Kenji Heilman

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Haru Basho Roundtable
This was the best basho since Aki 2002 when Takanohana's improbable comeback captured the nation. In Haru 2004, much of Japan noticed sumo again for several reasons: 

1. Asashoryu collected his 6th yusho in perfect fashion for the second straight time, bringing his winning streak to an even 30. This is now good enough for 6th all time, behind the likes of Futabayama (69 in a row), Chiyonofuji (53), Taiho (45) and Kitanoumi (42). That's sterling company. The nation is starting to notice thanks to the media hype. 

2. We had some historic "firsts" this basho, like 4 rikishi being 11-0 and 3 rikishi being 12-0. 

3. Neither had sumo ever seen the whopping 32 kensho (ad banners) that paraded around the ring on day 15, crushing the previous record of 27 set last basho. Heck, by the time the PA announcer finished calling out all the sponsors, it was almost time for the tach-ai. Sho pocketed a cool 960,000 yen for three seconds of work against Chiyotaikai. 

4. We had a Mongolian win the Makuuchi Yusho, a Mongolian among the runner-ups (Asasekiryu), a Mongolian win the Juryo Yusho (Hakuho), and 2 other Mongolians win majority in their Sekitori debuts (Ama, Tokitenku). The Mongolians are kickin' some serious ass here. 

5. M12 Asasekiryu burst onto the scene in a big way, going 13-2 and garnering a special prize for the first time in career. Make that two special prizes, the Ginosho (technical merit) and Shukunsho (outstanding performance). He absolutely deserved both. 

6. And it's easy to forget that 15 days ago, we started this basho with all rikishi in the top two divisions participating for the first time since 1999. Didn't last long, though, as Tochiazuma withdrew on day 3. And here's how much stock to put in pre-basho injury news: Asashoryu (back), Chiyotaikai (left calf) and Kaio (tailbone) were all nursing injuries coming in but finished a combined 41-4. 

Asashoryu wins the tournament for the 4th time in 6 basho since becoming Yokozuna a year ago, and is undefeated in 2004. This accomplishment speaks for itself, but one statistic of note is that the average time of Sho's bouts in Haru basho was an eternity at 16 seconds when compared to the quick 6 seconds it took him to maul his opponents last basho. This figure is skewed by a couple of very long bouts, yes, but it tells me something that I very much noticed this basho versus last. He was not quite as aggressive. He used pull down techniques fairly often. He "watched" opponents with a cautious eye instead of plowing right through them. This is not entirely a bad thing, but something that I would imagine happens under the pressure of a mounting winning streak. No need to detract, though. Sho is king. Can he go 15-0 again? It has never been done three times in a row...

Ozekis Kaio and Chiyotaikai gave a valiant effort to chase Sho but settle for runner-up position at 13-2. Kaio lost to Mongolians Sho & Seki while Chiyotaikai lost to Sho and Kaio (again). They must feel like Kashiwado in the shadow of Taiho. The good news is that, despite not taking the cup, they both have legitimate shots at promotion after next basho if they win 14 or more in May. I give the edge to Kaio for this, considering Chiyotaikai's content was much less impressive overall. 

Musoyama goes 9-6 to escape kadoban for the 4th time. He had a chance for double digit wins for the first time since last July but, as Mike says, this guy doesn't care enough anymore. He finished 1-3 after collecting his 8th win, which included giving up at ring's edge against Asashoryu on day 14. 

Next basho it will be Tochiazuma's turn in the Ozeki ranks to be kadoban. There's always one, isn't there? 

