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Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Even though the yusho has been decided and there is little hope for a good Yokozuna bout, I am here on Day 15 to keep yall informed and to bring to a conclusion a basho that did not lack for drama but honestly petered out there at the end.

To start matters off, it seems Takekaze, too, ran out of gas because he didnt have the normal amount of pep in his tachi-ai side step. With Sadanofuji bearing down on him and a KK, the E11 went into frantic, cat being backed into a corner by a large dog "get away, get aWAY!" slapping mode. They circled and as Takekaze was backed up, his foot oopsie slipped out and the bout ended with both guys kind of just standing there and looking like, "Oh." Nice for the W12s tsukebito, who wont have much sweat to beat out of his mawashi on the rocks down by the RIVER!

8-6 W16 Tamawashi crouched staring into his countrymans eyes, 5-9 W10 Shotenro, and knew one thing: He will forgive me. With that he stood up and barely met his man, who charged hard past enough to get turned to the side and was easy pushout material. As an aside, if youre ever not sure if a rikishi is from Mongolia or not, and you go to the NSK page to check and cant immediately find "Country of Origin," heres how you can tell: If his given name has fifteen "Js" and nine "Ds" and maybe two vowels, hes Mongolian.

After missing two days late due to some ailment, Asahisho came back to win his final two matchups, todays vs. Tokushoryu. Hard out of the blocks, the W16 blasted his foe back and to the side, and after a quick pushing series, Tokushoryu lost by what we might say was a "self-inflicted hataki-komi." At W10 6-9, Toku is safe for the end of the year festivities in Kyushu, but Asahisho will be packing up his 5-8-2 record and heading south.

W13 Homasho capped a stellar return basho today by simply overcoming a determined but much too bulky Gagamaru. Using his patented absorption techniques, the W13 allowed himself to be throated back by Yubaba, and it certainly looked like Homasho was going to be blasted out. But he slipped to the side and braced his right foot against the tawara, and then drove with his head under Gagamarus chin and more importantly, his hands under those huge titties. The fact of the matter is that dude has too much breast flesh for his foes to get under and push up on. I mean, duh, thats why they dont let women wrestle in sumo. Homasho has to be happy, but perhaps ruing a bit his three day losing streak late in the basho to Takekaze, Tochinowaka, and Aminishiki, which surely prevented him from gaining a Special Prize. Dude was Komusubi one year ago in November. Injuries can be such a bitch. (Odd fact about Homasho? Dude has been Komusubi three times, and each time hes finished 4-11.)

Good to see veteran Wakanosato go out with a strong yotsu win over Aran, but at E15, his 4-11 will send him deeply down into Juryo if he does not retire. Mind you, throughout his career, Wakanosato has been a Juryo stud, taking the yusho four times, including in his first ever Juryo basho. In 2000 he was demoted after missing two straight basho in Makuuchi, and he stormed back to take the Juryo yusho twice in a row. Then again in 2009, dropped after missing a basho and a half, he took his final Juryo yusho and propelled himself back into Makuuchi.

But this will be the first time he has ever been demoted after wrestling for an entire fortnight, in other words due to his results in the ring. Incredible. He had a decent 9-6 from M16 in Osaka this year, but since then has been MK. Id not bet the house against him giving it another go in Juryo, just to see for himself if he has one last huzzah, but all signs point to a top-knot ceremony in his near future. For you young pups, this man was a TRUE sumo legend. Class act all the way. If he ever did not give his foe a straight up tachi-ai Ive not heard of it.

Kitataiki came in with his MK 6-8 looking to make 7-7 Masunoyama feel his pain. After a hard tachi-ai, Kitataiki got an inside left beltless and an outside right belt grip and looked good to go. However, he managed to somehow lose both in the space of three seconds and give up moro-zashi double inside to the E14, who worked him out for his KK. Whew, that was close!

Another two outs, bottom of the ninth 7-7 guy stepped to the clay in Tenkaiho, who was staring across at the ever dangerous Rockette wannabe Tokitenku. Tokidoki led off with a resounding slap to the mug, which made a lovely sound (and also allowed Tenkaiho the inside belt on the right). After this Toki used his outside left belt grip to keep things in the center, but without any trickery he was sure to lose this one as Tenkaiho is much too heavy for ol Tokitenku to throw with just one arm. He knew this and managed to grab an inside right belt as well, but this brought Tenkaiho in closer and he was able to win this yotsu battle by lifting the Mongolian up and out. Tenkaiho steps sharply out of the haberdashery with a KK from E12, Tokitenku is Justin Beibers barber at 5-10 from E5.

Tochinowaka rebounded nicely not only from his horrible Week One with five wins in the final six days, but also rebounded nicely against Chiyotairyu, who hammered him upright at tachi-ai but then lost his mojo (cue Dr. Evil) and started pulling. Tochinowaka took this largesse and drove forward to get Chiyos arm locked up, and after a short resistance, both men fell out with the W11 being the one on top.

Okinoumi got his KK, and it was all Aminishikis default! arfarfarfarfarf

Shohozan came in 7-7 vs. Toyonoshima, who had his 8-6 in hand. With a Fighting Spirit prize on the line, Shohozan did his best imitation of a flea at tachi-ai, causing the Tugboat to go sail him WAY faster than the Port Authority normally permits. Smelling victory, Shohozan came rushing in, but the W7 managed to slide away and get the E1 running past HIM. Before Tug could capitalize on that, the Golden Boy had spun his mawashi and his body around. Now face to face, Shohozan pushed furiously with his forearms to send Toyonoshima scurrying back, where he kind of tripped and crashed out. High energy bout that both guys seemed to want to win. But a Fighting Spirit sporting a Day 15 henka smells like dog breath to me.

The start of the Tochiohzan-Kyokutenho bout was hilarious. As you know, when they are ready to go, the gyoji says, "Lets get it AWN!" and squats down and stares at the shikiri-sen. So Tenho squats down, but Tochiohzan is still standing. And standing. And standing. He stands there for so long, like some guy who has too much piss in his bladder and cant quite get the ball rollin, that the gyoji actually turns his face up to look at him.

Okay, maybe not hilarious, but amusing. At any rate, the 7-7 Komusubi managed to get a good inside right beltless and bodied the Chauffer back, who suddenly collapsed on his injured left foot side. Also, the fact that Tochiohzan weighs as much as an entire class of pre-schoolers might have had something to do with it. With Myogiryu blowing his chance in his bout to drop from East to West and remain in the rank, it looks like Tochiohzan will have his first ever Sekiwake title in Kyushu.

Speaking of which, the Sekiwake got his inside left arm on Kotoshogiku at tachi-ai, but the Ozeki managed to use it to force him back and out. Nothing to see here, not only on the day but also the entire fortnight, as 6-9 Myogiryu looked discombobulated and flummoxed and any other odd word meaning he didnt have it. Geeku represented the once mighty Sadogatake beya well enough, but if he could stop losing bouts he ought win, like his Days 7 and 8 losses to Tochiohzan and Shohozan, he could possibly start building a legacy as a great Ozeki (did I actually TYPE that??)

Now we all know Kotoshogiku (along with Kisenosato) was helped on his advancement to Ozeki by an overly kind Yokozuna named Hakuho, but whats good for sumo aint gonna hurt Hakuho none, so no harm no foul. Certainly both men are holding their own now (with Kisenosato in particular being a tiger with only ONE basho under 10 wins KK in eleven basho at the rank).

So when Hakuho, 22-1 coming in vs. the Sekiwake, played mouse to Goeidos cat on Day 10, the thought occurred to me that we could be seeing a shin-Ozeki in March. Course, Goeido has to put in the hard work and continue beating those he ought, but if he does, a few well placed wins over major players could seal the deal. This basho he did just that, beating three of the four Ozeki and one of the two Yokozuna. Personally I think his sumo looked haphazard and slapdash at times, but in the final analysis (Senshuraku joke there) dude won 11.

Today he expertly allowed Kaisei in at the tachi-ai in order to grab solid inside left, outside right belts. He stayed low with his head in the huge W4s chest, and was able to eventually work him out, but it wasnt easy. Id call this a solid win over a dangerous foe, so nice way to end things. Kaisei unfortunately became the only 7-7 guy to not KK. If the Sekiwake puts together another 11 wins in Kyushu, and again in January, he could return to his hometown of Osaka as the newest Ozeki. Honestly, Id like to see that. I just hope it doesnt come along with too many spicious wins. As he showed in May of last year, he CAN beat Hakuho straight up.

Kisenosato absolutely devoured Kakuryu at the get go, and it was all the Mongolian Ozeki could do to back up and try to circle away. The Kid stayed on him well, though, and as Kakuryu stepped out Kisenosato hit the dirt. It took a good goddamned long time for the mono-ii to verify that Kakuryus foot had indeed touched out before The Kid landed. 11-4 for Kise and his third straight jun-yusho runner up. Man, Id love for him to replace Harumafuji as Yokozuna, because really, theyre both going to lose 3 or 4 bouts every basho anyway, so it might as well be someone who doesnt win cheaply.

In the Yokozuna tussle of the tourney (yeah, I got the Yokozuna bout and the Komusubi bout and there was no Sekiwake bout) Hakuho wrapped up Harumafujis right arm instantly, and did not let go till he threw his countryman down in five seconds by, naturally enough, kote-nage. With 27 yusho, we now can state with confidence that Hakuho is a decent Yokozuna. HowDo scrapes by with a 10-5 that was ill gotten to say the least. Yes, if hes injured I can understand a bit, but arent they all pretty much always banged up?

Anywho, that about does it. Mike will be here in a week or so to give you his thoughts about the basho, and Im hopeful that Matt and Martin and Kane will be back for Kyushu. I enjoyed reading their reports and think the new story lines for November will keep us excited and interested. Adieu at you.

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Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
My intention wasn't even to comment on the day 14 bouts because after four games of baseball and travel in between on Saturday, I finally sat down in front of my typewriter about 9:30 PM and thought...I have nothing to say. I left the house at 7:45 AM but I did skim through the bouts as quickly as possible, and by that I mean my finger was working so quickly on the fast forward button, I didn't even realize the Hakuho - Kisenosato bout contained a mono-ii. I realized this fact Sunday morning as I watched NHK's Saturday Sports News show from last night, and so I thought the bout was worth commenting on, and then the focus of the NHK Saturday Sports News show was interesting as well and something that should give insight to the future of sumo.

As I read the comments from the other contributors and even hear comments and responses from our readers, I can tell who has access to the entire NHK broadcast (Japanese included) and who only has access to the bouts via the innernet. It's one thing to see the action in regular speed on YouTube, but it's quite another thing to capture the entire sumo experience by watching the 2-hour broadcast start to finish (complete with slow motion replays), listening to the NHK announcers and oyakata break the bouts down, and then reading the media reaction in the funny papers afterwards. In my case, for example, I base a lot of my comments and insights on what I'm reading in the media and watching on Japanese television because I'm able to see the spin and the story that's being fed to the Japanese public. I think that providing the whole picture is what makes Sumotalk work, and so after finally sitting down with some spare time to watch/listen to the day 14 broadcast and then watch Saturday Sports News afterwards, there actually is content worth addressing, so here goes.

As I am usually wont to do late in week two, I will preface my daily comments by starting with the leaderboard heading into the day. As you can see from the cheesy graphic NHK produced with our two leaders displayed over the top of the Emperor's Cup itself, the basho was whittled down to two combatants by day 14, and for better or worse, those two combatants would meet atop the dohyo. It's one thing to have the two leaders tied or one loss apart, but when the guy on top is Yokozuna Hakuho and his lead is two bouts over Kisenosato, the leaderboard is just a formality that allows NHK and the Sumo Association to remind the public at large, "Hey, at least there's a Japanese guy on the leader board!" Without some serious funny bidness, there was no way the token Japanese guy was going to hang around after day 14, but let's get to the bout that would all but decide the yusho.

Kisenosato kept his left arm in tight knowing that Hakuho would be fishing for that right inside position, and while the Ozeki denied the Yokozuna his coveted right, Hakuho compensated by getting the left inside and right outer grip to boot. Hakuho looked a bit uncomfortable to me leading with the left, and as soon as Kisenosato countered with a right outer grip of his own, Hakuho abandoned his own right outer grip, pivoted to the side, and attempted a scoop throw that only created separation instead of putting the Ozeki on his heels. With the two now standing there facing each other, Hakuho connected on a right face-slap as Kisenosato ducked back in looking for some sort of position that would never come as the Yokozuna kept his foe at bay long enough until he was able to slap him down by the back of the head for the win.

To the surprise of everyone in the arena, a mono-ii was called where it was revealed that one of the judges suspected Hakuho of pulling Kisenosato down by the top-knot. Replays confirmed that Hakuho's hand did not grip the top-knot at any point during the winning technique, and the original decision of victory to Hakuho was upheld. I realize that a lot of potential politics was in play with this mono-ii, and so it's worth commenting on. First, disqualifying a Yokozuna is a major deal regardless of what his race is. By calling a mono-ii on a dai-Yokozuna and one that would have overturned the yusho, the judges would have had to have been 100% certain that the dubious violation actually occurred. Then there's the issue of "do we keep the Japanese rikishi alive and carry this yusho race into the final day?"

I've been stressing the fact that I don't believe that the Sumo Association scripts basho, and while yaocho (or call it mukiryoku sumo if you want to) does occur, I think the decision when rikishi throw bouts is made by the oyakata or the rikishi themselves after reading the situation at hand. For example, I stated after day 12 that I thought Harumafuji dropped his bout to Kisenosato on purpose in order to prop a Japanese rikishi up on the leaderboard instead of having the top two guys be Mongolian. I think it's important to at least give the Japanese fans the indication that their rikishi are doing well, and they were able to milk the leaderboard all the way through day 14 even when everyone has known the last three days that Hakuho would take the yusho.

If the Sumo Association was actually calling the shots and sumo was scripted, the bout today would have been overturned, and then a path would have been created for Kisenosato to form a miraculous comeback on his way to his first ever career yusho. The problem with that scenario is while the Japanese fans are largely sheep, they're not that obtuse to actually believe that Kisenosato would have earned it all on his own. The one thing that Sumo cannot cannot afford to be publicly accused of is bout fixing, and so if mukiryoku sumo is to occur, things need to be carefully orchestrated in order to make it appear that everything is legitimate. Now, it's one thing for Takekaze to obviously throw his senshuraku bout against the 7-7 Sadanofuji because no one is paying attention at that point anyway, but when you get to the final 30 minutes of the broadcast, you have to be extremely careful if you choose to throw a bout. The point to this entire discussion is that if the Sumo Association was scripting the yusho race, they would have overturned today's bout even though it was clear that Hakuho did not pull the mage.

The end result is Hakuho's 27th career yusho which brings him ever closer to hallowed territory, so it will be very interesting to see how things progress over the next few basho. But more on that in my post-basho report. Hakuho expectedly hoists the cup yet again while Kisenosato goes home with token pat on the fanny for extending the yusho race to day 14.

I'll skip the rest of the bouts (since I already know the results of the senshuraku bouts ) and fast forward to NHK's Saturday Night Sports program. The show led with Hakuho's victory over Kisenosato, mention of his 27th yusho, and then a quick run through the results of the day 14 bouts in general showing no other highlights. Once they had taken care of the obligatory coverage, they spent the majority of their time devoted to sumo talking about Endoh. They first reviewed the bout where Endoh allegedly sprained his left ankle against Tokushoryu on day 12, and then they actually sent a camera crew out to Ishikawa Prefecture (Endoh's hometown) to get reaction from the fans on Endoh's withdrawal. The comments from the fans were the expected gibberish hoping that Endoh recovers quickly and lamenting the fact that he wouldn't be able to pick up a special prize.

In all my years of watching sumo and the peripheral shows, I have never seen such extensive coverage given to an M13 rikishi who withdrew after day 13 with a 9-5 record. Endoh received as much time in this segment as the rest of the sumos put together, which is incredible when you note that the yusho was actually decided on this day. It's just a harbinger of things to come, and the future of sumo in Japan is Endoh. It will be interesting to see how long Hakuho decides to fight before retiring, but just be prepared for the onslaught of Endoh coverage. As for me, I'm excited about the emergence of Endoh because he has tools and the maturity that we have yet to see from any other Japanese rikishi in the last decade.

Okay, I'll end here so as to not type my entire post-basho report in my day 14 comments. Besides, Clancy is scheduled to wrap'er all up on senshuraku.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
That big whooshing sound you hear is the air being let out of this basho's bubble. Normally day 13 is the most pivotal day in the basho because by the day's end, the leaderboard is whittled down to just the legitimate contenders, and that list rarely contains more than three rikishi, and while we do still technically have one rikishi left besides Hakuho, we don't have any rikishi left besides Hakuho. Adding insult to injury, Endoh's debut was put into a little bit better perspective as he experienced his first bout against a sanyaku rikishi. There wasn't much by the day's end to keep the domestic fans excited, but the weekend is already a sell-out so who really cares? Enough was established over the first 13 days to give the Sumo Association plenty of storylines to market the Kyushu basho in six weeks or so.

Turning our attention to the day 13 bouts, let's focus first on the rikishi occupying the leaderboard, which looked like this:

1 loss: Hakuho
2 losses: Kisenosato
3 losses: Harumafuji, Kakuryu, Endoh

Of the three-loss rikishi, M13 Endoh is the most compelling, so let's start there as he would receive his first sanyaku test by battling Komusubi Tochiohzan. As he has done throughout the basho, Endoh fished for the left inside position at tachi-ai, and Tochiohzan complied agreeing to the hidari-yotsu stance but not before ensuring his left would be deeper and coupled with the right outer grip. Before the two rikishi could really settle in, Endoh had no room to move as Oh just pulled him in tight threatening the outer belt throw and finishing with a left scoop throw instead. This was way too easy for the Komusubi, and Endoh should quickly learn that at this level on the banzuke, you don't just fish for your position at the tachi-ai; you demand it. The media is reporting that Endoh injured his left ankle in his day 12 affair with Tokushoryu, and this could have contributed to the lopsided nature of this match, but we'll never know as Endoh's ankle was further aggravated in today's bout causing him to withdraw from the basho. As for Tochiohzan Sensei, he improves to 7-6 and should score kachi-koshi in the end. Before we move on, I just loved the dynamics of this bout where you had a kid whose only been in the sport for three basho being schooled by a sanyaku rikishi. It's almost best that Tochiohzan won this go-around because you don't want Endoh to get over confident.

With Endoh off the board, let's next turn to Yokozuna Harumafuji who faced Ozeki Kotoshogiku in the day's penultimate bout. Harumafuji left himself wide open at the tachi-ai allowing the Ozeki to just crash in tight gaining the left inside position. The Yokozuna had his own left arm inside and a brief right outer grip to boot, but he was too upright as Kotoshogiku easily walked him straight back and across the straw. Harumafuji lost this one at the tachi-ai, and if the bout was thrown, the acting was good enough. If he actually intended on winning this one, shame shame everyone knows his name because a Yokozuna should never lose in a linear fashion after a head on collision at the starting lines. I suspect Harumafuji left himself open at the tachi-ai on purpose, and the pic at right shows him in awful position to counter at the edge further leading me to believe he gave this one away.  I mean, look at his left hand in no man's land giving the Geeku a sweet bear hug and little else.  Regardless he falls to 9-4 and off the leaderboard. As for Kotoshogiku, he picks up kachi-koshi improving to 8-5.

