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Day 1
Martin

Day 2
Mike
Day 3
Clancy
Day 4
Mike
Day 5
Mark
Day 6
Mario
Day 7
Mike
Day 8
Mike
Day 9
Mike
Day 10
Mike
Day 11
Clancy
Day 12
Mario
Day 13
Mike
Day 14
Mike

Senshuraku Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Clancy had something come up, so I'll add just a few senshuraku comments. First, when the yusho is decided before the final day, the action in the ring largely turns to exhibition caliber sumo. Sure, there are still legitimate bouts, and while I don't think there's much negotiating going on the night before senshuraku, it's just a different atmosphere as one guy may not want to ruin another guy's streak or another guy with nothing to lose may choose to ease up against his 7-7 opponent. An example of what I'm talking about was yesterday's Hakuho - Harumafuji bout. I'm of the opinion that the bout wasn't arranged, but I do think that Harumafuji was not out to beat the Yokozuna. He walked right into a gappuri yotsu bout, a position from which he couldn't win; yet, he was still able to give the fans their money's worth by digging in, making Hakuho work, and then putting a little bit more flair into his fall as he was thrown to the dirt.

If this intro makes you uncomfortable, let me just refer you to a headline I saw Monday morning in Japan from Sankei Sports entitled, "Independent committee will punish yaocho sumo." The gist of the article is that an independent committee that was formed when this gambling/yakuza mess started a month or two ago to help clean things up announced that rikishi will be punished moving forward for any type of association with members of the yakuza, and they will also be punished for any involvement in yaocho. Simply put, you can't try and fix a problem if it doesn't exist. We know all about association with the yakuza now, and there are surely more stories to come, and let's face it, we all know about yaocho as well. On our forum, Mario has translated an interview with Baruto where he candidly discusses various subjects with the Estonian media, and one of the topics is that Baruto thinks Kaio is near retirement. Sure, the Ozeki will give it his all in September, but as long as there is this huge push to clean up sumo including eliminating yaocho, Kaio really doesn't have a leg to stand on. He knows it, and so he'll likely hang it up before the year's through.

I've gotten off on a bit of a tangent here, but my purpose is to say let's take the senshuraku bouts for what they are in most cases. I won't review all of the bouts, but let's touch on some of the more significant ones starting with Hakuho vs. Baruto. Like the Yokozuna's bout with Harumafuji yesterday, I don't think Baruto was dead set on winning this bout. That doesn't mean he wasn't trying to win; it means he wasn't thinking long and hard (cool) about his approach to the bout or employing a strategy to try and throw the Yokozuna off in hopes of an upset. Like Harumafuji yesterday, Baruto just walked right into the gappuri yotsu position that saw both dudes with right inside and left outside belt grips. From here it was game on with a nice exhibition (note the term) of chikara-zumo from sumo's two best rikishi. Baruto pressed first using his left outer grip to try and throw Hakuho off balance and then move him back towards the straw, but every time the Yokozuna began to move, he threatened his right thigh on the inside of Baruto's left sending the signal that a counter move was in place should the Estonian continue his move. The bout assumed this pattern for the first half, but Baruto tired out leaving the two rikishi back in the center of the ring to catch their breath.

For part two, it was now Hakuho's turn to make his move, which he did using the left outer grip. Hugging his gal in tight, Hakuho lifted Baruto upright and then used his left thigh on the inside of Baruto's right to lift the Estonian sideways as he threw with the left outer grip. Baruto wouldn't go down easy thanks to his height advantage, so there the two stood with Baruto's right leg pointing straight up in the air and Hakuho's left leg unable to raise him any further. With Baruto balancing on his left leg and on the brink, Hakuho needed that last gasp move to finish him off, and it came in the form of the greatest move we've seen all year, a left knee right into Baruto's exposed groin that polished the Ozeki off and sent him crashing down to the dohyo. The crowd was going crazy throughout the bout, the Yokozuna kept his winning streak alive, and Hakuho also became the first rikishi since 1909 to win three basho in a row with perfect records. Everyone won today, so it was mission accomplished as Hakuho finishes 15-0 while Baruto stomachs an 8-7 record thanks to an 0-4 finish down the stretch.

Preceding this bout was a compelling matchup between the other two Ozeki in Kotooshu and Harumafuji. There was nothing really on the line 'cept pride, but that's good enough for me, and I really liked how this bout played out because it showed exactly the direction each rikishi was heading by basho's end. Harumafuji took complete control from the tachi-ai driving his hands into Kotooshu's throat using a series of tsuppari to knock the Bulgarian back to the edge so fast that less than two seconds in, it looked as if Kotooshu had already stepped out. But somehow, Kotooshu's right foot which was resting well over the tawara didn't touch the sand outside, so he was still alive. Well, sort of. There he stood like a sitting duck in a squatting position (unko-zuwari) on top of the tawara with his opponent coming in for the kill. Kotooshu jumped back towards the center of the ring, but the move was so reckless that Harumafuji easily used Kotooshu's own momentum against him this time getting to the side of him and sending him all the way across the dohyo and out the other side with a series shoves. Harumafuji completely dominated this one, but the funny thing is that had these two fought in week one, Kotooshu would have won. Kotooshu was so lazy in today's tachi-ai that he deserved to get his ass kicked, but I see two problems with these rikishi. First, Harumafuji was not prepared at the start of the basho and was thrashed by undeserving rikishi to the tune of a 2-4 start. He made up for it from there, but an Ozeki can't start a basho out 2-4, especially when the Yokozuna leaves zero room for error. As for Kotooshu, he started fast but then just folded up the tent after that first loss to Kakuryu. Both guys finish the basho a mere five bouts off the lead at 10-5, and once again, you could totally see the direction these two were heading in this bout.

In that same vein, Sekiwake Kisenosato deserved to lose his bout against M6 Kakuryu today even when the Mongolian was content to just give it to him. As he's done the entire basho, Kisenosato charged too high and with his arms too wide open, but Kakuryu played nice and instead of going for moro-zashi or thrusting his opponent back, he just back pedaled and said "do me now" as he went for a pull down of the the charging Sekiwake. Kisenosato complied, but his footwork was so sloppy that as Kakuryu evaded at the edge, the Sekiwake just crashed to the dirt thanks to a counter shoulder slap from the Kak as he tiptoed the tawara . What a disaster for Kisenosato who finished 7-8 after the table was set beautifully for him. The good news is that he will still be a Komusubi for September, but shame on him and his 1-6 finish. No wonder the Japanese are so depressed about sumo right now. As for Kakuryu, he moves to a sweet 11-4 picking up a deserved Ginosho in the process.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku allowed himself to be beaten by an inferior M7 Wakanosato (9-6) who stood with both arms on the inside fishing for moro-zashi even as Kotoshogiku was driving him back to the edge. Running out of room, it was clear that Wakanosato wasn't gonna get moro-zashi, so he just stepped to his side and slapped Kotoshogiku down by the shoulder sending the Sekiwake to a 5-10 record. Just awful effort from Kotoshogiku who gave up on this basho a week ago.

Komusubi Hakuba used a severe henka to his left trying to mask it a bit by going for the outer grip of M7 Tokusegawa's belt rather than simply slapping him down, but this was complete nonsense as Henkaba easily dispatched of his countryman in a second and change. Having picked up a rare win, Hakuba still only finished 4-11. It's henka or bust for this loser.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Tochinoshin grabbed the early left outer grip against M4 Kitataiki (6-9) and had him forced back and across with little argument. Shin finished the basho okay and beat the scrubs whom he should have beaten, but we needed better effort from him in week 1. At 6-9, he'll look to regroup in September.

Let's touch on the M1 Tochiohzan - M3 Tokitenku matchup for several reasons. First, Tokitenku was on a major roll, and then with both guys standing at 8-6 coming in and a host of sanyaku slots open for Aki, these guys were fighting for a sanyaku berth come September. Wasn't even close though as Tochiohzan demanded moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and drove Tokitenku to the side (in front of the head judge) and out with a hint of wasabi in his attack. Great stuff from Tochiohzan who likely earned a Sekiwake slot for next basho as he finished 9-6 to Tokitenku's 8-7.

Tochiohzan should be joined by M2 Aran who incredibly finished the basho on a 10-0 run after beating M13 Homasho at his own game with a few tsuppari at the tachi-ai and then a well-timed shoulder slap as the two were settling down low into the wrasslin position. I would have liked to have seen the Russian go for the belt straightway, but this bout was good in that it put Homasho's run into a bit more perspective. Both guys finished 11-4; both garnered deserved Kantosho; and both made solid contributions to the basho. What more can you ask?

Well, well, M13 Kimurayama (8-7) finally scored a kachi-koshi in the Makuuchi division using what else but a tachi-ai henka to his left and quick shoulder slap-down of an unsuspecting M9 Kakizoe (3-12). Yes, there is a definite parallel between Kakizoe's record and his inability to suspect a henka in this one. And yes, another parallel exists in the fact that the only way Kimurayama can win in this division is with the tachi-ai henka.

M10 Mokonami worked harder for his kachi-koshi (8-7) than he probably had to with a methodic force-out win over M11 Takekaze (6-9) in a hidari-yotsu contest that was determined as soon as Moe got the right outer grip.

It was genuinely nice to see M15 Bushuyama (8-7) pick up his senshuraku kachi-koshi against M12 Gagamaru (5-10) who deserves a standing-O for his ability to play himself right out of the division (from the M12 rank no less!) with as messy'a display of sumo as I've ever seen. At least Gagamaru got off the starting lines today in the hidari-yotsu contest, but when you can't out-duel Bushuyama at the belt, and you're huge as Gagamaru is, you've got serious issues. Like the bout that proceeded it, as soon as Bushuyama grabbed the right outer grip, it was curtains. Now that I think about it, Gagamaru may still be around in September as the dudes busted for gambling and forced to sit out will fall hard likely keeping more undeserving guys in the division.

Finally, M15 Hokutoriki (8-7) was a cautious clay in his bout against J1 Kotokasuga that saw the Lil' Yokozuna pick up a senshuraku kachi-koshi of his own by managing to keep the Juryo rikishi away from his belt with a moro-te tachi-ai and a series of straight-arms into the Kasuga's neck. The bout lasted for a painful 15 seconds or so where it was obvious that Hokutoriki was trying to time a pull down rather than use sound sumo basics to just go out and win, but he managed to get Kotokasuga off balance enough in the end to where he polished him off with a scoop throw.

Day 14 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Entering the day, the only real question regarding the yusho was would Homasho make it official by losing to Tokusegawa? Or would Homie defeat the Mongolian and force Hakuho to go through the motions against Harumafuji? The fact that the Sumo Association is pairing Homasho with a guy ranked M7 instead of an Ozeki tells you they already know the outcome. Beyond the yusho, the biggest news atop the dohyo of course is Hakuho's winning streak. By beating Kotooshu yesterday, he tied Taiho with 45 straight wins, so the Yokozuna was looking not only to put himself alone in third place all time with a win over countryman Harumafuji, but he sought that next to last step in order to become the first rikishi since the Showa era to win three straight basho at 15-0. It's only fitting that we start at the top, so let's get right to the Hakuho - Harumafuji contest.

After McDonald's marched their usual five banners around the ring, Hakuho and Harumafuji lurched into the immediate migi-yotsu position where the Yokozuna grabbed a left outer grip straightway. But Hakuho's outer grip was only on one fold of the Ozeki's belt, and he was pulling up so hard on it that Harumafuji's belt actually started to come unraveled. I think the prospect of whether or not we'd get to see Harumafuji's jewels was more intense than the yusho race has been the entire basho, but alas, Harumafuji's belt kept its composure, and Hakuho kept his chest aligned squarely with the Ozeki's. In the midst of the grappling, Harumafuji also grabbed a left outer grip coincidentally on one fold of the Yokozuna's belt, but there is absolutely no way that Harumafuji can beat Hakuho from a gappuri yotsu position, so now it was just a matter of how the Yokozuna was gonna do the Ozeki. After some prolonged grappling in order to give the crowd their money's worth where each rikishi wrenched the other this way and that, Hakuho ended the funny bidness with a right scoop throw that sent Harumafuji down to the dohyo landing on his back making it look more intense than it really was.

There was really no question in this one as Hakuho not only puts a stamp on his yusho but surpasses Taiho for third place all time at 46 consecutive wins. Next in the Yokozuna's sites is Chiyonofuji and his record of 53 consecutive wins, and you look at the entire field and wonder how in the hell Hakuho is gonna lose for the rest of the year. Futabayama's 69 consecutive wins once seemed like an insurmountable record, and I still remember when Asashoryu was dominating the sport, Mainoumi was asked what record he thought would be the hardest to break for anyone, and he replied Futabayama's 69. Now, though, Hakuho is just 23 wins away, and there simply is nobody that can stop the Yokozuna 'cept himself. He should dismantle Baruto tomorrow like a hot knife through butter making it a cool 15-0 while Harumafuji falls to an innocuous 9-5.

The featured Ozeki duel of the basho occurred today in Baruto vs. Kotooshu, but this one lacked any oomph and was a microcosm of how these two have been fighting the entire basho. Neither rikishi wanted to commit at the tachi-ai as Baruto employed his usual tsuppari minus the de-ashi while Kotooshu kept both arms in tight looking for moro-zashi, but the two found themselves separated for a bit and dancing around the ring until Kotooshu finally ducked in for the hidari-yotsu position keeping his arse way back away from a Baruto right outer grip. Kotooshu struck first--if you can call it that--with an uchi-muso attempt trying to trip Baruto up with a right hand to the inner thigh, but it was so light that Baruto easily shook it off with a left scoop throw attempt that sent Kotooshu on the run. The Bulgarian still managed to maintain a left inside grip, however, and when the dust settled, he found himself with a right outer grip to boot. Kotooshu wasted no time going for the force-out win while Baruto countered by trying to lift his opponent up high, but Kotooshu was simply the better tactician in this one as Kotooshu's superior sumo skills easily outclassed Baruto's strength. Gunbai to Kotooshu with a nice force-out win as he moves to 10-4. Baruto can't even win in double-digits now at 8-6.

M3 Tokitenku used a hari-zashi tachi-ai against Sekiwake Kotoshogiku slapping quickly with the left while getting the right arm on the inside. Kotoshogiku complied with his own right inside position and immediately went into dry hump mode, a move we've seen him do without the outer grip several times this basho. But Tokitenku has been on his game of late and shook that careless force-out charge off adding insult to injury by grabbing the left outer grip. From here the two rikishi jockeyed for position a bit, but this was Tokitenku's bout all the way as he overpowered the Geeku for an impressive yori-kiri win. Tenku picks up his third kachi-koshi in as many basho standing at 8-6 while Kotoshogiku falls to a paltry 5-9.

Sekiwake Kisenosato's footwork was suspect from the tachi-ai, so it was a good thing his opponent was M4 Kitataiki, who couldn't take advantage in a bout that saw the two hook up in the migi-yotsu position. Kisenosato used his strength advantage to force his way to the right outer grip, and even though it was just two folds of the belt, Kisenosato will win this one every time when Kitataiki is struggling as he has been this basho. The force-out win came in about five seconds. With both rikishi 6-7 coming in, Kisenosato keeps his hopes alive at 7-7 while Kitataiki's make-koshi is official at 6-8. At least the Association will make Kisenosato earn his stripes tomorrow against Kakuryu.

Komusubi Tochinoshin went for the left outer belt from the tachi-ai against M8 Yoshikaze, but Yoshikaze got the hell outta there quick turning the bout into a wild tsuppari affair where Yoshikaze attempted to fight his opponent off while Tochinoshin kept his eyes squarely on Yoshikaze's mawashi. About five seconds in, Tochinoshin pounced and secured moro-zashi of all holds, and while Yoshikaze executed a maki-kae bringing his right arm from the outside in, it didn't matter as Tochinoshin was preparing for a tsuri attempt that worked to perfection. Yoshikaze didn't even shake his legs around like mad in the air it was that decisive. Tochinoshin improves to 5-9 with the tsuri-dashi win, but he's had a very unimpressive basho. Speaking of unimpressive, Yoshikaze falls to 4-10.

Komusubi Hakuba and M9 Shimotori clutched each other in the gappuri migi yotsu position from the start, and as Shimotori kept his gal in close, there was nothing Hakuba could do but whisper sweet nothings in Shimotori's ear as the M9 executed a flawless force-out move to win in about three seconds. No way shoulda Komusubi get done like this by an M9, but Hakuba (3-11) ain't no Komusubi. Shimotori moves to 5-9 with the win.

M1 Asasekiryu grabbed a left frontal belt grip against M10 Mokonami that was actually an uwate because Moe's right arm was pinned completely to the inside. From here it was easy peasy as Sexy first went for a dashi-nage and then finished his opponent off with an uneventful yori-kiri. I thought Moe had some mo coming into this, but he was schooled today by the Secretary and finds himself at 7-7. Asasekiryu limps forward to 4-10.

M1 Tochiohzan took advantage of a lackadaisical M3 Kyokutenho securing moro-zashi a second into their bout. Tenho had managed a left outer grip, but Tochiohzan shook that off with ease and just drove Kyokutenho to the side and out right in front of the head judge. Oh picks up a well-deserved kachi-koshi at 8-6 while Kyokutenho couldn't care less that he suffers make-koshi at 6-8.

In probably my most anticipated bout of the day, M2 Aran exhibited a fantastic tachi-ai taking M6 Kakuryu by surprise. I'm not sure if the Kak was looking for a hari-te or what, but his right arm was too high, so Aran immediately seized the left inside position coupled with a right outer grip that he used to drive Kakuryu immediately back to the straw. This looked like an easy victory for the Russian, but he let up with Kakuryu still in the ring thanks to the toku-dawara, and the Kak was somehow able to force the bout back to the center of the ring. Still, with both guys in the gappuri hidari yotsu position, the Kak was had. After gathering his wits for a spell, Aran lifted Kakuryu clear off his feet and marched him over to the edge of the dohyo where he set him down inside the ring but blasted him off the dohyo via yori-kiri. Both rikishi stand at 10-4, and with Aran at the M2 rank, he's looking to take over a Sekiwake slot. Great stuff here.

M13 Homasho looked hesitant at the tachi-ai against M7 Tokusegawa, and my guess is the nerves finally got to him. Not that he was gonna yusho anyway, but if he lost, it would give Hakuho the yusho on the spot. With Homie lost at the tachi-ai, both dudes sorta felt each other out for a few seconds before finally hooking up in the migi-yotsu position. The taller Tokusegawa had the advantage, however, as he leaned in tight keeping Homasho way far away from the left outer he wanted. The Mongolian must have sensed he was in charge because he pulled the trigger on a right inside belt throw that threw Homasho off balance to the point where Tokusegawa next grabbed the decisive left outer grip. Once obtained, Tokusegawa forced Homasho back and out with some mustard, and it was a two for one deal as the gyoji took a wrong turn and found himself behind Homasho just as the dude was being pushed off the dohyo. Turned out that the gyoji was sent flying into the first row while Homasho just crashed to the dirt. A mono-ii was called as Tokusegawa got sloppy with his footwork and actually stepped out of he ring before Homasho touched down, but Homie's left foot was on the straw with his heel touching the sand on the outside enabling the men in black to make the correct call. Tokusegawa picks up his kachi-koshi for his effort at 8-6 while Homasho falls to 11-3. It was also at this point that Hakuho's 15th career yusho became official. Pretty fitting for the way sumo's luck has gone the last little while.

M10 Tosayutaka and M7 Wakanosato hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, and the dude at 7-6, Tosayutaka, obviously wanted it more as he bullied his way in deep grabbing the right outer grip for insurance. At this point I just had to laugh because Wakanosato's arms are so short, he was having trouble keeping his inside grip with the left hand, and then his right hand was farther away from Tosayutaka's belt than a Japanese rikishi's chances of taking a yusho in the next five years. Not that Croconosato cared since he scored his KK yesterday, so it wasn't surprising to see Tosayutaka force his man back and out picking up an 8-6 record of his own.

M15 Hokutoriki came out with his usual moro-te tachi-ai against M9 Kakizoe, but the Lil' Yokozuna just couldn't resist trying to sneak in a pull attempt, and when he did, Sweet Zoe Jane pounced and had the Joker forced back and out in a flash. Funny stuff as Hokutoriki (7-7) had a chance to clinch his kachi-koshi in the one. Kakizoe is still licking his wounds from this basho at 3-11.

M11 Takamisakari jumped out of his crouch with arms sorta low against M12 Gagamaru, but Lady Gaga was already on his way down to the dirt having slipped coming up out of his stance at the tachi-ai. This had to be the worst display of sumo I think I've ever seen, and that's saying quite a bit. Even Takamisakari rubbed salt in Gaga's wounds afterwards staring at him like he was some kind of retard. I thought I heard Takamisakari whisper, "are you stupid or something," and then Gagamaru countered "hey, that's my line." Stupid is as stupid does as Gagamaru literally falls to 5-9. Takamisakari moves to 9-5 for basically showing up and coming out of his squat at the tachi-ai.

I was glad to see that a desperate M12 Kokkai didn't henka in his contest with M11 Takekaze. Rather, the Georgian used a nifty kachi-age tachi-ai with the right arm into Takekaze's throat area before immediately going for the back of Takekaze's head and pulling him down to the dohyo in a decisive wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am fashion. Kokkai's done it at 8-6 while Takekaze is the converse.

