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March 2016: Haru Basho Live Blog


12/03 - Prologue

This month I’m going to try a new blogging technique. I’ll be watching the sumo tournament live as it happens and making my comments immediately after watching the bouts. No “Monday morning quarterbacking” here, folks. Just quick, first reactions to the bouts without any re-watching or analysis, just my first reaction. I’ll be watching the bouts on Kintamayama’s Youtube channel. You can watch the bouts there and follow along with my commentary, if you want. Try it! It’s fun!

Okay guys and gals - tomorrow the Haru basho (March sumo tournament) starts in Osaka and the biggest thing going in is that if Kotoshogiku wins, or at least “gives a yokozuna worthy performance”, he will become the first Japanese-born rikishi to hold the rank since Takanohana retired in 2003. Each day I will watch the bouts and write my live reactions. After all, it could be history in the making!

If your heard episode 59 of The FightBox Podcast, you heard the two sides of the coin as far as if Kotoshogiku’s tournament victory was legitimate or not in January. If it wasn’t, would they go so far as to rig a second straight tournament? Wouldn’t that set a standard that ALL tournaments would now have to be rigged in order to keep the Japanese rikishi hoisting the Emperor’s Cup? If it wasn’t rigged, how the hell can Kotoshogiku, who has been an AVERAGE rikishi at best, keep winning all of these matches and have enough victories at the end to deserve the promotion and maintain it? Surely he’s going to lose 1 or 2 (or 8) matches, right?

13/03 - Day 1

It looks like Kotoshogiku is working hard for this win, but how hard was Takayasu working to stop him? Is this my predisposition that everyone is “gifting” Kotoshogiku? At the end of the match, Geeku shoves Takayasu out with a little extra umph, putting an exclamation point on the win, which only seems to be something that is okay for yokozuna to do …

Is Hakuho losing his touch? Does he just not care or did he intentionally throw the bout? The day Takarafuji beats Hakuho straight up is the day I start painting my toenails. A loss on the first day will definitely give a boost to Geeku’s confidence that he can win and will mathematically make it much easier for him as he can also now afford at least 1 loss along the way and still win.

14/03 - Day 2

I can’t believe it. This is REALLY happening. Looks like a repeat of January. The crowd is eating up EVERYTHING on the dohyo, especially Kotoshogiku. The match with Yoshikaze DOES  look a bit suspicious, I have to say.

17/03 - Day 5 (St. Patrick’s Day)

I’m not sure if they celebrate green beer day in Japan or not, but Goeido may need a cold one to take his mind off the fact that just got smoked by Kotoyuki. It’s a dog eat dog world, bark, bark.

WHOA, hold your horses folks! Business just picked up! A mono-ii reveals that Geeku went down first. You can tell the crowd REALLY wants Geeku as Yokozuna! When he lost that match, it was so quiet you could have heard a mouse fart in Sumo Hall.

More nonsense from Hakuho. How long will he keep this up? Hair pull??

18/03 - Day 6

Takarafuji loses to Ikioi and is now 1 - 5. His only win is against Hakuho …

Kotoshogiku beats Aoiyama and has a little bit of swagger as he walks back to his place to get his envelopes. Is that yokozuna swagger? The crowd pops HUGE when he wins. They WANT him to be yokozuna!

KOTOYUKI!! What an upset!!

WTF just happened to Harumafuji?? Looks like he lost his balance and got bounced around like a pinball.

The crowd is HOT all day again! Sumo is back, thanks to Kotoshogiku??

End of day 6: Kisenosato and Ikioi undefeated, six others at 5 - 1 including Hak, Kak, Geeku and … Goeido (no that’s not a typo).

19/03 - Day 7

The Kotoshogiku hype train keeps rolling along after a close brush with loss over Toyonoshima.

It seems like Yoshikaze’s fighting spunk has dwindled.

This is the OLD Hakuho. This guy doesn’t show up that much anymore.

21/03 - Day 9

The first week is over and it’s time for some more interesting matchups. Speaking of which, the Toyonoshima - Terunofuji bout was really intriguing to watch. These two guys match up very awkwardly physically and it was fun to watch.

