Day 1
Kenji
Day 2
Mike
Day 3
Simon
Day 4
Bernie
Day 5
Clancy
Day 6
Mike
Day 7
Kenji
Day 8
Clancy
Day 9
George
Day 10
Simon
Day 11
Mike
Day 12
Mike
Day 13
Simon
Day 14
Mike
Senshuraku Clancy

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
"all the women tear their blouses off
and the men they dance on the polka-dots
and it's partner found, it's partner lost
and it's hell to pay when the fiddler stops:
it's closing time"

--L. Cohen


Well, perhaps it wasn't all THAT exciting, but there was drama aplenty in Nagoya, gotta admit. We had shenanigans, harsh words, suspensions, shameless henkas by the boatload, rikishi teetering on the brink of promotion, a wounded Yokozuna, unbelievable rallies from early deficits, the possible ascension of a new Yokozuna, and the possible re-ascension of a former Ozeki. Even my six year-old daughter, an artist who up until this point in her life has shown about as much interest toward sumo as Mike has shown toward washing between his toes, asked me today, "Papa, who's the Yokozuna?" "Of our house?" I responded. "Me. Of sumo? The Khan, Asashoryu. Now go and instruct your mother that if she does not have dinner ready in moments, she will be on the receiving end of a severe okuritaoshi tonight."

One aspect lacking on Day 15 that is usually there in spades was rikishi who are going for their winning records. Only three had 7 wins going in, and (surprise!) all three won. Who'd a thunk it? Ozeki Kotooshu took care of The Meniscus Kid Tochiazuma (let's hope he gets that thing excised before September), Roho, one half (I hesitate to call him the "ugly half" because his sibling, too, is far from easy on the eyes) of the Brothers Henkamazov, finished what younger brother Hakurozan started on Day 1 by giving Kotomistuki a big ol' Crisco Kiss, and Jumonji won a suspiciously long (and ill-fought bout by Futenoh) to get his winning record (but Jumonji fans, don't break out the chips and salsa just yet?he had just one win vs a wrestler who made kachikoshi).

A fan wrote to me after my Day 8 and complained about me using the phrase "Sumo Sodomy" to describe a henka. He's right. Equating a henka with sodomy gives sodomy a bad name. I'm not going to rehash the issue here, you have three smart guys on this website telling you the deal: Henka=poopoo. And if you think it is a "non-issue" to the wrestlers themselves, don't listen to what they SAY about it in the polite light of day (although Kotooshu sure didn't seem to eager to stick to the party line after his Day 1 bathhouse encounter with a bald twenty-four year-old who must hail from where, Chernobyl??). Instead, check Tamanoshima's face on Day 14 or Miyabiyama's on Day 6.

(For those of you who watch the NHK (No Henka Knowledge) English language broadcast, are you as sick and tired as I am of their constant assertion that the rikishi who loses to a henka is somehow to blame because "he didn't keep his eyes on his opponent"? This is a load of crap if there ever was one. The man could have his eyes boring into his foe's soul and it wouldn't matter. When a wrestler is victimized by a henka, he has no time at all to adjust to what he sees. He has launched himself from the clay in the belief that his opponent will be there, and that after their smashing start (a move unique to Japanese sumo, I think) they will fight it out. True, some wrestlers DO keep their heads down a bit or duck their heads as they anticipate the contact at tachi-ai, but EVEN IF they were looking forward and up, they'd still be at a serious disadvantage. The only guys who do NOT fall for henkas are the guys who know and anticipate their foes cowardly ways and are prepared, or guys who have weak, stand up tachi-ai, like Takamisakari.

But something is broken with sumo, and it needs fixin' fast. Look at the list of egregious henka-ites this basho (highest ever rank in parenthesis): Chiyotaikai (Ozeki), Roho (Komusubi), Dejima (O), Tokitenku (M1), Tochinohana (K), Hakurozan (M2), Aminishiki (M1), Kokkai (M1) and Kyokushuzan (K). Plus the timing. Sure, Shu does it every other bout nowadays, and Roho and Dejima henka'd their way to kachikoshi (still a yellowbellied way of goin' about your bidness), but look at the timing of some of the others: Chiyo to Miyabi on Day 6, the Sheriff going for Ozeki and Chiyo at that point with just one loss; Tochinohana to Tamanoshima on Day 11, and Hakurozan to open the affair on Day 1to Kotooshu. Henka should be disallowed. Period. I'd rather see the topknot yank being legalized than see another guy run away, Bernie's Baryshnikovs and George's Lokis and Ravens notwithstanding.

Anyway, on Day 15, from the bottom up, we have Toyozakura heading down to Juryo with his older brother M16 Kitazakura. Both men finished 5-10, Kita with a nice sukinage win over M11 Kasugao (also 5-10) and Toyo with a loss to M10 Iwakiyama. Toyo peppered his foe with facial blows from the get-go, forcing Iwonkeykong back to the edge, but the former sanyaku man said, Enough is enough and drove the M14 back across the ring and tumbling out, as our boy Simon might say, ass over teakettle. Iwaki ends up 9-6, with every one of his losses coming to a kachikoshi rikishi (the same thing can be said of only two of his wins, unfortunately).

Even after beating M15 Tochinohana by yorikiri today, M9 Yoshikaze ended up with a 6-9 record. Perplexing losses to Hokutoriki and Takamisakari Days 3 and 4, and to Kitazakura yesterday, coupled with the Jiffy Lube he was gifted by Henkanishiki on Day 11 made certain this firecracker of a rikishi will be slipping down a notch or two in rank, but you have to love this youngster's sumo. Tochi was unfortunately able to get his winning record by beating a fellow member of Nagoya Henka Club (First rule of Henka Club is, You do not talk about Henka Club!) on Day 13. Like Mike said, it would have been sweet to see him lose out after slipping Tamanoshima that stiffy on Day 11.

Tamakasuga scored one for the geriatric crowd by taking home a special prize to go along with his career best 11 wins (5 over kachikoshi rikishi, all four losses to kachikoshi wrestlers). If this basho was a deer, he would have it stuffed and mounted (Simon could tell him all he needs to know about mounting and stuffing dears?sorry, typo--deer). Today he beat M8 Tokitenku, whose 10-5 record made me yawn, replete as it was with henka (a bout he lost!) and sloppy execution that got him some lucky wins. I like Tokitenku, but I'd prefer to see him grow into a wrestler like Kyokutenho and not Kyokushuzan.

I recall someone on this site writing that they feared M14 Homasho might not have the chops to remain in the top flight. The jury is still out, but after deliberating his performance in Nagoya, they may return a Not Guilty As Charged verdict. He didn't flinch the final five days, taking out three out of four kachikoshi rikishi to finish 9-6 in only his second Makuuchi tourney.

M12 Tochinonada completed a very strong basho by craftily allowing The Great White Ape M5 Kokkai drive him back to the tawara, only to pull off one of the sweetest tsukuiotoshi of the tourney. As the sumo guides will tell you, this move is often used in desperation at the edge, but methinks Tochinonada had it in mind from the get go. Kokkai had a nice tourney although for some reason felt he had to henka Hokutoriki on Day 4 (like poor Tamanoshima, who may have gotten jun-yusho had he not been repeatedly molested, Hokutoriki had his soap on a rope stolen twice this basho). Tochinonada was 0-3, losing to the two special prize recipients and a kachikoshi man, and then reeled off seven straight before losing to two more kachikoshi rikishi. Four of his ten wins came vs kachikoshi guys. One of the smartest guys in sumo, look for this classy former Sekiwake to shoot up to M5 or 4 for September. Where he belongs at this point in his still thriving career.

Kakizoe finished off a disappointing basho with a decisive win over the younger Henkamazov. The diminutive M3 got only one win after finishing his run on Murderer's Row on Day 8 by beating Krustyshuzan. I thought after coming out of week one with wins over Chiyotaikai and Kotomitsuki he had a chance for kachikoshi, but he seemed to either run out of steam or more likely had some injury not obvious to us. He's going to drop down to M7 or so, where, if his usual feisty self, he should mop up with 10 wins or more.

M1 Krusty the Clown went to the Circus and got his head handed to him after a predictable henka which was ineffective as I said above because Circus does not bring it at tachi-ai like, say, Tosanoumi or Iwakiyama. Takamisakari is back to his 7-8 ways after one basho at 8-7, while Krusty is overjoyed to be plummeting to lower maegashira where he can get 10 wins again. OR is The Trickster finally out of time? (insert evil cackle).

After a 9-6 at M4, and with most of the guys at M3-M1 getting losing records, I don't see any reason why Baruto won't be the other candidate for Komusubi along with Kokkai come September (somehow I think the Sumo Kyokai will pass on putting Roho back up there just yet). In his second top division tourney he showed he has a lot to learn. And so? Of course he does. Baruto fans, be like George and do not panic. This boy will grow into a man who dominates sumo, thus it is written. Today he had one of what will be many, many bouts vs The Comeback Kid, Shin-Komusubi Kisenosato. After trying to get the outer left at tachi-ai, Baruto gave up that plan in the face of some strong throat pushing by The Kid, then countered with huge upper chest bombs that Kise had no answer for. Kise finishes at an incredible 8-7 after being 2-6. This is how you tell a guy has what it takes to oneday be at least Ozeki. Sure, he and all of his twenty years got thumped in week one (although he nabbed nice wins over Kotooshu AGAIN--he owns that Bulgarian--and Kaio for the second straight basho), but he kept his focus and rallied. Recall his final four day winning run to Komusubi in May: oshidashi vs Kaio, oshitaoshi vs Ama, oshidashi vs Kakizoe, yorikiri vs Kokkai. All strong kimarite, all strong foes, when the pressure was on. Also recall some of the disastrous Komusubi debuts of the recent past: Kotooshu, Ama, Roho. Everyone who has been saying it all along is right: This guy is special.

Now, Miyabiyama. As you all know, he was denied his promotion (thanks, Ozeki Chiyotaikai, you piece of dog dung). He did all he could by taking it to Tamanoshima today, using his tried and true tsuppari to set the special prize winner up for the sidestep and rear push out. It was beautifully timed and executed, nothing at all wrong with sidestepping AFTER the tachi-ai. The powers that be decided his sumo was not worthy of Ozeki, and after having been burned before by Miyabi, I can understand their hesitance.

Still, he was unlucky to lose after dominating the cleverly evasive Kaio on Day 4, was raped on Day 6 by The Wolf's Pup, but finished super strong, winning 7 out of 8 with the only loss coming to Asa. His losses came to the Yokozunam, two Ozeki, and powerful Roho on nervous Day 1. He beat Baruto, Kisenosato, Kotomitsuki, Tochiazuma and Tamanoshima and Hakuho, for crying out loud. I think he got robbed by not getting the Ozeki promotion. Was it really just that one win short of 11 that did it, even considering he was henka'd by Chiyotaikai? It also did not help that there was no spot opened at Ozeki (more on that below). Sad, sad, sad.

Not-at-full-strength Kotooshu pulled it out on Day 15 (no, not THAT, his mawashi was wrapped too tightly for THAT). He got his winning record, silly, vs a seemingly truly injured Tochiazuma. The two time yusho winner just couldn't stand on that left leg, and Koto took advantage by giving him a two armed shove at tachi-ai, then trying for a hatakikomi, finally getting in on the belt and forcing the wounded Ozeki out to his seventh loss.

Kaio absorbed The Pup's blows, if you can call them that, and got in and under his arms and threw him down, beltless, for his 9th win. It'll be interesting to see how Kaio does in Sept. and what effect, if any, that will have on any decision to retire in his homelands come Nov. If he has a strong basho two months hence, and again in Kyushu, will he try to go another year? No way he could make it back to Kyushu as an Ozeki for 2007, so his choices will be tantalizing if he is still winning: Keep going and risk retirement in some distant locale, or say, That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more and retire to certain rapturous glory in November 2006. Just another story line to follow in the weeks and months to come.

Now on to the biggest story to follow for the next ten weeks: Hakuho still searching for that Yokozuna promotion. After his classic, truly one for the ages win over the nearly invincible Asashoryu, dai-yokozuna, winner of 17 yusho and counting, to finish at 13 or better wins for the fourth consecutive basho!, a streak that includes three wins over Asa and a yusho, he was denied, that's right, denied. The word was that with a jun-yusho and 13 wins he would be promoted, but the elders of JAPANESE sumo decided that because he wasn't at 13-1 going into his bout with Asa his record did not satisfy their criteria. So if he had been 13-1 and LOST to Asa, that would presumably have been enough to clinch promotion, but since he beat Asa, well...

I don't get it. Maybe they suspected, like I do, that Asa seemed to forego finishing a few moves that he would normally finish in an effort to give his countryman a tiny chance to win the bout. I am NOT talking about fixing or throwing or any such crap. At that level all it takes is a minute pause in the pressure one is putting on one's foe, or a split second choice to try the wrong defense, or deciding to go only 98% on one particular move in order to give an opponent as strong and talented as Hakuho the opening he needs.

Now remember Mike's Day 14 telltale sign that show something is amiss: "...if you see an obvious change in his sumo tomorrow and Hakuho of course wins, then I will be of the opinion that Asashoryu handed Hakuho the bout."

Well, like he has most of this basho, Asa got inside quickly at tachi-ai, where he almost immediately tried an armbar throw. Here was the first indication of something odd. Asa didn't even try to finish off that armbar (like Hakuho did to him in January). He could have stuck with it and twisted Hakuho down, but he relented. Then they settled into deep mirror belt grips, Hakuho with a full left belt grip, Asa with a more shallow right (another small sign, perhaps, Asa not trying to inch his fingers forward to get a deeper grip). Now the fact that they locked up and it took longer than in Asa's other bouts means nothing to me simply because Hakuho is a very tough opponent and I wouldn't expect Asa to dispose of him quickly. But the ease with which Asa twisted and stalled Hakuho's attempt to drive him to the edge was another sign, followed by the most blatant of them all: Asa lifted Hakuho in the air, where he could have and should have executed a tsuridashi. True, there is little chance of Asa pulling off a standard tsuridashi vs Hakuho, but even if he had to twist the Ozeki and fall himself, landing on top of him, he would have, if he had really been 100% desirous of winning this bout.

Nonetheless, Hakuho fought like a champion, and once he came down to earth drove the Yokozuna back to the edge where Asa put up cinematic resistance, but the Ozeki was able to crush out his countryman and make a huge claim for Yokozuna promotion that for some reason was deemed insufficient. Yes, he is young and will have more chances, but if it isn't obvious to the sumo kyokai that their two men are already battling Yokozunas, and that Hakuho has a rock-solid claim to the title in this day and age of lone Yokozuna domination, then they are being blinded by something, something they perhaps have little control over, something ingrained, something they are not even aware they possess.

Thanks for reading again this basho. You're such a good readership. I would promote you if it was up to me.

Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The drama in Nagoya was all but sucked out with the injuries to the two Ozeki on day 11 after they were fighting well this basho, so let's not sugar coat anything and get right to the chase addressing the only remaining talking point this basho: is Asashoryu going to throw his bout tomorrow against Hakuho? I was glad to see Simon raise the question yesterday, and I was also happy to see that his opinion on the subject differed from mine. With any website or forum that provides analysis, it's extremely healthy to provide differing viewpoints, especially when both parties can provide good, logical takes.

First, I don't see what Asashoryu has to lose by giving Hakuho the bout tomorrow. Back in March, I wrote up a blog entry explaining how and why Asashoryu and Hakuho threw their senshuraku bouts then. I copy and paste from that:

"For Asashoryu, what has been the biggest criticism of his domination and current yusho run? Answer: there's no competition. However, if another Yokozuna is on the banzuke when Asashoryu racks up yusho 17 through 30 or whatever, the take of "weak competition" becomes just that...weak. Having another Yokozuna on the banzuke affects Asashoryu in no negative way. His pay isn't reduced; his likelihood of losing doesn't increase; he know longer has to shoulder all the burdens of a lone Yokozuna, etc. I honestly don't think Asashoryu cares one way or the other if there's another Yokozuna, so for him to throw today's bout to extend Tochiazuma's run is no sacrifice to him whatsoever."

And as sound as my reasoning was then, there is one element that didn't come into play in Osaka: national pride. If you watched NHK's feed today and stuck around after the final bout today, then you saw Asashoryu's yusho interview. Towards the end of the interview, he offered a few words in Mongolian to the fans and country he knew were watching. Having lived and worked in Asia, I've noticed a definite competitive feeling among the countries. Of course Japan is number one and sets the precedant in terms of their economy, technology, pop culture, etc. but whenever one of the other Asian countries can rise up and best Japan in something, it gives them immense pride not to mention bragging rights if only for a season. And as much as it galls Japan to have a foreigner dominate their sport, it's that much worse when it's a fellow Asian. Everyone knows it, especially Asashoryu. So can you imagine if there were two of them? Another reason is that Asashoryu likes Hakuho. Hakuho handed the yusho to Asashoryu in May 2004 when Hokutoriki led the Yokozuna by one bout going into the final day but couldn't solve that...should we say unsound tachi-ai from Hakuho? Asashoryu appreciates fellow countrymen like Hakuho, Ama, and Tokitenku, rikishi who fight with passion. I agree with Simon's take that the zensho yusho is important to the Yokozuna, but I don't think it overrides the other elements that I've raised.

If you could classify Asashoryu's sumo this entire basho, you'd have to use words like quickness (both from the tachi-ai and in finishing off his opponents) and precision. He hasn't been in the slightest trouble the entire basho, and none of his bouts have been prolonged. When the bouts go to the belt, Asashoryu takes the initiative straightway and wills himself to victory. So, if you see an obvious change in his sumo tomorrow and Hakuho of course wins, then I will be of the opinion that Asashoryu handed Hakuho the bout. Now Hakuho has proven this year that he can beat Asashoryu straight up, so even if Asashoryu does go all out, he still could lose because even though he hasn't been in a moment's trouble this entire basho, he still hasn't fought anyone like Hakuho. I just think chances are extremely high that you're going to see a Hakuho victory tomororw. On the surface and in the mainstream press, the storyline going into tomorrow will be "can Hakuho capture that 13th win over the Yokozuna and all but secure his promotion to Yokozona?" But I think the more interesting storyline is "will Asashoryu let Hakuho take the win?" It should be fun to watch it all play out, and you can bet that I will comment on things after the basho.

The fact that I've even opened with this subject means that the yusho has already been decided, so let's get down to the details where Asashoryu had to overcome Ozeki Chiyotaikai to make things official. Just as he's done the last few days, Chiyotaikai leapt into his opponent's arms at the tachi-ai like a June bride. The groom complied by catching Chiyo with his left arm on the inside and a firm right outer grip. From there, Asashoryu took it nice and easy forcing Chiyotaikai back to the straw cautiously in part to confirm that there were no mistakes and also to insure that he didn't injure the Ozeki's leg further. This bout was so anti-climactic that Asashoryu probably showed the least emotion that we've ever seen from him the moment when he actually seals the deal. I don't blame him, however, because he knew he had the yusho as soon as he beat Kotooshu a few days ago. Also, how ironic was it that Asashoryu led today's force out charge with none other than his right arm? Asashoryu moves to 14-0 with the win and more importantly, the Yokozuna clinches his 17th career yusho. Chiyotaikai falls to 9-5.

One of the bouts I wasn't looking forward to today was the Ozeki Kotooshu - M5 Futenoh matchup. The reason was that both of these rikishi were coming in at 6-7, which meant one of them would suffer make-koshi. You'd expect a nice yotsu-zumo contest from these two, but far from it today as both rikishi traded tsuppari from the initial charge. It was obvious that neither rikishi was comfortable with this style, and when you get two non-tsuppari guys fighting with the slaps, you know it's going to end in a pull-down. Futenoh went for the move first, but he was in no position to do so, and once compromised, Kotooshu stepped in and showed him how it's really down. This was really bad sumo from both parties, but Kotooshu keeps those kachi-koshi hopes alive at 7-7. Futenoh makes it offical at 6-8.

If you're wondering why the lower body is so important in sumo, just watch Ozeki Tochiazuma now that his leg is disabled. The Ozeki actaully executed a perfect tachi-ai that disallowed Kokkai to unleash any tsuppari, but there was no punch to the initial charge rendering Tochiazuma a sitting duck for the beefy Kokkai. In true golden gloves fashion, Kokkai delivered a right hand square to Tochiazuma's jaw that sent him to the canva..er..uh..dirt. Kokkai was actually quick enough that as Tochiazuma was falling to the dohyo in a daze he pushed at the Ozeki to earn the winning technique of tsuki-otoshi, but the kimarite in this bout was "right uppercut." At M5 Kokkai moves to 10-5 and may be the favorite to slip into that Komusubi slot vacated by Asasekiryu. Komusubi Kokkai? I thought I'd never see the day after watching him the last year or so. Tochiazuma falls to 8-6.

Ozeki Hakuho actually had the chance to give Asashoryu the yusho outright if he lost to Kaio today, but that was as likely as Chiyotaikai upsetting the Yokozuna...with or without that bad leg. Hakuho came with what I thought was a cautious tachi-ai, and the result was a slap-fest from the get-go. Hakuho's arms were just too long, and the few tsuppari he did throw were too effective for Kaio to do anything, so after 7 seconds or so Hakuho lunged for the left uwate and got it with his position so good that he was standing to the side of Kaio. After gathering his thoughts for an instant, he unleashed a perfect outer belt throw that sent Kaio into a summersault across the dirt. With the win, Hakuho moves to 12-2 and can reach that elusive 13-win mark with a win over Asashoryu tomorrow. If Hakuho loses that bout, all is not lost as surely the Yokozuna Deliberation Council will consider extending his Yokozuna chase into September. Kaio falls to 8-6.

