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Day 1
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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 (PZ Kelly reporting)
Not only does seeing the yusho decided before Day 15 really drain the day’s drama from the dohyo, as Mike pointed out yesterday, but it also fleeces the fennel of its flower for a contributor. It feels like just so much mop up duty, like I’m covering rikishi headed for their rikisha. The only real excitement comes from those on the cusp of a majority of wins, and from wondering whether or not, like a loose mawashi, they can pull it off and show us just how manly they truly are.

But ever the optimist, I enter today with a few tussles in mind that might provide enough sustenance to sate my salacious sumos appetite.

The two guys who ruined Myogiryu’s basho, Tokushoryu (10-4) and Tokitenku (9-5), squared off first knowing full well that they had more than avoided relegation to Juryo come Osaka. Tokushoryu passed on the pulling shite that he used to barely beat Myogiryu yesterday, instead dancing to his left from the start and tying Tokitenku up with a hug. For his part, Tokikyokutenkushuzan looked too somnambulant to even align his feet correctly, let alone kick at his foe’s leg like some Mongolian Ray Guy. No sissy suso-harai today, bitch, as new car salesman Tokushowroom ran him off the lot via yori-kiri.

In the first bout for a 7-7, Arawashi brought his lightweight frame into battle against the much larger Chiyomaru, who had already lost 8 but at W14 surely wanted to keep the damage to a minimum. The only one of The Wolf’s Pups to not withdraw from this basho, Chiyomaru used a resounding straight-arm to Arawashi’s face to force him to lean forward too far as he countered the blow. This led to the Mongolian losing his balance, being yanked ever so slightly by the Kokonoe beya man, and flung out by hataki-komi.

Kyokushuho came in with his KK secured, and had 7-7 Kotoyuki to contend with. Kyokushuho decided to forego any henka-type bullshit and just engaged the E14 in a throat slapping battle, a battle which Kotoyuki thoroughly dominated in an uncomplicated and rapid tsuki-dashi win.

With his foe Homarefuji needing his 8th win and Yoshikaze sitting pretty at 8-6, there evidently was no need for Starbuck to move around much, or go lateral at all. He did, however, put up a much better fight than Kyokushuho before him, but in the end fell to hataki-komi. Finishing with identical records at W11 and W10, both men are certain to bang heads in Kinki come March.

While I have always liked Shohozan, who looks like a bodyguard for a shogun, I have had to develop a grudging respect for Takekaze, a small man who has managed to survive in the top tier for what can only be described as a shitload of years. In fact, since winning his first and only professional yusho from Juryo in Sept. of 2003, he has never been back down because he lost bouts. After missing an entire basho from the W8 rank at the New Year 2005, he was demoted for one single tourney in Juryo, kicked ass, and has never returned. 66 Makuuchi basho.

Today he hit Shohozan at tachi-ai and got him spun around in his fine gold mawashi, and when The Miller’s Daughter was once again facing his Rumpelstiltskin, he had no answer to the riddle of being pressed on his chest and was simple pushout pickins.

Toyohibiki, with 2 grimy wins in total, didn’t give a fig for Kagamioh’s 7-7 plight. He hammered him at the shikiri-sen and drove him back, flinging his body into the W15 while falling to the clay himself. Kagamioh stepped out before The Hutt hit hard, and will have to sweat bullets to see if his 7-8 from W15 is enough to keep him in the division in two months’ time.

With nothing on the line for either man other than pride, 6-8 Kaisei locked up in a hugging battle with 8-6 Sadanofuji. Kaisei got the inside right and kept it while the two men settled battled it out with their other arms. Once Kaisei made a push forward, he was able to wiggle his left arm in for the double inside moro-zashi that proved insurmountable to the Sakaigawa beya big boy. The E5 then wrapped his foe up and after a slight standoff, crushed him down and out, both men in full flop to the gym floor. First badass bout of the day.

Aminishiki managed to push Chiyootori all over the place before getting a belt and turning him around for the rear push out win. Shneaky was 5-2, and finished 6-9. I guess that can happen when you fight two Yokozuna, three Ozeki and a Komusubi in Week 2. And you’re the second oldest guy in the division. And ranked M3. Props to Chiyootori for returning from kyujou and keeping his record a respectable 5-8-2. The best thing about this bout was the gyoji sounding like John Cleese in the “Dead Parrot” sketch.

The difference between Endo’s sumo today and Osunaarashi’s was that Endo’s thrusts were aimed at the Egyptian’s chest, whereas Osunaarashi’s were aimed at Endo’s face. Chest thrusts usually win, and they did today as Endo ran him around the ring and drove him out for his 6th win. The E13 didn’t seem all that fired up, but having his 8th win in hand might have made him a bit complacent. NHK duly showed Endo’s adoring fans waving his banners.

Seldom has a rikishi at W2 been so thoroughly overmatched as Ikioi was this basho as he had managed just one win (but it WAS against the Endo All Be All, so. . .) coming in. Sadly that was all he would leave with as Sokokurai had but resist a bit after the tachi-ai and then watch as Ikioi got himself all twisted up and fell rather clumsily to the clay. If he stays above M12 for his hometown basho I’ll be surprised. With all M1, Komusubi, and Sekiwake going make-koshi, it’s a shame that he couldn’t have won 8 and marched into Osaka as a Sanyaku guy. Maybe that was the pressure that caused this failure?

With KK and a special prize on the line, Terunofuji looked to have shot the pooch (that idiom loses something in the Past Perfect Simple, doesn’t it?) by letting Tamawashi in deep with the right and onto his mug with the left. But the winds of fortune were blowing the E2’s way as 10-4 Tamawashi, though fighting like a salesman possessed, could not get Terunofuji to sign on the line which is dotted. The Mongolian allowed Terunofuji to escape at the edge through some power lifting sumo, and then was driven back and out to a painful looking crash into MIB Shikoriyama’s legs. I think I heard the former Sekiwake Terao say, “Itai!” Maybe I could ask this ballsy foreigner to translate that for me.

Both men coming in at 5-9, Kyokutenho did the man dance with Tochinoshin, going cheek to cheek and twirling each other about for a few moments, until The Chauffer went for a throw that failed and was immediately countered by The Private for the win.

E1 Takarafuji was holding the winning ticket, and all he had to do to redeem it was beat Sadanoumi. 7-7 with Sanyaku waiting with the win, he kept his composure and coolly fended off Sadanoumi’s desperate slaps and feints. When the W8 jammed his googly right arm inside, Takarafuji thought to armbar it down. Sadanoumi, though, had other thoughts and managed to slip away and bump the E1 around and back and out to a shocking and disappointing loss.

Myogiryu did not do as well as I predicted on Day 1, but today he managed to slap away onrushing Komusubi Tochiohzan a number of times until timing a perfect slap to the back of the head and knocking his foe down. Oh Snap misses KK at 7-8, while Myogi Bear takes his 9 win pikanik basket home for the goodies inside.

Takayasu gained moro-zashi and drove Jokoryu back and out to his seventh loss, ninth if you count forfeits. Takayasu finishes his second Komusubi campaign at 6-9, one win better than his inaugural 5-10 in 2013.

Sekiwake Ichinojo was forced by Toyonoshima’s height (or lack thereof) to bend over too far to grab at his belt, and the wily veteran pulled a shweet sukui-nage underarm throw to dump the Mongolith to 6-9 and likely out of Sanyaku altogether. That sucks, but at least he’ll still be around to fight all the top guns.

I had no problem with the gyoji pointing toward Okinoumi as he crashed to the mat while shoving out Aoiyama. It was close but I think Aoiyama touched out first. With a 9-6 from E6, he will likely join Terunofuji as Sekiwake in March. Hard to believe.

The destruction in the jo’I and the top of Maegashira was devastating this time out. Of the EIGHTEEN fighters from Sekiwake down through M7, only TWO!! made their majority wins. So will M8s Myogiryu and Sadanoumi move all the way up to Komusubi? Crazy basho.

Kotoshogiku was in full gift mode today vs. 7-7 Goeido as he came in seemingly hard but then immediately stood up to drain all the power out of his chugchug. Goeido had only to keep his left arm up under the off-balance and retreating Geeku’s right, (which was in fact holding Goeido’s arm in place), for the easy, less than two second win. How would it have looked had Osaka’s darlink come home having lost his Ozeki rank in three tournaments? It reminded me of how it was the obvious Ozeki gifting of the Kaio-Chiyotaikai-Tochiazuma-Kotomitsuki Era that first started cluing us in here at ST that gifts were being handed out regularly, especially among Ozeki. Sucks to lose that rank (ask Miyabiyama).

Can anyone who watched Harumafuji MURDER Kisenosato today doubt that anytime these Mongolians TRULY want to win they can? I’m not saying that they never lose legitimately, but rather that when they concentrate, they are pretty much untouchable except by other Mongolians. HowDo shot out of the blocks, put two hands on Kisenosato’s chest, then switched his left to the Ozeki’s face as they reached the bales and stuffed him down like a wet newspaper in the trashbin. It was so sad I can’t even think of anything funny to write.

Finally, Hakuho got the zensho he was surely looking for (this IS the two year anniversary, after all, of Taihou dying during the Hatsu 2013 basho) as he and Yokozuna Kakuryu got into a cheek to cheek belt battle that went on for over a minute. Both men kept their hips back and low, and when Kakuryu made a push to the edge it looked to be curtains for Hakuho. But he fought it off and took the tussle back to the center, and after thinking it over, bent low and twisted his front mawashi grip into a sort of uppercut to Kakuryu’s stomach, thereby lifting him, while showing some seriously hardcore strength, back and out. Great bout and clearly fought by both men with all the power they had. Sure, Hakuho perhaps didn’t HAVE TO let it become a belt battle, because he is so quick on slaps and shoves he has the distinct advantage in that area, but he did decide to fight close and we were all the more entertained for that decision. No shame in Kakuryu losing to the greatest sumo wrestler of all-time.

And if you doubt that designation, I want you all to consider with deep contemplation the implication of the following statement: In May of 1985, Chiyonofuji was a month short of 30 and had just won his 12th yusho. Hakuho is two months short of 30 and just won his 33rd yusho.

Drops mic, exits stage.

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Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
There’s definitely a reason why you want the yusho to extend into Sunday if possible because once the champion is determined, the sumo becomes largely candy assed where the majority of rikishi are either doling out favors or on the receiving end of the gracious gifts. With two days and nothing left to fight for in terms of a championship, it becomes that much more evident, so let’s get to the action on day 14 starting with our lone Yokozuna duel on the day, Hakuho vs. Harumafuji.

Hakuho’s sumo today was the kind of sumo I was referring to yesterday that was absent against Kisenosato...in both bouts. He grabbed the early right inside that eventually turned into a belt grip, and with Harumafuji fighting off the outer on the other side, Hakuho unleashed a scoop throw that sent Harumafuji spinning off balance. As HowDo looked to recover and cut off a moro-zashi attempt yb Hakuho with the left arm, Hakuho stayed low and then knocked Harumafuji straight upright before forcing him back and across for good. Textbook sumo from Hakuho who can fight like this any day he chooses. To suggest that he has lost a step and is vulnerable is ludicrous. No one can blame him for putting a stamp on this special yusho with a zensho yusho performance, and he’s a step away now at 14-0 while Harumafuji falls to 10-4.

In a predictable bout, Yokozuna Kakuryu never committed to get to the inside nor offered a pull attempt against Ozeki Kisenosato just standing square with his arms extended waiting for the Ozeki to make his intentions known. With nothing happening a few seconds in, Kakuryu scooted out right but once again offered no serious pull, and Kisenosato eventually caught him with the left inside and right paw at the Kak’s teet, and the yori-kiri came methodically and straightway from there. Kakuryu joins Harumafuji at 10-4 while Kisenosato one-ups them on paper at 11-3. Being able to say that a Japanese Ozeki took the jun-yusho is at least something for the domestic crowd to chew on the next two months, especially with two other Yokozuna on the board.

M3 Endoh caught Ozeki Kotoshogiku with a right hand to the neck and a left hand to the teet, and after a second with the Ozeki just spinning his wheels, Endoh went for the easy pulldown felling Kotoshogiku to the clay with ease. With Kotoshogiku (9-5) already safely at nine wins, it's no harm no foul for Endoh (5-9) to go all out. After Endoh’s win, they showed a…and I use this term loosely…chick in the audience with a pink Endoh fan just going crazy after the win. I'm guessing this lovely gal is NOT in Kane's collection of girls who lick doorknobs...and love Endoh of course.  Do us solid next basho, Kane, if you please.

Ozeki Goeido left himself open at the tachi-ai grabbing the left outside, and Sekiwake Aoiyama eventually said, “Okay, okay,” and put his right arm to the obligatory inside, but he didn’t do anything with it and just stood there in the center of the ring waiting for Goeido to make his move. After a few seconds, Goeido shored up his right inside grip and left outer, and then just moved to the side twisting the Sekiwake down with zero resistance. Goeido may as well have been sparring against a practice dummy here because Aoiyama just stood there like a dutiful tsuke-bito in the hana-michi before a big bout. With the win, Goeido moves to 7-7 ,and I've seen multiple headlines already talking about Goeido's miraculous comeback.  Aoiyama takes a bullet today falling to 5-9.

In my most anticipated bout of the day, Sekiwake Ichinojo and M2 Terunofuji hooked up in the gappuri hidari-yotsu position, which is exactly where these two need to be, and they didn’t disappoint. Ichinojo mounted the first yori charge, but Terunofuji dug in and there was so much force here that the combatants floated sideways in the ring. Terunofuji survived the initial charge and forced the action back to the center of the ring. About a minute in, Ichinojo mounted an even better charge, but Terunofuji used his belly to barely survive and bump the Mongolith back to the center of the ring. And there they stood with each testing the waters a bit for 3:30 until the ref stopped the bout for a mizu-iri, or water break. After positioning the two back in the center of the ring in the same stance and restarting, Ichinojo went for the quick force-out breaking off Terunofuji’s outer grip, but he couldn’t get him past the straw, and as the two recovered from the fray, they were now in the migi gappuri yotsu position meaning both had simultaneous inside rights and outer lefts. After another minute and a half, Ichinojo mounted a final charge, and Terunofuji just didn’t have anything left in the tank stepping back across the straw in defeat. Ichinojo keeps sanyaku hopes alive for Osaka at 6-8 while Terunofuji is still alive this basho at 7-7.

Komusubi Tochiohzan greeted M4 Toyonoshima with a left palm to the throat keeping Tugboat from the inside, and as Toyonoshima responded with tsuppari of his own up high, Tochiohzan quickly evaded left committing on the hataki-komi move. Luckily it worked as Toyonoshima flew outta the dohyo, but this was a dangerous move from Japan’s ichiban who moves to 7-7 with the win while Toyonoshima falls to 6-8.

Komusubi Takayasu greeted M3 Aminishiki with some effective tsuppari at the tachi-ai, but he wasted it with a stupid pull attempt. Aminishiki couldn’t take advantage, however, and the two ended up in hidari-yotsu. Shneaky attempted a maki-kae, but Takayasu’s grip was too tight, and as he mounted a force-out charge, Aminishiki evaded around the ring and just lost his footing slipping out wildly to the dohyo floor. Takayasu’ll take it at 5-9 while Aminishiki stumbles to the same mark.

M1 Takarafuji and M1 Tochinoshin bumped chests before Takarafuji came out of the fray with a left kote-nage grip that he used to throw Shin sideways, but the Private survived and threatened moro-zashi, so Takarafuji maki-kae’d with the left and forced the bout into hidari-yotsu from there giving up some ground to Tochinoshin in the process. A chess match ensued from here with Tochinoshin maintaining the right outer grip, but he didn’t have anything established on the inside with the right, and so Takarafuji took over the direction of the bout forcing to the two to the edge where Tochinoshin countered with a left scoop throw as Takarafuji pulled the trigger with a left outer belt throw. Both dudes crashed down at the same time, but Tochinoshin’s left hand barely touched the clay mount before Takarafuji’s right elbow giving Ta Ka Ra Boom De-ay his sixth win in a row! Takarafuji is an incredible 7-7 and could be a Shukunsho candidate with a win tomorrow while Tochinoshin falls to 5-9.

M4 Jokoryu made his return after sitting out a few days with a right knee injury, and you would have thought that M2 Ikioi would be able to take advantage, but he was limp as a wet rag allowing Jokoryu to tsuppari him back a step from the tachi-ai, and Ikioi’s reaction was a pitiful right kote-nage attempt where his footwork was so sloppy, Jokoryu was able to push him across with nary a fight. Ikioi had that “feel sorry for me” look as he walked back down the hana-michi that Hokutoriki was so good at, but dude, this is a man’s game, so don’t look at anyone else for sympathy. Jokoryu finishes the day at 5-9 while Ikioi is a pitiful 1-13.

M5 Kaisei led with his right shoulder keeping M11 Shohozan away from the inside, and then Baby Huey just used his massive bulk to bludgeon Shohozan to the side a bit and over to the edge. As Shohozan looked to square back up, he was met with a left ham to the throat, and he had a fork in him at that point as Kaisei scored the shweet oshi-dashi win improving to 6-8 while Shohozan is 8-6.

M12 Arawashi and M6 Toyohibiki hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, but Toyohibiki rushed his force-out charge allowing Arawashi to grab the quick frontal belt with the right, which he used to raise Toyohibiki upright and then set him up for the counter left inner throw at the edge. Arawashi keeps kachi-koshi hopes alive at 7-7 while Toyohibiki is 2-12.

M6 Okinoumi used a brief but effective tsuppari to keep M13 Tokitenku upright before getting the left arm in so deep Okinoumi was able to grasp the knot at the back of Tenku’s belt. Tokitenku responded with his right arm to the inside, but his left was high around Okinoumi’s neck allowing Okinoumi the ridiculously easy path to a yori-kiri victory. Tokitenku drops to 9-5, and this was likely a gift as Okinoumi clinches kachi-koshi at 8-6.

M15 Sadanofuji used his sheer size to keep M7 Chiyootori away from the belt, and to his credit, Chiyootori tried to stay low and get to the inside, but Sadanofuji rebuffed him each time and finally wore the hobbling Chiyootori down enough to where he was able to push him back across the straw with little resistance. Sadanofuji picks up kachi-koshi at 8-6 while Chiyootori falls to 5-9.

M14 Chiyomaru led with a left kachi-age at the tachi-ai and used good tsuppari to keep M7 Kyokutenho far away from the belt, and as Kyokutenho tried to evade, he was too slow allowing Chiyomaru to thrust him upright and then swipe down at Kyokutenho’s dickey do sending him to the clay. Chiyomaru moves to 6-8 with the win while Kyokutenho drops to 5-9.

M8 Sadanoumi got the right arm inside early, and M11 Yoshikaze’s response was to go up high threatening a kubi-nage, but that was just nonsense as Sadanoumi was able to drive his gal back and out without a fight. No surprise that Sadanoumi picks up kachi-koshi at 8-6 while Yoshikaze is safely at the same mark.

M8 Myogiryu meant well charging hard at the tachi-ai, but M16 Tokushoryu was looking pull all the way yanking Myogiryu off balance, and as Myogiryu lunged forward with that last desperate push attempt, Tokushoryu had enough room to stay in the ring as Myogiryu crashed down first. You’d have to say that Tokushoryu is the favorite for the Kantosho at 10-5 while Myogiryu is just fine at 8-6.

M15 Kagamioh henka’d to his right with a lame hari-zashi tachi-ai, but M9 Takekaze didn’t care just standing there and going down with Kagamioh’s first pull attempt. No surprise as the gift keeps Kagamioh alive at 7-7 while Takekaze is 8-6. The venue was so quiet after this bout you thought they were observing a minute of silence for Japanese sumo.

M14 Kotoyuki has a decent tsuppari attack, but it does nothing against M9 Tamawashi whose longer arms can strike his opponent first as the two trade shoves. Kotoyuki moved this way and that looking for any kind of opening, but Tamawashi methodically drove him back and out for the easy win moving to 10-4. Kotoyuki’s still got some work to do at 7-7.

