Aki Day 10 Highlights


Goeido-Salt

Goeido Pulling Away From Pursuit

Today closed out the second act of the Aki basho in a manner befitting this “Wacky Aki”. Yusho race leader Goeido won his match against Tochiozan to remain alone at the top of the pack, while all but one of his pursuers lost. This narrows the conditions that the yusho would come into contention again significantly, and it’s increasingly probable that Goeido will be this basho’s winner. Today he looked strong, confident went on offense immediately, and never looked back.

Harumafuji did not fare as well against Takakeisho, who successfully employed the attack and retreat strategy that got him mocked in Nagoya by Yokozuna Hakuho. This time he was able to keep Harumafuji reacting, and eventually off balance. I blame the Yokozuna for not just blasting him from the dohyo, which I am sure was his original plan. Congrats to Takakeisho for scoring yet another kinboshi.

With the end of the second act, we have a very clear picture of who is going to do well, and who is struggling to just survive. Sadly, Ishiura and Tokushoryu went into in the make-koshi bin today. Clearly Ishiura is a fraction of his Kyushu self, and I can only hope that someone can repair whatever has gone wrong and get him back to awesome.

Highlight Matches

Endo defeats Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu now make-koshi, and Endo looked really solid putting him there. Granted he is fighting the lower end of Makuuchi, but it seems that Endo is probably on an upward path after his ankle surgery. Fans everywhere are rejoicing.

Asanoyama defeats Nishikigi – Mr Sunshine gives it a text book run, and bests Nishikigi who is treading dangerously close to make-koshi himself. Asanoyama has really adapted well to the upper division, and hopefully can continue to excel.

Arawashi defeats Yutakayama – The match started with a matta, but Arawashi owned this from the tachiai. Yutakayama has been really hit-or-miss, but Arawashi is having a great run this Aki.

Chiyoshoma defeats Daishomaru – Daishomaru falls to 2 off Goeido’s leaders pace with his loss to Chiyoshoma. Oddly, Daishomaru did not even really look like he was ready, and Chiyoshoma dispatched him easily.

Takarafuji defeats Ishiura – Wild and crazy match that Ishiura could have won at least twice. For a while, Ishiura was able to get behind Takarafuji, but could not finish him off. Takarafuji just seems very calm, methodical, and keeps working his plan. Great come back for the man with no neck.

Ikioi defeats Takekaze – It was clear that Ikioi was looking for the henka, but Takekaze was going to meet him head on. Ikioi got the best of a rather slow tachiai, and quickly got Takekaze off balance and rolling. Takekaze is now one loss from maki-kochi.

Ichinojo defeats Takanoiwa – Another of Goeido’s contenders hits the clay, as Ichinojo hands Takanoiwa his third loss. When Ichinojo can get you in a throwing grip, there is little that anyone can do. With his size and strength, you are going for a ride. We tease about Ichinojo quite a bit, and that is mostly because he is a shadow of his former self in many ways. I think the other rikishi sometimes assume that he’s not a serious contender now, and on many days he’s not. But today he made quick work of Takanoiwa.

Kagayaki defeats Shohozan – Sadly this is not a wonderful victory of the struggling rikishi overcoming a strong and healthy veteran via an epic struggle. Instead Shohozan slipped on the clay and fell. Kintamayama calls these “Slippiotoshi” wins.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin really is in bad, banged up shape. He put up a valiant fight against Chiyotairyu, but Chiyotairyu seems to really be dialed in for now. He remains the only one in range to challenge Goeido.

Kotoshogiku defeats Onosho – The Kyushu Bulldozer dispatches Onosho, who many were counting on to challenge Goeido for the yusho. While still mathematically possible, it is increasingly unlikely. This is not uncommon with fast rising young rikishi, they hit a snag in the second week, and finish strong, but not strong enough to challenge. Onosho will be back, and better than ever. We are going to enjoy this guy and his crazy high amplitude sumo for years to come. Kotoshogiku has not looked this solid in a while.

Tamawashi defeats Hokutofuji – Hokutofuji seemed to have a really bad case of the nerves, as he jumped early twice. Tamawashi quickly had him on defense and dominated the match. I expect that whatever strategy Hokutofuji may have had going in was so shattered by his two false starts that once the match got underway he was easy prey.

Aoiyama defeats Mitakeumi – The Man Mountain Aoiyama finally wins one after his return to the basho mid-way through. This time, Aoiyama did use the “Stand and Deliver” strategy, and Mitakeumi bought it. The future Ozeki needs to think through this one, as it’s not the first time someone has used it on him.