The Sekiwake and Komusubi ranks both disappointed. Wakanosato took the whole 15 days to win majority, finally getting it today by upending the feisty Asasekiryu. If only Waka could perform like he did today everyday. Until he decides to do so, he can join the lackluster club with buddy Musoyama and Takanonami. Kotomitsuki goes 7-8 and had a terrible first half. I'm not sure if it's his tired body or what, but we expected more from him after shined so brightly in January. The Komusubis, Shimotori and Kakizoe, both come in at 6-9 but this is somewhat understandable considering it's their first basho this high up. Shimo could have had the honor of inheriting his stablemaster's shikona (Yutakayama) with a strong basho, but it wasn't to be. I give Kakizoe the edge here, as his fiery nature was entertaining this basho. Today he looked like Arase (remember him, old sumo fans?) with his gaburi-yori (pushing with his belly) technique to end on a winning note. 

Of the three juggernauts sitting at Maegashira ranks 1 through 3, we had two 8-7 records and one 7-8. Miyabiyama and Tochinonada pull it out and Dejima is the one out of luck. All of these guys started slowly. Meanwhile, Kyokutenho quietly put together a 10-5 record. He had to wrestle three times today against Buyuzan to get his 10th win. He'll be back at sanyaku in May, but his content has been unspectacular the last few months. 

The lovable Takamisakari at M9 won on day 15 to go 8-7. He's got to be the richest rank-and-filer ever, commanding at least 7 or 8 kensho banners every time he steps in the ring. Also garnering majority wins on senshuraku were M5 Tokitsuumi and M10 Kotoryu, who won 8 for the first time since last July. 

Worth a mention as well are 9-6 finishers M6 Hokutoriki, M11 Takekaze, rookie M14 Harunoyama and M16 Kaiho. 

Kokkai wreaked havoc early, starting on fire at 7-1, but finished 1-6 to barely get his 8 wins. I think he was forcing it a bit, and his inexperience showed. Not to worry. This guy is still going to be as big a hit as ever in a the near future.

Finally, let us not forget old man Kotonowaka at M13 turning in an inspired performance of 11 wins to collect his fourth Kantosho (fighting spirit) prize. His knee barely holding on, Koto was on the brink of retirement coming in but proved he's still got some sumo left in him. He even displayed a vintage win that took over four minutes. Let's see how long the 35 year old can hold up. He looks okay for now. 

Well, we had a full house in Osaka Gymnasium five times in 15 days. With Asashoryu embarking on history with his win streak, and with two future stars ready to crash the Sekitori scene in May (17 year old phenom Hagiwara- don't expect his real name to endure- and Bulgarian Kotooshu- he was perfect again taking Makushita with a 7-0 record), we should continue to see that number climb in the future. In fact, once Hagiwara and Kotooshu make it to the top of Makuuchi, Mike and I predict a renaissance equal to the Waka-Taka days. We'll have a Mongolian playing king of the hill with a Georgian (Kokkai), Bulgarian and one of Japan's own (Hagiwara). Can't wait!

Day 13 Comments
In the 55 years since sumo went to a 15 day basho format, we have never seen three undefeateds through 12 days until the Haru Basho 2004. Neither have we seen two from the same stable go as deep into a basho simultaneously undefeated. Another would fall from the ranks of these undefeated rikishi today, but not without being treated to one of the best bouts in recent memory. 

That bout was Chiyotaikai versus Asasekiryu. The Ozeki threw everything but the kitchen sink at the youngster, coming with his A-game tsuppari including shots to the face. He even threw in his trademark pulls four, count 'um, four times. Seki took it all and stood ground. The Mongolian even fought back with uncharacteristic tsuppari of his own, striking Chiyo in the face for good measure. At this point in the bout, when there was a brief pause, if you didn't jump out of your seat and shout for the underdog to win, I'd question whether you have a pulse. But alas, Chiyo did get in a nice nodowa in the end to stand Seki up and solicit a pull out of fatigue. Chiyo (13-0) pushed him out for the win but not before his toughest test of this basho. Props to the Ozeki for not allowing Seki on his belt. As for Seki (12-1), give him the Ginosho, Kantosho and Shukunsho as far as I'm concerned. 

