- Fantasy Basho
Nagoya 2021 Day One
Well, Ichiyamamoto won his first ever Makuuchi match over Ishiura with the harimanage, a backward belt throw. Basically, Ishiura successfully got under the thruster Ichiyamamoto, but Ichiyamamoto managed to get his long arms on the back of Ishiura's mawashi and send him down.
Special notice should also be made for Tobizaru's kekaeashi, a minor inner leg sweep.
Match of The Day
Komusubi 1 East Wakatakakage versus Maegashira 3 East Hokutofuji
This started with two mattas. On the real start, Wakatakakage had the first second of the tachiai by preventing Hokutofuji's full nodowa, but then Hokutofuji prevented Wakatakage from getting any kind of grip. At that point, they began awkwardly maneuvering, with Wakatakakage getting a left-hand grip on the back of Hokutofuji's mawashi. Somehow, Hokutofuji kept turning and moving and eventually unleashed a hard enough spin to send Wakaktakakage down.
There are three men that will take up most of the oxygen at Nagoya in the first few days. Yokozuna Hakuho is in a "make-or-break" basho, Ozeki Terunofuji is seeking a Yokozuna promotion, and Ozeki Takakeisho has almost kept pace with Terunofuji of late. All three won on Day One, although none in an overwhelming fashion. Hakuho needed a very well done throw and leg sweep to beat Meisei, Terunofuji had a very awkward tachiai against Endo, and Takakeisho was heading backwards before he managed to knock Daieisho aside. By contrast, this tournament's "other Ozeki" Shodai looked dominant by bulldozing Takanosho.
The lower Sanyaku was another story, as both Mitakeumi and Wakatakakage lost in definite upsets by rank. (Meisei had the misfortune of facing a highly motivated Hakuho, so he gets a pass.) Mitakeumi faces the size disadvantage everyone does against Ichinojo, but somehow couldn't solve it like he usually does. Wakatakakage somehow never solved Hokutofuji even though Hokutofuji was not doing his best sumo. These two rikishi are not destined for disaster basho, but they need to beat the wrestler ranked below them to have any kind of yusho threat.
Day One may seem inconsequential. A sumotori still has two weeks worth of matches to get the wins they need. One loss won't derail things, while a win guarantees nothing. Staring at one match for evidence of health or quality simply insures you'll be wrong. We can note that Hakuho did not overwhelm his opposition, or that Terunofuji is still walking very gingerly. Or we can just know that the former versions of either man are not appearing on a dohyo again.
The Nagoya 2021 basho will be odd for a number of reasons. The coronavirus is still a malicious shadow in the background, preventing fans from cheering according to the JSA. The return of Hakuho can only be judged at the end of all 15 days. Whether Terunofuji gets his Yokozuna promotion is going to be easier to answer "no" (if he collects more than about three losses) than when it becomes a "yes" (if he lifts the Emperor's Cup.) Takakeisho has a chance to blow both of those stories up, but probably not until the last few days.
Looking big picture, Nagoya 2021 is clearly part of sumo's current transitional period. Yet we can focus on the small picture. Every one of the fifteen days will produce a slate of matches, and plenty of them will be intriguing. Some rikishi will rise, some will fall, and the usual course of a basho will play out. It's time to focus on that, and see where we are after it's all done. (Hopefully with a three way playoff between Hakuho, Terunofuji, and Takakeisho.)