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Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
My mother told me something when I was a young lad, wisdom that has seen me through the years, through all the battles and the ups and the downs and the ins and the outs. Whenever I have been in doubt about who or what I am, I have had only to recall her words and my sight would clear, my throat would relax, and once again I could put aside my fears to drink deep from the well of experience and quench my thirst for life.

(And if you think Im going to tell any of YOU what she said youre more pathetic than the crowds in Fukuoka!)

As Mike delineated yesterday, I do indeed have a yusho race to report on for Day 15. And since I had to sit through the buildup, I think you should sit through it with me here in the report.

Okinoumi beat some guy from Juryo, getting his winning record (KK) and leaving the loser, some Hutt named Pimple Puss, in a FOUR WAY tie for the Juryo final results. Dude lost the yusho in the playoff finale to Kaisei, whose name in Chinese characters (kanji) starts with the same "Kai" as our dearly beloved Kaio (and, for what its worth, as my son Kai.)

In the first all-Makuuchi tussle, Toyozakura fended off the hard charging hombre Tochinonada, twisting into a balancing act at the edge and letting the veteran run by, and giving us one of the more outlandish poses this basho, a kind of "I just threw the discus for a new world record" pose. Very cool.

Kasugao lured Bushuyama into his trap, retreating AS IF he sucks and has no game, then cleverly squirming out of harms way and letting Bushu bufu himself. Course, both of these guys are ancient in sumo years, so ease up, Clanc.

Goeido won his 12th from this low rank, as he should, by tripping down a pesky 9-5 Tosayutaka (one of my new fave guys). The Father used an annoying right hand on the back of the belt to distract Tosa U., and when the university man went to address that concern, future Triple Titaniumshiny Yokozuna for Life and Beyond the Grave Goeido (Mike here--sorry about that, seems Martin, hospitalized with gout, somehow managed to hack into Clancys report in order to give his two cents about Goeido, and I have no idea how to remove it without destroying Clancys hard work) pulled him in tight with his left and got all judo on his ass.

Shotenro decided to fight Gagamaru straight up, foregoing any side maneuvering, and the result was he ended up looking for his teeth six blocks up on queer street. Gaga the Hutt wins out in the final third of the basho for a sweet 9-6, while Big Shot fell to the same record after a 5-0 start. Sour.

Miyabiyama pushed and pushed and pushed and then slapped the top of the pate and Shimotoori got done, innit (Martin, CUT THAT OUT!). Unlike the other two of the triumvirate of gamblers who moseyed back into Makuuchi, Flobby failed to impress with a 9-6. Then again hes six years older than Toyonoshima, and nine! older than Goeido, so perhaps it is to be expected.

Tokitenku, already secure with his winning record (KK) dialed it in versus Kimurayama, who got his MK on Day 12. After recovering from a henka by Kim, Tokidoki seemed to be on even terms, but then he tried a face slap and the W7 laughed, said, Sheeeeot, my oyakata hits me twice as hard as that!, came in, and kicked his ass out. The thing about hari-te face slaps is IF they work at all its generally as a surprise move at tachi-ai, and then only to set up inside penetration (minds out of the gutter, folks). These guys are far too tough to be put off by a lil sissy slap in the heat of battle, even if it is coming from another triple digit kilo giant and aimed right at ones kisser, and it normally has the effect of letting the foe inside ones defenses (the same way they fail when employed at tachi-ai).

Kotokasuga used a double inside moro-zashi to take Koryu back, and when the KK M15 resisted, twist him down.

With both men having clinched their KK, Kyokutenho and Tokusegawa gave the crowd their moneys worth, hooking up in a classic chest to chest belt battle, with both tall and powerful men trying to lift and swing the other out and countering with pivot moves. Not much more to it than that, and the Chauffer finally won the dance by getting the last swing out.

Sokokurai pulled one of those no touch henkas, and Kokkai was easy pickings even after he turned and recovered. Ugly sumo to finish the first half.

More of the same to open the second as Kitataiki henkad Wakanosato, but in this bout Wakanosato was able to get back into the match and had a chance to win, but Kitataiki used some nice inside moves, left and right, to drop the Croc. This was the kind of bout where, if you can forgive the tachi-ai, its fun to watch. But I cant, and it wasnt.

Yoshikaze was coming in 7-7, and Asasekiryu had his MK, but it didnt look like Sexy was in the giving mood (unless that gift was a beatin) as he chased a slightly retreating Starbuck from the tachi-ai, then got him spinning around a bit. The boys ended up in a open stance, with both men trying to yank the other down with one hand on the back of the others belt, Sexy even using his injured leg some to sniff for a trip. Finally Café reached up and jammed his meaty hand into the Takasago mans throat, like he was choking his little brother, and inexorably throttled him to the clay. I am not kidding, it looked kinda like a murder.

Our second matchup of 7-7 rikishi had Homasho taking on Aminishiki. Homasho was on him like stink on natto, but as Bedroll was driven back he was perpendicular to Homeboy, not parallel, and there lies the rub. Once he reached the edge, he simply turned away from the action, gave a tug on Homashos arm, and down he went.

Kotoshogiku did what he does, letting his foe come in close, then bellyhopping him back and out. Always a fun style to watch. Its a shame that the Sadogatake man cant do it more often. Both men finished 9-6, which means Komusubi at least for the Geeku (tho with both Sekiwake going MK, he could conceivably leapfrog Komusubi from M1 to Sekiwake, where Kisenosato will mosdef land).

Speaking of The Kid, who, sitting at 10-4 with a kin-boshi and a guaranteed Sekiwake spot, and in no way going to impede a playoff, chose to get an ARM inside and let the hand do nothing, allowing Toyonoshima to push him off. The M1 circled around and came forward, pushing at Tugboat like my 5 year-old daughter pushes at me when I wont give her ice cream. Now, with Tug on the ropes, Kid sort of zombies forward with his right arm, and Toyonoshima, with his darling wife-to-be and his father, Chicklet-san, looking on (and NHK providing superior televised drama for the audience at home with close-ups) twists him while lifting up with a leg to the groin. A ballsy win paving the way for another playoff (we also had one in Makushita, meaning the top three divisions all had playoffs--ooh, how riveting!) IF upstart Hakuho could beat the mighty Kotooshu.

People can look at this kind of largesse as either "good for the sport" or "utter shit," and while for many years I was the former, recently Ive become the latter. It wasnt always a given that a rikishi in his position would roll like Kise did today, but the Sumos are in trouble public perception wise (maybe youve heard?) and so this one was as predictable as Mike making whoopee on his birthday.

Tochinoshine then beat Henkuba, followed by Takekaze simply demanding his sixth win by letting Aran slip to the dirt.

So now to a bout that had implications, as 7-7 Kakuryu was trying to keep his Sekiwake rank while Tochiohzan at 6-8 was trying to keep it respectable. There were no hijinks in this bout as Kak fired away hard, got driven back a bit, and when he came forward perhaps a bit too eagerly with some hard swiping counters. Reacting nicely, Oh Snap deftly waxed off an arm and the Kak dropped to he surface of the dohyo. Very symmetrical here as one Sekiwake beats the other on the final day to drop both men to Komusubi for the next basho.

Company man Baruto threw one final bout Kaios way to send the crowd home happy by getting his huge left paw RIGHT ON the Fauxzekis belt, then passing on the silly notion of actually curling the fingers to grab the fucking thing. A final dive into Kaios phantom armlock twisting throw and voila! Its really beneath me to address at any length the obviousness of sumos similarity to professional wrestling, so Ill leave it at this: At least I could envision shagging the women in attendance at sumo.

In the final regulation bout, sad sack Kotooshu just stepped up and said, Take me! A pathetically quick twist down win for Hakuho. While the Ozeki was not trying AT ALL, at least here we can say, with near 100% certainty, that it would not matter even if he DID, because hes that far below Hakuho in sumo skill.

So now the playoff, and did Toyonoshima ever have a chance? Not really. He kept the Yokozuna at bay for the first few seconds and then (stupidly, in my opinion) hugged onto Hakuhos left arm. Kublai, showing the fancy footwork that made him a two-time Golden Gloves champion from Chicagos South Side, did a shimmy shuffle that got him to Tugboats side and then his behind. The W9, fearing he was about to get uwatenaged if he turned into the Yokozuna, turned away, and no one, I mean NO ONE turns his back on Hakuho. Now in the loving married couple spoon position, the only suspense was how badly was the Yokozuna going to slam the man down. He was gentle (and the ghost of Asashoryu was heard howling) and just like that, the year was over. Hakuho lost only FOUR bouts for the second year in a row to equal his record (awesome or sad, depending on how you look at it). Pop Quiz: Can you name the four men he lost to without looking it up? I can name three, and if HowDo is one, I can name all four. More challenging: Can you name all four since Hatsu 2009?

So, now for your homework. Find out why Mark Arbo and Martin Matra are M.I.A, then write an 18 word essay on why it even matters. Enjoy your winter and summer solstice festivities and well see you back here in January for another fortnight of fun and frolic!

Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Martin was scheduled to report today but had a family emergency pop up, and since I didn't read his email until late, the day 14 comments will be very abridged. Still, with Clancy coming in to close this thing out tomorrow, I will play setup man and briefly talk about something we haven't had in sumo for a very long time...a yusho race. Heading into the day, NHK's leaderboard consisted of Ozeki Kaio, Ozeki Baruto, a red-hot Toyonoshima fighting from the M9 rank, and of course Yokozuna Hakuho. The two Ozeki were saddled with two losses apiece coming in with Toyonoshima and Hakuho sitting pretty at just one loss. Since these four rikishi were paired together on day 14, let's get right to those two bouts.

First up was M9 Toyonoshima paired against Ozeki Kaio. Everyone knows my feelings on Kaio this basho, and today's bout was manifest of how unrealistic Kaio's 11-2 record coming in really was. Toyonoshima stormed into the moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai taking advantage of the Slow-zeki, and after wrestling Kaio back a few steps, Toyonoshima easily survived Kaio's best effort at a counter attack that consisted of a left kote-nage attempt before easily dumping the Ozeki to the dirt with a right scoop throw. After Kaio's hand hit the dirt, Toyonoshima slapped at the Ozeki's shoulder drawing the kata-sukashi kimari-te, but the winning technique was sukui-nage all the way.

Kaio was never in this bout to begin with, so you have to ask yourself how does an 11-2 Ozeki get worked to this extent by someone ranked M9? A legitimate 11-2 Ozeki doesn't, but this is beating a dead horse. The highlight of the bout was when they showed Toyonoshima's father sitting in the crowed with a baby on his lap. Toyonoshima's definitely a chip off the old man's block (just imagine Toyonoshima with no hair), and after the M9 won, his pop treated the cameras to a huge grin that was missing at least three teeth. A tofuya-san (dude who makes tofu) from Kochi-ken missing three chicklets? Now THAT's legitimate. Good stuff all around from the Toyonoshima clan as the M9 moves to 13-1 while Kaio falls to 11-3 and out of the yusho race altogether. Just one more comment on Kaio before we move on. It could be that his recorded was padded this basho to give him won last hurrah before his retirement. I strongly recommend the Ozeki to hang it up right here. Go out with a bang in front of the hometown fans to give everyone that feelgood feeling. While I haven't bought any of this run in Kyushu, the sheep in attendance will.

Let's fast forward to the day's final bout that likewise featured an 11-2 rikishi in Baruto going up against the 12-1 Hakuho. I talked about Baruto getting his lone career yusho and how it looked as if things were setting up for him in Kyushu, but after getting his ass kicked by Toyonoshima a few days ago, all bets were off. There was no way that Hakuho was going to cheapen the yusho by losing today and then lose to Baruto again in a playoff. Baruto failed to take care of his bidness this basho, so his yusho will have to wait for another day. I will say least Baruto didn't henka this basho in order to setup a token yusho as Kotooshu and Harumafuji did in the past.

Anyway, if you scoff and my very suggestion that Hakuho could choose to win or lose his match against Baruto, you didn't see their bout today. The Yokozuna forced the bout to migi-yotsu easily winning the tachi-ai, and before Baruto could really dig in with a position of his own, Hakuho began to force him back with belly thrusts (gaburi-yori) that were so potent, the Estonian had no room to counter. Baruto actually did execute a maki-kae with the left arm at the tawara, but Hakuho's force-out charge was too decisive rendering the maki-kae useless. While Baruto was allowed to stay atop the dohyo, he was dominated today in every way possible. Bart's tachi-ai was slow, his legs were non-existent, and he had zero options available when it came to counter sumo. That Baruto has managed to stand at 11-3 at this point in his current position is an indication of how awful the competition around him has been. As for Hakuho, he skates to 13-1 and stays tied with Toyonoshima leaving those two as the only two who can now mathematically take the yusho heading into senshuraku.

And speaking of the basho's final day, here's how the yusho race sets up. Toyonoshima goes first, and he is paired against M1 Kisenosato, the most formidable opponent the Association could have paired him with. The key in that bout will be Toyonoshima's getting moro-zashi. If the Kid gets an arm on the inside from the tachi-ai, Toyonoshima will find himself in deep trouble, so that will be the key to that bout.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho welcomes Ozeki Kotooshu, and the key to that bout for the Yokozuna will be to simply show up.

Toyonoshima is veteran enough that I don't believe the nerves will get to him tomorrow. Of the two rikishi, Kisenosato has been the better rikishi this basho considering the competition, so it will all hinge on the tachi-ai and whether or not Toyonoshima can sufficiently get to the inside. With a Toyonoshima win over Kisenosato, the M9 guarantees at worst a playoff bout for the yusho.

With the yusho race covered, let's get to a few other bouts of interest on the day beginning with the penultimate bout featuring Ozeki Kotooshu against M6 Tokusegawa. The two hooked up in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Kotooshu was so upright that Tokusegawa simply brought his left arm from the outside in securing moro-zashi in the process. Normally, Kotooshu can at least counter with a firm outer grips when a dude has moro-zashi against him, but Tokusegawa is tall enough that he had the Ozeki standing straight upright with nary a pot to piss in, so Tokusegawa's planting with the right foot and bowling the Ozeki over to the dohyo with a right scoop throw two seconds in was all academic. This was a career win for Tokusegawa who picks up kachi-koshi in the process. As for Kotooshu, he falls to 8-6 and has been nonchalant the entire fortnight.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Sekiwake Kakuryu grabbed an early left belt grip against M4 Hakuba, and the key here was that Hakuba no longer had anywhere to run. The Kak just lowered his head and drove Hakuba back and across the tawara without argument moving to 7-7 in the process keeping kachi-koshi hopes alive. Hakuba has been useless this basho at 4-10.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan received a bit of relief today drawing M4 Takekaze, who just bounced off of the Sekiwake at the tachi-ai as if charging into a brick wall, and before Takekaze could mount any sort of escape, Tochiohzan was onto him pushing him down to the dirt via oshi-taoshi. Tochiohzan moves to 6-8 and looked great in this bout, but beating up on Takekaze is akin to being a one-eyed man in a blind man's kingdom. Takekaze falls to a respectable 5-9.

Preceding that bout, Komusubi Tochinoshin offered a dual kachi-age tachi-ai against M5 Yoshikaze that was so awkward, Yoshikaze simply had to back up a step or two letting Tochinoshin thrust himself completely off balance and to the dirt. The kimari-te was ruled hiki-otoshi, but this was more an instance of Tochinoshin doing his best Kokkai imitation. Must be a Georgian thing. Tochinoshin falls to 5-9 while Yoshikaze hasn't been decaffeinated yet at 7-7.

Bringing up the sanyaku rear fittingly was Komusubi Aran, who was bullied by M3 Homasho of all rikishi in a bout that saw Homie stand Aran upright with some sweet jabs to the Russian's jaw. Flustered, Aran immediately went for a two-handed pulldown and was rewarded with his 10th loss via an easy oshi-dashi win for Homasho, who keeps hope alive at 7-7.

In the Maegashira ranks, it's worth noting that M1 Kisenosato moved to 10-4 by outclassing M8 Tamawashi. Sekiwake Kisenosato is going to sound sweet in January. And not to be outdone, M14 Goeido implemented his bulldog attack against M11 Mokonami securing the inside position and dumpoing Moe to the clay with little fanfare. The win moves Goeido to 11-3, and what's most significant with the performances of Toyonoshima and Goeido this basho is that they will be ranked back where they belong on the Hatsu basho banzuke.