Geeku 7 - 1 vs Kisenosato 8 - 0. This should be good … WOW, WTF was that? Kisenosato may have henka-ed his way to an Emperor’s Cup at the expense of Geeku’s Yokozuna promotion.

Hakuho fighting like he means it. Ikioi taking Harumafuji’s best shots and still standing … for a while.

22/03 - Day 10

I guess I missed the whole Hakuho / Yoshikaze debacle that happened a few days ago. Let me just say that Hakuho seems to do what he wants, when he wants to whomever he wants and there ain’t nothing nobody can do about it, really. Too bad for Yoshikaze, though.

Okay, so coming in to day 10 Goedio is 8 - 1 and is facing Kotoshogiku who is 7 - 2 and Geeku is gunning for Yokozuna?? Is this bizarro world? Here we go … wow, just wow. Just when you think you’ve got all the answers, they change all the questions. Bye, bye Yokozuna. Maybe it’s for the better …

Here’s your next Yokozuna candidate and most likely the winner of this basho - Kisenosato. 10 - 0? Holy cow. I remember Mike saying something about how Kisenosato’s probably next in line to win a basho from the Japanese contingent …

Classic Hakuho. He can still take care of business, 2010 style, when he wants to.

Only day 10, a lot could still happen. Don’t count Hakuho out yet. He looks like he may have found his motivation.

23/03 - Day 11

Is Kotoshogiku choking or is he just back to his old self? Probably the latter.

Harumafuji looking weak in the knees. I thought I saw him come up limping a few days ago.

Kisenosato (10 - 1) vs. Hakuho (9 - 1). This one should separate the men from the boys. Weird matta. They both kind of flinched. Kisenosato looks like he’s shaken. Damn - that was an ass-whoopin’. Good for you Hakuho. I hope you’re finally finished playing around and just start doing that from here on out. If so, the yusho is yours for the taking. Can’t wait to see what happens in the Hakuho - Goeido matchup tomorrow.

24/03 - Day 12

Matta by Tochiozan. Does Kotoyuki hoot if there’s a redo? Kintamayama, you’ve got to show more hooting!! The world needs to know!!

Geeku wins decisively, but not showing that Yokozuna swagger anymore. It disappeared! Like a fart in the wind …

Crowd supporting the home-town boy, Goeido. Judging by his face, Hakuho couldn’t care less. He’s got business to attend to. Out of 35 previous bouts, Goeido has 6 wins against Hakuho.  LOL! I literally just LOLed. Good thing I wasn’t drinking anything. I would have done a spit-take all over my computer. Hakuho leads with a nice forearm shot and Goeido goes sailing. It’s nice to see Hakuho like this, isn’t it? After the bout Hakuho takes a little look around as if to say “See, this is my world, bitch”!!

If Kisenosato wins, he’s still tied with Hakuho for the lead. With Harumafuji seemingly injured, that’s a strong possibility. Or not, hehe. Seemed like he was moving around quite  nimbly today.

Hakuho is now the sole leader followed by Kisenosato, Goeido and Myogiryu at 10 - 2. Harumafuji, Kakuryu, Kotoshogiku and Terunofuji are all 8 - 4!! Are you serious?? That’s really bad.

25/03 - Day 13

I’ve been following the tournament on Kintamayama’s Youtube channel and it must be lucky day 13!! The owl is back! Hoot, hoot!! Kotoyuki is tearing it up this tournament. Again, I’m not sure when all of this hooting started happening, but the crowd is eating it up. Let the Takamisakari comparisons begin.

Tough tumble for Toyonoshima at the end of the bout. That’s got to hurt.

Terunofuji not even putting up any resistance. Wow.

Kakuryu gets smoked. Hakuho is on fire. If there are any doubts as to if he’s still got it … he’s still got it.

Geeku not looking much like a yokozuna. This is a broken man. Everyone’s pretty much just stomping a mud hole in him and walking it dry.

Hakuho 12 - 1, Kisenosato, Goeido 11 - 2, Kotoyuki and two others 10 - 3

Meanwhile, down in Juryo, Osunaarashi is 12 - 1 and Endo is 9 - 4.

26/03 - Day 14

Toyonoshima just got tossed out like yesterday’s trash

Goeido got thrown a bone today and barely managed to win. Let’s see what Hakuho wants to do.

