Kyushu Day 11 Highlights

WTF

For readers who don’t want to know the details of today’s bouts, including some oddities around Hakuho: stop reading now, and wait to see the NHK highlights later today. There will likely be a significant amount of discussion here and in other forums to examine that match, and we will cover it below. Yes, we are flying the rare but useful “What the hell was that?” tag on this post.

In order to give readers a bit of visual buffer on the page, let’s start from the lower Makuuchi matches of note…

Highlight Matches

Okinoumi defeats Kagayaki – After multiple basho of middling or weak performance, Okinoumi seems to be cleaning up in lower Makuuchi. After a brief oshi contest following the tachiai, Okinoumi established a solid right-hand grip on Kagayaki’s mawashi and marched Kagayaki backward and out for an easy win.

Asanoyama defeats Aoiyama – The Man-Mountain Aoiyama has no strength in his injured legs, and in sumo, defense starts with the lower body. Asanoyama, who appeared to be headed towards make-koshi, is rallying and may finish with a respectable record.

Kotoyuki defeats Daieisho – Kotoyuki goes for the face straight out of the tachiai and puts Daieisho in a reactive mode. From there Kotoyuki keeps up the pressure and the oshi attack until Daieisho loses balance, handing Kotoyuki a much-needed victory.

Endo defeats Nishikigi – I would say that maybe, just maybe, Endo is back to workable health. At the tachiai, Endo tries to land a grip but is repelled by a solid thrusting attack by Nishikigi, forcing Endo back and to the bales, where he finally does land his right hand. From here Endo takes control and gets them chest to chest. Points to Nishikigi who rallies and moves to throw Endo, but can’t finish it. Instead, Endo improves his grip steadily and wins by yorikiri. Endo is now kachi-koshi and looking genki for the first time in what seems like ages.

Daiamami defeats Chiyomaru – A surprisingly solid match between two oshi-zumo men. The battle raged across the dohyo, with these two behemoths each testing their strength, and discovering that weighty men are difficult to push around. After tiring of this, the two go chest to chest and lean on each other for a time, breathing heavily. Daiamami returns to the attack first and neatly shoves Chiyomaru out.

Shodai defeats Aminishiki – A great effort from Uncle Sumo trying to prevent Shodai’s win. As always, Shodai comes in high in the tachiai, and Aminishiki begins to try and pull him forward and down. Clearly, Shodai is expecting this (and at this point, who isn’t) and manages to land a right-hand grip during all of the tugging. From there he takes control of Aminishiki, who knows that he has a problem. Both men work to throw the other, but it’s Shodai who seals the deal by reversing and pulling Aminishiki down. For a second day, Aminishiki misses out on his first Makuuchi kachi-koshi in a long time.

Kaisei defeats Chiyoshoma – Kaisei wins the tachiai, landing inside Chiyoshoma and putting a solid grip under both arms, and pressing forward with his enormous mass. Chiyoshoma counters well, landing his left hand on Kaisei’s mawashi, and loading up for a throw. But the giant Brazilian won’t go over. Chiyoshoma adds juice to the throw by trying to trip Kaisei, but even that is not enough, as Kaisei maintains excellent balance on his left leg alone. Time and again Chiyoshoma works to throw Kaisei, each time Kaisei counters until at the edge he manages to get him over, but sadly lands before Kaisei does, losing the match. Remember sumo fans, if you know you are going to fall, make sure you fall last.

Takarafuji defeats Shohozan – It seems that maybe Shohozan skipped anatomy class, as he repeatedly attempts to apply a strong nodowa against a man with no neck. This provides ample time for Takarafuji to patiently, methodically work his sumo while Shohozan blazes away against a nonexistent body part. Suddenly distracted by the absurdity of the situation (how does he breathe, speak or even swallow without the organs located in the neck?), Takarafuji slaps the medically stupefied Shohozan to the clay.

Tamawashi defeats Arawashi – In the Oshi-Washi battle, it’s clear that Tamawashi wants back in San’yaku, and with a performance like this, he shall have it. With this win, he picks up his kachi-koshi and makes a strong case for at least a Komusubi slot.