M13 Kimurayama has never scored a kachi-koshi in eight basho in the Makuuchi division, but at 6-7 coming in with a date against J4 Koryu, Kim still had hope keeping pace with the lightweight Koryu as the two traded tsuppari from the tachi-ai and then taking full advantage of an ill-advised pull attempt from Koryu. Kimurayama got the de-ashi moving at that point, charged so hard that he found himself in the migi-yotsu position, and then just persisted with more feisty shoves until Koryu (8-6) stepped out. Kimurayama once again finds himself at 7-7, but history ain't on his side.

J1 Kotokasuga sealed his date to the big dance next basho by shoving at M14 Tamawashi's extended left arm to send the Mongolian stumbling to the side. Then, as Tamawashi regained his balance and tried to re-solidify a forward-moving position, Kotokasuga went for a quick pulldown to take care of his bidness as he improves to 8-6. Tamawashi's make-koshi becomes official at 6-8, and you have to say the Mawashi really had no direction this basho.

M15 Bushuyama was on the brink at 6-7, but against J5 Tamanoshima he kept both arms in tight as he charged hard looking for moro-zashi. Tamanoshima didn't let him get both arms inside, but for all intents and purposes, Bushuyama has four limbs protruding from his torso if yaknowhadduhmean, so with his hands still low, he used excellent de-ashi coupled with his mammaries to force Tamanoshima back and across with little argument. At 7-7, let's hope Bushuyama can o'ercome tomorrow as well.

And finally, M16 made it look easy against M16 Shotenro (who hasn't made it look easy against Shotenro?) securing the migi-yotsu position from the start and forcing his opponent to the side and out in three seconds flat. Tamaasuka moves to 5-9 and may have discovered something by taping up his stomach. Shotenro falls to 4-10.

Dunno what Clancy's gonna have to write about tomorrow.

Day 13 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Heading into day 13, the only rikishi left who could thwart Hakuho's stranglehold on the yusho was M13 Homasho, but he'd have to overcome Sekiwake Kisenosato to do so unless Hakuho was surprised by Ozeki Kotooshu (don't get your hopes up). I would have thought BP had a better chance of plugging up that oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for good than Homasho would extending the yusho race into day 14, but day 13 would bring at least one surprise. And before we get to the bouts, let me just give a shout out to McDonald's who has faithfully sponsored the final bout each day with a solid five kensho. With most other sponsors having backed out of the tournament, I think McDonald's has played it extremely smart by having their banners marched around the ring each day prior to the final bout. This digest program NHK is doing will show the kensho banners for the Yokozuna bout, so good ole McDonald's is largely getting free publicity on NHK about 6:45 PM each day as five of their banners are marched around the ring with that unmistakable yellow M on a bright red background. Marketing at it's finest. I'm lovin' it!

So don't forget the cheeseburger and fries as we turn our attention to the action in the ring, starting with the Grand Poobah (musubi-no-ichiban in Japanese) that featured Yokozuna Hakuho and Ozeki Kotooshu. After a false start instigated by Hakuho who was stalling at the shikiri-sen, the two reloaded and charged in a tachi-ai that saw Hakuho demand the right inside position coupled with a left outer grip thanks to a lackluster charge from the Bulgarian. With Hakuho in complete control, he made sure he stood just to the side of the Ozeki keeping Kotooshu far away from a left grip of his own before immediately using that outer grip to wrench the Ozeki this way and that as he probed for an opening. At one point in the bout, Kotooshu attempted the only move he could, which was an inside belt throw attempt that he tried to make meaningful with his left thigh pushing on the inside of Hakuho's right, but the Yokozuna's positioning was just too good. With Kotooshu's offensive finished, Hakuho said "I'll show you frisky" as he used his left thigh at the back of Kotooshu's right threatening a kiri-kaeshi. Kotooshu jumped back and out of the move, but in doing so, his footwork was shot, so Hakuho pounced on the development and threw the Ozeki to the dirt with that left outer grip obtained at the tachi-ai. Hakuho was largely toying with the Ozeki in this one as the Yokozuna picks up his 45th win in a row, a feat good enough to put him in a tie for third place all time with the legendary Taiho. If anyone is counting, Chiyonofuji is in second place all-time with 53 consecutive wins while Futabayama holds the record with 69 straight (cool, I typed 69). As for Hakuho's record in Nagoya, he improves to 13-0 with the win while Kotooshu falls to a quiet 9-4.

So, with Hakuho having clinched his 13th win, it was up to M13 Homasho to find a way to solve Sekiwake Kisenosato in order to keep the yusho race alive...on paper anyway. And solve the Sekiwake he did as Homasho used that aggressive tachi-ai we've seen all basho to completely neutralize the Kid's hari-zashi charge and stand him upright just enough to where Homasho put both hands on Kisenosato's teets (moro-hazu) and just drove him back and out as if he weren't even there. I'll have to go back and check my notes, but I'm pretty sure Kisenosato didn't withdraw from the tournament that's how easy it was today for Homasho, who moves to 11-2 with the surprising win and has a stranglehold on the Kantosho and Ginosho I'd say. As for the Sekiwake, he falls to 6-7 with the loss, and you have to wonder just a little bit whether or not he took one for team Japan today.

Before we get to the rest of the bouts, let's review the yusho race while we technically still have one. Everyone has been eliminated except for Hakuho and Homasho, and with the Yokozuna leading the M13 by two bouts with two days left, a single win for Hakuho the final two days or a single loss for Homasho gives Hakuho his career 15th yusho. Homasho draws Tokusegawa tomorrow while Hakuho faces Harumafuji.

Let's move on to our Ozeki duel for the day that featured Baruto vs. Harumafuji. Baruto drove both of his hands into Harumafuji's neck at the tachi-ai, but that only works when you combine it with de-ashi. The Estonian had none in what has been a recurring theme the entire basho, and so Harumafuji was able to easily shake it off pushing both hands into Baruto's torso to create separation between the two rikishi. Back to square one, Harumafuji twice faked up high and then ducked in low in an attempt to get to the inside, but both times, Baruto fought him off with tsuppari. With the rikishi still separated, Baruto had his arms semi-extended waiting for the next volley, but Harumafuji switched to plan B, which was to grab Baruto's left arm and give it a helluva wrench in a tottari that was so severe, you were worried that the victim would be injured. Baruto could've dug in and risked getting his arm torn off, or he could have followed his body's natural reaction, which was to relieve the pain in his arm by going the direction Harumafuji wanted him to go: forward and out. Baruto wisely chose the latter leaving him the easy okuri-dashi fodder in the end. This was good stuff from Harumafuji who moves to 9-4, but it was also survival sumo in my opinion. Baruto's failure to drive with his lower body at the tachi-ai left him susceptible in this one as he falls to a measly 8-5.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku got his right arm on the inside of Komusubi Hakuba's left side faster than you could say "lightweight," and despite the lack of a left outer grip to supplement, Kotoshogiku began his force-out charge anyway knowing Hakuba had no means to counter. About halfway to the edge, Kotoshogiku did grab that left outer, and from there it was all academic as the Sekiwake smoked Hakuba like a fine cigar in moving to 5-8. Hakuba is a well-deserved 3-10.

Komusubi Tochinoshin stepped to his left at the tachi-ai to grab the cheap outer grip against M3 Tokitenku, but Shin was in no hurry, so Tokitenku just squared back up with his opponent grabbing a left outer grip of his own leaving the two in the gappuri yotsu position. From here, Tochinoshin pressed first lifting Tokitenku clear of his feet in tsuri fashion, but since the two were in the center of the ring, Tochinoshin had to set him down inside the straw. Tochinoshin tried the move a second time only to have Tokitenku survive again and square things up back in the center of the ring, but when Tokitenku failed at an attempt to break off Shin's outer grip by wrenching his hips and then an uchi-gake leg trip, it was apparent that he had no other options. On the third try, Tochinoshin picked Tokitenku up one last time and marched him over to the edge of the ring where he eventually forced the stubborn Mongolian out in the end. It was decent sumo for the Komusubi, but too little way too late as Tochinoshin only improves to 4-9 while Tokitenku falls to 7-6 with the loss.

In a bout likely featuring our two Komusubi for the next basho, M2 Aran moved to his left at the tachi-ai immediately going for the cheap pull down, which Tochiohzan bought hook, line, and sinker. Justifiably, the Nagoya crowd was groaning after this one, but as much as I hated to see Aran go for a henka, it was pretty half-assed not to mention slow, but Tochiohzan just dawdled forward at the tachi-ai completely unaware of the possibility that Aran would move. A more alert rikishi crushes the compromised Aran today, and while there's no excuse for Aran's henka, Tochiohzan shares some responsibility in this loss as he falls to 7-6. Aran cheaply moves to 9-4, and while his kachi-koshi this basho has been deserved, it's sumo like this that keeps most sumo fans limp.

M9 Kakizoe struck M1 Asasekiryu and then quickly backpedaled looking for a pull opportunity while also guaranteeing Asasekiryu wouldn't grab his belt. As the two wrassled for a few seconds, Kakizoe grabbed a hold of Asasekiryu's right arm in kote-nage fashion and attempted a throw, but the Secretary survived and turned the tables by next grabbing Kakizoe's left arm in kote-nage fashion and showing everyone how it's done flipping Kakizoe clean onto his back in the corner of the dohyo. Asasekiryu moves to just 3-10 with the win while Kakizoe's 2-11 record is almost as bad as his exaggerated fall today.

M4 Kitataiki breezed right through M2 Aminishiki as if Shneaky weren't even there. Great stuff from Kitataiki who worked so fast I didn't even see what happened as he moves to 6-7. Aminishiki's basho is over with six wins.

M6 Kakuryu slammed hard into M3 Kyokutenho at the tachi-ai in what was shaping up to be a migi-yotsu clash, but the Kak--slippery as he is--maneuvered his left arm from the outside in giving him moro-zashi, and from there, he wouldn't be denied as he wrenched the taller Tenho to the side and out scoring the decisive yori-kiri win as he moves to 10-3 if ya need him. Kakuryu wins in double-digits for the first time in five basho whilst Kyokutenho falls to 6-7.

I thought I had seen everything in sumo until today when M7 Wakanosato executed a hari-zashi tachi-ai so quick that even Asashoryu gave pause. Waka smacked M10 Mokonami in the face with his right hand while securing the left inside position on the other side. Mokonami was dazed by the attack and nearly gave up moro-zashi, but it was all he could do to awkwardly pinch inwards at Wakanosato's stubs as he locked on the inside position. This bout musta lasted awhile because the digest cut away the middle portion, but I'm sure we didn't miss much as Wakanosato methodically forced Mokonami to the edge before executing a few belly shoves to seal the deal (or sill the dill as we say in Utah). I've been enjoying Wakanosato's brief resurgence this basho as he quietly captures kachi-koshi at 8-5. Moe's still gotta bitta work at 7-6.

M12 Kokkai charged low against M7 Tokusegawa threatening moro-zashi with a right arm on the inside and a left arm close, and as Tokusegawa tried to fight off Kokkaine's left arm, the Georgian attempted a kote-nage-like throw with said left arm that was more of a pull from the kote-nage position than it was a throw. Nevertheless, is sent Tokusegawa stumbling forward to the dirt, but this bout was so awkward, Kokkai's left knee touched down about the same time as his opponent's hand. A mono-ii was called for, but Kokkai's victory was correctly upheld as Tokusegawa's hands clearly touched the dohyo before Kokkai's knee. As if anyone cared. Both rikishi are still in good shape at 7-6.

M8 Yoshikaze latched onto the front of M12 Gagamaru's belt at the tachi-ai, and the rookie seemed content to halt any hint of a forward charge opting instead to try and counter Yoshikaze's left inside position with a right kote-nage throw as he backed up, but the move was slow as molasses and gave Yoshikaze an opening where he toppled Lady Gaga to the dirt with a left scoop throw. I don't know if I've ever been more puzzled about a rikishi than I have about Gagamaru, whose make-koshi became official today at 5-8. Sometimes the guy tries to move forward and take the offensive, but on other days he's content to stand there like a bump on a log and plead for his opponent to "do me now." Gagamaru can probably keep himself in the division with one more win the final two days, but it's probably no coincidence the first three letters of his shikona are G-A-G. Yoshikaze limps to 4-9.

M15 Hokutoriki employed his usual moro-te tachi-ai against M9 Shimotori who didn't seem all that hellbent in brushing it off, so with Shimotori upright and Hokutoriki's hands clutching his opponent's neck, Hokutoriki switched gears on a dime and pulled Shimotori forward by the back of the head making it official in about two seconds flat. Hokutoriki is close at 7-6 while Shimotori falls to 4-9.

M16 Shotenro struck way too high against M10 Tosayutaka, and though he held Tosayutaka at bay for one second with a right kote-nage grip, Tosayutaka slipped out of it and into the moro-zashi position where he bulldozed Shotenro back and across without argument improving to 7-6. Shotenro is Juryo bound at 4-9.

Who in the hell has been fighting in the Takekaze mask the last two days? Yesterday the M11 pulled off one of the moves of the basho with a nicho-nage throw of Tokusegawa that was nullified by Takekaze's knee hitting the dohyo first, and today against M16 Tamaasuka, the imposter grabbed Tamaasuka around the outside of his left arm from the tachi-ai and then executed as nifty of a suso-harai move as you care to see sweeping his right leg at the back of Tamaasuka's left ankle sending Tamaasuka to the dohyo on his back in a daze. Unbelievable technique from Takekaze (6-7) the last two days who was competing hard with the former Asanowaka for shittiest rikishi ever who always manages to hang around. Speaking of hanging around, Tamaasuka will be doing plenty of that in the Juryo ranks come September. He's 4-9.

Fresh off of an awesome kachi-koshi interview yesterday, M11 Takamisakari let up in his bout against M13 Kimurayama standing upright and making half-assed attempts to get to the inside as Kimurayama just drove Takamisakari back with a series of pushes into the neck keeping his kachi-koshi hopes alive at 6-7. Takamisakari is already on easy street at 8-5.

M14 Tamawashi was all that stood in the way of J3 Masatsukasa's bid for the Juryo yusho, but he didn't stand tall enough as Masatsukasa fought off Tamawashi's nodowa charge near the edge, slipped into moro-zashi, and then drove his foe back and to the side dumping him off the dohyo as he clinches the Juryo yusho at 12-1. Tamawashi doesn't have much to say for himself at 6-7.

And finally, M15 Bushuyama put a clamp on J1 Kotokasuga's pesky visits to the division using a solid kachi-age tachi-ai and then just standing there in all his girth daring Kotokasuga to tsuppari him back. He couldn't, so after three seconds or so, Bushuyama made his charge leading with his double barrel teets and had Kotokasuga forced back and out in no time. Bushuyama staves off make-koshi improving to 6-7 while Kotokasuga's return to the dance next basho is on hold at least for another day at 7-6.

Day 12 (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
As the basho is giving me a terrible headache every time I look at a terrible bout, then I'm going to make a selection of what to talk about today and what not. Honestly, you won't miss anything terribly important with my skipping the descriptions at least.

Sokokurai came to visit from Juryo and went away with kachi-koshi. Tamaasuka was left to wonder how many things to pack for Juryo as his make-koshi is now official.

The first bout of interest would be that of Sagatsukasa vs. Shotenro as there were two guys yesterday who got serious injuries: YMY and Sagatsukasa. The first of the two went kyujo while Sagatsukasa decided to soldier on and show up. Well when I saw him still fighting my first guess was he'll henka his way to 8. And I wasn't wrong as he jumped to his left from the get-go having big shot fly past. However if I figured this is gonna happen, then Shotenro was bound to as well. So when he flew past he just turned around and re-engaged his foe. As Saga charged hoping to push still off-balance Shotenro out, he himself was met with emptiness as Shotenro pulled a copycat move and sent Sagatsukasa stumbling down on all fours. Let's see if Sagatsukasa learned the lesson or will he try to fool three other guys...

If you want to have a serious laugh, then I suggest running Hokutoriki vs. Kimurayama in a continuous loop. They did it anyway already during the bout as they traded slaps and thrusts until Kimurayama had Hokutoriki to the edge only to shove hard to a non-existent foe with both recovering on the tawara. Then it was Hokutoriki's turn to thrust until Kimu was at the straw only to almost tumble out when Kimu moved to the side and so on and on and on until finally Hokutoriki managed to get some thrusts straight without Kimu being able to move to the side sealing the deal. Hokutoriki moves to 6-6 while Kimurayama needs to win the rest to avoid MK.

Tamawashi has to have big balls for he charged straight into Lady Gaga pushing his left arm into Gaga's armpit and using his right on the front of his foe's mawashi. This quickly turned into a hidari-yotsu battle as Gaga managed to get his arm out of the armpit and was slowly worked backwards. Both guys looked to be in a bit of an awkward position looking and leaning to the same side. As the two settled, it seemed as if Gaga was going for a throw only to be thrown himself by Tamawashi and what a throw that was sending Lady Gaga face first with feet up in the air to the clay and then slowly roll his massive bulk down with thunder ringing throughout Japan. The scores are the same as previous match for winner and loser.

Tosayutaka has been moving swiftly and has shown a lot of fighting spirit at least in my eyes. However his spirit and speed haven't quite brought him the victories that he would have liked to over the past eleven days. Nevertheless at 6-5 he was no easy foe for Takamisakari, but the cop is not a Robo for nothing as he worked himself to an outside left and used his right to lift Yutaka to an upright position with no real leverage. From there Takamisakari used his clown magic to work his opponent back and out. Tosayutaka has a 50% winning score so far, and I sure hope he gets his eight as he's looked this basho as if he cares. Takamisakari KK is of course always something to celebrate. And one on day 12 even more.

Moe charged hard and low into Shimotori immediately going for a left outside grip and pulling said arm close keeping Shimotori's right arm locked away from belt. Even though Shimotori countered by locking Mokonami's right arm high he didn't have a platform from which to mount an attack. Mokonami waited a short moment to make sure his foe isn't going anywhere and then charged hard catching Shimotori off guard and quickly gaining a right inside grip. With two good grips and none by Shimotori it was easy work for Moe to move Tori back and out. Mokonami is showing definitely good sumo most of his bouts and even though he still sometimes loses to guys he shouldn't he does have what it takes to remain in the top division, and his score of 7-5 confirms it. Shimotori is officially make-koshi now and needs to recover further down.

Kokkai and Kakizoe met, Kakizoe overcommitted his charge as usual and was slapped down by Kokkai just as Kakizoe thought he had his win. Yawn.

It seems Yoshikaze didn't listen to my suggestion for a private coffee machine or the lack of sponsors this basho has hit him hard too for his score coming in was just two wins and he hasn't looked as lackluster for ages. Bush is doing pretty much as he ought to at 5-6. Espresso's usage of decaf clearly showed as his pushing and thrusting had absolutely no de-ashi. But never mind that, in the end Bush beat himself as he charged towards Yoshikaze not straight to the chest, but somewhere towards the left hip region making it essentially easy as swiping a fly for Yoshikaze. Bush now needs to win all the rest to remain in Makuuchi, but he won't do that while he pulls idiotic moves like this one. Yoshikaze will hope for a logjam from all those kyujo guys to remain in Makuuchi if he keeps going at such a crappy pace (a win per 4 days).

Clancy's mancrush has been going towards yet another KK while Takekaze is what he used to be a ranker around M12 region. However there are times when someone as dull as Takekaze can pull a move that makes your eyes shine and not from tears of embarrassment, but from the actual goodness of the move. Today was one of such days, when the two had been going at each other with no beltgrip (after a hideous henka from Takekaze) until Tokusegawa dug in and went for the belt. Takekaze knowing that his chance was now or never locked Tokusegawa's head with his right hand and swiped with his right foot the feet away from under Tokusegawa. As the two crashed down to the clay I was sure it was Takekaze's victory for he did pull the offensive move clearly, but the judges deemed it was necessary to have a meeting as they'd leave the dohyo in a moment anyway. The final call was for Tokusegawa to have won with tsuki-hiza, which is not a winning technique but a losing one. The judges namely claim that Takekaze's knee touched down during the move before Tokusegawa came crashing and even though this may be the case of precise timing I think Takekaze was robbed in this one.

Aran came with a double nodowa that neutralized Wakanosato's tachi-ai, but instead of digging in quickly backpedaled opening the bout to tsuppari. However, Wakanosato charged Aran again high and wide armed, which was a perfect invitation for Aran to charge in low and with his arms close immediately gaining moro-zashi. Wakanosato panicked from there and tried to go maki-kae while Aran was running him backwards, but didn't manage to pull it off before he found himself outside. What the Barometer was thinking charging in such a way is beyond me, but it did give Aran an absolutely not deserved kachi-koshi. Waka will get it some other day.

Tochiohzan charged with his arms close together and kept them in the general vicinity of Kakuryu's neck. He also backed this up with a nice de-ashi keeping Kakuryu slapping around like mad and backpedaling. As Kak understood that he's not getting past Oh poo's hands he thought to step back and pull, but was rewarded a pushout instead. Kakuryu has cooled off the past few days, but he'll be looking for Sanyaku promotion next basho if he can pull off a few more wins. Tochiohzan is now just a win away from KK to move into Sanyaku himself.

