--Pithy Epigraph Goes Here--
I Must Break You
Well, yesterday was the second Sunday of an odd numbered month and that can only mean one thing: Osumo Baby.
That's right, yesterday was the start of the new season of Sumo and what a start it was. First of all, Wakanohana wisely decided to sit this one out, which is a little bit of a "tell it to the hand" to the Yokozuna Council who can't judge him or throw him out er, "encourage him to retire to preserve the dignity of the Yokozuna title", until he actually competes again. He's smart enough to know they can't force him back before he's damned good and ready.
In the actual wrestling, all three Yokozuna easily won their first bouts in a combined total of maybe 10 seconds. First Akebono with an Ivan Drago look of "I must break you and eat your children" determination on his face blasted Kotonowaka out in easy fashion. Then, Takanohana survived a couple brutal slaps from Toki, grabbed the front of Toki's mawashi and escorted him out. Finally, Musashimaru in the most impressive win, grabbed Kaio and literally picked him up and threw him out in only 2-3 seconds.
As for the Ozeki, Dejima lost a great match to Tosanoumi after nearly pushing him out twice. During his second trip to the bales, Tosanoumi suddenly regrouped and pushed Dejima all the way across the ring and out. Great stuff. Chiotaikai had no trouble with his opponent, pushing him out in a few seconds.
As for Takanonami, well Charles will be pleased to know he's no longer an Ozeki. After his second losing basho in a row he was demoted to Sekiwake. If he wants to move back up to Ozeki he needs at least 10 wins this go around and all implications are he wants it back in a bad way. During the off season he was working extra hard and apparently went over to Musashigawabeya to work out with Maru, Musoyama and Dejima. This is almost unheard of for the Futagayama boys, who are used to having only to practice with each other. (I've heard that many people are encouraging Wak and Tak to do the same but that they have, thus far, refused.) Takanonami easily won his first match and looked pretty good doing it.
Kyoukushusan lost easily to Shikishima. Terao beat the crap out of Ogiyama to get his 600th win and to move into 7th on the all time win list. Ogiyama seemed to have the upper hand and was moving Terao back until Terao, as the saying goes, "opened up his can of Whup-Ass" and unleashed a vicious face slap that instantly dropped Ogiyama to the sand. Takatoriki seems to be on his way out, losing his first match almost too easily.
You may remember a big, hairy Argentinian named Hoshitango. Well he's now at Juryo 3 and at age 34 seems to have a shot at the big leagues. I'm personally cheering for him and will try to keep you updated on his progress.
From the dark side of Sumo: I read a disturbing report recently. Last July or so, a rikishi name Daishoho had to retire because of pancreatic cancer. Well, it seems that he subsequently butted heads with Sumo tradition and was treated badly because of it. As you know, the hair cutting/retirement ceremony traditionally takes place six months after a rikishi retires. Well, four months after his retirement Daishoho was looking bad and had lost 50 kilos (140 kilos to 90). Therefore, members of his heya and many of his friends, including Akebono and Musashimaru, encouraged his stablemaster and the Sumo Association to go ahead with his retirement ceremony. When they refused, his old college friend Mainoumi made all the arrangements and the ceremony was held in a hotel in October. (The Sumo Association refused to let them use the Kogugikan and his stablemaster considered it best if they not use that heya.) Every member of sumo's power structure refused to attend as did his old college coach, saying that if it wasn't official it wasn't worth going to and that it might "destroy sumo tradition." (The coach also implied he was afraid of the raising the ire of the Sumo Association.) The spectacle was so disgusting it was even noticed and reported by a Japanese newspaper (the translation of which I'm now stealing from.) Glad to know Sumo takes care of its own and that in a time of waning popularity, Sumo is doing so much to raise its image in the public eye.
The only other news of note is not related to Sumo: Some of you were, I think, around when Japan decided to move all holidays to Mondays rather than the usual floating systems. Well, the first of these so-called "Happy Mondays" is today and it is an unmitigated success. Many people shifted their New Year's holidays to incorporate the three day weekend, and others are simply taking a second trip. Travel for this time has more than doubled from previous years and ski resorts are enjoying the unusual extra burst of travellers. Hard to believe some politicians and business people fought against this. I love it when Japan discovers things the west has known for years: if you want people to spend lots of money, it helps to give them lots of time to spend it.
That's all I know for now.