With kachi-koshi on the line, M13 Osunaarashi had a little bit more fire in his right kachi-age than usual connecting squarely into M10 Homarefuji’s jaw, and at 7-6 himself, Homarefuji had to stand in there and take Osunaarashi’s wild blows, but his defense wasn’t sufficient as Osunaarashi was ultimately able to work his right arm to the inside hoisting Homarefuji out with a nice scoop throw. Osunaarashi is safely through at 8-6 while Homarefuji falls to 7-7.

Finally, M10 Sokokurai henka’d left at the tachi-ai earning him the cheap right to the inside, and as M12 Kyokushuho looked to settle into migi-yotsu, he gave up the easy maki-kae. Having obtained moro-zashi, Sokokurai (5-9) easily forced Kyokushuho (8-6) back and out.

There were plenty of gifts today, and with eight rikishi standing at 7 wins heading into senshuraku, expect plenty more tomorrow.  We'll see if that Kelly feller can make sense of it all.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
First, apologies on the lack of any day 12 comments. That Kelly feller had to fly out of town for work at the last minute, and the only take that I really had on the day was that I thought Kakuryu intentionally gave Goeido a huge opening in their contest but that Goeido was too hapless to take advantage. When your opponent raises his arms to the level of his eyes from the tachi-ai, you're a dumbass if you can't take advantage. But, I suspect that Goeido has a three-bout win streak tucked somewhere inside of that mawashi (among other things), so let's refocus our attention on day 13, usually the most exciting day of the fortnight. As Meghan Trainor likes to say, you know I'm all about that leaderboard and no treble, so let's get right to the two bouts that featured the leaders, who happened to be aligned as follows at the start of the day:

12-0: Hakuho
10-2: Harumafuji, Kisenosato

With two bouts separating Hakuho from the jun-yusho hopefuls, a Harumafuji loss coupled with a Hakuho win over Kisenosato would actually give the dai-Yokozuna that coveted 33rd career yusho as early as day 13. First up, chronologically, was the Yokozuna duel featuring Harumafuji and Kakuryu. Harumafuji just shot out of the gate leading with his head, and he caught Kakuryu's forehead in the process drawing blood from both participants although neither had a huge gash. As the dust settled, Harumafuji had the right inside and left outer grip, but I think that initial headshot had HowDo seeing stars a bit, and he was unable to continue his forward momentum and score the force-out win. Kakuryu stayed firm with his own left to the inside forcing the action back to the center of the ring where the Kak went for a maki-kae with the right securing moro-zashi. Harumafuji mounted a force-out charge during the maki-kae driving Kakuryu back and close to the edge, but the Kak dug in with room to spare and was able to gather his wits a bit before sending Harumafuji down with a left scoop throw attempt. Harumafuji actually never hit the dirt but put his left hand down lamely ending the contest, and regardless of whether or not that was intentional, the result was Harumafuji's third loss at 10-3 meaning Hakuho could clinch the yusho in the final bout of the day. As for Kakuryu, he pulled even with his fellow Yokozuna at 10-3 as well.

With the moment of truth upon us, Yokozuna Hakuho used a hurried charge against Ozeki Kisenosato as he is wont to do these days (in an effort to give his opponents openings in my opinion), and the result was the left to the inside and nothing with the right. Hakuho just kept barreling forward in a straight line going for the quick kill, but Kisenosato used a right kote-nage throw at the edge to send Hakuho down to the dirt as Kisenosato himself crashed down. The gunbai went to Hakuho, but a mono-ii was called stirring the Kokugikan crowd into a frenzy. Even before we get to the judges decision, this initial bout is worth commenting on.

First, Hakuho was sloppy at the tachi-ai. When he's serious about winning a bout, he establishes the right to the inside first, and then looks to shore up his gal with the left outside. Kisenosato is one of the easiest rikishi against which to get an inside position, so to see Hakuho sloppy like this and end up with the left inside instead of the right is a red flag. The next red flag is that Hakuho just committed on that force-out charge without having his opponent secured in front of him. How many times have we seen him get a Takarafuji or Tochinoshin with the inside right and outer left only to stand there for about five seconds making sure he's ready for the charge? The Yokozuna never makes a mistake like this unless he wants to leave himself vulnerable of course. Finally, at the edge, Hakuho had no intention of pivoting in the direction of his opponent's evasion and just crashed down to the dohyo as a guy in the lower leagues might do.

My opinion here is that Hakuho was leaving himself wide open throughout the bout inviting Kisenosato to take advantage, but the Ozeki just couldn't do it. His counter kote-nage throw at the edge was instinctive, but if Kisenosato was really cognizant of what was going on in the ring, he'da been able to adjust and defeat the Yokozuna without a mono-ii.

In watching the slow motion replays, I actually thought that Kisenosato touched out/down first, but the judges ordered a do-over, and frankly, I was okay with the call it was that close. At the announcement of a rematch, the Kokugikan crowd erupted and maintained a fever pitch throughout the shikiri process, and when you really stop and think about it, it was a microcosm of the overall drama manufactured in sumo these days anyway. What I mean by that is sumo creates these headlines and draws fannies into the seats for all kinds of reasons; however, none of them have to do with solid sumo in the ring.

In the rematch, Hakuho executed a lazy hari-zashi tachi-ai moving out left in sort of a henka that caused Kisenosato to stumble forward a bit to his left, and as the two looked to square back up, Hakuho actually did the hustle and nudged his right hip up against the Ozeki's body screaming for him to do something, but the hapless Kisenosato's response was to put both hands high near Hakuho's head as if to pull, and so the Yokozuna had no choice but to push, but he didn't use his legs in the process dangerously extending himself and just asking to be slapped down. Kisenosato was clueless yet again, however, and just allowed the Yokozuna to push him back and across the straw with zero resistance. And just like that, Hakuho is king.

The broadcast was two minutes past it's 6 PM stopping time at this point, and so all NHK could do was hurriedly sign off the air and flash a big graphic proclaiming Hakuho's 33rd yusho, but there will be plenty of time and inaction over the final two days to discuss this historic moment. As for myself, I did have a chill run up my spine as I witnessed history here; I just wish that it had taken place with sounder sumo. And it's not just this particular bout, but it's been the last four years or so of sumo. It bugs me that Hakuho has had to lower his standard just to give the appearance that the playing field is equal, and the anticipation leading up to this historic yusho was more along the lines of "Is Hakuho going to choose to yusho this basho?" instead of "Can Hakuho beat down the rest of the field and hoist the cup in the end?" There was no anticipation or drama during this run to 33 simply because the rest of the field has been unable to challenge the Yokozuna with good sumo.

In order to further emphasize this point, let's examine two bouts side by side. The first was a flashback during yesterday's broadcast where they showed former Ozeki Takanonami defeating Yokozuna Akebono. This was clear back in 1994 when Akebono was the dominant rikishi just prior to Takanohana's epic run. Takanonami was an up-and-comer who would turn out to be a terrific Ozeki and prit' near achieved the Yokozuna rank. He knew he couldn't go teet for teet with Akebono at the time in a gappuri yotsu-zumo contest, and so he charged straight ahead, got a grip on Akebono's belt, and then forced the Yokozuna to move laterally. The two jockeyed back and forth before Takanonami caught Akebono with a brilliant leg trip felling the Yokozuna to the clay. It was a great bout of sumo where you had the dominant Yokozuna and a young rikishi who devised a strategy and actually executed it to perfection in the ring.

Let's compare that bout with the Ozeki Goeido - M3 Endoh matchup that took place today. Goeido looked to get his right to the inside from the tachi-ai, but as Endoh looked to fight it off, Goeido resorted to plan B moving left and going for an awkward pull. It threw Endoh off balance a bit, and as he looked to square back up, he did so with a pull himself, and so Goeido got the left arm inside and just rushed his compromised opponent back and out for the ugly win. This was a horrible bout of sumo from both parties starting with the tachi-ai, and I dare say I've seen better sumo from two dudes wearing tighty whities beneath their mawashi.  In looking at my initial notes after watching the affair, I wrote, "Is it too much to ask for a straight up belt affair from these two?"

My point in comparing these bouts is two show how the two most-hyped rikishi over the past year are simply hapless in the ring. Have we ever seen Endoh (4-9) or Goeido (6-7) step atop the dohyo against Hakuho or any of the Yokozuna for that matter with a plan of attack? Have we ever seen them burrow in for an inside grip and then use strategy to try and topple their foe? Did we see a glimpse of such strategy or sound sumo as the two fought each other today? No, no, and no. Contrast that with Takanonami, and that's exactly what sumo is missing these days. The only guys who are willing and capable to devise an actual strategy that involves sound sumo and execute it in the ring are a few select Mongolians, and that's it.

In my opinion, Hakuho is the greatest rikishi of all time, and I think if you place him in the exact circumstances as Taiho or Chiyonofuji, he surpasses their accomplishments as well. I remember blogging back in Haru 2007 (remember this sweet page?) about Hakuho actually throwing a bout in favor of Asashoryu. It was around that time that I made the comment that I thought Hakuho had surpassed Asashoryu as the best rikishi in sumo. Then, how can we forget the summer of 2007 when Asashoryu was given a two basho punishment for joining in a charity soccer game back in Mongolia instead of participating in the summer jungyo? Hakuho swept the rest of the yusho that year, and then when Asashoryu came back for the Hatsu basho in 2008, he and Hakuho pretty much traded yusho all the way up until Asashoryu's retirement. When Asashoryu was forced to sit out and Hakuho went on that yusho run, he firmly established himself as sumo's top dog, and I'm of the opinion he probably let Asashoryu yusho three times or so until his retirement.

Since Asashoryu's retirement, I don't believe a single rikishi has been able to take the yusho away from Hakuho when the Yokozuna wanted it, so if you take the three or so given to Asashoryu and then the seven given to other rikishi after Asa's retirement, that'd put Hakuho at 43 career yusho instead of his current 33. And even if my calculations were misguided, that still has Hakuho as thoroughly dominating sumo for seven straight years and now going on eight. And what's scary is that Hakuho hasn't lost a step and is even better now than he was back then. If he wanted, I think Hakuho still has at least four more years in him, so it's just staggering when you consider his current dominance. There is no question that the banzuke has been ridiculously weak for years, but it doesn't take away just how truly great this guy is. Good on ya, bro, and congratulations for being such a class act.

In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Kotoshogiku secured the left inside against M3 Aminishiki and immediately forced his gal back to the straw, and while Aminishiki actually managed to maki-kae and get moro-zashi, he was too upright and off balance allowing Kotoshogiku to jab a right paw into Aminishiki's neck and force him back for good. Kotoshogiku is safe at 9-4 while Aminishiki suffers make-koshi for reals as we say in Utah at 5-8.

Sekiwake Aoiyama underestimated M4 Toyonoshima has he opened their bout with lazy shoves allowing Toyonoshima to slip to the inside with the left hand and push Aoiyama upright and back onto his heels. With Tugboat churning forward, he rode that initial momentum and had Aoiyama pushed back against the straw upright making that final oshi shove academic. Toyonoshima improves to 6-7 with the win, and how does Aoiyama (5-8) lose to Toyonoshima without giving up moro-zashi?

Komusubi Tochiohzan and Sekiwake Ichinojo went chest to chest in a migi-yotsu clash, but the bout didn't last long as the Mongolith just sucked the Komusubi in tight and began his force-out charge. Tochiohzan is a guy who doesn't do well without moro-zashi, and as he went for a maki-kae with the left arm, Ichinojo just used the let-up in momentum to crush Tochiohzan back and out for the dominating win. Ichinojo finishes the day at 5-8, and I'm rooting for him to achieve 7-8 so he can at least stay in the sanyaku for Haru. You watch him fight like this today and then remember how hapless he was against Endoh on day 1, and it's my opinion that he sacrificed a lot this basho for the betterment of sumo (i.e. in order to help a slew of JPN rikishi). Tochiohzan falls to 6-7, and I hope he gets kachi-koshi because he deserves to be a Sekiwake on this banzuke.

Komusubi Takayasu and M2 Ikioi were involved in a busy tsuppari tussle where neither rikishi was doing much damage, so Takayasu finally said enough of this nonsense and got his right arm to the inside setting up yotsu-zumo, and Ikioi had little in the tank at this point as the Komusubi forced his foe back and out with little resistance. Takayasu ekes forward to 4-9 while Ikioi has fallen and can't get up at 1-12.

M7 Kyokutenho grabbed the early right outer grip from the tachi-ai against M1 Takarafuji, but he did so without a crushing tachi-ai or establishing himself on the inside with the left, and so Takarafuji was able to survive Tenho's initial volley, break off Kyokutenho's loose outer grip, and then grab an outer grip of his own. From there, the younger Takarafuji forced the Chauffeur back and out picking up his first win over Tenho in something like seven tries. Takarafuji moves to 6-7 and incredibly stays alive in terms of kachi-koshi. Kyokutenho falls to 5-8 with the loss.

M1 Tochinoshin leaned out left at the tachi-ai grabbing the cheap left outer grip, and with another yotsu guy in M6 Okinoumi looking to go chest to chest, the two ended up in migi-yotsu, but Tochinoshin already had the left outer, and he used it straightway to pull his gal in snug and drive Okinoumi back across the straw with little argument. Tochinoshin moves to 5-8 with the win, and wasn't Okinoumi (7-6) on the leaderboard at the start of the week? His 1-5 run the last six days has been well below average.

M2 Terunofuji came with a lazy hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the right and prolly looking to get the left to the inside, but M8 Myogiryu was quicker burying his right hand into Terunofuji's side in a beautiful ottsuke knocking Fuji upright and off balance enough that Myogiryu just drove with his legs pushing Terunofuji back and out for the wham bam thank you ma'am win. Great stuff from Myogiryu today as he clinches paydirt at 8-5 while Terunofuji will have to wait another day at 7-6.

M13 Tokitenku henka'd to his left looking for the cheap outer grip and with M5 Kaisei having stumbled forward a step and putting on the breaks, Tokitenku executed a sweeping kick of his right leg from behind sending Kaisei down the sand bass ackwards. It was a sweet move there for Tenku (9-4), but it was set up with a cheap tachi-ai, so wipe that smirk off your grill already. Kaisei falls to 5-8 with the loss.

M6 Toyohibiki went for the instant pull of M7 Chiyootori from the tachi-ai yanking him down in a flash. Problem was, he had a fist full of mage with the right hand, and you could tell by the way that Chiyootori went down that something was amiss. A mono-ii was called where it was correctly determined that Toyohibiki did indeed pull his opponent's hair, and the tough luck continues as Toyohibiki drops to 2-11 while Chiyootori has made a decent comeback at 5-8. I also credit Chiyootori for not making a scene out of fixing his hair afterwards as many rikishi do when they get their hair pulled.

M11 Shohozan used a classless tachi-ai henka to his left slapping M8 Sadanoumi down before the bout really got underway. Is this really how you want to secure kachi-koshi...with a tachi-ai henka? Sadanoumi falls to 7-6 after the grease job.

M9 Tamawashi used tsuppari from the start against M15 Kagamioh sending him on the run and forcing him to resort to inashi in an attempt to pull Tamawashi off balance, but The Mawashi was too focused keeping Kagamioh on the move and finally driving him beyond the straw with his committed tsuppari attack. Good stuff as Tamawashi moves to 9-4 while Kagamioh falls to 6-7.

M9 Takekaze decided to try his luck against M12 Kyokushuho by charging straight forward at the tachi-ai inviting the migi-yotsu contest, but it was a bad decision as Shuho grabbed the easy left outer grip and forced Takekaze straight back and out. With Takekaze already at eight wins, it wouldn't surprise me if this was a favor as Kyokushuho also clinches kachi-koshi with the win leaving both fellas at 8-5.

M13 Osunaarashi was way up high with his initial tsuppari allowing M10 Sokokurai to get with the right arm, and so the Ejyptian settled into migi-yotsu himself enjoy the firm left outer grip thanks to his long arm of the law. Sokokurai hunkered down forcing a stalemate that lasted more than 30 seconds, but Osunaarashi finally broke the silence by mounting a crushing charge bludgeoning Sokokurai back and to the side leading with that left outer. Osunaarashi moves to 7-6 with the win while Sokokurai falls to 4-9.

M14 Kotoyuki's tsuppari were focused too high up on M10 Homarefuji's body giving him room to scoot laterally and counter with sideways slaps. Yuki chased his gal all over the ring supposedly dictating the pace, but Homarefuji burned him at the edge slipping right at the last second and escorting Kotoyuki across as he came in for the reckless kill. Prior to the bout, the crowd gave one of it's loudest responses of the first half when Kotoyuki hocked that loogie into his fist as he always does just before the fight, and to me that's just an indication of how easily entertained most people are. Both of these gentlemen end the day 7-6, and memo to Kotoyuki...don't try and henka your way to kachi-koshi please.

M14 Chiyomaru put both hands at M11 Yoshikaze's neck at the tachi-ai and went for the quick pull, but Yoshikaze wasn't buying any of it driving Chiyomaru back to where his feet were against the bales, and with a lot of bulk to still get across the straw, Yoshikaze changed his mind, reversed gears, and pulled Chiyomaru forward and down in all of his girth. Yoshikaze picks up his first kachi-koshi in five basho at 8-5 while Chiyomaru suffers make-koshi at 5-8.

And finally, M16 Tokushoryu forced the bout to hidari-yotsu against M12 Arawashi from the tachi-ai with a crushing charge and had Arawashi in so snug, the Mongolian had nowhere to go except straight back. Tokushoryu has been nifty this basho as he moves to 9-4 while Arawashi falls to 6-7.

I guess M15 Sadanofuji also beat Juryo rikishi, Asahisho, but I didn't see it on the broadcast, and I ain't looking it up on the innernet, so just know that Sadanofuji finished the day at 7-6.

I may return tomorrow, and that Kelly feller is penciled in for senshuraku, so wish us luck!

Day 11 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Today Hakuho won and Harumafuji lost, in that order, giving Hakuho a two match lead with four to go. Essentially, it is over: Hakuho has this tournament, and with it the all-time yusho mark. The drama will be whether he will do it in 15-0 zensho fashion, which would be a great statement. I will be rooting hard for this classy, gracious, dai-Yokozuna to take this chance to shine and say, "Yeah, I am the best. See?"


Hakuho was cautious against Goeido—not all out, and this was not a "statement" win. If Goeido had more go-e-ing-on-do, he could have taken advantage of Hakuho here. But he doesn't, and he didn't. Hakuho went for the neck first, and stayed too high, then went for an dangerous pull—Hakuho was nearer the edge than Goeido at this point—and while it wasn't the winning move, it did get Goeido to lower his head for just long enough for Hakuho to dart back to the middle of the ring and turn Goeido's back to the straw. After that a few more cautious but precise blows to the face—Hakuho does everything better, including tsuppari—and with a final two handed blow to the chest Hakuho pushed Goeido out for the tsuki-dashi win. This wasn't Hakuho's best bout, but look carefully: the things we often complain about with other rikishi, things that they do wildly or poorly to make you roll your eyes, like the pull or tsuppari, were executed here by Hakuho in effective, efficient support of his win. That precision in the pressure-cooker is one of his many strengths. It has been awing to watch him demonstrate total, often easy dominance over the years. This is probably the last time I will report this tournament, so let me say congratulations. He has never been my favorite rikishi, but part of that is because he is too good: his absolute-zero-cold mental approach takes some of the life out of cheering for him. But respect? From here to the depths of Lake Kucherla, yes'm. Banzai.

Harumafuji lost the next bout in unattractive fashion. His tachi-ai was fine, and he was underneath Aoiyama, but Aoiyama stepped out and back to his right, while Harumafuji continued moving straight forward. Aoiyama then put his hands on the back of Harumafuji's head, and Harumafuji danced a step forward and put his hands to the clay. I dunno. You already knew after the Goeido bout that Hakuho was going for the yusho, but this one made it academic.

