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

Senshuraku Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
think you have to go back to the Asashoryu days to see the last time that the media was seething about a rikishi, but that was definitely the case after day 14 when Terunofuji defeated Kotoshogiku with a tachi-ai henka. I was actually surprised that the move got as much run as it did, but there were multiple officials within the Association and other oyakata quoted in the funny papers with harsh comments for the Ozeki, and harsh might be putting it lightly. I actually sensed legitimate hate for the Ozeki in the media, and it really did remind me of the days back when Asashoryu dominated the sport. One anonymous oyakata took a shot at the Mongolians saying there was some jealously there due to the recent success from the Japanese rikishi. Uh, jealousy probably isn't the word, but the knives certainly do come out in full force when the Mongolians are kicking your ass.

Personally, I was fine with Terunofuji's henka. It's a perfectly legal move in sumo, and there is no way that Kotoshogiku can beat Terunofuji straight up anyway, so what did it matter? I guess what mattered was that a Mongolian dared to seal Kotoshogiku's fate with a tachi-ai henka, and what's funny is that everyone was criticizing and debating the henka while fully ignoring the eight yaocho that sent Kotoshogiku into day 14 with an 8-5 record in the first place.

Then there was the issue of Kotoshogiku's refusing to bow after the bout. Isn't that showing a lack of hinkaku towards your opponent? Oh yeah, I guess it only applies when the offending rikishi is a foreigner. It's almost as if there's this sense of entitlement with the so-called elite Japanese rikishi. Kotoshogiku is upset, but why? He's a hapless rikishi, and he knows it, and so I think his refusing to bow was just as much theatrics as was his tumble and roll after the henka. I mean, it is possible to survive a henka as we'd see later on in the day, so we don't need his theatrics nor his pouting to cover up for his awful sumo abilities.

It's all pretty galling when you think about it, but Japanese society is the way it is, and the Sumo Association is obviously making choices these days to make the Japanese elite rikishi seem relevant again while beating the Mongolians into submission. The hard part about watching this all take place is that the Association is bullying the foreign rikishi in ways they can due to their authority because they certainly can't bruise them whatsoever in the dohyo with legitimate sumo.

So with that backdrop in place, we head into the final day of the tournament with Terunofuji leading by one bout over Kisenosato, who couldn't even put up a fight against Yokozuna Kakuryu the day before. There are a lot of hard feats to accomplish in sumo, and one of the most difficult of all is coming from behind in week two to take the yusho let alone entering senshuraku one behind, but none of that mattered for Kisenosato. He had already won the PR battle by refusing to withdraw after getting his ass kicked on day 13, and I thought it interesting how every media outlet used the exact same term to describe Kisenosato's decision to continue after day 13: kyoukou shutsujo.  There really isn't a good English translation, but the kyou is the kanji for tsuyoi, or strong, and basically they were implying that the strong Kisenosato was refusing to give up despite a valid reason to withdraw. So it didn't matter that he looked horrible against Kakuryu; he's already a winner because he refused to withdraw. It's funny too because the tsuyoi totally contradicts his act after Harumafuji sent him to the arena floor on Friday. He spent so much time writhing around there on the concrete and rubbing at his shoulder, the impression I came away with after that was anything but strong.  Still, when ALL of the media outlets are using the exact same phrase, you know they're getting the talking points from somewhere, and it usually spells trouble for integrity's sake.

But, I don't control the narrative of sumo. I just breakdown what happens in the ring, so let's get to the senshuraku action starting from the bottom up. The day began with M11 Daieisho and M9 Kotoyuki trading shoves into each other's throats, but it was Daieisho who had the de-ashi working, and so he was able to pound Kotoyuki back and out in a few seconds. Daieisho finishes the basho at a sweet 11-4 while Kotoyuki is circling the Makuuchi drain fast at 5-10.

M9 Kagayaki blew M16 Nishikigi off of the starting lines with his thrust attack and never let Nishikigi get close. The bout was even more lopsided than the first contest as Kagayaki finishes the fortnight at a respectable 7-8 while Nishikigi finishes 5-10 from the bottom rung of the division. Kagayaki ain't exactly turning heads, but at least he's organic, and I enjoy watching him try and figure things out. As for Nishikigi, he never had the tools to be a formidable Makuuchi rikishi to begin with, and I can say that because I was calling yaocho in his favor from the start of his Makuuchi career. When the Association no longer needs you in order to hype a jungyou, this is the result.

M12 Sadanoumi and M8 Okinoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Okinoumi enjoyed the right outer grip, and he took his sweet time working his foe upright before unleashing a throw by the outer belt. The throw didn't finish Sadanoumi off all the way, and as they squared back up, Sadanoumi actually had moro-zashi, but Okinoumi shook that off with ease in the form of a right kote-nage that easily sent Sadanoumi packing. Trust me, Okinoumi is the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke right now as he finishes the tournament 10-5 while Sadanoumi is heading to Juryo at 4-11.

Another guy who receives heavy yaocho help in the ring is M13 Takakeisho, and that was the case again today against M7 Chiyoshoma, who led with his head and had the clear path to the left inside, but just gave it up putting his hands up high and faking pulls all over the place. As Takakeisho chased him around, Chiyoshoma actually slapped him on the side with the right arm as if going for an offensive move, but a slap to the side does nothing. The correct move in that situation was a tsuki or a thrust, not a slap. Anyway, if you can read the tea leaves, this bout was yet another easy yaocho call as Chiyoshoma played hapless rikishi the entire way letting Takakeisho push him out in the end. I can't name anything that Takakeisho did at the tachi-ai nor can I name a single move he used to put Chiyoshoma on his heels as the Mongolian took care of that all on his own, but it looked legit I'm sure to most, and so give Takakeisho an 11-4 record and a Kantosho to boot. As for Chiyoshoma, he ends the tournament at 9-6 and has his reward.

As long as we're keeping the Japanese fans happy, we may has well have M7 Ichinojo lose to M12 Ura. After an awful tachi-ai where Ura just henka'd to his right standing up straight, Ichinojo matched him bad move for bad move standing up straight himself as the two had separation between them. After a few ugly seconds when they did hook up, Ichinojo went for a fake slap that barely glanced off of Ura, and at that point I knew the outcome. I mean, how many guys have we seen crush Ura this entire tournament, but the biggest guy in the division can't make a dent? After the fake pull attempt, Ichinojo got his right arm to the inside and had his left wrapped around Ura's right as he forced the smaller rikishi to the edge with a nice push into Ura's teet, but Ichinojo just stopped at the edge, aligned his feet, and waited for Ura to do something. Though he tried, Ura's not strong enough to actually push Ichinojo around, and so Ichinojo just took a quick dive making sure to put his right hand down to the dohyo before Ura touched down himself. Just watching the flow of the bout, Ichinojo controlled everything, and so the ref actually signaled his way, but I think the bodies were blocking his vision of the actual finish, so a mono-ii was called and they reversed the decision giving the bout to Ura...of course. What a crockashit to think that they gift the hometown guy kachi-koshi at 8-7 while Ichinojo finishes 6-9. The stark contrast between these two rikishi could not be more evident in every way. What are we...a handful of bouts into the day and already the yaocho is running rampant. Can't wait until we get to the end because it's in the air...you can just feel it.

M6 Aoiyama met M14 Myogiryu with some pretty beefy shoves at the starting lines and as Myogiryu looked to duck inside somehow, Aoiyama reversed gears on a dime and just pulled Myogiryu to the dirt a few seconds in. Aoiyama makes sure he at least gets kachi-koshi as he finishes 8-7 while Myogiryu will have to sort things out in Juryo next basho finishing 6-9. Before we move on, I know those who try and convince themselves that sumo is real will undoubtedly say, "So why didn't the foreigner let the Japanese guy win here as well?"  My answer is that I don't know why Aoiyama decided to do what he did.  I just watch the bouts and then break the action down in the ring. When mukiryoku sumo or yaocho occurs, I call it. I know you don't like, and just because I don't have all the answers as to why these guys decide what they do, it doesn't change the fact of what occurs in the ring.

M6 Chiyonokuni met M15 Tokushoryu with a nice moro-te-zuki at the tachi-ai while Tokushoryu just pressed forward without a decent hold on his opponent...as the special sauce is wont to do, and so while it looked as if Tokushoryu was making progress, Chiyonokuni kept him at bay with continued shoves to the neck and was finally able to side-step him near the edge and spill Tokushoryu to the clay with a left tsuki-otoshi. Chiyonokuni finishes the festivities at 9-6 while Tokushoryu ain't too shabby himself at 8-7.

M5 Hokutofuji moved left at the tachi-ai against M13 Daishomaru thrusting a paw into Daishomaru's side, but Hokutofuji didn't have enough momentum for the move to take effect, so Daishomaru quickly recovered and put Hokutofuji on his heels forcing him to the side and back, but Hokutofuji was able to hold on with a right arm to the inside, and at the tawara, he showed Daishomaru the trapdoor by evading sideways and scoring the tsuki-otoshi win at the edge leaving both guys at 7-8. I'll say it right now that Hokutofuji is my favorite guy to watch right now because none of his bouts involve mukiryoku sumo, but I was kind of hoping he'd lose this one after that tachi-ai because I didn't want to see him rewarded after a cheap move like that. His sumo skills helped him survive and win in the end, but I kinda hoped that Daishomaru would pull this one out. As for Daishomaru, I've given the dude a lot of guff, but I enjoyed watching him this tournament. Hey, do straight up sumo and I like it.

Gee, both Endoh and Tochinoshin enter the day at 7-7. I wonder whose going to win here?? I don't care about Tochinoshin's injury. He's won seven bouts with it to this point, and he coulda pounded Endoh for his eighth, but there's definitely a theme going for the day, and so Tochinoshin did what most rikishi do when they throw bouts: they keep their hands wide and high and just let their opponents get to the clear inside and then work their magic. Easy yaocho call here as Tochinoshin followed the script letting Endoh get to 8-7 while the Private took the bullet here falling to 7-8. Actually, Tochinoshin seemed to get stronger as the basho went on, and so I'm sure he'll be at full strength next tournament. Ranked around M6 or so, that's normally the place where a guy makes a huge run, but foreigners making runs is not in the cards these days, so watch for Tochinoshin to finish around 9-6. As for Endoh, his 8-7 from the M5 rank is going to put him back in the spotlight for May, so here we go again with this nonsense.

M3 Takarafuji got the quick left arm to the inside against M11 Ishiura and used that to force the smaller rikishi back quickly where Ishiura had to make a decision as to which direction he'd try and escape. With Takarafuji keeping him at bay with the right hand, Ishiura jumped to his left, but Takarafuji knew exactly what was coming and caught his foe mid-air shoving him out for the easy win as both rikishi finish the basho at 7-8

Sokokurai and Kyokushuho hooked up in migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai, but it was Kyokushuho and his longer arms that gave him the advantageous left outer grip, and when the taller rikishi has the outer grip and sufficient position to the inside, there's not much the smaller dude can do, and it showed here as Kyokushuho scored the force-out win that was probably too easy. What I mean by that is if you're Sokokurai and you want to take advantage of your injured opponent, make him move laterally. Sokokurai didn't, and so he lost straightway falling to 4-11 while Kyokushuho's 5-10 still ain't good enough to keep him in the division.

M1 Ikioi kept his arms in tight against M8 Kaisei as the Brasilian grabbed the early right outer grip that ulimately morphed into an inside position as Ikioi retreated, and so as the dust settled from the tachi-ai, the two were in the migi-yotsu position where Kaisei had the left outer grip. Kaisei was tentative in his force-out charge due to bad legs, and that allowed Ikioi to spring the beautiful tsuki-otoshi trap at the edge moving out left and catching Kaisei with a nice paw to the side. I think Kaisei suspected something like this was coming, but he just can't defend himself with his bad wheels. I thought that was a well executed bout from Ikioi. Despite giving up that outer grip, he knew his opponent's limitations, and he never panicked as he finishes the contest at 5-10. Like Okinoumi, I feel bad for Ikioi because he's a solid rikishi. He actually employs moves that I can identify and break down, which is more than I can say for the big 5 + 1. As for Kaisei, he'll likely fall to Juryo after his 3-12 finish, but all he needs to do is heal for a spell, and he'll be right back up here.

In the bout we've all been waiting for, M3 Shohozan looked to get moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but before Darth Hozan's light sabre was fully charged, M1 Takekaze went for a dumb pull, and so Shohozan just went with it scoring the easy push-out win in maybe two seconds. As much as I like Oguruma-oyakata and his tongue that always gets in the way when he talks, I'm glad I didn't have to hear him try and make up excuses for his guy after this display of bad sumo where both rikishi end the tournament at 5-10.

M2 Takanoiwa looked to get his arms to the inside against Komusubi Shodai, but Shodai sensed the trouble and backed up a step to his left. The result was Takanoiwa's grabbing the right outer grip and gifting Shodai moro-zashi, but the Komusubi couldn't take advantage. With Shodai standing there limp, Takanoiwa locked down with the left outer grip that was towards the front of the belt rendering Shodai's right useless, and so the Mongolian just escorted his opponent to the side and out easy as you please. Sometimes we talk about the Mongolians fighting in a style where they actually leave openings for their opponents, and my opinion was that Takanoiwa was doing that here, but Shodai just had nothing to offer, not from the tachi-ai nor during the bout, and so Takanoiwa made it look easy as he improves to 6-9, a record that includes multiple gifts. As for Shodai, all I can say is Komusubi Komushmubi. This guys is awful as he finishes 4-11.

Komusubi Mitakeumi welcomed M10 Tochiohzan up to these parts, but I think the conditions were that Tochiohzan had to let Mitakeumi win. Oh got both arms to the position where he coulda got moro-zashi if he wanted, but he backed out of it for no apparent reason going for a light pull. Mitakeumi chased Tochiohzan as he retreated trying to catch him with a tsuppari or two, but I watched the slow motion replay and nothing connected for Mitakeumi nor did he do anything at the tachi-ai to warrant Tochiohzan's retreat in the first place. Still, Tochiohzan continued to catch Mitakeumi with shoves to the throat, but he was back pedaling as he did so, and so after a few seconds of this nonsense, Tochiohzan just hit the dirt at the first sign of a Mitakeumi swipe. All is well here as Mitakeumi finishes 9-6 while Tochiohzan falls...literally...to 10-5.

Someone must have left the Monster Drink open all night because when M4 Yoshikaze fought Sekiwake Kotoshogiku, there was certainly no fizz. The tachi-ai was good from both parties as they hooked up into hidari-yotsu, and we curiously saw no pulls or shoves or slaps from Yoshikaze who just went with the flow of things. At one point Yoshikaze looked as if he was loading for a right kote-nage, but he just stayed square with the Geeku and let the former Ozeki force him back and across without argument. Easy yaocho call here, and just try and find another Yoshikaze bout where the dude was this lethargic. The end result is Kotoshogiku's moving to 9-6 with the win, and while I was deservedly harsh on him in my intro, that doesn't mean that he didn't used to be a fantastic rikishi with solid game. But those days are long gone almost to the tune of a decade ago.

Kotoshogiku didn't deserve his promotion to Ozeki, and he didn't deserve his yusho a year ago, and while those two points are facts, it doesn't mean that he wasn't good in days gone by because he certainly was a solid rikishi. Still, take a guy like Wakanosato...a sanyaku mainstay for something like 18 straight basho. Kotoshogiku's only claim to sanyaku mainstay fame was five basho back in 2008, so he was a solid rikishi in his time but never great. Dude isn't entitled to jack these days, but there are obviously plenty of people who feel otherwise. As for Yoshikaze, he finishes the basho a harmless 8-7.

In a predictable bout between two Sekiwake, Tamawashi kept his arms out wide at the initial start (what, did he suddenly forget his tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai? That would be a yes.) as Takayasu forced the bout to yotsu-zumo getting the left arm inside, and from that point, Tamawashi pivoted in order to go for a right kote-nage that was wide open, but he was sloppy with his footwork not to mention his throwing technique stepping out beyond the bales before Takayasu hit the dirt. They actually had to call a mono-ii here to confirm that Tamawashi's heel grazed the sand first, but The Mawashi was mukiryoku in this bout. Question: Tamawashi is a tsuppari guy, so why didn't he use a single thrust in this bout opting to leave both arms wide open instead?  It's a mukiryoku tactic as was his kote-nage and his footwork. Having said that, he almost won the bout, but he was mukiryoku here as he falls to 8-7.  As for Takayasu, he did connect on a nice face slap at the tachi-ai, but that blow doesn't even connect if Tamawashi comes out with his usual long arm tsuppari of the law. Takayasu moves to 12-3 with the win and will likely replace Kotoshogiku as the next Ozeki.

As Kisenosato stepped into the dohyo to face Ozeki Terunofuji, you could just feel it in the air, and by that I mean yaocho. I mean the flow of the entire day was just phony baloney, and as I often say, nothing in sumo surprise me these days. Before we get to the bout, let me just seek some clarification here. Terunofuji henka's a guy with Ozeki hopes on the line, and he's lambasted by the media and the officials within the Association.  Kisenosato henka's a guy with the yusho on the line and nary a word is said. Why the difference?

To make matters worse, Kisenosato's first henka to his right against Terunofuji failed drawing a false start, so as the two reloaded, Kisenosato next henka'd to the other side. That's two henka from Kisenosato compared to Terunofuji's one, so why the double-standard?  I know the answer, but I point out hypocrisy when I see it.  I guess we could even take it a step further and say why didn't Terunofuji just dive forward and roll himself across the dohyo in exaggerated fashion?  If he was able to survive the henka, then why couldn't Kotoshogiku survive one?  If Terunofuji would have rolled forward across the dohyo, would Kisenosato have been criticized?

I think I see Kisenosato working here. He felt jipped by Terunofuji's henka against Kotoshogiku too, and so he was going to come out and show the Ozeki a thing or two.  Except that his henka were so piss poor that they didn't even faze Terunofuji...either time.  Actually Kisenosato, I think you were more threatening when you were writhing in pain there on the arena floor after Harumafuji kicked your ass than you were here trying to stick up for your countryman.

Getting to the bout itself, after Kisenosato henka'd to his left, he was wide open for whatever Terunofuji wanted to do, but Terunofuji didn't want to seem to do anything, and I was like "here we go."  The Ozeki did have the brief path to the right inside, but he pulled back and just kept his arms out wide and he stood upright, and if Kisenosato had any game, he would have pushed the Ozeki back oshi-dashi style, but he doesn't, and so the two finally hooked up in hidari-yotsu, and Terunofuji's right hand was right there at the side of Kisenosato's belt, but he refused to grab it for a few moments just waiting for Kisenosato to do something. Kisenosato finally pulled his left arm out from the inside and pivoted right getting his right arm to the back of Terunofuji's left and using his left at the back of the Ozeki's head, and while I've seen older Asian women ahead of me on one-lane highways drive their Lexus's faster than it took for this move to develop, Terunofuji stood there and dove to the dirt landing on both knees...you know...that position where we often see guys land in sumo, especially in bouts between two elite rikishi.  I get the biggest kick out of the pic there above.  You have Kisenosato standing there all high and mighty with Terunofuji on his knees, head bowed, as if to say, "Please, I can't take any more."  Now that I think about it, that's kinda how I felt as well after watching this bout.

In all seriousness, just play along with me here for a moment.

On day 13 Harumafuji sends Kisenosato onto his back and writhing in pain in a matter of seconds.
On day 14 Kakuryu defeats a purely defenseless Kisenosato by yori-kiri in about two seconds.
On day 15 Kisenosato sends the sole leader of the basho to his knees after a chest to chest clash.

What changed between days 13 and 14 and then senshuraku?  Why such the stark contrast in Kisenosato's sumo today when compared to the two previous days?  The answer is easy.  Kisenosato didn't change a lick other than those weak henka attempts.  It was the Mongolian who changed.  On days 13 and 14, the Mongolians' intent was to win.  On senshuraku, the Mongolian's intent was to lose, and that's why we saw the stark contrast today compared to the two previous days.  It was actually painful watching this one in slow motion, and I suppose it was even worse knowing that Terunofuji was going to dive again in the yusho playoff now that the two were tied here at 13-2.

But there was more unfinished business that came in the form of two legitimate Yokozuna capping off regulation, and we were treated to a decent fight until the very end. Both Yokozuna charged hard into the migi-yotsu position where Harumafuji enjoyed the early left outer grip, and as both rikishi settled in for a few seconds, Kakuryu moved first testing the maki-kae waters. Harumafuji denied the Kak's quest for moro-zashi, and so the two dug in again in the center of the ring. After about 10 more seconds of digging in, Kakuryu backed up a step creating another opening for a maki-kae, and this time he got the left to the inside giving him moro-zashi, and so he was able to halt Harumafuji's forward momentum and just back him up for the kill.  Problem was the gyoji was standing directly behind Harumafuji and when HowDo bumped into the ref, he just let up completely probably not wanting to send yet another Japanese guy to the arena floor, and so Kakuryu walked him back in easy fashion to sill the dill.  Here again we had the typical bout between the Mongolians where they're treating us to a fine bout of sumo but not really trying to just kick the other guy's ass.  Both guys end the tournament at 10-5, and before we move on, why did the Kisenosato - Terunofuji bout lack the power and force and technique that we saw in the final bout?  The contrast was night and day, but that's what happens when you have mukiryoku sumo.  There's just no force anywhere, and it's a lot of hands moving this way and that and nothing really getting accomplished.

As the attention moved to the dressing rooms, there didn't seem to be a ton of anticipation or electricity on the broadcast because I think everyone knew what was coming. Terunofuji was not going to rip the heart out of the Japanese fans the second day in row.  It just wasn't going to happen, and so the playoff was a mere formality.

When the two finally stepped atop the dohyo, we were treated to an equally boring, mukiryoku bout.  In round two, Kisenosato was wide open at the tachi-ai as usual and actually put one hand up high as if to pull, and Terunofuji immediately assumed moro-zashi at that point, but like the first bout, there were no de-ashi from the Ozeki, and he literally just stood there allowing Kisenosato to move right and execute a kote-nage with the right arm that of course easily felled Terunofuji to the clay without argument.  And just like that, Kisenosato has his second yusho in as many tournaments and becomes as Beavis and Butthead would say, a bonerfide Yokozuna in the eyes of the sheep.

Now, if Kakuryu got moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against Kisenosato and finished him off in two seconds the day before, why couldn't Terunofuji do the same?  Well, actually he could have.  In the case of the Kakuryu bout, Kisenosato could feel the pressure and went out easily so as to avoid another trip down to the arena floor.  With Terunofuji, he could feel there was no pressure, and he's sure as hell been in enough of these situations that he knew what to do.  Yet again, we get another classic photo above of Kisenosato mounting his foe after brilliantly defeating him in the playoff.  Now that I think about it, when was the last time a Kisenosato bout ever finished like this one?

Another angle that is lost on most people I'm sure is the injury angle.  Okay, you have three guys this basho pretty banged up:  Tochinoshin, Kaisei, and Kyokushuho.  So how did their opponents choose to fight them for the most part?  They made them move and took advantage of their leg injuries.  If you know a guy is injured, you exploit the injury.  Pick any team sport and suppose that a star player goes down to injury.  His backup comes in but isn't nearly as good, so whom do you attack? It's such a simple question that even the non-experts know the answer, so if you're fighting a dude who was taken away in an ambulance two days earlier because he had a bad shoulder, how do you fight him?  Well, the first thing you do is come out and fire a hard shove right into the injured shoulder.  At worst, you force the angle of the bout to your right side meaning that the injured guy has to fight with his left.  The list goes on and on, so for Terunofuji to display the brand of sumo he did today in those two bouts with so much on the line is simply laughable.

I mean, take from sumo want you want, but I sit here and watch this stuff play out, and I'm simply incredulous at all of the yaocho going on.  At the end of day 13, I explicitly stated that Kisenosato doesn't necessarily need to withdraw.  If they're going to let him win, they're going to let him win, so what does it matter that he can't use one arm?  We've now seen a Japanese rikishi take 3 out of 4 yusho, and this on the heels of an entire decade of failure. So what's changed?

I used to laugh at the jackasses who would comment below every time a Mongolian would take the yusho saying, "Har, Sumotalk, you're 0-46 now!" referring to the fact that it was 46 straight basho and counting without a Japanese yusho, and so sumo bouts couldn't possibly be fixed because a Japanese rikishi never took the yusho in the end. Now that they ARE letting them take the yusho, I'm not sure what the weak explanations are from the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil crowd, but it's been a lengthy process where everyone was conditioned little by little until now when they are taking the nonsense to unspeakable levels. And the unfortunate part is...there's no turning back now.

Yesterday Harvye closed his report by saying that I would show everyone the dark side of the moon, but what he really should have said is that tomorrow Mike will point out the dark side of sumo.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

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Day 14 Comments (Harvey Hodja reporting)
Schadenfreude. I was in a particularly gemütlich (feeling of well-being, comfort, happiness) mood as I sat down to my maultasche soup and spätzle this morning after viewing yesterday's bouts. For those who don't know, Schadenfreude means happiness at the misfortune of others. It is, of course, an impure emotion. But there is no doubt it chased my better angels out for a bit and took residence. Like Mike said, fate is often cruel--and sometimes satisfyingly just, and jam-packed with bitter irony. I'm not happy Kisenosato got hurt; that's bad news for any athlete. But I hope I've been clear that while I don't think Kisenosato is terrible, nor do I think he is a Yokozuna, and this whole tournament has felt… silly. I do think Kisenosato has looked okay in the role (and I use that term with relish: "role"): he has the size, experience, and demeanor to fit the casting, and his wins rarely look as ridiculous to me as Kotoshogiku's, say. But having him cruise to the yusho while better rikishi flobber around or quit has been about as fun as snorting Tabasco sauce after gashing my nasal cavities repeatedly with a burred awl. So when Kisenosato a) lost and b) looked injured, to be honest yes, I just about jumped out of my chair with sudden joy. Reality returns!, I thought. Think how much dishonesty and misdirection it took to get Kisenosato installed as Yokozuna #1--and look what one injury did. One moment of brutal poetic justice exposed the whole thing as a farce, because there is no local wrestler behind the curtain to take his place. Just Terunofuji looming large, and about to crush the behoosus out of all the little wizards of oz running around caught with levers and dials in their hands. Praise be.

So, I was legitimately excited to write today: what would we see? Would Kisenosato really withdraw? Would he fight and get clobbered? Or would he fight and win, repeating the famous Takanohana "guts" victory? Because if the Sumo Association had come this far, why not just go the rest of the way? Like Mike said, heck, might as well send him out there with a compound fracture sticking gorily out of his arm. Those were the atmospherics in the morning.

Since we're starting at the top, I'll deliver a small spoiler: Kisenosato did not withdraw. He came out with some taping on the shoulder for the Yokozuna dance (dohyo-iri) at 16:00, and had no trouble lifting his arm above his head or moving it about. So, we were back to will they, or won't they? My brow furrowed.


