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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 (Harvye Hodja reporting)
It's a crisp, sunny, blue-skied day here as I write, cold but pleasant to be out in. I have a belly full of bacon, pancakes, homefries topped with chipped beef, Belgian waffle, two eggs over easy, four pieces of toast (two rye, two white, all with butter), a piece of string cheese, a banana, and some graham crackers, so I feel good. No need for chanko. How about you?

Let's review the tournament. The whole thing was overshadowed by the fighting scandal. I'm still where I stood a week ago: a) we know almost nothing about what really happened, but b) know enough to say there should be expulsions (Harumafuji, Takanohana, and probably Isegahama), suspensions (Takanoiwa and Hakuho for two tournaments, everybody else at the party for one), and a resignation (Hakkaku). Despite Hakuho's cheerful hope that he'll soon be out there wrestling with Harumafuji again, one thing I feel pretty confident of is that Harumafuji won't wrestle again. I'm sure they all brawl privately from time to time, but it doesn't get public play. No sport is more skewed in its image vs. reality balance, and no sport overreacts more when the veil gets ripped off that divide. Sumo doesn't tolerate glances behind the curtain.

Meanwhile, in the in-ring exhibition, prediction A came true and Hakuho yusho'ed for the 40th time. Can he get to 50? I dunno. Can that wasp on my patio that has been frozen into immobility overnight every day for a week but manages to stagger a few steps in the midday sun the next day make it yet another week, pointless as its existence seems? Maybe. But probably not. Unlike the wasp, the baggage Hakuho carries is not physical, but psychological and cultural, and he's been staggering for a few years.

M9 Endo (9-5) vs. M12 Kagayaki (6-8)
Before we get started let me say, my, does Kitanofuji Announcer look good in that snappy leather gangster jacket. Yikes. My wife said, "star, yeah, star," then "but that's fine, he looks happy." Yep.

Anyway, I want to say, "you kind of knew Endo was going to win this." Except Kagayaki shoved him hard, once, twice, and you're a dry brush-weed blown away in the oshi-dashi breeze. It's always good to be reminded that I don't know as much I think I do.

M11 Asanoyama (5-9) vs. M8 Chiyomaru (6-8)
I've really enjoyed that silly Chiyomaru this tournament. I've really ignored that inconsequential Asanoyama this tournament. Asanoyama surged into flabber land and had a good looking outside left belt grip and and inside right as they bodied up. I thought that Asanoyama would drive Chiyoverymaru to Cream City. However, when he got Chiyobellymaru to the bales he missed on the final alley-oop over the straw, and found himself with his back to it. So Flabber Ball (Chiyomaru) grabbed him and promptly yori-kiri'ed Asanoyama out, peas in a bowl.

M14 Daiamami (6-8) vs. M7 Shodai (8-6)
"Dump."  Shodai was in some trouble, but maki-kae-'ed swiftly to get a nice belt grip on the left. He turned that into a workmanlike uwate-nage overhand throw of Daiamami.  Dump.  Mike asked yesterday how much bloom is left on the Vanilla Softcream (Shodai) rose.  None.  The optimist could say, hey, he went 9-6 and will be back in the jo'i next tournament.  Yeah, but it's telling how bad he looked going 9-6.  Look where Mitakeumi is--Sekiwake, and no losing tournaments all year. Shodai was supposed to be the better of those two guys.  Now he's just a guy.

M7 Daishomaru (4-10) vs. M15 Nishikigi (6-8)
Here is a match-up that belonged in Juryo. However, Daishomaru is so powerless without the pull that he made Nishikigi look like a Yokozuna: Nishikigi put his hands on Daishomaru's shoulders and trundled him out like a wheelbarrow full of Styrofoam, oshi-dashi. Well, this win probably keeps Nishikigi from dropping to Juryo, so Daishomaru may not have been trying very hard.

M14 Kotoyuki (8-6) vs. M6 Tochinoshin (8-6)
Very nicely executed by The Grizzly Bear, Tochinoshin. Kotoyuki gave him two or three scared-looking slaps in the the face, then Tochinoshin reached in, knuckled the velvet, and removed Kotoyuki from contention, yori-kiri. And bits of rent crimson flesh were scattered about the cave floor.

M5 Chiyoshoma (7-7) vs. M13 Aminishiki (7-7)
Amazing fact:  they led off the broadcast today with the nugget that Aminishiki's kachi-koshi was on the line.  Yep.  Not only that, but to my astonishment they reserved a Fighting Spirit Special Prize for Aminishiki if he were to win.  Wow!  Like, wow. The god Pander danced a jig and played the flute. Yiy!  So, who do you think is going to win?  Hmmm.  As I said on Day 6 or so when they had Aminishiki practically looking like a yusho contender, 8-7 was still your most likely outcome, so let's come to it. Oh horrible. Oh, horrible, horrible. In a straight up bout fought straight on, at this point in his career Aminishiki has no chance in this match. But. Chiyoshoma slapped him in the face and drove him back, then let himself be pulled laterally by the belt and reached out and slapped the clay in the other direction, giving the match to Aminishiki shitate-dashi-nage, like a guy at a chess match dinging his move timer:  done!  Yep, done.  I will not spend time on Aminishiki's tearful post-bout interview, because I am puzzled by such things. Perhaps I shouldn't be so cynical.

M10 Ikioi (8-6) vs. M5 Arawashi (8-6)
Ikioi just pile-driver destroyed Arawashi, yori-kiri. Ignored a fore-arm bar, grabbed the body, and knitted a shroud.

M4 Chiyonokuni (5-9) vs. M13 Takekaze (7-7)
They nearly knocked each other out on the tachi-ai--what was that?  Heads?  A fist to the pate? Chiyonokuni's ankle cracking with a shot heard throughout the arena?  Chiyonokuni pushed and pushed very hard after the spackle-cracking tachi-ai (instant replay tells me it was probably Chiyonokuni's shoulder to Takekaze's face that reported like a shot) and tsuki-dashi'ed Takekaze into the winds of oblivion in seconds flat. However, he slipped three times in there, kicking up clay scrabble, and on the last one appeared to have hurt his ankle; they had to roll him away in the Schwarzwald Klinik chair.

M3 Shohozan (3-11) vs. M11 Aoiyama (2-12)
Rhythmic clapping for Darth Hozan. Oh, sure, why not?  Go, 't Hozan!!  However, Aoiyama made me look like a liar: after days and days of not being able to do anything but back limply up while pulling and losing, looking as injured sho' nuff as a dead rabbit already in your pot, here he head-butted his opponent and drove him back with stiff claw-hammers to the pucker. He did then pull and retreat, but he does that a lot anyway. And when Darth Hozan nearly fell down but didn't, Aoiyama was swiftly and alertly and mercilessly back on the attack, karbattlebombelling Shohozan out of there, oshi-dashi. Zoinks!

M10 Kaisei (8-6) vs. M2 Tochiohzan (3-11)
Mmm. Kaisei sure does look good in orange, like biscuits 'n' gravy wrapped in a goldfish. Must have made Tochiohzan hungry, because he tucked right in for moro-zashi, then jumpity-leaped forward before shifting one hand onto the butt button and tipping Kaisei into the soup tureen, a rarely seen okuri-nage.

At this point they showed old-fashioned bozes painted in red and green and, what, tied shut with ropes? For carrying the possessions of the wrestlers back to Tokyo, I do believe. Looked like little medieval coffins. Meta-commentary on the state of the sport?

M2 Chiyotairyu (6-8) vs. M9 Daieisho (5-9)
Blast off!  Rocket to the Vroom, Chiyotairyu, stood Daieisho up with a three-engine thrust and, to his credit and against type, when Daieisho then nearly fell down, stunned, Chiyotairyu didn't go for the pull, which would have been natural, but continued to mix vinegar and baking soda in his soda bottle and blew Daieisho into the utility sink, oshi-dashi.

M12 Okinoumi (11-3) vs. M1 Takakeisho (10-4)
These guys both had Special Prizes in the bag--perhaps packed away in their little coffins?--when this one started, so let's hope they played for pride. They had earned those Prizes, too: good tournaments both. Looked too easy for Takakeisho, though, when the light turned green. Okinoumi just didn't offer anything, going back to my old moniker for him of Lake Placid. Took no lateral movement though it was open to him, never got close the belt, and didn't do much with his patsy hands. Just stood up and got done in a purposeful linear force-out, oshi-dashi. Okay, next time, Takakeisho. And as for you, Okinoumi, when you show up in the jo'i, show us something there for a change instead of wilting like a daffodil planted in front of the dryer vent. Geez.

M1 Tamawashi (10-4) vs. M3 Hokutofuji (11-3)
In this case Hokutofuji had a Special Prize, while Tamawashi had a pocketful of nothing, with promises of more of the same. So Tamawashi decided to show everybody something. Pow! Tachi-ai that would have stopped a flying anvil. Stopped ol' Hokutofuji dead on a dime. Tamawashi then cut him up like a rough block of tofu, slice, dice, sprinkle in the salad, in a dynamic and convincing near-linear force-out, oshi-dashi. Hokutofuji tried to get away to the side at the end, but it was too late, and then he ran half way up the hana-michi after the ejection. Perhaps he was thinking of going and getting that special prize to bring back and give to Tamawashi.

M5 Takarafuji (7-7) vs. K Onosho (7-7)
This was our third linear-force out in a row, and the most lopsided. Yes, my jury is still out (down the street eating pepperoni pizza, in fact, my jury is) on Onosho, but he can be very good at times and he was here, too. He put one hand in the armpit of Lottery (Takarafuji) to trundle him rapidly towards the obsidian flats, then finished him off with a disdainful bop on the chin with the other, oshi-dashi.

K Kotoshogiku (5-9) vs. M4 Ichinojo (10-4)
I keep promising myself I won't speculate on Kotoshogiku's retirement anymore, and yet every damn time it comes out. Every time. Today's: "With any luck, this will be Kotoshogiku's last-ever match in a Kyushu basho." There, I said it. Anyhoo, Ichinojo ground two hands into the salt, stared across the lines, and resigned himself to his fate. Though he got solid position, had a fist full of satin, and as into a good lean, somehow, somehow!, Kotoshogiku, with nothing but a left arm stuck through the arm gap at the teat and some Magical Leprechaun Gaburi Action (trademark, MLGA), Kotoshogiku was able to overcome it all and bippity-bouncity yori-kiri the Iron Blob of Gravity Grease, The Mongolith, He Who Will Not Cross the Tawara Easily (Ichinojo) out. Oh, my.

…and now, just look at today's amazing line-up: there is only one match containing a Yokozuna or an Ozeki, Hakuho vs. Goeido, because the other four guys all dropped out for one reason or another. Headline Match #2, which we're about to see, was between the two Sekiwake. What the heck can the emperor, not to mention us, look forward to in Tokyo in January?

S Mitakeumi (8-6) vs. S Yoshikaze (6-8)
Slippy-slidey head bump at the tachi-ai, and Yoshikaze burrowed and actually tried to reach in for the belt. Not good for him. Mitakeumi looked down at him like, "what are you doing there, man?", backed up, and slapped him down, hiki-otoshi.

Let me just say that the fan held by the gyoji for the next match looked like a giant, delicious gingerbread cookie. Please visit me in jail in Fukuoka after I take a bite out of that thing.

O Goeido (9-5) vs. Y Hakuho (13-1)
Cat slap. Outside left. Curtains. There were a few moments jiggling about between the outside left and the time when they both rolled off the dohyo with Hakuho on top after an overhand throw, uwate-nage, but this was a classic Hakuho win.

This was a great tournament for Hakuho. He dominated in his wins, rarely dicked around up there as he so often has done in past years, and clearly wanted it and wanted to do it right: I'm certain that's why he was so mad when he screwed up against Yoshikaze and blew his zensho plans. But he'll take what he got. He decided this tournament was going to be his, that he was going to show what he can do. And he quietly went about it and did it.

Yeah, there's a lot of crap in sumo. Always has been. But for fifteen days this tournament, Hakuho burnished his golden buckler and showed us what the sport should be about. Thank god for that.

So sure, I'll dream on 50 too.

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Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As we head into day 14, all talk of course focuses on the yusho race, and while Hakuho leading the way is expected, let's talk about the two hira-maku guys still giving chase. First and foremost, what comes to your mind when you think about the sumo content from both Hokutofuji and Okinoumi? Yeah, that's what I thought: absolutely nothing. I actually like both of these guys quite a bit, but there hasn't been anything in the content of their sumo that has really stood out. They just found themselves high atop the leaderboard, and the later we got into week two, none of their opponents wanted to mess things up in regards to a yusho race.

That poses two main problems. First, the yusho race is false and lacks any substance. And second, when the yusho contenders are asked to step up and actually challenge in the final weekend, they're not up to the task because they haven't earned their record up to this point.

I think Takayasu is a classic example of how a rikishi's sumo skills deteriorate when he isn't forced to fight straight up 15 days per basho. Prior to talk of Ozeki, Takayasu was actually a guy with decent game. He was strong, he had a nice oshi attack, and he could also fight at the belt. Everyone liked Takayasu, and he was a solid rikishi worthy of the sanyaku a couple of times a year. Now, however, the dude's sumo is a mess, and he isn't fighting anywhere near the level of an Ozeki in the traditional sense. When you have the top rikishi lower the bar in order to create parity in sumo, the content of the sumo follows suit: it naturally moves lower.

And so with that background in mind, let's actually start day 14 by examining the yusho race moving in chronological order. M12 Okinoumi faced a tall task in M1 Tamawashi, and regardless of their head to head coming in (Okinoumi lead 9-8), Tamawashi beat Okinoumi the three times they battled this year, and the Mongolian is the superior rikishi, so there was no way that Okinoumi was going to beat him straight up today. Some will question, "How can you say that?" and the answer is easy: I base all analysis on sumo content, not politics or wish lists.

From the tachi-ai, Tamawashi caught Okinoumi with a right choke hold that he used to drive Okinoumi back a full step aided by a left hand to the teet, and then he followed that up with a right forearm underneath Okinoumi's jaw, and with his feet against the tawara in a flash, Okinoumi finally showed some resistance, but as he leaned forward back into his opponent, Tamawashi switched gears on a dime and just pulled Okinoumi forward, across the dohyo, and down flat on his gut. I watched all angles of the slow motion replays looking for something...anything positive to break down regarding Okinoumi's sumo, but it was non-existent. Tamawashi kicked his ass right and proper, something you would expect to happen in a straight up affair.

The loss sent Okinoumi to an 11-3 record...two back of Hakuho, so a Hakuho win later on in the day would eliminate Okinoumi from the yusho race. As for Tamawashi, he improved to 10-4, and I was excited to read the headlines the next morning to see all they hype for this guy and his prospects as a future Ozeki. Oh yeah, there wasn't a single mention because he's Mongolian. Just contrast that to the hype Takayasu got for sumo that wasn't even half the quality of what Tamawashi was showing at the same time.

With Okinoumi all but eliminated, the anti-Mongolian yusho hopes now rested on the shoulders of M3 Hokutofuji. He was paired against Komusubi Onosho today, a rikishi in a very similar situation. Both of these guys have decent game, but both of these guys have been way over-hyped.  A couple of times during the broadcast leading up to Hokutofuji's entering the arena, they showed him in the back halls practicing his tachi-ai with a lower-ranked rikishi. The loud pop just echoed in the hallways each time Hokutoriki slammed into his practice partner with perfect form, and to watch it you'd think that the dude was ready. The problem was that Hokutofuji rarely exhibited such a tachi-ai during the actual tournament, and you can't just practice against a Makushita guy when it doesn't count and then turn on the switch for something that you never had in the first place this tournament.

I wasn't surprised a bit to see Hokutofuji exhibit that lame tachi-ai where he shades to his left a half step keeping his hands high while looking for the early pull. Luckily for him, Onosho has become a pull-first guy too, and so he wasn't able to exploit Hokutofuji's tachi-ai, so with both rikishi coming out of the gate looking to pull first, it made for a lame start. Onosho actually went for the pull first, but he wasn't is a good position to do so, so credit Hokutofuji for catching him with a nice left paw to the neck that he used to drive Onosho back near the edge, but when you're not moving forward at the tachi-ai, you don't have sufficient momentum to finish your foe off, and so Onosho was able to swipe sideways into Hokutofuji's arms, first into Hokutofuji's left and then to his right. When Onosho swiped right, he was able to move to the right of his opponent, and before Hokutofuji could square back up, Onosho was onto him like white to rice fully taking advantage of Hokutofuji's counter pull attempt at the edge.

So, just like that, both Japanese rikishi still in the yusho race lose with bad sumo, but what did you really expect? These guys weren't blazing inside of the dohyo the entire two weeks, so why would they be able to suddenly turn it on when the pressure mounts? They can't, and so the result is Hokutofuji's falling to 11-3 while Onosho keeps his kachi-koshi hopes alive at 7-7.

That means the only person standing in between Hakuho and his 40th career yusho was M9 Endoh. I don't know what's sadder: the fact that they conjure up Endoh to fight Hakuho on the final Saturday or the fact that at least 90% of people in the audience believe that Endoh had a chance to beat Hakuho straight up. The bottom line in this one 100% is that Hakuho had a choice to make.

The Yokozuna made it pretty clear at the tachi-ai when he drove his right forearm into Endoh's jaw so hard that Elvis' knees began to wobble as he was knocked back near the straw from that single blow. Like a true predator, Hakuho stayed on the juggler following Endoh back quickly and using his right hand to Endoh's left side and his own left hand driving into Endoh's neck, and it was over in less than two seconds. Hakuho was definitely fired up because even though Endoh was clearly back beyond the straw, he fired one more dual shove into the kid knocking him off the dohyo for good in true dame-oshi fashion. At that moment, Hakuho moved to 13-1 and picked up his 40th career yusho.  As for Endoh, he falls to 9-5 and can't move back down deep among his peers in the rank and file fast enough.  In fact, they've paired him with Kagayaki tomorrow, so I wonder if that's the first time a dude has gone from fighting in the musubi-no-ichiban on day 14 and then the first bout of the day on senshuraku. It's just another example of how bizarre sumo has become.

Speaking of bizarre, I never did comment on Hakuho's calling a mono-ii on himself in that "loss" to Yoshikaze. I mean, if there was anything pertinent to say I would have already said it, but it was just Hakuho's way of covering for the yaocho. What normal professional athlete would ever call a foul on himself?  Exactly zero.  Hakuho's calling for that dumb mono-ii mid-bout was simply a way to cover for the yaocho. Nothing more or nothing less. His act afterwards where he refused to climb back atop the dohyo for a minute or so was just part of the show.  It was either that or he was saying if Takanohana can defy the Sumo Association and refuse to cooperate in this scandal, then why do I have to follow protocol in the ring?

The reason I even bring this up right now is because Hakuho's left hand was easily a foot off of the dohyo when he charged.  I took that pic above when Hakuho's left hand was at its lowest point of the tachi-ai. This was probably the worst false start of the entire tournament, so why didn't Hakuho go all Boy Scout and call it all back again as he did against Yoshikaze??  It's all just part of what sumo has become...a giant circus that fails to produce quality sumo on a consistent basis. The Mongolians dick around just like the Sumo Association dicks with them.

I should probably drop the mic at this point, but I suppose there were a few other bouts of interest. The day began with M14 Daiamami hooking up with Ryuden in hidari-yotsu, and Ryuden seemed content to let Daiamami dictate the pace. The rookie kept his foe upright, but Ryuden still had the path to the right outer grip. He'd eventually get it, but he didn't do anything with it, and so Daiamami methodically forced Ryuden back and across. While I've never seen Ryuden fight, I kinda got the impression that he was mukiryoku here.  At M14, Daiamami can still stick in the division with one more win tomorrow, but for now he's 6-8.  Ryuden falls to 8-6, and I'd like to see what he can do in Makuuchi.

M11 Aoiyama has been entirely useless this tournament, and today against M15 Nishikigi, he put his hands forward and high at the tachi-ai, but there was no force behind the attack...if you can call it that, so Nishikigi just bulldozed him straight back and across in two seconds. Aoiyama falls to 2-12 with the loss while Nishikigi finds himself at 6-8 from the M15 rank. We'll see if any shenanigans are involved tomorrow with both Daiamami and Nishikigi.

M14 Kotoyuki caught M11 Asanoyama by the neck at the tachi-ai and just bullied him back with constant shoves into that neck bending him like a straw.  Asanoyama tried to dig in and halt his opponent's momentum, but Kotoyuki's thrusts were just too effective, and he dominated this one in three seconds picking up the nice oshi-taoshi win. Kotoyuki secures kachi-koshi at 8-6 while Asanoyama falls to 5-9.

M10 Kaisei and M10 Ikioi bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai before Ikioi shaded a bit left going for a meager pull. Kaisei wasn't fooled and instinctively got the right arm inside with the left outer grip, and we all know what could have happened here, but sitting on eight wins, Kaisei can be bought now, and that was case here as he had the advantageous position but stopped pressing near the edge allowing Ikioi to maneuver sideways to his left and fell Kaisei with counter push to the side. In true yaocho fashion, Kaisei only hit the dirt with both palms and no other part of his body. Actually, I don't mind giving Ikioi kachi-koshi here because the dude sacrifices a lot, but Kaisei was clearly mukiryoku in this one as both rikishi stand at 8-6.

Make that two fake bouts in a row as M9 Daieisho pushed lightly into M13 Takekaze's face and then just let his arms slip upwards fully exposing his body to the veteran Takekaze. As hapless as Takekaze is, he was still able to assume moro-zashi and force Daieisho back and across with no attempt to counter and no resistance. Takekaze moves to 7-7 with the win and has bought himself another tournament in Makuuchi regardless of what happens tomorrow.  As for Daieisho, he falls to a harmless 5-9.  Before we move on, these two gals were spotted in the audience rooting wildly for Takekaze, and if you've ever wondered why they stack all of those sake barrels in front of the venue wrapped in hay...ah, never mind. Too easy. Let's move on.

M13 Aminishiki henka'd to his left at the tachi-ai, which for him is moving at about 5 miles an hour and catching no one by surprise. And that includes his opponent, M8 Chiyomaru, who easily squared back up and used a nice moro-te-zuki to pummel Aminishiki back and across in about five seconds. Shneaky just doesn't have the speed to evade and pull any more if his opponent is applying pressure, and unfortunately for him, they have been the last week. Aminishiki falls to 7-7, which is still good enough to keep him in the division for January, so let's see if they buy that last bout for good measure. Chiyomaru moves to 6-8 with the win.

At this point of the broadcast, they announced M15 Myogiryu's withdrawal, so that will leave him at 6-9 from the M15 rank. Hopefully he lined his mawashi with sufficient cash to see him through till March.  M7 Shodai picked up the freebie giving him kachi-koshi at 8-6.  Before we move on, is there still any bloom left on Shodai's rose?  Not a whole lot, and that's the problem building these guys up as they do.  At some point it becomes clear that they can't sustain the hype on their own, and so they eventually fade away into Endoh status.  We know we love this guy; we just don't know why.

It's beautiful to watch M6 Tochinoshin's sumo when he wants to win, and that was the case today against M12 Kagayaki. Credit Kagayaki for coming out with tsuppari to try and keep Shin away from the belt, but Tochinoshin's just too good, and he was able to eventually work his right arm to the inside and set up the left on the other side. As he bodied Kagayaki back, he was looking for the left outer, but when Kagayaki raised his arms to go for a counter pull, Shin just settled for moro-zashi at the edge pushing Kagayaki across with ease but showing him respect by keeping him on his feet. I think Tochinoshin should get the Ginosho this basho as he moves to 8-6 while Kagayaki suffers make-koshi with the loss at 6-8.

M2 Chiyotairyu obviously called in a favor today from M7 Daishomaru, and that's not to say that Tairyu couldn't kick his ass anyway, but the fix was in from the start as Chiyotairyu kinda shuffled his feet sideways to his right before firing this awkward tsuki into Daishomaru's left side that of course sent him sprawling in exaggerated fashion with his feet flying in the air. Chiyotairyu moves to 6-8 with the win while Daishomaru sprawls his way to 4-10.

In an ugly bout, M4 Chiyonokuni took charge against M2 Tochiohzan with a nice right choke hold from the tachi-ai, but he tried to parlay that into a dumb pull letting Tochiohzan back into the bout. Oh scored on a nice left tsuki of his own into Chiyonokuni's outstretched right arm, but it didn't throw Kuni off balance, and so the younger, genki'er Chiyonokuni squared back up with his foe and eventually worked him back and across oshi-dashi style moving to 5-9 in the process. Tochiohzan falls to 3-11, but this guy gave up a lot of wins to his Japanese counterparts early on.

The last few days, M6 Chiyoshoma has been fighting as if he's wearing tap shoes dancing all over the dohyo this way and that. Today against M1 Takakeisho, the latter brought nothing from the tachi-ai despite Chiyoshoma keeping his arms out wide, and so ChiyoAstaire began to tap back and right firing slaps into Takakeisho's face. With Takakeisho moving like a sloth, Chiyoshoma worked his way back into the center of the ring grabbing Takakeisho's belt with an outer right hand, but inside of just dashi-nage'ing him out, he put his right leg behind Takakeisho's left threatening a trip that would never come. With Chiyoshoma just standing there, Takakeisho finally went for a sloppy left scoop throw that barely had any effect, but Chiyoshoma played along anyway bending over at the waist and then just diving down putting...you guessed it...both palms to the dirt before Takakeisho could even catch up with a kill shot. Obvious yaocho here as Chiyoshoma boosts Takakeisho to a 10-4 mark while the Mongolian himself voluntarily falls to 7-7.  I've seen flashes from Takakeisho this basho that I've liked, but the dude is not a 10-4 guy from the jo'i, and just when I want to start liking him, we see this string of yaocho thrown his way with today being another obvious example.

M3 Shohozan knows his place in the Fukuoka hierarchy, so today against Komusubi Kotoshogiku, in their hidari-yotsu affair, he stopped short of pushing the Geeku all the way back and out from the tachi-ai. Having easily forced the former Ozeki to the straw in less than two seconds, the Dark One suddenly stopped and put his right arm up high in kubi-nage fashion before grabbing Kotoshogiku in the kote grip with that same right arm. Shohozan dangerously swung Kotoshogiku around and nearly out with the kote grip, but he just let go of it and kept that right arm up high the rest of the way as Kotoshogiku just dry humped his fellow Fukuoka'n back and across. The crowd of course bought this one hook, line, and stinker, and so from the Association's point of view, if they're gonna keep believing why stop?  Kotoshogiku moves to a respectable 5-9 with the gift while Shohozan falls to 3-11.

M4 Ichinojo kept his arms in tight against Sekiwake Yoshikaze letting Cafe make the first move, and said move came in the form of weak pull attempt as Yoshikaze moved left, but Ichinojo was able to square back up in short order, and as Yoshikaze looked to get the left arm inside, it was Ichinojo's turn to go for a pull, and this one sent Yoshikaze off balance and to the edge where the Mongolith made it official with some final shoves sending the Sekiwake off the dirt mound altogether.  Ichinojo moves to a quiet 10-4 with the win and shows just how good the Mongolians really are.  As for Yoshikaze, he falls to 6-8 with the loss, but having him coming into Fukuoka as Sekiwake served purpose enough.

Sekiwake Mitakeumi is still project #1 because getting him to Ozeki seems like the easiest Japanese promotion in the near future, and the dude picked up kachi-koshi today against a mukiryoku M5 Arawashi.  Mitakeumi's footwork was unstable at the tachi-ai, but it didn't matter as Arawashi didn't go for a single move backing up a bit and then shading to his left near the edge all the while just waiting for Mitakeumi to push him out. The misery was over in about three seconds, but it looked like a dominating win to the hometown fans.  Both rikishi end the day at 8-6, and I just hope Arawashi was compensated for this.

Before we move on, I was scanning the headlines for secondary stories after the day, and what I mean by that were stories that didn't have anything to do with the yusho or the Takanohana scandal. The lead story and really the only story was how Mitakeumi scored kachi-koshi each basho this calendar year.  Wow!!

Finally, M5 Takarafuji played practice dummy against Ozeki Goeido literally just standing there with arms open allowing the faux-zeki to get the right arm to the inside, but even with his opponent mukiryoku, Goeido still made it harder than it had to be. He didn't trust his right inside position and pulled out of it, and at that point, Takarafuji coulda moved on a left kote-nage or a left counter tsuki, but he didn't make the effort allowing Goeido to reload again and force Takarafuji back and across for good leading with that initial right inside position.  Nice mukiryoku affair that sends Goeido to 9-5 while Takarafuji falls to a harmless 7-7.

I haven't been writing post-basho reports lately because in reporting every other day, I use up all of my ammo.  However, I will keep updates going on the Takanohana scandal and then provide commentary as long as it's necessary.

