Day 1
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 (Clancy Kelly reporting)
If there's one, single word that describes me, it'd have to be "team player". For me, the so-called trite clich "There is no 'I' in team" is anything but. Selfless, when linked with others in a joint effort, I am on board, with the program, all-for-one, in synch, on the same page, ready to "take one", ad nauseum.

At least, that is, when my team is playing by the rules. But when my comrades-in-arms start churning out smoke and polishing up mirrors, shearing sheep in anticipation of the big wool pull, I hit the roof, see red, get hornet mad and become, in essence, a whistleblower.

Loyalty to the team, but duty to the truth, if I was one of those insecure cornholeos with a tattoo it would probably read that. And the truth is, the man we have all been led to believe is Simon Siddall this entire Kyushu basho is, in fact, an imposter named Bryce. 

My suspicions began as soon as we were sequestered in the top floor of our hotel and Mike had locked the exit doors and given his typical goodnight salutation shouted down the hall so we in our rooms could hear: "Get some rest, you focking maggots, we've got a basho to report on!" and "Simon" replied from the room across, "Too right!" Huh?

Over my plate of cold eggie weggs the next morning I saw "Simon" woofing down on a cheese and chive damper like it was a map of Tazzie! Later, on the way to the wrestling venue, he pointed to some homeless men under a bridge and exclaimed, "Eeh, ah'd lock to git all romper stomper on those bums down in the billabong!" On Day 4 he was sporting a Russell Crowe t-shirt, and by Day 8 had a pyramid of empty Fosters stacked three feet high outside his door (Mike cancels room service, including trash can emptying and bed sheet changes, for the length of the basho--says it "rots our timbers" whatever that means).

So I started digging, and what I came up with is this. Evidently Simon was killed on Nov. 8th in a barfight with three young Filipino prostitutes in northern Luzon (he had suggested to them they "go home and study their maths"--he was always cheeky like that). Cut him up pretty badly, from all indications. Being closest next of kin, Mike (he was Simon's father's third cousin's half-step-nephew, through a marriage that has since been annulled) was contacted. He rushed to the P.I. and brought the body home on the q.t. With the basho a scant three days hence, something had to be done. 

Verification for what follows is difficult to come by, but I have good reason to believe Mike held a Simon look-alike contest and had the winner undergo major reconstructive surgery at some black market chop doc in Shibuya who specializes in helping geeks resemble their favorite Sims character (you'd be surprised at the funky shit people will go through to become regular contributors on Sumotalk--George, for example, ate a Chicken McNugget--don't laugh, I've seen the video!) This guy then pored over Simon's backlog (ooh, sounds saucy--that joke was for you, the real Simon, up there with the angels) to try and get the patter down, and by Day 3 was insinuated into the rotation with nobody the wiser. Nice.

Then a seventh contributor was added at the last moment, an alleged Romanian (did you see his photo? The guy is clearly Bulgarian) named "Martin" in an effort to deflect as much attention as possible away from the imposter. (That Mike chose the name "Martin" may be his way of having a bit of fun, considering that Nov. 8th is the day Paul McCartney was killed back in 1966 and secretly replaced. The "fifth" Beatle was their producer, George MARTIN!) And he might have pulled it off...

Except that Senor Wesemann was unable to avoid his one glaring fault, namely a guilty conscience, and because of this felt compelled to leave clues in his reports alluding to the chicanery; hell, might as well call it what it is, the conspiracy! 

Dear loyal and beloved readers, go and check the first letter of each paragraph of every report Mike wrote this basho, and you will come away as convinced as I that the Manchester Mamba, Simon the Snake Siddall, descendant of John Montagu and 2,375th in line to the throne of England, lays forever peacefully inside a copper urn somewhere in Tochigi prefecture. (And for the more adventurous, play the NHK Japanese language telecast for Day 3 backward and you will hear, just after the Ama/Kotooshu bout, the phrase "Bones that roll, homes go black, Luzon is the end of the [unintelligible], all hands on deck.)

Kindly East Juryo 1 Yoshikaze did some nifty slap and run before securing a posterior belt grip and shoving out W15 Katayama (6-9) for his winning record. Looks like the two will swap rank come January.

Forgive me if my pecker stays warmly nuzzled to my sack even after seeing W14 Henkarozan win his last 7 to finish 7-8. He beat one rookie and FOUR Juryo men to do it.

I can't say it with certainty, but I don't think I have ever once seen E9 Takamisakari slap or thrust at an opponent in all the time I have watched him wrestle. He always stands there, taking his medicine like a good boy, and although purportedly blind as a naked mole rat, somehow gets a belt or upper body grip roughly half the time and forces his foe back-n-out. I wonder if he has some ethical stand against slapping/shoving/thrusting sumo. Or maybe it IS the eyesight and he's worried that he'll miss. Today against W9 Asasexy he could not get the belt, and got shoved out easily. Both men finish 10-5.

W8 rookie Kakuryu finally grabbed the belt like he claims he knows he ought to and drove out Otsukasa (my favorite name in sumo, love the sound of "tsu") for his 8th win. Not bad at all for the man many were saying was over ranked. Martin's knock on The Kak, that his O-zumo is not O enough, has merit only if he is a veteran, which he ain't. Not crowning the rookie a future grand champion or anything, but Asashoryu had a vastly different fighting style when he entered Makuuchi back in 2001. People can learn, people can change. At any rate, I sure in hell won't be wading into the sea come March!

The Kimchi Kid, W7 Kasugao got his majority wins by throwing down the other rookie Asofuji, who got only six wins at E13. The aforementioned Kak looks even better in comparison, considering Asofuji's pedigree and the fact that a Yokozuna prolly cut his umbilical cord, for pity's sake!

The Estonian Biomass, who had his tundra rocked yesterday by The Geeku, took out his frustration at getting only ten wins on W13 Tochinohana by executing a deft kotenage at the edge. It was pretty, true, but not at all the kind of sumo a big white European can live off of for long (see Kotooshu). Not to worry, he's young, he's hung...ry, he'll be taking stock of things from M1 come January.

Aged E14 Tamakasuga gave E6 Kyokutenho one mighty charge after a short standoff, but the former Mongolian had a deep belt grip and used it to drive the old man back across the ring and out to pick up his under-the-radar number ten. Tama rebounds sweetly from that horrific Sept. with a 9-6.

Re-hoov-enated W3 Dejima showed his gratitude at being demoted only by direction of the compass after his 7-8 in Sept. by powering his way to ten wins, finishing it off in style against Toyonoshima by simply blasting the W10 out in a pulse of energy and stamping his passport "Komusubi" for January.

Zoinks! E3 Tokitenku won his eight straight bout to go 9-6 by shaking off a good belt grip that E12 Ushiomaru (5-10) had and snaking away, then deflecting The Ushi's charge and winning by hikiotoshi pull down. Here again a rikishi with a deceptive string of finishing wins, two coming against rikishi who dropped out after wrestling horribly, and five more against rikishi with a total of 26 wins between them, and one good win vs Miflobby, who was probably shocked into stillness that he didn't get henka'd like he had the day before vs. Tochickenazuma. I like the Mongolians in general, but not so sure about this guy. For example, Tokitenku stood right in Takamisakari's way as he came back down the hanamichi after a win on Day 10, forcing him to duck under the bleachers and around a pole to get past. All the other wrestlers turn to the side to let the guy who just wrestled pass. That's bush league, asshole, even if Circus is an oddling.

Two of the big stories of this basho (and the only special prize recipients) squared off with E2 Kotoshogiku (lost to only a Sekiwake, three Ozeki and the Yokozuna) taking on E11 Homasho. Homasho was strong against most of the mid-Maegashira he fought, but Kotoshogiku will be jo'i for some time to come, and the difference showed. The Geeku drove hard after a big tachi-ai by both, and then, with Homasho pressing forward with all his might to remain in the ring, slapped him down to the muck for his tenth win. Relish this one folks, because you're not likely to see Homasho pulled down too often in his budding career. I think he acquitted himself this basho, and he really could have been 13-2, but he predictably let Tochiazuma off the hook on Day 12. Hai Senpai, wakarimashita! 

And meanwhile the Geeku moves to Komusubi alongside two of the men he kicked ass on on Days 12 and 13 with a truly inspiring nine win finishing charge, including the final three vs. rikishi with thirty wins combined! He's a solid fighter, with good fundamentals, and it sure doesn't hurt being a member of a Super Heya, huh?

What company was sponsoring that sole banner paraded around before the Kitazakura/Iwakiyama bout? (Mike here. I have deleted the joke Clancy made in this spot because while it was side-splittingly funny, it would have gotten Sumotalk into all sorts of legal trouble. Sorry.) Don't ya' think?! I mean, please. I have to say that Kitazakura made every bout he was in interesting to watch, if only to see what kind of fly-in-a-Coke-bottle move he would make next. Still, no quit in this warm, chummy uncle typedude. Iwaki? Words fail me. Although he made a sweet twisting belt move today to get into okuridashi position, he'll be tossing barrels at Mario from M12 next time out.

Komusubi wannabe E1 Ama hit Futenoh like two day-old sushi, giving the, yes, hapless W2 no chance at all. One more smaller blast and Futenoh was out in a rout. This was a tachi-ai-ai-ai. Martin was dead on about Ama being an Asashoryu in Terao clothing. But he is looking bigger each basho, so who knows, perhaps one day three Mongolian Yokozuna at the same time? Asa, Hakuho (you haven't forgotten about him, have you?) and Ama. Could you see the two big boys paving the way for Ama, "losing" to him in crucial bouts so he picks up two yusho in a row (if he could get to that point on his own)? Nah!

Kokkai looked like he was trying to slash E4 Takekaze's throat open with his left forearm, but if he thinks that lame-o shite is going to shake a solid guy like the E4, well, as Mike's idols Judas Priest once said, He's got another thing comin'! And he did have another thing coming, in the form of 6-9 Takekaze staying low and centered and driving the former Komusubi out to his twelfth loss (and of course he didn't have the decency to bow properly after getting his stupid ass kicked, he should take a lesson from Homasho's bow to The Geeku). Kokkai's tachi-ai might seem ferocious, but I'll hand it over to my man Shakespeare, via Hamlet, the Thane of Glamis, to tell it straight: 

(Uber-white man with flashy but weak tachi-ai is) but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

As The Geeku showed Homasho the difference between mid-M and upper-M, so too did Kisenosato demonstrate the difference between upper-M and sanyaku to Kakizoe. After a typically lightning quick start by Zoe, it was all over as the Messiah wrapped the W4 up and out in a flash. Kisenosato retains his Komusubi rank for the second time, but it was nip and tuck there at the end. I wonder if he learned anything at all in that bout vs. Chiyotaikai? Kakizoe (6-9) had three good wins over three good Mongolians who each finished with 9 wins or more, but a much better record from this high up the banzuke is unrealistic on a regular basis for this passionate but smallish rikishi.

Really, today's bout vs. Kotomitsuki should make it plain for all to see that Roho employs the henka for the same reason Mike employs illegal aliens to write code for Sumotalk: He's afraid if he plays by the rules it'll cost him too much. Ha, I should be on a stage! (There's one leaving in ten minutes, Clanc.) Hit or Mitsuki was ALL Hit today, blasting the least appealing rikishi in sumo back-n-out before he could say, Out of my element. It was exhilarating to see this lousy, unentertaining, cheap fighter utterly whooped on. It's a shame that his stench will rankle us once again from Komusubi in January. Kotomitsuki finally breaks that 8-7 streak, but still floundered badly after that Day 8 loss to Ama.

Sekiwake Miyabiyama. What a tempestuous year. He won 32 bouts from Jan to May, 34 bouts from March to July, and 33 bouts from May to Sept, but got stiffed on Ozeki promotion the entire time. I know they had their "reasons," such as he was Komusubi when the runs started, he lost to the wrong guys, yada yada, but the fact is he performed on a regular basis much better than the Kadoban Ozeki Trio, all three of them world beaters in that dept. I go back to Hakuho getting stiffed for Yokozuna promotion, leaving the Ozeki rank clogged. Plus the sumo elders are wary (and maybe a bit vengeful) over Miflobby making them look so dumb years ago when they shot him up to Ozeki in record time. 

A tough year indeed, but he saved his rank today with a classic Sheriff Fatman oshidashi push out over feel good story of the basho Kaio. He kept Kaio at bay with a dead-on slap attack, chasing the Ozeki around the ring and out. Kaio completes his miracle basho with ten wins and I am happy to say we were all wrong and he will be back in January. If only Musoyama had known about that massage place in Nara!

Kotooshu lured Tochiazuma into his trap, giving up space as he moved back but grabbing the back of the belt in the meantime. When they reached the tawara, he used that long reach and great strength to pick up the little guy and swing around and out. While he did not challenge for the yusho like I thought he might, he showed that his knee is much better. He has the body, now he just needs to get some head (you know what I mean!) and also feed off the energy that The Geek and Kotomitsuki are going to be bringing as they both shoot for Ozeki all 2007. He may get that first yusho and from there anything is possible. Both guys finish 10-5.

Our Yokozuna wasn't about to lose two in a row to Chiyotaikai, nor let the Ozeki spoil his 15-0 yusho. Chiyotaikai came out strong with his hand planted on Asa's neck and for a moment it looked as if he might be able to run the smaller man out, but Asa stiffened at the edge and turned his foe to the side, then got his belt with two hands and lifted him into the air. No topknot in sight to yank on for the Wolf's Pup this time out. Displaying the magnanimity that has come to him with age and dai-Yokozuna status, he gently placed his toy down outside the ring instead of smashing it to the dirt like Pete Townsend 's guitar. Another sign of his greatness, that he not only has the energy to drive out all the other top guys, but also has the energy to hold onto them and stop them from falling and possibly being injured (i.e. Kaio, Tochi). I loved the way he kept glancing down at his fingers after each win this basho, his biggest concern a hangnail!

It's funny that Asa is so good, we who write about his fights have to search for something to write to make it seem like he had a chance of losing, so we come up with things like, He seems vulnerable, He was briefly in serious trouble, He is not in his best form, et cetera. Where other wrestlers have streaks of entire fights where they have little or no control, he is so dominant that when he has mere moments within a single fight where he is not totally in control we must seize on that to bring some drama to our reports. Fact is, we so seldom see the Yokozuna in peril that we may forget that not only is he the best at STAYING out of trouble, he is also the best at GETTING out of trouble.

Hey, it's been a great basho, lots of drama and lots of good bouts, lots of likable rikishi doing well, and a dominating performance by The Man. The only thing missing were hotties in the Fukuoka audience. Tokyo will be a welcome sight in two months. They seem to know when and when not to throw a zabuton.

Me? My missus is waiting for me so we can enjoy our own traditional post-Day 15 sumo. She'll be looking to give me a big ol' hikiotoshi, and while I was planning a sweet yaguranage, I'm thinking I might instead go for a komatasukui. Guess it depends on the placement of the mirrors. See you all in the capital. Have a great holiday season.

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Greetings to all of you ardent fans of really big, strong, fat men in colorful underwear. I'm going to start my day 14 rant with a little consideration on Asashoryu's henka against top Komusubi Kisenosato on day 8. Fellow sumotalkers already postulated that Asashoryu is a dai-Yokozuna and he has the god-given right to do whatever the hell he pleases on the dohyo. For the record, know that although I don't like Asashoryu one bit, I still respect his total and still unchallenged dominance of sumo. He has the best technique (with his wins spanning over some 20 different kimarite, and that's only for the past year), greatest speed and probably the greatest strength (remember those phantasmagorical tsuridashi against Miyabiyama et al.?) of all the rikishi currently in the sport. Not only that, but he's probably the most intelligent too, given his ability to deny other rikishi their favorite techniques. But still, he's only human and bound to lose once in a while, and such was the case last basho against Kisenosato. After the ketaguri win this basho, Asashoryu said "Today it was personal; I wanted to win at all costs". Of course, just like Mike said in his day 9 report, fear is out of the question, Asashoryu is not afraid of anyone on the current banzuke or any other banzuke for that matter (hell, he'd probably wrestle God, he's that good); this time he just wanted to teach the youngster a lesson, to send an intimidating message to him and all the other would-be challengers. But my question is, was it fair?

And this brings us to the most controversial topic in sumo, the henka. Some argue strongly against the henka, others defend it, but most fans just don't watch sumo to see big sissies jump and skirt around (you've got bullfights and ballet if you're into that kind of stuff). No, we want to see big strong guys crashing into each other and showing power and fighting spirit. The wrestlers also want this, but sometimes winning the bout is just more important. Solutions to end the controversy? Several come to mind: one extreme solution is to allow the henka fully, no frowning upon it, just like evasion in contact sports, but this would most certainly cause a great decrease in the sport's level of entertainment and weaker wrestlers would be favored. On the other hand you have the complete elimination of the henka, and at first glance this seems just the thing to do, but the problem in this case is ruling. Are we going to have a mono-ii for every slightly dubious tachi-ai? I don't think so. And that leaves us at the current state of affairs, with the henka not being officially banned, but only considered dishonorable (and still perpetrated by every rikishi at some point in their career). Of course, I still owe an opinion on Asashoryu's henka, so here it is: he shouldn't have done it, he didn't give Kisenosato a fighting chance just for the sake of teaching him a lesson. Now, a nice powerful tsuridashi is a lesson appropriate for a Yokozuna to teach, but anything involving a henka is not.

To wrap it up, I'm sure Asashoryu would win a fair confrontation with Kisenosato more than 80% of the time. I'm also sure he pulled the gimmick just because it's required for the ketaguri win, and he's on a holy quest to win by every damn move in the sumo book (and if that's really the case, Ama would do well to stay out of his reach, because he's the prime candidate for ipponzeoi, izori, yobimodoshi and some other nasty pro-wrestling-finishing-move type of kimarite). Alright, enough beating around the bush, let's get into today's action. 

And, of course, we'll start with Yokozuna Asashoryu, who faced the out-of-focus Ozeki Kotooshu today. The nasty Mongolian charged with the right hand to Kotooshu's shoulder, briefly standing him upright, just long enough to get a solid left grip on the front of the Bulgarian's mawashi and leaving his right arm dangling, ineffectively reaching for some kind of grip. Meanwhile, on the other side of the battlefield, the Yokozuna kept Kotooshu's deadly left arm at bay until he was ready to shift into high gear. We all know what usually happens when Kotooshu gets that left uwate; today was not the case, though, since a left outside for Kotooshu would have meant morozashi for the Yokozuna, and that's a huge no-no. No, Asashoryu was just playing it safe, no belt grip for Kotooshu means he's not very dangerous (look at the winning table for last year, Kotooshu won 43 bouts out of the total of 56 by yorikiri, uwatenage and yoritaoshi, all of them belt techniques; also, this tournament alone the man boasts a respectable 5 uwatenage wins out of a total of 9, and he's still got tomorrow left). With the belt grips taken out, Asashoryu moved in for the kill with a sudden and powerful yank while backing away which ended with a shitate-dashi-nage. All Kotooshu could do in the process was to carefully watch the dohyo dirt for suspicious looking Sasquatch footprints while orbiting Asashoryu for half a circle before crashing out of the dohyo. Why, if my dislike for Asashoryu weren't so significant, I might even say poetry in motion, but since it is, I won't. With this win and Kotooshu out of the way, zensho is just a formality for our tyrant, and expect a cruel example to be made of Chiyotaikai tomorrow (I foresee a tsuridashi, but I'm sure the Yokozuna has his own hellish plans). Kotooshu should defeat Tochiazuma tomorrow for the double digit winning record and he'd better shape up soon, 'cause us fans would like to see him a Yokozuna sometime.

