Day 1

Day 3

Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
I'll be straight with you. I was deadened enough by all the racist crap surrounding Asashoryu that I felt I'd lost my drive to give a ratzass about this basho, and while that is not entirely untrue, it's been tougher than I thought to sit on my peeps for fourteen days. Of course I read the dailies, and as a whole they were damnably good, but they only made me want to join in instead of sit here everyday by the hotel pool getting pestered by Nipponese who think I'm Alain Delon.

I also perused a forum from time to time, looking to hammer down my jones, only to discover that according to a few muppets, I should not be commenting on sumo on the grounds that I have never wrestled sumo. I'm glad Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Walter Lippman, Paul Fusell, Susan Sontag and just about every film director who ever lived didn't subscribe to that little diamond of childlike "logic". Man, give 'em a place to hang their hats and the poster children for birth control come right out of the woodwork.

I then attempted to amuse myself by sniffing around and digging into the past of the two new contributors, a la my expose on Martin the Mongol last year, but there wasn't much to chew on. Slash (or Gene Simmons sans jutting tongue, or Pauley Shore after rehab) never drank a drop of liquid in front of the rest of us, and it got so bad we took to hollering at him in the halls, "Mark Arbo, hydrate!" As for the other fella, I couldn't find any reason why he would want to imitate Jay Leno ("Hey, did you hear the one about Homasho and Dejima? Seems one of them threw the other one down. THAT hadda hurt!") and call it a report, but I myself wasn't stepping up to the plate, so who am I to kvetch?

I then set my sights on the English guys on NHK figuring, Hey, they're always good for a few. Whether it's gems like "there are various different styles" or "the Yokozuna was the favorite coming in", you can usually count on something to nibble at. Alas, the new commentator on Day 11, I think, named Marvin made me cringe with his "uh" after every word (and, uh, incredibly, uh, he's a professional, uh, radio, uh, host!ah Nippon, the land where even the average buck can become a star), and Musashimaru on Day 13 with his particular brand of tortured narcissism took all the fun out of it for me (although he did crack me up when he remarked after a henka, "I call it girl sumo, I hate when they just run away"---I suppose all those henka defenders STILL think, after the dai-Yokozuna makes that kind of comment, that it's still "honourable").

But who cares what I did to reach Day 15. I'm here so let's talk lamb fries. I mean sumo.

Pippen Nails Thirty-Five Foot Jumper As Bulls Win NBA title! The game may have been a good one, and Scotty may be deserving of becoming a superstar, but we all know why that headline lacks a certain something.

Looking to avoid a playoff against former fellow Mongolian Kyokutenho, Yokozuna Scotty took on the fearsome Chiyotaikai, the man (we keep hearing) on a 53 or whatever basho reign of terror at Ozeki. Mike beseeches us to analyze, analyze (or is it, Anal, guys!, Anal guys!?) but there was nothing to analyze in this bout. The Wolf's Pup stood up at tachi-ai and didn't so much hit Hakuho with his big hands as he placed them on Hakuho's chest and implored him to stay away. This was date rape, and Hakuho the horny teen was having none of the Ozeki's protestations. As he grabbed at the front of the belt the Pup squealed and backed away, far enough to go out and lose. What a great final day bout! Much better for sure than the one I would have covered if Jordan had not been exiled to a fricking yurt in Outer Buttfrick!

In the match before that we had two of the top division's most perplexing wrestlers squaring off with Ozeki Kotooshu taking on Sekiwake Aminishiki. Kotooshu was gunning for his 7th loss and he got it in spectacular fashion by draping his long arms over Aminishiki's shoulders and then quitting. The Sekiwake then carried him gently back and out. Forget date rape, this was Burp The Frickin' Baby! Kotooshu may be lookin' California, but he's gotta be feelin' Minnesota.

Yeah, yeah, I could see the bandages all over the Big Bulgar. So what? He needs a head bandage, one that can be applied directly to his medulla oblongata. Man, if I had a body like that I could be a Yokozuna instead of some shitty little nothing making fun of real men like Kotooshu! To be fair, what galls me and everyone else is the fact that he storm troopered his ass to Ozeki, and then (insert sound of gas leaking out of tight orifice). I'd love for just ONE of the he-men from Martin's neck of the world to have ANY real success vs. "them Asians".

As for AmiShniki, beats me why he has to run like diarrhea two or three times every basho (which sets up two or three more semi-cheap wins when his foes hesitate at tachi-ai fearing the henka) when he obviously has the skills to play it straight everyday. Rumor has it that next basho Shniki will unveil a new technique he developed after a trip to Australia, a technique he hopes will let him run roughshod over the division. He's the 'roo on the left.

Rounding out the powerful Ozeki rank is newly crowned Kotomitsuki. After a pansy ass win vs. The Pup on Day 14, there is no way he would skirt the fight vs. Kisenosato today just to make the fabled Ozeki Ten, is there? Naturally, that's exactly what he did. Although all the Mitsuki lovers out there will say he hit at tachi-ai, he was already slipping to the side big time. Not a henka, then, but a hitka. The Kid (yep, old man Kise is still only twenty-one) had no chance and did well just to keep his feet under him before Princess Aiko's real dad pounced and finished his wounded foe off with the kimarite I use on my wife when she pretends she don't want any, namely uchimuso.

Today's final three bouts, then, act as a microcosm of what was wrong with sumo this time out: Underachieving Komusubi (Kise), weasely Sekiwake with padded records (Shniki), way past their prime Ozeki (Chiyotaikai), Ozeki lacking in confidence (Mitsuki), Ozeki lacking in mental game (Kotooshu), and most of all no Asa. None of this is Hakuho's fault, of course, and he looked good even when losing. He did his part by fighting tough everyday and taking the yusho with only two losses. He wasn't exactly dominating, but he did what he had to and saved the powers that be (TPTB) the shame of a rookie winning the tournament.

For reasons best left unstated (I'm stupid), I missed and did not record the bouts from Miyabi/Takakaze up and through Toyonoshima/Sexy, and that bites dino dick because it is in these bouts we had guys who exemplified all that was good about this basho. So I suppose I will comment on the kimarite and final record with some remarks about my impression of their performance this time out, okay? Okay!

Toyonoshima got an oshidashi push out win over Sekiwake Asasekiwakeryu (urp). Both men finished 8-7. Toyo had that fine bout vs. the Yokozuna, so good to see him get his KK. He played it straight up all basho and is really setting himself up to be a strong spoiler for years to come a la the former Sekiwake Akinoshima. Sexy had some good wins, and some poor losses, and with Ama getting ten big ones at Komusubi, I suppose the possibility exists of TPTB deciding to flip the two to avoid three Sekiwake, although I can't recall ever seeing a wrestler go down in rank after a KK.

It looks to me like the Giku at W3 got hold of Komusubi Ama's belt and used his enormous strength to win via yorikiri force out. Both dudes end up 10-5, outstanding records at this level (although you could subtract one win from both records if Asa had been in the house--course you could say that about nearly everyone from M4 up.) Pisses me off I missed this bout in particular. The Giku was a better man this time out, and Ama was his usual animal self. I think if it wasn't clear to you before that it should be now: Once he puts on that extra 10 or 15 kilos like Shniki has, twenty-three year-old Ama will become an Ozeki (like I and others here at Sumotalk said a long time ago).

Dejima eked out his KK by hatakikomi slap down of Homasho?! Difficult to believe. Homasho is such a well balanced guy, especially lately. I hope it wasn't a henka, but Dejima HAS been employing that dastardly tactic this time out. Homasho with eight wins might just be joining The Giku at Komusubi in Kyushu. With Asa present he would have lost once more and not gotten his KK and not then made sanyaku for the first time ever, so it seems Kazemaru my little friend, that as I predicted, Homasho did indeed benefit the most from Asa's absence.

Eighteen kilos lighter than his foe, Kakuryu won his seventh by beating W10 Kasugao via sotogake, which is described as a leg trip but really requires a lot of strength before to even get to the point where a trip can work. Winning seven at W2 is great for The Kak, who is only twenty-two. Since his debut in Kyushu last year (when Martin The Self-Hating Mongolian infamously stated, in HIS debut for Sumotalk, "Sure, he's good at it (evasion), I'll give him that, but that's not gonna get him anywhere near the top. Expect to see him back in Juryo come Haru (2007). I have spoken!") he has risen steadily and improved his technique as well. Just get rid of those henkas and he may turn out to be an occasional visitor to sanyaku and someone we can all like (even if he is a...a...a Mongolian!)

Every time I watch Hokutoriki as he prepares to mount (hnn hnn he said mount) the dohyo, I half expect Takamisakari and one of the high priests to grab him and escort him and his loose leaf sheets down the hanamichi.

Now back to bouts I DID see. Toyohibiki and Futenoh both were 7-7, so there was a good chance that one of them would get their KK and one would get their MK (man, I could be an NHK English announcer with my insightful comments!) The Nikibi as usual started from the first row and blasted forward, driving Fruitenoh back and to the edge, but the W11 somehow survived by letting the E6 knock his noggin around like a bobblehead doll. As Yoda might say, Bend, but do not break! (Actually, I hate Master Yoda--the real one AND the one that pretends to be a woman on the YDC. When he tells Luke, "Do or do not; there is no try" I wanted to scream, "Idiot little man, try is an intermediate state between not doing and doing!" George Lucas sucks at dialogue writing.) Then Fruity made a comeback, deflecting the big boy and pushing down on his shoulder all the way to his MK.

In another 7-7 matchup, Kokkai (who is starting to look a hell of a lot more like Elvis than Toki ever did, and an angry Elvis at that) brought what he THINKS is serious slamming tsuppari but is in fact mostly upper body bluster, which Tamanoshima is more than capable of handling on most days, and which he did handle today. Once Kokkai was worn out Tama tried a pulldown which the E12 recovered from but now he was set up for the kill and as he tried a backstepping slapdown himself the E7 stayed on his feet and ran the big Georgian out. Better pull out of this nosedive, son, because at E12, Juryo is knocking at your back door.

W13 Tochiohzan was looking for number eight vs. grizzled veteran Tosanoumi. After an excellent tachi-ai by both men (NOT "on both mens' parts", Dave Shapiro you numbnut) Tosanoumi kept his elbows close to the body and stayed low, forcing Tochi to reciprocate with the low pushing power. However, Tosanoumi was ready and stepped away, leaving his foe squatting in the center of the ring looking for all the world like he wanted to play Johnny On The Pony. This allowed the W8 to get to the youngster's side, and after one more slight escape was run out, NAMBLA style, to his eighth loss.

Kakizoe was so fast across the line at tachi-ai that Takamisakari barely had time to re-swallow that squirrel he looks like he's regurgitating just before he throws his final salt. But as he usually does, Circus found some way to slip and slide and weasel and worm, and when the little man with the big man's strut made his final push, P.T.'s boy ducked under his foe's arm and pirouetting, let him fall to the dirt. The gyoji got the call wrong, but the High Priests righted things for a change. KK at W9 for everyone's favorite chest thumper, and a bochi bochi W16 9-6 for Musoyama's little brother.

Back in Makuuchi for the first time since he had the audacity to drive himself somewhere, W12 Kyokutenho was gunning for his 12th win vs. old man (no irony here) Tamakasuga. The E11 already secured KK on Day 14 but yet still brought some thunder. After a sidestepping tachi-ai by both left them in reverse positions from the start, Tama tried to push up on Tenho's pits, but the former Mongolian held steady and resisted such transparent chicanery, then reached down and grabbed the front of the belt (but NOT the gonads like Ama did to Goeido on Day 12, yikes!) and drove him around the edge a bit while keeping his feet underneath him as Tama went out. The win put him in a position to fight in that playoff vs. the Yokozuna, but Hakuho would have to lose to Chiyotaikai, which is akin to saying, Monkeys would have to fly out of my butt (Wayne's World, Wayne's World, party time, excellent, rrrrr rrrrr rrrrr!)

Finally, easily the two most surprising rikishi this time out fought where their ranks dictated but not their records, the first bout of the day. Goeido, who made a run for the ages, and Yoshikaze went forehead to forehead at tachi-ai, with Goeido getting the better of the collision. The rookie then made a swipe at the belt, didn't get it, tucked his arms in tight and shoved on Yoshikaze's chest and sent him back and out. Yoshikaze had nothing to offer in the way of resistance, which shows you why he will likely never climb higher than M6, whereas Goeido showed that he will be a sanyaku guy someday.

One last thing on the decision to put Goeido against Hakuho. Some people say it was good because it would have sucked to have Goeido win the yusho without beating the Yokozuna (one turkey I read even said Goeido would "sneak away with it"). What a bunch of shit. Feeding a rookie to the sanyaku is one thing, but if a Yokozuna can't win enough bouts to take the yusho that's his problem, and if the sanyaku guys aren't strong enough by themselves to turn away a rookie that's tough luck as well. It's a three win swing because the Yokozuna gets a win he shouldn't, and avoids a realistically possible loss by not having to take on an Ozeki, while the rookie gets saddled with a loss he may not have gotten vs. a Maegashira opponent. I think that a Yokozuna should fight the top guys, and if he can't get the job done and loses the yusho to a low ranker who kicked ass even on the sanyaku, I say too bad.

See ya'll in Kyushu

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
The 2007 Aki is nearing its long-awaited but not so surprising conclusion. Most sumo followers would say the Yusho had been decided when the NSK geezers put the stake through Asashoryu's heart and left him in the sun for four months. It wasn't really as easy as that, and Hakuho didn't exactly look completely dominating, but he is a lot better than his current competition and, as of today, he has the sole lead to prove it, not that he needed to prove anything in the first place. The leaderboard, this time before the actual analysis of the bouts:

12-2 Hakuho the 99.9% Yusho winner and future East Yokozuna. The 0.1% is Chiyotaikai's henka combined with the 11 win contender winning his own bout AND the playoff with the big Yokozuna. Did I say 0.1%? I meant 0.000001%.

11-3 Kyokutenho See above for the numerical analysis. Should he beat Tamakasuga (and it's a BIG if, that one, innit...), he can expect some prizes. I'm not sure about that last part though.

10-4 A bunch of guys Ama will take the Shukun-Sho for his big win against the Yokozuna, and, if he's lucky, he might just make it to a third Sekiwake slot. Goeido will take the Kanto-Sho for storming the division in his debut. One more win might just get Korean Kasugao the Gino-Sho. Yoshikaze? Considering his ailing opponents, I would give him a rusty nickel for his trouble.

5-9 Roho He gets the ber Ugly Prize and he should go cry himself to sleep.

Let's put some sumo into it for a change and get to the actual bouts, shall we? As we would normally have it, we'll start with the Yokozuna himself. His victim today was the hot debutant Goeido, who was boasting a shiny 10-1 score after the first 11 days. Pairing him against Hakuho was a bit of overkill. Normally, on day 14 Hakuho should have fought Kotooshu, who could beat anyone on a good day, whereas Sawai was bound to be under an enormous amount of pressure, this being his first Yokozuna fight and all. Not to say he didn't have his chance, though.

Both wrestlers came straight and hard at the tachiai, with Goeido aiming to get his favorite migi-yotsu position. Hakuho however denied him any sort of grip and just curled his left arm around his younger foe's right, reinforced the hold with his right and threw him to the clay within moments, just like a true Yokozuna should, by one of his favorite kimarite of late, tottari. Goeido was again outmatched in all the aspects of his sumo, but he's showing a lot of promise and you can be sure he's gonna be around for a while.

Tomorrow Goeido is facing Yoshikaze and he 'should' finish him off easily, but Kaze is a feisty one and shouldn't be underestimated. The Kanto-Sho is in the bag, though. Hakuho is a mere formality away from the Yusho.

I made a little bet with a friend just before the basho started. He said Chiyotaikai would beat both Sadogatake Ozeki and, of course, I took him up on it right away. What the poor sucker didn't know was that I'm a great-great-great-grandson of some other distant relative of Nostradamus and occasionally I can catch glimpses of the future. Of course, the manner in which Kotomitsuki won is by no means flattering, but hey, a win is a win, right? The newly promoted Ozeki shifted to his left at the tachi-ai and tried to finish off Taikai with a kotenage, but he couldn't quite get the lock on his thick arm. He followed up with a quick series of thrusts to Chiyotaikai's side and managed to lock his other arm, after which he quickly deployed the throw, helping Taikai fall over more easily with a paw on the head. Remember what I was saying? Win-at-all-cost sumo. Both Ozeki are at nine wins each. Back to my little bet, I'll only win one beer, because the NSK excused Kotooshu from having to meet Chiyotaikai, instead giving him Aminisneaky (that may actually be to my benefit, come to think of it...).

After the bout, the NHK broadcast showed a glimpse of the Imperial Family, and I couldn't help noticing the strange resemblance between princess Aiko's face and Kotomitsuki's ugly mug. Maybe it's no coincidence he's her favorite wrestler, eh? Also, I saw Kitanoumi, the head of the powers that be, in the background, and I could have sworn he looked just like Bolo Yeung without the huge pectorals. Or maybe it's because them Asians all look alike. How the heck can you people tell 'em apart anyway?

There are two sides to Kotooshu's sumo this basho. The good side is that he finally gave up the henka. Now he's hitting hard and straightforward in all of his tachi-ai, and clearly driving his opponents back a step or two. The bad side is that his balance is a complete mess and he's easy counter-throw fodder (four of his six losses were by sukuinage and kotenage). Again, the same pattern could be observed in today's tachi-ai: Kotooshu hit hard, drove the Korean way back, planted his left on the inside and surged forward for the yorikiri. Kasugao kept his cool, wrapped that inside arm, turned his hips into Kotooshu, planted his left foot firmly and deployed the kotenage, using the other leg to flip the big Bulgarian over. It worked like a charm and Kotooshu was in for a rough landing on the dohyo, face up and with the Korean on top of him. Thank goodness for the paltry opponents Kotooshu has been getting, otherwise he might have been looking at a make-koshi right now. On the other hand, maybe he could use some time off to Juryo (it looks like it's doing wonders for Baruto). At 10 wins, Kasugao is a very viable candidate for the Technique Prize (hell, I'd give it to him only for the sweet nichonage he did Futenoh in with). One more win will most likely get it for him.

What do you do when you're a shin-Sekiwake with 7-6 coming in and you're facing Dejima the Locomotive? That's right, you pull, pull, pull. Asasekiryu stood his ground at the tachiai, uh, for half a second, anyway, and then switched into reverse. Dejima couldn't stop in time and was a sure victim today, falling to 7-7 and on the razor's edge. He's facing Homasho on senshuraku, and that doesn't really bode well for the veteran.

The other Sekiwake, Aminishiki, had little trouble against giant-slayer Toyonoshima. A quick tachi-ai with both hands to the throat stood David upright, and before he could take any countermeasures he was pulled down to the clay for the easy hatakikomi. Aminishiki breaks a nasty 5 bout losing streak with the win while the 7-7 Toyonoshima has his work cut out for him with Asasekiryu coming up tomorrow. A win in that bout may earn him the Shukun-Sho along with Ama, who already has 10 wins.

One of the revelations this basho, Komusubi Ama, tried to overpower Mongolian-Japanese Kyokutenho straight from the tachi-ai, but his massive frame and strength were just too much for the lightweight to handle. All Ama could get from his spirited charge was a left sashi, not enough to hold back the beast. Kyokutenho quickly surged forward, determined to finish things quickly. Ama made a last-ditch scoop-throw attempt with the aforementioned inner grip, but it didn't work and he soon found himself on his back. The impressive yoritaoshi victory ups Tenho's score to 11, keeping him in the (hypothetical) Yusho race. But Hakuho has the last word on that matter tomorrow. Ama can be happy with his Shukun-Sho and a Sekiwake promotion.

In the bout before that, The Fatman met Komusubi Kisenosato, who is already certain of his drop from the prestigious sanyaku ranks, with eight losses coming into today's meeting. Miyabiyama started the hostilities with some heavy duty tsuppari to the youngster's jaw and neck, but Kisenosato forced the combat to close quarters, the two exchanging left inside grips. A relative stalemate followed, with both wrestlers vying for better positions. Eventually, Kisenosato shook off Yama's grip to get his own right uwate and quickly finished the job, driving the Blob over the tawara milliseconds before he crumbled himself. Miyabiyama falls to 8-6.