Harvye calls the senshuraku bouts tomorrow.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Let's begin Day 13 with a review of the current status surrounding the whole Harumafuji incident. I hesitate to call it the Harumafuji Assault story because there's more to it than just the Yokozuna roughing up Takanoiwa. In fact, NHK has actually lessened the frequency with which it's using the term "boukou" or assault, and the focus now is squarely on Takanohana-oyakata.  While Takanohana has agreed to meet with Hakkaku Rijicho the last few days, he is refusing to meet with the committee investigating the incident.  Furthermore, he's keeping Takanoiwa in hiding and refusing to let investigators talk to his prodigy saying he doesn't want to add unneeded stress to the Mongolian.  Unneeded stress?  The dude weighs 150 kilos and is involved in a high-contact sport where there are very few rules. Too much stress?

What Takanohana is really doing is sandbagging because he's been caught in a web of lies.  As I pointed out in a couple of extra reports that you can find between Day 6 and Day 5 below, there are some major inconsistencies in the whole incident, and they can all be traced back to Takanohana-oyakata.  First, video surfaced the morning after the alleged assault that showed Takanoiwa participating in the Tottori exhibition tournament without a mark on his face. Pictures provided by NHK of Takanoiwa's face the morning after were as follows:

Yesterday, NHK finally produced a picture of Takanoiwa with marks all over his face as follows:

Now that's what I call getting your ass kicked.  What's interesting is that NHK did not provide a date to the pic above nor did they report where it came from. You can see in the pic that Takanoiwa's hair is tied up in the official top-knot (called oi-chou), which implies it was taken at an official event.  But what event was it?  Unlike the video footage from the exhibitions, all we got was this up-close shot.  There's no info about the pic, and there's nothing in the background that would indicate when and where it was taken.  Did the Takanohana camp have Takanoiwa's hair done just for this picture?  It's just strange, and it only introduces even more questions.

Beyond the picture mystery, Takanohana is on record as of November 3rd telling the Sumo Association that he had no knowledge of any assault against Takanoiwa, and that he thought he sustained his injuries by falling down the stairs. Yet, that statement contradicts Takanohana's actions where he actually filed a police report with Tottori police on October 29th, so there are holes and inconsistencies all around, and they all stem from Takanohana-oyakata, who still refuses to shed further light on the situation.

So we're really in a stalemate with the story until Takanohana comes clean on the facts surrounding the situation. I speculated previously that it's possible Takanohana was trying to scar Isegahama-oyakata to the point where the Association won't elect Isegahama as the sport's next commissioner and then opt for the next dude in line, which conveniently happens to be the vampire himself, but if that's the case, you'd have to say that fiendish plan is now backfiring.

While it's obvious that Takanohana is the real problem here, NHK won't throw him completely under the bus. The past two days they're providing the spin that Takanohana always makes decisions for the betterment of the sport. Yesterday they brought in a sports journalist who said that when he used to sit down with Takanohana and interview him as an active rikishi, the journalist made it clear that Takanohana would pause sometimes for 20 or 30 seconds in order to collect his thoughts before giving his answer. The bottom line, he deducted, is that Takanohana loved sumo to the point where he wanted to express the most profound answers he could in order to promote the sport.

Wow, sounds deep.

Then at the end of Day 13, NHK news dug up this guy:

They stopped short of calling him a Buddhist Priest referring to him as just a man, or dansei in Japanese, but this guy has allegedly been emailing back and forth with Takanohana the last few weeks, and the gist of the emails from the oyakata is how much Takanohana loves the sport and how he only wants to make the best decisions for sumo. They even showed a one-line email supposedly from Takanohana that expressed this exact point. I'm not sure how much I trust a guy who holds a flip-phone in one hand and egg beaters in the other hand for an NHK interview, but the point is clear:  NHK knows that Takanohana has some serious splainin' to do, but they aren't willing to completely throw him under the bus, and so they're spinning it as "regardless of why he's doing this, his intentions are for the betterment of sumo."  Whatever.

Enough of that nonsense. Let's get to even bigger nonsense, which was day 13 of the Kyushu basho. As is customary when heading into the final weekend, NHK began the broadcast with the rikishi still remaining in the yusho race and their opponents the rest of the way. They had to speculate as to the senshuraku opponents, but they always show this graphic to breakdown the yusho race sometimes even as early as day 12:

It used to be where this graphic would give us an overall picture of the probability one rikishi had to yusho over the others, but now it's just unnecessary fluff.  For example, Hakuho's remaining opponents are Takarafuji, Endoh, and then Goeido.  Is that what sumo has come to these days?  Hakuho fighting Endoh on day 14 and then Goeido on senshuraku?  You could go battle royale and throw all three of these guys at Hakuho in the same bout, and he'd still kick their asses, so the question is not whether Hakuho will be bested by any of them; rather, it's will Hakuho choose to lose.  Hey, that's a cool slogan for a new sumo Nike tee shirt: Choose to Lose!

As for the other two, Hokutofuji and Okinoumi, there's no point analyzing their remaining opponents either because as today showed us, neither Yoshikaze nor Tochinoshin wanted to throw a wrench in the yusho race. So that's what this whole graphic has become:  what's the probability of actually getting a real bout the final three days?

The day began with M11 Aoiyama letting up for..er..taking on M14 Daiamami, and after the two butted the crowns of their heads, Aoiyama intentionally whiffed on a feeble pull attempt allowing Daiamami to rush in with the right inside and left outer grip. From this point, Aoiyama plodded forward with no purpose allowing Daiamami to turn the tables at the edge and force Aoiyama back and across. I don't know if force is the right term here since Aoiyama was completely upright and walking back on his own, but the end result is Daiamami's looking to stay in the division at 5-8 while Aoiyama falls to 2-11.

M13 Aminishiki delivered a pretty sweet hari-te with the right hand into M10 Ikioi's grill, but the problem for Shneaky today was that Ikioi wanted to win, and so Ikioi wrenched Aminishiki sideways with the right arm in the kote grip, and that setup his getting the left arm inside, and once established there, Ikioi easily scooped Aminishiki over and across without argument. What happened to Aminishiki's magic that let him get out to a 5-0 start?  Actually what happened is guys like Ikioi can ill afford to keep dropping wins the deeper they get into the basho, so Aminishiki's gotta pray for one more act of charity the final two days as both guys here end Day 13 at 7-6.

M10 Kaisei is free to dole out wins from here as he wrapped M11 Asanoyama up from the start in the migi-yotsu position shaking off any attempt from the youngster in grabbing the left outer grip while he used his chest perfectly for force Asa upright and grab the left outer of his own, and once obtained, it was curtains for Asanoyama who suffers kachi-koshi at 5-8. This was textbook sumo from Kaisei today as he picks up kachi-koshi at 8-5.

Neither M15 Myogiryu nor M9 Daieisho wanted to commit to de-ashi in today's contest, and the result was a tsuppari affair with no direction. The bout went this way and that with both guys hoping for pulls, but in the end, Daieisho fired two shoves into Myogiryu's chest causing him to align his feet and then just plop backwards onto his arse. Seconds before, Myogiryu had a wide open tsuki attempt with his right hand at Daieisho's left side with Daieisho turned sideways a bit, but Myogiryu pulled back from it curiously right before Daieisho knocked him over tsuki-taoshi style. My gut tells me that Myogiryu was mukiryoku here, and that also led to his getting up slowly after the bout. To me it looked as if he threw out his back, but we'll just have to see. Regardless, it was a very unorthodox ending and likely not a clean bout as Myogiryu falls to 6-7 while Daieisho moves to 5-8.

M15 Nishikigi agreed to a push affair against M8 Chiyomaru instead of trying to force the bout to the belt, and that allowed Maru to dictate the pace shading back slowly before moving to the left and shoving Nishikigi to the side with a nice tsuki to Nishikigi's right arm. The move sent Nishikigi over to the tawara with his back facing inside the ring, and he didn't even bother to escape as Chiyomaru finished him off okuri-dashi style. Both guys end the day at 5-8.

M14 Kotoyuki came with his usual moro-te-zuki tachi-ai against M7 Shodai, but his legs weren't into it, and about a second into the bout, Kotoyuki voluntarily wrapped his left arm up and under Shodai's extended right turning 90 degrees into his opponent as if to say, "Here'smah belt."  Problem was, Shodai couldn't hold onto it, so Kotoyuki darted across the ring with Shodai giving chase throwing fake tsuppari all the way, and in the midst of this melee, Kotoyuki actually found himself with moro-zashi and all of the momentum as seen at right. Said momentum saw Kotoyuki drive Shodai quickly to the edge whereupon Kotoyuki just felled himself to the dohyo to Shodai's left. They ruled it kote-nage, but Shodai didn't go for a throw. His arm happened to be hooked around Kotoyuki's right, but there was no nage involved here. It was a straight dive from Kotoyuki as both rikishi end the day at 7-6.

At M13 with a 5-7 rank coming in, Takekaze needs all the help he can get, and he got it from M7 Daishomaru today who just lowered his head and waited for the pull to come. Takekaze slipped right and went for a meager pull at Daishomaru's right shoulder, which of course sent Daishomaru flying across the dohyo with one foot in the air for added emphasis.  It's funny trying to watch these guys sell this whether it was Daishomaru's exaggerated fall or Kotoyuki's quickly looking up at the ref after his bout as if to say, "Who won? Who won?" Takekaze probably needs one more to be safe at 6-7 while Daishomaru falls to 4-9.

Ain't no way M6 Tochinoshin was going to ruin the yusho party for a Japanese rikishi. Today against M12 Okinoumi, Shin ruled the tachi-ai getting the quick left outer grip with his right hand in position for anything he wanted to do. funny thing was that he kept his right in this totally unorthodox position curling it backwards and resting his palm against Okinoumi's gut.  They stood this way for a a minute, but with Okinoumi applying zero pressure, Tochinoshin finally grabbed a right frontal grip and began moving Okinoumi back.  Near the edge, Okinoumi attempted a left inside belt throw where Tochinoshin couldn't hit the deck fast enough putting his right palm down quickly before belly-flopping to the dirt. This should have been a nage-no-uchi-ai, but instead of positioning himself in that manner, Tochinoshin just dove to the dirt. It was funny to listen to Kitanofuji try and explain it because Okinoumi did nothing today to set up the ending. Tochinoshin drove the bout the entire way including his fake fall at the end. By the way, how often do we see someone hit the dohyo stomach first as a result of an inner belt throw? Regardless, Tochinoshin is a harmless 7-6 while Okinoumi moves to 11-2.

In a sloppy affair, M6 Chiyoshoma dominated M12 Kagayaki grabbing his left arm in the kote grip after a few shoves from both parties, and Chiyoshoma could have ended things right there, but he let Kagayaki off the hook just pulling him back to the center of the ring before offering a fake leg trip with the left foot, and with both rikishi now back at square one in the center of the ring, Kagayaki offered a lame pull forcing the momentum back to the edge, and from there, Chiyoshoma just bodied Kagayaki back and across. Kitanofuji's description today of Chiyoshoma's sumo was "urusai," or noisy, and it was a pretty funny line.  Chiyoshoma was simply giving Kagayaki breaks and openings, but he could never capitalize, so the Mongolian just assumed the win moving to 7-6. Kagayaki fell to 6-7 after being unable to do anything against his foe, and before we move on, has anyone else noticed that sweet brand on Chiyoshoma's right shoulder?  Looks like Harumafuji is teaching more than Takanoiwa a lesson these days.

M5 Arawashi couldn't hit the deck fast enough against M2 Chiyotairyu, and despite getting his left arm at the front of Tairyu's belt, at the first sign of a Chiyotairyu pull, Arawashi just put both palms to the dirt giving Chiyotairyu the hataki-komi win. Anytime a guy's palms are the only thing that hits the dirt, you know it's yaocho. Chiyotairyu moves to 5-8 with the gift while Arawashi falls to 8-5.

As soon as I warm up to M1 Takakeisho and his sumo, he comes out and starts that ridiculous pull motion again. Against M2 Tochiohzan he seemed hesitant to try and win moving straight forward, and the result was Tochiohzan's pushing him straight back to the edge, but Tochiohzan stopped short of going for a kill shot and just stood there at Takakeisho's bidding. Takakeisho finally clued into what was going on and started pushing from there sending Tochiohzan across the entire diameter of the dohyo.  Of course Tochiohzan was upright at the end doing half the work by stepping backwards across the straw.  The contrast between Tochiohzan's start and finish was stark in this fixed bout as Takakeisho is gifted his ninth win while Tochiohzan falls to 3-10.  There wasn't a single aspect of Takakeisho's sumo that was good here despite his getting the win.

M1 Tamawashi used his tsuppari attack against M9 Endoh to keep him away from the belt before moving right and firing a sideways swipe to Endoh's melon that knocked Endoh off balance, and before he could recover, Tamawashi attacked with a left paw to Endoh's throat that he used to push Elvis back and across with little fight. Both rikishi end the day 9-4.

M3 Shohozan pushed Komusubi Onosho straight back from the tachi-ai aided by a weak pull attempt from the Komusubi, and then for no reason, Darth Hozan just halted his charge and sorta went for a kote grip around Onosho's left arm, but he was really just standing there, and so Onosho turned the tables quickly pushing Shohozan back and out with zero resistance. Not sure about the politics behind this one as Onosho is gifted 6-7, but Shohozan (3-10) threw this bout clear as day.

Speaking of throwing bouts, Komusubi Kotoshogiku and M4 Chiyonokuni bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai before trading stiff arm tsuppari, and after a few seconds of jockeying, they finally hooked up in hidari-yotsu thanks to Kuni's giving up moro-zashi with the right arm, and as the two settled in chest to chest, Chiyonokuni grabbed the right outer grip, but he only used that to pull the Geeku back into the center of the ring. And that's where the two stood for at least 10 more seconds catching their breath. Well, let me rephrase that. Kotoshogiku was catching his breath while Chiyonokuni just stood there like a bump on a log waiting for the former Ozeki to do something. Kotoshogiku must have sensed that he could have his way because he went for a left inside belt throw that Chiyonokuni complied with fully flipping himself over and onto his back in spectacular fashion. When was the last time you saw Kotoshogiku do that to anyone let alone with an inferior grip? Easy yaocho call here as both rikishi finish the day 4-9.

Sekiwake Mitakeumi just bounced off of M4 Ichinojo at the tachi-ai, and as the Mongolith extended his arms forward looking to get to the inside, Mitakeumi went for a weak pull, but Ichinojo was right there to just plow him backwards out and with a nice right forearm to the body.  You look at all of the hype Mitakeumi gets, and then look at what happens when he fights the elite rikishi, in this case Hakuho and Ichinojo. It's just not even a contest, and so you can see the stark difference in ability between the truly elite rikishi and the pretenders. And it's not as if Mitakeumi had a bad tachi-ai or made a mistake. He just got his ass handed to him as he falls now to 7-6. As for Ichinojo, he improves to 9-4 and you'll recall my comments regarding him on Monday when he lost on purpose to Daishomaru in like two seconds.  Daishomaru!!  He was just taking himself out of the yusho race.  Ichinojo is the fifth best rikishi in sumo hands down.

At this point of the broadcast, they announced Ozeki Takayasu's withdrawal due to mediocrity. He was safely in with eight wins, and so why not withdraw and regroup for January?  His opponent on the day was fellow Ozeki Goeido, who conveniently moved to 8-5 hisself with the freebie, so all's well on Faux-zekiville.  Darn, and I was really looking forward to this contest!!

Today's penultimate bout featured M3 Hokutofuji taking on Sekiwake Yoshikaze, and I should state that both of these guys can beat each other on any given day. Having said that, like Tochinoshin earlier, Yoshikaze wasn't gonna foil the yusho race. Hokutofuji's tachi-ai was terrible and it gave Yoshikaze the easy path to the left inside, but he didn't take it allowing Hokutofuji to move to his left where both rikishi traded weak shoves and bad pulls. When Hokutofuji missed on his pull, Yoshikaze found himself in moro-zashi as seen at right, but he quickly repented from that and just backed his way to the straw pulling Hokutofuji into him, and then Monster Drink lost all fizzle just standing upright at the straw. Finally after all of that, Hokutofuji was able to get the right arm inside and sill the dill yori-kiri style, but this was complete yaocho on the part of Yoshikaze. Hokutofuji is wont to to bad tachi-ai, and I hate it that he gets rewarded for it like this. He moves to 11-2 with the gift while Yoshikaze takes one for team sumo falling to 6-7.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho took on M5 Takarafuji, and I referenced the Hakuho - Mitakeumi bout earlier. Well, there's absolutely no reason why Hakuho can't do the same thing to Takarafuji, but he chose to make it interesting today offering a light hari-te with the left at the tachi-ai before shoving Takarafuji in the teets sending him back a step, and once Fuji gained his footing, he skirted left swiping at Hakuho with his arm, and even though no contact was made, Hakuho just hopped forward to the edge with his back facing the center of the ring. Takarafuji wasn't in position to push him out, however, and so the Yokozuna moved back to his right as the two hooked back up in hidari-yotsu where Takarafuji had the outer grip. Fuji went for a dashi-nage attempt, but the problem was that Hakuho had the entire dohyo behind him, so he played along  for a bit before putting on the brakes on the other side, and then as Takarafuji got close again, Hakuho hooked his left arm up and under Takarafuji's right before pulling him down with a weak slap to the left shoulder.

Grand Champion sumo this wasn't, and Hakuho will let his bouts flow like this often in his effort to lower the bar in his sumo and try and create parity. There is no rikishi who has ever proven that they could stop Hakuho's signature hari-zashi tachi-ai where he gets the right inside and muscles his way to the left outer grip. So, why doesn't he do it every time??  Parity is the name of the game, and that's what sumo is doing right now to survive.

With two days to go, Hakuho is now 12-1 with Hokutofuji and Okinoumi trailing him at 11-2. It's hardly what I'd call a yusho race, but I'll humor you for one more day tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Yoda reporting)
Understand sumo, I do not. Write about it, I can. Heh.

Great fighters they are? Fighting not make one great. Heh. Mmmm. Large they are. Too large. Large, like planets. Swollen planets. Swollen with the dark side. The dark side, there is. Much cheating I see in them. Honor, some have. Down the path to the dark side, many, trodden have.

Jedi reflexes, some have. Strong with the force they are. Others, clumsy, fat. Heh. No more can you teach them today. Too old they are, to begin the training. Tell you which ones they are, I will.

See them, I do. Pen, I have. Write, I will.

M12 Okinoumi (9-2) vs. M13 Aminishiki (7-4)
Mmm. A good one to start with, this was. Supple, Okinoumi is. Strength. Full of strength. Old Aminishiki is, withered. But when 800 years old you reach, so good you will not look, I think, hmmm? Heh. Pulled on him, Aminishiki did. The dark side, this is, the quick and easy path. Struggled, Okinoumi did. But hard he fought, arms he kept forward. Pushed, he did, and over knocked Aminishiki. Oshi-taoshi, it was.

M11 Aoiyama (2-9) vs. M13 Kotoyuki (6-5)
Redolent of the dark side, this match was. Fatted on the spoils of greed, Aoiyama is. Pride! Pride I see in Kotoyuki. Much pride. Pushed and slapped, Kotoyuki did. Pulled and ran away, Aoiyama did. Fell to the ground Kotoyuki did, at the same moment that Aoiyama's heel touched the outer sand, it did. Re-do, methought? Or did Aoiyama actually win, by the hair's breadth of a foot callus, raised just off the sands of Tattooine, I wondered? But Kotokuki the winner was declared, oshi-dashi.

M14 Daiamami (4-7) vs. M10 Ikioi (5-6)
Strong with the force is Ikioi. But beset by fate. Let the force flow through him, he did, in this match. Grabbed Daiamami, he did, and drove him back. Then, mighty was his strength, his power. Listening to the force, he was, when he threw Daiamami into the swamp of Dagobah, uwate-nage. Mmm. Good. Good!

M9 Endo (8-3) vs. M15 Myogiryu (6-5)
Ahhh! Endo I see. Endo. Too small, he is. Too weak. Judge me by my size, you should not. Judge wrestlers by their size, you must. If enough strength, have, they do not. Many years, trained as a Jedi, Endo was. But a Jedi, he is not. A Jedi, never, can he be. The trials, failed he has. Skilled warrior? Yes. Jedi? No. Fine, his match was. Low, he kept himself. Training! He must have remembered the training! Pushed, he did. Advanced. Feet, shuffled forward, he did. Many blows to the face, he ignored. Out he pushed Myogiryu--also a failed Jedi trainee, too small is he too--oshi-dashi. Fought well, Endo did.

M13 Takekaze (4-7) vs. M8 Chiyomaru (4-7)
Adventure--heh. Excitement--heh. Overhand throws--heh. Power push outs--heh. The belt--heh. Help you they can, but a Jedi craves not these things. When fighting your foe in the ring, a win--that is what a Jedi craves. Know this, Takekaze does. Look. Look! Long, is his career. Many are his wins. Rich, he is. Ever close to the darkside he will be, but the smaller ways of the force--the pull, the retreat, the henka--learned these, he has. Those things, here, he did. Backwards pedaled his feet, sideways, slid his body. To the ground, Chiyomaru fell, hiki-otoshi.

M12 Kagayaki (6-5) vs. M7 Shodai (5-6)
Bad, their start was. One fist in the air, Kagayaki had. False started once before, already, he had done. Slow was their fighting. Tentative were their movements. Sumo, this is not! Now, things are worse. Heh. Grappled with their arms they did, until almost out Shodai stepped, but presence of mind, have, Kagayaki did not, to reach over strongly enough and off to finish him. Instead, balanced they both did, Shodai facing forward, Kagayaki backwards, and waited they did, to see who out first would fall. Kagayaki, it was. Oshi-dashi, Shodai won. How do you grow so big eating food like this?

M6 Chiyoshoma (5-6) vs. M15 Nishikigi (5-6)
Aggression. Hate. Anger. These things I sense in Chiyoshoma. Very dangerous, he is. And smart. Smart! On the false start, forward he went, very hard. On the re-do, henka'ed he did, smooth and supple. Expecting this, Nishikigi was not. Strong! Strong is Chiyoshoma. Grabbed Nishikigi by the belt then, and slung him out he did, yori-kiri. A great Jedi could Chiyoshoma become, if overcome the Sith, the darkside, within and without, he can.

M11 Asanoyama (5-6) vs. M6 Tochinoshin (6-5)
Waist low, you must keep. Balance, you must practice. Heavy, you must be, or make yourself. All these things, mastered, Tochinoshin has. To and fro, pushed and slung him, Asanoyama did. But careful Tochinoshin was, to plant his heavy thighs back on the ground. An inside right belt grip he had, yes!, and an outside left. Yes. Mmm. He did. Yori-kiri win, he did. Mmm. Yes.

M5 Takarafuji (6-5) vs. M9 Daieisho (4-7)
Many times, pushed Takarafuji in the throat, Daieisho did. But patient Takarafuji was. Patient. Yes, patient. Mmm. Mmm. Patient. Mmm.

Mmm, sorry, I am. Fell asleep there, briefly, I did. Takarafuji's fault, my sleeping was not. Boring, his sumo is, yes, but good. Yes, good. Because down, Daieisho fell, backwards, oshi-taoshi, when Takarafuji's patience, overcome, he could not.

M10 Kaisei (7-4) vs. M5 Arawashi (7-4)
Many kinds of Jedi, there are. Clever, Arawashi is. Sneaky? Yes. But a Jedi can you be, even if sneaky, you are. Object, I do not. Because very very powerful, also, he is. Bravely grabbed Kaisei by the belt, he did. Turned him around 180 degrees with pure power, he did. Squared him up and yori-kiri'ed him out, also, he did. Backwards, ran the sentences, until reeled the mind.

M3 Shohozan (3-8) vs. M7 Daishomaru (3-8)
Heh. Strong with the force is Darth Hozan. Fear him, you can. But who is stronger with the dark side? Daishomaru! Win, he did, loathsome though he may be. And lovely, his victory was--if the dark side, you love. Forward moving, Shohozan was. At the straw, fling Shohozan to the side and down, pulling and throwing and moving all at once, Darth Shomaru did, tsuki-otoshi. Dark, Shohozan is, because power he loves. But darker, Daishomaru is, with his lack of power, the mockery of the idea of “sumo” that he makes.

M1 Tamawashi (8-3) vs. M1 Takakeisho (7-4)
Mmm. The dark side, I sense. Strong with the force, they both are. But stronger, is Tamawashi. Older, wiser. Mmm. Powerful Jedi is he. Winning, he was. Almost pushed out, Takakeisho was. But then backwards, Tamawashi went. Pulled, he did. Weak, he suddenly looked. Pushed out oshi-dashi, he was. The stench of the darkside I sense, lingering over this match.

M1 Kotoshogiku (3-8) vs. M2 Tochiohzan (2-9)
Old, Kotoshogiku is. Sleep. He needs sleep. Rest. Space leprechaun fade away, seagulls to peck his head. Wait, dreaming I am. Back it went. Forth it went. Here it went. There it went. Bodies, chests, arms. No belts. Pushing. Pulling. Gaburi, I saw. But in the end, easily, Kotoshogiku was dumped, tsuki-otoshi, to the clay. Soon, one with the force, Kotoshogiku will be.

M2 Chiyotairyu (4-7) vs. K Onosho (4-7)
Young, they both are. Powerful. But sloppy. Push each other in the face, they did. But not paying sufficient attention, Chiyotairyu was. Out of the line of attack, he fell. Control! You must learn control! Limberly, stepped to the side, Onosho did. Take advantage, he did. Yes! Observant, he was. Quick. Yes, there, between the tree, and the rock. Grabbed Chiyotairyu from behind he did, and sent him away, out. By okuri-dashi, win, Onosho did.

M4 Chiyonokuni (3-8) vs. S Yoshikaze (6-5)
Chiyonokuni. Heh! Yoshikaze. Heh! Fourth match from the end, this is? Heh! Yes, yes--unfair to Yoshikaze, I am. Good, he is. But is he a Jedi? Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. Chiyonokuni. Heh. Anyway. Report on the match, I will. Yes. Hard and fast in the face they battered each other, yes, for a few moments, like children, angry children, angry. Then, to the belt they went. And to the astonishment of all, after a good looking sort of mid-ring nage-no-uchi-ai, threw Yoshikaze to the ground Chiyonokuni did, uwate-nage. Chiyonokuni: heh!

O Goeido (7-4) vs. M4 Ichinojo (7-4)
Kachi-koshi, who, would get? Long, this match was. Many belt grips, both, they had. Leaned they did, against other. Classic, it was, in form. To the straw, drove Goeido, Ichinojo did. But there, resisted, Goeido did. Wild, the crowd went. Back, to the center of the ring, went the match. But tired, Goeido was. Big, Ichinojo is, like a hairless bantha. Crumpled and threw little Goeido, uwate-nage, Ichinojo did. Masterful, Ichinojo was. Hmmm. Mmm. Yes. Hmmmmm.

M3 Hokutofuji (9-2) vs. O Takayasu (8-3)
Unfortunate it is, in some ways, that noticing Hokutofuji now, people are. Because given to him, this match looked. Push on each other, they did. Backwards, under pressure, Hokutofuji went. But then unnecessarily pull Hokutofuji, Takayasu did. And after that, unnecessarily fall down, Takayasu did, hiki-otoshi, looking to the side, weak, lame. Natural, to me, look, this did not.

S Mitakeumi (7-4) vs. Y Hakuho (10-1)
Difficult to see, the future is. Always in motion. Thought, many of us did, that Hakuho angry today would be. That Mitakeumi, kill, he might. But why? A Jedi does not desire such things. A Jedi reflects. Calm, a Jedi is. Moments of anger, he may have. But control them, he can. Overnight, reflected, perhaps, Hakuho did. At fault, who was, easy to see it was. He was. Yes, he. This Jedi. Know that, now, he must. Silly, yesterday, he looked. Saw this, no doubt, he did. Against who, then, should he be angry? The judges, a Jedi does not blame. The other wrestler, a Jedi does not blame. Himself! Himself, blame, he must. If angry he must be, against himself, angry he should be. And control it. Control. Yes. Calm. Focus. Powerful, powerful Jedi he is. Yesterday, with the dark side time he spent. Moments, in it, he was. But a Jedi he is. Mistakes, everyone makes. Today, a Jedi, again, was he.

Much attention to this bout, NHK paid. Yesterday's offense by Hakuho, ignored, they did. Want it, they did not. Mitakeumi's defeats of Hakuho in the past, on, they focused. The bout, promote, they wanted to. Mitakeumi, uphold, they wanted to. Hakuho, ignore, minimize, they wanted to.

But a Jedi Hakuho is. Yes. NHK's hopes, silly, they were. Remind us all, Hakuho is, what a Jedi is. What he looks like. What he does. The shape, of his sumo. Jedi sumo, this was. Speed. Power. Finesse. All these things, Hakuho has. Slapped Mitakeumi lightly in the face, he did. Grabbed him by the belt on the outside, he did. Grabbed him by the body on the inside, he did. Quickly, pushed him out of the ring yori-kiri, he did. So quickly, saw it, barely, you did. Quick! Dominant. Emphatic. Forceful! Many words for this, I have. Around this, match, a cloud of confusion, doubt, and darkness you saw. Hakuho's yesterday mistake. NHK's today hopes. Gossip and chatter. Speculation. Desire. But within that cloud of darkness, a clear, brief kernel of the force you saw: this match. Pure, luminous.

