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Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
I think I’m not the only one slightly disappointed by the lack of drama of this basho, but Hakuho is like three classes above anyone else in the business right now (with the possible exception of Asashoryu, who’s nowhere to be seen). It should be no surprise, then, to have Hakuho 4 wins ahead of anyone else after 14 days. But we all knew that would happen right from the first day, didn’t we? Let’s get right into the action, starting from the very bottom.

In high Makushita, the most promising young Hutt, Yamamotoyama, who tips the scales at a respectable (no, make that downright scary) 530 pounds, managed to overcome a day 1 loss to win throughout and guarantee himself a place in the monster 8-way playoff for the Yusho, but more importantly, he secured promotion to Juryo. It will be quite interesting to see if (and how) he makes it all the way to Makuuchi, so he can get a spot on our comment pages (this one doesn’t count).

Newcomer Koryu proved he can’t take the Makuuchi heat yet, faltering badly at 3-11. Today he was completely outclassed by youngster Tochiohzan, who hasn’t been exactly shining either. Koryu charged too high, hoping for the cheap pulldown, but Oh got both hands inside and pushed the hapless Mongolian around and out of the dohyo in 2 seconds, getting his winning record in the process and prodding Koryu back to Juryo where he belongs.

One of the Juryo leaders, Kitataiki, made a little visit to Makuuchi today, attempting to secure his promotion against Juryo candidate Tamakasuga. The old man has been looking nothing short of awful, and today he stuck to the pattern, failing to finish off a bout he had controlled most of the time. The tachi-ai was rather cautious, both guys opting to push at each other’s upper body, but it was Kasuga who was on the offensive, with a well-placed right nodowa. Kitataiki brushed it off, though, and slipped to his left, fishing for a belt grip. Tamakasuga would not allow it and kept pressing forward, at one point even managing to get behind his younger foe, who was facing the tawara. But Kitataiki used his speed again and somehow sneaked out of that tight spot to turn the tables on the veteran and push him out to his 11th loss and a Juryo vacation. Tomorrow, Kitataiki and Bushuyama, both at 11 wins, will be fighting it out for the Juryo Yusho.

Tamanoshima postponed his kachikoshi after being pulled down straight from the initial charge by the faster Kakizoe. Definitely not worth the bandwidth or the 2 rows wasted to talk about it.

Rookie Kimurayama failed to impress this basho after his good 5-2 start, and I’m convinced his Day 7 destruction at the hands of Iwakiyama had something to do with it (most likely and injury or two). For the last 7 days, our newcomer has been relying mostly on henkas and pulls and mostly failed miserably at it. Today was no exception, because Kimurayama hardly stands a chance against Kyokutenho even in full health, and the ex-Mongolian knew it full well, because he didn’t lunge head first at his opponent and turned right into him when the sidestep came, getting the double migi-yotsu grip after a little horsing around and marching his useless opponent out of the dohyo to makekoshi. Tenho stands at 9 wins, which is pretty good for an old guy. Kimurayama will likely stay in Makuuchi for another basho, regardless of what he does tomorrow.

Georgian Kokkai is in a load of trouble lately, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but today he tried to stop the rot, opting for a low tachi-ai, going for the belt grip instead of his usual forearm-to-the-face charge. He did manage to get a decent right uwate and the left on opponent Iwakiyama’s inside, but at the edge the elder Hutt just brushed off the Caucasian’s uwate like so much pocket lint, getting his own fat paw on Kokkai’s black mawashi. He then drove Kokkai to the edge in mere fractions of a second and finished him off despite a last moment kotenage attempt. At 5-9, Kokkai is a crack in a wall, while Iwakiyama keeps his kachikoshi hopes with the win.

One of the better-faring rookies, Kokonoe’s Chiyohakuho said something the other day about being injured. Well, that would explain his ineffective charge today against the Oddball, who withstood it despite starting a few moments late. After the initial impact, neither rikishi could get a mawashi grip and it was Yohak who attacked first with a tsukiotoshi attempt, but Takamisakari had a solid hidari-zashi and stayed on the rookie like cracks on a dohyo, quickly ejecting him into the front row. Too little too late, though, for the Clown, who only improves to 6-8. Chiyohakuho is 8-6.

In a rather predictable and boring match, former Ozeki Dejima (I seem particularly fond of calling him that, don’t I?) withstood the Blue Collar Man’s strong tachi-ai and got something of a double inside grip, but with no mawashi, relinquishing a left uwate. Tosanoumi tried to attack, but he was in no position to succeed, so Dejima just pressed on his head with the left hand while releasing the other and let gravity do the rest. Hatakikomi, who’d have guessed it? Both wrestlers share the poor 5-9 score.

The ugliest of the Ho’s didn’t henka for a change, but he still had hatakikomi on his mind, because he only pretended to withstand Yoshikaze’s charge for a millisecond, before placing a big paw on his head and dragging him down to the clay, face down. Highly remarkable sumo from the Ossetian, who sneaks his way to another kachikoshi. Yoshikaze has been looking pretty good and has the kachikoshi to prove it.

The best of the four newcomers this basho had his chance against my personal favorite Kakuryu… well, for about 2 seconds, anyway, before the Mongolian brushed off his nodowa and got a strong left uwate. Masatsukasa is no belt specialist, but he didn’t panic and grabbed the right shitate, surviving everything the Kak had to throw at him for about 30 seconds or so. Eventually, Kakuryu went for a quick maki-kae, briefly flirting with morozashi, but Masatsukasa quickly countered with one of his own, thus forcing the hostilities into hidari-yotsu. That was all Kakuryu needed, because with the double belt grip he was able to march his die-hard opponent out tout de suite. 7-7 and more than 50% chances for makekoshi for the lovable Fishface, while Masatsukasa is sporting a cool 9-5.

M12 Takekaze doesn’t really have the strength to out-push M6 Homasho, but to his credit tried to do so anyway, by rushing forward at the tachi-ai with both hands at the throat. Homie quickly stopped him in his tracks, so the hikiotoshi was all Takekaze could try, but Homasho kept his balance and never stopped pushing until Takekaze was safely out of the ring. Takekaze gets his 8th loss while Homasho earns his winning record.

Mongol Tokitenku made a capital mistake in his bout today, completely losing the tachi-ai and allowing Georgian Tochinoshin to creep into his favored migi-yotsu double grip, while denying Tenku any uwate. Tochinoshin wasted little time after that, heaving the Mongolian clean off his feet for a second and forcing him out of the ring with little opposition. That was very sound sumo from the European grappler, who notches his 8th win. Tokitenku keeps kachikoshi hopes and will be meeting Tochiohzan tomorrow, to whom he has yet to lose.

The younger Hutt Toyohibiki did about the only thing he can against the bigger, stronger Estonian Baruto, and that is charge hard and recklessly, hoping inertia will take care of the rest. Well, Baruto wasn’t moved easily by the charge, despite his upright tachi-ai, and all he needed to do was get a solid left arm inside to derail the linear Hutt. The sukuinage move was so effective that Hibiki stepped out after any contact had ceased, sparing Bart the effort of pushing his ass out from behind. Tomorrow Toyohibiki faces another wall on the way to his Kanto-Sho, the Russian Henkaite Ugly. 11 wins should be enough for the prize, but you can never know how the GIB’s award those things anyway. Baruto ups his record to a decent 9-5.

The Hoaxster went all out against the one guy he knew for sure he could beat, his personal Patsy, Futenoh. He’s not 2-11 without a reason, though, and he was unable to finish him after bringing him at the edge, so he went into pull mode and had Futenoh chase him once around the dohyo before finally getting out of the way and letting Futenoh crash out to his 12th defeat. A suitable finish for the bout between two of the crappiest guys in Makuuchi right now.

As if it was still necessary, Wakanoho exposed his poor sumo technique yet again, by giving up the easy morozashi from the tachi-ai against the skilled (albeit obnoxious) Aminishiki. Whack surged forward for the yorikiri, but Aminishiki’s solid inside right was all he needed to throw him out of the dohyo to his 11th loss. Aminishiki climbs to 6 with the win and he should loiter around the jo’i for yet another basho. Wakanoho gets a full taste of the shark pool, but he’ll come back. They always do.

By far the biggest disappointment of this basho has to be the Kid, who only had 5 wins coming into today’s bout with the gentle giant killer Tochinonada. Well, it wasn’t gonna get any better, because in the process of getting into his preferred hidari-yotsu, Kisenosato gave up the left inside grip to Tochinonada, who can beat just about anyone from that position (ask the 4 Yokozuna he’s beaten countless times before). After getting the uwate, Kisenosato pressed toward the tawara, but Nada unleashed a quick, deadly shitatenage that worked like a charm, sending the frustrated Kid to the clay, face down, to his 9th loss. Nada lives to fight another day, but Kisenosato will be back too (see above paragraph).

Two belt specialists went at it in an all pushing affair. Komusubi Toyonoshima and Mongolian Asasekiryu (who had already henkad his way to kachikoshi earlier in the tournament) charged low and kept each other away from the respective mawashi, engaging in a rather long stalemate in the center of the dohyo. Normally, such a development favors the Mongolian, who always manages to keep an annoyingly low stance, usually fishing for a frontal/lateral mawashi grip and finishing the affair with a dashinage, but this failed against Toyonoshima whose height (or lack thereof) helped him push Asashoryu’s stablemate upright and finish him by oshidashi. Nine wins for the future Sekiwake, while Asasekiryu might still miss out on the sanyaku return, as he deserves.

One of the day’s highlights had to be the Ama-Goeido match, and I believe it didn’t disappoint. Goeido came pretty cautious at the tachi-ai, looking for a good left inside, but Ama had a quick answer for it, yanking on the youngster’s inside arm and spilling him on the dohyo with the armlock technique. Needless to say it was just enough to tip the balance in Ama’s favor, because Sawai is pretty dangerous when he gets that left on the inside (I can’t help but remember the tsuridashi against Takamisakari). No matter, the kid will learn, and in a couple of basho or so he should have his first victory over the Mongolian (and most of the other guys in sanyaku whom he hasn’t beaten yet). Ama is almost sure to get a prize with 10 wins from Sekiwake. Goeido is hunting for kachikoshi against the useless Kisenosato tomorrow and he has more than 50% chances of getting it. 

Day 13 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
I'll unofficially declare day 13 "Matta Day" for the uncanny inability of rikishi to synchronize their timing for the tachiai. I thought about rewinding and actually counting how many occurrences there were in Makuuchi, but then I thought how geekish would that be. Trust me, there were a lot of them. Regarding news of substance, Hakuho accomplished what everybody and their brother knew he would- the yusho- with two days yet to spare. Let's cover the bouts chronologically to give you a feel for the sequence of events that led to this. 

First, upstart M13 Toyohibiki beat M6 Tokitenku (7-6) for his 9th straight win, improving his record to 10-3. This was key because he was only one of two rikishi still mathematically in the yusho hunt (the other being Kotomitsuki). This win early in the Makuuchi proceedings meant Hakuho couldn't back into the yusho- he actually had to win in the final bout to clinch. To give you an example of the "matta madness" of the day, this bout right here featured a marathon stare down at the crouch position just prior to the tachiai. So long was this rare face-off that the Gyoji of all people intervened for a matta to recalibrate the rikishi. It had to be a sign of things to come. 

Following in the footsteps of Toyohibiki in the win streak category, M16 Masatsukasa beat veteran M10 Tamanoshima for his 6th win in a row. After picking up his 8th win yesterday with an impressive tsuki-oshi, Masa today followed up with an equally impressive belt win to garner his 9th win against 4 losses in this his rookie campaign. A bright future ahead? Perhaps- only time will tell. 

Another rookie picked up his coveted 8th win today, but it wasn't exactly impressive. The other M16 Chiyohakuho took the cheap route by side-stepping M7 Kakuryu (6-7). Here's a win that should be cause for celebration, but I bet Chiyohakuho instead got a cold greeting from his Oyakata upon returning to his stable. 

Let's fast forward to the top of the division. Despite a bad start against M4 Wakanosato, Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (6-7) avoided make-koshi with a good yotsu-zumo effort. The yori-kiri win keeps his slim hopes alive to hold rank for Aki Basho. 

Counterpart Ama was matched up with countryman M2 Asasekiryu in a battle of 8-4 rikishi. Here was another good technical bout, won by Ama via yori-kiri. Ama is now one away from the big 10-win mark, something he has yet to achieve in his now 6th basho as Sekiwake. Generally speaking, you need a basho of double digit wins to launch any reasonable run for Ozeki promotion (the benchmark being 33 wins over 3 basho). 

Ozeki Kotomitsuki, the other rikishi with slim hopes yet of a title, kept his chance alive with a not-so-fluid win over M5 Miyabiyama (7-6). Mitsuki (10-3) looked a little tight today; perhaps it was the thundering home town crowd that got him over the top for the eventual yori-kiri win. 

Kotooshu, the darling of pre-basho news soon to be forgotten after a bad start, picked up win number nine against fellow Ozeki Chiyotaikai (8-5). Chiyo tried to push, as usual, but Oshu got a firm grip with his left hand on Chiyo's belt. Once the momentum turned and Oshu started moving forward, Chiyo gave up before he was even forced out of the ring. As usual. 

Speaking of giving up, Kaio (8-4) followed suit against Hakuho (12-0) in the final bout of the day. Granted, anything other than Hakuho's yori-kiri win was highly unlikely once Kaio was retreating toward the tawara, but as a fan you'd like to see rikishi put up the good fight until the very end. An "I'll be danged if you're gonna force me out" mentality until the bitter end, wouldn't that be nice? Instead, today we got two tired Ozeki in the final two bouts bowing out early. So went Hakuho's clinching of his 7th emperor's cup. He has now yushoed in every major venue- Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Kyushu- to join a prestigious list of others who have accomplished this feat such as Taiho, Chiyonofuji, Kitanoumi, Takanohana II, Asashoryu, Akebono, Musashimaru and Kitanofuji. Perhaps an argument that Hakuho has reached the big time? I think so.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I've really enjoyed watching Yokozuna Hakuho's tachi-ai this basho. No, most haven't been crushing, but there's been a reason. Going back to and including last year's Nagoya basho, Hakuho has been henka'd out of the yusho race in the three basho where he didn't hoist the emperor's cup in the end. So the Yokozuna has been cautious in his bouts against rikishi known for their henka, and against guys like Tochinonada who refuse the cheap tactic, Hakuho has gone full boar and just crushed his opponents. Today against Ozeki Chiyotaikai, Hakuho was cautious as he kept his body upright and knees bent while fishing for the early belt position. Chiyotaikai used a nifty right nodowa to stand Hakuho up and keep him away from the belt, but the Ozeki looked timid in really committing to the push by using his lower body. Hakuho easily withstood the move and patiently waited a few seconds for the Ozeki to relent, and once he did the Yokozuna pounced using a few tsuppari before securing the inside position with the left, gathering his wits, and then escorting the Ozeki back and out with the safe yori-kiri win. Chiyonofuji, who was in the booth today alongside Fujii Announcer (who is so smooth that even Barry White twitches from the grave when he announces), said that he would have liked to have seen his Ozeki commit more with that initial nodowa and be quicker in his attack. While I agree, I don't think it would have made a difference as Hakuho is simply on a roll not to mention on his way to his career 7th yusho. Chiyotaikai falls to 8-4 with the loss but couldn't care less at this point. So did Hakuho officially secure the yusho with the win? Read on.

In perhaps the most compelling match-up of the day coming in, Sekiwake Ama looked to halt his three bout losing streak against Ozeki Kotooshu, and he succeeded by using a henka to his right and just grabbing the Ozeki's extended left arm with both hands and twisting Kotooshu around, to the side, and off the dohyo with a tottari throw. Kotooshu had a disgusted look on his face as he climbed back onto the dohyo, but how soon he forgets his own actions last basho. He henka'd his way into this position, and he was henka'd right back out of it by a couple of Mongolians. What goes around comes around in this sport, and Kotooshu needs to shoot for the Yokozuna rank with proper sumo. Ama picks up kachi-koshi with the "win" but you'd really like to see this guy make that Ozeki push without the henka. Kotooshu falls to the same 8-4 mark and surely even the press won't continue the faux Yokozuna talk heading into Aki. That's one three-loss rikishi down.

Our next three-loss rikishi, Ozeki Kotomitsuki started a step back from the starting line today against M4 Goeido, and after watching the bout, I'm guessing he made that decision to keep Goeido completely away from his belt. The strategy worked as Goeido hit hard, but covering that distance and then getting a belt grip was too much for the youngster to handle as his right hand flirted with the Ozeki's belt on the inside position, but Kotomitsuki kept his can back far and after he pushed Goeido's left arm away, the M4 had zero position left...which is when Kotomitsuki pounced actually gaining morozashi. Goeido tried to twist out of the grip, but Kotomitsuki had him too close to the edge and easily pushed him out from behind for the nice win. You can bet Kotomitsuki remembers the ass kicking he received from Goeido last basho in their straight up yotsu affair then, so props to him for completely taking Goeido out of this one from the tachi-ai. The Ozeki moves to 9-3 and forces Hakuho to beat Kaio tomorrow to make the yusho official. Goeido drops to 6-6.

