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Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
With the yusho race sealed yesterday by Yokozuna Hakuho, the final two days' worth of bouts are merely housekeeping items where we see who can finagle eight wins and position themselves for special prizes at the end. The biggest storyline yet to play out is can Hakuho build upon his 43 bouts winning streak and can he pick up a record-setting tenth zensho yusho? The normal answer would be the odds are highly in his favor, but after suffering a supposed injury against Kotoshogiku on day 12, there was no telling what would happen with the Yokozuna, especially with all the political implications of facing Ozeki Kisenosato today, so we may as well dive in there starting with the most anticipated bout of the basho.

From the tachi-ai, it was pretty evident that Hakuho was not looking to win this bout as he offered a sloppy left hari-te and weak right kachi-age that he couldn't back out of fast enough leaving the Yokozuna on the run a second in with Sheriff Roscoe P. Sato in hot pursuit...coo, coo!! As Kisenosato lumbered forward, Hakuho offered the obligatory slap and pull attempts, but nothing was going to stop the Ozeki, and so after four or five wild seconds of flailing sumo, the two finally hooked up in the migi-yotsu position where Hakuho actually had the firm left outer grip, and here's where you could really tell that Hakuho had no intention of winning because the normal play would be to pivot left and throw your opponent over with the upper hand; instead, Hakuho went right, which only left him a shallow right inside position to work with that Kisenosato easily exploited with a left outer grip of his own. Essentially, Hakuho walked into Kisenosato's strong side instead of establishing the obvious left outer belt throw that was wide open for himself.

I mean, you have Hakuho who has supposedly injured his right rib cage and can't use that side of his body, and so in a heated battle against Kisenosato where the Yokozuna has the left outer grip, he chooses to attack from the right side instead of the left? It just doesn't make sense if Hakuho's intent was to win this bout....and notice how I haven't said that he didn't throw the bout; he just didn't try and win it. The win is huge for Kisenosato because not only did he put a stop to Hakuho's 43 bout win streak but it also validates his Yokozuna run...on paper. We all know that Kisenosato isn't Yokozuna material, but it leaves the door open for a storyline that can be marketed for the Aki basho. We'll just have to see what the YDC says after the basho, but if Kisenosato can win tomorrow and finish the dance at 12-3, they'll likely keep the Yokozuna run alive, which is a win-win for everyone I suppose.  Hakuho couldn't care less about his 13-1 record while the Kid is a respectable 11-3.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji employed a hari-zashi tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku slapping with the left and getting the right inside to perfection. With the Geeku's momentum now halted, Harumafuji hugged his gal in close enough to where he could grab the left outer grip whereupon he established his footing and then executed the perfect outer belt throw. Easy peasy Japanesey as Harumafuji moves to 9-5. Kotoshogiku already has his eight wins against six losses, so there's no complaining from him.

Ozeki Kakuryu and M6 Okinoumi hooked up in the quick hidari-yotsu position where Okinoumi showed no interest in employing an offensive maneuver. As for Kakuryu, he knew grabbing the right outer against such a long opponent (I'm talking about his arms and legs perverts) was a tall task, and so he went for a few maki-kae attempts with the right that actually would have left him vulnerable if Okinoumi had been on guard, but he wasn't of course, and so the Kak ultimately switched gears by scampering out right and felling Okinoumi with a right kote-nage throw. Okinoumi may as well have been a practice dummy in there today as both rikishi end the day at 9-5.

Komusubi Shohozan caught Ozeki Kotooshu well at the tachi-ai with some face slaps, but his legs were going backwards allowing Kotooshu to prowl forward with some shoves of his own. The Ozeki wasn't exactly on a mission, however, and so Shohozan was able to slip right and secure moro-zashi where he went for the quick kill, but a right kote-nage attempt from Kotooshu made it so close that Shohozan actually touched down first with his right elbow as Kotooshu was sent across and down via yori-taoshi. The referee signaled for Shohozan, but something didn't quite look right, so a mono-ii was called for where it was ruled that Kotooshu's "tai" or body wasn't still in the bout, so impressive win for Shohozan (6-8) and the correct call.  Kotooshu drops to 9-5.

M9 Aoiyama casually floated right against Sekiwake Goeido looking for some sort of opening, but rather than fish for the advantageous position, I want to see a guy demand it. I shouldn't criticize Aoiyama too harshly because Goeido was content to go for a quick if not meager pull from the start and then just stand upright in an attempt to look for nothing but a pull opportunity. With both guys doing hesitant sumo, Goeido was able to swipe at Aoiyama's extended arms and pull him down near the edge as Goeido skirted out left (emphasis on skirt). This was a terrible bout of sumo from your supposed jun-yusho rikishi and a recent Ozeki candidate, and who wants to see a bout of sumo where the two guys are separated by a meter or more at the finish line? No wonder I'm so critical of this banzuke.  Aoyama falls to 10-4 while Goeido is still somehow alive at 7-7.

Sekiwake Myogiryu used a right paw into Ikioi's neck in an attempt to keep him at bay instead of using de-ashi to attempt to push him out. The result was a stalemate where neither rikishi had good positioning, and Myogiryu lost his patience and went for the stupid pull first. Ikioi was all over the move and made mYogiBear pay by pushing the Sekiwake across half the dohyo and onto his arse picking up kachi-koshi in the process. A Sekiwake shouldn't be done like this at the ands of Ikioi, and at 7-7, Myogiryu's got some work cut out for him tomorrow.

In a sloppy affair, M1 Takayasu picked up kachi-koshi today against M5 Toyonoshima as the two quickly abandoned their migi-yotsu affair from the tachi-ai in favor of cat and mouse sumo where both guys looked for pulls, slaps, and the surprise shove. Go online if you want to see it, but I'm not going to waste bandwidth trying to describe it. In short, you had Takayasu sitting on seven wins and Toyonoshima sitting on seven losses, and frankly, neither guy trusted in sound sumo to get the job done. Then end result is Takayasu at 8-6 and Toyonoshima at 6-8.

M11 Daido is just pathetic. He had a huge opportunity today against M2 Gagamaru, but all he could muster was the lamest pull you've ever seen shortly after the tachi-ai. All that did was send the momentum Gagamaru's way, and he used a nice right choke hold against his compromised opponent to send him back across the straw with little argument. I don't recall ever seeing anyone lose all 15 bouts in a basho, but Daido must solve Fujiazuma tomorrow at 0-14. Gagamaru is an ugly 3-11 in his own right.

M12 Kaisei's basho has been put into better perspective these past few days as he's been paired against rikishi with game. Today, Kaisei actually looked to take control against M2 Tochiohzan moving forward from the tachi-ai, but he didn't have his opponent squared in tight. Normally, you get the inside position--which should have been Kaisei's right hand today--to anchor your opponent in close and keep chests aligned, but Kaisei just barreled forward with no plan allowing Oh to quietly slip left near the edge and pull the towering Kaisei down with ease. Tochiohzan is laughing all the way to the bank after this one as he moves to 9-5 while Kaisei falls to 10-4.

M3 Chiyotairyu struck M7 Takarafuji well at the tachi-ai standing him upright, but his feet weren't along for the ride, and so as he offered the next volley of shoves from just the upper body, Takarafuji simply moved left and pulled Chiyotairyu down in all his girth for the easy hataki-komi win. Coming into the day, Takarafuji was 3-0 against Chiyotairyu and clearly in his head, and it showed today from the hesitation in Chiyotairyu's tsuppari attempt. Chiyonofuji providing color in the booth correctly pointed out that Chiyotairyu has to attack with his legs, so hopefully he slaps his dude across the head later on in an attempt to beat this important fact into his prodigy. Chiyotairyu falls to a precarious 7-7 while Takarafuji soars at 9-5.

If you're wondering why I don't comment on all of the bouts everyday, let me use the M4 Fujiazuma - M13 Tamawashi contest as an example, as this was a bout I normally would have skipped. After an ugly tachi-ai from both parties, Fujiazuma went for a quick evasive pull maneuver that worked wonders getting The Mawashi off balance and setting up the easy force-out from there, but as Fujiazuma shoved Tamawashi across the ring, he carelessly stepped out with his right foot well before Tamawashi stepped back and out. Yet, no mono-ii was called because frankly, it's an insignificant bout that nobody cares about.  Both rikishi end th day at 5-9.

My man M12 Kotoyuki picked up kachi-koshi today by keeping his eyes squarely on M7 Yoshikaze and pulverizing him from the tachi-ai with a right arm to Kaze's shoulder and follow-up left shove into his throat. Yoshikaze had ducked in low at the charge looking for something inside, but Kotoyuki was having none of it standing his gal up straight and keeping those legs going until Yoshikaze was pushed back against the edge and out via tsuki-dashi. I was so pumped after watching this sumo that I may as well explain the difference for you newcomers between oshi-dashi and tsuki dashi. Oshi-dashi means you've just pushed your opponent outta the ring. Tsuki-dashi means you just kicked his ass. Great sumo from Kotoyuki who has matured mightily this basho standing now at 8-6. Yoshikaze is an even steven 7-7 and will surely have the gimmicks out in force tomorrow.

M8 Kitataiki struck low in his quest for kachi-koshi against M13 Jokoryu getting the left inside position and quick right outer grip to boot, but as he attempted to force Jokoryu back, he stupidly went for a kake move wrapping his right foot around the back of Jokoryu's left, but all that did is left him on one leg and vulnerable to a counter inside belt throw that came without hesitation from Jokoryu. Just an awful decision from Kitataiki who falls to 7-7 while Jokoryu's timing couldn't have been better at 5-9.

M15 Sokokurai henka'd to his right against M8 Toyohibiki who was having no part of the funny bidness catching Sokokurai with two hands to the chest using a left paw in Sokokurai's pit to easily dispatch of the lightweight clinching kachi-koshi at 8-6 in the process. For Sokokurai's part, his Makuuchi return is getting more dismal by the moment as he falls to 5-9. Chiyonofuji who provided color today had a great take pointing out that Toyohibiki had just witnessed a henka in the previous bout (the one I'm commenting on next), so he was surely wary of Sokokurai at the tachi-ai.

M10 Aran picked up his kachi-koshi by jumping to his right against M14 Tamaasuka and pulling an ugly tachi-ai henka with the quick double-handed pulldown. Tamaasuka is a local kid, so the boos were enhanced after this one as they should have been. This is just a window into Aran's character and confidence. You have an easy guy in Tamaasuka whose never won eight bouts in the division; yet, Aran doesn't have the ability or confidence to face him straight up like a man. Disgusting. Aran moves to 8-6 and should worry more about fixing that camel toe showing through his mawashi than thinking up devious ways to pick on little kids. Tamaasuka falls to 5-9.

At this point in the broadcast, NHK announced the sudden passing of former Juryo rikishi, Mutetsuyama, who fought from the Musashigawa-beya and never could quite make it to Makuuchi due to his small stature. He was working with a university sumo club when he died in his sleep at the age of 42.

M15 Wakanosato offered a quick right hari-te at the tachi-ai against M14 Masunoyama, but that opened the door for Masu to get the left inside and knock Wakanosato upright a bit, but Masunoyama made the mistake of constantly trying to maki-kae with the left instead of just grabbing the outer grip, which would have setup the methodical yori-kiri. Instead, the bout started wearing on, which for Masunoyama is anything past five seconds, and eventually, Wakanosato was able to slip to his right and push Masunoyama down with a tsuki-otoshi move. Great comeback win for Wakanosato who settles for 6-8 while Masunoyama has one more chance to snare kachi-koshi sitting at 7-7 after his current two-bout slide.

M16 Shotenro looked to have a clear path to moro-zashi against M16 Tokushoryu, but he went for an ill-advised pull instead opening the gate for the left inside position and stifling right outer grip from Tokushoryu, and the rookie knew just what to do from there executing the perfect yori-kiri. You can see how Tokushoryu has come into his own this basho realizing that if he can get that right outer grip, he can beat anyone. It all could have started with that Toyohibiki bout. Regardless, he moves to 9-5 and could be considered for a Kantosho if he wins tomorrow. Shotenro has been no slouch this tourney either sharing the same record.

And finally, let's end with the most anticipated Juryo bout today that featured Endoh vs. Osunaarashi. These two have been getting the most run this tournament and deservedly so, so this was easily the most high profile bout of the day in that division. Osunaarashi kept Endoh at bay well with some fierce tsuppari, but his legs weren't moving forward because his immediate reaction was to go for a series of slapdowns hoping to just bludgeon his foe down to the clay, but Endoh was able to survive and circle to his right quick enough to catch Osunaarashi off balance just a bit to where he could counter with a shove to the side of his opponent that sent the Egyptian (damn I miss that moniker the Degyptian) out of the ring for good. Osunaarashi won this tachi-ai, but he blew it by going for a stupid pulldown, which illustrates he's no different form the current Eastern Eurapeans we know and love. Had Endoh won the tachi-ai today, he would have moved straight-forwarding using his legs to score the easy force-out win. Huge difference in technique and worth pointing out since we will be talking about these two guys shortly.

Clancy wraps her up hopefully he can report after that.

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Day 13 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)

The Yusho "Race" is Over. How Hurt is the Winner?

Let's get the main result out of the way first. In a surprise move, the YDC cancelled the rest of the tournament and called for a best-of-three playoff between Hakuho and Aoiyama to decide the championship on Sunday. Hmmm ... wait. No, that's not it. In a surprise move, the YDC kicked all the foreign rikishi out of sumo for good and declared Kisenosato king! Er ... well. Damnit. You already know the truth, don't you? Fine. Hakuho broke a rib after all and has pulled out of the tournament, so Aoiyama has a dominating lead with two days left.

The reason that my lies are having no effect on you is that I'm a crappy liar. But the reason that I'm a crappy liar is that nothing short of "Hakuho wins the yusho" would be a convincing line here following the headline. It's hard to wrap much of a smiley face on this outcome, other than that it's clearly not based on gifted wins. Sumo with this guy in top form is about as non-competitive as it gets in professional sports. His dominance is up there with Tiger and Federer at their respective peaks. Fed won three out of four majors in three out of four years. Tiger had a stretch of four straight majors. But Tiger never won more than two in a year after that. And at with Federer, the clay surface of the French Open cut into his mystique. Here, the slippery clay of the Nagoya dohyo isn't doin' shit to cut into Hak's mystique or his win total.

What may cut into his win total, and the great remaining mystery for the fortnight, regards his actual abdominal injury, which seems to be a muscle tear suffered in the Day 12 match with Kotoshogiku. It was bad enough to significantly impact his match today with Kotooshu. After a pretty normal looking tachi-ai, Hak bounced off and to his left, snagging the Bulgarian's right arm in the process. He then tried to leverage the arm bar into a push out, but Oshu managed to get a solid thrust in to stop the attack. They separated, and then the Yokozuna immediately jumped back in, grabbed the arm again to swing the Ozeki around. This time, Hak found a right hand grip and pulled himself deep into his taller aite's body, and finished off the yori-kiri attempt quickly.

The grimace on the Yokozuna's face, after relatively little tugging around for a sumo match, shows that the injury is not just a little tape job. Hak's strategy was to rely as little as possible on the right side of his core. He got away with it today against an opponent who has never shown much ability to be strategic. Kisenosato is similarly inclined, but his oyakata deserves a swift kick in the natto if he doesn't come up with a way to force Hakuho into relying on that gimpy right side. Plus, we have the senshuraku Yokozuna showdown, in which a somewhat less gimpy Harumafuji (bad ankles) probably needs a win to avoid getting a formal warning from YDC. I'm not really sure what a formal warning is worth, and it's likely not much, but it certainly isn't a good thing. Anyway, what this all means is that this year's win streak, now at 43, is probably toast.

Those of you actually paying attention at home may have noticed that the yusho wouldn't have been decided unless Aoiyama lost. And indeed he did, falling to M1 Takayasu in the most horrible way possible that doesn't involve a fall from the rafters onto the turnbuckle. Especially since there is no turnbuckle. Big-time henka from Takayasu, which is a terrible way to inject yourself into a yusho race, even one as lopsided as this. Boo. No, make that Booooooo. I'll limit myself to seven o's, partially because Aoiyama flung himself into this one too easily and partially because it very likely didn't matter. That set us up for the Hakuho victory and the end of even the pretense of suspense.