Ozeki Tochiazuma met banzuke man #2 Chiyotaikai (shut up, how many times do I have to tell you?). After a head-on tachi-ai, the two rikishi shifted to the left, which eventually had them switch places in the center of the dohyo. Tochiazuma then quickly went for a push to his opponent's left side, and if I didn't know better I'd say Tochiazuma has some sort of telekinetic powers, because that inashi really made the 160 kg Chiyotaikai look like a 20 lb. scarecrow being hit by a speeding TGV. Tochiazuma turned him around and ran him out of the dohyo for his tenth win. Tomorrow look for him try to burn Kotooshu for the fourth time in five meetings with that half-impact henka he does so well. Chiyotaikai has bigger problems with Asashoryu seeking revenge for the phantom sokubiotoshi he was dealt last basho.

Crowd favorite Ozeki Kaio was sidestepped by Komusubi Kisenosato, who got a deep migi-uwate while disallowing Kaio his dangerous own right outside grip with the left arm under the Ozeki's armpit. With only a left shitate, Kaio stood his ground for a little while, but in the end youth prevailed and Kisenosato threw the Ozeki down to his fourth loss via uwatenage. At an even 7-7, the Komusubi has a pretty good chance of keeping his rank, as he meets M4 Kakizoe tomorrow. Kaio (10-4) exceeded everyone's expectations this basho and is facing the Fatman Miyabiyama tomorrow.

The Fatman won today's all Sekiwake slugfest with Sadogatake man Kotomitsuki and he keeps his kachi-koshi hopes alive with a 7-7 record into senshuraku. The action started off hot, both men showing commendable philanthropy (i.e. "it's better to give than to receive"). That is to say the tsuppari were dealt more generously than bribes at the US Senate. After the first heated slap exchange, Mr. 87 went for a left inside grip, but Miyabiyama grabbed the outside of Kotomitsuki's arm and quickly shook it off. Then the second round of slapping came with a more aggressive Mitsuki seeming to get the upper hand and driving the Fatman towards the edge. A well-timed well-aimed thrust from Miyabiyama took the other Sekiwake off balance though, and that's when the pull-down came (big surprise there, n'est-ce pas?) and made it official: this basho Miyabiyama owns Sadogatake-beya completely. Miyabiyama's 7-7 record isn't that bad if you take into account him being on the receiving end of three despicable henkas, all of them resulting in losses against rikishi he usually owns. With 8 wins so far, Kotomitsuki seems to be gunning for a record of his own, most 8-7's in a row, and he has all the chances to keep it going as he's meeting bruiser Roho tomorrow.

I'd really like to analyze Komusubi Kokkai's bout with Futenoh, too, but for some reason they only show about a second of it on the compilation I have. In that second we get to see an angry Kokkai shove the M2 out from behind. The rest of the allotted time was used to show a useless ringside Kotomitsuki pondering his chances of getting another 8-7. Thanks for nothing, Mr. Mongolian! The win provides good damage control for the miserable future-ex Komusubi (who WILL get 10+ wins next basho, you hear?). At 5-9 Futenoh is mucking through it all and he should rethink his strategy before the next tournament.

Slipping down the ladder we barely catch a glimpse of sneaky Aminishiki, Komusubi to be demoted and trickster extraordinaire. Today, against Mongolian M3 Tokitenku, he went for the hikiotoshi straight from the tachi-ai, after he was bashed with the head low into his right shoulder. However, Tokitenku has been looking particularly good this Kyushu (uh, sumo-wise anyway) and resisted Aminishiki's efforts, turning the tables on him quickly and taking him down by a katasukashi that looked like a hatakikomi to me, until the reverse angle replay. Tokitenku is already in the clear with his huge 8-6 from M3 and gets an even bigger break tomorrow with no-account Juryo mainstay Ushiomaru served to him on a platter (some strange match-ups this senshuraku, Clancy will have lots of ammo). The 5-9 record boots Aminishiki back where he belongs for the New Year.

Last of the Komusubi, but surprisingly enough the first in line for Sekiwake promotion in case of a critical failure from Miyabiyama, is back to his evil ways. Today Roho pulled his sixth (I think, but who the hell's counting anymore?) Kyokushuzan tribute against former glory Dejima, renowned for his powerful tachi-ai. It was over in a second with Dejima plummeting into mid-air and falling to a still amazing 9-5 record from WM3. If Miyabiyama does fail to defeat Kaio tomorrow, I say give Sekiwake to Kotoshogiku, make Dejima Komusubi and demote Roho straight down to Makushita, kachi-koshi be damned. Ugly, ugly sumo from the Russian; Dejima on the other hand has been looking particularly strong, showing glimpses of the old him. I wonder how much longer he can keep it up, though.

M1 Ama bent like a reed today, absorbing M4 Kakizoe's spirited tachi-ai and smothering any opposition with a firm full left uwate. Someone noticed some time ago what a vicious grip Ama has, rarely letting go of any mawashi he gets his hands on (Kotooshu'd better take Ama's example and start working that rubber ring some more), and today he made that someone right, unleashing a powerful, one handed head pressing uwate-nage that sent Kakizoe tumbling to his make-koshi. I must say Ama looked huge in today's bout, and with his technique, speed and sheer determination he might be a serious Yokozuna threat, had he some more meat on his bones. Anyway, he will be able to do some damage next basho, after returning to his comfort zone. Tomorrow he'll be facing fellow five-to-niner Futenoh in an attempt to reenact the 2006 Bloody Haru. Kakizoe is a squashed bug on Ama's windshield (eat your heart out, Clancy).

Of course, one bout had to be missing completely from the edit, so I'll just stab in the dark here and say Tochinonada walked old lady Iwakiyama for a shot at kachi-koshi tomorrow. Iwakiyama will walk the plank next basho and drown his sorrow tomorrow with Big Brother Zak buying the vodka.

Our next featured fight had Sadogatake #3 take on the big albino gorilla known to some as M6 Baruto. As if we hadn't gotten the message, Baruto wanted to expose his weaknesses once more with another silly tachi-ai that gifted Kotoshogiku with morozashi (probably because Christmas comes early in Estonia). Well, Kotoshogiku is NOT Takamisakari, and once he smelled blood, he drove Baruto back and out frenzied-poodle-on-your-leg style. Both guys stand at 9 wins, but Kotoshogiku will finally earn his much deserved sanyaku spot, and might just blast all the way to Sekiwake if he wins tomorrow and Miyabiyama bungles against Kaio. Baruto gets a rematch against Tochinohana and will be back among the jo'i in Hatsu.

And now we get to Bernie's favorite little wrestler, Kakuryu, at his over-rated M8 (for those of you curious, just look up "cac" and "cur" in some Romanian dictionary). Honestly, I have no idea what Mr. McManus likes about this particular Mongolian; his sumo is extremely evasive (albeit he's pretty good at it) and he seems to lack any real strength. The banzuke does not need an heir to Kyokushuzan, Roho seems to be doing fine in that department. Today, Kakuryu went back from the tachi-ai again and swatted down the hapless Takekaze to his ninth loss, while keeping his hopes for promotion alive in the process. By winning tomorrow's bout against Otsukasa, Kakuryu will lose any chance of being demoted to Juryo, where he truly belongs, by Haru, and so I'll get to be proven wrong, before you'd all have had time to forget about it. Only thing is I think he loses tomorrow and after that Juryo is just around the corner. Takekaze looks lost this high up and will be finding his way back to the mid-Maegashira for Hatsu.

In other news, M6 Kyokutenho displayed a great tachi-ai and secured a right uwate to safely drive M13 Tochinohana out by yorikiri. Both men have their winning records in the bag. 

Iwakiyama's senshuraku drinking buddy Big Zak had a bout so long that I had time to listen to BOTH PARTS of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" before the whole damn thing was over. The tachi-ai seemed to favor Kasugao, with him getting a nice left-outside-right-inside grip and forcing Kitazakura to the edge, but he slowly crept back to the relative safety of the center of the dohyo, where they engaged in a long stalemate. The Korean finally decided to go for it with some belly wigglin', but the Muko was too big a bite for him to chew, and soon Kasugao found himself thrown out of the ring by sukuinage. The fall looked pretty bad, as Kasugao needed help getting up. He still gets a shot at kachi-koshi tomorrow, having to face M13 Asofuji, who himself lost to a Muko today, thus evening the brothers' scores to a Juryo-bound 4 wins each.

M15 Katayama sure can lift those legs up high. That didn't help him much today, though, against M9 Asasekiryu, who slapped him down for his 9th win, at the torinaoshi.

M9 Takamisakari notched his 10th win today with a yorikiri force-out from a morozashi he managed to muster after a brief brawl against M15 Otsukasa.

Hakurozan deserves his impending demotion fully, despite his 6 day winning streak. Today he met M10 Toyonoshima upright at the tachi-ai, only to backpedal quickly enough for the cheap pull-down. Toyonoshima doesn't have to worry about anything with he 8 wins already in the bag.

The surprising M11 Homasho boasts a shiny 12-2 into senshuraku, after defeating 9-5 Tamakasuga today in a long and closely contested bout. The key to Homasho's victory was probably the older Tamakasuga tiring faster. Both rikishi will probably get whipped tomorrow against the stronger Kotoshogiku and Kyokutenho.

Finally, M12 Ushiomaru went for the stupidest pull-down attempt against veteran Tosanoumi, and was forced out in the blink of an eye. Both M12's are a dangerous 9 losses already and will probably get some time off to Juryo next basho.

Though the yusho was never in real danger, the 2006 Kyushu proved to be an altogether decent basho after all. Asashoryu is only a mere formality away from his third zensho, Kaio keeps his rank for the tenth time, some serious changes might take place in sanyaku. Homasho finally makes an impact on the division and his 12-13 wins should get him some special prizes.

Clancy has a bone to pick with you tomorrow, and I smell something burning inside my computer, guess I'd better take a look. 

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I thanked the gods in heaven when Homasho fought off a near-fatal sukuinage attempt from Kyokutenho because had that throw worked, the yusho would have been decided on day 13. While the Kyushu basho hasn't been awful, you never want to see a tournament officially decided before the weekend is even here. I apologize if I've spoiled the outcome of today's bouts already, but the instant Kaio lost on day 9, any drama this basho had was sucked right out of the half-full Kokusai center.  Interesting news reports have all but dried up, and god forbid we find any interesting photos of the action, not to mention and interesting report from yours truly.

As always, let's start at the top where a gimpy Tochiazuma was next in line to try and prevent an Asashoryu zensho-yusho. The Yokozuna charged low with his arms on the inside--similar to a Kaio tachi-ai, a move that I'm not sure where he was going with. Tochiazuma wisely locked the Yokozuna's arms in close keeping them away from the belt, but in doing so, the Ozeki had nothing to grasp prior to making a charge. The rikishi stood like this for about three seconds, and that left inashi/ottsuke move that Tochiazuma frequently uses was wide open, but for some reason, the Ozeki just stood there, and as Asashoryu weaseled his way in closer to his opponent, he grabbed an outer grip that he used to unceremoniously force the Ozeki back and out with. A pretty uneventful bout, and while Tochiazuma didn't make that push to the side move, I thought the Yokozuna was vulnerable the same as he was against Futenoh and Roho. I guess Tochiazuma's misfire was just a microcosm of this whole basho...not a single rikishi even trying to challenge the Yokozuna even though Asashoryu has not been perfect. At 13-0, it's just a matter of whether or not the Yokozuna can score his first 15-0 victory since Haru 2004. Tochiazuma falls to 9-4.

Moving to our Ozeki battle for the day, once again, there was little drama as Chiyotaikai left the tsuppari at home and just walked right into a left outer grip from Kotooshu. The Bulgarian immediately took the advantage and went for one his patented uwate-nage throws. Chiyotaikai tried to make things interesting by sticking his right leg on the inside of Kotooshu's left hoping for an uchi-gake trip, but Kotooshu had none of that funny business and easily disposed of the veteran Ozeki. Both rikishi stand at 9-4 heading into the weekend.

The biggest surprise this basho has to be Ozeki Kaio. The Kyushu favorite has been a lame duck for over a year now, so to see him jump out to that 8-0 that included a few belt throws and his patented yori-kiri moves was refreshing. Kaio didn't disappoint again today...or should I say Kotomitsuki didn't disappoint by doing his best to throw away that 7-0 start of his? Kotomitsuki tried that little sly side step to his right in order to grab the quick uwate, but Kaio responded well turning his hips away from the Sekiwake and getting his left arm deep on the inside of his opponent. When Kaio gets the right outer grip, it's curtains, but given him that left inner, and it's all you can do to even budge the beast. Kotomitsuki sure as hell couldn't, so some good patience and a few wrenches this way and that gave Kaio the right outer in the end, which he used to dust the Sekiwake off with a force out win. This was vintage Kaio sumo, but before I declare the Ozeki back, I just have to go back to his bout against Asashoryu. That was a perfect example of how far the Ozeki's power has fallen over the last two years. Still, Kaio leads the Ozeki-gun at 10-3 while Kotomitsuki falls to 8-5.

Hate to say it, but not only is Sekiwake Miyabiyama's Ozeki run long gone, but the dude may not even kachi-koshi, which is a shame considering how many people have refused the Sheriff a fair fight. Today against M3 Tokitenku, Miyabiyama looked lost not quite sure how he wanted to attack, so while he did raise his arms towards Tokitenku's throat, the Mongolian easily withstood that attempt and reached a lanky left arm low grabbing the front of the Sekiwake's belt. With no lower body in his attack, Miyabiyama was nothing more than the fattest guy in the division, so Tokitenku niftily slipped to his left and pulled Miyabiyama forward and down for the easy shitate-dashi-nage win. Look at Tokitenku moving to 7-3 while Miyabiyama falls to a dangerous 6-7.

Except for this basho, I think Miyabiyama has been the third best rikishi this year behind Asashoryu of course and then Hakuho.  There's a reason that people are constantly getting henka'd at the tachi-ai.  It's because your opponents don't want to deal with your game and take the easy way out.  Tosanoumi was always a prime target for the henka because nobody wanted to deal with his smashmouth tachi-ai.  Miyabiyama is on the wrong end of these cheap charges because far too many rikishi don't want to deal with his sumo.  It's a sign of respect and one that I hope Miyabiyama realizes.  But let's move on.

Entering the day, you could say that Komusubi Kisenosato's basho has been a lot like Miyabiyama' much potential that just couldn't get anything going. M2 Kotoshogiku was a big reason for that today, as he took advantage of an upright Kisenosato charge securing his left arm deep on the inside of the Komusubi keeping him upright. The showed nice patience with the grip and waited for Kisenosato to panic, which he did by going for the meager-est of pull down attempts, but once he did, Kotoshogiku hit the accelerator, grabbed the right outer grip, and escorted Kisenosato back and off the dohyo. The wins lifts the Geeku to 8-5 and puts him ever closer to his first ever sanyaku berth. It was great to watch him skip back down the hanamichi with that grin on his face, but this bout was huge. Kisenosato is the better rikishi of the two, but the Kid could and should learn patience from the Geeku. Kisenosato falls to 6-7.

Gone from the Komusubi ranks for sure next basho is Kokkai, who led with a great tachi-ai today against fellow Komusubi Roho but didn't follow it up. The Georgian stuck a right paw deep into the Russian's neck at the initial charge, but Kokkai just stood there after that failing to follow up the right choke hold with some sort of move from the left hand. Roho gagged for a second or two, but eventually swiped Kokkai's right arm away and found himself chest to chest maintaining the lower position. Now that the bout had become a yotsu struggle, Roho took complete command standing Kokkai upright and forcing him out for the rather uneventful win. Roho moves to 7-6, but he'll get zero praise from me this basho. Too much crap sumo. Kokkai falls to 2-11 with another ugly bout.

Gimpy Aminishiki's fate was sealed today at the hands of M2 Futenoh. The Komusubi actually delivered a great tsuppari tachi-ai, but he couldn't back it up with the lower body. Futenoh, who had been driven back a step, charged forward again this time into a weak pull attempt from Aminishiki that did nothing but send his momentum backwards and give Futenoh the perfect inside position. Even I could have finished it off from that point as Futenoh scores the easy force-out win. Both rikishi falls to 5-8, and while Aminishiki's right knee justifies that performance, Futenoh has largely underachieved this basho.

Moving quickly to the Maegashira ranks, it was too little too late again from M1 Ama. M4 Takekaze actually beat the Mongolian at the tachi-ai standing Ama upright, but Takekaze's feet seemed to be mired in that same mud that Roho got stuck in against Asashoryu because Takekaze just stood there while Ama danced to his side and grabbed a left outer grip. Takekaze shook the grip off, but it was now a battle up close that favors Ama every time. Easy forceout win for the M1 who moves to 4-9. Takekaze suffers make-koshi at 5-8.

After Iwakiyama's 0-11 start, I was thinking that the Sumo Association should be nice to him and pair him with Kitazakura, a sure win for Iwonkey Kong. And while they didn't give him Kitazakura, he did get the next best thing...M8 Toyozakura. Toyozakura actually gave a good effort with his usual tsuppari attack accompanied by his feet flailing all over the place, but Iwakiyama's girth was just too much for Zak to move across the straw. Iwakiyama actually looked horrible this bout, and almost allowed himself to get beat, but after Toyozakura had him pushed back to the tawara, he said enough is enough and began a tsuppari attack of his own that Toyozakura (3-10)answer with a pull down setting up Iwakiyama's first win this basho. What an ugly bout, but who's surprised looking at 4 wins between both of these rikishi.

Next up is one of the surprises this basho...M3 Dejima, who battled M9 Asasekiryu, a rikishi who enjoyed his own good start in Kyushu. Dejima came with his usual low charge that Asasekiryu answered with a ridiculous pull down attempt. Asasekiryu's position was so compromised him that Dejima just bulldozed him off of the dohyo. In fact, Seki was pushed so far off, I think Dejima actually touched the dirt first before Asasekiryu fell from his orbit and touched down, but this was an ass kicking through and through. Dejima moves to 9-4 and makes a firm statement for promotion to Komusubi come January. Sexy falls to 8-5.

Scrapper Kakizoe was actually out-scrapped today by M10 Toyonoshima in one of the more entertaining bouts of the day. Kakizoe came with a nifty choke hold from the tachi-ai that had Toyonoshima driven back to the straw but the M10 swiped Zoe's arm away and the grapplin' began with both lightweights settling for a long stalemate in the center of the ring. Each rikishi took several turns trying to mount a charge, you could so that both were out of breath. Finally, Toyonoshima managed to get Kakizoe turned around where he pushed him out from the behind (cool) for the okuri-dashi win. Toyonoshima clinches kachi-koshi for his efforts while Kakizoe falls to 6-7.