Our final three-loss rikishi was Ozeki Kakuryu who received today's stiffest challenge drawing Yokozuna Hakuho. The Yokozuna came hard at the tachi-ai getting the usual right inside position followed by the left outer grip, and all the slippery Kak could do was weasel out of the impending doom and flee, but he could only get a half step before Hakuho just stroked him hard from behind spilling the Kak all the way into the second row. Trust me, this one wasn't pretty as Hakuho improved to 12-1 officially knocking Kakuryu outta the race with a 9-4 record.

So with all of the three-loss rikishi suffering defeats and Hakuho maintaining his one-loss status, it was up to Ozeki Kisenosato to keep things interesting by trying to solve Sekiwake Goeido. The Ozeki actually came with a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai, but it was slow in its development (meaning there was no thrust with the legs), and so Goeido was able to slip to his left getting the left arm to the inside in the process, and before Kisenosato could really adjust, the Father forced the Ozeki over to the edge and pushed him across the straw with a right paw to Kisenosato's left teet. At this point Endoh had already lost, and so when Kisenosato went down, it was so quiet in the venue that even the librarians on hand got uncomfortable. Goeido improved to 9-4 with the win and should be a lock for the Shukunsho, and while Kisenosato does fall to 10-3, there's still a mathematical (okay, let me compose myself as I finish this sentence) chance that he can take the yusho. I'm not even going to break down the scenario because it won't happen, but it is important that when they show the leaderboard at the start of the day 14 broadcast it will look like this:

1 loss: Hakuho
3 losses: Kisenosato

When a bout is thrown in sumo, people need to be careful and not rush to judgment thinking the funny bidness occurred in order to propel someone to the yusho because that is rarely the case. Instead, one only need to grasp the politics of the situation at hand to understand why someone would defer a bout to another. For example, Endoh's losing to Jokoryu early on made sense if you understand the senpai/kohai relationship so prevalent in Japanese culture. And that same senpai/kohai relationship is why the Association has established a rule that stable mates and biological brothers are not to fight at a hon-basho because you'd never get a straight up match.

The reason I bring this up now is to illustrate that having Kisenosato on that leaderboard instead of Harumafuji is vital. We all know that the Kid doesn't stand a chance, but what if Harumafuji had beaten the Kisenosato a few days ago leaving Hakuho and Harumafuji at the top of the leaderboard the final four days? Nobody is interested in that, but a timely loss by Hakuho coupled with Kisenosato's victory over Harumafuji kept a leaderboard intact that would hold the interest of Japanese fans at least for a couple of days with both Kisenosato and Endoh on the board. Hakuho is going to take the Aki basho yusho as expected, but it's also important to realize how yaocho is still used to benefit the sport as a whole, and we can see that as Kisenosato is still officially on the leaderboard heading into day 14.

With the yusho talk taken care of, let's now shift our focus to other bouts of interest. Sekiwake Myogiryu was kept at bay by M2 Aoiyama's long tsuppari from the tachi-ai, but Aoiyama abandoned that technique and went for a senseless pull opening up the inside to Myogiryu, who pounced and scored the oshi-dashi win from there. Myogiryu's kachi-koshi hopes are still alive at 6-7 while Aoiyama's make-koshi is official at 5-8.

M4 Toyohibiki nudged Komusubi Takayasu back pushing with his long arms, but he extended himself way too far allowing Takayasu to quickly move to the right and shove the Hutt down for ugly win. I question whether Toyohibiki was trying his hardest in this one as both guys end the day at 5-8.

M3 Chiyotairyu used two big sloppy shoves to bludgeon M1 Ikioi back and across the straw just before Chiyotairyu flopped down himself to the dohyo. The only reason I bring this bout up is because Chiyonofuji was in the booth today providing color, and he stated, "I'd grade him 100% in that bout if he hadn't of fallen down." It's the perfect point because we know Chiyotairyu can beat anybody in the bidness, but his attack has got to be better grounded. It's just not normal to crush a guy back in less than two seconds and still end up on the dirt yourself. Suri-ashi my man, suri-ashi. It's too little too late for Chiyotairyu who moves to 5-8 while Ikioi is one worse at 4-9.

Though he's probably my least favorite guy in the division, M11 Takekaze finished off M4 Kaisei in spectacular fashion after Kasei was too wide at tachi-ai unable to capitalize on Takekaze's immediate retreat. As a result Takekaze slapped his way into moro-zashi and then used a nifty uchi-gake leg trip with right leg to spill his larger foe to the dohyo. Kaisei falls to 6-7 with the loss and didn't really seem to be trying in this one as Takekaze picks up kachi-koshi at 8-5.

M5 Tokitenku moved left grabbing the cheap left frontal belt against M11 Tochinowaka, but Tochi-Slow-Walkah just burrowed his right shoulder into Tenku's torso as the Mongolian moved back to his left knocking Tokitenku across the straw in a hurry. This was great footwork from Tochinowaka who has somehow found himself in great position now at 7-6. Tokitenku suffers make-koshi at 5-8, and it serves him right for trying to stave off make-koshi with a cheap henka.

M13 Homasho was befuddled a bit by M5 Aminishiki's low tachi-ai, and the two dudes touched heads briefly while both fished for the pulldown opening in a cat and mouse affair. There's really nothing to break down here as Aminishiki pounced first pushing Homasho down by his right butt cheek only to briefly touch the outside belt for the official uwate-dashi-nage win that saw Aminishiki propelled to 9-4 while Homasho takes a passive page out of Endoh's tachi-ai falling to 8-5.

You gotta hand it to M6 Kyokutenho who picked up kachi-koshi today by executing a perfect hari-zashi with the left hand against M12 Sadanofuji slapping first and then inserting that same left hand to the inside. Before Sadanofuji knew what had hit him, Kyokutenho had him driven back and across the straw without argument. It's 8-5 for Tenho who kachi-koshi's at the age of 39! Sadanofuji is still alive and well at 7-6.

Speaking of alive and well, M14 Masunoyama read M7 Aran's tachi-ai henka to the left beautifully and forced the Bouncer back and out in a second flat. Spalding improves to 7-6 while Aran is officially my least favorite rikishi in the division (sorry Takekaze) falling to 3-10.

And finally, in a battle of seven and fivers, M7 Toyonoshima failed to get inside from the tachi-ai due to M16 Tamawashi's left choke hold, and Tamawashi's tsuppari were just too long for Tugboat to do anything, so The Mawashi gradually pinned his foe against the edge and pushed him out picking up kachi-koshi in the process.

There will be very little to break down tomorrow, and Kisenosato has a 0% chance of defeating Hakuho unless the Yokozuna wants it that way. Had Endoh continued to fight, his quest for a special prize would have been a minor storyline, but other than that, I can guarantee you that it will be a short report tomorrow.

Until then.

Day 12 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
As usual, I'm finding myself at a nearly complete loss as to what I could possibly say in an intro to a report – don't get me wrong, this a compliment to the other writers, as they leave few stones unturned in their own overview of the current basho. Of course, I could bore you with details about my personal life, but I'm not nearly as confident as Clancy that you even remotely care about whether the equinox is a national holiday in Romania (it isn't). For what it's worth, in the past few years I've been studying quite a bit of Japanese, and I find myself particularly drawn to their writing system, the kanji, to the extent that I'm taking JLPT N1 in December after passing (barely) N2 last year. If I pass this one as well, I'm pretty sure I'll add the feat to my claim to fame. However, for those of you who don't know what I'm gonna be up against, Mike warned me that the exam "will kick your ass", and I'm confident he knows what he's talking about, since he took and passed the same level many moons ago. Anyway...

It was a bit disheartening to see 37-year old Wakanosato have no answer for Juryo visitor Chiyonokuni's spirited pushing attack, but it wasn't surprising. It's pretty amazing he's survived so far in Makuuchi, but I don't think he'll be able to carry on much longer, as the loss sends him into double digit loss territory. As for his much younger opponent, he doesn't really belong in Juryo, injury being to blame for this most recent visit.

Masunoyama evened his score, sending Tamaasuka to his make-koshi in the process. The initial charge left things undecided, as both men struggled for any sort of grip or position. They eventually settled into an anxious hidari-yotsu, but Masunoyama took the initiative by using pure power to lift into his opponent's pit and going to the inside on the other side as well. It proved to be enough, as he soon finished off his compromised foe with yori-taoshi and proceeded to gasp and pant his way into the victory squat (which I still don't know what is called, even after following sumo for several years).

Next up, Tamawashi (who's neither round as a ball, nor swift as an eagle) was really sharp, dismantling Joke-oryu with a precise thrusting attack. Jokoryu was beaten so badly that the bout ended with an oshi-taoshi which bent Jokoryu's knee in a painfully awkward way. Both guys are on the hill at 7-5.

Tochinowaka vs. Homasho looked more like butsukari-geiko than a real sumo bout, as Homasho only put up token resistance and tried absolutely zero counter moves. With all the yaocho going on these days and Homasho at 8 wins already, I'm not surprised, but I still feel a bit cheated. Lee improves to 6-6 with the gimme.

And while we're talking about gimme's... the MIB stepped in to contribute to the overall atmosphere of... how do I describe this? I guess 'hoax' is a bit mild. Tokushoryu henka'd Japan's new sweetheart Endo (you should've heard the cheers when he stepped on the dohyo during the dohyo-iri) and from there beat his inexperienced ass into a pulp. However, much to everyone's surprise, including the two rikishi, a mono-ii was called. For more than a minute, the shinpanzees argued louder than usual, and when the kangaroo court was over, a REMATCH was called for. Which, as fate would have it, was won by Endo, much to the delight of the predominantly sumo-ignorant crowd in the Kokugikan. Knowing he was robbed, Tokushoryu showed his indignation visibly as he got back up on the dohyo after being pushed out, even muttering something with no particularly visible direction (though I have a sneaking suspicion I know who it was addressed to and what it consisted of). At the end of the day, Endo stays on the leader board with 9 wins, whereas Tokushoryu (5-7) inches ever so closer to make-koshi.

The next one wasn't nearly as exciting, as Shotenro (5-7) hit Sadanofuji (7-5) really hard, got a left on the inside and pushed his larger opponent right out. Not much more to comment on, really.

Aran continued his run of piss-poor performances as he blew away a double-grip advantage in an instant, due to having the balance of a 3-year old. The Ossetian successfully kept Tenkaiho at bay for a while, with an elbow to the grill, and put himself in prime position, getting into migi-yotsu and enjoying the left uwate as well. Tenkaiho held on with only the right inside, so Aran soon tried the force-out, but Tenkaiho used his mawashi grip to counter and throw Aran to his 9th loss. In a word, Aran's sumo would have to be described as simply “bad” this basho, and his trademark pose of indignant disbelief is all the more hilarious given the content of the bouts themselves. Tenkaiho improves to 7-5.

Takekaze went for the cheapie as he henka'd Toyonoshima (for what it's worth, Takekaze owns Toyonoshima, their head to head is 16-6), but the Kami of sumo were watching today, and Toyonoshima was able to recover, stand his ground against the follow-up push from Kaze, and ultimately evade for the successful serves-you-right pulldown. This conclusion makes both rikishi's scores even seven fives.

Kotoyuki decided to capitalize on Kitataiki's overeagerness (fuck you, spell check, it SHOULD be a word) or otherwise was just a big asshole, as he henka'd the daylights out of him for the quick and dirty win, delaying his make-koshi for at least another day. Kitataiki shares the same 5-7 mark.

Tokitenku's timing was way, way off once again (and I can't help but wonder how this pattern CAN'T be connected with the time kanji in his shikona), as he jumped the gun on Gagamaru, but for some reason they weren't stopped. Tenku needed no special invitation to grab the free (not even cheap) left uwate and gain a solid position in Gagamaru's large flank. There was really no way the Big Georgian could win from that position, and Tokitenku took a little time and a few revolutions to take Gaga off balance and dump his to his face by uwate-dashi-nage. These two share a 5-7 as well, wouldn't you know it.

Takarafuji literally doubled his wins today by weathering the tsuppari storm from the beefy Fujiazuma and timing his sideways thrust to perfection for the tsuki-otoshi. Fujiazuma isn't faring much better at only 3-9 himself.

Shohozan evened his win-loss ratio with a chokehold oshi-dashi at Kyokutenho's expense, after charging carefully enough to deny the long-armed ex-Mongol any sort of mawashi grip. Tenho falls to 7-5.

Aoiyama and Ikioi were the protagonists of one of the longer... warm-ups of the day, failing to synchronize twice, before proceeding with a technically and tactically unappealing mess of a bout. Both men traded thrusts and none of them had any real intention of going in close, and it was Ikioi's ikioi which made the difference in the end as he outlasted his fatter European foe and earned his 4th win. Aoiyama still holds some hope, at a dangerous 5-7.

Tochiohzan vs. Kaisei went down pretty much as I (or, for that matter, anyone who's watched a little sumo) had predicted, with Oh quickly working his way into a double grip, pushing his bigger, slower opponent to the edge where, at the first sign of resistance, he shifted into reverse, pushing the outmatched Brazilian down. The number of 6's in these two's records makes Mike a little... hot under the collar, ifyaknowwhaddaImean.

Chiyotairyu had to do a little fishing to get the right uwate from Takayasu, but he did get it in the end and won by yori-kiri, evening the men's scores to 4 apiece.

Myogiryu inched a little closer to make-koshi when he couldn't budge Okinoumi, despite having both hands in at some point after the tachi-ai. Okinoumi (6-6) survives with the strange win and now has a realistic chance to get 8, as I was saying a coupla days ago.

While it was sweet to see Goeido show good awareness and reflexes to foil a henka, perpetrated by Aminishiki, no less, the Father's overall sumo this basho left me with a poor impression, topped by the VERY poor job he and Hakuho did two days ago. As the dust settles, Aminishiki and Goeido both stand at 8-4, but only one of the two truly deserves it.

Kakuryu earned his 9th win by stopping Toyohibiki's charge and then backing up and letting the larger man go with the flow... down to yet another loss. With the win, Fishy stays on the virtual leader board, but somehow I don't see him taking down either Yokozuna. Toyohibiki still has an outside chance to grace higher ranks in November, but he'd be wise not to, unless he's OK with a thrashing to the tune of 3-12.

Hakuho looked a bit passive but never out of control vs. Kotoshogiku, stopping the Ozeki dead in his tracks, getting a hand on the inside, then executing the pulldown he so masterfully does time after time – except when he's trying to lose on purpose. 11-1 means he's not really in the mood for giving up the yusho, but with Kisenosato just one win behind... you can't be too sure. The Geeku has 3 tries to get that last win he needs, and something tells me it won't be a problem.

Kisenosato defended Japanese national pride by hanging in there against a Harumafuji who didn't really care much about winning. I'm not really in the mood for dissecting the bout recording frame by frame to point out the not so few opportunities Ex-Ama had to grab various belt grips, but take my word for it, they were there. And I'm equally not in the mood for explaining the possible motives for giving up the win – if you MUST read those, just mosey on over to Mike's day 11. Kisenosato goes into double digits with the kata-sukashi win (the third in a row, and in the last three bouts of the day, no less, for those of you inclined to be entertained by such statistically anomalous occurrences), while Harumafuji gracefully bows out of the yusho race and is a prime candidate for getting Kotoshogiku over the line tomorrow.

It'll be interesting, for a change, to see how the yusho race concludes, though I don't think there are too many chances for the cup to go to any other trophy case than Hakuho's. With sumo in dire need of some Japanese hope, though, I wouldn't be surprised to see Kisenosato in a play-off or something. It will also be interesting to see how Exo fares in the last three days, after it became clear he's being blatantly helped up. No matter how he does, he's guaranteed to get a healthy boost up the rankings, where I expect him to hit the wall hard next basho.

This is it from me for now, I guess I'll be seeing you again briefly in November. Mike steps up to the plate tomorrow – hope he gets something juicy to report on, though.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Oh what a difference a single bout can make in terms of maintaining interest in a basho. When NHK began the broadcast on day 9, the message being sent was don't give up, and that was when Kisenosato was still just one off the lead. After the Kid was defeated on day 9 by Chiyotairyu, it left Hakuho alone at 9-0 running away with this thing and the next closest competitors two back at 7-2. There is not a rikishi on this banzuke capable of running Hakuho down from behind with even one loss let alone two losses, and so I think at the end of day 9 Miyagino-oyakata and/or Yokozuna Hakuho decided that it would be best to take a hit for the great good of the Aki basho.

After day 9, the Sumo Association's leaderboard looked like this:

0 losses: Hakuho
2 losses: Kisenosato, Harumafuji

After day 10, the leaderboard was adjusted to look like this:

1 loss: Hakuho
2 losses: Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Homasho
3 losses: Kakuryu, Goeido, Aminishiki, Kyokutenho, Endoh

See a difference?

You have to be careful after observing a yaocho not to immediately think, "Oh they're setting up this or that rikishi to yusho." No, they're creating a situation where it looks as if more rikishi have a chance to yusho thus maintaining interest in the basho because after day 9, there was zero interest. Hakuho is still the clear favorite, and I would put odds of his hoisting the cup at about 95%, but nothing that occurs on the dohyo these days surprises me anymore. Just be content that what ever happens will be correctly analyzed and explained on this website.

With that in mind, let's work our way up the leaderboard starting from the three loss rikishi.

First up was one of the more compelling bouts of the day featuring the veteran of all vets in M6 Kyokutenho vs. the rookie of all rookies in M13 Endoh. Endoh has proven to be a bulldog at the belt, but Kyokutenho isn't still on the banzuke at 39 because he's a dumbass. Rather, he's still one of the most potent belt fighters out there, so the question was could Endoh's youth and strength befuddle Kyokutenho's age and experience? Unfortunately, we would not get our answer. As the two hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position, Endoh got his usual left arm to the inside while Kyokutenho simply placed his left arm where it should have been not grabbing the belt nor trying to get it in tight. At this point, Endoh musta sensed something was going on because he just grabbed the right frontal belt that was wide open and spun Kyokutenho around and down like a windmill using a right belt throw.

As I watched the replays of this, I focused on Kyokutenho's left arm, and it was clear that he had no intention of putting up a fight. Dude's been around for twenty years and has fought the likes of Akebono, Takanohana, Musashimaru, Asashoryu, Hakuho, and even Baruto, and nobody has ever flipped him as Endoh did today not to mention less than two seconds in and from the center of the ring. The only time I've seen a guy go down to the dohyo as Tenho did today was in the practice ring at the end of a butsukari-geiko session where the rikishi actually practice taking dives...uh...because they would never think of throwing a bout of course, but because...because they need to learn how to fall so as to avoid getting injured (whew). In all seriousness, this was straight up yaocho and there is zero argument against it as Endoh secures kachi-koshi at 8-3 while Kyokutenho falls to 7-4. And no, this does not mean they're setting Endoh up for the yusho; it means that someone in Kyokutenho's camp felt it best if Endoh picked up the win today for whatever reason. The result is Endoh staying on the leaderboard and Kyokutenho dropping off.

Next up in the three-loss category was M5 Aminishiki who looked to receive a stiff test from the semi-resurgent M1 Shohozan. Shohozan looked to dictate the bout early using his tsuppari attack, but with no legs behind the move Ami was able to sneak in for the left inside and quick right kote-nage throw that put Shohozan on his heels. That move seemed to wake the M1 up because he realigned chests with his opponent, failed on a maki-kae, but still just bodied Aminishiki back and down across the straw with some oomph. Or so it seemed. As Aminishiki fell backwards, he executed an utchari with the left arm pushing Shohozan laterally and forcing the M1 to step beyond the ring before Aminishiki hit himself. A mono-ii was called that correctly declared Shneakiy the winner, so he picks up kachi-koshi and remains a nuisance on the leaderboard. Shohozan falls to 5-6 but should get easier opponents the rest of the way.