OK. So Why are We Still Watching?

A few storylines are still worth paying attention to in the remaining two days.

  • Can Kisenosato still make a run?
  • Have Aoiyama and Kaisei, the two big, young foreigners, shown anything this basho to get excited about?
  • Is there any imminent Ozeki chatter to be had from the upper ranks?
Let's take each one in turn.

Another Shot for Kisenosato?

I was listening to the broadcast, and it seems as though Kise can get another shot at Yokozuna in September if he wins out this basho to go 12-3. Normally, this would seem unlikely, but with two gimpy Yokozuna-tachi and likely Day 15 opponent Kotoshogiku showing nothing special, the possibility is there. He would have to win today against Harumafuji to get things started.

It was another wide-open tachi-ai from the Ozeki today, which should spell doom, as HowDo appeared to get a double inside moro-zashi position. But there were no belt grips, just hands on chest with no angle to get a good push. Quickly, the Ozeki reacted by getting his right arm under the Yokozuna's for a solid shove to the chin that separated the two rikishi a bit and knocked H. M. Fuji off balance. Smelling blood, the Ozeki charged ahead with another shove and then moved in to get his left arm under HowDo's pit and right arm on the outside, wrapping up his opponent and with his body too close and low for any kind of evasion. The Yokozuna hopes remain alive with a 10th win, abise-taoshi style. Harumafuji got his ass kicked after the tachi-ai to lose his 5th.

I personally think it's a bad move to push this guy into Yokozuna status before he's ready. He's just now getting to where he's a decent Ozeki. The pressure could really get to him in the top rank, where he'd be expected to compete for the yusho every time and long stretches without even seriously competing would be embarrassing. Besides, for now, it's a nice storyline -- can he develop that next bit of game to even get his first yusho? Can he give the Mongolians a run for their money? I wish we could be allowed to see that storyline play out. Let's have a little tease, a little foreplay, not this premature eruption of a Yokozuna fantasy all over our televisions and Interwebs. The YDC needs a sex coach.

Are Kaisei and Aoiyama Going Places?

So Kaisei is a big guy and he was sorta in the yusho race this time. Could he on his way to something better? Today, he started the action in Makunouchi (which I learned today is also a type of bento with the same kanji characters! Oh, Japan, you silly goose.) with the usually interesting and always out-of-breath Masunoyama. Masunoyama doesn't have a ton of variety in his game -- it's usually a hard tachi-ai, two arms up and into your pits, and drive forward, forward, forward. This approach can sometimes be very effective, and it's earned him seven wins so far, but it's not what I would suggest against Kaisei, if the Brazilian is on his game. Kaisei can't shift a whole lot, but he's big and strong and works continuously to get his arms under yours.

Today, Masunoyama had the early advantage with a moro-zashi at the tachi-ai. But Kaisei countered by getting his right arm under Mr. Little Lungs' left arm, and Mr. LL's right arm had a very weak grip on a strand of Brazilian mawashi. With much better inside and outside grips, Kaisei bullied his man out the virtual door.

But Kaisei, despite the win, doesn't show signs of going anywhere good anytime soon. He's just not good enough laterally, and will continue to run into trouble against the higher-ranked veterans and more mobile rikishi, even when he's on his game. His 10 wins have not exactly been against a murderer's row -- perhaps the best win was against Toyohibiki. From a higher rank, he'll continue to get outflanked and outgunned.

What about Aoiyama? Well, he's certainly had a more impressive set of wins. He started slow, but put together a run based on a powerful thrusting attack that is a bit more mobile and aggressive than the Brazilian's yotsu attack. He sometimes relies on backwards moving sumo with slapdowns, but he's strong enough to make a lot of guys go down with it, so it's hard to blame him too much. He has more potential than Gagamaru, mainly because he isn't build like a ball sitting on a two-legged stool. I haven't seen him do anything that makes me think he's Ozeki material, but he certainly could be an impact guy who rotates in and out of the sanyaku.

Are Any of the Young Guns in the Top Ranks Looking Ozeki-ish?

Finally, we could get some excitement injected into the sport if someone makes an Oz run in the next year or so. Is anybody primed for it? You've gotten Mike's take on Chiyotairyu, so I won't go there. But to briefly cover his match against Kakuryu: the youngster had a great tachi-ai, with Kak just managing to get a grip on the E3's mawashi to stay alive, dig in, and turn the tables to get the yori-kiri victory (8-5 for Kak, 7-6 for Tairyu). Beyond that, I think the guy with the best chance to make serious noise soon is Myogiryu. Myogi Bear had a rough first week, but has managed to turn things around.

Today he had a nice barometer match against E2 Tochiohzan, who is having a nice tournament. After a mostly even tachi-ai, with Myogi a bit lower, Oh Snap fired in a nice tsuppari that knocked the Sekiwake back toward the edge. From there, though, it was all Bear. When Tochiohzan was getting pushed back, he went for a poorly timed slap down, and Myogiryu is really good at finishing the job at the edge while not falling from a pull or slap down move. Myogiryu is now 7-6, Oh Snap at 8-5.

I think that Myogiryu will clean up his technique a bit, get a bit more careful about trying to wrap up his opponents before the finish, and then make a serious Ozeki run before too long. He has the strength, skills, and mentality. I trust his sumo more than I trust Chiyotairyu's. Also, he's been kicking Chiyotairyu's ass lately -- his loss by hair pull on Day 1 this basho more of a case in point than a counterexample.

Otherwise, I don't see a lot to watch for, my friends. Not the other Ozeki, certainly. And not most of the other matches. Sorry if I left your faves out, but it's time for me to jet. See you in the fall!

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Whenever the yusho race is non-existent at a hon-basho, I find myself starting to analyze different aspects of sumo to keep myself occupied, and I think I've stumbled onto an observation that may help explain the trend we're seeing in sumo these days. There are basically two ways for a kid to enter professional sumo: 1) join a stable in his teens usually just out of junior high school but occasionally after high school, and 2) enter sumo after graduating from college. When I first began watching sumo every basho in the early 90's, I noticed that the guys that came out of college lacked a certain fire in their belly. Perhaps the three most notable rikishi were all Ozeki from the Musashigawa-beya in Musoyama, Dejima, and Miyabiyama. Two of those three would actually score a career yusho, but none of them really threatened the Yokozuna rank. Tosanoumi was another guy out of college who took the division by storm as a youngster but just couldn't make it beyond the Sekiwake rank. I noticed that a lot of good rikishi were coming out of college, but they lacked a certain something compared to the kids who entered as teenagers and endured years of hazing and abuse to toughen them up.

Up until probably the 80's, sumo was a way out for many poor kids in Japan to make it in life, and if they never did become star rikishi, at least they went to bed with their stomachs full at night. The truly great rikishi always came from rural areas or poor circumstances because they had a chip on their shoulder and wanted to prove to everyone that they could amount to something. Up until 1990, the strongest Yokozuna seemed to hail from places like Hokkaido, the birthplace of Kitanoumi, Chiyonofuji, Kitanofuji, Hokutoumi, and the legendary Taiho. Onokuni was another representative from Hokkaido with Aoimori being the next lucrative prefecture. Besides those two northern locales, Yokozuna came from places like Mie, Ishikawa, and Tottori...prefectures you've never heard about unless you live there. The point is that before Japan became a wealthy nation beginning in the 80's, there were only two ways out for so many boys who grew up in agricultural regions: baseball and sumo. And so these guys worked their arses off to keep their bellies full and to try and make a name for themselves.

Now that Japan has become such a wealthy nation with plenty of opportunities for its citizens regardless of where they're from, the hungry rikishi are now coming from a different poor region: Ulaan Baatar. So it's not surprising that the guys dominating sumo are still the poor kids who have found a way out and have something to prove; they just aren't Japanese anymore. The one constant through all of this has been the rikishi who come out of college. The universities are able to produce solid rikishi, but they're guys that just can't quite compete with the poor kids who in the modern age of sumo happen to hail from countries that aren't known for their wealth. In regards to Japanese rikishi then, the poor kids trying to make it just aren't there anymore, and so now the best rikishi are coming out of college.

I've been talking about Chiyotairyu for three or four basho now. Perhaps it was the Kyushu basho, but I mentioned in one of my reports that if I was starting a new stable that Chiyotairyu would be my first Japanese rikishi picked. Dude's got a certain presence about him, and he's got the strength to back it up, and I think before long, he will be the undisputed top rikishi from Japan. But what really helped me make the connection to the college guys is a dude fighting in Juryo named Endoh. I rarely talk about Juryo rikishi in my reports because I want them to prove themselves in the Makuuchi division. For example, there's a guy from Egypt named Osunaarashi whose been getting tons of run being the first sekitori from the African continent, and he's been giving his foes the business for the most part, but to me his sumo looks no different from the Eastern European guys we know so well, so I'll wait to discuss him when he reaches Makuuchi.

Endoh, however, is different. The yusho line in Juryo is often four losses, and if a guy is really on fire he'll yusho with a 12-3 record. You rarely see guys win Juryo with 13 wins plus just because it's a different brand of sumo where the tachi-ai isn't as important. In today's Juryo highlight they showed Endoh just dismantle Takanoiwa, and you know what a big fan I am of that Mongolian already, and so after watching Endoh a bit this basho, it occurred to me that he and Chiyotairyu are the best that Japan has right now hands down. And both guys entered sumo from college. Anyway, that's what got me thinking along these lines, but I think that my theory has some weight behind it because the last Japanese rikishi I can remember who entered sumo before college that really impressed me was Goeido. Nuff said there.

Just food for thought since the yusho race in Nagoya is literally hanging by a thread, and there's nothing to break down in that department. In an attempt to make it inneresting, however, let's start with the leaderboard and see how small it gets by the end of day 12 going in chronological order and starting with M12 Kaisei who had to solve M6 Okinoumi or be thrust from the leaderboard for good. Kaisei just didn't bring it at the tachi-ai and was so slow that Okinoumi lurched into the moro-zashi position from the get-go, and when you have a tall guy up and under both of your pits, there's nothing you can do. Even with his long arms, Kaisei was unable to grab an outer grip until Okinoumi had him near the straw, and even then, Kaisei was in no position to counter which amounts to an extremely lopsided victory for Okinoumi. I guess this is the difference between the M6 rank and the guys Kaisei has been feasting on down at the bottom of he division, but the end result is Kaisei's getting knocked off of the leaderboard for good as he falls to 9-3. Okinoumi clinches kachi-koshi with the sweet win at 8-4.

M9 Aoiyama had to get by M3 Chiyotairyu to keep his name on the leaderboard, and he did just that by beating Tairyu to the punch. Aoiyama used his long arms to greet Chiyotairyu with a moro-te-zuki that choked the M3 out of his game, and as Chiyotairyu struggled to lean back forward, Aoiyama assisted him by moving right and swiping him down just as fast as the bout began. You could totally see Aoiyama's experience in the division here because Chiyotairyu didn't calculate that he would have to do something to counter his opponent's length. He walked right into the dual choke hold without landing a single blow himself resulting in such a lopsided bout. Chiyotairyu (7-5) is still raw, and it will take a few more losses like these before he realizes that he needs adjust his sumo a bit depending on his opponent. As for Aoiyama, credit him for picking off a hot rikishi and staying in the 10-2, but this has got to be the ugliest jun-yusho performance we've seen in a long time.

Ozeki Kotooshu stepped out way left in an effort to grab the cheap outer grip, but Ozeki Kisenosato spun away from the attempt leaving the two in the hidari-yotsu position. Kotooshu's left inside grip was so deep on the back of Kisenosato's belt that it didn't leave him much room to grab the right outer, so the two Ozeki stood in the middle of the ring for about 10 seconds until Kotooshu made a tactical mistake that cost him the bout. With Kisenosato going nowhere and showing no signs of mounting an offensive attack, Kotooshu went for a maki-kae with the right arm, and that was just the momentum changer Kisenosato needed as he drove his legs forward forcing Kotooshu upright against the straw. Kotooshu did finally get both arms to the inside, but it was too late as Kisenosato used a left arm up high to just pound Kotooshu out of the ring before he could muster up a counter move. The result is Kotooshu falling to 9-3 and out of the yusho race for good while Kisenosato moves up to a quiet 9-3 after a horrific start to the basho.

The result after these first three bouts is that Aoiyama is your only hope to chase down Hakuho and keep the yusho race alive. That previous statement is nigh unto ridiculous, but a small wrench was thrown into the yusho race as Yokozuna Hakuho faced Ozeki Kotoshogiku. The Ozeki kept his left arm in tight knowing the Yokozuna wanted the right inside position, and so the two combatants bounced off of each other from the start, but Hakuho used a nice grizzly bear swipe with the left arm at the side of the Ozeki's head to knock Kotoshogiku off balance just enough to where the Yokozuna could swoop in and finally grab the right inside position. As Kotoshogiku squared up, the left outer grip came straightway whereupon Hakuho set up a left outer belt throw that felled Kotoshogiku for good, but after the throw, Hakuho was clearly in pain. He gingerly squatted down to accept the wad of caish, and he took his sweet time stepping off of the dohyo. As he sat back down on his zabuton to observe the day's final bout, Sakaigawa-oyakata who was judging the second half bouts leaned over and asked him if he was okay. Former Tamanoshima who was sitting in the mukou-joumen chair correctly pointed out that it was a rib injury since the dude's prolly experienced a few of those in his career. Hakuho did move to 12-0 with the win but went straight to a Nagoya hospital from the venue. X-rays were negative in terms of a cracked rib, but doctors think the Yokozuna suffered a muscle tear.

Miyagino-oyakata indicated that Hakuho should be okay and will not go kyujo, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts. The Yokozuna himself stated in the dressing room afterwards that he felt a jolt of electricity run through his ribs, and he didn't know where he was hurt at first, but he feels confident that he can finish the basho. All he needs is one more win and an Aoiyama loss, so there's still about a 5% chance that he doesn't win the yusho, but it will be interesting to see how he fights the rest of the way. The win did bring his consecutive win streak to 42 and maybe now Kisenosato can finally beat him straight up. With the loss, Kotoshogiku falls to 7-5 after that great start.

So, as we head into the final three days, here's your leaderboard:

Hakuho 12-0
Aoiyama 10-2

The day's final bout was the best of the day featuring Yokozuna Harumafuji vs. Ozeki Kakuryu. The two Mongolians butt heads at the tachi-ai hooking up in the hidari-yotsu position, but as the Yokozuna pressed his head in deep, the Kak maki-kae'd only to have the Yokozuna return the favor putting both dudes in the migi-gappuri-yotsu position. From here it's the guy who has the lower stance, and that would be Harumafuji, so after gathering his wits for a few seconds, he wrenched the Ozeki over to the edge with his inside belt grip before silling the dill with an uchi-muso attempt that would set up the eventual yori-kiri. Great chess match in this one that saw Harumafuji capture kachi-koshi at 8-4 while Kakuryu should get his at 7-5.

In other bouts of interest, I thought the M2 Tochiohzan - Sekiwake Goeido bout was as fake as Joan Rivers' face. Tochiohzan stepped forward at the tachi-ai with his head down and feet aligned allowing Goeido to slip to his left and slap Tochiohzan down in about two seconds. I don't think Goeido knew this was coming because it took him a moment to realize how vulnerable his opponent was, but a win is a win is a win. With Tochiohzan having picked up kachi-koshi yesterday, it's my opinion that he deferred to the Sekiwake today. It was just an unnatural bout with a weird flow to it. Goeido survives another day moving to 5-7.

M1 Takayasu was way too high and wide open at the tachi-ai, so Sekiwake Myogiryu just charged into moro-zashi and had Takayasu pushed back so fast he could barely begin a counter neck throw before Myogiryu had him down on his arse via yori-taoshi. Both rikishi end the day at 6-6, and this was probably Myogiryu's best sumo of the basho.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Shohozan was smart enough to just charge full bore straight into M2 Gagamaru's girth using a few tsuppari to get Gagamaru upright just enough to where he could get to the inside and score the yori-kiri win. For Shohozan to beat Gagamaru by force-out is more of an indication of how listless Gagamaru has been this basho more than it was a display of Shohozan's yotsu skills.