Harumafuji looks like a mummy. He tried to slip and slide his way to the left, but Kak was wise to it. Wow, he really gave up there at the end, right? He wasn’t even close to going out.

Hakuho smashes Kotoshogiku. Balance has been restored to the force. Goeido and Hakuho still tied going into senshuraku. Let’s wait to see what Hakuho does or doesn’t do.

27/03 - Day 15

Last day! And it’s Easter. I’ve had my Żurek, eaten my slice of egg with the family and sat around the table for about 4 or 5 hours stuffing my face (Polish Easter …) and now it’s time for the matches!

Okinoumi keeps reaching under Aminishiki and grabbing his man-boobs for leverage. Seriously … he’s actually grabbing a handful of flabby moobs and squeezing. Is there a name for that technique??

Kotoyuki 12 - 3, finishing strong and I’m officially ON THE BANDWAGON!! Hooty-Hoo!!

WTF was that? Goeido totally choked and gets steamrolled by Kisenosato. It’s in Hakuho’s hands now, as always, I guess.

Yokozuna Kakuryu (9 - 5) vs. Ozeki Kotoshogiku (8 - 6) ... that’s pretty weak, but a sign of what things have become. Does anyone even remember that Geeku was gunning for Yokozuna promotion at the beginning of this tournament??

… um … wow, okay, did that just happen? Why not? This is live blogging, so this is the first thought that comes to mind. Something pissed off Hakuho around day 4 or 5. I don’t remember what it was. After that he just snapped and said “You know what? No more mister nice guy! I’m going to show everyone that I’ve still got it and there ain’t a damn thing anyone can do about it”. And off he went! Everyone from that day on just fell like dominoes. So why the henka at the end of his reign of terror? Maybe he was just securing the yusho … didn’t want to leave anything to chance. But why not face Fuji straight up? There have been a few times this basho where it seems like he’s gone out of his way to be a jerk. I guess this was just another one of those times. Oh well, it’s like I said before - Hakuho does what he wants, when he wants to whoever he wants and there ain’t nothing anyone, either his opponents or you or I can do about it. He’s just that good and when he wants to, he’ll do what he wants to. Like it or not, he’s the boss. It’s interesting, for sure. I only wish we could get MMA or pro wrestling-like interviews out of these guys after the fights to find out what’s really on their mind.

27/03 - Epilogue

Live blogging - yeah. I thought I’d try this because it would have been cool to look back on such a HISTORIC basho as Kotoshogiku’s yokozuna-winning tournament some day and see exactly what was going through my mind as I was watching. No analysis, no over-thinking it, just my spontaneous thoughts each day as I watched the fights.

In the end, Kotoshogiku just phoned in another typical performance, like he has always done, and the 2016 Hatsu basho goes down in the record books as an anomaly which can only be explained in one of two ways - it was rigged or it was a miracle.

“Return of the Hack”

That’s right, it’s not 1996, no, but it’s almost like it’s 2010 all over again. Hakuho is back. I think I’ve already spoken my piece on him, but I’ll just reiterate by saying that it’s a joy to watch him go on the warpath. Whether or not it’s “good for business” is debatable, but hey, it’s his world, we’re just living in it.

I’m looking forward to seeing Ura in juryo. This guy is really on a roll and is shooting up the rankings quite quickly after his debut just one year ago. Hopefully he can sort of replace Endo as the new kid on the block who’s garnering all of this publicity for sumo as it looks like Endo won’t be the golden boy. Even after an 11 - 4 shot this time around, he’ll more than likely still be down in juryo next tournament as well. Meanwhile, the injury-ridden Osunaarashi tore the juryo rank a new one with his 13 - 2 yusho and will be rebounding to makuuchi in May.

Keep in mind that FightBox shows classic sumo (2008 - 2012) several times per week, usually in the mornings and afternoons. It’s cool to see guys like Asashoryu, Kotomitsuki, and Chiyotaikai as well as Harumafuji and Kakuryu before they were yokozuna.

Also, if you like this commentary, make sure you show Mike Wesemann and the guys over at some love and head over there for some real expert analysis. And check out Kintamaya’s Youtube channel and consider donating if you haven’t already.

- Daniel Austin (Don Roid) (blog) (podcast)

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