The other much anticipated bout, of course, was Asashoryu against Kaio. This one paled in comparison to the Chiyo-Seki bout. It was almost a re-run of Kaio's loss yesterday to Asasekiryu. Sho disallowed Kaio to get inside with his left. Before Kaio could get a grip outside with his right, the Yokozuna unleashed a kotenage (hook throw) after briefly attempting a morozashi. It was over in three seconds. Basically, the pace was too fast for Kaio and for the second straight day the Ozeki loses the game of mental preparation and concentration. Asashoryu is 13-0 with 28 straight wins while Kaio drops to 11-2 and now barely remains in the yusho hunt. 

Musoyama (9-4) easily pushed out M7 Tochisakae (6-7) to set up a clash with Asashoryu tomorrow. Let's hope Sho isn't looking ahead to his day 15 bout against Chiyotaikai. If Sho's streak is stopped, I predict it's stopped tomorrow in this perceived "lull" bout against Musoyama, not on senshuraku against Chiyo. 

Garnering majority wins today to go 8-5 were Hokutoriki, Kyokutenho, Buyuzan, Kokkai (finally), Takekaze and Kaiho. 

As a sumo fan, you've got to now be hoping for a clash of the undefeateds between Asashoryu and Chiyotaikai on day 15, but who knows what's going to happen. After all, to borrow a hackneyed phrase, "it's Osaka".

Day 11 Comments
We are watching an unprecedented basho, folks. For the first time ever, we have 4 rikishi still undefeated after 11 days of sumo. This is a feat that probably won't be matched for a long, long time. It also won't continue, as the Kyokai has pitted Kaio against Asasekiryu tomorrow. Someone will finally go down. 

Starting with the upstart again, M12 Asasekiryu (11-0) showed impressive poise and strength in dismantling M10 Kotoryu (6-5) after being deadlocked in hidari-yotsu position. This is Kotoryu's favored stance but you wouldn't have known it by the way Seki remained in control and drove the veteran right out of the ring to remain perfect. 

Kaio (11-0) faced Tochinonada (5-6), who had beaten the Ozeki in 5 of their last 6 meetings. This one also went hidari-yotsu, except that Kaio had a handful of belt on both sides while Tochi had nada (get it?). Not a good situation for the Maegashira. But instead of a boring yorikiri, Kaio kept us honest with a rare sotogake (outside leg hook). When you're on, everything works. And Kaio is looking about as on as he's ever looked.

I can't figure out why Chiyotaikai (11-0) can't budge a little guy like Kakizoe but can drive right through a mule like Wakanosato (5-6), but that's exactly what he did today. It was by far the best sumo yet from our lovable, inconsistent Ozeki. He even got praise from his stablemaster (former Chiyonofuji), who regularly berates his own pupil in his newspaper column. That's got to be a good sign. Who knows, maybe Taikai is starting to peak at the right time. 

Asashoryu (11-0) greeted Kakizoe (4-7) with a slap to the face from the right, a thrust to the jaw from the left, a brief pull to keep him honest, then a lock on the belt from the right before shoving the Komusubi out. Except for the pull, it was vintage Asashoryu. Kakizoe did a commendable job hanging in there, but he was simply outclassed. 26 in a row now for Sho. As impressive as that streak sounds, though, that's only ninth best since the Showa era began back in the 1920's. 

In other bouts of interest, Takamisakari continues to take a beating. After enduring Mr. Ippun for over Yonpun (four minutes) yesterday with nary to show for it, today he got clocked by Jumonji (3-8) with a vicious harite at the tachiai that left him out on his feet. Sakari drops to 6-5 and looked like a half-conscious zombie limping back to the dressing room. 

Kokkai (7-4) can't get the kachi-koshi monkey off his back as he dropped his third straight after starting 7-1. Today he faced M9 counterpart Buyuzan (7-4) and got pushed out. He might be forcing it a bit, but that 8th win will come in the next day or two. 

Finally, Musoyama (8-3) collected his coveted 8th win against pretender Hokutoriki (7-4). Musoyama is having a solid basho but is being completely overshadowed by his colleagues. At least he got number eight before being matched up against them. 

