Day 1

Day 3

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

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)

Today's Henka Alert Level: Salmon

For those of you not living in Nippon, and especially those who have never lived in Nippon, I apologize for the digression, but you know what would be great? If NHK could find an English announcer who had a nice combination of brains, sumo insight, wit, an easy speaking voice and the balls to call a spade a spade. Unfortunately, I live nowhere near Tokyo and Mike is in Utah, so we are stuck with the likes of Hiro Morita (brains and sumo insight only), Dave Shapiro (sumo insight only), Murray Johnson (all but the balls) and that guy with the lisp (who is sort of wimpy in head-to-head with that day's partner announcer but who is the guy I like the most). I understand that Hiro is a second language speaker, and that Murray works for NHK in other capacities so must play it close to the vest, and at least they got rid of Wiggins (thank the stars), but I just can't take the "and, and, and, that being said, very, very riKEEshi at the end of the day" of Shapiro. Yes, he generally knows what he's talking about, but he is just Ebola virus deadly boring as a commentator (and I suspect as a dinner guest as well).

Well then, say ya'll, why don't you listen to the NP side? Well, I have, and they suck, too. But seriously, I want wit, I want honesty, I want analysis and I want background, and in that order. They basically give the latter two only. Really the only one who does it for me is Doreen Mizz Simmons. They should hire her for the full fifteen days, and let her have everyday as a guest some former sumo dude with whom she has had a torrid affair (either platonic or red-hot); there must be hundreds of them. He needn't speak English, either. She could translate what he says, and if it's something too saucy, she could just cover for him.

You have to understand. Like Mike, I was forged in the nuclear furnace that is sports viewing in the U.S. of A. For various reasons obvious enough that we need not go into them here, the U.S. has turned more recreational sports into huge money making endeavors, and for far more years, than any other nation on Earth. Along with this creation of so many world dominating athletes came a market driven, concomitant rise in the level of sports analysis and commentary. As avid players and viewers, Senor Miguel Carlos María Eduardo García de la Cal Fernández Leal Luna Delgado Galván Wesemann and I learned at an early age how to analyze ANY sport once we knew the rules.

We also figured out (with lots of assist from older, purple nurple giving brothers) that to open one's mouth about sports, be it in the living room, the classroom, the pubsnacku, or the workplace, one had better be INTERESTING. NHK doesn't understand this (and prolly doesn't really care all that much about it's foreign viewers anyway, or cares only in so much that they pay the fees when that scary NHK collector comes knocking at the door, the persistent one who refuses to believe you don't understand a single word he is saying to you even though you have lived at that address for four years), so they hire guys like Shapiro, who couldn't clever his way out of a used rice paper condom (real items here, for fellas who want to pull a gag on their lady—"You slipped it on me yourself, Nori-chan, how can you cyooz me?!")

Course, the world didn't get to be as sadsack as it is without a lot of easy-to-please vanilla types running around, so do me a favor: If you disagree, go whack off on one of those forums, but don't contact me. I from Nueva Jyork, know I'm right, and that's all that matters.

Like I said on Day 4, reports of Kisenosato's demise are greatly exaggerated. Today found The Kid intact (and apparently unscarred after surviving his Day 12 hook up with the Ambassador) and ready to bring the thunder vs yusho winner wannabe Kotomitsuki. The soon-to-be Ozeki brought a big tachi-ai to the party, running his hands up into his foe's center belt. But The Kid was ready, keeping his elbows tight to the body and pressing in on the Sekiwake's arms, preventing any belt grip. More importantly, he had an absolutely perfect mix of stance and forward lean, so despite the tachi-ai, Hit was driven back. At the edge he squirreled away, but now Kise brought some mamma jamma slapping to the face and neck which sent Mitsuki into a backpedaling world of hurt. He managed to bend over and stiffen, making one last ditch attempt to grab something, anything, but The Kid smooth as you please slid away and pounded his foe down with two hands to the same shoulder to finish with the same record as the shin-Yokozuna. Game, set, match to Asashoryu, who was now guaranteed at least a playoff, and is there a citizen of the Confederation of Navigable Planetoids who thinks Mitsuki would have won THAT?

So when Asashoryu placed his eager mitts to the clay and prepared to blast off into Hakuho, he prolly figured, Why waste the energy going head to head when I am assured of the championship anyway, and he ever so slightly slid to the left, really just his left leg, but it was enough to get a yerfrickindead grip on Takanohakuho's belt, and the next one second was the most unsurprising this basho. I know there will be all sorts of moaning about the shift, but look at it this way: One, dude is now a Yokozuna, so they are equals and it is no longer Asa taking advantage of the poor lesser rikishi if he shifts a bit, and Two, Hakuho paid for Asa's ticket to the midnight showing of Stan Does San Fran, popcorn included (extra butter) when he won the March playoff for the yusho. Now we're even (and the enormous amount of wampum in those envelopes from companies wanting to be part of the first Yokozuna Only bout in five years didn't hurt, either!)

But do I dig the current trend of sidling, slipping and shifting among the big boys? Hell no, which is why the Director of Sumoland Security, the aforementioned Senor Miguel, has instituted a Henka Alert Level that will be used each and every basho to keep us all informed and aware of the dangers we face as citizens of Sumoland.

With nothing at stake between The Pup and Homasho I expected a straightforward affair, and that's what we got as Homasho gave Chiyo a fair fight (has he ever done anything but?) by standing firm and soaking up the slaps, gradually moving forward with hopes of driving the Ozeki out. Unfortunately, Homasho has never read Chiyotaikai for Dummies, or he would have known to not rush things by extending himself and to keep his legs underneath when he smelled blood. The Pup, having been through this a billion times before, simply shifted into that saucy little pirouette he does so well, and Homer crashed down to the doh!yo. Both men finish at 9-6, albeit via different routes. Springfield's finest was 9-1, true, but he brought the good fight everyday to the top rankers and has nothing to be ashamed of. Puppy, on the other hand, starting from Day 12, got killed by Hit (shit, just realized we may have to make a new nickname for him as Ozeki Kotozakura), roho'd himself on 13, and henka'd a Yokozuna on 14. Can you say ignominious? I know Martin can, innit!

Speaking of M & M, he was dead on about Ama doing the dirty vs KotoNoShow, except he did it AFTER using his hard piping tachi-ai to turn the tallest man in sumo into Mary On Her Way To The Cotillion. Looking like a reverse pile driver, Ama stiff-armed the Bulgarian twice to the neck and chest and when he recovered and lunged forward, fell flat on his ungainly face. If Ama can do this to Kotooshu, do you think the Ozeki has any chance whatsoever of being able to beat Hakuho and Asa oneday to take that yusho he so dearly covets? Simon will leave his house not wearing his tinfoil covered beanie before that happens. The Europeans can dominate the scintillating world of skeleton till the cows come home but it looks like sumo is destined to have only Japanese, American, or Mongolian Yokozuna for some time to come.

We had only one dude in the top half of the draw gunning for his eighth win, and that was SafeSexy at W1. A win would give him a serious shot at a sanyaku slot, so he did what any self-respecting riKEEshi does these days: Henka! But this was no ordinary henka, ladies and Eskimos, no; this was a truly sublime henka, so unforeseen, so replete with guile and deceit that he felt compelled to catch his foe's arm as he went hurtling past to SLOW his forward momentum. Now THAT'S a henka. The fact that it came vs Jokeutoriki, a man voted Most Likely To Henka in junior high school, made it even more delicious, and the fact that it was the W10's second consecutive prison shower was icing, pure and sweet. Hokutoriki must have been the only person in the gymnasium who wasn't at least considering the idea that Sexy might henka. Almost too gullible to be true (sumo, unknowable as the stars!)

It's going to be interesting to see how the Komusubi and Sekiwake ranks shake out come September. Mitsuki is gone, and Ama had a 7-8 at West Sekiwake. Tokitenku had a 7-8 at East Komusubi, and Amishneaky a piece of dogshit 8-7 at West Komusubi (with a gold nugget Yokozuna defeat on Day 1). Sexy had a wormy 8-7 at W1, Kise had a big 11-4 at W6 and Homasho a great 9-6 at E6. Could they possibly go with only one Sekiwake, and have three Komusubi? Or will they leave Ama at WS? Or let Shneaky and Safesexy both go to Sekiwake? Could The Kid shoot all the way up to Sekiwake? I highly doubt that, but I was surprised when they shot The Geeku up to Sekiwake a few basho back from E1 at 9-6. Ought to be interesting.

Tokitenku used the momentum from that huge win over Kaio on Day 13 to fuel himself vs Circus today. Takami got the belt grip he likes, but Tokitenku turned his full weight into PT's boy and used a leg trip I wish I had known how to execute in my high school dating days to get the win. If you get excited over Tenku's sumo this basho, I have a small patch of grass in front of my house. Come over and watch it grow.

Miflobby and Amishneaky slapped each other around for a while, then settled into a stand-off with Shneaky holding a left inside belt and Miyabi his foe's tassles (I don't know why they even have those things on their belts, they are totally ineffective in blocking our view of the wrestlers genital area anyway). As Shneaky tried to lean on the big fella, the former Ozeki (and Led Zeppelin keyboardist) placed his paw on the WK's shoulder and spun him around and down.

Geeku finished off a very disappointing basho by trying to do tsuppari with Takekaze, and the equally disappointing E3 simply pulled the E1 down via a lewd hatakikomi.

It was back to the future with Dejima and Wakanosato. Dejima must have been feeling all the ghostly power from his only yusho 8 years ago in Nagoya (when he henka'd Akebono in a playoff) because today he hit Waka and gave him the bum's rush lickety split. Both guys finish a sad 5-10.

The Noshimas went head to head today, and Toyo-chan showed why he has so much promise as he thoroughly dominated Tama-chan for his seventh win. In the final six days, the diminutive one took out some big fellas, including Fruiteno, Kokkai, Wakanosato and Dejima to nearly recover from the Week One from hell that M4's must go through. This all despite being injured. Dude's got some technique and power.

Kakuryu won 7 out of his last 8 to finish 9-6. The little Mongolian, in just his fifth upper division tourney, decided that this time out he was going to at least try and stick it at tachi-ai, and he did. That he was pushed back by bigger, stronger, or more experienced rikishi matters not. None of his wins (nor losses) came from a tachi-ai henka. It is a simple fact of life that if a small man wants to survive in a sport with no weight classifications, he must learn to use his foe's size against him. That said, to become a top guy, he must also get tough. I can see The Kak's career taking a similar trajectory to Ama's, namely bulking up and learning more belt technique. He probably won't go as high as Sekiwake, but this guy will be a Komusubi oneday, mark my words. Ama, Tenku, Sexy, The Kak—they all have similar styles and strengths, and none of them will ever be as good as Asa or Hakuho. So what? They will all be whooping on pasty white EuROPEians for many years to come, and there ain't nuttin' Martina Matra can do about that except wiggle her little butt in misery as she flaunts it by the frogurt stand every Friday night, hoping to earn enough money to buy herself an air conditioner.

I was impressed with E9 Tochinonada's revival, and he had some quality wins vs the Nikibi and Homasho. Today he beat Kaiho like a man his size should, waiting out the attack and getting inside, then slowly moving him back and out. Despite the loss Kaiho had a great basho, and while I don't care about special prizes, he got shtooped out of one. They gave it to The Nikibi, who also had a good tourney but who wasn't exactly facing a Murderer's Row (and he lost to Joker and Woeshikaze). Guess it was because he was a rookie AND he beat Kaiho head to head, but The Nikibi weighs 51 kilos! more than Kaiho, and Kaiho essentially IS a rookie he's been gone from Makuuchi for so long, and is fighting with something like ten pins in his ankle! If that plus a 10-4 with a Day 14 slaughter of huge Kokkai and a Day 2 destruction of Baruto the Biomass (Baruto never had a chance in that one) doesn't show Fighting Spirit, then nothing does. I like The Pimp, but he lucked out with that prize.

Three old timers who were 7-7 going in got their winning records. Tosanoumi beat The Ambassador via yorikiri, and Tokitsuumi did the same to Hochi Minh Yama, while Tamakasuga knocked off Kasugao, who was going for his own kachikoshi. The geriatric crowd was on fire this basho, wasn't it? We had a 31 year-old become Ozeki, a 33 year-old with 8 wins, one 33 year-old and one 34 year-old win 10, and two guys over 35 getting kachikoshi. Add 31 year-old Chiyotaikai's 9-6 to the mix and you've got yourself a senior volleyball team, with a sub.

Well, it's been a long basho here at Sumotalk. The deaths of two contributors, plus Simon's umpteenth kyujo (gonna be SO kadoban when and if he returns) has placed a strain on the rest of us (as you saw on Day 10). Like Martin said, being number four here at Sumotalk (clean-up hitter, and thus in league with Mays, Mantle, Bonds, Rodriguez, Williams, et al) pushed me to do four days. But did them I did and now the deed is done (huh?) Thanks for hanging in there for another basho and keeping the faith. See you in cyberspace.

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
No doubt the most unexpected and exciting feature of this Nagoya Basho is Kotomitsuki's unlikely streak and Ozeki promotion, and I have to admit that before the tournament I was 100% sure he'd choke and stay at Sekiwake for the rest of his career. Today he was all clutch in a bout with former sanyaku Tochinonada, who produced another great tachi-ai, trying to get his preferred left inside grip. While Nada did manage to get the left hand inside for a few moments, Kotomitsuki quickly backpedaled and cancelled any chances for hidari-yotsu with an intelligent makikae, immediately followed by a pull on the back of his low-standing opponent's head. It didn't work, so Kotomitsuki evaded to the right and avoided getting his head wrapped by Nada's left arm to push him down for his 13th win. Impressive? Far from it, Kotomitsuki completely lost the tachiai, but it was good stuff nonetheless, because he showed good awareness. It's understandable, though, with all the pressure gone. Tochinonada falls to his fifth loss.

Newly promoted Yokozuna Hakuho fell for a henka from Ozeki Chiyotaikai, dubiously similar to the 'inashi' that could be often seen at Tochiazuma's tachi-ai. Although Hakuho didn't lose right away, his momentum and balance were compromised after the move, and he couldn't really get anything working for him. All he could do was take the punishment from Taikai's tsuppari and succumb to the inevitable hatakikomi, when the Ozeki couldn't push him straight out. Ugly stuff, but there was no other way he could have won. Hakuho gets stiffed for the second time in two days and is out of the Yusho race, and he really needs to find a way to survive the cheap maneuver if he wants to be as successful as his fellow countryman. Chiyotaikai gets kachikoshi once more.

Asashoryu charged a fraction of a second earlier with a right harite against M6 Homasho, hoping to get the right uwate, but he was denied with a left inside. He didn't hesitate, though, and locked that arm, going for the throw. Although they named it kotenage, it was more a case of the hatakikomi, but the only thing that matters is Asashoryu getting his 13th win and staying on course for the playoff. Homasho is on a 4-bout losing streak that may very well cost him a special prize.

I love being proven wrong sometimes, don't you? Contrary to my expectations, Aminishiki decided not to henka Kotooshu, but it was probably a last moment decision (and by last moment I mean the second before the actual charge), because his tachi-ai was limper than Hugh Hefner's pecker without Viagra. He must have been studying recordings of Asashoryu's past bouts with the Bulgarian, because he was trying to keep him away from the belt at all costs. He shoulda known better, though, because Kotooshu doesn't really need the belt to beat him, and he soon found that out after getting slapped and pushed around, only to end up yoritaoshi-ed and with the Bulgarian landing on top of him (and while I'm sure some of the ladies wouldn't mind that one bit, Aminishiki's probably going to visit a shrink during the next few weeks).

Mongolian Sekiwake Ama took on overmatched M4 Takamisakari with his usual viciousness, right from the start. Since Takamisakari doesn't henka and his tachi-ai is usually as powerful as Aminishiki's in the previously described bout, Ama used extra boosters to slam into his foe head-first, driving him back a step or two and stinging him with some quick tsuppari to the face and neck. He didn't exactly finish him off, but after Takamisakari moved to his right, away from the tawara, Ama got himself a solid double grip with the right hand inside and smothered his listless opponent. Normally, I'd say it was too little, too late for Ama to keep his Sekiwake rank, but we're facing exceptional circumstances this basho, since there are no real takers for the second Sekiwake slot, except maybe for Asasekiryu, Homasho or Kisenosato. All the more reason for the Mongolian to make me right and do the dirty against Kotooshu tomorrow. Takamisakari is on his way to the junkyard with only three wins so far.

Miyabiyama the fat blob taught Komusubi Tokitenku a valuable lesson in snagging defeat from the brink of victory. Right from the start, the Fatman dished out some heavy thrusts all over Tokitenku's upper body, leaving him desperately trying to fend them off and on the run. Just when you thought it was all over for the Mongolian, he swiftly stepped to the side, letting Miyabiyama fall flat on his face, slapping the dohyo with frustration. Both men have accumulated 8 losses each already, but Tokitenku might just hang on to his rank with a lot of banzuke luck.

M6 Kisenosato drew the ginosho closer to him today with the spectacular, albeit controversial, victory over M1 Asasekiryu. Both rikishi came hard and low at the tachi-ai, focusing on pushing/thrusting attacks. Being pushed back a couple of steps, the lighter Mongolian was the first to switch to yotsu, attempting morozashi, but Kisenosato responded quickly and the two locked for a couple of seconds in the gappuri-hidari-yotsu position. Asasekiryu was again the first to take the initiative, attempting the uwate-nage, but he's either too weak or Kisenosato is too heavy, because the throw failed miserably and left Kisenosato facing Asasekiryu's side. The Mongolian did try to turn things around by wrapping his left leg on his foe's right, from the inside, but Kisenosato ultimately used this to his advantage and finished off Asasekiryu with a spectacular kirikaeshi, very similar to a move performed by Toyonoshima on Kasugao several basho ago and strangely decided upon as sotogake. Anyway, the victory wasn't nearly as clear as Kaio's over Hakuho two days ago, but they still awarded it to the Kid outright. One more win tomorrow for Kisenosato and the technique prize is in the bag, but defeating Mitsuki is going to be a lot more than hard. Asasekiryu still has a shot at returning to sanyaku if he manages to defeat Hokutoriki.

Wakanosato and Kotoshogiku are two of the bigger disappointments this basho, both of them getting makekoshi as early as day 12. The tachi-ai saw both of them vying for an advantageous belt grip, and it was Kotoshogiku who got a left shitate first. A struggle ensued, with the younger rikishi slowly driving the veteran towards the edge, but Wakanosato managed to turn away from danger by pushing with his left under Giku's armpit. Geeku kept pushing forward and eventually got the double grip he wanted, and after that he drove Wakanosato to the straw. For a moment it looked like the match was going to go his way, but the veteran held on by the skin of his teeth, miraculously turning the tables on his younger foe and driving him out to even the scores at 5 wins each. Both rikishi have been looking tired and lacking the desire to win, but I hope next basho will bring them back with renewed vigor.

M2 Dejima is another grey rikishi this basho, showing little interest in actually winning a bout. Toyonoshima withstood his charge and just pulled him down for the easy win. It hardly gets any more boring than this.

Mongolian Ryuo charged rather cautiously against cannonball M3 Takekaze, relying on finesse rather than brute force. A couple of well aimed tsuppari to Kaze's neck made up for the lack of oomph in his tachi-ai and he quickly drove Takekaze all the way to the edge and easily over. Both wrestlers already have double digit losing records so we're quickly moving on.

M13 Yoshikaze's speed and unpredictability have proven to be serious obstacles in the past for Tamanoshima, and he was almost overwhelmed today too, as his smaller opponent was all over him straight from the tachi-ai, taking him all the way to the tawara in some 2 seconds. At the first sign of resistance, though, Yoshikaze shifted gears going for the pull-down, but Tamanoshima must have been expecting it, because he was on his every move. Eventually Peter got a solid right uwate and the left under his foe's armpit to force him out easily. Both stand at 6-8.

Veteran Tosanoumi took on the Prince with his regular strong tachi-ai and growl. Futenoh stopped his charge and uselessly tried to get some grip, but failed to keep his balance and fell victim to a quick pull, falling to his 10th loss. Tosanoumi takes his quest for kachikoshi into the final day. At this rate, Futenoh will soon become King of the Underachievers.

Kakuryu defied me once more, getting his kachikoshi after slyly disposing of old man 'Kasuga. Naturally, the Mongolian couldn't handle the veteran's charge and soon backpedaled, evading to his right. Unfortunately, Tamakasuga's creaky joints aren't what they used to be and he could barely turn in time to face Kakuryu's low charge, so he was easy meat for the push-out. He still has a chance to get 8 tomorrow, against Korean Kasugao. I still don't like Kakuryu, but at least he doesn't henka.

Georgian Kokkai defeated himself again today, coming way too high at the tachi-ai and allowing his opponent, M15 Kaiho, to reach double digit wins on his return from a long stint in Juryo. Kaiho resisted Kokkai's usual elbow push by quickly grabbing the front of his mawashi with the right and trying twice before succeeding with the dashi-nage. Kokkai needs a strong dose of reality if he is to return to winning ways. Kaiho might just snatch a prize for his efforts, after such a long time away from the big guns.

