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Day 14

Senshuraku Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I somehow had the uneasy feeling heading into senshuraku that all of the drama through the first 14 days was finished and that senshuraku would be a quiet day of sumo. I base a lot of my comments and expectations on precedent, and throughout Hakuho's tenure as Yokozuna, he has never once given up the yusho on senshuraku to enable an undeserving rikishi (i.e. Japanese rikishi) to hoist the cup. As I mentioned in my Natsu post basho report, Hakuho has enabled the following events to occur in sumo by dropping a few strategic bouts here and there:

Kisenosato's promotion to Ozeki
Kotoshogiku's promotion to Ozeki
Harumafuji's promotion to Yokozuna
Kakuryu's promotion to Yokozuna
Kakuryu's only career yusho
Baruto's only career yusho
Kyokutenho's only career yusho
Goeido's ability to maintain the Sekiwake rank for 2 straight years

While three Japanese rikishi have benefited from Hakuho's largesse, he still hasn't obviously handed one of them a yusho as Yokozuna, and the caveat heading into senshuraku was that a mere Hakuho loss would not give the yusho to someone else; both Japanese rikishi in contention still had to win their senshuraku bouts and neither was a gimme. For those reasons, both Martin and I emphasized heavily in both reports over the past two days that Hakuho was still the clear favorite to win the yusho.

But, they fight the bouts for a reason, so let's get right to the action working our way up from the very bottom commenting on bouts of interest and then highlighting the contests that involve our three leaders as follows:

12-2: Hakuho, Kotoshogiku
11-3: Takayasu

We led the day off with J2 Masunoyama visiting up from Juryo to take on M16 Wakanosato, and at 4-10 coming in, Masunoyama really needed an extra bout to at least keep himself in the mid-Juryo ranks for September. He fought like it too taking charge at the tachi-ai and getting his left arm deep enabling him to score the pretty easy force-out win. Wakanosato knew there was nothing he could do once Spalding got the momentum and just took his medicine. At this age, there's no point in Wakanosato expending extra energy or risking an Azumaryu mishap by trying to win a bout like this. Anyway, both rikishi finish the dance at 5-10 and will be fighting from the Juryo ranks next basho. Gonna miss Don and I already miss Spalding.

Kachi-koshi wasn't on the line for either M12 Kyokutenho or M15 Tokitenku who both entered the day at 6-8, but the reason I want to point this bout out is because it's a great example of sumo where both parties really want it. Often throughout the festivities, Kane and I have been emailing back and forth great bouts early in the day and contrasting them to the diluted sumo we've been seeing the last 30 minutes. This bout was one of those great bouts of sumo where both parties hooked up chest to chest in the gappuri-migi yotsu position, and it was game on. Both rikishi took turns pressing, but it was Tokitenku's threat of an uchi-gake that threw Kyokutenho off balance enough to where the yori-kiri came shortly thereafter. Still, Kyokutenho was still trying something in defeat lifting up at Tenku's belt and testing the possibility of an utchari. When I don't see such effort from a Yokozuna for example, I will rightly cry foul every time. Tokitenku earns a Makuuchi paycheck for at least one more basho ending at 7-8 while Kyokutenho should still be safe at 6-9.

M17 Arawashi has looked great this tournament, and today's victim was M11 Sadanoumi. The two hooked up in migi-yotsu and both were pressing hard for the advantage. I really couldn't tell if Sadanoumi was trying to set up the soto-gake with the left leg, but Arawashi didn't even wait to find out getting his right foot to the inside and executing a honey of a kake-nage throw sending him to 10-5 while Sadanoumi fizzled out this basho at 6-9. If Sadanoumi was going for the soto-gake, he needs to add that second pitch now because guys are figuring out his bread and butter.

With kachi-koshi in hand for M16 Chiyomaru and M8 Toyohibiki staring at 7-7 coming in, it was no surprise that Chiyomaru did nothing at the tachi-ai but stand straight up and just let Toyohibiki push him out in less than two seconds. I know that some people get irritated when I call yaocho throughout the basho, but I don't know how anyone can watch this bout considering the circumstances and think that Chiyomaru was actually trying. And, if diluted sumo (that will be a new term to ease the sting) occurs in situations like this, why wouldn't it occur in other situations where someone stood to gain something...I don't know...like the Ozeki rank? Both rikishi are happy at 8-7.