In the battle of our two Sekiwake, Miyabiyama proved the more stable rikishi today as he completely dictated the bout's pace by firing tsuppari after effective tsuppari. Kotomitsuki can take a punch pretty well, and he withstood the blows managing to dive in a few times for a sniff at Miyabiyama's belt, but whenever he did so, Miyabiyama changed gears and went for the pulldown. It was smart sumo because Kotomitsuki could not get anything on the inside nor could he stand toe to toe with the Sheriff and trade tsuppari. On about Mitsuki's third attempt to get to the belt, Miyabiyama finally scored on the offensive pulldown moving to 9-6. We're starting to see that swagger again from Miyabiyama, but this basho it's too little too late. Still, regardless of whether Miyabiyama wins tomorrow or not, he's coming off of 14 wins last basho. Today's win marked 33 wins the last three basho, so the correct thing for the Sumo Association would be to at worst prolong Miyabiyama's quest for Ozeki into next basho. Tomorrow's bout against Tamanoshima is big because if the Sumo Association decides against promoting Miyabiyama with 34 wins (assuming he wins tomorrow), then he'll have 24 wins heading into September. They can't ignore him forever. Kotomitsuki falls to 8-6.

One of the better bouts the last few days was the day 14 matchup between Kisenosato and Roho. As good as Roho has looked this basho--his sumo, not his appearance--the Komusubi has been better. Today the two hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position with Kisenosato enjoying the firm right outer grip while Roho managed the same grip off and on. The difference today was Kisenosato's lower positioning and his keeping his left arm high and in the way of Roho's right arm going for the uwate. After about 20 seconds of good yotsu-zumo, the Komusubi proved the better tactician as he forced Roho back and out to pick up a fantastic kachi-koshi. Yes, Kisenosato is 8-6. I, for one, did not see this coming, but I'm ecstatic. Roho (7-7) fought well, and still has a shot at kachi-koshi though he must best Kotomitsuki tomorrow. I hope the Russian gets it.

Don't you just hate it when your two favorite rikishi fight each other? It's kind of like Hakuho - Miyabiyama this basho. I wanted both of them to receive their promotions coming in, so I hated to see one of them have to be saddled with a loss. That was the case today as M7 Hokutoriki took on M1 Kyokushuzan. Though one of them would have to come away the loser, I was definitely treated to some great sumo. In fact, this was one of the most memorable bouts of the basho. Kyokushuzan brilliantly moved...no jumped...to his left at the tachi-ai with such preceision that Hokutoriki just dove into empty space. Fantastic stuff from both parties. Too bad they both suck this basho and will fall low in the division for September.

There's probably some of you out there who are surprised that it took M4 Baruto 14 days to pick up his kachi-koshi, but you shouldn't be. Today was a perfect example of why the Estonian has struggled...namely, his sumo contains plenty of mistakes. Against M12 Tamakasuga today, there was no way that he was going to pay for them, but they were there. The first goof was from the tachi-ai where Baruto went for a hari-te with the left hand. If you go for the open-handed slap, you've got to have a follow-up move and execute it in nearly the same motion as the slap. Today Baruto slapped and stood straight up aligning his feet. Two-thirds of his opponents would have eaten him alive after that, but fortunately, Tamakasuga is not strong enough nor fast enough to take advantage. Baruto did recover well from his tachi-ai and charged forward securing the firm right outer grip, but for some reason he stopped his attack and bent low sticking his head up in to Tamakasuga's neck forcing the action form the tawara back to the center of the ring. At this point Tamakasuga was like that quarter pound fish on my line when I'm using eight pound test (ie, there's no way he's breaking my line), so it didn't really matter today, but I thought Baruto should have gone for the kill at this point. Instead, he took his time thinking of how he was going to scalp the enemy when finally he reached down with the left arm and lifted up at Tamakasuga's left inner thigh dumping him with the komata-sukui move. It was a totally unnecessary move and one that was executed painfully slow. Baruto did get away with it because his opponent was Tamakasuga, but again, a majority of riksihi in the upper half of the division would have capitalized on Baruto's sumo today just as they have this entire basho. With the win, Baruto moves to 8-6 while Tamakasuga falls to 10-4.

C'mon Dejima, just because you have boobs like a girl, it doesn't mean you have to fight like one. What's the point of getting your kachi-koshi with that kind of sumo? Furthermore, what right do you have to ruin M10 Tamanoshima's run? That was so classless and cowardly it would have really made me sick if I hadn't heaved my guts so badly when Baruto screwed Chiyotaikai the other day. If I really must describe the crime scene, Dejima jumped to his left at the tachi-ai performing a butt-ugly tachi-ai henka on Tamanoshima, who despite his peachy 11-2 record coming in, still had something to fight for...namely the yusho (yeah, I know, a long shot) and a special prize. Thanks for nothing Dejima. Tamanoshima gave Dejima (8-6) a dirty look as he picked himself up off the dohyo, he prolonged the stare as he headed back to his side for the bow, and he gave one last menacing looking from the hanamichi as he should have. There is absolutely no excuse for Dejima's act today, which was almost as disturbing as Clancy's octopus fetish. That was cowardly stuff, and Dejima should be castrated for his effort. Word has it he used his kensho money to shop for some nice summer nylons at an upscale Nagoya department store.

M8 Tokitenku has somehow managed to parlay garbage sumo into double-digit wins. And by garbage I mean "at the right place at the right time," so he's just there to clean up the mess. Today was a great example as he took on M15 Tochinohana (8-6). Tokitenku completely dictated the pace of this bout firing thrust after thrust into Tochinohana's neck and face, but Tochinohana withstood the attack and managed to grab Tenku's belt and push him back towards the tawara. Tokitenku went for the pull-down at this point and really should have gotten his butt kicked, but Tochinohana just fumbled the opportunity and seemed to stumble out of the ring by mistake. Oh well. Tokitenku moves to 10-4.

I'm a bit surprised it took M10 Iwakiyama this long to pick up his eigth win, but he did just that today against M11 Kasugao charging well at the tachi-ai and securing a deep inside position with the left arm. As he usually does when in trouble, Kasugao went for the ill-advised kote-nage throw, but Iwakiyama's position was just too good and there was just too much fat on his body for Kasugao to maneuver around, so as the Korean's throw failed, Iwakiyama dumped his opponent with a scoop throw with the left arm. I'm not sure of the reason, but Iwakiyama's right arm was heavily taped today and looked to be bothering him. Kasugao falls to 5-9 and has underachieved this basho. I mean if your opponent has a body part taped, doesn't it make sense to attack him on that side?

The M14 Homasho - M11 Toyonoshima bout was exactly the way Homasho wanted it with both rikishi crouched low and no belt grips, but if he's going to invite this kind of style, he's got to take advantage of it and try to mount some sort of offensive attack. He didn't, so the smaller Toyonoshima finally worked his way inside for a moro-zasho grip, and the fat lady sang. Toyonoshima celebrates his kachi-koshi with the nice yori-kiri win. Homasho falls to the same record at 8-6. And finally, M12 Tochinonada secured his favored quick left inner position from the tachi-ai and chased M15 Buyuzan (3-11) around the perimiter of the ring a bit before the easy force out bumping his record to 9-5.

I hope I haven't ruined the drama for anyone by suggesting that the most anticipated bout this basho may turn out to be the most fake. I know there's a lot of people out there who don't want to even consider the possibility of bouts being thrown, but please don't associate the practice with the word "corruption." It's anything but. Clancy-inho gets red-carded tomorrow, and Clancy, if it's not too much to ask, can you please come up with something that isn't so childish?

Day 13 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
Here is a question for you: how much does Hakuho regret bungee-jumping to defeat at the hands of a vastly inferior opponent on day one? The answer concerns us all because that defeat is the main reason why the Nagoya Basho has not offered much in the way of excitement. We can't blame the imperious Asashoryu for doing what he does best: eating opponents alive. No one has really stepped up to challenge him, with the obvious contenders giving away disappointing losses here, there and everywhere. Clearly the injuries have had a major impact on this basho, which is a real shame. Hopefully, we will see just one basho this year with all the top rikishi passed healthy. Match-ups like Asashoryu-Kotooshu (yesterday) would normally have me shaking with anticipation, but it was a yawn because we all knew what was going to happen with Kotooshu injured. The same goes for the now officially crocked Chiyotaikai and Tochiazuma. It takes quite a stretch of the imagination to call this basho an exciting one, but that's not to say it's all been bad.

Let's saunter to today's action and start with the big guy. Yokozuna Asashoryu briefly allowed Ozeki Kaio (8-5) to get a left-hand belt grip, but quickly broke that with a violent tug (you can't go wrong with a violent tug now and then). Then it was showboat sumo as he feinted with a grab for the leg, and when Kaio reacted, he wrapped him up and forced him out with ease. Awesome sumo from the Yokozuna – it's just beautiful to watch how he thinks on his feet throughout a bout. He was prevented from getting a right hand grip by Kaio's left, so he went for plan B, then plan C. This ability to switch the approach in a split-second as bouts progress is the mark of a true champion, and indeed is what separates him from the rest of the field. It will take a miracle for Hakuho to catch him now because Asashoryu needs only to beat Chiyotaikai tomorrow to take the yusho. And who would bet against that? Well, not me, I'm afraid. Whatever happens, the bout on senshuraku between Hakuho and Asashoryu will be a nerve-wracking affair because Hakuho will need thirteen wins to be considered for promotion, while Asashoryu will have one greedy eye on the record for zensho yusho (which is some way off yet). And before you think I might suggest that Asashoryu would lie down and do his countryman a favour – think again. He wants that zensho yusho and that will be the end of that. He knows that Hakuho will be joining him at the summit shortly anyway, so there is no point throwing away a 15-0.  Expect one or more of my Sumotalk colleagues to disagree with me!  I look forward to it.

In my opinion, if Ozeki Hakuho gets a thirteen-win jun-yusho he should be promoted. Bear in mind that his two losses have been to sanyaku rikishi, and both were down to bad luck as much as anything else. Remember also that if he gets thirteen, he will have beaten all the other Ozeki and sanyaku rikishi, and will also have to stop a zensho yusho for the Yokozuna. That achievement could be tied in with his record this year as the best rikishi on paper by a country mile, along with a yusho and two jun-yusho already in the bag (one a play-off loss), and also his dominating, beautiful sumo in most bouts this basho (yes, he is fighting as a Yokozuna should be). All of this leads to the inevitable conclusion that he should be the sport's next top guy. A Yokozuna should be challenging for yusho every basho - he has been doing that all year, and he would be this time but for one of the greatest Yokozuna of all time doing his stuff in style. And even if he doesn't make it, it is only a matter of time. He is Yokozuna material through and through. And things generally move at a slow pace in sumo...another basho or two at Ozeki won't hurt him. The victor of today's bout was a no-brainer as he overcame a gallant Chiyotaikai, who (credit to him) fought straight up and hard despite his injury. Hakuho took the blows of his fellow Ozeki well and waited patiently for his moment, which inevitably came as Chiyotaikai ran out of steam. Once he had the belt, Chiyotaikai simply gave up and let Hakuho walk him out. Hakuho goes to 11-2 and faces Kaio tomorrow (and should beat him easily). Chiyotaikai is 9-4.

It winds me up good and proper to see the physical wreck that answers to the name of Ozeki Tochiazuma (8-5) still on the dohyo this basho. I mean, he has his eight wins and is now safe from demotion. He has no chance of winning the yusho or any special prizes (Ozeki cannot receive them). So what's the point of risking a career-ending injury? Sekiwake Miyabiyama (8-5) picked up the easy win with Tochiazuma showing almost no resistance whatsoever as Miyabiyama took a few pushes to the face and neck, went forward and then pulled Tochiazuma down. Sad to see it, and they may well take this into account when they weigh up whether to promote Miyabiyama if he does manage ten wins. Remember also that one of his victories was a fusen-sho (win by default). With the Ozeki ranks a bit crowded, he might be denied the promotion, although that would be harsh, partly because it's hardly the Sheriff's fault that his opponents are all dinged up, and also because if he does get ten wins, that would make it 34-11 in three basho for him. That would normally be more than enough for promotion. It will be interesting to see what they do. One thing is certain: he has not shown Ozeki sumo this basho, injured opponents or not.

M3 Roho took control of his bout with Kotooshu straight from the tachiai, grabbing a powerful hidari-uwate grip while simultaneously negating the left arm of Kotooshu and forcing him up high, setting him up perfectly for a nice uwatenage throw. Kotooshu didn't seem too chuffed with Roho falling on top of him in the aftermath of the throw but it certainly wasn't intentional. Good sumo from Roho – it's nice to see him doing this kind of stuff instead of going for the pull-downs. He is so strong and talented, and should be approaching every bout in this manner. Roho has a fine 7-2 (4 absences) record. Kotooshu is in serious danger of being kadoban for the first time in September as he falls to 6-7, but he will face Futenoh tomorrow and a probably injured Tochiazuma on senshuraku. Can he kick it?

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki (8-5) faced a genki M5 Kokkai (9-4) who kept the Sekiwake at bay brilliantly with a series of well-timed thrusts and pulls, finally succeeding in pulling Kotomitsuki down. Koto-sama was not in this one at all. Kokkai really is a Jekyll and Hyde character from basho to basho but he's looked devastating this time against non-sanyaku foes...and today he showed that he can bring it to the top lads as well. 475 points for you, Kokkai, my man.

Komusubi Kisenosato has done brilliantly to come back from 1-5 and 2-6 after the usual first-week mauling that the Komusubi get. Those two Ozeki scalps he picked up (Kaio and Kotooshu) have kept him in the kachi-koshi hunt. With all the sanyaku out of the way, he can surely see his way clear to a fine winning record, and a possible Kanto-sho which they can give for a shin-sanyaku kachi-koshi. M3 Kakizoe was standing in his way today but the tricky terrier looked out of his depth against a measured tachiai that forced him back slightly, leaving him open to the well-timed pull down. Kisenosato has more work to do against a demonic-looking Roho tomorrow but should be overjoyed with his 7-6. Kakizoe is having a nightmare at 3-10.

It is making me laugh to hear so many people writing M4 Baruto off just because he hasn't waltzed to ten wins this basho, and has indeed been made to look very naïve in some of his losses. Remember ladyboys: sumo isn't easy, and development towards greatness takes time. Power and size are not the only requirements for success. There are other qualities that can only be learned through experience. And there are no exceptions to this. Give him a break! With his physical gifts, it will be a crime if he doesn't make Ozeki, but we are long way off knowing whether he will reach the summit or not. One thing is for certain: he is going to be a sanyaku regular for years to come once he improves his tachiai and overcomes his relative inexperience. M10 Tamanoshima has been finding it a stroll at this rank and knew that Baruto would be his toughest opponent by far, but in a real shocker, Baruto paid yet again for being way too upright (top heavy) as Tama-chan took the initial attack in his stride perfectly, kept himself low, and went forward, forcing the Estonian giant over the tawara. Baruto's knees bent alarmingly as he tried desperately to stay in, but he looked OK as he trudged disconsolately down the hanamichi after the bout. Baruto simply has to learn to keep his stance low...that's his main problem. Tamanoshima still has a tiny chance at yusho (ha ha) at 11-2 and may well net a special prize if he gets 12 or 13 wins. Baruto can't seem to reach that kachi-koshi and falls to 7-6.

Now what the hell is M5 Futenoh doing with more losses than wins? His sumo hasn't been all that bad. He really frustrates me – has solid technique but just can't seem to get the job done. However, he was clearly the superior rikishi today as he controlled his bout with M7 Toyonoshima and forced him out handily to keep his kachi-koshi chances alive at 6-7. Toyonoshima waits another day at 7-6.

M12 Tochinonada has always had trouble with M6 Dejima and today was no different as Dejima came out like a Nozomi Shinkansen and didn't give Tochinonada any chance of getting out of the way. Typical sumo from the former Ozeki and it helps him to 7-6. Tochinonada must be getting tired at this stage but will be content with his 8-5 record. Dejima was limping a bit after the bout. It will be cruel if he is forced to pull out one win short of a kachi-koshi, especially if his pet ferret dies on the same day.

M15 Tochinohana has stuttered somewhat after a great start, but M7 Aminishiki has been a pleasure to watch throughout. Today's bout was a scrappy affair as neither rikishi managed to get a decent hold but Tochinohana showed determination to keep low and focused to eventually force Aminishiki out. There was a little confusion as to the technique and it took a mono-ii to establish that Aminishiki's foot slipped out a little earlier in the bout...but who cares, eh? Both men stand at 8-5.

In a battle between two rikishi who have had a fine basho and already have those precious kachi-koshi in the bag, M8 Tokitenku (9-4) led in with a quick (but ineffective) harite, then simply did his tried and tested trick – let M13 Takekaze (8-5) come at him like a bull and move out of the way while slapping him down to the clay. Easy.

M12 Tamakasuga has been having a fantastic basho and I think we can safely say a special prize is on the cards. M14 Homasho has also been impressive following his make-koshi debut in May. He's a funny-looking fella as well, isn't he? Today's bout was scrappy as it so often is with Tamakasuga, and it was Homasho who turned it round just as it looked like he was going to be overpowered, with a deft little dodge and flick. Tamakasuga should still be OK for a prize at 10-3 but one more will put the icing on the cake. Homasho gets his deserved kachi-koshi. Well done that man.

And there we have it. Some good sumo today. The yusho is almost certainly decided, unless the injured Chiyotaikai can pull off the mother, father and great uncle of all upsets tomorrow. The only thing left this basho is the mouth-watering clash of the titans on senshuraku. At least there will be something (zensho yusho versus possible Yokozuna promotion) to fight for. Mike hawks his dodgy wares tomorrow for you beware!

Oh, and before I go, here are my picks for sansho:

Shukun-sho: Nobody

Kanto-sho: Kisenosato (if he gets eight), Tamakasuga

Gino-sho: Nobody

Tamanoshima might get something if he picks up 12 or 13, probably the Kanto-sho.

 

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Is it me or was this one of the most boring days of sumo we've ever witnessed? It's not that the basho has been terrible; it hasn't. This second week has been quite entertaining, but today it just seemed as if we couldn't get a single bout in the last hour where both rikishi were either healthy, on top of their game, or gave a damn. Those three hours of church waiting for me on Sunday can't come soon enough. At one point it got so bad that I caught myself sneaking peeks at NHK's educational channel. Who knew that Japan's forests were such fascinating habitats?! We'll, as long as we're in this together, let's review day 12, shall we?

I was somewhat surprised as I checked the news wires this morning that neither Ozeki Tochiazuma nor Ozeki Chiyotaikai had withdrawn from the tournament. Both rikishi hurt their left knees in their bouts yesterday and had trouble even limping back to the dressing rooms on their own power, but they both sucked it up and participated in the day 12 festivities. With Chiyotaikai's loss yesterday putting him two back of the Yokozuna and Tochiazuma's third straight loss putting him out of contention all together, the focus now shifts squarely on Yokozuna Asashoryu and Ozeki Hakuho. When Asashoryu maintains a two-bout lead heading into the final four days, it's all but a law that he will capture the yusho, but Hakuho still has plenty to fight for. Regardless of the yusho, Hakuho can stake his claim to the Yokozuna rank with a 4-0 finish, a task that includes three bouts where the Ozeki is the heavy favorite, and one bout against the Yokozuna. There's still plenty to keep our eyes on regardless of the yusho firmly in the grubby clutches of the Yokozuna's claws, so let's yawn our way to the action.

Yokozuna Asashoryu faced Kotooshu, a rikishi who has enjoyed moderate results against the king the past year, and a rikishi who could have applied some pressure to Asashoryu's right arm. Kotooshu opted, however, to come in extremely low at the tachi-ai, a circumstance that prompted Asashoryu to try a quick pull down of his opponent. The move failed, but Kotooshu was in no position to counter with his eyes starring at the sand, so with the Bulgarian stumbling forward slightly, Asashoryu next sliced his left arm deep on Kotooshu's right side and forcefully executed a scoop throw that flipped Kotooshu clear over and onto his back. I really thought Kotooshu should have tried to force today's bout to the belt considering the past success he's had against the Yokozuna when fighting from the mawashi, but today's tachi-ai was a signal to me that Kotooshu has lost the confidence in his sumo that he enjoyed 4 or 5 basho ago. You've got to fight to your strengths, especially when your opponent is the Yokozuna and more importantly when your kachi-koshi is still in question. Kotooshu looked lost on the dohyo today and falls to 6-6 because of it. Asashoryu cruises to 12-0 and has only Kaio and Chiyotaikai left to smite before it's official.

In the Ozeki ranks, Chiyotaikai was useless today against Sekiwake Kotomitsuki much to the delight of the partial Nagoya crowd. This was really a suicide mission as Chiyotaikai charged high with no intention of mounting an offensive attack. Kotomitsuki greeted the effort with an easy moro-zashi grip that he used to force Chiyo back and out as if he was fighting a Jonidan rikishi. Chiyotaikai was grimacing before he was even halfway to the tawara revealing what we already knew...that his left leg was useless. Kotomitsuki waltzes to his kachi-koshi at 8-4 while Chiyotaikai is officially out of the yusho race at 9-3. Should he accept his mission to fight tomorrow, he'll get none other than Hakuho. Talk about a lose-lose scenario.

