DeGama here, after another decent basho, there is always some talk about what happened during it. Usually not one be to prone to write his actual opinions/critiques about rikishi other than the odd one or two, this basho I felt like taking the challenge and writing the 2011 Hatsu Basho wrap up. And by this I mean that someone previously took the day I wanted and was left with this… You can bet your lucky charms you know who you are. Much love, buddy!
So, I woke up one morning knowing that I had to write this eventually, and an idea popped into my head. Why not have a conversation over a few drinks with my good buddy, distinguished gentleman from the US, Creswell. I proceeded to called him and propose the idea. Delighted, we set it up. (Technically, it was his idea, but who really cares).
Anyways, this is the coversation of how things went down.
Creswell: All right, I got some Glenlivet, so I’m ready to go. (rattles whisky glass slightly so the jingling of ice is audible)
DeGama: Sweet. So, let’s start off with the so called Ozeki runs. (notices that he has no whiskey, so decides rather to roll a cigarette and make a pot of coffee)
Creswell: (sips whisky) yeah, I’ve got a problem with that just in name.
DeGama: How so? You meaning like pre-Ozeki run?
Creswell: well, back in Kyushu both guys were still ranked in maegashira not sanyaku.
Creswell: given it was joi, but still…anyway, Let’s give each guy a chance here.
DeGama: hmm… (lights the rollie and exhales some smoke) but the thing I can’t get past is that the top of the Banzuke is weaker, so it looks like they are actually better than they are.
Creswell: yeah either complacency, age, or injury
DeGama: (laughs) yeah
Creswell: (lights a cigar)On top of that guys like Tochinoshin and Aran were just having a shitty basho.
DeGama: though, Oshu with all his complacency stuff still looked out (score-wise). (releases a sweet, grey stream of smoke)
Creswell: (through thick smoke)yeah, but he lost some pretty shitty bouts, like against Homasho.
DeGama: mmm, but let’s get back on point
Creswell: anyway, let’s hit each “potential” ozeki, (puff) Kisenosato first.
DeGama: Kise, even though he seems to have Hakuho, loses to people like Aran. (stubs out his rollie in the ashtray. He fetches his brew and pours himself a steaming hot black coffee. A Man’s coffee)
Creswell: right, and Kaio. Kyushu was a legit win for Kise. He took Hak out of his comfort zone.
DeGama: (nods) yeah, I know
Creswell: this basho was more luck or possibly “luck”(air quotes).
DeGama: So do you think it was staged or anything for ratings and what not.
Creswell: (shrugs shoulders) all I’m saying is its possible.
DeGama: I thought about it and it seems too good to be true, however it’s all speculation. (raises the cup to his mouth and sips. The nice bitter flavor flows into his mouth)
Creswell: ratings are down and cats around here are starting to get boners for a new Japanese ozeki. I still think Kise is a bit inconsistent. (frees the loose ash from the end of his smoke)
DeGama: Kise is, to be honest, on highlight more than anyone I feel.
Creswell: true indeed. I think it’s because he has the versatility card on the Geek. He also has a bit more intensity when he’s up there. I must say in the past 2 basho I have seen more “ozeki-like” sumo from him.
DeGama: What do you mean by versatility?(furrows his brow) Any example off the top of your head?
Creswell: well, the Geek mostly goes for the inside grip/burt reynolds combo. Kise will open up with some slapping and try to get inside for a belt grip. He can throw a bit, but can win with oshizumo if needed as seen against Hakuho in Kyushu, or against Harumafuji this go ’round.
DeGama: I think he also has that ozeki-demeanor after beating Hakuho.
Creswell: indeed, like I said, Geeku kind of lacks that confidence.
DeGama: (takes another sip) Ah… it reminds me of Kotooshu when I first started watching sumo, with that grimace
Creswell: yeah Geeku just kind of looks like he’s thinking about the sandwich awaiting him in the hanamichi. (blows half assed smoke ring)
DeGama: (laughs) I can see that. Kise’s grimace is very much contrast to the happy giant Bart.
Creswell: right. (temporarily puts down smoke to emphasize with hands)Now Kise is sort of a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none situation, he needs a go-to weapon.
DeGama: never thought of that.
Creswell: (finger counting) Hakuho has one, Geeks got one, Baruto has one, Oshu, even Kaio has one. (counts Kaio with middle finger)
DeGama: (points at Creswell) Even Takekaze’s got one.
Creswell: yeah. You never hear the announcers say “once Kise gets that (grip) its over.”
DeGama: I was just about to say that
Creswell: so we’re agreed, Kise needs to focus a bit more, not get so excited, and just go with his plan.
