Shodai Kyujo

In a surprise to just about no one, Shodai has withdrawn from the Kyushu November tournament. Unfortunately, the newly minted Ozeki’s ankle injury, sustained in his Day 3 victory, was too serious to overcome for yesterday’s match. Unless he makes a miraculously rapid recovery and picks up five more wins by the end of next week, he will join Asanoyama kadoban at Hatsu. This leaves Takakeisho as the lone Ozeki remaining in the tournament.

With the prospect of two Yokozuna fighting for their careers, and two Ozeki fighting for their ranks, Hatsu is looking more and more like the Thunder-Dome scenario Bruce has written about previously. Although, Takakeisho has been in this situation before. As a newly minted Ozeki, he was injured, kyujo and kadoban but rather than come back immediately in the next tournament, he waited an extra tournament. This meant he dropped to Sekiwake but reinstalled as Ozeki after securing 10 wins. I am highly doubtful either Ozeki will adopt that strategy but it seems to have worked for Takakeisho.

We at Tachiai wish him a full recovery.

Who will get the most wins in 2020?

The coming basho will provide us a fair dose of excitment and hot topics, as our Tachiai team rightly discussed in our podcast.

But the November basho – also known as Kyushu basho, until last year also marks sumo’s final tournament of the calendar year. It’s therefore possible to nominate sumo’s “MVP” right after it – that is, the rikishi who collected the most wins in the given year.

So, who’s still in contention for that honorific title ?

First of all, it’s worth reminding that this year’s numbers will be pretty low, since wrestlers will have competed in only five tournaments, instead of the usual six. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that we end up far away from Hakuho’s mouth-watering 86 wins out of 90, which we could witness in 2009 and 2010.

Last year, Asanoyama pipped Abi’s six kashi koshi and 54 wins overall, ending the year with 55 successful bouts. Hakuho came third with 51 wins, but, as we will see, the yokozuna is far from that standard this year.

Abi did a fine job last year, before 2020’s downfall

All in all, it has largely been Shodai’s year, and it’s no big surprise he leads the pack with 45 wins. Remarkably, Asanoyama is still in contention to regain first place, with 43 wins overall. Actually, he could very well pip Shodai here too, as Shodai spent some time parading after his promotion to ozeki. Can Shodai keep momentum and hold on to his two-win lead? We will soon get to know.

What about the rest of the field? There’s a small chance somebody else than Shodai or Asanoyama finishes first – but that would probably mean an unfortunate kyujo from both men. Indeed, Takakeisho is seven off the pace, having snatched 38 wins this year. And that allows us a fine statement: the three men with the most wins in 2020 compose in fact the ozeki triumvirat! Let’s hope the current state of affairs will lead to a fine 2021 year for all of three.

Last year’s “MVP”: ozeki Asanoyama

Also worth mentionning are Takanosho (37 wins), Mitakeumi (who, arguably, has not had a brillant 2020 year despite having collected 36 wins), Kiribayama (35) and even Tokushoryu (32 wins).

What about both yokozuna?

As mentioned earlier, Hakuho is far from the leaderboard, and even from decent Hakuho numbers. He actually has 24 wins combined, one more than his stable partner, Ishiura, but one less than his other partner, Enho!

Things are even worse for Kakuryu, who just announced his withdrawal from the November 2020 basho. That means he’ll end up the year with a forgettable 13 wins tally, which is actually just one win more than Tochiozan – who retired following the Haru basho, in March.

So, it’s Shodai to lose here. That should prodive us an interesting sub-plot while watching good sumo behind our screens – or live, for the luckiest of us!

Quiz ! About shikona changes…

As we previously mentioned it, Shodai decided to keep his shikona following his promotion to the ozeki rank. Let’s try to figure out how much we know about rikishi’s shikona, shikona changes and real names…

As usual, try your best to get your kashi koshi!

