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Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
As Sumotalk's West Yokozuna (Mike: East Y; Martin and Mark: Ozeki on the rise; Alex: pesky Sekiwake; and Kenji: Dude with that weird tectonic plate in his head), I have been feeling a certain camaraderie with Asa for the past two basho, and I myself feel at times like going kyujo (but do not because if I did Mike would cut off my mini-bar privileges). I've tried to analyze my ennui, meditate on my malaise, figure out my fog, but the answer eludes my normally deft grasp.

There is a saying in Japanese "nanka mono tarinai" which translates as "Something, and I can't put my finger on it, is missing." Could be the shabby treatment of Asashoryu by the NSK, the media, and the fans that's getting to me (when I have trouble sleeping I count Japanese people), could be the marijuana witch hunt, could be the favoritism toward certain Ozeki, could be the dead kid with the baseball bat tattoos, could be all the desperate, shitty tachi-ai, could be the lack of a Japanese hero to cheer for (I'm very much a supporter of the Japanese rikishi, in case you have the wrong impression), could be any number of things, but sumo these days is not quite cutting muster.

My gut tells me that my funk is due in large part to the NSK and their ham-handed management. I gotta imagine that their thinking on any problem that pops up in sumo probably follows along the same lines as this gem of a quote from former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald "Torquemada" Rumsfeld: "Now what is the message there? The message is that there are known "knowns." There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that's basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year, we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns."

Whatever the reason, by this Day 15 there was almost no pep left in my punch, no chutzpah, no p&v. But, for the sake of all those little eighty-proof toy soldiers lined up in the cooling box I'll give it my best shot, so to speak.

Kitataiki henkad Kokkai (who has unequivocally given up that one basho experiment of doing belt sumo), but the big guy was desperate for his KK and recovered to shove the W13 out to his MK. Good on ya, Kokkai. You deserve a doobie.

Tamanoshima was looking for KK but pretty much ran away from Juryo visitor Kasuganishiki. If that's fighting spirit then order me none.

Yoshicafe henkad Dejima in order to get his KK, but the Degyptian had other plans, recovering and turning to give the hyped-up jackass some chest to push against and, justice be served!, slip off of to end up with a MK. I hear Yoshikaze's younger brother Nes is doing well down in Sandanme.

Futenoh finished 11-4 at after whooping Kasugao, who had no bidness wrestling this time out with that nasty injury. What is the reasoning behind such behavior? I'd like to know.

Tochinoshin followed countryman Kokkai with the second White Pride KK of the day by grabbing well and good hold of The Mawashi's mawashi and shaking him like a ragdoll until the final, inglorious (for the fellow falling down to Juryo) uwatenage.

Wakanosato hit Takamisakari so hard at tachi-ai that for a moment there Gump looked almost lucid. This bout was nothing like a box of chocolates as Scratch n Sniff did his usual resistance thing at the edge only to crumple under the onslaught of Mighty Joe Young, who finishes with a respectable 9-6 from W9.

Kakizoe put an emphatic end to any speculation of a return to Juryo by getting a morozashi faster than Usain in Bejing and then lifting Goeido out (yeah, THAT Goeido). With a 10-5 and a flurry of wins in the last five days over Yoshikaze, Tochinoshin, Wakanosato, Takamisakari and today the Day 10 co-leader, Sweet Zoe Jane is b-a-a-a-a-ack in the saddle again.

Man, given their records and their rather lackluster sumo this time out, I'm kind of glad I fell asleep and missed the first four bouts of the second half. When I did awaken, it was to the sight of Nostramartin's boy Baruto doing exactly what was predicted of him, namely grabbing hold of and lifting out the squirming Kak for his KK, and dealing said Kak a terrific blow with his 8th loss. I've got to check, but I could swear "Baruto" translates to "over the shoulder belt grip."

Some may see Toyohibiki as the next great Japanese hope, but Ama made him look like the next great Japanese dope by getting the morozashi from grunt one and driving him back and out in an instant. It's a shame that deadweight Ozeki like Kaio and Chiyotaikai continue to bloat the rank because if they were gone, we wouldn't be having talk of an Ozeki run for Ama, they'd be making him an Ozeki after his 32 wins over three basho from East Sekiwake (including 9 Ozeki wins and 2 Yokozuna wins). If he gets 11 in November there really should be no they denying him UNLESS they look down on his sometimes shifty tachi-ai. But at his size I would think kicking major ass at ES with a few shifty tachi-ai sprinkled in is acceptable, so long as he cuts it out when he is an Ozeki.

I wouldn't have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes, but Aminishiki incredibly henkad Kaio to get his KK. I never saw that one coming, and evidently neither did Kaio (or he's too on in years to do anything about it, like one of those extremely old dogs you see, smelly with a raspy bark and a big swollen black nutsack, too slow to get out of the way of your boot). The NHK English guys were fawning all over Shneaky's superior "technique." WTF? Dude is the biggest asshole in sumo, and that's saying something with The Pup and Hoaxster alive and kicking.

As much as I was hoping Kotooshu was going to come out and forearm slam Chiyotaikai to the face as payback for his vicious bush league pop at Geeku on Day 5 (a move which actually caused Arbo to gush--goes to show you the chasm of sumo knowledge between Yokozuna and Ozeki even here at ST), I knew that there would be some gentleman's agreement for the Bulgarian to reach KK, and there was. Chiyotaikai gladly walked right into a belt battle, and what more is there to say after that? Quick, name the last time you saw The Pup win a belt battle (other than vs Kaio when he needed a KK)? At least they made the uwatenage look halfway decent. Still would have been nice to see Kotooshu get his KK on Day 14 vs. Hakuho, but even though he fought damnably well, he isn't strong enough and isn't good enough to beat the Grand Champion with anything approaching regularity.

Nevertheless, not being strong enough or good enough to beat Hakuho is hardly a condemnation. Hakuho is the sport's smilodont right now, and today he showed Kotomitsuki why, breaking Mitsuki's belt grip (much like he did Kotooshu's yesterday) causing both men to be free of each other, and when they reclinched Hakuho grabbed the left belt and NHK started rolling the credits, but through the acknowledgment of the Third Key Grip's contribution to the basho I saw Kublai dutifully back the Ozeki out, no pancake, no maple syrup.

That's pretty much what it's come down to these days. Asa out, Hakuho invincible, and Clancy left holding the bag on an anti-climactic senshuraku. Funny thing is, after this debacle of a basho, the powers that be will no doubt convene an important chowfest, slap each other on the back and think, "we're happy as fish and gorgeous as geese, and wonderfully clean in the morning." 

Don't you believe it.

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
The moment I saw Asashoryu fall for the Sneaky henka way back on day 6, I had this nagging feeling that the Yusho race excitement was all but gone. Let's face it, Hakuho is bigger, stronger and more skilled than everyone else on the current Makuuchi banzuke, and the only one who has a prayer of a chance against him on a regular basis is Asashoryu. No Asa equates to 95% chance the Yusho goes Hakuho's way. Still, coming into today, there were a couple of guys objecting to that axiom, only one win behind the 12-1 Mongolian, in Ama and Kotomitsuki. In theory, a three-way playoff was still possible. But more on that later.  Right now we're focusing a bit on Juryo.

In the second division, the Yusho is usually a lot more contested than up there where Yokozuna rule, and any Yusho line above 12-3 is rather unusual, unless a guy like, say, Baruto, makes his way down there through heavy injury or suspension (see the Kyokutenho Chauffeur episode). This time, though, I was sure it would be a little different, with the new Hutt on the block bulldozing his way through lower Juryo during the first week. Well, bigger ain't always better, because the beefier Juryo guys found Yamamotoyama's weak spots and started exploiting them mercilessly. Basically, your best chance to win against the Hutt is to work your way to his side and spin him, pull him, whatever, just make sure you don't stand in front of him, unless you have the pounds yourself. After comparing his agility between the two weeks of competition, I can't help but think he might be injured (remember the heavy fall in the Koryu bout I covered a week ago?). Nevertheless, Double Yama is 9-5 and safely out of the Yusho race, even though he won today's bout against Kasuganishiki.

Kasuganishiki hit pretty hard at the tachi-ai but was unsurprisingly stopped in his tracks by Jabba, who quickly fetched himself a decent left uwate. The Garnish sensed it wasn't going in his favor, so he pulled back quickly attempting to get morozashi, but Yama would have none of it. After that, the Hutt staved off a healthy shitatetenage attempt that got him somewhat off balance and then survived a hineri attempt on the same left side, but this time he was pushed all the way to the edge. However, during all this effort from his smaller opponent, Yamamotoyama never gave up on his strong uwate. He eventually turned around facing the edge and into Nishiki and hurled him over his hip for what would certainly have qualified as an ippon in judo (if it were possible). Yamamotoyama may not be the most skilled rikishi of them all, he's definitely not the fastest, but his strength and size make him so damn entertaining to watch. I really hope he makes it to Makuuchi, just to see him throw a couple of scrubs around.

With Hakurozan, Roho and Wakanoho out of the picture permanently, the Makuuchi division has a fresh opening for the next henka ass, and I have the feeling J6W Aran fits the description perfectly. Let's see now... he wins more than one third of his bouts by hatakikomi and he rarely drives head on at the tachi-ai... oh, yeah, and he's Ossetian and good friends with the Ho's. Too bad, because the guy has decent yotsu skills, vicious tsuppari (too vicious, I might add, some of his fights could easily qualify as bar brawls), and a ripped, well proportioned sumo body (and thick body hair and a beard growing at Kokkai speed).

Today's opponent was Kaiho, one of the smaller guys in Juryo. This allowed Aran to go straight at the tachi-ai, unleashing a windmill of quick tsuppari that gave him enough time to sneak into a deep double grip on the back of Kaiho's mawashi. There was little Kaiho had left to do at that point and he was yorikiried in a flash.

With the 11-3 record, Ah-run's (pronounced with heavy Southern drawl) only contenders are Japanese up-and-comer Tosayutaka (who only needed 6 tournaments to get from the bottom of Jonokuchi to Juryo!) and Mongol Koryu, both 10-4 and both having already faced him. Of course, Aran practically has this one in the bag, because the torikumi makers decided upon Wakakirin (6-8) to be the one to try and stop him, and he hasn't got much of a chance (his style is the same thug-like tsuppari, only with less balance, a smaller body and no yotsu skills). So, congratulations in advance for your Yusho and Makuuchi promotion, you ape, I hope you choke on them.

Now that I have that out of my system, we're getting down to some serious Makuuchi business. Only to find the same hapless Wakakirin in a trip from below, for the sole purpose of padding Kasugao's limp 1-12 record. And pad it he did, after yet another false start uncalled by either gyoji or shinpan. Kasugao charged into his opponent at far from full speed, drove him back, Kirin placed both hands on him and leaned into it to stop his advance, and the Korean simply pulled on the hands, sending the Juryo dweller to makekoshi. I swear, they should bring in chimpanzees from the zoo to act as ringside judges, they'd definitely look better and they'd probably do a better job, too.

One man whom I and many others were expecting to cruise this low on the banzuke at M16, Georgian Kokkai, produced some of his worst sumo yet in losing to Yoshikaze, who went 6-1 in the last 7 bouts. The men charged with both hands forward, with Kokkai getting the upper hand by pushing his smaller foe a step back, but Yoshikaze knew full well what was coming, because he ducked after briefly looking at Kokkai, just in time for the honky to miss the pull-down by a mile and make himself look bad. Yoshikaze didn't let up, though, and he followed through with a sort of a cat and mouse game that Kokkai played right into. Yoshikaze feigned some tsuppari and waited for Kokkai's own high swipes, timing it well and getting both hands on the inside. The Georgian wouldn't give up easily, so he put both hands on the back of Kaze's head and pulled towards the edge, attempting the desperation kubinage while trying to reap his opponent's lower body with his right leg. It failed, so Harry found himself on his back and on the verge of makekoshi. Yoshikaze incredibly recovers from an abysmal 1-6 start and has a shot at 8 tomorrow.

Not much to say about the next one, except it was another perfect screw up by the shinpanzees, who failed to see the blatant matta and allowed Takamisakari to be ousted by oshidashi without the right to a fair fight. I watched the replays and Kakizoe was already in the air charging when Takamisakari even began the motion of putting his second fist down, but they let it go anyway, so, of course, Kakizoe finished it in about 1.3 seconds. I remember a similar affair against Kaio a couple of years ago, perpetrated by the same jump-the-gun'er. Hey, I know nobody's perfect, but that's why you have five ringside judges and a video replay. Takamisakari undeservedly falls to makekoshi, while Kakizoe fattens his score to 9-6.

The other Caucasian in Makuuchi uselessly tried to get a good mawashi grip against Chiyonofuji's younger protégé for some 15 seconds or so, getting too upright for his own good and eventually relinquishing a dangerous right uwate to his smaller foe, who had worked his way to his side. Chiyohakuho knew he was on dangerous ground, yotsu not exactly being his game, so he quickly unleashed a pulling throw (uwatedashinage) that took Tochinoshin to the edge and off balance. Not wanting to go down without a fight, the whitey grabbed Yohak's neck with the right and deployed a now-or-never kubihineri that was more never than now (they usually are, that's why you see more yorikiri and yoritaoshi than all these last ditch throws put together). It was one of the better bouts of the lower half, showing that Tochinoshin (7-7) still has lots to learn sumo-wise, but I think he will surpass his older compadre and sometime become a sanyaku mainstay. He definitely has what it takes. Speaking of Chiyonofuji, I noticed him as the guest commentator today. As I was saying before, I don't understand much Japanese, but I can definitely tell they were talking about Kaio and Kotomitsuki's upcoming bout before the action started, and I can also definitely tell you there was a shrewd smile on The Wolf's face the whole time. But let's not get ahead of ourselves and carry on with the next fight.

And guess what, it was another false start. This one, though, was a complete non-factor, because even with the compromised momentum, M13 Kitataiki was able to get into his favored hidari-yotsu double grip, while Futenoh could only muster a left inside of his own. Kitataiki was eager to finish business quickly, so when Futenoh tried to get the uwate on the right side, Taiki unleashed a half-hearted uwatedashinage, which only broke his grip and gave Futenoh a left outside, which was all he needed to finish off the limping rookie. Kitataiki is at an even 7-7 and has his chance tomorrow, while Futenoh will be aiming for a prize, with 10-4 so far.

Freight train Dejima charged hard into Wakanosato, looking for the quick oshidashi, but Wakanosato had some plans of his own. He raised his arms and went for the pull, but Dejima was on him like lint on Velcro and yorikiried him in a few moments. Was it legit? Looking at the history between the two, I'd have to say yes. Wakanosato has been kicking Dejima's ass day in and day out, regardless of rank or record, but judging by the records coming in... Dejima 7-6, Sato 8-5... I dunno, I think it was just a plain bad decision this time (either that, or Dejima coughed up a really BIG purse).

Sophomore Masatsukasa burned rookie Tamawashi with a premeditated pull right after the tachi-ai. How do I know it was premeditated? Look at Tamawashi's charge... continuous. He wasn't stopped at all, Masatsukasa was backing all the way, and his right hand was at the back of Tamawashi's head right from the get-go. Why am I bothering to tell you about this? You'll see. In the meantime, Tamawashi sinks deeper, reaching double-digit make-koshi, while Masatsukasa earns win #5.

Veteran Tamanoshima probably used the same line of reasoning, but Mongol Tokitenku got his right in the throat with his vicious nodowa tachi-ai, standing him completely upright and avoiding his compatriot's fate earlier. Tokitenku kept pushing at Tama for some time, occasionally trying to shift into pull mode, and after a while they locked in the center of the dohyo, heads low, resting on each other's shoulders. Tokitenku attacked first with a quick tug on Shima's right arm and a whiffed attempt at an uchigake, Peter countered with a forward charge, but he was upright and couldn't do much, so he went for the pull again. This time, Tokitenku read the move perfectly and pushed Tama straight out to his 7th loss. Tokitenku earns his 5th win.

M14 Kimurayama is just embarrassing these days. Remember my day 7 when he henkad? Well, he's been doing it ever since, and today was no exception. How exactly does he expect to win if he keeps doing it to the left? Toyohibiki sure ass hell knew it was coming today, so he turned into Kimurayama the moment he started shifting and chased him around and out of the dohyo for the gimme oshidashi win. Toyohibiki gets kachikoshi after being thrown to the Ozeki, but he still has a brick wall to face tomorrow in Ama. My guess is uwatedashinage, and not for the yotsu-challenged Hutt. Kimurayama somehow managed to get 7 wins this basho, with total crap sumo. And somehow he might get kachi-koshi too, because if there's one guy with crappier sumo than Kimurayama, it would have to be Toyozakura, whom he's facing in the first Makuuchi bout tomorrow.

7-6 Takekaze henkad too, in his own bout vs. ailing Tochiohzan, but he did it comparatively well. There was impact, for sure, but Tochiohzan's momentum took him clean past Kaze and near the edge where he was easy oshidashi meat. A cheap kachikoshi for Takekaze, while Oh's slump knows no end.

Ahem, while we're on the henka topic, let me just say that Aminishiki pulled one against his tormentor The Hoaxster (a known perpetrator himself), to make sure he has a chance at 8 wins tomorrow. One can only hope Kaio wrenches him to the dirt in the most painful way possible, but Sneaky will probably henka there too. Hokutoriki is a nobody, but a nobody with a kachi-koshi.

The next bout is a bit of a letdown, because Miyabiyama had a fighting chance against Sadogatake #3, the Geeku, on his way to winning that bet for me. What a nightmare that turned out to be... After a great 3-3 start, beating one Yokozuna and one Ozeki, Miyabiyama got henkad, pushed around and bum-rushed into a very dangerous 4-10 record. Today he got his ass kicked clean and proper, even if it was after a bit of fidgeting and rattling and a couple of false starts. Both rikishi charged straight, but the Fatman threw all that momentum away with the stupidest of pull attempts that brought his doom in less than 2 seconds. And that, after taking Giku a full step back at the tachi-ai. I'm feeling a bit frustrated right now, because I was really looking forward to cashing in on my bet, and now there's no way I can win mathematically, but let's look on the bright side here. Mike's such a jinx when we make this kind of bets, so next time I'm betting on Kakuryu getting at least 6 wins. Oh, yeah, and Miyabiyama will kick Nada's ass tomorrow for his 5th and an amicable draw between me and Mike.

Well, well, I never thought I'd say this, but Baruto's tachi-ai is definitely improving. His opponent, the Chauffeur, hit him hard at the tachi-ai, but The Beast hit harder and instantly got the left uwate and a solid right sashi. Tenho managed a right shitate of his own, but only a shallow uwate on the left, getting only one fold of his opponent's light blue belt. With the precarious position, the Chief (hey, is it just me, or does he look like an Inju... uh... Native American?) tried a yorikiri surge, but he hardly moved Bart, who stood his ground well. One lightning quick makikae was all the Estonian needed for the quick yorikiri, and a ticket to kachikoshi (because I really don't see any way he can lose to Kakuryu). Couple that with Toyonoshima bombing at 5-8 coming in, and it's Sekiwake promotion for our Balt. Tenho is headed for the comfort of mid-Maegashira with only 5 wins so far.

Don't look now, but my favorite Mongol still has a chance to sully the jo'i next basho with his presence. Kudos to him for today's sumo, though, because it was the first good win he got all tournament, albeit against hapless 4-9 coming in Komusubi-to-be-demoted Asascrewyou. The Kak kept his foe at bay with a couple of well placed shoves and quickly snuck his way into a beltless morozashi. With Not-so-Sexy hunkered down in his usual fashion, Kakuryu went for the quick makiotoshi twist-down, but it failed and allowed Asa's Secretary to get on the inside. For a second, anyway, because Kak executed a quick makikae that got him morozashi for the second time, allowing him to resist the opponent's uwate-powered charge at the edge. It was all over at that point, despite some late desperation nage attempts form Asasekiryu, with Kakuryu eventually finishing him off with a simple yorikiri. The Kak gets 7-7 and a date with Mr. Tsuridashi tomorrow, while Sexy earns his 10th kuroboshi.

In the most anticipated bout of the day for many sumo fans, Mongol Sekiwake Ama, coming in 11-2 and in the Yusho race, faced a stern test in everyone's favorite youngster, 9-4 Goeido. I think the three previous meetings and Go's apparent inability to beat the sharks made Ama underestimate him slightly, because he charged hard and with no game plan. Goeido charged low himself and stopped Ama's advance, who found himself with both hands on Go's shoulders, close to the neck. There's a reason why Mike likes this kid so much, and he showed it again today, because the moment Go felt Ama's cold demon hands on him, he swiped downwards at both in the blink of an eye and threw the Mongol way off balance and sent him stumbling towards the tawara, where he finished him with a routine push. Ama looked bitterly disappointed, because he knew he had been outmaneuvered 100% by the newbie, but it's mostly his fault. Ama stays at 11 and is officially on an Ozeki run, while Goeido gets win #10 and is well on his way to the Gino-Sho. Ama will likely get the Outstanding Achievement Award, but the GIB's are very likely to screw up those predictions by their own free will. Hey, it's their association, who am I to argue?!

As a side note, Mark and I had a little dispute over the "cheapness" level of the win, but as he likes Ama more and I like Goeido more, the argument might have been biased. Here's my side of the story: Mark said the win was cheap and Goeido's pull was premeditated, and it was Hokutoriki sumo. I say it wasn't cheap at all, and it was a brilliant reaction to a rushed attack. See my comments in the Masatsukasa - Tamawashi bout, now THAT was premeditated! Goeido stood his ground like a man, stopped Ama's charge and simply reacted when Ama ran out of ideas for a split second. I welcome Mark to share his opinion on the matter in his blog at any time he'd like to.

M2 Kisenosato is going through a slump right now, and today's lost bout against Toyonoshima showed it's pretty serious. The Kid lunged forward and immediately got the right uwate he likes, but Toyonoshima managed to shake him off and get the right uwate for himself. Kisenosato compensated by getting the left shitate, and he tried to shake Toyonoshima's uwate in turn, but Toyo released the inside grip he had on the left, retreated a little, got that left hand on Kisenosato's noggin and hurled him to the dohyo like a big sack of potatoes. This was great technique and awareness from the diminutive Sekiwake, and it's gotta sting like hell for Kisenosato to lose to a small guy like Toyo by uwatenage. Kisenosato (5-9) has got to find himself again, but luckily he's still only 22, while 6-8 Toyonoshima might even stay in sanyaku with a win tomorrow against The Chauffeur.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai shot from the starting lines like a blood-lusting bullet, hardly scraping the dohyo with his left hand, catching former Sekiwake Tochinonada off guard a bit. One paw to the throat and another one to the chest and Nada was out of the dohyo faster than you can say oshidashi. I think this one was too blurry to be called matta, but I'm not sure it was 100% fair. Nada has only 5 wins in his sack this time, while Taikai goes up to 9.

I'll be honest with you and say I was expecting Kaio to throw this fight 100%, but just when I thought I understood the whole "You scratch my back, I scratch yours" system, they decided to play fair. Or maybe it was Mitsuki's turn to fold, as he had won the previous two encounters. Either way, the tachi-ai was in perfect synch, with Kotomitsuki charging harder and both rikishi trading heavy tsuppari. Kaio successfully defended his mawashi from Kotomitsuki's greedy left and managed to push him off balance and out for the strangely beltless bout. Kotomitsuki falls to 3 losses, while Kaio overachieves again at 9 wins.

