Oh, yes, Hiro. I’m sure it is.
A rare sold-out crowd gathered at the Kokusai Center in Fukuoka on Senshuraku, and enjoyed probably the best day of sumo since Asashoryu left the sport.
Special Prizes have been announced.
Fighting Spirit: Toyonoshima
Outstanding Performance: Kisenosato (only the second one awarded since 2008)
All well deserved. Some might make a case that Goeido also deserved some hardware, but I’m personally glad they snuffed him on this. He finished the basho with double-digit wins, but there was some piss-poor losses in there (like that loss to Tochinonada on Shonichi). Secondly, like Toyonoshima and other Japanese rikishi, he’s only in the lower maegashira ranks because he was penalized for gambling in July. He wouldn’t deserve a prize until he pulls off some great double-digit wins from joi, but I don’t see that happening for a while.
One bout in Makuuchi got under way before tie-breaking events. Juryu Yusho leader Toyohibiki (11-3) came up to the big leagues for a visit with Don Juan Okinoumi (7-7). Beeker was actually another of those knocked down to Juryo due to gambling. Unlike the others, he seemed to like it so much he stayed around another basho. Head-to-head was 3-0 in Beeker’s favor, and he knew that because from the tachiai he was all over Okidoki, driving the handsome devil back and complementing it all with some fierce shoves, but then came a key mistake. Beeker switched from thrusts to trying a pull down. This allowed the hansamu suutsu rikishi to regain his stature and stop retreating. Beeker continued to charge with a moRozashi, but now Okily-Dokily was able to turn the tables from the edge by executing an under-arm throw. Beeker went down, and he was obviously pissed that rather than win the Juryo Yusho outright, now he had to take part in a four-some…that is, four rikishi tied at 11-4 in the lead for Juryo.
But before the Juryo fab-four, there were other ties to be settled, which made for a more enjoyable Senshuraku.
First was two guys tied for the Sandanme championship. The bout was over real quick, NHK neglected to provide replays, and I never did catch the two gentlemen’s names, so we’ll just move on…
Next was an orgy-affair in Makushita. No one in the division achieved 7-0, but six men ended at 6-1. The six drew straws; each would have a bout, three losers go home, and three winners take part in one of those take-turns-till-someone-wins-twice things.
First pair was E11 Minami and E58 Myogiryu. The smaller and more strangely named Myogiryu forced out the large and southerly named Minami.
Second pair was E41 Chiyonokuni and W32 Tochitsubasa. The two lined up for simultaneous over-arm/under-arm throw attempts, then after separating they abandoned the line dance for bitch slaps. With that getting nowhere, one dude worked in under the other’s slaps and stage 3: belt battle commenced. Tight on the belt, Tochitsubasa pulled an awesome underarm throw. Great bout by these two unknowns.
Third pair was E37 Kumagai and E21 Naoe. There was somewhat of a hesitant henka at the tachiai, but they eventually connect and Naoe thrusted his opponent out with an easy win.
Round 2: In accordance with another drawing, E58 Myogiryu took on E21 Naoe. Nice bonk of the heads at the tachiai, and with straightforward deashi leading Naoe out, Myogiryu sticks around for another bout with the man-in-waiting.
E58 Myogiryu and W32 Tochitsubasa: Tochitsubasa had an interesting tachiai like he was trying to avoid punches in a bar fight by ducking down. Really, he was trying to get an inside position. Myogiryu saw through it and drove the rascal back, yorikiri. And with that, ranked at East 58, 24 year old Hyogo-native Myogiryu, who has sekitori experience and had took nearly one year off to shake an injury won the Makushita Yusho. Best of luck to this guy in the future.
Next up, the Juryo playoff. For men draw four straws.
First semi final: W4 Toyohibiki and newby E11 Takayasu. Beeker easily drove him out with a push-out win. Takayasu goes home, but hell of an opening basho as a Sekitori.
Second semi final: E10 Tochinowaka and E6 Kaisei. Brazilian Kaisei went in straight for a low left-hand inside grip and used that to guide Tochinowaka out of the ring.