All eyes will be glued to Seki versus Kaio tomorrow...

Day 9 Comments
"Areru Haru Basho", or Stormy Spring Tournament, this is not. The usual upsets are nowhere to be seen. For the first time in 15 years, we've got at least four rikishi 8-0 through eight days. Check that; they're all 9-0 now.

Mike's feature bout of the day pairing M9 Asasekiryu (9-0) and M12 Kokkai (7-2) had about five seconds of excitement and one minute fifteen seconds of nothing, which was disappointing and somewhat anticlimactic. Both men locked into hidari yotsu and stood there for what seemed like forever, very much unlike the aggressive Kokkai we are all accustomed to seeing. He did finally attack, but with only one layer of belt on the right side was unable to get much leverage. Seki deftly hooked Kokkai's leg from the inside while being pressured and toppled the much bigger rikishi. Seki's got a virtual lock on Ginosho this basho, and he's still perfect. 

Moving to the top of Maegashira, two former Ozekis Dejima (5-4) and Miyabiyama (5-4) are waking up finally. Dejima has won five straight after dropping his first four (he beat Iwakiyama) while Miyabi has won four straight after starting 1-4. Miyabi bested M3 Tochinonada (4-5) in a back and forth bout. 

Mike took a little shot at Kakizoe yesterday, but I happen to think he's done well this basho. Given his small stature I believe it's permissible that he use henka techniques as opposed to, say, a Chiyotaikai. Today he dominated none other than Wakanosato (4-5) by stopping the Sekiwake's strong tachiai, securing morozashi and aggressively driving out the joi veteran to bring his record to a respectable 4-5. 

Speaking of Chiyotaikai (9-0), must I comment on this guy? To avoid sounding like a broken record, I'll save you the details. I'll just say he's back to his shenanigans again, today pulling the reeling Tosanoumi (1-8) down for a win. Okay, so it's easy to pull Tosanoumi down. But still...SUCK IT UP AND SOLDIER ON FOR ONCE!

Musoyama (7-2) is one win away from holding rank with a nice win against Tokitsuumi (4-5). Muso got the right outside grip immediately and followed it up with a strong uwatenage. He's looking strong. 

Kaio (9-0) stayed perfect against a surprising tsuppari attack from Shimotori (4-5). After briefly retreating and pulling his opponent's arm in for leverage as he does so well when being attacked with tsuppari, Kaio turned the tables into a belt match and easily guided the Komusubi out. 

The musubi-no-ichiban got a collective gasp from the arena as Asashoryu (9-0) got into a classic throwing duel with M4 Aminishiki (2-7). Ami attacked smartly, putting his head down and securing the right outside grip. After jockeying for position with Sho for a busy few seconds, it became Ami's uwatenage versus Sho's shitatenage at the ring's edge, with Sho's throw ever so slightly prevailing. The Yokozuna is cutting it close, but the streak is still alive at 24 wins and counting. He is now tied for second in the Heisei era with former Yokozuna Asahifuji. 

We still have Sho, Kaio, Chiyo and Seki leading at 9-0. It's going to be an exciting finish!

Day 7 Comments
Asashoryu (7-0) moved up to a third place tie with Musashimaru in consecutive wins in the Heisei era, garnering his 22nd straight victory in hard-earned fashion against a valiant Kotomitsuki (1-6). It was a classic "Ozumo", one minute and 20 seconds of pure joy to watch as a fan, a rare match that had me pumping my fists and shouting at the TV. I guess at this point I'd like to see Sho go as far as he can with this streak. 

The match itself was a yotsu-zumo chess match from start to finish, one in which it took Sho quite a while to get good positioning. He found himself chest to chest against the bigger Mitsuki for much of it. But eventually Sho got his morozashi and got underneath. Again it looked as though he might unleash a tsuriotoshi but it was a shitatenage that did it. I must admit though that Sho looked a bit sluggish to me today. I didn't quite sense the edge he usually displays, and it took everything he had to overcome the struggling Sekiwake. Nonetheless, it was the best match I've seen this year. 