In the musubi-no-ichiban, Dai-Yokozuna Hakuho met Bulgarian underachieving Ozeki Kotooshu in what could have been the Yusho deciding bout. Kotooshu charged late yet again, but this time it didn't matter, because Hak's own tachi-ai wasn't full-on, most likely fearing a henka. The two quickly got into migi-yotsu, their favorite belt grip style, and Kotooshu tried a few yori surges, but Hakuho stopped him every time by lifting him off his right leg with the deep uwate. Kotooshu's own uwate, though, wasn't as deep, with him only able to get one or two folds of the Mongol's belt, but on at least two occasions Kotooshu had Hakuho's mawashi completely open and available for a possibly decisive uwate, only he was either blind or stupid, because he didn't pay any attention to it. With little stability on the grip, it was only a matter of time before Hak would shake him off, and having done that, it was only a matter of time before the Yokozuna would win. And win he did, finishing it off by uwatenage for the second time in two tournaments. It was easily the best bout of the day, but it could have been so much better if only the Bulgarian could have kept his eyes on the ball. Hakuho captures the yusho again before senshuraku, while Kotooshu is teetering on the brink of makekoshi, and this time with no injuries to speak of. Sad.

That's all the sumo you're getting from me today, but before I go I'd like to reiterate a few of my predictions. Ginosho and Kantosho will definitely go to Goeido and Futenoh (with one more win), which sansho to whom, not for me to decide, but I'd give Futenoh the one for spirit and Go-Go the one for skill. Also, since the only guy who beat Hak this basho has a respectable 9 losses already, I'm guessing Ama will get the Shukunsho for trashing all the Ozeki and one Yokozuna.

One thing I can be sure of banzuke-wise is that Goeido just earned himself a trip to sanyaku, most likely to Komusubi, because Baruto will slay Kakuryu tomorrow and steal the West Sekiwake spot for himself. Toyonoshima might stay at Komusubi himself with a win tomorrow, but a loss from him and Aminishiki, and (ugh!) a loss from Bart might just propel that slippery Kak to a HIGHLY undeserved sanyaku spot. In the meantime, I'm going back to my secret lab in Area 51 so I can work out what happened in the Kotomitsuki-Kaio fight today.

As usual, Clancy kicks your asses on Senshuraku. Cheers!

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Usually day 13 is the can't-miss day to report. You have the Yokozuna fighting the Ozeki, and it always seems to be the pivotal day in terms of setting up the yusho. This basho, however, is lacking any buzz whatsoever, so when you step back and look at major differences compared to previous tournaments, two things come to mind: the false-start calls and no Asashoryu. Think about it Sumo Association; it's not a coincidence. Actually, I'm pretty sure the biggest roar from the crowd today came as a result of Takamisakari's facial expressions as the head judge explained the mono-ii for his bout. Now that I've got you all on the edge of your seats, let's get right to the bouts.

Rookie M16 Kitataiki's improbable march towards a kachi-koshi continued today thanks in large part to facing Juryo Toyozakura. Little Zak shifted right at the tachi-ai and offered one of those phantom downward swipes at Kitataiki's chest, and it was all Kitataiki could do to keep from laughing as he shoved Toyozakura out with ease. I can remember some sickly bouts from Kitataiki, and his left knee is injured, but I'll be damned if he isn't 7-6 now.

M13 Chiyohakuho was ready for M14 Kimurayama to henka to his left, so he greeted him with a right inashi push to the side and as he grabbed a left outer grip on his compromised opponent, he easily escorted him back and out in front of the head judge...who obviously wasn't doing his job so far as we've had two bouts already with no false starts. Back to the actual bout, Mainoumi commented afterwards, "Chiyohakuho knew exactly what was coming at the tachi-ai." Yeah...everyone does, and there is no way Kimurayama (7-6) can survive in this division if he continues to henka to his left every time. There's some slow 'uns down in these parts, but they'll eventually figger it out. Chiyohakuho is still a disappointing 5-8.

In an ugly affair, M14 Takekaze had M12 Tamanoshima back-pedaling from the start and the deep left inside position to boot thanks to a stupid pull attempt from Peter, but Takekaze abandoned his charge when Tamanoshima showed the least bit of resistance and allowed the action to return to the center of the ring. Takekaze pressed the action again by trying a silly swipe downwards at Tamanoshima's dickey-do that created some separation, and as the rikishi hooked back up Takekaze had the left inside position again, but he opted to put his right arm high around Tamanoshima's neck as if to threaten the neck throw. Stupid move as Tamanoshima wrapped his opponent up in a bear hug and threw him to the dirt with ease. You can see why Tamanoshima owns Takekaze's ass after this bout. Both rikishi are 7-6.

M15 Tamawashi shifted to his left at the tachi-ai, but the move was slow as hell and M11 Takamisakari was able to gain morozashi from the charge. The Robocop immediately went for a right scoop throw that Tamawashi countered with a left kotenage sending both rikishi crashing to the dirt in unison. The gunbai went in favor of Tamawashi, but Tamawashi's right hand clearly touched down first (you could tell from live TV the first time around), so a mono-ii was called where the judges sorted it all out and declared Takamisakari the winner. NHK showed a close up of Gump's puzzled face as the explanation was given and then showed him trying to climb back up on the dohyo in the correct location sending a roar of laughter through the crowd. Why was everyone laughing? Let me just say if you have a few odd screws lying around your house they probably came from inside Takamisakari's head. When all was said and done, the aftermath provided some entertainment to the usual dreary first-half bouts. Takamisakari kachi-koshi interview hopes are still alive as the Cop moves to 6-7 while Tamawashi is prolly a goner at 4-9.

m11 Yoshikaze easily took care of injured m15 Kasugao using a cautious but effective tsuppari attack into the Korean's chest sending him back and out in short order. Nothing more to say here other than Kasugao is and lame duck doling out the wins. Yoshikaze keeps hope alive at 6-7 while Kasugao is 1-12.

M10 Futenoh gained the early right inside position against Tochinoshin and quickly grabbed a right outer grip as well, but it was only one fold of the belt rendering Futenoh's initial force-out charge ineffective thanks to a good right inside counter position from the Georgian. Futenoh wisely reloaded, and this time he made sure he had all of the folds of Tochinoshin's belt with the right hand, and once secured, he lifted up with that right outer, kept Tochinoshin upright with the left inside position, and forced his opponent back and out to perfection. Tochinoshin never relented nor let go of Futenoh even after he was pushed out, so the result was a Futenoh yori-kiri on the dohyo followed by a yori-taoshi on the arena floor. Too bad this wasn't professional wrestling or the skank accompanying Futenoh would have come over and added insult to injury by bashing Tochinoshin with a folding chair. Sucks for us. Futenoh moves to 9-4 while Shin still has hope at 7-6.

With kachi-koshi in hand for M9 Wakanosato and M16 Kakizoe standing at 7-5, Croconosato gave a half-hearted charge standing upright and offering a lame pull of Sweet Zoe Jane's head. As if on cue (literally), Kakizoe pushed Wakanosato back and out with no resistance securing kachi-koshi in the process. Both rikishi are 8-5.

M9 Hokutoriki greeted M16 Kokkai with a moro-te tachi-ai that the Georgian countered with a long right arm of his own into Hokutoriki's neck, but Hokutoriki painted the house swiping Kokkai's arm away sending the Georgian stumbling a bit. As Kokkai regained his footing, Hokutoriki greeted him with another two hands to the neck, and as Kokkai tried to hold his ground, you could see his feet slipping backwards little by little sending him off balance, so Hokutoriki just slapped him down for there. Jokutoriki picks up kachi-koshi for his efforts while Kokkai falls to 7-6.

Just when you thought M6 Toyohibiki was back down in friendlier parts facing M12 Dejima today, the Dejyptian exhibited a pure tachi-ai henka to his right slapping the Hutt down as he charged forward into thin air. I guess someone who henka'd to win his only career yusho (yes, Dejima actually took the yusho once!) has no qualms about doing it to Toyo the Hutt. Both rikishi now stand at 7-6.

M3 Kyokutenho gave a half-assed effort at the tachi-ai allowing the injured M8 Masatsukasa to grab the deep inside position on the right, and before Kyokutenho could counter, Masatsukasa pulled the trigger on a scoop throw that caused Kyokutenho to crumple over and put his right hand to the dohyo without putting up much of a fight. That had to have been the laziest sumo from Kyokutenho we've seen all basho, and that's saying something for the Chauffeur. Normally I'd say how can a veteran M3 lose his eighth at the hands of someone like Masatsukasa, but Tenho prolly wants nothing more to do with the jo'i. At 5-8 he'll get his wish if he a few more. Masatsukasa is 4-9.

The second half of the bouts got underway (I know...we're only half way there) with a bit of least in the eyes of M7 Tokitenku. Against M2 Kisenosato, Tokitenku had his right fist about 30 centimeters above the dohyo when the Kid charged, but as you often see, Tokitenku flinched by putting his right fist to the dirt even though he wasn't ready. Tokitenku stood up instinctively and raised his arms upwards as if to say either "do me now" or "I wasn't ready", but he clearly put both fists to the dirt, so he was fair game. Kisenosato actually whiffed on a right harite against his defenseless opponent which says a lot for the kind of basho he's had, but he figured it out from there easily pushing the compromised Tokitenku back and out. Tokitenku (4-9) was bewildered afterwards looking back and forth at the referee and the head judge (Takanohana), but how can he expect anyone to read his thoughts that he wasn't ready after he put both fists to the dirt? Who does he think he is... Roho? It's been miserable for both of these rikishi as the Kid improves to 5-8.

M1 Miyabiyama played his pull card just after the tachi-ai against M6 Tochiohzan, and while Oh did survive the initial move, he was too afraid to get in close on Miyabiyama in fear of being pulled again, so he countered the only way he could by offering a pull attempt of his own. So back and forth the two went playing cat and mouse while alternating pull attempts against each other. Miyabiyama's girth was the difference in this one as Tochiohzan could never get in close enough to pull the Sheriff down, and about 10 seconds into the bout, Miyabiyama delivered a sideways forearm shimmy into Tochiohzan (5-8) that sent him off balance and basically stumbling to the dirt on his own. Ugly stuff here, but Martin lives to see another day in terms of our bet. I've already sent his ballerina costume to the cleaners, so the Sheriff better cooperate and lose his final two bouts or I'm out 450 yen for the cleaning bill.

Komusubi Asasekiryu charged low as he is wont to do, but M4 Tochinonada seemed to know exactly what was coming because he used a left elbow to slam at the side of Asasekiryu's shoulder while pulling down at the other shoulder with his right hand sending Sexy (4-9) down to his knees a second into the affair. The Gentle Giant moves to 5-8 with the win.

M4 Aminishiki was quite animated at the starting lines leaning forward as if he couldn't wait to get at Komusubi Baruto, but that act usually means a henka is coming. It didn't today, however, as Ami charged straight into Baruto's chest, but since that is nigh unto running into a brick wall, the Estonian wasn't moved back even a half a step. Baruto swiped Aminishiki to the side and then as Aminishiki turned around and looked to square back up with the Komusubi, Baruto shoved a right paw into Aminishiki's throat and used it to push the M4 out of the dohyo in one fell swoop. If you administer a choke hold and your opponent's leg kicks straight up into the air as Aminishiki's did today, you know you just kicked his ass. Both rikishi are barely alive at 6-7.

M1 Kotoshogiku has owned Sekiwake Ama in the past, but those numbers don't matter these days as the Geeku has fallen and can't get up while Ama has established himself as the next Ozeki. Ama opened with a lightening quick left hari-te that connected squarely and kept the Geeku upright just enough that Ama was able to lunge into the moro-zashi position. Ama pressed the action straightway, but Kotoshogiku nearly burned him with a counter kote-nage throw. Ama survived the move and wisely repositioned his hands making sure he had solid grips and was grounded firmly to the dohyo before attempting charge number two. It worked to perfection as Ama forced Kotoshogiku back to the straw and then offered a few ironic belly shoves to finish him off. At 11-2, Ama is just one behind the leader in the yusho race, but more important than that was the win itself. When a rikishi begins a run at Ozeki, every win past ten is vital because that's just one less win you'll need at the next basho. Ama went 10-5 in Nagoya and now has 11 wins in Aki. An Ozeki theoretically needs 33 wins over three basho, so the last thing Ama wants is the necessity to go 12-3 in Kyushu. Get these last two wins and then worry about getting 11 in Kyushu (I don't think they'd promote him with just 10). Winning 10 from the sanyaku is one thing, but every win beyond that is five times as hard as the first 10 were. Kotoshogiku's make-koshi becomes official at 5-8.

In the Ozeki ranks, Chiyotaikai's tsuppari attack didn't exactly drive M5 Kakuryu back, but the rapid paws to the face caused the Kak to close his eyes and bob his head around in hopes that the Ozeki wouldn't connect squarely. Chiyotaikai realized his opponent couldn't see and stepped in quickly pulling him down by the back of the neck for the easy win...and? Yes, kachi-koshi. The Kak dribbles to 6-7 with the loss.

In the strangest tachi-ai of the basho, Ozeki Kotooshu stood straight up and kept both arms down at waist level while M5 Goeido charged with his head down never making clean contact as the Ozeki caught Goeido's right arm with his left hand and kept him from getting on the inside. It was almost as if Kotooshu went Tokitenku and thought the tachi-ai wasn't clean, but it was game on so with the rikishi separated, there was only one way the bout could proceed: Goeido attempting to get back on the inside while Kotooshu fought him off threatening pull attacks in the process with his long arms. The two circled around the dohyo with Goeido trying to pounce on the inside while Kotooshu buffeted the attack slapping at Goeido's head. At one point, Goeido ducked his head as low as he dared and tried to get at the Ozeki's belt, but Kotooshu used a nice left arm on the inside to stand Goeido back up before pushing him over onto his ass with a solid right shove ending an awkward bout for all involved. At 7-6 Kotooshu can see the light while Goeido is stuck on nine wins.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki probably committed a false start as he jumped the gun a half second early against Sekiwake Toyonoshima, but the bout wasn't called back giving Kotomitsuki the clear momentum. The Ozeki drove Toyonoshima back quickly as the Sekiwake tried in vain to gain some sort of inside position. He finally got morozashi at the edge and immediately pivoted to his left as he sent Kotomitsuki flying off the dohyo with a left scoop throw, but the problem was Toyonoshima planted his left foot outside of the dohyo when he went for the throw attempt giving Kotomitsuki his eleventh win and leaving him in a tie with Ama for second place. Like his rival Kotoshogiku, Toyonoshima also suffered his eighth loss today against five wins.

In the final bout of the day, Yokozuna Hakuho used is usual passive tachi-ai opting not to lunge forward, but Ozeki Kaio did the same thing creating a strange start where neither rikishi was pressing into the other. The two stood in the center of the ring testing the waters with occasional shoves as Hakuho looked for any sort of opening while Kaio was busy warding off the Yokozuna's busy hands. After about five seconds of inaction, Hakuho finally lunged forward getting his left arm on the inside of the Ozeki. Kaio attempted to counter by holding Hakuho's right arm away from his belt, but the Yokozuna proved too strong demanding the right outer grip in the end. That was all she wrote as Hakuho swiftly forced Kaio back and out for the decisive victory. The win pushes Hakuho to 12-1 and keeps him in first place while Kaio couldn't care less with his 8-5 record in hand.

Heading into the weekend, the leaderboard shapes up like this:

12-1 Hakuho
11-2 Kotomitsuki, Ama

Ama is on such a roll right now that I think he wins out. Hakuho has the two Sadogatake Ozeki left to fight, which could get interesting if the pair wants to get sneaky and pull a henka or two at the tachi-ai against the Yokozuna. I wouldn't put it past them, but the way Hakuho has been in control of his tachi-ai, it shouldn't matter. Still, a three-way playoff for the yusho is definitely not out of the question. All I ask is straight up sumo from the parties involved. Yeah right.

Martin deals tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Slowly but surely, the pretenders are dropping off and the cream is rising to the top. Not that Goeido is chump change, but the company he's in is pretty darn good. As we hit the final stretch, the key bouts are fewer but all the more telling. 

Top dog Hakuho weathered Chiyotaikai's successive nodowa attempts (which weren't too bad). Eventually though he got a left inside grip and flipped the Ozeki with a judo-like shitate-nage at ring's edge. Hakuho tops the leaderboard at 11-1 while Taikai (7-5) is denied his eighth win. 

Kotomitsuki greeted Toyohibiki with a nice slap to the face to set the tone. Then he immediately deployed a well executed kata-sukashi, a maneuver in which a rikishi pushes down on the back of the neck while hooking the armpit of the opponent on the other side. Mitsuki stays one back in the loss column at 10-2 while Toyohibiki (7-5) also is denied majority wins. 

Kotooshu failed to stop the Ama's march toward Ozeki. The mighty mite engaged with a stiff nodowa from the right and used that pressure against Oshu in a subsequent pull. This brought Oshu stumbling toward the tawara, at which point Ama was right there to usher him out. Ama also is one back of the lead at 10-2 while Kotooshu is struggling at 6-6. 

The embattled Kaio put upstart Goeido in his place. Only one hand touched a belt in this match, and it was Goeido getting an inside left on Kaio. But the pace was fast and Kaio (of all rikishi when the pace is fast) kept sufficient pressure on the young lad to eventually win via sukui-nage (scoop throw). 

Down in the ranks, only one rikishi notched the critical eight victory today. It was Wakanosato over Kokkai in a battle of 7-5 hopefuls. 

Hakuho at 11-1 is three days away from another cup. Kotomitsuki and Ama at 10-2 are giving chase, but it will be a tall order to turn this around. Goeido at 9-3 is mathematically still in it, but you can pretty much count him out. Ama goes against nemesis Kotoshogiku tomorrow, a rikishi that he is only 4-13 against in his career. If he can weather that, he can only wait for Hakuho to drop one in the final days.

Day 11 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
I wear my heart on my sleeve and I do not mice words. I love wine, women and song, and I hate the NSK. My hatred has as many reasons as there are stars in the heavens, but allow me to expound on just two. Don't bother skipping this intro to get to the fights cause I'll tell you right now that today sucked donkey tail.

Reason the first- Being really good at a sport in no way qualifies you to manage or officiate that sport. Watch just one evening of ESPN and you will see that many pro athletes are as dumb as those guys who go into unrelated discussion boards and passionately argue for hours about the origins of life. Look at the "Dai Yokozunas" in another sport, guys like Magic Johnson, Mike Tyson and OJ Simpson. These men each dominated their sports in ways that had previously not been imagined but I'm not sure that any of them could hold down a $4.50 job at McDonalds. These are the men who are running sumo!! Guys who only qualification was a solid tachi-ai are coaches, managers, ticket agents, security guards, parental figures, owners, trainers, writers, agents, board members and judges. They run every aspect of the sport (I know some of you Geeky-Gyjin don't like it when someone calls sumo a sport so HERE is a manga link and HERE are some kanji for you to study, so run along.). I am not saying that all athletes are stupid, that former athletes shouldn't be involved in their sport or that sumo should be run like other sports. But in a country full of intelligent, creative people with a high moral fabric is this the best sumo can get?

Reason the second- Conflict of interest. In any other sport an athlete having a beer with a freakin' linesmen the night before a game would be a conflict of interest issue. How can we expect any semblance of fairness when the same men are coaches, managers, ticket agents, security guards, parental figures, owners, trainers, writers, agents, board members and judges???

There are many MANY confusing levels of interest in sumo (ALL of which are destructive), but the most blatant would be a bout where the man making the final call has lived with one of the fighters for 10+ years and has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the fight. How can anyone think this is an unbiased system? Is ANYONE so stupid as to believe this is honest? This system would work for Church league softball at best.

Sumo is run by a group of selfish and stupid men who will do anything to keep their own hands on it. They would ruin sumo with a smile before ever willfully relinquishing control. Like Mambo no.5 Sumo has been declining in popularity for 9 years now and NOTHING has been done to combat it. Lots of smart people inside and outside of Japan have been making suggestions for each of those 9 years, but they always falls on deaf ears. They don't need change, in fact "change" is the opposite of what they want. Self-preservation, baby! Stagnant, blinders on, business as usual is exactly what they are striving for.

The Ministry of Ed. and the citizens of Japan need to force major change upon sumo asap. With good reason respect for and interest in sumo is at an all time low. Something needs to be done to save sumo from itself. Adding 3 outsiders to a 10-member board isn't even a start. Let's look at 9 or 10. Sumo needs outsiders (and I'm not talking about D-list quazzi celebs like manga writers) with expertise in marketing, management, business and ethics to regain the respect and interest of the public and once again become a spectacle that Japan takes pride in.

Yesterday I really was at a hula shin-dig (Note the classy-ass Yebisu beer and splendor at my sweet Chops!! RIP Awase!) and in all the excitement I forgot to record sumo. The day before that I was too busy to watch sumo and the day before that too. There was a time when this would never have happened, but now with the state of sumo and the state of this joke of a basho, missing a few days isn't really fazing me. Sad. I love sumo, so I hate the NSK for what they are doing to it.

Yikes, went to a dark place there didn't I?? Anywho, let's get this report under way. Smoke it if you got it!

Before I get the ball rolling, please understand that I am not going to mention "fisting problems" but once so please cut and paste the following before 80% of the matches- "After several unnecessary false start that made me a none to pleasurable combination of pissed off and bored ...". You can pick at random what matches you put it in front of, cause that's how the judges are doing it ... 

In the first 4 fights Takekaze, Kitataikai, Chiyohakuho and Dejima (!?) henkaed Kasuganishiki, Tamawashi, Kasugao and Kimurayama. Can I get a barf-bag and Kitanoumi back? 

In the first fight of the day which the fighters actually fought Yoshikaze did, of course, attempt the henka but was pulled back by the ref. The next time, deciding to actually make contact with his opponent, he did, and promptly lost to Kakizoe.

Honkies Tochinoshin and Kokkai gave us the first fight that didn't suck of the day (and there weren't many) with a nifty little belt battle. Kokkai won the tachi-ai but Shin fought back and eventually worked both hands to the inside and yorkiried his fellow countrymen to loss no. 4. No worries, both these ivory delights are doing the race proud.

Having bitch slapped every member of the NSK I could find for the past few days, I thought it might be better to lie low in the hotel till the heat cooled down. So today I was watching on NHK (along with dozens of other fans who still give a rats ass about this basho). But at this point NHK interrupted with one of their (usually unnecessary) "breaking news" updates. This time it was the swearing in of a new Prime Minister. Sure in most countries that's a big deal. But here in Japan it happens every few weeks, and New Guy (Aso) has unsuccessfully tried to be the New Guy the past 3 or 4 times. I think the concretive catholic who once praised Japan for having "one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture and one race", was just next in line. On the bright side his mouth is all gimped up like former Canadian PM Jean Chretien, and he was always good for a lark. Once 'Pulling a Roho' he quipped of Canadian decriminalization, "I don't know what is marijuana. Perhaps I will try it when it will no longer be criminal. I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand". Ahhhh, good times!

So while that rapidly graying newsman was explaining how ABSOUTLY NOTHING is going to change I went looking for the live stream that the NSK have generously bestowed upon us. I missed the Hokutoriki/Futenoh fight but Hokutoriki lost and that the main thing.

I have watched the live stream many times before, but for some reason every time I tune in I am surprised at how comically poor the quality is. Go watch something on Youtube, but this time go to the far side of the room and poke yourself in the eyes really hard. That's what it looks like. But I did my best to record what I saw.

Takamisakari vs. Masasukasa. Maybe Takami did some stuff and Masatsukasa fell down ... no wait he didn't. And then something happened and Takami lost.