M8 Chiyotairyu picked up his tenth win by lamely striking M15 Gagamaru and then backing up like a scaredy cat allowing Gagamaru to just flop forward and down in all his girth. Chiyotairyu didn't do anything cheap here (stupid...maybe), so Gagamaru's gotta come forward with his de-ashi and take advantage of something like this. You know it's coming from Chiyotairyu who loses his confidence to push against the larger rikishi. Anyway, Gagamaru falls to 5-10 and will be in Juryo in September.

In another clear bout of sumo where both guys are trying, M6 Terunofuji wasn't playing nice against M13 Sokokurai who entered the day at 7-7. The two started in migi-yotsu where Terunofuji nearly got moro-zashi, but he was patient knowing that Sokokurai could really do nothing once Terunofuji had the solid inside grip. After about 8 seconds, Terunofuji reached for and got the right outer, and he simply out-massed his foe back beyond the straw in the end for the yori-kiri win. Once again, great sumo from low in the ranks as Terunofuji will be fighting among the jo'i in September and possibly as a sanyakur rikishi at 9-6 from the M6 rank. Sokokurai won't cry over spilt milk at 7-8 from the M13 rank.

And that brings us to our first leaderboard dweller on the day, M11 Takayasu, who needed to solve the sly M4 Takekaze for any chance of yusho hopes. And solve him he didn't as Takekaze won the tachi-ai pushing Takayasu completely upright by the teets, and then he employed a nice inashi with the left hand at Takayasu's side sending the youngster over and on the run. Takayasu was able to square back up, but he was so upright from the start thanks to Takekaze's tachi-ai, and this bout was Takekaze sumo all the way, so it was no surprise when Kaze baited Takayasu into a successful pulldown around the eight second mark. With the loss, Takayasu falls to 11-4 and out of yusho contention, but there was no way he would have survived a playoff anyway. He wins the Kantosho for his efforts and will rocket back to the jo'i for September where we'll really find out if he's an actual contender (he's not). As for Takekaze, he improves to 9-6 and will likely find himself in the sanyaku next basho due to vacancies in every position there.

One of the more compelling bouts of the day was the M6 Myogiryu - M3 Osunaarashi bout because with the Ejyptian at 7-7 coming in, you just knew Myogiryu wasn't going to give him anything. Myogiryu flinched just a bit at the starting lines causing Osunaarashi to lean forward, and when Myogiryu didn't go, Osunaarashi instinctively leaned back...but then Myogiryu went for real and came out of his stance so fast that Osunaarashi didn't even have a chance to unleash the full kachi-age with the right hand. Myogiryu knew what was coming and went straight for Osunaarashi's neck with the right hand standing the youngster up and driving him back into a position where he could only hope to pull. It didn't work and only resulted in Myogiryu's gaining the deep right inside position, and he immediately drove Osunaarashi back and outta the ring despite a feeble left outer from the Bouncer. Wow, this was great execution from Myogiryu who improves to 11-4 while Osunaarashi falls to 7-8. Myogiryu will likely fill another sanyaku vacancy while Osunaarashi will stay close enough to prolly get some heavy hitters again in September. Let's see if they're straight up fights next time.

M7 Jokoryu's momentum was halted by the busy M2 Yoshikaze who caught Jokoryu with a left kachi-age and then had him upright blistering him with caffeinated thrusts. Jokoryu tried to stave off the attack and look for an opening to the inside, but the Monster Drink caught him with a right kote-nage hold before ramming his head right into Jokoryu's jaw. Looked like Jokoryu blacked out for a second as he hit the dohyo face first, but he got up quick and can't be too disappointed by his 10-5 finish. Yoshikaze comes up just short at 7-8.

It's interesting to see guys pad their record down lower like M10 Toyonoshima who entered the day 10-4 only to face a "struggling" M1 Shohozan who entered the day at 3-11 but still laid the wood to Tugboat taking advantage of his lazy tachi-ai by getting the right arm in so deep Toyonoshima's left arm was wrapped around Shohozan's head--one of the most useless holds in sumo. Toyonoshima squirmed like a fish for a bit, but Shohozan used his legs brilliantly to pin Toyonoshima in place before dumping him with an inner belt throw. This was a good exampled of the difference 10 ranks on the banzuke can make as Shohozan limps home at 4-11.

