Is Nothing Sacred Anymore?

They wouldn’t have had to worry about getting caught back in the 16th century…

In Text Messages, Signs of a Rigged Sumo Fight

New York Times

TOKYO — It was a sumo bout like any other: two wrestlers grappled at each other at the ring’s edge, before one sent his opponent tumbling to the dirt in a move known as the over-arm throw.

Hanaregoma, chairman of the Japan Sumo Association, apologized at a news conference on Wednesday as new allegations of fight-rigging emerged.

But a text message exchange between the two wrestlers the previous day suggests that the match was rigged — part of a raft of evidence examined by the police that points to widespread match-fixing in Japan’s time-honored sport, prompting a public outcry.

“Please hit hard at the face-off, then go with the flow,” one of the wrestlers, Kiyoseumi, texted on the afternoon of May 10, according to a transcript of the messages leaked to local news media and published this week by the daily newspaper Mainichi.

“Understood,” Kasuganishiki, his opponent in the following day’s match, quickly replied. “I’ll go with the flow and put up at least a little resistance.”

Stage-managed bouts may be a staple of American professional wrestling, but sumo is Japan’s national sport, in a different league from World Wrestling Entertainment, many Japanese would say. Though allegations of match-fixing have accompanied sumo for decades, no wrestler has ever been caught orchestrating a match.

The police recently found text messages on confiscated cellphones that link as many as 13 wrestlers in match-fixing schemes, Japan’s sumo association said this week. Two wrestlers and a coach have admitted to fixing bouts.

“It is as if the heavens and the earth have been turned upside down,” said Hanaregoma, chairman of the Japan Sumo Association, who in the sumo tradition uses only one name. “I am very sorry.”

The scandal has outraged a public that considers sumo — which traces its origins to rituals of Japan’s indigenous religion of Shinto — a venerable tradition. Wrestlers, their hair in samurai-style topknots, have been seen not just as athletes, but as upholders of a stoic work ethic and noble public behavior.





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