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Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14
Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
I've recently started spending time with this woman who moved to our neighborhood last year. She is vivid and passionate, but the best thing about her is that she has great tits and swallows. She's knows how to focus on the jizz. Naturally I spend a good chunk of my free time twitching at her place.

All this extracurricular activity has really honed my eye for detail, and now as I watch sumo I cannot help but spot things that are surely passing unnoticed to dudes everywhere. Who needs Shukan Gendai when you've got me?

The yaochos were flying fast and furious almost from the get go. In just the second bout of the day, the resurgent Tochiohzan took on Mr. Bean (who I think should have gotten the Fighting Spirit prize). Tochi opened a can of pop at tachi-ai, driving P.T's Boy back with a devastatingly perfect hand to the throat. So far, so fair. One more throat shove set up a good belt grab and Circus had nowhere to go but out, soundly denied any attempt at his usual last ditch worm turning. Looked above board to most I'm sure, but with my birdwatching eyes set to full power, I noticed a guy about seven rows back lift his index finger to his nose EXACTLY as Tochiohzan applied the second nodowa. Coincidence? I think not. Shame and Deceit 1, Truth and Beauty 0.

The next bout, or should I say the next fix, came when Futenoh withstood some fierce slapping and shoving and pulling from Yoshikaze, who is a dervish of a rikishi even if he is too small to go higher. Once the action (including a massive beeotch slap from Yoshi) slowed a bit, Futenoh was able to corral the W12 and back him out for his tenth win (including some huge wins over King Tama and Old Tsukasa--urp). The subterfuge was very difficult to catch, but at one point they both sort of crinkled the corners of their respective mouths, which is obviously a sign that they were both in on something. S&D 2, T&B 1.

Homasho, a veritable fingernail on the blackboard rikishi in week 2, put us all out of our misery by falling to Iwakiyama. The Hutt of Hutts hammered into the E13 with his noggin, sending him flying back to the edge. There he crabbed his way around the ring but Iwonkey Kong stayed on him and picked up his crucial seventh win. Why crucial? Well, because it had already been scripted that Miyabi would not get his 8th, so the fix here was making sure Iwaki maintained his foothold in the Hutt hierarchy (The Nikibi and The Itch were out of the running). I wonder how much spice Iwaki had Boba Fett deliver to Homasho for this little rollover?

I think it's safe to say the highlight of this basho was when the NHK camera was watching Hakuho for his reaction after Asa "lost" to Mitsuki, and this batty crone in view directly behind him turned her snarfy old visage around to look at "all the pretty pillows" and got sucker punched by one winging in at her like a javelin on steroids. Even my normally staid father-in-law was laughing his ass off. Truly one for the books.

Otsukasa finally found someone who would listen in Kasugao, who already had his KK and therefore could afford to be generous. After ten straight losses to stand 4-10, Duhracell got the inside two-handed belt and was able to twist down the Korean for the small price of, possibly, "all the kimchi you can eat in a month!"

Goeido was going for his KK and guess what? He got it! But he was a naughty naughty boy, pulling on Kakizoe's topknot after the W14 blasted him back to the edge at tachi-ai. This took Sweet Jane almost out, but he niftily recovered and went back at the youngster, driving him back to the other side where Fr. Goeido Sarducci again snuck away to the side, but this time while using SW's arm to turn him and get his belt. Kakizoe recovered believably and they found themselves in that position where they are both facing out of the ring with one hand on each other's back, like lovers strolling. Problem for Zoe was he had no belt, unlike Goeido, and as they both tried the throw, the Father's belt grip was the difference as he tumbled his foe over and out. Goeido is an Osakan native going for his KK, so the infamous "Why" needed to cry yaocho was right there in big, bold letters: Kakizoe, win and you will be gunned down before you hit the hanamichi. He may be brave but not that brave. He did what he had to and threw the bout. Look at Truth and Beauty getting their keisters kicked!

Wakanoho was going for his KK and guess what? He got it! Dude hadn't had a losing record (MK) since entering sumo, so the fix was in as he pimp slapped Tochinonada and took him straight back to the edge. However, the Gentle Giant, unbelievably at 8-6 after being 0-6, started having second thoughts evidently because he resisted on his tippy toes for a good long time by expertly raising up with his arms which were locked down by The Ho, taking away just enough leverage so the Russian couldn't seal the deal. With his heels nearly brushing the dirt outside the ring, he managed to break Ho's grip and almost throw him out, but the teenager himself made a brilliant one legged balancing act recovery and actually brought the action to the center. Did I say action?
had calculated pi to the 287th place, and memorized it, when suddenly I looked up and Ho was pretending he was going to trip the thirty four year-old Tochi, who was tired of the acting and let himself be backed out. Ho's Streak remains intact, and S&D keep rollin' rollin' rollin'. 

Can we have at least ONE honest bout please? What do you take us for, saps?!!

As if in answer to my silent plea, along came HemmRohoid. Do you think someone in his heya might let him in on the little "secret" that everyone and his greatgrannie knows, which is, Roho goes left at tachi-ai!! Rasputin lost six of his last seven and it seemed that his foes knew where he was going to be nearly every time. I know, his right arm is taped, so that might have something to do with it. Still, Toyonoshima needed no help in this one as he took Raspy's lame tachi-ai and blew him out like a candle. Don't look now but at Juryo 2 baby bro Hakurozan got his KK, so we are prolly going to see the Wickersham Brothers together again in May. Horton Hears A Henka, indeed! 

Miyabi must have greased the hair extra much today, and good for him, because after Baruto kicked his ass at tachi-ai and had him at the edge, Biomass tried for what I like to call the BJ pulldown only to have his hand slip off and find Miyabi at this throat. Dancing away and pulling again as Flobby lunged at him across the dohyo, the call was close enough for the dreaded Men In Black to arise (personally I think they were just trying to look tough in front of the many Men In Brown that descended on Osaka from Andromeda this basho--Xavier Cassiopeia notwithstanding, who were those freaks?) and reverse the gyoji's call of Miyabi in favor of Baruto. You might be tempted to cry fair because MiFlobby was going for his KK and yet Baruto, already at 11-3, won. What gives? Easy, it's the MIB. They had not been adequately recompensed by the Musashigawa-beya and so decided to cause Miyabi some pain. Miyabi was muttering to himself as he went away, and with my eyes I could see what he was saying: "Ahm a goan keel my cheap assed oyakata!"

I don't know about you, but it made me feel kind of creeped out to see Tokitenku standing in the middle of the ring choking on Kak, then slapping at Kak until Kak went down. The most devastating throat hold to slap down we've seen this basho. This one may have been legit.

Asasekiryu was going for his KK and guess what? He got it! The fix in this bout was just too easy to see, namely Aminishneaky was in it and there was something of importance going on and he didn't henka. I wonder what his crew had to ante up to get Shneaky to not henka? Maybe a good word with countryman Hakuho about not killing him in May de-geiko? After grabbing the outside left, Sexy had the yusho wrecker at perpendiculars, totally defensive. Sexy stayed low like Ama would a few matches hence and yorikiri'd him as smoothly as one can. I dig Kokkai but if they bounce him to Komusubi over the E1 Red Dragon in May I'll be breaking out the fava beans and a fine chianti!

Geeku was going for his KK and guess what? He got it! Kisenosato had his KK and so he came out at tachi-ai like he was straightening up after bending down to pick up the Sunday papers on the front stoop. Naturally Geek was gifted with an iron clad left inside, and he used his smarts to keep his legs back so The Kid, who had a weak outside left belt grip, couldn't get some belt with his right arm, which was dangling over Geeku's left, waiting to pounce. But with his legs back Geeku couldn't very well do that scary belly thing he does (do you, like me, feel both happy for and sorry for Geeku's girlfriend?), so he expertly pulled away and shimmied at the same time, breaking The Kid's grip. Once he was free he poured on the gaburi and stomached the Komusubi out for his KK. Kisenosato did his best Day-Lewis here, but I for one was not fooled. Sleep well tonight guys!

Ama was going for his KK, and guess what? He got it! Man, all we need now is a grassy knoll! He hit The Chauffer right in the throat, blasting him back to the roadside, where the former Mongolian slammed on the brakes. Ama used his outside left to hunker both of them down real low, so as to negate the horsepower of Kyokutenho's upright belt fighting abilities. From this lowly position (did my eagle eyes spot Ama whispering, "Okay, on three"?) the Sekiwake executed a pretty throw that sealed the DEAL. For his part, W4 Kyokutenho finally shifts it into high gear when up in jo'i territory, defeating Geeku, Baruto and Tochiohzan (although he was strangely spared several big boys, unlike his E4 counterpart Ho). 

As an aside, Bernie's little love monkey is retiring. I once vowed to not mention his name ever again on this site, but since he is retiring, what the heck. Juryo man Shunketsu was a little thing of no repute spending a short time in Makuuchi when he henka'd big old Kotonowaka on the current Sadogatake-beya oyakata's final day in sumo, AFTER it had been announced to all that he was retiring before the day's bouts got under way. That's right, he henka'd a man in his last bout ever! What a prince. Some of you may recall that Bernie (his photo is on the front page listed as MIA--in reality, Mike has just never come to terms with his and George's untimely deaths) was a henka lover, and Shunketsu was his poster boy. Good riddance.

Kokkai wanted that twelfth win in a bad way, and so that's how he won it. He greeted Kaio with two hands to the chest as he was slipping to his right, and then viciously pulled down the old guy for the cheap win. Ticky tack tactic. Still, no harm as Kaio already had his mandatory Ozeki Eightball.

Kotomitsuki was going for his KK, and guess what? He got it! The rank is so rank these days, I almost don't want to cover the bouts. Mitsuki basically imitated The Pup by bringing a slapping and shoving attack, and as Chiyo came flailing forward, Mitsuki palmed his right armpit/shoulder from behind, a sublimely timed wax on, and sent him flying down and out.

Say what you will, but out of the eight sanyaku men, one dropped out, the newbie lost twelve, and the other six finished 8-7. Turns out Chiyotaikai really needed that win over Hakuho, as did Geeku and Mitsuki their wins over Asa. And six out of seven guys get their KK on Day 15. No funny bidness going on? We'll never know for sure, but to me, the cat was in the sandbox on several occasions. But sumo is back for the moment, with ten sold out days, its spot in sports news coverage moving up to before that of girls JHS volleyball practices, a record number of money flags circling the dohyo, and Clancy Kelly with moist palms before the final bout on Day 15.

And we owe it all to two tougher than nails Mongolians who go by the names of Genghis and Kublai. For the second straight tourney, it was an all-the-marbles, winner-take-all matchup between Hakuho and Asashoryu. Drama up the wazoo! But those of us hoping for an epic battle were disappointed when Hakuho drove forward with his left arm in, locked in under Asa's right arm, that is, and was thrown out by kotonage in two seconds. The Oliver Stone lovers among us will utter, Why didn't Hakuho even TRY to grab the outside right that seemed to be well within his reach? In fact, Hakuho had his right hand sort of frozen in air hovering over the belt, but did not go for it. Like Laptop mentioned about Asa vs. Geeku on Day 12, he seemed to be fighting a natural reflex. Doesn't seem to me to be a smart move by a Yokozuna, to march so boldly forward when you have only one arm in and that arm is being gripped by your foe. It was more of a Dejima move than a Hakuho move.

So nutty Osaka 2008 is history. Deadly zabutons, brown vest wearing cults, bizzaro matches. My theory on why sumo is so kooky here is that it only comes once a year. If Tokyo had it only once a year, that basho would be flavorful, too.

Okay then. Thanks for sticking with us this fortnight, hope you liked the new look of the site, and we'll see you all in May. Arrivederci! 

Day 14 Comments (Martin Martin reporting)
I'm sorry to begin on such a negative note, but this basho has been disappointing to say the least. The headline on the Sumotalk main page says, among other things, that kyujo and henka are tarnishing the tournament. They most certainly are, and, as if that weren't enough, the two Yokozuna only won one bout during days 12 and 13, and the manner they lost in is suspicious at the very least. Alright, the conspiracy theorist in me loves a good yaocho scenario, so why not try to read between the lines a little?

Day 12: Hakuho loses easily to Chiyotaikai, falling for a pull-down a few seconds after the tachi-ai. But was it yaocho? Sure, Hakuho losing to Taikai is just as likely as me exchanging influenza strains with Jessica Alba, but it could very well happen, because Chiyotaikai has a lot of experience and with his back against the wall he can beat anyone sometimes. The big hole in the yaocho theory (for this bout) is the reason. Why on Earth would Hakuho throw the bout with Taikai?! It's only day 12 for the love of Saint Pete! At that time Chiyotaikai had already fought Asashoryu and only had Mitsuki left from the heavy hitter list. So my guess is, in this case, that Hakuho simply slipped up, after all, he's only human. But don't think it's all so squeaky clean in the next one, no sir. Clancy made a fine point in his blog the other day, that Asa still wants a tough Yokozuna to share the banzuke with, so his yusho tally doesn't get an asterisk for lack of competition. So, when you're Asashoryu, you have a comfortable 11-0 and are the sole leader, and you witness Hakuho losing just before you go in to fall 2 losses behind, what do you do? Do you run away with the yusho on day 12 again? Or do you go at 80% against an opponent you never lost to before? The problem with the Asashoryu - Kotoshogiku bout was it's linearity. The Mongolian hardly tried any evasion at all, fergodssakes, his body responded to the Giku's charge almost instantaneously with a sukuinage attempt, but he consciously stopped it. Why do that unless you plan to let the other guy win?! And the mischievous smile after the deed was done was very telling, too. When did we see him smile like that after a loss? That's right, when he fell for the henka against Hakuho in the playoff. My conclusion? This bout was 110% sandbagged, so Hakuho could stay one loss behind.

Day 13: Asashoryu faces his personal Patsy Kotomitsuki, who had been looking pretty bad the entire basho and was struggling to get his eight. Guess what, Mitsuki pulls the upset of the century and throws down the Yokozuna for his first win against him in 29 bouts. But why would Asashoryu throw the bout? It doesn't make any sense. My explanation is a bit psychological, I think Asashoryu was careless at the tachi-ai and, when he realized he had given up morozashi and could lose the bout legitimately, his head was filled with all sorts of ominous thoughts about shooting himself in the foot the day before, when he threw the Giku bout. Or maybe Mitsuki is an alter ego of El Diablo and Asashoryu sold his soul to win a lot of fame, fortune and babes. The bottom line here is that there's certainly something fishy going on here, but I don't think anyone's gonna find out too soon just what it is that's going on. That's why we should get on with the sumo and leave the foul play to more experienced conspiracy crackpots.

When you say sumo, there's one guy that instantly pops into your mind, Asashoryu. Comparing today's bout against veteran Ozeki Kaio to the day 12 bout against the Geek I reached the following staggering conclusion: in the day 12 bout it wasn't Asashoryu fighting, but a clone he made with that alien technology I was telling you about. Today he was all over the place, twisting, turning, shifting name it, he was probably doing it. The Yokozuna charged with his left in front and managed to plant it on Kaio's inside right after the tachi-ai, denying him the deadly uwate. He then started doing all that stuff you've been mentioning and had his older foe out of the dohyo in less than five seconds. Definitely not the same Asashoryu we saw defeated on day 12. 12-2 and a share of the lead for the Mongol Yokozuna. Kaio is out of the woods with his kachikoshi safe in hand.

The other leader, Yokozuna Hakuho, produced another tachi-ai where he hit hard but that's about it, waiting to see what the opponent had on his mind. Kotomitsuki decided to come after him with some tsuppari, so Hak complied and the two ended up trading some blows before Hakuho used his reach to lunge into a deep, game-over morozashi that left Mitsuki hopelessly trying to wrap his neck. Probably wanting to avenge Asa, Hakuho tried to lift his opponent clean off his feet, but he failed miserably at that and even lost his inside grip on the left side. Kotomitsuki paused for a second, probably processing what to do next, but Hakuho was already miles ahead, because he feigned going for the uwate with the left and quickly deployed the makikae using a perfectly synchronized charge to drive Kotomitsuki out to his 7th defeat. True Yokozuna stuff.

The Creature from Estonia used its long limbs to get a solid right uwate straight out of the initial charge against Ozeki Chiyotaikai, while having the other arm planted under Taikai's armpit. The Ozeki pretty much knew he was toast, but he didn't just give up, instead trying a makikae that did give him morozashi, but by the time he could actually do something with it, he was already on his way to the dressing room. And, in case you've been wondering, guess who's #3 in the sport right now. I'll give you a hint, it's not Chiyotaikai. 11 wins and the Kantosho for Baruto, while Chiyotaikai limps to his 6th loss.

Kotoshogiku made it 7-7 today against the pleasantly surprising Tochiohzan, fighting from a lowly M12 slot. The Sekiwake charged really low and managed to get a left shitate immediately after the impact. With no belt grip of his own, Tochiohzan could only struggle for a while with Giku's trademark gaburi-yori, eventually falling to his 4th loss. A win tomorrow against already kachikoshi Kisenosato will bring Giku a well-deserved (NOT!) Shukunsho. Tochiohzan might get a prize of his own, but probably only if he wins tomorrow against the class clown.

If you're wondering how it feels to get your ass kicked by a guy some 60kg lighter than you, look no further than this bout. Sekiwake Ama fought the battle on Miyabiyama's terms, going one on one with him using tsuppari. At first, the Mongolian seemed to get the upper hand, taking the Fat Man a couple of steps back, but Miyabi didn't really seem bothered by the awesome thrusts, and dished out some of his own punishment. Ama was quickly on the run after this, but a couple of well-times pulls on the Fat Man's arm brought him into a very unstable position and made him easy meat for the spectacular tsukitaoshi. Both guys will have to wait another day to see what fate has in store for them.

Regardless of how bad Takekaze may have looked during the rest of the basho, Toyonoshima still couldn't figure him out. Lack of height and a short pair of arms give Toyo a lot of trouble when he's facing short, fat guys like Takekaze or Kotoshogiku. Today was no exception, Toyonoshima struggled a lot to get some sort of belt grip, but Takekaze kept him at bay with some good pushes. Eventually, Kaze pushed his hapless foe out for his 3rd victory. Move along.

Komusubi Kisenosato got his 8th win against Mongolian Kyokutenho. The youngster surged forward at the tachi-ai, quickly getting into hidari-yotsu (left inside, right outside) and pressing towards the tawara. Kyokutenho, though, managed to get a left inside of his own, and deployed an almost successful shitatenage that actually had Kisenosato all the way to the edge before he could recover. Kisenosato did survive by using the uwate on that side and eventually drove Tenho out for kachikoshi. Kyokutenho falls to his 5th loss.

Aminishiki the villain, with 3 wins in their last 3 meetings, took on my favorite Kakuryu straight on. The Mongolian, though, has developed an interesting pushing/thrusting attack (not really powerful, more like bothersome), and used it well against Sneaky today, driving him to the edge, only to get burned by a sly sidestep. No matter what anyone says, Kakuryu is by no means sanyaku caliber, and so far he's got the makekoshi to prove it. Aminishiki climbs to the same 6 win mark.

The young Ho still has a long way to go regarding his sumo skill, as it could be clearly seen in today's bout against Asasekiryu. Wakanoho was way too high at the tachi-ai, allowing Asasekiryu to hit him in the chest with his head and getting the favorable right uwate. Seki worked his way to the Ho's side and finished him off with his favorite uwatedashinage, despite the Russian having a right inside of his own. It was a good lesson for the white guy, and he looks like he finally gave up the henka. It's still a bit early to tell what will become of him, though. For all we know, he may be the next Yokozuna just as well as he could be the next Roho (more likely, if you ask me). Both guys are at 7 wins each.

Mongolian Tokitenku lost the bout vs. Tochinonada right at the tachi-ai, when he slightly stepped to his right to get the cheap uwate. He did, but he let Nada on the inside, and a short stalemate followed. Tenku tried a kekaeshi trip, but missed Nada's leg by a mile. Tochinonada in the meantime reinforced his grip and finished the job by yorikiri, after a couple of unsuccessful shitatenage attempts. Who would have thought that Nada would win 8 straight after his abysmal 0-6 start?! Definitely not Mike. Tokitenku falls to his makekoshi.

How good can Kokkai get all of a sudden? I think Oitekaze finally put the bamboo stick on his ass, because his sumo this tournament was damn sound, today being no exception. Hairy came very low at the tachi-ai, denying his opponent M13 Homasho any sort of offensive position. Homie ultimately attacked too low and was slapped down quicker than Mark can gulp a shot of tequila. 11-3 Kokkai is well on his way to the technique prize (but, as usual, the geezers in black probably have their own obscure plans). Homie ain't so bad himself at 9-5.

As everyone was expecting, including his opponent, the Big Ho henka'd to his left for the cheap uwate, and he got it, but his tachi-ai was too upright and Takamisakari got a solid morozashi immediately, and used it to oust the Ossetian in 2 seconds. Makekoshi serves him right. Takamisakari reaches double digit wins, but remains a weirdo.

That's about it for me this Haru, but one more thing before I go. There will be yaocho tomorrow in the Chiyotaikai – Kotomitsuki bout. I can almost bet money that Kotomitsuki is not going to have any trouble getting a belt grip.

I kept it kind of short today, but do not fret, Clancy has the cure for your sumo addiction, and he'll medicate you after tomorrow's action. Cheerio!

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Good ole day 13 otherwise known as moving day. Two days ago the normally wild and crazy Haru basho had been held in check, but after the events of the last two days, I think it's safe to say that all hell has indeed broken loose. Welcome to Osaka. Before I get to the day 13 bouts, I would be remiss if I didn't give my two yen on the wacky end to day 12 that saw both Yokozuna go down in suspect fashion. Suspect because how often do you see a Yokozuna lose in a straight line? What I mean by that is the Yokozuna are so powerful that rarely are they beaten by being driven straight back, and they rarely lose without making at least some lateral adjustment when they are in trouble. I thought that Asashoryu was pushed straight back far too easily yesterday against Kotoshogiku, and I really didn't see the Yokozuna dig in at all or at least try and stop the Geeku's forward momentum by shifting a bit. That was one red flag. Then, preceding that, Hakuho lost to Chiyotaikai after the Ozeki came with a brilliant nodowa that stood Hakuho upright from the get-go, but I was curious as to why Hakuho didn't make an adjustment after that like swipe off the arm or at least turn a bit to the side to square back up with his opponent. The result was another Yokozuna losing in a straight line although this time it was moving forward.