DeGama: (takes a large gulp of the now tepid coffee) Yeah.
Creswell: you think he’ll pick up double digits next basho? He’ll need 13-2 to get ozeki requirements. (reclaims cigar)
DeGama: (gets Creswell’s cue for him to roll himself another one) I think he’ll 10-5ish.
Creswell: yeah, same here. (puff) Maybe 11, but 10-5 is my bet. It would be very convincing if he gets Hak again
DeGama: Who do you think he’ll lose against?
Creswell: (sips whisky, and scratches ass in contemplation) tough to say, probably Kotooshu, and the Geek at least.
DeGama: (lights his rollie and inhales) yeah, I definitely think that Hakuho will beat him this time.
Creswell: yeah I can’t see him pulling the hat trick, not that it’s outside the realm of possibility.
DeGama: true, but if he does beat Hakuho,(sits upright in his chair and leans slightly toward Creswell. Then, points to down toward the table) I think Hakuho’s undefeatable image is officially over. I don’t think he can afford that.
Creswell: yeah, he’ll just become nigh-unbeatable.
DeGama: and not even to an ozeki.
Creswell: (rolls eyes) yeah, pitiful. How about the Geek? Chances? (puff)
DeGama: nah I can’t see that really.
Creswell: same. At most he’ll get 10.
DeGama: Geek has been up and down on the charts (finishes what’s left of his coffee and refills)
Creswell: yeah, he runs hot and cold, more so than Kise.
DeGama: ten max I’d say. (takes a puff of the rollie)
Creswell: his humping attack just doesn’t work that well on the ozeki and Yokozuna save Harumafuji.
DeGama: I think that goes for pretty much everyone though.
Creswell: (stirs whisky, then sips) true.
DeGama: I love the hip thrust (stands up and imitates the motion) but the ozeki know that too well and are usually stronger.
Creswell: yeah, or they just don’t let him get the grip he needs.
DeGama: ‘cept when Aran tossed Baruto that one day. (grabs his cup and drinks a little)
Creswell: good point, but Geeku doesn’t seem to have the same upper body strength as Aran.
Creswell: I’ll venture another one. Kakuryu, he’s been an outside mention for ozeki.
DeGama: (smirks) I like his speed.
Creswell: yeah, and he’s got some good technique.
DeGama: I also like that he doesn’t utilize the henka quite so much as some of his compatriots.
Creswell: true indeed, but it’s rare to see him put up 10 or more wins.
DeGama: I really don’t see him as an ozeki.
Creswell: yeah, I think sekiwake is as far as he’ll get for a while yet. How about Tochiozan?
he got some press in Kyushu and back in September. (sip, puff)
DeGama: (disappointedly) yeah…but look at him now.
Creswell: (puts out smoke, frowning sligtly) yeah he kind of self-destructed; maybe he can’t handle the heat.
DeGama: I think he wants a run at it he needs more sanyaku face-time, like Yoshikaze (laugh).
Creswell: (laugh, drink, lights another smoke) Yoshi did better than Tochiozan against Hakuho back in Kyushu.
DeGama: (raises an eyebrow and smiles) I’m glad you give him some props but come on, (his face becomes a bit sterner) if this basho didn’t signal anything it was that Yoshi needs upper maegashira practice. Its all well to be the Okinoumi of the basho but when you are facing the sanyaku and above it’s a different league
Creswell: yeah, he was way out of his league at M2. However, you notice the guys with lots of movement and spunk have been giving Hakuho the most trouble recently. Yoshi, Homasho, and Kise. Perhaps that’s the chink in Hakuho’s armor. Look at the ozeki, none are overly quick except Harumafuji. (puff)
DeGama: Yes, I think he just has to get used to it (notices he let his rollie go out and relights)
Creswell: (raises glass as if to drink) if video games have taught me anything, it’s that every superboss has that one weakness. (finally drinks)
DeGama: (laughs) On top of that you got strongies working their way back. I think in general people are trying to change the way sumo is done. If I remember, when Kise fought Haks he was doing a good job of keeping away.
Creswell: indeed (strokes beard)
DeGama: Slapping his arms down, etc.
Creswell: keeping him away from the belt and keeping good lateral and forward motion.
DeGama: (takes a drink of his coffee and hit of his smoke) you mentioned last basho about Yoshi, he was definitely running around.
Creswell: if there is anyone that moves around a lot its Yoshi. We’re seeing lots of settling into belt grips with the ozeki and if the ozeki can’t get a grip, they get in trouble, case in point: Baruto v Toyonoshima. Kotooshu v Homasho.
DeGama: Is this the way that sumo is going to go?
Creswell: it could be, guys like Tamawashi are fighting pretty good without the belt. You saw that in his bout with Kaio.