Yoshikaze defeats Shodai – Yoshikaze made really quick work of Shodai, he managed to keep his face from bleeding today! Shodai needs a new transmission and possibly a valve job, as he’s failing hard. From the look on his face, Shodai is getting very frustrated with his performance.

Goeido defeats Tochiozan – This is what we expect to see from Goeido. He took command from the tachiai and never let Tochiozan set up any kind of offense. Now that he has his kachi-koshi, I am hoping that we see this Goeido for the rest of the basho.

Takakeisho defeats Harumafuji – Harumafuji drops another kinboshi, and Takakeisho could not be happier. Takakeisho was able to keep Harumafuji from getting inside and taking control, so this loss is really on him. He let Takakeisho set the tempo and style of the match, and Harumafuji payed the price.

Aki Day 10 Preview


Yumitori-shiki

Day 9 stripped the leader group down to the lone Ozeki, Goeido. He claimed his kachi-koshi with his win over Aoiyama, and for the 6th time in his career, removed a kadoban mark next to his name. While he is the current leader, the Aki basho has been unpredictable, and I would caution any Goeido fans to prepare for a fight right up till the end.

For fans and readers worrying about Yoshikaze, and his daily blood facial, this is not uncommon for “The Berserker”. It’s sad, it’s ugly, it likely hurts and it’s probably further damaging that guy’s face, but in many past basho, Yoshikaze has gotten a cut on his face, and every subsequent day, his opponents make a point to re-open that wound.

Both Yoshikaze and Mitakeumi have a decent chance to hang onto their Sekiwake ranks for Kyushu, and if that is the case, they will be joined by Ozekiwake Terunofuji, provided he is healed enough to compete. This will create a 3 Sekiwake situation we last saw with Kotoshogiku. This is referred to as a “haridashi” or “overhang”. During the Kotoshogiku Ozekiwake era, the promotion lanes were full, and nobody had a chance to move into the San’yaku for several tournaments, with Takayasu and Tamawashi holding down the standard Sekiwake slots, and Kotoshogiku holding down the overhang.

Aki Leader board

Goeido is now in sole possession of the lead for the Aki yusho. But 4 rikishi are chasing him, the most interesting (to me) is Takanoiwa. A Takanoiwa / Goeido match is unlikely in the next few days, but would resolve many questions.

Leader – Goeido
Chasers – Onosho, Chiyotairyu, Takanoiwa, Daishomaru
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Takarafuji, Arawashi, Daieisho, Asanoyama

6 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 10

Endo vs. Tokushoryu – Tokushoryu is headed back to Juryo, short of some kind of miracle. Endo has a chance to deal him a make-koshi on day 10, and seal his doom. Of their 6 prior matches, Endo has won them all.

Nishikigi vs. Asanoyama – Mr Happy is looking to continue his 3 match wining streak, and Nishikigi is really feeling the heat to push for wins to stave off a return to Juryo. In their only prior match, Nishikigi prevailed.

Yutakayama vs. Arawashi – Arawashi is performing very well this basho, and his sumo seems to be dialed in. This should be a fairly easy match against a struggling Yutakayama.

Chiyoshoma vs. Daishomaru – Daishomaru needs to best Chiyoshoma to maintain his distance one behind Goeido, and hope for a chance to compete for the Emperor’s cup. But Chiyoshoma has a 3-2 lead in their career match-ups.

Ishiura vs. Takarafuji – Ishiura looks injured or demotivated, or both. He has not been fighting well, and the overwhelming sumo that he displayed when the blasted his way in the Makuuchi is nowhere to be found. This is sad because I really liked that guy. Takarafuji continues to methodically, quietly keep winning his matches.

Chiyonokuni vs. Daieisho – Chiyonokuni fights harder than any other losing rikishi I have seen in quite some time. His day 9 loss was another heartbreaker for him, and now he gets a turn with former co-leader Daieisho. Chiyonokuni holds a career lead of 3-1 over Daieisho. I am expecting another wild pushme-pullyou war that rages across the dohyo 3-4 times.

Ichinojo vs. Takanoiwa – This is going to seem odd, but I think Demon Hunter Takanoiwa represents an interesting threat to Goeido in the days to come, but we shall see if the schedulers give him a shot. Ichinojo is back to seeming vague and uncertain, which is not where he does his best sumo. Ichinojo leads the series 3-1.