So, like many sumo fans, the red flags are being raised in my mind, but anytime that you cry foul (yaocho in this case), you need a motive, and I just can't come up with one...well, a scenario that would warrant a blog entry where I am emphatic in saying this is what happened only to be proved correct later on. You can imagine the bickering that went on in the hotel too as we contributors argued and debated amongst ourselves, and while we couldn't come to a specific conclusion, suffice it to say that we all slept on the couches last night. I won't list specific scenarios here, but from all of the ideas I've heard, I have been able to poke major holes in each argument, so my stance is this: like myself in my view of them, the Yokozuna had become so complacent in their sheer domination over the rest of the rikishi that they were simply caught off guard by two savvy rikishi with significant experience fighting among the jo'i. The problem with crying yaocho on day 12 with multiple bouts that especially involve Yokozuna is that you still have three days of action with so many variables out of your control (for example you don't even know the matchups for the final two days) that it just isn't likely in my mind that anything really was going on. As far as I'm concerned, this basho had some issues from day 4 through day 12 that were an insult to the Osaka fans who have sold out the arena the whole week, but as it stands now after 13 days, we are in for one helluva ride. Strap yourselves in and onto the action beginning with our leaders.

We start with Yokozuna Asashoryu who not only had a 28 bout winning streak again Ozeki Kotomitsuki coming in, but he has wiped the dohyo clean with Hit and Mitsuki's arse so many times that the matchup has lulled us all to sleep...including Asashoryu because Kotomitsuki caught the Yokozuna napping at the tachi-ai and quickly secured the morozashi position knocking the Yokozuna up high leaving him with nary a pot to piss in.. Asashoryu wrapped his right arm around the Ozeki's neck, but he was in no position to even attempt the kubi-nage throw as that needs to be set up or aided with something else. As he usually does, Kotomitsuki took his sweet time in attempting to drive Asashoryu back, and in the process, the Yokozuna was able to bring his right arm down and on the inside of Kotomitsuki's left inside grip giving the Yokozuna the right inside position and Kotomitsuki the outer left. On the other side of the action (the view from the main camera angle) Kotomitsuki still hesitated while Asashoryu kept his left arm outstretched and ever so close to an outer grip of his own. With Kotomitsuki still stalling in the center of the ring, the Yokozuna finally muscled his way into the left outer grip and the gappuri yotsu contest was on, which eerily looked similar to the Hakuho - Asashoryu matchup last basho. And like that bout, Kotomitsuki held the advantage as he had the Yokozuna upright to the point where Asashoryu's chin was resting on Kotomitsuki's right shoulder. Perhaps Kotomitsuki was storing up his energy for a reason because after a few back and forth force out attempts from both rikishi, Kotomitsuki stabbed that monkey on his back through the heart as he powered the Yokozuna to the clay with the left outer belt throw. This was an amazing bout and one perfectly played by the Ozeki who incredibly moves to 7-6 after his 2-6 start. 

And don't even start with the talk of yaocho in this one. If Asa's gonna throw a bout not on senshuraku, he'll get it over quickly. He also wouldn't have made the move of bringing his right arm down from around Mitsuki's neck not to mention gaining the inside position which took away Kotomitsuki's shot at morozashi. Enough is enough. Kotomitsuki kicked Asashoryu's ass in this one, and once again, I think Asashoryu is caught napping after his 11-0 start coupled with his long win streak of Kotomitsuki. At 11-2, Asashoryu has relinquished his stranglehold on the basho, and you have to wonder how he'll hold up mentally being thrown back to square one like this. He no longer has that luxury of two chances to beat Hakuho come senshuraku. This will be a devastating basho for Asashoryu if he ends up losing it...which is argument enough that he isn't giving these bouts away.

So with no one-loss rikishi on the board, let's move down to the two-loss rikishi coming in starting with Yokozuna Hakuho who would face a somewhat resurgent Ozeki Kaio. The two drew a stalemate at the tachi-ai hooking up in the hidari-yotsu position, a place where Kaio is usually money, but Hakuho knew what was on the line in this contest, and instead of digging in, he constantly kept the action on the move bellying Kaio and keeping him upright on Kaio's right side keeping the Ozeki far away from the outer grip. Kaio was a bulldog, however, and could barely be budged, but Hakuho's strength and more importantly youth was the deciding factor after about a 20 second battle that capped of two of the best consecutive bouts we've seen in a long time. Major props to Kaio for his effort has he falls to 8-5 while Hakuho--who was two losses behind 24 hours ago--muscles his way back into a tie for the lead with Asashoryu at 11-2. Incredible! What's more, with both Yokozuna now tied at the end of day 13, we are now guaranteed a bout with meaning between both Yokozuna on senshuraku, a prospect that looked so bleak after Chiyotaikai defeated Hakuho yesterday. I'll say it again...for as much crap as the Osaka faithful have been put through this basho, they have their reward now. And so do we.

And what's this crap I'm talking about? For the first three days, we had solid sumo with nary a henka, but the cheap tachi-ai tarnished this basho beginning with Aminishiki gouging a major chink in Hakuho's armour on day 4 and rearing it's ugly head in the M7 Baruto - M1 Asasekiryu matchup today. Asasekiryu used a henka to his left to grab the cheap uwate against Baruto, and with Asasekiryu standing at the Estonian's side, there was nothing Baruto could do in this one because if he tried to align chests with his opponent, Asasekiryu would just move laterally and keep Baruto at bay. After about 10 seconds of the wrangling, Asasekiryu was able to force Baruto out for the infuriating win. Think of the possibilities if Seki had not taken this one away from the Estonian. We likely would have had three legitimate yusho contenders at 11-2 with two days to go. Damn the henka and those who support it. I don't expect Asasekiryu to just walk into a gappuri yotsu contest with Baruto, but the Estonian is beatable with straightforward sumo. Just ask Hokutoriki and Kyokutenho, two rikishi below Asasekiryu on the banzuke and two rikishi who beat Baruto straight up. What happened here is Seki saw himself coming in at 5-7, he didn't have the nads to try and beat Baruto straight up, and he got greedy. Oh...and I also think he's following a pattern we've seen where the lesser Mongolian rikishi will henka their yusho contender counterparts to ensure that the yusho stays in Mongolian hands. Baruto falls to 10-3 and for all intents and purposes is out of the yusho race.

Joining Baruto at 10-2 coming into the day was the youngster, Tochiohzan, who has been a big story this basho after so much disappointment. Tochiohzan received a stiff test today against M4 Kyokutenho who went for the early left uwate causing both rikishi to shift to their left and completely trade places a second in. Tenho managed that left outer grip on the fray, and Tochiohzan knew he was in trouble at this point because rather than take a left outer of his own when it was wide open, he attempted to pinch inwards against Kyokutenho's right arm that was fishing for the inside position. Kyokutenho had to have sensed Tochiohzan's trepidation here because even though he didn't have that solid right inner to complement his left outer, he went for the force-out charge anyway easily driving Tochiohzan back and out in the largely uneventful bout. The Chauffeur moves to 9-4 with the solid win while Tochiohzan is knocked out of the yusho race he was never in to begin with at 10-3. If there's one disturbing aspect to Tochiohzan it's that he just wilts when the pressure is on at the end of basho.

Rounding out our leaders, M5 Kokkai--yes I said Kokkai!--went up against crowd favorite M11 Takamisakari. Takamisakari struck quickly against the Georgian and flirted with the morozashi position, but Kokkai played hard to get forcing the Robocop's right arm to the outside after a few seconds. At this point it seemed as if Takamisakari was resigned to his fate because he never really dug in and tried to grab that right outer grip allowing Kokkai to take control by surging forward and forcing Takamisakari back and out with two solid gaburi yori hops. Kokkai looks fantastic this basho and has reinvented himself nicely moving to a stunning 10-3. I dare say that this is the best basho of Kokkai's career. Takamisakari hasn't been too shabby himself, but at 9-4 he is mathematically eliminated for the yusho.

Let's pause right here and review the leaderboard:

Two losses: Hakuho, Asashoryu
Three losses: Baruto, Kokkai

With both Yokozuna facing each other on senshuraku, we are guaranteed at worst a yusho line of 12-3. If both Yokozuna win tomorrow, that eliminates the three-loss rikishi, so for all intents and purposes, Baruto and Kokkai are history. But before we move on, the Japanese must clinch their teeth and sigh again when they look at a leaderboard of four rikishi and find no natives among the group.

With the yusho talk out of the way, let's get to the rest of bouts and head back up to the Ozeki ranks. Fresh off of his (cough) win against Hakuho yesterday, Ozeki Chiyotaikai greeted M3 Toyonoshima today with a quick nodowa at the tachi-ai, but Toyonoshima was able to fight it off and stop the Ozeki's forward momentum. The bout took a curious turn after this as Chiyotaikai opted to abandon his tsuppari attack and just stiff arm Toyonoshima's right shoulder to keep him at bay. Toyonoshima followed suit stiff arming the Ozeki's right shoulder in return, so the two touched foreheads and hunkered down in this position. Chiyotaikai broke the position first by swiping at Toyonoshima's arm, but in the process he was turned around a bit exposing the back of his mawashi, but just when you thought Toyonoshima would send him out from behind, Chiyotaikai turned back around aligning chests with his opponent and even coming away with the sweet left outer grip. Toyonoshima countered with a left inner, but Chiyotaikai looked to have the advantage. He moved first attempting to force Toyonoshima across the dohyo and out, but Toyonoshima pivoted well at the edge and went for a counter inside belt throw and simultaneous trip against the outside of Chiyotaikai's leg. The Pup tried in vain to throw Toyonoshima down with the right while grabbing a fistful of hair with the left, but Toyonoshima's too good in this position and sent the Ozeki to the dirt in an instant before he crashed down himself. This was a great win for Toyonoshima, and despite his 5-8 mark, this is the kind of bout that can regenerate some confidence because it's taken a beating the last couple of basho. The Pup falls to 8-5 and gets Baruto tomorrow. With kachi-koshi safe in hand, it will be interesting to see how he handles the bout.

Sekiwake Ama used a good nodowa to set up a formidable charge against M1 Kakuryu, but the Kak countered well with a pull attempt as he retreated that completely threw Ama off balance and the rikishi back to square one. Both Mongolians clashed again this time ending up in the gappuri migi yotsu position with simultaneous left outers and right inners. Ama shook off Kakuryu's outer grip, however, and attempted a quick force out attempt, but Kakuryu dug in staving off the attack and forcing the two into a stalemate just off center of the dohyo. I went old school today and pulled out Golden Earring's Twilight Zone to pass the time, and just as the song was ending, Kakuryu finally went for a maki-kae, but it was just the move Ama was waiting for, and he pounced on his countryman driving him back and out before he could reposition himself. Ama stays alive as both rikishi move to 6-7.

M2 Miyabiyama greeted Sekiwake Kotoshogiku with a morote tachi-ai that completely kept him away from the Sheriff's belt. As the Geeku tried to fight off the double choke hold, Miyabiyama shifted gears on a dime and went for the quick pull down with both hands at the back of Kotoshogiku's head. Failing to gain any position at the tachi-ai, Kotoshogiku simply couldn't fend off the move and was dumped the clay in short order not to mention a 6-7 record. How often do we see a rikishi beat one of the Yokozuna one day only to lose to someone they should beat the next day. Happened twice today in fact. Miyabiyama has been on a tear of late and improves to 7-6. Look at the Sheriff keeping order in Osaka!

I think Komusubi Kisenosato is feeling the pressure stuck on seven wins because instead of fighting M3 Tokitenku straight up, he shifted to his left at the tachi-ai looking for the cheap ottsuke, a move that former Ozeki Tochiazuma often employed. Tokitenku reacted well, however, and as Kisenosato attempted to resume his charge after the henka, Tokitenku just evaded slightly and pulled the Komusubi forward and out of the ring. What a waste as Kisenosato falls to 7-6 while Tokitenku stays alive at 6-7.

M2 Aminishiki used a hesitant right nodowa at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Takekaze...hesitant in the fact that while his upper body was committed to the move, his lower body wasn't. As Takekaze backed up slowly, he was able to swipe at Ami's arm and knock the M2 off balance and send him dangerously near the straw. Aminishiki turned around in an attempt to square back up with Takekaze, but he lamely went for the pulldown at this point and was easily pushed out from there. Adding insult to injury, Takekaze actually gave Ami an extra shove after he had stepped out knocking him off the dohyo altogether. Talk about hitting rock bottom. First you actually lose to Takekaze, and then you get dame-oshi'd by him. Ouch. And as long as we're rubbing salt in his wounds, Aminishiki loses any chance of a Shukunsho award as he suffers make-koshi at 5-8. Takekaze is just 2-11. 

I don't know what M8 Goeido was thinking today against M4 Wakanoho, but the Osaka native committed a henka to his left at the tachi-ai again. The problem with that is Goeido knows how to henka like I know how to figure skate (doesn't mean I still don't wear the frilly blouse and silky uniform around the hotel). Goeido went for an ugly kote-nage as he moved left that was so bad it took Wakanoho like half a step to recover. When it was apparent that the young Russian wasn't fazed by the monkey business, Goeido just charged back towards his opponent with his head down and thankfully had his sorry ass slapped to the dirt. Goeido obviously didn't learn his lesson this basho against Hokutoriki after he henka'd and lost, and hopefully he takes an oath just as Wakanoho did last basho and commit never to henka again. After the bout, Kitanofuji just ripped into the kid as he should have. Goeido's too good to be dallying in this kind of sumo as he falls to 7-6. Calling Sakaigawa-oyakata...fix this problem in your prodigy fast. On the flip side, look at the Ho at 7-6!

M5 Wakanosato looked to entertain M12 Yoshikaze in a meaningless bout, but the latter proved a rude guest by keeping Wakanosato (3-10) from the inside with some feisty tsuppari before going for the quick pull down that sent the Crocodile to the dirt. I should really go green and stop wasting bandwidth on bouts like these as Yoshikaze improves to 5-8.

M6 Roho was likely gonna henka M10 Futenoh today anyway coming into today's bout, but I'm sure the Russian felt justified after Futenoh committed to quick false starts against him. On the third attempt, both rikishi were finally synched up, and true to form, Roho jumped high and to his left hoping to catch Futenoh by surprise, but anyone who has watched sumo for a few days, knew that this was coming, especially Futenoh. He switched gears and had morozashi before Roho had even touched down easily forcing the Prince back and out. This bout was a thing of beauty as Roho is embarrassed to a 6-7 record, but look on the bright side, it is possible to use "Roho" and "beauty" in the same paragraph. Props to Futenoh for doing his homework today; he gets kachi-koshi for his reward.

M11 Toyohibiki briefly had M6 Dejima on the run from the tachi-ai, but the Degyptian used a quick slap downward at the Nikibi's right shoulder to throw him off course and stumbling towards the straw. Toyohibiki managed to recover and square back up with Dejima again, but instead of fending him off with tsuppari, he lamely put both hands high around Dejima's had as if he would go for the pulldown but never pulling the trigger. Dejima's too smart to put up with that nonsense for long and simply drove Toyohibiki back and out for the rare win. Both rikishi are 4-9.

M13 Homasho used his usual defensive posture from the tachi-ai against M7 Hokutoriki, who didn't necessarily fire off any tsuppari opting to keep Homie at bay with alternating stiff arms to his throat. Homasho evaded this way and that for about 8 seconds before timing another Hokutoriki charge by quickly moving to his right and executing the perfect pulldown. Not really the way you want to see Homasho win, but I think the recent losses have shaken his confidence a bit, and if someone was thrusting their fat fingers into my neck in succession, I'd probably do the same thing. Homasho improves to 9-4 while Hokutoriki is comfortably numb at 8-5.

M15 Wakakirin's footwork has been a mess this basho, and despite looking as if he had taken charge with his usual tsuppari attack at the tachi-ai, M8 Tochinonada stood there taking the blows for about two seconds before using one well-timed swipe with the left arm to knock Wakakirin across half of the dohyo and out drawing the first reaction of the day from the Osaka faithful. The arena had been so quiet up to this point that one would have thought the crowd was listening to Japanese politicians giving speeches. Anyway, Wakakirin's make-koshi becomes official while Tochinonada has managed an improbable 7-0 comeback after an 0-6 start.

When you make M9 Iwakiyama look fleet of foot, you know you better go back down to Juryo and repent of a few things. M16 Ryuo greeted the Hutt with his usual moro-te tachi-ai before backing up to his right and going for a pulldown, but the move was so meager that Iwakiyama was able to react by changing his direction on a dime and pushing Ryuo (4-9) out before touching down himself. Iwakiyama's got some life left in him at 6-7.

M9 Kasugao's tachi-ai was awful as he came in way too high against M10 Tamakasuga, but since he was fighting the King, he was able to quickly compensate and go for the pulldown as the King drove him back towards the tawara. Tamakasuga's Viagra simply wore out in this one as Kasugao moves to 7-6 while Tamakasuga suffers his make-koshi fate.

M14 Kaiho (we're not done yet?!) hit too high at the tachi-ai and actually used a slight henka to his left against Juryo Koryu, and the move threw Koryu off just enough to where Kaiho was able to secure two inside grips. Koryu dug in nobly but in the end Kaiho (3-10) was able to dump him with a sukuinage.

And finally, M14 Kakizoe got just what he needed in his quest for kachi-koshi: a date with M16 Otsukasa. After lunging into moro-zashi, Otsukasa complied by going for the quick pulldown allowing Kakizoe to push him back and out without argument sending Sweet Zoe Jane to a 7-6 mark. Old Tsukasa's in the midst of an 0-9 run if you're scoring at home, or just reading this alone.

Martin works the abacus tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
We are on the homestretch now, folks. And there were some jolts atop the leaderboard today. Let's get right to the action. 

Both rank-and-filers still legitimately in the mix for the emperor's cup, M12 Tochiohzan and M7 Baruto, continued their successful run with wins and improved their record to 10-2. 

In one of the better bouts of the day, belt technicians Ama and Asasekiryu went at it. The Mongolians locked in and offered their best throws, but in the end it was Sekiwake Ama who executed a nice fluid shitatenage to avoid majority losses (5-7). M1 Seki, who looked to have pulled Ama's hair in his attempt at a kotenage, also stands at 5-7. 

Is it symbolic of this basho, or just symbolic of Wakanoho? 19-year old Wakanoho (6-6) offered a moro-te tachiai against Kaio (8-3) and promptly deployed the pull down to collect a cheap win. Folks, this is why Wakanoho will never amount to anything. When you're 19 and bright-eyed facing a seasoned Ozeki, come with your A-game, not gimmicks. What do you have to lose, except respect if you use cheap tactics? Well, mission accomplished. 

Kotomitsuki got inside with both arms on M4 Kyokutenho (8-4) en route to a well earned yori-kiri win. It has been a long road for Mitsuki to even his record at 6-6. He needed to do this today in light of the opponent lurking tomorrow. Asashoryu. He who has owned Mitsuki for 28 consecutive bouts. 

And now for the big dogs. Speaking of cheap wins, Chiyotaikai (8-4) clashed with Hakuho and offered a stiff nodowa jab before pulling back to see Haku go flying out of the ring to his second defeat (10-2). The well timed pull worked in large part because of the effective nodowa that got Hakuho on the defensive. While this was a cheap win also, the difference between this one and Wakanoho's is that Chiyotaikai has earned his stripes and can resort to this every now and again in my opinion. It is also my opinion that he resorts to it more than every now and again, but I am not opposed to crafty veterans using this technique to keep opponents honest in rare occasions (there is subtle skill here in timing such pulls; "exhibit a" would be how Tamakasuga's game has evolved over the last decade). I am, however, opposed to 19-year olds utilizing such tactics. In this case, audiences are intrigued by what the youngsters have to offer against established rikishi, which is raw power and gung-ho enthusiasm. When a pull down is used in such a setting, it is especially anti-climactic and lets the fans down tremendously. 

As if Hakuho's defeat wasn't shocking enough, Asashoryu followed up by following suit! The Giku, improving his record to 6-6, showed none other than raw power and gung-ho enthusiasm to gain momentum from the gun. He was able to lock down on the left side of Sho's mawashi and apply pressure with his well known "gaburi-yori" ala Arase in the 70's. Despite losing his belt grip eventually, the pressure applied was too much even for Sho today. Giku got the job done with an impressive yori-kiri win. Asashoryu, falling to 11-1, is unable to take advantage of the gift Hakuho just gave him just 10 minutes earlier. 

At the end of day 12, the leaderboard has Asashoryu still on top at 11-1, Hakuho, Baruto and Tochiohzan at 10-2, followed by Takamisakari and Kokkai still technically in the picture at 9-3.

Mike returns tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Xavier Cassiopeia reporting)

Namaste! Welcome friend. I have something wonderful to share with each and every one of you beautiful rays of sunshine-

As a rule, during Hon-basho I like to stay pretty close to the press box that the NSK so generously provides for us: The booze is free, the help cute, and it keeps me away from the riffraff (SumoTalk staff riffraff not withstanding). But last weekend those brown vests I foolishly mocked in my last report were calling me. What was their meaning? Who were the men sporting them? Why do they sit on the East and West sides of the dohyo but not the North and South? Like a magnet they drew me out from our box to the dohyo where the lucky throng in brown make their daily vigil. 

So a few days ago I went down. And am I ever glad I did. The men in brown belong to a "community of like minded seekers" called The Royal Order of the Divine Inclined. While not exactly a religion, they follow a surprisingly long list of beliefs, superstitions and arbitrary rules that were laid down by the Supreme Enthroned Leader at a party in San Francisco in 1973.

After a brief but intense conversation they invited me back to their compound and armory. At first, they seemed kind of strange and their beliefs almost cult like (WOW was I wrong!!) but after three days (or was it four?) without sleep or solid food they really broke through to my "superior mind".

I will no longer be known by my "Earthly Name", "Mark Arbo", because of the negative ions that have attached themselves to it. They have reveled my "Enlightened Name" to me and it is: Xavier Cassiopeia.

I wish I could share with you the joy that I have found. For the first time in my life I am with people who really "dig" me for me. And I am learning at an amazing rate! In fact, they have assured me that if I am careful to not forgo my meditation, and I continue to make my weekly "Thankfulnessieness Payments" that I may reach a Level 4 Enlightenment by the next time Jupiter aligns with Mars. Isn't that great!? LEVEL 4!!

This may well be my last sumo report because, as they have 'suggested' that I break all communication with most of my previous friends and family (only so I can give my new friends and family the attention they deserve), I don't think they are going to want me sharing in your "bad energies" either. 

But let's see if I can't give you one more report before we take our "final voyage" (and bring as many of you pe-regenerated future corrections along as we can...)

When Wakakirin returns to his rightful place (about J6), I for one am going to be sad. You see Wakakirin is good for about 5 really exciting fights a basho.  The problem is he looses 3 or 4 of them. Happily for me, today he got the guns firing and bitch-slapped Futenoh out of the ring faster than you can ask, "Where's my money hoecake?"

Speaking of men who I wish could stay around a little longer, Kaiho fell to a dismal 1 and 10 as he couldn't quite handle the size or the power of Mt. Iwaki. Iwaki avoids an 8th loss for at least one more day.