Tokitenku was rewarded today with Asasuckiryu, who's been living up to his name. As the two locked from get-go it was Tokitenku, who got the advantageous grip of right in left out while the secretary was denied his usual arms far, ass up grip. It took Tokitenku about three attempts to move Asasekiryu over the straw, but in the end the inevitable happened even though during every attempt Sucky dug in and made it as hard as possible for Tenku he didn't really even consider a counterattack.

Henkuba charged straight into moro-zashi, which Kyokutenho tried to loosen by turning the bout to a merry go around. After a few turns however it was clear that Henkuba isn't releasing the grip so Kyokutenho did what he could by locking his opponent's grip with double armbar, but Hakuba wasn't going to be denied after he got such an excellent grip, so when Tenho made his move trying to move Hakuba backwards with the armlocks, it was instead Hakuba who lifter Kyokutenho slightly off his feet to take him off balance and followed it through with a quick pushout. Unlike most days, today's win by Hakuba was with solid sumo and well earned. Props for that. Kyokutenho must be ashamed though, losing to Hakuba in a belt fight...

The banged up Aminishiki was given today the young Georgian Tochinoshin. Shin's been showing some great spirit earlier this basho, but has definitely cooled down the past days as has also his sumo. The ugly henka against Kotooshu showed what he thought of fighting foes like those, and his mental state hasn't been the best. Aminishiki is a bum with 0.7 legs so it's tough to guess what he can do in any given bout. Today as the two charged they quickly went both for migi-yotsu and while it worked out just fine for Aminishiki, it only gave Shin the right inside grip with not so much on the left hand. As they calmed down from the initial struggle, Ami tried to get his position even better going for a maki-kae on his left hoping for moro-zashi, but as he was still establishing his grip Tochinoshin countered with a maki-kae of his own. A short struggle ensued that had Shin get a deep left outside grip while the opposite side was still a struggle as the two fought on control of the belt after the maki-kae attempts. The two finally settled into having effectively locked the left side of Ami and right of Shin with shallow tight grips by both guys. After a brief pause Tochinoshin went for a push attack, that Aminishiki used to pivot slightly and execute an underarm throw that befell the Georgian, but also sent Aminishiki flying out to the third row. As the dust settled it was pretty clear that Ami was downgraded from 0.7 leg bum to a 0.1 leg bum as he needed help to get up and to move around. However instead of just leaving for the hospital he turned back and went to see what the MIB decided who had gathered on the dohyo. The decision was that Shin put his arm down before Ami flew out and so we could "enjoy" the legless bum slowly climb on top of the dohyo to do something bowing like and something crouching like to get his dough. Ami's 6-6 and with no functional legs so I don't know what he'll do as I seriously doubt he'll win 2/3 to make it to KK. Tochinoshin's 3-9 that includes a henka over Kotooshu so nothing bright.

Homasho charged low an was rewarded with a left inside hand, but with the lean and long Kotooshu that still kept him away from the belt. Kotooshu did manage to neutralize Homasho's right hand and as he went for the belt was rewarded with a right outside grip. Homey did pull back then and managed to break the grip and get some separation to move back in, but as he did Kotooshu re-locked his right arm on the belt from the outside and in addition gained a left inside grip. Even though Homey featured the same situation the length of arms and general physique does benefit Kotooshu more as he quickly lifted Homasho off his balance and moved him back and out while Homasho was jumping on one leg, the other one at a 90 degree angle for balance. Now that Homey's been meeting with real opponents his 10-0 run has come to an end, but it'll still get him on the elevator to jo'i for next basho. Kotooshu seems to have gotten tired of getting manloved and handled the past few days and improves the Ozeki win line to 9 wins now.

Harumafuji just manhandled Kisenosato by charging low and denying Kise any sniff of a belt. Even though Kise tried some head locking or twisting it was all for naught as Harry pushed him back and out. If Kisenosato is to be an ozeki hope, he has to learn to win more often. He does remind me of Baruto as he first broke to Sanyaku and was able to rack 8-7 and 9-6 scores, but this is something Kisenosato has been doing for years already and there's no improvement in sight. He'll likely be the perennial sekiwake unless something unexpected happens and he does have one good run to make it to Ozeki like it happened to Kotomitsuki when everyone had already given up hope.

I think Mike's hit the nail on the head with Baruto and the motivation. When he saw the realistic chance for Ozeki promotion he was doing sumo like nothing we've seen from him before and a 14-1 JY basho with a loss to zensho yusho winning Yokozuna was the result. However now that he IS an Ozeki and the chance of consecutive yusho's is almost non-existent with Hakuho's dominance these days, he's just settled in and showing average sumo. For example meeting an already MK Kotoshogiku should be a walkover win for O1E, right? Well Bart charged with half pace to Giku's neck area while Giku moved sideways (not a full henka, but sideways motion from contact onwards). The two traded some thrusts, but neither was really moved by those. They then locked up with Giku having his left arm inside Baruto's armpit, Baruto holding Giku's hands and leaning head down towards Giku. Now why would he want to get into such a position. If you look at the position the guys are in above, then you can see that Baruto's balance is towards the front and he has no way of seeing what Giku does for he's nose down between the leg humper's tits. So I wasn't too surprised when Giku grabbed Bart's neck with his right arm and pulled back with his left while stepping out of the way to send Bart to land on his face. Sloppy sumo by the Estonian who should be winning those bouts with his eyes closed already, not lose them like this. Well at least he won't be kadoban yet as he's 8-4 while Giku is the exact opposite.

Hakuho took care of business by absorbing the charge from Kitataiki and working himself towards a right hand inside grip, but after a few attempts to reach to the belt he just gave up and used his right hand below Kitataiki's armpit to flip Taiki over with a beltless underarm throw. If you thought there was a swifel of a chance for Hak to lose this one, then you should sleep the liquer off now...

Well even though I grumbled a lot in the beginning, I'd have to say there have been worse days, but there's no doubt there have been better ones. Is it just me or with all the shit going around before and during the basho I have no real feeling for sumo this time around and am quite lucky I don't have some seats booked or flights planned this July as the action is really lackluster and the lack of a lot of guys is not making it better. Chalk in Tochiohzan and Aran for sanyaku and possibly Kakuryu as well if he gets some more. Also Homasho for a special prize if he pulls off another win or two. See you in Aki then ...

Day 11 (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well hats off to Mixmaster Mikenstein and his equivalent of the Dennys Grand slam breakfast, but enough is enough. Its beyond me how he can crank them out four days in a row, each one loaded with analysis for us all, clever in jokes for veteran readers, in depth explanations of sumo terms for new readers, and a surprise at the bottom of the box!

So the main talking point of this basho has been Hakuhos incredible consecutive wins streak. Mike rightfully pointed out how significant this streak is, and let me state right off I agree. It has never been easy for anyone to do what hes done, so hats off. I also need to state that I am NOT one of those guys who compares eras and claims the current guy couldnt hold the past legends jockstrap (and isnt the mawashi REALLY just a huge jockstrap?) Hakuho can fight only with whom they match him, and he beats them all, so fairs fair.

Yet whilst we sit back and digest his awesomeness, lets keep a few things in perspective. As Mike hinted on Day 9, forty of the wins have come since Asashoryu was forced out (which is kind of an uberawesome nod of respect from Kublai to Genghis, telling the Kyokai that if theyre gonna pull shit like that, he just might decide to never lose again! How do you like THEM apples?) Its not only that Asa had the potential to defeat Hak (though, in fact, Hak had begun to win the clear majority of bouts vs. his senpai), but Asas presence raised the level of sumo, making other guys fight even harder (one reason being that many of them could sniff a kin-boshi knowing that Asa was on the downside of his career). There are other scenarios, such as Hak feeling the pressure to be perfect (as he may have in Jan. when he was 10-3 at one point) and makes a mistake vs. a lesser foe, or maybe he gets injured in keiko while fighting Asa. Bottom line is that a single Yokozuna makes a huge diff.

Now some of you are saying, hey Clancy, when Asa was winning all them yusho we didnt hear too much from you about “lone Yokozuna,” now did we? No, you didnt, and the main reason is this: The Ozeki crop was a far sight better back then (and these days its just a Far Side--hahahaha). Tochiazuma, a younger Kaio, Chiyotaikai in his prime, and a young Kotomitsuki were formidable foes who dined on the peeps below them.  Basho in and basho out, one or two of those guys would be sitting on ten wins after eleven days, and Asa had his work cut out for him. He still kicked their teeth down their throats, but it took huevos (Another thing about the Asa era Ozeki. Most of you know Sumotalk has been harping on yaocho for a few years now, and its because as Kaio, Pup, and Mitsuki aged theyve needed each others help to KK. But back in the day they didn’t didnt HAVE TO. In those days they could KK on their own.) .

Compare that with today. Kotooshu = headcase, poor basics. Kaio = older than dirt. Baruto = inexperienced at the rank is the best we can say. Harumafuji = used crazy, little man sumo to attain the rank, but now has to play it straight and cant cut it if hes the slightest bit injured. All these guys lose a LOT to lesser lights, which makes them unable to put any fear into Hakuho. The only thing the Yokozuna might fear from the Ozeki these days is that theyll welsh on a bet. .

Still, its still an admirable record, no ifs, ands, or buts, and (shit, does that count?).  I hope he makes it to seventy just so we dont have to talk about Juryo guys like

Sokokurai, who used a slick little hand pulldown to beat Shotenro, virtually assuring they will swap divisions come Sept., unlike

Bushuyama and Hokutoriki, who have similar styles, both preferring to shove. Difference is that when all the pushing is done, The Dolly Yama has a little bit more inside skill than the Jokerman, and it showed today as he leaned in on him and pursued him to the dirt

Which is where Kokkai ought to leave his newfound style of sumo. Today he, for all intents and purposes, decked Takamisakari at the tachi-ai, then once again for good measure. Bean was unfazed by the bluster, though, and got inside, lowered his hips and smote the Georgian out, finishing with a face like Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein,

a film that Gagamaru might be familiar with, considering what a monstrous figure he cuts in the ring. Today he showed that unlike Yamamotoyama, he can fight off pesky mites like Takekaze who grab his front belt and yank and pull and run and twist. After a bit of this kind of behavior and a near step out by the big fella, the Lord Gaga indicated it was time for tea by crushing the E11 out and setting the stage for

Tosayutaka to make short work of Tamaasuka, who came with an impressive looking but ineffectual throat thrusting attack that the Toastmaster laughed off, slipping around to the side and shoving the E16 out to his anxiety inducing 7th loss, a number that

Kimurayama will be hard pressed to avoid on Day 12. Today vs. Mokonami he had no answer, unless that answer was get driven back and out faster than you can say, Oliver Sauce!

The yori-kiri continued as Kakizoe slipped a bit at tachi-ai but was able to move back to get some separation. Sadly all that did was allow Tamawashi to get some steam up and run through him like cheap Chinese.

Wakanosato had the mae-mawashi first, let it go and went for the moro-zashi. He let go of that and got a different grip, found that one to his liking and used it to take Tokusegawa back and out.

(I was going to do some Miyabiyama vs. Goeido gag here, but you know what? I dont care enough. Maybe in Aki.)

The battle for the runner up heated up as Kakuryu invited Homasho over for a little thing. The Mongolian absorbed the Japanese mans tachi-ai. Kakuryu got in and started tugging at the back of Homashos belt, bringing him forward. He then deftly used the round ring to slip away pulling, and finished with a nearly complete 360 to spin Homasho down to the dirt. What, you thought a Kak WASNT gonna screw a Ho? (Yes, thats how low Im stooping this basho.) I mean, Mike told you yesterday Homasho was going down to the Kak, but did you listen?

An entertaining belt battle between Shimotori and Kyokutenho as both guys stiffened and tried to take the other out like the morning trash. It was the Chauffer, however, who showed the lower ranked man the door via a strong lift out.

Asasekiryu tried a two handed head pulldown henka tachi-ai, which didnt work vs. Yoshikaze, who was all over him like foam on a latte. Sexy is homemade, bad lighting, soft core porn at 2-9. Café is his co-star.

Shneaky showed his true colors vs. Tochiohzan with a shit eating henka that thankfully did not work. Oh Snap recovered and came back at the Trickster, who tried to shape shift away only to be caught by the lunging M1, where he was knocked back beyond the straw before Tochiohzan fell down. Two more wins and dudes a guaranteed Sekiwake in Tokyo (I hope I didnt spoil the Hakuho/Geeku bout by writing that).

Tochinoshin and Aran locked up in a classic yotsu belt battle, dancing cheek to cheek to see who can lift the other out. I would have thought that Aran would be the loser in this kind of match, but as No Shine made his final forward push, Aran pivoted oh so sweetly and torqued the bigger Georgian to the clay. Say what you will about Aran, but dude has some big ass pipes.

Kitataiki got turned around vs. Hakuba, who had of course slipped to the side. But in a move Nureyev would have been proud of, the Norseman pirouetted beautifully, I mean it, very adroit, right into an inside right. With this he lifted up on Hakubas arms and took him back and out.

Kisenosato got kind of ripped off today vs. Baruto, who used a two hands to the face attack only to have Kid get around on him and inside the belt. Baruto stepped out with his right heel but the lazy assed shit sitting there made no signal, and after some more grappling, Kid got his legs in a sort of split, losing his leverage and the bout as Baruto came in and shoved him down. It wasnt clear as blue sky, but Kisenosato looked disgustedly over at the heel mark after he bowed.

Tokitenku cleanly hit Kotooshu at the start, then used some lightning fast, fancy footwork to set up a gob smacking smack down. Very nice move from a guy we cant always say that about.

Finally Hakuho took Geekus charge and moved to his left. Geeku tried to follow but forgot his feet, and now was stoop-ed so low that Hak had him in a headlock. He didnt wrench the jar off the marmalade, though, and for that Kotoshgiku showed his thanks by smartly spinning to the dirt instead of making Hakuho cripple him.

Ill be back on Day 15, where I think well all be pleasantly surprised by a three way playoff between Hakuho, Homasho, and my sister-in-laws pet prawn.

Day 10 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Like that nagging itch, I'm back yet again rearing my ugly head, but if you're an old school talker, you remember the day when Kenji and I both did seven reports apiece. Today saw the best bout of the tournament and also worst, so let's get right to the action starting with Yokozuna Hakuho vs. Sekiwake Kisenosato. The Kid was ready for this one and showed as much committing a false start. After the two reloaded and went for real, Yokozuna Hakuho looked to force the bout to migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai, but Kisenosato pinched his right arm inwards well completely denying the inside while wrapping up the Yokozuna's head with the right hand as if he would go for a pull, but with both guys standing straight up, Kisenosato had no room to maneuver. Befuddled by the Kid in the first few moments of the bout, Hakuho went for a pull down of his own, but for the same reasons, it didn't work resulting in both rikishi separated by a step in the middle of the ring. At this point, Kisenosato smelled blood and began firing tsuppari into Hakuho's face, and there's not a better way to make a Yokozuna lose his cool then to deliver a hari-te. Hakuho instinctively countered with a right hari-te of his own, but as he did so, he exposed himself and Kisenosato pounced looking to gain the moro-zashi position that would surely put an end to this historic win streak. But they don't put the dai in Yokozuna because Hakuho's a slouch, and he showed exactly why somehow pivoting to the outside to avoid a full-on moro-zashi, grabbing Kisenosato around the right arm in a kote-nage stance, and then using his left thigh on the inside of Kisenosato's right to lift the Sekiwake spectacularly into the air and execute the throw with the leg. It was as beautiful of a kake-nage as you have ever seen causing Kisenosato's left elbow to hit the dirt a split second before the Yokozuna crashed to the dohyo himself. In a year where we have seen too much lethargic sumo for our liking, this could very well be the bout of the year. Incredible.

So with the dust settled, Hakuho moves to 10-0 and increases his win streak to 42, just three behind his next victim, Taiho. Kisenosato falls to 6-4 with the heartbreak loss, but there's no doubt that he is the toughest opponent that Hakuho will face in Nagoya...not because his sumo is second best but because he has the most heart. The way he made Hakuho lose it and throw sound sumo technique out the window was beautiful, and it's too bad that Kisenosato couldn't seal the shukun win in the end.

So did Homasho keep the pressure on earlier in the day? Against M12 Gagamaru, Homie knew exactly what to do, which was to strike quick and low at the tachi-ai, take a half step to the side (he went left), and yank the Georgian down. It literally was that easy as Gagamaru looks as lost right now with his sumo as Justin Bieber in a men's locker room. For the second day in a row, I saw zero effort from Lady Gaga. There was no impact at the tachi-ai, there was no driving with the feet, and he couldn't put his hand down to the dirt fast enough. In fact, it looked to me that he was on his way down even before Homasho had executed his inside dashi-nage throw. Something is very suspicious about Gagamaru's sumo the last few days, but I'll let the Sumo Association worry about that. At 4-6, it's almost as if this guy can't wait to get back to Juryo. Either that or he's pimping himself for envelopes of caish. As for Homasho, dude's now 10-0 and has finally caught the attention of the match makers. I'd be surprised if the Homa-show didn't fold up starting tomorrow against Kakuryu.

M6 Kakuryu entered the day one off the pace, but he would have his hands full with Ozeki Harumafuji, who couldn't afford to drop another bout to a Maegashira rikishi. Both rikishi crashed heads into each other's shoulders at the tachi-ai, but Harumafuji musta hit harder because Kakuryu was knocked upright allowing the Ozeki to plow to the inside and grab moro-zashi. Kakuryu quickly tried to back out of the hold, but the de-ashi were working for Harumafuji who grabbed onto the slippery Kak with a left inside belt grip while pushing at Kakuryu's right knee with the left hand. The result was a Kakuryu being spun around and down to the dohyo via a nifty shitate-hineri from the Ozeki. Kakuryu falls to 8-2 with the loss, but you knew he wasn't a serious yusho contender to begin with. Harumafuji has found his usual week 2 groove improving to 6-4 with his fourth straight win.

In today's Ozeki duel, Kotooshu and Kaio hooked up immediately in the hidari-yotsu position with both enjoying inside belt grips, and it looked to me that Kotooshu had the right outer grip for the taking, but he curiously paused for about five seconds in the center of the ring before finally making a surge, grabbing the right outer, and then dumping Kaio to the dirt with an outer belt throw that had a little bit too much on it.  Kaio got up gingerly from the dohyo holding his left shoulder and early day 11 headlines have Kaio withdrawing. Kotooshu picks up kachi-koshi at 8-2 with the win, but it's too little too late.  If Kaio is out for good, he's kadoban for September.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Baruto made short work of M3 Tokitenku grabbing the left outer grip from the tachi-ai and using his right arm brilliantly to deny Tokitenku the moro-zashi he was seeking. After settling in for about three seconds, Baruto just dumped Tenku to the dirt with some mustard using that left outer belt grip. Baruto moves to 7-3 with the uwate-nage win, but like Kotooshu, it's too little too late this basho. Tokitenku is still breathing at 5-5.

M2 Aran is becoming Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde showing superb sumo one day and then looking like a doofus the next. Today against Sekiwake Kotoshogiku, Aran walloped Kotoshogiku so hard at the tachi-ai as he gained moro-zashi and drove the Sekiwake out in a flash that Kotoshogiku gave his post-bout interview in Russian. Aran moves to 6-4, and I don't mind having this version at the Komusubi rank in September. As for Kotoshogiku, he's been sloppy all basho falling to 3-7.

Komusubi Tochinoshin displayed yet another hesitant tachi-ai against M1 Asasekiryu, and while he got the left outer grip from the start, he did so because Asasekiryu let him have it in exchange for the lower position and a deep inside left. Asasekiryu next locked his left hand at the front of Tochinoshin's belt pinning the Komusubi's right arm inwards in the process leaving Shin no options whatsoever. Took about five more seconds for Asasekiryu to make his first force-out attempt, and even though Tochinoshin survived, he had to bring his right arm to the outside in the process leaving Asasekiryu with moro-zashi. He wouldn't fail on the second force-out attempt as Asasekiryu completely dismantled Tochinoshin in this one as he picks up just his second win of the basho. Tochinoshin is on the brink at 3-7, but he doesn't deserve to kachi-koshi for his hesitant ways this basho. Shin'll work it out in Aki I'm sure and be right back up here for Kyushu.

Komusubi Hakuba went forward at the tachi-ai against M1 Tochiohzan, but it was only for a split second as he attempted to evade to his left, but Oh caught the clown square on with a right hand to the neck and forced Hakuba back with the choke hold before finishing him off at the edge with some powerful shoves. When you have Hakuba squared up with you, it's like maneuvering a rag doll, so this one had to feel good for Tochiohzan who reaches .500 again at 5-5. Raggedy Ann's make-koshi is official now at 2-8 and hell yeah I'm going to dig up a pic of Hakuba suffering make-koshi.

M3 Kyokutenho used a kachi-age tachi-ai with the right forearm against M2 Aminishiki, but Aminishiki quickly ducked under it. The problem for Shneaky now was that his melon was stuck under Kyokutenho's right armpit as Tenho locked him in place with a right arm pulling inwards at Aminishiki's left armpit. At this point, it didn't really matter what was happening on the other side because Aminishiki was in what looked like a submission hold. Aminishiki tried to maneuver any way he could, but Tenho had him locked in place, so after staving off a few Kyokutenho yori-kiri attempts, Aminishiki just gave up on about the third try, and I don't blame him a bit. He just caught stuck in as awkward a position as you'll ever see with his torso parallel to the dohyo and his head locked beneath his opponent. I get queasy just talking about it, so let's move on (both rikishi stand at 5-5).

