead body? Stink foot? Corn clog in port 7? This match has it all.

Daieisho defeats Kakuryu – Anyone who has cats knows, they can be jerks. When mine gets in a mood, he will start knocking things off of shelves just to watch them break. I am going to assume this was the general disposition of that mystical kami I call “The Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan” today. Kakuryu had control over this match, until a poorly considered attempt to pull left his chest open, and Daieisho attacked with precision and vigor. This is 2 kinboshi dropped by Kakuryu in 2 days. He has in the past gotten mentally off of his sumo when he starts to lose, so lets see if he can get it back under control.

Aki Day 1 Highlights

Welcome all to the start of the fall tournament. The first few days of any tournament will typically feature a few shaky starts by some rikishi, as they work to get into tournament form. Some sumo fans refer to this as “ring rust”, and it can take a few days before some rikishi can shake off its effects.

The Freshmen (Asanoyama, Yutakayama, Abi, Hokutofuji) really had an excellent day today, and I am happy with the future of sumo featuring them in years to come. Sadly the same cannot be said about the Tadpoles, who struggled quite a bit today. But one should never count out the tadpoles…

Day 1 featured some solid sumo action, and those of you who were watching NHK World in the middle of the (USA) night time were treated to some solid matches. Let’s get started.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Takagenji – Takagenji comes out of the tachiai strong, but I was surprised that Chiyomaru did a much better job than normal keeping his weight centered over the arches of his feet, and used that stability to overpower Takagenji’s vigorous attack. The result was a sort of half throw / half tsukiotoshi that was uncharacteristically agile for Chiyomaru.

Yutakayama defeats Tochiozan – Yutakayama continues to battle his way back from injury, and a trip to Juryo, with some solid sumo today. Yutakayama took an inside route at the tachiai, but nearly all of this match was the two of them fighting for grip, while pushing as hard to the front as they could manage. Tochiozan had better footwork, but Yutakayama had more strength. Welcome back Yutakayama, the future has been waiting.

Azumaryu defeats Ishiura – Azumaryu deftly deploys a uwatehineri while the two grappled for position at the center of the dohyo.

Tsurugisho defeats Toyonoshima – Tsurugisho’s early try for a pull down nearly cost him the match, but he was able to rally well as Toyonoshima tried the same thing and blew his early advantage.

Nishikigi defeats Kagayaki – Neither man gets a solid tachiai. But Kagayaki inexplicably focuses on some kind of face-hold, leaving Nishikigi a solid path to center-mass. Kagayaki realizes that he’s thrown away an opening, but he found Nishikigi effectively able to turn his hips and deflect Kagayaki’s forward pressure.

Shohozan defeats Daishoho – Not the typical Shohozan mobility-based sumo, as Daishoho traps him in a double arm-bar. Shohozan gets stalemated for a while, but keeps raising Daishoho and backing him up until he can finish him with shitatenage (it was 2 for 1 shitatenage day).

Enho defeats Onosho – Big news for me, Onosho has the red mawashi back. Yes, he lost this one to Enho, who uncorked some really gob-smack amazing sumo today, but that red mawashi was (at least at one point) home to a potent kami that powered Onosho’s early rise. To my eye, Onosho had this one boxed up and ready to ship before Enho produced some hard to explain, Ura level space-time distortion and threw Onosho to the clay.

Meisei defeats Sadanoumi – With that injured right knee, Sadanoumi lacks a good amount of his expected maneuverability, and Meisei expertly stays in motion until he can get Sadanoumi off balance and rolls him to the clay with a katasukashi. Nice kimarite!

Terutsuyoshi defeats Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki has yet to take a single match from Terutsuyoshi, and we get a showcase of how that works today. Terutsuyoshi used some really fantastic ring sense to continue to give ground, forcing Kotoyuki to stay in motion and keep turning. When you are about as wide as you are tall (as Kotoyuki is), it’s a short amount of time before you find yourself off balance and in the wrong end of town. Terutsuyoshi chose his moment, and made it work. Great sumo from Terutsuyoshi today.

Takarafuji defeats Kotoeko – As always, journeyman sumo from Takarafuji, who absorbs everything Kotoeko can dish out. Takarafuji as Maegashira 8? Middle of the pack? This is the right spot for Takarafuji, and I am hoping he has a good basho this September.

