Home  |  User Forum  |  News  |  Fantasy Sumo  |  Media Requests  |  Contributors  |  About Us Sumo 101  |  Links  |  Archives  |  Swedish

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)
I'm sure all of you were as shocked as I was to read the retirement announcement of one of our own yesterday. You don't go through thick and thin with someone and create memories over the years, and then just treat their moving on as if it was yet another movie. I'm not sure what direction Sumotalk will take in the near future or how this will affect the overall landscape, but I want to be the first one to wish Kimurayama well and declare, "You will be missed!" Besides Kimurayama's calling it quits, we also learned on the afternoon of senshuraku that Ozeki Kisenosato officially withdrew from the tournament citing an injury to his pride. If you really drill down into the details, the official excuse was that he had a boo boo on his big right toe, but his coming up lame after losses the last few days was a direct result of his coming up lame in the sumo department. Ozeki and Yokozuna actually earn the right to withdraw from basho due to phantom injuries, and that's exactly the case with Kisenosato here.

His senshuraku opponent, Kotoshogiku, undoubtedly would have stepped aside and let Kisenosato win today officially giving him kachi-koshi, but that's not the point. The purpose of his withdrawal due to this phantom injury is to save face for turning in perhaps the lamest performance in history with Yokozuna promotion on the line. If Kisenosato does step atop the dohyo today and pick up the freebie from Kotoshogiku, there are no articles in the media the next morning touting his courage. Now, however, the next time Kisenosato is up for Yokozuna promotion, the line will be something like this: "After failing to deliver at the 2014 Hatsu basho due to a toe injury..." instead of this: "After only managing to go 8-7 the last time he was up for promotion..." I know I've been harsh on Kisenosato this basho, but entering my third decade of watching sumo now, I know what a Yokozuna is, and I'm simply defending the rank. Kisenosato is maybe a perennial Sekiwake, so to try and turn him into something that he ain't is only going to fail miserably time after time after time.

Due to Kisenosato's withdrawal, it leaves him with a 7-8 record meaning he'll be kadoban for the Haru basho, but that's not even newsworthy as we all know that he'll have his eight wins by day 10. His opponent slated for today, Ozeki Kotoshogiku, improves to 9-6 with the freebie. Those two Ozeki not fighting today also meant that the "kore yori sanyaku" bout featured Komusubi Tochiohzan and M6 Tamawashi. What? An M6 with an 8-6 record coming in with a chance to pick up that sweet arrow they give out to the winner of this traditional bout? I guess that's just a microcosm of the basho as whole implying that not much went right.

As for the bout itself, Tamawashi moved left at the tachi-ai hoping to achieve who knows what, and while it threw Tochiohzan off a bit, he was able to settle in and halt Tamawashi's momentum with the left to the inside. Tochiohzan played brick wall from that point and ultimately pulled The Mawashi down with a slap at the back of the shoulder. Tochiohzan moves to 11-4 with the win and probably won't be mentioned as an Ozeki candidate next basho just because we'll be dealing with Kakuryu's Yokozuna run, Kisenosato's kadoban status, and the rise of Endoh near the jo'i. But that's how it should be. Let's have Tochiohzan win 10 or more next basho and then talk of Ozeki. The Association perhaps finally learned a lesson this basho regarding Kisenosato and Goeido in tournaments past, so it's best not to press the issue; rather, let these guys try and earn it on their own.

If the Tamawashi - Tochiohzan bout wasn't enough to dull the crowd, the Sekiwake matchup between Goeido and Kotooshu definitely did the trick. At the first go-around, the timing was off by both rikishi and not due to anyone's fault, but Kotooshu lamely jumped left in an attempt to henka Goeido. Well, they had to call the bout back due to the false start, so how silly does Kotooshu look after skirting the issue all for not? Not quite as silly as Goeido acting like a badass by henka'ing to his left after they reloaded and got things right. With Kotooshu flopping sloppily to the ground, Goeido gave him an extra dame-oshi by pushing into the Bulgarian's arse sending him over to the corner of he dohyo, but this was absolute nonsense. I mean, it's senshuraku; it's the penultimate bout; and this is about as bigga stage as you can ask for, so to see both Sekiwake act like this prior to the bout that would determine the yusho was embarrassing. I'm sure Kane has seen his fair share of miserable opening acts, but this one took the cake. I go back 20 years of watching every tournament, and I can't remember a senshuraku where the first two bouts of the kore yori sanyaku were so pathetic.

So, with zero momentum heading into the day's final bout, it was up to the two Mongolians to put a fancy cherry on top of things. From the tachi-ai, Yokozuna Hakuho had the clear pathway to his coveted right inside position, but for whatever reason he opted not to take it. As for Kakuryu, he did his part to spin away from the Yokozuna creating separation in the center of the ring. Hakuho offered a mild hari-te with the left hand as he loosely went back for some belt action. I say loosely because his arms where high and out wide just gifting the Kak moro-zashi, and once the Ozeki had the dual insides secured, he immediately force the Yokozuna back to the straw. Hakuho arched as back as if he was digging in (a trick learned from Asashoryu), but in the end he tried no counter move and just turned his right shoulder downwards diving out of the ring and falling to his first loss of the basho leaving he and Kakuryu all square at 14-1.

So, with Hakuho obviously having just dropped this bout to Kakuryu, the question was would he let him win the playoff? Once again, Hakuho stepped forward with the right arm fishing for the inside grip, and once again, Kakuryu quickly backed up a half step and maki-kae'd with the left arm forcing the Yokozuna to settle for the outer grip on the right side. On the other side, Hakuho had his left arm firmly to the inside keeping the Kak away from the moro-zashi that he needed. After leaning in on each other's chest for a few seconds, Kakuryu attempted a maki-kae with the right arm but was shut out again, and after another few seconds of rest, as Kakuryu lurched to grab a right outer grip, Hakuho seized on the momentum change and forced the Ozeki back across the straw before bodying him clear off the dohyo. And just like that, Hakuho methodically picks up career yusho #28.

So, the question then becomes...why would Hakuho intentionally lose to Kakuryu the first time and then win in the playoff? I don't know the answer to that question; all I know is that Hakuho did lose on purpose in that first bout, and that fact is not even debatable. If I had to speculate as to his reason for suffering that loss, the following comes to mind:

- Hakuho was trying to add as much excitement as possible to a basho that stunk worse than a goat farm
- Hakuho wanted to maintain precedent of making himself look beatable so that when a Japanese rikishi is in the position Kakuryu was today, it doesn't look as far-fetched
- Hakuho has the back of his countryman who puts up with about as much crap as we do these days as fans
- All of the above

Whatever the reason, Hakuho has shown in the past that he's willing to drop a bout to someone who has earned their way into the yusho race, and he did the same for Kakuryu today. I actually thought in the playoff that he left himself open a bit as he did against Kisenosato a few days ago, and then the flow of the bout just didn't look natural to me. When Kakuryu went for that maki-kae after the stalemate, Hakuho shoulda driven his ass back at that point, but he just stood there. Then, that final scene at the end wasn't the typical ending to a bout either with Hakuho recklessly forcing Kakuryu clear off the dohyo while he himself belly-flopped over the edge. It just didn't look like sound sumo to me, but regardless, Hakuho is your winner while Kakuryu's consolation is an un-hyped Yokozuna run two months down the road. What I think it really comes down to is that Hakuho would have had no problem giving Kakuryu the yusho this basho, but the elders in the Association would have had a fit if he did yudan sumo that resulted in another Mongolian taking his first yusho while the Japanese rikishi have gone without for eight years now.

In order to save some ammo for a post-basho report, let's quickly comment on some of the day's early bouts. M13 Tokitenku was absolutely worked by J3 Jokoryu who got his right arm firmly to the inside from the tachi-ai and had Tokitenku forced back and out so fast he didn't have time to grab the left outer grip for insurance. The loss sends Tokitenku to an 4-11 record, and from the M13 rank, he's a goner for the Juryo ranks. He won't be missed.

As hot as M11 Yoshikaze has been, has the sumo really been that great? Today against a real man in M12 Chiyootori, Yoshikaze tried to do anything but fight using sound sumo basics. He first tried to rip off Chiyootori's right arm kote-nage style from the tachi-ai; he tried a serious of dashi-nage throws; he bounced this way and that; essentially, he did everything but try to beat his foe with straight up sumo. On the flip side, Chiyootori's only intent was to get an arm to the inside and square up. After surviving Yoshikaze's shenanigans and keeping himself within striking distance, Yoshikaze finally went for the two-handed pull, and Chiyootori was there to capitalize sending Yoshikaze into the first row. This was probably my favorite bout on the day because you had a total spaz in Yoshikaze and then a relative newcomer whose only request is a straight up match. Both rikishi end the day at 10-5, but there's no question who had the better basho.

Next up was M10 Endoh with the Kantosho secure and a Ginosho in the waiting if he could beat M15 Takanoiwa. No doubt he shoulda beat Takanoiwa, but he made the exact same mistake he did in his first ever bout in Makuuchi against Homasho. Endoh's tachi-ai was swift and caught Takanoiwa off guard a bit as he tried to deliver a right hari-te. The result was Endoh's sending him back near the edge in one fell swoop, and that was actually a blessing in disguise because Endoh had to close the distance in order to finish his foe off. He wasn't able to do it, and as Takanoiwa looked to get back in the bout, Endoh went for a brief pull that sent the two back to the center of the ring in the hidari-yotsu position. Endoh had the stifling right outer grip, but Takanoiwa's left inside was even better, and so as Endoh carelessly made his force-out charge without the sufficient left inside position, Takanoiwa simply pivoted back a step like a magician and flung Endoh clear outta the ring dashi-nage style with that left inside grip. This was beautiful counter sumo from Takanoiwa in the end after being dominated for most of the bout. The win was huge for Takanoiwa because it brings him to 7-8, and from the M15 rank, he'll likely survive to fight in the division again come March. As for Endoh, he falls to 11-4 with the loss and loses out on the Ginosho, but it could be a blessing in discuss. 12-3 probably would have surely sent him to the jo'i for March, a level at which he can't yet thrive, but now I think he will land around the M4 or M5 rank, a position from which he can do much more damage.

After a flurry of tsuppari from both M10 Sadanofuji and M16 Osunaarashi, the two hooked up in the gappuri hidari-yotsu position, and I've noticed a concerning trend regarding the Ejyptian, which is when he goes chest to chest with someone in a straight up yotsu-zumo fight, he's not that good. I think it's mostly due to his inexperience in sumo altogether, but Osunaarashi has a very tough time winning a simple yotsu-zumo bout. Today was a case in point as the Sadamight gathered his wits and then kept the pressure on forcing Osunaarashi to defend until he was vulnerable to the left scoop throw. Osunaarashi falls to 9-6 with the loss, but he shouldn't be discouraged. In two years after he's learned all the tricks, he's going to be a bitch for anyone to handle.

In one of the most entertaining bouts on the day, M9 Takayasu came oh so close to finishing off M16 Satoyama over and over, but the little roach hung in there and finally forced the bout to a stalemate in the middle of the ring where Takayasu held Satoimo's left arm in a vice grip while Satoyama tried to get a decent grip at the belt. After something like three minutes, Satoyama finally put his right hand up high near Takayasu's head, and as Takayasu reached up to swat it away, Satoyama grabbed a handful of Takayasu's mage and just yanked downward as he pushed Takayasu over and down by the face. Takayasu mighta blacked out during the fall because he looked like a prize fighter who had just been knocked out as he tried to pick himself up off of the dohyo. As for Satoyama, he was actually going to be awarded the Ginosho with the win, but the men in black correctly called for a mono-ii and disqualified Satoyama for the vicious but unintentional hair-pull.

This was a heartbreaking loss for Satoyama. First, he loses out on the Ginosho, which pays these guys something like $10 grand (USD) as a bonus; second, he suffers make-koshi as he entered the day at 7-7; and third, ranked at M16 he's going to drop to the Juryo ranks for Osaka. Dude looked like he was about to cry after they disqualified him, and I don't blame him at all, but it was the correct call no question. NHK tried to get comment from Satoyama after the bout, but he simply told them, "I can't answer you right now." No doubt he's going to lose sleep over this one.

M14 Masunoyama was no match for M8 Tochinowaka once T-Wok grabbed the firm right outer grip. Masunoyama tried a few desperate scoop throws with the left, but he was smothered into submission falling just short of kachi-koshi at 7-8 while Tochinowaka impresses at 9-6.

M15 Tokushoryu finally went straight forward in his quest for that elusive eighth win in a bout against M8 Kitataiki who was also 7-7 coming in, and Tokushoryu showed great patience in the hidari-yotsu bout even after Kitataiki broke off his right outer grip by moving all around the ring. Kitataiki finally made his move leading with the right outer grip, but for some inexplicable reason, as Tokushoryu persisted with his feet against the tawara, Kitataiki let go of both his belt grips and tried to push his opponent out by the face. WTF? His reward was Tokushoryu bounding forward and sending Kitataiki backwards so fast the he lost his balanced and stumbled face fist to the clay.

M6 Kaisei picked up his kachi-koshi by taking advantage of M12 Gagamaru and his hands outward and open at the tachi-ai, so once the Brasilian settled into the firm moro-zashi, the yori-kiri win was swift and decisive.

And finally, M1 Toyonoshima picked up his eighth win over M5 Shohozan after surviving a decent tsuppari attack from Shohozan and then what seemed to be an insurmountable right outer grip. Shohozan wisely kept Toyonoshima's right arm up high and away from any chance at a maki-kae, but he just couldn't muster enough mustard in an attack leading with the right outer grip to force Tugboat outta the ring. So there they stood for nearly three minutes in a stale mate until Shohozan's fourth attempt at a force out when he lost his grip on the belt allowing Toyonoshima to raise him straight up by the left inside grip and dump the M5 off of the dohyo for good. This was likely a bout for a Komusubi slot in March because had Shohozan won, he would have been 10-5 from the M5 rank with no one ahead of him to fill the slot. Well, no one except for Toyonoshima whose 8-7 from the M1 rank will send him back to the sanyaku.

Comments loading...

Day 14 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Ive been kind of diggin Mikes method of late, focusing on the final four bouts as they are the ones with yusho implications, and had decided to do the same today when I noticed that the fifth bout from the end had also some tastiness vis a vis the future so lets begin there, shall we? (Answer: We shall.)

Yoshikaze came in at 10-3 having been a rampaging cyclone of over-caffeinated rambunction for most of the fortnight. He was pitted agin the resurrected Komusubi Tochiohzan, who himself had run off an impressive string of wins after an 0-3 start to come into the day 9-4. Most of you know that 10 is a magic number in sumo, cause if youre at Komusubi or Sekiwake, it can propel you to champion heights. If OhSnap could get his 10th today, and his 11th on senshuraku, well that could jump start a run for Ozeki.

So after an egregious false start that sent Starbuck off the dohyo and the head judge off his nut, Tochi came in rather timidly, and was butted upright by Yoshikaze, who then stepped to the side and let him go past. Café was immediately on Tochi and had him heels-to-bales with his right arm wrapped around the Komusubi. But just as he was about to shove him out, and it pains me to say this, he deliberately flung his own arm, with no help from Tochiohzan, up and over Tochis head and fell out himself. Go watch the replay and tell me Yoshikaze did not throw this bout.

So why? Well, if I were a betting man, Id say that someone in Tochiohzans camp laid out a little "caish" for that win. It doesnt hurt Yoshikaze any cause nothing is going to change regarding his career prospects if he ends up winning 10 or 11 or 12. Its still just going to be a "magure" basho for him, standing out for its rarity but not catapulting him to any rank of eternal achievement, so he can afford to be generous (and any payoff wouldnt necessarily hurt his bank account any, his salary being that of a Maegashira).

So its no harm no foul. . .EXCEPT for the fact that now we have to deal with the empty chatter about Tochiohzans hopes in March, yet another in a long line of drivel meant to keep the domestic fans interest as sumo weathers the only Mongolian invasion that WASNT stopped by winds from god. And trust me, going against another Maegashira mainstay with his KK in hand on Day 15 in Tamawashi, Tochiohzan will finish 11-4. Past attempts at an Ozeki run have met with failure for him, and this one may as well, but with the Ozeki ranks reeling, perhaps things will work out for him in Osaka and then in Tokyo. Im not enamored of his up and downness, if you will (and you WILL), but I could see him representing the Ozeki rank at least as well as the turkeys who have been stinking it up for the past three or four years.

Which brings me to Hakuho and Kotoshogiku. Head to head 37-3. The first time Hakuho lost to Geeku was on Day One of Hakuhos third basho as Yokozuna, otherwise known as Day One nerves (Hakuho still yushoed). The next two losses came when? In Geekus final two basho as a Sekiwake, meaning those two YORIKIRI wins over the greatest sumo wrestler ever greatly help clinch his promotion to Ozeki. Since that promotion? Hes come about as close to defeating Kublai as I have to tonguing Kate Uptons navel (but someday, I tell you, SOMEDAY!!) So were those two wins legit? Or was Hakuho doing what was best for sumo? Kewpie dolls will be sent to everyone who guesses correctly.