Mike. Mmm, Mike. Mike. Tomorrow, listen to Mike, you must.

Day 11 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
Atte wa naranai koto desu!  This shouldn't happen!
Kore wa dame desu!  This is not good!
What would get the NHK commentators so riled up?

Well, it's just the 2017 Kyushu basho...which in the words of Carl Sagan...is "weird wacky stuff!"

With all the shocking scandal and/or the unsavory bout results, be they fake or just not reflecting the J'pese media hype (case in point - Kisenosato's entire Kyushu basho), the NSK has been trying to act as if it's biz as usual. Like always, they called in past Ozeki for color commentary (Kotooshu), they show the guest beating Asashoryu (always a warm and fuzzy mainstay right?), and feature photos of the typical teeming sumo audience anxious to get inside the venue.

And yes, it's understood that the indigenous rikishi are faring better for sure. And a big shout out to Hokutofuji for getting up in it for real and giving fans some hard-nosed effort and solid wins.

But somehow, this fall, the bloom is off the o-nigiri.  Looks like Harumafuji is gonna lose some of those sweet product endorsement contracts!

What to do about those uncouth Mongolians?

The good news is that the dastardly Terunofuji appears to be fading back into the vampiric shadows from which he emerged... and thank Ieyasu, Ichinojo just gets plowed over by the most diminutive of the local sumo athletes...and darn it if Goeido don't just keep making his 8.

But Harumafuji, Hakuho and on occasion Tamawashi and Arawashi just seem to want to ruin the party at the most inopportune times.

Are these scandals, convenient injuries, strange promotions and just plain odd "dohyo" behavior part of the natural ebb and flow of a semi-legit sport or is there perhaps a greater conspiracy afoot?  So the question I pose to you all...what will the banzuke look like next year at this time?  Because my dear Watsons, therein lies the answers we seek.

Wait, I see the lights are coming down and the high pitched screams of Japanese models, actresses and dancers are juicing up the crowd!  It's time for Day 11 Kyushu Basho 2017!

Endoh 7-3 vs. Nishikigi 5-5
Whenever I see Endoh with a belt grip I think to myself this could be trouble.  At the gate Endoh does execute "straight from the manual" tachi-ai - he comes in low and works hard for the belt grip. And although he keeps his footwork pleasingly textbook he just doesn't have the power to move his opponent around the clay. Nishikigi pushed him back to the straw and then eased up and then literally pulled Elvis around the dohyo, finally stepping out after some weak twists and turns. If you don't agree, I understand, because even tho this was kinda fake in my view, I still enjoyed it!
Good news is Elvis still pulls in the ladies!

Shodai 4-6 vs. Aminishiki 7-3
Finally Shodai gets to shove his opponent around. Aminishiki defended mightily but he needs to do some power lifting and jack up the illicit supplement dosage because its gonna take some really hard cash for him to get his kachi koshi this time out.  Props to him for risking life and limb as he falls to 7-4 and Shodai racks up a hiki-otoshi slam dunk win.

Ikioi 4-6 vs. Tochinoshin 6-4
Tochinoshin looked like a replay in reverse as he pulled Ikioi towards him and paused only to step out into the dead zone. Same guy that repeatedly stopped Ichinojo for an epic battle couldn't deal with the raw power that is Ikioi. I get that the physics of the moment may have caught Tochinoshin off guard etc...but NAH!  Itchy Koo Park gets the yori-kiri win.

Chiyoshoma 5-6 vs Kaisei 6-4
This was pretty nice. Sometimes I watch Kaisei and think to myself, "Dude has no balance. He gets tipped over so easily." Well, you wanna see a nad uwate-nage battle?... this is one right here folks!  Cheetos grabbed belt at the gun and immediately went for the pull down. Kaisei fought him off like a guy with nothing but power and balance and legs of steel. When Chiyoshoma wrapped his leg around Kaisei's, the brouhaha was in full play as the two men grappled and twisted each other to the edge of the cliff.  Take a look at the photo and you see what it means to be in it to win it!  Rock on!  Kaisei stayed airborne a second longer than Cheeto and scored the uwate-nage win!

Tamawashi 7-3 vs. Arawashi 7-3
Don't you just love it when Mongoru fights Mongoru?  Both on the doorstep of kachi-koshi no less.  Tamawashi got Arawashi off his game at the get go by effectively slapping and pushing him back.  It wasn't so much forward moving tsuppari as it was defensive but powerful counter shots that actually lifted the other washi off his feet. After some shoving and a few face washies, Tama kicked Ara off the dohyo for an oshi-dashi vic and Ara grabbed his arm to pull him down with him just to show that sumo ain't so nice in Mongolia.

Kotoshogiku 2-8 vs Takakeisho 7-3
Predictions?  Anyone?  Hello?  Kotoshohadenuff wins by "yori you gotta be kidding me".

Ichinojo 7-3 vs. Takayasu 7-3
Predictions?  Anyone?  Hello?  Ichinojo displayed zero power and was surprisingly feather light on his feet as he pranced away from Takayasu and lost by oshi-dashi.

Goeido 7-3 (really?) vs. Hokutofuji 8-2
This was a real down home sumo bout so our lost boy Ozeki, John Goeido, would most likely be compelled to pump his arms and legs in various directions and resist losing as long as possible. He did, however, execute a real good tachi-ai and powered up some real pulls, but Tofurkey was on the cusp of winning the entire bout.  Goeido got spun around and then looked like a desperate lower-ranked rikishi as he tried his best imitation of a young Yoshikaze and flailed mightily. His awful footwork is always so telling when improvisation is required. John finally got bulldozed on his azz and bounced off the dohyo, executing a gorgeous somersault and piling into the pricey cushions. Oshi-taoshi win for Tofurkey.

Hakuho 10-0 vs. Yoshikaze 5-5
Hak and Monster Drink hit it up at the tachi-ai, Hak delivering one of his signature kimari-te followed by his customary belt grab. Yoshikaze dug in and suddenly Hakuho stands up and raises his hands as if to indicate a "matta" or false start or maybe just I'm the dai-Yokozuna and I want a redo. Yoshikaze didn't get the memo (he would later on say that the referee told him to keep fighting). From the upright position Hakuho couldn't stop Kaze's momentum and was pile driven off the dohyo. The ref indicated a win by yori-taoshi for Monster Drink and that was that...but wait!  Hakuho stops at the foot of the dohyo and raises his hand to protest the decision.

The commentators were aghast!

Atte wa naranai koto desu!  This shouldn't happen!
Kore wa dame desu!  This is not good!

"As Yokozuna he should know better! And this may be the first time in the history of blah blah etc."

Three things come to mind.

1. When Hak reached for the belt he dragged his hand on it. He didn't grab it. If he had, the bout would have ended in a few seconds if that was his intent, but instead he grappled like Goeido for two do-nothing seconds and then suddenly (and deliberately) stood upright.

2. He knows the protocol as well as anyone. Every rule, every shade of what's appropriate and what is not.  He's not so delusional that he was the only one in the room who didn't know how right or wrong he was in protesting the verdict.
Hell all you had to do was look at the faces of the judges and the quite famous elite referee, and you knew this wasn't going anywhere.

3. Hakuho knows when a matta is called for...period.
So why would he do this? My first notion is - in this weird circus environment that is the current state of sumo...why not? Maybe he's protesting in his own way attempting to cause a distraction from the ongoing injustices being meted out upon his Mongolian brethren. Maybe he thinks that flagrant yaocho wasn't in the rule book he read as a youngster so hey "I'm doing this right now".  I do believe he was pissed when Yoshikaze just moved forward and walked off the dohyo (although what else was he supposed to do).  Let's see how it all plays out 'cause in many ways these shenanigans be way more entertaining than the actual sumo action.

Might be time to get out of the house and explore something different?

Day 10 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Let's talk ***Banzuke Armageddon!!!*** Consider those asterisks batwings of end-times doom. As I mentioned two days ago, you had this sort of interesting leaderboard with Hakuho cleaning up and showing who is still boss, but Ichinojo and Hokutofuji following and offering a palatable alternative story. Behind my thinking there was a premonition that the banzuke may be about to come in for a Great Cleansing. A Massive Purge. A Winnowing To Shake The Barley. We've all been talking about a changing of the guard, and in a tiny, minor sense we see it happening:  Kotoshogiku out, Takayasu in.  Mongolians taking every single tournament over with, and Japanese wrestlers getting four out of the last eleven yusho.

But has the turnover really happened?  No. The hype children, Mitakeumi, Shodai, Endo, Takakeisho, Onosho, et al, have not leapt up and grabbed tournaments or Ozeki spots. (Be patient, you may say. But was Terunofuji patient during his rise?) And those seven tournaments NOT won by Japanese wrestlers were all won by the same guys who won endless strings of tournaments before the supposed changing of the guard:  four for Hakuho, two for Harumafuji, and one for Kakuryu.

So, when is the changing of the guard coming?  It has to happen sometime. If the Harumafuji/Takanoiwa thing plays out to the worst of its ability, and injuries and ineffectiveness do their magic elsewhere on the banzuke, we could be looking at a new, wide open, strange banzuke in just a few months' time. Here is a list of the top 15 rikishi on the current banzuke; I've marked each one who, for whatever reason, seems a good candidate to disappear soonish:

Harumafuji: almost certain to never fight again
Hakuho: could retire on top, or get forced out by scandal
Kisenosato: could retire due to injury or ineffectiveness
Kakuryu: could retire due to injury or be forced out by scandal
Yoshikaze: could drop precipitously on the banzuke due to age
Terunofuji: could retire due to injury
Kotoshogiku: retirement could literally happen any day now

Tochiohzan: could drop precipitously on the banzuke due to age

Okay, now, rewrite the thing with the footnoted guys out, and assign ranks along the current distribution of available ranks (four Yokozuna, two Ozeki, etc.). I know, I know, this is ridiculous and many of these wrestlers will never reach these ranks. But think of it as a way of conceiving what the banzuke will have to look like sooner or later:  time knows no enemy.  A thought experiment.  Take it where you will:

Yokozuna Goeido
Yokozuna Takayasu
Yokozuna Mitakeumi
Yokozuna Onosho
Ozeki Tamawashi
Ozeki Takakeisho
Sekiwake Chiyotairyu

(And your top 15 would be rounded out by Sekiwake Shohozan, Sekiwake Hokutofuji, Komusubi Chiyonokuni, Komusubi Ichinojo, and Maegashira 1 & 2 Takarafuji, Arawashi, Chiyoshoma, and Tochinoshin.)

Like, wow, man.

M14 Kotoyuki (4-5) vs. J1 Ishiura (5-4)
Forearm to the neck by Kotoyuki. That was plenty against this little pebble across the lines, Stone Ass (Ishiura). Oshi-dashi.

M15 Myogiryu (6-3) vs. M12 Kagayaki (5-4)
Fried Mosquito (Kagayaki) first neutralized Myogiryu by grabbing his arm, then drove him out by keeping low and tight and pushing and shoving. Oshi-dashi.

M11 Aoiyama (2-7) vs. M13 Aminishiki (6-3)
Okay, not good. Aoiyama stood up, gave one push, then tried a very, very slow head-pull while backing up. Slowly. Did I say slowly? So Aminishiki (slowly) advanced and pushed him out, oshi-dashi. I do believe that Aoiyama was hurt--you don't withdraw and come back if you're not--and this is not going to work.

M14 Daiamami (2-7) vs. M11 Asanoyama (4-5)
Our pair of totally underwhelming first-time promotees to Makuuchi from the last two basho. Daiamami looked quite good here, setting up with a solid, buttressing tachi-ai based on a frontal grip on the mawashi, then getting a right inside and a left outside, and that was kit and kaboodle, quite swiftly, yori-kiri.

M10 Kaisei (6-3) vs. M15 Nishikigi (4-5)
I thought Kaisei was too low slung at the tachi-ai, and would get pulled down. But no, he just wasn't trying hard enough: he maki-kae'd into a disadvantageous position, then wilted all the way out of the ring on Nishikigi's oshi-dashi push. Since when does Nishikigi have the power to drive a low-slung Kaisei out of the ring in linear fashion? He does not.

M7 Daishomaru (3-6) vs. M12 Okinoumi (7-2)
Bad vs. good. I was really hoping for Okinoumi to show his quality here. Which he did, kind of. It wasn't dominant, but it was patient, and it was a win. Okinoumi put his hands on his man's uppers and leaned into him--very dangerous pull territory. But he was also kind of holding on to him, which helped, and kept moving forward, which helped more, and Daishomaru ain't got nuthin'. So it wasn't that hard. Oshi-dashi.

M10 Ikioi (4-5) vs. M7 Shodai (3-6)
Who knows with these two: the inconsistent Ikioi and the disappointing Shodai. There was a false start; Shodai had good position on that one, and looked pissed about having to start again. Maybe he'd blown his strategy and didn't have a back-up plan. On the re-do, though, he just backed up and ran out of there circling sideways, and Ikioi went flying to the dirt very easily, hikkake, and boy, folks, I wouldn't have to try to sell this one. So maybe Shodai was just mad Ikioi goofed up their original outcome plan.

M6 Chiyoshoma (4-5) vs. M9 Daieisho (4-5)
Chiyoshoma lost a lot of charm for me yesterday when he gave Hokutofuji a nice face slap well after a false start had been stopped. Gratuitous. Shades of the "villain" era of Hakuho, when he handed out a fair amount of dame-oshi and anger. Remember that? Anyway, Chiyoshoma was mild mannered enough in the bout to start, pulling and scrabbling at Daieisho. Pulled him right into a belt-grip in fact: come on in!! But Chiyoshoma is stronger and better, and had a belt grip of his own, and you could see Daieisho tiring. So it was just a matter of time before our New Model Villain, Chiyoshoma (he slapped my Princeling, Hokutofuji!!), forced him out yori-kiri.

M13 Takekaze (3-6) vs. M6 Tochinoshin (5-4)
Happy to say Takekaze is looking pretty used up. Tochinoshin did a bunch of face baffing, then grabbed him around the body and removed him from the dohyo, yori-kiri. Takekaze never even tried to pull him. Takekaze may be headed for juryo, in which case I predict he'll hang on for a while like Aminishiki and we'll see him from time to time. He's like that #1 draft pick who never pans out, or so you think, and next thing you know you look up and he's had a 15 year middling career. Why? Because he was talented. Not great, but talented. Bill Almon. Tim Beckham. Love him or loathe him, that's Takekaze. He's been good at this.

M5 Takarafuji (4-5) vs. M8 Chiyomaru (4-5)
People are being cautious of Chiyomaru, who is using his bulk well. Lots of mutual slow-motion face shoves in this one. Eventually Takarafuji grabbed Chiyomaru around his massive belly--not easy to do! Nothing to hold on to!--and was still cautious. This is Takarafuji the Passive, after all. But Chiyomaru was spent, and Takarafuji finally yori-kiri'ed him out. Much as I've been enjoying His Rotundity, Chiyomaru didn't do much here. He'll have to show more fire against the better guys like this.

M9 Endo (6-3) vs. M5 Arawashi (7-2)
Arawashi had Endo by the arm and was trying to flip him, but he was up too high, so Endo kept driving forward, using that arm as a lead, and drove Arawashi out in front of it, yori-kiri. Um, yeah.

M2 Chiyotairyu (4-5) vs. M3 Hokutofuji (7-2)
Power on power here, of two different kinds, the slightly stale but resurgent (Chiyotairyu) vs. fresh and still developing (Hokutofuji). I hoped this would be all about the tachi-ai: would Chiyotairyu blast Hokutofuji back and control the pace, or would Hokutofuji stop him like a brick wall and take over? It was the former: Chiyotairyu knocked Hokutofuji slightly back at the tachi-ai, and began to capitalize on it with shoves to the head. But! Chiyotairyu has been equally known for the pull as for that big push, and pull he did, right off all that effective initial head wrenching, and when it didn't work, though he still was setting the pace, he'd let Hokutofuji back into it. The match lasted a while, with more push and pull action from Chiyotairyu, but Hokutofuji is quality, was used to the rhythm now, and hung in, going with the back and forth flow until he could use his superior sustained drive (Chiyotairyu is more explosive, but cannot keep it up) to force Chiyotairyu out, oshi-dashi. There was a point in there, at least once, maybe twice if you count the beginning, when Chiyotairyu could have won if he'd just kept pushing. But a lot of days that's just not him. Much as I've enjoyed his comeback from the depths, it's because of performances like this that I just don't believe in him. He's got the push, and he's got the pull. That's just not enough at this level. You've got to have a third pitch.

M3 Shohozan (3-6) vs. M1 Takakeisho (6-3)
Takakeisho has impressed this basho when he's gone all out and stayed tight and hard on his foe's toes. Facing a small and relatively straight forward opponent today, this was the time to give a master class in that strategy, show what he can do when on. He did and it worked, though it took some time to develop. Shohozan knew what was coming and tsuppari'ed like a wind-up Tasmanian Devil for a few moments, driving Takakeisho back and bloodying him. But Takakeisho gamely withstood it and showed who is the bigger fat boy, rolling Shohozan up and blasting him out, tsuki-dashi.

M1 Tamawashi (7-2) vs. K Onosho (3-6)
The reality is that at a certain point when Tamawashi gets to a record like this, we all start looking for him to lose on purpose. It sure looked like that here, as he forgot to bring his feet along and took an exaggerated hataki-komi dive to a loss under the fire of Onosho's retreating swipes. Remember how Tochiohzan and Kisenosato used to choke and fold in the second week when doing well? Does Tamawashi's sumo ever look like that? I don't think so.

M2 Tochiohzan (1-8) vs. S Yoshikaze (4-5)
Speaking of Tochiohzan, at 1-8, no need to worry about choking! Free and easy! But still not trying hard. Yoshikaze was his typical genki self, slapping and darting here and there, head down and willing. And wide open for the moro-zashi, Tochiohzan's specialty, which never came. Tochiohzan did a lot of resisting, but little attacking or aggressing, then took a gratuitous and silly looking fall, tsuki-otoshi, when he'd had enough waiting. Can Yoshikaze beat Tochiohzan straight up? Sure. No need today.

O Goeido (7-2) vs. S Mitakeumi (5-4)
And now the fun begins! Not. I kind of like the matches either side of 17:00 best. The 16:00 stuff is, admittedly, sometimes a little rinky-dink. Then get a series of good mid-level bouts and a lot of honest sumo for about an hour 16:30 to 17:30. But the name "Goeido" is always the sign that the rot is about to set in. I don't care if you're a blue-skier or a yaocho-everywhere-er, how can either camp like Goeido? The blue-skier has to roll his or her eyes at the ridiculous content, poor control, and random, technique-free wins Goeido puts out there, and the "yaocho ate my breakfast" crowd can see that Goeido isn't good enough to earn those "lucky" wins. I always liked wild guys like the pre-Ozeki Asashoryu and the Original Mongolian, Kyokushuzan. But they looked like they were pulling out all the stops to win. Goeido looks like he's dancing the mazurka blindfolded while high on LSD. He gave us a more conventional match today, and of course could not win that way. He spent his time trying to knock Mitakeumi's arms away, which wasn't a terrible strategy, but it wasn't getting anything done--not enough offense--so in the process he let Mitakeumi stabilize himself and get on his body, and Mitakeumi then wrenched him to the ground, hataki-komi. Good!

K Kotoshogiku (2-7) vs. O Takayasu (6-3)
Old against new. The "meh" Ozeki of yesteryear against the "meh" Ozeki of today. It was bad sumo, too. Kotoshogiku pushed real hard and got Takayasu mince-footing backwards, but Takayasu back-pedaled so fast Kotoshogiku flopped oblong to the clay under a nice head-pull just as Takayasu jumped off the tawara and down into the crowd, hataki-komi. Bleagh. I've gotten tired of predicting Kotoshogiku's retirement, but this would be a PERFECT time for it: at home in Kyushu, sealed his make-koshi, and could go out with his last match having been against a new-blood Ozeki: some fitting symbolism. But I saw no sign in his demeanor that he intends anything of the sort. Fight on, old friendly battle horse! He's welcome to it, and I'll keep watching. I want to see what he looks like at M12.

Y Kisenosato (4-5) vs. M4 Chiyonokuni (1-8)
So Kisenosato withdrew, as honor requires, and they mulled his futility all broadcast, poor blighters. At the beginning of the tournament I said your B-level prediction was a Kisenosato yusho. That's why it was "B!" Back to "A":

M4 Ichinojo (7-2) vs. Y Hakuho (9-0)
"A" was, is, and beautifully always should be Hakuho. He's performing so well, oh, does it ever feel like a swan song. This was a big ‘un, too, and no, I don't mean Ichinojo, I mean the match. With Goeido, Arawashi, and Tamawashi all having lost and fallen three losses behind, aside from Ichinojo only Hokutofuji and Okinoumi were left pursuing with two, and let's face it, Ichinojo is the only guy amongst those three you could daydream about stealing a yusho here; his Mongolian comrades could give it to him, starting here, and he has the body and aura to take it (if not the skill, I don't think, yet). So, this felt like the last chance for somebody to switch up the narrative. If Hakuho were to win this, the yusho race would be over, over, over. And the sense of a sunset-coronation tournament for Hakuho would continue to strengthen.

Hakuho slapped Ichinojo in the face, as he likes to do, then put his right hand inside on the body, and they went chest to chest. Hakuho did a whole lot of flimmering with this left hand--holding hands, I call this--as they jostled for position over there. However, I respected this: Ichinojo is big enough even the Yokozuna needs to take his time to establish position: you can't just bull him out oshi-dashi here because you're impatient or frustrated (see: Goeido). And establish position is exactly what Hakuho did: Hakuho eventually snaked that left hand down to the belt. Ichinojo reached his own left hand out for Hakuho's belt, but Hak kept shaking it off. At this point, the match was set up perfectly for Hakuho and it was only a matter of time. Indeed, Hakuho went into a spin, pulled hard with that left hand, and pressed down on Ichinojo's head with his right hand. Ichinojo, large as he is, looked like an empty flour sack when he went down all a-tumble, uwate-nage. More beautiful, Yokozuna sumo from the master.

And that, folks, is all she wrote in terms of the yusho race. I hereby declare this tournament in favor of Hakuho.

Nevertheless, Kane will let you know how the wind scours the steppe tomorrow. Thank god, because dude is very entertaining.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I was interested to see if there would be any movement regarding the Harumafuji incident coming out of the weekend, but the story has not taken any major turns. We all get that Harumafuji struck Takanoiwa on the night of October 25th with an open hand, and I think I read somewhere that he also used a remote control for a karaoke machine in the "assault," but the bottom line is that Takanoiwa didn't sustain the injuries listed on the hospital form as a result of Harumafuji's attack. So the questions that linger are: If Takanoiwa was able to finish out the exhibitions, why isn't he fighting in Kyushu now? And, who DID rough Takanoiwa up after the exhibitions causing him to be hospitalized for four days and withdraw from the Kyushu basho?

The answers lie with Takanohana the Brain Heenan, who is the weasel in all of this. He's not saying something, and as I hinted to earlier, my hunch is that he was taking a shot at the Isegahama-beya in an attempt to weaken Isegahama's standing as the sport's next commissioner when Hakkaku retires. I'm sure that the incident between Harumafuji and Takanoiwa was not the first time that rikishi drinking together have gotten into a fracas, and while the media continues to brand this as the Harumafuji assault case, it's real incident is Takanohana's bizarre, inexplicable behavior in the weeks leading up to the tournament. Dude's been caught in a web of lies, so we'll just have to wait and see how they attempt to explain them.

Turning our attention to the tournament, the leaderboard is the usual mess we've come to expect these days. NHK posted it as follows at the start of the broadcast, and don't worry...if it looks too uncomfortable with all of those Mongolians on top, a couple of them wilted today on purpose so as to remove their names from the limelight.

8-0:  Hakuho
7-1:  Ichinojo, Arawashi, Okinoumi
6-2:  Goeido, Tamawashi, Takakeisho, Hokutofuji, Aminishiki

Since the leaderboard is as ridiculous as the banzuke these days, I'll just continue to cover each bout in chronological order and provide analysis on points that the novice viewer might miss.

First up was M14 Daiamami who welcomed Homarefuji up from Juryo, and Homarefuji wasted no time in his tsuppari attack shading left and forcing Daiamami to give chase. Daiamami kept pace well early on and agreed to let Homarefuji dictate the content of this bout (oshi-zumo), and he had Homarefuji pushed close to the edge several times, but Homarefuji kept shading left around the perimeter of the ring until he was finally able to spring the pull trap and yank Daiamami forward and down hikkake style. Daiamami blew this one. He's a yotsu guy through and through, and so he needed to use his decent shove attack to set up the yotsu position, not lazily just align his sumo to that of his opponent's. He paid for it today in a bout that he should have won as the rookie falls to a painful 2-7.

M12 Okinoumi stood his ground well against M14 Kotoyuki's tsuppari attack, and when it was clear that Kotoyuki wasn't interested in a forward attack, he finally went for a weak pull. My initial reaction was that Okinoumi was waiting for the pull we all knew was coming, and then he'd capitalize, but he instead, he just played along stumbling forward and not even acknowledging his opponent's lateral movement to his left. Kotoyuki was a sitting duck, but Okinoumi's intent was to lose and so he just flopped forward facedown to the dirt. I'm not sure the politics behind it all whether Okinoumi felt guilty for maintaining a place on the one-loss line coming in or whether the Kotoyuki camp was desperate to buy a win, but Okinoumi took an obvious dive here sending his record to 7-2. As for Kotoyuki, he'll welcome the gift as he improves to 4-5.

M15 Nishikigi and M11 Asanoyama hooked up in migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai, and this was an excellent bout of yotsu-zumo that went chest to chest. Nishikigi's mistake was that he failed to lift his opponent upright with his inside position, and so Asanoyama grabbed the left outer grip and pulled his foe over to the edge where the two rikishi engaged in a decent nage-no-uchi-ai. The outer grip won out in the end as it usually does, so gunbai to Asanoyama who fought one of the best bouts of sumo in his brief Makuuchi career. Both rikishi ended the day at 4-5, and all I ask is for both rikishi to give the effort that these two provided today.

The good sumo was short-lived as M11 Aoiyama stepped into the ring against M13 Takekaze. The Bulgarian actually retreated a step at the tachi-ai standing upright with his thrust attack, but the problem was that Takekaze couldn't capitalize, and so about two seconds in, Aoiyama just bent over at the waist and waited for Takekaze to make contact. Takekaze clued in fast enough and slapped at Aoiyama's right shoulder upon which Aoiyama just touched both palms down to the dirt. Aoiyama wasn't even close to losing his balance and easily stood up after the loss. This was such an obvious thrown bout and bad acting on Aoiyama's part to boot. It's the kind of obvious bout where the guys call down from the NHK producer's truck, "Uh, one quick replay and let's move on!!" Embarrassing as Aoiyama bows to 2-7 while Takekaze moves to 3-6.

M15 Myogiryu scooted to his left at the tachi-ai against M10 Ikioi throwing a wrench in the bout early, and while Ikioi was able to square back up, Myogiryu used the tactic to eventually shove Ikioi upright and assume moro-zashi. Ikioi quickly countered with the right arm around the top of Myogiryu's left threatening a counter kote-nage, and that gave Myogiryu pause for a bit, but in the end, he trusted his position and kept Ikioi upright as he ultimately forced him back and across. I didn't like the henka, but Myogiryu was good from there moving to 6-3 while Ikioi just can't seem to catch a break falling to 4-5.

What a joke to see M13 Aminishiki on the leaderboard at the start of the day, but I think allowing him that fast start was just a way to generate more headlines and deflect attention away from the Takanohana scandal. The problem is that the deeper you get into the tournament, certain rikishi can no longer afford to give up wins, and so Ami's in for a tough week 2. His opponent today was M9 Daieisho who entered the day with just three wins, so sorry charlie, Daieisho needed the win. He knew that Aminishiki wanted to set up a pull, and so Daieisho came with nice tsuppari, but he wasn't committed to a full on charge that could have been exploited by the pull-happy veteran. As a result, Aminishiki was able to move laterally this way and that trying to set up a pull, but Daieisho kept the pressure high and was able to finally shove Aminishiki back and across in about six seconds. It was a smart move today by Daieisho because he never put himself in a position to be pulled as he moves closer to .500 at 4-5. Aminishiki falls to 6-3, and I'll give him that win against Takekaze, but the other five were pure gifts.

M12 Kagayaki opted not to stand toe to toe against M8 Chiyomaru coming out of his stance and shading left, and Chiyomaru's reaction was to start evading to his left as well, and the result was both rikishi engaged in a tsuppari contest as they danced around the ring. Chiyomaru was better, though, as he moved, and we all know that the best way to beat Kagayaki is to make him move laterally, so Chiyomaru did just that eventually scoring the pull-down win in about 6 or 7 seconds. Smart sumo from Chiyomaru who moves to 4-5 while Kagayaki shoulda trusted his abilities at the tachi-ai falling to 5-4.