My favorite wrestler Kakuryu has been a complete surprise the last three days. After taking a severe thrashing in the first 9 days, he bumped his record a bit with two evil henkas against two massive rikishi he'd not be able to take head on, and then, like he should have when he first entered the division, he switched to honest, forward moving sumo, and even with some success. That is, until he eventually met a rikishi with a little backbone and some strength. Top Maegashira Homasho came half-strength at the tachi-ai, probably cautious because of what happened to Kisenosato a few days ago, and was driven back a little, but managed to slip his left on Kakuryu's inside. The sneaky little Mongolian snapped a quick maki-kae, but at that same moment Homasho timed a powerful forward surge and swept his foe under the rug by yorikiri, despite giving up the morozashi. This makes Kakuryu's makekoshi official and, although 6-8 might seem extraordinary for Kakuryu at M2, just take a look at the guys he beat (and how he beat them): he burned Dejima at the edge, as usual, shafted Tochinonada and Kisenosato with some fat henkas and beat straight up the otherwise tough guys Tokitenku and Wakanosato, who were looking even weaker than he usually is. His only 'real' victory came against Asasekiryu. That's not top Maegashira material if you ask me, but, alas, Kakuryu will be gracing the ranks in Kyushu too. Homasho, on the other hand, will be rightfully promoted to Komusubi.

Sitting on his worthless ass at the undeserved Eastern slot of the M3 rank is Jokutoriki, whose 11 losses so far will send him tumbling back to where he truly belongs. Against Mongolian Tokitenku the Joke's tachi-ai was true to his moniker, because it lacked any strength and allowed Tokitenku to push his extended arms out of the way and gain a nice, fat, deep morozashi. Of course, after that the Mongolian just walked his compromised foe out for the easy yorikiri win, upping his score to 5 wins.

M4 Wakanosato allowed M2 Tochinonada a left sashi that immediately proved lethal. Nada yanked at Wakanosato's armpit, lifting him clean off his feet and completely out of balance and position, making him a sitting duck for the yorikiri. Impressive stuff it was, but it doesn't really help Tochinonada's heavily damaged record. Wakanosato is a wreck too, with only 5 wins of his own.

M16 Kakizoe charged like a hungry wolverine in his match against Sadogatake #3 Kotoshogiku, but the size difference was pretty soon visible when he hit the stonewall solid former Sekiwake. Zoe immediately tried to evade for the pull-down, but Giku was on his every move and chased him all the way to the tawara and then some more alongside it for the violent force-down, harvesting his ninth win and a possible return to Komusubi (if the powers that be decide Ama is worth the trouble of adding the extra Sekiwake slot just for his scrawny ass). Kakizoe can be happy with nine wins of his own.

The next bout looked at first like a catfight between Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. Veterans M14 Kitazakura and M6 Kaiho started with some quick yet ineffective tsuppari. Kaiho was the first to initiate something, by sliding to his right to grab a nice uwate, but the big Super Zakura Bro used his bulk and height advantage to easily break it off, resuming his quick tsuppari attack. Kaiho again evaded to his right, only this time the maneuver sent his large foe sprawling to the clay, much to his outspoken frustration. Both wrestlers have double digit losses, and Zakura is setting sail yet again for the calm Juryo waters.

With a dangerous seven losses already, M6 Toyohibiki crashed hard into his opponent, M9 Takamisakari, and used a fierce nodowa and some more heavy thrusts to eject the clown from the dohyo in spectacular fashion. This newbie's strength is impressive, but I'm gonna repeat myself and say he'd do well to work on his balance. His fate is going to be decided tomorrow, against fellow oh-point-fiver Futenoh. Also at the 1/2 mark, Takamisakari ain't gonna have it easy, with Kakizoe coming his way on senshuraku.

I'm now going to skip right to the first Makuuchi bout, the one between Old Man Tamakasuga and Mongolian Figgered, who came way too high at the initial charge, trying to dish out some tsuppari. The veteran was hit by a couple, but all he really needed to do was slap the side of Ryuo's head for the quick and painless (well, for Kasuga, anyway) slapdown. Tamakasuga gets another kachikoshi, while Ryuo will start packing for Juryo with his 11th loss.

Hakurozan, the lesser of the Russians in Makuuchi, put his big bro to shame, actually putting up quite a fight against Futenoh the underachiever. Henkarozan opted for a thrusting tachi-ai, with both hands to his opponent's neck, probably hoping to get him off balance for the cheap pulldown. Hardly surprising, that failed, and Futenoh quickly took the show into yotsu ground, with the two wrestlers exchanging double grips with the left inside. At that moment I thought it was all over for the bald whitey, but Hakurozan decided to put me to shame too, by taking Futenoh off balance with two shitatenage attempts and forcing him out in convincing fashion to get his eighth. It was actually good sumo from the Russian (ugh, I never thought I'd say it again). Futenoh will have to wait at least another day for his own kachikoshi.

In the next bout, Iwakiyama wanted to the take the bet between me and Mike right to the last day of the tournament (probably because Mike paid him off to take a dive). Anyway, Iwakiyama attacked with some vigorous tsuppari only to have his foe, future Juryo Kasuganishiki, dodge his subsequent charge and slap him down a fraction of a second before he crashed out of the ring himself. And, yeah, had it not been for our little bet, I'd probably have skipped this ugly bout altogether.

Roho lost to Yoshikaze. Next!

I'm guessing M8 Takekaze was expecting a hard tachi-ai from young prospect Tochiozan, because right after the initial impact, he backed down and let the young one take himself off balance and become an easy oshidashi target. Tochiozan is still new to Makuuchi, but in a year or so you won't see this kind of loss from him again. Of course, focusing strictly on the 'now', Oh has to win tomorrow against Tosanoumi to get kachikoshi. And with his current bad shape, that's not gonna be easy. My guess is that his injuries haven't healed completely yet, because he doesn't really seem to be generating a lot of horsepower.

Tomorrow promises to be an interesting day, with no less than 8 rikishi coming in at 7-7. Also, it would be REALLY interesting if Chiyotaikai were to miraculously defeat Hakuho and force him into a playoff with Kyokutenho. It will be 'really' interesting to see how Iwakiyama fares against Henkarozan, and, of course, it will be very interesting to see if Clancy comes back from the depths of Hell with a tan. To write his senshuraku report, of course.

Day 13 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Coming into day 13, we've got six horses left in what could be a very historic yusho race. Of those, three would win and three would lose. Let's see what happened.

Before we start, one interesting fact that showcases how international sumo has become. The yusho was determined in four of the five lower divisions today. The winners? None other than Estonian Baruto (Juryo), Mongolian Tamawashi (Makushita), Japanese Tosayutaka (Sandanme) and Korean Kinryuzan (Jonokuchi).

Now back to the race. The first of the contenders, M16 Kakizoe, kicked things off in Makuuchi by losing via Oshi-dashi against fellow M16 Kasuganishiki. Just like that, Zoe drops to 9-4 and practically out of the picture, while Kasuganishiki (5-8) halted a horrific eight bout losing streak after starting out of the gates 4-0.

By contrast, M12 Kyokutenho stayed in the race by beating M8 Takekaze (8-5). Tenho (10-3) wasted no time securing the left outside grip from the tachiai to avoid any separation and proceeded to easily force out the mighty might.

Next up was M10 Kasugao, my vote for most improved rikishi this basho. Unfortunately, he succumbed to M5 Miyabiyama's well-timed pull down to drop to 9-4. Miyabi improves to 8-5.

If you're keeping count, that's two horses down and one horse still in it with three more to go.

Now let's fast forward to the top of the division and see how Komusubi Ama did. He won in a similar fashion to Miyabiyama- via a well-timed pull down- to keep the collar on M5 Toyonoshima. This makes Ama (10-3) 10-0 in his career against Toyonoshima.

Even though Kotooshu is not in the race, I feel obliged to cover him based on his status as Ozeki so allow me to touch on his bout. It was an interesting one that continued a disturbing trend for our Bulgarian friend. He lost via sukui-nage (scoop throw) to M4 Wakanosato (5-8), but he didn't initiate the throw. It was Oshu (8-5) who offered a kote-nage (hook throw) first that Waka was able to successfully counter with a scoop from the inside. Interestingly, this was the forth "nage" loss (out of 5 losses) for the Ozeki this basho, and not the first such loss by a counter throw. This leads me to believe he should re-examine his positioning, or his decision making, to rely on throwing techniques to win.

Back to the race. The most anticipated bout of the day matching Chiyotaikai with M14 Goeido did not disappoint. Well, if you're a Chiyotaikai fan at least. As much as I like rooting for the underdog, I was proud of Chiyo for displaying to the rookie what has sustained his 52-basho existence at Ozeki- a powerful tsuppari game- without the cop out pull downs that has tainted his reputation the last couple years. Taikai (9-4) was in full force with his tsuki-oshi and dropped Goeido to 10-3 with relative ease. However, it is noteworthy that Goeido's impact this basho continues an impressive cluster of rookie successes in 2007 in which four of the five shin-nyumaku this year have collected double digit wins in their first Makuuchi campaign (Tochiohzan, Ryuo, Toyohibiki and now Goeido). Satoyama (7-8) is the lone unlucky one of the bunch.

In the final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho made it interesting but was able to get by Ozeki Kotomitsuki (8-5) in the end. Mitsuki actually had Haku backpeddling and on the ropes after garnering the left uwate, but the Yokozuna offered a maki-oshi (twist down) in defense that was enough to drop the shin-Ozeki. The win, coupled with Goeido's loss, for the first time gives Hakuho (11-2) sole possession of the lead.

To summarize, we've now got Hakuho on top at 11-2 followed by Ama, Kyokutenho and Goeido at 10-3. Tomorrow shows Goeido going up against Hakuho, the first time a rookie Makuuchi rikishi has been pitted against a Yokozuna since Tosanoumi was matched against Takanohana in 1995. Don't miss it.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
There are a lot of sumo fans out there who need to take a reality pill right alongside the Japanese press. Having Goeido stand alone atop the leaderboard after 11 days is an incredible feat, and there can't be a single sumo fan out there who isn't awed by this kid's maturity and potential greatness, but there's a reason why a Makuuchi rookie hasn't taken the yusho in 93 years. And back then, the sport had its rikishi split into two major factions, one in Tokyo and the other in Osaka. The last thing that the youngster needed was the press asking him about the yusho race around day 10 and then making such a big deal about his start in the headlines. Yes, it is news, but we still had four days left coming into day 12, Goeido has now been thrown to the wolves, and the rikishi who are always at the top of the banzuke have their pride. The gap between the top 10 rikishi in the sport and the rank and file of Makuuchi is greater than the gap between the lower half of the Makuuchi ranks and the top 10 Makushita rikishi. Yes, rikishi have come from the depths of the Maegashira ranks to take the yusho before. We saw Takatoriki do it in 2000, and then Kotonishiki did it a few years before then. The difference, though, is that those guys were veterans. They had served their time in the sanyaku, and after they got off to their hot starts and were paired against the big guns the final few days, they knew how to handle 'em. Goeido is so promising, but it's unfair to expect that he'll continue to roll as he did against the likes of Kyokutenho, Kasugao, and Takekaze.

Moving onto the action where we'll start with our M14 leader, Komusubi Ama showed the difference in the lower Maegashira ranks and the jo'i from the tachi-ai where he drove Goeido a full two steps back with a right paw to the kid's throat that set up the moro-zashi position for Ama. Goeido instinctively countered with the right outer grip, however, and actually managed a helluva charge trying to throw Ama off balance with the hold. The youngster's strength was evident here has he managed to throw Ama out of the morozashi position and off balance enough to where he nearly had the Mongolian with a right kote-nage throw, but Goeido's legs just weren't set properly and Ama survived the attempt and pulled up on Goeido's right leg allowing him to slip to the back of the rookie in the perfect man love position. Taking his time, Ama secured his right arm at the front of Goeido's belt and used his left hand to uncomfortably grope at Goeido's package before completely lifting him off of his feet in a reverse wedgie higher than physics should have allowed and then slamming him down to the clay with such ferociousness that seconds later NHK put a tsunami warning into effect for the Tokyo Bay area. Damnation. This was so impressive that even Asashoryu flinched from the mud baths in Mongolia. I love Goeido already, and his sumo his so mature it's scary, but to see Ama's pride kick in and to see a tsuri-otoshi executed to that proportion just kicks ass to no end. And don't look now, but I think I just developed a mancrush on Ama after watching his sumo today.

Couple points here before we move on. First, Goeido is a special rikishi. As early as Haru of this year we saw Tochiohzan in a similar position. You'll remember on day 14 or so when they paired him with Kotomitsuki he looked like a deer in the headlights, and got his butt kicked. Goeido, on the other hand, damn well nearly pulled off the upset today. Ama's initial push and moro-zashi grip would prove too much for Goeido to overcome, but he seemed unfazed out there even with so much on the line. Second, Ama had his WWAD ring on today beginning from the last repetition at the starting lines where he slapped the back of his black mawashi just as Asashoryu does before taking the salt for the last time. To see a guy take pride in his rank and make such a statement as this is what defines great sumo. School your opponent at the tachi-ai, outquick him during the bout, and then leave him in a heap as you walk back to your side. This was a hallowed performance from Ama today who moves to 9-3 and is well in the yusho race himself having faced all of the tough rikishi. Goeido falls to 10-2, but should keep his head up...especially against Chiyotaikai tomorrow. You think Ama was out for blood today...

Moving to the final bout of the day, Sekiwake Aminishiki came with a fantastic right nodowa at the tachi-ai that stood Hakuho upright, but he wasted the advantage by immediately going for a pulldown afterwards. The Yokozuna slouched down slightly, but Aminishiki threw himself to the side and off balance as he attempted the move, so as Hakuho regained his footing, he just finished Aminishiki off with a pulldown of his own. This was pretty ugly stuff all around, and you wonder what the result would have been had Aminishiki still been undefeated because I don't think he would have given up so easily. Nevertheless, Hakuho moves into a tie with Goeido at 10-2 but better bring a little bit better tachi-ai tomorrow if he wants to beat Kotomitsuki. Aminishiki has dropped four in a row (which should be no surprise to anyone) and falls to 8-4.

Has it come to this...Kotooshu needing to clinch his kachi-koshi against M8 Takekaze? I guess so as the Ozeki completely dominated the session by actually using some tsuppari from the tachi-ai to stand Takekaze upright setting up the easy left outer grip. Oshu wasted no time from there driving Takekaze back and forcing him haplessly down to the clay in the dominating performance that saw him net a day 12 kachi-koshi. It's a shame, though, that Kotooshu hasn't had an impact on this basho. Takekaze falls to 8-4.

In a bout that should have been so much better, M5 Miyabiyama dictated the pace early thrusting into Ozeki Kotomitsuki's upper body to keep him on the run from the start, but the Sheriff abandoned the thrusts too early and started monkeying around with pull attempts that took away his momentum. Realizing that Kotomitsuki wasn't going down via hataki-komi, Miyabiyama went back to the thrust attack, but his lower body was no longer in position to really pound the Ozeki back, so Miyabiyama went to the pulldown yet again, and this time, Kotomitsuki was ready easily lowering his head and pushing Miyabiyama back and off the dohyo for the uneventful win. Kotomitsuki secures kachi-koshi at 8-4 with the win, but it's too little too late this basho. Miyabiyama falls to 7-5.

As an aside, a couple of basho back, NHK's Fujii Announcer showed up for duty sporting these coke bottle glasses that were a bit too loud to wear if you're gonna be on tv and you're not either gay or French. Anyway, we kinda got used to the look, but here in Aki he lost his glasses and went back to the contacts. Well just after the aforementioned bout, they were showing Hakuho sitting on the cushion at the east side of the dohyo and lo and behold right behind him sat an uba-geisha wearing Fujii announcer's coke bottles. I didn't catch whether or not they dispatched Takamisakari to retrieve the glasses, but the point is a geisha wearing glasses is about as appropriate as a 53 year old man with a bowl haircut dressed up like Peter Pan.

Moving right along, Ozeki Chiyotaikai's legs just weren't in it from the start today as his tsuppari were so weak that Sekiwake Asasekiryu easily survived the attack and slipped into the perfect left inside position that he used to force the bout to the belt and send the Ozeki to the edge of the ring. Chiyotaikai dug in a bit and tried to shake off his opponent by moving around the perimeter of the ring, but Asasekiryu used his grip for the dashi-nage throw that threw Chiyotaikai completely off balance to the point where the two were still in the center of the ring, but Chiyotaikai just walked himself out the last three or four steps. Afterwards, the announcers were commenting on Chiyotaikai and how he's reportedly ailing from a rash. He definitely wasn't genki today, but just watch tomorrow against Goeido where that veteran pride will surely kick in causing Taikai (8-4) to fight like a grizzly bear. Sexy improves to 6-6 and will make things interesting with a kachi-koshi because you can't deny Ama the Sekiwake rank for Kyushu.

M3 Hokutoriki's initial moro-te tachi-ai worked for a step or two against Komusubi Kisenosato, but the Kid easily withstood the charge using an inashi move with his left arm to push at Hokutoriki's right side and throw the Joker off balance for a bit. It was then Kisenosato's turn to use the tsuppari to drive Hokutoriki back and eventually around the perimeter of the ring as Hokutoriki tried to evade and set up the cheap win, but the Kid kept his balance and persisted nicely dumping Hokutoriki (2-10) to the clay in about 10 seconds of love. Kisenosato stays alive at 5-7 with the win.

M1 Homasho was just nails today against fellow M1 Tokitenku. In a rare move for the Shikoroyama-beya prodigy, he ended up with a left outer grip after his usual inside tachi-ai that stood Tokitenku upright and drove him back a step. You rarely see Homasho fighting at the belt with an outer grip like this, but he wisely used his left leg to cut off Tokitenku's right leg from planting and pivoting to counter to the extent that he could turn the tables and win. Homasho wasted no time forcing Tokitenku across the ring and beyond the straw tenacious enough to where both rikishi ended up on the floor below. Good stuff from Homie who improves to 6-6 while counterpart Tokitenku makes his make-koshi official at 4-8.

M2 Kakuryu showed nice stuff by firing some pesky tsuppari into M4 Wakanosato's face at the tachi-ai slowly driving the veteran back, and just when you thought Waka would turn the tables after getting his left arm firmly on the inside of Ryu, Kakuryu grabbed the right outer grip and used his body to perfection to force Wakanosato back that last step and across the straw. Say it isn't so but Kakuryu is still alive at 5-7 while Wakanosato makes it official as well at 4-8.

After a confused tachi-ai from both M6 Kaiho and M2 Tochinonada where neither was in synch, Kaiho grabbed the easy right outer grip and immediately began to spin Tochinonada around in circles in the center of the dohyo. I guess that was entertaining to watch, but Kaiho didn't have the means to throw Tochinonada down or force him back. Come to think of it, I guess he could have kept twirling his opponent around and around until he got dizzy drunk and then just let him stagger his way out of the ring, but alas, Kaiho eventually aligned chests with Tochinonada (3-9) and paid the price as the gentle giant easily turned the tables and forced Kaiho (2-10) out straightway.

Fresh off of his spectacular win over Hakuho yesterday, M5 Toyonoshima couldn't come close to working that same magic against M3 Kotoshogiku today. The Geeku displayed his best sumo of the basho slamming hard into Toyonoshima at the tachi-ai and keeping his pits closed tightly refusing Toyonoshima any sort of sniff at the morozashi position. Furthermore, Kotoshogiku never stopped after the initial charge to see what Toyonoshima would come up with, and therefore had his opponent pushed back and out in two seconds. This was great stuff from Kotoshogiku (8-4), and it was nice to see that grin as he skipped down the hanamichi after picking up his kachi-koshi. The payback on Toyonoshima (7-5) for the two losses handed to the Ozeki, however, was just too little too late for the Sadogatake-beya, who couldn't take advantage of the Association's gift to them this basho.

In the old-timers bout of the day, M4 Dejima came with a solid charge right into M7 Tamanoshima's gut that set up morozashi and the easy force-out charge from there propelling the Dejyptian to a 6-6 mark. Tama is on the brink at 5-7.

M6 Toyohibiki continued that unnecessary tachi-ai where he starts back a few steps (thanks for those comments yesterday, Mark. See if I ever cuddle with you again), but M16 Kakizoe knew what was coming and delivered a well-timed left ottsuke to Toyohibiki's right side as he came in throwing the youngster off balance. Toyohibiki countered well managing to start up his thrusting attack before Kakizoe could do any more damage, but the lower body just wasn't there after being thrown off balance at the tachi-ai, and Kakizoe was able to time a Toyohibiki thrust and then quickly move to the side and pull the Nikibi off balance in the process. It's nice to see Kakizoe pull off his kachi-koshi today after a feisty basho while Toyohibiki must go 2-1 the last three days at 6-6.

You know you've hit rock bottom when you have to henka M14 Kitazakura, but that's exactly what M7 Tokitsuumi did today grabbing the cheap left outer grip. With no game to finish his opponent off after the henka, Tokitsuumi gave up the left uwate to Zak, but Alex said it best on day 10 when he pointed out his surprise that Kitazakura could be so big yet have so little power. Tokitsuumi was able to wrangle Kitazakura over to the tawara with the inner grip of all things and push Kitazakura across the edge. Kitazakura was had and walked out that last step, but then Tokitsuumi really added insult to injury by shoving him clear off the dohyo to the floor below. That was dirty pool all around from Tokitsuumi, who should change the kanji for "umi" in his name from "sea" to "pus".

