Unfortunately, we saw that coming. Despite strong threats on his survival as a yokozuna, Kakuryu never made it clear he would actually participate in 2021’s first Basho, and raised lasting concerns about his body condition.
So the news just came. Yokozuna Kakuryu is kyujo for the Hatsu Basho 2021.
Fans wishing for a fantastic finale at the January tournament will be left disappointed. Indeed, we learned yesterday that the full Miyagino heya wouldn’t participate, too, meaning Hakuho is also sidelined. But contrary to his rival, Hakuho’s chance of having another free card, for now, are higher.
Kakuryu’s news also mean we’ll witness yet another nokozuna this tournament.
It may well not be the only one in 2021, unfortunately.
Takakeisho will not compete on Day 12. Readers have been eyeing possible injuries since Day 10. Citing discomfort in his left knee, Takakeisho will withdraw, handing Daieisho his second fusen win of the tournament and his kachi-koshi.
Well, after the big news of today, Kakuryu kyujo, the landscape has changed. Senshuraku will not be a Yokozuna showdown. The tournament is already down to Hakuho, who will now host the musubi-no-ichiban for a solid fortnight. His fellow yokozuna have all abandoned him. Retirement for Hakuho? No way. The NSK can’t afford to lose him anytime soon.
Sadly, Josh’s pick made a quick exit and one wonders whether that’s his career. After that long layoff, to make one appearance on the dohyo — against a maegashira — before bowing out? Ouch. If word comes in that his citizenship has been granted, I think that may be the last time we saw Kakuryu as a wrestler.
Day Two Highlights
Nishikigi defeated Kotoyuki: Nishikigi let Kotoyuki slap all he wanted and lulled the Penguin into a false sense of security. His passiveness had me real worried. There was no counter-attack, our near-sighted friend just slid backwards until his leg found purchase on the tawara. I’m thinking, “Yet another kyujo coming?” Then he struck with a quick twist and the Penguin was vanquished. Tsukiotoshi
Terunofuji defeated Kotoeko: Terunofuji impressed me with this win. He was pitched far forward trying to get Kotoeko’s belt. As he was reaching, Kotoeko knew the situation was dire if Terunofuji could get a firm grip so he twisted and turned backwards like a bucking bronco. That mawashi may have been tied a bit loose because Terunofuji pulled it up over Kotoeko’s belly, regained control and drove through his opponent, right up toward the top of the ring. Yorikiri.
Kotoshogiku defeated Chiyomaru: Kotoshogiku retreated at the tachiai. His left foot was out a bit wide and Chiyomaru drove him backwards. However, the former Ozeki regained the advantage at the edge and swiftly pushed Chiyomaru out back over on the right side. Chiyomaru may be Juryo bound if he can’t turn things around. Yorikiri.
Kotoshoho defeated Wakatakakage: Kotoshoho wrapped up Wakatakakage pretty quickly, controlling the smaller rikishi with the left. However, Wakatakakage secured a belt grip, twisting to gain an advantage. Kotoshoho twisted at the edge forcing Wakatakakage into the dirt. Tsukiotoshi
Kotonowaka defeated Sadanoumi: Kotonowaka dominated Sadanoumi from the tachiai. He forced Sadanoumi backwards and pressed forward. Sadanoumi twisted left to try a change of direction but Kotonowaka just followed and ushered him out over the edge. “You’re not welcome at this club, Sir.” I’ve been there, too, Sadanoumi. It’s lonely sitting on the curb when your friends are inside. Yorikiri.
Takayasu defeated Shohozan: Takayasu’s lefthanded grip was even less effective today against Shohozan. For a minute he completely disengaged and it looked like we’d have a bar brawl, but the two came together for another clench in the center of the ring, Shohozan seemingly content to try to counter-attack. But no attack seemed forthcoming. Then, just ask Shohozan started to nod off, Takayasu struck, bringing the right hand down on Shohozan’s back and driving him down. Shitatedashinage
Kaisei defeated Tochinoshin: Kaisei brought the sky-crane to Tochinoshin. Both big men had firm two-handed belt grips and Kaisei was determined to beat Tochinoshin at his own game. I was more surprised to see Tochinoshin oblige and try the crane himself…and fail. Kaisei was the stronger man today and walked Tochinoshin over the edge. Yorikiri.