Moving on, Kaio did it. He has now guaranteed himself the Ozeki rank for the rest of the year. In a very uneventful match--he was fighting M2 Kyokutenho remember--Kaio pressed the action well from the tachi-ai leaning on his opponent despite the lack of a belt grip. Kyokutenho grabbed the right outer grip first, but Kaio used his left arm well to neutralize that, and as the Ozeki nudged his opponent back step by step, he grabbed the right frontal belt grip using it to force the now fleeing Kyokutenho out across the tawara without much of a fight. This really was too easy for an Ozeki fighting on day 12, but nonetheless, Kaio moves to 8-4 with the win. You gotta take what you're given, and Kaio did just that. Kyokutenho should be ashamed at 3-9.

Prior to yesterday's action, the most anticipated bout for day 12 was the Ozeki matchup between Hakuho and Tochiazuma, but it would not live up to the hype as Tochiazuma's knee is in no shape to face his competition these last few days. Hakuho went for the usual left frontal grip from the tachi-ai while Tochiazuma reached for the outer left, but Hakuho easily read the move and used his right arm on the inside of Tochiazuma's left side to cut his "attack" off with ease. With Tochiazuma completely neutralized, Hakuho began to methodic force-out, and as Tochiazuma retreated, his lower body may as well have been a wet rag because he just wilted before he even reached the straw. It was anti-climactic, but what can you do? I applaud Tochiazuma's effort to fight today, but he should probably withdraw with eight wins in the bag beause he's a pushover at this point. Hakuho was solid as ever and wisely used a cautious charge today against his lame opponent. With the win, Hakuho moves to 10-2 and keeps the pressure on Asashoryu to win out...I guess.

You know, as much as I respect Mike and enjoy his comments, I can't believe in his day 11 report that he actually picked Baruto to beat Miyabiyama today. You can diss the long arm of the law all you want, but in the end, they will come out on top. In one of today's feature bouts, Baruto looked to grab the left frontal belt grip at the tachi-ai, but some sharp tsuppari to his neck left him standing up empty-handed. Next, the Bulgarian moved to his right ever so slightly to grab his lethal uwate, but Miyabiyama shifted too and perfectly timed a pull down at the back of Baruto's head with the left hand while pulling down simultaneously on Baruto's left arm with his right. It wasn't that exciting and it certainly lacked the electricity this matchup produced last basho, but it was nice to see the Sheriff pull off the veteran move and of course...restore order to the dohyo. Both rikishi still need a win for that elusive kachi-koshi at 7-5. Miyabiyama should cuff and stuff Tochiazuma tomorrow while Baruto must halt Tamanoshima's momentum.

Don't look now but Komusubi Kisenosato is 6-6. Today against M2 Hakurozan, the two hooked up quickly in the hidari-yotsu position with each rikishi enjoying right outer grips. From the looks of him, I suspect that Hakurozan is the stronger of the two rikishi physically, but Kisenosato's technique is clearly superior, so he used a good low stance to drive his opponent back to the tawara with ease. Hakurozan dug in a bit and went for that counter kote-nage throw, but here is where Kisenosato has made the biggest improvement the last year. In the past, the move frequently burned him, but the Kid seemed to know it was coming and kept his body squarely in front of his opponent forcing Hakurozan (2-10) back and out brilliantly at the straw.

M3 Roho was nails in his return yesterday, but the struggling Kotoshogiku probably had something to do with it. Today against M1 Kyokushuzan the repentant one looked to shine again. After about 5 seconds of thinking of a plan at the starting lines, Shu finally came with the predictable moro-te tachi-ai, but it was as weak as the North Korean economy, and Roho took full advantage lifting Kyokushzuan upwards with a slap to his arms and pushing him out in ridiculously easy fashion. Roho rights the ship at 6-6, but looks to be tested tomorrow against Ozeki Kotooshu. Shu falls to 1-11.

As bad as M1 Kotoshogiku's (2-10) record looked coming in, the youngster has showed good effort, and today, he took full advantage of M3 Kakizoe's (3-9) bum leg hitting hard at the tachi-ai and driving his opponent back and out in two uneventful seconds. There's nothing more to say.

M4 Ama finally showed a flash of brilliance this basho with a perfect tachi-ai against M8 Takamisakari that saw the Mongolian drive his hand right into the Robocop's neck and quickly drive him back. The only problem was Takamisakari hadn't put both of his fists to the dirt, so it didn't count. That's Ama's basho in a nutshell. As the two lined back up and charged for real, Ama looked to be in control again, but Takamisakari reached a tentacle over the top of Ama's belt and latched on, and as Ama went for the quick yori-kiri, Takamisakari executed the damnedest tsuri-dashi/utchari looking counter move I've ever seen hoisting Ama over the tawara for the crowd-pleasing win. It's a wonder that Takamisakari's vertebrae aren't as goofy as his eyesight because he was in no position to pull that sort of move off. Incredible. The Cop moves to 5-7 with the win and was seen afterwards heading for an audition to play the Tin-Man in a local production of the Wizard of Oz. Ama continues to circle the drain at 3-9.

M5 Kokkai looked fantastic...and in synch...for the first five seconds of his bout against M10 Tamanoshima slinging those tsuppari one after the other into Tamanoshima's neck and upper torso. Unfortunately, Kokkai lost confidence in his attack and attempted to shift gears suddenly going for another quick and dirty pulldown. Tamanoshima had to know the move was coming, and when it did, he pasted Kokkai back and out in a flash. Tamanoshima improves to 10-2 with the win and is technically still on the leaderboard, but he's in Kantosho space, not yusho territory. Kokkai falls to 8-4, and it was really too bad to see him abandon his tsuppari attack. It was the best I've seen from him this basho...too bad it only lasted for five seconds.

M5 Futenoh has been lost this basho like a pretty girl in the Nagoya crowd, and today was no different as M8 Tokitenku used a stiff left arm straight into Futenoh's neck keeping him upright and completely away from any sort of offensive maneuver. About 5 seconds in, Futenoh looked to stave off the straight arm to this throat, but Tokitenku was just too sharp and too relentless in his attack. After some out of control pull-down attempts from both rikishi, Tokitenku stood Futenoh upright yet again with a left paw to the throat that had Futenoh standing up awkwardly to where Tokitenku snuck in a right swipe at his leg felling him for the suso-harai win. Tokitenku clinches kachi-koshi with the effort while Futenoh falls to a dangerous 5-7.

M10 Iwakiyama looked a helluva lot like Dejima today as he attacked with his head low and went for the all or nothing three-second force-out attempt. The key was his winning tachi-ai against coincidentally enough, M6 Dejima, who was no match for Iwakiyama's girth especially after he got his left arm deep on the inside and stood Dejima straight up as he pushed him back. Dejima's kubi-nage attempt at the tawara failed giving Mount Iwaki the nifty win. Both rikishi stand at 6-6.

M12 Tamakasuga did his best Tochiazuma impression today against M7 Aminishiki completely handcuffing him from the tachi-ai and refusing a sniff of his belt. Tamakasuga kept his head low and arms in tight, and after about 5 seconds, Aminishiki bit going for the pull-down. Tamakasuga was right on top of the move and had Ami pushed out in a flash. It's unfortunate that Tamakasuga can't get more handsome with each win, but he is soaring to the tune of a 10-2 record. Kantosho anybody? Aminishiki falls to 8-4 but who cares, right?

M7 Hokutoriki opened with a solid tsuki attack focused on M9 Tosanoumi's neck from the tachi-ai and persisted with the choke hold until the M9 was pushed out across the tawara with ease. There was nothing that Tosanoumi could do here as he falls to 4-8. Great stuff from Hokutoriki who shares the same record.

M15 Buyuzan needs to be debugged in the worst way. Today against Yoshikaze he came out with a thrusting attack completely over his opponent's head. M9 Yoshikaze waltzed into the inside position and pushed Buyuzan down and out without breaking a sweat. This was sloppy sloppy stuff from Buyuzan, so no wonder he's 2-10.

What turned out to be the best bout of the day was the M14 Homasho - M11 Kasugao matchup. Homasho held up ever so slightly at the tachi-ai to allow Kasugao to walk into a left uwate, but the Makuuchi sophomore could not budge the Korean more than a meter for fear that Kasugao would grab a right grip of his own. As the two rikishi jockeyed for position, it was clear that Homasho held the better grip but that he wasn't strong enough to take advantage of it. After nearly three minutes of chikara-zumo, Kasugao finally managed a right uwate, which spelled disaster for Homasho, so with his feet against the tawara, Homasho managed to slip into a moro-zashi grip, but he was completely gassed and held the dual belt grip on the inside more to keep himself standing than to execute an offensive move. At about three and a half minutes into the bout, Kasugao finally made his move driving Homasho to the tawara and throwing him over just slightly before Homasho was able to fell Kasugao with a scoop throw. This was a great bout, but really, Kasugao should have finished this thing off in the first 30 seconds. I didn't see much effort from the Korean to grab that left uwate, but he survives at 5-7. Homasho falls to 7-5.

M13 Jumonji grabbed a quick right uwate from the tachi-ai and really had M12 Tochinonada handcuffed at first, but he just stood there as he's done this whole basho and waited for Tochinonada to work his way deeper inside to the point where he completely neutralized Jumonji's outer grip. As the boring stalemate ensued with Jumonji looking as if he could care less if he won, Tochinonada eventually just slapped him down for the gift win. Jumonji's sumo has been awful the last few days, and I'm frankly dumbfounded that he has even six wins at this point. Nada clinches kachi-koshi at 8-4.

And finally, M13 Takekaze secured the quick moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M15 Tochinohana and as the latter tried to evade around the ring, Takekaze dumped him with a scoop throw. Way to halt your own momentum yesterday with that tachi-ai henka Mr. Hana. Takekaze has shown great fight spirit of late as he clinches kachi-koshi. Tochinohana falls to 7-5, and what's even better, the three rikishi who went for the tachi-ai henka yesterday were all defeated soundly today. Now that's karma if I've ever heard of it.

So there's three days left, and not much drama waiting in the wings thanks to two lame duck Ozeki and two other Ozeki who don't exactly strike fear into their opponents these days. How fast the excitement can change thanks to a coupla injuries. I guess it's just grin and bear it until the grand poobah on senshuraku when Hakuho faces Asashoryu. Simon takes the free kick tomorrow. Let's just hope the rikishi cooperate and don't dial it in as many of them did today. See you on Saturday.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Penn has Teller, Batman has Robin, Boy George had the drummer in Culture Club, and like Miyabiyama, I have this big old bump on my right shoulder named Clancy, who will add the color commentary to my day 11 report. Eject now if you know what's good for you.

Mike: When was the last time we had a basho where two Ozeki fought each other as soon as day 9? When that happens as it did this basho, it's a safe bet that the sumo all throughout week 2 will be good. Then you throw Baruto in the mix, and that just adds one more element to this second week because he fits right in when it comes to the final few bouts of each day. I applaud the Sumo Association's decision to hold him back from fighting the Ozeki and sanyaku until week two because it adds yet one more bout near the end of each day that pits two of the best going chest to chest.

Clancy: I agree, Mike. They were on their toes with that decision. And despite the fact that Baruto's record has taken the plunge, they are sticking with him because they know HE is the rikishi we want to see fight the sanyaku honchos, not Tamakasuga.

Mike: I mean, how great was that bout between Baruto and Kotooshu on Monday where both rikishi stubbornly held onto each other's belts even though they were both out of the ring causing them to crash to the sunakaburi? And then yesterday...when Hakuho had his second go-around against the Estonian. Hakuho's promotion to Yokozuna is very questionable this basho, but he is the only rikishi on the banzuke who can beat Baruto in the fashion he did yesterday (from the gappuri yotsu position).

Clancy: That Monday bout was fantastic. Baruto made a bold decision not to hang in there and sweat it out like Kyokutenho or Kotomitsuki will do. He got that deeper belt grip and made his move. Kotooshu was a few mere heel from turning that around and flinging the Estonian out. Their next meeting (hell, their next twenty meetings, ought to be Standing Room Only. As for gappuri yotsu, I have to think Asa, too, could pull it off until proved otherwise, although it would be much more of a stretch for him.

Mike: Well, Clancy, since you are woefully uninformed about sumo history, I'll tell you that the answer to my lead-in question is the 2002 Aki basho, easily the best basho of this decade. You'll recall that was when Yokozuna Takanohana made his return to the sport after sitting out 7 basho and nearly took the yusho. Asashoryu was a new Ozeki and jumped out to 8 straight wins for the second tournament in a row, and Chiyotaikai was up for Yokozuna promotion after winning the Nagoya basho. And that's not even mentioning the eventual yusho winner, Musashimaru.

Clancy: Wasn't The Musashimaru some sort of boat?

Mike: It was all good then, and I believe this basho is a harbinger of good things to come in the very short term. With all the major players healthy as they were this basho coming into day 11, the sumo is guaranteed to be solid. Add to that the return of Roho to the dohyo and there's plenty to talk about. Let's get right to it with the caveat that we are commenting on every Makuuchi bout today, so if you're driving after reading this or operating heavy machinery, don't stay 'till the end.

Clancy the Builder: Can we fix it? Yes, we can!

Mike: Uh...right! Yokozuna Asashoryu will fight the five Ozeki the final five days of the tournament, so up first was Tochiazuma, who came with a brilliant attack at the tachi-ai with a head butt into the Yokozuna's jaw and a pesky attack that just dared Asashoryu to go for the right outer grip. The Yokozuna accepted the challenge and latched onto the Ozeki's belt with a right outer, and then probably had the Ozeki thinking twice as he quickly lifted up his opponent with the left arm denying Tochiazuma a right outer of his own. At this point, the Yokozuna spun Tochiazuma around and back towards the tawara, but in the process, Tochiazuma managed that right outer grip and the gappuri hidari-yotsu contest was on. The problem for Azuma, however, was that his back was closest to the tawara while Asashoryu was standing closer to the center of the ring. The Yokozuna wasted no time lifting up on Tochiazuma's belt as he used his left thigh to help drive the Ozeki back to the straw. Asashoryu simply will not be denied this basho, and as he had Tochiazuma back against the straw, he willed him up, over, and off the dohyo for the powerful yori-kiri win. As Tochiazuma fell of the dohyo, he bumped his left knee right on the corner of the structure causing him to slump over in pain and limp back down the hanamichi with some light assistance. Don't be surprised if Tochiazuma withdraws, this time with a legitimate knee injury. It's really a shame that this bout ended with an injury to Tochiazuma because I thought the most important part of Hakuho's run for Yokozuna was to see how he would handle his Ozeki nemesis. The two are scheduled to butt heads tomorrow, but I'd be surprised if Tochiazuma is even able to go. The last thing Hakuho needs after dropping two uncharacteristic bouts is a cakewalk heading into senshuraku. After a terrific start, Tochiazuma has dropped his last three bouts and is out of the hunt. Asa stays perfect moving to 11-0, but isn't it strange that I hesitate to call the yusho for him?

Clancy: I'm not sure why, Mike, but yes it is. Maybe you think that Kaio or Chiyotaikai (if he comes back form his phantom injury) will do harm to his yusho hopes? Or perhaps you see Kotooshu doing the same kind of sumo to Asa that he did to Kaio on Day 8? I don't see Asa losing once from here on in, not even to Hakuho, so why the hesitation?

Mike: That's because Hakuho is a legitimate threat to the Yokozuna and will be for the rest of their careers. The best chess match of day 11 featured said Hakuho going up against Kotooshu, a pair that I think provides one of the best matchups in sumo right now. Hakuho led hard with the right shoulder while reaching around Kotooshu to grab the left uwate. Hakuho's speed prevailed at the initial charge as he was able to grab that outer grip and turn his hips away just enough to deny Kotooshu a left grip of his own. The Bulgarian dug in, however, with a nice right inner grip, but Kotooshu seemed too content to wait for his opponent to make the first move. As the rikishi came to this stalemate in the center of the ring, Hakuho ensured that he had every fold of Kotooshu's belt, but it was Kotooshu who made the surprise charge going for a maki-kae that actually worked giving him two inner grips, but Hakuho refused to let Kotooshu lower his stance and powerfully drove his fellow Ozeki back to the straw and down. In the process of the yori-taoshi win, it looked as though Hakuho's right foot may have stepped out before Kotooshu hit the dirt, but Hakuho completely had his opponent smothered to the point where Kotooshu could not employ any tactic to beat his opponent, so no mono-ii was called. I think it was the right move because Hakuho was the winner all the way. Watching the replays, it looked to me as if Hakuho's foot and Kotooshu's butt hit at the same time, but once again, a judges conference was unnecessary as Hakuho was in complete control. Hakuho moves to 9-2 and is the only threat to catch the Yokozuna from behind, but even that is a long shot. Oshu falls to another 6-5 mark late in the basho.

Clancy: Great sumo by Hakuho, I agree. His timing is second only to the Yokozuna's. While that was a nifty maki-kae, Hakuho took full advantage immediately. True, also, that Kotooshu had nowhere to go, but this is one of those points that you and I (and Simon, I believe) disagree on. Which wrestler is fighting the better fight, showing more gumption or being more aggressive is just too vague a criterion, left open to biased interpretation. The loser should be the one who touches first. Period. And that was Hakuho (I have a nice VCR and could freeze and see it clearly). Furthermore, Kotooshu used his awesome strength to force Hakuho to have to push him down and back, holding off the massive Mongolian with what must be incredibly strong lower back muscles until Hakuho stepped out first. Tell me why that sort of effort by Kotooshu should not be rewarded with at least a mono-ii, if not a reversal? As a comparison, the Yokozuna defeated Tochiazuma in much the same fashion the very next bout, but if you go back and look, while he was pushing the Ozeki out, Asa was being very careful to avoid stepping out as he did. That's part of sumo. You can't say, I kicked his butt all the way to the edge, he had nowhere to go, and just because I stepped out first I still won! Not in my sumo book, anyway.

Mike: Yes you can say that and precedent has shown time and time again that the one who touches first does not necessary lose when it occurs at the ring's edge. One more outburst like that, and I'll go in for surgery to have you removed. Coming into the day, I would have said that I was really enjoying watching the upper-echelon rikishi plan their attacks against Baruto, but that all went out the window today in the Estonian's bout with Ozeki Chiyotaikai. What the hell was that, Baruto? That was the most classless, cowardly, girly sumo I've ever seen. You cannot ruin the yusho arasoi because you're afraid to take a few shots from an aging Ozeki. Baruto was so punk-ass today it made me sick. Chiyotaikai charged hard from the tachi-ai with the tsuppari cocked and ready, but Baruto jumped to his left employing an ugly, ugly tachi-ai henka. As Chiyo lunged into mid-air and tried to stop his momentum, he injured his knee in the process and had no choice but to give up on the bout. Baruto carefully pushed his opponent out from behind, but it was too late...the damage was done. The M4 stood over Chiyotaikai concerned, and if I was Chiyotaikai, I would given the wuss a sharp elbow in ribs. It's just one more argument against the henka. The rikishi are not built to counter it. Chiyotaikai goes from yusho contender to injured reserve just because of a gutless act. How is that fair, and how does that even arouse you people who favor the henka? Today's bout was everything that is wrong with chickenshit, gimmick sumo, and shame on anyone who likes what Baruto did today. I really appreciated Fujii announcer's interview afterwards because he pinned Baruto down with some great questions not the least of which was "you're so much bigger than he is, why couldn't you absorb his tachi-ai?" Damn right. Baruto's sheepish answer was that his lower back hurt and he was tired from facing the Ozeki the last few days. Boo-freakin-hoo. Apology not accepted. Take your undeserved 7-4 record and buy a few dresses with it tonight. Chiyotaikai falls to 9-2 and may be out of the basho now altogether. Thanks for nothing, Baruto.

Clancy: Mike, you're scary but also oddly charismatic when you get all fired up. Yes, I, too, loathe the henka like I loathe natto, but cannot find it in me to get too riled up when what goes around, comes around. You said Chiyo could "officially go to hell" for sidestepping Miyabiyama, so why get so angry when he is henka'd by someone appearing in only his SECOND makuuchi tourney? After all, the great (but then beginner) Hakuho henka'd Hokutoriki!! of all people to give Asa the yusho two years ago. Yes, it is always disappointing when someone runs at the tachi-ai, but it felt REALLY good to me to see poor little Chiyo tasting his own meds.

Let me just toss this bone out there to chew on. This may be payback for the whole Roho thing. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Roho's anger came from the slight sidestep Chiyo did to him the day after he sodomized the Sheriff (ain't that a song?
 ♪I sodomized the Sheriff, but I did not touch his deputy♪ ), something else that Roho and maybe a bunch of rikishi were perhaps angry about. After all, we know that the European Kotooshu feels okay publicly blasting the henka move by his foes. And it is likely that Baruto and Roho are friendly, check the map of the former U.S.S.R. Different heya or not, I wouldn't be surprised to find that most of the European wrestlers are united in their feelings about many things here in Nippon. Something tells me that The Wolf's Pup is probably not the most liked guy by non-Japanese rikishi. So Baruto may have been dishing out a little comeuppance. You hit our slugger, we'll hit yours.

