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, Mitakeumi v Harumafuji

Yokozuna Harumafuji stays one win behind tournament leader Goeido, now the only man who can prevent Goeido from winning his second championship. Harumafuji dispatches Mitakeumi with no-nonsense sumo, using his superior strength and two belt grips to walk out the younger wrestler with ease. Mitakeumi sits at 7-7, and will need to beat Yoshikaze tomorrow if he wants a winning record this tournament.

September 2017, Day 13, Yoshikaze v Harumafuji

Harumafuji gets the job done quickly, totally dominating Yoshikaze with strength and speed to carry him over the edge. With Goeido’s (10-3) loss today, the Yokozuna (9-4) can force at least a playoff for the championship by beating Goeido on the last day. The math for all the other possible outcomes is complicated, but there are still a host of wrestlers with a chance at the title.

September 2017, Day 12, Tamawashi v Harumafuji

Harumafuji leads with a right-handed slap to the face that lets him slip his left arm under and get the belt grip he’s aiming for. Tamawashi tries to shake him off with an arm lock, but Harumafuji’s grip is too strong. With good low posture, the Yokozuna bulls forward and takes Tamawashi over the edge of the ring. Tamawashi is in a precarious position at 5-7, while Harumafuji stays mathematically in the title hunt with ten other wrestlers tied for second place at 8-4.

September 2017, Day 11, Ichinojo v Harumafuji

Ichinojo is tremendously powerful, but once you get him moving he can’t stop himself. It looks like his knees aren’t strong enough to handle his bulk, and Harumafuji takes advantage of that today. The Yokozuna clamps on with a tight left-handed overarm grip, and uses it to sling Ichinojo in a circle. Once he gets going, he’s like a dump truck with no brakes, and Harumafuji only has to pick the direction of his rumbling mass. Harumafuji wisely picks a direction that points outside the ring, and Ichinojo falls to his fifth loss. The Yokozuna improves to 7-4.

September 2017, Day 10, Takakeisho v Harumafuji

Takakeisho earns his first kinboshi (“gold star” win over a Yokozuna), pulling off a veteran move against veteran Harumafuji. He holds his ground at the tachiai, trading slaps to the face before settling into a rhythm – slam together, separate and regroup. Four times they do this, both wrestlers trying for some kind of advantage but neither able to budge the other. On the fifth time, Takakeisho doesn’t meet Harumafuji head on. He steps slightly backwards and lets the Yokozuna stumble forward, adding a hard slap on the back to send Harumafuji into the dirt. Both men finish the day at 6-4, an excellent record for Takakeisho but a disappointment for the Yokozuna.