Speaking of Ozeki Kaio, he turned 36 today, and was there any doubt that he wasn't going to beat up on M4 Wakanosato and pick up kachi-koshi? The two bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai after a good charge, and Kaio tsupparied his way into a firm right outer grip that was so solid Wakanosato couldn't even grab the left inside belt to counter. Kaio immediately began forcing Wakanosato back and used that stump he calls a right leg to completely pin Wakanosato from moving anywhere, and the Ozeki's attack was so dominating that it just spun Wakanosato around 180 degrees to where Kaio just shoved him out from behind in the end. The win not only secured kachi-koshi for the Ozeki, but it gives him 747 total wins in the division moving him past Taiho into third place all time. Good for the Ozeki who has fought better this year than he had the two years previous. Wakanosato falls to 5-7.

Dropping down to the Sanyaku ranks, M2 Asasekiryu used a henka to his left (who does he think he is...Roho?) yet again to grab the left inside position that was so deep, his hand gripped the back of Sekiwake Kotoshogiku's belt beyond the knot. The Geeku flirted with a right outer grip, but he had to turn to the side to attempt it which tells you just how deep Asasekiryu was. The Geeku would never grab that uwate, but it didn't matter. He was had from the tachi-ai as Asasekiryu gathered his wits and threw the Sekiwake to the dirt with that inner belt throw. Asasekiryu picks up kachi-koshi with the win, but the only thing I can remember from him this basho is a handful of henka. Kotoshogiku suffers a tough loss through no fault of his own leaving him at a dangerous 5-7. I wouldn't mind a shake-up in the sanyaku, but I hate to see it come to pass as the result of tachi-ai henka.

Komusubi Toyonoshima was patient at the tachi-ai forcing M1 Wakanoho to wait in his crouch for about five seconds longer than he wanted to be there, and when the two finally did charge, Wakanoho used a left hari-te before reaching around the back of his opponent and grabbing a left outer grip, but Toyonoshima's sumo is light years ahead of his Russian counterpart, so while the Ho was fishing for that grip, Toyonoshima was calmly working his left arm on the inside of Wakanoho's right leaving him the morozashi position after two seconds of action. Wakanoho reacted well and went for a left kote-nage counter throw, but Toyonoshima hooked his right leg around the back of Wakanoho's left and sweetly tripped the Russian to the clay picking up an early kachi-koshi. Major props to Toyonoshima for his performance this basho while Wakanoho falls to 2-10.

Rounding out the Komusubi ranks, Kisenosato withstood a nice morote charge and a coupla M2 Hokutoriki tsuppari before grabbing a solid left outer grip, but the Kid was unable to finish the Hoaxster off straightway. Hokutoriki dug in with his body turned 90 degrees leaving his right shoulder planted in Kisenosato's torso, and while Hokutoriki had zero chance of executing a counter move or offensive push, Kisenosato took about a minute and four yori-kiri chances before he finally got Hokutoriki to step beyond the straw. This bout just epitomizes Kisenosato's basho overall. He shoulda had Hokutoriki roasting on a stake in a bout five seconds, but I guess a win's a win. Kisenosato's 4-8 record is little compensation, however, while Hokuktoriki's 1-11 was completely expected.

Moving down to the hiramaku, M1 Aminishiki popped M3 Futenoh at the tachi-ai and immediately went for the morozashi position, but before he could get it, Futenoh reloaded and mounted a counter charge of his own. The problem was he didn't have a belt grip, and Aminishiki's lower body was firmly planted, so Ami backed up and used Futenoh's forward momentum against him to slip to his side and send Futenoh on his merry way flying out of the dohyo for the tsuki-otoshi win. Aminishiki was playing with a bit of fire in this win, but dude knew where he was on the dohyo at all times and was able to keep from stepping out before Futenoh bit the dust. Aminishiki keeps kachi-koshi hopes alive at 5-7 while Futenoh is just 2-10.

M6 Homasho took complete charge today against M3 Tochinonada grabbing an early right inner belt grip and using it to swing Tochinonada around and around. The Gentle Giant stood in there well and tried to use his fat ass to bump Homasho off balance, but Homasho continued his sashay around the perimeter of the ring similar to the pose Clancy and I take as we practice our ballroom dance routine. Homasho's speed won out in the end as he was finally able to drag Tochinonada out of the ring. Or so we thought. A mono-ii was called, and the judgment overturned as video evidence showed Homasho's big toe barely scraping the sand as he tip-toed the tawara. Tough break for Homie who drops to 6-6 while Tochinonada at 5-7 stated afterwards that he clearly saw Homasho step out, so he was relived when they called the mono-ii.

M5 Baruto showed great patience today at the tachi-ai against M8 Takamisakari letting the Cop just run into a left inside from the Estonian that he used to force Takamisakari all the way over to the ring's edge. Takamisakari managed to stay in the thing grabbing a right outer grip in the process, but Bart grabbed an outer right grip of his own and solidified his position on the left side by grabbing Takamisakari's belt before simply lifting him up and across the straw via tsuri-dashi. Baruto picks up the kachi-koshi with the win, and as he was escorted down the hanamichi and into the interview room, he spotted a camera in his face and tried to deliver a tough guy look, but it's absolutely impossible for the jovial Baruto to look mean. You gotta love this guy, and let's hope he can finally make that sanyaku push in September. Takamisakari is a respectable 5-7.

M9 Kyokutenho looked to grab the early belt grip against M5 Miyabiyama, but the Sheriff kept the Chauffeur off balance with a few thrusts, and when Tenho actually managed to grab a left belt grip, it was too late, and he wasn't positioned to charge properly. He did anyway, and Miyabiyama had plenty of time to react by slipping to his left and dragging down Kyokutenho to the dirt near the edge. Tenho rushed it here and paid for it as he falls to 7-5. Miyabiyama shares the same mark.

M6 Tokitenku was waiting in his crouch for several seconds as M10 Kokkai lollygagged at the starting lines. I thought that Tokitenku was just about to reload when Kokkai put both fists to the dirt and charged. Tokitenku's right fist was still above the dirt, but he flinched and motioned that right fist towards the dohyo although it never touched, but the referee yelled out "game on" (and you thought he was saying "nokotta, nokotta"), so Kokkai just slapped Tokitenku down to the dirt before he could get up out of his crouch. This one should have been called back as a false start, but it was Tokitenku's own fault. He was baited by Kokkai's stall tactics and motioned that right fist to the dirt as if he was going. His kachi-koshi will have to wait another day at 7-5 while Kokkai lives to fight another day at 5-7.

M7 Kakuryu took full advantage of M11 Tochiohzan's non-tachi-ai by offering a left hari slap and then stepping a bit to his left and just yanking Tochiohzan down to the dirt in two seconds. This could have been a case of Tochiohzan's being afraid of the henka, but he's at least gotta try something. Today he was a sitting duck and allowed Kakuryu to make it look easy. Both rikishi are 6-6.

M9 Iwakiyama approached his bout against M7 Roho by starting a step back from the starting lines, but all that did was give Roho more time to watch his opponent come forward so he could henka him. Rasputin did just that moving to his left and hooking his left arm to the side of Iwakiyama's right and using the other hand to pull down at the back of Iwakiyama's head sending the Hutt to the dirt in a half second of inaction. Chiyonofuji, who is actually very good in the booth, commented, "This guy always does henka. He's got a great body, so I'd like to see him involved in more heated bouts of actual sumo." Wouldn't we all Wolf, wouldn't we all. Roho moves to 6-6 and will of course henka his way to a kachi-koshi. Iwakiyama falls to 5-7.

M14 Tochinoshin used a left kachi-age tachi-ai to brilliantly knock M8 Dejima upright setting up the left outer grip at the back of the Degyptian's belt, and while Dejima was able to break off that hold, he had no momentum, and Tochinoshin used his size and youth advantage to keep Dejima away from his inside until he was able to slap him down to the dirt from the side assisted by Dejima's feet slipping out from under him. Shin picks up a big win to move to 7-5 while Dejima makes make-koshi official at 4-8.

M16 Chiyohakuho showed initiative at the tachi-ai grabbing the early right frontal belt grip and attempting to force M10 Tamanoshima back, but Peter evaded this way and that never allowing Chiyohakuho to keep the bout moving in a linear fashion, and as the two neared the edge, Tamanoshima slipped to the side and was able to push Chiyohakuho down to the dohyo with his left inner position leaving both rikishi 7-5. This was a case of a young oshi guy in Chiyohakuho getting schooled by a veteran yotsu-zumo rikishi.

M11 Tamakasuga held up a bit at the tachi-ai making M14 Tosanoumi charge forward too far, so the King immediately got his left arm in under Tosanoumi's right armpit and pulled the trigger straightway on the sukui-nage throw that sent Tosanoumi to the dirt with ease. The King is still just 3-9 with the win while Tosanoumi is on the brink at 5-7.

M13 Toyohibiki charged hard into M12 Kimurayama and tried to pile drive the rookie back and out of the dohyo with his tsuppari attack, but Kimurayama countered well placing just enough jabs that found their way into the Nikibi's neck area to keep the Hutt and bay, and about four seconds in, Kimurayama quickly slipped to his left timing a pull that had Toyohibiki stumbling towards the edge. Toyohibiki regained his footing with one foot dangerously atop the tawara, and then he incredibly did a 360 to spin out of harm's way and bring the action back to the center of the ring. Kimurayama seemed gassed at this point because the Nikibi was able to slap him down to the dohyo on his first punch the second go-around. Toyohibiki was playing with fire in this one, but he moves to 9-3 and perhaps more importantly guaranteed early on that the yusho race will carry into day 13. Kimurayama is 6-6.

M16 Masatsukasa came into his bout against M12 Takekaze at 7-4, and he just crushed the former Komusubi with a head-butt tachi-ai followed with a few tsuppari all fueled by the lower body, and the rookie had Takekaze driven back and out in three seconds leaving his opponent no opportunity to counter or evade. This was as good as an ass-kicking you'll see this low in the ranks as Masatsukasa at 8-4 will be around for prolly at least two more basho giving the NHK English announcers fits trying to pronounce his name. Hint: it isn't maw-suh-TSOO-kuh-saw. Takekaze falls to 6-6.

M15 Kakizoe jumped the gun twice against M13 Koryu before finally squaring up securing the quick morozashi position. Koryu slipped to his left partially out of the grip, but Kakizoe maintained his left inner grip and used that and his belly to force Koryu over to the edge and eventually down. I think the last time Koryu (3-8) was actually able to execute an offensive maneuver this basho Japan had a stretch of cool weather. Sweet Zoe Jane moves to 5-7 with the feisty win.

And finally, M15 Yoshikaze completely took charge against visiting Juryo rikishi, Kitazakura, rotating tsuppari, hari-te, and pull attempts one after the other so fast he just looked like a spaz out there. With no de-ashi, he wasn't moving the Duck back at all, but he was so pesky that Kitazakura just couldn't find an opening, and in the melee, Yoshikaze grabbed a quick right frontal belt grip and just dragged Kitazakura across and down to the dirt improving to 7-5. Kitazakura falls to 6-6, and at Juryo 3, regardless of what happens from here on out, he's still at least a few basho away from retiring and driving that ice cream truck that will reportedly also offer Mike's Hard Lemonade.

So at the end of the day, the leaderboard looks like this:

12-0: Hakuho

That's all you need to know. That does it for me this basho. I'm off to Awaji Island to visit this handsome guy I met on the internet named Clancy (wish me luck), and then I'll head up to Tokyo on Sunday where Simon has arranged something at a watering hole in Shinagawa where some of the posse will watch the senshuraku bouts.

See ya in a week or so when I attempt to wrap this mess up in my post-basho report. Kenji buys the drinks tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Happy hump day everyone, and we all know when we hear the word "hump", the first person we think of is Mark Arbo. As many of you know, Mark was darn near death recently. He wasn't ashamed to admit to me that he had syphilis. Thank God he stopped it in its tracks. It takes a lot for a man to admit where he got it from and how he got it, but Mark, you look just wonderful. The nose looks normal again. The face has come back into shape. It's not drooling anymore. Your stay at Trembling Hills is sure to pay off. So...until you get back, I'm gonna take care of the humping today.

And speaking of humping, let's turn our attention to the day's action starting with Juryo leader, Kitataiki, up to face Makuuchi rookie M16 Chiyohakuho. I've been able to watch some of the Juryo bouts this basho, and Kitataiki looks ready for this division now, but Chiyohakuho said not so fast getting his left arm on the inside of the Juryo rikishi from the tachi-ai and driving him straight back and out aided by an outer grip on the right. Twas over faster than the time it takes a Japanese dude to inhale a mouthful of ramen noodles. A tsuppari guy in Makuuchi completely dominating the Juryo leader in a yotsu-zumo bout is a perfect example of the difference in the two divisions. Chiyohakuho has been impressive as he moves to 7-4. Kitataiki still maintains the Juryo lead at 9-2 and will likely join the dance in September.

Things weren't so bright for rookie M13 Koryu who was on the brink at 3-7 coming in. Against M15 Yoshikaze, Koryu showed some urgency at the tachi-ai going all out with a right kachi-age forearm shimmy followed by a huge thrust attempt that completely whiffed as Yoshikaze just slipped to his left. With Koryu now slumping towards the edge, Yoshikaze grabbed him by the back of the belt and escorted him to a make-koshi straightway. I appreciated Koryu's effort today, but he's gotta show that urgency from day 1, and then bring it everyday in this division. You snooze, you lose, and Koryu will find himself in Juryo next basho if he doesn't win out. Yoshikaze is 6-5.

M14 Tochinoshin ducked his head low at the tachi-ai slamming into M12 Takekaze, but the young Russian didn't have a plan after that keeping his arms in the vicinity of Takekaze's chest area not pushing nor fishing for a belt grip, so the savvy Takekaze just slapped down at the back of Tochinoshin's noggin' and knocked him to the dirt two seconds in. Both rikishi are 6-5.

As bad as this basho has been, I know you've all been waiting for the M15 Kakizoe - M11 Tamakasuga matchup since day 1, so my apologies to Arbo for stealing his day. After a stalemate tachi-ai, Kakizoe seemed content to just rest his hands on Tamakasuga's chest as if the two were enjoying a slow dance, and Zoe's de-ashi were so bad that he couldn't capitalize on two separate Tamakasuga pull attempts. In the end, Kakizoe thought he was going for the kill only to see KingTama back up and slap the hapless Kakizoe down to the dirt not to mention a dangerous 4-7 record. Course, the King won't be doing too much trash talking as he sports his own 2-9 mark.

You know things have gotten bad for M10 Kokkai when he's being outfought by M16 Masatsukasa of Irumagawa fame...that same stable that has produced such thoroughbreds as Oldtsukasa and Yotsukasa. Kokkai's struggle was epitomized in the first three seconds of the bout as he just crushed Masatsukasa back from the tachi-ai two full steps, but instead of confidently charging forward and finishing off his bidness, you could see the Georgian hesitate with his footwork not sure what he would do next. He went for an ill-advised pull attempt that gave Masatsukasa the opening he needed to grab an outer grip and force Kokkai towards the tawara. Kokkai grabbed an uwate of his own setting up a nage-no-uchi-ai at the edge that Kokkai actually won, but the tip of his big toe was touching outside of the dohyo well before Masatsukasa ever hit the dirt. Kokkai is now a dangerous 4-7, but he is as lost on the dohyo as a guy that gets chicks at a Star Trek convention. Masatsukasa is a nifty 7-4.

You gotta love how the Hutts rally around each other and ensure that at least one of them does their heritage proud. This basho it has been Toyohibiki without a doubt, and today against M10 Tamanoshima, Toyo the Hutt used his pile-driver tsuppari to pound the listless Tamanoshima upright at the tachi-ai and then back and out from there in about three seconds. Not much more to say other than Toyohibiki picks up kachi-koshi by day 11 and brings back memories of his debut basho in the division a year or so ago. Let's hope that he can work this magic next basho as well. Peter falls to 6-5.

M9 Iwakiyama dominates M14 Tosanoumi simply because he's got the girth to neutralize Tosanoumi's tachi-ai. The Hutt did it again today getting his left arm on the inside in the process, and even though Tosanoumi came away with a right outer belt grip, Iwakiyama used his size to force the Blue Collar Man back towards the edge where he then calmly stuck out that big stump he calls a left leg and tripped Tosanoumi to the clay for the easy win. Iwakiyama moves to 6-4 with the win while Tosanoumi is 4-6.

Allow me to go on a rare tangent as I set up the next bout. I've spent the last few days in Japan, and when time permits I tune into an NHK cable channel that begins broadcasting the bouts at 1 PM. At this time of day, the Sandanme bouts are just wrapping up, but it's always enjoyable to watch Makushita and then Juryo looking for that next diamond in the rough. Around 4 PM is the time when the English announcers chime in on the telecast, and I can't help but listen to them the first 30 minutes or so for the sheer entertainment they provide as they butcher the rikishi names and offer the most inane comments you've ever heard. On Sunday, Clyde Newton was the guest analyst, and if you've never heard of Clyde, he's an older gentleman who has authored a book or two on sumo, and he's probably one of the pioneers to the English broadcast itself. Many circles hold Clyde in high esteem, and I have nothing personal against him, but the problem is he has no idea what he's talking about. Someone on a chat board once was saying in jest I believe that I was the world's foremost expert on sumo. Then someone else who didn't get the sarcasm said, "Mike Wesemann? Who in the hell is Mike Wesemann? He's no this person or that person..." and then she reeled off a few names of some doofuses including Clyde. I look back on that now and say, "Thank you ma'am for that huge compliment!" Hell no, I'm not a Clyde Newton, and you can all be glad for it. And the ironic thing is...if I gave the same takes on this website that Clyde Newton gives when he's a guest on the broadcast, I would be ripped to shreds on the chat boards and forums for my stupidity and lack of sumo knowledge. 