S Kotoshogiku (8-5) vs. O Terunofuji (12-1)
When I heard the crowd roar for Kotoshogiku's backbend and saw Terunofuji's angry expression, I had a bad feeling. However, hallelujah, in a great moment (a Tokitenku moment, dare I say?), Terunofuji henka'ed gloriously, and Kotoshogiku coasted, as if in slow motion, to the dirt, hataki-komi, sealing his fate--no Ozeki promotion, likely ignominious retirement. Boos reigned down. I smiled wickedly. Schadenfreude. Do you get it? Do you get it?!? If we must lose, we will look like fools when we do it. And if we must not be allowed to win, when we do so, we will mock you with your rules. If we must be the villain, we will be villainous heroes in doing it. Hataki-frack-you-komi. I. Don't. Care. Win. Yep. I complain lustily about henkas, yet I gloried unabashedly in this one. Admitted. I hereby abandon all pretense of impartiality, and root for roosting chickens. I will be rooting hard for Terunofuji tomorrow. There is still hope for The Future. It is a good day.

Y Kisenosato (12-1) vs. Y Kakuryu (8-5)
Though Kisenosato had been whisked away in an ambulance the previous day, the person who first examined him when he came out of the ring said he didn't have a dislocated shoulder. His oyakata came out to meet the press this morning and distractedly said Kisenosato was going to fight, but not much more. The vagueness about it all made me suspicious. Ever been hurt really, really bad and thought "I've broken a bone!" or "I must have just lost a tooth!" or even "I'm may die!" then felt perfectly fine and a little sheepish a bit later when the pain, which was very real, totally cleared up? I wondered if that was what happened to Kisenosato. The announcers were prattling on about how young people these days say "it hurts, it hurts!" but that maybe those callow youth should take Kisenosato's brave stance as something to learn from. Heh. My feeling was the opposite: maybe after losing, Kisenosato could have been a little less dramatic in showing his pain. Isn't that the true "tough guy" aesthetic? And the lack of medical info or diagnosis by the announcers--rather, lots of speculation about the taping and how Kisenosato must feel and such--told me things were likely just fine in the Lord's castle.

Look, I know sumo is dreadfully tough, painful, and imparts horrible wear and tear. But athletes fight hurt all the time--baseball pitchers will tell you their arms pretty much always hurt, a least a little bit--and if forced to guess, I'd say that is what was happening here with Kisenosato.

To the match. Kisenosato token cat slap. Kakuryu instant mono-zashi. One-second Kakuryu yori-kiri win. Glory! Glory Glory! You've all been screaming about how Kisenosato leaves himself open at the tachi-ai, right? Well, he did it here, and paid, paid in spades. You'll never see a better demonstration of 2+2=4. Pretend to be a Yokozuna like that, lose to a real Yokozuna like this. This had nothing to do with the shoulder--his shoulder was never involved, floating about in the ether over Kakuryu's ballistic death charge. Oh, we can argue about it. How uncertainty with the shoulder made Kisenosato vulnerable. Or, on the opposite side, how this was just the the thrill kill cult, one of those days when the better man decided to say, hey look, I'm the better man. Does it matter? The reality is Kakuryu slaughtered Kisenosato like the lamb he is. Personally, in the end I don't much care whether or to what degree Kisenosato is injured or not. I'm just happy when justice is done.


M16 Nishikigi (4-9) vs. M12 Ura (7-6)
What a bunch of ridiculous prac. Ura backed up at the tachi-ai, then put his hands waaaay down low like he was going to grab Nishikigi by the ankles. He did this so slowly Nishikigi nearly knocked him over when he came forward, and found Ura had his back to him, pretty much of his own accord. Ura was spinning pointlessly around as Nishikigi knocked him out in embarrassing fashion, oshi-dashi.

M14 Kyokushuho (4-9) vs. M11 Ishiura (6-7)
Another tiny little "ura." Ura in Japanese means backside, hinterland, ass, that kind of thing. However, "Stone Ass" (Ishiura) knocked Kyokushuho upright and stuck both arms to the inside for the moro-zashi position. He then pushed Kyokushuho easily out, yori-kiri. Since Ishiura's on the brink of kachi-koshi, it was sure nice of Kyokushuho to leave his arms all slack and limp like that, dangling down while he stood up too tall. Too bad they have instant replay in slo-mo that highlights how weak his effort looked.

M10 Tochinoshin (6-7) vs. M15 Tokushoryu (8-5)
Tokushoryu has been happy with his eight wins for a few days and is just hangin' out. However, he henka'ed, in a buttery, slow kind of way, and had Tochinoshin dead to rights. As he followed him slowly and ponderously towards the straw, trying first to control him with an arm pull, then to batter him out with his shoulder (there is a reason you don't see that much in sumo: it doesn't work, and looks kind of cowardly), Tochinoshin smartly pivoted on the straw and pretty easily slapped Tokushoryu to the dirt, tsuki-otoshi. This was a skills mismatch, and all of Special Sauce's sloppy wiliness couldn't cover that up.

M13 Takakeisho (9-4) vs. M10 Tochiohzan (10-3)
Tochiohzan has had a sloppy looking tournament, pulling his way to ten wins, but he thought he had a real easy mark here. With some slaps and shoves, he had Takakeisho going backwards, and instead of following up and dominating the young beast by getting his accustomed moro-zashi, which was available, he slapped lazily at Takakeisho's shoulders. You could just see him letting up before it was over, thinking he had it in the bag. So Takakeisho stepped to the side and swacked him to the dirt, hataki-komi.

M8 Kaisei (3-8) vs. M11 Daieisho (9-4)
Kaisei wasn't sure what his plan was, and half stood up, half pulled. Daieisho knew exactly what he wanted to do, and stuck a hand in Kaisei's flabby neck and pushed him. It was very easy pickins from there: Kaisei hopped compliantly out of the ring, yori-kiri, under pressure from this little red bee. Kaisei is hurt, so his terrible effort here may be due that. Or it may be due to terrible effort.

M7 Ichinojo (6-7) vs. M12 Sadanoumi (3-10)
Ichinojo has a losing record because he is sloppy, lethargic, and, for whatever reason, unmotivated. He looked to have Sadanoumi under control, with a nice overhand left grip and leaning his huge weight all over the smaller, weaker wrestler. But he was lazy with his right hand, didn't move forward when he should, and, when Sadanoumi worked from his right inside grip to turn Ichinojo around and "throw" him, uwate-dashi-nage, Sadanoumi walked right out, nose first, like a happy donkey to warm oats.

M14 Myogiryu (6-7) vs. M7 Chiyoshoma (8-5)
Heh. Chiyoshoma didn't look well set up here, standing up too tall and going backwards, but he had his hand on the side of Myogiryu's head, and damned if he didn't just knock Myogiryu over with one forceful shove with that hand, hataki-komi. This was essentially a lateral pull, but man did it look strong. Yikes!

M13 Daishomaru (7-6) vs. M6 Aoiyama (6-7)
Daishomaru has been marginally better this tournament, moving forward much more often, but he's still just not very good, so Aoiyama pushed him backwards for a moment, then grabbed him by the head and pulled him in and down, hataki-komi.

M5 Endo (7-6) vs. M9 Kagayaki (5-8)
Endo thought maybe he could just try this straight up. Mistake. As Mike said several days ago, when a bigger wrestler wants to beat Endo, he just destroys him. Kagayaki stood Endo up with focused open hands, kept his head down, and thrashed Endo out, oshi-dashi. I still think he's going nowhere, though. Despite his size, Kagayaki doesn't seem to wear his weight well: just look at those flabby, mushy teats, that saggy, languid belly-wheel. Compare that to Takekaze: short and undoubtedly fat, but built like a barrel. Tochiazuma was always a great example of tight, impactful weight, too. Kagayaki should be happy: his DNA was apparently never meant to be fat. But in this sport, you want your DNA to be begging you to be built like a fireplug. Kagayaki's wants him to be thin and healthy. Poor guy.

M9 Kotoyuki (4-9) vs. M5 Hokutofuji (6-7)
I was rooting hard for the youngster in this one, and before the start he stamped his feet on the dirt in a way the directional mikes picked up and amplified. Kinda scary! He looked loaded for bear. However, Little Snow (Kotoyuki) undoubtedly saw that too. So he put mean hands on Hokutofuji's face as if to gouge his eyes out, then pulled him swiftly down, hataki-komi. Easy stuff for Kotoyuki against an over-amped opponent here, and well executed. Zannen-nagara.

M4 Yoshikaze (8-5) vs. M8 Okinoumi (8-5)
Yoshikaze had his left hand inside, but Okinoumi was on top of him and pushing hard, close enough to get a couple of good grabs at an overhand right, and eventually just overwhelmed and crushed Yoshikaze over backwards, abise-taoshi, in this very good looking, dominant effort by Okinoumi.

[Life is good: at this moment my mother in law brought me a can of beer and several packets of cheese, unasked for. Now here is someone who understands sumo watching!]

M1 Takekaze (4-9) s. M2 Sokokurai (4-9)
Takekaze smacked Sokokurai, deeked him in the face, and started looking for a pull. However, Sokokurai is a sneaky guy himself, and was well primed for this. It looked like he just wasn't going to give Takekaze the chance, keeping his distance and shoving judiciously, backing up when needed. Eventually, however, true to form, Takekaze darted out of the way lightning quick and Sokokurai went running past like Wil E. Coyote chasing the road runner over the cliff. His toe hit the sand as he put on the breaks, and that was that. "Hiki-otoshi." When two guys like this fight, it's like a whole different sport. You could call it "reverse chicken," or something like that. This is not "in the spirit of the law."

M2 Takanoiwa (5-8) vs. M1 Ikioi (3-10)
Good match here. After a lot of pushing and shoving Ikioi, who had a right hand underneath on the belt, made an effort to try to stick his left hand inside as well. When it failed, Ikioi responded smartly to Takanoiwa's forward pressure and pinching by turning that momentum against Takanoiwa: Ikioi withdrew his right hand and pulled down hard with his left, forcing Takanoiwa down shitate-dashi-nage. Respect.

[Wow, my beer is already gone…]

K Mitakeumi (7-6) vs. M6 Chiyonokuni (8-5)
Pretty simple stuff. Mitakeumi blasted Chiyonokuni into an upright position and drove him out while Chiyonokuni tried desperately to pull him but came up short. Oshi-dashi destruction from Mitakeumi. He's had a blessedly quiet tournament, and I'm a-ok with that and him. He fights hard, and it ain't his fault he's popular. Most days he earns it pretty well. And he had a nice smile during his kachi-koshi interview.

[Second beer. Let's have some more cheese…]

M3 Shohozan (3-10) vs. K Shodai (4-9)
Japan's next Yokozuna, Shodai, has not been earning it. But I have faith. Faith that the Hakkaku Revolution will continue. Bad faith. This tournament, however, is already a throwaway for the Future Lord, so I figured we'd get a good match. With records like this, why not? The match was wearisome, however. Shodai lost the tachi-ai badly, and found Darth Hozan's dark hand squeezing his Adam's apple. And there, more or less, it remained. Shodai kept trying to get on the body, and Hozan kept putting that claw back to his neck. Darth Hozan mixed in a couple of pulls, and when one of these got Vanilla Softcream (Shodai) off balance, Darth grabbed him by the arm and ushered him past and out, oshi-dashi. Yeah, Shohozan's record stinks, and his wins were probably nonsense. But he fights hard, and this was a good demonstration of what he can do. I'll take it.

M3 Takarafuji (6-7) vs. S Takayasu (10-3)
Takayasu's Ozeki runs have been interesting; it's as if the first half or so of the basho everybody says, "yeah, let's do it!' Then, the last few days, everybody says, "we've got more important things to worry about than your silly Ozeki run." Takarafuji had him wrapped up and under control here, but was not helped by a wardrobe malfunction. Takarafuji had lower position and kept his can slung well back. Takayasu just couldn't grab it. However, Takarafuji's belt eventually got loose, and the gyoji had to stop the match and readjust the belt. That killed Takarafuji's momentum. I do think Takayasu is the better wrestler, and after the restart Takayasu had more strength and pressure left to give, and was able to finish this one oshi-dashi. He only needs about ten wins in May to get Ozeki, and I predict he gets it. Ah, me. Shouldn't "Ozeki" strike some awe into us? Chiyotaikai, Tochiazuma, Baruto, Kotooshu, Kaio… Well, anyway. Takayasu seems like a really nice guy!! Smiley face.

[Second beer doing loads for optimism!]

Y Harumafuji (10-3) vs. S Tamawashi (7-6)
This was a brawl. They decided to just frickin' go at it. They head-butted each other. Harumafuji tried to beat Tamawashi up with hard hands from hell. Tamawashi surged onto him as if to say, "eat this, yokowhatsawhat." And collapsed him to the dirt with, in this one, superior power, oshi-taoshi. Yeah, this wasn't Yokozuna-type effort or precision from Harumafuji. But it was absolutely classic "what the hell, let's fight" ‘Maf action. And Tamawashi showed that he belongs in it. "Wanna fight? Okay. Let's fight."

Terunofuji's now up by one all of a sudden, and it would take a Kisenosato "guts" victory TWICE over him tomorrow to take the yusho. Let's not let our heads explode with dark forbodance just yet.

Mike shows us the dark side of the moon tomorrow.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
If you were to ask me what my favorite movie was, I don't know if I could give a definitive answer because there are a handful of masterpieces out there, but only once in my life have I watched a movie and been so blown away that I had to sit there and immediately watch it all over again. Said movie was the Shawshank Redemption, and in one of the final scenes of the movie, the corrupt Warden Norton can hear the authorities coming to arrest him, and he looks up at a cross stitch piece of work on his wall that says, "His judgment cometh and that right soon."  Fraud and deceit and corruption can thrive for a season, but at some point the scales of Lady Justice will come back into balance, and there will be hell to pay.

I know it's definitely the case with me, but I've sat here the last little while and watched what's happened to sumo, and the frustration has almost been unbearable, so I can only begin to think how the Mongolians feel about what they've been asked to do, particularly over the last seven or eight basho.  I guess we should have seen it coming with the way that Harumafuji and Kakuryu both took down Takayasu, but Kisenosato's liabilities have been mounting to unseen proportions, and thankfully today the debtor came calling.

As I've done the entire week two, let's start from the bottom and work our way up because the day started off with a fantastic bout of sumo. You had a kid up from Juryo receiving a bit of run in J2 Onosho fighting veteran M14 Myogiryu, who has been struggling of late. The very first lesson I ever received in sumo was how these senpai refuse to lose to the hyped young guys. And you could see the fire in Myogiryu today to that end, but Onosho shaded just left at the tachi-ai warding off Myogiryu's initial blow leaving the two to stand there toe to toe trading fierce tsuppari. And Onosho was the better rikishi using his legs better and lifting Myogiryu upright before assuming moro-zashi, and he didn't send Myogiryu out quietly; rather, he dumped him on his ass just beyond the straw bales in humiliating fashion. I've always liked Myogiryu and felt bad for him after this one because this should not happen to the veterans, but it signals a changing of the guard as Onosho improves to 8-5 while Myogiryu falls to 6-7 meaning he needs at least one more win to stay in the division.

M13 Daishomaru used a series of shoves with the right from the tachi-ai to keep M12 Sadanoumi at bay, upright, and then on his heels. The younger Maru caught him with a nice shove at the side to throw Sadanoumi off his game, and then followed up with perfect de-ashi to finish off his foe in a few seconds. This has been Daishomaru's best basho in my opinion as he moves to 7-6 while Sadanoumi falls to 3-10.

I agree with Harvye that M11 Daieisho is one of the more enjoyable guys to watch in the sport right now, and today against M15 Tokushoryu, Daieisho dictated the pace from the start catching his foe with nice tsuppari from the tachi-ai and forcing Tokushoryu to play the tsuppari game, but Daieisho's simply the better rikishi in a pushing affair as Daieisho shoved Tokushoryu back once, twice, three times a lady. When you have a yotsu guy like Tokushoryu (8-5) and a push guy like Daieisho (9-4), the one who sets the pace will likely prevail.

M9 Kotoyuki came out with a bit more resolve today. Course he was fighting the injured M14 Kyokushuho, so it all made sense. After catching Shuho with some nice tsuki, Kotoyuki moved left pulling Kyokushuho off balance and down about two seconds in. A guy really on his game would have won this bout in linear fashion, but at the first sign of defense from Kyokushuho, Kotoyuki resorted to evasive sumo signaling that he has no confidence in his sumo these days. Hey, and what a coincidence; I don't have any confidence in his sumo either! Both rikishi here end the day at 4-9.

On one hand, I was actually glad to see M10 Tochinoshin henka against M9 Kagayaki. It's not because I ever like to see the henka but because it showed that Shin had some respect for Kagayaki. As the two lined up, I was interested to see if Kagayaki could win this bout with his brand of sumo, but unfortunately, Tochinoshin had other ideas moving to his right and then continuing to mawari-komu right grabbing Kagayaki around the neck with one arm and pulling him down by the shoulder on the other side. The bout lasted about three seconds, and because Kagayaki can't fight in a non-linear bout, Tochinoshin was able to defeat him rather handily despite his injury. Shin survives his injury scare and will fight in Makuuchi against next basho finishing the day at 6-7 while Kagayaki suffers make-koshi at 5-8.

M8 Okinoumi played the smart tachi-ai against M11 Ishiura which is to thrust into the tops of his shoulders, and it disallowed Ishiura from burrowing in deep, but he did duck down low as he is wont to do before springing a sideway pull to his right that sent Okinoumi stumbling forward. The taller Umi was able to recover, however, before Ishiura could finish him off, so the bout morphed into a hidari-yotsu affair where Okinoumi grabbed the right outer grip over the top. But not only did he have that stifling grip, but he locked Ishiura's head in tight with his left hand as the dude ducked in low, and it was that neck grip that rendered Ishiura useless because Okinoumi was able to score the easy force out from there. This bout spells trouble for Ishiura because opponents will now take note that you just grab him around the neck to render him limp. Great adjustment from Okinoumi who picks up kachi-koshi with the fine display at 8-5 while Ishiura falls to 6-7, and this bout should learn him as far as sticking his head that far into people's business.

M8 Kaisei struck M16 Nishikigi and then immediately backed up hoping for a quick pull down by the neck, but Nishikigi kept his balance forcing Kaisei to think of plan B. Fortunately for the Brasilian, Nishikigi ain't the savviest rikishi in the division, and so Kaisei was actually able to hook back up in moro-zashi. At this point, Nishikigi's wits kicked in, and he wisely forced Kaisei to move around and around using his bad legs to try and keep up, but he was able to because Nishikigi never employed a waza along with his retreat. After separation was created, the two hooked up in migi-yotsu where Kaisei reached for the left outer grip, but when Nishikigi cut it off Kaisei switched gears and dumped him with a right scoop throw. Nishikigi should have never lost this bout, but it shows how hapless of a rikishi he is. And I don't dislike the kid, but it was obvious early in his Makuuchi career that they were feeding him wins to build him up. Nishikigi's Juryo fate is sealed at 4-9 while Kaisei could really use one more win at 3-10.

I must be developing a mancrush for Harvye because I too have really enjoyed M7 Chiyoshoma this basho. I actually think he looks better than guys like Harumafuji and Kakuryu did early in their Makuuchi careers, but we'll see how far he's allowed to climb. Today against M12 Ura, Shoma did nothing at the tachi-ai leaving his hands around Ura's head area, but he never pulled nor tried to raise Ura up, and so Ura got the easy left arm inside and pushed Chiyoshoma out straightway. As they showed the replay, Kariya Announcer explained that Chiyoshoma was trying to raise Ura up from the tachi-ai, but the hell he was. Chiyoshoma's not a dumbass. He knows what's coming, and so for him to just leave his hands up high and let Ura do his bidding was a clear sign of his throwing the bout in favor of Ura. Chiyoshoma also had the path to a right counter kote-nage, but that never came either. This was the first time that Ura has won a regular-looking bout of sumo, and he did it because Chiyoshoma let him...unfortunately. For as bad as he's looked, Ura is now 7-6 after the gift while Chiyoshoma has plenty more bouts to give away at 8-5.

I guess I'm not so in love with Harvye after all because I think M13 Takakeisho is a worthless rikishi. Today against M6 Aoiyama, the latter struck Takakeisho with a nice shove at the tachi-ai, but then immediately went for a half-assed pull. He repeated this process about four more times...shove and then pull, shove and then pull. Had Aoiyama decided to use de-ashi and actually win the bout he would have destroyed Takakeisho, but his intent was not to win here and so he eventually let Takakeisho pull him over. There was nothing that came from Takakeisho that warranted Aoiyama not to move forward with good de-ashi from the start, and this one is an easy yaocho call in favor of the Takanohana-beya hopeful. Takakeisho finishes 9-4 after the bout, and trust me, he is not as good as his record reflects as Aoiyama willingly falters to 6-7.

Maybe I do like Harvye after all because I agree with him that M5 Endoh put up a good fight against Terunofuji yesterday. The Ozeki is completely comfortable fighting with his heels against the bales, so he wasn't in too much trouble, but that initial charge was legitimate against Terunofuji yesterday. Today against M10 Tochiohzan, it was all Oh at the charge getting both hands to the inside for moro-zashi, but he didn't just rush forward and knock Endoh upright. Endoh sensed the trouble and backed out of moro-zashi, and Tochiohzan completely let him do it too, so as the two squared back up, Tochiohzan just stood there like a dumb ass and let Endoh push him back and out with ease. Oh did offer a meager pull in the process, but he was mukiryoku from the start here. Tochiohzan is the master of moro-zashi, so for him to get it and then refuse to take advantage against such a vulnerable rikishi is implausible. Furthermore, when Endoh countered with his oshi attack, there was no defense from Tochiohzan. Total yaocho here in favor of Endoh who is gifted a 7-6 record while Tochiohzan falls to 10-3.

At this point they announced the withdrawal of M4 Arawashi, and to be honest, I just fast-forwarded through it. He'll end the day at 3-12 while Ichinojo picks up the freebie at 6-7. Before we move on, how the hell is Endoh 7-6 while Ichinojo is 6-7 assuming that sumo was all straight up?

M3 Shohozan looked to get to the inside against M5 Hokutofuji, but the youngster used a nice right tsuki from the tachi-ai to keep him upright and at bay. Shohozan still persisted forward, but Hokutofuji kept planting nice shoves into Shohozan's upper body to keep him upright, and the kid must have sensed the timing was right because he switched gears and employed a push attack that sent Shohozan clear across the dohyo against the straw. As Darth Hozan looked to dig in, Hokutofuji quickly switched gears again and pulled Shohozan forward and down for the nice win. Hokutofuji has never suffered make-koshi in his career, and he moves to 6-7 with the win today. As for Shohozan, he falls to a lame 3-10. As for Shohozan, I went back and looked to see who is three wins were against because I thought he "beat" one of the Yokozuna, and sure enough, the three dudes he's toppled were Kakuryu, Tamawashi, and Sokokurai. As if.

M2 Takanoiwa and M6 Chiyonokuni both charged straight forward from the tachi-ai, but both were looking for pulls, and they each traded an effective pull here and there, but in the end, Takanoiwa got the right arm inside, and he used that to push Chiyonokuni to the brink. When Kuni resisted at the straw, Takanoiwa just lifted him off his feet and sent him across for good tsuri-dashi style. After the bout, Kariya Announcer sounded surprised when he said, "Takanoiwa suddenly has this new fire in him after going make-koshi so quickly." Ya think? He no longer has to throw bouts the first part of the basho to the key rikishi, so of course he's going to look good again when fighting straight up. He's 5-8 after the bout wile Chiyonokuni falls to the same mark.

M1 Takekaze struck M1 Ikioi and then immediately moved left dancing around the ring forcing Ikioi to give chase, and rather than put us all through the misery of watching such sumo, Takekaze went for the quick shoulder pull while Ikioi went for the do-or-die push. It looked as if Takekaze had won, but they called a mono-ii to check his feet, and I was praying at this point that they wouldn't make us watch a do-over. And they didn't...gunbai to Takekaze!! Ikioi had his right shoulder taped up pretty good, and you know what they say about what happens when guys let up in the ring. He falls to 3-10 with the loss, and I feel really bad for this guy because I still think he's the second best Japanese rikishi in the sport behind Okinoumi. As for Takekaze, he improves to a meaningless 4-9.

M2 Sokokurai stood there like a bump on a log for the most part against Komusubi Mitakeumi just playing along and going with the flow. As Sokokurai evaded around the ring in escape of Mitakeumi's shoves, he actually grabbed Mitakeumi by the left arm and had the easy tottari there for the taking, but he wasn't about taking here, so he latched on to that arm but made sure to stay square with his foe. Eventually Mitakeumi got a nice arm to the inside and scored the easy force-out win with no resistance from Sokokurai whatsoever. Watching the replay, Futenoh, who was in the mukou-joumen chair, stated that "Sokokurai was uke-sugi from the tachi-ai," or that he stood there passively and let Mitakeumi have his way too much. Uh, yeah. It's funny when they point out the truth of these bouts when one of the guys is mukiryoku as if it's meaningful sumo analysis. At least it was correct as Mitakeumi is gifted a 7-6 record while Sokokurai falls to 4-9.

It's do-or-die for Sekiwake Kotoshogiku who had to defeat Komusubi Shodai today to keep his Ozeki re-promotion hopes alive. And lucky for him, Shodai played nice today in their migi-yotsu affair just standing there upright and doing nothing with either hand as he let the former Ozeki push him straight back and out. As if. Having already suffered make-koshi, Shodai had the room to grant the Geeku the win as BlowDry falls to 4-9. As for Kotoshogiku, he moves to 8-5 and has to win out. He gets Terunofuji tomorrow, so that should be interesting. Terunofuji can still lose tomorrow and take the easy yusho, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him fall for the Geeku. I mean, Harumafuji and Kakuryu already let him win, so why wouldn't Terunofuji? I hope he doesn't, but as I like to say these days: the drama in sumo is will they or won't they?

Sekiwake Takayasu has been exposed a bit by the Mongolians the last few days, and today M4 Yoshikaze didn't show him any mercy either bringing a feisty tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai that forced Takayasu to play into his oshi hand, and after trading blows in the center of the ring, Yoshikaze easily worked his way into moro-zashi and began going for the kill. Takayasu knew he was in trouble and at least went for a desperate kubi-nage at the edge, but Yoshikaze meant business and pushed him out with ease. What was funny afterward was Kariya's total shock that Takayasu had lost yet again!! What? Isn't this guy supposed to be the next Ozeki?? Falling to 10-3 with two more chances at easy victories means he'll definitely be in the conversation for Ozeki promotion in the near future, but Takayasu is anything but an Ozeki. He's a solid guy, and we all like him, but he has totally been coddled the last little while. Yoshikaze picks up kachi-koshi with the win moving to 8-5.