Tamanoshima vs. Tochiohzan. There was some kind of tachi-ai. They pushed a lot. I think there may have been a duck on the dohyo? Then I lost track of who was who. Then someone pulled someone down and they announced that Tamanoshima won.

Thanks NSK. You really shouldn't have!

Then my TV coverage came back a s Kakuryu stood Wakanosato up at the tachi-ai with tsupari and pushed him back to the straw. But Sato went for a last prayer pull that was effective enough to get Kak off him. Then it was Sato's turn to push the Kak across the ring. At the straw Kak also went for the pull and Wakanosato fell to the ground as Kak stepped out. A mono-ii was called and they put the "W" back in Wakanosato. 

Tokitenku came out looking to push Kyokutenho whilst Tenho was thinking belt all the way. Tokitenku's shoves were weathered well by Kyokutenho who eventually grabbed himself some belt and backed Tokitenku up only to pull him into an uwatedashinage loss.

After an understandably cautious tachi-ai, the Geeku gave morozashi to Amaasshole who picks up a rare henkaless win.

Kissy looked good today (his only good fights this basho have been on my days ... too bad I don't report 9 or 10 times) against Asasekiryu.  Using an inside left he stayed in close, smothering the Secretary, and taking her to lunch.

Bart, not feeling that he could climb Mt. Miyabi without a little help, went for a useless henka that gave him absolutely no advantage. Miyabi started tsuppari that couldn't move Bart a millimeter. And then, as Miyabi went for a pull, Bart realized "Hey, I'm so much younger, bigger and stronger than this dude" and promptly pushed him out. Bart gets his 4th while Miyabi is still stuck at 3 wins.

(To all of you who were complaining about Ama henkaing today- I have frame by framed this exactly one time more than any of you [unless you're bigger geeks that I already think you are]. He didn't henka. He is just that fast. He had a grip on the back of Shima's Mawashi before the little butterball even moved a foot. I can't even say that there was a serious side step because his first step was directly ON the white line. Compare that with Ozekis Kotooshu, Kaio and our sole Yokozuna who all strayed well to the side of white line with their first steps. Sure he was trying to get to the side, but strategy does not a henka make) Ama took a very deep outside right from the tachi-ai and grabbed Toyonoshima's leg with his left looking to pick up a quickey. But Shima's balance was great and he brought the bout to a long stalemate in the middle of the ring. However with that deep grip Ama would be very difficult for any man to beat, and the Shima was felled with our second uwatedashinage.

Other than the premature but huge main-event, the fight I was looking forward to the most today was the Toyohibiki/KotoShoe mach up. The Sakaigawa upstarts have been fighting well lately, and a win here would be the biggest of Big Red's career. Unfortunately this fight unfolded just like Martin envisioned it in his wet dream last night- Koto absorbed a good tachi-ai, took an inside right/outside left and executed a super sexy uwatenage. It was so smooth and effortless that he may as well have been throwing scrawny Mike and not a 380+ pounder.

Loving his tachi-ai games and not putting his right (right in front of the head judges face) anywhere near the ground, Kotomitsuki pretty much got a free shot at Tochinonada and came out like Ben Johnson a la 1988 (ironic that the fights that actually should be started over aren't, no?) He slammed into Nada who didn't have time to move an inch past the white line and easily forced him out.

There is something nostalgic, curious, and dare I say heart warming about the bimonthly Kaio/Chiyotaikai match ... kind of like watching your grandparents French kiss. Usually one of them has to "do a solid" for the other who is making his bibasho limp for a KK. But both dudes have been putting together solid KK's (sometimes even getting more than 8 wins) for a few basho now. So was the fighting today any less "cooperative" than usual? Hard to say for sure, but these guys take very good care of each other (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Chiyo was all, "I'm I'm gunna push you back to Fukuoka. Push. Push. PULL!! Psyc! Hahaha!" Kaio was all, "NOOOOoooo o o". Tune in next basho when I will make my annual prediction that this will be Kaio's last Kyushu basho. You won't want to miss it!

Because the NSK has no interest in making sumo exciting for their customers, leaders Hakuho and Goeido squared off today (about 4 days earlier than it should have been). Perhaps Goeido spent too much time making a "Thank You" card for Mr. Shoryu out of macaroni and glitter because I'm not sure that he came in with any game plan whatsoever. From the tachi-ai he closed his eyes and after taking a harite buried his head in Hack's chest and kept it there till Hack spun backwards and pushed him down with an easy tsukitoshi. I know Hack must be a beast to fight and Goeido is young, but I was expecting a little more sprit from Goeido. Hack played it very safe today and after the fight had a senshuraku "I did it" type grin on his face. 

Congrats on the yusho Mr. Hakuho. I think I'll be forgetting to record sumo another time or 3 this week week ...

Tomorrow will have a lot of crap sumo too. Shoe and Ama should have to fight best 4 out of 7 just to give the fans a chance at getting their money's worth. 

Kenji expects you all to bring your indoor slippers tomorrow. And watch the blogs for a letter I'm writing to Asashoryu that will show up sometime between basho.

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Apologies for the interruptions in the reporting schedule. Alex's day 8 has been resent and posted in order, and Kenji, who was shipped off to Europe for a week, has come through with some emotional day 9 comments. The important news stemming from day 9 was that Ama henka'd Asashoryu in their bout handing the Yokozuna his fourth loss. A Yokozuna with four losses in 9 days withdraws from a basho no questions asked, and while Asashoryu no longer had a chance to yusho after day 9, he still had a chance to hand Hakuho a loss on senshuraku, a scenario that would have made what's left of the yusho race more compelling. But Asa is gone after yet another lackluster performance. Today at the beginning of the broadcast, Mainoumi talked about Asashoryu and speculated that the Yokozuna has lost his "kan" or ring sense. Others have commented that Asashoryu's will to win is no longer there. I really couldn't disagree with either of those statements as the Yokozuna as not been the same rikishi since returning from that two basho ban last year.

On that somber note, let's get to the action where M16 Kokkai picked up his 7th win today by outlasting M15 Tamawashi in a tsuppari affair.  The problem with the Georgian's sumo, however, was his backpedaling as he delivered his thrusts. The results of course was an eventual pull-down of the rookie, so while Kokkai gets the win, it was bad sumo. It's called a lower body dude. Kokkai will get thrashed higher in the ranks if he continues to fight only from the waist up. Tamawashi falls to 4-6.

M15 Kasugao picked up his first win in Aki practically when Kitazakura showed up from Juryo to face him. The Duck walked right into a Kasugao left outer grip, so the Korean pivoted to his side and yanked Kitazakura towards the edge with the belt grip while adding emphasis by pulling at the back of Kitazakura's head. Both rikishi are now 1-9.

M13 Kitataiki somehow stood at 4-2 after six days despite an injured left knee, but the leg just won't let him mount a sufficient offensive attack to add to that win total. Today against the veteran Tamakasuga, visiting from Juryo, it was KingTama forcing the action using his pesky tsuppari attack that Kitataiki could only try and dodge as he evaded around the ring hoping for an opening or a chance at a pulldown. About 10 seconds in, Kitataiki did time a few tsuppari of his own that had Tamakasuga on the brink, but Kitataiki was reaching with the tsuppari instead of using that lower body to drive Tamakasuga back with the shoves. The result was the veteran Tamakasuga taking advantage of his wounded opponent and slapping him down in the end. Kitataiki (4-6) has now lost four straight.

M16 Kakizoe managed to get both arms on the inside against M12 Tamanoshima at the tachi-ai, but Tamanoshima used his size advantage to pinch inwards on both of Kakizoe's arms from the outside and lift up on his smaller opponent. With Kakizoe completely neutralized, Tamanoshima swung him over towards the edge and forced him out of the ring via kime-dashi, a technique reminiscent of former Ozeki Takanonami. Both rikishi are 5-5.

M12 Dejima hit M14 Takekaze fairly well at the tachi-ai, but his head was too low to keep up with Takekaze as he evaded to his left. After going for a quick pull-attempt (which Dejima didn't capitalize on because he wasn't watching), Takekaze dipped under his opponent and grapped morozashi. Dejima attempted to pinch inwards on Takekaze's arms just like the last bout, but since there is not a huge size difference between these two, Dejima couldn't win the bout with the maneuver. Takekaze also wasn't able to charge, so there the two stood in the middle of the ring with Takekaze enjoying the morozashi, prolly cause his face was right close to Dejima's rack. So there the two stood for over a minute while I rifled through my CD collection and put on some Lynryd Skynyrd. Just as the final riffs of Freebird concluded, I looked back at the TV just in time to see Takekaze release his moro-zashi position and use his left arm to drag Dejima towards the edge. Dejima's only resistance was a weak pull attempt that Takekaze needed to push the former Ozeki back across the edge. Both rikishi are 5-5.

M14 Kimurayama backed up a step at the starting lines against M10 Futenoh, a move that makes no sense if you're going to shift to your left because it gives your opponent more time to see you move. Futenoh wasn't fooled a bit and rammed hard into Kimurayama and used his left arm to shove Kimurayama sideways and down to the dirt in about two seconds. Good stuff from Futenoh who moves to 7-3 while Kimurayama cools a bit at 6-4. Kimurayama got out to a fast start last basho as well only to blow it in the end and make-koshi.

M9 Hokutoriki is on a bit of a roll this basho, which means he's ranked low enough to take advantage of younger rikishi with his shenanigan sumo. Today at the tachi-ai against M13 Chiyohakuho, he just reached at the back of Chiyohakuho's head with both hands and yanked the youngster down to the dirt in one second. Stop the tape, however, because Chiyohakuho went into acting mode and fiddled with the back of his mage as he looked at the head judge. So what does the head judge do? Calls a mono-ii of course. Great. An M13 with just two basho in the division can look for and get a judges conference, while a Yokozuna with 22 career yusho can't. Of course the head judge on hand was Hanaregoma-oyakata. After watching the replay in slow motion, the left fingers of Hokutoriki's left hand did get caught in the back of Chiyohakuho's hair, but he didn't use that to win the bout, and there was separation as Hokutoriki pulled his opponent downward. No harm no foul, so the judges made the correct choice in not disqualifying Jokutoriki who moves to 7-3. Chiyohakuho is 3-7.

M9 Wakanosato's charge was timid against M11 Yoshikaze, probably due to fear of being henka'd, so he never had his footing under him properly as Yoshikaze first stood him upright with some nodowa shoves, and then pulled him off balance with a yank at the Crocodile's left arm setting Wakanosato up to be slapped to the dirt without argument. Getting schooled by Yoshikaze has gotta sting as Wakanosato falls to 6-4. Cafe is 4-6.

M8 Masatsukasa charged into M10 Tochinoshin with his head staring straight down allowing Shin to grab the easy left outer grip. Masatsukasa countered with the right on the inside, but since Tochinoshin (6-4) is the larger rikishi, his outer grip was insurmountable as he methodically wrenched Masatsukasa back towards the ring before forcing him across. Masatsukasa suffers make-koshi with the loss at 2-8.

M11 Takamisakari slammed into M6 Tochiohzan at the tachi-ai and immediately latched onto a left frontal grip. Tochiohzan attempted to counter with the morozashi position, but Takamisakari grabbed a right frontal grip as well completely handcuffing Oh's hands inwards. Takamisakari wasted no time in lifting up at Tochiohzan's belt as he drove him back and out of the ring easy peasy with the dual front belt grips. Good stuff from Takamisakari as both rikishi now rest on 4-6 records.

As much as I disapprove of M4 Aminishiki's sumo, at least he charged hard and straight into M6 Toyohibiki using a moro-te charge. The Hutt countered well however, using two hands of his own to Ami's throat forcing Sneaky to evade to his right hoping to pull at Toyohibiki's right arm to throw him off balance, but Toyohibiki squared back up with his opponent and delivered a final dual tsuppari that sent Aminishiki back across the straw. Love to see Aminishiki get his ass kicked like this as the Hutt moves to 7-3. Aminishiki is 4-6, and you have to root for a make-koshi so he doesn't get a special prize for henka'ing a Yokozuna.

M7 Tokitenku used a nice throat shove at the tachi-ai against M4 Tochinonada pushing the gentle giant back dangerously to the straw, but Nada dug in nicely and finally warded off the shove grabbing a left inside grip in the process. Now in control of the bout, Tochinonada forced the action back into the center of the ring where both rikishi dug in as Tokitenku hunkered down driving his head into Tochinonada's chest. After about a minute of non-action with Tokitenku playing hard to get, Tochinonada finally made his advance lifting up at Tenku's belt with the left hand forcing him back towards the edge. Tokitenku offered a leg trip in the process, but it only threw him off balance more rendering him the easy force-out fodder in the end. Both rikishi are 3-7.

M3 Kyokutenho simply lollygagged at the tachi-ai sorta fishing for a left outer grip, but his indifference allowed M5 Kakuryu to lunge into the morozashi position. Kakuryu wasted no time using his legs on the inside of Tenho's to throw him off balance before continuing to pester his opponent by going for the uchi-muso where he pushed inwards at the Chauffeur's inner thigh (fresh!!). Kyokutenho is not one to be taken advantage of so easily, so he all but gave up as the Kak (6-4) forced him back across the straw for the dominating yori-kiri win. Kyokutenho falls to 3-7.

A compelling matchup between two rikishi underachieving this basho saw M2 Kisenosato use a nice moro-te charge into Komusubi Baruto's neck standing him upright a bit before the two finally settled into the hidari-yotsu position where both rikishi enjoyed outer grips. Kisenosato forced the action first pushing into Baruto's dickey-do with the left hand while pulling up on Bart's belt with the right outer grip, but Baruto dug in well and as he retreated to the edge, he planted well and committed on a left inside throw. The Kid accepted the challenge throwing with the right outer grip setting up the classic nage-no-uchi-ai (both rikishi committing on throws at the edge) which Baruto won in strong fashion largely because Kisenosato had only one fold of Baruto's belt. Both rikishi are 3-7. As an aside, if you are a man wondering if you have an official beer belly or not, take this simple test at home: stand upright while naked and look down towards your feet. Does your gut stick out farther than your dickey do?

In a classless bout, Komusubi Asasekiryu committed two false starts against M1 Miyabiyama and then rewarded the Sheriff with a tachi-ai henka to his left when the two charged for real easily pulling Miyabiyama down to the dirt. Just what I love to see from sanyaku rikishi! Thanks for nothing Asasekiryu. For all I care you can go straight to...oh wait. I retract the previous statement because the cheap win hands Miyabiyama his seventh loss leaving him at 3-7. You'll recall the bet Martin and I made prior to the basho regarding the number of wins Miyabiyama would get. After an improbable 3-3 start, I now remind Martin that his fella is 3-7. Mess with the bull and you get the horns my friend.

Rivals Sekiwake Toyonoshima and M2 Kotoshogiku renewed their friendship today that saw the Geeku continue his domination by brilliantly keeping his right arm inwards as he crashed his chest into his opponent at the tachi-ai completely taking away Toyonoshima's attempt at moro-zashi. The Sekiwake responded with a left nodowa, but Kotoshogiku just grabbed the limb and used it to shove Toyonoshima over to the side securing the right inside position in the process. Toyonoshima was in trouble and really did the only thing he could going for a maki-kae bringing his left arm from the outside to the inside, and while successful, a rikishi compromises his strength with the move, and Kotoshogiku was able to belly-shove Toyonoshima across the straw for the shweet win. Great stuff from the Geeku who evens things up at 5-5 while Toyonoshima falls to 4-6.

In our first battle of Ozeki this basho, Kotomitsuki pounded Chiyotaikai from the tachi-ai driving his beefy paws into Chiyotaikai's neck that had the Pup pushed back a few steps. Chiyotaikai attempted to counter by lowering his head and driving back into his opponent, but Kotomitsuki read the move perfectly and shifted to his right offering an inashi push at Chiyotaikai's side setting up the slapdown win in about four seconds. Kotomitsuki clinches kachi-koshi with the win and keeps himself one loss off the yusho pace. Chiyotaikai should survive at 6-4.

In our second battle of Ozeki featuring Kaio and Kotooshu, the Bulgarian was a full step late at the tachi-ai but still pounded his left fist to the dirt after Kaio had committed. The result was Kaio stepping forward and grabbing the easy right grip, and he masterfully kept Kotooshu upright enough with the left inside position on the other side allowing him to swing Kotooshu around towards the edge and walk him across the straw with ease. As I've mentioned all along this basho, I think this adjustment to the new tachi-ai standard has befuddled Kotooshu because he was completely lost at today's charge and paid for it too. He now stands at 5-5 while the Godfather creeps closer to kachi-koshi at 7-3.

The featured matchup of the day was of course the Yokozuna Hakuho - Sekiwake Ama duel, and the rikishi added to the tension in the air with two false starts. The third time was a charm as Ama opened with two nodowa shoves, but Hakuho countered quickly with a right arm around Ama's left threatening a kote-nage throw. At this point both rikishi settled into the hidari-yotsu position, but the Yokozuna wouldn't stay put long executing the fastest maki-kae I have every seen briefly grabbing the moro-zashi position. Ama tried to counter the move with a maki-kae of his own, but as mentioned before, to perform a maki-kae you have to sacrifice a bit of positioning and strength, and Hakuho seized the opportunity lifting Ama over to the edge of the dohyo with his left hand and sending him across for good in the most important bout of the basho.

This was just incredible sumo from the Yokozuna who had picked up on the lightening-quick adjustments mid-bout where Asashoryu left off. As the two rikishi headed back to the hanamichi, the NHK reporters gathered comments from both rikishi. Hakuho simply mentioned, "I got the mawashi." Damn straight. This guy is proving to be even better than Takanohana when it comes to win percentage after grabbing the opponent's mawashi. As for Ama, he offered, "I just wasn't in synch at the tachi-ai." Ama lost but shouldn't hang his head. He's still in the yusho race at just two losses with his toughest competition behind him. Ozeki talk officially starts again now. As for Hakuho, he has just faced his best competition of the basho as well, so his chances of not taking the yusho are 10% if that.

As for Asashoryu, if you haven't heard the news, he withdrew after suffering his fourth loss to Ama yesterday. Goeido picks up the freebie against the Yokozuna today, but that has only invited big trouble the last few days. When a Yokozuna or Ozeki withdraws, they go down to the Maegashira ranks for a replacement, and Goeido is that man. He gets Hakuho tomorrow (no way he wins that), and then will likely face the four Ozeki the last four days. A 1-4 finish would be great; 2-3 would be fantastic.

As for Ama, his only hope is that someone takes down Hakuho. Still, at this point the Mongolian should be fighting for a 13-2 finish. He can handle the rest of his opponents and should finish around 12-3.

The basho has potential for an exciting finish if Goeido can score some upsets and someone takes down Hakuho (with a henka), but I don't expect anything other than a waltz from here out for our remaining Yokozuna.

Mark hula dances tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
This has been an interesting basho to say the least. Strange in a couple of respects. Through day 9, I'm perplexed and a little disappointed, as well as a bit irritated. Let me try to explain. Allow me to deviate from my traditional style of coverage to cover the emotions I'm speaking of. My point today is not to give you a summary of the top bouts. If you want that, here it is: Hakuho won and will eventually win the cup. Goeido won also to keep it interesting for the time being. In a rare feat, all four Ozeki managed to win..even Chiyotaikai despite a cowardly tachi-ai henka that he apologized to Miyabiyama for. So there. 

Let's start with upstart M5 Goeido, who is making a serious bid for he emperor's cup. He was matched with M10 Futenoh on this day. This match was representative of the increasingly irritating recent trend of the judges halting the initial clash in order to correct rikishi for not firmly placing both fists on the clay before the tachi-ai. After two matta to pick on Futenoh for violating this rule, the shinpan didn't call it a third time even though he didn't touch again. There's no consistency in this behavior from the judges. My conclusion is that they are happy with raising the awareness, but not interested in truly correcting the situation. But all that does is disrupt the concentration of both rikishi involved, not to mention the viewing pleasure of all the fans in the arena and TV viewers worldwide. Perhaps I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill here, but I will give you some more facts to back up my observations in the next bout.  As for this bout, it was a pretty good one. Futenoh got moro-zashi, got the upper hand and forced the issue with good pressure and a solid throw attempt. But when it's going good, it's going good for Goeido. He succeeded on a desperation kubi-nage (head lock throw), a last ditch move with a minuscule success rate, to improve to 8-1 while Futenoh falls to 6-3. 

And now for more irritation, along with the perplexed and disappointed referred to earlier. In the feature bout of the day, Asashoryu faced Sekiwake Ama, who is gunning for the cup himself. Coming in, Sho had reeled off 12 straight wins against Ama spanning approximately 2.5 years. That streak ended quite convincingly. But two distinct things happened in this bout that is worth noting. 

One, missing was Asashoryu's trademark "pivot and exaggerated mawashi slap" to get fired up for the bout prior to the final salt throw. As the commentators noted, this is pretty solid evidence that there is a rare mental lapse in Sho's game this basho. The bout that followed only proved that point, as Sho absolutely could not keep up with Ama's speed and got totally dominated and turned around for an easy okuri-dashi loss. I am perplexed by this behavior, and disappointed that the "r" word (retire) was raised as a possibility. I must confess, I have not been disciplined about following Sumo Talk's banter recently so this may be old news to everyone. But to even consider this as a possibility in Sho's physical prime would be a huge disappointment for me. 22 yusho like a rocket, only to come to a screeching halt like this? I guess it shows how hard it is to reach Chiyonofuji and Taiho's records of 30+ indeed. 

Not to make excuses for Sho, but the second notable thing that happened in this bout is that neither of Ama's fists CAME ANYWHERE NEAR touching the clay prior to the tachi-ai. And you guessed it, it was crickets from the stately shinpan staff. Pick on Futenoh for a questionable touchdown, but ignore a clear disregard for the rule in the form of Ama. But then again, when has Asashoryu ever caught a break from judges, fans, or the media alike? Yes, I'm bitter about it. And yes, I'll get over it. Thanks for listening. Wow, what a mood I'm in today. Hopefully I'll be back to standard for you all on day 12. See you soon.

Day 8 Comments (Alex Brohm reporting)
Hey, what's going on! It's not trash day yet, but the garbage man's here to try to make some sense of this rubbish. I hope you've all separated your bottles and cans.

Before we get started with the big show, I have a little something I'd like to share with you. It's an audio surveillance tape of Roho and Hakurozan from my close personal friend Michael Chertoff over at the Department of Homeland Security. They love to monitor foreigners and the LA jungyo was chock full of those pesky would-be saboteurs and no-goodniks.

Roho: Howdy, Yankee! We are two brothers which are Russian, and we can see by your black face and hippy hoppy clothes that you are a musician and a drug dealer.

Black man: Excuse me...

Roho: Now, with pleasantries out of the way, we is wondering if you are selling us a bag of grass which is ten percent of a bag of grass.

Black man: Thirty-nine ninety-five.

Roho: Sorry, maybe I should make self more better heard. You are giving us grass for twenty of your American dollars and we not be crushing you like paper cup. You are understanding, yes?

Black man: Will you be needing rolling papers with that?

Roho: Nya, ha, ha! We likes you very much! You have good sense of Russian business. Nya, ha, ha! Barman! Three vodkas! And one more for my new friend! Nya, ha, ha!

All right, now that that's out of my system. I spent a few minutes muttering to myself at about four o'clock today. Seems the majority party is having another one of their sham elections and everybody with a microphone wants to tell me about it. That's "great" but I want to watch sumo. So, if I'm a little off my game today, you know why.

Do you find yourself asking yourself, "Who the fug is that guy?" more than usual this basho? Well you're not alone, but I more often find myself asking, "How did they get into the Makuuchi?" and "When are they leaving?"

