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Day 1

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Day 9

Day 13 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
Hakuho, winner of 23 prior yusho, stepped in the ring knowing that a win today would earn him number 24. Across from him on the East side entered Goeido, the hometown favorite and a possible Ozeki contender needing a signature win to boost his chances of promotion. Although a few simple white paper signs with two kanji characters in black showed support in the crowd for the Yokozuna, the Osaka crowd was clearly behind the Sekiwake. By the time the two men stared at each other for the second of the ritual pre-match practice starts, many in the crowd are chanting in unison: "Go-ei-do! Go-ei-do!"

It was electric. Even the jaded Sumotalk reader was excited, because something would definitely happen here. Many of you probably guessed that Hakuho would find a way to lose, thereby both extending the yusho race a little longer, giving a boost to the Ozeki hopes of the Japanese native, and sending the fans home happy. Those of you who disagree with Mike and Clancy about what's happening in sumo might guess that Hakuho is vulnerable to a real loss here and there, so a top form match from Goeido could end the Yokouzna's zensho yusho chances.

So what happened? Get to it already!

Very well, fair reader. What happened was a letdown of sorts. No conspiracy theories or tinfoil hats here. Nor any chance of a legitimate upset. Just Hakuho being Hakuho and dominating a lesser foe.

The match recap is besides the point, but I'll leave it here for lack of a better home. Hakuho had a solid, if cautious, tachi-ai that got him into migi-yotsu and with the better position. Goeido lacked the outside left that Hak enjoyed, so he immediately start fishing for a maki-kae. In doing so, the Sekiwake had to move his left foot back a bit, but this made it more in line with his right foot. You've probably read Mike's take on putting your feet in line horizontally, but the short version is that it's less stable. The Yokozuna immediately sensed the shift and executed a powerful belt throw with his left-hand outside grip to finish the match. It was classic Hakuho, looking for the opening and letting his opponent's weakness dictate his offense.

So why didn't he give up the win here? Two things come to mind. First, nobody is realistically within spitting distance of the yusho. Hak would have to lose three in a row at the end of the basho just to get to a playoff, and only Harumafuji or Okinoumi could have met him there (Harumafuji had yet to lose his fourth). There was no plan in anybody's books to have How-Do pick up a second straight win, much less in such a manner. Oki-doki is a solid Maegashira rikishi, and Japanese!, but isn't anybody's next hope (or shouldn't be). Plus, another fluke win from the mid-Maegashira ranks so soon after the last one would suck. Second, I wonder if Hakuho is just not buying what the YDC is selling about Goeido. When the guy is given a big boost but can't reach the next rung on the ladder, maybe it's not his time. At least Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku could get close to the mark and be consistent when they went up. Both of those guys are a step above Goeido right now, and it's not like they've gotten better since getting promoted.

In other words, I don't think you can look at this match in isolation and say that Mike is nuts and there is no yudan/yaocho/whatever. For one thing, the bout basically shows the kind of sumo that Hakuho is capable of. He has a strong tachi-ai, even while being cautious about slippery techniques that might be employed by his opponent, and usually gets the better position. Against strong opponents, he follows that up by waiting for them to make a move, which he then counters. It's incredibly effective and has the advantage of not being as tiring over two weeks as a more aggressive approach might. Compare that approach with most of his losses in the past few years. In fact, look no further than his loss to Goeido from last May, a bout they kept showing in the lead-up to today's showdown. It was as gross as 144 fart jokes. Watch it here, if you don't mind the stinkbomb that will emanate from your monitor. Hakuho's sumo there was not simply yudan, or letting up. It was an active attempt to give away the bout, complete with a reverse maki-kae (done twice to make sure it stuck), the clever move of pulling Goeido into his body at the edge, and finally a lame step out.

So there's your new champion, ladies and gentlemen, crowned on Day 13. I am inclined to think that this will be a 15-0 zensho yusho. I am not so hopeful, though, that we'll see clean matches on Day 14 and 15, as we see from ...

Other Matches of Interest

Well, I'm only going to call one match a clear case of yudan. Can you guess which one? Perhaps the one where a Yokozuna lost to an Ozeki who could use an extra win? Where that Yokozuna lamely stepped out in what looked like an accident? And maybe it was an accident. When you're not going all out, accidents like that can happen. But his ring sense should be much better than to step out so badly. Another clue to me that Harumafuji was not going all out was the lack of a maki-kae attempt. I'm not going to say that it was wide open, but there were moments when a maki-kae made too much sense for a lighting quick rikishi like HowDo to not try, especially when he's got plenty of space behind him to recover from the inevitable counter.

Kisenosato versus Kotoshogiku is a fun match-up. This time, the two Ozeki got locked into a protracted yotsu battle, with Geeku hunkered down lower and the Kid just being more powerful. Neither man had an outside grip, just matching inside lefts. Kise made a couple of attempts to get a better position, but had no luck. So finally, Geeku made an offensive move. The Geeku had a good intent, aiming to grab a shallow outside grip on the mawashi that probably would have sealed the win with a few humpety humps, but Kise was too fast and too strong. The Kid used the shift in position to step back and away, setting up what was basically a slap down, but was called a kata-sukashi (swinging shoulder takedown). In any case, smart and effective sumo by the 8-5 winner, while the loser still needs one to get his eight.

Toyonoshima had the moro-zashi on Baruto, as you might expect. What I certainly didn't expect was the little man nearly lifting Baruto off of his feet(!). It was a mistake, though, because he had to plant his feet hard to pull off that move. When Baruto landed, he quickly wrenched around like he was using an arm bar on Tugboat, only to find that the M4 couldn't really move. So we ended up with a strange kime-taoshi finish, with Toyonoshima off balance and landing on his butt. Baruto gets the KK to remain entrenched at Sekiwake, while Tugboat needs one more.

As you probably knew if you'd been following the action so far, Okinoumi lost today, thereby setting up the chance to make Hakuho's yusho definitive. Okinoumi against Tochiohzan is a good match, when both guys are on. Today, Oh Snap got a quick moro-zashi at the tachi-ai, but Oki-doki quickly countered with a maki-kae and looked to have the momentum. But Snappy worked hard to get inside and obtain a slight positional advantage and a mawashi grip with his inside left, which was the only grip at this point. Despite this, Okinoumi drove his man toward the edge --- a mistake in retrospect because Tochiohzan took it as a chance to dig in low and regain moro-zashi, which he quickly used to drive the M7 out. A nice KK win for the Komusubi, while Okinoumi knew that his slim title chances had slipped to infinitesimal with his third loss.

A Few Quick Hits

Takayasu (now 4-9) has been getting into too many mawashi battles this basho. He's proven that he's not a bad belt fighter, but he's primarily a pusher-thruster, so he's got to work harder to keep a strong mawashi man like Tochinoshin from getting too close. No Shine keeps his KK hopes alive at 6-7.

Myogiryu made quick work of Kitataiki by working with his hands to get moro-zashi while driving his legs forward. Myogi Bear at 7-6, Kitataiki at 9-4.

Veteran Tokitenku showed just why Gagamaru won't ever make waves among the jo'i. There just isn't the stability to stay on his feet against an agile opponent with the right moves. Both guys moving down at 4-9.

Shohozan (7-6) scored a nice win over Fujiazuma (8-5). First he had to work just to get the match back to even. Then, he used his hand to break Fujiazuma's belt grip while he turned and pulled the outer belt throw, dashi-style. The little man's got some attitude, and it's mostly a good thing for his sumo.

Jokoryu had a nice barometer match against Toyohibiki to pick up his kachi-koshi. The nice thing about Hibiki is that you know basically what you're going to get with him -- forward-moving sumo, decent power, and enough balance and stability to not go down too easily to lame pulls and the like. So a win for the youngster via uwate-nage shows me that he's got some game. There's plenty to refine, so we'll see where he goes from here, but it's good way to get his first KK in makunouchi.

And I'll end with the two uber-veterans, Wakanosato against Kyokutenho. Today, despite getting into a moro-zashi, Tenho managed to use his height advantage and strength to pull up on the Croc's pits and swing him around for the kote-nage win. Wakanosato has his and remains in the division at 8-5, while Kyokutenho has a chance to actually pull this out at 6-7 after a 1-3 start and another three-loss streak to get to 4-7 a couple of days ago. The slow march up the wins ladder continues.

So that's all I have time for! No fart jokes lingering in the air, so to speak. Clancy thinking that making suggestions about Mike's wife will help him hit on his nursing students (like this one, no doubt)

And Hakuho ends our misery on Day 13. Strange little world, this sumo site. Strange world, indeed.

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Day 12 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
Ah yes...the 12th day of my first Miyabiyama-less basho (I kinda miss him) and things are lookin' sideways. As our collective "Suspension of Disbelief" gets slapped upside the head almost every night, I've fallen into the trap of fantasizing about crazy things like straight up, hard fought, fundamentally sound, balls out, beast like sumo. And my dreams include the former mid tier rikishi like Kakizoe, Takamisakari, Dejima (who used to hit off the line like an 18 wheeler), the crescent moon headed Iwakiyama, perfectly bowing Homasho...Hell at this point I'm even missing Roho. I saw Roho work his magic at the GRAND SUMO EXHIBITION TOURNAMENT at LA Sports arena. Asashoryu won that Jungyo Event and I think that's where The Amazing Roho scored the weed that magically got him busted and booted out of the sumo paycheck line. Shazaam!

Jungyo events are exhibition bashos that give the masses, who don't live near the official tour spots, an opportunity to see semi real deal sumo. I say semi because there was a lot of lifting and kicking of feet but a grand old time is had by all. The LA Jungyo event was the first time in decades that the "naked ambassadors" (as the flyer called them) had donned their thongs in California.

And speaking of Miyabiyama (who is 2-10 in Juryo) the harsh disparities between Makuuchi and Juryo lifestyles have never been displayed so graphically as in the downgrades this former Ozeki has had to endure. His standard of living has taken a serious hit as he now is forced to make his digs under whatever bridges happen to be available.

And just as in his earlier jonokuchi days when he was forced to grab food wherever he could find it (oops, looks like he got caught here) Miyabiyama once again is forced to "bring his own lunch". Oh how the flabby have fallen.

But getting back to my flights of fancy re; the current State O' Haru... I thought to myself, "Myself, this kinda thing happens in other shite you're really stoked about. Like when hockey teams have to rebuild (frustrating), or a favorite crop of tennis stars begin to slow down (bummer), Serena Williams not wearing a g-string when she plays (heartbreaking), Alyssa Milano crawling towards the wall (please god let Megan Fox stay frozen in time)." So what's with all the biotch jibber jabber Myself!? Don't be a fickle fan and whine about these (hash/tag) First World Problems. Pony the f... up! Report on the matches you dig and then go fantasize about other, more positive things...stuff that this maybe...

And so...Tamawashi vs. Jokoryu exposed Tamawashi's nagging inability to finish. My friend, Cung Le, is a Mixed Martial Arts champion (in the truest sense of the word) and one of his strongest assets is his intellect. Where most of his opponents have 1 or 2 styles of combat that they can call on during a match Cung has mastered 4 different styles that he draws from (and sometimes blend into something new) either as an offensive weapon or defensive weapon. I repeat the word WEAPON because in his prime, every move he made was like staring into..well like staring at HIM which is NEVER advisable. Off the hook fight savvy like this comes from a combo of intellect, attitude and that awful messenger of truth known as genetics. This sets the great sumo dudes apart as well...we're witnessing this notion with Hakuho's ability to change his approach in order to successfully deal with whatever is thrown at him. Some of the other guys start well, but if Plan A doesn't get the win, their improvising skills often fall short of the mark.

Tamawashi usually begins his bouts with solid hits at the tachi-ai and it's one of the reasons I like him...But when the opposing rikishi (as in the case of Jokoryu) doesn't cooperate...well, you see him begin to "flat fish on the ocean floor". Jokoryu got jammed to the edge of defeat at the tachi-ai yes, BUT he's a tough kid and he worked Tama off of his ass into a yotsu stalemate. Only a matter of time before the younger man threw the idea depleted Tama to the recently swept clay. Jokoryu is a nifty 7-5 and M10 Tamawashi is flat at a fishy 3-9.

Everyone's favorite rikishi, Wakanosato woke up this morning wanting his kachi-koshi. But really, who wasn't rooting for him? It appears even Takanohana has jumped off the Goeido bandwagon and hopped aboard the good ship W. K. Sato! And who can blame him? I don't think I've ever seen the guy henka and in the tradition of war horses like the baby faced Dejima, he lays down the solid sumo night after night.

There was a time when the Sumo Association Laboratories pumped out guys like this fairly regularly. Here's Waka just days before leaving the incubator sharing an amniotic fluid bath what appears to be a not fully formed Okinoumi, who's probably a few weeks before his OWN journey from the Lab to the Hakkaku Stable and a solid career.

7-4 Takarafuji and 7-4 Yoshikaze bumped nipples and then Mr. Frenetic tap danced, slapped, pushed and fell to the ground like a slapping, tap dancing kid. I mention this bout because dude's footwork is usually all over the joint and the feet (as Mike has repeatedly stomped into our skulls) are (as in most sports) a big frikkin'' deal. Takarafuji gets invited to the kachi-koshi celebratory dinner party while Yoshikaze blithely dances away at 7-5 and rethinks nothing.

Aoiyama (7-4), with all of his size and youth, threw a whole lotta slaps and pushes at Okinoumi and you gotta love how Oki just worked towards the belt grip. Again, check out Blue Mountain's footwork. He slaps and stands too close or pushes and backs up. Oki "Don'tcha Know Me" (10-2) finished him off with a nice gaburi-yori and shows maturity for a solid yori-kiri win as Aoiyama tip toes away from the kachi-koshi and falls to 7-5.

Gagamaru woke up hoping he wouldn't make-koshi. Today he faced off against Takekaze who (and yup it's all relative) has been working half decent sumo this basho. The two men decided on tsuppari as their tactic of choice, although Takekaze's version was a bit more legit. Yubabamaru pushed and shoved, relying on his over sized mawashi holder to displace Takekaze off the dohyo and he almost succeeded but his feet were redundantly lined up or were sliding forward or stepping back. At the beginning Takekaze's choreography wasn't much better but after surviving a perilous rope walk he got Yubaba on the run. He kept a solid onslaught with his arms and legs and worked the cellulite white whale backwards and out. I briefly recalled Chiyotaikai's vicious and forward moving tsuppari and shook my head and then...well I just shook my head. Takekaze stands at 7-5 and Yubabamaru is oshi-dashied at 4-8.

My man Aran faced off with "he of the oddly screwed on head", Takayasu. and was heard to whisper "I'm probably gonna henka here" Takayasu lunged forward and basically said "Henka me baby!" and Aran obliged him, thus the smoothly rendered non-event that we've come to expect from Aran and a host of comatose rikishi. Takayasu is make-koshi while Fred Flintstone (seen here, cutting quite the dashing figure, with a much more attractive hairstyle) is on the cusp of grabbing the big 8.

At this point my focus inexorably wanders again...a random cavalcade of sumo players scroll across my mind...I wonder if the devil really can play guitar....I should ask Clancy...

Anyway...M5 Kaisei once again looked almost apologetic as he balanced his upper body on his legs and let M1 Tochinoshin practice his tsuri-dashi. Tochinoshin does have some obvious strength and ability but seems to lack strategic smarts. Not sure what's going on with young Kaisei but he's sleepwalking going on two weeks now. Tochinoshin is struggling at 5-7 and Baby Huey is a train wreck at 2-10.

Goeido who appears a smidgen lost by all the excitement, was aggressive with Tugboatoshima and it ultimately paid off. His tachi-ai was a tad high but he forced Tug into an upright position and kept driving forward. Tugboat's hand seemed a bit lazy at the belt but Goeido had him wrapped tight. Tugboat suddenly found himself victim to a potentially ugly kote-nage and relented to the dirt twisting his leg along the way. Toyonoshima bows down like Beyoncé at 7-5 while Goeido takes a bow at 8-4.

Next up the eternally smirking Baruto (his smirk only rivaled by Martin's sardonic gaze) and rising star, Myogiryu, (who's name severely slows down my typing) and it felt good to see two guys I like, hugging and pushing into each other...(you a sumo way). Sekiwake Baruto's knee (as expected) seems to be breaking down as the days go by and M2 Myogiryu jumped all over the injured guy. Yogi shoved him like a lowrider and simply drove him out across the border. Would love to see Biggy Bigs get 10 but as of today he's 7-5 and Yogibear is a solid 6-6.

By the way, Baruto seems to have worked out his differences with Kisenosato and thats a big relief for us all because the Kid's gonna need a hand once in a while.

Kakuryu has been a smorgasbord of unexpected game plans and odd results and that's OK by me because when he fights with focus he throws a good beat down on it!

Today against Ikioi who got some vigorous cheers when his name was announced (Mainoumi commented that both Ikioi and Goeido have been good for the current basho because of their popularity. I thought "Dayum everyone's running out of shite to say!") Kakuryu figgered he'd slap some nonsense into the youngster. As the two dosey-doed around the roped off circle Kak popped him in the face repeatedly but Ikioi surged forward undaunted only to be side stepped and yanked off the dohyo. Mainoumi proclaimed "Now that's a truckload of hari-te!" Kak is a chaotic 7-5 and Ikioi is a courageous 2-10.