Anyway, the entire reason why I bring this up is because today on the Japanese broadcast, Iwasa Announcer in the booth for NHK reminded us five seconds before the M7 Roho - M12 Kimurayama bout started, "Roho also likes to henka to his left..." And sure enough, the Russian wasn't going to let himself get beat by the rookie, so he henka'd to his left and just escorted Kimurayama out of the dohyo with a hand at the back of his belt. This is why you can't kill off Rasputin. It ain't the black magic or the's the damn henka. Roho moves to 5-6 while Kimurayama is going to have to live and learn at 6-5. And I've said this before, but if any of you need a single reason to learn Japanese, do it so you can listen to NHK's Japanese feed and feast at the table of the oyakata and real professionals that work for NHK.

Moving along, M6 Tokitenku slammed his head straight into M9 Kyokutenho's chest denying the Chauffeur a right outer grip at the tachi-ai, and as Tokitenku settled in with the solid left inside position, he pulled a fast one going for a slick maki-kae with the right that gave him morozashi. Kyokutenho tried to kote-nage himself out of the pinch, but Tokitenku was just too good today using his body and legs perfectly to keep Kyokutenho on the run and leaving him nowhere to go but back and out. This was great tactical stuff from Tenku as both rikishi now stand at a respectable 7-4.

In a battle of two rikishi that are so easy to root for yet so frustrating, M6 Homasho and M11 Tochiohzan showed us why they frustrate with their usual soft tachi-ai. I guess if they both go soft than we can't really tell how bad the charge is, so today as the two offered their lightweight clash, Tochiohzan kept his arms in tight that allowed him to secure the quick moro-zashi position which he used to immediately mount a force-out charge that Homasho could not answer. This was over in about three seconds, but these two should show us better sumo than this. May the frustration continue. Both rikishi end the day at 6-5.

M8 Dejima is winless against M5 Baruto, so when the Estonian goes for a tachi-ai henka you'd think that the Degyptian has no chance, but Baruto is so slow that it's actually to his disadvantage to henka in my opinion. As Bart jumped to his left at the charge, Dejima kept his balance and was able to turn on a dime and actually get his left arm at the back of Baruto's right thigh, and just when you thought Dejima was going to mount a watashi-komi charge, his hand slipped off of Baruto's cottage cheese thigh, and the Estonian was able to pivot out of harm's way and then just usher Dejima out of the ring with a paw at the back of the belt. Ugly stuff all around here as Baruto moves to 7-4 while Dejima (4-7) can't get a break no matter where he's at in the ranks.

M4 Goeido completely dissected M8 Takamisakari today cutting off the cop's usual left inside attempt by getting his own right arm on the inside and then slamming his head squarely into Takamisakari's chest allowing Goeido the inside position with the left as well. Now with the moro-zashi grip, Goeido gave Takamisakari zero chance of countering his attack by lifting him completely off of his feet and marching him back and out via tsuri-dashi. You gotta love Goeido when he's on as the youngster moves to 6-5. Takamisakari's 5-6 ain't too shabby itself all things considering.

M7 Kakuryu alternated tsuppari into M4 Wakanosato's neck from the tachi-ai driving his opponent back a few steps, but Kakuryu's attack lacked proper de-ashi, and Wakanosato had more than enough time to slip slightly to his left and use his left arm to swipe Kakuryu's right arm away sending the Mongolian off balance and stumbling out of the ring on his own. I love watching the veteran Wakanosato school these younger rikishi as he did today. Both dudes are 5-6.

Don't look now but M2 Hokutoriki finally found an opponent whose sumo is so raw and unpolished in M1 Wakanoho that he was finally able to take advantage. The Hoaxster used his usual moro-te tachi-ai that caught Wakanoho squarely forcing his head to look at the man'in onrei banners and before the Russian could do anything, Hokutoriki dragged him forward and down by the back of the neck picking up his first win of the tourney. Hokutoriki is a stellar 1-10 now while Wakanoho ain't much better at 2-9. Actually, Wakanoho needs to be ashamed of that record after posting much better marks among the jo'i when he had a lot better competition. Just goes to show you how bad this basho is. Seems like nobody cares.

Moving to the sanyaku, Komusubi Toyonoshima got his left arm in early against M3 Futenoh looking for morozashi, but Futenoh kept his own left arm in tight in an effort to keep the Komusubi away. The tactic denied Toyonoshima moro-zashi for sure, but it didn't give Futenoh any opportunity to attack or counter, so after about 15 seconds of grappling between Futenoh's left arm and Toyonoshima's right, the Komusubi made his move using a few gaburi belly shoves to knock Futenoh back and out without argument. After that quick 3-0 start, Toyonoshima disappeared off of everyone's radar, but the dude now stands at 7-4, an excellent mark for any Komusubi. Futenoh needs a date at 2-9.

M2 Asasekiryu moved slightly to his left at the tachi-ai and while Komusubi Kisenosato was monkeying around with a hari-te of his own, the two ended up with Sexy maintaining the left inside position while the Kid had nary a pot to piss in. Asasekiryu ducked down forcing Kisenosato to try and counter Sexy's left inner by pinching in from the outside, but Kisenosato couldn't attack from this position. After about 15 seconds of inaction, Asasekiryu struck first slapping at Kisenosato's side with his right and going for a force-out charge, but the two rikishi became separated at this point where the Kid tried to tsuppari his opponent back and out. I think Kisenosato's lack of conditioning caught up with him at this point because he couldn't finish the Mongolian off, and even though he secured a left outer grip for his trouble, Asasekiryu was the one who went for the inner belt throw using his thigh perfectly to force the Komusubi over and down. Don't look now but the Kid has officially make-koshied while Asasekiryu is 7-4.

In the Sekiwake ranks, M1 Aminishiki looked to briefly take charge with a left nodowa that sent Sekiwake Kotoshogiku back, but Ami was unable to finish his opponent off leaving the two in the hidari-yotsu position. Kotoshogiku wasted no time in using that belly of his to gaburu Aminishiki back towards the center of the ring, and in the process, he grabbed a right outer grip that would prove the difference as he bellied Aminishiki back and out for good improving his record to 5-6. Aminishiki is on the brink at 4-7.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kotooshu led off the festivities against M5 Miyabiyama charging low--which has been an effective tachi-ai for him--and then slapping down at the Sheriff's extended arms as he tried to unleash some tsuppari. The move completely threw Miyabiyama off balance and stumbling to the side, and Kotooshu was on him like flies to stink easily pushing Miyabiyama out for the win. Kotooshu clinches kachi-koshi, but having took himself out of the yusho race in week one, the only thing he's really fighting for is a strong finish to somehow carry talk of Yokozuna promotion into September. (Who am I trying to kid?). Miyabiyama falls to 6-5.  Oh, and don't think I missed his tachi-ai henka against Wakanosato yesterday...a rikishi that had given the Bulgarian fits coming into the bout.  That right there is Kotooshu's solution for facing guys he has trouble with...henka them.  That kind of mentality is unwelcome in the Yokozuna rank.

In the first featured bout of the day, you had Ozeki Chiyotaikai trying to secure that coveted eighth win and Kotomitsuki trying to keep himself in the yusho least in the minds of the Nagoya fans and Japanese press. Kotomitsuki is the superior rikishi, but as I've tried to point out the entire basho, he is getting lazy in his approach and not taking the lesser rikishi seriously. Chiyotaikai ruled the tachi-ai with a right hand pushing directly into Kotomitsuki's face followed by a left shove into Kotomitsuki's tit that stood him upright. With no de-ashi this basho, there was no way that Chiyotaikai was going to push Kotomitsuki back and out, so Hit and Mitsuki countered with some tsuppari of his own, but that ain't his game, and as Chiyotaikai retreated towards the edge, he ducked down low and moved a bit to his right that threw Kotomitsuki off balance just enough so that when Kotomitsuki tried to continue the shoving attack, Chiyotaikai just backed up for good and pulled his fellow Ozeki down to the dirt. You could just hear the collective groan from the sell-out crowed as Kotomitsuki lay in his fat there on the dohyo when it became apparent that Hakuho was now three losses ahead of the rest of the pack. For his effort, Chiyotaikai picks up the eighth win (was there any doubt?) while Kotomitsuki shares the same 8-3 record.

With the yusho in hand for Hakuho, every bout from this point on now focuses on that sprint for kachi-koshi and jockeying for the special prizes. And no one needs that eighth win more than Ozeki Kaio who saw M3 Tochinonada standing in his way. No problem as Kaio exhibited one of his best tachi-ai of the basho going chest to chest with Tochinonada and crushing his opponent upright and off balance to the extent that Kaio easily secured that coveted right outer grip, and the Oldzeki wasted no time pulling the trigger on the right belt throw that sent Tochinonada to the clay in a flash giving Kaio a much-needed 7th win. With the yusho now out of play, surely Kaio will get that 8th win sooner than later. Tochinonada falls to 4-7.

The day's final bout featured Yokozuna Hakuho against Sekiwake Ama, and considering the history between these two, you'd expect Hakuho to be cautious at the tachi-ai and Ama to attack from the side. As the two approached the starting lines, Ama jumped into two false starts as Hakuho coolly stayed in his crouch, and as I was watched the events play out, I couldn't help but to think back to day 1 when Kotooshu put both fists to the starting lines against Aminishiki and let the Maegashira dictate the start. That's the difference between a Yokozuna and a wannabe. The Yokozuna doesn't flinch while the other will change up his start and tweak his sumo failing to remember what got him there in the first place. On the third try, the two finally clashed in what looked like both rikishi attacking to their their left. In the process the Yokozuna grabbed hold of Ama's extended left arm and just sucked the smaller Sekiwake in close before bodying him back and out with that mammoth grip around the outside of Ama's limb inviting the winning technique of kime-dashi. Hakuho moves to 11-0 with the win and incredibly leads the whole shootin' match by three bouts after just eleven days. Ama falls to 7-4 and will likely have to wait at least another basho for talk of Ozeki.

As NostraKenji pointed out yesterday, there's a legitimate shot that Hakuho could make it official tomorrow. Now that Chiyotaikai has his eight, Hakuho is going to eat that Ozeki's young tomorrow officially eliminating the Pup. Kotooshu has Ama and you'd have to think that the Mongolian has more on the line than the Bulgarian. And then Kotomitsuki gets Goeido, a rikishi who manhandled him a coupla basho back. The only thing that could ruin the day is Toyohibiki (our other 8-3 guy) matched up against Kimurayama.

Since I can't get enough of my vainglorious self, I'll be back again tomorrow to tell ya all about it.

Day 10 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
With Asashoryu gone, Hakuho is dominating this basho to the extent that we may be on the brink of history. But first let's review today's key bouts. 

Hakuho won again in convincing fashion, making easy work of Kotoshogiku (4-6). Giku gave it his best shot as the two rikishi settled into hidari-yotsu after the tachi-ai, followed by a couple of his signature gaburi-yori attempts. But it just wasn't effective. The patient Yokozuna took it all in stride and methodically forced Giku out without issue to remain perfect at 10-0. 

In the feature bout of the day, Kotomitsuki and Ama were both coming off big losses on day nine. Which made it critical for both to win in order to have any chance at catching Hakuho. Ama was quicker off the line and gained the upper hand with a stiff nodowa, but perhaps was too stubborn with it. He soon lost his grip and found himself sideways, which allowed Kotomitsuki to slip behind him for an easy okuri-dashi victory. As a result, Mitsuki (8-2) stays in the yusho picture two back of Hakuho while Ama drops to 7-3 and out of the race. 

Kaio beat Futenoh to improve to 6-4. The Ozeki gave a gentle slap to the face from the right to garner hidari-yotsu position. Although he never got the right uwate he needs, Futenoh's knee conveniently buckled in the middle of the dohyo for a gimme win. Futenoh's woes continue at 2-8. 

Tochinonada, who had lost four in a row since defeating Asashoryu and Kotomitsuki, got back on the winning track by deftly handling Chiyotaikai's tsuppari attack with a well timed side stepping maneuver at ring's edge. Nada improves to 4-6. Chiyo's win total stays at seven; he will have to wait at least another day to escape his record 12th kadoban campaign. 

Kotooshu met his nemesis today in Wakanosato, a rikishi he hadn't beaten in three years. Yes, 1-7 lifetime against Waka. But today was different. Oshu made a concerted effort not to let Waka get inside with the left, and at the same time got a good left outside grip. With Waka soon on his heels, Oshu ushered him out quickly for a relatively easy oshi-dashi win. What a relief it must have been. Oshu is 7-3 and Waka is 4-6. 

With Chiyotaikai and Ama both suffering their third loss today, only Kotomitsuki at 8-2 remains within reach of Hakuho as day 10 comes to a close. A win tomorrow by Hakuho and a loss by Kotomitsuki at the hands of Chiyotaikai could have us experiencing the first basho since the six tournament system started in 1958 where the yusho has been wrapped up as early as day 12. How's that for domination?

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
This is quickly turning out to be one of those basho where little goes right...for the rikishi themselves and the crew at Sumotalk. Clancy talked about his fall off of his trike and run-in with the feds, and I've spent four of the last five days in three different countries and more airports than I care to recall. Arbo's out of the country...Martin has had trouble accessing the bouts...and Kenji is the smartest one of us all keeping his priorities in order. So the news might be late (hell, I missed Asashoryu's kyujo altogether) and the reports watered down, but at least we're not missing much this basho. I'm sure our senior readers have had more enjoyable colonoscopies compared to the action atop the dohyo in Nagoya. Heading into the day, we had Yokozuna Hakuho perfect in the win-loss column with local favorite Kotomitsuki and Ama in tow with just one loss, so let's get right to the action starting with those three.

Yokozuna Hakuho has been flawless this tournament, and my earlier concern regarding his lower back has been allayed mainly due to bad competition. Today's opponent was M4 Wakanosato, whose only chance was to get the moro-zashi position, but Hakuho made sure that wouldn't happen by striking with the right shoulder and stepping to his left to not only keep the two from aligning chests but to grab the easy left outer grip as well. Once obtained, the Yokozuna pulled the trigger straightway sending Wakanosato down to the clay with some oomph. There was nothin' more to it as Hakuho skates to his 9-0 record while Wakanosato falls to a very respectable 4-5. Incredibly, coming into the day Wakanosato was one of the few rikishi that led Hakuho in head-to-head competition, but the Yokozuna evened it up today at 6-6 with the win.

I realize that he was fighting M3 Futenoh today, but Ozeki Kotomitsuki has gotta come full throttle and not take it easy just because his opponent sucks. At the tachi-ai, Kotomitsuki just stood there and briefly flirted with an armbar grip, but when that failed, he just plowed forward hoping to force Futenoh back and out without incident, but the Ozeki's lower body was not set properly, and he aligned his feet as he went for the kill setting him up to be pulled down at the edge as Futenoh tip-toed on the straw. This wasn't as much a win for Futenoh as it was Kotomitsuki beating himself with sloppy sumo. I dare say the yusho rikishi this basho will not have lost to Tochinonada and Futenoh, so scratch this Ozeki off the list at 7-2. Futenoh moves to 2-7.

That leaves Sekiwake Ama as our only hope to at least keep the basho interesting in terms of a yusho race not to mention a renewed run at Ozeki. M1 Wakanoho who masterfully clinched make-koshi in eight days tying the record for futility, reverted back to that stupid tachi-ai of his where he jumps straight up and back in an attempt to pull his opponent down. Ama caught the Russian square in the upper torso and knocked him back two full steps. The problem was though, the bout was so unorthodox from the beginning that Ama's lower body couldn't keep up with his opponent, and it allowed Wakanoho to regain his footing and just lunge back into Ama's body. Ama was forced straight back from the surge delivered by his larger opponent, but he used a left outer grip to throw Wakanoho down to the dohyo as he himself was knocked over. The gunbai went to Wakanoho, which was understandable considering the referee's position (he was out of position to see it), but the judges had to have seen that Wakanoho's left hand hit the dohyo first. It was close for sure, but Wakanoho's hand hit down first before Ama's left forearm hit, yet the judges remained planted on their cushions without at least feeling the need to review the call. The biggest problem I had with the non-call is you have a basho with a Yokozuna running away with it; you have Asashoryu out, which has taken away a lot of excitement; and then you had Kotooshu's faux Yokozuna run end in the first week with three losses, so you'd think they'd at least want to keep things interesting. Everybody lost with today's no-call that saw Ama fall to 7-2 while Wakanoho picks up his only "win" of the tourney.

The most compelling bout of the day featured Ozeki Kotooshu vs. M4 Goeido, but a bout that contained actual sumo would never pan out as the Ozeki struck his opponent well and reached for the left belt grip only to see Goeido evade left with a large step completely separating the two rikishi. Goeido attempted to dive inside and latch onto the Ozeki's belt, but Kotooshu would rebuff him every time with some well-placed shoves to Goeido's dome. On about the third attempt, Kotooshu stepped out of the way and pulled Goeido forward causing him to stumble towards the straw where the Ozeki easily finished off his opponent from there with dual shoves to the chest. This was a well-fought bout for Kotooshu. The separation early was a fluke, and Kotooshu didn't panic and kept his eyes squarely on his opponent. Just chalk it up as a missed opportunity for an enjoyable bout of sumo, but Kotooshu deserved the win as he moves to 6-3. Goeido is average again at 4-5.