M17 Otsukasa perpetrated a vile but fully deserved henka on Hokutoriki. The win won't save him from demotion to Juryo, though, nor will the loss make it less likely for the Joke to get a prize (he wasn't getting one anyway, despite his 10 wins so far).

Newcomer Toyohibiki bulldozed the giant Kitazakura out of the ring in some three seconds, despite some last minute evasive maneuvers, to get his 10th win and hope for the Fighting Spirit Prize. While his technique isn't overly impressive (he tried to throw Kokkai and ended up throwing himself), his strength is great, and, with the right time taken to improve on the former aspect, he might just make it big-time. Time will tell, but in the mean-time we can enjoy watching him destroy the lesser foes. I know I am. Kitazakura's sumo can be great sometimes, but most of the time it's just plain old piss-poor. However, I like his salt-throwing routine more than Takamisakari's weird self-flagellation.

Tokitsuumi stiffed Kakizoe with a henka. Probably just to fulfill today's quota and keep the Sumotalk henka alert level somewhere in the bright shades of red. Who cares? Kakizoe sure does, as he falls to makekoshi, and dangerously close to Juryo, I might add. Tokitsuumi is 7-7.

As usually, because I'm a lazy bastard (actually, it's because the other guys told me my reports were too long), I'm going to skip some bouts, namely the ones involving Juryo rikishi. What's that? Hakurozan is still in Makuuchi? Not with that kind of crap he ain't. Not for long, anyway.

Now I'm going to take a little time to speculate on the (un)likely outcomes of this here basho, but not for too long, because my flight to the North Pole is due for take-off in less than an hour.

The Yusho: that's a simple one, it goes to Asashoryu. Win or lose tomorrow, Kotomitsuki can't get the much-coveted cup without going through a playoff. Hakuho is less likely to win tomorrow than Hakurozan ever becoming a Yokozuna. He already owes Asa a couple of bouts, and what better time to pay him back than this one? Unless, of course, Asa insists on going head to head with Mitsuki again and loses on purpose should Mitsuki lose against Kisenosato. In any case, there will be yaocho. (Of course, it's absolutely unnecessary to even mention that Asa will own Mitsuki in the very likely event of a playoff)

The curse of Shiranui: this one's a no-brainer too, it's just about as real as Hakurozan's chances of becoming a Yokozuna. Hakuho's bad finish is a combination of stage fright, exhaustion, lack of experience and unfavorable circumstances. After all, it's his first tournament as a Yokozuna, and you can be sure he's been the most sought-after rikishi lately. That can take a heavy toll on anyone. He's still got a little polishing to do on his strategies, especially when dealing with dubious tachi-ai, because he fell for it three times this basho. Then there's all this henka in the air, Chiyotaikai desperately looking for kachikoshi, Mitsuki looking for the Yusho and Kotooshu looking for the left uwate. One word: unfavorable circumstances (ok, so it's two words).

The Sansho: this one's not so easy. The Kantosho will most likely go to Kotomitsuki for overcoming his demons and actually living up to his potential for once (well, I'm pretty sure this isn't the criterion the NSK bigwigs have in mind, but they'll give it to him nonetheless). Toyohibiki will surely get the prize for his strong debut if he wins again tomorrow (and with Henkarozan as his opponent, all he has to do is show up and charge lightly).

The Shukunsho: not too many choices here. Kotomitsuki took Hakuho's scalp and there's no way he can be denied with 13 wins already. There's also Aminishiki, but excuse me if I have my reservations. A solid win tomorrow might make it final, but with only eight he'll most likely miss out. Serves him right.

The Ginosho: this one's a hard one. Personally, I'd give it to Kisenosato if he wins against Kotomitsuki tomorrow, because the kirikaeshi today was great stuff. The MIB might just decide to give it to that lackluster Jokutoriki (probably for superior henka and pulldown skills), in which case I swear I'll give up watching sumo altogether.

Mitsuki's Ozeki promotion: in the bag.

Kotooshu's confidence: this one's a stab in the dark. If he keeps up the crap, I'm personally flying to Japan to slap some sense into him. Or maybe Koto-za-Kura might decide to finally do it himself.

Hakurozan's skinny legs: this one's the clearest. He's still going to henka.

Clancy picks up the pieces tomorrow, by which time I'll be chilling out with Bernie's relatives above the Polar Circle. Be cool everyone!

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It always seems as if day 13 is moving day, the day when the yusho race becomes solidified and the pretenders are sifted from the contenders like chaff from the wheat. And today was no exception as this basho has been whittled down to a two horse race. Let's shift gears a bit today and start with the hottest rikishi in sumo right now, Sekiwake Kotomitsuki, who having fought all of the jo'i will coast home with nothing but mid-Maegashira the rest of the way.

Today Hit was paired up with Homasho and completely took him out of their bout before the action began by stalling at the tachi-ai and drawing Homasho into three false starts. Homasho was obviously rattled because when the two finally did charge Homasho was a half a second late. His hesitance was tangible here, so score one for the mind games from Kotomitsuki. Homie did manage a left uwate straightway, but he had zero momentum allowing Kotomitsuki to raise him upright with a right arm on the inside and a left uwate on the other. Homasho dug in valiantly, but he was had before the bout had even started leaving Kotomitsuki to charge straight forward and smother Homasho out of the dohyo. Kotomitsuki picks up his twelfth win with the victory, a win that seals the Ozeki promotion deal regardless of what happens the final two days.

Kotomitsuki's run has generated so much excitement in Nagoya that the venue has been sold out the last few days, a complete rarity of late for a basho even when they're held in Tokyo. So to that end, Kotomitsuki's run is positive for sumo, but I just haven't been able to catch the wave of excitement so to speak. I want to see straight forward balls to the wall sumo, and Kotomitsuki has been exhibiting just that. The problem is he's been doing it after some shenanigans at the tachi-ai. Slyly slip to the left here...move to the right at tachi-ai there...stall Homasho today into three false starts. Maybe there's an ingredient in the Sadogatake-beya chanko stew that prohibits these guys from trusting in sound, forward sumo WITHOUT the shenanigans. Kotomitsuki's sumo was awesome again today, but it was set up by mind games and shenanigans at the tachi-ai that clearly befuddled his Maegashira opponent. Rikishi who rely on such tactics for their success will be exposed down the road. Regardless, Kotomitsuki controls his own destiny at 12-1 while Homasho may have just played himself out of a special prize at 9-4.

Let's keep things in the Sadogatake-beya and move to the day's penultimate bout that featured Ozeki Kotooshu seeking to run some interference against Yokozuna Hakuho. I'm never surprised to see Kotooshu go for a tachi-ai henka in order to grab the cheap uwate, but he surprised even me today by pulling it off in a critical bout with yusho implications. There's a few things certain when it comes to life in Japan: 1) just walking through the smoking car on the bullet train in Japan will take two years off of your life the "air" is so vile, 2) the term "variety" used to describe television shows really means "unfunny", and 3) no one can recover from a Kotooshu uwate-nage obtained from a sly tachi-ai. Hakuho did his damndest digging in with his right arm on Kotooshu's left side wrenching the Ozeki this way and that, and the Yokozuna even tried a last-ditch attempt with his leg to trip the charging Kotooshu up at the edge, but the outcome of this bout was determined from the tachi-ai henka. Normally, a Kotooshu win at this juncture is a great upset, and the crowd goes wild, but there was only a smattering of zabuton being thrown while Iwasa Announcer from NHK kept referring to Kotooshu's tachi-ai henka in every sentence. It was just anti-climactic stuff, and everyone knew it, but I'm just too worn out to go on a rant at this point.

I can see Kotooshu working here. First, he entered the day on seven wins, so a tachi-ai henka gives him his only hope of capturing an eighth win against Hakuho. Second, he's Kotomitsuki's stablemate and can eliminate one of the yusho contenders for his senpai. Hey, the Sadogatake boys have earned the right to take advantage of their numbers in high places on the banzuke, but I wish they'd just be more straight up when going about their business. And you've heard me say this before, but I'll conclude my remarks for Kotooshu saying it just burns me up when someone screws with the yusho race by using a tachi-ai henka. I don't know how he can get any lower than the crap he's pulled in Nagoya.

As for Hakuho, the NHK reporter manning the hanamichi tracked the Yokozuna down afterwards but couldn't' get Hakuho to say much. When asked about Kotooshu's tachi-ai henka, Hakuho remained tight-lipped and only tilted his head. When asked if he was surprised by Kotooshu's decision at the tachi-ai, Hakuho reportedly just nodded his head in the affirmative. I didn't think Hakuho was the clear favorite for the yusho heading into the day because his sumo has been quite nonchalant and lazy in Nagoya, but no one deserves to be knocked out of the yusho race like this. His silence and frustration is understandable as he falls to 11-2. Just a few more comments before I move on, but where was Hakuho's determination to break Kotomitsuki's left outer grip in his first loss a few days ago? Clancy hinted in his day 11 report that he thought the bout was odd, and I had the same thoughts myself. Today against Kotooshu, the Ozeki enjoyed an insurmountable outer grip, but Hakuho fought like hell to shake it. He was a like a caged animal who has no chance of escaping, but still gives it everything he's got. Against Kotomitsuki, however, Hakuho just stood around for the most part and let Kotomitsuki make him his girlfriend despite a grip that wasn't as lethal as the one Kotooshu secured today. I have no explanation for the reason why Hakuho would let up against Kotomitsuki, but when I compare his effort today with the effort shown against Kotomitsuki after giving up left outer grips in both bouts, I can't help but notice the stark contrast in his reactions.

But let's move on to our final yusho candidate, Asashoryu, who looked to keep his hat in the race against Ozeki Chiyotaikai. Where Hakuho got a freebie yesterday against Kaio, Asashoryu enjoyed one today although through no fault of his own. The Yokozuna was proactive and rearing to go at the starting lines while Chiyotaikai looked a bit hesitant. Still, the Ozeki made a move with both fists towards the dirt, but neither of his hands even came close to touching. Asashoryu reacted to the gesture by charging full throttle ahead, grabbing a quick frontal belt grip, and forcing Chiyotaikai back and out while the Ozeki raised both hands and looked towards the referee for the false start call. Who does Chiyotaikai think he is? Roho? The call never came and Asashoryu was awarded the victory by a referee who knew he blew the call but couldn't take it back. What made matters even more interesting was that Chiyotaikai's stablemaster, Kokonoe-oyakata, was the head judge, and it was his right--and responsibility too--to call a false start because Chiyotaikai's fists did not touch the dirt. But this is Japan, and even though clearly justified in doing so, Kokonoe-oyakata refrained from making the call that would favor his prodigy. The oyakata looked disgusted by the whole thing because on one hand, he wanted to make the correct call, but on the other hand, he couldn't because it would have reeked of favoritism.

My take on the bout is the same as when Roho did the same thing a couple of basho ago only he [Roho] opted to berate the referee in the press afterwards. This is all on Chiyotaikai. He's the one who came half-assed at the tachi-ai, and he's the one who made the unmistakable gesture that he was ready to go. Sure, the referee blew the call, and Kokonoe-oyakata couldn't make the call for political reasons, so the way this is all resolved is Chiyotaikai goes full boar at the tachi-ai (as if the Ozeki had a snowball's chance in hell to win anyway). Chiyotaikai, who is still stuck on win number 7, only cheated himself out of the fair fight today, so we move on. Asashoryu improves to 12-1 with the walkover and is now the favorite to take the yusho.

Absent from today's action was Ozeki Kaio who injured his left foot in his original bout with Hakuho yesterday. With eight wins already in the bag, there was absolutely no reason for the Ozeki to show up for work today so he didn't. Komusubi Tokitenku (5-8) got the too-little-too-late win as a result. Regarding the bout yesterday between Hakuho and Kaio, it was very interesting to see Martin's reaction and even my own reaction at first. Kaio clearly won the first bout against Hakuho, but in real time it was extremely close. The referee gave Hakuho the bendoubt as he was the aggressor--AND the Yokozuna--and pointed the gunbai in Hakuho's favor. The judges correctly called for a mono-ii, and they also gave Hakuho the bendoubt. Why? Because he's a Yokozuna. People who have watched sumo for more than a decade should not be surprised to see rikishi get robbed in close calls against Yokozuna. It used to happen all the time. Lately, though, we've had a dai-Yokozuna who is disliked and therefore never gets a close call, so relative newcomers will be shocked to see a Yokozuna get such preferential treatment. The Yokozuna deserve it. We've seen a lot of firsts for Asashoryu lately, but the one first we've yet to see is Asashoryu given the benefit of the doubt because of his rank.

Moving on to the backpage stuff, Sekiwake Ama grabbed the quick left uwate from the tachi-ai in a fantastic chess match against M5 Miyabiyama, but the Sheriff wisely cuffed Ama's right arm on the other side disallowing an inner belt grip on that side. Ama didn't feel as if he could attack with just one belt grip--even though it was an outer--so he opted for a stalemate in the center of the ring. Miyabi tried to break the 20 second stalemate with a quick pull attempt that didn't work but did separate him a bit from Ama. Ama still maintained that stubborn left grip, but it turned to a frontal belt grip while Miyabiyama tried to use blunt force to push Ama away by the throat, but the Mongolian held on in fine fashion and was able to squirm out of the neck abuse and used his speed to wrangle Miyabiyama over to the tawara and across. Both rikishi fought valiantly in this one as Ama improves to a never satisfying 5-8 while Miyabiyama is holding on at 6-7.

Martin has prophesied that Amisneaky will henka Kotooshu tomorrow, but why stop there? It seems as if Sneaky henkas at least half his opponents. His MO was obvious today against the struggling M4 Takamisakari: use the safe henka to secure the cheap win and a kachi-koshi...and a shukunsho. The henka came to the left where Aminishiki used an inashi move from the side to easily force the off-balance Takamisakari to the tawara where he was easy push out fodder from there. The Komusubi weasles his way to a kachi-koshi that has been hard to root for while the Cop falls to an expected 3-10. Just a side note here regarding Martradomus' prediction. While Aminishiki is not from Hakuho's stable, he is from the same Ichimon. Sneaky's stablemaster, Ajigawa-oyakata, has been tutoring Hakuho in his dohyo-iri and other responsibilities, and Aminishiki serves as Hakuho's swordbearer. There is some sense of team between Hakuho and Aminishiki, so I do see extra incentive to cheap-shot Kotooshu today.

M1 Kotoshogiku stopped M2 Dejima's momentum well at the tachi-ai and secured an insurmountable hidari-yotsu position. The Geeku went right away to the push-with-the-belly gaburi move as he hops into his opponent, and even though Dejima halted the first wave with no problem, Kotoshogiku countered by raising the former Ozeki more upright before using his gut to gaburu Dejima back and out for the nice win. It's little consolation, however, as Kotoshogiku is just 5-8. Dejima is 4-9.

M1 Asasekiryu moved one step closer to the sanyaku with an easy win over M3 Takekaze who looked more concerned with trying to just keep is balance as Sexy attacked him rather than mount an offensive of his own. Early on, Asasekiryu completely whiffed on a tsuppari leaving him vulnerable, but not in any mind to attack, Take-it-easy-kaze couldn't capitalize eventually getting his sorry can slapped to the dirt and a 3-10 record. Sexy is 7-6 and will undoubtedly find a way to grab at least one more win.

In a bout that resembled on of those old-timer baseball games where the action is so slow and the athletes are competing more so as to not get injured, M2 Wakanosato (4-9) managed a weak moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai that M5 Tamanoshima countered with both arms around the outside of Waka's arms, so Wakanosato quickly brought his right arm out to grab the uwate evening things up before launching Tamanoshima to the dirt with his left inside grip. You'd think with make-koshi knocking on the door, Peter (5-8) would have been a little more spirited.

M9 Kokkai hopped right into a M4 Toyonoshima moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, and even though he broke the grip off quickly and attempted to recover with some tsuppari, his momentum was gone and Toyonoshima easily slipped away and pulled down the struggling Georgian to his fourth loss in a row and to a surprising make-koshi from this position on the banzuke. Both dudes are 5-8.

M6 Kisenosato trounced M12 Hakurozan today in a bout that wasn't even close. The Kid executed a perfect tsuppari attack that had Hakurozan stood straight up and pushed back and out in two seconds and two thrusts. Kisenosato moves to 9-4 and hopefully is regaining his Komusubi form. Henkarozan falls to 6-7 and will surely be pulling out all the stops the last few days.

How bad is M7 Futenoh this basho? Nearly as bad as M12 Satoyama. In perhaps the ugliest bout of the basho that didn't involve a henka, these two started off with a delayed tachi-ai out of synch and then digressed to a weak tsuppari fest where Satoyama actually grabbed Futenoh's arm and twirled him around similar to the way I do Clancy when we practice ballroom dancing and he's won the rock-scissors-paper bout to determine who gets to play the part of the gal. Anyway, with his opponent turned 90 degrees after the move and facing the tawara, Satoyama still couldn't finish his opponent off. The ugliest continued as Futenoh (4-9) finally forced the bout in close and yori-kiri'ed Satoyama to a horrendous 2-11 record.

M15 Kaiho has been a rikishi on a bit of a hot streak this basho, so after grabbing the quick left uwate on M8 Kakuryu...on my reporting was money in the bank, right? Nope. Kakuryu showed the difference in rank by felling Kaiho with a right inner belt throw moving to 7-6. Kaiho is a hidari-yotsu guy, so perhaps he wasn't used to fighting with the left on the outside. Don't look now (I know I'm not) but Kakuryu has come back from a 2-5 start to stand at 7-6.

M13 Tosanoumi kept his kachi-koshi hopes alive today by destroying M8 Ryuo with a great tachi-ai and a few thrusts that had the Mongolian giving up halfway to the tawara. Ryuo is either injured, or he has been deflated mentally because he is sickly this basho. He needs at least one more win to keep himself in the Makuuchi division. Tosanoumi is 6-7.

M15 Tamakasuga manhandled M9 Tochinonada today with a feisty tsuppari attack securing a win that I frankly thought he wouldn't get coming in. The reason I even comment on this is to draw a comparison to Homasho's bout yesterday with Tochinonada. If Tamakasuga can solve Tochinonada, Homasho's gotta learn that too before he can become a serious sanyaku player. The savvy veteran, Tamakasuga, moves to 7-6 with the win while the 9-4 Nada has a date with Kotomitsuki tomorrow. If Nada can get the left inside position, we'll really find out how good Kotomitsuki is.

M17 Otsukasa looked to send M10 Kasugao to a make-koshi after gaining morozashi, but the fact that he couldn't pull it out falling to a Kasugao kote-nage illustrates why Otsukasa (5-8) will fight from Juryo in September. Kasugao is barely alive at 6-7.

And finally, could M10 Hokutoriki be touted as Kotomitsuki's senshuraku opponent? At 10-3 after slapping down M11 Kitazakura (6-7) today he very well could find himself in the spoiler role although I'm with Clancy. I think the Association should pair Kotomitsuki with either Kotooshu or Kotoshogiku.

To wrap up, our leaderboard looks like this heading into the final two days:

12-1: Asashoryu, Kotomitsuki
11-2: Hakuho

Kotomitsuki's schedule down the stretch is laughable, so you gotta figure the Sekiwake will be 14-1. With Kaio's withdrawal, Homasho now makes a huge jump to fight Asashoryu on day 14, so you figure the Yokozuna will be 13-1 heading into the final day, and Hakuho should take care of Chiyotaikai to remain at two losses. If Kotomitsuki wins out--thus knocking Hakuho out of the yusho race--you gotta figure that Hakuho will let up on senshuraku against Asashoryu forcing a playoff between Kotomitsuki and Asashoryu. Regardless of the outcome, Kotomitsuki has ensured that this basho will be the best of the year so far.

Martin deals tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Day 12 of the Nagoya Basho is upon us and for the first time in a very long time we actually have a serious 3-way yusho race at hand, and with two Yokozuna on the banzuke to make it even more interesting.  Currently, my sources for the day's bouts are the NSK Live Stream (the quality of which is one notch below abysmal, but hey, at least it's live) and some higher definition clips available later in the day. After seeing the stream, the outcome of the bout between newly promoted Yokozuna Hakuho and veteran Ozeki Kaio seemed clear enough, Kaio looked like he'd won it. After watching the clip, however, I can tell you this: Kaio was ROBBED, with capital R-O-B-B-E-D. The old man was cautious in his tachi-ai, as usual, going for the mawashi with his right, but Hakuho disallowed it and kept him at bay with tsuppari to the neck and chest and driving him back a couple of steps. Immediately after, he evaded to his left and almost got Kaio with the move, but the savvy veteran didn't go down that easily and soon came back for more. Hakuho promptly went at it again, this time driving Kaio back convincingly, and at the edge he planted his right under Kaio's armpit, moving in for the final push over the edge. However, it was Kaio's turn to evade, and he did it brilliantly, with a perfectly timed, textbook tsukiotoshi. And this is where a certain Kimura Shonosuke decided to point the gunbai the wrong way, for his own inscrutable purposes. A mono-ii was promptly and justifiably called for, hell, even the spectators started throwing purple pillows on the dohyo. At that point I said "whew, there is justice after all", but after hearing "torinaoshi", I knew Kaio wasn't supposed to win in the first place. Regrettably, I don't understand a lot of the Japanese language so I have no idea what the official justification for the decision was, but I can tell you one thing: if the "dead in the air" rule was invoked, Hakuho was "dead on the ground" long before Kaio lifted his left leg from the clay.