Iwakiyama has looked bad this basho, but M11 Kitazakura has looked the worst of anyone. I don't know how he even has three wins. Today was another joke against M5 Tochinonada who was able to stand Kitazakura (3-10) upright and move him back with some weak tsuppari that set up an easy pulldown. Kitazakura's limb were all over the map today, but the problem is it doesn't amount to any sort of effective charge against his opponents. Nada moves to 6-7.

In one of the better stories of the basho, M11 Homasho didn't necessarily keep his yusho hopes alive today, but he did prevent Asashoryu from clinching on day 13. After his usual low charge against M6 Kyokutenho, the Mongolian was denied any sort of grip, so he backed up a step and countered with a sukuinage throw that forced Homasho completely off balance. The jun-yusho candidate somehow survived the throw and quickly recovered to mount another charge against Kyokutenho whose position was completely compromised after that scoop throw attempt. With Tenho standing upright and in no position to stave off further attack, Homasho just lowered his head and drove the M6 back across the straw. Homasho moves to an incredible 11-2 with the win and keeps the pressure on Asashoryu. Yeah, right. Kyokutenho could care less as he falls to 8-5.

Suffering a surprise three-bout losing steak coming into the day was M6 Baruto, who was pitted against the grizzliest veteran of them all, 9-3 Tamakasuga. Tamakasuga did what he had to do and charged straight on with the tsuppari hoping that Baruto would go for the pull down. I think Baruto has been burned by that too many times this basho, so he went Homasho on us and just buried his head right into Tamakasuga's chest showing good patience before just bulldozing Tamakasuga back and out. Good sumo from both parties who stand at 9-4 apiece.

To end this misery in quick fashion, let's make it a lightening round as we touch on the remaining Makuuchi bouts.

Halting M15 Katayama's charge was the beefy M7 Kasugao who finagled a right inner grip from the tachi-ai that he used to just pull his opponent down with in the center of the ring. At 7-6 Kasugao could threaten the upper Maegashira ranks with a coupla wins down the stretch. Katayama falls to 6-7.

Excellent sumo today from M13 Asofuji who completely halted m8 Kakuryu's charge, grabbed the right outer grip, and executed a perfect belt throw to keep his kachi-koshi hopes alive. Both newcomers stand at 6-7.

Watch out for M9 Takamisakari (9-4) , who absorbed an M13 Tochinohana (M13) tachi-ai, allowed himself to be pushed back, and then--what else--turned the tables at the tawara forcing his opponent over the straw with a scoop throw.

Action it wasn't as M15 Otsukasa (7-6) stood M12 Ushiomaru upright at the tachi-ai before perfectly timing an Ushi charge by stepping to the side, grabbing the back of Ushiomaru's mawashi, and bowling him right off the dohyo. Ushiomaru seals his make-koshi fate.

Leaving the Makuuchi division perhaps for good is M12 Tosanoumi (4-9) who was manhandled by J1 Shimotori in a nice migi-yotsu contest that saw Tosanoumi drive his opponent back to the straw, but displayed just how much he has lost his power.

Rallying a bit from his 0-8 start, M14 Hakurozan made it five in a row against J2 Takanowaka with a huge surprise. By that I mean a tachi-ai that was straight up. Hakurozan caught his charging opponent with a moro-te tachi-ai before stepping to the side, grabbing an uwate, and dumping his hapless opponent to the clay.

Usually, day 13 is the most exciting of the basho as it separates the contenders from the pretenders, but this basho has lacked any momentum in week two. How bad do we miss Hakuho at this point? All that's left now is an unconfident Kotooshu and a gimpy Chiyotaikai to try and halt a perfect tournament for Asashoryu. The Yokozuna should waltz this weekend to his zensho yusho leaving only the sansho left to speculate upon. I'd say Homasho gets the Kantosho and Ginosho with no one else deserving a sniff.

Salvage is something Martin will attempt for you tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Bernie McManus reporting)
If Kaio doesn't retire this basho, against all former chatter, and Asa wins on day 13 or something then there sure won't be a lot to remember from the distant sumo soils of Kyushuu '06. The basho that, um, the one, number nineteen? Nineteen, my lot, and the twenties ahead in what hopefully will be a better year to which us stalwart fans can look forward.

Starting low today with a youngster-oldie bout are Yoshikaze and Tosanoumi who caused quite a ruckus out there after Yoshikaze shifted left from the tachi-ai and then tried repeatedly to get an inside belt position while the ol' Tosa struggled to hold his ground. After using an armlock to gain a bit of an advantage, Tosa was caught backpedaling and was ushered out by Oshidashi. Yoshi at J1 and 6-6 is gunning for a promotion back into the big leagues while M12 Tosanoumi is left hurting with a 4-8 make-koshi

Asasekiryu ensured his kashi-koshi by finally setting up a thunderous Hatakikomi pull-down against Takami's butterball stablemate Ushiomaru that sets my desk shaking every time I watch it. I mean, he rolled it off pretty good, but still, boom. Ushi is now a win away from his MK at 5-7 and hasn't done too bad, even pulling a win from the Kak a couple days ago. ( Go Kak! )

M14 and sinkin' Hakurozan twinkled those little toes, in my honour I'm sure, and managed another win with his Dreaded Russian Pulldown! Bwahahaha! Well, alright, he did adjust quickly to a nice Toyozakra side shift, well after the tachi-ai, and then the Hairy Cherry practically fell down on himself. Both are MK already with Hakurozan picking up win number four to Zak's three.

So how did the Kak, you ask? Well here he faced Tamakasuga who has been running pretty hot lately with only three losses mid-basho. The tachi-ai was pretty square but it was Tama who won the initiative by grabbing his arms and pushing the young Mongolian sideways off his feet. From there it was a simple matter to drop his head and drive for an Oshidashi and his ninth win. Kaku has hit on some rough waters at 6-6 and, well, it gets my nipples pretty tunnel-boring hard thinking of Clancy and Martin's little wager. Boy, the Kak may drop to Juryo, but when I see that picture the Inner Sea will have never look so beautiful. 

Kyokutenho earned his KK from the M6 rank against the similarly positioned Toyonoshima tonight by using some great footwork to stay away from Toyo's charge and using his long arms grabbed an uwate grip and forced him to the clay. Toyo tries for his eight win tomorrow against Kakizoe while Tenho faces a –censored- Homasho. Sorry, we haven't gotten to him yet, don't want to give it away. 

Kitazakura, already at eight losses, just couldn't find an answer to the superior sumo of the Gremlin Takekaze who thrust him down by Tsukiotoshi for a 5-7 standing. I'd say that Kitazakura was in bigger trouble of demotion but there could be a few extra slots opening up in the Makuuchi ( Shuuzan, * cough * Kaio * cough * ) and he might just save himself from the M11 slot.

Tochinonada had to shake off a henka by Kakizoe before evening the odds and finishing a Hatakikomi quite delicately at the tawara for his fifth win. Kakizoe stands even at 6-6.

It seems I wasn't able to watch the Takamisakari (KK) bout, which he lost to Dejima ( KK ), but it was the the only bout since Hakurozan to be won by the West and the last all evening. Someone must have rigged a purification ceremony last night or somethin'.

Little Orphan Ama is starting to get a bit of love again with a fluky third win against the bathetic (looked it up) Iwakiyama who was lifted surprisingly high by the T.N.T. Tyke, lost his footing, like, completely y'all, then to Ama's amazement suddenly disappeared from in front of him and showed up on the ground. Waki is still sucking a goose egg and faces Toyozakura tomorrow.

Now the 4-7 Aminishiki comes up against Baruto (KK) and really makes the guy look foolish by lifting him by the throat and then stepping out of the way as the Piñata from Estonia charged past and barely stopped at the edge, facing the wrong way. Five wins for, hmm, probably my favorite Japanese rikishi. Aw, ain't that sweet. Alright, buggers, moving on!

Tokitenku sees all this, thinks, "I could do something like that!", and with Kokkai in his sights he sidesteps right, with a bit of contact, cornering the pasty Georgian at the edge and forcing him out by Oshidashi. Kokkai has kissed his Komusubi title well goodbye at 2-10 while the Mongolian Mechanic is at 6-6.

Kotoshogiku used a strong right outside grip to usher out Komusubi Roho by Yorikiri after the smarmy Russian pulled yet another slippery tachi-ai with limited results. Bit of Sadogatake revenge for the Geeku who sits at 7-5 while Roho is a neutrally buoyant 6-6.

Ozeki Tochiazuma welcomed a guest to the Ozeki house as Monster Homasho was tested with the Yusho a-calling. Taz pushed him back at the mirror-like tachi-ai and after lifting Mash's shoulders higher than I've seen this basho executed a strong Sukuinage and tossed him to the clay. Homasho is a day away from giving up the cup to Asa and Tochiazuma sits at a comfortable 9-6.

Ozeki Kotooshu (KK) pulled a decent tachi-ai against Miyabiyama and managed to push him back a step before Miyabi shifted and allowed yet another European fumble late in the basho. Miyabi is gunning to keep his Sekiwake slot at 6-6.

Kotomitsuki managed to negate a few Chiyotaikai charges, quite entertaining sumo really, before fatally deciding to give his tsuppari a shot. Chiyo, taken aback more in amazement than anything, watched this for a second, threw a perfectly timed deflection and sent the ridiculous looking Sekiwake to his knees. Both are Kashi-Kosher.

Finally we come to the match that everyone was waiting for, the Kaio-Yokozuna matchup. Well, woo-hoo, the most notable thing to say about this is that the Yokozuna gave the crowd their money's worth by prolonging the stalemate in the middle while being in no immediate trouble before going all textbook on his ass and offering up a respectful Yorikiri force-out. Last time? This was their 23rd match with Kaio winning nine of the lot.

So I was hoping that we'd see Baruto as Komusubi in the New Year but now it looks like it could be Tokitenku or the Geeku. I hope Homasho pans out after his big promotion and if Kaio does decide to kick the can, I'm sure I'll be seeing him around the sumo world quite a bit in the future. 

Mike's back for more experty type stuff tomorrow. You know that even with a bore of a basho he proves there's at least one of us paying close attention. Although Martin has been keeping him pretty busy with that new webcam I heard he sent him...

Day 11 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
And then there were three. Contenders for the yusho, that is. Yesterday there were still six, today it's down to three, and the young upstart Homasho is still in the thick of it. However when it comes down to it, the emperor's cup already has Asashoryu's name written all over it. I think you can bank on that, but then again I also banked on Iwakiyama contributing to my stable in fantasy sumo this basho (yikes). 

In the early going, Homasho (10-1) defeated a solid Dejima (7-4) via an excuse-me tsukiotoshi slap down. A little luck never hurts, right? Basically, "deru deru Dejima" was doing his thing charging forward. Then Homasho benefited from a slight shift to the right that resulted in Dejima's fall forward. Tomorrow the youngster gets his first Ozeki test as he is matched up against Tochiazuma. Actually, this is another stroke of luck being as how Azuma's health is falling faster than Iwakiyama's imminent descent on the banzuke in January.

In the clash of the giant gaijin, Roho (6-5) played the spoiler role in virtually eliminating Baruto (8-3) yusho contention via an immediate uwatenage from the tachiai. It was a calculated lateral move at the onset of the bout- one that would make Mike proud for sure- to grab the Estonian behemoth's belt in the back. It worked like a charm. 

If you want quality sumo today, turn to none other than the Kotooshu-Kisenosato bout. Now here was a hidari-yotsu "gappuri" (both rikishi locked onto opponent's mawashi on both sides) belt man's dream of a bout. Kisenosato went textbook by attacking at the very moment Oshu went for a "maki-kae" (attempt to go from outside grip to inside grip), but Oshu (8-3) was able to deftly turn a defensive situation into a nicely executed uwatenage to defeat Kise (5-6). 

The old Kyushu warriors clashed for the 39th time today to the delight of the crowd. It was classic Kaio as he negated Chiyotaikai's tsuppari attack by pulling on Chiyo's thrusting left arm. In doing so, he garnered the right outside grip on Chiyo's belt, at which point it was game over of course for our belt-challenged vet from Oita Prefecture. I was just waiting for Kaio to unleash another of his signature uwatenages, but it wasn't to be. The bout ended in an anticlimactic force-out that dropped Chiyo (8-3) out of the yusho picture. Kaio is still in the picture at 9-2. 

Just when you thought Tochiazuma was putting together one of his special runs, this time he gets stepped on by Chiyotaikai yesterday while waiting on deck just prior to his bout. Apparently that incident was the major contributing factor to Azuma being faced with a gimpy left knee once again. It showed badly today as he could not handle the lateral maneuvering by Kotomitsuki (8-3) and proceeded to be ushered out via a hardly resisted okuri-dashi. As of yesterday before his bout, Azuma was the owner of the best sumo content of the basho, owner of an 8-1 mark and a fixture in the yusho hunt. Today, he is 8-3 and will be lucky to win another bout, or even finish out the basho for that matter. 

That leads us to Asashoryu, who disposed of Miyabiyama's tsuppari as if it was child's play. With a well timed slap from the right, Sho threw Miyabi off balance and pushed the fledgling Sekiwake out. Miyabi falls to 5-6 and Sho stays undefeated. That's 11-0. The owner of the most wins of any rikishi for the 5th straight year now, despite being out of commission for an entire basho in July. He is only the 3rd rikishi in Sumo history to accomplish such a feat. The others? Taiho and Kitanoumi. I have a feeling we'll be hearing Taiho, Kitanoumi, and Asashoryu in the same sentence for years to come. It's down to a matter of days before Sho takes Kyushu for the 3rd straight year. Trust me. I'll give you Iwakiyama if it doesn't happen.

Day 10 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
Before we start our engines, I'll just throw in my thoughts on the keta-guri move that Asashoryu pulled on Kisenosato. Of course it was a henka, but it was necessary to slip slightly to the side to get into the optimum position to pull off a difficult, yet obviously planned move. Yes, clearly it was a case of the Yokozuna underlining his status to a pup who is getting too big for his Doc Martens (at least in Asa's eyes). As Mike said about the henka yesterday, it's a move motivated by fear. Does anyone honestly believe that Asashoryu is afraid of Kisenosato? If you do, I suggest you go and get your head tested. And if you think that this kind of sumo will tarnish the Yokozuna's glittering career in any way whatsoever, go and get your other head checked while you're there.

Yokozuna Asashoryu (10-0) made something of a meal of dealing out his regular beating to Kotomitsuki (7-3) as the Sekiwake was briefly allowed to get both arms inside, but Asashoryu showed once again why he is the undisputed lion AND lioness of sumo as he used superior speed and awareness, switching grips at lightning speed to force Koto's left arm outside. It was then all over as Asa allowed Koto to come forward and walk into the sukuinage. Frankly, Kotomitsuki showed poor concentration in this bout and should have pounced on his brief window of (excellent) opportunity to at least make more of a match of it, but it wasn't to be. Asashoryu marches on to the zensho. Kotomitsuki has that 8-7 in his sights, and may pick it up tomorrow via fusen-sho on!

As expected, Ozeki Kaio (8-2) has finally cracked despite a heroic performance this basho. Ozeki Kotooshu (7-3) made it two losses in a row for the home fave as he got a powerful right-hand outside grip while not giving Kaio a sniff of his belt. He then showed the power of a younger man to drive Kaio out and down, throwing him at the edge. Kaio was never in this one but he might pick up ten wins if he's lucky, although he looks tired to me. Kotooshu features in a sexy bout tomorrow against his nemesis, Kisenosato. Don't miss that one, unless, of course, you have something better to do.

Before I talk about the next bout, I have a message from a long-time fan to Ozeki Tochiazuma: screw you, pal! If you ever pull a blatant henka like the one you did on Miyabiyama the other day again, I won't be your bitch anymore! I know Tochiazuma has pulled one or two henkas in his time (to put it mildly) but that was a particularly nasty one and I winced in embarrassment while watching it. He is just not the rikishi I admired long, long ago and is as dull as dishwater these days, although he can still put on the odd show when he wants to. Up today was old foe M3 Dejima but Tochi's legendary balance let him down as he fought too low and fell to a Dejima hatakikomi, appearing to pick up yet another injury in the process. He certainly didn't look like Naomi Campbell as he limped down the hanamichi. Dejima (7-3) kept his concentration well after initially looking in trouble, showing good timing and awareness for the pull-down. Safely at 8-2, Tochiazuma will no doubt withdraw tomorrow, even if the injury isn't too serious. This was a mortal blow to the Kyushu basho; the Asashoryu yusho is now 99.9999999% certain as opposed to 99.99%.

Coming into the bout between Ozeki Chiyotaikai and Sekiwake Miyabiyama, I realized that my feelings for these two were far different to usual. I'm no fan of either rikishi but Chiyotaikai (8-2) has been a joy to watch on some days and deserves plenty of ice lollies for trying to do his own sumo. For Miyabiyama (5-5) I feel only pity – he has eaten three henkas this basho, something no man or beast should have to suffer – although clearly as he is not the most agile of rikishi (snigger), opponents are always going to take advantage where they can. In today's bout, it was vintage Miyabiyama as he neutralized Chiyotaikai's tsuppari by coming in close at tachiai and smothering the thrusts nicely. The Ozeki was just not able to get it going and was overpowered by blobber-features and pushed out. There was some concern about a possible injury to Chiyotaikai's leg, but it seemed just a knock to me.

Komusubi Kisenosato and M1 Ama put on a speedy and exciting but sloppy display that could have gone either way as neither man could establish any dominance over the course of the bout. This way and that way it went but it was left finally to the Kisser to switch at the edge and condemn Ama (2-8) to a losing record via yoritaoshi. Kisenosato is 5-5 with most of the tough guys out of the way and will surely go on to get a winning record.

Well, Komusubi Roho (5-5) did it again, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy. He spent the entire bout with fellow Komusubi Aminishiki (4-6) going for the back of the head or pulling on the arm, and we witnessed what was basically a return to the bad old days of bad old Roho. Aminishiki stayed on the case and kept his balance to push the Russian out. Poetic justice, I believe, for some of the negative sumo displayed in Kyushu by this talented but greatly frustrating rikishi.

M2 Futenoh put up a valiant battle at the edge despite M3 Tokitenku having the double inside grip but it was not to be as Tokitenku reaped the benefits of a nice little maki-kae. There was an amusing camera angle as both rikishi seemed to hang forever, straining at the tawara, and looked to be having a bit of a chat. Both men stand at 4-6.

M2 Kotoshogiku took on the battered-looking M5 Tochinonada, pulling off a solid tachiai and establishing a powerful right-hand grip. Despite Tochinonada's best efforts to shake his opponent off, which he briefly did until Koto re-established the grip, the bout was never really going to go his way. Good sumo from both men and Kotoshogiku goes to 5-5, a creditable record indeed considering he has fought all the top guys already (with the obvious exception of stable mates Kotooshu and Kotomitsuki). Tochinonada is 4-6. I still love this chappie, even though his best days are behind him.

M6 Baruto (8-2) was given a thorough arse-kicking by on-fire M11 Homasho (9-1), who came in low at the tachiai and took advantage of Baruto's failure to grab the left uwate. With Baruto grip-less and in a more upright position, it was then simply a case of running the big man out before he could recover and do what he did to Takekaze on day 3 (swat him down). Homasho will almost certainly pick up a special prize and richly deserved it will be, too. Good sumo from him. And now he finds himself the only man within one loss of the leader. Baruto faces another tough match tomorrow with the surliest man in the world, Roho, also known as Ivor Whopper.