For the first time in a long time, Clancy will actually have a yusho race to talk about tomorrow.

Day 13 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
Isn't it the most pathetic act, when a writer writes about the act of writing? It happens a lot, I'm telling you, and derives -- of course -- from the (hopefully momentary) absence of inspiration beyond the most immediate sensory input (messy desk, empty page, pile of unpayed bills, and the mad howls of a syphilitic lover, if your decade is the 20s in Paris). If you read books (remember these?) and through that acquire an informed insight into the average scenario covered by literature, you must come to the conclusion that the world is almost solely populated by authors (together with detectives, innocently-sucked-into-the-plot-for-world-destruction Joe Ordinarys, and mental addicts, if you dig Dick). With a little bit of cunning, an author can keep writing about writers and get away with it. Ask Stephen King.

The reason why I am dragging you onto this meta-plane of thinking, where I -- the writer -- tell you about writers writing about writers, is naturally an apologetic one. I will write to you about writing, too. But don't worry. Only in the sense that I want to state that whenever I am scheduled to report here on Sumotalk, I'm anxiously waiting for the live stream of the bouts in order to get an initial, unfiltered impression of the day. Said anxiety is double-faced. It is positive in the sense that I hope for an exciting, special day, and negative, because of the fear that the sumo action may bore me to death.

Guess what, I drew the blank today, as day 13 turned out to rate somewhere between Yawn and Yuk on the Open Ended Scale of Sucking. And that's why I have minor symptoms of paralysis when I think about describing the bouts. So instead of getting drunk, moving to an isolated hotel and trying to murder my family, I rather stick to poking around the few that mattered.

What I'm really trying to say is that I'm lazy.

The first kachi-koshi of the day was handed out to Tokitenku who increasingly looks like an old woman in distress. Needless to say that he was responsible for a matta before the actual bout against Okinoumi, who, like all the returning ex-gamblers, did pretty well in the tournament. Like his counterpart, The New Japanese Hope: Small Islands EditionTM entered today's encounter in need of a single victory for securing the premature winning record. I don't know why exactly that is, but I noticed that many opponents try to attack Tokitenku with a nodo-wa, a push to the throat. Irritating as this technique might be if you are on the receiving end, it tends to leave the attacker pretty much open in case it fails. And didn't you see, but Tokitenku was gifted the double-inside grip, leaving Okinoumi with a severely depleted set of options. Hid did the kime outside lock on his aite's arms, but against an opponent with stamina (and Tenku has lots of that, if you'd like to recall his many >1 minute bouts), it could only shortly prevent the inevitable. Thus, the (former?) Mongolian moved forward and produced a surprising tsuri-dashi at the edge (i.e. he lifted Okinoumi straight off the dohyo and placed him on the other side of the threshold). Okinoumi has his next matchball against Tosayutaka.

Talking of whom: Neckless was scheduled to meet former Ozeki Miyabiyama (it's so silly to always mention his rank of a decade ago, isn't it?). In a similar scenario, both men brought seven wins along. What MYBY also brought was a big booboo on his hindpaw; a distressed old lady had kicked his shin the day before. If this had any impact on his footwork is something glaciologists are still trying to figure out. In any case, the Sheriff forced his brand of sumo onto his young foe, i.e. both men slowly moved around in circles, exchanging slaps and thrusts, always on the lookout for pulling opportunities. It reminded me of very small children fighting. At one point they just ran out of gas and, like lovers converting their heated passion from the eye-scratching variety into the lovemaking one, went for a last desperate push exchange before falling into an agitated embrace. Miyabiyama enjoyed a left uwate that he lost again and again, while Tosayutaka tried to figure out what to do with a right hand inside against his mountainous counterpart. Eventually, youth prevailed after MYBY failed to yori-kiri his highly flexible opponent over the tawara. The slick conversion of the pressure into an uwate-nage aimed towards the opposite direction almost sealed Neckless' fate, but his balance simply made the difference when matched against the old one's slowness. The yori-kiri win awarded Tosayutaka with a kachi-koshi on day 13.

If you are like me and know of Wakanosato's glory days mainly from thumbing through statistics, I strongly recommend to review today's bout against Homasho. You may catch a glimpse of what must have been his regular demeanor when he basically owned a Sekiwake slot. Of course Homasho cannot be compared to the members of the cannibalistic jo'ijin in the days of Croc's prime. Nevertheless, for the odd fan of the old man, it must have been a pleasure to see his purposeful tachi-ai, the force with which he demanded his position, and the perseverance of his forward moving sumo against a defensively minded opponent of advantageous built. To credit Homasho: He didn't make it easy for his counterpart. Instead, Wakanosato had to work hard to compensate for his initial inability to fortify his stance with a right uwate. Therefore, most of the action took place in a curious hidari-yotsu with almost no gripping on the mawashi. Playing his powerful trump named experience, Wakanosato masterfully used his right hand to swiftly alternate between trying to complete the grip and pulling Homasho's armpit upward. In the end, this was enough to set up the potential yori-kiri win. Homasho resisted successfully at the tawara, but Wakanosato demonstrated what Miyabiyama had failed to complete earlier in his bout: The powerful thrust down aimed towards the middle of the dohyo. At seven losses, Homasho will probably miss out on sanyaku promotion once again. Let's hope the Croc sticks around for another year or two.

Fast forwarding to the next banzuke's two Sekiwake, Kotoshogiku disposed of the clearly overranked Asasekiryu via his trademark belly humping style for the crucial eighth win. The Geek has a surprisingly good tournament and somehow managed to break the cycle of alternating good/bad performances. Probably he hated Kotomitsuki and is now relieved. The other next Sekiwake is Kisenosato, who had an easy day at the office against the walking minefield Aminishiki. Today, Shneaky went for the full charge, but the Kid cleverly absorbed the tachi-ai, retreated only a little and then perfectly timed the shift in stance to give way for his overcommited opponent. Olé. After Tochiohzan's coming out and Japan being currently short of beacons, the LED-Flashlight of Hope passes back to the Kid. He truly deserves his shukun-sho. Maybe they also give him the kanto-sho, if Goeido fails to bring home the 12.

The gino-sho, on the other hand, is already addressed to Toyonoshima (who is also a likely candidate for the kanto-sho, if Goeido fails to please). He certainly earned a technique price today by perfectly applying the tools of short man's sumo. After he read Kakuryu's half-arsed shift to the right, he immediately demanded the inside position. He didn't attack the mawashi, though, but instead supported his powerful forward momentum with hazu-oshi, the upward push at Kakuryu's armpit. This was executed so perfectly, that the Mongolian was lifted up after fractions of a second, for what was called yori-kiri but probably was an oshi-dashi. Toyonoshima is in the zone now. They are giving him Kaio on day 14, but he can win that, because there will be nothing for sale in that constellation. It will be interesting to see if the torikumi makers will place him against Hakuho on senshuraku, even though I doubt it. I see Toyonoshima's yusho chances at an unprecedented 10% now.

One of the good things about Baruto is that he rarely ends up in losing streaks. Sure, he will be angry about his loss against Homasho, sure he was in the driver's seat against Toyonoshima the previous day before he somehow managed to misjudge the length of his own right leg. But he doesn't let such things eat into his mind. In other words, he is nowhere as unhealthily self-conscious as today's opponent Kotooshu. The Bulgarian, having reached his eight already, but clearly out of the yusho race since day 3 or so, is on a charity mission. He builds up credit for future kadoban prevention or another shot at the yusho. How can I say something like that? Well, I saw yesterday's bout against Kakuryu and today's against the Estonian. Both were, if not gifts, at least enriched with splendid absent-mindedness. Baruto instantly gained a left outside grip at the front of Kotooshu's mawashi, a highly unlikely event, since it needed Kotooshu to totally refuse to use his right arm for anything useful whatsoever. Being suchwise emasculated, Yoghurt couldn't possibly hold up against the throw that came after, what?, one second. But it's cool. Baruto still has a chance at the yusho, although it is marginal, maybe 5%. At any rate, this was his first worthy Ozeki basho. He won't retire without having lifted the Emperor's Cup.

And then Kaio against Hakuho. You know, for reasons that may or may not be disclosed to you soon, I thumbed through Mike's old blog entries. There is one from Haru 2006 called "Mike cries yaocho on senshuraku" and -- among other things -- features a bout that Hakuho purposefully lost to Kaio. Read it, it's interesting. Anyway, I think Hakuho brought the following mental setup to today's bout: "If he can manage to pull something credible by himself, I will give him the opportunity." At least this is how the bout looked to me. Otherwise, I'd have difficulties to explain why the Yokozuna settled for a softish tachi-ai (did he think Kaio would henka?), and allowed the Ozeki a right shitate after almost firing him into the audience with his first couple of thrusts. Really, watch it again. Hakuho consciously steps on the break. The migi-yotsu stance was his gift to the old man. And if Kaio would have been able to pull something off that would have allowed Hakuho to keep his face, he would have let it happen. But Kaio was overextended and he just doesn't have the tools anymore against the Yokozuna's caliber (Kaio's Hatsu win was the archetypical fluke). As soon as Hakuho realized that Kaio would die in his arms tonight before doing anything on the dohyo, he escorted him to the door, no sweat.

Kaio had the most unlikely of tournaments. I don't know the players, I don't know the plot, but it was partly staged. Let's hope for the remains of his reputation that it will coincide with his parting stage.

Tomorrow, Major Matra will fill you in on the details. After raiding your fridge.

Day 12 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
I'm really starting to believe in the unlikely feel good story unfolding in Kyushu this basho. I think the Kyushu fans will as well as long as their hometown hero can pull off another win today, and the big one tomorrow. But let's take it one day at a time for the old timer.

Before we get to Kaio, let's review how some of the rank-and-file noise makers faired on day 12. Let's see, of the two rikishi going for win number 9, Goeido showed his belt grappling skill to successfully improve to 9-3. In a separate bout, Shotenro's foot slipped while trying to display his tsuppari skill and thus dropped to 8-3.

Four rikishi were trying to secure majority win campaigns today, and only one was successful. Miyabiyama got kicked in the shin and limped home, Tokusegawa fell for a shifty slide maneuver and never regained form, and Kyokutenho also dropped his bid to win number 8. It was only Tamawashi who improved to 8-3 in excuse-me fashion by being the beneficiary of the aforementioned Shotenro's goofy trip up. Oh well, a win is win. I'm sure Tamawashi will gladly take the promotion.

Speaking of goofy looking, Kotooshu looked initially like he would charge forward toward his 7th straight victory after stumbling to a 2-3 start. But at the tawara Kakuryu deftly shifted left, leaving nothing but air in front of Oshu. The disappearing act left Oshu going from 'in the driver's seat' to into the second row seats, dropping to 8-4 while Kakuryu evened his record at 6-6.

Now back to Kaio. The old fart continues to surprise, impress, delight, whatever you'd like to call it. It doesn't matter, he's posting W's and the crowd loves it. Today it was part his own skill and part Hakuba's bonehead move to shift right that led to the win for Kaio. By shifting right, Hakuba's essentially gave Kaio an open invitation to lock in on his left side. I'm not a rocket scientist, but if I were a small, defensive style rikishi with inferior strength than my opponent, I wouldn't expose the one part of my body (left hip) as open prey to Kaio's renowned strength (right uwate). Can you guess the result? Why a convincing yori-kiri win of course, one that we must not get too excited about since Hakuba pretty much handed it over on a silver platter. But at any rate, did I say a W is a W?

Actually today's feature bout was the clash of two 10-1 rikishi in giant Baruto and giant killer Toyonoshima. Baruto gave Toyo a friendly hari-te greeting to start things off, after which Toyo snuggled low beneath the behemoth's chin. Baruto had the right outside grip but looked uncomfortable not being able to stand up Toyo more. After a significant pause in this position, Baruto finally said to heck with it and charged forward. It looked like he was succeeding as Toyo was back pedaling and on his heels now. However, Baruto's right foot forgot to go with the rest of his body and his knee crashed down on the clay right before it looked like Toyo would break the rope. Close but no cigar for the Ozeki as he drops a critical one to go 10-2 while Toyonoshima is sneaking into the Yusho race at 11-1.

In the finale, Hakuho also delivered a right hari-te to start things off with Tochiohzan. It was not effective. In fact it helped Tochi get inside, and he almost bulldozed Hakuho right out of the ring in 2 seconds. Luckily Haku had his left arm hooked and used it as leverage to unleash a kote-nage (hook throw) to turn the tables just in time to pull out the win. It all happened in less than 3 seconds, but you could sense a collective gasp as it looked for a moment like the great Yokozuna might drop his second bout of the tournament. Instead, he stays even with Toyonoshima and Kaio at 11-1. Tochiohzan is 4-8 and will have to start another Ozeki campaign from scratch in 2011.

Well folks, tomorrow it's Kaio vs. Hakuho, both standing atop the leader board at 11-1. In Kyushu. Do you think that will put some more butts in the seats? If not, I would be willing to bet day 14 will be a different story should Kaio pull off the unthinkable. Sumo so needs a positive storyline and we've found one. Let's enjoy it.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I really can't recall the last time we had four rikishi tied for the yusho this late in the basho, but it's hard for me to take all of it seriously since one of those rikishi is Ozeki Kaio. When Hakuho's win streak was interrupted on day 2, it really took the excitement out of the basho, and the empty seats the days following that loss were a good indication of that disappointment. The basho was really heading towards disaster status, but I agree with Andreas that the only possible way to keep the fans interested and coming out to the sumos is to make Kaio look as good as possible. Not all of Kaio's bouts have been fixed (I'd say about half have been), so he has had to do some of the work on his own, but you look at the rikishi the Association is feeding him, and it's clear everyone wants this win streak to go on as long as possible. Well, everyone except me because after today's fiasco, I nearly slit my wrists it was so bad.

As long as we're on the subject, we may as well start with co-leader, Ozeki Kaio, who was paired up with none other than M4 Takekaze who faded right at the tachi-ai using slaps at Kaio's face to cause him to duck. At this point, Takekaze went for that instinctive pulldown that threw Kaio off balance whereupon he used a brilliant ottsuke push at Kaio's side with the left hand while bear hugging Kaio's right arm with the rest of his body. The result was a Kaio turned around 180 degrees and a clear path for Takekaze to score the okuri-dashi win. But it must have been at this point when Takekaze regained his wits and thought, "holy shit, what have I done?!" because he promptly committed on a forearm push-out...from the center of the ring. Of course his stubby arms weren't nearly long enough, so Takekaze crashed to the clay while Kaio oblivious to anything that was going on turned back around just in trip over the heap that was Takekaze lying in the sand.

This was so embarrassing that even Tiger Woods flinched. The fact that Kaio won the bout yet had no idea where his opponent even was is the first red flag. Even the response from the Fukuoka faithful in attendance was tepid at best. Then of course you have the NHK announcers trying to make up explanations of what just happened. All in all, it is so awkward that Kaio is allowed to continue like this, and I think it's actually hurting sumo more than it helps. Nevertheless, the Ozeki is a proud mary 10-1 ill-gotten or not. Takekaze falls to 4-7, but at least he has lunch money for tomorrow.

With Kaio out of the way, let's dip down to the Maegashira ranks where co-leader coming in, M9 Toyonoshima, looked to set the pace for the others today. Against M16 Okinoumi, Toyonoshima forced the bout quickly to hidari-yotsu, but Okinoumi responded with a quick kote-nage throw with the right arm that sent Toyonoshima dancing around the edge of the dohyo, and in the process, experience won out as Toyonoshima was able to pull Okinoumi down by the shoulder while the youngster tried to push at Toyonoshima's leg. Couple points after this bout that saw Toyonoshima guarantee himself a share of the lead at 10-1. First, a true yusho candidate does not win like this (retreating) against an M16 rikishi. Second, props to Okinoumi for making Toyonoshima work. I've actually enjoyed watching Okinoumi fight this tournament, and this is probably the first basho where I've been able to say that. Kid's 6-5 if you need him.

Let's scoot back up to the Ozeki ranks where Baruto looked to keep pace with the previous two winners as he invited M5 Yoshikaze to dance. I have no choice but to go green with this bout because the Estonian forced the bout to hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai and had Yoshikaze backed up and out faster'n he could grab a right outer grip. Easy yori-kiri win for Baruto (10-1) here, who can pick up his first career yusho if Hakuho's in a giving mood. Having Harumafuji withdraw is huge now because the Hakuho-Baruto matchup now gets moved to day 14. Bart's just gotta take care of everyone else, and then the chances he topples Hakuho at the end are really big ifyaknowhadduhmean. Yoshikaze is a meaningless 5-6.

