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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 (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Recently people use the phrase "talking point" to refer to a topic worthy of discussion. After fifteen days of action, turns out this basho had one talking point, and one only: Just how monumental a tool is David Shapiro? Before you say, Clanc, not this again, let me explain. Its not because hes pedantic, humorless, and speaks like a nine year-old Woody Allen with Tourettes Syndrome. Its because on his (thankfully) lone day of reporting, he told Hiro Morita that he is "glad Asashoryu is out of sumo." He then added, "He was a terrible Yokozuna." 

Okay, even if ones opinion IS as indefensible as baby rape, one has a right to it. What bothers me is that this mole, this jack-a-napes, this poster child for birth control uses his bully pulpit (given to him by well intentioned but quakingly naÔve Japanese) to denounce one of the greatest sumo wrestlers of all-time in the BASHO AFTER HE RETIRES. Well, I have my own pulpit, modest as it is, and so to all you English speaking sumo lovers out there I say, dont listen to Duh-Duh-David, cause hes not a pile of dog shit, hes a bug who crawls into a pile of dog shit and takes up residence there. (The foreign community is small in Japan, and I honestly know two people who have had dealings with him, and they confirm he is a gigantic twat.) I would never wish harm on another, but if I heard this yutz had fallen asleep in a bathtub full of hagfish, Id be smiling like a moron at a pie eating contest. 

Keeping up his end of the bargain, 13-1 Baruto dispatched Kotomitsuki by slapping him around sos he could get close and snag the outside right belt, then taking a few seconds to be certain the grip was solid before driving him right back and out. Mitsuki had his nine so what does he care, no reason to even attempt to win and deflate the (largely clueless) horde, who were waiting with bated breath to see if junior Mongolian Harumafuji would go all out and try to take down senior Mongolian Hakuho to give an Estonian the chance to yusho (I swear Im not making this shit up).

Asashoryu may be gone from sumo but his legacy lives on in the form of The Script, which Hakuho and the rough skinned Ozeki formerly known as Ama played out to perfection. Big tachi-ai followed by some exciting face and chest slaps leading to a clinch, where similar belt grips will be gained. Once in this position, proceed to try several one-handed pulling belt throws that are countered by the other guy hopping on one leg as if hes about to go down, until the delirious fans (and hilarious Hiro) are ready to take on Central High in the big game this weekend. Now its time for a serious looking press to the edge, where the loser will very nearly be thrown down/out, but somehow, against all odds, starve off defeat (I borrowed that "starve off" from the Day 15 "color" commentator Ken Swenson, whose color must be "off smegma"). Finally, the winner will twist or throw down his foe in a spectacular ending that will be recalled for ages.

Cynical, huh? Go back and take a look just after Hakuho gets the belt. He presses Eczama back to the edge and doesnt close the deal. Fair enough, you say, lots of guys set their feet at the edge and force the action back to the center. Check the Ozekis feet and legs. Not pressed against anything, not even flexed or straining. He knew he wasnt going out or down.

Now, does this kind of thing piss me off? No, not really. Once Asashoryu was lynched, Hakuho was destined to get Osaka his zensho 15-0 come hell or high water. HowDo had no chance to yusho, so theres no way in Gobi hes gonna queer the deal by pulling some trick like he did in Kyushu. Had he a chance to win the whole shebang youd have seen a real bout today, instead of a sweaty exhibition. Bottom lining it, though, if the guy who would 99 out of 100 win it all in a fair fight wins it anyway, no harm, no foul. 

What DOES piss me off is keeping sumos pet dinosaur around just because hes big and cuddly and looks like David Letterman when he smiles. Yeah, right, Harumafuji needs to bring a full on, barrel-assed tachi-ai vs Kaio on Day 14. Puhlease. You believe that and youll believe Doreen Simmons on Day 1 when she said she had never noticed Hakuhos cauliflower ear before (then again, perhaps Dame Doreen is getting on in years). Today the Old Grey Mere got latched onto by Kotooshu, pushed back and fallen on in the few seconds it should ever take any of the top guys to defeat him. On the one hand its nice when the Ozekis have secured KK, cause then they can fight straight up, but on the other hand, who apart from his women wants to see Kaio fight straight up, head down, backward, or inside out anymore?

In some other bouts of Internet interest, Kisenosato shoved at Miyabiyama, who came in like the rain in an e.e. cummings poem. A half-hearted pulldown attempt was all that broke the monotony of the shoving, and when it was all over seconds later, Kid was a winner of seven of his final eight for a decent 9-6. Reality is, he should beat, and should have beaten, Shneaky, Geeku, and Kotooshu. If he ever figures it out, hell become, like grammarian Ken said, "Much more stronger." 

Tochinoshin shoved at Aminishiki until he leaned forward just enough so Shine could yank him down with those arms of his ("Right turn, Clyde.") as they both flew out. The Fun Fact about this bout is Shneaky went down hard on his forehead right on the stiff roped tawara. Bleeding above the eyes, he got up and headed back home with his 8-7 tucked neatly under his arm. Hell be paired with Kid at Sekiwake come May.

Kyokutenho likes to give up the morozashi, then pin his foes arms down and lift them around and out. Today Takekaze said, Unh unh, and took the E2 out in a jiff from that two-handed inside position. To be honest, the Chauffer looked like a prom date whos afraid her dance partner can feel the tissues stuffed into her bra.

Donít know if it signifies anything other than Clancy was bored out of his gourd, but the first four bouts of the second half featured two guys with six wins, three with five, one each with four, three, and one. For the mathematically lazy among us, thats thirty-five wins by eight wrestlers. Shall I tell you what that averages out to?

Geeku dryhumped Asa out for his 10th win, and it ought to be interesting to see who they pair him with at Komusubi in Tokyo. Miyabi won ten at E7, Oh Pooh won eleven at E6, and Homasho won nine at W5. My money is on Pooh Bear, who today ate Tokitenku for lunch.

Hakuba henkad Tosayutaka for another dollar store win, but unlike his other crimes against sumo, this one got him his KK. Gack. Fun Fact here is that while Tosayutaka finished 3-12, he kicked Kotooshus ass, so dude is for sure going to go away happy. Hell complete his first full year in Makuuchi in May, and hes looking like a keeper. 

Homasho was Public Enemy Number 1 today as he beat Takamisakari in a very un-Homasho manner, namely by running around the outside at tachi-ai. If it wasnt the exact same beast as a henka, it could nonetheless reproduce with a henka. Two things turned the quiet, well liked Shikoroyama-beya man into Dillinger. One, we dint gets our KK interview, and two, Short Bus edges dangerously close to Juryo demotion, which would put the NSK on double secret probation with the Japanese, who loves them nothin more than a lovable goofball to whom they can feel superior.

Kakizoe used his "much more harder charge" according to Ken to get his 7th win vs. Kasugao.

Kitataiki smothered Sagatsukasa from the get go, and then knocked him out with an unusual move, a knee to the anus. Sagatsukasa reminds me of Rock Biters kid Junior in the worst childrens film ever made (and in the top ten of worst films period) The Never Ending Story. 

Im all out of love, so gut it out and move on, and remember, drugs and alcohol dont help you escape the everyday; they help you escape the everyday you.

Day 14 (Martin Matra reporting)
One look at the leader board could tell you nothing particularly interesting or unexpected happened this basho. One look on day 7. Undoubtedly, the biggest current story has to be Baruto's ultimately successful Ozeki promotion run (which was, in my opinion, one basho later than it shoulda been), though I don't really want to speculate how many yen Onoe coughed up to Isegahama and Sadogatake for the smooth sailing--let's save some time and assume it was all good, for the sake of the fans. Like I was saying on day 7, the old Ozeki managed to get their respective 8s, and one day earlier than usual. The young Ozeki stayed somewhat in contention until later into the basho, well, at least one of them, but you knew this was Hak's the moment they released the Haru banzuke.

The Hakuho-Kotooshu bout is usually exciting because the big Bulgarian puts up a little resistance before being inexorably thrown by the more skilled Mongol. Well, this time Hakuho made it completely uninteresting by winning the tachi-ai and immediately grabbing the deadly left uwate, while denying any sort of belt grip for Kotooshu. The whole thing was totally one-sided, as Hak continually pressed forward, only shifting gears at the edge to throw Kotooshu clean onto his back, in the usual way. The Yokozuna stays on course at 14-0, while Kotooshu falls to his usual 9-5. I really wish I had more to comment, but I'm afraid we're in for an era of utter dominance, Hakuho is that good.

Kaio and Harumafuji stunk it up on the dohyo (for more or less obvious reasons), with ex-Ama charging recklessly and shifty old Kaio shifting to his right and deflecting his overzealous (yaaawn) colleague straight down. Was anyone really surprised Kaio got his kachi-koshi with the unsavory win? Was anyone also surprised that Ama cooled down to a 3-4 record during this second week? Ugh.

Kotomitsuki rammed the living daylights out of Toyonoshima, but failed to follow up on the great tachi-ai, so he soon found himself on the run, trying to avoid Toyonoshima infiltrating on the inside. Unfortunately for Toyonoshima, Mitsuki succeeded in staying away from him, and, fearing a pull, Toyonoshima flinched for a critical second. That was all the Ozeki needed to mount a counter offensive, which he finished off by a simple push-out. The Tugboat disappointed this basho, falling to his 9th loss already. But he'll be back. Kotomitsuki breathes easily for at least another basho.

Future ex-Sekiwake Baruto continued his scary demonstration of power with a hasty demolition of a completely outclassed Kotoshogiku. The Estonian charged with lumbering tsuppari reminiscent of Akebono and quickly had his not-so-small foe completely upright. Showing quick wit, Bart capitalized on Kotoshogiku's resistance and finished him off with a pull he started while thrusting with the other hand. The future Ozeki soars to 13-1 and stays in the Yusho race, at least on paper. Kotoshogiku falls to a still respectable 9-5 and will be looking to earn a prize tomorrow, against Asasekiryu.

Aminishiki used his usual strong tachi-ai to drive Homasho back, then slipped slightly to the side, taking Homer off balance, getting his right arm inside and finishing the job by yori-kiri. Homie looked completely outclassed in this one, but I suppose that's why he's 8-6 from M5 while Aminishiki is 8-6 at Komusubi.

Kisenosato got his 8th today in a kind of anticlimactic affair, jumping the gun slightly at the tachi-ai and forcing Tochiohzan upright, then using his resistance to shift gears and thrust him down. Oh stands at a proud 10-4 and could win a prize if he survives Tokitenku's henka tomorrow. Kisenosato is looking at a return to the Sekiwake rank.

Wakanosato's skill and experience proved insufficient today against the younger Mongol Tamawashi. Despite connecting with the right hari-te and getting a solid left inside, Wakanosato could barely move his larger opponent to the edge. Mawashi held his ground nicely and eventually turned the tables on his by then tired opponent, finishing him off with a tsuki-otoshi aided by his own weight pressing from above. Both men are a paltry 5-9.

Kakuryu showed a better tachi-ai than his smaller opponent, Tosayutaka, staying lower and getting a right mae-mitsu, soon reinforced by a left uwate. With no mawashi grip of his own, Tosayutaka was inevitably marched out for his 11th loss. Kakuryu improves to 5-9, but it's too little, too late to salvage this basho. With a little banzuke luck, he'll fall just outside of the jo'i and be back with a vengeance in May. Watch out!

1-13 (!) Aran made it interesting for a while against ex-Mongol Kyokutenho by staying low and (probably) denying the left uwate, but an uninspired surge forward allowed the taller Tenho to get the double grip he wanted. Aran grabbed one of his own, but his late force-out attempt was thwarted in spectacular fashion when Tenho turned him around and deposited him on the tawara, making him easy yori-kiri bait. Tenho "improves" to 3-11 and will be back to calmer waters in May. Aran's spectacular bombing earns me a fine slab of Kobe beef from Mike.

Toyohibiki came up with his usual freight train tachi-ai, with Bushuyama taking a full blast and never getting back into it. It was a one-sided affair, with the younger Hibiki finishing it off by oshi-dashi. Hibiki improves to 4-10 with the win. Bushy falls to the same mark and will return to Juryo reality.

Mike's man-crush Kitataiki out-sumo'ed the bigger, younger and stronger but still relatively immature Tochinoshin, by going lower at the tachi-ai and getting the left uwate while denying his taller opponent one of his own. Shin struggled throughout, but Taiki's stance was simply too good this time, and he eventually forced his opponent out to get his 9th win. Tochinoshin falls to 8-6, but give the guy a break already, he's the youngest man in Makuuchi and barely has 4 years experience in Ozumo.

After a false start, the usually overeager Kakizoe toned it down a notch and allowed the long-armed Takamisakari to worm his way to the mawashi, getting a right uwate. Zoe tried to slip out of it by leaning to the left, but Takamisakari grabbed an even better grip on the other side, deploying a throw that all but finished off Zoe, who was left too off-balance to be able to counter the last push. The loss serves Kakizoe his make-koshi, while Takamisakari will have to win tomorrow to get his 8th win. With 8-6 Homasho as his opponent, I'd call him the favorite.

Asasuckiryu lulled the Fatman into a false sense of security and then pounced with a despicable flying henka which worked to perfection. He should use that kensho money to buy himself a skirt. Both guys are boasting 10-4 records.

Takekaze rarely has the opportunity to fight guys smaller and lighter than he is, but even when he does, his sumo is rarely better or more spectacular. Luckily for him, today's opponent was diminutive Sagatsukasa, and Kaze was able to keep him away with bothersome thrusts for a while, finishing him off with a rather lackluster series of pulls. Kaze "improves" to 4-10, while Sagatsukasa is dealt his make-koshi and will need to win tomorrow to have any hope of staying in the division. And Kitataiki shouldn't be an easy opponent, so he better pad that envelope well.

I was expecting some dubious stuff at the tachi-ai from prize-hungry Tokitenku, but Iwakiyama was a little faster than Tenku would have liked at the tachi-ai, and he barely had time to react to it (I can't remember all the bouts this guy lost this way, but I assure you they are many). Tenku could stop the Hutt's advance, if only for a while, and he even managed a decent left inside grip, but the much bigger Hutt didn't need any kind of mawashi with a solid left paw under the Mongol's pit. Despite a last moment slip to the side, Tokitenku could not avoid being ejected from the dohyo with his left arm locked. The man who moons you without taking his pants down finally gets his 8th win, while Tokitenku will try to henka Tochiohzan tomorrow for his 11th win and (maybe) a prize.

I was expecting the Mokonami-Yoshikaze match-up to be a sloppy and complicated affair, with Yoshikaze's bothersome tsuppari keeping Moe away from the mawashi, but the two had other plans. The little Kaze attacked slightly to the side, attempting a hiki-otoshi, but at the very moment he stepped to the left and took his swipe at Tan-Man's arm, Mokonami shifted to the left himself and let inertia take its course. Yoshikaze quickly realized he was going down, so he cushioned his fall with both hands. Moe improves to 8-6 with the strange win, while Kaze slumps to 5-9.

I don't know where NHK get their English language commentators, but they could REALLY find some better ones. I couldn't believe my ears when Dave Shapiro said "That was good sumo on his part" right after a Hakuba henka. I understand Henkuba for pulling it, he's a dirty, rotten bastard with only 6 wins and he needs the kachi-koshi, and I can also understand Tokusegawa for falling for it--Mongolian, kachi-koshi in the bank, but do NOT call that good sumo. Shapiro's sumo takes are almost as "good" as his dick-dick-dick-dick-diction.

In what was probably the most spectacular bout of the day, Okinoumi dodged the bullet for one more day by snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against grizzled veteran Shimotori. Okidoki lost the tachi-ai, allowing the tall Shimotori to get a left grip on the front of his mawashi and a decent right inside, while he had nothing of his own. However, the newcomer used his superior strength to wrench Moo upright and break his mawashi grip and turn the tables on him. Locking Shimotori's left arm, Okinoumi mounted a force-out charge, but he missed the thrust with the other hand, so Moo was able to recover and get a usually insurmountable double mawashi grip with the right hand inside. Okinoumi stood his ground for a few moments and tried a moro-zashi-gaining maki-kae, but he didn't have nearly enough of an opening. Shimotori played it by the book and pressed forward, but Okinoumi pivoted on the tawara and deployed a beauty of a shitatenage/sukuinage counter-throw that flipped Shimotori completely over and onto his arse. Okinoumi will be attempting to get his 8th tomorrow against fellow rookie Tokusegawa, while Shimotori will have to defeat Aran (1-13) to get his 5th win and make sure he stays in the division.

Isn't Hokutoriki just hilarious when he somehow manages to win convincingly? By that strut you'd think he was a Dai-Yokozuna with 20-something Yusho under his mawashi. Anyway, today he took good care of one of his favorite patsies, veteran Tamanoshima. Peter had no answer for Jokester's nodowa + hazu-oshi combo, who drove him straight back and out right after the tachi-ai. Hokutoriki has a great opportunity to stay in the division for one more basho, as he is somewhat the favorite in tomorrow's bout against Tochinonada, while Tamanoshima falls to 6-8 and desperately needs to beat Kimurayama to keep his Makuuchi paycheck.

Last and certainly least, Kokkai henka'd Kasugao to get his 9th win. Move along, nothing to see here.

If the right things happen, we might have as many as SIX guys taking the elevator up from Juryo, and possibly even a rookie in Gagamaru, or as little as just three - it mostly depends on the outcomes of the exchange bouts.

The prizes are damn hard to predict this time, but when has that stopped me before? Shukun-Sho - uh...did anyone even come close to beating Hak? Didn't think so. Not happenin'. Kanto-Sho - Baruto, for sure, and maybe Tochiohzan/Tokitenku/Miyabiyama with another win. Maybe. Gino-Sho - Baruto, for his sudden and extremely effective change of style, or Kotoshogiku for expertly using his relatively limited repertoire. But, as you know, those guys have their own particularly obscure criteria for these, so don't be surprised if they don't make sense.

Clancy wraps it all up tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to Natsu and Baruto's Ozeki debut.

Day 13 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Welcome to day 6 where we're just settling into the basho nicely. What? It's day 13? This yusho race sure feels as if it's day 6. It's as if we have two worlds in sumo right now. You have Hakuho in one sphere doing his thang, and then you have everyone else in a different world all battling to see who is second best. And the obvious problem is that no one cares about second best.

At least Baruto's promotion to Ozeki will be welcomed. You just can't have the biggest bout of the tournament occur on a Wednesday and expect there to be a lot of electricity heading into the weekend, so getting Baruto to the Ozeki rank for May, and then getting him to the top of the Ozeki for Nagoya is one bandage to stop the hemorrhaging. Now, I guess Hakuho could still lose a bout here in Osaka, but the problem is he's essentially two bouts ahead because he has a playoff to fall back on. Regardless, Osaka is devoid of any drama at the moment. Hakuho has a stranglehold on the yusho, and Baruto has a stranglehold on his promotion. And to make matters worse, look at who they're fighting this late in the contest.

If we must, let's get to the day's bouts starting from top to bottom in traditional day 6, I mean day 13 fashion.