So why did what happened happen? First scenario: Kotomitsuki is getting some serious help to snag the yusho from Asa, and to do this the MIB are keeping Hakuho in the yusho race, to give him enough motivation to win the Asa showdown on senshuraku, since he is a much more accessible opponent for Mitsuki in the event of a playoff. I know, it sounds utterly ridiculous (but not entirely unlikely, at least not for a conspiracy crackpot like me), so I do have a plan B explanation, for you normal readers: the MIB are a bunch of worthless blockheads. Hmm... come to think of it, that DOES seem more likely. Anyway, Hakuho stays at one loss and in the Yusho race, while Kaio can be happy he's already got the 8. Hmm, I can't quite shake the feeling I'm forgetting something... ah, yes, the rematch. Absolutely not worth talking about, Kaio was struggling just to drag his tired old body across the dohyo. I just hope Kaio's fans can forget about this majestic grease-job soon enough, although I think Hakurozan will become a Yokozuna before that happens.

The other Yokozuna (still sounds strange to mention Asashoryu as 'the other', doesn't it?) didn't have nearly as hard a time as Hakuho, because, unlike last time, he made damn sure Kotooshu went nowhere near his mawashi, by ever so slightly stepping to his left, barring the Bulgarian's long arms until he was able to plant his left hand deep under his shoulder, while keeping the opponent's deadly left at bay. Kotooshu quickly ran out of ideas and meekly stood there until Asashoryu decided the whole cat'n'mouse deal had gone on long enough and slapped the poorly balanced opponent down to his 5th defeat. It's exactly how Asashoryu beat Kotooshu several times in the past (the only difference being the kimarite), and it's exactly what he's supposed to do against him, because Kotooshu will defeat him in a head-on yotsu duel, and his strong legs allow him to resist being pushed out easily. Did I like it? Hell no, but I do appreciate Asashoryu keeping his cool and playing it out using his brain instead of his anger. Kotooshu continues to be the underachiever of the tournament, with only 7 wins so far and three rough opponents to come (Hakuho and the Ajigawa boys, according to my calculations).

While we're on the topics of henka and Kotooshu's fighting schedule, I'd like to point out another theory, this time regarding the (currently) #4 of Sumotalk, Clancy 'Fancy' Kelly. The first thing that strikes you when reading his report is the henka alert level for day 11. BLUE? Come on, with the likes of Henkarozan, Jokutoriki, Asasekiryu and Tokitenku pulling outright and outrageous henkas, you'd expect the esteemed Mr. Kelly to jump through the roof. Secondly, what the hell is all the "Kotomitsuki has Geeku and Kotooshu left to fight" rubbish? Since when? And thirdly, Clancy and bad grammar?? After piling on Bernie and Mike for the same thing in their reports? Clancy would rather commit seppuku than write a word wrongly. There can be only one explanation for this: it wasn't the real Clancy Kelly writing, but a spirit possessing him. And who do we loyal readers know to be dead, to have written for Sumotalk, to have liked the henka and to slip funny English in his comments? EXACTLY! Bernie McManus!

This is what I think happened: right after Bernie's tragic and violent death, his spirit didn't leave for Hel... uh... Heaven right away, instead waiting for the conclusion of that basho. In doing so, he got to read Clancy's blunt report revealing the shameful circumstances of his death, and was bound to exact revenge on the perpetrator in order to be able to leave this existential plane. So he decided to pay our Clancy a little visit, just so he could make it up to him for all the times he called his family 'eskimos' and 'igloo-dwellers'. The day 11 report is rock-solid evidence that he succeeded. R.I.P. Bernie, may your tortured soul find eternal rest.

In the next bout, Japan's greatest hero of the moment completely owned Ozeki Chiyotaikai, right from the tachi-ai, slamming hard into him, driving him a step back and exposing the lack of power in his tsuppari. After that, he insisted on showing him the proper way to do it, blowing him all the way to the ropes and off balance in the process, with one single, well-aimed thrust to the neck. It's safe to say Chiyotaikai would have fallen to his face on his own, but just to be on the safe side, Kotomitsuki did grab his belt to drag him down. After all, uwatedashinage does sound a lot better than tsukite or koshikudake. 11-1 is a stellar record for the future Ozeki, beyond every fan's wildest dreams, I might add. Taikai ain't out of the woods yet, with Kaio and the two Yokozuna left on the menu, and he can thank his lucky stars for the bonus against Kotooshu.

Sekiwake Ama and M2 Dejima were the protagonists of a strange tachi-ai. Ama was clearly fidgeting before the charge, and that will prompt anyone to suspect foul play, especially against Dejima. Unusually enough, it prompted Dejima himself to suspect it, so, deciding to fight fire with fire, he charged to the left, probably hoping Ama would go the same way. He didn't, and Ama's speed allowed him to turn to his compromised opponent and easily push him out for his fourth win. Dejima falls to makekoshi.

Aminisneaky was probably practicing for his match with Kotooshu, because he shafted Geeku with a heinous, premeditated henka. I just hope he loses his next three bouts, so he doesn't get the shukunsho and the sekiwake rank so desperately in need of contenders. Neext!

Asasekiryu and Komusubi Tokitenku met in an all-Mongolian, all tsuki/oshi and one sided affair. Not-so-sexy tried to get an early left uwate, but when Tokitenku pushed him away, he said 'to hell with it' and just pushed his foe out in a matter of seconds. It was decent stuff to watch, but it hardly makes up for the henka against Dejima yesterday. Asasekiryu is an even 6-6, while Tenku can kiss sanyaku goodbye.

It's bloody painful to watch Wakanosato struggle against the real competition after such a long time away from it, and he owes it all to Ama, who rushed his intai by some 1-2 years or so with that komatasukui all those basho ago. While he's an admirable rikishi for the ratio between his fighting spirit and size, I'm starting to dislike Ama for his tachi-ai shenanigans of late (and he'll probably do his best to make me hate him even more in about 2-3 days). But let me get back to the actual bout. Wakanosato came way too high at the tachi-ai, probably hoping for a quick and cheap pulldown, but Toyonoshima was too fast and managed to get both arms inside for a split second. Waka kept his wits about him and went for a makikae with his left, escaping the deadly morozashi, and forcing a brief stalemate in the center of the dohyo. Toyonoshima pushed forward and, although failing to finish his opponent off with the attempted leg trip, won eventually by yorikiri, getting his fourth win. There is no end to the horror for Wakanosato, as he falls to nine losses.

Class clown Takamisakari made short work of lackluster M3 Takekaze, getting a quick uwate right from the initial charge and immediately using it to drag his opponent to the clay. Both rikishi are looking at a serious drop down the banzuke ladder, with 9 losses apiece.

M9 Kokkai showed once more he's worthless at the belt against the skilled yotsu fighters. The tachiai seemed to favor the Georgian, but he could only take hostilities to the tawara, where Tamanoshima got a nice left inside. A long pause followed, long enough for me to discover in the Online Archives of Canada that Bernie did actually have an Eskimo great-great-great-grandfather, after which Kokkai tried to end it all, but fell victim to the tsukiotoshi Tamanoshima was able to set up using the aforementioned grip. The bout leaves both men in need of straight wins to avoid going down the banzuke.

The Fatman met Korean M10 Kasugao and left him without any answers to his lumbering thrusting attack. Kasugao uselessly tried to fend off the heavy tsuppari and went back all the way, without there ever being any hope for neither a shadow of a belt grip nor a pull-down. The solid win evens Miyabiyama's record to 6-6, while his opponent falls to a dangerous seven losses.

Kitazakura, the world champion salt thrower, went with furious tsuppari against Kisenosato, so furious, in fact, that if I didn't know better I could've sworn Kisenosato was teaching Zak's wife some forbidden kimarite. It didn't exactly have the desired effect on the Kid, though, as he managed to get a nice paw to the back of Zak's head and drag him for some 10 feet across the dohyo, until he crashed out in a heap of outspoken frustration. Kisenosato gets kachikoshi while Zak will most likely get a divorce.

The other Japanese hero, M6 Homasho, was on the receiving end of one of those tachi-ai that can leave anyone (and by anyone I mean anyone including the Blue Demon himself) without reply. Nada smashed into his foe and made more of an impact, even though it looked like Homasho charged a coupla milliseconds earlier. After stopping for a moment, Nada got his left on the inside and blasted Homasho upright with an upward yank under the shoulder. Yorikiri was a formality after that and Tochinonada looked damn good finishing it off and putting a big wrench in Homie's sansho hopes. Nine wins for both men.

Futenoh's been spiraling towards Juryo for a while now, but this particular basho he's been looking horrendous. After uselessly struggling for a belt grip and taking the punishment from veteran Tamakasuga, he got lucky when the latter failed the pull-down attempt and capitalized, getting a solid grip on the back of his mawashi and driving him out to earn his 3rd win. The old man is at an even 6-6.

Kakizoe and Ryuo battled it out in a careless but spectacular tsuppari-fest. After both rikishi exchanged slaps, Kakizoe proved more focused in the end and drove his rounder opponent out by tsukidashi. It would be a daunting task to actually describe the bout, but I do suggest watching it. Kakizoe keeps kachikoshi hopes alive while Ryuo sinks even lower at 3-9.

Another similar bout took place between another pair of rather small rikishi, M8 Kakuryu and M12 Satoyama. Kakuryu definitely thought he could take Satoyama out easily and going forward, because he seemed to surge forward like a blood-lusting bullet. Uh... for about a second anyway, because right afterwards he retreated and, you guessed it, went for the pull-down. The effort was so half-assed that Satoyama didn't even need to regain his balance and chased Clancy's acolyte all over the dohyo, but we all know what a slippery little pain-in-the-ass Kakuryu can be. Eventually, he realised he wasn't going to win by retreating so he finally attacked with some tsuppari, cautiously at first and gradually increasing the intensity after seeing Satoyama strangely worn out by the previous effort. Satoyama ended up all beaten up and with no pride left, and begins packing his bags for the lower division, while Kakuryu recovered nicely from his ugly 2-5 start. On the bright side, Kakuryu will probably get his ass handed to him tomorrow at the hands of Kaiho. On the other hand, the simple fact that he's able to survive this high up with such shitty sumo is a clear sign that there is no real game around this neighborhood of the banzuke. Whip yourselves into shape, boys.

In the next bout another newcomer was burned by another 'master' of evasion with another lousy maneuver. After the tachiai, Hokutoriki realized he didn't have a chance to win it straight, so he just backed away and jumped at the edge, managing to pull Hibiki down by the skin of his teeth. Kaio's victory was way clearer than this crap, but guess what, they awarded it to the Joke, much to my disappointment. No matter, Toyohibiki is young and will get even eventually, but Hokutoriki will probably retire before that even has a chance of happening.

The surprising Kaiho made his Makuuchi return memorable by scoring kachikoshi as early as day 11. Facing the resurgent Tokitsuumi, Kaiho stepped to his left to get the front of the mawashi with his left hand and yanked his foe off balance. For a moment my pulse went up in anticipation of seeing the extra-rare izori throw, but it wasn't to be, as Kaiho couldn't quite duck under his compromised foe and had to finish him off with a solid shitatenage. Nine wins for the returnee ain't half bad. Tokitsuumi is even at six wins to six losses, but things are sure looking better now than they were the last time I was reporting.

Henkarozan produced a particularly weak and upright tachi-ai, relinquishing morozashi to his determined foe, M17 Otsukasa, who forced him out in about three seconds or so. Hardly worth the effort I took to type about it.

Yoshikaze used the H-word against Tosanoumi and he didn't win right away, but who really cares?

Kyokutenho dismantled out-of-place Hochiyama and he's promising to be back with a vengeance where he truly belongs.

I'd really love to stay a little longer and speculate on the likely and no so likely twists in this basho's grand scheme, but, as some of you might already know, Romania has recently been hit by a monstrous heat wave, therefore I'm going to find myself a nice little refrigerator to spend the night in. Mike takes the bad luck out of day 13 (and if you don't believe me about that, just click here to look at some of the nasty things that can happen).

Day 11 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)

Today's Henka Alert Level: Blue

The Nipponese have a saying that goes "shyoganai" and it is usually translated "It can't be helped". I prefer "Whaddyagonnado?" but perhaps the most succinct (and certainly the most visceral) is, "Shit happens". So if you're looking for the Day 10 report from Sumotalk, well, there's your answer. It's the first time since Sumotalk became truly sublime (or, in other words, since I became a contributor) that we have missed a day. We apologize and will obviously be revoking the minibar privileges of the guy who dropped the ball.

And that's a shame, because Day 10 did have some exciting moments, such as Kaiho moving to within one win of his kachikoshi with a sweet win over Tamakasuga, Tochinonada kicking the wildly unlikable Henkarozan's ass, Takamisakari driving out Kaio!, and of course the biggie, Koto Hit or Mitsuki tossing Hakuho out like he was pitching cricket.

It's this last bout that I would like to briefly comment on. Go back and watch it. Freeze frame just after the two men meet. Hakuho's left hand is nearly on top of Hit's belt, and yet he refrained from grabbing it. Let me make this clear: It was there for the taking, and would have sensibly countered the grip Hit already (and quickly, deeply, unlikely) had on Hakuho's left side, and yet he did not even attempt to snatch it. Sumo: As unknowable as the stars.

Day 11, though, is where we found ourselves today, and in the clutches of his nemesis Asashoryu, aka Genghis, the Khan of Khans, is where Kotomitsuki found himself. Having lost twenty-six straight to the Yokozuna, you'd have to be nuttier than a chipmunk picnic to think the Sekiwake was going to continue his winning ways, and we know, dear reader, that you are not.

But as is the case lately, Mitsuki gave it as good a shot as the basho before as he somehow was allowed to live after tachi-ai when Asa had an inside left belt and an outside right belt. Normally given this advantage the Khan would shake his foe like a bull terrier at a rump roast, but perhaps feeling patience is a virtue, the Yokozuna slowed things down and let Mitsuki get his own two handed belt grip, setting up one of those classic sumo matches that has two giants with great grips leaning on each other chest to chest, shoulder to shoulder, looking like they are taking a breather when they are, in fact, applying enormous amounts of different types of strength in hopes that the other will make the slightest miscue and open himself up to a throw.

Sadly for Mitsuki, it doesn't take a miscue to lose to Asashoryu, just takes stepping into the ring. After a few seconds wait, Asa made one of those throws that is so strong and so quick it takes your breath away. It won't do to call Asa's uwatenage merely "textbook". Plato's Forms come to mind.

Nonetheless, we will be seeing a new Ozeki come September, as there is no question Hit will beat Chiyo tomorrow. That will put him at 11-1, with only Homasho, Kotooshu and the Geeku left to fight. He may lose to Homasho, but no way he can lose to Kotooshu and the Geeku. I mean, he practices against them all the time! Point is, after Chiyo, he ain't got much compared to what he had the first ten days, maybe the Kid or Dejima or the Sheriff. I like the odds of him getting one win out of those three, and the kyoukai could give him a big break and pair him up with some guys doing relatively well lower down, maybe Hokutoriki or Tochinonada?

Doesn't it seem that right around Day 11 every basho the action starts getting weird? Desperation in the air, perhaps?

Ama inadvertently collapsed trying to get the same belt grip Kotomitsuki got on Day 10 vs Hakuho, because unfortunately Hakuho was not under orders to lie down like a dog this time and spun nicely, causing his countryman to inadvertently collapse via a koshikudake, or inadvertent collapse. There was no way Ama's fall was advertent, so I must agree with the call of inadvertency. Ama goes to eight losses and will fight now to catch his fall from going lower than Komusubi.

Circus did the honorable (and stupid) thing post tachi-ai and let the Wolf's Pup Chiyotaikai pummel him on the face and neck without shifting to the side and grabbing at his belt. Takami did, however, have the sense to circle away once he was at the ropes, but then he let the Ozeki do the exact same thing one more time and this time P.T.'s boy got run out to his ninth loss.

In the Hard To Believe These Two Are Irrelevant Bout, after three or four or five misfires, Kotooshu did NOT henka Miflobby, who DID try a slapdown and who WAS subsequently (why isn't the word "subsequentially"?) slapped down HIMSELF and...ah, screw it, I'm just using upper case to make you think something exciting happened. It didn't.

E6 Homasho came at Ozeki Kaio like an Ozeki meaning to confirm the pecking order, but Kaio backed up and evaded like an E6 hoping to get the upset win. Kaio, love seeing your name on all those all-time lists, but seriously, about your career? Wake me when it's over. Homasho was nicely aggressive but left his legs behind him to suffer his second defeat.

The Geeku played teddy bear to Tokitenku's six year-old boy and was quickly dropped behind the couch for his disappointing seventh loss. I was thinking with Asa still to come that he could say Auf Wiedersehen to any chance of reaching Komusubi for September, but it looks like the powers that be spared him a date with Genghis, so maybe he can win out like he did in March (to finish 7-8) and get his kachikoshi this time.

I dislike Aminishiki so I am not going to comment on his win over Toyonoshima today.

I sincerely hope that AsaSexy is also AsaSafeSexy, because with the way he greeted Dejima at tachi-ai today the former Ozeki had better hope condoms are a part of Sexy's game plan. Jumping up and out of harm's way the Mongolian W1 managed to throw the Degyptian off enough to cause him to lunge and fall after initially righting himself. No bedroom poster sumo here.

For the third time in the last four days, Tochinonada defied my expectations and beat a superior rikishi, this time Tamanoshima via yorikiri. At 8-3, the former sanyaku mainstay got himself some second half action today and faces Homasho tomorrow. Should be a good test to see if this semi-revival is for real.

It appears that Herr Wesemann had a shot on goal about one thing: The Kak likes to win on the days I report. But he hit the post on Day 6 when he wrote that he smelled a five day losing streak coming on. Instead, Kakuryu took care of the Sheriff, Tochiozan and today brought down Tosanoumi. As has been the case all basho (only the Kak's FIFTH in Makuuchi), there was nothing evasive about his sumo today. He took the full brunt of Tosa's tachi-ai and then sensibly maneuvered to let the big man's weight do him some damage, which it did by carrying him forward and down. To read some of my esteemed comrades you'd think that there is something ignoble about this kind of sumo. Balderdash, say I! Tosanoumi outweighs the Kak by 22 kilos (and Tochiozan outweighs him by 14 and Miyabi by something like 396). Naturally in sumo the bigger man will be able to drive the smaller man back at tachi-ai. The big guy is utilizing the advantage nature gave him, namely his bulk, so why shouldn't the smaller guy use that same advantage, his foe's bulk, once he has given his foe an honest tachi-ai?@It's simply ludicrous to imagine small fellas regularly grabbing, let's say, morozashi and driving people out yorikiri. Even the great Kakizoe is able to do that only occasionally. One may have a preference for big man sumo, that's fine, but don't be dissing little guys who stick at tachi-ai and then do what they must to win. The experience Kakuryu is acquiring this time out by taking all the "behweemoths" full on should translate into the kind of quality sumo I expect of this man in the future.

(Note: Grammarcheckers blow.)

Onward! The Nikibi exploded on the Korean nage specialist Kasugao to reach his eighth win in his first top flight tourney (though he would have had it one day earlier but for that ridiculous loss to Yoshikaze on Day 3). Seems those scant three basho he spent in Juryo, along with this rookie effort, form a telling sign that this lad will be showing up every two months at the makuuchi company picnics and nailing ringers on the horseshoes pole.

Sitting through the endless false starts and pre-tachi-ai shenanigans of the Jokeutoriki vs Kakizoe bout (The Jokester's fault, imo) I felt like I was thirteen again, sitting in the War Memorial Auditorium suffering through the Michael Schenker Group and Whitesnake in order to hear the sublime Ian Anderson lead Jethro Tull. Unfortunately the payoff for this bout was nothing like listening to Cross-Eyed Mary as Hokutoriki pulled a vertical henka and slapped Kakizoe down to his 7th loss. The Jokester has eight wins of you need 'em.

Finally, my main man Kaiho slapped Satoyama around like a dad his teen son who borrowed the car without permission. A triumphant return to Makuuchi for the veteran, Squeezing out his kachikoshi on Day 11! Kaiho is Up The Junction at 8-3 while Satoyama is Slaughtered, Gutted and Heartbroken at 2-9.

