Nagoya 2022 Day One
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Hikiotoshi. While Tobizaru won with the "hand pull down," it was made doubly impressive because it looked like Okinoumi was about to do it to him. The two awkwardly engaged shoulder-to-shoulder with their torsos horizontal. Okinoumi made the first move, but Tobizaru pulled out the winning move.
Match of the Day
Yokozuna East Terunofuji versus Komusubi West Abi
Since he's a Komusubi, Abi won't get a kinboshi. He also didn't have the dominating win over the Yokozuna. Terunofuji didn't go backwards from Abi's opening thrusts, and then began moving him backwards while looking for a grip. The Yokozuna never got that grip, however, and Abi began his tawara dance. Terunofuji could not move with Abi, and he easily went out with a sideways shove from Abi. Most notably, Terunofuji was limping as he came back on the dohyo.
The sumo was not pretty on Day One. A surprising number of matches saw a rikishi pull, less out of a coherent strategy and more as something to do while going backwards. Plenty of the pulling rikishi still won. That cannot be said for the Yokozuna, two of the three Ozeki, or the two Sekiwake. The only winner among the top six ranked men was Mitakeumi, and he won by a whisker by flinging himself at Takanosho.
The temptation is always to overreact to Day One of a basho, but this Day One can be overreacted to in a variety of ways. Shodai looks to be in trouble of losing his Ozeki rank. Takakeisho seems destined for another round of kadoban. Terunofuji's chances of pulling out feel like they have gone up. On the other hand, Kotonowaka, Kiribayama, and Abi were all rikishi who have performed well in 2022 and could threaten anyone. Losing to those wrestlers isn't a sign someone can't get a decent number of wins.
Yet since Kotonowaka beat Shodai (for a 4-0 career record against the Ozeki), Kiribayama handled Takakeisho, and Abi upset Terunofuji on the same Day One, they get tied into an initial narrative. That narrative can accumulate with just a few more losses. The losses by Wakatakakage to a powerful Ichinojo and Daieisho to a heads up Tamawashi probably also shouldn't be surprising in isolation, but add to the sense a sea change is happening. Hoshoryu's dispatching of Ura with a strong pull adds to the idea that the Komusubi and upper Maegashira will dominate this basho.
But it's just Day One, and every rikishi needs to fight fourteen more times before things are settled. The pulling that ran throughout Makuuchi on the day should also be a sign this was an unusual day of sumo. There were plenty of mono-ii because a lot of matches ended with both wrestlers flying down and out in a chaotic fashion at basically the same time. The most emblematic mono-ii was when the instant replay needed to carefully see if Aoiyama's big toe scraped up some dirt as he was spinning to avoid the falling Sadanoumi.
The Nagoya basho is famous for being odd. Surprise winners are supposed to happen here more than anywhere else. Most notably, all the stables have to travel 350 km to compete in an arena with poor air conditioning in sweltering heat. Those conditions may make predicting the outcome of any match difficult, but it will lead to a certain kind of interesting basho. Maybe the Yokozuna will settle, the Ozeki will step up, and the basho will settle. Just be certain not to look away, because a match can turn on a dime. They certainly had that habit on Day One.