Let's skip ahead to M5 Endoh who entered the day at 7-7 looking to defeat Komusubi Aoiyama in order to pick up what looked like an improbable kachi-koshi five days in when Elvis was sitting at 1-4. Komusubi Aoiyama charged hard with his arms extended in tsuppari fashion, but Endoh's plan from the beginning was to just strike quick and back up for the pull. The move worked, and while it wasn't pretty sumo, Endoh finishes the festivities at 8-7. With only one rikishi ranked higher than him with a better record (Takekaze at 9-6), Endoh looks to be a shoe-in to fill one of the four vacant sanyaku slots. For what it's worth, Aoiyama did look like he wanted to win this one as he ends the tourney at a respectable 6-9.

The bout of the day featured Sekiwake Goeido vs. Ozeki Kotoshogiku. A win by the Geeku would at worst force a playoff between him and Hakuho, and you never know how generous the Yokozuna would be feeling. As for Goeido, he had promotion to Ozeki on the line with a win, so it definitely would be a best-man-wins scenario. Kotoshogiku showed some nerves by jumping into a false start, and that would foreshadow the bout that saw Goeido ram his right shoulder squarely into Kotoshogiku's face drawing blood and knocking the Ozeki upright and giving Goeido the firm right inside and left outer to boot, and with a guy like Kotoshogiku who really can't move laterally, the Sekiwake had a fork stuck into him at this point. Goeido maintained that slight angle perfectly so both combatants' chests weren't aligned, and then forced the Geeku over to the edge by the outer grip with a bit of help pushing at the back of head with the right. Kotoshogiku just didn't have any room to maneuver, and the force out win was swift and decisive.

I don't know how many times I've said that when Goeido focuses on in-your-face yotsu-zumo that he's a lot more effective then when he looks to evade and pull. Somebody please figure it out for the guy because he does have potential if he can overcome his mental roadblocks. Regardless, the win left both rikishi at 12-3 and at the mercy of Hakuho, who would fight in the day's final bout.

Before we get there, however, it's worth mentioning the Yokozuna Kakuryu - Ozeki Kisenosato matchup that saw a decent tachi-ai from the Ozeki in their hidari-yotsu affair where Kisenosato really should have come out of the fray with moro-zashi. Instead, he let Kakuryu maki-kae with the right arm way too easily, and once the Yokozuna obtained moro-zashi, the fat lady began her song as Kakuryu ends the tournament at 11-4 while Kisenosato is a paltry 9-6.

The entire basho rested on the final bout, and in my mind, the real question was, "Is Hakuho going to try and win this one?" The two Yokozuna clashed in migi-yotsu from the tachi-ai with Harumafuji actually maintaining the left outer grip, but he didn't have any kind of positioning on the inside, so all he could do was try a dashi-nage move. His attempts were fruitless, however, and so Harumafuji eventually settled into the chest to chest clash. The lighter Yokozuna had a grip on Hakuho's belt with the inside now, but Hakuho used his left arm to squeeze in tight on HowDo's right and keep the limb up high and largely useless, and as the two pressed and jockeyed in the center of the ring, Hakuho finally went for and got the left outer grip, and once obtained, he dismissed Harumafuji without further argument spilling him to the clay with a sweet dipty doo dashi-nage throw. Ball game and yusho #30 for Hakuho as the air is deflated from the Nagoya basho balloon at least in terms of having a Japanese rikishi yusho for the first time in over eight years.

It was still an extremely successful tournament for the homegrown rikishi, and we can expect more of the same the final two tournaments of the year. Regardless of how you view sumo, there was something for everyone here, and all the Association can ask for his continued interest in the sport. I know they'll definitely have mine in September.

Post-basho wrap-up coming soon. Just too much ammo out there not to do one.