And speaking of Alex, he refused to let us use his picture on the website saying he was going to make this grand entrance sometime on day 11 and reveal himself to the world. We didn't know what he was talking about, but he assured us that we would surely know what he meant by that when the event happened. We're still clueless and haven't seen him since just before the day 11 bouts started when he left the hotel wearing a lime green shirt and carrying a stack of papers with nothing but scribbling on them.

M15 Hakurozan finally came with a clean tachi-ai today...against M8 Tosanoumi of all rikishi. Surprisingly, Tosanoumi had no momentum from the tachi-ai and was there for the taking, so Hakurozan capitalized with the ugly pulldown win. Mainoumi said it just as I was typing it, but Tosanoumi (5-7) had to have been worried about the pull down tachi-ai today from Hakurozan (7-5) thus the weaker charge by the blue collar man. Ugly sumo from Hakurozan is as common as a yori-kiri win from Baruto in the Juryo ranks. What? Baruto lost today? Damn.

Fresh off of cuffing and stuffing that woman in the lime green shirt with the armload of scribbled papers yesterday (hey, wait a minute...), M9 Takami P. Coltraine survived a wicked nodowa and quick pull attempt from M16 Kasuganishiki as only he can. With Kasuganishiki a bit compromised after the pull attempt, the Cop easily got on the inside of Kasuganishiki for the easy yori-kiri win leading to an okay 6-6 record. I believe that marks Kasuganishiki's 8th straight loss after an 0-4 start. Good job.

M9 Roho saved his ugliest tachi-ai of the basho so far for day 12, but fortunately it came against M13 Ryuo. After a left hari-te that completely whiffed and caused Roho to skip to his left painfully off balance, the Russian was able to survive and even grab a right inner grip thanks to Ryuo's poor...what's the word I'm looking for here...oh yeah...sumo. Ryuo went for a few counter kote-nage throws on Roho's inner right, and he actually had a great position to pull it off, but it just didn't look as if he had the confidence to really go for the move, and after a a few failed attempts, Roho aligned chests, grabbed the right uwate, and mercifully forced Ryuo to a 3-9 record. Roho stays alive at 5-7.

M11 Futenoh charged right into M10 Kasugao's trap today keeping his left arm low and on the inside allowing Kasugao to grab that right kote-nage position. Stop the tape right there and go back to the Goeido - Kasugao bout. The rookie knew what was coming and countered it beautifully, so why couldn't Futenoh? That explains why the former Komusubi who overpowered Asashoryu on day 1 in Kyushu two years ago has languished since in the rank and file. Back to the action, Kasugao not only went for the kote-nage straightway, but he used his right thigh nicely lifting up inside Futenoh's left leg as he executed the kake-nage throw. Though Futenoh did a heckuva job to survive it, the Korean was right there for another throw attempt once again using his right leg against Futenoh's left to dispatch the Dewanoumi softie in spectacular nichonage fashion. Complete ass-kicking by Kasugao who has wielded the beating stick nicely this basho, and don't look now, but he's still on that leaderboard at 9-3. Futenoh is 6-6.

M15 Yoshikaze used some nice lightweight tsuppari to fend off M10 Iwakiyama's own initial thrusts and slip just to the Hutt's right side. Iwakiyama immediately went for a pull down, and though Yoshikaze was in no position to push Iwakiyama out, he kept him on the run with his pesky thrusts before pulling the off balance Iwakiyama to the clay and securing a glorius kachi-koshi. Iwakiyama, who suffered make-koshi in the loss, is stuck on 4 wins, so I'm still alive in our bet, Martin. And don't think I haven't noticed you sleeping with that Little Jack Horner costume under your pillow. It's all mine.

M12 Kokkai has fallen and he can't get up. He telegraphed a left forearm at the tachi-ai that was so slow that even M11 Tamakasuga read it and moved to his right to counter right away with a nice ottsuke. Kokkai was thrown off balance here but clearly knew that he had a weaker that he could bully. Kokkai wisely stuck with the wingspan tsuppari and chased Tamakasuga around the ring with those double-thrusts, but the attack lacked true confidence, and Tamakasuga (6-6) was able to hang around before timing a perfect pull down as Kokkai lurched forward. The Georgian falls to 5-7 and is not only in trouble of going make-koshi, but he could be booted out of the division all together if he doesn't pick up another win. This is scary stuff.

And finally, you probably won't ever see this again where two solid rikishi lead off the day, but M12 Kyokutenho took a page out of Hakuho's tachi-ai getting the left deep on the inside and going for the instant yori-kiri win, but M13 Tochiohzan used his own left on the inside well to evade right and attempt a counter scoop throw. The move worked to where the tables were turned with Kyokutenho's back now at the edge, but having expended the energy to execute the throw, Kyokutenho continued to press the action as he did from the tachi-ai and drove Tochiohzan right back across the ring and down on his fanny for the abisetaoshi win. Tochiohzan just couldn't get his feet planted and went down a bit easy, but credit Tenho for pressing the action throughout. Like Kasugao and Kakizoe, Kyokutenho remains on the leaderboard just one loss off the pace. Oh falls to 7-5.

Should be an interesting final three days. I don't see any of the Ozeki being inspired enough to defeat Hakuho, and I just don't see Goeido winning out, but a well-timed henka here or there could change the setting dramatically.

Kenji will break it down tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)

Ok. I know we have some explaining to do... Where to start???

No one is saying Mike has a drinking problem. I for one think he probably maybe doesn't. Working in bars you learn a little about alcohol, a little about people and a whole lot about alcohol's effect on people. The drink "changes" no one. What the drink does is 'enhance'. An empty bottle is like a magnifying glass, peering, through the airs we put on, to our heart of hearts. Janis Joplin put on legendary performance after legendary performance full to the brim with Southern Comfort. Her performance skills were magnified. Johnnie Walker magnified Churchill's ability to kick Nazi ass. Likewise, Clancy and Martin always down a few bottles of 'Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale' before they approach the sumo-bunnies in the hotel bar (I don't know if Clancy really cares what brand he drinks but Martin has refined tastes and insists on having it imported from Nova Scotia). So, a few weeks ago after our pre-basho meeting and luau, we were all drinking in the hotel lobby and, as Mike was polishing off another White Wine Spritzer (4 oz white wine, club soda or mineral water, lime wedge for garnish), he started his usual Britney Spears rant. He often starts with some sensible arguments about her voice and big "talents" but then it grows in volume and intensity as he reaches the "I love Britney for Britney" repetitions and it usually ends with incoherent babbling about something called a Britney-Pool(??). It can almost be scary. If you don't believe me have a look here at his blog. Anywho, a none-too-friendly-smelling janitor happened to be walking by during Mike's homily and he and Mike got into it about how "Brit" was going to fare at some upcoming awards show. We begged him not to do it, but Mike ended up making a bet wherein if Britney wasn't "Back with a vengeance" (??) he would let Stinky report on a day for the upcoming basho. I didn't see the performance, but Mike's blog said it all. That stuff about sweeping wasn't shtick yesterday, that really was the janitor.

As for the fat men...

It wouldn't be a not undishonest lie to say that the sumo today was mostly crap. "Pulls" and "Henkas" are the first two words that come to mind. But the entire day may have been salvaged by one little tugboat, but I will tell you about that a little later. For now let's get this autopsy underway...

Kakizoe and Yoshikaze came to hump-day with 7 wins each so I was confident that this was going to be a sweet first match. But please remember at this point that "sweet" was not one of the words I used to describe today, right? Yoshikaze stepped waaay to the left but Kakizoe kept his feet under him, where they belong, and started pushin'. So Yoshi started pullin'. Pullin' beat pushin'. And Kakizoe will have to wait a few more day for his KK cause I don't think he will get it from Toyohibiki tomorrow. Still, he will get it, and good for him.

You know that there was nothing 'sweet' about a Hakurozan fight. Kasuganishiki was downed by a big fat ugly henka. And while I'm taking the time to write "Kasuganishiki" doesn't that name seem a little too long? 6 syllables!? That's too many. Someone needs to make up a nickname for this guy.

Kitazakura came out looking to push a belt-focused Futenoh. After a little bit of feeling around Futenoh found a grip he liked and easily uwatenaged Big-Salty. Zakura's nightmare basho continues as he falls to 2-9 while Futenoh picks up his 6th win.

Kyokutenho was expected to clean up this low (M12), but opponent Kasugao has also dropped far enough (M10) to rack up quite a few wins, and the Korean has been fighting with a little more zest than I remember him ever having. After the tachi-ai they both grabbed identical right-hand-inside grips. They took turns leading the dance but, Kasugao was not going to be denied today and he eventually powered Tenho out of the ring. Both men can sleep well tonight knowing that they have already secured their 8 wins.

Iwakiyama looked as lost as a sexy cheerleader in the woods as Ryuo pushed him around. Far from looking like a wise veteran, Mt. Iwaki looked like a beginner who still hasn't quite figured out what to do with himself. The real story in this fight was the slow-mo replay. If you have the tape, go back and watch it. Iwaki's body ripples and flows like a lava-lamp floating down a stream of marshmallows. Hypnotic. Ryuo has already lost his 8 and Iwaki will.

Has anyone else noticed that there has been almost no young people in the audience this basho? Sure Tokyo bashos are the best attended, but I really think that might be because they are a field-trip for the local retirement homes.

As Takekaze and Goeido were about to fight a (crazy) lady holding 2 arms worth of white papers jumped on the dohyo. Takamisakari, a fan with great seats and one of the shinpan (Nishikido Oyakata) yanked her off quickly enough but the damage was done... I winced as I waited for fire from heaven to destroy the now defiled dohyo. Then my eyes shifted to the shinpan and gyoji to see how they would react; surly the dohyo would need to be destroyed or at the very least the defiled area would get the wipe and salt treatment that blood gets. But nothing! I understood no woman could or would ever touch that sacred sand. But now the blaspheme of blasphemes happens and we don't even get a momo-ii-style meeting!? Strange. Too Strange. I need a Martin-style farfetched explanation.

After the complete non-acknowledgement died down the fight was allowed to progress. Takekaze's game plan seemed to be a barge of pull down attempts but Goeido's foot work was impeccable and he cut the ring off and forced Takekaze out quicker than you can say "Special Prize". Takekaze still only has 3 losses and Goeido is the cock of the walk. Goedo even looks taller now, carrying himself differently than he did just a week ago. He will have a BIG test in little Ama tomorrow. And I can't wait!

Tokitsuumi gave Roho a bit of a side step at the tachi-ai. He then spun Roho around and started to push towards the outside. Roho looked like he was about to mount a bit of a final stand but then he a) decided not bother, or b) hurt his back and decided not to bother.

Takamisakari easily got his second yorikiri win of the night, this one over Tamanoshima who is looking very old. They are both 5-6 but Tama has lost his last 3 and Takami has won his. Takami should get his KK but I don't see it happening for Tama.

Kaiho barely got his nose across the white line when Kokkai hit him with that big shoulder. Kokkai quickly pushed him back and right off the dohyo. Kaiho started so well but hasn't won since Abe was prime minister.

Toyohibiki won a battle of two of the younger lads by what I can't bring myself to call a pull down. When I envision a pull down, I picture an opportunistic guy stepping backward while trying to slap a guy off balance by the back of the head. What Toyohibiki did to Tochiohzan was more grabbing his head and pushing it down to knee height. This wasn't Hibikii's best outing but I can't place this with the nasty pull downs I have been and will yet be telling you about.

I have been thinking about what Mike wrote about Toyohibiki's tachi-ai for a few days now and I'm going to disagree (now we really are going to see fire from Heaven!) Far from making him more vulnerable to the henka I think his 'south of the border' starting position does the opposite, it makes him almost unhenkable. The henka works on guys who dive hard with their heads down assuming that the other guy is doing the exact same thing. Hikibi starts so far back that the tachi-ai becomes two guys standing up and then bumping into each other. A henka would be worse than ineffective in this situation it would be almost a guaranteed tsukitaoshi. It is going to be interesting to watch how guys adapt to fighting him over the next few basho.

In 13 meetings Tamakasuga had never beaten Miyabiyama. He still hasn't. Miyabi pushed him out like the Nihon Sumo Kyokai and their biggest star.

Why is Dejima henkaing Ozeki and Yokozuna? What has he been thinking/drinking? Whatever it was he seemed to be over it today as he smashed heads with Wakanosato at the tachi-ai. Wakanosato did a great job of controlling Dejima's arms while working his own into two good grips. The Dej fought back like a mule but, armless, he didn't have a hope.

Tosanoumi got another win today because in order to have not won that would have meant that Hokutoriki won. You can see the problem.

In an equally unimportant yet more boring bout Tochinonada survived Tokitenku's henka only to get pulled down after holding hands in the middle of the ring for what seemed like a very, very long time.

Ama is a clever as Hakurozan is bald. Today he came in very low against Homasho putting his head against Homasho's chest and grabbed a right-outside. Ama tried a few little throw attempts just to straighten Homasho up and then walking him out was easy. Ama's face is beaten up but he's still beautiful to me (8-3).

Kakuryu got a quick "victory" over Kisenosato by way of big, fat, juicy henka.

A week ago Aminishiki and KotoM seemed golden but their true colors are showing now as they migrate towards the middle of the pack. Both guys had dropped their previous two fights and it was going to take quite a pull down to get out of that kind of slump. Lucky KotoM rose to the occasion. Usually a pull down happens because the opportunity presents itself, but other times guys are so desperate for a face-saving win that they plan it.

In a quick and ugly affair Asasekiryu somehow got Kotooshu in a bear hug. A BEAR HUG! That is a kimarite I would use on my five year old nephew. Maybe something is wrong with Kotooshu's depth perception? Either way, the confidence building Asa-less basho all of us arm-chair-psychologists thought Kotooshu needed just ain't going to materialize.

The last guy to blemish the Sadogatake Heya today was Kotoshogiku who pulled a nasty henka on Chiyotaikai. He had seemed like such a nice boy...

In a fight so good it deserved better company a little tugboat named Toyonoshima squared off against Yokozuna Hakuho. Toyonoshima is great at fighting tall guys (just ask Kotooshu), the dude is a giant killer. Toyonoshima had never beat Hakuho but he has always put up a good fight and he has come close once or twice. Today's fight started normal enough, Toyo went inside belt with his left hand and he shoved his right up into Hakuho's armpit. At this point Hakuho's left arm was still on the inside. Hakuho could have swiped Toyo's arm away and taken a left inside of his own, but before he did Toyo pushed up on that armpit moving Hakuho's arm way up. Hakuho yanked his arm out leaving Toyo with two hands inside. Toyo went for a throw that put Hakuho off balance but also caused him to loose his grip on Hakuho. At this point too many guys take a moment to regroup and the fight basically starts all over again. But Toyo didn't do that, he chased and stayed on Hakuho, pushing him the last few feet out and off the dohyo. Toyo fought this one perfectly and is establishing himself as a real presence even at this level.

So Baruto has locked up Juryo. Goeido, Ama and Toyonoshima are looking to pick up special prizes, Hakuho will still have to lose one or even two more to not take the yusho and the Nihon Sumo Kyokai are idiots.

Mike will 'throw the beans' for you tomorrow and I hope he has some prettier sumo to tell you about than I did.

Day 10 Comments (Alex Brohm reporting)
Who am I? They call me "The Cleaner." Not because I clean up after botched espionage attempts like Jean Reno's character in "La Femme Nikita" No, it's because I actually clean up this place after everybody goes home for the day. So, while I'm on call nobody pukes. Got it?

Hakurozan – Wakanoho: I was expecting a double henka taich-ai in this match-up but they were both so sure that the other guy was going to henka that they had a no impact tachi-ai and went straight for each other's mawashi. Then, Hakurozan overpowered Wakanoho for the yorikiri. Wait did I just say, Hakurozan overpowered someone? Yes, I did. If you can't hold your own against Hakurozan when he has two busted knees, how do you expect to fare against the "real" Makuuchi?

Kitazakura – Hochiyama: Kitazakura lost to Hochiyama after they both jumped the gun and started early. I am always surprised how someone as big a Kitazakura can have so little power. Well, at least he has his bead craft career to fall back on, and I'm sure there's a big demand for people who can throw rice at weddings.

Kokkai – Kasuganishiki: Kokkai showed us today that he still drinks Red Bull when he can find it at his local convenience store. He plowed right through Kasuganishiki leaving only an empty can behind. Glad to see Kokkai leaving the pull downs at home.

Tamakasuga – Kakizoe: Kakizoe, sporting his sassy silver mawashi seemed to be doing his best Kokkai impression today. Tamakasuga will have to check the video to find out what happened to him. Kakizoe has been dealing with a bad knee and a Yokozuna wife all tournament, so I was glad to see him kachi-koshi today.

Yoshikaze – Futenoh: It didn't take too much help from Yoshikaze to send Futenoh flat on his face today. So much for the childhood Yokozuna and former Komusubi.

Goeido – Kasugao: Goeido overpowered old-timer Kasugao (pictured at right) in this strongman's competition today. Kasugao did put up a good fight. He must have thought he was still in the yusho race. The effort of lifting his 152kg opponent three times left Goeido's face as red as a boiled octopus.

Roho – Tochiohzan: Roho's ugly face and lazy tachi-ai weren't enough today. Tochiohzan quickly escorted the dirty old man off campus.

Ryuo – Tosanoumi: Tosanoumi gave Ryuo a nice pull down. How much longer can Ryuo stay in the Makuuchi? More importantly, who will sweep the dew when he's gone?

Takamisakari– Tokitsuumi: Robocop really pumped up the crowd today. He got a firm hold on the side of Tokitsuumi with his left hand then quickly grabbed his front with his right. Toki-chan tried to throw Takami-chan but that just left Toki-chan on one leg to facilitate Takami's yorikiri.

Toyohibiki – Kyokutenho: Though the gyoji's gunbai gave the win to Toyohibiki. A quick mono-ii cleared up what was obvious to us watching at home. Kyokutenho pulled Toyohibiki down and stood on one foot to stay in for the win.

Iwakiyama – Kaiho: This grudge match two years in the making was kind of a disappointment. It started off with a slap fight before getting down to brass tacks. Then, after a little grappling Iwakiyama tossed Kaiho to the dirt. Possibly straining his arm in the process. Hmm, a strained right arm? I guess revenge is a dish best served cold. Mu ha ha ha!

Toyonoshima – Takekaze: The little engine that sometimes can faced the little engine that fights dirty. Toyoshima justifiably hesitated at the tachi-ai fearing a henka. Only, to get pulled down a few heart beats latter. Ah, the element of surprise or at least, the element of no surprise then, surprise.

Hokutoriki – Wakanosato: I think Wakanosato must have slipped on some salt or something. That wacky Jokester thrusted Wakanosato out in a hurry.

Tamanoshima – Takekaze: Kotoshogiku severed up the gaburi today! Is gaburi an ice cream treat or a sumo technique? It's both!

Tochinonada – Kakuryu: Kakuryu yorikiri'd Tochinonada after Ryu's initial arm throw attempt failed.

Kisenosato – Homasho: Kisenosato was playing Homasho's game today in a surprising case of role reversal today. Kiseno just got down low and pushed Homasho right out. I think I saw a little gaburi at the end. Sweet, sweet gaburi.

Tokitenku – Ama: Ama's display of power today was just standard textbook sumo. Get a solid tachi-ai. Then, with arms pressed tight to the body, pushing for all your worth. Hard to believe he did it all with a bad knee the left him limping after the fight.

Miyabiyama – Kotooshu: After waiting for what seemed like forever, Kotooshu broke the "who goes first?" stalemate by dropping his knuckles to the dirt and charging. From then on it was Oshu's game. Without any slaps from Miyabiyama, Kotooshu grabbed his mawashi and showed him the exit.

Chiyotaikai – Aminishiki: Aminishiki didn't get much sleep last night. He was dreading today's match-up with Chiyo-chan. After a fair and square tachi-ai, Chiyotaikai proved once again that he is the better pull down artist.

Dejima – Kotomitsuki: My son prophetically filled his diaper moments before the tachi-ai. I cleaned up the mess just in time to see Dejima henka Kotomitsuki. Kotomitsuki survived only to get pushed out during a failed pull down effort.

Hakuho – Asasekiryu: Wow, Mongolian versus Mongolian! Seems it happens only two or three times a day. Though, Hakuho didn't get his preferred inside grip today he pushed Asasekiryu right up to the straw, lifted him up and out. A big tsuridashi win for Hakuho. I think he was trying to show that he doesn't need his favored techniques to win.