Yokozuna Hakuho used a cautious tachi-ai leading with his chest and keeping his arms back a bit waiting for anything Ozeki Kaio might pull. Nothing came, so the rikishi hooked up into the hidari-yotsu position, which gave some intrigue to the bout (who am I trying to kid?) as the possibility existed of Kaio gaining a right outer grip. Hakuho was careful throughout not needing to take any reckless chances, so as the rikishi stood there chest to chest, Hakuho just reached his long right arm around fishing for the outer grip. He was still a few centimeters away, so he threatened a maki-kae with the right hand that Kaio had no choice but to fight off. In the process, however, the Yokozuna baited him using Kaio's shift in pressure to finally grab that right outer grip. From there it was just a matter of how to respectfully set the Ozeki down to the dirt. Hakuho didn't have to do much as Kaio practically tripped over his own feet trying to get away falling to the dirt in what was ruled a sukui-nage. Regardless, Hakuho sleepwalks to 13-0 while Kaio needs some help from either Harumafuji or Kotooshu the final two days. Hellifiknow who is going to give it to him, but let me be the first to congratulate Kaio (7-6) on his kachi-koshi.

So, would Sekiwake Baruto be able to keep himself one off the pace against a rikishi that actually outweighs him in M7 Miyabiyama? Oh, the drama! Uh, yes...he would. Baruto used that moro-te tachi-ai we've seen so much from him this basho to stand Miyabiyama upright, but before he could really shove Miyabiyama backwards, the Sheriff had it on his mind to back peddle from the beginning playing the only card he really could against Baruto, which was to quickly evade and hope to pull an extended Baruto off balance. But Baruto's footwork has been nails the entire basho, and today was no exception as he easily kept his body squared up with the fleeing Miyabiyama offering him powerful thrusts once, twice, three times a lady knocking Miyabiyama into a crumpled heap on the other side of the ring for the superb tsuki-taoshi win. Allow me to resurrect two lines from my past to describe this bout and Baruto's overall performance this basho. 1) the difference between oshi-taoshi and tsuki-taoshi is that oshi-taoshi means you won by pushdown whereas tsuki-taoshi means you just kicked your opponent's ass. And second--which goes clear back to 2006--if Baruto ever develops an oshi attack to go along with his belt prowess, it will be the best one two punch we've seen since Metallica released Battery and Master Of Puppets back to back on the same album.

King's to you Metallica.

With our two leaders breezing to victories, here's how things stand heading into the weekend:

Hakuho gets Kotooshu and Harumafuji in that order, but the life has already been sucked out of those Ozeki this basho. It is also my opinion that the Mongolian rikishi will work together to ensure that the yusho stays in Mongolian hands, so if that really is the situation, the worst-case scenario for Hakuho is that he loses to Kotooshu, is gifted the senshuraku bout, and then gets Baruto again in a playoff. Money in the bank.

As for Baruto, he has Kotoshogiku tomorrow and probably Kotomitsuki on senshuraku. Kotoshogiku is basically a one-trick pony when it comes to oshi-yotsu versatility and a rikishi who doesn't move well laterally. In other words, he doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell. Kotomitsuki does move well laterally and has shown in the past that he's not above the henka in tough situations, so there is that element for senshuraku, but otherwise, Baruto kicks his ass too along with the other Ozeki.

so that's a wrap on the leaderboard. Let's examine the rest of the division.

In a battle of two Ozeki, Harumafuji struck first getting a moro-te tachi-ai planted into Kotooshu's neck before the Bulgarian could come close to the belt. Harumafuji pushed his fellow-Ozeki upright, and as Kotooshu ducked his head trying to get at the belt, Harumafuji caught him squarely with another paw to the throat lifting him back up. As Kotooshu tried to duck down again fighting off the choke hold, Harumafuji released the hold at the same time causing Kotooshu to just stumble over and put his hand down to the dirt for the anti-climactic finish that saw Harumafuji with arms extended still waiting for more action. Weren't we all, HowDo, weren't we all? hAruMAfuji improves to 10-3 with the win while Kotooshu is a paltry 9-4.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki used a hari-zashi tachi-ai that was so slow you could hear Yamamotoyama laughing from the shitaku-beya, so Tochiohzan responded by grabbing the immediate left outer grip, which he used to pull the Ozeki around in methodic circles watching for an opening that came about eight seconds in that saw Tochiohzan use his right hand at the back of Kotomitsuki's head to aid in the uwate-nage throw giving Tochiohzan a fantastic win at this level. I realize Tochiohzan is out of the jo'i, but I can see an improvement in his confidence when fighting at this level now. Dude's already 10-3, and I can't wait to see him fight next basho. Kotomitsuki is 8-5.

Komusubi Aminishiki stayed low and used tsuppari from the tachi-ai against Sekiwake Toyonoshima keeping his smaller foe away from the mawashi. With Toyonoshima looking for any sorta opening, Aminishiki kept moving just enough that he frustrated the Sekiwake to the point where Aminishiki lunged for and got the right outer grip. The Komusubi immediately forced Toyonoshima over to the edge committing on the outer belt throw while feeling him up with the left hand in the process, but Toyonoshima made it extremely close countering with the left inside throw desperately trying to swipe at Aminishiki's right leg in the process. The result was both rikishi tumbling to the dirt with Aminishiki putting his left hand to the dirt first, but by that time, Toyonoshima had flipped a full turn in the air about to land on his back just outside of the dohyo.

The gunbai went to Aminishiki who dominated throughout, but a mono-ii was correctly called. Replays clearly showed the Aminishiki's hand touched down before Toyonoshima's body hit the ground, but Toyonoshima was parallel to the dohyo by then and staring up into the man-in on-rei banners. The judges correctly upheld the decision giving Aminishiki a 7-6 record. One more and he could swap places with Toyonoshima, who sealed his make-koshi fate at 5-8.

Komusubi Kisenosato used a hari-zashi tachi-ai against M5 Homasho that was slow enough and upright enough that it would have burned him against nearly every other opponent, but Homasho was thinking stick and pull today, so upright as he was, Kisenosato's de-ashi allowed him to take over and smother Homasho back and across the straw without argument. Kisenosato is closing in on his kachi-koshi at 7-6 while Homasho could afford to lose this one at 8-5.

M1 Kakuryu and M2 Aran settled for a tsuppari-fest from the tachi-ai, but Aran was standing so upright that Kakuryu was able to connect on two right face slaps that sent Aran over to the edge setting up the quick force-out attempt in the end for Kakuryu, who improves--if you can call it that--to 4-9. Aran is as worthless as tits on a boar at 1-12.

In the day's reptilian clash, M1 Wakanosato and M4 Tosayutaka hooked up in the quick hidari-yotsu contest that saw Wakanosato suck the smaller Tosayutaka in firmly aligning their chests. When that happens, advantage to the taller rikishi, and Wakanosato showed why forcing Tosayutaka over to the edge and forcing him down with a scoop throw that saw Tosayutaka try and squirm out of it at the edge only to have Wakanosato finish him off with a downward thrust to the shoulder. Good stuff from the veteran who moves to 5-8 while Tosayutaka has been battered the whole basho at 3-10.

M4 Tamawashi charged way too high against M2 Kyokutenho, and even though Tamawashi managed to drive Kyokutenho back a bit from the tachi-ai, the Chauffeur secured moro-zashi in the process. The right inner grip was shallow enough that Tamawashi was able to hold his opponent off for five seconds or so, but Kyokutenho (2-11) eventually wrenched his way in deep enough to set up the methodical yori-kiri win, just his second of the basho. Tamawashi is 4-9.

M13 Tokitenku knew he was in for a dog fight against M3 Kotoshogiku, so he moved to his right at the tachi-ai and threw the now off-balance Kotoshogiku over to the edge with a right kote-nage throw, but since the throw came from the center of the ring, Kotoshogiku didn't cross the straw after the first wave, but Tokitenku was on him like stink to a henka finishing off his bidness with the force-out win. Tokitenku moves to 10-3, but gaining such a record with side-stepping and shenanigans is as meaningful to me as being propositioned by a dude. Kotoshogiku's 9-4 is far superior to Tokitenku, and the Geeku deserves a prize over Tokidoki.

Kakizoe went full force into Toyohibiki's girth actually gaining moro-zashi, but the Hutt just pivoted to his right and committed on a wicked kote-nage throw with the right arm that just twisted the hapless Kakizoe down to the dirt in the center of the dohyo. That one had to hurt as

The best bout of the second half was M8 Iwakiyama and M6 Tochinoshin who hooked up in a migi-yotsu contest that saw Iwakiyama grab the early left outer grip. Tochinoshin countered nicely, though, using his height advantage to burrow his right shoulder into the base of Iwakiyama's neck (yeah, I is that possible if Iwakiyama doesn't have a neck?), which was sufficient positioning so that every time Iwakiyama went for a force out move with the left outer grip, Tochinoshin was able to counter sufficiently with the right belt throw. On about the third attempt, Tochinoshin was finally able to pull Iwakiyama off balance and set up the nice force-out win from there clinching kachi-koshi at 8-5 in the process. Iwakiyama's still alive at 7-6.

M8 Takekaze sprang into the moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai against M12 Takamisakari and never relented until the Robocop was driven back and out. Takamisakari counters as well as anyone, but the key here was that Takekaze never moved laterally or went for a stupid pull attempt. He's 3-10 for his troubles while Takamisakari now falls to 6-7.

M9 Hakuba and M12 Okinoumi immediately hooked up into the hidari-yotsu position, which was a huge surprise because Hakuba didn't henka. Okinoumi came away with the right outer grip and pressed with the outer belt throw straightway while Henkaba countered with a left inside throw giving us a nage-no-uchi-ai two seconds in. This one was extremely close that saw the elbows of both rikishi touched the dirt at the same time. The gunbai went to Hakuba, but a mono-ii was called that was so long I was starving for more of Prime Minister Hatoyama's budget speech that pre-empted the first third of the broadcast. Kokonoe-oyakata's explanation in the end can loosely be translated as, "Well, we had two rikishi that hit down at the same time. However, fighting from the East was a Mongolian while his opponent from the West is not only Japanese but a rookie too, whom we'd really like to see become successful in the division, so we're reversing the judge's decision and giving the win to Okinoumi (insert crowd approval here)."

In my opinion, the replay showed this one was so close (thus the lengthy mono-ii) that you could have found any result you wanted. The judges did just that leaving both rikishi at 6-7. Granted, I haven't disliked a rikishi as much as Hakuba since Asanowaka was fighting, but give me a break.

M9 Yoshikaze lunged into M14 Kokkai looking for the yotsu contest straightway, and he got it grabbing the quick right outer grip; however, he only had one fold of Kokkai's mawashi allowing the Corporal to position his left arm so deeply on the inside of Yoshikaze's right side that it gave him the advantage due to the ridiculous difference in size. There was nuttin' Yoshikaze could do as Kokkai forced him over to the side and out for the nice yori-kiri win prompting some furrener dude in the rafters with a guitar to celebrate Kokkai's kachi-koshi by singing out: "she don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie....Kokkaine." Yoshikaze falls to 5-8.

M10 Kitataiki never looked comfortable against aging M14 Tamanoshima who rebuffed the younger rikishi's charge with the left inside position and right arm wrapped tightly around Kitataiki's left. Tamanoshima was largely upright, but that wrap around grip neutralized Kitataiki's lower position, and with Kitataiki's bad left knee disabling him from making that force-out push, Tamanoshima (6-7) countered with a split-second pull attempt that did the trick. No matter as Kitataiki is 8-5.

In the M11 Hokutoriki - M10 Shimotori affair, it was simply a matter of who would dictate the style of the bout: oshi-zumo vs. yotsu-zumo. It was pure oshi meaning Hokutoriki used a moro-te tachi-ai to stand Shimotori upright and drive him straight back and out refusing Shimotori a sniff at the belt or any place else. Both rikishi are 4-9.

M11 Asasekiryu loves to come in low, but that was difficult today against the vertically challenged M15 Sagatsukasa who knocked the flexible Secretary upright before immediately countering with a pull maneuver that sent Asasekiryu stumbling forward to the edge. He was able to stabilize himself and just start to turn around to face his opponent before Sagatsukasa finished him off with a nice push or two. Good win for Sagatsukasa who still has kachi-koshi hopes at 6-7. Asasekiryu's a cool 9-4.

Rookie M13 Tokusegawa found himself with the outer grip in a migi-yotsu contest against countryman m15 Mokonami, and that grip along with his size advantage proved the difference as Tokusegawa clinched kachi-koshi by dumping Mokonami to the griddle with a nice belt throw. Flaming Moe is still doing well at 7-6.

And finally, I don't know why they made us wait an agonizing 13 days to the see the matchup between both or our M16's, but Bushuyama took charge in his migi-yotsu contest with Kasugao driving the Kimchi Kid back to the straw before reversing momentum by slipping to the side and pushing Kasugao forward and down back towards the middle of the ring with a nice tsuki-oshi. Years ago, Kasugao was a bulldog in such fights, but the fact that's he's lost a step or two reveals why he henkas so much these days. The loss makes his kachi-koshi official at 5-8 while Bushuyama is worse off at 4-9.

delivers the goods tomorrow.

Day 12 (Mark Arbo reporting)
Greetings friends.

I think the only site that is heating up the web more than these days is Chatroulette.  I first heard about Chatroulette from Clancy. Apparently he gets some kind of thrill from focusing his web cam on his, oft mishandled but ever attentive, junk and going to town while dude after dude looks on horrified and scrambles to press "next".

It turns out that Clancy's little kink is shared by a LOT of (very confused) guys. In my meanderings around the world as presented by Chatroulette I have seen more exotic lizards than a herpetologist. At first I found this more than a little off putting and I initially gave up on Chatroulette. But a few nights ago a good friend came over with a luxuriant amount of beer and taught me that the beauty of Chatroulette can only be truly appreciated 3 sheets to the wind. Like so many of the mundane and confusing things a man faces in his day to day existence, Chatroulette seems utterly sane and perfectly enjoyable when shaken with a dash of camaraderie and a liberal amount of delicious C2H5OH . 

However, as we glob-trotted through Ausi Birthday parties, French cafes and Chinese dorm rooms the most amazing thing happened. As I clicked "next" to escape the spectacle of some midwestern college kid feverishly abusing himself, there in front of me was Dai Yokozuna Asashoryu. 

You: Woooow!
You: You're Asashoryu!
Partner: Haha, you know me?
You: Know you!? I love you!
Partner: That's cool. But if you try and "show" me your love I'm going to press "skip"
You: (pulling my fly back up) Ok, I understand, sir.
Partner: Call me DolgorsŁrengiin.
You: Ok, Dolly...Dogorushire .. Dogaluurr...Asa. My name is Mark.
Partner: Nice to meet you. Hey is that an Echigo Amber Ale in your hand?
You: Yes, it is. I guess you like a drink now and then too?
Partner: Are you kidding? I got drunk the night before I won the cup two months ago and I don't think I've been sober since. 
You: It has me, and a lot of my friends pretty bummed out the way the NSK did you. That was not cool.
Partner: Don't sweat it. I always knew it had to end like this. Japanese pride is as strong as it is delicate. But, we know the truth, don't we? What the hell, I'm the richest guy in Mongolia. Did you know that I was the richest guy in Mongolia, Dave?
You: It's Mark. And yeah, I've read that you were a pretty wealthy guy.
Partner: Filthy rich. And divorced! I'm going to have more descendants than the original Kahn. 
You: Are you planning to stay involved in promoting Japanese culture and sumo?
Partner: Hell no! I wanna eat ribs, smoke Mongolian's finest, and hit every ass in Ulan Bator. And that's ALL I'm gunna do. 
You: I'm relieved you are taking this so well.
Partner: I'm free baby! If I had known bitch slapping a pimp would bring me this kind of happiness I would have done it a long time ago!
You: Where are you now?
Partner: Mongolia, of course. But I'm in the market for a place in Hawaii as well.
You: Nice. Will you maintain a residence in Japan too?
Partner: Wow! You must be drunker than I am!
Partner: So you're really into sumo, ne?
You: Yeah, I actually write for
Partner: What the #$%+!! They can fire me just for talking to you! Oh wait they already fired me! HA!
Partner: Don't cry for me, my little white friend. Sumo needed me more than I needed it!
Partner: (Asa then started exuberantly singing/screaming what I later learned was an Alice Cooper song while playing air guitar) 

I'm a gambling fool with a roll and a cue
Wanna play wanna play wanna play with me
Put my ass on the line rubbed my nose in the grime
And they picked me clean
The chance and the game drove Old Silkly insane
What a pain what a strain on my brain it was
A fish on a hook I was rattled and shook 'cause I lost my stake
I took that serious

All of my life was a laugh and a joke
A drink and a smoke
And then I passed out on the floor
Again and again and again and again and again

You: You were a better soccer player than most rikishi are sumo wrestlers. Fly High Free Bird!

Looking more round than robust, Lady Gaga got his first win in Makuuchi (he is still just ranked J3) when he somehow made Bush look small, smothered him and moved him out. 

After a long entirely motionless stalemate Kokkai demonstrated the improvements he has made in his belt work with a great looking kake-nage (hooking inner thigh throw). I think this was about the best throw I have ever seen Kokkai pull off. So, props to the Georgian for continuing to better his game instead of relying on henkas and shite sumo. Hopefully he can get his KK tomorrow.

Kitataiki picked up his Kachi Kochi. But he didn't know it. As he turned to leave the dohyo the water boy had to tell him that the ref was pointing the fancy fan his way. They called it a isamiashi (one of the few losing techniques). You could certainly make a strong argument that it was an utchari ... but in the end it doesn't matter cause a win is a win and this was the all important 8th.

Yoshikaze is struggling more than I thought he would at M9. Does he have an injury or did he just switch to decaff? Today he came at Takamisakari with some hay-maker tsuppari, quickly took an inside grip and then let it go. The two separated. After another hard slap he dove inside again and grabbed the back of Takami's mawashi and spun him around. From behind he had an easy job spinning the Sad Clown off the dohyo. Kaze keeps the MK bitch away for another day with this crazy/awkward affair. Takami is an even 6-6.

Iwakiyama and Asasekiryu have both done their ancestors proud this basho. They started with some slapsukis, and then The Secretary dove in for some belt. But Iwakiyama has mad skills fighting without a belt grip so things seemed to be shaping up for an exciting ending. But then Iwaki just lost his footing and fell down. They called it a "twisting underarm throw", but the way I saw it the kimari-te was "Hm, the big boy just kind of fell down there". Let's hope he can keep his feet under him and pick up his 8th tmr. The Seck is looking at double digit wins for the first time in...ever.

After pissing around at the line, Mr. Leader Board Miyabiyama and Mokonami finally got their act together just long enough for Mt. Miyabi to push the struggling Mongol out and into his MK. His power was in his tan! Feeling...weak... Must...get to...tanning sa...

Ok, things are going to get really ugly really fast now. A lot of fights where both both guys had their Make Koshi decided some time ago so forgive me for being curt at times-

Hokutoriki threw the most vicious two hands in the hair, hidden foreign object, green mist in the eyes, 1988 WWF tachi-ai henkas on Kakizoe that I have ever seen. Luckily it was so over the top that the shimpan could have called it had they been forced to watch this match through the pinhole of stream that the NSK broadcast with their Commodore 64.

Toyohibiki managed a second win that pulled him even with competitor Takekaze. How bad have these guys looked in Osaka??