M10 Kaisei and M7 Shodai hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, but Shodai did nothing to keep his foe upright, and so Kaisei just reached for and got the easy right outer grip immediately going for a quick force out attempt. Shodai survived at the edge, and I really thought that Kaisei was playing nice by letting him stay in the ring at this point. Nevertheless, both guys retooled in the same hidari-yotsu sumo with Kaisei holding onto just one fold of the outer grip now with the right hand. From this point, both rikishi just dug in for like 20 seconds before Kaisei made another move leading with the weakened outer grip. The action flowed towards the edge where the two engaged in a nage-no-uchi-ai that never really formed, and so Kaisei bumped his hip into Shodai who tried to dashi-nage Kaisei across the straw. This one was close, but Kaisei stayed in the dohyo just long enough to where Shodai was forced across. As the two rikishi bowed to each other, Kaisei thought he had lost but then realized the ref was pointing in his favor. I thought Kaisei was going easy on Shodai the whole bout, and that may be why he had it in his mind that he lost, but Shodai just couldn't counter despite Kaisei's giving him a chance. The end result is Kaisei improving to 6-3 while Shodai falls to the opposite mark at 3-6.

M6 Tochinoshin instinctively got the right arm to the inside against M9 Endoh and reached for the left outer grip, and Endoh's belt was fully exposed, but Shin quickly pulled that arm back and moved it higher up against Endoh's arm. From that point, the ending of the bout was clear as Tochinoshin just worked his arms to the outside gifting Endoh the easy inside position with the left, and as the two circled a bit in the ring, Tochinoshin put an arm up high as if to pull, and at that point, Endoh just forced him back and across the straw as Shin lamely reached for the back of Endoh belt. This was an easy yaocho call, especially after watching Tochinoshin bounce Endoh back at the tachi-ai with his arms in perfect position to grab the left outer with the right inside, but he quickly repented of that sin and just let Endoh have his way even standing upright and walking back in the end meaning Endoh wouldn't even have to force him into that position. None of the Japanese fans are likely any the wiser as Endoh moves to 6-3 while Tochinoshin graciously bows to 5-4.

They say that deaths in Hollywood and yaocho with terrible acting come in threes, and that definitely proved true today with Okinoumi's dive, Aoiyama's dive, and then the entire M4 Ichinojo - M7 Daishomaru bout. Daishomaru is probably the weakest guy with the worst game in the entire division, and that's saying something with Kisenosato still on the board. Contrast that to Ichinojo who is a top five rikishi along with the other elite Mongolians. You wouldn't know it today, however, as Ichinojo's tachi-ai consisted of just standing there while Daishomaru moved a bit left and then pushed into Ichinojo's right side forcing the Mongolian over to the edge. At this point Ichinojo thought he was already out of the ring because he just stood upright and then suddenly realized he was still in the ring, and so he immediately backed up that last step giving Daishomaru the cheap win. I mean, I've seen some bad acting, but this one ranks right near the top.

If I had more time on my hands, I would have showed slow motion replays of the Ichinojo - Tochinoshin bout and then the Ichinojo - Daishomaru bout back to back. To watch the contrast in Ichinojo's demeanor would be stunning. This was such an embarrassing yaocho, but I see Ichinojo's working here. Can't have a tough Mongolian just one back on the leaderboard, and so he's just taking himself out of the discussion. So pathetic as Ichinojo now falls to 7-2 while Daishomaru ekes his way to 3-6.

After a series of false starts between M6 Chiyoshoma and M3 Hokutofuji, when the two finally did go, Chiyoshoma just stood upright and kept one arm out wide and one arm up high as if to set up a pull that would of course never come, and this allowed Hokutofuji to just bulldoze the Mongolian straight back and out. Harvye talked about how much we like Hokutofuji here at ST, but it still doesn't mean this wasn't total mukiryoku sumo on the part of Chiyoshoma, who fell to a harmless 4-5 after the bout. As for Hokutofuji who moved to 7-2, I will give him credit for taking care of business so fast. None of the Japanese darlings would have been able to dismantle Chiyoshoma that fast, not even Onosho, so while Chiyoshoma was just standing there like a practice dummy, Hokutofuji beat him faster than any other Japanese rikishi would have.

The silliness would continue with M5 Arawashi facing M2 Tochiohzan. Like Ichinojo before, we can't have another Mongolian just one back on the leaderboard, so Arawashi was mukiryoku against Tochiohzan giving Oh the right inside position from the tachi-ai and standing straight up allowing Tochiohzan to force him back. Unlike Ichinojo who just walked out, Arawashi made it look close going for a counter left tsuki-otoshi at the edge, and it actually worked as Tochiohzan took a knee before he had Arawashi forced all the way back and out. Fortunately, Arawashi stepped out as Oh's knee hit the dirt forcing a do-over, and in round two Arawashi gave Tochiohzan moro-zashi, but Tochiohzan didn't have the gas to force Arawashi back again, and so after standing there for about three seconds, Oh went for a lame swipe down at Arawashi's chest, and the Mongolian promptly hit the dirt. Arawashi falls to 7-2 with the loss and is clearing himself from the leaderboard. As for Tochiohzan, he was winless coming in, so after this gift he finds himself at 1-8.

M2 Chiyotairyu's feet were a bit aligned at the tachi-ai against M3 Shohozan, and so his tsuppari attack was more like a slap attack against Shohozan's chest. This allowed Shohozan to force the bout to hidari-yotsu, and so the two dug in in the center of the ring with neither maintaining an outer grip. A yotsu bout would normally favor Shohozan, but after gathering his wits, Chiyotairyu lifted Darth Hozan up using the inside left position and bodied him across the ring, back, and off the dohyo altogether. This was quite an impressive display of force from Chiyotairyu, and if I had to choose the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke based on sumo content this basho, it'd be Chiyotairyu. I know the win moves him to just 4-5, but you have to take into consideration the gifts he's given this basho to Takayasu, Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku, and probably Takakeisho. As for Shohozan, he falls to a tough-luck 3-6.

M1 Takakeisho caught Komusubi Onosho with a nice right shove to the neck from the tachi-ai driving him back two steps and dangerously close to the edge, but for no explicable reason, Takakeisho went for and whiffed on a dual-handed swipe-down that allowed Onosho to force Takakeisho back a few steps and set up a pull. Problem was, Onosho's pull wasn't forceful enough to send Takakeisho to the dirt, and so Takakeisho just stood there bent over at the waist waiting for Onosho to push him down for reals. Onosho clued in fast enough and just pushed at Takakeisho's right butt check finally sending Takakeisho to the dirt. Not sure what was going on here or what the politics surrounding this bout were, but Takakeisho was clearly mukiryoku in the end. The result is Takakeisho's falling to 6-3 while Onosho limps forward to 3-6. Before we move on, I've been largely impressed with the content of Takakeisho's sumo this basho. I just hope he doesn't turn out to be a Goeido.

M1 Tamawashi decided to forgo the tsuppari against Komusubi Kotoshogiku allowing the bout to go to hidari-yotsu, which would normally favor Kotoshogiku, but the former Ozeki just didn't have the strength to take advantage, and so with Tamawashi keeping the Geeku square in front of him, he went for a right kote-nage throw that actually felled Kotoshogiku to the dirt before the latter could force Tamawashi back. The Mawashi was clearly playing into Kotoshogiku's hands in this one from the tachi-ai, but like Kisenosato, Kotoshogiku just can't move any more in the ring. The mind is likely still willing, but the body is definitely weak as Tamawashi accidentally finds himself at 7-2 while Kotoshogiku falls to 2-7. Look for Tamawashi to quickly erase his name from the leaderboard in the coming days.

Sekiwake Mitakeumi withstood Ozeki Takayasu's tsuppari attack well forcing the bout to migi-yotsu, but the Sekiwake made his intentions clear when he brought his left arm up high around Takayasu's head. That move defies all sumo logic from someone whose trying to win the bout, but Mitakeumi wasn't today, and so as Takayasu took advantage of Mitakeumi's gift and forced him dangerously to the edge, the Ozeki still didn't have a firm grip on his foe allowing him to slip to the side. But Mitakeumi wasn't looking to win this one and as he came forward towards Takayasu, the Ozeki attempted a weak pull (it was more like a hand to the back) that caused Mitakeumi to lunge forward and then twist over landing on his back. Explain to me how a hataki-komi can lead to a guy landing on his back, especially the weak slap we saw from Takayasu today. The Ozeki was never in control of this bout, but not to worry, Mitakeumi took care of things diving to the dirt and boosting Takayasu's record to 6-3. Afterwards, the NHK guys couldn't find anything to praise about Takayasu's sumo, but Mainoumi did hit the nail on the head when he stated that Takayasu is one win closer now to staving off demotion from Ozeki. Mitakeumi falls to 5-4 after the display of charity.

Just when you thought the sumo couldn't get any uglier, Ozeki Goeido and Sekiwake Yoshikaze proved us wrong!! After an ugly tachi-ai with neither rikishi moving forward and using sound basics to set something up, the rikishi were separated just a bit, and Goeido's reaction was to align his feet perfectly and kind of take two bunny hops backward as he went for a pull of Yoshikaze. The pull wasn't strong enough to send Yoshikaze out, and so with Goeido teetering on the straw with his back to the brink, Yoshikaze just ran right past him throwing a hand to the Ozeki's face, but Yoshikaze wasn't trying to knock the Ozeki out. Rather, he put on the brakes at the straw, and just stood there waiting for Goeido to push him out from behind. Good night, the sumo the last two bouts was just horrible, and the four rikishi involved are all over-hyped Japanese darlings. To me it's just laughable to see this stuff passed off as legitimate sumo, and it's even funnier that people believe it.

M4 Chiyonokuni is giving Daishomaru a run for his money as worst rikishi in the division, and today against Yokozuna Hakuho, the M4 just haplessly hit the dirt after Hakuho met him with a face slap and then a quick tug at the outer belt with the left hand. Hakuho's motion wasn't enough to send Kuni sprawling like that, and I think Chiyonokuni just wanted to get the hell outta there without taking a serious beating. Regardless of what went on there, it seems as if sumo is incapable of producing a decent bout of sumo the last 30 minutes of the broadcast.

After so much ugliness on the day, the prospect of watching a Kisenosato bout almost pushed me to the brink, but I did feel obligated, so here goes. Against M5 Takarafuji, the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Fuji had Kisenosato up high, and the outer belt grip was right there for the taking. Unfortunately, all Takarafuji chose to do was grope at the belt time and time again as the two danced around the center of the ring and not actually grab it. Kisenosato did attempt a few gaburi moves against his foe (I'll give him that), but it wasn't anything that would have forced Takarafuji back and across, and so the two rikishi finally settled in the center of the ring still in hidari-yotsu. It was actually nice to see a Kisenosato bout last more than a few seconds and look stable, but could he take advantage of his mukiryoku opponent and finish the job? Unfortunately no. After another charge into Takarafuji driving the M5 back, Kisenosato was finally able to grab a right outer grip, and so Takarafuji did what anyone would do...step to the side with his left inside grip and go for a classic nage-no-uchi-ai. The problem was that Kisenosato was out of gas and out of uchi because instead of applying any more force with his outer grip, he just collapsed beyond the straw due to sheer incompetence.

I often talk about how endings to bouts don't match the kimari-te when yaocho or mukiryoku sumo is involved, and just a few contests back, I asked how Mitakeumi could finish on his back from a hataki-komi slapdown?  It just doesn't make sense, especially when you watch the action in the ring. Well, today's ending should have been a nage-no-uchi-ai, but if you have the means, go back and watch where Takarafuji ends up after the bout. In a normal nage-no-uchi-ai, both guys start in the position as seen in the pic above to the left.  Then then both throw each other to the dirt, and it's a question of who can force their opponent down first or who is brave enough to keep their hand from touching down to break their fall and consequently touch down first, but today, Takarafuji just executed his throw and skipped right back to the center of the ring. There was simply no force coming from Kisenosato who just tumbled forward and down before anything could be set up by either rikishi.

NHK panned in close to Kisenosato as he tried to pick himself up off of the dohyo, and just beyond him is this old guy with this angry expression on his face as if to say, "What's going on here?"  What's going on is you believe everything you're spoon fed by the media. It really is incredulous to me as I watch Kisenosato's sheer ineptness in the ring. Takarafuji was handing him the bout today, and he still couldn't take advantage. I mean, it's a basic uwate-nage throw, and instead of pulling the trigger, Kisenosato just fumbled his way out of bounds.

If anyone's counting at home, that's five losses now to hiraku-rikishi, and that's just the results on paper as Kisenosato falls to 4-5. The dude hasn't earned a single win yet this basho and is defining new lows for the Yokozuna rank. It's just embarrassing, and you can't use the excuse of his injured left shoulder (which isn't injured by the way). The nage-no-uchi-ai today was with the right hand, so that fake injury was inconsequential. The Sumo Association should be ashamed for the product they're putting out there on the dohyo, and today was a prime example.

I'm not even going to bother re-calculating the leaderboard. There's no such thing as a yusho race just like there's no such thing as a Japanese Yokozuna.

I'll hit the ice bath now and let Harvye take over tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
With all the sorry mess surrounding Harumafuji and by extension the sport in general, the tournament itself is running well under the radar though it is a pretty interesting one.

Yusho winners are almost always Yokozuna or Ozeki. I did a quick, unscientific count, and the last time someone else took a tournament was Kyokutenho in 2012. Before that, you have to go back another eleven years to Kotomitsuki's yusho in a Yokozuna-less tournament in 2001.

In practice, that means the only real contenders this basho are Hakuho, Kisenosato, Goeido, and Takayasu. However, another reality in sumo is that, outside of anomalies like Harumafuji's comeback last time, three or even two losses in the first week is generally too many. Kisenosato, with three, cannot realistically catch Hakuho. Goeido and Takayasu, with two losses each, possibly could if they were the better wrestler, as Harumafuji was in Aki despite a similar poor start. But they're not.

That means unless he gets hurt or suspended, this tournament is already sealed for Hakuho. He's fighting the best he has in years. There is no doubt he is the greatest of all time over the span of a career. Even so, he's not the greatest of all time in this very moment: Asashoryu in his prime could beat Hakuho right now for example. Over the last few years, Hakuho has lost a step. By screwing around on the dohyo, giving away lots of bouts and trying out all kinds of crazy styles ("can I do THIS and still win?"), he has damaged his inner chi / "it" / psychological focus. You can't just turn it back on 100%. But he's still great, and without question the most skilled wrestler in this tournament (Harumafuji is the challenger on this score of late, and he's out). I predicted early this year that Hakuho wouldn't make it out of 2017. Maybe this tournament is his one last shot at showing again how great he truly is. Or maybe we see him aim for 50 and still active when the 2020 Olympics happen. I doubt it, but we'll see.

What I really want to highlight in this intro is who is in second place with one loss right now: Hokutofuji, who fights Hakuho today, and Ichinojo, who fights Kisenosato (along with also-rans Okinoumi, Arawashi, and Aminishiki). Mike and I have been hyping Hokutofuji for a while (since he gets no other hype), and he is a clutch performer. Several times he's delighted me by taking on one of the bigger "prospects" from the Mitakeumi-Shodai-Onosho-Takakeisho clutch and beating him straight up. He's got guts and contained, focused skills. Moreover, in this tournament he hasn't achieved this 6-1 from the mid-ranks, where most guys gussy up nice records--he's doing this from M3.

Then there is Ichinojo. I'm on record as saying his frequently passive, lazy, sloppy sumo is embarrassing and not on purpose: I just don't think he has the focus or skills to make it to where the current trio of Mongolians are, or where Terunofuji could have gone barring injury. Nope. Ichinojo reminds me more of guys like Baruto (his likely ceiling), Kaisei, or Kokkai (his likely floor). Hey, Gagamaru was a big dumpling too, and look what happened to him. Ichinojo has a longer and more supple body than Gagamaru, and I could be wrong about him, though: it is possible that he has been sandbagging or just hadn't put it all together yet. This tournament, he's shown speed, stamina, strength, and focus. If there really is an Armageddon of Mongolians, and Ichinojo survives it (I haven't heard his name in the current thing) he's in a perfect position to pick the sport up and play villain to the Hype Town Heroes. As with Hokutofuji, he's having his impressive tournament at a fairly high rank--M4--and as with Hokutofuji, I'm kind of excited by this.

So, while there's plenty--too much, really--to keep our focus OFF the dohyo this tournament, this has been an okay tournament IN the dohyo. Let's check how that played out today.

M15 Nishikigi (4-3) vs. J3 Yutakayama (5-2)
Here Nishikigi was a tackling dummy and Yutakayama a thrust-bus. Yutakayama destroyed him. He made mincemeat of the momentum battle by thrusting Nishikigi up and backwards, then grasped him close and drove him right straight out, yori-kiri.

M12 Okinoumi (6-1) vs. M14 Daiamami (2-5)
Good against not so good. Not so good would be Daiamami: he had a frontal grip on Okinoumi's belt, but it didn't help him. Good would be Okinoumi, displaying solid form here by quickly following up with an outside left belt grip and a right hand up on the body. Yori-kiri easy-peasy win for the limber Okinoumi, who is consistently impressive when nestled amongst weak wrestlers low on the banzuke.

M13 Takekaze (2-5) vs. M11 Asanoyama (2-5)
Unless Takekaze starts arranging some victories, he will finally, finally sink down to Juryo. Asanoyama is unquestionably a weak opponent right now and hence a nice draw, but Takekaze was able to do nothing with him. Takekaze tried post-tachi-ai evasion and a quick pull down, but Asanoyama stayed in and forward on him and delivered him to the knackerman, yori-kiri, post-haste.

M10 Kaisei (5-2) vs. M15 Myogiryu (4-3)
This was all about Myogiryu's evasion and Kaisei's inability to get a grip. Kaisei kept his attack low and tight, and stuck an arm in here, an arm in there, but Myogiryu reacted by going lateral and backwards quickly and slipped out of Kaisei's reach. After that Kaisei seemed deflated, and he was blubbery yori-kiri fodder for Myogiryu, set up by a few quick shoves.

M14 Kotoyuki (3-4) vs. M10 Ikioi (3-4)
Kotoyuki has a fun, loud, two-handed tachi-ai to the face, but he has no follow-up on it. He's always been a prima donna, and I really think he enjoys and savors that moment of showing he's a big hitter, while not really thinking about what he needs to do next. There's no power in the resultant tsuppari, and he has no other tools. He did get Ikioi going backwards, but Ikioi just stepped out of the way and thrust him down from the side as he went past, tsuki-otoshi.

M9 Endo (4-3) vs. M13 Aminishiki (6-1)
Endo's a good soldier, and I figured he'd give this one to Aminishiki, but there was really no need to. Whether Aminishiki finishes 13-2 (god forbid!) or 10-5 or 7-8, the fans will have had their fun with him and get him in Makuuchi for another tournament. So Endo just went for it and pushed him very easily out oshi-dashi while Aminishiki pulled weakly at him. Both of Aminishiki's losses have come on my reporting days, and he has looked pretty exposed as overcooked salty fish.

M12 Kagayaki (4-3) vs. M9 Daieisho (3-4)
With a 4-3 from M12 in the first week Kagayaki, who typically has a bad first week and a good second, is set up pretty well in this tournament. He kept the momentum going here with an okuri-dashi win, but it was a painfully bad effort by Daieisho, who turned away from Kagayaki's meat-tenderizer thrusts, gave up, and stepped out.

M7 Daishomaru (2-5) vs. M11 Aoiyama (1-6)
My main emotion was "glad to see Aoiyama back," but if it is going to one of those return-from-injury performances where the guy limps around every bout and wins just one or two more the rest of the way, I'll be annoyed. I always wonder what kind of advice the doctors are giving. If it is "well, you won't be very good, but you don't risk much more damage by being out there," then sure, go for it. But it it's "you could hurt yourself worse, but with some luck you may be able to manage it well enough to pick up some wins," then for god's sake rest it. Easier said than done though: I'm not the guy getting demoted to Juryo. And athletes in a variety of sports will tell you you just have to pretty much play with a certain amount of pain throughout most of your career. Anyhoo, Aoiyama looked bad but won anyway: Daishomaru, a weak puller with no effective attack tools, had Aoiyama instantly going backwards. But Aoiyama pulled him down at his feet, hataki-komi, right away. Yeesh. This bodes ill for both of them.

M7 Shodai (3-4) vs. M6 Tochinoshin (4-3)
I was looking for a manful destruction here, and that's what I got. Pop!, went the tachi-ai, which busted Shodai out of there backwards. Bam!, went the follow-up onslaught from Tochinoshin. Smother-shlurp!, went the grab of the belt and the removal across the last few inches in this thoroughly dominant yori-kiri win by Tochinoshin. This is why we say it is puzzling when some of the foreign guys lose, because when they win they look like this.

M8 Chiyomaru (3-4) vs. M5 Arawashi (6-1)
Yay, Chiyomaru: lardy hijinks. However, Arawashi decided he couldn't handle him, probably correctly, and backed out of there and pulled and swiped. Down went Chiyomaru with a barrel roll, hataki-komi, and his impact was so great it caused a small tremor across the Kyushu fault lines and Mt. Aso burped out a little eruption. Okay, not really, but Chiyomaru inspires such prose.

M3 Shohozan (3-4) vs. M6 Chiyoshoma (3-4)
They slapped at each other for a few seconds, then went quickly to the belts with hidari-yotsu. Chiyoshoma short-circuited any further action with an effective, quick soto-gake trip. They both went down at the same time, and I actually think Shohozan was able to twist Chiyoshoma in the air and cause him to hit the dirt first or simultaneously, but the gunbai went for Chiyoshoma, kiri-kaeshi, and there was no mono-ii. Too bad.

M2 Chiyotairyu (2-5) vs. M2 Tochiohzan (0-7)
Hoo boy. Tochiohzan has looked limp and ineffective all tournament. You want to say he's either hurt, suddenly past his prime all at once, or just decided to sell all fifteen bouts and hey, still be in Makuuchi anyway, so why not? At any rate, this was classic A-game Chiyotairyu: a powerful thrusting attack that knocked his opponent out of the ring oshi-dashi in seconds flat.

M1 Tamawashi (5-2) vs. M5 Takarafuji (3-4)
Boy, I love Tamawashi. I've given up on the hope of him making Ozeki or stealing a tournament (never realistic anyway, but I admit I daydreamed on it), but he's up there with some pretty good company as being one of only four guys right now, I'd say, capable of consistently wowing you with dominant performances when fighting his best: Hakuho, Harumafuji, Tochinoshin, and him. Like Chiyotairyu before him and Tochinoshin earlier today, Tamawashi pulled out a hammering, dominating tachi-ai that knocked his opponent so far back it was already over right there. A few oshi-dashi shoves and it was Tamawashi the Great Destroyer. Oh yes, yes. Sumo can be beautiful.

K Kotoshogiku (2-5) vs. K Onosho (1-6)
Today's broadcast "treat" was to put a star from the (boring and insufferably dominant) Japan Series baseball champion Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in the booth, Uchikawa-senshu. Since he didn't know much about sumo, they stuck Tochiazuma in the booth too to cover for him. That meant we got two hours of anecdotes from Mr. Baseball's life and career. Turns out he's buds with Kotoshogiku, so NHK surely saw this as a win-win-win all around: hype the local wrestler and the local baseball team with a little light talk of championships and guts and glory. I have to admit, too, even I am enjoying Kotoshogiku a lot right now. Freed from the responsibility to win eight as a propped-up Ozeki, he's much better to watch, and actually sometimes fights well. He's been going all out, and needing to, in a lot of his matches, looking strong and fast and focused, and the strange thing is despite the 2-5 record I feel the phrase "he's having a great tournament" seeping out of me. For what he is now? Yes, he has shown well so far. This is Kotoshogiku as he should have been: pretty good. So, along with Mr. Uchikawa and the crowd, let's take a few moments and enjoy him in this sunset phase. Ah, okay, there. We've savored it in our minds. He's like a retired guy who finally takes up hang-gliding or sewing or something he always wanted to do. Okay, now I've spent almost as much time on him as the broadcast did, so I suppose we should cover his actual sumo. Unfortunately for all the happy people, it was as usual of late the real Kotoshogiku, and sometimes that looks overmatched, despite the flashes of genki on other days: here he couldn't put anything together, and was dominated by a young wrestler far, far his superior at this point: Onosho drove him back with a hand to the armpit, then pulled him down by the head, hataki-komi. Even this made me happy for him: Kotoshogiku is finally free. As for Mr. Baseball, he papered over it nicely: "that was disappointing of course," he said, "but there is always tomorrow." For Kotoshogiku? Yes. Maybe.

S Mitakeumi (5-2) vs. M1 Takakeisho (5-2)
This was looking like another powerful, quick, linear performance off of a great knock-back tachi-ai, following today's theme, as Takakeisho upped the pace of his attack, as he has a few times now this tournament, and thrust Mitakeumi right straight back to the tawara. However, I do think Mitakeumi is quite good, and he didn't let himself get done quite like that, surviving it, evading out of there, and forcing Takakeisho to chase him around a bit. Credit to my man-crush-of-late Takakeisho: he followed smoothly and stuck with the aggressive attack, and soon oshi-dashi'ed out Mitakeumi.

O Goeido (5-2) vs. M4 Chiyonokuni (1-6)
Bam! It was a good day of sumo, people. Here was yet another effective pasting. Goeido has to know if he can't dominate a 1-6 Chiyonokuni, he can't dominate anyone. So he head butted him hard at the lines, stood him up, and liquidated him out, oshi-dashi. As I discussed two days ago, Goeido's sumo is almost always terrible and frustrating. But today we got the "almost."

S Yoshikaze (3-4) vs. O Takayasu (5-2)
This was a good place to lose for Takayasu, with five wins safely in the bag, little chance of winning the tournament, and local fave Yoshikaze across the lines. So he did. He stood up and ineffectually dangled his arms in front of Yoshikaze while Yoshikaze pushed at him for a bit, then Takayasu retreated out of that and let Yoshikaze thrust at him for a while, which is Yoshikaze's game. Then Takayasu fell down, tsuki-otoshi.

Y Kisenosato (4-3) vs. M4 Ichinojo (6-1)
And here we go; we got two for-real marquee-on-paper match-ups to end the day; this was #1. The question was whether Ichinojo would go for it with smothering Mongolithness, or play shuddering shibboleth and let himself be pushed around. Let me just say plainly: Ichinojo looked like an ozeki here. Another good, popping tachi-ai, won by Ichinojo, after which he moved Kisenosato back, back, back, and gone. He didn't need much to do it with either; he was just pushing with a right forearm bar on one side and holding Kisenosato's right elbow on the other. Kisenosato had no answer, and back he went. Ichinojo had presence of mind to get both arms in underneath at the end, though he didn't need it, and finished off this big-time dismantling with a yori-kiri moro-zashi hold and win. Look out.

M3 Hokutofuji (6-1) vs. Y Hakuho (7-0)
Maquee match #2. There were two questions here: would Hakuho give this one away? It was a good time in the tournament for that: he's running away with it and might like to force some drama, was facing a Japanese guy who could use some highlighting with the public, and it was the big Sunday broadcast, most important sumo day of the week. However, assuming a straight up bout--and I suspected we'd get one, as they have only faced each other once, and Hakuho does not yet need to be courteous or generous to Hokutofuji--the other question was would Hokutofuji be able to show anything? Could he put Hakuho in danger? Fighting like Hokutofuji has been, it wasn't out of the question. The answer to question #1 was that Hakuho wanted it. There was no sign of sloppiness. But the answer to question #2 was that Hokutofuji presented no real challenge, I'm sorry to say, to the point that Hakuho essentially toyed with him. Hakuho didn't give him a chance to show what he could do at the tachi-ai, giving a little slap and moving away to the side, then tried twice to pull him down by the head. However, the real match was all about only one thing: Hakuho's dominant outside left grip. It's so powerful; guys just can't do anything. And here too, everything else was just theater. Eventually Hakuho bodied Hokutofuji up and used that grip to rub him out, yori-kiri. He had this one so far in the bag he wasn't even paying attention as he finished it, staring off into the crowd: "yeah, I'm still the man."

Yes you are.

Tomorrow Mike rains fire on the plans of Gomorrah.

Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The weekends are slow news days, and so I was curious to see if we'd get any new information on day 7. The NHK Saturday Sports show didn't make a single mention of it, and I can't really see anything newsworthy from the other media outlets. One thing that could be at play in all of this is the relationship between Takanohana and Isegahama. I think I've pointed this out before, but the role of Commissioner has followed right in line with the order of the sport's former Yokozuna. Hokutoumi replaced Kitanoumi, and Chiyonofuji was going to replace Hokutoumi, and then next in line after that is Asahifuji, or the current Isegahama-oyakata. It's no secret that Takanohana has been jockeying for at least half a decade now to finagle his way into the Commissioner's sport, so it's just one more thought on the current scandal: is Takanohana doing something to help further his Rijicho cause? There's absolutely no way that Harumafuji inflicted those injuries on Takanoiwa the night initially reported, so we'll just have to wait until it all plays out to find out the real reason behind all of it.