Its a similar thing to what Hakuho has done with Kisenosato, of course, the only difference being that I believe Kisenosato has legitimately beaten Hakuho several times in his career. But if you look back on the seven times Kise has beaten Hakuho in the seven years starting from when Hak became an Ozeki, youll see that the only time a Kise win over Hakuho prevented the Yokozuna from taking the yusho (aka "when they mattered") was last basho, when it was publicly being batted around that if Kisenosato could win 13 and take jun-yusho he would be up for promotion in Jan. Seeing as how his countryman Harumafuji was poised to take the yusho, Hakuho relented, did what was best for sumo, and let Kisenosato win (cause these days, he does NOT have the game to defeat Hakuho straight up).

But of course weve seen how THAT turned out. Kid will be a damned kadoban Ozeki in Osaka. The plain fact of the matter is, if Kyokutenhos yusho run didnt already make it PAINFULLY clear, the Japanese rikishi are inferior to the current crop of top Mongolians, and only through their willingness to be team players has any Japanese rikishi at the top been able to do squat. If you counter with, Why then hasnt a Japanese rikishi taken the Cup?, my answer would be that the powers that be may fiddle with this and that, but to straight out fix a yusho is something not even they will do. The only spiciousness that occurs vis a vis yusho is when one of the Mongolians is close and Hakuho or Asashoryu relented to them or each other just because they could.

To be fair, today vs. Hakuho, Kotoshogiku gave his all, getting into a yotsu position and stalling the Yokozuna for a good (relatively) long time. But once Kublai had Geeku leaning on his left arm (which was firmly under Geekus left pit) he pulled its support away and at the same time slapped at the Ozekis inside thigh (a la his old heyamate Kotomitsuki) and brought the Ozeki down via "uchimuso." A superb flourish by the Yokozuna, who moved to 14-0 setting up a Senshuraku battle with Kakuryu. . .

. . .who just PWNED Kisenosato via hataki-komi. Coming in 13-2 vs. Kakuryu in their most recent 15 tussles, one could be forgiven for thinking the failed Yokozuna candidate would bring his A game and get that kachi-koshi 8th win. But since Kakuryu is fighting for something this time out, he blasted Kisenosato back at tachi-ai and then let him come forward, slapping him down like a leetle girl. 7-7 for Kisenosato and his promotion failure of Kaioic proportion left quite a bad taste in sumos mouth this January.

Meanwhile Kakuryu waltzes into Day 15s bout vs. Hakuho with some swagger, but no way in hell he beats the Yokozuna twice in 15 minutes unless thats what Hakuho wants, and I doubt thats the case, so a sweet jun-yusho for the Ozeki (as in Osaka 2012 when he was unable to defeat Hakuho even once on Senshuraku to take the Cup).

Goeido was in need of a 7th win to keep his KK hopes alive, and his foe Kyokutenho didnt seem to have the heart to try hard to stand in the way. An inside left that could have been a belt remained a rib hold, and with two belt grips of his own, El Padre was able to drive the M5 back and out with no problem whatsoever.

Toyonoshima and Aoiyama came in both at 6-7, so something had to give and it was Aoiyama as he put all his effort into a good tachi-ai, but after absorbing the collision, Tugboat slid to the side and Aoiyama could not arrest his forward mo and was easy oshi-dashi pushout picking for E1. Should Goeido win on Day 15, it might mean 3 Sekiwake in March and Toyonoshima could pick up that Komusubi slot (vacated by the injured Myogiryu) if he takes down 9-5 Shohozan (who may be battling for a Special Prize).

Well, sorry to say but thats all I can do for today. I had to run an ekiden, and it took all my time. I finished fourth in my leg, at a pace of 3:50/km. Yeah, Im getting old.

Also sadly I must inform yall that this report could quite possibly be my last for Sumotalk. I have decided to leave Japan. Im taking a job with the Iceland Department of Tourism in their brand new Jamaican branch, and the job will likely take all my time and energy. So, its been a SHWEET 8 year run with so many cool colleagues, from Bernie and George and Simon, to Kenji and Andreas and Oscar, from Mark and Matt and Martin, to Kane and Mario and Frank the Janitor.

But of course, above all others was my pardner Mike, who redefined what sumo, and sports reporting in general, was for me. Ill never forget his scathing insights into the culture, his wit when writing even sometimes eight times per basho, and his wife. . .uh, I mean professionalism. I deeply indebted to him for allowing me to sound off for so long and not be in turn detained or physically attacked.

Finally, cheers also to all of you who have put up with or been amused by my ramblings. I wish you well in your future endeavors.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
With the yusho race having been narrowed down to the two Mongolians, it's going to be interesting to see what the Sumo Association and NHK do to try and make the weekend broadcasts as interesting as possible. Today they brought Chiyonofuji into the booth to provide color, and that connection to a rikishi who was so beloved by the fans is a positive, so it will be interesting to see how they try and entertain the fans when the yusho race is something that won't be highly emphasized. A particular graphic displayed at the end of the day 13 broadcast was something that I haven't seen before, but it goes right along with my narrative that the NSK is scrambling to keep everyone's attention until Endoh can mature a bit in the division.

Before we get to that, however, let's focus on the day's bouts starting again with the final four bouts of the day going in chronological order, which means we kick it off with the M10 Endoh - Sekiwake Kotooshu matchup. After his shellacking at the hands of Kotoshogiku yesterday, it wouldn't have surprised me to see Endoh try and skirt his opponent, but he fearlessly charged straight into Kotooshu, and I say fearlessly because it took balls to take on a giant and former Ozeki like that. The two ended up in hidari-yotsu, and Kotooshu immediately burrowed his chest forward driving Endoh back to the edge, and just as Kotooshu grabbed what would have been a lethal right outer grip, Endoh countered immediately with a left scoop throw that forced Kotooshu over and down a split second before Endoh was thrown down himself. This would have been closer had Kotooshu not put his left hand down first, but he had enough sand in his mage as it was when he stood back up so the fall was fairly hard. Credit Endoh, however, for sensing that the right outer throw was coming and springing the trap first, and it's adjustments such as these which makes this guy such a joy to watch.

The arena was of course alive after the bout, but as soon as Endoh walked down the hana-michi and out of view, things quieted down significantly, and there was no momentum to carry into the next bout. It's kind of what I was trying emphasize in my report yesterday in that you want those banner days in sumo, but you don't want them to come too early. The end result in this one is Endoh's moving to 10-3, which all but guarantees him a special prize while Kotooshu falls to a costly 7-6, costly because he will not regain his former Ozeki rank due to his inability to win in double digits. Fortunately, Kotooshu is worthy to take over the East Sekiwake slot, and he will continue to be a decent player among the jo'i until his retirement.

Up next was Sekiwake Goeido, who was flat-footed in his charge allowing M6 Tamawashi to dictate the pace with his tsuppari, but fortunately for Goeido, The Mawashi wasn't that committed to a forward charge himself, and so Goeido was able to worm his way into moro-zashi, and from there it wasn't a contest as Goeido picked up a much-needed win to improve to 6-7. There's not much more to say here other than it's day 13, the third bout from the end of the day, and you have Goeido vs. Tamawashi. Forgive me if I turn over to NHK's sogo channel to watch political debates instead.

Our lone Ozeki duel saw Kakuryu charge hard into moro-zashi and waste no time dumping the Geeku over with the left scoop throw. This lasted about two seconds and wasn't even close, but then again, Kakuryu is a viable yusho candidate. In previous basho, Kakuryu would somehow conveniently lose to guys like Kisenosato and Goeido, but when he's really trying, you can see the huge difference between him and the domestic rikishi. It's also interesting to compare this bout with the one yesterday between Kotoshogiku and Endoh, and you can see how it's a different league up this high. Kakuryu moves to 12-1 forcing the yusho into at least Saturday while Kotoshogiku (8-5) couldn't care less about dropping one since he has his eight.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho interestingly used a left nodowa into Kisenosato's neck and he curiously persisted with that paw instead of getting the right to the inside that was wide open. Regardless, he methodically drove Kisenosato to the edge trying to push him out up high, and Kisenosato was still too clueless to figure out a way to counter. Finally, Hakuho just bodied into him sending him back across the straw right before Hakuho's own hand slapped down, and the finish was extremely close for such a lopsided bout. It's my opinion that Hakuho left himself open just in case Kisenosato decided to take advantage, but it never came. The two biggest openings were the initial nodowa and hands up high that could have allowed moro-zashi, and then at the edge, Hakuho still kept himself way up high and was vulnerable to a counter tsuki-otoshi. Regardless of why Hakuho chose this style of sumo today, he won easily moving to 13-0 while Kisenosato still hasn't picked up his kachi-koshi at 7-6.

So, as the dust settles at the end of the day, it's a two horse race between Hakuho and Kakuryu, but the Yokozuna will not lose twice out of a possible three bouts through Sunday.

In other bouts of interest, M5 Shohozan looked to strike and evade against Komusubi Tochiohzan, so he had zero forward momentum, which allowed Tochiohzan to press forward and score the easy hataki-komi win. When you win by pull-down and you're moving moving forward, it's a sign of good sumo. Funny how all of Tochiohzan's solid moments come against the likes of Shohozan or Takayasu. He's like the one-eye dude in the blind man's kingdom. Anyway, at 9-4 from the Komusubi rank, he's fixin' to return to the Sekiwake rank, and will talk surface of a possible Ozeki run? Shohozan falls to 8-5.

M1 Toyonoshima hesitated at charging into the heart of M4 Takekaze, and who can blame him? The result was two small rikishi standing upright in the rasslin' position, so you knew the pull wasn't far off. It came as Toyonoshima quickly moved left and pulled Takekaze over to the edge in one swoop where a final oshi finished him off. Toyonoshima is barely alive at 6-7 while Takekaze's make-koshi became official at 5-8.

M1 Okinoumi was non-committal at the charge, which left him standing striaght up and reaching with his tsuppari instead of using his feet to get to the inside, but Aminishiki has been in a fight like this a time or ten, and he easily timed a tug at Okinoumi's arm yanking him clear out of the dohyo and onto the floor below. I had higher expectations for Okinoumi this basho, but his make-koshi is sealed today as he shares the same 5-8 record as Shneaky.

M2 Chiyotairyu stood M6 Kaisei completely upright with a right nodowa, but then he blew it by going for a dumb swipe outta the choke hold that only allowed Kaisei to square up in migi-yotsu, his preferred position. Chiyotairyu found himself in a pickle at this point and tried another swipe escape as Kaisei just cornered him (if that's possible in a round dohyo) against the edge and forced him across in a few seconds. It seems as if Chiyotairyu always saves his worse sumo for the days when his stable master is in the booth, and I hear Chiyonofuji say every time "hiicha dame!", or he can't go for the pull. Too bad they don't allow those big bamboo swords in the stable anymore because apparently the Wolf's words ain't doin' jack. Chiyotairyu should be ashamed of his 3-10 mark while Kaisei is 6-7.

M7 Takarafuji used a straightforward hidari-yotsu attack from the tachi-ai against M2 Ikioi, and once Takarafuji grabbed that right outer grip, it was curtains. Ikioi (4-9) usually sets up his wins by forcing a lot of movement in the ring. There was none of that today providing for this linear force out charge by Takarafuji (5-8).

M9 Fujiazuma simply couldn't penetrate the length of M3 Aoiyama's tsuppari, and the veteran Georgian waited for an opening and slapped Fooj down rather easily staying alive at 6-7.

M12 Gagamaru was out of sync tachi-ai charging late against M5 Kyokutenho, but it didn't matter as he stood Tenho up with a right nodowa, secured the left inside, and then grabbed the right outer grip to secure the yori-kiri win and pick up kachi-koshi in the process. Somehow, Kyokutenho is still alive at 6-7.

Was M8 Kitataiki able to solve the riddle of M16 Satoyama? Yes...winning by kime-dashi and leaving both dudes at 7-6.

M15 Takanoiwa has got to stop his evasive sumo and charge into the gut of his opponent and take it to the belt. Today he moved out left again in order to grab the cheap outer grip, but M8 Tochinowaka is so long and covers so much ground, he easily survived the gimmick move and forced the bout to hidari-yotsu. Takanoiwa had no chance at the right outer grip, and Tochinowaka just smothered him back and across the straw picking up kachi-koshi at 8-5. Takanoiwa falls to 6-7 and has had a less than stellar debut.

M16 Osunaarashi had M9 Takayasu dead to rights after he swiped sideways at Takayasu's extended left arm sending Takayasu towards the edge and turned around, but he stupidly when for the head shot with his ensuing tsuppari allowing Takayasu to wriggle out of the jam and hook back up with the right inside and firm left outer grip. Osunaarashi's hips were too high, and he doesn't yet have the experience to go chest to chest with a guy like Takayasu when he's that upright, and it showed as Takayasu flung him over and down with that left grip. You could see Osunaarashi's raw power as he countered, but it wasn't quite enough today as he falls to 8-5. Takayasu moves into position with the good win at 7-6.

What was M11 Yoshikaze thinking henka'ing left against M13 Tokitenku. Tenku was pissed and connected on two roundhouse hari-te with the right hand, but he had lost his cool at this point, so Yoshikaze half connected on a slap of his own and pushed Tokitenku (4-9) out from the middle of the ring in as sloppy'a bout as you please. Despite the horrible sumo today, Yoshikaze moves to 10-3 with the win.

I got bored with things about eight bouts ago, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the M12 Chiyootori - M14 Masunoyama affair. Masunoyama rushed his charge sorta leading with the left inside, but Chiyootori had the wherewithal to back left and pull Masunoyama down by the neck before Masunoyama could really get established. My man picks up kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Masunoyama is still in good shape at 7-6.

And finally, M15 Tokushoryu stopped his string of lame henka against M14 Kagamioh, but he rushed his yotsu charge allowing Kagamioh to grab the left inside where he evaded laterally at the perfect moment grabbing the right outer grip and burrowing into the perfect position to turn the tables and force out Tokushoryu with aplomb. The win today takes a little sting off of Kagamioh's 5-8 record while Tokushoryu is still stuck on that 7th win. Dude too himself out with that string of henkas, so no wonder he's struggling now.

At the end of the broadcast today, NHK had a little bit of time, and so they showed the updated leaderbaord and incredibly they still listed the three-loss rikishi even though they were eliminated from yusho contention today. If you're wondering why they did this, just look at the names on the list:

13-0: Hakuho
12-1: Kakuryu
10-3: Endoh, Yoshikaze

In my twenty plus years of sumo, I have never seen them list rikishi on the leaderboard who had already been eliminated from contention. To be fair, Yoshida Announcer reminded the viewers that the three-loss rikishi had no chance to yusho, but they still showed that visual with the silver cup in the background listing Endoh and Yoshikaze along with the two Mongolians. It's a bit of a stretch, but what else is there to hype to the domestic fans?

The only other thing I can think of is Kisenosato foiling Kakuryu's yusho plans by upsetting him tomorrow and picking up kachi-koshi in in the process, but talk about a beg.

Clancy will give it another go agin tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Sumo fans always crave a day like we had today, especially of late because how often do we see a day where the final four bouts have serious implications? What's beautiful about high profile bouts strung together is that the momentum from the first bout builds to the next bout and to the bout after that, etc., and it gets to the point where the crowd is going crazy and everyone is on edge. A day like today prolly shoulda come a bit later in week 2, but the way this basho was going, I'll take it whenever I can get it. Let's start today's comments off by covering those four bouts in chronological order.

First up was the Ozeki Kakuryu - M5 Shohozan contest, and while Shohozan was knocked out of the yusho race yesterday, he's still been one of the better rikishi this tournament, and so hopes were high that he'd be able to put a serious dent in Kakuryu's yusho run. From the tachi-ai, Kakuryu guessed right that Sho would come with his usual tsuppari, and the Ozeki immediately neutralized that attack by swinging his arms upward into the bottom of Shohozan's extended arms. The result was the M5 being knocked out of his rhythm from the start, and with Shohozan standing upright and looking lost as to his next move, Kakuryu gave him a few jabs and then pulled him over for the quick win. Yeah, you'd like to see Kakuryu win in a more straight forward fashion, but if he tries to duck in at the tachi-ai, he's likely greeted with Shohozan's genki tsuppari. Taking his opponent out of the bout in the first moment was a brilliant move from the Kak as he continues his run at 11-1. As for Shohozan, he falls back to 8-4, but with kachi-koshi already in the bag, he still has special prize aspirations.

Up next was probably the bout of the tournament so far in my opinion, and not because of the actual sumo content but due to the lead-up and the talking afterwards. Ozeki Kisenosato came in not only looking for kachi-koshi against Sekiwake Kotooshu, but his pride was on the line as well. Here you have the Kid having fallen from grace a bit due to his miserable run at Yokozuna, and then you have the Bulgarian scrambling to try and regain his Ozeki rank (and more importantly, the raise that comes with it). As the two approached the starting lines, Kisenosato was obviously stalling, and he baited Kotooshu into two false starts. As Kotooshu jumped the gun the second time, he gave Kisenosato a bit of a shove indicated that he was annoyed by the Ozeki's tactics. I agreed with Kotooshu here because the two were ready to go and in sync, but Kisenosato was obviously playing mind games.

On the third go-around, the two finally charged only Kotooshu charged out left henka'ing Kisenosato in exchange for the two false starts. Kotooshu hasn't exactly been sprite these days, however, and so Kisenosato squared back up rather easily and the hidari-yotsu contest was on. Kotooshu used his length to threaten the right outer grip, but each time Kisenosato shook him off and kept his hips back. The problem with the Ozeki's staying back, however, was that he was in no position to attack, and so eventually Kotooshu grabbed that right outer grip, and when he got it, it was a frontal one to boot and so he easily forced Kisenosato back and upright before dumping him to the dohyo with an awesome outer belt throw. After the throw, they showed a close-up of the Sekiwake and he was talking...whether or not he was trash-talking his opponent or whether or not he was talking to himself, dude was fired up, and it was great to see.