Kokkai - Kasuganishiki: Kokkai decided to grab his opponents mawashi for a change of pace. Kasuganishiki lost by yorikiri, and nobody cares.

Tamakasuga - Kasugao: Poor Kasugao got worked pretty hard by good ol' Tamakasuga. Kasugao was released from his misery by hataki-komi.

Tamanoshima - Kimurayama: New comer Kimurayama sukuinage'd Tamanoshima, and nobody cares.

Tamawashi - Dejima: Dejima isn't looking good this basho. He lost by oshidashi to upstart Tamawashi.

Tochinoshin- Takekaze: Tochinoshin is showing real strength this basho. He was in control from the beginning and he manhandled Takekaze out by yorikiri. 

Kakizoe - Futenoh: Now, this was an entertaining match. Kakky was very careful not to let Fruity get a hold by keeping his arms locked to his body and he desperately worked the Fruit-man out with a body torpedo. The gunbai pointed for Kak, but it looked like Kak in his desperation touched down first. A mono-ii was called and the judges were feeling generous and gave Kak a torinoshi.

At about this time, I was saying to myself, "Kakky can't keep Futenoh off his mawashi twice." But, to my shock, I saw such a similar shuffle between the two, that I thought it was another replay. But this replay ended with more Fruit freeing up his hands for a little tsuppari to set up Kak for yorikiri.

Kitataiki - Wakanosato: Wow! Wakanosato crushed a limping Kitataiki by yorikiri! Tell someone who cares.

Chiyohakuho - Masatsukasa: I was about to fall asleep right before this match. Masatsukasa broke his long losing streak against Chiyohakuho by playing defensively. He guarded his body while generating enough forward momentum to yorikiri.

Takamisakari - Tokitenku: Tokitenku fought, the man who suffers for our pleasure, Takamisakari! The bout was exciting and painful to watch. Takami suffered through massive tsuppari and nodowa attacks to grab a firm hold on Tokitenku. Toki struggled and got turned ninety degrees. Before I could say okuridashi, Tokitenku used his dirty feet to hook Takami off balance. Takami held on to Toki with his excellent grip till he was parallel with the dohyo. Before Toki rolled on top of him to signal it was finally time to let go and give up. Toki won with some crazy thing called a chongake.

Yoshikaze - Tochiohzan: Yoshikaze showed us how he keeps out of the juryo. He blasted right into Tochiohzan and sent him soaring through the air back to Kochi prefecture. They called it yorikiri.

Kakuryu - Toyohibiki: Kakuryu faced the massive half-beetle, half-truck abomination known by the name Toyohibiki. Kakuryu would have made a good bullfighter and he successfully misdirected the behemoth's first charge, but it quickly readjusted course and plowed Kakuryu off its turf oshidashi style.

Hokutoriki - Goeido: More pull-till-they-fall sumo from someone who can do better. Goeido hatakikomi'd Hokutoriki just long enough into the bout to prevent cries of henka. But he got no cheers either.

Kisenosato - Miyabiyama: Kissy did a good job showing why he is the true hope for a Japanese yokozuna. He played an unfriendly game of patty-slap with his playmate Miyabiyama, and utterly destroyed him. No mean feat, considering Miyabiyama lives and dies on his tsupparri. Pounded, pushed, oshidashi'd.

Kotoshogiku - Asasekiryu: In a surprise display of prowess, Kotoshogiku stopped Sekihan from getting an uwatenage and flipped him with tsukiotoshi.

Kaio - Kyokutenho: After getting some long loving from the "Girls of the Gobi" calendar models, Kaio is looking a younger and less bandaged up man. Though he doesn't have the win loss to show it, he's moving very deftly. Kaio took care of business today and got his arms around to get both hands locked on the back of Kyokutenho's mawashi and yorikiri'd him out without any trouble.

Tochinonada - Kotooshu: Kotooshu woke up today and remembered that he has a wife and six cups of yogurt to support with his sumo. Well, she's somebody's wife. Anyway, no more screwing around. He gave Tochinonada the worst of a strong and low tachi-ai, grabbed his mawashi in the front with both hands. Nada tried to shake the notoriously clumsy Bulgarian off, but when you got six yogurts to feed you give it yor all. Oshu dropped Nada off by the pool for a yorikiri.

Kotomitsuki - Ama: Ama worked Kotomitsuki over by beating him at the tachi-ai. He denied Kotomitsuki any kind of grip and tsuppari'd him till he rolled like a piece of negitoro. The bigwigs called it hataki-komi.

Baruto - Chiyotaikai: Baruto, Baruto, Baruto, how many times do we have to tell you? If you don't keiko you're not gonna be able to beat the best. You can't tsuridashi your way to the top. You can't. Sigh. Baruto tried his thing by reaching for the back of Chiyotaikai's mawashi while trying to ignore the tsuppari barrage was giving him and Chiyo did his thing by switching gears and pulling Bart's blonde butt down with a hiki-otoshi.

Hakuho - Aminishiki: An understandably wary Hakuho was ready for the henka attempt by serial henka artist Aminishiki. Jump to the left, now jump to the right ! Ami was henkaing the air right before Hakuho tossed him out with a tsukiotoshi.

Toyonoshima - Asashoryu: Despite the controversy, Toyonoshima had this match wrapped up after the dust settled from the tachi-ai. Asa had nothing to work with and was forced back till his heal touched outside the dohyo. The gyoji didn't see it but the judge did. His push back against Toyo was after yorikiri had already happened.

It's sad seeing the tournament slip out of Asa's hands, but he just hasn't been commanding the clay every match and it's too late to get it back. He can still aim for a double digit ending worthy of a yokozuna, but he's out of the yusho race barring a disaster.

Day 8 Supplement (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Due to what I think are some technical glitches, the day 8 report submitted to me was incomplete. So as we try and straighten that out, I will add my own comments on the day 8 finale, namely the Asashoryu - Toyonoshima bout that saw Toyonoshima declared the winner after a bit of controversy. Now, this website has been accused of being pro-Asashoryu, but I dispute that argument. In my opinion, that view is raised by two kinds of people: 1) those who believe what they read in the Japanese press, and 2) those who despise Asashoryu. Regarding number one, the bias against Asashoryu in the press is a fact that I confirm everyday I read the various headlines. I've already blogged numerous times on that subject, so I will not discuss it further today. Regarding number two, I have no problem with people hating Asashoryu. I always root for the underdog myself and get sick of dynasties in sports, and Asashoryu definitely established a dynasty. What I do have a major problem with is bias and racial intolerance, and I will defend to the death anybody who is being racially discriminated against. After watching the day 8 bouts unfold and carefully reviewing the video tape, the only conclusion I can come to is that Asashoryu was a victim yet again of racial prejudice.

I know a lot of you who reside outside of Japan have lost access to the bouts, so if you did not see the bout, it played out as follows. Both rikishi clashed at the tachi-ai and ended up in the hidari-yotsu position, meaning they both had left arms on the inside. Asashoryu pressed the action first going for a maki-kae with his right arm trying to bring it from the outside to the inside, a position that would have given him moro-zashi. Toyonoshima fought off the attack brilliantly leaving the Yokozuna with that outside right grip, a position he wasn't able to attack with to finish his opponent off. Asashoryu went for the maki-kae twice more only to be buffeted by the Sekiwake. After having expended his energy on the maki-kae attempts, Toyonoshima sensed Asashoryu was vulnerable and mounted a force-out charge of his own that had Asashoryu pushed to the brink, so much so that the Yokozuna's right heel was well over the tawara and as close to the dirt as you can come if it didn't actually hit outside the ring. From this position, Asashoryu gained his second wind and immediately forced Toyonoshima back and across the dohyo shoving him completely off picking up what he thought was his sixth win, but the head judge on duty, Mihogaseki-oyakata, had raised his arm and said that Asashoryu's heel touched outside the ring.

NHK didn't readily show a shot of where Asashoryu's heel had supposedly touched, and no mono-ii was called, so that was that. Toyonoshima was declared the winner. Asashoryu was obviously distraught as he looked to the referee and said, "I was still in" and then kept looking at the head judge in disbelief hoping for at least a mono-ii, but he has never gotten one in his career when it would have benefited him, so he sure as hell wasn't going to get one today. But more on that later. Let's go to the tape.

After the rikishi had departed the dohyo, NHK showed a close-up of a spot near the dohyo where there was an obvious mark in the sand. I took a freeze frame picture of the broadcast, and it looked like this:

After seeing this shot, it was clear cut, right? The Yokozuna had stepped out, and the correct call was made. But after showing the rikishi marching back to the dressing rooms and the interview of Toyonoshima, NHK replayed the bout from various angles and showed one clip where they immediately zoomed in on the point where Asashoryu's heel stepped, but they could never once get an angle that showed Asashoryu leaving a mark in the dirt. If you look at the photo above, that is a rather large, conclusive mark. But look at the following sequence below where I have taken three before his heel hit on the left, one where the heel was at or about at it's lowest point, and one after he raised his heel back up on the right. There is no mark whatsoever.

I kept rewinding the tape and watching the various angles, but there was never a mark made in the sand after watching the replay. Even Yoshida Announcer commented, "You can't see anything from this angle can you?" So...I went back to the original shot NHK showed right after the bout and compared it to the replays that actually showed the heel coming close to the dirt, and it's my opinion that they got the wrong mark in the dirt. Scroll back up and look at that first picture, and then look just to the right of Asashoryu's heel in the threesome shot.  What do you see in the frame-by-frame that you don't see in the first picture?  If you haven't guessed it yet, it's the line of salt.  Here's a couple of close-ups of what I'm talking about:

I reviewed the tape over and over, and whatever NHK showed as a close-up of the damning mark, it was not the place where Asashoryu's heel supposed stepped out.  I'm convinced of that.  So is this some giant conspiracy against Asashoryu where even NHK is involved?  Of course it isn't.  It's a producer in a truck somewhere saying "Find the mark!  Find the mark" and a cameraman finding a mark but not thee mark.  I don't think Asashoryu stepped out because there is no conclusive evidence that he did.

But even that is not the point of my comments.  The point I want to make is the same one we have been making since the inception of Sumotalk, and that is WHERE WAS THE MONO-II?  We have a Yokozuna involved, so you'd think it would amount to something.  The lack of disrespect shown to Asashoryu because he is a foreign rikishi is outrageous and embarrassing.  I'm not saying anything new here.  I've blogged on the subject at length, and Clancy has repeatedly pointed out instances of bias as recently as Asashoryu's loss to Tochinonada last basho.  We don't care that he loses; we just demand respect.  And for the record, Clancy has received zero emails regarding examples of a time when a mono-ii DID get called when it would benefit Asashoryu.

How does the Association not call a mono-ii after today's bout?  I can recall countless examples of mono-ii being called where the judges gather in the ring and then physically walk over and examine the mark left in the sand, so why didn't they do it today?  I know the answer to that of course, and if you don't, take off the rose-colored goggles already.

Words cannot express how frustrating and disappointing it is to see the Sumo Association mishandle a Yokozuna.  And not just any Yokozuna.  We're talking a top-fiver here and probably one of the three best all time.  It's insulting, and as long as I have a voice, I will call a spade a spade and continue to rail on the Sumo Association for their bias against Asashoryu.  A Japanese Yokozuna would have at least gotten a mono-ii after today's bout, and that is indisputable.

I'm fine that Asashoryu lost the bout today.  Only he really knows if he stepped out or not, but I loath the fact that a mono-ii wasn't called when it would have been and has been for any other rikishi.

I'll conclude with brief comments on the other bouts that had yusho implications.

M5 Goeido outclassed M9 Hokutoriki today by watching the Jokester's tsuppari attempt closely before grabbing his arm to throw him off balance and then slapping him down to the dirt.  Goeido wanted no part of a tachi-ai henka and held up a bit at the tachi-ai opting to watch for an opening in Hokutoriki's tsuppari.  Smart move as he moves to 7-1.

In the biggest bout of the day, Sekiwake Ama schooled Ozeki Kotomitsuki using a nice nodowa and some sharp tsuppari to keep Kotomitsuki away from the belt before getting to the side of the Ozeki and slapping him down for the easy win.  Ama maintains his 7-1 record while handing Hit and Miss a costly second loss.

An finally, in the day's penultimate bout, Yokozuna Hakuho knew the tachi-ai henka was coming from M4 Aminishiki so when Sneaky jumped to his left, Hakuho greeted him with a vicious moro-te that completely threw Ami off balance and allowed Hakuho to slap his sorry ass to the clay.

As we head into week 2, the leaderboard shapes up like this:

7-1: Hakuho, Ama, Goeido
6-2 Kotomitsuki

Sorry Kokkai fans, I don't care if your man is 6-2, he ain't going on my leaderboard.  How sad is it that we only have five rikishi after 8 days that have two losses or less?.

Kenji makes sense of things tomorrow.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Most of the people following sumo don't live and breathe sumo, and, usually, after the basho is over, they get back to their lives like it hadn't just happened until after the next banzuke is released roughly a month later. Then there's this small part that DO live and breathe it, and they're left with a bitter yearning somewhat reminiscent of controlled substance withdrawal. And there's usually nothing they can do about it, with the exception of the occasional jungyo report, except sweat it out of their system until the objects of their obsession are back into the spotlight. Just for the record, I'm not part of the second category. Really.

Anyway, this time around there was plenty of news to keep even the hardcorest (before you even think about it, go here) of fans appeased... sort of. Because the news was mostly VERY negative. It all started with a Black Russian selling some Green Grass to a very White Russian who was stupid enough to drop his wallet BEFORE he had a chance to toke the evidence. I'm not gonna pretend I'm some holier than thou bastard who preaches that cannabis is the Devil's tool, that it should be forsaken and that all who use it should burn in the eternal fires of Gehenna. No, you can smoke it all you want for all I care, but, dude, if it pisses off the people you live among, you better make damn sure you don't get caught.  But it didn't end here. As the long heralded drug tests were to start, a little birdie told the NSK to test some of the guys for weed in addition to the initial steroids and whatnot. And it turned out that two more very White Russians had been tempted by the Red One. And heads rolled, as you would expect in modern Japan. Kitanoumi was quitted (see link above), the Russians were thrown out with a kick in the arse, and a new Rijicho was appointed.

Wakanoho the Ho, the cause of all this scandal, actually served nine days in the Japanese hoosegow for the 1.something grams of dope found on him and really seemed to regret his deed profoundly. In an unexpected tear-jerker move, he played the reflecting-upon-my-deeds card and begged to be taken back into Ozumo. Here's an approximate reenactment:

Wakanoho: I've been a very bad boy, and I'm very sorry. I have reflected deeply upon my transgression and I would like to be given another chance [etc.].

Rijicho: Hmm... let me think it over. [a millisecond passes] NO! Go away.

After this episode, Wakanoho decided to sue the NSK to force them to take him back. I wish him the best of luck (he's gonna need it). Of course, the other two whiteys decided they wanted to stay too, so they're also suing. To them I wish another boot in the arse (they don't need it, but they sure do deserve it).

Très bien, vous direz, but how exactly does that make Ozumo worse? Kitanoumi finally steps down and the three top henka bitches are kicked out, that sounds like a bloody dream. Well, see, the new chieftain had other plans... To show everyone he meant business, he decided all rikishi will have to put both hands down before they can go anywhere in their bout. All others before me gave countless examples of bouts delayed by insufficient observance of the new strictness of the rule, or bouts ruined by false positive false starts retroactively activated. Sounds confusing? It damn better be, 'cause I didn't go to all that trouble just so you can get it right from the first try. Anyway, this new rule apparently had an unexpectedly positive side effect: the drastic reduction of the number of successful henkas, due to wrestlers being forced to touch down with both fists. Well, it did... for the first 3-4 days, anyway. After that, most villains were already used to the new ways, and that, coupled with the fact that many rikishi went even harder at the tachi-ai for fear of being bum-rushed, that lead to a couple of memorable show-stoppers by the usual suspects (Sneaky, Fishface, Asascrewyou).

Oh, I have one more story to tell before the action starts... Just before the basho, having finally been rid of the Ho's, we decided to have a little celebration in a high-end nightclub. Coincidentally or not, we were approached by a Brother calling himself Lamar Ivanovici Konoplin, who offered to help us take the edge off a bit. Why the hell not, we said, feeling the irony was razor sharp. Clancy, like a dedicated family man he is, asked for a light California Orange but instead got a Datura Double Jimson Joint, Extra Strong. And what a fun night that was, but as we were heading back to the hotel, Clancy was having a heated debate with his great-great-great-grandfather Patrick... all by himself. At the hotel, under the wicked spell of the Devil's trumpet, Clancy tapped into Mark's strategic reserves and had the brilliant idea to use maple syrup instead of the more traditional H2O for bong coolant. Now, if you think I'm scary imitating the Captain form Cool Hand Luke, you haven't seen Clancy doing John Coffey with a cyanotic face! Later, Kenji saw him conversing with two flies on the wall, calling them Michiko and Sayoko. Several days later, Mike slapped him silly for trying to take off his pants just to "see how it is to be hung like a creationist". He kept him around, though, because he's been having "holy visions" about the winners of the next days' bouts and he's been correct almost 50% of the time! With some luck, that thing he smoked won't wear off until after day 15, so stay tuned for his next reports!

Alright, enough monkey business (eat your heart out, Darwin haters), let's get down to the real players. They say a kick in the ass is a step forward, and with the Frenchies on a possibly forced vacation due to possibly being ratted out, I found myself without the possibility of seeing replays of the daily action. Enter M-Dub with the latest doohickey, a Slingbox, the likes of who us unwashed and uncultivated Roomanians ain't ne'er seen b'fore. This wondrous device can enable a guy 5,000 miles away (i.e. me) to leech on another guy's (i.e. Mike) TV and play whatever's on it in a web stream some 8-10 times better than the usual 9KBps lame excuse the NSK are unsuccessfully trying to pass as a stream. Also, it has a nice built-in porn archive (either that or Mike's been recording some late night action by himself).

Right before the day's bouts, NHK showed an interview with veteran Ozeki Kaio, dressed in a pink yukata. From what I guessed (and I know just about as much Japanese as Clancy knows about THC), the topics covered were the Ozeki's popularity in Mongolia, of all places, and his huge throw of younger Kisenosato a couple of days earlier. Nothing unusual so far, but around the end of that, the reporter (a rather hyperactive, long-haired young lady) was amazed by the size of Kaio's right hand and she was screaming in awe. (And if I didn't know better, I'd think she was saying stuff like "Oh, Mr. Kaio, what huge hands you have... Oh, Mr. Kaio, can I bear your children? Oh, Mr. Kaio, undress me and let's get naughty right here on the spot, in front of the cameras." But I do know better.)

Right, the sumo. Let's start from lower Juryo, with everyone's favorite new Hutt, Jabbamotojabba. Pretty fast and agile for a Hutt of his impressive size, the Double Mountain had a perfect first 6 days in his first sekitori basho, but that changed today when he finally met one of the beefier wrestlers in Juryo, Mongol Koryu. Yamamotoyama started a bit early at the tachi-ai, but instead of going forward and steamrolling his opponent, he stood straight up on his own and, of course, was blasted by Koryu's tachi-ai. Yamamotoyama then sort of panicked and went for a quick pull, but the Mongol was all over him and pushed him down and out in a VERY painful looking way. Much to my surprise, the Hutt got right up and walked out of there on his own two feet. Many speculations have been made about him since he rocked the sumo world with his debut, some said he'd never make it past low Makushita, others thought he'd never make sekitori, and yet, here we are discussing his possible Yusho hopes and an outright promotion to Makuuchi, after the Hos' group dismissal. Koryu should be back to Makuuchi next basho.

Bottom ranked M16 Kakizoe received a visit from former Makuuchi veteran Tosanoumi. Both wrestlers produced a decent tachi-ai (well, third time is a charm, they say, after Kakizoe head-butted Tosanoumi in one of the earlier mattas, causing him a nose-bleed), that seemed to favor the old guy, who pushed to Kakizoe's side, immediately going for the pull. It failed, so Kakizoe, now back into it, pushed hard and never let up, gaining his 5th win in the process.

In a similar affair, with skilled veteran Shimotori calling on rookie Tamawashi, the Mongolian was only able to deliver one solid nodo-wa before being pushed back by a flurry of well-aimed tsuppari to the face and neck. At the edge, Shimotori tried to finish it off quickly, but he ultimately needed a migi-yotsu for a solid yorikiri victory. Tamawashi sinks below the kachikoshi mark.

Whitey lovers will definitely be frustrated by the next bout, a typical oshi meet between rikishi who know each other pretty well. Strangely enough, Takekaze was 6-3 head to head coming into this fight, but with Kokkai's sumo content, I can't really say I'm surprised. The men held back a bit at the charge, bonked heads and placed hands strategically on the opponent's shoulders. Kokkai went into pull mode almost instantaneously, dragging Kaze with him but stepping out with his right leg. He'll definitely want to forget this one, because only his lack of coordination made him miss out on the win. Kaze improves to 4-3.

The next one is just as clear, with M13 Chiyohakuho blasting into injured rookie M13 Kitataiki and pushing him straight back and out for his 3rd win. Oh, one more bad kimarite naming took place, they called it yoritaoshi even though the fall took place after Kitataiki stepped out peacefully.

M15 Kasugao, who had a clean slate coming into today's match, took on former Ozeki but now M12 Dejima, coming too low at the initial charge, surviving the immediate pulldown, but offering otherwise little resistance before getting yorikiried straight out. The 0 is big in this one, while Dejima captures win #4.

M10 Tochinoshin charged hard and low, with a thud and a grunt, grabbing the early left uwate against former Sekiwake Tamanoshima. After a fairly long battle in sumo bout years, Tochinoshin used his uwate on the left and an armpit push on the right to completely lift Tama upright and over the edge. The Georgian is recovering from his poor 1-4 start, while Tamanoshima loses the second in as many days, to as many Georgians.

I have no idea, really, who provides the English language commentary for the NHK Sumo broadcast, but one thing I can tell you for sure, they suck. The guy was busy mangling the wrestlers' names in this bout, while the lady didn't utter more than a hellish cackle and an "Uh-oh" after Wakanosato's matta. As for the actual bout, first Kimurayama attempted a henka to his left (BIG surprise!), the bout was restarted, then he just stood there, taking Wakanosato's tachi-ai without any momentum of his own. Of course, Wakanosato immediately drove the action towards the edge, where he was greeted with some tsuppari and an almost successful inashi, but he managed to grab a left uwate in time to throw his younger opponent right out of the ring by uwatenage. Both rikishi have 4 wins.

Hokutoriki, the eternal pretender, changed his Viagra this basho, because he looks not only stiffer in his charge, but also more aggressive. I almost felt sorry for Circus after seeing him get bludgeoned the way he was, nosebleed included, but he's a big boy, he can take it. There isn't much to say about the bout itself, except that Hokutoriki was always on the offensive, pushing, thrusting, pulling but especially pushing, while Takamisakari was uselessly fishing for a belt grip. With the loss, Takamisakari falls to his 5th loss, while the Hoaxster stays in the hypothetical yusho race (NOT!).

Yoshikaze, the little coffee powered tornado, took on an opponent almost 50kg heavier and managed to actually stop him in his tracks at the tachi-ai, if only for a second, after which he went straight for the backing pull-down. With the larger Hibiki all over him, all the little guy could do was try to stall with a grip or something, which he did, but eventually that didn't help either. Hibiki gets win #4 with a kotenage, while Yoshikaze is well on his way to Juryo (yet again).