Final bout: W4 Toyohibiki and E6 Kaisei. Beeker came in with the stronger tachiai, but again, Kaisei unleashed that same low left-hand inside grip, and again, drove his opponent out with it. A better rikishi than Tochinowaka, Beeker was able to resist somewhat, but Kaisei’s grip was just too advantageous. At the bales, Kaisei finished off his opponent by leaning his whole body into Beeker thus crushing him out of the ring. Brazilian Kaisei will more likely than not be in Makuuchi in January. He’ll struggle if that left-hand inside weapon is all he’s got, but I for one will enjoy seeing him develop into a Makuuchi rikishi, though I am disappointed this new foreign up-and-comer speaks decent Japanese.
Fiiiiiiinaaaaaaaalllllllly back to Makuuchi, but just the bouts of interest.
Mokonami (7-7) vs. Takamisakari (7-7); an unusually fast tachiai from Ringo, who continued moving forward with both hands on the tan Mongol’s mawashi and lead him straight to the bales and “downward you go, Sunshine.” Decisive yet uncharacteristic win for Takamisakari.
Gagamaru (8-6) vs. Shotenro (9-5), (or as David Swenson was calling him, “Shotender”); steady and strong…that’s the way Gaga should do it every time. Met Shotender in the middle, pressed forward with solid deashi, and pushed Shotender straight out, oshidashi win for the Georgian peach.
Yoshikaze (7-7) vs Asasekiryu (6-8) A bit soft tachiai from Yoshi, probably trying to avoid a henka. Sexy locked up Yoshi’s arms, but he loosened Sexy’s grip and worked to get the Mongol standing upward. Sexy spiced things up with a leg trip attempt. With the aggressor on one leg, Yoshi used the opportunity to move in closer behind the Mongol and threw on of his own leg trips, a twisting backwards knee trip. Yoshi out wits his opponent, gets the win, and a kachikoshi moving him into joi in January, and finally there’ll be a bit of gap between him and stablemate Takekaze on the bandzuke in January.
Aminishiki (7-7) vs Homasho (7-7). I was glad they set these two up with matching records and a kachikoshi on the line. From the tachiai, Cigar Store was able to push through Ami and move him back, but near the rice bales he slipped down as his deashi gradually got quicker and more careless. Amisneaky didn’t do a thing, but gets credited with a pull down, and is rewarded with a kachikoshi and moving into the joi meat-grinder in January (Amisneaky in joi = will definitely knock off a few lame ozeki).
One bout everyone had been waiting for, Kisenosato (10-4) and Toyonoshima (13-1). With a win, Toyonoshima was guaranteed the Yusho or a chance to fight the Yokozuna for it in a playoff. Head-to-head was 14-5 in Kisenosato’s favor. At the tachiai, Toyo got a left-hand in on the belt, but he had to let it go and back off in order to avoid Kise from getting in on his own mawashi. Moving backward, he reached the rice bales where he pivoted and launched what looked like a beltless arm through, but was called a push down. Great bout from the two hardware recipients, and among the best bouts of the basho. With this, Toyo remained in the running for the Yusho.
Simply because I love to see him get pounded, one rikishi I’ve enjoyed watching this basho is the hair on an ass mole, known by some (like his mother) as Hakuba (4-10). Today he took on a Virgil Valentine personal friend, Tochinoshin (5-9). The head-to-head has been 6-1 in Noshin’s favor. Today, the hair on an ass mole went to the left at the tachiai. Noshin read this like a popup book and got his grip, but Henkaba kept a marry-go-rounding, trying to avoid Noshin’s advance on his ass. Firming up on his belt grip, Noshin walked the hair on an ass mole right out of the ring to top off an embarrassing 4-11. Noshin finishes a respectable 6-9 from komusubi, but he’ll be back.
Another Sumo & Stogies Associate, Aran (4-10) took on local pride Takekaze (5-9). Take was much quicker from the tachiai and Aran was actually moving backward on his own, vying for an easy grip. In doing so, Take pulled him down with an easy pull-down win. Piss-poor basho by the Russian, while the Akitan maintained some degree of respect going 6-9, yet being within the blades of the meat-grinder this basho.
Latest Japanese disappointment®, Tochiozan (6-8) took on scrappy Kakuryu (7-7). A slow henka-weary tachiai from both, but O was able to work the Kak backwards with some good thrusts. Kak lunged to clear the gap between the two, but O knocked the Mongol down, thrust-down win. Both rikishi will fall from Sekiwake from now, but they both finished with respectable pairs of 7s and 8s.