Kakizoe got away with an early start today and looked like he was going to capitalize and push Tochinonada out. Unfortunately, at the last second he lost his footing and fell to the sand. Both guys are sitting in the mud with 5-6.

Up and comer Hokutoriki grabbed Kasugao's trachea and with one hand pushed him straight back and off the dohyo. Powerful stuff for this promising young talent.

Both coming off of exciting matches yesterday, I was hoping for more of the same from Bart and Homasho today. It wasn't to be. Homasho gave a halfhearted attempt to keep the Estonian off his belt, but Bart proved way too much and bodied Homie out, only grabbing Homasho's mawashi at the end of the fight to keep him from falling off the dohyo. Bart will get Futenoh tomorrow and Homasho will have to find a way to overcome clown power.

Another hump-day match I was kind-of looking forward to seeing was Roho/Goeido. Roho went henka, of course. But everyone on the fine island of Honshu saw it coming, of course. Goeido waited for Roho to come down and grabbed him some belt. I thought (prayed) Goeido was going to throw St. Ugly but Roho stepped out firsts. ALL RIGHT ROHO!!

In other Feliksovich news, Hakurozan rose to 6-5 from J-2 with a cheap pull-down a littler earlier today so it may not be long till we can enjoy having both Felikso-bitches in Makuuchi. 

I had a feeling Tochiohzan's dream basho was going to brought into perspective today and it was. Kokkai had a strong tachi-ai and got a white paw deep in Ozan's mawashi. Tochiohzan tried to hold on but Kokkai uneventfully backed him out. Kokkai gets his KK and Tochiohzan will try tomorrow for win number 10. Ozan could still find himself fighting a big-boys or two depending on how tomorrow pans out. For his part he will have to keep Hokutoriki away from his trachea. Kokkai will do the tango with Goeido in what could be quite a match.

Today that cutie Miki Yamamoto was doing the 5:00 NHK news. That lady makes Japanese news watchable for me. I think she'd look pretty sassy with her hair down, no?

Enjoying his 14th time being the flavor of the month in Japan, Takamisakari ran into a big uncooperative Mongolian today. Kyokutenho took a small side step at the tachi-ai and then pushed Takami back to the straw but with a double-inside Takami reversed and seemed to destined for a yorikiri "W". But at the straw Tenho twisted and downed the clown with a makiotoshi. "You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!" To these I would add "Never assume you have beaten a Mongolian till he is flat on the dohyo or half way back to the dressing room."

Two guys who are dominating the loser board, Dejima and Toyonoshima, had a long and not particularly interesting fight to see who could pick up another loss. In the end Dejima won...witch means he lost...

Wakanosato looked kind of lost today against the Kak. Off the tachi-ai Kakuryu came with a series of blows to Wakanosato's throat. The more powerful Waka seemed lethargic and more or less just let Kak push him around...and out. 

Takekaze is as outclassed a Komusubi as I can remember. Today he just kind of stood in the middle of the right and absorbed fairly slow tsuppari from Miyabiyama. His only offence seemed to be deflecting every 5th push (perhaps hoping Miyabi would tire or slip?). The tsuppari deflection offence didn't pan out for him and the Japanese Komusubi picks up loss number 10. 

Kissy smothered Asasec today with a good tachi-ai that led to forward momentum and great hand positioning. A-Sec held on for A-Sec at the edge, but Kisenosato had such a dominant position that he was only ever delaying the inevitable.

Amigunnahenkau was backed up Giku today but AmiN pivoted and used his shitate to nage the Geek. Lets all pray that he still doesn't get his KK. Remember, every time AmiN looses an angel gets his wings. 

Wakanoho has really been funny to watch as he acts like a big man trying to impress the sanyaku. Today Kotomissedme got on his right side and spun him around till the velocity was just too much for pasty white legs. 

Swing that Russian
Round and round
Swing real fast 
And he'll fall down

Still, the young Russian Ho should be holding his head high. His henka rehabilitation is coming along well and the last 19 year old to fight a Yokozuna was some guy named Hakuho. Ho may beat his first Ozeki tomorrow.

But to do that he will have to get by Kaiho who took care Tokitenku easily today. Tenku came out with some uninspired tsuppari that did absolutely nothing. Kaio retaliated with a couple of shoves of his own and that was all it took.

Perhaps already preparing his excuse, Chiyotaikai had his arm brightly taped up today for his match against Yokozuna Asashoryu. Today he came at the Mongolian with a stiff left (nodowa) that stood the Yokozuna up straight. A lot of rikishi panic at this point, but Asa just kind of went with it and when Chiyo's hand finally slipped from his throat he took the double inside grip he had been reaching for. From there the only challenge for Asa was picking how he wanted to finish it. Shitatenage. 

A more promising affair pitted Ama against Hakuho who is still trailing by one win. Ama has been struggling this basho but he had beaten Hakuho all three of their most recent meetings so this was a must win for all involved. After a few tsuppari, Ama looked for his own double-inside against East Yokozuna Hakuho. Unfortunately, by the time he got it Hak was already beginning an uwatenage and Ama went rolling off the dohyo once again.

So that was my day: Few good fights and lots of KK interviews.

Going into day 15 Asa should have a perfect 14 and Hak will just be one behind. No matter what happens it'll be an exciting affair, especially with the possibility that the two Yokozunas will have to fight twice.

But the Supreme Enthroned Leader tells me Asa is going to take this baby zensho-style.

Tomorrow Kenji will turn his headlights off while he waits at a red light. 

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Yokozuna Asashoryu continued his dominating sumo this basho, but that'll happen when M4 Kyokutenho is his opponent. The Chauffeur has fought admirably in Osaka, but there a few rikishi who just give up when facing the Yokozuna, and Kyokutenho's one of 'em. Asashoryu probably knew this because he exhibited one of his best tachi-ai of the basho just lunging into the morozashi position with two grips on the back of Tenho's belt. The Yokozuna could have tsuri-otoshied him if he wanted to, but Asashoryu just opted to mercifully push in at Kyokutenho's left thigh while executing an inner belt throw with the right hand easily tripping the M4 to the dirt. Asashoryu is in complete command of this basho at 10-0 while Kyokuktenho is a very respectable 7-3.

Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed M4 Wakanoho in the most compelling bout of the second half...compelling in that you never know what Wakanoho's gonna do. Today, the teenager moved slightly to his left to grab the cheap uwate, but Hakuho was on top of the move and grabbed the Ho's right arm in the tottari position and began twisting him towards the edge. Wakanoho managed to escape the arm bar, but he was too upright allowing Hakuho to assume the moro-zashi position, and from there it was easy peasy as Hakuho capped off another dominating performance moving to 9-1. Wakanoho drops to 5-5, but I've been impressed with the kid this basho. He's keeping his word not do those cheap tachi-ai anymore, and I think it's paying off. The experience he's gaining this basho is vital. Getting back to Hakuho, the quickness he exhibited in reacting to Wakanoho's tachi-ai was his finest moment of the basho so far. You see this solid sumo continue from both Yokozuna and can't help but to go back to day 4 and lament over Aminishiki's sin.

It's disappointing that we have a growing number of rikishi who panic when they fall under .500 and think that they have to resort to cheap sumo to make up ground. It just takes away from the day's bouts and the basho as a whole. So, after that know we're not going to get any good news in the Kotomitsuki - Ama matchup. The Ozeki was the one who decided to move to his left at the tachi-ai masking his henka by going for the cheap outer grip. He missed Ama's belt, but with Ama charging towards the tawara at this point, he was easy pickings as Kotomitsuki met him just as he turned back around and escorting him back and out. Both rikishi now stand at 4-6, and both rikishi have shown in the past that they will abandon their sound sumo in favor of these disappointing tactics. I mean, this the third to last bout of the day in week two featuring an Ozeki and a Sekiwake. We deserve a lot better than this.

In our only battle of Ozeki today, Chiyotaikai pressed the action from the tachi-ai using a moro-te tachi-ai to stand Kaio upright before firing the usual tsuppari into Kaio's upper torso slowly driving his fellow Ozeki back towards the straw. Kaio seemed to dig in a bit at the tawara and and hunker down, but Chiyotaikai planted his feet and continued the tsuppari attack pushing Kaio up and back across the straw. This was too easy for Chiyotaikai, and did you notice that I failed to mention a single offensive attempt from Kaio? That same Kaio who has looked very good winning 6 of his 7 by yorikiri, kotenage, oshi-taoshi, oshi-dashi, yori-taoshi? That same Kaio who is a master at timing opponents' tsuppari and grabbing their arms to push them upright and off balance? It was apparent that Kaio just deferred this one to his friend. Kaio has been proactive this entire basho in moving forward from the tachi-ai, but today we didn't see that lunge. As I watched the replay, I didn't see Kaio attempt anything as he just largely stood there allowing Taikai to do whatever he wanted. Kaio has been the far better rikishi this basho and this win by Chiyotaikai simply came too easily. But I don't have a problem with the yaocho. Both of these guys have been pulling their weight this tourney so let 'em trade wins. They've earned it as they both stand at 7-3. Let's move on

In perhaps the ugliest bout of the day, M1 Kakuryu just put both hands at the back of Sekiwake Kotoshogiku's head at the tachi-ai, but before he could pull him down, the Geeku was on the inside and had Kakuryu on the run. Kakuryu tried to evade around the perimeter of the ring, but with both hands still around Kotoshogiku's head, he was swiftly pushed down to the dirt for the deserved loss. Kakuryu displayed perhaps his worst sumo in this one falling to 4-6 while the Geeku evens things at 5-5.

Komusubi Takekaze seemed content to let M1 Asasekiryu do whatever he wanted in this bout failing to fire a single tsuppari and allowing the bout to go to the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai. The better belt fighter by far, Asasekiryu seized the right outer grip while keeping Takekaze away from the same grip on the other side and just easily forced him back and out. The M1 is gaining some of that sexiness back as he moves to 5-5 while Takekaze is hapless at 1-9.

M2 Aminishiki looked completely lost as he approached the starting lines in his bout against Komusubi Kisenosato. I'm pretty sure Ami was thinking "I can't just go for another henka can I?" while on the other hand he knew in his mind that he couldn't beat the Kid straight up. Aminishiki chose not to henka, but he just stood straight up at the tachi-ai and let Kisenosato bully him around the ring with a constant paw to his throat. At one point, Aminishiki actually got in a shove of his own into Kisenosato's neck, but Aminishiki's lower body was nowhere to be found allowing Kisenosato to recover easily and come right back at Aminishiki with more neck shoves. Finally, Kisenosato was able to pounce forward and get a deep left arm on the inside and as he set Aminishiki up at the edge for the force-out charge, Aminishiki just walked back that last step giving up in this one. The Kid ups the ante to 6-4 while Aminishiki showed his true colors back giving up at 4-6.

M2 Miyabiyama used a stiff right paw into Tokitenku's throat at the tachi-ai, and as Tokitenku tried to fight it off and keep his forward momentum, the Sheriff just quickly relinquished the choke hold causing Tokitenku to lose his balance and stumble forward to the clay. Nothin' more to this one as both rikishi are 4-6.

M3 Toyonoshima and M5 Wakanosato hooked up immediately in the hidari-yotsu position with Toyonoshima pressing the action as Wakanosato tried to pinch inward at Toyo's left arm and dig in. It was a bad strategy--almost as bad as that guy's toupee who was sitting in the front row where the rikishi entered from the West--and Toyonoshima just used the gaburi yori technique to belly Wakanosato back and out for the uneventful win and 2-8 record. Croco-no-sato is 3-7.

M7 Hokutoriki is one of those guys that can get on a roll, but all it takes is one loss for him to abandon his brand of sumo, which is to take it to his opponents straightway from the tachi-ai. Today he failed to fire a single shove M5 Kokkai's way and just stood there gifting the Georgian the left outside grip. Kokkai stayed low with the left outer and attempted two or three times to drive Hokutoriki back and out, but Jokutoriki was able to fend him off just enough each time. Finally, after about 30 seconds of action with both rikishi back in the center of the ring, Kokkai reloaded on that left outer grip grabbing all folds of Hokutoriki's mawashi and then just ended the funny business with a mammoth throw attempt that threw Hokutoriki over to the edge and out. Both dudes are 7-3.

I've noticed this basho that M8 Goeido isn't charging as hard as he has in the past. The youngster did injure his calf in a keiko session ten days before the basho, and even though he doesn't have the legged taped anymore, I think that's the cause of the average tachi-ai. Today, Goeido wasn't bad as he was able to halt M6 Dejima's charge, and then Goeido took the initiative going for the early pull down of Dejima whose head was extremely low, but that really isn't Goeido's style and as he failed to finish Dejima off, the Degyptian recovered his footing and found himself in the morozashi position. Goeido countered with outer grips on both sides, and the only thing that kept him from being forced out immediately was his pinching downward with the right hand. Dejima still had the advantage, though, and began to drive Goeido back, but the kid dug in well and tried to counter with his feet tripping Dejima back. Both rikishi crashed backwards to the dirt with the gunbai going towards Dejima, but the ruling was that both rikishi hit at the same time and a do-over was called for.

I guess I agreed with the call as NHK didn't show a replay, but the judges were on the dohyo for all of about five seconds before the decision was made. I wonder if their quick decision had anything to do with the Osaka crowd firmly behind Goeido? Let's do 'er again. Dejima looked winded to me prior to the do-over, which was probably the reason for his all or nothing freight train charge. Goeido tried to counter it first with a quick pulldown, but when Dejima just kept coming, Goeido dug in again at the ring's edge with a left on the inside and managed to lift Dejima upright just enough to evade and twist him down before Dejima's momentum was able to knock Goeido out of the ring. Goeido came away with the win, but neither of the two bouts were convincing in his favor. No wonder Dejima (3-7) was frustrated as he picked himself up off the dohyo and headed back to the locker room. Goeido improves to 6-4 but hasn't been as sharp as his previous basho in the division.

M9 Kasugao took full advantage of M6 Roho's slow tachi-ai these days and jumped into a deep as hell morozashi position where his left hand was at the back of Roho's belt left of the knot. The only thing Roho had was an arm around Kasugao's neck, but the Korean just drove him back with such force, Roho wasn't even close to setting up a counter neck throw. This one was over faster than a dude at his conjugal visit as Kasugao moves to 6-4. Roho falls to 5-5, which means he'll likely don the henka belt the last five days.

I went online yesterday to check out the sumo headlines, and at least 75% of 'em were about M11 Takamisakari and his early kachi-koshi. It's a feelgood story really for Japan, who I think is appreciating the sumo displayed by the Mongolians but yet frustrated to the degree they are getting their asses kicked. So no problem over-hyping the Cop and trying to sell their newspapers with a story that really isn't there. Today against M7 Baruto, Takamisakari simply had no chance coming in due to the styles of both rikishi not to mention the size. Takamisakari showed some spirit at the tachi-ai lunging into what looked like the morozashi position with Baruto latching onto a firm right outer grip, but on the other side, as Baruto kept his hand low at the front of Takamisakari's belt, Bean made the mistake of moving his left arm from the inside (which would have given him morozashi) to the outside which turned the bout to hidari-yotsu. Not wasting time, Baruto just picked Takamisakari up by the belt, pivoted and turned one step towards the straw, and set Takamisakari outside of the ring in the easy tsuri-dashi win. Bart clinches kachi-koshi with the win (both rikishi are now 8-2) and has kicked Tochiohzan and Takamisakari's asses handily. I'd love to see them pair him with the Kid later on in the week.

M12 Yoshikaze did what he needed to against M8 Tochinonada, which was keep him away from the belt, but Yoshikaze's legs where spinning too much as he forced his opponent back near the straw. At one point, Tochinonada looked in danger, but I think he was just fishing for the straw to brace himself against the charge he knew he could easily counter. With his head low and feet not firmly grounded to the dohyo, Yoshikaze (3-7) was in a position to be slapped down, so Tochinonada complied picking up his fourth straight win in the process. Tochinonada has started out 0-7 only to win his next 8 to kachi-koshi. He's on a similar run now after his abysmal 0-6 start.

M15 Wakakirin earned the Lindsay Lohan award today for ugliest tachi-ai of the basho so far. Against M9 Iwakiyama, he jumped upwards with elbows extended and fists at his chest. Iwakiyama knocked him back two full steps as a result but wasn't quite fast enough to catch up to that initial blow, so Wakakirin had enough time to regroup and begin firing tsuppari into his opponent's face and chest. Iwakiyama wasn't exactly driven back, but he retreated a few steps watching for an opening. When it came he shoved Wakakirin sideways with a nice ottsuke and then pushed him out from there. Both fighters are 3-7.

M16 Otsukasa is like a pair of cheap batteries. He comes out hot for the first few days of the basho and then just dies. Sorry to ruin the suspense already in his matchup against M10 Tamakasuga, but Otsukasa did nothing but watch as Tamakasuga pummeled him a few times from the tachi-ai and then just slapped his sorry ass to the dirt. How does that 0-6 run taste after the 4-0 start for Otsukasa? KingTama is 5-5.

M14 Kakizoe looked to gain the quick morozashi position from the tachi-ai, but M10 Futenoh's charge was harder and knocked Zoe back a step. Futenoh briefly flirted with a right outer grip in the process, but the important thing is he never stopped driving his legs and had his opponent at the edge in two seconds. Kakizoe tried to ditch Futenoh at the straw moving to the side and using a scoop throw, but he stepped out before Futenoh hit the dirt. Zoe (5-5) wanted the mono-ii in the end, but Futenoh dominated this one and improves to 7-3.

M16 Ryuo decided to go toe-to-toe with M11 Toyohibiki and was overpowered from the start by a nice throat push from the Nikibi and then a few more torso shoves to dump Ryuo beyond the straw in about three seconds. Ryuo's problem is he's mostly defensive in his sumo just standing there upright with his arms extended. May as well be a human punching bag with that style as he makes his journey to Juryo official for May at 2-8. Don't count Toyohibiki out just ye...okay, count him out; he's 3-7.

It's strange when perhaps the most anticipated bout of the day is the second one overall, but thanks to recent slumps by two of the most likeable youngsters in the sport right now, M12 Tochiohzan and M13 Homasho find themselves low in the ranks. Both coming in at 8-1, Tochiohzan used a nice moro-te at the tachi-ai to take quick control of the bout, but Homasho evaded nicely actually causing Tochiohzan to go for a quick pulldown. Homasho kept his feet and that head down trying to burrow inside, and the two traded a few more shove/pull attempts until Tochiohzan said enough of this nonsense and popped Homasho upright lunging into the morozashi position that he was able to use to easily push Homasho out in the end. Homasho's stable master, Shikoroyama-oyakata, was in the booth today, and he immediately said, "Homasho can't do anything if he just goes in there with his head down. He's got to drive with his legs as well." There you have it. Tochiohzan's 3-0 record in head-to-head bouts coming in was probably on Homie's mind, but Tochiohzan was the aggressor throughout and takes home the 9-1 prize for his efforts.

And finally, M14 Kaiho was schooled today by J3 Hakuba who hit solidly at the tachi-ai, used a nifty inashi shove from the side to push Kaiho sideways and into an outer grip, and then immediately went for the kill unleashing a solid uwate-nage. Kaiho falls to 1-9.

10 days in the books and the Yokozuna seem to get more dominating as the basho progresses despite the increasing ranks of their opponents. Hakuho gets Ama tomorrow, but Ama has lacked fighting spirit the whole basho, so I'd be extremely surprised if he was able to pull off anything more than a nigiri-pe against the Yokozuna. If Hakuho does manage to blow it, the yusho is Asa's no questions asked.

Shave your legs gotta date with Mark Arbo tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Day 9 brought us the news that Ozeki Kotooshu had withdrawn from the tournament citing a sprain to his left bicep. The move was not a big surprise as rumors were flying that both Sadogatake-beya Ozeki would withdraw. The problem is they both couldn't withdraw, especially when neither is injured. I know, I know, Kotooshu has had tape around his bicep the last few days, but the only thing injured was his pride. Ozeki have the right, however, to take a basho off when they are down, and Kotooshu did just that. No harm no foul; see ya back on the dohyo in May; and don't get caught playing any is your arm that's hurt after all. What I do want to comment on, however, is the turn the stable seems to have taken since the death of Kotozakura, the former stable master who gave up the reins to Kotonowaka. Kotozakura's solution for an injury was always "get your ass back on the dohyo and figure it out." It wasn't an option. The guy had a toughness to him that made him a master teacher. Yes, he was a great recruiter too, but he could motivate his rikishi to over achieve. When Kotomitsuki finally secured the Ozeki rank, he stated that he was most thrilled that Kotozakura was there to see it. Kotozakura was nicknamed the boar because he was so ferocious and tenacious on the dohyo. Kotonowaka on the other hand was so casual and nonchalant that it makes you wonder if these traits don't rub off on the rikishi depending on whose in charge. Just something to think about as we observe the Sadogatake-beya the next few years.

Anyway, we've got six more days to kill until the two Yokozuna finally meet someone in their own league, so let's get right to the action.

Yokozuna Hakuho was flawless today against Sekiwake Kotoshogiku lunging into the devastating moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai and taking a page out of the Geeku's book by bellying him back with short hops (gaburi yori) to finish his bidness in seconds. The Geeku never had a chance and was blasted out of the dohyo as fast as you'll ever see him lose. There's nothing more to say other than it appears that Hakuho's hesitancy at the tachi-ai we saw the last few days has disappeared. Kublai clinches kachi-koshi and still has the same task at hand: beat Asashoryu twice for the yusho. The Geeku falls to 4-5.

Over in the West, Yokozuna Asashoryu used his usual hari-zashi tachi-ai against Sekiwake Ama that gave the Yokozuna the deep inside left, but instead of settling in for the yotsu contest to set up a throw, Asashoryu pushed at Ama's mid-section with the right hand using his lower body to perfection as he drove Ama back nearly as quickly as Hakuho devoured Kotoshogiku. Ama was so overwhelmed in this one that Asashoryu shoved him clear off the dohyo in the three-second affair. Genghis moves to 9-0 and should take the whole shootin' match with a zensho-yusho. Ama falls to 4-5 himself, the same record as Kotoshogiku, and speaking of the two Yokozuna and two Sekiwake, today's bouts were the perfect examples of just how far the gap has widened between the two Yokozuna and everyone else. It's scary really.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kotomitsuki finally came with a solid tachi-ai slamming into M2 Miyabiyama with such force that the Sheriff's tsuppari were ineffective. Kotomitsuki gained a right arm on the inside of Miyabiyama's left in the process that forced him upright. As the two flirted with each other's wrists on the other side, Kotomitsuki went for his patented uchi-muso move with the left hand that easily knocked the Hutt off balance and to the clay. Both rikishi are 3-6, but getting back to Kotomitsuki, he has already make-koshi'd hasn't he? Is there anyway he can beat either of the Yokozuna...even if he henkas? I'm not gonna put it past him to try it.