The E5 rank is at the moment polluted by one of the biggest assholes in the division, Mongol Kakuryu (whom I hated anyway, but this tournament the dislike is universal). Kotooshu won a hard-fought first bout, then lost some three to huge guys, mostly because of false starts, then won another one to make it 2-3. Then this little bugger comes along and knocks the stuffing out of him with a heinous henka. Thank you very much, I bet you'd kick your own brother in the ribs if he were down. Today Kakuryu did manage to have a decent win for a change, but guess what... not even against Masatsukasa he can afford to do forward sumo. Kak bonked heads with Masa and actually drove him back a bit, continuing his attack with a push to Masa's right side while fishing for a grip. He didn't get one, so, naturally, he panicked and started retreating, with Masatsukasa on him, closely, but the slippery Fishface executed another inashi, this time on the left, got the uwate and dropped Masatsukasa to the dirt. Uwatenage and a date with Toyohibiki tomorrow. Happy oshitaoshi! Masa has only one win, still.

Next up, Kyokutenho successfully defended against Tochiohzan's morozashi with a quick now-or-never throw at the edge that caught Oh completely unprepared. The positive in all of this for Oh is that Tenho didn't dominate him like he used to, but he should learn to be more careful, this was one fight he should have won.

Young ones Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku slammed into each other and quickly exchanged left inside grips, with no grip on the outside for either of them. This particular position will always favor the stubby Giku, who pressed the action quickly, using gaburi-yori to force the Kid out in 5 seconds. It's as simple as it gets, really, give Giku that inside grip and you're toast. Kisenosato's slump knows no end, it seems. Giku has a good shot at kachikoshi with most of the heavy hitters out of the way and no Koto-ozeki on the menu.

Arguably one of the best rikishi of the moment, Ama hit with more precision than power against compatriot Asasekiryu, using the nodowa to keep not-so-Sexy away from his belt. A quick swipe at Asascrewyou's left shoulder was all Ama needed to take him off balance and wrap himself around the respective arm, all ready for the tottari. It did take a couple of tries, mostly to get momentum, like a hammer throw, if you will, but Ama managed to pull it off brilliantly. 6-1 record for the dangerous Sekiwake, while Asasekiryu is 2-5 but only has Bart left to fight from above Maegashira. 

The Kotooshu - Toyonoshima match up has to be one of the more interesting ones, given the huge size difference between the two. Toyonoshima, alongside Aminishiki, has been a nightmare for the Bulgarian Ozeki in the past year or so, winning their 4 last meetings mostly by inside throws. So, Kotooshu finally realized he has huge arms and decided to keep Toyonoshima away from the belt at all cost. So he opted for a pushing/thrusting attack right from the tachi-ai, that had Toyonoshima on the run and with no chance of getting a belt grip. Some lateral movement from Toyonoshima at the tawara almost had Kotooshu in trouble, but he kept his cool and managed to avoid giving up any trace of the belt, instead planting a fat beam under Toyo's right armpit and muscling his way to the cool yoritaoshi victory. That's definitely the way Kotooshu should handle Toyonoshima from now on. Both guys are at a dangerous 3-4.

Well, I was saying at the beginning about examples of bouts ruined by miscalls and all that... the next one is just that. Kotomitsuki went really early against future Yokozuna Goeido, without having both fists on the ground, of course, smashed hard into him and muscled his way into a right inside grip, while Goeido snatched an uwate of his own. Goeido sensed he was going nowhere, fast, so he started spinning around, setting up the uwatedashinage, broke the sashi he had on the other side and grabbed the Ozeki's head, only to fail and give up a very deep morozashi. At that point, it was all over, but Goeido fought it with all he had. Kotomitsuki keeps himself in the Yusho race (this time for real) and if he can take Ama tomorrow, anything is possible. The young one still has some stuff left to polish, but he's coming, and hell's coming with him. I'm going to enjoy seeing him destroy the Jokester tomorrow. Oh, yeah, and if he fights Ama, this time he's gonna win. Both wrestlers are on top of the leader board with 6-1.

Sneaky henkad again, but this time it was only a 75% henka, for the cheap uwate vs. yotsu-incompetent Chiyotaikai. He got the uwate and yorikiried the Ozeki in a flash for his 4th win. I hope Hakuho mops the dohyo with him tomorrow, but I have a feeling henka is going to be involved in this one, too. Bastard. Chiyotaikai should find a way to skirt to 8 wins (possibly receiving a bit of help from the likes of Kaio and Mitsuki, if by chance they are out of the Yusho race).

The Fatman and "Mr. Cool" Kaio slugged it out tsuppari-style, with Miyabiyama looking to push and Kaio looking to not get pushed. In the end, Miyabiyama ended up pulling, Kaio ended up being pulled but surviving, and dodging the Fatman's final effort for the ugly hikiotoshi win. Kaio lucked out bigtime in this one, and, cool as he may be, he may still need some help down the line from his fellow veterans. Miyabiyama is well on his way to winning that bet for me. Tongue-lashing aside, there's still the ball gag and the barbed truncheon... Oh, he didn't mention those, did he?

The bout between Yokozuna Asashoryu and over-ranked Tochinonada was reminiscent of the old tsuppari fiend young Asa. Little to describe here, the man was once master of the slapping business, he can still dish it out with the best of them. Tochinonada was little more than target practice today. Speaking of old times, though, I can't believe that old lady who's doing... erm, who's loitering the English NHK booth, can openly cheer for Kaio, even if he IS Mr. Cool .I understand that's a big no-no. Anyway, on to the last bout.

Today was without much of a doubt, Bart's best tachi-ai this whole basho, even better than the one against Kotooshu on day 2. Hakuho could do little to stop him from getting the left deep inside for the shitate, but he did grab an uwate of his own. After a bit of struggling, the Yokozuna attacked first, attempting the dashinage, but Baruto was hardly budged by it. The two locked up for quite some time in the hidari-yotsu position, which should really favor Baruto, but Hak is just so good that Baruto didn't even move him with his meek attack. In the end, after several efforts by both wrestlers, the Yokozuna wriggled his way out of the dangerous right uwate, while keeping his own good grips. A quick kakenage broke Bart's second grip, too, so, with nothing left on his side, Baruto became easy pickings for the Yokozuna's yorikiri. Hak definitely had to work very hard for this win, but he wasn't AT ANY MOMENT in any danger.

Since I didn't get to make a pre-basho prediction, I guess one would be in order now: Hakuho takes the Yusho 13-2, Ama finally starts an Ozeki run 11-4, Kotooshu scrapes kachikoshi 8-7, the other Ozeki get 8-7 too, Kotomitsuki stays in contention for the yusho until about day 10 and finished with 11-12. Goeido is well on his way to a prize, as is Ama. Yamamotoyama wins Juryo 12-3 or so (barring injury), and approaches the Makuuchi promotion zone, Aran gets close too. Oh, and Miyabiyama gets at least 6 wins.

As for the specifics, you should ask X.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
A year ago I did an interview for an outstanding sumo publication and was asked what I'd do if I were the sport's commissioner. I gave a couple of ideas...all of them solid of course, but one of the ideas was I'd eliminate the tachi-ai henka. And how would I do that? Simple. Gather the judges together the night before the basho started and tell them that if anyone jumped laterally without first making contact with their opponent, raise your hand and call for a false start. And everyone knows what kind of tachi-ai I'm talking about. The sly shift which we often see from guys like Kimurayama and Kotomitsuki are okay I guess, but it's the blatant henka where a rikishi jumps to his side and goes for the immediate pulldown to the back of the head. That has to be eliminated from sumo, and today was a perfect reason why.

Musashigawa Rijicho's first order of business since being handed the commissioner's job was to gather the judges together and order them to get strict on the tachi-ai. Both rikishi needed to touch both fists solidly to the dirt or a false start would be called. The first problem that we've already pointed out multiple times on this website is that there wasn't a problem to begin with, so why mess with things? Japanese culture stipulates that you have to produce, so the referees and judges are making up calls to make it look as if they're obeying orders. And that is indisputable. How many times have we seen a bout get called back with a legitimate tachi-ai only to have the next tachi-ai look worse yet not called back? That has happened everyday. many times have we seen a rikishi win a bout with solid tachi-ai from both opponents only to have it completely called back where the first winner ends up losing? It happened again today.

It is a joke, and even those who hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil when it comes to the Sumo Association cannot deny how the flow of the bouts have been disrupted this basho. If the sumo can call back tachi-ai that are completely legitimate and even erase whole bouts where the referee has already declared a winner, then surely they can call back a blatant tachi-ai henka. That would clean up the sport more than anything, and you can take that to the bank.

Can you tell I'm already fired up about the day? Yes, I am, but totally for the wrong reasons. Here we go starting in chronological order yet again. M14 Takekaze and M14 Kimurayama weren't in synch at the tachi-ai (referred to as synchronizing their breathing in Japanese) that saw Takekaze jump out half a second early. Kimurayama was so late in his charge that Takekaze actually paused a split second, but Kimurayama's usual henka to his left put enough separation between the two that Takekaze was able to recover, and as Kimurayama rushed towards his opponent, Takekaze sidestepped him and escorted him out of the dohyo by the fanny handing Kimurayama his second loss in as many days while Takekaze (3-3) made it three in a row.

M16 Kakizoe shifted at the tachi-ai to his right against M13 Chiyohakuho and used a simultaneous inashi move to push Chiyohakuho completely off balance and stumbling towards the edge. Chiyohakuho did manage to square back up, but Zoe was on him like a glutton to lard and easily pushed his younger opponent out for the speedy win. There was a bit of a henka here as Kakizoe moves to 4-2 while Chiyohakuho falls to 2-4.

The two hobbled rikishi went at it today in M13 Kitataiki and M15 Kasugao, and it showed because it was an ugly tachi-ai where Kitataiki was completely upright while Kasugao "hit" and then went for an awkward neck hold before trying to pull Kitataiki down. This one was painful from the start, but thankfully Kitataiki managed a right arm deep on the inside of the Korean and escorted him back and out in short order. I think Kitataiki is going to be a mainstay in this division, but the fact that he is 4-2 and injured as he is says something for his competition...or lack thereof. Kasuga is still O.

M12 Tamanoshima has thoroughly dominated his head-to-head meetings with M16 Kokkai so perhaps that was why the Georgian was so tentative in his charge. He practically stood upright, which is the same tachi-ai Tamanoshima usually employs anyway, so you had both rikishi who had "charged" but had only made contact with their arms. Kokkai hunkered down putting his long arm on Tamanoshima's shoulder, and Peter eventually complied as well leaving both rikishi in the most boring position in sumo...touching foreheads (fresh!!) and pushing at each other's shoulders with both arms. Kokkai moved first delivering a swipe to Tamanoshima's extended arm, and it threw the veteran off just enough to where Kokkai (5-1) was able to pounce and rush Tamanoshima (4-2) out of the ring. This bout was so boring I caught myself missing all those needless false-start tachi-ai. I wouldn't be disappointed long, however.

M11 Yoshikaze picked up his first win by surviving a few tsuppari attempts from M15 Tamawashi at the tachi-ai before demanding his way to the inside with the left arm where Yoshicafe immediately pulled the trigger and executed a force-out attempt brilliantly using his body and legs that saw Tamawashi (3-3) dispatched in short order via yori-taoshi.

M10 Tochinoshin displayed his best sumo of the basho using a fierce kachi-age (forearm to the face) with the right arm that knocked M12 Dejima's head upright and completely stopped his forward momentum. Shin rushed in with a right arm at the front of Dejima's belt while wrapping his left arm around Dejima's right keeping the former Ozeki upright. Dejima tried to counter by bumping chests with the Georgian to knock him upright, but Tochinoshin used his long arms to his advantage reaching around to grab the deciding left uwate. The force-out charge was executed to perfection leaving Dejima in his usual pain outside of the dohyo. Outstanding stuff from Tochinoshin (2-4) today, but unfortunately we hardly see this kind of sumo from him. Dejima is 3-3.

M10 Futenoh and M11 Takamisakari crashed at the tachi-ai ending up in the hidari-yotsu position, a stance that favors Futenoh. The Robocop still pressed the action, however, by dragging Futenoh to the side with his right arm pushing at Futenoh's left side, but Futenoh secured the right outer grip in the process, and was able to use that to stop Takamisakari's momentum and turn the tables by using a few gaburi belly shoves to knock Takamisakari back upright setting him up for the eventual force-out win. This was precise execution from Futenoh (4-2) who really puts on a show this low in the ranks but can't do anything up higher. Sumo's version of Forrest Gump falls to 2-4.

M9 Hokutoriki attempted his usual moro-te charge against M7 Tokitenku, but he was not driving with the legs and was so upright that Tokitenku easily forced the bout to yotsu-zumo stamping the move with the left outer grip. From there, Hokutoriki practically gave up allowing the Mongolian to force him back and out. It didn't appear to me as if Hokutoriki wanted to win this bout from the start, and I question the validity of the result, especially noting that Hokutoriki (now 4-2) had plenty of wins coming in already. Tokitenku limps to 2-4.

You always like to see the bouts between pure pushers and pure yotsu guys. We got that in M6 Toyohibiki (the pusher) and M9 Wakanosato (the belt guy), but Wakanosato threw a wrench in things from the start quickly banging chests with his opponent and then going for an immediate pull-down. The move was executed poorly allowing Toyohibiki to easily survive, but the only way he could stay in the bout was to grab an inside grip with the left hand forcing the bout to the belt. Toyohibiki was low enough--and big enough--that Wakanosato could not get on the inside and settled for a right outer grip, a position he used to try a quick force out before dragging the Hutt down by the belt and pulling at his head with the other arm. Toyohibiki survived both moves, and it showed just how uncomfortable Wakanosato is fighting from an outside grip instead of from the inside. Still, he was the yotsu-zumo specialist of the two, and it showed in the end as he eventually worked Toyohibiki to the ring's edge where he used his inside arm (yappari) to finally slam the Hutt down to the dirt. Both fellas end the day at 3-3.

M6 Tochiohzan looked to take complete control at the tachi-ai against winless M8 Masatsukasa using a right ottsuke push at Masa's side just below his left arm pit driving the youngster back to the straw, but Tochiohzan's sumo is a bit soft, and he allowed Masatsukasa to dig in and survive. Masatsukasa countered with a right arm on the inside and began forcing Tochiohzan sideways towards the edge of the ring, and before Oh could counter, Masatsukasa used his right leg to trip against Tochiohzan's left causing Tochiohzan to be forced from the ring into a heap just off the dohyo. Tochiohzan sat on the edge of the dohyo with his shoulders slumped thinking to himself "how in the hell did I not win that?" Good question; I was thinking the same thing. He had the complete momentum from the start, but the fact that he was unable to finish his bidness--not to mention Masatsukasa's right knee is injured--shows why Tochiohzan is merely the second coming of Futenoh sad to say. Oh falls to a bitter 4-2 while Masatsukasa picks up his first win.

Basho leader M5 Goeido cooly stepped into the ring against former Sekiwake and current M2 Kotoshogiku. Goeido blistered the Geeku at the tachi-ai using his right shoulder to knock Kotoshogiku completely upright and away from any sort of yotsu position. Wasting no time Goeido went for the immediate slap down that sent his opponent to the dirt less than two seconds in. This was more outstanding stuff from Goeido, and you may ask how is a slap down win any good? The move was completely offensive, and Goeido didn't have to retreat to execute it (contrary to pull sumo where you have to back pedal in the process). When you set your opponent up like that from a perfect tachi-ai, slap away brother. Slap away. This is yet another move in Goeido's arsenal which will propel him to be the highest-ranked Japanese rikishi in a few short years. With the win, Goeido (6-0) remains the sole leader of the basho...a position he has actually held before as late as day 9. The Geeku is merely 2-4.

Next up was M3 Kyokutenho vs. M1 Miyabiyama that saw the Sheriff come with a hesitant tsuppari attack that Kyokutenho exploited about three seconds in easily slapping Miyabiyama down to the dirt. But wait!! The head judge, Hanaregoma-oyakata, had raised his arm calling for a false start, but once again, he was completely ignored by both rikishi and the referee. The referee had already pointed his gunbai towards Kyokutenho, in fact, before they realized Hanaregoma-oyakata wildly waving his hand below the dohyo. Hanaregoma-oyakata pointed towards Miyabiyama and said that the Sheriff committed a false start. Miyabiyama hadn't of course as I watched the tachi-ai again frame by frame. It was as clean as a baby's bottom, but this was only the second bout of the latter half, and new judges take their places at the half-way point, so this was clearly a case of Hanaregoma-oyakata wanting to show that he was doing his job. The funniest was the look Hanaregoma-oyakata had on his face like "how dare anyone diss me like that?". It's called a presence bro. Establish one, and then maybe someone will notice you. That pissed look on the head judge's face was worth what happened next.

Anyway, the rikishi reloaded with Miyabiyama happily accepting the chastising because that gave him a second chance he didn't deserve. After a tachi-ai that was worse than the first (hasn't that been the case every time?), Kyokutenho wasted the do-over by going for a quick pull down of his opponent. Miyabiyama wasn't fooled by the move and used his lumbering tsuppari to keep Kyokutenho on the move and more importantly away from the Hutt's belt. After about 8 seconds of cat and mouse, Miyabiyama had his opponent off balance enough to where he grabbed the morozashi position, which he used to slam the Chauffeur down to the dirt for the ill-gotten win.

NHK showed a close-up of Miyabiyama's tachi-ai the second time around, and his left hand did not touch the dirt. Yet, they let the bout go in, which is yet another concrete example of how ridiculous this new mandate is. If it sounds as if I'm fired up, you're damn right I am. I don't care if the yusho is affected by this senseless tachi-ai business, but what about my bet with Martin?!! The last thing I want right now is a tongue-lashing from the Romantic, 'specially now that I know where that tongue has been. Thanks for nothing Hanaregoma-oyakata. Miyabiyama is now 3-3 while Tenho is just 1-5.

In one of the best bouts of the basho, Sekiwake Toyonoshima secured morozashi from the tachi-ai against Komusubi Asasekiryu and immediately drove him to the edge going for the kill, but Sexy countered the move with a right kote-nage throw attempt and right leg trip on the inside of Toyonoshima's left. Toyonoshima had the better position, but Asasekiryu's counter sumo was good enough to where neither rikishi was able to throw the other down. The two danced around the ring with Toyonoshima still maintaining that stubborn inside left position where they went for the dual throw again twice more, and on the third time, both rikishi had their legs pointing towards the rafters yet neither was able to throw the other off balance in the end. Toyonoshima went for the same throw a fourth time after driving Asasekiryu to the edge, and though Sexy survived yet again, Toyonoshima just had the better position, and instead of going for yet another throw, this time he drove his body sideways into the Mongolian finally finishing him off via yori-taoshi. This was great stuff from both parties and perhaps the best bout of the basho. Toyonoshima holds serve at 3-3 while Sexy is anything but at 2-4.

Fresh off his win over Yokozuna Hakuho yesterday, M2 Kisenosato looked to entertain Ozeki Kotomitsuki today. The Kid rushed his tachi-ai and thankfully never touched down completely with his left fist (it was called back) because Kotomitsuki played his henka card jumping to his right in order to grab the cheap uwate. As an aside...this is one reason why I just cannot get on board with the Sadogatake-beya Ozeki. They see Kisenosato win a big bout the day before, so their answer is to side-step him the next day. Happens all the time.

As the two reloaded, Kotomitsuki next used blatant stall tactics to try and bait his opponent. It worked because Kisenosato charged in another false start and offered a few meager thrusts that sent the Ozeki back onto his ass. Kotomitsuki deserved it.

They got it right on the third attempt although Kotomitsuki henka'd to his right again to grab that cheap uwate. With Kisenosato completely off balance, Kotomitsuki spun him around, used a left paw to his face, and slammed the Kid to the dirt via yori-taoshi. Is that the best an Ozeki can do? Complete shenanigan sumo and two henka against a Maegashira rikishi? Why isn't Musashigawa pissed about that not to mention Medusa Uchidate and Yaku Mitsuru and the rest of the worthless gang? Kotomitsuki is a chump as he moves to an undeserved 5-1. The Kid is just 1-5.

Next up was Ozeki Chiyotaikai who never did look comfortable at the starting lines starring across at Sekiwake Ama. Ama had both fists placed squarely to the dirt waiting, and there was no way that Chiyotaikai could use his typical tachi-ai where he doesn't put his left fist all the way down and just jumps forward. The Ozeki asked to reload once, and when the rikishi went at it again, Chiyotaikai awkwardly charged forward right into a moro-zashi grip from the Mongolian. This one was too easy for Ama as he politely escorted the Ozeki to the side and out. Ama is shining at 5-1 and wishes he had that debacle back against Kakuryu on day 2. The Wolf's Pup is 4-2 now after a nice start the first few days.

The Ozeki Kaio - Komusubi Baruto matchup was extremely compelling coming in, but Baruto was too timid at the tachi-ai and awkwardly moved forward right into a Kaio moro-zashi. Props to the Ozeki for his charge as he extended both elbows outward and fists inward ensuring he would get a solid inside position. Once he had the dual inside position, it was easy peasy as Kaio just walked Baruto back and out using his chest to bump up at Baruto's chest to perfection. Great win from Kaio as he moves to 3-3. Baruto has got to be an ass-kicker at this level, not a peacemaker. He's 2-4.

My only consolation for Miyabiyama's underserved win over Kyokutenho was M5 Kakuryu's shameless tachi-ai henka of Ozeki Kotooshu today. The Kak spurted to his right going for the full-blown henka where he jumped high and pulled his opponent down by the back of the head. There was nothing Kotooshu could do about it as he falls to an undeserved 2-4 record. This was a complete bush-league move by Kakuryu who looked promising in the division 3 or 4 basho ago, but now looks like a fool in the dohyo. Call this bout back Hanaregoma-oyakata; show the Ozeki the respect that he deserves. That's what would fix sumo. It's a crime that Kakuryu is 4-2 while the Bulgarian is just 2-4. Kotooshu has got to make some adjustments here, the first being this new tachi-ai.

As mark pointed out yesterday, Yokozuna Hakuho had lost his focus and thought he could just show up and win. Said focus was back today against M3 Tochinonada that saw the Yokozuna jump out a split second early and slam the Gentle Giant upright with two hands to the throat before gaining a deep right arm on the inside and a left outer to boot on the other side. Before Tochinonada could even think to counter, Hakuho had him forced upright and driven back across the straw for the commanding win. Hakuho rights the ship quickly, and at 5-1 is still your technical leader of the basho.

That's because of M4 Aminishiki, who shamelessly jumped to his left at the tachi-ai and henka'd Yokozuna Asashoryu sending Genghis to a costly second loss. This was so blatant and premeditated that Asashoryu could only laugh. I just do not see why there is not an outrage regarding the tachi-ai henka. The commissioner makes a big deal out of nothing, but let's this kind of crap go. As a former Yokozuna, I would like to think he has more respect for the rank. Same goes for Aminishiki's oyakata, a former Yokozuna himself in Asahifuji. Oh yeah, I just remembered that Asa is a foreigner. I spoke too soon regarding the respect factor. After the bout, Aminishiki was ushered into the interview room, a place he obviously did not want to be. But customs are customs, and the interviewer wasted no time asking about the henka. Aminishiki was more sheepish in his answers than that blow-up animal stuffed away in his akeni. It's one thing for foreigners to mumble in interviews as they don't really have command of the language, but when a Japanese rikishi bumbles and slobbers on himself, he just committed a crime. It's just too disgusting to me that the Association can be so shtoopid as to not figure out the real problem with the tachi-ai. Hell, it's getting so bad I found myself longing for Roho and Hakurozan. The aftermath of the travesty is a 4-2 record for Asashoryu while Ami (a girl's name in Japan) skips to 3-3. Have fun paying that kin-boshi money for the rest of Ms. Nishiki's career NSK.