Harumafuji, who has an all too similar record to the renegade Ozeki posse, ain't gonna ever have too much trouble with Kotoshogiku (or Kiku-chan as the gallery of hot cheerleaders like to call him). In a battle of upright rikishi, Haruma waddled the "man who sports an over developed brow" into the moat of shame. Key Chain (7-5) would like his 8 soon please and Harumafuji is at 9-3.

Hakuho, he of the disingenuous smile and slammin' sumo skills. climbed closer to breaking another record as he climbed all over Kisenosato. His well delivered harite to Kise's mug resonated with a loud "SMACK" and he quickly owned the belt and body position to control the entire affair.

The Kid was kinda uninspired. Kisenosato's gotta wake up in general. I mean the Kid's been told he's an Ozeki now...he's gotta pick which band he wants to be in...Arashi or Tenacious D. He fell with one of those low impact keiko rolls when Hakuho's uwate-nage sent him a rollin'. But it seems like a lot of guys are uh...well a little confused in Osaka. Hakuho is a love supreme at 12-0 and Kisenosato has 5 whopping un-Ozeki-like X's.

All in all I'm gonna walk away from this basho with good cheer delivered courtesy by the likes of Ikioi, Myogiryu, Jokoryu, Masunoyama, Okinoumi and yes...our Lilliputian armed toastmaster general...Wakanosato. Athletes that insist on throwing down hard on a regular basis and force the frequently "bought and sold" to be "real" more often than not.

Now I'm gonna return to my about it's winter...and  there's a barrel...a girl is in the barrel...hmmmm yes this will do nicely...make the girl smokin' we're cookin' which breast shall I be THIS time?

Day 11 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well, here we are deep into the tourney and things are looking very exciting as the leaders battle for supremacy in a hotly contested clash of titans. Oh, wait, this is the SUMOS report. My mal. You see, I write for several other websites, and confused this one with my report for

Most of you are thinking, Great, here goes Clancy again with all his rambling nonsense, making light of the proceedings and not getting down to the nitty gritty of just exactly HOW Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka defeated George "The Animal" Steele. Well, you couldnt be more erroneous! I love sumo, warts and all. Thats right. Love. I said it, and I meant it, and Im here to represent it.

Id never let yall down. Come on, wtf? Who do you think I am, Kenji, who touched our hearts with prodigal gold in January only to rub pewter in our butt cracks come March? I care about every last one of ya, I want you to do well in school and make your parents proud, want that new RV to work out for ya, want those biopsy results to come back negative.

But now youre thinking, Okay, fine, but dudes not Mike, so well get meager rations at best. Now youre just being mean. I can do anything better than Mike can, I can do anything better than him (well, maybe I cant live on bread and cheese). I can spot a scoop throw, reminisce about my times as a JPese alderman, and as for the ladies, well, lets just say I have it on good authority that when shes done rockin America with Kane, Mrs. Wesemann is looking for some empty calorie McClancy to lengthen her lonely nights!

On a serious note, Im starting a new gig in April, teaching at a nursing university here on my island. I had to write a syllabus, which was difficult, because like my other rock star acquaintance in matters sumo, Moti, would intone, What do I know from medicine? My mind is spent from trying to formulate scenarios to discuss in English for the young, female, wide-eyed, future Japanese sponge bathers. Child comes in with a cold and slight chest pain. What do you offer as first care? Woman says her eyes are burning. Do you get the doctor immediately? Gaijin comes in complaining of a rash on his groin. When he drops his trousers, how do you resist the urge to squeal and bat it around like a kitten a yarnball?

My point? Im tired, oh so tired (and need to save my strength just in case any of those students answers, "No way I could" to that last scenario). So Ill only be covering seven bouts today. Which seven depends on you, the readers of Sumotalk. Thats right. Mike has installed a new interactive feature to the daily reports. If you will now please scroll down to the very bottom of this page you are on you will find a link which will take you to a site where you can submit the seven bouts and this report will reload to the version that shows only those particular seven. Go ahead. Ill await.

Yon da don da don da don. Doop dee doo dee doo...

Youre back and discovered that youre a HUGE fuckwit, right? Thats okay. Happens to the best of us. Now--Lets sumo!

The day began with the Australian newcomer E16 Oy!wato vs. Sadanofuji (which sounds a bit like "sodom o fudgy"—make of it what you will). The Ozzie needs at least 7 wins to maintain his rank, but he was unable to withstand the unrelenting 18 seconds long tsuppari barrage of the W13, who used his mighty might to smite like a mite his foe this night. Im pretty sure both guys thought they were naked here, because their belts seemed invisible to each other. Im actually looking forward to what kind of hurt he can bring to 8-3 Kitataiki tomorrow as Sadanofuji goes rocketing up the banzuke, from appearing in the first bout of the first half on Wed to the first bout of the SECOND half on Thur! Dont recall seeing that before, but Ill get my fact checking intern on it pronto.

Masunoyama was super genki in fending off a yori-kiri gambit by Jokoryu, escaping at the edge and then using superior tits-pits shoving to unbalance and ram out his bedraggled foe, who was lifting his leg in either a vain attempt to emulate Tokitenku or to mark his territory.

There are "shit bouts" (e.g. anything with Takekaze in it) and then there are "give a shit about bouts" like todays Takarafuji-Wakanosato tilt. I was impressed by the manner in which Taka-chan took care of Yubabmaru on Day8 and Toyohibiki on Day 9, both in yotsu battles. Thats 400 kilo of man flesh in two days the E10 hung on his butchers hook, so I was curious to see what hed do to our man Wakanosato, easily the darling of the gaijin over 40 set. A former perennial Sekiwake who just barely missed Ozeki due to his terrible lizard arms, today he came straight at Takarafuji and said, Give me your best, punk. Be careful what you ask for as Taka-chan was moved nary a half meter back from tachi-ai, and with that energy spent, tables were turned and Rex was run back and out lickety split (why do I ALWAYS think of my high school cheerleading team when I use that phrase?). Itll be inneresin to see if Takarafuji can get his mitts on Starbuck on Day 12.

Speaking of The Caffeinated one, today he finished off a whirlagig bout with a final smashing forearm to Sotairyu, who had just completed a desperation 360 spin to live another half-second only to get full on hammered in the chest and onto his can. Dude went down looking Sotairyu, but got up looking so tired, dude.

Fujiazuma got KachiKoshi majority wins with a workaday pushout win over Daido, Okinoumi, with a deep right back belt, escaped from a few twisting desperation wrenches from Chiyonokuni (including a final headlock he gave up on cause its not cool to do that in sumo and the wrestlers know it) and lifted out his foe for his 9th win, and Shotenro, in the middle of some good forward moving sumo after the tachi-ai, tried to switch gears and pull, but Kitataiki was, like the Eskimos (or are they called the "Indigenous Ice Peoples of Northern Earth" nowadays?) having Nunavut and simply duck walked the E12 out for his KK.

Halftime break. Im tired of people whining about gravity. "I fell down." I weigh too much." "My tits are saggy." (That last one was Martin.) I love gravity. There are so many cool things I can do because I know gravity will always be there. Like taking off laundry from the clips. Simply squeeze and they fall into the basket. Or juggling. Or my tennis topspin lob (which has been compared by some to Rafas). I can honestly say that gravity has never let me down.

Okay, now first bout of the second half. Normally when you see "hataki-komi" as the kimarite it was a shite bout, but not today as Aran skillfully held up/off a forward leaning Aoiyama with his left arm, and when Ahoy went to the sea sea sea to see what he could see see see, Aran shouted "Fire in the hole!" pulled the support arm away, shifted slightly to the side, and sunk his battleship. Aran gets a much needed 6th win while Aoiyama needs to get er done or hell be the Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Kasugano Beya (I wonder if Kris Kristofferson reads these reports?)

Some more inexplicableness today as Takayasu, the guy who manhandled Goeido on Day 9 (see Mikes breakdown) decided to full blown henka Tochiohzan, who recovered with ease, got moro-zashi two hands inside, and won by yori-kiri. Why choose such a crappy starting maneuver when you know you have it in you to man up and beat the top guys?

Baruto and Tochinoshin locked up in a sumo poster battle, two big fellas with identical belt grips, neck to neck, huffing and puffing till one makes a push forward, as The Private did today, and the other counters by lifting up and muscling around, as the Sekiwake did. Baruto improves to 7-4 and if he can win 3 more, start your Ozeki re-promotion engines, ladies and gentlemen (a small nod to Danica there). Not so far fetched with only Yogi Bear for sure and Geeku, Shneaky, and Tugboat possibly. Yogi and Shneaky problematic if they start moving laterally, Geeku and Tug if they get deep inside and under the Biomass. I see the corners of your collective mouth turned down. Hey, at least Im TRYING to engender some drama in a basho with no yusho race.

Which reminds me. I hate when people suggest I "walk away from the drama." Huh? The "drama" provides me with much of my amusement. Not you?

Kakuryu and Tokitenku then gave us the exact same kind of bout as the previous. Except with both men being Mongolians, there was much more threat of some tripping attempts. In the end, after they had sickened of hearing the gyoji hollering out "Vonnegut! Vonnegut! Vonneguts tall!" the Ozeki worked the E3 out back and out not with a bang but a whimper.

Two decent yotsu bouts in a row! I felt nascent tumescence.

Like Mike pointed out yesterday, if youre an Ozeki and you deny Toyonoshima the moro-zashi you probably win. Kisenosato is clearly an avid reader of ST as he gave Tugboat the inside left belt, while getting his own outside right, but crucially, on the other side he was clamping down on Toyos right, or had that shallow inside Mike alluded to. Dunno, couldnt see. Either way, he drank his liquor faster than a flicker driving the E4 out so both men stand 7-4 on three wickets at lunch (oops, sorry, slipped into my report for

Okay. Im convinced. Hakuho has been declared the 15-0 winner of this basho, because if Kotoshogiku cant close the deal when he had the chance he did today, well...The Yokozuna grabbed an armbar from tachi-ai, but quickly let it go in favor of going for an inside left. Geeku blocked this well so Hakuho sniffed for a pulldown but the Ozeki kept his feet under him and bounced, Tigger like, forward. He got a deep back of the belt left grip and bent low, the Yokozuna now perpendicular (typically when the bell tolls in sumo) with only a desperation headlock hold on Geeku. So what does the Ozeki do? Does he try to bounce forward and belly up, or hump the shit out of Hakuhos leg, because the wonderful thing about Geeku is Geekus a wonderful thing? No, he relents, and in a split second Hakuho has them back to center locked up. A few arm switching moments later Kublai has him back and out no problemo.

Except there WAS a problemo. Just before Hakuho put him the headlock, Geekus right hand was right there at the navel, nothing to it but to grab the belt and gaburi, which is his specialty, his "juu hachiban" if you will (and you will). I hate to say it, but unless that headlock threat made the Sadogatake beya man shit his mawashi (and oh what a sight THAT would be---think of the side squirting effect---I know Matt has), it appears that he relented, perhaps in order to not win and screw the pooch on Hakuhos zensho yusho.

Now it is true that this all happened muy rapido, so, you know, once again who the fuck can say? Maybe it was that lil "yudan" thing Mike has introduced to the convo, with Hakuho whispering to Kotoshogiku, "Psst. Psst. You done?" and Geeku answering, "YOU done?" Anyway you slice it, someone was done today (and yes, Pogo, it might very well have been us!)

Finally, another straight up belt battle except in this one, Harumafuji had two grips, inside left and outside right and Goeido only the one inside left. The Yokozuna kept his face pressed against the Fathers face while keeping his left leg back to one side to prevent the Sekiwake from snagging his own outside right grip. After tiring his foe out, HowDo was able to work him out in the yori-kiri fashion.

So, in the final analysis of Day 11, a lot of big guys put their right foot in, put their right foot out, put their left hand, their left hand, and, well, thats what its all about. Ill be back on Day 15 to slay this dragon we call Osaka and tomorrow? Let me have a look? Hmm, it appears that it is none other than our own Mike Rynoski wannabe. (Actually, I notice Ive gone an entire report with no pics or links, so heres one that Mikes gentle gibe [it had BETTER be gentle, cause Kanes got pipes that could crush Mikes missionary bike helmet!] made me think of when he roasted Kane about the shrill Mike Reno, nee Rynoski). It harkened me back to The Day, when this band and their great lead singer Buzz Sherman came out of Canada with guns a blazin (and no, the one album they made with Reno as their lead singer was NOT worthy!)

p.s. And yes, I KNOW I oughtnt to have combined the words "butt cracks" and "come." And yes, I WILL be building a Tumblr page featuring my nursing college gig.

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I was thinking about Goeido last night before the day 10 bouts and speculating as to why he was just destroyed by Takayasu, a rikishi who has actually struggled this basho. Goeido actually has game, and he has the potential to reach the Ozeki ranks on his own in this current environment, but in order to achieve that, he's got to become tough mentally. The problem, though, is that Goeido is being jerked around by the Association, and it's affecting bringing him down mentally. Let me give you an example to help clarify where I'm going with this. I am of the opinion that the last four Goeido wins heading into day 10 were handed to him. And when I say that, I don't believe that Goeido knew he was going to win those bouts beforehand just like I don't think Toyonoshima knew he was going to win his bout against Harumafuji on Sunday.

I think what happens is the elders in the Association assess the current situation of sumo and then identify areas where it might be beneficial to have rikishi "let up" against their opponent. The Japanese term for that is yudan, and as I mentioned in a previous report, it's a term that I've seen used recently in the media and even on the NHK broadcast, a good example occurring just after Takayasu defeated Harumafuji on day 3. There was no logical explanation as to how the Yokozuna didn't finish his man off after getting moro-zashi, and so the announcers said "I'm sure he let up on his opponent" which could also be interpreted as "he underestimated him and therefore didn't go all out." The word yaocho is poisonous because it implies bout fixing beforehand where money or favors exchange hands, but I believe the mysterious trends we've been seeing the last few years in sumo are more a case of planned yudan than they are outright yaocho. So, if I've mislead any of you by always using the word yaocho, I probably should have been using yudan in most cases.

Anyway, getting back to Goeido, if his opponents are letting up against him without his knowledge, then his body becomes accustomed to only doing so much or going so far to get a win. A good example might be his day 7 bout against Tochiohzan, an extremely close affair that ended in a nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge. Tochiohzan put his right elbow down quickly in that one giving Goeido the win, but Goeido still jerked his head around quickly to see in which direction the gyoji was pointing after the bout. That tells me that he knew the bout was close but wasn't sure who won. In other words, he thought everything was straight up, and so it registers with his body "if I go this hard, I can beat an opponent such as Tochiohzan." Or take the Kisenosato bout on Sunday where the Kid had Goeido pinned against the ropes and "tried" to gaburi him out a coupla times. Goeido survived and eventually turned the tables picking up the yori-kiri win in the end, so if Goeido doesn't know that Kisenosato let him off the hook, his body remembers "I only need to do this in order to counter my opponent." The problem then becomes the body remembers how to win when the other guy is doing yudan, and then Goeido gets thrown to a shark like Baruto on day 3, and he gets obliterated. Or what about his bout yesterday against Takayasu? Takayasu ain't no shark, but the bout wasn't even close, and so I spent some time thinking why is Goeido getting his ass kicked so badly in his losses? Well, my conclusion is that his sumo-no-kan, or sixth sense in the ring, is being sent all these mixed messages, and there's no consistency to what he's feeling in the ring.

Today against Tokitenku, Takayasu got the right inside and left outer grip against Tokitenku; yet, he couldn't budge Tenku back even a centimeter. Takayasu was frustrated for over a minute despite such an advantageous position, and he eventually succumbed to Tokitenku in the ring. But this is the same Takayasu who destroyed Goeido just one day before, so if you use Takayasu as a barometer, where does Goeido stand in terms of Tokitenku? I know that comparing three rikishi like this is not an exact science, but the point is Goeido and sumo fans are being sent these mixed messages that just don't make sense when they occur. Suppose you were an Osaka native and you forked out your caish to go see the sumos on day 9 because you wanted to see Goeido, and you're all excited because he has just defeated a Komusubi and two Ozeki coming into the bout, and then he just gets his ass handed to him by a Maegashira rikishi who struggles among the jo'i. What would you think? Or how do the NHK announcers handle it when they're told by the Association that Goeido is the number one Ozeki candidate; yet, his bout isn't even close against a newbie to the jo'i?

And I can apply the same logic to Ikioi, a rikishi who has already suffered make-koshi, yet survived against both Yokozuna for a total of 21 seconds. In my mind, that just doesn't register unless I know that the two Yokozuna were doing yudan. They didn't need to throw the bout; they just needed to make it look as if Ikioi was doing well, and it excites the hometown fans.

And so I think that yudan has been used for years now to keep the Japanese rikishi close to the foreign rikishi, and I also believe that the main reason Hakuho receives such favorable press from the media is because he has accepted his role to do yudan sumo while it was never in Asashoryu's nature to comply. The whole reason I even start my comments today with this discussion of yudan is because the Haru basho reached a critical point during day 10, and I want you to see where I'm coming from when I break down the Hakuho - Baruto bout. But before we get there, let's begin at the bottom of the leaderboard and work our way up to the day 10 finale.