Which brings us to the final bout of the day featuring Yokozuna Hakuho vs. Sekiwake Kakuryu. The Yokozuna forced the action to migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai, and there wasn't anything the Kak could do from there as Hakuho reached into Kotoshogiku's bag of tricks and delivered a couple of humongous gaburi-yori belly shoves into the Kak's midsection sending him back in a flash. Hakuho breezes to 10-1, and I'm bit amused that some people think he's off of his game and vulnerable here. Trust me. He's in complete control of this thing, and there's nothing anyone else can do about it. The Kak has cooled down immensely at 5-6 after having been jettisoned so much the last week.

With that, let's pause here and review the leaderboard. The following four rikishi check in at the end of day 11 at 10-1:

Hakuho - Clear favorite, but I wouldn't put it past him to let Baruto get some love if the Estonian can take care of his other bidness

Baruto - The only other guy who even has a chance

Toyonoshima - Should be eliminated tomorrow after he faces Baruto, but he'll be content with a special prize

Kaio - A huge farce

Let's move on and comment on the rest of the Ozeki/Sanyaku ranks.

Ozeki Kotooshu survived Sekiwake Tochiohzan shading to his right at the tachi-ai whereupon he used a quick kote-nage throw to knock the Ozeki to the edge, but Tochiohzan, who I think was very complacent coming in believing all of the hype the media was publishing, failed to capitalize (sound familiar this basho?), so Kotooshu showed him whose Ozeki and used his left arm on the inside to pull his gal in close and escort her clear across the diameter of the dohyo for the yori-kiri win. Kotooshu clinches kachi-koshi with the win, but it's too little too late. Member that 2-3 start? As for Tochiohzan, he falls to 4-7 and will prolly carry the title Maegashira next basho.

Not to be outdone in the underachieving department, Komusubi Aran gave up the deep right inside position to M2 Asasekiryu, and Sexy added insult to injury burrowing his right shoulder up and into Aran's craw. The bout turned to a stalemate at this point where Aran attempted a couple of tsuri-dashi moves, but he just wasn't in position to execute them. Asasekiryu hung tough and took the bout to over a minute where he eventually frustrated the Russian to the point where Aran basically gave up. The yori-kiri win for Asasekiryu came straightway as he improves to 4-7 while Aran has managed to outsuck even Tochiohzan at 2-9.

In a compelling matchup, Komusubi Tochinoshin, who is fading faster than a pair of expensive jeans, welcomed M1 Kisenosato in a bout that saw both fellas hook up in the hidari-yotsu position, but the Kid has outfought all of the sanyaku rikishi this basho combined, so it was no surprise when he too reached into the dry-hump back and muscled No Shine across and outta the dohyo without argument. In the process, Kisenosato picks up kachi-koshi, secures at least the shukunsho, and seals the deal as the highest-ranking sanyaku rikishi to start twenty-eleven. Tochinoshin is an anemic 3-8.

Picking up his kachi-koshi in the Maegashira ranks was M14 Goeido in an ugly bout against M8 Tamawashi that saw Goeido set the pack with a quick pull attempt from the tachi-ai followed by a couple of pull attempts from The Mawashi that actually threw the Mongolian off balance enough to where Goeido struck for the quick oshi-dashi win and 8-3 record. It hasn't been pretty, but remember, Goeido had to sit out a few keiko sessions with a bad left knee. In Aki, I think it was a bad lower back bothering him, so when rikishi are dinged up like this, ugly sumo becomes the norm. Tamawashi is close at 7-4.

Along that injury line, let's examine M16 Shotenro who fired some tsuppari into M9 Kyokutenho's chest before felling him with that phantom two handed downward swipe at Kyokutenho's dickey-do. The win moves Shotenro to 8-3 securing his kachi-koshi, and there's plenty of days left to do further damage. You'll remember that of the few rikishi to have beaten Hakuho in the last 7 basho, Shotenro is one of them. This dude was a serious sanyaku contender but a serious knee injury has kept him down in the dumps for a year. Shotenro is making his comeback now, but the point is, injuries cause rikishi to do unsavory sumo for a spell, so don't be surprised at their resurgence. Tenho is 7-4, and for you newcomers wondering what a dickey-do is, it basically refers to a rikishi's gut since it sticks out farther than his dickey do.

In other bouts of interest, M3 Homasho continued to cool off with today's loss coming at the hands of M6 Tokusegawa, who ducked low at the charge to keep Homie away from the inside. As Homie backed away looking for another opening, he tripped over his own feet leaving standing on the tawara with his feet perfectly aligned. Tokusegawa wasn't gonna miss that target knocking Homasho to the dirt via oshi-taoshi. All wasn't well, however, because the bout was so unorthodox, that Tokusegawa actually tweaked his right ankle in the process. At 7-4, he somehow needs to eke out one more win. Homie is 6-5.

Finally, let's end with the first bout of the day that saw M15 Kasugao attempt a lame keta-guri to his left, but the move was slow, even M12 Takamisakari read it like a dirty magazine seizing the moro-zashi position and dumping the Kimchi Kid down and out via sukui-nage. Takamisakari is 6-5 while Kasugao is 2-9.

Kenji gives thanks tomorrow.

Day 10 Comments (Andreas Kungl reporting)
Considering the fact that world of sumo hasn't been hit by a major scandal for almost half a year now, we found ourselves in justified puzzlement about how to keep any interest beyond the purists', after realizing that the sumo action proper may recently have lacked a little bit in the suspense department. Consolation came in terms of Hakuho's fabulous streak. And after this was over, our surrogate excitement for a potential Ozrun by youngster Tochiohzan got stiffled mercilessly within days. What we are left with is the prospect of a possible surprise yusho by someone not named Hakuho. Such notions may keep the attention high for a while, but I am positively afraid that the Yokozuna's pending 14-1Y (without playoff), together with the travesty surrounding Kaio may tune the last note of sumo in 2010 to a solemn minor key.

Enter the action:

Stand by your allies
Kasugao is not my favorite wrestler. In fact, I hate him. All this shifting and shneaking paired with ineptitude makes me long for Hakuba bouts. Unfortunately, sometimes, rarely, he gets away with it. Passport Chinese Sokokurai, who seems to feel alright in lower Makuuchi at the moment, managed to gain the early advantage by securing double inside grips right from the start. The South-Korean responded by locking his counterpart's left arm with a nasty kime move, that was coincidentally his only option. He then proceeded to move Sokokurai backwards and used the momentum to convert the situation into a well executed kote-nage. If Kasugao could (prettyplease) stick to this kind of sumo, I wouldn't have to hate him so much. To this affront against an ally, North-Korea responded in the only reasonable way: by shooting artillery shells at their southern neighbors. This should be a lesson to us all.

The difference between Goofy and Regular
Wouldn't we all like to see Takamisakari being helped to stay in Makuuchi Kaio-style. Ah, the potential popularity drain! Thing is, even if people tried to lose to Robo, he would probably blow it. He is clearly no longer good enough for his defensive, counter-at-the-edge sumo. His offensive skills had diminished already years ago. This was splendidly exemplified in today's bout against the Handsome Islander. Okinoumi did not exactly dominate the tachi-ai. Instead, Takamisakari somehow reached a hidari-yotsu light, trying to produce an uwate-nage from the spot. With this failing, Okinoumi was left with some time to stabilize matters. Then came the curious part. Somehow the Clown thought it to be a brilliant idea to pull on his opponent's mawashi, instead of pushing, desperately seeking a position close to the edge. The intended throw failed and Okinoumi simply had to walk the strange one out. Takamisakari probably needs a map to find his locker room after the bouts.

A sealed fate frees your mind
An eight bout losing streak may seem psychologically challenging. On the other hand, it creates freedom of expression. Whatever you do, it still matters, but not really. Thought Bushuyama, when he took the liberty to not even try to grapple Koryu (whoever that is). Instead, he did as promised to his tsukebito and delivered his best parody of stablemate Miyabiyama. A slowmo tsuppari exchange let to the downfall of whatsisname. With a little creativity, Bush could stick around, while the other guy simply must be sucked back to Juryo, where he belongs.

Murray Johnson can be funny
What with him calling the shitate-hineri of Mokonami against Shotenro "a fish casting net throw". Shotenro's sumo has deteriorated since his injury. Mokonami is really a decent grappler. Both will stick around.

At the Mountains of Slowness
How could a bout between Gagamaru and Miyabiyama possibly unfold? Right you are! After the inevitable and inevitably slow exchange of tsuppari, one of the two fell on his face. It happened to be the youngster. The fact that the Sheriff is huffing and puffing this low in the division shows that the scissors are nigh.

Executed as promised
A bout that should usually take place in upper Makuuchi or even the jo'i ranks saw Goeido take on Kyokutenho. The potential quality both men represent promised to unveil itself in an interesting bout, which -- surprisingly -- happened. Goeido showed more awareness at the tachi-ai, managing to get an advantageous low position with a right hand mae-mitsu that was quickly followed by a deep, firm left hand inside to complete the moro-zashi. Kyokutenho, being a veteran and tall, responded in the only conceivable way: Using the kime technique to lock his aite’s arms from the outside while moving forward with no time to lose. But Goeido is not Sokokurai, so keeping his balance, the youngster performed an excellent 180 at the edge, setting the former Mongolian up for the force-out. At this point, Kyokutenho's defensive skills sparkled, as he almost managed to pull the emergency kote-nage, with which he had felled so many opponents in his long career. Goeido, though, for once kept his cool and fell to the ground a fraction of a second after his counterpart stepped out. Good to see that there still is some sumo going on at times. Both men stand at seven wins and will move up on the banzuke, where they surely belong.

Tenku...Tenku don't you lose my number...
He had Tawawashi's number all the time and never called. Then his notorious timing problem. He even tried the bitch slap, and fooled around with some foot play. Understandably, Tamawashi took the right decision and dumped the jerk after taking advice from a mutual friend.

Here to be a catchy headline for a two-second bout
In which Kotokasuga shoulderblasted Tochinonada, whose only contribution to the clash was a half-arsed pulling attempt before stepping out. Another generation of dinosaurs is on the brink of extinction.

Ex-P.F.C. Seablack digs himself a hole
A dohyo can really, really be an annoying entity. It can be too small, or too round or too slippery, you name it. Go talk to Kokkai, who knows everything about projecting personal anger towards inanimate subjects for blame. So he stood there, fists buried in his hips, visibly upset, almost failing to produce the courtesy nod for his opponent, epitomizing all the wonderful traits, the Japanese simply must love with their pet-whities. When he left the hall steaming like a nag and nagging like a hag, he still kept wondering how he could have lost to Tosayutaka while moving forward, literally falling for the third kote-nage situation of the day.

When Mr. T met Mr. T (lame, I know...)
After his stellar Juryo yusho in Aki, Toyonoshima carried his momentum back to Makuuchi and entered day 10 as one of the several wrestlers with only one black blob on his record. His meeting with Tokusegawa promised to be a juicy affair, since the Mongolian, despite his advanced age, was one of the rising stars of the past year. The ensuing bout turned out to be dynamic, with a lot of attempts by the ex-gambler to shift to a lethal lateral position, always on the lookout for push-pull-combos. In the end, everything went too quick for Tokusegawa, who eventually failed to perform a mid-dohyo kubi-nage just before losing his footing in what was called shitate-nage, even though it looked like two men falling down on each other. Toyonoshima's size calls for unconventional moves, so I gladly forgive him any pulling action. Sanyaku is waiting for him, something that is also not completely out of the question for his counterpart in the nearer future.

Angry gods smite the Croc
Shimotori is a strange fellow, careerwise. While others might be outclassed in Makuuchi straight away and others quickly decline after having a couple of successful years, he somehow managed the steep rise followed by a quick decline, only to slowly rise again to a level that keeps him safe in mid to lower Makuuchi ranks for quite some time now. He doesn't seem to be going anywhere at all, managing six to nine wins regardless. Wakanosato, on the other hand, keeps spiralling down from the great heights he used to roam freely. As of Kyushu 2010, both men meet on just about the same level. The Croc had the slight advantage from the tachi-ai, blasting low with a right hand inside, as he is wont to do. The compromised Shimotori resorted to a pull attempt that would have failed, if it hadn't been backed up by some delicate balancing on the tawara. The gyoji got it wrong, so the MIB made themselves useful by calling Shimotori the winner. Not pretty.

Since I reported -- against my principles -- on a Kasugao bout already, I'll skip Hakuba vs. Kimurayama, if it is OK with you. In German we'd call it Not gegen Elend.

Tatoos are so passé
Mused our kneecapped couple Aminishiki and Kitataiki and opted for matching bandages instead. It is my impression that Kitataiki somehow strayed from his successful strategy of annoying his opponents to death with his ultra-slow and casual preparations. For the last couple of days, he has been rushing things (still incredibly casual, though), and it didn't do him good. Today, he was trapped in the eternal dilemma of Aminishiki's opponents: Will he charge? Will he fade? It turned out to be full throttle, good enough for an oshi-dashi that included only pitiable evasive maneuvers by Kitataiki. Shneaky evens the ship at 5-5, while his opponent feels the pressure of jo'i (which is somehow inferior to feeling the joy of pressure).

Standing up = No cookie
Homasho totally failed to produce a Makuuchi-grade tachi-ai, but that's no news. Kotoshogiku, on the other hand, totally failed to lose his footing, so the thrust out win was only a matter of seconds. Will Homasho be able to win three of his last five to have a reasonable shot at sanyaku? I doubt it.

What we need is a little more aggression with attitude
Aran is a big bad fellow. Physically, he is Ozeki+ material. But he's a Westerner, which means he's mental, undisciplined and illiterate in proper basic sumo technique. Kisenosato is also a big bad fellow. Physically, he is also Ozeki+ material. But he's a new generation Japanese, which means he lacks the killer instinct. If only they could mate and breed. If only they could learn from each other. The bout developed quickly into a potentially brutal tsuppari affair, with Aran deliberately aiming to place the odd bitch slap. Kisenosato wouldn't have it and thoroughly thrust the Ossetian, who only had time to hint at his next move (pull, of course), off the doyho, sending along a good few seconds of angry stares. Aran was not making friends with his slaps today. Kisenosato is now one win away from a well-deserved shukun-sho. We live, we hope. Maybe he can replace Tochiohzan again as The New Japanese HopeTM. Aran will leave Sanyaku ranks and probably post 12 wins from M5 next basho.

Uwate-dashi-nage my ass!
As forumer Sebunshu pointed out, uwate-dashi-nage is the newest trendy name for the henka-pulldown-combo, so don't be fooled. Asasekiryu had managed to collect a win over the absent Harumafuji, scored in an ugly push down affair against Wakanosato and now overcame a somewhat naive Tochinoshin with a despicable henka farce. And that was it for the current basho. Made Redundant should be made to follow his master for such travesties. The Private can be an idiot at times.

Attention helps
Yusho candidate Baruto had to face what others would call an obstacle in tricky Mongolian Kakuryu. Maybe he had realized it himself, or maybe Mario's emphatic e-mails had come through, but the big Estonian seemed quite aware of the dangers of today's bout in relation to his unique chance for claiming the token yusho right here, right now in Kyushu 2010. In such a way, he not only saw the left shift/semi-henka coming, he also capitalized on it by securing the right uwate, rendering the Sekiwake's mirroring grip useless. From here, Baruto's losing chances were reduced to a potential blunder, which didn't happen. Instead, the Baltic Bombatron employed a skillful pirouette to set up the uwate-nage that terminated the bout in his favour. Baruto stays locked on target. He will and should curse the unnecessary loss against Homasho, of all people. At even score, Kakuryu is bound to stay Sekiwake, inching closer to a possible Ozrun of his own.

What's a double espresso if you can have a yoghurt?
Kotooshu didn't have any trouble with Yoshikaze, because the Maegashira forgot that he wouldn't have a chance in a straight up fight without any initiative of his own. Even without belts involved, the Bulgarian managed to bully his opponent out by sheer physical superiority alone. Why it was called yori-kiri is beyond me, by the way. Kotooshu has a boring fortnight at the office. Yoshikaze keeps his score even and could, with luck, attack his career high of M2.