In our first battle between Ozeki, Kaio did his part by allowing Chiyotaikai to shove him back quickly from the start and offering fake resistance with his arms raised to chest level but not really doing anything. At the edge, Chiyotaikai changed gears, and went for a pull-down of his fellow Ozeki who complied and just went down to the dirt with ease. Chiyotaikai tried to play it up by falling to the dirt himself ending up with his legs in the splits position, but this was a non-bout from the start. Surprise, surprise, the kadoban Ozeki who needs the wins this basho gets it as he moves to 7-2. Kaio falls to 5-4 but should manage three more the rest of the way.

Despite his terrible basho to date, Komusubi Kisenosato showed that he is the better rikishi against Sekiwake Kotoshogiku holding up at the tachi-ai and just letting the Geeku charge into a waiting right grip. Once the Kid secured the uwate, he was masterful in keeping Kotoshogiku's right arm completely away from the Komusubi's belt while keeping the pressure on with his right outer grip lifting the Geeku upright and setting him up for the eventual uwate-nage throw. At 3-6, it might be too little too late from the Kid, but he showed his potential today. Kotoshogiku is 4-5.

Rounding out the Komusubi ranks, Toyonoshima enjoyed the default win today by virtue of facing M2 Hokutoriki. If you need to know the details, Hokutoriki did fire a few tsuppari at the tachi-ai, but his heart wasn't into it not to mention his lower body, so when Toyonoshima evaded and slapped Hokutoriki towards the straw, the Hoaxster didn't even bother to turn back around and just squatted there as if he was about to grow tail right there on the dohyo waiting for Toyonoshima to easily push him out. Toyonoshima moves to 5-4 with the win while Hokutoriki's doughnut in the win column is getting stale.

M1 Aminishiki gave M5 Miyabiyama a dose of his own medicine firing a right paw into the Sheriff's neck and lifting him upright while pushing him back with a left hand at Miyabiyama's right teet (fresh!). This was over in a bout three seconds, and the first time Miyabiyama was able to look any direction but straight up was after he was out of the ring. Ami skips to 4-5 with his best sumo of the basho while Miyabiyama is still in good standing at 6-3.

M2 Asasekiryu played it perfectly today from the tachi-ai against M3 Tochinonada completely handcuffing the gentle giant's left arm as Seki burrowed in with a left belt grip of his own. Seki ducked down as he usually does and turned the bout into a lengthy contest forcing Tochinonada to counter throughout, so when Nada eventually did get his favored position of the left on the inside, he was too tired to do anything with it, and Asasekiryu used a right outer grip to spin Tochinonada around and out via uwate-dashi-nage. Sexy is just that at 5-4 while Tochinonada falls to 3-6.

M5 Baruto just toyed with M7 Kakuryu today trading the moro-zashi position from Kakuryu with two grips at the back of the Mongolian's belt. As Kakuryu attempted his first yori-kiri charge, Baruto just pivoted near the edge and hoisted Kakuryu up, over, and out by the back of the mawashi with ease putting the Estonian's head above water at 5-4. The Kak dribbles at 4-5.

M6 Homasho is no match for M9 Kyokutenho unless he blows him off of the starting lines. Didn't happen today as Homasho was way too upright inviting the migi-yotsu contest that Kyokutenho used to easily spin Homasho around and out with. Tenho waltzes to 6-3 while Homasho is still fine at 5-4.

M9 Iwakiyama caught M6 Tokitenku square in the chin at the tachi-ai with a big shove, but Tokitenku held on by the front of the Hutt's belt and eventually forced the action to hidari-yotsu-zumo. In the process, Tokitenku used his length to grab a firm right outer grip which kept Iwakiyama honest throughout, and when the Hutt actually went for a counter force-out charge, Tokitenku was in position to throw him down with a left scoop throw. Tokitenku is finding the pickins much easier down in these parts as he moves to 6-3 while Iwakiyama falls to 4-5.

I've noticed that M7 Roho has cut way down on his tachi-ai henka, but even though he hit M10 Tamanoshima straight on today, his tachi-ai lacked sufficient punch, and he quickly opted for the pulldown which let Tamanoshima in on the inside setting up the quick and powerful yori-kiri win for Peter. Rasputin falls to 3-6 with the loss, but you can beat it'll be hard to kill this guy off. Tamanoshima is a surprising 6-3.

I wonder if M11 Tamakasuga is throwing in the towel so he can go back down to Juryo. Today against M8 Takamisakari, the King just stood there as if he was a punching bag letting the Cop push him this way and that without even trying an offensive maneuver. When Takamisakari hadn't finished him off after about 7 seconds, Tamakasuga actually executed a counter sukui-nage throw that set the Robocop up for the kill, but KingTama just stood there and waited for Takamisakari to regain his balance and finally twist Tamakasuga down by the belt. Can't say that I've really been focusing on Tamakasuga's sumo this basho, but it looks to me as if he's out to lose. Takamisakari moves to 5-4 while Tamakasuga is stuck on that bagel.

Just prior to the M8 Dejima - M12 Kimurayama matchup, NHK replayed the yusho playoff bout from 1999 where Dejima henka'd Akebono to take his only career yusho. The sumo gods had to have been watching because they inspired Kimurayama to henka to his left throwing Dejima off balance setting him up for the easy oshi-dashi target. Kimurayama moves to 6-3 while Dejima is a paltry 3-6.

M10 Kokkai struck M14 Tosanoumi hard today, but he was so low that he was the easy pulldown fodder. Problem was Tosanoumi's head was just as low, and he didn't see the Georgian's flaw to capitalize on it. Kokkai recovered straightway and was able to pull Tosanoumi down for the good win. Kokkai won this one at the tachi-ai, and you seldom see any rikishi blow Tosanoumi off the starting lines as Kokkai did today. Tosanoumi cools a bit at 5-4 while Kokkai has some work to do at 4-5.

M16 Chiyohakuho scored an impressive win against M11 Tochiohzan by catching him with two perfect shoves standing Oh upright before immediately shifting gears and slapping him down to the dirt in seconds. How'd that taste Tochiohzan...getting done by a rookie like that? Both rikishi are 5-4, and this is a perfect example of why Tochiohzan struggles in this division. Has to do with something being soft.

M12 Takekaze secured the early morozashi grip against m15 Kakizoe who strangely countered by wrapping both arms high and tight around Takekaze's head. It was a curious tactic, but I guess Takekaze (5-4) bought it for a moment because he paused about 10 seconds before finally forcing Kakizoe's ass back and out. Zoe is a dangerous 4-5.

After a prolonged tachi-ai that you never like to waste time on this low in the ranks, M13 Toyohibiki exhibited probably the best sumo of his career slamming into m14 Tochinoshin with both arms and shoving the Russian back and out without argument. The damage was done in seconds as the Nikibi moves to 6-3 while Shine is still in good shape at 5-4.

M13 Koryu looked to force the action with a tsuppari attack against fellow rookie, M16 Masatsukasa, but no de-ashi behind the shoves, Masatsukasa was able to slip into a left outer grip that he used to spin Koryu around setting up the easy slapdown win. Masatsukasa moves to 5-4 with the win while Koryu (3-6) lacks significant punch required to excel in the division.

And finally, I'm sure Juryo Kasugao can't wait to return to the division, what after his welcome from M15 Yoshikaze that included a nasty tachi-ai henka that sent the Korean sprawling into nothingness. Yoshikaze creeps to 4-5 with the "win", but we all know that chicks don't dig the henka.

Kenji's up tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Here we are on Hump Day and wouldn't you know it I find myself in much the same situation as Simon on Day 6. It has been an eventful weekend. My weekend started with a huge bike wipeout on Sat. (Martin wasn't kidding), four trips to the beach to swim with the kids, two massive bike rides over mountains, two tennis matches with a banged up shoulder (I was utterly useless), no sleep because of said banged up shoulder, a twelve km running jaunt today in very high heat, an argument with some beachcombers that escalated into me being "interviewed" by the local federalis, and capped by eight of the coldest mofo beers not dreamt of in your philosophy, dear Horatio. I'm not sure that I qualify as hammered a la Simon, because I can really drink, but I'm feeling very little pain indeed.

With the drama leaking out of the Nagoya basho, I naturally have turned my attention elsewhere, in this case to the British Open Championships at Royal Birkdale. Greg Norman, known to my generation as The Shark, is two strokes up going into the final round. At age 53. This unlikely turn of events has rekindled memories for me, for it was in 1996 when I awoke at my sister's home in Massachusetts to run the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon that I read the terrible news: Norman had blown a six stroke lead to Nick Faldo in the U.S. Masters, the largest final round collapse ever in a major. With this bit of nastiness weighing on my mind, I ran the race and finished ten minutes short of my goal, a personal defeat that haunts me to this day (not really, nothing haunts someone as happy as me, but still).

What kills me is Norman was only playing this week to sharpen up for some upcoming Senior tour events. He is exactly 632 ranks behind the man he leads by two strokes in today's final round. He is on his honeymoon, for pete's sake. He just married Chris Evert, and how many times as a youngster did I watch her kicking ass in some Grand Slam and wonder what it would be like to massage baby oil into her map of Tazzie! She kept me going through those tortuous early teen years, and now The Shark is getting it anytime he wants. Have you ever slept with an 18-time Grand slam winner? The woman whose .900 won-loss record in singles is the best record in tennis history? Well, neither have I, but I did shag this fozy little minx who had once been a rabbit for a 10k race that Uta Pippig was supposed to run but didn't show up for.

And what exactly does any of this have to do with sumo? Dunno.

Hakuho beat the one of the five guys who had a chance to take him down this time out, Toyonoshima. A lightning fast tachi-ai from Kublai put Toyonoshima on the defensive early, a head slap followed by a series of cat quick blows. As Hakuho geared up for his kill move, Toyo imagined he himself was Kaio, and leaned on Hakuho, as if to say, Whew, here we are at a standstill, let's both catch our breath. Rich! Hakuho picked his tiny ass up by the belt and swung him around and out in a heartbeat.

Futenoh and Chiyotaikai crashed heads so loudly it sounded like someone at NHK thumped the microphone. I may dislike The Pup's sumo, but he has always had one the hardest heads in sumo. Dazed by this collision, Fruity didn't know his nuts from his bolts and was easy push out material for the 6-2 Ozeki.

Kotooshu (who is still wrestling, despite what the Day 7 report may have had you believe) went for the cheap outside belt at tachi-ai, and got it. Tochinonada had nowhere to go after this, and though he fought valiantly for several moments, in the end Kotooshu combined his ill gotten gains with a front belt grip and lifted GG out and back. Actually I can sort of understand Martin's disgust with Kotooshu and all things henka (for the two are intricately entwined, innit).

For me the best thing about Nagoya is the number of chicks who go crazy for Kotomitsuki. Tell me you wouldn't LOVE to see Hit and Hit Again with No Mitsuki as he chanko'd six or seven of his groupies at once? Today he took Wakanosato back quickly to the edge, but the former Sekiwake swung the Ozeki around and managed to get close with some good hugging. He had the inside left and then started locking up Mitsuki's left arm and looked to be in charge. Then Mitsuki started sort of, I don't know how to describe it, clawing his fingers across the Croc's face, again and again, in some desperate attempt to wound his attacker I suppose. Whether this had any effect I don't know, but the Ozeki got the tiny bit of separation he was looking for and once he had it he twisted and slipped Wakanosato to the dirt. Very lucky win to go 7-1.

Kaio, another guy you may have thought went kyujo on Day 7 also fought today. Aminishiki henka'd the big fella but Kaio wasn't having any of it, staying with the Shneaky bastard nicely and fending off a trademark spin from the M1. Kaio got the inside left and after a Shneaky leg trip attempt, Kaio leaned in on him and waited, and as soon as Shneaky made an attempt to move, Kaio ran him straight back and out.

You know, someone told me the other day to "grow a pair". I did, and now I'm menstruating.

Winless Wakanoho gave Geeku the morozashi easy as you please and suffered the consequences, an all too simple back and out after a few stomach thrusts. Geeku runs his record to .500 and has only Hakuho and The Kid left to cause him heartache.

In what looked to be the bout of the day, Ama and Kisenosato had a big tachi-ai that caused them to both bounce back and when they came together again, Ama was the bigger man, withstanding the slaps and getting in for the two-handed belt grip and pushed him out no sweat.

Hokutoriki swiped at the ground in his typical orangutan style, not touching at all. The gyoji was having none of it, though, and he let the bout go. Goeido held him up for a second and then let him fall on his ass. The outrageous henkas should start tomorrow for the Jokester, who has Toyonoshima and must be getting a bit nervous at the prospect of an O-fer. Goeido moves to 4-4.

Asasekiryu met Baruto and then slipped to his left, getting the morozashi. Baruto, as he has this entire basho, tried to use the completely ineffective over the top belt grip, but Sexy was all over him, lifting him up from underneath and taking him to the edge. Baruto resisted and got back to the center, but Sexy readjusted his belt grip and went at it one more time, nearly lifting the Biomass out. People who beat Baruto look like tugboats that move huge ships around in harbors.

Aw man, I am experiencing one of the huge downsides to marriage right at the moment. My wife is in the living room watching a video with her divorced friend, who is spending the night with her young son. Her friend is a Knockout with a capital K and is wearing a short, summer nighty thing, I kid ya'll not. Though I am deeply in love with my special lady, I am finding it a bit difficult to concentrate here.

Okay, where are we. Ah, it's been a long time since Circus has taken on MiFlobby, and it went according to plan. As usual Takami bet the farm on grabbing the front belt at tachi-ai, and once he had failed that, Miyabiyama shoved him out toute de suite.

Dejima won his tachi-ai vs. Tokitenku, but the Mongolian has been to the Valley of Kings, and knows that when attacked by a mummy, you should retreat and let the sucker trip over his bandages, which is just about what the Degyptian did.

Homasho took on the eldest Hutt, losing the from the get go but wiping off at the edge and taking it back to center where he turned the tables and starting pushing Jabba back. At the edge he fell as Iwaki stepped out, and although it was close, no one stood up and Homasho was declared the winner!

Have you ever noticed how similar Tamakasuga and Kakuryu are, in the face? Looked like Dad vs. Son, with the Kak pushing King Tama back to the edge where he quit like a dog and just walked out. If the King falls to Juryo, methinks he retireth rather than battleth on.

Takekaze took on the Mad Monk, and despite having the morozashi took some time due to Rasputin's massive size, but in the end pushed him out for his fourth win. A lot of yorikiri today. Everyone must be tired.

Finally, in the only other bout I was able to see, The Pimple got some hard throat going on the former Mongolian Kyokutenho, and when he tried to wipe that off, he flubbed completely and ended up doing some pushups while drill sergeant Toyohibiki looked on.

It's going to take some serious chutzpah to find things to get excited about for the rest of the basho, but you know what? We got chutzpah coming out of our derrieres!! See you on Day 15.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Just about when I was praising this basho for decent sumo and a respectably low number of henkas, Day 7 decided to happen upon us, with me, as usual, on duty. Don't get me wrong, it's still a good tournament, with sound sumo on the whole, and even today was more good than bad, but it just makes me sick to see two Ozeki shafted by the dubious move in the same day. The culprits were Ama and Asasekiryu, one trying to keep himself in the hypothetical yusho race (remember me saying this would be a breakthrough basho for one of the sanyaku guys, most likely Ama and Kisenosato?), and the other one trying hard to get kachi koshi. So don't expect me to comment on those bouts, because the henka is getting too much publicity as it is. Let's get on with the real sumo.

Even a blind guy could see even before the basho that this Nagoya has Hakuho written all over it, and the Yokozuna didn't disappoint at all so far, staying perfect after one week. Today he took care of Tochinonada in about three seconds, opting for a kachi-age tachi-ai, setting up a deep inside shitate he then used to muscle the gentle giant over the tawara. Nada attempted a maki-kae on that side, but he had been dominated so thoroughly that when he finally managed to get his hand inside, he was already flying towards the front row. No biggie, 3-4 after the first week is helluva lot better than anyone thought he could do. Despite what Mike might say, Hakuho looks invincible this basho, and, barring some cosmic cataclysm, I see him going zensho.

Some people have seen Wakanoho as the next European Ozeki, and some even touted him the next Yokozuna, but for those fans it must be painfully clear after this first week that Whack's sumo is far from sanyaku skill-wise. Sure, he's young, strong and hung, but that won't get him any further than Baruto (what a coincidence, the Estonian's highest rank is also M1). If he wants to become a sanyaku mainstay (not to mention Ozeki or above), he's gotta start polishing that wooden sumo of his. Today, grizzled Ozeki veteran Chiyotaikai exposed the Ossetian's straight up tachi-ai and blew him out of the dohyo with two or three well placed thrusts. If you're gonna stand up at the tachi-ai (never mind you're almost sure to lose), at least have one arm above the opponent so you have a shadow of a chance for a quick hatakikomi. Taikai moves ever so closer to evading his umpteenth kadoban with the 5th win, while Ho's bagel keeps growing.

Over-ranked Hokutoriki is having his expected winless first week, probably planning his trip to low Makuuchi for a possible sansho and some bucks for his retirement fund. Like yesterday and the several days before, he didn't even put up a fight against Sadogatake #1 Kotomitsuki, opting for his usual moro-te tachi-ai with little to no support from the lower body. It was so limp, actually, that Mitsuki was able to advance while being choked, making little contact with his hands on the Jokester's body. Tiring of all the nonsense, the Ozeki grabbed his foe's mawashi with the left and turned him around with a simple dashi-nage before pushing him out by okuridashi. A suitable finish for Hokutoriki's non-combat. Mitsuki stays in the yusho chase with only one loss so far (and when I said cosmic cataclysm I meant Mitsuki putting the henka on Hakuho).

