In a few hours this year’s kyushu basho will begin. There are more than a few exciting points to cover here, retirements, promotions, possible ozeki; there is the possibility for lots of drama. Let’s get going down in the lower ranks. Takanoyama has sunk back down to makushita 2, where, let’s be fair, he continues to struggle. I love the guy he’s a great wrestler, and i think he’s great for the sport, but if it hadn’t been for the yaocho scandal he never would have made upper juryo, much less makuuchi. I think he’s more at home here win/loss-wise. Tochinoshin is going to be absent again this basho, and since he’s scraping the bottom of the juryo barrel after an injury and an entire basho healing up it means he’ll be staring off 2014 in upper makushita.
Truthfully, looking at juryo, there are very few things I am looking forward to, there are a lot of makuuchi-leftovers in here, but there are a few good apples in this turd-basket. Terunofuji took the juryo yusho last basho with a 12-3, look for him to make a big splash and get a bump to makuuchi in 2014. Kagamio also had a decent showing last basho, as did Takanoiwa. Takanoiwa has been flirting with makuuchi for a few basho, but alwasy came up short, 8-7 this time should do it. Chiyonokuni had a decent basho in Aki and I am looking for him to make it back up to makuuchi soon. Sokourai is always interesting to watch. And it will be interesting to see if Daikiho will get his shit back together and work his way back to the big show. Speaking of the big show… on to makuuchi.
Biggest news here is Aran’s retirement after his heya folded into Kasugano. Aran was always hit and miss, but his best year had to be 2010, seeing him with a pair each of jun-ysho and kanto-sho, and promotion to sekiwake. He has been steadily stinking things up, and I am personally happy to see him realize it ain’t working and stepping down. Thanks for the sumo, pal.
Next talk of the town is Osunaarashi making his makuuchi debut at M15. Boody has been training quite hard, focusing on keeping low hips whilst moving forward. I think that makuuchi will be a bit of a rude awakening for this guy. Not saying he’ll fall flat, but i think we can look forward to a 9-6 as the reasonable top score for a debut basho. 10-5 would be pretty damned impressive, but unlikely.
In lower-mid makuuchi guys who should have a good basho are Yoshikaze and Gagamaru (a bit underranked at the moment), Fujiazuma (who does OK from this level), Jokoryu (probably belongs a bit higher up), Masunoyama (can blow through lower makuuchi if lucky), Kotoyuki (has been stepping up recently and is more interesting to watch than stablemate Kootoshu), and Takarafuji (recent improvements in his game should see this guy closer to joii). The joker in the deck (besides Jokoryu) is Endo. There has been a lot of talk of his inability to practice due to ” a hairline ankle fracture”. If at 100% he should do well, but something tells me he will be closer to 60%, so knock that “probably 10-5” down to a “might KK if he doesn’t go kyujo”.
upper maegashira hopefuls are as follows: Ikioi, Kaisei, Chiyotairyu, and Aoiyama all failed to KK last basho, but the content of their sumo was largely solid. Good performances from these guys if nothing else.
This is as close to a hometown basho as Homasho gets and he is on a roll, look for good solid stuff from homey. Tochinowaka’s melt down clock has reached critical mass, and I don’t think he’ll post good numbers. Takayasu should be pertty solid and post better numbers than in Aki. Takekaze might squeak out a few surprising wins (Kotooshu comes to mind), but likely won’t KK. Kyokutenho will continue to exist in a weird alternate dimension. Toyonoshima should give a standard performance, Myogiryu will be motivated, and out for joii blood to get back into sanyaku… I’ll be watching him closely. Aminishiki’s alternate dimension is next door to Kyokutenho’s, both senior citizens should have fairly lackluster performances.
Sanyaku should be interesting I would expect better than average performances from Shohozan and Kotoshogiku (both being kyushu natives, and Shohozan being a new daddy). I think Okinoumi is capable of a good result from this rank, but, it is the meat grinder, so we’ll see how things go. If he picks up a few wins in the first few days (Kotooshu comes to mind) he should be OK. Tochiozan has the double whammy of meat grinder and being scheduled for an off basho, so 8-7 at the most. Goeido has, been hyped up for ozeki promotion again. I don’t think it will happen, but he did look pretty good last basho, so one never knows. There might even be an gaping hole in the ozeki ranks (Kotooshu comes to mind).
For the ozeki… when thinking of which will have good performances Kotooshu certainly does not come to mind. I want that guy to get demoted to sekiwake and have to actually fight to earn his rank. Lighting a couple thousand dollar fire under his ass might get a somewhat-motivated showing out of him. Kise will be fine, but will drop a few bouts here and there, and Kakuryu should be in good form.
For the Yokozuna… Harumafuji is due for a win. Historically speaking (aside from his promotion to ozeki, which happened following kyushu) he doesn’t do that great in Fukuoka. However, he’s gone 4 basho without a yusho, and having the YDC breathing fire down his neck the whole time. This might just be one of his beast-mode basho. However…
Hakuho is on fire. If he picks up the yusho here he will be adding one more tick on the wall aiming for that magical 32, he will set a record for winning 5 or more in a row two times, plus 5 or six smaller obscure records that no one cares about, probably some amount of kensho money, or number of opponents who pooped in their drawers prior to tachi-ai, or number of spectators hit with Kotooshu’s flying body or something. Fact is that Hakuho is and forever shall be the favorite. In 50 years we will still be comparing people to Hakuho. Something like: “Man, the Baltimore Orioles had one hell of a season… they Hakuho-ed that shit.” Hakuho is so good that the JSA and several Japanese media companies are considering retroactively changing old documents, videos, and so on of old sports records just to add the phrase “until Hakuho breaks it”. Long and short is that if I were betting money on it, I would pick Hakuho everytime.