Well, Day 12 brings us all (and we do mean ALL) the action with that kooky Yer ROPE Ian, that Transylvanian titan, Matra Martin (whose name can be rearranged to spell, I'm an Art Mart). We received a bunch of emails about Martin's Day 7 report, and sensitive as we are to the needs of our many of our busy readers (not including the Sumotalk Forum guys, who have no life whatsoever), we will be publishing Martin's Day 12 report in six easy to read installments starting tomorrow and finishing sometime in August 2008. I'll be back on Day 15 to snip away the frayed bits and loose ends of your sumo mind.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)

Today's Henka Alert Level: Red

Nagoya is turning out to be a pretty solid tournament in that both Yokozuna are vying for the yusho as expected, but we also have a Sekiwake who is a worthy candidate (to be in the race...not to actually take the thing) and a Maegashira rikishi who's also worthy to have his name on the leaderboard as we begin week two. Having said that, however, I'm getting quite disturbed by the amount of shenanigans we've been seeing from the tachi-ai. You may initially think that tachi-ai henka are down this basho, but just because a rikishi opts to go for his opponent's belt instead of just slapping him down after moving to the right or left at the initial charge, a henka's a cheap maneuver that gives one rikishi an unfair advantage over the other. You can bet that we'll be talking about the move a lot today.

Hell, let's get to the henka talk right away starting with Asashoryu. Asashoryu has been going through a lot of firsts lately, but I never thought I'd see the day when he'd give Miyabiyama a tachi-ai henka for the first time. He did exactly that today moving quickly to his left, but the problem was Miyabiyama read the move and offered a right stiff arm into Asa's throat that took him out of his element. Had Miyabiyama's lower body actually been of the intention to move forward from the charge (instead of just standing his ground), he would have been able to finish the Yokozuna off. Nevertheless, he gave Asa all he could handle and then some. With Asashoryu having compromised his lower body with the henka, a tsuppari-fest ensued where Asashoryu was forced to rely on his speed and quick evasive tactics to survive Miyabiyama's thrusts. Miyabiyama was forced to the edge twice, but he survived because Asashoryu didn't equal sound sumo today. After about 8 seconds into the brawl, Miyabiyama grasped a firm right outer grip forcing the bout to yotsu-zumo. Asa briefly tried to counter with a right outer of his own, but when he didn't get it, he used his left arm on the inside to lift Miyabiyama upright as he pushed at the Sheriff's neck with the right hand moving Miyabiyama back to the straw. From here, Miyabi's belt was now open on the right side, and Asashoryu sealed the deal by grabbing it and forcing Miyabiyama across the straw for the win, but this was a telling bout.

First, why would Asashoryu need a tachi-ai henka to beat M5 Miyabiyama? The answer lies in the same instance as with Kotooshu...why would Kotooshu--an obviously superior rikishi--need to resort to a henka to beat Wakanosato? It's a problem with his confidence plain and simple. Even if the henka wasn't premeditated and Asashoryu decided on the move the instant before he charged, that now exposes a heretofore unseen lack of mental toughness where Asashoryu has allowed thoughts to enter his mind other than how he was going to attack and dismantle is foe. Regardless of the Yokozuna's thought process, you cannot take away anything positive from this bout today. The physical abilities including speed, lightening fast adjustments, and a vast array of technique are still there, but the mental edge Asashoryu enjoyed over everyone until the last few basho is deteriorating. Asashoryu is rattled, and he knows it. In this state, I don't see how he can beat Hakuho on senshuraku. He does move to 8-1 with the win, but Asashoryu is still clearly in his funk. Miyabiyama fought the good fight today but falls to 4-5.

Yokozuna Hakuho repented of his bad tachi-ai yesterday and made damn sure he got an arm deep on the inside of M1 Kotoshogiku today. Hakuho used a quick hari-te with his left arm before giving up the uwate on that side in exchange for getting his left arm deep into his opponent's right side. While keeping Kotoshogiku at bay by pushing with the right hand, he lifted the Geeku nearly off his feet with that left arm pushing up under the Geeku's right armpit that broke off Kotoshogiku's uwate and also broke down his balance when came back down. At this point, Kotoshogiku's lower body was too unstable and Hakuho simply crushed him down via hataki-komi to cruise to 9-0.

Hakuho reminds me so much of Takanohana this basho. Takanohana was never flashy, and he'd frequently give up what you'd think was the disadvantageous grip or position (uwate today...morozashi yesterday against Toyonoshima), but he'd always finish off his opponents with power and stability. Hakuho has also adopted the somewhat passive tachi-ai that Takanohana used where his focus was to dig in first and then ensure he had at least an arm on the inside from which to mount his attack. It doesn't look like overpowering sumo, but it just doesn't leave the Yokozuna's opponent any window to attack. Kotoshogiku falls to 4-5 but should hold his head high after a great first nine days. Komusubi in September is likely.

Moving to the Ozeki ranks, I can't help but conclude that Kaio was returning the favor today against Kotooshu for what happened yesterday at the hands of his stablemate Kotomitsuki. It was my opinion that Kotomitsuki henka'd Kaio yesterday masking it by grabbing the uwate instead of going for the outright pulldown, so when Kaio faced Mitsuki's stablemate, Kotooshu, today? Kaio executed the exact same tachi-ai moving to his left, grabbing Kotooshu around the right arm, and slinging him clear into the second row with a tottari (armbar) throw. Cheap? Yes. Justified? I think so. It's just like in baseball when you throw intentionally at the other team's batter. They're gonna pay you back by throwing at one of your good hitters, and Kaio did just that today against Kotooshu. Kotooshu didn't get jobbed. It simple was payback. Usually when Kaio does a henka, he has this disgusted look on his face as he looks to the rafters, but today he was completely resolved after the bout as he should have been. Kaio moves to 7-2 thank you very much while Kotooshu who already henka'd himself out of this basho earlier falls to 5-4.

Sekiwake Ama's misery continues against Ozeki Chiyotaikai. As usual, Chiyotaikai kept Ama at bay by shoving at his face and neck while Ama tried desperately to duck under the thrusts and grab the Ozeki's belt. After about 6 seconds and one previous pull attempt, Chiyotaikai timed an Ama lunge for his belt perfectly catching the Mongolian by the back of the head and yanking him down to the dirt. There's just nothing more to break down. "Aisho ga warui" is the term for Ama, which means he just doesn't matchup with Chiyotaikai. At 3-6 with some tough opponents yet to come, Ama should just be concerned about hanging on to a Komusubi rank for September. Chiyotaikai moves over .500 at 5-4 but has no room for error.

It's been really hard to gauge Sekiwake Kotomitsuki's condition this basho. He had yet to face an opponent with a winning record until day 8, and when he finally faced Kaio, he used a tachi-ai henka to set up the easy win. This Ozeki run resembles that of Kotooshu nearly two years ago. Oshu really didn't have any competition the first 10 days or so, and he mixed in just enough sly tachi-ai to ensure double digits. But what really sealed the deal for Kotooshu was his win over Asashoryu. I don't think Kotomitsuki will beat either Yokozuna in Nagoya (he has Hakuho tomorrow), but I think he's established himself as the third best rikishi in the sport. When numbers one and two are both Yokozuna, it's only fitting that number three would be an Ozeki. Kenji reminisced yesterday about two blue collar rikishi in Tosanoumi and Tamakasuga, so I'll reminisce today about the guys who were Ozeki when I began watching sumo full time: Takanohana, Musashimaru, Wakanohana, and Takanonami. That's a badass group right there where three of them went on to become Yokozuna. Takanohana became Yokozuna right away, but every basho you had an Ozeki or two in the yusho race posting 12 wins or so. Everytime. What I'm trying to say is that I think Kotomitsuki probably deserves the rank regardless of what happens this basho, but he's a far cry from the dudes who defined the Ozeki rank for me.

The Sekiwake moved to his right today at the tachi-ai in order to grab the cheap uwate against M4 Toyonoshima. He got it, and Toyonoshima could do nothing about it resulting in another easy win for Hit as he forced Toyonoshima back and out with little trouble using that right outer grip. This is the second bout in a row where Kotomitsuki has moved to either side at the tachi-ai. Yeah, it gives him the cheap belt grip, but it leaves him vulnerable to an opponent who's looking for it. Let's see what happens tomorrow against Yokozuna Hakuho. The way Hakuho is defending and the way Kotomitsuki has been weasling around these last few days, the Sekiwake hasn't exactly set himself up mentally for tomorrow's bout. Nonetheless, he's perfect at 9-0 while Toyonoshima falls to 2-7.

In a strange tachi-ai, M2 Dejima had both fists to the dirt early, which he usually does while Komusubi Tokitenku took his sweet time putting that final fist down. When he actually put both fists down, Dejima didn't charge, rather, he seemed to be waiting for Tokitenku to move first. Tokitenku moved a half second after both fists were to the dirt, and then Dejima charged in a strange opening to the bout. Regardless, Tokitenku had one thing on his mind, and it worked as he moved to his left (wasn't a henka) and pulled Dejima down to the dirt with relative ease. This was sloppy, ugly stuff all the way around from both parties. Where's Dejima's effort? He's gotta read Tokitenku's fist and hope to gain the advantage from the tachi-ai. Isn't that the reason why he and Kakizoe put their fists down first anyway? He didn't do it today, and he paid falling to 3-6. Tenku shares the same record.

Gone like a fart in the breeze this basho is M3 Takekaze's determination to mount a forward, offensive attack. Today he seemed content to just keep his hands on Komusubi Aminishiki in an attempt to keep him at bay, so Ami took the initiative by grabbing a left outer grip and forcing Takekaze back a few steps before dumping him to the clay. Takekaze tried to counter by clutching Aminishiki's right arm as if he could somehow drag his opponent down to the dirt with it, but Aminishiki just shook him off like a few flakes of dandruff for the uneventful win. Aminishiki breathes new life at 4-5 with that brutal week one behind him. Takekaze suffers a deserved make-koshi at 2-8. Hey, I was in this dude's corner big time coming in, but he's abandoned that fiery attack of his that got him here in the first place.

In a wild affair, M4 Asasekiryu was hellbent on keeping M4 Takamisakari away from his belt by using a left stiff arm to push at the Cop's throat, but the tide turned quickly when Sexy went for a stupid pulldown and gave Takamisakari the momentum and a left outer grip. Takamisakari quickly forced Asasekiryu to the edge, but the Mongolian countered by wrapping his right leg in and around Takamisakari's left from the inside. That move works about as effectively as a pitcher in baseball faking a throw over to third base and then quickly looking over to the runner on first to pick him off, but I'll be damned if it didn't work today. Actually, it worked because Asasekiryu used the position to execute a kake-nage throw instead of just trying to halt his opponent's momentum. Sexy managed to lift Takamisakari up and trip him over with that leg for the nifty win. The bout was extremely close and from the replays I thought Asasekiryu's right knee hit the dohyo before Takamisakari fell, but the men in black didn't budge. Asasekiryu moves to 4-5 with the win while the Robocop makes his make-koshi official at 1-8.

M2 Wakanosato beat M6 Homasho last basho with a hataki-komi, and I think those thoughts were on his mind as well today because from the tachi-ai, Wakanosato's hands were floating up near Homasho's head and shoulder area. Problem was Homasho took the initiative from the start and had Wakanosato pushed to the side and out in about two seconds before Wakanosato could even fancy a pull attempt. Homasho looks great as he picks up his kachi-koshi and represents the Maegashira ranks on the leaderboard. He's as worthy to be there as Kotomitsuki, and let's hope he's paired with him sometime before this party's through. I think Homey (8-1) will beat him. Wakanosato falls to 2-7.

M8 Ryuo's sumo consists of a four-step program: 1) moro-te tachi, 2) drive opponent back, 3) shift gears and pull opponent forward, 4) push off balance opponent down or out. Ideally, Ryuo will win after step 2, but if he doesn't win by step four, he won't win. The Mongolian ended his five day losing streak today over a listless M5 Tamanoshima. Ryuo completed step 1 by executing his moro-te tachi-ai, he executed step 2 by driving Tamanoshima back, he managed step 3 by shifting gears successfully and pulling Tamanoshima forward and off balance, and he concluded step 4 by managing to slap the hapless Tamanoshima to the dirt for the win. What was Tamanoshima thinking during this bout? He let Ryuo do exactly what everyone knew what was coming. Had Ryuo really been on fire this bout, it would have been an oshi-dashi win at step 2. Whose complaining though? A 2-6 guy coming in has to take any win he can get. Tamanoshima falls to 4-5.

M10 Kasugao has about as much business going for a keta-guri as KC and the Sunshine Band has of making a comeback, but that's exactly what he attempted today against M6 Kisenosato. Of course he wasn't able to pull it off completely whiffing on the kick move, but to set up the keta-guri, you've gotta henka to one side. Kasugao went to his left and pulled down on Kisenosato with both hands enough to knock him to the dirt in half a second, so while the keta-guri didn't work, the bloody tachi-ai henka did. Kasugao moves to 4-5 while Kisenosato suffers a tough loss falling to 6-3.

M7 Tochiohzan dominated M8 Kakuryu throughout their bout today beginning with a deep left arm on the inside of his Mongolian opponent. Kakuryu countered with a right uwate grip but had no intentions of doing anything other than counter sumo. Tochiohzan forced Kakuryu back to the tawara before attempting a scoop throw with the left arm, but he couldn't finish Kakuryu off. He next drove the Kak back to the other side of the dohyo with enough force that Kakuryu was forced to abandon his outer grip leaving him a sitting duck there at the tawara, but much to my chagrin Tochiohzan went Musoyama and completely whiffed on the final shove out attempt causing him to crumble to the dirt while Kakuryu tight-roped the tawara. Both rikishi are 4-5.

Two yotsu-zumo specialists in M7 Futenoh and M9 Tochinonada hooked up today in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, a position that both rikishi favor. Futenoh one-upped Nada with a right outer grip, but Tochinonada trumped that with his size. After about a 20 second stalemate in the center of the ring, Futenoh attempted a charge against his opponent, but Tochinonada countered perfectly by planting his right foot and swinging Futenoh completely around with his left inner grip to where Futenoh stepped just beyond the straw. Tochinonada improves to 6-3 with the solid win while Futenoh looks lethargic at 2-7.

M16 Kakizoe enjoyed a quick start against M9 Kokkai by moving quickly to his right after the tachi-ai and applying an inashi move, but Kokkai pivoted to his left extremely well squaring himself back up with his opponent where he offered a right paw to Kakizoe's face and a left paw right into his upper torso sending Kakizoe sprawling onto his back and across the tawara. Kokkai showed great power and footwork as he improves to 5-4. Kakizoe is 4-5.

M10 Hokutoriki made extremely short work of M13 Yoshikaze by hitting him with both hands at the neck area and then shifting both hands to the back of Yoshikaze's dome before he was even fully out of his stance. Of course Hokutoriki (6-3) yanked down sending his opponent to the dirt in a bout that lasted a full second. Yoshikaze falls to 4-5.

M12 Hakurozan came with a quick hari-te from the left followed by a quick left outer grip on M11 Tokitsuumi's belt, but in the process, Hakurozan failed to knock Tokitsuumi back at all, and his body was too upright. This allowed Tokitsuumi to grab an outer grip with his left as well and more importantly, Tokitsuumi was able to hunker down lower than his opponent resulting in his quick force-out attempt that had Hakurozan pushed back and out in 8 seconds or so. Hakurozan's sumo is just fundamentally poor right now as he falls to 5-4 while Tokitsuumi breathes new life at 4-5.

M16 Hochiyama showed his best effort of the basho and in a bout where he could have easily folded to the pressure as the crowd was obviously behind his opponent, M11 Kitazakura. Hochiyama proactively led with his right shoulder into Kitazakura's torso as he grabbed the left uwate while Kitazakura responded by grabbing his own left belt grip, but it was obvious who was forcing the pace of bout because Hochiyama confidently forced Kitazakura back and out in less than five seconds for the solid win. Hochiyama looked to have a slight grin on his face as he collected his kensho, gave the power water to the next rikishi, and then headed back down the hanamichi. I wonder if the dude had an epiphany of sorts on what he needs to do to succeed. Regardless, he looked great today, and the potential is there. Good win as Hochiyama moves to just 3-6. Kitazakura falls to 5-4.

M14 Toyohibiki seems to have lost his confidence these last few days right before our eyes. The Makuuchi rookie is an oshi guy all the way, but he has refrained from his oshi attack the last three days. Today against M12 Satoyama, he got away with it due to his opponent's small stature, but he's gotta re-image himself and remember the kind of sumo that got him here. To Satoyama's credit he managed an early left grip on the front of Toyohibiki's belt at the tachi-ai that forced the bout to the belt, and he also attempted an inner belt throw that nearly had Toyohibiki finished off early, but the larger rikishi survived and responded by wrapping both of his arms around the outside of Satoyama's limbs. This did give Satoyama morozashi, but he was pinned inside too much and Toyohibiki was able force him back and out via kime-dashi...fitting with Takanonami in the booth commenting for NHK today.

Toyohibiki sorta reminds me of the two Hawaiians Musashimaru and Akebono. No, I don't see him ever being as dominant as those two, but the two Hawaiians were first things first oshi-zumo guys. When they couldn't finish off their opponents with the pushing attack, they were quite adept when it came to fighting at the belt, and they used their size wisely when forced to fight in close. Toyohibiki has attempted to fight at the belt this basho (most notably against Kokkai), and even though he's obviously not a polished rikishi at yotsu-zumo, the potential is there as a plan B for every bout when his thrusting attack doesn't work. Guys like Chiyotaikai or Hokutoriki are strictly oshi guys and fight at the belt as well as I walk in high heels. Wait a minute, can't believe I let that slip. Er...uh...they fight at the belt as well as I...uh...speak Mongolian. That's it. (Whew, that was close). The point is Toyohibiki should always come out with the oshi attack and then settle for the yotsu-zumo contest when necessary. The last few days, however, he hasn't trusted his bread and butter, which would normally shred the competition this low in the ranks. The youngster improves to 6-3 while Satoyama is hapless at 2-7.

M15 Kaiho struck quickly and moved to his right against M13 Tosanoumi at the tachi-ai, but Tosanoumi was on the move and knocked Kaiho back near the tawara where he lowered his head and went for the kill. He wasn't quite fast enough, however, and Kaiho moved to his right again as Tosanoumi went for that final push and ended up lurching into mid-air and and his fifth loss to boot. Kaiho improves to a nifty 6-3.

And finally, veteran M15 Tamakasuga manhandled M17 Otsukasa back and out with a stiff left paw in Otsukasa's neck from the tachi-ai that he never withdrew until Otsukasa (4-5) had crossed the tawara. Twas easy as Tamakasuga moves to 5-4.

So, our leaderboard after nine days is as follows:

9-0: Hakuho, Kotomitsuki
8-1: Asashoryu, Homasho
7-2: Kaio

With Hakuho and Kotomitsuki fighting on day 10, we'll not only have our sole leader this basho, but we'll be able to tell just how well Kotomitsuki is fighting. Kenji will break it all down.

Day 8 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
I have a feeling this one is going to turn out to be a dandy. The two stories of the basho continue to win, the menacing Yokozuna everyone loves to hate is hanging around, and a popular up-and-comer is quietly putting together a spectacular bid.

Let's start with one of the two main characters in shin-Yokozuna Hakuho. Displaying poise and presence through the first week, at first glance you wouldn't know Hakuho was a new Yokozuna. Today he showed that poise but it came after a crucial mistake at the tachiai against M4 Toyonoshima. Hakuho decided to "receive" Toyo's charge and almost paid for it. The Yokozuna got stood up and driven back quickly, but that's when the poise kicked in; Haku managed to eventually stand his ground at ring's edge and work his way back on the offensive, eventually winning by hatakikomi. Later, he said he wanted to "watch and see" what Toyo did at the tachiai, but then "I was surprised to be pushed back to the brink of defeat". This experience speaks for the importance of being aggressive at the tachiai. Not too many rikishi could have recovered as Hakuho did today. He remains undefeated at 8-0 while Toyonoshima drops to 2-5.

After a build-up for the ages with M4 Takamisakari that included stare downs and the crowd chanting in unison at every pre-bout, pych-me-up thrust, Asashoryu pulled the ole tsuriotoshi (lift opponent up and throw him down) that he has become somewhat famous for. He usually makes a point with this move during keiko mainly, but in occasions like this it is effective in showing everyone who is boss. Sho goes to 7-1 while Sakari drops to 1-7.

In a bout of underachieving Ozeki, Chiyotaikai and Kotooshu locked up with a good tachiai. After that it got really odd. As Chiyo sidestepped Oshu, the Bulgarian tried mightily to keep his feet in the ring, while Chiyotaikai was losing his balance- all the way across the other side. It was a mono-ii that was difficult to call because the two rikishi were nowhere near each other. But it looks like the right call was made- Oshu's left heel appeared to touch outside first before Chiyo fell on his hands. Chiyo improves to 4-4 while Oshu drops to 5-3.

The other main character, hometown hero Kotomitsuki, met Kaio. The grizzled Ozeki was looking for a road win to stay on pace in the Yusho race. After a matta, Mitsuki showed a strong tachiai and immediate maneuver to the right, then a quick mae-mawashi and left outside grip. With no break, he pressed the pace and ousted Kaio via yori-taoshi. Kaio, not exactly known for his lightening quick reflexes, was simply kept off balance and couldn't keep up. He drops to 6-2 while Mitsuki charges on, becoming the first rikishi to achieve kachikoshi at 8-0.