Heading into the day, the leaderboard was essentially narrowed down to three rikishi: Hakuho, Kotoshogiku, and Okinoumi. And even then, everyone knows that the latter two don't have a chance, but since they were only two losses off of the leader, it gives NHK something to post to try and keep the viewers interested.

M7 Okinoumi was paired with M5 Aran today, and Okinoumi came close to moro-zashi from the tachi-ai but was rebuffed by the Russian in the end sending the bout to migi-yotsu. After some wrenching and hunkering down, Okinoumi secured the left outer grip first, and as is so often the case, the dude who secures the outer meat first gets to eat his pudding in the end. Okinoumi clinches kachi-koshi with the yori-kiri win and is technically still in the yusho race. Having said that, Okinoumi hasn't overly impressed me this basho, but he's taking what's given to him and is at least on track to win a Kantosho.

So with Okinoumi securely on the leaderboard, it was next up to Ozeki Kotoshogiku to solve M4 Toyonoshima to keep the yusho race a threesome. Now, if I were ever to write the 10 Commandments of fighting in the jo'i, one of the highest commandments would be simply this: Thou shalt get the inside position when fighting Toyonoshima. The only way that Toyonoshima can beat an Ozeki-caliber rikishi is to get moro-zashi. It's really as simple as that, and so when you fight against him, you don't need a smashmouth tachi-ai; you only need to get an arm to the inside...even if it is a shallow grip. And so knowing that, I just stood there with my mouth agape and drool spilling over my bottom lip as I watched Kotoshogiku move slightly right at the tachi-ai and settle for an armbar around the top of Toyonoshima's left arm. Took about a tenth of a second for Toyonoshima to pivot into his opponent and secure moro-zashi, and from there Kotoshogiku didn't have the strength to dig in, and so Toyonoshima just felled him easily with a left scoop throw.

It was at this moment that the basho really turned, and Kariya Announcer knew it as he instinctively cried out, "Ah, that only leaves Okinoumi at two losses!" So there's your yusho race with five days remaining: Hakuho at zero losses and Okinoumi at two losses. If the arena in Osaka was built on the edge of a cliff, the smart fans would have already jumped off. I mean, where do we go from here? With the loss, both combatants end the day at 7-3, and there were actually a total of seven rikishi with 7-3 records, but what good does it do if the leader is undefeated and named Hakuho?

My guess is that from the time Kotoshogiku lost to the time when Hakuho stepped into the ring, the Yokozuna did give this reality some thought because I didn't see much determination in him against Sekiwake Baruto. The Yokozuna didn't drive forward at the tachi-ai sorta bouncing off of Baruto as the two settled into migi-yotsu where the Yokozuna enjoyed the left outer grip. Baruto was too far away from an outer grip of his own, and so there they stood for about a minute and a half before Baruto finally went for a maki-kae with the left hand that he actually got, but the Sekiwake was so gassed at this point, he was just standing upright, and so Hakuho pivoted to the side and dragged his opponent down to the dirt dashi-nage style using the left outer obtained from the tachi-ai. This was an extremely curious bout to me because I thought that dashi-nage was there three seconds into the bout, but it didn't come until nearly two minutes later. When Kakuryu faced Baruto back on day 4, he knew he was up against a rikishi who was at about 80%, and so he dove right in, accepted the gappuri yotsu bout (which is insane for a smaller guy like the Kak), and beat Baruto straight up in about five seconds. So why did it take Hakuho nearly two minutes to sill the dill, especially when Baruto posed no offensive threat? I actually think that's the answer...Hakuho was doing yudan sumo and waiting for Baruto to do something, but a counter attempt never came, and so the Yokozuna finished his bidness. Now, I'm totally speculating here, but the question remains: if Hakuho wasn't going yudan in this one, what does Kakuryu know that Hakuho doesn't? Regardless of what was really going through Hakuho's mind in this one, he improves to 10-0 while Baruto falls to 6-4.

I am extremely curious to see the course this basho will take the final five days. There's no question that Hakuho is your yusho rikishi, but there are still three possible endings. 1) Hakuho goes 15-0. I've stated that Hakuho has been capable of doing this every basho for years now, but due to yudan sumo, it hasn't happened, and so I'd be pleasantly surprised if they let him do it here. 2) Hakuho runs away with this thing but still loses one late. This is the most likely scenario in my mind. 3) Hakuho keeps things interesting but in order to do so, he must lose two of his last five. Okinoumi is not going to win out, and so if there is to be a legitimate yusho race, the three-loss rikishi still need a chance, and so in order to keep it close, Hakuho has to lose two of the last five. I don't see this happening, but this scenario will generate the most excitement for the Japanese fans. The three-loss rikishi also have to do their part to keep this scenario viable. Who knows what will happen, but they don't call this the wild and crazy (areru) Haru basho for nothing.

Let's just touch on a few other bouts of interest starting with Yokozuna Harumafuji vs. M4 Shohozan. Shohozan's doing his little wrist rolls prior to the tachi-ai and also standing in the corner waiting to throw salt in the ring is getting tired, but that didn't stop him today against the Yokozuna. While Sho was monkeying around and stalling at the starting lines, Harumafuji got impatient, touched down both fists, and went. And Shohozan's reaction was to instinctively put his fists down, but he clearly wasn't ready. Didn't matter though because they didn't call it back, so with Shohozan standing upright and looking for help, Harumafuji just drove him back across the straw in less than two seconds. Shohozan falls to 6-4 and has nothing to complain about. When you fight a Yokozuna, show some respect and get your ass down there and go. As for Harumafuji, he quietly moves to 7-3 and has the best shot at ruining Hakuho's bid for a zensho yusho.

Ozeki Kakuryu used an ugly henka to his right against Komusubi Tochiohzan who caught him with a left paw spewing the Kak to the edge of the ring. As Kakuryu survived and looked to square back up, he kept both arms to the outside allowing Tochiohzan to just shove him down hard with a right paw to the side of the rib cage. I have no idea what Kakuryu was trying to achieve here, and I have no idea if all of this was on purpose; what I do know is this was about the ugliest bout of sumo from a single party that I've ever seen. If I can describe it in words, I'd have to liken it to a thought I had when I read the news that Disney acquired the rights to Star Wars and will create Chapter 7 in the series. I read that Carrie Fisher signed on, and I couldn't help but wonder if the script called for Leia to wear one of those metallic bikinis again. I guess if they needed an actor to play the successor to Jabba the Hutt, Mike Reno's available. Can you imagine if they put Carrie in a bikini again and had her sit on Mike's lap? Actually, I think I would pay money to see that. Anyway, both Kakuryu and Tochiohzan end the day at 5-5.

Ozeki Kisenosato and M3 Ikioi hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, and Ikioi created a bit of drama going for a left scoop throw, but the Kid survived and once he grabbed the right outer grip, he just threw Ikioi down into a crumpled heap at the edge of the dohyo. Kisenosato moves to 6-4 while Ikioi's make-koshi becomes official at 2-8.

Sekiwake Goeido offered a meek hari-te with the right hand while quickly moving left against M1 Tochinoshin causing Shin to just whiff in his initial charge, and so Goeido just pushed him down by the right shoulder a half second in. I have no idea if this was planned or what, but it was a horrible bout of sumo to force the fans to watch late in the broadcast. Goeido moves to 7-3, and the biggest problem I have with that is if he gets 10 wins or more, this senseless talk of Ozeki will continue. NoShine falls to 4-6.

M2 Myogiryu stayed low at the tachi-ai and kept Komusubi Aminishiki upright the entire time finishing him off with a series of thrusts as Shneaky tried to evade. Straight up oshi-dashi win here with key being Myogiryu staying low and driving with the legs. He's still alive for kachi-koshi at 4-6 while Aminishiki falls to 3-7.

When you lose to M10 Takarafuji (6-4) in half a second and a tachi-ai henka wasn't involved as M5 Kaisei (2-8) did today, you've got serious issues.

M11 Jokoryu's demise continued as he henka'd to his left against M6 Kitataiki, but it was executed terribly, so Kitataiki grabbed the left outer and forced out his opponent in no time despite all of Joku-oryu's gimmicks. Can't believe Jokoryu (6-4) was actually on the leaderboard a few days ago. Kitataiki is methodically taking care of bidness at 7-3.

M12 Shotenro employed a quick strike followed by a hasty pull that M6 Gagamaru (4-6) wasn't buying for an instant. As Shotenro backpedaled, YubabaMaru was on his every move using a rolling pin to just beat Shotenro (6-4) out of the ring.

M15 Daido was looking pull the entire way against M8 Kyokutenho, and the Chauffeur still couldn't beat him in two tries (they called a mono-ii after the first one). Daido was 0-4 head to head coming in, so I get why he wanted to evade from the start, but the point is...Kyokutenho (4-6) has gotten so slow, he can't even defeat Daidough (5-5) as the latter is retreating.

M16 Oiwato looked for the cheap pull as M9 Yoshikaze offered a right hari-te at the tachi-ai, but Cafe has seen his share of pull sumo, and so there was no way the rookie was going to fool the veteran with his antics. Yoshikaze scored the inevitable pull down win moving to 6-4 while Oiwato is cooled off a bit at 5-5.

M11 Takekaze had all the momentum shoving M9 Fujiazuma back from the tachi-ai, but for some reason Takekaze abandoned the shoves and tried to get to the inside at the edge. This shift in momentum allowed Fuji to move left and push Takekaze down for the comeback win not to mention a 7-3 record. Takekaze drops to 5-5 with the boneheaded tactic at the edge, and I can't believe this one falls under my category of "bouts of interest."

Ah, what the hell...let's do the last two as well. M12 Masunoyama was incredibly slow in his moro-te-zuki tachi-ai allowing M10 Tamawashi to slip inside and just shove Masunoyama backwards and down on his arse. If Masunoyama (4-6) wants his kachi-koshi, he can't be done like this by a rikishi who stands at 2-8.

And finally, M16 Wakanosato too high at the tachi-ai, but rookie M15 Sotairyu just couldn't capitalize using a tsuppari attack. Croconosato forced the bout to hidari-yotsu where Tairyu made it damn close near the edge with a kubi-nage attempt and leg trip, but Wakanosato (7-3) pulled it out with scoop throw at the last moment sending Sotairyu to a dangerous 3-7 record. The key here is that Wakanosato was way too high at the tachi-ai and Sotairyu's failure to take advantage.

Class is in session for Clancy tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I left Wednesday night last week on a four-day roadie to attend my sons' baseball tournament, and I get back in town only to find that Jokoryu and seven others are vying for the jun-yusho, Hakuho's been having tachi-ai issues, and some dude who thinks he's Mike Reno is now guest writing for us. After the type of sumo we saw atop the dohyo in week 1, there's is nothing that can surprise me at this point. Yesterday I commented not as much on the day 8 bouts as I did the Japanese sports news broadcasts from the weekend that I had recorded, and as far as I'm concerned, the Sumo Association has done a great job with this tournament so far because I don't know how many times NHK panned up to the rafters in today's broadcast to show off the man-in on-rei banners. If you haven't figured it out yet, the Sumo Association is far more concerned about lowering those banners each day than they are with straight-up sumo.

The good news today is that the week 1 shenanigans are over, and it's now time to allow the leaders to duke it out as we try to form some semblance of a yusho race heading into week 2. Whether or not we get a yusho race depends solely upon Hakuho and his willingness (sigh) to cooperate, so in fine Sumotalk tradition, now that we're in week 2 let's start from the top of the leaderboard and work our way down.

I was on eggshells last night after watching NHK's Sunday Night Sports show where Oguruma-oyakata was raving about Toyonoshima and stating how his matchup against Hakuho today would be key to the excitement level in Osaka as we kicked off week 2. I was hoping that he wasn't foreshadowing a shady bout today, and thankfully he wasn't as Yokozuna Hakuho looked for the right inside and outside left as he usually does from the tachi-ai. M4 Toyonoshima denied that, however, by staying low, and so Hakuho raised him straight upright with the right arm from the inside and then choked the M4 back with an extended left arm, and as Toyonoshima persisted in leaning forward, Hakuho switched gears and slapped him down in the center of the ring for the convincing win. Hakuho moves to 9-0 with the victory and stays two bouts ahead of his nearest competitor.

In the useless trivia department, yesterday marked Hakuho's 24th time in his career that he started out a tournament 8-0 in the Makuuchi division, a feat that puts him alone in first place all-time. That's a record nobody really cares about, so I'm wondering if that's the bone their going to throw Hakuho's way in terms of allowing him to hold an all-time record. I don't think they will let him yusho more than 30 times, and his zensho yusho count mysteriously stopped on 7 about two years ago, so it will be interesting to see how far they let him run. There's no doubt he's going to yusho in Osaka, so the bigger question is will he drop one on purpose to keep the yusho race close? My money is that he doesn't go 15-0 for reasons previously stated. Toyonoshima falls to 6-3 with the loss and is our first of eight to drop off of the leaderboard until Hakuho goes down.

Let's next cover the bouts that featured the remaining seven 6-2 rikishi heading into the day starting with Yokozuna Harumafuji who ducked in low looking to raise Sekiwake Baruto (6-2) up with the left to the inside, but Baruto caught the Yokozuna's head with both hands in moro-te-zuki fashion taking care of the raising up duties on his own. HowDo had no choice but to back pedal, and as he did, Baruto's legs just couldn't keep up (this is where that left knee injury is killing Baruto), and while Baruto showed promise, Harumafuji was able to duck away just enough at the edge and catch the forward-moving Baruto by the left armpit and send him clear off the dohyo with a right maki-otoshi move. I don't know how someone of Baruto's size can get up after being projected off of that clay mound as he was today, but dude picked himself back up sure enough. He falls to 6-3 which means another of our two-loss rikishi was eliminated from the leaderboard. Harumafuji assumes the same record.

Ozeki Kakuryu ducked way too low at the tachi-ai fishing for something outside with the right arm while Ozeki Kotoshogiku did what you need to do at the tachi-ai...raise your opponent up. The two ended up in hidari-yotsu with Kakuryu maintaining a right outer, but the Geeku's left shoulder was buried right beneath Kakuryu's jaw keeping him upright and out of harm's way. Kakuryu gave it a few valiant attempts, but he had no de-ashi, so in the end, Kotoshogiku had the room to push at the Kak's right should breaking off an outer grip that Kakuryu just let go, and from there the yori-kiri came swiftly. I go back to Kane's comments on day 6 where he intimated that it'd be nice to see Kakuryu actually release the hounds. Amen bruduh as Kotoshogiku improves to 7-2 with the win while Kakuryu falls to 5-4. I think Kakuryu is the third best rikishi on the banzuke these days, but for whatever reason, he doesn't go all out every day.

Suckiwake Goeido maybe grazed M1 Takayasu's nose with a hari-te at the tachi-ai, but he largely whiffed in his hari-zashi attempt allowing Takayasu to burrow in deep as the two settled into hidari-yotsu. Takayasu didn't have the right outer, but he had the size advantage and immediately drove Goeido back to the edge. Goeido survived that initial onslaught, but it was so effective that Takayasu grabbed the right outer in the process and still maintained the lower position. There was nothing Goeido could do at this point as Takayasu's second force-out attempt finished him off. This was one of the few bouts this basho where Goeido's opponent was trying to defeat him, and you see the results. It's also why I have a big problem with the way they've been hyping this guy. You work the fan base into a frenzy over someone, and then you turn him loose against a struggling Takayasu, and he get his ass handed to him. Oh well, I'm just a smart mouth typing this from my mom's basement, so what do I know? Goeido temporarily falls off the leaderboard dropping to 6-3 while Takayasu improves to 4-5.

M4 Shohozan went for M1 Tochinoshin's head with tsuppari, but there were no de-ashi behind the attack. Furthermore, a dude's melon is the smallest target on the body, and so Shohozan never did connect allowing Tochinoshin to capitalize using his length and connecting with a few decent tsuppari of his own. Shohozan had nowhere to go but back, but Shin was righ there for the cause and pushed Shohozan out in short order earning the tsuki-dashi win it was that convincing! I've said this before, but there's a reason why they don't make a bullet proof ski mask. The professional sniper will go for the body shot, and the sumos should follow suit. Tochinoshin did and scoots to 4-5 with the win while Shohozan falls back to 6-3.

M12 Masunoyama blew M7 Okinoumi off of the starting lines, but his footwork wasn't in sync allowing Okinoumi to dodge left and make a bout of it. Masunoyama reacted well getting moro-zashi against his compromised opponent, and as Okinoumi forced the action to the center of the ring, Masunoyama panicked and gave up the right inside position for a terribly weak pull attempt. All that did was give Okinoumi the left inside with a right outer grip, and with Masunoyama losing air by the second, it was an easy force-out from there for Okinoumi. Okinoumi improves to 7-2 with the win, but this was a horrible outing for him, and the only reason he won was because Masunoyama (4-5) panicked and relinquished moro-zashi.

M12 Shotenro charged upwards into M8 Aoiyama looking to knock his opponent upright, but the drive from his legs was insufficient, so Aoiyama simply backed up a second in and slapped Shotenro down to the dirt on off the leaderboard...for now anyway. Aoiyama joins his foe at 6-3, so stay tuned.