The ole war horse Kaio (11-3) finished this basho against Baruto. Bart charged very quickly from the tachiai while Methuselah semi-henkaed, and wrapped up Bart’s left arm and tossed him with an arm-bar throw. As if Bart and the sheeple in the Kokusai Center never saw it coming, Kaio with a cheap win where everyone feesl little warm fuzzy feelings. Let’s just hope that in order to have a better 2011 for sumo, Kaio hangs up the mawashi. I bet he could find a career in pro-wrestling. I’m sick of the farce, and I don’t want to see him there any longer.
And so to the musubi-no-ichiban. Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho (13-1) takes on lame-duck Ozeki Kotooshu (8-6). The head-to-head is 24-7 in Hakuho’s favor. The Dai-Yokozuna needed this win to meet Toyonoshima in a playoff for the championship. At the tachiai, the Bulgarian was crap and he continued to be crap until he exited from the hanamichi. Hak secured the left outside grip, dropped his hips, swung one leg up and a textbook over-arm throw. Oshu moved like a brain-dead corps, and I’m beginning to question whether he is or not. The guy’s pure lack of fighting spirit makes him a pathetic rikishi, and the fact he’s an Ozeki with a complete absence of the desire to win is one of biggest problems with sumo. I’m tough on the guy because I know he can do better. He has in the past (latter 2005, May 2008), and he’s got the strength to do so. Lower the Ozeki salary, or require them to win double digit victories each basho (9-6 = kadoban). Something needs to be done to deal with this complacency in rikishi like Kotooshu. I’m bored with this guy.
So, we have the playoff of two rikishi at 14-1. The Dai-Yokozuna and rank-and-filer Toyonoshima. After a good ten minutes of grooming and primping, the two rikishi returned to the dohyo.
The Dai-Yokozuna in the east, Toyonoshima in the west. Yokozuna was veeery slow with the pre-tachiai rituals, focused and sending off that icy stare just as well as he ever has. Toyonoshima, on the other hand, spent little time with the rituals, and rarely even gazed at his opponent.
So it began; a good tachiai with Hakuho going in fast looking to do some slapping, but when the Yokozuna missed at a slap, Toyonoshima leeched onto Hakuho’s right arm and for a brief moment it appeared he was in the driver’s seat pinning the Dai-Yokozuna with this arm hold. Hakuho used his loose left to reach for an over-arm grip on Toyonoshima’s belt which by pulling on the belt, enabled him to shake out of the arm hold, and twist Toyonoshiima around into the Burt Reynolds pose. From there it was over as Hakuho threw him down, okurinage.
Great end to a dreadful year in sumo. Truth be told, I know everyone in the Kokusai Center who wasn’t Mongolian wanted Toyonoshima to win, but I for one was glad he didn’t. Toyonoshima did no wrong this basho. He did what he was supposed to do. He fought straight-up sumo, said the right things, and was a joy to watch. I have nothing against the guy, but as I previously mentioned, he is only Maegashira 9 because of the baseball betting scandal. He was in Juryo last basho. The guy’s schedule was power-puff up until about Day 12 when he faced Baruto. He got some great wins and was on a roll, but could he have achieved that if he was ranked in joi, where he really belongs?
In the end, the best man won, again, and it took a struggle, but he earned it, and that’s what this sumo fan likes to see. Hakuho is on a five-basho consecutive-yusho streak, and with a win in January and in March, he’ll match Asashoryu’s record of consecutive yusho. In 2010, he tied the best calendar year win-loss record which he already holds, of 86-4 for the year (tied with 2009). He just did it twice in a row. He’s got 17 yusho, and at the age of 25 years and nine months, only Taiho and Takanohana had more yusho under their belts at this age. Lastly, just in case, Hakuho is currently second to Taiho in Makuuchi career win-loss percentage (Taiho was 83.8%, Hakuho is currently just above 80%).
Let’s hope Toyonoshima and Kisenosato keep it up in 2011, Kaio retires, Kotooshu’s wife declares a no-yusho, no-sex ultimatum, Harumafuji recovers and rediscovers his inner Ama, Baruto gets pissed off, Aran, Tochinoshin,and Kakuryu spend their holidays doing extra keiko, Tochiozan grows some balls, Aminishiki plots out some new trickery, Hakuba falls to Makushita, and Hakuho just keeps on keeping on. That’ll make for a hell of a year in sumo. Until then, my friends.