The up-and-comer I mentioned is M6 Homasho, who continued his good work in defeating another promising young rikishi, M1 Kotoshogiku. Geeku got the upper hand with an aggressive initial charge, but alas he attempted the ill-advised pull down which open the gate for a momentum change. Homasho wasted no time in turning the tides and charged back quickly for a yori-taoshi win, improving to 7-1. Geeku is even at 4-4.

If I may be nostalgic for a second before I close. The M15 vs. M13 bout between Tamakasuga and Tosanoumi may not have meant much to most, but I remember seeing these two clash live from the second row at the 1996 Kyushu basho, and the reason I remember it was because it was the most brutally beautiful tachiai clash I've ever seen. It epitomized the power of sumo. It was when these two vets were up-and-comers themselves. Honestly, I can't remember who one that bout 11 years ago, but seeing these two warriors collide again in 2007 brought back that memory. Hats off to these two for their staying power- Tama at 61 basho in Makuuchi and Tosa at 71 basho and counting. They will always be remembered by me for their blue collar approach and for wreaking havoc in the joi early in their careers.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
It's the seventh day of the tournament and that means yours truly is on duty, as usual. Plenty to look forward to in terms of excitement, especially Hakuho's recent promotion and winning streak (23 bouts so far), Kotomitsuki's smoking hot Ozeki run and Asashoryu's chase of that illusory Yusho. There's also Toyobikini the newcomer, who looks big and hungry and 'ozeki' Kotooshu trying to exorcise his demons (and not succeeding so far).

Now, we all know I'm Sumotalk's biggest conspiracy theorist, so, of course, I'm not going to proceed to the action until I have at some of that stuff: whatever happened to the yaocho scandals? Silence, that's what. What does that tell you? Simple: someone screwed up and now everyone who's anyone in the association is doing some serious sweeping under the rug. Did anyone hear anything about any trial? Not to mention verdicts and damages. If the NSK are so damn innocent, why don't they come out and shout in the open? It's not like they have no use for good publicity. I'm by no means an insider to Ozumo, but I'm not retarded either, and I can bet any amount of money that things are far from squeaky clean right now. Actually, that's more of a certainty than Kotooshu perpetrating at least a henka every basho.

But enough beating around the bush (Simon's compadres have like the kewlest expressions, innit?), let's put some actual sumo into it for a change. As usually, I'm going to start with the best man in the division. Who just happens to be different from the one we got used to during the last few years. Western Yokozuna Hakuho met bothersome Komusubi Aminishiki and it looked like the Mongolian took off a couple of milliseconds earlier. This time, instead of going for the front of the mawashi, he opted for a left harite. It worked like a charm and before Aminishiki knew what hit him, there was this big, hungry and nasty Yokozuna wrapped around his right arm. Curtains? Not just yet, because Aminishiki isn't the one to just give up, but after Hakuho took him on a tour of the premises, all he had left to think about was damage control, hence the spectacular somersault off the dohyo and onto his ass. Looking at the kimarite list of Hakuho's last 22 wins (out of the same number of bouts), I couldn't help noticing that as many as five of them are armlock/bar techniques. It's a good policy for a guy who's aiming to kick ass in each and every one of his bouts, because the last thing on the victim's mind is winning, when he finds himself with the previously mentioned big, hungry and nasty Yokozuna wrapped around his arm. Hakuho has yet to face a real challenge this basho, while Aminishiki still has some work to do if he wants the shukunsho, with 3-4 after the deadly week one.

The other grand champion faced fellow Mongolian Tokitenku, and he went for morozashi after feigning a harite with the tips of his fingers. Tokitenku didn't fall for it, but he relinquished a solid right uwate, which Asashoryu used to drive him back to the edge, but not before a short break in the center of the ring. That speaks volumes (thanks again, Simon, and God Save the Queen, we mean it, man!) about Asashoryu's confidence right now. Tokitenku dug in hard and stayed in, after which he counterattacked, and survived the mandatory throw attempt from the Yokozuna, with the left inside grip he had acquired earlier. A stalemate ensued, but by that time Tokitenku had run out of ideas, and the Yokozuna eventually forced him out. It was a hard earned win, but then again Tokitenku isn't a pushover at all. Asashoryu still has some good years ahead of him, but I think it's safe to say he just passed his peak. Of course, with the current competition and all, he's still the main yusho threat, but things aren't going to be so easy from now on. Tomorrow, Asashoryu faces a great challenge, against an opponent tougher than Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. Yeah, right! Takamisakari should consider himself lucky if he gets away with a nice yorikiri in the front row.

Veteran Kaio is looking good on paper so far, but that's mainly due to inferior opponents. Dejima's unusually weak tachiai hardly even budged him, and he reacted well after taking a swipe at the belt with his right, by slapping down the frustrated former Ozeki, who took a moment to stare at the dohyo, probably remembering he hadn't taken his vitamins in the morning. However, with 3 wins already and out of the woods, he still has a good shot at kachikoshi. Kaio, who can be grateful for his 6-1 record, has hard times ahead of him, starting tomorrow, against the red-hot Kotomitsuki.

Winless Takekaze shafted soon-to-be kadoban Ozeki Chiyotaikai with a big, fat, juicy, well executed, morally reprehensible and clearly premeditated henka to the left. If Chiyotaikai should get a 7-8 makekoshi, you can be sure he'll erase Kaze from his Christmas list. But since we couldn't care less, let's move on to the next bout, shall we?

Ozeki Kotooshu, my favorite hunk of meat--uh...erm...rikishi, slammed hard into his Mongolian opponent, M1 Asasekiryu, and, to nobody's surprise, took him a full step back. There's no doubt in anyone's mind that the Bulgarian has huge leg strength, but why he hesitates to use it is a mystery. I, of course, have my own theory. He's probably afraid of making an ass out of himself by getting sidestepped and losing, but...what the hell? Deal with it! Instead of striking fear into his opponents with powerful and spectacular nage, set up by grips following a sound tachi-ai, he seems content with 9-10 wins, easy money and getting booed at least once or twice each tournament. Afraid of getting henka'd? How about using Asashoryu's recipe? Go extra hard at keiko on the guys who do it, so they'll know better the next time. Still getting sidestepped? How about keeping your eyes ON THE OPPONENT, instead of meekly gawking at the dohyo dirt, huh?

To me, as a fan, everything matters, but to the regular sumo watcher, Kotooshu's tragedy isn't much more relevant than some English guy by the name of Rupert Brooks getting gang-raped by a crew of drunken Russian sailors in a dark alley in Shanghai (i.e. it sounds ugly, but they couldn't care less). After all, you see wasted talent and potential everyday.

The pattern is unusually and painfully obvious this basho, with Kotooshu's record being 5-2, with 5 sound, forward-moving wins, and two shameful losses following two lowly and poorly executed henkas. Kotooshu's probably an atheist, because the sumo gods are clearly sending a message here: "Thou shalt not henka!"

Oh yeah, the bout. Asasekiryu tried everything to keep the Bulgarian away from his mawashi, but he was no match for those long arms. Kotooshu got hidari-yotsu and it was game over for the Mongolian, who can consider himself lucky for being spared the usual yoritaoshi or uwate-nage. I'm sure I'm not the only one who noticed this, but Kotooshu seems to be favoring the right uwate lately. His three uwatenage so far in Nagoya were all right-handed, and today's bout only supports this theory. If I remember correctly, he even threw Asashoryu with the right last basho (I'm too lazy to actually look it up, but I'm pretty sure). It seems to be working fine so far, and if he's equally proficient with both grips, all the better. Of course, Kotooshu made damn sure he's out of the yusho race by pulling the stupid henkas against the old guys, talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Asasekiryu is getting his ass handed to him, but that'll usually happen to anyone in the M1 spot during the first week.

One last thing and I promise I'll move on. I'm prepared to give anyone 100:1 odds that Kotooshu is going to get stiffed with a henka this basho. I'm also giving an additional 50:1 that at least one of the Ajigawa boys (Ama and Aminishiki) will perpetrate the reprehensible deed. Mark my words.

Kotomitsuki, who has yet to miss this tournament, was looking a bit nervous today, but he did everything to calm himself and produced a monster tachi-ai, after which he planted his right under the clown's armpit, denying him any sort of left-handed grip, while he went with his own left for the front of his foe's mawashi. He didn't get it, but in the process he managed to push Takamisakari out. After the deed was done, Kotomitsuki lost his footing and almost fell on his ass, but he recovered in time, much to my disappointment.

The next few days will tell if Kotomitsuki is still the choker everyone thinks he is. With that out of the way and with the recent reduced keiko policy (you didn't really think it was about an injury, did you?), 12 wins don't look so unlikely anymore, and they'll award the promotion with 11, too, should Mitsuki manage to defeat at least one Yokozuna in the process. What can I say? It's never black and white, is it? If some five months ago you'd have asked anyone, and I mean anyone, including Mitsuki himself, if he could ever make it to Ozeki, the answer would have gone something like 'gettaf**kouttahere'.

Oh, yeah, at 1-6 Takamisakari needs a vacation into the cool shade of mid-low maegashira, because he doesn't seem to be able to take the heat this high up. Still a lot of fun to watch, though, those routines of his.

The other Sekiwake, Mongolian Ama, took on Wakanosato like a wolverine, taking full advantage of the veteran's weak tachi-ai and setting up a solid right inside grip. It was that vicious grip that saved him from the eventual pull-down attempt, allowing Ama a deep morozashi he then used to force his foe out with little resistance. Wakanosato doesn't seem to be able to handle the beef of the upper ranks, his only win so far coming from Kotooshu's inept henka. Ama is in for a roughing during week two, because he still has to face the big sharks, and his 3-4 record so far says he's going down.

As a little side note, the fact that the henka is not outlawed should make it an object of study, so to speak, in the heyas. First of all, the rikishi should be formally taught not to employ it, then, if their opponents are doing it, how to handle it, and, lastly, if they should ever...uhm...'accidentally' do it, they should be taught how to do it properly. This doesn't mean I'm for the henka, but every aspect of the sport should be carefully taken into consideration. Do you think it's a coincidence that SOME rikishi resist the henka more often than others? I'm almost sure some of them practice henka-proofing techniques at least, because, although conservative, the Japanese aren't stupid, and a henka can make the difference between kachikoshi and makekoshi, and ultimately it's winning that counts. Before those of you who have come in close contact with the Japanese civilization even think about jumping at my throat, please, give me a break. Looking out for numero uno isn't something we gaijin invented, you know. They have been doing it since the dawn of time, and sometimes going past what some of us whiteys see as the limit of the absurd (see kamikaze and their dubious similarity to the Arab suicide bombers). Do you still think things like honor and dignity are more important than winning when cold, hard cash is involved? If so, please join the 21st century. Thank you.

Next up, top maegashira Kotoshogiku took on former sekiwake Tamanoshima, who's been fading into anonymity lately. Kotoshogiku won the tachi-ai, securing a left inside and denying his opponent any sort of grip. Some serious maneuvering for position followed, including one failed makikae from Kotoshogiku. Tamanoshima tried getting his own left inside, but with his foe keeping his hips low, all he could do was lodge his left under Koto's armpit, effectively disallowing morozashi. Eventually, it was Geeku's frantic gaburi-yori that did the job, with Tamanoshima unable to offer any resistance. Kotoshogiku's record so far isn't impressive, because, for some reason, he's been excused from all the hard hitters. With Chiyotaikai and the two Yokozuna left to fight, kachikoshi might be a problem. Tamanoshima is still big, but that doesn't seem to help anymore.

It looks like we naysayers were right once more. Sorry to have to say this, Clancy, but your acolyte Kakuryu is deceptively weak for a Mongolian. Still, one can only admire the almost complete lack of henka in his sumo (do you hear that, you big Eastern European wussies?). Today's match-up against M4 Toyonoshima was completely one-sided, with Kakuryu's head almost taken off by his foe's spirited charge. Of course, after getting a nice right uwate, Kakuryu tried the thing he knows best, attacking by retreating. Well, you guessed it, it didn't work and he was easily forced out by Toyonoshima, who didn't even need a belt grip to do it. I don't even enjoy seeing Kakuryu get his ass handed to him anymore when I look at the despicable henkas perpetrated by the likes of Roho, Kotooshu and Hakurozan. Get a grip, boys, but on the mawashi, not the back of the head, eh? And put some oomph into that tachi-ai.

Speaking of uneven match-ups, can you guess the likely outcome of a bout between the Fatman and Ryuo? I'll tell you: nine times out of ten Miyabiyama wins, with the kimarite more or less evenly distributed between tsukitaoshi, tsukidashi and oshitaoshi, with the accidental loss coming from poor footing via hatakikomi or tsukiotoshi. Today confirms my inductive reasoning, with the bigger, stronger and more experienced rikishi dismantling his opponent. Ryuo almost evaded at the edge (it seems most Mongolians are very proficient in this area), but Miyabiyama would have none of that this time. I'd love to see this more often from the fat guy, but his mother's death and the recent injury seem to have taken a heavy toll on him. He'll recover, but he may never be the same again. Ryuo's already been analyzed by Mike, so I won't bother.

Japanese hope Homasho and Korean Kasugao bonked heads at the tachiai and Homasho was forced back a step, but he quickly recovered and bulldozed his opponent out of the ring convincingly. Kasugao did try to make it interesting by hooking Homie's left leg from the inside and attempting his patented kotenage, but he had no real support from the other leg and there was little more he could do than land in the front row, narrowly missing the ringside Ryuo. 2-5 from M10 for the Korean is nothing to be proud about. Homasho is a shiny 6-1 and looks bound for sanyaku and some prizes. It's still a bit early to speculate, though.

Kisenosato, at an unusually low M6, recorded his fourth win in as many days, against M11 Tokitsuumi. The tachiai seemed to favor the heavier man, but it was Tokitsuumi who got a solid right uwate, denying the Kid a right outside grip of his own. After a brief stalemate in the center of the dohyo, Tokitsuumi went for the nage, but size wasn't exactly on his side this time, and Kisenosato's left sashi didn't help either (it's safe to say that most of the big boys in sanyaku and above would have made short work of Kisenosato given that grip, and I especially mean Asa, Kaio, Hakuho and Kotooshu). After hopping around on one leg for a few seconds, Kisenosato finally pushed his smaller foe out of the dohyo. A nice, round 5-2 for Kisenosato, while Tokitsuumi seems determined to take a little Juryo vacation.

Henkarozan did his 'vintage' sumo again, violently yanking down the unsuspecting Tochiohzan after a moro-te tachi-ai. He's young and he still has a lot to learn, but falling for this crap against the likes of the Ro brothers is almost inexcusable. Both wrestlers have four wins.

The newly appointed Ambassador had a diplomatic meeting today with the Prince. The Prince of Underachievers, you didn't really think I was going to say Oranges, did you? (if, by any chance, you're wondering who takes the dubious honor of King, you need to shift your focus towards the 'ozeki' rank). What happened, you ask? The Prince made full use of his authority and snagged defeat from the jaws of victory. After winning the tachi-ai Futeno briefly got a shallow morozashi and started towards the tawara, but he was so busy trying to advance that he didn't notice Kitazakura slipping a thick right arm under his own. Zakura made an insignificant sukuinage attempt, but couldn't stop his foe's advancement, well, not yet anyway. At the tawara, he managed to slip the other arm inside and with both hands on the back of Futenoh's mawashi he forced him out, almost lifting him off the ground. That's politics for ya. The 2-5 should make Futenoh reconsider his strategies before going at it again, while Kitazakura's 4-3 ain't so bad for an old guy.

The next bout is a particularly interesting one, although long and tedious for the most part. Right after the tachi-ai brawl, the two rikishi stopped for a moment, with the much bigger Tochinonada barring Satoyama's neck with his left arm. I'm not exactly sure what purpose this might have served, but Satoyama shook it off only to have Nada go at it again, with the other arm, probably hoping for a head-twisting throw (which is just as painful and dangerous as it sounds, and if sumo were based in the States, they'd probably be forced to display a "do not try this at home" warning before or during the broadcast). Satoyama's a slippery one, though, and Nada came out, as his abbreviation might suggest it, empty handed. The two then got some mawashi grips, and proceeded to violently...stall in the center of the dohyo, Kotomitsuki style, much to the despair of yours truly, who went out and shot a couple of racks of 8-ball, returning only to find them in roughly the same position. Finally, Tochinonada was the first to reopen fire, going for a half-hearted uwatehineri with his right. Satoyama survived easily, but after supporting the heavy Nada for all those minutes he must have tired out, and his foe soon stood him up as he went for the kill. Satoyama just wouldn't give up and he tried one last thing: he ducked under Nada's inside arm and tried to hurl him down around his back. While the maneuver was remarkable and the idea brilliant, the tsutaezori failed because Tochinonada was too heavy and Satoyama's legs crumbled under the weight. Nada narrowly escaped the rare technique and got win #4, while Satoyama is once again living proof that size indeed does matter.

The next bout showed something of the opposite, that technique is important too. Toyobikini, the huge Makuuchi rookie, took on fellow behemoth Kokkai. The tachi-ai was sound and strong, and Toyo seemed to get an early advantage with a solid right uwate. During all this time, however, Kokkai had his arm deep inside, and when the uwate-nage was deployed, Kokkai managed to stay above the floor for a fraction of a second more, as Bikini's left leg slipped from under him, sending him down to his second defeat. Although he's a pusher/thruster, he might have a lot to gain if he practices some mawashi techniques, because his frame is very similar to Kaio's. Kokkai lucked out this time, but he hasn't been looking so good.

As I've already stated before, I'm a lazy bastard so I'm gonna skip the last four bouts, but one look at the kimarite and the perpetrators (with the mention that Otsukasa helped his uwatenage with a big paw on his opponent's head) will make you understand my reasons.

Mike was urging you the other day to pray for the blue diamond. At his age, it's understandable, but at 24 the...uhm...mind is still working perfectly, and this here long, thick and stiff report (written without any help from Pfizer and affiliates) proves my point. Tomorrow Kenji is up again, and I'll be here again on day 12, with (hopefully) the Asashoryu-Kotooshu match-up. See ya.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I think yesterday's sumo was some of the worst we've ever seen. Was there a single bout that last hour that lasted longer than 4 seconds? And as Kenji mentioned, it wasn't the fault of the big guns. We are just getting no effort from the Komusubi and the upper Maegashira this basho. Fortunately, week two is just around the corner.

In the final bout of the day, the real action would come just prior to the bout as M4 Takamisakari went through his self-pummeling routine highlighted by the Nagoya crowd grunting in unison with him as he pumped his arms downward three or four times. In the bout itself, Takamisakari looked resigned to his fate because he made no impact at the tachi-ai. Hakuho came with his usual methodical charge where he fishes for the left belt grip down low while getting that right arm on the inside. Hakuho missed the quick left outer, but he adjusted on a dime and wrenched the Cop up and over with the right arm while quickly pulling down at the back of his shoulder with the left. The only thing that was shorter than this bout is the list of Quiet Riot's Greatest Hits. Hakuho is a cool cat at 6-0 and hasn't been challenged in the least so far. I just don't see how he can lose the first 14 days of this tournament. He's currently working on a 21 bout winning streak. As for Takamisakari (1-5), he's entertaining to watch for sure, but he is completely outmatched this basho.

One of the bright sides of Yokozuna Asashoryu's sumo since that loss on day one has been the speed with which he has been attacking. Today against M4 Toyonoshima, the Yokozuna used a hari-te slap at the tachi-ai that set up the quick right outer grip, but in the process, Asashoryu didn't focus on setting things up with his left arm on the inside, so he actually gave Toyonoshima the morozashi position. Having made that mistake, Asashoryu fixed it quickly by performing a maki-kae with the left arm so quick you couldn't even see the dove being yanked up his sleeve. So now in the hidari-yotsu position, Toyonoshima had no chance, and the Yokozuna opted to fell his opponent with a nifty scoop throw with his strong arm, the left. This wasn't flawless stuff from Asashoryu, but it was good enough for today as he moves to 5-1. Toyonoshima will have to regroup at 1-5.

As a side note, for any of you who need inspiration to study Japanese, you should do it just so you can listen to the Japanese commentary on the feed of the live bouts. Today, Terao and Mainoumi were breaking down the action, and they were just nails as they offered their analysis. They both discussed the little nuances in Asashoryu's sumo of late that have gotten him into trouble. They also speculated that he is having a tough time sitting below the dohyo and watching a new Yokozuna see the success that he is.