Our final jun-yusho contestant coming into the day was M11 Jokoryu who settled for the quick hidari-yotsu position against M13 Sadanofuji, but the Sadamight just has too much girth for Jokoryu to handle, and so Jokoryu was backed up and quickly and dumped near the straw with a perfect scoop throw from Sadanofuji (5-4). Jokoryu suffers the same fate has six of the other two-loss rikishi heading into the day meaning the current leaderboard looks like this:

0 losses: Hakuho
2 losses: Kotoshogiku and Okinoumi

A total of 11 rikishi now stand at 6-3 so the Association had a decision to make fast: do they let Hakuho just run away with this thing? Or do they keep things close down to the end? The proof will literally be in the pudding jiggling atop the dohyo.

Let's conclude today's comments with other bouts of interest starting with Ozeki Kisenosato who welcomed M3 Tokitenku, a rikishi with some serious tachi-ai issues of late. It was his own fault for inviting that early charge against Hakuho on day 7, and then today he not only jumped the gun on an Ozeki but knocked him clear off the dirt mound in the process. After that first false start, he committed a second one although not as severe, but it still took him out of his game because the third time was a charm, but Tokitenku just stood upright with a huge target on his chest. Kisenosato couldn't flub this one as he bullied TokiDoki around the ring and out with a few well-placed shoves. The Ozeki moves to 5-4 with the win while Tokitenku falls to 2-7 and has been a joke fighting among the jo'i.

M2 Myogiryu looked for the left frontal belt at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Tochiohzan, but he was too slow and allowed Oh both arms to the inside from the get-go. Myogiryu's reaction was to immediately put both hands up high as if to say "do me now," and he even turned himself around giving Tochiohzan full access to his backside! Tochiohzan complied fully getting Myogiryu in a head lock before just into Myogiryu's behind sending him off the dohyo for good. I'm not sure why Myogiryu showed up today with so much eyeliner and Darth Vader gloves, but I can confirm that the pic at right is legit because Tochiohzan was shirtless.

Komusubi Aminishiki moved left against M3 Ikioi, got the left inside, set up the right outer, and then dashi-nage'd Ikioi down for the win in a bout that lasted just a few seconds. I guess you could say that Ikioi (2-7) has his moments on the dohyo, but he has no clue how to counter. Aminishiki ekes forward to 3-6 for his troubles.

M5 Aran slipped out left at the tachi-ai getting the cheap left outer grip against M6 Gagamaru, and from there he burrowed his head deep into Yubabamaru's bosom and then executed a nifty dashi-nage. Looked good in the end, but it was set up with a henka as Aran moves to 5-4. Yubabamaru's cupboard has been bare this whole basho at 3-6.

M5 Kaisei has redefined slow this basho as he could do nothing against M9 Fujiazuma's hidari-yotsu attack. Yotsu should favor Kaisei, but not when he gets destroyed at the tachi-ai as he was today. Fujiazuma scores the yori-kiri win moving to 6-3 while Kaisei falls to a paltry 2-7.

Notice how I never rant about the henka anymore? Let's just say sumo has some bigger issues of late that I beat like a dead horse, so I didn't mind at all today when M6 Kitataiki (6-3) moved left against M11 Takekaze (5-4) and yanked him down in a half second.

When M8 Kyokutenho gives up moro-zashi that easily to M14 Chiyonokuni at the tachi-ai, it's time to turn in your license. The least he could do is change his mawashi color to a combination orange and yellow. Anyway, Chiyonokuni scored the force out win in seconds moving to 5-4. Tenho is 4-5 and already shopping for a new rocking chair.

And finally, let's close with M9 Yoshikaze who henka'd to his left only to get caught in the jaw with a wicked kachi-age from M16 Wakanosato that essentially decaffeinated Yoshikaze for good. Yoshikaze was slow getting up, slow to step off the dohyo, and slow walking back down the hana-michi obviously seeing stars form Wakanosato's right hook. Beautiful stuff today as Wakanosato moves to 6-3 while Yoshikaze falls to 5-4

I do believe I'm up again tomorrow, so we'll see what day 10 brings.

Day 8 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Clancy was supposed to report today, but a serious family emergency commands his attention, and so I will fill in today with just a few brief comments focusing on the Japanese media and the way they cover sports. First, let's start with the most popular sport in Japan: baseball. Without fail, the media will pick a "darling" who is usually a rookie, and then start off each sports broadcast focusing on that guy. Not only does the darling have game worthy of such attention, but they usually have some other quirk that sets them apart. For example, last year's darling was a pitcher named Yuki Saitoh, and his claim to fame was that he'd keep a handkerchief in his pocket when he pitched during the national high school tournament, and in between batters, he'd take out the handkerchief and wipe the sweat from his forehead. Like Takamisakari's strange antics prior to his bouts, this was a little quirk that the media was able to grasp onto and use to make Saitoh a huge star dubbing him the "Handkerchief Prince" even before he had pitched a single inning at baseball's top level.

This year's darling is Shohei Otani, and his claim to fame is he was the first pitcher ever to hit 160 kilometers on the radar gun with a pitch during the national high school tournament. The media immediately seized on that fact and touted Otani as this year's darling. If you watch any national sports broadcast in Japan prior to this year's baseball season, it will start with an update on Otani. There's nothing wrong with this at all, but the reason I even bring it up is to illustrate how vital the media is in pimping sports in Japan, and sumo is of course no different. In fact, sumo has desperately needed the media the last few years because unlike baseball in Japan, sumo cannot function without sufficient PR provided by the press, and so I watch the Japanese media like a hawk because therein lie the clues to the Sumo Association's agenda.

For example, I watched NHK's Saturday Night Sports show, and at the very first of the segment that highlighted sumo, the announcer pointed out how two rikishi were livening things up in Osaka: Goeido and Ikioi. At first I thought, "Are we talking about the same basho?" but then I quickly remembered we're dealing with sumo in Japan. And so they showed Goeido's bout against Tochiohzan where Oh has a smothering left outer grip and the right inside position to boot; yet, Goeido miraculously fells the Komusubi near the edge as Tochiohzan can't put that right elbow down fast enough. Then they show Ikioi vs. Harumafuji, and the Yokozuna has the kid by the neck and starts driving Ikioi back a step only to stop his charge and get into a slapfest. Ikioi does nothing and Harumafuji gets him in another choke hold and lets go again without driving his gal straight off the dohyo. Finally Harumafuji grabs the belt with the left and Ikioi still has nothing to offer, and so the Yokozuna puts him out of his misery with a throw so soft you'da thought he was putting a china doll back in its case. The bout lasted 13 seconds when it shoulda lasted two seconds, and someone feel free to show me a single move on Ikioi's part that kept the Yokozuna from finishing him off earlier. The important part, though, was that the crowd was going crazy the full 13 seconds thinking that Ikioi had a chance.

So fast forward to Sunday's bout where Ikioi faced Hakuho in a bout that saw the Yokozuna grab the left outer grip and right inside position from the tachi-ai, and despite not a shred of defense from Ikioi, Hakuho has no de-ashi and lets Ikioi survive for eight seconds when he shoulda dumped him in two. The crowd got their money's worth again, Ikioi was showcased against both Yokozuna on the weekend when ratings are highest, and even Goeido won again! If you missed his bout against Ozeki Kisenosato, it went like this: the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu where the Ozeki had Goeido standing upright and there for the kill. With the right outer wide open, Kisenosato kept his right hand tucked underneath Goeido's left armpit, but the Father was in no position to attack. Kisenosato worked the Sekiwake over to the edge 11 seconds in and had Goeido dead to rights, but he attempted to two lamest gaburi you've ever seen and then backed out of it allowing Goeido to defeat him in the end. Of course the crowd was going crazy, and Goeido had his sixth win in hand. I think even my dad coulda picked up on the phony aspects of this bout, but the Osaka faithful couldn't be happier, and if the Osaka fans are satisfied, the Sumo Association is satisfied.

Of course the big news from Sunday was Toyonoshima's defeat of Yokozuna Harumafuji, and once again, the outcome was favorable in terms of another Japanese rikishi breathing life into the basho by defeating a Yokozuna. If you missed it, Harumafuji's approach from the tachi-ai was to keep both hands to the outside gifting Toyonoshima moro-zashi. If Harumafuji was actually looking for an outside grip in this one, he had it on the left side, but for some odd reason could only manage to grope at the belt instead of grab it to set something up. On the other side, Toyonoshima's left arm was raised high up in the kachi-age position, but for yet another strange reason, Harumafuji just couldn't get the right to the inside allowing himself to be pushed off of the dohyo in a matter of seconds.

The results then of the weekend in sumo that could be pimped on all of the sports shows were as follows:

- Homeboy Goeido defeated nemesis Tochiohzan and Ozeki Kisenosato
- Homeboy Ikioi gave two valiant efforts against both Yokozuna
- Toyonoshima defeated Harumafuji and now has Hakuho on Monday setting up what will surely be an exciting week 2

To me, the orchestration here is so obvious, and I'm not saying that to be condescending towards sumo at all. I'm saying it to give you a glimpse into why I make the comments that I do. I watch sumo as it is marketed to the Japanese public. In other words, I read the Japanese newspapers; I watch the Japanese sports shows; and I listen to the Japanese broadcast daily. The only problem is my western mind isn't programmed to just accept everything at face value, and so I'm able to analyze why Ikioi was paired with both Yokozuna over the weekend that gave us a total of 21 seconds of sumo; I understand the impact of Goeido's two big wins; and it makes perfect sense why the Association would wait until a weekend to unleash Takamisakari in the broadcast booth.

Any idea what else NHK showed on their Sunday Night Sports broadcast besides the three bouts from day 8 I've mentioned above? Nothing except a Sandanme dude scoring a tasuki-zori win. All of the news was positive, and it was all set up with bouts where one of the rikishi let up...even in Hakuho's case as he defeated Ikioi.

If the word yaocho bugs you so much, then let's switch to the word yudan, which I'm hearing more and more on the Japanese broadcast. It's getting to the point where in some bouts, there just isn't a logical explanation as to how the bout unfolded, and so the announcers will use the word yudan, which means "to let up" or "to go lightly on your opponent."

When I read comments from many foreign sumo fans, I can immediately tell whether or not they get their information from the Japanese media or from the English speaking media in Japan and other English forums and chat rooms. And that's not to say there's a right or a wrong place to get one's information, but if you're tuned into the Japanese media and understand how it all works, you get a much clearer picture when you see certain anomalies atop the dohyo. I know you don't like to hear a lot of what I've had to say lately about the integrity of some matches, but hopefully you now have a better perspective of how I formulate my opinions.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Day 7 of the Haru basho came to a close and Hakuho is already 7-0 and one win clear of his only pursuer, upstart Jokoryu. Unless the Association meddles in some heavy-handed way or Hakuho is sent to an early demise by a meteorite, the yusho is a foregone conclusion. Kinda takes the fun out of it, huh? Nevertheless, let's get some action underway.

Starting from the top, Yokozuna Harumafuji dictated the bout from the tachi-ai, keeping Ikioi at bay with well-aimed thrusts to the face and chest, and when the opportunity presented itself, the Mongol immediately grabbed the mawashi with the left hand and used the solid grip to twist his younger foe around and eventually down. Conspiracy theories aside (never thought I'd ever catch me saying this!), 5-2 is a decent recovery for Ex-Ama, but it's too little, too late in terms of the yusho. Ikioi falls to an honorable 2-5.

In one of the few jikan-mae bouts you get to see in a hon-basho, Tokitenku was taken by surprise when Hakuho blasted into him and grabbed an insurmountable left grip on the front of the mawashi which he used to pull Tenku around by dashi-nage and finish the job at the edge. I can't help but feel like Tokitenku was robbed, but I really couldn't care less – first of all, he would have lost anyway, and second, he isn't a very nice guy, is he? Regardless, Hakuho stays on par for the course at 7-0, whereas his compadre falls to 2-5.

Ozeki Kakuryu displayed some particularly listless sumo today, as his thrusts were totally useless against Toyonoshima, who made it look easy in pushing the Mongolian back and over the tawara. The Tugboat improves to 5-2, but that upward trend will likely end starting tomorrow, as he will get paired with guys ranked above him. Kakuryu falls to 4-3.

Probably in light of yesterday's henka, Kotoshogiku approached his bout with Aminishiki cautiously, going low but not full-bore at the tachi-ai. He couldn't get any inside grip, but he did get a right armlock. It turned out that was all he needed, as Aminishiki's efforts were useless in preventing the push-out. The Ozeki improves to 5-2, while Sneaky has nary a pot to piss in at 1-6 – and I fully expect him to henka a coupla times more before the basho is over.

The other local Ozeki prevailed in a rather messy affair with feisty Shohozan, surviving some early adversity when his smaller and faster foe looked like he was getting moro-zashi. That didn't happen, though, and the Kid managed to stop the tide and force a brief stalemate in the center of the ring. Eventually, the bigger man prevailed after bellying his way out of a left uwate, when Shohozan desperately attempted the maki-kae. Kisenosato (4-3) preserves the win-loss alternation pattern, and by that rule he should lose tomorrow against Goeido – wouldn't be THAT surprised to see it happen. Cheetos cools down a bit at 5-2.

Speaking of Goeido, he also improved to 5-2 by using his superior yotsu skills in avoiding a potentially dangerous situation against his rival Tochiohzan. Oh looked like having the upper hand after the tachi-ai, briefly securing a double grip with the left outside and pushing for the yori-kiri, but Goeido kept his wits about him and pivoted at the edge while at the same time twisting Tochiohzan around and down. The end result was called shitate-nage, but I'd rather called "bullet dodged". Oh snaps to 3-4 with the oh, so close loss.

Capitalizing on Baruto's impudently poor tachi-ai, i.e. merely standing up and putting his arms on his foe's face with only God knows what in mind, Takayasu found himself in the same advantageous position as Tochiohzan earlier (well, it's actually later from a strictly chronological point of view). The difference this time, though, was that Takayasu didn't try to rush anything, wary of the Estonian's strength and propensity for twisting or hoisting smaller foes such as himself just when they thought it was safe. High and safe, or expensive and cheap, take your pick, denied Baruto the uwate on a couple of occasions, and went in for the kill soon after. He quickly had Bart upright on the tawara, but, having sensed it wasn't going to be easy to push him straight out, Takayasu quickly switched gears and used his uwate to drag Baruto off balance and finish him off with an awkwardly spectacular throw. Regardless if Baruto (now 5-2) is hurt or not, props to his opponent for going at mano a mano. Takayasu improves a bit to 3-4.

Tochinoshin used a couple of forearms to the face to keep Myogiryu away and flustered, and when he overcommitted, the Georgian was quick to slap him down. Both men share a lackluster 3-4 record.

Chiyotairyu withdrew today with a fracture in his foot after his dubious loss to Hakuho yesterday, so Aran gets the freebie and "improves" to 3-4.

Kaisei survived a spirited but altogether not that powerful pushing attack from Tamawashi, then turned the tables on the Mongol and pushed him straight out. Hardly worth the time to comment, but hey, at least I'm gettin' paid. Kaisei moves to 2-5 with the win, while the Mawashi falls to 1-6.

In a clash of over 350kg, Gagamaru stopped Masunoyama in his tracks and used his huge mass to simply bully his hapless foe back and down. It wasn't a pretty sight, but sumo needs this kind of bout once in a while, to show that size DOES matter. The Georgian moves to 3-4, whereas Masunoyama chills to 4-3.

Kitataiki (5-2) charged lower and was the more determined one in getting the right uwate, which he duly did and duly used to force Takarafuji (3-4) out of the ring.

Okinoumi nearly succumbed to Shotenro's wild pushing attack, but he survived at the edge long enough to get his hands on the Mongol's belt. From that point on, he slowly recovered and eventually made short work of his now compromised foe. Big Shot falls to 5-2 with the loss and was righteously frustrated, while Okidoki improves to the same mark.

Toyohibiki looked to be in a bit of trouble against the lighter and nimbler Sotairyu, who survived the pushing attack long enough to get a mawashi grip and turn it around, but the bigger man got a break when Sotairyu slipped on one of the shikiri-sen, setting himself up for the pull. Sotairyu stays at 1 win, while Hibiki stops the rot a bit with two wins after 5 losses.

Chiyonokuni used his superior agility and speed to evade Aoiyama's powerful but slow thrusts while getting his own pushes on target. The result was a messy but fairly quick oshi-dashi win in favor of the injury-prone Japanese youngster. Both guys check in at 4-3 at the end of the day.

Whether because of a physical injury or a bruised ego, Tochinowaka (0-7) also withdrew from the basho, and so Kyokutenho gets the win which puts him above the .500 mark.

Sagatsukasa tried to escape right and left, but the bigger Fujiazuma was on his every move, getting all of his tsuppari in. The little guy just gave up at some point, probably sick of all the punishment he had taken up to that point. The tsuki-dashi puts Fattyazuma at 4-3, whereas Sagatsukasa (2-5) has to rethink his strategy a bit.

Yoshikaze charged straight, but probably had evasion on his mind from the very beginning, because he moved to his left immediately after getting his arm under Sadanofuji's pit, felling the bigger man in convincing fashion. Yoshikaze stays afloat at 4-3, while Sadanofuji sinks to 3-4.

Takekaze (5-2) was nails against Oiwato (which probably says more about the latter), charging straight up and pushing his foe off balance until he was ripe for the pull. Which duly came and put former Kanbayashi into a 3-4 hole. As an interesting fact, Oiwato is making his Makuuchi debut exactly 9 years after entering Ozumo as a Makushita tsuke-dashi. Better late than never, eh?