I was disappointed that M12 Kotoyuki settled for a yotsu contest against M5 Toyonoshima. He's gotta learn that against a yotsu specialist, he has to bring his brand of sumo, which is a bruising oshi attack fueled by de-ashi. He was content with yotsu, however, and gave up moro-zashi quicker'n you can say redneck grammar. Toyonoshima moves to 5-7 with the gimme while Kotoyuki's still got some work to do at 6-6.

M7 Takarafuji picked up his kachi-koshi today against M14 Masunoyama by simply being patient after grabbing the left inside position at the tachi-ai. Once Takarafuji had Masunoyama's de-ashi halted, he let Masunoyama squirm and look for an opening expending his energy in the process, so after a few failed choke attempts and shoves, Takarafuji slipped to his left and used that left arm to scoop Masunoyama out of the ring for good. Masunoyama's win streak is halted as he drops to 7-5, but who isn't rooting for him to get that final win?

Prior to the M16 Tokushoryu bout against M8 Toyohibiki, NHK showed a graphic from all of the rookies so far in 2013, and the list looked like this:


Sotairyu, Oiwato

Chiyootori, Homarefuji, Azumaryu, Daikiho

The one thing all of these guys had in common is that not a single one of them scored a kachi-koshi in their debut basho. This is just further evidence that up-and-comers just aren't there anymore, and so when you see a guy like Endoh or Chiyotairyu, you get excited. Anyway, NHK set up the perfect jinx scenario for Tokushoryu who came into the day 7-4, but I'll be damned if he didn't survive a Toyohibiki choke hold from the tachi-ai and left inside position that had the rookie pinned against the edge less than two seconds in. Tokushoryu had the wherewithal to grab a right outer grip as he braced his feet against the tawara, and that's what turned the tide in this one as he was able to force the action back to the center of the ring and use that uwate to manipulate Toyo The Hutt over to the edge where Tokushoryu had the girth...and the outer grip to score the force-out win in the end. Fantastic sumo form the rookie who becomes the first newcomer to kachi-koshi this year. At 8-4, a Kantosho could be in the cards if he can reach double-digit wins. Toyohibiki probably let one get away here as he falls to 6-6.

Apparently, M16 Shotenro thinks that once you get eight wins, you can choose not to show up because he gifted M10 Aran moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and complied even further with a kubi-nage attempt that gave Aran the easy force-out win. Either Shotenro (8-4) was hungover from last night or something changed hands prior to the bout as Aran moves to 6-6.

And finally, M11 Daido used a right hari-te against M13 Tamawashi at the tachi-ai, but a hari-zashi is the last thing you want to do when you're in a slump, and today was living proof as Daido left the door wide open for a right-handed choke hold from The Mawashi that had Daido looking at the rafters, and as Daido tried to lean back forward and into the bout, Tamawashi slipped to his right and pushed Daido down to an 0-12 record. Tamawashi is still alive at 5-7 if you're counting.

I do believe that Matt spells me tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Apologies for the lack of a day 10 report, but this basho has already slipped into a rut where Yokozuna Hakuho has established an insurmountable lead. As we entered the second Monday of the festivities, there were eight rikishi sitting on NHK's leaderboard, but one day later that list was whittled down to the following four rikishi as we enter day 11:  Hakuho, Kotooshu, Kaisei, Aoiyama. Hakuho's existence on the leaderboard is a given, but looking at the other three rikishi doesn't exactly make me want to take a cold shower. There is no way that Hakuho doesn't take the Nagoya basho yusho, so the remaining storylines are: can he win the championship on day 13 for the fifth time in his career, which would push him past Chiyonofuji who did it four times? Will Hakuho drop a bout along the way thus ending his 40 bout winning streak as of the end of day 10? How far can Chiyotairyu go? And lastly, will Takayasu make that push to earn his first ever sanyaku berth? Those aren't the most compelling of headlines, especially if you're a Japanese fan, but Chiyotairyu and a Juryo newcomer named Endoh are already shaping up to be the future of Japanese sumo.

With that in mind, let's focus on the leaderboard and see if we can't whittle it down some more. Yokozuna Hakuho hesitated at the tachi-ai thinking that he went too early against Ozeki Kakuryu, and he actually came out of his stance before the Kak's fists touched the clay, but the instant Hakuho put on the brakes, Kakuryu went resulting in an interesting tachi-ai where neither rikishi was committed. The bout wasn't called back, however, and so you had Hakuho standing there upright with no position and Kakuryu close to moro-zashi but not using de-ashi thinking it was a false start. Both dudes figured out quickly that this was for real, and as Kakuryu started to mount a charge leading with the right inside, Hakuho slipped back and to his left felling the Ozeki with a nice kote-nage counter throw. This was a strange one indeed, but you can't fault anyone except maybe the gyoji. I thought Kotonishiki who was sitting in the mukou-joumen chair made a brilliant point when he said, "this was like a bout of butsukari-geiko," implying that Hakuho was able to recover because he's been in this same position a thousand times before in the keiko ring. Regardless, Hakuho chalks up win number 41 while Kakuryu falls to 7-4.

With Hakuho safely at 11-0, it was up to Ozeki Kotooshu to keep pace at one off the lead, but he had a tall task in front of him figuratively speaking in Yokozuna Harumafuji. The Yokozuna has been taking a lot of guff in the funnies the last few days, but a three bout losing streak mid-basho will do that to ya. I think the last thing Kotooshu wanted to see today was a Yokozuna willing to do anything to break that slide, but that's exactly what he got as Harumafuji danced out left at the tachi-ai skirting his opponent and grabbing Kotooshu's left arm in a nasty tottari grip, and there was nothing the Ozeki could do at this point but go down as the Yokozuna twisted the hell outta his arm. This was disappointing on two fronts. 1) You never want to see a Yokozuna resort to a henka out of desperation, and 2) I wanted to see Kotooshu go out and demand some respect from the tachi-ai in a similar fashion to Chiyotairyu when he was paired against the Yokozuna. I get it that Harumafuji was moving left, but a more ambitious tachi-ai from the Ozeki coulda taken advantage of it. Instead, Kotooshu just leaned forward hesitantly sealing his fate right there. Poor sumo all the way around here as Harumafuji stops his slide improving to 7-4 while Kotooshu is dealt a costly seconds loss to go with his nine wins.

After breezing to a 9-1 start from the bottom of the division, it was going to be interesting to see how Kaisei fared against a rikishi ranked nine slots above him. And that rikishi happened to be M3 Chiyotairyu who is really in the midst of his breakout basho. It's one thing to do what Kaisei is doing from the M12 rank, but to come into the day at 6-4 facing the competition that Chiyotairyu has is a completely different realm. It showed today as Chiyotairyu wasn't foolin' around agreeing to a migi-yotsu contest against Kaisei where Tairyu used his brute strength to seize a left outer grip from the get-go, and that would prove the difference as the M3 spun Kaisei around a bit and then dumped him to the clay with a shweet uwate-nage. The loss drops Kaisei two backa the leader at 9-2 while Chiyotairyu is a single win away from kachi-koshi and a Shukunsho to boot.

Our final leader, M9 Aoiyama, faced his stiffest competition to date against M5 Toyonoshima, and he responded by using his left hand at the tachi-ai to choke Toyonoshima upright before adding a right paw to Tugboat's neck standing him up high enough to where he could retreat and pull his much smaller foe to the dohyo. Aoiyama was in control throughout in this short-lived bout, but you don't want to see a leader winning by back pedaling and resorting to hataki-komi. Ne'ertheless, Aoyama improves to 9-2, which puts him in a tie for the jun-yusho with Kotooshu and Kaisei. Toyonoshima is on the brink at 4-7.

Today was a rare day where Sekiwake Myogiryu actually charged forward at the tachi-ai looking for the right frontal belt grip against Ozeki Kisenosato, but the Ozeki's left arm was on the inside of the grip to counter while his right arm was doing the damage pushing up into Myogiryu's left armpit in an up-and-under shove called "hazu". With Myogiryu now upright, his instinct told him to get the hell outta there and pull as you go, but the Ozeki was right on top of the move scoring the dominating oshi-dashi win in the process. Great sumo today from Kisenosato who seals kachi-koshi at 8-3, but before we heap too much praise his way, we have to realize he did it against a struggling Myogiryu who falls to 5-6.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kotoshogiku was all bidness against M4 Kyokutenho grabbing the frontal grip with the left at the tachi-ai and inserting his right arm to the inside for good measure easily standing Kyokutenho upright. The Chauffeur attempted to break off the Ozeki's left outer grip and actually succeeded, but he wasn't strong enough and nimble enough to hunker back down into a true belt fight. Kotoshogiku didn't even bother regaining the left outer instead opting to gaburu Kyokutenho back and across the straw without argument. Kotoshogiku moves to 7-4 with the win but was done in days ago after those two consecutive tachi-ai henka against him. Kyokutenho's make-koshi is sealed with the loss at 3-8.

Sekiwake Goeido was winless against M1 Takayasu coming into the day, but I dare say none of those previous attempts included a solid tachi-ai where the Father was moving forward hard and looking for the inside position. He got the left inside from the start with a right outer grip to boot, and as Takayasu leaned right to grab an outer of his own, Goeido saw the opening for the maki-kae and successfully executed it getting his right arm to the inside as well. Having given up moro-zashi, Takayasu's only option was to back up and go for a counter tsuki-otoshi move at the edge with the right hand, but the Sekiwake's footwork was just too good as Goeido forced Takayasu back and out before his foe could push him to the ground. Takayasu cools off a bit at 6-5 while Goeido still has a bitta life in him at 4-7.

M2 Tochiohzan picked up his kachi-koshi against Komusubi Shohozan who came with moro-te-zuki at the tachi-ai but slipped right out of the attempt throwing himself off balance from the start. Credit Tochiohzan for standing his ground, and as the Komusubi tried to recover and square back up, Tochiohzan backed up and attempted a shoulder slapdown before evading around the perimeter of the ring and finally felling Shohozan with a hataki-komi. This wasn't the prettiest of sumo from Tochiohzan, but with Shohozan slipping all over the dohyo, he took what was given improving to 8-3. Shohozan's make-koshi became official with the loss.

When M3 Aminishiki loses to M4 Fujiazuma by tsuki-dashi, it's time to rethink a few things. Either that or he has lost all mobility in his right leg. At least he's sleeping well at night on that bedroll of his because not much else is going for him right now at 3-8. Fujiazuma is only one win better at 4-7.

M16 Shotenro (8-3) will keep his job for another basho as he clinched kachi-koshi today by using a moro-te-zuki tachi-ai to briefly halt M8 Toyohibiki's momentum before committing on an offensive pull move that worked well as Toyohibiki's feet were aligned after the initial charge. Toyohibiki falls to 6-5 with the loss.

Rookie M16 Tokushoryu and M8 Kitataiki bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai with neither rikishi able to secure an inside grip, and this would normally favor the experienced Kitataiki, who has seen this situation before, but for some reason, he opted to pull his way out of the stalemate. Bad move as Tokushoryu responded extremely well for a new rikishi pouncing with his legs moving forward and a couple of well-placed shoves that sent Kitataiki across the ring and out oshi-dashi style. Huge win for Tokushoryu who has found his groove and moves to 7-4 while Kitataiki falls to 5-6.

M11 Daido hadn't lost to M9 Sadanofuji in five tries coming in, but I've never seen such weak footwork from him, so there were no guarantees in today's contest. The bout actually went to yotsu-zumo early, which favors Daido, but he couldn't establish any footing on the dohyo and just sorta bounced around as Sadanofuji (4-7) forced him back and out with a weak right inside grip. I don't know if DaiD'oh! is injured or not, but there is zero substance to his sumo as he falls to 0-11.

I cannot stand M10 Aran's brand of "sumo" this basho, which is to hunker down and avoid going chest to chest or belt to belt by extending his arms against his opponent's shoulders. It's the most boring posture one can assume, and the only thing it sets up is a quick pull attempt. I loathe watching the Russian's bouts of late unless his opponent just blasts him back from the tachi-ai and kicks his ass right and proper as M14 Masunoyama did today. Masunoyama's footwork was so good that Aran couldn't sufficiently evade at the ring's edge. This one was close, but Aran falls to 5-6 while Masunoyama is enjoying a nifty 5 bout win streak moving him to 7-4.

And finally, M12 Kotoyuki, the youngest rikishi in the division squared off with Wakanosato, a 37-year old veteran who can still surprise these youngsters with his yotsu-zumo skills. Kotoyuki wisely never let it come to that as he used his stiff tsuppari attack and solid de-ashi to knock the Gangsta back and out of the ring in a matter of seconds. I like Kotoyuki the more I see him, and at 6-5, kachi-koshi is well within reach. Wakanosato falls to 4-7 and will likely peddle his wares next basho in Juryo.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Let's start the day 9 comments with a discussion of three Japanese rikishi: Kisenosato, Goeido, and Chiyotairyu. Both Kisenosato and Goeido have recently been up for promotion to prestigious ranks, and both have failed in their quests and for good reason: they weren't even close to being worthy of the ranks in consideration. On paper, both Kisenosato and Goeido had the necessary number of wins for consideration and a few prominent wins here and there, but that's just on paper. In actuality, neither of the two had bruising wins during their runs where they just went out and kicked the shat out of a prominent rikishi. Especially during week two when fighting the upper echelon guys, they would win for the most part, but at the end of the day it just didn't sit well because of how they were winning. Put another way, it didn't sit well because of how their opponents were losing.

The reason that Kisenosato's run to Yokozuna and Goeido's run to Ozeki failed is because they couldn't produce the necessary results all on their own, and that was evident by the content of their so-called big wins. Even Kisenosato's 2-0 start this basho against scrub rikishi didn't leave us with that feeling of, "wow, he just went out and kicked that guy's ass." Contrast those two with Chiyotairyu, and look what he's done this basho alone. He's toppled both Sekiwake, he's beaten the highest Ozeki ranked on the banzuke, and he pasted a Yokozuna in such a manner that hasn't been seen from any other Japanese rikishi in memory. I realize the Chiyotairyu is not up for promotion to anything besides the sanyaku next basho, but this is how a guy should when when he's trying to break into an upper echelon rank, not the way that Kisenosato and Goeido have been winning the last year.

Who can forget when guys like Asashoryu and Hakuho forced their way into the Ozeki and then Yokozuna ranks? They did it with convincing sumo leaving guys in their wake, so their being promoted up the ladder was a foregone conclusion. With Kisenosato and Goeido, they were being coddled along, and it showed in the content of their sumo atop the dohyo. The point of this discussion is that when a Japanese rikishi will truly earn his prestigious rank, he will do it with bruising wins as exhibited by Chiyotairyu this basho. It's been so refreshing to see a guy this tournament break into the sanyaku all his own and leave numerous guys above him in his wake. It doesn't mean that Chiyotairyu is ready for Ozeki promotion just yet; but his presence is damn well being felt across the banzuke and you can't say the same thing for Kisenosato or Goeido.

The broadcast led off today with a discussion of how they make the combs (called kushi) used to style the rikishi's chon-mage, and I could tell Ross Mihara was really in his element. I mean, nobody can break down Japanese comb-making like Ross, so we had an award-winning broadcast before the sumo even began. After Ross left me gasping for breath and reaching for a cigarette following his comb analysis, NHK produced the current leaderboard this basho, which looks like this:

Undefeated: Hakuho
1 loss: Kotooshu, Kaisei
2 losses: Harumafuji, Kotoshogiku, Kakuryu, Chiyotairyu, Aoiyama

On the Japanese side of things, Ota Announcer gave the proper perspective to things as they showed the leaderboard reminding us, "It's unthinkable that Hakuho could lose more than two bouts this basho." The dude is right of course, and so it's up to Kotooshu and/or Kaisei to bring the Yokozuna down IF he doesn't lose a bout on his own. That's a tall order indeed, and it's why I was so disappointed that Kotoshogiku was henka'd two days in a row handing him his only losses to date. The Geeku was fighting great, and as I mentioned pre-basho, this banzuke isn't worth a crap, and so the Ozeki was poised to make a huge run in Nagoya. To have that potential storyline marred by two tachi-ai henka is just gutting to the yusho race down the stretch. Oh well; I'm only here to comment on the bouts, not to set policy, so let's get to the action straightway working our way down the leaderboard.