Bears and fairy-tales
So are we watching a competitive sport or a ritualized merrymaking for the masses? Is it about cheering for superior skill and deserved success or craving the warm feeling generated by entertaining, suspenseful plot lines? How much WWF is in NSK? I was flirting with the idea of reviewing all Kaio bouts of the basho to offer an informed opinion about which ones I thought thrown and which ones I thought legit. I didn't do it then, just because it is too early. I will catch up on this, if the Oldzeki is still in the theoretical yusho race come Friday. Anyway, with the Hakuho streak history and the Tochiohzan Ozrun withered, the only real excitement of the basho (from average members of the crowd point of view) is generated by Kaio's unlikely run. Watching live, I thought that today's win against TWFKATNJPM2 (The Wrestler Formerly Known As The New Japanese Hope Mark II) was for real, but as I review the replay now, it is quite clear that -- after a smoke and mirror matta -- Ohzan doesn't do anything resembling a tachi-ai and simply waits for Kaio to pull him down. As I see it now, the script wants to see the Ozeki in the middle of attention still, even though I personally think that this is not a good idea, if you want to reestablish sumo as a clean sport. (Admittedly, the idea may be better, if it is about re-establishing sumo as a clean show.)

Nervous or angry?
If the Kaio bout was epitomizing what I dislike about sumo, Hakuho's clash with undersized Takekaze turned out to be an example of the opposite. Every since the Yokozuna got stopped dead in his tracks by Kisenosato, his style visibly changed. No more calm absorption of the charge, no stopping of the momentum using his opponents' flow against them. Instead we witnessed a shift to the erratic, angry even. Hakuho employed slaps and pulls and semi-henkas over the last couple of days. It may be a matter of anger-management, a result of rediscovered freedom, the joy of toying with danger, I cannot say. Maybe, maybe Hakuho simply started to reflect about things, now that the inner automaton had disappointed him after such a long time. In such a state, he had to face an overranked Maegashira who turned up in his energetic coat, realizing that his next chance at acquiring a kinboshi may come across only in his next life. This setup translated into an interesting bout, with many shifts and shoves, even resulting in a moro-zashi held by the rank-and-filer that had to be countered with a kime/kime-dashi by the troubled grandmaster. Not that Hakuho was in significant danger, but the general scrappiness of the bout combined with a slippery dohyo could have led to a different if unjust result.

I still see Hakuho take the yusho, but with his erratic style, he may defeat himself. Of the other candidates, Baruto seems to have the best chances, but let's not totally rule out a once-in-a-decade upset by a Maegashira on fire (Toyonoshima). Last but not least, a Kaio yusho (am I mad?!) may mean the end for the sumo viewing joy of many furry fans. But who would care in Japan, I muse.

I'll see you on Friday, in the meanwhile I pass the mic to Mike.

Day 9 Comments (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
So, week two has started, and this is where things are supposed to get interesting. So at the start of the basho we had Hakuho's streak that by now would have passed Futabayama's with a few wins already. Then Hakuho lost to Kissy, and everyone sold their tickets. Then Baruto managed to keep on going with a win advantage over Hakuho, so the seats started to fill again until Homasho kicked a dent in that plate. So what do we have now left to look forward to? The leader group is big at one loss with Hakuho, Baruto, Kaio(!!!!), Toyonoshima, and Kyokutenho. Of those there's of course lots of talk about Kaio, who seems to have decided to actually move forward, and if he adds a bit of envelopes he actually comes up with a decent record (with not so decent methods). The last two are still there, but it'll take a miracle for them to still be in the competition in the last few days.

So it's all down to Hakuho vs. Baruto, and here we have the usual situation that Baruto has to beat Hakuho in regulation himself. Something that I'm not so sure he'll do with his current motivation level. But at the same time Hakuho seems to have changed form his usual poised self to a more reckless and trying type, so who knows?  If Bart comes out guns blazing and doesn't give the Yokozuna a moment's pause, maybe he'll pull it off.  But that's still days away, and both have to get there first.

So let's start with the scraps first where Okidoki was given Bush as a possible streak ender. He's namely gone 4-0 to then drop to 4-4. Bush has somehow found one win in the past eight days and is heading for a sure make-koshi. However the match wasn't an easy one for Okidoki. He did get a decent belt grip right from the start, but Bush isn't easy to move around. So Bush resisted and tried beltless throws a number of times without success. At some point Bush even played with a belt grip but still to no avail. In the end Oki went for a shitate-nage committing to it fully and getting Bush finally off balance to one leg where he could make him jump out. A win and a stop to the losing streak as well as a make koshi for Bush, but not a pretty bout.

Takamisakari was surprised at the tachi-ai by a henka from Tochinonada, and even though Nada gained a quick inside position, it wasn't enough to get the clown out who wiggled past a nodowa to for an inside grip. Nada quickly tried a pushout while Robo wasn't on a solid footing yet, but the survivor at the tawara did it again pushing the action back to the center of the ring where he mounted a counterattack that saw Nada flying out backwards. A quick and dirty bout, but it ended with a happy Takamisakari who now has two consecutive wins, woohoo.

Next up, two Mongolians met of whom one features a Chinese passport. Sokokurai has been doing pretty good considering how young he still is in the top ranks. Today Tokitenku ran past Sokokurai, who met Tenku, but quickly angled past him grabbing an arm in the process.   He then used that arm to angle himself to the manlove position where Tokitenku tried to pull a Baruto and survive, but even though he survived the initial pushout attempt he didn't manage to resist the second as his move to turn around cost him the balance. A sneaky win, but not a full henka from the "Chinese".

Moe is one of my favorite newcomers, but after his injury he hasn't been able to really exert his sumo to the extent that he can win with beautiful sumo. Today he got a simple matchup against Kasugao, whom he met, pulled, pivoted and sent on running. That's all there was to it. No sneaking around, just manhandling the opponent. Kasugao is the second guy to get a koshi this basho. It's the make type.

Big shot used to look good, he's a Mongolian ffs so he's supposed to. But of the last few basho he's not been that sure a bet. That stint in Juryo wasn't a manhandling of his opposition, and when he came back in the top division he was so-so. This basho however he's doing decent coming in with six wins and meeting Tosayutaka who's been average in every sense of the word. Shotenro came out with a tsuppari attack that did move the yukata erm yutaka back a bit. Not getting the win immediately, he slightly panicked and went for a pull. Luckily for him Tosa didn't recover quickly enough to return the favor. The second tsuppari barrage from Shotenro that followed was effective and sent Tosayutaka out to get his yukata. One more win and Bigshot has secured his stay in the division.

Lady Gaga had a terrible start to the basho, but has found some gravity in the last few bouts. Today he hoped to gravitate towards Koryu. Looking at the preparation of the match, I noticed that Lady Gaga had actually gravitated enough to pull the local geishas to the scene who looked a bit creepy sitting there a full ten or so of them in identical clothing and their white faces... Ugh, let's get back to the bout just in time to see Gaga attack with a double nodowa to Koryu's throat that was so effective that Koryu essentially slid backwards and out only needing a slight push at the edge. Seems Gaga has found the key to anti-gravity, maybe I should consult with him.

So one of the leader matches finally. The NHK has been blowing up the success of Toyonoshima to the size of a football field claiming him to be an actual contender for the next rank and filer yusho since oh so long ago. Today, Toyo came to finish the basics and get his KK, but to get it he'd have to get past Guido. Goeido has been off his game lately where he didn't dominate Juryo in his punishment basho nor has he been winning with solid technique so the mancrush of Mike has fallen to yet another ranker. Goeido charged hard and actually had Toyo in trouble for a moment. But Toyo has been listening to NHK, and he's coming to believe the stories about himself so he couldn't possibly lose. So while Go thrust him backwards, he actually moved with the flow and out of the way getting Go out of the movement. As Go recharged Toyo slid to the side and sent Go stumbling to the ground while Toyo just nicely ballerina'ed back to his place. So the first KK of the basho and the race continues.

And right from one yusho contender bout we get to the next one as Kyokutenho enters the dohyo to face off with the fat windmill Miyabiyama.  Fatman was one who could always push around everyone keeping them honest, but he's grown old and slow and doesn't have the de-ashi anymore meaning that almost anyone can in theory get past his tsuppari and cause earthquakes send him to the clay. And Kyokutenho isn't just a someone. But occasionally Miyabiyama remembers his old glory by using his opponent's strength against him. So as Kyokutenho went for a close fight and tried to push fatty into an upward position sending all his power to his arms and as Miya felt that he just slid to the side brushing the arms away, and as that happened all of Tenho's push and power turned against him as he was unable to regain his balance and instead fell forward. Oh well, one of the pretenders is out of the race. What a surprise... (I really hate the NOT jokes, hence not using it here though it seemed to fit in perfectly).

The next bout has no meaning whatsoever, so I decided to just give you the result. Kimurayama won after a few ugly attack-defend rallies from both. It really wasn't worth the bytes that describing it would have required.

To round up the first half, we were offered the matchup of Tamawashi and Tokusegawa. Both have looked very good this basho with 6-2 and 5-3 coming in respectively, but not just the score, both have done good sumo and not just stumbled around. Tamawashi started slow essentially standing up, and even though that should have been the end of it, he was able to raise up Toku.   He immediately tried to push Toku back and out, but just as they got to the straw his hands slipped allowing Tokusegawa to get inside and with both arms inside it was an easy pushout for Tokusegawa running across the dohyo and depositing Tamawashi on the other side. It was all Tokusegawa from the start so it was deserved.

The second half gets kicked off with Kokkai and Shimotori meeting. Neither have been of any consequence, but as this is the second half, I'll waste a few bytes. Kokkai attacked low and kept low, but Shimotori knows what he's doing so after positioning a bit he went for grips on both arms getting a right inside and left outside that he used to raise Kock up and started pushing on it until he came to the win. Yes, had to milk it a bit for excitement, but it was a decent bout in the end.

Next up, the Secretary went to check the pressure with Barometer. Both guys got a left hand inside grip, but without a decent right hand grip, they settled into a stalemate in the center of the ring. There was the occasional nudge and shove attempt, but nothing solid with regard to an attack. In the end, the decision came from Wakanosato's attempt to go for a kote-nage armlock throw, but got tripped and fell on his arse. And with that, Asasekiryu got his first real win this basho as his other "win" was the fusensho from not meeting Harry.

Giku the dog-like humper got Sneaky the legless. Both charged low and stopped each other. As Kotoshogiku felt around and decided he had a good enough grip, he turned to the inner dog and let it loose. Aminishiki did try to go maki-kae while being humped to oblivion, but he the dog was too tight and too horny for him to overcome. Kotoshogiku sucked moose balls the first half of the basho, but has started to show some spark in the last few days; let's see how he fares in the final six days. Both leave at 4-5.

Now as the bouts get more interesting I can finally turn off the TV where the Top Shop show was looking quite more interesting. You can never get enough of "And if you order right now you'll get XXX for free !!! And wait, if you order in the next 5 minutes we'll also throw in the CEO's daughter for one hour ... bah".  Anyway, Kisenosato has shown his killer self by ending the streak and winning every legitimate bout except to Baruto (the one to Kaio wasn't legit), and Homasho has taken more surprise scalps than I can count, so this just had to be a bout to wait for. And the actual fight didn't disappoint. Both stopped the other at the tachi-ai with neither gaining a grip. From this defensive posture they traded some tsuppari until Kise decided to go on the inside, and just as he was settling in to hidari yotsu Homey grabbed a quick right uwate, pivoted and threw Kisenosato to a roll down on the dohyo. This becomes yet another Homasho surprise victory in a series this basho. I think he'll get a special prize for sure if he gets his eight. Probably the fighting spirit one.

Kakuryu looked like he could do something staying undefeated a full three days and causing some to speculate (whitles), but then he went on to be his usual self coming in with 4-4. Kitataiki has had some serious opposition and being 3-5 is quite decent. However against Kakuryu, Kitataiki didn't have a chance as the Kak came with a vicious thrusting attack while keeping full control of his balance. It didn't end the bout as quickly as it might have, but no pull or push could move him for he didn't lose his focus or balance. Good win for the Kak here.

The big talk before the basho was whether Tochiohzan raises to the challenge to keep his Ozeki run going, for he needs at least ten this basho to even have the talks continues. It started off with a decent chance, but he's now gotten to 4-4 meaning he can't afford more than one more loss to even have a shot, but I think his results and his sumo have shown that he isn't ready for it yet. Today he was paired with Hakuba whom Demon Kogura claimed to be somewhat like Mainoumi (yeaaah, right), so on paper this bout was a no-brainer. Henkuba pulled a strong henka, but was caught by Oh. Oh then quickly tried to send the henkaster out, but lost his balance while Hakuba was still running out and put his hand down. A mono-ii was called as the gyoji was somewhat confused which way to point pointing first for Oh then to Hakuba. The slow motion showed no question about it sending Oh to his fifth loss and causing the Ozeki run to have no margin no more. An ugly match that was, yes.

Getting to the Ozeki we see Kotooshu taking on Takekaze. And Kaze hasn't been his usual crappy self, but instead has shown some of the best sumo in the top M rankers. I'm myself surprised to say that, but this man has turned a new leaf and done solid sumo against guys he used to lose for sure. And Takekaze went for the bank by immediately charging hard and actually gaining moro-zashi, but the trouble with that is that Takekaze is too small for the big Ozeki who has long, long arms. So even though Takekaze has the perfect grip, he couldn't do much with it allowing Kotooshu to pivot around and use his left uwate to send Takekaze to the clay. It was great effort from the bigger Kaze, but he'll need more experience to win. But it was a good attempt. The Ozeki however sucked to have allowed the smaller guy to gain moro-zashi on him as when next he meets Toyonoshima, he'll lose from this position.

And now to the pretender. I have to say, Kaio has seen at least three legit bouts this basho and gone 2-1 on those. However the rest of the wins I'm really hard pressed to believe them. They have been too easy and a number of those showed guys in excellent shape absolutely not trying to fight for the belt or evade his attempts. Today he got the Russian Aran, who in reality has nothing to lose but money to win, so don't look for anything spectacular. From the get-go, Kaio got his favorite right uwate and all Aran got was a slim left inside grip. It was a test of muscles from there, but it wasn't enough for Aran. I have to say, I actually believe this bout might have been legit without digging through the replays too much, so I'll give it the benefit of the doubt. And with that the Bear does the unthinkable and gets his KK on day 9 and remains in the Yusho race. Could you have believed that if I'd said that before the basho? No I didn't think so and I still don't.

And the penultimate bout of the day (you don't really think the next one can be that, right) features Baruto taking on another white guy, Tochinoshin. I know Baruto usually says that his first objective is kachi-koshi, so if he gets it today does he turn his eyes towards the cup? We'll see. The two charged and immediately went for grip with both gaining a right hand inside grip. From there it was a pause while both considered the game plan and what to do with the other hand. Tochinoshin tried to improve his but got blocked at all attempts by Baruto. Baruto himself went for maki-kae on the left, but not getting it immediately changed gears and went for the left outside grip. Now with migi-yotsu, Tochinoshin knew he only had seconds before the inevitable loss, so he dropped his hips and tried to outmuscle Baruto. I have to say, Shin had to have balls to attempt a tsuri-dashi there, but he should have known that it wouldn't work against the master of Baruto-dashi, so Baruto dropped his own hips not lifting even a millimeter and instead turned the tactic around lifting Tochinoshin up and around to take him over the straw. It was called yori-kiri because Shin's toes touched the ground before going out, but it was a tsuri-dashi in reality. So ... KK in the books, still in the Yusho race as a co-leader, what will Baruto do? We'll see that already tomorrow when Baruto meets Kakuryu, one of the guys who can test his mental state. In any case, I called him to congratulate on the kachi-koshi and asked if he has a spot ready for the cup. He claimed to have it always ready and that after watching today's last bout anyone can be beaten unless he'll have a working accident. I advised him to keep off the strong stuff and to fight on, so let's see how it goes this basho.