In the meantime, let's get to all of the bouts starting with M14 Kotoyuki who caught M14 Daiamami with a right hand-slap to the face at the tachi-ai causing the rookie to stare at the rafters, and he had no chance to work his way back into the bout as Kotoyuki pummeled him back once, twice, three times a lady picking up the tsuki-dashi win. Kotoyuki moves to 3-4 while Daiamami continues to struggle at 2-5.

The two oldest dudes in the division met up today in M13 Takekaze and M13 Aminishiki, and Aminishiki proved to be the better puller putting his right hand at the back of Takekaze's neck and just yanking him down a second in. Aminishiki moves to 6-1 with the win, but only his last two bouts have been legit, and he's 1-1 in those. Takekaze falls to 2-5.

M12 Kagayaki was proactive at the tachi-ai shoving his hands into M15 Nishikigi's face, and it set up the left arm inside and right outer grip, but Kagayaki ain't a yotsu guy, and it showed as he easily lost that right outer, and then the fiddy-fiddy bout was one. With both rikishi in a light hidari-yotsu position and goin' nowhere, Kagayaki attempted to set up a right kote-nage, but Nishikigi pinched in hard trying to sling Kagayaki over and out similar to an ushiro-motare move, but he didn't have enough real estate the score the win as he barely stepped out before yanking Kagayaki out from behind. I enjoyed this bout because it was straight up, but the content of the sumo was poor all around as both rikishi finish at 4-3.

M15 Myogiryu got his right arm up and under M11 Asanoyama's armpit at the tachi-ai lifting the youngster straight up, and Myogiryu pressed forward hard grabbing the left outer grip, which he used to force Asanoyama back and across without argument. I think it's worth noting that these two guys were the day 5 and day 6 opponents of Aminishiki. Myogiryu coulda done that to Shneaky easily on day 5 while Asanoyama won rather easily yesterday. Myogiryu moves to 4-3 with the win while Asanoyama falls to 2-5.

Two of my favorite Japanese guys met up today in M12 Okinoumi vs. M10 Ikioi in a bout that tried to go to hidari-yotsu after a right kachi-age from Okinoumi at the tachi-ai. The two rikishi never clenched chests, however, as Okinoumi dangerously opted to back up and go for a risky tsuki-otoshi shove with the right hand into Ikioi's left side. Ikioi's length enabled him to force Okinoumi down across the straw, and the referee even pointed his way, but replays showed the Okinoumi's tsuki-otoshi caused Ikioi's elbow to barely touch down before Umi hit the dirt. A good win for Okinoumi on paper as he moves to 6-1, but I would have liked to have seen sounder sumo. Ikioi falls to 3-4 with the tough-luck loss.

M10 Kaisei was rebuffed briefly at the tachi-ai by M8 Chiyomaru's girth, but the Brasilian never let go of an early left frontal belt grip, and so he was able to keep Maru close enough to where his shoves weren't effective before sucking him with that left outer grip firmed up and the excellent right inside position, and once Kaisei had his gal secured in yotsu-zumo, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Kaisei moves to 5-2 while Chiyomaru falls to 3-4.

M9 Daieisho fired alternating neck shoves M6 Tochinoshin's way, but he couldn't force Shin off balance, and so the Private was able to shift a bit and get the right arm inside, and at this point, Tochinoshin's length allowed him to suck Daieisho in tight to where he reached around to grab the left outer grip near the edge, and like the bout before, once the furrener had solid yotsu position wunt nothing the Japanese rikishi could do. Solid win for Tochinoshin who moves to 4-3 while Daieisho falls to 3-4.

Before we move on, why can't Kisenosato, Goeido, Mitakeumi, etc. win as we saw Kaisei and Tochinoshin win today?  It's textbook yotsu-zumo, but very few of the Japanese dudes can execute it any more.'

M6 Chiyoshoma reached for and got the early right grip of M9 Endoh's belt, but instead of executing sound sumo and getting the left inside, he lamely kicked at the back of Endoh's leg in suso-harai fashion before continuing to spin around maintaining that right belt grip. With Endoh just trying to keep up, Chiyoshoma just spun himself around and down grabbing Endoh's left leg with both arms as if to give the impression that he came up just short. This was one of those bouts where the Mongolian did all the work including giving the Japanese guys the win in the end. And now that I think about it, it was the first fixed bout of the day as Chiyoshoma graciously falls to 3-4 while Endoh fumbles his way to 4-3.

It's interesting how we've had Kaisei, Tochinoshin, Chiyoshoma, and now M5 Arawashi all fight in a row and all have the easy opportunity to set up yotsu-zumo bouts against their opponents. Facing M7 Daishomaru, Arawashi got the easy right inside position followed by the left outer grip, and there was nothing Daishomaru could do from there as Arawashi scored the three-second yori-kiri win. It's so easy to see which of the foreign rikishi was mukiryoku in the previous four bouts because they all should have ended in the same manner. Arawashi is a cool 6-1 while Daishomaru is hapless at 2-5.

M5 Takarafuji reached for the right outer grip against M7 Shodai at the tachi-ai, and he actually got it, but he let it go and also just kept his left arm close to his belly before moving it outside gifting Shodai moro-zashi two seconds in. From there, Takarafuji made no effort to counter as he allowed Shodai to just force him back and across in linear fashion. Mainoumi's analysis afterwards was correct when he said of Takarafuji, "He did get that right outer, but he failed to get inside with the left arm." It's really as simple as that, and he didn't fail because of anything Shodai did; it was just a good example of going mukiryoku in the bout and giving the Kyushu favorite the win as both rikishi end the day 3-4.

M4 Ichinojo henka'd to his left against M2 Tochiohzan, and the dude is so big that he wasn't able to move far. The Mongolith didn't really go for a pull getting his right inside instead as Tochiohzan recovered quickly and pressed him back towards the straw, but Ichinojo was able to use his right arm to grab Tochiohzan in the kote position before swinging him over and pushing him out. A win is a win is a win despite the bad sumo as Ichinojo moves to 6-1 while Tochiohzan falls to 0-7.

The entire broadcast, NHK was flashing trivia questions on the screen every two bouts or so, and none of them were worth repeating until this one came up:

Through yesterday, what rikishi has the most wins so far this year?

The answer was Mitakeumi with 50 wins with Takayasu and Hakuho tied with 48 and then Takakeisho was fourth with 47 wins.

That is a perfect example of how twisted sumo is and how false the banzuke is. Of the three Japanese guys, none of them are employing sound sumo. Of the three, I think Takakeisho's got the best form, but what a joke to see the number of wins so low the final tournament of the year and then to see those three Japanese rikishi even mentioned in the same sentence as Hakuho.

M1 Takakeisho was paired against M2 Chiyotairyu today, and Chiyotairyu bounced Takakeisho back from the tachi-ai once and twice with some nice dual tsuki, but with Takakeisho near the edge, he was able to move left and time a pull that sent Chiyotairyu down to the dirt rather easily. Chiyotairyu's lower half just wasn't into this one, and I believe he was mukiryoku giving Takakeisho the easy win in the end. Takakeisho moves to 5-2 while Chiyotairyu falls to 2-5. As for Takakeisho's now 48 win this year, easily half of them were gifts due to mukiryoku sumo.

In a reckless bout, M1 Tamawashi came in a bit low with two tsuppari as Mitakeumi's hand were hand of position leaving him vulnerable. At that point, Tamawashi just went for a do-or-die shove from the center of the ring as Mitakeumi instinctively reacted with a pull, but Mitakeumi wasn't able to move laterally enough, and so he stepped out before he was able to pull Tamawashi down sufficiently. This was one of those bouts were the Mongolian was intentionally sloppy and left the door open, but the Japanese guy couldn't capitalize. Both rikishi end the day at 5-2.

Komusubi Kotoshogiku and Sekiwake Yoshikaze struck hard at the tachi-ai both getting their left arms inside, and Yoshikaze wisely moved laterally at this point since he can't handle the larger Kotoshogiku chest to chest. As he moved back and left, he was able to work his right arm to the inside, and with Kotoshogiku simply too slow to apply sufficient pressure even though his foe was retreating, Yoshikaze squared up his moro-zashi position and turned the tables forcing the former Ozeki back and across in a pretty entertaining bout. Had Kotoshogiku been in his prime, Yoshikaze was vulnerable to a counter tsuki-otoshi, but the Geeku just can't move anymore on a dime to set a counter move up. The end result is a 2-5 record for Kotoshogiku while Yoshikaze inches forward to 3-4.

Ozeki Takayasu and M4 Chiyonokuni hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai where Takayasu grabbed the firm right outer grip, and he wasted no time lifting Kuni up and off balance with that grip and forcing him over to the edge. Chiyonokuni went for a desperate counter scoop throw with the left that actually broke of the Ozeki's right outer, but Takayasu has applied too much force up front causing Kuni to step out before he could counter further. This was probably Takayasu's best-fought bout the entire week as he moves to 5-2 while Chiyonokuni falls to 1-6.

M3 Shohozan caught Ozeki Goeido with two nice tsuki to the chest that stood the Ozeki upright with feet perfectly aligned, and from that position, there's nothing a guy can do, especially a rikishi as hapless as Goeido, and so Darth Hozan bullied him around half the ring before Goeido went for a series of weak pulls that Shohozan exploited by pushing Goeido back and out for good. Goeido suffers his second loss in as many days, which will happen when your opponents don't let up for you. He's now 5-2 while Shohozan improves to 3-4.

NHK Saturday Sports showed an interesting picture today on their program that depicted Komusubi Onosho still as a student with a group of peers surrounding Yokozuna Hakuho.  Apparently Hakuho was sponsoring a tournament for the kids, and Onosho won the whole thing.  It was an interesting twist prior to their match, especially when there's not much else to talk about regarding the actual tournament and not what's happening with the whole Harumafuji thing.

With that history being reported today, there was still no way the Hakuho was going to give youngster a freebie. He met Onosho with a fierce right hari-te that likely caused the Komusubi to see stars, and then the Yokozuna used that right arm to apply pressure to Onosho's left side, and with Onosho overwhelmed at this point, Hakuho jumped to his left and pulled Onosho out of the ring in a matter of seconds. Pretty straight-forward win as Hakuho stays perfect at 7-0 while Onosho falls to 1-6.

I recorded slow motion replays of the Kisenosato - Takakeisho matchup the other day because Kisenosato failed to employ single move during the entire bout. He couldn't even manage to counter as Takakeisho just pushed him around here and there, and as I mentioned early on in the basho, a Yokozuna does not lose to rank and file rikishi from the front. The fact that Kisenosato does lose in that fashion is why he's not a Yokozuna, and more proof of that was his bout against M3 Hokutofuji who got the right arm inside and high as he used the left to push into Kisenosato's shoulder keeping him upright. Hokutofuji would keep this stance the majority of the bout, although early on he did quickly move to his right looking for a pull. When that didn't work, Hokutofuji went back to to the right hand inside and high and the left against Kisenosato's shoulder, and with Kisenosato unable to do anything...and I mean nothing...Hokutofuji just inserted his arms deeper to the inside and forced Kisenosato back and across. Kisenosato actually stood his ground well, but he still couldn't employ a full offensive move. He did make two pull swipes during the fracas, but that's it...all against yet another rank and filer. Hokutofuji moves to 6-1 with the nice win while Kisenosato falls to 4-3. I actually can't remember the last time Kisenosato won a legitimate bout, but the charade goes on.

At the end of the first week, it's Hakuho's tournament to lose, but he's shown in the past that he's more than willing to lose.

Harvye updates you tomorrow.

Day 6 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
Here is what should happen. Though we still know almost nothing, we know enough already to know this. It is the core that is rotten, but so are many branches.

Harumafuji should be expelled. It really doesn't matter whether he did it or not: he either did, or is lying, and neither is acceptable in this. It is hard to overstate the tidal wave of attention this is receiving in Japan. Self-sacrificing hero or hell-fiend violent goat, or anywhere in between, he has fought his last match. You can count on that. This is too big for him already.

Isegahama-oyakata should be expelled. If he was truly ignorant of events until the police asked him about it, he should be suspended and fined only. Even in that highly unlikely instance, as a leader he must take responsibility for what goes on under his watch, and the atmosphere it breeds. If he had any knowledge or involvement, which he almost certainly did, he should be expelled. It is inconceivable that he is not part of the cover up.

For the same reasons, Hakkaku should resign.

Takanohana-oyakata should be expelled. His statements to the police and the Association are inconsistent. It is tempting to see him as a victim, or as the one guy willing to buck the system and say, "hey, this was an assault." It is more appropriate to see him as a manipulator and a part of the cover up. I wonder if he didn't precipitate a second Takanoiwa beating by reporting a first, which of course would be tragic and awful. But if he is Mr. Clean, he needed to get out in front of it and say so. He has always been a spider in unicorn's clothing, and it is time for there to be a stop to him seeking to have it both ways. Do or do not. There is no falling down the stairs.

Takanoiwa should be suspended for two basho. Wait, isn't he the victim, you say? Apparently. But he is also a perpetrator of the cover-up and a participant in this culture of violence and deceit. And if he is involved with an organized crime angle on this, he should be expelled. The innocent victim angle isn't plausible, and the "it's just that he disrespected his sempai" line equally unconvincing.

Hakuho should be suspended for two basho. Every other rikishi at the party in question, including Kakuryu, should be suspended for one basho. Like Takanoiwa, they are all participants in a culture with decayed values, and their silence speaks volumes. Hakuho's story about the bottle deepened his complicity rather than excusing it. "Isn't that hypocritical," you ask? No: if Hakuho is telling the truth, I'm a dead dolphin. Hakuho is covering up.

Finally, most important, and the one thing that will never happen here: the Sumo Association should be forced to give up its Public Benefit Corporation status and become an entirely private entity. I have called for this before. Will that cure it of its ills? No. But no taxpayer should have to pay for this, and the bright light of the free market would certainly be better for sumo than the cloistered shelter of its current status. It would be best if the Association could be abolished, and the sport sold wholecloth to, say, Rakuten. There are lots and lots of rats to smell in this, but the Sumo Association is the giant, stinking colossus at the center.

M15 Nishikigi (3-2) vs. M15 Myogiryu (3-2)
Myogiryu controlled this for most of the match, but he looks spent: he was low and inside and had a grip, but he was unable to mount any sort of charge at all. A pull, a maki-kae that got him the position he wanted: this didn't work either. So, sure that there were no tricks left in Myogiryu's bag, Nishikigi yori-kiri'ed him out.

M13 Takekaze (2-3) vs. M14 Daiamami (1-4)
I thought Takekaze had no chance here: just too much difference in experience levels. However, it was Daiamami who did the backing up and slapping down, and Takekaze fell in an unbroken charge-line at his feet, hataki-komi. All too easy. It is possible Daiamami could beat Takekaze by bustin' out some moves and showing youth and spirit, but there is no way Takekaze falls on his face like this to a rookie in real life.

M14 Kotoyuki (1-4) vs. M12 Kagayaki (3-2)
Another expectations upsetter. Kotoyuki looked so tired, wilted, and indifferent standing there waiting for it to start I figured he was toast. Instead, he withstood some hard-looking but ineffectual slaps from Kagayaki, then plowed into him and bashed him out, oshi-dashi. Okay, fine.

M13 Aminishiki (5-0) vs. M11 Asanoyama (1-4)
In our entry from the Theater of the Absurd, Aminishiki entered this one at 5-0. What, are we talking jo'i next time? It was time to put the brakes on that narratives (prediction: 8-7). Asanoyama kept Aminishiki off him during the "tricks" part of the match, forcing him back with good solid shoves to the head, then, satisfied that he wasn't getting duped into something dumb, grabbed Aminishiki by the belt and held him there like a recalcitrant child. And slung him over, way, way around, and down with an awesome overhand throw, uwate-nage, making Aminishiki look like the old man wet noodle he pretty much is.

M9 Endo (3-2) vs. M12 Okinoumi (4-1)
I like Endo's tachi-ai. I really do. He is almost always low and tight, and this guy is not afraid to fight close in, belt and body. He just doesn't have anything to follow it up with, though. Okinoumi did not annihilate him or anything, just weathered him and drove him, little by little, where he wanted him to go before collapsing him kote-nage at the straw. This was a good match, but short guys aren't usually basketball stars, and power-poor little guys who fight on the belt--Endo is brave, man--aren't usually sumo stars. I'm glad he takes this route, but he pays for it.

M10 Ikioi (3-2) vs. M8 Chiyomaru (2-3)
The worm has turned. Or perhaps the giant white grub. Now that Tokushoryu isn't around to amuse me anymore, my lonely eye turns to Chiyomaru, with his shelf-like projecting belly and ridiculous rotundity. I'm not sure this was all on the up and up--Ikioi went down pretty easy in the end--but they played it well. Chiyomaru gave as good as he got on the bash-‘em tsuppari battle, then, after they wrapped their arms around each other for a little sweaty affection, knocked Ikioi down from the shoulder, tsuki-otoshi. He looked pretty dominant here. Will we soon see him getting absolutely slaughtered in the jo'i? Should be fun!

M7 Daishomaru (2-3) vs. M10 Kaisei (3-2)
Vrooom! Kaisei turned on its truck and gunned it across the parking lot. Oops! There was a garbage barrel in his way. It got stuck on his fender and he smashed against a tawara-tree, dropping it in the dead grass below. Yori-kiri win for Kaisei.

M9 Daieisho (2-3) vs. M7 Shodai (2-3)
Oh boy, Vanilla Softcream (Shodai) is looking really bad. Daieisho showed his best in this one: fast, aggressive, and relentless, focusing on rapid-fire little deeks to Shodai's neck and chest. He destroyed him in seconds flat for a well-deserved tsuki-dashi decision.

M6 Chiyoshoma (3-2) vs. M5 Arawashi (4-1)
Two of my faves here, and very similar guys, just of a different vintage. They looked like mirror image twins in body type, crouch, and approach as they warmed up. They're both showing well so far this tournament, too. However, I didn't expect much, as who knows what dusky deal they might have struck? Too clubby in this club. In the end Arawashi just henka'ed and Chiyoshoma was in on the plan, hataki-komi, very lamely putting one hand lightly on the ground when he didn't need to. Wasteful.

M4 Chiyonokuni (1-4) vs. M5 Takarafuji (2-3)
Chiyonokuni had too far to go. He was trying to thrust and bash Takarafuji in the face, but he had to reach up so high he looked like a kid trying to steal pears from his neighbor's tree. And there were buzz saws in that tree. Takarafuji just knocked him down, tsuki-otoshi.

Match of the Day: M6 Tochinoshin (3-2) vs. M5 Ichinojo (4-1)
I was looking forward to this one, and they delivered. Chest to chest belt battle. Tochinoshin had an outside left, Ichinojo an inside right. Tochinoshin did something I don't think I've seen before: tried to put his right hand on the belt over near the same place where his other hand was. Didn't make sense--he would have been too easy to tip over, and it really gave no leverage, so he gave it up. In the end, the truth is Ichinojo just felt fresher, a lily of some spring valley, less dinged up and soggy with time and beat-downs than Tochinoshin. He manned on a force out charge, and Tochinoshin couldn't hold it. Impressive win for Ichinojo, who is having a fine tournament at a pretty high rank for him. If Harumafuji and Terunofuji clear out, the cards may start to fall in place for Ichinojo.

K Kotoshogiku (2-3) vs. M3 Hokutofuji (4-1)
These guys have a pretty similar body type, and my premonition was that Kotoshogiku, inhabiting the more used-up of those two bodies, had no chance. He was game--he went hard--but Hokutofuji just stuck with him and pushed when pulled, pulled when pushed, and slapped Kotoshogiku pretty easily down, hataki-komi.

M1 Tamawashi (3-2) vs. S Yoshikaze (2-3)
And here they are, the two biggest late career surprises of the last couple years. They're both basically highly mobile tsuppari guys, with Tamawashi the harder hitting and Yoshikaze the more evasive. Tamawashi looked dominant here, knocking Yoshikaze down at his ankles, hataki-komi, after much bash-around, and looked so much physically bigger that Yoshikaze might as well have been a flea.

S Mitakeumi (4-1) vs. K Onosho (1-4)
Onosho has looked off balance, vulnerable, and bad this tournament, so Mitakeumi decided to really go for him hard. That probably wasn't a good decision: that woke Onosho up. Would have been better to mawari-komu him a bit and get in his head. As it was, Onosho came up with a pretty good counterattack, and came reasonably close to driving Mitakeumi out. However, he's STILL having a really bad tournament: after another two reversals of momentum in this back and forth match, Mitakeumi pulled Onosho down in a hataki-komi that lasted the whole length of the dohyo: bumble, stumble, fall. That's been Onosho's tournament to a tee.

O Goeido (5-0) vs. M2 Chiyotairyu (1-4)
What a bad match. Oh, it was active. Oh, it was vigorous. But this had an alleged Ozeki in it, Goeido, who was never in control of the pace throughout a long back and forth with a guy who was very recently in Juryo. Moreover, Chiyotairyu is best when he is blastin n' killin', his signature massive tachi-ai launch. In this one, he did the other thing he is known for: pulled and pulled and pulled. Most of the time he was also afraid to really sell it, and was doing teensy little pulls at arm's length. Yet, Goeido could not take advantage, would not advance. Eventually, Chiyotairyu realized Goeido was therefore a sitting duck, and pulled out a slam-bam attack after all. This led to a sloppy stumble out of the way by Goeido, followed by an attempt to punch Chiyotairyu out while balancing on the tawara. Instead he just fell off backwards in a tsuki-dashi decision in favor of Chiyotairyu. My problems with Goeido are many, but he manifestly demonstrated two of them here: he has no consistency or favored attack, and he is a wild undisciplined mess. The Epileptic Mayfly. Chiyotairyu was there for the taking if his opponent had had an ounce of focus or calm.

M1 Takakeisho (3-2) vs. O Takayasu (4-1)
Hmmm. This was Takakeisho doing his thing, push and wait, push and wait, and I thought Takayasu had him. He may not be much of an Ozeki, but he's pretty good in general, very experienced, and he should have been able to take advantage of one of the pauses and drive in there and plaster Takakeisho. Never happened. He tried some ill-advised pulls and just kind of stood upright and took a beating until he was oshi-dashi'ed to a puzzling loss. Why would Takayasu, at 4-1 and theoretically a real contender in the yusho race, lose on purpose this early in the tournament? Who knows. It's sumo, folks.

With Goeido and Takayasu both losing, the only two real threats to take the tournament from Hakuho both took a big step back today. Are we setting up for a 40 and out for Hakuho? Probably the 40, probably not the out, but you never know. I predicted a while back he wouldn't make it out of 2017, but I never saw THIS possible trajectory of elimination. It would be very Sandy Koufax, though, to go out like that. I have to admit I'm kind of rooting for it. Always leave 'em wanting more. Give me 50, in a beautiful sunset ramble, or give me 40-and-out.

But I'm getting way, way ahead of myself and far, far into speculation land. Hell, he may still lose today! And Kisenosato may come back and win this tournament! Whatever! Let's find out!

Y Kisenosato (3-2) vs. M2 Tochiohzan (0-5)
Kisenosato was made to look pretty good here. Wrapped Tochiohzan up but good, drove him to the straw, then jerked him around the other direction and pushed him down by the neck, tsuki-otoshi. All this despite Tochiohzan having his favorite position, both arms inside. Oh, bother.

M3 Shohozan (2-3) vs. Y Hakuho (5-0)
Shohozan made this a fun one by not going down easy, and surprised Hakuho a bit I think. Hakuho dictated and dominated, grasping Shohozan like a homeless man stealing a arm loaf of fresh bread, and ran him right to the edge in one second flat. He had as smothering and powerful an outside left as a Yokozuna ever did, and a firm, you're-mine-little-fellow vise grip around his body on the right. There at the straw, Hakuho proceeded to what he thought would be the easy throw, but lo!, Shohozan tried to throw him too. There was a brief moment of balance between the two, both with one foot on the ground and one foot reaching for the stars, but Hakuho showed the beauty of his skills here: Shohozan was trying to lift him with his leg, but Hakuho instead snuck his own leg under Shohozan's and turned the trick on him, bumping him up and over on a devastating uwate-nage crash-down.

And that's why, despite the rotten core, we still come to see when they fight for keeps and the blows are legal.

Next, Mike whips Saturday into a Sabbath lather.

Comments on the Harumafuji Scandal (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Updated 11/17 - Two days ago I posted an update on the Harumafuji situation after it was reported that Takanoiwa actually participated in the Tottori exhibition the morning after he was supposedly assaulted by Harumafuji. Video footage surfaced that I posted previously (found lower in these comments) that showed Takanoiwa battling Ikioi without a mark on his body, especially his head. Like many of the bouts we see in sumo these days, two and two weren't adding up, and the media began to report holes in the entire situation, and so I thought I would bring everyone up to speed on the facts and the mysteries surrounding the case on Wednesday, 11/15.

Two days later, little has changed, but the scandal is still the lead news story each night on all of the news broadcasts and will continue to be until it's resolved or until some kind of news story arises like a devastating natural disaster or some kook getting discovered with nine bodies in his apartment stored in coolers full of kitty litter.

There have been some movements in the story, and so I'll list those here, and then I'll also comment on why it's difficult for the Sumo Association to come to any conclusion on the matter.

The biggest news the day after the news break was that Hakuho admitted to being in the room when the assault happened. It was obviously a slow news day because it was being reported from the beginning that the three Yokozuna were all drinking together with Takanoiwa and other Mongolian rikishi when the incident occurred. It was funny, though, because now the media started using the headline of "Hakuho admits he was there when the assault happened." The word for admit in this case is "mitomeru," and the context is kind of like it was this huge revelation. What...Hakuho admits he was there when it all happened?!!  Wow, what a non-news story!!

The interesting thing was that Hakuho actually spoke to reporters yesterday, and he refuted the claims that Harumafuji assaulted Takanoiwa with a beer bottle. He said that Harumafuji picked a bottle up, but it slipped out of his hands due to the "ase" or the condensation that had built up on the bottle in the warm room. The Yokozuna further added that he stepped in at that point because you can't bring a foreign object into a fight like that.

Meanwhile, Asashoryu went Donald Trump and tweeted out the night before that the reports Harumafuji used a beer bottle in the attack were false, and then the next morning Hakuho came out and corroborated the story.  So...keep an eye on Asashoryu's tweets for any spoiler alerts because he's obviously talking and texting the other Mongolian rikishi. There's no way he'd tweet out a fact like that or refute something like that unless he knew it was true. Anyway, that was the gist of the news the day after, so yet another falsehood was revealed in that a beer bottle wasn't actually used in the attack.

Today's new revelation was a little bit more damning because NHK reported on their 9 PM newscast that two shindansho, or health examination statements from hospitals now exist.  The health statement submitted to the Sumo Association and subsequently released to the media by the Takanohana-beya was the second form issued from a hospital. The details of the first shindansho haven't been reported yet, and if NHK or other media outlets have a copy of the form, they haven't released it.

The main focus on the second health evaluation form is the word "utagai."  It comes at the very end of the line that lists all of the injuries sustained by Takanoiwa, and the meaning of "utagai" is uncertainty.  In the case of the health form released, the context is that Takanoiwa "might" have suffered some brain fluid leakage due to the assault.  Four main injuries are listed, and then at the end of the fourth injury, there is a comma followed by the phrase "possible brain fluid leakage," or a more awkward yet direct translation into English would be, "uncertainty whether or not brain fluid leakage existed."  I've highlighted the injury section from the second health form and then underlined in red the word "utagai."

Well, much of the explanation now coming from "sports doctors" and the Sumo Association is that the word "utagai" applied to all of the injuries and not just the possible brain fluid condition.  I mean, if a rikishi was concussed, would they have him fight at an exhibition bout the next morning?  Would they have him fight if he had a fractured skull?  They might ask him to fight with a laceration and inflamed ear, but not those other two injuries. So now the spin is that "he might" have suffered from all of those conditions, not just the last one with the implication being "but since he was able to find, I guess he didn't have any of those conditions stated on the health form."  Sheesh, and I thought listening to Kitanofuji and Mainoumi trying to cover up an obvious yaocho as they watch slow motion  replies was dizzying.

Another point that the media is now reporting: the shindansho produced publicly says that Takanoiwa should be able to recover in two week's time. If the assault happened on October 26th--as indicated by the hospital, two weeks later is November 8th or 9th, two or three days prior to the Kyushu basho. So, if Takanoiwa was able to participate in the remaining Aki exhibition sessions that ended October 29th, there's no reason why he shouldn't be participating in the Kyushu basho now. The shindansho only says two weeks, and he was obviously practicing and fighting exhibition matches up through the 29th because it's all on tape.

