Hatsu 2022 Day One
Sotogake. Look, Hoshoryu versus Chiyoshoma was never going to end in a boring yorikiri, and they began with the kind of slapfest that is a setup to holding the mawashi. Then they grabbed each other in a momentary stalemate, and Hoshoryu pulled out the crazier maneuver with an outside leg trip. It was decisive as well as complicated.
Match of the Day
Yokozuna East Terunofuji versus Komusubi West Daieisho
Being a Yokozuna means you get everyone's best every day, and Daieisho started off hot against Terunofuji. He didn't shove him back at the tachiai, but the Yokozuna was stood straight up. Daieisho had Terunofuji in trouble the whole match. The problem was the one everyone faced in November. Even if Terunofuji is in trouble, he can come back and dominate. That's exactly what he did, as he managed to finally grab Daieisho enough to launch a throw. It was so awkward, they called it hatakikomi, but the important point is Daieisho went to the clay.
Avoiding the overreaction trap on Day One, it is crucial to note that Hatsu kicked off with intrigue while also having the top men win. The quartet of rikishi who have been at the top of sumo for the last few basho all won. Terunofuji, Takakeisho, Shodai, and Mitakeumi have been the four best sekitori according to the Banzuke for three basho. That would be a way to consider them your favorites for the basho.
Yet we can learn something from the first match from each. Mitakeumi did his powerful, straight-ahead sumo so effectively on Ura that Ura never did anything. Shodai, however, just escaped an upset from Kiribayama with a magnificent tiptoe twirl as he nearly went out. Takakeisho kept blasting a very eager and mobile Wakatakakage to get his win. Terunofuji, meanwhile, got everything he could handle from Daieisho. So Takakeisho and Mitakeumi look like their best selves, while Terunofuji needs all his power and strength. Shodai can still get in real trouble, but also does things to escape that few others could dream about.
There were signs of promise lower down the Banzuke, too. Young up-and-comer Hoshoryu pulled one of his best tricks to forcefully topple Chiyoshoma. Abi, fresh off a Jun-Yusho, just kept up his signature attack on Takarafuji until a victory was ensured. And in his first match in Makuuchi, Oho easily dispatched Kaisei in a way that debutants just shouldn't do to long-time veterans. If you want some ones to watch for a Maegashira yusho, those were fun bets before the basho. They did nothing to dispel those wishes.
Of course, Maegashira Yusho are rare for a reason, and overreactions will get you in trouble. One rolled ankle can make lots of trouble for any rikishi, and everyone will try to make adjustments. Tochinoshin won over Tsurugisho with a strong yorikiri, but his biggest questions are about how his legs can hold up over fifteen days. We aren't taking much away from a Day One win, although he needs 7 more wins for a yorikiri rather than 8 now. The difference between kachi-koshi and make-koshi can be so important that one win matters immensely.
But it's still just one day. Thankfully, it was very exciting, and there were thrilling matches. Pre-basho expectations are not immediately shattered, and we can look ahead with anticipation. Sumo is here, so we can at least look at real matches rather than speculation.