I had originally already written the bout down considering that a no-brainer, but when I watched the bout it was nowhere close to a no-brainer. Yoshikaze charged hard while Hak thought to just pull him down not going for the belt. However Yoshikaze didn't fall to that and charged hard to the middle section of Hakuho pushing the Yokozuna back and ... well not out, but it was close as Hak circled back grabbing Yoshikaze's arm and pulling him along. I haven't watched the replay 10 times yet, but I think the gyoji actually contributed to Hak not falling down there by getting in the way. Hak managed to pull Yoshi off balance and towards the straw as the two separated. Yoshikaze pivoted and charged again, but Hakuho just slapped him to the ground. It was a win for Hakuho in the end, but he sure as hell was in danger of yet another upset here. If he keeps fighting such shaky sumo, I actually think Bart might have a shot this basho.

So the day ends, the board remains largely unchanged with just Kyokutenho gone from it, but that was expected. Now Kaio will soon drop out too, and we'll be left with Toyonoshima, Hakuho and Baruto. The first one we'll have to be tested against the top rankers before I'll commit to his chance at all, but the latter two both can take it this basho and it's mostly up to Bart not to screw it up before day 14. So let's hope Martin can claim Yusho for Baruto on that day. See you again in January.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Its a once proud entity that through abuse and gross mishandling has devolved into a weakened, diseased, one-headed parody of vitality and power.

But enough about Marios penis. We here to TALK about SUMO, get it? Sumotalk? I just now noticed that its two words put together. Man, the things we miss in life.

Like the first eight bouts of Day 8, which normally would bother me about as much as a hair on my breakfast (when I have my wife for breakfast, that is), but in this case was a bit annoying because there were a few tussles, if you will (and you WILL), I was jonesin to see.

BUT being the sumo former spurt that the ST banner says I am, I can ascertain (although they say be careful what you "ascertain"-or youll make an ASC out of ERT and AIN) from the kimarite what transpired.

Koryu prolly shivved Shotenro in the ribs at tachi-ai with a despicable hatakikomi, Mokonami prolly slipped like smoke through Miyabiyamas windmilling tsuppari for the yoritaoshi, Goeido prolly pwned Tokitenku from the word go for his yoritaoshi, and Toyonoshima (at right) used his quick lateral movement and tugboat instincts to spin Tochinonada around and male escort him out via oshiridashi. For those of you who saw the bouts, howd I do?

The first bout I can give you an honest accounting of was betwixt and between Tosayutaka and Tokusegawa. I like both men for different reasons, Toasty for his moxie, and Gawa for being the only "river" in the top two divisions filled with "winds" and "mountains" and "islands." Tokusegawa got a quick outside left belt that spelled immediate domination of the much smaller W10, who tried to resist, only to find himself down by a right hand to the neck. Call it a beatin.

I reordered the periodic table according to date of discovery while Yoshikaze and Tamawashi felt each other out with THREE false starts, or "maindofaguzu" in Japanese. When the festivities eventually commenced, The Mawashi had the initial advantage, lost it as Starbuck worked through the foam and rushed into a double latte, uhm, I mean double inside, but with timing a barista would be proud of Tamawashi twisted the Caffeinated One down like, like, like frozen yogurt! Damn, should have saved that awesome gag for the Kotooshu match.

Missed the next bout cause I couldnt be fuqt, as Si says, but the next fight I DID see and man was it spectacular (if by "spectacular" youll allow me to mean "bollocks"). Like a meeting of two magnetic south poles, both guys slipped to each others left at tachi-ai, and while Jimmy Maxwell rolled over in the Scottish peat, Hakuba threw Korporal Kokkai to the floor with a strong belt grip.

Kimurayama stood no chance today vs. Takekaze as his left arm seemed to be on injured reserve while he thrust with his right ONLY! and as a man who loathes eating with a fork, let me tell ya foks, eating with one chopstick just taint goan git the job done.

Right about at this time they highlighted two old matches of Onaruto Oyakata, former Ozeki Dejima, who was the Day 8 JPese side sumo-expert-sitting-with-the-crowd-and-having-people-do-weird-poses-behind-him guy. One bout was a straight up win over Akebono, and the other a win over Takanohana in the July 1999 basho, the tourney where Dejima took his one and only yusho. Oddly enough they passed on showing the final bout of that basho, where Dejima beat Akebono in a playoff for the yusho. Maybe because it was a henka that Im sure was generously paid for?

Ken Keltner was up next against Asasekiryu and while Sexy got a fast inside left, prison guard Kisenosato went into lockdown mode on it. They remained thus for a spell, and finally the crouching tiger Sexy gave up and pulled out, but this only allowed Kid to get in deeper when they reloaded, and this time he was able to push the W2 to the edge where he kind of bolted him to the clay.

Occasionally you get a veteran on the down side of his career who decides no games, no sidestepping, no hijinks, nothing Shneaky, just goin straight at my foe and let the better man win. Well, Aminishiki was mosdef the better man today, as he threw some propers to Mike and Kenji by oldskooling Tochiohzan in ass kicking, forward moving sumo. A series of thrusts blocked any chance of the Sekiwake getting in, and after a brief parting, they did the exact same thing again, only this time Toe Cheese ended up outside the ring. Nothing to be too ashamed of for Oh Snap here, losing to "any given Sunday" Bedroll Boy (Im sorry, but if you dont recognize Mikes Day 6 line "Im not sure of M2 Aminishiki's morning routine, but what I do know is that he gets out of his bedroll and immediately wraps it around his right leg" as the gold standard for sumo humor then you need to change your name to Shapiro and start learning how to mimic Woody Allen). Still, a Sekiwake who wants the Champion rank needs to man up to the tune of at least 6-2 by Day 8 (and losing to guys like Sexy and Shneaky aint gonna cut it). Dude has met only one Ozeki to date, and has guaranteed losses to Hakuho and Kaio coming up and a likely fall to Kotooshu. At 4-4, who here sees a KK acomin? I certainly dont.

Kotoshogiku must have been inspired by the Degyptians presence in the hizzouse because he rhinod out Kakuryu in with ease if not aplomb, his last shove causing The Kak to spill into the crowd. Gooey!

Nothing that anyone can say will convince me that long time great Ozeki Kaio is winning the majority of his bouts on the up and up. Whether he is involved, or its done on his behalf, I havent a clue. What I do know is that he beats guys who employ the most inexplicable strategies against him, as if they dont know his reputation and age. Today Homasho misfired on several shoves when he had the Ozeki at the edge, at one point even backing away and letting him escape. In the center now, they truly parted, with Kaio at one point standing there completely still and unoccupied. Put a hat on the guy and a newspaper under his arm and hes waiting for the goddamned bus. Homasho, realizing that the bout was still going on, rushed in toward the man world famous for locking foes left arms up with his right by placing his left arm directly under Kaios right pit. Crunch! and now the only question is does Homasho want an injury or a loss? Ive already given this man who has become a Jokezeki more time than he deserves. If he has legit bouts mixed in with the vaudeville its become too difficult to figure out which is which. Its shameful and borderline WWF and he should retire now.

(I should note that there was a sweet young thing positioned all day long directly behind the West side wrestlers as they went through their pre-bout routines, and she was showing a nice plunging neckline that took my mind off things to some extent. But seven Kleenex later I was right back into pouting mode.)

Kitataiki has and had no chance vs. Baruto, but the Estonian nearly screwed the pooch by stepping out at the edge, but he was able to put enough of a paw on his foe to drive him out while staying in. It looked like Biomass was dishing out some "gets out my face" dame-oshi at the end, but I think it was more a matter of adhering to Newtons Third Law of Motion by using the energy of a healthy push on Kitataiki to keep himself in the ring. Evidently Baruto learned a thing or two from the time he spent with the Fantastic Dr. Kadastik in Tokyo this past Sept. (and also nice to know that those Bohring elitist bastards at CERN still have some respect for ol’ Isaac and his quaint musings).

Hi, Im Gemini. What are you? Looking like near mirror images of each other, Kotooshu and Tochinoshin went chest to chest in a classic yotsu battle of big men. The only problem is that the Ozekis arms are just longer than No Shines, and this led to Kotooshu getting enough belt to shove the Komosubi back, wait for the inevitable resistance, and then use his foes momentum to drag him forward and down. Great sumo vs a strong foe, but as usual this November, Kotooshu is as mixed a bag as can be found in this sport.

Cliché as it sounds, the only thought I had in the Hakuho/Aran bout is, Did you get the number of the truck? Really, how to even call it a bout? Aran got one arm in for a second, but the Yokozuna simply pulled him in tight and dryhumped him out. Safe sex aficionados the world over rejoiced, while sumo fans wondered if this is all there is?

Apropos of exactly nothing, I just want to say that I miss Kotomitsuki.

A few of you may have noticed that there was no report from Matra Martin yesterday, and thats because Sumotalk has decided to move in a different direction in 2011. We thank Martin for all his efforts over the past 25 years (or does it just SEEM like 25 years?) and wish him well in his future endeavors. Hes a biddy and fisticated lad, not just some sammich eatin gummint sumbitch.

Mario churns the butter for ya on Day 9

Day 7 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
In largely ho-hum fashion, everyone won who was supposed to win on day 7 did so. Seven rikishi have established themselves as front runners as we head into the second half on Sunday. Let's take a look at some of the heavy hitters who are toward the top of this leader board.

Homasho (5-2) defeated Yoshikaze (5-2) in one of the more anticipated bouts of the day, and it did not disappoint. Homasho squeaked by via yori-taoshi that was reviewed for a possible last ditch utchari by Yoshikaze. The bout went back and forth with both rikishi displaying their strengths, but it was a subtle movement at the end that may have given Homasho the nod. As both rikishi were falling, Homa pulled back his right elbow to help ensure his hand didn't hit the clay first. It appears the right call was made as the replay showed the Yoshi's back did make contact first before any part of the twisting Homasho's body.

Kisenosato (5-2) wasted no time getting hidari-yotsu, migi-uwate position on Kakuryu (4-3), followed it up with an aggressive gaburi-yori to convincingly usher out his counterpart. This was a one-sided affair. Kise is beginning to assert himself more as a permanent presence.

Baruto (6-1) threw off Tochiohzan (4-3) at the tachi-ai with a subtle left hari-te, just enough to rattle Tochi and allow the Estonian to quickly grab the left uwate. Tochi was not able to shake off this big paw as Baruto followed through just as quickly for the yori-kiri win.

Kotooshu (4-3) beat Hakuba (1-6) in another one-sided affair. Oshu immediately got inside on the right and guided the defensive Hakuba out, twisting him upright along the way for good measure. It took seven days, but Kotooshu finally has more wins than losses on his ledger.

Next it was time for the "Kaio call". Amid a sea of rhythmic clapping, Kaio took on Asasekiryu. At least this one had some jockeying back and forth, and it was a battle on the belt as you might expect. Seki did a good job keeping Kaio off his left hip, which is anyone's objective #1 against this Ozeki. Eventually Kaio (6-1) managed a shitate on the other side, which set up a kote-nage (hook throw) from his strong (right) side. Even though it was not from the belt, this throw was enough to turn Seki sideways and disrupt his balance. Shamefully, Seki (1-6) absolutely gave up upon this turn of events even though he was still a couple steps from the rope. I don't think it was as much Kaio's yori-kiri, as the call indicated, as it was Seki's back peddling himself out of the ring. Effort like this doesn't help Sumo's already dire popularity problem.

In the finale Hakuho (6-1) put on another clinic against Kitataiki (3-4). The Yokozuna swooped over for the left uwate immediately, after which Kita looked like a kid in trouble for bad behavior trying to get away from his dad's grip. After jostling around for bit, Hakuho delivered a dashi-nage with that left that spun Kita around and caused him to step outside the ring. Another very convincing win from the king of the hill.

Going into day 8 we've got Hakuho, Baruto, Kaio, Kyokutenho, Toyonoshima, Tokitenku and Shotenro atop the leaderboard with 6-1 records. Here's to Kaio somehow stringing together at least a few more consecutive wins to give this Kyushu crowd something to get excited about to wrap up 2010.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I enjoyed Kenji's introduction yesterday because a Kyushu basho can't come and go without at least one of us talking about how meaningful the tournament was when we both lived and worked in Fukuoka. Believe it or not, in those days it was hard to get any seats besides the block of cheap seats that go on sale each morning (called toujitsu-ken). In fact, the last time either of us saw the sumos live was back in 2004 when we both happened to be in Japan on business and met up in Fukuoka on day 14. I still remember that Asashoryu defeated Chiyotaikai that day to pick up the yusho. We both bought cheap seats and then worked our way down to the open masu-seki area back then which put us about 15 rows up. If we were to do that now, we could probably go down as low as the 5th row right behind all those ugly geisha. I've already talked at length about my reasons for the declining popularity in sumo, and I think it's a problem that the Sumo Association has know idea how to fix.

It seems as if the rikishi also have this glum attitude towards the tournament because we're only six days in now, and no one's undefeated. Oh, did I spoil the outcome of basho leader Shotenro's bout? Damn. Let's start from the meaningful bouts today and then work our way down.

Said M16 Shotenro was paired against M11 Tokitenku, who executed as pretty'a hari-zashi tachi-ai as you please slapping with the left hand and getting the right hand sufficiently on the inside of Shotenro. This was key as Shotenro must set his opponents up with tsuppari. With the bout in hand already, Tokitenku used his left arm for an ottsuke push into Shotenro's right armpit area that easily aided in driving Shotenro back and across without argument. I chortled a bit when Yoshida Announcer lamented, "Ah, there goes our last undefeated rikishi." Didn't we all lament, brother; didn't we all lament. The result leaves both rikishi at 5-1 and tied for the yusho lead (I'm a glass is half full kinda guy).

With the pressure on, Yokozuna Hakuho looked to keep pace with Shotenro by welcoming M3 Homasho fresh off of his win over Baruto. Hakuho implemented a hari-zashi tachi-ai of his own slapping with the right hand, and as Homasho dove in low, the Yokozuna just backed up a half step and slapped Homasho to the dirt with some oomph. Nothing more to see here, so lets' move along as Hakuho stands at 5-1 and Homasho at an impressive 4-2.

Ozeki Baruto looked to overcome his lazy loss to Homasho yesterday by fighting M2 Asasekiryu today. In an identical start to yesterday's bout, Bart grabbed the right outer grip over the top and got his left arm on the inside to sufficiently deny Asasekiryu moro-zashi. In yesterday's bout, Baruto got lazy and allowed Homasho to get dual inside grips, but he wouldn't make that same mistake against Asasekiryu today getting fresh by holding Asasekiryu's right wrist. As the two grappled for position on the not belt side, Baruto suddenly backed up a step and pulled Asasekiryu forward and down by that right outer grip. Like Makiko Uchidate, it wasn't the prettiest move, but it got the job done. Baruto is about as sloppy'a 5-1 as you'll ever see. I don't doubt Mario a bit now when he reported that Baruto feels unmotivated. Asasekiryu is 1-5.

Ozeki Kaio continued his hot streak today against Sekiwake Kakuryu slyly moving to his right and grabbing Kakuryu's extended left wrist. Continuing his lateral motion, the Ozeki just yanked Kakuryu right over to the edge and out in about two seconds. For all you nerds, this is what it must have looked like when the sand people ripped of C3PO's arm in Star Wars. Kaio is 5-1, and it's my opinion the last two days were legit bouts. A yaocho is always over in 2-3 seconds, and while this one was over quick, it was Kaio's henka that did the job. The Kak will be happy with his 4-2.

Ozeki Kotooshu actually came in to the day at 2-3, but a bout against M3 Kitataiki will usually cure what ails you. The Ozeki forced the bout to hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, and his left inside position was so good, the bout was over at this point. Kotooshu drove his gal back quickly securing moro-zashi in the process and then just knocked Kitataiki on his fanny beyond the straw leading with the right inside position. When the kimari-te is yori-taoshi, and the guy who wins doesn't fall over, you know we've witnessed an ass-kicking. Still, Kotooshu is only 3-3, the same record as Kitataiki.

When will Japan ever get a break in finding a new hope? Sekiwake Tochiohzan recently overtook M1 Kisenosato, so what happened when the two met up today? Kisenosato made the Sekiwake look like a newbie using an effective ottsuke push with his left arm coupled with his right arm driving into Tochiohzan's neck. The surge set up the hidari-yotsu bout where Kisenosato quickly took charge and wrapped Tochiohzan up neat as a bowtie easily forcing him back and out. Both rikishi stand at 4-2, but Tochiohzan was dominated here.