Then Kakuryu lost, too, silling the dill on Kotoshogiku's kachi-koshi and further clearing the decks. I liked this one because while Kakuryu maybe could have stretched out his right arm a little harder to try to grab the belt, could have used more speed at the tachi-ai, and looked less powerful in his throws than he sometimes does, Kotoshogiku did everything right and looked quite good winning this, which was unexpected. This was basically a gabburi-effort by the Geeku, supported by a left arm under Kakuryu's pit. Kakuryu had a solid left inner belt grip, and tried to launch a few throws with it near the straw, but Kotoshogiku had good balance and stuck with his attack. If Kakuryu was acting, it was better than most, and the way he lost showed Kotoshogiku's strengths to good effect. I'll take it.


In the earlier bouts, there was a lot of henka'ing going on. Let me plainly say that banning the henka would be a very simple rule change, easily policed, and would immediately change the sport for the better. I hereby sign a one-man petition to go ahead and do that.

One general thing of note this tournament in the lower ranks is the slaughter going on below the Ozeki level. Mike speculated in his pre-basho report that there wouldn't be a lot of wins to go around if Goeido and Kotoshogiku were to get their eight and stave off demotion. It looks now like Goeido (5-6) won't make it, but even so, other than in the elite ranks wins up high have been hard to come by. Coming into today the top five guys were all 7-3 or better, and none of the next fifteen guys (Ozeki Goeido through M5 Chiyootori)—that's 0 for 15, folks—had a winning record. Zero.

Also, this tournament has seen few standout performances, tracking well with Mike's pre-basho report in which he said guys mostly seemed to be ranked in the right place. That leads to parity and reduces easy piling up of wins by under-ranked wrestlers. Yes: at the end of today the top five guys were all 8-3 or better but of the remaining 37 wrestlers, there was only one record better than 7-4.

I would have hoped this would have led to compelling bouts, as guys close to .500 would strain their utmost to stretch to that kachi-koshi against opponents in the same boat, but that didn't seem the case today, which featured a lot of lackluster fighting. Perhaps records between 4-6 and 6-4 are more of a dead zone, where rikishi feel comfortable.

The First Eighteen Bouts

J2 Gagamaru (8-2) vs. M14 Chiyomaru (3-7)
Once upon a time His Roundness, Gagamaru, looked massive enough to make us think he might develop into something, and so I was intrigued to see him back today. But as he lamely flopped forward to the clay when the not-very-good Chiyomaru casually stepped back and to the right, I remembered: nah.

M11 Shohozan (6-4) vs. M12 Kyokushuho (7-3)
This was a tsuppari fest at first, but I like what Shohozan did here: he looked for an opportunity to bull inside, got the body when he did, and ran Kyokushuho out for an oshi-dashi win. As the announcers said, "this is Shohozan's sumo."

M15 Kagamioh (5-5) vs. M10 Homarefuji (6-4)
Kagamioh leapt nimble as a pimble to the side, grabbed the back of Homarefuji's belt, and ushered him to the clay for the alleged "uwate-dashi-nage" win—but the kimari-te in my notes reads "henka."

No, I don't know what a pimble is, either.

M10 Sokokurai (3-7) vs. M9 Takekaze (6-4)
Boing, flop: they hit each other, and Sokokurai fell down because Takekaze henka'ed. The announcers said, "he sure is good at the henka." Oh, boy.

M9 Tamawashi (7-3) vs. M13 Osunaarashi (6-4)
Kokkai was never going to win this one—oops, sorry, that's Osunaarashi—because he stayed standing upright the whole time. Tamawashi wisely stayed a twitch lower, and applied hands to the throat to keep Giant Sand upright when necessary. Big Sandy pulled some clumsy looking stuff here, including a 360 that looked like a blind man trying to find his wallet with his feet and an attempted throw in which Osunaarashi swiped down with his right hand on Tamawashi's right shoulder while holding on to the right side of his belt with his left hand, like a guy swiping his ID badge while holding the doorknob. Stormy was 6-3 two days ago; with the bad knees and the befuddled sumo, he'll be lucky not to end up 6-9.

M12 Arawashi (6-4) vs. M8 Sadanoumi (6-4)
When Sadanoumi is on, he can be dominant. With a bruising, lightning quick tachi-ai he got both arms inside, turned to the side, and drove Arawashi way , way over the edge of the dohyo. This didn't look like much, but was one of the best performances of the day: execution and dominance.

M8 Myogiryu (6-4) vs. M13 Tokitenku (6-4)
Some people hate kicks, but Tokitenku loves them, and I have no other word for his use of one here than "beautiful." It was so fast and on target, the first time I didn't even see it—it looked like Myogiryu just fell down. But no—after an attempt to get to the belt and a bad pull didn't work, Tokitenku grabbed Myogiryu, looked carefully at his leg, and kicked it out from under him, all in a split second. Mainoumi—by far the best announcer going—said, "ahhh, he really saw that well." Yes. This technique is called suso-harai, and I would say what I've said earlier on Tokitenku's behalf: "if you don't like it, change the dummed rule!"

M7 Kyokutenho (4-6) vs. M15 Sadanofuji (5-5)
As with Sadanoumi's dominance of Arawashi, Kyokutenho's use of a right outer grip to sling Sadanofuji back and forth across the ring is one of the best things we saw today: as the announcer said, Kyokutenho's approach left Sadanofuji "utterly helpless." Kyokutenho got the grip quickly, used it to whip Sada around and back to the straw on one side, and when that didn't finish him, whipped him around again in the other direction, clear across the dohyo, and out for the yori-kiri win. Sadanofuji ain't much, and it shows when he gets the slightest bit above the bottom of the division, but give credit where credit is due, Sadanofuji weighs 196 kilograms, and Kyokutenho slung him like grain bags off the back of the pick-up.

M14 Kotoyuki (5-5) vs. M6 Toyohibiki (2-8)
Kotoyuki used crushing power to win a thunderous tachi-ai against Toyohibiki, then, as both strained mightily over half a minute to throw each other in a tense, tipping battle near the tawara, Kotoyuki dug deep and unleashed as mighty a kote-nage throw as you'll see, exploding to his left while lifting up with his right, wheeling Toyohibiki literally head over heels into the crowd…

Okay, I made that up. Actually, Kotoyuki henka'ed to his right and Toyohibiki fell down.

M6 Okinoumi (7-3) vs. M16 Tokushoryu (6-4)
The symbolic summary moment of this day's henka and pulls was when Tokushoryu won this one with one push and then one wicked long pull, backing up all the way to the bales and, when he got there and as Okinoumi fell down in front of him, flung both arms into the air and kicked one leg back to keep his balance: tra la la! The fact that he had the room, need, and freedom of body to do this kind of dance move tells you all you need to know about his sumo here: there was no "wrestling" involved, because he won while not even touching the other guy. You should not be able to proclaim "victory!" in a wrestling match while posed like this.

M5 Kaisei (4-6) vs. M11 Yoshikaze (5-5)
Yoshikaze, thank goodness, brought us back to "wrestling." Facing a massively bigger opponent, Good Wind (Yoshikaze) did not shy away from the belt. He quickly got a left inner grip, then kept his butt back and his body low, using the grip while alternately moving in sideways with his hip to dictate the pace and direction of the bout. Once he had Kaisei disoriented and off balance enough, he rolled the massive Brazilian down by pushing on the back of his head, kata-sukashi. Liked this.

M7 Chiyootori (3-5-2) vs. M2 Ikioi (1-9)
Chiyootori kept low and moved forward; Ikioi stayed high and tried the pull-down. However, when he did it he was so close to the edge he instead literally jumped out of the ring, while Chiyootori remained standing comfortably inside. Given that Oot Bird (Chiyootori) was out for two days with the flu as part of an 0-5 start, he should feel pretty good about his four wins.

M1 Takarafuji (3-7) vs. M4 Toyonoshima (4-4)
Toyonoshima started well on this one, pushing hard and powerfully, and had Takarafuji backed to the straw bales, but all it takes is a moment of lost focus, or a rightly timed move by your opponent, to find your opponent gone from in front of you, slipped to the side, and when you turn to face him now you're on your heels at the tawara. That is what happened to Toyonoshima, and Takarafuji turned it into a yori-kiri win. I've been criticizing Takarafuji for being passive, but if you like his sumo you could instead call it patient: when it is working for him, he has a knack for waiting for a mistake/opportunity and capitalizing.

M3 Endo (3-7) vs. Komusubi Tochiohzan (4-6)
I will let the Japanese announcer call it for you, because I said the exact same thing when Endo lost to Kakuryu on Day 7: "At first there Endo was considering, striking, and building a good rhythm." Yes: at first. Then he got bludgeoned and knocked over. None of Endo's work was winning work—it was like a good practice. Tochiohzan easily withstood it, and when he unleashed he knocked Endo flat on his back. Powerful display here from Tochiohzan, and the opposite from Endo: he does not have the size or strength for this level.

Komusubi Takayasu (3-7) vs. M2 Terunofuji (5-5)
These are two guys worthy of respect: both young, promising, strong, composed in the ring, and not given to evasive sumo. This was a long one and I won't extensively break it down: it amounted to Fuji the Terrible having a left inner grip and Takayasu a right outer, then both working hard and slow for dominance on the other side and through the body. In the end, the Mountain of Terror's grip and power were slightly superior, and he got the yori-kiri win. These kind of bouts are compelling because if you are rooting for someone, the suspense of "will he? Won't he?" is strong and drawn out: you agonize with them as they strain and inch forward and back. Then, win or lose, there is a sense of satisfaction—either "yes, he did it!" or "ahhhhhg. Good try." Whereas on the other hand, when you're rooting for someone who is tsuppari'ing wildly all over the place, a win more often leads to relief than satisfaction, and a loss is merely frustrating and, depending on how invested in the guy you are, embarrassing.

M1 Tochinoshin (3-7) vs. Sekiwake Ichinojo (4-6)
Similar bout here, except for the end. Both of these huge, strong, long-armed dudes had one inner and one outer grip, and it went on for some time like that. Eventually, they broke their grips; Ichinojo let go when he got pushed near the tawara and he tried to push up at the armpit to drive Tochinoshin back to the center, and then also used the arm to try a head-pull. Neither move was a winner, but they did get Ichinojo away from the edge and break off Tochinoshin's left-arm-grip. For a moment, Tochinoshin's left arm hung down limply and he was slumped over with his head butted against Ichinojo, looking like he was spent and resting: I thought it was over for him. Instead, apparently he was deep-thinking. I can't remember seeing this ever done before: he reached out with that long paw, and pushed Ichinojo's right leg out from under him at the thigh, causing Ichinojo to collapse down and to his left (this takes some strength—Lonely Hand vs. Dimple-Dappled Mongolith Thigh is not usually a winning battle for Hand). This is apparently called uchi-muso, and was an impressive way to snatch victory from the jaws of being smothered to death in Ichinojo's fat rolls.

Ozeki Kisenosato (8-2) vs. M3 Aminishiki (5-5)
Kissy got out to a good start and bulled Ami almost all of the way out, but didn't stay low on his attempted final push, even trying a wild knee kick, and Shneaky blasted him back at once and quickly drove him all the way across the ring and out. But! As Aminishiki's momentum rocketed him forward and out, Kisenosato turned beautifully at the tawara and executed a smothering neck throw. Aminishiki hit the dirt right underneath him as Kisenosato pirouetted at the straw and fell, plummeting forward with his whole body over the barrier, but dragging his feet behind him on the inside of the straw for the victory. The official ruling was tsuki-otoshi; the announcers also called it kote-nage. It was all that.

Well, I'm not sure who is reporting tomorrow, but it has been inspiring this basho to vainly try to keep up with the deep expertise and scathingly funny writing of Mike and that Kelly feller; I missed Kane and his entertainment-extravaganzas, too. Thank you all for the kind comments over the days; they make writing this a pleasure.

Today must begin and end with: Hakuho!!! Hakuhooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Day 10 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The biggest news on the day unfortunately didn't come from the dohyo. With the revelation that two Japanese citizens were being held hostage by ISIS for ransom, the news story dominated the evening broadcasts, and for the first time in years, the entire Makuuchi bouts were pre-empted for basically the same three minutes of coverage and video played over and over and over. The end result, understandably, was that I didn't have my usual NHK feed on the day, and while I was able to run down all of the bouts on the innernet, I didn't get any context as to what the media feels is the current storyline, nor were any comments available from the oyakata or other NHK announcers.

As a result, the day 10 comments will be quite cut and dry with an emphasis on dry, so let's get to it working from the leaderboard moving in ascending order. If NHK would have had their broadcast, the leaderboard would have been this:

9-0: Hakuho
8-1: Harumafuji
7-2: Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku, Kyokushuho

As opposed to Sumotalk's official leaderboard, which looks like this:


But, since NHK has more clout than us, let's kick off the day then with M12 Kyokushuho who looked to solve the feisty M8 Myogiryu. Myogiryu stood Kyokushuho upright with a right paw to the neck, and with mYogi Bear driving his legs hard, Kyokushuho hadn't nary the wherewithal to move to either side. Those who visit morning keiko in sumo and get to stand close the dohyo are often surprised by just how small it really is, and so with little room to maneuver for Kyokushuho, Myogiryu dominated his hot opponent driving him back and across in mere seconds. Kyokushuho's seven bout win streak comes to a halt as he finishes the day at 7-3, but he's still in Kantosho territory, so let's hope he continues his spirited sumo. Myogiryu moves to 6-4 with the fantastic win.

M3 Endoh came at Ozeki Kisenosato with two hands to the face but then quickly settled for the left inside turning the bout to hidari-yotsu. Unable to dictate the pace, Endoh attempted to grab the right outer grip, but then quickly changed his mind brining that arm inward in a hurried maki-kae attempt. A much guff as I give Kisenosato, this Ozeki's seen enough brawls in his day to take advantage of a premature maki-kae attempt, let alone one as lame as Endoh's here. The result was a ridiculously easy force-out win for Kisenosato who had to do nothing really but just watch Endoh shoot himself in the foot. Kisenosato clinches kachi-koshi and improves to 8-2 with the win while Endoh is on the brink now at 3-7.

Yokozuna Kakuryu easily gained moro-zashi against a lazy Sekiwake Ichinojo, and the Yokozuna wasted no time in lifting his gal upright and then driving the slug back and across the straw in seconds. I wish there was more to break down here, but so far we've covered three bouts that were so lopsided that there's simply nothing to analyze as Kakuryu stands firm at 8-2 while Ichinojo's woes continue at 4-6.

Our final two-loss rikishi was Ozeki Kotoshogiku, and fighting Yokozuna Harumafuji today, if HowDo's intent was to win, then we'd have our fourth straight bout that would prove lopsided. Harumafuji used a straight forward oshi attack against the Ozeki resulting in a two second wham bam thank you ma'am affair where Kotoshogiku was pushed back so forcefully, his left leg actually flew up in the air. Perhaps when the three Yokozuna intend to fight straight up against the Japanese "elite" rikishi, they can send them a message somehow through their tsuke-bito letting the Japanese dudes know to mount spoilers to their bodies so they don't get so airborne. Anyway, the result is Kotoshogiku getting knocked off of the leaderboard for now at 7-3 while Harumafuji--our lone one-loss rikishi on the day--stays firmly in second place at 9-1.

Yokozuna Hakuho ducked into the right inside position against Sekiwake Aoiyama and then looked for the inside as well with the left. Aoiyama moved laterally and focused on that left limb keeping it out of harm's way, and after a three second or so stalemate with Hakuho looking for the sure opening, he pivoted to the side and used that left arm to slap down on Aoiyama's shoulder while pulling him forward with the right right hand hooked under the Sekiwake's left pit. Perfect kata-sukashi here as the Yokozuna stays unblemished at 10-0 while Aoiyama falls to 3-7. With both Aoiyama and Ichinojo in danger of suffering make-koshi, who they gonna get to fill the Sekiwake ranks for next basho??

Before I get too ahead of myself, the results from our leaders on the day means that the updated leaderboard heading into day 11 is as follows:

10-0: Hakuho
9-1: Harumafuji
8-2: Kakuryu, Kisenosato

In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Goeido connected on a sharp left slap to M3 Aminishiki's face at the tachi-ai, and Aminishiki was in the process of lifting his hands up high for the cheap pull anyway, so with Goeido charging straight forward, he easily pushed the upright and off balance Shneaky back and out in two seconds...if that. Both rikishi end the day at 5-5, and it's worth noting that Goeido needs to win three of his next five bouts in order to maintain his Ozeki rank heading into Osaka. There's no way that happens unless he gets help from the Yokozuna, so let's see how this all plays out. Goeido draws Hakuho tomorrow, and with his needing wins desperately and the updated leaderboard barely hanging on to its last Japanese hope in Kisenosato, don't be surprised at all if Goeido upsets the Yokozuna tomorrow. I'm actually leaning in favor of a Hakuho win against Goeido tomorrow because the scenario for yaocho here makes too much sense, and you want bout fixing to be subtle, not obvious. Regardless, the drama surrounding Hakuho tomorrow of "Will he? Or won't he?" has me tied to my seat a lot more firmly than the actual sumo of late.

Moving right along, Komusubi Tochiohzan got his left to the inside but couldn't quite get the right where he needed it to gain moro-zashi and mount his charge, but credit M1 Takarafuji for keeping that right hand away and forcing the two to circle inside the ring disallowing Tochiohzan to truly get settled. Tochiohzan made a desperate move to get in close with that right hand, but Takarafuji slipped to the side and slyly dismissed Tochiohzan with a nice tug causing the Komusubi to just run himself off'a the clay mound altogether. Ta Ka Ra Boom De-ay baby as he moves to 3-7 while Tochiohzan falls to 4-6.

Rounding out the sanyaku, M1 Tochinoshin offered a few light tsuppari Komusubi Takayasu's way, but it did nothing to hinder Takayasu from securing the early right inside position, so the two settled into migi-yotsu where Takayasu may have had a left outer grip (I never got a reverse angle and couldn't tell). From there, a straight forward belt match ensued where Takayasu pressed his gut in tight keeping Tochinoshin higher up than he wanted enabling Takayasu to score the relatively easy force-out win. NoShin tried nothing at the edge to counter opting to just step back and find his footing beyond the straw, which always raises my suspicions, but who knows and who cares in this one? Takayasu holds onto his Komusubi rank for now at 3-7 while Tochinoshin falls to the same mark.

M6 Toyohibiki with tape all up and down his right shoulder caught M2 Ikioi with a right paw to the neck and just drove his gal back. This is usually the part where Toyohibiki gets burned as his opponent moves laterally, but Ikioi had zero ikioi and just went lamely straight back and out to his ninth loss. Toyohibiki ain't much better at 2-8, but he'll take this oshi-dashi win.

It was no surprise that M2 Terunofuji, who is wont to be nonchalant at the tachi-ai, gave up the quick moro-zashi to M4 Toyonoshima, but with Fuji the Terrible pinching in hard from the outside, it was a matter of whether or not Toyonoshima could work him out. The veteran knew the easiest way to take away Terunofuji's power was to keep him upright, so instead of focus on belt grips, he focused on sweaty armpits keeping Terunofuji on the balls of his feet and eventually working him over to the edge and across. Great tactical sumo from Toyonoshima today who really didn't give Terunofuji a chance as both dudes settle at 5-5.

M4 Jokoryu finally called it quits this basho giving M7 Chiyootori (3-7) a much needed freebie, and the most memorable moment of course for Jokoryu (who'll finish 4-11) was his playing the part of pommel horse on day 7 allowing Harumafuji to just swing himself wildly out of the ring.

The M5 Kaisei - M10 Homarefuji matchup was shaping up to be hidari-yotsu, but less than a second in Homarefuji went for one of those phantom pulls that resulted in Kaisei's nose diving straight into the dirt. Homarefuji is heading towards a second kachi-koshi in a row at 6-4 while Kaisei falls to 4-6.

M13 Osunaarashi wasn't committed to his usual right kachi-age or a strong tachi-ai, and as he resorted to mild tsuppari up high, M6 Okinoumi just charged straight into the Ejyptian and pushed him out in seconds. Mere physics would dictate that Osunaarashi would have at least gone down with a fight due to his bulk that is comparable to Okinoumi's, but with those gimpy legs, it completely proved the difference we saw here today as Okinoumi falls to 7-3 while Osunaarashi is cooling fast at 6-4.

