Hatsu Day 9 Highlights

Some oddities today, with Tsurugisho once again trying to go “au natural” during his match, and Ura finally showing us the kind of finger twiddling spells he casts to win matches. Any guesses what his patronus would be?

The leader board took an absolute beating today, leaving Takakeisho in sole possession of the lead, with just Onosho and Kotoshoho one win behind. With his kachi-koshi in place, it’s time to see if he can run up the score and take home the hardware for the first time in about 2 years. There are rumors of a rope for him if he can take the cup, so I think it’s easy to predict he is going to shoot for 14-1 at this point. While I love Onosho’s sumo, I don’t see him keeping pace with Takakeisho if the Grand Tadpole is in good fighting form for all of week 2.

In Juryo, former Ozeki Asanoyama is 9-0, and it’s time to start wondering if he will be back in the top division for Osaka. That would almost be too much to ask of the Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, but I do hope it can come to pass.

Highlight Matches

Chiyomaru defeats Mitoryu – Chiyomaru avoids make-koshi, and finally finds his second win today. He was able to disrupt Mitoryu early, and kept Mitoryu from setting his feet or setting up any kind of counter attack. Chiyomaru now 2-7.

Tsurugisho defeats Atamifuji – Second day in a row, Tsurugisho tempts fate by mounting the dohyo with a terribly loose mawashi, then initiating a yotsu-match. Look, if you have a strong desire for public exhibition of your naked form, please don’t do it on a world wide broadcast. Someone needs to cinch that guy up before they let him out of the dressing room. Atamifuji seems to share this view, and wastes precious focus trying to change his left hand grip to prevent an imminent wardrobe malfunction, but it costs him the match. Both end the day 3-6.

Kagayaki defeats Azumaryu – That was a better match from Kagayaki than we have seen in a few days. He had a good tachiai, got his hands inside early and put all of his force center-mass. The effect was immediate at Azumaryu was unable to keep his stance, and was quickly moved back and out. Kagayaki now 5-4.

Chiyoshoma defeats Takarafuji – Chiyoshoma employing a henka-like leaping move at the tachiai? Is anyone surprised? Sir, it gets old. But there you have it. He was able to get the oshidashi win against Takarafuji, and is now 3-6.

Hiradoumi defeats Kotoshoho – Kotoshoho looked to be in control in the opening moments of this match, with his strong right hand inside grip. He looked to set up a throw at the exact moment Hiradoumi pivoted to his left, putting him terribly off balance and on one foot. Hiradoumi immediately took advantage and put him on the clay. Excellent reaction from Hiradoumi, and the win knocks Kotoshoho out of the lead. Hiradoumi now 6-3.

Ichiyamamoto defeats Aoiyama – A much anticipated battle of the long arm thrusters went to Ichiyamamoto, as he was able to break Aoiyama’s balance before he could fire up the V-Twin and take control. My compliments to Ichiyamamoto for taking out a tough opponent today, both are now 6-3.

Endo defeats Kotoeko – Endo’s left hand finds Kotoeko’s mawashi early, and is able to grab and hold. When Endo can land his grip at the tachiai, he’s quite likely to control the match. He does so today, immediately setting up a throw and putting Kotoeko down with a shitatedashinage. Endo advances to 5-4.

Myogiryu defeats Takanosho – Takanosho gets in one good combo at the tachiai, before Myogiryu breaks Takanosho’s stance and puts him off balance. Myogiryu wastes no time, and presses his advantage, putting his head down and ramming Takanosho back. Takanosho attempts a last minute pull down at the bales, which connects but he is out before Myogiryu tumbles from the ring. Myogiryu up to 3-6.

Onosho defeats Hokutofuji – Another highly anticipated match, Hokutofuji looks like he thought he could stand firm against Onosho’s second step. It almost worked, but only almost. Onosho had Hokutofuji lined up, his shoulders and hips square, and it was time for some tadpole power. By the time Hokutofuji’s heels hit the bales, it was too late for him to recover, and he was out. Onosho stays one behind the leader at 7-2.