Rivals Toyonoshima and Kotoshogiku charged hard, and it was Toyo who managed to somewhat get the upper hand, by getting his right on the inside. Giku, however, has a stubby upper body and thick arms, so it's pretty hard, not to mention risky, to get a morozashi against him (Toyonoshima lost by kimedashi against him before, after getting morozashi). When he saw there was no way forward, Toyo put his left on the Geek's head and backed up, pulling his opponent to the clay for the fourth win. A mono-ii was called, but you could see a mile off it was Toyonoshima's. At 3-4, Kotoshogiku is struggling, but the win against Ama yesterday was awesome. The Ker-Slam throw at the end was closer to yobimodoshi than we'll see in quite a while.

Komusubi Kisenosato was one of the guys I expected to perform well at this show, but so far the Kid's basho was more breakdown than breakthrough. Today he somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and with 0;fer Futenoh as an opponent, too. At the tachi-ai, Kisenosato used a left harite to set up his favored hidari-yotsu grip, but on the other side Futenoh dug in hard and got the shitate while denying the Kid any whiff of the mawashi. Kisenosato nonetheless took things to the edge, quickly, but his lack of a good uwate was exposed when Futenoh used the bales and his own double grip to muscle his way back into the center of the dohyo and, after a meek counter-throw attempt, to finish his uninspired opponent. Safe to say this was Futenoh's best sumo yet, but the hard, double digit makekoshi is just around the corner. Kisenosato ain't looking too good himself with only two wins so far.

Aminishiki might be Kotooshu's worst nightmare, but he has major bogeys of his own, and they're named Chiyotaikai and Wakanosato. In a total of 31 bouts against the two veterans, Sneaky managed to win a grand, whopping total of 2 (yeah, TWO), one against each. As he had already been beaten by Taikai as recently as yesterday, he thought he might cheat a bit today, because he was fidgeting at the tachi-ai and purposely stalling. When he finally did decide to go, he did it a significant fraction of a second before Wakanosato, who only had the time to stand up and be pushed back. The Crocodile's short arms, however, helped him stop his charging foe and save himself from Kotooshu's day one fate, as he managed to get his left deep under Sneaky's armpit. With that, everyone thought it was all over for Aminishiki, but he believed in his chances and stalled the action for a crucial second with an attempted inside right leg trip, long enough for him to get the uwate on that side and flip Wakanosato off balance. He then worked his way to Waka's side and used an outside trip to finish him off. Needless to say this was great, if a bit sneaky, sumo from Aminishiki, who climbs to three wins. Wakanosato isn't looking too bad himself with four.

Have I mentioned lately that Rohoho is a worthless bastard and way over-ranked at M7? What, in my last report? That's because he is. Today he tried to shake up Goeido with a couple of false starts (not to mention his surreally ugly mug), but the youngster is pretty sound in mind and skill, so he immediately got morozashi after the Russian's poor tachi-ai, and proceeded to force him out. Roho, however, has pretty long arms, so he tried a combined kubihineri-uwatenage move that almost finished Goeido off, only his solid double inside saving him from a date with the clay. With his back at the edge of the cliff, Goeido couldn't stop Roho from switching grips on the right side, but he kept pushing and managed to force Ugly out before he could make use of the advantageous migi-yotsu. This bout only shows Roho has the body and the strength to be a great wrestler, but his improper technique and his attitude toward hard work will always prevent him from actually being one. Serves him right. As for Goeido, I'll stick to what I said before, he's a future Yokozuna.

My favorite Mongolian of late managed to find the key to beat the Fatman, coming hard at the tachi-ai and going at it tsuppari style. You got to admire this guy's courage, because when he charged, he knew what was coming. The Sheriff, of course, dished out heavy punishment to the Kak's face and neck and soon stopped his advance, looking like he was going to finish the whole deal in control. Kakuryu, though, is a slippery one, and all it took was a well-timed pull on the Fatman's left shoulder coupled with a quick dash to the side, and off balance the Blob went. From there on, Kakuryu turned the tables and paid back all the thrusts he had been dealt up to that point, with interest. Result: oshidashi win for the faster, younger Kak. Don't get a stiffie just yet, though, because Kakuryu is only 3-4 so far, and his opponents haven't exactly been top notch.

You probably heard this story before, but the next bout is about another big white European guy who has size and strength, but likes to give up morozashi by being careless at the tachi-ai. The beneficiary this time was Mongol Tokitenku, who wasted no time in getting both his grubby hands on the mawashi, denying the Balt any grip of his own. Bart, however, is VERY strong, and he managed to turn Tenku around without the aforementioned grip, and Tokitenku had to resort to some of that fine legwork he's so famous for, getting his big white foe off balance with a right inside leg trip and taking him all the way to the edge. That STILL wasn't enough, ladies and gentlemen, because Bart dug in and managed a last millisecond kotenage that probably had Tenku worried about his right arm's integrity, because he said “Uncle!” and put his left hand down almost immediately. Moments after, Baruto himself crashed out of the dohyo in a heap and the gyoji, who didn't exactly have the best angle, pointed the gunbai Tokitenku's way. A mono-ii followed and the replays showed Tenku had put his hand down long before Bart became airborne, so they rightfully gave it to him. It's gotta be frustrating for the smaller, more technical guys to work so damn hard and get Baruto to the very edge, only to be countered by his sheer strength and size. Both guys are at an uneventful 4-3.

Moving even lower on the banzuke, you'll encounter a Kokkai who we thought had a revelation a couple of basho ago, successfully switching to yotsu, albeit in the same nether-regions of Makuuchi. After being raped by the jo'i, he reverted to his old style, but that seems to help him even less. About today's bout...not much to say, both he and his opponent Homasho charged rather low, with the hands to the opponent's shoulders, trying to keep the distance and trading thrusts. Well, for a second, anyway, because Kokkai went into pull-mode immediately after he saw he couldn't gain any ground. Homasho survived the meek attempt and started chasing Kokkai around the dohyo, only to be greeted with more pulling. Ultimately, a well placed thrust allowed Homasho to get himself into a nice migi-yotsu double grip and yorikiri the Georgian for his 4th win. Ultimately, I think it was Homasho who came out of the bout more damaged, because after he put both his feet out of the dohyo, Kokkai initiated a REALLY late counter scoop throw that sent Homie on all fours. Revenge or flow of the bout? You decide (because I don't really care).

Youngster Tochiohzan was given another harsh lesson by the Clown, who seems to be recovering well after a slow start. Oh had the better of the tachi-ai, quickly getting his opponent near the edge, but that was only good on paper, because Takamisakari disallowed any sort of grip on his mawashi. Instead, Weirdo planted a solid left arm under Tochiohzan's armpit and executed an excellent sukuinage, pivoting on the tawara and controlling his opponent's position with the right arm on the outside. As much as I can't stand Takamisakari's weird display of emotion and motivation, that was textbook counter-sumo and it seems pretty obvious Oh still has some things to learn. Both wrestlers stand at four wins to three losses.

In his match against former freight train Dejima, Old man Tamakasuga adopted the same strategy of late, and decided to play deadweight to the opponent's tachi-ai, hoping for a chance to pull him down. When your opponent is called Dejima, that opportunity will come, sooner or later, so Tamakasuga eventually went for a strange combination of pull with an inashi to the side of Dejima's head, but that was just as effective as Mrs. Clinton's nomination campaign, and Dejima quickly recovered, got a double inside grip and marched Kasuga out like a big sack of potatoes. Dejima scores his second win in as many days, while Tamakasuga is riding the 0fer train, and the next stop is Juryo.

In an all Mongolian affair which looked like a false start to me, Kyokutenho scored his 5th win against former compatriot Koryu (Mike's much hyped rookie), by quickly getting the left shitate and not relenting until the opponent was safely out of the dohyo. I checked the replay, just for the sake of fair play, and it's safe to say Koryu was robbed, but Tenho would probably beat him again and again and again, false start or not.

Another rookie, behemoth Kimurayama, met another grizzled veteran only to get a (literally, as you'll see later) heavy dose of Makuuchi. His opponent was the one rikishi you think about when you hear “gorilla”, and my guess is that Kimurayama must have been thinking the same thing out loud, because Iwakiyama didn't focus on getting the belt, instead delivering a couple of heavy slaps (no, make that haymakers), that were so hard and loud they had the audience crying out in awe. Kimurayama is a sturdy fellow, though, so Iwakiyama had to return to his primary skills, grabbing the front of his opponent's mawashi with the left and pausing for a moment in the center of the dohyo. Not at all comfortable with the double grip Iwaki held on his belt, Kimurayama fatally tried to retreat for the tsukiotoshi, but the veteran was expecting that so he charged at the same time and flattened poor Kimurayama on the floor, falling on top of him. To add more injury to injury, the rookie fell with his back over the edge and hit his head on the side of the dohyo. I wouldn't be surprised if he went kyujo tomorrow, citing multiple broken vertebrae and a concussion. Still, 5-2 in his first Makuuchi basho is pretty good.

The next bout was a very strange affair, in which Tamanoshima and Tochinoshin, essentially yotsu guys, exchanged a number of thrusts, after the typically Georgian kachi-age tachi-ai from the sophomore and a pull-down attempt by the senior. Tochinoshin eventually tried to get the mawashi, but Tamanoshima choked him out of it and kept him at bay, waiting for a mistake. It came when the Georgian took a split second too long to lean on Tama's chest, so Tama just slapped his arm away and down Shin went. He was visibly connected to the spirited fight, because the anticlimactic finish caused him to punch the air in frustration. Tamanoshima has been looking rather evasive lately, but at his age, he'll take any win that keeps him in Makuuchi. Tochinoshin has a good future ahead of him (but not if he keeps hanging with Kokkai and the rest of the Caucasian bunch).

Not much to mention in the last four bouts, so I'll just give you the most significant details. Juryo dweller Tamawashi gave up morozashi at the tachi-ai against Kakizoe and was easy scoop throw fodder, rookie Masatsukasa couldn't handle Tosanoumi's bulk and experience and was thrown awkwardly on the dohyo, looking like he injured himself and Takekaze took care of another rookie, Chiyohakuho, who almost had him but blew it with an ill-timed pulldown attempt. The most important thing worth mentioning, I guess, is Toyohibiki's slow return to his previous form. Today against quick Yoshikaze he managed to keep his opponent in front of him and use his mass to finish him off. I wonder how long it's going to hold, though.

Getting back to the big picture of the basho, I'll repeat it yet again: Hakuho is going to take the cup this time, the others' chances are in the margin of error (i.e. less than 0.2%). Ama might upset him again, no doubt, but there's no way he can get through the others unscathed. Kotomitsuki might beat Hakuho too, but he's also certain to drop at least a couple more, and with Kotooshu out of the picture early and Asa out of it entirely, there's just nobody else. Prize-wise, Ama should get himself a nice haul, especially if he upsets Hakuho, and, if he's OK, Kimurayama might threaten the 10 win rookie Kanto-Sho bar. Also, good records are likely for Tochinoshin and Kyokutenho. Other than that, it's interesting to see if Kotooshu can manage to win at least 10 (this one's 50-50), if Kaio can get eight and if Kakizoe can stay in the division (OK, that last one isn't really interesting).

As it is fashionable lately, I haven't the slightest idea who's reporting tomorrow (it should be Clancy, but I heard he drove his bike off a cliff). Be well, everyone, and see you on Day 14.

Day 6 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
Well, the first thing I should do is apologize in advance for being totally hammered...watched the sumo in a bar today and haven't looked back since. And what a huge pile of cack it was in the main, as far as I recall, which admittedly isn't very far.

It's nice to be back on Sumotalk, even if those bastards won't let me back in the hotel. But do I care? Nope. Because the first thing I saw on the TV today warmed the cockles of my evil heart...namely Tosanoumi flying arse over tit as per bleeding usual. But let's not take away from his fantastic performance so far this basho. Let's face it - he's a legend. Older than me (maybe) and never henkas anyone. Name another lad who does that...apart from Jim Morrison.

Tochinoshin then graced us with his Philip Marlowe presence...yeah, this guy's been round the block a few times - you can see it in his beady eyes. The only thing I remember about this bout is a prolonged shot of Tochi's arse...and that he won quite impressively...and is now 5-1. Showing promise.

Tochiohzan got ravaged by Kakizoe. I would love to comment on this bout but my attention was sadly caught by an absolute stunner on her way to the toilets in the bar. But it was definitely a total rape from the tachi-ai onwards.

Takekaze has been mystifying me, in true Michael Hutchence style, regarding his spectacular loss of form in the last couple of basho. He showed a bit of the old magic today against high-flying Kyokutenho, kicking his arse big-time. Maybe.

Why is Donald Duck such a bastard??

Kokkai embarrassed himself fighting Takamisakari as he seemed to spot a tasty bit of clay and launched himself upon it. Kokkai usually goes for Circus but looked lackluster and way off the pace today. 2-4 for the Kokkmeister.

Dejima didn't get what he wanted immediately against Homasho, namely a shag on the first date, and was forced into unfamiliar territory, but showed some veteran nous to pull off the win as he hung in there and didn't overextend. Snicker.

Roho kept his mastery of Baruto going with an impressive display of belt technique, helped nicely by Baruto's usual shocking tachiai - way too high, my friend. I'd say it should be back to square one for the Estonian...practice with Hakuho...he is a big guy with a good tachi-ai.

Tokitenku got the crowd going with a ketaguri over Goeido. I was in the bogs.

Miyabiyama kept up the good work with his overpowering tsuppari making short work of controversial kinboshi boy Tochinonada.

In the highlight bout, Ama got murdered at the tachi-ai, finally allowing Kotoshogiku to get morozashi and make it look sexy with the overdramatic throw down. Ama looked gutted after the fight...knows he should have done better at tachiai.

In a battle of two complete wusses, Kotooshu overpowered his hated rival Kisenosato with a straightforward morozashi push-out win. After last basho's shenanigans, I was half hoping the Kisser would pull a henka.

Chiyotaikai did what he always know the score...just push as much as possible and keep on the lookout for the pull-down opportunity. And that's what befell Aminishiki.

Kaio went straight into morozashi to make Wakanoho look like an idiot.

And continuing the easy win theme, Kotomitsuki marched Toyonoshima out in no time to keep the pressure on the leaders.

Finally, Hakuho destroyed the hapless Futenoh with a polished, patient, albeit very short display of sumo. Futenoh never looked comfortable and Hakuho took advantage of his opponent being too far forward and pulled him down in less than three seconds.

Hakuho is now the clear leader and obviously the favourite to go all the way. Surely a zensho is on the cards. With Asa out of the picture, no one is anywhere near the Yokozuna.

I think Barbara Streisand is reporting tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hey everybody, I want to apologize straight off for not being here on shonichi and forcing ya'll to read the mad patter of the hydra known as Miken Matressman. Chilled me to the bone, that photo. I was spending a few days in the Seahorse Valley, lost in the details, happily lost.

But now I'm back and ready to call a spade a spade, and here's the first one: The NSK hates Asashoryu and is taking every chance it gets to derail his drive to overtake Taiho's 33 yusho. Okay, so that wasn't front page news, but it needs to be reiterated (esp. for sumo newbies). In the final bout of Day 5, Tochinonada, who has made a career out of upsetting Yokozuna, resisted tenaciously everything the injured Khan could give, and in the process crept ever so close to the all-time record for kinboshi.

Asa started by getting the outside right and taking Tochi back, but could not seal the deal and was forced back to the center. There he shifted tack and put his left hand on the mawashi just above the pubes, and tried for a front lifting shove out. The Gentle Giant put the kibosh on that and was able to wrap his right arm firmly around Genghis' left shoulder. The Yokozuna then did what he had to do, backed away fiercely and bent down, hoping to take Tochi to the doit, but Tochi used Asa, whose head was trapped under his foe's chest, to prop himself up. Dude was parallel to the dohyo, no shit. Utterly compromised, Tochi had no alternative but to lunge forward and hope for the win. Asa had only enough room to fall with him, and he "got air" as my snowboarding friends like to say (actually, I have no snowboarding friends, but I like to imagine I do because they are just Tochi's elbow clearly touched down first, but the gyoji gave the nod to the Maegashira. 

The old guy directly in front of the action looked around for someone to light his Cigarillo, but wasn't about to even consider calling for a mono-ii. Surprisingly, the fart in black to his left timidly raised his hand and looked to see if Takanohana felt the same. Okay then, we chat about the ruling. Took them all of 45 seconds to decide and announce: Gyoji got it right. No reason was given, because they had no reason. A rip-off pure and simple.

I'm not going to rehash here the long list of disrespect Asashoryu has had heaped upon him by the NSK, from their lack of support when he is attacked by tabloids to the unprecedented two basho suspension to the constant denigrating remarks made by those who should be on his side. Apart from all that bullshit, Asashoryu has NEVER ONCE been given the bendoubt as a Yokozuna inside the dohyo. (I defy anyone to find one example of a mono-ii that was reversed in Asa's favor, or a do-over in his favor for the matter, since he became Yokozuna. You do and I'll let you feel up my sister.)

Yes, it's true that the Yokozuna should not have been in the position in the first place, and yes it's true that Asa has not looked great. But that is all beside the point. He initiated Tochi's fall, Asa flung his body beautifully and Tochi touched down first, BEFORE Asa was below the dohyo at all. Had this been ten years ago and that was Takanohana, they would have reversed the call or had a re-do, no question about it. Again, find me that one instance. I beseech you.

