Virgil Valentine’s Kyushu Basho Top 10

Did Kisenosato earn his promotion to Ozeki?  The old unwritten rule of minimum 33 wins over three basho has evolved into the unobserved rule…for Japanese rikishi.  The JSA elders were gushing so much about his promotion, they blew their loads one day early only to see him fail to reach magic 33.  At the end of the day, the question is not did he earn this promotion, but will he live up to the expected performance as ozeki basho in and out?  Two consecutive makekoshis in July and September 2010, but he’s kept winning records the six tournaments since then.  He’s also picked 2 or 3 of Ws off Hakuho in the last year (depends how you want to define “Ws”).

Anyhow, did anyone notice we have an amazing DaiYokozuna on our hands?  Did anyone know that only one man has won 21 Makuuchi yusho at a younger age than Hakuho (see below for answer)?  Hakuho is one yusho away from tieing the Great Heisei Yokozuna Takanohana, he can potentially tie Asashoryu by this time next year, and barring injury, this man can easily obtain more yusho than any other man by the end of his career.  How can this not be exciting?

Without further adue, it’s Virgil Valentine’s Kyushu Basho Top 10.
()=Aki Basho ranking

1. YE Hakuho (14-1) (1)
2. OE Baruto (11-4) (4)
3. OW Kotoshogiku (11-4) (2)
4. SE Kisenosato (10-5) (3)
5. SW Kakuryu (10-5) (5)
6. KE Toyonoshima (9-6) (8)
7. OW Harumafuji (8-7) (7)
8. OE Kotooshu (9-6) (unranked)
9. M4E Tochinowaka (7-8) (unranked)
10. M1E Okinoumi (7-8) (10)

There was no chance of a non-joi rikishi making the list this time.  The competition in the meat-grinder was well stacked, and practically a division on its own.

Speaking of being on your own, that exactly where Hakuho has remained; at the top.  Baruto follows with a strong finish after a crappy 1-3 start.  The Geek went beyond expectations in his Ozeki debut with all wins, save four consecutive days.  The newly-promoted Accomplice performed better than all but three other men, and in that regard, can be defined as Ozeki-worthy.  The Kak makes a hell of a Sekiwake, maintaining kachikoshis, but no real noteworthy wins.  Toyo gained three ozeki scalps, and is also much in league with the Kak.  Why Haruma over the Eurozeki?  Firstly Haruma really did defeat Hakuho on Day 14.  Everyone saw it and knew it; even I saw it and knew it, and I was drunk at the time.  Not even a monoii for that bout?  Overall, Haruma displayed more skill, with seven different kimarite in his eight wins (Kotooshu had four kimarite in nine wins).  He might have makekoshi-ed, but newcomer Tochinowaka picked off two ozeki and had some quality losses to Hakuho and others.  Very respectable showing from this first-timer to the meat-grinder.  Finishing things is Don Juan, who also makekoshi-ed, but with one exception only lost to men above him on this list.

The Good:
YE Hakuho (14-1).  Nuff said.

The Bad:
KW Homasho (4-11): wins only from Goeido, Tochinoshin, Aran, and Gagamaru are certainly nothing to brag about.  I did hear Homasho was dealing with injury, but what a terrible way to debut in sanyaku.

The Ugly:
Team Georgia.  Flags must be flying at half-staff in Tbilisi.  The nation must be ashamed.  Roll call: M2E Tochinoshin (2-13), M3W Gagamaru (2-13), M10E Kokkai (1-14).  Tochi finished Aki with 8-7 from M4, but two ranks higher was more than enough to make this comrade crumble.  Lord Gaga finished Aki with a Fighting Spirit prize, but proved he’ll falter just at the sniff of joi. Lastly, Kokkai also kk-ed in Aki, with 9-6 from M16, but managed only one win this showing (out of Beeker).  I have enjoyed the sumo from all three Georgians for different reasons, at different times, but today Stalin must be rolling in his grave.  I know Kokkai has been fighting nasty career-damning injuries, but hardly any excuse for Gaga, and absolutely no excuse for Tochinoshin.

Lastly, I want to give special mention to Aoiyama.  I spotted him back in January 2010 when his short career record was 23-1.  The following tournament he yusho-ed in Makushita, and was bottlenecked up at the top of the division from May 2010 until this July when he broke through to Juryo.  This basho, he was Shin-Makuuchi, and put up an 11-4, knocking off the likes of Myogiryu, Miyabiyama, and Takekaze, and most importantly earning a Fighting Spirit Prize.  Strong, balanced, straight-forward sumo from this Bulgarian, who oshidashi-ed or yorikiri-ed for seven of his 11 wins, but his movement is still way too slow to be a Makuuchi mainstay.  He won’t be able to avoid the sophomore jinx next basho, but look for big things from this man approximately around Haru Basho next March.

That ‘tis it for sumo in 2011.  Lookin’ forward to sharing sumo in 2012 with a smooth Cuban smoke, bourbon of choice, and your readership.

Oh, yes, and that one man who was younger than Hakuho when he picked up his 21st yusho?  Taiho…he was just five months younger than Hakuho is today.

Have a great new year!

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