In the day's final bout, Sekiwake Goeido just doesn't have the game to deny Yokozuna Hakuho his coveted right inside position and left outer grip, and once obtained a half second in, the Yokozuna merely stepped to his side and dragged the Father down and out with that left outer grip. This was like shooting fish in a barrel for Hakuho who moves to 9-0 and is still your leader. Goeido falls to 2-7 and will thankfully be booted out of the Sekiwake rank for good come Aki. Let's make him earn his way into the rank again, especially with up-and-comers Chiyotairyu and Takayasu ready to take his place.

In the most anticipated bout of the day (because it featured M3 Chiyotairyu, not Ozeki Kotooshu), Chiyotairyu struck the Ozeki hard enough at the tachi-ai keeping Kotooshu far away from the belt, but the up-and-comer had no de-ashi to speak of opting to hold back and just watch his opponent come at him gaining the inside left position and insurmountable right outer grip with which Kotooshu used to easily wrench his foe over to the edge before forcing him out for good measure. Not much to break down here. Chiyotairyu won the tachi-ai in terms of neutralizing his opponent, but there was no forward movement from his lower half, and he paid the price against an experienced guy like Kotooshu. Live and learn as Chiyotairyu drops off the leaderboard at 6-3 while Kotooshu keeps himself one back at 8-1.

M12 Kaisei kept himself one off the pace by demanding the right inside from the tachi-ai against Wakanosato, and there was nothing Granpanosato could do to neutralize his opponent's powerful yori charge. This one was too easy as Kaisei skates to 8-1 keeping pace with Kotooshu at one back. Wakanosato falls to 4-5, and if Hakuho doesn't lose soon, your yusho is coming from Hakuho, Kotooshu, or Kaisei.

Yokozuna Harumafuji continues to look sloppy, I've seen better slap fights between two girls in the schoolyard then what Sekiwake Myogiryu and the Yokozuna showed us today. The start wasn't terrible as Myogiryu was close to moro-zashi forcing the Yokozuna to pinch inwards and deny out. From this stalemate, Myogiryu switched gears and slapped at the back of Harumafuji's head twice while ramming his right shoulder into the Yokozuna's grill in the process, and I think these three blows to Harumafuji's head caused the Yokozuna to lose his cool and try and connect with a counter hari-te. Problem was, neither rikishi really connected with a face slap from this point causing them to separate themselves a full meter in the center of the ring. Harumafuji tried to get back in with a left face slap, but the Sekiwake's reaction was to duck in tight and just bulldoze the Yokozuna back and outta the ring. Just an ugly ugly bout, and we should never see a Yokozuna involved in such sumo. The end result is Myogiryu scooting to 5-4 while Harumafuji suffers his second consecutive loss leaving him 6-3.

In our Ozeki duel of the day, Kakuryu went for the early frontal belt grip against Kotoshogiku ramming his right shoulder into Kotoshogiku's face, and the bout was really determined at that point. I'd be surprise if Kotoshogiku wasn't seeing stars because Kakuryu just walked to the side, grabbed a left outer grip before establishing the inside positioning a crunching tachi-ai, and then kept himself to the side of his foe as he tried to wrangle him out of the ring. Kotoshogiku eventually did square up, but he was far away from his own left outer grip, and so the Kak easily raised him up with the right inside, kept him square with the left outer, and executed the textbook yori-kiri win. As much as I've been praising Kotoshogiku this basho, Kakuryu simply kicked his ass today in all facets as Kakuryu stays on the leaderboard at 7-2 while Kotoshogiku is knocked out at 6-3.

In a sloppy affair, M3 Aminishiki's tachi-ai was so lightweight that Kisenosato handled it with ease leaving Shneaky nothing else but a meager pull attempt, and when the Ozeki pounded on that, Aminishiki was forced to feel his way against the tawara and dig in. That Kisenosato didn't just bulldoze Aminishiki out when he went for that pull is an illustration of how Kisenosato has weak de-ashi, and in the end, he actually gave up moro-zashi to the M3, but Aminishiki was gassed and couldn't knock the Ozeki back cleanly and so a wild tsuki-otoshi move from the Ozeki with the left hand send both rikishi outta the dohyo at the same time. I thought Kisenosato easily won the bout, but they called a mono-ii and declared a redo.

In round two, Aminishiki (2-7) was clearly gassed as he put both fists to the starting lines allowing Kisenosato to get the left arm to the inside and drive the M3 back to the edge. A little resistance was overcome once Kisenosato grabbed the right outer grip, and it was easy peasy Japanesey from there as Kisenosato moves to 6-3.

Rounding out the sanyaku, I always love to see M1 Takekaze on the wrong end of a tsuki-dashi, so props to Komusubi Shohozan who took charge of this one from the tachi-ai blasting Takekaze (1-8) back and out in seconds improving to 3-6 in the process.

One rikishi that M2 Tochiohzan has struggled mightily with is M4 Kyokutenho because Kyokutenho is a bit taller and one of the best yotsu-zumo guys around. All Tenho would ever have to do is ensure that Tochiohzan never got moro-zashi, and it was curtains. Well, today's bout was a perfect illustration of how much Tenho has slowed down because he easily gave up moro-zashi from the tachi-ai. Despite the early gaffe, Kyokutenho pinched in hard with both arms from the outside threatening a kime-dashi move, but he ran out of gas in a bout two seconds, and once Tochiohzan staved off the counter attack, Kyokutenho had no gas left in the tank. The yori-kiri came straightway as Tochiohzan (6-3) picks up the easiest win of his career against nemesis, Kyokutenho (3-6).

When M5 Toyonoshima lost to M7 Takarafuji despite having moro-zashi, it's a sign that Toyonoshima is in steep decline. Toyonoshima got the left arm to the inside from the tachi-ai, and his right arm was on the inside as well, but he allowed Takarafuji to pinch in on that right arm technically keeping Toyonoshima from moro-zashi. If Toyonoshima can't demand moro-zashi from this position, he's in trouble. He eventually did work his way into full moro-zashi but didn't have the de-ashi to force Takarafuji back and out. Takarafuji picked up his 5th win with a nifty counter tsuki-otoshi at the edge while Toyonoshima falls to 4-5.

M6 Okinoumi improved to 6-3 after M9 Sadanofuji kept both hands high at the tachi-ai just giving Okinoumi the clear path to the inside. I'm not saying that this was thrown; rather, Okinoumi has got to be enjoying the easy competition after getting his ass handed to him last basho. The Sadamight falls to 3-6.

The sake must have really been flowing in the arena today because multiple guys were yelling out the name "Toyohibiki" as the Hutt entered the dohyo. The hive of villainy and scum was not let down as Toyohibiki (6-3) blasted M13 Tamawashi (4-5) with a head butt and then took advantage of a stupid pull attempt from The Mawashi resulting in the easy oshi-dashi win.

It must be sweet to be mentioned on NHK's leaderboard AND be paired against M13 Jokoryu, and that's exactly the circumstance M9 Aoiyama found himself in. As expected, the bout wasn't even close as Aoiyama used a moro-te-zuki and a coupla shoves for good measure to dispatch Jokoryu (3-6) without argument. I agree with Ross that this one shoulda be ruled tsuki-dashi, but Aoiyama will take an oshi-dashi win this way till Tuesday as he moves to 7-2.

If you're 0-8 coming in as M11 Daido was, you have to circle your bout against M14 Tamaasuka on the calendar because it's one of your best opportunities to win. Daido got off the wrong foot...twice thanks to an over-zealous referee who called Daido back claiming he jumped the gun. I didn't think so, and it softened up Daido's tachi-ai the third time to the point where Tamaasuka (4-5) used a right choke hold and left inside position to dispatch Daido in a matter of seconds. I guess you just have those basho where nothing seems to go right, and such is the case for Daido who falls to 0-9.

And finally, one of my most anticipated bouts early on turned out to be a complete dud as M12 Kotoyuki struck hard against M16 Tokushoryu and then immediately backed up a step threatening a pull. The problem was that the rookie was coming forward full barrel and forced the bout to migi-yotsu forcing out Kotoyuki in mere seconds. Kotoyuki can hock all the loogies he wants prior to his bouts, but he has got to realize that his game is tsuppari coupled with de-ashi, and if he doesn't bring both of those elements, he can't win. Today was a great example as both rikishi end the day at 5-4. Good win for Tokushoryu who has really settled into his own trusting forward moving sumo in the place of the shenanigans we saw from him early on.

Back again tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Well, hello there. Long time no C. Lancy. Some of you may recall me mentioning a new teaching gig that I have at a nursing university here on my island (yes, its mine, if not technically then effectively). Im fairly certain I wrote about it last basho (and if I didnt its because its difficult typing with my left hand only). Anywho, the term is wrapping up on Tues. and Wed. of this week and I have been busy planning their final examination (no, NOT being done at a love hotel, though thats NOT a bad idea). Too busy, even, to keep a stern eye on the great Kisenosato and his glorious run to the rank of Yo...

But, yeah, I read along with you as Mixmaster Mikenstein put the needle on the record and danced us through the first week, keeping bad company with only the rock god Kane "T Get Enough Of Your Love" Roberts (and by "only" I mean, "he doesnt do fuckall with YOU!") And a fine week twas, because we all know Mike loves and knows himself some sumos. The fact that he has his own online bidness producing and selling handmade "mawashi scented" candles tells us as much.

But when I read the opening line of yesterdays report, wherein he uses the word "plopping" and "underwear" in the same sentence, I knew shit had gone too far, and that Our Glorious Leader needed a break. Thus I decided, come hell or high water, that Id do a Day 8 report. So let us now take the straight and stronger course to the bouts as they appeared to moi. That means "me." M-E. (See, Mike ALWAYS knows whats coming.)

Makuuchi started off with Kyokushuho getting an easy enough win over Tamaasuka, who leaned too far forward and was dragged to the clay in a second or two after tachi-ai.

Next Tamawashi got all up and in veteran (and soon to be oyakata) Wakanosatos grill, using it to step back and not exactly GRAB an armbar but more take advantage of Wakanosato jamming his stub into the Mongolians armpit. Flung down to .500 at E15, its not looking chips and salsa for the former Sekiwake mainstay. Father? Father Time? Is that you?

Sokokurai evened his record (no, Im NOT going to give you the exact numbers) by bulldogging an as firm an inside left belt as youre likely to see and never letting it go through an extended bout. For the win, he fended off some heavy pressing from Jokoryu and spun him at the edge, finally employing that belt grip to lift him up and fling him down and out.

Shotenro looked to have the initial advantage vs. Kaisei, with a good outside left belt and an on again, off again inside right belt, but Kaisei was large and in charge in this one as he pushed the Mongolian forward, then relented and swung him down and out, on his keister! Shotenro looked about to summon LifeCall but, unlike Mrs. Fletcher, eventually got up on his own power.

Daido was going for a nothing BUT blemished 0-8, and Tokushoryu was more than willing to assist as he turned an initially harrowing looking tachi-ai into a moro-zashi two-handed inside and then ran the overmatched E11 out of the ring and flat onto his face. The police were not called, which caused somewhat of a stir.

Masunoyama drove Sadanofuji back with great and furious...something that Sam Jackson might say, and in his vain attempt to counter, Sadanofuji was dragged down by the back of his belt. I believe that is called an uwate-dashi-nage.

Toyohibiki set up Kotoyuki, back in Makuuchi for a second shot after his Jan. debut, for the back of the noggin slap down by using some well placed tsuppari attack.

Yoshikaze employed no subterfuge in his effort vs. Aoiyama, and got several long arms worth of fat hand to his face, enough to leave him nothing to do but to go back, back, back and out. There was no slipping away today from the big Bulgars bashing.

In one of those bouts where youre POSITIVE youre going to see some pubes, Kitataiki and Okinoumi parlayed a milquetoast tachi-ai that looked more like a gentlemans agreement to meet amicably in the center into a long, yanking yotsu belt battle that ended only when Okinoumi dropped his hips and lifted his exhausted and nearly nude foe out. Much energy exerted in this one. Look for both men to be tired on Day 9.

They gave Fujiazuma the win over Aran with a call of oshi-taoshi, but it was really Aran pulling his foe down onto him as he grabbed at the front belt and tried to spin him to the dirt. Fujiazuma showed great balance in this one, as Aran was hitting and shifting rather well throughout.

In the second half, Tochiohzan started us out by going for the low front belt grab at tachi-ai, which caused Toyonoshima to keep his hips back to avoid, and that forward lean proved his undoing as Oh Snap was able to get on top and push him down to his palms. Gimme twenty, Tugboat!

Yubabamaru brought his glacial tachi-ai to the party with Takarafuji, who was somehow able to move aside (he had, like, a five century warning) before being driven out. From there on it was a series of the same, slow forward push by Gagamaru, resistance and side step by Takarafuji, until the Butterball got turned with his back to the edge and Takarafuji expertly konked him out.

Next up we had our SEVENTH 3-4 vs. a 4-3 (counted 25 out of 40 guys at either 3-5, 4-4, or 5-3 after Day 8I guess balance is the byword of this basho) in Takayasu vs. Icky icky icky icky kapang zoop boing. They stayed low and at each others chest after the start, with Ikioi trying desperately for an outside right belt. He managed to push Takayasu back to the edge, and when our lad resisted, wrapped him in a nice armbar and swung him down. A lot of armbar swing downs today.

Myogiryu blew his chance to finish off Takekaze in a few seconds (like most wrestlers do), and once the little guy got in tight, he was able to keep the Sekiwake at bay for a long time. Eventually, however, Myogiryu managed to throw him down with a nice inside, underhand belt grip. But it wasnt easy.

The Kakuryu-Shohozan bout was easily the most entertaining of the day, from a Vaudevillian standpoint. Kakuryu hit at tachi-ai and used his long arms to reach around to the back of that golden mawashi Shohozan wears and pull him running across the dohyo. The Komusubi arrested himself and turned at the edge, only to meet the pummeling palms of the Ozeki. Sensing he was about to be blown out, he charged forward but Kakuryu slipped to the side and with a cosmetic slap on the tush pretty much let the dude hurtle past him back to the other coast and down to his tummy. To call Shohozans mad rush across the dohyo "flailing" would be ennobling it.

Probably a bit pissed after two days of being greased, Kotoshogiku chased Goeido around and back to the ropes for what appeared would be a quick decision. However, the Sekiwake showed some spunk, twisting his large foe around and resisting being shoved back and out. Okay, thought the Ozeki, if thats the way we have to play it, howdya like THESE apples? Goeido Will Hunting loses to an emphatic uwate-nage.

I wish I could get excited about Kisenosato beating Kyokutenho, but hows this for perspective: Kisenosato was FIVE YEARS OLD when Kyokutenho debuted in sumo. As dull a yori-kiri as youre ever going to see did Ponce De Lechauffer in today.

Everybodys favorite whipping boy stepped into the ring against Ozeki Kotooshu, and then stepped into a deep outside left belt that the Bulgarian used to pile drive the Komusubi?? to the clay. I know Mike talked about it in his pre-basho, but from M8 in May to Komusubi? Wow, last basho REALLY sucked. As something to root for, Tokitenku was 10-5 in Tokyo, then 5-10 Osaka, then 10-5 again in Tokyo in May. At 1-7, heres hoping he pulls out four wins in the final week! I just love symmetry.

As it so often does, the days festivities ended with two horses from Mongolia by the name of Harumafuji and Hakuho. Hakuho was up first, and I suppose in an effort to make us all happy, he tried to wrench Aminishikis head off at tachi-ai. Didnt work and it actually spun the Yokozuna around with his back to the ropes, but he had the W3s arm locked up and used it to persuade Shneaky to continue on his merry way out off the dohyo, or else! To the untrained eye (and even to some trained eyes) it may have looked like Hakuho was in trouble, but he has all the balance and ring sense in the world, and he never even approached panic mode. But when you run off 38 wins in a row, I suppose we have to take what upset scraps you give us.