In the most anticipated bout since my cat took on a ball of yarn, Hakuho decided to give Hokutoriki some dim hope before squishing him like a five-hour snot. Joker actually got the outside right and was standing chest to chest with Kublai for a few seconds, until the Yokozuna executed a makikae that someone in Tierra Del Fuego could have seen coming. With his paws firmly on the front and back of Joker's belt it was time to bang the garbage can on the truck floor, but Hokutoriki meekly squealed Mother! and Hakuho gently set him outside the ring. Awwww, he's so sweet! We'll give HIM a re-do anyday of the week.

Wakanoho gave away his strategy by jumping the gun vs. Kotooshu, who didn't flick an eyelash as the teenager came at him with the mandatory European forearm tachi-ai (where do they learn that shite?). Having shown his hand, he was easy pickins the second time around as the Ozeki got the strongest right hand belt grab I've seen in some time and simply lifted him up and set him out in the time it takes me to imagine Sigourney Weaver naked and knocking at my door at 3:30 am asking to use my banana shaped novelty phone.

Course I could barely concentrate on that match because I was still so excited from the Kotomitsuki/Aminishiki bout that came just before. Mangatsika, two hardened warriors, veterans who face each day with courage and determination, who never run from their fears and who...Snap! I really have no desire to even watch these two girlymen, but I did, and Mitsuki locked up Shneaky's arm from the get go and finally used it to run him out.

Today we got the real Geeku, the one who can and actually DOES grab the belt and belly out pretty much anyone in sumo, taking the much larger Kaio (who had been relatively nails thus far) out in lewd gabburi fashion. Why he did NOT do this versus The Pup yesterday is beyond me, especially when he had the left hand outside there for the taking. That Day 4 bout smelled in more ways than just two big fat guys sweating in the summer heat of Nagoya, Japan.

Did you see it? The shift? If you hadn't yet seen it, today was clear as Braille: As far as the Ozeki rank is concerned, Ama in, Chiyotaikai out. Not much to interpret in this one, Ama simply ripped a page from The Pup's book and open palm slammed his ass around the dohyo and out, meek as a Thai chorus line shemale. Chiyo dips below .500 and I say Kokonoe pulls the plug, but who knows, they prolly have several more Geeku-esque favors to call in, innit? Maybe they can get him home to Kyushu after all. Just five more "wins" will do 'er. If Ama isn't an Ozeki by Osaka 2009, I'll mail each and every one of you (first 50 people only, must be over 18, restrictions apply in some prefectures, see contest rules for details) a photo of me "en flagrante delicto". 

In the earliest of the major matchups, the Komusubi went at it, with Kisenosato taking on Toyonoshima. It should have been a more interesting bout, but the Kid made short work of the diminutive giant killer by quickly pushing Toyo back to the edge, breaking his outside left belt grip to get the mawashi and yank him forward and down. Toyonoshima is doing it bass ackwards, whoopin' on the Yokozuna and the Ozeki and losing in a hurry to the Sekiwake and Komusubi.

Baruto got lucky by escaping Crocanosato's inside morozashi and after some give and take ended up locking up the former Sekiwake's arms and pulling backward and twisting down, the kimarite called a kainahineri. Croc's 3-2 is a bit more impressive than Biomass' 3-2 as Croc had to take on Ama, but neither has been put on the hook for the heavyweights yet.

Homasho moved not a centimeter forward at tachi-ai, pivoting but not exactly running away, but it was enough to cause Goeido, who left his legs at the station, to promptly fall on his face. Don't say I never did anything for ya'.

MiFlobby took on Rasputin in an off Broadway bout. True to from, the huge Russian slipped to the side, but the only people who don't know about Roho's tachi-ai by now live in some clearing in the Amazon (and even THEY have cell phones, the phony phux), and he was able to circle away and then blast the honkey on his less-than-pulchritudinous mug to send him sliding down like the dribble of smegma he be.

Hey, did any of you mopes ever check out that song Arbo listed last basho, called Tiger Woods by Dan Bern? Bern is fantastic. It is my opinion you are dumber than Patrick the Starfish if you don't try him out.

The Chauffer hammered the Kak, Peter numbed the Mummy, The Zit outlasted the White Knight, and Tosanoumi, born when hats were still cool to wear on your way to work, re-ignited talk of an Ozeki run by continuing his stellar sumo this time out by fighting off that wolverine on angel dust Takekaze and winning his fourth. Go you silver citizen, you!

Sorry for the abbreviated report, but the summer heat has got me on the run from this room where my computer lies. I have but enough strength to remain here while my midget porn downloads, then it's off to bed and dreams of meeting some tin man (I'll call him Steely Dan) along down my own yellow brick road.

Oh, I would be remiss if I did not set up tomorrow's contributor. You know 'em, you love 'em, you can't make grossly overstuffed homemade sausages without thinking about him, the one, the only...what? Sorry, hold on a second. What?! THIS chick ain't a midget, she's at least four foot six, damn, and I waited this whole time to see if...

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It's one thing to have multiple rikishi jump out to undefeated starts, but it's even better when the rikishi are ranked sanyaku or above. We had four such rikishi entering day 4 and since Asashoryu wasn't one of them, you could arguably say that five rikishi are in contention, which would set up a great finish to the basho. Some of the aforementioned rikishi fell today, but I'm not convinced that our favorite is fully healthy to take complete advantage. Let's get right to the action and I'll explain.

Yokozuna Hakuho showed his most proactive tachi-ai of the basho lunging forward and grabbing the quick left outer grip against M2 Asasekiryu. The Yokozuna wasted no time in going for the uwate-nage throw, but it was a bit unorthodox, and Asasekiryu was actually able to throw his elbow into Hakuho's midsection nudging him off a bit, but Hakuho maintaining the solid grip reloaded and this time felled Asasekiryu to the dirt with his second throw attempt that was half dashi-nage. I wonder if Hakuho's throwing motion today was due to his sore lower back? Kumagatani-oyakata mentioned as much in the news yesterday. If so, that will come into play in week two regardless of how dominant Hakuho looks right now. There was just something about his two throw attempts today that didn't look right, so stay tuned. As it stands now, however, Hakuho is the clear favorite to yusho at 4-0. Asa-not-so-Sexy-ryu is 0-4.

M2 Hokutoriki instigated two staredown sessions with Yokozuna Asashoryu today, and I can seem him working. He knew he was going to get his ass kicked in the ring, so why not give the fans at least something to get excited about? When the two actually clashed, Asashoryu used a hari-zashi tachi-ai leading with the right hand that resulted in the easy moro-zashi position from which he just dumped the hapless Hokutoriki to the dirt with a left inner belt throw. Former Yokozuna Onokuni was in the booth today, and he had the comment of the day when during the replay he said, "It'd be nice if Hokutoriki at least tried to do something." The M2 may as well be playing for the Washington Generals as the Yokozuna gets back on track with a 3-1 start. The General is 0-4.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai exhibited a curious tactic today by slamming into Sekiwake Kotoshogiku demanding the yotsu-zumo contest. The two ended up in the hidari-yotsu position, and while this stance would normally favor the Geeku, Chiyotaikai was positioned lower and was thus able to dictate the pace. Not wasting any time, Chiyotaikai forced his opponent to the side and then back fueled by his solid right outer grip, and in the end there was nowhere for Kotoshogiku to go. This was a great yotsu-zumo win from the Ozeki who looks to survive yet another basho at kadoban status after his 3-1 start. The Geeku is reeling a bit at 1-3.

Ozeki Kotooshu did beat Futenoh today, but it was ugly. From the tachi-ai, Kotooshu opted to hit his opponent and then go for the pulldown, a move that he tried twice. Fortunately, Kotooshu's tachi-ai was good enough that Futenoh had absolutely no position and couldn't counter the Kotooshu pull attempts, but the problem is that Kotooshu never went for the belt in this one. After the two pull attempts, both rikishi were left in the center of the ring separated and standing upright. From this point, Kotooshu was solid keeping his eyes squarely on his opponent as he lowered his head and pushed Futenoh back and out, but even the guys in the booth today were commenting more on how Kotooshu won instead of the fact that he won. Looks like the same old Kotooshu this basho as he evens his record at 2-2. Futenoh is friends with Hokutoriki at 0-4.

There's a reason why the Sadogatake-beya Ozeki avoid certain rikishi, which is why Kotomitsuki stepped to his right against M3 Tochinonada today to grab the cheap right outer grip, but Kotomitsuki was far too nonchalant in his charge, and Tochinonada who had to have known what was coming easily squared back up with the Ozeki enjoying the solid left inside position, his favored grip. Nada wasted no time in going for a scoop throw with the left arm, and his power was on display as he sent Kotomitsuki sprawling to the dirt with the throw. Kotomitsuki has used that same side step against Tochinonada for the last year and beaten him with it, so today was a case of going to the well one too many times. Nada finally figures things out as he moves to 2-2. Hit and Mitsuki suffers his first blemish of the basho.

Ozeki Kaio was great today at the tachi-ai leading with his left shoulder and head into Komusubi Kisenosato's upper torso completely denying the Kid a decent belt grip. Kaio briefly flirted with his coveted outer right, and while Kisenosato was able to shake it off leaving the two in the hidari-yotsu position, Kaio had gained the advantage from the initial charge and was able to body Kisenosato back a step or two before demanding the right grip, which once gained, proved the difference in allowing the Ozeki to force out his younger opponent with the great yori-kiri win. Kaio commented afterwards that he wasn't going to go for a throw today, a wise move. Why take any chances when you have the upperhand? You'll remember when Kotooshu was in that big slump, his problem was that he'd go for the throws too early only to get burned in the end. Great win for Kaio who improves to 3-1 while Kisenosato is struggling at 1-3.

I understand the hype surrounding Komusubi Toyonoshima coming into the day, but he was on the brink and had two lucky comeback wins in his first two bouts and then dismantled a headcase on day 3. So while his 3-0 start looked good on paper due to the opponents he beat (one Yokozuna and two Ozeki), he wasn't exactly laying the wood to his opponents. Today at the tachi-ai, Toyonoshima stood straight up while Sekiwake Ama charged forward and grabbed the right outer grip that he immediately used to drive the Komusubi back with aided by a solid inside position with the left arm on the other side. Toyonoshima could have been mistaken for a bump on a log in this one because it wasn't even close with Ama scoring the easy, dominating win. And it is too much to ask the press to stop making a big deal about the fact that the taping on Toyonoshima's lower back is shaped like an "M"? Bill Clinton has an organ shaped like a "J", but who cares? Ama storms out to an impressive 4-0 start with the win while Toyonoshima receives a small dose of reality falling to 3-1. Still, for any Komusubi to be 3-1 at this point of a basho is praiseworthy.

I love M1 Wakanoho's energy, but he has to settle himself down just a bit. Today against M4 Wakanosato, he struck and immediately evaded floundering around the ring trying to pull the charging Wakanosato down. The Ho was so out of control today that Wakanosato was hardly in danger as he chased his opponent a bit and forced his way into the morozashi grip. Now at the belt, you would think that the much larger and stronger Ho would have a chance, but no....Wakanosato has the inside position and was insurmountable as he used his body masterfully to counter anything Wakanoho threw his way as he methodically marched him to the edge and out. Great win for Wakanosato (3-1) who stuck to the basics in this one while Wakanoho (0-4) took himself out of it from the start.

In perhaps the most compelling matchup of the day not involving a sanyaku or above rikishi, M1 Aminishiki used his height brilliantly against M4 Goeido staying low and thrusting into Goeido's neck to keep him completely away from the belt. With Goeido having nary a pot to piss in, Aminishiki began his tsuppari charge and had Goeido driven back and down on his ass outside the ring in a matter of seconds. On one hand Aminishiki drives me nuts with his shenanigans, but on the other hand, he can pull some marvelous sumo out of his belt as he did today. Great win as Ami moves to 2-2 while Goeido falls to the same mark.

You gotta give props to M6 Homasho for diving straight into M5 Baruto's chest at the tachi-ai leaving the two in the gappuri hidari-yotsu position, and Homasho didn't stop there using his chest as a fulcrum to try and lift Baruto up off his feet, and while he did have Baruto upright and on the move a bit, there was no way he had enough lift to conquer Baruto AND the tawara. The Estonian used the straw brilliantly as he slid around the perimeter of the ring, and when it was evident that Homasho wouldn't relent, Baruto went for the do or die left inner belt throw at the edge that just did send Homasho across the straw and down before Baruto crashed down himself. A mono-ii was called even though it wasn't that close. Gunbai to Baruto. Both rikishi are 2-2.

In an entertaining affair, M6 Tokitenku went for the early left frontal belt grip only to be denied, but he kept M5 Miyabiyama at bay with a pesky right paw stuck in the Sheriff's throat. Since Tokitenku wasn't driving with his lower body, he wasn't able to budge Miyabiyama, so former Ozeki began a methodical tsuppari attack chasing Tokitenku around the ring. You could just see how slow Miyabiyama has become in this one, but since he was in the center of the ring, he was able to react quickly enough and keep himself facing Tokitenku. In the end, Miyabiyama committed on a thrust attack driving his legs forward as he executed a final shove of Tokitenku who had nowhere to hide and ended up in the first row for his trouble. Don't look now, but Miyabiyama is 3-1 while Tokitenku settles for 2-2.

M7 Kakuryu hit M8 Dejima briefly at the tachi-ai and then just backed up hoping to catch the Dejyptian by surprise. I guess it worked enough because although Dejima pounced on the move and drove Kakuryu back near the edge, the Mongolian had room to evade to his right and slip his right hand beneath Dejima's left and use it to flip him around and down. Dejima got up slowly, but then again he always does after a loss. This one had to hurt, however, as Kakuryu was pulling and retreating the entire way, but Dejima (1-3) just couldn't overcome. The nimble Kak spurts briefly to 2-2.

M7 Roho and M9 Kyokutenho hooked up into the gappuri migi yotsu position from the tachi-ai, a position that would normally favor Tenho, but the Mongolian was more upright than the Russian, and that would prove the difference. With his body lower, Roho was able to first try and shake off Kyokutenho's grip, and when that didn't work, he had enough of an advantage that he was able to abandon his right inner grip and spin to the side of Kyokutenho dragging him down by the belt with the right hand and the head with the left. Kyokutenho did manage a force-out attempt midway through the bout, but Roho had the position all the way. This was fantastic sumo from Roho (2-2) and probably his best this year, so it's regrettable that we don't get to see it that often. Kyokutenho will surely say in his interviews afterwards that his body was too upright (koshi ga takai) as he falls to 3-1. 

One of the best bouts of the basho so far was today's M8 Takamisakari - M9 Iwakiyama matchup that saw the Cop grab an early right frontal belt grip that was countered by a right outer grip from Iwakiyama on the other side. As the two rikishi settled in, Iwakiyama pounced first with an outer grip throw that didn't spill Takamisakari to the dirt, but it did break off his outer grip. Takamisakari counters as well as anyone, however, and he recovered quickly to lurch into the moro-zashi position. Takamisakari wisely drove Iwakiyama back straightway, but at the edge Iwakiyama countered with a final outer grip attempt and a leg trip, but Takamisakari stood his ground and ended up flipping the Hutt (1-3) over and down via shitate-nage. This was a great display of attacking and counter sumo from both parties. Takamisakari moves to 2-2 with the win.

M10 Kokkai charged with his head low against M11 Tochiohzan, but Oh stopped his opponent well and worked both arms below Kokkai's body and lifted him back up in the morozashi position. Tochiohzan smartly began his force-out charge from there, but at the edge Kokkai had just enough steam to execute a right kote-nage throw as he fell out of the dohyo, and the move actually caused Tochiohzan's right hand to touch down outside the dohyo before Kokkai's body hit. Even Fujii Announcer called it real time it was that obvious, but the gunbai went to Tochiohzan and there was no mono-ii. I didn't have a problem with it though because you couldn't detect the Kokkai kote-nage throw live, and Tochiohzan completely dominated the bout. If Kokkai wants to whine afterwards like Kotooshu or Roho are prone to do after a suspect tachi-ai from their opponent, give a little better effort inside the ring and demand the mono-ii. I had no problem with the no-call today, which wouldn't be the last. Tochiohzan shines at 4-0 but he's too low on the charts to give anyone a stiffie. Kokkai is 2-2.

Ever since M12 Takekaze graced the Komusubi rank a coupla basho back, he's been just that...rank. Today against M10 Tamanoshima, Takekaze at least moved forward with his usual tsuppari attack, but his legs weren't fueling the shoves, so Tamanoshima backed up a step and just slapped the hapless Takekaze down with both hands at the back of the head sending him to a 1-3 start. Peter remains even at 2-2.

M12 Kimurayama exhibited his best sumo of the basho so far against M11 Tamakasuga keeping his eyes squarely on the King as he focused tsuppari into his neck. A few seconds in, the rookie timed a perfect inashi move with the left that sent Tamakasuga spinning to the side rendering him the easy push-out fodder from there. Kimurayama moves to 3-1 though his sumo hasn't been exactly memorable so far. KingTama is squished to 0-4.

M13 Koryu was proactive today from the tachi-ai firing a right paw into M14 Tosanoumi's neck and never relenting on the choke hold, but the taller Tosanoumi was able to fight it off after a few seconds and gain morozashi. Koryu gave a valiant effort trying to fight the hold off moving this way and that and attempting quick kote-nage moves, but Tosanoumi's position was too stifling, and the Blue Collar Man forced his younger opponent back and out in the end. Tosanoumi is a nifty 3-1 while Koryu stands at 2-2.