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Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
We all know that it's been 8 years and change since a Japanese rikishi took the yusho, and two of them were in a great position to break the trend heading into day 14. And let's suppose a Japanese rikishi does break through this basho and hoist the cup, will anything change? Nope. It will be business as usual at the Aki basho and the Kyushu basho and at least all of 2015 meaning the three Mongolian Yokozuna will continue to create openings around them, and when rikishi are able to rise up and create excitement as they have done this basho, it will make for some high drama.

I really appreciated Martin's enthusiasm yesterday in breaking down the yusho race, and I found myself as excited as I can ever remember in anticipation as I dragged myself out of bed and queued up the day 14 bouts. It's obvious that we all choose to see sumo in different ways, but regardless of what your take is on the action, there is major drama and suspense at the Nagoya basho, which is just the way the Association wants it.

Before we cover the bouts, let's review the leaderboard, which shapes up as follows:

11-2: Hakuho, Kotoshogiku, Takayasu
10-3: Kakuryu, Goeido

By scheduling Kotoshogiku and Takayasu to fight today, the Association guarantees that a Japanese rikishi will be at least tied for the lead as we head into senshuraku. It also eliminates any four-loss rikishi since the winner of the Kotoshogiku - Takayasu bout will be guaranteed at worst a 12-3 finish. Regardless of today's outcomes, the yusho-arasoi has been a huge success, and senshuraku is guaranteed to be as electric of a final day as we've seen in years.

With that said, let's start the day with the three-loss rikishi beginning with Sekiwake Goeido who was paired with M6 Terunofuji, the most promising guy in the division right now (I'd say the whole banzuke but there's an even bigger beast lurking in Juryo). The two hooked up early in the migi-yotsu position with Goeido pressing forward and Terunofuji willing to retreat to the side and go for a mammoth kote-nage with the left, and the counter throw was going to work as Goeido was knocked off balance, but Terunofuji stopped the throw and allowed the bout to resume in migi-yotsu. If that wasn't the first clue, the second one came next as Terunofuji senselessly brought his right inside arm to the outside giving Goeido moro-zashi on the spot. We've actually seen Terunofuji give up moro-zashi and win by kime-dashi, but he quietly stayed in front of the Sekiwake and allowed him to score the yori-kiri win in the end. With the win, Goeido moves to 11-3, but a lot has to happen for the yusho line to fall that low. For his troubles, Terunofuji falls to 8-6 but will surely eat well tonight on Goeido's dime.

With Goeido safely through, let's next move in chronological order to the Ozeki Kotoshogiku - M11 Takayasu matchup. Takayasu is looking for the first yusho from the hira-maku since Kyokutenho did it just over two years ago while Kotoshogiku is looking for his first yusho ever. Takayasu led with his left shoulder, but the Ozeki crashed hard as well driving from a lower stance, and the result was the hidari-yotsu position where Kotoshogiku actually had Takayasu's right arm pointing up in the air, but he relented allowing Takayasu to tinkle the ivories on the right side of Kotoshogiku's belt just missing out on an outer grip as Kotoshogiku bellied his foe back near the straw. At the edge, Takayasu attempted a lame kubi-nage but was rewarded with a trip off the dohyo altogether as Kotoshogiku scored the quick force-out win. I'll bite my tongue on this one and just say I thought Takayasu coulda put up a better fight, but regardless, gunbai to the Ozeki who moves 12-2 staying firmly in the yusho hunt. As for Takayasu, he falls to 11-3 but will surely earn a special prize for his trouble.

With Kotoshogiku safely through, it was now up to Yokozuna Hakuho to set the table for the final day against fellow Yokozuna Kakuryu. Hakuho attempted a hari-zashi tachi-ai slapping with the left and looking to get the right inside, but Kakuryu jumped out of the gate quick grabbing the left outer grip sustained by the right arm to the inside. The Kak was able to jump the dai-Yokozuna early, but Hakuho persisted at the edge grabbing a left outer of his own and going for a quick outer belt throw. Kakuryu survived, however, and as the two hooked back up into hidari-yotsu, Kakuryu executed a quick maki-kae giving him moro-zashi, but his jaw was perched above Hakuho's left shoulder. With Hakuho digging in tight, Kakuryu had nowhere to go, and after lifting up with both outers, Hakuho bludgeoned his way into the right inside position with a maki-kae, and once obtained, he forced the Kak out for good keeping pace with Kotoshogiku at 12-2. This was one of those crazy, unsettled bouts that we often see from the Mongolian Yokozuna where they seem to fit in a whole basho worth of maki-kae, but as the dust settled, Kakuryu was knocked out of the yusho race falling to 10-4.