Lower down the order, M10 Toyonoshima and M11 Kitazakura gave us some entertainment early on in the card with an exciting and crowd-pleasing see-saw that culminated in Toyo finally getting morozashi and the win to improve to 7-3. It's been a good basho from him. Kitazakura is suffering from altitude sickness at his current rank and goes make-koshi today. M14 Hakurozan (2-8), who supposedly has a left leg injury (hence the taping), got the pull-down win over Juryo pin-up girl, Shimotori. It's now damage limitation time for 'that other Russian guy' but demotion from the top looks inevitable now. At least he can look forward to winning the Juryo yusho in January. And M7 Tamanoshima's make-koshi misery was compounded with a nasty fall and a possible injury to the left leg in his loss to M13 Asofuji (4-6).

Well, I learned a couple of things today. Firstly, the existence of two magnificent oil tankers called Bum Mi and Titan Uranus (fact!) and secondly...that this basho is over. Everyone might as well just go home. Barring injury, Asashoryu picks up his 19th yusho on Saturday, possibly Friday. What we did not need in terms of 'excitement' was all the following pack (apart from Homasho) to lose. Bugger!

Kenji returns from the Kansas square dance convention tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The rage this basho during week one was the resurgence of Ozeki Kaio, but that quickly took a back seat on Sunday after Asashoryu's act against Kisenosato. There has been some debate on whether or not that was a tachi-ai henka because the Yokozuna employed the keta-guri move, a technique that requires the rikishi to move to the side. Well, there is no debate. That was indeed a tachi-ai henka. But lest anyone start pointing an accusing finger the Yokozuna's way, that was a completely acceptable move. Look, Asashoryu has earned the right to do whatever the hell he wants on that dohyo, and if he wants to use a tachi-ai henka to set up a keta-guri move to send a message to an up-and-comer who beat him last basho, more power to him.

Here's what I hate about the tachi-ai henka....rikishi use it out of fear. They use it when they don't have any confidence in themselves to beat their opponent. They use it when they feel as if they've somehow been slighted and deserve a win. Asashoryu's decision yesterday was based on none of those reasons. In order to get my point across, let's review a couple of famous henka this year.

Earlier in day 8, Tochiazuma executed a heinous tachi-ai henka against Sekiwake Miyabiyama. Why? Out of fear. Let's review these two rikishi's head-to-head results the last little while using this really complex and mathematically-driven chart I've created. And remember, two of these bouts occurred during Tochiazuma's fake Yokozuna run:

As you can see, Tochiazuma was sick of getting humiliated by Miyabiyama, so he took the easy way out. How about Kaio's tachi-henka against Tokitenku in May? Kaio was stuck on seven wins, he had taken a head to the sternum shot a couple of days earlier from Takekaze, and heading into day 10 he knew that he would not win another bout legitimately. So, he side-stepped Tokitenku to secure kachi-koshi. Roho did the same thing on the final day in Nagoya. He entered the day 7-7 after having been forced to sit out for three days, so I'm sure in his mind he was entitled to that kachi-koshi.

Understanding all of this, let's get back to Asashoryu. Coming into day 8, he was not afraid of Kisenosato in the least, he didn't feel as if he was owed anything, and he certainly had confidence to beat the Komusubi. Performing that keta-guri move sent a message to everyone, which was I rule this place, so don't screw with me. Previously when someone would beat Asashoryu, the Yokozuna would visit their stable prior to the next basho and kick their ass around administering a tsuri-otoshi or two to boot. He didn't visit the Naruto-beya prior to this basho (in my opinion, he really likes Kisenosato and respects him), but he still needed to send a message. Remember back in January of 2004 when Asa humiliated Kotomitsuki during the latter's supposed challenge for the yusho? Mitsuki hasn't been the same since. When was the last time he went 13-2 for the jun-yusho? Han't happened since that basho nearly three years ago. There are certain unwritten rules in every sport, and one of those in sumo is that a Yokozuna can put the rikishi in their place any damn way he sees fit...even if it includes a tachi-ai henka.  I know that my stance is probably an unpopular one, especially to relative newcomers who are sick of the Yokozuna's dominance, but the sport is so much better off with him around than not.  Trust me.

Sorry to get off on such a tangent, but I'm too lazy to put that rant in a blog entry. Getting to the day's action, Yokozuna Asashoryu used a quick left frontal belt grip obtained at the tachi-ai to completely neutralize Kokkai's tsuppari attack. The Yokozuna pressed his head deep against his opponent keeping his left side at bay before quickly grabbing Kokkai left leg and lifting it completely off the dohyo. Kokkai wriggled like a juicy night crawler just as I force a sharp, metal fishhook up through his body (I can't imagine what the big deal is), but Asashoryu kindly kept Kokkai on top of the dohyo as he forced him to hop back and out. As Clancy often points out, Asashoryu frequently has his opponents in positions where he could do some serious damage to their bodies if he wanted, but he allows them to live another day. Such was the case today, but I'm not sure Kokkai at 0-9 would have cared at this point...ugh. Asashoryu cruises to 9-0 with the win.

Slipping down to the Ozeki ranks, was Komusubi Kisenosato going for the keta-guri move of his own today against Ozeki Chiyotaikai? That was a retarded tachi-ai from the Kid who completely took himself out of this bout by jumping to the side and going for a pull down. Chiyotaikai was prepared perfectly for the move and managed a right forearm into Kisenosato's gut knocking him to the side and against the tawara. From there, the Ozeki actually went easy on the guy I thought as he tsuppari'd him back and out for an impressive win. Chiyotaikai moves to a cool 8-1, but you all know what's coming, right? Kisenosato falls to 4-5 with the loss, and I think it's safe to say that Kisenosato received the message yesterday from the Yokozuna because he looked uncharacteristically bad today.

I don't think is should be a surprise that Komusubi Aminishiki is struggling this basho. The dude is a tactician for sure, but I think his leg his injured, and his sumo has been too evasive for my liking lately. Today was just another example as Aminishiki used a sickly tachi-ai henka to his left against Kotooshu, but the Ozeki had to have been expecting it because he not only survived it well, but slipped to the side of his opponent and grabbed the left uwate, which he easily used to dump the hapless Aminishiki (3-6) to the dirt. I'm encouraged by Kotooshu's movement today as he moves to 6-3, but this basho it's too little too late, especially considering his week 2 schedule.

Ever get the feeling I like getting on Tochiazuma's case? Why stop now then? Thanks a lot Tochiazuma for ruining any momentum this basho had and ensuring declining ticket sales from here on out. In all seriousness, I have nothing but praise for the Ozeki today as he fought fellow Ozeki Kaio in our first Ozeki dual of the basho. Kaio went for that double forearm stab at the tachi-ai, but Tochiazuma brilliantly locked up both of Kaio's arms keeping them away from his belt while burying his head deep into Kaio's chest. From this point, Tochiazuma quickly took the initiative with his patented left inashi (push to the side of your opponent's shoulder) that knocked Kaio sideways and off balance. In basho past, Kaio would have gone down at this point, but you could just see him force himself to keep his feet. Keep his feet he did, but Tochiazuma was just too good today charging again into Kaio and easily forcing him out from there before the crowd favorite could recover. Kaio's passive tachi-ai proved his fate today, but he was just expertly dismantled by his opponent. Both rikishi stand at a groovy 8-1.

Wax on, wax favorite move taught at the Mr. Miyagi School of Defense. M1 Ama employed the tactic brilliantly today against Sekiwake Miyabiyama's trademark morote attack from the tachi-ai.  Not to be outdone, Miyabiyama quickly reloaded his tsuppari attack, but this time Ama grabbed the Sheriff's right arm and threw him to the side completely knocking him out of any rhythm. Miyabi recovered somewhat and went for more pushes, but Ama timed another pull of Miyabi's right arm this time dragging him forward and spinning him around 360 degrees near the tawara. From here, Ama was right on top of his opponent and offered a few sharp thrusts that had Miyabiyama falling to his fifth loss. Miyabiyama falls to 4-5, but I've been impressed with the way he's handled himself this basho. He's been henka'd three times already...a sign that nobody wants a piece of you straight up. He's kept his head up throughout and is still plugging away. He was flat out bested today by Ama (2-7), and they'll be no more talk of this Ozeki foolishness, but Miyabiyama is healthy for sumo right now, and I'd rate him as one of the top 5 guys on the banzuke.

It is purely uncanny how Sekiwake Kotomitsuki is able to take himself right out of a basho. Today against M3 Dejima, both rikishi offered a weak tachi-ai that saw the action come to a screeching halt in the middle of the ring with Dejima close to a right frontal belt grip and Kotomitsuki holding his opponent's arms at bay. From this position, the left outer grip for Kotomitsuki was there for the taking, but the Sekiwake figured that just standing there for 30 seconds was a better strategy. Finally, Kotomitsuki tried to wrench Dejima upwards and set him up for something, but in the process, Dejima twisted his body just so pulling Mitsuki over and down by the back of the right shoulder sending the Sekiwake to his second loss in as many days. Kotomitsuki's sumo reminds me of Robert DeNiro's fellow asylum mates in the movie Awakenings. Everything will be going along just fine, and then the Sekiwake just stops in his tracks for no apparent reason. He'll remain that way frozen for like 30 seconds where all of he sudden he starts up again. It's beyond me, and at 7-2 so is the yusho for Kotomitsuki. Look at Dejima...quietly improving to 6-3.  It was a helluva win today.

Let's mop up the sanyaku with our remaining Komusubi, Roho, who ain't making any new friends or fans this basho with his sumo tactics. Let me get this straight...with Hokutoriki having officially withdrawn, Iwakiyama takes over as the biggest blob in the division coming in at 0-8. What can possibly be going through Roho's thick skull that makes him plan a tachi-ai henka against such a hapless opponent? If you must know the details, the Russian jumped to his right throwing a weak left hari-te in the process before grabbing the quick outer grip on the back of Iwakiyama's belt and pulling him down by the back of the head. This was like stealing candy from a was like tripping the old lady crossing the was like a gaijin in Japan who cons one of his high school-aged students to be his girlfriend. Roho has all but forgotten his style of sumo that got him to this rank in the first place, and it's disappointing. To hell with him and his 5-4 record. Iwakiyama falls to 0-9.

Looking to the Maegashira ranks, M4 Takekaze delivered a great tachi-ai, but it was one where he failed to follow up with his tsuppari attack. M2 Kotoshogiku welcomed the yotsu contest from there and patiently worked his way into a left inner grip that was all the advantage he needed to force Takekaze back and out improving to 4-5. Takekaze falls to 2-7.

How about that M5 Tochinonada - M2 Futenoh bout? That was easily one of the better bouts of the tournament. The two exhibited a smashmouth tachi-ai that made even Tosanoumi blush, and it was a charge that I wish we'd see more of. Both rikishi ended up in the hidari-yotsu position, which favors Tochinonada, and credit the M5 for attempting a quick scoop throw that just missed. Futenoh countered with a kote-nage throw of his own that kept Tochinonada on the defensive enough to where the M2 eventually lowered himself and instead of going for a right uwate grip, he concentrated on pushing Tochinonada upright and back. Nada resisted at the tawara, but Futenoh wisely grabbed the outer grip now that it was wide open and used it to finish the gentle giant off. Tochinonada had the better position throughout most this bout, but it was a case of Futenoh refusing to lose. Both rikishi are 4-5.

After an 0-5 start, M3 Tokitenku is starting to rebound. Today against M7 Tamanoshima, the two ended up in the migi yotsu position from the tachi-ai with Tokitenku enjoying the left outer grip. But that's about as exciting as it got as one of the worst stalemates of the basho ensued. I thought I'd go retro today and pop in that Golden Earring 8-track tape of mine and listen to the Twilight Zone song.. When that was over, I glanced back up at the TV just in time to catch a brief counter attempt from Tamanoshima (2-7) before Tokitenku (3-6) finished him off maintaining that stubborn left belt grip. (yawn). M4 Kakizoe (5-4) came with the right idea, which was a tsuppari attack to M6 Baruto's neck, but Baruto showed good patience and timed some perfect shoves...first under Kaizoe's left pit and next with a right to Kakizoe's chin that sent him sprawling off the dohyo in a heap. Baruto secured kachi-koshi today, and I expected him to have a great first week, but I still maintain he'll get worked if he's paired with jo'i rikishi later on in week two.

Veteran M6 Kyokutenho easily withstood M8 Toyozakura's more-bark-than-bite tsuppari charge before slapping down on his opponent and knocking him off balance so much that he was an easy push out target from there as a single left hand blow (ooh, that didn't sound right) knocked Toyozakura clear off the dohyo. If you have the means to go back and watch the bout, note how Toyozakura's feet were flopping all over the place during his so called charge. Gotta ground yourself, son, before you mount a tsuppari attack. What in Asashoryu's name is going on with M14 Hakurozan? Did Rip Van Rozan just wake from the dead? He began with a Kokkai-esque double tsuppari from the tachi-ai that drove M8 Kakuryu back a clear two steps. Kakuryu panicked at this point and then rushed forward hastily without much care to his stability as Hakurozan easily pulled him down with force from there for his first win. This was the kind of sumo I expected from Hakurozan (1-8) from day one. He'll pay the price for his (lack of) effort, though, this basho beginning with a pay cut in the Juryo ranks in January. Terao (Shikoroyama-oyakata), who provided color commentary today, suggested that Kakuryu may have been expecting a henka from Hakurozan; thus the weak start today. I think we all were expecting the henka, but afterwards as Kakuryu returned to the locker room, NHK's man on the street sideline reporter caught up to him and got this quote, "I knew a pull down was coming. I just didn't know when." He'll learn.

Entertainer M9 Takamisakari was blown away at the tachi-ai by M14 Tamakasuga's tsuppari attack, but he put that ugly face of his in harm's way stopping the charge at the tawara before countering himself with a right arm deep on the inside of his opponent, which he used to stand Tamakasuga upright and force out with ease. Takamisakari suffered a bloody nose (or a bleeding nose for my friend) for his efforts, but he'll take that every bout. Both rikishi are 6-3.

Taking a page out of Ama's attack yesterday, M9 Asasekiryu executed a choke hold of his own against M13 Tochinohana followed by some quick pull attempts that didn't work. The two rikishi settled into hidari yotsu from there, but Asa-sexy is just not long enough to grab an uwate from this position against the much taller Tochinohana. He went for a maki-kae from there but was cut off leaving him no position. Tochinohana next went for a maki-kae of his own that worked setting up moro-zashi, which he used to stand Seki straight up with. He quickly drove him to the tawara, but Seki wouldn't go down easy applying a neck throw at the edge. Tochinohana countered with a throw from his left inner grip and the two rikishi went down together. The difference? Asasekiryu landed clean on his head first to suffer the tough loss. If you go back and read the rikishi quotes, you can see Asasekiryu saying things like, "I'm just content grabbing the belt and then picking my spots" or "I'm just being patient." Yeah, not this bout. He completely threw what was working for him earlier out the door, and he paid the price in this bout by rushing things. Both rikishi are 6-3.

Ostsukasa used one of those moves today against M10 Toyonoshima that I have yet to figure out how it works. It's that move where you fire the quick tsuppari into the opponent's chest and then just swipe the chest. And it works! It reminds me of the eye gouge in professional know, a phantom move. Whatever the case, the M15 moves to 5-4 while Toyonoshima falls (wink, wink) to 6-3.

Down low in the division, we are seeing a nifty performance this basho from M11 Homasho. Today, M12 Ushiomaru quickly drove him back to the tawara with a swift pushing attack, but if Ushiomaru was really serious about his charge, he would've finished off his bidness. Instead, Homasho halted the momentum at the tawara and countered with his own shoves forcing the action right back to the center of the ring. At this point, Ushiomaru offered some feeble pull down attempts, and then for some reason just ducked his head providing the perfect pull down target for Terao's prodigy. Homasho skips to 8-1 and is almost certainly on his way to a Fighting Spirit prize. The Ushi drops to 4-5.

Onto the bitter end, M13 Asofuji (3-6) used a stubborn left frontal belt grip to twist M11 Kitazakura (2-7) this way and that before pulling him down, and M15 Katayama (5-4) used what else but a nifty dodge of M12 Tosanoumi's charge to pull the veteran down to the dirt. Does Tosanoumi (4-5) ever lose by anything besides a pull down? Hopefully Simon has the answers tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Some of you, if not all, are doubtless thinking the same thing as I: How could such a bright light, this young and fiery comet of skill and determination be henka'd, on Day 8, in front of everyone? Well, it did happen. I, Fancy Clancy, was henka'd. By the whole damnable lot of them, the so-called jo'i, the top rankers, the big guns. Salivating like Bernie before a date with his cousin Peg, I was foolish enough to presume that this second Sunday would be a "romper stomper," as Simon put it, from the M2 on up, what with the matchups that were on tap. Could'na been more wrong. Perhaps I should have kept in mind that old adage, Never presume, because when you do, you may make a PRES out of U and ME. Well I certainly feel like a big, stupid, hairy pres. And don't think for a moment that the novelty of seeing a thin, sexy Japanese woman seated between two horndog Japanese guys and NOT being molested with vibrating eggs and gynecological instruments made any difference!

So to get my revenge, I will begin my report by highlighting the bottom dwellers, the peons, the downtrodden, the. . okay, I'll shut up. E14 Tamakasuga (who went 11-4 from W12 in Nagoya, only to be pummeled back to reality in September garnering exactly one win), took his sixth of this basho by outlasting long in the tooth E15 Otsukasa (4-4) with a well timed thrust down after a, yes, protracted tussle. 

Ultra flexible W15 Katayama, a rubber man who had better make damned sure to shave well between his legs before each and every basho, dusted off his sumo textbook and beat 2-6 E13 Asofuji with it, looking like a, yes, diminutive Takanohana in walking the Big Sib back and out and one step closer to the minors. Mountain Dude is batting .500. E11 Homasho is making a mockery of his opponents this time out, showing the kind of stable, don't tread on me sumo George Washington displayed at Valley Forge. Today he let Hakurozan spend what little strength he had playing pat-a-cake on his chest, and when he was finished, he shoved the big Russian out and made it official, Little Sib will be going Juryo way come New Year. At 7-1, I'd bet Homasho would give his left nut to have that wasted bout vs. Toyonoshima on Day 1 back. 

W11 Kitazakura threw everything but the kitchen sink at Tochinohana, pulling off a, yes, deft escape at the edge by twisting his torso and jacking his right leg up into the W13's groin, sending him howling back to the center where Tochi started slapping the crap out of Japan's ambassador to UNICEF, who gave back a few open palms hisbadself before plunging in trying for a right hand belt grip that Tochi was ready for, grabbing Father Flanagan's right outside belt and using a sweet overhand throw to go 5-3 and placing Kitazakura ever closer to that Juryo demotion both he and his younger bro Toyozakura look like they'll be on the receiving end of in January. 

Circus, at E9, used an arm raising maneuver on W12 Tosanoumi to keep himself alive at the edge, then managed to regain the center of the ring and give the former Sekiwake a huge shove that sent him out toot sweet. P.T.'s boy goes to 5-3, Tosanoumi to 4-4.

