November 2015, Day 15, Kakuryu v Hakuho

Last bout of the last day of the November tournament in Fukuoka. Yokozuna Kakuryu vs. Yokozuna Hakuho. Both have just watched Harumafuji lose, falling to 13-2. Hakuho needs to win this bout to tie Harumafuji’s record and force a playoff (Shohozan lost earlier, and is out of the running at 12-3). Kakuryu sneaks his right hand in for the underhand grip and immediately throws Hakuho off balance with a shitatenage attempt. The timing is perfect, and he uses the opening to get in low and secure a deep, deep morozashi grip (both hands under). By the time Hakuho breaks the grip on his left to get his own arm under, it’s too late, and Kakuryu pulls off the upset (anytime Hakuho loses it’s an upset) and spoil Hakuho’s championship hopes. Yokozuna Harumafuji wins the tournament! It’s his 7th overall, and first since the November tournament two years ago. Congrats, Harumafuji!

And I’ll see you guys at the next tournament in Tokyo, starting January 10. Until then, DOSUKOI!

November 2015, Day 15, Harumafuji v. Kisenosato

If Harumafuji wins, he’ll take the tournament outright with a 14-1 record. But Kisenosato is having none of that, and negates the Yokozuna’s movement with a vise-like right-hand overhand grip. Harumafuji wants nothing more than to sneak around to his left, getting outside Kisenosato’s leg and to his side so he can rotate out of danger, but Kisenosato puts his right leg in just the right position to block the escape route. And by then it’s all over. Harumafuji finishes the tournament with a 13-2 record, and will meet Hakuho in a playoff if he wins his bout, since both Yokozuna would finish with 13-2. (Spoiler alert – Hakuho loses and finishes at 12-3 along with Shohozan and Ikioi, so Harumafuji wins the tournament anyway! It’s his 7th championship in the top division, and the first since the November 2013 tournament. Glad to see the championship drought ended. Congrats, Harumafuji!!!)

November 2015, Day 15, Tochiozan v Goeido

Goeido underperformed this tournament, waiting until the very last day to secure his eighth win and avoid the shame of kadoban (Ozeki probation) next tournament. He showed a few flashes of brilliance, but needs to be more consistent against the top of the division. Today against Tochiozan he starts with another harite (face slap at the tachi-ai), more for distraction than anything else, and when Tochiozan gets in close with a deep left-hand underhand grip, Goeido rotates into a tight headlock with his right arm, using it to throw Tochiozan down for the kubinage (headlock throw) win.

November 2015, Day 15, Endo v Myogiryu

Endo may be hurt, but you have to give him credit for effort. Going into the last day with a 3-11 record, there’s basically nothing to fight for except pride. And he uses all his remaining strength today against Myogiryu, weathering an arm-bar throw attempt, securing the double belt grip, and bulling his opponent the length of the dohyo for the yoritaoshi (front crush out) win. He’s so spent he can’t even stand up. Hopefully he can get some rest and reset for next tournament. Kid’s got potential, just didn’t show much of it the past two weeks.

November 2015, Day 15, Shohozan v Aminishiki

In the end, nothing happened the way I thought it might. But that’s sports for you. Shohozan runs into wily veteran Aminishiki, who is in need of his eighth win on the last day. Aminishiki takes advantage of Shohozan’s low position on the tachiai and wins with sokubiotoshi (head chop down). Ami-chan gets his kachi-koshi, and Shohozan finishes with a most excellent 12-3 record, one loss too many to be in the picture for the championship. Shohozan also receives the Fighting Spirit Prize, one of the three special prizes awarded to deserving wrestlers at the end of the tournament.

November 2015, Day 14, Kakuryu v Harumafuji

Harumafuji is a man on a mission, with the tournament championship one day away. He totally dominates Kakuryu, who seems completely at a loss to deal with Harumafuji’s speed and power. There’s a split second when Harumafuji gets way too low, and a simple shove by Kakuryu would have sent him over backwards, but Kakuryu is stumbling off-balance and by the time he moves forward Harumafuji has already slipped out the side and around the back. If Harumafuji (13-1) wins tomorrow over Ozeki Kisenosato, he’ll take the championship outright, since Hakuho (12-2) fell to his second loss today against Ozeki Terunofuji. But there’s a good chance that we could see three wrestlers finish the tournament with a 13-2 record – Yokozunas Harumafuji and Hakuho, and lowly Maegashira 10 Shohozan. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a three-way playoff on the last day for the title. Could be fun!

November 2015, Day 14, Yoshikaze v Goeido

Oh, Goeido, you should not have done that. Look, I know you desperately need that 8th win, and no one wants to go into the last day with a 7-7 record. But that hard harite (face slap on the tachi-ai) to Yoshikaze’s head just angered him. You jump-started him into hyper-drive, and weren’t prepared for the consequences. You think about that as you pull yourself up off the dohyo. How do you say, “You’re making me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” in Japanese?