Shohozan vs. Kagayaki – Kagayaki can’t buy a win. So he should just own that, go out and have some fun. Take a page from Asanoyama’s book. Treat this like the greatest day to do sumo in your whole life. Lift Shohozan by the mawashi butt-strap and give the knot a tug. Sure it will stop the match, but the fans will remember that moment forever, while 100,000 little old ladies in Tottori Prefecture alone will all be madly mashing the “pause” and “rewind” buttons on their DVR.

Tochinoshin vs. Chiyotairyu – Speaking of a rikishi who is unfortunately doomed, the bell tolls for thee, Tochinoshin. Now that you are maki-koshi, why not see if you can get Chiyotairyu to fall and put a dent in the dohyo? Hell, in Nagoya some bout resulted in a portion cracking and falling away. Though Tochinoshin leads the series 2-1, it’s clear Tochinoshin is pretty banged up, and needs to regenerate some knee tissue.

Onosho vs. Kotoshogiku – You know what Kotoshogiku has shown the last few days? Lateral movement! Go back and watch the matches. I have to think that either he has a better tap job on his knees, or he found some way to get the old patella stable. This is the first match between these two, and I am going to be very curious if Onosho can avoid the Kyushu Bulldozer.

Mitakeumi vs Aoiyama – I think today Aoiyama will decide to use the “stand and deliver” strategy that could have served him with Goiedo. They have split their prior 2 matches, but I would give an edge to Mitakeumi, as I think Aoiyama is still not at 100%

Shodai vs Yoshikaze – Yoshikaze will bleed some more, Shodai will struggle a bit and go out for a nice yorikiri.

Tochiozan vs Goeido – Don’t dismiss this bout. Tochiozan is a volatile substance, and it’s tough to predict what he will do or how it will turn out. Clearly he is not at 100%, but a veteran like him with a 35 match history with Goeido has to know a lot about how the Ozeki will pursue this match. Goeido wants to preserve his lead, and he’s not going to let Tochiozan near his mawashi. Goeido leads their career totals 22-13.

Takakeisho vs Harumafuji – Harumafuji will probably give Takakeisho a lesson in maneuverability. I don’t see Takakeisho having a big opportunity against the Yokozuna here, but he has explosive strength, if he can line up his attack.

Aki Day 8 Preview


shohozan-Harumafuji

Act two of the Aki basho has really stepped up the pace, with Saturday bringing us a flurry of really intense matches. While we wait for day 8’s action, recognize that we are half way through the Aki basho now, and the fiercest action may be ahead of us.

The old guard has made their stand, and now it is time for the next generation to answer in kind. With the exception of Ozeki Goeido, everyone in the leader group is part of the young, up and coming generation of sumotori. We have a long road to go to the final day, but it’s clear that the tadpole generation is on the cusp of challenging the status quo.

My greatest hopes for the second half

  • Goeido goes on offense – Goeido 2.0 is a mighty Ozeki, a machine of refined attack power, who leaves no room for his own defense. He is blazing fast and merciless. I would like very much to see him close out Aki in this manner.
  • Kotoshogiku rallies – He is likely out of the yusho race, but it would be oh so satisfying to see Ojisan Kotoshogiku rack up enough wins to return to San’yaku. If his knees hold out, it could be a real possibility.
  • Harumafuji holds the line – He can still make double-digit wins, and it would be great to see him recover to this level. He seems to have his sumo back under control, and I would think that he can beat any man left in this basho.
  • Hokutofuji catches fire – I am not sure if he is injured or what, but he has faded just about half a step since the start of the basho. This guy is a future mainstay, and I want to see him reach down to his soul and bounce back strong and motivated.
  • Asanoyama kachi-koshi – At Maegashira 16, he is first to fall off the bubble if he’s got a losing record, but I think that he is going to be a solid Maegashira in his day, and I would love to see him get more exposure to the upper division.

Aki Leader board

Leaders – Goeido, Onosho, Daieisho, Daishomaru
Chasers – Chiyotairyu, Takarafuji, Takanoiwa, Arawashi
Hunt Group – Harumafuji, Mitakeumi, Kotoshogiku, Shohozan, Shodai, Takakeisho, Ichinojo, Chiyonokuni, Chiyomaru, Kaisei, Endo, Asanoyama

8 Matches Remain

What We Are Watching Day 8

Yutakayama vs. Kaisei – Kaisei seems to be getting himself together, and frankly it’s about time. He faces a fading Yutakayama on day 8, and we have to assume that unless he starts a resurgence, Yutakayama is going to bounce back to Juryo for a bit. Interestingly enough, Kaisei has not beaten Yutakayama in their prior 2 matches, so this may be a good test to see if Yutakayama will try to rally.

