Shaking off hangovers is never fun, but why not just drink and get it over with? The yusho was determined ages ago, Old Man Kaio bought his way out of another katoban, and there’s not a single 7-7 rikishi facing another 7-7 rikishi. The 2010 Aki Basho will go down in history as one with lower attendance records than the WBA, despite appearances by Rocky and other circus clowns…oh, just wait until Kyushu.
In search of good bouts on Senshuraku, the tv is on from 1pm at the Valentine home to catch the very competitive Makushita division. A rikishi I’ve been following, Makushita W9 Aoiyama (5-1) took on W14 Ikioi (5-1). Both have a slight possibility of advancing into Juryo, but the winner will have the edge if that opportunity is indeed there. First tachiai—false start by Ikioi. Second, tachiai—false start by Aoiyama. Damn, maybe they’re ready for Makuuchi? Finally, on the third try, Aoiyama reached inside for a belt grip but Ikioi had a quick tsuppari going which first fended off Aoiyama’s reach, then escorted the Bulgarian backwards and out of the ring. Ikioi is 6-1 and has a slight edge of Aoiyama, 5-2, for that special promotion.
Makushita musubi-no-ichiban turned out to be an interesting bout. E2 Fukao (4-2) took on E3 Masunoyama (4-2). With a kachikoshi and at their ranks, these two are first in long line for Juryo…again, if the opportunity presents itself. Anyone ever seen Fukao’s tachiai? Certainly the strangest one out there. A top-heavy bastard to begin with, it takes him like five minutes just to hunker down, point one leg straight at his opponent, and the other towards the shōmen judge, in a 90 degree angle. He’s also in the running for the boobie prize with Bushuyama. Upon tachiai, Fukao got a right-hand inside briefly, but Masunoyama fought it off with his arms extended. Masunoyama transformed his shoves into a monozashi which disarmed Fukao and easily led the heavyweight opponent out of the ring. Masunoyama finishes 5-2 while Fukao falls to 4-3, but both have high hopes for Juryo. If Masunoyama is promoted, he will be the first rikishi born in the Heisei Era to draw a sekitori paycheck.
Skipping Juryo, enter the English commentators “Hro Morita,” (yes, that’s how the NHK graphic listed his name), alongside “Having said that…” David Shapiro
Kokkai (8-6) vs. Sokokurai (7-7); the two men meet right in the middle from the tachiai and Sokokurai went straight for a left-hand inside, right-hand outside. With the grip, the Honorable Gentleman from China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Sokokurai lowered his hips to where Kokkai couldn’t reach, and drove the Georgian out, yorikiri equals kachikoshi. Senshuraku, and the 7-7 rikishi defeats the rikishi who already has his kachikoshi (Steven Levitt, author of Freakanomics, can chalk this one up as well).
Gagamaru (9-5) vs. Hakuba (8-6). Surprise! Surprise! Hakuba henka-ed to the left at the tachiai, but Gagamaru didn’t fall for the shenanigans as he was moving too slow to be thrown off balance. Just a couple of thrusts and the heaviest Makuuchi finished off the lightest and most effeminate with oshidashi.
An earnest “Congratulations” to Akita-boy Takekaze as well as his slimmer stableman Yoshikaze for picking up a pair of Fighting Spirit Prizes. The party will indeed go on all night at the Oguruma-beya. The two were really never in a yusho race per se, but they had some good bouts, and were among just a few wrestlers who did well and are not named Hakuho. Today, Takekaze (11-3) took on Kotoshogiku (9-5). From the tachiai, Take wrapped up his arms in a double inside grip on the Geek, who aimed to do a throw but the Akitan was in too tight for any room for throws. Take kept up pressure and finished the Geek yorikiri, and a fine 12-3 finish for the basho.
Stablemate Yoshikaze (11-3) took on a wildly Kakuryu (8-6). The tachiai featured a harite slap by the Kak, followed by both men thrusting and slapping. Once Kak was leading Yoshi to move back, Yoshi had his upper body leaning too far down and Kak used this opportunity for a slap down victory.
Asasekiryu (9-5) vs. Tochiozan (10-4), who earned a technique prize this basho. Sexy went a bit wild from the tachiai, attacking very hard and out of control. Ozan used Sexy’s lack of balance to begin forward motion and with that Sexy more or less just slipped down on his own. No technique needed here for Ozan, who will stick around in sekiwake another basho.
YES WE KAN!! Mixing sumo with politics, Prime Minister Kan showed up in the lower deck just in time for the last three bouts. It’s certainly a good thing they got the yakuza out of there, or his seat might have been taken!
In the first bout post-koreyori Sanyaku, Sekiwake Aran (6-8) took on Ozeki Kaio (8-6). I don’t care for Kaio any more. I don’t care for his records, and I don’t care for him as a person. I’ve seen sumo enough to know what’s phony, and Mr. Morita and Mr. Shapiro know it too, they’re just not allowed to say. Kaio is a fraud and cannot win a bout without yaocho-ing it up. Tachiai featured Kaio waaaaaaaaay too slow to start. Aran jumped to the right at the tachiai, which Kaio didn’t at all see coming. Aran locked up a right-hand inside, left-hand out and Kaio’s balance was off the whole time and Aran easily escorted the Old Man out. With 7-8, Aran seems he’s granted himself another basho in sanyaku. Kaio is suddenly easy to defeat when he’s got his magic eight (and no money is passed under the table). I’m all for breaking records when they’re legit. Kaio is not. Retire and make a career in pro wrestling.
Ozeki Baruto (9-5) vs. Ozeki Kotooshu (9-5). With these two giants in the ring, it looked more like two toddlers in a hula-hoop. Things started with slow shoves from Baruto while Oshu was searching for a grip. When Bart went in once with both hands on a thrust, Oshu slipped to the side and off-centered Bart just enough to take the belt and escort him out yorikiri. Oshu goes 10-5, bare expectations of an Ozeki. Bart finished one shy of that.
“People are already talking about the Kyushu Basho. Everyone is really excited”—Hiro Morita. Really? Who? Kokugikan only sold out three of fifteen days this basho. You think Kyushu Basho is already a-buzzin’?
Yokozuna Hakuho (14-0) vs. Ozeki Harumafuji (8-6). Tachiai started with a friendly harite from Hakuho, but for the most part he let Haruma charge full strength into his chest, and once Haruma was in close Hakuho got “the grip,” dropped the hips and a bit of hug & chug as he worked Haruma across two-thirds of the ring and out, yorikiri. With that, Hakuho continue his record winning streak, currently at 62 wins straight. Kyushu Day 7 is the date he can tie half legand, half god Futabayama, who evidently had a great sense of humor by leaving the consecutive win record at 69 in the ring.
And so goes the Aki Basho this year. Hakuho has been performing marvelously, and it takes time but he is continuing to prove his greatness. We’ll have the retirement ceremonies for a number of rikishi next month, including Asashoryu. Times are a changing, but we’ll keep you posted!