Tochiozan defeats Onosho – In spite of the red mawashi of power, Onosho once again over-commits, gets his weight too far forward, and Tochiozan makes him pay. Onosho is a solid, up and coming rikishi, and this is his primary weakness now. Sadly for him, everyone now sees it and exploits it when Onosho makes the mistake.

Kotoshogiku defeats Takakeisho – The Kyushu Bulldozer denies Takakeisho his kachi-koshi, in a brilliant display of containment and ejection strategy. The crowd loved it, and so did I. Takakeisho tends to win by applying some truly powerful oshi, but he made the mistake of allowing Kotoshogiku grab a piece of him with both hands. This is really all this guy needs to give you a bumpy ride back to the dressing room, and we got to see a very rough and chaotic version of this dance today.

Mitakeumi defeats Chiyotairyu – In spite of foot problems, Mitakeumi is gamberizing well. He took a very short time to shove Chiyotairyu out, and inches closer to his kachi-koshi and returning to Sekiwake.

Takayasu defeats Ichinojo – The Ichinojo we saw on day 1 did not make an appearance. Fans were hoping that these two would take a 5-minute lean-to siesta in a show of mass vs force, but it was not to be. I hope that Ichinojo did not re-injure his back during his match with Hakuho.

Hokutofuji defeats Goeido – This match was a thing of beauty, as I think we got a glimpse of a possible future Ozeki Hokutofuji. Goeido was fast and fighting with strength and skill, but Hokutofuji held on and prevailed. Goeido landed a strong right hand inside grip straight out of the tachiai, and in many cases, that’s all he needs to have his way. Hokutofuji moved to counter, and the two separated, just to clash again. In Goeido’s second charge, Hokutofuji sidestepped deftly and got behind the Ozeki. Now Goeido is off balance and in a weakened position. Hokutofuji charges forward strongly, but Goeido deflects and again establishes a mawashi grip. Hokutofuji holds tight, lands his own grip and struggles as Goeido writhes in defense. Somehow Hokutofuji keeps his left hand on Goeido’s mawashi knot, and works the Ozeki sideways, then pushes with everything he has left. Goeido sails backward and out. Excellent match from both.

Yoshikaze defeats Hakuho – This match is one of those sumo moments where you can only throw up your hands in disbelief and perhaps a bit of frustration and move on. Yoshikaze is the kind of rikishi that can, and will, beat anyone on any given day. Both men lined up on the shikiri-sen, and as is typical, Yoshikaze went into his launch position with his hands firmly on the clay early and stayed put. Hakuho took longer and went into a Konishiki-style crouch before accelerating into the tachiai. Like normal, the Yokozuna led with his face slap and was perhaps a bit early. But keep in mind, Yoshikaze had already given consent for the match to begin. Rising late, he landed moro-zashi, as it seemed Hakuho eased up, expecting a matta to be called. Instead, the gyoji kept the match running. Yoshikaze charged forward, under minimal resistance from the matta-expectant Hakuho, who went for a ride into the second row of zabuton. What followed was quite awkward, as Hakuho waited below the dohyo for the shimpan to call a monoii, and decide to run the match “for real”. Sadly for him, Yoshikaze gave consent, Hakuho took it and launched into battle. His opponent accepted the challenge and finished the match victorious. This gives Hakuho his first loss of the basho, which will not deter him from his likely yusho.

More from the Japan Times:

Hakuho got quickly rammed out by sekiwake Yoshikaze in the day’s final bout at Fukuoka Kokusai Center and in a rare act unfitting of a yokozuna, raised his arm in protest at the referee’s decision.

Hakuho (10-1) took his foot off the pedal after the charge, suggesting he thought Yoshikaze (6-5) had made a matta (false start). He left the ring shaking his head.

“The yokozuna thought it was a matta and eased up but I heard even more clearly than usual the referee say nokotta (you’re still in it),” said Yoshikaze.

“I got the okay so just had to keep charging forward. I will try and wrestle well for the remaining four days.”

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 3 Highlights

Matta?