After being on the receiving end of a hard false start, Homie had a fairly easy job getting to the side, staying low and picking up his KK against a surging Tokitenku who has otherwise looked pretty solid in most of his bouts this basho. 

Aran slapped, grabbed, squirmed and swung but was still forced out by Tosayutaka. Aran stays at just one win while Tosayutaka "jumps" to 3.

Tama-washied the floor with Kakuryu and Wakano-sat-on Kyokutenho.

The Geek has been doing solid sumo for 2 weeks. Today he had a popping tachi-ai and hung on tight to Kisenosato. There are very few guys who can win a belly to belly straight up pushing contest against this stout, powerful and determined rikishi; and Kisenosato is certainly not one of them. 

Likely fearing a henka, Tochiohzan demurely let Aminishiki come to him but as soon as contact was made Ohzan pounced and just manhandled Nishiki. With a right to the throat he backed Nishiki up and with a couple shoves sent him off the dohyo. Great stuff! Like the Geek, Ohzan is 9-3. Nishiki and Kissy are still "?"'s all even with 6-6.

The Old Grey Mare edged closer to his 435th Kyushu basho by absorbing an initial rush of tsuppari from M6 Tochinoshin. Kaio then mounted a pushing attack of his own and, when Shin got off balance and leaned waaaay too far in, he got an easy push down. Not a cheap win here, he just took what was given to him. Shin will have lots of chances to pick up his magic 8th in the next few days.

Ozeki Kotooshu has a long sad history with Toyonoshima (and just about every other rikishi under 6'2) But today he handled himself well. The Tugboat was intent on getting to Shoe's side and keeping the giant off his belt so the two of them danced briefly in a whirling spin of timid offence and aggressive defence. But the Ozeki eventually reigned him and and took 2 solid belt grips. As Toyonoshima was being backed up he did go for a desperation throw but Kotooshu kept his feet on the ground and his head in the game and that was all she wrote. 

On paper the Harumafuji/Bart battle for second place was a fantastic bout that I was lucky to have on my day. But I had that sneaking feeling that this particular meeting was going to leave me a little "wanting". The big boy in blue came at the Ozeki with two hands to the throat from the tachi-ai. But Ama pulled his arm aside and slipped inside taking a belt grip way at the back on Bart's mawashi. With the Mongol trying to maneuver in behind him all Bart could do was circle away, and so the two of them spun several times around in the centre of the dohyo. Eventually, and for for what reason I can't quite tell, the spinning stopped and Bart quickly grabbed an inside right. He pulled Harumafuji in tight and with a few side steps worked the seemingly hapless Ozeki out of the ring. With his enormous speed advantage I thought Harumafuji might come out of that spin with a better position than he did. I also would like to have seen the Oz at least attempt something at the straw (as he usually does) instead of dolefully stepping out. Perhaps Ama was having an off day. No matter now. Congratulations to Ozeki Baruto: A good rikishi and a great guy.

Hak has looked as unstoppable as everyone said he would in this new era. Today as the cameras focused on local boy Kotomitsuki's family, Mitsuki went through the pre-fight rituals like a former Mrs. Louis XVI walking to the guillotine. But you don't drag your Mom, Dad, wife and son out to watch you get your ass handed to you. I guess he was trying to lull Hak into sense of confidence because he lined up south of the border and came out like a bat out of hell. They began trading tsuppari but eventually both found inside rights. As each tried to better his position it was, usually overly patient, Mitsuki who mounted the first serious offensive. The Oz backed Hak up till his foot was dangerously against the straw rope. Hak is a master at defending and offending against the maki-kae. so when Mitsuki went for one, Hak charged them both back to the centre. Then, in another surprisingly aggressive move, Mitsuki let go of his inside right while grabbing an outside left and spinning away. He moved his right to the back of Hak's head, looking to throw the Yokozuna down. But Hakuho's balance was too good and as he stepped forward the momentum of his own throw attempt and the bump from the Yokozuna sent Kotomitsuki stumbling to the sand. Mitsuki was good, but not good enough. But he can be proud of this one. Nothing left in the tank. He fought aggressive, smart and gave the fans, and his family a good show. 

So that was my one and only day for Haru 2010. 

I want to thank the other writers. Lately, more often that not, the writing schedule for the basho has been set and I, through forgetfulness or "something's come up"-ness have caused everyone to have to scramble to accommodate my amendments. Again, sorry guys. You are good writers and great friends.

Now for your homework.

Try Chatroulette at your own risk! Now that Kitazakura and his "lil' bald man" have found it, things are going to get worse than ever.  Ok I'm calling this one now.  New Years K1 Grand Pre. Asashoryu vs. Akebono. LET'S ALL PRAY I'M WRONG!

Enjoy the Harumafuji/Kotooshu pairing tmr as well as Mike's report. Hanami Season is nigh nay upon us. Your, work/wife?blog/TV will be there when you get back. Get some friends together. Get some good food and a few bottles of wine. Get outside and have a good time.

Day 11 (Kenji Heilman reporting)
I know most of you checking in are ready to cut to the chase and see who won today's highly anticipated--if not prematurely matched--bout pitting undefeated Hakuho and Baruto. You've got the right reporter here for it--I'll touch briefly on the undercard and get right to it, shall we?

First, in the rank and file, 3 rikishi secured majority 8 wins today. Asasekiryu, Tochiohzan and Kotoshogiku will enjoy promotions in May. Additionally, Tokitenku and Miyabiyama continued their hot hand, respectively chalking up their 9th win against 2 losses. They are technically in the yusho hunt, but not in practicality. 

Second, let's brief you on the Ozeki performances. Kotooshu (8-3) looked strong against Homasho (7-4), starting with a right hari-te enroute to a firm uwate grip that resulted in a convincing Yori-kiri win. Harumafuji (9-2), looking to keep Hakuho and Baruto within sight, dropped one against Kotomitsuki (8-3) in an exciting bout where Mitsuki shook off a furious attack as well as Haruma's shita-te on the way to a kadoban-escaping victory. Old vet Kaio (6-5) controlled the tempo against jo'i newbie Tamawashi (3-8), playing cat and mouse with a couple of pulls that kept the youngster off balance throughout the short bout. 

And now for the main event. If sumo bouts are won on the tachi-ai, I submit Exhibit A for you here. Hakuho simply got off the line quicker and positioned himself better at the clash to set the tone. Before he knew it, Baruto was on the defensive wondering how to respond to Hakuho having the left uwate. His decision on how to do so was flawed, as he went with a maki-kae attempt that failed. Hakuho simply wouldn't let him in, while at the same time displaying a counter-attack that is textbook sumo when the opponent tries such a maneuver. The resulting Uwate-nage at the tawara puts Hakuho alone atop the field at 11-0 while Baruto suffers his first loss (10-1). Still, the Estonian behemoth is a near certain promotion to Ozeki in May and still is firmly planted in the yusho picture. 

There you have it on the high points for day 11. Looking forward to how the last four days shake out.

Day 10 (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
Two thirds of the basho done and I have to admit there's some excitement still to it. It's boring to watch the day's last bout, that's true, but there's plenty of action still on the first ones that you can at least imagine yourself into an eventful basho. We now have a new sport, we namely try to call who of the favorites fucks up that particular day for it doesn't happen too often these days. But let's not let me yammer here too much, better get on to the bouts (especially knowing that I can't keep my mouth shut once I start...)

Mokonami took on the Jokester and while Mokonami didn't find the tachi-ai all that funny, he did get the fight to the belt with both guys featuring migi-yotsu grips. Luckily for me, they kept going at it long enough, that I could take my morning shower and just as I was toweling off I saw Mokonami shake Jokester's grip and take him back and out. Mokonami improves to a respectable 6-4 while Hokutoriki needs just one more loss to make his make-koshi official. 

Two slippery ducks in Kitataiki and Da Cocc took up the ring next, to have fun with each other. Well at least that what I thought they would. But it wasn't that fun in reality. I think Kokkai expected a henka for he only stood up at the tachi-ai allowing Kitataiki to get a good grip. Kokkai did get a grip himself as well, but he was on the defense the whole bout. Taiki settled nicely into the bout and after a moments rest executed a nice uwate-nage that didn't quite kill Kokk. But said attempt had the Private so off balance and without a grip, that even though he did struggle and managed even to send Taiki's mage clip flying to the crowd at high speed (in the original play I thought he had kicked a tooth out of Kitataiki's mouth) during the struggle, but alas without a grip he didn't have the tools to recover. Kitataiki is a good 7-3 and will most likely get his eight, Kokkai with six wins shouldn't have a problem either. 

Shimotori took Bush straight on and once Bush leaned in from the get-go, he quickly backpedaled and pulled the oldy down to his belly. A quick bout where Shimotori quickly read the balance of Bush correctly. Both are 3-7 and not worth another mention. 

I think the weirdest summary of Hakuba vs. Kasugao is what Hiro Morita said: "Hakuba used a more powerful technique today". Like...WTF? The asshole pulled about the same size a henka as yesterday and won because of it. That he ended it with a throw doesn't give a rats ass for he set it up by circling around his opponent with a henka. 

Yoshikaze showed why he's called espresso more often than not for in comparison to Tokusegawa today he looked like he had double espresso concentrate for breakfast while Gawa took decaf. During the whole bout Tokusegawa managed to make like three moves with his arms/legs while Yoshikaze ran circles around him and shoved him in all directions, ducking and shoving like a kung-fu master. Yoshikaze keeps his KK hopes alive at 4-6 while Tokusegawa falls to 50%.

Sagatsukasa attacked low to get on the inside of Moonface, but Iwakiyama showed some vintage sumo with his armlocking of Sagatsukasa's arms and using that lock to escort saga back and out sending the smaller fella running to the lap of a shimpan. Iwakiyama is 6-4 and even though he has looked shabby, will probably get his eight. Sagatsukasa has equally wins and losses and can go either way. 

The ailing veteran Tamanoshima took on another furry kaze, but it seems Yoshikaze had used up all the espresso for Takekaze's pushing attack had no effect what so ever as he got himself manhandled out of the dohyo. Tamanoshima is still alive while Takekaze's MK is now official. 

Next up we have the glory to watch the old Sheriff as he's fighting around the mid-Makuuchi region and special glory today when he had the honor to take on everyone's favorite Clown. Takamisakari charged to get on the inside of the Fatman, but Miyabiyama wasn't to have any of it as he kept his arms locked around Clown's throat and pushing him away from himself. The two struggled for a while before Miya was able to separate and recharge and from that recharge it was all Fatman, who did the driving as Takami wasn't able to get anything beyond a few caresses of Miyabiyama's boobs. KK for the Fatman while Takami has still five days to get his final two.

Kakizoe charged low and hard as he always does, but instead of trying to run his opponent out he locked into a belt fight. He did seem to get the better grip originally, but the higher Okinoumi used his own grip to twist Kaki into an awkward position, from where he was able to break Zoe's grip and work himself into a better inside position. From there he didn't allow Zoe to wiggle into any direction although the small fella tried, boy did he try. Using the better grip he just escorted the struggling Warm Shit back and out. Okinoumi's at four while Zoe's even steven. 

One of the anticipated bouts of the morning was Tokitenku's matchup with Tochinoshin. Tenku has been cooled off a bit with the first loss yesterday. In any case the bout for both being for sure a belt fight, it had to favor Shin somewhat pending the condition of his hand. Tenku got a quick right inside grip as the two charged and almost got a left inner too. Shin got a left outside grip and managed to neutralize Tenku's attempt with the left hand. After a bit of fishing for the left Tenku gave up his attempts effectively making it useless (for he didn't go for an outside grip either). Shin's attempted to move Tenku back didn't move him too much, but did give Shin a right inside grip. Using that grip and a quick leg-trip attempt he lifted his foe up and moved him methodically to the tawara where a bit more struggling took Tenku over the line. It was a power struggle to some extent, but it remains unclear to me still why Tenku gave up the attempts on gaining moro-zashi and effectively made his left arm useless. 

Homey and Sexy both kept their arses back far and went for some touchy touchy in the bout circling around themselves. Homasho almost had Sexy there for a while, when he raised Sexy's hands, but didn't attack fast enough. About five seconds later he went for the same move, raising Sexy's hands up and charging lower this time, but he forgot to attack with his lower body as well so all sexy needed, was to grab Homey's head and twist/slap him down to the clay. Both guys stand at 7-3 and should be safe from demotion. 

Tochiohzan took on the man on fire by absorbing Giku's charge nicely. As Giku was working Tochiohzan backwards, the latter used his grip below his foe's shoulder and twisted him around himself and using the right arm forced Giku down to the clay. It looked really easy and Tochiohzan walked away like he had just taken a snack. A good momentum usage from Tochiohzan and a sloppy loss by Kotoshogiku. Both need another win to secure it though. 

Aran pulled a beautifully Russian henka. I guess being 0-9 one does get desperate. Tamawashi went home shaking his head. Aran scores for the first time in about the same way as rohypnol and liquer combined for a hooker at a truckstop. Tamawashi probably felt like said hooker afterwards.

While Kisenosato has looked good in some basho, he does look utter bollocks this basho and this was again showing when he took on Kyokutenho today. Tenho got a good position and dictated the pace a the start by backpedaling and having Kise off balance, but he couldn't finish him off as his hands slipped from the head grip during the pulldown, allowing for Kise a small chance to recover which he did take. From the recovery he did get a good inside position and from there did what he should have done from the start namely secure his grip and escort Tenho out. Kisenosato is 5-5, but I don't see him going much beyond 8-7 this basho with this shaky sumo. Tenho has his one win and may have to do with it till the end, so much about his hopes to break into sanyaku again. 

So we have two slippery fellas meeting with Kakuryu and Aminishiki. And slippery they are indeed as the two charged it was Aminishiki who managed to slap Kak's arms away so hard, that it sent Kak straight to his hug with his side so Ami wasted no time grabbing a few folds of the mawashi in Kak's crack, pivoting around and securing the grip with a few folds on the mawashi covering Kak's balls. Anyway, either he got more than just the mawashi folds or his grip was just too good for he had Kak running out faster than he could be shoved. And with that the fish faced Mongolian gets his make-koshi. I guess he decided to suck royally in Asa's absence.  Aminishiki improves to 6-4 and will probably get his KK. While I'm fine with the outcome of the bout and think that the final grip on the front didn't improve Ami's grip THAT much, form what I understand the grip was illegal and Ami should have been disqualified for it. But it's the Fishface so we'll forgive the shimpan.

Waka charged hard to Toyo, but immediately shifted gears and moved backwards. Toyo went with the motion and was probably already happy that he has the veteran going backwards as he totally forgot to keep track of where he was going and hence looked surprised when Waka slid to his left and allowed Toyo to pass and crash to the dohyo. A surprise win in any case, but not undeserved. The Barometer keeps his KK hopes alive another day, but it's the hope that leaves as last usually. Toyonoshima needs to work hard to not share the fate. 

Toyohibiki almost took another Ozeki scalp as he allowed Harry inside low and went with his whole bodyweight on top of him, praying to all known gods, that Harry crashes down before he himself is escorted out, but Harry's got some muscle as he kept on going and grabbing Hibiki's thigh sending Hibiki crashing on his back. Harry gets his ninth and keeps himself in the theoretical yusho race as he needs both Bart and Hak to be upset (one of which will happen tomorrow for sure as the two meet). Hibiki takes the opposite of the score and limps back home. 

Kaio vs. Kotomitsuki. Now this is a match where I can't possibly imagine when was the last time it was legit. This time the yaocho masters (you know who's the guy with the tinfoil hat in this gang) made calculations and assumed that Kotomitsuki wins the match for he needs it surely to shake his kadoban status. There are still those who don't believe in this like Hiro Morita, who said just before the bout, that Kotomitsuki has now a tough fight against Kaio. But if you look at the actual bout it was a given as Kaio just stood up, let himself be turned around and then started to walk backwards himself. Don't know if him falling on his ass was in the script or not, but the win for Mitsu was for sure.

Baruto charged hard with a double nodowa and continued from there with a ferocious tsuppari. For a moment it seemed that he will just blast Kotooshu away from the dohyo altogether, but just as Oshu's legs approached the tawara he managed to dig in and gain a grip at the belt. He tried for a moment to gain moro-zashi, but quickly abandoned the attempt for it was too dangerous to keep just one arm on the belt. He immediately charged in kind, but was stopped when Bart got close to the tawara. After a moment's pause it was Bart's turn to start a forceout attempt and this time the two went over the tawara giving Baruto the victory. Now there are those who have claimed that maybe this bout wasn't all legit for Kotooshu might be paving his way for an eastern European alliance now that Baruto is imminent to raise to Ozeki. Who knows, that pushout attempt by osh did stop a bit suddenly and he was escorted out by Bart easily, but that might have easily been legit. With Bart behind him Oshu should manage to get his final eighth win. So how about Bart? He's 10-0 after 10 days, a personal record. I doubt though that he'll upset Hakuho tomorrow though he's the lone one probably who can pull it off besides Harumafuji. But with 10 now he's primed to be Ozeki either after this basho already (very likely) or latest in May. 

Well so we take the other all-win rikishi Hakuho and as can be expected Tosayutaka is not an opponent to upset the mighty Yokozuna for Hak just absorbed Yutaka's charge, grabbed Yutaka's head and went for a beltless headlock throw. Nothing to see here. 

So we have two guys at 10-0 heading into day 11. This would remind you of the recent times where this was a common occurrence with Asashoryu and Hakuho. This time however the two are Hakuho and Baruto. Too bad that they have to face off on day 11 as this might take off some of the steam from the Yusho race. However if Baruto does indeed pull off the upset tomorrow it'll make the Yusho all the more interesting. Anyway, you'll hear the short form of it tomorrow from Kenji.

Day 9 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I wasn't quite sure what to expect coming into day 9, but I was pretty confident the day wouldn't suck as bad as day 8. Not only did all four Ozeki lose lowlighted by Kotooshu getting worked by a winless Tosayutaka, but then the dude who twirls that bow at the end of the day let it get away from him as it sailed clear off the dohyo. To make matters worse, he failed to pick the bow up with his foot he was so flustered and just reached down and grabbed it with his hand. I think I actually knew this at one point, but when the bow drops to the dohyo, the guy twirling it can't pick it up with his hand because the hand touching the dohyo during a bout means you lose, so it's bad luck for anyone's hand to touch the dirt.

Is it really necessary for sumo to still hold onto such superstitions? What, do they have oyakata patrolling the grounds of the Kokugikan to make sure no black cats set paws on the premises? Are ladders banned from the facility out of fear that someone might accidentally walk under them? I realize that sumo is steeped in all sorts of tradition, but times change as well as the interests of the spectators, and sumo would be the better for it to realign themselves to the current day and age instead of continuing to emphasize nonsensical practices. But that's a topic for another day. Let's turn our attention back to the basho at hand.

Foreshadowing a changing of the guard, M14 Tamanoshima was all pull against rookie M13 Tokusegawa, who went for the mae-mitsu frontal belt grip from the tachi-ai. Tamanoshima backed out of it, but just kept trying to time a pull attempt. Tokusegawa wasn't buying it, and seized moro-zashi setting up the ridiculously easy force-out win. Tokusegawa has established himself nicely in this division at 5-4 while Tamanoshima drops to 3-6.