I have no problem whatsoever with the henka because Kisenosato attempted to throw Kotooshu off twice at the start, and so the Sekiwake threw the Ozeki off the third time. Fair's fair, and the emotion generated from this bout kept the energy level in the venue high. With the win, Kotooshu improves to 7-5 and must win out in order to regain the Ozeki rank, and the good news is that he's fought all of the higher-ranked rikishi. The better news is that he draws Endoh tomorrow in what should be another great matchup that generates lots of buzz in the arena. As for Kisenosato, he falls to 7-5 and has had a hard luck basho, but this is who this guy is...an average 8-7 rikishi when fighting among the jo'i.

Building off of the energy from the first two bouts, the most anticipated bout of the tournament thus far was next with M10 Endoh climbing all the way up the ladder to face Ozeki Kotooshu. The media was hyping this bout by reliving previous times when a guy just five or six basho in the sport fought an Ozeki, and so hopes were high that Endoh could make history. I must admit that I was caught up in the hype as well and predicted that Endoh should beat the Ozeki today. The last minute or so before the clash, however, I just sensed that Kotoshogiku was feeding off of the moment. The old grizzled veterans have their pride and never like to lose to the newbies, and the Geeku surely didn't want to be on the wrong side of history. At the tachi-ai, the two went straight forward chest to chest resulting in the hidari-yotsu position, but the Geeku was a man on a mission sucking his gal in tight, keeping Endoh close with the right kote position, and driving his legs forward sending Endoh back with some zip. It all happened so fast that Endoh had little time to counter, and as he fished for the right frontal grip in desperation, it was too late...wham bam thank you ma'am! Kotoshogiku picks up his coveted eight and dominates Endoh in the process.

What you had hear was clearly a rikishi on his way up and a rikishi on his way down, but two factors played in the dominance from the Ozeki. First, Kotoshogiku may have been struggling this basho, but he was doing it among the jo'i. Endoh on the other hand has been romping around in the rank and file, and the two regions aren't even comparable. Second, Kotoshogiku has been on this stage countless times before whereas Endoh has never experienced what it's like to fight the last 10 minutes of the day. The result was a savvy veteran who just handed the youngster's ass to him, and as much as everyone would have liked to have seen Endoh win today, it wasn't meant to be. There's a reason why the greatest rikishi of all time, Hakuho, still required two years to make Ozeki. You gotta pay your dues, and as long as Endoh learns from it, he's okay. We'll see how he reacts tomorrow against Kotooshu, an easier matchup for him due to Kotooshu's weak tachi-ai of late. With the win, Kotoshogiku officially keeps his Ozeki rank at 8-4 while Endoh at 9-3 is a shoe-in for a special prize with one more win.

The final bout of the day saw Yokozuna Hakuho welcome Sekiwake Goeido, and you could just feel that this was the last glimmer of hope of someone puting a stop to Hakuho's run. Goeido did his best I suppose by henka'ing to his left, but everything the Father does these days is half-assed, and Hakuho easily recovered getting his long right arm of the law to the inside. Forced to the belt, Goeido offered his own right to the inside, but he was done at this point as Hakuho took a few seconds to work his way into the left outer position, and once obtained, he threw Goeido over and down with ease opting to add insult to injury by landing squarely on top of him. The Yokozuna didn't need to do that in the end of course, but it was payback for the henka at the start. Goeido never had a chance in this one, and it's insulting to think that people actually believe he beat the Yokozuna straight up a few basho ago. As if. The Sekiwake falls to 5-7, and this nearly two year stint at the rank has hopefully run it's course. As for Hakuho, he improves to 12-0 and still hasn't broken a sweat.

With the dust settled on the day, let's quickly take a look a the leaderboard and then talk about the bad news stemming from this exciting day of sumo.

12-0: Hakuho
11-1: Kakuryu

The two loss rikishi have vanished from the board, and so that's your leaderboard the rest of the way...which leads us to the negative aspects of the day. First, as good as today was, you need this to happen on the weekend when the ratings are the highest, not on a Thursday. We often see day 13s this exciting because it eliminates the pretenders from the contenders, but peaking on day 12 is not optimal.

Second, you only have Mongolians left in the yusho race, so there's very little to hype down the stretch to the Japanese public. I mean, if everything was always fought straight up, you'd have Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kakuryu on the leaderboard every basho, and so the next three days will show you why the Sumo Association wants to avoid that if possible.

A third negative aspect from the day was that you had three bouts pitting a foreigner against a Japanese rikishi, and the foreigner handily won in all three cases. This fact will be lost to most people on the surface, but it's exactly the predicament that sumo has found itself in over the last several years. When it comes right down to it and you have the top guys all battling each other, the foreigners are clearly superior. I don't mean to detract from the spectacular day of sumo we watched today, but this is just reality. If Endoh can pull off the upset tomorrow (I'd give him a 40% chance), it at least gives NHK something to hype heading into the final two days because nobody cares about the yusho at this point. Nobody.

In other bouts of interest, Komusubi Tochiohzan was looking pull all the way against M4 Takekaze, and why not? Takekaze isn't going to blow anyone off of the starting lines. Took about three seconds for Oh to pick up the win and kachi-koshi to boot at 8-4. Takekaze's losing ways continue as he falls to 5-7.

M1 Okinoumi survived M2 Ikioi's half-hearted tsuppari attack eventually forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu, and once there, Okinoumi (5-7) gathered his wits nicely, grabbed the right outer grip, and escorted his gal back and across the straw with ease. Ikioi's make-koshi becomes official at 4-8.

M6 Tamawashi picked up kachi-koshi with a nifty win over M1 Toyonoshima using his long arms to keep Toyonoshima away from the belt and forcing the action to his style, the oshi attack. Toyonoshima is on the brink at 5-7.

M2 Chiyotairyu's sloppy sumo continued as he looked to blast M3 Toyohibiki back from the starting lines with a coupla neck shoves, and when Ibiki went for the pull, Chiyotairyu made his move. Only problem was he went for the head-shot instead of that big target on Toyohibiki's chest, and the Hutt was able to just move laterally just enough to cause Chiyotaikai to inadvertently step out before Toyohibiki was officially out. They make bullet proof vests for a reason, not bullet proof head masks. Chiyotairyu will live and learn as he falls to 3-9 while Toyohibiki is 4-8.

I was all ready to introduce this brilliant new theory yesterday regarding M16 Satoyama touting him as the rank and file barometer meaning any rikishi who can't figure out how to beat him will never amount to anything higher in the ranks. Then, Masunoyama blew that theory to hell by actually winning on day 11, but I think you know what I mean. Case in point today was M8 Tochinowaka who used his left arm up and under nicely to lift Satoyama completely upright, but he also charged forward in the process without a proper grip on his opponent, and I'll be damned if Satoyama didn't slip to the side, grab Tochinowaka's left arm as Satoimo turned around 180 degrees, and flung his opponent down to the dohyo ipponzeoi style. Ipponzeoi is that common Judo move that you only see in the Sandanme ranks...or when Tochinowaka is being a bonehead. Unbelievable as Satoyama improves to 7-5 while Tochinowaka shares the same record.

And finally, let's conclude with M15 Tokushoryu who once again tried to pick up kachi-koshi by henka'ing to his left against M16 Osunaarashi. The Ejyptian still hasn't figured out how to lunge forward hard at the tachi-ai, and so he easily read Tokushoryu's lame henka chasing him outta the ring so fast with tsuppari he garnered the tsuki-dashi winning technique. Osunaarashi picks up his first Makuuchi kachi-koshi in two tries while Tokushoryu still sits on 7 wins against 5 losses. How about picking up KK with straight-forward sumo instead of this henka crap?

Speaking of crap, I'm back at it again tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As we enter the shubansen or final five days of the basho, it all now comes down to the yusho race, and I'm using that term extremely loosely. Even the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil crowd knows that the only way Hakuho doesn't take the yusho is if he gives it away, and the only candidate for that scenario is Ozeki Kakuryu. Sure, Endoh is technically still on the leaderboard, but in order for him to yusho, Hakuho would have to lose three times the rest of the way, and that will simply not happen. And so the question in my mind becomes who would the Association rather see yusho...Hakuho or Kakuryu? It's really a damned if you do damned if you don't scenario, so the drama for me the rest of the way is how will it all play out?

Two years ago at the Haru basho, Kakuryu was primed to pick up his first career yusho, but someone made the decision to have him lose to Goeido on senshuraku thus setting up a playoff against Hakuho that Kakuryu would end up losing. The Kak--intentionally--hasn't been the same since, and even this basho it's not as if he's rewriting the textbooks on sumo basics, but the cast around him has been so inept that he's been sleepwalking his way through this tournament. If Kakuryu does end up taking the yusho (I say chances are no more than 10%), I think it will be an indication of the Sumo Association trying to prolong Hakuho's reaching the hallowed mark of 32. I mean, there's nothing positive PR-wise that could come from a Kakuryu yusho. He basically achieves a feat that no Japanese rikishi can do even with tons of help. Second, if an Ozeki takes the yusho then he's automatically up for Yokozuna promotion the next basho, and with Endoh so hot at the moment, you don't want the media obligated to cover a guy like Kakuryu in Osaka. There are just so many negatives that I'd be surprised if Kakuryu ends up hoisting the cup, but nothing really surprises me any more these days.

At the beginning of day 11, our leaderboard is whittled down to four rikishi after Osunaarashi suffered a day 10 boo-boo to Chiyootori. And while we're on the subject of Chiyootori, I want Kane to know that I found him first, and if he wants to fight me for my new gal, I'll meet him any time any where...just as long as he doesn't bring that badass fire spitting machine gun thingy he used on stage during the Alice Cooper days.

Getting back to the leaderboard, it shaped up like this at the start of the day:

10-0: Hakuho
9-1: Kakuryu
8-2: Shohozan, Endoh

Let's start from the bottom of the board and work our way up, which means Elvis has entered the building. I thought he'd receive a stiff test today against M12 Gagamaru because I thought Gagamaru would actually try and win. Didn't look to me as if as if Yubabamaru gave any effort as Endoh secured the left inside at the tachi-ai followed by a quick outer grip that set up the dosey doe outer throw otherwise knows as uwate-dashi-nage. For all intents and purposes, Gagamaru was a practice dummy in this one keeping his right arm high at the tachi-ai and not firing off a single tsuppari. I think this one was yudan sumo all the way, and no, I don't think the orders came from the Sumo Association. Regardless, Endoh waltzes to a 9-2 record and stays on the leaderboard as long as he can stay two back of Hakuho. He draws Kotoshogiku tomorrow, and I don't see how he loses. At 7-4, the Geeku will surely get that last win, so it's good for everyone if Endoh just goes out and kicks his ass. All it's gonna take a is a single belt grip and lateral movement. Gagamaru ends the day at 6-5.

Next up is M5 Shohozan who offered a paw to the face of Ozeki Kotoshogiku, but Sho wasn't driving with his legs, and so Kotoshogiku easily got the left arm inside, kept his gal in place with the right kote-nage, and scored the yori-kiri win easy peasy Japanesey. I didn't see an ounce of effort from Shohozan in this one and have my suspicions, but when have I never had my suspicions? With the loss, Shohozan drops off of the leader board at 8-3, but more was accomplished with Kotoshogiku moving to 7-4.

Ozeki Kakuryu drew M4 Takekaze today in a "contest" that saw Kakuryu employ a straight forward oshi-dashi charge into his foe scoring the once, twice, three times a lady push-out. This may as well have been a fusensho it was that easy as Kakuryu moves to 10-1 while Takekaze falls to 5-6 after being drubbed on consecutive days by the real leaders.

And finally, Yokozuna Hakuho entertained Sekiwake Kotooshu easily getting the right inside and left outer grip against the defenseless Sekiwake, and just like that, Hakuho lifted his opponent upright and forced him all the way over to the edge and out using his thigh raised up to pin Kotooshu in place. I don't even think Hakuho has showered yet as he breezes to 11-0 while Kotooshu's decline is illustrated nicely in this bout. He could do nothing to keep the Yokozuna from smothering him at the tachi-ai, and he couldn't dig in and even offer a hint of a counter move. At 6-5, he obviously can't lose again if he wants to return to the Ozeki ranks, and while this guy's obviously not an Ozeki-caliber rikishi, I can think of two others off the toppa my head that don't measure up either.

With Shohozan officially off of the leaderboard, it's come down to a three horse race between Hakuho, Kakuryu (1 back), and Endoh (2 back), but the goal now is to keep Endoh on that board as long as possible. I've seen the first mention of Endoh restoring the Taka-Waka boom, and while that will never happen just because society has changed so much in the last twenty years--especially the way in which we socialize, the Sumo Association is all about becoming fiscally sound, and they know that a guy like Endoh can greatly contribute to that.

Touching on the other bouts of the day, Ozeki Kisenosato used a hidari-inashi at back of Sekiwake Goeido's shoulder from the tachi-ai that easily sent the Father off balance and over to the edge where the Ozeki forced him out from there in mere seconds. This was a case where two negatives make a positive because it actually looked like a well-fought bout for the Ozeki. Kisenosato moves to 7-4 with the win while Goeido falls to 5-6. With Hakuho looming in the shadows, he's as doomed as doom can be.

M5 Kyokutenho showed once again how he lives rent-free in Komusubi Tochiohzan's head. Tochiohzan actually gained moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but it was so timid that Kyokutenho easily wrapped both arm around from the outside in the kime-dashi position and won with ease. Tochiohzan was riding a seven-bout winning streak coming into the bout, and Kyokutenho is running on fumes; yet, it's another lopsided affair as Oh Snap falls to 7-4 while Kyokutenho is still alive at 5-6.

M1 Toyonoshima and M2 Ikioi were both flat-footed at the tachi-ai providing for an ugly start to their bout, and with Toyonoshima not gaining that initial surge to the inside, Ikioi went for right kote-nage that twisted Toyonoshima (5-6) over to the edge, and he ran out of real estate allowing (4-7) to shove him out with his long arms in the poorly fought bout from both parties.

The M3 Aoiyama - M1 Okinoumi pitted a push guy in Aoiyama against a belt guy in Okinoumi, so the bout would be determined by the style of sumo. Okinoumi never showed much gumption at the tachi-ai, and when they both rose up from that initial clash, there was too much separation between the two in order to allow Okinoumi to get at the belt. Aoiyama wasn't necessarily poised to tsuppari his way forward, and so as Okinoumi made a hesitant approach, the Bulgarian just pulled his arse down to the dirt leaving both dudes at 4-7.

Against M7 Takarafuji, M2 Chiyotairyu used bruising tsuppari the likes of which we've yet to see this basho. Course, he hasn't faced the likes of Takarafuji up until now either, so that explains a few things. Tairyu just destroyed his foe in a matter of seconds leaving both combatants at 3-8, but the real question is why doesn't Chiyotairyu bring this same attack against all of his opponents. I'm dead serious when I say that Chiyotairyu has the most potential of anyone save Harumafuji in taking down Hakuho mano-a-mano, but he gets so timid when fighting among the jo'i. It's gonna be up to the Wolf to get it straightened out.

M3 Toyohibiki kept his hands up high at the tachi-ai allowing M4 Aminishiki to pounce first pulling Toyohibiki completely forward and off balance, and the Hutt just couldn't recover from there providing the easy force-out target in the end. Aminishiki and his bedroll makes the dude a sitting duck, so I have no idea why Toyohibiki charged up high instead of straight into Aminishiki's sternum. Make-koshi is the result for Toyohibiki while Aminishiki creeps to 4-7.

M6 Tamawashi henka'd to his left, and who wouldn't when my man, M12 Chiyootori, is across the starting lines?! Chiyootori managed to hold on with a right frontal grip, but he was so far away from his opponent that Tamawashi bullied him over to the side and out in the short-lived bout. Dirty pool moves Da'Mawashi to 7-4 while Chiyootori's still alive at 6-5.

M13 Tokitenku shaded left at the tachi-ai looking for cheap tsuki-otoshi, but his hands were too high allowing M6 Kaisei to get both arms inside shallow as they were and force Tokitenku back to the edge where Baby Huey used a final lunge to force the Mongolian out. As much as I think Kyokutenho has slowed down, I think Tokitenku (4-7) is even worse. Kaisei improves to 5-6 with the win.

M8 Kitataiki prefers hidari-yotsu from tachi-ai which is exactly what he got against M13 Kyokushuho, and it showed as he weasled his way into the right outer grip first and pulled the trigger on an outer belt throw. It was just one fold of the belt, however, and Kyokushuho's counter right inside throw was outstanding forcing Kitataiki well over the tawara, but Kyokushuho stepped out just before Taiki crashed out himself. This was a good bout, and I'm sorry to see Kyokushuho at 2-9. He never did recover from that owie to his forehead on day 1 while Kitataiki improves to 5-6.

M16 Osunaarashi used a right kachi-age that was so high and ineffective, M8 Tochinowaka sleep walked into the deep right inside follwed by the left outer grip, and with the Ejyptian higher than Snoop Dogg himself, it was an easy yori-kiri for Tochinowaka. I was frankly surprised at how easy Tochinowaka won this bout today, but it goes to show how important a good tachi-ai. Both dudes end the day at 7-4.