Day 3 in bizzaro basho, and the whole Tachiai crew, along with the cat, are wondering if this thing is ever going to settle down and stop pooping it’s diaper.

If you have yet to watch the NHK highlight reel, or Jason or Kintamayama, I strongly recommend a stiff drink before and during. With now 7 rikishi out kyujo – Including the majority of the Yokozuna and Ozeki corps – each day seems a bit more odd and off pace. Yet there is abundant great sumo taking place, and in the absence of the top guys, the up and coming team are really in the spotlight. With rikishi like Takakeisho and Onosho clearly standing out every day, they are getting a great deal of attention, and probably new fans. This is another step down the path of transition that we have been pointing out for the past several tournaments, and it’s not going to reverse.

If you are wondering, many of the Angry Tadpoles are still undefeated at the end of day 3. These guys are a real driving force for the near-term future of sumo.

Rather than call it highlights, for today I am going to call it…

Things That Happened Today

Asanoyama defeats Yutakayama – I have decided I like Asanoyama. He just seems to be having a great time on the dohyo, even when he loses. It’s as if each time he steps up on the clay, he says to himself, “Can you believe they are paying me to have this much fun? Holy crap, what a life!”

Aminishiki defeats Tokushoryu – Yeah, thats right! Uncle Sumo came to Makuuchi for a day and won! His fans in the Kokugikan are legion, and he frequently gets a bigger reaction than 80% of Maegashira. There was a false start, but the second attempt was actually some really good sumo. Tokushoryu was trying to apply overwhelming bulldozery, but Uncle Sumo decided he was fine with that. He offered some token resistance to get Tokushoryu well cranked up, then pulled him down.

Endo defeats Kaisei – Ok, I am starting to allow myself to get optimistic about Endo’s recovery. Sure he is fighting the bottom end of Makuuchi, but I would say his ankle is at best 75% of good. He even had the presence of mind to break Kaisei’s fall. I think with the bloodbath thus far, everyone is worried someone else is going to catch a career impacting injury.

Daieisho defeats Nishikigi – Daieisho is not getting a lot of coverage because he is down at Maegashira 11, but he is looking in solid form right now. Granted Nishikigi is not the strongest opponent, but Daieisho’s sumo was spot on today.

Arawashi defeats Takarafuji – Really nice effort by both Rikishi, Arawashi had a much better tachiai and was able to set up the throw.

Takakeisho defeats Shodai – Everyone sing along… Shodai blew another tachiai. Easy to do when you are tall and looking rather lethargic this basho, and your opponent is an amped-up bowling ball with legs who has chrome side pipes and the low-rider package. I counted 2 tsuppari from Takakeisho for every 1 from Shodai. Frankly Shodai looked surprised that this tadpole was kicking his butt. Takakeisho remains undefeated.

Chiyotairyu defeats Tochiozan – Chiyotairyu continues to deliver above expectations, and is really knocking down some of the better rikishi that are not in the hospital.

Onosho defeats Tamawashi – I am still thinking that Tamawashi did more to his ankle than he cares to admit. Onosho was once again at 11+ on a 1-10 scale, and Tamawashi seems to be lacking his prior ability to transmit power to ground.

Mitakeumi defeats Shohozan – Mitakeumi hopefully is shaking off the cobwebs and the jinx of going on NHK to talk about his sumo. Big Guns Shohozan is sporting some Yoshikaze-style face damage now, so that may be effecting his sumo. Mitakeumi won by a fairly quick slap-down for a convincing victory.

Goeido defeats Yoshikaze – Goeido unleashes a dirty henka, but Yoshikaze bought it. Goeido really needs to clear his kadoban status, so I am sure nobody really is too sore about his deciding not to take the Berserker on head-to-head.

Terunofuji defeats Tochinoshin – Thank you oh Great Sumo Cat of the Kokugikan. The knee-less wonder won in fairly convincing fashion over Tochinoshin, and maybe there is hope that he’s still got some health left. Tochinoshin gave it his all, and put up a great fight. Terunofuji was relieved, the fans are relieved, and even my cat liked it.