M12 Okinoumi got all he could ask for from M16 Kasugao, which was a straight up tachi-ai that ended up with the two in the migi-yotsu position. The rookie faked a maki-kae attempt with the left before latching onto an outer grip of Kasugao's belt with the same hand. Okinoumi was smart to press the action straightway dragging Kasugao over to the edge in dashi-nage style, but he failed to account for any counter move Kasugao may employ. It came in the form of a right-handed kote-nage throw that fell Okinoumi to the dohyo before he could drive Kasugao out. Okinoumi looked to dominate this one throughout, but these veterans know how to pull it out at the edge so well, and it's something the rookies have to learn fast. Kids. Both rikishi are 3-6.

M11 Hokutoriki used his usual weak moro-te tachi-ai, which means there were no de-ashi behind it to keep M16 Bushuyama supposedly at bay, but the Dolly Yama pressed forward on his pilgrimage nudging Hokutoriki back to the straw. At the edge, however, Hokutoriki sprung his trap and went for the quick pull attempt as he evaded with one foot on the straw. The enlightened one took it hook, line, and sinker prostrating himself on the dohyo in humility not to mention defeat. Both rikishi are 3-6...for a reason.

M14 Kokkai pounced into moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M10 Shimotori, and I guess the problem was I still wasn't convinced that Kokkai would win the bout even after obtaining the insurmountable position. Shimotori countered diligently with the left outer grip and right hand trying to raise Kokkai's left side up, but Coccai couldn't even blow this one as he secured the easy force-out win advancing to 6-3. Shimotori is 2-7.

M10 Kitataiki and M15 Mokonami hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu position that saw Kitataiki take the slight edge by wrenching his hips and nudging his chest deeper into Mokonami's to apply the pressure. Mokonami was pinned in at this point, so he went for a maki-kae with the right arm, which was successful giving him moro-zashi, but the maki-kae is a do or die move as you have to sacrifice your positioning to get it, and in the process, Kitataiki (6-3) wasted no time in mounting a force-out charge that had Mokonami (5-4) backed out of the ring before he could dig in and make use of that maki-kae. I guess my comment stemming from this bout is that it exemplified how maki-kae is a one and done move. If you see a bout near the end of the basho that involves a rikishi who really needs a win, if it contains multiple maki-kae, it's probably fake.

Moving along, M15 Sagatsukasa and M9 Yoshikaze butt heads at the tachi-ai, but with Yoshikaze drifting left (wasn't a henka), he quickly thrust up into Sagatsukasa's body before reversing momentum and going for the quick pulldown. The move worked for the veteran as Sagatsukasa failed to gain any momentum from the tachi-ai. This was ugly indeed but Yoshikaze moves to 3-6 for his trouble. Sagatsukasa falls to 5-4, and if any readers in Japan happen to run over a beaver with your car, I know a guy who could make good use of the pelt.

There was absolutely no way M9 Hakuba was going to beat M12 Takamisakari straight up, and he knew it, so he went for the classless tachi-ai henka to his left wrapping up Takamisakari's left arm with both hands as he tried to drag him down to the dohyo as he twisted him around by the arm. But when you ain't got any game, you can't defeat your opponent with a single move, so Hakuba reached down and grabbed Takamisakari's left ankle with his right hand tripping the Robocop to the dirt aided by the left kote-nage style throw. The kimari-te was kozuma-tori sending sumo nerds around the globe on a quest to see who could find out first when the last time the technique was used to win a bout in the Makuuchi division. But more important than that was how big of a horse's arse Hakuba was in the bout with that henka. He moves to 4-5 while Takamisakari cools off a bit at 6-3.

M13 Tokitenku hasn't beaten M7 Miyabiyama in a long, long time, and it showed today as the Sheriff welcomed Tokitenku with a smothering moro-te to the neck that stood Tokitenku completely upright so that when Miyabiyama shifted gears on a dime and yanked his Mongolian friend downwards, Tokitenku had no answer 'cept for a faceplant to the dohyo. Miyabiyama completely dominated this one, which is why you won't see me mentioning "Tokitenku" and "yusho race" in the same sentence. Damn! I just did. Anyway, Miyabiyama sails restores order to the dohyo at 7-2 while the long arm of the law of averages will catch up with Tokidoki at 8-1.

M6 Tochiohzan and M11 Asasekiryu hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu position, but Tochiohzan took advantage keeping Sexy upright at the chest while latching onto a right outer grip. Tochiohzan showed great maturity to go for the quick force-out charge, and while Asasekiryu tried to squirrel out of it at the edge with a counter kubi-nage attempt, Tochiohzan's positioning was just too good enabling him to push Asasekiryu out from behind in the end...or was that redundant? Both rikishi are 6-3.

M5 Homasho kept both arms in tight and his head low at the tachi-ai against M7 Kakizoe who abandoned any sort of forward attack straightway going for a stupid pulldown despite no positioning. The result was Homasho just bulldozing Kakizoe back and out with a sweet thrust attack. Homasho is a quiet 7-2 while Kakizoe is 5-4.

If I could use one word to describe M6 Tochinoshin's defeat at the hands of M3 Kotoshogiku it would simply be "outclassed." Kotoshogiku charged harder and lower going for the quick right frontal grip before settling into the right inside position while bodying Tochinoshin back towards the edge in the process. Shin tried to dig in and counter, but Kotoshogiku had him forced back and out in 2-3 seconds. This bout was over in a flash, but it exemplified everything that Kotoshogiku is doing right this basho, namely a great tachi-ai, relentless pressure on his opponent, and sticking to his brand of sumo regardless. No wonder Kotoshogiku is 7-2 while Tochinoshin's basho has not been as good as his 6-3 indicates.

M8 Iwakiyama and M2 Aran hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu contest and then squared up their chests fully committing to the yotsu-bout. Iwakiyama attacked cautiously working Aran back towards the edge, and with Aran running out of room faster than he wanted, he struck with a counter inside belt throw to Iwakiyama's outer belt throw with the left. The result was a classic nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge that saw Aran put his right elbow to the dirt an instant before Iwakiyama touched down himself. This one was extremely close, so a mono-ii was called, and while Aran did look to touch down first, this was so close that the judges could have made any decision (to fit their agenda), and it would have been correct. They did just that in awarding the win to Iwakiyama who improves to 5-4. Aran falls to 0-9 and is showing his true mental make-up this basho.

M1 Wakanosato attacked high against M8 Takekaze and realized his trouble quickly as Takekaze immediately fired tsuppari into his chest, but Wakanosato was able to evacuate quickly and managed to pull down Takekaze in the process in an overall ugly bout that had no business taking place just before the sanyaku (both rikishi are 2-7). Next.

Komusubi Aminishiki charged well leading with his head lowered and the left hand at the front of M2 Kyokutenho's belt, and with the Chauffeur nonchalant as ever, Aminishiki simply inserted his right arm into Kyokutenho's left giving him moro-zashi that Tenho just couldn't shake. The force-out win came straightway as Aminishiki moves to 5-4 while Kyokutenho has given us nothing this basho at 1-8.

Komusubi Kisenosato used a quick hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping M1 Kakuryu's face with the right hand while getting the left on the inside, but in the process the Kid was moving forward with some oomph (like Kotoshogiku) that completely knocked Kakuryu upright enabling Kisenosato to force him back quickly despite the lack of a firm grip on the belt. The two settled in near the edge into the hidari-yotsu position, but Kisenosato had all of the momentum and just bodied Kakuryu across and down via yori-taoshi before Kakuryu could attempt to counter. Expect that late basho charge from Kisenosato (4-5) who has already fought his toughest opponents. The Kak is limp at 2-7.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kotomitsuki was far too relaxed against M5 Toyohibiki, but then who wouldn't be with Ibiki's 1-7 record coming in? Kotomitsuki welcomed his opponent's charge with the right inside position, but Toyohibiki was relentless grabbing the left outside grip and immediately forcing the Ozeki across the dohyo and over to the edge. Kotomitsuki realized he was in for a fight at this point and countered with a right inner belt throw at the edge against Toyohibiki's firm left outer grip giving us yet another nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge. Toyohibiki actually touched the dirt first, but Kotomitsuki's left hand was clearly beneath the plane created by the surface of the dohyo, so a mono-ii was called where it was confirmed that both went down at the same time giving us a rematch.

In the do-over, Kotomitsuki wouldn't be caught off guard this time getting his right arm deep on the inside of Toyohibiki's left while seriously threatening moro-zashi on the other side. More importantly, he drove with his legs forcing Toyohibiki back leaving him nothing but a weak counter kote-nage attempt with the left hand at the edge. Kotomitsuki wouldn't blow this one committing on a force-out charge that sent Toyohibiki back to his make-koshi giving Mitsuki some breathing room at 6-3.  Up next for Kotomitsuki is Kaio tomorrow, and who knows when the last time was these two fought a straight up bout.  With Kotomitsuki at six wins and Kaio stuck on five, you'd hafta think that Kotomitsuki gets the win tomorrow due to his kadoban status.

The question in the Ozeki Kaio - Sekiwake Baruto matchup was would Kaio try any shenanigans at the tachi-ai? He thankfully didn't, but he also was smart enough not to lurch into the yotsu-zumo contest leaving both rikishi battling for position with tsuppari. Baruto's tsuppari were better placed forcing Kaio to try and swipe them away, but he never could grab onto Bart's arms in the process to wrench him off balance, so with Baruto completely dictating the pace, he lunged into the yotsu position securing the left outer grip. From there, he made sure his chest was firmly aligned with the Ozeki's and then executed the flawless force-out charge for the easy win. Baruto moves to 9-0 and has already earned Ozeki promotion in my book. As I mentioned on day 6, the Sumo Association always talks about quality and not quantity, and it can't get any better than this for Baruto, especially considering his pre-bout thumb injury. Now, the Estonian could very well end up at 12-3 and be denied promotion, but rather than make a stink about it, keep your cool and realize you now have 24 wins heading into the Natsu basho. Regardless, the Estonian will be an Ozeki by the end of May, so just keep doing what you're doing. Kaio falls to 5-4.

Ozeki Kotooshu lunged into moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M4 Tamawashi raising him upright with the right on the inside while driving his body into The Mawashi knocking him clean off the dohyo in less than two seconds. This was flawless stuff from a recharged Ozeki, but Kotooshu is seven and two little too late. Maybe next basho. Tamawashi is a respectable 3-6 all things considered.

In the day's penultimate bout, Harumafuji employed a moro-te tachi-ai driving M4 Tosayutaka back to the edge in a flash before elbowing him across for the split second win. Looked impressive, but let's see how well he can do against Baruto and Kotooshu in the coming days. That's how you can tell if Harumafuji is fighting well or not. He's 8-1 for his trouble while Tosayutaka is the inverse 1-8.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho used a right kachi-age (forearm to the upper mid-section) coupled with a left paw to Sekiwake Toyonoshima's throat followed by some stiff tsuppari to the head that knocked Toyonoshima completely upright and off balance. Before the Sekiwake could compose himself, Hakuho grabbed a right armbar around the outside of Toyonoshima's left arm and unleashed a shove that threw Toyonoshima airborne and a full two meters back and outta the dohyo for good. This was wicked sumo from Hakuho who clearly means bidness in Asashoryu's absence. At 9-0 he is your leader while Toyonoshima has cooled off a bit at 4-5.

Turn your head and cough; the doc's in tomorrow.

Day 8 (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Are you like me, and want to know why Martins photo is the only one on Sumotalk with a background? Did he virtually blow someone to get some nature in the shot (hes a wiz with avatars)? I mean Arbo for example would look one hell of a lot more...human if he had, say, a Japanese lace gingko tree perched behind him and that Gulliverian maitai hes about to drink. Or Kenji? With a pole dancing Slovenian eighteen year-old backing him up? How about Mario with something that says, I am NOT Shire folk? Or Andreas, with a touch of vermilion or azule? Yes, Mike and I, both fathers three times over, are now effectively sterile (we got it done together in Tokyo to celebrate Asas 25th yusho, silly us), but must it show in our frogging profile photos?

Its no coincidence that every contributor has begun his report with the bottom of Maegashira this time out in hopes of maintaining some tension before the inevitable Death-By-Yokozuna, so Ill switch er up here and start with the sure thing.

Hakuho took on his countryman Tamawashi with the tachi-ai face slap, which led to an easy outside left belt. Hakuho took a bit of time in this one because he was dealing with a fellow Mongolian, but in the end he shimmied and shaked and finally took The Mawashi back and out. Have to give the M4 credit, he used his mus to tuss and tho he was thus put on the bus, at least he didnt fuss like a wuss or puss. 

Aminishiki must have been licking his chops to see not only a wounded Ozeki across from him, but a wounded Kotomitsuki. He slipped to the side at tachi-ai, spun that mofo around, and lifted him up by one thigh. You can imagine now the undignified manner in which he was carried out, hopping on one leg. Uglier than hair on cheesecake, people.

M3 Kotoshogiku downing Ozeki Harumafuji is one of those paper upsets, like Aminishiki beating Kotooshu, because in reality the underdog more often than not wins. So it was no surprise at all to see HowDo try and stiff arm Geeku and get nothing but a good old fashioned instantaneous ass kicking out of it. Harumafuji looked like a five year-old kid trying to stop his drunk papa head on from taking off on the family Segway. Dude drops one back of Hakuho in the phantom yusho race, if youre naive enough to even be counting.

Looking at the Tosayutaka/Kotooshu match you could be forgiven for thinking, Laugher. Guy hasnt won yet from the dreaded M4 rank, and hes up against the underachieving Ozeki who, with Asashoryu gone, has every reason to be sniffing the yusho each time out. So what happens? Nothing but Tosayutaka getting up under the leadfooted Bulgarian and simply annihilating him. He even gave him a sort of bitch slap as he fell to his ass. I like to joke, hell I live for joking, but Im deadly serious when I say if I was Kotooshu, I would have been thinking of retiring right on the spot. Easily the most embarrassing recent loss for a top guy I can recall, even more so than Hakuho losing to Shotenro last year. Course, Kotooshu is a flake, so maybe the hyperbole is misplaced. And poor Martin, imagining the Ozeki ruing his Day 2 loss to Aminishiki, as if it could possibly matter.

3-5 Kisenosato did what he should do, namely get 5-3 Kaios belt and hold on tight, go with any evasive maneuvering and finally back him out. Hard to believe either guys record. 

(In a related note, Martin was not kidding yesterday. After my rather rambunctious whistling on Day 2, I had a visit on Thursday at my home from two fellas with topknots. I was too fearful to recall every word, but it went something like this:

Big Guy One: Hey. Hey, you. Yeah, you. Birdy. You sing like a little bird.
Big Guy Two: Now that I think about it, he looks kinda like a (either "swan" or "hooker").
BGO: Real funny guy, eh.
BGT: Kills me.
BGO: Does the Don Rickles of avian imitations plan on going to another days wrestling is the question I ask.
BGT: I think the answer is a no, but I could be mistaken.
BGO: Hey Lancaster, is my friend here mistaken? Does he look like a guy who makes mistakes?
Me: (gulp) No.
BGO: Good, then well see you again on...Neverday, kapeesh? 
Me: Si senor.)

Just before the Kakuryu/Toyonoshima bout they interviewed Baruto and right after the interview I could swear I heard Hiro Morita say "Good natured Baruto" and Ross, who was the days announcer, finished the line by saying "...picking up his kachikoshi." Freaky moment, but there was nothing freaky about the way Toyonoshima nearly gave away the win by letting the Kak escape at the edge, then fought back from near certain destruction at the edge himself to take a hotly contested bout. Like Kaio is now, one day Tugboat will be old and slow, but for now hes a hunka hunka burnin love, so enjoy it whilst you can.

Baruto got yet another foe who went to his right, avoiding the "injured" left thumb. Kyokutenho held on gamely for a few seconds, but when he made the maki-kae move to a double inside belt grip, the Biomass was on him like landslide on mountainside. Not to be pointing any thumbs, but in my book, a maki-kae attempt is one of the easiest ways to look good while throwing a bout. I can dig why sumo would like to see Baruto at Ozeki, but ID like to see his opponents trying a bit more than they have been to this point.

Screw Dumas, I broke out Paradise Lost when two winless rikishi went doh to doh. Angel Michael was just telling First Man Adam about the worlds future when Wakanosato finally forced Aran out. 

Toyohibiki was looking for the number of the truck after Yoshikaze just slammed him to the ground following a dominating tachi-ai. Starbuck was not to be messed with today.

No Shine maintained a gentlemanly demeanor even after Hakuba perpetrated his daily tachi-fly. Tochinoshin was not deceived and got a strong outside left, with which he lifted the Mongolian back and out. Hakuba is probably one of these faggots who orders boneless chicken at KFC.

In an entertaining match, Kakizoe got off to a fast start against undefeated Tokitenku, but the gyoji said, "WTF?" and they had to go again. Evidently not placated by Kakizoes sincere bow and apology for the offense, TokiDoki tried one of his patented ugly henka/ketaguris, where he jumps away and flails at his foe with one extended leg, trying to trip him up (or down, as the case may be). It didnít work, but Kakizoe rushed his attack and got a fierce head pulldown loss for his troubles. 

Sagatsukasa was able to slip away from Hokutorikis thrusting and send the Jokerman to the dirt. I know we bust his balls a lot, calling him Lil Zuna and The Pretender, but I stood next to Hokutoriki on Day 2, and he is one huge piece of work. He could flatten most of humanity by simply reaching for the soy sauce shaker. No wonder hes got a tude.

The only Asa left in the top division, Asasekiryu, committed yet another egregious henka today, this time on his holiness the Dolly Yama, who is just working 9 to 5, for Petes sake! Give the man a break, will ya? Its tough listening to the NHK English guys in such contretemps, trying to find polite ways to describe this kind of shitty sumo basho after basho.

Finally, here I must print, if not a retraction, then an apology. I took the piss out of Kitazakura on Day One, implying he was sweet on the lads, but when I hooked up with him on Day Two, I found I could not have been more wrong. I feel horrible, especially after he offered me an honorary role in the actual organization he is involved with, People for the Ethical Development of Original Photographic Histories Imaging Legendary Eras. Though I was forced to decline due to prior obligations, he left me duly impressed and I wish for him nothing but the best (team of attorneys).

Day 9 has Mike driving his barrow, through streets broad and narrow, so look alive, alive oh.

Day 7 (Martin Matra reporting)
You know there's that old saying, "Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it" I believe it goes. For years we at Sumotalk have been bitching, moaning and groaning about how the top rankers and the best rikishi in the game don't live up to their expectations and drop a few bouts early. Well, with the top 6 guys boasting a powerful 37-5 combined record, it's safe to say that's definitely not the case anymore. And yet, something seems to be missing. Is it Asashoryu's aura of doom? Is it the fact that the Japanese youngsters aren't exactly rocking the boat? Could it be that the joijin below Komusubi are sucking collective arse? Or maybe the fact that Hakuho looks more invincible than ever? Hard to tell, but something's definitely amiss here. And I'll bet the Russians are to blame, somehow.

Kokkai took surprisingly good care of newcomer Sagatsukasa in a bout that looked like a fight between an 18 year old jock and his 10 year old little brother. The whitey kept nice and low and used his long arms to playfully slap his little foe's noggin and keep him safely at bay. After a few frustrating thrusts (try saying that really fast 3 times--if you send me a video of you doing it properly, you'll win a prize), Kokkai went Psych! and perfectly timed the pull, so Sagatsukasa had no choice but to fall flat on his face. The Corporal boasts a shiny 5-2 (well, at least considering his recent form), while Sagatsukasa is still above the .5 mark with 4-3.

