It’s been a hot and humid (not to mention rainy as hell… i can barely hear the TV over the downpour) start to summer this year in Japan, and it’s about to get hotter. Sunday begins the Nagoya basho. Always one of my favorites. Not only do we have a few interesting storylines going on, but the myriad of “the clay is really slippery in all that humidity” excuses will soon be tingling in our ears. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so lets get wet.
Starting in Juryo. Biggest news here is Osunaarashi. The first African sekitori has been all over the news, doing various press events, and still finding time to get in the keikoba. After his makushita zensho back in May he’ll be making his debut at west juryo 9. This one is hard to read, he’s got very powerful sumo, but he’s a bit unpolished. I don’t see him doing overly well in his sekitori debut. He may not tank and be sent tumbling back down to makushita, I think a KK is possible, but a less austere one 8-7 or 9-6 tops. We have a bunch of former makushita men down in AAA this basho Tochinowaka has been awfully stagnant, Homasho is still having a bit of trouble getting back up after an injury, as is Asasekiryu. As well as the usual elevator riders Oiwato, Tenkaiho, Asahisho, Nionoumi, Yoshiazuma, Connolly’s eskimo brother Wakakoyu, Yoshiazuma, and, everyone’s favorite, Takanoyama are all hanging in there. It’s tough to say who will grab the yusho here. If I had to put money on it, I would pick one of the makuuchi mainstays, to be safe. but I’d like to see one of the newer guys take it. Daikiho, Asahisho, or Osunaarashi (this shikona is way too long, we need a nickname…).
Makuuchi is a different story. Only one new comer in Tokushoryu, although not overly exciting though. Some of the biggest news is SOKOKURAI IS BACK! This cat fought the JSA in court over being expelled for bout fixing, then WON. He took a basho off but will be back in at the rank of M15W, and his keiko reports have been less than great, but better than expected.
Baruto is back down at M6E, but is kyujo, which probably will mean a drop down to juryo. His knee is still not healed and there may be surgery involved. There have even been rumors of intai floating around. He has done no keiko so far, yet has not ruled out joining late. Which I think is highly unlikely. Personally I think that if he needs to go in for major surgery, I just don’t see him working over an entire year just to get back up to a position to try to get back to ozeki, to then retire shortly after due to age and strain. The real drama, however, is up at the top of the banzuke.
Hakuho has been catching a little bit of shit for not putting 100% into his keiko after his beautiful win back in May. He hasn’t trained with anyone over mid-maegashira, and only lightly with those lower. He was mostly seen at various press and charity events. He was asked in several interviews whether his practice was a bit lacking, and he just kind of shrugged it off. Harumafuji hasn’t been mentioned so much in the keiko reports, but he has been working hard in between the yokozuna duties and is looking to wrap up his 3rd straight Nagoya yusho.
From the ozeki Kisenosato is getting the most of the spotlight. The YDC has said that if he gets a 14-1 with a playoff bout with Hakuho, that he’ll be considered for yokozuna promotion. I think this is horse-shit. They bent the rules and handed him ozeki on a silver platter, and now they are going to let him become a yokozuna without a single yusho under his belt, and a serious consistency problem? No way. I give you the following: He is getting better, and he is by far the best ozeki right now. On top of that, he has been seriously hitting the keikoba. He has been practicing like a demon. But if they give him the rope for anything less than a yusho I’ll be angry (regardless of how much I like him as a rikishi.)
Kotoshogiku and Kakuryu have been almost absent from the keiko reports, but will no doubt get their 8, and likely their 10. Kotooshu will also be there, at least for a bit.
It’s the second half of sanyaku I like. Myogiryu and Goeido at sekiwake is a good combination. I love Myogiryu, and he always puts up good stuff, and Goeido is the guy everyone loves to hate. Komusubi is good as well. Shohozan is one of my favorite wrestlers, he’s got a lot of fire, and never gives up the ghost. I might get flamed for this, but I like Tokitenku more and more. He’s an interesting guy to watch, he’s got a lot of experience, and is prone to long bouts. Makes for exciting stuff.
joii down to M16 is a coin toss, but I feel like things are gonna be interesting. We’ve got guys like Tochinoshin, who has become less promising, and more of a sleeper. Aoiyama who has been losing weight and working on different technique. The Sneak, who always surprises. Kyokutenho… i mean, he did “win” a yusho. And younger guys like Jokoryu and Chiyonokuni who are quite promising.
As for the yusho i see it going one of 3 ways, I will list them from most to least likely. 1. Hakuho takes it, Harumafuji junyusho, Kise implodes under the pressure. 2. Harumafuji takes it, Hakuho junyusho, Kise implodes under the pressure. 3. Kise is handed it in a playoff bout by a Mongolian decided by an official JSA janken match.
One never knows there can always be a dark horse. Kakuryu can beat everyone on a good day, so can the Geek. Perhaps Myogiryu will finally become who he was born to be, and we are more likely to see a Goeido yusho than a Kotooshu yusho at this point, so I’ll throw that in there for fun.
Yusho aside, who is gonna tear it up this basho? Here is my list of possible special prize winners.
Tochiozan, Toyonoshima, Chiyotairyu, Okinoumi, Takayasu, Ikioi, Aoiyama, and Masunoyama.
Who is gonna shit their mawashis? Here is my list of slouches.
Tokitenku, Takekaze, Gagamaru, Aminishiki, Aran, Kitataiki, Sokokurai (unfortunately),
This basho is a bit bittersweet here for us at Sumo & Stogies. You’ll notice we’ve got a new commentator, the one and only Henry Johnson will be joining us for a few reports. We always love a new spin on things. However, our fearless (read: tactless) leader, Virgil Valentine, will be heading back to the old country ta git hisself sum schoolin’. Worry not, Valentine will still be weighing in with the basho reports and whisky reviews. Speaking of whisky reviews, we’ve got a special joint review coming up during the slow grind of the first few days to spice things up.
That being said, Nagoya gets underway in just over a day, so you’ve still got plenty of time to go and grab a good smoke and a peaty (or smooth, if that’s your game) whisky, then sit back and watch some of the worlds best spectator sport.
The minister of both post reviews, and campsite clean-up Josef Daly will be all over day 1.