Now, get out of here. I gotta wax this floor.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Whouda thunk that at the start of week two, NHK would by hyping the Aminishiki - Wakanosato matchup? If your last name is Van Winkle and you're just waking up from a six-week slumber you'd surely think to yourself what's wrong a Yokozuna missing or something? This answer is, unfortunately, yes. I can understand why the Association needed to punish Asashoryu considering the public outcry created by the media and their agenda, but I sincerely hope that part of the reason why they made Asashoryu sit out two basho instead of one was NOT an attempt to generate excitement by giving some of the other rikishi a chance. Asashoryu's sitting out doesn't make anyone better. Kotomitsuki is still hit and miss, Kotooshu is still a headcase, Chiyotaikai is still Chiyotaikai, Kaio is still old, Aminishiki is still sneaky, Asasekiryu is still not Sekiwake material, and Hakuho is still a dominant Yokozuna. For those who thought this basho would be better and more exciting without Asashoryu, sure hope you enjoyed moving day today. Let's break down the action starting with the leaders who had no more than one loss coming in.

Sekiwake Aminishiki has looked fantastic for 3/4 of the basho so far, but there are still two nagging aspects that can't be overlooked regarding him. 1) Dude's sneaky. Tachi-ai henka against Hokutoriki (1 win) and Tokitenku (3 wins)? Spacing them apart may fool some, but not the experts. 2) Dude hasn't fought anybody yet. Of Aminishiki's first 8 opponents, only Kotoshogiku (5-4) is above .500. Because of his rank, he'll get the brass in week 2, so we'll find out just how good he really is. Was today an indication of things to come?

The Sekiwake looked to jump out of the gate committing a false start against M4 Wakanosato, but things cooled down quickly from there as the two reloaded and clashed for real with Wakanosato enjoying his left arm deep on the right side of Sneaky. Aminishiki tried in vain to grab the right uwate, but Wakanosato kept wrenching Aminishiki up on that side denying the outer grip and slowly nudging Aminishiki back in the process. Aminishiki was stuck in a vice grip at this point because he was too upright, and he had zero offensive position. The veteran Wakanosato calmly kept the pressure on until he had Aminishiki moved back to the straw before throwing him off the dohyo and into a lapdance of a jii-chan sitting in the first row. Yesterday, the media reminded Aminishiki that he was 0-9 in his last nine bouts against Wakanosato. Think that had anything to do with the bout today? They also reminded him that he's 0-13 against Chiyotaikai, his day 10 opponent, and then he'll get Hakuho on day 11. Oh, and he's 1-11 against Kotomitsuki in their last 12 meetings. If someone is yusho worthy, they overcome their demons. Aminishiki slipped up today, and I don't really see things getting better against the Ozeki and Yokozuna. Yeah, he's 8-1 now, but go ahead and cross him off the yusho list. Wakanosato creeps to just 3-6 with the win.

Let's move on to the one-loss rikishi beginning with Yokozuna Hakuho, who could firmly plant himself at the top of the leaderboard with a win over M4 Dejima. Dejima moved to his left at the tachi-ai daring once again to henka a Yokozuna, but his kata-sukashi attempt failed allowing Hakuho to regain his legs. Still, the Yokozuna was in no position at this point to mount a sound offensive, so he resorted to plan B on the fly which was a series of pulldowns. Hakuho was noticeably pissed at this point, and Dejima just couldn't recover from the grizzly bear attack that sent the former Ozeki off of the dohyo and into a deserved heap in the first row. Hakuho normally doesn't show a lot of emotion, but he had that look on his face today that said don't eff with me. Twas the same look he had after Kisenosato showed him up at the tachi-ai on day 6. Gotta love the Yokozuna protecting his territory. Hakuho skates to 8-1 with the win and is your leader. Dejima falls to 4-5.

M1 Homasho bore the brunt of Ozeki Chiyotaikai's tsuppari charge from the tachi-ai for a second or two before using some tsuppari of his own to drive the action back in the center of the ring. With the Ozeki obviously flustered by the counter attack, Homasho charged in close burrowing his head into Chiyotaikai's upper torso leaving the Ozeki nothing to do but put both hands at the back of the M1's head. Homie was waiting for the blunder and mounted a force-out charge that sent Chiyotaikai back and out of the ring with some mustard. Great stuff from Homasho (5-4) who keeps everyone honest. Chiyotaikai falls down a notch on the leaderboard to 7-2 and will probably pick off at least one Sadogatake Ozeki further creating separation between Hakuho and the rest of the field as the week progresses.

In a fantastic matchup between our two 7-1 rikishi deep in the ranks, M12 Kyokutenho and M14 Goeido hooked up in the gappuri hidari yotsu position meaning both rikishi enjoyed right outers and left inners. Usually in this position, Kyokutenho is insurmountable when he has the height advantage, but the rookie didn't care throwing the Mongolian towards the straw with his right outer. Kyokutenho dug in well at the edge, however, and used the momentum to pivot nicely and swing around turning the tables throwing Goeido near the edge. Unfazed, Goeido planted near the tawara and used the same momentum of the bout yet again to swing the action back to the center of the ring, but instead of retooling and taking a break, he charged straightway driving Kyokutenho back and sticking his right leg around the back of Kyokutenho's left tripping him backwards to the dohyo in spectacular fashion for the impressive win. Damn, this was great stuff from Goeido who improves to 8-1 and finds himself ranked among the leaders. The key of the bout was Goeido's willingness to forego a break in the action, which would have allowed Kyokutenho to recuperate. This kid's maturing right before our eyes although you can scratch him off the leaderboard as well. His 8-1 record will only invite stiff competition from here on out starting with Kasugao tomorrow. And, thanks to Kaio's departure, that's just one less opponent the Sadogatake Ozeki have to fight down the stretch meaning the Sumo Association will likely pair the hot Maegashira rikishi with them as a substitute. Kyokutenho falls to 7-2 with the loss.

Moving back up the ranks, Ozeki Kotomitsuki was obviously indecisive in his plan of attack today because M5 Toyonoshima was patiently waiting with both fists to the starting lines for a good ten seconds or so before the Ozeki stood back up to reload. Once the two actually did clash, they traded hesitant tsuppari while standing upright for about five seconds before Toyonoshima just muscled his way into the morozashi position. Kotomitsuki was forced to counter by pinching inward on Toyonoshima's arms from the outside (fitting since Takanonami was in the booth today) and keeping Toyonoshima's chin upright resulting in a stalemate that lasted 40 seconds or so. After listening to Shine On You Crazy Diamond, I turned my attention back to the TV to see Toyonoshima try and lift Kotomitsuki clear off his feet (tsuri) and set him outside the dohyo, but the Ozeki survived using the tawara to his advantage and forced the action back to the center of the ring where the two stood in a stalemate for two minutes. Thinking what the hell, I borrowed Clancy's Bible and read the book of Genesis finishing just in time to see Kotomitsuki break off Toyonoshima's left inner grip on the belt. Problem was Toyonoshima still maintained the morozashi position, and as the bout reached the three-minute mark, Toyonoshima looked to regain that left inner belt grip while Kotomitsuki kept brushing it away with his hips. This was the distraction that Toyonoshima needed because from out of nowhere, he just mounted a forward charge that caught the Ozeki off guard and left him no place to go but back and out. Kotomitsuki was stunned in this one as he falls to 6-3, the same record enjoyed by Toyonoshima.

Yoshida announcer asked Takanonami immediately after the bout if the yusho line could go as low as 3 losses as if there was still some hope left for Kotomitsuki. Takanonami struggled with the question because he knew the answer, but he finally offered, "that's going to be difficult." I think we've been pretty clear throughout that Kotomitsuki is not on his game. And how ironic is this? The Yokozuna and Ozeki will generally fight the top 16 rikishi on the banzuke each basho. Rikishi number 16 this basho is Kotoshogiku, but since he's a stablemate of the Sadogatake Ozeki, they must go a full rank lower to get their opponents since they don't fight each other as well. In this case, it's number 18 on the list, West M4 Wakanosato. Problem is with Asashoryu now out of the mix, the two Sadogatake oyakata must go down and fight number 19, which happens to be East M5 Toyonoshima...the same rikishi who toppled both Ozeki and put them out of the yusho race for all intents and purposes. Not that they still don't have a chance, but mainly because the Sadogatake boys have never proven that they can come back from tough losses. Oh cruel fate!

Komusubi Kisenosato jumped to his left against Ozeki Kotooshu with an ugly henka, but the problem when Kisenosato goes for the henka is he doesn't use anything with it to finish his opponent off. I guess that's admirable, but it puts him in a terrible position to fight on. With Kotooshu trying to stumble back into any sort of position, Kisenosato used some tsuppari and looked to duck in for a deep inside grip, but Kotooshu just grabbed the left uwate in the process and swung the Kid over to the edge before pushing him into the second row. Kisenosato deserved everything he got in this bout. If my calculations are correct, that's two henka against Ozeki and more shenanigans at the starting lines against Hakuho. Rikishi who resort to gimmicks at the tachi-ai do so to cover up other weaknesses. Note Kisenosato's 3-6 record. Kotooshu survived this one thankfully and put Kisenosato in his place, but at 6-3 I'm afraid he's just too far back.

Sekiwake Asasekiryu and M1 Tokitenku traded tsuppari from the tachi-ai, but Tenku's gonna win that battle every time. Today was no exception as Tokitenku (3-6) wrangled the moro-zashi position from the pushfest that allowed him to easily drive the hapless Seki back and off the dohyo altogether. Asasekiwake-ryu he ain't at 4-5.

Who was it that deemed M3 Hokutoriki as the official sparring partner of the Sumo Association? You know...the guy who offers resistance in the ring but has no intention of winning. Today against Komusubi Ama, Hokutoriki just stood completely upright at the tachi-ai and gave Ama the laughable left outer grip before deciding to dig himself in and make Ama work. This was very similar to his bout against Kotomitsuki on Saturday where he gave up the easy uwate and never really looked to counter with anything. Ama tried several force out attempts from the get-go, but couldn't get Bulk-o-toriki to move back. After about 30 seconds of this nonsense, Hokutoriki finally moved his feet as if he'd counter, but Ama stepped back to the side and swung Hokutoriki down and out with a dashi-nage throw to finish off the uneventful bout. Hokutoriki (1-8) wants no part of the jo'i and is counting the days until he can fall back down the safety of the rank and file. I just hope he isn't fined for accidentally beating Kaio. Ama improves to 6-3 and needs just two more wins to pick up a deserved Shukunsho award.

M5 Miyabiyama dictated the pace of the bout completely against M2 Tochinonada today keeping him on the run with the lumbering tsuppari, briefly securing the moro-zashi position, alternating back to the tsuppari attack, and then ending things with the moro-zashi position again that set up the nice scoop throw. Tochinonada (2-7) was overwhelmed throughout and received only a bloody nose for his efforts. The Sheriff restores order at 6-3.

M3 Kotoshogiku looked to grab the quick moro-zashi against M2 Kakuryu from the tachi-ai, but Kakuryu denied it locking down on Kotoshogiku's right side. The Geeku quickly performed a maki-kae and secured the right outer and immediately began his gaburi charge bellying Kakuryu back and out without fanfare. Easy win here as the Geeku improves to 5-4. Kakuryu has potential, but he can't think fast enough on his feet--yet--to counter the jo'i rikishi.

M6 Toyohibiki pulverized M10 Kasugao at the tachi-ai with a right paw to the Korean's throat that drove him sideways and back to the edge, but the blunder here was that the Nikibi failed to use his left hand to add fuel to the fire, and Kasugao was able to brace his feet at the tawara and eventually force the bout back to the center of the ring. Toyohibiki maintained the advantage grabbing the quick moro-zashi grip from there, but that gave Kasugao the right arm in the outside position, so he pivoted left and unleashed a kote-nage throw that threw Toyohibiki off balance allowing the Korean to finish him off from there with one more kote-nage try. The Nikibi snatched defeat from the jaws of victory today, but give Kasugao (7-2) some credit for digging in there and surviving the abuse to his neck. Toyohibiki falls to 5-4 and gets Kyokutenho tomorrow.

In a bout that should have opened the day's events it was so insignificant, M6 Kaiho offered a weak moro-te tachi-ai that allowed M7 Tokitsuumi to easily get his right arm on the inside and left on the outside. Tokitsuumi opted to raise up Kaiho's left side completely with his right inner position, and from there, he just dumped Kaiho over easily with a scoop throw. Both rikishi need to turn their head and cough at 2-7.

M7 Tamanoshima and M11 Futenoh traded a tsuppari each before hooking up quickly in the hidari yotsu position. Once there Futenoh pressed the action by nudging Tamanoshima back and grabbing a right uwate in the process. Tamanoshima finally offered some resistance at this point, so Futenoh brilliantly brought his elbow inwards on the uwate side completely negating Tamanoshima's counter position and setting up the easy yori-kiri win from there. Good stuff from Futenoh today, but we unfortunately don't get to say it enough. Both dudes are 5-4.

M8 Takekaze placed both fists down quickly at the starting lines as M12 Kokkai just squatted there rocking back and forth as if here were giving the appearance of psyching himself up or something. It was obvious, however, that he just had no idea how he was going to attack Takekaze and was stalling. Once the rikishi clashed, it was clear that Kokkai was lost because he only offered a weak right hari-te leaving Takekaze to execute a perfect ottsuke with the right hand that twisted Kokkai sideways a bit. From there, the red-hot Takekaze just bulldozed the Georgian sideways and out without argument. Kokkai should never lose like this to Takekaze, and at 3-6, he's incredibly in danger of falling to the Juryo ranks. Takekaze is 7-2 and lookin' good again.

M10 Iwakiyama completely stopped M8 Tosanoumi's tachi-ai today, but the Hutt seemed only concerned with pulling Tosanoumi down, a plan that only let Tosanoumi right back into the bout. Stupid strategy as Iwakiyama went from surefire win to pull-happy rikishi who retreated his way off balance to where he became the pulldown victim in the end. Both rikishi are 3-6. Martin and myself have a running bet as to how many wins Iwakiyama will muster this basho. I say four or less, and Martin says five or more. The winner gets first dibs on the neat fairytale costumes Mark has been sewing in his hotel room.

M16 Kakizoe made his usual early jump at the tachi-ai against M9 Roho drawing a false start, but today it was more a case of Roho just squatting there as if constipated. As the two reloaded, I guess Roho was pissed that Kakizoe broke his concentration so he jumped clear to his left with an ugly henka, but instead of going for the pulldown or the cheap uwate, he offered a lame hari-te allowing Kakizoe to completely overcome the tachi-ai and just shove Roho back and out in one fell swoop. Justice is served yet again as Kakizoe soars to 7-2. I'm thrilled to see so many failed tachi-ai henka this basho as Roho falls to a stunning 4-5 considering his rank.

M13 Ryuo came with his usual moro-te tachi-ai (two hands to the opponent's neck) against M9 Takamisakari, but with the Cop towering over the jolly Mongolian (2-7), Ryuo's was basically standing on the tips of his toes providing the easy target for Takamisakari to duck down and get on the inside. The force-out win was inevitable from there and came so fast the crowd barely had time to overreact. Takamisakari eeks his way to 3-6.

M13 Tochiohzan easily swiped away M11 Tamakasuga's tsuppari attack and methodically drove the veteran back bit by bit before offering that final thrust of his opponent across the straw. This was way too easy for Oh who has now gone 3-0, 0-3, and 3-0 the first nine days. Tamakasuga falls to 5-4.

M14 Kitazakura jumped early at the tachi-ai and then just stopped while J4 Tochinohana then decided to go. With Kitazakura having given up and just standing there, the referee yelled out "nokotta" signaling that the bout was on. I guess the referee and judges wanted to get to Kyokutenho - Goeido as soon as I did because this was a false start tachi-ai all the way. To show why Tochinohana is in Juryo, he grabbed an early left uwate on Kitazakura who was just standing there thinking it was a false start and had him pushed halfway back before Zak realized it was game on. The ambassador dug in nicely at the edge, however, getting his right arm on the inside and quickly breaking off the uwate before firing a few tsuppari into Tochinohana to drive him back to the center of the ring. From there, Zak nicely got on the inside and felled Tochinohana with a scoop throw to stave off make-koshi at 2-7.

I wanted to call M15 Hakurozan's tachi-ai today a henka, but I just can't. He came with a right harite to M15 Yoshikaze's melon that slapped him so far over that it just looked like a henka. Hakurozan grabbed the easy right uwate from there and escorted Yoshikaze out with nary a good night kiss improving to 4-5. Yoshikaze has cooled off a bit at 5-4.

And finally, M16 Kasuganishiki (4-5) has managed to squander a 4-0 start with five straight losses now. Today he hit a brick wall in J4 Ushiomaru at the tachi-ai, and then had his legs just slip backwards allowing the Ushi to slap him down in the hapless bout.

This is usually about the time in the basho where the action really heats up, but after today's results, I'm afraid we've peaked and will steadily go downhill from here in terms of real excitement and drama. Your leaderboard shapes up like this:

One loss: Hakuho, Aminishiki, Goeido
Two losses: Chiyotaikai, Kasugao, Takekaze, Kakizoe, Kyokutenho
Three losses: Kotooshu, Kotomitsuki, Ama (forgive me from leaving the 6-3 Maegashira rikishi off of this list)

I've explained why Aminishiki will not yusho, and Goeido will undoubtedly find himself facing a few Ozeki and maybe a Sekiwake if he keeps winning. While he's good, history shows that he will become weak in the knees, so he's out.

Chiyotaikai, Kotooshu, Kotomitsuki, and Aminishiki will probably knock each other out of the race before we even get to day 13, the first time that Hakuho will face an Ozeki. As I said in my pre-basho report, this one's Hakuho's to lose.

I wish I could tell you who's reporting tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
We enter today with undefeated shin-Sekiwake Aminishiki, the unlikely rabbit, pacing the field at 7-0. Close behind at 6-1 are a mix of heavy hitters like Hakuho and Chiyotaikai, along with more upstarts like Kasugao, Kyokutenho and rookie Goeido. We have the makings of an interesting home stretch. Let's see how these front runners fared as we pass the half way point of the basho.

To lead things off, Kyokutenho (7-1) made quick work of all-flash-and-no-cash Kitazakura (1-7) by quickly securing the left uwate at the tachiai and smothering Kita for an easy yorikiri win. Tenho, who at M12 is working his way back from a suspension and finds himself in a double digit Maegashira rank for the first time since 2001, is simply outclassing opponents down here.

Rookie Goeido (7-1) followed suit and continues his honeymoon in Makuuchi with an impressive win over Futenoh (4-4). In this match, Goeido also latched on with a left outside grip, but in contrast to Tenho's win, he proceeded cautiously. After some pause despite advantageous positioning, Eido served up a dashi-nage followed by a kiri-kaeshi (leg sweep) to bring Futenoh off balance for an eventual yorikiri win. Goeido gets the aforementioned Kyokutenho tomorrow in what will be a feature match in the low rank-and-file.

Kasugao, who looks like a different rikishi all of a sudden with never-before-seen tachiai aggressiveness, ran into a buzz saw today in Tochiohzan (5-3). Tochi found himself with moro-zashi and quickly attacked for a lopsided force-out win. Kasugao drops to 6-2, but I'm still impressed with his newfound urgency this basho.

Next comes the pacesetter Aminishiki at 7-0. Ami's feat of opening the basho with 7 straight wins as a first time Sekiwake has only been done twice in the last 14 years (Wakanohana in '93 and Kotooshu in '05). Speaking of newfound urgency, where did Ami's come from? Not only has Aminishiki displayed his knack for the ring and sumo skill that he is known for this basho, he's coupled it with a strength and purpose I haven't detected previously. Today was a good example. He got the upper hand at the tachiai against Tochinonada (2-6) by grabbing the mae-mitsu (front belt) with his right, buried his head under Tochi's chin and continued to force the issue with repeated dashi-nage attempts which led to an eventual yori-kiri. I think the difference we're seeing with Ami is, he isn't defending the opponent's attack but rather attacking himself this basho. If he continues this with confidence we may have an Ozeki contender on our hands.

After a big popping tachiai with Kakuryu, shin-Ozeki Kotomitsuki got inside quickly on the right and pushed the Mongolian to ring's edge, then deposited him in the middle of the dohyo with a well-timed uwate-nage from the left. Mitsuki keeps pace at 6-2. Conversely Kakuryu at 2-6 is in new territory at the top of Maegashira and is taking his lumps as expected. But it's good learning- the kid still has potential.

What is with the ongoing saga between Kotooshu and Toyonoshima?  When these two tangle, it seems we will surely be delighted to a nage-no-uchiai (a throwing duel). Today was no exception as Toyo (5-3) secured moro-zashi on Oshu. Oshu countered by clamping down to negate the advantage, but the resilient mighty might nonetheless unleashed a sukuinage (scoop throw) to once again flip over the much taller Ozeki. What is it with these two? Oshu drops to 5-3.