Tokitenku is unbelievably still undefeated after a tentative affair against the listless Tamanoshima. The Mongol completely annihilated any offensive options Peter might have had, standing him up and denying any mawashi grip, which would undoubtedly favor the taller Kataonami rikishi. Tamanoshima methodically worked his foe near the tawara, but the bales provided the little boost Tenku needed to stop his advance. Tamanoshima eventually tried to stand Tenku up with a paw to the face, but the slippery Mongol was one step ahead, evading to his left and dragging his foe down to his 5th loss. Tokitenku's start, while impressive, doesn't really earn him a spot on the leader board. Look for him to drop out of there in a day or two.

Takamisakari lost the tachi-ai against Korean Kasugao (who's about to become Japanese, from what I've heard recently), and could only muster a shallow inside grip on the right. Kim wasted no time in bringing the Clown to the tawara, trying to capitalize on a failed maki-kae, but Takamisakari used his inside grip to scoop him to the side and get out of harm's way. The move allowed the quicker Japanese man (and that's saying a lot about Kasugao) to get into a deep moro-zashi and escort his compromised foe to his 5th loss, while getting his own 5th win in the process.

Looks like Bushy's slowly starting to wake up from his Makuuchi dream. Newbie Okinoumi got a freebie today when Bushuyama charged way too carelessly, allowing the rookie to kind of move out of the way and let him fall to his face. Both guys are at a paltry yet somewhat expected 3-4.

Mongol Asasekiryu started to cool off a bit after his own fast start, losing a straight chest to chest yotsu contest against compatriot Mokonami. From the tachi-ai Moe used a decent hari-te to work his way to Sexy's side and get an insurmountable left uwate he wouldn't relinquish throughout the bout. After a long series of maneuvers, Mokonami succeeded in breaking Asasekiryu's grip on his mawashi and escorted him out for his 4th win. Sexy's still that at 5-2.

I think Shimotori made a little tactical mistake in underestimating Mongol rookie Tokusegawa and walking right into migi-yotsu with him. With a tough left outside grip on Moo's front of the mawashi, Tokusegawa wasted no time in ousting his older foe and returned above the .5 line. Shimotori falls to his 5th loss, if anyone really cares.

Hokutoriki is so bad this basho that Hakuba didn't need a henka or even a mawashi grip to kick his ass. Hakuba took the brunt of Hokutoriki's tachi-ai (a more bark than bite nodowa, as usual), stepped to the side, grabbed his arm, turned him around, survived the inevitable pull and pushed him out. 2-5 is quite a surprise for the Joker in these shallow waters, but he certainly deserves it. Hakuba is a clown.

You gotta feel for Mike, just when Kitataiki shows he could survive higher in the division, he goes and injures his knee again. Kakizoe jumped him at the tachi-ai and stood him right up, getting a deep moro-zashi in the process and pushing him right out. I know, not much to write home about, but it was that lopsided. Taiki falls to 4-3, while Zoe improves to an unlikely 5-2.

Something's wrong with Yoshikaze this basho, he doesn't seem to have the same motivation he usually brings to his bouts. It could be blamed on his opposition, of course, but he's beaten all these guys at least once before. Today Miyabiyama made short work of him, laughing his charge off and pummeling him out of the dohyo, annihilating any sort of evasive maneuvers. The Fatman is enjoying a quiet basho at 5-2, while Yoshikaze has some serious figuring to do at 1-6.

Private Tochinoshin took a page right out of his superior's book, bludgeoning Takekaze at the tachi-ai with a heavy helping of kachi-age (forearm blast to the face--usually with a lovely, resounding thump), then followed up with a couple of vicious thrusts to the face, setting up an insurmountable migi-yotsu double grip, which he used to lift Takekaze clean off his feet and force him out. This was exactly the kind of sumo one would expect to see from these giant Europeans. Shin is on par, with 5-2 so far, while Kaze slumps further to 2-5.

I often get the feeling the break before the last 10 bouts of the day is way too long, especially when Clyde Newton starts urging us to be veeeewy, vewy quiet, because he's hunting wabbits. Thank goodness for the mute button.

Tochiohzan is looking better now at M6 than last basho a few notches lower, with 5-2 already. Oh charged slightly higher than Iwakiyama, but he managed to worm his way on the inside, denying Moony the right uwate while grabbing a good one of his own. From there, yori-kiri was only a matter of time. Iwakiyama continues his freefall with the 4th consecutive loss, and he ain't the favorite tomorrow against Kokkai either. Tochiohzan looks set on returning to the jo'i, and maybe this time he actually manages to stay there.

0fer Tosayutaka was looking to get the inside position on Homasho, but Homie kept nice and low, and his mawashi way back and out of Yutaka's reach, so the guy with the shortest arms in the division couldn't get much going. With his opponent flustered, Homasho snuck his left deep inside on the back of Tosayutaka's mawashi and immediately forced him back and out, despite a late kubi-hineri effort. I must say I was expecting Tosayutaka to fold, but 0-7 is overkill. And, adding insult to injury, Goeido's kyujo left him next in line for fighting the sharks--Kotooshu tomorrow. Homasho cruises to his 5th win and might be offered to the Ozeki later for lack of better opposition. We'll see.

Ex-Mongol Kyokutenho dug out the burgundy mawashi he used when he tsuridashi'ed Asashoryu ages ago, probably in an attempt to change his luck and finally win one. Well, I'm not sure that helped, but facing Toyohibiki certainly did. The veteran didn't charge fully and kind of deflected the reckless Hibiki, grabbing the right uwate in the process and flipping his compromised foe to the dirt in 2 seconds flat. Both guys are at an abysmal, yet expected 1-6.

Aminishiki showed superior awareness and determination, outwitting Wakanosato at the tachi-ai and working his way into a perfect double inside position, which he used to immediately push the veteran out. The lopsided win ups Sneaky's record to a decent 3-4, while Wakanosato (0-7) bombed worse than Avatar at the Oscars.

Right before the previous bout, the NSK showed a long take (I mean Shine On You Crazy Diamond long) of Kakuryu, concentrating in anticipation of his bout against seemingly unstoppable Baruto. After the tachi-ai, it became clear why he was concentrating so hard in the first place. Bart charged kind of upright, but definitely VERY forward, when Kakuryu pulled the mother of all henkas, sending Baruto stumbling all the way to the tawara, and moving in behind him for the kill. Baruto, however, had completely different plans, and turned around as fast as you'll ever see him to plant a fat left arm under Kak's pit and completely neutralize his desperate charge. After grabbing the mawashi, the huge Estonian used his allegedly injured left hand to lift Kakuryu off his feet and force him over the tawara. It was strangely fulfilling to see Kakuryu walking down the hana-michi dejected, but I'm sure he'll bounce right back from his 2-5 record, because he's already faced the worst opposition. Baruto stays perfect, and I must confess I'm kind of curious how the high rankers will handle this scary change of style on his part. I could actually picture the Ozeki bunch collectively henka his ass of, especially the likes of Harumafuji or Kotomitsuki. If 13-2 is what the NSK really wants Baruto to win to get the promotion, I don't see him getting it, but a 12-3 is definitely within reach. And, as Mike was saying, there's nobody who deserves the Ozeki rank more than Baruto right now, really.

Ozeki Kotooshu crashed hard into Kisenosato, as usual, demanding the yotsu position, but Kisenosato made it interesting for a few seconds, denying any sort of belt grip while keeping a left shita-te of his own. However, the Kid was way too passive in his approach, so when the dust settled, Kotooshu grabbed a strong right uwate, which he used to methodically force the bout to the edge. Right before being taken over the bales, Kisenosato managed to break Kotooshu's left shita-te and was able to deploy a desperation sukui-nage (which has felled Kotooshu in the past, mind you), but it was too little, too late, as the big Bulgar used his uwate to throw Kisenosato clean out of the dohyo before he himself fell. Kotooshu cruises to 6-1 (and probably wishes he could take back that day 2 bout against Aminishiki), while Kisenosato slumps to 2-5. Sigh.

Easily the most contested bout of the day, Ama-Toyonoshima was ultimately interesting for something else than the sumo in it. Harumafuji won the tachi-ai, getting a strong right uwate while denying his short opponent moro-zashi. Normally, when these conditions are met, it's only a matter of time before one wins the bout against the little fella, but Harumafuji was made to work really hard for his eventual win, avoiding a few desperation throws at the edge before finally breaking Toyo's last resistance and pushing him over the edge. However, like I said before, the really interesting part was the dame-oshi at the end, reminiscent of a fired up Asashoryu. I guess sumo needs a new villain. Toyonoshima falls to a more earthly 3-4, after his fast 3-0 start. Harumafuji stays perfect and (at least on paper) in contention for the Yusho. Don't hold your breath, though, I don't see how Hak loses this one.

Despite being reprimanded for not being in sync at the tachi-ai, Kotomitsuki stole it again, this time from Tamawashi, going at it half a second early, hitting hard and grabbing a solid left uwate. After failing with the inevitable dashi-nage, Mitsuki finished it off by oshi-dashi. Don't be fooled by the 5-2, Mitsuki will have to work for his 8th. Mawashi is overachieving a bit at 3-4, but his opposition ain't getting easier.

Old man Kaio welcomed the inexperienced Aran and was gifted the right uwate straight out of the tachi-ai. The throw followed less than a second after, and it worked so well that I'm beginning to wonder just how legit this bout was. Don't get me wrong, Kaio is perfectly capable of pulling it off, but I was expecting more of a fight from the Russian (0-7). Kaio is safe for now at 5-2, but look for him to finish the rest of the basho at 3-5 or so.

Finally, Hakuho took care of business against a Kotoshogiku who just didn't know what to do to even look like he had a chance of beating the Yokozuna. Hak stopped his foe's charge with a mean kachi-age, then set up the right inside grip with a few tsuppari to Giku's upper body. Using a well-timed pull, Hakuho gained a very deep shita-te on the back of Kotoshogiku's mawashi, which he used to throw his opponent with a textbook shitate-nage. It hardly gets much easier than this, and Hak soars to 7-0, never having been in trouble. Kotoshogiku is still a very respectable 5-2.

Short as this might have been, there's not much more left to say. The sumo is mostly good, people who should win, win, but there's something missing from the mix. There's not much for me to speculate on, either. The Yusho has Hak written all over it, Bart has a pretty decent chance of getting his promotion, the young Ozeki will be staying in contention (at least on paper) until late into it, the old Ozeki will get their respective 8. And that's about it.

Clancy copes with PSTD tomorrow (Kisenosato caught up with him after the episode on day 2).

Day 6 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Normally when the top four rikishi in sumo have a combined 23-1 record after six days, you'd think we were in for a great finish, but it seems that the Haru basho has yet to pick up much steam. Most of the problem lies squarely with the upper Maegashira and their collective inability to even remotely challenge the top rikishi. Then you have two veteran sanyaku rikishi in the Komusubi ranks who have a combined three wins (if you don't count their head to head), and it's no wonder the upper tier has become so lopsided. It's hard to really say how anyone is doing because this first week has been like shooting fish in a barrel for the top guys.

Even Baruto's Ozeki run has been curious. Sure, it's great that Baruto is 6-0, but so many of his bouts have been so fluke-ish due to his thumb injury that has forced him to change his style. So, we're six days in, and we really won't be able to tell what kind of shape anyone is in until they finally face each other the last four of five days of the tournament. So it's no wonder that Kenji is yawning at this point. The hole created by the departure of Asashoryu and Chiyotaikai has shifted everyone up a few notches to where you have a few haves and too many have-nots.

But I'm not the one making the decisions, so let's get right to the action starting as usual from the bottom up.

M16 Bushuyama welcomed Juryo Tosanoumi, who didn't even put up a fight. Bush forced Tosanoumi around the ring with some shoves before gaining the left inside position on Tosanoumi, who was squatting forward and low the entire time. From there Dolly pulled Tosanoumi forward and off balance, and that was all she wrote. Uninspired beginning as Bushuyama moves to 3-3.

In sumo they have a term called "waki wo hiraku," which literally means opening up your armpits. As for the applied definition, it means leaving yourself open with the upper body allowing your opponent to get to the inside. I bring this up now because M15 Mokonami is next, and he is famous for giving up the inside position. M13 Tokitenku got the inside with both arms from the tachi-ai gaining moro-zashi straightway. For some reason, Tenku just stood his ground instead of applying pressure, so Mokonami executed a maki-kae with the right arm leaving the two in the gappuri migi yotsu position. From there, a two-minute battle ensued with both rikishi legitimately trying to force the other out. Normally, I'd try and finish Dumas' Count of Monte Christo during a bout like this, but both Mongolians never stopped fighting, so it was as entertaining a 2 minute affair as you please. The larger Tokitenku prevailed in the end with a shweet yori-kiri win moving to 6-0. Mokonami falls to 3-3.

M12 Takamisakari got his right arm underneath M15 Sagatsukasa's left at the tachi-ai, but Sagatsukasa executed a windmill maki-kae with the left arm bringing it to the inside giving him moro-zashi...that lasted for half a second as Takamisakari executed the exact same windmill maki-kae to regain the inside right. From there, the Robocop threw Sagatsukasa over to the side turning him around and bent over low in the manlove position (sigh). Takamisakari made it a quickie shoving Sagatsukasa down the rest of the way officially leaving both at 4-2.

M11 Asasekiryu went Kasugao on M16 Kasugao using a tachi-ai henka to his left to gain the cheap outer grip. Kasugao went for that jump up and put both hands immediately at the back or your opponent's head tachi-ai, so he was way off balance from the start. So it goes without saying that Asasekiryu used his ill-gotten position to just force the Kimchi Kid over to the edge and out for the 5-1 record. Kasugao is 2-4.

M13 Tokusegawa used a hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the left hand, but the move was too slow allowing Kitataiki the easy right inside position. Kitataiki grabbed the outside left on the other side but was obviously uncomfortable with the gappuri yotsu position, so he executed the slowest maki-kae you've ever seen with the left. Tokusegawa allowed the maki-kae to take place but in the process just tightened his belt grips and pulled Kitataiki in close smothering him before beginning the force-out charge. Kitataiki got his moro-zashi, but he was rendered useless by Tokusegawa's size and strength meaning the force-out win came without argument. Kitataiki falls to 4-2 with the loss and got up slowly favoring his left knee. I guess that stump is good for about 6 bouts a basho and no more. As for Tokusegawa, he moves to 3-3 and is clearly the most mature fighter of the three newbies. He never panicked, he had a plan, and he trusted in his size advantage. Excellent sumo from yet another Mongolian.

While Mongolia should be proud of Tokusegawa, they should be ashamed of M9 Hakuba. Hell, I'm not even Mongolian, and I'M ashamed of Hakuba. In the ugliest bout of the basho by far, Hakuba didn't exactly henka; he just leaned to his right against M14 Kokkai. The move was weak and slow, however, so Kokkai tangled his left arm around the outside of Hakuba's left and began forcing him to the dirt kote-nage style, but Hakuba just fell over mostly of his own accord leaving Kokkai to finish him off with that oft-seen push to the back of the calf for the tsuki-otoshi win. No water necessary to put out the dohyo after this one as Kokkai moves to 4-2. Hakuba is 2-4.

M9 Yoshikaze used a right nodowa to lift M14 Tamanoshima up briefly at the tachi-ai before darting left while going for the dual pull-down from behind. That was more than enough to send Tamanoshima stumbling off balance towards the tawara, so the easy force-out win from there was a given. Yoshikaze picks up his first win at 1-5 while Tamanoshima ain't much better at 2-4.

M8 Takekaze stood M12 Okinoumi completely upright with some thrusts from the tachi-ai before grabbing the youngster's left arm pulling him forward and off balance. At this point, Okinoumi was so flustered he showed the footwork of a drunkard as Takekaze used a couple more pushes to send Okinoumi out of the ring with little fanfare. Both rikishi are 2-4.

M7 Miyabiyama and M11 Hokutoriki used simultaneous right arms into each other 's throats from the tachi-ai and kep'em there trying to force the other guy back. In the process, Hokutoriki's legs began slipping out from under him, so coupled with Miyabiyama's strength advantage, the Sheriff was able to cuff and stuff Hokutoriki in short order via hiki-otoshi. Miyabiyama's a quiet 4-2 while Hokutoriki falls to 2-4.

M6 Tochiohzan didn't get moro-zashi until the very end against M10 Shimotori, but Oh was the aggressor throughout and kept himself low forcing Shimotori up high, so there was nowhere for Shimotori to go but back back and out in the short force-out affair that saw Tochiohzan move to 4-2 while Shimotori drops to 2-4.

M6 Tochinoshin latched onto a frontal left belt grip of M5 Toyohibiki's belt at the tachi-ai and never released the grip despite the Nikibi's valiant effort to brush the Georgian off with a paw to the neck. When the dust settled, Tochinoshin managed the right inside position as well and had Toyohibiki forced back and out in one fell swoop causing Tochinoshin to swan dive to the dohyo in the process. No matter. Toyohibiki was well out of the ring by this time as Tochinoshin shakes off a slow start to move to 4-2. The Ibiki is sleeping for sure this basho at 1-5.

M8 Iwakiyama tried to keep the pesky M5 Homasho away from the inside position with a series of thrusts as the two danced around and around the ring, but fifteen seconds in, Homie managed the left inside position that was sufficient enough to force Iwakiyama upright to the point where Homasho secured the right hand on the inside as well giving him moro-zashi. Instead of going for the immediate force-out from there, however, Homasho jumped to the side, grabbed Iwakiyama by the back of the belt, and then just yanked him over to the edge dashi-nage style setting up the okuri-dashi win from there. That was probably a smart move by the lightweight Homasho who didn't want to align chests with a Hutt. He's rewarded with a 4-2 record for his efforts. Iwakiyama is 3-3.

M7 Kakizoe fired a hari-te directly into the side of M4 Tosayutaka's grill and then when Tosayutaka tried to counter by slamming his face directly into Kakizoe's forehead, his legs just buckled on him giving us yet another bout where the loser is briefly knocked out and just collapses to the dohyo as if he's made of jelly. Kakizoe skates to 4-2 while Tosayutaka his winless.

M1 Kakuryu finagled moro-zashi from the tachi-ai after a careless charge from M2 Kyokutenho that saw the Chauffeur open his up and keep his arms up too high. But it wasn't necessarily fish in a barrel at this point as Kyokutenho used his height advantage to align chests as much as possible and pinch inwards with both arms around the outside of Kakuryu in the kime fashion often employed by former Ozeki Takanonami. Kyokutenho's size made it interesting for a few seconds, but as he tried to plant his left foot to wrench the Kak over to the side, Kakuryu countered with a nifty soto-gake with his right leg tripping Tenho to the dirt in a fantastic climax. Great sumo today as Kakuryu limps to 2-4. Kyokutenho is that guy over thirty who has purchased a toy light sabre in the last ten years. In other words he's yet to score.