DeGama: I haven’t really kept up with him.
Creswell: Kaio couldn’t get inside.
DeGama: (as if recalling) yeah , yeah.
Creswell: Mawashi took the bout.
DeGama: Do you think that moving around allows you to be susceptible to pull down, etc.
Creswell: it can, it keeps your center of gravity moving, and can hinder your momentum.
DeGama: especially in this basho I feel there were a lot more range of kimarite and it could be because of that.
Creswell: not as many as when Asa was around.
DeGama: (takes a long slow pull of the rollie) then are you saying that when Asa left the kimarite began to stagnate to a few, and the Hakuho school of “if it’s easy and it works, it’s good” took over?
Creswell: I think it’s more of a personality difference, Asa didn’t wait for people to make a mistake he went for the win, even from fucking bizarre or dangerous positions. Hakuho seems to calculate and wait for people to play into his strengths, or make a mistake. Which is why Hakuho vs Asa was always so awesome to watch. (puff, sip)
DeGama: (signals to stop with his hand) I’d like to tie this into the compliancy of the ozeki.
Creswell: First off, let’s just put the kabash on talking about Kaio. (dismissive hand wave) I think we’re all done talking about him.
DeGama: (knowing nod of acceptance, whilst squinting) yeah, we are done there. There’re no distinguished gentlemen from Kyushu in my books.
Creswell: well, Kotoshogiku, and of course Yoshi, just no distinguished ozeki from Kyushu …or at all…
DeGama: (laughs, Creswell caught him on his favorite rikishi) thanks.
Creswell: (drink, smoke) Anyway, I think the ozeki have picked up on the waiting game.
DeGama: I think you see that a lot with Baruto.
Creswell: definitely, his height almost seems to be a disadvantage sometimes.
DeGama: (shows a bit of excitement) Oh my god, yes. I think that goes for Oshu too.
Creswell: Baruto often ends up with that over the back grip, which stands him up a bit, and it’s no secret that Oshu has lots of trouble with shorter guys. Those two also seem to get psyched out pretty easily.
DeGama: when Baruto goes upright, he can go down embarrassingly.
Creswell: same with Oshu. Aran getting that tsuridashi over Bart you mentioned earlier was pretty embarrassing. That’s usually Bart’s game.
DeGama: (grunt of agreement) Now that I think about it, in my senshuraku report I was dropping the upright and lose thing quite a bit.
Creswell: that’s why guys like Kakuryu do pretty well against those two.
DeGama: (takes a drink of his now luke warm coffee) I’d like to see how Kaks will fare next basho.
Creswell: yeah, komusubi is a tough spot. Well…should be…but with the current ozeki…
DeGama: (laughs) but I do think Oshu is coming back
Creswell: he is looking a bit better but not like he was a few years ago, he needs more focus.
DeGama: (puts out his smoke) his out-of-game stuff is probably affecting him… or just the pressure to keep up.
Creswell: could be. Speaking of which, Harumafuji has his wedding coming up. That might be a bad omen for his performance
DeGama: (sighs) but Haruma’s got more things to worry about, like those injuries.
DeGama: an ozeki getting 8-7…
Creswell: the way things are going I am prone to expect a few more kadoban from him.
DeGama: (finishes his coffee) yeah, I wouldn’t doubt it, but I think a lot of the lower ranks are going to be giving the guys competition within the year.
Creswell: Yeah, there are a few up and comers worth taking a look at. Who would you like to begin with?
DeGama: The only guy I think will make it as a consistent upper level guy, if he keeps on track, is Okinoumi.
Creswell: yeah he looked a lot better this time around. (searches for ash tray frantically)
DeGama: but I may have blow my load on a dry run on that one, we’ll see next basho.
Creswell: yeah, he’s gonna shoot up the ranks for March. We’ll see how he does in mid-maegashira.
DeGama: (slouches back in his chair) I don’t keep up with the juryo, you see any guys there?
Creswell: well, Tochinowaka was only there for 3 basho 11-4 and 12-3 with 2 playoffs, he’ll be in Makuuchi in March, Takayasu is on his second with 2 KK’s, he should be up for May.
DeGama: What are you thinking about the hairiness (smirks) that is Kaisei?
Creswell: He picked up the yusho in Kyushu in a 4 way play off, but turned in only 8-7 this time, all that aside he should make it up to the big show. If he’s healthy, I think he’ll do well.
DeGama: I just clicked on Waka’s profile, he is young.
Creswell: yeah, 22. So is Takayasu, only 20. Funny story: Waka is actually Korean, but born in Hyogo and Takayasu is half Pilipino.