Asanoyama vs. Sadanoumi – Mr Happy takes on the Sadanoumi, who may be wishing he had stayed kyujo. They have only met once before, and Sadanoumi won. I would like to see Sadanoumi pick up a few wins, so here’s to hoping he is up to speed for Sunday.

Daieisho vs. Okinoumi – Co-leader Daieisho goes against hit-or-miss Okinoumi, and the two are tied 2-2 over their career. It will likely be Daieisho’s match to lose.

Endo vs. Chiyomaru – While both rikishi come into the match 4-3, Endo is looking quite a bit more tentative than Chiyomaru, who is on a 3 match winning streak. Keep in mind, for Endo the rest of this basho is about survival, and that means a kachi-koshi, even by the thinnest amount.

Daishomaru vs. Takekaze – Co-Leader Daishomaru steps up against Takekaze, who is in the process of turning around his win/loss record for Aki. Takekaze has a wide variety of tricks, and is known to deploy henkas with flair. Daishomaru must take caution. Takekaze leads the series 4-2.

Takanoiwa vs. Ikioi – Takanoiwa seems to be back into “Demon Hunter” mode, and I am expecting both of these oshi practitioners to bring forth a mighty battle of flailing limbs. This could be a real street fight! Ikioi leads the series 5-0! So Takanoiwa has a chance to snap the losing record.

Ichinojo vs. Takarafuji – Ichinojo is a tough one to predict. He can be big, slow and huge. In fact it’s one his most apparent assets. But the past few days he is worked to add offense into that mix. Takarafuji however has been doing what he seems to do best, quietly execute some really great technical sumo. As Takarafuji has delivered a good number of throws this past week, let’s see what he deploys against Ichinojo. Ichinojo leads the series 5-2.

Arawashi vs. Kagayaki – You say – “Kagayaki is 1-6, he sucks!”, but if you watch his matches, you will note this guy battles with all his heart. Arawashi just finished up the battle of the badgers on day 7, and I am going to say that we may see another raging street fight from these two. Kagayaki leads the series 4-2.

Shodai vs. Chiyotairyu – Chiyotairyu has been charging forward like an angry bison this basho, and most of the time it works. Shodai has fallen into some rut of defensive sumo, so maybe this will work out for interesting sumo. Shodai won their only previous match.

Tochinoshin vs. Onosho – The big Georgian is clearly not at 100%, and he faces a very genki Onosho, who is looking to stay in the leader group. This is their first match up. If Tochinoshin can land a grip on Onosho, he can probably score his second win today.

Mitakeumi vs. Hokutofuji – Battle for the king of the tadpole crew. I wish they both could win. From the looks of things, Hokutofuji took some damage in the first week, and is struggling. Mitakeumi seems to have finally caught his stride, and is fighting well. Mitakeumi leads their career bouts 2-0.

Shohozan vs. Yoshikaze – This one has the potential to be absolutely nuts. Both of them are amped up and need the wins. Both of them are strong, fast and don’t back down when they take damage. So hopefully no one gets hurt this time. Yoshikaze leads the series 7-4.

Tamawashi vs. Goeido – I am going to wager that Tamawashi charges in hard and Goeido fights in reverse. I would much rather see him battle Tamawashi chest to chest, but what is the chance of that?

Aoiyama vs. Harumafuji – The giant Aoiyama was out with injuries sustained in training before the Aki basho, and now he joins for his first day on the dohyo. How do you welcome the jun-yusho winner from Nagoya? Why you give him Harumafuji to play with. Last time these two met, Harumafuji grabbed a double hand-full of breast meat and pushed Aoiyama backwards and out like it was urgent.

Further Comments On Aki Day 7


harumafuji-old

The old order is battling back, tamping down the rising wave of young rikishi and re-asserting it’s dominance. That dominance is thread-bare now, but it is backed by year after painful year on the dohyo. The veterans of Makuuchi are survivors, and they persist in the top division not because of favoritisms or some quota to meet. They persist because they are skilled combatants, and in some cases some of the best that there has ever been.

