Well the big news on everyone’s collective lips is the big Estonian. Our buddy Baruto has decided to throw in the towel. After a chronic knee injury the former ozeki has decided to retire rather than send the next year and a half making it back up to sanyaku on a leg that would only be about 50-60%.
Last year at the Hanamaki jungyo, Valentine, DeGama, and I had the chance to hang out with Bart for a few hours. We shared some drink, some smokes, some karaage and some good ol’ chat in the shitakubeya. We figured it might be best not to publish anything he said, as there was very little filter, and had he known we have a website, he might have held back a bit… or maybe not. In any event, I’ll share some of it with you our loyal readers at the end of this report, as a tribute to one of our favorite wrestlers here at S&S. But first, down to the meat of the warmup.
Not much change from last time up on the top of the banzuke, at least until komusubi. Hakuho, Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Kakuryu, Kotoshogiku, Kotooshu, Myogiryu, Goeido. No arguments from me. Even Komusubi is alright Tochiozan and Takayasu (sanyaku debut, and first heisei born rikishi in sanyaku) are fine in there for me. Perhaps there are some others who could do a better job in there, but I’m fine with them.
As for all of these guys, I think we can all agree Hakuho is the favorite. Kisenosato is going to try and reboot his run at the rope. I am convinced the second that guy gets a yusho he will have the rope sewn up. I’m not happy about it, but it’s the sad truth. Kak will do what the Kak does, there is no real pressure on him this basho, so it will probably be pretty good. I remember being really excited when the Geek made Ozeki, but I haven’t been very excited about him since. Kotoblowshu. Myogiryu seems to be having a bit of trouble hitting his stride in sanyaku, but give him a few more basho and he’ll get things sorted, I’m looking for a 9-6 from him this time out. Goeido, something tells me this guy is gonna makekoshi this basho, just a feeling, but lets go with it.
Ozan will disappoint a bit too i think, he’s so inconsistent… but I’m gonna try and peg him for a bad basho. I would say that Takayasu is gonna shine here, but he’s been having some health problems and his keiko reports were not very encouraging. Add that to the fact that it’s his first time in the meat grinder, and that equals his meat being ground.
For the first time in a long while i’m really happy with the complete upper half of the banzuke. Shohozan, Ikioi, Okinoumi, Aoiyama, Takarafuji, Chiyotairyu, Aminishiki, Tokitenku. This all looks good for m1-m5. Usually i would say all these guys will do fairly well, but some people have to MK so i’ll pick Takarafuji, Ikioi, and Tokitenku. Not that I think those guys are bad rikishi, in fact I like all of them, but i just think they are the most likely to lose. If I were to pick a sapphire out of that bunch it would be Okinoumi this basho. That being said I think Shohozan, Aoiyama, Chiyo, and Sneakers will have a good run this time out.
For m6-m10 we have Kitataiki, Kyokutenho, Aran, Toyonoshima, Fujiazuma, Yoshikaze, Gagamaru, Kotoyuki, Tokushoryu, Shotenro. The big pick here would be Toyonoshima, I think he is under ranked at m7, and will probably do well. Kyokutenho will be aiight, and Yoshi and Gaga might be ok too. I’m not holding my breath for the rest of ’em.
Takekaze, Tochinowaka, Tenkaiho, Sadanofuji, Endo, Homasho, Masunoyama, Jokoryu, Wakanosato, Tamaasuka, Asahisho, and Tamawashi rounding out m11-m16. I think Tochinowaka is gonna be chained to the elevator for a bit, until he gets his head straight. His performances in juryo and in makuuchi seem like different guys completely. Endo is big news, but Oitekaze oyakata won’t let him do degeiko yet, some BS about his body not being hard enough to spar with lots of makuuchi guys. He looked ok at the Soken though. He’ll KK I think perhaps even a fighting spirit prize. Homey is back! The ‘ol cigar store indian jokes will be back in force. This cat will be just fine. Jokoryu should bounce back from a few lackluster performances. I am glad to see Asahisho back up in the big leagues. I like his style, but I’m not sure he’ll do so well. If he was going to it would be from this rank. After that, I can’t really say I’m looking forward to watching any of the others.
Masunoyama’s number is stapled to the wall of every heya. If you hold on for a few seconds you can just walk him out. Wakanosato is on the brink of joining Baruto in the ranks of the retired. Not so long ago he was flirting with sanyaku, and now he can’t even pick up a KK in lower makuuchi. Guy is old, and it shows in his sumo. Takekaze is low enough to do OK, but I am rarely impressed with his sumo. I will continue to watch him, but I don’t have to like it. The rest of the crew will get a mention once they start deserving it.
If I had to call the yusho and special prizes I would go like this: Yusho – Hakuho. Fighting Spirit – Endo or Shohozan, Technique – Homasho or Toyonoshima, Outstanding Performance – with Harumafuji up there it could be anyone.
Now… on to the more nostalgic part of this warmup. Here’s to Baruto.
As with most things for me and DeGama, it started with a smoke. We had been hunting around trying to chat with rikishi in Hanamaki, and not being able to pull Yoshikaze away from a baseball game, got us feeling a bit down, so we went around the side for a smoke. There sat Bart, having a cigarette with Asahisho. We sidled up to share the ash tray, then after an appropriate time we asked for a picture, using that as our in. A few minutes (cigarettes and chats) later we were in the shitakubeya and Bart sent one of his tsukebitos to get us some food. He had some tegata to sign, which was no big deal, except that he realized they told him to sign a bunch of Kotooshu’s hand prints. When he brought this up to the official, showing him the hand print was bigger than his own hand, the guy looked scared shit-less and just told him to sign them anyway. Bart shrugged that off pretty easily, but I got a pretty darn icy stare when i sarcastically commented on Bart’s calligraphy hand writing.
Bart was refreshingly straightforward about life and sumo. When asked about who his favorite rikishi was, he just pointed to himself and grinned. When Valentine commented on the relative atheism of his home country, he coolly mentioned that whenever he wants to talk to god, he just looks in the mirror. We mentioned his yusho, and again he just chuckled and said “luuuuuuucky”. When we then mentioned Kyokutenho’s he laughed and said “really luuuuuucky”. Between showing us pictures of his wife hanging off his new white Cadillac Escalade with the enormous “ESTONIA” badge, to “sharing” (read: stealing a portion of) my pack of smokes (we smoke the same brand and type), it was just like hanging with an old buddy. We parted ways after a few hours, and we went out to watch the sumo (not really the highlight of the jungyo.) Bart threw us a little nod on his way out.
We here a S&S will miss Bart. His (I’m not really sure if I give a shit or not) facial expressions, his big powerful sumo, and the endless number of light hearted jokes. I will get these all out now since its my last chance. Krang’s body, Master Blaster, Baby Huey, Sloth from the goonies, Bluto, Glandular-problem-Haley Joel Osment… the list is endless, and I will never be able to use them again. Thanks Bart, for the sumo and the karaage. Good luck back in Estonia.