Our next three-loss rikishi was Ozeki Kakuryu, who didn't take his 1-9 opponent in M3 Takarafuji seriously, but can you blame him? The Kak used lazy tsuppari to keep Takarafuji upright setting up the eventual left inside position and right outer grip, and once the Ozeki had that, he still lazily spun Takarafuji around and sent him out from the rear instead of actually scoring the yori-kiri win. Why waste your energy when you've got nothing but tough opponents down the stretch as Kak moves to 8-3.

Our final three-loss rikishi was Sekiwake Goeido who was part of the day's penultimate bout against Yokozuna Harumafuji, who is surprisingly still stuck on just two losses after exhibiting horrible sumo the first 10 days. Kane's posting of that pic yesterday of Harumafuji back when he worked the drive thru at that burger joint must have jogged his memory on how effective a good face slap can be because the Yokozuna dictated this one from the start coming in low and using a series of neck shoves and face slaps to keep the Sekiwake away from the belt. About five seconds in, Harumafuji was able to duck into the right inside position and left outer grip. Goeido lightly countered that with a right sukui-nage attempt, but it was nothing doing as the Yokozuna executed the force-out win from there. The loss knocks Goeido (7-4) off of the leaderboard for good and shows that the bout yesterday between Hakuho and him had nothing to do with propping up a particular rikishi. Harumafuji moves to 9-2 and still has a say in things.

Riding the momentum of his day 1 victory over Endoh, M13 Homasho am sweet needed to solve M11 Takekaze today, and I say solve because you know the last thing Takekaze is going to give you is a fair fight. Homasho approached the bout way too cautiously today holding back at the tachi-ai and feigning interesting on getting to the inside, and so it was a series of threats to get in by Homasho and threats to pull down by Takekaze, and the longer this game went on the more it favored Takekaze who eventually found his opening striking quickly from the side and slapping Homasho down to an 8-3 record. Homasho really needed to get in deep from the start, but against Takekaze (7-4), it's fiddy fiddy he's even going to be there at the tachi-ai. Unfortunate stuff.

Our final two-loss rikishi of the day was Ozeki Kisenosato who led with his left shoulder against M4 Kaisei to keep the Brasilian upright and then silled the dill with a left ottsuke shove placed perfectly under Kaisei's right pit, and as the Ozeki pushed Baby Huey to the side, he caught him with a right choke hold for good measuring sending the M4 back and across the rope via oshi-dashi. Good stuff from Kisenosato, but it ain't gonna work against the other Ozeki and Yokozuna. If Kisenosato (9-2) wants to stay in this yusho game, he's going to have to bring it from the tachi-ai. Kaisei falls to a very respectable 6-5.

With Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Kakuryu, Aminishiki, Endoh, and Homasho all still hanging around, let's move to the leader, Yokozuna Hakuho, who was pit against Sekiwake Myogiryu in the day's final bout. The Yokozuna used that same right inner left tottari attempt tactic at the tachi-ai he used against Goeido, and when it didn't work, he went right back to focusing his efforts on getting to the inside, but Myogiryu kept his left shoulder in so tight it kept the Yokozuna away from his coveted right inner allowing Myogiryu another side push. The problem was that Myogiryu's swipe was a counter move that came in the center of the ring and had no effect other than to compromise his position, so Hakuho came out of the fray with the firm right inside position. Myogiryu tried to slip out of Hakuho's grip making it look like a maki-kae, but before Myogiryu realized he had moro-zashi, the Yokozuna pinched in hard from the outside on both arms and threw Myogiryu over kime-dashi style near the edge of the ring although it was officially ruled kote-nage. Myogiryu (5-6) was feisty enough in this one to make it interesting, but Hakuho never was in any danger as he improves to 10-1 on his way to the yusho.

At this point, let's review the current leaderboard after a few of the three-loss guys were knocked out:

1 loss: Hakuho
2 losses: Harumafuji and Kisenosato
3 losses: Kakuryu, Aminishiki, Endoh, and Homasho

The three-loss rikishi of course don't have a chance but having Endoh even on the leaderboard this late serves a great purpose, and it will be interesting to see who they feed him to over the waning days of the tournament (look's Tokushoryu tomorrow!).

In other bouts of interest on the day, Ozeki Kotoshogiku met up with M3 Chiyotairyu, and this bout was hard to predict because if Chiyotairyu used his balls-to-the-wall tachi-ai moving straight forward, I'd give him the advantage. The problem today was, however, he settled for a straight up hidari-yotsu contest from the tachi-ai, which obviously throws the advantage over to the Ozeki, who used a quick force out charge and then right tsuki-otoshi shove when Chiyotairyu showed the first sign of resistance. It was over in two seconds maybe, and I can't figure out for the life of me why Chiyotairyu didn't attempt a single shove. He deserves his make-koshi this basho at 3-8 while Kotoshogiku can only play the role of spoiler at 7-4.

If Komusubi Tochiohzan is serious about becoming a sanyaku mainstay, he has to take care of business against M2 Okinoumi. All he offered today was a light tachi-ai, and so Okinoumi delivered a left ottsuke that kept Oh's right arm pointing to the other side of his body and away from an inside position. This was key because it allowed the taller Okinoumi to get the left arm to the inside, and when you have two combatants with equal stances (hidari-yotsu in the case of this one), the stronger and/or taller guy is gonna win. Both rikishi threatened right outer grips, but it was Okinoumi who was able to keep his gal upright and leverage the Komusubi back and across the straw with little argument. Both rikishi end the day at 5-6.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Takayasu got into a tsuppari-ai with M2 Aoiyama, and the bout turned on a dime when Aoiyama unleashed a right head slap that sent Takayasu over and dangerously close to the dohyo, and before he could regain his wits, Aoiyama jumped him and pushed his opponent down for good. Huge loss for Takayasu who is now on the brink at 4-7 of losing his sanyaku seat. Aoiyama improves to 5-6 with the win.

As for other bouts worth noting, M10 Tokushoryu secured the left inside position and righter outer grip against M7 Aran and immediately escorted the Bouncer out of his own club with a sweet outer belt throw. Aran (3-8) deserves make-koshi after getting his ass handed to him in two seconds by Tokushoryu, who moved to 5-6.

M7 Toyonoshima (6-5) has recovered from his slow start and actually moved his head above water after a hidari-yotsu contest against M14 Masunoyama (5-6) where Tugboat was able to slip his right hand to the inside for moro-zashi and then keep the Michelin Baby in tight before sending him over with a throw that quickly turned into a shoulder slapdown.

When M8 Fujiazuma is 2-8 coming into the day and he still kicks your ass, you've got some issues. And such is the case with M11 Tochinowaka (5-6) who wasn't able to even lean forward in this one as Fujiazuma just pummeled him back and across from the start. Sheesh.

The winner of the M14 Jokoryu - M9 Kotoyuki bout would be determined by the style of sumo...yotsu for Jokoryu and oshi for Kotoyuki. Kotoyuki's initial shove attempt was turned upward as Jokoryu gained the right inside setting up the easy force-out where Kotoyuki just gave up before he was even pushed across. I'm not sure what was wrong with Kotoyuki, but he stood there at the edge of the dohyo slumped over a bit unable to move. I have to assume it was one of his legs because they borrowed that antique wheelchair from the Pawn Stars crew to wheel KY out of the arena, but it's weird when you have a guy with a badly injured leg...whose still standing upright on both feet. Not that anyone cares, but Kotoyuki (4-7) is likely done for the basho while Jokoryu is one win away from kachi-koshi at 7-4.

And finally, we've never seen a Hutt move as fast as we saw M112 Tenkaiho move today securing moro-zashi against M15 Wakanosato (2-9) and escorting the Gangstah back and out in less than two seconds. Tenkaiho improves to 6-5 and made such haste that even Usain Bolt half a world away looked up from his phone ever so briefly feeling a slight disturbance in the Force.

As NHK was wrapping up their broadcast today, they showed the images of three battle worn rikishi making their way up the hana-michi after the final bout: Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kisenosato. It was the perfect conclusion to a day that signaled to the fans there's plenty more action to come with these warriors coming back for more tomorrow.

Martin'll be ready to break it all down.

Day 10 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
Here we are at the beautiful Ryogoku Kokugikan Tokyo Japan for an outstanding evening of world class Sumo! Tonite's bouts feature the Gangtsah' Wakanosato in a do or die match to fend off the fall in rank to Juryo, an exciting Ozeki matchup between two powerhouses- 7-2 Kisenosato and the always potent Kotoshogiku at 6-3. Our big bout of the evening pits super hot Sekiwake 6-3 Goeido against the current undisputed champion and dai-Yokozuna - Hakuho! And as an added bonus (just as in my first report a week ago) a gyogji hits the clay!!!

So let's get it on - Aki Basho 2013 - Day 10!

The night started with Asahisho (on the mend having had his left arm bent about 90% in the wrong direction) defaulting a victory to Juryo dude Takanoiwa who stuck his head in the bigs, grabbed his win card and took a cab home. Let's hope the injured youngster is gonna heal soon!

Next, Tenkaiho and Endoh stepped up on the dohyo as all the nihon hotties (and believe me sumo events are loaded up heavy with 'em) felt their hearts flutter and their trimmed parts twitch. Endoh (6-3) has a certain kinda cool swagger about him…I mean even with the frenetic Yoshikaze doing his best MC Hammer dance steps around him, Elvis just got his work done with out even blinking an eye…sweet! As the crowd cheered and painful high school memories of "cool kid envy" rolled back into (5-4) Tenkaiho's mind, the two young men faced off at the line and all but one in the venue was rooting for the new star.

At the tachi-ai Endoh nailed (and lifted) Tenkaiho with his left shoulder and snagged migi yotsu with his right hand. Tenkaiho chugged his legs and pushed forward, sliding Endoh's right foot to the rope…but the big guy's hands were skillfully tied up by his opponent. Elvis once again displayed purposeful (and powerful) intent as he fought for and leveraged a two hand belt grip and drove the bigger Tenkaiho out of bounds for a solid yori-kiri win. Endoh (7-3) curls his lip while muttering "Thank you very much" and takes another step towards his debut, Makuuchi kachi-koshi.

Stepping up on to the dohyo, M11 Tochinowaka (4-5) and M14 Masunoyama (5-4) both realize they're in critical condition as far as maintaining their Makuuchi status, so from here forward every bout carries some serious weight. Speaking of serious weight it appears Masunoyama always had a propensity for orbicular shapes…

Now his roundness, Masunoyama, will come off the blocks fast and hard (out of necessity because of his small lungs and big heart) and conversely Tochi"slow walkah" as a rule will not…This time, Masunoyama got his oshi seeking mitts into Tochi's throat and started some energetic tsuppari and leg pumping but the taller man weathered the storm while persistently vying for some yotsu advantage. Eventually Masunoyama ran out of gas (oxygen) and Tochinowaka pushed and Masu fell (yori-taoshi) awkwardly to the dirt. This bout was similar to the aforementioned Yoshikaze / Endoh bout except Endoh always seemed in control and unaffected by the tsuppari chaos. Tochi and Masu stand at 5-5.

Tamawashi is another hard tsuppari attacker out of the gate and can power his opponents back to the rope. Thing is, tsuppari specialists like Chiyotaikai lived by the teppo and threw cement blocks at their opponents. Their forward attack was sternly applied until one or both rikishi was flying off the dohyo.

Well, the pleasant-faced Tama did in fact successfully slap his man, M10 Tokushoryu, backwards but then inexplicably Tama tried some kind of grabbing and (Mike warns these guys time and again) backpedalling pull move that ended up handing his opponent a twisting sukui-nage victory. Tamawashi is medium well at 5-5 and Tokushoryu is just a medium 4-6.

Big and fat M9 Gagamaru lost every battle against fat and big M12 Sadanofuji (geez, come to think of it, Endoh came along just in time). Yubabamaru tried an oshi-dashi seeking full frontal shove attack and lost…he tried again and lost…he tried to gain some belt action and lost and then Sadanofuji, now with left and right-handed belt grips, yorikiri'ed the blubbery white guy out of the sacred ring faster than Clancy undresses his female students with his eyes. Gagayubabamarumarumorimori is sitting ugly at 5-5 while Sadanofuji is sitting…well he's sitting at 6-4.

Jokoryu got the better of Yoshikaze and when he flipped the nervous kid over for a kote-nage win, Yoshikaze's foot clocked the gyoji in the face and sent him sprawling to the dirt. Two gyoji knockouts in the same basho…sweet!

Both sumo dudes are 6-4 and the gyoji finally has sumo footage that his grand kids might give a shite about.

Yeah, the gangstah, M15 Wakanosato, has been bullying fresh rikishi around for a while now. Say what you will about him, he's always been one of those straight shooting, tachi-ai tough guys like Dejima and Takamisakari and even coming in with his 2-7 record you know he won't henka. With make-koshi staring him in the face (and a subsequent trip to Juryo) he lined up against the skilled but inconsistent Kitataiki…I was on the edge of my seat!

At the gun Wakanosato came in low (he kinda has to) and lifted Kitataiki up and worked him to the edge. Problem is, our favorite gangstah had a high grip under Kitataiki's armpits and Wakanosato was never know for his lengthy extremities. Kitataiki held off Wakanosato's push and they danced to the middle of the ring where Waka tried to twist his foe to the dirt. They both hit the ground and alas…no mono-ii! M6 Kitataiki is at an unimpressive 4-6 while the gangstah, now 2-8, stared at the Shinpan to no avail and must soon join the subway dwellers.

Kyokutenho, another cuddly veteran who has slapped down father time more than twice, faced off against the dapper Ho-ma-sho-am-sweet! Both men have earned semi solid 7-2 records and the taste of kachi-koshi was stronger than last nights natto omelette with negi and avocado!

Homasho, he of the low and perfectly executed bow, did what he always does…sprung from his crouch with his arms near his sides and worked his enemy back. Upon losing the tachi-ai Kyokutenho had no answer and Sho-am-sweet (fresh from his injury induced Juryo prison sentence) gets a much needed 8-2 while Kyokutenho must wait another day at an impressive 7-3.

On this night, in an attempt to gain slight advantage, Takekaze's usual set of head games included an intentional matta. Things is, across the shikiri-sen was El Shneako Diablo himself - Aminishiki. Yes, the false start took place but the Shneakmeister General doesn't get rattled by bush league tactics…you don't kid a kidder (and it pissed Aminishiki off). He took Takekaze's initial charge, backed up and then slapped his way to a high right hand, low left hand thrusting charge and he literally shoved him into the crowd like he belonged there. They called it oshi-dashi but it was more like "a to the motherf…in' k homeboy". Sheaky is a mensch at 7-3 while Takekaze checks out tomorrow's ticket prices at 6-4.

I'm liking Chiyotairyu. His honest bouts reveal he's a tough kid who's got some serious game in him and as a bonus he's still on the vertical sumo skill curve. I do believe that facing off against Kakuryu can't be a lot of fun. I mean if you run into his truck when he's carrying a full payload it get can get nasty in there. At the tachi-ai Kak head butted the kids jaw so hard it was Boom Out Goes The Lights. Chia Pet fought on instinct for a second and then crumbled to the killing floor. Uwate-dashi-nage was the call. Kakuryu is at his customary 7-3 and Chiyotairyu retreats at 3-7. As a final note, I get the feeling that these losses will be learning experiences for the kid and he'll be back hopefully with some new found savvy and toughness.

And now for one of the marquis battles of the night - (7-2) Ozeki - Kisenosato and (6-3) Ozeki Kotoshogiku. They come in at 19 wins for Kisenosato and 27 wins for Kotoshogiku but lately they've been trading wins fairly evenly.

At the tachi-ai they met with tremendous force and Kotoshogiku gained strong position as he lifted Kisenosato up and back, but the Kid's stance was real strong (not aligned). Giku drove hard attempting his signature belly joisting move but Kise would have no part of it.

Giku would repeatedly gain a yotsu grip (migi and or hidari) only to lose it moments later. Kisenosato twisted repeatedly, looking to leverage his hip under Giku some kind of nage win while Giku countered with his own heavy shoves and chugging legs. Kisenosato's footwork was spot on as he wouldn't allow Kotoshogiku to move him effectively.

In the center of the dohyo they fought for yotsu terrain, twisting and turning each other away from strong belt grips. When Kotoshogiku made a final attempt, Kisenosato worked him out of the winners circle for a well earned yori-kiri and Mike's words rang true once again. Sure Giku got some skills but he ran outta gas 'cause he's running outta gas.

Great effort on both men's part_ Kise stands at 8-2 while Giku falls to 6-4.

Next up, King Hakuho and Lost Boy Goeido. Now "which way did he Goeido" usually is all over the map. I mean basho to basho he shows a wide range of excellence and lameness and at the end of the day we're usually left with wondering where his potential goes from day to day. But this basho he's been pretty darn good and he's got the Japanese crowd with him and uhhh the Sumo Association would like to see him do something like maybe beat a Mongolian and make the basho a bit more interesting and well you know…come on willya?

At the bell, Yokozuna Hakuho offered up a light hari-te to Goeido's Sekiwake mug and then instead of grabbing his belt, he slipped back and grabbed his arm and pulled. Goeido easily slipped out of his grip and Hakuho uncharacteristically tried a light pull down but thought better of it. During this Goeido was moving around a lot but not really demonstrating any offense or even defense. Hakuho decided to back up and spin Goeido around and then run both of them towards the rope where he jumped off the dohyo. Goeido pushed finally but Hak was already on his way out. Incredibly, the win and the loss both go to Hakuho! Hak is at 9-1 while Goeido sits at 7-3.

The commentators mentioned that Harumafuji's sumo this basho started bad but he's improving. Ya think? I mean after pulling off the big pussy move of the year with that water boy shove (actually he's known for shoving people at the wrong time on and off the dohyo) and then dissing Chiyotairyu just because he got worked by the kid, Haru's got more than just his ersatz sumo to straighten out.

Haru needs to A. get back to the insanely powerful tachi-ai and smart sumo that got him here and B. go back to his roots (maybe even back to when he was a young kid) find himself as and own the Yokozuna title. He'll never pull off the same badass attitude as Asashoryu or dominant stature of Hakuho. He's on stage, not just the dohyo and that takes a confident understanding of how the Yokozuna kimono fits and then you just roll with it.

Look, this is what happens when you try too hard to be something you're not.

At the tachi-ai Harumafuji stepped to the side and threw Kaisei to the ground…hiki-waza matta for you ay? Henka? Hey I'ma shesa don't know. But I'll tell you I enjoyed the Wakanosato bout a whole shiteload more than this trivial trip to Nowheresville. Maybe Harumafuji is INJURED or then again maybe he HAS found himself.