Nishikigi defeats Oho – Oho launches early, should that have been a matta? Simply put, did not matter, as something is really different with Niskhikigi, who turns on the traction motors and drives Oho out in a hurry, handing him his make-koshi, and improving to join the growing crowd at 6-3.

Ura defeats Nishikifuji – In the category of “What the hell was that?”, we have the most unusual match of the basho so far. First off, While Ura and Nishikifuji are wailing away on each other, Konosuke looses a sandal. Not breaking his focus on the match, he calmly fetches it, and puts it back on his right foot. Ura and Nishikifuji are at it hammer and tongs. Nishikifuji tries to a brutal twisting pull on Ura’s head, but instead twists himself, stumbling away. Ura wants to slap him down, but Nishikifuji is already on the clay, and the net effect is Ura performing some sort of arcane spell or voodoo curse on Nishikifuji’s prostrate form. Ura conjures himself up to 6-3.

Midorifuji defeats Abi – Hopefully nobody was sad as Abi was eliminated from the leader group, and thrust into Darwin territory by a henka. Its a crummy excuse for sumo, but Abi employed it in November in a high stakes match, and as we all know, what comes around, would seem to go around. Both end the day 5-4.

Tamawashi defeats Tobizaru – Tobizaru puts up a strong early offense, but once Tamawashi gets his hands against Tobizaru’s chest, he moves Tobizaru back, and tosses him deftly from the ring. Solid Tamawashi brand sumo there, and he’s now 6-3.

Mitakeumi defeats Meisei – I am glad to see that once in a while, Mitakeumi can still summon that level of power for his sumo. He had a right hand inside on Meisei at the tachiai, and Meisei barred that arm, and tried to rotate into a throw. Mitakeumi just rammed forward with all the strength and momentum he could deliver, and bodily forced Meisei from the ring. Nice work to the former Ozeki, Mitakeumi now 4-5.

Kotonowaka defeats Daieisho – Daieisho seemed solidly intent on his hazu-oshi today (armpit attack), even when presented with two opportunities to open up the gap with Kotonowaka and apply his mega-thrust. Kotonowaka broke the hazu, slapped Daieisho on the head and pushed him out as Daieisho struggled to reset his feet. I am certain Kotonowaka was happy for that win, and he is now 4-5.

Wakatakakage defeats Ryuden – A good amount of back and forth with this match, with control changing hands at least once. I was interested to see that Wakatakakage’s well constructed pull down attempt did not finish Ryuden, but left him off balance enough that he was easy to force out. Not sure where the other 10% to 20% of Wakatakakage’s sumo is, but I hope it comes back soon. Both end the day 5-4.

Shodai defeats Kiribayama – Kiribayama went into this match looking for an early advantage and maybe a fast win. He was surprised when a stronger, more confident Shodai was not really moving back in the face of a strong tsuppari volley. Kiribayama put too much power to the front, and found himself in front of his toes at the moment that Shodai applied the hikiotoshi, sending him to the clay. Shodai now 3-6.

Wakamotoharu defeats Hoshoryu – Hoshoryu has worked hard for the past few days to avoid this 3rd loss. I am sure only he knows why, but today his luck ran out when Wakamotoharu was able to set up a sukuinage in response to Hoshoryu’s throw attempt, and flattens him into the clay. Worse yet, Hoshoryu seems to have been injured as a result (foot?). Wakamotoharu now 5-4.

Takakeisho defeats Sadanoumi – Perhaps I have been looking at Sadanoumi all wrong. Given what has happened the last 3 days, he may in fact be a human salt seeking projectile. The prior 2 days, it was the east side salt baskets. Today it was nearly the west side one. I am almost certain that “Crap, not again!” Goes through his head at the moment the oshidashi connects. Takakeisho now sole leader at 8-1 as he secures his kachi-koshi for Hatsu.

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.