Sekiwake Tamawashi's intent was to win today, so against M3 Takarafuji he did just that using perfect de-ashi and his patented tsuppari attack to bully Takarafuji upright, around the ring, and then out with little argument. If you're really bored, just watch Tamawashi's lower body in this one and then compare it to the bouts where he loses. This guy is easily #5 in the sport right now behind his fellow elite Mongolian counterparts. Tamawashi is proving to be stubborn at 7-6 when it comes to knocking him off of his Sekiwake perch while Takarafuji falls to 6-7.

The marquee bout entering the day between two guys who actually have game featured Yokozuna Kakuryu against Ozeki Terunofuji, and while we were treated to a nice bout, we got the typical weekend bout from the elite Mongolians where there are three or four uncontested maki-kae before the guy who needs the win the most pulls it out. The two started out today in migi-yotsu before Kakuryu executed an easy maki-kae giving him moro-zashi, but the Ozeki is comfortable giving that up, especially if his opponent doesn't try and do anything with it. The Kak didn't, and so Terunofuji dug in before maki-kae'ing himself with the left hand only to have Kakuryu maki-kae back to moro-zashi, and you likely get the point. After twelve seconds or so of jockeying in the ring, Terunofuji mounted a final yori charge, the Yokozuna complied without too much argument.

Do I think Terunofuji can beat Kakuryu straight up? Yes. But do I think the Kak didn't go all out here? Yes. I learned very early on with Akebono and Musashimaru in the early 90's that when they faced each other the second weekend, the dude who needed the win the most would always get it. They still put up a formidable fight similar to what you'd see in the keiko ring, and both guys were deserving of their ranks, but the one who needed the win the most got it, and that was the case here as Terunofuji moves to 12-1 while Kakuryu falls to a harmless 8-5.

As I alluded to in my intro, there's only so much a person can take whether you're an expert sumo analyst or a legitimate Yokozuna, and Harumafuji blew his top today in the day's final bout against Kisenosato. The Yokozuna rushed in for moro-zashi at the tachi-ai and easily got it against the defenseless Kisenosato, and Harumafuji wasted no time in driving his opponent straight back and hard. Kisenosato responded with an instinctive meager right kote-nage, but that was like stopping a freight train with a BB gun. Harumafuji was intent on winning this one, and he forced Harumafuji back so swiftly that he sent him off the dohyo and onto his back ringside. As the Kiddie fell down to the venue floor, he twisted a bit and landed squarely on his left shoulder.

Kisenosato knew he was hurt because while he did sit up, he was in no hurry to stand up as he immediately put his right hand to his left shoulder. Just watching Kisenosato move on the arena floor reminded me of my dad trying to get in and out of my car (a typical Honda Accord). The dude is just about 80 now, and God bless him, but he really struggles with such a simple action even though he's in otherwise good health, and the point I'm trying to make here is that Kisenosato is way beyond the stage where he should be doing sumo against guys who are out to kick his ass. Fortunately for the dude, everyone has been going light against him for the most part the last few years now, but Harumafuji was definitely out to prove a point today, and that's exactly what he did.

The fans were of course shocked at the result of today's match, especially at the way it transpired. I mean, Kisenosato did nothing at the tachi-ai; he had nothing to offer in the way of defense; and he went down in defeat in such a fashion that anybody ranked at Yokozuna should never do. Ever. This was an embarrassing bout, and the Kiddie is lucky that he doesn't get this treatment more often. A lot of people know that Kisenosato's sumo sucks, and so they chalk up all these wins to his being heavy or hard to move. Bull-shit. Harumafuji ran through this guy as if he was asked to break through a paper banner. Ichinojo is big and hard to move; Kisenosato isn't, and the proof is in the pudding. Kisenosato is such a fraud that even Bernie Madoff is taking notes from his prison cell, and I don't know what disgusts me more:  the fact that the Sumo Association is trying to pawn this stuff off on us, or the fact that so many people actually believe it.

After the dust settled, Kisenosato found himself tied with Terunofuji at 12-1 apiece heading into the weekend. Most people are saying that Kisenosato is too injured now to continue, but I say what does it matter?  If you're going to let him win, who cares if he has a broken bone?  As long as he can stand on his own two feet, it will be no different from what we've seen him do the last few years. To save face, Kisenosato will likely withdraw, which means Terunofuji is right there to clean up the yusho. Hell, Terunofuji can even lose tomorrow to Kotoshogiku and still be up one heading into senshuraku, so we'll see how that fake storyline plays out as well. The Mongolians definitely stuck a dagger into the heart of the Japanese fans today, so we'll see if Terunofuji twists it in real good tomorrow against Kotoshogiku.

I suppose I've spoken my peace, so I'll let Harvye shine on you crazy diamonds tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Harvey Hodja reporting)
Well, here we are at the end of the tournament. I look forward to finally getting some good matchups today, the top guys going against each other. However, as I look at my card, my draw feels curiously uninspired. With all those Yokozuna, my subconscious is geared up for great last days, as they should duke it out with each other and the Ozeki. Instead, one Yokozuna has withdrawn (Hakuho) as well as an Ozeki (the unneeded Goeido). That means on Day 12 I still get matchups like Terunofuji against Maegashira #5 Endo, and Kisenosato against 3-8 Maegashira Arawashi. Not the stuff sumo dreams are made of, folks. I am at least happy Takayasu is being tested against a Yokozuna for the second straight day; he draws Harumafuji. However, Harumafuji's tournament has been a lackluster befuddlement, and there is little excitement involving his matches, and lots of questions about his intentions. So it feels more and more like this tournament is simply a ceremony designed to place Lord Kisenosato lovingly atop the banzuke wedding cake.

So, as a form of protest, instead of going to the leaderboard first, I am going with a "big five" of my own: the five matches, scanning today's slate, that piqued my actual interest, rather than causing a slightly tired and dutiful skepticism.


M11 Daieisho (7-4) vs. M12 Sadanoumi (3-8)
Daieisho has fought hard all tournament and really brings it most days. He is too small to have much of a future, but every day I perk up when it is his turn. That's worth recognizing. True to form, Daieisho dominated Sadanoumi with beautiful aggression. Sadanoumi had the early momentum, knocking Daieisho back up and off the blocks, but Sadanoumi's purpose was just to set up the pull. Daieisho kept his balance when the pull came, then stood back up and recalibrated the whole match with a sharp left thrust to the face. From there, he deployed hard, focused tsuppari to drive Sadanoumi emphatically out, drawing the tsuki-dashi decision. This kind of thing right here is enough to keep me watching.

M7 Ichinojo (5-6) vs. M13 Takakeisho (7-4)
I'm not sold on Takakeisho yet, but he's big, young, and has done well this tournament, so I'm still watching. He's not tainted by scandal yet, and had a big test here against a large guy way out of his league. So, that's worth recognizing. But I'll be honest: as good as the Daieisho-Sadanoumi match was, this one was lame. Ichinojo was kind of following Takakeisho around the edge of the ring, standing up, moving slow, with one long Mongolith arm fished down in front with a shallow and ineffective grip on the belt. Takakeisho was pulling on that arm and running for his life. When Takakeisho got to the edge Ichinojo, instead of changing his sideways-moving momentum to push Takakeisho straight out, kept moving sideways. Takakeisho took advantage by unleashing a last minute left arm to the shoulder, and damned if it didn't knock Ichinojo right over sideways just as Takakeisho dramatically fell backwards out of the ring but got a surprise tsuki-otoshi win. This looked great at the end--there's no doubt Takakeisho pulled a nice "gyaku-ten" move--but it was set up by lazy, vulnerable sumo by Ichinojo and weak initial stuff by Takakeisho.

M4 Yoshikaze (6-5) vs. M7 Chiyoshoma (8-3)
If you haven't noticed, I'm hot for Chiyoshoma. He still has projection left for his frame: he is wily and strong, and as he adds weight, if he remains limber, he may yet be great. I'd like to see him change and use his strength more and his wiliness, but he's one guy giving me a little electric thrill when it's his turn. That's worth recognizing. However, Yoshikaze is experienced and a quality guy, and Chiyoshoma wasn't able to manifest any of his strength against him. If this were baseball, we'd say, "Chiyoshoma has natural raw power, but sometimes has trouble getting to it in games." Chiyoshoma stuck his left arm in Yoshikaze's right armpit and placed his right arm over Yoshikaze's shoulder. That left Chiyoshoma a standing duck. Yoshikaze drove forward and thrust him out with a lovely shove that sent him rolling up against the first row as Yoshikaze himself sprawled out, oshi-taoshi. Like the Ichinojo-Takakeisho bout, attractive ending.

M2 Sokokurai (3-8) vs. M5 Hokutofuji (5-6)
Hokutofuji runs a close second for me to Chiyoshoma in terms of natural interest. Guy has solid sumo, has never had a losing basho, and has fought back from a bad start to have a chance at another kachi-koshi. I'm dreading the inevitable phase when he gets more recognition and begins to draw hype and favors, but that hasn't happened yet, so he's fun to watch. That's worth recognizing. Hokutofuji did well early on to keep the dangerous Sokokurai off him with some hard shoves, but when he got the belt, where he could have dominated Sokokurai, he wasted it by pulling. Sokokurai took advantage by breaking loose and creating separation, and this time when Hokutofuji came in on him, Sokokurai caught him off balance and dragged him down by the shoulder, kata-sukashi. Hokutofuji looked inexperienced here, and it will be very hard to get his kachi-koshi now. But I remain enamored, and will watch that with more interest than Mitakeumi's similar uphill kachi-koshi climb.

M3 Shohozan (3-8) vs. M2 Takanoiwa (3-8)
Folks, Shohozan fights hard and is mean and focused in the ring. Takanoiwa I don't like, but I do recognize that he has some skills, has risen steadily but slowly up the banzuke, and does begin to bring a "this guy is dangerous" glimmer to some of his matches. So, neither of these guys are real exciting at this point in their careers, but sometimes a 3-8 record isn't what's important--it's what potential we have for a good, hard hitting sumo match. That's worth recognizing. Shohozan shaded left at the tachi-ai, but was all aggression after that. However, Takanoiwa is too big, and too good. As little Darth Hozan surged against him, Takanoiwa deftly circled the perimeter of the ring, and he had plenty of room to put his arms around Shohozan's body kime-style and spin him down, hataki-komi.

Well, I'll admit those weren't all great matches in the end. But they were more fun for me than wondering whether Kisenosato's opponents are letting up or not. Speaking of which…


M14 Myogiryu (5-6) vs. M10 Tochiohzan (10-1)
A good symbolic match to start the tale of why the leaderboard is about as inspiring as stale crackers. Tochiohzan, allegedly hot on the trail of the leaders, facing a dying scrub who has looked desperate and helpless, stood up, backed up, and stepped out, offering no pressure, no grips, little evasion, and really no sumo at all. You or I could have pushed him out, and Myogiryu easily did, yori-kiri.

M5 Endo (6-5) vs. O Terunofuji (10-1)
Fuji the Terrible is having a great tournament. And Endo is overrated. But I do think Terunofuji has had weaknesses exposed over the last year--rather than just giving up on purpose all the time. And I do think Endo has enough savvy to get some legitimate wins at this level. In this match Endo made Terunofuji work very, very hard. Terunofuji spent too much time on face slaps, and Endo did a good job of knocking away Terunofuji's arms. Hence, Terunofuji, instead of going in and under, where he could have dominated the smaller man, went over, trying his patented two-hands-down-the-back-and-onto-the-belt-at-the-ass move. But he only got one over-the-shoulder hand onto the belt, and Endo burrowed in well and got a left inside on Terunofuji's open belt. Moments later, Endo also had moro-zashi, as Terunofuji was 100% exposed. Endo drove him to the straw. This gave us one of those great rooting moments: whether you're cheering for Endo to knock him the last few inches over, or for Terunofuji to survive against all odds, it's one of sumo's classic moments. In this case, looking desperate and straining hard, Terunofuji was able to exert his full weight and strength and pick Endo up onto his belly, via that over-the-shoulder back-belt grip, and move him back to the center of the ring. At that point, with the scales having tipped, little Endo was literally overwhelmed, as he tottered a bit and fell over backwards, pulling Terunofuji on top of him, abise-taoshi. I liked this very much.

M4 Arawashi (3-8) vs. Y Kisenosato (11-0)
This? This was fine, but boring. They bumped into each other in the center of the ring, and Kisenosato put his big, long left arm under Arawashi's right arm like a lever. He moved forward, and Arawashi wasn't heavy enough or near strong enough, and though he was able to pull the charging and off balance Kisenosato down underneath and left him lying on his back outside the ring in his un-favorite position ("the turtle") in the end, it was much too late as Kisenosato had already knocked him well past the straw, yori-kiri.

Y Harumafuji (8-3) vs. S Takayasu (10-1)
Harumafuji meant business and utterly destroyed Takayasu. First he hit him hard on the tachi-ai and stopped his momentum cold. Second he reached his right arm in and got a hold of the belt in front and drove him back. Third he let go and took possession of the exposed and befuddled Takayasu entirely by wrapping his right arm around his body and being so close up inside he got his left arm around Takayasu's leg, like he was awkwardly carrying a bag of sod to the garden to be dropped near the flower beds. And dropped he was, komata-sukui. Zoinks. Now that's some Yokozuna sumo.


J2 Gagamaru (5-6) vs. M14 Kyokushuho (3-8)
Gagamaru oozed onto Kyokushuho in a lazy way with his arms up too high, and though going backwards, Kyokushuho was able to get a solid, powerful inside left. He easily turned Gagamaru around and dumped him to the dirt, shitate-nage.

M10 Tochinoshin (4-7) vs. M16 Nishikigi (4-7)
After a moment Tochinoshin grabbed Nishikigi by the head and twisted and upended him, sukui-nage. Very easy to see who the better wrestler is when your knee is a glass jar of dry marbles and gravel and yet you can still win this easily.

M9 Kagayaki (4-7) vs. M13 Daishomaru (6-5)
Daishomaru was backing up and waiting for a pull chance, but Kagayaki kept his thrusts focused to the inside and Daishomaru in front him, so it was nothing doing. Daishomaru then slipped and fell down, hiki-otoshi.

M8 Kaisei (2-9) vs. M9 Kotoyuki (2-9)
Kotoyuki has begun to remind me of Chiyotairyu or Toyohibiki: a comical one trick pony who may get a win here or there with some powerful opening tsuppari and thrusts, but doesn't have any other weapons and is a sitting duck once that fails. He defied that here, though, as he beat Kaisei despite the match getting a big loosey-goosey. Kotoyuki's initial thrust did not work, nor did a little pull he tried thereafter. But he didn't let Kaisei lean on him or grab hold of him: instead he kept him a bit at bay and standing up, and off-balance enough that he was able to drive him out. They called it tsuki-dashi, but I'd call it Kaisei-lame-o.

M15 Tokushoryu (8-3) vs. M8 Okinoumi (6-5)
Tokushoryu has had a pretty good tournament, dominating the guys lower down with his girth, but he isn't a quality wrestler, whereas Okinoumi is actually quite talented: big and supple (Tokushoryu: obese and unwieldy). Hence, although Tokushoryu appeared to have slightly better, lower position in this chest-to-chest, hold-my-body battle, Okinoumi took his time and used his superior strength and conditioning to work Tokushoryu out, yori-kiri.

M6 Chiyonokuni (7-4) vs. M11 Ishiura (6-5)
Chiyonokuni chose not to move forward at the tachi-ai. Boring for us, good for him. As Ishiura attacked with wild flying arms from across the great distance, face looking down at the dirt, Chiyonokuni waited for the right moment to slap the little guy out of the way, tsuki-otoshi. I remain thoroughly unimpressed by Ishiura's future prospects: not good when you make Chiyonokuni look like a powerful giant.

M12 Ura (6-5) vs. M6 Aoiyama (5-6)
I expected to love Ura. You know what? Instead I can't stand him. He had nothing of value to offer here. Aoiyama levered him up by the shoulders, slapped him down in front of his feet, hataki-komi. Ura is going to have to do two things to earn respect: his tricks, if he's going to fight that way, are going to have to bring a "wow" factor. Impress with innovation. It shouldn't be, well, I suppose he had to do that." It should be, "wow, he did THAT?!?" Second, he's going to have to be able to fight straight up sometimes and not have it look silly. So far, he's either looking cheap with the trickery or getting dominated in the straight-up stuff.

K Mitakeumi (5-6) vs. M1 Takekaze (3-8)
Takekaze pushed once, lamely and tentatively, then pulled and pulled, like a guy miming beating a rug. Gratifying to see Mitakeumi have no problem with that at all and drive him out, oshi-dashi.

M1 Ikioi (2-9) vs. K Shodai (4-7)
Oh, man. Japan's next Yokozuna, Vanilla Softcream (Shodai), looked bad in this one. Shodai got a left hand inside early, but Ikioi easily pivoted his hips to get out of it. Shodai then get a hold of Ikioi's right arm and tried to drag him out of the ring by that, both guys facing the same direction and doing a little dosie-do, but Ikioi grabbed him by the head and pried him himself loose by using it as leverage. Shodai was then at the straw and in danger, but instead of getting beaten by Ikioi, he ran out of gas and fell down on his own like a wet rag, hiki-otoshi. Ikioi is the guy I'd rather see put it together, but we've been waiting years for that and at 3-9 once again there's still no sign of consistency when ranked in the jo'i.

S Kotoshogiku (7-4) vs. M3 Takarafuji (5-6)
I considered this for my big five, as I like Takarafuji--he's a hidden, underestimated, quiet talent--but the presence of Kotoshogiku was just too damning. Well hallelujah, that presence may at last be coming to an end. Takarafuji let Kotoshogiku drive him back with belly humps, and even let Kotoshogiku have both arms inside. However, there was nothing in it. The belly humps were weak, and the moro-zashi was exceptionally shallow. Takarafuji then made it look extremely easy as he lifted Kotoshogiku with his left and pulled him down with his right, tipping him down hataki-komi. One more loss and Kotoshogiku is denied re-promotion to Ozeki. Let us pray.

S Tamawashi (5-6) vs. Y Kakuryu (8-3)
Look, there is no doubt about it: just as matches are arranged in favor of Japanese wrestlers, Mongolians also frequently arrange matches amongst themselves, and this site has covered that since well before I was writing here. From the well documented Asashoryu gifts to Hakuho, to Hakuho's gifts to Asashoryu once the pendulum swung, to the all-too-easy Yokozuna runs of Harumafuji and Kakuryu, to the frustrating final days of Terunofuji's yusho when he was allowed to coast rather than earning it. So yeah, I look on matches like this one with a very jaded eye: it didn't make my top five today because even though Tamawashi belongs in that five, Kakuryu knows that, has little to lose either way, and so we enter this one full of doubts about whether the meal we're about to be served is fresh-cooked or just defrosted and microwaved. In the end, this was Tamawashi at his best, while Kakuryu stood there and took a thorough pounding. Tamawashi looked huge, and every thrust and stab landed right down in Kakuryu's neck. Tamawashi then tried something different, sending a roundhouse uppercut into Kakuryu's right armpit that knocked Kakuryu clear across the ring. Tamawashi was quickly on him there, and bashed him out with ease and emphasis, two hands to the grill, oshi-dashi. Boy, oh boy, do I love Tamawashi.

Guess what? For all my carping, my favorite three matches of the day were powerful wins by highly ranked Mongolians: Terunofuji, Harumafuji, and Tamawashi. (Honorable mention to Daieisho.) Okay, I'll keep watching.

As for the yusho race, it's down to two guys: Kisenosato with zero losses and Terunofuji with one.

Mike scales the wall tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
With four Yokozuna listed on the banzuke for the Haru basho, each day NHK has been going back and broadcasting what they are calling "Yokozuna Mei-shoubu," or epic bouts between two Yokozuna. The bouts have been pretty fun to watch, and they have all involved Yokozuna who were fighting when it actually meant something to achieve the rank, and I can't help but watch the bouts and then compare them to the kind of bouts we see today between Yokozuna. Furthermore, with four days to go and Kisenosato having yet to fight the three big Mongolians still in the tournament, it will be interesting to see what kind of sumo we get and how those bouts compare to the Yokozuna Mei-shoubu of yesteryear.

I've been harping on this for a long time, but even when Kisenosato or any of the other Big 5 fight, it's never a mei-shoubu or epic bout. In fact, there's very little substance there to describe because one party is likely mukiryoku, or the Big 5 rikishi is getting his ass kicked when forced to fight straight up. In my opinion, you can't have your pudding if you don't eat your meat, and the Big 5 are simply incapable of producing any meat atop the dohyo at THIS LEVEL of the banzuke. Sure, pair the younger ones up against guys from way down the banzuke, and they can actually fight normally because 1) it reflects where they really should be ranked on the banzuke, and 2) the Big 5 do have sumo skill. They just don't have it among the elite ranks of the sport, and it's obvious when you watch it day after day and then see the epic bouts from previous times. If these guys really were legit, we'd see the type of sumo from them that we see from everybody else...at least some of the time. Rank and record in today's brand of sumo is simply inconsequential, and that's why it's so hard to get a good bout the last 40 minutes of the day.

The broadcast began today with news that M15 Chiyooh withdrew due to a big right toe break suffered during keiko back February. The withdrawal will send Chiyooh down to Juryo while Takakeisho moves to 7-4 with the freebie.

M12 Ura ducked left and stayed low grabbing M14 Kyokushuho's right leg while Kyokushuho latched onto the back of Ura's belt with the left hand from the tachi-ai, but before Kyokushuho could raise his guy up with the right inside, Ura drove him to the edge and forced him across with a sideways battering ram shove with the head and shoulder. The crowd wasn't sure who won, so as sure as Ura took the winning squat (hey, I do that most mornings!!), the Osaka faithful erupted in applause...as I'm sure they would have done if Kyokushuho had won since there is no bias in sumo in regards to a rikishi's race. Anyway, the point is that if the crowd doesn't know who won until the squat, the sumo was probably suspect as is usually the case with Ura who moves to 6-5. As for Kyokushuho, he'll need to rehab in Juryo next basho at 3-8.

M12 Sadanoumi and M15 Tokushoryu hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Sadanoumi got the right outer grip, and while Tokushoryu didn't have the right outer on the other side, Sadanoumi played right into Tokushoryu's hands forcing Tokushoryu back a step before allowing Tokushoryu to twist him over and down with the left inside belt grip. I'm not sure if it was intentional or not, but Sadanoumi attacked from the wrong angle. When you have the outer grip and your opponent doesn't, you take the proper angle and attack from the strong side (the outer grip). I mean, it's why you try and get the outer in the first place, but Sadanoumi completely ignored his advantage and drifted to the weak side totally allowing Tokushoryu to score the easy win despite not having the upper hand. So...this was either yaocho on the part of Sadaunomi or a blatant mistake that gave Tokushoryu kachi-koshi at 8-3. Sadanoumi falls to 3-8 with the loss.

M11 Daieisho played it brilliantly today against M16 Nishikigi firing quick tsuppari to keep him upright, and when he sensed the timing was right, he jumped in close getting the left inside, and from there he was able to score the easy force-out win. The difference here was that Daieisho's tsuppari blows were offensive while Nishikigi was on defense from the git-go as we say in Utah. Daieisho is a cool 7-4 while Nishikigi is likely headed back to Juryo as well finishing 4-7.

M9 Kotoyuki used a left kachi-age for the first few seconds to keep M11 Ishiura upright, and as Ishiura looked to evade laterally and back, Kotoyuki finally committed on his tsuppari charge, but he hadn't put a chink in Ishiura's armor yet whatsoever, and so Ishiura was able to back up to the edge and pull Kotoyuki down before he could shove Ishiura across. Kotoyuki hasn't had confidence in his sumo since his oyakata paid for his 12-3 record in January 2016 as he falls to a horrible 2-9 record. As for Ishiura, he's one up in the win column at 6-5.

M14 Myogiryu got the left arm inside from the tachi-ai as M8 Okinoumi had both arms out wide before he used his own left to try and grab the frontal grip, but it was too late, and he could never latch on which resulted in moro-zashi for Myogiryu, and so Myogiryu scored the quick force-out win in mere seconds. I question Okinoumi's tactics today because he gave up moro-zashi far too easily and made basic mistakes at the tachi-ai which rendered him doomed as doom can be. I mean, it's not as if Myogiryu is out there kicking everyone's ass, so I suspect yaocho here as Myogiryu moves to 5-6 while Okinoumi falls to 6-5. In Myogiryu's case, he's ranked M14, so he's gotta finish with seven wins to guarantee is place in the big dance in May.

If you're still trying to figure out my comments on Sadanoumi, just watch the M7 Chiyoshoma - M13 Daishomaru matchup where Chiyoshoma got the right inside at the tachi-ai that set up the solid left outer grip, and from there he attacked using the outer grip to lift Daishomaru upright and nudge him back once and then twice. After two such motions, Daishomaru was finished resulting in the easy, textbook win. Chiyoshoma's sumo was natural here as he moves to a stellar 8-3 while Daishomaru ain't too shabby falling to 6-5.

M7 Ichinojo and M10 Tochinoshin hooked up in migi-yotsu from the start where Tochinoshin used his longer left arm to grab the outer grip as the Mongolith drove him back a step or two, but Ichinojo had all the momentum and used a mammoth right scoop throw to send Tochinoshin back across the dohyo and break off his outer grip, and from there, Ichinojo just kept his gal in snug and scored the easy force out win. You look at the way Ichinojo used his de-ashi here today, and his potential is absolutely scary. Too bad that Sith Lord Hakkaku called for order 666 that resulted in the destruction of foreign dominance in sumo. Ichinojo finishes the day at 5-6 while Tochinoshin probably needs one more win to stay in the division at 4-7 while ranked M10.

M6 Aoiyama went for a quick pull against M9 Kagayaki at the tachi-ai, and Kagayaki just doesn't have the game to take advantage of that, and so the kid moved right as a result of that initial pull, but he couldn't square back up fully before Aoiyama was all over him like white to rice scoring the push-out in the end. Straight-forward stuff here to break down as Aoiyama improves to 5-6 while Kagayaki falls to 4-7.

M10 Tochiohzan henka'd as usual today moving to his right at the tachi-ai, but he couldn't quite pull M6 Chiyonokuni down, and so the bout was on for real as both rikishi quickly hooked up in migi-yotsu where Tochiohzan went for the hurried force-out win. At the edge, Chiyonokuni easily had enough room to step out left and execute a right kote-nage, and the result was a classic nage-no-uchi-ai that we never see the last 30 minutes in sumo because one party is always mukiryoku or the other is just plain inept. Both Tochiohzan and Chiyonokuni crashed down at the same time beyond the straw, and the ref flinched towards Oh before switching to Chiyonokuni, so a mono-ii was called that resulted in a do-over...the correct call.