M9 Kakizoe looked to get moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M4 Kitataiki, but he abandoned that strategy a few seconds in opting for a pull down instead. When you're short of stature as Kakizoe is and you don't have long arms, in order to successfully pull down your opponent, you've got to get in extra close. Needless to say it didn't work as separation was created between the two as a cat and mouse game ensued that finally saw Kakizoe go for moro-zashi again, but Kitataiki said enough of the funny bidness and grabbed Kakizoe around the left arm and dumped him to the dirt with a shweet kote-nage throw. It's official for Zoe Jane at 2-8 while Kitataiki still has some life at 4-6.

M10 Mokonami went for M7 Tokusegawa's neck at the tachi-ai, but Mokonami's wheels just spun in the dirt and Tokusegawa staved the move off and forced the bout to migi-yotsu where both rikishi settled in with left outer grips making it a gappuri yotsu contest. In an entertaining affair, neither rikishi really took time to settle himself as both went for yori-kiri wins resulting in a lively stalemate in the center of the ring. About 10 seconds in, Tokusegawa broke off Mokonami's outer grip, and while Mo got the grip again, you could see at that point Tokusegawa would be the one to dictate the rest of the bout. Shortly thereafter, Tokusegawa struck again, this time wrenching Mokonami to the side with the left inside grip as he pushed inwards at Mokonami's right knee (a move called harai) with his right hand tripping his countryman to the dirt with technique neat as a bowtie. Tokusegawa moves to 6-4 with his best sumo of the tourney while Mokonami settles for 5-5.

M7 Wakanosato used his stubby arms well to get on the inside of M11 Takamisakari at the tachi-ai, and Croconosato showed why he had a 10 bout winning streak against the Cop coming into the match as he easily drove him back and across the straw in two seconds flat leaving both rikishi at 6-4.

M8 Yoshikaze just walked into the right inside position and left outer grip against M10 Tosayutaka, and that's about all I have to say about that as Tosayutaka evens things at 5-5 while Yoshikaze falls to 1-9.

M14 Tamawashi showed some rare fire today against M9 Shimotori using a tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai to bully Shimotori back to the straw in no time, but you just knew The Mawashi wasn't going to be able to pick up a solid win. Shimotori evaded at the ring's edge and whiffed on a counter pull attempt, but it was no harm no foul as Tamawashi whiffed himself on the final pushout of his opponent leaving Shimotori stepping over the line as Tamawashi fell to the dirt. Tamawashi's left arm/elbow hit the dirt at the same time as Shimotori's right foot stepped out, so a rematch was correctly called for by the judges.

I know, I know. That means I have to write one more paragraph about this matchup. It'll be brief though as Tamawashi just steamrolled Shimotori back from the tachi-ai in round two pushing at Shimotori's right teet and wrapping up his left arm leaving him no room to maneuver. Both dudes finish the day at 4-6.

I know you could probably take your pick from the first 3-4 bouts everyday and tout one of them the worst bout of the basho, but we really did get the worst bout of the basho with with M11 Takekaze and M16 Shotenro. I've read on several chat boards and maybe in one of my comrade's reports how someone would love to see two rikishi go for tachi-ai henka at the same time. Well, we finally got it as both Takekaze and Shotenro jumped to their left creating a very awkward situation for everyone. Shotenro recovered first and began pushing at Takekaze, but Takekaze was thinking pull all the way, and it took him about three seconds to find one of Shotenro's arms and yank him to the dirt. Someone get Ross Mihara on the phone and demand an explanation as to why NHK didn't show a replay of this bout. Takekaze "improves" to 5-5 while Shotenro is about outta here at 3-7.

The next worst bout of the basho occurred between M12 Kokkai and M15 Hokutoriki that saw Kokkai riding a four bout skid coming in, so was there any question as to what he'd do? Apparently, Hokutoriki had no idea as he charged into thin air thanks to Kokkai executing about as classless a tachi-ai henka to his right that you could ask for. Just awful stuff all around from the Georgian as both dudes are now 5-5. I didn't think anything was gonna top Gagamaru's awful sumo today, but Kokkai did his best not to be shown up by his fellow countryman.

Like Gagamaru last basho, J1 Kotokasuga has been unfazed when he's visited the Makuuchi division, and today was no different against M13 Kimurayama in a bout that saw Kimurayama fail to henka at the tachi-ai and then just keep his hands high looking for a quick and dirty pull attempt that never came as Kotokasuga took full advantage of his opponent's gaffe ducking in low and pushing Kimurayama across the ring and out in fairly short order. We should see Kotokasuga up here in Aki as he moves to 6-4 while Kimurayama falls to 5-5.

And finally, M15 Bushuyama grabbed the outer grip first in his hidari-yotsu contest with M16 Tamaasuka, so once he sucked his gal in tight, there wasn't anything Tamaasuka could do to counter. The Dolly Yama took his sweet time with the force-out win, but he was in complete control throughout. Both rikishi are now 4-6.

Rejoice.  Clancy spells me tomorrow.

Day 9 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Major props to Kakuryu and Homasho for managing to stay unblemished through the first eight days, but the yusho was decided back in February when Asashoryu was forced out...I mean, yesterday when Kotooshu suffered his first loss. As is usually the case, there are minor intriguing story lines out there now that the yusho is official, but really, the only story line left this basho is how far can Yokozuna Hakuho extend this historic winning streak. As it stands right now, the numbers look like this:
1. Futabayama 69
2. Chiyonofuji 53
3. Taiho 45
4. Hakuho 40
So while sumo has gotten itself into a damn fine mess, we are witnessing a historic run here if it's any compensation.

Once again, let's start from the top and work our way down leading off with the biggest bout of the tournament so far, Yokozuna Hakuho vs. M6 Kakuryu. This is certainly not a shot at Kakuryu, but that an M6 rikishi is the other half of the biggest bout of the basho is one aspect that is so troubling in sumo for me right now. Nonetheless, the two gave us a decent fight that saw both rikishi briefly use thrusts from the start to feel each other out before Hakuho just lurched into the migi-yotsu position where he enjoyed the left outer grip. Hakuho wasted no time in forcing Kakuryu back and to the side, and in the process, Kakuryu actually managed a maki-kae giving him moro-zashi, but since the dude was being moved laterally, it gave him no advantage. Hakuho returned the maki-kae favor sending the bout back to migi-yotsu, but it didn't matter as Hakuho did all of this while continuing to force the Kak across the straw laterally as part of a solid yori-kiri win. Normally I'd be bothered by all of these ridiculous maki-kae during Hakuho's recent bouts, but considering that they are occurring in bouts against fellow Mongolians suggests that they're harmless if ya knowhadduh mean. With the win, Hakuho moves to 9-0 and is in firm control of this basho. Kakuryu falls to 8-1, but this dude is on his way to the jun-yusho, a feat he would deserve.

With Kakuryu having been officially knocked out of the yusho race, the final hope rests on the shoulders of M13 Homasho. I'm being facetious of course, but since the dude is still undefeated, I'll give him some run. Against M10 Mokonami, Homasho showed his best sumo of the basho--no wait, his best sumo in something like half a year--knocking the top of his head into Mokonami's face at the tachi-ai before latching onto a left frontal grip and aiding that with a right stiff arm into Mokonami's left shoulder. From there it was simply a matter of de-ashi as Homasho backed the tan one up in a few swift steps sending him into the lap of the judge who sits behind the referee to his right. When you're not quite close to standing near the edge and your opponent is picking himself up from the first row, go ahead and get badass tattooed on your bicep.

On occasion, I will explain a sumo term because we are picking up new readers all the time, so let's focus on the term "de-ashi" in this bout. Literally translated, de-ashi means "forward-moving feet," but in actual sumo terms, it refers to a rikishi driving an attack with his lower body. If you have the means, just watch Homasho's lower body in this bout, and you'll see a perfect example of de-ashi. Homasho moves to 9-0 with the awesome win, but if the Sumo Association was really taking him seriously, he wouldn't be fighting Gagamaru tomorrow. I also had to laugh when before the Hakuho - Kakuryu bout, NHK panned in close to Homasho's name on the denkoban to drum up drama as if Homasho was really a threat.  Mokonami falls to 5-4.

In the Ozeki ranks, we were treated to our first Ozeki duel. Well, I guess I shouldn't use the word "treat" since it was Baruto vs. Kaio. Baruto used a wicked left paw to Kaio's throat to stand him up at the tachi-ai, and then the Estonian went for the quick and dirty kill by reversing gears with a surprise pull attempt, and while Kaio managed to keep his feet, he was wide open to a right outer grip and left inside position from the Biomass. Kaio countered with a left arm on the inside of his own, but from here it was simply a matter of Baruto forcing Kaio back and out without hurting him. The Estonian was gentle--as he should have been against this opponent--scoring the easy yori-kiri win moving him to 6-3. Kaio shares the same mark but will surely find those last two wins in the coming days.

Ozeki Harumafuji made short work of M3 Tokitenku surviving a mild henka from Tenku by keeping his eyes squarely on his opponent despite his low stance. The result was the deep inside position with the right that was parlayed into a left outer grip, and the Ozeki took no chances bulldozing Tokitenku quickly back to the straw and keeping his belly up against his opponent's gut until he was safely backed outta the ring. Just like that, Harumafuji shakes off that horrific start and now finds himself at 5-4. Tokitenku is surprisingly the same mark after fighting some tough competition.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks was Kotooshu vs. Komusubi Tochinoshin in a disappointing bout that saw Tochinoshin henka to his left, a move that sent Kotooshu stumbling forward to the tawara making him the easy oshi-dashi fodder from there. And just like that, Kotooshu is now 7-2 and well on his way to another mediocre basho. While Kotooshu may have been a little bit more on his guard for this one, you can't really fault him for losing to such a heinous henka. But my problem with the Ozeki is two-fold. First, as I explained yesterday, Kotooshu put his hand down way too early to break his fall in that bout with Kakuryu. If you really care about your sumo, that hand is the last thing to touch the dohyo. Second, after getting lubed by Tochinoshin today, Kotooshu didn't look angry at all. I know these guys aren't supposed to show emotion atop the dohyo, but you can look disgusted walking back to the hana-michi. Or better yet, you can single out Tochinoshin for keiko during the exhibitions or even before the next basho and just kick his ass.

It's a method called "kawaigari," and it means a higher ranking rikishi showing a lower-ranked rikishi the "love" in the keiko ring. It usually occurs after a Yokozuna or Ozeki gets beat in a hon-basho as Kotooshu did today. Remember when Asashoryu used to get henka'd?  He'd use a dame-oshi and then seek the guy out for keiko in the short term and rough him up. And remember Shotenro's fluke win over Hakuho last year? Hakuho responded by kicking Shotenro's ass at an exhibition keiko session to the point where a couple of oyakata had to call the Yokozuna off saying enough was enough. Shotenro's knee still hasn't recovered. And that's another major problem with sumo right there. Nobody gives a damn anymore, and there's no longer such a thing as Ozeki pride.

As long as I'm on a tangent here, my whole problem with Baruto last basho was not with his sumo; rather, I could see that he no longer gave a damn. There was no emotion; there was no desire. Kotooshu doesn't have it either, and that's what's so disappointing to me...Ozeki who are in the primes of their career physically but can't balance that out mentally. As for Tochinoshin, that was dirty pool as the Komusubi moves to 3-6, but I do have to hand it to the guy in the interview room afterwards. He straight up said that it wasn't good sumo and that he knew he shouldn't have done it. And even when the NHK interviewer tried to put a positive spin on things and say, "at least you've won two in row. Isn't that a sign that you're coming around?", Tochinoshin promptly responded as he should have, "I don't know about that."

Sekiwake Kisenosato's biggest problem is that he opens himself up so much at the tachi-ai. The rikishi will sometimes say, "waki wo shimeru," which literally means to tighten up your armpits, but in more general terms, it means to keep your upper body tightened inwards so your opponent can't get to your inside so easily. Kisenosato was wide open yet again from the tachi-ai today against M2 Aran, so all it took was an Aran stiff arm into Kisenosato's neck to drive the Sekiwake completely upright to the point where Aran just slipped into the moro-zashi position. From there, Kisenosato could do nothing as Aran drove him back and across without argument improving to 5-4 while Kisenosato fell to 6-3. Kotooshu has completely figured out Kisenosato's tachi-ai, and don't be surprised if everyone else does soon as well. Kisenosato is leaving himself so vulnerable these days.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku whiffed on a hari-te at the tachi-ai against M4 Kitataiki, and it left the Geeku dangerously upright for the remainder of the hidari-yotsu bout. Kotoshogiku still took charge bellying Kitataiki back step by step, but the Geeku never could grab that right outer grip until it was too late. By the time he got it, both rikishi were near the edge, but Kitataiki just slipped to the side of his opponent and easily turned the tables forcing Kotoshogiku back and across the straw from there. This was a lightweight bout all around as both rikishi are struggling at 3-6.

At 0-8 coming in, M1 Asasekiryu had to have at least a slight stiffie staring across the starting lines at Komusubi Hakuba. Asasekiryu's tachi-ai was cautious as it should have been against this joker who surprisingly didn't henka, and when the dust settled, Asasekiryu had a deep inside position with the left while Hakuba had nary a pot to piss in. Asasekiryu threatened moro-zashi with the right hand, and with Hakuba focusing all of his attention to denying Sexy the right inside position, Asasekiryu ended the funny bidness with as easy of a left belt throw as you'll ever see. Asasekiryu picks up his first win of the basho while Hakuba falls to 2-7. And one thing I've noticed about Hakuba, even the NHK announcers are using the term "light" to describe his sumo.

M1 Tochiohzan had no forward momentum at the tachi-ai against M7 Wakanosato thanks in large part to a pretty sweet right forearm delivered into Tochiohzan's throat by the veteran. On instinct, Tochiohzan tried to get to the belt after shaking off that kachi-age charge from his opponent, but Wakanosato employed as crafty of a veteran move as you care to see timing a pull attempt knowing that Tochiohzan would move forward too quickly. Fish in a barrel as Wakanosato (5-4) made Tochiohzan (4-5) look bad in this one.

M2 Aminishiki and M7 Tokusegawa hooked up in the migi-yotsu contest from the tachi-ai, but instead of digging in for a chikara-zumo bout, Aminishiki just began back pedaling while still maintaining that right inside grip. Tokusegawa meant well and even managed a left outer grip for a spell, but Aminishiki worked his magic not to mention Tokusegawa this way and that until he finally found an opening allowing him to swing Tokusegawa over to the edge and back across with a paw to his throat. As long as Aminishiki can force his opponent into this kind of unorthodox bout that doesn't represent sound sumo technique, he'll continue to succeed. Tokusegawa will learn to pull his gal in tight in the future instead of letting his opponent dictate the bout's pace. Both rikishi are 5-4.

M3 Kyokutenho gave up moro-zashi to M8 Yoshikaze from the tachi-ai, but it simply didn't matter as Yoshikaze has zero fight in him this basho. Taking a page out of the former Takanonami's book, Kyokutenho wrapped both arms tightly around the outside of Yoshikaze's arms, pinched inwards in a position called kime, and then swung Yoshikaze back and forth until he had stepped out of the dohyo. When you win this easily after giving up moro-zashi, it's more of a sign of how terrible your opponent is, so while Kyokutenho will take that 4-5 record, Yoshikaze falls to a lethargic 1-8.

M15 Bushuyama attacked way too high against M9 Shimotori gifting him moro-zashi two seconds into the bout. Shimotori's been around long enough to know how to react from there, so the yori-kiri win occurred in short order moving Shimotori to 4-5 while Bushuyama is an uninspired 3-6.

M9 Kakizoe kept both arms in tight at the tachi-ai looking for moro-zashi, but M10 Tosayutaka just clamped his right arm around the outside of Kakizoe's left and then drove his left shoulder square into Kakizoe's chest knocking him back and out with enough vigor that Kakizoe flew clear off the dohyo. Tosayutaka improves to 4-5 while Kakizoe is sickly at 2-7.

In the day's most unanticipated bout, M13 Kimurayama beat M11 Takekaze in a second flat henka'ing to his left and pushing the pint-sized Takekaze (4-5) down to the dirt by the back of the right shoulder. Kimurayama breaks his recent slide to improve to 5-4.

M14 Tamawashi's sumo has been in rapid decline the last coupla basho, and I don't think it's from a lack of heart; his sumo is just bad. His main problem is that he's attacking so damn high, and despite his tsuppari tachi-ai aimed at M11 Takamisakari's throat, the Robocop easily worked his way into moro-zashi and then just wrenched Tamawashi back and out from there. 6-3. Yes! That Takamisakari kachi-koshi interview is just days away. Tamawashi falls to 3-6.

I have no explanation for what happened in the M12 Gagamaru - M16 Shotenro bout. Well, no explanation why Gagamaru would take a dive. The two rikishi hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, and the right outer grip was wide open for the wide Gagamaru, but he simply wrapped his right arm around the outside of Shotenro's left, waited for Shotenro to attempt a weak scoop throw with a left of his own, and then curled his left foot around from the outside in causing him to fall to the dirt in a heap landing on his back. I have no idea why Gagamaru would dive like this, but simple physics dictates that he did. First, Shotenro doesn't have the strength to throw a behemoth like Gagamaru onto his back with a mediocre scoop throw (go watch the tape, it was worse than mediocre). Second, I have never seen a dude's leg curl as Gagamaru's left ankle did. He didn't slip either because all of his weight was planted on his forward foot, the right foot. It also appeared that Gagamaru was on his way down in synch with Shotenro's throw attempt, not as a result of the throw attempt. Regardless of the why, Gagamaru took a dive in this one no doubt leaving him at 4-5 while Shotenro is only 3-6. The only plausible explanation is that Gagamaru owed Shotenro something, which is why you can't have rikishi who fight each other at hon-basho gambling against each other in any form.

M12 Kokkai's slide continued as he hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position against M16 Tamaasuka from the tachi-ai, and the Georgian meant well pressing the action with a gaburi-yori charge (those belly shoves Kotoshogiku is famous for), but it was so slow and so mechanical that Tamaasuka easily timed that last gaburi attempt at the edge, planted his right foot, and turned the tables on Kokkaine with a counter inner belt throw. Kokkai's lost four in a row if yer counting leaving him at 4-5. Tamaasuka, who is looking to pick up a kachi-koshi in the this division for the first time in five years, is 4-5 as well.

And finally, M15 Hokutoriki polished off J5 Tamanoshima in an awkward bout that saw Hokutoriki smelling blood from the start as he drove Tamanoshima over to the straw in a flash. Tamanoshima went for his staple counter move which is evading at the last instant and going for a cheap shoulder pull at the edge, and it actually worked wonders, but like the first three or four bouts every day this basho, Tamanoshima's effort was so half-assed that he failed to capitalize on the little Yokozuna nearly stumbling out of the dohyo. Instead of finishing off his bidness, Tamanoshima just backed that last half step out while Hokutoriki offered a token nudge with the shoulder to draw the kimari-te yori-kiri. Hokutoriki is above water again at 5-4.

Am I up for a quad tomorrow? Only time will tell.

Day 8 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Enough of commenting on the bouts in chronological order. The first handful of bouts each day have been so awful, so let's not waste another report by working from the bottom up. Coming into the day we had four rikishi undefeated in Hakuho, Kotooshu, Kakuryu, and Homasho. I've been saying all along that it's Kotooshu who holds the key to any sort of yusho race, and since he was meeting fellow undefeated Kakuryu today, why don't we start with that bout?

Ozeki Kotooshu led the head-to-head series coming in, but it was only by a 7-6 margin, and Kakuryu fully understood there was much more on the line than the yusho race neither of them were really in to begin with. Kakuryu won the tachi-ai getting both hands into the Ozeki's throat, and because he doesn't have sufficient strength to just bully Kotooshu back and out, he went for a quick pull attempt similar to the way Aminishiki has defeated the Ozeki in the past. Kotooshu kept his footing, but the damage was done as Kakuryu was able to pounce deep to the inside with his left, grab an outer grip with the right, and keep his arse way back away from a Kotooshu counter right outer grip. The two settled in a bit testing the waters, but Kakuryu trusted in his positioning and went for the kill that came in the form of an uwate-hineri twist down with the right hand and a scoop throw with the left. The combination was too much for the Ozeki who disappointedly put his hand down early breaking his inevitable fall to the dirt. Kotooshu's failure to win this bout against an M6 rikishi and his putting his hand down early are clear signs that his heart was not in this yusho race to begin with, and that's disappointing because we all know that Kakuryu doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell to yusho. And I doubt he'll even have to fight Hakuho. Nevertheless, at 8-0 he has his kachi-koshi and has probably also earned dinner at Hakuho's expense. Kotooshu falls to 7-1, and his lack of heart in this one is a signal that not only is he out of the yusho race, but he's gonna suffer 3-4 more losses this second week.