M15 Takanoiwa used a henka to his left, and yes, he did sorta force M9 Takayasu down by pushing at the back of the belt, but it was not THAT blatant. By that I mean Takayasu should have been able to recover and make a bout of it. I don't condone Takanoiwa's actions today, but I think the bigger point is that Takayasu (5-6) went down so quickly to a bad henka. Takanoiwa improves to 6-5 with the cheap win, and he better not make today's sumo a habit.

I guess I've covered every bout so far, so I may as dwell on the M9 Fujiazuma - M11 Shotenro matchup that saw Fujiazuma (3-8) breeze his way to the left inside position followed by the right outer grip, and that's all she wrote. Shotenro falls to 2-9 after another ugly loss.

M15 Tokushoryu used yet another henka to his left against M10 Sadanofuji, but it was poorly executed rendering him a huge oshi target for the Sadamight who took care of bidness about four seconds and four shoves later. Tokushoryu is trying to henka his way to kachi-koshi, so I'm kinda glad to see him stuck at 7-4. Sadanofuji moves to 5-6.

M11 Yoshikaze used a striaght forward tsuppari attack to get M14 Kagamioh upright and into moro-zashi, and you could tell he downed a coupla Monsters prior to the bout because he forced him out so hard he ended up in the front row along with the rookie. MonsterKaze picks up kachi-koshi with the stifling win while Kagamioh is on the brink at 4-7.

And finally, M14 Masunoyama used a go'i right kote-nage from the tachi-ai that kept M16 Satoyama upright to where Spalding could work under him and force him over to the edge. Still, getting Satoimo outta the ring for good is like using a stick to scrape the dog crap out of the treads in the sole of your tennis shoe when you were a kid. I mean, you eventually get the job done, but it's a bitch to get that shoe totally clean. Anyway, Masunoyama moves to 7-4 with the win while Satoyama falls to 6-5.

Backatcha tomorrow.

Day 10 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
This Hatsu basho…maybe not the absolute best in terms of ground breaking sumo but come on…there's a lot going on. As we know, the major sumo business moguls have been trying just about everything to get it goin' on.
My suggestion? ==========================================+======>

Well, they at least should think about it!

Let's look at the current dramas as they unfold before our very own sets of eyes:

1. The Japanese Faux-Ko-Zuna scam has been pretty well decimated and by none other than the prom queen himself.

2. Endoh is showing the "right stuff" in a way we haven't seen for a long while (Nihonjin or otherwise). "My ankle is getting better so I've been able to practice more between bashos". The NSK proclaims - "Let them eat cake!"

3. Evidently seeking spiritual guidance, Chiyotairyu is wearing SALONPAS on his back in the shape of a shrine!

4. Tokitenku's PR Agent is trying to get him to "brighten up" his image

5. Chiyootori is showing some serious nad…bulldog baby!

6. Satoyama embodies a small country fighting a BIG world and winning on occasion!

7. No one seems to miss Miyabiyama but I kinda miss the "gangstah" - good ole Wakanosato

8. Homasho was heard to say WTF!

9. Kakuryu has proven that a rikishi can back up every fight and still WIN!

10. Two pot smoking cities are in the Super Bowl!!!!

I'm also digging on Yoshi "Monster Drink" Kaze putting up the good effort. Dude throws down hard with the limited skills and physical attributes he possesses.

So enough squeezing milk from an orange ay…let's get it on bro's and ho's!! Day 10: Hatsu Basho 2014!

One has to admit…Osunaarashi has got the right attitude.

He's so jazzed to be in sumo for real he barely can contain himself and his self-deprecating review of his own skills in no way colors the "I CAN win this" spirit he displays during his matches. He knows he's strong, got good height, can throw a hard punch (hari-te) when he has to and loves to MIX IT UP.

He reminds me of Randall "Tex" Cobb in a way. You remember him from the Nicolas Cage film, "Raising Arizona"? Well he was also a pretty damn good heavyweight boxer and after a brutal match (one of his 7 lifetime losses) against Michael Stokes, he walked by the bloodied Stokes while he was being interviewed on air (Cobb's own face was swollen and bloody as well) and said "Hey Michael, that was fun. Let's do it again soon."

If he stays healthy, Osunaarashi will be good for sumo. I DO think he'll improve (if he gets his footwork and ring awareness down he'll be a real threat) and make some noise though I'm not sure how much. It will be tough for him not to default to his strong arm techniques, but you know he'll be throwing down hard and all the while thinking "I can win this one" no matter who he's facing.

I spent a lot of time on this kid because I love his exuberance and it's in direct contrast to the seemingly jaded characters that are satisfied with the status quo waaay too early in their careers.

On this night M16 Osunaarashi (one win away from a kachi-koshi) faced off against another tough kid, M12 Chiyootori, and you could sense this might be a barn burner. Off the vicious tachi-ai, Chiyo straightened up the Egyptian who immediately knocked his opponent backward with his strong arm tsuppari assault. Much like Endoh on day nine, Chiyootori recovered and achieved the low inside position and no matter what Osuna threw at him (kubi-hineri, kote-nage etc) he was able to shift his position and maintain a low inside right handed migi-yotsu grip. During the match Osuna repeatedly aligned his feet and this allowed Chiyootori the leverage to shift and push his foe closer and closer to the dirt filled rope.

Finally, after an intense hand to hand battle for belt grips, 6-4 Chiyo got low enough to straighten Osunaarashi up and rumble him out of the winner's column for a hard earned yori-kiri. Not text book sumo but an energetic affair prolonged only by 7-3 Osunaarashi's strength and overall athleticism.

M16 Satoyama (who, if appearances play any role in naming those guys, may just as easily been called Satoimo - a hairy potato know to benefit blood circulation) has, as Mike mentioned, resorted to gimmick sumo with his super low tachi-ai and unorthodox grappling techniques. But really, with his small stature and truth be told, impressive strength, I feel as if he's doing what he's gotta do to get the job done. I of course agree with Mike in his disdain for such low brow tactics…I would never use any gimmicks in my craft…well except for this but well…anyway back to the Slimy Potato.

Against M10 Sadanofuji it was biz as usual. Low tachi-ai, seek inside belt grip, squirm out of any advantage sought by your opponent and then work the room (like throw in everything from hiki-otoshi (pulling arms forward and down) to shitate-dashi-nage (pull the inner belt forward and down)) until he can surprise his opponent with unexpected strength. Yori-kiri win for the 6-4 Satoyama and Sadanofuji falls to 4-6.

Sir Orbsalot, M14 Masunoyama and the rotund M9 Fujiazuma met even steven off the gun, both men choosing an upper body, armpit grip to get the job done. As they twisted each other left and right Fuji reasonably chose a sound technique and reached for migi-yotsu…but alas this proved to be his undoing. Spalding shifted his weight, twisted Fooji to his right and literally rolled over him like…well like a ball…for a nifty kote-nage win. Marui no Yama is a hard fought 6-4 and Fujiazuma is a hard fought 2-8.

The ever jittery and (to quote Master Clancy) tenacious M11 Yoshikaze stepped up onto the dirt to face a guy tailor-made for him…the molasses man himself, M8 Tochinowaka. Off the line, Monster Drink got under Tochinowaka (no surprise) and then the rest of the bout reminded me of when Neo realized he was the "One" and everything was slo-mo to him.

The ever frenetic Yoshikaze threw a barrage of "stuff" at the counter punching Tochinowaka, got his arms under the bigger mans pits and then shoved him across the rope for a quick oshi-dashi. Yoshikaze quickly accepts his 7-3 tally while Tochinowaka slowly grasps the significance of a 6-4 record.

The always sharply dressed Mongoru, M6 Tamawashi took it hard to the light footed M12 Gagamaru from the tachi-ai and never let up. The Mawashi (thanks Clancy) HAS been know to suddenly backpedal and try the cheap arm pull but on this night he tsuppari'ed Yubabamaru straight away and off the mound o' clay. Dapper Dan, who so far is having a decent basho, strides to a slick 6-4 and Ms. Maru tip toes her way to the same tulip bed.

When I heard the hip young Tokyo crowd start to rumble I knew that the talented rock star M10 Endoh was def stepping under the hot lights. Across the dohyo was standing a great test for him - Baby Huey himself…M6 Kaisei! Kaisei has been around the horn a few times, fighting all these guys at different levels so experience was most certainly on his side…plus he's a legitimately BIG man (compare his height and weight 195.5 cm / 169.5 to Endoh's 184 cm / 143 kg).

At the tachi-ai Endo shoved at Kaisei's upper body to keep the big guy off of him but Kaisei's long reach was unstoppable. As soon as Kaisei gained a right handed grip Endoh captured a two handed inside grip and then it was game on. Baby Huey kept moving forward but Endoh would take the initiative and yank the bigger man around to counter the momentum towards the rope.

At one point Endoh was treading the line on his toes but his cool mindset (and intense concentration - see pic) was to continuously steal the moment from his opponent and he worked Kaisei around to center stage. Kaisei was repeatedly on the offensive and was just as often repelled by Endoh's tactic.

Finally Endoh pulled Kaisei down and off balance, shoved his right shoulder (effectively turning him around) and then he lunged at Baby Huey sending him out of bounds for an extremely well earned oshi-dashi, kachi-koshi (8-2) win. Not classic sumo for sure but yet another display of dohyo smarts and adaptability by Elvis.

In the "kachi-koshi" interview Endoh said (I'm paraphrasing) "It was entertaining sumo to watch, but it wouldn't have mattered to me if I didn't win." Regarding his opponent - "Kaisei (now 4-6) is a big guy so I knew I had to move fast and be patient". When asked what he expects from this basho now that he's achieved kachi-koshi he replied "I'll just concentrate on tomorrow's bout". Kid shows maturity on an interview as well.

M2 Chiyotairyu has had a bogus basho so far but on this Night 10 he fought M3 Aoiyama like…well himself (with a little Chiyotaikai (his Oyakata) thrown in for good measure). Straight up, forward driving tsuppari attack without a hint of backpedaling pulls or any other such nonsense. The result, Chia Pet gets the oshi-dashi vic' and Aoiyama stumbles backwards and out to a 3-7 loss.

Veteran Sekiwake, Kotooshu has loads more experience and some serious physical advantage over the grumpiest rikishi in history, M5 Shohozan. The big Bulgarian has shown off some real skills over the years but he currently strikes me as one of the jaded crew of athletes plaguing the banzuke of late. He was a solid part of the gang of ozeki's that rarely challenge for the yusho and enabled the back scratching system that drives some of the sumo talk regulars to drink (or, as in Clancy's case, watch internet porn).

At the tachi-ai Shoho enacted his usual enthusiastic (and strong armed) tsuppari attack but the taller Kotooshu slapped him around with a couple of resounding hari-te. Undeterred, Grumpy Smurf kept on pushing forward and even though Kotooshu attempted to screw the kid's head off, Shohozan finally shoved out the former ozeki for an 8-2 record.

Kotooshu (now a shaky 6-4) is a dangerous guy to step in the ring with cause the dude will injure you either through recklessness or maybe (just maybe) a genuine mean streak. Sometimes I wonder about that guy.

Komusubi and consistent "Kisenosato party spoiler", Tochiohzan seems quite uncooperative these days. Early on this basho, he pissed off King Hakuho, then took down the great Japanese hope Kisenosato and I could sense a sincere desire to show no quarter to the fast fading Ozeki, Kotoshogiku.

The bout was not pretty, as both men seemed unable to achieve solid grips or establish and dominance. But Tochiohzan finally rassled his foe back, leveraged his arm under Koto's left armpit and tipped him down to a 7-3 sukui-nage win. The banged up Ozeki sits uncomfortably at 6-4 and Tochiohzan thinks, "You Ozeki dudes ain't no better than me!"

Goeido Gotaro currently sits at Sekiwake status and was recently being molded, kicked and throttled into a candidate for the elite Ozeki rank…but, alas, he always seemed at least 5 losses off the mark thus preventing his promotion. Yeesh. This basho much of the hubbub seems to have died down but that hasn't stopped him from firmly establishing the notion that he's NOT Ozeki material.

Against a real Ozeki, Kakuryu, Goeido greeted the Mongolian with a quick hari-te and Kak answered with his own face slap that almost knocked the Sekiwake on his ass. After that it was all Kakuryu as he tsuppari'ed and pulled his opponents head forward for a hataki-komi belt notch. Kak is looking sharp at 9-1 and Goeido is searching for the dressing room at 5-5.

Finally, 69th Yokozuna Maximus, Hakuho Sho steamrolled veteran M5 Kyokutenho (4-6) in well under a New York Minute to a 10-0 record. Mr. Excitement is really showing everybody how boring he could make each basho if he wanted…never mind his other worldly instincts and dohyo sense…his basics are so fundamentally strong that he's blown through the rest of the pack without stepping off page one of the "Sumo for Dummies" handbook. He's just gotta stay away from hopping on one foot when he spats with his Mongolian Mafia mates.

Well there you have it. The good, the bad, the fugly all rolled into one messy little tome. Once again thanks for the opportunity to trip out on this sexy weirdness.

The sumo wars are in full swing and in a real way the NSK has been taken out of the mix at least for the remainder of this basho. Things have a way of working out the way they're gonna…the butterfly effect in full swing. It just reminds us all once again (as we learned in Speilberg's "Jurassic Park") it's not wise to fool with mother nature….I mean after all who wants to tamper with this grand design?

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It sounds as if the biggest news of the basho so far is the crackdown on furreners uploading videos of the bouts to YouTube. I guess the Association let it slide until a party or two began trying to profit from the bouts, and so the Association finally decided to take action to put a stop to it. Along with squelching the YouTube pirates, they also came up with the genius idea to charge a user $10 a day or $120 per basho to watch their live stream. Who are they kidding? They're gonna have to put a decent product on display first or at least throw in a bitta porn before asking free thinking foreigners to pay that kind of cash to watch their live feed. I know the move has affected many of you, and it's even affected access for some of our writers, but the bottom line is that the Sumo Association couldn't care less about its foreign fans. NHk loves to scan the audience during lulls in the action and focus in on foreigners in attendance in the name of diversity, but the Association doesn't give a shat about us furries. Not that it matters. There will be those who will figure out how to upload videos again, so just be patient. In the meantime, I can guarandamntee you that you are not missing anything this basho.

One of my favorite aspects of the weekend broadcasts are the little documentaries they do before the Makuuchi bouts begin. Unfortunately, the broadcast on my satellite feed on Sunday began just as Takanoiwa and Tokitenku entered the dohyo, and so I missed whatever they showed on day 8, but they did have an interesting piece on former Ozeki Chiyotaikai that I'll lead off with. In one of those memory lane segments, they went back to the 1999 Hatsu basho where Chiyotaikai took his first yusho and was subsequently promoted to Ozeki. Chiyotaikai beat Yokozuna Wakanohana on senshuraku to sill the dill, and it really was a great moment to watch again. NHK then showed the scene surrounding the Kokonoe-beya the next morning as Chiyotaikai stepped out onto the genkan to wish everyone well. I took a picture with my cell phone to give you an idea of the throng of reporters gathered at the stable. Before I snapped this photo, the NHK cameras actually started further left so you couldn't even see Chiyotaikai yet; you could only see the throng of reporters. Then they panned to the right until Chiyotaikai came into the scene, and then I snapped my photo, but as large as the throng is in the left of this picture, it was equally as large on the other side as well.

Now, when was the last time you saw a throng of reporters like this surrounding a member of the Sumo Association? Okay, let me rephrase that. When is the last time you saw a throng of reporters like this surrounding a member of the Sumo Association when drugs, gambling, hazing, yaocho, etc. weren't involved? At the time, you already had two Japanese Yokozuna on the banzuke; yet, the media is going crazy over a new Japanese Ozeki who has just taken the yusho. This scene is exactly what the Sumo Association is desperately trying to recapture, and so that's why we have seen guys like Kisenosato and Goeido propped up and set up in an attempt to achieve this moment once again. Everyone knows that it's all been fake, but then a rikishi named Endoh came along and many could immediately see the potential. Some people may be getting sick of all the hype surrounding Endoh, but those in the know could tell from his first basho in Makuuchi that he actually had the potential to reach Ozeki on his own, and so you will see continued promotion of Endoh until he actually gets there including NHK revisiting his wins this basho at the start of the day 9 broadcast.

The problem is, as good as Endoh may be, a young guy is not going to come in and take over the sport. Hakuho reached the Ozeki ranks in just two years, so that's the absolute best case scenario, so until Endoh is ready to ascend the Ozeki throne in 2-3 years, something has to be there to fill the void and that something is Kisenosato and Goeido (ugh).

Our next order of business is this:

I have no real comments, it's just the most entertaining scene I've witnessed on the television all basho.

Okay, on that note let's get to the action starting with the rikishi on the leaderboard, but remember, I stated previously that no one besides Hakuho is fighting at a yusho level, and so I don't see Hakuho dropping a bout this tournament, so keeping track of leaders this basho is just academic. Today, the Yokozuna drew M4 Takekaze and just blasted him back from the starting lines knocking him back two steps and then just crushing him down to the clay with a body to body blow in mere seconds. It's useless to even break this bout down because there's nothing to say. Takekaze is 5-4 after the loss, so you actually have a rikishi here doing well who couldn't even hold Hakuho's jock in the keiko ring. The chasm between Hakuho and everyone else has only grown wider much to the dismay of the Association. Oh, and the Yokozuna is 9-0 with only one other rikishi in sight.