Jokoryu stays in hot pursuit of the lead (yeah, right) with a convincing win over Daido, where he powered into a right inside before finishing the job by yori-kiri. Daido falls to 4-3.

Finally, Wakanosato absorbed Juryo visitor Kyokushuho's unconvincing charge and gradually extinguished him out like a candle in a room without oxygen. Croconosato improves to 4-3 and I'd really love to have him around for a few more tournaments, even at the bottom of the division, in order to expose the frauds. Mike and Kenji didn't call him the Barometer for nothing, you know.

I'm not going to bore you with cock jokes, stink up the joint with fart jokes or scare the shit out of you with Clancy's sex life – instead, I'd like to muse a bit on the meaning of life (how's THAT for unexpectedly deep?). As most of you probably know, after many years of research, it has been discovered that the meaning of life is summed up by the number 42. Now, as some of you might or might not know, I started studying Japanese some time ago. Well, if you say 42 number by number, i.e. 4 2, in Japanese, you get shini. Which, for all intents and purposes, means dying. Think about it, eh?

Clancy should be up tomorrow… if you know what I mean.

Day 6 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
OK, so there I was, just another guitar slinger in New York, playing strip clubs on "rock night" for the take at the door (which was often around $11.87) and dealing cards at a less than kosher blackjack game to make money (the badasses that ran the game would take me around the room and show me where the guns were hidden) and then my phone rings. Almost overnight I'm at a gated mansion atop Beverly Hills with Alice Cooper and his freak entourage, ogling a naked hottie as she runs through the kitchen and jumps into an oversized pool. I thought to myself, "Except for the naked girl I don't recognize any of this!"

Since then I've been lucky enough to work with some true idols of mine like Rod Stewart, KISS, Roger Daltrey to name a few and more recently I worked a recent Rock n Roll Fantasy Camp with Steven Tyler at the Playboy Mansion (and yes there are girls there wearing strange outfits with big funny ears and fluffy tails). Every time I looked at a bunny I thought to myself "So it IS true...I've never actually had sex!"

Beyond the surreptitious braggadocio I've subjected you all to, my point is that like most people I'm a fanboy at heart. I DO get jiggy working with my idols (and bunnies) and that finally brings me to today! When Mike contacted me and intimated that I write a review for all of you to see...well I was floored! Sumotalk being the show and all. And now that I'm here among the tall trees like Mike and Clancy et al I again feel like I snuck backstage and picked up a guitar. Like George Plimpton or Neo when Morpheus convinced him to jump off that tower. So to quote Keanu - "Whoa." And now I'll get out from under my pedestal and let's take a look at the action - Haru Basho 2013, Night 6.

This NHK broadcast began with a visit to rising star Myogiryu's heya in Osaka. After Mainoumi learned that Myogiryu's favorite pillow helped him fall asleep (and he felt compelled to lay down and try his pillow out) and Kitanofuji declared Mainoumi should forget fishing and just stick to sumo, the athletes got down to it...

Sagatsukasa has gotten everyone's head screwed on wrong each night because so far he's been one of the first atop the dohyo and insists on throwing down some of the skankiest henkas ever witnessed. This match was no diff but Sadanofuji just bitch shoved him off the hill and into the expensive seats. The match looked to me like a win - win because honestly Sagatsukasa flew off the stage like that was his goal...but it wasn't. Saga (who might be injured) be 2-4 and Sada at 3-3.

You know Masunoyama's High School guidance counselor told him the one profession he should avoid like a strawberry natto milk shake is Sumo Wrestling. Now, after flipping off his counselor, here he is in the BIGS. Small lungs and giant heart showing off all the proper etiquette and attitude. His oyakata said they have to tell him to chill during keiko 'cause he trains like a beast. Some serious nad. This night both he and Chiyonokuni served up decent tachi ai and with all that tapioca padding both fat dudes kinda bounced turning Masu to the side allowing his opponent to swing him to the dirt hataki-komi style. Masunoyama is doing ok at 4-2 while his enemy is even steven.

Always have had a soft spot for M16 (uh oh) Wakanosato (who has a shiteload of soft spots) so I was concerned for the jolly old vet when I saw Takekaze (the man of 1000 evil henkas) grab the salt. The two men exhibited sumo that was exhibition sumo. I mean after a lazy tachi-aii, Wakanosato never tried for the belt and when he bent over and put his two hands on the dohyo it was like he was picking up something he'd dropped the night before. Like "Hey there's my watch!". Takekaze has weaseled his way to 4-2 while the beloved is 3-3.

I like Jokoryu. He's got power and often displays solid forward moving sumo and hopefully he'll tighten up the skills / battle planning over time. But his match with Oiwato was a prime example of exuberance trumping technique as he sloppily pushed and shoved until Oiwato eventually lost serious terrain. Speaking of "The Matrix" Oiwato defied physics the way he was transported backwards and up off the dohyo which earned him nothing but the loss. The Jokester laughs at 5-1 and OiWTF shrugs at 3-3.

That guy Shotenro struck lower at the tachi-ai than that other guy Takarafuji. Shotenro still has a superb shot at taking on Hakuho for the yusho because he earned a 5-1 record as he beat that other guy Takarafuji who maintains a balanced approach at 3-3.

Espresso shot, Yoshikaze, met mocha latte with whipped cream, Daido, and attempted to employ every sumo technique at the same time. I think he succeeded! A perplexed Daido eventually pushed Mr. Everything into the customers zippers. M15 Daido enjoys life at 4-2 as Yoshikaze (3-3) tumbles to defeat in an uninteresting fashion like a Tumbler screen with no porno.

Most of us agree that Tochinowaka was impressive when he first broke from the Juryo ranks. When Tochi started to zombie his way through matches Mike was one of the first to spot the injury (Kitanofuji agrees) and currently it's obvious he's struggling with some serious issues with his right leg. Toyohibiki struck Tochi's chest hard, straightened him up with a secure mitt to the chin and then oshi-dashi'ed him away from the winner's circle. Let's hope the kid can get his bidness straight and come back as a complete athlete sooner than later 'cause we need him. Toyo rockets to 1-5 as Tochi (who will kyujo soon) glazes over at 0-6.

Pleasant fellow, Tamawashi, pushed the inconsistent Kitataiki back towards the edge of the ropes and then decided to pull and retreat which worked wonders...for Kitataiki. This kinda thang calls up Mike's contention that powering forward with your legs creates the proper kinetic energy for the win. The pull often indicates "plan b" which just as often spells defeat. Tamawashi ended up retreating himself off the dusty donut to a 1-5 record while Kitataiki sends him a thank you note at 4-2.

Aran put in another solid losing performance as he once again did a lot of right things against Kyokutenho and then worked his way out of the win column. I still contend that Aran is a Hanna Barbera cartoon that found his way into the "real" world. Kyokutenho picks up a needed win and Fred Flintstone is having a gay old time at 2-4.

Speaking of cartoon icons, Gagamaru, who looks frighteningly similar to Miyazaki's Yubaba, faced off against the lovable Kaisei. Whenever I see Yubabamaru In his ma-wash-me-please it makes me think of the well known Geisha who whispered to me that the real blubbernauts in sumo don't wipe their own butts (and you wondered why Kaio didn't want to quit). I thought two things 1. Which of the guys that greet the rikishi when they come off their bouts gets THAT duty and 2. The only comparable thing we got stateside is the Batboy and with Clancy around I dont EVEN wanna go there.

These 2 masters at slo-mo sumo both rejected the whole "grab the belt" thing everyone keeps telling them about and had a breast shoving match. For both of these guys, long matches - 'hey thatsa shesa no good' - so Gaga decided to push a little harder than his opponent and got the gradual oshi-dashi. M6 Yubabagagamaru relaxes with a tiramisu at 2-4 while M5 Kaisei digests a spicy meatball at 1-5.

Aoiyama dominated Toyonoshima throughout their bout. It's increasingly evident that Toyonoshima is on the fade to black tour. A guy of his stature has to have all pistons thrumming to maintain at this level and his hard earned accomplishments to date have most certainly been impressive. That being said, Aoiyama worked his opponent over real good for 99% of the bout and then at the last moment stumbled over his own feet. This allowed Toyonoshima to tip toe like a hippo along the rope until the blue mountain fell like a sack of blue mountains. Yoyo sits at 4-2 and Aoiyama (4-2) wallows in da feet.

OK well Okinoumi knows better than to do...well everything he did against the increasingly irritating Shohozan (these guys never figure out that a gold belt just bugs the eyebrows off of everyone...even ASA did it). Shohozan pounced with his usual, somewhat effective tsuppari and Okinoumi just stood up and sort of slapped around at the air in front of him and backed up until there was no sacred turf behind him. So Oki get's irritable at 4-2 and Shohozan sends shivers up Hakuho's spine at 5-1.

Takayasu looks to me like some one did a bad job of photoshopping his head onto his body. Maybe it's the drop shadow around his chin, but on this night all the lighting and pixels were aligned perfectly because he finally decided to execute solid tachi-ai against young Ikioi. As they jostled for position, Takayasu's footing seemed a bit stronger throughout and he summarily tossed Ikioi down with a nifty shitate-nage that caught the kid asleep at the wheelhouse. They are the same guy at 2-4.

Aminishiki, "the trickster", stepped sideways at tachi-ai which completely shocked and befuddled Tochiohzan, "the trickee", sending him with great immediacy to the dirt. The announcers loudly proclaimed "HENKA" as Kitanofuji blamed the result on Tochiohzan basically stating - "Oh come on Jagaimo no Atamasan, it's Aminishiki for Buddha's sake!" Nishiki picks up his first and has team played himself into a 1-5 record while Tochiohzan gloms a respectable 3-3.

I think some of us start writing scripts in our head when it comes to the top tier rikishi. With no hard evidence to back it up we inject storylines to juice up the drama on the dohyo (MW not being in this gang). I do this with Baruto. Right now I'm thinking he hates his Sekiwake status and it's lit a fire in him. I also surmise that he just don't like Kisenosato all that much. He never seems to play along with the "Kise/Ozeki" campaign, often throwing the kid around with great disdain and never offering him a hand to climb back onto the dohyo.

This night was no different as the two men met with a loud clap. Baruto grabbed the back of Kise's belt and tossed the faux-zeki onto the cement as if to say "You don't belong up here with me biotch". He then gave him his back as he ripped off his sagari and offered that Baruto half smirk that gets me writing more script every time. Baruto's movie heads towards a happy ending at 5-1 while Kisenosato goes straight to DVD at 3-3.

Matt made a good point about Ozeki Kotoshogiku. He is as he has always been, racking up good but non-threatening numbers, although he does seem to be powering down somewhat. On night #6 he worked Tochinoshin (who seems to have hit his own wall) backwards for the yori-kiri win, although Koto's twinkle toed gaburi-yori (stomach bump) at the end made me question the whole darn thing. Kotoshogiku stays respectable at 4-2 and M4 Tochinoshin seems lost as the loser at 2-4.

Goeido-zeki (as the interviewer called him) impressed me against Kakuryu (dude, please release the hounds some day soon!). His tachi-ai was half decent and each man ordered up their own yotsu grips. As the struggle progressed, Goeido start to move Kakuryu backwards and then (of all things) Kak let go of the belt and basically decided not to win. My call is good sumo combined with a potential snow job but hey I'm secretly rooting for Goeido for my own extraneous reasons so there you go. Both guys are 4-2.

1-5 Kotooshu did look a bit pale so let's hope he's ok. His expected Kyujo allows Myogiryu some extra time to go fishing with a 3-3 record.

Harumafuji who we must never under (or over) estimate, bullied the pesky Tokitenku so fast and hard, he reminded me of Captain Kirk in Star Trek III when he kicked Christopher Lloyd in the face and yelled "I have had enough of YOU!"By the way, I ain't complaining. Harumafuji kicks ass at 4-2 and Tokitenku's ass is kicked at 2-4.

Hakuho must have had a reason...I mean it WAS kind of a (dare I say it) henka yes? Unlike their comments on the Aminishiki chicanery, the announcer's didn't call it henka but I think tagging that on a Yokozuna is a big deal. There was no real initial contact to speak of...I mean he did push young CheetosTairyu head down and then flip the kid over for good measure but...well I guess I was looking for a smash ending to my debut report.

Yeah, maybe I'm overreacting 'cause it's not unheard of right? It happens...but with his suck the air out of the room interviews you'd think Mr. Personality would at least do the hop thing he did with Harumafuji a few senshuraku ago...ya know, for the fans. Either that or he could at least hire her to be his bodyguard. Hakuho lives in a vacuum at 6-0 as Cheetos (who's doing just fine) gasps at 3-3.

And so my inaugural day up on the ST Stage started and ended with a trip to henka town (the opener ending the way we all like) and to that I say daijoubu. I just wanna say it was a blast being part of this and I wanna thank you all for taking the time to read what I done did and making Sumotalk one of my regular haunts.

Oh and if any of you are wondering how a rocker gets hooked on Sumo... I was in Japan a number of years ago and Sumo appeared on the telly at my hotel... basically paid it no nevermind. Then I saw this guy waiting in the wings, his posse standing in front of him blocking a clear view. Suddenly, he emerged from the shadows and half lumbered, half strutted towards the side of the dohyo, throwing his shoulders and elbows as if pushing the air in front of him out of the way and I thought now that's a ROCKSTAR! When I saw his match Asashoryu rocked my world and with the help of Sumotalk and NHK I'm still here! Rock On!

Day 5 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
Well, well. Day 5 and things are cooking. Unfortunately, it's not from the sumo perspective. Rather, the yaocho talk and backtalk has already hit full fire. For better or worse, there were few of these shenanigans to discuss today. The better rikishi won pretty much every bout in the top third of the action and I didn't notice any funny business in the bouts that mattered.

So I'm going to break from Sumotalk first week tradition -- starting from the bottom up is a practice called "burying the lead" in journalism. Not that what I'm going to do can be called journalism, but let's see how it goes by sticking to the main storylines and leaving the liner notes for the bottom of the page. (Of course, Mike already did that yesterday, which costs me novelty points. I'll make it up with fart jokes and gags about Clancy's sex life.)

Highlight Bouts

Clearly, the highlight bout was Myogiryu against Yokozuna Harumafuji. Myogi bear has beaten How Do twice in the past year and has the tools to push Goeido out of the great hope discussion soon enough. But Harumafuji came out of the gates at full speed, blasting the M2 back with several hard thrusts. He then shifted left while slapping down on Myogi's head, which allowed the Yokozuna to get behind his partner and push him over and outside the ring. Solid attacking sumo from the E-Y today, and there was nothing that Myogi Bear or just about anybody else not named Hakuho could do about it. Both are at 3-2.

Speaking of Hakuho, the W-Y had a quick and easy win (5-0) over Tochiohzan (3-2). To mix things up, he threw in an armbar, moved to his left, and threw Oh Snap down for the tottari victory. Enough said there, expect that Hak is the only guy at 5-0. None of the Ozeki, of course, nor any random rank-and-filer. This is not shaping up to be a pretty basho, with Hak probably having to give up some wins to make it a race and nobody looking like they're in position to take advantage. Yuck.

Let's Break Things Up with a Fart Joke

A fart walks into a bar. The bartender says, "We don't serve you're kind in here." The fart says back, "This stinks."

Oh yes, that is the best I have. Did you think I was above fart jokes? Now you know better.

Back to Sumo

Kisenosato pulled a nice veteran move in his win (3-2) over Chiyotairyu. He basically waited at the tachi-ai, making Chiyotairyu put down both hands before he would put down his own left hand. Chiyotairyu had been looking to come out of the gates at full blast, and even false started once, so Kise's delays ensured that he could dictate the action. Despite this, and despite an early push by Kise, the young M2 managed to get up into the Ozeki's grill and looked to have the advantage. But Kisenosato held his ground, turned the tide, and bodied out the Kokonoe-beya man. It seems that the Ozeki has some healthy concern for what Chiyotairyu can do but has the attitude to put the youngster in his place.

Baruto versus Kotooshu so early in the proceedings? It may be that way for a while, unless Baruto both gets healthy and can simply dominate everyone but Hakuho to the tune of at least 36-37 wins in three basho, including at least one solid yusho push. There's just no appetite for a second-class Ozeki unless he's a local. Today, Baruto got a big left paw up into Oshu's right pit, knocking the Ozeki way off balance and leading to the easy yori-kiri win for the Sekiwake (4-1). Oshu's now 1-4 and may need some help in the final days to get his 8.

I disagree with Mike about Kotoshogiku's status. Remember that Geeku was never a solid Ozeki. He's never truly looked like a yusho contender or given Hakuho a serious challenge. At peak form, he's a 10-win guy, 11 with a little luck. So his recent slippage doesn't indicate to me that he's lost a step in a way that can't be overcome. He's only 29. He can get back to that 10/11-win form. No doubt that he'll be that Slow-zeki problem child some day, and sooner than most. But I don't think we're there yet.

Today, Geeku had pretty equal competition in hometown hero Goeido. Not great stuff from Goeido at the tachi-ai, leaving the Ozeki the chance to get a solid left hand outer and keep the Ozeki wannabe on the defensive. A little dancing around from there put Geeku in position to throw using that right outer while pushing Goeido's head down for the win. Both guys at 3-2.