The do-over was just awful as Chiyonokuni henka'd left, but he couldn't execute a move as Tochiohzan caught him with a nice right tsuki, so with Kuni just standing there like a dumbass, Tochiohzan rushed in, grabbed moro-zashi, and scored the win with ease. Tochiohza moves to 10-1 with the win while Chiyonokuni falls to 7-4, and I think it's a little premature to declare Tochiohzan out of the fake yusho race. He's fighting nothing but scrubs, and he's using the henka seemingly every bout. As an aside, I've been pointing out for a year or more now that Tochiohzan cannot fight at the belt without moro-zashi, and that point was made clear in both bouts today.

M5 Hokutofuji played it perfectly today keeping M8 Kaisei upright and away from the belt with nodowa shoves and pushes to the body, and Kaisei simply couldn't move laterally sufficiently enough to set anything up, and so Hokutofuji patiently waited for an opening, assumed moro-zashi when said opening came, and then forced Kaisei back easy as you please. Hokutofuji is street smart and such a joy to watch as he improves to 5-6 while Kaisei falls to 2-9. Ranked at M8, you gotta think Kaisei needs to scrounge up two more wins to stay afloat for May.

M2 Takanoiwa came with a right kachi-age and then immediately went into pull mode against M5 Endoh. If Endoh does one thing well, it's keeping his balance when he's ducked down low, but he doesn't counter well at all, and so it took about three pulls, but Takanoiwa was finally able to pull Endoh out of the dohyo for good. Ugly stuff here as Takanoiwa moves to just 3-8 while Endoh falls to 6-5.

M3 Takarafuji kept both arms in tight at the tachi-ai and was passive against M1 Takekaze waiting to see what the Oguruma rikishi would do. And the answer to that was not a whole helluva lot, but Takarafuji just seemed content to stand there not really using his arms to do anything, and so Takekaze just moved this way and that before finally pulling Takarafuji over and out by the arm. This was a curious bout for sure as Takekaze moves to 3-8 while Takarafuji falls to 5-6.

M2 Sokokurai was mukiryoku from the tachi-ai aligning his feet and standing upright signaling to Komusubi Shodai, "Do me now!" And Shodai did getting his left arm inside first before finding the right arm inside as well after zero defense from Sokokurai, and the force-out from there was laughable. Shodai moves to 4-7, and the goal now is to just keep him among the jo'i while Sokokurai willingly falls to 3-8.

Speaking of mukiryoku sumo--from a foreign rikishi of course, Sekiwake Tamawashi came with his usual tsuppari attack, but there was no lower body behind it, and not only that but he purposefully aligned his feet in the center of the ring rendering him useless. As he continued to fire away with little effect, Shohozan finally drove forward with tsuppari of his own, and as he did, Tamawashi instinctively moved right and put a right hand at the back of Shohozan's left shoulder, but the tug was half-assed and once again there were no de-ashi there to finish off his opponent when he was off balance at the edge, and so Shohozan countered with his own pull before the two finally hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Shohozan had the right outer grip. From this position, Tamawashi just stood there and allowed himself to be thrown over. I realize that the outer grip is advantageous, but when Shohozan executed his throw, Tamawashi did nothing with his right arm just letting it slide down limply along with the rest of his body down to the clay. Total mukiryoku sumo here from Tamawashi, and I'm sorry that you didn't see it as The Mawashi falls to 5-6 while Shohozan improves to just 3-8.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku moved out left to grab the cheap outer grip against M1 Ikioi, but the dude is so hapless he couldn't get it. The result was Ikioi with the right inside and clear path to the left outer grip as seen in the pic at right, but he refused to go chest to chest and just finish the Geeku off letting the left arm just hang there. The problem was the Kotoshogiku is so hapless he could do nothing, and so Ikioi went for a light pull backing up, and Kotoshogiku just crumbled to the dirt. You could tell by Ikioi's reaction afterwards that he was surprised he won because that was not his intent today. He immediately looked left and then right down at his feet as if to say, "Damn...I'm still in the dohyo!!" The problem was that Ikioi had to do SOMETHING in the ring, and Kotoshogiku was just too weak to respond. That they're trying to still pass the Geeku off as a potential Ozeki is just laughable, and today's loss was huge as the former Ozeki in name only falls to 7-4 meaning he can't lose twice more. Hope the dude is Christina and believes in mercy. As for Ikioi, he mistakenly improves to 2-9 with the win.

What? A great bout the last 40 minutes of the day?? Oh right, it involves two Mongolians trying to beat each other. Thing 1 was Ozeki Terunofuji, who has been reaching for the frontal belt grip a lot this basho, and he got it here against Thing 2, M4 Arawashi today. However, Arawashi got the right outer against Terunofuji's left frontal and pinched in nicely before using it to lift the Ozeki upright and force him back to the straw. But Terunofuji is in his element with his heels on the bales, and he was able to work his right arm to the inside giving him moro-zashi light and enabling him to fend off Arawashi's initial force-out charge. As the dust resettled, Terunofuji came away with the left outer grip, and coupled with his stifling right inside, there was little Arawashi could do from this point. After catching his breath after the initial onslaught, Terunofuji lifted Arawashi clear off his feet going for the tsuri-dashi, but it fell just short, and so the Ozeki regrouped one more time and felled his foe with the left outer grip. This was a great bout of o-zumo as declared by the announcers mid-bout that we just don't see anymore from these parts. Terunofuji moves to 10-1 with the win while Arawashi falls to 3-8, and I'm guessing the same resolve to win will be absent tomorrow as Arawashi faces Kisenosato.

Yokozuna Harumafuji demanded the left inside right outer grip at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Mitakeumi, and Mitakeumi was just defenseless as Harumafuji lifted him upright and forced his Komusubi ass back and out with no resistance. Harumafuji picks up kachi-koshi at 8-3, but all the drama left surrounding this Yokozuna is whether or not he'll chose to defeat Kisenosato. Mitakeumi falls to 5-6.

Yokozuna Kakuryu used a flurry of tsuppari against Sekiwake Takayasu before grabbing the right outer grip and settling in with the left inside as well. Kakuryu's left was toi, or far away, and so the Yokozuna couldn't attack straight way, but Takayasu really wasn't in position to counter well. Give him credit to the Sekiwake for unleashing an inside belt throw with the left that knocked the Yokozuna off his game briefly, but Kakuryu was able to regroup quickly and maintain that right outer grip, so when the next inside belt throw attempt came, Kakuryu was able to survive again and counter on his own by dragging Takayasu across the dohyo and out. Kakuryu picks up the win and kachi-koshi moving to 8-3 while Takayasu suffers a costly first loss at 10-1 in terms of the yufaux race.

In the day's final bout, M4 Yoshikaze was his usual busy self against Kisenosato using a nice tsuppari attack to keep Kisenosato at bay and on his heels, and after a few seconds Yoshikaze ducked his head and mounted a more serious charge that sent Kisenosato back towards the straw and the crowd screaming in horror, but credit Kisenosato for using a right kote-nage to halt Yoshikaze's charge as light as the move was, but as the two hooked back up, Yoshikaze got the deep inside position with the left and drove Kisenosato back to the other side of the dohyo, and this time there was nothing Kisenosato could do to counter, so Yoshikaze stopped his charge and waited for Kisenosato to shove him to the side whereupon Yoshikaze happily just stood there with his back facing Kisenosato letting him push Cafe out from behind. After the bout, once again the announcers were left to sigh and say, "Well, what do you think?" Fortunately the drums started playing as the broadcast was out of time, so everyone was left off the hook, and I think it's best that they didn't show a replay in this one. Clear yaocho yet again from a Kisenosato opponent who could have defeated his foe twice today but just let up. Yoshikaze still finds himself at 6-5 while Kisenosato is...hmm..."spotless" isn't quite the word. Let's just say his record reflects 11-0, and I'm pretty sure we're witnessing a new record in sumo here: most consecutive yaocho in favor of a rikishi which currently stands at 16.

I suppose that Kisenosato is the favorite to yusho, but it's up to the will of the Mongolians the last four days. Regardless of the yusho, get your barf bags ready because guess whose going to be ranked as the top rikishi on the banzuke for May? Absolutely pathetic.

Harvye makes the final cut for day 12 tomorrow.

Day 10 Comments (Harvey Hodja reporting)
I suppose we are around the time we should look at the leaderboard. With the Mongolians wrestling very badly, Kisenosato has been allowed to coast, and has looked good doing it, dumping his weight on other wrestlers and forcing them out with seeming ease. His only competition has been Takayasu, who has looked great, for the most part knocking guys down with abandon in hard-hitting sumo. They're stablemates, so can't face each other except in a playoff. I don't think that will happen, but you never know--the ice they're skating on is looking pretty thick. Meanwhile twenty-five year old Terunofuji is having his best tournament since 2015, and is a legitimate threat to take the yusho if interested. Tochiohzan is not a legit yusho threat and is your token Maegashira guy hanging in there by having a good tournament. Those are the four leaders. Neither of the two-loss guys (Kakuryu, Chiyoshoma) are legitimately in it. So, here's how we stack up on Day 10:

9-0: Lord Kisenosato, Takayasu
8-1: Terunofuji, Tochiohzan

Let's take it from there.


M13 Daishomaru (6-3) vs. M10 Tochiohzan (8-1)
Chestnut Heart (Tochiohzan) was first up amongst the leaders. This featured about the simplest, tiniest little henka you'll ever see. Daishomaru had both fists on the ground and deserves no better than a henka anyway, so Tochiohzan looked down on him from the towering heights of M10, and saw him crouching there on the ground like a poison toad, so Tochiohzan probably thought, I'm just going to get out of here. He moved a tiny bit to the left and tapped the coiled toad in token contact as it slid past underneath, and the toad touched the ground with his hands a few inches away from where it had started, hataki-komi. And they called it sumo.

M2 Takanoiwa (2-7) vs. S Takayasu (9-0)
Dance party Osaka! The beats were pumpin' and the joint was jumpin'! These two cool cats got their funky choreography down for a two-step jitterbug. First on the orchestra was Takanoiwa, leaping in an electric slide to the left at the tachi-ai. Next up was Takayasu, doing the hop--one hop forward, then stop, pop! Come on, vogue. Next move was hizn, shuck and jive to the right, and swing those arms round your pardner's neck, now! At which point Takanoiwa did a new dance called the frog and put his hands on the dirt, hataki-komi. Yee, haw! As you can see, I don't know much about dance. I do know sumpin' ‘bout sumo, though, and since there wasn't much of that going on here, well, dance it is! They'd both agreed on what record to play too, I fear: "I Henka You, Then You Henka Me, Okay?"

K Shodai (3-6) vs. O Terunofuji (8-1)
Shodai wiped his nose just before liftoff here, having eaten too much bhut jolokia no doubt, but Terunofuji didn't mind and let Shodai rest that nose on his shoulder for most of the match, like a nan bread draped on the side of the tandoori oven. Meanwhile, Terunofuji reached in under and got the belt, a handful of butter chicken. He was slow to get on with drinking his mango lassi though, so Shodai wisely maki-kae'd, getting morozashi, and put the bigger man in danger of rolling off the plate like a samosa. Now Terunofuji had to force the action, pressing down and pinching and pushing in the kime position, which always makes me think of keema curry for no good reason. Anyhoo, Terunofuji was not able to shove Shodai out with all this keema slathering, so he reversed tactics and slung him into the curry pot, uwate-nage, like a fistful of paneer.

S Tamawashi (5-4) vs. Y Kisenosato (9-0)
I figured if there was one guy who would go ahead and beat Lord Kisenosato, he with his little piggy eyes and his pouty expression, it would hard-hitting up-and-comer Tamawashi. However, after the tachi-ai, when it looked like Tamawashi was going to sweep out and back and away and pull Lordy by the arm and fell him to the unforgiving clay like a used mop, instead they stopped and stood stock still and sought for position. Tamawashi, frozen in everlasting beauty like the Venus de Milo, moved not a bit and got nothing. Lord Kiss Kiss, however, got a big handful of brocade. That secured, one little push, and oops! Venus de Milo was yori-kiri'ed out, sent off to art smugglers in the backlot for cheap.

So, all four of our winners won. Now:

10-0: Lord Kisenosato, Takayasu
9-1: Terunofuji, Tochiohzan


M12 Sadanoumi (3-6) vs. M16 Nishikigi (3-6)
Sadanoumi grabbed his darling dear by the cheeks and pushed his face in as if to smooch his sweetie. "Is that Old Spice aftershave, darlin'," he whispered. But Nishikigi is a dirty old leprechaun and put his hands into Sadanoumi's armpits, chortling "is that Mennen musk speed stick deodorant be-slicking my fingers?" Sadanoumi was so shocked by this he swooned, letting Nishikigi drive him backwards onto the bed in a violent oshi-dashi paroxysm. Once I saw Iggy Pop on the David Letterman show. "What have you been up to?" Letterman asked. "You know, lickin' pits," said Iggy.

M15 Chiyooh (3-6) vs. M12 Ura (4-5)
Steak, steak, eat more steak. The more fat on it, the more it quakes. Chiyooh is like a little gobbet of suet, grilled to limp and jiggly hot dampness. Ura skewered him on his arms and drove him off the medina that way, oshi-dashi.

M11 Daieisho (5-4) vs. M14 Myogiryu (4-5)
Daieisho won by oshi-dashi; I did not see it, though. Sorry.

M13 Takakeisho (6-3) vs. M11 Ishiura (4-5)
Like Ura in the match before him, Ishiura just got low, stuck his arms out, and hoped something good would happen. Lo! As Takakeisho slapped fecklessly at him, all arms and no feet, Ishiura found Takakeisho's belt in his hand, then knocked him over backwards on his rotund rear, like Big Bill Broonzy felled in a barroom brawl, bouldered back off the dohyo, oshi-taoshi. Cool.

M10 Tochinoshin (4-5) vs. M14 Kyokushuho (2-7)
I'm sorry, I did not see this one either. However, the innernet informs me that Kyokushuho won, yori-kiri. I am saddened to report that I have hereby in one day doubled my previous total of missed matches on reporting days (missed Chiyoshoma vs. Seiro on Natsu Day 5, 2016). I am sorry.

M15 Tokushoryu (6-3) vs. M7 Chiyoshoma (7-2)
As I suffer from the sin of gluttony, if I found a can of Spam on the counter, it is possible I would eat the whole thing cold. And if there was a giant tub of spam towering there on the kitchen counter, hot and about to fall on me, why, I just might grab hold of that with both arms and try to eat it too. Of course, that would probably kill me. Which is just exactly what happened to Chiyoshoma, crushed under a heap of falling Spam, his arms wrapped around it and its globby arms wrapped around him, abisetaoshi.

M6 Chiyonokuni (6-3) vs. M9 Kotoyuki (2-7)
Kotoyuki mistook himself for a jack-in-the-box, which was a bad mistake, because being fat and round and heavy, when he tried to spring up and henka at the opening of the tachi-ai box, he just kind of ludderly lumbered to the side like a lolloping galoot. Chiyonokuni was having none of that, and squared up to face Kotoyuki's crazy wild arm swings. Not finding that to his liking, Chiyonokuni stepped to the side, and Kotoyuki fell haplessly on his face and rolled forward across the dohyo in a ridiculous exaggerated looking manner, hiki-otoshi, like a barrel of peat moss down the side of a berm.

M8 Okinoumi (5-4) vs. M6 Aoiyama (4-5)
Aoiyama must have been very proud of the wicked, arm-removing tottari slinging-through-the-air that he accomplished against Okinoumi here, and indeed it did look beautiful, Okinoumi airborn like a paper airplane made of flesh. However, Aoiyama admired it so intensely he paid no attention to the fact that while he was ogling his heel was landing in the soft sand outside the straw, giving the hang-gliding Okinoumi an oshi-dashi win after they checked with a mono-ii.

M9 Kagayaki (4-5) vs. M5 Hokutofuji (3-6)
As usual Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki), who looks so terrible the first few days, has secretly mounted a comeback while I wasn't paying attention and is now on the verge of an even record. "Hah!" said Hokutofuji, though, knowing he is much the better wrestler, and mangled him this way and that with his arms, getting him all un-linear and off-kilter, and if his final push down of his man, oshi-taoshi, was with one open palm to the ass (and oh, it was), it couldn't be helped because Mosquito was so floppy at that moment the ass cheek was all that was on offer.

M8 Kaisei (2-7) vs. M4 Arawashi (2-7)
Arawashi's plan was to lead the blubberous Kaisei around the ring in a circle until he fell down, and this worked, tsuki-otoshi. So remember that the next time a really fat guy attacks you in a round place.

M7 Ichinojo (3-6) vs. M3 Takarafuji (5-4)
The Iron Blob of Gravity Grease (that would be Ichinojo) employed a lovely choke hold with his left arm, but the real action was on the right, where Takarafuji was working to get something but couldn't. And when he couldn't, he pulled the arm, and that was a bad idea because he lost all his momentum and found he had just toppled a wall of bricks into himself. Oshi-dashi win for the Blob.

M2 Sokokurai (3-6) vs. M3 Shohozan (1-8)
Darth Hozan had the best tachi-ai of the day, standing Sokokurai straight up and maybe even dazing him slightly, because for a moment Sokokurai stood tall there as if pausing to say "doy?" Darth sprang all over him and was in his chops and grill like drano in a u-bend, scouring him out, yori-kiri.

K Mitakeumi (4-5) vs. M1 Ikioi (1-8)
Too many henkas today. Mitakeumi's caveat was to stand up for a split second as if not henka'ing, then move to the side and grab Ikioi's belt way on the back and usher him out from behind, okuri-dashi. There is an excellent potato whiskey in Japan called "Mitake." I think I am going to go belt back a few glasses of that now.

S Kotoshogiku (6-3) vs. M1 Takekaze (2-7)
Shlorp! Takekaze was sucked up into Kotoshogiku's paper-shredder arms like your unguarded necktie. Kotoshogiku then kindly switched off the paper shredder and reversed it, and lookee here what didn't fall right out of it: Takekaze, who sunk to the ground in front of him, kote-nage. This was very silly stuff, ladies and gentlemen.

M4 Yoshikaze (5-4) vs. Y Kakuryu (7-2)
I called Kakuryu before the bout and told him, "now I told everybody you're not in the yusho race. So go out there and make me look good, okay man!" He said, "yeh, sure dood." So when Yoshikaze went all slap face at him at speed Mach 1, Kakuryu got mad and went back at him with a Yokozuna speed Mach 2 slap, but whiffed all over it, and Yoshikaze got inside and hugged him and stuff. At which point Kakuryu employed his favorite losing technique of pulling on the other guy's head. He pulled at that head and he pulled at it, I'm tellin' ya, but since it was burrowed into his chest all he got out of the deal was a guy's lips on his pec. Meanwhile Yoshikaze kept drivin', keep drivin', drivin' all day and all night. Drivin' Kakuryu out, yori-kiri. So then Kakuryu called me up and said, "it's done, man." And I was like, "thanks bud."

Y Harumafuji (6-3) vs. M5 Endo (6-3)
Looking like Daishomaru on a particularly athletic day, Harumafuji fended off Endo's probing arms and kept backing up and looking for little pulls. Whoopsie: he then switched that out for a great big pull-and-step-aside and easily felled the eager Endo, hataki-komi. Mmmm, mmm! Gonna get me some o' that Yokozuna sumo! Them's good eatin', like day-old dead dog in the field, eaten with a spoon!

Mike is your atom heart mother tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I've often wondered what sumo would look like if we didn't have any foreign rikishi fighting, and we kind of have that now with all of the foreigners pulling back and letting the Japanese rikishi do their thang. Terunofuji was the last holdout in week 1 before he intentionally lost to Takayasu, who coincidentally is one of the co-leaders coming into the day along with stable mate Kisenosato, but I think Terunofuji's losing on day 6 signaled that we're likely in store for our third Japanese yusho in four basho.

If you go back to the end of the 2015 Kyushu basho, such a scenario of three yusho in four basho was simply unthinkable, so the question I ask is what changed to bring about this seismic shift? We'll likely never find out what gets discussed behind closed doors, but one thing I do know is that this huge change is NOT due to improved sumo from Japanese rikishi. There is such little substance to be found anywhere atop the dohyo that I can't even take the yusho race seriously anymore. As a result, let's just work our way up from the bottom yet again.

M13 Takakeisho and M16 Nishikigi traded shoves from the start, but it was Takakeisho who played the part of aggressor keeping his foe upright, and then a few seconds in, he got the left hand up and under Nishikigi's right armpit and so the smaller Takakeisho lifted his opponent fully upright and used that momentum shift to push him over and across. Slowly but surely it seems as if Takakeisho is getting used to the division as he moves to 6-3. As for Nishikigi, he's headed back to Juryo at 3-6.

M14 Myogiryu stuttered a bit at the tachi-ai against M12 Ura likely in an attempt to read his opponent's initial charge, and when Ura shaded left, Myogiryu was able to stand his ground and work his right arm under and then eventually to the inside of Ura's left after pushing him upright. Once obtained, Myogiryu forced Ura back quickly surviving a desperate pull and leg trip from Ura as he was being turned around and forced down to the dohyo face-down. Both dudes end the day at 4-5, and both dudes are struggling in the nether-regions of the division.

M12 Sadanoumi got his right arm to the inside against M15 Chiyooh and immediately pulled his gal in close leading with that right arm in bodying Chiyooh methodically back to the edge. Chiyooh attempted to grab a left outer grip as he was being forced back, but Sadanoumi cut it off nicely and used his belly well to keep Chiyooh upright before eventually forcing him back. It's interesting how we never see Kisenosato win like this in straight-forward, linear fashion. Even when his opponents are mukiryoku, Kisenosato is incapable of defeating them like this. That's neither here nor there, however, similar to the records of both combatants who end the day 3-6.

M11 Daieisho jumped out of the gate firing tsuppari into M14 Kyokushuho's neck standing the Mongolian fully upright, and with Shuho unable to move laterally due to his bad knees, he was a big fat target for Daieisho to oshi-dashi back and out in seconds. Daieisho moves to 5-4 if you need him while Kyokushuho hasn't been able to stick in Makuuchi of late as he drops to 2-7.

M10 Tochiohzan shaded right against M15 Tokushoryu looking for the cheap win from the start, but he couldn't quite latch onto the back of Tokushoryu's belt. Didn't matter, though, as the Special Sauce was already leaking off balance, and so Tochiohzan chased him down and attempted to pull him down for good a few seconds later, but Tokushoryu just hit the deck before Oh could really force him down. Tochiohzan picks up kachi-koshi with the win, but he's quickly turning into a pull-first type of guy. That should work wonders down in these parts for a few more years as he picks up kachi-koshi moving to 8-1. At least he admitted it wasn't good sumo afterwards as Tokushoryu falls to 6-3.

Remember when M9 Kotoyuki actually had a bit of game? Back in those days, he'd actually use his lower body to fuel his tsuppari attack, but he just stands there all upper body now, and so M13 Daishomaru was able to use shoves of his own to stand the listless Kotoyuki upright and then drive him back and across with little argument. Daishomaru moves to 6-3 with the win while Kotoyuki better get his ass in gear or he could be fighting in Juryo next basho at 2-7.

Kagayaki kept his eyes on Ishiura the whole time in their tsuppari affair, and with Ishiura standing square and not trying to evade, he was unable to budge the larger Kagayaki with straight-forward sumo of his own, and so Kagayaki trusted in sound sumo basics bullying Ishiura back blow by blow with his thrusts to the neck and shoulders before catching him with the final kill shot that come in the form of a shove to the right teet. This was the first time Kagayaki has beaten Ishiura in six tries, and while I don't remember the previous contests, I'm quite sure Ishiura didn't go toe to toe with Kagayaki as he did today. Both rikishi here end the day at 4-5.

In a similar bout where the smaller rikishi, M7 Chiyoshoma, also attempted to go toe to toe with the larger M6 Aoiyama in another tsuppari contest, Chiyoshoma realized that he wasn't making progress early, and so he began to evade to his right forcing Aoiyama to give chase. Aoiyama attempted to catch his evading foe with a lethal shove, but he never could connect, and so Chiyoshoma was able to pull him off balance just enough to where he could finally rush in and get the left arm to the inside, and from there he scored the force-out win. With no weight-class in sumo, Chiyoshoma did what he had to do in order to defeat Aoiyama. Chiyoshoma is a sweet 7-2 while Aoiyama falls to 4-5.

M10 Tochinoshin just henka'd to his left against M6 Chiyonokuni grabbing the back of his head with both hands and immediately pulling him down to the dirt. What goes around comes around for the wily Chiyonokuni who falls to 6-3 after the grease job. As for Tochinoshin, he's just desperate for wins any way he can get 'em at 4-5. One more should keep him out of Juryo for May.

M5 Endoh and M8 Okinoumi hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu bout where Okinoumi stayed upright just gifting Endoh the right outer grip, and so Endoh did what Kotoshogiku does: charge forward at the mercy of your opponent. Fortunately for Endoh, Okinoumi wasn't looking to beat him, so he just stayed square playing along never going for a right outer of his own, never attempting a tsuki-otoshi with the right, or never digging in. Oh, I almost forgot...Okinoumi DID put his left leg stiff and straight in between Endoh's legs at the tawara because you know how effective it can be to fight on one leg, but alas, Endoh was just too strong in this one!! Easy mukiryoku call here as Endoh is gifted his sixth win while Okinoumi is content I suppose at 5-4.

M7 Ichinojo rushed forward against M4 Yoshikaze with his arms up high and wide gifting Yoshikaze moro-zashi from the get-go, but the Mongolian wasn't making it obvious forcing Yoshikaze to wrench him this way and that, but Monster Drink couldn't quite sill the dill as both rikishi circled around the ring. At one point, Ichinojo offered a lame kote-nage with the left, but he wasn't committed, and then at about the 10 second mark, Ichinojo had the clear opening to get his left arm to the inside, but instead of assuming that position, he kept his left arm up high with elbow extended outward rendering it useless all of his own accord. So with Ichinojo just standing there, Yoshikaze regained his wits and then spun the Mongolian over and down with a right outer grip on the belt. This looked like a good win for Yoshikaze to most I'm sure, but Ichinojo let up big time here starting from the tachi-ai. He never attempted anything to defeat his opponent, and then when he refused the left inside and just kept that arm up high, it was obvious. Ichinojo continues the meme of parity in sumo falling to 3-6 while Yoshikaze improves to 5-4.