Either way…Ama she'sa gonna go and have a burger and hope that something like THIS is on the other end of it.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As we turn our attention to the second week of the basho, it's time to focus on the yusho race. The only problem with this basho is there's no yusho race to speak of. I think this was evident as NHK started their broadcast today by reviewing the career of former Ozeki Kotokaze (current Oguruma-oyakata). In a nutshell, he was the former prodigy of former Yokozuna, Kotozakura, and he reached the Makuuchi division in Hatsu 1979 with high hopes only to be derailed two years later by a serious left knee injury. He came back from that injury only to tweak the knee again at the Nagoya basho a year later. After coming back yet again from the 1980 Nagoya basho, Kotokaze went on a nifty run exactly 32 years ago capturing his first career yusho at the 1981 Aki basho. For sumo fans in Japan, Oguruma-oyakata is one of the most endearing figures in the Association, and although I never saw him fight as an active rikishi, he quickly became one of my favorites due to his unique insight--and lisp--as he gave analysis of the bouts on the NHK broadcast itself and the now defunct Sumo Digest.

The feature on Kotokaze was a pull at the heartstrings of sumo fans and perfect for a holiday in Japan when NHK and the Association knew that ratings would be high. After the short trip down memory lane ended, Tamanoi-oyakata (former Tochiazuma), who provided color analysis on the day, talked about the importance of never giving up (akiramenai koto). When Tochiazuma was done, they next introduced none other than Takamisakari in the mukou joumen chair, and when asked for his thoughts on Kotokaze, he also repeated the obviously planted line of never giving up, and so I think the start of the broadcast today was an attempt to remind the Japanese fans not to give up on the basho first, and don't give up on the Japanese rikishi second. Hakuho's picking up his 27th career yusho is a given at this point unless there is some serious yaocho later in the week, and so with a Mongolian closing in on extreme record territory with little relief in the short term, the Association needs to reassure the domestic fans not to give up.

Before I get to the bouts today, I just have to make one final comment on Takamisakari. It's a smart move to sit him in that chair on a holiday, and while I wish they'd make him a part of the broadcast more than just one day per tournament, where do they find these fans who always seem to be surrounding the oyakata when he's on television? If Disney's serious about making more Star Wars movies and they want to do a new Mos Eisley cantina scene, they don't even need a casting call; just locate the fans sitting close to Takamisakari during these broadcasts.

On that note, I'll start off my day 9 comments by breaking down the leaderboard and listing the rikishi who have a chance to yusho and why:

Rikishi         Reason
Hakuho      Just because

Today, the dai-Yokozuna was challenged by M4 Toyohibiki (yes, I typed that last phrase with a straight face) who was unfortunately for him summoned in the absence of Kotooshu. This one took 3/4 of a second with Hakuho getting the right inside at the tachi-ai and then easily using a left tsuki to the side of Toyo the Hutt sending him down to the dirt in a giant heap. As the dust settled, Hakuho stood at 9-0 while Toyohibiki fell to 4-5.

In other bouts of interest...

As bad as Yokozuna Harumafuji has looked this basho, he still came into the day with just two losses. The problem, though, is that the majority of those six wins were with crap sumo. I mean, it's one thing for Aminishiki to sneak around the ring and use trickery to pile up wins, but a Yokozuna? I think Kane's description of Yokozeki is more apt for Harumafuji's current ability. Today in what promised to be a feisty affair against Sekiwake Myogiryu, Harumafuji came with tsuppari but then immediately went for a pull creating separation between the two combatants. As Myogiryu looked to get in close, Harumafuji was just too busy throwing out wild shoves, pull attempts, and the occasional face slap. In the end, Harumafuji found an opening and pushed Myogiryu (4-5) out for the win, but this tasted more like hobo stew than it did savory sumo. Harumafuji moves to 7-2, but this has been a terrible basho for him. I expect a bout featuring a Yokozuna to be a linear affair or at least a contest where both parties are in control.

In our Ozeki duel for the day, Kakuryu and Kotoshogiku hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu position, and Kakuryu actually grabbed the right outer first, but it was just one fold of the Geeku's belt. Kotoshogiku easily shook that off and worked his left shoulder firmly beneath the Kak's chin securing his own right outer in the process, and this was a position from which Kakuryu could not counter. The yori-kiri by Kotoshogiku was textbook, and I just didn't see a lot of fire and determination from Kakuryu in this one for whatever reason. Both Ozeki stand at 6-3.

I guess Ozeki Kisenosato was technically in the yusho hunt coming into the day at 7-1, but we all knew he wasn't. M3 Chiyotairyu just crushed the Ozeki back from the tachi-ai a full step, and it was nice to see him follow that up with a second volley because with this guy lately, it's been one step forward (at the tachi-ai) and then two steps back. Chiyotairyu actually committed so hard on his second shove attempt that he fell over and down to the clay, but not before Kisenosato's right foot was knocked across the tawara and into the soft sand just beyond. If Chiyotairyu could only trust in his forward moving sumo he'd be nigh unto unstoppable. Until then, a 3-6 record from this level is still considered a failure. Kisenosato drops to 7-2 and never even had a chance to counter in this one.

Just when I start to get excited about Sekiwake Goeido, he redefines the term Suckiwake by henka'ing M2 Aoiyama for the quick and dirty win. You have a guy slumping in Aoiyama (3-6); yet, you're not confident enough to take him straight up? Lousy win for Goeido who improves in record only to 6-3.

M1 Shohozan has continued to use that feisty tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai, but his legs were missing in his bout against Komusubi Tochiohzan today. Shohozan was actually able to raise Oh upright with his initial thrusts, but with no de-ashi, Tochiohzan just stood there watching him flail away until he saw an opening to Shohozan's right side whereupon he got the right hand placed perfectly under Matutano's left pit and tsuki-otoshi'ed his nacho cheesy arse down to the clay with a single thrust. Both rikishi stand at 5-4, and we can see the veteran Tochiohzan recovering from the brutal Komusubi schedule early on while Shohozan is forgetting the brand of sumo that got him this far in the first place.

M1 Ikioi was wide open at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Takayasu going for the quick and dirty pull down that nearly worked, but once Takayasu was able to gather his wits, he easily recovered and managed to get the left arm to the inside allowing him to secure moro-zashi and drive Ikioi clear across the dohyo and out in a wild affair. Takayasu still has hope at 3-6 while Ikioi is hope less at 1-8.

One of my favorite bouts today featured M2 Okinoumi vs. M3 Takarafuji where the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu early on before Okinoumi pressed the action by lifting Takarafuji upright to the extent he was able to secure the right outer grip, and once he obtained that, it was curtains for Takarafuji. Okinoumi moves to 4-5 with the textbook yori-kiri win while Takarafuji falls to 1-8.

M7 Toyonoshima finally got moro-zashi on someone, and today's victim was M4 Kaisei, but the Brasilian would not go quietly using a stubborn right outer grip to counter and stay alive at the edge. After a few seconds of wrangling, Toyonoshima finally offered a simple kiri-kaeshi (thigh) trip, and that provided enough of a momentum shift that allowed him to finally force Kaisei across the straw with the inside grip. Great adjustment from Toyonoshima who moves to 4-5 while Kaisei is still a threat to take over a Komusubi rank for Kyushu at 6-3.

M6 Kitataiki ducked low at the tachi-ai against M5 Tokitenku getting the right arm to the inside whereupon Tenku went for a senseless pull attempt that result in his being escorted off the dohyo and into the front row as both gentleman end the day at 3-6.

M5 Aminishiki had dominated M6 Kyokutenho lately, but it's not due to straight up sumo, and today was no different as he tried to sneak into the cheap inside position by moving left, but the Chauffer responded well grabbing the solid right outer grip, and as Aminishiki rushed his left scoop throw attempt at the edge, Kyokutenho forced him down across the straw for the win. Sort of.  Aminishiki actually pulled off one of the more athletic moves of the basho arching his back low over the straw in the limbo dance style as he waited for Tenho to put his right hand down to the dirt.  The gyogji ruled for Tenho, and a mono-ii was called where they ruled Aminishiki was not upright enough to be in position to win, so the initial ruling stood.  I don't know; I thought Aminishiki (6-3) pulled off the brilliant utchari, but it's Kyokutenho who scoots to 7-2.

M9 Gagamaru and M7 Aran redefined the term "slow motion" at the tachi-ai where Aran threatened moro-zashi but wasted it by moving to the side trying to push Gagamaru laterally. Yubabamaru got the left arm to the inside and pressed the action from there pinning Aran up against the edge where he grabbed the right outer and bounced his foe back for good scoring the sweet yori-kiri win. Gagamaru moves above .500 for the first time at 5-4 while Aran is 3-6.

M8 Fujiazuma (1-8) suffered an early make-koshi while is tsuppari attack sans de-ashi was useless against M12 Sadanofuji. The latter just watched Fujiazuma throughout the bout folowing him around the ring until he saw an opening and then pounced for the oshi-dashi win. Sada didn't even need his might today as he improves to 5-4.

M13 Endoh stuck like glue to M8 Yoshikaze at the tachi-ai with a left inside grip despite a quick shoulder-pull attempt from Cafe, and with Yoshikaze having committed on the pull, Endoh burrowed in deep, pulled his gal close, and secured the left outer grip. From there it was a foregone conclusion as the King scored the easy force-out win moving to 6-3 in the process, the same record held by Yoshikaze.

M9 Kotoyuki stuck to his brand of sumo today largely because he was fighting M15 Tamaasuka. Nothing to break down here as Kotoyuki pressed straight forward, driving his legs, and using this trademark tsuppari attack, something that his opponent had no answer for. It was a purely linear bout earning Kotoyuki the tsuki-dashi winning technique as he looks to recover from his awkward start at 4-5. Tamaasuka is one worse at 3-6.

I've mentioned multiple bouts so far where a rikishi has patiently waited to grab an outer grip and then attack once secured. M10 Tokushoryu was in the same position today against M15 Wakanosato in their hidari-yotsu contest, but he gave up too quickly on the right outside settling for a left inside grip instead of lifting up on Gangsta-no-sato's right armpit. Big mistake because when both rikishi maintain equal holds, the better tactician will always win, and so it was Wakanosato that grabbed the right outer setting up the yori-taoshi win and sweet mount of his opponent. Wakanosato (2-7) doesn't get that outer if Tokushoryu (3-6) doesn't abandon the left position up high in favor of a deep inside belt grip, so live and learn.

M16 Asahisho's tachi-ai was weak because he was only looking to retreat and mawari-komu around the ring in order to set up a pull, but M10 Shotenro wasn't fooled and grabbed Asahisho in the right kote-nage position and wrenched the youngsters arm so hard he prolly injured it. The kimari-te was ruled kime-dashi, but this was more like a submission hold in mixed martial arts. Asahisho drops to 3-6 and may not be able to continue. Shotenro limps to 4-5.

M11 Takekaze (6-3) used a quick moro-te-zuki at the tachi-ai and even quicker pull of M14 Jokoryu (5-4) who flopped forward to the clay before he knew what hit him.

M11 Tochinowaka kept both arms in tight at the tachi-ai giving him moro-zashi against M12 Tenkaiho, but he was too lackadaisical with the position and allowed the Hutt to maki-kae, and instead of burrowing back in for belt fight, Tochinowaka just wasted his superior position going for a stupid pull down. Tenkaiho may be fat and slow, but he ain't stupid as he jumped the move and scored the yori-kiri win. He one-ups Tochinowaka record-wise by one win at 5-4.

M14 Masunoyama rushed his charge against M11 Homasho barreling forward without having his gal in snug, so Homasho was able to pivot right at the edge, grab the back of Masunoyama's belt in a right outer, and then escort him down to the dirt using his own momentum against him. Rookie mistake from Masunoyama who falls to 5-4 while Homasho is a winna way from kachi-koshi at 7-2.

And finally, Sokokurai popped his head up from Juryo like a mole in that Whack-A-Mole game only to have it beaten back down by M16 Tamawashi's tsuppari attack in about five seconds. Tamawashi was cautious in this one, but it was understandable due to Sokokurai's gimmick sumo. At 5-4, The Mawashi is one step closer to another two months' worth of Makuuchi pay while Sokokurai falls to 3-6 and will likely earn Juryo script in the foreseeable future.

I've always wondered what it'd be like to be the opening act for a rock star, so need I even mention tomorrow's headliner?

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well, its "shubun no hi" here in Yappan, which translates roughly as "winter is jess around the river bend, mofo" and being a national holiday, kids are not in school, most workers are off, and Im planning on partying at the home of a friend, which translates roughly as "not really wanting to sit here at 5am on Monday a.m. and type to yall about sumos!"

BUT...Lord Mike gets, how to put it, "Shakepearean scary" if his serfs let him down, so Id better throw something together, because if the scars crisscrossing Martins back for his absence in July arent enough, rumor around the hotel has it dude might start demanding "droit du seigneur." So for my daughters, away we go.

Many of you may have noticed that we here at ST employ a few tricks when we dont have the time or mojo to write a full on report. One is to start with a long, rambling, barely coherent intro that makes you gaze longingly at the straight razor in your medicine cabinet. Another is to start with the final bouts in order to sate readers appetites for the "big" news and to lessen the severity of their wrath when they scroll on down and find that you did NOT cover the Kyokushuho/Jokoryu tussle.

Ill try to avoid both, but no promises, cause when my children awaken in an hour or so, Papaclanc gottsta spring into action.

Kyokushuho was a Makuuchi guest today, filling the unbalancing void created when the great Kotooshu pulled out (at least I THINK he withdrew; couldnt really be sure if thats what Martin was trying to say on Day 7). Im not an expert on all things sumoid, but I would guess its verboten to be up for the day from Juryo and pull any crap at tachi-ai. At any rate, he came in straight and hard, getting into a tight hug with Jokoryu. The Joker Man had fortunately snatched a tiny bit of his foes outside belt, and with that right hand lifted and turned as he was driven back to the bales. Kyo-kun struggled valiantly, bouncing on one leg and forcing Jokoryu into an "all-in" throw, with both men toppling onto their noggins.

Major props to the W14 for not putting his hand down like a pussy, for that would have brought him the loss. In fact, if you watch the bout and freeze it just where Kyokushuho touches out youll see Jokoryu in a position we normally see 15 year-old girls about to catch a rubber ball in Rhythm Gymnastics at the Olympics. Never ceases to amaze me just how flexible these big fat fuckers are!

Homasho was pushed back at the jump almost like he was "lending a chest" in keiko, but once his feet touched the ropes he used both to spring forward and get around Tamaasuka while grabbing the outside right belt. Now in the center of the ring, he gave up that grip to get an inside left, and with that did his own cattle drive to his 6th win. Tamaasukas hide has got to be feeling raw at W15 3-5.

Normally a kimari-te decision of "hataki-komi" means the bout was lame, but Asahisho is a smallish man by sumo standards, so to see him hammering away at the significantly (a word, btw, I enjoy [meaning my mouth physically enjoys] enunciating) larger Tenkaiho was sweet. He nearly pummeled him back and out, with Tenkaiho coming closer to stepping out than Mike did to scoring with that Nevada chick at the Ozzie concert of 89. Sadly for Asahi Super Dry Sho he evidently did not, and immediately after set his great weight down upon the E16 and recycled him to the clay.

Exciting bout next as Sadanofuji took on Masunoyama. Either man would look right at home on a Thanksgiving table with a soft, seasoned bread mix jammed up his ass (REALLY, Clancy??) and when they got into a frenetic (I know, Im using this word early in the report, but its gotta be done!) yotsu belt battle, trying to throw each other, well, its was just fun to watch. Eventually Masu-san used an outside right belt to go for the pulling throw, but his hand slipped off as he pivoted, so while he was busy not completing the throw Sadanofuji was able to balance on one leg just long enough for his opponent to crash down first onto his backside.

Tamawashi slipped out of his energetic tachi-ai pushing to Tochinowakas mug, and now all discombobulated was easy force out fodder for the Mongolian W11. Both men sit fiddy fiddy.

Damn, Id rather sit through a three hour lecture on the healing power of crystals than have to listen to another person I know talk about their new ios7. Get. A. Fucking. Life.

Just heard an alarm go off, so let us jump to Takekaze and Kyokutenho. Uh, whats to see? The Chauffer snagged hold of the little eel and drove him back and out with little to no fanfare. (Well, there was some fanfare, as this is not Nov. and not Kyushu. WHY do they continue to hold a basho down in Fukuoka? No one ATTENDS!! I want two basho in Osaka.)

Took about 37 minutes for the MIB to overturn a call for Aran (heretofore known as "The Flea" for his tachi-ai jumpaways) and give the win to Aminishiki. Shneaky recovered from Arans SUPER pathetic henka and drove him back and out while he himself dove to the dirt, but it was not clear if Aran had stepped out with his tootsie before Shneaky touched down. Itd be some small justice if Aran sprained an ankle as he fell awkwardly off the dohyo.

Yoshikaze was looking to stay in second place vs Kaisei, but the huge Brasilians initial thrusts were placed perfectly enough to immediately send Starbuck back to his table in the corner where he continues working on writing the Great Japanese Novel. 6-2 looks good on both fellas.

Okay, (engaging thick Scottish brogue) the weeuns are now roostin aboot the hoose, so its Sanyaku time.

In the Komusubi matchup of this basho, Tochiohzan won a catfight with Takayasu, exchanging fast slaps till the West K was forced back and out.

Goeido played slightly dirty vs. Ikioi, hitting with, yes, both feet at the shikiri-sen but also with torso already in spinning mode to get an outside belt. The Ick was never a factor as the Suckiwake took advantage of his lamely gotten goods for his 5th win. This kind of sumo down at M7? Fine. But for a Sekiwake taking on a W1? Cheap and not exactly career advancing.

Shohozan demonstrated he has what it takes to avoid getting lonely in a penitentiary by giving it good and slippery to Kotoshogiku at the gun. The groan let out by the crowd at this egregious henka was matched only by the two second long stare the Ozeki gave the E1 as he disgustedly picked himself up off the clay. Goldmember or not, that HAD to hurt. Please do mark the Shohozan/Geeku bout in November down for Must See Kyushu TV!

Kakuryu oddly wanted none of Myogiryus belt, instead content to have an at-arms-length slapping battle. At one point the Ozeki tried to shove down on the back of the Sekiwakes head, but it only brought him strife as Myogiryu got up and under and rammed him out to his 2nd loss. With Yoshikaze and now Kakuryu two back, Hakuho breathes more easily (snark alert).

Honestly, Toyohibiki had Kisenosato dead to rights, with a tachi-ai win that had the Ozeki going back with nothing. Toyo-chan for some reason passed on snagging the belt his left hand was sitting right on while he was driving The Kid back, but once Kisenosato got his own belt grip and started pushing them back to the center Toyohibiki decided, Uh yeah, I DO need that belt. It was too late now as he was worked across the ring to the tawara. Here he dug in (knowing full well he was deader than smallpox) and threw the seals in the audience some fish by making the Ozeki press on him for about eight seconds before falling out. Itll go down for most people as a great bout; itll not even go down for me, cause I cant swallow shit.

Hakuho, looking a lot more proactive at the start than normal, raced to a quick double inside moro-zashi against Takarafuji. It was all the E3 could do to stay alive for a few seconds, breaking the moro-zashi and leaning in as if whispering in Kublais ear, "Please, my children are watching!" Deaf is what the Khan is to such protests, however, and it was one, two, three, what are we fighting for, dont tell me I dont give a damn, next stop is Taka slam! Im willing to bet his bout vs. Kisenosato around about Day 14 will play out similarly.