Mike: I disagree that it was payback. Although incorrect, Baruto felt he was henka'd by Hakurozan on day 4, so why would he return the favor to Hakurozan's brother? But, moving right along, I have to hand it to Kaio for his great win over Tochiazuma yesterday. Tochiazuma is clearly the better fighter of the two at this point in their careers, but Kaio showed yesterday just how powerful he can be with a good tachi-ai that gives him the right uwate. Today, against Sekiwake Kotomitsuki, Kaio lost the tachi-ai and gave up the quick right outer grip in the process. Kotomitsuki also wisely kept the pressure on Kaio's right side by wrenching the Ozeki's body upwards and giving him no chance for his coveted migi-uwate. The two rikishi were at a stalemate for about 10 seconds in the center of the ring, which isn't rare these days for Mitsuki, but once he set his mind to charge, he was able to force Kaio back and out with ease. Kotomitsuki has picked up some good steam these last few days, but it's too little too late as far as affecting the yusho race. Up next is Chiyotaikai tomorrow, but a fusensho win for Hit and Mitsuki is likely. Kaio falls to 7-4, but still has four shots of getting that last win. Kotomitsuki shares the same record.

Sekiwake Miyabiyama really needed a win yesterday against Asashoryu. With as many losses as he piled up the first 10 days, he could only keep his Ozeki hopes alive with some huge wins in week two. His win over Hakuho was big on paper, but the pull-down technique sort of nullified things in my mind. Today, the Sekiwake would get M2 Hakurozan, and he responded well. Hakurozan actually delivered a good tachi-ai that handcuffed the Sheriff from getting off any tsuppari initially, but the lack of a belt grip from Hakurozan gave Miyabiyama some breathing room, and once he managed that first lumbering thrust, he had Hakurozan pushed back and out in seconds. It was a good win today, but I'm afraid we've hardly seen Ozeki sumo this basho from Miyabiyama. Tomorrow's bout against Baruto should be very interesting. Last basho, Miyabiyama had all the momentum and won largely on adrenaline. This basho is different, so we'll see if he can handle Baruto on day 12. I say he doesn't, but god willing the Sheriff will restore order and put Baruto back in his place. Hakurozan slips to 2-9.

Clancy: I agree, no Ozeki sumo this basho from The Sheriff, and I'm afraid that no god will be willing, and tomorrow it will be Miyabijabba vs Chewbaruto, with the rebel Wookie winning by uwatenage.

Mike: Komusubi Kisenosato came with some fire at the tachi-ai today with a fierce moro-te tachi-ai that nearly had M2 Kyokutenho tripping over himself at the get-go. Tenho regained his footing and actually looked to mount a charge, but Kisenosato never relented with the tsuppari attack driving Kyokutenho back to the corner of the dohyo where the Mongolian just flat out gave up the last two steps. I applaud Kisenosato for sticking to his initial plan, and I have a virtual nigiri-pe to deliver to Kyokutenho for his (lack of) effort today. That give-up at the end was embarrassing, Tenho, but fortunately for you, you were outdone by a fellow countryman who I'll comment on in a bit. Kisenosato improves to 5-6 and still has a great shot at kachi-koshi. Tenho officially sucks eggs at 3-8.

Clancy: Fried or sunnyside up?

Mike: I thought it was very interesting when Roho walked into the arena today preceding his bout. It's just telling of the Japanese culture where they all had their various thoughts on what had transpired the last few days, but they kept it to themselves. In America, the crowd reaction would have been boos with a few cheers. After watching the World Cup, I think it's safe to say that the European reaction would have been jeering whistles, but the Japanese? Silence. I dare say, however, that M3 Roho came back with a vengeance today against M1 Kotoshogiku. Roho held up ever so slightly at the tachi-ai in a move I believe was aimed to have Kotoshogiku walk into a belt grip. Kotoshogiku complied and charged right into a Roho left outer grip where the Russian planted his foot and threw Kotoshogiku over to the dirt emphatically. Roho moves to 5-6 now with the good win and should kachi-koshi as all of the heavy-hitters are busy now facing each other. The Geeku falls to 1-10.

Clancy: Yes, but I have been here long enough to read the faces without need of sound. Some of the fans were looking at him like he had rickets, some as if he was going to snatch their baby, and others like he should have committed ritual suicide rather than return. But there were a few that applauded his strong win (albeit over a 1-9 rikishii in free fall). Maybe they hate Chiyotaikai, too.

Mike: Joining Kotoshogiku with the same sorry record was M1 Kyokushuzan, who stood straight up at the tachi-ai against M4 Ama and didn't even go for the moro-te. Talk about a bump on a log. Ama wasted no time and pushed Kyokushuzan back and out so fast that I don't think he could have had an easier time with a blow-up doll. What is Kyokushuzan doing? He handed that win to Ama today plain and simple. I'm guessing that shoes-on has this sneaky agenda where he's doing people favors by handing out the wins, but what's really happening is he's inflating the sport. George has been in Kyokushuzan's corner the last few basho and wants us other contributors to be nice to him, but I don't see how that's possible. I'll be nice to Kotoshogiku despite his 1-10 mark because I respect him and I think he's giving it his all. Kyokushuzan, however, is a clown whose first priority is not to win every bout he participates in. Ama moves to 3-8.

Clancy: Yeah, he seemed to be waiting for the gyoji to stop the bout (Hey, I had three more matta planned here!)

Mike: One of the surprisingly entertaining bouts of the day was ruined in the end as both rikishi abandoned their fierce tsuppari attacks in favor of stupid pull down attempts that didn't work. But I suppose that M7 Hokutoriki and M3 Kakizoe gave us as good a bout as we could have asked from them. Kakizoe was winning the tsuppari war from the tachi-ai, which was acknowledged by Hokutoriki's abandonment of an offensive attack and quick retreat pulling as he went. Kakizoe had Hokurotiki dancing along the tawara and really should have finished him off at this point, but when he didn't have Hokutoriki pushed out straightway, he went for a pulldown that Hokutoriki read and used to push Kakizoe back across the entire length of the dohyo and out. The finish was close as Kakizoe went for that last ditch pull down where the rikishi steps to his side at the straw, but gunbai to Hokutoriki. A mono-ii was called with the ruling upheld, but for those who watched the live NHK feed today, did it not look as if Kakizoe had a handful of Hokutoriki's top-knot? That would have been interesting...a rikishi winning by hansoku (disqualification) the day after he lost in the same way. Both rikishi are now 3-8.

Clancy: Kakizoe, what were you thinking? It's the Jokester. Just keep slapping, baby!
  Like the ineffable late Johnny Cochran (may he rest in peace) would say, "If he's in front, you must be blunt!"

Mike: As much as I like M5 Futenoh, what's he doing losing to M9 Tosanoumi as he did today? I'll give Tosanoumi credit...he delivered his usual sound tachi-ai complete with an excellent grunt that Futenoh could only answer with a meek pulldown attempt. Tosanoumi (4-7) took over from there easily pushing Futenoh back and out for the easy win. Futenoh as 5-6 from this rank? Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Clancy: As Bernie might say, He was too mik-an!

Mike: M5 Kokkai came hard from the tachi-ai with his usual tsuppari, but he wasn't driving with his lower body. The result was a Kasugao who wasn't being driven back, but the Kokkai thrusts were enough to keep Kasugao upright and flailing for any sort of position. When Kokkai did finally move forward, it was to execute a nasty pull-down that earned him the victory...and I mean good nasty. Congrats on the kachi-koshi as Kokkai moves to 8-3 while Kasugao flounders at 4-7.

Clancy: You said it, Cap'n. That was as emphatic a hatakikomi as one may ever see. It was like, Prostrate thy form before me, for I am Kokkai the White!

Mike: It's always funny when you see low Maegashira rikishi on the leaderboard mid-week two especially when one of those is M12 Tamakasuga. I've actually enjoyed seeing Tamakasuga work his thrusting magic this basho, but he has as much business on the leaderboard as I do on the cover of GQ wearing a Speedo.

Clancy: (Shudder) I'm with you on that one...

Mike: He actually charged well at the tachi-ai today, halting M6 Dejima's momentum, but he just couldn't move Dejima's girth around to the point where he had him on his heels. Dejima persisted and finally got deep on the inside where it was an easy force-out win from there. So much for Tamakasuga's yusho hopes as he falls to 9-2. Dejima jumps to 6-5.

M7 Aminishiki obviously played dress-up with Baruto in the last 24 hours as he came with a classless tachi-ai henka to his left today against M9 Yoshikaze. He does know that he's fighting the smallest guy in the division, doesn't he? It was a poorly executed move, however, and Yoshikaze actually got his left hand on Ami's belt, but what good does that do a rikishi when he has no footing or lower body stability? It does no good, as Aminishiki, who clearly premeditated the wuss charge, was able to push Yoshikaze out for the cheap win. I'll bet that feels really good, Aminishiki. Obtaining kachi-koshi with a tachi-ai henka against a small dude like Yoshikaze is like me gloating in my eight year old's face and trashtalking him after I beat him in chess. I'm not impressed. During his kachi-koshi interview, Fujii announcer said "we'd like to see you rise back up the ranks." No we wouldn't. Yoshikaze falls to 4-7.

Clancy: And Aminishiki's uncle was an Ozeki, wasn't he? I'm sure he made him proud. This is Yoshikaze's fourth basho in makuuchi.

Mike: In one of the day's ugliest bouts, M8 Tokitenku meant well at the tachi-ai by delivering some decent tsuppari, but Jumonji just seemed content with a lifeless attack holding back. In fact, Jumonji really didn't look as if he wanted to do anything, so as he floundered without a belt grip and no intention of a tsuppari attack, Tokitenku just pulled his sorry ass to the dirt. How about a little effort this basho, Jumonji? I can't believe this guy has managed a 6-5 record. Tokitenku is a smooth 7-4.

Clancy: Smooth, perhaps, but let's not forget HOW he won on Day 10.

Mike: M8 Takamisakari fought off the inevitable today by surviving a pretty good left paw to the throat from M14 Toyozakura (2-9) at the tachi-ai and slipping to his left securing the right uwate. The Robocop quickly forced Toyozakura back to the tawara, but little Zak would not go easy. Toyozakura survived the initial offensive from his opponent, and actually looked to have Takamisakari in some trouble, but Takamisakari never relinquished that right outer grip and finally used it to wear his opponent down and across the straw. Takamisakari should be concerned, however, that he could not finish off one of the weakest belt fighters in the division without a big struggle as he moves to 4-7.

Joining Tamakasuga heading into the day trailing Asashoryu by just one loss at 9-1 was M10 Tamanoshima, who looked to keep his hot streak alive against M15 Tochinohana, but the latter welcomed his opponent with a nasty tachi-ai henka to his left.

Clancy: Thank you, sir, may I have another?

Mike: Tochinohana wasn't able to pull Tamanoshima down straightway, but Tamanoshima (9-2) was in no position to do anything after running forward into thin air a few steps, so it was an easy pushout from there for Tochinogirly.

Clancy: Tochinohanakuso, the snot nosed girlyman!

Mike: Like Chiyotaikai, Tamanoshima came up injured thanks to the henka, and like Chiyotaikai, Tamanoshima's yusho hopes vanished thanks to some cowardly sumo. Look, Chiyotaikai and Tamanoshima hardly had a chance to overcome Asashoryu for the yusho, but both of them deserved the chance to prove themselves in the ring. Not only were they denied that chance today, but they both came up injured as a result. The tachi-ai henka has no place in this sport, and that is indisputable. The flower moves to 7-4 but a nice 0-4 finish would make me happy.

Clancy: Here, here.

Mike: M10 Iwakiyama lost his bout today from the tachi-ai when he opted for a shenanigan at the initial charge today against M14 Homasho. Iwaki backed up a few steps behind the starting lines, and as he charged, Homasho wisely hit his opponent straight up and then stepped to the side letting Iwakiyama's forward momentum carry himself towards the tawara. Iwakiyama managed to hit the brakes in time and turn back around facing the center of the ring, but Homasho was right there with the morozashi grip that he used to push Iwakiyama back across the tarawa with little trouble. Iwakiyama out-smarted himself today in my opinion as he falls now to 5-6. Homasho is one step away from his first ever Makuuchi kachi-koshi at 7-4.

Clancy: Never thought I'd hear the words "Iwakiyama" and "outsmart" in the same sentence. What happened to the Mount Iwaki, Iwonkeykong, many people's odds on to be the next long serving Sekiwake or even Ozeki just two years ago? Oh, sumo, you fickle bitch.

M16 Kitazakura sealed his make-koshi fate today failing to provide any pop at the tachi-ai against the much smaller M11 Toyonoshima. Toyonoshima looked to get deep on the inside from the start and performed a nifty maki-kae move mid-bout to get his wish. With Kitazakura looking as if he only wanted to survive instead of mount some sort of counter attack, Toyonoshima (6-5) twisted the duck over and rolled him off the dohyo altogether.

M12 Tochinonada had the chance to clinch kachi-koshi today with his eighth straight win, and all he needed to do was beat M13 Takekaze, a rikishi he led 4-0 in head to head competition coming in, but Takekaze just kicked Nada's fanny at the tachi-ai...

Clancy: ...kicked it good and hard...

Mike: ...standing him straight up, using a good right otsuke (push to the side) to throw Tochinonada off balance toward the tawara, and then some quick pushes to make it official. Both rikishi stand at 7-3, and we'll see if the man of streaks, Tochinonada, will suffer from Takamisakari-itis down the stretch as he tries to pick up that elusive eighth win.

Clancy: No kidding. I recall Tochinonada once losing his first four and then winning his last 11 bouts about five years ago. This guy should be sitting front seat, Center Court, Wimbledon.

Mike: M15 Buyuzan really is hapless this basho, and I say that with all due respect. Actually, the dude seems to have a bum right knee, which was heavily taped. He delivered a fantastic morote tachi-ai today against J2 Tochisakae (pronounced Tochi-sockeye if you broadcast for NHK's English feed), but despite the two hands at his opponent's neck, Buyuzan had zero drive from his lower body. The salmon easily evaded to his right and delivered sort of a slap down move that really didn't connect, but Buyuzan (2-9) just floundered forward into nothing but thin air all but walking himself across the tawara. Ugly, ugly stuff, and I'm not talking about those patches of fur glued to Buyuzan's back.

Clancy: Ouch, that hurts! Poor Buyuzan. Mike, I liked you better when you were doing all that goofy Pink Floyd riffing on Day 6.

Mike: May Syd Barrett rest in peace. There were 31 references to a Pink Floyd album, song, or lyric in my day 6 report to honor the group, and if you're one who says "Pink Floyd? Yeah, I like some of his songs" don't go back and bother finding them all. But finally, the lone Makuuchi rookie this basho, M16 Daimanazuru, gave up the quick moro-zashi position to Asofuji. Who's Asofuji you say? He's a Juryo rikishi that worked the M16 today for an easy dashi-nage win. Daimanazuru is just average for a Juryo rikishi, so I'd be surprised to see him back in the top division again. The rook is 1-10.

What a day of sumo, good and bad. Coming in there were 7 names on the leaderboard, but after day 11, we are only down to 2 and that second one is a stretch as it is. Asashoryu is in firm control at 11-0 while Hakuho is the only other rikishi with a shot at 9-2. Hakuho must hope for an Asashoryu loss the next three days, but if Hakuho slips up again before senshuraku, you can put a fork in this basho and congratulate the Yokozuna on his 18th yusho. The sensitive lover Simon alluded to yesterday reports tomorrow.

Clancy: Uh, wait a second. YOU are reporting tomorrow, Cap'n.

Day 10 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
Day ten and the Nagoya Basho has developed arms and legs (and we can even tell its gender). There's a familiar look to the leaderboard--the natural order seems to be re-asserting itself, for July at least. The Yokozuna has looked very impressive, making a total mockery of claims of any kind of injury. That bandage seems to be there for fashion reasons more than anything else. And very dapper it looks, too. But would it keep working its magic today...?

Let me keep you in suspenders for a second while I throw in my two cents on the Roho-Chiyotaikai 'controversy'. We've had a few emails to Sumotalk asking us about this; no doubt because our thousands of readers expect a balanced, measured set of opinions from the Sumotalk writers with absolutely no whiff whatsoever of overreaction! Let me first say that I have no illusions about Roho's motives for doing sumo (and neither should you), and furthermore, I'm not condemning him at all for being 'in it for the money' as it were, and let's not kid ourselves that Roho gives a damn about the ancient rituals that are part and parcel of the sport--you just have to look at that surly face of his to know that he's just going through the motions. Then, occasionally, something like the handbags-and-broken-fingernails bullshit that occurred between him and 'bad boy' Chiyotaikai comes along and we see all too clearly that he puts his own pride above the ancient customs of the sport any day of the week. He wouldn't bow to Chiyotaikai after the bout, meaning he is quite willing not to worry about little things like that as long as he gets the last word.

These kinds of altercations happen in sport--think Zidane. You forget yourself in the heat of the moment. It's all forgivable and there exists machinery to deal with such infringements. For me this is not such a big deal. The authorities rightly punished Roho for what he did and that should be the end of that, although I personally would like to have seen him kicked out for the rest of the basho to give a stronger message to any future would-be flaunters of sumo customs. Regarding the cameramen he slapped, they have the option of suing him for assault--and that's the end of that. As far as the window he broke goes, let's hope he digs into his piggy bank and pays for it. The interesting point is that he finally got passionate not for sumo reasons, but because someone made him look like an idiot in front of all those people and cameras. Thanks for making clear, Roho, exactly what it takes to get a rise from you.

But no, the most entertaining thing for me about these kinds of incidents is the reaction of the foreign fan community. As you all know, we at Sumotalk don't generally mention the customs and rituals of sumo, preferring to focus on the sumo action. Why? Because the rituals are just there...every day... yes, they are vital in giving the sport its uniqueness, but once you know what they are, they're not going to change, so what's the point of banging on about them? I'll tell you the point! There are sadly plenty of people (and writers) around who like to say things like: 'Yeah, man, I came to Japan, like, to immerse myself in a new culture, man...you know, like, to better myself.' What they are actually saying is: 'Hey, girls, did I mention that I'm a sensitive lover?' Well, we at Sumotalk are not sensitive lovers, and nor do we pretend to be. Actually--I lie--one of us here is a sensitive lover, and I will give a special prize (a kiss on the cheek) to anyone who can write in and tell me who it is. (And I'll also throw in a kiss on the lips to anyone who actually believes in their heart of hearts that I'm talking about Clancy). Back to the point--you might slag Roho off, but at least we've always pretty much known where he stands. Much as I dislike Roho for consistently wasting his talent, I'll take that every day over all those bastards who talk about 'culture'. Rant over. A special, special prize goes to anyone who knows what the hell I'm talking about!

To the action: Yokozuna Asashoryu made it ten in a row as he took Sekiwake Miyabiyama's morote attack in his stride and executed a deft pull on the right arm to pull him to the side. From that position it was a doddle to finish the hapless sheriff off. At 5-5, Miyabiyama's Ozeki run is all but dead in the water, and let's face it, he's not looked anything like the dominating rikishi that tore through fourteen lads in May.

In a fine display, Ozeki Hakuho showed Yokozuna sumo as he neutralized M4 Baruto's two-armed attack and got inside the big fella's guard to give him a harsh lesson. Baruto right-hand belt grip meant nothing as he was standing way too high, while Hakuho was in a perfect low stance AND had his favoured left uwate grip. Hakuho wasted no time then in going forward and forcing the Estonian to the clay for the yoritaoshi win. Clinical Yokozuna sumo. Damn! I can't wait for senshuraku and his bout with the Yokozuna. Regarding Baruto, a lot has been said about this guy, and a lot of bull has been spouted. At Sumotalk, many of us have consistently said that he is a very talented lad who will be a major force in the future, but he still has a hell of a lot to learn. I guarantee he learned plenty today, and it doesn't matter that he lost--this is how it goes for everyone when they come into the division. Don't believe the hype!

Two old war horses in Ozeki Tochiazuma and Ozeki Kaio met up to talk about forgotten trophies. It really was like old times for Kaio as Tochiazuma allowed him to get migi-uwate after grabbing his own left-hand inside grip. Tochiazuma should have attacked immediately but paid the price for his hesitation. There really is no excuse for this loss for Tochiazuma--it was worrying that he couldn't go forward against an old man who has been pushed back time and again this basho - but let's not take the glory away from Kaio, who won't have many chances to take scalps like this home again. Just remember, Tochiazuma is notoriously difficult to throw, so credit where credit is due. Tochiazuma falls out of contention to 8-2. Kaio is one win away from ecstasy at 7-3.

I just couldn't get excited about the all-Ozeki match-up between Chiyotaikai and Kotooshu. What do we have: a henka-ing ballet dancer and a petulant Bulgarian fighting at 70% because of injury. The wave of confidence that has carried Chiyotaikai this far was on show as he came back well from Kotooshu's initial tsuppari attack. This begs the question: what the hell was Kotooshu doing trading tsuppari with Chiyotaikai when his best chance of winning lay surely in slipping around him and grabbing the belt. It didn't make sense unless he wanted to surprise his opponent. But what difference does it make playing tactics with a rikishi who always does the same thing? A tactical error, and he paid for it as we saw Chiyotaikai getting a yorikiri win, as opposed to his usual hatakikomi, oshidashi or tsukidashi--very embarrassing for Kotooshu. Chiyotaikai remains in the big race at 9-1 (no, don't get your hopes up) and Kotooshu remains in the comfort zone at 6-4. He'll just be happy to get his eight, of course.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki (6-4) showed impressive power to overcome spirited resistance from M5 Futenoh (5-5), who gamely (and vainly) tried to wrap him up and neutralize him. There was a nice spirited final shove from Kotomitsuki to send Futenoh flying out of the dohyo. Good to see. That's passion, dear readers.