Said rikishi would be Ozeki Kakuryu who entered the day one off the pace at 7-1 as he faced M3 Aoiyama. Neither rikishi seemed to want to take control of the bout as they used tsuppari to set up the pull, and a bout like that can get ugly quick. After about seven seconds of this nonsense, Kakuryu's ring sense took over and he was able to get his right arm to the inside followed up by a stifling left frontal grip that he used to send Aoiyama (3-6) crashing down to the clay. It wasn't great sumo, and I wouldn't even call most of it good, but a win is a win is a win as Kakuryu keeps pace at 8-1.

The rest of our leaderboard is down among the hiramaku, so let's start with M5 Shohozan, who was actually driven back a bit by M6 Tamawashi's tsuppari attack, but with Shohozan looking for an opening, The Mawashi went for the slightest pull attempt allowing Shohozan to seize the day in the form of moro-zashi leading with the left arm that allowed him to force Tamawashi back and out in a second flat. Shohozan maintains his leader status moving to 7-2 while Tamawashi falls to 5-4.

As much as I dislike the henka, I don't blame M15 Tokushoryu for trying it against M10 Endoh, but I know that this isn't the first time this basho I've used "henka" and "Tokushoryu" in the same sentence. As my dad used to say, "cool it, Tokushoryu!". Anyway, dude moved way right at the tachi-ai and tried to force Endoh down by a right kote-nage and left paw to the head, but Endoh recovered nicely securing the left inside position and right frontal belt grip that he used to halt Tokushoryu's momentum, work him back across the dohyo, and then subsequently force him across the straw for the shweet comeback win. During the melee, Endoh only had one fold of Tokushoryu's belt with the right hand, but as he worked his opponent back, you could see him rework that grip to where he maintained all of the folds, and when his foe fought like a hooked marlin near the edge, he kept him in close and won convincingly. I can't help but contrast Endoh's skill and Kisenosato's lethargy in the ring, but as Kane and I were discussing in week 1, it just doesn't seem like Kisenosato wants what the Association is trying to force upon him. Endoh moves to 7-2 with the win, but he will not come back and compete for the yusho. Tokushoryu is an over-rated 6-3.

And finally, M16 Osunaarashi moved to 7-2 using his long arms and power to keep M14 Masunoyama upright and reaching. With Masunoyama unable to connect on anything, Osunaarashi floated backwards and invited Spalding (5-4) into the perfect pulldown. Osunaarashi's sumo hasn't been pretty, but he's winning and making more adjustments than Kisenosato is.

With all of the leaders winning on the day, the board now looks like this heading in to day 10:

9-0: Hakuho
8-1: Kakuryu
7-2: Shohozan, Endoh, Osunaarashi

That ain't much to write home about, but beggars can't be choosers at this point.

In the penultimate bout of the day, Sekiwake Goeido obtained the quick left inside position from the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, and I really thought the Sekiwake could have done more damage, but he let the Ozeki counter with a left inside of his own, and with Goeido just standing there, Kotoshogiku bellied him over to the edge and sent him down with a final gaburi. As Goeido was driven back, he was flailing that right arm as if going for an outer grip, but it just didn't look natural to me. If I had to guess, Goeido took one for the team here falling to 5-4 while Kotoshogiku inches closer to maintaining his Ozeki status at 6-3.

M3 Toyohibiki knew Ozeki Kisenosato would be wide open at the tachi-ai, and so he just crashed into the Ozeki from the start using his effective tsuppari into Kisenosato's neck to swiftly drive him back to the straw where he finished him off with a sweet teet dashi. It took about three seconds if that, and once again, a rikishi who tries to beat Kisenosato trounces Kisenosato. Toyohibiki was 2-6 coming into the day, which should put Kisenosato's current skill level into more perspective. The Ozeki drops to 5-4, and he simply can't handle the pressure put on him by the Association and the media. After the bout, Toyohibiki sat back down ringside since the day was almost done, and he happened to occupy the cushion right next to his stable master, Sakaigawa-oyakata (former Ryogoku). The two obviously couldn't talk to each other, but you knew each one of them were thinking "yoshi!" to themselves. It was a good scene that NHK smartly milked for about 15 seconds.

Sekiwake Kotooshu and M1 Okinoumi hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai with neither rikishi able to secure the outer grip. This proved to be an interesting contest between two of the taller rikishi in the division, but neither really wanted to make that move to get the decisive right outer grip. After a 15 second stalemate, Kotooshu made the mistake of going for the maki-kae with the right arm, but Okinoumi wasn't ready, and while he did drive Kotooshu back near the edge, the Bulgarian was able to stand his ground and counter with a right frontal of his own, and with the solid front grip, the former Ozeki's dohyo-gi if you will (and you WILL!) took over and he threw Okinoumi over and down in spectacular fashion. Kotooshu got away with one here as he moves to 6-3 while Okinoumi falls to 3-6.

Komusubi Tochiohzan used a left choke hold and right hand at the back of M1 Toyonoshima's left shoulder spinning Tugboat to the side 90 degrees where he followed that up with moro-zashi as the M1 tried to square back up, and the force-out win was swift and decisive as Oh moves to 6-3 while Toyonoshima is still alive at 5-4.

When a rikishi is constantly losing with belly flops to the dohyo, it's time to examine his footwork...or lack thereof, so we must be talking about M2 Chiyotairyu who faced fellow M2'er Ikioi. Ikioi henka'd just a bit to his right, but it didn't fool anyone including Chiyotairyu, but as Chiyotairyu turned to square back up and launch into his tsuppari attack, Ikioi just shaded right again causing Chiyotairyu to tsuppari himself down to the basho's first make-koshi. I mean, bro, not even Aminishiki finished the day with just 1 win. I think part of the problem with Chiyotairyu (1-8) is that he went easy on Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku two of the first four days, and the other two opponents during that span were Hakuho and Kakuryu, leaders one and two on the board. He just hasn't gotten into a rhythm since then, and it shows. Ikioi ekes his way to 3-6.

At some point during the broadcast, they cut away to Takamisakari so he could pimp an upcoming sumo charity event in February.  If anyone is interested in attending, here's the number along with another classic shot of Furiwake-oyakata:

M15 Takanoiwa survived M9 Fujiazuma's tsuppari attack well managing to gain moro-zashi near the edge as he was driven back, but once the rookie had the dual insides, he took firm control of the bout and drove Fujiazuma clear across the dohyo and back for the nice yori-kiri win. Somehow, Takanoiwa has kept himself alive at 4-5 after a snake-bitten start.

Our other rookie, M14 Kagamioh, just couldn't solve M10 Sadanofuji's long arms as the Sadamight's tsuppari forced Kagamioh to retreat where Sadanofuji got him with a pull down in the end.

I speculated it would take about a basho for guys to figure out M16 Satoyama, but that can now be safely downgraded to half a basho as M11 Yoshikaze--no stranger to gimmick sumo--knew exactly what to do offering a left arm into Satoyama's face before he could duck all the way down and then raising him upright with tsuppari. As Satoyama tried to escape, Cafe got him turned around 180 degrees and got in a little bitta manlove before sending his gal out okuri-dashi style. Yoshikaze moves to 6-3 while Satoyama's kachi-koshi isn't so sure now at 5-4.

And finally, M12 Chiyootori ain't flashy, but he's one of my favorite rikishi to watch due to his yotsu-zumo skills. Today against M12 Gagamaru, Chiyootori got the left arm to the inside and went chest to chest with Yubabamaru, something a lot of guys at this level are afraid to do. The result was a nifty and seldom-seen nage-no-uchi-ai where Chiyootori pulled the trigger on a left inside belt throw while Gagamaru opted for the right kote-nage. This was so close the Apocalypse even took notice, but Chiyootori managed to wrench Gagamaru's left shoulder down to the clay just before his own belly crashed down. Fantastic stuff as Chiyootori moves to 5-4 while Gagamaru ain't too shabby himself at 6-3.

After the bout, Gagamaru looked squarely at the chief judge, Kagamiyama-oyakata, as if to say, "You can't be serious!  No mono-ii?!"  They prolly shoulda called one, but Kagamiyama did get it right.  As a side note, NHK does this little sports wrap-up show at night for about 15 minutes called Sports Plus, and when talking about sumo, the majority of time was spent breaking down Kagamiyama's performance today as the chief judge for the first half bouts.  There was the razor thin margin between Gagamaru and Chiyootori, and then during the Shotenro - Tokitenku matchup, someone's mawashi came loose and so they actually broke down Kagamiyama instructing the rikishi on where to stand after the ref had stopped the action in the ring.  On one hand, you want to focus on crap like this to take the focus off of Kisenosato and his miserable performance so far, but on the other hand, what else are they going to show to fill the time?  This has been one of the worst basho in recent memory, and that's saying quite a bit.

Never fear, however.  I know that Kane will find a silver lining in things tomorrow, and I'm sure he'll also put a few more setsuh jugs on display.  Can't wait.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Here I am, at 9 AM on day 8, having just woken up with that ominously unnerving feeling of "I'm pretty sure there was something I had to do, but I can't for the life of me remember what," then remembering I was supposed to report on day 7. Not that this would make it excusable or anything, but as of this Hatsu Basho there will be no more free sumo video coverage by the NSK - they now want anyone watching their stream to fork over $10 per day or, discounting 20% of that, $120 for the whole tournament. I'm not a specialist in economy or anything remotely related, but what I can tell you is that such a fee is unreasonably high, at least for the purchasing power of the average Romanian (which I am proud to say I am). As far as value is concerned, Tennis TV, for example, offers ALL the ATP and WTA matches in one year for roughly the same price. You decide which is better. The point I'm trying to make, though, is that this dick move on the part of NSK, however justified they might see it financially, turned me off sumo-wise almost completely, to the point that I forgot I had to report.

But I somehow remembered, so here I am again. Looking at the hoshi-tori one can see Hakuho with a perfect 7-0 record and a bunch of other guys with at least some losses. Business as usual, and if I were a betting man, I would be seriously considering putting all my money on Hak taking home yet another cup. The rest is chaff.

Hakuho got his seventh with a textbook demolition of Toyohibiki, absorbing the Hutt's tachi-ai easily, grabbing the left uwate and then flipping him over onto his back like the little brother he never had (I neither know nor can I be bothered to check if Hak has actual little brothers, but even if he does have some, they're the little brothers he does have, not the ones he never had). Nikibi falls to 2-5.

Kotooshu was soundly defeated by Kakuryu, who got a solid mae-mawashi grip early on and never really let go. The Kak maneuvered some and then maneuvered some more, denying the bigger Bulgarian any sort of belt grip until the opportunity presented itself to deploy the pulling throw, which ended in a boring yori-kiri. Kotooshu's Ozeki return seems less and less likely by the day (not that it was too likely to begin with). Kakuryu improves to 6-1 and looks like the only serious candidate to give Hakuho a good fight in the second week (i.e. stay on the mathematical leaderboard until day 13).

Ozeki Kisenosato, whose hopes of Yokozuna talk are already gone for the next couple of basho, did a solid job in keeping Aminishiki in front of him and winning the pushing contest, going up to 5-2 in the process. Sneaky is yet to slither his way to a win.

Kotoshogiku emulated his stable mate and also lost his 3rd, falling to a semi-henka, for lack of a better term, from Ikioi. The energized one did stand up and hit his foe at the tachi-ai, but he was already moving his legs right for the evasion, and at the first sign of pressure, he nimbly got out of the way and pushed the back of his compromised foe for the easy tsuki-otoshi win. Ikioi records only his 2nd win so far.

Goeido compensated for his decent 4-0 start by losing 3 on the spin, the latest one being to Toyonoshima. Goeido managed, at least for a while, to keep his troublesome opponent from getting inside, but superior skill on the part of the Tugboat soon meant Goeido was giving up moro-zashi and grasping at straws with the last-ditch kubi-nage effort. It couldn't possibly work against a guy with almost no neck, so soon Goeido found himself facing the dohyo dirt via shitate-nage. Toyonoshima improves to 4-3 with the win.

The next one was decided as early as the tachi-ai, when Tochiohzan was able to sneak his way into moro-zashi, forcing his taller opponent, Okinoumi, to the side, then eventually attempting a throw and finishing it off by yori-kiri, despite a kubi-nage attempt. Oh recovers from his pathetic 0-3 start with a winning streak of 4, whereas Okinoumi sinks to 3-4.

Takekaze continued a long-standing tradition of his to outpush taller, heavier and whiter opponents (I still remember the epic wins against Baruto of all people), and this time the victim was Bulgarian Aoiyama, who simply had no answer for the superior placement of his opponent's thrusts. The fat Kaze improves to a pretty good 5-2 record. Aoiyama looks outmatched this high with only 3 wins after the first week.

Shohozan and Kitataiki went at it twice, as the first time it was too difficult to determine who stepped out first. In the rematch, Kitataiki henka'd blatantly to his left, but Cheetos read the move like an open book and let the Thick Tree of the North have it by tsuki-dashi. Shohozan shares 2nd place with 6 wins, but something tells me that's not gonna last too long. Kitataiki limps to 2-5.

Everyone's sweetheart Endo survived a little trouble in the beginning when Tamawashi went at him hard and pushed him a bit off balance, but Endo recovered immediately and grabbed the flying Mongol by the front of the belt, yanked him upwards and forced back over the tawara. 6-1 for the new guy, 4-3 for the Mawashi.

Finally, Osunaarashi won a short but intense yotsu struggle with the somewhat undersized Kagamioh, yet another Mongol. The two locked up in migi-yotsu a second into it, and the Egyptian used his superior size and strength to muscle his opponent to the edge where he forced him down and fell over him. The win brings his total to 5-2. Kagamioh makes a less than spectacular debut at 2-5.

That's it for me, I guess. I will, hopefully, see you next tournament.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
After the first five days, Yokozuna Hakuho is running away with the basho, and in the last little while he's been known to drop a bout early in week 2 in order to keep things interesting down the stretch, but I get the feeling this time around that he is going to run the table. Previously when Hakuho has dropped a bout (or even two), there was someone on his tail worthy of remaining in the yusho race, but there is no one even close to yusho consideration this basho, and so there's no use for the Yokozuna to defer to an opponent. I believe that Hakuho largely makes the decision to "let up" as he likes to say with input from his stable master, but he will only do it when it can benefit the sport as a whole. Hakuho finishing 14-1 with the next closest guy at 11-4 is senseless, so as the rest of the field starts falling further and further back, Hakuho should cruise to a zensho yusho with no need for any monkey business.

There's really not anything further to discuss, so let's get right to the action starting with M16 Satoyama who is only having success in the division due to a gimmick tachi-ai that will work for about a basho. Today's victim was M15 Takanoiwa who meant well charging hard, but he let Satoyama settle in low grabbing the left inside grip and right frontal to boot. All it took was for Takanoiwa to panic slightly and become unsure of his attack, and at that moment, Satoyama twisted him over and down with two grips to the belt. These rikishi are used to and taught to fight inside/outside not up/down, so Satoyama (4-2) should score a kachi-koshi this basho, but when was the last time you saw Takanoyama in the division? Takanoiwa falls to 2-4 with the loss.

Wait, maybe I shouldn't have spoken so soon about Hakuho in my intro because M15 Tokushoryu is 5-1! Today, he drifted left, grabbed M13 Kyokushuho (2-4) by the right arm, and then tottari'ed him over and out nearly as fast as the bout had begun. When a guy reaches 5-1 due to a henka, it goes in one ear and straight out the other.

M13 Tokitenku's tachi-ai was extremely slow in developing allowing M14 Masunoyama to get the left arm inside and to the back of Tokitenku's belt. From there, Spalding wasted no time lifting Tenku's right arm up, and he also wisely knew the counter inside leg trip was coming, and once Tokitenku failed in that effort, he was escorted back and out in just seconds leaving both gentleman 3-3.

M14 Kagamioh was happy to let M11 Shotenro charge forward recklessly throwing his tsuppari around, and the rookie calmly watched his opponent like a hawk and timed a left evasive swipe move that worked wonders in this short-lived bout. Kagamioh (2-4) probably doesn't want to watch and react too much as he did today, but when you have Shotenro floundering at 1-5, it was the smart move today. Inneresting that Shotenro's only win came against Endoh on day 1, and it wasn't even close.

M16 Osunaarashi used a right kachi-age and attempted wild force-out charge with the right arm, but M11 Yoshikaze has seen this kind of attack plenty of times before, so he scooted right in desperation pulling the Ejyptian off balance and down just as Yoshikaze stepped out of the ring himself. This one was close, and the referee hesitated in his call, but he got it right when he ended up pointing to Osunaarashi. The youngster moves to 4-2 with the win but still hasn't looked great. Yoshikaze falls to 3-3.

M9 Takayasu came with an ineffective tachi-ai, but with the way he's been fighting this basho, I don't know if he wants to belly up with Chiyootori. Instead, he held up at the tachi-ai and waited for Chiyootori to step forward before darting out left causing Chiyootori (2-4) to stumble forward where Takayasu grabbed the left belt and picked up the uwate-nage win the quick and dirty way. Takayasu moves to 3-3 but is really struggling even at this level.