Kotoshogiku “something-something” Harumafuji – I could call it a win, it was recorded as a win, but what the hell was it? It was, in fact, Kotoshogiku’s first kinboshi, but should it have been? Clearly we had a matta, but for whatever reason the gyoji did not call it back. Again, after yesterday’s injury fest, I am sure people like Harumafuji are being extra careful. Should he have ignored the matta and just given The Kyushu Bulldozer (Kotoshogiku) a death spin and a ride in the wheelchair? Either way, it’s in the record books now and Harumafuji has his first loss of the basho. Kotoshogiku… Undefeated?

Nagoya Day 9 Highlights

Ura Lines Up

Let The Crazy Train Roll

Where to start with day 9? Possibly one of the most engaging and topsy-turvy days of sumo in a while. If you are the type that does not want “spoilers” before you watch it on TV, best to turn back now.

Ok, we will start with last night’s preview! I do a paragraph on Juryo 5 Asanoyama – seems like he is really chugging along, and he dropped his bout with Kaisei. My apologies to Asanoyama if the sudden, unexpected write up somehow doomed him. At least he secured his kachi-koshi before then. This puts him even with Yutakayama, who won his match today, in the Juryo yusho race.

Day 9 – if you can find it on Youtube, it’s worth seeing in addition to whatever NHK will try to shoe horn into 20 minutes. The Makuuchi was wall to wall amazement, and it’s a shame that those of us in the West are limited on days like today. Start with Kintamayama’s day 9, I advise.

Highlight Matches

Takarafuji defeats Nishikigi – Nishikigi owned this one from the tachiai, but it seems he made a small mistake just as he was taking Takarafuji to the edge, and Takarafuji exploited that mistake and tossed Nishikigi out. Nice okuridashi.

Chiyomaru defeats Shohozan – A real slug fest, they broke contact a couple of times to glare at each other, and launched back into the fray. Chiyomaru managed to pull down Shohozan as he was chasing him.

Aoiyama defeats Chiyonokuni – Originally the gumbai was pointed at Chiyonokuni, but a monoii was called, and the shimpan noticed that Chiyonokuni’s right foot was out as he cocked the throw that won. Chiyonokuni gets a bloody nose for his prize. Aoiyama secures his kachi-koshi, and first class ticket to punching bag status in upper Maegashira for Aki.

Ishiura defeats Takanoiwa – Sadly, Takanoiwa has now secured his make-koshi, but boy did Ishiura look good handing it to him. There is no way of knowing what kept Ishiura in “neutral” for the first few days in Nagoya, but he certainly seems to be on his sumo now.

Ikioi defeats Hokutofuji – Ikioi has been as lack luster as his 2-7 record would indicate, until today. He was crisp, focused and took Hokutofuji to the clay like he knows sumo. I hope this Ikioi sticks around for the rest of the basho, the other one was boring.

Tochinoshin defeats Shodai – Why Shodai? Did you really want a contest of strength against this lumberjack guy? Shodai conceded to a mawashi battle and was doomed from the start. Tochinoshin looks to have overcome his knee problems to once again be somewhat formidable.

Mitakeumi defeats Kotoshogiku – One.. Two.. Henka! Mitakeumi deftly side steps the Kyushu Bulldozer for an easy win. I dig the new NHK “Henka Cam” mode.

Tamawashi defeats Takakeisho – To me this looked like the sequel to Takakeisho’s match with Hakuho. Lots of tsuppari, some taunting, breaking contact and in the end a miserable defeat. Takakeisho will be back in a tournament or two, better and stronger than before. This is just his welcome to the joi-jin parade.

Yoshikaze defeats Takayasu – Takayasu seemed completely unprepared for Yoshikaze’s attack. True to form the Berserker led with his face, but got inside Takayasu immediately, and took control before the big Ozeki could plant his feet and battle back. Very nice win, but drops Takayasu to 7-2.

Chiyoshoma defeats Goeido – A mighty Goeido 2.0 tachiai directly into Chiyoshoma’s too slow attempt to side step the charge. Chiyoshoma somehow managed to convert this mess of a start into a twisting throw at the bales. The shimpan called a monoii, but footage showed Goeido landing a split second before Chiyoshoma.