Day 7 continued the trend we saw on day 6, and it seems that perhaps the loose and clanky bits of this basho may have been shaken off, and we are down to solid sumo. If you did not read it overnight, Aoiyama is making his return on day 8. Lord only knows what is going through that man’s head, but I do hope he is healthy. Most rikishi take a couple of days to come up to competition level from the start of the basho, but Aoiyama is being thrown into the fire against Harumafuji straight away.

In astounding news, Goeido decided to do some Ozeki sumo today, and did it well. Thanks you big plate of Okonomiyaki, now keep that going. In less surprising but no less welcome news, Harumafuji did an outstanding Harumafuji imitation, and gave hope to his fans that he can still deliver the goods.

Match Comments

Asanoyama defeats Daiamami – Marathon bout against visiting Juryo riskishi Daiamami, Asanoyama / Mr Happy has a reason to be happy today. After moving Daiamami to the tawara, Asanoyama executed a rather clean sukinage for the win.

Daishomaru defeats Tokushoryu – Today Tokushoryu really applied himself, but he is so very very front heavy that it’s not difficult to topple him once he gets forward momentum. Daishomaru still only has one loss!

Chiyomaru defeats Kaisei – Bloody outstanding battle today between these two. I am quite sure Kaisei decided he had become too massive and his mobility was suffering, he appears to be at least 6kg lighter, and his sumo is much better now. Chiyomaru really brought his sumo today, and these two put on quite a fight.

Daieisho defeats Sadanoumi – I have to wonder if Sadanoumi yet regrets his return. So far no wins, but perhaps that will improve. Daieisho shows once again the power of the tadpoles and why he is on the leaderboard. There is much rejoicing in Oitekaze beya these days.

Takekaze defeats Endo – Well past time for Takekaze to win one. Endo looked very vague, and it’s safe to wonder if Endo has the juice to compete higher up the banzuke with what is probably a tender ankle.

Ikioi defeats Ishiura – Some controversy on this one over who touched out first. The bout ended with a flying mess at the tawara, and gyoji Konosuke gave it to Ikioi. But replays show them touching down at almost the exact same time.

Arawashi defeats Chiyonokuni – These two were really going at it! The match reminded me of pre-war sumo footage, where the fighting style was very different, and featured a lot of leg trips and upper body throws. Both of these rikishi were out to win no matter what, and their even match up resulted in a fantastic bout. Double bonus points for the two way Shimpan lap-dance.

Takanoiwa defeats Kagayaki – Brutal street fight. I am sure some of those tsuppari were heard in Ibaraki. If you want to see two rikishi pound each other to exhaustion, this is your match.

Chiyotairyu defeats Takakeisho – Sumo-Elvis takes one from the bowling ball. Takakeisho has a lot of drive and a lot of talent, but it’s time for him to broaden his sumo if he wants to advance.

Onosho defeats Hokutofuji – Onosho overwhelmed Hokutofuji, who seems to be off his sumo the last couple of days. Onosho stays at one loss and tied for the lead.

Tamawashi defeats Kotoshogiku – Eternal blessings to Tamawashi for helping to put the ugly threat of “Kotoshogiku Day’ to rest at long last. Kotoshogiku made him work for it, but Tamawashi carried the day.

Yoshikaze defeats Tochinoshin – Tochinoshin is always hit or miss. With his bad leg he can be amazing one day, and weak the next. Today he tried a henka on Yoshikaze, but the Berserker was having none of it. He pivoted and to Tochinoshin’s surprise, opened up a blistering thrusting attack. For whatever reason, Tochinoshin decided to reply in kind. That was, of course, a risky move, and Yoshikaze made him pay. Congratulations to Yoshikaze for his 1000th Makuuchi bout.

Mitakeumi defeats Tochiozan – Tochiozan is a shadow of his Nagoya self, and Mitakeumi dismantled him easily today. I am refreshed that Mitakeumi seems to have settled down and gotten his sumo back.

Goeido defeats Shodai – At long last, today Goeido was a worthy combatant. He took the fight to Shodai (as indeed he would need to) and administered a severe jostling to the boy in blue before vigorously thrusting him over the edge of the dohyo. Thank you Goeido, more like that, please.

Harumafuji defeats Shohozan – Shohozan jumped early, but Harumafuji was not going to wait around for the matta. Shohozan is a weight lifting fool, and is impressively strong. But Harumafuji stood up to the blows and began a series of right and tsuppari to Shohozan’s face. Again and again to slapped his face like Shohozan was some petulant child. This did seems to disrupt Shohozan, and Harumafuji latched a double inside grip on Shohozan’s mawashi. A brief atomic wedgie later, and it was Shohozan out and finished. The crowd loved it, and so did I.

