Hatsu 2021 Day Fourteen
Match of the Day
Sekiwake 1 East Terunofuji versus Ozeki 1 West Shodai
This was a wild, back and forth match, featuring Shodai doing Shodai things. Terunofuji was also doing Shodai things, as both men kept finding ways to reverse the flow of the match. Either one could have won at multiple moments, and they had to reengage at different times. Somehow, it ended with a very basic slapdown as Shodai seemed to lose his footing. (And the yusho lead.)
Endo over Mitakeumi
Terunofuji over Shodai
Terutsuyoshi snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by nailing an utchari, the backward pivot throw. The gyoji had to tighten Kiribayama's mawashi in his marathon match with Midorifuji. While debatably not a "maneuver," it is notable.
When Shodai fell face-first on the clay, the yusho became Daieisho's to lose on Day Fifteen. If Daieisho beats Okinoumi in the middle of the Makuuchi slate, the Emperor's Cup is his. If Okinoumi pulls the upset, all attention will move to the musubi no ichiban. The two remaining Ozeki, Asanoyama and Shodai, will square off with a playoff possible for Shodai. A Shodai victory means bonus sumo.
That's not the only intrigue on Day Fifteen. Due to needing to complete schedules, two Juryo wrestlers will make an appearance in the Makuuchi slate. Also, Okinoumi, Myogiryu, and Yutakayama are sitting at 7-7 with a kachi-koshi still alive. Myogiryu and Yutakayama face each other. Kotonowaka seems poised for a special prize, but the Sumo Association does like to predicate those on winning on your final day. Daieisho is certainly getting at least one, as well, but Midorifuji, Akiseyama, Ichinojo, and Hoshoryu all also have some claims.
It is hard not to focus on the yusho race. Daieisho has a career record of 8-10 versus Okinoumi, so he is not guaranteed a 13th win. He has won the last four, however. Shodai and Asanoyama are even at 4-4. And if Daieisho loses and Shodai wins in regulation, the playoff should be interesting. Daieisho has a 7-4 career advantage, and his relentless style is tough for Shodai's reactive approach. Yet anything can happen in a playoff, and that might be doubly true with Shodai involved.
Even if both Shodai and Daieisho lose on Day Fifteen, anticlimactically handing the yusho to Daieisho, this has been a good basho already. There were excellent matches on each day, and enough intrigue too keep things exciting. Let's just hope it can close with a bang.