Chiyotaikai and Wakanosato showcased an "excuse me" tachiai and stared at one another for a split second, then proceeded to do sumo. When the action ensued, Takai recovered from the lapse better and successfully got into the rhythm of his tsuppari game and pushed out Waka to go 7-1. Waka is falls to 2-6.

Finally, Hakuho entertained Homasho for the third time, but it wasn't a charm for the latter. Shortly after the tachi-ai, Homasho slipped as he tried to go inside on the left and pretty much went down himself for a somewhat anti-climactic end to this anticipated match-up. Homasho is even-Stephen at 4-4 while Hakuho improves to 7-1.

With a week of sumo remaining, Aminishiki continues his surprising success atop the field at 8-0 with Hakuho, Chiyotaikai, Kyokutenho and Goeido hot on his tail at 7-1. Let's hope for that exciting home stretch.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
The seventh day of the 2007 Aki Basho hardly brought any surprises, with one notable exception, and I'm going to take care of that first, to get it out of my system. Yes, you guessed it, Kotooshu the choker lost again to a lesser foe, former Ozeki Dejima, now ranked at M4. The big Bulgarian clearly won the tachi-ai, getting his favored double grip right away, despite some resistance from Dejima. Kotooshu then wasted little time before attacking, but instead of going for the surefire yorikiri, he tried the uwatenage, disregarding the big fat beam Dejima had stuck under his left armpit and the fact that Dejima is a bitch to throw. Well, the whole thing backfired and Kotooshu soon found himself putting his hand down to break the fall to his second defeat and out of the Yusho race. I didn't like the outcome, but I have to admit it: it was great stuff from Dejima, who seems to have the Bulgarian all figured out.

As a little side note, that new guy Mark looked like he'd just gotten out of the big house, so I decided to poke my nose into his personal effects at the hotel. I found an Argentinean passport for the name Marcos Arboleda hidden in a secret compartment of his suitcase. After further research I found out that there are several warrants for his arrest all over South America, most of them for using fake gift coupons to buy women's underwear. Of course, it's not really my business what he used that underwear for, and I'm sure as hell not going to turn him in (Hey, we're already harboring another fugitive, remember? I've a feeling that Mark and Simon are going to get along just fine).

Yokozuna Hakuho stayed true to his rank with another smothering win over hapless M3 Kotoshogiku. The tachi-ai was hard, with Hakuho getting morozashi after some quick handiwork. It was curtains for Giku, who found himself ousted from the dohyo in less than two seconds. Hakuho is now the clear Yusho favorite, with his main contender falling to his second loss.

Remember shonichi when I was saying Kotomitsuki's sumo isn't even Ozeki sumo? He must have read it and wanted to confirm today, because he fumbled around in a yotsu-zumo bout with Jokutoriki of all people. The level of Mitsuki's sumo today was something around mediocre mid-maegashira (and that was an alliteration for those of you who don't know what litterychur is). The ozeki won the tachi-ai and denied his opponent any sort of pushing space. Immediately he got a right shitate and uselessly tried to get the left uwate. A quick maki-kae attempt on that side failed, but Hokutoriki turned and allowed Mitsuki to get the uwate he was after in the first place. Jokutoriki, however, broke his right inside, so Kotomitsuki used that arm for a thrust into the Jokester's neck, driving him all the way to the straw, but characteristically failing to finish the job. Eventually, Mitsuki managed to use his left uwate to push Hokutoriki's tired body out of the ring for his fifth win, but it was bad, bad sumo from both. Kotomitsuki, a Yokozuna? Yeah, right.

Ahh, up next is a little bonus, one of the three Kakuryu bouts I was waiting for, and not coincidentally the last one to take place in this basho's timeline. It was Ozeki "Autocannon" Chiyotaikai vs. M2 "Way-over-ranked-and-with-a-big-red-target-painted-on-his-ass" Kakuryu. Let's get ready to ruuuuuuuuuuuumbleeeee! Taikai started with both hands to Kakuryu's head, and he kept mauling the poor guy's face and neck area like there was no tomorrow. Of course, Kakuryu was so busy getting his ass handed to him that he never had time to land even one thrust to any part of the Ozeki's body. The onslaught took long enough for Kakuryu to lose any kind of balance and land in the second row, barely able to get up afterwards. Tsukidashi for Chiyotaikai and a schooling, no, a downright demolition for the Kak. As for me...a stiffy, Mike? That's a huge understatement, I was thinking more in the terms of a tree trunk (how's THAT for 'big in Japan'?).

Sekiwake Aminishiki upped his score to 7-0 with a nasty henka against Tokitenku. You gotta hand it to the guy, though, he's pretty good at this kind of monkey business, and the Eastern European apes would do well to take notes of how it's done. Tokitenku is a 1-6 mess.

The other Sekiwake, Mongolian Asasekiryu, charged low at the tachi-ai, getting the right uwate while denying M2 Tochinonada his favorite hidari yotsu. It was more a chess game than a sumo bout, and you knew the uwatedashinage was coming eventually. It did, but it wasn't the finishing move, it only managed to turn Tochinonada around for the easy force out from behind. Asasekiryu moves past the .500 mark while Tochinonada is slowly finding his way back to where he belongs.

Kisenosato manhandled Komusubi colleague Ama right from the tachi-ai, denying the sneaky Mongolian any sort of belt grip with one hand on the shoulder and another one under his arm. Kisenosato drove his smaller foe to the edge, moved his hand from the shoulder to the face and used the other arm to constantly push to Ama's side, eventually causing him to crumble to the dirt, looking like he'd wrecked his already heavily taped up right knee. If that's the case, it's goodbye Shukunsho for the little guy. Kisenosato takes his third win.

A rather dull bout had Fatman Miyabiyama take on Homasho, the Japanese hope (kinda old for that if you ask me, but hey, I'm not Japanese and I couldn't possibly know what those guys are hoping for). The Fatman dished out some heavy tsuppari punishment right from the start, but Homasho patiently absorbed them until he was able to turn the tables on Miyabiyama and start taking him back towards the bales. The Fatman tried to stand his ground, but Homie just got out of the way and let his bigger opponent fall flat on his face. It was 'vintage' Miyabiyama sumo today, as he falls to his third loss. Homasho is also 4-3.

Being the lazy bastard that I am, I'm gonna skip a couple of lesser bouts (and I'll start with the one between losers Wakanosato and Tokitsuumi) and get to the juicy stuff. The huge Toyohibiki met the smaller but more technical Toyonoshima. It was a slaughter, however, as Toyonoshima couldn't really get anything going against Hibiki's size and strength. The big man dominated the bout right from the tachi-ai, keeping his hands close to his body and successfully forcing the hostilities into oshi-zumo. Toyonoshima tried a pull-down, but being the shortest in the division certainly doesn't help in this area, so he was soon finding himself at the tawara, digging in to stay alive. It was then that the Hibiki unleashed a powerful thrust to his opponent's right side that slammed him to the ground. Great stuff from the Monster, who notches his fifth win. Toyonoshima still has some dohyo left to meet, because tomorrow he's facing a frustrated Kotooshu, and the meetings between these two always end in -nage, much to this expert's delight.

A more determined Tochiohzan owned class clown Takamisakari right from the initial charge, quickly working his way into morozashi and forcing his opponent out in the wild cheers of the audience. Takamisakari is looking pretty shabby so far, but expect him to get back into it. Tochiohzan halts his 3 bout losing streak, and not a moment too soon.

Eastern European Kokkai executed a piss-poor henka that allowed M10 Iwakiyama to turn around and grab the right side of his mawashi. With that uwate Iwakiyama ousted the inept Georgian from the dohyo and to his 4th loss. As I was saying before in this report, he'd do himself a lot of good if he took some henka lessons from Aminisneaky. And it looks like Mike's gonna buy the beer after all, because Iwakiyama just got his 3rd win. Now all we've got to do is find a way for him to send it here over the Internet (I'm working on a revolutionary Beer over IPE protocol right now).

Another inept Eastern European, the Henkarozan, delivered a standing tachi-ai which allowed Korean Kasugao to push him out easily for his sixth win. Hakurozan is a pushover these days and is on his way to sandanme.

Old man 'Kasuga got hit by a couple of Yoshikaze's tsuppari before taking him off balance with a bear-paw ottsuke and sending him crashing out of the dohyo. Yoshikaze is feisty, but Tamakasuga is heavy. And, yeah, I don't like to repeat myself, but size DOES matter.

Under-ranked M12 Kyokutenho used his long arm again to suck Kasuganishiki into a solid left uwate, then yorikiried him in less than 2 seconds. It hardly gets any more boring than this.

Mongolian Figgered wasted a damn good opportunity to get into morozashi, after a sloppy tachi-ai from true Japanese hope Sawai (yeah, I know his new shikona is Goeido, but Sawai sounds so much cooler, doesn't it?), who got back into it after a botched pull-down attempt and got morozashi himself. A not so easy win for the young Japanese, but a win nonetheless, and one step closer to the Kanto-Sho. And one step closer to Juryo for Ryuo.

That's about it for today. It was a solid sumo day, all in all, with a few notable exceptions, but at least now the Yusho issue is pretty damn clear. A good debut for Goeido, strong sumo from Toyohibiki and, last but certainly not least (not on my list, anyway), a hefty demotion for Clancy's boy, The Kak.

Kenji is coming out of his cave tomorrow.

Day 6 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
Come on--admit it--you haven't missed me one bit, have you? Well, I'm back in Sumotalk Towers for just one evening and I have to say that things seem a bit different around here. I thought I'd do a little covert observation of my colleagues and I discovered that things have taken a somewhat sinister bent since my last stay. Martin, for example, now spends much of his time humming to himself in a bubbling vat of cheese. Clancy has rearranged his room to resemble his own face. Mike now insists we call him Ozzy and has two guitar-playing monkeys on guard outside his door at all times. As for Kenji, it is rare to see him these days, as he slips out most evenings in various animal costumes. And I can't get anywhere near the two new guys--very tight security - but there's something very odd about them--I can sense it. Further investigation is warranted, I believe.

Turning to sumo, first let me mention that Kaio pulled out today. This was, of course, inevitable given the circumstances, but it looks like we'll be seeing Kaio in perhaps his final basho in Kyushu. He just hasn't been able to get into his own sumo at all so it was frankly a relief that he withdrew.

On to the action, today's highlight bout was a no-brainer as Yokozuna Hakuho took on serial crybaby Komusubi Kisenosato. After some serious pissing around at tachiai, including the head shinpan calling it back (pointlessly) on the third attempt, we finally got going on the fourth try but it was pathetic stuff as Hakuho unleashed a harite and immediately got the morozashi grip at tachiai. It was then a simple matter of forcing the whippersnapper out. Hakuho keeps on cruising to the yusho at 5-1 while there will be tears before bedtime tonight as Kisenosato falls to 2-4. The Kid could also do with a few lessons in manners when facing a Yokozuna from a decent oyakata like the former Terao. I find myself feeling very disappointed about this lad--I used to like him a lot, especially when he did that arse-wiggling trick just before tachiai, and I had so much hope for the future for him, but now I just want to slap that big poncy face every time I see it.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki has not looked particularly impressive to me this basho; his sumo is nowhere near the level we saw in Nagoya. Sekiwake Asasekiryu gave him a real fight today as Kotomitsuki lost the tachiai, surrendering a strong right-hand inside grip to the Mongolian Sekiwake, who then lost that grip, allowing Kotomitsuki to execute a maki-kae to get his left hand inside. At this point it looked like Kotomitsuki might be out of the fire but Asasekiryu swiped Kotomitsuki's hand away (far too easily) from the belt, and then cleverly wrapped up that left arm and pushed forward for the yorikiri win. Kotomitsuki is not looking anything like a yusho rikishi at 4-2. Asasekiryu is 3-3.

Ozeki Kotooshu must have wondered why he bothered putting his mawashi on (much like most of the crowd) as he faced M3 Hokutoriki, who really has no right fighting this late in the afternoon. A standard, mind-numbingly easy win for the Bulgarian, who got morozashi thanks to a fine tachiai and a bit of help from Hokutoriki flapping his arms out like an idiot. If I was Hokutoriki's oyakata, I'd have him practicing keeping the arms in tighter to the body at tachiai for the next two months. Kotooshu is doing just fine thanks at 5-1. Hokutoriki (1-5) is crap.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai's brittle sumo was exposed ruthlessly by Ama yesterday. Against another Mongolian, M1 Tokitenku, who has looked very average in Aki so far, the record-breaking Ozeki got one of those go-forward-then-pull-back wins we see all the time from him. Tokitenku (1-5) was very slow out of the tachiai and completely screwed in this bout from start to finish. More alert rikishi, like Ama, will not fall for this, though, and I don't expect Chiyotaikai (5-1) to have any serious impact on the yusho race. How's that for searing sumo insight?

Sekiwake Aminishiki put his unbeaten streak on the line against veteran M4 Dejima. It turned out to be a prance in the park as Asashoryu's best mate got his right arm inside Dejima at the tachiai, stopping the famous charge (which was decidedly cautious, meaning Aminishiki's propensity for henka may have been on the former Ozeki's mind) in its tracks. As we all know, Dejima has little or nothing in the way of defence and so it was a simple matter of going forward for the genki Sekiwake. Yoritaoshi. 6-0. Dejima is 2-4.

Komusubi Ama (4-2) is having a superb basho. Surely today M2 Kakuryu (2-4) would be easy meat for the Mongolian midget?? In a fascinating bout, Ama showed us just how sodding fast he really is, while Kakuryu demonstrated how dangerous (evasive/hard to pin down) he can be. I thought I'd pressed fast forward on the video by mistake while I watched this one but Ama was able to grab his wily opponent's belt (left hand inside) after a bewildering exchange of pushes and pulls. Ama used that grip to pull back, and then reverse Kakuryu's momentum while grabbing the thigh for the spectacular watashikomi win, brushing aside Kakuryu's last-ditch throw attempt. A real crowd pleaser.

M1 Homasho has been stop-start this basho. He took on elephant-worrier M4 Wakanosato today and got a left-hand inside grip while keeping Wakanosato's right hand away from his own belt. A stalemate ensued but Homasho was finally able to force his opponent out as Waka ran out of steam. This was better stuff from Homasho and he goes to 3-3. Wakanosato is not having it the way he used to among the big boys and he falls to 1-5.

M5 Miyabiyama (4-2), as we all know, is a big, blubbery lump of wobbling fat. Those lumbering tsuppari have been paying off so far this basho, however. Today, despite showing that his balance has improved no end over the years and surviving numerous pull-down attempts against M3 Kotoshogiku (3-3), he was simply unable to finish his opponent off. Credit to Kotoshogiku, who hung in there impressively, and will have a sore face and neck tonight, I promise.

In a bout involving two rikishi that I want to marry, M5 Toyonoshima (4-2) countered the superior speed of M6 Kaiho (2-4) well, finally securing an outside right-hand grip and using that to pull off the kiri-kaeshi trip. Good controlled sumo against a tricky opponent. That's a four-day losing streak for Kaiho and a three-day winning one for Toyo. Ooh.

M7 Tokitsuumi is having what they call in the trade a nightmare, taking on the mantle of the lifeless rikishi we seem to have every tournament. It was murder once again as M6 Toyohibiki launched a powerful tachiai and pushed his hapless opponent straight out. It looked like a morning practice session. Toyohibiki is a performing squid at 4-2. Tokitsuumi is a huge, hairy, winless bollock.

M9 Roho improved my image of the two Russian brothers to no end with a henka on M7 Tamanoshima followed by the usual tedious pull-down attempts as M7 Tamanoshima kept his footing easily to push his gutless opponent out. Roho and Hakurozan...please just retire if you're going to 'fight' like this. PLEASE. Tama-chan and Roho are 3-3.

M10 Kasugao has been having a sweet first week and has definitely had the bit between his teeth, showing us his broad array of techniques. M8 Takekaze gets my vote for one of the most improved rikishi around and was certain to provide a stern test for the unbeaten Korean today. Kasugao survived a pull-down attempt straight after the tachiai and went forward cautiously. However, Takekaze showed some decent footwork to move slightly to the side, allowing him to take advantage of Kasugao who was now out of position. Then it was the simple push out. Both men are 5-1.

As usual M12 Kokkai (3-3) seemed more pumped up than usual before his bout with M9 Takamisakari (2-4)--he just loves to hurt Circus and pick up the kensho money. Takamisakari initially went hidari-yotsu but Kokkai was able to use that brute strength to swing him around. Taka actually got a right inside grip at this point but Kokkai was having none of that and executed a maki-kae, and that was game over. Kokkai almost jumped on the crumpled form of his opponent but managed to avoid doing any damage. It wasn't exactly pretty but Kokkai won't care. And Circus--can you just lay off the dejected trudge down the hanamichi after the bout? We all smegging-well know it's an act.

M13 Tochiohzan should have done much better with a decent tachiai and strong left-hand inside grip on M10 Iwakiyama, but the big fella was able to grab migi-uwate after manhandling the youngster with a series of belly thrusts and used his mass and momentum to force him out. Good win for Iwakiyama, but he got out of jail here. Tochiohzan has been very disappointing this basho and stands at 3-3. Iwakiyama picked up his second win today.

Plenty of M15 Hakurozan's charms were on display today. He had the right idea at the tachiai, coming in with thrusts to M12 Kyokutenho's throat, but they were ineffective and half-arsed, ironically, much like his sumo. The big Mongolian got uwate and wrapped up the bout, forcing Haku to the edge and out with next to no resistance. Good old Hakurozan (2-4)--showing us the fire in his eyes with all that fighting spirit. Enjoy Juryo, you spoon--surely one of the most disappointing and boring top-division rikishi ever, certainly the laziest. Kyokutenho is now 5-1, as well he should at this level.

After six days, Hakuho looks the clear favourite--he is cruising now after his usual day-one screw-up. Aminishiki looks genki but will be brought down to earth in the second week. It looks to me like Kotooshu is the main threat as long as he can keep his focus, which, as we all know, is a big if. Other lads to watch for me are newcomer Goeido, the impressive Toyohibiki, and I think we can expect Kyokutenho to keep his run going until the middle of next week. Oh, and Ama!

Martin examines your navels tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I've been so excited the last couple weeks I could hardly contain myself. Guns 'N Roses was my favorite band thru the mid-nineties, and Velvet Revolver is by far the best rock band out there these days now that Assle Rose is out of the lineup, so when Slash agreed to contribute for us I was ecstatic. Now, we here at Sumotalk do have our standards, and one of them is that the contributors must remain cleancut. So while I did go George Steinbrenner on him and make him trim the locks and while RCA Records stipulated that we had to come up with the phony pen name Mark Arbo, we thought it was worth the sacrifices.

Now having said that, you didn't have to be so blunt in your opening comments. We already know that we can't hold a candle to seamonkey worship, dogshit, and squirrel fishing, so thanks for rubbing it in. The only reason I'm letting you stay is for the Peter Pan revelation. We were a bit skeptical at first when "Mark" showed up at the hotel with those fairy costumes and his sewing machine, but I'm tellin' ya, after walking around the place the last five days in these silky tights, I'm a changed man.

In honor of Slash's debut, let's go in chronological order today. How often is the first bout of the day one of the most compelling? Today it was, actually, with the undefeated M16 Kasuganishiki facing Makuuchi rookie M14 Goeido. Goeido established the pace at the tachi-ai lowering his head nicely and grabbing the quick left outer grip. Kasuganishiki countered using his bulk to stop Goeido's momentum and his gangly left arm to grab an outer grip of his own. A gappuri hidari-yotsu (mutual left outers, right inners) contest ensued, and after both rikishi dug in with neither taking the advantage, Goeido fired first with an outer belt throw attempt that muscled his opponent down to the clay for a great bout of sumo out of the gate. Though both rikishi are 4-1 now, you can tell which has the bright future and which doesn't.

M14 Kitazakura got off the snide thanks to an opponent up from Juryo...and a winless one at that. J3 Hakuba had the advantage from the tachi-ai gaining the quick moro-zashi position, but his (lack of) size prevented him from moving Big Zak back fast enough, and before ya knew it, the Ambassador executed a quick maki-kae with the right hand slipping the limb under Hakuba's left side and scooping him over to the dirt like a rag doll. Kitazakura picks up his first win.

M13 Tochiohzan is a rikishi who just oozes potential, but he gets into these funks where his sumo becomes so lackadaisical. Today against the feisty M15 Yoshikaze, Oh was non-committal at the tachi-ai throwing a lame left arm underneath in an attempt to grab the right frontal belt, but Yoshikaze was committed 100% and fought Tochiohzan off with some good shoves to the neck and then a left inashi (push sideways at the shoulder) that caused Tochiohzan to slump over to the point where Yoshikaze slapped him down from there in a bout that lasted all but 3-4 seconds. Tochiohzan schools Goeido on day 1 with perfect sumo but can't handle Yoshikaze on day 5? I just didn't see any intensity out of Tochiohzan today. His oyakata needs to get his ass in gear and teach it to him. How often this basho have we seen Terao (Shikoroyama-oyakata) watching his prodigy, Homasho, from the hanamichi and then teaching him as Homasho goes back to the dressing room? Tochiohzan falls to 3-2 and needs the same kind of inspiration while Yoshikaze has plenty of it at 4-1.