1. Let’s start this quiz quietly. Ama became ozeki…

a. Goeido

b. Kakuryu

c. Harumafuji

d. Baruto

2. Which one of these wrestlers is currently fighting with his real name ?

a. Takarafuji

b. Takayasu

c. Takanosho

d. Takagenji

3. Who started wrestling using his real name – Fukuoka ?

a. Hokutofuji

b. Okinoumi

c. Ryuden

d. Daieisho

4. Who is the other Mr. Fukuoka in makuuchi ?

a. Abi

b. Terutsuyoshi

c. Meisei

d. Enho

5. Who started his sumo career with the shikona Wakamisho ?

a. Kiribayama

b. Tamawashi

c. Ichinojo

d. Terunofuji

6. The Bulgarian wrestler Aoiyama was given his current shikona after being asked a few questions about things he likes. What does “Aoiyama” mean ?

a. Red wind

b. Red mountain

c. Blue wind

d. Blue mountain

7. And by the way, Big Dan’s (Aoiyama) real name is…

a. Petkov

b. Dimitrov

c. Kotov

d. Ivanov

Big Dan: Aoiyama Kosuke.

8. Let’s now have some fun (and a few headaches !) with Sadogatake’s wrestlers. Who used to be called Kotokikutsugi ?

a. Kotoosho

b. Kotoeko

c. Kotoyuki

d. Kotoshogiku

9. Kotokamatani, on the other hand, is now known as…

a. Kotonowaka

b. Kotoeko

c. Kotoshoho

d. Kotoshogiku

10. Whereas Kotoenomoto has become…

a. Kotooshu

b. Kotoeko

c. Kotoshoho

d. Kotoyuki

11. And finally, Kototebakari is currently known as…

a. Kotoshoho

b. Kotoyuki

c. Kotonowaka

d. Kotoshogiku

12. Takanohana and Wakanohana are one of sumo’s most famous brothers. Their real name is :

a. Hanada

b. Koga

c. Sawai

d. Hagiwara

A sumo legend: former yokozuna Takanohana.

13. Which one of these rikishi used to be called “Sato” and changed his shikona as he got promoted to makuuchi ?

a. Takakeisho

b. Asanoyama

c. Mitakeumi

d. Shodai

14. Hanakaze is known for his incredibly long career, which started back in 1986 (!). Under how many names has he wrestled so far ?

a. One

b. Two

c. Three

d. Four

15. And finally, the great Hakuho has changed shikona :

a. Once

b. Twice

c. Thrice

d. He never changed his shikona

The answers :

1. Let’s start this quiz quietly. Ama became ozeki…

c. Harumafuji. Of course ! He took that name after his promotion to ozeki, following the Kyushu basho 2008.

Nine time grand champion: former yokozuna Harumafuji.

2. Which one of these wrestlers is currently fighting with his real name ?

b. Takayasu Akira.

3. Who started wrestling using his real name – Fukuoka ?

b. Okinoumi. He actually semmed to have some remorses after changing his shikona to Okinoumi, in March 2009. Two basho after, he went back to Fukuoka Ayumi, during just one basho. He then changed once again – for good – to Okinoumi Ayumi.

4. Who is the other Mr. Fukuoka in makuuchi ?

b. Terutsuyoshi. He has used only one shikona so far : Terutsuyoshi Shoki.

Terutsuyoshi Shoki, also known as Fukuoka Shoki.

5. Who started his sumo career with the shikona Wakamisho ?

d. Terunofuji. Terunofuji likes changes : he used to be called Wakamisho Yoshiaki, then Wakamisho Noriaki, then Wakamisho Yoshiaki again, then Terunofuji Yoshiaki, then Terunofuji Haruo.

6. The Bulgarian wrestler Aoiyama was given his current shikona after being asked a few questions about things he likes. What does “Aoiyama” mean ?

d. Blue mountain. Aoiyama likes blue color, and prefers mountain over sea.

7. And by the way, Big Dan’s (Aoiyama) real name is…

d. Ivanov. Daniel Ivanov, to be exact.

8. Let’s now have some fun (and a few headaches !) with Sadogatake’s wrestlers. Who used to be called Kotokikutsugi ?

d. Kotoshogiku. His real name is Kikutsugi Kazuhiro.