URA DEFEATS HARUMAFUJI – The Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium explodes with fanfare as crowd favorite Ura finds a way to wrangle the master of winning by speed into the clay. It happens so fast, multiple replays in slow motion are required to take it in. This is Ura’s first kinboshi, and he is clearly overwhelmed. In the post bout interview, he does lose his grip and starts crying. I think even Harumafuji wondered how he did that.

Hakuho defeats Kagayaki – Not quite as good an effort from Kagayaki today, but it looks to me like he lost his footing on the the clay. I will update the Hakuho meter later today, but he is now tied with Chiyonofuji’s 1045 all time win mark. Three more to go and another lofty mark belongs to the Boss.

Kotoshogiku’s Ozeki Bid Ends

Kotoshogiku-14

Terminated by Terunofuji’s Henka

In on of the most disappointing 5 minutes of sumo of my life, Sekiwake Kotoshogiku’s bid to reclaim his Ozeki rank, and likely retire on a high note, ended when Terunofuji chose to employ a henka rather than give the fading rikishi an honest fight. The match had trouble getting started, with Terunofuji coming off the line prematurely, and matta was called.

On the restart, Kotoshogiku launched into the tachiai, but found that Terunofuji had leapt to the side. Thus ends a valiant effort by a long serving rikishi to end things on a high note. The crowd in Osaka was shocked, and I might say insulted. Everyone assumed that Terunofuji was going to win this bout, but they wanted to see him win via strength and skill. The expression on the crowd’s faces on the image above speak volumes.

Goeido’s Yokozuna Bid Destroyed By Terrible Call

goeido-robbed

The big news of Day 8 is that Goeido’s push to win the basho, and through that achieve promotion to Yokozuna is effectively over. Moreover, it’s over because of a reversal of the gyoji’s call by the shimpan (judges) in what has to be one of the worst calls in sumo history. It’s one thing to lose a pivotal match based on poor sumo, it’s another to have a setback delivered by a questionable call. In cases like these, the shimpan should simply call for a torinaoshi – a rematch. It happened several times during Aki, and it’s not that uncommon.

In another “robbed by the shimapn” moment, Tochinoshin saw what looked like a clear victory, but Shodai won after a monoii declared a rematch. This one was (in my opinion) not even close enough to warrant a torinaoshi.

The rest of the results and commentary a little later today.

Aki Day 1 Shocker – Kisenosato (稀勢の里 ) Loses

Yokozuna Campaign Thrown Into Doubt By Loss To Rank and File Wrestler Okinoumi (隠岐の海)

The over-arching theme going into the September tournament was that the great Japanese hope, Kisenosato would press once again to win the tournament and ascend in rank to Yokozuna. If he should do that, it would break the Mongolian lock on the top rank in sumo, and give the Japanese fans one of their own in the elite ranks. With Hokuho on the bench until at least November, it was if the sumo gods had smiled upon Kisenosato, blessing his path to victory.

Then This

kise-loss

 

Listen, Great Pumpkin – you have to earn it. To win the championship, Kisenosato would need 15 to 13 wins over the next two weeks. That includes facing all of the other San’yaku, both Yokozuna, and a few rank and file types he is supposed to help “educate” in the ways of sumo.

He came off strong at the Tachiai where he nearly stood Okinoumi up, and walked him to the edge of the ring. At that point, Okinoumi decided he was not going down. Okinoumi dug deep, found the power to circle Kisenosato to his right, and then it was Kisenosato with his heels on the bales. One hard push with everything he had, and the aspiring Kisenosato had lost.

For the overall campaign of Kisenosato reaching Yokozuna, this is a huge blow. He had been looking very rough in pre-tournament practice bouts. Many had assumed he was “sandbagging” and would bring the thunder once it was for real.

His path to the rope is still open, but the climb is much steeper. Congratulations to Okinoumi, who proves himself worthy of his East Maegashira 1 rank in taking down the Great Pumpkin.