I'm not sure of M2 Aminishiki's morning routine, but what I do know is that he gets out of his bedroll and immediately wraps it around his right leg. I guess that's why he resorted to the henka today against Komusubi Tochinoshin moving to his left and grabbing the cheap outer grip, which he used of course to spin Tochinoshin around and out. On one hand, Tochinoshin can feel slighted today as he falls to 2-4, but on the other hand, Aminishiki has been so gimpy this basho that how can you not expect a henka coming in? Aminishneaky lives up to his name as he limps to 3-3.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Aran and M1 Kotoshogiku hooked up in the hidari-yotsu pose from the tachi-ai whereupon the Geeku went excited dog and immediately began the dry humps. As he slowly moved the Russian back, Kotoshogiku grabbed a right frontal grip as Aran did basically what he's done the whole basho...nothing. The force-out win was decisive as Kotoshogiku moves to 2-4. Aran is a paltry 1-5.

In the Maegashira ranks, two 4-1 rikishi clashed in M5 Yoshikaze and M6 Tokusegawa, but Yoshikaze ensured that it wouldn't be a fair fight henka'ing to his left. Tokusegawa survived in fine fashion, but with no sniff of Cafe's belt, the two traded wild tsuppari with Yoshikaze looking for well-timed pulls and Tokusegawa looking to grab anything. All he got was a brief arm around Yoshikaze's neck, but the veteran slipped out of that and behind Tokusegawa shoving him out from behind  with a serious wedgie to pick up the ugly win. Yoshikaze is tied for the lead at 5-1 while Tokusegawa falls to 4-2.

M9 Toyonoshima kept tightened up his pits leaving his arms in tight resulting in a flustered M12 Bushuyama who couldn't get to the belt or the inside. A few seconds in, Toyonoshima moved to his right and quickly slapped the Dolly Yama down for the hataki-komi win. Toyonoshima is also on fire at 5-1 while the enlightened Bushuyama falls to 1-5.

M9 Kyokutenho moved to 5-1 himself forcing his bout against M11 Mokonami to hidari-yotsu where the Chauffeur grabbed the right frontal belt grip using it to easily back Moe back out to a 2-4 record.

Leading the way at 4-2 was the quiet M8 Tamawashi who was dominated by M10 Gagamaru's crushing tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai, but Gagamaru's sumo is about a stable as a Hollywood celebrity NOT on medication, so somehow The Mawashi was able to barely pull at Gagamaru at the ring's edge causing Gaga The Hutt to slip and touch his hand down a split second before Tamawashi stepped out. A mono-ii was called where it was correctly ruled that Gagamaru touched down first. The Georgian was visibly upset as he left the dohyo before bowing to his opponent, so he was called back to do it. As he stepped off the dohyo for the second time, I'm pretty sure those were tears flowing down his red face as he ends up 1-5. If he really was crying, I like the emotion, so hopefully it lights a fire under his ass.

M10 Tosayutaka engaged in a sloppy slap fest with M13 Tochinonada and then played with major fire settling into the hidari-yotsu fight, Tochinonada's specialty. But the Gentle Giant was already running on fumes a year ago, so Tosayutaka picked up his first ever win of the Giant wrenching him back and out with a frontal belt grip. Ballsy stuff from Tosayutaka as he joins the 4-2 ranks. Tochinonada is 3-3.

M14 Miyabiyama kept M16 Okinoumi at 4-2 using what else but the lumbering tsuppari that forced OkiDoki into counter thrusts himself. But pushing is not Okinoumi's game, so Miyabiyama was easily able to time a pull that completely threw Okinoumi off balance enabling the Sheriff to push him out from behind. Miyabiyama gets back to .500 with the win.

And finally, the highlight of the basho so far was obviously Clancy's ode the ramblin gamblin rikishi, so let's close with M14 Goeido he kicked things off by kicking M15 Kasugao's ass. If you must know the details, Goeido seized the migi-yotsu stance from the tachi-ai and had the Kimchi Kid forced back and across the straw without argument moving to 4-2 in the process. Kasugao is 1-5.

Old school Sumotalk continues for the fourth day in a row as Kenji returns tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Hello everyone. Mike and I have a special place in our hearts for Kyushu since we both lived and worked there, so to that end we look forward to this basho every year. It saddens me to see such an empty arena- so empty that it seems hard to believe you're watching a real basho instead of some sort of practice session. Even the sights and sounds seem hollow this month in the Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

With the Hakuho win streak no longer an attraction, I reckon the fans must turn to Hometown Hero Kaio for inspiration. Well, he is delivering. Kaio (4-1) overcame Kitataiki (3-2) in a show of stamina for such an old fart. After a couple unsuccessful attempts, Kaio finally got the right uwate while retreating from a Kitataiki offensive. He then unleashed his patented uwate-nage just in time at the tawara to the delight of the sparse crowd. Could this be the last Kyushu for Kaio? I ask myself this every year. His effort this basho is making this question less compelling, which is good for Kyushu and sumo alike.

In a mild surprise, Homasho (4-1) beat previously undefeated Baruto (4-1) to take some air out of the Estonian's good start. It was quite un-Homasho like actually, as he took the initiative the whole way instead of the defensive stance that he typically employs. Homa got moro-zashi and squeezed the big Ozeki to the point where even Baruto couldn't use his height and reach to overcome it. A yori-taoshi win was the result.

Kisenosato (3-2) dropped Kotooshu (2-3) to continue building his case for Shukun-sho honors. This makes 1 Yokozuna and 2 Ozeki to comprise his 3-win total. There was nothing earth shattering here, Kise simply out worked Oshu. The bout did go back and forth a bit and had some excitement, but eventually Oshu ran out of steam and essentially gave up and broke the tawara as he was retreating during one of the momentum shifts. Yori-kiri was the call.

Hakuho (4-1) displayed his textbook intensity and suffocation against countryman Asasekiryu (1-4). The Yokozuna got the uwate and quickly moved forward to an easy yori-kiri win. There seems to be no post-streak lull as it looks every bit like he could click off another long string of W's.

A couple of other things of note include both Sekiwake wrapping up the first third with wins, bringing both Kakuryu and Tochiohzan to 4-1 records. Tochiohzan in particular looked great in dismantling Kotoshogiku (1-4). Finally, we have only one Makuuchi rikishi remaining with a perfect record and it's Shotenro way down at the bottom of the division sitting at 5-0. Who, you say? Shotenro. I know, I just figured we'd give him some time in the limelight while we have the opportunity.

Mike's back tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The biggest news heading into day 4 was the expected withdrawal of Ozeki Harumafuji. Even when he's completely healthy, Harumafuji can barely win nine bouts these days, so after sustaining an injury in September during the exhibition season that left him unable to perform any keiko prior to Kyushu, it was a no-brainer that he wouldn't be able to last the fortnight. There's no sense in trying to at least fight that first week as a badge of honor because if you're injured, the last thing you need to be doing is fighting 150 KG dudes on a hard mound of clay. Harumafuji made the correct decision in getting the hell out of there as fast as he did.

Another news article that caught my attention heading into the day included the picture at right published by the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shinbun, by far the best newspaper in Japan. The article focused on the immediate downturn in interest towards the Kyushu basho now that Hakuho's win streak has been broken. The paper reported the sharp increase of masu-seki seating (the non-nosebleeds) that suddenly hit the online auction sites as soon as Hakuho lost. Needless to the say, the going rate is well below the face value of the tickets. I'm often harsh in my comments towards the Japanese media, but the Mainichi Shinbun definitely painted a perfect picture here, which in this case is worth a thousand words.

I doubt I can manage a thousand words of my own to cover the action today, but let's get to it anyway. I quite enjoyed not having the first half bouts to comment on for day 2. I mean, really, what the hell am I supposed to say about the M15 Koryu - J2 Sadanofuji matchup that saw a sloppy tsuppari-ai end with Koryu barely pulling his opponent down in the end leaving both rikishi at 1-3?

Or why bother with M14 Miyabiyama (2-2) who obliterated a listless M15 Kasugao (1-3) with a lumbering tsuppari attack into the Korean's neck backing him out in three seconds and then dumping him to the clay for good measure with a left belt throw after the Kimchi Kid had clearly stepped out?

I could also waste my time talking about how M16 Okinoumi moved to 4-0 assuming the quick hidari-yotsu stance from the tachi-ai and driving M13 Sokokurai (2-2) back and out in a flash thanks in large part to the fact that Sokokurai fights best from the migi-yotsu position, but who the hell cares?

M16 Shotenro moving to 4-0 after a fierce tsuki attack (not oshi mind you) against M13 Tochinonada (2-2) that sent him back once, twice, three times a lady before the Big Shot reversed momentum throwing the Gentle Giant down with a right tottari could be compelling fodder IF it occurred higher in the ranks.

Same goes for M14 Goeido who used a low tachi-ai against M12 Takamisakari immediately driving the Cop back and out before belly flopping to the dirt himself at the edge leaving both rikishi at 2-2 and causing Takamisakari to employ that fake limp after a loss he uses as he walks down the hana-michi.

I furthermore have nothing to say about M11 Tokitenku (3-1) gaining moro-zashi at the tachi-ai and immediately driving M11 Mokonami (1-3) back and out in seconds.

I guess to some people it would be worth mentioning that M10 Tosayutaka (2-2) picked up his first win in 8 tries against M12 Bushuyama (1-3) by backing out of a brief hidari-yotsu stance only to revert to migi-yotsu and spring a surprise force-out attack that Bushuyama could not answer, but those kinda of numbers don't impress me.

And when have I ever cared about M9 Kyokutenho (3-1) this low in the ranks even when he does assume the migi-yotsu position against M10 Gagamaru (1-3) and actually tries to tsuri-dashi him out before just dry-humping him back and across for the eventual win after failing to even lift Gag-me-maru off the ground a centimeter with that tsuri attempt?

I would stop this one sentence nonsense right here and now if M9 Toyonoshima (3-1) had assumed the manlove position against M8 Tamawashi after a wild tsuppari-ai where Toyonoshima quickly shoved, evaded, and pulled finally getting Tamawashi (2-2) off balance and turned around 180 degrees, but since he opted to just push him out from behind instead of give him the love, I'm miffed.

Yeah right...see if I comment at all on M7 Kotokasuga's easy moro-zashi position obtained from the tachi-ai and subsequent right sukui-nage throw of M8 Shimotori (2-2) that saw Momma Kas pick up his first win.

And no offense to M7 Kimurayama (3-1) who was immediately pushed back to the brink by M6 Tokusegawa but managed to back pedal around the ring successfully pulling Tokusegawa down to the clay--barely--as he gave chase, but I'm just not going to comment at all on the first half bouts.

So...let's start at the top today and work our way down beginning with Yokozuna Hakuho who was paired against M2 Aminishiki. Hakuho is back on top of his game, and it showed today as he forced the action to migi-yotsu and began bodying Aminishiki back even before he gained a left outer grip. The left outer came towards the end, but the gimpy Aminishiki was completely overwhelmed in this one as Hakuho scored the textbook yori-kiri win. Hakuho moves to 3-1 and is still in complete control of who takes the yusho this basho. Aminishiki falls to 2-2, which is impressive when you consider he doesn't look 100%.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kaio welcomed M1 Kisenosato in a bout that went to hidari yotsu and saw Kisenosato up high offering non-committal dry humps (sounds like my love life in college). Kisenosato managed to body Kaio back to the edge, but the Kid purposefully...I mean made a costly mistake by putting his right arm high around the Ozeki's neck as if to offer a kubi-nage throw. Kaio of course slipped right out of it with the help of a left scoop motion and conveniently found himself behind the M1 now where he easily pushed him out from behind to pick up his third win. I am really having a hard time buying any Kaio win these days. Yesterday against Tochinoshin, I watched the replay and the Georgian's body movements were correct, but he wasn't doing anything with his hands...not going for the belt (until he was on his way out) or any inside position. Anyway, there are just too many signs these days from Kaio's opponents like purposefully forcing the bout to hidari-yotsu (to give Kaio the right outer) or going for a kubi-nage when your in full control or attacking way too high. Kaio's 3-1 on paper, but I'm not buying any of it. Even that picture at looks like to me that Kisenosato is prepared to go out, and so he's just stepping carefully so as to not suffer a fluke injury.  Furthermore, Kaio has beaten three quality opponents; yet, that picture above is the only action shot I've been able to find simply because there hasn't been any action.  Kisenosato can afford his 2-2 record at this point.

I tried to be nice to Kotooshu on day 2 and give him the bendoubt that his feet slipped after getting his ass handed to him by Aminishiki, but getting de-cleated by M3 Homasho is flat out inexcusable. Homasho completely controlled this bout beginning with a low, torpedo tachi-ai that kept the Ozeki away from the belt. Instead of attempting to dig in, Kotooshu went for a horrible pull attempt, but Homasho was on the move like nerd to toy light sabre and got his left arm in so deep that he was able to bully Kotooshu to the edge and then send him sprawling into a summersault with a scoop throw despite a late right outer grip from the Bulgarian. Kotooshu has been sloppy as ever in Kyushu as he falls to 2-2. And don't look now; Homasho is 3-1 if you need him!

Sloppy's not quite the word to use for Ozeki Baruto this basho, but after reading the Doc's comments yesterday stemming from his interview with the BioMass, it's easy to see that Baruto is worn down a bit mentally. Still, he crushed M1 Kotoshogiku by grabbing a lightening quick right outer grip from the tachi-ai, and once he denied the Geeku moro-zashi by getting his left arm to the inside, Susan Boyle started singing. The force-out came swift as Baruto skated to 4-0 and leads the basho. Mario needs to get back on the phone with Baruto and remind him that this basho is his best chance to pick up that obligatory career yusho. Hakuho proved in 2009 that he was content with letting the yusho escape him for good cause, and now's as good'a time as any. Kotoshogiku is listless at 1-3.

Sekiwake Kakuryu mistimed a slap at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Tochinoshin, and it left the Sekiwake upright and completely exposed. Tochinoshin took advantage and quickly drove the Kak back to the edge, and even though Kakuryu somehow managed moro-zashi as he back-pedaled, Tochinoshin pressed their chests together, so the taller lad will always have the advantage here. With two outer grips, Tochinoshin swung Kakuryu to the side sort of like a tsuri attempt, and then took complete advantage from there bodying Kakuryu back and out to his first loss. Shin's record ain't too shabby either as he now stands at 2-2.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Sekiwake Tochiohzan welcomed Komusubi Aran, a rikishi he hadn't beaten in seven tries coming in. That must have been on Toe Cheese's mind at the tachi-ai because he only offered some timid shoves, but Aran wasn't necessarily out for blood himself, so the two ended up in the hidari-yotsu position by default. With neither party seemingly willing to mount a charge, Tochiohzan went for as slow'a maki-kae as you care to see with the right hand, but Aran is so off his game at the moment that he seemed oblivious. Sucks for him because once Tochiohzan got moro-zashi, it was curtains as the Sekiwake marched the Russian back and across in short order after obtaining moro-zashi. Maybe that loss to Homasho doesn't look so bad now for Tochiohzan, who stands at 3-1. Aran is like that IT guy who decorates his work cube with Lego action figures. In other words, he hasn't scored yet.

In the Maegashira ranks, M3 Kitataiki continued his run hitting M5 Yoshikaze at the center of the ring and then immediately going for a quick pulldown. I didn't have a huge problem with the early pull since 1) I have a crush on Kitataiki, and 2) Yoshikaze didn't hit hard at the tachi-ai and was just standing there. The result was a ho-hum hataki-komi win for Kitataiki that left both rikishi sitting on 3-1.

Speaking of dudes who can't score, M4 Henkaba hakuba'd to his right at the tachi-ai, but counterpart Takekaze read the move like a dirty magazine and slapped Hakuba's sorry ass to the clay in a second or two. Takekaze struts to 2-2 with the win while Hakuba and Aran will prolly go see the new Harry Potter movie together at 0-4.

And finally, if I haven't lulled you to sleep enough by now, the M6 Kokkai - M5 Wakanosato matchup should seal the deal. The Korporal unwisely settled for a hidari-yotsu bout at the tachi-ai, but Wakanosato doesn't seem to have much left in the tank this basho, so after a long, boring affair, Kokkai musta made a move at some point because by the time I was able to push the Play button again after watching the bout in visual fast-forward mode, Kokkai dumped Wakanosato off the dohyo with a nice sukui-nage throw. Kokkai moves to 2-2 while Wakanosato was seen afterwards inquiring whether or not Hakuba and Aran had an extra ticket to the picture shows.