So, with Kotooshu having suffered his first loss, would Yokozuna Hakuho be able to drive that final nail in the yusho coffin against M3 Tokitenku? Oh, the drama! In a mirror tachi-ai of yesterday's bout against Kyokutenho, Hakuho secured the right inside position and left outer grip, but Tokitenku's length allowed him to keep his hips back ever so slightly ultimately denying Hakuho his left outer. Hakuho opted next for plan B, which was a maki-kae with the left arm giving him moro-zashi, but before he could re-establish his position, Tokitenku countered with a maki-kae of his own leaving the two now in the hidari-yotsu position where Hakuho maintained a right outer grip on one fold of Tokitenku's mawashi. Hakuho was tired of the funny bidness and planted for an uwate-nage throw, but Tokitenku pulled off another maki-kae giving him moro-zashi before Hakuho got off the throw attempt. Hakuho was quick to counter, however, executing yet another maki-kae giving him the right inside position and left outer grip, and this time he committed on a left outer throw, but before he could fully execute the throw, Tokitenku brilliantly nudged the inside of Hakuho's left thigh with the outside of his own right thigh sending the Yokozuna off balance and heading towards the edge. Luckily, Hakuho was able to catch himself with the right foot just inside the tawara, and he used that last gasp momentum to continue his left belt throw that sent Tokitenku's left hand down to the dohyo just as Hakuho flew completely off the dohyo in as close a contest as you please.

The gunbai correctly went to Hakuho, but this one was too close for comfort. Actually, the fact that this was Hakuho's closest bout in the last 40 tells you just how ridiculous this current run is. A rikishi who can pull off a zensho yusho comes along every 7 years or so, and only three rikishi have been able to achieve consecutive zensho yusho in at least the last 20 years. Only four rikishi have ever won 40 bouts in a row in the history of modern sumo with Hakuho having achieved that feat today, but what's astonishing is just how easy this has been for the dai-Yokozuna. It takes a close finish (I didn't think the bout itself was that close) like we got today to not only remind us how rare it is to see a Hakuho loss but just how rare it is to even see a close bout. It really is amazing, and Hakuho's win today regardless of how it happened coupled with Kotooshu's first loss likely means another runaway yusho for Hakuhoosthuizen. Tokitenku falls to a respectable 5-3.

I'll humor the purists out there and touch on our final 7-0 rikishi coming into the day, but only after giving the disclaimer that this dude fought in the second bout of the day from the bottom, he fought M11 Takekaze, and he shoulda been beat by Takekaze. Yes, I'm talking about M13 Homasho who was stood upright and driven back by Takekaze who then switched gears and pushed at Homie's side sending him dangerously near the edge, but a Takekaze choke hold and shove attempt with no de-ashi gave Homasho the slight opening to where he was able to swipe at Takekaze's arm and jump out of the way at the last instant while tiptoeing the tawara sending Takekaze into a bellyflop down to the dohyo in all of his girth. Homasho may be 8-0, but it's only going to take his being paired with a guy from the jo'i to expose him. Takekaze falls to 4-4, but hey, at least he factored somehow into the yusho race. Sort of.

Getting back to the Ozeki ranks, Kaio grabbed the easy right outer grip against M3 Kyokutenho and then kept his hips far enough back that the Chauffeur never had a sniff of the Ozeki's mawashi. Kyokutenho did, however, burrow himself in low giving Kaio pause, but with Kyokutenho making no move to try and grab a right outer of his own, Kaio eventually went for the force-out kill and got it without too much resistance moving the Ozeki to 6-2 while Kyokutenho will more than gladly settle for 3-5.

There was no way Ozeki Baruto was doing to drop a second bout in a row, especially when his opponent was M4 Kitataiki. Kitataiki gave Baruto a helluva fight last basho, but he's been off his game so much in Nagoya that he just charged with his head low straight into Baruto's chest gifting the Estonian the left inside belt grip and right outer grip over the top. Bart wasted no time in lifting Kitataiki clear off his feat, and even though Kitataiki was able to squirm out of the hold and run like hell, Baruto was able to keep up with him and swipe his opponent off the dohyo with the back of his left arm not unlike an ushiro-motare move. The ruling in the end was oshi-dashi, but it doesn't matter. Baruto dominated this one as he moves to a colorless 5-3. What was more evident in this bout was just how much Kitataiki is gripping this basho as he drops to 2-6.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Harumafuji knew exactly what was coming from Komusubi Hakuba, who moved to his left at the tachi-ai looking to grab that same tottari that worked against a clueless Tochinoshin yesterday, and even though he sorta got it, Harumafuji had his body square to his opponent and his feet driving into Hakuba the entire way, so even though Hakuba attempted to escape and still hold onto that tottari, Harumafuji was on his every move using a right tottari of his own to easily yank Hakuba across the bales where he then used his left hand pushing at Hakuba's dome to dame-oshi him clear off the dohyo. Hakuba is such a jackass, and it's embarrassing not only to see this kind of sumo from a sanyaku rikishi but that Hakuba actually as a 2-6 record. Harumafuji evens things up at 4-4 and will surely get his eight.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku has gained most of his wins this basho with gimmick sumo, so when he charged straight forward against Komusubi Tochinoshin, was it any wonder that Tochinoshin dominated the bout grabbing the insurmountable left outer grip? I say nay, as Tochinoshin dug in nicely for about five seconds before unleashing a powerful uwate-nage that sent the Geeku down to the clay with some oomph. I was happy to see Shin pick this one up as he limps to 2-6. Kotoshogiku is 3-5.

In one of my most anticipated bouts of the day Sekiwake Kisenosato looked a split second late at the tachi-ai against M1 Tochiohzan as the two hooked up into the hidari-yotsu position (simultaneous inside lefts...not necessarily grips on the belt) while Tochiohzan enjoyed the right outer grip thanks to his proactive tachi-ai, but before Oh could get completely settled in, Kisenosato executed my favorite defensive maneuver, the wrenching of the hips to break off the outer grip. With Kisenosato having broken off Oh's grip, the Kid now looked to gain his own right outside grip, but Tochiohzan kept on the move and in the process executed a maki-kae giving him moro-zashi. Kisenosato was in deep trouble at this point, but since both rikishi were moving laterally throughout the bout, Kisenosato had enough ring sense to begin a counter maki-kae and then abandon that at the ring's edge pulling Tochiohzan down as he himself tiptoed the tawara. Twas close, but Kisenosato's feet were still in when Tochiohzan touched allowing Kisenosato to improve to 6-2. Tochiohzan falls to 4-4, but he has improved from getting his ass kicked among the jo'i to holding his own among the jo'i and barely losing by the skin of his teeth. And the interesting thing is, I see Tochiohzan still improving from this point while Kisenosato has likely peaked, so was Clancy so crazy to hint that Tochiohzan is the one who may grace the Ozeki rank?

M2 Aran and M1 Asasekiryu hooked up into the immediate gappuri hidari yotsu contest meaning both had left inside belt grips and right outside belt grips. Asasekiryu actually favors the hidari yotsu position while Aran favors fighting with the right on the inside, and that was evident about five seconds in when Aran went for and got a maki-kae with that right arm, but before he solidified his new stance, Asasekiryu countered with a maki-kae on the other side meaning the two were now in the gappuri migi-yotsu position. Aran wasted no time, however, pulling his gal in tight and then lifting Asasekiryu off his feet and marching him over to the edge. Sexy managed to get his feet back to the dohyo just inside the bales, but Aran had all the mo and scored the easy force-out win from there. This was actually good stuff today from Aran who evens things up at 4-4 while Asasekiryu suffers make-koshi at 0-8. Ugh.

Fresh off of his win over Baruto yesterday, M2 Aminishiki played with some serious fire against M7 Wakanosato opting to strike at the tachi-ai and then back pedal immediately trying to push Wakanosato down from the side. Croconosato had different thoughts, however, getting his left arm deep on the inside and taking advantage of his retreating opponent forcing him over to the side of the dohyo and nearly down with a scoop throw, but Aminishiki somehow managed to latch onto a right outer grip on his way down and actually shoved Wakanosato to the dirt before his own elbow touched down. This one was close and could have warranted a mono-ii since Wakanosato was the attacker the entire bout, but the gunbai correctly went to Shneaky who really lucked out in this one. Both rikishi are 4-4.

I had to chortle when prior to the M13 Kimurayama - M7 Tokusegawa bout, Iwasa Announcer for NHK introduced Kimurayama by saying, "he hopes to create space between him and his opponent." Ya think? Kim wasn't able to create much, however, as Tokusegawa was on to him like fish-stink to my keyboard always keeping himself square with Kimurayama who backpedaled this way and that, but Tokusegawa was too persistent and finally lurched into the moro-zashi grip easily forcing Kimurayama back and out from there. As expected, Kimurayama has blown is comfortable lead falling to 4-4 while Tokusegawa is sailing at 5-3.

M14 Tamawashi completely exposed M8 Yoshikaze using a moro-te tachi-ai to stand Cafe upright before pounding him back once, twice, three times a lady with some sharp shoves to the mid-section. Tamawashi improves to 3-5 while wins against Yoshikaze (1-7) will probably be classified as fusensho starting tomorrow.

Two guys that have looked really bad this basho are M16 Tamaasuka and M9 Kakizoe, but after Tamaasuka gave Kakizoe the easy moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, the fat lady started her song as Sweet Zoe Jane easily forced his opponent back and across for the 2-6 record. Tamaasuka ain't much better at 3-5.

M9 Shimotori is a yotsu guy, but the last person he wants to get into a belt fight with at this level is M12 Gagamaru, who was all too happy to hook up in the quick migi-yotsu position (finally, a guy who wasn't looking to run from him). The Gentleman sucked Shimotori in tight and then slithered his way forward with so much bulk that Shimotori put up zero resistance. Gagamaru moves to 4-4 for his trouble while Shimotori falls to 3-5.

It was clear from the tachi-ai that M15 Hokutoriki was hellbent on pulling down his opponent in M10 Tosayutaka. Hokutoriki came out with the tsuppari, but when he wants to shove you out, he uses his legs to strengthen the shoves. That was absent today, and so despite the frequent pushes to his neck, Tosayutaka easily persisted for 5-6 seconds until Hokutoriki went for one pull too many allowing Tosayutaka (3-5) to pounce and turn the oshi-dashi tables on Jokutoriki (4-4).

M10 Mokonami wisely focused on grabbing the front of M12 Kokkai's belt, and despite getting pushed away from the grip at first by some nice neck shoves from the Georgian, Mokonami settled into the hidari-yotsu position and then bode his time until he could execute a maki-kae and secure moro-zashi. With Kokkai on the defensive throughout, it was easy peasy in the end as Mokonami halts his modest losing streak and improves to 5-3. Kokkai is now 4-4.

M11 Takamisakari just toyed with M16 Shotenro hitting him hard at the tachi-ai and causing Shotenro to lose his balance with a light inashi with the right hand, so with Shotenro now stumbling forward, Forrest easily slipped to his side and ushered him out from behind. Three bouts away from that kachi-koshi interview as Takamisakari improves to 5-3. Shotenro's floundering at 2-6.

Last and probably least (it'd be certainly least if Hakuba was fighting in this one), M15 Bushuyama and J5 Kasugao hooked up in an eventual hidari-yotsu contest where Bushuyama couldn't decide if he wanted to go for a maki-kae or go for a pulldown. Kasugao did the deciding for him by seizing a moro-zashi position of his own, which he used to escort Dolly back and out to a 3-5 record. Kasugao moves to 6-2, so from the J5 rank, he likely needs 5 more wins to secure promotion back up to the dance. Three more losses...that's all I ask.

Just dare me to pull off the trifecta tomorrow.

Day 7 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
M16 Shotenro has looked terrible in his return to the division. I know the dude has some game, but his left knee is injured to the extent that he can't compete in this division right now. But as bad as that is, he made short work of Koryu visiting from the J4 rank. Shotenro brought the oshi attack he always brings--that same one that isn't working in Makuuchi right now--and was able to push Koryu back and across without argument. So, we know that Shotenro isn't fit for the division right now, and we know that Koryu is even worse than that. Shotenro is 2-5.

M13 Kimurayama henka'ed today because he went straight forward against M14 Tamawashi. The Mawashi musta been caught off guard because he was in no position to attack, so Kimurayama led this dance swinging to his right in a circle trying to throw Tamawashi off balance with a few inashi moves, but in the end, Tamawashi grabbed Kim around the neck with the left arm and pushed him over with a right hand pushing into Kimurayama's armpit. Coulda been sukui-nage, but they ruled it kubi-hineri. I'll let Martin give his final answer on that one. In the meantime, look at the 2-5 Tamawashi actually getting a pic of his bout posted to Sumotalk while Kimurayama falls to 4-3. At 4-2 you thought, "damn, he's gonna finally kachi-koshi," but karma's on our side. Just wait. You don't fail to kachi-koshi eight straight basho if things are going right for you.

M11 Takamisakari took full advantage of his opponent, M16 Tamaasuka, and won easily despite a stupid pull move that would have cost him against most other rikishi. The Robocop managed his left arm on the inside at the tachi-ai, but wasted that with a dumb pull move, but stupid is as stupid does, and all Tamaasuka could manage was a right arm on the inside and a left arm nearly over the top of his opponent that allowed Takamisakari to reload, this time with a right inside position that spelled Tamaasuka's doom in short order. Takamisakari moves to 4-3 with the win while Tamaasuka is the converse.

Let me just pause right here to comment a bit on how bad the first few bouts of Makuuchi have been seemingly everyday. The reason is that when you take six guys out of the division and have to compensate with Juryo guys, the bouts are just awful, and it's a poor way to lead off the broadcast. If all of the rikishi who bet on baseball were kicked out of sumo, that would mean 16 sekitori would be gone, which also means for the next banzuke, you'd have so many guys in the top division that aren't worth a crap that the first half bouts would be unwatchable. Surely the higher-ups considered this when they kept the 16 around and only banned them for one basho. You may not think that you miss Toyonoshima or Miyabiyama or Okinoumi, but having an average Makuuchi guy there means that an inferior rikishi won't be. Aki can't get here soon enough.

M15 Hokutoriki used his usual moro-te charge from the tachi-ai against M11 Takekaze, but the Lil' Yokozuna's feet weren't planted securely to the dohyo.. Still, Takekaze was more in a mood to pull, so when he mistimed on a particular pull attempt, Hokutoriki was able to muscle him out of the ring via oshi-dashi and no lower body, which doesn't speak to Hokutoriki's strength; rather, it illustrates just how bass-ackwards Takekaze's approach was today. Perhaps I should have saved the rant in the previous paragraph for after this bout too. Both dudes are 4-3.

M10 Mokonami actually had moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M15 Bushuyama, but it consisted of a left frontal grip and the right inside position, a combination that allowed the heavier Bushuyama to lean into his opponent to the extent that Mokonami couldn't capitalize. The man with the tin panicked I thought trying a dashi-nage move were you throw your opponent to the side and in the case of today pull at the back of his head with the other hand, but Bushuyama's positioning was just too good, so when the dust settled, the two found themselves in the hidari-yotsu position. From there, Bushuyama struck first on a left scoop throw that easily felled Mokonami to the dirt. As Bushuyama hurried back to his side of the dohyo, Mokonami was sitting there on his ass wondering what just happened. I love Bushuyama and all, but one of the last places you want to find yourself is sitting in Bushuyama's wake. Mokonami falls to 4-3 while Bushuyama improves to 3-4 with his best sumo of the tourney.

With M9 Kakizoe fighting so poorly this basho, I'm sure that even M12 Gagamaru figured out that Kakizoe would go for a pull, so after a cautious tachi-ai from both parties, Kakizoe went for the pull maneuver yanking at Gagamaru's arms, but he largely whiffed on the attempt only to be rewarded by a left tsuki to the chest that sent Kakizoe across half the dohyo. Zoe Jane was able to keep his feet within the confines of the straw, but he was wobbling like a prize fighter just before he takes that final knockout punch. Gagamaru's footwork was swift in this one as he finished Kakizoe off with another thrust to improve his record to 3-4. Radio Gaga's gotta future in this division as soon as he learns he's a bona fide ass kicker. Kakizoe is an ugly 1-6 and my apologies to Staind for labeling this guy Sweet Zoe Jane.

I have to laugh when I see M13 Homasho's name on the leaderboard, but it is what it is...as long as Homie keeps getting these patsies to face. Today's opponent was M9 Shimotori who to Homasho's credit was neutralized nicely at the tachi-ai by a left arm from Homasho square into the side of Shimotori, and not having gained any sorta yotsu position from the start, Shimotori went for a pull and then another that Homasho read with ease shoving his way to a 7-0 record. Shimotori falls to 3-4 with the loss.

M7 Wakanosato struck his partner, M12 Kokkai, at the tachi-ai and then went Kaio on him immediately back-pedaling in hopes of a cheap pull down, and while the move didn't work, Kokkai was befuddled and never seemed to regain proper footing despite the two eventually hooking up in the hidari-yotsu position. Wakanosato enjoyed the lower stance and forced Kokkai back, but Georgian wasn't sure of his exact position in the dohyo and stepped on a tawara that he didn't suspect was there with the result being the Gorgeous Georgian crashing to the dohyo and hugging Wakanosato on the way down as if he were holding on for dear life. Just ugly stuff all the way around as both rikishi stand at 4-3.

M6 Kakuryu met M10 Tosayutaka in the hidari-yotsu position, and about two seconds in, the Kak decided to go for a maki-kae with that left arm. Normally, a maki-kae is a do-or-die move, but I think Kakuryu knew he had some room to work with against Tosayutaka. As Kakuryu let up ever so slightly to get that left arm on the inside, Tosayutaka drove him back to the brink, but the Kak was able to hold on with the dual inside grips and eventually force the action back to the center of the ring where he burrowed in low (something hard to do against Tosayutaka) and just shouldered his opponent back and out from there. Give Kakuryu the Ginosho already for knowing his opponent and knowing what he could get away with. Enjoy that 7-0 record after week one. Tosayutaka falls to 2-5.

Coming off of a win against Harumafuji yesterday, M2 Aran made sure not to build too much momentum going for an immediate pulldown of M8 Yoshikaze putting both hands at the back of Yoshikaze's melon while stepping a bit to his left. It was over in a second, and I'm not sure what's been easier this basho, winning via a tachi-ai henka or beating Harumafuji. In the spirit of things, let's just call it a push as Aran creeps to 3-4 while Yoshikaze falls to 1-6. I heard for the first time during today's broadcast that Yoshikaze had left elbow surgery in between basho, so that helps explain things.

M1 Tochiohzan has matured greatly in his mindset and his sumo the last six months. Today against M7 Tokusegawa, he caught the Mongolian with a right choke hold and just drove him back fueling the attack with perfect de-ashi. Tokusegawa resisted a bit at the edge, but all it bought him was a moro-zashi hold against him that saw Tochiohzan force his opponent back and out without argument. I dare say today's sumo was a thorough ass-kicking as both rikishi sit at 4-3.

Speaking of thorough ass-kickings, Komusubi Hakuba avoided his today with a tachi-ai henka to his left against fellow Komusubi Tochinoshin, who had know idea what was coming as he just dove forward into thin air. The kimari-te was tottari as Hakuba grabbed at Tochinoshin's right arm as he flew by, but this was dirty pool all the way. I know Tochinoshin is having a rough go at things coming into the day at 1-5, but how can you not suspect the henka against Hakuba? Shin was 3-0 against the softie coming in...both guys were 1-5 while ranked at Komusubi...and you knew Hakuba was getting desperate. Just goes to show you that Tochinoshin has let himself get rattled with his bad start. He'll repent straightway and be back here for Kyushu.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku stepped to his right at the tachi-ai against M1 Asasekiryu in what some call "uwate wo toru" and what others would call a henka. I call it a Sekiwake who doesn't trust in his game enough to go straight up against a guy 0-6 coming in. Having obtained the cheap right outer grip and advantageous positioning, Kotoshogiku made short work of the Secretary with a force-out win set up by that ill-gotten grip. The Geeku "improves" to 3-4 on paper while Asasekiryu is still winless.

Ozeki Harumafuji is a nice mess this basho and has conveniently taped up his left knee nice and tight, but M4 Kitataiki seems to be a good cure for what ails you of late. The Ozeki shot out of the gate with the left inside position and looked to drive Kitataiki back, but as soon as Kitataiki dug in near the straw, Harumafuji went for a maki-kae with the right arm. The move nearly cost him as Kitataiki sensed the slight let-up and drove the Ozeki clear across the dohyo and up onto the tawara, but Harumafuji had moro-zashi and was able to raise Kitataiki up high enough to where he didn't have the momentum to make that final nudge out and pick up an Ozeki scalp in the process. With Kitataiki's strength exhausted, Harumafuji forced the action a step back towards the center of the ring, pivoted, with the dual inside position, and forced Kitataiki out from there. This was a lot like the Kakuryu bout earlier. I thought both Mongolians pulled the trigger too soon on maki-kae attempts as they were clearly the superior rikishi anyway; both dudes were nearly beat because of it; but both came through in the end thanks to opponents who fall into the headcase category of late. As bad as he's been, you know the 3-4 Harumafuji will find a way to get his eight. Kitataiki falls to 2-5 and shoulda picked this one up.