Ozeki Kaio warded off M1 Asasekiryu's morote tachi-ai nicely and just kept moving forward pushing up at Seki's extended arms throwing the Mongolian upright and off balance to where Kaio moved in for his favored left inside position. Asasekiryu countered with his own left on the inside of Kaio, but Asasekiryu's jaw was resting on Kaio's right shoulder instead of his head burrowed into Kaio's torso where it needed to be for Asasekiryu to have a chance. Kaio was a bulldog today and constantly pressed the action as Asasekiryu evaded near the edge where the Ozeki used a nifty outside leg trip to finally throw Seki to the dirt. Kaio moves to 7-2 with the win and has arguably solidified himself as the fourth best guy in the sport. Asasekiryu has faltered of late to his 4-5 record.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai's morote tachi-ai and tsuppari were completely ineffective today against M3 Tokitenku, and the Mongolian easily fought them off with a nice throat push of his own and a shove with the right hand at the side of Chiyotaikai's left torso that sent the Ozeki sideways and dangerously towards the edge. Tokitenku was on the Ozeki like stink to poop and then finished him off with a few more thrusts for the easy oshi-dashi win. I think the rikishi have figured out that Chiyotaikai's thrusts this basho haven't really packed a punch, so they're not as hesitant to try and get on the inside. Tokitenku moves to 4-5 with the win while the Pup cools off a bit at 6-3. As an aside, NHK had cameras mounted in the tunnels that head back to the dressing rooms today and frequently showed the rikishi as they returned from their bouts. As Chiyotaikai looked to make a left turn from the hana-michi into the tunnel, he saw Asashoryu coming his way and immediately retreated back into the hanamichi and let the Yokozuna pass. I thought it was a classy move by the Ozeki and something he didn't necessarily have to do.

Komusubi Takekaze used some effective shoves into counterpart Kisenosato's jaw and the side of his body at the tachi-ai to knock the Kid upright enough to where Takekaze was able to secure moro-zashi, but Takekaze had moved to the side a bit in the process and had no forward momentum once he secured the two inners. This enabled Kisenosato to counter with two outside grips that were stifling enough that Takekaze couldn't mount an effective charge. After a fifteen second or so stalemate that lulled Takekaze to sleep, Kisenosato executed a maki-kae with the left arm that now gave him an inside position that he was able to use for the easy force-out win from there. This was good stuff from both rikishi as Kisenosato (the number three guy right now if you're wondering) moves to 5-4 and should skate to his kachi-koshi unless the Association decides to pair the hot Maegashira rikishi with Kisenosato instead of the Ozeki. Takekaze is 1-8.

M3 Toyonoshima looked ever so hesitant at the tachi-ai against M1 Kakuryu today perhaps thinking that a henka would come, but Kakuryu was a straight shooter today throwing a left shove into Toyonoshima's chest that knocked him upright and rendered him the easy push-out fodder from there. Kakuryu displayed excellent lower-body work as he pushed his opponent back and out with three steps and three thrusts. Great strokes and nice rhythm from the Kak who shoots to 4-5 while Toyonoshima stays limp at 1-8.

M2 Aminishiki is in that mode now where he's gonna henka in every bout until he gets his eight wins. The good news is his opponents have been expecting it the last few days and have taken advantage. Today against Wakanosato, the crocodile read the tachi-ai perfectly securing a left inside position so deep that he had Aminishiki standing completely upright. Aminishiki did what he does best--which is to evade, but Wakanosato was on his every move and had Aminishiki forced out in about five seconds as he improves to 3-6. Aminishiki falls to 4-5 and is obviously left-henka'd meaning he'll always henka to his left.

M8 Goeido has made it clear in his short Makuuchi career that he prefers to fight with a grip on the front of his opponent's belt, but if he's gonna do that against fellow yotsu guys with game, he's gotta set it up by hitting them firmly at the tachi-ai first. Today, Goeido was passive as he fished for the frontal grip at the tachi-ai against M4 Kyokutenho, and the result was a solid left outer for the Chauffeur who was just too experienced to blow this one. He had the Osakan forced back and out in about four uneventful seconds as he improves to a surprising 7-2. The only problem with Kyokutenho's surge this basho is he'll likely find himself in the sanyaku for May, a place where he is licensed to suck. Goeido falls to 5-4 as his education continues.

I've actually enjoyed M5 Kokkai's rebranding himself into a yotsu guy, but he's gotta be perfect to have a chance against the Biomass. Kokkai actually had his arms in moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai, but M7 Baruto's just so big that he was able to easily clamp down and inward on both of Kokkai's arms from the outside. Kokkai was forced low in this position yet his head was still too high for him to do anything as Baruto just pressed harder finally setting up an uchi-muso move with his left arm. It didn't knock Kokkai to the dirt outright, but it threw him off balance to where Baruto was able to get the right arm on the inside and the left outer which spelled curtains for the Georgian. As I stated earlier, Baruto (7-2) is quietly moving up the leaderboard and has found his rhythm again. Kokkai falls to a very respectable 6-3.

M6 Roho went for the early right tachi-ai against M8 Tochinonada in the perfectly sound tachi-ai, and he secured the favored grip, but the problem was he did nothing to counter Tochinonada's left inner. Countless times this basho we've seen Tochinonada get that favored left inside position only to see his opponent counter it by pinching in on the arm with the right grip, but Roho just seemed content to dig in a bit. As the yotsu contest ensued, Roho tried a leg sweep at one point, but the gentle giant had positioned himself too far back, and just when you thought the two would settle back into the stalemate causing me to reach for my Oasis CD's, Tochinonada pounced going for the left inner throw that felled the Russian to the clay without much effort. Tochinonada improves to 3-6 (after an ugly 0-6 start) while Roho falls to 5-4.

M6 Dejima took advantage of the slower M9 Iwakiyama's charge and lunged into the moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai. The position was so deep that Iwakiyama's arms were bent at the elbows up around his shoulders giving him no chance to dig in and counter. The damage was over in about three seconds as Dejima improves to 3-6 while the Hutt falls to 2-7.

M7 Hokutoriki surprised M10 Futenoh today by immediately going to the belt at the tachi-ai instead of his usual moro-te charge. The result was the hidari-yotsu position where Hokutoriki enjoyed the right outer grip. Futenoh is usually fine with the left inside position, especially against a guy like Hokutoriki, but Hokutoriki was able to align chests with his opponent leaving Futenoh standing upright against his taller foe. Hokutoriki kept on the pressure and actually executed a successful maki-kae giving him morozashi not mention the insurmountable advantage. Hokutoriki moves to 7-2 with the slick yotsu-zumo win while Fruitenoh falls to 6-3.

M12 Tochiohzan looked slightly intimidated to me yesterday against Baruto, and the result was a quick loss, but today against M9 Kasugao, his form returned where he used that sharp tachi-ai keeping his his arms in close as he throws that first shove into his opponent's chest looking for moro-zashi. Kasugao kept his arms in tight as well leaving the two rikishi in the migi-yotsu position, but the key here was Tochiohzan's keeping Kasugao's right arm at bay buy pushing up at the side of his torso instead of looking for an inside position or outer grip that would have given Kasugao a kote-nage attempt. Fueled by his lower body, Tochiohzan was able to nudge Kasugao over to the side and get him moving just enough that the Korean's belt was now wide open for the left outer grip. Oh seized the belt and used it as the difference maker in forcing Kasugao across the straw. Tochiohzan continues to impress as he moves to 8-1 with the win, and you hope that he doesn't relax now that kachi-koshi is in the bag. Kasugao drops to 5-4.

M10 Tamakasuga used a slight henka to his right and an effective inashi push against M16 Ryuo to easily set him up for the three second slapdown win. Day 9 and Ryuo (2-7) still hasn't make-koshi'd? Indeed, the wild and crazy Haru basho! The King is 4-5.

I guess M11 Toyohibiki needed that default win yesterday against Sakaizawa because we saw a different rikishi today against M12 Yoshikaze. After the two butt heads at the tachi-ai, Toyohibiki just fired tsuppari after tsuppari into Yoshikaze's upper torso driving him back in about three seconds. The difference today was the Nikibi's footwork as he improves to 2-7. The kimarite was tsuki-dashi instead of the oft seen oshi-dashi, and as long as Martin is digging up my definitions of things, I'll re-iterate for you newbies the difference between the two techniques: oshi-dashi means you've just pushed your opponent out of the ring; tsuki-dashi means you've just kicked his ass. Yoshikaze falls to 3-6.

As I'm typing here, the crowd is needlessly overreacting over something, which means M11 Takamisakari has stepped onto the dohyo. After taking a false start from M16 Otsukasa where the latter committed a dame-oshi during a false start (if that's possible) by wringing the Cop's neck a few times, the two reloaded and hooked up in the migi-yotsu position. Otsukasa looked to force the action early on, but he ain't a yotsu-guy, so Takamisakari just stood his ground for about 10 seconds toying with his opponent before wrenching him upright with his right inside position and latching onto Otsukasa's belt with a left outer grip. Now it was the Cop's turn to execute the methodical force-out charge that saw him wrench Otsukasa upright again at the straw to set up the easy force-out win. This was textbook stuff from Takamisakari, who picked up his eighth win today, which means...the kachi-koshi interview!! The only thing better in sumo than a Takamisakari kachi-koshi interview is a bout between two Yokozuna. It's not that I need to translate what he said, it's just like watching a three year old hold a microphone for the first time and breath so heavily and rapidly into the thing you'd think he was about to give birth. Everyone wins today with a Takamisakari kachi-koshi...except Otsukasa who falls to 4-5.

In a compelling matchup early on, M14 Kakizoe flirted with a morozashi position from the tachi-ai, but M13 Homasho backed out of it and did what he does best, which is to keep his head low, take abuse from his opponent but move just enough that you stay in the bout, and then pounce on an opening when it comes. After about 10 seconds on the defensive, Homasho pushed a frustrated Kakizoe back and out for the win. As a reward for his kachi-koshi, Homasho was greeted in the tunnel back to the dressing room by a loitering fan with a duckass for the front of his hair and a mullet in the back. The dude, who was prolly in his fifties, was flanked by his son who is obviously attending medical school because he was wearing a surgical mask in public. Outstanding. Gotta be Osaka. The two would unfortunately make their appearance several more times during the basho as the father accosted the East rikishi after their wins while the son looked on in embarrassment. Isn't there something better to do for a grown man than to loiter at the sumos and stalk the rikishi? Anyway, despite how this basho plays out in the end, it's been worth its weight in gold just finding out that Homasho's recent slump was due to cholesterol medication and not slumber parties with Futenoh. Kakizoe drops to 5-4.

And finally, M14 Kaiho picked up his first win of the tourney in an ugly affair fighting off M15 Wakakirin's tsuppari while retreating back and to his left. At one point Kaiho managed a left inside, but with no footing Wakakirin easily shook it off with a kotenage throw attempt, but Kaiho was too determined in this one and managed to drag Wakakirin down backwards as he retreated around the perimeter of the ring for the rarely seen kimarite okuri-hiki-otoshi, which roughly translates to "sloppy win but I'll take it". Kaiho moves to 1-8 while Wakakirin is 3-6.

Now that we're in the second week, I guess it's time to start posting the leaderboard.  Here's all you have to worry about:

Perfect: Asashoryu
1 loss:   Hakuho

I'll be back again to git 'er done tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Hello folks. We enter the second half of the Haru Basho with three undefeateds and four one-loss rikishi atop the leaderboard. As it turns out, we were in store for a major shuffle by the end of day eight. Let's start with key match-ups in the bottom of the division and work our way up. 

M11 Takamisakari met M14 Kakizoe in a match-up of two rikishi showing strong performances so far. The bout was representative of that, with Zoe applying pressure throughout with solid tsuki-oshi. But Robocop kept his cool, got in close and came roaring back, making for a very back and forth affair. In the end, Sakari (7-1) won via oshi-taoshi as Zoe (5-3) sort of lost his balance and fell to the clay. It was one of the better bouts of the day. 

M13 Homasho, who according to his stablemaster can blame his recent poor performances on the adverse effects of a cholesterol-lowering medication he had been taking, has come out of the gates on fire in Osaka. He is undefeated for the first time this deep into a basho, but that streak would end today at the hands of M9 Kasugao. This bout was no slouch either, as Kasugao (5-3) set the pace with a stiff harite to start matters. Homasho did recover and brought himself to the brink of victory, but Kasu's defense maneuver of hooking his leg around Homasho's worked to stop the momentum. Homasho forged on, but alas it was Kasugao's kote-nage (hook throw) that brought the first blemish to Homa's record (7-1). 

In the following bout, M12 Tochiohzan stepped onto the clay, himself undefeated through seven days for the first time in his career. Unfortunately, he suffered the same fate as Homasho as M7 Baruto (6-2) took complete control of this one. He set the tone with a stiff harite at the tachiai, then swiftly garnered the left outside grip, swiveled Tochi around and promptly forced him out. Tochi had no chance to do anything, and falls to 7-1. Despite the bad loss today, Tochiohzan is showing some of the best sumo I've seen from him this basho. I predict he will stay in the picture for at least a few more days. 

I feel obliged to cover M7 Hokutoriki here, since he is once again sporting an inflated 6-1 record coming in. As most of you know, the Pretender does this every now and again, but it's nothing to be alarmed about. He will be brought back to earth in due time. In fact, M4 Kyokutenho (6-2) began that process today by making quick work of the Pretender. Predictably, he skillfully negated the tsuki-oshi and forced out Riki in a matter of seconds. I believe I caught Tenho yawning in the process, but I could be wrong. 

In a clash of Ozeki, Kaio met Kotomitsuki, who came out guns ablaze with tsuppari today. He also got the right outside grip on Kaio, but it was too deep and he compounded it by trying to throw him. This instead served to invite Kaio in for the kill, and take advantage he did by forcing out Mitsuki. Kaio looks pretty solid at 6-2 while Kotomitsuki looks anything but solid at 2-6. 

Kotooshu faced his nemesis in Toyonoshima. Even though he didn't get pancake-flipped by Toyo as he normally does, the monkey is still on Oshu's back. He was trying to use tsuppari to keep Toyo at a distance, which is understandable, but he was being too cautious about it and retreating at the same time. Toyo got in anyway, and marched Oshu out for an oshi-dashi win. Not only did Toyo get inside physically, it seems he is inside Oshu's head mentally. Until this aspect is addressed, you can expect a similar trend in the future. What makes it particularly bad for Oshu (2-6) this basho is the fact that this is Toyo's first victory in a sub-par campaign thus far. 

Chiyotaikai is handling his 11th kadoban effort well so far, but he met his match today in Sekiwake Ama (4-4). The Ozeki's tsuppari had no effect at all, due in part to a subtle yet effective hari-dashi by Ama and another a couple seconds later that kept Chiyo out of synch. Nonetheless, Taikai (6-2) should still be able to pick up two more wins and keep rank. 

That brings us to the big dogs. We'll start with Hakuho, who tangled with M3 Tokitenku in a good chess match. This was a solid bout, featuring a trading of successful maki-kae by both rikishi. Hakuho was never in control of this one though, looking wary of Tenku's potential leg move shenanigans. This caused him to be very conservative, even though he had secured his preferred right outside grip. It took over a minute, but finally Hakuho did prevail with a tsuri-dashi to improve to 7-1. Countryman Tenku falls to 3-5. 

The intriguing bout of the day was the finale between 19-year old Wakanoho and Asashoryu. This was a first time match-up, a scenario in which Sho thrives. So much so that Asashoryu has a 27 bout win streak overall- 18-0 since becoming Yokozuna- when being matched up with someone for the first time. That means he is undefeated in such occasions in all 4+ years as Yokozuna. Despite showing a lot of fighting spirit, Waka was not able to reverse this trend today. Sho got two arms inside from the get go and the writing was on the wall. It took a few seconds to get it done, but a predictable yori-kiri was the result of this successful tachi-ai. Waka drops to 4-4 and Asashoryu becomes the lone undefeated, extending his streak to eight days. He is now atop the leaderboard all by his lonesome, followed by counterpart Hakuho and rank-and-filers Takamisakari, Tochiohzan and Homasho.

Mike returns tomorrow.

Day 7 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
If you tuned in just as Sakaizawa collapsed like Blanche DuBois as her brother-in-law Stanley prepared to ravish her, you'd be forgiven for thinking he'd just watched a highlight reel of the collective Ozeki performance this basho. No, he just got the crap knocked out of him by Kakizoe from a harite that didn't look all that menacing (or maybe it was the previous false start collision that actually sent him off the dohyo). The thumbs up sign he gave as he was carried out on a stretcher (or was that a streetcar?) could have been taken either way: I'm alright, or Feck you all! Probably the former.

And yet despite the miserable turn from the men at the champions rank, I still feel oddly giddy about this basho. Kinda Andrews. Hit it!

Hakuho when angry
And Ama when bloody
I consider my buddy
Watching Asa throw people out of rings
These are a few of my favorite things

Dejima's titties
And Chiyotaikai losing
Roho when injured 
And Kokkai when boozing
Mr. Bean goes on NHK and sings
These are a few of my favorite things

King Tama's longevity
Goeido's emergence
Thinking of Kaio 
Shacked up with ten virgins
Watching the Kid's big fat ass as it swings
These are a few of my favorite things!

I'll keep my big VonTrapp shut.

Just wanna touch on Day 6 and the bout between Asa and Tokitenku. This was a perfect example of what Asa's annihilation of other wrestlers accomplishes. Tokitenku was essentially scared shitless that he was going to be flattened at the end, so he panicked while overthinking and his legs buckled and he lost without ever mounting an attack. Don't be fooled. The rikishi watch each other's matches. Asa's extra aggressive finishing of nearly every foe up until Day 6 was front and center in Tokitenku's head. Like his ancestor Genghis, who, when desirous of setting an example, treated vanquished foes ruthlessly, Asa is sending a message every time he pounds on someone: You'll get yours if you stand in the way of me getting mine!

Homasho flashed his early 2007 form by absorbing Wakakirin's endless slaps until they ended. Once the E15 got all "Senior Prom date front seat of the car" by trying to pull Homasho down by the back of the head, the undefeated E13 ran him out tout de suite. 

Yoshikaze used a no-touch henka to leave Kaiho standing at the altar, holding nothing but his 7th defeat. The tricky little W12 moves to 3 wins and those of you who know how to reach this site but not how to reach sites that show the bouts in video missed zip. 

Otsukasa gave Tochiohzan the tachi-ai bitch slap but with the way the young man is wrestling this time out it's gonna take a bit more than that to seal the deal, and Old Tsukasa just doesn't have it anymore. Tochiohzan, like Homasho, goes to an unexpected but not surprising 7-0.

Though trained by hits, Kasugao looked like he got hit by a train (groan). And that was before his match with Bean. Nobody wins more bouts that look lost than Takamisakari. I sometimes wonder if it isn't all a big playact on his part, the goofy façade used to lure the gullipublic into his web the same way he lures Kasugao to the edge only to resist, drive forward holding nothing more than underarm flab, and just manbody him out. I'm not sure what it is or how much longer it will last, but it's fun to watch and with a 6-1 at W11, dude will be around for several basho more at least.

Apropos of nothing, Goeido got into a small slapping skirmish with King Tama and after a moment leaned in and grabbed a good front left belt, which he used to perfection by backing away and twisting, sending the Silver Citizen (that's what they call seniors here) higgledy piggledy to the doit. Man, that was the shit (atedashinage)! 

Doesn't it drive you nuts when a guy who is taking names and numbers comes up against a scrub like Rasputin, who got absolutely schooled by The Jokester on Day 3 and by Wakanosato on Day 6, and loses miserably? Kokkai looked more like he was peddling cookies to earn his Besty Ross badge then fighting in professional sumo. Roho wasn't buying any, grabbed a solid left inside, and the Georgian was taken back and out in the blink of an ai yai yai.

Today Dejima showed some beautiful mobility (for a guy whose legs could be mistaken for giant tube sponges).  After twisting Wakanosato's arm out of a morozashi grip and swinging him around, he pinned him to the edge and despite not closing the deal there chased him down after he escaped to the left and pushed him out.

Baruto made a big mistake by allowing Kyokutenho the outside left, which he used to maneuver into a right hand grip. You won't see the former Mongolian lose too often when he has this hold, yet it was shocking to see him carry out the Biomass for his 5th win, who smiled peacefully as headed toward the showers. Baruto has got to wipe that lovable lug grin off his face and start showing some fire, or he is never going to get to where he ought to be.

In a fight eerily similar to the later Tokitenku/Kotooshu, Hokutoriki used the hand to the throat to keep big Wakanoho at bay, but the teenager stuck to his game plan and kept his arms low sniffing for the belt. When The Jokester's strength waned and the two got close, Teeny jammed his fingers into the W7's belt so firmly that he was able to walk him back and out like he was moving one of those old refrigerators without handles.

Toyonoshima and Miyabiyama tussled in a bout that was uglier than nursing home larceny, with Flobby doing his usual slappity slap slaps after a super weak tachi-ai from Toyo. At some point in this battle between two men who had won one out of twelve contests this basho they both flew out in opposite directions if that's possible and MiFlobby won his second. Bandwidth!

It was sandome no shojiki for Geeku as he took three tries to get Sexy back and out using that Gorgeous George belly of his. Vintage Geeku, who cleans up on the little scrappy guys many are wary of (Ama, Toyo, Sexy). I predict he evens his record tomorrow vs. Takekaze and finishes this basho 9-6, losing to the two Yokozuna but taking out The Kid, MiFlobby and Shneaky among others.

The rodent-analogue Aminishiki that I have been on about for years reared it's ugly head today, inadvertently smashing it with Mitsuki's as he fled to the left at tachi-ai. All you need do is look at the faces of those at ringside. The Nipponese aren't the most emotive people on Earth, and they eat natto, so when they publicly look like they just smelled something nasty, you know it's nasty. And Shneaky's tachi-fly was enough to make Johnny Cochran roll over in his too early grave ("Stick--don't trick" I hear the great one groan.)

Someone has got to contact Austin Powers to help find Kotooshu's mojo. Tokitenku stood the big feller up with his right paw on the Ozeki's throat. I mean, he was choking him, I'm not shittin' you (I wouldn't shit you, you're my favorite turd! Arf!) Then with exquisite timing he let up on the throat hold and simultaneously used his left hand to pull Kotooshu forward and down. Exactly what Hokutoriki could not do to finish Wakanoho. The Bulgar sits 2-5 one basho after getting off the kadoban schneid. Dude just gets eaten alive by Mongolians. That's gotta steam Laptop to no end.

Makes me feel young again when I see Chiyotaikai win like he did today, because I was a spring chicken when he used to destroy foes like this. He slapped the Kak around real hard, and with Kak unable to penetrate his defenses and the Ozeki drove the youngster out in a flash. But not "flash-in-the-pan", Martin. Despite the fact that today he was ridden hard and put away wet, The Kak has risen and will be here for years to come. And so will the Kak gags I collect like Re Mark Arbo collects bed lice.