Okinoumi defeats Kotoshogiku – The fun thing about Kotoshogiku these days is that he is frequently on fire the first week, before the strain on his injuries slows him down. Hugely energetic, high attack value sumo from him today, including an excellent throw at the end. Except that he stepped out quite some time before it got to that point, and the most exciting part of the match (Okinoumi was fighting well, too) was all for naught.

Myogiryu defeats Shimanoumi – When you watch this one, pay close attention to Myogiryu’s foot placement and stance. This is some class-A attention to detail in the middle of a match trying to constrain and contain a raging youngster who had the edge in speed and agility. Shimanoumi gets the advantage twice, but that fantastic defensive setup that Myogiryu had today carried the match.

Ryuden defeats Chiyotairyu – If Ryuden is genki, Maegashira 5 might be a bit low on the banzuke for him. He gets a left hand on Chiyotairyu’s mawashi, which puts him in the driver’s seat and takes away Chiyotairyu’s primary offensive technique. I was surprised that Chiyotairyu let him grab him and did not stay mobile.

Tamawashi defeats Shodai – Shodai looked a mess today, but if you want to see why Shodai can actually keep close to a winning record most basho, look at his multiple well-executed escapes from Tamawashi’s blistering attacks. If we could get that man a tachiai graft from ex-Kisenosato…

Tomokaze defeats Abi – Abi launches his traditional Abi-zumo opening, and Tomokaze is having none of it. Attempting a hatakikomi against Abi is a dangerous move, but Tomokaze makes it work. This guy needs to stay un-injured and fighting strong.

Takakeisho defeats Daieisho – I am not quite sure how Takakeisho recovered from that near-face-plant, but he threw everything including the kitchen sink at Daieisho, who was likewise dialed up to 11. The wave-action system does not seem to be quite up to battle-spec just yet, and I am going to assume that our tadpole has a lot of ring rust to overcome. But he’s on his march to 10, and sumo fans around the world are going to be riveted to his journey this September.

Asanoyama defeats Mitakeumi – This whole match came down to Asanoyama getting a shallow left hand grip at the tachiai, and never letting go. Mitakeumi then chose to rotate left and attempt a hatakikomi, and in the move to pull down Asanoyama, he more or less conceded the match. Asanoyama was too latched on to Mitakeumi to go down.

Ichinojo defeats Tochinoshin – I had a tough time watching both the match and the replays. It’s 100% clear now, from direct observation, that it’s never a good idea to make your crippled strong-man fight a giant. Tochinoshin does not look well enough to compete, and that knee is more or less done for. Grim.

Goeido defeats Aoiyama – Whatever injuries Goeido is nursing right now, he has contained. His blistering tachiai and all out center-mass attack against Aoiyama left the man-mountain nowhere to go. I recall with hopeful anticipation that for some reason Aki is always the time when we see Goeido shine.

Hokutofuji defeats Hakuho – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, what have you done? This match had all of Hokutofuji’s best elements stitched together in a lightning fast, seat of the pants battle. Hakuho loves to deliver a face slap at the tachiai, and many times it effectively disrupts an opponents attack. Today if left him wide open for Hokutofuji’s brutal handshake tachiai. Oh, how long have I been waiting to see someone make Hakuho pay for that move. Today was payday on that desire. With the nodowa in place, it forced Hakuho to waste precious time clearing it out before he could start an attack, and just like that Hokutofuji is calling the terms of the match. Hokutofuji lands a mawashi grip, and I think the speed and strength of that move surprised the Yokozuna. Hakuho gives ground and attempts to load a throw, but with absolute perfect timing, Hokutofuji catches the Yokozuna shifting his weight and lunges ahead. That’s all that it took, and The Boss gives up a well earned kinboshi. I am going to be looping through this match all day. Just fantastic. Hokutofuji doesn’t need to win another match this basho to be proud of his efforts.

Kakuryu defeats Endo – Endo is a master technician, and I am sure he had a solid, well constructed attack plan against the Nagoya yusho winner. None of that mattered as Kakuryu did not give him a chance to unpack any of it. A little dodgy winning with a hatakikomi, but he needed to shut Endo down quickly before the man in gold could get started.