M13 Toyohibiki was extremely reckless in his charge today against M16 Chiyohakuho lunging at the tachi-ai and plowing forward with tsuppari even though he hadn't yet squarely connected with Chiyohakuho's body. The rookie was backed up a step or two but easily moved back and to his left causing Toyohibiki to stumble to the dirt and out of the ring. It was reported that Chiyohakuho visited the Sakaigawa-beya pre-basho for keiko, so it's understandable that Toyohibiki would want to kick his ass and show him whose boss, but for someone who has worse balance than Akebono, it was a stupid performance today. Toyohibiki falls to 1-3 while Chiyohakuho improves to 3-1.

M14 Tochinoshin threw a wicked double kachi-age (elbow/forearm to the throat) in to M15 Yoshikaze at the tachi-ai that completely neutralized Yoshi's momentum, and then he followed that up with similar forearms into Yoshikaze's upper body until he came away with a solid left outer grip. The youngster was careless in his charge, however, allowing Yoshikaze to attempt an utchari move at the edge, but Shin had such a smothering grip that he was able to force Yoshikaze down hard to the dohyo via yori-taoshi. As the two fell, Tochinoshin's left foot hit outside the dohyo before Yoshikaze's body touched down, but the gunbai went to Shin as it should have. The only thing that would have gotten the judges off of their cans today is if Asashoryu was on the winning end of either of those controversial bouts. Nonetheless, Tochinoshin improves to 3-1 while Takekaze is 1-3.

Last and by all means least, M15 Kakizoe seems to have lost his punch getting bullied today M16 Masatsukasa in a straight up push affair that was over in about three seconds and left Kakizoe picking up the pieces in the first row. At 1-3 Zoe is anything but sweet while Masatsukasa improves to 2-2.

Feel as if something's been missing so far this basho? Clancy reminds you what tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
There wasn't a lot in terms of super exciting bouts on this day, but some statements are being made in the early going that give us a flavor for things to come. 

There is definitely a sense of urgency in Asashoryu. He is covering for his lack of training by willing himself to victory. Today he deflected Aminishiki's (1-2) belt prowess by putting his head in Ama's armpit en route to a convincing yori-kiri win. Sho is 2-1. 

Hakuho's (3-0) left paw zeroed in on Wakanoho's (0-3) mae-mawashi like a magnet at the tachiai, and just like that it was game over for the overmatched challenger. A powerful uwate-nage ensued to close the deal. 

Kaio (2-1), quickly approaching 3rd all time in career Makuuchi wins, just keeps going. With a ridiculously easy win against The Pretender (Hokutoriki, 0-3) today, he is now five wins shy of none other than the iconic Taiho with 741 career victories. An unbelievable feat considering Kaio never made Yokozuna and the man he will most likely pass this basho won 32 yusho. 

Kisenosato (1-2), who not long ago couldn't buy a win over Chiyotaikai (2-1), now looks like a man playing with a child. Kise looked nothing more than a bit annoyed by Chiyo's ineffective tsuppari, defusing it with ease and flicking the gnat-like Ozeki out as if he were half his weight. 

Kotooshu-Toyonoshima. Wow. Can you say re-run? As has been the case in most of the previous three meetings between these two (in which Toyo has won all), Toyonoshima wedged his way inside on both sides, secured a deep left shitate and eventually unleashed a throw that flip-flopped the Ozeki like a pancake. Has Oshu ever heard of a countermeasure? Or studying film? At 1-2, this bout pretty much announces to the world that Kotooshu is not ready for Yokozuna promotion. Toyonoshima (0-3) visits the interview room for the third straight day by defeating one Yokozuna and two Ozeki. 

Kotomitsuki, one year removed from Ozeki promotion in his hometown arena, is trying for some more magic in front of the home folk. He lost the tachiai to Asasekiryu (0-3) and got turned to the side a bit, but managed the situation well and pulled out a shitate-nage win to stay undefeated at 3-0. 

If Kotooshu made a statement that he won't be contending for any yusho this basho, maybe Ama made a statement that he will be. He completely crushed Wakanosato today with a mean double nodowa at the tachiai followed by a dominating oshi-zumo to drive out the previously undefeated Waka (2-1) in statement-making, dominating fashion. At the very least, Ama at 3-0 looks safe to extend his current streak of nine consecutive basho as a Sanyaku rikishi.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Yokozuna Hakuho made sure today against M1 Aminishiki that the Yokozuna would be the one keeping his opponent waiting at the tachi-ai. He did just that by taking his sweet time, and as the two finally charged, Hakuho offered a left hari-te that wasn't meant to set anything up; rather, it was a move to buy time so he could read Aminishiki's tachi-ai. It was a smart tachi-ai from Hakuho because they don't call his opponent AminiSneaky for nothin'. Sneaky wasn't going for any shenanigans in this one and offered a hesitant tsuppari attack, but Hakuho reacted by grabbing Ami's left arm from around the outside and just twisted him down to the dirt via kote-nage in about two seconds. What was interesting to me in this one is that Aminishiki didn't try the same tachi-ai he used yesterday against Kotooshu. Hakuho and Kotooshu have similar statures, so you'd think what worked yesterday against Kotooshu would work today against Hakuho, but Ami knows as we all do that you can get into the Bulgarian's head. Ain't so with Hakuho who breezes to 2-0.

Yokozuna Asashoryu looked to get back on track today against youngster M1 Wakanoho, and the Russian made sure the fans would get their money's worth by staring the Yokozuna down at the starting lines...twice. I think Asashoryu appreciated what Wakanoho was doing and didn't really seem pissed by the maneuver. When the two finally clashed, Asashoryu grabbed the early left outer grip and swung Wakanoho around and towards the edge going for a kiri-kaeshi leg trip, but Wakanoho survived the move causing Asashoryu to abandon his grip and go for the quick push-out of his opponent who stood at ring's edge. Wakanoho refused to go down easily, however, and stormed back into the center of the ring, but the Yokozuna was there to greet him with moro-zashi, and as Asashoryu stayed low and kept his arse back away from a Wakanoho grip, he felled the teenager to the dirt with a left inner belt throw. This was a solid win I guess for Asashoryu who was never in trouble, but the concern is that it took him three different attempts to finish off his opponent (the initial trip move, the push at the edge, the inner belt throw). Two days in and there's definitely a crispness lacking from the Yokozuna's sumo. Fortunately, the banzuke is kind this time around that may allow Asa to stay in the yusho race.

The one thing good about Kisenosato being stuck at the Komusubi rank is it gives us a great matchup every day in week one. Today's matchup against Ozeki Kotomitsuki showed great promise, but Kotomitsuki ruined the event with a blatant tachi-ai henka to his right. He tried to mask it by not going for the pull down straightway, but as the Kid recovered and turned back around to face the center of the ring, Kotomitsuki greeted him with a morozashi grip and easily forced Kisenosato back and out from there. I was glad that Dewanoumi-oyakata was in the booth today because he never holds back on his opinions. Of course he criticized the move from Hit and Miss using the word "warui", or bad. What's in the Sadogatake-beya chanko that makes the two Ozeki afraid of Kisenosato? You figure that the two Ozeki have 4 tough opponents the whole tournament: the two Yokozuna, Ama, and Kisenosato. Side-stepping Kisenosato cuts the solid competition by 25% making it that much easier to stay in the yusho race. The shenanigans just bug me to no end, especially because they're coming from Ozeki. If it's any consolation, Kisenosato can take pride in the fact that Ozeki run from him.

Moving on, Ozeki Kaio lunged into the quick right outer grip and began to press the action against Komusubi Toyonoshima in what looked like an uwate-dashi-nage move, but Toyonoshima slipped out of the throw and incredibly pulled of a 360 and still survived. Kaio went with the flow of the Komusubi's escape and was right on top of him with a forearm to his throat, but the quicker Toyonoshima was able to evade at the edge and leverage Kaio down to the dirt with a left arm scoop throw. Toyonoshima was on the run throughout in this one, but his speed proved the difference. Great reaction today as he moves to 2-0. The Komusubi gets Kotooshu tomorrow, a rikishi he has handled well when he's been hot. It will be a make-or-break bout for the Ozeki.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai struck Asasekiryu well at the tachi-ai and then immediately went for the slapdown, a move that felled Sexy in less than two seconds. I didn't have a problem with the move today as Chiyotaikai set it up with a beefy right paw to Asasekiryu's grill that had him looking the other way from the start. Furthermore, Chiyotaikai knows that Asasekiryu wants to hunker down and stay low, so why not play off of that and just slap his sorry ass the to the dirt after a solid tachi-ai? Taikai did just that and picked up a solid second win. He gets Kisenosato tomorrow and is incredibly 11-2 all time against the Kid.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kotooshu was cautious at the tachi-ai today against M2 Hokutoriki allowing the Hoaxster to toy with a moro-te attack, but Hokutoriki's legs just weren't into it, and the Ozeki easily stood his ground before just fore-arming Hokutoriki back and off the dohyo in about five seconds. We didn't learn a lot from this bout other than Hokutoriki is just rolling over at this level on the banzuke.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku settled for a hidari-yotsu contest against M3 Futenoh with Futenoh surprisingly standing his ground and giving the Sekiwake a helluva fight. The Geeku forced the action in the bout as he should have and began to gaburu is way into a right outer grip. He got it briefly, but Futenoh was able to cut it off nicely and force the bout back to a stalemate. Kotoshogiku persisted, however, and after failing on two maki-kae attempts, he finally got the right outer deep enough to where he was able to muscle Futenoh back and out in the 30 second affair. This was good stuff from the Geeku, and you knew when Futenoh was unable to capitalize on both of Kotoshogiku's failed maki-kae attempts that he was unable to win this bout.

Sekiwake Ama exhibited another cat-quick tachi-ai today, this time charging into Tochinonada and driving the gentle giant back with the left inside position as he fished for an outer grip with the right hand. He got it about two seconds in, and as Tochinonada dug in to counter with the favored left inside position of his own, he actually drove Ama back dangerously towards the straw, but Ama was just going with the flow and went for a right outer throw using his right thigh on the inside of Tochinonada's left thigh lifting the giant up and over for a spectacular uwate-nage win. What was great about this bout was that Ama didn't care if he gave up the left inside position to Tochinonada...he was going to do his brand of sumo. He stuck with his plan throughout and came away the winner against a much larger opponent. Excellent stuff as Ama cruises to 2-0.

Hopefully M4 Goeido learned from his pansy sumo yesterday because today against M5 Baruto he crashed head on into the Estonian's torso grabbing the quick right outer grip and positioning his left arm up into Bart's armpit. Baruto stood his ground well, and as Goeido burrowed in, the Estonian managed an outer grip of his own on that right side, but it was only one fold of the belt. Goeido wanted the inside belt with his left hand, but to get it he needed to close the gap, and one thing you don't want to do is go chest to chest with Baruto. But Goeido showed nads of steel and went for the move anyway grabbing the front of Bart's belt with the left hand and lifting him up upright enough to where he had Baruto moving backwards toward the tawara. At ring's edge, Goeido never gave up and used his right arm to pinch in beautifully at Bart's left neutralizing him to the point that he finally forced him back across the straw. Are you kidding me? Goeido aligning chests with Bart and giving up the uwate yet he still comes out the victor? Goeido has IT, and he may be learning a few lessons as he goes along here, but today's sumo was a great example of Goeido's promise in this division. Baruto is off to another bad start at 0-2.

M5 Miyabiyama played it smart from the tachi-ai against M4 Wakanosato keeping Waka away from the inside with a beefy tsuppari attack, but the Sheriff couldn't quite finish his bidness, and as Wakanosato persisted, Miyabiyama was forced to swipe and evade trying to bait Wakanosato into the cheap pull down. But they didn't call Wakanosato the Barometer for nothin', and after being on the defensive for most of the bout, he finally dug his way into a moro-zashi grip and easily forced Miyabiyama back and out from there. Great persistence from Wakanosato who enjoys a 2-0 start if ya need him.

M7 Kakuryu couldn't budge M6 Tokitenku at the tachi-ai and looked lost as to what to do from there, so Tokitenku took the lead and lurched into the quick moro-zashi position and steadily stroked the Kak back and out disallowing any sort of counter move from his fellow countryman. Tokitenku comes alive at 2-0.

M7 Roho lollygagged so much at the starting lines today against M6 Homasho, that the latter pounced a split second early trying to read Roho's move as he put both fists to the dirt. Roho's right fist hadn't touched down yet, so he just stood up to reload, but the referee started yelling "nokotta, nokotta' allowing Homasho to easily push Roho back and out. But hold on...Roho got the call from the head judge in this one, who made them do it again as the Russian apparently didn't have both fists to the dirt. Still, he got a huge break because he clearly made the move to go. Anyway, as the two reloaded, it was Roho's turn to jump the gun at the tachi-ai drawing another false start. The third time was a charm, and I was most surprised that Roho went through the motions for three straight tachi-ai and didn't henka once. He paid for it as Homasho secured the slightly lower position in the hidari-yotsu contest and kept Roho moving back and around the ring. The Russian briefly tried a kote-nage attempt with the right arm, but when that didn't work, he just gave up and let Homasho force him back and out for the uneventful win. You know that lazy uncle you have who still lives in his mom's basement? That's Roho's sumo. Let's move on.

M8 Dejima stayed extremely low at the tachi-ai keeping his arse back and out of the way of an M9 Iwakiyama belt grip, but Mt. Iwaki would not budge. With any forward momentum halted at the tachi-ai, Dejima briefly went for a right outer grip, but Iwakiyama backed up a half step keeping Dejima's paw away from is belt, and the move actually sent Dejima lower in his stance. With the Dejyptian dangerously close to the dohyo, Iwakiyama simply changed his tactic of defensive sumo and slapped Dejima to the dirt by the shoulder. This was an excellent win for Iwakiyama, and it was all set up with a great tachi-ai that completely neutralized Dejima's momentum.

M9 Kyokutenho shifted to his left at the tachi-ai in an effort to grab the cheap outer grip against M8 Takamisakari, and once he got it, he immediately went for the force out charge. The Cop managed a maki-kae with his left arm as he was being forced back, but it was too little too late as Kyokutenho had the momentum and was able to force Takamisakari back and out in short order. It wasn't a full blown henka from Kyokutenho today, and I can live with that move a coupla times a basho. I have a feeling that Tenho will be a man among boys (cue Kitazakura sigh) at this level.

M10 Kokkai seemed content today to defeat M11 Tamakasuga by pull down immediately going for the slap down after the initial charge, but Tamakasuga knew what was coming and easily staved off the tactic countering with pull attempts of his own. And so it was that the two settled for an ugly pull affair, but the problem was neither of them succeeded early forcing us to watch the "action" for about 20 seconds. Both rikishi came close to pulling down the other, but the stronger Georgian won out in the end barely pulling the King to the dirt as Kokkai tiptoed the tawara. Dewanoumi-oyakata in the booth hit the nail on the head when he said, "Kokkai's active and moving around a lot out there. He's just not doing anything."

In a compelling battle down low, M1 Tochiohzan went for moro-zashi against M10 Tamanoshima at the tachi-ai and securd the position with ease. Peter is too old and slow to counter that move at this point of his career, and Oh made the yori-kiri win official in about three seconds. Surprise, surprise...Tochiohzan is off to a nice 2-0 start.

In a battle of two rookies, M13 Koryu and M12 Kimurayama traded tsuppari blows at the tachi-ai before Kimurayama went for that phantom slapdown at Koryu's chest. The Mongolian pounced on the move and shoved the compromised Kimurayama back towards the straw, but Koryu hastily committed on the final shove-out only to have Kimurayama evade at the last moment and send Koryu out with a push to his side. Koryu blew this one and knew it as he climbed back on the dohyo. Kimurayama is a shweet 2-0.

M12 Takekaze went half-assed at the tachi-ai against M13 Toyohibiki clearly in an attempt to react to his opponent instead of trying to beat him with forward moving sumo. The Nikibi complied by focusing his thrust attack into Takekaze's neck, but he was too tentative, and Takekaze was easily able to time a swipe of Toyohibiki's arms throwing him off balance and setting up the easy hataki-komi win. This was complete reactionary sumo from Takekaze, but Toyohibiki needs more of a kick in his attack.

I just don't understand M14 Tochinoshin's sumo today. Against rookie M16 Masatsukasa, Shin came with his head way too low not looking to employ any offensive tactic. Masatsukasa began slapping down at Tochinoshin's melon, but the young Georgian did nothing to counter the move. It was over in about four seconds with Masatsukasa picking up his first Makuuchi win. If I didn't know any better, Tochinoshin received a pile of caish from the Irumagawa camp after this one. Even Dewanoumi-oyakata was puzzled by Tochinoshin's tactics.

M15 Kakizoe briefly kept two hands at m14 Tosanoumi's neck at the tachi-ai, but took about one second to abandon that plan in favor of the much more effective pull sumo. Tosanoumi was on the tactic like flies to stink and made Zoe pay with the easy oshi-dashi win.

And finally, M16 Chiyohakuho completely dictated the pace against M15 Yoshikaze driving his senpai around the ring and out with a tsuppari attack that lasted 6 seconds or so. Chiyohakuho has looked just fine so far, but with that small body and not much besides the tsuppari in his arsenal, he won't rise too far in the division.

Day 2 was anti-climactic compared to shonichi, but early losses to the playuhs always makes the basho interesting.
Kenji is taking his cuts as we speak in the on-deck circle.