Finally Harumafuji brought one of the weaker tachi-ais Ive seen in a while from him, actually stepping to his right and posing like the newly muscular wimp kicking over chairs in those old Charles Atlas ads in the back of comic books, and Chiyotairyu read it perfectly, blasting him hard and setting him on his heels. The E3 followed up with a perfect shove into the Yokozunas chest, which resulted in great humiliation and furious...already used that gag. Youll not EVER see Hakuho get killed like this. Just slaughtered.

Sorry to not be so funny today, but Im bushed. Ill be on my best behavior (which means Mike will get several nasty emails afterward) for Day 15. Who knows, I may pop in for one day this week, esp. if Mike starts asking us to imagine him in his skivvies again. Shudder.

Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
There's nothing quite like plopping down on the couch in my underwear on a Saturday morning and turning on the sumos only to find that Takamisakari is sitting in the mukou-jomen chair. It's a smart decision by NHK and the Association to save him for the weekend broadcasts when more people are watching, and those who tuned in got their money's worth today as they gave Takamisakari plenty of face-time, which is the perfect way to kill time in between bouts. Beyond that, it was a red-letter day for me in sumo because not only did I find someone uglier than Takamisakari, but both dudes happened to be sitting directly behind him during the broadcast. Here in the states, we have what we call rednecks, and if you're wondering what the Japanese version of a redneck is, go back and watch the guys sitting behind the oyakata. I was as entertained today as I have been in a long time, and I know Takamisakari's presence has the same effect on the Japanese viewers. The Sumo Association has an ace up their sleeve with Furiwake-oyakata, and it's good to see they're using it.

Okay, let's get right to the bouts starting at the top again where Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed upstart, M3 Chiyotairyu. I've been talking a bit of late how Chiyotairyu needs to fix the portion of his tachi-ai where he leads with his shoulder, and if the bout against Kotoshogiku wasn't evidence enough, it was clear as a bell today against Yokozuna Hakuho. Before the M3 could get anything going, he turned right into a Hakuho left outer grip and was dragged down to the dirt about two seconds in. This bout had tons of potential, but Chiyotairyu didn't think he had a chance, and he fought like it. Besides Hakuho, I think Chiyotairyu's got the most bariki (horsepower) of any rikishi, and I think the day will come when he'll be able to fire his tsuppari into the chest of the Yokozuna and defeat him, but to not even try today was a huge letdown. The result is that Hakuho retains sole lead of the basho at 7-0 while Chiyotairyu is still a very respectable 5-2.

Yokozuna Harumafuji used a right choke hold from the tachi-ai to push M4 Kyokutenho straight back, and when the Maegashira rikishi showed signs of resistance, HowDo switched to the left hand for more pushes into the Chauffer's neck. As Kyokutenho tried to duck out of the shoves, the Yokozuna managed to quickly pull him forward, grab the back of his belt, and usher him out of the ring from behind using the okuri-dashi technique. Pretty straight up sumo here as Harumafuji improves to 6-1 while Kyokutenho falls to 3-4, and let's hope the Yokozuna didn't breathe too much of Kyokutenho's exhaust at the edge.

Ozeki Kakuryu used a right kachi-age into M1 Takekaze's neck and then a series of shoves before getting his right arm worked up and under Kaze's left armpit setting up the easy kata-sukashi (shoulder slapdown). I only comment on this bout out of deference to the Ozeki rank as Kakuryu skates to 5-2 while Takekaze falls another notch to 1-6.

Ozeki Kotooshu wanted no part of Aminishiki today opting to henka to his right, grab the back of M3 Aminishiki's belt, and then dump him to the dohyo in a second uwate-dashi-nage style. Kotooshu moves to 6-1 and still hasn't displayed great sumo. As for Aminishiki, the henka giveth and the henka taketh away as Shneaky gets some comeuppance at 2-5.

Like the two guys' teeth who were sitting behind Takamisakari today, something is missing from Ozeki Kisenosato's tachi-ai. He was exposed today by Sekiwake Goeido of all rikishi in a bout that saw the Father quickly gain moro-zashi and use sound de-ashi to force Kisenosato back and across the straw without argument. And yes, you did read that right...I actually typed "Goeido, "moro-zashi," and "sound de-ashi" in the same sentence. Many are probably surprised by Kisenosato's 4-3 start, but Sumotalk readers shouldn't be. As for Goeido, he ekes his way to 2-5 with his best win in a long time.

I've already done the henka rant this basho, so suffice it to say that Sekiwake Myogiryu jumped right sending Ozeki Kotoshogiku down to his second loss in as many days by means of his opponents' tachi-ai henka. I see Myogiryu working here. He's frustrated by his record and some close losses, but falling behind due to sloppy sumo does not give one license to henka an Ozeki, especially Kotoshogiku who was showing so much promise this basho. What a waste as Myogiryu limps to 3-4 while Kotoshogiku is technically still undefeated at 5-2.

Our Komusubi duel took place today, and you could easily see why Shohozan will grace this rank again in the future while Tokitenku fighting from the this rank is a complete joke. Shohozan took charge from the tachi-ai choking Tokitenku back so quickly and sending him across the tawara with such force that they awarded him the tsuki-dashi technique in the end. 2-5 is not a horrible record for a Komusubi after seven days, but Shohozan's still got his work cut out for him the rest of the way. Tokitenku is a rotten 1-6.

In the Maegashira ranks, easily the most anticipated bout of the day was the M2 Tochiohzan - M1 Takayasu matchup that saw neither rikishi take control from the tachi-ai as both fired off random tsuppari, and in a bout like this, the more experienced rikishi will prevail as exhibited by Tochiohzan ultimately baiting Takayasu into a pulldown. Both rikishi end the day at 4-3.

M2 Gagamaru picked up his first win with a straight up victory over M4 Fujiazuma. Gagamaru was a different rikishi today, but then again, he was fighting Fujiazuma. Nothing to break down here as Gagamaru finally used de-ashi behind a tsuppari attack that had Fujiazuma pushed back and out in seconds. Both rikishi are 1-6.

M9 Aoiyama pasted M6 Okinoumi using a kachi-age tachi-ai with the right hand that stood M6 Okinoumi straight up, and for the first time this tournament, we saw Aoiyama's de-ashi in play as he shoved Okinoumi back well enough that a late moro-zashi near the edge for Okinoumi couldn't save him. Aoiyama improves to 5-2 with the win while Okinoumi has cooled down fast at 4-3.

M8 Toyohibiki had M12 Kaisei on the ropes early using a right choke hold to drive the Brasilian back near the edge, but Toyohibiki couldn't finish his bidness giving up moro-zashi in the process, so Kaisei was eventually able to halt Toyohibiki's forward momentum and hunker down into yotsu-zumo turning the tables for the force-out win. Kaisei moves to 6-1 and will likely be receiving stiffer competition in the second week. Toyohibiki is a quiet 4-3.

M11 Daido remained winless today after giving up moro-zashi at the tachi-ai to M15 Wakanosato (4-3), and there was nothing he could do as the Gangsta dumped Daido with an easy scoop throw three seconds in.  Following this bout was the Tamawashi - Sadanofuji bout, and the producers in the truck couldn't have picked a better time to wake us all back up by showing a highlight of Takamisakari dressed in a shirt and tie throwing out a ceremonial first pitch at a Chunichi Dragons - Hiroshima Carp baseball game.  Before throwing the pitch, Takamisakari did his little routine on the mound where he pumps both fists downward and grunts, and it was one of the most entertaining things I've ever seen.   Check it out in all it's glory right here.

I was ready for M12 Kotoyuki to falter, but he scored a big win today even if it did come against M15 Sokokurai. Kotoyuki took charge from the tachi-ai with his tsuppari attack and never let Sokokurai get close to the belt as he picked up his fifth win. Sokokurai falls to 3-4 in the process.

And finally, J1 Takanoiwa is still undefeated in the division as he visited M16 Tokushoryu today in the best fought bout of the day. The two quickly hooked up into the gappuri hidari-yotsu position, and while Tokushoryu literally had Takanoiwa on the ropes early, Takanoiwa used his right outer grip to keep Tokushoryu on the move eventually turning the tables and bodying Tokushoryu (5-2) up to the edge where Takanoiwa slipped into moro-zashi enabling the final force-out charge. At 5-2, I can't wait for Takanoiwa to make it in this division.

That ends week one of the basho, and with Hakuho in sole possession of first place, he controls his destiny more than we know. Clancy spells me tomorrow.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Hopefully you were able to sense the excitement I was feeling regarding this basho once Kisenosato lost, and I haven't lost hope in the tournament overnight, but the basho suffered a huge blow today, and no, I'm not talking about the withdrawal of Chiyonokuni. Love or hate Sumotalk, I think that perhaps our greatest contribution is that we raise serious issues about the sport and make them topics among the foreign fan base. Talking yaocho is an obvious example, and even if you still think that all of the bouts are fought straight up (I don't know how one could), at least it's on your mind when something inexplicable happens in the ring.

But before yaocho, I think the very first topic that Sumotalk started harping on that became a general topic among the foreign community was the debate on the tachi-ai henka. Whether you're okay with the move or whether you despise it like me, I think we've had some great debates over the years regarding the topic, but after a single bout today, I'm going to resurrect the topic just a bit and dust off one of my henka rants.

I've spent the last few days talking about how important it is to not only have both Yokozuna in the yusho race, but a couple of Ozeki and a Maegashira rikishi as well, and that formula became evident after about day 3, so even though Kisenosato lost erasing any hopes of Yokozuna promotion, the basho still had a viable storyline with which to keep the fans interested. Namely, there are five guys on the board who have a great shot of creating a fantastic yusho race down the stretch in week two. Moreover, two of the five are Japanese rikishi, and having a Japanese rikishi as a legitimate yusho contender can work wonders exhibit A being the way the Association milked Kisenosato's "run" for all they could this basho and last basho.

So having the most legitimate Japanese candidate fall today due to a tachi-ai henka is unconscionable to me, and I can't believe it happened. Good ole M2 Aminishiki, better known as AminiShneaky around these parts, actually had the gall to henka Ozeki Kotoshogiku today and deal him a serious and unnecessary blow to his yusho hopes. If you must know the details, Aminishiki jumped to his left at the charge and used both hands to pull at the back of the Ozeki's head sending him rolling across the dohyo in heap. I just can't comprehend what was going through Aminishiki's mind, but this was as serious a henka that we've seen in a long time, and I hope Aminishiki (2-4) and his oyakata catch hell for it. You actually have a Japanese Ozeki fighting well and mopping up the dohyo against the horrible banzuke, and just like that he suffers a costly and unnecessary loss. If I was the sport's commissioner, I would fine Aminishiki and order him flogged, but then I also would have banned the tachi-ai henka long ago. Sumo continues to shoot itself in the foot by allowing rikishi to win in this manner. Kotoshogiku falls to 5-1 with the mishap.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji simply dismantled M2 Tochiohzan using effective tsuppari and good de-ashi to stand Oh upright, and then as Tochiohzan looked to lean back forward, Harumafuji greeted him with the right inside and then pivoted left where he grabbed the left outer grip and threw Tochiohzan over before he could even get settled into the bout. Wham bam thank you ma'am as Harumafuji is right back in this thing at 5-1. Tochiohzan should still regain his sanyaku slot next basho at 3-3.

On the heels of Kotoshogiku's loss, Yokozuna Hakuho looked to take complete command of the basho against Komusubi Shohozan. Shohozan actually turned his left shoulder inwards a bit at the tachi-ai, and the Yokozuna reacted well threatening a right kote-nage throw, and as Shohozan tried to slip out of the throw, he overcorrected now leaving his right side wide open. The Yokozuna wouldn't miss again seizing the left kote-nage grip and executing the throw about two seconds into the bout. Hakuho skates to 6-0 with the win while Shohozan falls to 1-5.

Ozeki Kakuryu stopped Sekiwake Goeido in his tracks at the tachi-ai and then just delivered what looked like a kid's karate chop on the playground with the left hand into the side of Goeido's neck sending the Sekiwake sprawling over to the edge and out. Kakuryu's shove was THAT good, so to see Goeido flounder out of the dohyo like that is a sign that he has lost complete confidence in his...and I'm going to use the term lightly...sumo. The Kak is 4-2 while the Father is a meek 1-5.

Ozeki Kotooshu's nonchalance finally caught up to him today against M1 Takayasu who is creating himself quite a basho. In the first go-around, Kotooshu was lazy at the tachi-ai failing to grab any part of Takayasu, which meant the youngster was able to hang around, and Takayasu caught the Ozeki by surprising getting his left arm to the inside and charging like a bat out of hell. Kotooshu countered nicely at the edge with a right kote-nage throw that actually sent Takayasu out of the ring first, but they called a mono-ii and ruled a do-over. It doesn't matter that it was a bad call as Takayasu's right hand clearly touched down first; Kotooshu can't put himself in that position to begin with.

Round two began with a wild right hari-te from the Ozeki who looked to go for the outer grip on the same side, but it developed too slowly allowing Takayasu to evade easily and square back up with his gal delivering a solid left arm into the bottom of Kotooshu's jaw, and as the Ozeki leaned forward instinctively to ward off the blow, Takayasu pulled his arse to the dirt sending the Ozeki to his first loss. In the process, Takayasu improves to 4-2 and picks up yet another shukun victory. As for Kotooshu, you can't go for a face slap and the uwate with the same hand. It's just too easy to exploit it as Takayasu demonstrated today.

Ozeki Kisenosato got a much needed breather today meaning his opponent was M2 Gagamaru, who isn't even trying to win his bouts. After a stalemate tachi-ai, Kisenosato just got his left arm under YubabaMaru's right armpit and pushed him over and down as easy as you please. It probably wasn't a tsuki-otoshi as ruled by the Association, but the Kid will take any win he can get at this point moving to 4-2. Gagamaru falls to 0-6, and I have no idea where his first win will come from. After the bout, Hokutoumi in the booth commented, "We'd like to see him fight like this everyday." Well yeah! The problem is you can't pair him Gagamaru everyday, so it's a pointless take.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Sekiwake Myogiryu keeps losing because he's charging straight forward before he has a grip on his opponent. Today against Komusubi Tokitenku, the Komusubi used a left hari-te that connected well and just kept sliding left, so as Myogiryu hurriedly turned and committed on a force out lunge without having Tokitenku contained, the Mongolian just slipped to the side at the edge and dragged Myogiryu down for another close loss. That's Tokitenku's first win of the tournament, and it was deserved while Myogiryu is only one better at 2-4.

It amazes me that a guy with such little game in M1 Takekaze can beat a guy with so much game in M4 Kyokutenho, especially in a straight-up yotsu-zumo bout. Today's mistake from Tenho was a hari-zashi tachi-ai. The hari was there although it had no effect, but the sashi with the right arm was too late, so just like that, Kyokutenho (3-3) gave up moro-zashi to Takekaze and couldn't recover. Credit Kaze for moving forward in this one as he picks up his first winna the basho.

M3 Chiyotairyu fulfilled the role of the brute squad today pulverizing M5 Ikioi back from the tachi-ai and using a few hams to Ikioi's face to drive him back and across the tawara without argument. The pros to Chiyotairyu's sumo today (and most days) is that when he used de-ashi, he's nigh unto a freight train. If there's one con about him though besides his penchant for the pull, it's his tachi-ai where he sort of leans into his opponent with the shoulder. He's gotta sharpen that charge just a bit and make sure to have his hands make first contact because I think the veteran rikishi will be able to handcuff him a bit if his hands are down at the initial charge with his shoulder leading the way. Ne'ertheless, Tairyu's 5-1 if ya need him while Ikioi is 3-3.

Say it isn't so, but is M12 Kotoyuki running out of gas yet again on day 6? Today against M9 Sadanofuji, Kotoyuki just didn't have the commitment that he showed the first five days probably due to Sadanofuji's size. As a result, Kotoyuki offered legless tsuppari, which allowed Sadanofuji to slip to the side and drag Kotoyuki down to the clay for his second loss. Sadanofuji is even steven at 3-3.