In a complete contrast, the smaller rikishi in M3 Shohozan once again got moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against the larger foreigner, M8 Kaisei, but in this case, Kaisei desperately needs the wins and so he moved laterally working his way onto the belt with the left hand before executing a maki-kae with the right, and that was all the leverage he needed to lift Shohozan off balance enough to where the larger Kaisei was able to force him back in short order. Ichinojo also had the clear path to the maki-kae with the left against Yoshikaze, but he refused it of course, so it was just interesting to see the contrast here where one foreigner was trying to win and the other clearly wasn't. Kaisei is a meager 2-8 but Shohozan actually fares worse at 1-8.

M5 Hokutofuji moved left at the tachi-ai grabbing the cheap outer grip on Takanoiwa's belt, but he couldn't quite dispatch his foe in short order without the inside position on the right, and so Takanoiwa was finally able to square back up and force the bout to migi-yotsu. After the henka start, we were treated to a great bout at this point as both rikishi tried to wrench themselves into position to set up the kill, so around and around the two went for 10 seconds or so until Hokutofuji was finally able to muster a nifty dashi-nage with the right inside grip that fell Takanoiwa to the clay for good. After the bout, Hokutofuji was covered in blood due to a bloody nose, and he looked like a drunkard as he tried to get off of the dohyo and then administer the power water to the next rikishi. I hated the henka, but I loved the rest of this bout as Hokutofuji moves to 3-6 while Takanoiwa falls to 2-7. We never see this kind of sumo among the elite ranks...unfortunately.

In a duel between our two Komusubi, Shodai actually got his left hand placed in fairly good position under Mitakeumi's right armpit, but he could do nothing with it, and so Mitakeumi was able to work his own left to the inside and apply some pressure, and once the pressure came, Shodai looked to retreat, but Mitakeumi pounced into moro-zashi and then made that retreat across the bales official. This was a typical bout that involves the big 5 where it's tough to describe because everyone looks busy, but not a lot is happening. I do think that Mitakeumi is the best of the big 5, and it did show here today as he dominated BlowDry moving to 4-5 with the win. As for Shodai, he falls to 3-6 with the loss.

M1 Takekaze moved to his left against Sekiwake Takayasu and his left arm placed well against Takayasu's right side, but he really didn't drive forward despite the position, and as the Sekiwake looked to spin out of harm's way, Takekaze just collapsed to the dirt as Takayasu went for a quick pull. The timing here was good, but there's no way that feeble pull from Takayasu sent Takekaze down that hard. I mean, Takekaze's bread and butter is cheap sumo, and after that tachi-ai that left him in perfect position, he just floundered his way to the loss keeping Takayasu unblemished at 9-0. As for Takekaze, he falls to a meaningless 2-7.

M2 Sokokurai is a crafty enough opponent that Sekiwake Tamawashi knew he didn't want this one to go to the belt, and so The Mawashi looked to take control from the start firing his long arm of the law tsuppari into Sokokurai's upper chest, and just when it looked as if Tamawashi would finish his foe off as Sokokurai mawari-komi'ed to his right, Sokokurai wryly moved back left timing a pull of Tamawashi's arm that opened up the trap door and send Tamawashi to a tough loss. Sokokurai improves to 3-6 with the crafty win while Tamawashi settles for 5-4.

In the Ozeki ranks, Terunofuji reached for and got the left outer grip from the tachi-ai against M1 Ikioi, but he couldn't quite get the right arm to the inside, and so Ikioi was able to fend Fuji the Terrible off for a spell, but the Ozeki made a quick adjustment by pivoting to the side and going for an outer belt yank, and that provided enough of a momentum shift to where Terunofuji got the right arm firmly inside, and from there the yori-kiri was academic. Ikioi did all he could in this one, but Terunofuji was out to win, and it showed as he dominated one of Japan's best moving to 8-1 in the process. As for Ikioi, he falls to the opposite mark of 1-8. Before we move on, now that Terunofuji has secured his rank for a few more basho, let's see how he reacts the rest of the way.

In Make Believe Land, Sekiwake Kotoshogiku shot out of the gate firing some thrusts into the chest of Kisenosato that drove him back a step or two, and just when you thought Kotoshogiku was going to fire that kill shot, he just belly-flopped sideways to the dirt. Kisenosato attempted a quick pull attempt as his foe was falling down, but it couldn't quite catch up, so what we had here is Kotoshogiku's just falling and rolling to the dirt of his own accord and Kisenosato employing no move to cause it. In fact, I counted threw total moves from Kisenosato this bout: 1) he was in pull mode from the tachi-ai, 2) he offered a quick face slap as Kotoshogiku was driving him back, and 3) he tried to catch up with Kotoshogiku as he dove to the dirt in the end with a pull/swipe. I mean, just look at the pic at left.  How does that motion from Kisenosato's right hand cause the former Ozeki to stop, drop, and roll.  The direction that Kotoshogiku rolled would have been the result of a left push to the side, but not a faux slap down with the right hand.  The main word all of the announcers in the booth used at the end was "abunakatta," or he was in danger. I mean, there was no sumo here to describe from Kisenosato, so at least they were being honest about it all. It's so ridiculous that they try and pass this guy off as a Yokozuna, but there Kisenosato is at 9-0. Kotoshogiku falls to 6-3 with the loss, but he's still on pace to get his 10, and with Terunofuji now safely at eight, don't be surprised if the Mongolians assist him the rest of the way.

Yokozuna Harumafuji and M4 Arawashi hooked up in migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai, but the Yokozuna brought his left foot forward perfectly aligning his feet across the starting lines, and at that moment, Arawashi executed a right inside belt throw that easily sent the Yokozuna hopping over to the bales and out. In a normal world, a Yokozuna does not lose to an M4 rikishi who comes into the day at 1-7, but this is definitely not a normal world. The angles that Harumafuji took in this one were also wrong similarly to the horrible angle that Hakuho took in week 1 in that loss to Ikioi, and I know were talking about expert stuff when analyzing angles in sumo bouts, but trust me...I can see it.  Anyway, Harumafuji continues to intentionally keep himself out of the limelight falling to 6-3 while Arawashi picks up an undeserved kin-boshi ending the day at 2-7.

The end to this day could not come soon enough, and thankfully we got a real bout to cap things off. Yokozuna Kakuryu fired a few tsuppari into M3 Takarafuji's neck, and I know most of you are thinking, "What, Takarafuji has a neck??" But the start was effective for Kakuryu as it stood his foe completely upright and set up the ultimate moro-zashi position, and from there it was easy peasy Japanesey as Kakuryu scored the force-out win. Kakuryu moves to 7-2 with the win while Takarafuji falls to 5-4.

Harvye keeps us comfortably numb tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Harvey Hodja reporting)
We're seeing a changing of the guard. Lord Kisenosato is sailing along at 7-0, and is the only Yokozuna in the yusho race. Ozeki hopeful Takayasu is also cruising, 7-0 and looking very good. The only Ozeki in the tournament at all right now is Terunofuji, who may have already peaked, but also represents a new generation. If 2016 was a transition year in which the Association put an end to the dominance of the Mongolians, finally distributed one yusho each to the three Japanese Ozeki, and created a Japanese Yokozuna, it looks like 2017 may be the consolidation. I expected the Mongolians to continue picking up yusho here and there, or return to dominance now that guys like Kotoshogiku had their needs taken care of.

But that may not be the case; it feels a lot as if we've moved on. I wasn't kidding when I predicted Hakuho will not make it through the year. Feels premature, you say? In some ways, yes. However, in reality he's outlasted most recent Yokozuna already. Let's look at the last four. Takanohana, after a spectacular career featuring 22 yusho, got injured at age 29, fought only two more tournaments, and retired at age 31. Akebono electrified the sport in his early twenties, but then won just one tournament in five years before retiring, citing injury, shortly after winning his last tournament at age 31. Musashimaru won two tournaments at age 31, but retired at age 32. Even Asashoryu was just 29 when forced out of the sport--and had won just two of six tournaments before that anyway.

Hakuho turned 32 just before this tournament started. People forget that Harumafuji is actually Hakuho's senior, turning 33 next month. We think of Kakuryu as the newcomer to this group, but he is only a few months younger, and will also turn 32 this year. All three of them are at or past the oldest retirement age of any of the past four Yokozuna. What we are witnessing is the end of their era.

M15 Tokushoryu (5-2) vs. M14 Kyokushuho (2-5)
Kyokushuho got a left arm inside, but he's just too lamed right now; Tokushoryu leaned hard on him and pushed him back and out with his ridiculously fat upper body, oshi-dashi. When these guys first made the upper division I had a hard time remembering which one was which, and sure enough today I first typed "Tokushuho."

M16 Nishikigi (3-4) vs. M13 Daishomaru (4-3)
Nishikigi was a little too high at the tachi-ai. Daishomaru had good position, lasering in with two hands on the chest inside, and he knew it. Knowing he didn't need to, he never attempted a pull, just kept pushing, pushing, pushing for the good looking oshi-dashi win.

M14 Myogiryu (2-5) vs. M11 Ishiura (4-3)
Yesterday Ishiura pulled his opponent down with a nifty shitate hineri, and he had that in mind here, backing out and away, then ducking in very low and pulling. However, Myogiryu was too smart for that. After surviving it--just barely--he put Ishiura's head in his armpit, wrenched Ishiura's arm up on that side to immobilize him (the pretzel hold?), and drove him out in this awkward position, oshi-dashi.

M10 Tochinoshin (3-4) vs. M13 Takakeisho (4-3)
Tochinoshin played Takakeisho's game here throughout. First, Taka annoyed him by twirling his hands and stretching his neck instead of putting his hands on the dirt, and Tochinoshin asked for a reset. Then, Tochinoshin let this be a battle of blasting shoves, rather than getting on the belt as he prefers. When Takakeisho had frustrated Tochinoshin enough with all this, he backed up and Tochi fell on his face in front of him, hiki-otoshi.

M15 Chiyooh (3-4) vs. M10 Tochiohzan (6-1)
Chiyooh looks like a kindly soft dough ball, and he may be the worst wrestler currently in the upper division. He knew better than to do anything but run away and pull on Tochiohzan, but that didn't work either, happy to say, and at a certain point when Chiyooh though, "well, I suppose I'll have to try an attack." When he did that, calm and collected Tochiohzan just pulled him in and rolled him down, kata-sukashi.

M9 Kagayaki (2-5) vs. M12 Sadanoumi (2-5)
Kagayaki and Endo were the two other guys who came to mind when I mulled, "but who IS the worst wrestler in Makuuchi?" But that's not fair to Kagayaki. As terrible as he often looks, his size makes him dangerous when focused--like here. He head-butted on the tachi-ai, followed with focused, tight thrusts to the face and chest, and made Sadanoumi look tiny in pushing him out, oshi-dashi. Come to think of it, Sadanoumi may be the worst wrestler in the upper division right now.

M12 Ura (3-4) vs. M9 Kotoyuki (2-5)
If I hadn't watched a lot of Juryo highlights over the past year or two and read a lot of hype, I would be just plain indignantly hating Ura so far. Erase what you know about him and look just at his sumo this tournament, and what you have is an undersized guy jumping out the way, retreating, and generally looking overmatched and trying to eke something out with tepid trickery--like we've seen dozens of times before from other little guys over the years. In the last couple of days I've stopped waiting for him to turn on the circus act and felt dismissive. Pinky soap bubble. Same weak treacle today. Kotoyuki was bashing him hard in the face, but Ura won by jumping out of the way twice while retreating. Worked the second time, okuri-dashi. While the silly announcers were busy shouting "omoshiroiiiii!" ("coooool!"), I'm tired of this guy already.

M11 Daieisho (3-4) vs. M8 Okinoumi (5-2)
I would say it was very puzzling that Daieisho was able to beat Okinoumi so easily: linear force out oshi-dashi with no attempt at evasion from Okinoumi. My only excuse for Okinoumi would be that maybe he thought he was just that much better and didn't need to move to either side. But I don't think he's that stupid. Can't fault Daieisho for taking what was given: his aggression has been very welcome this tournament, and looked good here too.

M7 Ichinojo (3-4) vs. M8 Kaisei (0-7)
Battle of the Behemoths. Kaisei actually made Ichinojo look like the smaller guy. When the blubber wobbled, Kaisei got a quick right inside and left out. He then just pushed hard and shoved Ichinojo (too?) easily out, yori-kiri. We'll see if that works and gets Kaisei going.

M5 Endo (4-3) vs. M5 Hokutofuji (2-5)
It's probably not fair to think of Endo in the "worst rikishi" category. I don't actually think he's that bad; his technique is okay and he isn't tricky and doesn't retreat. He probably would look pretty good if he consistently fought lower than, say, M8. However, no other wrestler gets so badly beaten so often up here, making him look and feel like one of the worst, though he isn't. This match was a good demonstration of what he can do when not getting absolutely killed. He spent a lot of time keeping Hokutofuji's pushing arms off of him, neutralized a charge with an arm pull at one point, and kept working towards the low and inside, getting moro-zashi at one point that allowed him to put Hokutofuji at the edge, where Endo finally yori-kiri'ed him out. I'm okay with Endo.

M4 Yoshikaze (3-4) vs. M6 Aoiyama (4-3)
Aoiyama head butted Yoshikaze on liftoff. Yay! However, after one good shove, he then eagerly pulled him for the rest of the match. Boo! Yoshikaze stayed focused and pushed him out, yori-kiri. Yay!

M6 Chiyonokuni (5-2) vs. M4 Arawashi (1-6)
Very hard hitting tachi-ai, then swift and aggressive re-engagement by Arawashi. Too aggressive: Chiyonokuni smartly grabbed Arawashi's arm, turned, pivoted Arawashi over his hip, and flipped him head over heels and onto his back, tottari. Looked very cool.

Match of the Day: M7 Chiyoshoma (5-2) vs. M3 Takarafuji (5-2)
Excellent, viper-strike tachi-ai by Chiyoshoma, who lanced one long hand in at the neck and kept it there. He drove Takarafuji around the ring, slapping him with the other hand. Takarafuji wasn't going to go out like that, though, and surged inside when given a brief opening and got a left around the body. He was driving Chiyoshoma out when Chiyoshoma turned on a dime at the edge, lifting up with a left arm under Takarafuji's armpit, and dumped Takarafuji to the dirt, sukui-nage, a split second before he also crashed down and out. Mmm, mmm good!

S Tamawashi (5-2) vs. M1 Takekaze (1-6)
False start by Tamawashi, but wasn't called back. Reactive henka by Takekaze for a hataki-komi win. Blech.

S Kotoshogiku (5-2) vs. M2 Sokokurai (2-5)
We're halfway through the tournament, and Kotoshogiku is halfway to ten. Whelp. Sokokurai took a free arm inside on the left, but declined to do much with the right, defending only, and pretty soon Kotoshogiku just gaburi'ed him out, yori-kiri. I wish I cared whether Kotoshogiku gets his ten and gets back to Ozeki or not, but I don't. It's a sideshow either way. Ask yourself: do you?

M1 Ikioi (1-6) vs. S Takayasu (7-0)
Ikioi is from Osaka, and the crowd was really into him. Two lonely souls quietly held up single, sad-looking sheets of paper with Takayasu's name on them, the ink still looking wet. So I was rooting pretty hard for Takayasu--who doesn't love an underdog? (wait--which guy is undefeated and soon to be an Ozeki, and which guy is 1-6? Oh well, anyway…) The match turned out pretty good. Takayasu tsuppari'ed hard for a moment, but then pulled, and I thought he was toast. However, he got a left inside and they went to stalemate. Takayasu was the first to mount a force-out charge, and it almost worked, but it almost lost it for him, too, as when he couldn't finish it Ikioi backpedaled along the edge and almost dragged him down. Having survived and re-stabilized in the center, after a moment Takayasu pivoted, turning out himself and collapsing Ikioi in with as lovely a shita-te-nage throw as you'll see.

K Mitakeumi (3-4) vs. O Terunofuji (6-1)
Terunofuji mostly means business this tournament, and this was simple domination on his part. Hard smacking tachi-ai, then emphatic push by the bigger, stronger, better wrestler. That is how you win in seconds flat, oshi-dashi, and look great doing it.

Y Harumafuji (5-2) vs. M2 Takanoiwa (2-5)
Harumafuji is slowly recovering from his early days blunderings, and went back to one of his standard moves here: more or less henka'ing, getting a hand on the back of the belt, and slinging his guy out. Uwate-nage.

K Shodai (3-4) vs. Y Kakuryu (5-2)
This took a while, but Kakuryu was never in danger. He tsuppari'ed, he shoved. He flung Shodai off him so hard his opponent flew two meters back and survived only because that was how much dohyo he had left to him. He choked, he slapped. Kakuryu then finally engaged for real with a left outside belt grip and soon yori-kiri'ed Shodai out, yori-kiri. But Shodai is our next Yokozuna! I can feel it! But why? Why can I feel it? I sure didn't feel it here. But I feel it. Hoo, boy. Right now I feel that Kakuryu kicked Shodai's vanilla softcream arse.

M3 Shohozan (1-6) vs. Y Kisenosato (7-0)
I opened this by talking about the agedness of our Yokozuna. I didn't mention him in that context, but Lord Kisenosato fits right in with the other three: he too turns 31 this year, and shouldn't last long. But just as politics was involved in the career ends of Asashoryu and probably Akebono, and almost certainly will be with Hakuho, politics should help Kisenosato extend his career for a bit first. In the end he's Pope Benedict: a transition figure. Let's hope that like Benedict he recognizes his own mortality and abdicates at the right point, rather than insisting on sticking around ‘til death. Anyhoo, for the time being we have to go on boggling at the daily space-time-continuum rupture represented by him being Yokozuna. Yes, it's still real and true! Entertaining, energetic match today, though. Kisenosato used unusual speed and force in shove-slapping Shohozan backwards. He then let Shohozan get in and under, moro-zashi, and almost lost it when Darth Hozan drove hard in on him. However, Lord Kisenosato set his feet apart and survived. At the edge, he turned the momentum and headed west along the straw, appearing as if he was going to drag Shohozan down on his right. At the last moment he reversed that and pulled Shohozan in the other direction with his left arm while hitting him in the head with his right, knocking the little brown, dangerous gnome over, kote-hineri. Okay, I admit that was lots of fun.

Mike makes sure our view is not obscured by clouds tomorrow.

Day 6 Comments (Harvey Hodja reporting)
As we enter the meandering center days of the basho, it is time to spend a moment to think about Tokitenku, who died of cancer this winter at the age of 37. There but for the grace of god go we all.

Personally, I loved Tokitenku in the ring, and I was a proud minority in this. When he first came up to the Makuuchi, he was a yawn-inducing nothing. Mongolians were just starting to be not a novelty, and too many to keep track of, and with all honesty I thought, "not another one." His milquetoast style bore out this opinion. But then. Oh, then! One day he just started being really, really mean. A kicking, slapping, grumpy looking old fishwife demon with a grudge and a dame-oshi to follow every arm wrench, titty twist, and humiliating ankle incapacitation. Yes, I know it wasn't good sumo in classic terms. But it sure as shiz was good sumo in "i wanna win" terms.

One of my favorite things about him was that on top of this, he had a unique, pissed-off, sullen, resentful face he'd put on after (fairly) cheating his opponents out of a win. After some wicked, uncalled for henka against a nice enough guy working on a good run, while we all looked on in indignation and the crowd moaned loudly in shock, Tokitenku's face plainly said, "f*** you. It's in the rules! I f*****' won." I loved it that he had feelings enough to be hurt, but guts enough to pretend not to care, and do it anyway. And I always, always will remember him for this:

That, courtesy the wonderful Andreas Kungl, is a picture of Tokitenku's hometown in Mongolia. I do not, not, not put this here to make fun of him, or his hometown, but to respect where he came from and what he did. My question is, if you were from this town, wouldn't you too? Wouldn't you just plain win, win, win, and to hell with everybody else? Behind every "dirty" win was the dirt he'd shook off to rise this close to the top, to provide, no doubt, for himself, his family, and a large network or responsibilities trailing his good fortune into the future.

Goodbye, Altangadasyn Khüchitbaatar, and thank you for reminding me hundreds of times that every battle is hard won, victory is sweet and difficult, and we had might as well struggle mightily, because night is always closing in. Burn and rage in daylight.

Match of the Day: M15 Chiyooh (1-4) vs. M16 Nishikigi (3-2)
These guys went chest to chest and rollicked each other all over the squared circle, belts unraveling, strings falling off. Most basically, Chiyooh had a right outside and Nishikigi a left inside. I thought Chiyooh was toast as the smaller man, and having generally seemed softer since getting to Makuuchi. However, to slather you with a cliché which is nevertheless true (and is how it became a cliché), on any given day, if you fight your hardest in a reasonably even match up, anything can happen. And I'll give the man from tiny Yoron Island credit; he manfully strove, surviving both a moment with his back to the bales and, at the very end, a last ditch utchari throw attempt by Nishikigi that just didn't quite work as the bigger man was forced out yori-kiri. Tough loss by Nishikigi, but being tough also won it for Chiyooh. More of this, please!

J1 Chiyotairyu (1-4) vs. M14 Kyokushuho (2-3)
Chiyotairyu stood Kyokushuho up, grabbed a left inside, and drove him out, yori-kiri. Bothered by injury of late, Kyokushuho came up limping, and that's too bad as he's a solid fighter with oft-good sumo.

M13 Takakeisho (3-2) vs. M15 Tokushoryu (3-2)
Nothing to see here. Tokushoryu was looking good with focused stabs to the face, and Takakeisho was looking bad by being defensive and hopping consistently away. But then this pattern reversed, Special Sauce (Tokushoryu) was the one going backwards, and Takakeisho looked like he had it. Until he fell down on a little hiki-otoshi pull by Tokushoryu, who was also falling down. Meh.

M14 Myogiryu (2-3) vs. M13 Daishomaru (3-2)
Also uninspiring, but with a good ending. Lots of shoving and pulling, and Daishomaru almost got disqualified with a hair yank, but survived to shove the fading Myogiryu out like a mattress being tossed over the second story balustrade, oshi-taoshi, into the loving crowd.

M12 Ura (2-3) vs. M11 Ishiura (3-2)
In a match-up of two weensy little dots, Stone Ass (Ishiura) put his hand on Ura's shoulder, and Ura (Ass?) put his hand on Ishiura's elbow while they leaned their heads together. Seeking advantage. Ura then pulled a sharp, swift move, grabbing Stone Ass's arm, pulling him forward and past him, turning, and pushing him out, oshi-dashi. This was good, patient, well executed sumo by Ura, but we have yet to see him do anything against the sort to anybody bigger than today's naked garden gnome.

M12 Sadanoumi (1-4) vs. M10 Tochiohzan (5-0)
Mismatch. Chestnut Heart (Tochiohzan) stood his opponent up at the tachi-ai, took advantage of his opponent's pull attempt with forward moving aggression, got both hands inside against his befuddled man, and dumped him sideways to the ground, oshi-taoshi. Must be nice to punch under your weight for a while.

M9 Kagayaki (1-4) vs. M11 Daieisho (2-3)
Daieisho, who has shown heartening aggression this tournament, quickly and impressively tsuki-dashi'ed the bigger man out with tsuppari. Kagayaki always looks so terrible in the first half of the tournament I wonder how he has possibly survived in Makuuchi, only to finally get something together the second week. That's a sign of a low-confidence guy who will never put it together at the top level in sports, where confidence goes hand in hand with winning (and is one reason many athletes are such jerks--it's symbiotic). Most days early on Kagayaki is a hapless sitting-duck disaster of Endo-level proportions.

M10 Tochinoshin (1-4) vs. M9 Kotoyuki (1-4)
I feel bad for Tochinoshin, who survived a serious knee injury to work his way back from obscurity and become one of the best guys on the banzuke, a beast-behemoth on the belt, and better than he ever was before getting injured. Now he's clearly hurt again, with his right knee wrapped up so thick looks like he's having Aminishiki for a sleepover. I figured he would be toast here. However, don't call down the curtain yet; he tsuppai'ed his way into an overhand left grip and drove Kotoyuki straight out, sending him flying out with one last well placed shove that had Kotoyuki knocking over a few members of the audience like ninepins. For the sunsetting Tochinoshin I had that feeling like when you see an old flame on the street and remember how much you liked her. But know it's just a flash of something that's gone. With a knee like that, I don't see Tochinoshin making it back to the top. Raise a glass for old times.

M7 Ichinojo (3-2) vs. M8 Okinoumi (3-2)
Ichinojo imitated a bag of wet sand being slung onto the levy as he stood there and collapsed against Okinoumi limply at the tachi-ai, and Okinoumi scooped both arms up underneath. Perhaps The Blob (Ikioi) just thought he was bigger and could kime-crush and dominate his opponent. He thought wrong. Okinoumi had no problem taking advantage of position inside and underneath, and he lifted that bag of sand up and dumped it yori-kiri into the river.

M8 Kaisei (0-5) vs. M6 Aoiyama (2-3)
There is always something new in the world; I don't think I've ever seen a wrestler start a basho out with an injury and come back in the middle. I've seen plenty go out and come back in after a few days off, but not spot himself five losses and then get going. Perfectly sensible though. Perhaps he and Hakuho are tag-teaming it. Maybe Hak will be back in a few days! Kaisei might as well have stayed out for all he offered in this one, retreating and pulling, looking like a different (bad) wrestler. Aoiyama knew he had a lame duck, and patiently followed, thrusting away, before felling him with a wee arm pull and head bonk (they were tired, and guys fall down weird then, hey), kata-sukashi. Injuries are tough on guys.

M5 Endo (3-2) vs. M6 Chiyonokuni (3-2)
Yikes. I had to nod yesterday when Mike says when a bigger rikishi intends to beat Endo, he simply crushes him. So true. And today, a smaller rikishi intended to beat Endo, and also simply crushed him. Chiyonokuni used an aggressive tachi-ai with a smashing forearm, one perfectly placed choke hold that almost tipped Endo over backwards, and one double-armed tsuki-dashi shove to dominate this one in seconds flat.

M7 Chiyoshoma (4-1) vs. M5 Hokutofuji (1-4)
I can't say I "like" Chiyoshoma, but he has a wild kinetic power that is increasingly exciting to watch, and intimidating potential. Here he thrust hard when he wanted, and pulled just as hard when he wanted to do that, too, driving the action all over the ring, keeping Hokutofuji off balance, finally swiping him down, hataki-komi. Yikes. I try to avoid comparisons like this ever since I compared Arawashi to Kakuryu and Arawashi promptly disappeared into Juryo for a spell, but I can't deny that Chiyoshoma has been shouting "young Harumafuji" at me for a while. Watch out.