DeGama: two more foreigners (chuckle) How are their tachiais?
Creswell: Both are pretty solid. Takayasu is more about pushing and thrusting.
DeGama: But how about his tachiai?
Creswell: (Laughs) there a certain charm about that technique. On the Japanese front Takarafuji looks solid not quite ready for makuuchi yet, but getting there. Getting back to makuuchi for a second, what are your thoughts on Tokusegawa and Kitataiki?
DeGama: Tokusegawa is iffy.
Creswell: how so?
DeGama: well, he is m4 and got the 9-6.
Creswell: yeah, but he’s a relative newcomer to makuuchi only one Makekoshi in the last 6 basho, all in makuuchi. Agreed though, he needs to work on his upper maegashira chops.
DeGama: (squints one eye and raises the other’s brow) I think Toku has got some skill against mid-lower maegashira, The bout against Okinoumi was pretty good for him.
Creswell: true, he’s not the best against sanyaku yet, but he looks good in every bout.
I’ve never not enjoyed watching him fight.
DeGama: wait was he a contender for Ozeki?
Creswell: nah. (notices whisky is quickly depleting, grimaces slightly)
DeGama: I was going to say he’s a bit green.
Creswell: he’s a bit old, I don’t think he’ll ever make it up there…to the sanyaks. Certainly green in makuuchi, and at 28 he doesn’t have long to get his act together. What about Kitataiki?
DeGama: I’ll be honest I never saw anything that I would say was special.
Creswell: yeah, good fighter, but… (sip, puff)
Creswell: I wouldn’t say anything to watch out for…that knee injury really limits his scope.
DeGama: I heard talk about him but (shrugs) its nothing that I haven’t seen better of, sometimes even in people lower ranked.
Creswell: good point.
DeGama: but he gets his wins.
Creswell: how about Sokokurai?
DeGama: (quickly shakes his head) not at all.
Creswell: really? I think he’ll be a decent fighter at mid-high maegashira. No real sanyaku potential as of yet.
DeGama: Maybe it’s just when I see him, but I think he henkas a bit much
Creswell: yeah, he does henka a bit. But he does have a significant weight disadvantage,
at least it’s not as much as Hakuba.
DeGama: I understand that but it doesn’t look pretty henka’ing. I’d be happy to see Henkaba even lower then filter back into Juryo (ponders whether to roll up just to put the smoke out in disgust over Hakuba)
Creswell: I’d just like to see him quit. How about Gagamaru?
DeGama: (shrugs again) I like the guy, but I think he’s over his head.
Creswell: yeah, I want to like him, but he’s a bit 1 dimensional, not much intensity, and he usually looks scared. (sip)
DeGama: you definitely saw it this basho. (chuckles) Dude, Yamamotoyama did the fat thing, it didn’t work.
Creswell: yeah, YMY is not doing much else now except making chanko, but Gaga does have a bit more mobility. (puff, noticing smoke is dead places it in ash tray)
DeGama: he’s still an ugly thing to watch.
Creswell: yeah, those grimaces after a loss would curdle fresh milk.
DeGama: (half smiles) and let’s not talk about the crotch flab.
Creswell: looks more like a bleached couch pillow.
DeGama: (looks at the time and frowns) anyways I got to start heading out.
Creswell: yeah let’s close up here. What are you looking forward to in sumo this year?
DeGama: Fresh blood in the higher ranks I think that will bump the Ozeki up.
DeGama: And you?
Creswell: hmmm, a few graceful (or not so) retirements and a bit more aggression and fighting spirit.
DeGama: He who will not be named.
Creswell: amongst others.
DeGama: I’d also say more spontaneity.
Creswell: yeah, some decent grudge matches would be nice too, not many rivalries going on. (rattles the rocks around in his whisky glass, noticing it lacks whisky)
DeGama: heh, and if there are I feel they are one sided… and come on guys lets not get double digit losses.
Creswell: (laughs) yeah pretty much. Sanyaku, pull your shit together, and Hakuho, lets make it 23 this year. Alright, that bottle of Glenlivet and that box of Montecristo clubs are calling me from the other room. DeGama, I’ll let you wrap things up. (wanders off into the kitchen for more scotch and tobacco)
DeGama: Well, I’m going to call it another coffee is waiting. Good luck with those! I’m jealous…
Well, there the conversation that took place. I think there are a few exciting things that could happen this year and I anxiously await them. Probably the greatest thing I am looking forward to is Kisenosato next basho. I mean even if he doesn’t take out Hakuho and he manages a score above 10, he’s most likely the next guy in line. That, the appearance of new talent, and perhaps the retirement of an Ozeki will definitely make this Sumo year quite interesting!