My take here is that the Sumo Association hoped to explain away the shindansho with that explanation of "utagai" because that word apparently does not appear on the original shindansho as reported by NHK. There are also now public rumors circulating in the media that the injuries listed could have been suffered prior to the assault for normal sumo combat, and so the Sumo Association is working overtime to try and gloss over the fact that at least one false shindansho was produced by the Takanohana-beya and their doctors.  We'll just have to see how that aspect all plays out because like a typical yaocho that involves a Japanese rikishi, the ultimate explanation is never going to add up.

To me, however, the bigger problem is Harumafuji's punishment, and you won't read this information in the media, but I think it's the bigger crux of the issue and all of the stalling by the Sumo Association. The day after the the assault was announced, that loser Mitsuru Yaku came right out saying "They should expel Harumafuji!!"  Well, it's not quite that easy, and let me put it in the context of a political issue currently playing out here in the United States with a former NFL athlete, Colin Kaepernick.

I'm not sure how much run this story has received overseas, but Colin Kaepernick was a quarterback in American football up through last year. When Kaepernick first debuted, he had pretty good game, but over time defenses figured him out, and he no longer became a serious threat in the league. He was demoted from the starting quarterback position to backup status, and then last year, he declined to exercise an option to extend his contract for this year because he wanted to become a free agent.

The problem was, nobody wanted him.  In Kaepernick's case, not only was he an ineffective quarterback, but he carries serious political baggage.  During last season, he started taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem citing social injustice, specifically the way in which police in America mistreat African Americans (Kaepernick is half black and was adopted and raised by white parents).  His kneeling and others copying him have led to a drastic fall in NFL attendance and viewership.

I won't get into my take on the Kaepernick incident beyond that other than to say if you have to put an adverb or and adjective in front of a political term, you're basically saying "anything but."  For example, something that's politically correct is anything but correct.  Accepted science is anything but actual science.  Social injustice is anything but injustice.  Rather, these are terms coined to push a political agenda that I won't get into further here (thankfully, right?).

In the case of Kaepernick (and here's the point I want to make), he's now trying to litigate his way back into the league saying he was blackballed due to his making political statements during the national anthem.  It can be argued why the NFL owners don't want to touch him, but for now his only chance to get back into the league is to litigate his way back in.  Why?  He doesn't have any dirt on the NFL.

Now, let's turn our attention to Harumafuji. People who don't really think deeply or who are unable to analyze things like Mitsuru Yaku will automatically say, "Kick him out of sumo and don't pay him a single yen for his trouble. He's brought nothing but embarrassment to the sport with this scandal."  Uh, it's not quite that easy.  It's not that easy because Harumafuji has major dirt on sumo.

Every time rikishi retire from the Association, they are paid a hefty lump sum (even Kotomitsuki was), and there's likely some kind of pension involved.  The legal papers of the separation from the Sumo Association are never revealed, but I guarantee you that in the contract or the papers is the clause that the rikishi after retirement will never make allegations of yaocho.  In exchange for that, the Sumo Association essentially pays them off.

If they were to cut Harumafuji off and say "Yer outta here!" and give him no retirement money, his pension is going to come in the form of a tell-all book.  So, it's the Sumo Association's choice, and they know it.  That's why all of these rikishi receive nice payouts regardless of why they left the Association.

A lot of fans and the media are anxious now because Harumafuji has yet to be punished. The Sumo Association is saying that they'll wait until the basho is over because they need time to figure out how they're going to 1) spin all of this, and 2) pay Harumafuji off if they end up excommunicating him.

After watching that initial NHK piece the day after the scandal was announced, it was clear to them and to me that the Sumo Association is hiding something, and the Takanohana-beya is not telling the truth as to what really happened.  My instinctual reaction to all of this was that either drugs were involved or the yakuza was involved in something or other. Sumo is intertwined with the yakuza, and they always have been because they have to have some means to enforce the unwritten rules and intimidate people who might want to talk.  Regardless, the Sumo Association doesn't want something to come out, and we'll just have to find out what that is.

I have no doubt that Harumafuji felt disrespected by Takanoiwa the night of October 25th and intended on kicking his ass.  I'm sure that pushes and some open-hand punches were thrown (closed fists would have left a mark on Takanoiwa), but I don't think it was anything more than a drunken brawl between two alpha males.

I am also quite certain that Takanoiwa did suffer the injuries listed on the shindansho, but he didn't suffer them at the hand's of Harumafuji in Tottori on the night of the 25th, and they didn't occur until sometime between the end of the Aki exhibitions and the week before the Kyushu basho.  The Sumo Association doesn't want you to know how he suffered those injuries, and that's why we have this huge scandal on our hands with very few answers.  Was Takanoiwa roughed up by the yakuza for some kind of unpaid debts?  Was he roughed up by someone within the Association or his own stable?  Was he high on drugs and suffered an accident?  I'm just throwing things out there, but it's clear that there is something major that the Sumo Association doesn't want you to know.  They couldn't care less about Takanoiwa and throwing him out of the Association if it came to light that he was involved in some impropriety, but maligning Takanohana is another  whole story.

Finally, Harumafuji met with Tottori police for eight hours today at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. As I was watching NHK News 9, they suddenly stopped their current report about 30 minutes in with breaking news...that showed Harumafuji exiting the Kokugikan and entering a car.  Wow...Harumafuji is driven around in a car!!  On a more serious note, I have no idea what they could have talked about for eight hours, but I don't think Harumafuji is guilty of anything more serious than a misdemeanor.

I'm fascinated to see how this will all play out, and my opinion is that Harumafuji wouldn't mind being booted out of the Association as a fall guy as long as they take care of him properly. I mean, what's there left for him to accomplish in sumo? He can't fight all-out, and he's being made to look on par with guys like Onosho, Takakeisho, and Takayasu.  Just retire, become best buds with Asashoryu, and live off the fatted calf of Japan.  In the meantime, the Sumo Association is in a huge pickle, and they know it.  Let's just see how they try and spin their way out of this one.  The explanation of the word "utagai" and how it applied to all listed injuries was their first weak attempt.

Updated 11/15 - The Harumafuji assault incident has taken a curious turn, so much so that some media outlets are beginning to question the details surrounding the entire event. After scanning the regular wires, I was able to find one outlet, Jiji Press Services, who began to raise questions about the incident and whether or not everything reported so far has been true, and then NHK ran a similar piece as their lead story on the NHK 9 nightly news program.

I don't have any sources anywhere within Japan to ask questions or get inside information, but I think it's worth examining a few points of the NHK piece and then also giving my analysis on some takeaways.

First, NHK posted a calendar graphic that detailed in chronological order all of the events surrounding the incident--many of them new revelations, so I'll post the calendar here and then review each of the events:

October 25th: A group of Mongolian rikishi gather in Tottori for dinner and drinks. The group includes the three Yokozuna, Takanoiwa, and other Mongolian rikishi

October 26th: Sometime after midnight on the 25th, Harumafuji grew irritated with Takanoiwa and his attitude towards his Mongolian senpai, and he began chastising him. During the lecture, Takanoiwa pulled out his phone and began looking at it, and at that point Harumafuji snapped and hit him over the head with a beer bottle and then punched Takanoiwa dozens of times according to initial reports.

October 26th - October 29th: Takanoiwa continues to participate in the daily exhibition activities in Tottori, Shimane, and Hiroshima and has no visible marks anywhere on his body, which contradicts the details of the health examination produced by the hospital and released to the press.

NHK actually found footage from the October 26th exhibition in Tottori where Takanoiwa actively participated. Here's a video clip from the exhibition of Takanoiwa taking on Ikioi, so look for any signs of Takanoiwa's having been assaulted by a beer bottle to the head and then dozens of punches to the head and body from Harumafuji

October 29th: Takanohana-oyakata files a report of the incident with police

November 2nd: The police contact the Sumo Association for details of the incident

November 3rd: Officials from the Sumo Association contact both Takanohana-oyakata and Isegahama oyakata by phone and receive the following statements:

   Takanohana-oyakata: I don't know anything about the assault. I thought Takanoiwa sustained his injuries by falling down
                                      some stairs.

   Isegahama-oyakata: I haven't received any reports of an assault

At this point, the Sumo Association determined that the incident is a non-event.

(Note: The quotes from the oyakata and the reaction from the Association are pasted over the 10th and 11th on the calendar just beacuse there was open space there)

November 5th - 9th: Takanoiwa is admitted to the hospital and stays four nights. The name of the hospital has not been released, and on the actual shindansho, or examination form, the name, address, and contact info for the hospital were blurred out.

The examination form produced to the media is as follows:

The report lists Takanoiwa's real name on the top line, and then it lists his birth date on the second lines.  Line three contains all of the issues diagnosed and treated as follows:  1) Concussion, 2) a laceration on the front left part of the head, 3) external inflammation of the right ear, 4) fracture on the right middle part of the skull and possible cerebrospinal fluid leakage.  The big paragraph at the bottom states that Takanoiwa was admitted to the hospital on November 5th and received treatment for injuries sustained October 26th.  The report goes on to say that Takanoiwa will require about two weeks of rest and healing.

Before we go on with the rest of the calendar, here is an up-close picture of Takanoiwa about 10 hours after the alleged assault as he's about to fight Ikioi during an exhibition:

Getting back to the calendar...

November 12th:
Takanoiwa goes kyujo from the Kyushu basho

November 13th: The medical form is submitted to the Sumo Association

November 14th: Media outlets in Japan report the story, and Harumafuji withdraws from the tournament.

The final piece of NHK's calendar in the cloud graphic are three questions surrounding the incident that they raised:

  1.  What did the Association know about the event and when?
  2.  Was any other information gathered besides the statements from the two oyakata?
  3.  Why did they dismiss the event after speaking two the two oyakata even though a police report was filed?

Beyond those three questions listed on the calendar, the overall tone of the piece was, "What's the Sumo Association not telling us?" And remember, this was the lead story on NHK's most-watched news program. As part of the piece, they sought out comment from Hiroshi Yamamoto, a former NHK employee and an official affiliated with the Sumo Association as a non-oyakata. The gist of his statement was that the oyakata and the stables usually work out problems amongst themselves and don't look to outward sources. That makes sense to me, and it's obvious that negotiations are going on all over the place behind the scenes among all of the oyakata and the stables.

My personal take on all of this is it's obvious that the Sumo Association is covering something up. I don't know what that is, and I don't really care, but here are two key facts that we now know regarding this whole bizarre incident:

*  Takanoiwa did not sustain the injuries reported in the early morning hours of October 26th
*  There is a hospital or hospitals who will provide the rikishi false injury reports

My initial reaction when the story first broke early in the morning of November 14th was: a timed release with cooperation from the media. I didn't doubt that Harumafuji did what was alleged, but I thought it interesting that the media outlets all stayed quiet for three weeks until someone from the Sumo Association gave them the go-ahead the morning of day 3.

My guess is that they waited for the Tuesday during week one because they didn't want this to be the lead story going into the tournament, but it's obvious that when it comes to covering sumo, there is not absolute freedom of the press. The Sumo Association and media entities definitely work together to control the timing and the content of what's released.

I have no idea where all of this will lead, but if you have corruption behind the scenes in the Sumo Association, how can that same corruption not bleed into the ring? The fact of the matter is that it does bleed into the ring. What wee see atop the dohyo is just an extension of the Sumo Association itself. They're trying to survive, and when I was watching that NHK report and heard Yamamoto-san giving comment, he said off-hand that the Association hasn't been as transparent as they used to be once they changed their status to a Koueki Houjin (Public Benefit Corporation).

Previously, the Association was a non-profit foundation funded largely by the government, but after the Association severely went into the red and after all of those scandals, there was pressure to have their status changed to a Public Benefit Corporation to force more accountability. I don't pretend to know what all of the tax implications are due to that status change, but the gist of the move was to wean the Association from the government teet and make them more accountable for their finances.

This next statement is just pure speculation that I'll need to research a bit, but I wonder if that status change and the severe yaocho we're seeing aren't related. By existing as a public benefit corporation, the Association is not taxed on anything as they would be if they were considered a business entity or corporation, but they are responsible for their finances, and there is no way that they could have survived when the seats were empty and the foreigners were dominating the sport. I'm just throwing it out there because I think it's a possibility because something drastically changed in sumo and the amount of yaocho permitted over the last three or four years, and so it's likely due to sheer survival.

The bottom line is we are not dealing with a squeaky clean organization, and there's solid proof of that behind the scenes and atop the dohyo.

Day 5 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
My schedule no longer allows me to offer up Sumotalk reviews on a regular basis, but I did find some time to chime in on the current Kyushu basho (which keeps swinging from the ridiculous to the pretty darn good).  As far as the current Haru scandal, I’m not gonna have much more to add than Mike and Harvye, but I WILL say it doesn’t surprise me…not in the least.  Harumafuji has displayed a perchance for slapping and shoving people around in the past.



I also believe that in the eyes of the Sumo Assoc. there are far too many Mongolians in the Yokozuna ranks (and they put them there ).  And when Terunofuji and Ichinojo showed up, it was fast becoming counterproductive.  It almost appeared that the Japanese rikishi were spectators at the Mongolian Sumo Show along w the rest of the disgruntled audience.

Heck Ichi Brother made the indigenous dudes like little kids!

Hundreds of years ago the Japanese were resistant to allowing the west to invade their culture and, trust me, that mindset still exists in some nihonjin quarters. Don’t mean to sound controversial, but it might not be a bad thing to purify the banzuke ranks so to speak and allow some of the lesser lit Japanese rikishi to stumble to the top (Kisenosato and Goeido have certainly tripped and fumbled the ball into the dohyo end zone).  At least the viewership will spike up.  Numbers baby…bottom line.

And a few more questions cross my mind now that I’m back in the hallowed halls of Sumotalk and its much vaunted reviewers and commentators.  Questions like, Why did Kisenosato stop blinking? How did he do that? People were starting to call him Blinky for crying out loud!  And when did everyone stop doing this?

And maybe the most pressing question is - Why is Jack Ma, of Ali Baba fame, starring in a martial arts movie with Jet Li and Donnie Yen and WTH is Asashoryu doing in it?

I see the lights are going down, the low rumble of the opening music is shaking the rafters, and the oil smoke is rising…Kyushu Basho Night 5 is about to begin, so lets get to it.

I’ve selfishly chosen the matches that interested me to review because…well I’m selfish.

Kotoyuki hasn’t been the same since his nickname stopped being Koto-loogy, but he does come in hard with my all time favorite technique, Tsuppari. Problem is Nishikigi has got his own guns locked and loaded for face, neck and chest pummeling and although Koto got the initial push, Nishikigi systematically forced his opponent back and out for a nicely executed Oshi Dash win.

My main man Aminishiki got himself embroiled in his first real fight last night and he once again showed way more nad than a guy like former Ozeki Baruto (dude left sumo because he stubbed his toe).

I mean look at Shneaky’s mummified knees. He gets slapped to Juryo and digs his way back to Makuuchi and throws down like a mensch.

Aminishiki jumped the gun a bit but the refs let it go as he attempted to side step Daiamami and semi-henka his big butt off the dohyo. But MAMA MIA spun around and got face to face with the wily 39-year-old and they got belted up. Aminishiki is a vet and yeah he’s been bandaged up forever, but he can fight hard with a variety of techniques.  5 times MAMA MIA had him on the rope and Aminishiki fought him off, kicking and twisting.  Then, amidst the deafening din of the ecstatic crowd The Shneak Meister side-stepped MAMA MIA’s shove and threw him down ala sukui-nage!  MAMA MIA gave him a look of respect, and it’s been a long time since I jumped from my couch and cheered a fight result in sumo.

A gasp from all the hotties in the audience signaled the arrival of Endoh on the clay mountain. From the get go, Endoh found himself in a real, though lackluster, fight with Asanoyama. There was a lot of grappling with Endoh staying low and keeping his footwork tight. Asanoyama displayed no real strategy and eventually was forced out yori-kiri style by Elvis.  Morning Mountain needs to read the Art of War or at least watch the new Jack Ma movie cause Jack be kicking everyone’s butt.

Lots of blather surrounding Shodai for sure. My notion of him is he’s a tough kid. Maybe the recipient of too much hype but I don’t hold that against these guys. Tonight he ran into a fully jacked Arawashi. Right from the tachi-ai Sho Nuff’ became aware that his guy wanted to beat his butt. Arawashi choked off Shodai’s attempts to grab some moro-zashi and kept wrenching his left arm for some kinda kote-nage win. Shodai fought him off and finally squared up with him and lifted Arawashi by his belt, twisting him towards the dead zone. But the enemy wanted the win a little bit more (and he’s a better rikishi), and Arawashi finally swung Shodai towards the gate and darn if he didn’t finally kote-nage him to the ground.  Energetic, tough battle and bouts like this are part of the reason I love sumo.

Coming off of his epic battle with Terunofuji (the guy that robbed him of his Ozeki status with a dastardly hence), Kotoshogiku was loaded for bear.  Chia Pet (the dude with the Route 66 side burns) was completely shocked by the insane power and skills thrown his way by…aww just kidding.  When Chiyotairyu (the original Elvis of sumo) receives his check, let’s hope he curls his lip and drawls “Thank you very much”.

I love when the always sharply-dressed Tamawashi decides to get all up in it. Takayasu is the new J’pese Ozeki loverboy, and although I have no problem with him, it’s almost as if he’s passed his prime. Kaio, Chiyotaikai, Kotomitsuki woulda kicked his behind right?  But hey, let’s not live in the past. Things are the way they are and speaking of that…Tamawashi put the beat down on Takayasu and pummeled him straight off the dohyo for an easy okuri-dashi win.

Goeido won by backing up and demonstrating an impressive amount of nothing. Ozeki huh...Ok.

Hakuho slapped Tochiohzan, pushed him, pulled him and shoved him off the dohyo. I like both these guys even with the stunning disparity in their skill sets.

The next time someone writes that Kisenosato’s sheer size gets him wins…seriously?  Shohozan manhandled Kisenosato all over the dohyo.  Kise was being shoved, slapped, yanked and embarrassed in every direction as Sho basically showed everyone the emperor has no clothes.  At the rope Kise tried to execute a nifty twist and turn his thuggish opponent down for the win, but his toe hit the sand outside the ring before Shohozan hit the clay.

Oh but wait…they announce Kisenosato the winner - tsuki-otoshi…no mono ii.  I like Kise…not as a rikishi but he seems he’s been shoved into a lot of uncomfortable roles. His healthy paycheck's the only salve for all the play acting and over the top hype and yaocho.

Sumo talk rocks. Harvye, born to execute engaging insightful prose and Mike, effortlessly calling the action while conveying insights into a sport that’s loaded up with history and Japanese culture, makes this site the place to be for the best reviews and info on our beloved sport. The comments section kicks butt as well, even the hot girls that disagree so vehemently with Mike. Seriously tho, the passion conveyed in the comments section on both sides is just the ticket to make Sumotalk even better.

Let’s see how this basho plays out. I saw some awful fake sumo and some great bouts so far so count me in…and as a matter of tradition (if this image upsets you don’t look ; ) !

Know anyone who can pose like this?  I do ; )

Day 4 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
So I'm supposed to give you expert analysis. And with the scandal of Harumafuji's supposed attack on Takanoiwa, clearly I've got to say something about that. Problem; here's the honest truth: I have no idea what happened. None. Neither do you.

When the news broke, I had it before any U.S. outlets were covering it, but already it didn't make any sense. What was being said was that Harumafuji injured Takanoiwa badly something like three weeks ago, but that it didn't hit the press or public and that Harumafuji was allowed to begin the tournament as if nothing had happened. What I thought is either a) this is the stupidest, most shortsighted cover up of anything I've ever heard, or, much less likely, b) the Sumo Association itself must have been clueless to what was going on. In either case, it seemed very obvious that Harumafuji's career was instantly over, blam, and that that was that. But I was dumbfounded that anybody thought they could get away with it, or bother trying to hide it.

Now, as Mike's interim report details in ways I won't rehash, it is very clear that someone is lying about something, or that, more likely, many people are lying about many things. The whole scenario makes absolutely no sense. Harumafuji is one of the most famous people in Japan, and yet somebody is trying to make up a story involving him that has so many holes in it multiple Space Shuttles could do slow-motion ballet loop-de-loops through it accompanied by classical music. The brazenness and bad construction of the lying is shocking--but all we know is that it is a lie, not what the truth might be. The lie is so bad it obscures truth, without however succeeding in giving itself any credibility.

It seems to me probable that Harumafuji beat Takanoiwa horribly at some point, but we don't know when. And maybe he didn't. Was it the 26th? Was it some other day? Was it a fight? Or did Takanoiwa fall down the stairs? Or what? Did Takanohana report it? Or did he claim it was an accident? And so on and so on. We have no idea. You just rarely see lies this clumsy when the stakes are so high.

Lying is hard, folks. As any GOOD liar knows, and as anyone whose job it is to catch liars knows, lies don't tend to work because they generate other lies, and eventually the web collapses on itself, like badly written science fiction. And what we have here is a very, very bad lie. In that way, lies can be very easy to catch. But what's harder is to know what the truth is. Catching the lie rarely means knowing the truth, and that is manifestly the case here.

However, here is the other thing I know: Harumafuji is in trouble, yes. But so are Takanoiwa, Hakuho, Kakuryu, Takanohana, the Sumo Association, and probably others. This has the potential to spiral out of control. Hakuho was there, and said nothing? He is complicit. The worse the lie is, the more complicit he is. This has the potential to clean the Association out of all of its top Mongolians. All of them. And damage the sport. Every couple years the sport has a train-wreck-quality scandal, and this is the latest. I love sumo, people. But it's a dirty, dirty world. If you don't like it, now is the time to look away, because the cover is going to be ripped off again for a while.

This is a very big story. But at the moment, we can't say much intelligent about because we can only see the edges of it. The dark center, like everything in sumo, is hidden. But we can sense it, and feel its character.

Okay, the other part of sumo:

M14 Kotoyuki (1-2) vs. J2 Ryuden (1-2)
Kotoyuki clearly has lost all his mojo, as he struggled mightily against this random Juryo guy and lost. Kotoyuki looked to have it more than once. He started off with good stiff paws to the throat and drove his prey to the tawara, but couldn't put him away. In danger, he spun 360 and again drove him back. No dice. He then grabbed him by the head and tried to twist him down. Didn't work. Finally, at the point Ryuden just wrapped him up snug in yori-kiri and beat him. I've never liked Kotoyuki, but I'm also puzzled by his total disintegration. He has nothing right now. Maybe he never really did.

M13 Takekaze (1-2) vs. M15 Nishikigi (2-1)
This was a lot like the previous bout: at first. Takekaze pushed hard against Nishikigi, but that isn't his game and there was nothing behind it, so Nishikigi just grabbed him and wrapped him up yori-kiri. Match over, right? Nope. For one, Nishikigi grabbed him over and out on both sides--he gave Takekaze moro-zashi. For another, the big difference is that Kotoyuki is a never-wuzzer, but Takekaze isn't. However tired of Takekaze I may be or disdainful of him Mike may get, he is a survivor who has been at this at a high level for years, and he knows how to not get done like that. He took advantage of Nishikigi's bad grip and, as is his wont, pulled him down, tsuki-otoshi.

M15 Myogiryu (2-1) vs. M13 Aminishiki (3-0)
Two old faves for different camps of readers. Myogiryu is kind of a guts-and-grit guy, and Aminishiki a funzies guy. Funzies won out, as it usually does in sumo these days. Why, old Aminishiki is looking like a fresh young talent with all these moves. The next Ura. He just backed up and pulled Myogiryu down by the head, folks, hataki-komi, nothing more to say about the content of the sumo. That's why Aminishiki's career has lasted nigh on 20 years and Myogiryu gets only about five.

M14 Daiamami (1-2) vs. M12 Kagayaki (2-1)
Whole lotta grapplin' goin' on. However, Kagayaki has matured, as Mike points out, and is more and more interesting to watch all the time. He was much the better wrestler here. Never in danger, focused, hands inside, sufficiently crouched: on the one hand they were doing the same thing--grappling ineffectually with their arms. On the other hand, Daiamami was desperately trying to survive, and Kagayaki was calmly preparing to win, okuri-dashi. You could just feel it.

M10 Kaisei (2-1) vs. M12 Okinoumi (2-1)
Kaisei left himself pretty wide open at the tachi-ai and Okinoumi, who is dangerous on the belt and has really long arms, was set up well. He trundled Bulk Horse around the ring a bit, but the shita-te-nage dumping with that left was only a matter of time, and eventually and satisfyingly came.

M9 Endo (2-1) vs. M10 Ikioi (1-2)
As I've said many times before, Endo is underpowered. Ikioi, on the other hand, is strong. Something was going to have to go wrong, or be done wrong, for Ikioi to lose, and it didn't. Ikioi drove Endo easily one way, and when Endo did well to stop that by getting a front belt grip, Ikioi drove the match back in the other direction and hurled Endo around over his hip by the arm in a nifty kote-nage whip-throw. Zoinks. That's three pretty good performances in a row by the winners today.

M11 Asanoyama (1-2) vs. M9 Daieisho (1-2)
I've been a mild admirer off Daieisho's aggressive forward motion, but this was a match between nothings, and the moderate nature of Daieisho's push was shown here as it took a lot of effort to beat fellow nothing Asanoyama. As push-fests go, this was another pretty good match, though, and Asanoyama's response was solid. In the end Daieisho got up underneath and knocked him over as Asanoyama tried to throw him, yori-taoshi.

M8 Chiyomaru (1-2) vs. M7 Shodai (2-1)
I have stated to make fun of Shodai, who has hopelessly not lived up to his hype, but I still think he is a way better wrestler than Chiyomaru. I may have to change that opinion. In the beginning it was playing out in Shodai's favor, as Chiyomaru was surprised in the middle of all his pushing to find that Shodai had weathered it and latched onto his belt. Chiyomaru kind of comically jerked in place for a moment. But Shodai wasn't able to drive him out. Shodai pulled a maki-kae to get both hands inside, but that only lead to big, fat Chiyomaru bodying him up and sending him to the straw. And finally, when Chiyomaru didn't have quite the grip, up top as he was, to drive Shodai out, Chiyomaru very smartly changed gears and jerked Shodai forward lightning quick, hiki-otoshi. Normally you don't like to see hiki-otoshi as a winning technique, but there's no shame in it when it looks like this: Shodai stumbled comically and helplessly, severely whipped by Chiyomaru. Another good match. Maybe it was "Harumafuji-Scandal-Antidote-Day."

M6 Chiyoshoma (1-2) vs. M7 Daishomaru (2-1)
Shades of Hakuho here for Chiyoshoma, who pawed Daishomaru lightly in the face, grabbed him by the belt, and slung him manfully to the clay with a totally dominant overhand right, uwate-nage. That's six good matches in a row, and the biggest beatdown of the bunch right here. Daishomaru looked like spoiled meat on the sunny side of the porch.

M5 Takarafuji (1-2) vs. M6 Tochinoshin (1-2)
Takarafuji had low, slung-back position, and inside right and outside left grips. He's a frustrating guy, though, because he doesn't put people away. I like him, but nothing ever comes of it. Tochinoshin had his own inside right, and even that was too much for Takarafuji: Tochinoshin even eventually let that go, and just used his upper body to bull Takarafuji over backwards, yori-taoshi. Tochinoshin, growling grizzly, is just awesome when he is on, and this made seven excellent winners in a row. Yay sumo.

M5 Arawashi (3-0) vs. M4 Ichinojo (3-0)
Both of these guys are looking really good this tournament, and this was an appropriate battle on that line. Ichinojo played to his strength, leaning down on Arawashi from above and trying to crush and smother him. Arawashi played to his, though less so, burrowing in with both arms on the belt inside and using his kinetic strength to try to tip The Mongolith over. He almost had it, too, putting Ichinojo at the straw and straining and straining, but I didn't call Ichinojo The Iron Blob of Gravity Grease for nothing: he's just hard to get over that straw. Arawashi couldn't do it, and when the match pivoted, Arawashi dabbed one foot over the tawara, game over, yori-kiri, though Ichinojo made him look like a winner by collapsing dead-whale-style to the dirt immediately thereafter. Ichinojo had won though, and earned it. And that's eight straight good matches and counting.

M3 Hokutofuji (2-1) vs. M2 Tochiohzan (0-3)
This one was less inspiring, You see a lot of this: arms on arms, and a lot of grappling and pushing close in. Hokutofuji keyed it with a hand to the throat early on that gave him the momentum, and he finished it with some shoves, oshi-dashi. You'd have to say he gets credit for having kept Tochiohzan out of the inside, which is Tochiohzan's bread and butter, except that Tochiohzan looked pretty mukiryoku and did one of those lame step-outs to end it.

S Terunofuji (0-3) vs. K Kotoshogiku (0-3)
Terunofuji has looked just terrible, and hell, when they kick out all the Mongolian Yokozuna for the beating scandal, just have Terunofuji retire Baruto-style for injury and general broken-down-ness as well. The Past (Terunofuji) had absolutely nothing here and didn't really try, either, standing up straight, getting his right arm caught against Kotoshogiku's body, not bothering to try to pull it out. No grips, no position, nothing. Kotoshogiku had shaded to the side, stayed low, and got inside, so of course he won, yori-kiri.