Further Comments On Aki Day 6


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Match Comments

Endo defeats Nishikigi – Endo continues to win, but for a man who has been Maegashira 1 this year, he is struggling with the rikishi at the bottom of the banzuke. Hopefully this is because he is healing up from surgery, and not some “new normal”.

Daishomaru defeats Asanoyama – Asanoyama may be Mr Sunshine, but Daishomaru was running in top form today. Their bout raged back and forth for a few moments before Daishomaru was able to execute a nice tsukiotoshi.

Yutakayama defeats Sadanoumi – With a rikishi (Sadanoumi) coming back from kyujo, you always wonder what you are going to see. This bout was actually very good, and I am going to guess that once Sadanoumi cleans out the cobwebs, he will recuse himself fairly well this basho. Clearly he is trying to fend off a trip back to Juryo

Daieisho defeats Arawashi – Daieisho moved ahead strongly, and Arawashi could do little to stop him. Daieisho is looking very sharp this tournament.

Ichinojo defeats Kagayaki – I know I was being a wise-ass last night on the preview, but this turned into a decent bout. Ichinojo executed a very well timed uwatenage for the win, and looked like a sumotori doing it. He has a nice win streak going now.

Tochinoshin defeats Tamawashi – Tochinoshin finally gets his first win. Sadly he is looking too fragile to be competitive at his current rank, and will likely end up well down the banzuke in November.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – I am overjoyed that not only has Mitakeumi remembered how to do sumo, but he also has placed the much dreaded “Kotoshogiku Day” further out of reach. In every facet of this match, Mitakeumi over powered the Kotoshogiku. A very solid win.

Yoshikaze defeats Tochiozan – More really good sumo from a pair of vets who are desperate for wins now. There are not too many times that Yoshikaze will win a match by yorikiri, but it happened today.

Goeido defeats Onosho – Onosho picks up his first loss. I would have liked it better if Goeido had been moving forward, but at this point I am giving up on him doing much in the way of “real” sumo this basho.

Harumafuji defeats Chiyotairyu – And he made it look easy. Thank you oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan. I did not get my death spin, but I am happy with the results.

 

Aki Day 6 Preview


Harumafuji-Kohei

With news of Ozeki Terunofuji’s withdrawal, the upper rank blood bath continues. For Kyushu, he will be ranked Sekiwake. Provided Takayasu can return to action, there will be just 2 Ozeki for the Kyushu basho. For some bright news, Sadanoumi has come out of kyuji status, and will be in Friday’s torikumi.

Thus we enter the middle third, or second act of Aki. This is where we get our first look at who might be in contention for the Emperor’s Cup. Typically the middle weekend of any basho features several high-stakes match ups, but with so many (5 out of 7) of the named ranks out, the schedulers are going to be struggling to create a compelling torikumi.

While there will be a lot of great sumo action today, there are a few matches that are actually pivotal in the emerging yusho race. The match of the day is, without a doubt, upstart Maegashira 3 Onosho vs Kadoban Ozeki Goeido. Goeido has been pulling punk moves in his last several matches, and as a fan I find it very disappointing. All we have to do is tee up footage from Aki 2016 to see what the real Goeido is capable of. We can only assume that he is hiding an injury, and is desperate to hang on to his Ozeki rank.

Second of the headline matches will be Chiyotairyu facing Yokozuna Harumafuji. Harumafuji currently has a losing record, and if for some reason he should lose on day 6, we can expect him to go kyujo. Nobody wants that to happen, so we are all counting on Chiyotairyu to come out of the tachiai, rampaging forward recklessly, like an insane water buffalo.

What We Are Watching Day 6

Nishikigi vs. Endo – Nishikigi has never beaten Endo, but “Mr Popular” is competing with a partially healed ankle, and is far short of his full capability. Nishikigi is still working to ensure he won’t be back in Juryo any time soon, so he’s pushing hard for every win.

Daishomaru vs. Asanoyama – Mr happy goes up against Daishomaru’s 4-1 hot streak. Asanoyama sits on the bottom rung of Makuuchi, but is doing fairly well at 3-2, but my gut tells me Friday will not be his day. This is their first match.

Yutakayama vs. Sadanoumi – A hearty welcome back to Sadanoumi, he faces a struggling Yutakayama who has been unable to really finish off anyone. His offense is sloppy, but not without potential. Sadanoumi has missed the first 5 days due to injury, and we hope he is healed enough to survive his return.