W9 Asasekiryu lost his second in a row, or did he? He battled former Mongolian E6 Kyokutenho, still squeezing out a few over the retirement of his pal Foxy Loxy, to a standstill in the center, both men with mirrored one-handed belt grips, their free hands engaged in their own tiny fisticuffs, you shoulda seen it, so cute. Finally, Asasexy got a two-handed grip on Crybaby and drove him to the edge, but a technically sweet last ditch throw by Kyokutenho was rewarded with a win, even though he touched down before his foe. Don't write to ask me what the MIB were doing, I have no ide'er. It shore wasn't watching the same faht as yows truly.

Knowing all he need do is patiently wait, W6 Baruto waited patiently (eat your heart out, James Joyce) until he got a fingers-under-every-layer-of-mawashi outside right belt grip on W10 Toyonoshima, who seemed intent on pitching camp beneath Baruto's solar plexus, and then pulled him into a standing bear hug and literally torqued him into the clay. Thought Toyo was going to be limping away from this one, but he seemed okay. I'm hopeful that Biomass stays at the one loss until Day 12, then we will likely see him trying to take a bite out of some prime cuts. Au jus!

(And let's give it up to George for his dead on appraisal of the yokels in Fukuoka, tossing pillows for no other reason than it "feels good". What, is this the focking Sixties or somethin'? After looking at all those empty seats, and the other seats filled with nothing but hayseeds, I say it's time to start having two basho per year in Osaka, where the crowds are always big and fun. Who gives a rat's ass about Fuk U O Ka anyway?)

Dynamic W4 Kakizoe broke out of his three match skid by chasing W8 Kakuryu around the ring and out to his third loss. Uncharacteristic sumo by the newbie, who has been impressive in his debut, beating three former Sekiwake and two former Komusubi. Not at all certain about what Martin was on about on Day 6, Kakuryu is at W8 because he is a tough little Mongolian, you know, the people who gave us Yokozuna Asashoryu, Ozeki Hakuho, Sekiwake Kyokutenho, as well as Komusubis Kyokushuzan, Ama and Asasekiryu. If he is down in Juryo by Osaka as the Romulan, I mean, Romanian predicts, I'll post a photo of me standing "buck nekkid", ice cold March water up to my nipples, in the murky depths of the Seto Inland Sea.

(I must say that was a fantastic joke Martin pulled on Day 6, pretending he could not write English perfectly [I wish Mike would stop making that same "joke" in his every report, all report long]. But don't think that he is completely Westernized, either. Why just last Sunday I had to help him use his swipe card to get back into his hotel room. Said he'd never seen one before. Said they keep doors shut in Romania using string, duct tape, or bungee.)

Rejuvenated E2 Kotoshogiku manhandled Ozeki slayer W2 Futenoh, getting in, under and all over his foe, a la Dejima 1999, to pick up his third win in lightning quick pushout fashion after clamping down on Futenoh's left arm and lifting up under his right. He's doing it just the way he should at this point in his young career, beating all the guys his rank or lower and honing his skills while losing to higher ranked opponents. I'm all about the Geeku. As for Futenoh, said it before and I'll say it again: You've got all the right body skills, but sumo doesn't need another head case (see Kotooshu, Kotomitsuki). Decide what you want to be and be it (see Hakuho, Kisenosato).

And thus is begins. Mark this date on your calendar, and when Hit and Mitsuki finishes at 8-7, maybe 9-6, recall how E1 Ama choked the Sekiwake at tachi-ai for a full two seconds, and then let him fall forward and applied a, yes, exquisitely timed armbar thingy to complete the run out. First win, first loss, but won't be the last of either for both. Huh?

Exactly when my disappointment began I'm not sure, but it was probably in this match, two guys 16-16 head-to-head coming in, and Ozeki Tochiazuma stepping out of the way and letting poor, lost Miyabiyama fall flat on his flub, with not even the Deputy around to comfort him (have you noticed how that bump has shrunk to nuttin'?) Tochiazuma has made the henka one of his signature moves, wouldn't you say? He pulls at least two of them every basho. 

I'm finally seeing this Mike's way about Kotooshu in particular and the Europeans in general. He doesn't seem to have the mental to compliment that awesome physique, nor the fundamentals to advance to Yokozuna (or keep his Ozeki rank much longer than another year, I fear). Today he let Roho-ho-ho- Your Boat freak him out with shikiri-sen games, then bit on one of those pathetic sidestep tachi-ai the Russian is becoming known for, where he hits with just a smidgen of his shoulder. Kotooshu, unlike Hakuho or Asashoryu or Tochiazuma, has little recovery ability, and so looks the dope being shoved out onto his keister to his third, and yusho hope destroying, loss.

Actually, I just had a Fosters with Simon down in the hotel bar, and he agrees with me that the Europeans have such poor tachi-ai, to a man. They have reached the ranks they occupy now from sheer size and strength, but once people figure out you are afraid to get hit at tachi-ai, you're going to be open to all sorts of exploitation, and that's happening right now. Shit, look at Asasekiryu whoopin' on Baruto on Day 4, Tokitenku dusting off Kotooshu on Day 6, and Kokkai. . .Kokkai. . .Kokkai

Does he think for a moment that merely bumping his left shoulder into the Wolf's Pup is going to get him anywhere? Girl Scout sumo from a guy that big? Hardy freakin' har. Of course the Ozeki slapped the Komusubi out in a hurry to his eighth loss, while getting his seventh win. I like Chiyotaikai about as much as I like nostril pimples, but gots to give the man his props. He's not taking any shite this basho, Futenoh notwithstanding, and he's winning moving forward. Go Puptard!

Maybe the first big story of the basho was Hakuho's toe. It then became Nine Finger Kyokushuzan. But it now rests squarely on the massive shoulders of one man and one man only: Ozeki Kaio. I don't know what the person who gave him massages in Nara did exactly, but if it's a guy, he deserves a few cases of fine sake, and of it's a girl, some good ol' Kaio pipe to tell her grandkids about one day.

Today he shook off a hard charge that took him back to the edge by raising up the right arm of W3 The Degyptian (who will be henka'd by a desperate Kotomitsuki tomorrow, mark my words), then resetting in the center and backing up the former Ozeki until, as the crowd aurally pulsed with anticipation, he threw him down and claimed his Day 8 undefeated record. Who'd a thunk it? Yes, I too have heard the ugly accusations of bought bouts, and Dejima's arm went up today suspiciously easily, IMNSHO, but absent any hard evidence, I'm ready to believe, however na
Ee it may be, that Kaio is still a good-sized chunk of the man he once was when his back is not killing him. I'd eat a jar of warm, expired natto if I could be covering a Day 15 matchup of undefeated Asa vs Kaio, but I can't see him getting by the triumvirate of Tochiazuma, Kotomitsuki, and Kisenosato. But I couldn't see him extending his career beyond this basho, either, so beware the powers of massage!

I know that some of you are probably wondering what I'm going to say about Asashoryu's tachi-ai today. Will I allow my love of the Yokozuna to color my view of his henka? Well, no and yes. No, it isn't out of love, but Yes, Asa is a very special case. 

First of all, he has 18 yusho, and that kind of record gives you the right to do just about anything you want to on the dohyo. Second of all, he doesn't need to henka to win, we all know this in our bone marrow, so my thinking is that he had some ulterior motive. Perhaps he wanted to teach the youngster a lesson about being ready for anything. Maybe he was hearing boasting from the Messiah about how aggressive he was planning on being at tachi-ai, so Asa is teaching him to keep his trap shut and not give away his strategy. Maybe the Yokozuna just wanted to see if he could kick the legs out from under the 20 year-old. It certainly was no ordinary henka, that leg kicking ketaguri being pretty damned cool to watch on replay.

Nonetheless, Asa's strategy did contribute to the overall shitty feeling I had that I got gypped by the big boys. But hey, they don't owe me squat. 

Mike does owe me something, and he'd better start making good on it tomorrow!

Day 7 Comments (George Guida reporting)
There's an old boxing clich
Ethat says, "Speed kills." That summed up today's musubi ichiban as Asashoryu was too fast, too aggressive, and just too talented for Aminishiki (2-5) to muster any kind of offense. Asa slapped the new Komusubi silly, and by the time Aminishiki had secured a migi-uwate grip he was already out the front door. Asa looks for payback tomorrow against Kisenosato. 

Tochiazuma (7-1) stoically weathered a tsuppari squall from Kokkai, and with the precision of a surgeon and pinpoint timing, required only a few love taps to Kokkai's arms to throw his footing out of whack, turn him to his side, and effortlessly push him out. It didn't look like much but it was display of smart, veteran sumo at its best. Kokkai needs more footwork and attacks from different angles because Tochiazuma doesn't give ground easily. Kokkai falls to a disastrous 0-7 and will probably find himself in the mid-ranks come 2007. Tochiazuma looks like a threat, but it could abruptly end tomorrow as he squares off against his nemesis Miyabiyama.

Just as Hulk Hogan drew upon his legions of Hulkamaniacs for inspiration and to overcome adversity, so does Kaio draw upon his legions of Fukuokans, (well, at least on the weekend) to vanquish all who oppose him. While Kaio doesn't use an atomic leg drop, he does have a nifty finishing maneuver called a right-handed uwate-nage. Roho (3-4), exploded out of the blocks with a NFL style tachi-ai that rocked Kaio backwards a good foot. Kaio quickly recovered, gained that coveted grip and with sheer, brute strength floored Roho with his patented throw. Let's hope Kaio stays hot because the place comes unhinged with each win. A yusho kettei-sen with Asa for all the marbles come Day 15 would the best possible scenario for sumo. 

We now interrupt this report for a special Public Service Announcement. Sumo fans of Fukuoka: Get over yourselves. Save the pillow throwing for a kinboshi or Day 15 yusho kettei-sen. Seriously, what is with this zabuton madness after every Asashoryu match?

Never underestimate the power of the sanzui radical. When Kotooshu, (that's
with water droplets, sukka) delved into the realm of kanji esoterica between basho, changing his shikona to tap into a mystical, source of sumo power known only to the elders of the sumo council and Makiko Uchidate, there were snickers. Lo and behold, Kaloyan is back with his confident, technical sumo that was missing for a good deal of 2006. Today's victim was M4 Kakizoe as Kotooshu, with that ridiculous reach advantage grabbed a lightning-quick uwate and then for all intents and purposes, gave Kakizoe a wedgie from the front of his mawashi that crumpled him in his tracks. NHK announcers were puzzled as to what to call the kimarite. The winning technique was recorded as abise-taoshi, and irony of ironies, that's one of the few sumo techniques that has the sanzui radical in it. Coincidence? Shikona sorcery? Whatever the case, Kotooshu is Hydroman and even at 5-2, expect him to factor heavily in the yusho hunt despite his tough schedule ahead.

I'm not anti-Chiyotaikai by any means, but it was satisfying to see Chiyo fall prey to his own favorite technique as M2 Futenoh (3-4) swatted down the Ozeki with a tsuppari counterattack. Futenoh's low center of gravity makes him one of the more difficult rikishi to push around so he can get away with going to toe-to-toe with the Ozeki's quick hands. While Chiyo got the better of the tsuppari fusillade, Chiyo choked at the bales, weakly attempting to grab a migi-uwate on Futenoh and not having enough in his shoves to push the youngster over and out. Futenoh capitalized on Chiyo's less than sound sumo and blasted Chiyo right back to the center of the dohyo, swatting him off balance with some crisp tsuppari of his own. Futenoh is playing the spoiler this tournament as all three of wins are over Ozeki.

Kotomitsuki allowed M1 Iwakiyama his favored migi-yotsu positioning. Kotomitsuki was unfazed. Koto secured migi-uwate and tossed Iwaki with authority, via a lovely uwate-nage. Koto gets bonus points for that triumphant "oni no gyoso" scowl. Kotomitsuki is 7-0, shares the leader board with Kaio and Asashoryu and is in the yusho hunt. Any takers that Kotomitsuki a week from Sunday Kotomitsuki finishes 8-7?

I'm slowly becoming a Kisenosato fan. How can you not like his confidence, his swagger and approach to the game at such a young age? The Kid quickly worked inside Miyabi, getting into a tight hidari yotsu position and refusing the Sekiwake any chance to fire tsuppari. From there, it was hyper-gaburi mode as Kise went buck wild with those belly thrusts to force the huge load that is Miyabiyama to the bales. Miyabi, with no viable counterattack, surrendered and Kise gets a very BIG yori-kiri win. The Komusubi is 4-3, which is very respectable considering all of his opposition except Tokitenku has come from san'yaku.

As Martin wrote on Day 6 and Mike on Day 4, M6 Baruto's sumo dynamics are funky. The upright tachi-ai. The Vitruvian man stance that automatically triggers "Open arms" from Journey in my brain. That "looking for trouble" tachi-ai was in full form again today, albeit the technique slightly more polished, as Baruto controlled M11 Kitazakura's (2-5) movement by latching on the migi-uwate and ushering out Kitazakura with via yori-kiri. It was still awkward sumo as Baruto pivoted almost 180
to force out the big salt thrower, rather than your bread and butter, straight ahead yori-kiri style. This sumo won't work against the big dogs, but nevertheless Baruto finds himself sitting comfortably at 6-1. I hope Baruto doesn't turn into a Kokkai, a rikishi who can coast to a high level of sumo just on physical gifts alone. There are lots of kinks that need to be ironed out on "The Project."

Hey, check out Takanohana! The legend is slick! Perhaps he borrowed some Bryl cream from Kokonoe (Chiyonofuji) but what matters is that the unfortunate perm he was sporting is a thing of the past.

Clancy muckrakes on Day 8. Be there. 

Day 6 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Hello my name is Martin and I am from Romania. I will present to you day 6 sumo report, but please to be gentle, this is first sumo report for me. HA! Had you there, didn't I, too late to deny it now! Just as I was working up the concentration to start my report, I heard a peculiar rustling noise in the bushes near my house, so I looked out the window to see what was going on. To my surprise, I saw Crazy Bob (a close friend of Karl Friedrich Gauss) fleeing in terror from a pack of escaped Turkish convicts. So I shouted to him to ship the gear and web cam back to me before things would get ugly. Anyway, the real reason we're all here is another one, so let me start by saying that today boasted some sound sumo, and (almost all) the people that should have won actually did. Without further ado, enter the players.

Yokozuna Asashoryu reaped the benefits of a reckless tachi-ai from M2 Kotoshogiku, who allowed an early deep right uwate while being denied one of his own. He did show determination, but his efforts against a stone-wall solid Yokozuna were only delaying the inevitable. After being pushed a step back, the Mongolian tyrant stopped Kotoshogiku in his tracks, took a deep breath while reinforcing his grip and then, in the blink of an eye, introduced Kotoshogiku to the dohyo dirt with a by-the-book uwatenage. Kotoshogiku looks suspiciously vulnerable to throws, despite (or is it because of?) having Kotooshu as a stable mate. Today marked the last Sekiwake-or-above opponent for Kotoshogiku, so he should start winning some, and maybe even get 8 wins and that long awaited sanyaku promotion, given the generally bad shape of the remaining opposition. Asashoryu? 6-0, yusho and nothing less as an objective. As usual.

Going down to number two, Chiyotaikai wasted- what's that? Number 17? I meant number 2 on the banzuke, on paper. Now, as I was saying, Ozeki Chiyotaikai wasted little to no time with revenant Komusubi Roho, due to a slightly better reaction at the tachi-ai, that led to a bull's eye thrust right to the Russian's glass jaw, who, after a second helping of pushing, had just about enough time left for a quick yield at the tawara. Of course, some might argue in favor of a false start, but I'll only agree to that after a high-speed camera replay proving there was a greater than 100 millisecond delay between the two charges. Roho evens up his record at 3-3 with this loss, while Chiyotaikai keeps his zensho hopes alive...NOT!

Now let's see who shoulda won but didn't, to my great disappointment as a fan. During the past year, Tokitenku has been pushed, thrown and generally manhandled, all of that culminating with the whiplash uwatenage he was dealt last basho by the towering Ozeki Kotooshu, so I guess today's victory should have great moral value for the Mongolian. The initial charge saw both wrestlers going for the throat rather than the belt (which is unusual for Kotooshu). After two even thrust for thrust exchanges, Kotooshu seemed to get the upper hand (for about a millisecond, anyway) with a faster third thrust, but Tokitenku just pushed the Bulgarian's arm out of the way, and all of a sudden Kotooshu found himself with his lesser opponent wrapped around him, under his left armpit, and with no perspective of winning (for that matter, I think it's safe to say that from that particular position not even Musashimaru would have been able to turn the tables on Tokitenku, much less the taller, slimmer Bulgarian). So, Tokitenku washes away all the pain and frustration with a much deserved shitatenage, and I'm sorry to say this, but Kotooshu was asking for it all the way. Let's rewind until right after the second thrust exchange. Kotooshu recovered visibly quicker, but instead of reaching for the belt, he opted for the third thrust to his opponent's neck, which just happened to be closer, and that spelled doom for him, because of his superior height combined with Tokitenku's quick reflexes. A small tactical error that sends his hypothetical yusho hopes circling the drain. Maybe he has a generous nature, remember his gift to Dejima last basho? Tokitenku is barely breathing at 1-5, whereas Kotooshu has yet to face the big guys.

The Tochiazuma-Iwakiyama matchup is turning into a clich
E three bouts this year, three tsukiotoshi, all in favor of Tochiazuma, all of them a direct result of the infamous ottsuke that sent the big moon-faced gorilla slipping on the dohyo dirt and falling to his face. The only difference this time around is that Tochiazuma actually managed to get some pushing of his own and move forward for a change. At 6 losses to nothing, Iwakiyama looks shabbier than my great-granddaddy's turn o' the century bowler hat, while Tochiazuma's 5-1 keeps him in the jun-yusho race.

In an uneven match, M1 "Little Boy" Ama met heavy hitter Kaio, who is in danger of demotion for a record tenth time. There have been many rumors of Kaio retiring from sumo in front of his hometown fans, but just before the basho he denied all of them and said he intends to keep going. Of course, everybody (including myself) believed he was just being optimistic and polite to the fans, but now I'm having second thoughts and can only say that Kaio means business. Today's victory against the diminutive but nonetheless vicious Mongolian forged an impressive 6-0 start, the veteran's best in quite a while. Kaio's tachi-ai seemed a bit evasive, with him turning his head to the right, as he probably wanted to avoid another nose-to-forehead impact, like the one in Haru, where he walked away from the dohyo defeated and bleeding; in fact, come to thing of it, the 2006 Haru Basho was a damn bloody affair altogether, and Ama was the bloodiest of them all, but I digress... Back to the action, right after the initial impact Ama pushed Kaio back a little with a series of shoves to the chest, in an attempt to keep the Ozeki's deadly right claw away from the mawashi. Eventually, Ama succeeded in his endeavor by getting a hidari-shitate of his own, but conceded Kaio a half-a-bear-hug grip. From there on, Kaio systematically stifled any efforts Ama had left and walked him out by yorikiri, but not before circling a quarter of the dohyo on the tawara. Ama will be happy to get demoted to his comfort zone, where size is not such a major disadvantage. Kaio will be happy to keep his rank once more, and speaking of his impending (according to some) retirement, I think he really means it when he says he'll keep going, and here's why: an Ozeki has a monthly salary of about 2,3 million yen, which is about $20,000. And, of course, there are the kensho banners from sponsors, and Kaio gets lots of those, given his popularity. And to keep this going all he needs to do is win 8 bouts once in four months. And, as we can see so far, he can still manage. So just WHY give it up??