M4 Arawashi (1-4) vs. M2 Takanoiwa (1-4)
And hell, maybe I'll be right on Arawashi in the end (just like this site was right on Kisenosato's yusho timing, Kisenosato as next Yokozuna, all three Japanese Ozeki getting at least one tournament win, and a passle of other things of late. Truth be told, the sport is in the dumps, but we're on a roll), if he doesn't get beheaded multiple times in the Hokutoumi Revolution. Ouch! He was no Kakuryu today, as Takanoiwa dominated him in a really good performance. Takanoiwa knocked Arawashi back off the tachi-ai, opening space to get a brief left inside and a few moments of moro-zashi, then switched to a left outside, but didn't matter what kind of grip he had because he was rolling Arawashi swiftly out for the win like fall's last rotting haybale in the snow-dusted field, yori-kiri. Good stuff.

M2 Sokokurai (1-4) vs. M1 Ikioi (1-4)
They were having a little arm battle when It's Dark There (Sokokurai) decided to retreat, and Ikioi just wasn't fast enough in chasing, getting pulled down hataki-komi. He was too defensive in this one and paid for it.

M1 Takekaze (1-4) vs. K Shodai (2-3)
Whelp, dare I say Takekaze helped Shodai here? I do! Shodai gave him one good shove off the blocks, but that played into Takekaze's game, as the little man backed away and pulled. Lucky for Shodai, somehow Shodai seemed to be suspended on top of Takekaze's retreating arms, and was only pulled down to the clay by those arms after Takekaze had already stepped out, oshi-dashi. "Oh, drat!" said Takekaze.

S Kotoshogiku (3-2) vs. K Mitakeumi (3-2)
A possible changing-of-the-guard match? If Mitakeumi wins, you know Kotoshogiku is not going to get his ten. If Mitakeumi defers to Kotoshogiku, the jury will still be out. They went chest to chest and Mitakeumi had the early advantage, but Kotoshogiku kept on moving his feet, reversed the momentum, and drove Mitakeumi out, yori-kiri. You could say Kotoshogiku won it when he used his force to stop Mitakeumi's charge and drive him around to the tawara in a half-circle, or you could say Mitakeumi lost when he gave up his charge for a momentum-reversing stop-and-tug. My favorite part of this one was how the gyoji tried to run away, tripped on his robes, and fell face first into the water bucket outside the dohyo. Okay, I shouldn't laugh at that. But I did.

O Goeido (1-4) vs. S Tamawashi (3-2)
Having a terrible basho in his hometown, Goeido withdrew, citing right ankle pain; it was the right ankle that forced him out in January. He's safe because he got his eight in January before withdrawing.

S Takayasu (5-0) vs. O Terunofuji (5-0)
Uyf. Takayasu did hit hard at the tachi-ai; Terunofuji bounced off him like a surprised rubber ball. Takayasu did follow that up by driving hard with well placed, aggressive thrusts that knocked a passive-looking, lame, befuddled Terunofuji out of the ring, oshi-dashi. You can probably guess what I thought of that. Here's what I wrote to Mike about these two guys after Day 2, when they seemed emblematic of trends in the sport: "Day 2 was okay, but as with your Day 1 I had trouble taking it seriously after 17:20. One of the problems now is that even if the bouts are straight up at the end, I have a problem enjoying them because of the context attached to them, and the surroundings they play out in. For example, Takayasu's beatdown of Goeido looked perfectly legitimate to me--but neither guy got to where he is legitimately, or deserves the storyline he's riding. So their bout is a non-starter. And Terunofuji's domination of Tamawashi was legitimately exciting--except it is an island in a sea of frustration as we've watched Terunofuji employ eight hundred different bad techniques of late, and we know neither guy will get to build off whatever they do right." Maybe I should have just written that in my report that day. Never too late!

M3 Takarafuji (5-0) vs. Y Kisenosato (5-0)
These guys went chest to chest, but poor Takarafuji, he just never could get a grip he liked, and kept having to let go. Too bad, because he was lower down and seemed in good position as opposed to Lord Kisenosato, who was upright and had to settle for an arm around under the armpit. That's how he seems to get wins, though, so Lord Kise leaned his considerable bulk in and moved forward it his odd, boring way, oozing the other guy out like jello on a slowly heating hot plate, yori-kiri. The crowd looked enraptured. There was lady clapping real slow because she was smiling so hard and staring so happily at the Lord that, I suppose, she couldn't concentrate on her clapping.

Y Harumafuji (3-2) vs. M4 Yoshikaze (3-2)
This one looked a lot like two guys at around M15. They slapped at each other tentatively, but both were afraid to really go for it, Yoshikaze because he was fighting a Yokozuna, Harumafuji because he's collected too many losses being stupidly careless. Then Harumafuji nearly fell over backwards when he took a misstep on an approach. And when Harumafuji then had to stumble backwards to right himself, Yoshikaze himself slipped on the way to him and fell right down, hiki-otoshi. Um, not inspiring. I see Harumafuji's bad sumo right now as a product of his careless sumo earlier. He's poisoned himself.

M3 Shohozan (0-5) vs. Y Kakuryu (4-1)
Well, it ain't Shohozan's fault that Kakuryu pulled on nothingness once, then pulled on his head. Ain't Shohozan's fault Kakuryu slapped him on the sides off the tachi-ai like a man playing bongos, rather than grabbing anything. Ain't Shohozan's fault Kakuryu didn't close his hands on any grips. Ain't Shohozan's fault they gave him the tsuki-dashi kimarite because he did in fact bash Kakuryu outta the ring. Yep, Darth Hozan looked pretty good here, smack ‘im, chase ‘im, hit ‘im, thrust ‘im! Nope, ain't his fault he just beat a Yokozuna. No, it's Kakuryu's fault!

Lookee here. That ends the day with three rikishi undefeated: Lord Kisenosato, Tochiohzan, and Takayasu. Yep.

Mike is forced to say "ummagumma" tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The big news at the beginning of the day was the announcement that Hakuho had withdrawn from the basho. The Yokozuna cited an injury to the bottom of his right foot, but he is not injured. You could just tell from his start on day 1 and then the content of his sumo that he was not taking this basho seriously. He had one good display of sumo on day 2 against Sokokurai, but other than that all sound sumo basics have been thrown out the window. If the Yokozuna was legitimately injured in his bout against Ikioi yesterday, then it was because he let up in the ring. Early on when I first began studying sumo, I often heard that moniker about letting up. Of course, it was always expressed in the context of the keiko ring, but we are clearly seeing guys let up every day during hon-basho now. I don't believe that Hakuho is really injured; he's just showing the Association that he is not intent on spoiling anyone's party.

In fact, all of the Mongolian Yokozuna are playing nice this basho as depicted in the graphic that NHK showed during the broadcast. It's all in Japanese, but you should be able to figure it out. It lists the four Yokozuna on the banzuke and then their win/loss results the first four days. Of course Kisenosato is the only one without blemish!

The rikishi missing from list is Terunofuji, who has rocketed out to an undefeated start because he's actually trying, but it's way too early to say that he's going to stay the course the entire tournament. He'll pick up his eight for sure, but don't be surprised if he goes limp in week 2 backing away along with the other Mongolians. I hope he doesn't, but something tells me he will fade down the stretch.

Due to a joint press conference with the Secretary of State from the US and some Japanese dude who gets a sweaty forehead in front of the lights, I missed the first three bouts of the day, but I want to really ask: Did I miss anything? If you're reading this then you have access to the innernet and can look up those first three contests, so let's start with M11 Ishiura, who ducked in low at the tachi-ai, but M13 Daishomaru kept his eyes on his foe well and just shoved him with palms into the top of the shoulders, and the impact was so effective it knocked Ishiura back a step and a bit upright, so Daishomaru seized on that momentum to just slap Ishiura silly in the two second hataki-komi win leaving both dudes at 3-2. That's about the best sumo I've seen from Daishomaru in this division.

M13 Takakeisho and M11 Daieisho engaged in a fierce tsuppari contest from the start, and both rikishi were actually in control of their slaps which is always nice to see. That meant that most of the blows connected, and Takakeisho pushed Daieisho around the first half, but he couldn't quite finish him off. When the two rikishi were gassed, they leaned into each other in the center of the ring with arms on shoulders, and then when they were ready for round two, Daieisho took over scoring blow after blow forcing Takakeisho to finally back up and try and move left. Daieisho was on the prowl, however, and scored the ultimate oshi-dashi win in the end. Wow, this was great sumo, and we better enjoy it while it lasts (meaning 5:20 lurks just around the corner). Daieisho moves to 2-3 with the win while Takakeisho falls to 3-2.

M9 Kotoyuki attempted his usual tsuppari attack at the tachi-ai against M12 Sadanoumi, but the shoves had little effect as Sadanoumi worked his way inside with the right, and Kotoyuki just can't play defense in a yotsu-contest, so Sadanoumi grabbed the left outer grip and quickly swung Yuki around and down using a nifty outer belt throw. Sadanoumi picks up his first win as both guys finish the day at 1-4.

M9 Kagayaki created the blueprint today on how to beat M12 Ura: simply keep your eyes on him. Kagayaki leaned forward at the shikiri-sen almost false starting, but the two were in sync when they actually charged, and it didn't really matter as most bouts involving Ura have awkward tachi-ai. Once the two did go, Kagayaki watched which direction Ura would move, and then he simply fired thrusts in his direction, and it only takes one real thrust to knock him off balance, and from there the oshi-dashi comes easy. Though Kagayaki was winless coming in, he dominated Ura who falls to 2-3 to the dismay of the fans.

M8 Okinoumi was a shark who smelled blood against M10 Tochinoshin forcing his right arm to the inside at the tachi-ai, and with Shin unable to offer much resistance, Okinoumi used a nice gaburi with the belly to nudge Tochinoshin upright, and at that instant, he got the left inside giving him moro-zashi. From there everyone knew it as Shin just doesn't have the lower body right now to move laterally and counter. Great win from Okinoumi who moves to 3-2 while Tochinoshin continues to struggle at 1-4.

M10 Tochiohzan was looking pull from the start against M7 Chiyoshoma, and with Chiyoshoma coming in low, he was there for the taking, especially for a veteran like Oh who has resorted more and more to the hataki-komi these days. Chiyoshoma tried to recover, but Oh is a strong ox and pulled his foe down in a matter of seconds skating to 5-0 in the process. Chiyoshoma suffers his first loss at 4-1, and you'd really like to see a better contest than this from two undefeated dudes.

M7 Ichinojo kept his right arm out wide at the tachi-ai and put his left hand up around M5 Endoh's head, but he didn't do anything with it, so with both armpits exposed as they like to say, Endoh easily grabbed moro-zashi. Endoh began his force-out charge with Ichinojo responding with a left arm in the kote-nage position, but the throw would never come. The Slug simply stayed square with Endoh and let himself get forced out. Easy yaocho call here as Ichinojo showed nothing that signaled he was trying to win. I think the most telling bout to date for Endoh was the one against Takarafuji. When a big rikishi wants to beat him, he crushes him. Both dudes end the day at 3-2.

M6 Aoiyama stayed low at the tachi-ai leading with his head against M4 Arawashi, and before Arawashi could get anything going, Aoiyama had both palms planted firmly against Arawashi's chest, and he just bulldozed him back and across the straw without argument. Pretty good stuff from Aoiyama who moves to 2-3 while Arawashi falls to 1-4.

Instead of just trying to come out and kick the youngster's ass, M4 Yoshikaze was cool as a cat watching M5 Hokutofuji and defending the kid's tsuppari attempt with ease, and after a few seconds of defense, Cafe timed a perfect paw into Hokutofuji's neck halting him in his tracks and turning the tables. From there, Yoshikaze took over offering a few more shoves before getting the left arm to the inside, and he used that perfectly to stand Hokutofuji upright and force him back. These veterans simply refuse to lose against an upstart like Hokutofuji, and it showed here today as Yoshikaze moves to 3-2. Hokutofuji's nifty climb up the banzuke is put into more perspective as he falls to 1-4.

M3 Takarafuji came with a left kachi-age against M6 Chiyonokuni keeping him away from an offensive attack, and so Kuni responded by attempting to shove his way back in, but each volley was rejected firmly by Takarafuji who eventually got the right arm to the inside, and from there he lifted Chiyonokuni upright and easily forced him back and across. Chiyonokuni's posture when attempting his shoves was completely defensive with his legs planted behind him thus the easy path to Takarafuji's victory and 5-0 start. Chiyonokuni falls to 3-2.

Sekiwake Tamawashi and Sekiwake Kotoshogiku hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where The Mawashi used a right paw to the Geeku's neck keeping him upright. As he is wont to do, Kotoshogiku will mount that quick offensive charge because he knows he's at his opponent's mercy, and it worked to drive Tamawashi near the tawara, but as the taller Sekiwake dug his heels in keeping the Geeku at bay with a subtle left scoop throw, Kotoshogiku just collapsed as Tamawashi reached for the right outer grip. The Geeku is running on fumes, but if rikishi are generally going to keep treating him with the kid gloves, then why not continue...even if he doesn't get his 10 this basho. Both rikishi end the day at 3-2.

Sekiwake Takayasu easily knocked Komusubi Shodai back and upright with dual kachi-age followed by a few nice shoves up high, and as BlowDry looked to duck back into the bout, Takayasu just pulled him forward and down in maybe two seconds flat. Once again, Shodai is exposed by a solid rikishi looking to kick his ass. I loved Harvye's take regarding Takayasu (5-0) when he said that he's a solid rikishi but one who hasn't risen and maintained this status all on his own, but when you compare him to Shodai (2-3) in a straight up bout, it isn't even close. Shodai ain't got no goods.

Ozeki Terunofuji reached for the left front grip against M2 Takanoiwa, and while he didn't get it, it forced Takanoiwa to back up a bit out of harm's way. The problem was that Terunofuji's de-ashi are working great this basho, and he caught Takanoiwa with a nice right kachi-age standing Takanoiwa upright and opening the path for the right arm to the inside. From there, Takanoiwa had nowhere to go so Fuji the Terrible moved in for the kill lifting Takanoiwa clear off his feet with that lone right inside grip and a left group around Iwa's right shoulder. There's little more beautiful than an elite Mongolian fighting straight up as Terunofuji moves to 5-0 while Takanoiwa falls to 1-4.

Ozeki Goeido is the M1 Takekaze of yotsu-zumo, so I suspected a wild and crazy affair from these two today, but Takekaze simply out did his opponent by striking hard with the head and then shifting left putting a hand at Goeido's right shoulder threatening the pull. Before Goeido could square up, Takekaze kept moving laterally and pulled the Ozeki down by that shoulder on the second try. This one wasn't even close as the Ozeki had a hard time keeping his feet. I remember describing Goeido's sumo in the past as fighting like someone whose been blindfolded and forced to put his nose on the handle of a baseball bat and turn three times before being unleashed, and that was pretty much the content of his sumo today. In my pre-basho report, I stated that I was worried that Goeido was going to get preferential treatment because he was in Osaka, but that hasn't been the case to date as he falls to 1-4 (that one win was a gift). As for Takekaze, he picks up his first win at 1-4, and how pathetic is it that a scrub like Takekaze picks up his first win during the jobansen against an Ozeki?  Takekaze!!

Kisenosato and M1 Ikioi hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the start where Ikioi had his hand on Kisenosato's belt for the right outer grip, but he just relinquished it for no reason and backed up leaving his right hand in the kote-nage position. From there, Kisenosato attempted a few times to grab his own right outer, but Ikioi backed away never once going for any kind of counter move just going with the flow until he was up against the edge where Kisenosato eventually worked him across. I mean, Ikioi is the king of the kote-nage or counter tsuki-otoshi, and he attempted one half-assed kote-nage for show mid-bout, but he completely dictated the pace in this one as he guided the Kid around the ring before finally stepping out in the end. It's just ridiculous what they've done with Kisenosato, but the venue is sold out everyday, and I don't see anything changing. If Kisenosato's opponents continue to fight him like this, the dude should be able to actively fight well into his 40's. He's undefeated at 5-0 while Ikioi's lone with at 1-4 was of course against the best Yokozuna of all time. Go figure.

Speaking of the greatest of all time, he withdrew as mentioned previously giving Komusubi Mitakeumi the freebie and a 3-2 record.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Harumafuji and M3 Shohozan engaged in a decent tsuppari affair, and really the key here was to focus on the Yokozuna's footwork. His feet weren't aligned, and he was using the lower body to fuel those thrusts, and so the oshi-dashi win came easy with little danger as Shohozan (0-5) was shoved completely off the dohyo. With the Mongolians, you can tell by their footwork how serious they are in winning the bout as exhibited by Harumafuji who moved to 3-2.

Exhibit A of Mongolians displaying good footwork was seen with Yokozuna Kakuryu against M2 Sokokurai where the Yokozuna fueled his tsuppari attack with his legs catching Sokokurai firmly by the neck and shoving him back one, twice, three times a lady. It really is as simple as that. Watch the footwork from the Yokozuna and watch the angles that they take in their bouts, and it's easy to see when they are faking it or going all out. Kakuryu moves to 4-1 with the win with that sole loss of course coming at the hands of Kotoshogiku. As if. Sokokurai falls to 1-4 with the loss.

Well, if you're OJ Simpson and you've convinced yourself that you weren't Nicole and Ron's killer, then I suppose you're enjoying the basho.  If you're an expert sumo analyst then the frustration continues.

Hopefully Harvye has something to work with tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Harvey Hodja reporting)
Lord Kisenosato burped lightly: "uyf."  "I'm a lord!" he reminded himself with surly and somehow sour pleasure. As he lay face down getting another massage, he tried to forget that the reed mat below him showed spots of mold, that the walls wept mildew, that the floor in the cottage he called his "castle" hadn't been swept in years, and that the grit that crunched under his silk slippers when he walked in his rooms was mixed gravel, dust, and dried donkey dung (one of these days, he told himself for the hundredth time, he was going to have to buy a pony). He tried instead to think of those thin and clearly cheap, but at least good looking, silk slippers themselves, a present from one of his clansmen in the town when he was crowned Lord. He focused his eyes on the gaudy golden candlesticks, another gift from his coronation day. He pretended that primping lout Hakkaku, giving him the massage and droning on soothingly about protecting his responsibilities, was a different, age, gender, hey, just about different everything. Gad! He'd never let the public into this shoddy little room. "I'm a lord!" he reaffirmed to himself again, scratching at the chigger bites around his loins. He grinned in bitter, unwanted wickedness, grumbled. "It's not my fault!" he pouted reflexively. He knew the gold candlesticks were just painted lead. He tried to forget. He lied to himself, too, about why he'd put the most expensive gifts he'd gotten in the closet. The crate of white jewels sent by Hakuho, the absolutely enormous sword sent by Harumafuji, the plain but stunningly valuable pewter box full of real silver coins sent by that boring, annoying, yet admittedly rich Kakuryu--they'd almost taken his breath away, those coins. He just didn't have stuff like that in his world. The golden ukulele sent by Terunofuji bugged him too--there was some level of satire there, he knew, but he couldn't quite work it out. Lord Kisenosato sighed loudly, closed his eyes, focused again on the candlesticks with their sheen of pyrite, tried to remember fondly his shabby Lord ceremony, where they burned whole tubs of incense to cover up the smell of the manure in the streets but it still seeped in with the dank humidity. Yeah, the other lords, those three Mongolian jerks, had smirked the whole damn time. But Lord Kisenosato reassured himself that the crowd hadn't noticed: they'd had only eyes for him. At their distance down the cracked and splintering rough-hewn wooden pews, they couldn't see the moth holes in his cloak, the threadbare lines of his breeches, the soot smudges on his tiara. Nope! He was a lord now, too, dammit. Let those others talk. Let them talk.

M16 Nishikigi (1-2) vs. J2 Onosho (3-0)
And now for something completely different. And what a great way to start the day. In case you're not familiar with him, Onosho is a big, tough kid from Juryo with promise. Blam! He started this one lightning fast with an aggressive pop that sent Nishikigi backwards, and followed it up with tenacious, low drive right at Nishikigi's chest. But he's still young. Nishikigi absorbed it like a living blob, bore down, worked his way into some brief chest-to-chest equilibrium, then manfully shoved Onosho out, oshi-dashi.

M14 Myogiryu (1-2) vs. M15 Tokushoryu (2-1)
Myogiryu did everything but a voodoo dance to try to win this, and it's a measure of how far he's fallen that he just couldn't pull it out. He hopped out a bit to the side at the start, but Tokushoryu followed him and tsuppari'ed him in the face to even it back up. Then Myogiryu worked inside and low, and he had the fat and easily moved Tokushoryu stood up, but Tokushoryu was able to push down, push off, choke, and generally remain impervious to Myogiryu's superior position. Myogiryu got a tiny bit of a belt grip, but Tokushoryu responded by easily flicking him out of the ring, tsuki-otoshi. If you make Tokushoryu look like an invulnerable man-mountain, you're in trouble.

M13 Takakeisho (2-1) vs. M14 Kyokushuho (2-1)
Oh, come on, guys! This went on forever, but was just a lot of slapping. At one point Kyokushuho stopped a bit, looking in for that moment when he could slap back reel gud and give a "you wanna piece of this?" look. You knew at that moment who was going to win: Takakeisho, who said, "yeah, I want a piece of it," took advantage of the lull to move forward, and finally ended this silly crap, oshi-dashi.

M15 Chiyooh (0-3) vs. M13 Daishomaru (2-1)
Blech. Two of my least favorites here. Daishomaru is nothing but a puller, and Chiyooh is just not very good. Lived down to expectations, as Chiyooh backed up, evaded, and pulled the puller down, hataki-komi.

M11 Daieisho (1-2) vs. M12 Ura (1-2)
Why henka against Ura? You know the last thing he's going to do is give you a big chest-smacking tachi-ai. Yet that's what Daieisho tried. Overthinking it a bit, p'raps? Ura had no problem with the henka, just loped forward with his head down, like a kid looking for ants on the sidewalk, followed the off balance and confused Daieisho around, and pushed him out, oshi-dashi.

M12 Sadanoumi (0-3) vs. M11 Ishiura (2-1)
Stone Ass (Ishiura) drove his head into Sadanoumi's chin at the tachi-ai, reached a'way back behind and got a grip on the butt button, then took a grip with the other hand right on the front of Sadanoumi's belt underneath. From there it was curtains, as Sadanoumi was helpless and felled, shitate-hineri, in a very good looking bout for Stony.

M10 Tochiohzan (3-0) vs. M9 Kotoyuki (1-2)
Tochiohzan may be 3-0, but it's because he's at M10, and it shows as he still felt he couldn't take Kotoyuki on straight up. He evaded and pulled at the tachi-ai, then a few minutes later did a beautiful swift switcheroo, moving from Kotoyuki's left side to his right to unbalance him and push him out oshi-dashi. But this was all backwards moving and bodes ill for him pulling off a 4-0 start anywhere but here on the banzuke.

M7 Ichinojo (2-1) vs. M9 Kagayaki (0-3)
This looked like mukiryoku by Kagayaki, who imitated a surprised pedestrian on the street corner being attacked by a mean bum. Though Ichinojo was standing up straight and doing nothing but pushing, Kagayaki made no attempt to take advantage, just twirled his arms around in circles, fingers limply open, while walking backwards, also standing up straight, in the easiest oshi-dashi embarrassment you'll ever see.

M10 Tochinoshin (1-2) vs M7 Chiyoshoma (3-0)
The truth is Chiyoshoma is pretty exciting these days, people, and you knew before they ever came out of the crouch the injured Tochinoshin was going to have no chance against this wiry, wily, strong up-and-comer with his excellent focus and explosive late-bout pop. Chiyoshoma started off with lots of directed, strong hands to the face, then got Tochinoshin by the belt and whirled him around a few times. It took a while, because even when lame Tochinoshin is a fine wrestler, but the bottom line is Chiyoshoma was never in danger here and eventually mounted a charged and forced a spent 'Shin out, yori-kiri.

M6 Chiyonokuni (2-1) vs. M8 Okinoumi (2-1)
While lotta' hand slapping goin' on. Then Okinoumi ducked in low for the belt, Chiyonokuni pulled, and down they went in a heap at the edge together, with Okinoumi the forward moving aggressor. The original winner was Okinoumi, and that seemed correct based on momentum and the feel of the bout. However, a mono-ii was called, and the men in black got it right: replays did show that Okinoumi's hand went down before any part of Chiyonokuni's body touched out. Meaningless kimari-te of tsuki-otoshi was assigned and the win switched to Chiyonokuni. Fine. But keep this in mind when we get to Hakuho later. In this bout, the "spirit" of the law said give the bout to Okinoumi. But the "letter" of the law said hey, we know it doesn't look that way to the naked eye, but we just have to give it to Chiyonokuni, because facts are facts and Okinoumi touched out first, however bad Chiyonokuni looked. So, they went with the letter of the law here. They would later do the opposite in the Hakuho match, as you shall see.

M5 Endo (1-2) vs. M6 Aoiyama (1-2)
Oh, whatever. Aoiyama gave one shove, then pulled on Endo's arm--not his forte. They inscribed a half circle upon the dohyo, and at the moment Aoiyama could have thrown Endo down on his face by that arm, lo!, instead he only did that once he'd already stepped out to a loss, "yori-kiri." Even the gyoji's gumbai pointing seemed unconvinced: "oh, okay, yeah, sure, let's move on."

M3 Shohozan (0-3) vs. M4 Arawashi (0-3)
Another one of those slappity-slappity matches I just can't get into. Eventually, though, they settled briefly on belts, and it was gratifying to watch Arawashi, who I secretly admire, dominate swiftly from there: he just gave one great tug and slung Darth Hozan down, shitate-nage.

M5 Hokutofuji (1-2) vs. M3 Takarafuji (3-0)
I call this kind of match where they hold on to each other's arms a lot, and fling those arms away, grappling. No belt action, not chest to chest, but not slaps either: just seeking position with the arms. This one was won by the wrestler who never lost his cool. At one point Hokutofuji got a pretty good choke hold going. After Takarafuji broke it off, Hokutofuji tried to replace the lost grip with a wild choke-thrust attempt that pivoted his body in front of Takarafuji. So Takarafuji stepped to Hokutofuji's exposed flank and pushed him out, oshi-dashi.

K Mitakeumi (2-1) vs. S Takayasu (3-0)
Good match here by two guys on the rise both because they're good and because they're liked to rise now. Mitakeumi had lower position and a short, shallow right inside on the front of the belt. However, he gave that up when he tried to prematurely turn it into a force out, and Takayasu took advantage of his closeness by getting his own right inside instead. Mitakeumi tried to counter that by pulling away, rarely a good idea, and that put him near the straw, where Takayasu, who is a largish lad, was able to bull him out without much trouble, yori-kiri. Good stuff.

S Tamawashi (1-2) vs. K Shodai (2-1)
Two basho ago I wrote that Shodai likes to get to the inside. Or was that it? Something about losing by mistake? I mean, er, winning by mistake? Or when other guys make mistakes? I get all confused. All right, all right, I confess: I am miffed that I wasn't able to figure out his style--even while paying close attention!--and have been in denial. But I admit it: The Next Yokozuna has got nothing going on, to the extent that I've forgotten what I thought he had going on. Not much to describe in this one except a lot of face shoves. Shodai, however, kept trying to stick his arms inside instead--not a bad move if you can bring it off. ‘Ceptin as he couldn't. And Tamawashi, having noticed the attempts, grabbed hold of one of those arms and pulled Shodai forward and down, kote-nage. Looked easy.