Komusubi Kisenosato continued his comeback at the expense of M1 Kotoshogiku, who had a reasonable tachiai and went forward strongly. Kisenosato will happily take the win but will wish he had not needed to step to the side at the edge to win it. All truly ambitious rikishi want to win going forward and dominating. Still, a win is a win, and Kisenosato is 4-6 with all the wrestlers from the top three ranks of sumo out of the way. He has a great chance of kachi-koshi now. Kotoshogiku lives the nightmare as he falls to 1-9, but I am in agreement with Clancy that this is all part of the learning curve for the young lad.

We had a hansoku win today as M7 Hokutoriki (2-8) was adjudged to have pulled the hair of M13 Jumonji (6-4), an illegal move in sumo. Jumonji was attacking all the way, and from the replay, Hokutoriki's foot actually went out before Jumonji touched down, so it didn't really matter anyway. And, of course, if Jokutoriki suffers, that's always a bonus. Make-koshi for him.

Yes! I love it when this happens. M8 Tokitenku pulls a cowardly henka on M12 Tochinonada and then gets turned around after failing to put the veteran over the edge. Tochi got behind the Mongolian and I was praying to all the Gods I hold dear (not that there are many, being an unholy atheist) that he would lift him up unceremoniously from the rear and throw the sneaky little cheat into the fifth row just as he deserved. Sadly, I had to make do with a contemptuous flick to the dohyo. Oh, well--another day in Nagoya, another coward. Tochinonada makes that seven in a row and goes to 7-3. Tokitenku goes to 6-4...and I'll be praying for a make-koshi for him now.

M10 Tamanoshima has been putting up the numbers as expected at this rank and today was no different as he made Korean M11 Kasugao look frankly weak as he broke off his attempt to hold the arms down and gave him a nice, contemptuous shove out of the dohyo, just as you might do to a threatening wild pig when you're on a picnic with your young cousins. Tama chan keeps himself within striking distance of Asashoryu (ahem) at 9-1. Kasugao's score reflects his sumo this basho at 4-6.

And in a battle of two lower lads doing all right for themselves, M12 Tamakasuga (9-1) got morozashi from tachiai and made swift work of M15 Tochinohana (6-4). The 34-year-old veteran is having a whale of a time and will have plenty to tell his grandchildren in a couple of years.

So Asashoryu continues his imperious run but now has to fight all the Ozeki. And the only one he might lose to is Hakuho, who is two wins off the pace. So let's call it for the Yokozuna, shall we? His closest challengers one off the pace are Chiyotaikai, Tamakasuga and Tamanoshima. I don't think Asashoryu is shaking with terror at this point.

But you never know in sumo! Mike's here tomorrow to tell you about his little 'problem'. I'll be back on Friday. Cheers.

Day 9 Comments (George Guida reporting)
After a selfish day of relaxation, gallivanting with Goofus and Gallant, it is I, George Thoroughgood, who bring surprises and shocks galore on a most interesting Day 9.

As we enter mid-summer in Japan, the gift-giving season known as chugen is upon us. And whom better to receive these gifts than Yokozuna Asashoryu, who was handed two lovely presents on a silver platter thanks to Miyabiyama and Chiyotaikai, as they both upset the two Ozeki who pose the greatest threat to Asa, Hakuho and Tochiazuma respectively. 

Did anyone think the Yokozuna (9-0) would blow an opportunity like this? Hell no. Asashoryu was up for some big game sport fishing, casting his net far and wide and catching a lovely 350-pounder by the name of Sekiwake Kotomitsuki (5-4) using, yes, the rarely seen amiuchi throw which if I remember correctly, hasn't been seen since Asashoryu last performed that move on Tosanoumi a couple of years back. Asa delivered an uncharacteristically weak left-handed harite, which keeps many of us guessing just how much he still favors his right arm. After a brief exchange of tsuppari, Asashoryu whiffed on his attempt to grab Koto's mawashi and the fans in Nagoya sensed the tide turning. Koto lunged with his left arm, grabbing hold of Asa's belt but Koto overcompensated. Asa, showing brilliant reaction time and the ability to counter from almost any conceivable attack, wrung Koto's arm like some sweat drenched oshibori and cast Koto down upon the dohyo, left to flop around like the fresh catch of the day. Elbow supporter or not, you know the Yokozuna is back in form when he unleashes the rare kimarite. Just imagine, if Asasekiryu was still healthy enough to run interference for Asashoryu the Yokozuna would probably have cinched yusho by now.

Payback is a bitch. Sekiwake Miyabiyama (5-4) avenged his yusho kettei-sen loss from Natsu and in the process, has inflicted a near mortal wound to Ozeki Hakuho's (7-2) chances of promotion to Yokozuna all in three easy steps. Step 1) Miyabiyama executes a near perfect tachi-ai, coming in at a slight angle and smothering Hakuho with that massive bulk. Step 2) Miyabiyama denies Hakuho's favored left grip. Step 3) Miyabi, in a bizarre tsuppari variation, grabs Hakuho's left cheek and ear, yanking him forward and in that one second, breaking Hakuho's concentration (Did he just rake my face?) leaving the now lunging forward and off balance Ozeki vulnerable to a Miyabiyama hataki-komi. I haven't seen that s##t-eating grin on Miyabi since he last beat Asashoryu with mind games at the shirikisen. So don't howl, and don't cry foul, for the strapping Hakuho was yanked by the jowls! Hakuho simply cannot lose another match the entire tournament if his Yokozuna hopes are to stay alive.

Hands down today's most intriguing match up was the first ever showdown between M4 Baruto (6-3) and Ozeki Kotooshu (6-3). Not only did it live up to expectations, it was the best match of the day. Koto almost immediately secures hidari-yotsu with the overhand grip while Baruto has a migi-uwate on the first layer of Koto's mawashi. Koto tries a force out from this position but Baruto snuffs it with a brief tsuri-dashi attempt, lifting Koto clear off the ground for a tantalizing second. Baruto keeps reworking his grip deeper into Koto's belt and now both are locked into the gappari-yotsu position. Kotooshu attempts a half-hearted suso-harai, but never comes close to sweeping Baruto's foot. In what is quickly becoming his trademark "finishing maneuver", Baruto counters by lifting Kotooshu straight off the dohyo, pivoting 180°, and planting the Bulgarian for a most impressive yorikiri victory but not before Koto reverses the momentum and slams Baruto off the dohyo with a hard throw as both rikishi topple off the dohyo in a spine-smacking, spectacular fall. For you conspiracy theorists out there, I pose the following question: Was that throw inevitable given the momentum of both men as they landed outside, or was that a bitter-in-defeat Kotooshu sending a "message" to Baruto with a late throw that could have been avoided? Both eastern Europeans stand at 6-3 and will cause some havoc in the final few days of the tournament.

I wonder if Chiyotaikai's sumo today upheld the spirit and honor of the Ozeki rank? I say it did. I am somewhat amiss in calling Chiyo's victory an upset for both rikishi have squared off some 30 times and they're split almost evenly. Chiyo's tachi-ai delivered plenty of pop and Tochiazuma never recovered from there. He fired off a few rounds of tsuppari, matador action to evade a charging Tochi, more tsuppari to stop his momentum and finally a hataki-komi on an already, off-balance, dazed Tochiazuma who was unable to dictate one second of this match. Both Ozeki are at 8-1 and while Tochiazuma remains the more credible threat, Chiyotaikai is riding a wave of confidence right now that could carry him deep into this tournament.

M1 Kotoshogiku (1-8) had little time to think what he was going to do with the hidari-uwate grip he secured on Ozeki Kaio (6-3), for Kaio was already chest-deep inside Giku's grip, easily overpowering Kotoshogiku to plow him out for a yori-kiri win.

The trickster god is a recurring presence throughout many of the world's mythologies. For Norse mythology it's Loki while the coyote and raven play that role in the folklore of numerous American Indian tribes. Yet, the trickster has never revealed itself within the fabled history of sumo, until now. Sumo's trickster god hails from Mongolia and his name is Kyokushuzan. His role is a simple one. Bedevil other rikishi with bizarre gimmickry and unorthodox techniques, keeping the competition honest from the mighty Yokozuna to the lowly M17 with funky junk sumo. So, I ask, where are the shirikisen shenanigans that I have come to love from M1 Kyokushuzan? Where are the henka, the crazy scrambles around the tawara, the over-the-back flying lunges for the mawashi, the fancy-free footwork, and the all out nuttiness? 

I grow weary of my fellow SumoTalk colleagues failing to appreciate the vital role Kyokushuzan plays. Does sumo really need another yotsu guy or oshi guy? Are you not sated? Savor the magic that is Kyokushuzan, for he maintains the sumo world's cosmic equilibrium. Unfortunately, Komusubi Kisenosato (3-6) didn't respect M1 Shu's (0-9) ineffective tachi-ai and feeble pull-down attempt as "The Kid" breezed to an effortless oshi-dashi victory. Please return Kyokushuzan. I feel confident we'll see the trickster return in November, where his impish behavior will return to form in the lower ranks.

In other bouts:

M8 Tokitenku (6-3) utilized crisp, precise, fully extended tsuppari that were just too much for M3 Kakizoe (3-6) to handle. Tokitenku, perhaps picking up certain habits from fellow countryman Asashoryu, seems to relish that little extra violence he puts into his final shove after pushing an opponent out.

M12 Tamakasuga (8-1) stays one off the mark by fending off M7 Hokutoriki's (2-7) nodowa with a tsukiotoshi swipe while keeping Hokuto at bay with a nodowa of his own. You have to appreciate Tamakasuga. He's not overly athletic, lacks quickness and speed, is far from the most powerful rikishi on the dohyo and doesn't have a repertoire of techniques to his game. All he brings is solid, workmanlike sumo day in and day out with veteran savvy. Tamakasuga tends to fall apart after kachi-koshi but ten wins is not out of the question for this often overlooked rikishi.

Tamakasuga's stablemate, M10 Tamanoshima (8-1) survived a Homasho head butt and a stubborn shitate grip to quickly jerk Homasho to the ground via tsukiotoshi

I'm off to see "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" with a rikishi from Russia who's serving a three-day suspension. Ro ho ho and a bottle of rum!

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
It's Ocean Day here in Japan, on a Monday, and so Day 8 sumo fell square in the middle of a three day weekend. I wasn't scheduled to report this day but am filling in for one of my fellow writers who, selfishly, wanted to relax and have fun and not have to bang out a report on a bunch of fat guys (I won't say who this fellow is, but his name rhymes with "George"). Plus, I have my three kids home and they are pestering me to go to this mythical place called The Ocean, and the baby has a cold. Point is, don't expect, okay? Just don't expect a thing. From me. Today.

So, Zidane. Did you hear his excuse? Now understand, I think the Italian's are a bunch of actors (which is part of most sports, called gamesmanship), and can totally believe they were riding Zidane all match. And? I mean, give me a break. Talking about your mama?! Your sister?! Maybe, MAYBE when I was 12 that kind of thing bothered me, but I quickly learned that the people who said things about my female relatives didn't even KNOW them. That was the first clue that this kind of taunting has nothing actually to do with the family members mentioned. It logically followed that the intent of the taunter was not to disseminate truthful information about my mama, but to piss me off.

How could a veteran of international soccer not get that? He does get it, but just isn't man enough to come out and tell the truth: "Uh, people can sometimes be effin idiots, lose control and do something stupid like a real fockin' numbnut. I was a numbnut. Sorry." No, instead he trots out this cock and bull story about being offended and hurt. What a joke.

Basically, for me, the gulf that exists between what people KNOW they should do or say, and what they ACTUALLY do or say, is the single most depressing fact about human existence. War and pestilence, murder and death, Taco Bell and McDonalds, these things are unavoidable. But to do what is right even when it isn't convenient, that's what makes a "man".

Speaking of which, Kenji stating yesterday that the "man" Chiyotaikai "defeated Miyabiyama on day 6 (with) a slight hesitation at the tachi-ai" is like saying Adolph Hitler was guilty of aggravated assault. That actually might be the strength of Sumotalk. Some of us can be reporting from one place, say, Earth, while others can be reporting from another, say, Mars.

Not only is Chiyotaikai regularly unable to uphold the spirit and honor of the Ozeki rank, he actively tries to sabotage an attempt by another to achieve the rank. When he got his fat stupid ass kicked by my boy Kakizoe on Day 5, I didn't go off on him. I even mentioned that he was a three time yusho winner, a small nod to the decent if unexciting sumo he had been showing through the first four days. Big mistake. He comes back from that defeat to perform prison sex on Miyabiyama. Why? He was not in danger of demotion, or getting a losing record. Why pull a bernie on Day 5? Is there some bad blood we don't know about? The only guy connected to sumo I like less than The Wolf's Cub is the asshole English speaker who was probably paid to translate the Japanese for his nickname. Wolves don't have cubs, jackass, they have pups (and any "googlers" out there who are going to rush off to find Web examples of "cub" being used, get bent, I'm right and you, as usual, are wrong!) From now on, he is The Wolf's Pup, can I get a witness, fellow Sumotalkers?

Okay, now the wrestling. Since the maegashira have been getting short shrift most days on this site this basho, let's start from the bottom. M12 Tamakasuga is blowing the competition away. Today he was moved back at the tachi-ai by Takekaze, but quickly recovered and drove the M13 back and out with little effort. I simply cannot believe the fight he is showing, and at 7-1 has a realistic chance to. . .you didn't really think I was going to say yusho, did you? I am thinking a special prize, perhaps even Fighting Spirit.

M10 Tamanoshima has stayed right on form as I predicted on Day 5, today allowing M16 Kitazakura to play slappyface on him for a few long moments, like a patient, loving husband letting his wife get it all out after she learns he has been banging the babysitter, and then pushed him back and out. At 7-1, Tama has booked himself second half action for the next few days, and he, too, is in the running for special prizes, but unlike Tamakasuga, he may be able to pull off one upset that figures in the yusho race (I'm thinking defeating Tochiazuma perhaps). Kitaboy is fighting to stay in the top division..

M11 Kasugao pulled even after withstanding a big tachi-ai from M9 Yoshikaze, who got a nice grip on the Korean's belt but had it broken, then dove in and got another nice deep grip on the belt, only to have Kasugao channel Ozeki Kaio, circa 1998 and armbar the living shite out of Yoshikaze's arm and force him to capitulate. Yoshi falls to 3-5, but as Kasugao was his first foe who is not a former sanyaku man, things may get easier from here on in, what with Buyuzan, the Zakura Bros., Daimanazuru, and Jumonji waiting in the wings.

M7 Jokutoriki must have hit M8 Takamisakari on his face, neck and head about fifty times, much like many intelligent fans of sumo want to do to Circus, but he took every blow (including a weird kick from the Jokester) with that dog-with-head-out-the-speeding-car-window look on his face and persevered. Credit where credit is due. Both men stand 2-6.

M7 Aminishiki finished off M11 Toyonoshima after a lengthy and entertaining struggle with one of his patented judo moves, throwing him over his extended leg for his fifth win. M6 Dejima finally kept his feet under him as he charged his man out of the ring, evening his record and sending M8 Tokitenku to his third loss.

M2 Kyokutenho got his first win, using a strong double handed belt hold purchased at tachi-ai and leveraging out M5 Futenoh like the good old days. Futeno wouldn't go easily, though, and forced Kyokutenho to execute a strong throw, flying out of the ring and bouncing off Futeno's face on his way out. At 4-4, Futenoh may not get a special prize, but THAT, my furry little friends, was sumo fighting spirit.

M3 Kakizoe had to chase M1 Kyokushuzan around the ring, but he eventually sent the man who desperately wants to fall to M12 (and extend his career another few basho?he's a smart dude, Krusty, no matter how limited his sumo ability toward the end of his career) out to his eighth loss. 3-5 Kakizoe finished his first week duties in the Be Slaughtered Division (having fought sekiwake, ozeki, yokozuna, ozeki, ozeki, ozeki, ozeki) yesterday and now should get 8 wins at least.

M1 Kotoshogiku may have risked pissing off Ozeki Chiyotaikai by giving Miyabiyama a fair fight, sticking hard at tachi-ai and fighting like a man against the biggest homeboy in sumo. Miyabi pummeled his foe with tsuppari until he was at the edge, where the Geeku naturally tried to move forward and Miyabi executed a perfectly timed pulldown for win number four. The Geeku's record looks bad, hell, it IS bad, but he has lost to mostly top guys, with the exception of Baruto and Futenoh, who on any given day can be sanyakuesque, and he beat Ama, who is a handful as we all know. Yes, the Geeku needs to do better to make sanyaku, but at 22, this is all learning curve stuff. He'll be there, trust me.

And he doesn't HENKA like some fat, dastardly ozeki!!!

Okay, the heat has been turned up in my house now. Lunch prep, kids fighting, wife glaring at me. Let's get to the top guys.

Kotomitsuki showed us another way Chewbaruto can be beaten, namely hit him really hard. For all his size, the big Wookie has little oomph in his tachi-ai (perhaps he fears being henka'd or pulled down after overextending). Whatever the reason, he seems vulnerable to the big hit at this young age. The Sekiwake went 5-3 by hammering the M4 with a forearm which seemed to daze his foe, whose feet stayed back as his upper body fell forward as he grasped at Koto's belt. Kaboom! It reminded slightly of a knockout punch Asa delivered to Kotooshu about 2 years ago.

Kisenosato finished his ride through sumo hell (all sekiwake, ozeki, and yokozuna for eight days) at 2-6, today losing to the next Yokozuna, who, you may have noticed this basho, is an expert at shaking off and breaking holds, this time breaking Kise's hold on his belt and once doing so got his own two handed grip and forced him out. True that Kisenosato is young like Hakuho, but Hakuho is one for the ages, a likely dai-yokozuna, whereas Kisenosato will make Ozeki but is 50/50 to become Yokozuna.

The bout between Tochiazuma and Roho today was no contest. Literally. Roho was suspended for three matches for going crazy go nuts on Day 7. Man, is he a loose cannon! How in the world could he have tough words for sweet little Chiyotaikai, or one of the nice old Japanese man ringside judges, or slap with "an open fist" according to Sumotalk News (I thought that was called a "hand"?) those lovable Japanese paparazzi?

Kotooshu has behaved just as I predicted on Day 5, using his win over Kyokutenho to turn it around, looking much more like the Kotooshu of old, getting crafty, slippery wins vs Ama and Miyabiyama and thoroughly dominating Kaio from a deep two handed belt grip today. If Kyokutenho felt like he was being sucked up by a machine vs Baruto, how do you think Kaio felt today? His face had the look of a warrior captured by the Aztecs (Hi Ho, Hi Ho, to the top of the pyramid we go!) Kotooshu threw his lifeless body off for his sixth win, while Kaio's red light should be flashing big time right about now with many tough opponents ahead in Week 2. Still ,this is how it might play out. Kaio goes kadoban this basho, next basho does not get 8 wins, and before he begins Kyushu as a Sekiwake, retires the day before it starts. Don't WANT to see that happen, so I hope he pulls it out and retires as Ozeki in his homeland.

Finally, I had that old Homer Simpson/Pink Donut feeling for the Asa/Ama bout. Drooling just thinking about the athleticism on display. Like a child with a grasshopper, Asa quickly snapped up Ama at tachi-ai and backed him to the edge, where Ama bent his back in a contorted but successful effort to stay in the ring. I was in stitches as the yokozuna's face had this look of disbelief, not that Ama had survived but that he had the gall to fight back at the edge when anyone in his right mind knew Asa was now going to have to throw and possible injure his countryman. So after a one second pause (during which the uninformed fans in the packed crowd actually thought they were about to see some long battle, the fools!) Asa flung Ama down with a shita (under) te (hand) nage (throw) that could be copied and pasted into a handbook on sumo throws.
Are you happy now? My family is in ruins, but you got your stinkin' report. George will be back from gallivanting for day 9, and I'll be rested and ready for Day 15. Load 'em up and move 'em out!

Day 7 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
The Yokozuna and Ozeki ranks are a combined 31-5 coming into day 7, which is a good thing. Those who are supposed to be winning are winning, for the most part. With all six of these big boys pulling their weight, we're in for a potentially very exciting second week of action. And all of the aforementioned six won today, except for one. 

Asashoryu (7-0) continued his dominance at the expense of M2 Hakurozan (2-5). Sho secured the left outside grip from the tachiai, put his head low, attached himself to Hakuro's right hip, and went right to work. The result was an uneventful yorikiri win. Hakuro further contributed to the yawn factor by showing no fight at the tawara.

Hakuro's brother Roho obviously woke up on the wrong side of the futon this morning. His bout with Chiyotaikai was nothing to write home about, but the aftermath saw the Russian exchange words with the Ozeki followed by a menacing glare by Roho that ranks up there with Asashoryu's. As for the bout, Taikai (6-1) won in a very similar fashion to how he defeated Miyabiyama yesterday- a slight hesitation at the tachiai followed by taking advantage of Roho's subsequent ill-advised pull to win in an anticlimatic oshidashi. For some reason, Roho was livid after this. Perhaps it was the hesitation Taikai displayed at the tachiai, or maybe it was the final thrust that sent Roho (4-3) into the second row. Even that wasn't anything obnoxious, so go figure. 