Speaking of Arbo, what's this Day 4 tirade against piss and vinegar? I myself use both, piss for athlete's feet and vinegar for flexible joints. I may not smell that great, but I can bend over and chew my healthy toenails.

Ama came for the throat today, literally, which seems to be a preferred attack for many of the Mongolians these days. Kaio shook it off and after a separation Ama came back looking for more of the same. Somehow in the frenetic pacing Kaio was able to grab at an armbar, which Ama wisely scrammed on, but Kaio was damn near sprightly, following right after the retreating Sekiwake and forearming him out for his 6th win. Didn't think I'd ever get to say this again, but Kaio ain't looking half bad. He has less than a snowball's chance in hell of beating either of the Yokozuna, but it'd warm the cockles of me heart to see the lad finish with 11 wins, and with Ama, Kise and Geeku already taken care of, who knows?

Asa was pitted with Takekaze today, who despite being 0-6 can cause trouble if he gets in and under (just ask Kotooshu). Asa works better with big guys where he can find their soft spots and attack, so it is no surprise that he doesn't finish off a compact lil' Brussels sprout like the new Komusubi immediately. Not that he had a prayer vs. Asa, who pimp slapped him once, then twice after a separation, and then closed quarters and while grabbing Take's wrists pulled back and away to let him fall down. Loved the way Asa glanced down at his nails, as if to suggest the strain of the match messed up the manicure he got from Celine.

Finally Hakuho had all he could handle with The Kid. After staring each other down like Mike and I at the only ice machine on this floor, they hooked up violently, with the kid blocking Hakuho from getting any belt and in the process pushing the Yokozuna back a bit. In the middle of some wicked fast slaps from both fellas, Hakuho tried a head pull down, didn't work, and timed a lunge by The Kid and slipped to the left. Kise stayed on him, employing the slapping attack in an obvious bid to keep the best belt wrestler in sumo away. The slaps got Hakuho running backward and he just barely missed getting shoved out by the Kid, who himself just barely missed falling on his face as the Yokozuna circled away. An unrelenting Kise circled with him and kept coming, so Hakuho grabbed an arm and used it to spin away yet again (tell me you weren't thinking Hak's going down at this point!) But dude didn't make Yokozuna because dad's a banker. He bent down and with mongoose-like reflexes stabbed in and snagged the front of the Kid's belt. With his right hand on the back of Kise's head, he dragged the Komusubi down to end the best bout of the basho. 

Though he has lost five straight to Hakuho, Kise always shows a lot of urine and fermented ethanol by-product. But he should take care to win one again soon, before it worms it's way into his head (as this blown golden opportunity surely already has). The early years of the Asa/Mitsuki rivalry were similar, feisty bouts that kept us on edge most of the time, and look where those two are now.

I'll be here to straighten out the mess on Day 15 (I know, I got Asa/Kise on Day 1, Hakuho/Kise today, and then Asa/Hakuho--what can I say, Mike likes my tattoos).

Ya's fancypantses, the lot o' ya, and Kenji will address your needs tomorrow.

Day 6 Comments (Martin Martin reporting)
Here we are, born to be kings, we're the princes of the Uuuniveeerse...No, wait, wrong fantasy. As Mike was asking me the other day, don't you have this feeling that everybody is just sucking these days? After one brief look over the leaderboard, I'd be tempted to say no, but would I be right? I mean, sure, there are some four undefeated guys after the first six days, Homasho at M13, Tochiohzan at M12 and Hokutoriki at M7. But let's look at those records a bit closer: Homasho and Tochiohzan are back to full health and are plowing through the basement of the banzuke (so far defeating lesser opponents, who, besides being lesser, are also sucking this basho), as they should be, while Hokutoriki is garnering his wins from a suicidal, now or never attack, just waiting to be sidestepped (yeah, he was sidestepped already, but he lucked out bigtime in that one). Oh, and I almost forgot about the undefeated Asashoryu, who seems to be out on a rampage. Mike compared Asa and Hakuho at some point, illustrating the younger one's lack of fire: "Hakuho goes into the bout to win, Asashoryu goes into it to kick your ass". This time around, it looks like Asashoryu wants to take the head of each and every opponent in his path so badly, you'd think the whole banzuke took turns with his wife while he was away on business. But...could this be a subtle attempt to mask something? I'm probably delirious, but I think somehow our favorite Mongolian isn't at full strength. Or maybe the guys DID go after his wife when he was away! Anyway you may look at it, sucking or not, he's still the Yusho favorite, simply because his opponents are pretty scared of him right now.

Now, don't get me wrong, I do expect Homasho and Tochiohzan to keep going good, until about 9-0 or so, but after that they're gonna start getting the big guys, and for those guys they're not ready just yet. And I fully expect Hokutoriki to fall for a nice fat henka soon. No, it doesn't have anything at all to do with the fact that he's facing Wakano-Ho tomorrow, because I believed him 110% when he said he was giving that up. And no, Clancy never had rough sex with two Osaka hotties the night he wrote his report, and no, Mark never touched alcohol in his entire life. But enough of the hate of negativity...with no substantiation, let's see what actually happened at the crime scene.

And why not start with the number one guy himself? It looks like the 'sumo' session in Celine Dion's dressing room did wonders for the Yokozuna, because today he was so fast at the tachi-ai that at first, on the NSK stream, I thought a matta would be called. It wasn't, because they started at just about the same time, but Asa had the edge with the new teleportation technology he stole from the ancient alien civilization buried under the Mongolian steppes. Maybe lightning strikes twice, but if there's one thing that strikes the lightning, that' guessed it, Asashoryu. Tokitenku's face was narrowly missed by the harite, probably because it was too fast, (and notice I actually used Tokitenku in combination with a passive voice verb, because this bout, and the whole damn basho, for that matter, is only about Asa, Asa, Asa), but the attack got a nice right uwate for the Yokozuna. Tokitenku managed to stand his ground for a couple of seconds, pointlessly trying to keep Asashoryu's left away from the inside grip. Of course, the ensuing uwatehineri caught Tokitenku completely off guard, and he only had time to try and support his body with the left leg, awkwardly crumpling to the dirt in what seemed to be genuine pain. They say you never hear the one that strikes you...6-0 for Asa, as if it was some big secret, and a paltry 2-4 for his compadre.

Yokozuna Hakuho did his job again, with an absent look on his face before the bout. Nice, straight tachi-ai, both hands close to the body, denying his short-armed foe the morozashi, one or two solid shoves to Toyonoshima's face and chest and it was game over, even before Hakuho actually pushed him out. Toyonoshima remembered the painful execution against Asashoryu and decided to raise the white flag, backing out on his own. Ok, ok, you win, uncle, UNCLE!! Hakuho still has one foot in the yusho race, and if there's anyone who can beat Asa, it's him. Toyonoshima is nowhere to be found.

'Ozeki' Kotomitsuki assumed the role of the philanthropist again, in an ugly affair against winless Takekaze. Koto-missed-me had the better of the tachi-ai, hitting Kaze pretty good and punishing his face and upper body with some spirited slaps. While the yotsu-challenged Komusubi was uselessly trying to get something going, Mitsuki drove him to the edge, hoping for some sort of belt grip. Kaze recovered, though, and took the pair back to the center of the ring, but gave up the left uwate in the process. Kotomitsuki knew it was his, but just when he was about to eject his opponent from the dohyo, Takekaze slapped him on the shoulder and to the clay, and even made it look easy. It's safe to say Mitsuki gave it away, but it sure looked like Kaze needed the charity. One win for the Komusubi and probably kadoban for Kotomitsuki.

I need not say I'm Kakuryu's #1 hater and detractor (and I poisoned his dog, too), but I did have one bit of respect for him before: he didn't henka. More than a year in Makuuchi and I can only remember one (and he lost that bout, too). Well, down the drain that went this basho, when (probably reading Clancy's praise) darling little Kak decided he deserved getting into sanyaku no matter how, and henka'd a couple of Ozeki he otherwise had no chance of beating. Traditionalists can go about for as long as they want, "there was contact, blah, blah, yackedy-schmackedy", but what Kakuryu pulled against veteran Kaio is low, underhanded and disgraceful. Kaio is too old and too slow to lose to that outright, but the maneuver helped the Fishface set up a solid pushing attack that ended up in a solid morozashi, with Kakuryu's head buried deep in Kaio's chest. It was cheap Kyokushuzan sumo, exactly the kind we don't need right now, and not ever. Yorikiri and, UGH! 3-3 after facing two Yokozuna and three Ozeki. Kaio isn't looking that bad with 4-2. To add insult to injury, Kakuryu probably was the one responsible for crushing any trace of self-confidence Kotooshu had left in his noggin, with the day three henka. Mike said at one time Kakuryu had developed into a fine, polished rikishi, but all I can see so far is weakness and evasion. Just like always, actually, but with a couple of henkas thrown in for good measure. Just go away already.

Kadoban Ozeki Chiyotaikai took on M1 Asasekiryu at full throttle, hitting him hard and knocking him back a couple of steps, before firing away at his neck with the we-all-know-what's-coming-and-there's-nothing-YOU-can-do-about-it tsuppari. I guess Asasekiryu is just one of those guys who can't figure out Taikai (much like Aminishiki and some others), because all he could do was take the punishment and lean forward, looking for some momentum. And, just like above, we all knew what was coming, and again Asasekiryu couldn't do a thing about it. Yes, it was the big pull-down, synchronized with the pirouette out of harm's way. Baryshnikov skirts his way to 5-1, while the Mongol King of the Undead is not so bad himself at 4-2, with the two Yokozuna and three of the Ozeki out of the way. Watch out.

Ozeki Kotooshu the big baby lost an exciting yotsu-zumo duel with his somewhat of a rival Komusubi Kisenosato. It's a shame to see my main man lose like that, especially since he has some impressive tools for this trade, but this time his opponent was just too good. The Bulgarian clearly won the tachi-ai, driving his heavier opponent all the way to the straw and managing to get into a favorable hidari-yotsu position. Kisenosato wouldn't go down and got a thick left arm of his own on the inside, using it to manhandle Kotooshu all the way to the other side of the ring. Kotooshu then unleashed his once deadly throw, but the move hardly budged the 160kg Komusubi, who got his left all the way across the big man's back, trying to take him off balance. They resumed hostilities in the gaburi-hidari-yotsu position, with Kotooshu going for the yorikiri, only to be lifted upright by his younger foe, and thrown down by sukuinage. Kotooshu fan-boy or not, that was a great bout to watch, with the better rikishi winning out in the end. Three wins for Kisenosato and a trip to the shrink for Kotooshu.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku's crappy performance this basho was for many a clear sign Sekiwake counterpart Ama would sweep the dohyo with his lifeless carcass, but sadly it only turned out to be another inexplicable case of one rikishi owning another one's ass, regardless of circumstances. And boy, were those favorable for the Mongolian. Ama lead with a quick hari-te to Giku's left cheek and got the fastest and deepest double inside grip I've ever seen, quickly taking his foe to the edge, with the same gaburi Kotoshogiku likes so much. The Fukuoka native is a fat one, though, and the lightweight Mongolian had a lot of trouble finishing him off. Frustrated, he made the one mistake he needed to throw away the bout, breaking his own morozashi for a finishing nodowa. He missed, narrowly, and before you knew it, Koto#3 was back in it. Probably impressed by the overturn (or more likely because he tripped on his own robe), the gyoji fell on his ass, but he didn't look the least bit distracted or embarrassed, and kept full focus on the wrestlers while getting back on his feet, in the roaring applause of the crowd. With Ama in hidari-yotsu (left shitate + right uwate), Kotoshogiku hardly got a left on the inside, but, as it turned out, he didn't even need more, because Ama, sensing the danger, pulled back suddenly, attempting the kotenage and driving himself out with token effort from his nemesis. Believe it or not, Kotoshogiku is now 12-3 against Ama, but only has two wins so far this basho, compared to Ama's three.

Enter the villain of this wretched Haru, his despicable lowness M2 Sneaky. After lubing the green Yokozuna and riding on that wave to ride Kotooshu, the scumsucker thought he'd get a break today with straight loser Miyabiyama. But Sumotalk didn't call that guy the Sheriff for nothing, so the Fat Man did what the Fat Man's gotta do and administered some painful 200mm justice (that's how thick I'm guesstimating his clubs are), slapping, pushing, thrusting, pulling and head-butting the helpless accused into sheepish submission. Yep, folks, he threw the book at him good this time, and everything else but the kitchen sink (no, come to think of it, he threw that too). Cuff'em, Sheriff. Those of you who aren't old-school like Mike and the other Sumotalk Elders are probably wondering how we called him Fat Man. Here he is, the original Fat Man himself, in all his menacing glory.

Lower in the ranks, Japanese Kyokutenho took on fellow countryman Dejima. The locomotive came hard once again, and Tenho barely withstood the charge, but he somehow managed to plant his long right wrench under Dejima's armpit. just when you thought it was gonna be a quick yorikiri, Tenho made sure it ended with an even quicker scoop throw of his own, sending Dejima to his 5th loss. 4-2 ain't that bad for an old guy.

Ho the younger met neighbor Kokkai, and with the US presidential election at hand, no wonder there's so much Caucasus on the banzuke (aside from Kokkai and the Ho's, Hakurozan and Tochinoshin are lurking in high Juryo as we speak). Remember Wakanoho's flying embarrassment against Iwakiyama last basho? Well, from that day he swore he'd never henka again, and technically the bugger kept his end of the bargain. That STILL doesn't mean the cheap sumo stopped, no sir. Today he charged slightly into his hairier opponent, locked his hand on the back of his head and gracefully retreated, pulling the Georgian to his first defeat. It was quick, painful and well executed, and part of the sadist in me almost liked seeing the big guy fall on his face, but let's be honest here, I'll take a solid yorikiri over this crap anytime. Wacky breaks even with the shady win and is promising to put a stop to Hokutoriki's 'yusho' run tomorrow. You won't want to miss it.

Speaking of Ho's, Hokutoriki (you thought I was gonna say Roho, didn't you...didn't you!) delivered another ass-kicking to another scrub, bullying Iwakiyama with alternating tsuki and hiki, until the mountain got sick of it and went out for some peace and quiet on the outside of the dohyo. You can't blame him, really, because Hokutoriki actually wants to win for a change. Iwakiyama slumps to his fourth loss. For tomorrow, see above.

And just so you have a merry Christmas, I'm gonna give you another Ho, the real one this time. Sumo skill was not being served at this dinner for the Russian, because his tachi-ai let Wakanosato slip both hands on the inside and even get a solid right shitate. With the other arm deep and across Ugly's back, it was only a matter of time before the veteran could get both his paws on the mawashi, From that sure-fire position, Wakanosato first went for the under-arm throw, only to be foiled by a fine leg extension, but yorikiri was the logical next step, which Wakanosato didn't hesitate to take. Two wins for the old guy, three losses for Ho.

Well, the technician in me had high hopes in the next bout, with two yotsu guys to face each other, but the outcome was a bit (no, make that a lot) less than I expected. So instead of telling you what I did see, I'm gonna tell you what I would have liked to see. Rikishi 1: Baruto. Big guy, huge arms, gargantuan strength, a preference for tsuri and sometimes nage, and a cool (if you don't like that, insert eerie) shade of white. Rikishi 2: Goeido. Average size, good strength, fine technique, strong fighting spirit and youth. Here goes. Bart comes hard with thrusts, trying to set up his favorite right outside grip and manages to push the young lad a step or two back. He then lunges for the coveted grip, only to be derailed by a well-timed inashi, with Goeido getting the right shitate, and working his way slightly to the Estonian's side. Bart makes one good effort, reaching over Goeido's right shoulder to get a counter uwate of his own, and both buys go for the throw. Baruto lands a couple of milliseconds later than his foe (big guy, leaning a little on the little guy) and they give it to him, but Goeido swears he'll have his day.

What I got instead was a tachi-ai way too high from Bart, one way too low from Goeido, and the big guy's weight crushing the youngster from above. They said hikiotoshi, but it was a very atypical one. I want my money back, darn it. Goeido is an even 3-3 and still has some learning to do. Bart is breezing to a cool 5-1. Can you spell kantosho?

The next bout was one filled with frustration for any Tochinonada fans out there. The giant got a nice double inside right from the tachi-ai, only to fail to capitalize on it. What followed was a bout so long that I had the time to watch an ant go from the floor to the ceiling, with a couple of bum legs. Futenoh eventually won it. Good for him.

The clown took Old Man Tamakasuga with his awkward open-arm stance at the tachi-ai, probably wanting to give him a nice friendly hug, but was still able to take whatever shadow of an attack the veteran could throw at him. Takamisakari then sneaked into morozashi and finished the job in two more seconds, with time to spare. Sakari cruises to a fine 5-1 start. Tamakasuga has one foot in Juryo.

Kasugao the Korean humiliated the 0fer Toyohibiki with an awkward but very effective henka. Hell, even a pat on the back will down Hibiki these days, but a henka is a henka is a henka. Bad boy, Kim Sung Tak (as if anybody cares, anyway).

Thanks to the Kokkkai's geezers, that's all the bouts I could get my hands on, so if any of you guys wanted the scoop on Tochiohzan, or maybe you're ardent fans of Otsukasa's magnificent technique (and also believe in Big Foot), you'll have to read some of the other reports. (No, it's not the Hairy Georgian guy, it's the Japanese Diet. NO! It's not a way to lose weight!!).

Ok, so we got a sucky bunch of guys, some of which don't really suck at all, a demon Yokozuna on a rampage, and all sorts of possible developments (well, not yusho-wise, but we never had those anyway, it's always Mongols, Mongols, Mongols). So be sure to come back for more tomorrow, because Clancy is giving away free pictures of him naked, when he was writing his Shonichi report. Aloha!

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It's lucky I wasn't reporting yesterday or those of you who read these reports at work (on company time of course) would have had steam coming out of your monitors. For three days, we had nary a henka before the rikishi just couldn't contain themselves on day 4 when all hell broke loose lowlighted by Aminishiki's work against Hakuho. Just like that, the luster is taken off of the basho, the fans get shortchanged, and Hakuho is unfairly saddled with a costly loss. The problem with the henka is there is no way on Clancy's green earth that Aminishiki could have beaten Hakuho in any other way than he did, but it's the Sumo Association's problem not mine. I just want Miwa-nishiki , or is it Sayuri-nishiki, no wait, follow the advice Asashoryu allegedly gave to reporters as he exited the airport in Osaka. Just because you're bitter that Asashoryu wiped the arena floor with your ass on day 3 so hard that you spoke in Mongolian for the next four hours, it doesn't give you the right to alter the course of the basho with madam sumo. And for the record, Ms. Nishiki prefers to "tuck" before she has the mawashi tied on.

I think it's safe to say that we've entered the dog days of the basho. Khan 1 and Khan 2 are already penciled in as the only yusho contenders, and we've already got a good idea who's hot, who's not, and who's just plain afraid. Without further comment, let's get right to the action starting from the bottom.

There's something about M15 Sakaizawa's sumo that's lacking. The dude's got the size and the tools, but he seems so casual on the dohyo. Today he gave J2 Hakurozan the easy left uwate from the tachi-ai and seemed more worried about what Hakurozan was doing with his other hand than he was in countering the uwate by digging in, lifting Hakurozan more upright, or trying to shake it off. Hakurozan waited for a few seconds and then just drove the rookie back and easily dumped him to the dirt. Sakaizawa (3-2) cannot go far in this division with his current approach, and that thing tied around your crotch is not a chastity belt.

M16 Ryuo's sumo this basho has been to stand upright at the tachi-ai and let himself get pummeled into oblivion. It's as if the dude is paranoid of being henka'd or something, but why would an opponent henka him if he knew he could kick Ryuo's ass fighting straight up? May as well do it right and impress the chicks as you go. Today M15 Wakakirin (2-3) did just that shoving Ryuo back and out in about three seconds. The competition ain't gonna get any easier than it was for Ryuo today, so he'll be lucky to win two bouts this basho. As it stands, he's 0-5.

In our first battle of unbeatens, it was nice to see M13 Homasho take charge from the tachi-ai by easily warding off M16 Otsukasa's early harite and quick pull attempt. Homie kept the action in tight throughout and after Otsukasa's weak start, he just stood upright as if to say do me now. Homasho did by grabbing the gifted left outer grip and slamming Otsukasa down to the dirt. Dewanoumi-oyakata, one of the best analysts there is, was in the booth today, and he was spot on when he said this bout is an example of the difference in the banzuke between these two. Sure, they are at similar ranks now, but only after a few horrible showings from Homasho that have sent him this low. That's why it's such a relief to see Homasho (5-0) dominating these scrubs instead of actually working for his wins.

M11 Toyohibiki is completely lost upon the dohyo. He doesn't know where to stand at the tachi-ai, and he has completely lost his confidence. Today he exhibited a suicide charge with no plan whatsoever, so M14 Kakizoe wasn't forced to fight defensively. This allowed him to just grab Toyohibiki's melon with both hands and pull him down. The Nikibi has been popped, squished, and discharged every which way so far as he ejects to 0-5. Sweet Zoe Jane is 4-1.

M10 Futenoh has been coming in high at the tachi-ai the entire basho, but he got away with it today against M14 Kaiho. Thanks to Kaiho's lack of height, Futenoh enjoyed the early left outer grip, which was really all he needed in this one. Kaiho tried to counter with a few leg trips, but when it was apparent that Futenoh was in no danger, he just moved in even closer grabbing a firm inner grip with the left before easily forcing Kaiho (0-5) back and out. Fruitenoh moves to 3-2 with the win.

In one of the better bouts of the basho so far, M12 Yoshikaze fought M9 Kasugao off from the tachi-ai with some effective tsuppari, but Kasugao persisted in wanting to force the bought in close. Yoshikaze complied after a few seconds, but thanks to his winning the tachi-ai, he enjoyed the better position with a deep left inside grab that was so good his hand was on the left side of the knot at the back of Kasugao's belt. The Korean immediately countered with the right armbar, his favorite grip, but Yoshikaze's positioning was so deep that he couldn't even attempt a kotenage throw. After some grappling for position, Yoshikaze assumed morozashi never changing the position of his left hand on Kasugao's belt. Kasugao countered with the outer position with both arms causing the two to dance around the ring a bit before Yoshikaze forced his left leg around the back of Kasugao's right in effect committing himself. With Kasugao (3-2) trying to lift up Yoshikaze from the inside with his right leg, the nage-no-uchi was on, but Yoshikaze barely came out on top throwing the Korean to the dirt via sukinage just before his own noggin' touched down. Even though this was a roughly 30 second affair, the difference was the tachi-ai. Live and learn fellas as Yoshikaze picks up his first win.