M7 Kyokutenho came with a light hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the right, but it had no effect whatsoever on M11 Yoshikaze, and so Yoshikaze got his left arm in deep to the inside and just started churning the de-ashi. Kyokutenho tried to counter at the edge with a kote-nage, but Yoshikaze simply had too much momentum and scored the sweet force-out win. Kyokutenho's tachi-ai have always been like this, so you can tell he's lost a step when he's unable to succeed on these counter ploys that used to be his signature moves. Kyokutenho falls to 4-6 while Yoshikaze is even steven at 5-5.

M8 Sadanoumi used a right inside at the tachi-ai to establish his position while M13 Tokitenku used a left ottsuke to try and slip to the side and jimmy Sadanoumi out straight way, but Sadanoumi was able to recover still keeping his right arm to the inside. Tokitenku latched onto a long outer grip over the top with his left, but he wasn't able to keep Sadanoumi's left from the inside, and as soon as Sadanoumi got it giving him moro-zashi, he committed on the force-out charge. At the edge, Tokitenku attempted an utchari that almost worked, but Sadanoumi's positioning was just too good as he forced Tokitenku to fall back first. Both rikishi end the day at 6-4.

M9 Takekaze jumped to his right with a severe tachi-ai henka against M14 Kotoyuki, and while Kotoyuki did recover his footing, he still wasn't able to quite square back up with Takekaze who timed another evasive maneuver and yanked Kotoyuki outta the ring largely using his own momentum against him. Dirty pool from Takekaze who moves to 6-4 while Kotoyuki stands at 5-5.

M9 Tamawashi and M16 Tokushoryu engaged in a tsuppari affair from the tachi-ai which is rare for Tokushoryu, but he was able to nudge The Mawashi back little by little. He saw, however, that this ploy wasn't going to sill the dill and so he ducked his head a bit in order to generate more momentum. As soon as he did that, he was open for a pull attempt that came instantly giving Tamawashi the hataki-komi win. Tamawashi sneaks to 7-3 while Tokushoryu falls to 6-4.

M15 Sadanofuji and M10 Sokokurai sorta hooked up in migi-yotsu, but Sokokurai was hellbent on keeping the Sadamight from getting his arm to the inside. The strategy was okay, but Sokokurai didn't really have anything deep with his own right arm, and so Sadanofuji eventually just bullied him near the edge and back across and into the second row with a right forearm chivy. That'll learn him as the Sadamight treads water at 5-5 while Sokokurai falls to 3-7.

M11 Shohozan was a bit half-assed at the tachi-ai, and so M12 Arawashi moved right, latched onto Shohozan's right arm, and just yanked him to the edge and out tottari style. Both gentleman end the day at breathable 6-4 marks.

Finally, with M14 Chiyomaru monkeying up high with whatever, M15 Kagamioh simply lurched into moro-zashi and forced Maru back and across the straw without argument. Chiyomaru is already being fitted by the Juryo tailors at 3-7 while Kagamioh can see the light again at 5-5.

Harvye's back tomorrow, but I dare say this basho is going to fizzle out fast lessen we can get a little bit more yaocho action.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I talked at length with that Kelly feller yesterday after the day 8 bouts, and with no upsets on the day and the usual gift to Kotoshogiku, we both felt there wasn't a great reason to sacrifice a day of NFL football in exchange for another cookie cutter report, and so after a day off, we're back at it on day 9 ready to focus the attention the rest of the way on the leaderboard, which shapes up like this heading into the day:

8-0: Hakuho
7-1: Harumafuji, Kisenosato
6-2: Kakuryu, Kotoshogiku, Okinoumi, Osunaarashi, Kyokushuho

Let's start off with M12 Kyokushuho who entered the day on a six bout winning streak facing off against the equally hot (in more ways than one) M6 Okinoumi.  Kyokushuho showed the greater resolve at the tachi-ai getting the right arm to the inside and even flirting with the left inside as well, but Okinoumi pulled his way out of it forcing Kyokushuho to retool with the left outer grip instead of moro-zashi. With Kyokushuho dictating the pace, Okinoumi went for a counter right scoop throw that actually broke off Kyokushuho's outer grip, but the Mongolian was established too strongly on the inside, so as Okinoumi reached for the left outer grip after his failed throw, Kyokushuho pulled the trigger on his own right scoop throw that sent Okinoumi to the dirt. Kyokushuho dominated this one and displayed a subtle guts pose (fist pump) as they say in Japan with his seventh win in a row.  Great to see this kind of fire from any rikishi as Kyokushuho stays on the leaderboard at 7-2 while Okinoumi is knocked off for now at 6-3.

M13 Osunaarashi seems really eager to join the Makuuchi Scout Troop with sweet bedrolls on both legs, but the cloth hampered him today as M11 Shohozan moved right at the tachi-ai taking away any momentum from Osunaarashi.  Shohozan next ducked low and fired tsuppari into the Ejyptian's torso making him move on those gimpy legs, and Osunaarashi just couldn't keep up.  The key here was Shohozan's making sure this bout wasn't linear in fashion as both rikishi end the day at 6-3.

With two-los rikishi gone, let's move towards the end of the day where two of our Ozeki battled in Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku .  The two met up in the instant hidari-yotsu where the Geeku dry humped Kisenosato near the edge, but Kisenosato dug in stubbornly leaving both rikishi up high, chest to chest, and with no outer grip. The two dug in like this for about 10 seconds before Kotoshogiku moved right and felled Kisenosato with a right shove to the side (tsuki-otoshi). At least I thought that's what happened live. Watching the replays, with Kotoshogiku befuddled and nowhere to go, Kisenosato just took a dive to his right and down with Kotoshogiku trying to catch up with the right hand making it look as if he shoved his fellow Ozeki down. As the three guys in the booth watched the Kid's fall in slow motion, there was eerie silence as if each was praying that one of the others would step up and take this one. In the end, Kariya Announcer suggested that perhaps Kotoshogiku was trying to shake of Kisenosato's inside grip, and that's what caused Kisenosato to lose his balance and fall.  Once Miyabiyama agreed, they were all like "Yep, ok, (clear throat), let's move on."  Sounds good to me as both Ozeki finish the day at 7-2.

Our final two-loss rikishi on the day was Yokozuna Kakuryu meeting up with M3 Aminishiki who struck Kakuryu and immediately put two hands to the back of his head and committed on the mammoth pull back towards the edge of the dohyo. Kakuryu gave a desperate push into Aminishiki as he fell, so Aminishiki attempted to keep his right foot on the tawara as Kakuryu flew down to the clay.  I can't even remember in whose favor the gunbai went, but replays were inconclusive as to who really touched down first, so after a long mono-ii, they finally ruled a do-over. In the rematch, Aminishiki looked spent as Kakuryu used tsuppari to stand Shneaky upright and just force him back and across for the easy oshi-dashi win.  Kakuryu stays at 7-2 with the victory while Aminishiki falls to 5-4.

Moving up to the one-loss rikishi, Yokozuna Harumafuji and Ozeki Goeido smacked heads at the tachi-ai with Harumafuji going for the choke hold straightway. The impact created separation, however, and as Harumafuji burrowed his head looking to dive back into the fray, Goeido went for an ill-timed pull allowing the Yokozuna to just drive straight into his compromised opponent and launch him off'a the dohyo and into the lap of the rikishi sitting ringside.  Easy peasy Japanesey for Harumafuji who skates to 8-1 while Goeido falls to a precarious 4-5.

In the matchup of the day, Yokozuna Hakuho and Sekiwake Ichinojo bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai causing Hakuho to go for a quick pull attempt. Ichinojo, who doesn't bust his balls in moving forward, wasn't phased by the attempt, and so the two hooked up in migi-yotsu with Hakuho standing near the edge. The Mongolith couldn't budge the Yokozuna, however, and Hakuho eventually bodied in close grabbing the left outer grip in the process, and from there, Ichinojo had a fork in his white pasty guy as Hakuho finished off his gal in short order yori-kiri style.  With the win, Hakuho is an expected 9-0 while Ichinojo falls to 4-5.

With the dust settled at the end of the day, here's how the leaderboard now shapes up heading into day 10:

9-0:  Hakuho
8-1:  Harumafuji
7-2:  Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku, Kyokushuho

If Hakuho does decide to lose, I think it will be in order to keep a Japanese rikishi on the leaderboard as late into the week as possible.  With Goeido standing at 4-5 at the end of the day, I couldn't think of a better candidate for a gift as those two should meet around day 11.

Let's cover the rest of the bouts starting from the bottom up.  M13 Tokitenku defeated M11 Yoshikaze in a rough and tumble affair that would be a waste to breakdown.  The one thing to take away from this is that I think the rikishi have figured out that they can slap the smaller Oguruma boys around sill as Tokitenku did today and Osunaarashi did against Takekaze a few days ago.  Tokitenku is 6-3 while Yoshikaze falls to 4-5.

M10 Homarefuji used a right inashi to spin M15 Sadanofuji into a right outer grip, but it took him a while it to establish anything on the right inside, and by a while I mean I was able to shat, shower, and shave and the two fellas were still going out it in the ring. After said long stalemate with both mules standing in the center of the ring, Homarefuji finally found some leverage with the right hand in the form of Sadanofuji's left tit, and that proved enough to allow Homarefuji to force him out in the end.  Homarefuji gets some action as he moves to 5-4 while Sadanofuji falls to 4-5.

M14 Kotoyuki took advantage of M10 Sokokurai's soft sumo of late and scored the methodical tsuki-dashi win in short order. Kotoyuki's 5-4 now if ya need him while Sokokurai is a feeble 3-6.

M16 Tokushoryu displayed a good tachi-ai that allowed him to stick in close to 9 Takekaze with the left arm to the inside, and Takekaze simply had no room to retreat and no game with which to shake off the inside position, so Tokushoryu used his bulk to score the easy force-out win moving to 6-3.  Takekaze is 5-4.

M15 Kagamioh approached his bout against the ailing M7 Chiyootori thinking he could just show up and win. After a lame hari-zashi attempt that only resulted in a shallow left hand at the front of Chiyootori's belt, Kagamioh went for a dumb pull that Chiyootori read like a dirty manga on the subway pushing Kagamioh (4-5) back and out with ease.  Chiyootori has found some life now at 2-7.

M12 Arawashi took command against the nonchalant M7 Kyokutenho getting the right inside and left frontal belt grip, but he quickly changed that left frontal for a left inside giving him moro-zashi. Kyokutenho's response was to pinch in from the outside in a kime-dashi effort, but Arawashi stayed low and forced his gal back and across for the force-out win. Pretty good example of a guy taking advantage of Kyokutenho's lack of speed these days as Arawashi moves to 5-4 while Kyokutenho is the opposite mark of 4-5.

M6 Toyohibiki's tachi-ai was largely upright, so with no momentum, M14 Chiyomaru was able to shove as he moved right keeping Toyo the Hutt on the run, and Toyohibiki never could get his feet established, and as he chased Chiyomaru around the ring a bit, Maru was able to launch enough effective thrusts and pulls to befuddle Toyohibiki near the edge where he slipped left and pulled Hibiki down for good.  If you thought Chiyomaru was awful at 3-6, you should see Toyohibiki at 1-8.

M9 Tamawashi opened with an effective right choke hold into M5 Kaisei's neck in order to keep the Brasilian away from the belt, and Kaisei never could shake of Tamawashi's alternating neck thrusts, so when The Mawashi had his gal near the rope, he went for the push-out kill scoring it with some shoves into Kasei's chest.  Kaisei simply got his ass kicked here as he falls to 4-5 while Tamawashi is a sweet 6-3.

M8 Sadanoumi was winless against M4 Jokoryu coming in, but Jokoryu is as beat up as they come this basho, so Sadanoumi easily assumed moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, twisted Jokoryu 90 degrees to the side, and then tripped him over in the middle of the ring for the soto-gake win.  Sadanoumi moves ahead to 5-4 while Jokoryu can barely limp around anymore at 4-5.

M8 Myogiryu rammed his right shoulder into M4 Toyonoshima at the tachi-ai, but the move didn't really create any separation, and so Tugboat was able to fire a few tsuppari and set up moro-zashi, and when a small dude like Myogiryu is caught with two dual insides, he' ain't coming back as Toyonoshima scored the easy yori-kiri win improving to 4-5 while Myogiryu falls to 5-4.

M1 Tochinoshin displayed a curious hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the left and stepping a half step in that direction using tsuppari up high for who knows what reason. Oh, he was fighting M3 Endoh?  Ok, it makes a bit more sense.  A few seconds in, Tochinoshin next pulled Endoh directly into moro-zashi for Endoh sending both fellas near the edge where Endoh struggled to move the beast a single centimeter. Tochinoshin, who led this dance the entire way, next put his left arm up high around Endoh's neck, but when Endoh still couldn't move him, he planted as if to fire on a right kote-nage throw loading with the right while getting his right leg to the inside of Endoh's left. The attempt never came, however, for whatever reason, and so Tochinoshin took a full step with the left foot to the very edge, and Endoh dumped him from there although Endoh's elbow nearly touched down before Tochinoshin was officially out. Had Tochinoshin been fighting anybody but Endoh, his tactics today wouldn't have made much sense as both dudes end the day at 3-6.

M2 Ikioi charged forward and low into Komusubi Tochiohzan who managed a left inside under Ikioi's right armpit, and as Ikioi kept pressing forward, Tochiohzan used his right hand around Ikioi's head before backing up and slipping left pulling Ikioi down with a nifty shoulder slap.  Tochiohzan moves to 4-5 with the win while Ikioi joins Toyohibiki in the ranks of the make-koshi rikishi.

M1 Takarafuji was solid at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Takayasu flirting with the left inside, and as Takayasu slipped to the side, Takarafuji managed the right to the inside pressing the force out action from there. In a bind from the start, Takayasu went for a quick counter pull, but the move gave Takarafuji moro-zashi straightway and it was curtains at that point.  Ta Ka Ra Boom De Ay! as Fuji moves to 2-7 while Takayasu falls to the same mark.

Last and certainly not least, Sekiwake Aoiyama crashed into M2 Terunofuji at the tachi-ai getting his right ham to the inside immediately lifting up on Terunofuji, but Fuji the Terrible had his own right arm firmly to the inside, and the Mongolian used his bulk and youth to not only withstand the Sekiwake's charge, but he finagled a left outer grip in the process, so with Aoiyama's left up high, Fuji had all of the momentum bullying Aoiyama back and across for a hefty win.  I think Terunofuji is my favorite dude to watch right now as he moves to 5-4 while Aoiyama's Sekiwake rank is in trouble at 3-6.

I'm back again tomorrow to wrap up the chubansen.

Day 7 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
What is exciting this tournament? The answer should be Hakuho’s pursuit of probably the most important record in sumo: most career yusho. Instead, we get polite applause and palpable disappointment every time Hakuho wins. I squirm with embarrassment when the crowd shows this disrespect through faint praise. Hakuho must think, “what do I have to do to get your allegiance?” There is nothing he can do, and the march to 33 yusho is currently a joyless slog. What should be mega-exciting—dual 6-0 starts from the top two Yokozuna, one of them perched on the edge of history—instead is rightly referenced by that Kelly feller and Mike as flatlining. Speaking of flatlining, a lot of what I saw today was unconvincing.

Let’s start with those top Yokozuna, as we’ve inched into the part of the tournament where the leaderboard starts to matter.


Today, an undefeated Harumafuji was paired against a limping Jokoryu. As Harumafuji has looked sharp this tournament, this should have been cake. However, he’s also shown the ability to lose to anybody the last year or so while Hakuho has taken back over as a consistent winner. It started well for Harumafuji, as he got both hands at Jokoryu’s neck and started working him backwards. He looked a bit frantic, but speed has always been one of his strengths. Next, he ducked in and went for the body; he was so effective with this he got one hand all the way around to the crack-strap of Jokoryu's mawashi. Curtains, right? Yes: but for Harumafuji. Magically, Harumafuji was suddenly flung around Jokoryu’s body and out, spinning around Jokoryu’s waist like a hula hoop in the first 180 of a full circle. It was ruled tsuki-otoshi.

You can see this as an awesome “guts” performance and really cool kinboshi for Jokoryu, outsmarting the Yokozuna at the last moment. Or you can wonder what kind of mysterious impetus suddenly caused Harumafuji to fling himself out of the ring like that. I watched it maybe four times, and I can’t see anywhere that Jokoryu took any action to make this happen. To me, it looks like Harumafuji uses the belt hold as leverage to fling HIMSELF out, like a gymnast on a pommel horse. Harumafuji gets pretty wild, yeah, but this, I don’t get.

I will skip Kakuryu/Endo for the moment to cover Hakuho/Takayasu. Given the nature of this sport and the Harumafuji loss, I wondered if Hakuho would drop one. Instead, he was extraordinarily sloppy. It started with tsuppari, odd for Hakuho, then Hakuho went for an early pull that failed and put him back near the tawara; he had to stretch his butt back and away to recover and almost fell, then charged back in hard and carelessly; while that turned things back around and put him in the middle of the ring, he slipped again as he was pushing Takayasu back. Finally, he shoved Takayasu recklessly out while falling down himself.

An innocent spectator might have said Hakuho was fighting scared—he looked panicky to win this one. You could even find a reason and chalk it up to being nervous because he lost to Takayasu last time. But since when has Hakuho ever fought scared or nervous? To me, his hallmark is icy cold focus. Mike has often written about Hakuho giving guys a chance rather than simply losing on purpose, and that would be a way to read this one: Hakuho just went hell’s bells, and well, if he was felled, who cares? The fans would be happy, and he’d still be in a position for the yusho. He did try to win this one, and it worked—he won. But he did it in such a careless way it left him very close to losing.

Then something happened that I didn’t like: ex-ozeki Chiyotaikai called a mono-ii, and after the discussion they said Hakuho did win. Yes, to discuss and get it right is important, but somehow this felt like a grudging and halfhearted upholding of Hakuho’s win—it fits unpleasantly in with how everyone in the arena wants to find any excuse to see Hakuho lose, and when he doesn’t there is this palpable, insulting, disrespectful air of disappointment. Well, Hakuho grabbed the giant pile of cash envelopes and stalked up the hana-michi—I may have imagined it, but he looked angry. Problem is, sometimes even he wants himself to lose. Being driven to that point would get me angry, too. I didn’t enjoy this bout or its aftermath.

Today Kakuryu got Endo, who did something I’ve seen him do a lot. Endo started out well here, and looked to be setting something effective up. While this wasn’t much more than a wild tsuppari affair, Endo did have Kakuryu going backwards and at the tawara. Then Kakuryu counterattacked Endo back to the center of the ring. Now: what should happen next? If Endo has game, it is his turn for a counterattack, a change of strategy, a shift of momentum. Nothing doing: Kakuryu overwhelmed Endo with continued tsuppari and Endo collapsed backwards, legs splayed out, utterly worked. I’ll give credit to Endo for good starts this tournament, but this was another finish where he looked very bad: when push comes to shove—and it DOES—Endo crumbles. He still does not look ready for the jo’i.


Let me continue with the theme "unconvincing."

Takarafuji (1-5) vs. Goeido (3-3)
Takarafuji is a favorite of many these days, but I find him less compelling. Often, he doesn’t seem to do much in the ring: there is a lot of passivity in his sumo, especially when defending. Today, he and Goeido circled about the ring a few times, all pushes, no belt action, and Takarafuji just seemed to be bearing with it. There was a tottari moment when Takarafuji pulled Goeido's arm, and he then had Goeido off rhythm and up against the straw. However, Go-Away-Do used a kubi-nage at this point and, while falling out backwards, was able to twist Lottery enough that it looked like Takarafuji’s calf pressed the dirt before Goeido went fully down. It took a discussion, but the judges agreed. What was Takarafuji doing here?

Aoiyama (3-3) vs. Kotoshogiku (4-2)
How did Kotoshogiku suddenly become stronger than Aoiyama? He drove him out quickly and easily, mostly just by moving forward while Aoiyama stood up and flailed his arms about somewhere in the region above Kotoshogiku’s head. This looked like somebody leisurely wheeling an overfilled laundry cart possessed by a poltergeist down a hotel hallway. What was Aoiyama doing here?

