Happy New Year to all of our viewers let’s get started on sumo for heisei 25. Its debatable whether or not I can even call this a warm up, given our slow down in activity, and the temperature and amount of snow in Southern Akita these days. This is more like a defrost or thaw-out. That being said there is the potential for some decent heat in this tournament. A yokozuna fighting to keep his rope, an Ozeki demotee looking to get his balls back, another former ozeki teetering on the brink of the elevator shaft to juryo and possible retirement, an over-hyped sekiwake being over-hyped for promotion, a few rikishi fighting through injuries, and as always some promising talent from the lower ranks. In addition the Americans (read Hawaiians) are trying to get back into the game, and on top of it all we got Hakuho looking to reaffirm his dominance over any guy that steps up on the clay. And as a bonus you’ll get a report on how the rikishi did on the ever-horrible Japanese New Years TV programs.
First up, the 4 character compound on everyone’s lips this basho is Harumafuji. After his more-than-lackluster (read shitshow) performance in Kyushu, Haruma received an ultimatum from the Yozokuna Deliberation Council stating that if he repeats the 9-6 bullshit, he’ll be forced to retire. (Which is kind of bull shit, Kashiwado pulled a 9-6 six times between 1967 and 1969 (twice consecutively) and as we all know the other Yokozuna at that time was Taiho, who dominated the sport in a similar way to Hakuho. Kitanofuji had two 9-6 records, and so did Hokutoumi. ) However, his performance at the Soken practice session drew a lot of praise from the same council for his pulling a split 5-5 record with Kublai. Haruma says he gonna give his zenshin zenrei-est performance come Sunday, but if we see any losses in the first week, expect a kyujo (not that I doubt he’ll never get a 9-6 again, he certainly will, just not this soon.) Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy’s sumo, but last basho he seemed to trying to be someone else (read sucking.) Let’s hope he takes a handful of Ama-pills, or some vimatin Ama, or Ama-zake, or something .
Next up is Baruto. After two basho with some nagging injuries, he’s found himself back at the rank of sekiwake and needs to get 10 wins to get back up to ozeki. Usually this would not be a problem, but due to his injuries he hasn’t been getting as much practice as he needs. He didn’t even make it to the soken keiko. He’s been hittin the shed with Tenkaiho, and winning most of his bouts, but that can only go so far (read about as far as 2 dollars in change will get you at a titty bar… or as about as far as Bertrum will ever get at a titty bar.) He admits he’s not moving like he wants to, and is probably gonna struggle for that 10. I hope to see some fire from Krang’s mechanical body this basho, with some of that vicious tsuppari that got him up to ozeki in the first place (also a basho he competed in while injured.)
Next disgraced ozeki on the block is Miyabiyama. He’s sitting pretty (read uglier than a baby between Gary Busey with a hare-lip and a catchers mit) at M16. Anything less than 8-7 means he’ll be back in juryo, and some members of the kyokai are saying they expect him to retire. The chronic one-trick-pony claims he’s going to keep fighting even from juryo though…yippee.
Goeido got an ‘attaboy from Kitanoumi-oyakata, and now there is talk of him breaking into ozeki. Let’s be fair, yeah, he did have 2 good bashos. However, in those two bashos, we saw Hakuho off his game, more than one injured ozeki and lots of new blood in sanyaku and joii, where as Goeido has lots of experience higher up the banzuke. His keiko reports look good, and he’s been battering Myogiryu around pretty handily, but for more on that see my next paragraph. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Blow-eido does not belong at ozeki. He is far from consistent and I don’t think he deserves it yet, nor do I think he will get it. Our current ozeki have enough consistency problems as it is. That is all I’ve got to say about that.
Myogiryu is going into the game with an injured ankle, but is pressing on as well as he can. According to the man himself: “Me gots good days, and me gots bad days, but watcha gonna do.” Masunoyama will, as always, be fighting against his mysterious illness, which used to be half-sized lungs, but now has been tentatively identified as a hole in his heart. Whatever it is I do love watching the guy. Kotoshogiku was absent from the soken keiko, and was injured last basho, let’s assume he isn’t 100%.