Right, slipping down the banzuke we arrive at Sekiwake Miyabiyama which the Association had paired with M2 Orange, in the 2006 Purple Mawashi Royal Slapfest. The tachi-ai was straight and brutal, Miyabiyama going right for the jugular with a vicious left hari-te. The whole thing turned nasty when the Fatman unleashed a storm of tsuppari on Futenoh's face and neck, dealing the slaps faster than cards in a Monte Carlo casino. Futenoh did manage to get some of his own shy attempts in, but was denied any kind of belt grip by the very determined Miyabiyama, who in the end managed to throw Futenoh off balance and move in for the offensive hataki-komi kill. Delightful. Futenoh was completely outmuscled today, but will be happy with 2 (or maybe 3) Ozeki scalps hanging from his mawashi out of meat-grinder-week-one, and a near miss in his brawl with the almighty Yokozuna. Miyabiyama looked good today, but his 4-2 record against the lesser foes does not bode well for his would-be Ozeki attempt (10 wins, maybe, but 12 is a little out of reach for this fat guy).

Western neighbor Kotomitsuki is another rikishi with a straight win start, after fattening his record today against top Komusubi Kisenosato. The Kid (as fellow sumo talkers like to call him) moved to the left at the initial charge, and almost dodged the surging Sekiwake, who almost took his head off, Duncan Macleod style. Remember Kisenosato's bout with Miyabiyama when he was almost knocked out when they bonked heads? Anyway, today's impact, while not so hard on Kisenosato, did manage to faze him just enough for Kotomitsuki to evade the pull-down. Then the youngster came to and mounted a charge of his own, greeted by the Sekiwake with a pulldown attempt, unsuccessful. Kotomitsuki put the pedal to the metal and eventually drove out the struggling Komusubi by way of yorikiri. Kisenosato is at an even 3-3 so far, but still has some tough customers ahead. He should be able to get 8 wins though. Kotomitsuki hasn't fought anyone ranked above Komusubi yet, so expect him to take a pounding in the second week.

Rounding up the sanyaku are Aminishiki and Georgian "Hairy Scary" Kokkai. The younger and more competent of the Suginomori brothers hasn't got the strength to go one on one with the sanyaku beasts, so he usually resorts to all kinds of tricks to keep his casualty rate within acceptable limits. Such was the case today, when he pulled an incomplete henka against the charging Georgian. The scenario was similar with the Kotomitsuki bout above, the initial head-bonking was enough to save Kokkai from an immediate pull-down, but Aminishiki is not a rookie anymore, and on the rebound, after a brief brawl, he managed to kill off Kokkai's balance for the defensive hikiotoshi win. Aminishiki improves to 2 wins, but Asashoryu's waiting just around the corner tomorrow. Kokkai gets nothing for his trouble and looks forward to the R&R of the mid-Maegashira rank he has coming to him next basho.

Further down, M3 Dejima showed just why his nickname is The Train, blasting a hapless Kyokutenho out of the dohyo and into the front row seats so fast that he almost took off. M8 Toyozakura made short work of M4 Kakizoe, rebounding from an evasive tachi-ai.

The henka of the day award goes to M4 Takekaze, who flew to his left, leaving Sumotalk's punching bag Hokutoriki reaching into thin air and falling flat on his face. They called the kimarite hikiotoshi for an alleged contact between some fingers at the moment the henka was being perpetrated, and they might as well have called it tsukiotoshi for the perky ass-slap Takekaze applied for balance, but in my fresh sumo expert opinion, they should just call it henka. Because that's what it is.

Over-ranked rookie M8 Kakuryu (c'm'on, M8 for a 9-6 from J1?) got a taste today of the bitter Makuuchi reality. Veteran Tochinonada won the bout before it started, through sheer determination (and no henka on the other side). He was all over the Mongolian right from the tachi-ai and firmly escorted him to his second loss. Personally, I have no idea why people get so enthusiastic sometimes over things so small. Look at Kakuryu's debut. From six matches he gets four wins, two of them against straight losers and the other two by exceptionally evasive sumo. Sure, he's good at it, I'll give him that, but that's not gonna get him anywhere near the top. Expect to see him back in Juryo come Haru. I have spoken! Tochinonada rises to 3-3 and we further descend toward the banzuke netherworld.

And here we find an out of place Baruto, looking worse than he usually does in Mike's reports and still getting away with it on sheer strength, size and the slight technicality that the opposition sucks way more than he does. Today's laughable victim was the altogether laughable Takamisakari. The pathetic tachi-ai (if it can be called that) saw Baruto literally greeting Takamisakari with open arms, practically giving morozashi for free. Just as Takamisakari's fans were experiencing higher pulses and dilated pupils seeing their h(z)ero drive the beast toward the edge, Baruto put his left uwate to work, and yanked Takamisakari around for safety. Takamisakari kept going though, and drove Baruto all the way to the other side of the ring, but by then it was too late, because the beast already had a double uwate, and with it he lifted the victim and turned it around yet again, this time for good, putting him out of his misery with yoritaoshi. Now, imagine what should have happened if that morozashi was conceded to a top flight rikishi. A few possible scenarios: Asashoryu
Enasty nage or tsuridashi (he's big, you say? So what? Miyabiyama is bigger, and still he got lifted), Kotooshu, Kaio, Hakuho Ethrow or surefire yorikiri, rest of sanyaku Ehigh probability for yorikiri. Even Chiyotaikai would muster a yorikiri, I'm sure. And for the yusho part...well, let's just say I have just about the same chances of taking it.

Western M9 Asasekiryu felled Korean Kasugao with a nice uwate-hineri move and joins the 6-0 pack. If he keeps it up, he might get to be matched against some Sekiwake or Ozeki, spoiling someone's illusory yusho hopes on his way to that kanto-sho. The Korean is leveled at 3-3.

Former sanyaku rikishi Tamanoshima continued his string of unfortunate bouts with his loss against M10 Toyonoshima. Good tachi-ai, Tamanoshima gets right kime, drives Toyo back, attempts sotogake. Toyo counters with his own sukuinage attempt, but Tama rebounds and drives Toyo further, burning out his kime for a failed kotenage. Toyo is on the run, but manages to stay on the right side of the line and burns Tama with katasukashi (and this time it's a legitimate katasukashi, not the phantom katasukashi they ruled for Kaio's victory over Aminishiki). Tamanoshima better shape up if he wants to keep the Makuuchi paycheck while the other Shima boasts a decent 5-1.

The only thing worth mentioning from the remaining bouts is that Hakurozan is still in search of that elusive first win. With the current state of things, the number of brotherly pairs in Makuuchi may very well drop straight to 0 for the upcoming Hatsu. 

The top three ranks are showing an impressive combined record of 37-5, and under normal circumstances that would all but guarantee a closely contested yusho, but upon further examination things are a lot simpler. Everyone has been fighting in the lower echelons, none had opponents ranked higher than Komusubi, Kaio's winning streak may as well come to an end tomorrow when he meets arch-nemesis Roho. The top guys will probably beat each other, leaving the yusho at Asashoryu's mercy. The dai-Yokozuna has been looking shaky the first few days, but it seems he's gaining some momentum and don't be surprised if he gets a third zensho.

As for me, well, you'd better get used to me, because I'm here to stay. Any feedback from you loyal fans will be appreciated, even hate mail.

Tomorrow, Dreadmaster Gorgothuuid unleashes chaos.

Day 5 Comments (Bernie McManus reporting)
Yesterday Mike called the basho for Asashoryu. Why stop there? Let's call the next three basho for Asa right now as well as, hmm, not the one after those but surely the two to follow. I'll also call the next three years for Asashoryu where so long as he's not hurt, nobody can touch him. Alright, alright, as usual I'm already going overboard, but with all the glaring flaws in his challengers these days he looks, well, like a Yokozuna should.

There aren't many scenarios left to be especially hopeful for, it sure seems. Kotooshu might be on his game and at least within kettei-sen playoff range on a moderately possible upset if Asa gets lulled to sleep in the meantime. Chiyotaikai may play the hurt card but pounds his way to the Jun-Yusho like last year. Kaio might buy all his matches, win the cup and immediately retires to fight crime, possibly to help clear Kyokushuzan's name! How about...well, those three are the first most likely anyway, after that you're dreaming in colour.

So what happened today you ask? Well, the banzuke continued to split into Winners and Losers as the screwy bell curve shows eight winless, five perfect 5-0s, nine chasers at 4-1 and then the last eighteen of the forty-two elite with between one and three wins. Usually it's a mess of 3-2 and 2-3 records at this point but we've got fourteen
Ea third of the Makuuchi Ein the leadership pack. For Day 12 that would be really exciting but for Day 5, eh, not bad.

Asashoryu the slave-master had a match-up with the Ama the whipping boy tonight
Ealways nice to see on my days Ebut there was something very predetermined about it for me and I expected it to go like the last few bouts EAma's grappling not working against Asa's unflinching strength and unpredictable speed. Good thing that Mongolian-by-way-of-Germany feed is obsessed with talking over the Mongolian shikiris or I would have missed the "I can move really slow", " Oh yeah? I can totally move slower. Take that you little bitch","Damn, that's friggin' slow!" Noh-like buildup.

So finally they rush over for their towlies, wipe their faces and get ready to go. Hey, wasn't Ama trying to gain some weight this basho? Yeah, there's a bit of a gut there, the milk is working. Anyway, Pudgy Ama Yumi charges in as the Yokozuna sidesteps and seems to go for the left uwate grip which he is denied by Ama's quick pivot and is left to going on defensive by pinning Ama's arms. The smaller Mongolian is now thoroughly snookered and with Asashoryu stalling for a better position he tries to break away and try again. As soon as he moved away the Yokozuna fired a two-handed shove which threw Ama back
Ewhich wouldn't be so bad Ebut then charged at him before he could get any momentum going. It was then easy work for Asa to slap down the M1's suicide charge. So begins the tally of Winners and Losers: Asa is perfect and Ama is winless.

Chiyotaikai, a Winner, was up against the second coming of Kyokushuzan, currently Losing ( well, Shuu's retired but we'll get to that ). Hey, Chiyo actually wins tonight going forward! No joke! Totally big-gun streetfighter sumo versus Tokitenku, and I don't need to describe it because if I told you it occurred in a straight line, you could easily picture it. Throw in a biiiit of a struggle at the tawara but don't get too carried away. That's it. Goood reader. So yeah, Chiyo
Eperfect, Tokitenku E F.A.

There was some major humping in the Kotooshu match against Iwakiyama who, as someone or other here predicted, is being outgunned. Sure, they're all tough Sanyakus right now but that's twelve whole days of his schedule before he's clear. Kotooshu seems to be doing the sumo he SHOULD be doing so with opportunity knocking, let's hope this continues. Thunderous Yorikiri win and Koto's one off from being a Winner and Iwakiyama
Ewell, " Waki don't".

Roho let fellow 3-1 Tochiazuma wrap an arm around him at the tachi-ai with a moderate side-shift which left the Russian scrambling for footing and then swung around for a lovely Uwatedashinage throw. Ahh, I love those. Roho falls into the big group of 3-2s, who will remain otherwise nameless, while Tochiazuma seems stable as a 4-1 chaser.

Kaio got someone else to walk into his Uwate...huh? And Futenoh too, doing so well here in Kyushu! Aw, what happened? Jeeze, from that one angle it sure looks like Futenoh grabs his right armpit with his left hand, drops his shoulder and offers him a full serving of Duck a L'Orange. Gimme a break! Why are there matches being thrown to him NOW? Anyway the old dude is PERFECT while Futenoh is 2-3 but fie on him, I'll call him a Loser.

Miyabiyama ate another loss from the once winless Aminishiki as the handsome one pulled a contact-henka, caught up to Miyabiyama at the edge and dumped him backwards over his knee for the always entertaining Kirikaeshi. If Miyabi wasn't so full of holes I'd see him as Ozeki, but there are too many times like these where he just isn't in control of that flab. These two are floating in 1 or 2 Win Land.

Kotoshogiku set the Sadogatake rhythm a bumpin' with a great tachi-ai and full-on hump assault at the edge against Kyokutenho. Good sumo from him, 'Tenho looked a bit lost. These two are also in 1-2 Win Land.

Kisenosato got a chestfull of Georgian loving courtesy of Kokkai's tachi-ai and despite a pesky inside grip giving him a bit of trouble, he eventually shook it off and pulled the close-shaven shover off his feet. Actually, it didn't look that smooth, but I know his skin is sensitive so I'll give him a bit of slack. Kisenosato pulls to a respectable 3-2 while Kokkai is a big 0-5 Loser.

I'm not going to pretend that I'm very interested in the rest of the bouts so I'll make it quick. We've covered most of the Winless, Lossless and Chasers anyway, so I'll give you some quick highlights from the Maegashira bouts. The latest two promising newcomers Kakuryu and Homasho took care of 'veterans on the decline' Tamanoshima and Tosanoumi with the two youngsters enjoying 4-1 records so far. Homasho has been fun to watch for his strong but ultra-low sumo but the Mongolian Kakuryu has really caught my eye with his pure ring ability and wins like the one today. Tosa literally flew off the dohyo even though he was on the offensive most of the bout. Great to see. I'm looking forward to seeing the little Kak' take on some bigger guys next basho.

Takamisakari pulled off a smash-mouth win against Jokutoriki by sacrificing his face, per usual, and managing to squirm around his foe and force him out with aplomb. Ugly sumo for sure but entertaining as always. Tak is doing well at 3-2 while El-Joko's got zip.

There was a lot of turnover last basho with the Juryo ranks but so far there are only a few guys in the low Makuuchi who might be in trouble ( Hakurozan, Kitazakura ) with most of the turnover looking to happen in the bloated Sanyaku. Well, the next ten days will tell.

Oh, and if you haven't read about the Kyokushuzan-Yakuza thing, and I haven't read much, but he's seems to be on the receiving end of some sort of attempted extortion bid by the locals. Seeing that this guy has heart troubles and is looking to go into politics, back home mind, this is some pretty bad news for the guy. It sounds like he's clean, so far, so here's hoping that everything works out and that he makes a lot of money suing that libelous tabloid.

Tomorrow there's a new mystery writer taking his first turn in the cut-throat SumoTalk rotation. I don't know much about the guy except that he loves men in kilts, wants to get to know me better, and assures me he is not gay. Time will tell, but he has asked me for my measurements and address for some sort of custom wetsuit (?) which I should be receiving shortly along with a new webcam. All above board, I assure you.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The yusho is already in the bag in my opinion, and who would have thought that Futenoh controlled all of the momentum this basho in his grubby little hands? Judging the pre-basho news we were able to glean, this basho is cruising along as expected with a few lame exceptions. And none lamer than Iwakiyama. Today the M1 attempted another gimmick tachi-ai starting two steps behind the starting lines. Asashoryu must have rolled his eyes at this predicament because once the two rikishi charged, Iwakiyama just walked his fat ass into a right frontal belt grip from the Yokozuna. Asashoryu accepted the gift and lifted up on Iwakiyama's mawashi and politely escorted him back and out in mere seconds. The Yokozuna thanks the man in the moon for such an easy bout, especially after we've seen Asashoryu (4-0) somewhat vulnerable in a few bouts so far. Iwakiyama falls to 0-4, which is completely acceptable for an M1 who has a brutal week one schedule, but in Iwakiyama's case this basho, he has just been a walkover.

How long will Kaio's run last? Today he exhibited a great tachi-ai that halted Komusubi Aminishiki in his tracks. The Ozeki then quickly went for that coveted right uwate, but Aminishiki twisted himself away from the grip. In an attempt to counter by grabbing the front of Kaio's belt with the right hand, Ami bent down too low and provided the perfect slap down target. Kaio obliged for the easy win, but this was a good move on the part of the Ozeki. I know a lot of us don't like to see the pull down sumo, but you gotta take it when it's given. It's not like Kaio is being driven back and is running for his life pulling these amazing slap-downs out of his arse. He's firmly holding his ground at the tachi-ai and defeating his opponents without moving right or left. It was a good win for Kaio today, but let's see how he fares against someone that actually has a win this basho. Kaio's first four opponents are 0-16.

Every time Ama steps atop the dohyo, don't you just move to the edge of your seat, especially when he's fighting the Ozeki or Yokozuna? From the tachi-ai, Ama actually stood Chiyotaikai up and forced him back a step with a great push, but Chiyotaikai countered with some weak yet effective tsuppari that buffeted Ama away. The M1 regrouped and went for the tsuppari attack again, but was fended off by more Chiyotaikai thrusts that weren't moving Ama back, but they were frustrating him from gaining any momentum. On the third attempt at a charge, Ama ducked his head and went in low for the front of Chiyotaikai's belt, but this just rendered him as pull down fodder. Chiyotaikai's going to take that 100% of the time as he easily slapped Ama down to the dirt to move to 4-0. Before you Taikai fans get too excited, let me remind you that your man hasn't exactly been moving forward in his wins. I don't fault any of Chiyotaikai's tactics to this point, but this is hardly overpowering sumo worthy of a yusho rikishi. Ama falls to 0-4.

Enter M2 Futenoh, who I think has been the key to the basho the first five days. Today he just crushed Ozeki Kotooshu back and upright at the tachi-ai. Kotooshu retreated slightly to his left and evaded, but Futenoh was on his every move and persisted with effective thrusts that left Kotooshu no choice but to go for weak pull downs and he circled around. After 4 or 5 seconds, Futenoh had had enough and unleashed a huge two-handed thrust that finished the Bulgarian off for good. Futenoh has now beaten in consecutive days the top two guys that had the best chance to challenge Asashoryu for the yusho my opinion. Couple that with Futenoh's near miss against the Yokozuna on day 2, and that's a huge swing in the yusho race. I've waited for over a year for sumo like this from Futenoh, but the question now is can he keep it up? Regardless, dude had an AK-47 for his best friend today as he improves to 2-2. We'll see how Kotooshu recovers mentally from today's beating as he falls to 3-1.

Next up is Ozeki Tochiazuma, who used that ottsuke move of his with the left hand just after the tachi-ai to completely throw M2 Kotoshogiku off balance and send him tumbling towards the edge in front of the head judge. The Geeku recovered--I guess--but only to have Tochiazuma put a fork in him with some powerful thrusts that he had no answer for. This was beautiful stuff and nice payback for that loss to Kotoshogiku (0-4) back in March that all but ended Tochiazuma's Yokozuna bid. Tochiazuma looks good so far at 3-1, but I go back to that loss to Futenoh...

God forbid Kotomitsuki breaks his string of mediocre basho. Today against M3 Tokitenku, the Sekiwake was quicker at the tachi-ai and looked to have the advantage, but he just stood there. Kotomitsuki did grab the left uwate in short order, but he didn't seem to use it effectively as the action moved to a stalemate in the center of the ring. Tokitenku fished for a left uwate of his own, but Mitsuki kept his butt back and denied the equalizer, so with the two just standing there, I reached for my Oasis CD yet again, but just as I did so, Kotomitsuki unleashed a lightening quick uchi-muso giving up that left grip and using the hand to swipe at Tokitenku's inner thigh. Simon may call that saucy, and Clancy may declare it fresh, but it was a pretty nifty move as Kotomitsuki surges to 4-0. Tokitenku can't get anything going at 0-4.

