Hatsu 2021 Day Fifteen
Match of the Day
Maegashira 5 West Okinoumi over Maegashira 1 West Daieisho
No, it wasn't the match you'd show someone to exhibit sumo's brilliance. Daieisho launched his rapid tsuppari on Okinoumi from the start, getting an easy tsukidashi. But it also gave him the yusho, in the way that he's won most of his matches.
Hidenoumi over Akua
Daishomaru over Tokushoryu
Due to scheduling weirdness, two Juryo wrestlers had to face Makuuchi competitors. They both dominated.
Once again, Midorifuji pulled off the Katasukashi. His under shoulder swing down victim on senshuraku was Tobizaru, the fifth wrestler he beat during Hatsu with that maneuver.
Day Fifteen could have been exciting, with a playoff determining the Emperor's Cup. It turned out to be anticlimactic. Daieisho needed to beat Okinoumi, and he took just seconds to do so. Before any Sanyaku wrestlers stepped to the dohyo, the Yusho was decided. Shodai was fighting only for whether he would be the sole person with a jun-yusho or if he'd tie. He lost to Asanoyama, after bumping into the gyoji, and landed on 11 wins just like Asanoyama and Terunofuji. (For excitement, go to Makushita, where somehow nine wrestlers ended up in a playoff.)
If Day Fifteen didn't matter to the yusho race, that's more of a credit to Daieisho's performance over the whole Basho. Daieisho is the sixth straight Hatsu yusho winner who achieved his first Emperor's Cup. Daieisho is, like 3 of the last 4, a Maegashira. Yet he also was fighting like an Ozeki. In fact, he beat all three Ozeki and indeed the whole Sanyaku corps. Two weeks ago, a Daieisho yusho would seem astounding. Over the last week, it almost felt inevitable.
Daieisho will make Sanyaku, although with a special slot made for him since everyone else in Sanyaku got a winning record. He might actually make Ozeki in 2021, especially if he keeps fighting the way he did in January. He is 27 and now has back to back double digit wins with a yusho. Making Ozeki is difficult, which is why it doesn't happen all the time. At least Daieisho doesn't need to do anything different, just keep up this performance.
The top of the Sanyaku is getting crowded. The 11 wins for Shodai, Asanoyama, and Terunofuji are respectable. It will keep Shodai and Asanoyama at Ozeki for March, while Terunofuji will have a chance at a return to Ozeki with a similar performance during Haru. Takakeisho had an embarrassing performance, but he too will remain at Ozeki as well. Takanosho has now had two straight winning records as a Sekiwake. Fighting through this could be difficult for Daieisho.
Of course, he did it in January. Hatsu 2021 was a uniquely strange basho. Neither Yokozuna made it to the dohyo. Before the tournament started, four entire stables were announced as Kyujo due to coronavirus outbreaks. There was a legitimate worry that the basho would not be completed. All fifteen days happened, and no one else tested positive for COVID-19.
Most importantly, we got a fantastic yusho performance. Daieisho is a pure pusher-thruster, but he has honed that skill into a weapon. He consistently won the tachiai, forcing his opponents back from the start. Rarely did he have to backpedal, and often won quickly. When he did encounter trouble, he seemed able to find ways around the dohyo to turn a match. If this is his career peak, it's a heck of a peak. Here's hoping he keeps it up, and all the other top wrestler keep a top form for March, too.