From the lower ranks:
Tochinowaka is back up in Makuuchi after a disastrous year or so which saw him drop back to juryo. Last basho he had a Cracker Jack 15 days, finishing 13-2. Hopefully we’ll see him do much better and rip up lower makuuchi. Do I smell a kanto-sho? Takanoyama is still hangin in Juryo, Takamisakari is at juryo 12 and will reall need to bust ass to keep it in the mix. The two newbies in Juryo are both Mongolian, Azumaryu and Kagamio will be debuting in the sekitori ranks at J10 and J14 respectively. Big youngin’ Tatsu is in at Ms16, our little buddy Sasakiyama is at Ms27, and Egyptian Osunaarashi is ranking in at Ms38 (if Boody plays his cards right he could be up in juryo this year.)
Good news for our Island brother Chalmers; his favorite rikishi, Musashimaru, currently known as Furiwake-oyakata, will be parting ways with Fujishima-beya, and taking up the Mushashigawa elder name when the current Musashigawa retires this year at the mandatory retirement age of 65. His nephew, Fiamalu Penitani (191cm 140kg at 17… that’s a big boy), who played all state high school American Football (read the better football)in Hawaii, and showed up to train at the his uncle’s heya, wants to join the sumo world, but has been unable to join Fujishima-beya due to the 1 foreigner per heya rule (Shotenro currently occupies that space.) Is this gonna be the 3rd (read third) Hawaiian invasion of sumo? Lets hope so.
So here are my predictions (read the opposite of what will happen)Hakuho yusho. Harumafuji will make a better showing. Baruto will get back up to ozeki. Kisenosato will do well for a bit, then lose bouts he shouldn’t, and knock himself out of the yusho race. Kotoshogiku will bounce back from kyujo pretty well. Kakuryu will have a good basho this go round. Kotooshu will….. oh, who really cares. Goeido will poop in his mawashi. I am really excited to see Shohozan in sanyaku after his 10-5 from M2, he will pass through the meat grinder with aplomb. At M1, Myogiryu will make up for his so-so basho in Kyushu, despite injury. M5 Homasho will impress. M4 Aran, who did so well in Kyushu, will most likely implode. M5 Ikioi, who also did well, is a bit harder to figure, he’s never been up this high, and who knows how he’ll respond I’ll say 7-8. M15 Tochinowaka will buy win back our admiration. My other winning picks are Okinoumi, Asahisho, Kitataiki, Tochinoshin, and Takayasu.
Finally, the lighter side. As usual Japan has a host of new years variety programs, which I usually avoid like the plague, but I noticed that some big name rikshi would be competing (read I was too painfully hung over from drinking all night with DeGama and Bertrum to even move, much less look for the remote) and so I decided to see how well (read horribly) the boys faired (read embarrassed themselves).
First up was actually kind of entertaining, it was a program where famous athletes challenge world champs at some sport. First was arm wrestling. Competing in this event was Shotenro, Kyokutenho, Shohozan, and the Battler from Ulan Bator, Asashoryu. All the rikishi did fairly well, and made it past the first round. Asashoryu ended up losing to Bob Sapp, Shohozan also fell out, but not as impressively. Shotenro and Kyokutenho faced each other for the first time since the former married the latter’s sister, the former taking down his older brother-in-law, but then losing to a MMA fighter.
The next in interestingness was a tug of war contest featuring a semi final (read semi-decent) appearance by Shohozan, followed by Hakuho challenging the all-Japan shot put champion to an over-the-back shot put contest. Hakuho’s best thrown of 15.96 meters was dwarfed by the champion’s final throw of 17.(not important) meters.
Finally a octet of Japan’s top athletes including an American Football (read soccer blows) player, a basketball player, two synchronized swimmers, and 4 rikishi (Asashisho, Masunoyama, Fujiazuma, and Miyabiyama) pitted themselves against two 90 pound female Japanese competitive eaters in a gorging contest at, where else… Denny’s. Asahisho dropped out after only a few dishes declaring that curry is, in fact, not a beverage, as Miyabiyama had previously stated, and only succeeded in beating one of the synchronized swimmers. The rest of the guys made a decent enough showing, staying in to the bitter end along with the American football (OOOHH SAY CAN YOU SEEEEEE… BY THE DAWNS EARLY LIIIIIIGHT…) player, Miyabiyama was the next to bail out, then Masunoyama, and after 16 dishes and over 12,000 calories, the final hanger on, Fujizauma finally admitted defeat to the two tiny ladies. The humiliation (read mine) was complete, and so is this report. Enjoy The basho.