Long-shot Ozeki hopeful, Miyabiyama, absorbed a tough tachi-ai from Komusubi Kokkai today where the Georgian drove his left elbow right into Miyabiyama's grill. That set up what I think was the first tsuppari attack we've seen from Kokkai this basho, but Miyabiyama withstood his ground well and used a perfect ottsuke to push Kokkai to the left causing the Georgian's momentum to carry him dangerously close to the tawara. From there, Miyabiyama grabbed the front of Kokkai's belt with the left hand and finished him off without further argument. It was nice to see Miyabiyama finally pick up a forward-moving win, especially after the great start from Kokkai today. Miyabiyama moves to a nice 3-1, but entertaining any talk of Ozeki promotion is a bar where all the fat slob bikers hang out (fruitless). Kokkai needs an eyebrow wax at 0-4.

In one of my most anticipated bouts today, Roho finally came with an honest tachi-ai leading with an ineffective left harite. Kisenosato used a wonderful inashi move with his left arm to counter pushing Roho all the way over to the tawara, but as has been the case lately, Kisenosato suffered from Musoyama-itis and whiffed as he went for the kill. Roho actually stepped back to his right and timed a nice pull of Kisenosato as he charged causing the Kid to step out in near isami-ashi fashion. The timing and the shove were good, but it was nothing a professional shouldn't have been able to handle in my opinion. Kisenosato wasted a great tachi-ai and control of the bout in this one as the dueling Komusubi disappointed in this bout. Kisenosato falls to 2-2 with the loss while Roho improves to 3-1.

Shifting gears to the Maegashira ranks, M3 Dejima wisely handcuffed M5 Tochinonada's left arm at the tachi-ai standing the too gentle giant this basho completely upright. Dejima quickly secured moro-zashi (both arms on the inside) from there and easily forced Tochinonada (2-2) back and out. It was hardly worth the bandwidth it takes to post this. Dejima is a quiet 3-1.

How is M7 Tamanoshima 0-4 at this point considering is location on the banzuke? Today, he did show some pep against M4 Kakizoe keeping him at bay with a thrusting attack, but I didn't see any stability in the lower body, and as Kakizoe fought back, he was able to get in close and under Tama's pits with both hands. Tamanoshima could only offer a weak pull down from there that Kakizoe used to push his opponent back and out with moving to a shweet 4-0.

M4 Takekaze and M7 Kasugao gave us yeat another ridiculously long staredown at the shikiri . The last thing I need to see is two Maegashira guys thinking they're badasses. When the bout actually started, Takekaze exhibited a pretty good tachi-ai that halted Kasugao in his tracks and forced him to go for a hurried pull down. With both rikishi still standing after that initial flurry, they hunkered down in that low wrasslin' position in the center of the ring with Takekaze seemingly in control. As Takekaze went for a throw, however, Kasugao countered with a right kotenage, his favorite move and one seen frequently in Korea's version of sumo. Both rikishi hit the deck at nearly the same time, and even though the gunbai went to Takekaze (1-3), it was correctly overruled after a judges conference. Kasugao improves to 2-2 with the nice counter sumo.

As we work our way lower, I think M5 Hokutoriki went to that second-hand store and bought the roller skates that Tosanoumi finally gave up. Today against M8 Kakuryu, the Jokester seemed to be taking the initiative, but his feet were all over the place as he went for meager pull-downs this way and that. The instability allowed Kakuryu to time a perfect charge thrusting Hokutoriki back and out in a beautiful counter attack. This looked like a close bout at the edge as Hokutoriki tried that evasive pull maneuver at the tawara, but it wasn't that close. I don't think the heels of Hokutoriki's feet touched the clay once the whole bout. How are you going to win as a pusher on your tiptoes? Actually, you're not. Kakuryu moves to a nice 3-1 with the win while Hokutoriki's 0-4 has got to taste below average.

Next up is M6 Baruto, who I hope no one was thinking was a yusho contender after watching those first three days. I was chatting with our newest contributor--a Romantic if I've ever seen one, the big lug--and he asked me my thoughts on Baruto after day 3. I told him that he looks terrible despite his 3-0 start. Today Asasekiryu showed why by completely exploiting the Estonian's current condition with a perfect attack grabbing the quick left uwate (available thanks to Baruto's upright tachi-ai) pinning Baruto's right arm to his side and then positioning his left leg forward into his opponent to prevent the pull down. Asasekiryu further suffocated his opponent by using his right arm to hold Baruto's left arm at bay. Baruto could do nothing, and you'll never see a smaller opponent handcuff him in this fashion when the Estonian is 100%, but Seki had his opponent scouted perfectly and persisted for about 8 seconds in this position constantly surging forward and lifting up before timing a perfect (as in Shakira's hips) uwate-dashi pull/wrench that sent Baruto dancing across the dohyo and out. After yesterday's bout against Takekaze, a huge red flag was raised in my eyes when Baruto couldn't stop his momentum after slapping Takekaze to the clay. He nearly skated across the dohyo and off because he wasn't able to plant his lower body and stop himself. Baruto (3-1) is a shoe-in for a kachi-koshi, but he just doesn't look well to me right now. Asasekiryu soars to 4-0 and better cherish today's win over the Philistine.

Sailing along, M6 Kyokutenho just reached his long arm over and around the side of M9 Takamisakari to grab the quick left outer grip. The Robocop countered with a deep right of his own, but the taller Tenho just had him smothered as he quickly forced him back and out to improve to 2-2. Takamisakari sits at the same mark. M8 Toyozakura did a ton of work from the tachi-ai, but it was so ineffective that M11 Homasho just stood there and absorbed the blows until he found an opening that he used to easily push Toyozakura back and out with. Homasho improves to 3-1 while Toyozakura (0-4) needs to figure out how to crouch a bit at the tachi-ai.

Little fella M10 Toyonoshima exhibited a perfect tsuppari attack against the much bigger fella, M13 Tochinohana. The latter really showed no resistance as he was pushed back and out straightway. Kitanofuji-oyakata summed up Tochinohana's (lack of) effort best by saying, "Genki nai, ne."

Every bout this basho, it has seemed that M11 Kitazakura doesn't have a clue about what kind of sumo he wants to do. He doesn't really want to thrust, and he's not exactly going for the belt. Such sumo gave the inferior M5 Katayama the easy left uwate today, which he used to waddle the duck back and out for a bout so uneventful that I can't believe I'm commenting on it. Something from the other side must be compelling me here. Both rikishi are 1-3.

Ever get the feeling that Hakurozan is seeing his last days as a Makuuchi rikishi for the next little while? Today against Tosanoumi, Hakurozan's lower body was nowhere to be seen as Tosanoumi stood him upright at the tachi-ai and left him nothing to do but offer meek pull down attempts on his way back and out. This was so easy for Tosanoumi (2-2) I wept out of sheer pity. Hakurogaine falls to an unceremonious 0-4.

Picking our way to the bitter end, M14 Tamakasuga employed his brand of sumo yet again alternating thrusts and pulls as he moved laterally around M12 Ushiomaru today. The Ushi (2-2) tried to counter with the same thrust-pull combinations, but he was just too slow falling to a slap down from the veteran Tamakasuga shines at 4-0. And finally, M13 Asofuji used a deep right arm on the inside of Otsukasa that stood him up and gave Asofuji the left mae-mitsu, which he turned into an uwate grip to dump Otsukasa (3-1) to his first loss. Asofuji improves to 2-2.

So, we're four days in and Asashoryu is already in complete control of this thing. Boring, I know, but the structure of the banzuke this basho is such that all of the top guys will beat each other up leaving Asashoryu standing alone to tidy up at the end. Bernie eulogizes tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
Hi apes! You can all relax now because I've finally shaken off all those shady bastards who've been tailing me for months. But, oh no, Simon (codename: the Ferret) doesn't get taken so easily, no sirree. I'm back at Sumotalk to inject some insulin (and maybe some mutagens) into proceedings, although I seem to have got myself caught up in one of Clancy's sticky fantasies (no, not that one) because I'm now on the top floor of that hotel he keeps going on about...and I have to say that the Sumotalk writers you have all come to know and love (read despise) are pretty bloody eccentric! Kenji, for example, beeps like a digital watch on the hour, every hour. Bernie thinks he has an invisible parrot on his shoulder. Mike talks to pieces of wood and gets twitchy if they don't reply (leading to epic bouts of twitching). And then we have George, who, Clancy tells me, rarely leaves his room these days, and only then in the company of three female bodyguards. Clancy himself, he won't mind me informng you, eats his own sideburns. So, as you can see, some kind of sane guiding force was required to get things back on track. And here I am. Quack.

On to the sumo, coming into Kyushu I thought – oh no, it's going to be bollocks without Hakuho - just like every other Tom Dick and Harry who pretends to know something about sumo. But it's a definite case of so far so good, with none of the top contenders slipping up in the first two days. Couple that with a not-as-sharp-as-usual (yet still awesome) Yokozuna and we have a red hot orgy in the making. It now falls to me to tell you whether our tender dreams have been shattered as of day three...

...Yokozuna Asashoryu (3-0) made no mistakes disposing of hapless M3 Tokitenku (0-3). The Yokozuna's tachiai was an improvement on the first two days as he got an unbreakable hidari grip, gathered his thoughts as Tokitenku did his best to patch things up, and then pulled his compatriot once to loosen him up, and then again to allow the attack from the side. And that was game over, my hirsute friends.

Ozeki Tochiazuma took on M2 Futenoh, who I have to say pissed me off royally on day one giving up at the edge like that against Kotomitsuki. For a rikishi with his obvious talent and ambition, it was a disgrace to see him capitulate so easily. Yes, I know he was pretty much screwed, but when have we ever seen Asashoryu give up like that? The King of the Beasts would risk a broken neck in an attempt to make up those precious few millimeters/milliseconds that could be the difference between victory and defeat. Now if there's one thing I love, it's to sit on bath taps (thank you Filthy, Rich and Catflap, the greatest sit-com of all time)...but apart from that, I like to see the rikishi I support battling to the bitter end and dying trying. And if there's one thing I hate, apart from having my third leg nailed to a table, it is limp-wristed sumo from a talented rikishi. In today's bout, however, Futenoh made up for his sins by NOT giving up at the edge when Tochiazuma had him against the tawara (sounds saucy) and grabbing what proved to be a bout-winning migi-uwate grip. Admittedly, it was all Tochiazuma's fault as that old bad habit of not finishing bouts as early as possible came back to haunt him. He will be cursing himself tonight because he should have won it, but in reality it was all over as soon as Futenoh got the belt while the only grip Tochi had was thin air. The Ozeki bursts his own balloon with a first loss following an impressive first two days. Futenoh picks up win number one; not too bad considering he already has Asashoryu and the best Ozeki out of the way.

Ozeki Kaio (3-0) kept the wall intact against M2 Kotoshogiku (0-3), simply absorbing the youngster's impressive attack, ensuring that he didn't get the belt and waiting for the chance to pull him down, which he finally did with ease and aplomb. This forgettable bout can simply be seen as a bread-and-butter win for Kaio. But don't even think he has a chance at the yusho...because he doesn't. Liberace has more chance of winning it.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai was just not strong enough to make any headway with the huge M1 Iwakiyama and so was forced to adjust his tactics to the pull-down accordingly. This kind of pull-down doesn't bother me so much because the Ozeki knew the sumo he wanted to do was not working and had to react. He is one of the best in the business at changing his attack mid-bout, and he was never going to have much trouble pulling the lumbering Iwakiyama off balance and then pushing him out. The look on the Ozeki's face said it all after the bout, however – and it was encouraging to see that Chiyotaikai still wants to do his own brand of sumo even if he can't always pull it off anymore. 3-0. Iwakiyama is in warm marmalade up to the neck at 0-3.

Ozeki Kotooshu (3-0) matched M1 Ama (0-3) for lightning speed and reactions as they fought a bout that was cagey yet short, courtesy of Ama's determination not to allow Kotooshu a sniff of his belt (wow...that's revolting). Kotooshu didn't even try for the mawashi and fought fire with fire as he used effective pushing to overpower his dwarven foe. An easy win for the Bulgarian, who definitely looks sharp enough to mount a yusho challenge.

I agree with Clancy about Sekiwake Miyabiyama...horrible sumo of late. But the poor bugger didn't stand a chance today as Komusubi Roho launched a devastating slap to the face, no doubt designed to disguise the fact that he was planning a henka. It kind of worked – the loss wasn't the usual type that we get with a straight henka – but it doesn't change the fact that Roho had no intention whatsoever of fighting the Sekiwake like a man. It's a shame because Roho's sumo in the last few basho has been fine, and a real pity that he still feels the need to resort to girly sumo, especially against deflated medicine balls like Miyabiyama. Oh well...we've all heard this record before. Miyabiyama falls to his first loss, and let's face it, it was always going to happen with the way he has fought so far this basho, while Roho 'improves' to 2-1.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki is having his usual decent start and was today matched with luckless Komusubi Kokkai. Kotomitsuki bided his time and allowed Kokkai to kick and scream a bit at tachiai, and then, just as he felt the Komusubi's momentum peak, he pulled back and let Kokkai do the rest, in other words go flying. The Georgian's stance was wrong - way wrong - extended much too far forward. Kokkai is something of an enigma – in some basho he can look reasonably stable for a big man, but other times – THIS time – he seems to think he is a mammoth on an ice rink. Kotomitsuki goes to 3-0, which means he has plenty of losing to do to reach his mandatory 8-7. Kokkai is screwed at 0-3 with Asashoryu and Tochiazuma still to come.

In an intriguing Komusubi match-up, Kisenosato locked horny horns with Aminishiki. Thanks to a foxy, tightly-controlled tachiai, the kisser was given the luxury of total domination as Aminishiki's arms flailed ineffectively around Kisenosato's upper body. The great young Japanese hope got the powerful belt grip he needed and marched Aminishiki out to his doom. Impressive stuff. Kisenosato is a giraffe with long eyelashes at 2-1. Aminishiki is the smallest penguin in the zoo at 0-3.

In a bizarre bout, M6 Baruto tried to commit suicide by reaching straight over the (relatively) diminutive M4 Takekaze, allowing his opponent to get deep inside his reach and in a great position. Fortunately/unfortunately, Baruto woke up just in time and pulled back nimbly, causing Takekaze, who probably couldn't believe the position he was in, to overbalance. It wasn't pretty but it will stand out in the memory for, ooh, a couple of hours or so. Baruto is a big plant with shiny leaves as he keeps his yusho hopes (ahem) alive at 3-0. Takekaze is a bulbous rubber duck at 1-2.

One of the bouts I was really gagging for today was M8 Kakuryu versus M11 Homasho, two rikishi who both crackle with potential. In what turned out to be a disappointing bout, Kakuryu came out firing with slaps to the face, but then made that oh-so-annoying mistake – you know, the one Roho always used to make – going for the back of the opponent's head when not in any danger at all. I just roll my eyes every time they do that. Homasho was on top of things and kept his balance well to push the Mongolian upstart out. Learning curve for the newcomer, basically. Just don't do that again, you silly boy. Both lads stand at 2-1, and like two proud and majestic rose bushes they look, too. I expect nothing less than a kachi-koshi for them.

M9 Asasekiryu managed a decent impersonation of Hakuho as he made a total monkey of M11 Kitazakura to go to 3-0. The bout was over from the start as the left mae-mawashi grip dictated the play. The salt-throwing gentle giant, friend to the children of the world, drops to 1-2.

M14 Hakurozan has, frankly, looked bloody awful this basho. Too many pies? At this rank there really is no excuse for the kind of slop he's turned in over the first two days. You would think things would improve against non-entity M12 would think the Russian came in way too high and moved swiftly to plan B: retreating and hoping for the pull-down. Ushi (2-1) was having none of that, however, and managed to keep himself in the dohyo just long enough as Hakurozan (0-3) made himself look like a total spanner. Awful sumo. Awful rikishi. Oh, enough! Vast improvement required soon or it's hello Juryo.

Well, with 20% of the basho gone, we have a 19-2 record from the seven top-ranked rikishi, which you just can't complain about. And the sumo hasn't been all that bad either, with none of the leaders going with cheap tricks. It's early days yet, but I'm looking at Kotooshu giving Asashoryu a decent challenge, with perhaps Tochiazuma going along for the ride. Further down the banzuke, Kisenosato, Kakizoe and Asasekiryu all look sexy, and Baruto will always be a threat. Homasho and Kakuryu are also ones to watch. The villains for me so far are Miyabiyama and Hakurozan. Get a grip, boys.

Tune in tomorrow and watch Mike try to extricate himself from a giant, robotic octopus. I'll be back on day ten (if the Feds don't get me first).

Day 2 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hello, everybody, welcome back to another exciting 15 days. We've got a new guy to go with our nude guy, some Romantic class to compliment my pedantic ass, a man who will add some Black Sea bullshit to my Galway Bay blarney. Add to that the whispered Day 3 return of Simon Longshanks, fresh off his helter skelter tour of so many of those places most of us will never visit (at least not without copious amounts of self-administrable penicillin) and, voila! you've got yourself a pirogue. 

I suppose for most people the big news on Day 2 was the Trickster stealing Kaio's retirement thunder (you don't seriously think being 2-0 is going to change any of that, do you?) by bowing out of sumo himself, owing to a weak heart. Yea, well, that's a bummer and all, and I for one will miss those roulette wheel sumo bouts he treated us to over the last few years (round and round she goes, when the crap stops, nobody knows), but he had a good long run, dinnee. Actually, Shu, as he was affectionately known to Kenji, gave us some entertaining fights over the years, and he seemed like a good guy when interviewed. I'll leave it to George to eulogize Loki later in the basho.

Only for me, the big news on Day 2 was the three or four hotties sitting in camera view behind the West side guys who lost and had to bow to the East side winner. They were easy enough to spot, cute little white sweatered cones in a sea of purple. Strange how those little cell phone strap photos of the top guys that are being given out freely are not causing the place to fill up. I mean, what with all this exciting sumo, you'd think...

The first eight bouts of the day contained only two worth talking about, as the other five were boring pulldowns from rikishi who gave only a half hearted tachi-ai and then backed up and evaded or slapped, and one was Kitazakura's walkover win vs Kyokushuzan. E13 Asofuji, the shin-Komusubi's older bro, destroyed another sibling fighter by smashing and breaking Hakurozan's left hand grip on his belt and then pivoting and pulling the balding Russian W14 down to the dirty stuff. A skillful move by the newcomer, his first two days keeping me hopeful for more. The tallest (and dorkiest) Japanese wrestler in the top flight, E9 188 cm Takamisakari, invited W10 170 cm Toyonoshima into his lair and simply violated him with textbook belt sumo, silkily spinning him around and out for his first win.

The next bout we returned to the "retreat so sweet and beat the oncoming meat and perhaps he'll land in a front row seat" strategy as W9 Asasekiryu DIDN'T henka E8 Toyozakura for his second win.