K Onosho (1-2) vs. S Yoshikaze (1-2)
Quick: who is the most interesting rikishi in sumo right now? The only answer is Onosho. He has charisma, focus, lots of success early in his career, and is clearly the "It" guy in sumo right now. Let's hope he capitalizes and makes it real; he's left Mitakeumi, Takakeisho, and Shodai in the dust. (And Hokutofuji and Kagayaki are your also-ran dark horses.) Yeah, Onosho looked unfortunate the last two days with the slips. So Yoshikaze was again in the position of being something of a barometer: Onosho needed to beat him, and beat him well, to show he's a level above the steady but mediocre horses of yesteryear. Unfortunately, Onosho didn't. Not even close. The match was another of those "whole lotta grapplin' goin' on" bouts, and that favors Yoshikaze to a tee. Back and forth, back and forth, and eventually Onosho fell down, hataki-komi: this wasn't his forte. And this isn't his tournament.

S Mitakeumi (2-1) vs. M4 Chiyonokuni (1-2)
As usual, as the day progresses, the sumo unravels and gets less interesting. These guys tsuppari'ed each other like a couple of tipsy but scared drunks from Cleveland, whiffing and waling, slapping and retreating, until Mitakeumi knocked Chiyonokuni into the Cuyahoga, oshi-taoshi.

O Goeido (3-0) vs. M1 Tamawashi (3-0)
This was kind of a big match; Goeido at 3-0 is a potential winner, and Tamawashi is really good and could try to make something of 4-0 start. Unfortunately, though Tamawashi engaged in his signature hard, fast tsuppari, he decided not to bring his feet along. This had two results, one comical, the other sad: for a moment, when Tamawashi didn't move forward, Goeido had nothing to tsuppari back at, and he looked like an angry mime pulling laundry off the line, little fists flashing through empty air. Then, Tamawashi put his head in that mangler and was summarily knocked down, kata-sukashi.

M3 Shohozan (2-1) vs. O Takayasu (3-0)
I like Shohozan. He got low on Takayasu and they went chest to chest in a long one. Nobody had any belt for a while, just hairy body--plenty of that to go around!--which made it hard for them to find a way to finish each other. But while Takayasu is a weak Ozeki, he is an Ozeki, and is better than Shohozan, and he was the one who eventually got his right hand inside and onto that cloth. Shohozan responded with an inside right of his own, but weaker, shallower, and too late. From there it was a matter of time before the Ozeki got the yori-kiri win.

Match of the Day: Y Kisenosato (2-1) vs. M1 Takakeisho (1-2)
Lords a'mighty, this tournament may shape up to be a similar mess of low victory totals and low star power to last time. Kisenosato got absolutely schooled by a guy who is sneaking up more and more as a favorite of mine, Takakeisho. He took it to Kisenosato and never let up, firing hard hands to the tits, neck, arms, and belly until he drove the Yokozuna emphatically out, tsuki-dashi. I've seen a lot of crap tsuki-dashi appellations lately, but this one was well earned: tsuki-dashi means thrust out, but as Mike has often said, it really means "he kicked his ass." The best thing here for Takakeisho was that there were no pauses. His game is normally push-wait-push-wait. This match was push-push-push-push. And he pushed hard and pushed pain. Total dominance. Push-push-push-push-kill. I can hear Mike now: a Yokozuna should never get pushed out in linear fashion by a rank and file guy. Never. But he sho' nuf was. Wow.

M2 Chiyotairyu (1-2) vs. Y Hakuho (3-0)
I've got a lot of centipedes in my house. When you kill them, inevitably a bunch of their legs fall off. These legs always jerk spasmodically for a minute or so. That's exactly how Chiyotairyu looked here. His tachi-ai was such a disaster, like a guy getting hit by a Yugo, that he let Hakuho get both arms inside. Hakuho then lifted those arms up, and there they dangled, dead, severed centipede arms, twitching pathetically in the air: tsupf! tsupf! tsupf! tsupf! He lasted surprisingly long like this, just like disembodied centipede legs do. Finally Hakuho smashed him with a bit of Kleenex and flushed him down the toilet, yori-kiri. Hakuho is your winner unless he has to quit because of dumbassed fighting colleagues or decides to give it to Goeido.

Tomorrow Kane revivifies the world with thunder.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The biggest news on day 3 continues to be the situation surrounding Harumafuji's assault of Takanoiwa several weeks ago after a night of drinking during an exhibition event. An emergency meeting was held on day three at the venue by Association officials where it was determined that a formal investigation into the incident would be made and a decision announced after the tournament. Harumafuji did his part by admitting to the allegations and withdrawing from the tournament, and he hasn't been making any excuses or trying to cover anything up. It is also being reported that the Tottori Police Department is now opening up their own investigation of the incident.

It will be interesting to see what transpires, but the future does not look good for the Yokozuna. As we all remember, Asashoryu was forced to retire in 2010 after he assaulted a regular Joe Shmoe in Tokyo, but there may be some leniency in Harumafuji's case because his attack was directed towards another rikishi. As part of the day 3 broadcast, they mentioned that the oyakata in charge of the Tottori exhibition is also accepting responsibility since the incident happened on his watch. Whatever. I don't remember who the oyakata was since I was mainly fast-forwarding through as much as I could, but we'll just have to see how it all plays out.

As for whether or not Harumafuji is forced to retire, it makes no impact on the sport whatsoever. Harumafuji has been long gone the last few years just like Kakuryu and just like Terunofuji. Even Hakuho is not fighting up to his capabilities, so it makes absolutely no difference in the current landscape of sumo what happens to any of the elite Mongolians. As soon as Terunofuji accidentally achieved the Ozeki rank legitimately giving sumo four damn good Mongolian rikishi with Ichinojo in the wings, the tide turned within six months to where the elite Mongolian rikishi have been relegated to "just there" status not to mention the other foreign rikishi like Tochinoshin, Kaisei, and Aoiyama.

It really sucks for people like me who witnessed just how great sumo could be, but what I'm watching transpire these days on the dohyo is nothing like sumo of yesteryear.  In that vein, let's examine Komusubi Onosho's first three days of the basho for a concrete example of what I'm talking about.

On day 1, Harumafuji allowed himself to be slapped down by the Komusubi in an obvious thrown bout.

On day 2, it was Onosho's turn to take a dive against Kisenosato as soon as any contact was made at the tachi-ai. Once again, another obvious thrown bout.

As for day 3, the youngster was paired against Ozeki Takayasu, and he was kicking the Ozeki's ass every way possible until all of a sudden Onosho just fell to the dohyo with Takayasu on the brink. In case you missed the bout, I took the following video of the slow motion replay. As you watch, try and determine anything that Takayasu did to cause Onosho to fall:

The see-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hear-no-evil crowd will write this off by saying that Onosho slipped, but that's a complete cop-out and weak analysis. He did slip, but he did it on purpose. Furthermore, why did they rule the bout a hiki-otoshi win for Takayasu? Where was the hiki, or the pull? You have the replay right there, so find the pull from Takayasu.  If Onosho slipped on accident, it should have been ruled koshi-kudake.  Anyway, it's obvious what went on in this bout:  the kohai deferred to the senpai.

My point here is not necessarily to cry foul regarding this bout; rather, how are we supposed to properly evaluate Onosho and his sumo?  I think we all like this kid, but he's now been involved in three bouts, and all of them were fake, one in his favor, and two against him.  How do we know who this kid really is?  That's the frustrating thing about sumo these days.  The sumo is not right; the banzuke is not right; and the sport just pales in comparison to what it used to be.

Before we get to the action, I'm just curious how people reconcile Itai's claims from 2000. Believe me, back then when he made them I tried to write them off in my own mind because I didn't want them to be true, but what evidence is there in the ring that at least 50% of the sumo bouts are not fixed? Even if you don't want to believe the 50% number, how do you reconcile the obvious 15% - 20% in favor of Kisenosato, Takayasu, Goeido, etc.?

I've understood that this is what sumo became as soon as the Association realized that the banzuke was going to be void of any Japanese rikishi in the elite ranks (Ozeki and Yokozuna) upon Kaio's retirement, and so I'm just curious how most people justify it today in their minds because if you expertly break down the actual sumo in the ring, the bout fixing is obvious.

Let's turn our attention to the dohyo starting with Juryo Kyokushuho visiting to take on the winless rookie, M14 Daiamami. Who didn't know how this one was gonna turn out?  The two began in the migi-yotsu position where Shuho just gifted the rookie the left outer grip, and then the Mongolian just stayed upright allowing himself to be forced back in linear fashion. Kyokushuho made no effort to dig in or counter and was mukiryoku throughout as Daiamami picks up his first win to settle in at 1-2.

M15 Myogiryu decided to stand toe to toe against M14 Kotoyuki and battle him with tsuppari, but Kotoyuki connected on too many stiff arms causing Myogiryu to retreat and shade to his right as he went for some hurried pulls. The pulls didn't connect, so with Kotoyuki gaining momentum, Myogiryu escaped to the other end of the dohyo going for a desperation pull in the process, but Kotoyuki was able to fire one last shove sending Myogiryu down tsuki-taoshi style before Kotoyuki crashed down himself. It was close, but gunbai to Kotoyuki who picks up his first win at 1-2.  As for Myogiryu, he suffered his first loss in this one ending the day at 2-1.

The M13 Aminishiki groan-fest continued as he fired a few light tsuppari M15 Nishikigi's way, but is there anybody out there who doesn't know what's coming from Shneaky??  His act is so old, and it ain't so fast, but when he went for his usual pull, Nishikigi just kept his head down and feet aligned allowing himself to be dragged softly to the dohyo yet again. Aminishiki moves to 3-0, and is this the best sumo can do?  Try and manufacture a headline or two by having Aminishiki jump out to a quick start?  He's 3-0 while Nishikigi falls to 2-1.

M12 Okinoumi and M13 Takekaze traded shoves in the center of the ring, and Takekaze just couldn't get past Okinoumi's long arms of the law. After a tussle of about three seconds, Takekaze tried to duck in, and the moment he did, Okinoumi just pulled him down for the easy win not to mention 2-1 start. Takekaze falls to 1-2 after the loss.

M12 Kagayaki fired two shoves into M11 Asanoyama's chest before pivoting laterally and coming away with a left kote-nage hold. He wasn't in a position to throw just yet, so he dragged Asanoyama over and then fired a left downward tsuki throwing Asanoyama further off balance, and when Asa stood up to recover, Kagayaki assumed moro-zashi and finished his foe off straightway. One rikishi whom I've really enjoyed watching mature is Kagayaki. Sure, he's been involved in a few fixed bouts here and there, but for the most part, we've been able to gauge his style and watch him get better. I really enjoyed this bout as Kagayaki moved to 2-1 while Asanoyama fell to the opposite mark.

M10 Kaisei just walked through M11 Aoiyama today as if the Bulgarian wasn't even there. Nice win that propelled Kaisei to 2-1.

M9 Daieisho proactively fired tsuppari M10 Ikioi's way from the tachi-ai as Ikioi responded in kind, but Ikioi was mostly just standing there, so when Daieisho slipped to his left and went for a mediocre pull, Ikioi just hit the deck. I didn't see anything from Ikioi today that indicated he wanted to win this, but who knows as both rikishi finish the day 1-2?

M9 Endoh's feet were aligned at the tachi-ai against M7 Shodai, but the Kumamoto native's charge wasn't hard and forward, and so Endoh was able to survive and trade tit for tsuppari tat for a few seconds. Shodai eventually used his size advantage to take control of the bout as the two traded shoves, and while Endoh's usually just fine fighting on his heels, he never did have any momentum in this one nor was he able to pull/slap Shodai off balance, and so Shodai was finally able to pounce getting his left arm to the inside, and that's all she wrote. Give Shodai the nice, yori-kiri win as he moves to 2-1 while Endoh falls to the same mark. If you're wondering what sumo would be like without any foreign rikishi, this would have likely been a good example of a sanyaku bout. It was a good match and decent sumo from both parties. Just don't ask me to believe that either of these guys are in the same league as the foreign rikishi.

Like Endoh before, M8 Chiyomaru also kept his feet aligned at the tachi-ai today against M7 Daishomaru, and my sixth sense tells me that Maru's move was intentional.  Regardless, Daishomaru was able to take advantage of his compromised opponent and score the easy peasy oshi-dashi win in under three seconds.  Daishomaru moves to 2-1 with the gift while Chiyomaru falls to 1-2.

The M6 Tochinoshin - M5 Arawashi matchup was intriguing because you had the finesse Arawashi against the stalwart Tochinoshin, so this bout was a question of who'd dictate the pace. Arawashi volunteered first shading to his left at the tachi-ai to grab the easy left outer grip, but Shin squared up nicely securing the right hand inside. The problem for Tochinoshin was that it wasn't a straightforward tachi-ai due to his opponent, so before he could square back up, Arawashi darted to his right inserting his own right arm to the inside before unleashing a nice scoop throw. Tochinoshin tried to counter in a nage-no-uchi-ai using a left outer grip, but he never had the proper footing to do so, and so Arawashi was able to wrestle him down first at the edge using that scoop throw. This was simply a wily Mongolian using a bit of trickery to topple a formidable foe as Arawashi skates to 3-0 while Tochinoshin falls to 1-2.

M6 Chiyoshoma came out of the gate fast firing some nice shoves into M5 Takarafuji including a stiff left paw into his neck, but instead of continuing with this lethal charge, Chiyoshoma went for a few half-assed pulls backing hiself up and letting Takarafuji rush in and grab the right outer grip. Chiyoshoma looked to counter with his right arm inside, but instead of a classic nage-no-uchi-ai that we saw in the previous bout, Chiyoshoma just kept his body square with his opponent instead of positioning himself to the side, so Takarafuji was able to throw his foe off of the dohyo in an awkward looking ending. Chiyoshoma stood on the arena floor with hands on his hips as if to say, "What just happened?" while Takarafuji fell forward into the near missionary position with both palms to the dirt. It was a totally unorthodox ending from a nage-no-uchi-ai bout, and it's a sure sign one of the guys let up in the ring (hint: they weren't doing a favor for the Mongolian). Takarafuji picks up his first win with the gift while Chiyoshoma falls to the same 1-2 mark.

In a lame bout, M4 Ichinojo easily got his right arm inside against a defenseless M3 Hokutofuji, and as Hokutofuji kept his hips back in an effort to keep his opponent away from the outer left, Ichinojo just slapped him down by the right shoulder. Hokutofuji went down fairly easy in this one, and he either owed the Mongolian a bout or he did it out of fear. Regardless, Hokutofuji had no energy today as Ichinojo improved to 3-0 while Hokutofuji fell to 2-1.

M3 Shohozan actually attempted a real hari-te in today's bout against M4 Chiyonokuni, but Shohozan's feet were aligned, and so the slap had no impact enabling Chiyonokuni to move a bit and fire some upward shoves into Shohozan's extended hands. As the two rikishi traded places in the ring firing awkward shoves, Shohozan seemed hellbent on connecting with a face slap while Chiyonokuni just simply set him up for a quick pull down about four seconds in. Shohozan's sumo was so bad today and his footwork so poor, you wonder what made him look like Clark Kent the first two days.  Well, I know the answer to that one as Shohozan falls to 2-1 while Chiyonokuni improves to 1-2.

Hooboy, when you make Sekiwake Mitakeumi look like a Sekiwake, you should probably think about calling it quits. Komusubi Kotoshogiku was wide open at the charge giving Mitakeumi the path to moro-zashi, and while the Sekiwake got it, I found it interesting to watch his course of attack. Normally when you get moro-zashi, you just storm the guy back and out in linear fashion, but Mitakeumi actually chose to back up slowly and then fire a left scoop throw half a meter from the edge...where his back was the tawara. Kotoshogiku didn't have the ability to survive the throw, and so it was an easy win for Mitakeumi, but it was still awkward sumo and quite unpolished. Ne'ertheless, Mitakeumi moves to 2-1 while Kotoshogiku is winless.

Ozeki Terunofuji offered a half-hearted kachi-age Sekiwake Yoshikaze's way at the tachi-ai, but he quickly repented and just stood there with his arms out wide backing up slowly enabling Yoshikaze to rush in for moro-zashi. Once Monster Drink got it, Terunofuji just stood upright and let hisself get forced out in about three seconds. Terunofuji falls to 0-3 while he gifts yet another Japanese rikishi the win as Yoshikaze moves to 1-2.

I already posted video of the Ozeki Takayasu - Komusubi Onosho bout, but in terms of analysis, Onosho's tachi-ai was rather poor. His feet were aligned, and he was quite vulnerable allowing Takayasu to blast him back a step with a dual kachi-age move, but Takayasu's footwork wasn't any better, and as he looked to charge forward, Onosho was able to slap at his extended arms and move left rendering the Ozeki off balance, and before Takayasu could recover, Onosho had him pushed against the edge, upright, and on one leg. But alas, the kill shot never came as Onosho slipped of his own volition (sigh). I think I'm going to start a GoFundMe account so we can buy the Komusubi some cleats.  Whose in?  Onosho literally falls to 1-2 while Takayasu is gifted a 3-0 start, and before we move on, I just need to point out that Onosho's sumo was quite flawed today; yet, the Ozeki could never take advantage. Go figger.

How pathetic is it that the Ozeki ranks are made up of Takayasu and Goeido? Today, the latter faced M2 Tochiohzan who graciously just stood there at the tachi-ai with his arms stretched out halfway waiting for Goeido to just slap him down. Actually, the Ozeki moved a bit to his left before touching the M2's shoulder causing him to quickly hit the dirt, but the end result is still the same: a 3-0 start for Goeido. Course, Goeido has proven that he's as capable of holding a lead as a centenarian is his bladder, so stay tuned. Tochiohzan quietly falls to 0-3 after giving the gift.

Our lone Yokozuna left on the banzuke, Hakuho, welcomed M1 Takakeisho, who was completely clueless at the tachi-ai allowing Hakuho to get the left inside position and right outer grip. From this point, the Yokozuna went a bit easy on the kid keeping him upright and allowing him to retreat towards the edge, and instead of using the right outer to execute a throw, Hakuho used the left arm forced into Takakeisho's chest to knock him down beyond the straw in easy fashion. Hakuho picks up the yori-taoshi win in his sleep while Takakeisho falls to 1-2.

Prior to the bout, they announced Yokozuna Harumafuji's withdrawal, which gave M1 Tamawashi the freebie moving him to 2-1.

As M2 Chiyotairyu lined up in the final bout against Kisenosato, I wonder what was going through his head. There were two plausible outcomes in this one: either Chiyotairyu would just destroy Kisenosato in two seconds, or he would go all limp allowing Kisenosato to play him like a blow-up doll. Unfortunately, we got the latter as Chiyotairyu put both arms against Kisenosato at the tachi-ai, but he wasn't shoving nor driving his legs, and the most telling aspect of this fixed bout: he didn't go for a pull. Instead he kind of shaded over to his right, which wasn't the result of anything Kisenosato did, but there they ended up at the edge with Kisenosato trying to force Chiyotairyu across with a left arm high across his chest. At this point, Kisenosato was completely vulnerable to a counter tsuki-otoshi from Chiyotairyu, but the M2 sorta grabbed onto Kisenosato's arm and just twisted his way back and out. After Chiyotairyu had clearly stepped across the straw, Kisenosato fired his only push of the day as if to say, "And stay out!" but Kisenosato is as lethal as a dude with a feather trying to tickle your armpits. Wow, what a bout of o-zumo to end our day!!  Kisenosato is gifted his second win in as many days while Chiyotairyu takes one for the team falling to 1-2.

That blue diamond pill that I took at the start of day 1 seems to be wearing off, so I'll turn the reins over to Harvye for day 4, and don't look now, but I hear the faint sound of a guitar riffing hard and gearing up for day 5.

Day 2 Comments (Harvye Hodja reporting)
When I was a kid there was an Asian pro wrestler who was arrested in a fight or something like that at his motel in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I remember thinking, "they stay at a motel?" In those days they had fold-out metal chairs at the venue and the matches were broadcast locally on something like public access. U.S. pro wrestling was very rinky dink. Anyway, they interviewed this dude, who had been slapped with some pseudo-ethnic moniker like Sing Sing or Ming the Madman or something, and asked him not about his arrest, but about whether he was really tough or not: after all, isn't it all fixed?

"What do you think we're doing out there?" he said, "playing ping-pong?"

This stuck with me because it was suddenly clear to me, even as a kid, how this works: yeah, it is "fake" in the sense of fixed results, but it is also physical, painful, and really serious, and these guys get hurt and hurt each other. Also, they are a bunch of roughneck sad sacks, staying at the cheap motel outside Green Bay, getting drunk, and beating each other up, just as rough dudes in tough jobs have always done everywhere.

Why do I bring this up? Don't look now, but I am told Harumafuji hit Takanoiwa in the head with a beer bottle, breaking one of Takanoiwa's head bones (?!), and that Takanoiwa will take two weeks to recover. If this is true, Harumafuji's career is over, just like Asashoryu's was after similar rabble rousing. Like Sing Sing said, they ain't playin' ping pong out there. And though Harumafuji is a relatively light dude in the Makuuchi and I still remember fondly the special they did on him where they said he likes doing impressionist painting, you better believe he is one rough and tumble terrible dude. The Takanoiwa story isn't really surprising at all.

And if the story is wrong, well, what do YOU think happens at the end of a long night of drinking in the entertainment district by dudes who fight for a living?

That's just my way of saying hello today.

M15 Nishikigi (1-0) vs. J1 Ishiura (0-1)
Nishikigi, I reflected yesterday to myself, is a light weight nothing. Today, I was focusing on Ishiura and so didn't pay attention to who his opponent was. The guy who I didn't realize was Nishikigi looked huge and tough and good as he applied a forearm to Ishiura's neck and disdainfully forced him out, oshi-dashi. "Who is that," I wondered. Then I realized it was little old Nishikigi. And that tells you how much of a thing Ishiura is.

M15 Myogiryu (1-0) vs. M14 Daiamami (0-1)
The faded fave against the rookie. Little bit of a head bonk, then Myogiryu got up and in and under. However, Daiamami is kind of big, had a belt grip of his own, and Myogiryu had trouble moving him. We had to wait. Okay, so you have a big fat guy leaning on you, and you wait it out. Which is more logical: that you'll get tired because he is too heavy for you, or that he'll get tired because he is too fat to do that for long? I can never decide. In this one it was Myogiryu who won the wait-out with a solid yori-kiri of his tired fat foe.

M13 Takekaze (0-1) vs. M14 Kotoyuki (0-1)
Whoa, here's a match up for the gods. If the god is Jubilex, lord of fetid ordure. I actually found myself rooting for Kotoyuki, that's how tired of Takekaze I am right now. But instead of fighting properly Kotoyuki stood up and turned to the side like a person avoiding a careening bicycle on the street, and Takekaze promptly got all into that and knocked him right down, oshi-taoshi. Kotoyuki limped out. Yeah, sure, sure.

M13 Aminishiki (1-0) vs. M12 Kagayaki (1-0)
Now here's a match up I can enjoy. I am in fact one of those Aminishiki guys, and while I agree his win yesterday was way too easy, way too good looking, I'm going to enjoy his return. I'll enjoy solid sumo when it is out there, and I'll enjoy Aminishiki when it isn't. Plus, Fried Mosquito has a squelchy underdog feel to him that has always tugged my heartstrings, so this was a happy pairing. I figured Kagayaki was dead meat here; he may be a smart dude (who knows?), but he feels dumb in the ring. Aminishiki knew it. Aminishiki thumped one fist demonstrative on the clay--"okay, let's do this!"--then grabbed the tachi-ai-charging Kagayaki by the head and pulled him right down, hataki-komi. Oh, you Aminishiki, you.

M11 Aoiyama (1-0) vs. M12 Okinoumi (0-1)
These guys are both ranked way too low, so no advantage to either in this match, but they should stomp their way through the tournament (though it is possible Okinoumi is autumning). I knew Aoiyama was going to lose when, after a moment of holding on and pushing, he pulled Okinoumi just a little. Then he went back to pushing--but he needed to be hitting. Eventually Okinoumi reversed the angle of attack and crumbled Aoiyama with some pushing of his own, yori-taoshi. Unfortunately Aoiyama had a hard time getting up, let alone walking out. His limp was rather more convincing than Kotoyuki's and I'm afraid it was his good knee, the unwrapped one, that got jackknifed and then sprung. They eventually had to get the wheelchair for him. Too bad.

M11 Asanoyama (1-0) vs. M10 Ikioi (0-1)
Boy, oh, boy am I not at all interested in Asanoyama. I can't believe I watched him for a whole tournament already last time--he made zero impression. I remember him, like, none. Ikioi had similar thoughts, manhandling him back, almost getting him on a throw, and, when he didn't, manhandling him back across the ring for an easy oshi-dashi anyway. Mismatch here, and Ikioi is a great candidate for 10 wins; he habitually cleans up in these parts.

M9 Endo (1-0) vs. M10 Kaisei (1-0)
Okay, here's a good one. The Sexy Gnat against the Blubber Whale, to coin some new nicknames I promise to never use again, unless by accident (somehow I can see "Blubber Whale" slipping from my lips again a year or two down the road when I see Kaisei. It just happens). Kaisei wrapped Endo up pretty good, but he was on top of him, so Endo burrowed in there and hung on very well. I think Kaisei could have bulled him out and back anyway, but he did not, leading to a neat moment at the end where Endo, having patiently waited, flopped Kaisei to the ground with a wee, forceful twist on Kaisei's belt, shita-te-hineri. Think what you want. It did look cool.

M9 Daieisho (0-1) vs. M8 Chiyomaru (0-1)
Though I remain "meh" on The New Round Kid, Chiyomaru, he's made the most of what he has for a while now, and he looked good here, winning the push-of-arms battle with Daieisho and, when he had him far enough back to the straw, smothering him into his mammaries and yori-kiri'ing him out.

M6 Chiyoshoma (1-0) vs M7 Shodai (0-1)
Well, I've never looked worse than I did when I was flapping my gums about Shodai being "Japan's Next Yokozuna." As you see, I am happy to denigrate myself. Shodai, on the other hand, should seek to stop being comic relief. He did just fine here. Chiyoshoma hit him very, very hard at the tachi-ai, nice kinetic movement, but kind of bounced off, so Shodai kept moving forward, got underneath, put an arm in and up, and removed the pulling Chiyoshoma summarily from the victory ring, yori-kiri. That's more like it, Next Yokozuna! (I won't truly give up until someone else beats him to it, and so until Onosho or Goeido or somebody surprises us, whelp, could still be Shodai!! Who else is it going to be?)

M7 Daishomaru (1-0) vs. M6 Tochinoshin (0-1)
Hate vs. Love. These guys are in opposite tails of my rooting bell curve. I've always maintained that Daishomaru ain't got nuthin' ‘cept the pull, and here he didn't really try that. Tried to do some on-the-body stuff, then tried a little tsuppari that he was too close in for, so it was good to see Tochinoshin take advantage of this hapless strategy by keeping his feet apart, moving forward, and working Daishomaru out like so much damp corncob, yori-kiri.

M4 Chiyonokuni (0-1) s. M5 Arawashi (1-0)
Swiffy swifey, pully wully, fally wally. Is this sumo? How should I describe this. I'll go with how I started: Chiyonkuni wonder-donked and Arawashi whiffer-whilled, and when Arawashi tweedle-toed backwards-wackward, downey-wowney fellsy Chiyonokuni, hiki-otoshi. And they called it sumo.

M5 Takarafuji (0-1) vs. M4 Ichinojo (1-0)
Classic Takarafuji here: passive and patient. He spent the first half of the bout fending off a whole lot of bashes in the face by standing there with his arms out and hoping not to get crushed, maintaining position willfully and waiting for Ichinojo to eventually fall into his arms, which he did. Then they held onto each other's belts for a long moment. But here's the problem with being passive, see: how do you win? Ichinojo pulled him upright and yori-kiri'ed him out while Takarafuji was still passively waiting for something else to happen.

S Mitakeumi (1-0) vs. M3 Hokutofuji (1-0)
The over-hyped vs. the under-hyped. Both of these guys are a breath of fresh air and perpetually fun to watch, with potentially exciting futures. I want to say that their abilities are about on a par, too, but you wouldn't know if for all the love that is spilled on Mitakeumi and the relative neglect of Hokutofuji. Well, I'll be a yellowjacket in a popcorn bag: Hokutofuji came out strong and stayed it, keeping his upper body low, his hands in front of him, and his momentum forward. Wasn't but two moments and he'd blasted Mitakeumi out with a penultimate elbow to the belly, oshi-dashi. Go Underhype go.