9. Kotokamatani, on the other hand, is now known as…

a. Kotonowaka. Outside the dohyo, he’s Kamatani Masakatsu

10. Whereas Kotoenomoto has become…

d. Kotoyuki, also known as Enomoto Yuki.

11. And finally, Kototebakari is currently known as…

a. Kotoshoho. His real name : Tebakari Toshiki

12. Takanohana and Wakanohana are one of sumo’s most famous brothers. Their real name is :

a. Hanada. Koga is Kaio’s name ; Sawai is Goeido’s name and Hagiwara is former Kisenosato’s name. Some great wrestlers down there.

13. Which one of these rikishi used to be called “Sato” and changed his shikona as he got promoted to makuuchi ?

a. Takakeisho. Asanoyama did change his shikona, but after promotion to juryo. Mitakeumi took just one shikona, whereas Shodai is fighting under his actual name.

14. Hanakaze is known for his incredibly long career, which started back in 1986 (!). Under how many names has he wrestled so far ?

c. Three. He started fighting under his real name, Yamagushi Daisaku, then switched to Tatsuyamagushi Daisaku, and to Hanakaze Daisaku. He holds that name since July 1999 !

15. And finally, the great Hakuho has changed shikona :

d. He never changed his shikona. Hakuho Sho. That’s the GOAT’s shikona.

Simply the best: yokozuna Hakuho Sho.

 

Tokyo July Basho Day 9 Highlights

Not much commentary from me to start off. The first half will be a quick read but I’ll make up for it in the description of the sanyaku highlights. Just like today’s broadcast, I go a bit long after the break. A fun, controversial, and complicated day today toward the end. I will just leave this tweet from the Kyokai here. No reason. Now, on to the highlights.

Highlight Matches

Kotoyuki (3-6) defeated Daiamami: Straight-forward oshi/tsuki sumo from Kotoyuki today against the Juryo visitor. He tried a quick pull which Daiamami avoided. but Daiamami could not avoid the continuing onslaught and backed out. Tsukidashi.

Takayasu (5-4) defeated Chiyomaru (2-7): Takayasu absorbed Chiyomaru’s tachiai and early thrusts. A quick sidestep and forceful shove sent Chiyomaru to the clay. Hikiotoshi.

This won’t be enough to quiet the injury talk, or stop his opponents from attempting to exploit those injuries. However, it was a quick strong win from the former Ozeki.

Nishikigi (3-6) defeated Shohozan (2-7): Shohozan abandoned oshi-tsuki after the tachiai, reaching in for Nishikigi’s belt. Nishikigi was all to happy for a grapple, securing his own hold of Shohozan’s belt. Shohozan seemed lost, though, and didn’t muster much of an offense. Nishikigi took the initiative and worked Shohozan out, aggressively. Yoritaoshi.

Terunofuji (8-1) defeated Sadanoumi (4-5): Terunofuji quickly achieved his preferred belt grip and moved steadily forward. A wiggle and some resistance from Sadanoumi deflected action slightly to the side but Terunofuji’s overpowering effort forced Sadanoumi over the edge. Terunofuji kachi-koshi. WONDERFUL to see the Kaiju back. Yorikiri.

Wakatakakage (5-4) defeated Shimanoumi (2-7): At the tachiai both wrestlers settled into a grapple with opposing belt grips. Shimanoumi the early aggressor, shoving Wakatakakage around the dohyo but the straw bales offered enough resistance for Wakatakakage to stay in the ring. Wakatakakage began passively but he came up with the plan Bruce was looking for, to wait. When Shimanoumi tired out, Wakatakakage launched his own attack, patiently working Shimanoumi out. Yorikiri.

Myogiryu (7-2) defeated Kotoeko (6-3): Myogiryu kept Kotoeko off the belt but both engaged tightly. Tried an early pull which didn’t work. But his second pull forced Kotoeko out. Hatakikomi.

Kotoshoho (7-2) defeated Ikioi (2-7): Ikioi thrusted forward, looking genki. But Kotoshoho’s pull forced Ikioi off-balance. Ikioi didn’t go down at the hatakikomi attempt but his forward momentum and a last thrust from Kotoshoho launched him out of the ring. Tsukiotoshi.