Moving along, help me figure this one out. Wakanosato is 0-5 coming in. Kotooshu is 4-1 after looking great the last four days not to mention that title of Ozeki on his name tag. So what the hell is he doing going for a tachi-ai henka against Wakanosato? As he did on day 1, Kotooshu jumped to his left at the tachi-ai and went for the cheap left outer grip, but in the process, he jumped too far left and couldn't grab Wakanosato's belt. Since Wakanosato doesn't translate into "hard charge forward", the former Sekiwake was just standing there in perfect position to take advantage of his flailing opponent. He did just that grabbing Kotooshu under the arm and swinging him over and down with one hand while adding insult to injury by pulling down at the back of Kotooshu's head with the other. Unbelievable. I guess Kotooshu is back off the wagon. I'd love to see what's rattling around that melon of his. After the bout, Terao and Mainoumi were talking about how the foreign rikishi (Mongolians excluded) fail to understand the importance of the tachi-ai. It was a continuation of a discussion that began after Hakurozan's bout...imagine that...Hakurozan and a bad tachi-ai. As for Kotooshu, at 4-2 he has just henka'd himself right out of the basho. Thanks for nothing. Wakanosato moves to 1-5.

If you get the NHK feed of the bouts, then you've been treated to the "50 years of Nagoya" features each day. They've been showing epic moments from the Nagoya basho that have really been a treat to watch. The Kaio - Takekaze bout had some historic implications today because if Kaio won, he'd notch his 702th (as they say in Japan) win in the division, which would put him one win past Takanohana's 701 for fifth place all time. Oh, Kaio won all right, but this bout belongs on day 5, the day of the ugly. Kaio actually hit well at the tachi-ai reaching his left arm around to grab Takekaze by the belt, but Takekaze's charge was so bad and so off balance that Kaio just slapped his sorry ass to the dirt in one second flat using the right hand. Congrats to Kaio on picking up win 702, but I plea with NHK never to show this bout again. It was bad enough watching the replays. Kaio is 5-1 and will pass Musashimaru for fourth place all time with five more wins. Takekaze is a disappointing 0-6.

You knew that Ozeki Chiyotaikai's tsuppari would not could not have any effect on M2 Dejima's charge, but the Ozeki continued to stand toe to toe with the former Ozeki and throw shoves his way. Dejima stood his ground well and was raised fairly upright. In fact, seeing Dejima this upright in a match is as novel as seeing a dog stand upright and walk around on his back legs at the circus. Dejima took the shoves in stride watching Taikai the whole way, and after about five seconds, he pounced getting his right arm on the inside of the Ozeki, which he used to drive Chiyotaikai back. The Ozeki attempted to evade, but his hands went instinctively to the back of Dejima's head, and there was nuttin' he could do at this point. Good force out win for Dejima. Both rikishi are 3-3.

The most anticipated bout of the day featured our two Sekiwake, rikishi who are heading in different directions. Ama has not been able to produce anything effective from the tachi-ai the entire basho, and today was no exception. Kotomitsuki stood his ground well and had that left paw extended just daring Ama to come closer and step into an uwate grip. Ama kept his butt back and body low, but all this did was extend the misery as he was in no position to move without giving up the uwate. After about eight seconds, Kotomitsuki made a surge grabbing the left outer grip, and once secured, he dug in for about three more seconds and then just swung Ama around 270 degrees to the edge and easily forced him back and across from there. This was impressive stuff from the Sekiwake whose confidence has to be soaring after this great start. That's the key. I think Hit needs 12 wins to secure the rank, and since I don't see him beating either Yokozuna, he's still got a ways to go, but he has clearly established himself as the third best in the sport right now. He stays tied with Hakuho at 6-0 while Ama's 2-4 already. Week 2 dunt get any easier.

Preceding the Sekiwake duel, the two Komusubi went at it as well, but Aminishiki ruined the affair with a tachi-ai henka to his left where he grabbed the back of Tokitenku's belt and coerced him to exit stage West. For a moment it looked as if Tokitenku may be able to recover and dig in, but Aminishiki is as wily as they come, and this attack was clearly premeditated. Course you can't feel too bad for Tokitenku (2-4) as he's pulled this crap stuff the last couple of basho as well. Ami is 3-3.

In an unorthodox affair, you had two guys in M5 Tamanoshima and M1 Asasekiryu that fight better at the belt partaking in a shoving match. After about five seconds of ineffective pushes from both parties, Tamanoshima went for a pull down that threw Sexy off balance but not down. Asasekiryu recovered his wits and looked to square back up with his opponent at the belt, but Tamanoshima kept his hips way back. Asasekiryu (2-4) lowered his stance in the grapplin' pose, but without any sort of belt grip, he had no offensive attack. Tamanoshima (3-3), who seemed committed to the pull down five seconds in, went right back to it, and on the second attempt, he pulled the not-so-Sexy to the dirt. Ugly stuff here.

M5 Miyabiyama has struggled this basho while M1 Kotoshogiku as been gaining some of his old form, but a good moro-te charge from the Sheriff that kept the Geeku far away from the inside position he needs set up the youngster for a surprise pull that came when Miyabiyama yanked him forward by the shoulders. Kotoshogiku could never recover, and Miyabiyama showed good footwork to follow his opponent closely and push him out in a flash. This was precision stuff from the Sheriff except for the nagging fact that he didn't move a single step beyond his starting line in his victory. Both dudes are 3-3.

Clancy and M8 Kakuryu must be thick as thieves, which really makes me upset because after all this time I thought I was Clancy's gal. On the days when Clancy reports, Kakuryu manages a win and doesn't look half bad doing so, and then on the days that I report, the real Kakuryu shows up and just gets his ass kicked. Day 6...Mike reporting...thorough ass-kicking from Kisenosato. Kakuryu attempted to put his hands on Kisenosato's jaw at the tachi-ai, but the Kid just charged forward with a precise thrusting attack and had Kakuryu pushed back and out in three seconds. Unfortunately for Kakuryu (2-4), Clancy doesn't report again until day 11, so I smell a five day losing streak coming. Kisenosato is a quiet 4-2.

M6 Homasho was great in all aspects today against upstart M8 Ryuo. We all know Ryuo's sumo by now, which is a tough charge where he goes for his opponents' throat and pushes initially, but quickly shifts gears to pull sumo if he doesn't dominate straightway. Though his body is smaller than most of his peers, Homasho is as hard to move as anyone, and today he just dug in at the tachi-ai keeping his left foot forward and right foot back bracing himself against Ryuo's attack. The Mongolian couldn't budge Homasho back a centimeter, so Homasho just kept his head up, took a few punches to the jaw, and then pounced on the pull attempt that came about four seconds in. The oshi-dashi counter attack was precise as Homasho surges to a 5-1 mark. Have the rikishi figured out Ryuo's attack? Prolly as he falls to 2-4.

The best match of the first half featured M10 Kasugao vs. M7 Futenoh. Futenoh one-upped the Korean at the tachi-ai by securing his favored hidari-yotsu position, but the one worry there is that it also sets up Kasugao's favored move, the kote-nage throw with the right hand. Futenoh realized this about two seconds in because he switched his grip on the left side of Kasugao's belt deeper moving his hand to the far side of the knot at the back of Futenoh's belt. This was the key to the whole bout because it forced Kasugao's right side higher and took away the kote-nage. Futenoh seized the position and began to force Kasugao near the edge, but the Korean dug in well looking to put up a stubborn fight. Switching to plan B, Futenoh next adjusted his position into moro-zashi and went for another charge. Kasugao never could plant that left foot in order to attempt a kote-nage throw, so while he was a stubborn sumbitch to push over the edge, Futenoh finally got him out after a 20-second affair. This was entertaining stuff from these 2-4 rikishi.

The M7 Tochiohzan - M9 Kokkai bout got off on the wrong foot because Kokkai waited a half second before he charged. The move threw Tochiohzan off because he suddenly stopped thinking it was a false start, but then Kokkai suddenly lurched out of his stance. Tochiohzan was in a pickle at this point because he had relaxed and his lower body was not firmly planted in order to attempt a charge at the belt, so he did the only thing he could which was evade around the ring and hope to pull Kokkai down in the process. Kokkai's delayed charge obviously affected his sumo as well because he could get nothing going, and in the end, a last-gasp pull from Tochiohzan while retreating at the tawara sent the Georgian (3-3) into a triple lindie square into the clay. This was an unfortunate bout thanks to a flawed tachi-ai, and the referee would have done everyone a favor by calling a false start. Tochiohzan moves to 4-2.

M11 Tokitsuumi exhibited his best sumo of the basho by forcing migi-yotsu against M9 Tochinonada. Nada loves hidari-yotsu, but with that left arm being forced to the outside, Tokitsuumi pressed the action nicely with his left outer grip while Tochinonada tried to make do with the right arm on the inside. You could tell O-Nada (3-3) wasn't used to the situation, especially when the much smaller Tokitsuumi drove him back and down with some force for the emphatic win. Tokitsuumi still has some catching up to do, however, at 2-4.

At this point of the broadcast, we were treated to today's installment of the aforementioned Nagoya 50th Anniversary best of segment. Today's feature highlighted former Yokozuna Takanosato that included a clip of the dude lifting weights while wearing those skimpy gym shorts that were popular in the 70's. One thing I don't need to see is a fat, sweaty guy wearing shorts that would have made John Stockton jealous. Course it wasn't as bad as last night when I went to the ballpark here in Fukuoka and witnessed another disturbing site...self appointed male cheerleaders. These guys stand on ladders (what loser takes a ladder to a baseball game?) in the middle of the stands, wear white gloves, blow on these whistles, and do these hand movements leading the crowd in cheers. Two words fellas: "girls" and "beer". Figure it out. At least I had the following message printed on the back of the t-shirt of the girl in front of me to take my mind off of the dude cheerleaders:

There is no limit to the human desire

A new environment one after another

Hatchet Prohibition
I will sleep on it

Couldn't have said it better myself. Anyway, moving right along, the M12 Satoyama - M10 Hokutoriki matchup was entertaining because you had two pushers with one in Hokutoriki who loves to time the pull down at first opportunity and a rikishi in Satoyama whose only attack is pushing from a low stance. Satoyama stayed low throughout and offered these token shoves because he and everyone else knew what would come. It came, and Satoyama took full advantage bulldozing Jokutoriki back and out with ease. Afterwards, they caught up with Satoyama in the arena tunnel and got the following comment, "It was good that I stayed low throughout. I was just waiting for my opponent to go for the pulldown." Weren't we all. Satoyama eeks to 2-4 while Hokutoriki is 3-3.

M15 Kaiho used a cheap jump to his right and inashi move against the Ambassador at the tachi-ai, but M11 Kitazakura recovered well with a nice thrusting attack that kept Kaiho on his heels and moving around the ring. Kaiho did manage to time another inashi move that set up a left outer grip, which forced the bout to the belt. The key came right after where as Kitazakura looked to even the cards with a belt grip and charge of his own, Kaiho pulled off a maki-kae that gave him the moro-zashi position. Kitazakura tried to counter by wrapping both arms tightly around Kaiho's limbs, but his balance couldn't take the scoop throw Kaiho dealt him. Kaiho moves to 4-2 and looks to hang around in the division for another season. Kitazakura falls to 3-3, but don't worry pal, a three day weekend is coming up in Japan, which means the boys will be out of junior high school and hopefully in that line to greet you as you come back from your fights.

In a predictable bout, you had M16 Kakizoe's thrusting attack vs. M12 Hakurozan's time-the-pull-down drivel. With Kakizoe's lower body less than stable of late, Hakurozan's ugly style won out today on his third pull attempt or so. He is as...I mean this was as ugly as sumo gets. Both dudes are 3-3.

M16 Hochiyama's passive tachi-ai is the perfect target for Tosanoumi's blue collar charge. Tosa came head first right into the upper torso of Hochiyama, who seemed to want the left uwate from the start. If you want the left uwate from the tachi-ai, you have to do something to set it up. Nobody gets anything in this life for nothing, just ask Paris Hilton. Hochiyama's "do" was to just stand there upright, so no wonder Tosanoumi had him on the run from the start. As Hochiyama ran around the ring for his life, Tosanoumi kept that head down and arms thrusting until he had his man shoved out for the sweet oshi-dashi win. Tosanoumi improves to 4-2 while Hochiyama (2-4) may as well get a red and white target tattooed to his chest.

M13 Yoshikaze and M17 Otsukasa both charged with heads ducked low, and after that initial bounce off of each other, Otsukasa looked up just in time to see Yoshikaze pull him to the clay. I was quite surprised that there were no kensho banners sponsoring this bout, but Yoshikaze will take the 3-3 start regardless. Otsukasa already has reservations for Juryo in September at 2-4.

And finally, Makuuchi newcomer, M14 Toyohibiki, just crushed veteran M15 Tamakasuga with a fat paw into his throat from the tachi-ai, legs firmly planted in the dohyo, and picture-perfect thrusts as he moved forward. It took about three seconds to do his business, and this win was so decisive, it left a few of those white spots on the mirror. Toyo the Nikibi is 5-1 while Tamakasuga is a respectable 3-3.

And just like that, this tournament is down to a three-horse race already. But even with his current momentum, Kotomitsuki will not overcome the Khan for the yusho. He...and everyone else in Japan could care less. He'll be satisfied with just achieving the Ozeki rank. Perhaps that's the problem. Martin is on deck for tomorrow, but if his Viagra runs out early, you get me again. Pray for the blue diamond.

Day 5 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Go on about your business folks. Nothing to see here. For the first time this basho, we have a "joi antai" situation, where both Yokozuna and all three Ozeki won as expected on day five. In fact, through the first third of the basho, the two rikishi under the most scrutiny are answering the call in droves. Shin Yokozuna Hakuho and Ozeki hopeful Kotomitsuki are cruising at 5-0 as the only undefeateds in Makuuchi.

Hakuho overcame an awkward tachiai from M1 Asasekiryu, who later claimed he was trying to grab Haku's leg. After Seki squatted in this unsuccessful attempt, Hakuho showed a strong oshi attack to quickly dispose of his fellow countryman to pick up his 21st consecutive win. Seki drops to 2-3 in his first ever Yokozuna challenge.

Asashoryu kept pace at one loss back by making quick work of Takekaze. After administering a stiff slap at the tachiai, Sho got inside on the left, then swiftly slapped down the hapless 0-5 Maegashira.

Speaking of hapless, that would describe Wakanosato this basho and throughout his entire career against Chiyotaikai. Waka failed yet again to solve Taikai, dropping to 0-5 and 5-23 overall against the Ozeki. Chiyotaikai improves to 3-2 via a rare yorikiri win.

Soon-to-be 35 year old Kaio, in his 20th year in Sumo, picked up Makuuchi win number 701 today to tie none other than Takanohana II to move into the top 5 all time. He joins an impressive bunch in that top five: Chiyonofuji (807), Kitanoumi (804), Taiho (746) and Musashimaru (706). This is a true testament to Kaio's longevity, as he has taken a much slower and steadier approach to this milestone than these peers. I however wouldn't keep a video of this win, as he stood up late at the tachiai against Ama (2-3), then kind of mauled over him in a sloppy blur to pick up the W. It was probably good strategy to not let Ama get going, but it wasn't what I would call a pretty win.

The feel good story of the month, Kotomitsuki, continues to dominate. The hometown hero took down Tokitenku via okuri-dashi to make it through the first third unscathed. And this time there's no question on the content. He is giving himself every opportunity to actually break his current streak of 20-something basho at Sekiwake via a long awaited promotion. Come on, who's not rooting for this guy?

Day 4 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)

Today's Henka Alert Level: Orange

Hi folks. It's me again, reporting my second day out of the first four due to the still reverberating repercussions from the untimely (but not entirely unwelcome—they sort of creeped me out, to be honest) deaths of Hyorgay and Beernardo at the hands of the RCMP.

Mike was not joking about his skivvies; he really DID lose them in transit. Luckily I have a solution for him that includes, wouldn't you know it, a money saving tip! Dental floss. Most use it and then throw it away. Nonsense, say I. Rinse tonight's dental floss and use it tomorrow morning to string up the wedding tackle, sort of folding Mr. Floppy over in half and binding him to The Twins (not identical, however). The behind can fend for itself. I mean, why do underpants even go around all the way to the back? Let's face it, we men wear underwear just to make sure our meat and two veggie remain on the plate and not sliding around all over the table. No one is using their BVD's to run interference on gastric eruptions, are they?

Grand Champion Hakuho was nicely denied a left hand belt at tachi-ai by E3 Takekaze, but the three people in the stadium who thought it might amount to something were quickly disabused of their fantasies as Kublai moved in and slapped the little man around a bit, backing him up to the edge. Takekaze, not to be intimidated, slid away and came back for more, which in this case was a well-timed slap that sent him down. Tsukiotoshi but looked more like a hatakikomi to me. The manner in which Hakuho is winning makes me more than a little nervous, but with so many other top guys doing shitall, he prolly has nothing to worry about until his bouts with Hit and Genghis. Notes: As Takekaze cartwheeled down, he kicked the Yokozuna square on the right ear.

Speaking of Asashoryu, the Khan of Khans had the bout of the century against Roho. Those of you who missed it shall consider yourselves on notice to find a video of it on YouTube. Asa came in harder than Bruce Willis at tachi-ai, but Rasputin was ready, smashing the Champ with an uppercut that sent him flying back. Dazed but not down, Asa jumped about a meter into the air and came down with his legs scissored around his foe's neck. As he hung like some inverted Easter Island statue on the big Russian's back, he grabbed the first thigh morozashi in sumo history. At this point the bout got a little out of hand. Rasputin pulled either a knife or a hatchet (the details are sketchy at the moment) and flung himself backward to the clay. Asa, however, had done one of those reverse sit-ups people do to strengthen their back muscles, and was able to twist as he went down, ending up sitting on the back of Raspy's head with the W3's face buried in the dohyo. The MIB rushed the ring, each man pinning one of the huge Russian's limbs, while the gyoji disarmed him and called the proper authorities, in this case the Inuyama police department.

W2 Wakanosato has found that some things have stayed the same and some things have changed in his absence from the sanyaku. Same? Getting his ass kicked by Asa. Different? Getting his ass kicked by Hakuho, and getting henka'd by Ozeki Kaio. Probably was wondering if the long climb back was really worth it as he flew off into the crowd, with a chagrined Kaio behind him looking more sheepish than a Scottish Highlander. To be fair, I suspect Kaio was thinking Wakanosato himself would be sort of stepping to his left a bit, and that they would both hook up after a disjointed tachi-ai. He looked genuinely surprised that Waka went straight forward. Still, this was convalescent home Ozeki sumo at it's "finest".

In the bout immediately preceding that, the tables were turned as Tokitenku, more eager than Mike on his first visit to Tijuana to finally defeat the Wolf's Pup after seven tries, ran away, leaving Chiyotaikai standing at the altar holding nothing but broken promises and his own shame at thinking, We coulda made this thing work, dammit. The best part of it all was watching Tenku in the interview room being congratulated for beating an Ozeki. He tried to make an excuse by saying that he didn't plan it. Hnn? How's that? You mean you just had an instinctual muscular reaction to Chiyo's...what, crouch at the shikirisen? The Komusubi looked like he wanted to crawl into a hole. Vyrm!

Here I've covered the top four bouts and we've had one attempted murder and two henkas, and I've yet to reach the worst of the day!

Circus lost to Ozeki Kotooshu right at the tachi-ai, giving the strongest rikishi in sumo a deep two-handed grip, then trying to makikae going backward. As much as I love this Lewis Carrollesque character, he doesn't belong up here and will not reach 6 wins. Kotooshu moved well and made all the right moves. Big whoop. Do it for seven straight bouts and we'll have a latte and discuss.

You gotta hand it to Ama. Toyonoshima is wearing what looks to be a life jacket on his right leg, but the 2-2 Sekiwake still gets in there and hooks the W4's left leg, essentially forcing him to choose between potential career ending injury or loss. Toyo chose his third loss. Whodathunkit.

Oddly the same three guys who thought Takekaze had a chance vs Hakuho also were pulling for Aminishiki vs Kotomitsuki, and they were again disappointed. The Khan slayer is staring a Nagoya pullout right in the eye, as he played deer to Hit's headlights for his third straight loss.

I have to say that Mike and I both can't help pulling for the Japanese wrestlers these days. They are such underdogs in their own sport, makes us sort of pity them. We want Kotomitsuki to reach Ozeki, if only to make the crowds happy and sumo more popular. I can't speak for Mike here, but the more popular sumo is, the more casual fans (i.e. hot chicks) come to the basho. I don't have much need for pure porn, but I can't get by without me eye candy (insert Popeye laugh)!

The Geeku and Sexy had a pretty good go, with both men getting immediate belt grips, although Sexy's was much stronger. They tussled for a time, and finally Asasekiryu yanked him around enough while not letting that belt go and swept him out via uwatedashinage, outside belt grip pulling throw down. Nice win for the Yokozuna's stablemate, while the Geeku's resurgence is stalled for a day with the recommencement scheduled for tomorrow vs PT's boy.

It's nice to see that when The Degyptian's legs are healthy enough he can restart his forward momentum after being stalled at tachi-ai. Peter did an adequate job of stopping the initial charge, but the former Ozeki threw another lump of coal into the engine and started chugging that gut into Tamanoshima, and slowly but surely the train pulled out of the station and into win number two. To me, Dejima is Top Ten material when healthy.