M12 Gagamaru was lower at the tachi-ai and forced M9 Fujiazuma back with a few tsuppari, but he stupidly went for a quick pull losing his forward momentum. Fujiazuma wasn't pressing forward himself, but it gave him an opening to counter with tsuppari of his own, and he managed to force Gagamaru back a step before pouncing inside with the left. Gagamaru was upright and fighting lazily at this point, so Fujiazuma (2-4) just forced his lard arse out. This was Fujiazuma's first win against Yubabamaru in quite a few tries, so for Gagamaru (4-2) to just gift him the victory with that stupid pull was asinine.

M10 Endoh threw K8 Kitataiki a bit of a curveball in that he didn't go for the belt at the tachi-ai opting to tsuppari his opponent upright, and the move worked like a charm as Endoh was able to use perfect technique to drive Kitataiki back near the edge where he then went for the inside position with the left arm setting up the force-out win. While Endoh has exhibited superior technique at times, this was his first forward-moving win of the basho. At 5-1, he's a lock for a special prize if he keeps up this momentum, but it would be silly to put him in the yusho conversation. Yeah, he may even win his next couple bouts and show up on the leaderboard at the turn, but he is not fighting at a yusho level, even if Hakuho wanted to drop a bout or two. As Endoh piles up the wins, they're going to start feeding him to other rikishi piling up the wins, and my guess is his left ankle will hamper him down the stretch against guys with game. Kitataiki ain't got no game at 2-4.

M10 Sadanofuji pushed up high into M8 Tochinowaka allowing T-Wok the left inside position, and he was able to withstand Sada's charge, pull him in close enough to grab the right outside belt, and score the nifty uwate-nage win in the middle of the ring. I think I've bet against Tochinowaka nearly every day this basho, but he's managed a 5-1 start. Like Endoh, the swelling will go down soon enough once he's faced with tougher competition. Sadanofuji falls to 3-3 with the loss.

M6 Tamawashi shaded right at the tachi-ai and won the tachi-ai with a sweet right ottsuke that kept M7 Takarafuji upright, and when Takarafuji looked to take control with the left to the inside, Tamawashi move right again shoving his foe from the side, and in the end, Takarafuji just wasn't quick enough to keep up with The Mawashi who made it official with a final sideways shove with that right arm. Technically, Takarafuji (1-5) is the better rikishi and has the better sumo body, but he didn't do enough to keep Tamawashi (4-2) in check, and the Mongolian's speed proved the difference.

M6 Kaisei (2-4) played enormous target to M4 Takekaze's straightforward charge where the smaller rikishi connected on a left inashi at the back of Baby Hueys' shoulder sending him stumbling over to the edge and rendering him as easy pushout fodder. Takekaze is 4-2 if you need him (and you don't!).

M2 Chiyotairyu finally brought the guns today against M1 Toyonoshima and knocked him back with reckless abandon, but the charge was just a tad too hurried, and Toyonoshima was able to dart left and swipe at Chiyotairyu's extended hands sending him down to a belly flop on the clay as Toyonoshima tiptoed the tawara. I was okay with Chiyotairyu's loss today because he at least moved his legs forward, but he cannot keep starting out ofer (he's 0-6) from the jo'i. A good basho from Chiyotairyu next tournament is meaningless at this point; it's time he prove himself from the jo'i. Toyonoshima is even steven at 3-3.

M1 Okinoumi used the right arm deep to the inside against M5 Kyokutenho, and he looked to be in complete control, but if you're not applying extreme pressure to Tenho, you leave him room to counter, and that's exactly what the 40 year-old virgin did moving left near the edge and using the classic tsuki-otoshi push to the side in order to fell Okinoumi to the clay in all his girth. This bout was a perfect example of Kyokutenho's' counter sumo skills and Okinoumi's lack of urgency as both combatants end the day at 3-3.

Sekiwake Goeido wanted no part of M5 Shohozan, and when a rikishi wants no part of Shohozan, is he really an Ozeki candidate? The Father was looking pull the entire way, and Shohozan was on him like barfed-up ramen to pavement chasing the Suckiwake around the ring and finishing him off with a tsuki-dashi no less. Embarrassing loss as Goeido falls to 4-2 while Shohozan is in hot pursuit of the leader at 5-1.

Sekiwake Kotooshu employed a stupid henka to his left...against Komusubi Tochiohzan of all rikishi!! The sumo gods will only put up with so much crap sumo, however, and with Kisenosato and Goeido already bleeding that well dry, they allowed Tochiohzan to survive getting the left arm to the inside and right outer grip all while standing on the tawara. Oh was still in a pickle at this point, but he rammed his belly upward into Oshu knocking him off balance and setting up the shweet outer belt throw. Kotooshu's inability to finish Tochiohzan off when he was standing on the tawara shows you just how important forward momentum and continuity to one's sumo is, but I was happy to see him lose after that shite tachi-ai. The former Ozeki falls to 4-2, and with Hakuho lurking down the road, he's essentially at three losses already meaning he can only lose twice more, and there are just too many days left I'm afraid. Tochiohzan moves to 3-3 with the comeback win.

M4 Aminishiki actually won the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kakuryu head-butting him back a step, but then he went for a stupid full-blown pull just as Kakuryu was looking to regain forward momentum. He got it all right, so much so that he joined Aminishiki in the second row he pushed him out so hard and fast. I know Ami's ailing this basho (yet still sleeping well), but he's 0-6 because of bone-headed sumo, not because of his legs. As for Kakuryu, he moves to 5-1 but you wouldn't know it by the content of his sumo. I realize he's a fellow countryman of Hakuho, but getting back to my intro, I don't think Hakuho would drop a bout as a favor to Kakuryu with the Ozeki fighting at this low level.

Speaking of fighting at a low level, I'm always amused when the fans, announcers, and newscasters express shock at a Kisenosato loss as happened yesterday when he got his ass handed to him by Aoiyama, but it just goes to show you the power the media has over people willing to be led blindly like sheep, and that applies not only to sumo but to politics and pop culture in general. Anyway, Kisenosato once again looked for the right outer grip at the tachi-ai against M2 Ikioi instead of going for the inside first. Luckily, it didn't look as if Ikioi cared about moving forward, so the Ozeki eventually worked him over to the edge where Ikioi curiously went for a counter ami-uchi throw pulling at Kisenosato's right arm while arching his back a bit as if he actually expected the Ozeki to fly right past him. And the funny thing is it almost worked, but the reason you never hear about the ami-uchi in Maku-uchi is because it's a near impossible move to pull off, and such was the case today as Kisenosato finally forced the stationery Ikioi out in the end. Ikioi falls to 1-5 with the loss, and my opinion is that he could have made things a lot closer, but I could be wrong. As for Kisenosato, he moves to 4-2, and I'm still waiting to see a bout that even half resembles sumo worthy of a Yokozuna.

M3 Toyohibiki slammed into Ozeki Kotoshogiku getting the left arm in deep and knocking Kotoshogiku upright. His muscle memory forced the Ozeki all the way back to the edge before he finally came out of his trance and realized he was about to hand Kotoshogiku another loss, so he backed up back into the center of the ring and eventually gave the Ozeki the right outer grip and stood there waiting to be thrown. Kotoshogiku obliged moving to 4-2, so are you a glass half full guy or a glass is half empty guy? I say give him four more wins and just get it over with, so I don't have to watch as much fake sumo that last five days.

Finally, Yokozuna Hakuho got the right to the inside from the tachi-ai and aligned chests with M3 Aoiyama until he could grab that left outer grip, and once secured, it was curtains as the Yokozuna easily pulled the trigger on the outer belt throw a few seconds in. Aoiyama (3-3) is the perfect litmus test between Kisenosato and Hakuho in terms of exhibiting true Yokozuna sumo, and so you can see just how far apart these two rikishi really are.

As we head into the weekend, it wouldn't surprise me if something dramatic happened just because the audience will be larger, but at this point, I don't think Hakuho has seen anything from the rest of the field that would make him want to cooperate.

Martin puts down the books and takes his usual day 7 slot tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)

Another Nail in the Nokozuna Coffin

Well, that's disappointing. If you didn't view the bouts or check the results online before your faithful stop at El Talko del Sumo, Kisenosato lost again to fall to 3-2. For the uninitiated among you, that does NOT mean that the Great Japanese Hope can just right the ship, reel off 10 straight, and still have a chance at giving the nation a giant collective orgasm (just imagine the Emperor making an O-face ... man, I'm so going to Shinto Hell). At least, it doesn't mean that in reality, even if it is theoretically possible. It DOES mean that he's blown two of his best chances to rack up wins and get to the point that top dogs start gifting him what he needs to finish it off.

Today's performance was so weak, that I can't imagine him representing the best of sumo in the top rank at this point. (In fairness, HowDo has some weak bouts from time to time. But's already got the tsuna, while Kise's auditioning for the position, which is a huge difference.) Aoiyama had a false start, and when they went for the redo, the two engaged in a pissing contest to see who would squat first. First one down is the Beta dog. Well, Kise is the Ozeki, which is a higher rank than E3, so the Bulgarian should know who has the right-of-way and get his fat ass down in a reasonable time, especially after a false start. So far, so good for the Ozeki. Step 1: Put the youngster in his place; Step 2: Kick his ass.

Well, seems we had a bit of hiccup on the path to Step 2. Aoiyama drove into the Ozeki with the powerful tsuppari backed up by good footwork. Nothing fancy, and certainly nothing surprising. The Ozeki responded by, um ... well, um, he went backwards. All the way to the tawara. That was his chance to ... um ... have Aoiyama drive a knee into him, lifting the Ozeki off balance. And then more thrusting. And then out. That was Kise's chance to ... look disappointed. It was a total ass kicking and it sure looked like the "hopeful" had no capacity to respond. A most Non-Yokozuna performance.

Love to see this kind of sumo from Aoiyama (a decent 3-2), though. I was pumped up to see him just take it to the Ozeki, who had so much on the line, and especially after getting shown up before the bout. That was fun.

Bouts of Interest

Let's make this quick and dirty, baby. Japan ain't gettin' it's O-face on, and neither are you, but I'm gettin' mine.

  • Hakuho let Ikioi hang around after the tachi-ai, just to see if the W2 could mount a charge or otherwise liven up the crowd. Didn't happen, so Ikioi (1-4) goes ka-dumpety-dump into the dirt.
  • In a bout that showcased the strengths and weaknesses of Toyohibiki, the W3 had the better charge against Ozeki Kakuryu. But Kak's a slippery fella and got to the side right as he was going down and out. Still, it sure looked like the Hutt had this one, since Kak fell down first, but Hibiki's left foot grazed the dirt a second before that. Fumi-dashi is the called kimari-te, which is a losing technique, since the big man (2-3) should have pulled it out with a touch better footwork. Kakuryu is still one back, but needs a better effort than this to be relevant.
  • Aminishiki has not looked too genki so far (now oh-fer). Kotoshogiku just pummeled him today into yori-taoshi. Geeku's still only 3-2 and has a bum shoulder, which he may have banged up further today.
  • Tochiohzan and Goeido are two pretty evenly matched dudes. In fact, they were 8-9 (or 9-8, if you like) going into this one. Nice match, some back-and-forth, and Goeido drops one off the path. Oh Snap at 2-3. Worth watching, but not otherwise meaningful to comment on.
  • Kotooshu looked pretty motivated today! He did a great job of keeping his right arm inside, blocking Toyonoshima's usual moro-zashi attempt. He then chased the little man out, moving reasonably well and using his length and power advantages. That guy could be an Ozeki someday.
  • Ohhhh, Chiyotairyu, oh oh oh. Nice opening against Okinoumi today. Way to get low and drive him back. And now bow your head a bit so I can bitch hari-te you for following it up immediately with that weak-ass pull attempt. And you wonder how you got to five losses so quickly? Oki-doki is 3-2 after driving the E2 out in a hurry.
  • Among those joining the four-win group is Shohozan, who used a well-timed kick to create an opening against Takarafuji (1-4), and immediately pounced for the sukui-nage.
  • Tochinowaka also joins that group. He found that his normal tack of getting his arms low and into his aite and then driving forward wasn't moving Tamawashi (3-2) over the edge. So he resorted to a rare hataki-komi, catching Tama Tama off guard for the V (as in Victory -- what were you thinking of?).
  • Endoh is also 4-1. But he's winning with escapes at the edge. It's fine, the footwork is nice, and it gets the job done for now, but it's not going to take him (or more accurately, keep him) into the jo'i. The Takayasu's of the world are going to give way to Ozeki and other foes who will wrap him up properly before finishing the job. I'm having trouble seeing how this kind of sumo will translate into the greatness that his fast rise to this point would suggest.
  • Why are pusher-thrusters Tokushoryu and Yoshikaze running into each other, fishing for grips? Especially for the smaller Starbuck, it seems like a poor strategy. Smells like a trip to Tsukiji...
  • Let's wrap this up with Osunaarashi, who manhandled Kyokushuho. The Mongolian got the better of the tachi-ai, driving the Egyptian a little higher and back enough to get a solid inside-outside grip. From this superior position, he should have been able to make a move. But the Egyptian is a strong man, and he not only blocked the charge, but was able to simply overpower the E13 into a yori-kiri win. Not very good sumo from the rising E16 (3-2), but might makes right in this one.

And that's all from me this go-around. I will be flying through this basho on my DVR at warp speed, stopping for the occasional good bouts and nodding my head while Hakuho takes home the cup again. Happy New Year, y'all! Hope it brings us some more competition for the top dog before all is said and done (though hope is pretty much all I'm hanging on here).

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
My favorite rikishi to watch by far this basho has been Endoh, and the word that keeps popping up during analysis of his bouts on the Japanese broadcast is "dohyo-gi," or quite literally, dohyo skill. It seems as if I'm hearing the term dohyo-gi less and less these days because frankly, very few of the rikishi fight with the precision and skill that warrants its use. During both of his day 2 and day 3 wins against Yoshikaze and Chiyootori respectively, his opponents put up good fights requiring Endoh to make adjustments mid-bout and then show patience before he went for the kill. He hasn't dominated anyone thus far, and I attribute that to his injured left ankle, but there have been so many twists and turns in his bouts that it's been a joy to watch him work.

Today against M7 Takarafuji, T-Fooj came with the quick and stifling right outer from the tachi-ai; however, he hurried his attack without the sufficient position on the right inside, and Endoh displayed the most spectacular dohyo-gi we've see thus far at the ring's edge. As Takarafuji had Endoh on the brink, the youngster slipped left, brilliantly slid both feet along and over the edge of the dohyo, and then felled his opponent with an inside belt throw that had me singing the dude's praises. Watching it live, I was shocked that they didn't call a mono-ii, but replays showed Endoh's perfect footwork at the edge that allowed him to stay alive and at the same time drag his foe down via an inside belt grip. If we examine photo finishes from two of his first four bouts, we get scenes like this:


Now contrast the content of Endoh's sumo with that of Ozeki Kisenosato. In a Kisenosato bout, there's no drama. Okay, let me rephrase that...there's plenty of that kind of drama but little suspense. There are no close calls, no mussed up hair, no red faces, no belts coming lose, no grunting, and frankly, no action. Today against M1 Okinoumi, both rikishi got the simultaneous left inside position from the tachi-ai where Okinoumi seemed content to just stand his ground. As both guys just stood there (standing around is a BIG part of bouts that involve Kisenosato these days) both rikishi reached for right outers, and while Okinoumi tinkled the ivories a few times against the Kid's belt, he just couldn't seem to grab the fatal grip...what with his long reach advantage and all. After about 20 seconds of stalemate, Kisenosato finally bellied his way into the right outer grip, and from there the yori-kiri was as straight forward as they come. I've shown two photo finishes from Endoh bouts, so now let me show two from Kisenosato bouts including his win over Okinoumi today:


I haven't seen so many stand-up men since I went to church last Sunday, and you look at Okinoumi in that second pic, and he's clearly scanning the crowd for the Kamoshita twins.  The point I'm trying to make is that Kisenosato's sumo is not indicative of a rikishi making a run. Remember when guys like Asashoryu and Hakuho made their runs to Ozeki and Yokozuna? They were nigh unto unstoppable, and when they did lose, they were close calls at the edge where counter sumo played a huge role. There was visible momentum and you'd come away most days thinking to yourself...wow, did I really just see that? Even when Kakuryu made his run two years ago, you could visibly see him rise up above the rest of the field except for Hakuho, and I still remember his charging straight into Baruto's girth two basho in a row and defeating the Estonian in chest to chest matches

In the case of Kisenosato, there are no ebbs and flows to his bouts, no counter sumo, nothing to keep one on edge, and zero moves from the Ozeki that impress anyone. The crowd never gets worked up mid bout, and when he does win at the end, he gets the type of applause you'd hear after a poetry recital at the library. With Harumafuji out, Kakuryu lying low, and Kotoshogiku with more tape on him than a Christmas present wrapped by a five year-old, we get to the end of the day's bouts and everything is so anti-climactic. I have no idea whether or not Kisenosato is going to make Yokozuna, but this run of his is just like all of Goeido's runs to Ozeki: there is no substance.

Let's cover the rest of the bouts starting from the bottom up. M15 Tokushoryu employed a stiff left arm into J2 Chiyooh's shoulder driving him back and leading to the solid left inside position and right outer grip. The yori-kiri was academic at that point as Tokushoryu (3-1) is wielding the beating stick nicely this low in the ranks.