The most anticipated bout of the first half featured two ugly bruisers in M9 Aoiyama vs. M12 Kaisei, and for whatever reason, the Brasilian struggles against the Bulgarian, and that was the case again today as Kaisei looked hesitant in his charge perhaps fearing a henka? Regardless, he had no de-ashi today, and so Aoiyama was able to quickly back up and drag Kaisei (5-1) forward and down handing him his first loss of the basho. Aoiyama moves to 4-2 with the nice win on paper, but I would have liked to have seen either of these guys win moving forward. Incidentally, With Kaisei, Kotooshu, and Kotooshu all losing today, the result was Hakuho standing atop the leaderboard as the lone undefeated rikishi.

I was excited to see how J3 Tochinowaka would fare today because I've seen potential in the guy, but to see him unable to budge M14 Tamaasuka today was a huge disappointment. Out of frustration, Tochinowaka eventually tried to sneak a few pull moves in, and that's what Tamaasuka (3-3) used to force his gal out.

And finally, M16 Tokushoryu hooked up in hidari-yotsu against M14 Masunoyama with neither fella enjoying an outer grip. Both of these guys are round and roughly the same size, so when you're in a stalemate such as this, positioning or de-ashi are going to make the difference. Masunoyama actually looked to press the action, but his legs just couldn't keep up with his body allowing Tokushoryu to counter near the edge by stepping to the side and dragging Masunoyama (2-4) down to the clay in the most commonly seen counter move of them all: tsuki-otoshi. Well done as the rookie improves to 3-3.

Something tells me I'll be right back here tomorow.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The instant that Kisenosato lost, the Nagoya basho suddenly became interesting. If you were to consider what makes a basho interesting, the answer would be a yusho race with three or four of the top guys on the charts and then a legitimate dark horse thrown in for good measure. Now, that legitimate dark horse hasn't taken the yusho since Kotomitsuki did it back in September of 2001, but as long as you have a rikishi who shows promise and picks off some of the big guns, it keeps things exciting. I really see an interesting basho shaping up here because we're not worried about fake bouts involving Kisenosato anymore.

On that note, let's start from the top down because that's where things are most interesting. Well, I guess a bout that features M2 Gagamaru isn't interesting, but out of deference to Yokozuna Hakuho's 34 bout win streak, let's start there. Gagamaru insisted on staying extremely low at the tachi-ai, but that still didn't stop the Yokozuna from getting his right arm to the inside, and he just used brute force to pry Gagamaru up and then over throwing his cottage cheese arese hard to the clay with a sweet right scoop throw. Hakuho picks up consecutive win #35 if you're scoring at home not to mention his 5-0 start. Gagamaru has been simply hapless at 0-5.

We had some doosies today in terms of entertaining bouts, but the best one by far was Yokozuna Harumafuji charging so fast into Komusubi Tokitenku's keta-guri attempt that Harumafuji sent Tenku flying backwards with simultaneous shoves while Tokitenku's right leg was left flailing straight up in the air. I don't ever recall having ever laughed out loud while watching a bout, but I did today after watching this. Sheer enjoyment as Harumafuji moves to 4-1 while Tokitenku is simply a clown at 0-5.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kisenosato ran into a brick wall in M3 Chiyotairyu who used both hams in sort of a dual kachi-age from the charge to keep Kisenosato at bay before connecting with a left choke hold that sent the Ozeki completely upright. From here, Chiyotairyu seized complete control of the bout threatening a few offensive pulls while placing enough effective shoves into Kisenosato's mammaries to keep him on his heels. After about eight seconds of work, Chiyotairyu had set the Ozeki up enough to the point where he was able to grab him and shove him sideways and completely off balance before sending him out for good with two pushes from behind. NHK's Ota announcer feigned shock at Kisenosato suffering a second loss in five days, but who couldn't see this coming? Goeido was a fake Ozeki candidate just as Kisenosato is a fake Yokozuna candidate, so the quicker we can all forget about Kisenosato's faux Yokozuna run, the faster we can enjoy the other horses this basho like Chiyotairyu (4-1), the two Sadogatake Ozeki, and of course both Yokozuna. At 3-2, Kisenosato no longer has a role this basho, not even spoiler because he doesn't have the game right now to hand any of the contenders a loss.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku used a hari-zashi tachi-ai against M1 Takekaze slapping with the left hand and attempting to secure the right inside position, but Takekaze kept his armpits closed as they say denying the Geeku anything to the inside. Still, while Takekaze did keep the Ozeki away from the belt, he just didn't have the size or talent to do anything else, and eventually Kotoshogiku worked his left arm to the inside where it was curtains from there as Kotoshogiku executed the swift and decisive yori-kiri to stay perfect at 5-0. Takekaze is winless.

Ozeki Kakuryu and M1 Takayasu both used tsuppari at the tachi-ai in an effort to gain the upperhand, but the stalemate soon became hidari-yotsu where the bigger Takayasu was able to work his way deep to the inside to where once he grabbed the firm right outer grip, Kakuryu was in a huge pickle with his hips too high. Against a guy like Baruto in the past, Kakuryu was always able to finagle a win against a bigger opponent, but in those bouts he had the lower positioning. Takayasu had it today, and when the bigger dude has the lower position in a yotsu contest, it's very difficult for him to lose. After the two jockeyed for a good twenty seconds in the center of the ring, Takayasu executed a left inside belt throw that was just too powerful for the Kak to counter, and just like that, Takayasu moves to 3-2 with yet another shukun victory. He earned all of this one today while Kakuryu falls to 3-2 himself.

Our final Ozeki was Kotooshu who has been so nonchalant in his sumo but as been able to counter seemingly every day to stay undefeated. And today was no exception against Sekiwake Myogiryu who charged hard and had moro-zashi leading with the right arm, but the Ozeki was barely able to slip to his left at the edge, grab Myogiryu's belt with the left outer, and then use his own momentum against him to sling him down the dirt in spectacular fashion. What looked like a sure victory for the Sekiwake one second in turned on a dime in this two second affair. Kotooshu improves to 5-0, but that won't continue if he continues to rely on counter sumo. Myogiryu falls to 2-3 with all three of those losses largely undeserved.

At this point, we have Hakuho, Harumafuji, Kotoshogiku, Kotooshu, and yes, Chiyotairyu, all comprising what should be an interesting yusho race. As is usually the case, Hakuho holds all of the cards, but you never know what's gonna happen in week 2.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Sekiwake Goeido got his ass kicked hard as Komusubi Shohozan shoved him to the side with a left paw to the face at the tachi-ai only to follow that up with a right slap to Goeido's nose followed by another left to the neck and a final right open-handed punch to Goeido's face that sent the Father back on his ass as he flew across the tawara. I haven't seen a guy take so many blows to the face in a single bout since Tochiazuma was bloodied at the hands of Asashoryu the last time Tochiazuma took a yusho, but this was a sweet performance from Shohozan that illustrates just how easy it is to bully Goeido around. And this guy was an Ozeki candidate for the last six months? Bah! Both guys are 1-4.

M3 Aminishiki knew he had no shot straight up against M2 Tochiohzan, so he henka'd out left in an attempt to grab the cheap outer grip, but he went out way too wide and took himself outta the bout with the stupid move. Tochiohzan easily recovered getting his left arm to the inside, he he rewarded Shneaky with a shove off of the corner of the dohyo. Tochiohzan was all badass today as he moves to 3-2 while Aminishiki is a lame 1-4.

In M7 Takarafuji and M4 Fujiazuma, you had a yotsu guy against an oshi guy, so whoever was able to dictate the pace of the bout was going to win. Gunbai to Takarafuji who capitalized on his hidari-yotsu position to score the methodical win moving to 2-3 while Fujiazuma is a rank 1-4

M11 Daido's slide continued as M8 Kitataiki (3-2) stayed low long enough to grab the inside right followed by the left outer, which he used to drive Daido (0-5) back for the easy yori-kiri win.

Chiyonokuni was responsible today for one of the most fascinating moves I have ever seen, unfortunately it was set up with a tachi-ai henka where he went for a quick kote-nage throw against M9 Aoiyama. Aoiyama survived and the move, however, so the two hooked up in the migi-yotsu position with Kuni enjoying the lower position thanks to the henka. Still, Aoiyama had too much beef for him to force back, and when Aoiyama countered with a force out charge of his own, Chiyonokuni braced his foot on the dohyo and went for a scoop throw as his left foot just kept sliding, but he had the wherewithal to continue the move and use his body perfectly throwing Aoiyama to the dohyo while he did the splits in the center of the ring. I've actually never seen anything like it, but the brilliance didn't come without a price as Chiyonokuni hurt his left leg in the process. Kuni couldn't even get off the dohyo without assistance and finally made it off the clay mound where he promptly was escorted out of the arena in that oversized antique wheelchair the Association uses that someone should try and sell on Pawn Stars.

M12 Kaisei has struggled against M9 Sadanofuji who used alternating choke holds to keep Kaisei away from the belt, but the Brasilian managed to get his right arm up and under the Sadamight's pit keeping him raised up just enough to where Kaisei was finally able to counter with pushes to Sadanofuji's teets. Sadanofuji (2-3) had nowhere to go but back as Kaisei posted the first 5-0 start on the day.

Man, when M13 Jokoryu kicks your ass, it's time to consider retirement. M10 Aran actually got the right inside and left outer grip from the tachi-ai, but he stupidly pulled his right arm out and went for a pull. That opened the window for Jokoryu who got his own right arm in deep enough that he cut off the Russian Bride's outer grip and forced him out with some oomph. Aran looks as if he's lost some weight to me, but he's also lost any game that he ever had. This was ridiculous sumo as he falls to just 1-4 while Jokoryu moves to 3-2.

I'm not taking a huge liking to rookie M16 Tokushoryu because when he's up against a big dude as he was today in M11 Tochinoshin, he henkas. He went left today, but Tochinoshin was right on top of the move getting a hand at the front of the rookie's belt, which he used to square the two up before executing the flawless force-out win. It wasn't all roses for Tochinoshin, however, as he tweaked his right knee lifting Tokushoryu over the straw, and it looked to me that he actually stubbed his entire right foot on the inside edge of the tawara causing his leg to stay in place while his body moved forward. The result was a ruptured ligament in his knee that will require surgery and an obvious withdrawal. At 3-2 and soon to be 3-12, he's on his way to Juryo for Aki, but it's better that he rehab down there. Tokushoryu is 2-3.

M12 Kotoyuki continued his torrid charge and who doesn't against M14 Tamaasuka? Asuka couldn't even get close as Kotoyuki bulled him upright and around the ring with a series of shoves that finally did Tamaasuka (2-3) in. Kotoyuki moves to 4-1 with the win and is displaying perfect de-ashi, but I seem to remember his getting out to a very impressive start before only to run out of gas at the end of week one. Hope that doesn't happen this basho because he's definite Kantosho material.

M14 Masunoyama picked up his second win in a row by demanding the left inside position and forcing Juryo Azumaryu back and out easy peasy. The key here was Masunoyama getting that right outer grip as he improves to 2-3.

And finally, M15 Sokokurai showed how speed can overcome a grizzled veteran whose one of the best yotsu fighters ever in M15 Wakanosato. This bout quickly became a hidari-yotsu affair, which favors Gangsta-no-sato, but each time he mounted a force-out charge, Sokokurai countered by spinning away and going for a tsuki-otoshi shove. This happened twice before Sokokurai suddenly found his chest aligned with his opponent and Wakanosato's back against the edge, so the force-out win came straightway in favor of Sokokurai. Both dudes are 2-3 and this was an upset win for Sokokurai.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Kisenosato's losing to Tochiohzan was the best thing that could have happened to him. There was just no way the sumo he exhibited the first two days could have continued and not have everyone be suspicious. And as I stated previously, I don't believe those bouts the first two days were fixed; I believe his first two opponents were afraid to beat him. The result was a timid Ozeki who was taken out of his game by the pressure of a Yokozuna run that he didn't deserve. We only need to go back as far as Goeido to see curious sumo from someone who is up for promotion to a rank he clearly didn't deserve, and in the end, it's better that these guys don't get promoted with the kind of sumo they're doing.

If you didn't know a thing about sumo, and I told you that a certain rikishi from the jo'i was up for promotion to a prestigious rank and asked to guess which one based on the content of his sumo, I think the majority of people would have chosen Chiyotairyu. The dude's a bruiser and he's gone out and destroyed his opponents the last two days. That's the type of sumo I would expect a rikishi up for promotion to do, not sumo full of hesitation and doubt, which is what we saw from Kisenosato the first three days. The good news is that Kisenosato looked like his old self on day 4. The bad news is it's back to the drawing board in terms of getting a Japanese rikishi promoted legitimately to anything not to mention the yusho.

As long as we've come this far, let's start the day's comments off with the Ozeki Kisenosato - Komusubi Shohozan bout. The Kid actually charged hard from the tachi-ai threatening the left to the inside, and as the Komusubi tried to tsuppari his way into an opening, Kisenosato just grabbed Shohozan's right arm and wrenched back on his heels. Before Shohozan could adjust, Kisenosato used swell de-ashi to keep his opponent upright before sending him back with some oomph with a two-handed oshi-dashi shove. This is the Kisenosato who has no pressure on him, and this is the type of sumo I expected to see from day 1 as the Ozeki moves now to 3-1 while Shohozan has yet to score.

In the final bout of the day, Yokozuna Harumafuji enjoyed a cake walk meaning his opponent was M2 Gagamaru. Gagamaru tried that ever effective tachi-ai of standing straight up and going for a pull down of your opponent who is torpedoing his way right into your gut. YubabaMaru is actually fat enough that Harumafuji wasn't able to drive him straight back, and as Gagamaru ducked back down, Harumafuji just reached up and pulled his arse to the dirt. For all you youngsters watching at home, Gagamaru is a perfect example of what not to do in your footwork. He's 0-4 while Harumafuji (3-1) recovers from that odd loss to Takayasu yesterday.

Yokozuna Hakuho's strange basho continued today as he struck M2 Tochiohzan with a quick right kachi-age and then immediately jumped out left grabbing Tochiohzan's right arm in tottari fashion and just yanking Oh down to the dohyo. This looked like a henka, but it wasn't as the Yokozuna made full frontal contact with his legs moving forward. That he was able to move so quickly to the side is just an example of his greatness. Hakuho moves to 4-0 and has now won 34 in a row if you're scoring at home while Tochiohzan falls to .500 at 2-2.

Ozeki Kotooshu was sloppy at the tachi-ai staying up high, but then again, you could probably come out picking your nose against M1 Takekaze and still beat him. The Ozeki actually gave up moro-zashi about two seconds in, but Takekaze's crocodile arms allowed the Bulgarian to counter the moro-zashi with dual outer grips that he easily used to secure the force-out win in the end. Not much else to say here as Kotooshu quietly moves to 4-0 while Takekaze is winless.

I thought Ozeki Kotoshogiku turned in the performance of the first four days completely neutralizing M3 Chiyotairyu's tachi-ai and wasting no time in getting the left to the inside and gaburu-ing Chiyotairyu back and out in two seconds. This was a perfect example of why the tachi-ai is so important. Chiyotairyu sorta turned his left shoulder into his opponent and put his right hand against Kotoshogiku's left shoulder, but the Ozeki was going forward from the beginning and used his girth to bully his foe back never letting Chiyotairyu do anything. Great sumo from the Geeku (4-0) who is fighting more like a Yokozuna candidate than you know who. Chiyotairyu falls to 3-1 with the loss.

Ozeki Kakuryu and Sekiwake Myogiryu were even steven at the tachi-ai with neither guy sticking into a yotsu position, and so the Kak opted to go for some quick pulls eyeing his opponent well and making sure he had room to evade to the side. Myogiryu pounced and got him with one shove back near the tawara, but as he went for the kill, the Kak somehow slipped to his right and sent Myogiryu down to the dirt with a perfect counter tsuki-otoshi shove. I guess this is why Kakuryu (3-1) is the Ozeki while Myogiryu 's two losses have been tough for him to swallow.

