Yokozuna Kisenosato wins the March 2017 Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka, earning his second-straight top-division championship with a record of 13-2, defeating Ozeki Terunofuji on the last day in a playoff. Over the course of thirteen wins (plus one playoff win) he used six different kimarite (winning techniques): yorikiri (6), oshidashi (3), tsukiotoshi (2), kotehineri (1), okuridashi (1), and kotenage (1).
This one’s for all the marbles. Both Yokozuna Kisenosato and Ozeki Terunofuji finish the tournament with 13-2 records, after Kisenosato defeated Terunofuji just a few minutes earlier. So one single playoff bout will decide the champion. Kisenosato has already avenged Kotoshogiku with a henka, so you can bet he’ll meet Terunofuji head-on this time. Kisenosato, perhaps playing some mind games of his own, lets Terunofuji jump the gun on the tachiai and they have to reset. But now it’s on. Will the chest injury he suffered keep Kisenosato from fighting to his full potential? Will karma catch up with Terunofuji? All is answered in a flash. At the tachiai, Kisenosato clearly can’t use his left side, and tries to keep Terunofuji away with his arms. But Terunofuji closes the distance, getting a good inside position very low and solid. Things do not look good for the Yokozuna. But Kisenosato digs deep, really deep, and clamps down on Terunofuji with a right-side arm lock. He turns his hips and cranks on that arm, tossing Terunofuji over his right hip with a beautiful kotenage (arm lock throw) that puts down the Ozeki a split second before Kisenosato goes crashing off the dohyo. He lands hard, but feels no pain. Kisenosato wins his first tournament as Yokozuna, and his second in a row, and the roar of the crowd is deafening.
Odd finish to the tournament for two Yokozunas. The bout is a great one right up until the very end, a real tactical struggle that sees both men alternately attack and defend, neither able to finish off the other. Harumafuji makes one mighty charge, driving Kakuryu backwards, but Kakuryu fights back and pushes the other way. I can’t tell if Harumafuji hurts himself, or if he gets tripped up on the ref who can’t get out of the way fast enough, but he appears to stop trying on his way out of the ring. Very un-Harumafuji-like. The two Yokozuna both finish with a 10-5 record.
It’s simple. If Ozeki Terunofuji wins, he wins the tournament. If Kisenosato wins, they’ll finish tied at 13-2 and the championship will be decided with one playoff bout, which will be held after the last match of the day (which is the following bout, Harumafuji vs Kakuryu). Terunofuji really angered a lot of fans with his arguably cowardly henka yesterday against Kotoshogiku, so if the crowd didn’t need another reason to cheer for the injured, gutsy, newly-promoted Yokozuna Kisenosato, they’ve got one. Kisenosato’s left shoulder and chest are heavily taped, and yesterday against Yokozuna Kakuryu he couldn’t generate any power. After a good stare down, Terunofuji jumps the gun on the tachiai and the ref calls them back. When the bout starts for real, it’s Kisenosato who steps to the side! It’s a clear message to Terunofuji, who has no grounds for complaint. But Terunofuji doesn’t fall down, and the two battle in the center of the dohyo for some kind of advantage. Terunofuji gets the belt first, a strong right-handed overarm grip that capitalizes on Kisenosato’s injured side. Kisenosato can’t fight back, so he retreats. One quick shift of his hips at the edge moves his belt out of Terunofuji’s grasp, and Terunofuji over-commits. He grabs thin air with his right hand and hits the dirt as the crowd goes nuts. Kisenosato accepts a fat stack of cash. Playoff coming!
Takayasu continues to impress, finishing the March tournament in Osaka with a fantastic 12-3 record. A good tachiai gives him the lower inside position against Tamawashi, but Tamawashi tries and arm lock throw from the right side. Going down fast, Takayasu pushes with his whole body to try and get Tamawashi over the tawara before he hits the ground. They crash off the dohyo and Takayasu’s legs collide with the head judge seated ringside. The other judges want to talk things over, and they gather in the middle of the ring and wait for the head judge to make his way up. While they wait, they start the conference without any strong opinions, “Well, from my side . . .” and “If you look at it this way . . .” but once the head judge joins them they listen to what he says. Not because of his seniority, but because the action happened right in front of his seat. He’s unequivocal about what he saw, and the others concede to his perspective. Tamawashi’s heel indeed touched down outside the ring before Takayasu crashed out. This is the last bout on the last day before the appearance of the Yokozunas, so Takayasu wins the special arrow prize.
After yesterday’s disappointing loss to Ozeki Terunofuji, Kotoshogiku’s future remains in doubt. Wanting desperately to return to the Ozeki rank himself, but now having to start the long road from scratch (usually thirty-three wins over three tournaments, no small feat) after failing to reach ten wins this tournament for automatic re-promotion, he might even retire before suffering the shame of falling back down the rankings. But he’s got some time to think about it, and at least earned a solid winning record of 9-6 this tournament so he’ll stay at the Sekiwake rank for now. His motivation to perform well doesn’t seem to have abated since yesterday, and he completely out-classes Yoshikaze with his patented frog-hop gaburi-yori technique. Yoshikaze also finishes with a winning record of 8-7.
It’s always high-pressure when two 7-7 wrestlers meet on the last day. Endo and Tochinoshin are staring each other down, but the referee is loudly admonishing them to put their hands down and get started. The men oblige, and Tochinoshin greets Endo with a massive forearm to the face. Somehow Endo’s head remains attached to his body and he gets a good inside belt grip, his right arm all the way around Tochinoshin’s waist. Tochinoshin can’t follow up on the strong start, and has no purchase on Endo’s body. Endo quickly walks Tochinoshin over the tawara, and makes sure his opponent doesn’t fall too hard – an acknowledgement of Tochinoshin’s injured leg. Endo offers to help Tochinoshin back up the steps, but Tochinoshin’s pride won’t allow him to accept. The aftermath of Tochinoshin’s forearm is evident in Endo’s bloody nose.