Kisenosato (5-1) vs. Ichinojo (3-3)
This one took a little more time but was very similar. Ichinjo’s style is not dynamic in the first place, but he looked especially drab today. Ichinojo stayed straight on to Kisenosato, made no real evasion, and could not get any belt hold despite his long arms. Kisenosato drove Ichinojo back to the straw in a curving arc, then, after a few moments of effort which Ichinojo stayed aligned to him, Kisenosato was able to push him out for the yori-kiri win. I was surprised Ichinojo was so easy to move; in the past the Mongolith has looked much heavier, stickier to the clay. What was Ichinojo doing here?

Now back to the beginning for Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story.” ©

Sadanofuji (3-3) vs. Asasekiryu (1-5)
Not much to see here: oshi-dashi win for Sadanofuji who pushed Asasekiryu, visiting from Juryo, back and out. Sadanofuji is borderline as a Makuuchi guy, but Asasekiryu aged out of the division some time ago.

Kagamioh (3-3) vs. Tokitenku (4-2)
Tokitenku quickly grabbed a very deep left outer, then matched it a few moments later with a right inner grip. However, Kagamioh had a right inner from the start too, so it wasn’t so easy for the Child of the Dusty-Gummed Steppe, Tokitenku, who resorted to an efficient trip, picking up the win by uchi-gake.

Kyokushuho (4-2) vs. Yoshikaze (3-3)
Kyokushuho started this one off by wildly blasting, upwards milling tsuppari, driving Yoshikaze back. Yoshikaze then ducked in, but perhaps too low and in any case without his feet following fast enough, and right at the edge Kyokushuho was able to fell him by kote-nage before going out himself.

Tokushoryu (4-2) vs. Homarefuji (3-3)
Dingsbums (Homarefuji) fell down while driving forward against Porky Pig (Tokushoryu). That’s it. It happens.

Osunaarashi (4-2) vs. Takekaze (4-2)
Both of these guys are ranked too low this tournament, and their records have reaped the benefit. I was looking forward to this as a contrast in size and also in style: big, brute force against small and tricksy. Today, Big Sandy (Osunaarashi) tried out some of the fastest tsuppari I have ever seen, like a boxer with one of those little hanging bags. Takekaze tried to stick with it, but when he tried to go under, like Yoshikaze two matches earlier, he left his legs behind and fell down, though Osunaarashi was on his way back. Mayor McHairyCheese got the hataki-komi win.

As an aside, about ten years ago, in my memory tsuppari was rare and stood out for being unusual; I want to say for a time it was practiced only by Ozeki Chiyotaikai, for whom it was awesomely scary, and an old moth-eaten Juryo-to-Makuuchi late-bloomer named Toyozakura, for whom it was pathetically ineffective. Nowadays it seems like tsuppari is sumo’s dominant style. When did that happen? It has slipped in quietly. I am probably under-remembering the early aughties tsuppari, and over-seeing it now, but tsuppari seems like it should be a novelty, not the standard.

Tamawashi (3-3) vs. Arawashi (3-3)
A simple affair, dominated by Tamawashi. His high-body shoves had Arawashi dumped quickly into Lake Kucherla by tsuki-dashi. I agree with Mike that there is often simply a physics lesson going one: one guy is bigger and stronger. Experience often applies too; Arawashi didn’t have enough size or experience to win this one.

Myogiryu (4-2) vs. Chiyomaru (2-4)
And it’s… more tsuppari. For the third time today, while one guy backed out the other guy fell down in front of him. In the previous two the guy backing cautiously out got the win, but here the fall-down guy, which was Myogiryu, got it—but only after a mono-ii to reverse the original decision. This is not scintillating stuff. Maybe each beya should buy the machine at the car wash that spins those flappy canvas straps at the car, and make rikishi sit in front of it for an hour a day. That way, when they get to the dohyo they can ignore the flurryious tsuppari better and go in for a kill.

Kotoyuki (3-3) vs. Chiyootori (0-4-2)
This started out with… tsuppari. However, thank goodness, Chiyootori must have spent his time at Suds ‘n’ Scrub, cuz he bulled his way in to Kotoyuki’s body without falling down and turned this into a yori-kiri battle which he won. Oddly, he was also holding a long strap of Kotoyuki’s falling-apart belt at the end, holding it up above Harp Snow’s (Kotoyuki) butt like a puppeteer dangling a marionette. When you’re winless coming in, whatever works.

Kyokutenho (3-3) vs. Shohozan (3-3)
Can’t give Shohozan any points for power here, as Kyokutenho had him going backwards immediately and at speed, but for agility and focus I’m in: right at the edge Shohozan wrenched his upper body to the side while pushing down at Kyokutenho’s armpit. It worked for a kote-nage win, although it took a gunbai reversal to do it.

Sokokurai (2-4) vs. Toyohibiki (1-5)
Toyohibiki tried a neck-grab here, but It’s Dark There (Sokokurai) already had him by the belt, so it didn’t work. Round About Over There (Sokokurai) easily dumped Kerosene Burp (Toyohibiki) with an uwate-dashi-nage. Second tournament in a row where Toyohibiki has looked pretty bad.

Sadanoumi (3-3) vs. Chiyotairyu (1-5)
Speaking of looking bad, Chiyotairyu has been awful and looked lost this tournament; maybe there is a reason, as he withdrew with injury and Sadanoumi picked up the freebie.

Toyonoshima (3-3) vs. Okinoumi (5-1)
Please, please, toothless-fathered Tugboat, give me a good match to write about—I’m swimming in a see of slaps and slips thus far today… thank goodness, it happened. This turned quickly into grips on belts, with Tugboat (Toyonoshima) enjoying the left inner and Okinoumi the right outer while their leftover arms did fighting fishing. Toyonoshima tried to turn his grip advantage into a throw, but Okinoumi had too much size advantage on him and hence all it did was get Tugboat turned sideways; Okinoumi then drove forward and Toyonoshima hopped on one leg about five times as Okinoumi pushed him over and out. The announcers debated: yori-kiri? Uwate-nage? Both wrong: yori-taoshi.

Kaisei (4-2) vs. Aminishiki (4-2)
This was an interesting match. It looked more even that it was; it took some time,but Aminishiki used superior technique to methodically work out a win over the much bigger Kaisei. Aminishiki immediately grabbed in but only got a very shallow hold on Kaisei’s belt; however, he accompanied this grip by keeping low and shoving his noggin into Kaisei’s neck; they spun 360 degrees as Kaisei vainly tried to get a grip of his own on the slung-back Aminishiki. Using his shallow left hand grip as a steering wheel and his head as a battering ram to give him two contact points, Aminishiki drove Kaisei towards the straw. He then smoothly and quickly released the belt, moved slightly towards the rear of Kaisei, wrapped an arm around that ample rear, and ushered Kaisei out for the oshi-dashi win. Yes, he’s often Shneaky. He’s also often just plain good.

Ikioi (0-6) vs. Tochinoshin (2-4)
This was a powerful belt battle, and Tochinoshin has more power. Ikioi worked hard and looked good, but Tochinoshin borrowed a page from Kotoshogiku and gaburu’ed Ikioi out in the end. Kotoshogiku’s gaburi is a frantic humping; Tochinoshin’s was more a langorous nuzzling (fresh!). Yori-kiri win for The Private.

Terunofuji (2-4) vs. Tochiohzan (2-4)
In perhaps the most dominant performance of the day, Terunofuji bulled Tochiohzan out yori-kiri in about one second flat. He had made a false start previously, and that seemed to just coil up more energy in him. Wow. The Future.

Tomorrow, Mike or that Kelly feller will dazzle you with their derring-do.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The day got off on a somber note with the announcement of Homasho's retirement at the end of the basho. The dude held a press conference to make the announcement, and he had a difficult time getting through it. It was obvious how much he loved and respected the sport, but that bum right knee just won't let him go any longer. I think it was back in 2004 when I was sent to Japan for 3 months for work, and I happened to be watching sumo on the cable network, which starts in the middle of the Sandanme bouts at 1 PM. Homasho was in Makushita at the time, and I remember watching him and being really impressed with his fighting spirit. And when I say fighting spirit I mean that he actually gave a damn about the sport. Back when we had that page "Eye On Sumo" where we touted guys to watch lower in the ranks, I quickly listed Homasho on there just because I saw so much potential despite his tiny frame.

Homasho would subsequently rise to the Makuuchi division, and it was clear that there was something special about him. He would bow deeply at the end of his bouts win or lose, and then he would bow with just as much respect as he stepped off of the dohyo before heading up the hana-michi. He was a class act along the lines of Tosanoumi and always acted in a manner as if the sport didn't owe him a single thing. It was that mindset that made him work as hard as he did every single bout. For a guy like him to legitimately earn his way up to the rank of Komusubi when he did speaks volume about his fighting spirit, and I would be remiss if I didn't say at least one more time, Homa Sho Am Sweet!!

With the sad news of Homasho's retirement lingering, none other than Gangstuh-No-Sato stepped atop the dohyo in an attempt to mend the situation against M16 Tokushoryu, a rikishi he had never lost to coming in, but it was clear as soon as the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai that Wakanosato just didn't have the strength of yesteryear to bully around a slug like Tokushoryu, and so the younger Tokushoryu forced Wakanosato to the edge and down using blunt force in the tsuki-otoshi win. Tokushoryu is 4-2 with the win while the chances of Gangstuh's return to Makuuchi next basho get slimmer at 2-4.

M15 Kagamioh didn't budge at the tachi-ai twice baiting M14 Kotoyuki into two blatant false starts, and once the two charged for real, it was evident why Kagamioh wanted no piece of his foe because Kotoyuki just stormed right through him and kicked his ass tsuki-dashi style. I know this one was ultimately ruled oshi-dashi, but if I say it's tsuki-dashi, it stands. Both dudes end the day at 3-3.

I'll be honest, as soon as M15 Sadanofuji (3-3) and M13 Tokitenku hooked up in a hidari-yotsu stalemate, I started hitting the 30 second advance button on my remote control. Looked like Tokitenku (4-2) got moro-zashi in the end, which resulted in his yori-kiri victory, but I don't even know how he got and didn't bother to go back and watch it.

At some point in sumo, you can throw technique out the door because mere physics will dictate that a tall muscular thug is just going to kick a smaller guy's ass. That was the case today as M13 Osunaarashi came with his usual right kachi-age against M11 Yoshikaze and then just abandoned any kind of sumo in favor of turning this one into a barroom brawl. There's just no way that the smaller Kaze could get inside on this dude to have any affect, so the Ejyptian battered his foe around a bit and thin thrust him out moving to a 4-2 record. Yoshikaze settles for 3-3.

M10 Sokokurai and M14 Chiyomaru engaged in the worst tachi-ai of the basho where neither rikishi committed and Chiyomaru moved a bit to the right. With no momentum from Maru to fire off the shoves that he needed, Sokokurai latched onto the front of his mawashi with both hands (not a moro-zashi at this point because there was no "sashi" with either arm). Sokokurai used the belt grips to lift up on Chiyomaru and drive him back to the edge where he then required moro-zashi to sill the dill. Okay finish after a bad start as both rikishi land at 2-4.

M9 Tamawashi looked to have won the tachi-ai as he came with his usual shove attack against M12 Kyokushuho, but his feet were dancing all over the place as he nudged Kyokushuho back, and all it took was a single whiff from The Mawashi (as opposed to a whiff OF the mawashi) for Kyokushuho to slip left with a tsuki into Tamawashi's right side spinning him 180 degrees and allowing Kyokushuho to get some serious manlove in as he humped his opponent all the way across the dohyo and out. Man, you get a little action and move to 4-2 in the same bout...sweet!! Tamawashi falls to 3-3.

Here's a phrase I've never typed before and will surely never type again: "M9 Takekaze displayed a bruising tachi-ai." But damned if he didn't ramming his head square into M12 Arawashi's jaw and knocking the Mongolian silly, so much so that Takekaze easily pushed him to the side and out in short order. I'm sure Arawashi saw a few stars after the initial clash as he falls to 3-3 while Takekaze is a comfortable 4-2.

M8 Sadanoumi struck hard against M10 Homarefuji, and when Homarefuji was unable to gain any momentum from the tachi-ai, he raised his hands to the level of his eyes, and Sadanoumi pounced easily taking care of his compromised opponent driving him back and out in a flash leaving both combatants at 3-3.

M11 Shohozan knew his opponent was ailing--literally, so he didn't even bother with tsuppari opting to grab the left inside and right outer grip from the tachi-ai that he used to push M7 Chiyootori back and across the straw without argument. Nothing else to see here as Shohozan is even steven again at 3-3 while Chiyootori's still winless.

M8 Myogiryu struck M6 Okinoumi hard enough at the tachi-ai that he denied any inside position to his taller opponent, and then as Okinoumi looked to advance forward, Myogiryu backed up a half step and baited his gal directly into moro-zashi. It was a pretty slick move and left Okinoumi with hopes of a counter kubi-nage throw (hence, nary a pot to piss in), so Myogiryu forced Okinoumi to the edge, easily survived the kubi-nage attempt, and then dumped his opponent down and out with a right belt grip. Just like that, the final Maegashira rikishi is knocked from his undefeated perch as Okinoumi falls to 5-1 while Myogiryu advances to 4-2.

M5 Chiyotairyu displayed a decent tachi-ai ramming his left shoulder into M6 Toyohibiki halting any forward momentum, so even when he went for a stupid pull attempt, it still worked--barely--as Chiyotairyu managed to slap his foe down as he tiptoed the tawara. Both of these guys are ailing at 1-5.

M7 Kyokutenho and M4 Jokoryu hooked up in migi-yotsu where Jokoryu enjoyed the left outer grip, but as he went to plant his right leg in order to set up a throw, Kyokutenho swung him around causing his right foot to plant in the dohyo in a strange angle, and at that point, Jokoryu just took a knee putting both hands to the dirt aided by Tenho's inner belt throw. Jokoryu was limping badly as he hopped off the dohyo and down the hana-michi, and the Pawn Stars must have had the wheelchair up for auction somewhere because no one came out to cart Jokoryu off. This was just a freak accident and will likely result in Jokoryu's kyujo as both dudes stand 3-3.

M5 Kaisei and M2 Terunofuji were primed to treat us to a bout of o-zumo as both lugs hooked up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Kaisei's left outer grip was at the front of the belt, and that proved the difference as he was able to lift up with that grip disallowing Terunofuji the ability to sufficiently dig in. The result was a swift yori-kiri in favor of Kaisei whose sumo today was as pretty as Kane's lavender jammies. Kaisei's 4-2 now if ya need him while Fuji Ain't So Terrible at 2-4.

M1 Tochinoshin henka'd briefly to his left against M3 Aminishiki perhaps sensing some trickery from Shneaky at the tachi-ai? I suppose it was the correct call as Aminishiki didn't charge forward balls to the wall either. With neither guy in close, Tochinoshin went for a dangerous pull, but Aminishiki had no momentum with which to capitalize, so Shin eventually worked his right arm to the inside, and that set up the left outer grip...a point from which Aminishiki could not recover. He knew it too and went softly near the edge, and I don't blame him. No sense adding extra folds to his bedrolls due to a dangerous trip off'a the dohyo. Tochinoshin moves to 2-4 while Aminishiki is still an incredible 4-2.

The resolve that was missing from M1 Takarafuji yesterday against Kotoshogiku was back again today against Sekiwake Aoiyama, which resulted in a decent tsuppari affair. The problem for Takarafuji is he's a yotsu guy, and he just couldn't dodge Aoiyama's hands well enough to get that left arm firmly to the inside, and the result was a bruising victory for Aoiyama that was ruled tsuki-dashi in the end. Great effort from both parties here as Aoiyama checks in at 3-3 while I'm still waiting to sing the chorus for Ta-Ka-Ra Boom-de-ay on a day I report as he falls to 1-5.

Komusubi Takayasu stayed wide at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku allowing the Ozeki the deep left to the inside, and then as he backed up step Takayasu pulled his left hand away from its inside position and wrapped it around the Ozeki's head. This useless move gave Kotoshogiku moro-zashi, and while Takayasu dug in at the edge, there was no counter tsuki-otoshi attempt as Kotoshogiku forced him out in short order. Pretty subtle acting on Takayasu's part. Fujii Announcer and Oguruma-oyakata both commented afterwards that Kotoshogiku still has some left in the tank, and I guess if they say it, it's true. Kotoshogiku is 4-2 while Takayasu takes the bullet today finishing 2-4.

Ozeki Kisenosato displayed a horrible tachi-ai bouncing forward and just aligning his feet, but M2 Ikioi failed to take advantage refusing to get his left arm to the inside when it was there for the taking and then offering a weak inashi with the right that caused both dudes to flip sides. At this point, Kisenosato was open enough that Ikioi had the open path to moro-zashi, but he declined ,so when the dust settled, the two found themselves in hidari-yotsu and the right uwate now wide open for Ikioi. Instead of just grabbing it, Ikioi slapped Kisenosato's right butt check feigning an effort to grab the belt, and it showed just how deep he was in on that side. After tinkling the ivories a bit, he abandoned his attempt at the grip and just waited for the Ozeki to force him back. When Ikioi showed some resistance at the edge with a half-hearted kote-nage and then tsuki-otoshi, Kisenosato dragged him clear across the dohyo for the uwate-dashi-nage win in the end.

I haven't done this in awhile, but I think watching the replay of this bout is a good example of a perfectly normal looking bout on the surface to the layman, but if you're trying to analyze the bout and break it down in regards to where it turned and the deciding factors, it's quite clear that Ikioi gave the Ozeki the win. Normally we'd see one or two of these elements in a thrown bout, but this one contained so many it's worth illustrating them all in this slow motion replay:

1. Kisenosato's lame hop-step tachi-ai two seconds in. Try that against someone who wants to kick your ass, and he's going to kick your ass if you align your feet like that
2. Ikioi's failure to grab the left inside position. Instead of simply inserting his arm, he cups his hand upward and keeps it near the Ozeki's pit applying no pressure
3. Ikioi's half-assed kote-nage 8 seconds in that actually clears the path for moro-zashi, which he refuses to grab
4. Ikioi's blatant failure to grab the right outer grip at 15 seconds and his playing pattycake on Kisenosato's right ass cheek
5. Ikioi's half-assed kote-nage and tsuki-otoshi attempts at the edge where he just waits for Kisenosato to finish him off

This bout was as fake as the Indian blood running through Elizabeth Warren's veins, and I don't see how anyone could watch this replay and think that Ikioi was trying to win the bout. But...see what you want to see as Kisenosato now stands at 5-1 while Ikioi is winless.

Sekiwake Ichinojo and Ozeki Goeido went through a methodical tachi-ai where Goeido pinched in at Ichinojo's right arm briefly keeping it from the inside, but he couldn't hold the pose and after a few seconds, Ichinojo got to the inside with the right and then just dug in as he is wont to do daring Goeido to try anything. Goeido hesitated for a few seconds and then shifted out right directly into the line of fire of an Ichinojo left outer grip, and once obtained, Goeido was like that little frog that gets slurped up by Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi. Ichinojo easily forced his gal back and across from there leaving both parties at 3-3. Ichinojo is having one of those Jekyll and Hyde basho where you just don't know which one will show up. I read yesterday that his stable master was "livid" at the Sekiwake for henka'ing Kotoshogiku for the second time now in three basho, but I think it helps these Ozeki save face when the Mongolith wins cheaply instead of just dominating them straight up as Ichinojo did today to Goeido. Anyway, I continue to be fascinated by the politics of sumo.

Komusubi Tochiohzan caught Yokozuna Kakuryu with a moro-te-zuki at the tachi-ai keeping the Kak upright and away from the belt. As he is wont to do, Kakuryu shifted right going for a pull, but Tochiohzan was on the move and shoved the Yokozuna out in mere seconds. As they were showing the replays, Mainoumi pointed out that these two did sanban-geiko (repeated practice bouts between the same two opponents) at the Tokitsukaze-beya prior to the basho, and when Tochiohzan frustrated the Yokozuna by refusing to let him get to the inside, he often went for the pull and was beaten in similar fashion by the Komusubi. That's color-commentary gold from Mainoumi for ya as Tochiohzan moves to 2-4 while the Kak suffers his second loss of the tourney.

Before we get to Hakuho's bout today, this basho will likely end up becoming historic not only because Hakuho could win yusho #33, but we also witnessed a bout yesterday where he almost got beat when he was trying to win. And how ironic is it that Ikioi was the one who sent Hakuho to the brink, but he just couldn't grab a handle today on the Ozeki?

Anyway, Yokozuna Hakuho used a lazy hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping lightly with the right while M3 Endoh went hellbent for Hakuho's left arm with both of his limbs. He was rebuffed straightway creating instant separation and an awkward as hell tachi-ai, and then as the two looked to hook back up, Hakuho got Endoh in the clinch with the left hand to the back of the head and delivered a right forearm square into Endoh's grill. Welcome to the big leagues, bro. With Hakuho just standing there as if to say "Come and get more, beeyotch," Endoh dove into moro-zashi, but Hakuho shook that off like a mild cold pushing Endoh away and then shifting positions to where he could slap Endoh around and set him up for the easy pushout in the end. Probably a lot of couldas and shouldas in the eyes of the Japanese fans, but the Yokozuna was just toying with Endoh here. At 6-0, he is in command of the basho, and I loved how that Kelly feller used the term "flatline" to describe what this basho is becoming. Endoh falls to 2-4, but it will be said well of him in the press for his efforts.

Finally, Yokozuna Harumafuji delivered a wicked left shot to M4 Toyonoshima's neck (I know, Toyonoshima has a neck?!) setting up the hidari-yotsu clash where the Yokozuna enjoyed the firm right outer grip, but his left inside was shallow due to Tugboat turning away his hips away at an angle. With both rikishi in a stalemate in the center of the ring, Harumafuji seemed content to just stay put with the stifling right out grip. Toyonoshima went for a maki-kae that failed giving Harumafuji that much more of an advantage, and the Yokozuna eventually gained enough momentum to where he could bully Toyonoshima around the ring and near the brink. Without that clear-cut left to the inside, however, Toyonoshima proved to be a stubborn mule, and so Harumafuji finally reached down with his left hand, grabbed Toyonoshima around the right thigh (fresh!), and then drove him back and out for the komata-sukui win. Harumafuji keeps pace with Hakuho at 6-0, and your yusho rikishi will come from that pair. Toyonoshima falls to a respectable 3-3 mark.

You know him; you love him. Harvye's back again tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (PZ Kelly reporting)
We are five days into the tourney and already a pattern is starting to emerge. Unfortunately, that pattern is a flat line EKG. Kidding! What, can't I kid with you, after all we've been through together?

Actually, it's more like the pattern on Charlie Brown's shirt, reassuringly predictable in its sharp, plunging falls and sudden, brisk ascensions, repeated endlessly as around and around we go (oddly enough, there is an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon who are believed to hold as an origin tale that the universe is slowly revolving around the midsection of a sad, bald, overly trusting, elementary school aged loser).

And the more I consider it, many bouts follow the same path, don't they, with one man holding the upper hand, bowling his foe over, only to find himself in the soup the very next moment. Perhaps there is a sort of "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" typething going on in the sacred sport, a kind of sumo Mandelbrot, if you will (and you WILL). The pattern of individual bouts writ large in the pattern of individual basho, which in turn mirrors the pattern of the sport itself, which (why stop now?) fractalates from the pattern of Japanese culture itself.

Which is why when Mike and I assure you of this or that about the mindset of the people of the archipelago, you are better off listenin up, bitch, because if there is one thing we are intimately familiar with (beyond, of course, the furtive water closet masturbation of all good married fathers), it's Nipponese culture.

But enough introspection on Sumotalk's laughable sumo pareidolia. There are REAL men fighting this day, with REAL sweat and REAL loin muscles and REAL floppy titties and REAL (my, has it gotten warm in here or is it just me?). . .

Wouldn't you know it. Straight out of the gate my Sumo GUT is borne out, as a guy large and in charge throughout the match is left with naught but a mouthful of the bitter dregs o' defeat once the gyoji's fan wave function collapses. Amuuru had Kagamioh to contend with, and announced his intentions from the jump with a stiff right hand to the throat: "Amuuru you, ya queen!" But Kagamioh is not just some poor boy whom nobody loves, and he managed to stall the Russian long enough to slide into a back-of-the-head pull attempt. This was a poor decision, and it brought the top Juryo man in for what looked to be an easy pushout. But the gods of sumo decided to spare him his life from a monstrosity of a loss by channeling the power of Chiyotaikai, as the W15 used an excellent combination right arm/left leg swipe to get Amuuru into the manlove position, with Kagamioh in the "driver's" seat. And drive he did, yo! Kudos to the victor for adding a nice twist to the boring old rearend hammer out by lifting Amuuru's left leg up at the shin, exposing his undercarriage for our viewing pleasure. You'd have to time transport back to 70's era Frisco to find such thrilling roustabout between such two burly, bearish men.

Next up we had Porky Pig vs. Mayor McCheese (yall need to read the daily reports or you won't be able to follow my vibe—unlike many former contributors whose names I will not divulge but rhyme with Fartin and Fatt—I don't write in a fucking vacuum; I take le baton and keep the flow going, innit). Tokushoryu got up and under Osunaarashi and the Egyptian had nowhere to turn as he was escorted out to his second straight mud puddle.

The proceeding contest had two Mongolians, Tokitenku and Arawashi, hooking up like they were grappling teens training on the shores of ol' Lake Kucherla. Natsukashii

As straight up a yotsu bout as you're ever likely to see, it was Tokitenku simply outmuscling his countryman for the steady and slow yorikiri forceout, much to the delight of these two skeletonish old ladies dressed in almost identical fuchsia getups in the third row. Who needs Gold Hat Man when ya got the Rose Kennedy twins?

Yoshikaze came in doing some jazz hands riff on Sadanofuji's titties. As you might well imagine this flummoxed the big E15, and his plan to get inside and force Starbuck down met with little success as the stooped over W11 refused to topple, and instead, staring straight down into the clay, lurched forward for the nicely gained pushout win.

Shohozan and Kotoyuki may as well have been wearing nothing, because neither men made a move for the mawashi, instead rushing straight into a slapfest that ended when Kotoyuki lost the faith and went for a "Fredo," which the Golden One was having none of. Shoho showed who's the Ho, yo, sending the E14 flying out to land right on top of poor Chiyomaru, who was just sitting there minding his Ps and Qs and wondering how he was going to defeat Tamawashi in the next fight.

Well, I'll tell you how. He wasn't, that's how. (Clever writing, don't you think?) In the second straight bout wherein the belt was not needed (but MUCH appreciated, damn--imagine seeing Chiyomaru in the buff??), Tamawashi spurned his name and started in with a slap attack that had about as much effect on the Cliffs of Chiyomaru as buckshot on Rushmore. Sensing he had the Mongolian's number, the Kokonoe man took the action to his foe, slapping back with vim. And vigor. And verve. And vituperativeness (okay, so I went a little far there). Point is, Chiyo wasn't looking bad. . .until Tamawashi channeled his inner pre-schooler and opened a can of pat-a-cake WHOOPass around the W14's throat and thorax that caused him to lean in and succumb to hataki-komi smackdown.

(Read a newspaper for the first time in years yesterday, the Saint Anthony Herald Express, and found myself browsing the letters to the editor and thinking, "Lord, are people fucking stupid. Just like on Web comments." Then I recalled how before there WAS a Web, I would often write in to the Editor of whichever newspaper I was living around at the time, and half of my submits were me taking apart what some guy who believed he had some "insight" had written and got published in a previous edition. Sure, newspaper letters are edited for proper grammar so they SEEM more educated, but in reality, a good number of them are just as vapid and empty as most Web comments. And I'm an elitist prick.)

Now where were we? Oh yeah, Kyokushuho and Sadanoumi. It was a good tachi-ai for the W8 as he drove Kyokushuho straight back to the edge, but his left arm was being locked down by the E12 as he retreated, and he used it to take the Sakaigawa beya man down in less than two seconds. Like the saying goes, "If the Kyokushuho fits, wear it."

Winless Chiyootori has missed Days 3 and 4 due to the flu, so I was hoping his opponent, Sokokurai, would throw him out of the ring just so I could make some cheap "flu/flew" joke. Alas, my hopes went straight into the hopper as Sokokurai danced his gal in tightly in the center of the ring, then twisted him backward while tripping him in a most judoesque manner. Ippon and first victory of the basho for the E10.

Homarefuji's sumo today was sharp as a straight razor, and don't you think Kyokutenho didn't know it. Let me tell YOU something! The younger man showed his hunger, man, by blasting the veteran with two hands to the chin, causing the E7 to immediately retreat. The W10 was on him like a feminist on a wolf whistler, however, and the bout was over before it began, truth be told.

Up to this point in the day, every single bout (but for the one between winless Sokokurai and Chiyootori) ended with the wrestler at either 3-2 or 2-3. So when 4-0 Okinoumi stepped to the plate, I was getting a tingle that we might be looking at the guy in January who is going to be THAT guy, you know, the mid Maegashira who, just out of reach of the jo'i, fattens up on guppies till they put him against the sharks starting around Day 11 and we see his heretofore shining record come down to a respectable but still prize worthy level?

Today he was taking on Takekaze, who is known to pull a trick or seven out of his bag of. . .um. . .tricks? Luckily for us, Takekaze forewent playing the clown and instead played the straight man, giving big and tall Okinoumi a very honest slam at tachi-ai, albeit one that resulted in moving the E6 about as much as the Titanic budged the berg. Once it was established who was the mountain of cold ice and who was the bobbing can of tuna, there was nothing left to discuss except can Okinoumi win enough bouts to return to the Sanyaku where he assuredly belongs. Takekaze joins the 16 other guys who would finish the day at 3-2, one ahead of the 10 guys who finished 2-3. Looks like somebody rang the bell curve!

Coming in as per my Day 1 prediction at 3-1, Myogiryu had taken every bout since in dominant oshi-dashi form (well, I ASSUME yesterday's win was dominant—all I REALLY know is it was like. . .soy sauce ramen(??)) At any rate, today he took on beHWEmoth Kaisei, and reminiscent of little Kakizoe, took it to the man with some bullish bodying at the start, which led to a tenuous but usable two arms on the inside moro-zashi. Only problem was that while the E8 was doing his thang, the lovable Brasilian was snatching a front belt grip, one of those right above the nads deals, and he was able to straighten up his foe and spin him around for the comeback win. I still think he wins at least 10, but Myogi Bear receives no "rezzpit" tomorrow as it will be upon HIM to upset Okinoumi's 5-0 apple cart.

You might think that the much heavier Toyohibiki would finish off the fading Toyonoshima when they hook up in the kind of straight up yotsu battle they were in today (because Tugboat has lost that great destabilizing tugging ability he once had), but even with the bulk advantage he was not up to the task, and after a relatively lengthy and exhausting tilt, the Tokitsukaze man got the better of the alien from Hutt Space, sending him out to his fourth loss.

Aminishiki didn't have to work all that hard today, basically holding Chiyotairyu up for a few seconds and then backing slightly away and slapping down to his fifth straight loss. Check out time was 5 pm for Chiyotairyu and his family as his host at the B&B Aminishiki needed the extra bedding to prepare for his encounter tomorrow with big ol' Tochinoshin. Hope he didn't forget to sign the Guest Book: "Lovely accommodations. Great chanko. Atmosphere was pleasant and the futon soft and clean, if a little stained. Thanks for having us!"

Those of you who watch sumo much know that unless you are a large fellow, like Ichinojo or former Ozekis Baruto and Kotooshu, you don't typically open your arms up at tachi-ai and say, "Hug me, love me!" But that's the lameassed strategy 3-1 Jokoryu chose against 1-3 Endo. Cherry on top? He immediately went for a Fredo though he had no leverage whatsoever. This predictably led to Endo chasing him around the ring as he flailed to scamper away, ending up twisting into a pratfall of Vaudevillian proportions. Crowd goes home happy after this one, Rose Kennedy #1 being particularly exuberant in her exhortations. Camera panned to revelers in the crowd waving tiny Rising Suns. Gave me a chill up my spine.

Takayasu gave up an inside right to Ichinojo from the bell, but after a second was able to swipe that arm away hard enough that the Mongolith got turned to the side, where Takayasu was able to quickly swarm him and run him straight out to his 3rd loss. I'm sure he's taking the long view, but I wouldn't mind the young Mongolian showing a bit more pissed off fire after he loses in such a "Doh!" manner.

Busy this New Year writing crunchy chords and luscious licks, I can still picture in my mind's eye Kane (the only man in history to put the lit end of a spliff into his mouth and blow ganja smoke up into Alice Cooper's nose while simultaneously filling out Hakuho's nengajou), lying around in some comfortable house clothing, checking out the final six or seven bouts each day, to get the lay of the land, as it were (and it WERE).

If I'm correct, then he saw what I saw when Champion Kisenosato brought the hard pipin sumo thrusting to the tig ol' bitties of Aoiyama, who deftly escaped once at the edge, but could not escape a second time as Kisenosato marched straight across the dohyo to run the Sekiwake out to his third loss while The (28 year-old) Kid gained his fourth envelope.

Tochinoshin came in defeated and thus had great reason to go all out vs. Goeido, who was looking to remain one off the lead. The two hooked up into a yotsu battle, and it appeared that it was even and might go long. But then it became evident that No Shine's mawashi had been wrapped by the Kennedy Twins, and as they yanked at each other, Goeido's leverage slowly drained away and his face, should we have seen it, must have been like, "Dude, what the FUCK!"

Abandoning from his left hand the strand of mawashi that was now somewhere up inside Tochinoshin's armpit, he attempted a knee slap ("fresh!"), but was quickly torqued by The Private into what I like to call the "Lick It Up, Boy" position. Still not ready to die, Goeido, legs splayed wide, gave one last great tug on the back of the belt, which he held in his right hand. Tochinoshin reached down and pulled the Ozeki's leg straight up and crushed him down in a scintillating finish (so exciting, in fact, that I paused my recording and quickly went to Amazon to order my OWN fuchsia bonnet). The kimarite of "uwatenage" suggests the judge thought Goeido himself lifted his leg up into the W 1's crotch as a trip attempt, and missed No Shine's role in it.

Taaa. . .kaaa. . .raaa. . .FUji, eh
He utterly LOST today
By oshiDAshi, ne
TakaraFUji, eh

Kotoshogiku was so psyched about beating Takarafuji that he dropped straight to the clay and gave us twenty after the win. Lottery Man took a page out of Jokoryu's playbook, opening his arms to greet the Ozeki, and doing nothing but ride the tackle sled backward and out. Geeku was all, "Thanks for the keiko, bro!"

Hakuho avoided a loss at the hands of Osaka's own Ikioi. Both men brought a hard chesty tachi-ai, and likewise both went for the front mawashi grab. Ikioi's was broken by Hakuho, who used his own to drive the W2 to the bales. Looking for all the world like a routine yori-kiri win for Kublai, the Isenoumi man somehow turned enough to the side while pulling down that the Yokozuna fell to the clay as his foe seemed to step back and out AFTER the Grand Champion fell. The goyji pointed to Hakuho straightaway, and while the crowd flipped out and the announcers showed their unbiased displeasure, the replay clearly showed Ikioi's heel touching out before Hakuho hit the dirt.

Watching ringside and taking notes, Yokozuna Harumafuji did not want to take any chances it seems, and so he just leapt to the side as Tochiohzan came forth, and escorted him to the clay with his hand on the knot at the back of Oh Snap's mawashi. Lacked a bit of hinkaku (I'm such a purist) and I'd prefer to see him play it straight, but when it's all said and done, who cares? Certainly not HowDo. He'll take his 5-0 and sleep soundly. What about you?

Having had one Yokozuna almost screw himself, and another screw a Komusubi, it was poetic indeed that the final bout of the day would feature a long, hard struggle with a mighty Kak. Terunofuji, who is obviously feeling his oats here in the Eastern Capital, settled in to a yotsu battle with Kakuryu that had me on the edge of my seat (and I was sitting on the FLOOR!) The cheeky bastard even opened with a slap straight into the Yokozuna's mug!

With both men rather evenly matched in height but the E2 outweighing the Yokozuna by a bunch, it was all Kakuryu could do to use the occasional lift up or leg sweep to try and get Terunofuji off balance, where Kakuryu could use his mobility to his advantage. Both men tried numerous lifts, only to be thwarted by the other dropping his hips and refusing to be taken out like the trash.

The crowd was going wild, and the Kennedy Twins, bedecked like a float in a Filipino parade, with one who's HAIR was even dyed the color of Frankenberry, were mouth agape at the wonder of it all. Finally, after many tense moments, Terunofuji used his leg to stave off a crushout, but in doing so was easy fodder for being pulled back across the ring by the front of his mawashi and knocked out. I'm even tried WRITING about it.

Sadly, Kane truly IS too busy to write this time out, as his estate is undergoing some major renovating in the kitchen and also the shop adjacent to the home where he produces ROCKIN industrial tubes for organs in Swiss cathedrals. It's all about the music with this guy.

So I'll prolly see yall on Day 8. Till then, who can say if the muse will grab Mixmaster Mikenstein and bid him write. I imagine ST will be taking a miss either Day 6 or 7. Blame it on Martin, who is gone like the wind, and Matt, also a victim of time and temperament. C'est la guerre. 

Day 4 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
I'm hungry, so let's get right to it.

Tokushoryu is like a great big piece of blubbery pork fat swimming in the dohyo bowl of greasy pork bone broth. Kagamioh swam around in the fat and pork long enough that Rubber Blubber couldn't take it anymore and was pushed out onto the table.

Kotoyuki is like a prancy poncy bowl of "Ise Lobster" ramen with his strutting and yelling and salt throwing and chest thumping, and I was glad to see Osunaarashi blast Kotoyuki's arms out of commission with a wicked forearm upper, after which pretty-boy-show-off (Kotoyuki is my new pet hate) basically run away while Osuna, who is like a hamburger dropped in the mud, blasted him out for tsuki-dashi, good measure.

Tokitenku today was like the wimpy noodles in Kyushu style ramen, all thin and stringy and overcooked and strengthless. Chiyomaru was dumped in his bowl like a baseball-shaped-and-sized dumpling: Chiyomaru grabbed Tokitenku by the throat and whipped him to the ground in a second flat, splashing out all his soup: "you sunk, you noodle!"

Sadanofuji against Arawashi was lots of fun, Arawashi like zesty peppers dancing a jig around the rim of the bowl and Sadanofuji like a heavy porcelain spoon, just leaned over in there ponderous and all too thick. I thought Hot Peppers had this one when he managed to get hold of Big Spoon's arm, but Big Spoon just stuck with it and let Arawashi dance himself to the dirt.

Kyokushuho and Dingsbums (Dutch for what's-his-name), that is, the forgetable Homarefuji, went slappitty-flappity-bappity-boom-a-rom-toom with a fairly glorious tsuppari festival, like a dude playing the drums in his ramen soup with chopsticks: messy, splashy! 'Ventually, sumpin' spills out, and it was Homarefuji-Dingsbums.

What would coffee ramen taste like? It tastes like this: Snack Break (Tamawashi) tried to punch the clock and wait out all the tsuppari that was Yoshikaze, hoping Yoshi'd spill himself, but that didn't work: Yoshikaze is better, and eventually said: get out of my ramen, you cheese-curdled milk! and pushed Snack Break out.

Who wants Cheetos in their ramen? Not Myogiryu. He and Shohozan pushed each other until one went out, that being the smaller Shohozan. Plain but good. Shoyu ramen.

There's this Chinese spice you can sometimes get in ramen that numbs your mouth: no burning hotness, just an odd, anaesthetized feel. Sokokurai must have had about ten pound of that before his match, while Sadanoumi must've been drinking Yoshikaze's coffee, because Sadanoumi dominated with a forceful display of ar-arrrr-arrrrrrr-arrrrrrrrrggggghhh! (that's the sound of pushing a man out of a ring, straight).

Doodle-oo, a-deedle, da da… Toyohibiki's a comin' down road, hoo de dum—and-Takekaze-jumps-out-from-behind-a-bush-and-pulls-him-down! This match was like ramen left on the counter overnight: congealed fat no one wants to eat.

My world's favorite ramen shop is Genka, a family-run, ancient place in the Toranomon district of Tokyo, full of white-shirted sarariman getting the basic old shoyu ramen. Very workaday. Kyokutenho was like that: good old fashioned sumo from this classic, underappreciated force. Kyokutenho wrapped his powerful arms around Chiyotairyu like a giant squid, strode forward with Bunyanesque steps, and destroyed his opponent in seconds flat. Genka!

Okinoumi and Jokoryu got in a good, lengthy belt fight. Jokoryu had the first throw attempt, but like an aji tamago (a kind of soft-boiled-egg) you just can't grip with your chopsticks, Okinoumi was dropped back into the bowl, albeit at the edge. Then Okinoumi pulled as lovely a twirling throw as you're likely to see, spinning Jokoryu around and dumping him down on his back like he'd planned it all along, using all the space available to him though he himself was near the edge. Like when you finally split the aji tamago in half with your chopsticks and the half-cooked yolk runs out all over. Satisfaction.

Toyonoshima pushed and pushed and pushed on Aminishiki's chest and shoulders, and had him near the edge, and I thought, "yeah, good old Tugboat still has it!" But then Shneaky stepped non-chalantly to the side, put one hand on the small of his lady's back (okay, it was her butt), and ushered Tugboat discretely out like a gentleman escorting his baby through the door of Tokyo's most classicly fashionable ramen joint, Ippudo.

Takarafuji and Kaisei looked like a couple of overcooked scallops swimmingly sluggishly in a bowl of gloppy-thick Hokkaido butter-ramen; the whole match was in slow motion as they shoved each around in circles with high arm-to-body action. Takarafuji paid the price and got slopped out over the edge.

Aoiyama was like a mean cook who puts too much cold, flabby chashuu on your ramen, then piles on more, and more: he had Takayasu literally staggering after a good half minute plus of meat-slabbing. But the customer won in the end: Takayasu unexpectedly said, you know what? I'm dumpin' your friggin' meat-mass on the floor! At the very moment it looked like Aoiyama was just ushering him out—Takayasu was even facing the tawara, with Blue Mountain behind him—Takayasu reached out with his left hand, clutched Aoiyama's belt, and threw Aoiyama out inside. Dead beef on tile.

If you vomited in your bowl instead of filling it with ramen, THAT is what the Goeido/Tochiohzan bout was like. Nice enough tachi-ai, with Goeido juking and weakly imitating Hakuho's arm-bar, but then Goeido stepped out to the side and Tochiohzan when hoppity-hop past him like a bird on a branch. As Tochiohzan busily pretended "oh, I just can't stop my momentum!" Goeido gave him an eensy little love tap and watched him lose.

And then Kotoshogiku and Ichinojo actually drank the bowl of vomit! Ichinojo did a lazy little post-tachi-ai henka to his right, grabbed Kotoshogiku by his head, and spun him down. Not a fussy chap when it comes to winning, that Ichinojo.

Folks, I like Kisenosato. Yeah, he don't seem real inventive or instinctual, but these days bout after bout he puts out a lot of solid, old fashioned sumo. Today he and Tochinoshin pushed hard on each other's uppers for a while, then Kisenosato doubled-down and got an outer grip and worked Tochinoshin out with superior power, and that's saying something. Sanratanmen has gelatin in it, which makes it look stolid, but keeps the heat in right down through.

Is Harumafuji going to keep us in Hakuho-suspense by taking the yusho this time? Harumafuji Ramen Jiro'ed all over Endo today: dumped piles of cabbage, garlic, and fat-back all over him until it slathered egregiously down the sides of the bowl. Endo was expecting a polite dinner; instead, Harumph snatched up his serving, sloshed the burning hot fat and warped noodles in Endo's face, upended the table, and smashed the empty, heavy, sky-blue porcelain receptacle over Endo's carcass. "There's your freakin' dinner, Baby Big Star!"

Kakuryu was the chopsticks, Ikioi the noodle: Kakuryu fished for him, fished for him, fished for him, reeled him and slurped him down: hataki-komi.

And then, I saw The Future. Terunofuji is a big fellow, heavy and hard to move. He got to Hakuho's belt early but couldn't hold it—but nor could Hakuho drive The Mountain of Terror out: too much weight. Hakuho got both arms inside, though (moro-zashi), and normally this should be a dominant position for him. Nothin' doin'; Terunofuji used his swollen-dill-pickle arms to clamp down on Hakuho's arms (kime), immobilizing Hakuho, and you could see Hakuho thinking, "um, okay, I might lose today." There was a delicious moment when Terunofuji buckled Hakuho's legs, like a car bouncing its shock absorbers. But Hakuho is not the most dominant rikishi ever for no reason. Having thought it over, he wrenched himself out of the morozashi/kime, put a hand on the back of Terunofuji's head, and threw Fuji the Terrible down: smooth, powerful, and quick. Great match here. Like late-night spicy tsukemen at Monjiro's in the basement labyrinth of the Osaka Station buildings: take your time, enjoy the art.

And now I am full.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Two bouts into today, NHK panned in close to the sell-out banners hanging from the rafters of the venue, and on cue Sawada Announcer explained that this was the first day 3 sell-out in Tokyo since the 2006 Hatsu basho, the last time a Japanese rikishi took the yusho. They showed a clip of the final bout between Asashoryu and Tochiazuma with the yusho on the line, and the rikishi hooked up in hidari-yotsu with Asashoryu just standing there like a bump on a log waiting for Tochiazuma to throw him down. Tochiazuma complied about two seconds in, and as I watched the replay, it was evident that the last time a Japanese rikishi took the yusho, it was due to a gift from the Mongolian Yokozuna (where have we heard that before?)!

Just for fun, I went back in time through the archives of ST and looked up senshuraku of that 2006 Hatsu basho. That Kelly feller had reporting duties back then, and he pretty much nailed it in his analysis. Course, we weren't yaochotalk.com back then, so I think we were a leedle bit more discrete in our comments, but here's a snippet of that Kelly feller's breakdown:

...do you really think The Khan was all that saddened to see Tochi win and give himself a chance to be promoted [to Yokozuna]in Osaka? All Tochi will need is a runner-up 13-2 with perhaps a win over the Yokozuna to be promoted, as desperate times call for desperate measures. It seemed to me that Asashoryu's legs were generously immobile during that final throw today.

As the late Stuart Scott would say about such a good take:  booyah!

My purpose here, though, is not to point out how cognizant we were of the politics behind the scenes even back in the day when Japanese rikishi could actually put themselves in a position to yusho; rather, I want to refocus on the fact that the venue was sold out on a Tuesday in week 1 in Tokyo for the first time in nine years. What would bring the Japanese fans back to sumo at such a pace even when there are no domestic rikishi on the banzuke kickin' ass and taking names? I've beaten the answer like a dead horse for seemingly the last two years, but as a follow up to the theme in my day 2 intro, sumo has had to compromise a few strategic bouts here and there in order to maintain the notion that the Japanese rikishi are doing well and worth following. Day 2 was a classic example of how well the fans have been programmed to accept this notion, and in order to sustain this premise, there will be plenty more favors in store.

Turning our attention to the ring, M14 Chiyomaru greeted M16 Tokushoryu with two hands to the chest, and Tokushoryu complied in the oshi-zumo affair. The only problem was that Tokushoryu's hands were out wide allowing Chiyomaru to focus his attack to the inside and capitalize on the tsuki-dashi win. Perhaps a bit too easy here as Chiyomaru picks up his first win while Tokushoryu cools off a bit at 2-1.

M15 Sadanofuji greeted M13 Osunaarashi with a left outside hook to the Ejyptian's extended right arm, but he didn't do anything with the move. With Sadanofuji just standing there like a bump on a log, Osunaarashi slipped out right and slapped Sadanofuji down by the right shoulder for the easy win. I have no idea why these two would be in cahoots, but Sadanofuji just stood there and waited to be slapped down. Perhaps he was inspired by the Asashoryu - Tochiazuma bout at the start of the broadcast? Both dudes are now 2-1.

M12 Kyokushuho grabbed the left uwate from the tachi-ai against M15 Kagamioh, who didn't defend the left side either, so as soon as Kyokushuho secured the right inside, it was curtains. Both rikishi end the day at 1-2.

M11 Yoshikaze must have under estimated M14 Kotoyuki--I know I did--because at the tachi-ai, Kotoyuki used great de-ashi to catch Yoshikaze by the throat and just bully Monster Drink back and out for the...wait for it...the tsuki-dashi win! What was all that bidness of Kotoyuki limping down the hana-michi yesterday? I guess it worked because we all thought Kotoyuki was a lame duck coming in. Props to Kotoyuki who moves to 2-1 while Yoshikaze falls to 1-2.

M11 Shohozan caught M13 Tokitenku with a wicked left hand to the neck standing Tokitenku completely upright, but Shohozan didn't drive forward allowing Tokitenku back into the bout using a choke hold and shoves of his own to keep the action in the center of the ring. Now with Shohozan standing upright and a bit lost, Tokitenku executed a perfect sweep with the right leg (suso-harai) tripping Shohozan over for the win. Tokitenku moves to 2-1 while Shohozan falls to 1-2.

M10 Homarefuji looked to charge forward hard from the tachi-ai, but M12 Arawashi stepped out left a bit and yanked Hormarefuji's extended right arm throwing him off balance just enough to where he was able to pounce in and shove the wobbling Homarefuji across the straw for good. Arawashi is 3-0 if ya need him while Homarefuji suffers his first blemish'a the basho at 2-1.

M8 Myogiryu smelled blood against the smaller M10 Sokokurai ramming a left shoulder into him at the tachi-ai as Sokokurai drifted right and then unleashed an effective shoulder pull as Sokokurai looked to get back into the bout. Less than two seconds in, Sokokurai was pulled over to the rope, and the speedy Myogiryu was right on his arse finishing off his bidness before Sokokurai could counter with the left to the inside. Myogiryu moves to 2-1 while Sokokurai needs to get his shat together at 0-3.

M9 Takekaze got his left arm planted firmly into M7 Kyokutenho's right armpit at the tachi-ai sending Kyokutenho over to the side, and as Kyokutenho looked to square up, Takekaze slipped outside and just yanked Tenho down hikkake style. Takekaze ain't no spring chicken at 2-1, but he's making Kyokutenho look his age as the forty something falls to 1-2.

M6 Toyohibiki pushed M9 Tamawashi back from the start, but he wasn't really bullying The Mawashi back nor connecting on the type of shove that would lift Tamawashi off of his feet. Still, Ibiki looked to be in control forcing Tamawashi to the edge, but just like that, Tamawashi slipped out right and caught his gal with a right hook to Toyohibiki's left elbow sending him across the dohyo's edge first giving Tamawashi the sweet counter win and 2-1 record. Toyohibiki is sputtering out of the gate at 1-2.

M6 Okinoumi secured the right inside from the tachi-ai against M8 Sadanoumi, and the youngster's reaction was to evade laterally and go for a surprise pull with the right hand. A surprise it wasn't as Okinoumi capitalized on Sadanoumi's compromised position plowing him across the tawara for the quick yori-kiri win. Okinoumi is a cool 3-0 while Sadanoumi needs to quit over thinking things at 1-2.

Well, we got our first glimpse of M5 Chiyotairyu's tsuppari today from the tachi-ai against M4 Jokoryu, but we also got our first glimpse of his stupid pull habit half a second later, and Jokoryu was right there in Chiyotairyu's grill scoring the easy oshi-dashi win over his ailing opponent. These two dudes are heading in opposite directions with Chiyotairyu falling to 0-3 and Jokoryu soaring to 3-0.

Seems like it's been awhile since M4 Toyonoshima secured moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but damned if he didn't do it today against M5 Kaisei. Toyonoshima wasted no time lifting Kaisei upright and forcing him straight back and out. It's funny because you watch an M4 do this with such ease here, but then a guy like Goeido will get the quick moro-zashi and just whiff his way to a loss. Tugboat is 2-1 while Kaisei falls to 1-2.

Well, the sheep in the sell-out crowd are starting to all bleat in unison, so that must mean it's M3 Endoh's turn. Dude had the perfect opportunity to slay a hobbled M3 Aminishiki today, and he meant well from the start using a tsuppari attack to send Aminishiki to the edge, but just like that Aminishiki slipped to his right proving how weak the tsuppari were. As Aminishiki looked to duck back into the fray, Endoh went for a pull that had Aminishiki slumped over lower than those ridiculously old grandmas in Japan who push those mini shopping carts to the market, and at this point is when the winning rikishi delivers that lethal blow from above that sends his opponent to the dirt for good.  But Endoh couldn't do it. With Aminishiki still staring down at the dohyo, he grabbed Endoh's right leg and just bulldozed him into the front row ashi-tori style. Aminishiki takes the lead at 2-1 while Endoh falls to 1-2 after that fluke win against Ichinojo on day 1.

Okay, here's a question for you: why are they interviewing Aminishiki today after defeating an M3 rikishi with a 1-2 record? That only happens when you upset an elite rikishi, and by pulling Shneaky into the interview booth, it gives the appearance that Endoh belongs in the elite class of rikishi.

In the duel between our two Sekiwake, Ichinojo easily got his right ham to the inside against Aoiyama, and as we've seen in the past, if Ichinojo gets that arm to the inside, he's tough to beat. Aoiyama attempted a feeble left kote-nage, but Ichinojo moved well and easily bodied Aoiyama back and across for the dominating win. Once again, something fishy is going on with Ichinojo. He could have easily done this yesterday in my opinion against Aminishiki, and I wasn't buying that 1-8 keiko session nor the day 1 loss against Endoh from the start. I don't know what's in the cards for Ichinojo this basho as he ekes to 1-2, but at least he got a face full of teets on the night...how many guys can claim that? Aoiyama suffers his first loss falling to 2-1.

Komusubi Tochiohzan got moro-zashi against Ozeki Kotoshogiku with ease from the tachi-ai, so the question here was did he want to win the bout? Thankfully he did as he easily survived a right kote-nage counter from the Ozeki before just whipping him over and down with a left scoop throw. I really think Tochiohzan could be 2-1 at this point had he chosen, but his lot so far seems to be 1-2. Kotoshogiku suffers his first loss finishing the day at 2-1.

M2 Terunofuji used a rare hari-zashi approach at the tachi-ai slapping with the right and getting the left to the inside. The slap didn't exactly connect allowing Ozeki Kisenosato a left inside of his own and the right outer grip. Still, the Ozeki could do nothing with the advantageous grip and just allowed Terunofuji to swing him around with the left inside, and after two swings, the Ozeki was up against the edge with Fuji the Terrible barreling into him and sending him across the dohyo. Sawada Announcer expressed shock that this loss meant that all three Ozeki now had at least one loss by day 3, and I'm like...are we watching the same sport? Once again, though, it's yet another subtle message to signal to the Japanese fans that these Ozeki are better than they really are.

Komusubi Takayasu reached right for an outer grip at the tachi-ai allowing Ozeki Goeido to snuggle in close leading with the left to the inside, and the Ozeki used his momentum to body Takayasu back to the edge where Takayasu was upright with his left hip exposed. The right outer was there for the taking for Goeido, but he couldn't force his way into it allowing Takayasu to slip right near edge and keep the bout alive. As Takayasu looked to hook back up, Goeido used a right kote-nage to send Takayasu to the center of the ring where he succeeded in a maki-kae attempt giving him moro-zashi. From this point, Takayasu just gave up and raised both hands high as if to say "do me now" and Goeido complied scoring the yori-kiri. Goeido moves to 2-1, and I too am shocked that he's not 3-0 while Takayasu falls to 0-3.

Yokozuna Kakuryu latched onto a left frontal grip from the tachi-ai against M1 Tochinoshin and added an equally lethal right inside grip on the other side bullying Tochinoshin back to the edge in an instant. Shin used his sheer size advantage to attempt a counter move, but the Yokozuna had him pinned against the edge and finished him off in short order sending NoShine down to an 0-3 mark. No offense to Takarafuji, but had Kakuryu wanted to do you in this fashion yesterday, he could have. You watch Kakuryu (2-1) bully one of the biggest dudes in the division back and out like this and wonder why he doesn't do this everyday.

Yokozuna Hakuho got his left arm to the inside of M1 Takarafuji (1-2) at the tachi-ai and had Fuji pushed back so fast the Yokozuna didn't have time to even grab a right outer grip. Course, he didn't need one here as he scored the quickest yori-kiri win you'd care to see. In the same vein as my comments for Kakuryu, you watch this and wonder why the Yokozuna doesn't do this every day. I know why, but I wonder if other people think the same thing. Hakuho is a cool 3-0 while the Ta Ka Ra Boom De Ay chorus will have to wait for another day.

Finally, Yokozuna Harumafuji used a stiff right paw into M2 Ikioi's neck at the tachi-ai, and with Ikioi upright and already on his heels, the Yokozuna just kept plowing forward using another right palm to Ikioi's chest easily sending him back across the straw in mere seconds. Harumafuji moves to 3-0 with the win, and I wonder if the Yokozuna decide to do sumo like this a day after one of them loses just to send the message that, "Yes, we are all that when we choose to be." Ikioi falls to 0-3 with the loss.

This basho is shaping up like the last five. Hakuho is in cruise control; the other two Yokozuna will methodically divvy out the gifts; and the rest of the pack will slowly hand each other losses leaving no one but Hakuho yet again to hoist the Emperor's Cup in the end.

Harvye spells me tomorrow, and while I know many of you tune in on day 3 to see the hot chick at the end of Kane's reports, this file photo of Kyokutenho in drag will just have to do.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I really enjoyed that Kelly feller's intro yesterday, especially his asking why he and I are still doing this. I don't think there's any question that creeping death is beginning to overtake Sumotalk, and you can see it as the content offered continues to dwindle. In my case, I think a lot of it is best explained by the phrase "been there, done that." I had two goals in mind when I set up ST clear back in 2002. Goal #1 was to provide coverage in the English language that no one else was capable of doing. Goal #2 was to put together a website that looked and sounded credible enough so that major news outlets would actually contact me seeking comment when big news stories broke regarding sumo.

I figured at the time that there had to be four or five thousand people across the globe who would be interested in Sumotalk, and when we started gaining a bigger and bigger fanbase, that number would quadruple at it's peak. As Sumotalk continued to grow, we were like, "Whoa...growth!" and it was easy to get excited about sumo and write about it because you frankly had kickass rikishi that were worth covering, and there were plenty of storylines to cover differently from the coordinated fashion in which the Japanese media was spinning things.

As that Kelly feller mentioned, though, over time sumo has changed, and I liken it a lot to the band Def Leppard. I still remember as a seventh grade kid when Pyromania broke in the US, and then when we found out that the band actually released two albums previous to that which were just as good if not better, it was total T&A. I never tired of listening to Def Leppard, and then there was that big wait before they released Hysteria. Hysteria itself was a great album, but you could detect things were changing ever so slightly. The guitar riffs were softer; they actually put a ballad on the album in Love Bites; and frankly they were beginning to introduce a more radio-friendly pop sound to their music. Once Adrenalize came out, it silled the dill, and while there were some catchy songs on there perfect for radio play, the band had begun to sell out to Top 40. I drew the line at Adrenalize, and it's a good thing because each successive album after that was nothing but crap. The band even managed to take one of their best songs, Bringin' On the Heartbreak, and turn it into a wimpy ballad.

And the thing is...I don't blame the band a bit. Rock N' Roll sadly was succumbing to the creeping death in the early nineties; the band knew it; and so they changed their sound to appeal to a more general audience as long as they could so they could continue to rake in the cash for as long as possible. It was a smart decision and one that has surely paid off for the band monetarily, but it still doesn't mean their music since then doesn't suck, and it doesn't mean that I have to like what they're producing even though the band still is Def Leppard.

To me, watching sumo these days is just like listening to Def Leppard's music from the 90's on: it's hard to do, and it's hard to get excited about because instead of letting the rikishi fight straight up, certain rikishi are being propped up and hyped in order to sell more tickets. I'm not saying that it's the wrong decision; what I am saying is that sumo is selling it's soul a bit for the almighty yen, and the true fans know it. The reason you haven't heard from Kenji in years is because this is not the sumo that he grew up on. Sure, Kenji's a devoted family man as we all are, but dude was watching sumo with his dad from the 70's. Though I haven't talked to him about it, I wonder if he feels a little bit of betrayal in regards to what sumo has become.

Despite all this, Sumotalk will not be shuttering its doors any time soon. I have no plans to end the site, but I think it helps explain why I may skip on a post-basho report or why the news pages are barely updated any more or why we might have some days during a basho where no comments are posted. If there's content you can find elsewhere on the innernet (like news updates), I'm not going to bust my ass to produce them here as well. What will continue to be produced here are sumo takes that cannot be found anywhere else on the web, and so long as I have something to say about the sport, Sumotalk ain't goin' anywhere.

Turning our attention to the action, the day 2 broadcast started with the graphic "Josei mo nesshisenn" plastered across the screen, and the direct translation of that phrase is "Even women have heated gazes." Kane texted me right away saying, "Dude, I know exactly what they're talking about," but when you factor in the cultural nuances, a more correct translation would be, "Even women have become ardent followers." Along with this graphic, they were also showing bouts from the past that featured Chiyonofuji, the best looking rikishi without question in the history of the sport, and a dude that surely appeals to women.

Once they focused the attention back into the booth, NHK introduced the day's guest, Misako Konno, a popular actress in her day who is aging beautifully (she's 54) and represents what Japanese women would define as "elegance." She was flanked by Kariya Announcer and Mainoumi, and then they had another woman in the mukou joumen chair, Hirai Announcer from NHK, who prolly spent most of the broadcast out of the chair wandering around the venue and introducing different aspects of the sumo experience live that would appeal to women.

The final piece of the puzzle was Hirose Announcer, the sports gal from NHK's popular News Watch 9 show that coincidentally airs at 9 PM in Japan. This is the Japanese news show I watch all the time since it airs live early in my morning. Anyway, Hirose Announcer is smoking hot and just what Japanese guys like...a hot chick to deliver their sports news. Hirose's duties were to introduce what goes on behind the scenes for NHK during the broadcast, and then she took care of rikishi interview duties after an upset, etc. So, 10 minutes into the broadcast it was clear that day 2 was solely devoted to the female fans, so I got comfortable in my pink nightgown and prepared for the action.

Just prior to the start of the bouts, Hirai Announcer caught up with several women entering the venue wearing kimono. As part of the mundane line of questioning, she asked the girls who their favorite rikishi was to which of course they all answered Endoh. It just amazes me how easily the Japanese people are programmed, but that wouldn't be the last robotic response on the day. Not even close.

Up first was the M16 Tosayutaka - M15 Kagamioh matchup, which was unfortunately a non-contest as Tosayutaka withdrew from the basho after a fluke day 1 injury. As the yobi-dashi showed the fusensho banner, Misako Konno literally groaned in the booth and said, "Zannen," or that's too bad. "I'm sure all of the fans were waiting to see these two fight." Yes, I'm sure all ones of them were looking forward to this matchup Konno-san. Ya know, there's a reason why Kane didn't try and reinvent himself as the next Justin Timberlake with that Kelly Feller and I as his backup dancers, and there's also a reason why you shouldn't put a clueless individual in the broadcast booth. Anyway, Kagamioh moves to 1-1 with the gift.

M16 Tokushoryu easily pummeled M14 Kotoyuki swiping his extended arms to the side and chasing him out in mere seconds oshi-dashi style. Kotoyuki limped on his left leg as he walked back down the hana-michi, and I'm not sure if it was wounded pride or an actual injury to his stump. He's 1-1 while Tokushoryu moves to a shweet 2-0.

M14 Chiyomaru came with a weak tsuppari attack that allowed M15 Sadanofuji to tsuki his way into the right inside position where he gathered his wits and just twisted Maru out near the edge. Chiyomaru has been circling the drain for a few basho now as he falls to 0-2 while Sadanofuji is a cool 2-0.

M12 Kyokushuho and M13 Tokitenku hooked up in migi-yotsu where Tenku dug in just a bit deeper. After faking an uchi-muso move, Tenku distracted his foe just enough burrowing in even deeper scoring the quick yori-kiri win. Tenkui's 1-1 while Kyokushuho is still an o'fer.

M13 Osunaarashi came with an average kachi-age while M12 Arawashi grabbed the right inside and flirted with the left outer grip. Arawashi was too far inside for Osunaarashi to really mount a charge, and so Arawashi maki-kae'd his way into moro-zashi and finished off the Ejyptian in fairly short order yori-kiri style. Arawashi moves to 2-0 while Osunaarashi continues to fade at 1-1.

M11 Yoshikaze got the left arm inside and then burrowed his head into M10 Sokokurai's right armpit for the effective yori-kiri charge and ultimate win. This was just a case of a savvy veteran out-quicking the nonchalant Sokokurai (0-2) as Yoshikaze picks up his first win.

M11 Shohozan was largely upright rendering his tsuppari attack as effective as Misako Konno sumo takes, so M10 Homarefuji persisted well finally ducking to the inside where he shoved Shohozan back and out causing Shohozan's right foot to barely touch out before Homarefuji swan dived to the dirt. A mono-ii was called and Konno-san inserted drama and exaggeration in her analysis where none really existed as they watched the replays. This was simply a mediocre bout from both parties with a close ending as Homarefuji moves to 2-0 while Shohozan falls to 1-1.

M8 Myogiryu got the right arm to the inside of M9 Takekaze who was high at the tachi-ai and looking to pull. The instant Myogiryu realized Takekaze wasn't moving laterally, he pounced and easily knocked his compromised opponent back and out for the nice win leaving both former Sekiwake at 1-1.

M8 Sadanoumi used tsuppari to keep M9 Tamawashi at bay before he moved left and yanked Tamawashi over by a tottari armbar throw of his left hand. Easy peasy Japanesey as Sadanoumi picks up his first win while Tamawashi is also 1-1.

At this point of the broadcast, they announced that M7 Chiyootori withdrew for a few days citing a case of the flu giving M6 Okinoumi the freebie. Once again, Misako Konno expressed feigned disappointment at not being able to see this matchup as well. While her comments were lame, she sure is a great actor as Okinoumi is an easy 2-0.

M7 Kyokutenho got the lazy, shallow left inside and outer right grip to boot against M6 Toyohibiki, and as he went to set up his usual retreat where he plants near the edge and swings his gal round and round, Toyohibiki threw him a curveball using the right hand in watashi-komi fashion at the edge tripping Tenho back and out of the ring first before the Chauffeur could complete his move. Pretty nifty counter move from the Nikibi as both fellas end the day as 1-1.

During halftime, there was more catering to the gals as Hirai Announcer wandered out to the section outside of the arena where all of the vendors line up. She gave us a few minutes of show and tell introducing useless wares like post cards, socks, and stuffed dolls featuring that yellow mascot bird, Hironoyama. At this point, I had my straight razor out ready to slit my wrists, but Hirai Announcer saved the day by dropping a little container of candy all over the floor as the vendor just watched in horror. Brilliant television, NHK.

Okay, where was I? The second half of the bouts started with M4 Toyonoshima and M5 Chiyotairyu hooking up in hidari yotsu where Chiyotairyu failed to execute his usual shoves the second day in a row. He did have the solid inside position and firm right outer grip, however, so the two dug in for over a minute. Near the edge, Toyonoshima struck with a left kote-nage throw that didn't topple Chiyotairyu, but it cut off his outer grip, and with that crutch having been kicked away, Toyonoshima scored the easy force-out win moving to 1-1. Chiyotairyu falls to 0-2 and is a dumbass for not trying to bully the smaller Toyonoshima around with his tsuppari attack.

M5 Kaisei and M4 Jokoryu hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Kaisei secured the right outer grip while Jokoryu stayed on the move spinning away and denying his foe a solid grip on the inside. Remember, the outer grip is largely useless if you don't have the inside on the other end, and Jokoryu eventually worked Kaisei near the edge gaining moro-zashi in the process where he was able to dump the Brasilian near the edge using an inner belt throw. Pretty nifty stuff as Jokoryu moves to 2-0 while Kaisei falls to 1-1.

Sekiwake Aoiyama came with tsuppari up high allowing M3 Endoh to actually slip into moro-zashi, but he began his charge without having his gal secured, so Aoiyama countered well with the left kote-nage before reversing gears and felling Endoh for good with a classic tsuki-otoshi with the right hand. Endoh really snatched defeat from the jaws of victory here drawing a short scream from Ms. Konno in the booth...a perfect example of how these fans are being brainwashed to think that Endoh is all that. What Endoh really is is a middleweight fighter trying to compete against heavyweights, but to listen to Konno-san gasp in horror that Endoh actually lost, she really believes all of the hype surrounding this guy. Endoh falls to 1-1 with the loss while Aoiyama improves to 2-0.  And as long as we're celebrating chick day today, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out Aoiyama's nice settuh hooters.

M3 Aminishiki moved right against Sekiwake Ichinojo looking for the quick pull which didn't work, but all Ichinojo could do was counter with a weak, non-committed pull of his own. With both rikishi standing upright, Ichinojo didn't even try to get to the inside allowing Shneaky to pull him down by the shoulder with a second volley. As I alluded to in my pre-basho report, something is just not right with Ichinojo, and I'm not referring to his physical condition. As I read the pre-basho keiko reports, it almost sounded as if everyone was purposefully bashing the guy. I have no explanation why that would happen, but something is not righ there. Maybe it is Ichinojo's physical condition, but whatever the case, he didn't even try to get to the inside today...against an old guy on his last leg...literally. Let's continue to watch the situation as the Mongolith falls to 0-2 while Aminishiki picks up his first win.

Komusubi Tochiohzan gained moro-zashi easily from the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kisenosato, but instead of pulling his gal in tight, he offered a lame two-handed shove near the edge creating needless separation and allowing Kisenosato to pull him down for the weak win. Tochiohzan's move here was inexplicable as Kisenosato moves to 2-0 while the Komusubi falls to 0-2. As they showed a close-up of the Ozeki waiting to deliver the chikara mizu to the next fighter, that girl in the background may as well have been me.

Next up was Ozeki Goeido, so you know that Misako Konno was on the edge of her seat ready to celebrate a mighty victory for the Ozeki over M2 Terunofuji. Or not. The two hooked up in migi-yotsu where Goeido enjoyed the deeper grip, and he was eventually able to work it into moro-zashi, but Terunofuji swung him over to the edge kime-dashi style and eventually bludgeoned Goeido down to the dirt drawing another scream from Konno-san, who was in shock that Goeido didn't win. I'm sure Konno-san represents 90% of the Japanese public who are programmed into thinking that all of this is real, and that Goeido is a legitimate Ozeki, and that the Japanese rikishi are on par with the Mongolians when nothing could be further from the truth. Both dudes finish the day at 1-1, and if you're an Ozeki with moro-zashi against an M2, finish him off already. Before we move on, Misako Konno's reactions when "top" dudes lost was so blatant that even the guys at NHK couldn't resist showing a replay of her gasping in horror at the supposed upsets.

M2 Ikioi came with a wild henka to his right giving Ozeki Kotoshogiku the insurmountable left inside position that he used to force Ikioi to the side and watashi-komi him back with the right hand at the back of the thigh...fresh! Sure, this was a tachi-ai henka from Ikioi, but he wasn't even trying to pull down his opponent. Looks like they are going to ensure that Kotoshogiku lives to fight another day as he moves to 2-0 with another gift. Ikioi couldn't care less with his 0-2 start.

The best bout of the day featured Yokozuna Hakuho and M1 Tochinoshin who hooked up in the gappuri migi yotsu position from the tachi-ai. Both rikishi tested the waters for a few seconds before Hakuho finally muscled Tochinoshin over and down with the right inside belt throw. While this bout was long, to me it felt like o-zumo because you had two big dudes going at it chest to chest where each had simultaneous grips. Tochinoshin was never close to scoring the upset here, but it was nice to see someone make Hakuho work a bit at the belt this early in a basho. Hakuho is an expected 2-0 while Tochinoshin is still winless.

Yokozuna Harumafuji used a rough and tumble tachi-ai leading with his head and slapping Komusubi Takayasu silly using the shove attack to send Takayasu over to the side and out in short order. The Yokozuna was just too quick here never allowing Takayasu to get anything going. Harumafuji is a cool 2-0 while Takayasu falls to 0-2.

The day's final bout saw Yokozuna Kakuryu come with the left nodowa and quick pull attempt against M1 Takarafuji . After that brief flurry, the two settled into the hidari-yotsu position, but the Yokozuna failed to even do anything with the left grip just keeping the hand in no man's land for a stretch and then eventually balling it into a fist. When you see that happen, you know something's amiss as the Yokozuna allowed Takarafuji to force him back to the edge, and with Kakuryu upright, Takarafuji loaded up for the tsuki otoshi kill with the right hand. Before he could deliver it, however, Kakuryu just flopped forward and to the side with the ridiculous fall as Takarafuji tried to catch up with the tsuki-otoshi shove. No matter. The funny papers will all report on Takarafuji's courageous victory, and the Japanese fans will accept it all at face value. Takarafuji picks up the cheap kin-boshi as both rikishi move to 1-1.

Kane is kyujo at the moment (queue another moan from Konno-san...no, not THAT kind of moan you sickos), so I'll be back tomorrow searching for pics of hot chicks preferably licking doorknobs.

Day 1 Comments (PZ Kelly reporting)
Well, here we are in January 2015, and it’s STILL difficult for me to believe that Y2K didn’t bring the world to its knees. Also hard to believe that Asashoryu has been gone for five years, as Mixmaster Mikenstein pointed out in his pre-basho report. Sumo sure has changed in the interim, and so has Sumotalk. No longer distracted and dazzled by the intensity in ten cities that was the Noughties, we have been forced to find our muse in such things as Baruto’s knees and Roho’s joints and Harumafuji’s skin and Ichinojo’s topknot. It’s often perplexing why Mike and I keep on keepin on.

But then we find ourselves browsing through all the candid photos that our fans send in via email and Polarioid, showing perplexed faces, brows knit with confusion at the latest hijinks, pleading with us to splain it for them. Or visages aglow with contentment as they drift in the syrupy warmth of their post-report stupor, minds hashing out the details recently presented to them with flair and flavor, and we realize we must struggle on for you, our beloved readers, who give so much, and ask for so little.

Also we don’t have much to do, and being the egomaniacs we are, sort of HAVE to do this as an outlet for our twitchy cerebellums. So even though I feel about as much hope that this tourney will rock as I do that Homasho will finally defeat Hakuho, let’s begin with the first match of the day.

Tokushoryu battered Tosayutaka back from the tachi-ai, and the W16 had no answer, falling down at the edge like a drunken wildebeest. The interesting twist of this bout was that Tokushoryu ended up with his right palm firmly pressed against his opponent’s anus. Hey, it’s not what it’s not.

Kagamio-o-o-o-o, Kagamio-o-o-o-o, Kagamio Figaro magnifico-ho-ho-ho-ho. . .he was not, trying a half-assed armbar from the get go and falling down on his own while doing it. Can you say "inauspicious start?" I knew ya could. But hey, Sadanofuji will take that any day of the week and twice on St. Swithen’s Day.

Kotoyuki used much the same tactic as did Tokushoryu, and Chiyomaru had no answer as well, but unlike Tosayutaka he at least stood his ground while Kotoyuki did his best Curley Howard tsuppari on him, nyaa-aaa-aaa-aaa, SOITENNY!

The next bout caused me to think of French cartoonists murdered for being funny, so didn’t realize notice what went down.

Arawashi got inside quickly on his fellow Mongolian Kyokushuho and wasted little time in wrapping him up and backing him out.

Shohozan and Yoshikaze had a nice slapping battle, and when Starbuck missed on one and Shohozan ducked in underneath it, the jig was up and Monster Drink was out.

Homarefuji snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by sneaking away from certain oshi-dashi death and getting a belt grip, which he used to sling Sokokurai around and out by some sort of nage. Proably uwate.

Sadanoumi seemed to think he could easily manhandle veteran Takekaze, but found to his consternation that the older gent has some spunk, some moxy left in his tank. Takekaze got under pits and just railroaded the flummoxed the W8 out faster than you could say, "The Christmas season is always disappointing."

Myogiryu was both overexcited and overextended, and got slapped down for his efforts by Tamawashi. I don’t expect more than a couple more losses from the M8, and predict he will end up in double digits, perhaps with 11 or 12 wins. This far down he is just a shark among guppies. But he’s got to keep his composure better than he did today.

Chiyootori accidentally walked into a Kyokutenho hug, and the former Mongolian was more than happy to oblige this suicidal tendency on the part of the W7, wrapping him up like he was his Secret Santa for win number one.

Toyohibiki was the aggressor throughout, keeping Okinoumi backing up and evading, but the Nikibi didn’t have the pop he needed and lost his footing at the edge for an ugly loss.

Chiyotairyu tried to move to the side of Kaisei at tachi-ai, but the big Brasilian stayed in tight and drove him out with ease.

Toyonoshima brought his A-game from the start, but Jokoryu was slick and hard to pin into the corner, and when Tugboat made his final push, the W4 slipped aside, got behind him, and made a man out of him like they used to do at SingSing.

The anticipated battle between Endoh and Ichinojo petered out after the Mongolith accidentally stepped too far back and slightly out with his heel. The fight had all the earmarks of Ichinojo biding his time and then winning by tiring his smaller foe out, but a foot is a foot, and so we was robbed. Course, with the Japanese hope winning his opener, fans found cause to smile (unless we’re talking about Dallas Cowboy fans—hahahahahahaha).

Aminishiki has visions of upset plums dancing in his head with an early front mawashi grip, but Aoiyama wisely moved back, drawing the W3 in and twisting him down with room to spare at the edge. Good start for the Sekiwake.

Ozeki (lmao) Goeido grabbed the cheap outside belt at tachi-ai by jumping to the side, and Ikioi was never able to catch his breath and easily backed out. Go Away Doh is kadoban after only his second basho as Ozeki, so he will likely be trying this kind of shite early and often.

Terunofuji tried to grab the front of Kotoshogiku’s mawashi at the tachi-ai, and you can guess how well THAT turned out as Geeku ran him out like a drunken Presbyterian at a Quaker service.

Takarafuji had Kisenosato dead to rights at the edge, but did not have the strength to "sill the dill" as they say in Salt Lake (and letting go of that outside right belt grip he had right at the edge was also prolly not a great idea). The Ozeki turned the tables and yorikiri’d him out for the crucial Day One victory.

Tochinoshin, who went absolutely apeshit from down at M8 in Kyushu, took on Yokozuna Harumafuji from the W1 slot. HowDo greeted him with a fine how do ya do smash to the gob, which the Private dutifully absorbed. It looked like it might get innerestin, but Tochinoshin missed as he pushed forward, and Harumafuji yanked his crank (in this case his crank being his arm) and got behind him, then took him out in classic NAMBLA style. Somewhere Martin smiled knowingly.

Takayasu almost caught Yokozuna Kakuryu at tachi-ai, giving the Mongolian a good slap to the kisser with one hand while pushing down on the back of his head with the other (a common date move in the SEC, I hear) but the Kak rose up tall and proud and produced a roundish roundhouse with such impeccable (not to be pecced) timing that Takayasu went galumphing down to his fingers with nary a whimper.

Final bout has the most dominant rikishi of any era in the history of sumo in Hakuho, offering Komusubi Tochiohzan a forearm to work with at tachi-ai. This caused Oh Snap to back up with some separation, and the crowd started to get a bit giddy, but within a moment they deflated as Tochiohzan charged forward and was once again greeted with a forearm, but this time it was coupled with face slap and a pull that took the Komusubi down.

Sorry for the truncated and humorless report, but I was preoccupied by watching football all day, and playing three hours of tennis singles at night. I promise my next report will be chockablock with all sorts of screwed up goodies, most of which you’ll dismiss without even noticing, morenlikely.

Officer Mike is up tomorrow to pull over a suspect and have his body camera inexplicably malfunction.























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