Kaio (7-0) and Chiyotaikai (7-0) both kept pace with Asashoryu. Kaio can feel good about it while Chiyotaikai should feel about as big as a spec of dirt underneath your pinky fingernail.

Kaio didn't need his right outside grip to guide Wakanosato (4-3) out of the ring with relative ease. This was due in part to Wakanosato being too careful not to let Kaio get that vaunted right outside grip. This completely defensive mentality killed any chance for Waka to win today. He had no offense to offer. 

It is completely unbelievable that Chiyotaikai is 7-0 this basho. He deserves to be 3-4, tops. After being stopped dead in his tracks today by Tamanoshima (3-4) at the tachiai, almost instantaneously he went for an ill-advised pull. Here we go again. Chiyo went flying out of the ring as Tama fell forward, and the gyoji gave it to Tama. With Chiyo feeling like an ant already for his cowardly habit rearing its head for the 5th time in 7 bouts this basho, what happened next was even better. A long mono-ii followed which resulted in the judges going against the gyoji and giving Chiyo a win for the absolute worst sumo he has displayed yet this basho. I honestly think he would have felt better if he had been given the loss. It was so bad that I can't imagine that he could possibly allow himself to use another pulling technique this basho. All this being said, I will cut Chiyo some slack by saying his gimpy left calf may be part of the culprit for his inability to push opponents back this basho. But hey, he sure looked good against Shimotori yesterday. Let's see what happens tomorrow. He has to be complete head case tonight. 

Musoyama (6-1) quietly continues to put together a solid basho, today winning in classic fashion against old rival Tosanoumi (1-6). You've got to love it when these two guys meet. The tachiai just doesn't get any better. Muso secured a strong left uwate to gain the advantage and eventually twisted down the reeling Tosanoumi. Tosa still owns 18-17 career advantage over Musoyama. 

Asashoryu, Kaio and Chiyotaikai are stilled joined by none other than M12 Asasekiryu atop the leader board with 7-0 records. Musoyama, M10 Kotoryu and M9 Kokkai are one loss back at 6-1. I'm telling you folks, I can't wait to see Kokkai matched up against Sho. I just can't wait...

Day 5 Comments
The joban, or first third of the basho, is in the books with five rikishi still undefeated. 

I was puzzled by M2 Kyokutenho's effort today against Asashoryu (5-0). Tenho (3-2) got a nice grip on the outside left and stopped Sho's usual relentless attack. You seldom see Sho idle in the ring, even for a few seconds, like he was today. So, what does Tenho do to take advantage? NOTHING. No offensive effort whatsoever. Meanwhile, Sho gave a throw attempt, a tsuridashi attempt, a makikae. Still, nothing from Tenho. I guess he was just waiting to lose, which he did when Asa gave another throw, this time a nice shitatenage to put Tenho down. I wonder if Tenho knows that you can't win if you don't try. Sho has now won 20 in a row. 

Chiyotaikai (5-0) remained undefeated and pushed an opponent back for the first time this basho. You might think this is good news, but unfortunately it doesn't count because the opponent was M1 Kyokushuzan (1-4), who backs up against everybody. 

Kaio (5-0) played the bully on the block today against poor M3 Tamanoshima (3-2), who suffered a debilitating kotenage (hook throw) for the second consecutive basho versus the Ozeki. It left Tama grimacing in elbow pain on the dohyo for about 10 seconds after the fact. These types of displays by Kaio are a little unrefined and over the top, but a nice showcase of his power. However, this rough-around-the-edges sumo is what gets him in trouble often, too. 

Musoyama (4-1) hit M2 Aminishiki (2-3), who had a career winning record against Muso coming in, hard at the tachiai, then slapped him down for a nice win. The prospects look good so far for Musoyama to shed his ubiquitous kadoban status. 