I tire of Harumafujis attitude. First, some background. If you recall (and you DO), he was run over so badly by Chiyotairyu on Day 8 two months back in Nagoya that his oyakata seriously asked the public for help in finding the number of the truck. So its understandable that today he would be rearin to go to erase that horrific memory. But Chiyos hands hadnt even begun to consider thinking about the possibility of making preliminary plans to initiate a potential venture regarding a move down to the dirt before the Yokozuna leapt up drove into him. At the ropes they stood as the gyoji rightfully called it back, while HowDo stared into Chiyos face for a full two seconds like hed spit in the Yokozunas guriltai shol. When its your fault, even if youre the top dog, staring is bush league. But maybe the entire thing was a mind game he was playing on the W3.

If so, it worked, cause on the redo Chiyo got his hands down in the squatting position quicker than one of Kanes groupies. As he waited, Harumafuji sauntered into his crouch, la dee FREAKIN da. When they shot out, Chiyotairyu hit him hard in the chin with his right palm, but the Yokozuna was able to absorb it and push forward. Retreating, Chiyo took one more swipe that connected with HowDos mug, before the Yokozuna nailed him with his head and hands and bumped him out. Again they stood for a few seconds, with Harumafuji keeping his left palm on Chiyos chest, looking for all the world like he was gonna shove him to the floor below. He managed to hold himself in check, but coupled with the beatdown of that poor Water Boy on Day 2, we can see that this Grand Champion has his hands full with simply winning these days, and his little energy left over to think about the way he carries himself.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
After taking the last basho off, I came back here just in time to see Baruto hand in his retirement papers. No big surprise, given his drastic fall down the ranking, but what makes it really interesting is that he stated his intentions three years ago. In September 2010, when I was fortunate enough to get to Japan and meet the man in person, courtesy of the late Doc Kadastik (no, he's not dead, he's just retired from the sumo commenting business), Baruto said he'd go on and keep doing sumo for three more years at max – I'd be tempted to think he wasn't just making small talk. As for his future plans, at that time he said he wanted to go into the beef farming business – and if that works out, you can bet I'll get my arse over to Estonia for a beefy Bart Burger (is it just me or does that sound REALLY wrong?).

Before I hastily go through the day's fights, I feel compelled to notice how dominant Hakuho is really becoming. The big man from the steppes, 27 years old, currently has 26 cups and there's no sign of him slowing down the least bit. But I guess that's really old news. What really intrigues the hell out of me is HOW such dominance can come to exist, and when I'm asking myself this, I'm not looking only at sumo. Every once in a while, some bad-ass appears and kicks everyone else's asses. And, whether his name is Asashoryu, Hakuho, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Tiger Woods or Elena Isinbaeva (ok, that's a her), everyone knows that name and thinks about him (or her) in awe. The answer is far from simple, as one would expect from such purposely philosophical problems. Anyone will start with technique - these guys have it, all of them, no exception. Then comes training and conditioning, which they also have. And if anyone tells you otherwise, they're lying. Of course, some guys are more efficient than others and might need less time to reach the same results, but the order of magnitude is pretty much the same for everyone – putting in the hours is not enough, but it sure as hell is necessary.

And then, after you factor in all the physical reasons, you have to take into consideration the mental aspect. First of all, the fear factor – you're all alone up there with that untouchable guy everyone loses too, the first thing you think about is "I'm gonna lose, and it's OK, because I'm supposed to". Then comes denial: "NO! I can take this guy, I'm almost as good, all I need is a good day and maybe a bit of fortune on my side", then you run through your head all the possible scenarios "If he does this, my only chance is to counter with that, etc." And while you, the contender, the pretender, all tense and self-conscious, are facing the challenge of your life, the champion is standing there probably deciding what to order for dinner in order to celebrate the day's victory. Which almost inevitably comes, further increasing his prestige and the fear he strikes in the hearts of his future wannabe conquerors. I'm obviously exaggerating, but there's no smoke without a fire.

What makes Mongolian dominance that much more interesting is that they're a small minority in an association where the large majority is Japanese, and the banzuke distribution of these guys is drastically top-heavy. If I didn't know better, I'd be tempted to assume that Mongols are stronger and more naturally gifted towards physical activity, but that would be racist, so I'll refrain. I remember someone musing on this very same topic (most likely Mike – he writes half of the reports around here anyway), and concluding it's a simple case of motivation – Mongolia is incomparably poorer than Japan, and the guys coming to Japan from there are probably happy with a roof over their head, some food and some money on top of that, in exchange for doing something fairly close to what they'd be doing in their own country anyway… for free and for fun. Contrast these guys with spoiled Japanese boys and you get… the current banzuke.

Oh, my point? Well, most foreign watchers of fat men in skimpy clothing crashing into each other don't give a rat's ass if the banzuke is dominated by a Japanese guy or a foreign guy (except when that foreign guy happens to be from the same country as them), but one cannot help but wonder what the Japanese are feeling when what basically passes as their national sport is being dominated by a nation perceived as inferior (and not just by them). During the past few years I've been studying Japanese language and culture a bit and I must confess that the more I study it, the less sense this continued domination makes. But something tells me it will come to an end soon, before I'll have had the opportunity to get to the bottom of it.

Anyway… Hakuho continued his dominance in style, and he seems a bit typecast these days, playing a brick wall. Chiyotairyu hit him with all he had at the tachi-ai, and that must have been ALL he had, because, after the initial impact, he kinda fell flat on his face with little interference from Hak. At 25, Chiyotairyu seems to have hit a plateau, with his comfort zone just a little under the jo'i. His 2-5 performance so far is unconvincing.

Harumafuji slipped to the left at the initial charge, immediately grabbing the uwate and kindly escorting his fatter opponent out of the dohyo. Toyohibiki is 4-3 despite the loss, whereas the second fiddle Yokozuna is a flawed (both number- and content-wise) 5-2.

Kotoshogiku was simply careless in his charge against Tochiohzan, immediately giving up moro-zashi. A simple, inevitable yori-kiri followed, which brought Oh his 3rd win and took Geeku out of the yusho race (as if he had been there in the first place).

The next (non-)bout has some sort of value for me, because it was the first time I read the fusensho banner after learning kanji. It literally reads no-fight-win, which makes sense if you think about it. You do, don't you? In any case, Kotooshu gets taken to the hospital for the third time in 7 basho (and you don't need to be a nuclear physicist like Dr. Kadastik to know where his career is headed – just ask Baruto). Takayasu gets an important second win, but I'd be very surprised if he got kachi-koshi.

Kisenosato capitalized on his superior weight against Myogiryu, whose linear attack was easily deflected and he ended up crossing the tawara in the wake of a deftly timed side push from the Kid. At 6-1, Kisenosato is probably the closest thing Hakuho has to a contender (but closeST does not necessarily mean close). Myogiryu falls to a lackluster 3-4, considering his opposition so far.

The other possible contender for the title is Kakuryu, who certainly took his sweet time is disposing of Okinoumi to get to 6-1 himself. The bout was won, I think, at the tachi-ai, when the Mongol got the right uwate and denied the longer Okinoumi one of his own. The two messed around the center of the dohyo for about a minute, until Okinoumi got sick of waiting, made his move and was rebuked with a well-timed throw at the edge. His 2-5 is not nearly as bad as it looks, and the way he's looked even in those losses makes me think he might even get a hard-earned 8-7.

Goeido thought he had it all figured out, standing up and waiting for the tsuppari from Shohozan, then pulling at Cheetos' overextending arms to… well, nothing wrong with the strategy, 'xept you gotta not miss the opponent's arms. Goeido did and was pushed back and out faster that you can say make-koshi, which he's in danger of suffering at 4-3. Shohozan shares the same mark, but his opposition has been far superior.

Ikioi shifted to the right ever so slightly to get the uwate, which he readily did, denied Takarafuji any sort of grip, then threw him down to the clay after a few seconds of maneuvering into position. But it makes little difference, as both dudes stand proud at 6-1 (that's losses to wins).

Out of the remaining bouts, I'll only cover a few I thought interesting, and the first one has to be Yoshikaze vs. Tokitenku, as Yoshikaze was on the leader board coming into the day (yeah, as if). A characteristically passive Tokitenku simply stood up at the tachi-ai and tried to keep the little pest away, but there was little he could do against Yoshikaze's determination and momentum. Therefore, Yoshikaze stays tied for second place at 6-1, while his Mongol foe drops below sea level at 3-4.

As I was watching Tenho and Kotoyuki's nirami-ai I was thinking the young Sadogatake guy has about one way of winning the bout, i.e. rush his bigger and more experienced foe and hope he doesn't turn him around at the edge. And rush he did, and resistance of any sort meet he did not. It cracks me up to see the little butterball strut back to his side of the dohyo after a victory, but he still doesn't have anything on Takamisakari. Tenho suffers his 2nd loss in 3 days and falls out of the yusho race (and I really am tempted to put an "as if" in here as well, but then I remember the 2012 12-3 yusho – that was so wrong, for so many reasons). Kotoyuki improves to 3-4.

Normally I wouldn't even bother watching Shotenro's bouts, but when facing Aran, you're almost certain something will happen. And I don't regret watching it, as Big Shot treated me to some of that raw Mongol power, scooping the technically challenged Ossetian down to the dirt, after the afore-mentioned Ossetian failed to grab his wide-open mawashi. Both guys are a bit listless at 3-4.

Finally, Endoh took care of business confidently against a weak opponent in Asahisho, but one cannot help but worry about the passive tachi-ai this new guy exhibited. While it might have worked like a charm in Juryo and will likely keep working against the dregs in Makuuchi, he's in for a rough wake-up call up in the jo'i, where he has a pretty good chance to make his debut in a basho or two. In any case, Exo (I'm sure a context for this gratuitous shikona reversal will manifest itself in some later report) improves to 5-2 and keeps up the good work, at least on paper, whereas Asahisho falls to 3-4.

Clancy takes over tomorrow and, believe it or not, you get another piece of me in a few days. Cheerios.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As we near the end of week 1, Hakuho is holding serve while Harumafuji and the Ozeki are slowly but surely tallying up the losses, and you can almost feel Hakuho running away with this thing already. In fact, the only 5-0 rikishi along with the Yokozuna at the start of today was Yoshikaze, and you know how that's going to turn out. But...none of it matters due to the hype surrounding Endoh. Even in defeat, Endoh is still the lead story, and as NHK tried to kill time at the start of the broadcast, they showed every one of Endoh's first five bouts. As I've stated previously, it's different this time with Endoh because he's for real. He's not some wannabe that the Sumo Association is trying to hype into a rank; he'll achieve all of those ranks on his own thank you very much.

But before I get too carried away in regards to the King, let's start from the bottom up meaning M15 Wakanosato and M13 Homasho lead off the day. I hate to say it but Wakanosato is done, and I don't think he can even kachi-koshi in Juryo any longer. I would say the odds of his retiring after the basho are the same as Hakuho taking the yusho. Today, Gangsta-no-sato came with the right hari-te in an attempt to get an arm to the inside I presume, but Homasho just held Wakanosato upright trying to finagle moro-zashi, and after about three seconds of Wakanosato's resistance, Homasho just reversed gears and slapped Wakanosato down by the shoulder. Homasho is a quiet 4-2 while Wakanosato is 0-6. Ouch!

If you were surprised by the way M14 Jokoryu dismantled Endoh yesterday, don't be...the rookie let him win. Jokoryu's tough tachi-ai and superb de-ashi were seemingly absent today against M12 Sadanofuji who used a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai to befuddle Joke-oryu from the start. In fact, Jokoryu was so out of place from the get-go that Sadanofuji nearly spilled him to the dohyo with a quick hataki-komi, and even though Jokoryu survived, the Sadamight grabbed the right outer grip and left inside position and easily forced his gal back and across from there. Both rikishi end the day at 3-3, and if you're wondering why I think Endoh let Jokoryu win yesterday, fish for my remarks on the matter down in the comments section at the end of this report. In short, it's a senpai/kohai thing, and I think the result of both senpai and kohai's sumo today makes my argument even stronger.

It was monkey see monkey do in the M11 Takekaze - M16 Asahisho affair with both guys looking for quick strikes and even quicker pulls. The veteran will usually win these types of bouts, and Takekaze did although he had to balance himself on the rope while waiting or Asahisho's hands to hit the clay. Ugly stuff all around here as Takekaze improves to 4-2 while Asahisho sits at 3-3.

M13 Endoh looked to receive a decent challenge against M11 Tochinowaka, and I say that because you knew Endoh would give him a fair yotsu contest. Tochinowaka is great in a belt fight, but so few rikishi take it to the belt against him opting to thrust the passive T-Wok this way and that because he's always so vulnerable. Anyway, Endoh stayed low at the tachi-ai getting the left arm easily to the inside, and he followed that up with a right outer near the front of the belt. Tochinowaka complied grabbing a right outer of his own over the top and the chess match was on. Tochinowaka kept this one close as he was able to shake off Endoh's right frontal grip initially, but the rookie demanded it again in the end and bulldogged Tochinowaka back to the straw and across disallowing any counter moves near the edge. I liken Endoh to a Cheetah hunting larger prey on the African plains. He may not be the biggest guy on the banzuke, but he smartly goes for the juggler (in this case the inside position and outer grip), and once obtained, he just suffocates his prey into submission. He is so polished already and a joy to watch as he moves to 4-2 while Tochinowaka is a decent 3-3.

M14 Masunoyama secured the left arm to the inside from the tachi-ai against M10 Tokushoryu who got his own left to the inside and right outer grip to boot, but before Tokushoryu could settle into the outer grip, Masunoyama unleashed a powerful scoop throw with the left arm that sent Tokushoryu all the way over to the edge of the dohyo where he was the easy oshi-dashi fodder from there. Took about three seconds for Masunoyama who skips to 4-2 while Tokushoryu is the inverse.

M10 Shotenro just can't get anything going this basho, and today against M12 Tenkaiho, he meant well attacking with a few shoves at the start, but there were no legs behind the move, and so Tenkai the Hutt got his right arm to the inside and immediately countered with a left kote-nage that sent Shotenro over to the edge turned around 180 degrees. Tenkaiho (3-3) was gettin' him some manlove from this point as he bear hugged Shotenro (2-4) from behind and escorted him across without argument.

M9 Kotoyuki and M16 Tamawashi treated us to an interesting slapfest from the tachi-ai where Kotoyuki was on offense going for the chest while Tamawashi played defense looking for an inashi move to get Kotoyuki off balance. The Mawashi succeeded in getting Kotoyuki pushed sideways to the edge, and from there he pounced sending Kotoyuki back with two shoves to his outstretched chest. Tamawashi is a cool 4-2 while Kotoyuki looks a bit lost at 2-4.

M8 Fujiazuma opted not to use any tsuppari from the tachi-ai and settled into the early migi-yotsu contest against M15 Tamaasuka, but this isn't Fuji's game, and it showed as Tamaasuka (3-3) grabbed the left outer grip and wrangled Fujiazuma over to the edge and out with relative ease. Fujiazuma just doesn't have it this basho at 1-5.

M9 Gagamaru was winless against M7 Toyonoshima in six tries so far, but Toyonoshima just can't get to the inside of his opponent this basho, and so today's bout consisted of Toyonoshima standing upright and daring Gagamaru to commit on a shove attempt. Gagamaru plodded along carefully as Toyonoshima darted around the ring, but with Toyonoshima threatening no offensive moves, he eventually ran out of dohyo and Gagamaru got him in the end. Toyonoshima is sickly at 1-5 while Gagamaru ain't much better at 2-4.

M7 Aran was a bit lazy at the tachi-ai letting M5 Tokitenku threaten moro-zashi, but Tenku didn't demand it allowing the Russian to pinch in from the outside tight in the kime position. Tokitenku tried to shake that off, but the Bouncer wouldn't be denied as he pinched in tight and bodied Tokitenku over to the edge. It took a bit for Aran to polish Tokitenku off, but he scored the sweet kime-dashi win in the end leaving both fellas 3-3.

M5 Aminishiki and M8 Yoshikaze demonstrated the last thing I thought I'd see form these two: a great tachi-ai. Both rikishi charged hard cracking heads, but it was Aminishiki who jumped left first executing a quick pull of your yusho contender, and Yoshikaze wasn't prepared for the move and stumbled forward right outta the dohyo. Shneaky needed to keep his left foot on the edge of the tawara until Yoshikaze's right foot stepped out first, and this was so close that they called a mono-ii giving it to Aminishiki in the end. I thought this shoulda been ruled a do-over, but what do I know? Both guys are 5-1.

M6 Kyokutenho also improved to 5-1 forcing his bout against M4 Toyohibiki into the early hidari-yotsu contest, and when Toyohibiki showed no de-ashi whatsoever, Kyokutenho just floated to his left and pulled Toyo The Hutt (4-2) down to the dohyo with ease.

M3 Takarafuji and M6 Kitataiki hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu contest with Takarafuji enjoying the slightly lower position. Takarafuji was close to the right outer several times, and Kitataiki just had nowhere to go, and so he lost patience and went for a quick pull in the end. Takarafuji wasn't fooled, however, and pounced on the move sending Kitataiki out in a flash as both rikishi end the day at 1-5.

M3 Chiyotairyu looked great from the tachi-ai thrusting with his legs while connecting on a coupla right choke holds against M4 Kaisei's neck, but he couldn't wait to back up fast enough, and when he did, Kaisei (4-2) just moved forward pushing his compromised opponent out of the ring with ease. Chiyotairyu falls to 2-4 and is his own worst enemy.

Sekiwake Myogiryu led with his right hand to the neck of M1 Ikioi, and when Ikioi lamely went for a swipe at the Sekiwake's outstretched arm, Myogiryu (3-3) just charged forward scoring the easy peasy oshi-dashi win. Ikioi falls to 0-6, and today's sumo was a good reason why.

Ozeki Kisenosato lost the tachi-ai to M2 Aoiyama who used some nice shoves from the start, but he was only good for one forward step before he ran out of gas. After halting his opponent, the Ozeki shoved the action back to the center of the ring and used a perfect left ottsuke to Aoiyama's side getting him upright and off balance to the extent that the Kid was able to deck the M1 with a single paw to the throat. Aoiyama went down so awkwardly in this one that even I felt like crying. Anyway, Kisenosato improves to 5-1 while Aoiyama still has just that single win against Harumafuji.

Is it me or does Ozeki Kotooshu look like a fatter version of Takanoyama lately? I can't remember a single sound bout from the Ozeki thus far, and today would be no different against M1 Shohozan who used two hands to the throat to keep the Ozeki at bay as he retreated and then scooted right. Kotooshu couldn't keep up due to his bad left knee, and so Shohozan never stayed in the same place darting this way and that making Kotooshu give chase. During the four second commotion, Kotooshu lost track of where he was in the ring and just stepped out as Shohozan was gearing up for the kill. The Ozeki limped badly back down the hana-michi, and I don't know if he can continue. His opponents from here on out should smell blood as Kotooshu falls to 4-2 with Shohozan improving to 3-3 including some impressive wins so far.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku struck Komusubi Takayasu extremely well at the tachi-ai getting the left to the inside and bullying Don-Taku back quickly. The Ozeki was sloppy, however, in grabbing the right outer grip, and so he let Takayasu stay alive longer than was necessary. As the Komusubi tried to flee around the edge of the ring, Kotoshogiku kept him close with the inside position and finally got him in the end. This was a perfect example of the importance of the tachi-ai as Kotoshogiku is a quiet 5-1. Takayasu in struggling mightily at 1-5.