Myogiryu defeated Shimanoumi: Some straightforward sumo from Myogiryu today. Great tachiai. Get your man going backwards. Dominate. Win. Shimanoumi tried one turn to try to change things up but Myogiryu was in great form and stands 2-0. Oshidashi.
Ikioi defeated Ishiura. Let me rephrase. Ikioi owned Ishiura. The taller Ikioi drove his forearm into Ishiura, driving him backwards like the Refrigerator Perry using a pee-wee football blocking sled. It wasn’t until the edge that Ishiura tried to counter…by falling forward. Your gearshift is stuck in reverse. Time for a visit to the mechanic. Ikioi picks up his first win. Hikiotoshi
Tamawashi defeated Chiyotairyu: Tamawashi retreated and dancing a little jig on the tawara, sent Chiyotairyu belly-first into the clay. Our first makuuchi mono-ii of the tournament confirms the victory for Tamawashi. A quick one. Kotenage.
The momentum carried Tamawashi off into the crowd…except there is no ringside crowd. So rather than landing on soft pensioners, he landed hard on the platform below, checking his elbow. Slow to get up but seemingly okay during the mono-ii. Hopefully he’s fine. Off to a good start this tournament at 2-0. It would be a shame for another injury so soon after Kakuryu’s kyujo. Chiyotairyu picks up his first loss.
Enho defeated Tokushoryu: Enho effectively demonstrated for Ishiura how a smaller rikishi can defeat a bigger man with straightforward sumo. He quickly secured a lefthanded belt grip and drove forward at the right time to use Tokushoryu’s momentum against him. Tokyshoryu was just trying to keep from falling over backwards. Tokushoryu falls to 0-2 while Enho picks up his first win. Yorikiri.
Terutsuyoshi defeated Ryuden: Terutsuyoshi picks up the upset AND Ryuden. Strong, straight-forward win from the smaller rikishi. Yorikiri.
Kagayaki defeated Hokutofuji and the gyoji: Kagayaki drove forward into Hokutofuji. Hokutofuji slid backwards and tried to regain his footing. But Kagayaki continued his attack and drove his arm into the back of the off-balance Hokutofuji. Hatakikomi.
Aoiyama defeated Abi: To call Abi a pusher-thruster is a bit generous. He’s a hopper. Aoiyama, on the otherhand, is a textbook pusher-thruster. Today, he chased the hopper around the tawara until he caught him and thrust him out. Tsukidashi.
Okinoumi defeated Kiribayama: Strong sumo from Okinoumi today. Okinomi’s forearm drove Kiribayama back at the tachiai. Kiribayama decided to hang on for the ride as Okinoumi walked him around the dohyo and over the bales to the right. Yorikiri.
Shodai defeated Takarafuji: Wow. A strong tachiai from Shodai!! A bewildered Takarafuji was far too high to offer resistance. The momentum of the pair brought Takarafuji over the edge. He tried a last gasp twist at the tawara to no avail. If there’s a time to wake up and start an Ozeki run, the time is now. Yorikiri.
Mitakeumi defeated Takanosho: Mitakeumi absorbed Takanofuji’s strong charge and slid back to the edge. With the aid of the tawara, he shifted to the side and drove Takanofuji down for the win. Mitakeumi’s strong 2-0 start. Takanosho falls to 0-2. Hatakikomi.
Takakeisho defeated Onosho: Takakeisho failed to really get the wave action going as Onosho was head down, bulling forward. Reading the situation, Takakeisho quickly changed tack and slipped to the side, slapping down Onosho.
Daieisho goes to 2-0 with Kakuryu’s sudden withdrawal.
Asanoyama defeated Endo.
Andy: “Don’t go for the belt. Endo’s dangerous, especially with that confidence-building win yesterday. But he’s vulnerable to thrusting attacks. So, keep him off your belt, keep him at arm’s length, and you’ve got him for sure.”
Asanoyama: “Shut up.”
Announcer: ただ今の決まりては “Yorikiri.”
Andy: <sheepishly> “Well, you kept him off your belt.”
The strong tachiai…a dominant performance from the shin-Ozeki. A shoulder-shrug to keep Endo from getting a grip, and then a strong, dominant yorikiri win. I can hear my grandma, “What a nice young man. Showing that boy back to his seat.” When you take on your opponent at his strength, and win, you have thoroughly destroyed him. Show’s over.
Hakuho dismissed Yutakayama: “Next.” Uwatenage
Now the show’s over. Herouth sums it up better with a Japanese language lesson: