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 (Frank reporting)
(Darkness. Distant sound of whistling is heard, gradually getting louder.)

Oh, hey there. Didn't notice ya. Name's Frank. Ah clean up around here after the festivities, you know, sweep up the salt, mop the halls, put away these purple pillows. 

(Sits back on a tall stack of zabuton, takes out a handkerchief and wipes his brow.)

Not that keepin this place spic and span is mah only chore, no sir. Ah also tidy up after them Sumotalk fellers, thinkin they know near bout everythin there is to know about sumo. Horseshit, that. Take fer instance that Kelly feller. Ya ask me he couldn't tell his fannie from a fanbelt. Day 1 tells us Kokkai might "be looking at a double digit basho" and that he likes "Kisenosato's chances this time out to sneak in and possibly grab 10 wins." Both finished with 9 wins. Smartass.

Then there's that jacknabbit Newfie Mark Arbo, doing headstands on mah pillows! Took me pritnear two hours to clean the stink of that pomade off. Million Hit Man or not, next time he pulls a stunt like that, ahmagoan beat em like a rented mule. 

To add insult to injury, we had Boss Man himself playing it straighter than a plumb line on Days 12 and 13, not a gag or ribald comment t'be seen. What's the world comin to?

Mind if Ah smoke? 

Anyways, what little buildup there was comin into Day 15 dissipated like hog gas in a mudhole when that Chiyotaikai feller dropped out, citin some elbow problem. Sounds to me more like the man got hisself some spine problems. So that big ol' Mongolian Yokozuna had the trophy in hand fore he got up to pee in the mornin. Well ain't that a piece?

Naturally bein top man an all he's still goan put on a show, and what better way than to whoop on Kotomitsuki. 'Cept, ya see, the Ozeki had other idears. He hits at the tachi-ai and moves quickly left, grabbin a sumbitch of a right inside. Yokozuna takes hisself a right outside, thank ya much, but after a bit o tussle the Ozeki executes a sweet makikae that befuddles the yusho winner and breaks his right hand hold. Once broken, Mitsuki pushed and pulled and swung the Yokozuna around until he got flung and flipped down to his third loss, as inconsequential as it be.

Problem here was Hakuho was prolly still ruminatin bout the two fights come fore his, fascinating contests of unmatched power between giants of the sport, Sekiwakes Sneaky and Sexy and Ama and ol reliable in a pinch to fill in when ya need em E8 Wakanosato.

Shneaky needed this win to make his eight, and for the second time in three days henka'd his way to the win, getting Sexy off balance and slappin em down like a polecat in a puptent.

Ama won ten for the second basho in a row by hammerin into the former Sekiwake's chest and then gettin closer than me and the missus was on our weddin day, grabbin the front belt and runnin him out quicker'n shit through a goose. One of them so-called "ex-spurts" called him Chiyonofuji on Day 7, then said he AIN'T The Wolf on Day 14. Well, which is er? No matter, plain for anyone to see, this hoss got hisself a whole lot of punch.

Pimple took on the Geek looking for that magic number, but it weren't to be as the E7 blew an early lead and pulled to an armbar. The Geeku almost went out here, but dug in and grabbed that belt like a pitbull with his right hand, then dragged Toyohibiki down to a "makekoshi" as them fancy pantses up in the NHK tower likes to call it.

That 9-6 E2 Kisenosato, aka The Kid, put on a fine show vs Tokitenku, everyone's boogeyman this time out (I hate the henka more than a coyote hates the pitchfork, but this boy was sheddin no tears over the two varmints Tenku henka'd this tourney. Mitsuki has always been a rascal with that non-move, and Ah'll never forgive The Pup for what he done to Miflobby way back when). Anywho, The Kid just dismantled the Mongolian, using great belly work to get him to the edge, and then grabbin in on that belt and Ah'll be darned of it didn't look like he sexed him out! (Ah noticed an unusually large number of gentlemen headin for the facilities at this point.)

Now what else got mah attention? Kokkai was up from 13 to take on a 5 in Takakaze. Weren't so much that he won the bout as it is how he won it. Stayed low and balanced, hands on his foe, waitin for the openin. When he got it he pressed forward keepin the slippery son of a catfish I front of em. No cheap pulldown or nuttin!

Yusho contender Baruto (more nonsense you might a heard, that this behweemoth weren't a factor in the yusho race--goatgunk!--he had them top rankers sweatin it out till Day 14--Wesemann was dead on about that, surenuff) got into some trouble vs Tochinonada, and if he haddna grabbed a last second back of the belt as he was being driven out wouldda gone down like shot of Jack. As it was he twisted the spunky Tochi to the dirt, goodnight Irene.

Ahm happier'n a one legged donkey at a sockhop to see KingTama get his 8th win, as we's both about the same age. Kaiho gave em a fair fight, with lots of slappin and fussin. Kaiho kept in tight, a lil too tight after all, as he was slapped down. He recovered a bit, but only to be punched back and out by the King.

Wakakrin said no to the man dance and toodles to Hokutoriki, who luckily already had his 8th win. Like the two Ozeki, couldna happened to a nicer feller than this serial henkaphile. The rookie gets 10, but at what cost, young buck?

Kasuganishiki blew his chance to stay in Makuuchi by fallin to Tosanoumi.

And what would our little chat be without sayin something bout Roho the Ho, the only Ho to those in the know. Is there a larger, more cretinous sack of monkey vomit operatin in sumo today? Even though he already got nine wins, he henkas Tochiozan who was lookin for his 8th win, a win that would have allowed him to remain in Makuuchi. This man is loathsome and thensome. 

And so ends our little excursion into Sumo's Two Basho Twilight Zone. The Khan returns presently, and 2008 will bring with it some good storylines, not least among them Hakuho trying to win his first yusho as a Yokozuna while another Yokozuna is fightin, Ama going for Ozeki, Kisenosato and Geeku, too. Kotooshu and Kaio will try and remain Ozeki. Goeido, Toyonoshima and Baruto should all become regulars in sanyaku barrin injury.

Wesemann will continue to make predictions as solid as ever (he TOLD you the two basho were Hakuho's with no uncertainty five months ago), Arbo will continue to confuse and delight, Kelly will gross you out as never before, and if the stars align themselves just so, we might, just might have the Manchester Maruader back in bidness in time for Asa's 22nd yusho sometime around Jan. 27. Thanks for reading in 2007 and have a great and safe New Year!

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Here I am, once more trying to shed light on a murky day 14 of yet another honbasho. I have to say that the most surprising rikishi of the lot has been Chiyotaikai, but the one of the last few days, not Kokonoe's protégé in the first week. Ass-kickings of both Baruto and Kotomitsuki have given Taikai a serious dose of self-confidence (and a top spot on the leaderboard), so let's jump right into the action and start today with the...Sakaizawa - Kotokasuga bout in Juryo.

What do you mean, who the heck is Sakaizawa? His record so far is a shiny 69-22, and, even if he's already 24 years old, he promises to cause an impact on the upper echelons, especially since he belongs to Baruto's own Onoe powerhouse. Or so I thought, before checking out some of his bouts this tournament. True, the guy is huge and has some good technique and strength, but he skirted and henkad his way to the current 12-2 record he boasts in contention for the Juryo Yusho. Today he was paired against kaeri-Juryo Kotokasuga. The Sadogatake sekitori produced a powerful tachi-ai slipping his left arm on Sakaizawa's inside, denying him any sort of belt grip (Sakaizawa is a yotsu guy). The veteran then tried a scoop throw, but Sakaizawa pushed his right leg into Kasuga's left and stayed alive. However, Sakaizawa's poor balance allowed Kotokasuga to get the inside arm deeper and fell his foe to the floor by sukuinage. That, combined with Juryo rookie Ichihara's own victory over our old friend Figgered (Mongolian Ryuo, for those of you who missed the last couple of basho), puts both guys at the 12 win mark. The race is on, and the likely playoff would seem to favor Sakaizawa, who won their last three meetings. However, before that, I'd like you to click this here link, to see just why Sakaizawa is such a good dancer, and proud of it (vigorous keiko is the answer for everything, innit?).

Alright, enough monkey business, the real sumo is on, with the musubi-no-ichiban. After a series of fired-up stares, both men crashed into each other, with the Ozeki going for the neck with his right hand, while trying to keep his left on the deep inside, denying Hakuho the migi-uwate. The Yokozuna was taken back a step by the powerful charge coupled with the nodowa, but he immediately shifted to his left and wrapped Taikai's right arm, going for his favored armbar throw technique. Chiyotaikai isn't exactly a pushover (well, when he wants to, anyway), so he survived the maneuver well, and resumed his thrusting attack on Hakuho's upper body, again driving him back with some intensity. Hakuho, however, isn't a Yokozuna just by a favorable turn of events, so he kept his wits about him, withstood the hectic charge and pushed a bit to Taikai's side, throwing him off balance before dodging his next attack and slapping him down and out of the Yusho race. It was great sumo from both wrestlers, with the more focused man winning in the end. The Yokozuna assumes sole leadership of the division, just like a sole Yokozuna should. Chiyotaikai falls to 11-3, but I'll bet he doesn't have any regrets about today's bout, his best just isn't good enough.

And we're moving on, to the *cough* legitimate bout between Ozeki Kotomitsuki and Dai-Ozeki Kaio. You don't have to watch the bout or learn the result to know the outcome, all you gotta do is to watch the records after yesterday. Let's see...we have 7-6 Kaio needing a win for kachikoshi and keeping his rank, with two Ozeki left on the menu. One of them is Chiyotaikai, who is still in the Yusho race (well, he was when this bout I'm analyzing took place), and the other is Kotomitsuki, who was lubed right out of it by Sneaky and Tokitenku. So...hmm...who could Kaio defeat for his kachikoshi? The tachi-ai was pretty tell-tale, with Mitsuki lunging forward and Kaio stepping slightly to his right and getting the uwate for a few milliseconds. I think they practiced this one a lot. Kaio then focused on pushing at Mitsuki's side, driving him to the straw. Kotomitsuki then quickly gave Kaio a convenient double inside grip, while conspicuously grasping for Kaio's head with the right arm. Of course, Kaio got his left all the way to the back of Kotomitsuki's mawashi, and, to make it look good, Mitsuki appeared to attempt the kubinage, but forgot to wrap Kaio's head in the process. Sure, it looked good to the untrained eye, but it was 1000% fixed. These guys could make a fortune in Pro Wrestling. Oh, while we're talking yaocho, can you tell me who the winner of tomorrow's Kaio-Taikai bout will be? I'll give you a couple of hints...Chiyotaikai is mathematically in the Yusho race, Kaio already has kachikoshi, and their bout takes place BEFORE the Yokozuna faces Kotomitsuki. And don't be surprised if Kotomitsuki takes another one for team Japan and henkas reaches around Hakuho for a more convenient grip.

In the penultimate bout of the day, Sekiwake Asasekiryu got worked thoroughly by Maegashira Takekaze in a damage-control affair. Kaze launched his usual cannonball tachi-ai, taking the Mongolian a full step back, before going for the pull and working his way to the side. He then pushed at not-so-sexy's right arm, got a deep left inside grip on the back of his mawashi and spun him around and down by shitatenage. Asasekiryu's been looking awful this basho, and he's got the 3-11 record to prove it. At 6-8, Takekaze is defeated but still standing.

The other Sekiwake found a way to postpone his makekoshi, against M4 Kyokutenho. True to his nickname, he shifted to the left at the initial charge and made Tenho look really slow, because by the time the Mongolian realized what was going on, Sneaky had gotten a solid morozashi and just forced the 3-11 Tenho back and out. Kyokutenho is heading for the comfort of the Makuuchi outskirts, while Aminishiki will probably sneak his way to another undeserved kachikoshi once more (he gets Asasekiryu tomorrow).

Mike's latest crush, career-high M6 ranked Goeido took on the larger and more experienced Komusubi Kotoshogiku, in one of the best bouts of the day. It's great to see young, hungry guys like these two go at it with the thrusters at 110%, it makes old tricksters like Aminishiki or Hokutoriki look plain stupid and embarrassing. Today's tachi-ai was just as great, with bouth guys crashing into each other, and Giku seemed to be favored by it, getting his left hand under Goeido's right and pushing upwards under that armpit. However, Goeido started showing his true future Yokozuna colors, because at the first sign of trouble he immediately wrapped his right arm around Giku's neck and simultaneously turned with his thigh into the opponent, for the show-stopper kubinage (if I thought the Kaio-Kotomitsuki bout was legit, I'd probably write something like "Kotomitsuki should watch the replays and take notes", but, since we're already clear on that matter...). Brilliant counter-offensive sumo from Goeido, and a well deserved kachikoshi. Kotoshogiku already had kachikoshi and he should get the Shukunsho, but he will need luck for that second Sekiwake spot.

Had Thanksgiving been delayed a couple of days or so, I'd have personally flown to the US and brought Mike a fresh pair of crows for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, because he was dead-wrong on Baruto as a yusho threat. Today, imminent Sekiwake Ama showed the proper way to capitalize on the Balt's poor tachi-ai, when he took the charge head on and then suddenly shifted to the left and pretty much let Baruto fall to his face carried by his own momentum rather than the Mongolian's pull on the back of his mawashi. The key factor was Baruto's too upright stance, but when he'll eventually learn to do it properly, he'll be almost unstoppable. Ama has been looking great lately, but he still ain't no Chiyonofuji, no matter what Marcos claims, and, with the current state of the competition, he may never even get to Ozeki, much less Yokozuna.

M2 Kisenosato faced kachikoshi hopeful M1 Miyabiyama, and took the Sheriff's relentless tsuppari attack like a man, withstanding thrust after painful thrust before fighting back with his own and gradually working his way into hidari-yotsu, a position that heavily favors him over his much heavier opponent. From there on, a couple of gaburi-yori had Miyabiyama with his back against the wall, and he couldn't change the inevitable outcome, despite a last-ditch tsukiotoshi attempt. Kisenosato gets his kachikoshi, but a Komusubi spot is out of the question. Miyabiyama falls to his eighth loss.

Hapless Homasho was given a break by the powers that be, having to fight M12 Haku-loser who is well on his way to mid-Juryo. The Ossetian opted for a left harite at the tachi-ai, but all he got out of that one was a double inside grip for Homie. Of course, the whole thing was over in less than a couple of seconds, but at least this time Hakurozan pretended to put up a fight before being quietly forced out. At only 3 wins apiece, both guys need a vacation.

I vaguely remember mentioning something about crows not long ago...Well, it looks like I'm gonna keep this particular pair for myself, because my favorite Dejima couldn't really stay in the Yusho hunt, though he has shown good strength and balance for a change, and a Kanto-Sho isn't out of the question, provided he wins one more. Today's win wasn't easy, though, as he had to take on behemoth Toyohibiki. The veteran strangely opted for the frontal belt grip at the tachi-ai, but the younger foe's thrusts shook Dejima off with ease and drove him a couple of steps back, to the point where everyone (myself included) thought he was a goner. However, this is where experience kicked in, and Dejima, having resisted the fierce nodowa, planted his thick tree trunk of a left arm on Hibiki's inside and managed to get a right uwate, forcing Toyohibiki to grab an awkward left shitate of his own for a brief stalemate in the center of the dohyo. Dejima may not be a belt fighter, but he does fight well from the inside, and Hibiki has absolutely zero yotsu skills, so it's no surprise that the former Ozeki punished a slow maki-kae attempt and promptly pushed his inexperienced foe down and out of the dohyo. Ten hard earned wins for Dejima, and, as I was saying, he should get the Kanto-Sho with another win against Toyonoshima tomorrow. Hibiki will have to overcome Kotoshogiku for his own kachikoshi, and that promises to be one of the more interesting bouts of the day.

Another case of youth vs. experience, with the same outcome, was the next bout. Wakakirin is a lighter, stronger and hypercharged version of Ryuo, focusing exclusively on tsuppari. This one's particularly violent, though, and if you don't believe me, check out this clip.  However, Mongolian Tokitenku is no Makushita rookie, and he absorbed the thrusts with seemingly little effects on him, before quickly dodging an attack and letting Kirin get out of the dohyo on his own. Wakakirin might have some future in this division, but he's too small to be another Chiyotaikai. Tokitenku is an arse.

My favorite Mongolian, the over-ranked M3 Kakuryu, is doing his best impression of a vacuum cleaner (that's a fancy way to say he's sucking big-time). Against equally hapless Kasugao, he didn't even bother to try to look like he was putting up a fight. The Korean charged more powerfully and got the right arm inside and a left uwate, and yorikiried the sucker in two seconds flat to level the score at 3-11 each. Kak could be injured, you say? I didn't notice any taping on his body. I'll tell you what I think happened: he's just neither strong enough nor technical enough nor fast enough to handle the sharks. 'Nuff said.

The Gentle Giant Tochinonada took on the shortest guy in the division, M4 Toyonoshima. After the powerful clash, Nada focused solely on denying the little guy any sort of inside position, and I have to say the veteran knows his stuff well, because right after Toyo tried to slip his right arm in, Tochinonada slipped to his left, grabbed that arm and threw Toyo to the clay like the bowling ball he resembles. It was quick, deadly technique from an often underestimated guy with no less that 11 kinboshi. Both wrestlers have similar 8-win records.

In the next bout, pushover Tamanoshima allowed youngster Tochiohzan to have his way with him, after a poor tachi-ai where Oh worked both arms inside. It was over in three shoves and two seconds. Tochiohzan gets win #7 and is likely to stay in Makuuchi. Tamanoshima falls to his 11th loss and seems to be on his way to retirement.

M11 Tosanoumi had little trouble against injured Takamisakari, who only returned to the tournament to avoid demotion to Juryo (and succeeded, much to my surprise). The veteran slammed hard, head first, into his strange opponent, and kept him away from the mawashi with a low stance and solid thrusts to the neck and upper body. The Cop tried to dig in at the tawara, but Tosanoumi took him off balance with a sudden pull, making him easy push-out fodder in the next two seconds. Tosanoumi gets the sixth win and will stay in the top division, while Takamisakari stays at five.

The Russian Ho got the better of the tachi-ai against Wakanosato, probably because the latter was pretty cautious in his charge (and I don't blame him!). The veteran was promptly pushed a couple of steps back, and when Roho failed to get any belt grip, he went for the quick and cheap pull-down, so excuse me for moving on to the next bout without mentioning who won.

A rather enjoyable slugfest took place between Old Man Kasuga and The Rikishi with no Nickname (you still have my respect, Mr. Eastwood). Well, right from the tachi-ai, both guys focused solely on hitting the other guy, and this seemed like it would go on forever, until the veteran delivered a particularly effective slap to the left side of Kasuganishiki's head, instantly knocking him to the clay. It wasn't much in terms of sumo, but hey, it was a LOT more entertaining than a henka. You hear that, Roho??

Speaking of Ho's, the newest one to join the top division surprisingly lost to no-account Yoshikaze after a high-impact tachi-ai (I think they heard the bonk outside the Kokusai). Right after the hit, the Russian went straight for the pulldown, and when that failed, he seemed determined to take Kaze's head off. Ho still has to work on his aim, though, because the little guy dodged his reckless right haymaker and got a sweet morozashi. A second later, Wakanoho was standing outside the dohyo. It's pretty obvious that, although gifted, the rookie still has a lot to learn (and if he keeps doing those horrendous flying henkas, I may start to call him Monty).

There are a couple of things to be on the lookout for tomorrow. First of all, the Chiyotaikai – Kaio yaocho: I think Kaio might as well announce his retirement and not show up (at least that would eliminate the need to make it look good). Second, there's the Hakuho – Kotomitsuki match. Will Mitsuki cover Taikai's ass and send Hakuho to the playoff? Probably not, but you never know. Will Dejima get his 11th win and the Kanto-Sho? (for some reason, I think I'm really the only one who cares about that...) Will Sneaky vacate the Sekiwake slot to a more worthy rikishi? Stick around and find out. Cheerio!

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The matchup of the basho to the this point featured M16 Baruto against Ozeki Chiyotaikai where you have the obvious strength of Baruto who rarely loses if he gets a belt grip vs. the veteran Ozeki who exhibits the jo'i pride and polices the dohyo better than anyone not name Asashoryu. The lead-up to the bout had the Fukuoka faithful whipped into a frenzy, but the fun would stop there as the bout wasn't even close. Chiyotaikai dominated the tachi-ai keeping Baruto away from his belt with some powerful tsuppari that stood the Estonian upright making him a huge punching bag for the Ozeki's shoves. Chiyotaikai rushed forward and pushed at Baruto's side as he tied to escape the onslaught he knew would come, but with Baruto's bad knee and Chiyotaikai's determination, there was no place to go but out as Chiyotaikai happily escorted Baruto to his third loss with the easy push-out win. This bout wasn't even close, and as much as I like Baruto, I always love to see the Maegashira rikishi come up and visit the Ozeki only to get their asses kicked. You can't say enough about Chiyotaikai for digging in this basho, keeping himself in the yusho race, and protecting not only his home turf but the pride of the top rikishi. This bout was also a perfect example of Baruto's weak tachi-ai, and how the truly great rikishi will expose it every time. The Ozeki moves to 11-2 with the win putting the pressure on Hakuho to defeat Kaio.

Okay, okay, so I'm just trying to build up some drama that really wasn't there. Yokozuna Hakuho played it perfectly today using the tsuppari attack to take no chances of giving Kaio a sniff of his belt. Kaio attempted to grab one of Hakuho's arms in hopes that he could pull it down, but Hakuho's speed overwhelmed the Ozeki to the point that he began stumbling off balance at which point Hakuho grabbed the back of his belt and sent him across the ring and down using a methodical yank all the while with Hakuho standing on the other side of the dohyo watching his handiwork. This one was too easy as the Yokozuna preps for tomorrow's biggie in the battle of the two 11-2 rikishi. Kaio falls to 7-6 but should secure kachi-koshi. How? Read on.

You could see today just how hellbent Sekiwake Aminishiki was on keeping his rank because at 5-7 coming in and facing Ozeki Kotomitsuki today, Sneaky lived up to his name moving to the left at the tachi-ai and masking the henka by grabbing the quick outer grip, which he used to swing Kotomitsuki over to the edge and across. I mean, what more can you say? Kotomitsuki has had a tough-luck basho being henka'd in two of his four losses, but when you consider how he was roughed up by Ama and Chiyotaikai, he wasn't in yusho condition anyway. As for AminiSneaky, he moves to 6-7 and will probably find a way to sneak out those last two wins. As for Kaio, Kotomitsuki is officially knocked out of the yusho with his fourth loss, so it will be a no-brainer when it comes to letting Kaio win his eighth tomorrow.

In an awful display of sumo all around, M4 Kyokutenho hit Sekiwake Asasekiryu hard with his right shoulder only to immediately transition into a pulldown. The move didn't fell Sexy right away, but it took away his footing so as he tried to regain it and capitalize on Kyokutenho's backpedaling, he came up just short falling to another Kyokutenho pull attempt as the chauffeur tiptoed the tawara. Bad stuff all around as this bout mostly served as filler while NHK panned the faces and entrances into the arena of the rikishi who really matter this basho. Both rikishi stand at 3-10.

With the two Sekiwake stumbling this basho, Komusubi Ama was determined to regain his rightful place in the Sekiwake ranks with an inspired performance against M3 Tokitenku. Tokitenku led off the bout with a good right nodowa to shake Ama away from a right outer grip, but Ama countered will with a sweet right hari-te of his own that sent Tokitenku into a rage. Both rikishi traded a few more slap attempts to the face until Ama just lowered his head and charged into the moro-zashi position, which he used to drive Tokitenku back in a flash and slam him down hard to the dirt beyond the straw. I got the feeling in this one that these two don't like each other because there was some electricity in the air. Nevertheless, Ama makes it official as both rikishi are 8-5. You gotta be happy for Ama, and don't look now, but guess who the Association has paired Baruto with tomorrow. Yes, Ama. He's their workhorse right now.

I'm finding myself looking forward to Toyonoshima's matchups each day now as I enjoy his excellent technique and top-notch sumo. The Tokitsukaze-beya leader doesn't know the meaning of the word henka, and despite his lack of height, he more than holds his own against the jo'i rikishi. Today against Komusubi Kotoshogiku, the two settled into the quick hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai where the Geeku gained the right outer first. Kotoshogiku pressed the action well with the advantage, but Toyonoshima was able to dig in thanks to some great footwork where he neutralizes his opponent's lower body with the threat of a counter trip. Kotoshogiku mounted two or three force-out charges that were rebuffed, but in the process, Kotoshogiku was able to move to the side of his opponent a little more each time until he was able to take away the threat of a counter trip maneuver, plant his left foot, and launch Toyonoshima over to the dirt with a splendid uwate-nage throw. This was great sumo from both parties as Kotoshogiku secures a well-deserved kachi-koshi at 8-5. Toyonoshima falls to 

It was nice to see Homasho get a rikishi who he could handle in M6 Tamanoshima today. Both rikishi didn't exactly go for deep inside positions at the tachi-ai today opting to butt heads and keep hands pushing at each other's shoulders and elbows in a style that obviously favors Homasho. Homie focused on the left inside position, and even though Tamanoshima cut it off once, Peter was in no position to do anything with it leaving Homasho to secure the deep left inside position again which he used to force Tamanoshima back and across the straw to the delight of the faithful Kyushu crowd. Homasho's left arm was heavily taped in this one, and hopefully this explains the kid's poor showing in Kyushu. There isn't anyone who doesn't want to see him regroup and come back with a vengeance in January. A weak lower half of the banzuke will be just the ticket for him.

Kasugao looked to henka to his left at the tachi-ai today, but in the process the Sheriff caught him with a wicked right nodowa that knocked the Korean completely off balance and set up him for the kill. As Kasugao tried to regain his footing and lurch towards Miyabiyama again, the Sheriff restored order to the dohyo by shifting gears and slapping the hapless Korean down to the dirt. Miyabiyama showed great ring sense and footwork in this one, and his catching Kasugao as the Korean jumped to his left was classic akin to someone spearing a moving fish. Don't look now but Miyabiyama is 6-7 while Kasugao falls to 

Kisenosato and Futenoh put on a decent display of yotsu-zumo hooking up in the solid hidari-yotsu (simultaneous left inside) position and stalling in the center of the ring as each tried for a right outer grip. After about five seconds, the Kid got it first, and once secured, he pushed Futenoh back and out with little fanfare.

Wakakirin's ability and fast start were put into a bit of perspective today against Dejima. The rookie used a brilliant kachi-age (forearm to the throat) tachi-ai raising Dejima's head and taking away his freight train charge. Wakakirin followed that up with some quick tsuppari that drove Dejima back to the edge, but the youngsters lower body was nowhere to be found and he was unable to finish off the former Ozeki after he had him. Dejima's pride kicked in at the edge, and he dug in nicely halting Wakakirin's charge and pushing him back across the dohyo surviving a counter kote-nage throw before forcing the rookie out in the end. Wakakirin falls to 9-4 and thankfully off of the leaderboard where he should have never been in the first place.

Takamisakari's magical run ended today against M3 Kakuryu who wisely struck the Cop low and focused on lifting him upwards as he drove him back. Takamisakari simply couldn't plant his feet in an effort to counter, and by the time he had worked his left arm deep on the inside, the was a step beyond the straw. Good win for Kakuryu who moves to while Takamisakari makes his make-koshi official at 5-8. Still, you gotta admire Takamisakari's determination.

Hakurozan needs to learn if he's going to go for the pulldown early, he may as well henka to either side. Today against Hakurozan, the Russian stood straight and put both hands at the back of Takekaze's head. Takekaze complied straight way pushing Hakurozan back and out with ease. There's no good news here, however, as Takekaze only improves to 5-8 while Hakurozan is just 3-10.

The ONLY way Roho was going to beat Goeido was to use a tachi-ai henka and everyone knew it except for Goeido, who charged hard only to be greeted with thin air as Roho jumped outward to his left. Goeido actually kept his footing, pivoted quick as a flash, and actually got a hand on Roho's belt, but with Roho at the side of him and Goeido still stumbling way to low, he was easy push down fodder from there. I'm not even gonna go on a rant with this one. What's the point? Everyone knows that Roho (805) is a chump. Goeido drops to 7-6, but dare I say his instincts after that henka were Asashoryu-like? Get your cheap licks in on the kid now fellas because you'll be eating his dust in a year to come.

In what looked to be a great oshi-zumo affair considering Hokutoriki's recent resurgence (starting five days ago), Toyohibiki and the Jokester did not disappoint as the two trading tsuppari throughout the contest. Toyohibiki used his bulk from the beginning to force Hokutoriki quickly back to the tawara, but as Hokutoriki exhibited the tiniest resistance, the Nikibi panicked and went for a pull down. Hokutoriki took the opening and would never fall behind again as he drove Toyohibiki back across to the other side of the dohyo. Toyohibiki evaded once and threw Hokutoriki off a bit, but with the two rikishi moving around like this, the much heavier Toyohibiki just wasn't able to keep up as Hokutoriki pushed the slug out in the end. I can only shake my head and say "when will these kids learn?". Toyohibiki was in completely control until he went for the pulldown. He falls to 7-6 and faces Dejima tomorrow. Hokutoriki picks up a well-deserved kachi-koshi,

It's nice to see Kokkai fight when he's desperate because the Georgian actually uses decent sumo. Today against Tochinonada, the gentle giant was happy to give up the right outer grip in exchange for his favored left inside position. Tochinonada immediately went for a huge left inside throw, but Kokkai survived and began circling slowly to Tochinonada's left side taking away another such attempt. As Tochinonada tried to close the gap again, Kokkai backed up a step and dragged the giant to the dirt with that right outer grip in uwate-dashi-nage fashion. The win moves Kokkai to 7-6 and more importantly keeps him in the Makuuchi division for another season.

In a battle of two 7-5 rikishi, Wakanosato schooled Kasuganishiki using a quick hari-te with the left hand before forcing his left arm deep on the inside. With this solid position, the force-out of Kasuganishiki was easy for the veteran Wakanosato (8-5).

M15 Tochiohzan pressed the action against Tamakasuga wiping off the King's initial nodowa and taking the initiative, but his charged was too rushed and as Tamakasuga retreated near the tawara, he countered with an effective slapdown that hit its mark sending Oh down to the clay for a costly seventh loss as King-Tama balanced on the tawara.

Kakizoe and Yoshikaze, two rikishi from Oita Prefecture, were involved in a crazy push affair where the two never really able to connect on an effective blow as they circled around the ring. In the end, the veteran Zoe had Yoshikaze turned completely around, and even though Yoshikaze escaped it, he was in no position to hold the fort as Kakizoe pushed him out of the dohyo and then completely off employing a dame-oshi that Asashoryu is always criticized for. Kakizoe closes the gap at 7-6 while Yoshikaze falls to 3-10.

Makuuchi rookie Wakanoho charged with his head low against Tosanoumi and was able to grab the instant left outer grip, but the blue collar man shook it off and forced a lengthy stalemate in the center of the ring denying the Ho that left grip again. With Wakanoho stuck, he could only wait for Tosanoumi to mount a charge, and when he did, the Russian was able to counter at the tachi-ai by planting his left foot and swinging Tosanoumi around and out with his right inside grip. Great counter sumo from the 19 year-old, but he's gotta work on that tachi-ai. He picks up kachi-koshi while Tosanoumi falls to his costly 8th loss.

And finally, Kaiho used another tachi-ai henka to left against Juryo Tochinohana easily slapping him down to the dirt picking up the cheap win. I see Kaiho working. He's suffered make-koshi already, but he can still keep himself in Makuuchi and pick up the fatter paycheck.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
We couldn't have asked for anything more this basho. We have a Yokozuna and the two Ozeki who don't have issues tied for the lead heading into day 12. Then you throw in a legitimate Maegashira contender in Baruto, and we have some great drama heading into the final days. Coming into the day, we had three rikishi tied for the lead at two losses in Hakuho, Kotomitsuki, Chiyotaikai, and Baruto. Both Kotomitsuki and Baruto didn't deserve one of their losses as each came at the hands of dirty tachi-ai henka. Chiyotaikai suffered a henka loss of his own, but since he was beat straight by Ama early in the basho only to have the referee and judges look the other way, things are even in his case.

Let's get right to the action where the featured bout of the day had to be the Ozeki duel between Kotomitsuki and Chiyotaikai, two rikishi who have been solid this basho, and two rikishi who were handed cheap losses by Tokitenku henka. The key to the bout would be who dictated the pace of the sumo from the tachi-ai, and it was Chiyotaikai who came out guns a'blazin firing tsuppari after tsuppari into Kotomitsuki's mid-section driving his fellow Ozeki back to the straw and out in about three seconds. This was great stuff from Chiyotaikai and that same attack he used today where he feuls the tsuppari with his lower body can have the same effect on Baruto tomorrow and Hakuho on day 14. When Chiyotaikai is on, his sumo is driven by the lower body; when his sumo his off, he still comes out with the tsuppari, but they're nothing but a flurry of lame thrusts as Taikai stands at the starting lines. You'll be able to tell which Chiyotaikai shows up the next two days one second into his bouts. His pride should kick in tomorrow and propel him to the same result he saw today. Kotomitsuki drops to 9-3 and must beat Hakuho on senshuraku to stay in the race. 

Chiyotaikai's win put the pressure on Yokozuna Hakuho to beat Sekiwake Aminishiki to keep pace with the Ozeki. The two opened their bout with a flurry of shoves that really took no effect in terms of driving anyone back, but after about three seconds, Hakuho was able to lunge forward and grab the early right arm position on the inside. As the two aligned their chests, Hakuho wrenched Sneaky upwards and set up the powerful left uwate position on the other side adding insult to injury by moving to the side of Aminishiki completely taking any offensive hope away from the Sekiwake. In this position, Aminishiki did the only thing he could, which was to kick his right leg towards Hakuho's left in an attempt to set up a trip, but Hakuho had created too much separation from his opponent and survived the trip-attempt with ease taking advantage of his now off-balance opponent by bowling him over with a powerful uwate-nage throw. I like Hakuho's approach today in that he set up his sumo with his tsuppari. When Hakuho uses that same conservative tachi-ai where he goes for the left frontal grip, the smart rikishi can neutralize it. Hakuho has a gimme in Kaio tomorrow before facing the hot Ozeki the final two days. Sneaky is in trouble at 5-7 especially considering that he has Kotomitsuki tomorrow.

In the third featured matchup of the day, M16 Baruto looked extremely tentative to me at the tachi-ai wagging his butt up and down, brushing the salt of his hands, and pivoting his wrists all while maintaining his crouch. Dejima, who isn't known for pulling the quick trigger, was content to watch all of this before finally putting both fists to the dirt. Baruto followed suit and came out with his best sumo of the basho getting his right arm in deep at the tachi-ai opting to lift the charging Dejima up by his left side. Dejima nearly slipped out of the maneuver, but the damage was done because in the process, Baruto grabbed the left outer grip and easily forced Dejima to the side and out in the largely uneventful affair. This was great technique from the Estonian, who moves to 10-2 with the win. Baruto is everything that's good about sumo right now. He's got that infectious grin, which breaks normal protocol that calls for the rikishi being gruff and crusty; and the dude takes time to acknowledge the fans, who will respond in kind. You can't help but to root for the Estonian these days. His dominant win moves him to 10-2 alongside Hakuho and Chiyotaikai for the lead. In order to beat Chiyotaikai tomorrow, he's gonna have to lunge forward at the tachi-ai and demand a belt grip instead of tentatively standing upright. Dejima falls to 8-4, but he's had an excellent basho.

Moving onto the rest, was there any doubt Kaio wasn't going to pick up his seventh win today against M4 Kyokutenho? Kaio made that point sure with a solid tachi-ai where he got his left arm inside early and lifted Tenho upright enough to where he was able to grab the moro-zashi grip. From there, it was easy pickins as the Ozeki marched Tenho back and across the straw with little fanfare. I was a bit surprised that the Association is pairing Kaio with Hakuho tomorrow. I thought they would surely give the Ozeki a break and give Hakuho a tougher opponent like Baruto, but you can blame all of it on Roho. Had the Russian not henka'd Baruto at the end of last week, Baruto surely would have seen Hakuho tomorrow. At 7-5, Kaio is one win away, but he's got the two hot Ozeki and Hakuho to overcome. The only way I see him getting a kachi-koshi is if Kotomitsuki suffers another loss and is out of the yusho race. In that case, he will prolly step aside and let Kaio win the bout out of respect. At least we've still got plenty of drama to go. Tenho as been absolutely lousy this basho at 2-10.

Sekiwake Asasekiryu and M2 Kisenosato put on a fine display of yotsu-zumo today hooking up in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai that eventually led to gappuri yotsu where both rikishi enjoyed right outer grips. Back and forth the two carouseled trying to throw each other over and down for about 20 seconds until the Kid was able to break off Sexy's outer grip and move in for the kill. Asasekiryu countered with a neck throw attempt and had his right leg positioned perfectly to execute the throw, which forced Kisenosato to back off yet again. After resting in the ring for about 15 seconds, Kisenosato forced the action again as the two twisted and turned in the dohyo until Kisenosato's right outer grip proved to be too much as he forced Asasekiryu back and across in a great display of yotsu-zumo. You gotta love this kind of exhibition as Kisenosato moves to 6-6. Asasekiryu will fall out of the sanyaku completely at 3-9.

The most frustrating thing about M3 Tokitenku lately is that he actually has the goods to produce excellent sumo. The problem is he doesn't trust in his ability opting for henka and other shenanigans to pick up kachi-koshi. Today, against Komusubi Kotoshogiku Tokitenku was great denying the Geeku an outer grip from the tachi-ai as the two hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position. That was the key as Kotoshogiku simply couldn't counter Tokitenku's height as the two went chest to chest. A good chikara-zumo battle ensued, but Tokitenku's just too tall and too strong, and he was able to force Kotoshogiku back and out with little argument picking up his eighth win. Still, it's impossible to celebrate Tokitenku's kachi-koshi this basho, and the Sumo Association be damned if they give him a Shukunsho for his win over the Ozeki. The Geeku still has one win to go at 7-5.

The most anticipated bout without yusho implications coming in was the Komusubi Ama - M4 Toyonoshima matchup. These two are keys to the future of sumo other than the current Yokozuna. Ama came out quick driving Toyonoshima straight back to the straw, but instead of grabbing the right outer grip that he was aiming for, he came out with a fist-full of Toyonoshima's sagari (those stringy things that hang down from the rikishi's belts). With no grip or proper inside position now, Toyonoshima easily evaded to his left and quickly grabbed Ama by the back of the belt with his left hand while pulling Ama down by the head with his right in a move that was so well executed that Ama somersaulted his way out of the ring. This was good stuff all around, but the difference was Ama's failing to grab any sort of grip after his great initial charge. Toyonoshima picks up his kachi-koshi with the brilliant counter sumo while Ama must wait another day at 7-5. These two should dominate the sanyaku for the next year to come.

M1 Miyabiyama's sumo was perfect today against M3 Kakuryu as the Sheriff lumbered forward with his tsuppari attack keeping Kakuryu upright and looking for any opening. Kakuryu briefly sniffed Miyabiyama's belt with a right frontal grip, but the Sheriff knocked it away and continued to use good footing to not only fuel the tsuppari but also keep himself in front of the Kak. The push-out win came in about 8 seconds. Good stuff for the former Ozeki who improves to 5-7 while Kakuryu at 2-10 needs to regroup with his pal Homasho.

Speaking of M1 Homasho, his woes continued today as M5 Kasugao unleashed a wicked right arm at the tachi-ai that struck the low-charging Homasho in the back of the left shoulder and knocked him down to the dirt straightway in an affair that lasted maybe a second. Homasho's gotta salvage a win or two more and then just regroup for Hatsu. Sources in Fukuoka tell me that Homasho made quite a few television appearances in between basho and is becoming a popular rikishi, but he's gotta learn to avoid those distractions. Yusho-favorite Terao should straighten that up. He better, anyway, his prodigy is just 1-11. Kasugao "improves" to 3-9.

How about M8 Takamisakari coming back from that ankle injury to defeat Kasugao yesterday. Today, all the cop needed to please the Kyushu crowed was any sort of yotsu position. He got it early by wrapping his right arm around the top of M5 Takekaze's left and then using his left arm to push up on Takekaze from the inside position. Takekaze tried to counter with a neck throw at the edge, but the Cop's too good in this position, and he forced Takekaze back and across the straw for another valiant win. There will be no trip to Juryo now for Takamisakari, which bodes well for the good of sumo. The Robocop improves to 5-7 while Takekaze's make-koshi is official.

M6 Goeido displayed the most disturbing sumo of his Makuuchi career today against M11 Tosanoumi. The upstart grabbed the quick frontal belt grip from the tachi-ai completely neutralizing Tosanoumi's oshi-attack, but instead of trying to get on the inside, Goeido tried to move Tosanoumi around by the belt and pull him down with the other hand. The tactic didn't work, however, due to the huge size difference, and after several attempts at this method of attack, Tosanoumi was able to break off Goeido's belt grip altogether leaving the youngster standing upright with feet aligned. Goeido panicked and went for yet another horrible pull attempt at this point that set him up for the counter slapdown from Tosanoumi. This was bad sumo from Goeido (7-5), but the kid'll learn. Tosanoumi stays alive at 5-7.

M14 Kaiho hit M6 Tamanoshima and quickly moved right looking to grab the quick morozashi, but Tamanoshima wrapped both arms around the outside of Kaiho's and pinched inward in the kime technique often used by the former Takanonami. Tamanoshima tried to force Kaiho around and out of the ring, but the crafty Kaiho slipped out of the move and pushed Tamanoshima (3-9) out from behind in the end moving to 4-8.

M15 Wakakirin displayed what I thought was his best sumo of the basho today against M7 Tochinonada. After the gentle giant put an end to Wakakirin's tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai forcing the bout to what looked to be the hidari-yotsu position, Wakakirin quickly clamped inwards on Tochinonada's elbow and used the hold to wrench Tochinonada over to the side and out in an impressive win. At 9-3, the rookie is technically on the leaderboard, but he should be happy with his kachi-koshi and pending Kantosho (with on more one). The only problem is the competition will get tougher starting with Dejima tomorrow. Tochinonada is 7-5.

M12 Roho baited M7 Toyohibiki into a false start in their bout today, and that definitely threw the Nikibi off when it counted because he just didn't have his usual pop at the tachi-ai. Roho responded well, I guess, by timing a perfect slapdown two seconds in. There was nothing cheap to Roho's sumo today, but it wasn't very good. Nevertheless, the Russian moves to 7-5 and will surely finagle another kachi-koshi. Toyohibiki shares the same mark.

M14 Kakizoe hit M8 Wakanosato straight on but lightly as he quickly moved to his right and just forced Wakanosato down to the dirt by pushing at the back of the left shoulder. The bout lasted about three seconds and all Wakanosato could do was offer a lame harite at the tachi-ai that gave Kakizoe (6-6) the opening. Wasn't Wakanosato (7-5) on the leaderboard just a few days ago?

M16 Kasuga-nickname-me used a quick strike and pull tachi-ai to set up a wicked left nodowa against M9 Futenoh where he had him pushed all the way back to the tawara, but Futenoh arched his back, shook the choke hold off, and twisted Kasuganishiki around 180 degrees into what I believe was our first brokeback moment of the basho. From there, Futenoh garnished his record to 6-6 with the easy push-out win from behind. Kasuganishiki falls to 7-5.

M9 Tamakasuga bullied M10 Yoshikaze all the way over to the straw with a push to the side just after the tachi-ai, but Yoshikaze survived well only to hook up with the King in the center of the in the hidari-yotsu style of all positions. From here the veteran Tamakasuga gathered his wits and just forced Yoshikaze to the dirt with a wicked tsuki-otoshi push at Yoshikaze's side moving Tamakasuga to 5-7. At 3-9 Yoshikaze must win out or likely pack his bags for Juryo come January.

M10 Hokutoriki is just feeding off of that win against Goeido the other day. Since then he's taken every opponent from the tachi-ai and just driven them back and out with some oomph using an effective tsuppari charge. Those new to sumo may not know this, but Hokutoriki was as close as you can come to the yusho back in May 2004. From the M1 rank of all places, Hokutoriki was 13-1 heading into senshuraku after having pasted Asashoryu on day 6 putting an end to the Yokozuna's longest winning streak ever at 35 wins. Unfortunately, a henka from rookie Hakuho on the final day sent Hokutoriki into a tailspin that he has never recovered from. Anyway, against M12 Hakurozan today, the Jokester had him back and out in two seconds pushing at his side and armpits with that seldom-seen dominating tsuppari attack. I like to watch Hokutoriki when he fights like this. At 7-5, he'll be around a few basho more. Hakurozan is rank at 3-9.

M13 Wakanoho's sumo is like a circus, literally. Today against Kokkai the rookie jumped straight up in the air and mounted Kokkai as if he was going to leap frog him. From that position he just rode Kokkai straight into the dirt in true hataki-komi fashion. Yet another tachi-ai henka from the Ho who moves to 7-5. Kokkai is a dangerous 6-6.

And finally, everything that's wrong with M15 Tochiohzan's sumo was on display today against Otsukasa of all rikishi. The two hooked up at the tachi-ai in the migi-yotsu position and just stalled in the center of the ring. That's the problem right there...Tochiohzan allowing Otsukasa to neutralize him at the tachi-ai. Remember Oh's win last basho against Goeido? It was swift and complete. We saw none of that today, however. As Tochiohzan just stood there fiddling around trying to grab an outer grip, Otsukasa quick as a flash stepped to his side and pulled the hapless Oh to the dirt. What a terrible loss for a rikishi with so much potential. Tochiohzan is only 6-6 from the M15 rank.

So, heading into day 13, the leaderboard shapes up like this:

10-2: Hakuho, Chiyotaikai, Baruto
9-3: Kotomitsuki

Chiyotaikai and Baruto face each other tomorrow while Hakuho gets Kaio, which means we're guaranteed at least one 11-2 rikishi after tomorrow's festivities. I'll tell ya all about it.

Day 11 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
I was going to do it. I really really was! I have been thinking (obsessing) about it for months. I knew what I wanted to write and how I was going to write it. I was going to shine a light into never before illuminated burrows of treachery and I was going to name names. I was going to tear the Nihon Sumo Kyokai a new one. As many of you may already know I hate the NSK. I hate them like "Alex" hates showers. I hate them like I hate that dog that barks outside my window at 5:30 in the morning. I hate them with a hatred that I had previously thought reserved exclusively for the Devil and his angles.

But after attending sumo last Sunday I knew I probably wouldn't/couldn't do it. Not today at least. Nothing happened to change my feelings about the Jacobites and Jack-offs at the NSK. In fact, I had such a sweet day that it has fuelled my hatred for anyone who could dare pervert something as wonderful as O-zumo. But I just don't feel like being pissed off right now. The sun has been shining bright every day this fall in Kyushu. I'm more or less healthy and happy. I have fantastic friends and a job that pays fine. And with that pay I can jump on an overpriced train or highway and an hour later be at the Fukuoka Kokusai Center where I can buy a cheap ticket and then promptly sneak forward and sit in a seat worth much more than the one I had actually paid for. Life's been good to me so far.

If you have never been to a hon-basho you are really missing something wonderful. I would take this whole report to even begin to describe the sights, smells, conversations and feelings that only being 'there' can provide.

On this particular afternoon I was joined by three other friends to take in the days bouts. We got there early enough to sit right on the floor beside the dohyo and watch some of the next generation of sumo hopes and hopefuls do battle wile the intimidating likes of Takanohana and Kokonoe-oyakata and a handful of fans looked on. 

As the day went on the stands slowly filled and we eventually moved back almost as far as the seats we had actually paid for. 

Funny Confab- At one point we were approached by a crazy and/or drunk lady who said 
"What are you drinking?"
"Wine" I answered
"What kind of wine?"
"Beaujolais Nouveau."
"Oh I have never had that kind before"

I smiled politely trying not to get the hint.

"Could I have some?" she was not going to be denied.
"Oh I'm sorry, we are all out of cups" I sympathetically said thinking "Check mate"
But she didn't miss a beat responding "Oh, I can just drink from the bottle."

What a woman! I should have taken her pic so I could make T-shirts! But I'm a little surprised she got in after what happened with her last time; i.e. all the papers and the making that dash for the dohyo. Next time I'm going to implement the "P.Y.C.S.J." Defense (Pretend You Can't Speak Japanese) and see if I fair any better.

When Juryo finished and the big boys took the stage I noticed a few empty seats in the forth row on the nishi side of the dohyo and said to my friend "When the last hour starts if those seats are still empty lets go down." (sometimes a group won't show up leaving a block of seats [in this case excellent seats] empty). So as the last hour began we snuck down with all the stealthiniss-niss of the inebriated ninjas we were. And just like that, there I was, watching the best of the best from some of the best seats in the arena. 

Mike was 1000% right about the Kyushu Basho. It really shouldn't be missed. The fans here are brash and zealous in their cheering. They are incredibly knowledgeable about sumo and just fun people to be around. They love to support the home town boys and that's great because there are so many of them. Of the 5 J-Boys in the sanyaku 3 are from Fukuoka or neighboring prefectures. Compare that with 0 (0!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) from Tokyo anywhere in Makuuchi and you will quickly see where the real heart land of sumo lies.

You might be asking "who the double-hockey-sticks is Hakuba?" Well Hakuba was born Ariunbayar Unurjargal in Mongolia early in 1983. He is not much bigger than me, but has taken Makushita and Jonidan championships. He likes long walks on the beach and girls with good teeth. He also got his ass kicked by Kasuganick-name-me today.

It was Tochiohzan's turn to "spank the Rozan" today. Let's all say it together "Juryo! Juryo! Juryo!!".

Baruto just being anywhere in Makuuchi is a 'big' deal. How long has it been since fights this early in the day were thought of as important to the outcome of the yusho usually fought out amongst the upper echelon 20 fights later? After a bit of a shove fest Tosanoumi fell to Baruto's pull down. Tosanoumi is just one loss away from his MK now and it is inevitable. I am really happy that Baruto is doing well and that the knee seems to be holding up, but I'm afraid that his present caliber of sumo is not going to hold up when the big boys at top take their shots at him in a couple days… But I pray I'm wrong!! Again, Baruto was shaking hands with babies and fans after his win...and I was melting.

I KNOW I am not the only person who has been waiting for a double henka. 2 guys jumping like idiots out of the way of a guy who ain't coming cause he is busy doing the exact same thing. Well, we will have to go on waiting cause the Hokutoriki/Roho match was fought (almost) straight up. Jokutoriki won. Roho didn't. Lesser of two evils? 

Kaiho couldn't match Futenoh's perfectly timed tachi-ai and his big supple nipples. That's 4 losses in a row. Juryo? Juryo? Juryo??.

I thought Kakizoe had a great chance to pull ahead of .500 today against ‘Ol' Man Tamakasuga' but he didn't. And I'll tell you why he didn't because that's why they pay me the big bucks. When this fight came to a stalemate in the middle of the ring, instead of continuing pushing, he panicked and leaped backwards looking for a pull-down. He didn't get it and his feet slipped out from under him sending him down to the clay without any assistance from Tama. And that was the difference between win number 6 and loss number 6.

Waka, waka, waka! Wakanosato and Wakakirin both came into today with impressive 7-3 records: Kirin riding 5 wins in a row. I guess WakaK must have been desperate to keep his streak going ‘cause he stepped to the side looking to grab a favorable position and his KK. Wakanosato weathered this storm but was a step behind when the tsuppari started. Wakakirin then went for an arm throw that didn't topple the big guy but did move him enough that Kirin could snuggle up behind him and show him the door. 

After one false start Wakanoho came out strong and completely dominated Tochinonada (too bad, I already had a good joke ready for when he lost). After a brief struggle for hand positioning the Russian landed one of the hardest slaps I have seen out side of Jerry Springer and then showed him how the dohyo looks from the other side. Nothing but praise for the youngster today.

Yesterday Hibiki ran over Wakanoho like a midsized car over a fat kid. His win today was only slightly less impressive as he steamrolled Kokkai in about a second and a half. Don't look now but that's 6 in a row for Big Red.

Tamanoshima finally broke his 8 day losing streak when Yoshikaze somehow figured he needed to henka a guy on an 8 DAY LOSING STREAK!!l It didn't work and Tama-Chan beat him oshi-dashi style. Yoshikaze now has 8 losses too. Good reddens!

The Kokusai Center went rightly electric when Takamisakari swung Kasugao out of the ring in his first fight back after a fracturing his ankle on day 4 against Yoshikaze. I have been hearing talk that they may allow banners in Juryo for only the second time if Takami drops that far. He won't be getting no KK, but I don't think it's going to be a problem to stay in Makuuchi. Broken ankle and still ain't henka-ing? Circus got big heart!

Goeido finally got back to his winning ways today when after a few tsuppari, everyone's favorite rikishi, Tokitenku went for a pull-down. Goeido tackled Tenku on the way down forcing him to step out and over just a fraction of a second before Goeido hit the ground. Good save from Goeido as justice is served.

After a horrible start M1 Miyabiyama has been picking up a few wins and gaining a little momentum. Conversely, Takekaze had dropped his last couple of fights and I thought the lonely sheriff was destined to pick up another win. Miyabi did come out throwing the lumber but the little butter ball was able to get inside on him. The butter ball sidestepped and Miyabi almost walked right out but at the last moment he dug in and spread his arms and one leg high in the air trying to gain some balance. Still backing up, Takekaze realized Christmas had come early and took a running start at Miyabi who was still balanced prettily like a ballerina. Takekaze lay a good hit on the vulnerable sheriff who bounced once on his way off the dohyo and then smacked his head on a big purple leg. I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. Fantastic! 

Homasho and Kakuryu (the makeshift punching-bags) came into today with the same embarrassing record of 1-9. But one of them had to pick up a second win, that's just how it works. They met at the tachi-ai with Homasho looking to push and Kak looking to pull (that's a little high-brow British humor for you). The repeated pull attempts kept Homasho off balance so when he finally switched it up, Kak was able to push the sorry local boy out.

In a bout between two fine oshi-dashi'ists Giku was able to move Dejima back and almost out but Dej, to the surprise of everyone but Martin, reached up and beautifully nage-ed his kubi sending KotoG down hard.

Martian really showed some Kahuna's picking Dej as his yusho favorite, so not to be out done I want to make a pick as well. You can take this one to the bank: Kyushu 2007 is going to former Sekiwake Terao. I know what some of you must be thinking, "He's 44 years old" or "He has been retired for more than 5 years". But I'm telling you, I have a good feeling about this one. Terao Tsunefumi has picked up 6 special prizes and 7 gold stars!! Don't you think he is way over due for a yusho? Plus he is now an oyakata so I think he is going to get a lot of favorable calls...think about it!

It was interesting that Martin brought up the comparison between Ama and Chiyonofuji because just the other day I made that comparison to one of the other writers and he said "Ama is no Chiyonofuji." I responded by saying that at Ama's age Chiyonofuji was no Chiyonofuji. Since then I did just a pinch of research. Chiyo was 24 when he won his first yusho and also when he became an Ozeki. Ama is just 23 now. Of course there is no way to know what one's future holds and the odds of anyone becoming another Chiyonofuji have got to be one in a billion, but Ama is young, healthy and has a brighter future than most, and even if he doesn't get it this time around I believe one day sooner than later we will be calling him Ozeki Ama.

So let's see how the future Ozeki did today against the brooding, blinking Kisenosato. From the tachi-ai they both took inside lefts. I couldn't see what Kissy was doing with his right but whatever it was it wasn't nearly as good as the powerful kubi-nage Ama did with his--the second beautiful one in as many matches.

Jazz Hands are in full effect this basho as Chiyotaikai worked Kyokutenho over pretty good. I think Chio has had more forwarding moving wins this basho than in the previous 2...maybe 3! I'm still not confident the Jazz Hands will be enough in the last few days but you know that he knows that with out the Dai-Yokozuna this is his last, best Chance to get his pic raised high one more time. 

KotoM also has been fighting some good sumo as of late. For the first time in quite a few days he got up to some tachi-ai haijinks, but I got the impression that for once it may have been an honest mistake, or else he has gotten better at acting. Mitsuki came out with a left to the tug-boat's throat that almost pushed him right ou,t but Shima stayed in and it went to the belt. This lead to a classic, old school KotoM organized love-in in the middle of the dohyo. After what seemed like a very long time even in fast forward Koto finally pushed Toyonoshima out like he could/should have at the beginning of the standoff.

Kaio picked up his uber-important 6th win in a strange and ugly affair against AmaN. It looked like AmaN was expecting the tachi-ai to be a false start (his left hand was no where near the dirt) as he stood up but Kaio jumped forward and pulled him down. The Kaio sympathetic judges weren't about to do anything to harm the Ozeki and just like that it was over. For those of you who are susceptible to conspiracy theories this could just as easily have been a screwed up yaocho as a screwed up tachi-ai. And the circumstances are...what they are …

In an anticlimactic final bout Hakuho pulled fellow Mongolian AsaSexy down so quickly after that tachi-ai that if you blinked you would have missed the whole thing. I don't mean to short change you on the Yokozuna's match but there really is nothing more I can say.

Thank you to all of you who have been perusing our little site. As I type this we are at about 1,008,000 hits and I thought we would be lucky to get to 1,000,000 by today. Too bad we love sumo and not porn, we could all be rich!

I have thrown more than my share of zabuton in my life already but last Sunday as Ama downed the Yokozuna I had the privilege of finally being hit by zabuton...a dream come true. 

As the "new guy" was finishing his (worse than Oga's) yumitori-shiki I told my buddy that this fun an occasion necessitated a head stand. He responded with a "That's just the wine talking."

Day 10 Comments (Alex Brohm reporting)
Whoops, did I interrupt your conversation on new wines? I thought this was a sumo site. I wonder if on the Sea Monkeys site they are debating the merits of Camembert over Brie or what toast points go best with pate de foie gras.

Well, while we are on the subject of wine I think I'll whine about this basho lacking Asashoryu, Takamisakari and Kotooshu. Although, it can be said every basho has been lacking Kotooshu this year. There's still the great and powerful Ama and of all the wrestlers for the last two years, Ama has been the most exciting to follow.

The only good news I have to give you folks is that in the Juryo right now there are two of the next great Japanese hopes, Sakaizawa and Ichihara. I want to see a Japanese Yokozuna as soon as possible so I don't have to hear Japanese experts, announcers, special guests, old ladies and former Makuuchi turned oyakata complain about not having a native Yokozuna anymore. I personally don't care where they're born as long as the Yokozuna is the strongest and stays in the yusho race till the end so that he has to fight the best on senshuraku.

You know, I had a dream last week, it was in the near future, I was taking my son to join wanpaku sumo (rowdy kids sumo) and we met Sadogatake oyakata's son. He wasn't wearing a mawashi and had slimed down. I asked him why and he said that he had given up sumo. He told me that sumo wasn't cool and that he wanted to play soccer and be like Shunsuke Nakamura. I said that I was sorry to hear that and I asked him if I could get Kotooshu's tegata (hand print).

The first point to be drawn from this vision is that I really, really like Kotooshu and I don't care even if he falls down to Makushita I will still be a fan. Second, The sumo association's bumbling leadership has made sumo so unpopular to Japanese kids that even if your father and grandfather were Sekiwake and Yokozuna, you would rather play soccer.

But let's remember children although things at present might be gray and stormy, there is a saying from that classic movie Robocop "The future has a silver lining."

Now, let's get down to today's sumo...

Before the start of today's matches it was announced that Takamisakari will be back on the torikumi for tomorrow's matches. He will be facing Kasugao. 

Kakizoe - Kasuganishiki: Hilarious! Kakizoe was flapping his arms trying to keep his balance at the bails. I think Kokkai's fighting form must be contagious.

Wakakirin - Kaiho: Wakakirin played it safe at the tachi-ai, knowing Kaiho's reputation for henka. Wakakirin stood up played a little patty cake before Kaiho grabbed his head for a pull down but Wakakirin wouldn't have it. He maintained his balance and push the smaller Kaiho right out.

Tosanoumi - Roho: With Roho's long record of hatakikomi against Tosanoumi, today's match held few surprises. Well one surprise, Roho had to yank down Tosa twice before he spilled out on the clay. Roho showed his self-satisfaction with a lovely pirouette. At least one person enjoyed that match.

Tamakasuga - Kokkai: Kokkai badly needed this win against the old warthog. Seems his knee is giving him some pain. He was wincing after the fight.

Tochiohzan - Futenoh: As much as I hate to admit it Futenoh did his best sumo and won.
With a quick grab of Tochiohzan's belt right at the tachi-ai he gradually (but not as gradually as usual) over powered him.

Tamanoshima - Baruto: Tamanoshima pushed Baruto back and made a mighty throw attempt but it was not to be. The secret to a Baruto win is when he gets chest to chest and starts crushing the life out of his opponents. This is what happened again today folks and I could hear Tamanoshima gasping for air all the way over here in Chiba.

Toyohibiki - Wakanoho: In preparation for this bout between the human cannonball and the carcass from the Caucasus I made an artist rendering of how I thought it would play out (a glamorous flying henka over Toyohibiki's confused head) but I was dead wrong. Toyohibiki rocketed right into Wakanoho's middle launching him into some unfortunate pensioner's lap. I hope no bones were broken...

Hokutoriki - Tochinonada: Much more exciting than it should have been. Hokutoriki having bumped his head on a low hanging pipe fitting, thought he was Chiyotaikai on day 8 against Dejima as he tried ineffectually to throttle Tochinonada waited patiently for his chance and then threw the bum out.

Tamanoshima - Hakurozan: the psychic link bonding Hakurozan and Roho is strong indeed. Two brothers, two hatakikomi.

Yoshikaze - Kasugao: One basho your up, one basho your down. Last basho's (yeah, right) yusho contender got tsuppari'd so hard that he dropped his jar of kimchi outside of the dohyo. So, Yoshikaze threw him down to help him retrieve it. Makekoshi for Kasugao.

Kisenosato - Takekaze: Big guy pushed out little guy... NEXT!

Homasho - Miyabiyama: Homasho came into this bout with nothing to lose and gained nothing. Miyabiyama tsuppari'd a sleepy Homasho straight out. Memo to Homasho, lay off the oxycontin.

Ama - Dejima: Did you ever have one of those little toy cars that you pull back to tighten the spring and then let go. Well, that what Ama did to Dejima. Shooting him right between a judge and his stablemate Aminishiki.

Kakuryu - Kotoshogiku: Kakuryu did a good job holding up to the gaburi attack before succumbing to it's might but one must remember that Kotoshogiku developed this technique to help him beat his large and in charge stablemates Kotomitsuki and Kotooshu. So, Kakuryu don't feel bad bigger me have fallen to the power of Kotoshogiku's beer gut.

Aminishiki - Goeido: What no tricks? Aminishiki wasn't interested in playing around with Goeido this time. He just grabbed the back of his mawashi with one hand and held down his neck with the other and flinged him like a booger.

Kotomitsuki - Asasekiryu: By keeping Asasekiryu's hand off the back of his mawashi, Kotomitsuki made Asasekiryu play his sumo. An uwatenage victory for Kotomitsuki.

Toyonoshima - Kaio: Kaio, how you gonna let that little man push you out? Is this truly the end of Kaio? Tune in tomorrow, same Kaio time same Kaio channel.

Tokitenku - Chiyotaikai: I wanted Chiyotaikai to win so bad I could taste it. I had picked him in the "Sumo Game" against the dearly departed ghost of Bernie. F-ing henka! What were you doing? Leaving your head down like that! That's Mr. Big jump to the left, kick to the back of the leg for all that is holy!!! I knew I should have picked Roho!

Hakuho - Kyokutenho: Another beltless win for Hakuho and likely, the yusho as well. Wheee! How exciting it would be if no one saw this coming three months ago when they suspended Asashoryu. Are you happy now, NSK?

Tomorrow, Mark "the albatross" is taking over. I want to welcome Takamisakari back. Even though I am worried about his injury, Robocop, we need you now more than ever. 

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Before I get to the day 9 festivities, let me just take the time to thank Mark Harold Arbo for getting Sumotalk across its millionth hit. Mark and his buddies have been working through the nights this last week tirelessly hitting the refresh buttons on their browsers to inflate our hit counts. In all seriousness, we've come a long way these last five years. Not to get sentimental or anything, but I remember the good ole days when it was just Kenji and myself staying up late each night frantically refreshing our web browsers. As for the picture of the one millionth hit, read it and weep Mr. Arbo. The cash and prizes belong to me. I've got my eye on a few new goodies not the least of which is the latest version of Photoshop.

Turning our attention to the day 9 action, M14 Kakizoe obviously read my report yesterday and has an aficionado for wigs because he classlessly moved to his left against rookie M15 Wakakirin of all rikishi. I actually think Kakizoe was trying to make things look fair because he tried to brush his body against Wakakirin before he jumped out left, but all that did was put him in horrible position and cause him to whiff on the henka. In that state, Wakakirin recovered easily and rewarded Zoe with a trip into the first row. Stupid AND ugly decision by Kakizoe who falls to 5-4. Wakakirin jumps to 6-3.

I know rookie M13 Wakanoho and Hakurozan were close growing up, but are these guys related too? The reason I ask is they both have that penchant for whiffing on their harite at the tachi-ai. Happened to the Ho today against M15 Tochiohzan, and to make things worse, he immediately put both hands at the back of Tochiohzan's dome in the pull position, but luckily for the Russian, Oh didn't hit and just drive his opponent back opting to get his right arm deep on the inside and take his time. Wakanoho countered with the left uwate and the chikara-zumo contest was on. Wakanoho took the initiative first and drove Oh back to the straw, but the former Kageyama dug in well and pushed upwards on Wakanoho's right armpit in an attempt to counter, but the Russian was just too strong and eventually forced his opponent back across the straw. Pretty good finish to a lame start as Wakanoho improves to 5-4. Tochiohzan shares the same mark.

Since being greased by Roho last Saturday, it looks to me that M16 Baruto has let up on his tachi-ai, and can ya blame him...especially against fellow Eastern Euro rikishi and their penchant for the henka? Today, the Estonian was wide open at the tachi-ai and M13 Kokkai had a clear path for the easy tsuki-dashi win if he wanted it, but he opted to bump chests with Baruto and drive him back instead. Bad move. To Kokkai's credit, he did go for the immediate force out and drive Baruto dangerously close to the straw, but in the process Baruto slipped his right hand into an outer grip for some insurance, pivoted nicely at the edge, and shoved Kokkai down from the side with his left hand. Any of the rikishi in the upper half of the banzuke would have beaten Baruto today after that tachi-ai, but there's a distinct reason why Kokkai isn't in that upper half. Either grab the firm morozashi position, lift up on the dude's armpits as you drive him back, or fire away with the tsuppari. Kokkai did none of that and opted to sorta body Baruto back, and he paid the price falling to 5-4. Baruto keeps himself on pace for the outright lead at 7-2.

After a decent tachi-ai from M11 Tosanoumi that knocked his opponent straight up, he made a poor decision to go for the quick pull down, but luckily his opponent was M14 Kaiho, who went down to the dirt quite easily. Replays showed that Tosanoumi's right hand connected perfectly with the side of Kaiho's jaw and neck, and that's what had to have felled him because Tosanoumi's initial pull attempt didn't look that lethal. He'll take the win, though, as he moves to 4-5 while Kaiho falls to 3-6.

Prior to the M10 Yoshikaze matchup against M16 Kasuganishiki, NHK showed a small contingent of Yoshikaze fans in the cheap seats who made the trip from a town in Oita Prefecture so small that I've never heard of it. "Yoshikaze - the pride of Saeki" the sign read, but the fun ended there as Kasuganishiki was too big of a wall for the Pride of Saeki to budge with his tsuppari resulting in a deep left inside position for the Garnish coupled with a left outer grip, and that was all she wrote as Kasuganishiki enjoyed the easy forceout win. Don't look now but Kasuganishiki finds himself at 5-4 while Yoshikaze has been hapless at 2-7.

M8 Wakanosato easily fended off M12 Hakurozan's morote tachi-ai getting his left arm deep on the inside and following that up with a smothering right outer grip. There was nothing Hakurozan could do here as Wakanosato used that inside position to brilliantly lift up at Hakurozan's right side and deny the Russian the outer grip on that side. The perfect yori-kiri win came seconds later as Wakanosato improves to a nifty 7-2 while Hakurozan will likely reacquaint himself with Juryo at just 2-7.

Are you trying to tell me that M12 Roho is out of his league against M7 Tochinonada? Apparently so because without a tachi-ai henka, he was fileted to perfection by the gentle giant. Roho went for the sheepish right outer grip from the start, but Tochinonada wiped that off with a deep left inside grip, and instead of trying to dig in, Roho went for the immediate pull down, a move that spelled his doom. The experienced Tochinonada had the now-compromised Roho pushed out in two seconds flat after that. I want to ask the question what's Roho stable master doing, but it's the former Takatoriki, one of the masters of cheap, evasive sumo. Is it me or has Roho's sumo gone down hill since Taiho retired and left the reins to Takatoriki? Nada improves to an impressive 6-3 while Roho falls to 5-4.

In an amusing tachi-ai, veteran M7 Tamakasuga stood right at the edge of the shikirisen and leaned as far forward as he could trying to close the gap between M7 Toyohibiki and himself. And then after all that, he committed a henka to his left at the start. Toyohibiki reacted well--he's gotta be getting used to this--and rewarded Tamakasuga with some wicked tsuppari to the neck that left the King nowhere to go but back. In true Toyohibiki fashion, his balance was poor as he attacked, and even though he did pick up the decisive win, he still crumbled to the ground at the edge of the dohyo causing his left knee to strike the edge of the clay mound and take out a huge chunk of it. Toyohibiki has finally surpassed the .500 mark and has a bit of momentum. Tamakasuga falls to a respectable 3-6.

Who stole the Goeido mask and snuck onto the dohyo to face M10 Hokutoriki? Somebody please tell me that I did not just see Hokutoriki kick Goeido's ass. My only explanation for the bout was a false start by Hokutoriki where he jumped the gun and immediately put both hands at the back of Goeido's head telegraphing the pulldown. The referee correctly called the bout back, but this must have been in Goeido's noggin' as they reloaded because on the second try, Hokutoriki used a series of neck pushes supported by perfect de-ashi to drive Goeido back and out in spectacular fashion. Hold on a sec...gotta go change my drawers.

Afterwards, they caught up with Hokutoriki on the hanamichi where he said, "That false start where I put my hands at the back of his head was just a reaction. I felt as if I deserved to lose after that, so on the redo I determined to just go all out with forward moving sumo." Worked wonders. As for Goeido, he falls to 6-3, but he's just fine. He's going through the typical learning process that all Makuuchi newcomers go through. He should get his ten and threaten the Komusubi rank for January. How would this scenario be...Goeido makes it to Komusubi where he is paired on day 1 with none other than Asashoryu? Hokutoriki improves to 5-4 with his best win since Natsu 2004, and his sumo today has me asking the eternal question "why don't you fight like that everyday?".

M6 Tamanoshima easily stopped M9 Futenoh's charge at the tachi-ai using a nice left inside position and had his opponent driven back to the straw pusing at Futenoh's side with the right hand, but for some reason he just abandoned the attack at the edge and let the action return to the center of the ring. In the hidari-yotsu position with neither rikishi maintaining an outer grip, Tamanoshima seemed content to let Futenoh (3-6) belly him back to the edge where Peter just gave up and walked out that last step. Puzzling sumo all the way around. Tamanoshima falls to 2-7.

At the midway point of the day, the cameras focused on the edge of the dohyo that Toyohibiki destroyed when his knee hit it as he fell. I guess the yobi-dashi had repaired it using their watering cans to soften up the dirt at the edge and reshape the mud, which would have been a lot more entertaining to watch than that previous bout. But the point is, cosmetically, the dohyo looks good again, but are you trying to tell me that it's gonna hold someone's weight if they step on that patch job? That's a sprained ankle in the making for sure.

Moving right along, in a battle of two of the more hapless rikishi this basho, M4 Kyokutenho and M5 Kasugao hooked up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, and Kasugao forced the pace early by driving Tenho back to the edge. But in the process, Kyokutenho managed to break off Kasugao's right outer grip and survive the attack. As the two settled back into the middle of the ring, Kasugao grabbed the outer again and immediately mounted another attack. Tenho pivoted to the side in an effort to turn the tables near the edge, but he lost his right outer in the process, and Kasugao was just too strong today easily forcing Kyokutenho across the straw. Both dudes are only 2-7.

Martin handed out the bubblegum cigars today after M3 Kakuryu decided to take M2 Dejima straight on at the tachi-ai only to be driven back and out in seconds by the Degyptian,s freight train sumo. Dejima moves to 7-2 with the excellent display of sumo and is firmly planted on that leaderboard at 7-2. The Kak is a paltry 1-8.

Komusubi Kotoshogiku rushed things today against M1 Homasho and nearly paid the price. The Geeku opted to use a series of nodowa and thrusts to knock Homie back near the straw, but that ain't his game, and when Homasho dug in nicely at the edge, Kotoshogiku instinctively put both hands at the back of Homie's head. Fortunately for the Komusubi, there was just too much real estate behind him for Homasho to capitalize completely, and although the struggling M1 did gain a decent left inside position and drive Kotoshogiku dangerously close to the edge, the Geeku dug in nicely did that last-gasp evasive maneuver at the straw as he pushed Homasho down from his left side. Wasn't pretty, but Kotoshogiku got the job done as he moves to 6-3. Homasho joins Kakuryu in the make-koshi category.

Hakuho should take note of the way that M1 Miyabiyama handled Komusubi Ama today. The Sheriff used a series of nodowa thrusts to keep Ama at bay and completely away from his belt. Miyabiyama wasn't hellbent on driving Ama straight back, but he played it smart standing his ground and keeping Ama frustrated throughout. After about 8 seconds of action, Miyabiyama timed a perfect pulldown of his opponent knocking Ama to the clay with ease. The reason why I say that Hakuho should take note is not to say Hakuho should become a tsuppari guy, but remember when he secured promotion to Yokozuna how he used to set up his wins with an oshi-attack? I'd like to see him revert back to that style. Miyabiyama limps to 3-6 while Ama will just have to be satisfied with another Shukunsho this basho at 5-4.

Sekiwake Aminishiki came out with a nodowa attack against M2 Kisenosato, but the Kid showed some determination today that we haven't seen in a long time. After swiping away Sneaky's lame nodowa attempts, Kisenosato exhibited some fine nodowa of his own that knocked Aminishiki clear back to the edge. Ami dug in a bit at this point, but Kisenosato would not be denied grabbing the firm left outer grip and using his left leg to keep Aminishiki from evading to his right setting up the perfect yori-kiri win. This is the Kisenosato that I've been waiting to see for, what, over a year now? Both rikishi are still in the kachi-koshi hunt at 4-5.

As if M3 Tokitenku's act yesterday wasn't bad enough, today against Ozeki Kaio, the Mongolian shifted to his right again grabbing the cheap right outer grip that he used to drive the off-balance Kaio back to the edge. Kaio managed to break off the grip in the melee but found himself standing at the edge of the dohyo in the grapplin' position. Without gaining any sort of position at the tachi-ai, Kaio is not going to push around Tokitenku, and even after a slapdown attempt that had Tenku shaken a bit, the taller rikishi won out in the end pushing Kaio out with relative ease. I honestly don't know how Tokitenku (6-3) sleeps at night. Kaio falls back to 5-4 with the tough-luck loss.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai kept his name atop the leaderboard today making the correct decision to use the tsuppari guns against the smaller Sekiwake Asasekiryu. Seki hasn't been exactly hot this basho, so there was no chance of his digging in to counter the onslaught. Twas a typical Chiyotaikai oshi-dashi win over a smaller opponent who he knows he can bully. At 8-1 Chiyotaikai is your (hold on, I'm trying to keep a straight face) your leader. Seki is a dangerous 3-6 considering his upcoming schedule.

M5 Takekaze opted to cut off Kotomitsuki's right arm from gaining any position at the tachi-ai, but it makes no sense for Takekaze to invite a stalemate against the Ozeki. If he has any chance to beat him, it's to mount a tsuppari attack from the start and just take your chances. Takekaze didn't and paid the price today. While he did deny Kotomitsuki a belt grip for about 20 seconds, he completely took himself out of the bout in terms of mounting any sort of offensive, so it was just a matter of Kotomitsuki being patient and waiting for the opening. After a bit of wrenching and twisting it came, and Kotomitsuki just skated to the easy oshi-dashi win from there. Kotomitsuki is stands alongside Hakuho and Baruto which is all he can ask for at this point. Takekaze is reeling at 3-6.

And finally, all of Yokozuna Hakuho's pre-basho keiko against Juryo Sagatsukasa paid off today against the tricky M4 Toyonoshima. The Yokozuna attacked low jumping into the early migi-yotsu position, but Toyonoshima countered well keeping his butt back and to the left away from a Hakuho outer grip. At this point the Yokozuna used his mass to force Toyonoshima methodically back to the edge, and once Toyonoshima was at the point of no return, he went for the same kubi-nage throw that Ama beat Hakuho with in September, but the difference this time was that Toyonoshima's legs are too short, so he wasn't able to knock Hakuho off balance enough with his left leg pushing up into Hakuho's right...a key to a successful kubi-nage throw. In the end, Hakuho's size proved the difference as he just drove his body into Toyonoshima's riding him down to the dirt via yori-taoshi. At 7-2, Hakuho easily controls his own destiny and is the clear favorite to yusho. In my opinion, the worst is behind him because he matches up so well with his remaining opponents: Kyokutenho, the two Sekiwake, and the three Ozeki. Of that group, Kotomitsuki has the best shot of taking the Yokozuna down, but I don't see it happening as the Ozeki is not fighting at the level that propelled him to the rank in the first place. Both Sekiwake are below average, and then there's Kaio and Chiyotaikai. Hakuho really has to screw this one up not to talk the yusho. Toyonoshima falls to 6-3 with the loss, but is deserving of a place in the sanyaku.

Nine days in and there are really no surprises on the leaderboard which shapes up like this:
8-1 Chiyotaikai (this simply won't last)
7-2 Hakuho, Kotomitsuki, Dejima, Wakanosato, Baruto (the real leaderboard starts here sans Dejima and Wakanosato)
6-3 this record cannot be considered until both Hakuho and Baruto lose again

Considering the schedules down the stretch, Hakuho has to be the favorite. Wakanosato and Dejima will not last due to the increased competition they'll see. And Baruto is the wildcard here because you just can't guarantee that his remaining opponents will fight him straight up.

Alex delivers the monologue tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
At the beginning of my day 3 report, I joked about this being the Kyushu jungyo due to the lack of spectators in the seats, but as the basho has progressed, the fans have started to come out of the woodwork, and as the number of fans have gradually increased, I've noticed that this basho really does have a jungyo feel to it thanks to the Kyushu faithful wildly cheering on their own. It's really the best of both worlds...a hon-basho meaning the rikishi are actually trying to win, and a hometown crowd that becomes passionate and supportive of its favorites. And being the good Christians that they are, the Fukuoka faithful are also taking in the poor and downtrodden from other nearby prefectures like Homasho who hails from neighboring Yamaguchi. The whole reason I bring this up is that the fans deserve a whole lot more than what they got today. What a horrible day of sumo, and not just because everyone and their monkey got beat. It was a bad day for sumo because on such an important day of the basho, we saw too many incidents of cowardly henka and pull sumo.

Coming into the basho--hell, at the end of last basho--I thought that Hakuho would just clean up in Kyushu. I had reasoned that the momentum he gained from his win in Aki would carry over, and that he'd be able to capitalize on the rikishi in disarray around him. And while the Ozeki ranks have their issues, and the other rikishi can't hold a candle to Hakuho in terms of strength and ability, a lazy Yokozuna is extremely beatable. Today against Komusubi Ama, Kublai was absolutely dissected and frustrated to the point where he allowed himself to suffer a horrible loss. Ama wisely focused on Hakuho's arms at the tachi-ai pushing down on them to disallow any sort of belt grip or inside position. At this point Hakuho panicked and went for the quick pull down, but Ama was all over the move and pushed Hakuho back to the straw. The Yokozuna arched his back with the best of 'em and survived the move well, but instead of intently trying to get back into the bout and forcing his way into the inside, he went for a second pull down from which he could not recover. Ama managed to grab a right inner grip in the melee and used it to drag Hakuho down to the dirt before a Hakuho left kote-nage throw could take effect. This was an ugly bout all around thanks to the pull sumo involved, but Hakuho's lack of concentration is disturbing. The funny thing is, even at two losses now, he's prolly still the favorite to yusho because as I mentioned in my pre-basho report, Chiyotaikai is still Chiyotaikai, and Roho is despicable.

Ama moves to 5-3 with the shukun victory and has officially gotten into Hakuho's head, but if the smaller Mongolian is serious about this Ozeki business, he's gotta learn to beat the lesser folk. For the record, Ama has now defeated this basho Hakuho, Kotomitsuki, Kotooshu, Kaio, and Chiyotaikai. Now that's a clean sweep if there ever was one. And the Komusubi had similar success against the top dogs last basho but was kept from serious yusho contention because he lost to too many underclassmen. Granted, his two losses so far have come to a Sekiwake and a Komusubi, but he's done with everyone ranked above him, so if he can beat the guys ranked lower than him, he will be a serious yusho contender. And how about that travesty no-call when facing Chiyotaikai? The Ozeki ain't gonna yusho even with the gift, but how big was that no-call now in light of Ama's current standing and remaining schedule? Damn NSK and their biases.

Moving on, M3 Kakuryu executed a classless tachi-ai henka of Ozeki Kaio today, but the hometown favorite survived it well not exactly lunging forward at the charge. With Kakuryu now out of position and on the run a bit, Kaio was able to square back up with his opponent and get a left paw on the inside, which is all the Ozeki really needs, especially against a jo'i pretender this basho like Kakuryu. Kakuryu flirted with a right outer grip and tried to move laterally to shake Kaio out of position, but Kaio held on with the left and brilliantly used his right arm to tie Kakuryu's left arm up in the air with the elbow extended. In this position, Kaio was able to swing Kakuryu around and eventually out to the delight of the Fukuoka faithful. Kaio moves to 5-3 with the win and will likely kachi-koshi. The Ozeki only needs two more wins when you consider his senshuraku opponent, Chiyotaikai, will not send Kaio into retirement if he's 7-7 coming into the day. Kakuryu falls to 1-7 and has lost his confidence to fight in the jo'i sometime between the Aki and Kyushu bashos.

M3 Tokitenku is a disgrace to sumo as is Roho. Ozeki Kotomitsuki charged forward hard at today's tachi-ai, but Tokitenku was nowhere to be found as the Mongolian cowardly jumped to his left at the start executing a classless henka knocking Kotomitsuki to the dirt and more importantly to his second loss. After an early loss, Kotomitsuki was looking sharp this basho and was one of the solid yusho contenders, so you can't take him out of the tournament with a tachi-ai henka. You just can't. Well, I guess you can, and Tokitenku did, but it's the fault of the Sumo Association for letting the pathetic displays at the tachi-ai continue. They need to take my advice and redefine what entails a sound tachi-ai and what is classified as a false start. The henka just ruins sumo. Roho greased Baruto with it yesterday handing the Estonian a costly second loss, and now Tokitenku has largely ruined Kotomitsuki's chances with it today. They caught up with Kotomitsuki afterwards in the hanamichi, and he stated, "I don't care if they pull me after hitting at the tachi-ai, but to do it right from the start is wrong." I agree. It's everything that's bad about sumo, and I hate it. I don't see how anyone who is fine with the henka could have enjoyed this bout today. In fact, I was so furious after watching this display of cowardice that I decided to reveal to you all an epiphany I had awhile back.

When we get really bored here at the hotel, we often try and find an aspect to another sport that resembles the tachi-ai henka, but no one has ever succeeded because there's simply not another example in sport where an opponent can use such a cheap tactic to gain such a huge advantage over his opponent. If fact, I've racked my brain for years trying to find something that even remotely compares, but I just couldn't. That was until I moved beyond the world of sports and began considering an accessory used by men that exactly resembles the tachi-ai henka and reasons behind its use. Now I've spent many hours researching this and pouring over the scientific data, so allow me to introduce my findings with the following chart that compares the tachi-ai henka in sumo to a toupee:
Tachi-ai henka Category Toupee
yes legal yes
yes reveals a lack of self confidence yes
yes masks a flaw yes
no chicks dig it no
yes should be banned yes
no socially acceptable no
yes makes all who view it squirm yes
yes can't be applauded or praised yes
yes ugly yes
yes used as a disguise yes
yes uses it to try and fool others yes
yes user looks like a fool himself yes
no requires glue yes

Damn!  If it wasn't for that last category, I could have had this idea patented.

Is Martin onto something with his touting M2 Dejima as the yusho favorite? I doubt it, but he was on to something when he pointed out that no one in this hotel is taking Ozeki Chiyotaikai's quick start seriously. I don't even want to see the Ozeki's name on the leaderboard in week two. The potency of the Pup's attack was put into perspective today as Chiyotaikai was hardly able to budge Dejima from the tachi-ai. With his thrusting attack proving ineffective, Chiyotaikai next tried to push Dejima back and out with a grubby hand to this throat, but Dejima just stood his ground knowing what would come next. It came a few seconds later as Chiyotaikai abandoned everything and went for the pull down, but Dejima knew it was coming and pounced on the move pushing Chiyotaikai back and out with ease. No one should be surprised at the outcome of this bout, but I am surprised at Dejima's performance so far this basho. With the way things are playing out, the yusho line will be at 2-3 losses, so anything's possible. Martin makes the point that Dejima has fought all of the tough rikishi and is now out of the woods, but I would counter that with it doesn't matter. Ama frequently holds his own against the top guys only to lose a few to lesser-ranked rikishi during the course of week 2. It'll probably happen to Ama again in Kyushu, and the same thing's gonna happen to the Degyptian (6-2). Chiyotaikai falls to 7-1 but will suffer at least three more losses the rest of the way.

Martin pointed out yesterday that M1 Homasho's got some troubles although he couldn't pinpoint exactly what they were. I'm not sure either, but the kid's in a definite funk. One of the problems is he has been unable to gain the upperhand from the tachi-ai, which for Homasho means a low stance and deep inside position. He would not succeed at the tachi-ai again today against Sekiwake Asasekiryu, but somehow, he survived as Seki seemed more intent on pushing Homasho out than grabbing the right outer grip that was there for the taking early on. Oshi-zumo is not Asasekiryu's game, and Homasho was able to dodge the attempt and evade around the ring just enough enabling him to slip into the deep left inside position. Once secured, Homie jumped on the opportunity as Seki tried to counter with a right kote-nage throw, but an 0-8 start for Homasho was not in the cards today as he was able to force Asasekiryu (3-5) out and graciously pick up his first win. Asasekiryu was a bit indecisive in this one and falls to 3-5 for his effort.

Sekiwake Aminishiki got what he deserved today against M1 Miyabiyama after the Sekiwake tried to sneak to his left in order to grab the cheap uwate, but Miyabiyama pivoted like a man on a mission and squared right back up with his opponent unleashing the lumbering tsuppari that Sneaky could only attempt to counter with shoves of his own. With his forward momentum and balance having been compromised from the tachi-ai henka, Aminishiki was in no position to go toe to toe with the Sheriff, so after a few bruising tsuppari to Ami's head and mid-section, Miyabiyama slapped him down to the dirt like a rag doll. It's nice to see rikishi who attempt to be sneaky get their asses kicked in the end. You listenin' Roho?

Finally, we actually have a great bout of sumo to talk about with the yotsu-zumo contest between Komusubi Kotoshogiku and M2 Kisenosato, an affair that saw the two quickly hook up in the hidari-yotsu position after a great tachi-ai from both parties. The two grappled for about 8 seconds in the center of the ring, but Kotoshogiku used sheer grit to force the Kid back a step or two as he went for the right outer grip. Kisenosato dug in well, but Kotoshogiku enjoyed the slightly lower stance and was able to muscle Kisenosato back to the edge and across never grabbing that outer grip, but using his body to perfection. This was an outstanding display of yotsu-zumo that would only be equaled by who else, Toyonoshima and Goeido later on. Kotoshogiku moves to 5-3 and is primed to take over a Sekiwake slot come January. Whatever happened to reports of a bad lower back? That butt taping must be doing the job. Kisenosato drops to 3-5.

In a rather ugly affair, M7 Toyohibiki caught M4 Kyokutenho with his usual right nodowa at the tachi-ai and immediately bullied the ex-Mongolian around the ring pushing him up against the edge, but I think it's actually a lay of physics where Toyohibiki cannot finish off his opponents in one fell swoop because Kyokutenho was able to evade at the edge and create some separation. As the two rikishi hooked back up, Toyohibiki used another good nodowa and then quickly slipped to his left slapping Kyokutenho forward and thankfully out of the ring. The nikibi tried his best to blow another bout, but Kyokutenho (2-6) has been too slow and listless this basho to capitalize. Toyohibiki evens things up at 4-4.

The biggest bout of the day for me on paper coming in was the M4 Toyonoshima - M6 Goeido matchup. Of course I'm developing that mancrush on Goeido, but Toyonoshima is proving himself to be one of the better rikishi in the division of late. The two rikishi were both conservative at the tachi-ai quickly hooking up in the hidari-yotsu position, and Goeido attempted the first offensive maneuver going for a maki-kae, but it was quickly cut off by Toyonoshima. After another failed maki-kae attempt from Goeido the two rikishi settled into what looked to be a stalemate, but Toyonoshima pounced from out of nowhere to grab the right uwate, which he used to quickly mount a force-out attack. Goeido tried to evade the pending death using his speed, but Toyonoshima used his feet masterfully to slow the youngster down, and the critical aspect of his sumo was that Toyonoshima never relinquished that outer grip despite his opponent twisting and turning. Ultimately, Toyonoshima had Goeido caught with his back facing the center of the ring, and Toyonoshima was able to use his forearm to force him out from behind. It prolly didn't look flashy to a lot of people, but this was the best bout of the tournament so far. It was a chess match between two of the better tacticians in the division. Great stuff from both rikishi as they end up at 6-2 apiece.

Just when I thought M5 Kasugao was ready to stick in the upper half of the division, he jumps out to a 1-6 start, but he would right that ship today against M9 Tamakasuga...or not. In a sickly bout where Tamakasuga used few tsuppari and where Kasugao seemed content not to go for any belt grip, the two rikishi were satisfied to just stand in the center of the ring trying to keep each other's arms at bay. Tamakasuga would get the quick jab in now and then knocking Kasugao off balance, and at one point, the grizzled veteran managed moro-zashi pushing Kasugao back to the rope, but the Korean fended that off with a nice right outer grip...which he promptly released once out of danger. Tamakasuga ended the misery shortly after that using a nice nodowa shove that knocked Kasugao (1-7) off balance setting up the easy slapdown. King-Tama improves to 3-5, but let's move only.

Today's M9 Futenoh - M5 Takekaze bout was a perfect example of just how bad Fruitenoh has become. Takekaze came in low as he always does looking to push his opponent, but Futenoh stopped him dead in his tracks and was able to stand him pretty upright. But Futenoh failed to secure any sort of position at this point especially when his favored left inside position was wide open. With Futenoh failing to make the first move, Takekaze flirted with his man attempting to grab morozashi. Futenoh (2-6) shook that off with a shove or two, but followed it up with nothing allowing Takekaze to throw Futenoh to the side a bit and then rush in securing the morozashi position for good. With Futenoh's footing so poor throughout, he was easy throw-down fodder from there with Takekaze enjoying the sukui-nage win. That was more commentary than we needed as Takekaze limps to 3-5.

M10 Hokutoriki executed a heartless tachi-ai henka against M6 Tamanoshima jumping to his right and just riding the charging Peter (2-6) down to the dirt in an unspectacular affair. Just awful sumo from an awful rikishi. Hokutoriki stands at 4-4 after the ugliness.

Veterans M11 Tosanoumi and M7 Tochinonada never did get in synch today, and I'm not just talking about the tachi-ai but the entire bout if that makes sense. Tosanoumi didn't exactly deliver his smash-mouth tachi-ai, and Tochinonada didn't go for his coveted left inside position straightway leaving the two standing upright in the middle of the ring with hands on each other's elbows in the grapplin' position. The gentle giant (5-3) moved first with a right ottsuke move, but he was too slow to capitalize on it allowing Tosanoumi (3-5) to recover and greet his charging opponent with a morozashi grip. From here it was an easy force out win the for blue collar man, but as ugly as the sumo was, the Eastern European rikishi not named Bart managed to stink the Kokusai Center up worse. Read on.

M13 Kokkai thought briefly about using his bread and butter tsuppari attack against M8 Wakanosato, but thought worse of it opting to go for the quick pull down of his opponent. Wakanosato, who can stick to his opponents like goldfish poop, was right there when the pull attempt came and had Kokkai pushed out in seconds. What a waste for Kokkai who now falls to 5-3. Wakanosato continues to surprise at 6-2.

M15 Tochiohzan looked perfect today, but against M10 Yoshikaze a lot of rikishi do. Oh stalled a bit at the tachi-ai leaving Yoshikaze to wait in his crouch, and when the two finally did clash, Tochiohzan hit his smaller opponent well and got a left arm so deep on the inside that he was able to force Yoshikaze (2-6) to the side and out in one fell swoop. Easy pickin's here as Tochiohzan improves to 5-3.

Makuuchi rookie, M15 Wakakirin, has apparently learned a lot from his Russian peers because today against M12 Hakurozan he used a cheap tachi-ai henka to his right grabbing the quick armbar position and easily wrenching Henkarozan (2-6) out of the ring with a kote-nage move. This was ugly sumo for sure akin to a hairpiece that doesn't match the roots of natural hair at the base of the neck. But never fear, the ugliness continues as Wakakirin improves to 5-3.

How sweet was it to see M16 Kasuganishiki turn the tables on M12 Roho today stepping to his left in an attempt to grab the cheap left uwate? He didn't get it, but Roho ain't known for his speed, and before the Russian could square back up with his opponent, the Garnish used a nice nodowa and other shoves to easily force Roho (5-3) back and out. Kasuganishiki makes it back to .500 at 4-4.

M13 Wakanoho may have gotten a lot of press for his quick rise to the Makuuchi division (sixth fastest ever), but he will make the impact in the division along the lines of the 106th fastest dude to make it to the division. Today against M14 Kakizoe, Wakanoho looked to grab an early mae-mitsu (frontal belt grip), but Kakizoe staved that attempt off nicely, so the rookie immediately put both hands at the back of Kakizoe's head. The veteran Zoe knew exactly what to do from there and literally carried Wakanoho (4-4) backwards and out with a fierce oshi-dashi. Kakizoe improves to 5-3 while it does my heart good to see the rookie taught these early lessons.

And finally, after being greased by Roho yesterday, M16 Baruto was well aware of the likely tachi-ai henka to come from pint-sized M14 Kaiho, and come it did as Kaiho jumped to his left at tachi-ai. Baruto was ready for anything, however, and read the move perfectly pivoting quickly to his right and escorting Kaiho (3-5) out in two seconds. Baruto moves to 6-2 and is still firmly in the yusho race although he was knocked from the driver's seat yesterday by a classless Roho henka. Still, Baruto learned from yesterday's rape that he's just gonna have to be ready for anything at the tachi-ai.

If you're scoring at home or even just reading this by yourself, that's 11 of 19 Makuuchi bouts that included a flat-out henka or a pull-down attempt within seconds of the tachi-ai. What a frustrating day.

So, we enter week two, which means it's time for NHK to start flashing the leaderboard. Chiyotaikai is a non-factor even if he's the sole leader right now at 7-1. Hakuho and Baruto are our benchmarks, so the yusho line goes as they go. I hate to see the yusho line dip below 13-2, but I'm resigned to the fact that it'll probably go below that mark for the first time in a very long time.

The only reason why I'll be back tomorrow is because it can't get any worse.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
I'm suffering from a mild case of the writer's block, so I'm going to start my report in a manner similar to Arboleda's Day 4. Take a look at the banzuke again (you can find the link lower in the page, just look for Marco's mugshot), and tell me if you see any slouches among them. Done yet? No? Well, let me help you then. Four of the joi'i are an unflattering 4-24 between them, giving away the wins and making the san'yaku and the other top Maegashira look good for a change. Kotooshu is injured and unable to generate any forward movement, Miyabiyama is too fat and too slow, Kakuryu is just weak and Homasho's troubles, while not obvious to this eagle-eyed observer, are there. That's not one, that's FOUR punching bags, and things aren't looking good for any of them. Don't be surprised, then, at Chiyotaikai's apparently flawless 7-0 so far, because three of those wins were against the aforementioned slouches, one was close and another one wasn't even a win (the Ama greasejob, shinitai my Mongolian ass). Not even Hakuho is showing the proper dominance of a Dai-Yokozuna, and even Kotomitsuki benefited heavily from the poor shape of those guys. The rest of them are just plain average, preying on the weaklings and divvying up the wins among themselves.

You wanna talk Yusho? Think you got what it takes? Alright, I'll go out on a really thin limb and say Dejima will take it, with an oshitaoshi win in the playoff against the winner of the Hakuho vs. (winner of the Goeido – Kotomitsuki match) match, because Baruto was just taken out of the Yusho picture by Big Bro Repulsive-Ho, with a vintage henka followed by the ever-humiliating okuridashi. Notice I eliminated Chiyotaikai from the Yusho equation above, because, as usual, he's gonna get his ass handed to him in the second week. Of course, all of you loyal readers will say Hakuho. Normally, that would be my first choice too, but I'm still hoping something exciting might happen in Asashoryu's absence.

I'll start my analysis with the shortest bout of the day. Aminishiki won against Ozeki Kotooshu in exactly 0.00 seconds, because the Bulgarian finally did what he should have done a year and a half ago, he withdrew because of a knee injury. It's a bit early to talk about demotion, but I know many see him as a Sekiwake already. Aminishiki's 4-3 is within one σ of the banzuke bell mean, because he's such a nice lad and he wants to make KFG proud. (As a little geek side note, I'll bet Siméon-Denis Poisson was turning in his grave just as I was writing the above lines).

Georgian Hairy Scary clashed with Japanese hope Tochiohzan, briefly flirting with a morozashi after the tachi-ai, but the big Caucasian suddenly remembered he's a pusher and planted both palms on Oh's shoulders. As much as I like the young one, I have to admit that he looked clueless as Clouseau in this one (blends well with bending it like Beckham, doesn't it?), because before he even realized he was grasping at the air around Kokkai, there was this big paw at the back of his head, pulling him to the dirt for his third defeat.

Hairy's neighbor Henkarozan produced an abysmal tachi-ai, allowing diminutive Kaiho to quickly work his way into a deep morozashi and grab a solid left inside grip in the process. Hakurozan could only lock his opponent's arms in the kime position, which he tried to use for a force-out, though with little success. Kaiho repeatedly tried leg-trips, managing to get the Russian to the edge, where he finished him off with a fancier sort of yorikiri, with his left leg wrapped around the foe's right from the inside, delivering the final push with the tips of his right foot toes. Mr. Henkarozan goes to Juryo.

I can't be sure about Wakakirin's sumo yet, but so far, for what he may lack in strength, he makes up with good awareness and determination. Veteran Tosanoumi got more than he bargained for in their meet. Both men clashed head first, with the lighter Kirin being driven a step back. Tosanoumi quickly initiated a second charge, but his younger foe jumped out of the way and threw him off balance. He then unleashed some quick and bothersome tsuppari and ran Tosanoumi out of the dohyo in convincing fashion.

In the next bout, quite a few things were out of the ordinary. First of all, Hokutoriki's thrusts were right on target (i.e. Kakizoe's face), and second of all, the frustrated Kakizoe couldn't get anything going against his joke of an opponent, and he took it out on a ringside shinpan when he landed out of the dohyo, pushing the geezer into a nearby busty hottie's lap, much to their mutual delight (well, his delight, anyway).

Veteran Wakanosato, coming in with a respectable 5 wins, took on Makuuchi rookie Roho Jr. Yeah, it's all there, large frame, long arms, good yotsu, bad tachi-ai and HENKA (he pulled a real show-stopper earlier in the basho). Today he simply stood up, absorbed old Waka's weak charge and used a right harite trying to set up the left uwate. Wakanosato denied that by planting a heavy paw under the Russian's armpit, but Wakanoho got something more valuable out of the whole deal, a deep right inside grip on the back of the veteran's mawashi. It was visible throughout the bout that it was that particular grip that stopped any plans Sato came up with. Eventually, after attempting a shitatenage, the rookie got the coveted uwate and proceeded to march Wakanosato out for his 4th win. On the whole, it was good stuff from the Ossetian, but he REALLY needs to stop hangin' out with the likes of Ugly and his bro. Quite unlikely, though, because they're practically related. To quote Mr. Laurence Tureaud: "I pity the fool."

Feisty Yoshikaze blasted out of the tachi-ai like a hungry wolverine, but the impact of it hardly moved the big Tochinonada at all, and the gentle giant was able to plant his left under Kaze's armpit, immediately unleashing an almost successful sukuinage that lifted the little guy clean off the dohyo, leaving him on the edge, where he was easy yorikiri fodder. 5-2 Nada is having fun pushing the scrubs around, and the rest of us are having fun watching, while 2-5 Yoshikaze is on his way back to Juryo.

Excuse me if I skip the battle between 1-5 Kasugao and Futenoh. Suffice to say it was something a certain part of the gorilla anatomy is not.

In the next bout, Old Man Kasuga's pride kicked in, because he was meeting new Japanese sensation Sawai. From the very beginning the veteran focused solely on thrusts directed at Goeido's face and neck, effectively denying the young one any sort of grip. The jig was soon up, though, when Tamakasuga realized his rusty de-ashi was not going to win it for him, so he tried to surprise Goeido with a pull-down. That failed too and Goeido was able to get the old guy off balance with a subtle push to the side, and then finish the job with a straightforward push out. 6-1 and still on the leaderboard, where he belongs. Tamakasuga should consider retirement.

There's no way Takekaze can outpush the much heavier Toyohibiki, so he opted for what he thought it was the easy way out, a pull-down from the very beginning. It didn't work, and Kaze soon found himself on the run and out of the dohyo, but not before a late attempt at dodging Hibiki's reckless charge. Toyohibiki is recovering nicely from his disastrous 0-3 start and is now 3-4. Takekaze falls to his 5th loss.

The one thing that comes to my mind whenever I see Toyonoshima is a bowling ball. Wow, for his height this guy sure has one helluva gut. Facing M6 Tamanoshima, Toyo tried to get morozashi right from the tachi-ai, but Tama countered well, and a brief stalemate over the center of the ring followed. After some maneuvers from both sides, Tamanoshima decided to attack and got Toyo to the edge. He couldn't quite finish him off, so he opted for a pulldown, but he figured it would be more effective if he used both hands to press on the other Shima's head. Well, he was wrong, and Toyo got the morozashi he was after in the first place, and drove him out easily, improving to five wins. Tamanoshima's record proves once again that Mike's the man (read the entry on Tamanoshima in his pre-basho report).

My new Yusho favorite, M2 Dejima, has had a great run this basho, 5-2 on a strict joi'i meat diet. Today Kisenosato was on the menu, so the freight train tried to ram the living daylights out of him, probably in the spirit of "kill it before you eat it". The two pushers worked each other well, with fierce thrusts and slaps, until Dejima got a right grip on the front of Sato's mawashi. False alarm, they were back at it faster than you can say Yusho, and Kisenosato delivered a couple of particularly painful looking blows to Dejima's face, right before the big white finished him off with a glorious nodowa. Yeah, that's the stuff I paid to see sumo for, you hear that, Roho, you oversized turkey??

M1 Fatman met local boy Kotoshogiku and he must have taken a good look at his heya mate in the bout before, because he dished out some heavy punishment to the Geeku's face and neck. Kotoshogiku wasn't visibly moved, though (remember day 2 when Taikai tap-danced with his hands on his face? if that's didn't down him, you can be sure nothing can), and he patiently waited for the opening, pulling Miyabiyama to his 6th loss and a mouthful of dirt.

For the next bout I'd like those of you who haven't seen it to make a little experiment. Put a sheet of translucent plastic in front of your VDU (more geek talk), just enough so you can see the general contour of the wrestlers, but not their defining traits, like shape of the nose and such. After that, play it and answer me this one question: Who's the guy fighting from the East? Asashoryu, right? WRONG. It's Ama, a little heavier, a little stronger and a little more experienced, putting on his meanest, fiercest display of Asashoryu sumo I've ever seen. After watching this particular gem, I'm getting more and more suspicious that Ama might one day become the second Chiyonofuji. The Mongolian came with the thrusters running at 110% and slammed hard into winless Homasho, after which he attacked with some quick tsuppari. Homasho resisted, but couldn't really initiate anything and allowed Ama to latch on to his left arm. Poor Homie never even had time to think of a way to shake Ama off, because the Mongolian soon turned him around, heaved him over his hip and flipped him right out of the dohyo by tottari, like a giant pancake. Simply breathtaking. One can only hope Ama can continue this trend tomorrow, but the Yokozuna ain't no pushover. Homasho's nightmare seems far from over, with makekoshi just around the corner.

Again, very much to my delight, Kakuryu got his face mauled by Bruiser-in-chief-otaikai. There's not much to analyze, really, the tachi-ai was straightforward (I'm taking a second to praise Kakuryu for that, because he knew very well what he was in for, you hear that, ROHO??) and Chiyotaikai just fired some 237 tsuppari, sending Kakuryu out of the dohyo with no resistance at all. I almost felt sorry for the poor guy… nope, I lied, I enjoyed every millisecond of it thoroughly.

Top Ozeki Kotomitsuki produced a powerful tachi-ai against Kyokutenho and got a decent migi-zashi. He then spun the Mongolian around and slipped the other arm on the inside, quickly forcing him out by yorikiri. Not exactly Yokozuna sumo, but it wasn't bad at all (not for an injured guy with gallstones and not enough keiko, that is). Mitsuki stays hit for now, as he climbs to six wins.

Old Man Kaio was supposed to face another tough challenge today, against Mongolian Sekiwake Asasekiryu, but the latter seems to have forgotten all the stories about the legendary kaionage, and walked right into a solid double grip, uselessly trying to get one of his own. For a couple of seconds, Kimura Tamamitsu's version of Asashoryu managed to shake Kaio's left hand off his mawashi, but the veteran eventually recaptured it. He then twisted and turned his Mongolian opponent until he was out of any position and an easy force-out target. Kaio rises above the .5 line again with the win, but I think he'll finally retire, no matter what he does in this basho. Asasekiryu only has 3 wins so far.

The final bout of the day had Yokozuna Hakuho take on M3 Tokitenku. After watching the replay a couple of times, I came to the conclusion that Hakuho charged a little earlier, but I don't think that had any influence in the outcome of the fight. The Yokozuna immediately pushed his opponent to the edge, Tokitenku resisted, but gave up a solid left uwate, which Hakuho then used to attempt a throw, but Tokitenku had a right inside of his own, and barely managed to stay alive. Hakuho kept reaching for the right inside grip, and when he finally got it, he started menacingly towards the tawara, almost finishing the Maegashira off. He then got a morozashi and finally managed to get the yorikiri from the fourth try. The truth is that Hakuho was never in any real danger (and the same applies for day 6 against Kakuryu), but he hasn't been dominant in his wins. Maybe, just maybe…

Remember, Dejima takes the yusho with an oshitaoshi victory in the kettei-sen, you read it here first. And that's about for today, but tomorrow Master Mike is teaching, and that's a whole different ball game. Stay tuned.

Day 6 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well here I am reporting on Hump Day yet again (everyday is hump day when you're as randy as I am---sofa arm, friend's leg, fallen tree---it don't matter to me), and my thoughts flit and swirl through my (mostly) empty mind (cut me some slack; I'm trying to empty it completely but I've been at it for only forty-two short years) like so many plastic bags through the barren wastes of the Fukuoka Kokusai Center. They wing and ding, collide and merge with each other, but it ain't no CERN up there, I'll tell you that much. No new matter being forged in the gray matter. Just the same old crappy ruminations: Why am I alive, and nobody else? Why do turtles smell like unholy shite? Why is there a young woman named Simone, with enormous mammaries and a faint Manchester accent, in Mike's room right now?

The future is at your front door, ladies and gents, and its name is Goeido. You've read Mike going on and on about him (even has a poster of dude next to his Farrah Fawcett and Christine Brinkley), and have seen him in action for exactly twenty-one makuuchi bouts. 21! Well, today was his coming out party, as he simply shellacked former Mongolian Kyokutenho with the kind of flip usually reserved for 50's dance marathons.

In the best beltless battle we've beheld this basho, Tenho got in at tachi-ai and strained to grab the left inside, but Goeido kept his elbows tight to the body with his right arm clamped down on his foe's left arm and his body close in against the W4. Kyokutenho is a strong fellow and went forward anyway and in the process got the left inside belt, but only for a flash as the ballsy Gonado made a quick turn to the left, breaking the grip and spinning Tenho around with the assistance of his own left hand belt (which he gave up after having it for a heartbeat). As Tenho lost his balance, the sophomore used the W4's locked up left arm as a lever to yank him downward as he was using his right leg to flip Tenho's leg up. The W6 knew he would go flying as well as the big fella, but it's all about who touches down first, and it was Kyokutenho touching down like a birch tree split by lightning. Don't look now, but dude might get paired up with a Yokozuna again. Wonder if that has ever been done, assigned to fight a Grand Champion in your first two basho?

The last time I saw a guy like Gonado dominating those he should rightly be losing to given his green was about seven years ago, some cocky little fella went by the name of Asashoryu. Like Mike has said to me in husky Skype whispers, "Kel, I'm tellin' ya, dude has eyes like a carnivore. Eatchya right up!" After hearing reports of his practice sense and attitude, I must agree. This guy is no Futenoh flash in the pan. He's not good, he's the goods (a little clever English for all you non-native speakers out there in the Sumotalk Millionverse). 

A young man who will surely accompany Goeido on his rise up the ranks is Baruto (whose erstwhile blonde mop is looking significantly darker, no?) Today, however, he was screwing with a tiny terror royally and rightly pissed after being toyed with by Rasputin on Day 5 in Kakizoe. (Just so you don't think Mike and I agree on everything, Roho was an ass yesterday, poor widdle Zoe—and in front of his homevillage fans, to boot.) Baruto drove the E14 back a bit and reached out for the left hand belt slowly as you please like he was reaching for goddamned table salt, but Zoe put the kibosh on that idea by waxing it off pretty as you please with his right arm. Baruto then figured, Ah, who needs it and started forward, and that is when Kakizoe made a fantastic pull on his left elbow that brought the Biomass plunging to the edge. He spun around in time to balance on the straw on one leg and slap the bejeesus out of the back of the onrushing Zoe's head, but 6-0 wasn't meant to be, and to add insult to injury, 4-2 Kakizoe neither fell to the dirt nor stepped off the dohyo.

I like Baruto but he is susceptible to two things: Little dudes who move him around, and injury. I think we'll see this loss mess with his head and he'll lose twice more before senshuraku (and don't be surprised if one comes tomorrow vs Roho, who despite being a buzzard can throw on any given day with the best of them). Still, barring injury, this continent of a man (no, Mark, that doesn't mean he wets himself!) will be a Yokozuna oneday. He's still so frickin' young, how can he not get better?

So, now that I got all that off my chest, let's take a looksee at the others.

You veterans of sumo will recall the wonder years (gag me with a samurai sword) of Waka/Taka. Well, nowadays we have instead Waka/Waka (hey Fozzy Bear!), and it ain't pretty. The two rookie Wakas, one a white Russian and the other from my neck of the woods, went at it all chest and up. Noho (reminds me of this numbnut AP story I read today about Santas in Oz being told to say, Ha ha ha instead of, Ho ho ho so as not to offend any women who might think they are being called whores by Kris Kringle—I'm not making this shit up) went at The Giraffe with two hands to the face, right on his mug, but the Hyogo native simply put his head down and drove forth with such ferocity that Noho had nowhere to go but out, you know. Both stand 3-3.

For Christmas I would like a smidgen of an inkling of a whiff of understanding about how Jokeutoriki remains in the upper division. Today he looked like a pawn in that old U.S. football game where you lined up little plastic players on a large board that vibrated like some ha ha's pocket rocket and caused everything on the board to sort of buzz off in different directions, with the hope that the one designated "ball carrier" would somehow fret it's way to the end zone and score. The game was surreal, trust me (I especially loved the sensation created when you happened to play at Christmas time, and the sugar buzz you were riding high on syncopated with the board's vibrations to produce a Timothy Learyesque lucid dream state), as was watching Tochiozan beseech Hokutoriki to come back and fight. 

To avoid being slapped down straight away, Yoshikaze kept his head way up vs. Kokkai. Fine with the White Knight, who simply hammered his own cabeza into the chest of the Aki Basho 10 wins W10 and drove him right out for his fourth. Last Nov. Kokkai was a Komusubi going 3-12, so he's already improved on that. I say he'll finish strong and climbs up to M7 or so for January. Yoshikaze is 2-4 and better get his chit together, mank.

I did a freeze frame on the tachi-ai between Tosanoumi and Futenoh and it was a thing of beauty. The esthetic visual balance was more than pleasing, and made me recall how instrumental the tachi-ai was for me in falling for sumo ten years ago. It's unlike anything else in sport (and why I am such a vociferous henka hater). Tosa went from this beauty to some strong assed forward pushing, and when Futenoh predictably used the bales to set his feet and arrest his backward momentum, the veteran E11 slid a hair to his right and the W9 essentially fell face first to his fifth loss.

Wakanosato was able to push out Tamanoshima after some struggle and went to 5-1. Family Guy falls to 2-4.

The Nikibi looked like he was trying to strangle Kasugao (maybe those two hotties were stolen?), single handedly and one handedly blowing him out like an Easter candle. Kasugao remained on the dirt for a while, wondering what went wrong and if he should purchase more condoms at Family Mart. (Oh, Clancy, you're so triple X!)

Toyonoshima got a deep inside left and Kisenosato got an outside right, but it was only the upper layer of the belt for the E2, so his leverage was minimal. Nonetheless, The Kid was able to block Toyo from grabbing a right belt. They stalled here for a while (in fact, the gyoji got so angry that he tore off the pretty tassel jewelry on Toyonoshima's belt—weird), and once The Kid tried the second of his breakaway shimmies, he was able to turn Toyo enough so that the E4 was now perpendicular to him. From there it was simply a matter of holding on to that still shallow belt grip and pressing into the groin area with his leading leg and eventually 4-2 Toyo gave up and went out (or passed out, hard to say which).

The Geeku continued his domination of Ama, winning by push out. Ama put his hands on the Geeku's shoulders and face, which proved entirely ineffective. This was reminiscent of classic Dejima. Ama stood there afterward perplexed as a child at a magic show wondering how in the world he keeps losing to this little fat guy by either push out or force out. Still, gotta give Ama props for not skirting the fight. Both guys are 3-3.

Like his countryman, Asasekiryu played it honorably and stayed in front of Miyabiyama. At first it appeared that Sexy would win after surviving some hellacious tsuppari and getting in on MiFlobby head to the chest, and pulling a throw, but the former Ozeki listened to that ever dwindling voice of the rapidly disappearing Deputy ("Keep your feet, keep your feeeeeeet") and did a magnificent little tippy toe dance move to catch himself from falling forward, and then turned with a vengeance, crying, This I MY day and none shall deny my first win! So he came forward and again Sexy tried to wing him down, but this time the W1 had a firm back belt grip and there was nothing Asa's junior could do but be sent back and out.

Mitsuki got a nice jump at tachi-ai and Homasho went into run away mode. Nothing to see here, but Homa must be hurtin'. The Ozeki is 5-1.

Kaio didn't even touch down but the gyoji looked the other way and let it go. The Ozeki snagged a left hand in on Dejima and they both nestled up chin to shoulder and started pouring out their problems:

Kaio: "Everyone wants me to retire!"
Dejima: "I used to be an Ozeki!"
Kaio: "I choked everytime Yokozuna was on the line!"
Dejima: "My legs are purple!"

Kaio commenced some aggressiveness, which Dejima countered with his weight, and then Kaio started to wrench the Degyptian down while he fished with his leg for Kaio's, to no avail. Kaio then slid his mighty big right paw forward to grab at the belt above Dejima's groin, but to the delight of put upon prom dates the world over, the Degyptian pulled back and twisted to his right and applied mighty power, forcing Kaio to sink into the clay slow as a nickel into corn syrup. 3-3, does he go on? No question tomorrow is THE day. Win, live another day. Lose, sayounara. Tomorrow's foe? The always dangerous Sexy. Dejima at W2 is a sweet 4-2 with wins over Shneaky, Sexy and Shu.

Kotooshu is a non-factor like Miguel said, so why write about him? He lost to Tokitenku, one of the guys who knew absolutely nothing about the murder of Tokitaizan (urp). 

Chiyotaikai took on one of those guys he beats every time, Aminishiki, and beat him again. Naturally he slapped him out back and to the right, where it seems like 90% of his victims go to die (if the dohyo is a clock and the Pup is facing 12:00, he drives them out to 1:00). I loved the comparison they did of Shneaky in 2000 and now, showing how he has gained 26 kilos (and that's with only one Krispy Kreme in all of Nippon). I wonder, does Barry Bonds follow sumo?

Chiyotaikai will lose to Hakuho, no question, and he is the most predictable choker in all of sumo, and I am his smallest fan, but if he is EVER going to yusho again in his career, the next 9 days are his best chance. If Hakuho goes down once more (to Goeido?), you never know. It's a long longshot, but unlike other 5-1 dudes Baruto, Mitsuki and Wakanosato, I don't think Chiyotaikai is dead money.

So in the finale, we had Hak taking on The Kak, which you figure'd be a lock, but at tachi-ai the little E3 (who was not even supposed to stick in this division, according to some talking head) got the inside left outside right. Only problem is that the Yokozuna had the same grip. Yikes. After a brief sizing up, The Kak executed a deft maki-kae, to get both hands in, but the silly Yokozuna returned the favor the very next second! They were playing eggbeater. Then Hakuho used his unmatched strength to rock The Kak back and forth a bit to unbalance him, then sent him crashing down, bada boom! Hakuho has two tough bouts left, Goeido and Baruto (and might not get either if they stumble, which is certainly a possibility). In other words, engraver dude may as well start practicing his "haku" kanji.

If you want to read this column at some later date, better save it to your hard drive now, because Martin is up on Day 7. I'll be back to wrap it all up on hump day 15.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Okay, I'll come clean on Arbo. We did in fact hire him to help us hit the one million mark. Tis true. But our intentions were only to keep him around until that point and then dump him like an ugly blind date. Problem is, though, that the guy has opened my eyes to this whole new world out there on the internet. Of course we know the three main reasons for the internet: gambling, porn, and Sumotalk, but who knew that there was so much more? I didn't know it was completely acceptable for a grown man like myself to enter society dressed in fairytale costumes and tights, and I of course had never heard of the maternity line of clothing called Bad English, so I just want to thank Mark publicly for all that he's done for us. I'll admit, using the computer at the hotel after Mark can be scary. You never know what has been cached, and the mouse is even stickier than after my kids use the thing, but Velvet Revolver is just gonna have to postpone more tour dates because I've lengthened Mark's tenure with us to at least the end of 2008 by when I expect him to get us over the 2 million hit hump. Yoroshiku.

Moving along to the sumo, in the first bout of the day M13 Wakanoho used a crafty tachi-ai stepping to his left to grab the cheap outer grip against M16 Kasugarnishiki, and after he secured it he had no trouble twisting the Garnish around and forcing him out with ease. I'll stop short of calling Wakanoho's move a henka, but we've seen little straight-up sumo from this guy so far, and I haven't been impressed. Nonetheless, he pads his record at 3-2 while Kasugarnishki falls to 2-3.

M13 Kokkai was dealt Makuuchi rookie, M15 Wakakirin, today, so I was surprised a bit that Kokkai was fudging at the tachi-ai and stalling a bit. I hate to remind the Georgian, but it's the other way around. You get down in your crouch as if your ready to kick some ass and make HIM fudge. Nevertheless, as the two clashed and traded tsuppari, Kokkai's experience paid off in the end as he was able to girl fight Wakakirin to the point where he slapped him down to the dirt in about three seconds. But it gets even better. With Wakakirin bent completely over with both hands on the dirt, butt extended, and head looking down, Kokkai made another brief charge where his forward momentum carried him right over Wakakirin's head so that the rookie's dome was stuck under Kokkai's crotch. Oh the horror! After Kokkai backed up and gave birth to Wakakirin's head, the rookie stood back up, and it looked to me as if he was trying not to laugh. If that had happened to me, I'd be retching all over the dohyo. I'm even shivering now as I type. Both mother (3-2) and child (2-3) are reportedly doing well.

M12 Hakurozan put up an admirable fight against M16 Baruto using a moro-te tachi-ai and some timid tsuppari, but Bart fought that off with ease and just forced his way into a left outer grip. Hakurozan complied with the obligatory right, but Baruto paused a few seconds to confirm he had ample folds of mawashi and then just muscled his opponent back and across the straw. And yeah, the money's still on Baruto. To use one of Slash's points yesterday, look at the top 20 rikishi on the banzuke. They are all solid and can beat anyone else in the domain. That means that the bottom 20 is full of crap except for Baruto, so it's going to be easier for Baruto to best his foes than Hakuho to top his. I'll leave the probability figgering to Martin, but I see the gap between Baruto and his foes much larger than the one Hakuho enjoys. Since Hakuho blew his advantage by coming out lazy on day 1, give Baruto (5-0) the keys and get in the damn car already. Hakurozan falls to 2-3.

I loved the M12 Roho - M14 Kakizoe matchup coming in for the simple fact that Roho knew this dude would be no push over, and he would at least have to try. After Roho baited Kakizoe into three false starts with some stall tactics, he put both fists solidly to the lines first drawing a buzz from the crowd. It was now Kakizoe's turn to try and stall Roho, but it just wasn't in him ta do it, so the bout commenced minus Kakizoe's momentum from the tachi-ai. Both rikishi traded tsuppari for a few seconds before Roho timed a perfect pull-down that sent Kakizoe down with some force picking up the good win. Yes, good win. The key here was that Roho actually had some de-ashi behind the shoves, and he was watching his opponent throughout. I had no problem with Roho's tactics at the tachi-ai. Yes, he was stalling a bit, but more than that, I thought he was disallowing Kakizoe that half-step jump he regularly gets. The plan worked to perfection as far as I'm concerned. Both rikishi are 3-2.

M15 Tochiohzan is showing some life after a horrific start to the basho. Today against M11 Tosanoumi, he showed no fear about diving straight into Tosanoumi's stiff tachi-ai using a right nodowa that completely neutralized the veteran. From there, Tosanoumi was an upright target for Tochiohzan's shoving attack that was so potent and methodically carried out, Tosanoumi was shoved to the side and down onto the tawara section with some oomph. This was great stuff from Tochiohzan, who needs to show this kind of spirit everyday. He moves to 3-2 while Tosanoumi falls to 1-4.

In a battle of two lightweights, M10 Yoshikaze was far too complacent against opponent M14 Kaiho. After trading some slaps at the tachi-ai, Yoshikaze aligned his feet and was standing straight up with his arms at his sides seeming to say go on and hit me with your best shot. Kaiho did delivering a right hari-te that connected squarely allowing him to pounce to the inside of Yoshikaze and throw him mercilessly down to the clay with a left arm scoop throw. Both guys are 2-3.

I thought M8 Wakanosato's comment yesterday was quite telling when after a 4-0 start he said, "I'll lose here eventually." As much as I hate sports athletes using clichés, one probably would have been appropriate there instead of outright declaring that you thought you were going to lose. Lose he did today to M7 Tochinonada who moved to his left at the tachi-ai and used a left elbow to knock Wakanosato forward towards the tawara and completely off balance making him the easy push-out target from behind. Couple points here. First, I don't want to sound like the NHK announcers and say that Wakanosato's head was too low at the tachi-ai, but it was. His eyes were looking down. Second, Tochinonada's tachi-ai wasn't a henka in my book. He didn't put that left foot out and plant it before making contact; he shifted his body to the left to set up the left elbow to the side of his opponent's body as contact was being made. And third, if you're 4-0 coming into a bout, you have to expect that your opponent thinks you're on a roll and will throw you a change up. Tochinonada improves to 3-2 with the victory.

M6 Goeido displayed once again today why he will be the next Yokozuna produced by Japan if the Mongolians leave the door open a crack. Today against M9 Fruitenoh, he came with his usual cautious tachi-ai keeping his head low as he worked for the left inside position. Futenoh countered with an inside left of his own and actually mounted the first charge pushing Goeido towards the straw, but cool as a cat Goeido executed a maki-kae with the right arm giving him moro-zashi just as Futenoh attempted the force-out kill leading with the now left outer grip. He almost had it, but Goeido neutralized his opponent's momentum using his right thigh to push against Futenoh's left leg causing the attempt to fail and putting both rikishi back in the center of the ring with Goeido now enjoying two inside grips. From there, the youngster went on the offensive bowling Fruitenoh over with a left shitate-dashi-nage throw-down. Get off the bus Futenoh (1-4) because school's in session. If there's any weakness to Goeido's sumo it's that he takes a little too much time to get into offensive mode. A stronger, faster rikishi can beat him before he gets into his rhythm, but he'll learn. He improves to 4-1 as I lengthily sigh, "myyyy heeeeero".

In the final bout of the opening session, M9 Tamakasuga met M5 Takekaze with a stiff right paw to the throat before immediately shifting gears by moving out to his right and pulling Takekaze forward letting his own forward momentum take over and assist in the easy push out win. Both of these dudes stand at 2-3.

M4 Kyokutenho looked to get his right arm on the inside of his opponent from the tachi-ai, but M6 Tamanoshima charged extremely low denying the strategy. Tenho reacted well and grabbed the right outer instead, but he was confused just enough by Tama's charge that he allowed his foe the moro-zashi position. Knowing he was in a pickle, Kyokutenho opted not to dig in and try and fight it out; rather, he began moving in a circle forcing Tamanoshima to keep up with that lower body. Tamanoshima kept pace well maintaining his moro-zashi position, but he could never get planted firmly enough, and as he drove Kyokutenho near the edge, the Chauffeur was able to turn the tables with that outer grip and simultaneous push with his left hand at Tama's side that sent Peter down to the loss. This was great counter-sumo from Tenho as both rikishi stand at 2-3.

M7 Toyohibiki used his usual tachi-ai against M4 Toyonoshima and hit the Tokitsukaze prodigy well, but the problem was his feet landed back down on the dirt at the point of impact thanks to that looooong tachi-ai stance. Follow me lunge out of your crouch into your opponent driving with your legs. Here is where you gain your greatest power from the tachi-ai, and coincidentally it's also what makes rikishi susceptible to the henka. If you start too far back, however, you lunge forward with your legs, but you end up planting them again to the dirt at the point of impact...after you've lost your greatest potential for momentum. Anyway, the Nikibi used a right nodowa in an attempt to force Toyonoshima back, but the smaller rikishi staved off the move well and waited for an opening as he was slowly being driven back. When the moment came, he sanded the floor (swipe from top to bottom) with his left arm that knocked Toyohibiki's right arm away and sent the giant stumbling forward off balance. He was easy slapdown fodder from here, and Toyonoshima complied straightway pinching the Nikibi into yet another loss. At 1-4 something's not working for this dude. Toyonoshima skates to 4-1 and is surprising me as I thought the scandal involving his stable and the Tokitaizan lynching being made public would bother him mentally. Guess not.

The M5 Kasugao - M3 Tokitenku matchup should have been a lot better than it was, but Tokitenku drew Kasugao into a false start, and I think it pissed the Korean off because when he reloaded he used a tachi-ai henka to his right that was poorly executed and didn't spill Tokitenku to the dirt. Kasugao did give his compromised opponent a shove to the rear that sent Tokitenku all the way over to the straw, but the move created too much separation, and as Kasugao moved in for the kill, Tokitenku had ample time to recover now and jump to his left side slapping Kasugao down to the dirt. Ugly stuff all around, but at least we know Kasugao (1-4) has two Fukuoka hotties waiting for him somewhere. And for the record, that third Fukuoka hottie is sleeping in my bed. Tokitenku moves to 3-2 with the win.

Komusubi Kotoshogiku used an excellent tachi-ai against Sekiwake Asasekiryu getting his left arm on the inside and using his body to muscle Seki upright enough to where he secured the right outer on the opposite side. Asasekiryu countered with the left inside grip and attempted to dig in, but Kotoshogiku had some fire in his gut today, and he immediately mounted a force-out charge that was just too power for Seki to handle. The key in the bout was the way the Geeku used that right arm to pinch down and in on Seki's left completely taking away the Mongolian's bargaining power, and something the Geeku mysteriously forgot to do against Kaio the other day. Anyway, this was a great win from the Geeku (2-3) who looked like the Kotoshogiku from a year ago when he made that fantastic run to the sanyaku. Asasekiryu drops to 3-2.

Sekiwake Aminishiki popped M1 Homasho at the tachi-ai with right nodowa that stood Homie perfectly upright giving Aminishiki the quick right outer grip. Homasho looked to dig in with the left arm on the inside, but Ami pressed the action quickly forcing Homasho back to the straw with that right outer grip. Homasho attempted to counter at the edge, but Aminishiki reversed gears nicely and used his off hand to push at Homasho's side sending the frustrated rikishi to the dohyo yet again. Homasho just looks too indecisive out there this basho. After Ami gained the quick right outer grip, Homasho couldn't decide if he wanted to grab Ami's belt with the left or push it up into Ami's right armpit. The kid needs a win fast to get himself back on track. In the meantime, Aminishiki's experience shined through in this one as he moves to 3-2. Homasho is still an o'fer.

Komusubi Ama blew his cover three times false starting against Ozeki Kaio, but on the fourth attempt when both rikishi got it right, the Mongolian's speed proved to be his ally as he used that right nodowa to push into Kaio's throat before the Ozeki could grab the right grip. As he did with the two Sadogatake Ozeki, Ama remained committed to the nodowa charge and had Kaio pushed back and out with little resistance. You gotta love those neck pushouts. Ama moves to 3-2 and shows the other guys how to do the Ozeki right and proper. Kaio falls to 3-2 himself and still has his work cut out for him. This may sound cold, but I want Kaio to retire this basho regardless of what happens. There's nothing noble about going kadoban 13 times in your career only to somehow magically escape the fate every single time with charity sumo. Nobody wants to see it anymore.

Ozeki Kotooshu fans cannot get frustrated at the Bulgarian's performance this basho. The dude had his knee slip out of its joint for crap's sake prior to the basho. By all means, be frustrated with his other weaknesses, but this basho, the Ozeki gets a pass. Today, M2 Kisenosato handled his opponent brilliantly hitting him hard and bullying his way into an extremely deep left inside position where the Kid grabbed Oshu's belt with the hand while driving the shoulder up into Kotooshu's jaw. Kotooshu countered with the right uwate and attempted to dig in, but Kisenosato forced the issue while using his left elbow to push up at Oshu's outer grip eventually breaking it off outright near the tawara. From there, Kotooshu could do nothing and was forced out easily. This was a perfect performance by Kisenosato who moves to 2-3. And Kotooshu fans, don't grip. Kisenosato didn't beat your best today. Take nothing away from the Kid, but Kotooshu is injured and will be lucky to even win his eight. He's in a bind already at 2-3.

Continuing in the Ozeki ranks, M1 Miyabiyama was non-committal at the tachi-ai after lumbering into an earlier false start, and Ozeki Chiyotaikai took full advantage storming into his opponent's big frame and pushing MiFlobby back, out, and completely off the dohyo in three seconds. There's really nothing more to say about this one. Chiyotaikai has used a get out of jail free card or two already, but he didn't need another in this one. He thoroughly dominated the contest moving to a perfect 5-0. The Sheriff falls to 0-5 rendering that M1 rank this basho completely useless to this point.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki used his best sumo of the basho so far against M3 Kakuryu. The Ozeki forced his way into a quick left outer grip from the tachi-ai and had Kakuryu driven back to the edge quickly, but he was too nonchalant in his charge and let the Kak survive on the ropes. Having gained a little momentum, Kakuryu forced the action back to the center of the ring, but Kotomitsuki hunkered down low on the left side keeping his ass far away from a Kakuryu left grip on the other side. Just as it looked as if a stalemate would ensue, Kotomitsuki executed one of his signature moves using the quick uchi-muso swipe with the left hand at Kakuryu's right knee to send the Kak crumbling into the dirt. Mitsuki was hit and then miss and then hit again in this one as he moves to 4-1. Kakuryu falls to an expected 1-4.

And finally, Yokozuna Hakuho looked to be in a bit of trouble against M3 Dejima when after a stalemate tachi-ai a quick pull attempt by Dejima knocked Hakuho off balance a step, but Kublai recovered nicely by going for a yankdown of his own with the right hand at the back of Dejima's melon followed up by the quickest sukuinage throw you've ever seen with that same right hand that flipped Dejima completely over and onto his back at the edge of the dohyo. Hakuho (4-1) was extremely fired up after the bout showing emotion that we rarely see. I like to see that from him, and he's gonna need it the rest of the way to keep pace with Bruto. Dejima falls to a very respectable 3-2.

Five days in, and we've got a great feel on the basho already. Ask yourself this question: which rikishi have a shot to finish at 13-2 or better? I can only think of two, and of those two, Baruto has the one-bout lead. Kyushu 2007 is the Hakuho and Baruto show with a few subplots like the ailing Ozeki and the continued rise of Goeido.

Reverend Kelly preaches tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
Mr. Hump Day here again,

For oenologists today is like Christmas Eve. November the 15th isn't just Ol' Dirty Bastard's Birthday, this year it happens to be the 3rd Thursday in November and that means tomorrow is "Beaujolais Day"; the happiest of happy days when a fresh batch of Beaujolais' fine red wine is bestowed upon the world. Word has it that 2007's harvest was a very good one and that the wine is going to be superb. I will be attending a Beaujolais Nouveau party that starts at exactly 12 midnight so please forgive me if I seem a little distracted, do not mince words or am just a tad late for work in the morning. 

The first days of the Kyushu basho has given a few more thrills than we are used to seeing this early in a basho (only one guy anywhere near the top is undefeated and he has needed some help to get there), and what kind of a commentator would I be if I didn't explain why??? Go here and have another look at this basho's Banzuke. Go ahead and do it, I'll wait...did you do it? Good. Look at the first 20 or so names. With the exception of a missing dai Yokozuna, this is the best Bazuke I have seen in a long time. I may not be a fan of every guy named, but there is no one who doesn't deserve to be there. Not one slouch among them. For the first time in a very long time, no one like Takami or Hokutoriki has soared too high and provided a punching bag for all the men around him. Anyone of those 20 names can beat any other of them. Everyone must do battle every day and guys who, in other bashos, were finishing with 9 or 10 wins are going to be struggling just to KK come week two. The ozeki are banged up and the young guys are hungry; there just ain't enough wins to go around this time.

Asa thrived in this situation, racking up win after win while everyone below him divided up their losses till Asa had it wrapped up by the middle of week two. The question now is "Can Hakuho stay ahead of the game or is he going to get dragged into loss dividers?"

I was there and threw no less than 5 zabbuton when KotoG spanked the "white griffin" on Sunday. Since then Hak hasn't looked bad but I got to say I doubt very much that he won't be caught again this basho. There are just so many strong dudes to go through.

Today's first fight saw a very young Tochiohzan easily pushed out by a much older Kaiho. Ageing is a bitch. For a little bit of perspective think about it this way- When Kaiho was born 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon' by Dawn was the number one song in America. When Tochiohzan was born the biggest hit was a Bon Jovi tune. 

M-16 Kasuganishiki is still in need of a nickname but he did get an aggressive yorikiri win over Kokkai whose sideburns are but a happy memory. Both dudes have got 2-n-2s and I think Kokkai's burns may have migrated to his back.

"I think we can already call this basho a two horse race between Hakuho and Baruto. Money's on Baruto." Wow, Mike really has a lot of confidence in the other M-16!! In his first test of the basho Baruto allowed Wakanoho to get 2 hands deep into his mawashi (hope he bought him dinner first...). Baruto got his a left hand inside but his right hand was rendered useless the entire fight. Despite his obvious advantage massive Wakanoho still couldn't move colossal Baruto and after a struggle Baruto spun him around and pushed him off the dohyo into the expensive seats. Waka was visibly angry when he got up and dipped about half a cm in his bow after the fight. Walking back to the changing room Baruto was laughing like a kid and greeting some of the fans waiting there. 

♪When I see you smile 
I can face the world, oh oh, 
you know I can do anything 
When I see you smile 
I see a ray of light, oh oh, 
I see it shining right through the rain 
When I see you smile♪

I like to think that as soon as Baruto got out of camera range he High-5ed Kaiho.
Hope we can see another frustrated Russian tomorrow as Baruto tangles with Hakurozan.

In the Fukuoka Kokusai Center last Sunday I had occasion to walk by Roho and I swear he shot me a dirty look. The dude is just mean. Luckily what he lacks in niceness he more than makes up for in lazy sumo. His fight today against Wakakirin lasted exactly as long as a fight between Wakakirin and I would last... not very long. Straight back and out.

Kakizoe used great footwork and sumo fundamentals to outmatch Tosanoumi. Zoe, still showing a lot of pride, goes to 3-1 and you gotta like his chances at a KK. Tosanoumi looks all of his 35 years and 9 months old.

After a couple good bashes to the face Hakurozan used what looked like a (American) football technique that we always called the "Swim Move" to spin Tamakasuga around and send him out. Hakurozan gets his second "W" while Tama is still stuck with one.

Wakanosato came into today with a pocket full of "W"s and he added one more. But he 'ad to work for this one. Once in a long while Hokutoriki gets confused and comes out fighting like a banshee. That was today. Riki and Waka went toe to toe trading some stiff tsuppari. Hokutoriki retreated a step and Waka bent way over but he kept his feet under him and just as importantly kept moving forward. They both ended up off the dohyo but Waka made sure that Hokutoriki went first.

Takami, our second model of perfection this afternoon, faired less well. Yoshikaze came out looking to stay away from the belt but Takami weathered his blows and grabbed a fist full of red mawashi. He backed Yoshi up to the rope; Yoshi started falling backwards and it looked to be all over, but at the last possible second Yoshi spun and executed the prettiest Utchari I have ever seen throwing Takami clear off the dohyo. Takami returned to the changing room limping and looking quite dazed . . . as he always does after a loss.

Toyohibiki finally fought his "own brand of sumo" today. He hit Futenoh with a kachiage at the tachi-ai that stood him straight up and then it was easy to shove him out. Hibiki hasn't had the best start but I am NO WHERE NEAR conceding to Mike on the effectiveness of the 'south of the border' tachi-ai. 

Tamanoshima and Tochinonada danced around the ring for a little bit before Tochinonada finally edged Shima out of the ring. Both guys have got 2 wins but an uphill climb over the next 11 days.

Mike's new boyfriend Guido showed some patience and maturity in his fight with Takekaze. After a bit of tsuppari Kaze got a deep inside left. Goeido kept his cool and went for a uwatenage that started Kaze moving backwards and then switched it up, yorikiri-ing him out. Good looking stuff from the young buck. Tomorrow he gets Futenoh.

'Gold Hat Guy' is not the only person I met on Sunday. I also, for an all too short 20 minutes, found myself in the company of two of the more beautiful girls in Fukuoka. They seemed to know almost nothing about sumo (I had to tell them who Chiyotaikai was) so I asked why they had decided to come to sumo. The prettier of the two pretties told me that one of the rikishi was an acquaintance. "Who?", I asked. I was thinking Homasho or perhaps that beautiful Kasuganishiki. How surprised was I when she responded Kasugao!? I guess the guy's skills extend beyond sumo! Today he had a powerful but careless tachi-ai that gave Toyonoshima a double inside grips. The lucky Korean put up a bit of a fight but it was all too easy for Toyo to walk him out with his advantageous hand positioning. 

Kakuryu who is having a bad start this basho was paired up with Kyokutenho who's basho isn't shaping up much better. The Mongolians went straight to the belt and jockeyed for positioning before Kak backed his senpai up to the rope. Kyoku tried the utchari he had seen Yoshikaze win all that kensho money with earlier, but he couldn't quit pull it off. 

For the 4th day in a row KotoG came out with his strange looking ass bandage. I don't think I want to know what kind of injury that's for. What ever it is it didn't help him. Aminishiki has always come out hard against KotoG and today was more of the same. From the tachi-ai he jumped on him moving forward and not giving the Geek an inch to move or a second to think. Smothered, the home town boy could move no where but backwards. A great win for Aminishiki who moves to 2-2 while KotoG drops to 1-3.

In another bout of hot Mongol on Mongol action Asasekiryu got in very low on Tokitenku. He immediately went for a series of leg grabs while Tokitenku tried his best to control the leg grabbing arm and stay on his feet. (I have seen very little Mongolian wrestling but this is kind of the way I picture it.) Then Asasekiryu went back to the belt grabbing a second inside grip and stood up belly to belly with Tokitenku and powered him out. This bout in slow motion was a thing of beauty; so much was going on with their hands as well as their footwork. Asasekiryu has just one loss while Tokitenku has 2.

Am I the only one who gets Kyokutenho and Tokitenku mixed up?? I had been watching sumo for almost a year when I finally figured out that they weren't the same guy, no joke!

Koto-shoe went all henka on Dejima, surprise surprise. It didn't surprise The Dej either. The only high point from this bout was that Koto did one of his patented graceful summersaults as he was falling of the dohyo and into his 2nd loss.

Ama vs. Chiyonofuji was an odd and disturbing fight. Chiyo came out with the Jazz hands as all 35 people in the Kokusai Center knew he would. Now, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you must fight Chiyotaikai it's not hard to know what to do: You need to pass threw the Jazz hands and get to his belt cause he ain't that good at the belt. Easy to say, hard to do; Chiyo has made a career out of not letting guys get to his belt (every one of whom knew they had to get to his belt). Ama did exactly what he had planed to do; he weathered the tsuppari storm and got inside grips for both hands. For a moment Ama looked to be in control but then out of nowhere Chiyo pivoted and went for a surprisingly good looking uwatenage. And then as both guys were falling head first towards the dohyo the game of chicken was on, who would touch down first?? They went crashing into the clay at about the same time and the first time I watched it I had no idea who won. I thought a mono-ii was warranted, just as it was yesterday; two guys had gone crashing to the ground in a confusing tangle of limbs, just like yesterday. But just like yesterday the judges just sat there stone faced. I have watched this ending frame by frame several times now and I can tell you with 100% certainty that Ama won that fight. He was robed but the real travesty here is that the state of corruption in the NSK. Woooow, I can't get on that one right now or I am going to be typing all night. Perhaps next week I will let all my pent-up rage loose... perhaps. 

Kotomitsuki's tachi-ais have been so full of balks and stalls for so long that I think his starting in a proper and timely manner today was just another form of shenanigans. It's been so long since he has used a towardly tachi-ai that I think M-1 Miyabiyama was caught off guard… I know I was. Probably wouldn't have mattered, KotoM is just waaay to good at cowardly pull downs. KotoM has three wins and that is three more than Mt. Miyabi.

Every time I go to see Kaio fight I get kind of sentimental thinking it's probably the last time I am ever going to see the old gray mare. For three years now I have been saying "good bye" to Kaio. When I saw him loose so bad on day one I thought he was going to be finished before I get back up to Fukuoka for day 8. But two big wins later and he probably has already booked his ticket for Haru. I can't say that I know for certain that yesterday's win was legit, just like I can't say that it wasn't. But I WILL bet the farm that today against Homasho was the real deal. Kaio came out looking for belt and Homa was intent on keeping him away from it. At one point Homa's head got too low and Kaio pushed down on it putting Homa off balance and causing him to stand straight up. With two big rights to the jaw Kaio sent Homa to the floor in an impressive win with respectable foot work and power to spare. Kaio gets Ama tomorrow and Homa will be looking to break the M-1 slump against Aminishiki.

Hakuho and Kisenosato had more of a donnybrook than a sumo bout today. This fight started with a vicious exchange of tsuppari that had my jaw hurting just watching. Unfortunately all good things must come to and end and this ended when Hakuho took a dominant double inside and carefully walked the desperately struggling Kissy out of the ring. I like Hakuho the best when he has a little bit of mean in him and I thought it was great that Kisenosato would stand toe to toe with him 

As I'm sure you remember I was very clear about my intent upon joining the staff at SumoTalk, "I AM COMMITTED TO SEEING SUMOTALK TO 1,000,000 HITS AND BEYOND". A quick time-line for you: SumoT begins humbly in Kyushu of 2002. Between Kyushu 2002 and the start of Aki 2007, ST picks up an even humbler 870,000 hits. Mark Harold Arbo is brought on starting in Aki 2007 and now just 2 months later ST has almost 990,000 hits. I am no mathamagician but it is abundantly clear that for the first 5 years of SumoTalk's existence it averaged about 14500 hits a month. While in the two months since I joined it has averaged about 55000. There it is, NUMBERS DON'T LIE. I have engineered a 380% jump in SumoTalks hits. Mission accomplished and you're welcome.

One last thing, as we sprint towards our millionth hit I really want to see the hit counter as it hits the 1,000,000 milestone so I am announcing the first ever "SumoTalk Challenge". A primo prize and large sum of cash will be given to whoever can e-mail me a pic of our counter as it hits 1,000,000. This will be a crowning moment for me and I want that pic to put in my wallet. To learn more about the prize click here- I'm a winner!!

Mike will vacuum the tatami tomorrow. 

Day 3 Comments (Alex  Brohm reporting)
Ah, sumo, the taste of salt in your eyes and clay in your mouth, knowing that if you blink that fat guy squatting in front of you will cripple you for life. Hello, my adoring fans! I've been thrown out of the hotel for making jokes about Kotoshogiku's placement taping, so I'm reporting from the Kokugikan today. I decided to bring my son, who keeps screaming for the ice cream that they sell here on the second floor. 

Maybe we'll walk around a bit. Hmm, not many people here today. Oh, look Musashimaru is helping out at the information desk. I'll pretend I can't find the ice cream and ask for help.

I didn't get here till the middle of Juryo, but I did see Hoshihikari lose to Kotokasuga. What a bummer, light weight Hoshihikari just got thrown around like a rag doll. Oh, and I saw Sakaizawa beat roly-poly Otsukasa, no surprise there, but I went for ice cream during Hakurozan / Ryuo. Oh, and thanks Musashimaru, it was delicious!

I won't be able to do my usual full coverage of the Makuuchi, so I'll just stick with the highlights. 

Iwakiyama – Takamisakari: Iwakiyama dominated Blinky from the tachi-ai, Blinky held on at the straw but couldn't stop Iwakiyama's momentum. After leaving the dressing room, Iwakiyama was all smiles standing in front of the concession stand. He was letting everyone take pictures with him, that is to say, with everybody but me.

Kakuryu – Wakanoho: After Wakanoho's failed flying henka attempt turned into a stumbling retreat, it was all Kakuryu, until Wakanoho hatakikomi'd Kakuryu, that is. Oddly, there was a mono-ii, I think they just wanted to take away Wakanoho's ill gotten gains, but decided a win is a win in the end. It was pretty clear for me. Sorry, I can't say the same about Wakanoho's skin.

Roho – Tochinonada: This was one match that didn't start with a henka, but it was Roho, so maybe I will have go home and check the tape to be sure. Tochinonada masterfully pushed Roho down, down, down till the Russian's body finally gave under the strain. All I can say is awesome!

Kotoshogiku – Kisenosato: Kotoshogiku gave Kisenosato a bit of his usual, and nature took its course. Kisenosato, you're here today, gone tomorrow. I mean, there yesterday, gone today. I mean, yesterday was really great.

Aminishiki – Wakanosato: Aminishiki's Cinderella story continues for a third day. Aminishiki finally beat Wakanosato after 11 matches.

Goeido – Kotomitsuki: After two continuous loses, Goeido picks up a big win against the Ozeki (at right).

Chiyotaikai – Dejima: An injured Chiyotaikai is painful to watch. Chiyotaikai started things off with a slow an ineffective tsuppari, and Dejima had only to wait for Chiyo to commit his mass to a forward motion then he brushed Chiyo of in a way that could be called a pull down, but was really simply putting Chiyo out of his misery. Thanks again Hakuho, for ruining Chiyo's basho.

Ama – Kotooshu: It can be said that I see every Kotooshu match through yogurt colored glasses, but that was a damned fine showing from my favorite cripple. After the initial impact Kotooshu turned Ama around and okuridashi'd him out from behind. It seems like this scenario usually plays out the other way around with Kotooshu getting the shove from the side or behind from Ama or old Tochiazuma. The Bulgarian is learning how to play the game. Be afraid!

Kaio – Miyabiyama: Miyabiyama started things off wrong with a mistimed henka. Kaio quickly reoriented himself and tsuppari'd an off balance Miyabiyama straight out. Everyone pines for the Kaio of old, but what of Miyabiyama? What of the old bounding two fists of justice Miyabiyama?

Tokitenku – Asashoryu: It breaks my heart to see the morning dragon rising from the west, but he's working on changing that. Asashoryu was all business after a seemingly unavoidable loss the day before, and gave Tokitenku a hard yori-kiri off of the sainted block of clay.

Hakuho – Toyoshima: The man who should not be king got a run for his money from the Shikoku islander. Toyonoshima powered his way on to a yori-kiri, but Toyonoshima power and Hakuho power are not even on the same dohyo. The Yokozuna had to remind me why he gets to wear the rope. Though forced bails he defied the physical laws that bind us mortals, and pushed Toyonoshima back, then around, and finally out for his own yori-kiri. After defying the laws of physics he defying the expected level of hinkaku and stuck out his tongue to show us how tiring the life of a superman truly is.

Happy New Year! January is the perfect time to begin a new feature, one that I hope to continue all year. Now, presenting to you, our readers, the first ever Young Ones Awards. The Young Ones Awards are given to the four youngest and most deserving rikishi in the Makuuchi level of professional sumo based on their performance from the previous basho. Our awards are…

The Very Metal Award (for fighting spirit and rude brutality) goes to Wakakirin, for the mean tsuppari barrages that led him to a solid 10-5 debut. On the final day, his totally unnecessary and uncalled for henka of Hokutoriki may have kept him from receiving a Kanto-sho, but it earns him big rudeness points with me. My apologies, to Baruto, the actual recipient of the Kanto-sho, your not a fresh face and you started too low on the banzuke to make your 11-4 victory really impressive. Also, you practically ran away from Chiyotaikai. You big fairy.

The People's Poet Award (for being a snotty clever trousers) goes to Wakanoho, for having the sand to say that he was going to do forward moving, Yokozuna-like sumo, then do a flying henka onto the head of comrade Kokkai. "I go over people's heads sometimes, a bit like an aeroplane! You think I'm an aeroplane, don't you?" No, we don't think you're an aeroplane, we think you're late for cheerleading practice. Now run along. I've got two more awards to give out.

The Dirty Hippy Award (for being a lentil-eating pacifist) goes to Homasho, though at 26 he's no longer young, his lack of resistance was Gandhi-like. Like, far-out man, Woodstock! I guess, Homasho doesn't have what it takes to make the jump from Maegashira 1 to Komusubi. Maybe, you are saying to yourself, "Oh, that's no big deal, getting to Komusubi isn't easy." Getting to Komusubi may be no picnic, but many rikishi have eaten sandwiches on that blanket. Out of the 41 Makuuchi rikishi in Kyushu 29 had made it to Komusubi or higher. Only 12 hadn't made it to Komusubi, and out of them 2 are fresh from Juryo, 3 more were recently promoted and hadn't even been in the Makuuchi a full year. So, out of the 12, 5 haven't reasonably had enough time to make Komusubi. That leaves Homasho in the company of only Takekaze (28), Kasugao (30), the much younger Kakuryu (22), Yoshikaze (25), Baruto (24), and Hakurozan (25). Homasho had better hurry up, before Baruto and Kakuryu leave him in the lurch.

The Charismatic Award (for having charisma, spotty) goes to Ama, when you have as many pock marks as he does, it's nice to have something to fall back on when your with the ladies. Ama hardly a fresh face, but at only 23 is still quite the young one. Ama's 10-5 may not sound like much, but remember ladies it's not the size of his ship it's the motion of the ocean. Those ten wins include Hakuho, his second victory in a row, three wins against the Ozeki the loss coming from Chiyotaikai, who was on a tear, he also beat heavyweights Baruto, Dejima, Wakanosato, Kisenosato, and Homasho. The content of those wins was also remarkable, with only one pull-down victory against Dejima. But, come on, it was Dejima "The Tank Engine" wadda ya gonna do?

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As I was scanning the news articles on Sunday morning Japan time, I ran across one from the Jiji press that commented on the rise in ticket sales and the record-setting kensho for day 1. The article gave credit where credit was due, which means the return of Asashoryu has lifted interest in the sport again, but the final line of the report was dead on. It said, "In order not to lose this current rise in popularity, it is imperative that the quality of sumo can be substantially measured." I echo that sentiment. You don't raise the popularity of the sport by driving it's best rikishi from the ring; rather, you inspire the younger rikishi to rise up and take the king down on their own. If the first two days of the Hatsu basho is any indication of the current state of sumo, we're off to a great start. The sumo has been terrific for the most part.

In fact, while watching the broadcast today and hearing the buzz in the Tokyo crowd, I couldn't help but to be reminded of sumo in the mid-nineties during the height of it's popularity. Back then you had two solid Yokozuna in Takanohona and Akebono. Then you had perhaps the best core of Ozeki in the history of the sport in Wakanohana, Musashimaru, and Takanonami. And beyond that, you had some quality sanyaku rikishi and jo'i mainstays to the tune of Kaio, Musoyama, Tosanoumi, Akinoshima, and yes, that Tamakasuga. Seemingly everyday brought quality matchups, and those core jo'i guys would take down the top dogs all the time. The quality of sumo on a daily basis was unequalled, but I think we are starting to see that same kind of scenario formulate again. We have our two Yokozuna at the prime of their careers; we have a decent Ozeki core that is enhanced by Ama; and then we have some solid, younger rikishi in the jo'i who can take down the dogs on any given day...guys like Kotoshogiku, Kisenosato, Toyonoshima, Aminishiki, and shortly Goeido. I can just sense a turn for the better in sumo starting now, so the YDC, the board of directors, and the mainstream press need to just back off and let the rikishi promote the sport's popularity in the ring. And finally, if Fujii announcer with Kitanofuji at his side in the booth and Mainoumi in the mukou-joumen chair is the best broadcasting threesome in sumo, then today's trio of Kariya announcer/Dewanoumi-oyakata/Sendagawa (former Akinoshim) is a close second. It was all good on day 2 brother, so let's get right to the action.

The most anticipated bout of the day was obviously the Asashoryu - Kisenosato matchup, and unlike a lot of other bouts that NHK tries to hype, they had legitimate footage to hype this one. You'll recall the 2006 Aki basho when Kisenosato beat Asashoryu handily only to have the Yokozuna retaliate in Kyushu with that famous keta-guri move. You also have Kisenosato's attitude, which was out in full force yesterday as he gestured towards Chiyotaikai and uttered a few words (to himself I think) after kicking the Ozeki's ass and sending him to the floor below the dohyo. I know a lot of people are turned off by Kisenosato's brazen ways, but I love it...especially when you can back it up.

As for the bout itself, Kisenosato used a moro-te charge (both hands at the throat) to completely neutralize Asashoryu's tachi-ai and keep him away from the inside. Having lost the tachi-ai, the Yokozuna's only option to set up an offensive was to tsuppari his way back in, but he opted to keep his arms extended in an attempt to keep the Kid at bay, but screw that, Kisenosato was comin' and come he did forcing his way into the moro-zashi position against a Yokozuna who was in no stance to counter. Asa knew he was in trouble and tried to slip the grip to his right countering with a neck throw with the left arm, but Kisenosato was too fired up and used perfect foot work to drive Asashoryu around 180 degrees into the brokeback position, and from there, it was no stoppin' the Kisenosato train as he launched the Yokozuna clear off the dohyo and into a heap down at the corner of the dohyo. You know that if you make the yobi-dashi grab their bucket of salt and little stool and run like hell that you've just kicked your opponent's ass. Wow...Kisenosato! He takes apart Chiyotaikai on day 1 and then bursts Asashoryu's comeback bubble on day 2.

Asashoryu's loss shouldn't be a surprise, however. You only need to go back as far as my pre-basho report and revisit the ring sense thing. Today was a perfect example of what I was talking about. First, Asashoryu's tachi-ai was lame. He was flat-footed and in no position to counter Kisenosato's move. Second, he wasn't prepared to come from behind by wiping away the Kid's moro-te tachi-ai. Wasn't it just the other day when Asashoryu was showing Goeido how to do the same thing? Let me put it in tennis terms. You're warming up for a match and you go to the net to practice your volleys. Your opponent hits it straight at you, and you try and volley it back to him or her, and then they try and hit it back to you alternating forehand side and backhand side. It's practice, right? The longer you can hit it it back and forth to each other, the more practice you get. That's what keiko is too. You work together to try and get the most practice out of a situation as possible. So even though Asashoryu dominated in the practice ring, it made no difference once he stepped atop the dohyo at a hon-basho. Look, don't write Asashoryu off. He WILL be back, and I still think a 13-2 finish can be expected. I'm just saying, don't be surprised that he lost so early. It was in the cards considering his long absence from the ring.

As for Kisenosato, he needs only 6 more wins now to cement a special prize or two and a trip back to the sanyaku. The best thing about this win is it sends Kisenosato's confidence sky high. Two days, one Ozeki and one Yokozuna and both of them launched of the dohyo at the hands of Kisenosato. Damnation!

Moving right along, in a clash of rikishi with similar statures, Yokozuna Hakuho jumped out a half second early against M1 Tokitenku looking to get his right arm positioned on the inside, but Tokitenku stayed low and clamped down on that side denying the Yokozuna his favored position. Hakuho changed the action on a dime at this point and took advantage of Tokitenku's low stance to simply slap at him downwards which caught Tokitenku off guard to the point where he put his hand down to break his fall. There was hardly any action here, but Hakuho will take that win every day of the week. A 2-0 start is exactly what he needed. Tenku is still 0-2.

If Komusubi Dejima were to have a chance today against Ozeki Kotomitsuki, he would have had to drive him back quickly from the start and finish of his bidness in seconds, but the Ozeki struck well completely halting Dejima's momentum and setting up the eventual left outer grip for Kotomitsuki. The Ozeki had only one fold of the belt, however, which probably contributed to his standing in the center of the ring for about 30 seconds (10 seconds longer than normal), but in time he mounted his force-out charge driving Dejima to the edge of the tawara and upright. Dejima dug in well using the straw for leverage, but Kotomitsuki ain't gonna throw this kind of position away and eventually managed to force Dejima out of the ring picking up his second win in as many tries. Dejima has yet to score the upset at 0-2.

The Fukuoka rivalry between Ozeki Kaio and Komusubi Kotoshogiku was on display today, and since Kaio wasn't facing demotion from the rank, Kotoshogiku was able to go all out and produce a good yotsu-zumo match. The two rikishi quickly hooked up into the hidari yotsu position with both fishing for the right outer grip that would prove the advantage. Neither got it as they wrangled back and forth across the ring trying to wrench each other up enough to where the belt was in reach, but Kotoshogiku's youth prevailed here as he was able to keep his legs planted firmly to the dohyo throughout catching a Kaio evasive attempt perfectly at the edge that stood Kaio upright leaving the easy force-out nudge in the end. Even though he lost, Kaio looked okay to me, and 8 wins is not out of the question. Both dudes are 1-1.

Ozeki Kotooshu was too slow at the tachi-ai today and allowed his nemesis M2 Toyonoshima to duck in for the quick moro-zasho grip. Kotooshu countered with the firm right outer position, but Toyonoshima has been here before and knew exactly what to do. Driving into Kotooshu's body and forcing the Bulgarian to counter quickly or be driven straight out, Kotooshu went for the right outer belt throw, but with Toyonoshima so far on the inside, he easily bumped his left hip high into Kotooshu's right thigh knocking the Ozeki's footing out from under him and setting up a spectacular left inner throw that caused Kotooshu to summersault to the dirt. Dewanoumi-oyakata provided the perfect analysis afterwards saying that Kotooshu's problem is he lets his opponent dictate the pace of the bout. Both rikishi are 1-1.

In an entertaining affair between two old-timers, Ozeki Chiyotaikai and former Ozeki Miyabiyama put on a great display of tsuppari sumo with both taking turns on the offensive and with neither party seriously going for a pull down. This was a 20 second battle of wills as both rikishi circled around and around the ring trading tsuppari and looking for the opening to plant firmly and go for the kill. In the end, Chiyotaikai's inability to use that right arm to set up an offensive position did him in as Miyabiyama was just too strong in the end as he shoved the ailing Taikai across the straw and to an 0-2 start, a position Chiyotaikai hasn't been in in a long time.

There was the deserved buzz running through the Kokugikan crowd today as Sekiwake Ama and M3 Goeido stepped onto the dohyo after their classic encounter two basho ago, and the two would not disappoint. Hooking up in the immediate gappuri migi yotsu position (simultaneous left outers and right inners), a battle of power ensued in the center of the ring for about 10 seconds until Goeido struck first with the outer throw attempt, but Ama hooked his right leg inside of Goeido's left and tripped the youngster down to the dirt as he attempted the throw. Problem was, the kid is so savvy, as he fell to the clay, he fell into Ama's left leg causing Ama to fall himself while it looked as if Goeido landed on Ama's leg technically keeping him alive. A mono-ii was correctly called for where it was ruled that both rikishi hit the dirt at the same time. As NHK showed the replays, it looked to me that Goeido's ass slipped across Ama's leg and hit the dirt a split second before the Sekiwake touched down himself, but I can't argue the call. Goeido went for the offensive maneuver, Ama countered beautifully, and Goeido was heady enough to fall into his opponent. Regardless, who doesn't want to see these two go at it again?

In the rematch, Ama did what I thought he should have done in the first bout, which was to use his powerful nodowa tachi-ai and drive forward at all costs. Ama did come with the right paw to the neck, but what really set things up was the Sekiwake using his head to drive up and into Goeido's chin completely knocking the kid off balance only allowing him a frivolous pull attempt as he was driven back. The rematch was over in two seconds, but you could not walk away from this bout and not say, "damn, that was some good sumo." You watch...the Mongolians are going to appreciate Goeido to the point where they take him under their wing, and I can just see the next few years where each basho comes down to the two Yokozuna, Ama, and Goeido with Kotomitsuki getting a little love in the short term.

Sekiwake Aminishiki played it perfectly today against M3 Tochinonada today attacking with his right arm on the inside to take away Tochinonada's favored left inside position. Nada looked a bit lost in the fray as Aminishiki quickly moved his right arm from the inside to the outside grabbing the belt in the process, but instead of digging in to set up a force-out or a throw, Ami wisely pull down and inwards completely cutting off Tochinonada from the inside left, his favored grip. In this position, Aminishiki wrangled Tochinonada this way and that before finally setting up the easy force-out win. This was beautiful sumo from Aminishiki today who's off to a fine 2-0 start. Nada's still got at least the one Sekiwake scalp at 1-1.

In the Maegashira ranks, M5 Tamakasuga stayed low at the tachi-ai keeping M4 Asasekiryu away from any inside position, but in the process he took away his own tsuppari attack, so while Asasekiryu had been neutralized from the tachi-ai, King Tama couldn't capitalize on it. For nearly 30 seconds the two danced around the ring going for petty pull downs here and there until finally Asasekiryu pounced on the inside securing a deep left inner position. From there it looked to be an easy force-out win, but Asasekiryu was gassed and actually hesitated a bit, but Tamakasuga failed to take advantage when I though he could have evaded and attempted a pull down at the tawara. You have to think the veteran himself was out of breath at this point too, so Asasekiryu finally managed the yori-kiri win in the end. Props to Sexy for his 2-0 start while the King falls to 1-1.

M5 Roho wasted what looked to be a solid yotsu-zumo contest coming in with a tachi-ai henka to his left against m4 Wakanosato where he masked it by going for the uwate instead of the pull down. With the left outer grip secure and Wakanosato off balance, it was easy pickings for Roho as he began to drive Wakanosato back, but for some reason he abandoned the left outer grip opting to slap Wakanosato to the dirt instead. Right there is the problem with Roho's sumo the last year....abandoning the solid outer grip in favor for the pull down. What the Russian needed to do was lift up with that left outer as he bodied Wakanosato back and out in true yori-kiri fashion, not abandon it to go for the pull down. Sure, he picked up the win, but that move speaks volumes to me about where the Russian is right now with his sumo. It's gettin' bad.

M6 Hokutoriki just cracks me up to no end. When he goes for a tachi-ai henka, he gets all fired up and places both fists firmly to the starting line, but when he comes clean, he kind of ambles to the starting line with his eyes down looking this way and that like a bad shoplifter, and then he quickly slams his fists to the dirt hoping for the sneak attack. We got the manbiki tachi-ai today against M7 Homasho, and Hokutoriki forced the action throughout with his tsuppari attack that was lacking the confidence needed to win. Homasho was driven this way and that but always kept his lower body planted firmly to the dirt, and after about 10 seconds of action, Hokutoriki went to plant his right foot, but it slipped out from under him (wink, wink) causing his knee to just hit the dirt while Homasho continued to stand there and watch him make a fool out of himself. They didn't announce the kimari-te until a couple of bouts later, but they finally decided on "tsuki-hiza", which loosely translates into Terao taking a wad of money out of his wallet and handing it to Hakkaku-oyakata. Both rikishi are 1-1.

Due to the recent fervor surrounding the return of Asashoryu, the news that M6 Baruto re-injured his left knee slipped through the cracks. I still don't know how he did it, but he has the joint taped up so heavily that he can barely bend his leg. Still, he could have the thing amputated and it'd be no excuse to lose to Hokutoriki as he did yesterday. M7 Takekaze obviously watched the bout and was looking for a cheap win of his own today because he moved to his left delivering a tachi-ai henka. Baruto doesn't exactly lunge forward at the start, so the Estonian was barely fazed and standing upright as Takekaze tried to mount an attack from the side. With Takekaze's footing having been compromised by the henka, he was in no position to mount a charge on his own against Baruto's bulk, but the Estonian did him a huge favor by going for a weak pull attempt allowing Takekaze to push him out with ease from there. Baruto, my man, take a step back and look at the rikishi who are doing you this basho. I know your knee hurts, but you can beat these guys in your sleep. Also, what the hell is Baruto doing in between basho? They're called off season workouts my man...something all professional athletes should do. Baruto will never succeed in sumo until he devotes himself to the lifestyle required by the sport.

M9 Wakakirin stepped slightly to his left at the tachi-ai trying to do who knows what against M8 Toyohibiki. The Nikibi caught the youngster with a fierce right paw to the neck standing him upright and into position where he could be pummeled back to the straw and out in seconds. To the level that Wakakirin sucked today, Toyohibiki was outstanding. It's always nice to see good sumo prevail over crap, so props to Toyohibiki for his first win.

Martin and I had our fun with M8 Kakuryu as he rose up the ranks, but as I suspected, his passing through the jo'i fire for a couple of basho has tempered him into a solid rikishi, especially when he faces the rank and file here in the middle of the ranks. Today, M9 Kokkai's only hope was to keep Kakuryu away from the inside with his tsuppari attack, but he didn't even try for the shoves allowing Kakuryu to duck his way inside at the tachi-ai and just grab one fold at the front of Kokkai's belt, which was all he needed to move to his left, tug at the Georgian's belt and pull him down easily with the left hand at the back of Kokkai's head. This was picture perfect execution from the Kak who shoots to 2-0.

M11 Kasugao will always have a tough time with M10 Kyokutenho because the former Mongolian is big enough to counter the Korean's bulk at the tachi-ai. Today was no different as Tenho struck low and then just waited for Kasugao to raise that right arm in the kote-nage position. He did a second later allowing Kyokutenho to pounce in the moro-zashi grip and force Kasugao back and out in two seconds. Tenho is off to a nice 2-0 start.

M10 Wakanoho is a difficult rikishi to comment on because his sumo--if you can call it that--is so unorthodox. After an awful tachi-ai where he stood straight up, he did the only thing he could which was go for the quick pull down against M11 Kakizoe. To his credit, he pulled with the left arm wrapped around Kakizoe's melon while trying to grab the right outer grip, but his positioning was just so bad from the beginning that Kakizoe shook it off creating complete separation between the two rikishi. As Kakizoe looked to hook back up, Wakanoho delivered a wicked right forearm to the side of Kakizoe's head that had to have dazed Zoe a bit because Wakanoho was able to finish him off with another ugly pull attempt at the tawara. The reason it's hard to comment on Wakanoho right now because his style looks a lot like amateur sumo (outside of Japan). Anytime I'm flipping through the channels and come across an amateur sumo tournament, it looks to me like guys standing straight up at the tachi-ai who then try and tackle each other. Sendagawa-oyakata was also correct in his comments today of Wakanoho when he said that no one wants to see him win with this kind of sumo.

M12 Tosanoumi charged a bit lower than he normally does today against M13 Tamanoshima, which completely cut Peter off from any sort of belt grip. Tosanoumi went for the quick shoulder slap about three seconds that knocked Tamanoshima off balance, but the veteran kept his footing well and as Tosanoumi looked to re-align chests, Tamanoshima greeted him this time with a left arm on the inside the was sufficient enough to drive Tosanoumi back and out. The problem with those quick pull/slaps that Tosanoumi attempted today is that if you don't win with them, you've just taken away all of your momentum. The Blue Collar rikishi is 0-2.

M12 Futenoh used a crushing tachi-ai today against M13 Iwakiyama grabbing a quick right outer grip while lifting up at Iwakiyama's inside with the left completely neutralizing the Groom from any decent counter position (taking notes, Roho?). Futenoh didn't waste the tachi-ai and drove Iwakiyama back and out without further argument picking up a nifty second win while Iwakiyama will have to explain his first loss to the missus for sure.

My reaction to M16 Ichihara's sumo on day 1 was "his opponent was Kaiho." I know some were raving over the rookie's start, but you have to take into account his opponent. In prolly the most anticipated matchup in the first half, M14 Takamisakari would give Ichihara a firmer test today that came from the tachi-ai when the Cop lunged into a quick moro-zashi grip and forced Ichihara back to the tawara in an instant. Ichihara tried to counter with a pivot and kubi-nage throw with the left, but the gangly Takamisakari is just too good and too experienced to blow a tachi-ai like that and his morozashi grip. This was over without incident, and the Makuuchi division's version of Mr. Bean put Ichihara's challenge this basho into better perspective. Tis the speed folks...or lack of it that concerns me with Ichihara. Nonetheless, both rikishi are 1-1 and will provide some compelling bouts this low in the ranks.

Since his return to the Makuuchi division, M16 Kaiho has looked terrible. It seems that he can't win unless he uses gimmicks from the tachi-ai. Well, either that or if he faces M15 Tochiohzan. Today, Oh hit fairly well at the tachi-ai, but did nothing to gain any offensive position, but he still pressed forward with his bulk. Kaiho countered with the left on the inside and kept his cool as he turned the tables at the tawara with a surprising scoop throw that fell Tochiohzan to a terrible first loss. The problem here was Tochiohzan's laziness. It didn't look as if he even cared about grabbing a right uwate to set anything up, and with that kind of nonchalant attitude in the Makuuchi division, e'en Kaiho will kick your ass. Unbelievable.

As I hinted to in my opening, with the core of solid rikishi in the jo'i right now, we'll have multiple compelling bouts each day just as we saw on day 2. Alex will 'splain it all tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
"Where black is the color, where none is the number"
Bob Dylan 

No one really knows to what Zimm was referring when he penned that line long ago, but it wasn't the American war in Vietnam, though if you listen to the entire song you'd swear it was, and it wasn't sumo, though if you've kept abreast of events the last two months you'd swear it was.

Forget circling the drain, since September, Japan's national sport has perched precariously at the event horizon, and the reasons for it are many and varied and well documented, so I'll skip it here. Point is, how does a true fan muster the mojo to keep interested, keep slogging through the muck and the media and the murder and the mire to reach that sweet spot s/he was at a mere six months ago, when a second Yokozuna had been crowned, bringing with him the promise of a new era of titanic battles on which would ride precious outcomes?

Easy, watch the bouts and forget all the hooey. Keep your eye on the essential point, on what makes sumo such a blast, namely that a basho is a daily two-week party for viewers. Fifteen days of hard pipin' courtesy of lovable giants. Something to look forward to after the bath, that videotape of the day's contests. Love that anticipation. The only thing that compares is the Olympics, where everyday for a long time one can tune in and be thrilled (I definitely WON'T include the World Cup in this analogy, because European football, exciting to play, is more often than not wicked frickin' boring to watch on the telly.)

Some people are calling the final two basho of 2007 "asterisk basho" because the Khan has been waylaid by the NSK. I can understand the sentiment behind the reasoning, and it is true that no one's path to the yusho would be as easy if Asa was here, but I don't go in for the "what ifs" and the "if onlys." Like the arguments many (mostly Nipponese) have made about the lack of competition for Asa during his incredible sole Yokozuna run, the idea that Hakuho's yusho are tainted by his countryman's absence is a non-starter. Beat whichever geek they throw at you day in and day out and you're the man, period.

But what if they throw a Geeku? Though the Komusubi returnee was coming off a well deserved 10-5 in September, not many seemed to be giving him a chance vs. Hakuho. But in what is becoming a disturbing trend, the Yokozuna seemed a bit cautious and unfocused on Day One. At tachi-ai he came with his right arm crossed over his gut to block a belt grab while trying to secure his own left, but Kotoshogiku went crazy, pushing like a man possessed and getting an outside left belt. I felt that tickle start in me guttywuts that usually means, There's gonna be a gunfight. The Geeku drove the grand champ to the edge, and Hakuho nearly pulled it out here with a strong right belt throw, but the spunky little Komusubi found previously undisplayed balance and righted the ship, pushing the Yokozuna back across the ring, where Hakuho again used a right belt throw. The Geeku crashed down and out hard, but not before the Yokozuna Pippen stepped and clear and well out. The purple pillows flew like so much talk of 15-0 out the window. Personally, the Sadogatake lad's win robbed me of a gag I had about what nutty thing I would have done had Hakuho gone 15-0, because I never thought for a moment he would. What to me has become his signature lack of fire when compared to Asashoryu may well win him fans in Nippon and among the elders of sumo, but it is also going to limit his career yusho count to a paltry twenty or so. So sad.

East Komusubi Ama hit Ozeki Kotomitsuki like a redheaded stepchild, and the freshly minted champion answered by trying to claw the back of Ama's neck. Ama was prone to succumbing to that type of crap earlier in his career, but he has smoothed out that wrinkle and any and all are ill advised to try to pull him down now. He looked to be the true Ozeki as he rammed out Mitsuki quicker than you could say, Kadoban?

Chiyotaikai brought some strong tsuppari sumo today vs. Homasho, but the E1 was able to withstand the blows and make his way forward toward the Ozeki. To his credit Chiyotaikai didn't panic and pull but came back with more thrusting, and this time Homasho was unable to handle it. With Hakuho having lost once already, and Mitsuki and Kaio looking lame, perhaps the Wolf's Pup will be in the mix come Day 14 (he better pray Kaio doesn't retire mid-basho—he needs that win). He has good records vs. Kise, Geeku, and Ama, so if he can avoid dumb mental lapses vs guys he should dominate, maybe just maybe.

Kotooshu did to Miyabiyama what Homasho couldn't do to Chiyotaikai, namely take the tsuppari thrusting and then either get in on him or time a move to catch him off guard and take him down. Once the enormous former Ozeki leaned too far forward shoving at fresh air, Kotooshu reached over the shoulder and grabbed the back of his belt and flung him out. Not the kind of sumo that is going to make Nipponese children rush out and buy a poster of the man, but the Bulgarian enigma used perfect strategy in this one.

Kaio stepped to his side at tachi-ai (not a classic henka, but for a man of Kaio's stature, wussy sumo), but once he recovered from the sidestep Kise was on the soon-to-be-retired Ozeki like black on licorice. Not sure why, but I like Kisenosato's chances this time out to sneak in and possibly grab 10 wins. That M2 slot is just off the radar enough for a determined youngster to make some hay. There's a damnably good chance that Kaio goes down tomorrow vs Miflobby and retires right then and there.

W2 Dejima took his time at tachi-ai, and that was due to the fact that his foe was AminiShneaky, famous henkaphile. But the phantom Sekiwake brought an honest pop this time, which was fine by the Degyptian, who got his arms up and under and steamrolled Shneaky out toute de suite. Dejima remains undefeated and atop the leader board, while Aminishiki has yet to pick up a win this basho.

The bout I had been waiting for, Asasekiryu vs Kakuryu, did not disappoint. There was a lot of shoving and twisting, grunting and grinding, Sexy driving hard, the Kak stiffening, Sexy trying to disrobe him (toward the end the mawashi looked like a hula hoop). Sexy finally pulled on the exhausted Kak, who spilled to the dirt. Both men lit up cigarettes as they made their way back to their dressing rooms.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of hearing before every bout the announcers mention each wrestler's "preferred fighting style." I just want to watch the match unfold, and don't need some trivia monkey telling me to watch for Buttanowipa trying for the outside right. Sure, during or after the bout tell me all you want to about what the guys did or didn't do. But spare me the time filler about "preferred grips." 

Tokitenku somehow survived a deadly mistake vs Kyokutenho when he pulled on the W4's head, allowing him to get deep inside on the belt which normally means death for Kyokutenho's foes, but Toki's mawashi was evidently wrapped by the Kyushu Girl Scout Troop #12 today, and loose as it was he was able to escape and somehow get his former countryman to the edge and avoid two desperation throwing attempts to snag number one

Toyonoshima and Takekaze had an entertaining bout, which included some arm tussling and a slap to the kisser by each fella. Toyonoshima anticipated the slap he received though, and absorbed it like it was nothing (and even as small as Takekaze is, I guarantee that slap would just about knock any of one of us out cold), backing away and taking Takekaze down in the process.

Tamanoshima and Kasugao hammered each other at tachi-ai, making me realize that I hadn't seen one henka yet today. Kasugao got low and pushed up, but Tama countered that nicely by leaning forward, which in turn made the E5 go for a couple of half-assed leg trips. Tama now boomed the big boy back to the bales, but Kasugao isn't known as the Korean Kotenage King for nothing, and he flung the E6 around and down in desperation, but the gyoji's gumbai said goodbye to the good guy and Tamanoshima picked up the win.

September debutante Goeido had a great match vs Wile E. Veteran Tochinonada. After the charge Tochi tried for the inside left but couldn't grab it, and Goeido countered by going for his own, but Tochi was ready and pulled a left underarm throw that sent Goeido off balance before he could finish the move. He recovered to get a left front grip and here I started writing Tochi's obituary. Shows you what I know as the W7 escaped at the edge, causing Goeido to try one of those quick belt pull me/push me moves, but Tochi is way too experienced to literally fall for that. Then Tochi got the sophomore backed up to the edge where the youngster pulled off his own escape (it was at this point I realized I was watching the best bout of the day). So here they were back in the center where Goeido got a firm two-handed belt grip just under Tochi's navel. This might look like a strong position, but when you're hands are too close together your leverage is minimal and your balance is poor (which is why bench pressers keep their hands far apart when lifting). It's the arms equivalent of not having a wide enough stance, and Tochi smartly used the advantage to move to his right and push the off balance Goeido back and out.

Takamisakari slapped away from Tamakasuga at tachi-ai, fresh!, opening up that space he likes in order to get the grab he wants. Instead Tamakasuga got the belt and took Circus to the edge, but the W8 is an accomplished escape artist and was able to move around behind the sumo senior citizen and shove him out.

Is this perhaps the basho where Hokutoriki goes on a rampage, whooping everyone until a Day 15 revenge matchup with Hakuho, who famously henka'd the E10 out of a yusho a few years back, causing the Jokester to fall into a tie with Asa and into a playoff he would lose decisively? No, it isn't, but he sure didn't show Futenoh any love today, placing his stout pipes squarely on the W9's throat and driving out Miss Daisy lickety split (is it just me or does that phrase titillate a bit?) Perhaps the head clanging tachi-ai left Fruitenoh dazed and confused (no I'm not embedding Led Zeppelin tunes into my report, like a certain beloved someone used to do with Devo and Elvis Costello).

Tosanoumi and Yoshikaze had a real head cracking tachi-ai and it straightened the veteran up, but he moved forward to Yoshi's side of the dohyo looking for blood. But the W10 is one of the slickest guys in Makuuchi and was able to slide around to the back of his foe. Now the starting position was reversed and Yoshi just shoved out the off balance E11 for the victory.

The all-European festivities continued with Kokkai taking on Roho. Usually Kokkai doesn't have the style to beat people in the close clinch, but this time he got a two-handed hold of Rohoid right away and denied any attempt at escape and simply bulldogged the E12 out of the circled circle. Kokkai definitely has the chops on the side of his face, and if he has the chops in his sumo as well, we could be looking at a double digit basho. Been a long time but he's done it before.

Wakanoho locked up with Henkarozan, both men grabbing two handed belt grips and settling in for the long haul. There was very little initiating attack by either man, and as time crushed slowly onward, I dialed up to Mike's suite to see if I could borrow his Foxtrot cd but he was singing karaoke in the bar so I went back to the bout and the two Russians were still dirty dancing so I translated 2/3rds of the U.S. constitution into Swahili and then Mike rang saying he'd be right down with the cd but he fell down in the elevator and banged up his patella pretty badly so we took him to the hotel infirmary and got him bandaged up and when I got back to my room Hakurozan was executing a maki-kae but Wakanoho locked down on the arms and leaned well forward and shoved him out.

Two little gents went at it with M 14s Kakizoe and Kaiho. It would have been nice to see a longer bout, but it was a straight up shoving battle that the younger and hunger Kakizoe won quickly and with ease.

Newcomer Wakakirin was moving to the left at tachi-ai vs. Tochiozan, but the E15 didn't help matters by capitulating to the thrusting as if he was facing Chiyotaikai and not a rookie. I have to say I have the same misgivings about Tochi as Mike outlined in his pre-basho report. He seems to have what it takes, but wouldn't be surprised if he never pans out to a sanyaku regular.

Finally (or firstly), everybody's favorite biomass Baruto returned to the top division and Kasuganishiki must have been thrilled that he was chosen to say "o-kaeri" on shonichi. The hapless W16 was wrapped up quicker than a Nipponese Christmas party and given the designation, First of Baruto's Thirteen Victims in November. Wonder how it feels to get hugged by a hillside?

Day 2 has some interesting bouts on tap, not the least of which is Miyabi/Kaio, and Kise/Mitsuki ought to be great. Homasho beats Hakuho and I'll move to Estonia and become a rocket scientist. Kyushu Kenji will be taking a few hours off from training for the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov. 18 to give you the skinny. I shall return on Day 6. Be well.


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