Sekiwake Goeido used a great hari-zashi tachi-ai against Ozeki Kakuryu slapping with the left and threatening with the right inside, but Kakuryu wisely got the hell outta there evading to his right and using Goeido's forward momentum against him pulling the Sekiwake down by the shoulder while balancing along the tawara. The ref actually gave the gunbai to Goeido, but you knew this one would be overturned as Kakuryu was in control despite getting beat at the tachi-ai. Goeido came up close, but he's wont to go for the kill before he's got his opponent secured in front of him. The result is Kakuryu at 5-1 and Goeido having his best basho in a long time at 4-2.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho played the part of a brick wall at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Tochiohzan drifting to his left, quickly grabbing the Komusubi's extended right arm, and just twisting him down tottari style for the uneventful win. I guess some would call this a henka, but frankly, Hakuho can do whatever the hell he wants out there. He's 6-0 if ya need him and in firm control of this basho. Tochiohzan falls to 2-4 and has had a hard luck basho so far. I realize the Komusubi get the toughest schedules in the first week, but Tochiohzan is a rikishi on par with the Sekiwake and most of the Ozeki.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji shoved M2 Okinoumi back a full step from the tachi-ai, but that was more the result of Okinoumi just standing up than it was Harumafuji coming forward full bore. If HowDoMafuji was on his game, Okinoumi would have been knocked straight back in a second flat, but he let Okinoumi back into this one as the M2 looked to moved back to the center of the ring. Harumafuji wouldn't screw up his second chance gaining moro-zashi and using it to force Okinoumi back and out for good despite Okinoumi trying slip outta the hold like a slimy fish. Harumafuji moves to 4-2, but he has to make this a one-second affair after Okinoumi's horrible tachi-ai, not a four second bout. This was also the first time Harumafuji has won two bouts in a row this basho if you're scoring at home (chances are you're not or you wouldn't be reading this!). As for Okinoumi, I'm actually shocked he has 2 wins against his four losses.

It's been an uneventful basho so far, but it doesn't matter to the locals. It's all Endoh all the time. Speaking of dudes as handsome as Elvis, Martin makes his long-awaited return tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)

Bye-Baikin* Baruto

* That's an Anpanman reference. If you have half Japanese kids, you know what's up.

It feels like all the Sumotalk writers have been given an eighth grade essay assignment: Reflect on Baruto's Sumo Career. So here's my paper, Missus Wesemann.

The big Estonian was, like most of us I dare say, not made to be a sumo wrestler. Oh, his body was built for it. Geezus Sneezus was it ever built for pushing large men around. But mentally, Baruto didn't have a real edge, a chip on his shoulder that would drive him to dominate. Throughout the vast majority of his career, Baruto was totally content to just be really big, let smaller guys throw their best shot at him, and then dump these munchkins (who could pummel me) over the tawara.

This strategy worked really well. It got him all the way to Sekiwake. Once he was Ozeki, it was enough to pile up double digit win totals (though he actually only made nine wins numerous times). It was his path of least resistance and it earned him a pretty comfortable life. And if that was all we ever saw from him, there would be little to complain about.

But then there was his Oz run. In that last basho of his run, he made it look like there would be just Hakuho and then him dominating sumo together for multiple years. His thumb was hurt, forcing him away from his preferred, passive style and into an aggressive and downright scary tsuppari attack. He moved forward and blasted one giant paw after another at his opponent's upper body and head, to the point that they were desperate to get to a mawashi grip. Check out this photo at SF Gate. Can you even imagine wanting to get into a straight-up mawashi fight with this guy? That's the rock/hard place combo that Baruto created with those forward drives.

Hakuho recognized that Baruto was the biggest threat to his dominance of the sport and treated him as such. Whereas Hak would let his fellow countrymen and the Japanese Ozeki-tachi pick up wins (whether intentional or not), he held Baruto to a 3-25 career record against him. A healthy Baruto was clearly better than the guys who got two wins against Hakuho just before their promotions, but he couldn't earn any more wins than them against Mr. Number 1. Hak lost to Baruto once during the Oz run (a great, surprise maki-kae by Bart), but not during the final basho of that run (holding Bart to 14-1) and not during Baruto's lone yusho (14-1 again). He didn't want to give up a zensho yusho or leave any question marks about who was the better rikishi. In the Natsu 2012 basho, where Hak went 10-5 due to a (supposed?) hand injury, he used that injured hand to grab Baruto's mawashi and LIFT 187 KILOS OF ESTONIAN BOUNCER MAN OFF THE GROUND. He couldn't help it -- he had to show he was still the man and you do that by beating the closest thing he had to a rival at that guy's own game.

In the end, Baruto decided not to fight through repeated knee injuries just to bounce up against the Sekiwake ceiling the way Miyabiyama once did. And who can blame him? We'd all love to see a healthy Baruto in action. Even more so, we'd love to see the guy who played to his strengths and destroyed nearly all the competition during that Oz run. But that wasn't really Baruto. Sometimes you hear about fighters or athletes who are incredibly nice off the court/ring/field, but they turn into crazed monsters on the field and destroy everything in their path to get a win. That wasn't Baruto. Big Bart was a nice guy all around -- not quite a gentle giant, but not a force of nature either. The commentators say "mottenai," but the real chance was already wasted. A healthy Baruto in the long run would have been just a big, smiling bump in the road for more ambitious rikishi to have to figure out on their way to the top or a big rock that their hopes would be dashed against.

Still, we'll miss the big lug around these parts. He was our great white hope, in a sport where a little diversity is both fun and going to be more and more rare going forward. Raise a beer to Kaido Hoovelson (o's with umlauts, if you please) tonight. It was big fun while it lasted.

Actual Sumo Commentary

I caught the NHK news this morning and the two sumo stories were Harumafuji with yet another poor start to a basho and Yoshikaze's 5-0 start. So let me follow the Lamestream Media's lead and hit those two bouts first.

HowDo ran into Takayasu today, who had beaten the Yokozuna two in a row(!). That simple fact says a lot about HowDo's sumo lately. Not to take away anything from Takayasu (I'm gunna shorten that to TY. OK? OK.), who seems to step up his game under pressure, but these are two different levels of rikishi. Today, TY and Harumafuji had a decent tachi-ai, after which the Yokozuna got a little bit under TY, used his right hand to spin the Komusubi around and okuri-dashi him out in a scene from the blink-and-you'll-miss-it department. TY is 1-4, HowDo gets back above 0.500.

Yoshikaze and Shotenro got it on in the first half of action. As you might expect, Big Shot gave Mr. Caffeine the first blast out of the gate, but Starbuck quickly got back into this one. He slipped underneath Shotenro's attacking arms and turned the tide, pushing the M10 out faster than you can pull the lever on the espresso machine. And that put Yoshikaze in the lead on Day 5 -- must be the start of an incredible two-man yusho race.

Well, no sense in trying to mask my sarcasm. Still, we should briefly mention the other guy at 5-0. What's his name? Starts with an 'H'... In Japanese, I just said Eccie. Heh heh. Aoiyama couldn't pull off a stirring win (*sniff*) against a Yokozuna (*sniff*) two days in a row (*sniff, hoooonk*). Much like the other Yokozuna bout, the Bulgarian got spun to his right and went out like a light without much of fight to end the night right. Except the YDC runs these matches during the day like a bunch of foolzies.

At the top, we should also cover Endo (no eccie for you, young-un!), since a Mike-crush is not to be left without mention (Mike likes his Endo with a little eccie in the end). Today he looked less than spectacular. He had a decent tachi-ai, but came in a tad high (not such a problem) without a lot of de-ashi to follow up (bigger problem). Jokoryu is a bit sloppy in his movements, but he had better fundamentals today, getting under the rookie and using good footwork to drive him out. Still better than 50% wins for the short hair, who can be expected to have days like this. Joker also 3-2.

Other Bouts of Note

OK, now it's time for a quick run down. Write it List'em Style:

  • Typical Homasho against Asahisho. Passively wait for tachi-ai, absorb impact, lift up opponent's arms, drive him out.
  • Wakanosato looked too old to muster a genki action of any kind against Sadanofuji.
  • Tamawashi showed why he's not a mawashi fighter, losing to Tenkaiho despite gaining the superior position on the belt.
  • You know your tachi-ai is bad when you lose the tachi-ai to passive Tochinowaka, as Tamaasuka did today. Weak sauce, Ball-sukka.
  • Masunoyama had one of the best hataki-komi slap down wins I've ever seen against Kotoyuki today. Not only was it a solid setup, with Kotoyuki leaning way forward, but He of Little Lung turned Kotoyuki into a bowling ball and the gyoji into a pin. A must watch -- Strike!
  • I don't remember Toyonoshima winning many bouts by straight-up oshi-dashi. He just overpowered Tokushoryu, which is so weird to say about the little man.
  • Aminishiki looked a little disappointed in how easy it was to throw down Fujiazuma today.
  • Doesn't it seem strange that Kyokutenho and Tokitenku have only fought 17 times? (FYI, 10-7 edge to the super veteran over the mere veteran)? A decent yotsu battle today, with Toki-Doki getting a maki-kae for the yori-kiri win.
  • Kaisei and Aran fought today? I forget what happened, let me check it online ... oh. So it looks like, um, ... the, uh, big guy, uh .... Crap. Forgot again. Sorry, it's not worth watching a third time.
  • So, Toyohibiki's got a black mawashi now? That's ... boring. Nice little kote-nage throw of Kitataiki for the win today.
  • Chiyotairyu looked good today. Powerful tachi-ai that knocked Okinoumi back a couple of steps, a well-timed pull, and followed to the edge to ensure the win. I'm not going to complain about the pull here; Oki-Doki had his feet aligned and was ripe for the picking.
  • My own man crush, Myogiryu, got slapped down by Tochiohzan today. *sad face*. Myogi's feet slipped several times, so I'll give him a pass for being too low.
  • I thought that Goeido had a nice game plan against Kotooshu today. Spin him around after the tachi-ai and keep things moving. Once plan A broke down, with Kotooshu getting his favorite left-hand outside grip, Goeido quickly broke away, pull with his left, and push down on the Ozeki's head with his right. Oshu's left leg slid on the dohyo until the big man was nearly in the splits -- ouch! No apparent injury, but I'm aching a little bit from watching it.
  • Kotoshogiku did what he does against Ikioi today, getting inside and low with solid mawashi grips and turning superior position into a win.
  • Kakuryu and Shohozan got into a slapfest. The Ozeki ended it quickly, though, with one slap to Shohozan's right cheek and another to his left cheek, the latter ending as more of a push that dropped the diminutive M1 all the way to the clay.
  • Finally, Kisenosato actually fought for and earned inside position against Takarafuji, which is of course all he needed to ensure victory. I hope that's a sign of lessons learned and not just a blip.

Oh, and Clancy: just thought I should mention that it's not the size of your mawashi but the timing of your hineri. Whip it good!

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
After a quiet day 1 where the two Yokozuna and Ozeki all posted expected wins, someone from that group has been beaten each day since, and the upset virus has infected nearly all of them now. I still maintain that a basho really doesn't begin until Hakuho loses, and with the dai-Yokozuna standing undefeated after four days, the outcome of this basho would normally look bleak in terms of an exciting yusho race. But before, there was no Endoh. And that's not to say that Endoh has a chance of taking the yusho because he doesn't. What matters now to sumo is that Japan has been introduced to the chosen one, and he has been recognized by the media, his peers in the Association, and most importantly, the female fans.

Each morning I check the sumo headlines, and win or lose, there are always multiple articles on Endoh. After his day 1 loss, there was an article that commented on the crowds of media surrounding the kid despite the loss, and then after his first win in the division, the Sankei Sports daily got it right when they tabbed him as an "Idol Rikishi" which references the term usually reserved for Japanese pop stars. The thing that has me so excited about Endoh, though, is the content of his sumo. We finally have a Japanese rikishi who won't need to live up to the hype because this guy is gonna create the hype. The most important aspect of Endoh's sumo we can break down over the first four days is that the dude hasn't voluntarily taken a step backwards in the ring. He is one of a kind, and with the Mongolian mainstays growing older by the basho, I think Kane got it right in his report yesterday...Endoh is Japan's next Elvis.

Speaking of my new mancrush, the rookie was a brick at the tachi-ai as he literally bumped heads with M16 Tamawashi who tried a choke hold and then a quick pull, but Endoh didn't budge an inch and pounced on the mistake staying low and pushing Tamawashi back and out in a flash. The M13 moves to 3-1 with the win and has shown that he isn't afraid to sink his teeth into anyone. I wasn't surprised by his wins over Masunoyama and Sadanofuji because Endoh only needed the solid inside position, but I was hesitant prior to today's matchup since Tamawashi isn't above a tachi-ai henka. Thankfully, Tamawashi came straight forward, and the result was Endoh's outclassing him with the solid oshi-dashi win.

M12 Tenkaiho walked into a left mae-mawashi from M14 Jokoryu that also happened to be an outer grip completely neutralizing Tenkaiho's right inside position, and there was little the Hutt could do as Jokoryu (2-2) maintained that stifling left outer and executed the methodical yori-kiri. Tenkaiho drops to 1-3 with the loss.

M16 Asahisho looked for the quick strike and pull, and M12 Sadanofuji seemed to know it was coming, so the Sadamight stayed on his heels throughout waiting for Asahisho's pull. That tactic allowed Sadanofuji (1-3) to survive Asahisho's feisty sumo, but he couldn't attack or counter on his heels, and the pesky Asahisho eventually snuck in close for the oshi-dashi win in the end moving to 3-1 in the process.

M11 Takekaze may as well have kicked the cane out of an old guy's hand crossing a busy street by using a tachi-ai henka to his left that set up the quick and dirty win over M15 Wakanosato (0-4). For his next trick, Takekaze (2-2) will bravely steal candy from a baby.

M15 Tamaasuka was koshi ga takai (hips upright) at the tachi-ai allowing M10 Shotenro to attack from the lower position, and Sho cautiously forced Tamaasuka back and down at the edge for the abise-taoshi win. Nothing more to see here as both rikishi stand at 2-2.

M14 Masunoyama came into today 0-5 against M9 Gagamaru, but with Yubabamaru's skills declining fast, Masunoyama was all offense today alternating tsuppari and threats of a pull until he could get to the inside with the left hand. Masunoyama simply kept the tempo of the bout too upbeat for Gagamaru to adjust switching gears and spilling Gagamaru with a right kote-nage in the end. If you're Gagamaru and you don't employ a single offensive move, you ain't gonna win as illustrated by his 1-3 start. Masunoyama improves to 2-2.

I don't know if I can ever look at M13 Homasho with a straight face again thanks to Kane's Sho-Am-Sweet revelation yesterday. Today, M9 Kotoyuki caught Homasho with a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai sending the Baker upright from the start, and Kotoyuki followed that with tsuppari after tsuppari keeping Homasho up high as the veteran tried to duck low. In the end, Kotoyuki's jabs into Homie's dough were just too powerful, and he cornered Homasho at the crust of the ring and knead him out at the end for the impressive win that left both gentleman at 2-2.

M11 Tochinowaka was high once again at the tachi-ai allowing M8 Yoshikaze to fire a right paw to the neck as he slipped left resulting in an easy pulldown of T-Wok two seconds in. The ever passive Tochinowaka falls to 2-2 while Yoshikaze zips to 4-0.

M6 Kyokutenho has been showing superb yotsu-zumo skills thus far, so was there any doubt he was going to school M10 Tokushoryu today? There wasn't in Tokushoryu's mind as he struck lightly and immediately moved left to get the hell outta there, but Tenho read that move like a dirty manga and easily pushed out the retreating Tokushoryu in seconds flat. I am really enjoying watching Kyokutenho take these youngsters to Driver's Ed this basho, and don't look now, but Tenho is off to a 4-0 start. Tokushoryu falls to 2-2, and if he doesn't have enough nad to attack into the teeth of a 39 year-old, is he ever going to gain such confidence?

M5 Tokitenku dominates M8 Fujiazuma head-to-head, but it isn't because he's overpowering him; he's simply out-tricking him. Today he held up a bit at the tachi-ai offering a quick left slap while letting Fujiazuma waltz right into a left outer grip, and with Tokitenku already shifting back and to the side, he just continued that attack with the left sending Fujiazuma (1-3) out of the ring in one fell swoop. Call me when Tokitenku (2-2) does something newsworthy.

Neither M5 Aminishiki nor M7 Toyonoshima were committed at the tachi-ai as they bumped heads and offered token shoves with Aminishiki coming out of the fray with a right outer grip. He had terrible position with the inside left, however, and so the chess match was on. As Toyonoshima tried to weasel deep to the inside, Aminishiki kept moving laterally until he was finally able to wrench that right outer grip and dashi-nage Toyonoshima around 180 degrees, and instead of getting in some cheap man love, he just executed the quick okuri-dashi from there moving to 3-1 in the process. What in the hell is Toyonoshima doing at 0-4?

M7 Aran employed a left kachi-age at the tachi-ai, but he stood straight up in the process, so with M4 Toyohibiki charging forward full bore, the result was the Bouncer being bounced in two seconds flat. In fact, Toyohibiki had so much momentum, he sent Aran (2-2) two rows deep while he himself landed on the lap of the chief judge, Kagamiyama-oyakata. No worries in the end as a yobi-dashi helped the oyakata straighten out his skirt while Toyohibiki soars to 3-1.

It was an immediate migi-yotsu contest for M4 Kaisei and M6 Kitataiki from the tachi-ai, and Kaisei executed the perfect yotsu charge getting the right to the inside, using it to lift Kitataiki up, and then grabbing the quick left outer grip. That's how a yotsu guy wants to set up his opponent each day, and it's a thing of beauty for those who understand the nuances of sumo. Once Kaisei obtained that outer grip, the fat lady was already two bars into Kimigayo. I think Kaisei has done well to start out 2-2 while Kitataiki is floundering at 1-3.

M3 Chiyotairyu was winless against M3 Takarafuji coming into the day, and it showed as he once again failed to commit on a forward-moving charge. Fortunately, his ineffective tsuppari created so much flak that Takarafuji could never establish the solid position inside. He did get the left inside and brief right outer grip midway through the bout, but that was obtained by his reaching out, not by his demanding a chest to chest bout by driving with his legs, and so Chiyotairyu shoved Takarafuji out of the yotsu position and eventually got him off balance and out of the ring. If you watch this bout from straight above the dohyo, what you would like to see is a linear bout with Chiyotairyu just kicking Takarafuji's ass back and out. What you got was Chiyotairyu zig-zagging all around the ring like a child scribbling on a piece of paper with a large circle in the middle. This was a lucky win in the end for Chiyotairyu who gets off the shneid at 1-3. Takarafuji is still winless.

I love M1 Shohozan's attitude in defeating Harumafuji on day 2. I thought the tears afterwards were a bit too drama-queen for me, but he came out hard against Hakuho on day 3 as well and made the Yokozuna work for his win. I was happy to see that Shohozan came with the same attitude today against Komusubi Takayasu in a wild tsuppari affair from both parties where neither rikishi really connected. The difference here was Shohozan's lower stance, and so he was able to befuddle Takayasu in the end and connect on a shove to the chest that sent the upright Takayasu back and across for good. Takayasu (1-3) needed to take control of this one from the tachi-ai, and when he didn't, he allowed the feisty Shohozan (2-2) to pull the slight upset.

Sekiwake Goeido leaned left at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku but still struck hard enough to keep the Ozeki at bay. Goeido came away with the brief left outer grip that was near the front of the belt rendering Kotoshogiku's inside position useless. As Goeido continued to drift left, the Geeku couldn't square up with his gal, and before he knew it, Goeido came out of the tussle with moro-zashi, and even Goeido couldn't screw this one up. Goeido actually looked like a Sekiwake and dare I say Ozeki candidate today. Somebody please tell me whose been fighting in the Goeido mask this basho...the dude's a legitimate 3-1! Kotoshogiku suffered his first loss of the festivities.

