Topping today’s events is nothing short of the Unthinkable™.
Well, if not unthinkable, at least what most sumo watchers would have considered to be a heck of a long shot:
BARUTO TOPPLES HAKUHO!
In what came as a total surprise, the previously undefeated Hakuho (EY/6-1) was sent to the floor of the dohyo with an amazingly well done sukuinage by Baruto (ES/6-1) now bringing the field of yusho contenders (all at 6-1) to a total of nine rikishi, with six of them in the upper half of the Makuuchi line-up.
If Baruto is able to pull off a 14-1 or a 13-2, he should be almost be certain to be considered ready for promotion to Ozeki, along with pulling off a remarkable kinboshi against the young yokozuna who had been clearing out the dohyo like a steamroller!
Also noteworthy… was the exchange of glares between the two yokozuna as Hakuho made his way back up the path to the lockerrooms.
I fully expect the remaining week of the Basho will be a bit of bloodletting as the frontrunner ranks get thinned out.
And I wouldn’t be quick to count out the rikish at the lower half of the makuuchi banzuke either: These guys have been pretty strong this basho, and could stand to show any of the sanyaku frontrunners the dirt as well as Baruto did for Hakuho.
These “rank and filers” include:
- Toyohibiki (WM16) - He had performed well in the past, but slipped to the very brink of the Juryo lockerrooms
- Kitataiki (WM15)
- Hakuba (WM14)
- Aminishiki (WM6)
Aminishiki (WM6) handily defeated Miyabiyama, adding to his seemingly downward trajectory in the rank and file: The Graceful Mountain (WM2) now stands at 2-5.
Sanyaku frontrunner matches include:
Harumafuji (WO) knocking Kisenosato (WM3/5-2) down another peg, putting the kibosh on his yusho hopes.
Kotooshu (EO) narrowly defeated Kakizoe (EM4/5-2) with an uwatenage (over-arm throw) where Kakizoe nearly blasted the Bulgarian Ozeki and forcing him back. Luckily, Kotooshu caught the opening he needed to get hold of Kakizoe’s arm and gave him the heave-ho around his center of gravity, and out of the ring.
Finally, we come to the Asashoryu (WY) vs. Hokutoriki (EM3/2-5) who was not likely to have much play against the any of the frontrunners, much less a yokozuna. There has been some discussion by the NHK commentators that Hokutoriki might have a cold or something that is affecting his overall performance. At any rate, he did give a good fight, charging out of the tachi-ai … and managed to prolong the inevitable fact of Asa forklifting him out of the ring with a tsuridashi (grabbing him from around and rear of the mawashi, and levering him off his feet by dropping one’s hips).
As soon as Asa dropped him of, he did pull a light punch toward the back of Hoku’s head - a move that could arguably be seen as more unsportsmanlike, than merely a playful after-match swat. Things like this will not help to lighten the somewhat negative criticism of Japanese press tends to have of the 68th Yokozuna.