Let's pause at this point, and review the leaderboard. Hakuho and Kotoshogiku are in the lead at 12-2 while Goeido and Takayasu bring up the rear at 11-3. As for the bouts that involve the leaders, they shape up as follows:

Takayasu draws M4 Takekaze, who has been a crafty rikishi to deal with this basho. Even if Takayasu does win, he needs both Hakuho and Kotoshogiku to lose to still have a chance. A Takayasu win and losses by the two 12-2 rikishi is a tall order, so let's send Takayasu home with a Kantosho for his efforts.

Kotoshogiku draws Goeido, and if Goeido wins, it puts both rikishi at 12-3 and at the mercy of Hakuho who will battle Harumafuji in the tournament's final bout. It will actually be interesting to witness the straight-up bout between the two Japanese rikishi, but who knows what will transpire between the two Mongolians.? Hakuho has shown in the past that he is willing to drop a bout or two along the way, but the only time I can ever remember him not having control of his own destiny was the 2012 Natsu basho where Kyokutenho won it all. If precedent holds, Hakuho will beat Harumafuji and then battle Kotoshogiku in a playoff (if Kotoshogiku beat Goeido) for the yusho , a bout that obviously favors the Yokozuna. It all comes down to whatever Hakuho's modus operandi happens to be.

The only element that Hakuho has no control over is Harumafuji's tachi-ai. HowDo has henka'd a few times already this basho most notably against Kakuryu yesterday. If Harumafuji really wants to throw a wrench in things, he'll henka against Hakuho. Otherwise, I'd be really surprised if Hakuho doesn't pick up his 30th career yusho tomorrow.

If both Hakuho and Kotoshogiku lose, things will really get crazy with a three-way playoff or maybe a four-way playoff if Takayasu and Goeido both win. We haven't seen three or more rikishi in a playoff in who knows how long, but if it does happen, this is the way it will work:

If three rikishi are tied, the three rikishi will draw lots to see which two rikishi fight first. Essentially, the first rikishi to win two bouts in a row will take the yusho. The tomoe-sen (as Martin introduced yesterday) could go on and on as long as one rikishi doesn't win two in a row.

If four rikishi are tied, the four rikishi will all draw lots to see where each is placed in a semi-final bout. The winners of the two semi-final bouts then pair off in the final.

Once again, Hakuho controls everything tomorrow except Harumafuji's tachi-ai.

And speaking of Yokozuna Harumafuji, he battled Ozeki Kisenosato in the day's final bout. Well, battle probably isn't the best way to phrase it as Harumafuji had his way with the Ozeki tsuppari'ing him upright from the tachi-ai and then seizing moro-zashi that set up the easy yori-kiri in about four seconds. As Kisenosato was thrown off the dohyo altogether, Yoshida Announcer asked himself out loud, "What happened to the Kisenosato who was so fired up yesterday against Hakuho?"

Yes, what did happen? Martin handled the Hakuho - Kisenosato bout well yesterday, and all I would add is this: we know now that Kisenosato has been involved in at least three straight up bouts against Goeido, Kotoshogiku, and Harumafuji. Both Goeido and Kotoshogiku easily got the inside position from the tachi-ai and then just forced Kisenosato back and out in linear fashion requiring just a few seconds to do it. That's also exactly how Harumafuji defeated the Ozeki today, so to think that possibly the best rikishi to ever grace the dohyo couldn't have done the same thing is preposterous. Anyway, Harumafuji improves to 10-4 with the easy win while Kisenosato is a quiet 9-5.

In other bouts of interest, Komusubi Aoiyama ended his sanyaku run at 6-8 in an ugly affair with M4 Tamawashi where both rikishi looked to attack with tsuppari, but they were really waiting for the first pull opportunity that came along. Aoiyama scored on it first sending Tamawashi to an ugly 3-11.