Ozeki Kakuryu was a hair late at the tachi-ai, and before he had fully come out of his stance, Komusubi Tochiohzan was there to greet him with a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai that stood the Ozeki up straight. Furthermore, Tochiohzan's legs were fueling the attack, and so pure physics dictated a swift oshi charge from Tochiohzan who sent the Ozeki back and out in mere seconds. Sanbe Announcer made the great point that an Ozeki shouldn't be done like that by an 0-3 Komusubi, but it will happen when the Ozeki doesn't get his arse off the starting lines in time. Kakuryu falls to 3-1 while Oh picks up his first scalp.

Lucky for the Ozeki ranks that M1 Ikioi was up next to battle Ozeki Kisenosato because that guaranteed the Ozeki losing streak on the day would end. Kisenosato's tachi-ai wasn't great where he actually aligned his feet, but fortunately, Ikioi's charge was even worse as he sorta just stood there and then moved left allowing Kisenosato the easy right inside position. From there, the Kid finally got the de-ashi going, and there was nothing Ikioi could do being pushed back and out with ease. I realize that Kisenosato is the better rikishi here, but I didn't think Ikioi went out to try and win this one. Kisenosato stands at 3-1 now while Ikioi is like those dudes who do archaeological work on old sets of Stars Wars movies (they've yet to score).

Sekiwake Myogiryu caught Ozeki Kotooshu at the tachi-ai with a single right paw, but it was more a defensive maneuver, and so the Ozeki was able to charge forward. Still, Kotooshu hadn't created any position from the start, and so he ended up giving up moro-zashi where the Sekiwake was able to barely stave the yori charge off at the edge and actually turn his gal around to where Myogiryu was primed to attack. And attack he did committing on the immediate force out, but a left outer counter throw by Kotooshu forced a spectacular nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge where it looked as if the Ozeki bounced Myogiryu's melon to the dirt before he put his own right hand down. A mono-ii was called and from the main angle that they replayed for the video judge, it looked as if Myogiryu's dome did touch first, and so the chief judge announced it was gunbai-dori giving Kotooshu the win. After that announcement, the guys in the NHK truck spooled the reverse angle, and that angle showed that Kotooshu's right hand easily touched down before Myogiryu's head or at least at the same time. It was too late at this point, however, to call the guys back, so it sucks for Myogiryu (2-2) while Kotooshu owes the producers dinner and drinks tonight. Don't look now but Kotooshu is 4-0. On second thought, look. We all know he's not going to amount to a pile of shat this basho.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho looked for the usual right inside from the tachi-ai against M2 Okinoumi, but Okinoumi cut the grip off forcing the Yokozuna to move left. As he did, he went for a slightly risky pull of Okinoumi that didn't work in throwing Oki-just-do-me off balance, but it gave the Yokozuna the solid left inside grip. Before Okinoumi could square back up, Hakuho gained moro-zashi, and there would be no escape from there. Methodic stuff as Hakuho moves to 4-0 while Okinoumi is a surprising 2-2.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji looked to come in low and get to the inside, but M2 Aoiyama met him with both arms halting his momentum. The Yokozuna had no legs behind his charge, so despite getting the right arm to the inside, he was applying zero pressure to his opponent. As a result, Aoiyama was able to backpedal a step and use a beefy sideways shove with the right arm to counter as he slipped right, and the result was Harumafuji's being thrown completely off balance near the edge of the dohyo, and before Harumafuji could turn around and say "what the hell just happened?", Aoiyama was there to greet him with two final hands to the chest that sent the Yokozuna off the dohyo for good and down to a 2-2 record. This was unbelievable. A Yokozuna should never lose to a retreating Maegashira rikishi who happens to score a lucky punch. I know some people didn't like how I tabbed Harumafuji as half-Yokozuna saying he wouldn't have even been an Ozeki 10 years ago (not to mention 20), but a Yokozuna does not give away two kin-boshi in four days. It's inexcusable, and thing is...Harumafuji is still in his prime. His being ranked at Yokozuna is a testament to how rank the banzuke has been the last few years, and as for Aoiyama (1-3), I think Tom Hanks said it best when he scorned, "There's no crying in sumo!"

Matt's up tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
So I'm gonna miss the big lug...

...despite his ability to make me see his vast potential while reminding me it would NEVER be met, Baruto was truly a big gun. One of the announcers proclaimed "MOTTAINAI!"...(what a waste) which leads me to believe I wasn't struggling alone with that bumpy "push and pull" dynamic. Remember when Baruto would step up onto the dohyo to face Asashoryu? Damn that was "hold on to your nuts" (or ovaries for all of you female sumotalk readers) exciting. And when Hakuho faced off with him, you couldn't help but think "Biomass most assuredly has the attributes to take the Yokozuna down!". Yup...he mos def upgraded the banzuke and will be missed and that makes me kinda glad that En "Superstah" Doh is in the show...good luck kid!

On this night the smiling giant was sitting in the guest chair for the broadcast and despite his shifty eyes (he'll have to fix that if he wants to head up The ABC Nightly News) he added some much needed juice to this - Night 3 - Aki Basho!!!

The festivities began with 1-1 - M16 Asahisho throwing about a pound of salt in the air and 0-2 Wakanosato (one of this writer's sentimental favs) staring enviously as he thought "Damn I gotta come up with a trademark move of my own". Thing is, it might be a little late in his career for that kind of marketing strategy 'cause Asahisho (who, as Mike proffered a while back would be a charming ambassador for sumo) straightened up the M15 "Gangstah" with a resoundingly solid tachi-ai. Asahisho got busy with some tsuppari while the stunned Wakanosato kinda didn't know WTF and sorta flailed and grabbed air and then fell down. Asahisho strides up the glistening path of victory with a cool hiki-otoshi while his opponent gingerly edges down the road to Juryo (say it ain't so, 0-3 Mr. Sato!).

Next up, 1-1 - M14 Jokoryu (who seems like he's rapidly becoming one of "those guys") faced off a newly refurbished M13 Homa "sho am sweet"! Now, one effect of having a much touted (and talented) newcomer like Endoh enter "the show" may very well be to make some of the mainstays, as well as the "not quite as new" comers, get some fire "goin' on up innit"! I mean the ever dashing Homasho must be saying, "Hey I'm the heart throb here! Girls be digging' on my shite so don't messin' with my Jennies fool!".

Right off the ancient sumo starting line, Jokster came at Ho with a hard charging push and had his man on the backslide but the experienced Homasho used Jokoryu's enthusiastic momentum to great advantage as he twisted at the edge and let the big kid run his own girth off the dohyo. The sweet guy (who, win or lose, bows like prince) grabs a tsuki-otoshi win and gets his 2-1 while Jokoryu (who WILL get his act together with more experience) feels the heat as he stands at 1-2.

And speaking of the new rockstar, the next match featured Endoh and the enthusiastic "uber orb" Masunoyama (I swear this kid's bed must be a series of giant padded pie plates). Endoh has Elvis level charisma, youthful looks, some real strength (his arms are powerful guns, as previously evidenced by his ability to move Homasho with a seemingly casual swipe in his debut bout) and some nad sumo skills.

The Round Kid knew he was staring at a star but damned if he was gonna let him outshine his own rising...well his own thing that he's doing.

Right off, Masunoyama took the initiative and looked to power the upstart Elvis off the dohyo but Endoh proved he can absorb sound impact, grab a belt and replace the negative energy with positive thrust. I gotta say I was impressed by his strong uwate-nage. I mean he had to reposition the heavy Masunoyama, lift him almost solely with his right arm and capitalize with the resulting fulcrum to lift and finish him off. Great 2-1 win for Endoh and Masunoyama regroups at 1-2.

Ahhh the veteran Tamawashi. Mr. Washi has recently dipped to Juryo, but he's back to say he won't go down without a fight. Now back in the "bigs" and at 2-0 he faced a bigger man in Sadanofuji. At the git go you could see Tama was loaded for bear...he met Sadanofuji with a great and upwardly mobile strike and then combined textbook footwork with forward moving body position as he shoved his opponent off the dirt for a quick oshi-dashi. Tamawashi ends the day at a promising 3-0 and Sadanofuji is at 1-2.

1-1 Tochinowaka, who often appears a bit sloth like, seems to be more on point this basho...its early, but unlike before, he's not giving up valuable terrain or position and has demonstrated some strong energetic footwork. His opponent, 1-1 Shotenro, is always good for some aggressive sumo in these lower ranks and he came out firing at the tachi-ai with a hard hand throttle to the neck of Tochinowaka. After bending Tochinowaka backwards Shotenro got in close, grabbed some belt and worked his opponent near the rope...but...Tochinowaka showed some serious game and powered Shotenro backwards. Both men now had upper body grips and Tochi's youth and strength trumped Shotenro's good start (dude needed to wrap the affair up quickly)...Tochinowaka walked his man out of the ballroom for a yori-kiri win (2-1) and for me...well it's good to see the promising kid back on his game.

Yoshikaze's super charged style worked well against Kotoyuki's super sloppy tachi-ai. "Red-eye Triple Shot Short No Milk Extra Sweet" is at an electric 3-0 while the not unskilled 1-2 Kotoyuki ends the day with a much needed nap.

Gotta say that the "old man". Kyokutenho, is wrapping his career thang up quite well. Since he got that yusho that made him cry he's endeared himself to the Japanese public with his veteran status and pleasant demeanor. And...let's face it, at age 39 he's still kicking some butt! Now granted, aging vet Toyonoshima is on the wrong side of the curve but he's still in it to win it so he's no pushover.

Neither man was able to gain great positioning off the initial impact and when they separated in the center of the circle Kyokutenho's height proved a disadvantage against the shorter man. Tugboat shook off a slap to his noggin and rolled in low and grabbed Kyokutenho's belt leaving the Mongolian with Toyonoshima's armpits (moro-zashi). Both men attempted whatever nage they could muster and they seemed to hit the clay simultaneously. No mono-ii and Kyokutenho ended the day at 3-0. 0-3 Toyonoshima did a nasty split when they hit the ground so let's hope his leg is ok.

During the interview Baruto was told that many of his fans thought he retired too early, and he let everyone know that his leg would get injured and improve and then get injured again. He felt it just wasn't gonna heal so it was time to hang it up. Hey...tell that to Aminishiki. Say what you will about the Sneaky One but dude's gotta live and love sumo to be getting up there day in and day out and dancing the night away with that bum knee of his.

And speaking of bums, big man Kaisei possesses a rather large one and that can only mean Aminishiki has gotta end the affair in quick order. When your knee has been that jacked for so long you gotta come up with ways to compensate and El Sneako Diablo did just that...he allowed Kaisei the tachi-ai but stepped back and turned the younger, larger kid around and rolled him off the dohyo. Craftiness pays off as Aminishiki sits kinda pretty at 2-1 and Kaisei is not so gorgeous at 1-2.

The lost boy of sumo, Sekiwake Goeido, has been hanging around the upper ranks for a while. When he was getting some help (shhhh...someone will hear you) it was like he didn't quite get it. After some of the more questionable wins he was like "What the hell kinda "nage" was that? Am I really that good?" But let's be clear...he can be a tough customer and shows flashes of seriously strong sumo. Today we saw the Goeido that makes us cheer the dude. Low powerful tachi-ai...forward moving chugging legs...hard, aggressive adjustment when his opponent gains impetus and of dominance and slammin' yorikiri finish. Dude worked Komusubi Tochiohzan (0-3) right from jump street. At 2-1 and showin' some serious game, Kid don't look so lost now.

Sekiwake Myogiryu and Komusubi Takayasu were next up. These two might be some of the guys that would hate to see Endoh shoot past them. I mean they both got some nice media push early on so with the arrival of the new wunderkind (and the hype seems justified) it's time to get it going on. 0-2 Takayasu, who's jowls challenge Don Corleone's) and 1-1 Myogiryu both grabbed for belt dominance. They stalemated in the center of the ring but Takayasu had the stronger leverage position which he used to great advantage to roll Myogiryu to the clay for a uwatehineri win and a 1-2 record.  By the way, to the gyoji who stepped on his kimono and fell at the end of this bout... I just want you to know I completely lost it. So for being such a klutz at such an inappropriate time… thank you! thank you! thank you!!!

Ozeki Kakuryu rocks the house. When he turns on the juice he can stand up to anyone and mod def consistently beat most of the field. On Day 3 he hit the much bigger M2 Aoiyama hard and shoved him back. They met again and Kakuryu targeted Aoiyama's arms preventing the younger guy from gaining any kinda yotsu whatsoever. Kak then swooped in and got both hands on Bluemountain's belt and then continually shifted his footing to prevent his massive opponent from knocking him down. Kakuryu then reversed his footing and spun Aoiyama to the dirt for a sweet underarm shitate-nage win. That kinda finish shows intent, improvisation and skilled decision making in the midst of action. Sweeeet! Kak sports a nifty 3-0 and Aoi gets undressed at 0-3.

Okinoumi makes us edgy. Talented (no doubt), gifted (yup) and smart (I'm not so in no position to judge). Thing is he sometimes seems bored (how anyone gets even the slightest bit complacent at the sanyaku with Hakuho is beyond me) or at least doesn't seem to have his eye on the gold. Now, as evidenced by Shohozan's emotional response to his kin-boshi the other day, these guys go through a lot...a lot of pressure... a lot of training... a lot of shite I'm not privy the mood swings or ups and downs that these athletes experience seem understandable on occasion but when they show promise and seem to lack motive like Okinoumi...well I protest! (I mean I just bought popcorn and beer and....).

Anyway, he found himself facing off with the chosen one. Kisenosato. The Kid with the pre-destined path to greatness - if he'd just step on it. Both men are solid sumo athletes so I was hoping for...yeah it was a great match! Kisenosato tried to bully Okinoumi and force the inside grip but Oki deftly grabbed or blocked blocked his arms until both had yotsu grips (migi and hidari). Kisenosato wanted his brute strength and size to rule the day but Okinoumi skillfully adjusted his footing and powered the Kid back. And not to sound like a 2 bit Mike W but Kisenosato's footing was awful. Yes he tried mightily to yori-kiri Oki of the dohyo but his feet were aligned and Okinoumi twisted him back. After stumbling and recovering Kisenosato fell into the losers column and a 2-1 record as Okinoumi grabbed the gold ring (also 2-1) for a strong and impressive win.

Fauxkozuna Harumafuji had to make up for that embarrassing loss to Shohozan. I mean geez ...he was surprised that someone so new would come out swinging so hard, beat his sorry ass off the dohyo in front of the world and then start crying. So on this night, Ikioi was all like "If Brother Zan can smack him around maybe I got a shot too!". M1 Ikioi (0-2) came at the Yokozuna with the same lack of respect but Ama banged back as the two engaged in a sloppy tsuppari festival which ended (as it should) with Mr. Fuji winning his second bout (2-1). I'm surprised after the way he shoved the water boy the night before he didn't punch the ref just for shites and giggles. Haru is better than these last few bouts so who knows...

Shohozan didn't cry against Hakuho. The young upstart was so juiced by his win against Harumafuji that he came at Hakuho like he had a shot! His enthusiasm paid off as right off the tachi-ai Shohozan met the Yokozuna with his full frontal attack of effective tsuppari which prevented Hakuho from gaining the belt. Time and again he would surge at Hak only to be pushed back. Problem is...there was no Plan B or even a modification of his approach and after one of Hakuho's shoves Sho slipped and hit the dohyo. Gotta hand it to the youngster for coming in with a win on his mind but...well there's that whole Hakuho ability thing. M1 Shohozan falls to a respectable 1-2 while "the king of rock - there is none higher" Hakuho sits at his customary 3-0 throne.

Well my friends...fall is coming. Memories of autumns past flood in as the weather becomes a little more brisk...and and as the leaves change and the seasons herald a cry to re-energize... to reboot in effect our souls and … Ha ha! Just kidding. Get a load of what really makes the world go round!!

Day 2 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Ill be honest. I am very upset and disillusioned for this report. I so badly wanted to start with a link to a gif showing sumo wrestlers twerking, but when I googldit? Nada. Scratch. Zip. I contacted our site tech expert Martin and enlisted his assistance (and dont tell me THAT phrasing doesnt sound one HELL of a lot better than "enlisted his help") and he came up with this?

It is what it is, I guess. At any rate, the first bout had Asahisho holding up Tamaasuka at tachi-ai, then stepping aside and letting him past, and coming up behind him as he turned to fight and driving him out. Asahisho is a stud. Literally. His body shape. He was the inspiration for the bolts in the girders in "Donkey Kong."

Masunoyama (not to be confused with "A Gigantic Block Of Tofu") took it to Tamawashi, rolling forward like some Adele hit single, but the Mongolian was able to slap him to the side just enough to send him to his knees (a trip of what, 10 cm or so?)

If you cant quite appreciate the difference between two people twelve years apart in age, just watch some porn. My point? Bodies change, and thats just a fact of life. Still, no one is telling Wakanosato, who took the fight to Jokoryu today. Started out with The (former) Barometer getting a quick moro-zashi, which El Jokerman slipped out of by snatching a left hand inside belt. He tried to spin the ex-Sekiwake but Waka maintained his balance and then tried his own pulling throw, but Jokoryu ducked out of it. Separated now, Jokoryu came in low and feet aligned in that shuffling sort of movement you see them all do in practice. Jokoryu seemed intent on getting the outside belt, so the wily veteran Wakanosato took the double inside. Jokoryu backed up while turning away, causing Wakanosato to grab onto what he could (turned out to be the back of his foes belt) as both men began falling forward and forward falling. I thought the simultaneous double faceplant outcome was worthy of a looksee and possibly a redo, but the MIB thought otherwise and Jokoryu was given the win. Still, good bout with no quitting.

Homasho continued his return by looking to have the upper hand vs. Tenkaiho, but the larger man deftly and repeatedly blocked Homashos attempts at getting his right hand inside, and when he decided to try the outside, the massive E12 pushed him back and out.

The WTF? of the day was on Sadanofujis face as he realized he just got worked by a short haired kid weighing 50kg less and competing in his first basho in Makuuchi. Endo demanded and received a strong outside right belt and never let it go, even as his far more massive opponent bore down on him like so much summer heat. Speaks well to the youngins skills that he could chest up to Sodom No Fudgie and several times resist the W12s aggressive attempts to twist him down and/or push him out. Kid looks like he has the chutzpah to reach 800 wins, so yeah, Ill call him "Happyaku Endo."

The new moniker did not help the former Aoki today as he quickly abandoned his initial attack and was just pwned by Tochinowaka. I love the new shikona, "Tokushoryu" (cause who DOESNT love to hear a "shoryu?") but dude has got to work on his tachi-ai. Save the tugging for when youre alone in the toilet.

Hilarious tachi-ai as Takekaze stood up and realized Shotenro was not in any hurry. The little guy actually halted his mo for the most fleeting of moments, a sumo double pump, if you will (and you WILL), but it was all for naught as the Mongolian stood up and shoved him back once, twice, thrice to the seats.

Kotoyuki wanted no part of Fujiazumas bulldoggedness (yeah, new word!!) and who can blame him? WE can, dagnabit. After having to arrest himself at the edge due to Kotoyuki toreadoring his ass, Fujiazuma came back with great vengeance and furious rebuke to grab the win. If someone put little thought balloons over Kotoyukis head reading, "Mama! Mama! Help me stop the bad man!" it wouldnt seem entirely inappropriate.