It's too early at this point to really run down the leaderboard, but trust me, Baruto's gotta chance if he doesn't blow it against the scrubs.  Kenji delights you tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
So after the shocker yesterday what do we do now? There's no winning streak to talk of. The Oz+Yok stand at 50% wins after two days with only undefeated guy being Baruto and what a win that was yesterday (a desperation move, but what a move). There's of course Kakuryu in sanyaku who's lossless, but that won't last. So with Hak playing ketchup erm catchup can Baruto pull it together? I don't think so, he currently doesn't have the motivation though the chance for Yusho might boost that right now as will his visit back home do just after Kyushu. But we can pretend, can't we that there really is now a Yusho race? Maybe Hakuho is a bit shaken by the loss and will drop one or two more (he did it the last time this happened you know finishing 12-3). If this happens, then we might have a shot at a race indeed.

So let's start with the dregs. Toyozakura met the Korean Kasugao and after being confused by a similarly colored mawashi made an attempt, but the Korean had an excellent belt grip that he used well to force Kura back and out. Good win by Kasugao.

I actually think Ross almost said Okidoki on his day 1 commentaries when talking about Okinoumi there, but barely caught himself, nice one Ross (have a beer from me). Today Okidoki met Koryu and got a nice shoulderblast from him at the get-go. However throughout the bout it was Okinoumi who maintained a good grip and finally executed an overarm throw sending them both to the clay. Koryu struggles even this low meaning he's got no business being in this division.

So the first "interesting" matchup of the day is Goeido matched up against big shot Shotenro. Both have been shaky lately with Goeido actually struggling in Juryo where he shouldn't have. And the day 1 loss was ugly too. However the "interesting" turned to craptastic as Goeido overextended himself in the tachi-ai making himself the perfect pulldown fodder for Shotenro. Shot didn't hesitate and down Goeido went.

The next gambling returnee Miyabiyama took on Sokokurai today. Somehow Sokokurai got moro-zashi and pushed fatty out. How this happened I can't tell for I was doing something much much more important, taking a dump. But good for the youngster.

Tochinonada had a slight sidestep hoping Tokitenku fell off his balance, but Tenku followed through with some vicious nodowa. The two struggled a moment in the center where Tenku got a decent belt grip and wrestled Nada back and out, but as Nada was going out he twisted and pushed sending Tokitenku to the clay. The gyoji called this one for nada, but as the MIB gathered to the dohyo to look smart, we saw a replay showing clearly that Nada's toes dug into the sand way before Tenku crashed down. And it was Tokitenku himself who made it happen as Tochinonada was pulling the leg up only to have it grabbed by Tenku for grip pulling it to sand. Even the MIB were convinced and reversed the call. Not a good bout, but interesting ending.

My favorite tanned pet Moe was given old mister Bush today to play with. Moe went in for moro-zashi and almost got it, but Bush managed to block his left arm. After a short struggle with just a left shallow grip, Moe was overcome by Bush breaking the grips. It looked from there that Bush had the advantage keeping Moe away from belt and having a decent hidari himself, but Moe slid to the side going for a pushdown, which did get Bush moving so he capitalized on it forcing him back and throwing him to the clay. In the throw process he however got his left elbow turned backwards in a way that looked painful, and he looked to be in pain while taking the win and holding the power water. We'll see how it affects his performance throughout the fortnight.

The Clown and Tosayutaka both came with the intent to go away with a kensho envelope. Takamisakari didn't bother to run anywhere just standing up and absorbing Tosayutaka. During the absorption he also twisted him to the side getting to the semi-manlove position. From this position he moved Yutaka to the straw and sent him sitting on his ass. Yutaka tried a kubi-nage, but not being Baruto he couldn't recover from the manlove position.

Toyonoshima shined in Aki going 14-1 in Juryo, now having returned to the top division, he has won his first two, but today was the real test as he was matched up with Kyokutenho with a history of 6-3 for Tenho. Toyonoshima immediately got moro-zashi, but couldn't capitalize as Tenho is just too big. Toyo tried legtrips etc, but just standing on one leg inside double armblock, he didn't have the balance to fight against Tenho turning around and out. A good tachi-ai from Toyo, but there are two guys who can still win against Toyonoshima with moro-zashi, one's Kyokutenho and other is Baruto. Good win by Tenho even though he lost the tachi-ai.

Lady Gaga ran past Shimotori as the latter had sidestepped. Shimotori immediately capitalized and with a quick belt grip and worked Gagamaru around himself to the tawara and then with a quick throw down. As usual, get the Hutt moving sideways and you have him. The sidestep wasn't as big as to be called a henka either so good win from Shimotori.

Tamawashi just slaughtered Kotokasuga from the get-go with heavy tsuppari. Nice and solid win there for the birthday boy who gets his pic in the papers.

Kokkai and Kimurayama both just stood up. Then being embarrassed by the laziness, Kokkai quickly gave Kimurayama a slap to wake him up but shouldn't have as Kimu got so enraged that he wrestled Kokkai around, back and out. Anyway at least this way it looks like there was something interesting happening…

Yoshikaze had his morning double espresso and ran to the dohyo and discovered that pressure is what he needs to measure today for he found the Barometer there. Yeah, not the best opener, I know. Espresso definitely deserved his name today as he charged like a mad man getting nicely in and quickly going for a merry-go-around strategy, which worked perfectly sending Wakanosato to the clay. True, Yoshikaze joined him there as he got too dizzy from the spinning, but he was already the winner at the time.

Henkuba has been doing just great from my perspective. He's not won a single bout and that can just be good. Today he got Tokusegawa as an opponent who has yet to lose one this basho. Even the great history for Hakuba didn't help him nor the circling around Tokusegawa for he was easily forced back and out from migi-yotsu position. At least he didn't henka…

Homasho having just gotten a surprise win against Tochiohzan got Takekaze today. He almost lost it at the start when Takekaze nicely got him to the side and used his arm to send him out, but Homey's got balance so the two moved back to the center and even though Takekaze mounted a few more attacks, he couldn't budge him enough. In the end it was Takekaze who got a nice inside grip on the side and just ran Takekaze out.

It was interesting to see whether the loss yesterday has Aran still dizzy. Namely, if you looked carefully you saw that the losing point was Aran's mage, then his head, and then he got the full Baruto on top of it. Now consider Baruto falling on top of your head. Right. So Kak just ran in for moro-zashi and did get both arms in, but no belt. After a moment of consideration, Aran went maki-kae and got a nice right arm inside. From there the two settled in migi-yotsu, and it was a strength battle with Aran trying to lift Kakuryu up, but not getting far enough. In the end Kakuryu won the strength battle and finished Aran slowly. But it was a great battle. Props for the honest battle from both guys.

Tochiohzan was dominating the bout against Homasho, but lost it at the straw for a moment where his ring sense was off by a few cm. Today he corrected that by getting a quick double inside forcing Kitataiki back and out. No question about this one.

And now to my favorite guy, Baruto. Had an interview with him on Saturday discussing about things Estonian fans had written as questions as well as his current motivation and plans. He said that he's been lacking motivation since his Ozeki promotion. For the promotion, he set it as a goal and worked like crazy to achieve it. However setting the next one for Yokozuna has not yet settled in for him as well as his tiredness of all the scandals and the fact he hasn't been allowed home for 1.5 years. That's a long time. So this basho I doubt he'll destroy his opposition, but who knows, now that he has 1 win over Hakuho, he might find the motivation. After Kyushu he'll be back to Estonia so he's probably gonna be well motivated in January.

Aminishiki is an uncomfortable opponent for him, so today he made a careful tachi-ai (essentially standing up) but he did get a right inside immediately, which allowed him to work himself into a good grip. Once he had the migi-yotsu grip, it was all over for Aminishiki and Bart finished it in style lifting Aminishiki half a meter off the ground and calmly walking out. He didn't even break a sweat doing that. Nice baruto-dashi there, and I hope he gets his motivation up and continues (will message him after the day ends to encourage as well). Aminishiki just soldiers on.

The other big European, Kotooshu, usually folds just after losing to Aminishiki, and Asasekiryu isn't a simple opponent, but even though he struggled, he didn't have a big problem today and just was careful working himself into a decent grip and then slowly, but steadily worked Asasekiryu back and out. Let's see if he recovers from that Aminishiki loss enough with this win. Hakuho losing on the same day might have helped too.

The hometown bear who refuses to give up got a tough nut to crack today in Tochinoshin. I doubt Shin's in the OBSC (Ozeki Back Scratch Club for the uninitiated) and he's gotten already an Ozeki scalp yesterday so probably wants to keep on going. Tochinoshin tried something, but either he didn't fully commit or my estimation on club membership is wrong, but I am surprised by the win by Kaio. Oh well. There's to Kaio's last Kyushu in 2011.

Harumafuji should really go kyujo. He tried a charge against Kisenosato, but it got to a tsuppari fest and with just one arm there was no bang in Harry's thrusts, so after 5seconds of torture, Kisenosato ended it with a few thorough pushes sending Harry stumbling back and out. My guess is that most people gambled and hoped for Harry, but if you did you are just ignorant of the current horrible state of Harumafuji. He is seriously injured, and he's only aggravating it with competing. He'll never get his kachi-koshi this way, and he might not get next basho if he injures the shoulder further. Go and heal yourself man, you're looking like a Chiyotaikai here…

So how did yesterday's loss affect Hakuho? Did it shake him or did it get him angry? Well Kotoshogiku isn't really the guy to test that. The two didn't lock up straight up, but it took a bit of positioning from Hakuho to have his grip for a throw, and throw he did. The next winning streak just started? We'll see. There's still this 90 wins in 90 days of a year that he can try for next year.

So after three days we have a few guys at three wins, the only interesting ones though are Kakuryu and Baruto. The catchup group's a bit of a stretch at this point, but all the contenders are nicely there, so it might be at least sumo suspense until days 11-12 unless the big boys start to lose. I seriously hope Asasekiryu gets a freebie tomorrow because Harumafuji finally came to his senses, but no big hopes there.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Disaster. That's what I'd call it. Heading into the basho, sumo had exactly two storylines. The obvious one was Hakuho's quest for Futabayama's 69, which accounted for about 85% of the pre-basho coverage. The remaining 15% went to Sekiwake Tochiohzan who was sort of in Ozeki-run mode if that's possible after just one basho. To have both of those storylines crash and burn on day 2 of the Kyushu basho is a disaster in my opinion. And don't get me wrong...Kisenosato's sumo today was epic, and I loved all 19 seconds of the bout, but you can't have the basho's climax occur on day 2 and expect people to still care about sumo. Sure, I'll still watch the remaining 13 days, and you'll watch as well, but the people who really matter are the Japanese public. What do they have to pique their interest in sumo now?

The absolute best part of the Japanese broadcast each basho occurs on day 1 right before the bouts actually begin. During about five minutes of inaction, the cameras focus on two people: Kitanofuji doing color commentary and Mainoumi in the muko-jomen seat. The two candidly go back and forth talking about the biggest storylines in sumo. Of course the focus yesterday was Hakuho's pursuit of the record, and the two were speaking as if on sacred ground when talking about it. Mainoumi specifically said that there was just a different feel to the basho because of it. Was. To me, the only thing that sumo had going for it right now was Hakuho's chasing down that record, so to see it go up in flames just 6 bouts short is devastating. There is one possible scenario that could salvage the basho in the end, but more on that later since it doesn't involve a Japanese rikishi.

Before we actually get to the action, I must say that I was a bit amused by a thread I saw on our forum where someone created a new topic simply entitled, "It's over!" Some were upset and claimed that the title SPOILER should have been used instead so those who hadn't seen the matches yet wouldn't be tipped off. My question is what exactly were the other possibilities that would have come to mind if you had seen the title SPOILER this basho after day 2?

I can't think of any others beyond these:

- Doreen Simmons signs autograph as "Doreen Mihara" after Day 1 broadcast
- Hakuba charges straight forward at the tachi-ai
- Shotenro - Shironoryu bout sets kensho banner record
- Kotooshu pummels Aminishiki

And the funny thing is as soon as I logged online this morning I chased down Clancy about 12:30 AM his time (6 1/2 hours after the bouts) and immediately started asking his opinion of the bout. After about two awkward minutes of dialog, Clancy finally admitted to me, "Uh, I haven't seen the bouts yet and didn't know the results. I was waiting for the digest program later on tonight." Oops.

About 30 minutes after that, though, Martin, who is biddy as a bee these days, sends me an instant message out of the blue that said, "It finally happened, ne" (the "ne" at the end of that sentence refers to a common Japanese ending that means roughly INNIT, which goes to show that Martin is not just biddy, but he's also becoming fisticated). Martin of course assumed I had seen the biggest bout of the year, so he started his chat off with that sentence. The point is...if you don't want to know the results of the sumos before you've seen them, the last place you should be logging into is a sumo website. the basho's remaining 13 days, I digress.

Due to a heavy snowstorm and a satellite dish on top of my house shaped like..well, a dish...that conveniently hoarded a pile of wet snow, I was only able to watch the last 45 minutes of the broadcast. Working our way in ascending order, M4 Hakuba moved to his left at the tachi-ai, but M5 Yoshikaze was onto the move like a pee stain to a mattress and secured the lower stance in the hidari-yotsu contest. With Hakuba raised upright, Yoshikaze methodically worked him over to the edge before dumping him down to the clay across the tawara. Yoshikaze is 2-0 if you need him while Hakuba falls to 0-2.

M3 Kitataiki led with the head against M4 Takekaze, and even though Takekaze bumped him back a bit, Taiki kept his footing and stayed low eventually working the contest into hidari-yotsu, a position from which he could now attack. As he drove Takekaze back, Takekaze went for a kote-nage throw with the right arm but just slipped right out of it felling himself to the dirt largely on his own. Take nothing away from Kitataiki (2-0), however, as his forward-moving sumo dictated this bout. Takekaze is 1-1.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan has officially been branded as Japan's new hope, but after his performance against M3 Homasho today, I don't know whether or not to laugh or cry. Homasho completely befuddled the Sekiwake with a hard, low tachi-ai that kept Toe Cheese away from the belt. If Homasho does have an advantage over Tochiohzan, it's his speed, and he used it perfectly to stick and jab throwing enough tsuppari into Tochiohzan to keep him at bay and moving side to side just enough to disallow Tochiohzan to settle into yotsu-zumo. After about eight seconds into the dance, Homasho placed a gentle right hand into Tochiohzan's left side and just pushed him back and out of the ring in all his girth. Both rikishi are even steven at 1-1, but Tochiohzan totally underestimated his opponent today. Good thing that wouldn't happen later on (urp).

Kakuryu restored order to the rank by striking low against M2 Asasekiryu neutralizing Sexy's preferred charge and then forcing the bout into migi-yotsu. With both rikishi of similar builds, the gappuri yotsu contest was imminent, but once both rikishi had aligned chests, Kakuryu dominated his gal escorting her back and out with gentlemanly aplomb. Kakuryu moves to 2-0 with the win, and let's compare him with Tochiohzan today. Both are ranked Sekiwake, and both have equal opponents (as in Homasho and Asasekiryu are equally bad), so for Tochiohzan not to take care of bidness today was inexcusable. Asasekiryu is 0-2 for his trouble.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kotooshu spun his wheels at the tachi-ai with his left leg slipping just enough that by the time he regained his footing, his feet were aligned, and opponent M2 Aminishiki was moving forward full bore. Kotooshu had no chance in this one as his nemesis Aminishiki drove the Ozeki back and out faster'n you could cough "choke job." Sure, Kotooshu's feet slipped (ashi ga nagareru) at the tachi-ai, but he's got to be better prepared, especially against a guy like Shneaky who finds himself 2-0. The Bulgarian is 1-1.

Ozeki Kaio was gifted his first win by Fukuoka kohai, M1 Kotoshogiku. This one was so fake even Angelina Jolie's face was embarrassed. Kotoshogiku moved forward (I'll refrain from using "charged") at the tachi-ai as Kaio just slipped to his right and pushed down at the Giku's left armpit from the side. Kotoshogiku did a complete cartwheel/summersault right off of the dohyo, which could have in no way been instigated by Kaio's shove. If you've ever been to morning keiko, you know at the end of the session the rikishi actually practice taking dives rolling just so to avoid injury. This was one of those rolls with added exaggeration. It was just ridiculous, and if I was Japanese, I'd be embarrassed that this guy was representing the Ozeki rank for my country. Kaio has been one of my favorite rikishi since the mid 90's, and I still ache a bit when I think how close he came to Yokozuna, but nonsense bouts like this are a disgrace to sumo. Both rikishi are 1-1...and I feel a lot better now.