Fart Joke 2

Two farts walks into a bar. One fart says, "A beer for me and a whiskey for my friend." The bartender says, "What, your friend can't talk?" The fart says back, "Don't make fun of him. He's silent but deadly."

Oh yeah! How you like me now? Probably not very well. That's okay -- I've marked these well so that you can skip them if you need to.

More Sumo-izing

Nice match today between Kakuryu and Takayasu. Green-mawashi'd Takayasu had a pretty good start, more than matching Kakuryu's tsuppari with his hands to the Ozeki's face. But then they got locked into a belt battle, which of course favors the Mongolian. And sure enough, Kak quickly went for and got a maki-kae with his left hand. Takayasu did a nice job of attacking right at that moment, but Kak had too much ring to work with and threatened a shitate-nage with his right hand to stave off the attack. From there, the Ozeki wrapped his right leg around Takayasu's left leg for the soto-gake trip in which he fell on top of Takayasu to move to 4-1. 1-4 for the M1, who showed heart against the better rikishi.

Aminishiki had a solid start in his bout with Tochinoshin. He locked up No Shine's right arm and moved him back a couple of steps. But the Georgian stopped the bleeding there. He used his left leg to lift Shneaky up a bit and then drove him back to the edge before falling on top of him in a yori-taoshi win (2-3). Shneaky winless so far.

Really strange bout today between Aran and Tokitenku. First, it was a straight-up yotsu battle. That was itself less than 50% likely given these guys' proclivities. Aran must be the stronger of the two, but he couldn't make anything happen against the veteran, a testament to both Tokitenku's defense and his own lack of skills. Eventually, Tokidoki got a maki-kae, which is where you could say the bout was won. But he couldn't make much out of the moro-zashi position either. Here's where it got weird. The gyoji decided that Tokitenku's mawashi was too out of sorts and was about to expose some Toki-poki. So he stopped the bout, fixed the mawashi, and in doing so caused Aran to give up his right hand outer! Naturally, Toki, with his Poki back in position and two solid inside grips, finished the match with a quick yori-kiri. Man, if I'm Aran's stable master, I'm pissed. But I'm also Japanese and I don't want to rock the boat, so I'm sure this will not lead to anything. Both guys at 2-3.

Fart Joke 3

At a fancy dinner for two couples, a man farts. The other man says, "How dare you fart in front of my wife." The farter says, "Sorry, I didn't realize it was her turn."

Ba dum ching!

More Bouts

Not much to say about Ikioi v. Kaisei. The Brazilian came in with his focus on getting a left outer. He tried to keep his right hand in, but it wasn't inside enough, and Ikioi got moro-zashi. That was all she wrote, as Ikioi threw his partner to the ground to move to 2-3. Kaisei drops to 1-4 and needs to work inside out and not take the inside position for granted.

Still strange to me to see Toyonoshima so low in the banzuke at M4. I had grown to expect him up with Aminishiki as a veteran stabilizing the top ranks and keeping the Ozeki, um, honest. Well, honest is not the right word, unfortunately. Mostly just beating the Ozeki regularly. But if he can't beat Okinoumi, as he did not today, then even these Ozeki are going to make life hard for him. Tugboat had the moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but it was neutralized by a quick maki-kae by Okidoki. A straight up yotsu battle is a tough shake for the smaller man, who falls to 3-2. Oki at 4-1.

First Half Bouts of Note

A couple of my favorite, though both clearly flawed, rikishi met up in Shohozan (dark, hairy little dude with the gold mawashi) and Toyohibiki (big round guy with the silver mawashi). Hibiki was winning the tsuppari battle, driving the smaller man back to the rope, so Shohozan ended up going for the right outer with the left hand up into Hibiki's armpit. The rounder man managed just an inside left but kept up his momentum, chasing the hairball around the edge. Naturally, the smaller, quicker Shohazan used Toyohibiki's momentum against him by pivoting away and pulling with the right outer for a pretty nice utawe-dashi-nage win (4-1). Hibiki may be yet to score (insert a Mike joke about Akihabara denizens here), but he will keep up his forward charging attack and pick up enough wins to keep things respectable.

Interesting technique used by Yoshikaze against Gagamaru at the tachi-ai today. He jumped and ducked, dropping underneath the big man. It didn't have a huge impact, but it got Mr. Kaze out of the way of those giant paws. That set up another hop, this time to the left, before slapping down the big man to move above 0.500. Lord Gaga has not had a great run so far at 1-4.

Sad to watch Kitataiki pull a huge henka on Fujiazuma. So sad that I think I need another ...

Fart Joke 4

A math professor was having such a bad constipation problem that he couldn't even fart. Fortunately, he was able to work it out with paper and pencil.

Ewww. OK, I'm done, I promise.

More Sumo Commentary

First, a random note from watching the broadcast: if you dry hump Konishiki for 30 seconds and then throw him down, you deserve a prize for hard work. The old guy in the booth apparently got the yusho, so that seems fair.

Nice win for Jokoryu (4-1) over little man Chiyonokuni (2-3). The little man (whose Shikona reads to me like The Wolf's Country) had a plan, shifting to the left at the tachi-ai (not a henka) and grabbing an arm bar. He spun his opponent and quickly turned it into hidari-yotsu in which he had a better grip and the advantage. But the Jokyer used his body in a Kisenosato sort of way, getting up into his aite and knocking him off balance enough to back him out of the ring.

Masunoyama is looking pretty good this go around. He's got a quick and powerful attack. His footwork today was a bit sloppy, but Wakanosato didn't have the moves to make him pay. 4-1 for he of little lungs.

Going up against Tochinowaka today made Sotairyu look like a frikken powerhouse. He knocked a couple of well-placed tsuppari into the larger man, knocking him back and off balance and setting up a good looking slap down. First win for the makunouchi rookie, while Waka Waka is not genki at 0-5.

Fellow rookie Oiwato looked very much like one (a rookie) against Big Shot. Shotenro with the quick slap down to move to 4-1. 3-2 for the first timer.

Well, I didn't have any gags about Clancy's love life. Like a number of bouts today, it just wasn't exciting enough to deserve a comment. (drum shot) See you one more time this basho -- I'll have something more tasteful than fart jokes. I hope.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I'm somewhat amused when readers complain about Sumotalk focusing more on conspiracy theories than the actual sumo, and after a day like we had yesterday with all of those yaocho, that sort of talk will expectedly increase. Personally, I don't think there are any conspiracies going on in sumo, and I'm always a bit confused why readers will assume that line of thinking. What I try to comment on is how sumo is marketing its sport; I try to be that fly on the wall in the room when the board of directors meets to decide the best course to steer sumo. The board meets often, especially during hon-basho, so if they're not talking about marketing and PR talking points, just what are they discussing?

It would have been one thing if after day 3 I had suddenly chirped up and said, "you know what I think they're doing here? They must not want Harumafuji to get another zensho yusho, so they're having him lose on purpose to Takayasu." But it's quite another thing when I call the shot in a pre-basho report and the prophecy is fulfilled by day 3. And the same goes for Goeido. I began stating my angst about Goeido's Ozeki candidacy prior to the Hatsu basho, and it's been nothing but a joke with him the last two tournaments. Look, after two decades of analyzing sumo, I know an Ozeki candidate when I see one, and when the Sumo Association starts touting a guy prematurely, the only way they are going to save face is to have certain rikishi throw their bouts when they face him. That's not a conspiracy theory. I'm stating pure and simple fact regarding the Sumo Association's marketing schemes and PR practices...before it all happens.  If it bothers you so much what the Sumo Association is doing, don't take it out on Sumotalk in the name of conspiracy theories. I am merely stating what happens atop the dohyo day in and day out, and if you don't like what you read, get your info somewhere else.

Okay, now that I've gotten that off my hairy yet manly chest, let's get to the bouts, starting from the top and working our way down.

Concluding the day was Yokozuna Hakuho who sought revenge against M2 Myogiryu. Before I get to the bout, let me just comment on why Hakuho was able to go all out today. There are some things in sumo that are considered...sacred. A zensho yusho is actually one of them, and it's not something to trifle with. That's why it was an easy call to say that Harumafuji would not get another one this basho. Another aspect of sumo that is sacred is the Yokozuna rank, even when a foreigner holds the office, and it is sacrilegious for a Yokozuna to lose to the same Maegashira rikishi twice in a row, and so there was no doubt that Hakuho would go full bore today as even the Sumo Association elders understood this.

The Yokozuna exhibited his usual strong tachi-ai getting the right arm to the inside and as Myogiryu tried to duck away from the left outer, the Yokozuna pushed down on his shoulder and got that left inside as well giving him moro-zashi. A good indication of whether or not Hakuho is fighting at 100% is his footwork, and that was on full display today as he drove Myogiryu across the ring and threw him out for the emphatic win.  Hakuho was an army with banners today, and at 4-0, I don't see how he doesn't take the yusho while Myogiryu falls to a respectable 2-2.

In the penultimate bout, M2 Chiyotairyu picked up his second shukun victory in as many days by blasting hard into Yokozuna Harumafuji from the tachi-ai with a left kachi-age and then quickly raking downward on the Yokozuna's chest to send him to the dirt in a second flat. So the million dollar question you're all wondering I'm sure is will I declare yaocho in this one? Well, with less than a second of action to break down, it's pretty hard to find any evidence that this was the sumo itself, and so what I'll do here is question Harumafuji's approach to the bout. You don't ascend to the Yokozuna rank by being a dumbass, and when a newcomer to the jo'i appears and you know you're going to fight him for the first time, you scout the dude out. Hakuho scouted out Chiyotairyu by visiting his stable prior to the tournament, and while Harumafuji didn't do keiko with him, I gurandamntee he watched tape on the guy and knew his tactics coming in. All of Chiyotairyu's opponents this basho know his antics and the best way to approach the bout, so for the Yokozuna to just walk right into that tachi-ai or make no shift to the side or swipe at Chiyotairyu's arms doesn't make any sense to me if his intention was to win the bout.  You also know my theory about what it means when a rikishi loses when both palms hit the dirt and the body doesn't.  Regardless, Harumafuji falls to 2-2 with the loss while Chiyotairyu is soaring at 3-1. I won't even get into the marketing side of things of why a Chiyotairyu win in this bout was great for sumo

Fresh off of his dismantling of Harumafuji yesterday, M1 Takayasu stepped atop the dohyo vs. Ozeki Kotoshogiku and promptly stunk the joint up. The Geeku used a right paw into Takayasu's jaw from the tachi-ai coupled with the left outer grip to easily drive the M1 back across the straw and to a 1-3 record. The Ozeki picks up a much-needed win as he improves to 2-2.

Ozeki Kisenosato laid another egg at the tachi-ai allowing Komusubi Tochiohzan to get his left arm deep to the inside, and the Kid's only response was to go Kakuryu against Goeido and keep his arms up high fishing for a pull-down. Facing little resistance, Tochiohzan worked his way in tight and then easily felled the Ozeki to the clay with a nifty right kote-nage throw from the outside. Don't look now but Tochiohzan is another Japanese hope at 3-1 while Kisenosato's days of being coddled are likely done at 2-2.

Ozeki Kotooshu allowed M1 Tochinoshin to get his right arm deep inside at the deep in fact that Kotooshu couldn't grab a left outer grip. Shin got his, however, and used that left outer to just muscle Kotooshu back across the straw with little argument. Both Europeans end the day at 1-3.

Does Ozeki Kakuryu have a settuh steel nads or what? Dude charged straight into Sekiwake Baruto's bosom today getting his head up and under Baruto's neck actually inviting the hidari gappuri yotsu position! Giving that position to Bart didn't matter though because unlike Goeido, who has no confidence in his sumo, Kakuryu knew that Baruto wasn't 100%, and so he burrowed his head in tight and drove the Estonian back to the edge leading with the right outer grip. It took a soto-gake leg trip in the end to fell the giant out of the ring, but it was as impressive'a sumo as you care to see. Both rikishi end the day at 3-1.

Sekiwake Goeido used a left hari-zashi at the tachi-ai that was decent but it gave Komusubi Aminishiki moro-zashi. And what do you do with moro-zashi? Back up of course and go for a right scoop throw with your arm strategically placed in between the armpit and the belt. Sarcasm nearly worked!! But Goeido recovered and countered with a quick right scoop throw of his own sending Ami to the side whereupon Ami solely focused his attack up high in order to let Goeido get moro-zashi, which he naturally used to drive the Komusubi across the straw and out. Clear yaocho all the way here, and I think using Aminishiki as a pawn like this (we've seen it multiple basho in a row now) is Isegahama-oyakata's way of doing o-kaeshi to the other elders in exchange for Harumafuji's recent achievements. And no...that doesn't imply that Harumafuji was gifted wins during his run.

Bouts of interest in the Maegashira ranks start with M3 Ikioi who had no ikioi at the tachi-ai against M3 Tokitenku, and so when he also aligned his feet for good measure, it allowed Tenku to just pull him down with the left hand at the back of the neck for the simple win. Both dudes are 1-3.

M4 Shohozan used an ugly henka to his left that had no effect, but M6 Kitataiki didn't use any de-ashi to go for the kill allowing Shohozan right back into the bout whereupon an ugly tsuppari-ai ensued. Kitataiki looked to get to the inside, and I thought he had a good shot, but the didn't get it for whatever reason and with no offensive to speak of, Shohozan eventually got to the inside with moro-zashi, raised Kitataiki (2-2) up, and threw him over with a left scoop throw. Pretty ugly sumo here as Shohozan skates to 3-1.

M4 Toyonoshima continued his dominance of M6 Gagamaru with the easy moro-zashi from the tachi-ai. Tugboat isn't big enough to drive Gagamaru back, however, and so he let the Georgian think he was in control by allowing him to press forward, but near the edge, Toyonoshima stepped out left and threw Gagamaru (1-3) down with a counter scoop throw improving to 3-1 in the process.

In the bottom half, M8 Kyokutenho continues to show is age by allowing M11 Jokoryu moro-zashi even after the Chauffeur got the right inside and left outer at the tachi-ai. Used to be money when Kyokutenho got the outer grip, but he was manhandled again today falling to 1-3 while Jokoryu sails to 3-1.

M9 Fujiazuma had zero de-ashi against a lame M13 Tochinowaka, but T-Wok still couldn't push him across the edge. Fujiazuma (2-2) eventually got his left to the inside at the age and was able to counter for the force-out win sending Tochinowaka to an 0-4 start.

Rookie M15 Sotairyu tried to bully M10 Takarafuji with tsuppari from the tachi-ai, but it had no effect. After the two settled into a migi yotsu stalemate, Sotairyu finally moved back and left going for weak pull, but Takarafuji (3-1) ate that up like a piece'a sushi and pushed the retreating rookie out from there. Sotairyu's 0-4.

M14 Sagatsukasa tried yet another henka to his left that was read perfectly by M12 Masunoyama who sent him clear off the dohyo for good measure. Stripe is a joke with his 2-2 record while Masunoyama will take that 3-1 start any day till Tuesday.

M13 Sadamight showed no Fuji...I mean, Sadanofuji showed no might with a few shoves from the tachi-ai that weren't backed by de-ashi, so when he finally forced the bout to hidari-yotsu, M16 Wakanosato (3-1) was able to evade at the edge and win with a counter scoop throw. Sadanofuji falls to 2-2.

Last and probably least, M14 Chiyonokuni was too wild with his slaps against M16 Oiwato who just laughed them off before slapping the hapless Kuni down to the dohyo about two seconds in. Looks as if Oiwato has figgered something out in the division moving to 3-1 while Chiyonokuni falls to 2-2.

Matt gives me a break from myself tomorrow, and then I'm really excited about our guest writer on Friday.  It's not every day that you can find a guy on Clancy's green earth who has shared the stage with Roger Daltry and written for Sumotalk.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Allow me to lead off my day 3 with a small anecdote from when I was 12 or 13. This was the early 80's and it was just as professional wrestling was becoming mainstream on television. Hulk Hogan was the biggest name in the sport, and it was before Vince McMahon created the WWF and really took things to a new level. My brothers and I looked forward to each Saturday morning when they broadcast the wrestling matches (it was called the All-Star Wrestling Association or AWA back then), and Mean Gene Oakerland would interview the wrestlers after their bouts, and it really was a fun time for a 12 year old kid. And then the unthinkable happened...they actually announced that a battle royal would be held in Salt Lake City with other bouts of interest on the undercard. My brothers and I begged and begged my dad to take us, and he finally relented buying us all cheap seats from which we of course snuck down to the lower sections.

So the big day arrives and we are finally going to "the wrestles" as my dad called them, and I am totally overcome with anticipation, and as soon as the first bout on the undercard began, I was in a literal trance. I loved every move in every bout, and I was as hooked as everyone else in the crowd, but about 45 minutes into the event, I noticed that my dad was just howling with laughter the whole time. He was red in the face and almost in tears, and he'd look over at my brothers and I after certain moves and yell out, "that was so phony!" It took awhile for me to register what was happening with my dad, but I finally figured out that he thought it was all fake. And that really shook me to the core; it really did. I trusted my dad and respected my dad and considered him an intelligent individual, but what he was telling us through his actions did not jive in the least bit with what my brothers and I were witnessing with our own eyes.