M12 Tochiohzan has struggled in the past against M9 Iwakiyama, but not today even after a swell tachi-ai from the Hutt. Tochiohzan held is ground securing the sufficient left inside position that when coupled with the drive from his lower body (he's used it to perfection all basho) enabled him to knock Iwakiyama away from the outside grip on that same side and forced him upright just enough that Oh was able to gain a stranglehold on the bout with an equally deep right arm in the inside. Without an outside grip to be seen, there was no way Iwakiyama (2-3) could hunker down to counter his younger opponent. Tochiohzan knew it and executed the swift force-out charge for the solid victory not to mention a 5-0 start. 

In a strange affair--and not just because it included M11 Takamisakari--M8 Goeido charged extremely low while Takamisakari came looking for the morozashi position from the tachi-ai. The result was the Cop bending down even lower than his opponent to try and get something on the inside to raise Goeido upright, but the further he lowered himself near the dirt, the more advantage he gave to Goeido, and the end result was Goeido's locking both arms around Takamisakari's elbows and sending the now off-balance Takamisakari to the dirt. Takamisakari's win streak is halted at four in the strange affair while Goeido shakes off a two-day losing streak moving to 3-2. It's too bad we didn't get a better match from these two today.

How about M7 Hokutoriki this basho? One of the highlights of the tournament so far was the look he gave Goeido yesterday after slamming him to the dirt after Goeido had henka'd him at the tachi-ai. It was that usual badass attitude we see from the Jokester when he's on a roll. The roll continued today of course against M10 Tamakasuga as both rikishi largely settled for straight-arm sumo where each pushed at each other's necks with stiff arms looking for an advantage. It was stupid strategy from Tamakasuga because he needs some momentum from the lower body, and there's no way he can come out on top over a larger opponent with that kind of attack. Case in point...the King had Hokutoriki off balance a few times as the two danced around the ring, but he was in no position to take advantage due to the style of sumo today. Anyway, since we're bored to tears already, suffice it to say that Hokutoriki eventually overpowered Tamakasuga (2-3) for the oshi-dashi win and shweet 5-0 start. We felt sorry for Hokutoriki last basho when he was henka'd three straight times to a make-koshi, but it was for the better. He'd maybe be 1-4 if he had won 8 last basho.

M5 Kokkai looked to receive a test today against M8 Tochinonada if he wanted to stick with his yotsu-zumo of late, especially after he gave the gentle giant the left inside position at the tachi-ai, but Kokkai is committed this basho, and his confidence is soaring, so with no concern for what his opponent was doing, he grabbed the outer grip wih the right and and forced his left arm deep on the inside and just muscled Tochinonada back to the straw, no easy task. Tochinonada braced himself at the edge and tried to dig in, but Kokkai's momentum was just too much as the Georgian was able to body Tochinonada upright and off balance to where he slapped him beyond the tawara in the end for another impressive win. Kokkai is taking full advantage of the M5 rank as he moves to 5-0 while Tochinonada is sickly at 0-5. I can't believe someone actually said before the basho that Nada would win 9 or 10.

The key for M5 Wakanosato today against M7 Baruto was to gain the early moro-zashi position, but he was too nonchalant in his approach and allowed the Estonian a left arm on the inside. Croco-no-sato's short arms weren't gonna keep Baruto from grabbing the smothering right outer grip either, so Wakanosato hunkered down the best he could in the hidari-yotsu position, but after a ten second pause or so, Baruto just lifted Wakanosato up and over to the edge where he set him down and easily bodied him back for the win. Baruto is a quiet 4-1 now thanks to the lot of 5-0 rikishi still running loose. Wakanosato is a hapless 1-4.

After a stalemate tachi-ai, M6 Roho and M4 Kyokutenho hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position where Kyokutenho's fighting experience won out giving him the left outer grip. Roho was close to a left outer of his own on the other side, but Kyokutenho sufficiently kept him at bay. As the two stood in the center of the ring, Kyokutenho made sure he had every fold of the belt with this right hand, and then mounted his charge, but Roho read it perfectly and dug in his left leg so firmly that he was able to pivot with it and use his own momentum against him to throw Kyokutenho down with the left inside grip. This was a great example of Roho's sheer strength and another reason why it's a shame the Prince doesn't try to win this way more often. Both rikishi are 3-2.

Fellow Russian M4 Wakanoho took M6 Dejima too much for granted today and seemed to think that he could easily gain the outer grip over the top and win the bout. Throwing a harmless harite with the right hand, Wakanoho reached over the top of Dejima with the left arm grabbing the back of Dejima's belt, but he's really gotta set that up after ramming a shoulder into his opponent or bumping chests. He did neither, and the result was a Dejima freight train charge that was simply too much too handle despite the nice left outer grip. Dejima's picks up his first win in fine fashion by just bulldozing Wakanoho (2-3) to the side and out in about three seconds.

In a battle of our Mongolian M1s, Asasekiryu's experience at the tachi-ai showed has he got in a nice head butt to set up the left inside position as he burrowed his way in against Kakuryu's torso. Kakuryu next committed a huge blunder by going for a makikae with this right arm, which did give him morozashi--so to speak--but the move was with the arms only, so Asasekiryu's head was still firmly driven into Kakuryu's chest. With two outer grips and the lower position, Asasekiryu methodically wrenched Kakuryu to the side of the ring and eventually out for the nice yori-kiri win. Kakuryu was simply schooled in this one as Sexy coolly slides to 4-1. The Kak fails to spurt yet again falling to 2-3.

The sanyaku ranks kicked off with a great matchup featuring Sekiwake Ama vs. Komusubi Kisenosato. Ama took charge at the tachi-ai with a wicked nodowa that lifted the Kid upright and enabled the Mongolian to secure the morozashi position. Ama wasted no time in driving Kisenosato straight back, and as the kid braced himself against the straw, Ama used his chest and forward momentum to push Kisenosato down the clay via oshi-taoshi. Ama simply wanted this bout more, and the adrenaline was running so thick that Ama actually did a full frontal flip after knocking Kisenosato to the dirt. Good stuff from Ama (3-2) who really needs to show this kind of determination. I don't think we really saw it early on. And while we're on the subject of determination, if Kisenosato has a weakness right now it's tha the doesn't show quite the same intensity when fighting the non-Yokozuna and non-Ozeki. He falls to 2-3.

Komusubi Takekaze is actually a decent matchup for Ozeki Chiyotaikai...if he's in synch. Takekaze obviously isn't this basho and just lamely charged forward with no plan whatsoever. Chiyotaikai knocked Takekaze upright from the start causing Takekaze to go for a pull attempt, but before he could even make contact with the back of Chiyotaikai's head, the Ozeki was right on top of the move and thrust Takekaze back so forcefully towards the corner of the ring, the Komusubi took the basket full of salt with him on his short trip up the hanamichi. Takekaze is completely befuddled at this rank as he falls to 0-5. Chiyotaikai moves to 4-1.

Semi-rivals Ozeki Kaio and Sekiwake Kotoshogiku clashed in their usual yotsu-zumo affair that saw the two hook up in the quick hidari-yotsu position with Kotoshogiku trying to gaburi his way into a right outer grip. He never got it, and while the Geeku was focusing on that lame strategy, Kaio secured the firm left inner grip and used it to pull up at Kotoshogiku's body as he muscled him back to the straw. In fact, the Ozeki would never get that right grip, but he didn't need it as he completely outclassed the struggling Geeku. Kotoshogiku had his right knee heavily taped in the bout, but I'm not so sure that isn't more of a justification to himself that he sucks this basho. He's only 1-4 now. Kaio keeps on plugging at 4-1.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki showed some life yet again today as he slammed into M3 Tokitenku at the tachi-ai bullying his way to the quick left outer grip. Contrary to his usual form, Kotomitsuki pressed the action immediately and had Tokitenku back against the tawara in no time. Tokitenku dug in well, however, and Kotomitsuki's charge was probably in too much haste for his own good as he lost the left outer grip at the edge, but still, Tenku had to come back down from that upright position on the straw, and when he did Kotomitsuki played the momentum well and just back pedaled a bit pulling the Mongolian down in the process. Though you wanted to see Kotomitsuki get that dominating yori-kiri win, he was in charge throughout. Twas a good display of sumo from the Ozeki as both rikishi settle in at 2-3. Kotomitsuki was so out of synch early on, so it's good to see him coming around the last two days.

Kotooshu was obviously shaken by Aminishiki's henka yesterday because he was so restless and fidgety at the starting lines you would have thought one of his testies had been out of place when his mawashi was tied on. We've commented before how a tachi-ai henka not only affects the actual bout where it occurred, but it affects subsequent bouts as well. So while that's a valid point, it isn't if you're an Ozeki. You HAVE to look past it, especially after the seriousness of Ami's act yesterday. There was not a chance in hell that Ami was gonna henka again today. It's like after you get pulled over and ticketed for speeding. The next week or so you'e pretty cautious obeying the speed limits, but you soon forget and are back to your speeding I hear. The henka's the same, so shame on Kotooshu for letting it get to him.

After a lot of lollygagging at the tachi-ai from Kotooshu, the two clashed with Aminishiki gaining the early advantage with an excellent morote position (two hands to the throat) that knocked the Bulgarian completely upright. Kotooshu tried to latch onto the front of Ami's belt in the process with the left hand, but Aminishiki's charge was just too good causing separation. In this position, a tsuppari clash ensued, but Aminishiki had the momentum. Kotooshu just couldn't answer Aminishiki's shoves, and the M2 had the Ozeki pushed out in about five seconds not to mention a 2-3 record. Aminishiki improves to 3-2 with the good win, but he is still Sumotalk's public enemy number one.

The only way Toyonoshima had a chance today against Yokozuna Asashoryu was to gain the moro-zashi position, but Asashoryu made sure he didn't get it keeping both arms in tight in a semi-awkward tachi-ai that was quickly remedied with a mean nodowa straight into the M3's throat. Toyonoshima admirably held his ground, but the Yokozuna had him pushed upright and easily pounced on the left inside position. Wasting no time, Asashoryu began to force Toyonoshima back grabbing the right outer grip as well, and as he used his left hand to now push at the side of Toyonoshima's head, the M3 did a 180 to try and jump out of the hold, but Asashoryu was on Toyonoshima's every moved and caught Toyonoshima from behind and began driving him towards the head judge. Toyonoshima managed to turn back around at the last minute but all that did was cause him to fall on his back as Asashoryu continued precedent and yori-taoshi'd the crap out of his opponent...not on top of the dohyo but on the dohyo floor below. Asa remains perfect and is clearly sending the message that he is gonna rough up anybody in his path. I actually think Asashoryu's tachi-ai has been off a bit the last few days, and he'd be vulnerable perhaps against a confident rikishi, but finding one of those this basho is as rare as a politician who also isn't known as client number X in some hooker's black book. Toyonoshima remains winless at 0-5.

The Hakuho - Miyabiyama matchup was compelling two years ago, but these days it's just a formality. Hakuho showed a bit of hesitation at the tachi-ai, but Miyabiyama (0-5) didn't even try in this one, so Hakuho just grabbed him by the back of the head and yanked him across the dohyo and down briefly touching the back of the Sheriff's belt with the left hand inviting the uwate-dashi-nage kimarite. This was pure domination and a nice safe win for the Yokozuna who shakes off yesterday's tragedy.

Five days in and we have a curious basho on our hands. I can't remember the last time we had so many rikishi undefeated or winless at the same time. Asashoryu, Kokkai, Hokutoriki, Tochiohzan, and Homasho are all 5-0 while Miyabiyama, Toyonoshima, Takekaze, Tochinonada, Kaiho, Toyohibiki, and Ryuo are all 0-5. Of the undefeateds, all but Asashoryu will fall by the wayside and are really just fighting for special prizes. That scenario sucks for Kokkai as he's the odd man (foreigner) out. I say keep you're eye on Baruto. He doesn't have a shot to yusho, but he should be number 3 on the leaderboard when the dust settles. Also, we really need Kotomitsuki and Kotooshu to be 4-1, not Chiyotaikai and Kaio. The Ozeki played themselves out of this tournament by day 3.

Martin sells it tomorrow in a rare Friday appearance.

Day 4 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
Kenji? Well he is the mean drunk who people walk on eggshells around. Clancy is the peacemaker who has designed too much of his innocuous life specifically around the avoidance of confrontation. 'Laptop' is a smooth guy who is so good with the birds that you want to hate him but he is so absolutely charming that you just can't. Now, go have a good look at Mike's picture. Mike is exactly what he looks like: smart, concretive, dependable, and as naive as Martin in tranny-town. Mike is from the heart of Concervita, plus as a man of great faith he is bound to "believe the best". I think this worldview factored heavily into Mr. W's latest blog entry. Yes, the NSK handled Aloha-gate in a proper manner, but, while I sometimes wish I wasn't, I am waaaay to cynical to believe it was out of any benevolence (especially benevolence extended to Asashoryu) on their part. Shouldn't-Have-Helped-A-Children's-Charity-gate was an embarrassing debacle and not only was the NSK shown to be incompetent boobs, but it also made them do a lot of extra work. I think the NSK is as interested in protecting Asa as I am in gay porn. The decision to not let the media determine their agenda was protection of their own lazy, inept asses and just happened to benefit "their Yokozuna".

But who cares!? Should we?? I don't know. The wrong have failed. The right prevailed. Were we someday to find out Churchill fought so valiantly because he was trying to impress some curvy little crumpet would we be any less indebted to him? True motives, even to one's self, are almost unknowable, so I suppose when the righteous prosper the city may as well matter how it all came about. Either Napoleon said, or someone said of Napoleon, "Sometimes God uses ungodly men to do godly things". Or something like that. I have had the entire SumoTalk Research Team trying to track down that quote but as of this evening they are still empty handed. 

Now lest get down to biddness…

In the first of a great many 0-3 vs. 3-0 bouts today M11 Toyohibiki picked up yet another loss, so that must mean M13 Homasho picked up the win. This one started with a lengthy push fest that it looked briefly like Biki might see the happy end of, but Homasho stayed in the game, and just as Biki was going for a throw he just fell straight backwards onto his big red mawashi. Perplexing sumo again from Biki. Even though he is ranked this low, I am glad to see Homasho picking up some wins. The dude has been in a haze for a few months now, so hopefully a little confidence boost will be what he needs to get back on course. 

The other M13, Ichihara, left Osaka quicker than you can say "Ease off the nabe big boy." On day 5 of the last basho a wise man wrote of Ichihara's weight, "That's a LOT of kgs on ankles and knees. A guy whose bread and butter is yorikiri needs the power, but he also needs to be mobile." Damn, I wish I wasn't so prophetic! Lets all hope he heals up better than new.

Another guy who will be staying undefeated is Takamisakari. Fellow Awamorian Kaiho did his best to trip up his much taller opponent, but Takami used his superior strength and clown power to swing struggling Kaiho out.

Kasugao pushed the action against Futenoh early in their bout, but Futenoh managed to work in two deep inside grips. Kasugao held on for a while but the outcome (and his first loss) was assured the moment he gave Futenoh such an advantageous hand positioning.

I can't really say that Tama-Chan pulled Tochinonada down. He really just stopped pushing and Tochinonada fell forward. No-Nada. No-Wins. No-Good. 

Has anyone else noticed the group guys in the expensive seats who are all wearing matching brown vests (shawls?)? They have been there every day so far. Might be Jedi. 

Baruto dropped that first fight on day one but hasn't looked bad at all from then on. Today he and Iwakiyama had a true super-heavyweight epic battle. After a long and exhausting looking test of strength, which had both competitors trying to pick the other up, Bart spun and threw (THREW!!!) Mt. Iwaki onto a very frightened judge. The ground shook. 

Taking a hint form his new fruity mawashi Goeido henka'd Hokutoriki. Back to Bazzaro World! But Hokutoriki spun around and went to work, finally shoving the young upstart down by his face. Hokutoriki put some mustard on this one and embarrassed Goeido and I can honestly say that for the first time EVER I cheered for Hokutoriki. That was really stupid Goeido! 

Kokkai has somehow already wrapped up the Most Improved Rikishi of 2008 award. Intelligent, strong, controlled, the dude is looking amazing. Its not just that he is good but he is actively improving his sumo. Today he withstood a Tsunami of an initial charge from The Dej that sent him all the way back to the straw rope. But with one quick spin Kokk easily placed the struggling Dejima on the wrong side of the track. Kokkai could one day be a Kotomitsuki-like Sekiwake mainstay at this rate. He prob won't but let's cross our fingers. I got a feeling the white man's train is finally going to come around someday very soon--we are WAY overdue…

And then began the white guys I hate. Roho henka'd one of his best friends today. Roho then went back to the dressing room where he had relations with Wakanoho's girlfriend. Waka has yet to beat Roho in 2 tries. With friends like that …

I think Wakanosato actually thought he was getting somewhere against Kyokutenho today. He wasn't. Poor guy, pushed the Mongolian back, but then Kyokutenho gently rocked right and then powerfully threw left. Classy little throw that used a lot more skill and timing than muscle. 

Keeping on with the Mongolian theme, Asasekiryu and Tokitenku locked up square in the middle. Twisting and turning Seki did an Seki-esque lightning hand position switch (makikae) that gave him a second inside grip. This allowed him to finally dump Tenku. Seki is really almost at the level where he can do some serious damage running interference for Asa. Mike is right when he says that Asa should be doing everything he can to see that Asa improves--it's for Asa's own good.

When the Banzuke arrived at the hotel there was laughter amongst the writers at Takekaze's Komusubi ranking (and the "logic" that placed him there). He is way out of his league this far up, and Ama picked up what will probably be his easiest win this basho. Good tachi-ai, push, push, win.

Today from the tachi-ai, Kisenosato predictably pushed Kaio back, but Mr. Mission Accomplished showed he still has "it" as he implemented yet another classic Kaio kotenage. If given the right positioning Kaio can still hospitalize anyone on the banzuke; he just can't create that positioning himself anymore. I hope Kissy is ok, but it wouldn't surprise me if his arm gives him trouble for some time to come. The slo-mo replay was brutal.

Looking to make up for 3 bad tachi-ai in as many days KotoM walloped Toyonoshima. He grabbed a deep inside right and backed the struggling ToyoIsland back and out. KotoM has one more win than Toyonoshima. 

Yesterday Martian and I were talking about the upcoming Kotooshu/Kak match-up. This is probably the most important fight of the basho for Martin, and he was going into great detail about all the gory things that KotoShoe was going to do to Kak. Martin thought I was crazy when I said that I thought Kak might take this one. Well I should have bet a goat. Kak came out super-henka style but KotoS was able to keep his feet under himself and spin around. Oshu pushed Kak right across the ring, but as he was backpedaling the Mongolian was already planning a desperation kotenage, and Koto touched down just a fraction before Martian's bane. This was a nasty henka, but I can't say that Koto lost directly because of it. Oshu's balance was great, and he really could/should have taken a half second to collect himself instead of running across the dohyo in a panic. 

Piss and vinegar is not only gross, it's also what Chiyotaikai is full of this basho. Perhaps he has been faking an injury for 5 months just so he can catch the opposition off guard?? Today he had a good tachi-ai. He couldn't get the jazz hands in full effect, but he pushed the Geeku back so hard that he had to lean way in. From there 
Chiyo implemented the classic Chiyotaikai-pull-n-pirouette.

So both Yokozuna came into today undefeated. For Hak that meant no losses, and that's great and all, but for Asa it has meant putting the fear of mortality in men. At first it was strange for me seeing Asa fighting in anything but the last fight of the day. I'm sure for him it was even stranger. But this basho he really seems to be getting into it. When Asa fights before Hak he is really putting exclamation points on his wins. Seems to be saying, "Beat that!" to his kohai. Having 2 Yokozuna is fun eh?

But then all my fun ended cause I was robbed. And you were to. With one greasy jump to the side Aminishiki robed us (and several thousand people who paid for tickets) of a chance to see Yokozuna Hakuho fight. There is also a decent chance that he robed us of another amazing senshuraku finale. I have never liked Aminishiki. He is no different than Roho in my book. He doesn't care about the sport, and he doesn't care about the fans.

Hakuho, I doubt you are reading, but just incase: Between basho is the time that you need to assert yourself as a big dig who is not to be trifled with. Fighting the same 2 people everyday before a basho (people you won't even face) is stupid. "I'm the Yokozuna, let them come to me."???????? What the hell kind of prima donna are you? Next time de-geiko comes around you need to track Aminishiki down and work him so hard that he will never dare do that to you again. Make him cry. Make his oyakata complain to the press. Make him fear you. 

I'm so pissed of that it's hard to get back on track here...Ummmm Miyabi looks as bad as Asa looks good. Miyabi mounted no real offence and Asa forced him out in just under 2 seconds.

***** Ok, I'm going to go have a drink (or three) and come back and conclude this Mo-fo *****

I remember back in the day (2003) a young J-minx named Uchidate said "A bad guy makes a baby face attractive, and a baby face makes a bad guy attractive." She was right, you need both to create any sort of drama in movies, sport But how could she have known how far sumo could fall so quickly? 

I mean there is bad physical abuse, crap henka-filled sumo, and shady financial dealings. But you have to draw the line somewhere, and for her and the media that seems to be Hawaiian shirts and charity work. But then I got to thinking that if Aloha shirts and charity work are bad things then why is Robin Williams so popular?

Homer once said "The only guys who were Hawaiian shirts are gay guys and big fat party animals." The shirt is for Asa but the fruity cocktail is for yours truly! 

And if u don't like my shirt, f*#k off and die!

Mike's gunna put the futons out to sun tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I'm a product of the 80's...that decade when we could get nothing right. Chicks wore sweaters down to their knees that covered everything but those awful stirrup pants on underneath. And even when we had a pretty good band from Philly called the Hooters, they weren't named after THOSE hooters. But speaking of music, one of the things we did have were plenty of concerts where you'd have a solid headliner and then a good up-and-comer as well opening for them. We could all reminisce on some of the great combinations we saw live. Occasionally, however, you'd get an opening act that just kicked ass on the headliner, and this was happening more and more, so in the 90's bands started either bagging an opening act altogether or bringing someone on tour that was so bad that you wanted to get high on the drugs the dude next to you was taking just so you could experience the mindset of the record company execs who signed the band in the first place. Anyway, the reason I even mention this is to talk about the Ozeki. Remove the two Yokozuna from the equation for now as the Board of Directors should seriously create a seventh division for Asashoryu and Hakuho--let's just focus on the Ozeki and below, after all that's really a sub-basho to the actual Haru basho that will occur on senshuraku.

If the Ozeki were some of those 80's headlining bands, they are sure getting they're asses kicked by the opening act. The Ozeki had a rough day 1, and then they rebounded a bit the next day, and today they did come out 2-2 overall, but it's the way that they are picking up their wins and the way that they are losing that's so disturbing. Since things were bleak as usual today, I'm gonna start with the Ozeki and then head back up the ranks to the Yokozuna later.