Rounding out the sanyaku, I wonder if Goeido knew he was going to win this bout because his tachi-ai looked different. What I mean by that is he used a right kachi-age that set up the quick left outer grip, a good tachi-ai which is something we never see from him. Tokitenku responded with that effective counter maneuver of lifting your right knee up high essentially leaving him only one foot to hop around on, and even Goeido couldn't screw up this yori-kiri as he picks up his first win. Tokitenku falls to 0-4 and will likely eat well again tonight as the Sakaigawa-beya's expense.

Fresh off of against Harumafuji yesterday, M1 Takayasu was bludgeoned at the tachi-ai by M3 Aminishiki who used a wicked right choke hold to stand Takayasu straight up before pouncing into moro-zashi, but Ami's legs just aren't there, and he wasn't able to drive Takayasu back swift enough, and so near the edge, Takayasu went for a desperate kubi-nage throw that actually caused Aminishiki to slip out of his grip and tumble to the dohyo. This was clearly a result of Aminishiki's gimpy right knee, but Takayasu will take the ugly wins any way he can get 'em as he suddenly finds himself at 2-2. Aminishiki falls to 1-3 and can't get up.

In one of the better bouts of the tournament, M11 Tochinoshin bullied M9 Sadanofuji around for the first 10 seconds using a nice low charge, and inside position, and then a dashi-nage throw with the right hand, but he couldn't finish the Sadamight off, and next thing you knew, Sadanofuji has the right inside and left outer grip that had Shin raised up too high for his liking. The two danced for well over a minute with Tochinoshin looking for another open, but he was gassed and was pushed down at the edge in a perfect counter tsuki-otoshi from Sadanofuji as the Private went for a last gasp force-out. The fact that Tochinoshin did not win this bout in the first 10 seconds shows you why he isn't even a threat in the top half of the banzuke anymore. Both combatants end the day at 2-2 and earned their pay in this one.

M11 Daido should probably dust off his ice skates and get refitted for a frilly outfit because he's sure not doing anything in the ring. M9 Aoiyama entered the day without doing any forward moving sumo, but he looked like an Ozeki today charging forward, getting moro-zashi, and then throwing Daido over with a shove to the side in a bout that was far too easy. Aoiyama is an ugly 3-1 while Daido is an even uglier 0-4.

M10 Aran henka'd to his right against M12 Kotoyuki not wanting a piece of the youngster's charge, but it was as poor a move as Aran is ugly so Kotoyuki easily squared himself up with the Bride and pushed her back and out for a 3-1 start. Aran falls to 1-3 and just looks awful...his sumo I mean, but his face counts too.

M15 Sokokurai wanted know part of M12 Kaisei, and I can't say that I blame him. That still doesn't excuse the henka to his left, but it was so poorly executed with feet aligned that he made Kaisei look like the road runner in terms of speed as the Brasilian pivoted perfectly and pummeled Sokokurai back and out for good with a coupla shoves. Kaisei's 4-0 if ya need him while Sokokurai falls to an expected 1-3.

Rookie M16 Tokushoryu picked up his second win by offering a decent charge at the tachi-ai against M13 Tamawashi whose wheels were just spinning in the mud. When the rookie realized his opponent wasn't set, he just moved out of the way and pulled him down for the quick win. Tokushoryu (2-2) didn't dismantle his foe in this one, but he did charge straight ahead and was rewarded with the perfect position to pull his opponent down. Tamawashi falls to 2-2 with the loss and is yet another rikishi who has been slipping and sliding on this Nagoya dirt.

And finally M14 Masunoyama got off the shneid by using a nice right choke hold against M16 Shotenro that set up the left inside position, and Masunoyama never let up in his de-ashi first going for a scoop throw that sent Shotenro over to the edge rendering the final force-out academic. Good stuff from Masunoyama who ekes to 1-3 while Shotenro falls to 2-2.

Now that we're not worried about anyone's promotion to Yokozuna, we have a potential yusho race brewing with Hakuho, Kotoshogiku, and Kotooshu all out to 4-0 starts with Harumafuji, Kisenosato, and Chiyotairyu one back at 3-1.

Day 3 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
We love our heroes. They do things...get away with shit we wouldn't even try because we don't want to suffer any damage or get uglier than we already are. But our heroes...they take knives and bullets and kicks and punches and elbows and insults and if and when they meet their end they've left us with the notion that "yeah that's the way I am deep inside".

By the way, let me be clear I'm not just talking about the so-called "good" guys we're taught to adore. Let's consider these bad asses. Guys that won so big that when they fell from grace it was from a height not seen by those who had come before them. They serve a high value purpose because they define, establish and display greatness and thus teach us what to look for when we live in a world that trends towards and exalts mediocrity. (Thank you Asa).

To be honest, I seek these kinds of alternative role models out and it was one such Yokozuna that caught my eye years ago and made me a fan of sumo. So the "here and now of it" is we're in Nagoya and faced with the task of looking for great moments with what many consider to be a less than stellar banzuke. And that's quite alright with me 'cause you know most of the lower rank dudes and some of the upper classmen are gonna throw down hard, honest SUMO and that DOES take a bad ass mindset to pull off!

Thanks to heroes like Asashoryu I got schooled enough to look for certain things. The key is you gotta be on point cause "When the shit goes better be ready" B. Real (Cypress Hill).

So now I say less drivel and more rumble - Nagoya Day 3 2013:

I remember Sokokurai. I hadn't noticed his absence but when I saw his face I recognized him for being an extremely pleasant clean cut fellow on the dohyo with a smattering of fair sumo skills. Just what sumo needs ay? He was previously active during Asashoryu's reign who was often an extremely unpleasant, unkempt fellow with a truckload of supreme sumo skills. Just what sumo needed to get rid of ay?

But now he's back (the pleasant gent) and after two quick losses under his mawashi he faced off against Juryo mainstay J2 Oiwato. Gotta say I liked their tachi-ai if for no other reason than the resounding "slap" their bodies made on impact indicating a solid adherence to the lessons taught by their respective oyakata.

Oiwato straightened Soko's torso and drove him near the rope but Soko quickly reminded him about the whole Juryo thing and leveraged Oiwato's right leg with his hip, twisted and swung him off the dohyo. Yori-kiri I say to thee as both the pleasant M15 Sokokurai and the soon to be un-present in Makuuchi Oiwato are the same guy at 1-2.

Looking fresh like a gangsta, everyone's main man Edward G. Wakanosato squatted down and observed 27 year old yori-kiri specialist, M16 Tokushoryu (1-1) try on his Makuuchi pants.

E. G. W. asked "So you wanna be a gangster ay tough guy?" and quickly stung the younger man's face with a James Cagney hari-te. Tokushoryu was henceforth bullied by the thuggish vet and could only muster a modicum of resistance. Wak jacked up his victim's armpits and worked him across the third rail for a yori-kiri "right back atcha" win and a 2-1 record.

Hontonimarui Otokonohito san aka M14 Masunoyama rolled his globose body onto the dohyo to face the toki doki Makuuchi visitor M12 Kotoyuki. From the "git go" Kotoyuki had little respect for his orbicular opponent as he slapped his mawashi 4 times with great force, slapped his hands together hard and let loose with a tourettes' style whoop!

The two rikishi glared at each other, touched their fists to the sacred clay and got it on! The struck like men at the tachi-ai and Masu immediately reached for some belt with his left but Kotoyuki blended some fierce tsuppari and fat rattling shoves that befuddled Sir Spheroid.

When Masunoyama went back on the offense with his own tsuppari he was met with a near successful hataki-komi and it was then that I wondered how the kid's lung capacity was holding out. Both men adopted a rapid fire tsuppari attack and Kotoyuki worked his opponent to the dirt oshi-taoshi style and a 2-1 record. Masunoyama may not be 'round for very much longer as he falls to 0-3.

When Tochinoshin is lurking in the lower ranks he gets to do his brand of sumo. Tsuri-dashi and okuri-tsuri-dashi lift and throw moves are a big part of his arsenal but he's found the jo'i gang are not as cooperative as let's say a Daido kinda guy.

After the tachi-ai both he and Daido gained two handed belt real estate but it was Tochinoshin's superior strength that ruled the day as he lifted and walked the other rikishi all around and off the dohyo. Too bad the Georgian only has one setting when he fights. Tochinoshin is 2-1 and Daido is 0-3.

After striking dead center between the lines 2-0 Ikioi and 0-2 Fujiazuma displayed some erratic footwork erzatz slaps and pushes. I mean the sumo was weak but at least they wanted to win. Finally Fujiazuma attempted a 2 handed slap down and Ikioi answered with his own hataki-komi that has capped off by Sticky Iki gripping Fuji's top knot and nearly ripping his cap off.

Ikioi snuck over to his side of the dohyo squatted and was ready to accept the win. The judges sat BAZINGA! They saw you! Victory goes to Fujiazuma giving him a much needed win.

Gagamaru and Kotoshogiku are two big guys for sure and and big guys CAN do well in sumo for real. But it's only when the big guys can move their tonnage around and shift and recover that it becomes an advantage. In this regard Kotoshogiku trumps Yubabamaru.

Koto met Gaga high on some sweet tach-ai, grabbed his belt above his unbalanced butt and belly bumped Her Largeness back to the rope. It was then that Yubabarella put his hands up and said "OK I'm done" and another of his flaws was revealed (no comparison to Roberto Duran's "No mas" deal). Kotoshogiku shoved his weak willed ass to the ground and said "Dude don't be layin' down no sissy shite on my turf!" Koto be a fine ozeki 3-0 and the other guy is right where he oughta be at 0-3.

Ozeki Kisenosato met a guy he don't like so much. Tochiohzan, it seems, never cooperates with the Kid and that kinda thing ain't not gonna help his meteoric rise to faux-kozuna. This basho, Kise has seemed exceptionally stiff and flat footed. Controlled, by the book, head down sumo yes but it pales in comparison to the kind of athletic flow that his superiors display. And truth be told...Tochiohzan is one of those superiors (Mike flashed me on this yesterday cause he's the fastest gun in the west).

Someone should tell Tochiohzan there's no "I" in Team! Or maybe there is?!?!

Kise also seems like he's still defining who he is as an Ozeki. Notice his preparation just before the tachi-ai. It was only a few basho ago that he would stretch his hand out in front of his foe almost like bait and then touch it to the ground and strike.

It seems like minutiae but watch elite athletes and you'll see their prep is always the same. Djokovic bounces the ball 8 times before every players hit their feet with the bat, spit and grab their crotches in the same sequence before every swing at home plate...Hakuho always adopts a similar stance, then crouch and shoulder move before the action begins. Kise's body language and style changes constantly. However deserved the hype around this guy...he ain't comfortable widdit.

The two men went for the upper body and grappled for position right at the tachi-ai...a battle of strength and will on both of their parts but the diff was Tochi was looking for an opening...improvising as the bout progressed while Kise kept his head down and seemed to have no strategy whatsoever. Tochiohzan eventually stepped back and threw the faux-zeki to the dirt and the agony of defeat and some other unpleasant notions seemed to ripple across the hall. Mr. T is 2-1 and feeling good while Kise is 2-1 and has gotta be kimochi warui!

Kotooshu and Goeido like the belt. Gimme the belt they say. And on Day 3 they both got some belt. Thing is Kotooshu has a better reach, is more skilled when he feels up to the task and Goeido is a whole lotta I don't know. Kotooshu started lifting the smaller man and walking him back towards the bad place and Goeido made a last ditch attempt to toss him on his head but...kote-nage win for Kotooshu who is sporting a fine 3-0 pair of shoes while Goeido is barefoot at 0-3. Oh and yes, Kotooshu landed hard on Goeido's head. He's such a funny guy that way.

I just want to say that when Kakuryu has free reign he's a beast. He straight armed Tokitenku past the rope with brute force and the crowd kinda was hushed by seeing my kinda sumo. Kak is 2-1 and Tok is 0-3.

Takayasu met Yokozuna Harumafuji with a stiff and hairy right handed hari-te and then they both achieved opposing yotsu mawashi grips. As Harumafuji secured his hold Takayasu pulled the Yokozuna towards him and turned and that was enough to collapse Haru's left leg and the match was over. Uwate-hineri win for the hairy one - my reading of it was WTFWT? It was either a class in physics I skipped (and I skipped all of them) or the monster's of rock are making it easier on Kise. Either way, I was just happy Kakuryu threw down hard the bout before. Takayasu is 1-2 and Harumafuji is 2-1 and will have to watch out for that tricky move in the future.

See now, I like what Hakuho is doing these days. He jacks up guys like Takekaze and shoves them to the edge of defeat and then backs off and slaps them around the dirt dohyo, giving the fans more for their yen and probably having fun in the process. Hak is 3-0 and the guy he slapped around is 0-3. My only regret is that Hakuho doesn't have anyone to consistently test him. I hope Baruto heals up soon enough since well you know...

Well once again I'm honored to be here with everyone. Digging the sumo as usual and looking forward to the rest of the guys reports. I'll be in Vegas next week rocking the house with YES (progressive rock anyone? anyone? anyone??!!?!?) and some of my musician buds. So I'll leave you with this parting shot before I trip over the light fantastique because really... Nuff Said!

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
This basho just doesn't feel right out of the gate, and the reason is that Kisenosato's first two opponents haven't tried to win their bouts. I do not think the fix is in, and I don't think the Sumo Association has declared any secret mandates. What I do think has happened the first two days is that Kisenosato's opponents (or their oyakata) were terrified to hand the Ozeki an early loss. I mean, you watch a Kisenosato bout and then the two Yokozuna right after that, and the contrast is so clear that even the most obtuse fans have surely noticed. And you could actually make the same comparison with the other Ozeki bouts. In the upper echelon bouts you saw hustle from both parties, and yes, sometimes we see bad sumo, but at least you can tell both guys are trying to win. In Kisenosato's bouts, it's like both parties are afraid to do anything and so they fidget this way and that until the Ozeki picks up the win.

Today against my favorite oxymoron on the banzuke, Komusubi Tokitenku, the Ozeki was bad at the tachi-ai leaving himself wide open for a Tokitenku moro-zashi, but Tenku cautiously retreated waiting for Kisenosato to grab the right outer grip, and once obtained, the Ozeki couldn't even throw his foe down because Tokitenku was already in dive mode putting a hand to the dohyo and somersaulting back towards the center of the ring...just as they practice at the end of butsukari-geiko. I mean, go back and watch this bout and tell me you don't feel uncomfortable as Tokitenku suffers his second loss.

Sumo like this is going to ruin the basho because everybody knows that it isn't legitimate. Suppose Kisenosato does run the table, yusho, and then obtain promotion to Yokozuna. What's going to happen after that? There is no way to continually prop him up as a Yokozuna when the acting is that bad. And once again, I don't think the fix is in, and I don't think any money has changed hands (although I wouldn't be surprised if someone paid for Tokitenku's yaki-niku tonight); rather, I think that Kisenosato's opponents are just too afraid to beat him because they know how important a yusho/promotion is to the sport. If I was in charge of the sport, I think I'd call the stablemasters with Makuuchi rikishi together and say stop the mukiryoku sumo now. It's better to have Kisenosato (2-0) fail in straight up bouts than to have put together this fake run with nonsensical sumo.

Tomorrow should be extremely interesting as Kisenosato draws Tochiohzan. In a dose of de-geiko as the Kasugano-beya, Kisenosato really struggled against Tochiohzan, which is understandable because Tochiohzan is a horrible matchup for the Ozeki. Tochiohzan is one of the best at gaining moro-zashi from the tachi-ai while Kisenosato is famous for leaving himself wide open to the inside position, so Tochiohzan should win this matchup seven times out of ten. I think that Tochiohzan is the better rikishi, and in a straight up bout, I'd pick him to beat Kisenosato, so let's see how things play out on day 3.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Harumafuji stayed low and just crushed M1 Takekaze back and out for the quick, oshi-dashi win. If you compare Harumafuji's sumo today against Kisenosato's sumo yesterday against the common opponent, there is no comparison. Kisenosato was extremely cautious while Harumafuji (2-0) just kicked his ass. Takekaze was also a different opponent over the first two days, which makes me worried about how this basho will shape up.