The bout that should have come first today featured M13 Ryuo and M15 Hakurozan. Ryuo came with his usual charge while Hakurozan stepped a bit to his left (wasn't a henka...this guy's too lazy for that anymore) in an attempt to grab the cheap uwate, but Ryuo had enough of a punch to stand Hakurozan more upright than he already was, so Hakurozan simply stepped back to his right and pulled at Ryuo's outstretched arms easily felling the jolly Mongolian. Ryuo (1-4) is on his way down for sure while Hakurozan limps to 2-3.

In a matchup of two rikishi with same styles but vastly different bodies, M16 Kakizoe took it to M12 Kokkai from the tachi-ai throwing those feisty tsuppari into the Georgian leaving him only to offer counter tsuppari while retreating and evading to either side. Kakizoe was a pest throughout the contest and frustrated Kokkai to the point where he just gave up and went for the stupid pull down. It was over in a second after that. Props to Zoe (3-2) for handling someone whom he should rarely beat. Kokkai underachieves at 2-3.

The best match on paper coming into the first half of the bouts today featured M9 Roho against M12 Kyokutenho. Roho didn't exactly make a huge impact at the tachi-ai as he was more concerned about reaching around and grabbing a left uwate. He got it straightway and immediately begin lifting up on Tenho's belt while forcing him back. Kyokutenho tried to counter shifting right and left while attempting to establish his own left uwate, but Roho was just too strong...and too determined. That's something he needs to be more of. At any rate, Roho made the textbook forceout win look easy as he improves to 3-2. Tenho suffers his first loss.

With the aid of those stilettos, M11 Futenoh stopped M8 Tosanoumi's momentum at the starting lines and got a quick right arm on the inside that he used to drive the blue collar man back to the straw with. At the edge, Tosanoumi (1-4) tried to counter nicely by twisting his body while pushing just behind Futenoh's right shoulder from over the top, but Futenoh's momentum won out for the dangerous yori-kiri win. He'll take it though as he moves to 3-2.

It was at this point of the broadcast that NHK panned down the row where members of the Yokozuna Deliberation Council sat. Every time I see this group I can't help but think of my Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Days when Rudolph and Hermey the Elf ("I want to be a dentist") are leaving the Island of Misfit Toys and singing: We are a couple of mis...fits . The reason I bring this up is that token female member of the puppet group, Makiko Uchidate, has now come out and called for Asashoryu's retirement. I quote her reasoning as reported by the Mainichi newspaper today, "If this were another company, he would have already been forced out. If you have an employee like this, those at the top would surely let him go."

Comparing sumo to the everyday working world is about as stupid a take as one can come up with. How exactly is sumo like a regular salaryman's life? First, this isn't another company. Second, the media doesn't cover the average working man. Third, nobody buys tickets to watch the working man do his job and no sponsors give a crap about him. And fourth, if you've ever worked for "the man" than you know the higher a person rises to the top, the more time and company money he can waste and the more he can be absent from work without being accountable. You just can't compare a sports figure and his job to that of a regular salary man. Making that argument is like applying flesh-colored foundation to your green face and wearing a bushy brown wig so you can masquerade as a bitchy Japanese woman (ever meet one of those?). Get back to the Jedi Council where you really belong and lose the makeup and wig.

Moving right along, in a bout between two rikishi with identical styles but much different ages, M8 Takekaze backed away from a shove fest despite winning the tachi-ai. M11 Tamakasuga should have countered with pushes of his own at this point, but he was content to just stand there along with Takekaze hunkered down with arms pushing at the other opponent but doing nothing. After about five seconds, Takekaze went for the pull down first managing to yank Tamakasuga (M11) off balance by the arm. As Homer Simpson would say: BORRRIIING! Nonetheless, Takekaze moves to 4-1 with the win.

M10 Kasugao grabbed the quick left outer grip from the tachi-ai against M7 Tokitsu-who-mi who just stood there and let him get it. It's not the side the Korean favors the outer on, but he wasn't necessarily facing a tough opponent today, so he just planted that right leg and threw Tokitsuumi over as if he were that Peter Pan fairy dude that Slash introduced us to yesterday. Thanks for the nightmares. The Korean moves to a hot 5-0 and is your leader. Tokitsuumi is the last winless rikishi at 0-5.

In a bout between two former sanyaku dudes who are just too big and too slow to entertain anymore, M7 Tamanoshima hit M10 Iwakiyama at the tachi-ai and then immediately backpedaled trying to pull his opponent down. You rarely see these words in the same sentence, but Iwakiyama used good footwork to stay in the bout and actually force the now compromised Tamanoshima to evade around the ring chased by a right forearm from Iwaki the Hutt. As the dust settled, Tamanoshima finagled a left outer grip in the process, and easily twisted Iwakiyama (1-4) out from there. Tamanoshima eeks his way to 2-3.

In an ugly affair, M9 Takamisakari did his damndest to give up any advantageous position as soon as he got it against M6 Kaiho, but Takamisakari is so wiry and moves too quick that you really have to grab him and hold him there in order to gain a good position. Kaiho wasn't strong enough to do so, and even though he enjoyed the inside position throughout, the Cop yanked up on Kaiho's arm long enough to set up a maki-kae with his right arm that eventually allowed him to scoop Kaiho across the straw. Both dudes are 2-3.

Today was an excellent display of maturity from the young, M6 Toyohibiki. Against M3 Kotoshogiku he knew that he couldn't let the bout go to the belt, so from the tachi-ai he fended off the Geeku with a quick shove and a constant paw pushing into Kotoshogiku's throat. Kotoshogiku dug in nicely and grabbed Toyohibiki's arms trying to swipe him to either side, and this would have been the usual place where a young rikishi would get frustrated and either settle for the belt match in Toyohibiki's case or go for the pulldown. The Nikibi did neither and was content to just continue to push at Kotoshogiku's neck using his lower body to keep himself in front of his opponent. After forcing Kotoshogiku to the straw, the Sadogatake-beya prodigy tried a last gasp swipe to the side that actually worked, but in the process his big toe barely kicked up the sand outside of the ring to spell his doom. This was great sumo/counter sumo from both parties, but the highlight was Toyohibiki's patience and refusal to go for the pulldown. He moves to 3-2 with the good win while the Geeku drops to 2-3.

M1 Homasho just couldn't get on the inside of M5 Toyonoshima today, and it was smart of Toyonoshima to stay lower than normal from the tachi-ai because he probably knew that Homasho wouldn't go for the cheap pull down. Homie flinched at the move once, but stayed true to form trying to get anything going against Toyonoshima (3-2), but the latter took advantage of his low stance to force Homasho back ever so slowly before pouncing near the edge to provide that all or nothing shove that sent Homasho back across the straw. Homasho lost this one from the tachi-ai, and if he has one weakness, it's his hesitance at the initial charge. He falls to 2-3.

In a bout between two heavyweights, M5 Miyabiyama bullied M1 Tokitenku around for the most part showing good footwork to stay in front of Tenku at all times and even more importantly to survive the quick pull attempt that came right after the tachi-ai. Having committed on the pull move early, Tokitenku was no longer in any position to force the action to the belt, so he played tsuppari bag to the Sheriff who timed those lumbering tsuppari with great effectiveness to push the Mongolian out with some mustard in the 8 second affair. Miyabi moves to a cool 4-1 while Tokitenku hasn't looked good for multiple basho now at 1-4.

There's nothing better than two belt guys who both have their preferred positions forcing the bout to a pure chikara-zumo affair. Such was the case today with Komusubi Kisenosato grabbing the right outer and M2 Tochinonada getting his preferred left inner from the tachi-ai. Both rikishi dug in and the battle of strength was on. Kisenosato won the bout because he didn't settle for a stalemate in the center of the ring; rather, he kept the pressure on and forced Tochinonada into counter sumo early on. The Kid's persistence paid off because he managed to wrangle Tochinonada (1-4) close enough to the edge to where he could offer a surprise counter with the left hand pushing into Tochinonada's bulk to provide the difference. This was a great bout to watch, and this is how sumo is 'posed to be when two belt fighters go at it. Kisenosato improves to 2-3.

Our two Sekiwake butted heads today and put on a great display of finesse sumo. Thankfully, both charged straightforward where Asasekiryu looked to avoid a belt contest at all costs by immediately lowering his head and keeping it pushing into Aminishiki's torso. In the early melee, Aminishiki managed to grab the front of Seki's belt with the left hand and yank the outer fold upwards enough on Seki's torso that he got the same grip on the right side as well. The problem was Asasekiryu was lower and used his noggin to drive into Aminishiki's upper chest keeping him from using those belt grips to his advantage. The chess match ensued for thirty seconds or so until Aminishiki was finally able to drag Seki forward and to the dirt with those frontal grips on the single fold of the belt. Ami moves to 5-0 and stands alongside Kasugao as the basho leaders. Who needs that Asashoryu guy anyway?

After three false starts where M4 Wakanosato jumped the gun twice and Ozeki Kotomitsuki stalled too long once, the two finally got going, but it was anything but stellar sumo. It was just plain ugly, in fact, as Kotomitsuki's de-ashi were nowhere to be found from the tachi-ai giving Wakanosato the early inside position. Waka was never able to grab the belt, however, and even though he had Kotomitsuki with his feet aligned (the Ozeki had them aligned several times in the bout) Wakanosato was standing too upright to do anything but go for a pulldown. Problem was he was in no position with the lower body to perform the move, and after it failed, Kotomitsuki took his turn slapping Wakanosato (1-4) down to the clay. This was Lindsay Lohan ugly and deserves no more comment. Kotomitsuki is 4-1.

M4 Dejima seemed content to just bulldoze Ozeki Kaio back and out from the start, but Kaio shifted ever so slowly to his right and attempted the quick pulldown that threw Dejima off balance for a second, but it didn't allow Kaio to grab any sort of offensive position. The result was Dejima reloading and mounting another charge that Kaio simply couldn't handle. It's really time for Kaio (1-4) to call it quits now. Well, not today, but sometime during or after the Kyushu basho. When you expend your energy from the tachi-ai just to stand yourself upright, 'tis time to go. Dejima hobbles to 2-3.

I think Martin had a stiffy all day today waiting for the Kotooshu-Kakuryu matchup. Problem is that Ozeki Kotooshu doesn't really rough up his opponent even when he has the chance to do so. Kotooshu wisely didn't commit himself at the tachi-ai (didn't need to) opting to let M2 Kakuryu just walk into a right outer grip. Kakuryu knew he was in trouble and tried a weak maki-kae as Oshu drove him back, but it was to no avail. This was as easy as it gets as Kotooshu softly forced Kakuryu (2-3) back across the straw keeping himself among the real leaders at 4-1.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai was atop the leaderboard coming in today, but you knew that it couldn't last forever. He had hope today, though, in the form of Komusubi Ama, a rikishi who should be able to run circles around the slower Ozeki but just can't figger him out. Ama came straight on at the tachi-ai only to be met be a right tsuppari to the jaw, so the Mongolian quickly evaded to his left and slipped around the Ozeki just enough to grab the left uwate. Ama's speed kicked in from there as he wasted no time yanking Chiyotaikai to the edge with that left while pulling at the back of Taikai's head with the right to fell the Ozeki about 4 seconds in. There was nothing cheap from Ama today. While he of course wanted to grab that early left from the tachi-ai, he stayed in front of the Ozeki and gave him a fair fight. Ama's improves to 3-2 which is one helluva record considering he's faced the Yokozuna and four Ozeki.

I'm not exactly building up to a fantastic finish here...what with Hokutoriki taking on Hakuho. The Yokozuna remained cool at the tachi-ai laughing off any tsuppari M3 Hokutoriki (1-4) threw his way before just reaching out and grabbing the left uwate, which he used to throw the hapless Jokester across the ring and down picking up his fourth win in the process.

Thanks to the weak banzuke we have now officially entered the dog days of the basho where the Yokozuna and Ozeki should continue to swat the competition like flies before facing each other. Until then, you'll never guess who has returned from the mud baths in Mongolia. That's right. The Manchester Marauder is back tomorrow, and he's bringin' his thing.

Day 4 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)

***This report should be read as it was written- Drinking a GOOD beer and listening to "Brim Full Of Asher" by Cornershop (Full length version, not remixed).***

Sumotalk is a very good website. There is no telling how many people have been encouraged in, not only by macrophilia, but also by a love of professional sumo wrestling. Sumotalk provides: an arena for sumo fans to meet and discuss, a game, helpful links and a glossary. Sumotalk's news section is frequently updated and its daily comments are invaluable for any fan who finds her/himself in a situation where they can not tune in.

One would logically assume that Sumotalk is inundated with hits, day and night, a barrage of net savvy indivittles jockeying to take advantage of this robust and encompassing resource. Strangely that is not the case. As I type this afternoon Sumotalk is hanging somewhere around just under 900,000 hits. Not even 1,000,000. Now 1,000,000 can seem like a big, almost surreal number. When looked at from that haze, 900,000 could seem quite respectable. It's not. 1,000,000 hits isn't just for your Googles and Hotmails anymore (a good porn site can get more than a million a day...and that's just from Sumotalk contributors). and both have more than a mill. This page about squirrel fishing has more than 2 mill and this freak is closing in on 10 MILLION!

Point is, Sumotalk needed to do something to establish its rightful position as a powerhouse of education and revelry on the web. That's why I was brought in. I know that the other Sumotalk writers were none too pleased when they heard that Mike was bringing me on. Up until now Sumotalk has been all-volunteer (though by no means amateur) and most of the other commentators were apprehensive (read "JEALOUS") when they heard that I was actually getting a salary as well as a company car and all the other perks Mike threw in to entice me. But I want to state clearly here that I AM COMMITTED TO SEEING SUMOTALK TO 1,000,000 HITS AND BEYOND. Click HERE to find out how.

Did that work on ya?? Good, good.

But enough about me, lets talk about the fat men...the ones that aren't me ...

A man's first sumo report is a BIG DEAL. There is pressure to not suck. Problem is, towering insight and unmatched wit will only get you so far; you have to play the cards you're dealt. So it was with great excitement and expectations that I first checked out today's match-ups. As my eyes scanned the schedule it dawned on me that the best, most anticipated matches rarely get put on D-4. On first glance there seemed little to get overheated about. Luckily, just as (or perhaps 'because'?) I needed to take a maa-maa Wednesday schedule and write something interesting, a lot of rikishi made the best of their respective situations and it ended up being a pretty good day with some entertaining sumo.

"Last and certainly least"!? Bloody Mike and his brain-wave reading machines. That was exactly how I was going to end my first-est ever report. The moment I read that I decided a) I would write from the bottom up and b) Mike cares too much about Britney.

So, first and certainly least, a stiff hand to the throat stood Hakurozan up straight and then it was an easy oshidashi for Wakakirin. Backpedaling quickly, Hakurozan did most of the work for him, trying to make space enough for a pull down.

Kasuganishiki was the first of the 7 undefeateds to fight today. He was paired with Kitazakura who came in with a "defeated" record. I really thought Zak had him but, Kasuganishiki pulled a tidy little throw at the rope. That was 66 years of life experience in the ring and I thought that both fought with a lot of heart and that it ended up being a really fun match.

Tochiohzan was the second undefeated today, but he came up with nothing against Kakizoe who jumps up to a 2-2.

Kokkai and his sweet new sideburns came at Yoshikaze with a great elbow from the tachi-ai that bloodied him up a tad but somehow didn't slow him down a bit. Yoshikaze wasted no time working his way to Kokkai's side and with a deep inside left, danced him out.

Young guy Goeido took old guy Tamakasuga with a pedestrian pull down. No one cared.

A Korean on the belt proved too much for Ryuo (the "jolliest" of the Mongolians). Ryuo did his best to hang around but eventually fell victim to an uwatenage. The M-10 remains undefeated.

Kyokutenho is another dude who will remain undefeated and he did it in an impressive fashion. M-9 Takamisakari had a decent start backing the Mongolian up all the way to the edge but then, to everyone's surprise, Kyoku picked him up and spun around throwing him clear off the dohyo. This was impressive stuff and you got to think he is going to continue to rack up a lot of wins this low on the Banzuke. Tomorrow is Kyokutenho's birthday, and I think Roho will be offering up another easy win as a birthday prez. Roho is a sweetie.

Takekaze was the next 3-0 guy to throw the salt. He was up against Futenoh, that lost, blogging soul who just can't seem to find his mojo. For some time now I have been trying to figure out why Futenoh has been doing so poorly for so long, and I think I am starting to understand. As I watch Futenoh's fights I have noticed his hands/arms, as often as not, seem to end up in all manner of strange and uncomfortable positions. This fight was a perfect example. For almost the entire fight he was fending off arm throws, had his arms locked up or had his one of his arms pinned against his own body. That however was not how the fight was to end. Futenoh was in defense mode almost the entire time, but he never gave up. He just rolled with it and hung in there as long as he could. As a rule doing this just prolongs the inevitable but once in a while something happens, someone looses his footing or makes a mistake. That one win, gained from just staying in the game, more often than not will end up being the difference when it comes to getting your KK or even a yusho. Ama and Asa are masters of giving themselves every chance to win even when things look impossible. They each probably get an extra win a basho by just fighting like hell to stay on their feet. It wasn't a great win, but it is a great lesson. Takekaze loses his first.

Mt. Iwaki and Tokitsuumi came in with nary a win between them. Tokitsu got an early piece of mawashi but moving mountains is no easy feat and Tokitsuumi just wasn't up to it. Iwaki brought him down when he nage-ed his shita te.

After yesterdays complete surrender Roho must have felt really bad, because he turned a new leaf! He came out with an incredible tachi-ai and then used his size and sound sumo to defeat Kaiho. No, not really. He used his size to soundly step waaay to the side to avoid the hit of a man who ways 75 pounds less than him. Roho's sumo is like his face...

Toyonoshima withstood the monster tachi-ai that is Tosanoumi to pick up a pull down win. All the old guys fought with a lot of heart today but the young guys seemed one step ahead of them at every turn.

Miyabi showed up today with his hands taped like a boxer. I was thinking he was going to go tsuppari all over Tamanoshima. Reality was significantly less dramatic (as it so often is). The only word I have to describe Miyabi's tachi-ai is absorbent. Drew him in, pulled him down. Yawn.

Toyohibiki and Wakanosato gave my favorite of the 'wily veteran vs. fresh new face' matches. Toyohibiki looks like a freaking photocopy of Wakanosato. A quick stare down and these two compact, neck-less powerhouses collided. Wakanosato was going belt all the way but Hibiki countered with a right to the throat. He used that right to push him across the entire dohyo and over the straw, BY HIS THROAT! That move would have been impressive no matter who he did it to, but Wakanosato!? I didn't even know he had a throat. He is like a neck-less horse. Toyohibiki is a strong dude and you can now upgrade me from "curious" to "interested".

Kakuryu took Dejima's tachi-ai like a good little soldier and then began the lateral motion that he knew would spell disaster for the freight train. Sweet little kotenage and it's over. Kakuryu will never overpower his opponents and he will never be an Ozeki. I'm not going to rush out and buy his cell phone strap or anything, but Kakuryu is an adaptive, intelligent dude who seems to be making the best out of what God gave (and didn't give) him. And Martin died a little inside.

In an interesting role reversal Aminishiki out-Kotoshogiku-ed Kotoshogiku. A powerful and well timed start leading into a yorikiri win. He even did that little "Hump-Jump" that Giku uses so well. Aminishiki is perfect while the Giku is batting .500.

Kisenosato and Asaseki are two guys who I was thinking/hoping would have good bashos this time around. So far neither has really impressed. Asaseki got a quick left inside grip and then went to work trying to neutralize Kiss's left arm. Seki (2-2) was patient and careful with his footing as he ushered Kisenosato (1-3) out of the ring.

I think Mike was wrong; yesterday there was no henka in Ama's game. Today on the other hand I would say that 35.43% would be quite a modest number. Ama ventured out pretty wide and got the exact grip he wanted. He backed the old gray mare right up to the edge and it looked to be over. But Kaio kept his feet moving and, after Ama lost his grip, was able to discard the Mongolian with good timing and some excellent shifting of his weight. Score one for the old guys. Congrats to Kaio on win number 706. It's the most wins of any non-Yokozuna and ties him with some guy named Musashimaru on the all time winners list: Lofty company indeed.