Ozeki Baruto was in wait-and-see-mode at the tachi-ai against M2 Aminishiki who charged with two token hands outstretched into Baruto's chest but then moved quickly to his left in an attempt to make the Estonian chase him. But Baruto's reaction was to put both hands at the back of his opponent's head despite not having fully squared back up with his opponent, and Aminishiki awarded the mistake by driving Baruto back and out with such force that he sent the Estonian clear off the dohyo to give the waiting Kaio a lap dance. Baruto has been a half step slow the entire basho; thus the 4-3 record. Aminishiki moves to 3-4 with the win and showed that Baruto can be manhandled with ease if his mind isn't entirely into his work.

Ozeki Kaio threw a weak left shoulder into M5 Tokitenku at the tachi-ai, and before Tokitenku could really react, Kaio's feet just slid out from under him (called ashi ga nagareru) causing the Old Gray Mare to crash to the dohyo and giving Tokitenku the hiki-otoshi win. There's not much more to break down in this one...Kaio just lost his footing after a half-assed tachi-ai leaving both rikishi at 5-2.

I always talk about the necessity of Sekiwake Kisenosato picking up a big win, and today he would get his first chance to do so against recent nemesis, Ozeki Kotooshu, but the Ozeki has figured out that Kisenosato goes for the outside position from the tachi-ai, so Kotooshu kept both arms in tight at the charge, slipped into the easy moro-zashi position, and then just bear-hugged the Kid over to the side and down for the yori-taoshi win. I really want Kisenosato to succeed at this level and become an Ozeki, but I love it how Kotooshu has completely figured the Kid out forcing him to change his attack in the future when he fights the Ozeki. We'll see if either Kisenosato or Naruto-oyakata figure the same thing out. Something tells me they won't. Kotooshu is 7-0 but cannot lose if he hopes to stay in the yusho race. Kisenosato is where we expected him (sigh) at 5-2.

In the day's grand poobah, Yokozuna Hakuho secured the right inside position against M3 Kyokutenho, parlayed that into a left outer grip, and then threw the Chauffeur down to the dohyo like a sack of potatoes. It's a thing'a beauty to watch Hakuho pull his opponents in tight and then use his midsection to lift them off balance setting them up for the kill. That's exactly how it played out today as well as Hakuho moves to a cool 7-0 while Kyokutenho falls to 3-4.

See ya mańana.

Day 6 (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
Welcome to Peephole Basho © 2010. With all the gambling ongoing, NHK only showing us some recaps and Mike's new budgetary constraints (no more private jets to Japan for bashos, bah) we've had to resort to the peephole that NSK hands around and to make life more interesting they've even added a killswitch to it in the background. What I mean is that if you decide to record the action for some later pleasuring erm enjoying you'll end up with an empty file if you happen to record while they send those kill signals.... BAH... Anyway, let the sneaking and peeping begin...

I'm starting to get why sumo wrestlers need huge bellies. At least in todays Juryo match of Sokukurai vs Sakaizawa the loose mawashi of Sokukurai slid up and down over his belly, which would not have happened as much had he had a bit bigger one. When the grappling and touching was done Sakaizawa was so embarrassed of what he'd done that he pulled the loose part of Sokukurai's mawashi high enough to give the man a new man-bra.

Oh, right ... you wanted me to comment on Makuuchi bouts. I had forgotten that considering all this intermixing and fewer bouts that's going there's still a separation there. Anyway can't quite satisfy you with the first bout as it's only half makuuchi (represented with The Mawashi) vs. half Juryo (represented by Sagatsukasa). And why should we make the separation when a Juryo guy comes up, charges from the tachi-ai like a mad dog driving Tamawashi back and out. I honestly thought I had mixed up the M vs. J sides in this bout. Both guys leave the arena with 1-5 and nothing to be overly happy about.

I can see how Mike mixed up that Shotenro's not from Juryo as he sure as hell fights like he still belongs in the second echelon. Today he was paired with a "lightweight" Kimurayama and could expect a henka to the left, but sadly Kimu was out of shape and failed to live up on his end of the bargain. So Shot came out with a careful double nodowa, but was not really able to drive Kimu anywhere. When Big Shot then slipped during the thrusting on the ice skating ring they call a dohyo it was Kimu who quickly moved to the side to give BS some room to fall. However Shot survived the move only to be grappled by Kimurayama with a double nodowa in turn and when Shot went to break this move by slapping down on the hands he opened himself up enough to allow Kimu to drive him back and out. Shotenro leaves and joins the 1-5 club while Kimurayama is a blazing 4-2. I honestly can't tell how he has reached that score...

Lady Gaga charged in an unorthodox way by going fully forward and at the same time grabbing Tamaasuka's head from behind. I couldn't quite get what he had planned there as he didn't backpedal for a pull and I guess he himself was as surprised by his position that he just swapped gears and went to slap poor Tama around. Tamaasuka dug in, grabbed Lady Gaga's hand and started to backpedal while moving in a circle and as I already explained the physics at some point last year with YMY, it's not easy for these hutts to maintain balance while being pivoted so Gagamaru keeled over and rolled off the dohyo in no-time. Tamaasuka improves to 50% line while Gagamaru is looking longingly towards Juryo for some solace at 2-4.

I've been expecting the fat kaze to fare worse than he has the past five days, but there just had to be flukes in there too. Today as he took on Mr. Bush, he as a good and world peace loving democrat couldn't allow the republican swine dog any victories so he charged and after absorbing Bush backpedaled around him. Bush did lock up, but being constantly on the move didn't have any good moments to turn this motion into a win. As he allowed himself to be backpedaled he extended a bit too far backwards opening himself up for a simple pulldown. Takekaze led the match from start to finish and showed why there's a black guy in the oval office now. Bushuyama falls to 2-4 and leaves for better oil fields in Gulf of Mexico, but even there he might not find his rest as some idiot just turned off the pipes and there won't be free flowing oil no more.

The Jokester and the Clown. This could be a blockbuster in the making if we'd be an ocean away, but no, today it's just a simpleton with a badass attitude meeting a handicapped itchi and scratchy. Hokutoriki came with his signature double nodowa and almost had Takamisakari backpedaling. Takami then wiggled past Jokesters hands and into a grip, that he used to pivot his foe slightly to his right leaving Hokutoriki with an awkward headlock grip, that he couldn't use. From this stance it was easy for Takamisakari to push him out from the rear to an embarrassing third loss. Both guys have everything equal win-loss wise.

Homey boy charged low and into the armpits of Tosayutaka, getting a good one for the right hand while neutralizing the respective move from yutaka with his left. As yutaka slowly struggled closer and was able to push his right arm past Homey's block the guys both settled into a migi-yotsu grip that Homasho immediately used to charge forward. He moved Tosayutaka backwards to the straw, where Yut dug in and almost lifted Homey off the ground only to have them both crash down to the clay. A good and solid win by Homasho, who continues to lead with no losses. Tosayutaka falls to 2-4 and hopes for easier week two.

As Shimotori and Kokkai regrouped from a matta I was thinking about all the things recently going on in Sumo and to be honest it's been tough to keep any kind of positive attitude with all this shit hitting the fan and most of it being flung towards the fans and especially us furries. The NHK no-broadcast choice of course being the worst of them all. Anyway, back to the Shim vs. Kokk action. Both guys charged with tsuppari and even though both tried to go for a belt grip it was fended off by the other in no-time. On the fourth or fifth attempt (didn't bother to count) Shimotori did break through the defenses and not only got a simple grip, but a full blown moro-zashi, to which Kokkai quickly reacted by stepping back and going for a maki-kae. Said attempt worked, but it was too little too late as he already found himself the wrong side of the tawara. Shimotori improves to the 0.5 line while Kokkai's one win above.

The Barometer's been showing low pressure zone lately and espresso seems to have somehow pissed off the fat Kaze or someone else at the heya as it seems he's been having Decaf the past days. Yoshikaze tried to force the bout to a tsuppari bout and had it been that he'd probably have won it with his agility, but Wakanosato isn't having his first Makuuchi basho so he dug in deep with his left hand, raising up Espressos right and using his right worked the little feller back and out. A solid win by the Barometer improving back to equal odds while espresso really needs a private coffee machine for his daily dosage.

At least for me the next bout was one to anticipate as the association had paired up Kakuryu, who's been going strong with no losses, against Mokonami, who's only lost one so far and has shown some great fighting spirit throughout the first five days. And Mokonami didn't disappoint as he charged low hoping for an immediate belt grip, but only meeting Kakuryu's hands that disabled his own. A short shoving ensued, where Kakuryu tried to guide one of Moe's lunges past his right side and to the clay, but Moe had too good balance to fall for that. As the two locked from there Moe only had a hugging hold of Kak's left hand while Kakuryu who had a good right hand belt grip used it to fall Mokonami to the dirt by a beautiful shitatenage. An excellent match where Kakuryu's experience won out. Kak joins Homey for a lossless lead while Moe's got 4-2 and easier opposition to look forward to.

What? It's change of the guard time already? Well I'm not quite used to so few Makuuchi bouts, but I don't think I'd be missing any that were missing either. Clancy's man-crush Tokusegawa, who is nicely on course for yet another KK in Makuuchi was handed today Kitataiki. Tokusegawa charged hard after the initial matta and was well rewarded by gaining a neat moro-zashi. Kitataiki tried to lock his arms and raise him up, but there was no getting out of this move. As he was moved backwards Kitataiki did try to grab Tokusegawa's neck and pull, but that didn't do anything but get the foe angrier so the shove off the dohyo was just stronger. Tokusegawa is a decent 4-2 while Kitataiki is getting what is rightly his at 2-4.

Sweet warm shit really really wanted to go at it today as he jumped the gun three time and got the Gyoji quite angry. On the fourth attempt he did what Tokusegawa had just done before, namely lunged into moro-zashi and while he couldn't capitalize immediately due to his small stature he did fend off the maki-kae from Tokitenku and slowly worked him towards the straw and down. Angry furball he may be, but a surprise deliver he can (like Yoda would say). Zoe got his first win with this while Tokitenku just missed his chance to be one down.

As the next two lined up it seemed to me that it was a cruel joke by the torikumi makers to pair two winless chaps against two 4-1-s as Kisenosato was fed Asasexy just as Kakizoe had taken down Tokitenku. However unlike Tokitenku Kisenosato had woken up from seeing the previous bout and didn't allow Asasekiryu to get that first white dot today by quickly charging into hidari-yotsu grip and slowly escorting the struggling Secretary back and out. Nothing to watch here as Asasuckiryu needs two more for make koshi.

Tochiohzan has been showing more fighting spirit than I remembered him doing this high and while Kotoshogiku has taken down his usual ozeki he has looked so-so the other days. Today he charged good and immediately got a left hand grip that he used to start moving the struggling Oh Poo backwards, but as he was close to finishing off his foe he was swiped to the side and slapped down by Tochiohzan, who was doing a nice ballet move at the time. A sloppy finish by Kotoshogiku that cost him the win. Tochiohzan is a respectable 3-3 while Kotoshogiku is struggling at 2-4.

Our favorite Ozeki (though he hasn't lived up to this role this basho quite yet) met the feisty shin-Komusubi, who already has one Ozeki scalp. As far as I know Tochinoshin doesn't really henka so I didn't quite understand why Baruto charged so high and with no real power in it. Effectively he just stood up the two locked into migi-yotsu grip, which is also the favorite grip of Tochinoshin. Being as big as Baruto is it wasn't easy for Tochinoshin to immediately go for the kill so while he was still contemplating on the vector of attack Baruto pulled a brilliant uwatenage, which was slightly assisted by his inside grip. Very beautiful execution and the kind of sumo that we like to see. If he could only fix the tachi-ai crap we'd be exhilarated.

Aminishiki cached the cheque his usual way. He charged low, giving Kaio the nice over the head double neck hold that the bear used to pull the hapless Aminishiki down to the clay. Yawn.

Kotooshu, or let's call him our last best hope for a Yusho run (LBHFAYR), slept through the tachi-ai and suddenly found himself in a tight grip by Kyokutenho, who secured the grip by going maki-kae for moro-zashi. Now usually if someone gives Kyokutenho a good moro-zashi it's curtains for them. However our LBHFAYR dug in with moro-uwate and matched a stride for a stride with Tenho slowly, but solidly working the chauffeur back and out. Very very good sumo by LBHFAYR, who joins the other two lossless guys for a share of the lead. Kyokutenho falls to 0.5, but that's not half as bad after the first six days from his rank.

Aran the leapfrog took on Harry the sleepyhead and you'd not think it's an Ozeki on the west side if you looked at the score coming in (2-3 for Harry). When we discussed this after day four with Martina he said there might be a kyujo looming for Harry, but we'll see if he can still turn it around in the next days as today he looked just bland awful. I could go into all the twists and turns and slaps, but all-in-all the bout was Aran slapping and guiding with Harry attacking once in a while, but with no power from Harry's side. Even when he charged or thrust away he didn't have the lower body following so Aran didn't feel any need to move backwards. And even though it took Aran ca 3-4 attempts to turn Harry around and slap him down he did succeed in the end and for a cherry on top mounted his foe at the end as Harry was spread on all fours with his ass high, just waiting and inviting. My recommendation would be to stop the rot and go kyujo, but when did they listen to me the last time. Bah. Both guys are now at 2-4 and should be ashamed of themselves.

Hakuho met with Hakuba. Hakuho won.

That's it from my side, I'll now get back to dying of too warm summer and unpacking from the recent move. We'll meet again this basho, I just have no clue when and in what state I'll be in. You might get a report tomorrow, but Mike wanted it to be a surprise so I didn't tell you who it was.

Day 5 (Mark Arbo reporting)
Hell in a hand basked friends, that is where all this is going. Every time it looks like things can't get any worse, they do. Exponentially. We here at Sumotalk are no chumps. And we know when to get the hell off a sinking ship. Ladies and germs, Ozumo is about the sinkingest ship around.

So the only question left seems to be what to do with this website, loyal readership and our millions in assists. Meeting with writers, share holder and advisors have been ongoing for weeks now, often round the clock with only spinach dip and fruity cocktails to keep us going, but alas we find ourselves at a stalemate. The main problem is that we all have such different ideas for the direction the site should go in. I'll give you just a few examples-

Clancy is probably the most vocal member of these meetings. He often uses his complete lack of shame and booming voice to publicly berate his opposition till they, tail between their legs, back off and think good and hard before challenging him again. What Clancy has in mind is to facilitate dialog between different congregations and faiths. Not just heady debate either. Let's say you have a Baptist youth group on the east coast that is going to do a volunteer service project on the West. Well you could go on what Clancy affectionately calls "faithbook" and hook up with a Mosque who would help out with accommodations and meals when you get there. Clancy can make up examples like this for hours ... and he often does.

Martin on the other hand is significantly more pragmatic. Realizing just how popular (and illegal) gambling is in Japan, he wants to set up a Japanese website in a country like Romania where "anything goes". For a none too small charge, Japanese gamblers could log on and bet with Visa, AmEx or PayPal.

Mike's best idea is to switch the site to focus on "all amateur sumo, all the time". While Dr. Mario occasionally stares at the floor and mutters something like, "I'm just saying guys, there is a LOT of money in gay porn".

As you can see we are a long way from any consensus, so let me tell you about the sumo ... while we still have it ...

Homasho kept his perfect record alive with a tachi-ai henka that would shame even opponent Hokutoriki. Riki pounced, Homie wasn't there. The end. Sure I would rather see something like this done to Hokutoriki than a rikishi I have any actual respect for, but this is not the type of crap I ever want to see.

I didn't want to see it, but like Clancy and the herpes you can't always get what you want ... or more accurately, sometimes you get something you really REALLY don't want. And what I got was another hideous henka from Kokkai to hapless Shotenro followed by yet another one that gave Kimurayama a victory over Lady Gaga.

Nice freakin' start to my day! Even when the stands were full and everything was peachy, this would have been a piss-off, but with sumo on it's death bed with the doctor out of town and asbestos in the walls... this type of shite is damn near suicidal. You would think the Rijicho would have given them some sort of a "Let's make it a good one!" pep talk or something.  I would have stopped watching right here ... but Mike would beat me.

I stepped out for some fresh air and a line of coke.


Feeling plenty "refreshed", I came back just in time to see Kakuryu make short work of Kakizoe. Just a few harmless enough looking shoves was, sadly, all it took. This basho Lil' Kak has got the knack but Sweet Zo has got to go.

Ever notice how Tokitenku always has the most bizaree false starts? No two are the same but they are always aggressive, awkward and confusing (Like Martin's "love sessions"). Anywho, after he and Yoshikaze finally got their tachi-ai together, he of course henka'ed for the easy win. Yes, it was a henka. Sure he went for a half hearted leg kick as he jumped to try and chance the kimari-te, but that's like saying it's not rape if you call her in the morning (it still is, right?). Kaze stays at just one win while the Mongol has just one loss.

Everyone knew Hakuba would have his ass handed to him ranked this high up, but Aran fumbling this much is, at least to me, a little bit of a sad surprise. Today the big Honkey stood straight up at the tachi-ai and rather passively absorbed Hakuba's charge. Hakuba spun away from The Bouncer's left breaking Aran's hold while improving his own. Aran seemed to be reacting well and the two of them bellied up in a test of straight that I was sure Aran would win easily. Turns out Hakuba is a lot stronger than he looks. Hakuba gets a well earned yori-kiri win. That's his first win of the basho.

Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku are two guys who, through no fault or choice of their own, really need to "carry the flag" for their country in this most dark time for Sumo. Today these two "Great Yellow Hopes" had the kind of match you would expect; The Geeku came out hard at the tachi-ai and began to move his co-Sekiwake back. But this is where The Geeku wins or loses matches. If he can keep his body so tight to his opponents that you can't squeeze a gambling receipt with Chiyotaikai's name on it between them, then he is all right (btw, why is he using his Member of the Nihon Sumo Kyokai given name to commit a crime??? Why not use "Ruyji Hiroshima" {his real name} or "Simon Siddall". . . that's the one I usually use). But if, for whatever reason, some space is created, he is susceptible to pulls and a list of throws. Today the space was there and Kissy grabbed an easy pull-down win.

With the seats so void of asses, the few people cheering really stand out. You can hear the desperate passion in their voices as they chant Kaio. He brings them back to a time before police investigations, gambling, yaocho, man slaughter and Mongolians. A time when sumo was fun, relevant and accepted on faith. No fear. No questions. No problems.

Today Kaio took an outside left on struggling Tochinoshin and immediately swung away pulling the Georgian down as he did. Shin did put up some resistance but that might be said for a few of his matches this basho. I don't think the fans believe any more ... but at least today they get to remember.

With a shinny/happy perfect record, Kotooshu has been wearing the big shoes that everyone thought Baruto would be sporting this basho. This distance between one and two is like from here to the moon, but Shoe is definitely the Vice Prez in this republic. Today he looked solid again. Tochiohzan had a good tachi-ai, but Koto did a good job of denying him any hand grips while finding deep grips of his own and surging forward at the same time. All that was left was for Ohzan to make his usual "Stupid! Why am I so stupid!?" face.

Harumafuji looks awfully banged up. Again. Today he came at The Secretary with some tsupari but got bent over and drawn into Asasekiryu's trademark stalemate. As Ama was thinking about a charge The Secretary went for a throw, but Harumafuji's footing was sound and he survived the attempt and plowed his now sidewise sempai over the straw rope. Ama, should just eek out a KK. Again. Sekiryu still hasn't found even his first win.

Kyokutenho gave us our last fishy tachi-ai of the day when he side stepped Bart. This allowed the Mongolian the hand positioning he wanted, but Baruto is a lot to move no matter how you hold on to him. As Tenho looked to swing the Estonian, Bart executed a surprisingly smooth, quick and capable maki-kae that left him in moro-zashi. From there the yori-kiri win was just a formality. Good stuff there Goldy Locks.

A rare day when all Ozeki picking up a win ... and yet none picking up a Kensho.

To make things interesting today, Hakuho tied his arm behind his back and did Aminishiki one handed. But it was soon apparent that this was still going to be too easy for him so mid-fight he had a lucky volunteer from the audience come into the dohyo and place a blindfold on him. This made it a competitive pairing, but Hak was still able to crack his skull open and feast on the squishy brain matter inside.

Hack is right now daily extending one of the more prestigious records in the history of the sport. Another time and another rikishi, this would be front page news. But no one gives a rat's ass. Most Nihonjin's don't even know it's happening.

Hell in a hand basket, friends.

I'm (mercifully) not reporting next week so I'll have to give you extra HW.

- Read a book! Computers are great and all but there is something incredibly relaxing, therapeutic and cool about paper in hand, page turning and Times New Roman.

- It's funny and sadly ironic that the NSK is still announcing at the hon basho that you mustn't throw your zabuton. Bit of a "plank in your own eye" kinda thing, isn't it? Well, the Emperor is naked, so if you are one of the 15 or 20 people showing up tomorrow, throw away. Throw whatever, whenever you want. Hak aint gunna lose but you can ... say ... throw when Takami is going threw his prefight ritual. Our you could throw when the gyoji is singing.  In fact if you think about it, I bet you can think of dozens of cool times to chuck a cushion. And if one of the Moral High Ground NSK Security Guards like say Chiyotaikai approaches you, just throw him a half bag of bud and a print of betting odds lines and I'm sure he will be plenty and pleasantly distracted.

- If you are "J" send a quick letter or 10 to the Monbusho telling them that a complete overhaul of the NSK is not only necessary but also about 5 years late. Ex rikishi usually fail at running Chanko Nabe restaurants, who the hell thought they could run a pro sport?