Then things picked up a bit as the guy who looks spookily like the Yokozuna as he prepares to fight, newcomer W8 Kakuryu, took on E7 Tamanoshima. The Mongolian slapped at the former Sanyaku man driving him to the edge, but Tama made a stand and looked to be in control as he clinched up with his lighter foe, only to discover that Kakuryu had a hard pipin' grip on his belt and it was Goodnight, Irene, as he was shoved out far too easily. While there must be something wrong with Tamanoshima, Kakuryu looks like he may be the real deal, knowhatimsayin?

Perhaps feeling his oats on Shu's retirement day (I believe they entered sumo together), or perhaps due to his arms being longer than W7 Kasugao's, E6 Kyokutenho secured the Death Grip, two hands deep inside, bided his time, and then walked the Kimchi Kid back and out for win number one.

Mike winces every time I go off and make some crackpot statement, but here goes: I am pretty pretty pretty (thanks Larry David) sure I saw W6 Baruto breathe during his bout against E5 Hokutoriki. Then again might have been a trick of the light. Hokutoriki should just send his wife over to Baruto's place tonight, he was unmanned that badly folks. The bonus for Jokeutoriki's wife? Baruto must have read what Mike wrote on Day 1 because he decided to shave off those Maps of Tazzie he had on his face! Yikes, talk about your youthful indiscretion!

I must say, we don't often see a more fortuitous collision of strategies as we did today when Takekaze took EXACTLY the right path into Tochinonada's chest and just hammered him to the side and out. The M5 chose to go to his own right at tachi-ai while Takekaze was driving just off center into the right side of Tochi's chest, head straight into the pecs, and the former Sekiwake never had a prayer, being run out lickety split (I love that phrase, though it sounds as if it was thought of by some guy watching ladies gymnastics).

W4 Kakizoe, my boy, made it two tachi-ai bombs in a row as he, like Takekaze, flew at E3 Tokitenku, who to his credit was able to climb out of his shelter and mount an attack despite the lingering radiation. However, Kakizoe was all young Chiyotaikai today, backing up and dancing and slapping at just the right time to get the win, but nothing cheap here, lads and lasses, not after an initial pop like that one.

(Connected to nothing, I know, but I just saw Simon walk down the hallway eating what looked to be Vegemite. I thought he hated that stuff. Must have picked up a taste for it on his travels. I shouted out, Hey, and he replied, How ya' goin'?)

Second time around for Roho at Komusubi, and evidently he does not want to drop again, so he decided to put on a skirt and skirt E1 Ama. Let's see. Roho is 195 cm, 146 kg. Ama is 185 cm, 115 kg. Looks like a recipe for avoiding a fair fight to me, by gum! Sure, it says a lot about how scary Ama is, but it also says a lot about Roho. And after giving Asa a good scare yesterday. Maybe Roho should have been sitting up with those little kindergartners they kept showing who were picking their noses and wiping it on the seats.

Know that I have never been a fan of Miflobbyama, and today's sumo is a perfect example of why. Stand up W1 Iwakiyama at tachi-ai and the pull him down. Sure, it's not easy to fight a giant like Iwonkeykong, and winning is important, but, but, but doesn't any one have any honor any longer? These are the two heaviest guys in Makuuchi. We don't want to watch them yank. Do the rikishi even NOTICE all those empty purple pillows and the three second mention sumo gets on the nightly news? It's because top bouts like this are decided in such pantywaist fashion.

For sumo's sake, I truly hope this guy never regains his Ozeki rank.

Landsakes, Kotomitsuki's left arm was a force of nature today, keeping Aminishiki at bay and completely denying him a right hand belt grip. As the shin-Komusubi vainly grasped for what was not to be, the infuriatingly talented Sekiwake unrelentingly pushed the younger brother to the edge and out. Two things here: Aminishiki will keep losing, no question, and Kotomitsuki will NOT challenge for the yusho in Hakuho's absence. As Flavor Flav said, Yo, don't, don't don't don't, don't believe the hype!

Chiyotaikai did his most impressive tsuppari in a long time vs a powerfully built young man in E2 Kotoshogiku. He kept the youngster at bay for an eternity with well placed and effective hands to the head and neck, and then used his counted coup to yank him down. I have no problem with THIS type of pulldown. The Ozeki earned it through his fierce slapping. 

Eel bit Kokkai slipped at tachi-ai, his right leg flailing way out behind him, giving 2-0 Kaio another three bouts at least. The way I see it, Kaio will not retire if he can remain at .500 or above for the first week. If he can beat the Geeku tomorrow (but I don't think he will) he'll book his ticket for the weekend. I've always liked Kaio (my boy's name is written in his honor) and he really ought to have been a Yokozuna. I hope he is still around when I next report on Day 8.

The bout of the day lived up to it's billing. Tochiazuma and Kisenosato went at each other like the two bulls they are, but in this bout, one bull had much better feet placement, and that was the Ozeki. He kept his elbows tight in on his body, moving ever forward toward the twenty year-old, eventually driving him up against the tawara where the Komusubi had to brace and push back to avoid going out, and that is when the Ozeki slapped away Kisenosato's arms and sent him to the "doit". If Yokozuna promotion relied solely on stability, Tochiazuma would have been made one long ago. He is without question one of the finest wrestlers ever when it comes to keeping his legs under him and squaring them to his foe. Brilliant sumo. Will he school Futenoh in a similar manner tomorrow?

So my September pick for the Kyushu yusho (with Hakuho's absence I am not as certain), Kotooshu, towered over Dejima at tachi-ai, getting one of those nasty behind the back belt grips that are nearly impossible to escape from when dealt out by the big Bulgar. But escape did the Degyptian (whose lower legs are about as purple as the zabuton 'pon which his faithful watch with bated breath), but alas, 'twas but for a moment as the Ozeki once again got that big ol' belt grip and this time was not having any of it, flipping his foe over and going along for the ride to boot! That was three out of four Ozeki bouts that were well worth the price of admission, so did this bode well for the final bout?

Bet yer ass it did! W2 Futenoh, a veritable Kotomitsuki in the making, got pumped up for his first bout with Asa in a year, giving as well as he got at tachi-ai, both men slapping around the neck and face for a few seconds. Then they both got inside left belt grips, but Asa had his right arm clamped down on his foe's forearm, allowing no movement. This turned out to be a set up for a maki-kae, or lightning quick switch of your outside arm to the inside, in order to turn your foe's inside grip into an outside grip, confusing I know but think of it as trying to get INTO a bearhug. Asa is a master at this move (is there a move he has NOT mastered?) but Futenoh saw it coming and pushed at just the right time, sending the Yokozuna back and to his heels at the edge. Nearly spilled my Grey Goose when I saw this, but Asa steeled himself and lifted Futenoh in the air just enough so that he lost traction, and from there it was back to the center, Asa readjusted his stance, and used the double inside grip to yorikiri the pup out and down!

Isn't it nice, the final ten bouts were like, bam, bam, cheap, cheap, sweet, bappity bappity, oops!, boom, whoosh, pow. Excellent second half of sumo. Glad Day 2 fell to me. See you on Day 8. 

Simon poops rug tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Say what you will about the crowd in Nagoya--and we've said plenty over the years, but after scanning the folks in Kyushu attending the day 1 bouts, I think we can officially say that Fukuoka defines the term inaka. I thought the actor that played the subway ghoul in the hit movie Ghost died earlier this year, but nope, there he was on the front row, dressed in drag doing his best geisha impersonation. Way to go Fukuoka, and I haven't even mentioned all of the purple zabuton that were nice enough to fill up half the arena.

I can't really blame the Fukuoka faithful, though. I thought the Japanese press did a horrible job in their pre-basho coverage, and if today's sumo was any indication of the rest of the basho, we've got a long fortnight ahead of us.

Moving onto the bouts, let's start with Yokozuna Asashoryu who was in serious trouble today if only for the briefest of moments. Against Komusubi Roho, the Yokozuna charged in low leading with his left elbow in hopes of gaining the quick moro-zashi grip, but Roho countered with a deep right arm that stood the Yokozuna up and then an even faster left arm under Asa's right arm pit that completely turned the Yokozuna around so that his butt was right in Roho's face (sorry for the imagery). Roho's left arm briefly flirted with the back of Asa's belt, and he was in the position that we're used to seeing Asashoryu in just before he executes the tsuri-otoshi move, but the Russian's feet seemed to be stuck in concrete rendering the Komusubi a bump on a log. When Roho finally got his wits about him and mounted a charge, the Yokozuna was waiting for him with a right armbar that he used to fell Roho with a nifty kote-nage throw. Roho blew it today and had to have been thinking what could have been. He seemed so dazed by the happenings that he looked lost in heading back to his edge of the dohyo after the bout. The bout just typified the uneventful sumo we saw on day 1.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai had it easy today against Komusubi Aminishiki and that right knee of his taped up fatter than Musashimaru-oyakata's neck. Aminishiki was driven back from the tachi-ai and tried to evade to his left, but Chiyo was on his every move and left him in a heap at the dohyo's edge with a sweet tsuki-dashi win. I of course had no idea that Aminishiki's right knee was hurt coming in, but if he looks like this the remaining two weeks, dude will be lucky to get out of town with two wins. Twas ugly.

Next up is Ozeki Kotooshu, who looked as solid as anyone today against a formidable opponent in Komusubi Kokkai. From the tachi-ai, Kotooshu focused on what he should have...a belt grip. He got the left inner grip quickly and actually looked to briefly go for morozashi, but Kokkai retreated to his left. No matter. The key to the bout was the belt grip that Kotooshu never relinquished allowing him to force the action in close with no room for the Georgian's tsuppari. Kokkai was completely out of position to mount an effective counter attack, and Kotooshu dug in well with the lower body shoving the Komusubi out for the impressive win. Kotooshu needs a few more of these early on to get him in the yusho mindset.

I enjoyed NHK's coverage of some of the pre-basho keiko sessions they showed today before the Makuuchi bouts began. Among the footage were clips of Ama and Kisenosato going all out, so you couldn't have helped get excited about the Tochiazuma - Ama matchup today. The M1 stood the Ozeki up at the tachi-ai today with some tsuppari, but Tochiazuma took it in stride backing up half a step and hunkering down again with that powerful lower body of his before grabbing a stubborn left uwate. Ama tried to shake the grip and counter with his speed, but Tochiazuma's footwork was excellent keeping pace with the Mongolian and setting up what looked to be a massive left belt throw that ended up with Ama just diving down to the clay. It was a strange finish to the bout, and probably looked fixed to some, but I think as Ama was trying to weasel out of the grip by stepping back, he realized he was in trouble and just took the forward dive to ease his pain. Nevertheless, this was excellent sumo from Tochiazuma all around.

Shifting our attention to Kaio, nobody received more pre-basho coverage than this Ozeki, and rightly so as he is an icon in his hometown. I thought coming in that he would be heavily tested by Iwakiyama, but the M1 opted for a shenanigan tachi-ai that left him completely vulnerable. Iwakiyama backed up about two steps behind the starting line at the tachi-ai, but what's he going to do from this position? He can't deliver any tsuppari, and dude's not fast enough to surprise Kaio with his movement. The end result was Iwakiyama walking into a right uwate that Kaio embraced pivoting ever so slightly before unleashing that uwate-nage throw we've enjoyed through the years. This was over in two seconds thanks to ridiculous tactics by Iwakiyama. Kaio looked great today, but I doubt he sees anymore of those gimme tachi-ai from his opponents.

Dropping down to the Sekiwake ranks, it was more of the same from Miyabiyama. Today against M2 Kotoshogiku, the Sekiwake displayed good intentions with his tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai, but his lower body was not driving forward leading the way. In fact, two or so seconds in, Miyabiyama's feet were aligned leaving him vulnerable. I think Kotoshogiku sensed this, and as he went for a counter attack of his own, Miyabiyama pulled back just enough to execute an offensive pulldown of his charging opponent. I can't fault Miyabiyama's sumo at all today as he set everything up with a good tachi-ai and seemed intent on the tsuppari attack. It was just the little things missing today like good footwork and faith in your game plan that led him to abandon the forward attack and go for the quick pulldown. When Miyabiyama won 14 bouts a couple of basho ago, he just bullied his way straightforward and that was that. Now, he's too cautious in his approach.

Each basho, I sigh a little bit deeper when I watch M2 Futenoh perform. Today he did a masterful job at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against Sekiwake Kotomitsuki. From the tachi-ai, Mitsuki grabbed Futenoh's left arm with both hands, but that just opened the door for Futenoh who got on the inside and drove Mitsuki quickly back to the tawara. At this point, Kotomitsuki had a big red and white target painted on his chest, but Futenoh must have looked out of the corner of his eye and seen Musoyama ringside judging the bout because he failed to finish the Sekiwake off when he had him. Kotomitsuki escaped and fled to the other side of the dohyo, and Futenoh at least showed some effort in his second attack, but his charge was upright and employed no usage of his arms. Kotomitsuki was able to grab Futenoh's belt with the left arm and take command of the bout from there setting up an easy force out win. Does Futenoh realize that to be successful in sumo you gotta crouch a bit? His attack the entire bout was far too upright, and he paid the price.

Another bout that just didn't seem to have any oomph despite the good matchup was Komusubi Kisenosato vs. M3 Tokitenku. The Komusubi began with an upright tachi-ai, but as bad as that was, Tokitenku's attack was even worse. Neither rikishi seemed to be looking to win this as the rikishi hooked up with arms pushing on chests in a yotsu position if that makes sense. Finally, Kisenosato was able to grab a belt grip using it to force Tokitenku back and out with little resistance, but this looked more like a display of sumo you'd see from the Jonidan ranks, not the sanyaku. But props to Kisenosato for picking up the win despite his unpolished attack.

Dejima and Takekaze took a little bit longer at the tachi-ai then we needed to see with both rikishi playing mind games to see who would put both fists to the dirt first. Oh the drama! In the end it was hardly that as M4 Takekaze allowed M3 Dejima to get in close and grab a left uwate that he used to pulverize Takekaze back and down to the dirt.

Roaring along, M4 Kakizoe sorta hit at the tachi-ai against M5 Hokutoriki before moving immediately to his left and back a step. Hokutoriki hasn't got the sort of game that can counter that, and he just walked himself out of the dohyo with slight encouragement from Kakizoe. Ugly sumo.

Earning an A grade today was M5 Tochinonada who was involved in a good chess match with M6 Kyokutenho. As he usually does, Tochinonada gifted his opponent the right uwate in order to obtain his favored left inner grip from the tachi-ai. After a 10 second stalemate in the center of the ring, Kyokutenho actually pressed the action first but was rewarded by a vicious Tochinonada counter scoop throw that put Tenho flat on his back.

Sizing up M6 Baruto's condition today was difficult due to his style of sumo. Against Tamanoshima, he discarded the M7 quickly by hitting at the tachi-ai and going straight for the pulldown. The fact that Baruto didn't move to the side as he executed the move tells me that Tamanoshima had no pop himself whatsoever from the tachi-ai because he went down without much resistance. It's sumo that we'll see a couple of times each basho from the Estonian. I don't really have a problem with it, but it is playing with fire. By the way, what where those things on the side of Baruto's face? Can't say that I've ever seen pube sideburns on a sumo rikishi before.

Takamisakari received his usual warm reception from the Kyushu faithful, but he received no such respect from Makuuchi newcomer, M8 Kakuryu who came in with a plan and stuck to it the whole bout. Kakuryu opened with the tsuppari attack and never let the Cop touch his belt or get an arm on the inside, and even after Kakuryu whiffed badly on a tsuppari that should have spelled his doom, he was quick enough to escape a faux Takamisakari charge and used the goofball's momentum against him to push him out from behind onto that basket of salt in the corner of the dohyo. The action lasted for nearly 20 seconds, and Takamisakari looked so winded walking down the hanamichi afterwards that it reminded me of a fish grasping for oxygen out of water. Even Gojoro-oyakata did a double take from his security guard duties on that folding chair as Takamisakari walked past. Hopefully Takamisakari's ride home was made of rubber or the dude's bound to hurt himself.

Inching towards the finish line, M9 Asasekiryu secured a stiff left uwate from the tachi-ai that would not be shaken against M10 Kyokushuzan. To his credit, Shu did look as if he were trying to counter the grip moving this way and that, but the stubborn M9 always kept himself one step ahead position-wise and finally forced his countryman back across the straw leading with that left uwate. The bout lasted more than twenty seconds, and if I were Seki, I'd be a bit concerned that I didn't finish off my opponent faster, buy hey, a win's a win.

Now let's get to the ugly. I actually like M11 Homasho and M10 Toyonoshima quite a bit, but they have already captured honors for the ugliest bout of the basho...and that's saying a lot only 6 bouts into the tournament. Toyonoshima opted to counter Homasho's low charge with a low charge of his own resulting in two guys crouched over locking arms and just standing there...for an eternity. At this point, I popped in an Oasis CD and listened to a song that could have finished in four minutes but was extended to seven minutes with the band singing the same line over and over the last three minutes of the song. Once that was through, I glanced back up at the TV just in time to see Toyonoshima slap Homasho down via hataki-komi. Fantastic stuff!

Pretty is also not the word to use to describe the M11 Kitazakura - M12 Ushiomaru matchup. Kitazakura really should have overpowered his opponent, but his lame tachi-ai left Ushiomaru with a right outer belt grip that he used to counter any Kitazakura movement after that. Ushiomaru finally wrangled his opponent near the straw and pushed him across. As Kitazakura headed back to his side of the dohyo, he quickly turned 90 degrees to face the center of the ring and slapped his duckass as if to pump himself up. Dude, gotta do that before you fight, not after you lose.

Entering the basho, much of the hype surrounded M13 Asofuji and his brother Aminishiki who, with two other sets of brothers, make up the first trio of brothers fighting in the Makuuchi division at the same time. I guess it's good they had that angle to hype because Asofuji's sumo stunk today. Against M12 Tosanoumi, he made the unwise decision of countering Tosanoumi's smashmouth tachi-ai with a half-assed pull down attempt. Tosanoumi was buying none of it leaving Asofuji on the retreat with his back to his opponent inviting the easy okuri-dashi win from the veteran Tosanoumi.

After the licking Tamakasuga took last basho, I'm sure he doesn't mind his new M14 rank. Today against M13 Tochinohana, Tamakasuga could get nothing going against his opponent, so he began to retreat, and as Tochinohana chased him around, he lost his footing way too easily. And by easy, I don't mean "yaocho" easy...I mean "Tochinohana's footwork is embarrassing" easy. Chalk up the win for Tamakasuga.

Challenging for ugliest performance today was M14 Hakurozan, who was just gifted the left uwate today from the tachi-ai by his inferior opponent, M15 Otsukasa. As Hakurozan sorta drove Otsukasa back, Otsukasa countered with a a right scoop throw that sent Hakurozan down to the clay in embarrassing fashion. To be done like that--by a right scoop throw from Otsukasa of all rikishi--is inexcusable for Hakurozan. He has such a good chance to do some damage this far down the banzuke, but it looks as if the life has been sucked right out of him.

Ever think we'd reach the end? Neither did I, but this report beats three hours of church doesn't it? Clancy noses around in other people's business tomorrow.


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