Day 1 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
I'm sorry to disappoint all the ladies who were looking forward to gawking at Clancy's picture on the front page this Sunday, but he got a severe case of the Madagascar runs with follicular complications (either that, or his wife decreed Sunday dishwashing day), and so you're stuck with lil' old me. There's no doubt on the outcome of this Nagoya basho, if you believe the various keiko reports coming in, this one's Hak's all the way, with the others' chances included in the margin of error. With Asashoryu injured and Kotooshu disturbed by his day 1 bout, there's just no way in Hell or elsewhere Hakuho can not take the Yusho. There's also the matter of Kotooshu's hypothetical Yokozuna run, but that's out of the picture even as we speak. And there's always the breakout watch, with Ama and Kisenosato as the principal suspects. And there are four rookies just waiting to be picked on by the savvy veterans. And there's Chiyotaikai's 1754th kadoban (and I have a sneaky feeling it's not gonna be his last). And there's also some sumo action, not just gum-flapping.

OK, let me start from the very bottom, with the two lowest ranked rookies in the division. Chiyohakuho just won the Juryo yusho with a fine 13-2 display of forward moving oshizumo, while Masatsukasa got his promotion after a 9-6 from J3. Yeah, yeah, so I don't know much about them, but I wasn't too impressed by what I saw today. Both guys charged with thrusts to the neck and chest, with ...uhm, how do I shorten this guy's name? Chiyo? Hakuho? Nope, these are already taken by the cooler guys, so I think Yohak would have to do. So, as I was saying, Yohak was the more aggressive one, driving his lightweight opponent to the straw in no-time, but failing to finish him and opting for a quick pull. That didn't work either, so the two locked in the center of the dohyo for a couple of seconds. Masatsukasa tried to wrap Chi... er... Yohak's left arm for a possible kainahineri, but the Wolf's protégé got a solid uwate on the other side, which he used to push Kasatsumasakawhatchamightcall'im to the edge. He still didn't finish him off, though, but he managed to pull him off balance by a dashinage move, making him easy push-out meat. As I was saying, not impressive, but then again, the bottom of makunouchi is rarely so.

Next up, Kakizoe and Yoshikaze, two wrestlers with similar size (small), and technique (push'em out before they know what hit'em, 'cause if they regroup, they'll mop the dohyo with you), but different skill and experience. It's no surprise Kakizoe will win this nine times out of ten. Today, after the quick, slightly sideways charge, Kakizoe showed greater mobility and awareness, evading Kaze's thrusts while getting his own in. It was over in about three seconds, just like... never mind.

One of the guys with some promise in the division is Tochinoshin the Gurujia-jin. Last basho he had his first ever makekoshi, partly due to injury (today he showed up with his elbow taped real fat), but I'm sure that's only a minor setback. In the bout against Tosanoumi, the Georgian had a cautious tachi-ai, preferring to absorb the veteran's own weak charge. It was pretty clear the Shin was favoring that taped arm, because he was always trying to push with the other one, and trying to keep it on the inside. Pretty soon, Tosanoumi was out of steam and going for the pull, but somehow he managed to weasel his way into morozashi. It was short-lived, though, because Shin managed to get his right on the inside and flip the old man onto his back by uwatenage. Good stuff, I'll give him that, but it was partly possible because of the opposition. Tosanoumi is on his way to the junkyard.

Another newcomer to this here division is Mongol Koryu, who seems to have left quite an impression with Mike. At 24, he's still fairly young, but don't expect him to be the next Ama, or even Asasekiryu (hmm... I vaguely remember saying something similar about another Mongol not having an impact on the division... nope, it must be like déja-vu or something). OK, Koryu is fairly heavy, too, at 150 kg, so he could withstand Toyohibiki's linear charge, but, seriously, when you have that, you need little else to win against Hibiki. Koryu just slipped a bit to his left and pulled a bit on his opponent's arms, and down he went like a big pancake. Is it just me, or is Toyohibiki yearning for Juryo?

The fourth newcomer has a similar status, somewhat, to the Mongolian before, no matter what anyone else tells you. He's fairly old (one year younger than Asashoryu, for that matter), fairly heavy, and he had a late debut on the pro stage (and took his time getting into Makuuchi, too). So, yeah, he had a couple of good tournaments, but today he looked rather crappy against the "spectacular" Takekaze. The veteran had the better tachi-ai, driving his bigger opponent back, but Kimurayama went into reverse and pulled down Kaze to make it five in a row for the West Side.

Another guy who's been showing great 'promise' for the last year and a half or so (Tochiohzan), managed to outpush a really old veteran who defeated his share of Yokozuna and Ozeki (in the previous century), and who can still manage to keep a Makuuchi paycheck (mostly by burning young 'promises' like today's opponent). Well, there are positives in this fight, too, like the lady in the front row finding her misplaced hairpin in her handbag and the East Side getting that elusive first win.

Kokkai returned to his old ways after getting his ass handed to him in the jo'i using his new yotsu style. And he couldn't have picked the better opponent to do it to, given Tamanoshima's 12-4 record against him. The Georgian charged pretty low and used that fore-arm to try and put some distance between himself and Tama, but all he managed to do was get himself off balance, becoming easy pull-down fodder. While Tamanoshima was finishing him, I could swear he was whispering to himself "Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?" and stifling a yawn. Kokkai looks pretty clueless, but he should be able to find salvation this low. Tamanoshima has no neck.

Now, a genuine threat in these shallow waters would have to be Japanese Kyokutenho. I don't think there is one single guy down there who can beat Techno on a regular basis, so you have to expect at least 10 wins from him any given basho. Iwakiyama is one guy Tenho is especially happy to meet on the dohyo (he was 12-2 against him coming in), and today was no different, because Tenho executed a perfect tachi-ai, immediately getting into a solid left outside right inside grip and taking Yama all the way to the straw. Iwaki tried some twisting and turning, and even managed to postpone the outcome for a few seconds, but with no uwate of his own, it was only a matter of time. Techno regrouped and pushed Iwakiyama back again, finishing him off after denying a last-ditch throw. So, as expected, the big man gets his first win, while, wouldn't you know it, Iwakiyama is dealt his first loss.

Another rikishi who should do very well this low, but whom age has caught up with, is Dejima the Purple-Legged. Today, he did what does best (and about the only thing he does), and that is charge hard and push, push, push. He actually looked good for a change, but that usually happens when you're fighting the class clown. A little rewind for those of you who didn't realize I'd already described the whole thing. Dejima charged hard and pushed Takamisakari straight out, no questions asked, no strings attached (except the sagari).

I hate to break it to you, Ossetian fans, but at M7 Roho is pretty much over-ranked. Sure, he's strong, but his sumo skill is closer to Juryo than the top division. His tachi-ai was characteristically sloppy, allowing Kakuryu to get a fat grip on the front of the mawashi. I'm also sorry to say this, but in a fight between Roho and Kakuryu, I'm rooting for Kakuryu (not that he needs it). The Mongolian used his good grip to march forward and, knowing he probably couldn't finish the bigger opponent right away, he executed a maki-kae on the other side, getting himself wrapped completely around Ho's torso, in a constrictor kinda way. Roho got his left uwate and tried to headlock Kakuryu with his left, but that always fails when you're standing up and facing your opponent, so the ugly white guy was yorikiried without much resistance. Boo hoo.

The next bout featured a burned out Homasho and a faltering Tokitenku, whose bread and butter is the pulldown. Homie's charge was so poor that Tenku only had to stand up and receive it to stop him in his tracks. Tokitenku used the same annoying low-stance-and-hands-on-opponent's-shoulders Asasekiryu uses, but instead of fishing for the belt like the other Mongol does, he gave into his sadistic tendencies and started to abuse Homasho's face with thrusts and slaps. Where was all this going? Why, to the pull-down, of course. BIG surprise there, innit?

(Mike Wesemann reporting from here)
As you can imagine, we have different games that we like to play here at the hotel during the basho. I mean, yeah, we do have our quiet times where we like to paint each other's toenails and give each other back rubs, but perhaps our favorite rough-house diversion is tag-team wrestling. We really can't afford to trash the rooms, so it doesn't get too rough. I think more than the wrasslin', we just enjoy dressing up in the spandex and tights and pulling at each other's outfits. Anyway, last night it was Martin and myself against Clancy and Kenji with the winning duo earning the rights to report on day 1. Martin had Clancy on all fours before graciously tagging off to me where I pounced on Kelly-san and drove him into submission with the Kisser hold. I won't go into the details of that move because we've got some great action to cover in these final bouts of the day, but I will take responsibility for Clancy's follicular complications.

For as slow as he's become the last two years, M5 Miyabiyama still handled M5 Baruto by never giving up on his tsuppari attack. The Estonian curiously opted for a shoving attack of his own, and I actually like to see a few shoves at the tachi-ai to set up a belt grip, but Baruto insisted on making this a push-fest throughout. He actually controlled the action for most of the bout and had Miyabiyama buckling a few times near the edge, but the Sheriff persisted and all it took was a well-timed shove to throw Baruto off balance because he just can't recover when his footing is bad. Good win for the veteran Miyabiyama today while Baruto has gotta get tough at the tachi-ai. His nonchalant attitude in the ring these days is killing him.

As he does so well, M4 Wakanosato surprised his superior opponent today in M4 Goeido by getting the early inside position and mounting the quick force-out charge from there. It was over so fast that I couldn't even figure out what Goeido was trying to do, and I had the benefit of instant replay. I don't know exactly what Goeido was thinking today, but his sumo was more akin to the term "monkeying around". You have a younger, stronger, better rikishi who was just schooled today because I don't think he took his opponent seriously. Goeido has got to revert to his smashmouth sumo that he exhibited the first few basho in the division. It seems this entire year he has been settling for henka and evasive sumo instead of just laying the wood to his opponents. Bad loss for the kid while you gotta give Wakanosato his props. I'm tellin' ya...don't let the former Sekiwake have an inside position. He can beat anyone when he gets it.

Moving to the sanyaku, it looked to me as if Sekiwake Kotoshogiku was hesitant to lock up in a full on yotsu bout with M3 Tochinonada. On one hand I can't blame him, but on the other hand, he is a Sekiwake and his opponent is M3. Tochinonada surprised the Geeku from the tachi-ai with a quick attack that knocked Kotoshogiku upright and back close enough to the edge where the gentle giant was able to finish the Sekiwake off with a surprising push-out win. Great win for Nada while Kotoshogiku can't afford to lose these bouts if he still wants his eight.

Sekiwake Ama fared much better against M3 Futenoh using moro-te tachi-ai that forced Futenoh's head upright a bit throwing him off balance slightly but to the point where Ama was able to grab the left outer grip as Futenoh hunkered back down. Futenoh fished for an inside grip with the right hand to counter, and while he technically got it, he didn't have any real inside position. Twas more of a reach. With full advantage over his opponent, Ama began swinging Futenoh around with the left outer grip while pulling at the back of his head with the right hand, a move that easily felled the overmatched Futenoh to the dirt. Great start for Ama who needs to continue to take care of bidness against these inferior opponents.

Kadoban Ozeki Chiyotaikai didn't waste his day 1 gift of a matchup against M2 Hokutoriki. The Ozeki all but raped the Joker from the tachi-ai and had him pushed back and out in about two seconds. If Hokutoriki is gonna get worked like that by Chiyotaikai, I hate to see what's coming the next 14 days from Hokutoriki's corner. As for the Ozeki, there's really nothing to gauge yet. Hokutoriki is a mere illusion this basho.

Ozeki Kaio took complete advantage of M2 Asasekiryu's recent trend of slowing things down. As Seki opted to stay low at the charge, Kaio just reached around and grabbed the lethal right outer grip with enough room to work where he was able to finger all four folds of Asasekiryu's belt. With Sexy's belt in hand, Kaio pounced first showing his strength by not necessarily throwing Asasekiryu, but by lifting him off balance with that right hand and then just driving him to the dirt as if pushing at his lower back. This was powerful stuff from Kaio who picks up a nice day 1 win. Asasekiryu's gotta move a little bit more against on older, slower opponent. He played right into the Ozeki's hand today.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki simply schooled M1 Wakanoho. There's just no other way to put it. The Ho gave a valiant effort at the tachi-ai and offered a left attempt at an outer grip, but Kotomitsuki muscled his way into moro-zashi, lifted the young Russian completely upright, and then dumped him to the clay in mere seconds with a left scoop throw. Who has Kotomitsuki been practicing with to look that sharp on day 1? Mainoumi hit it right on the head when he commented that Wakanoho needs to acquire more skill in countering his opponent's tachi-ai. According to Mainoumi, Wakanoho knew what was coming and still couldn't do anything about it. Can't disagree with the best analyst in the business. Kotomitsuki is primed for a roll this tournament as he just toyed with one of the better Maegashira rikishi on the banzuke. This was impressive stuff.

I realize that the Japanese press is trying to generate as much hype as possible by touting Kotooshu as a Yokozuna candidate, but if the Sumo Association doesn't consider him up for promotion not to mention this website, he ain't up for promotion. M1 Aminishiki made it official today in what looked a like a role reversal in rank. Kotooshu took a bit of a new approach in the bout today hurrying to the starting lines and putting both fists down before Aminishiki had even entered his final squat. The veteran Aminishiki fidgeted a bit on purpose, took his time, and then quick as a cat just brushed his fists to the dirt and charged into Kotooshu whose reaction time was on par with Ozzy's after a pint of Jack. Aminishiki briefly drove the top of his head into the Ozeki's chin, but in a flash he had both hands pushing up into Kotooshu's throat with such ferocity that the Ozeki's head and upper torso just snapped back. After knocking the Ozeki back to the edge in one fell swoop, Aminishiki easily finished him off at the edge with a short shove. This was an ass-kicking worse than the bout between these two last basho, and just what Kotooshu didn't need to start his tournament. Coupla rules we need to review here though.

Rule #1: Don't change anything up when promotion is on the line. What was Kotooshu thinking with his new approach at the tachi-ai by going Dejima and putting both fists to the starting lines before his opponent was ready? Changing up like that means you don't have confidence in the stuff that got you there in the first place. Furthermore, it's gonna be a lot tougher to henka from that position when you fight the tougher opponents.

Rule #1a: An Ozeki does not defer to a Maegashira rikishi at the tachi-ai. What was that...letting Aminishiki dictate the pace? You make him wait in his crouch for 8 seconds. Not the other way around.

I still expect Kotooshu to turn things around, but the last thing he needed was something to get into his head this early.

In the Yokozuna ranks, we were treated to one of the matchups of the basho on paper in Yokozuna Hakuho vs. Komusubi Kisenosato. It was the Kid that actually took charge in this one demanding a right outer grip from the tachi-ai, but Hakuho was low enough that he was able to counter the grip with a couple of left scoop throw attempts that not only disabled Kisenosato from pinching in with that right hand and really making things interesting, but the Yokozuna was able to break off the outer grip completely leaving him in the moro-zashi position. The only way Hakuho loses a bout when he has morozashi is to throw it, but that wasn't in the cards today as he used flawless lower body work to force Kisenosato back and out. This was a good effort from the Kid who actually grabbed the upperhand at the tachi-ai, but Hakuho never panicked and was never upright enough to get in trouble. Good sumo from both parties and a great start to the basho for Hakuho. Redeemer...there are only a handful of rikishi who can beat Hakuho straight up, and Kisenosato is one of them (with Ama being another of course).

In the day's final bout, Asashoryu used a flurry of shoves from the tachi-ai to drive Komusubi Toyonoshima back towards the edge where he grabbed a right outer grip forcing the Komusubi to dig in with the inside left position. Asa changed that right outer into a firmer grip towards the front of Toyonoshima's belt and then went for the kill, but Toyonoshima knew what was coming and countered with a left scoop throw attempt that had the Yokozuna buckling nearly to the dirt. With Asashoryu now dangerously off balance, Toyonoshima drove him back across the ring towards the muko jomen edge where the two judges sit, but it was the Yokozuna's turn to dig in, and he did so maintaining that right outer grip. Not wasting any time Asashoryu mounted charge number two and had Toyonoshima backpedaling again toward the edge on the West side, but the Komusubi dug in and countered the Yokozuna's force-out attempt shifting to his right and throwing with his own right outer grip. With Asa trying to balance on that right leg of his, Toyonoshima's attack was too much and Asashoryu incredibly put his right hand to the dohyo so as to brace his fall instead of committing on the nage-no-uchi-ai. Just like that...gunbai to Toyonoshima.

Asashoryu enjoyed a right outer grip and a left inside grip twice, yet he was unable to finish off his bidness. I couldn't help but notice that each time he went for the final kill, he lost his momentum when it was his turn to push with the right leg. Then, when Toyonoshima went for that counter throw at the end, the Yokozuna was forced to balance on just one leg...his right. When have we ever seen Asashoryu put his hand down prematurely and just take the loss? Never. By contrast, over the years we've slobbered all over ourselves pointing out how great the Yokozuna was even in defeat. Not today. My guess is that his right ankle really is bothering him. In my pre-basho report I speculated as to why Asashoryu has lost a step. I think it's the right ankle in this case, but regardless, this is not the same Yokozuna we have been used to. Prior to the basho as Asashoryu was losing five straight to Kotomitsuki on two separate occasions, it was reported that the Yokozuna had solid belt grips...just as he had today. It's one thing not to be able to force out Kotomitsuki, but it's quite another being unable to handle Toyonoshima. Watch for the kyujo announcement early on. Asa is not right.

Already we've seen some keys losses after one day that are beginning to shape this tournament, but Martin, don't write off Kotomitsuki just yet.
Hellifino who's reporting tomorrow.












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