Unlike Ozeki Harumafuji whose ailing shoulder is obviously affecting his performance. After a false start where Harumafuji was caught moving to his left, there was nowhere to hide for real as Komusubi Tochinoshin got his right arm firmly on the inside of the Ozeki's belt. Harumafuji countered with a left outer grip and ducked this way and that trying to create some sort of opening, but Tochinoshin never relinquished the belt. Unable to use his entire body--a necessity for a small guy like HowDo--Tochinoshin patiently waited with that inside grip testing the throw waters and surviving counter uwate-nage throws from Harumafuji until about a minute in when Tochinoshin's strength won out enabling him to power the Ozeki to the clay with a right scoop throw. Harumafuji also cart wheeled across the dohyo, but this really was to avoid injury. It makes no sense to eat a Tochinoshin belt throw when you're goose is cooked. Tochinoshin coolly picks up that first win while Harumafuji falls to 0-2.

Ozeki Baruto exhibited one of his worst tachi-ai ever yesterday against Kisenosato, but he repented nicely today against Komusubi Aran using the moro-te tachi-ai and lengthy tsuppari to keep Aran completely away from the belt. Against a guy like Aran, I'd think Baruto would want the fight to go the belt, but regardless, the two whiteys traded shoves around and around the ring for a full 20 seconds or so before Aran used a quick pull attempt from the grapplin' position and a tottari tug of Baruto's right arm to completely turn the Estonian around 180 degrees. From there, the Russian hurried into the manlove position (and who wouldn't?) grabbing Baruto around the waist from behind with the right while securing his left arm in sort of an inside grip from behind. How Aran didn't think of easily tripping the Ozeki to his death from behind for the easy win I'll never know, but during his indecision, Baruto suddenly sprang a harima-nage throw attempt where he used a backhanded grip with the left arm on the back of Aran's belt to throw him behind while using his body to force his opponent to the clay not unlike a pile driver in a sport that's absolutely 100% real, professional wrestling. Both rikishi smacked the clay at the same time, but Aran's mage of all things clearly struck the dirt first giving the victory to Baruto while Aran fell to 0-2.

This was an awesome finish and perhaps the best move I've ever seen Baruto pull off, but lest we gush too quickly, we need to realize that the Ozeki should have never been in this position in the first place. In his two wins, it's been impossible to map out Baruto's sumo, which has been completely ad-hoc. Still, he's 2-0 now, and if he can keep up the momentum, it's my opinion that Hakuho would consider looking the other way if Baruto can do the rest on his own. Reaching the Ozeki rank guarantees one that he'll get at least one career yusho, and this could be setting up perfectly for Bart. The Ozeki must polish his sumo from here on out, but the stars have aligned just a bit.

Just a bit because M1 Kisenosato managed the unthinkable by staying with Yokozuna Hakuho stride for stride after a quick hari-zashi tachi-ai that saw Hakuho set up the right inside position that was so good he nearly parlayed it into moro-zashi, but as Kisenosato back-pedaled, he used a stiff right paw pushing against Hakuho's face that disrupted the Yokozuna's charge and created complete separation with the Kid now moving to his right and Hakuho forced to chase. As he did, Kisenosato landed a fierce right hari-te that didn't necessarily drive Hakuho back, but it did cause him to lose his cool, which is exactly what you need to do to beat a dai-Yokozuna. Hakuho countered with a right roundhouse to Kisenosato's face as well, but in the process forfeited sound balance allowing the M1 to drive the Yokozuna back with tsuppari to the neck and assume the hidari-yotsu position where Kisenosato enjoyed the lower stance with his left shoulder just under the Yokozuna's jaw. That was key because even though Hakuho had a right outer grip, he couldn't force Kisenosato back nor could he set up a sufficient trip. Kisenosato musta known he had his man at this point because he whipped the Yokozuna around with a right grip of his own, used his right leg brilliantly on the outside of Hakuho's left trapping the Yokozuna in place, and then stood him completely upright at the edge before sending Hakuho off of the dohyo and rolling over a handful of spectators in the first few rows.

Damnation! I dare say we have not seen a bout of sumo like this since that epic Asashoryu - Hakuho bout to finish off the Hatsu 2009 basho. Everything about Kisenosato's performance today was perfect from his keeping his composure after losing the tachi-ai to landing a face slap and causing the Yokozuna to lose his cool. There are some unwritten rules in sumo, and one of them is that you don't deliver a hari-te to a Yokozuna, but for some inexplicable reason, Kisenosato is one rikishi who can. The Kid has been ballsy and fearless since he entered sumo, and I loved the hari-te today. The Kid was indeed an army with banners and deserves two kin-boshi for his efforts. It's just unfortunate that Kisenosato is unable to focus as he did today for an entire basho. As the dust settled, both rikishi finished the day at 1-1, and thank the sumo gods there were plenty of empty seats around the dohyo today or someone could have really gotten hurt. As for Hakuho, sitting up in the second row after having been pasted with a silly grin on his face after this loss was not the reaction I wanted to see from him. I guess I can't blame him for not exactly being fired up after the last four basho, but a Yokozuna sitting in the wake of an M1 does not look good.

It may take a day or two for us to come down from the excitement of that single bout today, but come day 5 or so this basho will likely start to drag. Hakuho's record... gone. Tochiohzan's momentum...gone. Kotooshu's fast start...gone. Baruto holds the key, so let's see if he can overcome a shaky 2-0 start.

Mario's one fella who hopes he does tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Greetings and welcome to Day 3 of the Kyushu Ba...wait, its Shonichi, Day 1. Must have been focusing on the audience at the Fuk u Oka? International Center. Really, must I write that attendance would be higher at Adolph Hitlers bar mitzvah? Must I write that the NSK ought to take this basho away from that wretched town and give Osaka two? Must I write that the place would be filled to capacity if only three-quarters of the women Arbo has slept with in Japan showed up (especially if they were giving mother/daughter discounts?) When Hakuho did his lil leg stomping routine at the start I heard three guys say "Yoisho!" and two cough up phlegm (and no, I did NOT need the spellchecker for that last word--snap!)

If there is one day where I watch the entire two hours of Makuuchi wrestling its Day 1, mainly because Ross Mihara and Doreen Simmons are both palatable hosts. Sure, they slip up here and there, like talking endlessly about Tokusegawa without ever once mentioning that the guy the NHK camera was on during the entire pre-bout was his foe Kotokasuga (newbies could easily get confused), but for the most part they have a certain... je ne sai quoi that makes me want to quote French.

Gotta give credit where its due. The NSK could have led off the first two days by feeding Hakuho Aran and Geeku, men whose chances of toppling the Yokozuna lie somewhere between "Is that wide enough?" and "Ill call 119!" but instead gave us Tochinoshin and Kisenosato, guys whose chances lie more in the range of "Thatll be the day" and "Well Ill be a monkeys uncle."

Im pissed that I had to jettison all my Hokutoriki jokes cause the boy dropped out, but maybe I can use them on Hakuba. First match provided us with some hot sauce for our looking balls as Okinoumi turned the tables right at the edge on Wakakoyu, spinning the Juryo man around and launching both men into the air. Little femme (ugh, now the French wont stop) Wakakowai put his hand down to brace his fall, and by that lost. Why do I get the feeling a Mongolian would have eaten clay to win?

Speaking of mainland Asian types, Shotenro, a darling of ours in 2009 but not so much these days, slipped around Kasugao and escorted the Kimchi Kommando out nice and spicy like. The Korean used to be a threat, but theres just a little too much "pus" in his Pusan these days.

They cued up Bob Seger for the next match, and the place got to jumpin:

I was born lonely
Up in Ibaraki-ken
Learned to put a diaper on
And wrestle men
And I was just fifteen
When I had to leave home
Joined Musashigawa beya
Theyre hard as stone
Aint good looking
But you know I aint shy
Aint afraid to rub my titties
Against a guy
So if youve got a dohyo
And a little sacred salt
I need to get sweaty now
Its not my fault

Cause I am just a ramblin
Ramblin man
And I got to gamble,
Gamblin man.
Yeah, I got to ramble,
Ramblin man.
I was born a ramblin gamblin man

Yep, Miyabiyama the Lord of Lard rolled back into the top division after his banishment to the hinterlands, and the lad wasted no time in slapping down the ass of one Koryu. Gets out my way, child, Im oozin back to the sanyaku, mofo! Yo.

Another guy who now knows that what happens in Vegas mosdef does NOT stay in Vegas was up next as Goeido took on the Gentle Giant his bad self, Tochinonada. Goeido controlled this bout the entire time...until he made the final push and fell to his chest as GG balanced on the bales. The youngin looked overeager to prove himself. Always has, for that matter.

An ice hockey game nearly broke out as Sokokurai and Bushuyama got to hand checking each other. Finally when Cry lunged in for the belt, the Dolly Yama gave him such a "thwack" that NHK flashed the word on the screen, like in the old Batman tv series. Bufud by Bushu. It doesnt get any sweeter than that.

Typical Takami today as he totally took Tokitenkus tachi-ai tall and tumescently, then timed a talented tug to take the turkey to town. Nice pull down win for Short Bus.

After getting manned back to the edge, Mokonami pulled the same sweet move as Okinoumi did in the first bout, but sadly it was determined that the Yakitori Sekitoris heel brushed a wavelength traveling near the space where the idea of a hypothesis of the possibility of matter contacting matter occurred to someone sitting on a couch in Antwerp, and the aggressor Tosayutaka emerged victorious. Would have preferred a re-douche on this one.

Toyonoshima was ready to go all in vs. Gagamaru, but in the 17.3 seconds it took GlacialMaru to actually complete his tachi-ai, he reconsidered and started backing away, thinking hed live to fight another day. He managed to turn the big fella around, but somehow Lord Gaga spun and got hold of him. High Roller went for a leg trip and while the Tanker bit on that feint, Tugboat got parallel and shoved him out. I wanna say it was exciting.

Shimotori kind of blew me away by rising from the dead vs. Kyokutenho, who seemed to have his foe going back and out no problemo, but instead found himself on the receiving end of a swift howdayadoo, and unceremoniously shoved out. Turnabout is fair play, I guess.

Nothing to see with Tamawashi erasing Kimurayama from the Day 1 memory cache before he even got downloaded.

Mike was cleaning out an old email folder of ours and he found several addressed to me. Much to my chagrin, they were from 2008. Oops. I probably lost those two readers, but if its any consolation, yes Mike looks EXACTLY like Rick Astley, and no, Takamisakari does NOT have Downs Syndrome.

Turns out Ross and Doreen were right to talk up Tokusegawa as he easily got in on Kotokasugas belt and drove the smaller man out.

With both men slapping like fifth grade girls, it was only a matter of time before one got spanked to the dirt, and it was Kokkai taking the loss as YoshiCafe double latted the E6. Starbuck wins 10 this time out and hes going to be Komusubi. Starbuck wins 10 this time out and Ill post a picture of myself naked on Day 15 (shit, Ill do that for free!)

It was Croc-N-Tak time next, and after Takekaze hemmed and hawed at tachi-ai I knew he was going to jump to the side. And he did. Using his ill-gotten goods to perfection, he drove into the off balance Wakanosato (who, to be frank, had a fair chance to right the ship) and backed him out. As he went to bow, Wakanosato had this resigned but sad look on his mug, as if to say, Sure, if thats how you want to play it, you lil punk ass beeotch! Like his stablemate Yoshikaze, Takekaze was also 12-3 in Sept., and like Café he will not be duplicating that feat, even with trickery like this.

One meaning for the word "haku" in Japanese is "to vomit," and how I wish that were the kanji used for Hakuba. His henka tachi-ai didnt do him any good today, thank T&M, as Kitataiki read that move like a Penthouse Forum, slamming out the dirty bird with gusto. Yarrgh, methinks Hakuba and his scorbutic sumo are in for a lengthy fortnight.

Kakuryu greeted Homasho with some strong neck thrusting, then backed away for a second only to grab at the belt. Deciding this wasnt what he wanted he let go and pounded the E3 with some hellacious tsuppari. The Shikoroyama man, known for weathering the storm, couldnt handle this squall and was beaten like a red headed stepchild.

Anti-climactic bout between Asasekiryu and Tochiohzan, as the Sekiwake declined a bite of both Sexys henka and proceeding slapdown attempt, slamming the E2 in the chest and twisting him to the clay. Toe Cheese is all the rage these days, so heres to him taking Kaios spot sooner rather than later.

Speaking of which, Ross and Doreen were chuckling about silly we have all been by writing Kaios obituary every year for the past few years in Fukuoka, but the fact is we based those observations on the premise that sumo was not fixed, when it has become painfully clear to anyone without their head ensconced firmly up their ass (yes, I know the rule against "their" and I piss on it) that it IS, at least to the extent that the popular JPese Ozeki were gifted years more at the rank than they would have been able to manage on their own.

But perhaps this is truly the final Fukuoka basho for the Old Grey Mere, who got pwned by Aminishiki today (disappointing thirteen people in the crowd, or, in other words, THE crowd) and should by most everyone else this basho and into 2011, virtually ensuring he doesnt make it one more cycle. Yes, hes lovable. Yes, he looks like David Letterman. Yes, hes got Doreens cell number on his speed dial. But charm or no charm, NO WAY he makes it back to Kyushu, so pay your respects, Fukuokaites.

The sun rises. Water runs. Wind blows. And so does Harumafuji when it comes to wrestling Kotoshogiku. Another annihilation today at the hands of Geeku, this one in under two seconds. At least we know these bouts arent fixed, cause HowDo would have had to have killed Geekus Aunt Melba to be repaying it this long. The fact is that the Ozeki always gives the Sadogatake man a straight up fight, instead of shifting and sliding and doing the things that he could mosdef do to win.

At this point they started showing close-ups of Hakuho and Tochinoshin seated by the dohyo waiting their turn. Hakuho looked like he had just been delivered from Easter Island by crane helicopter, while Tochinoshin appeared to have a chipmunk running around marking territory in his mouth.

So Baruto did his best imitation of Mainoumi, trying to jump over Kisenosato and grab the back of his belt. I think The Kid was so amazed to see the earth rise up at him like that he lost focus, and once the Ozeki closed ranks The Kids right arm got trapped sticking straight up in the air like he was asking if he could go the toilet. Baruto obliged by taking the piss out of him with an outside right belt that led to a pedestrian force out win. Wow, hijinks tachi-ai in the second to last bout of Day 1. This basho ought to be a winner, urp.

Aran walked right into Kotooshu, who got the two handed belt grip, where and how deep didnt matter at this point, cause Aran was more Moron for taking this tack, instead of hitting and backing up and evading to get the overly tall Bulgar off balance. I wish I could say that we should watch Kotooshu, and that maybe he can give Hakuho a run for his money this time out. I also wish I could talk to seagulls.

I recall that when Hakuho lost three bouts in January after losing a record setting four all last year, commentators were making jokes about how hed have to win the rest of his matches for the year to beat last year, hahaha, hohoho. Course then Asashoryu was forced out of sumo for beating in a pimp, and Mitsuki was hung out in the wind for doing what hundreds of others have done in sumo for ages, and a few Yokozuna upset candidates were demoted to Juryo, and Harumafuji became a headcase, and Baruto and Kotooshu stayed European, and lastly, but mosdef not leastly, Hakuho decided that he and he alone deserved to win any sumo bout he was in.

Now he stands at the precipice, and each day The Streak sits there square in the middle of the ring, gaudy, flashy, spritzed up like a girl at the premiere of Back To The Future, and demanding to be taken seriously. Seriously? Uh, okay.

So Tochinoshin started with a slight henka, but the Yokozuna closed in, grabbed him and tried to throw him, but couldnt. Fair enough. Then they locked up and while No Shine started working out what to do, he got done, Hakuho walking him back and, when finding the inevitable resistance, twisting him effortlessly to the floor. Number 63 for the man of the hour, day, week, month, year and possible next decade. Barring injury, this man will win close to 40 career yusho, is there any doubt?

Mike will be driving by tomorrow with his boomin system. Mosdef.











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