I think Kotooshu and Kotomitsuki had a long talk about the best way to fight Homasho 'cause this fight looked a lot like Day 2 to me. Both Kotos got inside as quick as they could and seemed to smother him, aggressively pushing forward with a wide stance denying him any lateral movement. I hope Homasho can learn a way out of this trap because they both made it look easy.

Chiyotaikai vs. Hokutoriki went exactly like everyone expected. Chiyo (4-0) did exactly what he was supposed to with the forward movement and the jazz hands. And Hokutoriki (1-3) also did exactly what he was supposed to with the bending over and the lube.

I thought Mitsuki might have started a hair early today in his fight with Tokitenku but it probably didn't make any difference. KotoM was not going to lose 2 in a row. In a 12 second fight Mitsuki tried 4 or 5 different kimarite. Tokitenhu's defense was ok but he still sort of looked like a cowboy trying to stay on the back of an angered bull. In the end it was a shitatenage that got him. Mitsuki is gaining confidence every time he steps in the ring.

In fact, he has been fighting so well a lot of people have been talking about Mitsuki winning the 2 Asa-less bashos and being a Yokozuna by the start of 2008. I think they are right. When he gets his promotion I'm even thinking I will go to the ceremony. My blue Nissan just ain't gunna cut it for this auspicious occasion, no, I'm going to call my 3 supermodel girlfriends and we are all going to jump on the back of a unicorn. Maybe we will swing by Narnia and pick Elvis up and then congratulate Mr. Bush on winning a necessary war in a tactful and timely manner. . . But I don't mean to discourage those of you who really believe he will make Yokozuna. He IS fighting the best sumo of his life...and supporting lost causes builds character.

I'll go out on a bit of a limb and say that between KotoM and Hakuho they only take one of these two basho and the other one goes to someone who has never held the Emperor's Cup before.

Coming off the sweet throw of an ozeki you got to wonder if Tochinonada had convinced himself he had a chance today against Hakuho. He didn't. Fighting his first non-Mongolian of the basho, Haku tried to get his tsuppari going but Tochi bent over so far with his arm out that Haku could have performed his sukuinage with a flick of his wrists. Thankfully, that was not how he chose to perform it. Hakuho put some mustard on this one! The arm throw was hard and Tochinonada went twirling like a thug in a Stephen Seagal movie. Good Yokozuna sumo and a great end to my first day on the job.

5 of the 7 remain undefeated and it doesn't matter because none of them are going to take the yusho anyway.

One last thing; there has been much written and even more speculation about the Sumotalk initiation rituals. There is almost nothing I can tell you. But there are a few things I feel the world should know. First, while most are, it's not fair to say that ALL the ceremonies are horrific and painful. I, for one, was honored and kind of touched that these guys would go through all the trouble to learn such a lengthy dance...and with all those trained animals. One guy who I mustn't name is a sadistic s.o.b. whilst Clancy puts on airs of being a tough guy but really has a heart of gold. I'll never forget that hug Clancy! But I've already said too much...

Mike will "eat the natto" tomorrow

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Lemme guess...if you were happy to see Asashoryu get punished, and you're glad that he's being forced to miss at least the Aki basho, you were disappointed by the results of day 3. We had a bit of a roller coaster first two days thanks to Hakuho's loss on day 1 and all of the Ozeki whose shikona don't rhyme with Cinco de Mayo looking good, but with day 3 we see the law of averages begin to take effect. Let's get right to the action.

Yokozuna Hakuho gave us a repeat performance of his sumo yesterday: a quick tachi-ai getting the easy left arm on the inside, a two-step charge forward grabbing morozashi in the process, and an easy yori-kiri victory over a fellow Mongolian. If Hakuho can bully Tokitenku as he did yesterday then it's a given that he'd destroy M2 Kakuryu with the same sumo today. There's really nothing more to say other than Hakuho seems to have figured out that he just can't stand back and choose to react to his opponents instead of attack them and still put 13 or 14 wins on the board. The Yokozuna is 2-1 and controls his destiny while Kakuryu falls to a respectable 1-2.

Oh brother. When you let M3 Hokutoriki do his stuff against you...and it works...and you're ranked as an Ozeki, it's not good. Hokutoriki just stiff-armed Kaio with a right hand at the tachi-ai setting up the far too easy pushback that took about three seconds to achieve. Kaio offered no fight whatsoever and is on the phone now with his old buddy Musoyama inquiring about phantom injuries. The Ozeki must find a way to solve Ama tomorrow (good luck), or he will be 0-4. Still, isn't the writing on the wall already? I'll save the Sumo Association the trouble and officially announce right here that applications are now being accepted for a new Ozeki. Hokutoriki (1-2) need not apply.

The match of the day on paper featured Komusubi Ama vs. Ozeki Kotomitsuki. NHK hyped the bout with a very interesting graphic that showed the result of their last five meetings. Ama won two, both by okuri-dashi (a technique requiring you to get to the side of or behind your opponent), and Kotomitsuki won three, all by forward-moving techniques. So you ask yourself, if Ama wants to win, is he going to stand right in harm's way of the hot Ozeki and take another licking, or is he going to set up an attack from the side and add another shukun victory to his belt this basho? Easy question, and I'm a bit surprised that Kotomitsuki wasn't more prepared for it. Ama quickly hit Kotomitsuki with his right hand at the tachi-ai as he shifted his body out left to grab the cheap uwate. He got it, and in the process, Kotomitsuki kept moving straightf orward lunging into the space where Ama should have been. Ama pounced on the position driving Kotomitsuki back with a hand at the back of his belt, and although Kotomitsuki managed to spin back around 180 degrees to face his opponent, he just couldn't recover leaving Ama to finish the Ozeki off at the tawara with a couple of belly thrusts despite no longer maintaining a grip on his belt.

Was it a henka? That depends on what your definition of is is, right Bill Clinton? Ama's move is called "uwate wo tori ni iku" and is the exact tachi-ai that Kotomitsuki gave Tochinonada on day 1, and it's the same tachi-ai that Kotomitsuki has used about a third of the time the last couple of basho during this Ozeki run. I tend to agree with Martin that it's 35.43% a henka (do you dare tell Martin his calculations are wrong?). I don't care for the tachi-ai myself, but Kotomitsuki has to live with it. As we Ratt fans tend to say, what comes around goes around. Both rikishi now stand at 2-1, but the real question is will Kotomitsuki now let up a bit at the initial charge in fear of more henka because the other rikishi had to have taken notice. I've stated before that I'm okay with the tachi-ai once or twice a tournament, but if the retaliation and imitation gets out of hand, it will ruin the basho.

Let's move on. What was Ozeki Chiyotaikai doing with those shenanigans at the tachi-ai against Dejima? Get your ass out of the crouch already. Once Chiyotaikai had his primping in order and actually charged, he dictated the pace in this one throughout driving Dejima this way and that. Dejima kept things interesting halting the Ozeki's momentum several times and looking as if he may be able to hook up at the belt, but Chiyo always managed to fight it off with the tsuppari finally wearing Dejima down and just slapping him to the dirt. Don't look now but Chiyo's one of your leaders at 3-0. Don't get too excited though, Chiyotaikai fans, he ain't for real this basho. The Dejyptian falls to 1-2.

Rounding out the Ozeki, it was clear that M2 Tochinonada wanted morozashi from the tachi-ai today against Ozeki Kotooshu, and he got it for the most part inserting his left arm deep on the inside to force Kotooshu to the edge where he went for a quick sukui-nage throw. Most rikishi would have been had at this point, but Kotooshu is one of the best when it comes to counter tactics at the edge, and today the Bulgarian grabbed Tochinonada's left leg as he fell managing to half-trip-half-force Nada to the dirt just as Kotooshu himself crashed out. The gunbai went to Kotooshu, but watching the live stream it looked to me as if Tochinonada had won. The judges called for a mono-ii, but NHK only provided one slow motion replay. Problem was, though, that the yobi-dashi's big head was right in the way of the action, so nobody could really tell who hit first. Way to go yobi-dashi, who do you think you are, Barry Bonds? Since everyone's view was blocked, the judges basically said, "what the hell, let them fight again" or something to that effect.

Tochinonada's strategy worked well in the first match, so why not go for it again in the rematch? This time Tochinonada forced that left arm in at the tachi-ai again and despite a quick right outer from the Ozeki on that side, Tochinonada planted nicely and whipped Kotooshu to the dirt in two seconds with a vicious sukuinage throw handing Kotooshu his first loss. Once again, the law of averages simply worked it's way out with the Ozeki, who has been playing with too much fire not to get burned. This was veteran stuff from Tochinonada (1-2) who showed he still has some strength left, and it will also be interesting to see how Kotooshu handles the loss. Early losses have been a problem for the Bulgarian, and he even stated prior to the basho that was going to focus on avoiding them. We'll see how he responds.

Sekiwake Aminishiki brilliantly worked his height to his advantage today using his left arm to push straight up into Komusubi Kisenosato's right armpit at the tachi-ai and then force his way in close keeping Kisenosato completely upright and off of Aminishiki's belt. While pushing at Kisenosato's pit with the left, Aminishiki grabbed a nice inner grip with the right causing Kisenosato to attempt a desperate maki-kae on that side. Ami was ready for the move, however, and forced the Kid (1-2) back and out making it look easy. This was great stuff from Aminishiki today who sails to 3-0.

M1 Homasho bounced back nicely from his ass-kicking yesterday shaking off an early attempt from Sekiwake Asasekiryu (say that fast five times) at the tachi-ai to just grab Homasho's arm and hunker down. When Homie broke the grip, he went on the charge timing his thrusts nicely as he drove Asasekiryu around the ring. Not-so-sexy looked for some sort of inside position as he retreated and circled the ring, but Homasho was too quick grabbing Asasekiryu's left arm in an arm bar hold and launching him across the tawara via kote-nage. It was a close bout due to Homasho's foot kicking up a bunch of sand just after Asasekiryu hit the dirt, and the Sekiwake looked around at the judges in hopes of a mono-ii, but no dice. Get back to your corner already. It bugs me when rikishi fail to employ a single offensive move yet they want the mono-ii at the end of a close bout. Homasho moves to 2-1 with the win while the Sekiwake falls to just 1-2. I know some people like to question my translations of rikishi quotes, but I could have sworn Asasekiryu said he's shooting for double-digit wins this basho and not double digit losses. My bad on the misquote.

M3 Kotoshogiku never could get close to Tokitenku's belt today thanks to Tenku's long arms and effective thrusts from the tachi-ai. The Mongolian stopped the Geeku dead in his tracks with a left paw to the neck and didn't really throw thrust after thrust, rather he stiff-armed Kotoshogiku slowly back until he was so far off balance and slumped down that he was easy slap down fodder. Tokitenku (1-2) made this one look easy as he handed Kotoshogiku is first loss. Who spiked the Sadogatake-beya chanko this morning?

So that's why M6 Kaiho has been doing tachi-ai henka this order to win. Today against M4 Wakanosato, Kaiho charged straight forward and actually had a nice plan of attack keeping his own arms in tight to deny Wakanosato any sort of position on the inside. Kaiho also eventually managed a left arm on the inside himself of Wakanosato and was frustrating the former Sekiwake at first, but Wakanosato said enough is enough and just grabbed Kaiho's left arm and wrenched it this way and that finally managing to twist Kaiho completely around to set up the okuri-dashi win. Wunt pretty 'tall, but Wakanosato will take his first win. Kaiho falls to 2-1.

M5 Toyonoshima was nothing but careless today as he opted for the quick pull attempt against M7 Tamanoshima after a stalemate at the initial charge. Toyonoshima grabbed at Tama's left arm and immediately began to pull him back and to the side, but Tamanoshima sufficiently kept his footing and kept up with the pull attempt long enough to where Toyonoshima just stepped out of the ring before dragging Tamanoshima to the dirt. This was horrible strategy from the start by Toyonoshima who needs to repent starting tomorrow. At least his muscles have loosened back up a bit, though. Both rikishi are 1-2.

As Martin and I discussed yesterday offline, what is M7 Tokitsuumi even doing here? Nothing's the answer as he played the role of M5 Miyabiyama's practice dummy today. The Sheriff took his sweet time keeping Tokitsuumi in front of him at all times lumbering those tsuppari into Tokitsuumi's neck and torso before slapping him sideways and off balance, which provided the easy oshi-dashi target from there. Sheriff's 2-1 while Tokitsuumi is still winless.

M6 Toyohibiki decided to use that tachi-ai again where he starts a step behind the starting lines. I just don't see how that helps a guy. It leaves him more susceptible to a henka, and it's not the way you practice. Toyohibiki met Takekaze straight on and managed to drive him back a step or two, but he just didn't have the proper position to where he was driving Takekaze with any leverage. Near the tawara, Takekaze seemed to easily turn the tables and slip to his right pulling Toyohibiki (1-2) down with little fanfare. Takekaze has made all the right moves so far at 3-0.

We got double grunts today from M10 Kasugao and M8 Tosanoumi at the tachi-ai, but the Korean grunt had more pop as Kasugao completely halted Tosanoumi's momentum and used a lower stance and left arm straight into the veteran to push Tosanoumi (1-2) back and out in one fell swoop. Good stuff from Kasugao today who moves to 3-0 himself.

Losing to Takekaze is one thing as he's still a fairly young guy with some pop, but M9 Roho's losing to M11 Tamakasuga today? And it didn't matter that Tamakasuga opted for a tachi-ai henka to his right because it was one of the worst moves I've seen, and Roho's right arm actually made impact and his head touched Tamakasuga's torso before the henka it was that slow. No excuses. Roho's gotta overcome that weak effort from Tamakasuga. He didn't, however, due to a lackadaisical tachi-ai and no footwork that left him completely susceptible to Tamakasuga's grandfather speed. It was easy pickings as Tamakasuga (2-1) pushed Roho out from behind and sent him to his second loss.

M1 Futenoh's got a pretty weak tachi-ai, but the one rikishi he can usually best at the initial charge is M9 Takamisakari. That proved true today as Futenoh led with his head getting an early right arm on the inside of the Cop that allowed him to begin the forceback. Where Takamisakari usually shines is counter sumo, but that wasn't the case today as he elected to latch onto Futenoh's right arm with both of his own arms leaving his right side completely open to a Futenoh left forearm that saw Sakari get pushed to the side and out in unspectacular fashion. This was not pretty sumo starting with Futenoh's less than average tachi-ai, but hey, dude still won. Both rikishi are 1-2.

M10 Iwakiyama's ineffective tachi-ai saw him walk right into an M12 Kyokutenho right outer grip, and the Mongolian wasted no time in methodically forcing and twisting Iwakiyama (0-3) back and out in 8 seconds or so. After that layoff in May and the stint in Juryo in July to get that ring sense back, Kyokutenho has just been toying with the rikishi this low in the ranks. He's 3-0 if ya need him.

M14 Kitazakura stood toe to toe with M12 Kokkai taking thrust after thrust, but he just never get on the inside of the Georgian. After about ten seconds of abuse and surviving several pull attempts, Kitazakura finally got his right arm close to Kokkai's belt, but Kokkai (2-1) just stuck his left arm on the inside and threw Zak over with a powerful sukuinage. Kitazakura falls to 0-3 but still provides the effort...and respect.

M16 Kasuganishiki would have none of M13 Ryuo's sumo charging forward and shaking off that first right arm to his neck forcing Ryuo back two steps and upright. After this initial streamroll maneuver, Kasuganishiki quickly turned the tables in true Ryuo fashion sending the Mongolian sprawling across the sand and down to his second loss. Watch out, but the likes of Kasuganishiki, Kasugao, and Takekaze are all tied for a share of the lead!!

Speaking of 3-0 rikishi, M13 Tochiohzan is a presence already this low in the ranks. Today against H15 Hakurozan, the Russian used a quick harite with the left hand at the tachi-ai, but Oh was unfazed getting his right arm in deep and immediately forcing Hakurozan (1-2) back and out without argument.

M16 Kakizoe trying to make anything happen committed two false starts today before eventually butting heads with Goeido. After a stalemate tachi-ai, both rikishi began pushing each other, but Kakizoe went for the quick pulldown allowing Goeido to easily push him back and out from there. Goeido wasn't rattled by the false starts, nor did he panic in the shove-fest. I'd say he beat Kakizoe every which way today moving to 2-1.

Last and certainly least, M15 Yoshikaze (2-1) used a henka to his left against J2 Otsukasa, but when Otsukasa kept his footing, a sloppy tsuppari fest ensued where Yoshikaze's speed won out with a pulldown in the end. Wake me up already.

A new Sumotalk contributor makes his debut tomorrow.  All rise.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I thought Day 1 was about as sloppy of sumo as you'll ever see (save Ama's performance), and I was fully prepared to begin day 2 with a rant about how sumo these days has gotten away from the basics. I mean you practice suri-ashi where the rikishi keep their body low and elbows bent outwards as they drag their feet across dirt one after the other to enforce the concept of de-ashi. Then you have shiko, or the leg stomping, which strengthens the rikishi's lower body and balance. And then there's mata-wari, where the rikishi do the splits to the sides and plant their torso and head parallel with the dirt, all in an effort to strengthen the hips and lower back area. It's just like Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel-san the basics of karate like wax on wax off or sand the floor without really teaching him karate. The sumo basics are geared towards teaching a rikishi to base his attack from the lower body and use his feet to guide his charge. We saw nothing of the sort on day 1, but the rikishi must have known that I was on the day 2 prowl because they shaped themselves up in a hurry. Good for them.

Yokozuna Hakuho's problem last basho was that he abandoned his oshi attack and opted for this passive brand of sumo where he reacted to his opponents instead of attacking them. He went from 4 oshi dashi wins and 1 pulldown win in May to 1 oshi-dashi win and five pulldowns in Nagoya. That trend continued on day 1 where Hakuho wasn't bad, but he let Ama dictate the pace of the bout, and he paid the price. The Yokozuna didn't make that same mistake today as he was a a half second faster at the tachi-ai against M1 Tokitenku lunging his way into the morozashi position before Tokitenku even knew what hit him. The result was a yori-kiri win in seconds that gave his opponent zero options to counter. There's nothing more to say here. Hopefully, Hakuho has realized now that he cannot just show up and win.

Speaking of Ama, the Komusubi looked to rework his magic of yesterday against Ozeki Kotooshu today. The Mongolian had the moro-zashi open for him at the tachi-ai if he wanted it, but I think he made the smart choice by opting out of it. You just don't want to give Kotooshu two outer grips if you're a much smaller rikishi. With Kotooshu pressing for a belt grip, Ama backpedaled slowly trying to finagle some sort of advantageous position, but Kotooshu had no hesitation as he used a maki-kae with the right arm allowing him to get on the inside of Ama's left and stand him up before easily forcing him back and out. Or did he? After what looked like a dominating win for Kotooshu, a mono-ii was correctly called for where it was suspected that Kotooshu's left foot stepped out before either of Ama's feet hit the dirt outside of the ring. Watching the NHK feed, it looked to me that Kotooshu's left foot did indeed step out out a literal millisecond before Ama's foot touched outside, but for some reason, we only got that good angle once. Another angle NHK showed was from the camera mounted above the dohyo, and from this angle you could see Ama with that left outer grip that may have been pulling Kotooshu out in a counter move. Based on these two points, I thought for sure they would call for a rematch because even though you could argue that Kotooshu stepped out first, you just don't reward someone an isami-ashi win unless his opponent clearly stepped out before finishing off his bidness, and watching a replay of the bout, there was no indication that Ama's left outer grip had any effect on Kotooshu's stepping out when he did. In a surprising move to me, however, the judges upheld the referee's initial call and awarded the win to Kotooshu. Still, I had no problem with the decision. Kotooshu was the aggressor, and he dominated the bout. You can split hairs and say a rule's a rule, and Kotooshu stepped out first, but who stepped out first wasn't overly conclusive, and though I rarely say this, I thought the judges handled the situation perfectly. Kotooshu moves to 2-0 and dispatches one of the toughest opponents he'll face all basho.