The M16 Satoyama duck low tachi-ai hasn't worn on me just yet, but give it a few more days. I've never been a fan of gimmick sumo even when you had guys like Mainoumi and Kyokudozan twenty years ago. Anyway, M14 Kagamioh scored the early left under position and right outer grip, but he hurried his charge and lost that under position (notice how I can't call it the inside position). Satoyama responded by staying low and twisting Kagamioh's belt sideways with dual insides resulting in the shitate-hineri win. Tell you what, Endoh's 3-1 is a helluva lot more impressive than Satoyama's as Kagamioh falls to 1-3. Tomorrow Satoyama draws Tokitenku, and something smells me there's a keta-guri in store.

M13 Kyokushuho has looked hesitant to me the last few days due to that gash on his forehead. I mean, you get five stitches in your head and the last thing you want to do is face a 200 kg guy like Gagamaru with hams at the end of both arms swiping at..well...that gash in your head, but today against M14 Masunoyama, Shuho was unfazed with a tsuppari attack so swift that Masunoyama couldn't defend the blows as fast as they were delivered. The result was a straightforward oshi-dashi that sent Kyokushuho back to 2-2. Rotundo-yama shares the same mark.

M16 Osunaarashi used a slight henka to his left, but it was half-assed and M12 Gagamaru was on him like flies to stink just bludgeoning him down with a series of slaps to the shoulders. I think the official kimari-te was ruled ham-beat-down as Gagamaru skips to 3-1 wile Osunaarashi still hasn't impressed me with his sumo at 2-2.

M15 Takanoiwa and M12 Chiyootori hit with equal force at tachi-ai, but Takanoiwa was lower and was able to keep his foe upright just enough to where he could move left and pull Chiyootori off balance swiping at his shoulder. Chiyootori just couldn't keep up with his footwork as Takanoiwa pushed him out in the end when he tried to square back up. Go figure, the yotsu specialist in Takanoiwa (1-3) picks up his win with pull and evasive sumo, but rikishi will resort to that when they're desperate. Besides, Chiyootori is one dude you don't want to get into a belt fight with when you're in a slump. He's better than his 1-3 start.

M13 Tokitenku came with a hurried left face slap and two inside positions that were so shallow, M10 Sadanofuji forced the bout to the most boring position in sumo where one guy has a shallow moro-zashi (Tokitenku) and the other pinches in hard from the outside (Sadanofuji). After about two minutes, even the gyoji had had enough stopping the action in order to re-tie Sadanofuji's belt, and Yoshikaze was getting so stiff from sitting ringside, that he actually stepped up onto the dohyo to say W-T-F? Either that or he wanted to create a gyoji sandwich with his two other pals. Anyway, when the action bout continued, Tokitenku finally threatened an inside leg trip that knocked Sada off balance just enough to force him out in about three minutes that felt more like three hours.

M8 Kitataiki tried to establish the left inside from the start, but M11 Yoshikaze was just too ramped up from the double espresso he had in the morning abandoning a great left inside of his own to slap Kitataiki down by both shoulders in the short-lived bout. Kitataiki (2-2) dominates Yoshikaze (3-1) head to head, but he hasn't seemed as genki of late.

M11 Shotenro delivered a right nodowa that had M8 Tochinowaka staring at the rafters, but there were no legs behind it, so the Wookie pressed forward with his body, got moro-zashi in the process, and easily finished off Shotenro for the comeback yori-kiri win. When you have your gal staring straight up, you have to finish your bidness. Shotenro blew it today falling to 1-3 while Tochinowaka is a surprising 3-1.

M6 Tamawashi used a straightforward tsuki attack and had M9 Fujiazuma thrust out in seconds. This bout surprised me a bit as Tamawashi (1-3) has never really performed at this level while Fujiazuma is one of the better oshi guys in the mid to lower ranks. At 1-3, something's up with Fujiazuma.

M9 Takayasu took the initiative with a tsuppari attack, but it was just too high to have much effect, so M6 Kaisei, whose middle name this basho has been 'languish,' worked his way underneath Takayasu's extended right arm and countered beautifully for the oshi-dashi win. On one hand, Takayasu (2-2) shouldn't be 2-2 at this rank, but Kaisei isn't exactly a slouch either.

M5 Shohozan suffered his first loss of the basho with a hurried tsuppari affair that had no legs behind it. Aoiyama, who is already a bit dinged up, easily withstood the legless attack and sent Shohozan over and down with little effort picking up his second win in the process. Shohozan was primed to have an outstanding basho, so this loss sets him back.

And speaking of hurried charges, M3 Toyohibiki led with the left sort of on the inside, but he had insufficient position on the other side yet still decided to charge. M5 Kyokutenho put it in reverse, turned out left, and countered with a perfect left belt throw of his own that sent Toyohibiki across the straw shitate-nage style. Kyokutenho's age has really showed this basho, and Toyohibiki shoulda wiped the dohyo with the Chauffer's chassis today. Bad loss in my opinion as both finish 2-2.

Komusubi Tochiohzan was timid from the start against M2 Ikioi, but luckily he had the inside position with the right while Ikioi had none. The Komusubi almost blew it going for a stupid pull, but Ikioi wasn't ready to pounce, so Tochiohzan came outta the fray with the solid left inside that he now used to set up the force-out win. It's okay for guys ranked at this level to be 1-3 at this point due to their competition, but neither of these rikishi has looked good or exciting at all so far.

Everything I said about Kisenosato in the intro applies to Sekiwake Goeido, who had no footwork to speak of today against M4 Takekaze. Instead, Goeido looked more to spin around the ring than charge straight forward, so against Takekaze (2-2), it resulted in an ugly dance where both guys tried to evade and pull the entire way. Goeido squeaked it out in the end, but I didn't come away from this bout thinking, dayum, that kid's a future Ozeki. He is 4-0, however, which makes me wonder 'are Kane and I watching the same basho?'

I guess we are because I recognized that mummy picture of M4 Aminishiki this instant I saw it, and today Shneaky attempted a henka to his right against Sekiwake Kotooshu, but there was just too much cloth in Aminishiki's way, and he could barely move. Kotooshu ain't exactly a speedster these days, but he easily capitalized on the mistake and just pummeled Aminishiki as he further tried to evade scoring the oshi-taoshi win. Kotooshu needed this one has he moves to 3-1 while Aminishiki still sports a bagel in the win column.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku picked up a much need freebie today against Komusubi Myogiryu, and half of me thinks that part of the impetus in Myogiryu's going kyujo was to give the Ozeki a day off himself. I know I'm losing my hair and the grays are becoming more prevalent around my temples, but has Kotoshogiku aged overnight or has he aged overnight? Dude can barely move out there, and after watching him try to waddle around the dohyo, I thirst for Aminishiki and Kyokutenho. Major props to Kotonowaka for taking the most kick-ass stable in sumo and just driving it into the ground.

Ozeki Kakuryu ain't helping much in adding spice to this basho, and he was so nonchalant in his charge today against Toyonoshima that Tugboat just bulldozed him back creating too much separation for his own good. Kakuryu quickly recovered after losing the tachi-ai, but from there, it was an ugly girl fight where both tried to slap their way into position. Kakuryu (3-1) finally connected with a left hand at the back of Toyonoshima's right shoulder slapping him down to-a-to-n-to record and putting everyone out of their misery.

Finally, M2 Chiyotairyu forgot he wasn't facing Kisenosato or Kotoshogiku, so he led with that useless left shoulder again, but when your opponent is Yokozuna Hakuho, it probably would have been wise to rethink a few things. I actually think Hakuho was cautious just in case Chiyotairyu came hard (with tsuppari I mean), but the M2's shoves were so timid that Hakuho just backed up a half step causing Chiyotairyu to collapse to the dirt doggy style a second in. Needless to say, Hakuho is 4-0, and he also looks bored as hell to me this basho. As for Chiyotairyu, he falls to 0-4, and it's my opinion that he gave wins to both domestic Ozeki, but he's gotta show more than this.

My challenge to Matt tomorrow is to find a better gurabia idol pic than the one Kane posted of that gal throwing out the first pitch (among other things).

Day 3 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
Happy New Year! Here's wishing you all a bountiful 2014 and a sincere hope that your significant other can lick their teeth like this…

As we step into another year of our beloved sumo I get the feeling that it's gonna be a wild one. Besides the arrival of some legitimately skilled, new talent shaking up the banzuke (sweet!), the Sumo Association is officially (and unabashedly) in full fledged "Japanese Yokozuna Now" mode.

The "powers that be" know how critical this has become and I believe they've done an OK job of setting it all up. They got most of the rikishi covertly on board in the effort and the fans (although they may smell a rat (do rats really smell THAT bad?)) are juiced and ready to accept whoever gets the golden mawashi (not literally 'cause its the kiss o' death on the dohyo). Though I will say, if the "chosen one" stinks up the joint, the fans reaction will NOT be pretty. The sad implications of an obviously weak Nihonjin Yokozuna will cause a bevy of problems for the sport as it's legitimacy is mos' def a fine balance to maintain (yaocho scandals etc).

So far the only one not cooperating with the campaign is "Yok to be" and perennial prom queen, Kisenosato. A fact never more evident than his loaf of bread performance on day one.

I mean Kitanoufuji (as reported by Mike) was so spot on when he said "Kisenosato is weak mentally". But Sonny Boy's got a lot to deal with….He and his fellow rikishi must know whats going on so that's GOTTA be the elephant in the room when they're shopping at the mall together (especially when there's not a truckload of justification for the honor). And to make things worse his eyebrows don't match!

At this point the kid must notice that fewer athletes are going full bore against him (Myogiryu had him on the ropes and then mysteriously pulled him back into the ring…And the way that affair ended was a comfy tuck and roll by Yogi-Mahesh-Mahoney, and Kisenosato's countenance appeared the same as if he'd lost the match), and that's gotta indicate the general consensus around the locker room that he ain't got what it takes to be a "king of the clay hill". So I'm willing to cut him some slack on his shaky mindset. All things considered, his less than Asashoryu-like mental state is somewhat understandable. Just think, the antithesis would be Kise doing a fist pump after every so-called "win" and that's shesa not so cool either.

So I say, Dude! You best be getting' your head on straight boy…at least show the same positive attitude this fresh baseball player is displaying!

OK so no more gaijin musings stamped on to a culture that allows THIS!  ====>

With electricity crackling in the air and the hopes and fears of a new dawn upon us all…let's get rocking' on this: The 2014 Hatsu Basho - DAY THREE!

The diminutive (2-0) Satoyama does favor the low tachi-ai (master cylinder Clancy pointed that out yesterday) but he hit a new low when he ducked under (1-1) Osunaaaarashi's tsuppari attack. It was so deliberate it was almost like a henka for short guys. Once he grabbed the Egyptian's belt and tucked his head into his opponent's armpit, the epic mid-dohyo standoff (not mizu-iri length but a whopping 3:09!!! ) was in full swing and therein lies the reason I'm reporting on this bout.

When Harumafuji, Kakuryu or the venerable Hakuho are in lock down with their opponents you can almost see the gears working in their heads as they seek / create an opportunity to throw their opponents to the clay. In this bout the two men seemed almost clueless as to what their next move should be and it brings to mind the much picked on and sometimes brain dead Kisenosato. His ability to sense the correct moment to apply a winning technique in similar "belt grip stalemates" seems weak and physical instinct and real time creativity are essential elements for the elite athlete in any sport.

After a few minutes, Satoyama gained a two handed inside grip on Osunaaaaaarashi's belt and seemed to be seeking shitate-dashi-nage but it was not to be…the much larger and stronger Osu lifted Satoyama's belt and forced him to a yori-taoshi victory. Both men sport a 2-1 record and, hopefully, a huge royalty check for so much screen time.

Super round dude, Masunoyama, has been showing mucho sumo soul early on in this basho. The fact that, much like Takamisakari, he's stolen the hearts of many fans with his quirky body language (much the result of his less than optimum lung size) and his unabashed display of pure desire to compete, has added a welcome flair to a sport stricken with maybe the most vapid interviewee in recorded history, Hakuho.

As he faced newcomer M14 Kagamioh, Rotundoyama was aware that every bout this basho must be viewed as critical if he's to stay in the big show and, as always, Spalding looked loaded for bear (whatever the hell that means). Unfortunately Masunoyama behaved very un-Takamisakari-like and threw down a disheartening henka for the hataki-komi win. In all the years I watched him compete, I never once saw Takami henka but hey, at least we didn't have to watch the round kid gasp for breath. Spalding sleazes his way to 2-1 while Kagamioh stumbles to 1-2.

What I love about Endoh is his decision making on the dohyo. There's never a sense of panic in the kid, only a sound blend of attack and response that leads me to believe he's not only gifted with some real athleticism but he's also an "in bout" tactician as well.

As M10 (1-1) Elvis hit the stage he sported his usual "down to business at hand" countenance (that he never loses…even mid-bout) and although his foe M12 (1-1) Chiyootori isn't an elite rikishi he's a big dude that fights hard. As big Mike has previously reminded us about other up and coming rikishi, Endoh has to beat the guys he's supposed to beat (especially if he wants to keep his loyal fan club).

At the tachi-ai the two men met with equal force on up high and immediately started a brief tsuppari attack and then went for the belt! Endoh backed up and danced along the rope as he attempted a quick pull to throw Chiyo off the dohyo but his opponent quickly recovered and started pushing, pulling and slapping. Although Endoh had a weak start he settled down and started to get busy with some sound sumo. Once he gained hidari-yotsu it was only a matter of time before he gained the shitate-nage throw down for a 2-1 record. I believe if he was 100% the match would have been less frenetic but again, when it counted he shifted into the right gear.

Speaking of frenetic sumo, the ever ditsy Yoshikaze retreated during his entire bout with Sadanofuji until he was all but running backwards. He finally yanked his foe to the dirt and gave a cute little jump at the end that was oh so ever NOT the way to tickle the fancy of the lovable girls in AKB48! Katasu-kashi was the call as Monster Drink tweaks his way to 2-1 and Sadanofuji trips the light unfantastic to the same.

Ikioi is a strong kid. He's learning lessons each basho and he seems to be committed to forward moving sumo which can only mean bigger and better things for him if he keeps it up. On this night he met the rotund and honest Toyohibiki, another guy who has always had a similar commitment to putting his butt in drive and hitting his opponents straight up. The importance of that initial hit in sumo was never more evident than in this match…once they'd crossed the shikiri-sen it was all M3 Toyo as he came in low, quickly stood the M2 youngster up and drove him back and out of paradise with an aggressive oshi-dashi. Both men are 1-2.

Right off the gun, the lumbering Aoiyama shoved Sekiwake Kotooshu back and off the dohyo forcing the ex-Ozeki to land on the wrong knee. Unfortunately for BlueMountain, he lost his big-breasted butt balance and bounced onto the clay before Kotooshu crossed the sacred boundary.

Aminishiki is one of my fav rikishi but this basho he seems to be stepping extra carefully which may indicate his knees (and maybe some other body parts) are giving him trouble. Recently he seems to be seeking more coverage with his knee wraps.

At the tachi-ai he gave Goeido a few flat footed shoves to keep him away from his mawashi and quickly went for a gassho-hineri two handed pull down. Thick necked Goeido was uncooperative and countered with well placed charge that sent the Sheakmeister into the expensive seats. Oshidashi for Mr. Go Eido (3-0) and a trip to the gauze warehouse for Mr. Amin I. Shiki.

Other than the fact that I've been gifted with more than my share of gyoji mishaps (gotta say I love em!) the Kakuryu/Tochiohzan affair was a one sided ass kicking. Tough guy, Kak (2-1) gets the hard core oshi-dashi and Tochiohzan (0-3) thinks maybe he shouldn't have pissed off the dai-Yokozuna on Day 1.

Chiyotairyu was certainly energetic during his match with Kisenosato…but the one to watch in this bout is the KID! He doesn't do much in the way of attack, counter attack or anything really. M2 Chiyo deftly PUSHES the Ozeki every which way…PULLS him forward and then around to the center of the dohyo…and then…after he easily gains Kise's belt, Chia Pet works him back and forth around the turf until he finally backs himself out of bounds into a slow motion yorikiri loss. I DO want to root for this Kisenosato guy but dayum…someone tell me what the reporting is gonna look like if he becomes Yokozuna. Dude was yanked all over creation this time out.

So "company guy" Chiyotairyu listens to the powerful voices in his ear and drops to 0-3 as sad sack Kisenosato rockets to a not so shiny 2-1 record.

ll I can say about Kotoshogiku / Toyonoshima bout is ouch! M1 Toyo gets the kiri-kaeshi win for a 2-1 record and Koto says "ohhh the pain" at 1-2.

The final match, Yokozuna (2-1) Hakuho against M1 (2-0) Okinoumi was classic "Hak" sumo. Fearless strike at the tachi-ai followed by an unstoppable drive to migi-yotsu (Oki tried to squeeze Hak's arm off of his belt but ain't no way). Okinoumi is a big, strong and promising rikishi, but once Hakuho has your mawashi its pretty much a done deal ("pretty much" was unnecessary). The Dai-Yokozuna used his keen sense of applied physics and weight displacement and wasted no time in frog walking his hapless foe off his property. Yori-kiri was the call as Hakuho stays pristine and Okinoumi (despite this loss) should go on to make more noise at 2-1.

Gotta say I'm loving' this basho…enough intrigue and full bore sumo to keep my brain stem humming. Oh and let's hope Myogiryu has a rapid recovery from his injury. He's a talented kid and we need him fighting at full strength!

I'll be back next week when things should be truly rockin'! And as I wrap up my first sumotalk.com report of 2014 and ponder all of the potential change that comes with each new beginning, I'm also struck by the essential rules of life that will NOT change no matter how many pages fly off the calendar. Things like "a surfboard always looks better with a girl on it."