Ishiura vs. Takekaze – 38 year old veteran Takekaze is still struggling for his first win at Aki. He faces an Ishiura who seems to be lacking real vigor in his sumo. Ishiura has massive potential, but every basho he spends 8-7 or 7-8 in the middle of Makuuchi is an opportunity lost.

Daieisho vs. Arawashi – Battle of the 4-1, this is likely to be a real contest, as both of these rikishi are in the hunt group for the leadership.

Ichinojo vs. Kagayaki – Large asian men hitting each other, slowly. One of them will fall down.

Tamawashi vs. Tochinoshin – Hapless Tochinoshin is still hunting for his first win. Tamawashi is eagerly trying to start piecing together his kachi-koshi. Tochinoshin is capable of a win here, but he needs to get his gamey left leg to cooperate.

Mitakeumi vs. Kotoshogiku – Now that Kotoshogiku’s unbeaten run has ended, perhaps Mitakeumi will feel up to getting his own record up to 3-3. Mitakeumi will need to stay mobile and not let the Kyushu Bulldozer lock him up and chug him across the bales.

Onosho vs. Goeido – I am fine with Goeido winning this one, as long as I see him actually move forward and execute at least one sumo move. But given what happened to Harumafuji on day 5, Goeido will be lucky if he is not forced into some involuntary yoga position on his way to the upper deck.

Chiyotairyu vs. Harumafuji – Oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan, please give us one more triumphant Harumafuji death-spin. Let Chiyotairyu launch from the dohyo like a North Korean missile headed for Guam, but land safely in the lap of some lovely and adoring fan.

Aki Day 5 Preview


Good-Squishy

As Kintamayama has labeled it, “The Wacky Aki” continues to be outside the ordinary. Sumo has been a static or slowly evolving system for a good many years, and most fans have come to expect a specific and repeating dynamic to hold power during a basho. For at least this basho, those forces are gone, and we are seeing host of new rivalries and dynamics trying to form. As the Tachiai crew has maintained since Aki last year, the lack of a strong menacing Yokozuna corps is the biggest factor that is at play. With your typical Yokozuna taking in 10-13 victories per basho, that’s a whole lot of losses to the lower ranks to absorb. Sumo is, in fact, a zero sum game. For every win, there is a loss. For a rikishi that has 15 wins, there are 15 rikishi with 1 additional loss. Add to that an Ozeki corps that takes 8-11 wins per basho, and you define the strong headwinds any rikishi faces getting movement up the banzuke.

For the Wacky Aki, we have a Yokozuna who is now 2-2, and looking hurt (as was expected), 3 Yokozuna in dry-dock due to injuries, 1 Ozeki injured for at least a month, 1 Ozeki that is in no condition to fight, and 1 Ozeki who seems too worried about maintaining his rank to give battle to even the most middling opponent.

Can we turn our hope to the San’yaku battle fleet, who in the last few basho have stepped up where the Yokozuna and Ozeki crumbled? Between the Sekiwake and Komusubi, there are 3 wins, and 13 losses at the end of day 4. The west side has yet to win a single match, and if it were not for Tamawashi playing through the pain, east would not even have 3.

What is the result? The rank-and-file rikishi are calling the shots, taking the lime light (and rightfully so) and everyone is watching in eager anticipation of fierce competition. The result is a lot of oshi-zumo.

Which brings us to day 5 – This is the final day for what I call the “First Act” of Wacky Aki. After this, everyone needs to pay close attention to who can still scrape together a kachi-koshi, and who has an outright shot at the yusho. Much as it baffles me to say it, the chance of “Kotoshogiku Day” are brighter than I would like them. But starting Friday, all of the tadpoles are going to have to work out their emotions of possibly contending for the Emperor’s Cup. Frankly some of them won’t be able to keep their sumo under control, and may self destruct. Stay tuned, as the warm ups are about over. The middle weekend will, more than possibly any time in the last few years, really sort the wheat from the chaff.

What We Are Watching Day 5

Endo vs. Kotoyuki – Kotoyuki make a return from Juryo to face a resurgent Endo. Kotoyuki has been a long time Makuuchi guy, who simply could not continue to compete with the various injuries he was nursing, but is 3-1 in Juryo 3w, and may very well be able to win his place in the top division this basho. Endo is coming back from surgery, and has not practiced much, but is doing very well at the bottom of the Maegashira banzuke. This could be another solid match like the one Endo turned in day 4.