-There aren't a lot of stand out matches tomorrow but I'm sure someone will step up and make something interesting happen. And when they do Mike will be there to tell you all about it.

"May the sun shine bright on your joyous days,
And the rain refresh you through peaceful nights"

Have a great summer ...

Day 4 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The big news heading into day 4 was once again something off the dohyo. This time, former Ozeki Chiyotaikai is in the news after a tabloid supposedly got their grubby hands on a gambling receipt from last year that had Chiyotaikai's name on it and bets for three different baseball games. Chiyotaikai flat out denied having ever bet on baseball essentially going "all-in" because what makes this so interesting is that Chiyotaikai was part of a police investigation into Kotomitsuki's gambling habits, and the former Ozeki specifically told police that he had never gambled on baseball. If it turns out that he did gamble, he's now guilty of providing false information to police, which would prompt a new investigation into Chiyotaikai's past not to mention another emergency meeting of sumo's board where they really would have no choice but to expel Sanoyama-oyakata. I do like how Clancy put it yesterday though...the rikishi that were tough as nails and that everyone likes/d are the badasses who beat people up and gamble/d their dough on sports. Hell yeah, Chiyotaikai bet on baseball.

Yet another storyline that will subsequently play itself out, so in the meantime, let's bring the attention back into the dohyo.

J3 Masatsukasa got caught with his hands in the cookie jar against M15 Bushuyama...and by cookie jar I'm talking about placing both of his hands on Bushuyama's breasts, a move that the layman also refers to as hazu-oshi. With Masa hunkered down low and Dolly standing relatively straight up, there was only one direction this bout was headed. Masatsukasa spun his wheels a bit in the dirt at first, but a stupid pull attempt from Bushuyama was all the Juryo rikishi needed to score the easy oshi-dashi win and 4-0 record, which is tops in Juryo if anyone cares. I don't either, so let's focus back on Bushuyama who is redefining slow this basho at 1-3.

Another Juryo rikishi in Shotenro...wait, he's M16...picked up his first win by going for a dangerous pull against M14 Tamawashi shortly after the tachi-ai, but the way Tamawashi's been fighting of late, I guess it wasn't total suicide as Tamawashi fell for the slap and stumbled forward all the way to the tawara where Shotenro finished him off leaving both dudes at 1-3. Here's how you can tell when a bout is bad: NHK doesn't show a replay.

M13 Homasho moved to 4-0 by doing what he does best...beat up on the low hanging fruit in the division. Today's victim was M16 Tamaasuka, who actually won the tachi-ai, grabbed the right outer grip first, and caught Homasho with his feet aligned in the center of the dohyo; yet, he still couldn't finish off his bidness allowing Homasho to counter with a right outer grip of his own and then largely whiffing on a belt throw attempt that left Tamaasuka extremely compromised at the edge. Homie took charge from here executing the gift yori-kiri win. Tamaasuka is 1-3, and I'm too afraid to actually go and look up who he beat.

M12 Gagamaru has repented of his early sins and has kept his head up and eyes forward at the tachi-ai the last few days. Sure, guys are still going to try and dart this way and that on him, but as long as he can stay square with them, Violet has the advantage. Today against M15 Hokutoriki, the Lil' Yokozuna's biggest mistake was not going for a henka because his weak moro-te attempt at the tachi-ai resulted in Gagamaru blasting him back and out quicker'n you can say "what's the line on the HamFighters - Lions game tonight?". Love the name HamFighters. And Gagamaru's 2-2 if ya need him while Hokutoriki falls to 3-1.

M12 Kokkai suffered his first loss of the basho as well against M13 Kimurayama who henka'd meaning instead of moving to his left at the tachi-ai, he stepped to his right. The befuddled Kokkai had no answer and was caught leaning forward awkwardly in the middle of the ring with his feet all but aligned. After the two traded a tsuppari attempt each, Kimurayama took advantage of Kokkai's lack of footwork and easily slapped him down to the dirt moving to 2-2. No replay for this one either which tells you all you need to know.

M10 Mokonami struck M11 Takamisakari hard and low at the tachi-ai securing his right arm on the inside and clinching a left outer grip in the migi-yotsu contest. Japan's version of Mr. Bean didn't exactly redefine the speed of sound as he went for a maki-kae in an attempt to counter his opponent's advantage, so Mokonami capitalized on the shift of his opponent's momentum and drove Takamisakari back and out before the defeated could do anything with his moro-zashi position. Mokonami's a sweet 3-1 while Takamisakari falls to 2-2.

M11 Takekaze took a page out of Kokkai's book yesterday going for a series of face slaps against M10 Tosayutaka, but the name Takekaze usually doesn't conjure up a dude with long arms, so the faux punches weren't nearly as effective as Kokkai's were yesterday. I take that back. The strategy was extremely effective...effective for Tosayutaka as he waxed off Takekaze's funny bidness, lurched in for the easy left inside position and right outer grip, and then drove Takekaze back and across without argument leaving both rikishi at 2-2.

M9 Kakizoe finally won a tachi-ai this basho with his opponent being M7 Wakanosato, but despite the great inside position with the right and a left hand pushing inward at Wakanosato's left arm rendering it useless, Kakizoe couldn't budge his opponent. Just as Wakanosato began to protest and inch forward, Kakizoe blew it by going for a neck hold with that right arm. The result was an instantaneous yori-kiri win for Wakanosato who improves to 2-2. Kakizoe is winless, so it's good I didn't pick him for my Fantasy Sumo team.

M6 Kakuryu just schooled M9 Shimotori demanding the right inside position from the tachi-ai coupled with a left outer grip. The Kak wisely stayed low and kept his arse back as well denying Shimotori a sniff of his own left outer grip. Shimotori's a helluva belt fighter when he has an outer grip, so Kakuryu made sure he went without in this one. At one point as Shimotori dug in stubbornly, Kakuryu went for a maki-kae. The move failed, but the Kak's position was so solid from the start that it wasn't a do-or-die move. When the dust settled, the two ended up in the exact same position, and this time, the Kak bodies up to his buddy and forced him back and across with just a hint of gaburi-yori. Kakuryu is an unsurprising 4-0 and is probably already thinking about how he can gamble away...I mean spend his special prize money. Shimotori cools down at 2-2.

This marks the halfway point in the bouts, and I must say that as much as I miss the entire broadcast, I certainly don't miss the other three Makuuchi bouts we'd normally be getting. This scaled down version is much better, and I wouldn't mind if the Sumo Association adopted a "go green" policy by slicing 6 rikishi from the Makuuchi division. I still remember when they abolished the true kyujo system (where you didn't lose your position on the banzuke with an injury sustained during a hon-basho) over a decade ago adding four extra sekitori to the ranks to compensate with two more in Juryo and two more in Makuuchi. That's yesterday's news, however, and none of the active rikishi then are still fighting now 'cept maybe Kaio. It'd also save the NSk a chunk of salary, and they could also spin it by branding it a form of punishment for the recent scandals. So I say, Go Green!

After a haphazard tachi-ai between M8 Yoshikaze and M4 Kitataiki where neither rikishi looked stable as they grappled for position, Kitataiki came away with a right outer grip and immediately escorted his gal back towards the tawara. Yoshikaze exclaimed "fresh!" near the edge and withstood Kitataiki's advances momentarily, but Kitataiki's grip was just too good as he finally marched Yoshikaze back that final step leaving both rikishi at unimpressive 1-3 records. Unimpressive describes the sumo for both of these dudes this basho.

M3 Tokitenku was his usual fashionably late at the tachi-ai against M7 Tokusegawa, but the younger Mongolian still isn't polished to the point where he can take advantage, so Tokitenku withstood his charge with a right paw to the throat parlaying that into the solid left outer grip. But Tokitenku failed to really strike allowing Tokusegawa to eventually work his way into a left outer grip of his own leaving the two in the gappuri yotsu position. At this point, an 80 year old man in the crowed got up to go pee, and just as he was returning to his seat, Tokitenku broke off Tokusegawa's outer grip and marched him back and across the straw for the veteran win not to mention 3-1 start. Tokusegawa falls to 2-2 and really shoulda capitalized on a few of Tenku's mistakes in my opinion.

In the Komusubi ranks, Tochinoshin was side-stepped ever so slightly by M3 Kyokutenho who moved to his left in a tactic often referred to as "uwate wo toru," which I'm okay with if a rikishi doesn't abuse it. Anyway, Kyokutenho used his advantage by swinging the Komusubi clear around and over to the straw opposite where he started, but Tochinoshin dug in valiantly and even finagled a left outer grip of his own making this the second gappuri yotsu contest in as many bouts. The two were set to dig in for a stalemate, but instead of 80 year-old guy trying to relieve himself, it was more like 20 year-old guy during his first conjugal visit in a year as Kyokutenho brilliantly wrenched his hips cutting off Tochinoshin's outer grip and setting up the immediate force-out. Good stuff from the Chauffeur who moves to 3-1 while Tochinoshin just can't catch a break at 1-3.

Sekiwake Kisenosato welcomed the other rookie Komusubi, Hakuba, who is so out of his league at this rank he doesn't know how to react at the tachi-ai. Today he sorta leaned to his left, but the Kid was on top of him like flies to stinkbait using a right choke hold to drive Hakuba over to the edge and a left paw at the side of the lightweight to send him into one of those seats in the front row earmarked for a high-ranking yakuza official until Kise-oyakata got caught. Kisenosato moves to 3-1 with the win, but the real topic here is just how embarrassing it is to have Hakuba in the sanyaku. Dude is so clueless at this rank it's painful, and that kind of shite turns me off more than rikishi trying to get a gamblin' fix. Hakuba is a deserved 0-4.

With Baruto and Harumafuji floundering around, any hopes of a yusho race in Nagoya are pinned squarely on the hairy chest of Kotooshu, who had to be fretting a bit to see M2 Aminishiki staring at him across the starting lines. In a curious tachi-ai for the Bulgarian, he actually went Aminishiki on Aminishiki grabbing his melon with both hands and immediately going for the pulldown at the tachi-ai. The move nearly worked for the Ozeki, but Aminishiki kept his balance and looked to drive the compromised Ozeki back and out for the quick win, but the key here was that Aminishiki's right arm was on the outside of Kotooshu's left, so despite the lower stance and the solid left inside position, Kotooshu was able to survive Aminishiki's force-out charge at the brink wrenching the M2 upright with the left inside position and grabbing the right outer grip in the process. The yori-kiri was textbook from there as Kotooshu marched Aminishiki clear across the ring and out for a nice comeback win. This one was closer than it looked, but Aminishiki's failure to get that right arm to the inside was the difference. At 4-0, Kotooshu is already technically one behind Hakuho, so he can't lose again. Aminishiki's a decent 2-2.

Prior to the basho, I talked about the significance of Kotooshu and Harumafuji not dropping bouts to Aminishiki and Kotoshogiku respectively, so where Kotooshu was able to survive Aminishiki, Harumafuji wasn't so lucky against Sekiwake Kotoshogiku. Brimming with confidence, the Geeku just bullied Harumafuji back from the tachi-ai using the left inside position and a right arm wrapped around the outside of the Ozeki's left. The slippery Ozeki somehow evaded at the edge and began flirting with a right grip of his own, but Kotoshogiku had him too upright throughout and was able to fend that counter move off and literally put his opponent against the ropes. In desperation, Harumafuji went for a kubi-nage with the right arm and then tried to parlay that into an impromptu utchari with his back arched at the edge, but Kotoshogiku was a man on a mission and bulldozed the Ozeki off the dohyo yori-taoshi style picking up yet another win against the wily Mongolian. The Sekiwake regains his footing at 2-2 while Harumafuji has simply been getting his ass kicked around at 1-3.

Another struggling Ozeki in Baruto exhibited a stellar tachi-ai today considering his opponent was M1 Asasekiryu. Baruto kept both arms down and in tight completely denying Asasekiryu the inside position, and with Asasekiryu forced to a more upright position than he was comfortable with, Baruto next went for the paws to throat. I like the move up to this point, but there were no de-ashi to be seen from the Estonian, which in my opinion shows some tentativeness on his part. Regardless, the tsuppari kept Asasekiryu far enough away from the belt so that when Sexy actually did get moro-zashi, he wasn't even close to touching Bart's belt. The Ozeki took charge by leaning down on his opponent and embracing both arms from the outside. With Baruto nudging Asasekiryu back towards the edge, he grabbed an outer grip with the left hand hand yanked Asasekiryu over to the straw, and just when it looked as if Sexy might keep his balance, Baruto sent a knee into the Secretary's backside sending him out for good. Baruto picks up the must-win, but there was a touch of hesitancy in his sumo, and the Estonian knew it; you could see it on his face afterwards. Still, he'll take that second win while Asasekiryu falls to 0-4.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kaio struck briefly at the tachi-ai against M1 Tochiohzan and then immediately backed up going for the quick and dirty pulldown. Why does it seem like the Kaio - Tochiohzan bouts always end like this? Because they do...Oh is still winless against the Ozeki. Kaio desperately needed that win even though he's already 3-1 while Tochiohzan has been respectable at 2-2.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho took full advantage of M2 Aran's novice tachi-ai securing moro-zashi straightway, but give Aran credit for countering with a left belt throw near the edge that forced the bout back to the center of the ring, this time in the migi-yotsu position. Still, Aran's body was standing too upright, so Hakuho pressed his chest in tight against the Russian's and lifted him clear off his feet in tsuri fashion. The problem was, the two weren't that close to the edge, so Hakuho was forced to set Aran down just inside the rope. The Yokozuna still persisted, though, by pressing his entire body into Aran's, and while he was able to drive Aran back that last step, the Yokozuna was in prime position to be defeated by utchari. Aran failed to realize this (which says a lot about his utter lack of ring sense), and so Hakuho picks up his 36th win in a row surpassing Asashoryu's best of 35. Hakuho shoulda been more decisive in this win as he waltzes to 4-0, but perhaps he knew he was fighting Aran and didn't need to be on top of his game. Aran falls to 1-3 with the loss.

Well, four days in, and your story lines are as follows:

- Kotooshu is the last hope of any sorta yusho race
- Hakuho stands at 36 wins in a row and next shoots for Taiho's 45

Surely Mark adds something tomorrow.

Day 3 (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Welcome to Day 3 of the Nagoya Double Secret Probation Grand Sumo Tourney. While many groan and moan about the punishments handed down recently, I for one think they do not go far enough. In fact, I wrote a letter to the Education Ministry, in brilliantly argued charcoal ink brushstrokes, calling for the ritual seppuku of 2/3 of all Oyakata and 1/2 of Makuuchi, televised live on NHK and color commentated in Japanese by David Shapiro. I received a letter back thanking me for my concern and stating that, while they agreed the crimes of these miscreants deserved a harsher punishment than modern society is prepared to dish out, foisting Shapiro on the public-at-large (as opposed to just the foreign, English speaking community) would constitute "cruel and unusual."

There has been much clamor from my cohorts about "not getting their Ross." Lets keep things in perspective. I dig Mr. Mihara, but hes constrained by his contractual obligations to be "listener friendly," so come on, its not like were losing George Carlin here. And NOT getting Ross is more than a fair price to pay for the pleasure of not having to listen to that Woody Allen wannabee. And, and, and, and, and, and lets look at todays bouts.

Hokutoriki was taking some Juryo action today vs. some guy named Sokokurai (a name I like, I think). Soko got manhandled as many have been by The Jokerman, pushed around then turned around and shown the door.

In a bout that went out at even money, Tamaasuka and Kimurayama, Tama-chan drove Kim-chan back only to have the W13 slip away and get behind him and, for those few ST readers who actually sleep with women, spoon him out.

The line on Homasho is that he sucks, but today he held off a hard charging Shotenro and went to 3-0 with a push out win.

Normally Bean folds like an origami crane when Bush comes to shove, but on Day 3 of the Asterisk Basho of 2010, Takamisakari doubled down on those massive mammaries and got a determined beltless shove out over Bushuyama. One unintended consequence is that, unbelievably, Circus is even MORE ensconced as the reason why sumo has any popularity at all here these days.

Tamawashi had Takekaze dead to rights, but the lil man slipped away at the edge and got behind the Mongolian for the push out win. Seems The Mawashi, despite holding all the aces in this one, found himself with a hard hand.

Last seen in May slouched in the corner licking his dog balls to a 3-12 record, the Gorgeous Georgian Kokkai reached that number of wins today by giving poor Tosayutaka a fearsome beating, landing haymaker hari-te after haymaker hari-te until the W10 had had enough. Odd strategy, but it worked. Maybe the Buck Private will be the high roller this basho and regain his Corporals rank.

Lord Gaga reigned supreme today over Mokonami, who looked exhausted after his daily tanning bed session. His Roundness (who is shaped nothing so much like that little girl in Willy Wonka who chews the blueberry gum) had been pressing the first two days, but today played it safe and steamrolled his E10 foe for his first ever Makuuchi win. Im sure hell be comped with RFB tonight!

After a disastrous 5-10 in Osaka, Yoshikaze anted up and won 9 in Tokyo, so expectations are high that the Caffeinated One will continue his hot streak. Day 3 saw him get in and under Shimotoris defenses for his first win.

Looking to climb off the schneid, Kakizoe laid all his chips on the table by charging balls out (literally; I saw pubes) into Tokusegawa, but the big Mongolian hasnt posted a losing record in his entire Makuuchi career(!!) and doesnt intend to start now. He niftily grabbed the back of the diminutive W9s belt and with a slight shift to the side, yanked him down and out right at the least possible second. 0-3 for Sweet Zoe and hed better hope the house will front him a marker on Day 4.

Kitataiki got Kak slapped several times, and even a tough guy like Kiki has to relent under such pressure. He bowed his head and one of the slaps to the mug became a slap to the back of the head, which spun him around and softened him up for the kill, which came as a slam to the dirt. Kakuryu smells blood, with Mitsuki gone and Kaio a bleeding lamb, so expect Martins Bitch to get double digits this time out. Dude wants to one day be an Ozeki, and since the Sanyaku could arguably be renamed "Eastern Mongolia," why not?

One thing we need to keep in mind about the guys who are wrestling now. Theyre not the bad boys, the interesting ones. Theyre the pussys, the ones who cry, "I dont wanna gamble. I dont wanna slap some peabrained pimp around at 3 am in the Ginza! I dont wanna get free Yakuza supplied tail! I dont wanna break the law. I might get cau-au-aught." Seriously, think about these names: Asashoryu, Kotomitsuki, Toyonoshima, Miyabiyama, Goeido, Toyohibiki. ALL tough guys, liked by pretty much every sumo fan. Why? Cause theyre cool, cooler than well ever be. Theyre MEN, dammit!

Watching Tokitenku vs. Wakanosato is a suckers bet, cause they are dull to the nth degree. Tokidoki won.

Hakuba was meat today as he was up against Aminishiki, who was unlikely to fall for a henka, as the old saying, "It takes one to know one" goes to show. Shneaky (who, to be fair, has recently curtailed his extensive past use of the henka) anticipated Hakubas sidestep and plowed right into him while he was in the middle of his chicanery, literally plowing the ho off the DOH!yo, yo. Shneaky seemed almost prescient today, and would not be surprised to learn that the vigorish on this one was sizable.

Okay, so now a legitimately interesting bout. Up and coming Tochinoshin vs. forever up and coming Kisenosato, a guy who would def become Ozeki one day if not for a little country in middle Asia that drinks goats milk and trains baby boys to be monsters. Months ago the outlaw line would have favored Kisenosato, but fast improving Technical Sergeant Tochi brushed off a weak assed tachi-ai from El Nino and drove him back to the edge, where he pwned him in front of the entirety of the 358 & 1/2 person stadium crowd.

Harumafuji recovered from a sloppy tachi-ai vs. Kyokutenho to get a strong outside left belt and inside right, but as he pushed for the edge, the Chauffer pointed to some hot chick in the crosswalk, and distracted for a second, Harumafuji let his guard down and Kyokutenho pulled a maki-kae. Now with an inside left, he lifted the Ozeki up and carried him across the ring, buckling under the weight and falling to his knees, BUT not before the Ozeki had placed one foot outside the ring. Sweet comeback win for the former Mongolian (who is rumored to be in negotiations to take over an F1 ride next season). Meanwhile Harumafuji is looking royally flushed at 1-2.

Id wager no one saw Baruto starting out 1-2, especially that Estonian yokel who had the sack to write to Mike and complain about his take on the Biomass. Future Ozeki (thats right, I wrote it!) Tochiohzan got his right arm underneath Barutos pit and began driving. Baruto panicked and instead of fronting and trying to get his right arm onto the E1s belt, he attempted some pathetic imitation of an armbar that only made Oh Poo chuckle and go forward with even more energy and a healthy dosage of belly bumping. Baruto meekly circled away and found himself backpedaled out. His name may mean "shit" in Estonian, but Tochiohzan sure as shit settled Barutos hash today! (Any chance numbnut will write to Mike and apologize?)

Kaio, no stranger himself to sliding to the side at tachi-ai for an advantageous grip, found himself the fly to Kotoshogikus spider as the Sadogatake #2 slid to his right and snagged the Ozekis belt, parlaying that into an easy force out win. While it would be an underlay to think Geeku would do this to Kaio under normal circumstances, these are not normal times. Im thinking Kaio doesnt get 8 and goes kadoban next time out.