The curious sumo continued today with the Yokozuna Hakuho - M1 Takayasu bout that saw Hakuho just obliterate his opponent from the tachi-ai resulting in moro-zashi. But the Yokozuna stopped driving with his legs allowing Takayasu to slip to the side and maki-kae with the right arm leaving the Yokozuna now with the solid right inner and left outer grip. Curtains, right? Wrong. Hakuho refused to use his legs in this one allowing Takayasu to hang around, and so even though the Yokozuna attempted a variety of throws, he wasn't sufficiently planted to the dohyo to generate the necessary power, so the result was a bout where it looked like Takayasu gave the Yokozuna a stiff challenge when nothing could be further from the truth. This was a wild affair with so many gaffes from the Yokozuna that it's just impossible to judge this as a straight up bout. Hakuho might make a single mistake in a year, not three in a single bout...against Takayasu.

Now we just need to see if the Yokozuna is setting something up down the road. If he looks vulnerable against Takayasu, you never know how could topple him later on. Hakuho's act today plays right along with his decision prior to the basho not to practice with a single jo'i rikishi. I'm just afraid that Hakuho's got something up the sleeve of his kimono as he moves to an unorthodox 2-0 start. Takayasu is winless but receive heaps of praise from the sheep after today's effort. I wonder what goes through his head after a bout like this one or the one a few basho ago where Harumafuji suddenly took a knee against him. He must be thinking, "I shoulda got my ass kicked five different times out there, so how did I come so close?"

Komusubi Shohozan was a bit wild at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, who just stood his ground and waited for an opening against his dancing opponent. It came about two seconds in as Shohozan's thrusts and pivots proved ineffective as Kotoshogiku got the left arm to the inside requiring a single gaburi shove to knock the Komusubi (0-2) out of the ring and propel the Geeku to a 2-0 start.

M2 Gagamaru stayed low against Ozeki Kakuryu at the tachi-ai but opted for zero footwork, so all that did was allow the Kak to reach around with the right hand and grab the easy outer grip. With YubabaMaru still ducked low and not going anywhere, Kakuryu just pivoted to the side and dragged Gagamaru forward and down uwate-dashi-nage style. Pretty simple stuff as Kakuryu moves to 1-1 while Gagamaru falls to 0-2.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kotooshu connected on a sweet right uppercut to M2 Tochiohzan's face that just froze Tochiohzan in place and made him pull back despite hints of moro-zashi, and as Tochiohzan floated up high, Kotooshu just buried his left shoulder into Oh's torso and forced him back and out in about two seconds flat. Sheesh, if Kotooshu could connect on a face-slap like that every bout, he'd actually post numbers worthy of an Ozeki. He'll gladly take this 2-0 start while Tochiohzan falls to 1-1.

My new gal, M3 Chiyotairyu, just opened a can of whoopass on Sekiwake Goeido, who monkeyed around with a hari-zashi tachi-ai only to be rewarded with a Chiyotairyu right ham square into Goeido's face that forced the Sekiwake back to the edge. Chiyotairyu's legs were moving forward allowing him to get the right inside and left outer grip that he used to dispatch Goeido in short order. This bout redefined the term chikara-no-sa (a difference in power). Chiyotairyu picks up were he left off last time in the jo'i jumping out to a 2-0 start while the Father is winless.

Sekiwake Myogiryu charged straight forward and hard neutralizing M3 Aminishiki's attack and getting the right arm to the inside early. Against a guy like Aminishiki whose prolly second only to Baruto in terms of gimpy wheels, the way you beat him is to make him dig in with those legs. Aminishiki tried to slip out of the grip and sneak a quick pull attempt, but the Sekiwake simply had the forward momentum, so when the pull attempt came, Myogiryu pounced and pushed his compromised opponent back and out for good. Much better sumo today from mYogiBear as both dudes end the day at 1-1.

Let's now move to bouts of interest in the Maegashira ranks. All I can do his glare at M6 Okinoumi who has suddenly regained his fighting spirit. I lose a lot of respect for guys who just quit when fighting among the jo'i, and that's exactly what Okinoumi did last basho. So to see him bully his way to the inside against M7 Yoshikaze (1-1) and use the left inner to set up a right shoulder slapdown means absolutely nothing to me. Okinoumi is off to a quick 2-0 start, but does he really want to fight as a jo'i rikishi again in Aki?

M9 Aoiyama was extremely sloppy at the tachi-ai leaning low and straight forward expecting a clean tachi-ai from M10 Aran. As if. Aran henka'd left, and it was a poor henka at that, but Aoiyama's horrible tachi-ai resulted in his falling flat on his face trying to grab Aran's knee to break his fall. Ugly, ugly sumo from these two Eurapes who end the day 1-1.

We haven't seen a good tsuri-dashi in awhile, but M11 Tochinoshin fixed that today against M10 Chiyonokuni whose lightweight tsuppari couldn't keep the Private from choking his way to the right inside and left grip at the back of Kuni's belt where the tsuri-dashi came straightway. It wasn't quite tsuri-otoshi as Chiyonokuni put his hand down to break his fall, but it's worth a second look nonetheless as both rikishi end the day 1-1.

One of my favorite bouts of the day featured M12 Kotoyuki using a solid tachi-ai, perfect de-ashi, and a shweet tsuppari attack for the wham bam thank you ma'am oshi-dashi against M13 Jokoryu. Okay, maybe his opponent was Jokoryu, but it still looked great, and this kinda attack would have beaten Kisenosato today. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

M14 Masunoyama's Makuuchi career is becoming as short-lived as the dude's lung capacity. Today, Masunoyama led with a right kachi-age that lasted for about two seconds and three steps across the dohyo, but there wasn't any power behind the move, and so M13 Tamawashi (2-0) eventually spun him around and sent him to the clay for good with a tsuki-otoshi shove to the gut. Masunoyama falls to 0-2 and at M14 has little breathing room.

Hopefully it's clear now that M15 Sokokurai is a lightweight and certainly isn't worth the hype. Today against M14 he jumped out of his stance a split second early but still couldn't take advantage as the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu. Tamaasuka gained the right outer grip far too easily, and Sokokurai's own right paw wasn't even close to its own uwate, so the yori-kiri was swift and decisive on the part of Tamaasuka. When you make Tamaasuka (1-1) look like a sanyaku rikishi, you're not good as Sokokurai falls to 0-2.

And finally, M16 Tokushoryu won with a henka yesterday, but all that did was give him a false sense of security against J1 Chiyootori today. Tokushoryu was way too high at the tachi-ai leaving him one option: retreat. As he did, he aligned his feet, and they slipped backwards in the process, so as the rookie tried to recover, Chiyootori just slapped him down hataki-komi style. Bad start for the rook even though he is 1-1.

Kane's gotta date with the classic rock band, Yes, for the next little while, but that won't stop him from making a cameo tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The day's bouts kicked off with Juryo 1 Takanoiwa vs. M16 Shotenro, and stemming from last basho, I've enjoyed every single bout of sumo I've seen Takanoiwa fight. Last tournament he showed up in Makuuchi twice and just rocked Azumaryu and Chiyootori. Takanoiwa's sumo is so sound that the lower guys in Makuuchi can't handle him. I think altogether coming into the day he's like 4-0 when visiting from Juryo, so at the end of last basho, I checked his record thinking that he was just cruising through Juryo, but the dude only finished 8-7. The reason why Takanoiwa does so well in Makuuchi but struggles in Juryo is because the sumo is so different. In Makuuchi, you have to have a presence at the tachi-ai or you can't survive, just ask Daikiho. In Juryo, it's more cat and mouse sumo or a game of tag and so gimmick rikishi like Takanoyama can thrive while a stand-up rikishi like Takanoiwa can barely get by. Takanoiwa should kachi-koshi this basho and finally make it to Makuuchi, the division where he clearly belongs. This guy has nothing but upside, and he also hails from the Takanohana-beya. His only downside (to the Japanese and the Association) is that he hails from Mongolia. Regardless, I think I might even like this guy more than Chiyotairyu.

Today against M16 Shotenro, he demanded the yotsu position from the tachi-ai, which happened to be hidari-yotsu, and then Takanoiwa coupled that with a firm right outer. After methodically forcing Shotenro back to the tawara, he switched gears at the first sign of resistance and dumped Shotenro with a left inside belt throw as sweet as you please. Takanoiwa shines yet again in the division, and I can't wait for him to get up here in Aki.

Next up was M15 Sokokurai, who has been receiving far too much press. I get it that it's the first time that a guy has been reinstated, but he adds no value to the division. Rookie M16 Tokushoryu side-stepped him at the tachi-ai grabbing the cheap left kote-nage grip that he used to wrench Sokokurai over to the edge and then out into the 2nd or 3rd row. Sure it was a henka, but Tokushoryu doesn't necessarily redefine the term "speed". Yet, Sokokurai couldn't offer any counter sumo. The crowd was clearly behind Sokokurai, and they even interviewed him after a loss, but the hype surrounding this guy should dwindle as people realize there's nothing to get up for. Tokushoryu's gotta show us a bit more than a henka.

M14 Tamaasuka made the mistake of giving M15 Wakanosato the inside position. Wakanosato has slowed way down, but once he got the left to the inside it was curtains. This bout was more a result of Tamaasuka not belonging in the division than it was Wakanosato's umasa.

M12 Kotoyuki struck M13 Tamawashi hard at the tachi-ai, but his feet were slipping all over the dohyo, and so Tamawashi was able to survive, turn the tables, and push out Kotoyuki in the end. The only reason I comment on this bout is to point out the importance of solid de-ashi...something Kotoyuki lacked despite a bruising tachi-ai.

Repent now because I think the apocalypse is upon us. The reason I say that is they actually showed three chicks in the crowd holding a sign that said "Kaisei." And Baby Huey didn't disappoint in a bout of o-zumo against M11 Tochinoshin where the combatants held the gappuri migi-yotsu position with chests aligned. The difference here was Kaisei using a few gaburi shoves to get Shin off balance and set him up for the kill.

M9 Aoiyama's tachi-ai was so bad that I'm surprised M8 Kitataiki actually fell for it. Aoiyama stood straight up at the tachi-ai, put both hands at the back of Kitataiki's head, and just pulled him down backing up a step. I was surprised that Kitataiki didn't even look up at his opponent because Aoiyama was vulnerable. I suspect Kitataiki was mukiryoku in this one because I have no other explanation for this bout.

I find it interesting that M6 Okinoumi is trying again now that he's out of the jo'i. He's a totally different rikishi when fighting this low and it showed as he dismantled Takarafuji in a yotsu-zumo bout that saw Okinoumi get the shallow moro-zashi before firming things up leading with the left inside and stronger right outer grip. It really bugged me that he didn't even try last basho.

M5 Toyonoshima showed what not to do at the tachi-ai keeping his feet aligned and just leaning forward into M5 Ikioi. Ikioi's not great, but he reacted well in this one backing up and throwing Toyonoshima off balance to the point where he was a sitting duck for the oshi-taoshi.

M4 Kyokutenho reached across the starting lines and slapped M4 Fujiazuma in the face even before the two charged. The move left Kyokutenho wide open, and Fujiazuma responded with the moro-zashi grip, but Kyokutenho was fast enough to counter with a left kote-nage throw that nearly ripped Fujiazuma's arm off. It was so good it moved Fuji across the dohyo setting him up for the another oshi-taoshi win. I guess Kyokutenho's still got a bit of magic left in his counter sumo because it worked today.

Aren't you glad Sekiwake Goeido is no longer a candidate for Ozeki? In an ugly bout of sumo, Goeido had M3 Aminishiki dead to rights after the two bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai and Aminishiki went for a stupid pull with both hands. Stupid is as stupid does, however, because Goeido had no de-ashi, and so as he offered a lame shove attack with both hands, Aminishiki backed out of it ducking into the moro-zashi grip. From there it was and easy inside belt throw that sent Goeido to the dirt. Goeido will continue to fail at this level if he refuses to fight from the ground up.

Sekiwake Myogiryu wanted no part of M3 Chiyotairyu's charge, so he faked forward movement at the tachi-ai and then fled to his left going for a quick slap down. In the process, Myogiryu's right fingers got stuck in Chiyotairyu's mage and down the M3 went. This looked to be a pretty straight up bout, but they correctly called a mono-ii and disqualified Myogiryu for hair pulling. I don't feel sorry for mYogiBear a bit because a Sekiwake should go forward against an M3, not strike and evade while going for a cheap pull attempt. Is this the kind of sumo we can expect from both Sekiwake this basho? I hope not.

Ozeki Kotooshu just reached left at the tachi-ai in sort of a henka, and M2 Gagamaru's response do nothing. Yubabamaru's was so slow in this one that he actually gave up the deep right inside to the Ozeki, which is really phenomenal when you think about it because how does a rikishi get such a deep inside right when he henka's to the left? Gagamaru was just a bump on a log today as Kotooshu used the right inside and ill-gotten left outer to drive Gagamaru off the dohyo and down to the arena floor where the Ozeki promptly mounted his opponent for good measure.

M2 Tochiohzan used his beef to keep Ozeki Kakuryu away from the belt as the tachi-ai, and as the rebuffed Kak thought about what to do next, Tochiohzan swiped at his left shoulder spinning him off balance and setting up the deep inside right and firm outer left grip for Tochiohzan. Kakuryu's good, but even he couldn't recover after being raised up out of his comfort zone, so score the nifty yori-kiri win for Tochiohzan.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku's feet slipped at the tachi-ai against M1 Takayasu, but with Takayasu doing nothing from the start, the Geeku was able to not only recover but secure the solid left inside position that he used to drive Takayasu immediately back. However, without that initial thrust from the start, Kotoshogiku proved vulnerable at the edge as Takayasu went for the quick evasive move to his left while pushing down on Kotoshogiku's right shoulder sending the Ozeki down to the dohyo first, but replays showed that Takayasu's right heel had touched down beyond the tawara before the Ozeki's right arm touched down, so gunbai to Kotoshogiku...barely. Kotoshogiku is yet another rikishi who slipped on the dohyo today, and they say that the heat in Nagoya dries the clay out faster causing rikishi to lose their footing more easily.

In the bout everyone was waiting for, M1 Takekaze did absolutely nothing against Ozeki Kisenosato. Usually, Takekaze is a slippery fish darting and dodging this way and that, but he just stayed low and in tight...and directly in front of the Ozeki at all times. Kisenosato finally got a left arm to the inside shallow as it may have been, and that was enough to finally send Takekaze off the dohyo via oshi-dashi. Takekaze voluntarily jumped off the dohyo adding the unnatural feel of this bout. The announcers afterwards were saying that Kisenosato looked nervous, and that's probably true because a freight train charge would have had Takekaze bounced outta the dohyo in a second flat. My take here is that Takekaze had no intention of winning this one, but Kisenosato didn't know it and was playing it safe given Takekaze's normally wild, unpredictable sumo. Twas a cautious win today for Kisenosato, but I'll be damned if the two real Yokozuna play it as safe against Takekaze.

Speaking of a real Yokozuna, Harumafuji easily survived Komusubi Shohozan's moro-te-zuki charge because Shohozan had zero de-ashi. After the two slapped themselves into some separation, the Yokozuna went for the left outer grip whereupon Shohozan just hit the dirt. I couldn't detect any move from Harumafuji that caused Shohozan's fall, and Harumafuji's feet actually slipped as he went for the outer grip, but Shohozan hit the dirt regardless. There's absolutely no reason for Shohozan to just take a dive, so I have no explanation for this queer bout that was ruled uwate-dashi-nage.

In the day's final bout, Komusubi Tokitenku actually henka'd to his left, but Hakuho was so quick that he got the right inside left outer anyway, and as Tokitenku tried to flee around the perimeter of the ring, Hakuho was onto him like flies to stink and had Tokitenku forced off the dohyo and into the second row. Once again, compare Hakuho's sumo to Kisenosato's and there is no comparison. Yet, by the graces of the sumo gods Kisenosato is up for Yokozuna promotion.

If there was one word I could use to describe today it was "uneventful," but as I always say, the basho doesn't really begin until Hakuho loses...or until Clancy reports. Papa C's up tomorrow.









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