Today we had Sekiwake Miyabiyama vs Komusubi Kisenosato. Oh, wait, that's LAST year's Nagoya basho (when The Kid was shin-Komusubi and The Sheriff was raped by the Wolf's Pup and subsequently denied Ozeki promotion). Sorry. Today we had E5 Miflobby vs W6 Kise. My, how their stars have fallen. Anyway, Kise put up with some terribly fearsome slapping from the heaviest man in the division and after weathering that storm got a sweet right inside tit hold that he used to set up a tsukiotoshi.

I don't agree with those who think Kisenosato has seen his best days. These are the same kind of people who are disappointed when they arrive at the scene of an accident and find no one bloodied. He's young and still learning, and was Komusubi three basho ago. Not everyone is a Hakuho, fercryinoutloud.

Fruitenoh took on E6 Homasho and brought a damned good tachi-ai with him. Unfortunately, Homasho is a big dude and soaked it up easily while holding his foe's arms at bay. The W7 was able, though, to turn Homasho around and move him forward to the edge, and looked to have him set up for a throw back toward the center, but Homasho showed tremendous stability by staying on his feet when the throw came and squaring his shoulders, then moving Fruitenoh back and out. Homasho is Hannibal touring Italy at 3-1, Fruity is General McDowell in the First Battle of Manassas at 1-3.

E7 Tochiohzan kept pace with the big boys by dismantling W8 Ryuo via oshidashi, translated roughly as, Get outs my face!

The little Kak came through in a big way again by taking a massive monster mamma jam in the mug from Kokkai, and looked like in freeze frame to be nearly a punch to the face and yet did not move to either side. The E8 bided his time and then grabbed a right inside belt and started tugging like a pit bull on a postal employee. Kokkai went with it (what else could he do?) with both men staying crouched low. With Kokkai holding nothing but his arm as it held the Georgian's belt, Kakuryu tried (or faked) a leg trip, which caused Kokkai to back up a bit. However, Kokkai came in again quickly and put both hands on The Kak's head, and he nearly fell forward, but he spread his legs and caught himself. Here Kokkai had a chance for a shove out, but for some reason he again tried for a pulldown, and Kakuryu, with the original right hand belt hold he had never relinquished coupled now with a left hand on the back of Kokkai's bowed head, swung him around and decisively out. Fine sumo from the Mongolian, who seems to be disproving the naysayers this time out, winning tumescently and losing honorably.

E9 Tochinonada, who must be pissed over my Day 1 remarks about his declining skills (what, you don't think all these guys read Sumotalk??!!) assigned the Ambassador to another posting, namely the clay, as he moved to his left after a decent tachi-ai, sloughing off the old man's stiff arm to the chin. The Ambassador's legs today reminded me of the Tin Man's before Dorothy and the Scarecrow oiled his knee joints.

Are you like me? I mean, in thinking that there doesn't really seem to be a huge difference between yanking the topknot (an illegal move called at the MIB's discretion) and what W10 Jokeutoriki does to his foes, nearly grabbing them by the hair and dragging them down? Tell me he doesn't get extra traction, notwithstanding the grease, from the guy's hair, or that there isn't a little finger hooking going on there. Today he made a monkey out of E10 Kasugao, who was down faster than you can say, Need a buzzcut.

The bout that pushed today's Alert Level to orange came early on.
And the perp? You guessed it, the man least likely to have children all over Nippon wearing his face on their t-shirts, E12 Henkarozan. Lawd, did I miss his unique brand of sumo while he was in Juryo, twittering like a finch out of the way of a collision with Tosanoumi, a man born before Nixon resigned. Still, our hero Tosa recovered well (could he have, SHOCK, guessed it was coming??) and shoved him out to the mucky muck for his third win.

The Nikibi popped Otsukasa at tachi-ai, gave a little squeeze, then beat the pus out of 'em. I'd bet Toyo's 3-1 is looking swell around the chanko pots.

Finally, our first bout had Ho Chi Minh Yama losing to a visitor up for the day from Juryo, a shadow man, no substance, no shikona, no identity, a man who skulks the halls of sumo a wraith, devoid of any of the attributes we normally associate with a rikishi: He Who Henka'd Kotonowaka In His Last Ever Bout (Knowing It Was His Last Bout!) If this, this, gollum returns to Makuuchi, I will be forced to take a sabbatical from Sumotalk until he is driven back down to the depths of doom where he belongeth.

Rumor has it Kenji checks in tomorrow, but I'll believe that when I see it, because at this hotel, the only certainty is uncertainty (that and the fact that Simon will keep us awake all night as he entertains his "posse"). See you again on Day 11.

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I've For the first time in a long time, the action in the ring extended beyond the 6:00 PM end-time. That was partly due to some exciting drawn out bouts and a do-ever in the most anticipated bout of the day, the Chiyotaikai - Roho reunion. But first things first. Let's start at the top.

Back in the musubi-no-ichiban slot that he ruled for four years straight, Yokozuna Asashoryu used that effective tachi-ai I mentioned yesterday where he distracts with the right hand (today he used a hari-te) and sets his opponent up with the left arm. Dejima was neutralized from the tachi-ai, and Asashoryu used great speed to keep Dejima moving never allowing him to get set. Early on, Asa had his foe in a backwards headlock with the left arm where he could have done some damage, but thankfully he released that grip and used a nice oshi attack to send Dejima out with relative ease. NHK actually went past their scheduled broadcast time, so there was no replay of the bout, but the key was the Yokozuna's tachi-ai where he used his style that has worked all these years instead of dinking around as he did on day 1. Asa moves to 2-1 and seems back on track, but he must break Hakuho's serve at some point. Dejima falls to 1-2.

Speaking of Hakuho, two or three years ago, Wakanosato was a rikishi that he could never solve, in fact I think he started out something like 0-6 against him. Times have changed, however. Hakuho's tachi-ai is better...Wakanosato's gut is bigger...and the aging veteran's legs are dinged up. Today's bout wasn't even close as Hakuho employed another solid tachi-ai striking Wakanosato hard with the body. Wakanosato actually managed both arms on the inside, but they weren't even elbow deep rendering the stance a faux moro-zashi position. Hakuho wrapped both arms tightly around from the outside and opted to pull the trigger with the left going for the powerful armbar throw that felled Wakanosato to the clay with ease. Waka's lucky that he didn't injure his arm in this one, but besides going for the armbar with the left, I thought Hakuho pushed in at Wakanosato's thigh with the right hand in uchi-muso fashion. Nevertheless, this was as easy as it gets for the new Yokozuna who cruises to 3-0. Only four newly-crowned Yokozuna have ever taken the yusho in their debut at the rank, so while the numbers are against him, Hakuho is seemingly oblivious to any pressure right now. Wakanosato is 0-3.

Remember a year or so ago how Kisenosato was Kotooshu's rival? That came about because the Kid kept upsetting the Bulgarian in key situations. These days with Kisenosato fading a bit, you may be able to say that M3 Takekaze has given the Ozeki fits of late. Today against the M3, Kotooshu used another good tachi-ai...not that it was overly effective but in that it was hard and straight forward. Takekaze was no slouch himself, and he actually managed the moro-zashi grip, but the difference today was that Kotooshu's forward momentum allowed him to reach over the top of Takekaze and grab the uwate. Takekaze went for the kill straightway, but Oshu showed his brilliance of yesteryear by escaping the force-out attempt all the while maintaining that outer grip that he used to throw Takekaze to the dirt. Remember how we used to rave over Kotooshu's escape tactics and deftness at the ring's edge? He wasn't in big trouble today, but he used that same ability to dismantle his foe today. This was good sumo from both parties, and I'm genuinely glad to see Kotooshu (2-1) emerging from his funk. Takekaze is 0-3.

NHK displayed a graphic today that showed Ozeki Kaio is only four wins away from surpassing former Yokozuna Takanohana for fifth most wins in the Makuuchi division all time at 702. Today against Komusubi Aminishiki, Kaio moved one step closer with a good tachi-ai that saw Kaio immediately grab Aminishiki around the left arm using his right, pivoting to the side, and launching Aminishiki off of the dohyo in an easy affair. Aminishiki's left calf was wrapped heavily, and it was reported that he had the leg iced after his win over Asashoryu on Sunday. Aminishiki was beaten so badly today that you have to think that Kaio took advantage of a wounded opponent. Nevertheless, Kaio notches win #699 in the division and second this basho. Aminishiki falls to 1-2.

Who couldn't help but recall last year's bout in Nagoya between Ozeki Chiyotaikai and M3 Roho as the two stood toe to toe today? I think it was on Roho's mind because he slammed hard into Chiyotaikai who knew that his only hope was to go for the pull down. The Ozeki did just that, but Roho's forward momentum was so powerful he sent Chiyotaikai off the dohyo in what looked like a sure win. But wait...a mono-ii was called for and replays showed that Chiyotaikai had his right hand on the back of Roho's belt throwing the Russian down as he himself was flying off the dohyo. Watching the bout live, I thought that Roho won, but I was okay with the judgment calling for a do-ever because the Ozeki did have his wits about him and his hand pulling down at the Russian, whose body was level with the dohyo and a bit out of control.

In the do-ever, Roho would not be denied as he read a Chiyotaikai henka to his left perfectly and forced the Ozeki to move so erratically that his feet were never under him. Roho used great patience to time a left thrust to Chiyo's neck that sent the Ozeki sprawling onto his back. This was great stuff from Roho who has the potential to be a top-five rikishi in this sport. Roho's easy to root for when he fights as he did today. Don't look now but the Russian is 3-0. Chiyotaikai suffers his first defeat at 2-1.

I've stated several times recently that I didn't think Sekiwake Kotomitsuki was Ozeki material, and even though he treated us to some good sumo today, after securing the deep morozashi against M1 Asasekiryu from the tachi-ai, I don't know how he didn't finish the M1 off with it in mere seconds. To his credit, Asasekiryu dug in as hard as I've ever seen, and slipped his left arm from the outside in taking away Mitsuki's moro-zashi but leaving him with a stiff right outer. Kotomitsuki with the clear advantage drove Asasekiryu to the edge numerous times, but the Mongolian put up an amazing defensive fight refusing to be forced out for close to 30 seconds, but expending that much energy just to survive leaves nothing in the tank when it comes to an offensive attack, so in the end, Kotomitsuki dumped his opponent in the middle of the ring with a belt throw that was probably incorrectly ruled as uchi-muso. Hit and Mitsuki has been all hit so far this basho as he moves to 3-0 while Asasekiryu falls to 1-2.

Sekiwake Ama exhibited a decent charge against Komusubi Tokitenku, but Tokitenku was hellbent on winning this one by pulldown as he immediately backed up and pulled his countryman down in the process. This was almost a tachi-ai henka where Tokitenku moved back instead of to the side. Regardless, it was a premeditated pull down move, and a trait of Tokitenku's sumo that I don't care for. Ama needed to keep his eyes on his opponent a little bit better today because I think he could have read Tokitenku's intentions if he hadn't been staring downward from the tachi-ai. Both rikishi are 1-2.

In a bout between two rivals as they rose up the ranks, M1 Kotoshogiku and M4 Toyonoshima treated us to a great bout where Toyonoshima lurched into the quick moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, but his arms weren't quite deep enough allowing Kotoshogiku to wrap both arms around Toyonoshima's from the outside and pinch them inwards in the kime position. Toyonoshima moved left and right trying to shake the Geeku's meat hooks off, but to no avail. You could just see the determination in Kotoshogiku as he maintained that stifling grip, which he eventually used for the kime-dashi win. Good stuff here as the Geeku seems serious about returning to the sanyaku at 2-1. Toyonoshima is 1-2.

M6 Homasho showed up for his bout with M4 Takamisakari today with what looked like hot pad on his left hand it was wrapped so heavily. Either Homey's double-timing as a baker ( cross buns) or he's tweaked that left thumb of his. I guess he didn't need that hand today, though, as he slammed into Takamisakari with his head with such force, the Robocop was left standing straight up at the starting line. In no position to execute any sort of offensive grip, Takamisakari was a sitting duck as Homasho timed a perfect thrusting attack that sent Takamisakari back and off the dohyo with as much force as you'll ever see. Great stuff from Homasho, who set it all up with his tachi-ai. Homey's 2-1 while the Cop falls to 1-2.

Finally M5 Miyabiyama got the engine running today with a determined tachi-ai and fierce tsuppari attack that M7 Tochiohzan could only answer with a few pull down attempts. Miyabiyama wasn't buying any of it, and on the second pull attempt from Tochiohzan, the Sheriff just pummeled Oh back and off the dohyo. THIS was the kind of sumo Miyabiyama displayed a year ago during his Ozeki run. Tochiohzan had no answer and fell to his first loss. Miyabiyama picks up that first win. This was good stuff from the veteran today.

For the second day in a row, M8 Kakuryu opted to stand toe to toe with a larger rikishi, and for the second day in a row, he couldn't handle the yotsu-zumo contest. M5 Tamanoshima used a deep left arm on the inside that was just too good when the counter kote-nage throw came from Kakuryu, and once that was staved off, Peter scored the easy yori-kiri win leaving both rikishi at 1-2.

M8 Ryuo completely dictated the pace in his bout against M6 Kisenosato today firing off effective nodowa after nodowa. Kisenosato evaded this way and that, but unlike yesterday, Ryuo kept his feet planted and his attack focused towards Kisenosato's neck. As the Kid backed up slightly and evaded to his left, it took a slight slip of his foot for Ryuo to rush in and pounce pulling Kisenosato down to the dirt for the nice win. This is Ryuo's bread and butter sumo, and just when I thought the eight second rule (Ryuo will lose if his bout goes longer than 8 seconds) was going to do Ryuo in, he polished Kisenosato (1-2) off in seven seconds moving to 2-1.

M9 Kokkai enjoyed some early success against M7 Futenoh with his awkward tsuppari attack, but he panicked early and settled for the hidari-yotsu position, which I thought was a mistake, but I guess that's why I'm sitting here with a laptop and Kokkai's on TV making the big bucks on the dohyo and attractin' the chicks off the dohyo. Well, at least one of those two. Both rikishi maintained right uwate grips on one fold of each other's mawashi in the center of the ring, but Kokkai was more determined as he forced the action--and Futenoh--back to the tawara where a nice gaburi belly shove finished Futenoh off. This was a rare yori-kiri win for Kokkai, but he looked good doing so. He's 2-1 while Futenoh draws more sighs at 1-2.

In a rather enjoyable bout to watch, M10 Hokutoriki lunged into M9 Tochinonada, who just stood his ground, planted his foot, and threw Hokutoriki over with some oomph using a left arm swipe under Hokutoriki's right arm pit. Easy peasy as both rikishi move to 2-1.

M10 Kasugao grabbed an early left uwate on M11 Kitazakura, but the Ambassador smartly moved in a circle never giving Kasugao the opportunity to plant his foot for the throw. With a quick shake of his tail, the duck broke off Kausugao's grip and forced the bout into a brief tsuppari fest. Kitazakura's hustle here paid off as he grappled into an outer grip of his own that Kasugao could only answer with his right leg wrapped around Kitazakura's left from the inside out. Kitazakura eventually shook off that counter attempt from Kasugao and kept the Korean on the run eventually throwing him over and down with that left grip. This 1:18 affair was the best technical sumo I've ever seen from Kitazakura, who moves to a cool 3-0 if ya need him. Kasugao falls to 1-2.

M13 Tosanoumi isn't the most effective fighter at the belt, but when you have the initial thrust he gets from the tachi-ai, there's no reason why he shouldn't grab that uwate when it's open. He did so today, and M11 Tokitsuumi couldn't handle Tosanoumi's power from the start, so Tosanoumi simply grabbed that left uwate and dumped his foe to the dirt moving to 2-1. Tokitsuumi is winless.

M15 Kaiho enjoyed the quick morozashi position from the tachi-ai against M12 Hakurozan, and the Russian just couldn't shake him despite a pretty good effort to counter his opponent's advantage. With both knees taped and a stance that's too upright anyway, Kaiho had his jaws secured on Hak's jugular setting up the eventual force out win as he moves to 2-1. Hakurozan struggles at 1-2.

M12 Satoyama elected to charge M15 Tamakasuga extremely low today, in fact he was so low going in, I don't see how he thought he'd have any momentum to budge Tamakasuga. The veteran just stood his ground easily keeping Satoyama at bay throughout until an opening came where he could throw the hapless Satoyama over on his side and a 1-2 record. Tamakasuga moves to 2-1.

M14 Toyohibiki stated yesterday after his pulldown win over Tosanoumi that he was disappointed in himself for taking the cheap route. Today against the much smaller and much less potent M13 Yoshikaze, Toyohibiki didn't learn his lesson. After a quick left jab from Yoshikaze distracted Toyohibiki's initial charge, the two exchanged ineffective tsuppari at a furious pace for a few seconds before Toyohibiki went for that damn pull down. Yoshikaze's quickness paid off as he immediately took advantage of his compromised opponent pushing him back and out in stunning fashion. The Nikibi should NEVER lose a bout to Yoshikaze, but he did today due to not trusting in his own brand of sumo, the oshi attack. Yoshikaze picks up a rare win in the division while Toyohibiki lets one get away at 2-1.

M16 Kakizoe used a quick strike and ottsuke to his left that completely exposed M16 Hochiyama who fell face forward virtually from the get-go. I didn't consider this a henka at all. Hochiyama just exhibited his usual bad tachi-ai, and Kakizoe made him pay two uneventful seconds in. Kakizoe breathes new life at 2-1 while Hochiyama continues to flounder at 1-2.

And finally, J1 Iwakiyama moved to 3-0 after welcoming the yotsu-zumo contest from M17 Otsukasa, who seemed content to bring the bout in close with his larger opponent. Bad idea. After about 20 seconds of jockeying in the ring, Iwakiyama grabbed a left outer grip that he used to easily force Otsukasa (1-2) back and out.

Hakuho, Asashoryu, and Kotomitsuki are carrying this basho early on, but don't discount Kotooshu and Roho in the end. Clancy saves you from a three-peat tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I've I really appreciated Clancy's money saving tips yesterday, but don't tell me I'm going to have to wait until day 11 to get the advice I really need. I landed at Narita on Sunday without my bags (thanks for nothing Delta!), which means I'm in Japan now with nothing but the clothes on my back and underwear around my loins. Today, my second day in Japan, was just fine because I simply turned my undies inside out and put 'em back on, but I don't know what I'm gonna do starting tomorrow. Good thing I've got a basho to keep my mind off of that rash I'm starting to develop.

The tourney sputtered out of the gate on day 1 in my opinion with strange performances from both Yokozuna, the usual tachi-ai henka from Kotooshu, and a "here we go again" with Baruto. Unless you're like my luggage lost in some dark void, you've heard by now that Baruto has withdrawn yet again from the tournament after re-injuring that same left knee that has given him problems since Aki 2006. This is not looking good for the Estonian. Doctors estimated about 6 weeks of recovery time, but we can see a cycle now rearing its ugly head where Baruto's size and the rigors of the sumo schedule just won't allow him to heal properly. This guy's future is in big trouble unless he's content rotating from Juryo to Makuuchi every other division. He takes a pay cut when he falls to Juryo, but by winning the yusho outright every stinkin' time, his salary works out as if he was a sanyaku mainstay. What's the rush I guess?

Moving to the day 2 bouts, for the first time in about four years, Asashoryu sat ringside and watched the final bout of the day as fellow Khan, Yokozuna Hakuho, looked to receive a stiff test against M2 Dejima. Hakuho employed a kachi-age (forearm to the throat) tachi-ai with the right arm as he went for the frontal belt grip with the left in what is becoming a very effective move that few rikishi can solve. The tactic stopped Dejima in his tracks and immediately took away his momentum leaving the former Ozeki spinning his wheels between the starting lines. A flat-footed Hakuho lazily dispatched of the M2 with a hataki-komi slap down after about two seconds. Hakuho's tachi-ai was excellent, but he got somewhat careless after that even though he was never in any sort of danger. Twas a good win where I think the Yokozuna came in deciding on the easiest way to break down Dejima and executed the plan to perfection even though you'd like to see more crisp, forward-moving sumo at this rank. He'll take it, though, as he moves to 2-0 and has already downed two of the more dangerous opponents he'll face in my opinion. Dejima falls to 1-1.

Yokozuna Asashoryu used a good right hand nodowa into the throat of M2 Wakanosato at the tachi-ai followed by his left arm lifting up at Waka's right side standing his opponent striaght up and setting up the smothering right uwate that he would never relinquish. Wakanosato, a pretty good fighter from the inside, attempted to counter with the left inside position, but Asashoryu would not be denied and bullied Wakanosato to the side and out leading with that uwate grip. What a contrast in tachi-ai today and yesterday for Asashoryu. The move he used today was his patented tachi-ai that he seemed to abandon a few basho ago. He needs to use it every day...stiff arm to the throat or hari-te to the face with the right while you use your strong hand to set something up on the left. Asashoryu picks up his first win but is yet again in a situation he is not used to, namely forced to come from behind. Advantage Hakuho. Wakanosato falls to a respectable 0-2.