Wakanosato (4-1), after majestically lifting 150K for a tsuridashi yesterday, today showed his brute strength again unleashing a powerful defensive sukuinage (scoop throw) against 179K Miyabiyama (1-4). I'd like to see Waka and Kaio mix it up. 

In addition to Asashoryu, Kaio and Chiyotaikai, two rikishi in the rank-and-file won their fifth straight: Kokkai and Asasekiryu. Eventually, Kokkai versus Asashoryu is going to be a barnburner, folks. Takamisakari and Kotoryu both suffered their first defeats today.

Day 3 Comments
All active Ozeki and Yokozuna won today with various degrees of quality, topped off by the Asashoryu express that continues to roll at 18 consecutive wins and counting. On a sad note, Tochiazuma withdrew with a fractured bone in his left shoulder, giving Miyabiyama a much needed first win. Azuma, the just recent Yokozuna hopeful, will be relegated back to kadoban status in May. How times change so quickly. 

The Sho versus Shu Mongolian Musubi-no-ichiban was a real yawner. Sho cautiously disallowed Shu's antics and proceeded to blast him out. Thank you very much. Nothing to see here. 

Musoyama (2-1) showed a quality effort today against another solid showing by Komusubi Shimotori (1-2). Muso squared up and showed his vintage pressure attack, but Shimo scooped him to the side in a good defensive maneuver. Muso immediately seized the shift in momentum to slap down the now anxious-to-attack Komusubi. Good instincts. Shimotori is holding his own against the big boys so far, though. 

Chiyotaikai (3-0) won by pulling down his opponent, Kyokutenho (2-1) in today's case, for the third consecutive day. Chiyo has won 12 straight against Tenho, the last 6 coming from pull-downs. Collectively in three days, Chiyo has yet to drive an opponent back even a single step. 

Kaio (3-0) joined the hikiotoshi parade by pulling down Dejima (0-3), who is looking like his normal, awful self in the early going. If someone can get Dejima going early in tournaments, he'd be dangerous. Kaio, along with Asashoryu and Chiyotaikai, are the lone undefeateds in the upper half of Makuuchi. 

Sekiwake Wakanosato (2-1), aided by Tamanoshima's (2-1) ill-advised pull-down attempt, easily proceeded to a yorikiri win. Different story for counterpart Kotomitsuki (1-2), who ran into a fired up Kakizoe (1-2). Kaki picked up his first career sanyaku win with a lightening quick moro-zashi and unrelenting pressure. He's going to be fun to watch. 

Tosanoumi fell on his face for the third straight day. 

In the bottom half of Makuuchi, Kokkai is shining at 3-0 along with these upstarts with unblemished records thus far: Buyuzan, Takamisakari, Kotoryu, Asasekiryu and Yotsukasa.

Day 1 Comments
Are you kidding me? Sumo does away with the Kosho System and promptly we have the first basho in four and a half years to actually start with a full slate of healthy Juryo and Makuuchi rikishi. We have made it through day one without a single withdrawal in the top two divisions. That said, many of the top rankers are nursing various ailments: Asashoryu seems to be over the back problem that popped up recently, Chiyotaikai is recovering from a left calf injury, Musoyama has a cold, Tochiazuma's left shoulder is bothering him and Kaio's tailbone pain is back. Meanwhile way down at M13, Kotonowaka, the active leader in Makuuchi service at 80 basho and counting, is back to keep that streak alive despite having only one ligament of four in his grizzled knee remaining. And he didn't miss a beat. True to form, Mr. Ippun avoided any offense whatsoever, prolonged the match past the one minute mark and finally gave way to Asasekiryu. So starts the "Areru Haru basho", or what's traditionally called the Stormy Spring Tournament. I have a feeling this one's going to be a gem. 