S Terunofuji (0-1) vs. M3 Shohozan (1-0)
Eek. Another example of past foolishness on my part was my moon-eyed worship of Terunofuji as "The Future." But wait! Actually, I was right. Terunofuji in that season was like Mark Prior in his rookie season. Kerry Wood. Hell, man, baseball is full of 6'10'' powerball can't-miss prospect pitchers who blow their arms out, limp along for a few years, and disappear. That is essentially what Terunofuji is: I don't buy it that he does (much of) this losing on purpose: he needs Tommy John surgery for the knee or something. It was fun while it lasted, but now he's just a great "what might have been" kind of guy. Whereas Shohozan is just a fun dark little gnome who got moro-zashi and casually removed Terunofuji from the ring from beneath, yori-kiri, as if Terunofuji were Yamamotoyama or something. Bye, Terunofuji! Bye bye, now! The Past.

Match Of The Day: M2 Chiyotairyu (0-1) vs. S Yoshikaze (0-1)
Chiyotairyu is in an interesting spot right now. He rocketed up to the jo'i this summer after years in the wilderness of juryo and the bottom of Makuuchi, then miraculously stayed there last tournament. So this tournament is important for him: if he can stick again, we may have something. The sensible expectation, however, would be for some sort of 2-13 blow out and re-disappearance. So, in a match like this, against a savvy vet who has impressively survived up here for years and years, Chiyotairyu needed to prove it to us. Are you a man, or are you a mirage? And, in the match of the day for my money, Chiyotairyu absolutely bomblastaboozled Yoshikaze with his exploding-hyperbomb tachi-ai and whirling-beatnik-cannonball attack. He oshi-taoshi'ed Yoshikaze like straw bales in a sonic boom.

O Goeido (1-0) vs. K Kotoshogiku (0-1)
Very easy stuff for Goeido, who was low, swift, and put a slight twist on in getting under Kotoshogiku and locking him up. The powerful linear push was well executed thereafter, too, yori-kiri. Somebody theorized that Kotoshogiku wanted to retire in Kyushu, his home island. Well, that's setting up well for him.

M2 Tochiohzan (0-1) vs. O Takayasu (1-0)
With Kakuryu out and Kisenosato and Harumafuji looking out of it too, Takayasu has another chance to make something of himself this tournament. On paper he's a legit yusho challenger in the current environment--but can he show it in the ring? Is he setting up for a long, boring ozeki career ala Musoyama or Kotoshogiku, or does he have designs on something greater? In a match like this, dominant destruction is what he needed to show against this Faded Chestnut. Biff, boom, pow, I'd like to say he did it, but... His tachi-ai hit was solid and got him the momentum, and he surged in underneath so swiftly Tochiohzan was barely even trying, getting yori-kiri'ed out with a few half-hearted pulls, swipes and evasions like a guy who just blew his line and wants to run the scene again. Wish Tochiohzan would have tried harder, which would have made this one look better for poor, underwhelming Takayasu. He's the guy you want to like a lot but… just… really… don't.

Y Harumafuji (0-1) vs. M1 Takakeisho (0-1)
Push, wait, push, wait, push, wait: one of the fun things about Takakeisho is that he has a predictable style and you can see if it works out for him or not. In theory it gets him the momentum he needs with the pushes, and keeps him safe from pull and overextension with the pauses. And that's how it played out here, textbook, as he methodically oshi-dashi'ed his opponent. But wait! Perhaps I should note that his opponent was the Dai-Yokozuna Harumafuji, defending champ. Strong and swift. And that the best counter-strategy against push-wait Takakeisho is to drive hard, fast, and merciless against one of the "wait" moments. Or, second best, to evade and befuddle, something Harumafuji is also good at. Instead, Harumafuji did none of these things and watched himself get done, throwing a little pull here and a little swipe there, but he might have been a practice dummy for all the dynamism of his response to Takakeisho in this one. Hoo boy, here we go again. It's rainin' kin-boshi, folks!

Y Kisenosato (0-1) vs. K Onosho (1-0)
As you know, you can tell a lot about sumo by paying attention to what they're talking about in the press, in the booth, in the features. A quick scan of Google today and it is ALL about Kisenosato, and I mean ALL. Your Grade A prediction from me for this tournament is for Hakuho to take it. Your Grade B prediction is for Kisenosato to have the sort of shaky-start-yusho-finish tournament Harumafuji pulled out in Aki. Your Grade C prediction is a Goiedo/Takayasu/Onosho surprise, pick your fave. Kisenosato did his part for Grade B today, or maybe Onosho did, as Onosho bumped into Kisenosato at the tachi-ai and fell down to the side, like your clumsy Uncle Joe drunkenly knocking himself down by colliding with the credenza on his way to the powder room in the dark around 3 a.m. They called it tsuki-otoshi, which is something I can imagine Uncle Joe yelling when he hit the floor: "tsuki-otoshi!!!"

M1 Tamawashi (1-0) vs. Y Hakuho (1-0)
Hakuho was the best thing about yesterday, with a dominant yokozuna-style win, and while he was a little hyper today, he had that focused, fast, yokozuna look again. An intensity of coiled movement. It was a sloppy bout, though. Hakuho hit Tamawashi once with hands to the face at the tachi-ai, then gave him a bit of the old "you want a piece of me?" That dumb staring and waiting thing tough guys do. Hakuho put a couple of feints in there like he was going to punch Tamawashi. Instead, he reached out and spun him around by the belt--that takes some strength and speed, friends--and crashed his body into Tamawashi and walloped him out backwards, okuri-dashi. Content wise, you can rest very easy in a Hakuho yusho prediction here on day two. Will he? Won't he?

Tomorrow Mike serves you sugary spice with a honeydew cinnamon-sprinkled melon on top.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The big news proceeding day 2 was the revelation that Yokozuna Harumafuji assaulted Takanoiwa with a beer bottle during the fall exhibitions when the sumo caravan was staying on Tottori on October 26th. The Mongolian rikishi were gathered and drinking together when Harumafuji became irritated with Takanoiwa's attitude and behavior, and so he attacked him with a beer bottle striking Takanoiwa in the head causing a laceration behind the right ear and damage to the skull and brain. Takanoiwa was roughed up to the point where he withdrew from the Kyushu basho, but the assault wasn't reported in the media until the morning after day 2.

The media quickly rushed to the Isegahama-beya to seek comment from Harumafuji, and the Yokozuna admitted to the attack saying he attacked Takanoiwa while he was drunk. Later in the morning it was announced that Harumafuji would submit his kyujo papers to the Association that day formally withdrawing from the basho. The attack is already conjuring up memories in the press of Asashoryu's attack on a man in Tokyo early in the morning after the two had been drinking. The Sumo Association will convene later on today to determine a punishment for the Yokozuna.

On that note, let's turn our focus to day 2 where the action was much improved over day 1 although yaocho did continue to rear its ugly head. M15 Nishikigi began the day against Ishiura visiting from Juryo, and this was a pretty straightforward bout where Ishiura shaded left and continued to move left trying to lure Nishikigi into the trapdoor, but Nishikigi used a right forearm into Ishiura's upper body to continually apply pressure as he followed Ishiura around the ring before pushing him out for good. Solid footwork pays off for Nishikigi who moves to 2-0.

M15 Myogiryu got the early left arm inside against M14 Daiamami, and he smaller rikishi used that to drive the rookie back a few steps. Daiamami surived nicely near the edge, but as he looked to work his way back to the center of the ring, he left his right hip open to the easy left outer grip from Myogiryu, and once again, the rookie was stuck in the center of the ring in a stalemate forced to react to his opponent's offensive. Myogiryu took his sweet time hunkering down and tiring the big fella out before testing the force out waters once, twice, three times a lady. Nice yori-kiri in the end for Myogiryu who moves to 2-0. As for Daiamami, he's been totally reactive this basho falling to 0-2. He needs to start throwing his weight around a bit.

M13 Takekaze caught M14 Kotoyuki with a perfect right ottsuke up and under Kotoyuki's outstretched left arm, and the veteran Kaze knew to raise his gal up and score the quick oshi-taoshi win. There was a hint of theatrics from Kotoyuki's fall, but make of that what you will. Takekaze moves to 1-1 while Kotoyuki falls to 0-2. Kotoyuki did have trouble getting up off the floor and slowly limped out of the venue, so the possibility is there that he let up and got hisself injured as we say in Utah.

M13 Aminishiki put his right hand at the back of M12 Kagayaki's head at the tachi-ai and executed a pull that Kagayaki just went with keeping his feet aligned and dragging them along the dirt as he fell forward into a heap. I'll start getting geeked about Aminishiki's return to the division when they stop giving him free wins. In the meantime, Aminishiki is gifted a 2-0 start while Kagayaki falls to 1-1.

M11 Aoiyama pressed nicely against M12 Okinoumi getting his right arm to the inside and then gripping Okinoumi with a left kote-nage on the other side. Aoiyama coulda finished Okinoumi off in linear fashion here, but he let Umi survive and eventually turn the tables. With his back now facing the outside of the ring, Aoiyama kept Okinoumi squarely in front of him allowing Okinoumi to score the yori-taoshi win. In the process of his fake fall, Aoiyama's right leg got caught in the tawara causing him to wrench his knee. They took him out in the Pawn Stars wheelchair, and that's a perfect example of how letting up in the ring causes injury. Both guys here finish the day 1-1.

M11 Asanoyama kept his arms in tight at the tachi-ai against M10 Ikioi, but Ikioi was able to body his foe back enough to the point where he worked his right arm to the inside, and as Asanoyama tried to evade to his right, Ikioi stayed square and used a nice scoop throw to launch Asanoyama to the other side of the dohyo where he shoved him into the front row from there. Both rikishi here also finish 1-1.

M10 Kaisei got the left arm inside and the solid right outer grip against M9 Endoh from the tachi-ai as seen in the pic at right from the reverse angle, but he let Endoh break the grip off and then hunker down deep with the right arm to the inside. Kaisei grabbed the obligatory left outer grip over the top and then flirted a bit with his gal using the right arm, but he was at Endoh's bidding at this point, and so Endoh wrenched his foe this way and that before felling him nicely with shita-te-hineri move. While the throw was executed well, Kaisei was completely mukiryoku and exaggerated his fall a bit, but give both guys an A for effort. If this one was legit, we'd see Endoh do this more often, especially if he was able to heave a heavy guy like Kaisei around. Regardless, Elvis is gifted a 2-0 start while Kaisei falls to 1-1.

M9 Daieisho was proactive against M8 Chiyomaru in their tsuppari affair, but he didn't have enough drive from the lower body to budge Maru, and so it was Chiyomaru that just slowly forced Daieisho straight back before finishing him off for good using a nice forearm chivvy to the upper chest. Daieisho's prolly gotta force Chiyomaru to move laterally in order to beat him, but this was a straight up linear bout that ended in Chiyomaru's favor as he picks up his first win. Daieisho is 0-2.

With M7 Shodai (a popular Kyushu rikishi) having suffered a terrible loss yesterday and paired against a Mongolian in M6 Chiyoshoma today, the result of the bout was pretty obvious. Chiyoshoma jumped out of his stance first with both arms wide open allowing Shodai to get the left inside before Chiyoshoma next retreated back a bit and to his right never offering a pull or a counter move but keeping both arms up high around Shodai's head and over his shoulder. Not even Shodai could screw this one up as he scored the comically easy yori-kiri in about two seconds leaving both gentleman at 1-1.

M6 Tochinoshin is gonna get his when he can, and with no one giving a shat about M7 Daishomaru, he was easy picking for Tochinoshin who survived Daishomaru's moving left at the tachi-ai before working his right arm inside and his left hand at the outside of Daishomaru's belt. Shin didn't even really need to grip his opponent in tight he had him forced back and out so fast, and it was interesting to watch just how fast Tochinoshin moved in this one. Once he fights someone like Shodai or another Kyushu favorite, he'll move in the ring as if he's stuck in molasses again. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

M4 Chiyonokuni was active from the tachi-ai against M5 Arawashi, but I can't really describe any concrete moves from said activity, and so after about a second, Arawashi backed up a step causing Chiyonokuni to fall forward to the dirt into the perfect missionary position. I don't know if Kuni owed one here or if he's just too hapless, but the end result was an ugly bout of sumo...if you can call it that. Arawashi moves to 2-0 while Chiyonokuni is 0-2.

M4 Ichinojo used some methodic shoves from the tachi-ai and a kote-nage threat against M5 Takarafuji keeping him at bay until he could suck him in tight with the right inside position and left outer grip, and from there it was the classic boa constrictor sumo from Ichinojo where he takes things slow, leans in tight on his opponent, and just sucks the air out of him using his sheer bulk. Took close to 30 seconds, but it was a classic Ichinojo victory as he moves to 2-0 while Takarafuji falls to 0-2.

Sekiwake Mitakeumi was useless today against M3 Hokutofuji keeping his feet aligned at the tachi-ai and not sure what to do with his hands standing there like a big, dumb target. Hokutofuji didn't exactly blow his foe off of the starting lines, but he got his right arm up and under Mitakeumi's left, and after a few seconds, he was able to push him off balance to the right and then just send him across the straw with little resistance. Mitakeumi falls to 1-1 while Hokutofuji is a nice 2-0 if ya need him.

Ozeki Terunofuji literally welcomed M3 Shohozan with arms wide open gifting the Fukuoka native moro-zashi at the tachi-ai and then only offering a meek grip around the melon, which never amounted to anything, and so as the Ozeki just stood there upright, Shohozan drove him back and across without argument. As if.  As I was reading the headlines after day 2, I saw a comment from Terunofuji in the Nikkan Sports newspaper where the Mongolian said, "His hari-te shook me up."  The paper then went on to explain how Shohozan's hari-te led to the M3's getting moro-zashi, and I was like, "Am I losing my marbles??  I don't remember a hari-te..."  So in reviewing the bout live and the replays, Shohozan never went for a hari-te; not even close, so the article is a good example of how the media just feeds false analysis to cover up for all of the yaocho and favoritism.  Terunofuji falls to 0-2 as a result while Shohozan is an unsurprising 2-0.

Ooftah, M2 Chiyotairyu meant business today against Sekiwake Yoshikaze just blasting him upright at the tachi-ai and then using superb de-ashi as Cafe tried to counter with his own tsuppari and shade left. Wasn't happening at all as Chiyotairyu quickly repented from a few downward swipes before just bludgeoning Yoshikaze down and out with a vicious set of shoves. One reason why I like Chiyotairyu so much is because he actually packs a punch that we used to see from Japanese rikishi of yesteryear. Name one Japanese bruiser besides Chiyotairyu. The silence is deafening as Chiyotairyu picks up his first win while the Oita native falls to 0-2.

Komusubi Kotoshogiku shaded to his left against Ozeki Goeido hoping for who knows what? If you're gonna henka, you at least need to do something, but the Geeku just moved left as Goeido assumed moro-zashi against his compromised opponent and forced him back and across in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

M2 Tochiohzan kept his arms in tight against Ozeki Takayasu as the two rikishi slammed into each other, and at that point, Tochiohzan began retreating with his arms out wide and high allowing Takayasu the ridiculously easy path to the inside. The yori-kiri came in seconds as Takayasu led with the left arm. In their primes, Tochiohzan was so much better than Takayasu and far more technically sound, so I wonder what goes through Oh's head as he sees an inferior rikishi get propped up like this. Timing's a bitch (just ask Kaio) as Tochiohzan falls to 0-2. The powers that be are making sure that Takayasu sheds his kadoban status this basho at 2-0 so far.

This Law of Moses crap is getting old, and by that I mean the eye for an eye mentality where the Mongolian rikishi have to suffer the same fate as their Japanese counterparts. If a Japanese Ozeki goes kadoban and ultimately gets knocked from his perch, then it happens to a Mongolian (just think Kotoshogiku and Terunofuji). Kakuryu is shadowing Kisenosato's every move these days, and now they're making Yokozuna Harumafuji to appear like a weakling. Today against M1 Takakeisho, Harumafuji struck mildly at the tachi-ai standing straight up with arms extended as he just welcomed Takakeisho's straightforward charge. The youngster had the Yokozuna pushed out in about two seconds with the Yokozuna remaining upright the entire way, and while the applause from the crowd was warm, I didn't notice any cushions being slung around. That happens when you actually beat a Yokozuna, not when he gives up the win. Ridiculous. This was likely the first step in in Harumafuji's penance towards the Takanohana-beya for roughing up Takanoiwa while Takanoiwa's stablemate finishes the day 1-1.

The senpai-kohai system was in play in our penultimate bout as Komusubi Onosho took on Kisenosato. I guess "took on" isn't exactly the word because it was more like hit the deck at the first moment of contact. Kisenosato really didn't execute a pull or a sideways swipe or anything at the tachi-ai; they just struck and Onosho wilted to the dirt to his left landing in a completely unnatural position that happens when you're not forced to the ground by your opponent's strength. This one was so obvious--and so bad--that NHK didn't even show a replay. I had to rewind the broadcast to see if I missed it, but nope. They didn't even bother, and I can't really blame them. Obvious fall here from Onosho who ends up 1-1 while Kisenosato continues to be propped up at the same mark.

In the day's final affair, Yokozuna Hakuho made mince meat of M1 Tamawashi offering a quick face slap with the left and a kachi-age with the right before the two guys found themselves standing there with a bit of separation. From there, Hakuho faked a few shoves before grabbing the easy left outer grip near the front of The Mawashi's mawashi and just wrenching him over and around before sending him out from behind in the largely uneventful affair. Hakuho moves to 2-0 with the easy win while Tamawashi falls to 1-1.

We'll see how the whole Harumafuji thing plays out as the story has quickly taken over the entire basho. If you ask me, the Russians are behind it.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The Kyushu basho has no hype going into it, and it showed on day 1 with the sparse attendance. In fact, NHK did their best not to show the venue as a whole because there were empty seats everywhere, and when you step back and examine the overall condition of sumo these days, it's easy to see why.  First, we're coming off of that awful Aki basho where the yusho line fell to four losses for the first time in 19 years.  Hakuho, Kakuryu, and Kisenosato were all kyujo; Terunofuji fell from the Ozeki rank; and then Takayasu enters the Kyushu basho in kadoban status.

Then if we take a look at the Japanese darlings, there's little to get excited about.

Kisenosato:  Coming off of multiple kyujo and an utterly useless rikishi in the ring
Kotoshogiku:  Useless in the ring
Goeido:  Useless in the ring and a failure to yusho last basho when the door was wide open
Mitakeumi:  Largely useless in the ring and still no signature style
Shodai:  Largely useless in the ring and fading fast
Ura:  Kyujo

Onosho will quickly become one of the darlings if he already hasn't, but the dude gets exposed in straight up bouts at this level of the banzuke, and he will require heavy yaocho ot keep this rank. I realize that there is less population to draw from in Fukuoka, but today's attendance was low for even Kyushu standards.  I'm sure next weekend that the man-in on-rei banners will be lowered a time or two, but they'll lower those between 80% - 90% attendance.  I doubt we're going to see a complete sell-out the entire 15 days.  There is just nothing there to draw the fans in.

The problem was that they had to come up with something, and so the storyline is Kisenosato's return after a few tournaments off.  The phrase being bandied about prior to the basho was "ii joutai," or good condition, but we all know that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I was quite shocked by Mainoumi's sipping a bit of truth serum at the start of the broadcast when he stated that after watching Kisenosato's keiko prior to the basho, he felt he was still a basho away from being ready.

Of course, my thoughts are what exactly is Kisenosato coming back from??  The dude's not injured, and there's definitely not a level of sumo for him to rise back up to, so what's he coming back from and where is he going?  He's nothing but a burden on the Sumo Association right now because he's definitely not a sanyaku rikishi, and I don't even think he's worthy of the Makuuchi division anymore, but they have to prop him up as a Yokozuna somehow, so you're just asking for trouble.  I just don't see the ruse continuing for much longer, and judging by the sumo from day 1, the sport is in a definite downward trend. In fact, shortly after the five o'clock hour, the announcers were getting so frustrated that Mainoumi went on a rant saying that the fans who paid money deserved more than they were getting.

With that said, let's turn our attention to the bouts that started

M15 Myogiryu took advantage of a horrible tachi-ai from Homarefuji (probably intentional) getting his right arm inside and easily keeping pace as Homarefuji meekly moved left.  The Juryo rikishi wasn't even trying here as Myogiryu picks up the easy win.

M14 Daiamami reached for the left outer against M15 Nishikigi but came up short as Nishikigi focused on establishing the inside first with his own left. Nishikigi kept the rookie up high with that left arm, and Daiamami's offensive hopes were done at this point.  Waiting for Nishikigi's attack, he was unable to fend off Nishikigi's weak kote-nage attempt and quick evasion, and in the end, Nishikigi easily pushed the rookie out.  When are these guys gonna learn that you have to buy the rookies that first win?

M13 Aminishiki made his return to the division against m14 Kotoyuki, who was completely mukiryoku at the tachi-ai standing up straight and keeping his feet perfectly aligned as Aminishiki rushed in, grabbed, the left outer grip, and slung the intentionally listless Kotoyuki over and down.  I don't even care how long Aminishiki was out of the division.  If they're going to let him win with yaocho, it's no bother looking it up.

M12 Kagayaki used a nice left ottsuke into M13 Takekaze's right side shortly after the tachi-ai that sent Takekaze off balance from the start. As Takekaze looked to evade and pull his way back into the bout, Kagayaki stood pat and easily chased Takekaze back and out with a nice oshi-taoshi shove.

M12 Okinoumi had the right arm positioned to the inside from the tachi-ai but then quickly brought that arm to the outside giving M11 Asanoyama the easy left inside position, so from there, Okinoumi simply brought the left arm up high leaving him completely vulnerable as Asanoyama just rushed in scoring the easy yori-kiri win. This was a case of self destruction on the part of Okinoumi who continues to dole out the wins to his opponents...hopefully for a wad of cash in exchange.

M11 Aoiyama struck M10 Ikioi with a nice right kachi-age at the tachi-ai standing Ikioi up, and then the Bulgarian immediately shifted gears going for a dangerous pull.  It worked since Aoiyama won the tachi-ai, but I never like to see guys winning while backing up, especially after winning the tachi-ai.  Today was a good example of a straight-up bout that was still bad sumo.

M9 Daieisho attempted to best M10 Kaisei with shoves to the neck, but he just didn't have the power to budge the Brasilian, and so Kaisei stayed square throughout as Daieisho escaped this way and that before finally bullying Daieisho back to the edge with some nice shoves that caused Daieisho to stand there teetering on the straw, and Kaisei made it official with a nice final shove.  It's just too easy for the foreigners.

M9 Endoh and M8 Chiyomaru met each other with simultaneous shoves at the tachi-ai for a second or two before Chiyomaru just turned his body around 180 degrees for no apparent reason, and with Maru all but walking out of the ring from there, Endoh gave him a light love tap from behind to send him out.  I'm not sure how this one was ruled tsuki-dashi, because Endoh definitely didn't kick his opponent's ass.  Chiyomaru actually won the tachi-ai with his moro-te-zuki effort, but he was completely mukiryoku after that.

M7 Daishomaru caught M7 Shodai with a right ottsuke to Shodai's left side at the tachi-ai, and Shodai simply doesn't have the tools to recover from such a move...even at the hands of Daishomaru, and so while he did try and escape to either side, Daishomaru just followed him in haste and shoved Shodai back and across in mere seconds.  What an embarrassing performance from Shodai.

M6 Tochinoshin was a split second early at the the tachi-ai against M6 Chiyoshoma, but he didn't take advantage of it just standing there and allowing Chiyoshoma to hook his right arm up and under Tochinoshin's left shoulder whereupon Chiyoshoma actually evaded from one side of Tochinoshin's body to the other without any reaction from the Private or any attempt to clobber his opponent.  Facing no resistance, Chiyoshoma used that right hand position to fling the defenseless Tochinoshin over and down in mere seconds. Tochinoshin was completely mukiryoku here, and it wasn't because he thought they should have called a false start. He gifted Chiyoshoma the win today.

M5 Arawashi got the left arm inside early against M5 Takarafuji and then went for one of those right kote-nage throws where he keeps his body in front of his opponent waiting to be shoved out.  Problem was Takarafuji went for a weak do-or-die push and died in the process just wilting to the dirt before Arawashi was sufficiently pushed out.  There was no energy from either rikishi in this one, and while Arawashi was actually mukiryoku, he still won the bout.

At this point of the broadcast, Mainoumi went on a bit of a rant calling up to Osaka-san in the booth and saying, "Maybe the rikishi are a little bit tight because it's day 1, but the fans who paid to see the bouts deserve more. I would have hoped that they would have made an impact from the very first bout and got the venue pumped up, and so I'd like to see them go hard the last half of the day. They've been preparing for this basho for three months now, and they need to give something back to the fans."  It was a classic Japanese rant where he gave an out right at the beginning suggesting that maybe everyone was still tight because it was day 1, but he was unhappy.  I mean, we're more than halfway through the day, and all we've seen to this point is yaocho or bouts that lasted five seconds or less.  There's just no energy from anyone, and it started to frustrate even the Announcers because believe me, they know what's going on.

M4 Chiyonokuni tried a quick tachi-ai before escaping to his left in an attempt to grab M4 Ichinojo in kote-nage fashion, but Ichinojo escaped easily and survived Chiyonokuni's weak shove attempts from there grabbing a left outer grip and right inside position that he used to force Chiyonokuni over to the edge and across.  More ho hum.

Ozeki Terunofuji got his right arm to the inside of M3 Hokutofuji so much so that Hokutofuji's left paw was pointing towards the rafters, but that's all we'd get from Terunofuji who let up at this point quitting with his left and then letting go with the right allowing Hokutofuji to just push his way back into the bout and send the mukiryoku Terunofuji back and down into the first row. As if.

M3 Shohozan came with his usual wild tsuppari attack into Sekiwake Yoshikaze's craw as the Sekiwake played along, and after a few seconds of abuse and half-hearted shoves from Cafe, Shohozan moved right and easily pushed Yoshikaze down and out for the cheap win. Yoshikaze kicked his leg up high adding a bit of flair as he put both palms to the dohyo in order to break his intentional fall

M2 Tochiohzan got the right inside against Sekiwake Mitakeumi and promptly backed up going for a pull of his listless opponent, and he easily pulled Mitakeumi down and out but not before carelessly and purposefully stepping way out of the ring as he made way for Mitakeumi's fall. It was comical to watch Tochiohzan just kick his left leg back and scrape the dirt with his toe before immediately pulling it back into the ring and continuing his pull down effort along the ring's edge.

M2 Chiyotairyu struck Ozeki Takayasu well at the tachi-ai, but his legs weren't into it, and as soon as Takayasu went for his first offensive move, which was a weak movement to his left and feeble pull attempt that barely connected, Chiyotairyu belly-flopped to the dirt as if King Kong had just pounded him in the back. Once again, the announcers were sheepishly talking about the lack of power in the sumo after this one.

M1 Takakeisho actually had the better position from the tachi-ai against Ozeki Goeido, but he threw it all away and immediately backed up with both hands at the back of the Ozeki's neck allowing Goeido to score the easy push out win. Yet another mukiryoku bout in favor of the Ozeki, and yet another contest that ended in just seconds.  Is it too much to ask two guys to go chest to chest?

After three false starts, Kisenosato came with a weak hari-zashi tachi-ai using a slapping motion with the right while getting the left inside, but M1 Tamawashi easily pushed him to the side with a left hand into Kisenosato's right teet, and from that point Tamawashi could have rushed Kisenosato back and out, but he waited for some contact that came in the form of a weak left swipe whereupon Tamawashi backed himself up to the other side of the dohyo. Kisenosato could do nothing, however, and so Tamawashi just kept swiping and swiping until Kisenosato was lifted off balance near the edge, and at that point, Tamawashi busted a cap into him sending him across the tawara for good. Tamawashi tried to make the Yokozuna look good here and give him some openings, but Kisenosato was about as sturdy as a wet rag. Say what you will about whether or not you believe this is all real, but a Yokozuna should never lose to a hira-maku rikishi in linear fashion. Never.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho used his normal hari-zashi tachi-ai getting the right arm inside and left outer grip against Komusubi Kotoshogiku, and once obtained, he just dashi-nage'd the Geeku over and down with little argument.

In the day's final debacle, Yokozuna Harumafuji attempted to throw the Kyushu faithful a bone by keeping his arms out wide and then putting them high allowing Komusubi Onosho to attempt a pull move, and the move wasn't that good, but Harumafuji went down quick putting both palms to the dirt without any other part of his body touching down...a clear sign of yaocho that I've talked about before.  As they panned in close to Onosho's face afterwards, there was no emotion there as the kid knew the Yokozuna had just taken a dive.  I mean, you look at that picture here of the ending, and notice Onosho's footwork.  Dude's off balance and on his tip-toes, no position to slap down a Yokozuna and the highest-ranked guy on the board.  I guess some people would call this one legit using "accepted physics," but following the laws of actual physics, none of it computed.

Hopefully the Sumo Association was embarrassed by this day 1 display.  I know I was, and you could tell the announcers were all frustrated.  The longest bout of the day was the Kisenosato - Tamawashi matchup, and that's because Tamawashi waited around for something to happen.  Probably the closest bout on the day that featured two opponents at similar levels was the Nishikigi - Daiamami matchup early on, but the Association's gotta bring more than that to the table.

We'll see if there's even a point in writing up day 2.























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