Kotoshogiku (7-2) defeated Tamawashi (6-3): Oshi-tsuki vs Yotsu battle here. Early on it was an oshi battle but Kotoshogiku weathered Tamawashi’s multiple engagements. Kotoshogiku attempted a quick pull but his opponent snuffed it out. Kotoshogiku engaged again, wrapping up Tamawashi and quickly forcing him out. Yorikiri.

Tochinoshin (6-3) defeated Ishiura (3-6): Bruce did not get his wish for a repeat aggressive performance from Ishiura. A sidestep and death spin from Ishiura but Tochinoshin rolled with it, locking in with his own belt grip. With that right arm grip, Tochinoshin wore Ishiura down and walked him back and out. Yorikiri.

Terutsuyoshi (5-4) defeated Kaisei (3-6): Terutsuyoshi went after Kaisei aggressively. Kaisei maintained his balance at the early slap down attempt but he had no counter-attack. Terutsuyoshi levered into Kaisei’s armpits forcing him high and onto one leg. Terutsuyoshi kept up the pressure and pushed Kaisei out. Oshidashi.

Halftime

Chiyotairyu (4-5) defeated Ryuden (3-6): Chiyotairyu got the better of the tachiai, forcing Ryuden back a step…and then a little more as Chiyotairyu maintained his attack. Ryuden was in deep trouble and had no defense at the tawara as Chiyotairyu thrust him out. Tsukidashi.

Tokushoryu (5-4) defeated Takarafuji (3-6): Tokushoryu met Takarafuji’s charge head on but shifted to the left and tried a pull. Takarafuji followed and forced Tokushoryu back to the tawara. Takarafuji looked to have Tokushoryu in a bad spot, stood up at the tawara but he couldn’t muster enough strength to force him out. Instead, Tokushoryu danced along the bales and when Takarafuji over-extended, Tokushoryu pushed him down to the clay. Hikiotoshi.

Yutakayama (1-8) defeated Onosho (0-9): The futility bout. Yutakayama showed the most aggressive attacks today. Kachiage at the tachiai and sustained nodowa and face thrusts to keep Onosho high. Yutakayama wrapped up Onosho’s head with a kubinage attempt but Onosho resisted. However, the sustained attack from Yutakayama was too much for Onosho, forced out. Oshidashi.

Endo (3-6) defeated Takanosho (5-4): Takanosho’s early pull attempt was ferreted out by Endo who was able to maintain his balance and position in the center of the ring. Endo kept Takanosho in front of him and forced Takanosho out. Though still missing that energy, Endo’s superior footwork won the day. Oshidashi.

Sanyaku

Hokutofuji (6-3) defeated Daieisho (5-4): Daieisho on the attack, blasted Hokutofuji back. But that was to Hokutofuji’s plan as he wrapped up Daieisho’s head during the ride. The straw bales offered just enough leverage to pivot and force Daieisho down. Both men tumbled out at the same time so we got our first mono-ii conference of the day. However, replay confirmed the gyoji’s decision that Hokutofuji had forced Daieisho down. Tsukiotoshi.

Kiribayama (4-5) defeated Mitakeumi (7-2): A strong tachiai from Mitakeumi forced Kiribayama back a step. However, impressive yotsu-zumo from Kiribayama. Mitakeumi was too high and forced back to the center of the ring by the smaller Kiribayama. If Mitakeumi hoped to wear down Kiribayama, he never got the chance as Kiribayama kept up the attack and forced Mitakeumi out. Yorikiri.

Mitakeumi’s sumo was so impotent today it will surely initiate speculation of injury. Perhaps it was just a bit of listlessness, though, after his tough loss yesterday. There were no outward signs of injury and nothing that was obviously plaguing him but we’ll keep an eye out. If it’s just a case of loss of spirit, however, he’ll need to find it in a hurry. Ozeki don’t lose hope after one difficult setback. He’ll need three more wins, at least, to call this a credible run.