Daieisho vs. Chiyomaru – Daieisho is still in the unbeaten group that features several tadpoles. He holds a narrow 3-2 advantage over Chiyomaru in his career record, but Chiyomaru has been flagging the basho, and is not looking very energetic.

Takanoiwa vs. Arawashi – Both of these rikishi are fighting well, and have winning records coming to today’s bout. Takanoiwa enters unbeaten, and holds a 7-3 career advantage over Arawashi. But Arawashi’s day 4 win over Chiyoshoma looked particularly nice, and maybe we are going to see some additional outstanding sumo today.

Takarafuji vs. Kagayaki – Takarafuji has been quietly plugging away in the middle of the banzuke, doing very solid sumo (albeit, with no neck whatsoever). I expect him to completely roll Kagayaki, who has been pretty terrible at Aki expect for his drubbing of Takakeisho day 4. Kagayaki won their only prior match-up.

Ichinojo vs. Ikioi – A great and magical event happened on day 4. Chiyonokuni seems to have managed to toggle Ichinojo’s “mode switch” from bridge abutment back to sumo wrestler. With any luck it stayed in the sumo mode and we can see him try to fold Ikioi more than 7 times without using a hydraulic press.

Chiyonokuni vs. Takakeisho – Takakeisho seems to have reverted to some larval form day 4, with his charge-and-retreat sumo that got him taunted by Hakuho at Nagoya. Chiyonokuni will chase him down and give him an atomic wedgie if he tries that today, so I expect some very strong oshi-zumo from these two. Chiyonokuni leads career series 3-1.

Shodai vs. Kotoshogiku – It’s as if an earlier, more genki Kotoshogiku stepped out of a time portal from last year and is running crazy with no healthy Ozeki or Yokozuna to stop him. I anticipate that at the tachiai, Shodai will stand up woodenly and embrace Kotoshogiku, who will immediately apply the hug-n-chug. Thankfully NHK no longer shows us views of Kotoshogiku adjusting the butt-strap on his mawashi.

Tamawashi vs. Tochiozan – Tochiozan, if you were going to make a case for being San’yaku, this was the easy basho to do it. But instead this very capable rikishi is part of that ugly 0-4 crowd. Tamawashi is hurt, but I would give him the advantage in spite of Tochiozan leading the career series 10-2.

Hokutofuji vs. Yoshikaze – Also on the “wake me up before you go-go” list is my beloved Yoshikaze. I don’t know if he is hurt, distracted or just plain having a crummy basho. But I want him to get it going, please. Hokutofuji is fresh off of a rather spectacular victory over the lone surviving Yokozuna, and he is likely feeling very genki indeed. Hokutofuji has a 3-1 advantage over Yoshikaze, so I am not hopeful the Berserker will correct his side on day 5.

Mitakeumi vs. Tochinoshin – Contributor and commentator lksumo nailed it, this is the “battle of the disappointments”. Both of these rikishi came into Wacky Aki with the potential to really advance their careers. Instead both of them are struggling to find ways to stave off brutal levels of demotion. Prediction for the fight – both men skip the dohyo-iri, and get shit-faced starting at noon. They show up wasted and giddy around 3:00 PM, and only partially secure their mawashi. Bout ends with a rapid cut away on NHK as both men do their impressions of the final scene of “The Full Monty”.

Chiyotairyu vs. Goeido – Chiyotairyu! Expect the henka. Please give Goeido some dirt therapy for all of us fans, to encourage him to actual do some sumo. Goeido, boot up in 2.0 mode and show that bulked up Chiyotairyu that you’re his daddy. Make us think you have some sumo left, show us some fire sir, or it’s no Okonomiyaki for you!

Terunofuji vs. Shohozan – I am really concerned that Terunofuji does not have the strength to actually do Ozeki sumo. Furthermore, I fear that he is going to get hurt because he is competing without a whole lot of strength. Shohozan holds a slight 3-2 advantage over their career match ups.

Onosho vs. Harumafuji – This one fills me with excitement and trepidation at the same time. Onosho really showed a lot of level headed calculus in his pre-match confrontation with Terunofuji day 4, so we know he is not easily intimidated. Harumafuji is not at 100%, and I fear additional losses may put pressure on him to go kyujo, leaving us in the dreaded “No-kazuna” situation we hoped to avoid. With problems in both arms and both legs, Harumafuji is one bad fall away from intai.