It certainly wasn't a life-changing event for me, but it was the first time in my life where I tangibly remember, "no, my dad can't be right on this one." Now, my point of telling this little story is not to say that Sumo Wrestling is the same as professional wrestling because it's not; my point is to let you all know that I know how it feels to go through the emotions where I'm seeing one thing that I want to believe, and someone else whom I reasonably respect is telling me the opposite. And so as you read my comments today--especially today, take them with a grain of salt and come up with your own conclusions because I will tell you right now that my remarks will be blistering to many readers' minds.

Before we get to the fun from the final 30 minutes of the day (not just the final bout), let's first work our way up through the dregs of the division starting with M14 Sagatsukasa who henka'd to his left using a quick kote-nage around M15 Sotairyu's right arm spilling him to the dohyo a second in. That's two wins for Stripe now with two henkas while Sotairyu has fought a total of about two seconds the last two days. He's 0-3 now, and I think Mainoumi said it best when he commented that since Sotairyu is so light, he has to go all out and is thus more vulnerable at the tachi-ai. His opponents desperate for wins at this level have certainly figured it out.

Ya'ever heard of the phrase monkey see monkey do? M14 Chiyonokuni musta watched the previous bout and thought, "hey, that's a great idea" because he did the exact same tachi-ai as Sagatsukasa. Granted, his opponent, M15 Daido, has a bit more...well...dough than Sotairyu does, so he didn't just fall face first, but the henka worked to perfection as Chiyonokuni picks up a cheap, cheap win. DaiD'oh! falls to 1-2.

M16 Oiwato beat M12 Masunoyama straight up at the tachi-ai with some well-placed tsuppari to the neck, and as Masunoyama tried to lean forward, Oiwato moved right and pulled him down in all his girth. Masunoyama needs to realize that the rookie will not blow him off of the starting lines, and so there's no need to rush his sumo as he did today. Both combatants finish the day 2-1.

M12 Shotenro pummeled M16 Wakanosato back and then threw him off balance with a series of right kote-nage attempts each time Wakanosato offered a stubby limb in an effort to get to the inside. Shotenro was just too fast and Wakanosato's arms were just too short as the Mongolian scored the oshi-dashi win in the end leaving both gentleman at 2-1.

M9 Yoshikaze henka'd to his left, grabbed the back of M13 Tochinowaka's mawashi, and just threw him down with ease to pick up the cheap win. NHK finally reported it today, but Tochinowaka pulled his right hamstring during pre-basho keiko, so that explains the strange sumo we've seen from him so far..and the wrapping around his thigh. Circumstances such as these are one reason why I don't want to quickly pull the trigger on calling something yaocho, but it was obvious from my day 2 comments regarding T-Wok that I knew something was up. At 0-3, he's gotta go kyujo soon because he's not a guy that can fight through his injuries whereas others are adept at doing so. Yoshikaze moves to 2-1, and for he next trick, he'll show you how to steal candy from a baby.

At this point in the broadcast, they did a flashback of Mainoumi defeating a guy named Toyonoumi by ushi-muso, and I thought we had fat rikishi today, but Toyonoumi coulda been the greatest of all the Hutts.

M9 Fujiazuma and M13 Sadanofuji both implemented tsuppari from the tachi-ai, but the difference was Sadanofuji was the one with the de-ashi, and so using all his might, he was able to pull Fujiazuma (2-1) down back near the tawara. Sadanofuji moves to 2-1 with the win, and I'm not sure when I'm going to tire of the Sadamight reference.

Is M8 Kyokutenho slowing down or his M8 Kyokutenho slowing down? Sheesh, dude went for a hari-zashi today against M11 Takekaze, but before he could even downshift out of his crouch, Takekaze (2-1) caught him square in the chest and just bulldozed him back and out as fast as Tenho's ever been beaten. You can visually see it in guys like Miyabiyama and Kyokutenho (1-2) when they hit the wall, and Kyokutenho has officially hit the wall. I'm sure he'll be able to parlay his career into a lengthy stint in Juryo, but I'll be surprised if he's in the division at the end of twenty thirteen.

Speaking of slow tachi-ai, M11 Jokoryu moved left in an effort to henka M8 Aoiyama, but the Bulgarian read him like a Harlequin novel and pushed him out directly in front'a the head judge. Hopefully Jokoryu learns his henka lesson in this one and sticks to forward moving sumo from here. What a way to waste a 2-0 start!! Both rikishi end the day at 2-1.

M7 Toyohibiki used quick tsuppari at the tachi-ai to get the left inside position against M10 Tamawashi, but it wasn't set up well at the tachi-ai enabling The Mawashi to grab the right outer grip too easily. After a brief pause, Tamawashi executed the perfect throw, and it comes right down to the fact that you can't give the Mongolian rikishi such an advantageous position. I do enjoy those yotsu bouts where neither rikishi has the outer, and then as soon as one of them gets it it's wham, bam, thank you ma'am. Tamawashi picks up his first win while Toyohibiki pales at 0-3.

I don't know that I've seen M7 Okinoumi as half-assed at the tachi-ai as he was today against M10 Takarafuji and the result was a hidari-yotsu contest where Takarafuji was able to lean in tight chest to chest. Okinoumi impatiently went for right maki-kae, but Takarafuji was pressing into too tightly and was able to force his compromised opponent back and out for the shweet yori-kiri win. Against a guy like Takarafuji, Okinoumi should win a yotsu bout nine times outta ten, but he lost his patience today as both rikishi sit on 2-1 records.

M6 Gagamaru was a split second late at the tachi-ai against M4 Shohozan, but Shohozan wasn't driving with his tsuppari, and so it left the two in the hidari-yotsu position. Shohozan was able to grab the right outer grip to neutralize Lord Gaga's advantage in the girth department, so both rikishi settled in at this point. With Gagamaru standing pat, Shohozan went for a quick inside leg trip and simultaneous right belt throw that felled Gagamaru in spectacular fashion. Great sumo from Shohozan as he moves to 2-1 while Jabamaru falls to 1-2.

M4 Toyonoshima was lazy at the tachi-ai looking for moro-zashi, so M6 Kitataiki used his size advantage to raise him up and get the right arm to the inside leaving the two in migi-yotsu. Toyonoshima tried to worm his way back down to a lower center of gravity, but Kitataiki kept him up high and just worked Tugboat over to the edge sending him across for the fine yori-kiri win. This was a bit of an upset as both rikishi stand at 2-1.

M5 Aran was lazy at the tachi-ai, and I know you'll read that and go "what's new?" but he was really lazy at the tachi-ai against M3 Ikioi, so in other words, let's let the homeboy when. With no de-ashi, Aran sorta just leaned forward allowing Ikioi to attack from the right spinning the Russian around and sending him outta the dohyo with zero resistance. This was yaocho all the way, and I had that statement written even before I saw the rest of the bouts. If you're wondering what's the point of letting Ikioi win a bout like this, you gotta fill the seats in the arena, and Ikioi is a hometown kid. It's as simple as that, and it's also the reason that Goeido was touted as the leading candidate for Ozeki after his horrible 8-7 in January...put the Osaka natives in the spotlight and make'em look good. Both rikishi end the day at 1-2.

M5 Kaisei and M3 Tokitenku hooked up in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Kaisei got the left outer grip first, and so it was a straightforward yori-kiri performance from there. A sumo basic is to fight from the inside first in order to set up the outside grip, not the other way around as Kisenosato has yet to figure out. Kaisei picks up win number one while Tokitenku is still an o'fer.

The Sekiwake duel today was critical in terms of public perception because you have the number one Ozeki candidate (yes, I typed that with a straight face) in Goeido against a former Ozeki in Baruto who has just recently fallen from grace. Goeido sorta went for the inside from the tachi-ai, but he couldn't get out of there fast enough backing up left and dancing around the edge of the ring (called mawari-komu). Baruto and his long reach, however, caught his fellow Sekiwake by the head with both hands and either coulda smooched him right there or send him out of the ring. Thankfully he chose the latter easily defeating the Father in a lopsided bout where Baruto moves to 3-0 while Goeido suffers his first of what will be many losses in Osaka. It's one thing to lose to Baruto in a straight up fight, but it's quite another to lose on the run. In my pre-basho report, I touched on a couple of aspects that just don't compute in sumo, and an Ozeki candidate who runs from tough competition is a perfect example.

M2 Chiyotairyu just crushed Ozeki Kotooshu back from the tachi-ai, but he failed to follow that up with de-ashi letting Kotooshu back in the bout...sort of. Had the Ozeki wanted back in, he would have gotten back in, but he settled for the right inside position with that super effective tactic of putting your fist in a ball. In fact, rikishi use this fist tactic so often that it doesn't need a name. After allowing Chiyotairyu the right inside and easy left outer grip, the yotsu contest was on! Kotooshu instinctively shook his hips breaking off Chiyotairyu's outer grip, but he just wouldn't...I mean...couldn't quite grab a left outer of his own even though it was there for the taking. From this position, Chiyotairyu pulled Kotooshu's belt with the right inside while using the left hand high at the Ozeki's shoulder to topple Kotooshu via shitate-hineri, or inside twist-down. Both rikishi ended the day at 1-2.

The yaocho here was plain as day most obviously illustrated by Kotooshu's failure to grab a left outer grip and his dinking around with that right hand as soon in the pic at right. I mean, the Bulgarian's left was groping the back of Chiyotairyu's belt, but he mysteriously never held on (despite that clenched right fist).  Mainoumi, who provided color in the booth today, said "migi no kaina wo kaeshite nai," or Kotooshu "didn't neutralize Chiyotairyu's left side with the right hand." What Mainoumi is referring to is if you're in trouble, one of the most frequent moves used to counter is to lift your opponent upright with the inside position. When the tallest guy in the division and a very seasoned yotsu guy not only fails to do that against a yotsu novice like Chiyotairyu and instead keeps his fist clenched to make sure he doesn't do anything on that side, it stands out...just like the Ozeki's failure to grab that left outer stands out. If I gave you the following list of facts that occurred in this bout before you saw it, who would you consider the victor:

- It will be yotsu zumo
- The bout will last more than five seconds
- Kotooshu will break of Chiyotairyu's outer grip
- Kotooshu will have the clear path to the outer grip

A fluke in sumo is Hakuho deciding to fight passively and getting caught by a vicious tsuppari to the chest at the hands of Myogiryu, or Okinoumi getting lazy against Takarafuji in a yotsu-zumo bout and failing in his maki-kae bid. What a fluke is not is Chiyotairyu masterfully beating Kotooshu in a yotsu-zumo bout his first time among the jo'i. Just doesn't compute, especially with so much visual evidence to the contrary. And I have to hand it to Mainoumi; he's such a pro that he simply comments on where the rikishi lost the bout stopping short of saying, "And it was wide open, but for someone inexplicable reason he didn't execute it." The reason I'm going on a bit in this bout is because the yaocho was very well hidden, but it was unmistakable to the trained eye. It also helps clarify my comments regarding the Kotooshu bout yesterday where I said, "Believe me, I'm slow to pull the trigger on calling a bout yaocho and will refrain here, but I have no explanation for Kotooshu's bizarre behavior in this one." Where there's smoke there's fire, so let's move on.

Komusubi Aminishiki caught Kisenosato with a wicked right tsuppari from the tachi-ai but had no de-ashi...on purpose. Allowed to survive the tachi-ai, Kisenosato pressed forward as Aminishiki senselessly backed up, but then the Komusubi caught him square with more tsuppari near the far edge of the dohyo (as pictured at right from above the dohyo), but he failed to use de-ashi again this time placing a right hand lamely on the Ozeki's face and allowing Kisenosato to push him over and down by the side. Regarding Aminishiki's fall across half the dohyo, it was so exaggerated and couldn't have been the result of Kisenosato's lame sideswipe. Of course Aminishiki's landing on his feet with just both palms hitting the dirt was yet another clue, but what's the point? Aminishiki had the Ozeki dead to rights twice with his effective tsuppari, and all that pic at right needs is a word bubble that says, "Biff!" and "Pow!".  Aminishiki failing to use his lower body throughout was calculated and intentional.

Komusubi Tochiohzan easily gained moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku and staved off the Ozeki's right kote-nage counter throws, which only further set the Geeku up for the easy scoop throw from Tochiohzan's left arm a few seconds in. Kotoshogiku is a sick dog that frankly needs to be shot, and I think it's gotten so bad that they're actually going to let him go kadoban this basho. He falls to 1-2 while Tochiohzan improves to 2-1.

Tell me if you've heard this one before: Ozeki Kakuryu coming in high at the tachi-ai and keeping his hands raised to the level of his Sakaigawa-beya opponent's head. That should sound familiar because it's exactly how he fights against Goeido and Myogiryu every basho (go back and watch 'em). With Kakuryu focused up high, mYogiryu just bulldozed him back and out in a coupla meaningless seconds leaving both brethren at 2-1. Yaocho? Check.

Yokozuna Hakuho was able to go all out today since his opponent was a fellow furry in M1 Tochinoshin, so the Yokozuna secured the right inside position, grabbed the left outer, and then mounted his force-out charge before the Private knew what had hit'im. When Tochinoshin showed a bit of resistance near the edge, Hakuho reversed gears and threw him back into the center of the ring with that left outer grip. Doesn't get simpler than this as Hakuho moves onto 3- 0 while Tochinoshin is winless.

Let's conclude with the musubi-no-ichiban, which can loosely be translated as "the grand poobah of yaocho." M1 Takayasu used a right kachi-age at the tachi-ai that was extremely high, so Yokozuna Harumafuji had no choice but to grab moro-zashi. He countered his own advantageous grip by standing straight up in an effort to sort of make it look real, but Takayasu was too clueless to react. On instinct, Harumafuji nudged Takayasu back towards the edge, but then turned his partner around so they could sashay across to the other side of the dohyo. With Harumafuji still in the moro-zashi position and Takayasu looking as clueless as Boy George in a brothel, Harumafuji actually took a knee near the edge in an effort to make it look like a Takayasu tsuki-otoshi win, but seriously, Takayasu gave this one as much effort as he did yesterday against Hakuho.

I go back to the same line of reasoning I used with the Kotooshu - Chiyotairyu bout. You have a guy in Takayasu who has yet to reach the sanyaku fighting Harumafuji as a Yokozuna for the first time, and Harumafuji actually gets moro-zashi from the tachi-ai! Yet, he's unable to finish off Takayasu who is winless coming in (as was Chiyotairyu). This was yet a final example on the day of how a bout just didn't compute, and if you thought THIS one was real, I would suggest looking up the definition of the word "obtuse."

If you are taking this basho seriously so far then don't be offended by my outbursts and declarations of "that's so phon!" because when I was a 12 year old kid, I knew my dad was wrong too.

Back again tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
In the two weeks leading up to the basho, aside from the results of various keiko reports and Yokozuna dohyo-iri, I detected two recurring themes. First, there was the early hullabaloo created when Takanohana went on various television shows pimping Goeido as the leading Ozeki candidate. And then as we progressed through the pre-basho phase, I saw it mentioned where several rikishi were doing PR work for the Fukushima rice industry. As we all remember, it was exactly two years ago today when that tragic earthquake and tsunami struck Japan's north eastern coastline, and part of the fallout from that disaster was...well...fallout from a nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture that began leaking radiation into the surrounding ecosystem.

The Japanese people are overly paranoid as it is, and so just the mere mention of possible contamination in anything grown close to Fukushima means the people won't buy the product. It's bad enough that Fukushima received so much physical damage, and now the agricultural industry is suffering because of a perception of contaminated crops. And so rikishi like Harumafuji have been promoting rice grown in Fukushima in an effort to help the struggling farmers. Well, one of our Makuuchi newcomers, Sotairyu, happens to hail from Fukushima, and so a second story that picked up decent steam prior to the basho were rikishi who were going to benefit from the "power" of Fukushima rice.

When you have such lame storylines heading into the basho, the only thing that is going to excite the fans is good sumo in the ring, so the fact that I've spent two paragraphs so far not talking about the day 2 action is an indication that things didn't go well. Not having a dominant Japanese rikishi has hurt the sport more than anything, but in close second place is the current crop of Ozeki. Since the triumvirate of Tochiazuma, Chiyotaikai, and Kaio fell from their primes, we haven't had any consistency from the Ozeki rank, and it really hurts sumo. Nearly twenty years ago when Kenji and I first started bathing together, the Ozeki were men of valor. You had guys like Takanohana, Takanonami, Wakanohana, and Musashimaru. Those four were in the yusho hunt every basho, and they would legitimately pick off the Yokozuna each tournament. Three of the four would eventually reach the Yokozuna rank, but back then, being an Ozeki actually stood for something. These days, nobody has an ounce of respect for the Ozeki nor should they because they haven't done jackshit for the sport's popularity since Tochiazuma's yusho at the 2006 Hatsu basho.

I guess I've got the redass already because three of the four Ozeki not only lost today, but they got their asses kicked by inferior rikishi. In order to avoid talking about the faux-zeki for as long as possible, let's start from the bottom up and touch on each of the 21 bouts.

M15 Daido seized moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and had the clear path to victory, but when M16 Wakanosato began evading to his left, Daido couldn't keep up with his footwork. Key elements that Daido forget in his attack were to pull his gal in tight and then get his opponent's hips up high. The end result was Daido being outrun by a senior along the tawara and slapped down by the shoulder to a 1-1 record. Wakanosato is a quiet 2-0.