In the sanyaku ranks, the Komusubi clashed today in an unorthodox affair (what bout isn't that includes Aminishiki?) that saw Kisenosato get a left arm briefly on the inside as he used his right paw in Aminishiki's neck to try and lift Shneaky upright and off balance. But as Aminishiki was driven back, he managed to maki-kae with his right arm and then sneak his way into moro-zashi with his left as Kisenosato's right arm was still pushing into Ami's neck. Now having gained moro-zashi, it was Aminishiki's turn to strike forcing Kisenosato back clear across the dohyo leaving the Kid nothing else but a weak pull counter attempt. The move nearly worked as Aminishiki crashed to the dohyo, but a split second before, Kisenosato's foot slip up over the rope skimming the sand on the other side making it a close call, but gunbai to Aminishiki with no mono-ii. Both rikishi are 2-4 for their trouble.

In the battle of our two Sekiwake, Toyonoshima obviously came in with a plan, which was to watch for Baruto's extended arms (moro-te-zuki) at the tachi-ai and then swipe them away or pull the Estonian off balance. The move worked to a degree, but Toyonoshima was only able to secure the moro-zashi position, which allowed Baruto to grab the right outer grip over the top. Toyonoshima gave the valiant force-out charge, but Bart just put all of his weight on Toyonoshima and bludgeoned him down to the dohyo causing Toyonoshima to sniff in the wrong place before sliding head first right beneath Baruto's legs. It was a bit awkward, but then most of Baruto's bouts have been awkward due to his injured left thumb. Having said that, I think Baruto deserves promotion to Ozeki even if he gets 12 wins this basho. Yeah, I know that'd leave him with just 33 over the last three basho, but it's always the Association that says "it's not number of wins as much as it is content (i.e. race)." And it's not as much content for Baruto as it has been his heart. He just looks like an Ozeki to me this basho. At 6-0, he is tied for the lead, but I don't see how the two real Ozeki and Hakuho don't figure out a way to beat him, and then there's the slippery Kak tomorrow. Toyonoshima is a respectable 3-3.

M4 Tamawashi actually won the tachi-ai with tsuppari against Ozeki Harumafuji, who wanted to come in low and grab the inside position, but Tamawashi's thrusts weren't sufficient to completely gain the upperhand, so Harumafuji worked his right hand onto the inside of Tamawashi's belt while he used his left hand to push him upright with a nifty nodowa. From there, Harumafuji's ring sense took over as he pounced into the moro-zashi position and worked Tamawashi over to the side and out. Harumafuji 

Ozeki Kotomitsuki surprised M1 Wakanosato at the tachi-ai jumping into the bout a half second early instead of his usual lollygagging that was called out by the Association a few days ago. Regardless, it worked as the Ozeki pounced into the easy moro-zashi position...against a guy with arms so short his only means of countering was a stub around the Ozeki's neck threatening a kubi-nage that could never come. Still, it took Kotomitsuki at least 10 seconds before he even attempted a force-out charge, but when it came, it was all she wrote as Kotomitsuki moves to 4-2. Wakanosato is part of the problem this basho at 0-6.

Ozeki Kotooshu just bulldozed right through M3 Goeido as if he wasn't even there to pick up his best win of the basho improving to 5-1. Something tells me Goeido isn't gonna win another bout the rest of the way, but call me crazy.

Ozeki Kaio held up ever so slightly at the tachi-ai, so just when it looked as if M3 Kotoshogiku had secured the moro-zashi position, Kaio was already back-pedaling pulling the Geeku down in a flash via a planned hataki-komi. An Ozeki should never think pull first, and Kaio knows it, but there was no other way he could have won the bout. The Old Gray Mare moves to 4-2 after the performance while Kotoshogiku accepts his first loss at 5-1.

I wish I could have finished this report off with a bang, but that wasn't gonna happen when Yokozuna Hakuho's opponent was M2 Aran. The Yokozuna demanded moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against his comrade and had him forced to the side and out so quick no one could even snap a photo in time. The end result is a Hakuho at 6-0 who has yet to be tested and Aran who is simply floundering at 0-6.

Martin's up tomorrow...I mean, it's his turn to report.

Day 5 (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
I think the departure of Asashoryu might be a good thing. Previously every rikishi, who wasn't a Yokozuna, knew that if one Y stumbled or got injured or was too hung over to fight well that day, the basho was won by the other one. Now all it takes is for Hakuho to stumble somehow and the Yusho is up for grabs for anyone. And this shows with a number of rikishi pulling together good results and fighting like they haven't in the recent past. I mean sure, it can be again a lone Yokozuna era, where Hak will rack up 4-6 yushos a year and we'll all be yawning and speculating about the Jun-Yusho winner more than about the Yusho one, but I sure as hell hope that there are plenty of guys to pick up their slack and attempt to Yusho more often than not. Especially of course Harumafuji, Baruto, Kotooshu, Kisenosato etc. 

So let's start the review with a newcomer to the top division matches. Not a newcomer in Makuuchi yet, but today this flying star showed up as a Juryo filler for the odd number of Makuuchi rikishi. The star I'm talking about is of course Gagamaru, who's been causing quite some buzz with his specifications (read girth and what the scales show) and results from the lower divisions. Winning the Juryo yusho last basho has helped these talks and he's in realistic shooting distance for Makuuchi promotion from J3E. Anyway, being this high up the first time ever showed as he couldn't easily get in sync with Tamanoshima. On the second attempt the sync was ok and lady Gaga went for a push for his life and when it was certain that no matter how much he pushes there's no baby coming he switched gears quickly for pulling and that not working back to pushing. In any case what ever he tried he had no belt grip and Tama hang on to his right hand grip just waiting for a perfect moment for a nice uwate-nage finish. The old veteran kept his nerves and improves to 2-3 while lady Gaga still needs some more experience and less nerves. But we'll forgive for the first time. 

Kasugao and Tokusegawa is a bout I was considering to skip for all the lack of interest one has for it except for the nice example of what happens to you if you don't have ring sense. As the two locked in migi-yotsu it was Kasugao, who started driving the youngster Tokusegawa back. The latter attempted a throw, which didn't work and as he stepped back to balance himself on the tawara he missed it by at least half a mile and even stepped beyond the soft sand area. Oh well, nothing to see here.

Coming to a bit more interesting bout we have Tokitenku stepping into the ring to meet the fat old bush. You do remember the Tokitenku, who was on a slow slide throughout the year consistently getting small MK records, well you wouldn't think that now looking at how he's been his good old self and the record coming in of 4-0 kinda confirms that he must be in a great form. Bush however is a guy who has either a good tourney or a sucky one. This time he's on a sucky one. The bout itself was driven fully by Bush, who bulldozed Tenku backwards, but just as he was getting close to the tawara he leaned a bit too much in while Tenku backpedaled and shifted to send Bush down on his belly. Tokitenku's 5-0 (a career best start in Makuuchi btw) while Bush slides to 2-3. I wonder what Tenku's score will look like the next time I report &

Mokonami has lost a lot of tan so it'll probably be difficult for new readers to understand the call sign of Mokonami and the black mawashi doesn't help in the comparison either, but he's still got the balls and tactics of a Mongolian as shown good today in his bout with Takamisakari. And even though Takami almost had Mokonami quickly to the edge with a migi-yotsu grip he couldn't finish and instead dove for the moro-zashi that he also got (as he usually does). Mokonami tried to use the off-balance state of the maki-kae of clown to quickly finish him off, but Takamisakari, who's just gotten moro-zashi and is on the tawara is bloody tough to finish off. Now once the two were a tick away from the tawara and it looked like Takami had some balance I was pretty sure that it's over for Mokonami for unless you are Baruto, giving moro-zashi to clown is the end of it. This is where I have to give props to Mokonami for he didn't give up and used his moro-uwate to keep himself in the game, balancing like hell against all the throw and push attempts and even locking his right leg from the inside for an uchi-gake attempt (which he couldn't pull off). In the end his persistence persevered as he managed to shift and maneuver Takami back and out. A good fight from both guys that really helped me survive the disaster that's about to follow. 

Well not follow immediately, but soon. Next up we have another two youngsters locking horns as Okidoki meets Mr. Saga. Saga immediately went for Okidoki's armpits and kept at it throughout the bout keeping the opponent up high and away from his belt. Okinoumi did manage to survive one twist attempt, but never got a sniff of the mawashi nevertheless and it was just a question of time when Sagatsukasa escorted him out of the ring. Now raise your hand those of you who thought that after day five Saga would be at 4-1. No one? Thought so.

Remember that disaster that I was talking about, well that starts now with Asasekiryu running into the waiting lap of Kokkai with eyes closed and head down and kept on pushing for the mothers mercy with no regard to what Kokkai did. So not being a mother, Kokkai brushed away the secretary and that's that as he didn't need to do anything else but watch how Asasexy ran himself to his face. Oh well, sexy was looking good till today, but you should keep an eye on your opponent and not just push. 

Everyone knows that Hakuba henkas more often than not so it shouldn't have come as a surprise to Shimotori when he actually did henka. However what came as a surprise was that instead of henka-ing to his usual right Hakuba pulled a henka to his left. The result was an overcommitted Shimotori getting spun around and escorted out. Fail. 

Hokutoriki and Takekaze couldn't get to sync. Not once, not twice, but three times. So when they finally kinda got going there was no gyoji in the world to stop them no matter that it looked like a half assed out of sync tachi-ai to me. As this isn't really important anyway let's just summarize. They traded blows, Hokutoriki missed by a thrust which Kaze tried to use, but got ran out instead. Yawn. I wouldn't actually mind the idea that floated around somewhere that the rikishi should pull out of a basked a slip that tells what kimari-te they can use to win this day as it'd be a fun result if Hokutoriki pulled a nage or some leg trip out of the basket. He'd prolly give the win away as a fusensho right on the spot.

I'm a bit disappointed that Iwakiyama hasn't been shining better. His record coming in was 3-1, but it involved a fishy win that looked more like a lucky accident that the gyoji called it for him and wasn't reversed (though I don't mind the result on that day). And this showed again when he faced Kitataiki, who is also 3-1 and not looking too shabby. After yet another sync issue the two went for left inside grips with Iwaki getting only sweat and Kitataiki actually featuring a mawashi grip. After a second of thought it oddly didn't take much effort from Kitataiki to escort Moonface back and out. This isn't the Moonface I remember who struggles and survives in odd situations. Could the age finally be catching up to him? Don't look, but Kitataiki has just one loss after a third of the basho. 

Kakizoe attacking Yoshikaze went as it always goes with these two guys. Zoe attacked like an angry terrier going all in and running espresso backwards, who tried to evade and pull at the tawara, but it wasn't to be. So they tried it the other way around with Zoe going backwards and in turn evading at the last second. Again it wasn't enough as the two changed positions again. But on the third attempt it was sweet jane who attacked and this time didn't give espresso any room to backpedal for the only direction was off the dohyo. 

Talking about classic outcomes of bouts the next one wasn't any different. Toyohibiki and Miyabiyama started off with their usual tsuppari with sheriff raising Hibiki up with well placed thrusts to the neck area and once Hibiki was staring at the stars the fatman just slipped backwards and went for the pull. A short and uneventful match that one should already know would come from the sheriff if given the chance. I expected Hibiki to not score high at his current position, but I didn't really expect him to suck moose balls from M5 (where he's nicely out of reach from all the heavy hitters). 

Another disappointment is Tochinoshin who is dead even after the first four days with idiotic losses to guys who he should have been winning against. At least today he was handed a total pushover Tosayutaka who still is winless. The two started with some thrusting, which isn't quite the game of Shin so he struggled until he got a sniff of the belt. From there all it took was some setting up of grips until he had the grip he needed to move Yutaka backwards and finish him off with a nice overarm throw. It was more like the Tochinoshin I like to see, but he still looked a bit wobbly in the manhandling of Yutaka. Tochinoshin improves to more wins than losses and Yutaka goes to look for his first win tomorrow. 

Talking of disappointments I didn't really expect Tochiohzan to lose against the fatman on day two, but neither did I expect him to lose today against Tamawashi of all people. So when oh poo went to fish for Mawashi's ball area for some kind of a belt grip he just had to tickle mawashi somewhere sensitive as Tamawashi quickly pulled backwards and thrust Tochiohzan down. The fact that he won with that move must have been an accidental bi-product. 

And while we're on the topic of disappointments, Goeido's a guy to mention too. Not particularly this basho, but more or less throughout the recent history. This basho he's lost to guys he has to win against and won against some of the top rankers. Just odd this guy. And Homasho, the guy who entered Makuuchi with Baruto on the same line and same date and was featured while the big man was out with injuries has settled to be the low to mid Makuuchi lifer. Anyway, Homey acted today and nicely kept Goeido away from his belt from the get-go and with his ass low. From this stance there wasn't much Go could do but to try and fish for the belt while Homey worked him backwards and out of the dohyo. This was the vintage Homasho that we used to see in the lower Jo'jin, but who's been in hiding for quite some time. Let's hope he keeps it up and actually contests for some prize even though his current 3-2 isn't promising. 

Kotoshogiku is back all nails as he bangs through his opposition humping them to oblivion and one didn't expect much different today as Toyonoshima seems to have trouble with Giku for he can't get low and inside with him. As Giku charged he immediately neutralized the semi-inside position that Toyo got by keeping his hands close to his body and then just smothered Toyo with his forward motion that saw Toyonoshima falling over backwards in such pace that his feet came up almost to his usual head level. Good and strong sumo from Kotoshogiku and he's definitely a tough nut to crack for the top dogs this basho. 

Now, we all know what's the hot topic this basho with no Y-Y matchup in sight, the ozprom of Baruto and his special struggle for it now with his injured thumb. Having had just recently (a few months ago) the "pleasure" of accidentally getting the thumb flipped all the way back I know what kind of pain he's in if he tries to use it. The more impressive is his record and the way he's gotten to it. Maybe it is the best thing that could have happened to him for he does rely on tsuppari for the setting up or even finishing the bout if he gets lucky and that has improved his game by a good order of magnitude. However not having full use of his left arm does show for in various bouts he's been unable to utilize a good grip opportunity that people have left for him and it took him a while to finish off Aminishiki.  Today he was handed an opponent for whom normally you wouldn't even consider the bout worth mentioning, but with his arm every bout is a fight for his life (ok ok, not for his life, but for the promotion). Wakanosato knew that Bart will be coming out with guns blazing so he quickly tried to deflect the big man, but Bart has so much power in his arms that to move him Waka himself had to almost lose balance hence giving Bart enough time to break his momentum and turn around to meet the oncoming charge. On the second meeting all it took was a quick thrust from Baruto that was so strong that it sent Wakanosato tumbling all over himself. This was a dangerous bout for anyone except Wakanosato would have been all over Bart and finished him off while he was off balance. So Bart continues undefeated and every day works for him as the thumb gets to recover, but it took me a good month or more for the thumb to stop being too sore for use so I don't expect miracles on the thumb during the basho. Anyway, let him use this new strategy and he'll be an Ozeki still this year even if he doesn't make it this basho. 

Going to the Ozeki we have Kotomitsuki meeting a tough opponent in Kakuryu on his long track to shaking off his kadoban. He is beginning to look another Kaio with his soon to be 34 years of age and more frequent kadoban status of late. However today it was either yaocho or just sleeping Kakuryu for fishface didn't really offer much resistance, but just fumbled around with his arms and waited for the eventual pulldown. Nothing pretty, but another win and every single one counts for Mitsuki this basho. 

Talking of the original yaocho master Kaio, who isn't kadoban and from what I've heard hasn't ever been during his long years during the March basho. Today he had a friendly opponent Aminishiki who has interestingly lost to him a lot of times when the wins were needed by Kaio. And in his current state every basho is a basho where the win is needed for he can never be sure he can scrape together the wins next basho. The two had some thrusting going on to make it look a bit more legit, but when Ami had Kaio at the ropes waiting to send him out he just stood there allowing for Kaio to grab his head and pull him down while evading himself. Now remembering how Aminishiki fought against Baruto with everything he had this did seem half-assed enough to speculate yaocho. 

Surprisingly after losing to the just featured Aminishiki, Kotooshu hasn't folded like he usually does. Instead he has picked himself up and has kept on winning the rest of his bouts with no surprise today when he got himself paired with the lone Russian in the division. Without a single sidestep from either they settled for migi-yotsu from where it was a pure struggle of strength and it became quickly obvious that Kotooshu had more of it to go around as they slowly tiptoed to the tawara and out together. Kotooshu continues to cruise at one loss while Aran is getting raped as he ought to in the tough schedule of jo'jin on week one. 

Even though there were rumors of Harry not being his full self and losing in the keiko ring way too many bouts he has looked like the good old Ama in his actual tournament bouts. Something that reminds me of his ozrun where he took the yusho. I think leaving of the khan has made him pick up the slack and he definitely is planning to impact the bashos from now on. Being the second best guy in sumo right now he certainly has the shot at the top rank if he can challenge Hak on a regular basis and keep Baruto in check. However today he needed to do neither of those things, only get rid of Kyokutenho. And he did that easily enough with a double nodowa from the get go and after surviving a quick pull attempt from Tenho didn't give the latter much time to recover, but pushed him out. 

Unlike most of the musubi-no-ichiban this basho, today's actually promised to possibly show some spark with Hakuho meeting Kisenosato for the latter has had the opportunity to upset the Yokozuna before. However today Hakuho showed why he's the Yokozuna and Kisenosato just a Komusubi. Hakuho was all over Kisenosato from the start trading pushes and slaps in all directions so it was even difficult to follow his hands until he had Kise upright from where he went for a powerful pulldown that sent Kise smashing to the clay. Not quite the ideal Yokozuna sumo, but it didn't really leave Kise much to work on either and Kise was already way off balance before Hak went for the pull so another thrust would probably have sent him over the straw anyway. 

So after the first third of the basho we have five guys undefeated of Hakuho, Harumafuji, Baruto, Kotoshogiku and Tokitenku. The last two you can drop right now from the possible leaderboard, but the first three I would say are the first three of ozumo right now. If Harry has decided to fill the spot left by Asashoryu he'll be fired up and will be fighting for the Yusho chance every basho now. If Baruto learns to use his current fighting style more often and gets back the full use of both of his arms (by May that is) he should be a tough nut to crack by anyone in the top division including the two I mentioned before. So let master Mike spin your disc tomorrow while I'll meet you again after another third of the basho has passed and hopefully on the day Bart meets the big man.

Day 4 (Kenji Heilman reporting)
I probably shouldn't say this but I'm yawning through the bouts this basho. Fell asleep twice today viewing the matches and jotting some notes for this report. Am I having Asashoryu withdrawal already? Can someone help me with a compelling story line? 

Ah, maybe we have one in Baruto's quest for Ozeki, which is well intact with another win today and a 4-0 start. Komusubi Aminishiki (1-3) had the better tachi-ai, moving right and securing the uwate and upperhand. To Ami's credit he kept the pressure on, unleashing several throws and keeping his head low. Baruto however has a hunger in his eyes this basho and wouldn't be denied. After being pushed to the brink a couple times, he finally flipped the feisty Ami around via Sukui-nage, neutralizing Ami's Uwate-nage barrage. I think we're seeing the only legitimate threat to Hakuho's dominance right here. 