Rounding out the sanyaku, it was Komusubi Aminishiki who went for the pull first against M5 Chiyootori who wisely struck at the tachi-ai and moved forward instead of retreating as we've seen him do way too much in Nagoya. With Chiyootori moving forward and Aminishiki retreating, the push out win came in two or three seconds as Chiyootori limps to 6-8 while Aminishiki is a paltry 3-11. The Komusubi rank as a whole was useless this basho other than giving cheap wins to rikishi who needed them.

M3 Osunaarashi's fierce kachi-age was missing yesterday against Kotoshogiku, but it was back in full force today against M2 Yoshikaze who moved out left in order to avoid it, and thanks to Monster Drink's move to the side, both rikishi were separated and ended up in an outright brawl with the larger Ejyptian flailing away and Yoshikaze mostly ducking and looking to get in the inside. Yoshikaze did manage to sneak his left arm to the inside, but before he could mount a charge, Osunaarashi countered with a right kote-nage throw that just flung Yoshikaze over and clear outta the dohyo. Osunaarashi stays alive at 7-7 while Yoshikaze's make-koshi becomes official at 6-8.

M7 Jokoryu picked up double-digit wins for the first time in his Makuuchi career today as he struck M4 Takekaze hard with both hands at the tachi-ai while Takekaze looked to slip out left, but Takekaze's legs weren't planted to the dohyo, and he just plopped over a second in. Ugly win, but Jokoryu will take it as he sails to 10-4 while Takekaze will still sleep easy at 8-6.

M5 Endoh was gifted yet another win this basho with today's favor coming from M8 Toyohibiki. Endoh actually attempted a hari-zashi tachi-ai striking Toyohibiki in the neck with the right hand (yes, Toyohibiki actually has a neck!) and attempting to get the left arm to the inside, but Toyohibiki had Endoh's right arm smothered with his right arm and a dangerous left of his own on the other side, but he abandoned his right arm position and just leaned over waiting for the outer belt throw that came about two seconds in. Toyohibiki's roll was the exact roll you see at the end of keiko when the rikishi practice taking dives. No question this was a gift as both rikishi end the day at 7-7.

M6 Myogiryu struck M13 Sokokurai hard at the tachi-ai knocking him straight up and allowing Myogiryu to grab the right inside position, and after gathering his wits for a second or two, Myogiryu mounted a perfect force-out charge driving with his legs and sending Sokokurai outta the ring without argument. Myogiryu fulfills Mainoumi's prophesy as he moves to 10-4 while Sokokurai's kachi-koshi bid is denied at 7-7.

M8 Chiyotairyu just crushed M17Arawashi back from the start with dual shoves, but Arawashi somehow kept a tiny grip of Chiyotairyu's mawashi with the left hand, and that allowed him to keep his balance just enough to where the Mongolian jumped to his left and grabbed Chiyotairyu's right arm sending him out of the dohyo tottari style on Chiyotairyu's econd volley. Chiyotairyu did everything right in this one, but you just have to credit Arawashi and his ring sense. Both rikishi are 9-5.

M16 Chiyomaru looked to pick up kachi-koshi the cheap way by striking K9 Kitataiki with both hands before immediately backing up and going for the pull. Didn't work, though, as Kitataiki kept his feet, so Chiyomaru mawari-komu'd left barely escaping a lethal thrust from Kitataiki, and in the process, Maru was able to pull Kitataiki off balance enough to where he set him up for the ugly push out win in the end. Chiyomaru moves to 8-6 while Kitataiki is 5-9.

M9 Takarafuji picked up his kachi-koshi today when M15 Gagamaru just rolled over for him...literally. I know we've talked a lot about mukiryoku sumo in the upper ranks, but this was a classic example of a rikishi taking a loss to give his opponent kachi-koshi. The two hooked up in hidari-yotsu before Gagamaru just ran himself to the right side of Takarafuji and waited for T-fooj to just throw him down with the left arm to the inside. Gagamaru actually won the tachi-ai and had his right arm in the perfect position, but he did nothing with it and just started leaning left resulting in the ugly two second bout. Takarafuji moves to 8-6 with the win while Gagamaru dozes his way to 5-9.