O Goeido (1-2) vs. M2 Takanoiwa (0-3)
Ah, you Goeido you. Lots of action, not a lot of finish. Or calm. Or containment. Or power. I tired of waiting for him to impress me years ago, and now just wish he would go. Away. Doh! Just watch him in this one. Action! Yes, there he is, manfully bulling forward, which I should like, except that he walked right into a long outside left from Takanoiwa. Action! There he is workin' it, trying to force his opponent out, which I should like, except in his eagerness he was so tight on his man he let Takanoiwa get an inside right, too. Action! There he is, hyperkinetically changing his horse halfway through to go for a pull, which of course is so rarely a good idea, and while I just can't get inspired by the bland and cocky looking Takanoiwa, he knows what to do when pulled--he won in a second flat, yori-kiri, when it happened. Frankly, Goeido just seems to blunder around up there like a dunderhead, and you can't shake that "not an Ozeki!" visceral rejection of it all.

M4 Yoshikaze (2-1) vs. O Terunofuji (3-0)
Fuji the Terrible scooped Yoshikaze up with a powerful right arm, and was getting all ready to grab some belt and destroy him, but then found that Yoshikaze was already off balance, sideways to him, and ready to ride out on the handcart that was Terunofuji's arms. So he pushed him out. Yori-kiri. We've seen this before from Terunofuji during his recent struggles: a hot start that fools you into thinking maybe this is the tournament he'll come roaring back, only to finish 8-7. But mmm, mmm does this cheeseburger look tasty. Do I get to call him The Future again soon?

Y Harumafuji (1-2) vs. M1 Takekaze (0-3)
This was interesting. While I do believe Harumafuji could very easily have beaten Sokokurai yesterday by having just a little conservatism in his sumo, I also think he intended to win, and when he was sitting next to the ring after losing, I don't think he was pretending to wonder, "what happened," which Mike is right to say we often see as part of Bad Acting Class after mukiryoku losses. Rather, he was thinking, "I am a dumbass." He knew he'd blown it all on his own, and had taken "let's be sloppy, because who cares!" too far. So today he had one goal: hold back. This had dual value: prevent the reckless overcommitment that kills him, and protect him against any Takekaze sneakiness. However, it made his style unnatural, and he was simultaneously pushing on Takekaze and not wanting to get too close, then having to tighten up again, and sure enough Takekaze grabbed him and pulled him along, and at the end, though Harumph got the oshi-dashi win, his own feet were uncomfortably close to the tawara too, and you had the feeling Takekaze could have taken him down with the right evasion. If you agree with me that this was real sumo, yay. But ask yourself: did you enjoy the bout? Did this look like Yokozuna fun to you? The rot from the fake matches spills over and ruins the real ones.

S Kotoshogiku (2-1) vs. Y Kakuryu (3-0)
At first I was enjoying this: Kakuryu stood there like a brick wall. Kotoshogiku crashed into him and couldn't move him. It was as if Kakuryu was saying: "see, I let you do your signature thing, and you can't even move me an inch." Like he wanted to show that Kotoshogiku has nothing left. But wait! Actually, Kakuryu then did start moving backwards. No lateral action, no attempts at throws or moves: the only thing Kakuryu did in this match was resist a full frontal assault by just, well, standing in front of it. And as broken down as he is, Kotoshogiku is still a one-time Ozeki who can knock down even a brick wall or two. He couldn't finish it, and had to get an arm in under and reverse and dump Kakuryu over back into the middle of the ring, sukui-nage, but Kakuryu let him have this one.

Y Hakuho (2-1) vs. M1 Ikioi (0-3)
For a moment it looked like we might have classic Hakuho: leapt forward, scooped upwards with the right arm, legs apart, stance low. But he'd kind of lost the tachi-ai, actually, as Ikioi came farther forward, and Hakuho needed to get a grip, not just let his right arm rest there like Napoleon's hand-in-jacket. So, Ikioi pushed and slid him all the way back to the tawara, like Hakuho was a marble statue. Hakuho then tried to turn out and twist and throw, but it was too late (or was it?), as Ikioi had him where he needed him to be, and used his solid strength to topple him over, yori-taoshi. Now, it was close, and required a mono-ii, but the judges decided that it just felt like an Ikioi win. Hakuho has either lost a step, or given up a step. It doesn't really matter which: he looks really bad right now, and the tables are well set for him to hang it up. I hearby (hear by? Hereby!) predict he doesn't last the year--really. How long can you go with four Yokozuna? Hakuho's sumo is cynical right now, and if that's how he wants to play it, it's time for us to move fully into the maw of the new era. The judges seemed to feel it too; in reality, video showed Ikioi probably touched down first, and they could have at least had a do over. With Chiyonokuni vs. Okinoumi, they reversed it. But here, it seemed no one felt like it--Hakuho doesn't seem to care if he wins or loses, so fine, let him have lost. The whole thing was symbolic of the turn of the tide that has left Hakuho a relic from the past, swamp marooned in sumo's Golden Dawn of Lies.

M2 Sokokurai (1-2) vs. Y Kisenosato (3-0)
Lord Kisenosato stepped regally forward and placed one hand in Sokokurai's right armpit. As the smaller man writhed against him, Lord Kisenosato reached over with his right arm and grabbed his belt. Lord Kisenosato then calmly and coolly used his girth to move the bout to its death phase, as the little fly flickered against him. Yori-kiri, Lord Kisenosato removed the little man from the ring. There Is Nothing You Can Do Against The Power Of Lord Kisenosato! For the record, I totally believe Lord Kisenosato is a better wrestler than Sokokurai and can easily beat him. His sumo was rock solid and no match on this particular day for the minor bit player visiting from the lower ranks. But the Ozeki and Yokozuna landscape in sumo these days is so farcical that it overshadows everything with its leering light of fantasy. The legitimate bouts exist in pale shadow to the lurid fake ones. The good bouts are dimly lit stick drawings, only dully visible in the acrid reflection of the gaudy kodachrome hell-scenes of the Hokutoumi Revolution. It's bad enough that the fake bouts make you roll your eyes. It's worse that the real ones make you shrug and say, "yeah, but."

Mike serves a saucerful of secrets tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As much guff as I've given Kisenosato over the years, I really enjoyed the intro to today's broadcast. For whatever reason, they chose today to show a brief timeline of Kisenosato's rise in the sport starting with images of him from mae-zumo and then showing highlights of his rise up the ranks. And when I say highlights, there were some great bouts that really showcased the Kid's abilities. They also showed a brief clip of Kisenosato being instructed by his original stablemaster, Onaruto-oyakata, or the former Yokozuna Takanosato. It was really a great piece, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was nice to actually relive what Kisenosato once was.

I decided to record two of those early bouts just so you can see how good he was, and I want everyone to focus on the actual sumo taking place in the ring. Watch how Kisenosato forces the bouts to the belt; watch he focuses on the inside first and then the outside; watch how he cuts off his opponent's outer grip in the Makushita bout; and then watch how he uses his body to defeat Kotooshu in the Juryo ranks.

It's really great stuff to watch, and it's impossible to have watched sumo like that for a few decades and then actually accept the crap were being shown these days.  What I mean by crap is largely illustrated in the picture below that I found on the wires from the Kisenosato - Shodai bout on day 2.

If you were to take a minute to study the details, what do you see? First and foremost are Shodai's sagari lying there on the ground after I proclaimed on day 1 that the sagari never come loose in bouts that involve the big 5. It was almost as if Kisenosato read that remark because he came out first thing and just yanked the sagari out for no reason. But beyond that, what do you see?

What stood out to me first was Shodai's head. Why is he looking for a soft landing? He's still in the bout, and it isn't as if Kisenosato is in his craw or anything; there's plenty of room between the two. The dude's intent is to lose, and so that's why at the edge he's looking for a way to land instead of looking at his opponent and trying anything to counter. It's total mukiryoku sumo on the Komusubi's part, and I guarantee you that if the bout was straight up, Shodai would not be looking away from his opponent while the bout was still live.

Another thing that stood out to me was the placement of Kisenosato's hands. His right hand is actually making a fist, and he's using that to push into Shodai's left teet. Then with the left he's pushing into his opponent with the back side of the hand instead of the open palm, which is the way these guys are taught in front of the teppo pole.  A big contrast also comes in the fact that Kisenosato isn't fighting chest to chest.  There's often separation between him and his opponent; yet, he's not an oshi guy.

Ultimately, what you don't see in the pic are sound sumo basics anywhere, and it's an indication of how watered down sumo has become, especially in the section of the banzuke that features the big 5. Kisenosato was once a great rikishi.  Kaio was once a great rikishi.  But just because someone was great, it doesn't mean that we have to put up with yaocho day after day in order to make the Japanese people feel good about themselves.

With that said, let's start from the bottom and work our way up yet again today.  M15 Tokushoryu met M16 Nishikigi at the tachi-ai with arms extended but then quickly back-pedaled swiping downwards at Nishikigi's chest as he retreated. Nishikigi had the forward momentum, but there was just too much real estate between Tokushoryu and the edge allowing Tokushoryu to stay in the dohyo before Nishikigi crashed to the dirt. Tokushoryu picks up the ugly win moving to 2-1 while Nishikigi falls to 1-2.

J2 Gagamaru had to sense that M15 Chiyooh is ailing because he came out of the gate blazing with a tsuppari attack for which Chiyooh had no answer. Chiyooh did attempt to escape back and right, but Gagamaru had the footwork not to mention the Christmas hams attached to the end of each arm that pummeled Chiyooh back and out in mere seconds. Chiyooh falls to 0-3 after the ass-kicking.

M14 Kyokushuho must have smelled blood against M13 Daishomaru because he got the right arm secured to the inside from the tachi-ai despite Daishomaru's shifting a bit left, and the Mongolian just kept on the pressure adding insult to injury with the left outer grip, and it was textbook sumo from there as Shuho wrenched his foe upright and off balance and had him forced back and across in seconds. Just like they draw it up as Kyokushuho moves to 2-1 while Daishomaru falls to the same mark.

M13 Takakeisho and M14 Myogiryu engaged in a brief tsuppari affair from the tachi-ai where neither rikishi had much effect, so after playing pattycake for a spell, Takakeisho backed up to his right and went for a pull maneuver that sent Myogiryu down far too easily. This coulda been legit, and I know that Myogiryu is ailing, but Takakeisho has shown us nothing in this division, and I've seen enough of Myogiryu that I think he could have easily destroyed the youngster today had he wanted. He falls to 1-2 with the loss while Takanohana, who was in the booth today, likely paid for this one has his rikishi moves to 2-1.

M11 Daieisho stutter-stepped at the tachi-ai against M11 Ishiura probably expecting some shenanigans, and although Ishiura didn't come hard and straight forward, Daieisho was already off balance, and his only response after the failed tachi-ai was a meager pull, but Ishiura read the move with ease and jumped into the moro-zashi position, and from there it was curtains from Daieisho who exhibited his worst sumo of the fortnight so far falling to 1-2. Credit Ishiura for taking advantage of his opponent's mistake as he moves to 2-1 with the yori-kiri win.

Like the previous bout, I'm sure that M10 Tochiohzan suspected something unorthodox from M12 Ura because he hopped a bit at the tachi-ai and then moved out left. Fortunately, Tochiohzan guessed right because Ura attempted to duck in low and dry hump Tochiohzan's right leg, but with nothing there, Ura was forced to pivot in an attempt to square back up with his gal, but the former Sekiwake already had the smaller Ura by the back of the belt and pulled him down to the clay in between his legs before Ura really knew what hit him. Tochiohzan is 3-0 if you need him while Ura is finding that the Makuuchi division is a different game at 1-2.

Unlike the great start we got to my Day 1, the first six contests of day 3 have been quite lopsided.

That would finally change with the next bout where M12 Sadanoumi was likely licking his chops against the injured M10 Tochinoshin. What Sadanoumi seemed to miss, however, was that Shin's first two opponent's forced the Private to move laterally and use his legs. Sadanoumi, on the other hand, charged straight into his opponent settling for chest to chest combat. The two immediately hooked up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position, and I think Sadanoumi sensed that he was in trouble because instead of trying beat his foe at the belt, he wrapped his right leg around Tochinoshin's good left leg threatening the soto-gake, but that's not Sadanoumi's game, especially against a big lug like Tochinoshin, and so Tochinoshin just went Greco-Roman style using his superior upper body strength to wrench Sadanoumi this way and that and then out for the emphatic win. Tochinoshin moves to 1-2 with the win while Sadanoumi falls to 0-3. I like that fact that Sadanoumi looked to tie up Tochinoshin's healthy leg, but that adjustment came after making the mistake of going chest to chest with him.

M9 Kagayaki and M8 Okinoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai although both rikishi used their right hands to push into their opponent. After a few seconds when it was clear that this one was going to the belt (which favors Okinoumi), Kagayaki attempted to counter with a tsuki attempt and then a kote-nage as he moved laterally this way and that, but Okinoumi used his length--and superior sumo skills--to stay square with his pardner and eventually force him back and across for the nice yori-kiri win. Okinoumi looks disinterested to me these days despite his decent 2-1 start. Kagayaki falls to 0-3 with the loss.

M9 Kotoyuki shaded to his right at the tachi-ai against M7 Chiyoshoma but still attempted to unleash a tsuppari attack, but the Mongolian just went with the flow and moved right himself keeping square with his opponent, and when it was clear Kotoyuki posed no threat, Shoma timed a perfect slap of Kotoyuki's left shoulder that sent him stumbling a bit sideways, and from there we got our first Brokeback moment of the basho as Chiyoshoma dove in from behind, embraced his man in snug, and then sent him forward and out okuri-dashi style. Chiyoshoma is 3-0 if you need him while Kotoyuki falls to 1-2.

M6 Chiyonokuni simply henka'd to his left at the tachi-ai and M6 Aoiyama fell for it. I guess Chiyonokuni did use a kote-nage from the side to aid Aoiyama's fall, but this was a cheap shot as Kuni moves to 2-1. Aoiyama falls to 1-2 but will eventually make up the ground by the time the cup is hoisted on senshuraku.

M7 Ichinojo implemented his python sumo against M5 Hokutofuji getting his right arm to the inside from the tachi-ai and sucking the youngster into a chest to chest bout. Hokutofuji complied, but his left arm was far away from the outer grip. Content to let the action flow backwards where his feet were near the tawara, Ichinojo leaned into his opponent and finally reached that left arm around securing the outer grip, and once obtained, he knew exactly what to do. Hokutofuji knew what was coming as well and tried a desperate maki-kae with the left arm, but the Python had him in too tight and enjoyed all the momentum as he danced his partner all the way across the dohyo and out for the nice, textbook win. Ichinojo moves to 2-1 while Hokutofuji falls to 1-2.

M4 Yoshikaze ducked in low against M4 Arawashi, who seemed to want to get to the belt with an arm extended, but Monster Drink was caffeinated today executing a quick pull before moving left and getting the left arm inside deep. Arawashi looked to counter that with a right kote-nage, but Yoshikaze was moving so fast and was so low that the counter move had little effect, so the result was a nice win for Yoshikaze by yori-kiri as he improves to 2-1 while Arawashi falls to 0-3.

M3 Takarafuji's intent today against M5 Endoh was to win, and he did just that crashing hard and forward at the tachi-ai before getting his left arm to the inside against the listless Endoh, and with Takara Boom De Ay enjoying the momentum, he didn't even need the insurance with the right arm the bout was over that fast. Takarafuji moves to 3-0 with the win while Endoh falls to 1-2, and the dude could do nothing here. It's not as if Takarafuji is a bruiser; it's that Endoh's full colors were on display today, and we may as well have been watching a TV in black and white.

Sekiwake Tamawashi fired some nice tsuppari into Komusubi Mitakeumi from the tachi-ai methodically driving him back, but then the Sekiwake shifted gears and eased up on the pressure keeping his arms out wide and allowing Mitakeumi back into the bout. Now with Mitakeumi firing back, Tamawashi got his right arm to the inside, but that was just for show as he allowed Mitakeumi to pivot out left and tug Tamawashi down and out by the shoulder. I know that Tamawashi was winless against Mitakeumi coming in, but that's an inflated number. This was total mukiryoku sumo on the part of the Sekiwake, who stopped his initial tsuppari attack for no reason and then did nothing to square himself up once he got the right arm to the inside. iI gave Mitakeumi the bendoubt last basho when these two clashed, but enough it enough.  It wastoo easy for Mitakeumi who did nothing to set this one up, but it looks good on paper as Mitakeumi moves to 2-1 while Tamawashi falls to 1-2.

In a Sekiwake duel today, Takayasu briefly looked to have moro-zashi against Kotoshogiku, but after a brief tussle, the two ended up in hidari-yotsu where Takayasu looked to stand his ground as Kotoshogiku stayed busy trying desperately to nudge his foe back towards the straw. Takayasu's heels were close, and the former Ozeki actually got the right outer grip, but Takayasu was just too big to budge, and so at the edge, he finally countered with a nice inside belt throw with the left hand that toppled Kotoshogiku over and down to his first loss at 2-1.  Kotoshogiku must keep up this pace in order to return to the Ozeki rank, and that will be up to the four Mongolians.  As for Takayasu, he moves to 3-0, and I thought Harvye was spot in yesterday in his assessment of him:  he's a solid dude, but he hasn't earned this rank and talk of Ozeki on his own.

The only real Ozeki on the board, Terunofuji, moved forward well against M3 Shohozan at the tachi-ai looking to get to the inside, but Shohozan wanted no part of that, so he backed up and moved right looking for anything, but with the Ozeki on his game and moving well, Shohozan moved back to the center of the ring creating full separation even though neither guy had really touched each other to this point. You could see, though, that Terunofuji was on a mission, and so he advanced forward hard executing a nice pull of Shohozan moving him over towards the edge, and as the M3 looked to turn around and square back up, Fuji the Terrible sent him sailing oshi-taoshi style over the the corner of the dohyo and eventually off. The Ozeki was a destroyer yet again today, and it's refreshing to see him choose this kind of sumo as he moves to 3-0 while Shohozan falls to 0-3.

Ozeki Goeido looked to burrow in tight against Komusubi Shodai, but there was no punch to his attack, so the Komusubi was able to move left and sorta set up a kote-nage throw, and then when Goeido came to square up again, Shodai next moved to his right getting the right arm to the inside and easily dumping Goeido down the clay with a scoop throw. Even watching the replay of this one, there really weren't any concrete moves from either rikishi that one could describe. They were both just kind of slapping their hands around and moving this way or that until the final kote-nage in the end...which wasn't that powerful either. Contrast this to the two bouts I showed of Kisenosato when he was young, and it's totally different sumo.  Goeido's gettin' up there in age, so that could be excuse, but that Kisenosato we saw in those videos would kick the modern day Shodai's as this way till Tuesday.  Goeido falls to a precarious 1-2 while BlowDai is 2-1

Yokozuna Kakuryu and M1 Ikioi each looked half-assed at the tachi-ai getting all busy with their hands but not really doing much. Still standing in the center of the ring, Kakuryu finally ducked in looking for moro-zashi but coming away with just the left arm inside. Still, he reached for and got the right outer grip, and with Ikioi's right arm far away from the belt, the Yokozuna hunkered down and gathered his wits. After a few seconds of inaction, Kakuryu made his force-out charge getting Ikioi pushed back against the straw and then finally out. Ikioi's height and his belt loosening from the right outer grip made the Yokozuna work a little harder, but he scored the nice win in the end after a bland start upping his record to 3-0.  Ikioi falls to a hard luck 0-3.

For whatever reason, Yokozuna Hakuho kept both arms wide open at the tachi-ai against M1 Takekaze who took the moro-zashi gift straightway. Hakuho's tachi-ai made no sense here, but we often see the Mongolians dick around with their sumo for no apparent reason (just look at Harumafuji yesterday against Ikioi). Despite giving up moro-zashi from the start, Hakuho was in no trouble because his opponent was named Takekaze, and so he held on with a firm left outer grip while eventually working his right arm to the inside, and once obtained, the force-out was swift and decisive. It was a horrible start but a solid finish for the Yokozuna who moves to 2-1 while Takekaze falls to 0-3.

The only move M2 Takanoiwa consistently showed today against Kisenosato was to keep his feet aligned at all costs. In another boring bout that contained few moves that one can describe, both rikishi danced this way and that with busy hands, and just when you thought Takanoiwa had an opening to the inside, he'd back away allowing Kisenosato to give chase, and after about six seconds of this nonsense, Kisenosato finally connected on a few shoves that weren't that powerful, and it allowed Takanoiwa to get the left arm firmly to the inside. He still did nothing with it, however, and backed out yet again, and this time Kisenosato was able to follow him and score the easy oshi-dashi win in the end. Complete mukiryoku sumo from Takanoiwa today as he falls to 0-3 while Kisenosato is gifted a 3-0 start.  Once again, you look at the photo finish at right, and there's just something missing.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji looked to take charge with a paw to Sokokurai's neck and another good push from the side, but his feet were totally aligned, and so while the attack looked legit to the novice, the Yokozuna was being reckless in his sumo yet again. With Sokokurai really doing nothing from the start, Harumafuji next went for a dumb pull motion, and I say motion because he really didn't pull any part of his opponent's body, and so with the Yokozuna backed way up in a bad bout all around, he next dove forward with a reckless do-or-die push-out attempt where he tried to fly over half the dohyo in the air, and Sokokurai easily read that move and pulled the Yokozuna down for the sloppy win...or should I say sloppy loss on the part of the Yokozuna. This was like one of those bouts where the big 5 pulls off a win without doing anything the first 9 1/2 seconds only to pull the rabbit out of the hat in the final moments. It's just senseless, ridiculous sumo from the Yokozuna, and he lost this one instead of getting beat. All three Yokozuna have been sloppy so far save Hakuho's win against Sokokurai yesterday. Terunofuji is the benchmark for what these guys can do, but for obvious reasons, they're leaving themselves vulnerable and lowering the bar of their sumo in order to create parity.  After the bout Harumafuji sat on the edge of the dohyo looking perplexed, and I just wanted to say get your ass back to your corner.  Isn't it enough that we have to see fake sumo in the ring?  We don't need to see you guys pretending as if you don't know what just happened.  Both rikishi end the day at 1-2.

I guess I've come to accept life atop the dohyo these days, but it doesn't make for enjoyable sumo. In fact, the entire day today was so bland that I can't recall a single solid bout of sumo from both parties. But...the Association has made their bed, and if I want to continue to lie in it, then I guess I'll put up with it.

Let's hope the sumo gods are kinder to Harvye tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Harvey Hodja reporting)
After a ridiculous day one, I will not deign to riff on Kisenosato, "Yokozuna," just yet. Let's talk baseball!

In the 1990s and 2000s, baseball in the United States saw an explosion of home runs. Balls flew out the park in record, absurd numbers that made it look like a whole new sport. Thick-necked "athletes" with rippling muscles employed inhuman power in their bat strokes.  Meanwhile, the media, which surely knew exactly what was going on, ran around writing articles about whether the balls were harder.

The sport was, of course, rife with steroid use, as is now well documented.  Many of the very, very best players were caught using steroids, and many gumps as well.  One of the very good ones, Jose Canseco, an irresponsible lunkhead, eventually wrote a book and said pretty much everybody was using steroids.  He may or may not have been exaggerating, and because he was a lunkhead, lots of people dismissed him.  But meanwhile, the sport acted like he was right, decided it had to clean up, made all kinds of rules, and began testing like mad.  So, by around 2010 scoring was way down and the sport was confidently describing its "post steroid" era.  Jose Canseco remains a pariah, and a select group of those who were caught are vilified as having sullied the sport. (But so is Canseco.)

Then a funny thing happened.  Last year, guys started blasting balls out of the part at near unprecedented rates again--precedented only, you guessed it, by the steroid era.  Yet strangely enough, nobody is talking about steroids.  Rather, for example, the other day an article appeared in the highly respected, and indeed excellent baseball-insider bible Baseball America, where the author speculated, amazingly, on whether the balls were different last year.

The balls.  Hoo, boy.

The article reads like a comedy; the sport and the ball makers have exhaustingly tested the balls, and proved they are exactly the same, yet a number of people still insist them darn balls just must be wound too tight!  One player feigns bemusement and says well, we can't just have all gotten so much better all the sudden, can we?  With the ball theory in doubt, the article points out that the pitchers are throwing much, much harder than ever before.  Very true!  So it must be that the balls are flying off the bats because they are thrown so hard. Right? Right?

The very obvious logical answer is that the balls are hit harder because of steroids, and the balls are thrown harder because of steroids, too.  It's just really hard to catch, and players have started to figure out how to get around the rules again.  As an article in Men's Fitness says, "if you want to get a good chuckle from the world's top experts on doping, just try telling them this is baseball's 'post-steroid' era... [they] find that idea hysterical."  Me too.

Why this long digression into another sport, you ask?  Dear reader, you have of course noted the parallel between steroid use in baseball and yaocho in sumo.  Substitute sumo for baseball, match fixing for steroids, inexplicable bout technique for home runs and 100 mile per hour fastballs, Itai for Jose Canseco, etc., and you get the picture.  The reality in sumo is that the current landscape is as fake as Okinawan summer snowscapes, but it's hard to actually catch, so most of those having an interest, including the deeply embedded mainstream media, have to run around and figure out other things to say.

We're not going to do that on this site.

J1 Chiyotairyu (0-1) vs. M15 Tokushoryu (1-0)
That blasting ball of mutton meat, Chiyotairyu, tried something different in this one.  Well, he started off as usual, kabloom!, trying to launch his opponent to the ceiling with upward jacks, but when it didn't work Chiyotairyu didn't pull, and then actually went to the belt.  Should have been toast from there against blubbery inside-worker Special Sauce (Tokushoryu), but lo! if Chiyotairyu didn't have an inside left and an outside right, and use it to drive ol' bacon ball out and over, yori-kiri.

M14 Myogiryu (1-0) vs. M16 Nishikigi (0-1)
Oh wee weakling, Myogiryu, who are you?  I remember when you were so tough and tenacious.  Here you are fumbling and bumbling, and pushed about, and I hardly recognize you, old boy.  Nishikigi kept his arms in tight and quickly pushed out the eensy-looking Myogiryu, oshi-dashi.

