It’s Day 14 of the Aki Basho, and everything’s on the line today. Goeido’s win yesterday over Harumafuji means he still has a perfect record (13–0), still has a two win lead over his nearest competitor (M14 Endo), and only has two matches left to fight. If Endo loses or Goeido wins, the yusho [tournament championship] will go to Goeido.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think there was any way that Goeido would beat yokozuna Harumafuji. And it looked like he was in real trouble. But at the edge of the dohyo, he pulled his favorite kubinage [neck throw] and turned the tables at the final moment. He has taken control of his destiny and manhandled it into the shape he wants . . . and that shape is looking more and more like a zensho yusho [no loss tournament championship]. Today he fights M6 Tamawashi, which is a bit of a surprise to me (since he hasn’t yet fought komusubi Kaisei), and then tomorrow he will face ozeki Kotoshogiku. It seems next to impossible that Goeido will lose both those matches (in fact, it seems highly unlikely that he’ll lose either), but with sumo you never know what will happen . . . so we’ll just have to wait and see.
M14 Endo is now the only rikishi remaining with an 11–2 record. He beat M7 Shohozan with a neat tottari [arm bar throw] reversal at the edge of the ring. Meanwhile, sekiwake Takayasu lost to M5 Mitakeumi in a hard-fought bout, and yokozuna Harumafuji lost to Goeido himself, leaving Endo as the only rikishi with even a mathematical chance of tying Goeido and forcing a playoff on Sunday.
M1 Okinoumi (7–6) vs. M8 Kotoyuki (9–4)—Okinoumi started the basho wonderfully, but now has lost five straight matches and STILL hasn’t secured his kachi-koshi [majority of wins]. You might think that giving him a match against an opponent ranked M8 is a gift, but that opponent is Kotoyuki, which means that this should be a tough match. (4:25)
M4 Myogiryu (4–9) vs. komusubi Tochiozan (6–7)—Tochiozan has had a tough tournament, but he’s fighting to hold off make-koshi [majority of losses] so that he can retain his komusubi rank in November. Myogiryu has already gotten make-koshi, but he’s trying to avoid double-digit losses and prevent himself from sliding too far down the banzuke [ranking sheet] for the next basho. (6:05)
Sekiwake Takayasu (10–3) vs. M14 Endo (11–2)—This is the first match that could decide the yusho. If Takayasu beats Endo, it’s all over—ozeki Goeido’s tournament victory is assured. And Takayasu has a lot to fight for. He wants to get at least eleven wins so that he’s still on course for a possible promotion to ozeki if he performs well in Kyushu in November. Still, despite the difference in their current ranks, the fact of the matter is that Endo has the lead 5–3 in their all-time head-to-head matches. (6:35)
Ozeki Goeido (13–0) vs. M6 Tamawashi (9–4)—This match is the real deal. If Goeido wins, he secures the yusho, plain and simple. Tamawashi is fighting very well this basho, but he’s not really in the same class as Goeido. I think the Kyokai [sumo association] scheduled this match with the thought that Goeido would certainly lose to Harumafuji, so they gave him an easy Saturday opponent in hopes of setting up a very dramatic Sunday confrontation with Kotoshogiku. Not that it really matters. Goeido is seeming like a man of destiny this basho. I don’t think there’s anyone left in the mix who is likely to beat him (but komusubi Kaisei would present a better challenge). (8:05)
Yokozuna Harumafuji (10–3) vs. ozeki Kisenosato (9–4)—If you’d told me two weeks ago that the basho would be decided by one match on Day 14 and showed me the pairings, I’d have bet the ranch that THIS was going to be the decisive bout. As it is, this is just a formality, though don’t tell that to the rikishi. This is their sixtieth head-to-head meeting, and for competitors like these there are no “meaningless” fights. (10:15)