Much has been said about the two "signature" trsuriotoshis that Shimotori suffered at the hands of Asashoryu earlier this week in practice, and how the Yokozuna was getting into the Shin-Komusubi's head and all, but I thought it was a little overblown. Shimotori, coming off 11 wins in January, is a cool customer, and I wouldn't have been surprised with a stunning opening day upset, but it wasn't to be. Asashoryu put a stamp on his dominance and quelled any doubt about whether the minor tweaking of his back would affect the Yokozuna's performance. Shimotori did get the advantage initially, securing his favored left outside grip. He followed textbook sumo and attacked when Sho went for the makikae, but the Yokozuna's speed prevailed once again. Sho got morozashi anyway, twisted the Komusubi to the side and looked like he might unleash another tsuriotoshi, but instead just lifted his foe out. Shimo looked like a helpless, gyrating fish out of water. Not a sharp tachiai for Sho, but a solid win to open the tournament and bring his streak of consecutive wins to 16. 

The bout attracting most of the media attention for today was Chiyotaikai versus the other Shin-Komusubi Kakizoe, two Oita-prefecture rikishi meeting for the first time. On this one, I thought Taikai would blast right through the smaller Kakizoe (who also had 11 wins last time) but I was wrong again. The feisty, young lad would not give an inch. You've got to love that. After about three seconds of this, we all know what's coming. In this case it was a well-timed hikiotoshi by the Ozeki that led to a win instead of an embarrassing defeat. To his credit, Taikai's speedy tsuppari was in full display and it was everything Kakizoe could do to negate it from underneath. But he did, and this is no easy feat in your first attempt against a pusher like Chiyotaikai. Despite today's loss, I'm looking for this kid to make some noise. 

In the bout prior, yet another 11 bout winner from January, Miyabiyama, challenged Kaio and ran into a brick wall. To the surprise of all in attendance, Ozeki forgot about his yotsu-zumo roots and simply overpowered Miyabi with a mean streak of oshi-zumo. It was so good, you wonder why he doesn't do that more often. Miyabiyama is a mule and Kaio just blasted him out in Miyabi's own game. Kaio is the master at negating an opponents oshi. He is the only person who can stop Asashoryu this basho, I believe. If his ass holds up, that is. Literally. 

Here's what makes Haru basho so fun. None of the contenders coming off 11 win bashos could manage a win today against the top rankers, but Kyokushuzan and Kyokutenho both do. Go figure. Kyokushuzan and Tochiazuma's bout looked like two polar opposite magnets coming together on the dohyo. After Kyokushuzan's normal song and dance where he stands up straight, backs away and goes for the pull-down, the two rikishi bolted in opposite directions like they were running away from each other. Shuzan lost his balance and figured he'd lost. Azuma took the bait and found himself a quarter of the way up the hanamichi. Azuma's feet are not under him as they should be, and he is favoring his left arm. It might be an ugly basho for the up and down Ozeki. 

Musoyama, claiming he is healthy and wanting to contend for the yusho, promptly laid an egg on the first day of his 4th kadoban campaign. He wasted no time in getting into a migi-yotsu gappuri position (chest to chest, belt locked down on both sides by both rikishi) against the taller Tenho. Smart move. It only took about five seconds for Tenho to use his leverage to usher the Ozeki out. I guess Muso's going to have us on the edge of our seats for the next 14 days. 

Both Sekiwake Wakanosato and Kotomitsuki got all off to winning starts against Dejima and Tochinonada, respectively. Man, do we have some horses stacked up in the upper Maegashira this time with Miyabiyama, Dejima and Tochinonada. 

And I guess I must mention that Takamisakari got the crowd going by collecting a win on day one as well. He generated a whopping 10 Kensho banners on a day one bout with Kinkaiyama, of all people. I tell you, his popularity may be working against him in a way. With each Kensho worth 30,000 yen in pocket money, if I were Sakari's opponent I think I'd be a little more motivated than usual to win. If Sakari can win 9 or 10 at this rate, he may be the highest paid rank-and-file Maegashira ever. 

The media is all touting the Kaio-Kakizoe bout as tomorrow's headliner, and it is a good one, but I'll take the Chiyotaikai-Dejima bout any day. Don't disappoint me, Taikai. We're all looking forward to some smash-mouth sumo.