Day 2 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
My mother used to complain I was always a day late and a dollar short (but oddly she never complained when Id go out at 6am in the nad freezing four foot high lake effect snow drifts of Upstate NY and dig her car out of the previous nights storm, starting it up and putting the heater on while she sat warmly inside the house!), and it seems this basho her words figure true. Mike picked up the slack for me at the last moment on Day 1, as it turned out to be a national holiday and my children needed their Papa to run interference for them in this crazy sport we call "Life."

Twenty fourteen is upon us with a vengeance, and the only thing here in Japan more amusing than the 2013 summary reports informing us of such tidbits as the number of teachers fired for placing cameras in the girls toilets is the hype surrounding the former Hagiwara fish known as Kisenosato and his chances at becoming the first JPese shin-Yokozuna in the lifespan of a woodchuck. Ive seen the phrase "Yokozuna run" but to me its more of a "Yokozuna drunken stumble," cause thats what its going to look like if by some chance this guy becomes a Yokozuna while the Mongolians are still a maraudin. I mean, its one thing to rudely return Toyonoshimas Day 1 gift, but UNOPENED??

To start things off on Day 2, Satoyama got into his patently ridiculously low position at tachi-ai, but Tokushoryu was unable to take advantage of it, pressing down on the back of his foes head for all he was worth but still finding himself run back and out via yori-kiri, so tell me, Kelly sensee, who is the ridiculous one here?

Masunoyama looked like the hound that caught the fox after defeating Takanoiwa, panting heavily and a bit disoriented as he made his way back to his corner. No wonder, as he brought a furious charge at tachi-ai, getting a pitbullish right hand belt grip and not letting it go until that final moments when he saw an opening for moro-zashi and took it. The rookie Takanoiwa was impressively strong throughout but was schooled by his more experienced opponent. Spirited bout indeed.

Kagamioh speared an outside right belt at the start and used it to clinch his adversary Kyokushuho and the bout in straightforward fashion. The poor boy looked magnifico-ho-ho-ho.

Tokitenku calmly snagged the outside, inside belts but so too did Chiyootori, and it was the Japanese man who was the stronger on the day as he dropped his hips and brought in that great big belly, which Tokitenku had nary and answer for. Four yori-kiri in the first five bouts, and the day was shaping up to be rather pedestrian.

But then along came a survivor of Thanksgiving we call Gagamaru and he stayed amazingly (for him) nice and upright while stiff-arming Shotenro. The gorgeous Georgian then lowered the goddamned BOOM on the Mongolian by tomahawking down on his left shoulder, a blow that would undoubtedly shatter most peoples clavicle but only instantly brought Shotenro to his knees. I replayed it about five times, the sound and fury being muy delicioso! Shotenro has my admiration if he shows up for Day 3 with no bandaging on that shoulder.

Things continued to fire on the front burner as Yoshikaze survived a textbook straight armed tachi-ai from Endoh that sent the W11 back to the ropes, but we dont call him The Caffeinated One for nothing, and he escaped by the skin of his teeth (teeth have no skin, btw, so it was a very close escape indeed, in case youve ever wondered about the sense of that idiom). Starbuck then was on the offensive, slapping Endoh back to the other side of the ring and getting an outside right belt. Endoh himself then wormed away and in the process gripped onto the front of Yoshikazes mawashi and using that to lift up and force him out. But Yoshikaze is nothing if not a fighter, and so he pulled Endoh along with him as he fell backward with his knees locked. Endoh managed to remain atop as both men crashed out, but I gotta give Starbuck his propers, cause it cannot be easy to fall back like that knowing in your mind how much its going to fucking hurt. One good reason to love straight up sumo.

In an all out pushing battle, Takayasu had no answer for Sadanofujis shoving as the E10 was able to keep the E9 in front of him throughout and finally crush him out in about ten seconds.

The Fujiazuma Tochinowaka bout reminded me of that scene in the "Spongebob Movie" where Patrick and Spongebob manage to escape from these gargantuan monsters by playing this kind of body slapping game that makes the monsters stop and stare in awe. I think perhaps Fujiazumas fingertips grazed the belt at one point, but that was it as dude got bitch slapped out to his second straight loss.

Kitataiki went noggin to noggin with Tamawashi, but the Mongolian could not keep his feet and went down like so many bulls in the rings of cruel España.

Kaisei gave up the inside left belt in order to get the same, but his hand never quite reached the belt, and it was Takarafuji who used his solid grip to sling down the gaijin at the edge.

How useless is my dictionary (yes, the kind made of paper that must he actually handled) if it has "Blair, Tony" but not what is perhaps my favorite English word "blastocyst?!!"

Aminishiki displayed some "choots pah" vs. Kyokutenho, driving his foe back to the bales, but The Chauffer was able to evade at the edge and turn things around, and once he got the double inside armpits hug, it was "Goodnight, sweet prince," which is really not all that much of a problem, seeing as how Aminishiki brought two bedrolls with him to the bout.

After a false start where Takekaze knew he was in the wrong (he apologized to the head judge) Shohozan blasted him back and wrapped him up, and was about to flip him into the expensive seats when Takekaze sort of gave up and meekly stepped out. Take a page from your heyamates playbook, ya pansy!!

With one hand on Tochiohzans throat from the very start, Toyohibiki had no problem ramming the Komusubi out lickety split. This is a Komusubi?? Oh, for the days of yore.

I was glad to see Goeido fight well on Day1, and my feeling was not diminished by his performance on Day 2 vs. giant Aoiyama. Offering a stiff tachi-ai challenge, the Sekiwake smartly gave ground to the hard slapping and hard charging Bulgarian, deflecting with his arms in short bursts of power, then leaning forward at the edge just enough to avoid being slapped out but not so much that he fell to his hands. One of those short bursts sent Aoiyama off balance and well, the bigger they are the harder they fall, no? We ought to get a good sense of what Goeido is about this basho when he meets the dangerously crafty Aminishiki on Day 3.

Even with a back left belt and right inside above the groin belt grip (gained via a henka tachi-ai), and with his foe turned perpendicular to him, Kotooshu STILL managed to get thoroughly whipped as Iki-iki-iki-fatang-oi somehow slipped out of both grips as the Sekiwake drove him forward, step to the side, and watch as the Bulgarian fell to his titties. Inglorious only begins to cover it. Kotooshu would have to be 7-1 after eight days to have a chance at 10 wins, and folks, that just aint gonna happen. Maybe he ought to call over to Baruto, see if he can save some hall renting cash by getting in on that danpatsu action in Feb.

At first blush it seemed like Myogiryu was going all out vs. Kisenosato, a big strong guy who could be expected to halt Myogiryus initial tachi-ai charge as he did in fact do. But then he lifted up on Kise and came forward with a decent chance to grab an inside right belt, but his hand seemed frozen into the shape it would be if it were trying to cup water and he missed. Then after a lengthy wait in the center, he made another push forward but passed on doing anything with his left inside, keeping it at armpit height instead of once sniffing for a belt. Without anything to hold onto, he was easy twist down material for the Ozeki. Nothing irrefutable so I suppose he may have been trying, but if he was he did a piss poor job of it.

Kotoshogiku received a much stiffer test today from Okinoumi, who managed to stall three or four gaburi charges that normally seal the deal for the Ozeki, but today merely tired him out. Desperate, Geeku latched on to a belt, and in that moment Okinoumi knew he had won. It took 40 seconds more of waiting till he moved, but when he did Okinoumi simply twisted him down with nothing more than an inside beltless left. Geeku on the belt is like Shaq on the foul line.

Poor footwork after a bang up tachi-ai led to Chiyotairyu being out of position when Ozeki Kakuryu yanked on the front of the E2s belt and dropped him very suddenly to the dirt. The crowd let out a big "Awwwwwww" as they were taken by surprise when Chiyo went down just as the bout looked to be entering a standoff state.

Finally, after Kak came Hak, and Haks a lock to rock. Today he took on Slayer of Yokozuna Hopefuls Toyonoshima, who discovered (like he didnt already know!) the difference between a dai-Yokozuna and a so-so Ozeki is like the difference between a googol and a googolplex. As they pushed on each other at the center, Toyonoshima was actually able to drive the Yokozuna back some, but it turned out to be naught more than a ploy as Kublai kept his long left paw on Tugboats neck the entire time and as the E1 smelled blood (which turned out to be his own) and charged forward, the Yokozuna slid to the side and let Toyonoshima imitate a boot camp Marine dropping and giving his drill sergeant fiddy.

Kanes on his bad motor scooter for Day 3, so tune in and enjoy what, along with some penetrating sumo analysis, are certain to be some choice pics of some the more lovely members of the homo sapien sapien species. Ill be playing Terminator on Day 8. Cheers.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I really wish someone else was reporting today, and we had actually planned for the most feared threesome since Peter, James, and John to kick off the basho with Clancy taking day 1, me taking my usual day 2, and then Kane rocking us on day three, and while that threesome will still kick things off, we're going to have to shuffle Day 1 and Day 2 at the last minute. The reason I wanted someone else to take day 1 is just to get a different perspective than my own on Kisenosato and this Yokozuna run. I already gave my two cents in the pre-basho report, and then after witnessing Kisenosato's bout on day 1, I was curious to know if others had the same opinions that I do.

This will probably be an abbreviated report, so let's get right to the rikishi who matter starting with Ozeki Kisenosato who welcomed M1 Toyonoshima. If there's an aspect about these two guys that I've repeated over and over through the years it's that Kisenosato leaves himself wide open at the tachi-ai and that Toyonoshima has to get moro-zashi in order to win among the jo'i. Well, that's exactly what happened today...Kisenosato left himself wide open at the tachi-ai, and Toyonoshima just instinctively charged low and straight forward grabbing dual inside positions in an instant. At this point, it was actually comical to watch Toyonoshima come to the sudden realization that he could have had the Ozeki's ass in less than two seconds, and so he stopped charging with his legs and kept his arms in the middle of Kisenosato's torso, but the Ozeki was so hapless, he had no idea to counter.

Toyonoshima tried to create an opening by pulling his left arm out, wrapping it around the Ozeki's neck, and feinting a kubi-nage throw (a move that defies logic when you really think about it), and still, Kisenosato's feet were so aligned that he could do nothing with it. Toyonoshima reassumed moro-zashi with ease, which is another interesting point because once a guy raises his arm up high, you don't let him get it back to the inside. Yet, the hapless Ozeki did just that, and as Toyonoshima moved laterally towards the edge, he dragged Kisenosato along for the ride, and the Kid just stumbled over his own two feet falling in a lousy heap at the side of the dohyo. And just like that, all of the hard work and hype in the media the last three weeks goes for naught...after day 1.

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry after this one, but we cried foul when Kisenosato was promoted to Ozeki in the first place, we've cried foul nearly every basho since as Kisenosato has always seemed to find himself ranked as the highest Ozeki, and we will continue to cry foul when a rikishi is being propped up and considered for a rank that he clearly does not deserve. A rikishi who really is worthy of Yokozuna does not get up from a beating at the hands of an M1 in the tail end of his career with a big spot of dirt on his back. As for Toyonoshima, he could have won this one in two seconds, and you could literally see the conflict within him in regards to his body and mind...his body instinctively reacting to his opponent's movements and doing what it took to win while his mind realized that a Kisenosato loss on day 1 was the last thing that anyone needed. The bottom line is that Kisenosato is responsible to win on his own, and he couldn't even make it close today despite the openings Toyonoshima favored him. Kitanofuji said it best afterwards when he commented of the Ozeki, "He's just weak mentally." (seishin-teki ni yowai)

The big loss was of course the lead story on NHK's Sunday Night Sports show, and they tried to spin it in the best light possible having Hakkaku-oyakata (the former Yokozuna, Hokutoumi) come in an talk about how he also lost on day 1 his first time vying for Yokozuna, but in the case of Kisenosato and what he's shown over the years--rather...what he hasn't--I don't know how this one gets salvaged.

In the day's final bout, Komusubi Tochiohzan jumped the gun against a clearly annoyed Yokozuna Hakuho who just straight-armed him back to his starting line giving him a nasty stare in the process. I didn't think that the false start was that bad, but if a Yokozuna feels disrespected, he's free to act accordingly, and so when the two went for real, Hakuho henka'd to his left in an attempt to grab the cheap tottari and just wrench Tochiohzan out of the ring in a flash. The problem was that Hakuho lost his cool a bit and whiffed on the tottari, but it was no matter as the change-up at the tachi-ai had Oh befuddled rendering him a big oshi-dashi target in the end. I had no problem with the Yokozuna's henka today because when you fight against a dai-Yokozuna, you show him respect, and a false start against him is a sign that you're dissing him. Coincidentally, Hakuho chided Kisenosato a few days ago during a keiko session when the Ozeki also couldn't get it right at the tachi-ai. When you're on the Yokozuna's time, get it right.

In my pre-basho report, I talked about how Kitanofuji listed Okinoumi as one of the more disappointing rikishi in 2013, and today's bout against Ozeki Kakuryu was a reason why Okinoumi was on the list. Yeah, I know Okinoumi won handily, but that's just the point...the dude has so much potential, so when we see him let up, it's a disappointment. Today, Okinoumi met the Kak with a fierce right kachi-age that stopped the Ozeki in his tracks, and while Kakuryu technically had both arms to the inside, the moro-zashi was so shallow that Okinoumi was able to pounce on a left kote-nage throw that sent Kakuryu back towards the edge where Okinoumi just lunged into him forcing him back and across. I suspect that Kakuryu took his opponent a bit lightly today because Okinoumi hasn't really fought that hard previously, but let's hope this is a sign of things to come for Okinoumi, who used his larger stature today to perfection.

M2 Chiyotairyu led with a strange sideways slap with the right hand while sending his left shoulder towards Ozeki Kotoshogiku at the tachi-ai, but it was just a token tachi-ai with the upper body, and so Kotoshogiku easily responded by getting the left arm to the inside and wrapping his right arm around Chiyotairyu's left forcing the younger M2 back and across the straw in mere seconds (and mere is probably overstating it). Chiyotairyu didn't even try in this one, and there is such a stark difference in the bouts that he's trying to win and the bouts where he just gives up. He gave up today for sure, and if I had to speculate as to why, I'd guess he was told to do it by his stable master Kokonoe-oyakata. It's one thing when a foreign Ozeki get demoted from Ozeki as seen by the recent cases of Baruto and Kotooshu where it's not a big deal, but a Japanese Ozeki getting demoted in this current political climate is another story. It's my opinion that Kokonoe-oyakata knows that he's next in line to be promoted to Rijicho when Kitanoumi retires, and he's just doing his part for the good of the sport.

If there was a spot of good news today, you'd have to say that it was from Sekiwake Goeido who stayed low at the tachi-ai against M2 Ikioi and focused on grabbing the frontal belt grip at all costs. He secured it with little trouble and then was able to wrench Ikioi sideways with a dashi-nage throw setting the taller Ikioi up near the edge for a left scoop throw that came moments later. In my pre-basho report, I talked about Kitanofuji's advice for Goeido, and he played this one to a T. Great stuff from Goeido, but the larger questions is can he continue to fight this way the whole two weeks?

You could really see M5 Kyokutenho's age catching up with him today as M5 Shohozan knew he had the advantage just charging full board into the near 40 year-old. The mind was likely willing, but the body was definitely weak as Shohozan finished Kyokutenho off in seconds. It's one thing for Tenho to get his ass kicked among the jo'i', but when it starts to happen at the mid-Maegashira range, it's time to consider retirement.

As I suspected in my pre-basho report, M10 Endoh has still not recovered from his foot injury sustained at the Aki basho. As I read a handful of keiko reports on the dude, I just didn't get the sense that he was completely healthy, and that fact was realized today as M11 Shotenro used dual kachi-age to knock Endoh upright at the tachi-ai giving the youngster no choice but to try and evade to the side. His feet wouldn't cooperate however, and Shotenro was on him like stink to bait thrusting Endoh down so hard I'm surprised it wasn't ruled tsuki-taoshi. You could just tell by the way that Endoh fell that he's still favoring that left ankle, and I don't think he's much improved at all from his condition during the Kyushu basho.

Rookie M14 Kagamioh was schooled by M13 Tokitenku who literally only needed to stand there at the tachi-ai and watch the rookie charge straight into moro-zashi. To make matters worse, Kagamioh just kept charging despite his disadvantageous position, and so Tokitenku just pivoted to the side and wrenched Kagamioh over and out using his momentum against him.

Our other rookie, M15 Takanoiwa, may as well have been fighting back in Juryo because you knew he wouldn't get a straight forward attack from M16 Osunaarashi who used a wild right tachi-ai to knock the rookie upright before employing busy tsuppari and crazy footwork that Takanoiwa could never adjust to. In the end, Osunaarashi got 'im with a tsuki-dashi, and as unorthodox as the Ejyptian's sumo is, if Takanoiwa wants this one, secure it at the tachi-ai. He didn't and ended up on the wrong side of a lopsided bout.

Today's effort is short and sweet due to time constraints, but I'll be back on day 4 to discuss all of the rikishi in the division from the bottom up. Clancy will be back for day 2, and I'm warning everyone now who has access to the live broadcast, you're going to have to deal with that weirdo Demon Kakka who NHK is brining in yet again to try and captivate the holiday audience. Too bad Kisenosato couldn't do it today.

hit counters