Shodai (8-1) vs Kagayaki (3-6): Kagayaki was the early aggressor. With a strong tachiai he met Shodai head on and worked Shodai back to the bales. However, Shodai maintained his composure and mustered his own attack from the tawara. Shodai demonstrated impressive strength to force Kagayaki completely across the ring in the opposite direction and out. Oshidashi.

Asanoyama (9-0) defeated Okinoumi (4-5): Okinoumi showed some jitters with a false start, forcing a reset. The two settled into a grapple at the tachiai but Okinoumi strongly forced Asanoyama back. Asanoyama twisted at the bales and forced Okinoumi down. The shimpan decided they wanted to take another look. On review, it looked like Asanoyama had won as Okinoumi’s arm touched first. However, the shimpan called a torinaoshi, do-over.

The second bout was more decisive for Asanoyama. Strong tachiai wrapped up Okinoumi and pushed him to the edge but Okinoumi resisted. Then, Asanoyama lost the right-hand grip but pursued Okinoumi and blasted with the right shoulder. Again, Okinoumi did not go out but Asanoyama swung back with that left-hand grip still firm and threw Okinoumi back to the center of the ring. Uwatenage.

Takakeisho (6-3) defeated Enho (4-5): Enho’s typical stand-up tachiai works well with Takakeisho’s thrusting style. Enho was unable to get a belt grip at the beginning of the bout and Takakeisho got the thrusting machine moving in pursuit of a retreating Enho. Takakeisho forced out Enho but as he was going out, Enho reached back and touched Takakeisho’s mawashi.

Since Takakeisho’s momentum carried him out and his foot touched outside before Enho fell, the shimpan wanted to review the decision. However, upon review they decided they agreed with the gyoji’s call. Gumbai dori. Enho’s body was already headed out of the dohyo when Takakeisho’s foot stepped out. I think they got this right because it would have been a very weak “win” for Enho. The win was deservedly Takakeisho’s, though it was not his best sumo. Tsukitaoshi.

As we see from time-to-time, sumo is not about “who touched first”. Usually we find this out when the dead body rule is invoked after a tawara-walker gets blasted out and takes a long fall into the crowd, not landing until after the aggressor falls on his belly. This time, though, we see that Takakeisho clearly won and forced Enho out. Enho was just nimble enough to reach back and touch the knot of Takakeisho’s mawashi but not to alter Takakeisho’s direction or attack in any way. The right call.

Hakuho (9-0) defeated Aoiyama (3-6): Hakuho’s perfect record was never in any real danger in this bout. One of the reasons I admire Hakuho’s sumo is that when he is on, he will use his opponent’s preferred styles and techniques to beat them. He “beats them at their own game.” There’s his epic sky crane battle against Tochinoshin as an example.

In contrast, Tamawashi fights hard to NOT have a belt battle. Whatever he does, he wants an oshi brawl. Kotoshogiku wants the belt. Today, Kotoshogiku’s sumo prevailed but both men wanted his bout. So, what’s Aoiyama’s usual gameplan? Oshi-tsuki sumo with hatakikomi slapdowns.

Denied a belt grip at the tachiai, Hakuho did not just weather Aoiyama’s thrusts. He went on the attack despite them, driving Aoiyama back to the edge like a battleship steaming into the heart of a hurricane. Annoyed by a nodowa, Hakuho nearly rips Aoiyama’s arm off when he pulled it down. The force pitched Aoiyama forward but he maintained his balance and set his eyes back on Hakuho. When he charged forward, that’s when Hakuho struck, using Aoiyama’s trademark parry and slapdown to force the Bulgarian to the ground. Hatakikomi.

Unfortunately, Hakuho himself landed awkwardly off the dohyo and on the gyoji from the previous bouts. This made him lose his balance and land hard in the middle of the purple mats, around the third or fourth row of phantom kyakusama. He quickly popped back up to claim his kensho stack but it did look like a hard fall.

Anyway, I look forward to reading y’all’s points-of-view down in the comments. Yes, that is the proper possessive form of “y’all”. I even looked it up.