Baruto's counterpart Sekiwake Toyonoshima, who also came into day 4 undefeated, ran out of luck today. Toyo couldn't get inside on Kisenosato (2-2) like he did yesterday against Kaio, plus Kise stood him up straight to make matters worse. Then when Kise got inside on top of that, the writing was on the wall. It was a good statement win for Kise that he is among the upper echelon.

Did you know Kaio hasn't had a losing basho in Osaka in 19 years? Yes, that's since 1991- all kachi-koshi's in March. That is simply amazing. Well, Mr. 100 has some work to do to keep this streak alive because he looked pitiful today in losing to Kakuryu. Just when you thought things were looking promising with a 2-0 start, too. Kakuryu (1-3) turned this into a slapping affair, making the haggard Kaio look uncomfortable very quickly. He simply cannot deal with this anymore and was pushed out easily, dropping to 2-2.

Wakanosato got moro-zashi against Kotooshu and made it interesting, but it wasn't enough. Oshu (3-1) patiently worked to get a good grip on both uwate and eventually turned the tables for a yori-kiri win. Perhaps 4 years ago, Waka would have won this one. Not so anymore; he drops to 0-4. 

Instead of head first, Harumafuji went hands first today but looked equally impressive in going 4-0. Not giving in to Aran's repeated pulls, Haruma kept the pressure on and blasted the M2 out with an oshi-taoshi. Haruma keeps pace with big dog Hakuho for now; Aran falls to a paltry 0-4. 

In an anticipated bout, the Kotomitsuki-Goeido tachi-ai was even-Steven. Goeido (2-2) didn't wait long though to unleash a strong Shitate-nage that sent the Kadoban Kotomitsuki tumbling to his 2nd loss in 4 days. These early losses obviously don't bode well for Mitsuki when demotion is lurking. Let's see how he handles it going forward. 

In the musubi, it took him a few seconds but Hakuho (4-0) got moro-zashi on Kyokutenho and it was game over. He is simply head and shoulders above anyone else right now. With Sho gone someone needs to step up to make things interesting. By the looks of things in the early going, here's hoping that someone is Baruto or Harumafuji this basho. If not I don't see my yawns subsiding anytime soon.

Day 3 (Andreas Kungl reporting)
Good day, post-Asashoryu fandom. How do you feel? I, for one, feel rotten.

You know, I used to go to a really good dentist. A young guy around my own age with a soothing voice, who would run classical music or relaxed jazz on hidden speakers in his pleasantly colored exam room. He would take his time to explain his intended actions, he would offer warnings before any unpleasant sensations and generally help me through all procedures with greatest care. All this on public healthcare, by the way. And my socialist government didn't even take away my SUV, yet. Just to put it into perspective for our readers in the States.

Anyway, the reason why I cannot go to this dentist anymore is that I live now mostly elsewhere. This place called Latvia is a small country in north-eastern Europe, just a little bigger than West Virginia. It used to be occupied by the Russians and was part of the former Soviet Union. The Russians used Latvian bases to spy on Scandinavian telecommunications. Today, the USA use Latvian bases to spy on Nokia. Latvia is a cold place. Well, not as cold as Siberia or the Dakotas, but still. This is one reason why I feel rotten. The bloody winter just won't go away. If Latvians would have time to think, they would all move to Italy or Spain. But they don't, because they are too occupied ripping each other off, buying luxury cars on credit, or blaming all the evils of the world on the Russians, who are--admittedly--a nuisance.

Anyway #2, since I live now in this fridge, I cannot go to my charming dentist anymore. Instead I have to settle with my Latvian one, who I incidentally had to see today. This is the second reason why I feel rotten. Latvian dentists (forgive my generalization) like to tackle the problem at the root, so to speak. I know a lot about dentists, my genes being cheap in the tooth department. My mouth is full with fillings, but it's not only my fault. My charming former dentist once explained to me that it used to be somehow "fashionable" in the 80s to treat any miscoloration of a tooth with drill and filling, and that I am basically a victim of bad treatment. Hear, hear. What I figured out by now is that the current fashion in Latvia is to take out any nerve on sight, because then the pain is surely gone, isn't it?

So I lost a nerve today. This is pretty tough on me, mentally. I have read too much Schopenhauer and Camus to just brush off any hint on the impermanence of my existence. Something irreversible has been done unto me. This nerve won't grow anymore, ever, again. I lost something for all eternity, and this makes me sad. And the reason? A nerve, which did an excellent job for 35 years, started to send signals intolerable by the bigger system. Troublesome. A pain. How do you treat such a perpetrator? The Latvian way I got subjected to aims for curing symptoms, not for preservation. The pain is gone, but to which price?


Mokonami has lost a lot of his tan, don't you think? Well, he certainly lost some of his twang, as he entered Day 3 with zero wins and a meager performance to back it up. He also changed his mawashi color, so maybe there is some major style counseling going on in the background. Today, though, he welcomed the living duct tape, salt throwing expert Masatsukasa, who was scheduled for a one day promotion to Makuuchi. The man from Juryo couldn't compete against a decent but no way convincing performance by BBQ. Unspectacular yori-kiri for a 1-2 score.

I'm not commenting on bouts with Kasugao. He lost. That's good. Sagatsukasa is so small that Mike even overlooked his first day win.

Bushuyama made a bad choice in his bout against Tokusegawa even before tachi-ai. He didn't take his usual position but settled down a good meter behind the line in true Toyohibiki-of-old style. Probably he figured that his opponent would be too slow for any quick evasive action and that it would generally assist his oomph. The bigger distance between the two, though, helped Tokusegawa to get a lower and thus advantageous position after the belt grappling started. Without much delay, the Mongolian converted this into a surprise kote-nage. Both men stand at 2-1.

In one of the coolest bouts for years, Kokkai applied a slap to Takamisakari's face right after tachi-ai. Unfortunately for the Clown, his own head movement caused his nose to define the point of impact. As a result he went down as quickly as a particle physicist on a broken hadron collider. The Corporal earned his second win in a fraction of a second, while the profoundly bleeding Robocop headed for the hospital to check if the beak's OK.

Newcomer Okinoumi finally managed to overcome his joyful awe about having reached Makuuchi and stuff. Even though he lost the tachi-ai again, he wouldn't let opponent Tamanoshima convert a favorable position into a force out or a throw. Instead, the rookie managed a yori-kiri from a difficult stance in a way that caught my attention and makes me question Tamanoshima's condition. Both men at 1-2.

Hokutoriki is useless when he cannot tap the Dark Force right from the start. Against a recovered belt bitch like Tokitenku, who can also expertly withstand choke holds, this means Game Over. Predictable yori-kiri win for the (former? I start to mix it up) Mongolian, who stays undefeated.

On Day 4 of Hatsu basho I wrote that I was starting to look forward to Asasekiryu bouts. I made this bold claim because he had shown some highly interesting efforts to that point, only to completely suck for the remainder of that tournament. Now it's Day 3, and I am afraid I have to invoke the same ghosts again. Asasekiryu is showing a good basho. So far. Against Espresso he withstood the usual small men's overclocking with an excellent game plan. This included a short throat thrust right at the impact, followed by brilliant lateral movement that firstly spoiled Yoshikaze's charge and secondly resulted in a deadly setup for an armlock plus kote-nage. Slick stuff from Made Redundant.

Takekaze and Kitataiki had a severe timing problem before their bout. It was mainly the short man's fault, as he even checked his fingernails just before the tachi-ai. With his thoughts taking a serious stroll, he allowed Kitataiki to charge lower than himself, which is... ...I lack the words. Thus compromised, the M8 couldn't provide any resistance against a forward moving opponent, who looks genki like f**k. I thoroughly enjoy Kitataiki's (hopefully continuously injury free) performance. His stay in Makuuchi is legitimate.

I read that Shimotori had to give back the kensho money he received after his win against Yoshikaze on Day 2, because a yobi-dashi misread the label and mixed it up with Takekaze's bout. To add insult to injury, Shimotori got robbed in his bout today against Flatface, too. Admittedly, Iwakiyama charged wildly and had his opponent at the brink of defeat, but finally fell down to the clay, while his counterpart still balanced on the tawara. The scandal is that the MIB didn't even deem it necessary to lift their fat asses out of their premium cushions and talk it over. What's video surveillance for if you don't use it?

Hakuba finally remembered that he spells his wins H-E-N-K-A. So he sidestepped the hapless Kakizoe in a bout that somehow looked staged all along. Kakizoe didn't show anything close to his usual pitbull-in-your-face approach, even though he recovered from the initial trick. Both limp on at 1-2.

I will never be able to correctly predict Homasho's form. The man seems determined? The next day he will drop for sure. He looks weak? The next day he will show brilliance. And as soon as you have figured out a pattern, he will break it. So it came to me as a total surprise while being totally obvious at the same time, when he managed to outmiyabiyama Miyabiyama with alternating pushes and pulls, relying on excellent footwork and quick adjustments. The former Ozeki was looking good, actually, but when he thought he had set up Homie for the final blow, he overcommitted and received the deadly slap on his outstretched left arm.

Tosayutaka has reached the upper limit of his possibilities in Makuuchi at the moment. Without any technical or physical improvement, he won't be able to achieve kachi-koshi in the upper half. This was splendidly exemplified by his bouts against Kotoshogiku and also today's opponent Tochiohzan. In both cases he had to deal with heavy, tall and strong yotsu specialists, who more often than not try to force issues at the tachi-ai to set up the quick yori-kiri. Against this type of opponent, Tosayutaka doesn't stand a chance. His bout today lasted less than two seconds. Tochiohzan looked solid. Tomorrow he will probably fall on his face for no reason to make up for this.

I don't know if Tochinoshin tried to neutralize his aite Tamawashi even before the tachi-ai by corrupting the initial sync and committing a false start in the process. Tactics or not, it sure helped as the latter came late for the serious go and therefore was never able to attempt any effective thrusting. One miss later he found himself grabbed on his outside right. From there it was a matter of power and seconds for the Georgian youngster to settle matters. If Tochinoshin is allowed to get into a bout like today, he can match up with the big boys. Tamawashi is not one of those.

Toyohibiki hasn't been Kotoshogiku's favourite opponent over the last few basho. The problem with the Geek is that he can withstand only so much charging power. Today, though, he worked excellent counter Sumo after being predictably moved back from the initial clash. As much as we hate pull downs, they are a charm if they are used to lure the opponent. With this exact strategy, the Geek exploited the natural reaction to such a move, i.e. righting oneself to keep balance. This enabled the junior Sadogatake to get an ultra deep left hand inside, which spelled trouble for the mini-Hutt. Kotoshogiku is a master of belly battle, so he disposed of his honorably struggling opponent shortly after. Good stuff from the Geek.

Homeboy Goeido didn't exactly have a stellar start into the tournament. Pre-basho reports told of his being "On". So far, he turned out to be quite "Off". Like it has become his habit, this settled in his head, so already from Day 3 he decided to try evasive Sumo. A risky strategy against a mobile opponent like Aminishiki. This clearly showed when two or three pulldowns and pirouettes later, Shneaky had his counterpart at the edge, ready for the kill. Goeido, though, finally produced a minute spark of brilliance by pushing up his opponent's left arm, escaping to the same side and thus countering the final charge from the brink of defeat. Aminishiki will put Goeido's name on his special list right under Kotooshu's. Just wait for their next clash.

Right now, Martin is spraying it on every available wall throughout Bucharest and the internet: "Baruto is scary". So he has a thumb injury that prevents him from doing his usual Baruto thing. What does he do? He's smothering his opponent without even touching a mawashi other than his own for three days in a row. Finally, finally, he does what he should have done already a year ago: Go for the thrust and if they survive, finish them off at the belt. For the first two days we are just talking Aran and Goeido, but with his powerful rush against Kisenosato today, the Estonian proved that this can also work against tougher opponents. And he even brought the balance and footwork to amend one misfired thrust right at the edge, where he cleverly used his lower arm to deliver the final push needed for the win. Let's see if he can get away with this against small and mobile opponents like Harumafuji and Kakuryu. If yes, he may be really up for promotion already this basho. Time is playing for him. With every passing day the thumb will get better.

After facing his nemesis Aminishiki, Kotooshu couldn't have welcomed anyone else more than Kyokutenho for compensation. The former Mongolian doesn't have any ambitions if he is placed so high on the banzuke. A perfect formula for staying uninjured and on the NSK's payroll. Anyhow, the ensuing lack of determination displayed at the tachi-ai enabled the Bulgarian to get an instant right shita-te that was quickly mirrored by his counterpart. When Yogurt backed it up with the right hand outside an instant later, it was all said and done. A safe force out win for the Ozeki, who hopefully got the Day 2 defeat out of his head. Kyokutenho will cruise along like a mildly entertained tourist and finish the basho with five or six wins.

Kakuryu sold the win to Harumafuji. Both men started off with a silly slapfest, that looked impressive at full speed, but can be exposed as totally impotent, if you check the footwork in the replay. Harumafuji is even making "Oooowaaah! Oooooaaah!" faces. After five seconds of this charade, the Ozeki "managed" to get to his "opponent's" belt, which in the script translated to a quick run out, no questions asked. Ugly all along. I'm wondering what this is supposed to mean. Maybe the Mongols want to install former Ama quickly to the vacant Yok spot, before Baruto stakes his claim. Yes, I'm paranoid.

You know, this is only Aran's 20th career basho. For this fact, the number nine (Makuuchi basho) is bloody amazing. That he can easily reach the highest Maegashira ranks comes as a bonus. What the Ossetian is not able to, though, is make an impact so far up. Today he got some free lessons from veteran Kotomitsuki. The Ozeki may not be in his sparkling prime, but he nevertheless exposed his opponent's deficits in the department of basic Sumo with ease. This is nothing I can appropriately describe with words. Go get the replay, and see how Aran gets surgically dismantled by an opponent with just about ten times his skill level. Every single move of the Ozeki is precise, purposeful and effective. A very good bout by Kotomitsuki.

Toyonoshima seems to be in an excellent condition. Not only did he win his first two bouts, he did it convincingly so. Therefore, one could expect that Kaio wouldn't be allowed to collect a freebie. Just before the tachi-ai, I spotted that the Sekiwake seriously checked out his opponent. And not in the fear-ridden, psyched out way. Quite the opposite: He looked curious with undercurrents of amusement. So I figured that he was up for the challenge. A lightspeed charge brought him directly into moro-zashi with enough momentum left to drive his heavier opponent out in an instant. Kaio, on the other hand, is not in his 100th Makuuchi tournament for nothing, so he took some slight evasive action that made his aite slip. Only because of a quick mind and exceptional technical skills, the Sekiwake managed to literally hang onto his opponent's leg, long enough to make the Ozeki crash to the ground before he followed a millisecond later. Kaio got the call, but the MIB discussed it and came up with the right decision, overturning the gyoji's choice.

It's been a while since Wakanosato graced a musubi-no-ichiban (final match of a day). The reason is that he is not up for the challenge anymore. Hakuho needed less than three seconds to effortlessly force out the former Sekiwake. I wish I could tell more about the bout, but that was just it. Hakuho is the sole Yokozuna in all respects. Let's just hope the Mongolian's decided on some interesting plot with Harumafuji somewhere in the race. Maybe Baruto is really as fierce as he seems. Kotooshu with the comeback of the year? Hell, what about Kaio?

Uncle Kenji will raid your fridge tomorrow.

Day 2 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As we kick off the first basho of a new era, lets cut right to the quick regarding the future of yusho races. I can't stress enough just how wide the gap is between Hakuho and everyone else, but still, pure numbers and the law of averages dictate that about once a year, someone else will yusho. Currently, your pick of "that someone" is either Harumafuji and Kotooshu. And there isn't any other choice. Within the next year, Baruto should join that group as well, but for now it's down to those two Ozeki. And while a loss by an Ozeki the last three years has meant little with two dai-Yokozuna on the board, a single Yokozuna on the charts means that the Ozeki have to carry their load more than ever. That one would lose today deals a sizable blow to hopes of a decent yusho race in Osaka. But enough of lame teasers, let's get right to the action starting from the bottom up.

Like two babies that got swapped at the hospital and sent home with different mothers, M16 Kasugao is fighting in the top division while J1 Shotenro is the visitor. To prove my point, Shotenro simply kicked Kasugao's ass easing up at the charge knowing the Korean would henka--which he did to his right--before using a fierce right nodowa to push the Kimchi Kid back and out before Clancy could even start whistlin'. Kasugao is 1-1.

It's not a surprise that all three rookies entered the day with 0-1 records. It's not that they're inferior rikishi or can't hang around in this division, it's just that they have to learn how to win. M15 Sagatsukasa obviously hasn't as he was on the wrong end of an M16 Bushuyama oshi charge throughout. Sagatsukasa nearly dodged away at the edge once, but Dolly held his balance and kept persisting. The problem with Sagatsukasa is he's looking to spring a trap on his opponents, not get to the inside and try to finagle a throw or a trip. Twas the case today as Sagatsukasa kept both hands firmly on Dolly's breasts (what first-timer wouldn't?) looking for an opportunity to evade and pull causing his opponent to fall. It never worked, and then to add insult to injury, when Bushuyama had Sagatsukasa (0-2) turned around at he edge of the dohyo, he tried to time a weak 360 degree spin move at the edge in order to fool his opponent. Didn't work as Bushuyama sails to a 2-0 start. Man's game, Sagatsukasa.

M15 Mokonami delivered a lame tachi-ai against M14 Tamanoshima allowing the deep left inside position. Tamanoshima was close to getting moro-zashi on the other side, and while Mokonami held on with a feeble right-handed grip, Tamanoshima was pinching in so tightly on the arm that Mokonami was cooked taking a matter of seconds for Tamanoshima to work him around the ring and out for the easy yori-kiri win and 1-1 record. Mokonami drops to 0-2.

Clancy obviously realized at this point that the action in Osaka had screeched to a grinding halt, so picking his first spot wisely, he unleashed the first whistle of the broadcast and a grandiose one at that. I think NHK also realized the lull because they did their first feature of the day profiling a new recruit to the Takadagawa-beya named Ryoya Tatsu. The kid is 15, just out of junior high school, and is already as big as Hakuho. They showed his first mae-zumo bout this morning, and it was comical to watch him oshi-dashi what looked like a 10 year-old kid completely off the dohyo. Tatsu will pass the mae-zumo requirements (you must win three mae-zumo bouts) in his sleep and then officially be ranked for the Natsu basho banzuke.

His oyakata is the former Akinoshima of Futagoyama-beya fame. And I still remember talking to Kenji after he visited the Futagoyama-beya for morning keiko all those years ago. He said that one of the things that stood out the most was Akinoshima in there barking orders to all of the youngsters and leading keiko. You had a stable with a Yokozuna and two Ozeki; yet, Akinoshima was the one who stood out. That dude was an absolute bulldog atop the dohyo, so let's hope that same tenacity translates into his new prodigy. If so, Japan has a legitimate hope at their next Yokozuna.

Moving right along was our next contest featuring M13 Tokitenku and M14 Kokkai. Kokkai meant well trying to resurrect his wingspan tsuppari charge, but his lower body forgot to play along, so Tokitenku easily timed a swipe of Gorgeous Georgian's extended right arm sending the pasty lad to the dirt in seconds. Tokitenku breezes to 2-0 if ya need him. Kokkai is 1-1.