Dwayne "Enough of these quotes in my name already" Lively
Not So Fast, Mr. Divine
Well, Day Two of the New Year's Basho had one major surprise when Musashimaru dropped a marathon match to Kotoryu. Ryu had a great tachiai that got him in low and kept Maru from getting a belt hold. After a short bout of wrestling they locked up and stood in the center of the dojo for a full minute. Ryu then took Maru to the bales but Maru managed to escape. He was, however, still unable to get a belt hold as Ryu remained low. Suddenly, Ryu attempted a throw that about upended Maru and before the Yokuzuna could recover he was pushed out. The interview after consisted of Kotoryu's breathless wheezing and sounded about like "Heeee, haaaa, hoho <gasp> Ne?"
The other Yokozuna won their matches. Takanohana took a big hit from Tochiazuma but recovered and pushed Azuma back. At the bales Azuma attempted a spin and throw, but Tak bounced on once leg three times until Azuma lost his balance and fell out. Not pretty but effective. Akebono had little trouble with Toki, but smashed his face against Toki's shoulder as he was on his way out and ended up with a bloody nose.
In the Ozeki matches Chiotaikai lost to Miyabiyama who must grow hair more slowly than normal people. After 3 basho in the big leagues, his hair still hasn't grown long enough to form a proper chonmage. This writer wants to know what's up with that. Anyway, Miyabiyama hit Chiotaikai hard at the tachiai and slowly pushed him back and out in a text book example of push and thrust sumo. Dejima lost a close match with Kotonowaka. Both fell at the bales and it appeared they fell at the same time, but a monoii and replay showed Dejima's arm hit first. Plus, Dejima was going out backwards and to name him winner would have been a crime.
The best short match of the day was between Ozeki wannabes Musoyama and Tosanoumi. Their tachiai rocked my apartment and much of Tokyo but Musoyama quickly gained control and threw Tosanoumi. Impressive stuff.
Takanonami got his second win in the form of a gift from Asanowaka who, while in control of the match, lost his footing during an attempted move at the same time Takanonami gave him a push. Asanowaka went out. Takanonami went to 2-0.
In other matches: Kaio pulled down the tiny and feisty Kotonishiki. Kyokushusan stank up Tokyo so badly that his opponent, Wakanoyama, almost fell down and lost as he pushed Shusan out. Terao lost a brutal slap fest to Asanosho, who was stronger and better able to take a hit than Terao's opponent yesterday. Takatoriki was pushed down a second before he would have won. He is now 0-2.
Nothing of cultural importance to report. I did see the Hey! Hey! Hey! Music Champ New Year's Special last night. Basically they cycled through all their funniest moments of last year, none of which are worth mentioning. It was odd to see, however, that Ricky "Livin' La Vida Loca" Martin seemed to love Downtown's slapstick humor. When he offered them tickets to his next tour, Matsumoto (known as Cool Guy to some) uttered an emphatic "NO" earning a slap from Monkey Boy that had Ricky Martin doubling over in laughter. As David Letterman has been known to say "We are very, very close to the end of civilization."
That's all the news from Tokyo.
Dwayne Lively, SS (Societas Sumo)
Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory, and Vice Versa
Well, what can I say. I missed all of Day Three's action, including the late night Sumo Digest. Therefore all you need to know is that Takanohana almost won, but ran out of energy and was thrown for a loss (he apparently found himself upside on the cushions) and that Akebono almost lost, but recovered enough to force his opponent out. Musashimaru won but:
The day began with the shocking news that Musashimaru has withdrawn from this basho with a wrist injury. He apparently hurt it during his victory the day before. Fortunately, the US/Japan/Hawaiian banner was carried by Akebono who easily dispensed with the butt wiggling, tiny-salt-throw throwing Asanosho. Akebono is now 4-0. Takanohana had a lot more trouble with Miyabiyama who had his belt wound so loosely Tak nearly disrobed him twice. Still, Tak managed to wrap him up and force him out.
Musoyama beat Chiotaikai in a surprisingly short bout to go 3-1 and Toki managed to keep one foot in the ring and the other in the air while Ozeki Dejima failed to keep his balance and fell flat on his face to lose on what should have been a victory. Takanonami caught Tosanoumi leaning too far forward to go 4-0. Takatoriki lost to go 0-4.
The best bout of the day, though, was when Kyokushusan beat Terao with something called (I swear I'm not making this up) an "over-thigh sweeping body drop." At first the two got into a push and slap fast and looked even until Terao slipped and was forced to do a complete 360 to get himself oriented correctly. Kyokushan got a hold on the back of Terao's belt and just as the bout looked even again, pulled Terao around, scooped up his right leg as if he were about to carry the wiley veteran across the threshold of their new home, and quckly deposited him on his side. Not pretty but a whole lot of fun.