Leading off, Kaio was matched up against Komusubi Takekaze, who vowed in his pre-basho press conference that he didn't care if he lost every bout, he'd fight with some vigor. At least he's keeping half of his promise. Today at the tachi-ai, as soon as he made contact with Kaio, the Ozeki just slapped him to the dirt. Takekaze's poor footing may have contributed to the fall, but this was over in half a second. There's nothing to analyze here, so I'll repeat what I said in my pre-basho report. It's one thing for a guy ranked M4 or M5 to get off to a hot start and be paired with an Ozeki mid-basho and beat him, but it's completely different when he gets all of them in week one when he has no momentum. Kaio improves to 2-1 while Takekaze's 0-3.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai has got his pride, and then when he faces a bugger like Komusubi Kisenosato who had the audacity to commit a careless false start, you knew the Ozeki was going to have the red ass in their bout today. And Chiyotaikai didn't disappoint...well, at least in the tenacity department. Chiyotaikai came out with the guns ablazin', but Kisenosato just stood his ground backing up a step or two, but keeping the Ozeki in front of him the whole time. As I alluded to yesterday, Chiyotaikai's been more bark then bite this basho, and both of them knew it because about 4 seconds in with Kisenosato not having attempted a single offensive maneuver yet still standing soundly in the ring, Chiyotaikai panicked and went for an ill-advised pulldown, but his hands slipped right off of the back of the Kid's head throwing himself off balance and allowing Kisenosato to easily push him down to the dirt. Hell, the way Chiyotaikai's hands slipped off of Kisenosato's dome, you'd think these guys were putting oil in their hair or something. Go figure. Regardless, Kisenosato moves to 2-1 without hardly lifting a finger. Chiyotaikai falls to the same mark and was exposed a bit in this one.

Ozeki Kotooshu and M2 Miyabiyama traded tentative tsuppari for about 6 six seconds before each attempted lame pull downs. In an ugly affair such as this where both rikishi are playing it defensively, the superior rikishi will prevail as the Ozeki did with a final well-timed hataki-komi. There's really not much to comment on here. Miyabiyama's thrusts were tentative, and Kotooshu didn't really show a strong desire to force his way in onto the belt, so the end result is hataki-komi. I don't expect the Ozeki to fight at the same level as the Yokozuna, but it'd sure be nice if they could win convincingly moving forward sometimes. Kotooshu improves to 2-1 while MiFlobby is still winless.

The best word I can think of to describe Ozeki Kotomitsuki's sumo this basho is dreary. Today against M1 Asasekiryu, the M1 bumped chests with the Ozeki and then immediately moved to his left to grab the cheap uwate, but Kotomitsuki failed to react whatsoever to the move and just rocketed straight forward and down to the dirt in the one-second affair. Some would think that this was a henka, but I'd say not necessarily. Asasekiryu hit moving forward and didn't slip to the side until after contact was made. But so what? Even if it was a henka, is that the way to react by Kotomitsuki? By flopping to the dirt? Normally when someone gets henka'd where the other guy's going for the cheap uwate, at least the one who has been greased has the chance to start to turn around and try and make of fight of things, but Kotomitsuki just fell flat on his face. That's the problem with the bout today. Kotomitsuki isn't even trying and his 0-3 record is proof of that. Asasekiryu moves to 2-1 with the win, and while I get annoyed when a rikishi constantly goes for that cheap uwate, I didn't have a problem with it. The Ozeki has got to react better than he did.

Let's climb back up to the Yokozuna where Hakuho capped the day off against upstart M1 Kakuryu. Hakuho exhibited his usual tachi-ai and after a brief fracas came away with the left outer grip. To Kakuryu's credit, he manned up and went chest to chest with the Yokozuna to try and make a bout out of it, but it didn't really matter. Hakuho just swung him over near the edge of the ring by the side of the belt, which was probably a throw attempt, but with Kakuryu admirably still on his feet and showing good resistance, the Yokozuna shifted gears a bit and just shoved at Kakuryu's chest with his right hand while tripping him over with the his left leg for the kiri-kaeshi win. Hakuho was never in danger as he moves to 3-0 while you have to give Kakuryu (1-2) props these days for fighting his opponents straight on and only retreating when he has no other choice.

If Yokozuna Asashoryu was sending a message the first two days with his extra shoves at the end of his bouts, then he just decreed a new law today at the end of his bout with M2 Aminishiki. Holy crap. The Yokozuna executed his usual hari-zashi tachi-ai and took advantage of the slower Aminishiki at the tachi-ai securing the outer grip, but like yesterday, it was on the right-hand side. Still, Asashoryu wasted no time in forcing Aminishiki back a few steps with the position, and just when Aminishiki began to dig in near the edge of the tawara, Asashoryu lifted him off balance a bit, put his left hand at the side of Aminishiki's head, and just bulldozed Sneaky out to the side. But that's not all. As the two rikishi neared the tawara, Asashoryu launched himself into Aminishiki's body and rode the dude down to the arena floor causing a spectacular heap in the first row. Aminishiki (1-2) got up in a daze and was limping as he climbed back onto the dohyo...for good reason.  That was a nasty spill, but look on the bright side, things'll get easier tomorrow against Hakuho.  Or not.  As for Asashoryu, that dude is dialed in.  The extra shoves have been intentional, and today's emphatic finish against Aminishiki was intentional as well.  Remember when this guy used to call his shots?  Often times when Chiyonofuji was the head judge, Asashoryu would beat his opponent via uwate-nage where he pulled down at the back of his opponent's head with the non throwing hand to add emphasis, just as Chiyonofuji would do.  I think his current actions on the dohyo are a sign that he still thinks he's the man, and that he can toy with his opponents.  I don't doubt him.

Sekiwake Ama looked to take advantage of Wakanoho's awkward sumo today with a lower than usual charge into Wakanoho's mid-section, but the young Russian reacted nicely by grabbing the back of Ama's belt with the left hand while pushing in sideways at Ama's head with the right. Ama continued to drive Wakanoho back from his low stance, but the Ho just put all of his weight on Ama's upper body--which wasn't supported well with good footing--and just rode him into the clay near the edge causing Ama to fall quite awkwardly. Ama (1-2) got up slowly as if he had injured something, but I think it was his pride that suffered the most after this one. He just got outclassed by Wakanoho who moves to 2-1.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku looks a bit hesitant to me this basho, and it began today from the starting lines. The Geeku just didn't look comfortable as he lined up against M4 Kyokutenho, but instead of reloading, he charged anyway keeping both arms in tight as if to go for the moro-zashi position. Kyokutenho immediately took advantage with the easy left outer grip and established the difference in the bout by keeping his right arm inside to the point that Kotoshogiku was denied morozashi altogether. Without any sorta position with the left hand, Kotoshogiku (1-2) began his patented gaburi attack anyway, but Kyokutenho now maintaining the smothering left outer grip wasted no time in halting the Geeku's faux charge and lifting him over to the straw and out for the nice yotsu-zumo win and 2-1 record.

M5 Wakanosato briefly enjoyed the morozashi position from the tachi-ai today against M3 Tokitenku, but the Mongolian fought it off well with a sweet push to Wakanosato's face and throat with the right hand leaving the two hunkered down low with heads on shoulders and wrists flirting down below. After a 10 second stalemate with a few meager pull attempts, Wakanosato said enough of this nonsense and muscled his way into his opponent demanding the left inner position that was so good he was able to knock Tenku completely upright, grab the right outer grip, and force Tokitenku (2-1) back across the straw picking up his first win in the process.

In one of the better matches of the day, M5 Kokkai charged uncharacteristically low against M3 Toyonoshima, so the Tokitsukaze-beya rikishi went for a rare pull attempt straightway. It didn't knock Kokkai to the dirt, but it did knock him off balance enough to where Toyonoshima bullied his way into the morozashi position. And just when you thought that Toyonoshima had finally enjoyed morozashi, Kokkai found a brilliant way to counter it, which was to push into Toyonoshima's neck as hard as he could with both paws. Toyonoshima just couldn't take the onslaught and released his grip leaving the two to grapple for new positions, and when the dust settled, Toyonoshima found himself with a right outer grip, a position he can't attack from especially against a much larger opponent. To his credit he tried, but Kokkai was able to twist him down at the edge dumping Toyonoshima (0-3) to another frustrating loss.  Kokkai's still perfect at 3-0.

M7 Hokutoriki jumped out to a nice 3-0 start today by completely dismantling M6 Roho with his usual morote tachi-ai followed up with effective thrust attacks. As I've stated oft the last few basho, Roho has played himself out of sound sumo altogether by resorting to too many henka and too much unorthodox sumo. We've seen Roho among the jo'i bully his way to a legitimate 10-5 record, but he has abandoned that desire to force the yotsu-zumo issue, and the result is an easy target in the ring. Hokutoriki needed about three steps and three simultaneous shoves into Roho's throat to seal the deal. The Prince falls to a frustrating 1-2...and yes, I just called him the Prince. What, after seeing that dude Amy Winehouse's face plastered in the media lately, the term ugly has been redefined. As a big sumo fan, I'm used to guys with nice breasts like that Winehouse fella, but that makeup? And the teeth? Roho's gorgeous george compared to him. 

M6 Dejima finally faced an opponent today who doesn't have a history of henka'ing, the problem was it was M7 Baruto. The Degyptian popped Baruto pretty good at the start, but the Estonian stood his ground unbelievably well and stopped Dejima in his tracks. Looking to change things up, Dejima hunkered down low so that his torso was parallel with the dohyo, but the problem here is if you're not used to fighting in that style, Baruto is the last guy you should try it out on. Baruto took the gifted outer grip on the back of Dejima's mawashi, then he wisely used his left arm underneath Dejima's torso to keep him at bay. After methodically nudging Dejima back near the straw, Baruto forced him upright with a surge from that left arm and easily forced him out from there. Dejima (0-3) has had a rough schedule the first three days, so things should start looking up for him tomorrow.  Baruto improves to 2-1.

M9 Kasugao came with an awkward left hari-te at the tachi-ai against M8 Goeido that gave the Osakan the early left outer grip, but Goeido couldn't take advantage as Kasugao was pressing into him so tightly that Goeido's body was raised upright higher than he wanted. Goeido fights best when his head is burrowed into his opponent's shoulder, not sitting on top of it, especially when it's a bigger dude like Kasugao. Goeido tried to keep Kasugao away from the left outer, but the Korean just bullied is way inside cutting off Goeido's own outer in the process. Once Kasugao had the left uwate leaving Goeido only with his right inner, Kasugao had the advantage and pounced on it straightway throwing Goeido to the clay via uwate-nage. This kinda reminded me of the Asashoryu - Hakuho bout last basho in terms of Goeido making the mistake of tightly aligning chests with a bigger, stronger opponent.  Kasugao's perfect at 3-0 while Goeido suffers his first loss.

M9 Iwakiyama has shown new life in here in Osaka, and it showed again today against M8 Tochinonada. Nada gave up the right outside grip to his opponent in exchange for the left inner, but Iwaki the Hutt used his forearm and elbow perfectly to pinch Tochinonada's arm inward rendering it ineffective. Iwakiyama immediately began the force back, and Tochinonada simply couldn't get that left arm in deep enough around Iwakiyama's girth to have any effective, so the bout was over in less than five seconds. Great stuff from Iwakiyama who moves to 2-1 while Tochinonada sits on the doughnut.

M10 Futenoh once again came in too high at the tachi-ai, and against M11 Takamisakari today he would pay the price. After wiping the chikara-mizu from his mouth so hard with that little piece of paper that I thought he'd knock half his teeth loose, Takamisakari slammed into Futenoh and demanded the morozashi position as Futenoh's high charge only gave him a fist full of the Cop's sagari with the right hand. It was over in seconds as Takamisakari forced Futenoh back and out to the delight of the crowd. Mr. Bean moves to 3-0 while Futenoh begins to flounder at 1-2.

Okay, here's the problem with M11 Toyohibiki. It's his lower body. It takes the dude 3-5 steps to finish one thrust attempt. Today at the tachi-ai against M10 Tamakasuga, I counted five steps from Toyohibiki before he had finished his first thrust. When rikishi practice teppo exercises, they don't get a running start, and they don't stand there pushing at the pole while spinning their wheels in cartoon style. But that is exactly what Toyohibiki (0-3) is doing. His initial thrust from the tachi-ai is fueled by a running start, not a firmly planted leg to the clay and synchronized thrust attempt to follow. Suffice it to say that his timing was off yet again, and after about three awkward thrust attempts, Tamakasuga (1-2) timed the perfect pulldown for the victory. Read on to see how the lower body is supposed to fuel the attack.

As I suspected, M12 Tochiohzan looks as if he has a new meaning to life. Despite a pretty swell right nodowa from M14 Kaiho at the tachi-ai that kept Oh off the belt, Tochiohzan dug in well, kept his eyes square on his opponent, and used his legs to counter with pushes of his own that were so effective that Kaiho was driven back and out in about four seconds. If you have the means, watch Tochiohzan's footwork in this one. It was flawless as he grounded himself in rhythm before every thrust attempt, so no wonder each shove connected and drove Kaiho (0-3) back a step. It was one-two-three, oshi-dashi win for Tochiohzan. Great stuff as he moves to 3-0.

M13 Homasho kept his winning ways alive today, but not by much against the smaller M12 Yoshikaze. After the two rammed heads into each other's shoulders at the tachi-ai, Yoshikaze dictated the pace with short but effective thrusts into Homasho's neck. Homie never could get inside, and at one point Yoshikaze had him turned 90 degrees, but Homasho was nimble enough to escape allowing the ugly pushfest to continue. After about 12 seconds of unstable sumo from both parties, Homasho finally timed a pull down that knocked Yoshikaze down to the dirt. Twas ugly, but Homasho will take a 3-0 start any which way.  Yoshikaze is 0-3.

M14 Kakizoe, coming off of his spectacular win yesterday over Ichihara, looked to bully M15 Wakakirin today, and I thought that would be the case after Wakakirin's ugly tachi-ai where he just sorta hopped like a bunny straight up in the air. To his credit though, Wakakirin never took his eyes off of his opponent, and despite giving up the advantage at the tachi-ai, he was on his opponent's every move place perfectly-timed nodowa shoves as he backpedaled that kept Kakizoe from getting in deep enough to go for the kill. Kakizoe did manage a moro-zashi position, but it wasn't deep, and as he went for the kill at the tawara, Wakakirin had created enough space and was watching his opponent well enough that he was able to time that last gasp ditch at the edge and pull Kakizoe down before he himself stepped out. It looked to be really close, and I couldn't believe they didn't call a mono-ii, but I'll be damned if the gyoji didn't get it right: gunbai to Wakakirin (1-2) by a nosehair.  Kakizoe falls to 2-1.

M16 Otsukasa was finally in a bout today against a formidable opponent in Makuuchi rookie, M15 Sakaizawa, and the veteran just took it to the youngster hitting and going for that quick pulldown that completely threw Sakaizawa off balance from the beginning. The feisty Otsukasa was relentless in his alternating nodowa - pull attack, and the newcomer finally collapsed to the dirt in frustration. Otsukasa moves to 3-0 with the nifty win while Sakaizawa has gotta learn that when you face an inferior opponent, you don't let him dictate things at the tachi-ai. Need to see bit more pop from Sakaizawa at the start.  He falls to 2-1.

And finally, J1 Tosanoumi visited from Juryo and has probably seen M16 Ryuo enough to know that the pull down was coming at some point during the bout because the Blue Collar Man stood more upright than he usually does and watched Ryuo like a hawk as he danced around the ring. The veteran finally timed a pull down move that fell Ryuo to the clay with little fanfare. Ryuo...when guys win and you hear their comments afterwards, what do they always say? "I just tried to charge straight ahead." Sumo is a linear sport first, and a chaotic sport as a last resort. No wonder he's 0-3.

The good Reverend Arbo takes the pulpit tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Every single email I received yesterday from cupids around the globe had a comment about how bad the Ozeki sucked on day 1. In fact, not only was it a record setting day for kensho in Osaka, but it was the first time that "eff off and die" wasn't the most common phrase seen in my inbox. We shouldn't be too hard on the Ozeki, however. It's not as if they have a chance or anything. All it does is provide us talking points while we wait for the fireworks on senshuraku. And speaking of talking points, did anyone notice that fan sitting in the front row today who wasn't wearing a proper shirt? Unfortunately, the fan wasn't one of those Osaka hotties Clancy mentioned yesterday; rather, it was an old guy wearing nothing but an undershirt. Dude, if you can afford to buy a front row seat at the sumos, surely you can visit the nearest Jusco and pick up a nice blouse or something.

But I digress. Onto the day 2 action in chronological order. For the second day in a row M15 Wakakirin showed a decent tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai only to lose his footing for no reason and crumble to the dirt a few seconds in. When Tosanoumi fell to Juryo, did Wakakirin take over his locker and dig out that old pair of roller skates? Who knows, but he is off to an 0-2 start while M16 Otsukasa lucks his way to an easy 2-0.

M16 Ryuo enjoyed a decent surge from the tachi-ai pushing M15 Sakaizawa back two steps with some well-timed nodowa, but the moment Sakaizawa dug in and showed the first bit of resistance, Ryuo went into pull mode putting both hands at the back of the rookie's head allowing Sakaizawa to turn the tables and push Ryuo back across the ring and down onto his ass in the corner of the dohyo. At this point after fighting Wakakirin and Ryuo, Sakaizawa's gotta be thinking "this Makuuchi stuff ain't so bad after all." Just wait until you rise up a few notches. Nonetheless, Sakaizawa is already dreaming of sumo vixens at 2-0. Ryuo is hapless as usual at 0-2.

M13 Homasho made short work of M14 Kaiho today using his head and shoulder from the tachi-ai to push the shorter rikishi back a step before using a kachi-age move with the left arm that completely lifted Kaiho upright at the edge setting him up for the easy oshi-taoshi win. Is Homasho back at 2-0? Way too early to tell because the bottom five ranks of the banzuke stink so bad, but thankfully, Homie ain't struggling at this point. Kaiho is at 0-2.

In the most compelling matchup early on, M11 Toyohibiki lunged into M12 Tochiohzan with good intentions, but Oh dug in firmly fighting off a nodowa and positioning both hands on the inside. When the Nikibi saw his nodowa wasn't getting much push, he panicked and went for a left outer position, but his relenting ever so slightly with that throat hold allowed Tochiohzan to lunge forward into moro-zashi and have the Hutt pushed to the side and out in no time. For the second day in a row, Toyohibiki started relatively close to the starting lines yet he still lost. I think Mark and I have been catfighting over the wrong topic with Toyohibiki (0-2). His tachi-ai isn't the problem. Apparently dude just isn't that good. Now Mr. Arbo, can we get back together already? As for Tochiohzan (2-0), he's showing the form he displayed in his Makuuchi debut that sprung him to an 11-4 record. Part of it is the sorry competition this low, but remember, Oh struggled mightily for a couple basho now at these same ranks, so it's safe to say he's finally turning things around.

M12 Yoshikaze just ran into a brick wall in M11 Takamisakari today at the tachi-ai attempting a shove attack but ending up with his body upright and feet pretty much aligned. With his momentum stopped, the Cop pounced ducking his head on the inside and getting his right arm so deep in on Yoshikaze's left that he was able to lift Yoshikaze straight up off balance and just dump him to the clay in a heap on top of the starting lines. The Osaka faithful get their money's worth for arriving early as Takamisakari moves to 2-0. Yoshikaze falls to 0-2.

Has anyone noticed lately that M10 Tamakasuga leans so far forward at the starting lines that his head and torso are actually further forward than his hands? How can he get any momentum from that position? He can't...especially against a Hutt. Today M9 Iwakiyama easily absorbed the King's push and managed a right outer grip about two seconds in. He patiently waited for a few more seconds as he gathered his second wind and then unleashed a right outer belt throw adding insult to injury by pulling down at the side of KingTama's head with his left hand. The inhabitants of that wretched hive of villainy and scum, Mos Eisley, are obviously pissed about Toyohibiki's start, but at least they broke even on Iwakiyama today as he moves to 1-1. The King is 0-2.

In the featured bout of the first half, M10 Futenoh came in a tad too high at the tachi-ai and Japan's only hope made him pay by grabbing the firm right outer grip followed up with a nifty inner on the left as well. Futenoh immediately attempted to counter by working his left arm somewhere into M8 Goeido's left side, but I haven't been slobbering over Goeido for nothin'. The Osaka native pinched in at Futenoh's left arm with his right while simultaneously lifting up at his opponent with the left inside position. Futenoh was harpooned at the this point to the extent where Goeido nearly dragged him down by pulling outwardly with his left grip. Futenoh did manage to keep his footing, but Goeido reloaded with his left hand positioned at the front of Futenoh's belt allowing the upstart to school his older opponent with the shweet yori-kiri win. Goeido was in control throughout as he moves to 2-0 while Futenoh falls to 1-1.

M9 Kasugao exhibited a solid tachi-ai against M8 Tochinonada completely halting the gentle giant at the starting lines, and as Nada fished for his favored left inside position, Kasugao clamped his right hand on the outside of Tochinonada's belt and went for the immediate throw that I think caught Tochinonada by surprise a bit. Nada attempted to counter with a scoop throw of his own near the edge, but Kasugao is a bulldog when he's got that right outer grip and the throw from that position was just too solid to overcome as Tochinonada's elbow crashed to the dirt before Kasugao fell. This was great sumo from Kasugao who moves to 2-0 while Tochinonada has yet to find his legs this low in the ranks at 0-2.

As I watched M6 Baruto and M7 Roho go through their pre-bout rituals, it dawned on me that the sumo up to this point had been quite solid and that I didn't want to see the two foreigners ruin it. They didn't, thankfully, with a straightforward tachi-ai where Baruto's mass won out giving him the easy right outer grip. Not only did the Estonian enjoy the right outer, but he used his left arm on the inside so well that Roho was about as close to an outer grip on that side as a dude who collects superhero action figures is to getting a girl's phone number. In this position, Baruto took a bit of time to dig in before methodically bullying Roho back and out with ease. Baruto recovers nicely from that debacle against Hokutoriki yesterday to improve to 1-1. Roho shares the same record.