Our next rookie, M12 Okinoumi, was a day late and mile short at the tachi-ai against M12 Takamisakari who easily assumed moro-zashi from the tachi-ai thanks in large part to Okinoumi just abandoning his own attempt to get his right arm on the inside. If you have the means to rewatch this bout, note how slow and nonchalant Okinoumi is at the tachi-ai. There's simply no urgency because in the lower divisions, it doesn't count as much. But here in the man's division, you have to demand your positioning at the tachi-ai. Okinoumi didn't and was schooled by a straight up charge from Takamisakari, who drove the rookie straight back and down at the edge. If there was a glimmer of hope from Okinoumi, he used his long right leg at the inside of the Cop's left to try and tip him over first, but Takamisakari wasn't gonna drop this one as he moves to 2-0. Okinoumi is like that guy in my office with Lego action figures at his desk: he's yet to score.

The importance of the tachi-ai in this division was manifest in our next bout as well where rookie, M13 Tokusegawa, knew what his opponent, M11 Hokutoriki, would bring and latched on with a frontal belt grip before Hokutoriki could get anything going. The veteran Joker immediately began to retreat looking for a chance to pull and evade, but Tokusegawa was onto his every move spinning Hokutoriki around in the end and throwing him down from behind. Tokusegawa becomes the first rookie to pick up a win thanks to a meaningful tachi-ai, and once these guys get that first win, things become much easier here on out. Hokutoriki is 0-2.

With Clancy prefacing the M10 Kitataiki - M11 Asasekiryu bout with a heavy dose of whistling, the two rikishi settled into the hidari-yotsu position with Sexy dictating the pace of the bout by hunkering down low. After several seconds, Kitataiki struck first going for the force-out charge, but Asasekiryu had dug himself in and held up at the edge famously sending the combatants into Act II. Once again Kitataiki forced the action going for another force-out charge, but Asasekiryu countered beautifully at the edge with what looked like a neck throw but was really his right thigh on the inside of Kitataiki's left lifting him up and over for the kubi-nage win. Great stuff from Asasekiryu who moves to 2-0. Kitataiki is 1-1.

M10 Shimotori struck M9 Yoshikaze and then just went for the quick pulldown. Yoshikaze appeared to read the move, but he completely lost his footing as he tried to mount a charge and was pulled down to the dirt in a heap in an ugly bout all around, which says a lot for the day so far. Shimotori is 1-1 while Yoshikaze is decaffe'd at 0-2.

Someone musta convinced M9 Hakuba that he was actually a player in this division because for the second day in a row he charged straight forward as if he could go toe to toe with M8 Iwakiyama. And for the second day in a row, he got his ass handed to him as Iwakiyama mounted a straight-forward force-out charge that had Hakuba polished off faster than a fat guy eating a Krispy Kreme. Iwakiyama is a cool 2-0 while Hakuba is a deserved 0-2.

As is usually the case, M7 Kakizoe was faster at the tachi-ai and used a nice moro-te charge into M8 Takekaze's throat. Befuddled already, Takekaze just started backing up, but Kakizoe had him driven out so fast he could barely put his hands at the back of Sweet Zoe Zane's head to attempt a counter pull that wouldn't have worked anyway. Both rikishi are 1-1.

The arena announcer was outdone by some furrener whistling his lungs out as he announced our next combatants, M6 Tochiohzan and M7 Miyabiyama. Miyabiyama took charge early with his tsuppari attack that didn't necessarily move Tochiohzan back as much as it kept him from the inside. As the two danced around in the center of the ring, Tochiohzan aligned his feet allowing Miyabiyama to just pull him to the dirt for the nice win. Both rikishi are 1-1.

M5 Homasho used an aggressive tsuppari attack at the tachi-ai against M6 Tochinoshin keeping the Private upright and far away from the belt. Tochinoshin attempted to counter with such shoves of his own, but it was obvious that the thrusting attack is not Shin's game because Homasho quickly pushed him off balance and went for the kill. Tochinoshin complied by going for a ridiculous pulldown that only allowed Homasho to push him into the first row. Excellent sumo from Homasho as both rikishi now stand at 1-1.

Starting way back from the starting lines, M5 Toyohibiki had too much ground to cover before he met M4 Tamawashi, who was waiting like a brick wall--literally--completely halting Ibiki's charge. In the process, Toyohibiki went for that ineffective ram-your-face-directly-into-your-opponent's-forehead move causing Ibiki to do just that, black out for a second. With both knees buckling, Tamawashi just slapped the sleeping giant to the dirt for the easy win. Both rikishi are now 1-1, and for the second day in a row, we've had a rikishi get knocked out mid-bout (happened to Kisenosato yesterday). Time for sumo's savior and media darling, Takanohana-oyakata, to step in and propose a new policy to prevent rikishi from getting knocked out. Knowing the competence of the Association, these guys will be wearing catcher's masks by this time next year.

M3 Kotoshogiku seized the left inside position at the tachi-ai against M4 Tosayutaka forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu from the get-go. Kotoshogiku took his time ensuring that chests were aligned before mounting a force-out charge where Tosayutaka made matters worse by bringing his right hand high in kubi-nage fashion, but that just enhanced the Geeku's position who made it official from there with an easy peasy force-out win. Nice 2-0 start from Kotoshogiku while Tosayutaka looks a bit lost this high at 0-2.

With the crowd bustling in anticipation prior to the Sekiwake Baruto - M3 Goeido contest, they were collectively outdone by Clancy from the cheap seats I'm proud to say. Knowing his opponent was injured, Goeido charged straight into the Biomass but was completely rebuffed as Baruto opted for the moro-te tachi-ai meaning he put both hands to Goeido's throat and just shoved him back with ease. Goeido reloaded and attempted to hunker down getting the left hand at the front of Baruto's belt, but Baruto just bodied up with Goeido and used his lower body to perfection pulling up at Goeido's left from the outside while using his injured left hand to push in at Goeido's teet. Baruto was just too massive for Goeido to budge, and as Goeido (0-2) attempted to move this way and that, Baruto just smothered him out of the ring in a lopsided win not to mention a welcome 2-0 start.

If there is a silver lining to Baruto's thumb injury, it's forcing Baruto to learn how not to rely on the belt and fight when he doesn't have the mawashi grip. In fact, Bart hasn't touched his opponents' mawashi the first two days; yet, he's won both bouts via yori-kiri due to excellent lower body work. This dose of cross training should help Baruto in the long run, but lest the Estonian nation get too stiff, you have two realize two points. 1) Baruto took advantage of an Aran henka and Goeido being Goeido, and 2) he's gotta figure out a way to solve Kisenosato tomorrow. Kid's the favorite there.

M2 Aran charged way too high against Sekiwake Toyonoshima who complied by lifting the Russian off balance and back pushing up into Aran's extended left arm. Aran found himself at the edge in a flash with no footing and no positioning whatsoever, so he went for a lame counter kubi-nage throw that quickly turned into a 360 degree attempt to get out of the way, but at 180 degrees, Toyonoshima had him pushed down and out quicker'n you can say "ass kicking." Toyonoshima is a sweet 2-0 so far while Aran falls to 0-2.

I should note at this point that Martin and I made a bet this basho where I thought Aran would win at least seven or more while Martin said six or under. I hesitated to bet at first because Aran is so unpredictable, and while Martin is gloating now, I only need to remind him about the time I said Iwakiyama would only get four wins, and after a 3-3 start he finished 1-8. Stay tuned because I have this weird feeling that we'll end up talking about something other than the yusho race at basho's end.

Ozeki Harumafuji used a perfect tachi-ai against M1 Wakanosato ramming his head and right shoulder into Wakanosato's upper torso driving him off balance. The Ozeki followed that up with a right outer grip and sound left inside position that saw Harumafuji driving Wakanosato completely upright from a lower stance. Wakanosato did have a measly left arm on the inside, but he knew he was had and didn't even attempt to counter as Harumafuji forced him out neat as a bowtie. The Ozeki moves to 2-0 while Wakanosato is losing to youth at 0-2.

In the day's most compelling matchup, Ozeki Kotomitsuki showed his true mindset and conditioning by henka'ing Komusubi Kisenosato to the right looking for the cheap outer grip, which he got, but the Kid responded beautifully by breaking off the Ozeki's outer grip and assuming a right outer grip of his own taking advantage of his opponent who chose to move laterally from the tachi-ai. Kotomitsuki attempted to counter with the left inside position, but he didn't have a pot to piss in as Kisenosato quickly mounted the force-out charge using his right leg to keep Kotomitsuki from planting his left leg out wide to gain a position from which to counter. This was textbook stuff from Kisenosato who thoroughly schooled the Ozeki and sent him to his first loss. Both rikishi now stand at 1-1, and while Kisenosato isn't quite at a point to assume official "Barometer" status, he's close. It's no coincidence that Kisenosato gets henka'd by Ozeki who need big wins. That Kotomitsuki failed today tells you all you need to know about his current status.

Ozeki Kaio and M2 Kyokutenho crashed into the immediate hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai where Kaio flirted with the inside on the right as well that would have given him moro-zashi. He didn't need it, however, as he used his burly chest to keep Kyokutenho upright and away from the belt. After about eight seconds of inaction in the middle of the ring, Kaio mounted his force-out charge easily walking Kyokutenho back and out for the solid yori-kiri win. Kaio moves to 2-0 while Kyokutenho falls to 0-2.

In the day's penultimate bout, Ozeki Kotooshu clearly looked uncomfortable at the tachi-ai failing to synch himself up with Komusubi Aminishiki's approach. The two finally got it cleared up without reloading, but the damage was done as Aminishiki charged full throttle into the Ozeki using his right hand to Kotooshu's neck to keep the Ozeki completely upright. Aminishiki actually spun his wheels a bit in the loose Osaka sand, but he was in control from the start shifting gears on a dime and just yanking Kotooshu forward with both hands to the head and he slid out of the way. The result was another lopsided Kotooshu loss at the hands of Aminishiki.

Couple things for Kotooshu. First, this wasn't a bad loss. The term is called "aisho ga warui," which means you just don't match up well with an opponent. Aminishiki's size always gives Kotooshu fits and always will, so a loss to Aminishiki these days is not devastating. The timing of getting Aminishiki on day 2 was bad, but Kotooshu needs to shake this one off and reload because I don't see anyone else stopping him until he meets Hakuho. That's not to say that Kotooshu won't let the loss get to him and go into a funk. What I'm trying to say is this loss is no big deal. Kotooshu is still number two, so fight like it.

Moving onto the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho actually went Asashoryu against M1 Kakuryu using a hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping at Kakuryu's face with the left while getting the right arm deep on the inside. When the dust settled, Hakuho used that right arm to lift Kakuryu completely upright and as he positioned his left arm at the back of the Kak's belt, the only option for Kakuryu was to go up high with the threat of a kubi-nage. That would never come as Hakuho planted his left leg and threw Kakuryu over to the dirt with as magnificent of an uwate as you please showcasing the Yokozuna's strength and causing Clancy to declare from on high, "It is good."

Reverend Kungl preaches tomorrow.

Day 1 (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Greetings and you are welcome to Osaka, my first Japanese home and still near and dear to my beer...uh, heart. Im sure after two agonizing months of anticipation, youre chomping at the bit for me to "get er done", "keep it real", "live the dream". Im aboard with all that, but I would be Swiss Miss remiss if I did not take a moment to acknowledge the passing of three of sumos finest.

Of course, some might argue that Kitazakura does not merit this distinction, but really, no one threw salt like Kita (at least no one recently), and though he never made it high in Makuuchi, he was a friendly sort who always had time for his fanboys. Post Sumo Plans: Look into this "Rogaine" thing, and accept the offered position as Director of Activities for the not-for-profit organization Men Of Legendary Experience Steering Teenagers, where he will be in charge of planning and chaperoning field trips for young men between the ages of 11 and 16 to remote locations equipped with pine tree latrines and river bathing facilities.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai is next on our list. The Wolfs Pup finally made his long overdue exit from sumo during the Hatsu Basho in Tokyo, bringing the curtain down on an illustrious career that saw him slap, pirouette, pound, pull, shuck, and jive his way to a clutch of yusho. With this guy it was never, ever pretty, but staying at sumos second highest rank for as long as he did is commendable, to say the least. Which is what Ill do.

During the noughties, no one dominated sumo, and in particular the rank of Yokozuna, quite like our third celebrity did. This enigmatic and fascinating creature demanded the headlines and got them, through ruthlessness, guile, cunning, and a flawless dedication to one thing: Seeing sumo through its transition from its role as the Sport of Japan to its emergence as the Mongolian Emigrant Lottery. If it had not been for this individual, I (and Im certain many of you) would have dropped our love for sumo like so much heavy mattress without handles. Im talking about, of course, Uchidate Makiko. Post Sumo Plans: Frequent appearances on the new hit Japanese tv show, Celebrity Reality Soft Porn Gross Out. Fare thee well, Medusa! 

Bushuyama absorbed the tachi-ai of his smaller foe, Juryo Wakakoyu, and after hounding him across the ring, he got him turned around and manloved out. Kasugao and Mokonami konked heads and ended up with mirror two handed grips, and after a stalemate Okonomiyaki charged forward and it looked like coitins for the Kimchi Kid, but the Korean slid backward at the edge while using a nicely timed outside left hand belt grip to drop the Do-It-Yourselfer to the clay. Our first top division rookie of the day, Sagatsukasa, came in strong vs. Tamanoshima, but Peter is an order of magnitude larger and easily resisted. Driving the Meat to the edge, tho, he over committed on his forward mo and ended up letting the late bloomer take the match via a last second hatakikomi. Seriously balding Sagatsukasa should perhaps contact Viktor Plushenkos coach and see if he could fix him up that pate with a mullet like the one he got for his star crybaby pupil.

Yet another newbie in Tokusegawa vs. Kokkai, and Kokkai was at his windmilling best in this one, eventually slapping down the sizable Mongolian, who avoided a head landing by comically flipping himself over like a rodeo clown. Still another big newcomer, this time Okinoumi, who is rumored to be considered handsome by the JPese. Maybe Im heterosexual, cause I dont see it. At any rate, Tokitenku used the circular shape of the ring to slide to his left at the end and pull him down.

Everyones fave took on everyones knave, so cue up Stealers Wheel. Takamisakari got in on Hokutorikis belt and worked him out no problems. Hokutoriki fights like a girl on the belt. Im not saying hes gay, but I wouldnít exactly be shocked to learn he liked to go back home after a long hard day at the heya, kick up his heels, lean back, and enjoy a nice stiff wiener martini. Sexy got a hold of Shimotoris belt and drove him out with little, if any, fanfare. Kitataiki (whose body reminds me of Wakanosatos) was able to corral the frenetic one, Yoshikaze, and after a little pushme/pullme, Kitataiki used a slightly stronger belt grip than Cafť had to win a throw down contest at the edge.

Good ol Takekaze brought a decent enough hit at tachi-ai, but Hakuba for some reason fell right down to his palms in a flash. Kakizoe jumped to the side at the start, zeroing in (nothing racist meant by that) on Iwakiyamas gimpy arm, but he was too kind for his own good, letting go of the thing before he pulled a Kaio and in the process the Being From Nal Hutta was able to slip out of it and send his smaller foe flying past and to the dirt. Finally for the first half, Tochinoshin went toe to toe with Miyabiyama before a front belt grip helped him lift the former Ozeki back and out.

Earthquake warnings on the screen, and Tochiohzan rocked Homashos world with a ridiculously easy yorikiri win. Maybe Homasho has relatives in Tohoku and was focusing on some spectators I-Phone. 

Not wanting to be denied, Tosayutaka came in viciously hard, but Toyohibiki soaked it up and moved back and away, then fired up the neck thrusting that eventually ended up blasting the Tokitsukaze heya man out. Next, the Mawashi met little but air as he came toward Geeku, who didnt exactly step to the side as much as he failed to come forward. That spelled a quick loss for the Mongolian, and a cheap win for the Nihonjin.

Goeido let everyone down by getting pwned by Toyonoshima, with the Tugboat getting inside quickly and moving ahead, causing Goeido to get turned around a bit and necessitating resistance at the edge, thus enabling Tug to trip him as he came back. Ungainly loss for Osakas own.

How strange it was to see Baruto vs Aran, two guys who had practiced a lot together in pre-basho keiko and the guy against whom Baruto had injured his thumb. Oddly enough, Aran went straight for the side of the body where Barutos injured thumb AINT, and that resulted in a quick smothering yorikiri that was nominally interesting only because the Bouncer decided to kick and scream at the edge, causing both guys to tumble bumble out onto fans laps. Well have to see if other rikishi are so obliging with the Ozeki candidate.

I was unsurprised that Kyokutenho was able to get a belt grip so quickly vs. Kotomitsuki, but was taken aback to see Mitsuki with the genki to shake it off so easily and move in for the force out win. Perhaps it has been decided by the spirits of sumo that Mitsuki will after all get off the kadoban snide (though I imagine Baruto would love a scenario that gives him 12 or 13 wins and a jun-yusho while Kotomitsuki loses his rank, freeing up an Ozeki slot that theoretically is open but, barring a highly unlikely 14-1 or 15-0 yusho, practically closed).

Sanyaku for every basho but four for five full years, from Kyushu 2000 through Aki 2005, seventeen of them at Sekiwake, Wakanosato is, was and forever will be a sumo stud. But he is childs play compared to the Old Grey Mare, Kaio. Since first reaching Makuuchi in May, 1993, Kaio has been out of the Sanyaku for a grand total of ten basho! Thats 92-8-2 (the "2" being a two basho stay in Juryo right after his initial Makuuchi promotion). If he gets his majority wins this basho, he will make it to Nagoya as an Ozeki, which will be ten full years at the rank. By hook or by crook, these numbers are an impressive tally (just for the hours put in for practice, let alone the fortnight grind of the six tourneys per year!) Today he earned his first win toward that goal by slipping away at the edge and letting an overextended Croconosato short arm himself to the dust.

Rascally Kakuryu gave Kotooshu a shot at the start, palm to the throat, but when he tried a slap, the big Bulgar fell in on him and got two hands in, one on the belt. Sensing danger, Kak tried to pull out with a desperation throw attempt, but the Sadogatake man, doing his best Eskimo imitation, was having Nunuvat and kept himself balanced and perpendicular to his foe, finally winning be oshidashi. 

If there was excitement in the air over Kisenosatos excellent showing in practice sessions leading up to the basho, including some beatings administered to Ozeki Harumafuji, then his subsequent annihilation at the hands of said Ozeki quelled that bigtime. After a huge smash to the forehead from the Ozekis dome, the Kid came in but was pushed back by a strong arm, and when he came in again Harumafujis head nailed the Kid in the cheek, and at that moment the East Komusubis legs wilted. There was nowhere to go but back and down and the applause was more than likely more for Kisenosato being able to walk away than for Harumafujis victory.

Positioned to be the first of fifteen victims this March, Aminishiki tried nothing Shneaky vs. Yokozuna Hakuho, who used a harite face slap to get in and under the arms, causing Shneaky to duck and run out, literally jogged off the dohyo. Well, thatís all I gots for ya this time, I will be in the hizzouse on Day 2, so listen on the telly for crazy whistling from the cheap seats, cause thatll be moi. Oh, and if you think I failed to mention someone, go read the first letter of each paragraph. I know, Im a clever dick. Urp.












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