Of course, the real news over here has nothing to do with Sumo, rather it involves football/soccer: It seems the world renowned Nakata is now a member of the illustriuous Roma (one of the few famous club teams I've actually heard of, the others being Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Celtic.) Everybody over here is delighted, especially as Shoji Jo is on six month lone to Spain's Real Valladolid. Looks like the Japan National Team is going to have lots of international experience for the next World Cup. Now if can just find someone who isn't afraid to take a shot. . .
More importantly, rumor has it that the stunning, beautiful, richest female entertainer in Japan, etc. Iijima Naoko (the Georgia coffee woman) might soon be hearing the rustle of divorce papers. Reports are that she spent the New Millenium in Hawaii, by herself, while her hubby stayed God only knows where. They are now number 1 on everyone's list of couples most likely to go there separate ways in 2,000. (Yes, the Japanese press actually keep such lists.) It is, of course, always sad when a marriage breaks up, but I find it hard to feel heart-broken when one of the most attractive women in the world might suddenly find herself available. Not that I think I stand a chance, mind you. It simply means I can move her from number 3 to number 2 on my list of Japanese women I'm going to marry.
Speaking of broken hearts: Some of you will be saddened to discover that the always fun, always outrageous SuperJockey has been off the air for quite some time. What makes this happening all the worse is that a suitable replacement has not come forward to take its place. Instead, Beat Takeshi spends all his time hanging out with foreigners on "Strange Japanese Habits" and winning international movie awards. Talk about having your priorities out of whack.
That's all I know.
Dwayne Lively, SS
The Way Things Ought to Be: For Better and For Worse
Sumo purists will be pleased at the events of the last few days as nothing much of real excitement has happened. The Yokuzuna are winning, one Yokozuna is undefeated, etc. Booorrrriinng (said in the manner of a fog horn.)
Fortunately, the Yokozuna who's been making it boring is Akebono who, for the moment, sits alone at the top with a 7-0 record. In the past few days he's had little trouble with his opponents, even Takanonami on day five who tried to side step him at the edge. Akebono kept his balance and pushed Nami out. However, today Akebono was a heel's breadth away from losing. Right at the edge, Tosanoumi jumped for the cushions and pulled Akebono down at the same time, hoping the Hawaiian would hit before he did. On video, it looked as if Tosanoumi's heel may have touched out as he jumped, but it could have gone either way. Fortunately, there's seems to have been a concerted effort in this Basho to eliminate such cheap wins as Tosanoumi attempted. This is, I think, the third or fourth time I've seen someone try a jump out and lose. Unless I'm insane and just imagining things (a possibility that must be considered), this may mark a huge improvement in Sumo's rules, or at least in the judges' calls.
Behind Akebono in the standings are three wrestlers at 6-1, including Takanohana who has been looking strong and who continues to win while moving forward.
For the most part the Sumo has been solid but nothing special. There have been a couple highlights, I suppose. Dejima had a great victory against Kotonishiki that looked more like a whirling dance: I throw you, you throw me, I throw your fat ass out of the ring. Today Terao won with what was almost a replay of the "Over-thigh sweeping body drop" Kyokushusan beat him with on day 4. This time, Terao scooped up his opponent's left leg and literally carried him over the threshold. Funny, but effective.
Akebono has been looking great and beating Takanonami was a real plus as Nami has a habit of 1) jumping to the side at the start and 2) doing the Futagayamabeya slide and spin at the bales that's cost Akebono a number of losses. Still, the road to the Yusho passes through Dejima, whom Akebono has never beaten in five or six tries. Maybe this time is the charm, but I'll believe it when I see it.
I'm thin on skank this time. All I know is that Yumi, the Puffy on the left (our left, not hers) is married to Mr. T.M. Revolution (now calling himself T.M.R. Evolution) and that Ami, the Puffy on the right, is engaged to the Simon LeBon imitating lead singer of the Duran Duran imitating Glay. I've also tracked down a copy of NiNa's debut album. NiNa is a pop group consisting of Yuki from my beloved, apparently defunct, Judy and Mary, and Kate Pierson of the B-52's. I'll send you a tape. If you're really nice I'll send you a copy of "Goldfinger 99," which is a Japanese version of "Livin' La Vida Loca." ("A Chi Chi A Chi," sung in place of "upside, inside out.")
Talk to you later,
Dwayne Lively, SS (Sans Skank)
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Created October 2002