For some reason, Komusubi Aminishiki came in with an 0-12 record against Ozeki Chiyotaikai. Make it 13 straight losses as Ami offered a limp hari-te at the tachi-ai with his right hand but couldn't handle Chiyo's speed and thrusts after that. The Ozeki didn't drive Aminishiki back at all--didn't need to--rather he pummeled at his face and torso area until Aminishiki ducked his head and then just slapped him down from there. The answer to the mystery is that Aminishiki probably can't take shoves to the face. Chiyo knows it and moves to 2-0 while Aminishiki will happily take his current 1-1 status.

I think Ozeki Kotooshu hit rock bottom after his day 1 bout against Dejima. "My name's Kotooshu, and I'm a henkaholic." I don't know of anyone including the Ozeki himself who wasn't thoroughly disgusted with Kotooshu's sumo of late. Oshu got off on the right foot of his 12-step recovery today by committing himself to a hard tachi-ai where he uses his long arms to grab an uwate. I can tell he committed himself because there was no hesitation in his tachi-ai whatsoever and no indecision as he approached the starting lines. When Kotooshu made that surge for Ozeki, his best move--no, his only move--was to go chest to chest with his opponent and rely on his height and reach to grab the advantageous outer grip. He got the left today against the no-slouch Tokitenku and did what he used to do...commit himself to a charge full boar ahead smothering his opponent at the tawara and neutralizing any sort of counter attack. Tokitenku put up a decent fight, but Oshu was a man on a mission today and gave the Mongolian no hope of turning the tables. This was vintage Kotooshu sumo, and the only kind of attack that will make him successful again. Fittingly, Kotonowaka (Kotooshu's stablemaster) was in the booth today providing color commentary, and he stated that Kotooshu simply has to live and die by the attack we saw from him today. There's no other way. Kotooshu improves to 1-1 while Tokitenku is winless.

M1 Asasekiryu used a henka to his right against Ozeki Kaio that he tried to mask by using the inashi (push from the side) instead of the outright pulldown. Kaio's just to slow to counter that kind of move anymore, and Asasekiryu easily grabbed a left outer grip from the melee and outhustled Kaio back and across the straw. Kaio three or four years ago could have dug in and resisted, but not anymore. Cheap, cheap sumo from Sexy today as both rikishi stand at 1-1.

Sekiwake Ama exhibited a decent charge against former Sekiwake Kotoshogiku, but the Geeku stood his ground firmly and pinned Ama's right arm in towards his body completely neutralizing the Mongolian's charge. As he pinned Ama's limb on the right, he used his left arm on the inside of Ama's right side to swing the Mongolian over and back towards the tawara where the Geeku's size advantage took over from there giving Ama nowhere to go but back. This was pretty good sumo from both parties, but Kotoshogiku dominated. I don't know where he's been of late, but this was the kind of stuff that propelled him to Sekiwake in the first place. Both rikishi are 1-1.

M3 Takekaze mounted a formidable charge at the tachi-ai, but Sekiwake Kotomitsuki was just too big and strong to be moved back much. To his credit, Takekaze never relented in his charge, but the superior Mitsuki worked the bout into his favor with a right outer grip, the exact position he wanted. As he usually does, Kotomitsuki took his sweet time, but this one was never in doubt after Kotomitsuki had the uwate, a grip he used to wrench Takekaze around and out with. Kotomitsuki's a cool 2-0, but he can't afford more than one loss this first week. Takekaze is 0-2.

In a strange bout, both M4 Toyonoshima and M3 Roho charged straight forward, but didn't make much contact. I think both dudes had evasive tactics on their minds, and Roho struck first by slipping to his left and dragging Toyonoshima to the side by his right arm. The Russian next tried to parlay that into a left outer grip but came up with nothing but a handful of sagari (those things that hang from the belt). Toyonoshima did a 360 in an effort to jump out of the position, but Roho showed good footwork to lunge at his smaller opponent and crush him out with a two-handed shove. Roho's 2-0 after a couple unorthodox wins while Toyonoshima falls to 1-1.

M5 Miyabiyama lurched forward today against M4 Takamisakari with some authority at the tachi-ai, but Takamisakari used a brief left belt grip on the front of the Sheriff's mawashi to counter, so when Miyabiyama abandoned his tsuppari attack, Takamisakari quickly grabbed a left outer grip that he would never relinquish. Miyabiyama countered with a nice right grip on the back of Takamisakari's belt, and he attempted a quick inner belt throw that nearly felled the Cop, but Takamisakari survived the move and now with Miyabiyama's balance completely compromised, Takamisakari easily pulled him down to the dirt with that left uwate. Takamisakari picks up a nice first win while Miyabiyama looks lost at 0-2.

M6 Kisenosato absorbed a heckuva tachi-ai from M5 Tamanoshima standing his ground well and coming out of the fracas with a right outer grip that he would use to methodically force Tamanoshima back to the edge and across after some admirable resistance at the edge from Peter. This was a solid win for Kisenosato who could have easily pressed too hard as he's wont to do and ended up on the wrong side, but he took his sweet time and made sure that initial right outer grip wouldn't be wasted. Good, patient stuff from the Kid who moves to 1-1. Tamanoshima is not surprisingly 0-2.

One of the best bouts of the day featured M6 Homasho vs. M7 Tochiohzan where the two enjoyed a great tachi-ai that resulted in the hidari-yotsu position. Homasho pressed the action little by little, and after nudging Tochiohzan back near the edge, he went for the right uwate, which he got, but he needed to set it up with a more forceful push. It didn't happen, and it allowed Tochiohzan to plant himself and perfectly time a left counter scoop throw that was too much for Homasho to handle. I admire Homasho's courage in this one, especially considering he has yet to beat Tochiohzan, but he pressed just a bit too much against his larger opponent. Great bout today though between two likeable rikishi who are probably going to become rivals in the near future. Homey falls to 1-1 while Tochiohzan advances to 2-0.

M8 Ryuo had M7 Futenoh by the short hairs today after a morote tachi-ai that stood Futenoh straight up, a couple of shoves to keep him in check, and a well-timed pull that sent Futenoh off balance, but Ryuo failed to put the fork in Futenoh by continuing to attack too high allowing Futenoh to time a side-step/pull of his own that felled Ryuo with little argument. Twasn't pretty 'tall, but Futenoh will take his first win. Ryuo shoots himself in the foot as he falls to 1-1.

I guess M8 Kakuryu read Clancy's praise for him yesterday and thought he could just bulldoze M9 Tochinonada back and out. Didn't happen...well not from Kakuryu's end. Nada charged forward like a bull and actually managed to get on the inside of the smaller Kakuryu rendering him completely useless. It was Tochinonada who did the bulldozing forcing Kakuryu back and out with a fury. Both rikishi are 1-1.

M10 Hokutoriki came into his bout today against M9 Kokkai leading the Georgian 3-1 in past fights, and it showed why he's been so successful. The Jokester countered Kokkai's charge well with a moro-te tachi-ai and then evaded swiftly to his right pulling in the process, a move that completely threw Kokkai off balance and down to the dirt straightway. Pretty uneventful stuff as Hokutoriki moves to 2-0 while Kokkai stands at 1-1.

Give M10 Kasugao an outer grip against someone this low in the division, and he's nails. M11 Tokitsuumi (0-2) gave up the uwate immediately from the tachi-ai, so the Korean wasted no time in pressing the action and throwing Tokitsuumi down to the dohyo as hard as one can. Nuthin' more to say here as the Korean moves to 1-1.

M13 Yoshikaze's mistake today against M11 Kitazakura was to stand toe to toe with the Ambassador and try and out push him. Kitazakura's just too big for that, and instead of trying to evade and get deep inside on Zak's belt, Yoshikaze just stood right in front of him subsequently getting pushed back to the straw and onto his ass just beyond the edge. Yoshikaze of course will always struggle in this division due to his small stature, but he's gotta be a little bit smarter than this. He's 0-2 while boys all over Japan are cheering Kitazakura's 2-0 start.

M12 Satoyama ducked his head way too low at the tachi-ai against fellow M12, Hakurozan, but I guess he knew what was coming as the Russian unleashed a huge right hari-te at the tachi-ai that missed completely due to Satoyama's low stance. Satoyama was awarded with the deep morozashi that the Russian tried to counter with two arms locked over the top of both of Satoyama's limbs a la Takanonami, but a smart dashi-nage move from Satoyama broke down Hakurozan's balance and turned him into perfect oshi-dashi fodder from there. Both rikishi are 1-1.

Newcomer Toyohibiki knew he really shouldn't be fooling around with pull-down business afterwards, but at least gave M13 Tosanoumi his just due by taking his tachi-ai straight on. Toyohibiki actually made a mistake by aligning his feet after the initial charge, but Tosanoumi just isn't strong enough to handle the Nikibi and couldn't counter. Toyohibiki immediately put both of his hands behind Tosanoumi's head and pulled him down with ease. The bad footwork disabled Toyohibiki from executing a good push attack, but he was in charge the entire way. This guy's gonna be good as he breezes to 2-0. Tosanoumi falls to 1-1.

M16 Hochiyama's feet were slipping all over the dohyo at the tachi-ai, but fortunately his opponent was M15 Tamakasuga, who couldn't take advantage. Hochiyama eventually worked the bout into a migi-yotsu contest, and Tamakasuga had no answer as he forfeited the eventual left uwate, which spelled his doom. Hochiyama should have been more decisive in this bout, but hey, a win's a win. I think it's a sign that Hochiyama will never make it beyond M8 or so. Both dudes are 1-1.

And finally, M16 Kakizoe won his first bout since March in an ugly affair against M17 Otsukasa. Kakizoe's footwork was suspect throughout, but Otsukasa's was even worse. Zoe made it 5 wins in a row over 0tsukasa after some sloppy oshi-zumo from both parties. Kakizoe is sporting that gray-ish mawashi that Musoyama sported for all those years, but I don't think it's gonna help much. These guys are both 1-1 as well.

I'm back again tomorrow and yens better get used to it.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
I've always felt that, all things considered, my reports here for Sumotalk were adequate to the task: Informative, amusing, occasionally insightful. Yet it seems that there are some among the readership who have felt the need to write to The Overlord in the honeymoon suite on the floor above and cut me to the quick. Some don't like my 'tude, some don't like my mojo, some don't like my habit of inventing new words (like "typething"), some don't like jokes that I put in only for those who speak Japanese, some didn't like my description of Bernie and George's gruesome deaths, some don't like my use of zugzug words, and some even resent the fact that I open my reports without jumping right to the day's tussles.

Naturally my first reaction was to tell them they could take an erotic aerial maneuver at a tumbling baked good. Then I thought again and figured, Eh, squeaky wheels, the lot of 'em. Who cares? But finally I decided that they had a point. Why should I try to "amuse" anyone, this is sumo and we want the results, not verbiage. So from now on I am turning over a new leaf. We go right to the wrestling and no screwing around.

But first I want to pass along a few money saving ideas I had yesterday while soaking in the tub. #1) Shave your head, save on shampoo. #2) Bathwater down the drain? Uh, sorry, big mistake. Use that water the next day to feed your plants, and fill the pets' bowls. What? Tell me you're not one of those idiots who believes the underlying line of crap the companies that try to sell you their "clean fresh water all day long for your dog and cat" gizmos are laying on you. My cats eat moles and my dogs eat cat crap. You think they care if they're water bowl has some soap film, skin flakes and a few pubes floating around in it? Trust me, they don't. #3) This one is a take-off on an already common money saving tip, Not flushing your toilet every time you urinate. That's a good one, kudos to the dude who came up with it (come on, you think it was a chick?), but really, why stop at urine? I say leave the turds in there as well, give the next person something to shoot for in the size dept., a little friendly competition. I know, I know, it sounds grotesque at first, but I'm only suggesting they remain until they start to crest the water.

Oh, yeah, my resolution. The sumo. Okay. Gotcha.

The story of this basho is so obvious it hurts, and it bears no repeating at all. Three or four sub-plots, however, make for some good brain bran. The most compelling we can label, The Return. There are several men whom we love to love and love to rip returning to the top division after long and short tours in the Ten Cent division, and a couple who have clawed their way back up to take on the sanyaku (otherwise known as Outer Outer Mongolia).

The day began with E17 Otsukasa guillotining W16 Ho Chi Minh Yama (for his "first win" as the buttard NHK English announcer informed us). Then clearly injured E16 Kakizoe let W15 Tamakasuga, at age 35 (that's 97 in sumo years) hand him his first loss.

We had our first Return in the form of E15 Kaiho (it may have even BEEN Kaiho, not just his form), who used to run roughshod over at least half the Makuuchi until that old dirge injury laid him low. He has been gone so long that probably some of you more recent sumo lovers don't know his name or his sumo. Well, he is a former Komusubi and he was something to behold in the waning days of Musashimaru. Sadly, today he was pitted against a man who is not entirely unreminiscent (I say we can "un-" any word) of the former American Yokozuna and also his heyamate, former Ozeki Musoyama. Enormous rookie Toyonikibi, sorry, Toyohibiki looks to have all the potential that everyone is clamoring over, and despite the name not one pimple on him, even though he is a young man at 23. Kaiho tried to halt the giant and failing that shifted but he was wrapped up and put out quicker than a baby's soiled diaper. Eyes to be kept glued on la newbie who snagged his first win.

Baruto the Biomass was up next, promising death to any and all who stand in his way as he Returns on his march to the top (or so the deceased George would have had us believe). Personally I have never been a Baruto fan. He doesn't strike me as having what it takes to be a top guy, but he's young so let's give him the bendoubt (new word alert!!) Today he was tasked by Returnee Tosanoumi of all people. The former Sekiwake gave the Estonian a big hit at tachi-ai, forcing Baruto to balance on one leg. Then the E13 backed up and went in again, lifting up on the big fella, who seemed to have his right foot fly out from underneath him and crashed to his first loss (okay, I'll stop it). I'm not saying Baruto won't get 10, he will, but he is two years at least from any realistic chance at purchasing sustainable sanyaku real estate. When I watch his sumo I get this uneasy feeling, and I hope I'm wrong, that injury will prevent him from ever becoming The Man.

E12 Returnee Hakurozan, double disliked because he is a henkaphile AND he is Roho's brother, fell not for E13 Yoshikaze's lame-o jump to the side, securing a quick grip on the back of the coward's thong and wedgied him down. Hadn't seen that move since junior high school.

Speaking of JHS, ambassador to young men everywhere Kitazakura Returned to Makuuchi for the first time this year and promptly gave his legions more reason to sidle up to his sweaty bod under the stands and ask for his phone number by brushing off Satoyama. The W12 came in low and stood The Ambassador up, but a quick forearm smash got the silver citizen back into it, and once he secured the right hand in on the back of the belt, was able to drive the sophomore out with ease. Notes: Satoyama yanked the topknot at the end, resulting in a rather Oregon hippy look for the balding Ambassador once the bout was over.

E11 Tokitsuumi let W10 Hokutoriki of all creatures push him out by the throat. Not a good sign for Mr. Handsome. Two men farther down the banzuke than they should be, Kokkai and Kasugao, went at it next, with Kokkai employing his trademark forearm tachi-ai and Kasugao his right arm throwing. Kokkai was able to keep his balance as the big Korean tried to throw, and Ray Charles could be heard throughout the stadium as the W9 made his homeland proud and titillated his fans with the possibility of double digit wins this time out. W8 Ryuo did some serious shoving on E9 Tochinonada, who truly looks to be just about finished as a real threat any longer.

All those muppets out there who have shat on Kakuryu took a big hit today as he turned Futenoh into his own little Scarlet Pimpernel (check YouTube: Tenacious D- Pick of Destiny to get that joke). There was no pulldown attempt, no slapdown attempt, no twisting or running or evasion of any sort, just straight up beat me if you can sumo. I have been saying it all along, the Mongolians know how to learn from their mistakes and get better, and this guy is no exception. Futenoh is no pushover, and he took it to his foe right away, backing him up from the tachi-ai. But The Kak stiffened and came back sniffin' belt and snaggin' a left in, right out, and even though Futenoh tried to slip away at the edge, the E8 stayed focused and shoved the former Komusubi out. With all respect to Kahuna Wesemann (with his coterie up there, what are they doing? I wish they would quiet down, I'm trying to type) M8 is just the beginning for Kakuryu.

M6 Kisenosato stood up way too high at tachi-ai, weakly attempting to hold off a big, solidly centered E7 Tochiohzan with his left hand while trying to grab a belt with his right, but it was no use and once he gave up trying for the belt and raised both hands he was steamrolled out.

E6 Homasho hung back a bit at tachi-ai, letting Tamanoshima do all the work, then homed in on the W5 and patiently moved forward for an uncomplicated win. Tochiohzan and Homasho are similar rikishi, and I think more likely than Kisenosato and Futenoh and Toyonoshima to be the Japanese rikishi who will one day grace the sanyaku regularly, along with the Geeku.

The tachi-ai between E5 Miflobbyama and W4 Toyonoshima was about as bone crunching as a first kiss between two 13 year-olds named Thad. After the amenities were out of the way, Miyabi slapped at his foe like a "leetle guhl", and was tootsweet run out. Getting screwed on the Ozeki promotion last year took the life out of this guy, no question. It's a shame.

An E4 who doesn't belong at the level, Takamisakari, took on a W3 who does, Roho, in a match-up of the most beloved man in sumo vs. the most despised. PT's boy brought his typically weak arms in, shoulder leading tachi-ai that let Roho grab an outside left which he used to spin Circus around and out. Takami would have been better off keeping his butt back at tachi-ai like he usually does.

Sekiwake Ama bounced off E3 Takekaze at tachi-ai, and after a brief separation, came in like a mongoose on a snake, getting a deep inside left, but this was countered by a strong armbar by Takekaze. For some reason (probably fear of injuring his foe) Take let up on the armbar and it cost him, as Ama spun him around and out as he did a fantastic tiptoe on the ropes. This bout should legitimately start another round of chat about the ethics of the armbar. No question in my mind that if Takekaze had not let up he would have won. But at what cost, people, at what cost?

A great match up next as we had the current perennial Sekiwake vs. a former perennial Sekiwake. Hit or Mitsuki is looking to do something that Wakanosato never could, shed the Sekiwake label in a good way, by moving up to Ozeki, while Wakanosato is one of the Returnees up in the thin air of W2 land trying to take back what was once so firmly his. For a while it looked like the former Sekiwake might be the winner today, as he recovered from a huge tachi-ai by Hit by moving a bit to the side as he retreated. But the current Sekiwake uncharacteristically kept his balance and stayed right on his foe to get underneath. Waka then countered with an outside left that looked like it might bring the fight to an end. Hit grabbed an inside right and although that slipped away, he was in excellent position once Wakanosato tried again to throw, driving his body up and into the M2 while deftly hooking Waka's leg as they both fell to the clay. There was a bit of fist pumping by Kotomitsuki as he was getting up, but nothing will come of it. Had it been Asashoryu there would be an expose in some rag tomorrow.

Ozeki KotoNoShow tried a henkaesque maneuver vs. Returnee E2 Dejima, giving a small face slap and then reaching over the M2's shoulder and grabbing the back of the belt. The Degyptian read it brilliantly and stayed on the Ozeki, bearhugging his ass out faster than you could say, Simon is landed gentry. Dejima was the clear winner as he landed on top of the Ozeki's head as it hit the dirt, but the MIB black felt this needed a mono-ii (but not Asashoryu's loss to Aminishiki last basho??) Everyone in the stadium could see Dejima won, and in the end so could the Morons In Black.

Kaio and Chiyotaikai won, but since they are museum pieces as far as yusho hopes go, and their wins are boring, I'll leave it at that.

A soft tachi-ai from both the new Mongolian Yokozuna Hakuho and the Mongolian Komusubi Tokitenku led to a separation where both men froze in this strange West Side Story pose, thought a knife fight was going to break out between Riff and Bernardo. Hakuho then moved in but Tokitenku slipped away, then Hakuho got him again with both hands outside and finally got his left hand on the back of the belt and was able to throw him out after a bit. Tokitenku put up a decent fight, but he was never really in the match. Hakuho has to be happy to get that first ever Yokozuna win.

And once Asashoryu inexplicably lost to Aminishiki, the new Yokozuna must have been even happier, now one up on the only man who can challenge him for the yusho.

The Yokozuna didn't need the MIB to screw him over today, as he screwed himself over for the second straight time vs. Aminishiki by dilly dallying around at tachi-ai, letting the Komusubi get inside with his hands on Asa's chest. Aminishiki then tried to trip the Yokozuna, who chose to retreat and attempt a swing down, only to be swung around himself. Aminishiki used perfect foot placement to do this, and Asa's foot missed the tawara as he set to brace himself and he stepped out. A very disappointing loss for Asa and a bad omen for the rest of the tourney. Is he on his game this time out or will this upset get under his skin and into his mind like the early loss to Aminishiki in May seemed to? Too early to tell, but he had better be lights out tomorrow vs. Wakanosato.

The man with the plan and the million dollar tan will ravel the Day 2 bouts for you with the precision of a Swiss watch (or at least with the precision of one of those knockoffs you can get in Hong Kong).


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