September 2017, Day 15, Harumafuji v Goeido (Playoff)

OK, now we’re at the final match of the day – winner take all, loser goes home. Well, they both go home. But only one of them goes home with the trophy. Fifteen days, 280-or-so bouts in the top division, it all ends now. Barring a meteor strike that destroys the building, one of these two will be champion. Love it. The actual bout is mercilessly quick. Harumafuji hits hard, his head landing underneath Goeido’s chin. Goeido reacts by trying to pull down on the Yokozuna, but Harumafuji isn’t anywhere near overextended enough for this to work. Harumafuji is attached to Goeido’s torso like a leech, and he walks the Ozeki over the edge to disappointment. Standing outside the straw bales, Harumafuji pats Goeido’s back, a classy display of sympathy for the loser. But congratulations to the Yokozuna, who wins his ninth top-division championship!

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September 2017, Day 15, Goeido v Harumafuji

Day 15. Final bout. Everything on the line for Goeido. If he beats Yokozuna Harumafuji, he’ll win his second championship, exactly one year after winning his first. If he loses to Harumafuji, they’ll finish with equal 11-4 records and will need one more bout to determine the champion. Harumafuji starts a step back from the white shikiri-sen, giving himself a few extra centimeters to build up speed before slamming into Goeido. But Goeido holds his ground, and pushes Harumafuji back, fighting the Yokozuna’s arms. Harumafuji has an excellent low position, and slings his left arm up to slam it home on Goeido’s belt. Goeido tries to fight it, but when he reaches over with his right arm he lets Harumafuji wrap him up with a smothering double-underarm, and Harumafuji pounces. Goeido is too far out of position, and Harumafuji shoves him out. They’ll get a few minutes break before meeting right back here for the deciding match.

September 2017, Day 14, Takanoiwa v Goeido

It’s all in Goeido’s hands, if he wins out then he wins the title. And after losing the last two days in a row, you have to wonder where his head’s at. It seems like he got it back together, surviving Takanoiwa’s repeated attempts to pull him down (which is how he lost yesterday and the day before). Excellent footwork, not leaning too far forward, rotating nicely to keep Takanoiwa in front of him, and finishing with one of my favorite techniques: watashikomi (thigh grabbing push down). Now at 11-3, Ozeki Goeido will clinch the championship if he beats Yokozuna Harumafuji tomorrow. A loss to Harumafuji will result in a one-match playoff for the title.

September 2017, Day 13, Takakeisho v Goeido

OK, now it’s time to panic. Tournament leader Ozeki Goeido drops his second bout in a row (both by slap down), putting his second-ever championship in jeopardy. Now with only two days left, a loss to Takanoiwa tomorrow or Harumafuji on the final day could see him have to fight a playoff match for the trophy (or losing both days could put him out of contention entirely). Both Yokozuna Harumafuji and top-division newcomer M16 Asanoyama are only one loss behind Goeido at 9-4. The rest of the giant four-loss field lost today, so they’re out of it unless: Harumafuji and Goeido lose tomorrow, Harumafuji¬† beats Goeido on Day 15, and Asanoyama loses one of the next two days, which could result in a massive playoff among five-loss wrestlers the likes of which I’ve never seen. Here’s hoping!

September 2017, Day 12, Shohozan v Goeido

Nobody panic, nobody panic, NOBODY PANIC! With all the three-loss wrestlers losing today, Goeido maintains his two-win lead over the pack despite dropping his bout to the always-tough Shohozan. But the pack is enormous, with ten wrestlers at 8-4, including definite contenders Harumafuji, Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku, and Onosho. If Goeido loses again in the next couple of days, it could make his final-day match-up with Yokozuna Harumafuji reeeeeeaally interesting. But until then, NOBODY PANIC!!

September 2017, Day 11, Mitakeumi v Goeido

Disappointing performance from Mitakeumi today. I had hopes that he would put up more resistance against Ozeki Goeido, but Goeido quickly locks up a double-overarm belt grip and takes a few short steps to the edge of the ring. Mitakeumi just goes along for the ride, helpless in the grasp of the Ozeki. Mitakeumi falls to 5-6, with tough bouts against Yoshikaze and Yokozuna Harumafuji remaining on his schedule. Making eight wins will be tough. Goeido cruises to a 10-1 record, two wins ahead of his closest rivals for the championship with four days remaining.

September 2017, Day 10, Tochiozan v Goeido

Goeido puts on a sumo clinic today, cruising to a win over Tochiozan. He keeps his shoulders square to his opponent the entire bout, hips and feet making a conduit to the clay and anchoring some solid pushing. When it’s time to drive forward, he moves relentlessly without getting overextended and losing his balance. Really fine stuff. Goeido keeps hold of the tournament lead at 9-1, but there’s a host of contenders one or two (or even three!) losses back.