And speaking of M7 Hokutoriki, his history of tachi-ai henka was the difference today against M6 Dejima. No, Hokutoriki didn't go for the lube job, but Dejima was pretty sure he would (as Clancy pointed out yesterday as well), so he was extremely late at the tachi-ai. By the time he got up out of his crouch, Hokutoriki was on him like white on rice with a decent tsuppari attack. Dejima's mistake was that he tried to trade pushes instead of withstanding the blows and looking for an inside position. Once during the bout, Hokutoriki lost his footing, and soon thereafter he went for a counter pull move, both instances where Dejima could have capitalized had he been thinking yotsu-zumo. But he wasn't today, and even though he managed to push Hokutoriki back after the Jokester's pull attempt, the attack didn't contain enough substance, so Hokutoriki was able to skip to his side at the edge and pull Dejima down in the process. For the second day in a row, Dejima is cognizant of the fact that a tachi-ai henka is likely to come his way, so he gets off to a bad start not to mention his 0-2 record. Just another reason how the henka ruins sumo even when it doesn't rear its ugly face. Hokutoriki waltzes to 2-0 with two decent wins.

M5 Wakanosato made a critical mistake today at the tachi-ai against M4 Wakanoho going for a hari-te with the right hand instead of focusing on a moro-zashi position which is usually obtainable against green guys like Wakanoho. Before Wakanosato's right hand came down from the slap, Wakanoho had a smothering left outer grip and countered that brilliantly by keeping Wakanosato's left arm to the outside as well. Wakanosato's working his way into a left outer of his own with those crocodile arms of his was as likely as hiding a boner in sweatpants, so Wakanoho methodically forced his opponent back and out leaving no room for carelessness. Great stuff from Wakanoho who picks up his first win in Osaka while Wakanosato is an o'fer.

M5 Kokkai's conversion to yotsu-zumo is paying dividends so far. Today against M4 Kyokutenho he kept both arms in tight as he slammed into his opponent forcing both of Tenho's arms to the outside. Kokkai didn't stop there, however, and try to monkey around with any sort of belt grip; rather, he maintained that momentum gained from the tachi-ai and just bodied Kyokutenho back with such force that he was easy pushout fodder at the edge. Great stuff from Kokkai who used an excellent tachi-ai and perfect de-ashi to filet the Chauffeur and move to 2-0. Tenho is 1-1.

Sekiwake Ama caught M2 Toyonoshima in the throat with a head butt at the tachi-ai that knocked the Maegashira straight upright and out of any sort of inside position. Ama quickly grabbed Toyonoshima's right arm and tried to twist him out of the dohyo with a tottari throw, and even though Toyonoshima survived the attack, he was still as far away from an inside position as Science Fiction fans are from first base. Ama, who dictated the pace throughout, pounced again with an oshi attack that was so potent it knocked Toyonoshima across the dohyo and down onto his ass just outside of the ring. Ama improves to 1-1 with the win while Toyonoshima's struggles among the jo'i continue at 0-2.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku kept both arms in tight looking for the moro-zashi position against M2 Tokitenku, but he didn't get it straightway and allowed Tokitenku to force his left arm on the inside instead which then set up the quick right outer grip for him. Kotoshogiku found himself with nary a shot at an uwate and absolutely no momentum after the failed tachi-ai, and Tokitenku must have smelled the Geeku's fear because he went for a quick uwate throw with the left hand that easily dumped the Sekiwake to the dirt. Great stuff from Tokitenku who has the ability to shine even at this rank; thus his 2-0 start. The Geeku rethinks his life at 1-1.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kotooshu came with a quick left harite against Komusubi Takekaze and then wisely kept his right arm low denying his opponent any shot of morozashi. The slap worked well, and then the Bulgarian was able to bring that right arm up and under Takekaze's left side with so much effectiveness that Kotooshu had Takekaze upright and backpedaling to his certain doom before Oshu could even gain the left outer grip for insurance. In the end, the kimarite was yoritaoshi, but regardless of that, the important thing is that Kotooshu kicked Takekaze's ass. Oshu picks up his first win while Takekaze is an expected 0-2.

It's amazing how some of these Ozeki fight when their backs are against the wall. Chiyotaikai came out with a furious tsuppari attack against M2 Aminishiki that wasn't as effective in driving his opponent back as it was in keeping him completely frustrated. Aminishiki tried in vain to wax off the Ozeki's thrusts and evade to the side, but Chiyotaikai was on his every move and frustrated Ami long enough until he was close the tawara to where Chiyotaikai could move in for the oshi-dashi kill. After Chiyotaikai's pathetic effort in January, I questioned whether or not he even had the desire to fight on, but it's apparent he does. Still, it doesn't mean that his sumo is good again. I'd call it feisty. When Chiyotaikai is good, he knocks his opponents straight back and out, but this basho, he really doesn't have any de-ashi, and he's using rapid fire thrusts to his opponent's face to make them flinch their way back instead of bulldozing them back with sheer force. There's a big difference and you'll see what I mean against the Kid tomorrow, but Taikai has gotta be relieved at his 2-0 start. Sneaky falls to 1-1.

Kaio kept the Ozeki winning streak going against M2 Miyabiyama although he had to work a bit for the win. Miyabiyama came with his usual lumbering tsuppari attack, but Kaio's timing was perfect as he lifted up at the Sheriff's left arm with his right hand that completely threw Miyabiyama off balance and out of his tsuppari mode. Kaio immediately forced the bout to yotsu-zumo, but Miyabi the Hutt used his left arm on the inside to keep Kaio far away from his coveted right outer grip. Kaio persisted, however, bodying Miyabiyama back near the edge where he was finally able to grab that right outer grip and seal the deal with a patented yori-kiri win. This bout was a perfect example of just how good Kaio's ring sense is. He made all the right adjustments to secure the win improving to 1-1. Miyabiyama has shown his own age by failing to take advantage of both Kaio and Chiyotaikai the first two days.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Kotomitsuki lunged right into a wicked right hari-te slap from Kisenosato that clearly threw the Ozeki off from the beginning and raised his head up. With Kotomitsuki seeing stars, the Kid latched onto a right outer grip and used his left arm at the inside of Mitsuki's right to completely neutralize the Ozeki. Kisenosato wasted no time from there easily driving Kotomitsuki back and out for the outstanding win. The Kid moves to 1-1 and looks to be in fine form, which also illustrates how well Asashoryu is fighting. Kotomitsuki has been schooled two days in a row now.

In the penultimate bout, Yokozuna Hakuho used a perfect kachi-age move with the right hand that stopped M1 Asasekiryu in his tracks at the tachi-ai, and then as Seki tried to burrow inside from there, the Yokozuna used his left arm underneath his opponent to keep him away from the belt. Completely frustrated, Asasekiryu tried to evade back a bit and to his left, but Hakuho reacted on a dime using his right arm now underneath to keep Asasekiryu from his coveted inside position while slapping down at the back of Seki's head with the left paw. This was perfect stuff from Hakuho as he skates to the easy victory and a 2-0 mark while not-so-Sexy must settle for 1-1.

In the final bout of the day, Asashoryu's execution against M1 Kakuryu may not have been as swift as his attack yesterday, but it was just as good. Using a right harite at the tachi-ai, Asashoryu set up the quick left inside position that he was able to follow up with an outer grip on the right side. The Yokozuna wasted no time in going for the uwate throw, but the Yokozuna's uwate-nage attack isn't as potent from the right side, and Kakuryu was able not only to stave the move off, but he ended up with a right outer grip of his own forcing the bout to the gappuri hidari yotsu position. Still, the difference between these two rikishi is so vast that Asashoryu took two seconds to dig in before lifting Kakuryu clear off his feet and setting him outside of the dohyo. But the Yokozuna wasn't finished there using that extra shove to send Kakuryu into the second row. It was a dame-oshi for sure and Asa's second in as many days, but the Yokozuna is sending a message as he moves to 2-0. The Kak dribbles to 1-1 but should keep his head up. He'll come around I'm sure.

Keeping me down is as difficult as stifling a fart in tight pants, so see you here tomorrow...same time, same place.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hello crime stoppers! I'm still recovering from the pain of having to relinquish my Hatsu Basho Day 15 report and fuming over the fact that I had to listen to the bout of the millennium via bus radio. Oh yeah, an actual radio with a dial that you turn and try to make the orange bar fall as close as you can on the station's frequency, with one hand on the back of the seat in front of you trying to ride the jostles as well as you can. I was being bussed somewhere by the government of my town here in sleepy Awaji. I'll leave it up to you, dear listener, to ruminate on the whys and wherefores. Suffice it to say I am a free man for the moment.

It occurs to me that many of you who regularly tune in to our broadcast have never been to Osaka, Nippon, and that a good number of you who have indeed visited the historic "City of 800 Bridges" (before the American blew most of them to kingdom come) stopped by for just a day or so. So with Mixmaster Mike and his homeboys Kenji and Mark all based, at one time or another and off and on, in the southern Nippon municipality of Fukuoka (pro. foo koo oh kah, not the other naughty way, like you're telling off some government official in charge of bussing), and Martin ensconced in some ancient Roman province with no corporeal experience of Nippon whatsoever (not that this weakens his sumo takes--dude's smarter than a laptop), I figured I should give you the lowdown on Osaka, its history, its beauty, its idiosyncrasies, its atmosphere, its...nah, I'll just tell you that the chicks rock if you're funny and can hold your liquor (guess who falls into that category?) 

Point is, I lived in Osaka long enough to know of what I speak (and even if I didn't I'd still act as if I do). Sure, you could get all "cozy" in your computer chair and google "Osaka", but all you're going to end up with is either official info (useless for cool cats such as you, valued listener) or the opinions of other amateurs. And the way I see it, if you're going to listen to the opinions of others, might as well listen to the opinion of a guy who once ate 2.4 kilos of grilled chicken in one hour on a bet in a rowdy Osaka izakaya. Then threw it up in six neat piles all over the neighborhood. And returned to continue drinking

While living in East Osaka (Nippon's version of The Bowery), I was barred by iron clad contractual law from teaching English after hours anywhere while employed as a Junior High School sock puppet. Being the Boy Scout that I am, I hopped on my bike and rode into the city to teach English in the evenings to corporate girls and boys for about sixteen hours per week. This left scant time for studying, but I tried to pick up as much as I could through simple interaction with the students (the sum total of my learning in that first year, as I recall, being how to say, "It unhooks in the front, silly!") This two-wheeled commute wound me through the oddest places, and when I had time on my hands (which was often, as I lived in a tiny flat with nothing but a black and white TV and a rice cooker I called Lil' Steamy for company), I stopped and visited shops, baths, shrines, talked with kids in the street and old women and men on their stoops, helped people carrying things, and chatted with police officers walking the beat. I was a frickin' Frank Capra film.

To cut this long intro short, I came to understand that Osaka is not your typical Nipponese city. I've also lived in Tokyo, worked in Tokyo, partied in Tokyo. Osaka? You, sir, are no Tokyo! And to me and many others, that's a good thing. Osaka has a long tradition of iconoclasticism, of being outside the norm here in the Land of a Thousand Ways to Agree to do the Same Thing as Everyone Else. The standard take is that Osakan merchants are more chatty, people more outgoing, and politicians more colorful, and as much as I abhor clichés, it's generally true. The back streets of Kyobashi are full of interesting things to see and exploit, and Tennoji, in South Osaka, with its homeless street characters and seedy neighborhoods, is the only place in Nippon where I have felt a modicum of a smidgen of a hint of trepidation at venturing further into something for fear of my safety. It made me think of NYC and I loved it! 

So to me, Osaka fits Asa like a glove. Genghis is a rowdy sort, a hellion screwing over the NSK and fans all over the country by playing futbol with delinquent schoolchildren, telling nice cameramen to eat shit and linger, hurting other rikishi by drilling them new food exits. And although he has had only sporadic success here, I fully expect him to deliver the goods and not let mighty Kublai skate to the title. This is my mindset as I approach the Day One bouts. Are we together on this? Good.

Someone reading an EKG readout of Second-in-command East Yokozuna Hakuho (just squeaking by an Asa coming off a two basho suspension and trip to Loonyland does not compel me to elevate him in rank above Genghis, whatever the banzuke says--but he wins this time and he's Numero Uno) instead of watching the bout would have figured the Yokozuna was home clipping his toenails while listening to Enya albums and not taking on the new Komusubi Takekaze. Don't get me wrong. Takekaze can cause problems for some guys, just not Hakuho. And I've seen worse displays from shin-K in their first bout with a grand champion than today's match. Takekaze gave the Yokozuna an honest tachi-ai, engaging in a little arm grappling and then shifting away and staying low to avoid letting the big man get his belt. Hakuho opened up letting Takekaze get the inside grip he thought he could use, but that let Kublai snatch a powerful left back belt grip. After securing a hold with his right hand, Hakuho simply gave him the wedgie treatment, lifting him clean off his feet. Mercy was in the Mongolian's heart today, though, and he gently threw him to the dirt (relative to how fiercely he could have done it). Don Miguel's pre-basho "Take on Take" will prove to be spot on. Dude is going to get beaten like a wedding cake eggwhite this first week. (Or is he? Vide the collective Ozeki Day One effort below.)

It tells you something about the way the NSK would like to see things fall when you look at the first day pairings. They could have put Kisenosato vs. Hakuho, giving the Hatsu yusho winner a deservedly stiff challenge and instead handed Takekaze on a platter to Asa. But today they gave Asa the bigger test right out of the gate (same as in January, when they set the returning Asa against the much tougher Komusubi Geeku and gifted Hakuho with Komusubi Dejima) and he did not disappoint. In a bout with OMEN written all over it, Asa got out of the gate faster than Mike out of jury duty, staying sweet and low and plowing into The Kid to grab the hug o' death morozashi, driving him back and out and finishing with his patented cherry on top, Extrashoveyou sayanora. I wish there was more meat on this drumstick people, but there ain't. Let's move on to the 'taters.

Asasekiryu banged head and shoulders with Kotooshu then slipped to the side, causing a reversal of starting position and goading the Ozeki to quickly right himself and charge stumblebumble forward. Sexy dodged the lunge and with the Bulgarian now turned sideways and off balance pushed him across the ring and out. No real need to go on about Kotooshu's frightening fall from grace, but will stop to note that he was woeful in not being able to gain a belt grip as Sexy slid away after tachi-ai and his footwork is worse than a three-legged bull. Asasekiryu can prime the pump for his senpai tomorrow by taking out Hakuho. And I can ensure my retirement years will be golden by buying a lottery ticket.

When sumo wrestlers have wet dreams concerning tachi-ai, they prolly look a lot like Kakuryu's vs. Kotomitsuki today. Grabbing an immediate front left inside and right back outside, the soaring Mongolian Eagle (written off long ago by Laptop), simply Kakwalked the Ozeki backward and out. The key to this bout is there was no key! While it seemed that Hit or Mitsuki offered about as much resistance as Arbo to a shot of absinthe, it was because Mitsuki was bought and sold at tachi-ai. Add in The Kak pressing forward as soon as he felt the inevitable desperation maki-kae attempt by the Ozeki (damn these chains!) and voila, you've got a perogie. It's a shame that Asa will polish off The Kak tomorrow, but I see The Kak avoiding the choke and recovering to stand proud at eight wins come senshuraku

Kaio sort of bit on a feint by Amishneaky for an arm pull attempt, allowing the E2 to get up and under with both arms and run him out embarrassingly fast. In reverse order this was the first of three lame displays of sumo by the men at the second highest rank in the sport. Oddly enough, the lone Ozeki at kadoban status and predicted to have a sisyphusian task was the only one of the four to win. 

I felt like I'd seen this exact bout ten times before, and I probably have. Miyabi withstands the blows until he gets an opening to move forward. The Pup darts to the left or right and Miflobby nearly falls onto his face but recovers and the cycle repeats itself. Finally Chiyotaikai gets him square enough in the flabby breasts and close enough to the edge to drive him out for the win. Déjà vu all over again, as the saying goes.

Ama jumped the gun on Tokitenku (who has gotten, like, totally way pudgy, oh my god) and nearly flew right over him. Looked like a game of reverse leapfrog. The NHK English side announcer, a guy I normally don't mind listening to, commented that Ama may have given away his strategy with the miscue. Huh? Is Ama's tachi-ai strategy not known to anyone who watches sumo with an intact brain stem? He shoots out at his foes like a bullet (notwithstanding the rare slide step when the chips are down in Week 2). After the restart he went after his countryman with a fierce throat attack, which was wiped off by Tokitenku once and twice, who gave some throat thrusts back to the Sekiwake. But then, Ama fell victim to his literally clay feet, his back leg flying out behind him causing him to pratfall to the turf. Tokitenku fell along with him more out of a spirit of camaraderie than anything else, I imagine.

Much as I wanted to resign my post as Geeku's fan club president, Awaji chapter, after his yella bellied henka 'pon his Day 12 return from injury last basho, I still have to respect his nads, coming back and not only getting KK but securing promotion to Sekiwake. Today he went up against suspect Toyonoshima of the THAT heya. After a tachi-ai he won he went for some lame back of the head move that let Tokitai...uh, I mean Toyonoshima get in under his arms and move forward. The Geeku stiffened and shoved the smaller man all the way across the dohyo ring, but Toyo stiffened and evaded rather brilliantly himself, bringing the action to the center, but now The Geeku had a strong belt grip and gathered himself and step by step worked the W3 back and out.

(Some of that friendly Osaka atmosphere was on display as The Geeku made his was out, with people standing in the hallway the rikishi must pass through to get to the showers crossing the Stay Behind line to congratulate him despite the presence of a skinny security guard who is there mainly to make people feel shame that they are not following the rules.)

Wakanoho, out of his element at E4, got dopey at tachi-ai, turning and trying to shoulder Kyokutenho into submission. All that accomplished was allowing the former Mongolian a pitbullesque outside left that he used to take the Russian out quicker than you can say makekoshi. 

Wakanosato led off with a harite face slap that didn't really rock Kokkai's world but helped in the E5 gaining the upper hand in forward momentum. Kokkai realized he had lost the tachi-ai, so as he backed up warding off his foe with his arms crossed in front of his chest, he slipped and slapped and Wakanosato's nice work came undone as he went flailing out. I'm sure Wakanosato knows this, but having a good grip on your opponent's forearms is not an advantageous position. Not really sumo you'd dress up and play house with, but it'll do for Kokkai.

Roho employed his rep as a henkaphile to freak out poor Dejima, who never even crossed the line at tachi-ai, worried that he would end up flat on his tits. The Russian immediately seized a deep inside back left. As he moved forward Dejima spun away and executed a makikae but the spin continued with Roho planting his right hand nicely on the back of Degyptian's head while yanking with his left belt grip and forcing him out.

Hokutoriki, a cheap little scrapper who can occasionally fight the good fight, heeded the exhortations of the Osaka crowd ("Fighto, fighto, fighto") and kicked Baruto's Biomass ass! He stuck two hands into the Estonian's throat and stood him up, and as Baruto resisted he let him fall forward and out. There is not much else a guy of the Jokester's size or strength can do vs. Baruto barring henka, and he did it perfectly. Gotta give the W7 his propers today. Baruto continues to show that bigger is not always better. It seems to me that of all the guys who might employ the harite, Baruto is the one who it would most benefit. He should have slapped Hokutoriki like a second wife, who cares if that lets the Jokester in, Baruto has those orangutan arms, he could pick the little shit up and mortar him into the pestle. But alas he, like Kotooshu, looks to be too gentle to reach the top in this bidness. Those who were calling this guy a future Yokozuna had better reconsider their estimations, perhaps all the way down to Sekiwake. 

Young Goeido got in lightning quick vs. veteran Tochinonada and tried to bring him down with a quick right outside throw but Tochinonada is harder to budge than a stop sign. They settled into a long adjustment period, feeling each other out (typical of so many relationships, really), but in the end youth was served as Tochinonada had not the stamina to resist and Father Goeido Sarducci combined a front belt grip with the outside right and lifted the older fella up and back and, you guessed it, out. I'm sure they'll both find someone else.

Iwonkey Kong looks to have stolen a page from his younger Hutt sibling Toyohibiki's book by starting way the snot back at tachi-ai, but once they got rolling he grabbed a nice deep inside right, which Kasugao proceeded to break off while grabbing a right inside of his own. The elder Hutt was now on the defensive even though he had a solid outside left because the Korean is a nage specialist, meaning he can throw like the dickens! So while it looked like an even match, it was really always Kasugao's, and once Iwonkey made his expected forward push, Kasugao dragged him to the clay. Good stuff.

Tamakasuga was defensive from the starting gun, retreating and slapping as Futenoh stayed on him like hair on a shower wall. King Tama suffers a right thorough lashing, as they might say in Jolly Ol', while Fruitenoh maintains his incredible unblemished record atop the leaderboard at 1-0. 

Toyohibiki was closer to the shikirisen than he has ever been, and it resulted in a decisive win over Takamisakari. At tachi-ai. But once P.T.'s boy was well and truly up against it, being pushed to the ropes with two Pimply hands jammed into his throat, he woke up and smelled the macha, bending his neck back like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, causing the Nikibi's hands to slide off. With a nice shift of position, Bean was all over the young Hutt, twisting him out like a marionette in some French children's version of Moby Dick.

It looks as if perhaps Mike is right, and all that chumming around with Asa before the basho is paying off for Tochiohzan. Yoshikaze had no chance as the much stronger Kasugano man kept his foe dead center and, yes, inexorably moved him back and out, despite a feisty attempt at the ropes to resist by Yoshikaze. Over before it started, pritnear.

Fantastic sumo from Homasho as he abandoned his usual wait and see and went straight for the belt, getting two hands on, one in and one out. Ichihara had the left in but was on the defensive the entire bout. Homasho knew he had him and did not rush things, and after a few moments of center push me/pull me, he lifted up on Baby Hutt and Kyokutenho-like worked him to the edge, where the Itch refused to give up and left Homasho with no choice but to land on him as they both crashed out. I'm sure wherever Dave Higgins is (whatever happened to that affable goofball, anyone know?) he was getting out his maple syrup. This bout bodes well for Homasho, and he will be interesting to watch if he continues to try and fight on the belt this basho.

Sumo matches don't come more wild than the Kaiho/Kakizoe bout. A head crashing tachi-ai sent Kakizoe off to the side where he got spun completely around, but Kaiho was unable to close the deal from the manlove position, and when Kakizoe spun back to face him they went at it fast and furiously. The only part of the dohyo they didn't touch in this helter skelter slapping pullfest was each other's belt. There were makikaes and pulldown attempts and kubinage attempts. It was all there. Finally they slowed it a bit and when Kaiho went for a leg trip Kakizoe fought it off and torqued him into the dirt.

Wakakirin had a decent pushing attack going but whiffed bigtime on the last one and fell to the ground, giving debutante Sakaizawa his first ever Makuuchi win.

Ryuo came in lower than an armadillo in a fire fight and the elderly Otsukasa obliged by twisting him around by the right arm and down quicker than you could say Auntie Em.

Day 1 was not without it's charm, but the boys are going to have to turn it up a notch to keep people from snoozing. The Ozeki gave me a terrible shudder, although The Pup did his bidness and did it fair enough. I, Caesar, return to the cheers of millions on Saturday, March 15th (yikes!) Mike peals Day 2 action from the highest mountain tops.












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