I thought I was frustrated yesterday after Arbo photo-shopped "Not Gay" into that James Blunt picture, but the ending to day 6 topped even that.

Martin tells his side tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
Slander. Deceit. Defamation. Lies. You troglodytes think that crap is funny!? Listen, some of us have reputations, business, visas and families to worry about!! You think it's a joke to throw steaming piles of libelous garbage out there where any Jonny-Google with a Commodore 64 can read (and believe) it? It's not funny! And it's not right!! 

I just want to clear a few things up for anyone who may have stumbled upon this site and is considering trusting anything the other "writers" made up- I have not, do not and would not use marijuana. Marijuana is bad. I know it's bad because the Japanese government says its bad. There is nothing else to discuss! Marijuana Bad. I didn't start on sweet sweet BC Bud back in Canada. I don't "smoke out" all the time in the back room of this cool bar just down the road. I don't sometimes steal a "hoot" of some hippies "chronic" in the middle of an ocean side mosh pit. And I would NEVER recommend getting a hold of a few "jazz cigarettes" and watching Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Got it buster?

Now with that little bit of unpleasantness out of the way, lets see what would happen if the world was so great that we could somehow get fat men to fight for our enjoyment...

Watched me some Juryo. 252 Kg Yamamotoyama continued his winning ways but I don't know if his slo-mo tachi-ai and mobility issues are going to cut it when he reaches the big-leagues. He is a generation too late. Sumo ain't a slowman's game no more. Ichihara got his first loss when he henkaed 11 year older and half his size Kaiho. Henka'd!! Kaiho!!

Aran started out with an ugly pull attempt but then came on strong with some great looking tsuppari. Kitazakura threw a lot of salt and Wakakirin, despite having my love, has little else.

On to the M's-

After a coupla do-overs. Kakizoe picked up his second loss and Takekaze his second win when Zo got spun around after the tachi-ai and ushered out.

Kokkai went all push-n-pull style to derail Deji-train. That's loss number 2 for Dej and that's one more than Kokkai.

After a great tachi-ai the ref made Tamanoshima and Kasugao restart 2 more times. In fact this happened 3 times in the first 4 fights. When the shimpan felt that the new boss man was sufficiently appeased, Kasugao came out at the 3rd tachi-ai with a shoulder but Shima easily stepped back and pulled him down. 0 wins for the hurting Korean.

With a bunch of guys kyujo and the Russian mafia excommunicated the Maegashira Banzuke is full of guys I have barely heard of. The times are a changin...

Undefeated Kimurayama couldn't withstand Super Awesome Clown Power. Takamisakari got inside with a powerful yet controlled tachi-ai and that was the end of it. Takami usually works very hard for each and every win so he must be happy with this (relatively) easy one. At 2-3 Takami still has a lot of work to do.

You don't have to be a Martin Matra to see that because of all this 2 fist nonsense, the tachi-ai, and accordingly the quality of sumo, has suffered A LOT this basho. This was evidenced yet again at the beginning of the Yoshikaze/Kitataiki fight. The first time they went down Kitataiiki executed a perfectly timed tachi-ai and was on Kaze before he could even fully stand up. But the ref called it back. The 2nd time Kita (with the judges reprimand still swimming around in his head) did seem to jump the gun just a little bit and again got called back. Boring! The third time they finally were aloud to fight. Yoshikaze came at him with a flurry of pushes and pulls backing Kita up. At the straw they locked up, each taking an inside left and Kita picked up Kaze and spun executing a nice little utchari. Momentum and their deep belt grips sent them spinning as one chubby unit into the audience. Kitataiki won the fight but end up being the meat in a nasty and cheese sandwich between Yoshikaze and an exceptionally unlucky spectator.

As you would do well to remember, it was I who first broke the sumo/"reefer" story six months ago. While Tochiohzan is no doubt one of the J-rikishi who tested positive for the "ganja" his sumo lacked no concentration or motivation today as he successfully kept Futenoh off his belt for the duration of their fight. With his own right on Tenho's belt and a left to the chest Tochiohzan was able to control Futenoh's movement and back him out.

Toyohibiki started with a good tachi-ai and followed through with it till lonely white guy Tochinoshin was in the audience. Shin did attempt a half assed, last ditch pull--down but Biki didn't give him the angle to make anything of it.

I was really looking forward to the Wakanosato/Goeido match up. I was expecting a battle but Goeido made it look easy as he grabbed morozashi from the tachi-ai and had Sato out in 3 seconds. Impressive stuff yet again for Goeido who stays undefeated.

Hokutoriki has been walking around with his nose in the air as he often does when he is low enough in the ranks to pick up a pocket full of early wins. The hero to serve up the first piece of humble pie this time was Martin's man Kakuryu. Riki came out with his standard C+ tsuppari but Kak calmly grabbed a hold of a left and levered Hokutoriki into the expensive seats. Riki would not be the last undefeated pugilist to fall this day ...

Aminishiki timed his tachi-ai well today (I and perhaps Tokitenku also assumed that he would be called back) and pushed Tenku out with no resistance. That's 2 for Ami-N while Tenku is still floundering at one.

They must have been practicing Tachi-ai at the Isegahama Beya because Ama also had a great one (much as Clancy predicted yesterday) and he oshidashied Mt. Miyabi with just a little more of a fight than Tenku put up. That's number 3 for Davaanyam Byambadorj.

Fresh off his date with Asasodomizeyou, Chiyotaikai had to put up with a lot more crap from the Geeku today. I know Chiyo sometimes gets into annoying hand games at the line, but before either of them looked ready to go Koto jumped the gun, jumping forward and to his left while Chiyo was still in his crouch looking on. It looked to me like he had henka'd air. A judge rightly yelled at him. 2nd try Ko-G jumped the gun again and ran into the Ozeki who was still crouched looking at him. On the 3rd try they booth went and the Geeku henka'd again. By the old "right" rules this would have been the end of it but a shinpan saw something he didn't like (likely Giku's sumo) and brought them back to the starting line for a 4th time! Chiyo was visibly seething. He had been henka'd twice and his match hadn't even started. He was irate and everyone in the Kokugikan knew it. Everyone watching on TV knew it. A furious Chiyotaikai is still something to be greatly feared. Chiyo came out with a wicked kachiage (elbow-ish forearm to the head) that rocked the Geek so much that I'm not sure that he wouldn't have fallen down if Chiyo weren't supporting him as he pushed him out. This is the happiest Chiyo has made me in over a year while the Geek is loosing a little class every basho.

At this point for the third time today they focused on the Uchidate hag as she sat on the mats chatting happy with a handsome dude with good teeth and well-kept hair. Why did they keep showing this? Was she on a date? It had a feeling like when there are gay rumors about some celeb and then the next week there are supposed "candid" paparazzi pics in all the gossip rags of him frolicking with some hottey. Does Uchidate have rumors to squelch of her own?

The old gray mare she aint ... Today Kaio and Toyonoshima locked up in the center of the ring but it was Shima who spun away in a Kaio-esque move. It wasn't really a throw attempt but it did spin the Ozeki enough that Shima could adopt the manlove position and escort him home.

In an ugly affair KotoShoe kept Asasekiryu away from his belt while moving forward. He briefly thought about grabbing some belt himself but then decided on a couple of effective shoves to shoulders and face that sent Asasekiryu packing. 

In another match I was really looking forward to Kotomitsuki Kotomitsukied Baruto. Anyone who has seen more than two or three of Mitsuki's fights should know exactly what I mean. They locked up front and center and then KotoM put the breaks on. Koto slowly maneuvered to better his position, half threatening with various feigned trips or throws until he felt ready to mount his real surge. But Bart is a true heavyweight and Mitsuki's first offence wasn't enough to get Bart out. But Mitsuki regrouped and tried again, this time getting the big boy over the line. After the fight Mitsuki looked exhausted but he's got to be happy with his win (boring as it was).

Yokozuna Asashoryu owned Kyokutenho at the tachi-ai grabbing a very deep inside left and quickly working the right inside as well. With the double inside grip Asa easily backed the struggling Kyokutenho out.

Kisenosato is a dangerous rikisi who has been having a bad basho. Sure being beaten by three Ozeki and one Yokozuna shouldn't be a surprise for any M1, but Kissy has a lodda wins over those 4 and to come this far without collecting one scalp is a disappointment. I for one was wondering if perhaps he had an unannounced injury. Perhaps Hakuho was thinking that too. This difficult to describe bout began with Hak pouncing and reaching for a right inside. Kissy moved his left inside to block it and Hak switched to a straight arm to jaw that stood Kissy up. At this point Hak made a fatal mistake: he took a step backwards thinking that Kissy was just going to fall forward. Kissy however was nowhere near loosing his footing and Hak, already moving backwards with feet aliened was an early Kwanzza present for Kisenasato. Just like that 4-1 and 1-4. And Goeido is all-alone out in front.

I had actually planed on writing here about the consistency Hakuho has achieved, how he makes no "unforced errors" and how that is the earmark of a great Yokozuna ... but screw it, I'm going to go enjoy abiding by arbitrary Japanese laws and that bar I was talking about ...

Highlights for tomorrow include Tamanoshima/Kokkai, Ama/Taikai, Kakk/Oshu (more important than the yusho for M.M.) and our leader gets the Geek.

Mike is going to commend each and every one of you on your excellent chopstick usage tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
I'm gonna be honest here, folks. I love the word "hump." I love the idea of humping. I hump all the time, up hills, down riverbanks, over fields, through forests, in the privacy of my own home, wherever. But while Wednesday can rightfully be termed "Hump Day" for those who work a five-day workweek, it's not close to being a hump day for a fifteen-day sumo tourney. That'd be Day 8.

The reason I bring up it up is that this "Day 4 is Hump Day" notion was started by Mr. Arbo simply because Dude loves the word, too. He and I are much more alike than you'd think. One important way we are NOT alike is the lengths (or girths) we'll go to to make ourselves better(?) people.

What does this enigmatic remark mean, you ask? Well, I must officially announce that the Arbo Affair is over, and the surprising denouement has left each of us with an embarrassed but relieved grin on our face (each of us, that is, but Martin).

It happened late Tuesday night after Miyabiyama, who had come to celebrate with us the last big win of his career, left the hotel. There was a knock at the door of the East Yokozuna Suite (Mike enforces this "title" for his room every basho, even makes this large paper sign to hang over the doorway). It was way past midnight, and there had been monkeyshine aplenty (with a smashed Martin giving toast after toast on the "demise of the bastard Arbo", whom Martin has been trying to oust from ST since he came aboard last year), so it got quiet as Simon and I contemplated the implications. Hotel security? Police? Musashigawa Rijicho come to kick our collective ass for keeping his boy out on a school night? Simon broke the tension by turning Mike over, rolling Kenji into the bathroom, covering Martin with a blanket and then answering the door.

There stood Arbo and his lawyer, and Lord, if you could have seen the look on their pathetic mugs. We let them in, applied smelling salts to the three unconscious members of our Deliberation Council, and listened rapt to the entire, sordid tale.

First off, we were told, Mark is not now, nor has he ever been a soldier in the camp of cannabis sativa. Second, he got the whole idea for the China story from some recent sporting event, he couldn't recall which. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the object we found behind his toilet is not a water bong. 

Then what is it, we asked? They took out a large, empty plastic package and passed it to us. On the cover was written, Happy Hjorst's Hickory Dickory Dong with a star shaped blurb in one corner that read, "For lumberjack's who want their sausage smoked!"

Mark explained that he had noticed for years how crazy the gals he knew in Fukuoka were for all things Canadian, especially bacon and moose. A pal of his in B.C. told him about Happy Horst's, so he did some research, discovered they gladly ship to Japan and, voila.

I asked if they had a website (so we could verify his claim) and he said, yes, and then got a little too excited, describing how they also had maple syrup and Tim Horton walnut crunch pumps as well.

"But what about," stammered Martin, undergoing a dawning realization, "what about the resin that I...that I...I..."

"Oh yeah, that," replied Mark. "Occasionally during the pumping process there is some unintentional over stimulation, and well, sorry about that, eh!"

Into the extremely uncomfortable silence that ensued Kenji angrily intoned, "Those pumps aren't worth a damn!" adding quickly, "or so I've heard." Mike suggested we all get naked and discuss, "openly and frankly" our penises. Simon recalled being approached by an East End manufacturer in the late 90's who wanted him to celebrity endorse a similar contraption, "'cept theirs was gonna be chutney flavor, innit."

At this point Mark dismissed his attorney, and there were handshakes and backslaps and much rejoicing. We all went down to the hotel lounge for drinks, all but Martin, who lay on the floor in a fetal position, babbling incoherently in at least five of the many languages he speaks. "Poor bugger," I whispered to myself as I covered him with a bedspread, "thought he had Arbo licked, and didn't know how right he was."

As if all those crazy foreigners at the hotel weren't enough, Day 4 began with two crazy foreigners in the ring. Mongolian rookie Tamawashi vs. Korean Kasugao. Like Mike pointed out yesterday, Kasugao has been a mid-Makuuchi mainstay for five years and is down this far only because of a bad injury, and that injury is very much in evidence as The Mawashi, contrary to his name, just slapped and shoved at tachi-ai and the Korean, fearing for his safety, ran away and leapt off the dohyo. Kasugao is a semi-genius when it comes to throwing, but when injured he can't put up the resistance needed to get inside on an "oshi" or pushing attack and grab the belt.

Chiyohakuho did everything right in his bout with Kokkai, except expect the big feller to try and move forward. As he is wont to do, Kokkai simply stood up and absorbed his foe's momentum, and then slapped him down. He had no intention in moving forward to fight. This is shitty, cheap sumo and not worthy of Makuuchi.

(I'm so happy I had a chance to use the words "except" and "expect" consecutively.)

Kakizoe is another veteran languishing down low. Dude debuted in Makuuchi in September 2003 and was Komusubi by March of the next year! That's three tournaments. By last September, he was at M16 and facing demotion to Juryo, but got nine wins and saved himself. Since then he has hovered in the lower half of the Maegashira, and I'll be damned if I know why. Going by his scowl, which seems to say, I don't give a rat' ass about you or your mama, you'd think he is a killer, and he used to be.

Today he was the latest victim of the infamous Musashigawa Reform, which states that "even when the bout has started in a fairly even manner and both rikishi are totally into the flow and the bout is three seconds old and the crowd is pumped up and all things are green and good, we must stop the bout and fuggitallup!" Sweet Zoe Jane had this one, I think, but the late stoppage proved a boon to Kitataiki, who was able to drive a demoralized Kakizoe back and out doubletime. (If this were America, they would have been throwing pillows, beer cans and used condoms into the ring after this one. It's Nippon, however, so everyone simply turned to the person next to them and said, "Hmm. Atsui desu ne, kyou!")

Yoshicafe flew out of the gates at Kimurayama and chased him to the right and back and nearly out, but his last caffeinated hyper push was wiped off and the feisty little E11 was on his hands and knees like he was begging for the local Starbucks to open an hour early so he could get a double tall. Don't look now but Mr. Kimura from Wakayama is 4-0, and not only that, but he is avenging Mr. Kimura from Wakayama because Yoshikaze beat him in July. 

Takekaze stayed low vs. Takamisakari trying to get him pushed back, but Bean resisted well and finally fought through Takekaze's block on his left arm and got up and under the pits to grab a double belt inside, morozashi. As he started to lift the diminutive E14 (who was, incredibly, Komusubi a scant three basho ago), Takekaze snaked his leg around the Cop's leg, like a boa around Nastashi Kinski on the cover of Vogue, and sent him falling backward and down, hard! A textbook sotogake. 

Hokutoriki moved to 4-0 with a spanking of the big Georgian Tochinoshin, who put all his weight into leaning into Jokutoriki's stiff arm to his throat, and was rewarded with dirt as the E9 pulled the support away and shifted to the side, allowing his foe to fall. Didn't anyone in Tochinoclue's heya tell him how Hokutoriki fights? Maybe they did and it's just that Hokutoriki is having one of those basho where he is actually able to do the sumo he likes, namely stiff arms pushing or fending off to finish with either a force out or a pull/slapdown (or a "letdown," a term I think we need to add to our English kimarite translations alongside slapdown and pulldown).

Wakanosato won a veteran matchup with Tamanoshima by not letting go of the belt grip he snagged at tachi-ai, keeping his balance nicely and working Peter inexorably back and out. Takes a lot of skill to read the shifting of your opponent's weight and even more strength to deny him any lateral escape route. Croconosato uses those stubby arms to get to .500 while Tamanoshima tastes bitter defeat for the first time.

Next we had three very quick bouts. Dejima worked Masatsukasa back and got the morozashi, and then leaned into him so he was up on one leg like a flamingo, then twisted and slow motioned his ass into the dirt. Toyohibiki did his Dejima of old imitation by hammering the Prince of Orange Futenoh out in about the time it takes a mini black hole to live and die in the LHC. Tochiohzan followed suit by pounding on the Kak and driving him out in less than a second.

Mike made a big deal out of Goeido yesterday and I'm going to do the same today. Tokitenku came in lower at tachi-ai than his foe, so Goeido sniffed around for the quick win with an immediate two-handed pulldown to the back of the head. Didn't work so Goeido smartly moved back a step and let Toki come to him, which he did with a stiff armed left hand to Goeido's right shoulder. As Goeido held off Tokitenku's right hand on the other side by grabbing his wrist, Tokitenku placed most of his forward leaning weight through his left arm and onto Gatoreido's shoulder. This is where the skill of the younger guy comes into play. He sensed that his foe was overextended, and perhaps could see something in his foe's stance that convinced him the time was right, and faster than Usain Bolt he used both hands to slap Tenku's left forearm and just paste him into the dirt. Normally slapdowns are cheap wins, but this was anything but. It was great reading of an opponents weight coupled with blink-of-an-eye attack at just the right spot. He's 4-0 but is going to have to go belt on Day 5 to beat Wakanosato.

Kotoshogiku warily took on Tochinonada, a rikishi who can throw in his sleep (and probably does, when the night terrors come). At tachi-ai it was Tochi high, Geeku low and I don't know why. But it proved to be the difference when the match ended about 10 seconds later (a decent length for your typical sumo bout). Geeku used an outside right belt to push Tochi back, all the while legs nicely splayed and hips moving forward. Tochi slid to his left and resisted at the edge, bringing them back to the center in the original position. It was déjà vu all over again as they pretty much followed their footsteps from the first go around, but this time when Tochi resisted Geeku bellied him up and bullied him out.

First time Komusubi Baruto, like Mike has pointed out, needs to show that he is unlike others who have had short stays in sanyaku, draped his ridiculously long right arm (his left is long, too, don't get me wrong) over Toyonoshima's shoulder and dug in, letting the first time Sekiwake have his preferred head-into-the-belly position. Both dudes fished for the front mawashi, and just as Toyo seemed about to get his, Baruto yanked his foe toward him while pivoting back and left, and that tachi-ai acquired belt grip came in mightily handy as he flung the shin-Sekiwake to the dirt. Uwatenage and .500 for shin-Komusubi Baruto.

Kaio has been looking just as old as he is this time out, but damned if he didn't just destroy Kisenosato yesterday. Gave me the same feeling as an acid flashback. Blew my mind. So I was hoping for some more of the same today from The Godfather, but alas, it wasn't meant to be as Sekiwake Ama wore his mother's wedding dress to the tachi-ai and slid right to gain a very cheap belt. With this grip he did his best pit bull imitation, shaking and pulling and pushing Kaio like a mailman (sorry, letter carrier) and at one point Kaio slipped and crashed down. Two-second bout and no new fans for Ama.

(Prediction here. Miyabiyama, Ama's Day 5 foe, was sitting ringside. Fearing the same, he'll bring a weakened tachi-ai, and Ama will blast into him and throat him out. That's what the henka does for a wrestler; puts future foes in a state of uncertain anxiety. Takes away their mojo.)

Showing no ill effects from his hard partying the night before, Miyabiyama stiff armed Kotooshu in the throat and didn't relent. You could say he was unrelenting. Macchio man Kotooshu tried desperately to wax on, wipe off, anything, but the Sheriff had an answer for each flailing swipe, and finally Kotooshu the Sailorman could stands no more and let his foot slip over the bales and out. A big difference between the two today is Miyabi's tachi-ai was two hands and a head straight on into the Ozeki, a triangulated attack, while the Ozeki's tachi-ai was mostly just head. You can't win in sumo just giving head. You gotta give hand, too. (Any of you new to sumo who would like to know more about this aspect of the sport please contact Simon at his private email, This bout can be summed up thusly (cue the hip hop backbeat): Miyabi, went straight for the jugular, Koto, getting' uglier and uglier. Beating Kotooshu does not qualify as a big win, but it was a nice follow up to his Day 3 kinboshi.

After his ill-advised trip to Oshi Land on Day 3, Kotomitsuki returned to more familiar surroundings and put on a tachi-ai-to-straw yorikiri clinic vs Aminishiki. They locked up with belt grips that while strong, gave neither the upper hand. Mitsuki's advantage came from his superior rocking ability, which means keeping his foe centered and tied up while he backs him out like a man moving a refrigerator all by himself (like Wakanosato earlier). Almost felt sorry for Shneaky has he squiggled and squirmed trying to free himself. Almost.

There are henkas, and then there are HEYnkas. Asasekiryu HEYnkad Chiyotaikai today so perfectly, so smoothly, so adroitly, wait, I'm starting to almost like this! No, henka bad bad bad and Asasuckeredyou should be ashamed of himself. Not that The Pup would have been in any kind of race come Day 13, please, but he is a champion and it's nice to see those hyphenated goose eggs for the first week at least. The West Homosubi squatted at the shikiri line looking for all the world like he was readying himself to be hit by a train, and then timed it perfectly, lunging to his left as Chiyo plowed in like an coelodonta on crystal meth. Ozeki must have gotten a mouthful of dirt as he skidded to a stop on his face. I felt like I had just was witnessed a crime, truly, but since the victim has a rap sheet of his own, c'est le guerre.

Yokozuna Hakuho, hitting his stride like a force of nature, got two hands on the belt at tachi-ai. Normally he would throw his foe down tout de suite, but Kyokutenho had his own nasty outside left, and Kublai knows that his former countryman has the strength of five ordinary men (see Day 3 annihilation of Bulgarian Ozeki) and can use your momentum against you as well as anyone in sumo, so he bided his time. But not for too long, and once he swung the Chauffer around and got him off balance, he got low and was able to slip his outside left hand to the inside, and this would have clinched the win but Kyokutenho was falling out backward anyway. These daily ass kickings he is administering have got to lodge in Asa's head and make it clear to Genghis that he needs to win pretty much every match to even have a shot on senshuraku, Day 15. Do you see Hakuho losing to anyone not named Khan? I don't. Not at the moment. He has the same cocky look that Asa had years ago. We may well be looking at two consecutive zensho.

Asashoryu must have gotten the message, or maybe it's just that he can get it up for guys like Kisenosato and can't for guys like Miyabiyama, whom he has beaten so many times it must motivate him as much as writing a five page essay on the history of paint. Whatever the reason, Genghis came rocketing out of his stance bash his head into the Kid's chin, and then drove his hand into Kisenosato's throat, pushing him back. The Kid tried some arm lifting, slipped away, but was rewarded with another hand to the mug. Still the Kid came forward, and Asa figured on a little head slapping/pulling, but Kise kept his balance, only to see Asa whip around to grab the back of the mawashi, pivoting like a twenty-two year-old to shove out the former Sekiwake. A solid win over a big rikishi who has gotten tougher if not luckier in the last year.

