- Fantasy Basho
Natsu 2023 Day One
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Scores from Fantasizr.
Katasukashi. Not only did Kiribayama beat the katasukashi-master Midorifuji with the move, but it was a heavy and forceful under-shoulder swing down that showed he is on his Yusho form from March.
Match of the Day
30 Maegashira #11 East Hokuseiho versus 31 Maegashira #11 West Daishoho
Daishoho seemed to get the upper edge early, but Hokuseiho steadied himself, stopped his backward momentum, and stalled out the match. This would then happen a handful of times over a remarkably long match. Hokuseiho never seemed to be in an advantageous position. He just couldn't be sent back and eventually Daishoho was clearly completely wiped.
The top 7 men on the Banzuke all won on Day One of Natsu. Usually, this is not news, but over the last year plus sumo has felt like a ball of chaos. Both Yokozuna Terunofuji and Ozeki Takakeisho are here and fighting. No top-ranked wrestler had an embarrassing early stumble, and the favorites are all still in Yusho contention. Again, that's how it should be, but it's been unusual recently.
That's not to say the first day of Natsu was without its intrigue. Takayasu pulled out during Day One, because he apparently hurt his thigh during morning training. So while Hoshoryu won like his fellow Sekiwake, no one knows how he may be fighting yet. The Takayasu kyujo announcement also means the Torikumi got shaken up and there will now be a Juryo visitor in lower Makuuchi. The best performer from an eye test was either Kiribayama or Wakamotoharu, both of whom won with forceful throws against serious opposition.
Still, reading too much into Day One performance is an easy trap, especially when it comes to comparing winning performances. Neither Terunfofuji nor Takakeisho looked like they were at their best. Yet the record will show Takakeisho shoved aside Abi, while Terunofuji threw down Shodai. The fact both men went backwards initially and had to redirect their matches can go either way. Maybe they were overwhelmed and won by the skin of their teeth. Maybe they were demonstrating why they hold the ranks they do with clever sumo.
The speculation at the lower end of the Banzuke only gets wilder. Hokuseiho fought for a sumo eternity, so maybe he's unlocked a new superpower. Asanoyama bullied Chiyoshoma out, so maybe he's going to just steamroll everyone in his Makuuchi return. Hiradoumi pulled a win from a disadvantageous position against Onosho, so maybe this is his basho to really break out. In reality, if these events happened on Day Seven or Day Twelve, we wouldn't want to put such weight on this.
On Day Two, the top seven-ranked rikishi cannot again win their matches. Takakeisho will fight Kotonowaka, so one of them must lose their Day Two match. Additionally, betting on any single rikishi to just keep winning tends to make the bettor fall on his face. The last zensho yusho was over a year ago. The Yusho winner is likely to drop two or three matches. Right now, though, the best of the best all look like they could be yusho contenders.