M15 Chiyooh (0-1) vs. M14 Kyokushuho (0-1)
Kyokushuho looked like a coach using his compliant friend as a practice dummy while teaching the kids a lesson.  "See now students, here I am with my legs wide apart, chest low. See now how I reach in here and grab his belt with my left overhand--that's it, thank you--and now you see with my wide stance my can is far back and Chiyooh can't grab it. Reach for it now, that's a good lad, Chiyooh, thank you, show them how you can't reach it, like that, yes. He's wiggling about a bit, as you can see, but I'm holding him tight. And then I dump him just like this, leveraging up on my belt grip and tipping him over, this technique is called uwate-nage, your classic overhand throw. Thank you Chiyooh, you can go back to the water coolers now."

M12 Sadanoumi (0-1) vs. M13 Takakeisho (0-1)
Takakeisho knows a mark when he sees one, and Sadanoumi has been pounded flank steak breaded for tooth grind for a year or so now.  Takakeisho looked like a stupid alley brawler in this one, bashing away with aggressive but silly looking tsuppari first, then eagerly pulling, but Sadanoumi looked drunk on mescal and fell down in the cactus, tsuki-otoshi.

M13 Daishomaru (1-0) vs. M12 Ura (1-0)
We're all so eager to see Ura fly through circus hoops while twirling a tiger round his loins, carrying a flaming noren curtain rod between his teeth and moving each toe separately in an interpretive dance based on a John Cage composition, that we forget that he is, at the moment, an undersized rookie.  This was as bad a boring, ill-fought lower bout match on his part as you're likely to find from whoever.  Ura stepped to the side against the loathsome green pull-slug, Daishomaru, but Daishomaru turned to him and ruthlessly pushed the little pipsqueak out, oshi-dashi.  Tomorrow:  Ura leaps twelve meters in the air and knocks his opponent out with an ass to the face on the way down, tsuki-assi-oshmashi!

M10 Tochinoshin (0-1) vs. M11 Ishiura (0-1)
The Leaning Tower of Tochino-Pisa. This was a little sad, as The Leaning Tower (Tochinoshin) kept moving forward too slowly, or not enough, and Ishiura did one thing only:  kept slightly diagonal to him on his right, and tugged at this right arm. Hoping to topple his Leaning Tower. A demolition engineer, working away at the fault line. Tochinoshin kept gingerly rotating, rotating, trying to square; the little engineer kept retreating to the side, retreating to the side... when the Leaning Tower finally moved forward fast and aggressively, well, why, there was the little engineer, tugging on that ol' right arm and ushering him past and out, okuri-dashi. The Leaning Tower finally fell down.

M11 Daieisho (1-0) vs. M10 Tochiohzan (1-0)
Tochiohzan's chestnut heart has grown dry and crumbly, but he's still pretty good, and that is why Thou Shalt Not Pull Him. Daieisho had ol' chestnut going backward, but then went backwards himself instead, trying to do what Takakeisho did to Sadanoumi a few bouts ago. Lesson: Tochiohzan is not Sadanoumi. He easily moved with the momentum shift and pushed leedle fellow Daieisho out, oshi-dashi.

M9 Kotoyuki (1-0) vs. M8 Okinoumi (0-1)
Kotoyuki pushed, which was working, then pulled, which did not.  He slapped dutifully away, but Okinoumi wore that hairshirt like a summer dress, and stepped nonchalantly to the side while torqueing Kotoyuki by the noggin; then he was standing placidly behind him, barely exercised, and got the easy okuri-dashi win.  Lo!; the best was yet to come. Kotoyuki, in an ecstasy of odd movement, fell backwards onto one of the men in black, like a guy jumping onto a silver dinner tray for an illicit ride down the hall, whee!  Teenage fun at your cousin's mental ward.  But that weren't no dinner tray with wheels, but an old man in a black frock, and he didn't roll, but rocked in an organic jello-ish way underneath Kotoyuki and dumped him off.  I love it when dumb weird stuff happens to Kotoyuki.

M9 Kagayaki (0-1) vs. M7 Chiyoshoma (1-0)
Oh my my. This wiry nervy Chiyoshoma is pretty good, folks.  He read our scouting report, too.  He spent the match trying not to let Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki) catch him straight on.  Good work!  But in the middle he also tried some little deeky paws to the face, which I've never been an admirer of--just seems like Show move to me--and Kagayaki took advantage of the moment by reaching in with his long, long left and grabbing Chiyoshoma's belt.  Now it was harder to rotate, and Chiyoshoma had to try something else.  Which, being a Mongolian who keeps in his locker a thermosful of "it" gathered from a secret pool deep on the Mongolian steppe, he could do no problem.  He hopped and jacked his body out to the side while putting pressure on with an arm to the body, and as Fried Mosquito was still lamely trying to linearly force him out, Chiyoshoma limberly lurched lovelily at his side and threw him out in this unlikely manner, sukui-nage.  Chiyoshoma went back to his locker and took another refreshing swig of "it." Ahhhh!

M6 Chiyonokuni (0-1) vs. M7 Ichinojo (1-0)
Chiyonokuni did the right thing at first, staying out of harm's way and rotating the fulcrum of attack, and then he improbably drove The Mongolith (Ichinojo) back with some slappity funsies.  It must be the size of the ball!  That said, at the end Ichinojo put the wrong foot forward, literally, switching out the left for the right.  Lightning quick, Chiyonokuni jumped to his right side and struck Ichinojo there, knocking him forward into the angle created between his feet, tsuki-otoshi.  This looked, um, weird.

M6 Aoiyama (0-1) vs. M5 Hokutofuji (1-0)
I have always wondered what it feels like to be dragged forward by the head and then flipped into the air by said head in a twisting motion.  Oh, okay, I've never wondered that until this match.  Aoiyama was doing fine with his concrete-slabs-falling-from-the-sky arm attack, then found Hokutofuji's round head between his sweaty palms and, like a man being gifted a golden bowling ball, drew the precious orb towards him.  And, as aforementioned, twisted it and thereby slung the body attached to it twirling into the air, tsuki-otoshi.  Sometimes sumo looks pretty cool.

M4 Yoshikaze (0-1) vs. M5 Endo (1-0)
The return of classic Endo!  Just like on so many days of yore, his foe was being cautious, and Endo was trying to set up some nice technique, in this case working to get his left arm inside.  Then his opponent realized, hey, there's no "there" there!  Meaning it wasn't working, was going too slow, and had no force behind it.  So Yoshikaze simply turned on the gas and bulldozed zero-power-Endo out like cotton dander in a typhoon, watashi-komi.  I have always loved watching this happen to Endo; he used to do this on my reporting days all the time.

M4 Arawashi (0-1) vs. M3 Takarafuji (1-0)
Before the match Arawashi walked by Chiyoshoma's locker.  "Hey; want a slug of 'it'?" asked Chiyoshoma.  "Nah, I had a mug full for breakfast," said Arawashi.  Mistake!  When the muscley Takarafuji, with his beautiful sumo body, wrapped him up with a right overhand and a wriggling arm getting close to a grip on the right, Arawashi found he did not quite have enough of "it;" while he tried to jump to the side in the same limber way Chiyoshoma had, it was too little and too late, and instead he found himself jumping out of the ring, yori-kiri.

M Mitakeumi (0-1) vs. M3 Shohozan (0-1)
Ugly, obvious false start resulted in a lame-o match.  Here Darth Hozan was the over eager beaver, and leapt upon Mitakeumi like a beaver-eater while said beaver was still lazily reaching his hands down to the clay.  But, as the ref ignored it like a naïve parent and just let them go at it, right there, like it was okay or something, Mitakeumi stood up and carried Shohozan, who got confused and went flaccid out, oshi-dashi.

S Kotoshogiku (1-0) vs. M2 Takanoiwa (0-1)
Oh, man.  If Takanoiwa were a fifty-year-old man with calcified knee joints, surviving on grit and guile, I might--might!--buy it that he could get done like this, wrapped up by that fierce Sekiwake, Kotoshogiku, and driven out with yo-yoing hump thrusts, yori-taoshi, while he just... couldn't... do... anything... aaaargh!  Home run!

O Goeido (1-0) vs. S Takayasu (1-0)
Goeido was uncharacteristically slow and methodical in this one, wording on the inside, staying low, not trying to get the belt, then pushing up on Takayasu's face and such and trying to force him out--he did have him near the straw and standing up way too straight, and so there was some sense in this.  However, it was all an empty flour bag about to get flattened by a steel-toed work boot, because Takayasu just said "uhn uh," and slapped Goeido down to the clay, hataki-komi.

S Tamawashi (1-0) vs. O Terunofuji (1-0)
Great match-up here, the hard-hitting, newly dominant Tamawashi against classic belt behemoth Terunofuji.  True to form, Tamawashi tried to face-mash-and-mangle, and Terunofuji stood there like a statue from the "about to grab the belt" gallery, kind of ignoring all the bashing:  "I'm going to get that belt yet..."  He only had it for a moment, but in that moment he found his rhythm, Tamawashi lost his, and when he let go of the belt Fuji the Terrible shoved Tamawashi hard up high with both arms, oshi-dashi, even adding a bit of a dame-oshi for extras.  Day-um!  "I'M the Ozeki, FOOL!"

Y Hakuho (0-1) vs. M2 Sokokurai (0-1)
Could this be Hakuho's last tournament?  A radical thought, but it occurred to me yesterday.  It can't go on like it has much longer, and there won't be a good point to end it.  Why not do it now?  Giving up the ghost on the farce and making up some reason ("my poor arm still hurts ever since Lynn Matsuoka fell on it!") would be accepted by all, and we could all get back to the spectacle of the Hokutoumi Revolution.  But not today, friends.  With vastly superior strength, The Yokozuna of Yesteryear wrapped Sokokurai up and slid him out, yori-kiri.  But I sense that the crumbling of the world has only begun.

K Shodai (1-0) vs. Y Kisenosato (1-0)
Our most recent Yokozuna against our next one.  Sumo is a frightening state if I can both say that and mean it, and quote for you Mike yesterday--"Shodai is a weak, weak rikishi"--and mean that, too.  This was an upper-body chest-bumping push battle.  Shodai won phase one, pushing the Old Yokozuna (Is he really brand new? You don't say!) back to the straw.  There Kisenosato swept an arm up into Shodai's pit, actually grabbing his mawashi strings along the way and tearing them loose, like a cheerleader with a pom-pom, stuffing them into said pit.  He drove Shodai back and around and out from there, oshi-dashi, dropping his sweaty pom-pom along the way.  The spent Young Yokozuna To Be (that would be Shodai) landed face down headfirst in the crowd.  Oh, them Yokozuna are tough!  Yesterday Mike made an excellent point about sagari rarely getting ripped loose in the last few bouts of the day, no mawashi unkemptness, etc.  Well, Kisenosato sure took care of that problem today, didn't he!  More Yokozuna pom-pom sagari action please!  Yay, yah, go team!  Kisenosato, Kisenosato, he's our man; if he can't do it, nobody can!

Y Harumafuji (0-1) vs. M1 Ikioi (0-1)
Why do guys drive their opponents to the edge, then stop and reverse momentum for no reason?  Harumafuji easily drove his inferior foe straight to the straw, then stopped on a dime and eagerly reversed his momentum, clear across the dohyo, Ikioi chasing him back while falling down.  A mono-ii was called to make sure, and yes, it was true, despite all this dumbness and the sloppy willingness to lose in a stupid way, Harumafuji had won anyway, hataki-komi, while flying out backwards on his own momentum. Icky. Oi!

M1 Takekaze (0-1) vs. Y Kakuryu (1-0)
These two fellers held on to each other's faces a bit: oh, lookit u, ainch u a cutie pie darlin'!  Like proud aunties cuddling the cheeks of dear nieces, rosy cheeked and seven, with smiling bright button eyes.  Except Auntie Kakuryu reared back and punched niece Takekaze hard. Zoinks!  Okay, so it's sumo then.  After a few moments of toying with him, Kakuryu went ahead and finally pushed that noted powerhouse, Takekaze, out, yori-kiri. Ooh, lawd, I b'lieve I've done had all I can take!

Mike pipes at the gates of dawn tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Harvye and I engaged in an interesting dialogue as we set up the basho reporting schedule where we both questioned, "Do we really want to keep doing this?"  Ultimately, we both feel as if there is enough there to keep on going for the time being, but it's hard to stomach something that is treated as real on the surface when the underbelly of it all is so rotten.

I've talked before about acceptable levels of yaocho in sumo, and how it's easy to discount yaocho psychologically in certain cases.  For example, there's the yaocho that gives a 7-7 guy kachi-koshi on senshuraku or the Ozeki who needs that win or two to maintain his rank, and then for years we were groomed to accept the occasional yaocho in favor of Japanese elite rikishi just to help them save face and stay in the yusho run.  Even last year after Kotoshogiku's yusho--fake as it was, we all got it.  I mean it was the 10 year anniversary since the last Japanese yusho, so why not?  But then giving a zensho yusho to Goeido and a Yokozuna promotion to Kisenosato?  It's just too much to stomach for the rational mind.

As I alluded to in my pre-basho report, the Japanese people are groomed not to question authority, and so they are going along with this in blind faith, but I think deep down, everybody knows SOMETHING is going on even if they can't discern it for themselves.  It took me probably two decades of watching sumo to figure out why the Sumo Association doesn't issues press credentials to foreign media entities . I mean why not give your sport that much more exposure??  It's for times like these when Japan wants to keep the dirty little secret to themselves and away from the prying eyes of Westerners who who just don't understand.  Take gambling for example.  It's illegal in Japan, so why are there pachinko parlors on every city corner?  That type of rational question does not cross the minds of the Japanese people, and so that's why the Japanese people are so easily fooled.  We all know that yaocho doesn't exist in sumo.  And so it doesn't.

I would liken my current interest in sumo to a tomato plant that just got the hell beaten out of it by a severe hail storm. The plant itself is shredded, and it can no longer bear fruit, but it's hard to entirely extinguish life, and so you have these little offshoots that creep up from the main stem signaling life, and for me, it's the first hour or so of the basho or these little offshoots that keep me watching.  There's still real sumo there as we will describe shortly, but once you hit the 5:20 PM mark, the life is entirely gone.

I think the first bout of this basho that featured M16 Nishikigi and J1 Chiyootori should be the baseline by which we measure every single bout this tournament.  Nishikigi fished for moro-zashi at the tachi-ai, but the footwork just wasn't there.  Instead of planting firmly and moving forward, he offered this weird stutter step that would eventually cost him.  The Morioka native used his length in the hidari-yotsu affair to grab early right outer, and he used that to drive Otori back, but the wily Otori survived grabbing his own right outer, and that allowed him to survive an outer belt throw from Nishikigi.  In the process of that throw, Nishikigi lost his outer grip, and so Chiyootori stayed low and wrenched his upright foe back and across.  This was a legit bout of sumo that was entirely real between two guys ranked where they should be.  How often do we see a belt unravel against the big 5?  How often do we see tousled hair?  How often to their sagari fall out of the belt?  Pretty much never because there's no real force being applied from either party.  There's no chest to chest sumo with solid footwork, and so we get weak sumo that doesn't match the result we see on paper.  Anyway, good win for Chiyootori today who won this bout by keeping his foe upright from the start.

M15 Tokushoryu came with a quick charge against M15 Chiyooh, and this time the aggressor had the proper footwork, and it showed as Tokushoryu got the left inside early, pulled his gal in chest to chest, and then scored the quick yori-kiri win over the struggling Chiyooh who damned himself from the tachi-ai after aligning his feet.  Textbook sumo that the big five cannot execute at their current level of the banzuke.  They certainly could down here or in the mid-Maegashira, but they can't do it among the jo'i or else they would.

M14 Myogiryu shaded left at the tachi-ai against M14 Kyokushuho and forced him upright with an ottsuke shove, but Kyokushuho used his size well to dig in and force the bout to migi-yotsu.  From this point, Shuho used his length to threaten the counter left outer grip, but Myogiryu wouldn't let him get established charging forward and hard.  He didn't have Shuho in snug, however, and so the Mongolian was able to counter with a right scoop throw and then a left tsuki-otoshi that sent Myogiryu to the clay, but Kyokushuho's leg looked to touch out before Myogiryu bit the dust.  They really should have called a mono-ii here, but gunbai to the native.

M13 Daishomaru stayed low at the tachi-ai while M13 Takakeisho looked for the quick pull.  Daishomaru easily took advantage of the dumb move scoring the quick push-out win as Takakeisho whiffed on a right counter tsuki-otoshi.  This was a bad bout of sumo from Takakeisho, but I'll take it "sense" it was real as one of my co-workers likes to say (remember, I do live in Utah).

I'm not one to really hop on the bandwagon of gimmick rikishi, and so I haven't paid tons of attention to Ura, and so when they announced that he was an Osaka native on the broadcast, it just added another dimension to the way this guy is going to by hyped.  Today against M12 Sadanoumi, Ura feigned a frontal charge and then backed up left.  Before Sadanoumi could adjust, Ura was up and under Sada's right armpit lifting him up and pushing him over and out just like that to the delight of the crowd.  The guys down this low on the banzuke are going to need to learn to adjust to Ura's brand of sumo...something that Sadanoumi obviously didn't do today.  This guy is not going to try and go chest to chest, so you need to be ready for it.  Regardless, it was a good start for the rookie, and I suppose if I should have made any prediction prior to the basho it would be a Kantosho for Ura.

It's been over seven years sense M10 Tochiohzan was ranked this low, and so that's a testament to how solid of a rikishi he's been, but no one's doing him any favors, and so he finds himself ranked at M10 coming into the basho.  Despite the drop, he's still outclasses M11 Ishiura, and it showed today as Oh looked pull from the start slapping downward on Ishiura nearly spilling him to the clay a half second in.  Ishiura somehow survived, however, and grabbed Tochiohzan's right leg not unlike a dog that's happy to see you at the door, but Oh grabbed the back of Ishiura's belt and forced him to step out before he could ultimately fell the veteran with a leg trip.

I hear that M10 Tochinoshin earned a lot of merit badges at the recent scout camp for rikishi, but the dude forgot to unlatch the bedroll from his right knee.  The result was M11 Daieisho's catching the Private with some nice shoves to the teets knocking Tochinoshin upright and back a step.  Before Tochinoshin could recover, Daieisho seized the opportunity knocking Tochinoshin back and across before he could muster a counter.  You could tell by the way Tochinoshin moved (or didn't move) that he has no mobility due to that right knee injury, and Daieisho simply took advantage.

M9 Kotoyuki and M9 Kagayaki tussled at the tachi-ai looking for position, but it was a right hand from Kotoyuki into Kagayaki's neck that stood Tatsu upright so that when he bore back down looking for position, Kotoyuki was able to show him the trap door by quickly moving back and left pulling his foe down in the process.

In my pre-basho report, I stated that I thought M8 Okinoumi was the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke.  I also implied that guys like Arawashi and Chiyoshoma are better than any Japanese rikishi even though that aspect doesn't show up in the record books.  Today was exhibit A of that assessment when M7 Chiyoshoma used his speed to establish the left inside position before grabbing the left outer grip, and with Okinoumi searching for a left outer of his own, Chiyoshoma simply tripped him off balance with a nice soto-gake attempt before twisting his foe down in the end.  Nice win for Chiyoshoma who's thankful he doesn't have to throw as many bouts in these parts.

M7 Ichinojo and M6 Aoiyama treated us to an entertaining affair where Aoiyama looked to take charge as Ichinojo did what he likes to do from the tachi-ai which is to stand there like a brick wall.  Aoiyama gave up on his forward charge far too quickly, however, and despite working Ichinojo back near the straw after a few seconds of grappling, he went for another pull, and this time Ichinojo was ready using his feet to propel him forward and push Aoiyama back and out.  Not the soundest bout of sumo you'll ever see, but it was entertaining to see all the size on display.

My current mancrush is M5 Hokutoriki, and today the youngster battled M6 Chiyonokuni.  After bumping heads at the tachi-ai, Hokutoriki coolly burrowed in low as Chiyonokuni couldn't test the pull waters fast enough, but Hokutoriki was right there bodying his gal back leading with the right inside while searching for the left outer grip.  Near the edge, Chiyonokuni attempted a counter left tsuki-otoshi that would have worked had he not stepped beyond the straw before its execution.  The problem wasn't Chiyonokuni's footwork, however.  It was that dumb pull attempt after an even steven tachi-ai.  Gotta love it when sound sumo prevails atop the dohyo.

Is it 5:20 yet?  I guess it may as well be as M5 Endoh stepped into the ring against M4 Arawashi in a bout that quickly went to hidari-yotsu with Arawashi coming away with the right outer grip, and before Endoh could really settle on a right frontal of his own, Arawashi attempted an outer belt throw that he never finished for obvious reasons.  After letting Endoh stay in the bout, Arawashi relinquished that right outer and then let Endoh get one of his own, and from the there it was just stay square so your opponent doesn't muck it up.  And Endoh didn't as Arawashi graciously lets him win in a nice-looking bout overall for the sheep in attendance.

M4 Yoshikaze pushed from the start against M3 Takarafuji who looked to counter that with a left arm to the inside, but Yoshikaze executed a nice push to the teet and then to the neck with the left hand.  The problem was there were no de-ashi involved, and so Takarafuji was able to slip to the side and then time a perfect tsuki-otoshi into Yoshikaze's side as Cafe looked to press forward spilling Monster Drink to the clay.  The better rikishi won here in the end as Takaraufji picked up the win.

M3 Shohozan and Sekiwake Takayasu traded slaps and shoves from the tachi-ai before Shohozan secured the firm moro-zashi position.  Problem was, Shohozan wasn't looking to win the bout, and so he applied little pressure before attempting a stupid push out with a hand to his opponent's face (you now how often rikishi like to try that from the moro-zashi position). After giving up the insurmountable position, Shohozan lamely allowed Takayasu to get his left arm inside whereupon Shohozan bear hugged that left arm with both hands and stayed completely square as Takayasu drove him back. Shohozan's foot couldn't scrape beyond the bales fast enough as he threw this bout in favor of the Sekiwake.

Sekiwake Tamawashi charged quickly.  In fact he moved forward so fast that M2 Takanoiwa didn't even have his fists to the dirt yet.  As we sometimes see, however, Takanoiwa flinched as his opponent lurched forward and put both fists down instinctively, and so the bout was on.  Even Tamawashi knew he went early and began to look over to the gyogi, but when he realized the bout was live, he yanked Takanoiwa over and down with two hands to the neck.  Takanoiwa clearly thought this one would be called back, but it wasn't and so gunbai to Tamawashi.  This one was really on the referee and the judges, but what do they care about these two rikishi?

Alls I can say (another term we like in Utah) is that watch out if Ozeki Terunofuji is out to win.  Today against M2 Sokokurai he was, and the result was a forward-moving tachi-ai from the Ozeki, the right arm firmly inside, and a left outer grip for good measure.  There was nothing Sokokurai could do from this point, and both dudes knew it, and so Terunofuji forced the action by literally picking Sokokurai up and off his feet with that left hand, and the result was the easy force-out win from there. Terunofuji hasn't lost anything this last year and half.  He's only chosen to lower himself to the hapless level of his Japanese counterparts.  And I do mean hapless.

I'm not sure why they even bothered with the Ozeki Goeido - M1 Ikioi bout.  There was no doubt in my mind at least that Ikioi was going to throw this one, and he did just that striking Ikioi lightly at the tachi-ai and then just tripping over his two feet as Goeido moved left looking for a dashi-nage.  As the guys in the booth watched they replay, they were thinking oshi-taoshi, but even then there was a long pause from Ohta Announcer as they tried to identify the winning technique.  When it was finally announced in the arena that it was uwate-dashi-nage, everyone was like, "Yeah, uwate-dashi-nage. That's it!!"  What it was was yaocho, and everyone knew it. Show me another bout where a dude loses by uwate-dashi-nage and falls like that.

The hero of the day, Kisenosato, stepped into the ring to face M1 Takekaze, and once again, what was the point of fighting this one as well?  Takekaze moved forward at the tachi-ai, but then did absolutely nothing.  In fact, when was the last time you saw Takekaze not go for a single pull or at least a swipe of his opponent, especially after winning the tachi-ai??  That was the case today as he just stood there and let the Kiddie push him back and out.  Clearly yaocho here, which was no surprise. How pathetic is that when you have to have a guy like Takekaze let up for you?  And what rank is Kisenosato?  Looking at the pic at right, let's go through our checklist.

Sagari still in place for both rikishi?  Check
Belts still snug around both rikishi?  Check
Hair still perfect for both rikishi?  Check
Unorthodox finish?  Check
Dry armpits?  Check

Yokozuna Harumafuji and Ozeki Kotoshogiku hooked up immediately in hidari-yotsu where the Yokozuna refrained from grabbing the right outer grip and focused solely on aligning his feet, the cardinal sin in sumo. Just watch this replay and focus on Harumafuji's feet. All he's doing is aligning his feet and staying square in front of the Ozeki who scored the ridiculously easy force-out win. This doesn't mean that Kotoshogiku is going to get his 10. It means the Mongolians aren't going to spoil the party.

Next up was a similar bout where Yokozuna Kakuryu kept his feet aligned against Komusubi Mitakeumi.  The difference, though, was that Mitakeumi wasn't able to take advantage. Kakuryu moved forward at the tachi-ai, but then just stood there like a wet rag allowing Mitakeumi to shove him back a full step with a nice push.  Kakuryu kept his feet aligned as the two eventually hooked up in migi-yotsu, and with the Yokozuna still just standing there at Mitakeumi's bidding, the youngster wasn't able to finish him off. Near the edge, Kakuryu moved a bit to his right causing Mitakeumi to just crumble do the dirt. What normal sumo bouts look like this and end like this??  The contrast from the first half bouts is so stark, but I suppose I'm the only pointing this out.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho had a decision to make against Komusubi Shodai, and I guess I shouldn't really be surprised considering the act from the other two Yokozuna.  At the tachi-ai, Hakuho moved forward with both feet aligned--of course, and even with the bad tachi-ai he still had the left frontal grip and path to the right inside, but he pulled away from that putting his hands up high near Shodai because there was no shoving motion.  After Shodai finally recovered and looked to move forward, Hakuho backed up going for a fake pull or slap down, but at the first sign of a Shodai offensive move which was a left hand up high at the back of Hakuho's head, the Yokozuna just aligned his feet and fell down forward to the dirt.  How many times has Hakuho absorbed a blow to the head in career?  And it's this one that knocks him forward like that?  That was actually Shodai's first real offensive maneuver of the contest, so Hakuho was just waiting for anything to come before he fell to the dirt.  How does one even describe the sumo here?  It's near impossible when nothing makes sense. One thing is clear: Shodai is a weak, weak rikishi.

The day actually started out quite well, but once you get to the 5:20 mark, everything just goes to hell, and today's sumo was a perfect example.  Watch the first bout of the day, watch any bout in the first half, or watch the Terunofuji bout, and then contrast that with the last five bouts of the day and the contrast is simply stark.

We'll see what kind of energy Harvye brings tomorrow.






















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