So, apologies for the longish intro, but this Arbo affair needed tending to. Mark will be reporting Day 5, I'm happy to say, and let's be easy on him, huh? Dude uses a penis pump, for crying out loud.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Regardless of how this basho plays out and regardless of the one-liners yet to be posted, Clancy has already submitted the "take" of the basho when on day 1 he offered "typical of Japanese culture...where a new guy has to do something, anything, to make it clear to all that he is large and in charge." Clancy was of course referring to the impromptu meeting called by the new commissioner on Saturday night where he gathered all of the judges around and told them to be strict in calling false starts on rikishi who don't put both fists to the ground properly at the tachi-ai. Since it wasn't a problem to begin with, the judges are now in a bind because the press made such a big deal out of it. So, referring back to Clancy's original take let me add the following: "any Japanese person publicly given a new assignment is going to make something up if he has to in order to give the appearance that he is following orders and doing his job." We're only three days in, and this new mandate is really getting annoying not to mention ridiculous. An Ozeki went down today in my opinion partly because of the rule, and we nearly had a disaster in the Yokozuna ranks as well. Because they have come under such scrutiny due to no fault of their own, the judges and referees are making these erroneous false start calls, which is interrupting the flow of the basho and costing some rikishi bouts.

Let's get right to the action and hope that everyone is doing their job and providing plenty of interruptions. In the first bout of the day, M15 Kasugao hit hard at the tachi-ai and then pulled Tosanoumi down for the easy victory, but wait!! Someone didn't have both hands placed to the dirt yet. I'm not sure who the offending party was because the tachi-ai looked perfect to me (I even reviewed it frame by frame), but the referee called the thing back. In round two, Kasugao began pushing Tosanoumi back from the tachi-ai identical to round one, but you could see that the Korean didn't have his legs under him, and when Tosanoumi showed the least bit of resistance, Kasugao went for a pull down...which Tosanoumi read to perfection and turned the tables pushing Kasugao back and out.

At 0-3 the Korean walked gingerly back to his side of the dohyo probably not having fully recovered from the leg injury that sent him to Juryo in the first place, and it looks as if a win with forward-moving sumo for him this basho will be about as rare as a Pantera fan named Dallas. If they called this back because Kasugao immediately went for a pull down from the tachi-ai, I love the new rule. Otherwise, Kasugao got robbed blind today.

M16 Kakizoe executed an excellent tachi-ai against rookie M15 Tamawashi today, but he didn't stick and try and force the bout to the belt. Still, his charge aided him in bullying Tamawashi around the ring for a few seconds, but finally the larger rookie dug in and turned the tables, using tsuppari to throw Kakizoe off balance at the edge of the ring. As Tamawashi revved the engines and went for that final push-out kill, Kakizoe was waiting for it and suddenly stepped to the side and shoulder slapped Tamawashi clear out of the dohyo. Kakizoe moves to 3-0 while Tamawashi has actually looked decent; his 1-2 record just doesn't show it.

It's evident that M16 Kokkai has completely abandoned his intent to do forward-moving sumo, but on the flip side, it is evident that every one of Kimurayama's tachi-ai is a henka. Even the announcers were talking about it today, only they both were surprised that Kimurayama actually henka'd to his right today instead of the usual left. Anyway, Kokkai went for a double pull down with both hands that Kimurayama survived, so the rikishi spent the next five seconds with Kokkai trying to set up another pull with tsuppari while Kimurayama dodged the attack nicely. About 8 seconds in, Kokkai aligned his feet, and it was so glaring that even a rikishi of Kimurayama's caliber couldn't miss it, so he lunged forward getting his left arm deep on the inside, which was all he needed to force the Georgian back and out to his first loss. Kimurayama is 3-0.

M13 Chiyohakuho just toyed with M14 Takekaze today, and it was even after an awful tachi-ai from the youngster. Right after he hit, he had both hands inching towards the back of Takekaze's head, but Takekaze's feet just seemed glued to the dohyo. Chiyohakuho got away with the blunder and next just grabbed Takekaze by the back of the head and yanked him forward and off the dohyo completely. At 0-3 Takekaze better not have been one of the Japanese rikishi to have tested positive for weed because if he ever gets sent to the hole, he's gonna be someone's gal for sure. Dude can't fight anyone off these days. Chiyohakuho is a nifty 2-1.

Okay...I've now confirmed that Musashigawa Rijicho's new mandate about clean tachi-ai was not put in place to eliminate the tachi-ai henka because M13 Kitataiki executed a beauty today against M12 Dejima. The problem is, though, that Kitataiki's left knee is so screwed up that he didn't execute it completely enough. The proof of that is that Dejima actually survived it, and immediately swiveled into the morozashi position escorting Kitataiki back and out with ease. Kitataiki (1-2) needs to withdraw rather than soil his name further with the sumo he showed today. Dejima moves to 2-1.

M12 Tamanoshima manhandled M11 Yoshikaze today lurching into the morozashi position straightway and forcing his opponent towards the edge, and just as Yoshikaze tried to back out of the hold creating some slight separation, Tamanoshima grabbed Yoshikaze's left arm and used his right foot to trip Yoshikaze's ankle from behind sending Yoshikaze to the dohyo via soto-gake officially but probably suso-harai in reality. Anyway, that's all boring, I know, but after watching the replays, the NHK guy in the both said, "Do you think Tamanoshima planned that move today?" to which Kitanofuji immediately responded, "No, it was just luck." The two laughed about the frankness of Kitanofuji's comments after he said them, but you gotta love Kitanofuji and his ability to tell it as it is.

The M10 Tochinoshin - M11 Takamisakari matchup looked to show some promise today coming in, but I think Tochinoshin was late on his tachi-ai because he had that new mandate on his mind. His late as Kate charge allowed Takamisakari to lunge into a moro-zashi grip that he wasted no time in using to wrench Tochinoshin back and out for the easy yori-kiri win. Both rikishi are 1-2.

M10 Futenoh exhibited his worst tachi-ai of the basho so far by hitting M8 Masatsukasa too high, but since his opponent was Masatsukasa, he didn't pay for it. The two ended up in sort of a hidari-yotsu position with Futenoh getting his left arm on the inside and Masatsukasa pushing up into Futenoh's right armpit (called hazu-oshi). Regardless of what it was, the bout was now a yotsu-zumo contest, and Futenoh showed his prowess by wrestling Masatsukasa back and out with relative ease. No one could have gotten away with that tachi-ai a few notches up the rank, but Futenoh moved to 3-0 thanks to an inexperienced opponent. Masatsukasa is still an o'fer after such a promising debut last basho.

M9 Wakanosato looked to continue his winning streak against M7 Tokitenku today, but Tokitenku lowered his head and smacked it right into the middle Wakanosato's chest. The move didn't drive Wakanosato back at all, but it kept him from getting on the inside of Tokitenku, and Wakanosato panicked at this point going for the immediate pull-down. Tokitenku pounced on the mistake and had Wakanosato driven back and out without argument. Love to see a guy dominate the tachi-ai and then just kick his opponent's ass. Both fellas are 1-2.

A somewhat compelling bout in these parts was the M6 Toyohibiki - M9 Hokutoriki matchup that saw two oshi rikishi going head to head. The result was a dominating performance from Hokutoriki who used a morote tachi-ai to stand Toyo the Hutt upright before putting the de-ashi into overdrive and just pushing Toyohibiki back and out with little resistance. When he wants to be, Hokutoriki can be quite good. I'm sure the comfort of this rank has something to do with it too. You never see this kind of effort from Hokutoriki among the jo'i. Nevertheless, he's 3-0 while the Nikibi is in a pinch at 1-2.

M5 Gatoreido has it in him this basho. And you may say, so what? He only beat M4 Tochinonada today. But it was the way in which he did it that shows how much the kid has learned this year in the division. After an even tachi-ai that saw Tochinonada work his left arm inside for a nice inside belt grip, you could just see the Gentle Giant setting up his usual inner-belt throw...a move that Goeido would not have survived in earlier basho, but he was cool as a cat today grabbing a right outer grip and pushing his right knee into the back of Tochinonada's left thigh as Nada planted his stump resulting in a completely neutralized Tochinonada. Smooth as silk it was now Goeido's turn to take advantage of his position, and he did so pulling Tochinonada out of the dohyo with his right outer grip while using that knee to the back of the thigh to make it look easy. Many may have watched this bout and said, "why is Mike making such a big deal out of this?" The reason is Goeido's sumo was so subtley good today that the novice would have surely missed its brilliance. Goeido is 3-0 if ya need him while the giant falls gently to 1-2.

M4 Aminishiki used a moro-te tachi-ai today against M6 Tochiohzan, and while Oh stood his ground well, his back was arched and his arms were as far away from a belt grip as they could be. After about four seconds of moro-te shoves, Aminishiki had set his opponent up to the point where he grabbed a nice right outer grip and was able to burrow his head at the base of Tochiohzan's chin and just drive him back and out for the easy win. Good stuff from Aminishiki who was in control throughout and picks up his first win. Tochiohzan falls to 2-1.

In perhaps the featured match-up of the day coming in Sekiwake Ama showed serious nad by hitting Komusubi Baruto straight on directly into the Estonian's chest. But he didn't stop there immediately pushing up at Baruto's pits with both hands (moro-hazu). Baruto should have used his mass to dig in, but that's easy for me to say. With both arms being pushed upwards, Baruto instinctively went to the back of Ama's head with both hands...just the move the Mongolian was waiting for because Ama had Baruto driven back and out a second after that. This is one of those bouts where you don't want to see either guy lose, but Ama's masterful sumo today was a treat to watch. Ama gets back on track at 2-1 in a big bout for him after blowing that effort with the Kak yesterday.

As for Baruto, NHK showed a graphic earlier in the broadcast that indicated 27 of the current Makuuchi rikishi have fought in the sanyaku, but they followed that up by showing only eight of the rikishi currently not fighting in the sanyaku have ever obtained kachi-koshi when ranked as sanyaku. That's a significant drop off, especially when you consider two former Ozeki (Miyabiyama and Dejima) and three former mainstays (Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku, Wakanosato) are counted among the eight. What that means is getting to the sanyaku is somewhat difficult, but proving yourself once there is reserved for only the elite rikishi. Baruto took a huge step yesterday in defeating Kotooshu, but his pulling the trigger too quickly on the pull move was a baby step back. He has got to prove himself in this division, and the only way a guy of his size can do that is by winning eight from the sanyaku. He's just fine right now at 1-2 considering his schedule.

In the Ozeki ranks, M3 Kyokutenho took advantage at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotooshu by bumping chests hard and lunging into an immediate left outer grip. Kotooshu countered with the right inside, but the Bulgarian does not fight well from the inside position. It didn't help that Kyokutenho masterfully pushed away Kotooshu's left on the other side. Couple that with Kyokutenho's height, and the Ozeki was all but neutralized as they aligned chests in the ring. Before Kotooshu could get anything going, Kyokutenho planted his leg and just spun Kotooshu around and out of the dohyo with that left uwate hold. Kotooshu fans may be thinking here we go again, but I think the tardiness of the Ozeki's tachi-ai was due to his worrying about putting both fists squarely to the dirt. I know it sounds as if I'm beating a dead horse already, but there's no other reason for Kotooshu's late tachi-ai. After all my years of watching sumo, when something doesn't go right it just stands out. It's hard to explain, but even a moment's hesitation can raise a red flag for me, and that's the impression I got watching Kotooshu's tachi-ai today. I'm not gonna fault the Ozeki in this one, but his 1-2 record will be no consolation. Kyokutenho makes his first win of the basho a biggie.

Next up was Komusubi Asasekiryu bumping chests with Ozeki Kotomitsuki and then immediately moving to his left (I didn't think it was a henka because Sexy made contact before he moved). Asasekiryu didn't gain a belt grip from the move, but where he did gain was the fact that Kotomitsuki came away from the charge with no sort of position whatsoever. The Ozeki did pivot well to square himself back up with his opponent, but a tsuppari contest ensued, a circumstance that does not favor Kotomitsuki. Going back to my grammar school days, here's a nice simile for you that should put things into better perspective:

Kotomitsuki is to oshi-zumo what adult Star Wars fan is to girls

From the melee, Asasekiryu was able to grab a solid left grip, a grip so firm that he was able to stand slightly to the side of his opponent and use his elbow to push in at Kotomitsuki's right arm that the Ozeki was using in desperation for some kind of counter position. Hit and Miss never got it, and after gathering his wits about him, Asasekiryu went for the kill dragging the Ozeki across the ring and out via uwate-nage-dashi. I can't remember the last time I typed these words: "I thoroughly enjoyed Asasekiryu's sumo today" but it certainly applied today. Fantastic stuff as Sexy is just that picking up his first win. The Ozeki falls to 2-1 and coupled with Kotooshu's loss it all but takes the air out of the Sadogatake-beya just three days in.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai faced his nemesis in Sekiwake Toyonoshima, a rikishi he has yet to beat. That fact must have been weighing on the Ozeki's mind because he just kicked Toyonoshima's ass slamming into his chest from the tachi-ai leading with both hands and then tangibly digging in with his legs as he set up the tsuppari attack that had Toyonoshima arching his back before being shoved clear off the dohyo in two seconds. After the bout, Kitanofuji was as surprised as everyone else and let the words slip, "What got into him today?" No kidding. Nevertheless, Chiyotaikai is off to a very good 3-0 start. I've been impressed with his whoopass attitude this basho. Toyonoshima needn't panic at 1-2.

M2 Kisenosato shifted ever so slightly at the tachi-ai fishing for the cheap right outer grip against Ozeki Kaio, and he looked to get it briefly, but Kaio dug in and shook it off straightway leaving both rikishi in the hidari-yotsu position. Kaio had positioned himself low enough at this point that he looked to have the advantage, and it showed as he wrenched Kisenosato upright just enough with the left arm to grab the solid right outer grip about 15 seconds into the bout. Once obtained, Kaio gave a few more shakes of his ass to really dig in, and then he unleashed a signature uwate-nage throw that felled the Kid to the dirt and sent a huge buzz through the crowd as it should have. This was great stuff from Kaio (2-1) who completely picked his opponent apart...even after receiving a slight henka. Kisenosato has got to rethink a few things at 0-3.

In the Yokozuna ranks, M1 Miyabiyama slammed into Asashoryu at the tachi-ai completely standing the Yokozuna upright, and the Hutt wasted no time in firing tsuppari into Asashoryu's chest keeping him upright and at bay. Asashoryu used to be one of the best tsuppari guys around, but he looked rusty in his craft today as he couldn't counter what else but the lumbering tsuppari from Miyabiyama. After trading blows for a few seconds that saw Asashoryu gain some ground, Miyabiyama timed a perfect right-hand slap to the side of Asashoryu's neck that sent the Yokozuna stumbling over towards the straw, and just as Asashoryu was able to right the ship and square back up with his opponent, Miyabiyama was on him like flies to stink and dealt a wicked shove into Asashoryu's mid-section that lifted the Yokozuna off the dohyo and sent him back across the tawara in spectacular fashion. Wow! Haven't seen the Sheriff deal like that for awhile, and that kin-boshi doesn't suck either. There's not much to comment on regarding the bout. Miyabiyama wasn't intimidated, and Asashoryu (2-1) is clearly not the rikishi he once was. And while I'm on the subject of kin-boshi, let me give both Asashoryu and Hakuho huge props for giving away so few of them. Yeah, I know Asa gave one away to Tochinonada last basho, but that bout wasn't a clear victory for Nada. My point is that both Yokozuna are standing their ground and whipping up on the Maegashira rikishi as they should be doing. When was the last time a Yokozuna was dominated by a Maegashira rikishi as Asa was today? That's my point.

Oh, and just as a side note, Martin and I have a bet going on this basho regarding the number of wins Miyabiyama will tally. I said in my pre-basho report that Miyabiyama would only win four, but Martin protested saying he will win at least six or more. So...four or less, and I win; six or more and Martin wins; and if Flobby ends at just five wins we kiss and make up. Regardless, memo to anyone that sends me emails AFTER the basho telling me that one of my predictions was stupid or off base. Protest when I make the statement as Martin did...not after you've had the luxury of watching the basho to its conclusion.

In the final bout of the day, Yokozuna Hakuho used a quick left armbar at the tachi-ai against M1 Kotoshogiku and then just bowled the former Sekiwake to the dirt in no time with a dashi-nage throw...but wait!! The head judge had called a false start only to be completely ignored by the rikishi and the referee. With the crowd still cheering after Hakuho was declared the winner, the head judge finally got the referee's attention and said that a false start had occurred. If anyone false started it was Hakuho, but they actually warned Kotoshogiku for his actions.

Regardless, there are a few issues here. First, it was a completely normal tachi-ai with neither rikishi having gained the advantage because his hands didn't touch the dirt. Second, if anyone did look suspicious it was Hakuho yet they warned Kotoshogiku. Third, the bout was never stopped, which opens up new issues like why wasn't the referee paying attention? Or was it fair to have Kotoshogiku fight again after being rolled across the dohyo like a bowling ball? And fourth...what if Hakuho loses the do-over after having clobbered his opponent fair and square? There's just so much that is and can go wrong with this latest "movement" in sumo. It's like the drug testing. Why administer a drug test if you're not prepared with any sort of policy beforehand on what to do if someone tests positive?

Anyway, before I get off on too big of a tangent let's get to the rematch. Hakuho charged the second time with his arms in tight aiming for morozashi, but Kotoshogiku reacted well and fought the Yokozuna off long enough that Hakuho relented bringing his right arm to the outside, which actually gave the Geeku a sniff of morozashi himself. But there's a reason why Hakuho constantly says in his comments to the press "I'm reacting to the flow of the bout" because just when you thought he was in trouble, he pivoted out of harm's way with a left sideways shove before ducking down low and forcing his way into Kotoshogiku's inside where the Yokozuna wasted no time in dispatching his opponent with a left scoop throw. Despite what anyone else's record is, Hakuho is your leader now at 3-0 after the two wins today. Kotoshogiku falls to 1-2 for his efforts.

Tomorrow is hump day as they say, and we usually reserve the day for Mark, but last night at the hotel Martin was performing some forensic tests on Mark's passport and birth certificate, and when he raised some questions to Mr. Arbo about the validity of the documents, Mark recanted his story about growing up in China and fled. The next thing we knew he went out and hired a lawyer who submitted to us a big list of questions. We've agreed to meet with Mark and his lawyer tomorrow, but in the meantime, somebody has to take over humping duties for day 4. Couldn't think of a better choice then Clancy.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I hope this report finds you well. If it seems a little late, it is because of the recent scandal here at Sumotalk where a foreign substance was found in Mark Arbo's possession. As Clancy indicated yesterday, the Sumotalk Deliberation Council did convene, and we had decided on excommunicating Mark for a number of reasons (ie, he's a foreigner) that I won't get into here, but when we called Mark into the room to ask if he had anything final to say for himself, he begged for mercy. He told us that he was really just a kid...a minor in fact. I told Mark he looked to be at least 30 years-old to me, but according to his explanation, he was born in China and had dreams of being a female Olympic gymnast but was kicked off the team when he was 13 because he couldn't explain to the authorities his pube mustache and that bulge in his leotard. He wound up being exiled to the outskirts of Japan...somewhere in Saga Prefecture, but his doctored passport and birth certificate that shows him to be older than he really is never got changed back.

Now we are not stupid here at Sumotalk despite what most of you think, so once we heard that improbable explanation, we were convinced 100% that he was telling the truth. It probably also helped his case when he showed up for the SDC meeting wearing shorts, nylon ankle-socks, and black leather shoes Still, he was found with an illegal substance and being the commissioner of Sumotalk, I am in quite the bind. The biggest problem is I've never dealt with weed before and don't know much about it. The closest I've ever gotten to grass was in the 80's when I used to go to any hard rock concert that came through town with my older brother. That was back when you could still smoke indoors, so as soon as the opening act would hit the stage, the majority of the crowd would light up. Growing up, I had enough bad little league baseball coaches that I knew what cigarette smoke smelled like, but it wasn't until I started going to concerts that I figured out what weed smelled like. But that was as close as I've ever gotten to inhaling. Coincidentally, those hard rock concerts were also my first exposure to rubbers. It took a bit to figure it out during the intermission of my first ever show, but along with throwing Frisbees around the arena, people were also batting these colorless balloons around that had nipples on one end and a bunch of lube smeared all over them. As soon as my brother and I figured out they were condoms, our repeated conversation for the rest of the 30-minute intermission went something like this:

Me: Heh, hehn

Brother: Uh huh-huh-huh. Cool.

Anyway, back to the business at hand, as commissioner I'm doing my best make things up as I go along and do everything to try and cover my arse from being exposed as the fraud I really am. I mean, what's the stepping down so Clancy Kelly can become the new commissioner? The good news is that the sumo will always take precedent, so lemme put my current troubles on hold and get straight to the bouts.

Leading off the day was M16 Kokkai welcoming Bushuyama up from Juryo. Was there any doubt that the newbie would fall into the Georgian's trap? Kokkai did hit squarely at the tachi-ai, but wasn't driving with the legs. He had a idea which was to just back pedal and pull his opponent in the process. It worked today because you haven't heard the name Bushuyama before, but at 2-0, Kokkai's sumo still looks shaky.

The previous bout went off cleanly, but it took M16 Kakizoe and M15 Kasugao five times to get the tachi-ai right today. The first was was fine, but thanks to Musashigawa Rijicho needlessly calling the judges together the night before the basho started and warning them about the rikishi putting both fists to the dirt, the initial charges have gone to pot. Maybe I shouldn't have used THAT word, but Clancy was correct yesterday in assessing that Musashigawa Rijicho had to do something. Of course the press has been interpreting his moves so far as being aimed directly at Asashoryu in order to straighten the Yokozuna up, but all it has done is cause needless delays in the action and a few rikishi to worry more about putting both fists down than concentrating on their opponent.

When the bout actually got underway, you couldn't expect the sumo to be of any worth. Kasugao attempted one kote-nage or so, but it was mainly Kakizoe keeping the Korean moving around the ring before pushing him out after about five seconds. Sweet Zoe Jane improves to 2-0 while Kasugao remains winless.

Rookie M15 Tamawashi hit M14 Takekaze squarely in the neck with both hands at the tachi-ai (called moro-te), and when the former Komusubi didn't respond with any sort of attack of his own, Tamawashi hit once, twice, three times a lady knocking Ms. Kaze back and out with ease. It makes you wonder if Takekaze (0-2) was doing roids. A year ago he was a feisty rikishi working his way up to Komusubi, but ever since he hit the rank in Osaka, he's been nothing but rank and is falling down the charts faster than a Japanese pop start attempting to release their music overseas. Tamawashi picks up first Makuuchi win.

M14 Kimurayama has settled into an effective tachi-ai his two basho in the division; the problem is that it involves a henka. It's not a severe henka, but Kimurayama is shifting to his left at seemingly every tachi-ai to try and gain the advantage. M13 Kitataiki gave his best effort in trying to recover, but he had no legs under him, and Kimurayama was able to push him out of the ring in short order. Kitataiki, whose left knee is heavily bandaged, could barely climb back into the dohyo. It took him about three tries to hop up, and it was obvious that the wheel is not right. It'll be a miracle if the rookie can make it the full 15 days, which is a shame because he's a promising rikishi. I couldn't quite detect where Kitataiki (1-1) actually injured himself, but I'm sure putting on the break after his opponent's shift didn't help matters. Kimurayama is 2-0.