Ozeki Kaio suffered a straight-up defeat to new Komusubi Kisenosato (2-5) that could be seen as a changing of the guard. The two locked horns in hidari-yotsu, the preferred position of both rikishi. Kise kept his hip far away from Kaio's right hand, which was the key to victory. Once he eventually got his own uwate grip, it was time to move and move he did. The youngster challenged the veteran at his own game and came up victorious. A tired Kaio gave up at the rope and drops to 5-2. 

Kotooshu's sumo has been somewhat suspect thus far but he's managing to pull out wins. He continued that trend today with some help from faltering Ozeki hopeful Miyabiyama. Miyabi slipped just a bit after the tachiai and Oshu (5-2) took advantage of it by pulling down the Sekiwake. After a brief mono-ii to confirm that Oshu wasn't outside the rope as Miyabi fell, the victory was sealed. Almost sealed is Miyabiyama's fate as a Sekiwake for at least one more basho- he is now 3-4 with no more room for error and over a week to go. 

The one to watch this basho, Tochiazuma, continues to win to keep pace with Asashoryu. And his sumo has been just as sound as the Yokozuna's. Never mind that Azuma's opponent was hapless M1 Kyokushuzan, who dropped to 0-7. Predictably, Azuma watched Shu carefully, eventually lifted Shu's extended arms, got inside and then pressured. Easy yorikiri win. Does anybody else smell potential for another of those classic Asashoryu-Tochiazuma yusho clashes at basho's end?

Ozeki Hakuho may have something to say about that. He stayed one loss back of the leaders with a victory over M3 Kakizoe (2-5). Haku went for a tsuki style today, peppering Zoe with several harite blows. Although not driving forward but instead moving laterally, Hakuho kept his lower body stable and therefore was in control the whole way. Perhaps from the peppering he took, Zoe eventually lost his footing and subsequently the bout via hiki-otoshi. Hakuho is now 6-0 after an 0-1 start. Something tells me he's just warming up. 

I'll close with Baruto, who got schooled for the first time this basho at the hands of Futenoh (4-3). The big Estonian lost the tachiai to Futenoh. The big Estonian lost the fight for the right inside position to Futenoh. The big Estonian wasn't allowed his favored right outside grip. The big Estonian got pressured throughout by a well-prepared Futenoh. Alas, the big Estonian couldn't overcome these disadvantages with his brute strength as he might have in Juryo or lower Makuuchi. Don't get me wrong- this kid is here to stay. He will continue rising, but he took a lump today that will help him mature as a rikishi. 

We dive into the second half tomorrow with two rikishi atop the heap with unblemished 7-0 records: Ashashoryu and Tochiazuma. The Yokozuna and Ozeki are still hanging in there at a combined 36-6. Let's hope for an exciting second half. 

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
We came in? to Nagoya with the focus largely on three rikishi in Hakuho, Miyabiyama, and Kisenosato, but just six days in two of those three are already suffering the jugband blues forcing us to turn away elsewhere for our storylines. On the turning away, it's evident that this basho will be dominated by those who occupy the highest ranks, as through the first six days, Kotooshu is the only Yokozuna/Ozeki to have more than one loss. That also helps to explain why we have not had one day yet where seemingly all hell breaks loose. In fact, I think the biggest upset of the tourney so far would have to be Hakurozan's victory over Baruto. We can only hope that this fast start from the Yokozuna and Ozeki...and Baruto is maintained well into the second week.

Turning to the action, I don't think M2 Kyokutenho could have asked for anything more coming into the bout than the hidari yotsu position from the tachi-ai against Yokozuna Asashoryu. That would have meant that Asa's strong arm (the left) would be on the inside forcing the Yokozuna to fight with the right hand should the bout turn to a yotsu-zumo contest. Well, actually, a right outer grip would have been even better for Kyokutenho, but his lack of effort this basho carried into day 6 giving Asashoryu the right outer from the initial charge with Kyokutenho left wanting. The Yokozuna smartly crouched low and stuck his butt way back keeping his mawashi away from Tenho's grubby paws, and after a few seconds of jockeying in this position, Asashoryu wasted no time in pressing the action by quickly moving in close, standing Kyokutenho upright, and forcing him out in a flash with what else...the right arm locked onto Tenho's belt. Asashoryu has been flawless as he jumps out to a 6-0 mark, but I still maintain that his right arm has yet to be tested. I am not dismissing the Yokozuna as the man as Clancy hinted some of us have done yesterday; I am simply waiting for him to carve up opponents like Tochiazuma, Hakuho, and even Baruto before I'm convinced that his right arm has completely healed to the point where he can once again dominate. His opponents' combined record the first six days is 7-29 and that's only because Roho has 4 wins. Still, I think it's safe to say at this point that the status of Asashoryu's right wing can be downgraded from injured to comfortably numb. Kyokutenho falls to 0-6.

In the Ozeki ranks, Hakuho maintained his fine form against M1 Kotoshogiku (who hasn't this basho?) by going for the usual left frontal belt grip from the tachi-ai. As is often the case, he didn't grab it right off, but Hakuho's opponents have two choices: attack hard at the tachi-ai and walk into a belt grip, or hold back a bit and lessen their forward momentum. The Geeku chose the latter, but Hakuho quickly took advantage by forcing his left arm deep on the inside of Kotoshogiku's right side where he lifted him upright and off balance enough that the left outer grip was wide open for the Ozeki. Hakuho secured the grip and dumped the M1 to the clay with an awkward looking throw shortly thereafter for another uneventful win. Hakuho moves to 5-1, and like Asashoryu, has yet to really be tested other than that cat and mouse affair against Asasekiryu on day 1. Kotoshogiku falls to 0-6 and needs his mother.

Where Hakuho has recovered nicely from his day 1 loss continuing to exhibit his brand of sumo, Sekiwake Miyabiyama has not. Today's tragedy at the hands of Chiyotaikai aside, Miyabiyama just doesn't have that spring in his step this basho and that confident countenance that glows the ass-kicking he's about to lay on his opponents. Through the first five days, I'd classify the mode of his tentative sumo as "survival." Still, at 3-2 coming in, he had the chance to get himself back on pace for double digit wins with a win over Chiyotaikai, but the Ozeki had other ideas. So much for my praise of Chiyotaikai this basho. It's one thing to slip and slide this way and that when you know you can't beat your opponent straight up, but it's another thing to deliver a cowardly tachi-ai henka, especially to someone who has a promotion on the line. Thanks for nothing Chiyo, but we all new it was just a matter of time. There's really no action to describe today, but here's how it played out. Chiyo jumped to his left at the tachi-ai executing a gutless henka that Miyabiyama actually survived...well, if you can call maintaining bad footing survival. Miyabiyama's balance was also severely compromised after lunging into empty spaces, and the Ozeki pounced quickly with a few shoves against the teetering Sekiwake to make it official. What can you say? Kotooshu screams out on day 1 that you can't henka an Ozeki, but Chiyotaikai comes back as an Ozeki on day 6 with a nasty henka himself...nasty because the implications were so severe for his opponent. Chiyotaikai can now officially go to hell in my book as he "improves" to 5-1 and will surely be shopping for skirts tonight with his kensho money. Miyabiyama is pale and downtrodden at 3-3. Really, though, you look at the two Miyabiyama losses to the Ozeki, and they were nothing but hard luck. I felt the Sekiwake did everything he needed to do against Kaio in his attack on day 4; he just got burned by a perfectly-timed evasive maneuver from the veteran Ozeki. And now today, he charges hard against another Ozeki, but there's nobody home. Having said that, though, Miyabiyama's sumo on the other days hasn't been inspiring and worthy of the Ozeki ranks...as if some of the crap we see from our current Ozeki is.

In an ugly bout today, Ozeki Kaio charged with a solid left shoulder denying M3 Kakizoe his favored morozashi grip. Foiled at the initial charge, the M3 next went for a quick pull-down that Kaio survived well, but the Ozeki panicked at this point and went for a pull down of own that Kakizoe really should have used to finish his opponent off. Kakizoe's charge against his retreating opponent stopped near the tawara where Kaio dug in his heels and offered a tremendous right slap to the side of Kakizoe that knocked him to the dirt. These aren't necessarily the happiest days of our lives for Kaio, but he is surviving thus far to the tune of a 5-1 record. This quick start is absolutely mandatory for the Ozeki if he wishes to secure kachi-koshi. Kakizoe falls to 2-4 and is simply being outmuscled so far at this rank.

M4 Ama timed his tachi-ai perfectly today lunging into Ozeki Kotooshu, driving him back a step, and lifting him upright, but Kotooshu recovered too well backing up and moving to his left, while pulling Ama down in the process. Ama survived the pull-down attempt and stumbled to the tawara where he managed to turn back around, but that effort was greeted by a two-handed thrust from Kotooshu that sent the feisty Mongolian into the second row. Kotooshu's quick footwork and ring savvy proved the difference over Ama's half-step headstart at the tachi-ai. Kotooshu improves to 4-2 while the trial continues for Ama who drops to 2-4.

Ozeki Tochiazuma has been money this basho, and today was no exception against Komusubi Kisenosato. The Kid had little time to breathe as the Ozeki offered a solid right shoulder into his chest at the tachi-ai completely denying him any hope of a belt grip and standing him upright. Before Kisenosato could react to the defeat at the initial charge, Tochiazuma drove forward with his head low and lower body keeping pace to perfection. Kisenosato was shoved out in mere seconds. What else is there to say? Just as Bernie described on day 4, watching Tochiazuma's sumo this basho has been like watching yet another movie where the Ozeki's performance is flawless. Now the question is why can't Tochiazuma perform like this when he's up for promotion to Yokozuna? Regardless, the Ozeki storms out to 6-0 and has looked the most impressive to me of any rikishi thus far. Sorry Simon, but I'm going to vote "nay" to the question of whether or not Tochiazuma's knee is really injured. Kisenosato falls to 1-5.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Sekiwake Kotomitsuki easily survived the weak moro-te tachi-ai from M1 Kyokushuzan lowering his head a bit and seizing the firm left outer grip. As he usually does with the better position secured, Mitsuki dug in a bit before mounting his charge that flung Kyokushuzan over and down with ease. Nothing fancy here as the long forgotten Sekiwake improves to 3-3 while Kyokushuzan's band is definitely playing different tunes at 0-6.

One of the few bouts that really shined today featured two Maegashira rikishi in M2 Hakurozan and M5 Futenoh. Hakurozan took the initiative at the tachi-ai working his way into a solid right uwate, but that also left Futenoh in a position that he favors, hidari-yotsu (left arm on the inside). The two rikishi grappled back and forth in as good of a chikara-zumo bout as you'll see in the Maegashira ranks where Futenoh seemed to have his opponent on the run a bit with his lower stance and better sumo skills. Hakurozan, held on, however, and used his strength and that stingy right outer grip to keep himself in the ring. After ten seconds or so of good action, Futenoh had Hakurozan backed up to the tawara, but he just quite couldn't get his opponent to back up that last half step with Hakurozan maintaining that right uwate and bracing his heels on the tawara to his advantage. Futenoh went for that last ditch force out, but at the same time, Hakurozan executed an excellent utchari throw that actually had Futenoh touching first outside of the dohyo. Gunbai to Futenoh, however, as Hakurozan's left heel scraped the sand just outside of the tawara as he executed his throw. When the dust settled, Futenoh found himself at 3-3 while Hakurozan stomachs a 2-4 mark.

M6 Kokkai exhibited some fine thrusts at the tachi-ai that backed M3 Roho up a few steps, but the Russian stood his ground well and eventually forced the action to yotsu zumo sneaking a left inner grip underneath Kokkai's tsuppari charge. From this point it was curtains as Roho forced the action in close and drove Kokkai back and out for the nifty win. The thing I enjoyed about this bout was that both rikishi showed us their strengths, so it was only fitting that the dude with the better all-around sumo skills won. Have a cigar, Roho. A 4-2 record for an M3 who has faced the Yokozuna, two Ozeki, and a Sekiwake to this point is excellent. Kokkai falls to 3-3 and has obviously been eclipsed by his fellow Eastern European rikishi.

I liked Kyokutenho's remarks a few days back comparing M4 Baruto to a machine that just completely sucked him up. M7 Hokutoriki received his welcome to the machine today, but sometimes I just have to wonder whether or not the M7 suffers from brain damage from time to time? What was he thinking today against M4 Baruto by lunging straight into a yotsu-zumo contest from the tachi-ai? Getting off track a bit, for those who saw the NHK broadcast today, Toki was commenting from the muko-jomen chair, and while his commentary is very unpolished (knock on wood), he did have a few good insights, especially when he was asked how he would have approached Baruto. His answer was to simply go for the nodowa (thrust to the neck) and try and move the Estonian back. Toki would have actually faired well against Baruto because he's strong enough and big enough to go toe to toe with the M4 and beat him with the tsuppari attack, but back to Hokutoriki. Like Toki, Hokutoriki is a thruster all the way. And like Chiyotaikai, he can't fight at the belt worth a lick, so he has to rely on his pushing and quick movement to foil his opponents. So I'm just flabbergasted at Hokutoriki's approach today of trying to beat Baruto at the belt. Actually, I think the Jokester was resigned to his fate today and just fell on the sword. It's kind of like when a guy turns 40 (I'm not there yet!) and he has to go in for that exam. Taking it up the arse is unavoidable...you just hope the doc uses plenty of lube and doesn't use the whole fist. In today's bout, Hokutoriki seemed to jump into Baruto's arms at the tachi-ai where both rikishi enjoyed right outer grips. Pausing a few seconds to slip on his rubber glove, Doc Bartholomew lifted Hokutoriki clear off his feet and set him down outside the tawara for the uneventful but always welcome tsuri-dashi win. Baruto improves to 5-1 and is sure to have an eventful week two fighting sanyaku rikishi and above while Hokutoriki can now breath easy at 1-5 knowing he'll live another day to see Emily play. Next time you face Baruto, though, run like hell.

M6 Dejima just crushed M8 Takamisakari back and out with a headbutt tachi-ai that would have made Zidane proud and then quickly followed that with a few left right left thrusts in the flesh of the gangly Robocob who was so overwhelmed, he seemed to still be fishing for the right uwate grip at the tachi-ai as he was flying off the dohyo. Dejima's charge today was as inspired and as fast as you'll ever see from him as he moves to 3-3. Takamisakari is definitely learning to fly this basho as he falls to 1-5.

M8 Tokitenku dominated M9 Tosanoumi by absorbing his tachi-ai and securing a right shitate grip. Tenku used the grip to halt any charge from Tosanoumi and then he executed the final cut with a left arm scoop throw otherwise known as sukuinage to completely overwhelm the blue collar man. Tokitenku improves to 5-1 if you need him. Tosanoumi falls to 2-4. Just preceding the Tokitenku - Tosanoumi matchup, NHK showed clips from a DVD released by the Sumo Association that is actually an exercise video! They had about a dozen oyakata wearing these cute matching outfits consisting of white t-shirts and red workout pants lined up in a big room doing shiko and squatting exercises. Apparently the DVD has been a big hit, so hopefully soon we'll start seeing the results reflected in Japan's public at large, especially among the women. Who wouldn't want to walk the streets of the Ginza feasting their eyes on girls with nice big fat rounded hips and sagging b-cups? Way to go Sumo Association. I applaud the effort. I also applaud the guys in the booth today for explaining the video clips while keeping a straight face.

Where were we now? M9 Yoshikaze has enjoyed a decent start to the Nagoya basho, but today he just ran into a brick wall in M12 Tochinonada. I credit Yoshikaze for sticking to his tsuppari guns, but they had little effect on the wall today. Tochinonada patiently waited for an opening before countering with a right nodowa of his own that knocked Yoshikaze off balance to where Nada sliced his left arm deep on Yoshikaze's right side setting up the easy oshi-dashi win.. Both rikishi stand at 3-3.

M10 Tamanoshima is yet another 5-1 rikishi who outlasted M13 Takekaze today in a rather uneventful contest. Takekaze couldn't really push Tama back from the tachi-ai, but he did settle in low, butt extended, keeping Tamanoshima off his belt. Tamanoshima could do nothing from this position, but Takekaze wasn't doing anything either, so we just sat there...and sat and sat. Usually at times like these I like to scan the crowd and wonder who let all of the riff-raff into the room, but with this being Nagoya, you'll excuse my paranoid eyes. Finally, there was movement in the dohyo again as Tamanoshima managed to force Takekaze back and out for the uneventful win. What made it even worse is that's the first time I've seen a rikishi get forced back and out across half the dohyo when his head was up under his opponent's jaw and his opponent didn't have a belt grip. Way to go, Takekaze (3-3). 

M15 Tochinohana entered the day unblemished at 5-0, and he was seemingly in control of his bout with M11 Kasugao enjoying a left uwate from the tachi-ai, but Kasugao can dig in with the best of them when the rikishi are aligned chest to chest. The two treated us to a great yotsu-zumo contest, but Tochinohana never could make that advantageous grip work for him. Finally, in an effort to budge his opponent, he backed up at a strange angle considering his position, and it left him dangerously close to the tawara. Kasugao pounced on the mistake and surged forward wrenching Tochinohana upward breaking off his right outer grip (my favorite counter move in sumo) where it was then easy pickings for the force out win. Kasugao fights best from the migi-yotsu position, but Tochinohana has got to win this bout today from that position considering his size. I guess Tochinohana needs to work on his strength because how can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat? Kasugao limps forward to 2-4.

M12 Tamakasuga also moved to a nifty 5-1 record as he picked M15 Buyuzan's locks with a ferocious attack to the throat that left the M15 nowhere to go but back. Buyuzan falls to 1-5 with the loss and was likely sent back to mother in a cardboard box.

And finally, M16 Daimanazuru is getting schooled this basho, his first in the Makuuchi division. Today against M13 Jumonji (3-3), he just walked right into an easy pull down that left him reeling at 1-5. You've probably heard that Daimanazuru was recently engaged and that his fiancée...Vera is the name I think...has been offering words of encouragement throughout the basho, but it looks as if the future missus is just going to have to learn to live on a Juryo salary.

Despite the absence of a wild and crazy day to this point, the leaderboard is getting very crowded with two rikishi at 6-0, and seven close behind at 5-1. Fortunately, Hakuho and Baruto are two of the rikishi chasing the unbeatens in Asashoryu and Tochiazuma. The rikishi with the best record head to head from that foursome takes the yusho. Kenji sets up the offsides trap tomorrow and asks the puzzling question, "Isn't this where..."

Day 5 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hi there. Seems like forever since we last met. How are you all? 

I have to admit that I am a tad sportsed out. The World Cup took a lot out of me. I was keeping bartenders hours to see the matches live here in Nippon. It is a sport so utterly unlike sumo. In football (at least with most of the effete European supermodel footballers) you have all these young guys running around with their long hair tied up with a string, faking injuries and imagining insults, glaring and moping, whereas in sumo you...have...uh... Forget it.

Then along came Wimbledon and those incredible semifinal and final gutchecks by the fantastic world #1 Ms. Mauresmo, who annihilated her rep as a choker but solidified her rep as the love child of John Malkovich and Michael Jackson with that perched on the cathedral of Notre Dame face of hers! Okay, so if I was a pool toddlers could wade in me, but she is just NOT what a chick should look like.

Bernie is also not what a chick should look like; nor is he what a sumo commentator should sound like. Anyone who cheers for Hakurozan, quickly becoming the Russian Hokutoriki, is more than a tad off his nut. Nevertheless, he WAS on the mark, following Kenji's Day 1 lead, when he said Kotooshu sounded like a whiny shit after his loss to Henkarozan. I loathe that cowardly move, but Kotooshu has been Koto No Show this basho, and was lucky to receive Day 4 largesse from Krustyshuzan. As for Hokutoriki, he could get screwed like that ten times per basho and twice on his birthday and I wouldn't blink, but for new sumo lovers, don't be fooled: The henka is an evil move, Sumo Sodomy, and Bernie has been barred from the hotel for the remainder of the basho.

Now when the name Baruto is broached here at Sumotalk, the guys get weird. Mike and Simon jerk reflexively, George gets sweaty on the brow, and Kenji does flitty finger equations in the air. He is certainly awe inspiring, so large that it is better to describe him in geological terms. "Biomass" comes to mind when I see him crouch at the shikirisen. No longer a rookie, he is now a Wookie, manhandling his foes like they are Lando Calrisian. Chewbaruto.

But who the fock does he think he is looking at Hakurozan like that on Day 4? He got hit straight up and lost. Does he suppose his foes must stay in his path the entire bout? Just chill out, Chewie, you may have sand enough but haven't earned the stripes to stare like that after a bout. Youngsters these days know not one whit about paying dues, am I wrong?

Anyway, on Day 5 I was presented with a scintillating set of bouts, starting with the always explosive Asashoryu vs Krustyshuzan (excuse me while I go watch flies fornicate). I mean, this guy remains in the top division only on the strength of his "bernie moves". Yes, he can be surprising at times and fight straight up, and has real pluck when he feels like using it, but vs the Yokozuna? Let me see. Hmm. Snowball/Hell. Candle/Wind. Fart/Pool. Asa stays undefeated and Krusty stays aldefeated. 