No question that Aran is the dog when he fights Kotooshu, but with his 12-3 in May, there was reason to suspect he might have had a chance. Alas, Kotooshu obviously data mined the Baruto bout, and when he found himself in the same circumstances as his Ozeki counterpart at tachi-ai, he didnt panic by going for that armbar. He instead took an outside left belt, got an inside right, and marched the Bouncer slowly and deliberately back and out. Sumo could use a 13-0 Kotooshu.

Finally, the stakes were high as Asasekiryu stepped up to the shikirisen hoping to prevent Hakuho from matching Sexys former boss Asashoryus 35 match winning streak record. Can barely get my fingers to strike the keys as this is a banally obvious point, but the only way someone is going to defeat Hakuho these days is if one, his feet slip, or two, they trick him. Well, Kublais feet didnt slip today, so you can guess what Sexless tried to do. Reading the henka like it was the American Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling, the Yokozuna got in on the W1 and ended his day the way it began, with zero wins.

Sorry I could not open the basho for yall, but Martin had some urgent (or did he say turgid?) business in Spania and so he stole my spot. To make matters worse, he linked to that video of Gabriel-less Genesis, and I do apologize on behalf of all of the writers here at ST. Mike and I are doing a little "give and go" here, a bit of "Mike/Clancy/Mike sandwich" so hell be back dealing tomorrow. Ill be in my regular Sunday slot for Days 8 and 15. Arrivederci!

Day 2 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
A few days prior to the basho when it was learned that NHK would not be broadcasting the bouts live, Nishonoseki-oyakata lamented that such an important part of the broadcast warm up and go through their pre-bout routines. My first reaction was "are you kidding?", but as strange as it sounds, I'm really missing the entire broadcast. Listening to the analysis from the booth, getting the interviews from the back halls of the venue, and gleaning little nuggets of information throughout the telecast is one thing that makes sumo so enjoyable I'm finding out. My man Ross Mihara indicated that everything should be back in order for Aki, so I guess we just ride this basho out thankful that we're not missing much. And if today's first three bouts were any indication of the basho to come, we've got a long two weeks on our hands.

The day began with J1 Sagatsukasa winning the tachi-ai against M16 Tamaasuka...sort of. Saga managed to strike low and place both hands on Tamaasuka's breasts as if to push upwards, but he didn't even try to push his foe back opting to just stand there like a bump on a log. Tamaasuka figured things out straightway and used an inashi push to Sagatsukasa's right side setting up a right outer grip with which Tamaasuka used to escort Sagatsukasa over and out. It's watching bouts like these that make me wonder if it isn't better not to broadcast the sumos live. This was about the worst bout you'll ever see in the Makuuchi division. Tamaasuka improves to 1-1 but has no business at this rank.

Same goes for M16 Shotenro who tried to move to his left at the tachi-ai against M15 Hokutoriki, but he was so damn slow that the Lil' Yokozuna caught him by the throat with the right and had him pushed across and out before you could even say, "this sucks eggs." Hokutoriki moves to 2-0 with the easy win while the gyoji who paints the banzuke is already penciling Shotenro's name in the second tier of the chart for Aki.

I don't mean to sound so negative right off the bat, but the third bout of the day was as equally as horrible as the first two. No surprise that it involved M13 Kimurayama who stuck a paw into M15 Bushuyama's throat from the tachi-ai and then worked on circling the ring slowly looking for an opportunity to pull his opponent down. Bushuyama stayed square with his opponent, however, and eventually moved in with the left inside position followed by a right outer grip that Kim had no answer for. I think my feet move faster when I climb stairs in ski boots compared to the footwork displayed by these two yayhoos today. Another slow motion bout that saw Bushuyama pick up his first win while Kimurayama fell to 0-2.

It took four bouts, but M12 Kokkai and M14 Tamawashi finally exhibited a contest worthy of our time. Kokkai took charge at the tachi-ai shoving Tamawashi upright before ramming his noggin' into Tamawashi's chest and settling for a left arm on the inside. Kokkai's movement wasn't exactly polished, but he never let Tamawashi get set yanking the Mongolian to the side and into an insurmountable right outer grip. Tamawashi tried in vain to shake off the Gorgeous Georgian with a left scoop throw, but Kokkaine had the juggler and took advantage of The Mawashi's failed throw attempt bodying him back to the straw and down via yori-taoshi leading with the right outer grip. The key to this one was Kokkai never stopped moving as he improves to 2-0. Tamawashi falls to 1-1.

M13 Homasho bested M11 Takamisakari at the tachi-ai charging low and latching onto a quick left outer grip. The Cop countered with the right inside position but monkeyed around too long trying to execute a maki-kae with the left arm, so Homasho stayed low, firmed up his stance, and then drove Takamisakari back and out with some oomph. Homasho starts out 2-0 for the first time in a year while Takamisakari is 1-1.

It was a quite a sight to see M12 Gagamaru charge with his head so low that M10 Tosayutaka looked like the taller rikishi in this bout. Gagamaru begged for Tosayutaka to go for the pull attempt, which he did, but the move had zero effect, so Tosayutaka opted for plan B, which was to dart to his left as Gagamaru moved forward pulling down at the beast in the process. Gagamaru's balance looked worse than Konishiki's before the American retired, so it was no wonder that Tosayutaka scored the easy pull down win moving to 1-1 in the process. Gagamaru starts out 0-2 and has to realize that he's a yotsu guy, so why in the world he would charge haphazardly with his head lowered is beyond me. Poor technique so far from the Gentleman.

For once, M9 Kakizoe didn't try and gain that half second advantage at the tachi-ai by jumping straight into his opponent, who happened to by M11 Takekaze today. Instead, Zoe stuttered a half step to his right looking for something, but we'd never find out as Takekaze just blasted him back from there. On the run, Kakizoe could now only hope to time a counter pull down, but it wasn't to be as Takekaze chased him around the ring a bit before shoving him out with some authority. Takekaze picks up his first win while Kakizoe is still an o'fer.

M8 Yoshikaze looked sickly as M10 Mokonami hit him with a right hand to the face that was sweeter than his tan and caused Yoshikaze's leg to just slip out from under him. Mokonami kept the pressure up and had Yoshikaze pushed down in a second flat. Mokonami is a cool 2-0 if ya need him while Yoshikaze looks as bad as I've ever seen him. From the reports I've read, Yoshikaze was nearly banned from competing in Nagoya due to suspicion he bet on baseball, but since it was never confirmed, they let him fight. I guess we have our answer now.

M9 Shimotori and M7 Tokusegawa hooked up into the immediate gappuri migi yotsu position from the tachi-ai which means both combatants had right inside grips and left outside grips. As both rikishi looked to dig in, Shimotori struck first wrenching his hips and cutting off Tokusegawa's left outer. The Mongolian reassumed the uwate, but Shimotori had the slight momentum timing his movements perfectly as he slowly but surely worked Tamawashi back to the edge by wrenching his hips to cut of his opponent's outer grip. On about the third attempt, Shimotori had Tokusegawa near the edge, so the final surge cut off Tokusegawa's outer grip again and allowed Shimotori to force him across for the V. Great stuff from Shimotori who improves to 2-0 while Tokusegawa is no slouch so far at 1-1.

M4 Kitataiki walked right into M7 Wakanosato's bread and butter which is a fight from the inside with both rikishi maintaining left inside positions. To make matters worse, the veteran Wakanosato was positioned lower than Kitataiki rendering the latter's body too upright, and Wakanosato has seen too many of these fights to blow this one as he worked Kitataiki over to the edge and dumped him with a nifty scoop throw. Wakanosato picks up his first win while Kitataiki is winless.

M6 Kakuryu used a right paw and then a left into M3 Tokitenku's neck from the tachi-ai standing Tenku so upright that the Kak secured to frontal belt grips. Tokitenku had his right arm on the inside, so it technically wasn't moro-zashi, but the effect was the same as Kakuryu lifted Tokitenku up to the tips of his toes before forcing him back without argument. The Kak's a cool 2-0 while Tokitenku suffers his first loss.

Sekiwake Kisenosato took charge at the tachi-ai against M3 Kyokutenho getting his left arm on the inside and flirting with the right outer. Tenho knew he was in trouble, so he backed out of the stance trying to pull Kisenosato down in the process, but the Kid kept his footing well and answered with a paw shoving into Kyokutenho's throat that knocked the Chauffeur upright to where Kisenosato grabbed the right outer grip again, a hold he would not relinquish until he had Kyokutenho forced back and out. Kisenosato needed this 2-0 start against decent competition while Kyokutenho falls to 1-1.

M2 Aminishiki made short work of Sekiwake Kotoshogiku securing moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and using his taller frame to press into the Geeku to stand him upright. Kotoshogiku had no answer in this one as Ami polished him off in about two seconds picking up his first win in the process. Like Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku was another guy on the fence in regards to a forced kyujo or not, and like Yoshikaze, Kotoshogiku has shown us nothing in two bouts.

In the Ozeki ranks, Baruto has got to be on the lookout for the tachi-ai henka against M2 Aran. I mean, how do you not be on guard for that move? And as sure as Lindsay Lohan's a tramp, Aran moved to his left at the tachi-ai, but it was so slight that you could even argue that it wasn't a henka. Baruto was looking for a right paw into the Russian's face, but with Aran sliding left, he simply swiped at Baruto's right arm sending the Estonian stumbling straight forward leaving him the easy okuri-dashi fodder from there. Unbelievable. This was not a heinous move by any means on Aran's part; it was just a terrible tachi-ai from Baruto who showed no concentration nor any cognizance of who he was fighting today. Is it too much to ask these guys to extend the yusho race beyond two days? Baruto suffers a costly loss at 1-1, but even worse than his record is his overall approach to the bout today...and that Genesis video Martin linked to yesterday.  Aran picks up a shukun win to even himself with the Estonian.

M1 Asasekiryu's feet were slipping from the start as he hooked up into the hidari-yotsu contest with Ozeki Kaio, and it left the Ozeki in the lower stance not to mention firm control of the bout. By the time Asasekiryu regained his composure, Kaio had him smothered and needed about five seconds to grab the right outer grip, and once secured he waltzed Asasekiryu back to the tawara and across leaving the Old Gray Mare at 2-0. Asasekiryu is the converse.

Who can forget Ozeki Kotooshu's loss to Hakuba last basho? The Ozeki obviously hadn't and was more than prepared reading Hakuba's henka to the left like a dirty magazine before grabbing the back of Henkaba's mawashi sending him on the run. Hakuba managed to break from from the grip, but he was left nary a pot to piss in as Kotooshu had both arms on the inside of Hakuba who could only counter by trying to bury his head deep into Kotooshu's chest. The Ozeki wasted no time and easily lifted the featherweight up with a left scoop throw gently dumping him to the dirt on his back. It was such an awkward ending to the bout because Hakuba is such an awkward rikishi. Props to Kotooshu for not listening to Kotonishiki's advice today as he moves to an expected 2-0. The ill-gotten Komusubi falls to 0-2.

Ozeki Harumafuji blasted Komusubi Tochinoshin back from the tachi-ai a full step before rushing in and grabbing the left frontal belt grip supplemented by a swell right inside position on the other side. Tochinoshin was in trouble and tried to back out of the hold pulling as he went, but Harumafuji wouldn't be denied scoring the impressive force-out win in short order. The Ozeki picks up an important first win while Tochinoshin is 0-2.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho overwhelmed M1 Tochiohzan at the tachi-ai reaching around and grabbing the firm left outer grip while keeping his gal in tight with the right inside position. Tochiohzan had the fork in him at this point, and Hakuho was as the sound of rushing waters forcing Tochiohzan back and out for the easy win. While Hakuho is 2-0, it was also his 34th win in a row leaving him one behind Asashoryu's best of 35. Observing how far Hakuho can take this current streak is already more exciting than the yusho race, a term that's become an oxymoron of late.

Papa Clancy spanks you tomorrow.

Day 1 (Martin Matra reporting)
Whenever summer turns the heat up, I find myself thinking about this clip. But in recent years, summer usually means Nagoya Basho. Most of you probably know that the latest gambling scandal made the NHK suspend live broadcasting of the basho. While some of us out there are outraged because we won't be getting our daily fix and accuse the NHK of all possible crimes, I think it might not all be bad for sumo. Hell, while we're talking kooky theories, the NSK could have DEMANDED the NHK to stop the live broadcast for this basho, for a simple reason - ticket sales. I'm not entirely sure about the figures, but the broadcasting rights cost NHK about 5 million US$ a year, which is about $800k a basho. Spanning 15 days, with about 10,000 seats on offer each day, with an average price per seat of about $50 (but likely more), a drop in ticket sales of, say, about 15,000 means losses as big as the revenue from the broadcast rights for the basho. Now, suppressing the NHK live program might cost the NHK a fixed, albeit large, amount of cash, but it would be a more viable option financially, the lesser of two evils, by keeping ticket sales at levels comparable with a normal basho (or even a little higher!). I'm as far from being a sumo insider as is any guy living in Greenland, but this might just make sense in the right circumstances. On to the action.

Veteran Kotokasuga was craftier at the tachi-ai, getting a quick left shitate against Shotenro and working his way into moro-zashi in less than two seconds. Of course, that might have been helped by Big Shot's hesitation at the charge, after a false start. With the quick yori-kiri Kasuga has the ideal start in his campaign to return to Makuuchi - quite remarkable at his age. While we're talking about remarkable things, let me give a shout out to the NSK for improving their live stream from a paltry 72 kbps to a whopping 121 kbps, to compensate for the lack of NHK live broadcasting following the current gambling scandal. If we look at the events necessary for this change, we can extrapolate that for a decent TV-quality stream the NSK would have to go through WW3.

Jokutoriki was all serious today, charging quickly with both hands at overmatched Tamaasuka's throat, pushing him out emphatically in about a second or so. But the highlight of the bout was The Pretender's by now trademark Yokozuna strut. You can never have enough of THAT.

Mongol Tamawashi came out on top after a long but rather simple affair with Dolly. Mawashi was uncharacteristically cautious at the tachi-ai (he thought Bushuyama would henka him Hakuba style, right?) and just kind of absorbed and deflected the big man's charge, getting a firm grip... somewhere under Bush's armpit. As the guy with the mass, Bushuyama naturally tried to work his slimmer foe upright, but after some see-sawing in the center of the dohyo, Mawashi deflected Dolly's charge once again, got him completely off balance and sealed the deal. Som'n' tells me Tamawashi's gonna have a good basho.

Kimurayama knew he was outmatched in his bout vs. the under ranked Homasho and his game plan was as simple as it gets - push him away and hope to get lucky with that pull. As simple as that might sound, it almost worked. Homasho charged cautiously, keeping his body low and passively resisting his bigger foe's offense. At the slightest hint of pressure, Kimurayama slipped to the side and almost slapped Homie down, but Homer recovered just in time to dig in at the tawara and in turn dodge Kimura's attack. Verdict: okuri-dashi, as embarrassing as it gets. Both guys are showing signs of traveling in the right direction on the banzuke.

I'm a bit surprised a lot of people saw Gagamaru as the favorite in today's fight with his countryman Kokkai (I won't go down the Lady Gaga meets the Long, Thick Caucasian Kokk - you'll read about THAT in the Doc's report in a few days) - there are at least a few reasons why the White Knight should win that fight, like agility (Gaga may be heavy, but he's as slow as they come), experience at the top and the fact that they probably know each other well. As for the actual fight, it went down the way I imagined it - Kokkai got on the inside quickly, grabbed himself what looked like a right shitate on the NSK stream Mark II and quickly threw his younger compadre to the dirt. The official kimari-te was tsuki-otoshi, but the whole motion rather hinted at a throw. Anywhoo, Gagamaru looks like he's gonna have trouble getting those 8.

Takekaze thought he was being smart when he took Takamisakari's charge kind of sideways and evaded to his left, but the Clown read the move well and quickly worked his way on the inside. Wrapped up like a deer in a python's deadly coils, Takekaze put some token pressure on him, but Takamisakari decided to end it all quickly and painlessly by yanking down on his arms, sending him somersaulting on his face. And all of that for free, as Robocop's sponsor withdrew from the basho in light of the recent yakuza associations.

Mongol Mokonami used his weight advantage to dominate the tachi-ai and force himself into the uwate, denying the stubby-armed Tosayutaka one of his own. Curtains for the Japanese guy right there, with the deciding technique a yori-kiri. I can easily see both guys get a good kachi-koshi this basho, maybe even 10 wins or more.

Little as he may be, Kakizoe more than makes up for it with feistiness and speed. He almost made it work against Shimotori today, quickly demanding the better position after the tachi-ai and pushing forward. It looked like he would win, as Moo was desperately defending this way and that, but in the end Kakizoe found himself over committing and getting wrapped up at the edge, where he was dumped unceremoniously to the ground. Gotta hand it to him, though, he put up one helluva fight. Shimotori snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, but I still don't see him getting more than 6 wins up there.

The next bout was as weird as they get, with Tokusegawa starting a bit early and Yoshikaze losing his balance when going for his usual erratic tsuppari. The outcome was hilarious, with the bigger Mongol landing on top of the little Kaze for the (literally) crushing win.

Having dropped to M6 after a couple of sub-mediocre basho, Kakuryu started his comeback with a solid win against veteran Wakanosato. Kak played to his strength, grabbing the uwate while denying Croco one of his own, thanks to the arm length differential. Wakanosato fights damn well from the inside, but this one was over at the tachi-ai - after some resistance, the old man was eventually forced out. Kakuryu should ease his way to maybe 11 wins, and he might even get a date or two with some top sanyaku guys, to compensate for the jo'i beef lost to gambling. Wakanosato should keep the rest of the guys around him honest.

In a rare case of getting his tachi-ai right, Tokitenku fished for the inside left on Kitataiki, only to switch gears and pull off the hataki-komi before running out of dohyo. The crystal ball sees 6-9 at most for both these guys in two weeks' time.

Many say Kotoshogiku is too one-dimensional to aspire to anything above Sekiwake. They were proven painfully correct today, as Sadogatake man #2 had no answer for Tenho's strategy (and his long arms). Grabbing the uwate and blocking moro-zashi on the other side, the former Mongol wasted little time in working Geeku to the edge and out.

Across the isle, ES Kisenosato prevented any foul play at the tachi-ai halting Aminishiki's healthy charge in a heartbeat and steamrolling him out with little to no argument. If the Kid scores that one big win he needs for his morale (ahem, Ama anyone?), I can see him potentially threatening for the yusho this time. But it's more likely he'll choke again and lose to the lot of the Ozeki and Yokozuna, and finish a respectable 10 - 5.

Contrary to the good display in the last bout, Aran showed exactly 0 sumo in his meeting with Faux-zeki Kaio. With no hope, desire or game plan, the cancer survivor just lunged at the old bastard with his head down and reaped the reward - a date up close and personal with the dohyo. It can't possibly get easier than this, so watch Kaio limp to his 8 wins again. Aran must surely be thinking about that 1-14 in Haru. And if he ain't, he better.

Ozeki Kotooshu looked the part for a change, grabbing himself a slab of prime migi-yotsu and carefully forcing Asasekiryu off balance and over the straw. Normally, I'd call a victory over Sexy business as usual, but when the Bulgarian is 8-6 against him, today's victory included, I'd think he gets at least some morale boost out of it. Of course, now watch him crash and burn tomorrow vs. Henkuba.

No day at the sumo is complete without one Ozeki losing, so Ama duly complied and got himself overpowered at the tachi-ai, letting Tochiohzan's double thrust slip through and push him straight out. I understand there's a difference in size and weight, but when you've got Ozeki next to your shikona, you have to do better.

Baruto looked impeccable in his possibly tricky meeting with Henkuba, getting a straight tachi-ai and wrapping Hakuba's left arm with both hands. The big Estonian used his strength to deploy the ami-uchi, but the move was vague to say the least, and he had to use his left elbow to nudge the light Mongol down. Needless to say, the MIB couldn't be arsed to check, so they went with the first impression and named it kime-taoshi (it wasn't far off, but not quite there - hey, I know I'm nitpicking, but why the hell do you have all them kimari-te if you don't even use them properly?). While we're at it, I hope Henkuba's arm isn't TOO hurt, because I want to see him get his deserved 2-13.

Finally, Hakuho stepped to his left ever so slightly, got the immediate and insurmountable uwate and used it to throw his Georgian opponent for his 33rd straight win. Watch out, Mr. Wolf. Tochinoshin looked non-existent in that bout, but I don't see him getting less than 8 wins in the end.

Just as I write this, Spain is receiving the gold medals for winning the World Cup after a rough match (no less than 12 yellow cards, and even a red one - and kung fu action that would make Jet Li jealous) with the Netherlands. The reason I'm even mentioning this is because I predicted they'd win this cup. Just like 50% of the rest of the population. I'll also predict Hak goes zensho for the third time in a row - not sure, but that could be some kind of record. And speaking of Spain, I'll be on vacation in Barcelona from the 16th for two weeks, just in case you were wondering why I muscled in on Clancy's usual reporting day.

It's entirely up to you to look out for the likes of Kakuryu, Homasho and even Tochiohzan and Tamawashi to rock the boat and make some sort of impact. But, even with Bart in top shape, it will be hard to have a jun-yusho line at more than 11 wins. Mike points out the devil in those details tomorrow - it's what them elders do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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