At this point in the broadcast, the announcement was made that former Sekiwake Arase died at age 59. Kenji undoubtedly remembers the dude, but the only piece of worthless trivia I can give you is that he's the one credited with first sporting bushy sideburns.

M12 Tamanoshima simply schooled M13 Chiyohakuho today by coming hard at the tachi-ai and getting his left arm on the inside of the youngster. With the ability to push having been erased, Chiyohakuho could only try and run, but Tamanoshima kept on his every move and chased him out of the ring via yorikiri. Tamanoshima's been fighting like a young pup the first two days, but I'm pretty sure in those Viagra commercials they say the effect wears off in 48 hours. Chiyohakuho is 1-1.

In probably the most compelling bout of the first half, the Degyptian was paired with M11 Takamisakari, but as Clancy pointed out yesterday, Dejima knew he'd get no henka from the Cop, so he charged hard into the gangly Sakari belting him in the upper torso with such force that the women in attendance gave that horrific scream they always give when Takamisakari loses, and the bout had barely begun. After knocking him straight up, it took about two more shoves with perfect de-ashi to send the Cop packing with an 0-2 start. Yes, Takamisakari loses about as many as he wins each basho, but you rarely see him get handled like this. Dejima notches his first win.

M11 Yoshikaze did everything he could against M10 Tochinoshin today, which meant shoving rapidly and stepping left and right to try and throw his superior opponent off balance, but Shin dug in well and followed Yoshikaze around the ring nicely finally grabbing a left uwate and hooking the right arm on the inside as well. Yoshikaze tried to escape, but the fork had been solidly planted by now, so Tochinoshin lifted Yoshikaze clear off his feet via tsuri-dashi and hoisted him to the edge on top of the tawara. He didn't finish his bidness that first attempt, but the Georgian (1-1) wisely maintained both of his grips, and a second tsuri-dashi got the job done for the impressive win anyway you smoke it. Yoshikaze falls to 0-2 with the loss.

Futenoh is looking great this basho...oh yeah, he's fighting at M10. Still, he crushed M9 Wakanosato at the tachi-ai driving his left shoulder into Wakanosato's upper torso and grabbing a solid right outer grip in the process. Wakanosato (1-1) attempted to counter with the left on the inside, but he isn't called the Crocodile for nothing. He didn't have the reach with the stubbly right limb to counter, and Futenoh (2-0) forced him back and in a bout two seconds never breaking stride.

M7 Iwakiyama needed to get a hold of M9 Hokutoriki at any point during their bout today to have a chance, but Hokutoriki was too good keeping the Hutt at bay with great tsuppari aimed right at Iwakiyama's neck. If you were thinking now what I was thinking then, we're both amazed that Iwakiyama even has a neck, but found it Hokutoriki did, and after driving Iwakiyama back to the edge, the Hutt attempted to evade quickly to the side and catch Hokutoriki off balance, but apparently Iwakiyama (1-1) failed to read the disclaimer warning fat guys from trying quick, evasive maneuvers because his right toe got stuck in the sand as his girth kept his body moving laterally. The result was Iwakiyama crumbling to the dohyo having twisted his knee, and the injury was severe enough that he was carted off in a wheelchair after reaching the tunnel. Hokutoriki moves to 2-0.

With such a size difference between M6 Toyohibiki and M8 Masatsukasa, the younger Masatsukasa had to change something up if he wanted a chance to win, and even though he did go for a pull-down straightway, he chose to evade by back-pedaling. Toyohibiki was on his opponent's every move, however, and had Masatsukasa pushed back, out, and into the second row in two seconds flat. Great de-ashi from Toyohibiki who improves to 2-0 while Masatsukasa remains winless.

In a bout that took a few seconds to get going, M7 Tokitenku and M6 Tochiohzan both seemed hesitant at the charge opting to stand fairly upright pushing at each other's shoulders, but Oh was able to duck into the morozashi position about four seconds in, and once he had the inside position on both sides, he mounted his charge and was able to body Tokitenku back and down via yori-taoshi. Average start for the youngster, but a great finish as he moves to 2-0. Tokitenku is fading at 0-2.

M4 Aminishiki came into his bout against M5 Goeido boasting a 4-0 mark in head-to-head competition, but you can only go to the well so often, especially against my man Goeido. Today, Goeido secured a quick left frontal belt grip at the tachi-ai, and instead of mounting a straightforward charge, he waited for Aminishiki to shift to the side, which Sneaky did instantaneously to his left. In the process, Goeido didn't shove Aminishiki out straightway, but he was able to keep his body straight in front of Sneaky so that when Aminishiki reloaded for any push attempt, Goeido slipped to his side and escorted Ami out of the ring. Coming back down the hanamichi, Goeido had this badass confident look about him that I interpreted to mean "I'm figuring this division out." His 2-0 start says my interpretation is correct. Sneaky has perhaps played his hand too many times falling to 0-2.

Sekiwake Ama welcomed M5 Kakuryu today with a solid tachi-ai and then the quick morozashi position, but Ama's feet never were completely driving his charge during the bout (was he fearing a henka?), and as he forced Kakuryu back towards the straw, the Maegashira had plenty of room to pivot slightly, plant his left foot, and counter with a kote-nage throw with the right arm that sent Ama twisting down to the dohyo and touching down just before the Kak's own left hand squirted to the sand. There's no other way to put it, but Ama blew this one, and he knew it. We'll see how he shakes it off because he had his opponent today from the tachi-ai but seemed to be distracted by something. Both rikishi are 1-1.

Sekiwake Toyonoshima looked to make amends for the rank welcoming M4 Tochinonada, but the Sekiwake failed to gain moro-zashi at the tachi-ai, and he also failed to move laterally at all allowing the much larger Nada to easily stand his ground and methodically work his left arm into a solid frontal belt grip. Toyonoshima countered with a right outer, but Tochinonada had the inside position, and after gathering his wits for a few seconds, he went for the shitate-nage kill that easily sent Toyonoshima to the dirt. This was a dominating win for Tochinonada who moves to 1-1 with the win. At his current size, Toyonoshima (1-1) cannot afford to be inactive during his bouts.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki secured the quick right inside position at the tachi-ai against M3 Kyokutenho as the two grappled for position on the opposite side making fresh advances towards each other's wrists, Kotomitsuki eventually grabbed a hold of the Chauffeur's joint and then quick as a cat executed his signature uchi-muso move swiping Tenho's right leg away while pulling him down with the belt. Great stuff from Kotomitsuki (2-0) who was all hit today. Kyokutenho is winless at 0-2.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai continued his inexplicable dominance against M2 Kisenosato today using a nice delay tactic at the tachi-ai. The Kid was hunkered down with both fists ready, but the Ozeki just bounced a bit on his haunches failing to start. You weren't sure if Chiyotaikai was going to stand back up and reload, but he suddenly slapped that right fist to the dirt and charged squarely in Kisenosato's upper torso pushing the Kid back and out in about three seconds. Kisenosato was clearly not ready in this one, and it goes back to Musashigawa Rijicho monkeying around with a problem that never existed to begin with. In his quotes explaining the move to clean up the tachi-ai, Musashigawa Rijicho said that it was important that both rikishi get their breathing in synch before charging. Didn't happen today, which resulted in the lopsided bout. Chiyotaikai is 2-0 while Kisenosato's slide continues at 0-2.

Komusubi Asasekiryu moved slightly to his right at the tachi-ai against Kaio leaving the Ozeki's right arm as far away from an outer grip as you can get, but Asasekiryu seemed lost after making the shift and wasn't able to hunker down or budge the Ozeki in any way. Kaio held his ground well and reached around Asasekiryu's left arm and lifted him upwards pulling his hips closer to where Kaio eventually secured the right outer grip. Once he had it, he mounted his force-out charge, and while Asasekiryu resisted admirably, there was nowhere for him to go but back and out to an 0-2 start. Kaio delights the Mongolian gals picking up his first win.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Kotooshu had a huge test in front of him in Komusubi Baruto if the Ozeki-gun were going to be perfect on the day. Baruto came with an unorthodox tachi-ai for him where he closed both arm pits leaving his hands on the inside as if he were going for the moro-zashi position. He didn't get it, but the move seemed to befuddle his opponent because while Kotooshu did grab a right outer grip, he was in no position to charge, and Baruto used his left inside position (and mass) to lift up on Kotooshu's right arm rendering his uwate useless and then swing the Ozeki clear across the opposite end of the ring near the rope where Kotooshu simply had no room left with which to work. The Komusubi picked up the biggest win of his career by simply bodying Kotooshu back and out that final step. This is exactly what Baruto needed to give him the confidence to win at this level. And then we were treated to an interview afterwards. In his broken Japanese, Baruto was trying to explain the flow of the bout, but never mind that...his infectious grin and the occasional laugh out of sheer joy made the spectacle worth it. It is impossible not to like this kid from Estonia. Both Bart and Kotooshu are 1-1. We'll see how Kotooshu recovers. I think there's a little bit of whitey pride here, and the loss probably stung worse than say if Kisenosato had beaten him.

Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed M1 Miyabiyama today with both arms outstretched in yet another passive tachi-ai, so Miyabiyama lowered his head and began his tsuppari charge. Hakuho went for an immediate one-handed pull down, but Miyabiyama was up for a fight and seemed to gain confidence from the Yokozuna's early move. But Hakuho is strong enough, fast enough, and big enough to make that ill-advised move and bounce back form it with no trouble, especially against the Sheriff. With Miyabiyama firing tsuppari after tsuppari, Hakuho moved laterally just enough trying to grab one of the Hutt's arms to turn him around. He finally got it after about six seconds and escorted Miyabiyama out from behind. Mainoumi has a great comment afterwards saying that Hakuho now stands there at the tachi-ai with both arms outstretched as if to say "come and get me" (sa, irasshai in Japanese). It just implies how confident and how great Hakuho is becoming.

And finally, after committing a false start, M1 Kotoshogiku reloaded and lunged into Yokozuna Asashoryu who greeted him with the morozashi position. Realizing his carelessness, Kotoshogiku immediately clamped down from the outside pinching in at both of Asashoryu's arms, and while it seemed to neutralize the right arm, the Yokozuna's left arm was inside deep enough to where he was in control of the bout. After a five-second stalemate or so, Asashoryu made his move by lifting the Geeku up with the left inside position and setting up his opponent on the other side to where Asashoryu had Kotoshogiku standing nearly upright with solid inside positions with both arms. A younger, healthier Asashoryu would have probably positioned himself to administer a tsuri-otoshi at this point to avenge the loss to the Geeku last basho, but it was all the current version could do to throw Kotoshogiku down with a right scoop throw in the end. Asashoryu's left arm has yet to be really tested solidly as the Geeku falls to 1-1.

I've ordered drug tests and room searches for the other contributors on day 3, so I'll see you again tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hello, and you are welcome to September, the finest month of the year. Unlike as a schoolboy, when the ninth month meant new classmates and an entire year of answering the same old questions for a new teacher ("Mr. Kelly, why do you talk so much?" "Mr. Kelly, what time does your mother get home?" "Mr. Kelly, why are you so effed up?"), September now means the end of stifling heat but yet the continued ability to swim in the ocean, the return of my children to school (freeing up chunks of daytime for me, who dotes on them everyday during the summer), and the last of the three annual Tokyo basho (and the one that, in a better world, would be held in Osaka).

September is also a time when we lovable goofballs here at Sumotalk look forward to meeting up at the hotel and sharing our war tales from the summer (i.e. how many wannabe starlets did Kenji convince he was a music video director, where did Mike (the only Japanese fluent naturist in Utah) get sliced by that "nasty old crabgrass", who from his entourage of admirers has Martin singled out for his annual Christmas holiday "Zwarte Piet's Lap Dance", and pretty much any late night tale from Simon, who, my lascivious friends, does not so much "whip it out" as he does "lure it out").

You'll note that conspicuous by omission is Mark. I could sugar coat it, but I prefer to be blunt, so here goes. Round about Friday evening, two hours after "lockdown" as we contributors like to refer to it, Mike, while doing his nightly check of the coin return slots at the hotel's phone bank, found a wallet. After rushing to the lavatory and shutting himself in a toilet booth, he found upon rifling through it, and much to his dismay, that it belonged to Arbo (Mike's as dirty as they come, but would never pilfer from one of his serfs, come on). As he folded it back up, something slipped to the floor, something wrapped tightly in paper, with little grassy strands jutting from the end and smelling for all the world like, as Mike later put it, "bad man's bidness". Since Mike doesn't know his "hash from a hole in the ground" (sorry, you can slap me for that one), he brought it to the top floor for us all to see.

After a brief but heated discussion, we agreed that it would constitute a reprehensible, unforgivable act to sneak into Mark's room when he was down at the sento, so we waited until he was down at the sento and snuck in. How to describe the scene that greeted us? Timothy Leary posters on the wall, a lava lamp on the bureau, Bob Marley and the Wailers playing on the jukebox, but most incriminating of all, a state-of-the-art, out-of-this-world, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't good old Canadian water bong wedged behind the commode. 

Naturally at first we refused to believe our eyes, and eager to give our homeboy the bendoubt, Kenji offered that "it might just be a science experiment", while Mike suggested "a terrarium for a very small, traveling hamster", but then Martin, ever the pragmatist, bravely stepped forward, wrapped his thick Transylvanian lips around the top, slid his long, salmon-pink tongue down to lick the crusty resin caked on the inside wall, and declared in perfect, unbroken English, "Boys, whats we got here be the devil's weed."

I left to go get a cocktail (when Matra Martin starts speaking like he's Captain in Cool Hand Luke, I'm outta there) and three hours later, as I was making my way back to my suite (accompanied by the Yamaguchi sisters, aged 21 and 26), I saw a large blue plastic sheet strung across the entrance to Arbo's room, Kenji, Martin and Simon carrying out large brown boxes, followed by Mike with one hand gripping Mark's shoulder (I can only assume it was Arbo, because his head was covered by a flimsy blanket).

Long story short, we will be convening a session of the Sumotalk Deliberation Council (I'm assigned to wear a Medusa wig and, regardless of what transpires, shriek incoherently about Asashoryu) on Monday to determine what, if any, punishment will dealt out to Mr. Arbo (as we are now being instructed to refer to him) for his recreant behavior here in Tokyo, the capital of our host country. We are all hopeful it turns out well, but not optimistic, as Mike was overheard calling the airlines for quotes on their "economy rates to Hell". Shudder.

I was busy today and missed the first two bouts (must have been all that grass I was doing), which pisses me off big time because they involved rikishi whom I dig, and have long dug. Kitazakura, headmaster at Boy's Town who always loves to press the flesh, vs. my fool of a warrior Kakizoe, then Kokkai vs. Kasugao. I'm particularly disappointed about missing Kokkai because he represents 25% of the "white" contingent remaining in Makuuchi. I'll report here that Kakizoe and Kokkai both won to remain undefeated.

Rookie Tamawashi (can he have any other nickname than The Mawashi?) took on sophomore Kimurayama, who didn't look all that bad in his debut in July, going 5-1 in his first six days (yet failing to KK). Today both men ran afoul of the new "rule", instituted suddenly on Sat. evening by the new headman, Rijicho Musashigawa, that "these guys gotta put their hands down at tachi-ai, dagnabit, been buggin the shit outta me for a coon's age". Typical of Japanese culture, where a new guy has to do something, anything, to make it clear to all that he is at large and in charge. I give this guy 18 months, tops, at the post. Anyway, once a proper tachi-ai had been executed, the rookie himself was executed as Kimurayama wrapped The Mawashi up by the throat and raveled him out to maintain his perfect record.

In the "Oh, How The Mighty Have Fallen" department, Takekaze met rookie Kitataiki (say that name three times fast). At M14, one poor basho could send the fireball, Komusubi in Osaka six months ago, down and out of the top division. That ain't good, and he knows it, which is why today he was tentative at tachi-ai and lost quickly. The ref again called one restart, then totally dropped the ball the second time around as Kitataiki came over before Takekaze, with not even one hand down, knew what hit ‘em. I can see already that this new "rule" will no doubt be applied as fairly and consistently as the checked swing calls made by first and third base umpires in major league baseball.

The guy with the most powerful name in sumo, Chiyohakuho, went head to head with the Degyptian, and for the third bout in a row gyoji said, Whoa, let's do 'er agin, fellas (gyoji has seen Cool Hand Luke, too, evidently). An "A" to the NHK Eigo guys for pointing this ridiculousness out, but an "F" for the Ozzie commentator who asked, "Are the crowd aware of this new rule?" Yes, replied his partner, the crowd are.

Dejima, alerted to his foe's strategy due to the false start, was able to avoid falling on his tits at tachi-ai, but Chiyohakuho just kept slapping at the low charging Musashigawa man until he went down in a rolling pratfall reminiscent of the late Chris Farley on SNL.  At W12, the former Ozeki is definitely living in a van down by the river.

Tamanoshima brought some sound sumo technique to his tussle with Takamisakari, who was manhandled from the get go (well, the second get go, have to keep the new rule streak alive, don't we?) Peter stayed low, balanced, with legs placed wide apart and moving forward. Bean, whose sumo today amounted to moving his face out the way of Peter's thrusts like a dog in a shower, hadn't a chance.

First bout I saw with no re-do, Yoshikaze looked to be in control, bringing his typical hypercaffeinated attack vs. Futenoh, but the man who dropped seven ranks down from July has long arms, and he used them to evade and pull and finally spin Yoshicafe around for the easy shove out. 

A white guy! A white guy! I sees myself a white guy! Too bad his foe is Wile. E. Veteran Wakanosato. Tochinoshin, fresh off his nineteenth urine test in three days, fell into The Barometer's arms, literally, and Wakanosato said, Don't mind if I do, backed up, and let him fall to the dirt. Despite appearances, nothing at all cheap about this win.

Masatsukasa, 10-5 in his debut last time out, seemed nervous vs. henka loving pulldown artist Hokutoriki (which is a bad sign for his future chances if due to intimidation, reasonable if due to caution), misfiring twice at tachi-ai. When they finally locked up the Hoaxster (who flouted the new "way things are gonna be" by not touching down at all) used a stiff arm to jam the youngster to the side and out. As pointless to say now as it would be on Day 13, Hokutoriki is atop the leaderboard.

Iwonkeykong barreled into Tokitenku and never stopped, finishing with a shweet two-handed Bob the Builder shove to the Mongolian's chest that made it clear who is king of the M7 rank in September. Don't want to fan the flames or anything, but could be we are going to see Jabba's nads this time out. The good Lord knows sumo needs to see them, his and several others'.

The first bout of the second half featured Toyohibiki and Tochiohzan, a couple of the brighter young things in sumo who each made a nice jump up from July's ranking (and probably NOT the two Japanese rikishi that tested positive for mary jane twice before a third test found them clean as a whistle, but who knows, because only the names of the foreigners who tested positive were leaked to the press). Tochi got a two-handed inside, morozashi, and nearly took the Pimple out in a pop, but there was a bit of an armbar rally that slowed Tochi's forward mo and brought things back to the center. However, Tochi once again applied the morozashi and this time twisted the younger Hutt down rather fashionably.

Kakuryu was upright from the word Go(eido) and was driven back because of it. A slick sidle nearly caused Goeido to fall, but he recovered, spun around, sighted his foe and attacked, grabbing an outside right that turned into an inside right faster than you can say "trained with Genghis". After a short getting to know you period, both guys ended up with good belt grips, but it didn't take long to see who is the better belt fighter as the thirsty-for-a-sanyaku-birth Gatoreido slung the Kak around and down. 

Shin-Sekiwake Toyonoshima took the best tachi-ai Aminishiki could bring and rolled with it, wiping off once and then twice, thrice not needed as Shneaky went flailing out while Toyo did a Chiyotaikai-esque one-legged pirouette at the edge. Considering how badly he could have been pooched at tachi-ai by Shneaky, I'd say this was okay sumo for Toyo, but he'd better bring his "A" game vs. Tochinonada tomorrow.

The same Tochinonada who nearly took Ama down, but when it was said and done, the East Sekiwake used a dangerously low position to shove out the W4. Normally I'd have said this was over once Ama got that strong front belt grip, but the Gentle Giant is an abnormally smart wrestler who might well have made Ozeki years ago had injuries (and perhaps being a touch too gentle) not held him back.

How in the world does Kyokutenho legitimately lose to the Wolf's Pup in such a pathetic manner? As he came forward through the usual chest thrusts to pin the Ozeki on the ropes, Chiyo slipped to the side, and Kyokutenho circled and followed but instead of staying on his feet, the Chauffer crashed. Looked like a dive, but who can say? Was it a plane that hit the Pentagon?

In the first of three straight Koto bouts, Kotoshogiku belied up to Kaio, and Kaio locked down on his arms. What else is new with these two? It appeared that Kaio was biding his time before he either twisted the living crap out of Geeku's arm or bodied him out, but a quick glance at the calendar on my wall told me this isn't 2003, and Kaio's strength ‘tis but a shadow of its former self. There was a touch of excitement in the air, no question, but Geeku finally used his youth and clean living to push the old man out. Kaio looked every bit the piece of classic, dusty furniture.

Next up was Kotooshu, fresh off his disappointing July Kaio-esque flop for Yokozuna promotion vs Kisenosato, himself down to M2 due to a 6-9 at Komusubi in Nagoya (where he lost to Futenoh? and some teenage dope fiend! You know they actually call it a "doping scandal" in the news here, as if toking on a spliff is on par with shooting 'roids). Kotooshu had the heebeejeebees but that's a given, and the kid was able to bring the action and push the Ozeki backward. Kotooshu got a nice outside belt, which Kise leaned down and forward to break. With the Ozeki at the edge and a two handed belt grip, the Kid seemed to be on the verge of avenging his July loss to the third white guy of the day, but Kotooshu was able to survive a twisting throw attempt and spun to the center, where he got an inside left and right front belt with which he was able to turn the tables and force the former Sekiwake out.

Third Koto had Hit or Mitsuki banging guts with Miyabiyama, who tried to pull right at the tachi-ai. Hit was on him like smoke on a sweater and there was nowhere for MiFlobby to go but back and out. Think Hakuho will have any trouble whatsoever with him tomorrow? 

Continuing the tradition of giving Asashoryu the more difficult foe on Days 1 and 2, Baruto the Biomass stepped up to take a shot at dropping Asa on Day 1 for the third basho in a row. (You're saying, Hey, fishbrain, he CAN'T fight Sexy. I know, but look at Day 2. Who'd you rather wrestle, Geeku or Flobby? Was Oswald a lone shooter?) However, Genghis was the one doing the dropping today as he stayed low at tachi-ai (how can you NOT go low vs. this behemoth?) and used a belt grip that was much like Ama's on Tochi earlier to slowly, inexorably drag Baruto to the ground by the sumo equivalent of his testicles.

Asasekiryu had no answer to Hakuho (will this be the theme of the basho?), getting stood up at tachi-ai and dismissed going back in literally less than one second. I had my kid time it.

Mixmaster Mike has a few choice bouts to expound on for Monday, including Dejima/Circus (Dejima is a wrecking ball and P.T.'s boy does not sidestep), Aminishiki/Goeido (can the up-and-comer get his head around the Riddler?) the previously mentioned Tochi/Toyo, Baruto/Kotooshu (please don't let us down, you two big white guys), and Asa/Geeku.

I'll be checking back in on Wednesday with a report on the exciting and controversial Arbo affair as it evolves. Don't know about ya'll, but I'm pins and needles.












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