Youd have to be semi-brain dead to NOT get at least a dollop excited when you see that Gagamaru has drawn Yoshikaze. True, the Caffeinated One has slowed down a bit in recent years, but he still brings much beanery to the festivities (fuck me, "beanery" is a word?) Didnt take much for Starbuck to win today, tho, as he merely stayed in front of Glaciermaru, bobbin and weavin, and after avoiding the last of the big Georgians shove attempts, watched him fall to his palms.

Toyonoshima barged in on Kitataiki, but the E6 was able to rotate away. Tugboat did not seem to notice and just plowed ahead into his foe, who was no longer directly in front of him but desperately dancing on the edge. Toyonoshima went down hard, crashing onto his backside and flipping out and into the next rikishi waiting his turn. Calling it "ungainly" would be ennobling it.

Good old fashioned straight up yotsu belt battle betwixt Aran and Kyokutenho. Both men with nice belt grips looked like it meant a long one, but The Chauffer showed The Bouncer the door by essentially lifting him up and spinning him around and out. Clean, crisp, quick. Just the way Kane likes his one night stands.

Winning at tachi-ai happens often, but its not usually as clear as it was today as Toyohibiki planted his big ol hand into Aminishikis face and then forearmed him out. Kimari-te ought have been "Smushed."

In the "blink and youll miss it" dept. (and no, thats NOT a reference to Matt "whipping it out"), Kaisei drove Tokitenku back almost before either man could stand up. Perhaps Tokidoki was still trying to decide which leg he wanted to kick.

With the Komusubi doin duty (lets hope "doody" isnt more appropriate) up top, the first of the sanyaku bouts was Sekiwake Myogiryu vs. Chiyotairyu. When I saw the names I was hopeful, but Myogiryu got blown back off the blocks and resorted to a pulldown in desperation. It worked. Chiyotairyu will learn, and when he does, watch out.

Okinoumi raised up Goeidos right arm at tachi-ai, and then got him in a bear hug which he used to twist the Sekiwake down in a quick match. Goeido continues to put the "sap" in "dissapoint."

In a busy and frenetic bout, Tochiohzan was constantly moving in and out, trying to find an opening it seemed, but Kisenosato kept his arms in tightly and denied time after time. Finally the Ozeki worked him out.

Its oft been said of me that I read WAY too much into things. Like the first time I met Mike to discuss me writing for Sumotalk. He put out his hand to shake and I assumed he meant he wanted a warm hug. Okay, so I was wrong. I climbed down and we straightened our shirts and stared at the ground for a few seconds and well, we let it go. And thats what matters, innit? We moved on!

But I just cant move on from the notion that Kisenosato is one lucky son of a gun. Tochiohzan looked like he was playing at trying (you know, like when the hand is right there at the belt and you dont do jack with it?) Cest la guerre.

With the Biomass giving the rest of his career a pass, we are now looking at, in Kotooshu, quite possibly the last white Ozeki there will ever be. That has little to no resonance for me, but some might care. Today the Bulgarian Man-O-War took on Takarafuji. They did the cheek to cheek for a bit, then Taka decided to go for the belt. Kotooshu wisely pounced with his own grip and easily drove the E3 out.

Like Baruto, Kotooshu was a hugely promising and capable rikishi whose last rank ought have been Yokozuna. Unlike Baruto, he has been able to overcome (or put up) with injuries, along with the awareness that he will never be the equal of the top Mongolians, to continue fighting at Ozeki level for a good long time now. Its hardly ever been fun to watch, but hes done a passable job and no one can take that way from him.

If you doubt my assertion about Kotooshu being the last of his kind, look no further than Kotoshogikus absolute slaughter of Aoiyama. Getting under at tachi-ai, he just bulled his way forward with hard piping gabburi belly bumpin, and nicely changed gears to win by sukui-nage when the Bulgarian #2 resisted at the edge. Geeku is, along with Ozeki Kisenosato and Kakuryu, due for a yusho at some point in his career. I say this to stimulate your hopes, not out of any real conviction they will do it.

In the 32 years since Chiyonofuji his bad self became an Ozeki, only one never took the Cup or moved on to Yokozuna: Miyabiyama. Musoyama, Kotomitsuki, Dejima—they all took one yusho at least (tho I recall Hit or Mitsukis was from the Sekiwake position). so it stands to reason that at some point all three of these fellers will likely do so. Heres to hoping its THIS basho!

Speaking of Kak, today he battled with Takayasu, who despite the kanji in his shikona hardly ever fights cheaply. At first Kakuryu had the upper hand, pushing Taka back and causing him to look a smidgen nonplussed. Recovering, the Komusubi charged ahead and nearly forced the Ozeki down. They parted and started pulverizing each other with long arms extended. I was about to get out my Marquis of Queensbury! Takayasu then got close enough to go deep with one hand (to Kaks BELT, you perv) but Kak shoved him back and the next time he came forward, the Ozeki stepped aside and let him basically run out. Both guys were exhausted like none other on the day. Fiery, up tempo bout (if a bit slapdash).

Since finding his footing in Makuuchi last Nov. Ikioi has had four out of five KK basho, and the reason why was on display today as he gave Yokozuna Hakuho a good stiff challenge. Her got an inside right as Hakuho grabbed the dreaded outside left. Ikioi wisely kept his hips back, so Hakuho yanked him forward and lifted on the belt. Ikioi got turned around and with his hand on the back of the belt, it looked like an easy manlove run out win for Kublai.

Somehow the W1 righted himself and faced the Yokozuna while using his arm that was under Hakuhos to lift up and actually break his grip. They backed up for a second and Ikioi smartly did not wait, going for a quick throw. But Hakuho hasnt made it to 26 yusho by being easy to beat, and he recovered his outside left grip and with it tossed Ikioi down to the dirt. Still, didnt hear any complaint from Kinki fans as hometown boy showed he has what it takes to take on the Main Man, even if the other Osaka rikishi Goeido does not. Hakuho paid his respects by hanging around and helping him up some. I see kin-boshi in this lads future, undoubtedly.

In the final tussle of a fairly solid day in sumo, Harumafuji simply lost it, and Im not talkin bout the bout, though he lost that as well. Golden Boy Shohozan brought some incredibly fast paced and percussive tsuppari to the party, and the Yokozuna had no answer for it. Getting blown back onto his heels, HowDo tried to grab the belt, and managed, but it was too late as he was falling out to his first loss.

But what the Yokozuna did next was just not cool. As he stepped off the dohyo, the water boy had stepped to the side and was not even close to being in the Yokozunas direct path. Yet Harumafuji just shoved the guy down into the zabuton, out of what looked like disgust at his effort on the dohyo. Unnecessary roughness, number two, 15 yard penalty and an automatic first down. I didnt see this bout on the telly, so do not know if any mention was made of it, but it sure looked petulant to me. Shame shame, thy name is no game! Better drop the kid some coin to make up for that egregious lack of hinkaku! If that had been Asashoryu the police would have arrived and tasered him.

Looks like Ill be back around about the 8th day. See ya then, Sven.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I really enjoy the banter prior to the bouts on day 1 on the Japanese broadcast because the trio in the NHK booth set the talking points for the upcoming basho. Kitanofuji always provides color on day 1, and Mainoumi always sits in the mukuo-joumen chair. When it comes to expert sumo the Japanese language, there isn't anyone better than those two. Flanked by Shirasaki Announcer, the threesome highlighted the talking points of the basho, which amounted to: Takayasu's first ever appearance in the sanyaku, Hakuho's ribcage injury, and Endoh's speedy promotion to the division. There wasn't a whole lot of other material for these three to work with considering the banzuke at large, but I thought it curious that one of the points focused on Hakuho's injury. In today's broadcast, they said the injury occurred during his bout last basho against Ozeki Kakuryu, but I'm pretty sure it was reported in the press in July that the Yokozuna came up lame after his bout with Kotoshogiku. It's so hard to get facts straight when the facts aren't straight.

As for the day 1 bouts themselves, I thought the quality was poor, but that will happen after such a long layoff. If you're curious as to why the Sumo Association isn't starting this basho until the 15th, the answer is that they want to capitalize on the two upcoming three day weekends. Tomorrow is Keiro-no-hi, a day to commemorate old people, and next Monday will celebrate the Autumnal Equinox. The Association knows that they sell out each weekend day and each holiday, and so hon-basho are planned so that as many days as possible will fall on a weekend and/or holiday. It's clear that fans aren't willing to take time off of work or school in order to attend the sumos, so if the Association was smart, they'd hold the Makuuchi bouts at a time when no one would have to take time off.

But we've been down that road before, so let's turn our full attention to all of the day's bouts going in chronological order. I'm not so sure what this dude's fascination with M16 Tamawashi's arse is, but where he points and shoots is his own business. Tamawashi played it safe today against M16 Asahisho standing largely upright and watching his opponent like a hawk. Every time Asahisho tried to push his way in close, Tamawashi countered with tsuppari of his own and quick footwork eventually pushing at the back of Asahisho's left armpit with the right hand spinning Asahi around 180 degrees and setting up the okuri-taoshi win.

This basho marks M15 Tamaasuka's 12th appearance in the division, and of those twelve appearances, dude has only kachi-koshi'ed once...his debut basho. After being derailed by an injury shortly after that, Tamaasuka has largely floundered in this division since, so to see him give up the quick left inside position after a sweet hari-zashi from M15 Wakanosato and still win the bout is more of an indication of Wakanosato's age than it is Tamaasuka's prowess. As the two danced in the middle of the ring in a stalemate, Wakanosato's arms were just too short and his strength too weak to force his way into a right outer grip. The result was an eventual Tamaasuka right outer which silled the dill.

M14 Masunoyama caught M14 Jokoryu square in the neck with the right hand from the tachi-ai, and his footwork was perfect as he followed up with the deep left inside position and didn't relent until Jokoryu was forced back into the first row. Great stuff from Masunoyama who really needs to finish his opponents off in under five seconds.

M13 Endoh stepped atop the dohyo to a sizeable roar from the crowd, which is an indication that everyone already knows his name. Credit the press for making him the story prior to the basho, and credit Endoh for handling the hype well. While Endoh was all businesslike prior to the basho, his nerves got the best of him today against M13 Homasho. Homasho struck low at the tachi-ai disallowing the inside position to his foe, but Endoh countered well staying low himself and using stiff tsuppari to bully Homasho back. As Homasho tried to move laterally, Endoh made his move with the right arm, but he focused on grabbing the outside position before he had established any sort of position with the left on the inside. A veteran like Homasho will exploit that mistake every time, and Homie showed how getting his own left arm deep to the inside where he immediately forced Endoh back across the entire diameter of the dohyo putting him on his back yori-taoshi style in the end. EnD'oh! is clearly the stronger, better rikishi, but this just goes to show that you must establish the inside position first before attempting anything on the outside. It's what gets Kisenosato in trouble at the tachi-ai...going for the outer grip before anything has been set up on the inside.  Despite the loss, Endoh still received the most headlines after day 1, which is an indication of his star power and the high expectations placed upon him.

I promised myself I would cover every bout today, but I'm already regretting that move with the M12 Tenkaiho - M12 Sadanofuji bout. I actually had to hit the fast-forward button on my remote to watch this in real-time the action was so slow as Tenkaiho actually secured moro-zashi from the tachi-ai but stupidly backed out of it going for a pull. When that didn't work, he had moro-zashi again as the two hooked back up, but this time Sadanofuji was able to maki-kae with the right arm while Tenkaiho was quickly running out of gas. With no pressure coming from his opponent, Sadanofuji easily grabbed the left outer grip and used that to set up an outer belt throw, and even though Tenkaiho maki-kae'd out of that, it just turned the Sadamight's lethal left outer into a lethal left inner that he used to dump Tenkai the Hutt over with a sukui-nage that redefined the term "leisurely."

At this point in the broadcast, they focused on Baruto's retirement and showed a few clips from his press conference. Afterwards when asked for comment, Kitanofuji said, "I thought this guy was a shoe-in for Yokozuna," but he went on to explain that Baruto just didn't have the work ethic in the keiko ring and it resulted in his inability to live up to his full potential. Spot on remarks. When I think about what I'll miss about Baruto, it's that fact that he was the only rikishi on the banzuke who could make Hakuho work hard for a win if Baruto was able to get the inside position.

Moving right along, M11 Takekaze blasted Tochinowaka upright with two hands to the neck and then immediately backpedaled pulling the frazzled Tochinowaka down in the process. It was clear that Tochinowaka's plan in this one was to absorb Takekaze's charge, and absorb it he did, just not in the way he expected. I want to see Tochinowaka go on offense from the tachi-ai, not just react to his opponent. Until he does that, we're going to see a lot of sumo like this bout today.

At this point in the broadcast, Shirasaki Announcer revealed the Association's new marketing ploy which is to promote the sumo culture more, and the first planned event is to encourage patrons on day 9 to come dressed in wasou, or Japanese style clothing (kimono or yukata). The Association has printed up 300 of the cloths you can see pictured here which highlight the various tools used by a sumo hairdresser and then a silhouette of an actual topknot. Watching Kitanofuji try to feign interest in this and listening to his comments was funny, and the gist of what he said was something to the effect of, "Wow, this new promotion is so stimulating, I don't think I need to pop a Viagra tonight."

M10 Tokushoryu had henka on his mind from the beginning against M10 Shotenro, but I won't criticize it if he doesn't move to the side at the tachi-ai. Instead, he feigned a forward-moving charge and then really just backpedaled slapping down the over-extended Shotenro in the process. To clarify, I won't criticize this move as a tachi-ai henka, but I will criticize it as all-around stupid sumo.  That he got the win today was more a matter of sloppy sumo form Shotenro.

The next bout featured two rikishi heading in different directions. M9 Gagamaru has been floundering after several stops in the jo'i electing to adopt Baruto's style of passive sumo while Kotoyuki has found his calling with a stiff tachi-ai and fierce tsuppari. There was no surprise in this one as Kotoyuki just charged forward hard firing tsuppari into Gagamaru's girth and pushing him to the side and out in about three seconds. I mean, you have a huge target in Gagamaru who isn't even trying to employ a move of his own, so I don't see any other possible outcome than the ass-kicking we witnessed here.

M8 Fujiazuma looked to take charge against M8 Yoshikaze using a tsuppari attack, but there was no commitment from the lower body, and so Yoshikaze was able to dodge his foe at the edge and swipe Fujiazuma off balance just enough to where Fuji's forward momentum caused him to step out just before Yoshikaze stepped out himself. This was definitely not the kind of ending that sound sumo produces.

The reason Toyonoshima has fallen to M7 is because he can no longer exploit the tachi-ai and sumo that came from fellow M7, Aran. Aran used a right kachi-age, but he was up so high that a sharp Toyonoshima should have been able to gain moro-zashi; instead, a hesitant Toyonoshima was pulled forward and down in about three ugly seconds.

In a haphazard contest, the M6's Kitataiki and Kyokutenho hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Kitataiki's attack was just too hurried. As Kyokutenho kept his cool, Kitataiki tried to rush an outer belt throw by using his right leg wrapped around Tenho's left, but the Chauffeur just ducked out of the hold and dumped Kitataiki to the clay with that original left inside gained from the tachi-ai. Watching this bout might cause one to think, "Man, it looks as if that Kyokutenho fellow has been fighting for twenty years."

Neither M5 was committed at the charge as both Tokitenku and Aminishiki were unable to move laterally quick enough after a half-assed tachi-ai. As both rikishi attempted wide slaps to the side of the other's head, Aminishiki finally caught Tokitenku with a swipe to his right armpit sending Tokitenku over to the side and out of the ring for good in an ugly affair.

M4 Toyohibiki stood M4 Kaisei upright from the tachi-ai with two hands to the neck, and before Kaisei could even counter, Toyohibiki was driving his legs forward resulting in the easy oshi-dashi charge with no resistance from Kaisei.

M3 Chiyotairyu didn't even try to move forward at the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Goeido going for the quick pull after a faux tsuppari charge. It was as if Goeido knew what was coming because he pounced on the pull attempt sending Chiyotairyu off the dohyo so hard he landed in the second row. When you make Goeido look like a true Sekiwake, you know your sumo sucked on the day.

Sekiwake Myogiryu got his left arm inside at the tachi-ai despite M3 Takarafuji's best attempt to prevent it, and as Takarafuji tried to evade left, Myogiryu just kept himself square with his opponent using perfect footwork that set up the laughable oshi-dashi in the end. Myogiryu prolly didn't even shower after this one it was that quick and easy.

In the Ozeki ranks, the Kotooshu - M2 Aoiyama bout was like a hybrid match between sumo and actual wrestling, but I guess when I think about it, the majority of these Eastern European guys grew up wrestling (the Olympics style), and so when they assume the grapplin' position from the tachi-ai, it's those old habits coming back. In today's bout, neither Euro wanted to get in tight and so both bounced off of each other looking for the cheap pull. The pivotal moment came on the third bounce or so when the Ozeki grabbed Aoiyama's extended left arm and pulled him off balance, and while Aoiyama stayed on his feet a few more seconds, Kotooshu pushed him down in the end for the ugly win.

I think the kanji for Okinoumi stands for "give up in the jo'i." It's either that or he derived his name from the Oki islands where he's from. His bout against Kotoshogiku today wasn't even a contest as the Ozeki secured the left inside from the tachi-ai and gave Okinoumi the business with a straight-forward yori charge.

Ozeki Kakuryu used perfect footwork to keep himself in front of M1 Ikioi who didn't want to go chest to chest and quickly evaded to his right looking for a cheap kote-nage, but you really have to set that up with a solid tachi-ai, something that Ikioi couldn't do. The result was an Ozeki in hot pursuit (coo coo) as he polished of Ikioi tsuki-dashi style.

M1 Shohozan charged high with arms extended against Ozeki Kisenosato enabling the Kid to connect with a potent right arm shove that sent Shohozan back to the straw a second in. Just as Shohozan tried to force the action back to the center of the ring with tsuppari of his own, Kisenosato caught him with another right arm to the chin, and that was all she wrote as the Ozeki scored the easy oshi-dashi win.

I thought if there was a chance at an upset today in the final 30 minutes it'd be Komusubi Tochiohzan against Yokozuna Harumafuji, but the Yokozuna was out for blood torpedo-ing his way in low and striking the top of his mage into the Komusubi's chin and standing him upright with a right paw to the throat. With Tochiohzan now upright, the Yokozuna easily assumed moro-zashi and finished off his gal in a matter of seconds. Solid start for Harumafuji.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed Komusubi Takayasu, and they started off the broadcast today showing Takayasu's two bouts against the Yokozuna last basho where he "beat" Harumafuji after the Yokozuna just took a knee and where Hakuho let him hang around for awhile. There would be no letting up today, however, as Hakuho shouldered his way in to the right inside position, secured the left inside for good measure, and had Takayasu forced straight back and out in a wham bam thank you ma'am bout.

It wasn't the greatest start to a basho that I've ever seen, but I think my favorite bout was the Homasho - Endoh bout.  To see a veteran like Homasho capitalize on a rookie mistake is a thing of beauty, but once Endoh settles down, he should create a  decent run.

Clancy and I flip-flop days 1 and 2 this basho, so regardless of how bad the sumo is on day 2, the commentary will be worth it.









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