In the worst tachi-ai of the basho, Ozeki Kaio stepped forward with no force whatsoever while Komusubi Kisenosato implemented a tachi-ai henka to his left that I don't think was pre-meditated because he didn't go for a pull down or the back of Kaio's belt straightway. I just thought it was a bad reaction from both rikishi who balked at each others' tachi-ai. Nonetheless, what was done was done, and Kisenosato offered a few tsuppari into Kaio's face before settling in the hidari yotsu position. Both rikishi wrangled a bit for an outer grip, but the Kid got the right outer first, which led to the easy force out win from there. This was ugly stuff, but I'm going to stop short of calling Kisenosato (1-1) a chump because he gave Kaio a fair fight after that initial henka. Kaio has looked very old these first two days as he drops to 0-2. And speaking of old, did anybody catch Britney Spears' act (click the play button on that link at your own risk) at the MTV music video awards? Holy crap. I think Ozzy Osbourne moves better than that...and his gut is smaller too. Gimme gimme Ozzy.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki's sumo today was the best I've seen from him in his last 17 bouts. He gave M1 Homasho no chance today by leading with a quick left hari-te and inside grip on that side and a crushing blow with his right shoulder into Homasho's torso that stood the youngster completely upright. Kotomitsuki seized the inner grip on the right side as well, and now in the moro-zashi position, bulldozed Homasho back and out with such force it made the other Ozeki blush. This was powerful, powerful stuff from Kotomitsuki and sends a message to the rest of the field. I've been quite critical of Kotomitsuki lately, and the reason was seen on day 1 with that weak side step of Tochinonada. And the reason Kotomitsuki is so frustrating to me is because we all know he's capable of the sumo he showed us today; he just doesn't show it often enough. I desperately hope to see more of the day 2 Kotomitsuki the rest of the way instead of the Kotoshiftsuki we saw on day 1.

Moving along, Ozeki Chiyotaikai made short work of M2 Tochinonada by using the kind of sumo we all want to see from him. He caught the gentle giant with a stiff left arm at the tachi-ai standing him completely upright, and then turned on the burners with the lower body while the upper-body thrusts polished Tochinonada (0-2) off in three seconds. This was Ozeki sumo for Taikai who shed yesterday's skirt for the manly belt today.

Sekiwake Asasekiryu looked to have a walkover in M2 Kakuryu, but he made the cardinal mistake of going for an early pulldown after one of those boring stalemate tachi-ai where the rikishi are grabbing at each other's wrists to keep each other away from the belt. The result was a feisty Kakuryu taking advantage of his compromised opponent and forcing him out in mere seconds. Not-so-Sexy said he wanted to win in double-digits this basho. That ain't the way to do it. Both dudes are 1-1.

Sekiwake Aminisneaky lived up to his name today by using a tachi-ai henka to the left against M3 Hokutoriki of all rikishi. Instead of going for the pull down, Sneaky used his left arm to pull Hokutoriki down by the back of the belt. Does anybody like to see this kind of sumo from a Sekiwake?

In a bout between two rikishi with similar styles where they like to get deep on the inside, M3 Kotoshogiku completely cut off M4 Wakanosato's left leaving the veteran no other choice but to go for the quick pull down with the right hand. The result was the Geeku just bulldozing Wakanosato back and out in between the two shinpan on the muko-jomen side. This was just basic stuff from Kotoshogiku who was deservedly all smiles in the hanamichi at 2-0. Wakanosato is 0-2.

M4 Dejima went chest to chest with M5 Toyonoshima at the tachi-ai today, and even though the smaller Toyonoshima had his right arm on the inside early, Dejima gave him no room to maneuver driving his opponent back with that lower body. In a pinch, Toyonoshima went for the last-gasp kubi-nage throw at the edge with his free left arm, but Ama proved yesterday that you can rarely pull of a kubi-nage against a quality opponent without employing another tactic to set it up. The result was Dejima keeping his balance and managing to shove Toyonoshima over the edge and down in spectacular fashion that Toyonoshima flew off the dohyo looking like a deer that's been killed at the side of the road with all fours stiffened outward due to rigor mortis. Both rikishi are 1-1.

Two days, two tachi-ai henka from M6 Kaiho. Dude, I love to cheer for ya, but not when you pull continued crap like that. M5 Miyabiyama actually survived the move at the edge and managed to force the bout into yotsu-zumo, but it's a style he's uncomfortable with, so he used a vicious right push to Kaiho's head to bully him off of the belt, but this created some separation between the two and as Miyabiyama went in for the kill, Kaiho slipped to his side and escorted Miyabiyama out with two hands to the fanny. Kaiho's 2-0 start is greatly inflated while the Sheriff swallows a tough first loss.

M6 Toyohibiki started a full step back from the starting lines, a move I thought was a mistake. I mean, when was the last time M7 Tamanoshima blew anyone away from the starting lines? No matter though as Toyohibiki's solid oshi charge was way too much for Tamanoshima to handle as he just stood there in front of his younger opponent with arms raised trying to fend off the attack. It lasted about 5 seconds, but the Nikibi dominated Peter from the start in the one-sided affair as he picks up his first win.

It was classic Tosanoumi today as he used that grunt to complement a smashmouth tachi-ai that blew M7 Tokitsuumi back a step and upright. The blue collar man kept the legs driving forward and had Tokitsuumi pushed back and out in two seconds. This was old school stuff from M8 Tosanoumi who moves to a feelgood 1-1.

M9 Roho allowed himself to get completely bullied back and out by M8 Takekaze, who kept his head just low enough and used his lower body to drive into the Russian taking away any of his momentum. Roho was had at this point because he had to worry about the constant push coming from his smaller opponent instead of taking any time to set up a belt grip. In the end, Roho instinctively brought both hands up to the side of Takekaze's head, but Takekaze was so good in this one, he pushed Roho back and out in three seconds or so before the Russian even knew what to do. This was great stuff from Takekaze whose charge from the lower body made the difference. In fact, I haven't seen such effective lower body work since Shakira released her last music video. Takekaze's 2-0 if you need him.

M10 Kasugao knocked M9 Takamisakari clear back from the tachi-ai and quickly hooked up with him at the belt, but he grabbed the firm left uwate instead of the right (his preferred attacking position). This allowed Takamisakari to survive, and as he evaded to the side grabbing a left uwate of his own, Kasugao lifted the Cop upright breaking off his left outer grip. Takamisakari took that left arm and used a maki-kae to grab moro-zashi, but all that did was give Kasugao his favored attacking position...the right outer grip. As Takamisakari tried to turn the tables at the edge, Kasugao unleashed that good ole kote-nage throw that proved the difference in this solid affair. The Korean jumps out to 2-0.

M10 Iwakiyama showed his discomfort at this level by backing up a step or two at the starting lines against veteran M11 Tamakasuga. All that did was give King-tama more time to watch what his opponent was gonna do. Nothing's the answer as Tamakasuga met Iwakiyama with a fierce nodowa and head right into his upper torso keeping Iwakiyama upright. Tamakasuga next quickly used an ottsuke move pushing with his right arm at Iwakiyama's left gut as he slipped to the side of his opponent. From here the two traded pulldowns, but Tamakasuga was just too firmly grounded to the dohyo while Iwakiyama was on the run forced to attack a smaller opponent that was a step or two away from him throughout...a scenario Iwakiyama invited at the tachi-ai.  In the end, Tamakasuga (1-1) succeeded in the pulldown win, and that's far too much commentary for a bout like this. Iwakiyama is winless and better not give stablemate Toyohibiki any more pointers about backing up at the tachi-ai.

In a somewhat compelling bout, M12 Kyokutenho simply overpowered M11 Futenoh today by grabbing a firm left outer grip from the tachi-ai and then planting his feet using his tall frame to lean in on Futenoh cutting off any position by his opponent. Futenoh knew he was in trouble at this point and went for a maki-kae with that left hand, but Tenho read the move with precision and yanked Futenoh over to the side and out in spectacular fashion. This was grand sumo from the Mongolian who moves to 2-0. Futenoh falls to 0-2.

M13 Ryuo used the full 8 seconds today (I timed it to keep my theory in tact) to dispatch M12 Kokkai in a push fest. The Mongolian used the moro-te tachi-ai to completely halt Kokkai's momentum, and then traded neck pushes with the Georgian in the center of the ring. The key to this bout was Kokkai's impatience and Ryuo's keeping his eyes firmly locked on Kokkai throughout. Ryuo knew early on that he wasn't gonna force Kokkai back and out, so he patiently waited for Kokkai to thrust himself off balance before slipping to the side and escorting Kokkai out of the ring. Both rikishi are 1-1.

In one of the most anticipated matches of the day, both M14 Goeido and M13 Tochiohzan looked a bit tense. Tochiohzan committed a false start to show his nerves, and Goeido exhibited a tachi-ai without much of a plan taking the initiative by lunging harder but failing to use any thrusts or an arm on the inside of Oh to set something up at the belt. Tochiohzan showed his experience by patiently letting Goeido walk into a moro-zashi grip before using perfect de-ashi to force Goeido back and out with ease. It didn't have the excitement that we all expected, but it did show us why Tochiohzan reached the division before Goeido. Good stuff here as Oh improves to 2-0.

Big props to M15 Yoshikaze today for beating one of the handful of rikishi that he's capable of beating down here. Furthermore, he did it with the sound sumo basics. Yoshikaze never let up in his tsuppari attack that kept M14 Kitazakura away from his belt and standing upright throughout. After about 15 seconds of the wild affair, Yoshikaze was in the perfect position to bulldoze the Ambassador clear off the dohyo in the corner from whence he came. Yoshikaze picks up a rare win while the Ambassador is an o'fer.

M15 Hakurozan, who can't exactly bend it like Beckham when it comes to his knees these days, moved slightly to his left at the tachi-ai and executed an ugly pulldown move that felled M16 Kakizoe with ease. Nuff said here other than it was nice to see Kakizoe sporting Musoyama's old colorless mawashi. Mmmm...hand-me-down-mawashi.

And last and certainly least, M16 Kasuganishiki employed perfect lower body work as he had J1 Wakanoho neutralized at the tachi-ai and pushed out in two seconds or less to pick up his second win in as many days.

An awful day 1 was all but forgotten with some solid sumo on day 2. Let's hope the trend continues tomorrow, and if the rikishi are reading this, (in Arnold Schwarzenegger voice) I'll be back.

Day 1 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Hail to all fellow sumo followers from a face unfamiliar with the basho's first day. In case you were wondering how I got to draw the short stick for shonichi, you should remember the recent disappearance of George and Bernie. Also, the feds are after Simon, and Clancy has recently discovered religion and joined a cryptic cult, Akenu's Worshippers (I think he's just pretending, though, because the high priestesses only wear a skimpy robe and are often seen engaging in ceremonial chocolate wrestling with the new acolytes). Anyway, all these things left us understaffed, so Mike decided to bring in some new blood. I don't know much about either of the two, but I have a strong suspicion that one of them is actually an undercover Interpol agent out to get Simon (you should be able to read his stuff around day 10).

For some reason I thought the basho was going to be strange without Asashoryu, but, guess what, I don't miss the guy one bit. That still doesn't mean his punishment was fair or the NSK didn't have an ulterior motive for it. And I'll bet I'm not the only one not missing Asashoryu (a couple of names from the Sadogatake roster suddenly pop into my mind), because with him gone from the banzuke, there's actually a chance to grab the yusho. Anyone for three Yokozuna at the start of 2008?

Alright, let's start from the bottom up. The very last guy in Makuuchi, M16 Kakizoe, met the very first guy in Juryo, Hochiyama. Zoe took half a step to the left and tried an inashi, but the move only allowed him to briefly get both arms inside. Hochiyama shook him off, but Kakizoe kept pushing at his armpits and eventually drove him out, ensuring a good start for his attempt to return to the upper ranks.

The feisty Yoshikaze came with his usual swarming routine, dishing out the punishment to M16 Kasuganishiki's face and quickly shifting to the side to try the tsukiotoshi, but the maneuver didn't work, and Kasuganishiki got back on track and quickly pushed his small opponent to the edge and down by okuritaoshi, like a used up chew toy.

From the next bout I only got to see the part where new hope Goeido got a solid double grip on Hakurozan's mawashi and forced him out by yorikiri. Good first bout for the debutant, and business as usual (I mean losing, that's what I mean) for Hakurozan. Hey, look on the bright side, part of the bout is better than no bout, OK?

M14 Kitazakura, the champion salt thrower, faced Tochiohzan, ranked at an unusually lowly M13, following his injury in Nagoya. After the tachi-ai, the young one head-butted Kitazakura a couple of times, just enough to get a decent left uwate. The old guy wouldn't go out easily and tried a little offensive of his own, but Tochiohzan used the favorable grip and Zak's momentum to attempt the uwatedashinage and in the end pushed him out from behind. There is a bright side in this bout too, and it's Tochiohzan's future. There are two bright sides, actually, the other one is Kitazakura's bald spot.

Revenant Kyokutenho used his superior reach to suck Mongolian Ryuo into morozashi and then spit him out of the dohyo like an old tobacco wad in less than 3 seconds. Figgered out, as they say it in Utah, the future looks bleak right now for the round pusher.

Georgian Kokkai tried the same old left-elbow-front-bumper-to-the-face tachi-ai in the bout with fellow underachiever Futenoh. The maneuver wasn't too successful, but it allowed Hairy to get a solid right outside grip and quickly push out Futenoh, in the process employing a left nodowa that looked more like a chokehold to me. After he ousted his opponent, Kokkai gave him an extra stare and kicked his fallen sagari out of the way, probably because he wants to be just like Asashoryu. It was good stuff, nonetheless, and that's the kind of stuff I want to see from a guy his size.

In the next fight, old man Tamakasuga wanted to go for the easy pull-down win right from the tachi-ai (you could see that in his tachi-ai, there was no forward movement), but he miscalculated his starting point and Kasugao was all over him, pushing him out in mere milliseconds. It was an open and shut case, this one, and, let's face it, Tamakasuga ain't what he used to be.

Fresh Juryo champion Iwakiyama produced a monster tachi-ai against crowd favorite Takamisakari, and I was expecting to see him win quickly, but he failed to capitalize. With no belt grip and Takamisakari's left arm deeply lodged under his armpit, all Iwakiyama could muster was a half-hearted sukuinage attempt that failed. After that, Takamisakari planted himself under his larger foe, stood him up and pushed him out by yet another beltless yorikiri. I didn't think so before the basho, but Mike might be right about Iwakiyama not getting more than four wins. I guess the beer's on me this time.

Russian Roho had to pull the back of Tosanoumi's head twice to get it right. It was effective but it wasn't pretty, so I won't waste anymore time and bandwidth talking about it.

Wait a second, did I just say Roho's bout was ugly? This one was even more so. M7 Tokitsuumi was too slow in his attempt to henka M8 Takekaze, and what followed was a series of pull-down attempts from both guys, so excuse me for not being overjoyed about it. Takekaze eventually won, but who really cares?

M6 Kaiho sidestepped Tamanoshima and tried to get into morozashi, briefly succeeding, but Tamanoshima characteristically locked his left. With a solid belt grip on his side, though, Kaiho quickly took his foe all the way to the edge and was ready to force him out. But then...mmm...controversy, gotta love it. The former Sekiwake was robbed in style by the Geezers in Black, because they awarded it to Kaiho, even if he was clearly the first to touch the ground with his right knee, falling for the old kotenage-at-the-edge maneuver. Shinitai? No way, Tamanoshima became airborne because Kaiho pulled him along as he was passing him on him way down (and I did watch the high definition slow motion replays for this one). Thanks for nothing.

Up next was the long awaited battle of the two largest pushers in the division. The two super-heavyweights crashed into each other and got down to business, with Toyohibiki slightly pushing Miyabiyama back. Still, Miyabiyama's tsuppari were right on target (i.e. Hibiki's face) while the vast majority of the younger one's tsuppari were wide. The whole deal wore Toyohibiki out quickly, because soon Miyabiyama started the offensive, pushed forward and then switched into reverse, throwing his opponent off balance but not quite finishing the job. After another forward surge, Miyabiyama wisely evaded and then moved in for the kill, pushing Hibiki out in convincing fashion. Experience prevailed against youth today, but this may as well be the last time, because Toyohibiki looks really promising.

Toyonoshima and Wakanosato were both too high at the tachi-ai, something pretty common for Wakanosato lately. No belt grips were obtained, but Toyonoshima did get his left under, so Wakanosato executed a quick makikae to avoid morozashi, and even tried to get the mawashi, but Toyonoshima clamped his arm long enough to get out of reach. After pushing his bigger opponent some distance, he executed a quick maki-kae by shifting his entire body to the left. Wakanosato tried desperately to push him out in the process, but he couldn't, and, despite a late kubinage attempt, he soon found himself on the ground, face down. Just as a little side note, Toyonoshima has an impressive belly.

Dejima and Kotoshogiku both came strong at the initial charge and a brief stalemate followed. Kotoshogiku then pushed at blank Dejima's side, throwing him off balance, and then just pushed him out. Hardly even worth mentioning. Oh, yeah, in the background that creepy guy with the gold top hat and fan could be seen waving around like crazy. Hey, it's a strange world out there.

Hokutoriki faced newly promoted Sekiwake Asasekiryu and used the same moro-te tachi-ai he favors (when he's not pulling henkas, that is). His stance was so poor, though, that not-so-Sexy got both his hands on his mawashi and evicted him from the dohyo like the joke he is. To quote Mike once more, happy 2-13.

Another cruel joke is Kakuryu's rank. At M2, he's gonna get ripped to little shreds by the sharks and today's bout was a pretty clear sign of that. The little fokker had no power in his tachi-ai and was pushed out in less than two seconds by the other newly promoted Sekiwake, Aminisneaky. I can't wait for the Chiyotaikai EKakuryu, Kakuryu EHakuho and Kakuryu EKotooshu matches. Oh goodie!

The new Ozeki on the block faced former Sekiwake Tochinonada with grey sumo, i.e. sumo that isn't outright dishonorable, but can be frowned upon. He made a 35.43% henka (yeah, I measured it accurately, using highly teck-no-logical equipment) and got the cheap right uwate. He then used it to spin the helpless opponent and throw him onto his face. After the deed was done, he walked away with that bored look on his face, you know, the one that says "Amateurs...". It's pretty clear to me, this guy is on a mission, and Asashoryu's absence definitely has something to do with it. The only problem is...this isn't Yokozuna sumo, hell, this isn't even Ozeki sumo. It's pragmatic, must-win-at-all-costs sumo. And it's the type of sumo most fans don't want to see.

Old man Kaio used a quick right harite to set up his feared uwate, but M1 Homasho's impeccable stance burst that soap bubble in about one second. From there on it was a one sided push-out, with Kaio landing with a squat near the ringside Chiyotaikai and taking his time standing up again. The word 'retirement' certainly comes to mind right now. As for Homie, it's sanyaku all the way.

The bout between M1 Tokitenku and Bulgarian Ozeki Kotooshu looked more like a schoolyard brawl than an actual sumo match. Kotooshu tried to get the left uwate right from the start and once more immediately afterwards, but the Mongolian kept him well away from his mawashi with some well aimed tsuppari to the throat. The third time, though, Tokitenku slipped to his left and tried the pull-down, but the Bulgarian got mad and paid him back with some nasty tsuppari of his own. The Mongolian managed to get both arms on the inside of his opponent, well, for a fraction of a second, anyway, before he was on the run again. At the tawara, Tokitenku managed to lock Kotooshu's right arm and deployed the kotenage, but, at the same time, the Bulgarian used his superior reach and leg-grabbing skills to yank Tokitenku off his feet and narrowly win the bout by watashikomi, keeping himself in the hypothetical yusho race. After the two got up from the floor, Tokitenku glanced at the judges hoping for a mono-ii, and he looked pretty pissed when he realized there wasn't going to be one, but the outcome was pretty clear this time.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai had significantly less trouble in finishing off Komusubi Kisenosato, who just can't seem to figure him out. Chiyotaikai went at it with both hands to his foe's face, just enough to mess with his focus, then quickly pulled him down for his 9th victory in as many meetings with the youngster. 'Nuff said.

Finally, and there's a reason why I reversed the natural order of the bout analysis, we have the match between the only Yokozuna taking part in this basho and Komusubi Ama. Both wrestlers exchanged left harite and tried to get some belt grips, but it was Ama who made the first decisive move by trying to pull Hakuho down by the back of the head. He wasn't strong enough to pull it off, and Hakuho survived at the edge and got a solid right uwate and a left shitate to go with it, but, just as he was about to attack, Ama wrapped his right arm around the Yokozuna's neck, turned into Hakuho's body and lifted him with the right leg for the spectacular, no, the MAGNIFICENT throw, and all of that in the blink of an eye. Poor Hakuho never knew what hit him. The judges called it kubinage, but I think they should call it Amanage, because it was great, no, HUGE stuff from the lightest guy in the division. Anyway, Hakuho took a hard blow to his yusho hopes, while Ama took a serious step towards the Shukunsho. Asashoryu and things are looking a lot more interesting already. Who's gonna get away with the Yusho? That's the real $64,000 question right there, because right now Hakuho is looking old and slow (and there's no way he's gonna get the 14 wins Mike predicted for him). Kotomitsuki can take it, sure, he's been looking damn good lately, and Kotooshu has a chance, too, if he can keep his wits about him, like he did today.

Of course, this is me writing so you gotta hear some ludicrous scenario involving the Association, right? How's this? If Kotomitsuki fails to win 13 or take the Yusho, Asa's gonna be back for Kyushu.

Mike steals first base tomorrow.


hit counters