The Yokozuna is looking good this tourney, confident with perfect ring awareness. He has smartly not taken huge tachi-ai blows on his right arm, yet employed the arm viciously well vs The Geeku on Day 4. He has not dawdled, not scowled, not employed overkill. In fact, I'll point out once again that Asa shows his champion pedigree when he flips his foes but holds his hand at the back of their necks to make sure they don't land on the top of their noggins. This should not go unnoticed, because not only is Asa fulfilling his role as grand champ by taking names and numbers, but he is also fulfilling it by being magnanimous. 

I have little control over this site, and I sometimes sit by and read things that are written and shake my head in dismay. It is natural for fresh faces to get people pumped up, and Hakuho (as all of us have been saying consistently since mid 2005) will be a super Yokozuna, but the subtle and not so subtle dismissal of Asashoryu as The Man in this sport has been sad to see, and wrong. Never once in the last five years could be said that another wrestler was the best, but (Yoda voice) hmm, yes, said it recently has been. Tiger had the same sort of thing happen to him a few years back, Singh becoming world number one for a stint, public confidence in the great golfer waning, and Boom! he came back with a vengeance. I see this happening here. 

Ozeki Chiyotaikai began his predictable basho slowdown a bit early this time out with a clumsy loss to my fave rikishi Kakizoe (who should be tearing Ozeki Kaio a new one on Day 6, mark my words). The diminutive M3's head took ChokeDieKai's tachi-ai then weathered a few tepid tsuppari before sliding to his left just a touch and slapping the Ozeki on the side of his neck and letting the three time yusho winner's momentum carry him down to his first loss in Nagoya. Kakizoe stands at 2-3.

Sekiwake Koto Hit and Mitsuki was mostly Hit today in giving Yokozuna hopeful Vijay a decent battle before succumbing to the more powerful 21 year-old. They locked up at the tachi-ai with both men leaning far forward at the hip, Koto with an outside right and Hakuho's fingers creeping to find the same grip. After a few seconds, 4-1 Hakuho did a little shimmy shake and broke Koto's grip on his belt, then lifted him up and started shoving away at Hit's upper torso, driving the Sekiwake back. At this point the Mongolian could have gone for a slap down and easily pulled it off, but he is gunning for Yokozuna and knows that every bout needs to be a Ferrari, so he let Koto collapse back into his bosom for a brief moment, and then with an inside left on 2-3 Koto's belt pushed him back and out. 

Respectable for the Aichi (the state Nagoya is in) native, but the sense of hopelessness that surrounds Kotomitsuki before his big bouts these days makes one wistful for those halcyon days in 2001, when he was considered by one and all Asashoryu's future spoil, perhaps even rising up to Yokozuna one day along with his younger foe. Now Asa has about a billion yusho, Koto still the one from that glorious but awful September in 2001 (which helped me forget about the WTC and 9-11 for a while), and for him to make even Ozeki would be a feat for the ages. Ah sumo, you fickle bitch.

Ozeki Tochiazuma went 5-0 by defeating M1 Kotoshogiku (0-5). The Geeku's arms are too short to be effective when over his foe's arms, and that is exactly what Tochi did as he got in deep under the armpits and moved the Sadogatake beya man back and out, nice and steady like. THIS is the kind of sumo that Tochiazuma scares others with, and if he for some reason is feeling his oats this basho now that the pressure is off, he could (and that's a could the size of Sicily) be trouble. 

His stumbling blocks will be Tiger and Vijay, along with a Day 5 resurgent Ozeki Kotooshu, who did big strong man sumo vs M2 Kyokutenho, grabbing his foe by the belt and not letting go until he had pushed him out for his yorikiri 3rd win. This was a promising sign from the Bulgarian, who can almost always win when he gets that leopard on dikdik grip and lets his greater power and stamina carry the day. Granted, Kyokutenho is, these days, scary like a paper cut, but on Day 5 he seemed desirous of doing good sumo. If they don't pair Kotooshu vs Baruto this basho, there's gonna be a riot (at least in my house).

M2 Hakurozan was an outpatient for the day, losing with nearly his entire left side bandaged to 4-1 Ozeki Kaio, who at the end had the Russian's arm in a half "Kaionage" hold, and the man who DARED henka an Ozeki on Day 1 had two choices: Give up or start wearing suits with one sleeve pinned up to the shoulder. He chose well and fell to 2-3.

New Komusubi Kisenosato got his fourth loss but his first poor loss, pressing himself much to forcefully forward vs Miyabiyama and being slapped to the side and down. Miflobby needs to win 7 out of the last 10 to get 10 wins, and I think his chance is all but dead (he will for sure get at least three losses from among Tochi, Kotooshu, Hakuho and Asa), but this was not Ozeki sumo, and it could come back to haunt him if he happens to pull some upsets to finish with 10 or even 11. He did nothing wrong, but he did not give the youngster a straight up battle. Kise was rightly expecting a blistering tsuppari attack, and while Miyabi doesn't HAVE to do that, I would think the sumo kyoukai is expecting him to move in one direction only to attain Ozeki rank: Forward. My own feeling is that even if he does attain the rank of once again, he will quickly go kadoban and lose the rank as he did before. Despite the sensational three basho run he has had, he is, in this cohort of wrestlers, only guaranteed Sekiwake material.

M3 Roho (3-2) tied up M6 Dejima (who with his purple legs and multiple bandages is looking once again like The Degyptian), stalling his forward momentum, which for Dejima is like being a sailboat in the horse latitudes. He employed his considerable bulk to forestall the inevitable, and after gamely fighting off a pushout attempt by the Russian, was brought across the ring by the belt and tossed by an over arm for his 3rd loss.

(A short digression here. As you all know, we are sequestered in a swank hotel's upper floor by Mike and Kenji for the 15 days of a basho. Well, Bernie just showed up in the lobby as I was writing my report, evidently drunk (far more "ehs" in his speech than usual) and in somewhat of a conciliatory mood. Claimed that with all the intelligent positions on sumo already taken by the other "fellas, eh, on the site, eh" he is forced to defend the indefensible, play devil's advocate, merely to be noticed, so couldn't we "be good, eh?" and let him back in. Simon (who is actually a very nice guy) took down a small bottle of Zima and told him to take a few months off to "get off his arse and get his shite together". Mike dropped three Canadian two-dollar coins out of the 18th story window for him to take a hack to the airport. Poor bastard.)

Back to the action. M7 Aminishiki looks to be pretty banged up, not being able to give M4 Chewbaruto a semblance of a fight, as he would have a few basho back when he was whoopin' on Yokozuna. Reminding me of the "finesse" I employed back in my high school dating days, 4-1 Baruto used his long reach to hold 3-2 Ami up by the shoulders, and then placed one hand on the back of his head and dragged his face right down toward his groin. We were spared a brokeback moment from these two husky beasts when the glacially built Wookie did what Asa does and kindly spun his foe's head at the last second so Aminishiki could avoid giving the clay a zidane.

I had been looking forward to the Tokitenku/Kokkai match, because as the Mongolians are generally impossible to henka, Kokkai would have to give him a fair fight. The tachi was clean, with both men standing nice and erect (no, no brokeback reference here, sorry Scott Sandwick). Then the tall M8 (4-1) swiped his right leg toward the burly M5 (3-2), and although there was no contact, he did force the hirsute Georgian to try and avoid it, in effect causing him to fall. Kakaeshi was the kimarite, and it was nicely executed.

Do any of you feel like I do, that Nagoya is a poor location for a basho, and that they would be better off having two per year in Osaka, three in Tokyo, and one in Kyushu? The hall is regularly empty in Nagoya, and the people, every last one, including the infants, are either stupid looking or ugly. Did you get a load of that hag behind the East side water bucket on Day 5? Yikes!! I wish they could have switched her seat with the young thing just three seats to her right, wearing a mini-skirt and looking hot, hot, hot and in need of Simple Simon's attentions. Must have been visiting from Kobe. (Again, dip your finger in Clancy's personality, you hit bottom before the knuckle is wet.)

So Futenoh, what gives? You are supposed to be the Next Great Thing. You let M9 Yoshikaze come in low, hammer your chest, a karate chop to the throat making you hesitate, then dig in with his shoulder, grab your mawashi and drive you out like a cattle on drive? The M5 goes 2-3 while 3-2 Yoshikaze has got to be kicking himself for losing to Circus on Day 4 after having defeated the likes of Tosanoumi and Tamanoshima. In fact, his five opponents have been three former Sekiwake and two former Komusubi. This youngster, as Mike pointed out on Day 2 (go back and read his report, the whole thing, a treasure trove of sumo insight, it was) is a firecracker, and like Kakizoe is probably going to wreak havoc in and around the top Maegashira (with an occasional day raid into sanyaku to collect a head) for some time to come.

M15 Tochinohana is at 5-0 for the first time ever by taking out M14 Homasho (3-2) with a well deserved oshidashi pushout. Little M13 Takekaze (3-2) did a dog-on-postman impression, hounding M10 Mount Iwaki (2-3) out in a hurry. M10 Tamanoshima (4-1) looked like he was taking a stroll in the park vs M13 Jumonji (2-3), patiently waiting while his foe flailed left and right, and when the time was nigh, escorted him to the seats, pretty as you please. Tama seems to be in synch this time out, don't be surprised to see him get 11 wins and perhaps be called upon to perform some final three days sanyaku sacrificial lambing. M8 Circus (1-4) had the match won, but let M10 Toyonoshima (2-3) hook his leg on the way out, causing Takami to pratfall toward the side judge, doing that exaggerated Oh, I'm hurt! thing he does to signal that he lost because of some unfortunate pain, not because he sucks (which he now does). His act is tiring on me in a HUGE way.

Well that's all from room 1805. I'll be back on Day 8 or Day 11, not sure right now, and then shit on life, the universe and everything on senshuraku, Day 15. Mike goes for the crossbar tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Bernie McManus reporting)
My hero this basho has been Hakurozan, hands down. I just love a rikishi who can draw out those pouty looks from the non-Japanese by making them look so very, very bad. I really didn't think he could top his spanking of cry-baby Kotooshu on Day 1 but today against Baruto he managed to elevate glare-baiting to a new level. 

Last basho I was rather enjoying Hakurozan's 'gonna let you beat yo'self, sukka' style where he danced his way to victory with footwork only a young bald white man can pull off. Must have been tough for this guy to forgo a career in the Russian ballet companies, I'm sure. Where Kotooshu barely touched him a few days ago, here Baruto, with that grin just begging to be wiped off his face, got to have a chestful of the young beaut before charging into open air and eating dirt, hard. I can't say that Bluto's tachi-ai is too off balance as he did managed to survive Ama's sidestep on Day 1, but if he wants to enjoy that feeling of not losing, he's going to have to tune into his finesse side and keep his enemies locked-on every millisecond of his professional career. Just remember: if it doesn't work against Asashoryu, it's your fault if you go down.

That's pretty much the highlight of the night, but we'll see what other bouts where kicking around. Asashoryu is now 4-0 after some really out of character sidestep wins and tonight's stroll with Kotoshogiku. The Giku, or Shogun... maybe, tried to go after his good side, which was smart, but within about two seconds the question on my mind was: Is Asashoryu going to flip him completely over, or just flatten him on his face. Never one to pass up an opportunity, the Yokozuna sent our little Koto friend ass-over-teakettle for a beautiful (injured) right arm Uwatenage win. Any hope that this isn't the 'old' Asashoryu is quickly evaporating and if the crew keep second guessing his injury, we could have a quiet Zensho on our hands. More power to ya, Asa, you're attitude is inspiration to us all and I'm so glad to see it back.

Kakizoe mistimed his tachi-ai against Tochiazuma and let the Ozeki get him off balance before the match even started. I won't describe the match but picture every fight Taz has ever won. Yeah? You got it. He looks stable to me, and yeah I'm pretty sure that was a big old phantom injury last basho. You mean he's not under pressure and he's winning? Be still my heart! And kadoban, for any of the Ozeki *cough*, is not really much of a threat these days. Oh, and I'm not giving many records after this point because the only players keeping up with Asa right now are the *cough cough* Ozekis Chiyotaikai and our buddy Taz here.

Kyokushozan had a go at Mr. Doom and Gloom Oshu but his straight-arm thing just doesn't work when he's fighting a guy who's six-foot-eight with a huge reach. Kotooshu must wish that all his opponents stood this still for him. Did you read his quote after the Hakurozan debacle the other night ( yeah yeah, I'm back to this ) " I couldn't believe he would do that to an Ozeki! " Gee-yet over yourself, ya big dangly ponce! I was even thinking you had an outside chance to Yusho this time before you got re-hurt, and you just keep giving your rank a bad name. Good luck with those eight wins...

You can tell how much I love henka's by my favorite use of the word: ' henka-ed the crap out of ... '. Well, today Kokkai henka-ed the crap out of Hokutoriki to thunderous applause. Well, in my world anyway. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Hey, Ama! Do I ever luck out on good Ama fights on my days to write. He's always exciting, yeah, but seeing the Komaatsukui kimarite beside his name today made me salivate in anticip-p-p-pation. Like a surgeon he went at Wakanosato and finally picked up a win after dragging the hapless Naruto-ian across by the arm and scooping his thigh up to his pitted chest. Ama even gave a nice crack-shot to the new overhead camera after dumping him to the clay. His moro-te tachi-ai works well when he abandons it quickly and today he was too fast for Wakanosato by a half, if not more. He did grab the vertical back-strap of the mawashi, though, I thought that was a no-no. Note the added kick to the ankle even when Wakanosato was curtains.

Kotomitsuki beat out the intrepid Kisenosato at the tachi-ai and secured morozashi real fast to plow the recently of-age wrestler out of the ring. Not a lot more to say about this one, although what a great story it would have been for Kissy to be doing well at this point. He ain't, but he might hold his rank for another basho if he keeps up the intensity. He is certainly drawing out everyone's A-game and at some point he's bound to break through.

Kaio is well on track to survive to see Kyushu in November by posting his third win against a tentative Miyabiyama tonight. Ol' Sad Eyes tied him up from the tachi-ai and didn't allow the Sheriff much useful thrusting before going evasive and side-stepping Sumo's behemoth and shrugging him out of the ring. Miyabiyama still has some big guns to face later this tournament and has little room to maneuver if he wants to earn that sweet, sweet kadoban insurance. 

Chiyotaikai did finally retreat tonight, if only just, but pulled off a manly Hikiotoshi win against Kyokuten-bleh by getting right up in the tall Mongolian's face and spinning him around and down to the clay. If Taikai has had a basho this past year where he's deserved his Streetfighter nickname, this is it. He's taken control of all his fights so far, and laid a beating on everyone like it's his business. I'm a fan of the dance, you all know, but I do so love a man who takes charge and Taikai is back to doing it in style.

Now, my beloved Hakuho. I admit that his bouts are far more boring than Asashoryu's but it will be nice to soon have a Clean Yokozuna and a Dirty Yokozuna duking it out. If earning the top spot is about avoiding mistakes, Hakuho will be there very soon and the aberration of his first day defeat will prove to be just that. His opponent tonight is Roho who is finally fighting to potential despite his brutal first week schedule, probably due to the fact that as the older brother he needs to out-rank 'Rozan next basho hell or high water.

Hakuho let Roho come to him at the tachi-ai but absorbed the burly Ruskie's charge but gave up a deep inside-left grip and matching shallow outside right to Hack's outside left. Roho couldn't do much, however, as Hakuho kept his hips low, broke the right grip and slowly wormed his right arm to the Russian belt, securing his grip and executing a deadly Yorikiri from which not hope nor light could escape. With few 'spoiler' rikishi left to face and all other Ozeki sufficiently below him I can see Hakuho earning the Tsuna by day fifteen, even if it means a loss to Asa on Senshuraku. It'd be nice if he could beat Baruto straight-up too.

The nether-regions of the Makunouchi aren't as interesting this time out as I found them to be when 'Rozan, Baruto and others played in it's depths. Iwakiyama has been great the past couple days with some all-heart wins, Homasho was back on his horse today and Tokitenku whipped out some interesting artillery before suffering his first loss to Tamanoshima. Yoshikaze allowed Takamisakari his 'I'm the best wrestler in the world!' pose after missing an uwate attempt with those stubby arms while Aminishiki earned a rare rear pull-down in his bout with Tosanoumi. Some highlights but no great matchups, unfortunately.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the basho, but I'm a bit concerned over the availability of Sumo on the net with some cornerstone sites taking an extended if not permanent hiatus as of, well, today. If there was ever a time for the Kyokai to step up their home-grown internet presence, now would be it. With Youtube and MySpace pushing video quickly past the text-search internet of old, there really should be little excuse to sticking with only the live feed and postage-stamp highlights a week after the basho ends.

Looking through the next eleven days, I offer Baruto this word of advice: When you fight the Yokozuna, don't stare him down. Whistle to yourself, scratch your pits, chuckle over the antics of your stablemates that morning, wink at the geisha, anything! Just don't get him worked up. When you finally get to the line, bar your teeth and beat on him like you're trying to finish his career. You'll lose, but you want to scare him for next time.

Tomorrow Clancy will descend the mountain and rip off his loincloth for the usual festivities.

Day 3 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
After a poor day one we were treated to some decent sumo on day two, and today's sumo was no different. The easiest win of the day went to Ozeki-hopeful Miyabiyama, a fusen-sho awarded to him thanks to the withdrawal of Asasekiryu due to injury. This will have cheered him up no end because with more wins than losses, he can now put that day-one loss behind him and concentrate on reaching double figures. It will be interesting to see what they do if he finishes with ten wins, one being a win by default. With Tochiazuma seemingly on course to keep his rank and Hakuho already in the last chance saloon after that ludicrous loss to Asasekiryu on day one, the crowded Ozeki slots might be enough to keep El Sheriff down in his place. Wait and see.

Yokozuna Asashoryu sent an emphatic message to his doubters with a total massacre of hapless M3 Kakizoe, whose kinboshi dreams were shattered in milliseconds by the no-nonsense attack of the Yokozuna. The left-hand slap set things up nicely as Kakizoe was shifted slightly to the side, and then Asashoryu moved in for the kill and wasted no time in pushing Kakizoe out for the oshitaoshi win. The use of the left hand was clever as it negated the necessity for using that strapped-up right arm. I think we'll be seeing Asa going for quick wins as much as possible this basho for that very reason. That's easy enough against the rabble, but he could well find himself in trouble against the top lads. As Mike said, we need to see that arm tested. Back to today's bout, it was made nice and spectacular for the cameras but this was really just a bread-and-butter win. 3-0 for the Yokozuna. Kakizoe is 1-2.

Ozeki Hakuho took a few thrusts from M2 Hakurozan straight from the tachiai and waited patiently for his chance to go for the belt. It came soon enough and once he had his favoured hidari-uwate grip, it was game over. While it was good to see Hakurozan fighting straight for a change, it was ultimately toothless sumo and will go down as a very easy win for the Mongolian. All bark and no bite from Hakurozan, but let's not forget he was fighting one of the best in the business. Hakuho is back on track at 2-1. Hakurozan is back off track at 1-2.

Ozeki Kaio met up with the surliest man in the world, M3 Roho. Kaio knows full well that a good first week is vital now that his stamina is shot to hell. Worryingly for him, he was totally overpowered in a straight-up bout and had no answer as Roho forced him over the bales. Against big strong boys like Roho, Kaio will need to be more evasive to survive because he just can't match them in the power department these days. Both Kaio and Roho are gallivanting around the forest in their underpants at 2-1.

The highlight bout for me today coming in was Ozeki Kotooshu versus arch-enemy Komusubi Kisenosato, who seems to own his more illustrious rival these days. With Kotooshu injured, I expected this trend to continue...and so it did. Kisenosato did a great job of keeping the Bulgarian away from his belt by coming in low and then attacking slightly to the side, always staying on the offensive. Kotooshu attempted a last-ditch pull-down (he actually seemed to try to leap-frog Kisenosato) at the edge but the Kisser showed enough awareness to stay on the case and push the Ozeki out...all right, Kisenosato was slapped down good and proper (too late for Kotooshu) at the edge but the important thing is that he didn't do what he always used to do – lost balance and stumble past his opponent to a loss. The youngster was in complete control and it was great to watch. He improves to 1-2. Kotooshu stands at the same score, and is in for a long hard basho with that injury. I wouldn't like to be his locker in the changing room today.

I know my fellow contributors are pretty suspicious of Ozeki Tochiazuma's 'injury' but I have to say that knee looks pretty fragile to me. I keep expecting his leg to fall off or something. In a frantic push/slap fest that could initially have gone either way, Tochiazuma managed to deflect Sekiwake Kotomitsuki to the side and get the left-hand belt grip that allowed him to finish the bout off. Tochiazuma showed superior balance and awareness and this was a vital shiroboshi in his quest to keep his rank. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Tochiazuma pull out once he gets eight (as long as he has no chance of yusho). If he really does have an injury, what's the point of risking it further? The Ozeki is 3-0. Kotomitsuki has run out of cigars at 1-2.

M5 Futenoh impressively kept M1 Kotoshogiku away from his belt but bloody well took his time finishing the bout off with the powerful left-hand belt grip he established. Kotoshogiku fought valiantly but will need to raise his game and improve his tachiai to make a splash at this altitude. Futenoh is 2-1. Kotoshogiku falls to 0-3 and faces Asashoryu tomorrow. Gulp.