M14 Chiyonokuni struck, moved left, and then executed a lightning quick kote-nage throw. And the reason it was lightening quick was because it came against M15 Sotairyu, who has yet to get his bearings in the division. Chiyonokuni had the rookie felled to the dirt in about a second whereupon Sotairyu looked up at his opponent as if to say WTF? Rook, this is a man's game, and if you can't handle it, go back to Juryo. At 0-2, perhaps Sotairyu and the Fukushima rice is losing its luster. Chiyonokuni is 1-1.

M16 Oiwato picked up his first win in the division using quick tsuppari into M14 Sagatsukasa's grill before switching gears and pulling him face forward in an instant via hataki-komi. Wasn't pretty, but it's a win in the boxscore as Oiwato gets off the shneid at 1-1. Stripe shares the same record.

M12 Shotenro tsuppari'ed M13 Sadanofuji upright, grabbed moro-zashi, and then forced Sada and his might across the straw without argument for the methodic yori-kiri win that left both dudes 1-1.

Not sure exactly what M13 Tochinowaka was thinking after a horrible tachi-ai up high with both hands at the back of M12 Masunoyama's head. Masunoyama seized the opening getting the quick right inside forcing T-Wok over to the edge where he polished him off with a final shove. Dewanoumi-oyakata, the color analyst in the booth, correctly stated that Tochinowaka had no desire in this bout (he used the word kimochi), and I couldn't agree more. This was either horrible sumo, or Tochinowaka was paid off it was that lazy and sloppy. Ne'ertheless, Masunoyama moves to 2-0 while Tochinowaka falls to 0-2.

M10 Takarafuji and M11 Jokoryu hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai where Jokoryu went for the inner left throw first that got Takarafuji off balance enough to where Jokoryu seized the right outer grip. From there it was easy peasy Japanesey as Jokoryu (2-0) dumped Takarafuji (1-1) across the straw leading with that outer grip. You gotta love bouts such as these where both have inners and then the bout is decided when one gets the outside grip.

M11 Takekaze struck against M10 Tamawashi at the tachi-ai, quickly moved left, and then delivered an effective tsuki-otoshi all in a second flat to pick up his first win. Tamawashi is an o'fer two days in.

M9 Yoshikaze struck quickly himself only moving right (at least the Oguruma boys are mixing it up!) against M8 Aoiyama, and Aoiyama was frankly too slow to really catch his girl and pull her in tight. He tried with a right armbar, but Cafe was too slippery in the end ducking in and maneuvering Aoiyama across the straw for the upset win. Both gentleman end the day at 1-1.

M9 Fujiazuma took control with a left inner and right outer against M8 Kyokutenho and actually had the Chauffeur on the ropes--literally--two seconds in, but as Tenho tiptoed around the tawara, Fuji's feet couldn't keep up, and he sloppily stepped out for the isami-ashi loss. What this comes down to is that a lot of guys in this division never go anywhere because they're not finishers. Today's bout was a perfect example as both rikishi stand at 1-1.

M6 Gagamaru (1-1) and M7 Toyohibiki (0-2) hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai in a bout that redefined the term O-zumo in terms of sheer girth, but the difference here was Lord Gaga's right outer, which he used to clinch the yori-kiri win.

M6 Kitataiki was lazy at the tachi-ai allowing M7 Okinoumi to get moro-zashi a few seconds in. Okinoumi really didn't do anything to set up the position offering a defensive right kachi-age from the tachi-ai, but Kitataiki's nonchalance did him in as Okinoumi forced his partner back and across for the 2-0 start. Kitataiki is 1-1.

M4 Toyonoshima moved into the quick moro-zashi position against M5 Kaisei who used his bulk quite effectively to keep Toyonoshima upright making it hard, but Kaisei couldn't maneuver offensively, and so in the end, Toyonoshima stuck the yori-kiri fork into his side moving 2-0 in the process. Kaisei is a tough luck 0-2.

M5 Aran sorta henka'd to his left against M4 Shohozan, but Shohozan caught him with a right tsuppari that completely threw the Bride off balance, and not even Shohozan could screw up the easy push-out from there. Both fellas end the day at 1-1.

A bout that was being hyped as soon as the first two days' worth of pairings were announced was the Sekiwake Goeido - M3 Ikioi matchup since both combatants are local boys, but this really didn't live up to the hype as neither struck hard at the tachi-ai ending up in hidari-yotsu. Goeido couldn't go for a pull fast enough, however, but fortunately for him, Ikioi wasn't ready to pounce, and so as the two hooked back up, Goeido got the deep left inner in round 2, and as Ikioi tried to spin out of it, Lucy caught him from behind scoring the easy okuri-dashi win. If sumo had a lightweight division, this was your musubi-no-ichiban as Goeido breezes to 2-0 while Ikioi falls to 0-2.

Sekiwake Baruto exhibited another awkward tachi-ai gifting M3 Tokitenku moro-zashi, but Tokitenku doesn't exactly define forward-moving sumo, and so Bart's suffocating right outer was enough to keep Tenku at bay. The former Ozeki Waited for Tenku to make a move, and as soon as he did, he threw him around and out like a sack'a potatoes moving to 2-0 in the process. Tokitenku is a hapless 0-2 so far.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato was slow and looking outside at tachi-ai while M2 Myogiryu attacked inside with both arms knocking the Ozeki upright and stamping a huge target right on his chest. From there, the push-out came in less than three seconds as mYogiBear thoroughly dominated this one leaving both dudes at 1-1. I've said this before but they have the word "sasu" (get to the inside) in sumo for a reason. "Sasu" has no opposite because it just doesn't make sense to go for the outside from the tachi-ai. That Kisenosato has yet to learn this still befuddles me.

Next up M2 Chiyotairyu employed a left kachi-age tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku followed up by a huge right paw to the back of the Ozeki's dome, and Chiyotairyu yanked the Geeku down immediately with such force that it emphasizes how lame'a duck Kotoshogiku really is. I'm telling you...this is Kaio's last few years all over again as the Geeku is done falling to 1-1. Chiyotairyu moves to 1-1 as well, and this wasn't great sumo. The dude was leaning forward too far forward and was there for the taking if the Geeku had been quick enough to react, but credit Chiyotairyu for demanding the win in this one.

Ozeki Kakuryu provided some brief respite from the ugly sumo catching Komusubi Aminishiki has he ducked in low from the tachi-ai (similar to what he did against Hakuho yesterday). Unlike Hakuho in that one, Kakuryu was on the offensive from the start using tsuppari to knock Ami upright and off balance giving chase to his retreating opponent from there. Aminishiki kept Kakuryu honest with a few pull attempts, but the Kak is just too good to let a bout like this slip through his fingers. He's 2-0 if ya need him.

Ozeki Kotooshu tried what looked like a windmill tachi-ai over the top with his left hand against Komusubi Tochiohzan, and the Ozeki was also higher than Snoop Dogg on a Saturday night, and so those two mistakes led to the solid right inside position and left outer grip for Oh who easily dumped the Ozeki over and down across the straw. Believe me, I'm slow to pull the trigger on calling a bout yaocho and will refrain here, but I have no explanation for Kotooshu's bizarre behavior in this one. Doesn't really matter at this point as both guys are 1-1.

The thing about my disappointment with the Ozeki is not just that three of 'em lost, but it's the way they're losing. They're literally getting manhandled by inferior rikishi, and it hurts sumo's image.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Tochinoshin was way too high at the tachi-ai giving Harumafuji the easy moro-zashi, and yes, I know Tochinoshin has the left inside, but the position was so feeble, trust me, this was moro-zashi. The Yokozuna wasted no time driving Tochinoshin back across the straw, and when Tochinoshin failed to let go, Harumafuji kept on driving his opponent back across the salt basket and well into the hana-michi. It will be interesting to see how the press comments on this "dame-oshi," but it was Shin's fault for not letting go. Regardless, hAruMAfuji moves to 2-0 while Shin is the inverse.

And finally, Yokozuna Hakuho got the right left inside against M1 Takayasu followed up by the left outer meaning Takayasu was already rotating on the spit with an apple in his mouth. The interesting thing was, though, that it didn't look to me as if Hakuho bulldozed Takayasu back and out at full power. Rather, Takayasu was so listless that the Yokozuna had no choice but to do him in two seconds. I don't know what any of that means, but Takayasu (0-2) gave up before this one even began. Hakuho's a cool 2-0.

After Clancy's day 1, I'm wasn't even going to attempt any gags in my day 2, but give me a few more days to get bored of things.  See ya tomorrow same time same place.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Criminy, its March 11 and here we are once again, fellow homo sapiens sapiens (hss--the adroit among you will note the resemblance to "hiss") in the city of Osaka, which means big large sloping slope (apropos, as the NSK has a Sisyphusian task of trying to bring sumo into the modern age [maybe they ought to hire hot, hip director JJ Abrams to sex it up, eh?]) Urp.

Two years ago Japan got a nasty little reminder that it lives on a precariously positioned bit of earth (watch from the 1:20 mark till it hits March 11 to see just how insane in the membrane the earthquake truly was ), and sumo fans everywhere got a reminder that their sport is not a sport in the Western sense of the word. Since then Japan has recovered nicely; sumo, not so much. Raise your hand if you DONT miss Yamamotoyama? Nuff said.

This is also the Year of the Snake, which happens to be my "sign," according to ancient Chinese mystics (whose teachings I follow religiously). I mention this mainly because its warming up here in Nippon and the snakes are coming out. Honestly, I love the little darlings. I recall with a pounding heart the first time I stroked a long, hard snake. It made me come

to the realization that there was no WAY Tarzan could have escaped from a huge constrictor coiled about his body. Im here to tell you—snakes are PURE muscle. The one I petted felt like concrete (and I dont think it was even flexing!) My thoughts on why people dont like them much? Simple. They move without appearing to move. That makes hss uncomfortable. Oh, and also the fact that the big ones can do this:

The day began with newcomer Oiwato making his Makuuchi debut vs. Wakanosato, who, though only five years older than his foe, has been in Makuuchi for fifteen years. The experience was evident as Wakanosato (whom I could SWEAR I saw snoozing on a train once, dressed as an average guy) got in and under the pits at tachi-ai so quickly that he had the E16 shouting, "Oy, what o happened?" Arfarf. Wakanosato sits atop the leaderboard at 1-0.

Daio and Sotairyu got into a kitty cat tussle, all slapping and whapping. After a few moments, Sotairyu looked so tired that he fell down after a mighty slap from the Big Do. Mr. Max must be proud.

After a lengthy absence from the top flight, Sagatsukasa returned and, much to Chiyonokunis chagrin, brought him with him a tub of lube. Chiyo never had a chance as the W14 made sweet sweet love to his fans with a nasty henka oshi-dashi "win."

Sadanofuji stiff armed Tochinowaka at tachi-ai, standing him up and pushing him to the ropes. Tochi tried to bring it back to center, but Sadanofuji showed his might (Sadamight, if you will, and you WILL) by not allowing his foe to escape. Powerful statement win for the W13, and that statement is, "I AINT goan back to Juryo, yo!" Fairly "street" attitude for a guy born on Christmas, dontcha think?

LOVED seeing Jokoryu slaughter Takekaze today. The E11 brought an honest tachi-ai for once (his mistake) and got pwned, with his lame attempt at head wrenching Jokoryu turning into he himself getting butt RAMMED out and onto his face in the expensive seats. This win was so emphatic that Jokoryu felt sorry for the little fella and tried to help the veteran back into the ring (and was rebuffed.) The W11 might have the funny shikona, but it was Takekaze who was the Joker in this one.

Tamawashi was a busy little bee today, pushing and shoving his foe all about the ring, but when he sensed Takarafuji wasnt having any of it, he pulled a Fredo and got rubbed out for it.

The Oguruma beya took another beating as Yoshikaze went straight at Fujiazuma and got stalled, then backed up, and then, well, not to put too fine a point on it, bitchslapped out onto his ass. Ill bet the nabe wasnt tastin too sweet back at HQ for the Kazes this night.

Aoiyama drove Kyokutenho (which is odd, cause HES the Chauffer) to the edge, which was exactly where Kyokutenho wanted him, but before he could pull off one of his patented armbar lockdown twisting last second turnabout is fair play escapes, Aoiyama blasted him with both elbows? and sent the W8 out in a rout.

I find it amusing that the very same two words that describe my favorite activity are also the same two words I employ to vent my displeasure at people who annoy me greatly.

At any rate, Okinoumi barely got his right arm inside at tachi-ai to stifle hard charge by Toyohibiki. Whirling away he was able to again fend off the Hutt just long enough to stall him, and when Toyohibiki went up on his toes, and off balance, Okinoumi twisted his ass "mos eis"ily into the dirt. One of the MIB got excited about it (probably his first ever chance at calling a do-over) and forced a long chat, but it was upheld in favor of the E7.

Kitataiki and Gagamaru got into a short head and shoulders battle, lots of leaning and pushing noggins together, but the much smaller Kitataiki got under the Lord Gagas massive mammaries and used them like doughy levers to drive his higher ranked foe out. This was the final bout of the first half and the final upset of the day. Thats a spoiler for the somewhat astounding fact that not one lower ranked rassler won in the second half.

The first bout gave us our first true yotsu battle, with Aran getting an early moro-zashi after a dodgy tachi-ai. Kaisei is nothing if not large, tho, so it took Aran some time, during which he pushed and he pulled, tried some of this, some of that, and after a while was able to eject his foe from the circled square. Both white dudes looked mighty tired after this one.

Shohozan committed two false starts and the crowd was so annoyed that Toyonoshima could have done anything short of shoot him (this isnt American sumo, after all) to win and it would have passed muster. To be fair, Tugboat was taking his own sweet time. Anywho, when they finally got it awhn Shohozan looked like Yoshikaze circa 2008, with lightning fast tsuppari that, also like Yoshikaze, amounted to notta mooch. Toyonoshima was easily able to deflect until one last deflection got No Show Zan turned around, and ridden out wet by his golden mawashi.

Ikioi seemed to have Baruto beat with a good inside belt grip that caused the Biomass to nearly go out, but the huge Sekiwake managed his own push, which Ikioi stopped at the edge, and finally Baruto retreated, grabbed his foe like a beer bottle, and twisted off Ikiois cap, sending him down to the clay. Hard to see sumo this lame getting him within sniffing distance of Ozeki ever again.

Goeido was paired with the ever dangerous Tokitenku (man, I wish there were such a font as "Sarcastic"), a Mongolian adult male, and NOT a bald child with a zigzag style shirt and a pal named Linus. In a baffling (meaning, spicious!) move for Day 1, Toki tried to kick the football, but Luciedo pulled it away just in time and well, good grief! I hope beyond hope we do not see more of this crap in bouts involving the hometown hero (damn, I need that font).

Kotoshogiku was at an early disadvantage vs. Myogiryu, who had the moro-zashi and was smelling blood. Geeku went for a maki-kae and so Myogiryu pushed forward, but the Ozeki was able to get his arm inside before being shoved out. Now he drove Myogiryu back across the dohyo and nearly out. The W2 resisted and so Geeku grabbed the back of his belt and dragged him across the ring, spinning him around and pushing him out. Not a bad showing by Geeku.

Chiyotairyu used his arms well at tachi-ai, but had no legs behind it, and so he failed to move Ozeki Kakuryu back at all. Despite this, Chiyotairyu saw an opening and decided to lunge forward, and it was "muy facile" for Kakuryu to step aside and let gravity and momentum do the dirty work for him.

Takayasu went for Kotooshus throat, and it seemed to be working, but when one of those shoves slipped off and he ended up dancing too close to the Ozeki with his arm raised high, the Bulgarian just leaned in and used his massive size to collapse his foe across the ring and down.

Kisenosato thoroughly dominated Tochinoshin, keeping his back stiff to fend off the Privates fervent pushing. The Ozeki then moved forward and followed the retreating W1 to the edge where he finished his bidness. Its hard to see, but Kisenosato must be head shakingly strong to move the large Georgian around with such ease.

Aminishiki had a golden (kin) opportunity to defeat Hakuho, who was probably nervous in his first West Yokozuna slot in many years. The Yokozuna came in looking for the left belt, but in the process gave up so much of his own inside to Shneakys left hand that he had to change strategy on the fly. Well, if you know anything about Hakuho its that he can recover better than almost any wrestler ever. He let Aminishiki push him back to the edge and then executed a pivot move with his legs that Fred Astaire would have been jealous of. Now with the entire ring at his back, he retreated while securing an armbar, and when Aminishiki had pushed him nearly to the edge torqued him down. Its possible that Shneaky did not try as hard as he could to resist that armbar, but then again, its gotta be a little disconcerting when one of the strongest guys in sumo has your shoulder ready to join rehab for six months. Better to lose and live to fight another day.

Id also add that five years ago Hakuho would have had his ass handed to him by Aminishiki if hed lost the tachi-ai as he did today, but todays Aminishiki is older and weaker and just not quick enough any longer to take advantage of such rare mistakes by the Yokozuna.

Finally, legendary Yokozuna Harumafuji went up against blocking sled dummy Tochiohzan, and who was surprised when all the EK did was lean forward and fall? Not me.

So, cakewalks for the top half except for Hakuho. Day 2 will tell us if it was a hiccup, or if Kublai is out of sorts this far down the banzuke. Ill be back sometime this basho, Day 8 being the most likely candidate. Oh, and btw, the REAL reason I love snakes?









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