M4 Baruto has been impressive over the first two days. Against M2 Kyokutenho he came in up and over and got a firm outside left-hand grip and an inside right, in a far superior position to Kyokutenho, whose weaker grip simply delayed the inevitable as Baruto gathered himself and then forced Kyokutenho out with ease. Again, impressive strength, but he's still coming in quite high, and this will have been noted by the top guys. It will be fascinating to see what happens when he meets the main lads. Baruto stays on the leaderboard at 3-0. Kyokutenho is having a nightmare at 0-3, but he'll come back with a dagger in each hand, I guarantee it.

M4 Ama came in with tsuppari and a right hand to the throat, forcing M6 Dejima upright and briefly into trouble but the power wasn't there and Dejima was able to counter with some a forward charge of his own. Ama then went for the pull-down but showed uncharacteristically poor ring sense as he allowed his foot to stray out. I would normally expect Ama to beat opponents like Dejima so this bodes ill for him. Dejima picks up his first win while Ama remains winless. Neither looks like getting their oats this basho.

M6 Wakanosato (3-0) got the morozashi grip straight from the tachiai against troubled M8 Takamisakari (0-3), who very nobly (and futilely) tried to swing Wakanosato around at the edge, but it was not to be as the former Ozeki hopeful forced Circus out. Takamisakari has frankly looked pretty poor this basho so far and I don't rate his chances of garnering a winning record, but I think there might be a couple more years in him yet because like Tochinohana he's kept his body in good condition and has the technical skills to survive among the dregs of the division. Just don't expect any future sanyaku bids.

M8 Tokitenku put on a decent technical display against M10 Iwakiyama, who came out like a train but was unable to finish the Mongolian off thanks to Tokitenku using that time to get a frontal belt grip. He then stepped nicely to the side and consolidated his hold. Iwakiyama put his vastly superior power to use and attacked again, but Tokitenku knew exactly what to do: go for an inside leg-trip against the big fella and ride the wave to the tawara with him. It was masterful stuff, a lesson in how a small rikishi can beat a big one. Tokitenku is top ape at 3-0. Iwakiyama is a ginger gibbon at 1-2.

M15 Tochinohana (3-0) showed the kind of impressive sumo against old new boy M16 Daimanazuru (1-2) that he showed in Kyushu last year, when he went 11-4 and won the Kantosho, going forward and giving his opponent no chance to do anything at all. I think we can expect another good record from him this basho, ten wins at least. At this rank, his technical prowess will see him through most of his bouts. Now watch him lose the next twelve! We also saw some fine forward sumo from M13 Takekaze (2-1), M14 Homasho (2-1) and M16 Kitazakura (2-1) today. Long may this continue.

I have high hopes for this basho judging by the sumo so far. And with Hakuho losing one bout already, there's going to be that edge-of-the-seat feeling every time he gets up there. Highlight bouts tomorrow include Hakuho-Roho, Kaio-Miyabiyama, Ama-Wakanosato and Baruto-Hakurozan. The Asashoryu-Kotoshogiku bout should be a cracker as well.  Oh...and one more point...thanks to Sumotalk fan Brian for reminding me to put this in - the winners of the last eleven bouts all went alternately from east to west to east to west.  I wonder if that's ever happened before.  Amazing.

Bernie puts on a leather mini skirt and parades around for you tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Ah, yes, the Nagoya basho. That tournament where we're treated to some of the not so pretty geisha that Japan has to offer. Hey ladies, Ozzy called and he wants his eye makeup back. Lest I get too sidetracked by the happenings off the dohyo, the Nagoya basho was dealt a sizeable blow on day 1 in terms of fan interest with Ozeki Hakuho and Ozeki wannabe Miyabiyama losing in such poor fashion. Would their fortunes change on day 2?  Kyokushuzan and Kyokutenho assured us that they would, so with Tori Alamaze singing in the background, "don't cha wish your geisha were hot like me," let's get right to the action.

How classic was Asashoryu on day 1 leaving zero centimeters of space between his chest and his opponent while Hakuho and Miyabiyama allowed huge gaps in their hesitant charges? It's this fierce attitude that separates Asashoryu from the rest of the field with no rivals. Today, the Yokozuna assured himself of a cool 2-0 start with a sly sidestep to his left at the tachi-ai grabbing the firm uwate that he used to dump M3 Roho to the dirt without any argument. This was a carbon copy of the Hakuho - Baruto bout last basho where it was over in a second. I see the Yokozuna working here. He doesn't want to use his right arm if he can avoid it, so he resorts to the change-up tachi-ai, but dude, save that move for Baruto. Why tip your hand against Roho? There are some out there who will call the Yokozuna's move a tachi-ai henka, but that was not the case. In sumo terms, it's called "uwate wo tori ni iku," or go grab the outer grip. I call it a sly side-step, and I can let a few of those go a basho per rikishi as long as it doesn't become a habit. Asashoryu's remaining opponents should take close note of today's bout, however, and attack the Yokozuna on his left side forcing him to take the offensive with the right hand. That's two bouts now where the Yokozuna's right arm was not tested, so while I'm convinced he's 100% mentally ready to kick everyone's ass, I need to see him use that right arm effectively to be convinced of his physical condition. Roho falls to 1-1.

In the Ozeki ranks, it looks as if Chiyotaikai did read my pre-basho comments telling him to live by the sword or die by the sword. Today the veteran Ozeki exhibited another great tsuppari attack against Komusubi Kisenosato where he led with the moro-te at the tachi-ai and kept the Kid off balance with well-placed tsuppari to the neck and upper torso. As the Komusubi was trying to gather any sort of momentum, Chiyotaikai took a quick step to his right and pulled Kisenosato over for the easy win. That's two bouts now where Chiyotaikai has not had to back pedal to beat a quality opponent. I'm completely in the Ozeki's corner when he displays this kind of sumo. Keep it up, I say. As for Kisenosato, I love the attitude and the glaring at his opponents, but it's safe to say he's pissing off the competition quite a bit with his antics. I think it's actually making the veteran rikishi try harder when they fight him. The Kid falls to a respectable 0-2 considering his opponents.

Ozeki Kaio exhibited a good tachi-ai that forced Komusubi Asasekiryu to abandon any forward charge. The two rikishi leaned forward in the grapplin' position where Kaio was trying to latch onto one of Asasekiryu's arms so he could wrench it into oblivion. During this scuffle, Asasekiryu went for a weak, ill-advised pulldown that allowed Kaio the easy push out. Asasekiryu had a tough time climbing back up onto the dohyo as he tweaked that problematic right knee of his during the fracas. Seki commented afterwards that he hurt his knee at the tachi-ai when his big toe got caught in the dirt. Kaio moves to 2-0 while Asasekiryu may have to sit a few days out. Regardless of what happens to Asasekiryu from here on out, I don't like how he's in the habit of sticking at the tachi-ai and retreating so fast.

Ozeki Kotooshu is starting to develop a bad habit of his own that may be the result of a right leg that isn't 100%. The Ozeki delivered a good head butt at the tachi-ai that neutralized M3 Kakizoe's charge, and from there he went for the quick pull down. The move had Kakizoe stumbling towards the tawara where Kotooshu was there to greet him with an outer grip that he used to march Zoe back across the straw for the easy force-out win. The tactic worked today, but the bad habit I'm referring to is Kotooshu's quick trigger on the pulldown move to set up his outer grips. It worked today thanks to a solid tachi-ai, but the Ozeki is playing with fire. I can already tell that he will not contend for the yusho. Both rikishi stand at 1-1.

If you're wondering how I reacted to Hakurozan's tachi-ai henka yesterday against Kotooshu, I went for the head butt to the sternum. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that those miniature rikishi aren't actually inside my television set, so I was left with a bunch of broken glass and wires for nothing. After today's bout with Ozeki Tochiazuma, though, I do see why M2 Hakurozan resorted to the tachi-ai henka yesterday. The reason is his regular tachi-ai sucks. He attacked way too high today immediately putting his right hand at the back of Tochiazuma's head. This gave the Ozeki the easy left uwate, and he wasted no time from there driving Hakurozan back to the edge. At the tawara, Hakurozan did manage a brief side-step and last ditch kotenage throw, but Azuma wisely pushed at Hakurozan's leg on the way out sealing the force out deal. This one was too easy for Tochiazuma, but he'll take it as he safely moves to 2-0. Hakurozan stinks at 1-1.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Hakuho finally got back on track today against M2 Kyokutenho where both rikishi secured simultaneous left outer grips from the tachi-ai. Kyokutenho, however, was forced to lean forward too much to grab his uwate, so he was a sitting duck for Hakuho to easily tip him over to the dirt. This was a very uneventful two-second affair, and typical of the way Hakuho dominated his opponents last basho. I guess you could say that Hakuho (1-1) is back on track, but he needs to be more fierce in his charge...like that Asashoryu feller. Kyokutenho falls to 0-2...no surprise there.

The best bout of the day featured Sekiwake Kotomitsuki vs. M4 Ama. The two hooked up in the migi-yotsu (both rikishi with the inside right) position from the tachi-ai where the larger Kotomitsuki used his bulk to drive Ama back to the tawara. Ama has as much fight in him as anyone, however, and used every gram of strength not to mention the tawara to keep himself from being forced out. When Kotomitsuki's force-out attempt failed at the edge, Ama was able to secure a left outer grip and force the action back in the center of the ring. Kotomitsuki secured a left outer of his own and mounted another charge that had Ama on his tiptoes again, but the Mongolian survived forcing the action back to the center of the ring. At this point, Ama did have the outer grip, but he was positioned far too high to leverage that into an offensive attack. Kotomitsuki had to have sensed this, so after regrouping in pure Mitsuki fashion (translation: standing around unnecessarily for 10 seconds), he went for the final attack throwing Ama over instead of driving him back.. The better rikishi won this bout, but Ama's determination was admirable. Kotomitsuki probably could have finished things off sooner, but he won't complain at 1-1. Ama is 0-2.

M11 Kyokushuzan is a clown. Today against Sekiwake Miyabiyama he backed up so far at the start of his bout that his butt was nearly squatting over the tawara behind him. That's so ridiculous. Shu is trying to turn the dohyo into a playground with his worthless antics. If I was the head judge, I would have called that gimmick a false start and shouted out to Kyokushuzan to get is ass up to the starting line. Luckily, Miyabiyama lunged into a false start of his own before the bout could get going, and thankfully, as the two rikishi reloaded, Kyokushuzan lined back up at the shikirisen. As the two rikishi actually clashed, Kyokushuzan attempted the moro-te tachi-ai, but Miyabiyama was quicker on the draw and had the lumbering tsuppari rolling driving his opponent back and out in two seconds. There was nothing Kyokushuzan could do in the straight up fight. Miyabiyama picks up the much needed win after that debacle on day 1. Krusty-shuzan falls to 0-2, which doesn't surprise me at all.

I'm pretty sure that staring across the shikirisen at a crouched M4 Baruto who looks rearing to go has to cause more than a few rikishi to wet their drawers a trickle or two. Today M1 Kotoshogiku was simply sucked up into a black hole, churned around a bit, and spit out on the dohyo floor. Baruto used a moro-te tachi-ai and quick pulldown to do the damage. Kotoshogiku looked resigned to his fate even before the tachi-ai, and I think it was nerves that caused him to commit a false start. He just had no options against the Philistine who moves to 2-0. I can't stress enough how important it was for Baruto to draw that M4 slot in terms of making an impact on this basho. So far his first three opponents look like this: M4, M1, M2. Contrast that to the M3's whose first three days look like this: Sekiwake, Ozeki, Yokozuna. The M4's will get a handful of the heavyhitters, but they won't get all of them as the M3's on up do. It was reported that Baruto badly sprained his ankle prior to the basho, but I've seen no ill effect from that so far. Kotoshogiku falls to 0-2.

M5 Kokkai exhibited a great tsuppari attack from tachi-ai even inviting a pull down, but he couldn't finish M6 Dejima off and stupidly went for a pull down of his own reversing the momentum. With Kokkai now on his heels retreating, Dejima committed a mistake himself by committing to that all-or-nothing desperation push-out of the legs while diving to the dirt. It was nothing today for the former Ozeki as Kokkai picks up the ugly win. The outcome was pretty close, and Dejima (0-2) returned to his side and delayed in bowing to his opponent in hopes that a mono-ii would be called or that somehow the referee had made the wrong call. Here's some advice: why don't you employ sound sumo tactics to defeat your opponent. That way you'll be sure of the outcome. Kokkai moves to 1-1.

M6 Wakanosato is off to a nice 2-0 start (don't tell Asashoryu) after using the surprising tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai against M5 Futenoh. The tactic worked to keep Futenoh away from his belt and his favored hidari-yotsu position, and with Wakanosato dictating the pace, he worked his left arm deep on the inside of Futenoh's right side wrenching his opponent upwards and gaining moro-zashi. From there it was easy peasy as Wakanosato used an inner grip belt throw to fell his opponent. Futenoh falls to 1-1 and needs to work on a solid tachi-ai.

M7 Aminishiki (2-0) led with his head against M8 Takamisakari (0-2) disallowing the Robocop any sort of belt grip. From there it was a fairly easy push-out win drawing huge screams of terror from the crowd. M7 Hokutoriki managed a poor thrusting attack from the tachi-ai over the top of M8 Tokitenku's head. This set up an even worse pull-down attempt that Tokitenku (2-0) capitalized on pushing out Hokutoriki (0-2) so easily it was silly.

For those of you wondering what a real sumo tachi-ai is, M10 Iwakiyama and M9 Tosanoumi combined for one in their bout today. After the smashmouth charge that was so epic Tosanoumi forgot to grunt, Iwakiyama forced the bout to yotsu-zumo driving Tosanoumi back and out straightway. Who cares about the sumo though. Let's get back to the tachi-ai. It was the loudest clash we will hear the entire basho, and thankfully, the Nagoya faithful appreciated and applauded it. Manly stuff.

M9 Yoshikaze is lightening in a bottle. His relentless tsuppari attack today slowly drove M10 Tamanoshima (1-1) back, but at the ring's edge, Tama countered with the usual evasive kote-nage throw that actually looked to work. The referee even ruled in Tamanoshima's favor, but a mono-ii was called and the decision was correctly reversed. This was yet another good win for the feisty Yoshikaze who improves to 2-0.

M12 Tochinonada was worked by the much smaller M11 Toyonoshima (1-1) who secured the right uwate against his listless opponent and threw him over with the right hand while adding insult to injury by pulling at the back of his head with the left hand. No surprise that Tochinonada is 0-2 after getting done like that. M14 Toyozakura came with his whited sepulcher tsuppari attack against M13 Takekaze, but the latter could not fend it off setting up an offensive strike of his own. Why am I even talking about this bout? Good question. I just had to bring up the winning kimarite for Toyozakura, which was right fist to the jaw while cart-wheeling throw down. I can't remember what that is in Japanese, but I'm pretty sure it's one of the 82 official ways to win. Both rikishi are 1-1.

I'm afraid that M14 Homasho is not going to make much of a splash in this division. After a left uwate attempt from a soft tachi-ai failed, he allowed M13 Jumonji to push him around and out without much incident. The crazy thing was that Jumonji never really planted himself nor mounted a good charge. His body just sort of followed Homasho around the ring until the younger rikishi stepped out. Bad sumo from both parties who each stand at 1-1.

And finally, Makuuchi rookie M16 Daimanazuru picked up his first win today against a listless M15 Buyuzan, who used a weak flurry of tsuppari from the tachi-ai that had no effect. Once frustrated, he actually went for a pull-down of the much taller Daimanazuru allowing the newcomer to easily push Buyuzan out for his first win. After yesterday's loss, Daimanazuru apparently received a phone call from his fiancée where she said, "you still have 14 more days, so hang in there," to which the NHK announcer responded, "what a wonderful woman!" Yes, what a wonderful woman! Where were those kind of gals when I was single?

Two days in and normally I would call it for Asashoryu at this point after seeing his mental focus, but let's wait and see until that right arm of his gets tested.  The basho has sputtered the first two days, but we have 13 days to make up for it and plenty of geisha to go around.

Simon flops to the pitch and grabs his shin tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Perhaps the earthquake (minor) that shook Japan as the opening day bouts were wrapping up was befitting of the rattling the two headline grabbers endured at the hands of their underdog opponents. The storyline for Nagoya centered around promotion-hopefuls Hakuho and Miyabiyama, who both stumbled to day 1 defeats against Asasekiryu and Roho, respectively. 

Let's start with Hakuho, who is looking to tie the record for least amount of basho occupying the Ozeki rank enroute to Yokozuna. That record of 2 basho is shared by Kiyokuni and the great Futabayama. Even recent greats Kitanoumi, Chiyonofuji and Asashoryu stayed 3 basho at Ozeki before making the jump. So at the brink of such a special accomplishment, Hakuho truly laid an egg today. He came out too conservative in my opinion, not befitting of a rikishi who is a combined 40-5 over the last 3 basho. Shin-Komusubi Asasekiryu came out aggressively and dictated the tempo, albeit a lethargic one due to Hakuho's apprehensiveness. Eventually, Seki used a well-timed swipe to the side as his opponent lunged forward to bring Hakuho off balance. The result was an okuri-taoshi, or push down from the back, and just like that Hakuho's promotion to Yokozuna is already jeopardized. 

Also jeopardized is Miyabiyama's potential re-promotion to Ozeki after a 5-year absence. In this bout, Miyabi showed absolutely no punch. When M3 Roho's long left arm took hold of Miyabi's front belt, it was game over in a hurry. As Roho lifted upward on Miyabi's belt and marched forward, Miyabi was stood up with no chance to defend. Roho dumped Miyabi off the dohyo with authority, making one wonder which of the two was really the Ozeki-hopeful.

He's baaack. Asashoryu, that is. Grabbing headlines to a lesser degree was the opening day match-up between Asashoryu, coming off an injury withdrawal in May, and Shin-Komusubi Kisenosato, who became the 5th youngest Sanyaku promotion in history at the still tender age of 19. This one was anti-climatic for sure as Sho displayed a lightening quick attack that absolutely overwhelmed Kise. Sho got right up on his opponent and did not allow any space between them, disallowing any offense from the youngster and completely suffocating him. Constantly moving and driving forward, Sho didn't even have to use his gimpy right elbow much. Once again Asashoryu's sheer determination and desire to win overcomes any question about an injury or his fitness. The extended glare at Kise after the dust settled served notice that there still ain't but one Sheriff in sumo today.

The remainder of the top rankers' bouts were largely ho-hum, but I reckon I'm obliged to touch on them. Chiyotaikai showed he's still got some game by shoving M1 Kotoshogiku around and out via his trademark quick tsuppari thrusts. No pulling or anything, just straight up oshi-zumo. Of course we all know what happens when the opponent doesn't retreat so cooperatively like Geeku did today...

Kaio got a virtual vacation on day 1 with his match-up against Kyoku "The Gimmick" Shuzan. Just wait for the hand to the chin and watch for the live-or-die-by-timing pulldown. Kaio did. Then he pushed him on out. Queue big yawn from everyone. 

Another rather boring bout featured Tochiazuma and M2 Kyokutenho. Azuma, now kadoban (brink of demotion) after being tsunatori (brink of promotion) just last basho, has a "questionable" right knee still, but he showed it wasn't anything to be alarmed about with a solid Azuma like attack. I'd have to agree with Mike that if Kyokutenho gives a damn, he's sure fooling this onlooker. In my eyes he's quit sumo but staying around on the banzuke.

Speaking of Mike, I had to sit there and wonder his reaction to the Kotooshu-Hakurozan bout. M2 Hakurozan employed Mike's favorite technique, the tachi-ai henka, to garner the cheapest of cheap wins to open the basho. I imagine the TV Mike was watching got something thrown at it. The official call gave Hakuro a kotenage by virtue of his hooking Oshu's arm as he skirted him, but it was a cheap win anyway you look at it. Actually, my take on it was this: Oshu, get your head out of your ass. You looked like you were asleep on your feet. Contrast that to the zoned-in intensity displayed by Asashoryu. And then Oshu has the gall to give Hakuro a glare as if to say "how dare you". What? After you look like you were sleepwalking at the tachi-ai, then put your hand down on the clay so fast it looked like a run-of-the-mill keiko session? Come on, I know you're not completely healthy, but how about a little desire? I'd say "how dare you" stare anyone down at all after such a feeble display of being ready yourself on opening day.

I'll wrap up today with one more much anticipated bout, the first clash between Makuuchi's David (Ama) and the new Goliath (Baruto). Both check in at M4 after opposite fates last basho. Ama struggled to a 4-11 finish while Baruto went 11-4 in his debut in the top division. Baruto came out firing tsuppari while hard-working Ama not surprisingly looked to get inside somehow. Ama's mantra, "stick and move", only worked halfway today as he did "stick" by getting inside but he couldn't "move" thereafter because he squared up against the giant and found himself chest to chest. Ama had both sides of the belt but his grip was too deep to allow any maneuverability. He soldiered on nonetheless, as Baruto didn't have any grip at all initially. Baruto did get pushed to ring's edge, but by that time he had his big paw on the back of little Ama's belt. He then picked Ama up, turned around and deposited him on the other side of the rope. They gave him an Uwatenage even though it was more like an Utchari. Baruto did it rather gently, but all the while displaying his power and presence. One can't help but anticipate the inevitable: Asashoryu vs. Baruto. Boy oh boy. Now there's enough intensity and power to conjure an earthquake.

Mike's up tomorrow.

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