M11 Sadanoumi fell to make-koshi today against M15 Tokitenku as the two clashed in the gappuri migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai where Tokitenku had the left frontal grip. With Tokitenku pressing in, Sadanoumi went for his signature move, the soto-gake (outside) leg trip with the left leg, but Tokitenku who was defeated last basho by this move was ready for it countering with an uchi-gake (inside) leg trip of his own, and thanks to Tokitenku's better position gained from the tachi-ai, he was able to force Sadanoumi down hard leaving both gentlemen at 6-8.

The Senior Tour got a bit of run today as M12 Kyokutenho clashed with M16 Wakanosato in migi-yotsu. A few seconds in, Kyokutenho got lazy and instead of going for the outer grip stepped outside and tried to pull Wakanosato cheaply down, but Don Sato's been in a knife fight before and he demanded moro-zashi when the dust settled. Kyokutenho tried to use his size advantage and kime-dashi the Gangstuh, but Wakanosato used a right scoop throw Kyokutenho over to the edge and out for the sweet win. Kyokutenho suffers make-koshi at 6-8 while Wakanosato improves to 5-9.

And finally, M14 Azumaryu learned today what it's like to get sucked into the abyss as he clashed with J3 Ichinojo in a migi-yotsu contest from the start. Azumaryu gained the early left outer grip and tested the waters quickly also feeling out a soto-gake attempt, but Ichinojo stood his ground admirably and then from out of nowhere countered with a right sukui-nage throw that completely threw Azumaryu off balance and to the side. Azumaryu recovered and grabbed the left outer again, but the bout turned to gappuri-yotsu and Ichinojo wasn't going anywhere. Just after the one minute mark, Ichinojo made his force-out move, and as Azumaryu tried to counter backing to his left and dragging his foe with the outer grip, his right foot missed the tawara and caused him to plant it awkwardly as Ichinojo just crashed down on top of him twisting Azumaryu's right knee in a direction it wasn't made to twist. I think Azumaryu was expecting to find the tawara to make his counter move, and when it wasn't there, he tried to adjust his stance, but Ichinojo was already crashing into him. It's a shame that anyone should have to suffer an injury like this, and I'll be surprised if Azumaryu (7-7) is able to fight in Aki. Ichinojo moves to 13-1 and not only has the Juryo yusho in the bag, but he's got the attention of the entire Association.

You know I will be back tomorrow to wrap things up.

Day 13 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Because of the irreverent, in-your-face way we like to call the common implement used for digging holes and moving around dirt a spade, every once in a while Sumotalk will attract criticism, which some of those times will be open criticism, which will occasionally degenerate into blatant name-calling, holier-than-thou, venom-filled tirades by short, overweight, middle-aged white guys who have nothing better to do on a weekday afternoon. In case you missed it the first 17 times, here’s the newsflash: we don’t mind. We write under our own names and even post our pictures, and we take full credit and responsibility for anything we write. If you disagree vehemently with our takes, you have these options, among others:

1. Stop reading. It’s not like we’re forcing you to.
2. State your disagreement in a civilized manner. You might be surprised to find out how far that will take you. At worst, we will, in the end, agree to disagree.
3.State your disagreement in an increasingly violent manner while saying you’re a rikishi and throwing your (alleged) weight around with all your immense knowledge and insight – everything under the guise of anonymity, of course. You might, if you’re unreasonably lucky, elicit a mild response from Mike (he’s a Mormon, sorry) and this nifty day 13 intro from me. Congratulations, your existence has been validated. Now go play on the freeway or something.

Getting back to the hon-basho, it’s day 13 already and there is the possibility of a yusho playoff, or even a tomoe-sen, if we’re lucky. (Here be spoilers) Hakuho dropped his second bout in 3 days and was caught by the two-strong chasing pack at 11 wins and 2 losses. Does that mean I think he’s not the favorite to win the tournament anymore? No. To make it even clearer, here, I’ll spell it out: as of the completion of day 13, I still think Hakuho is the favorite to win the 2014 Nagoya basho. With the two contenders Kotoshogiku and Takayasu meeting tomorrow and Kotoshogiku having faced all the Yokozuna already, the chance for at least a kettei-sen looks pretty high.

This is what the leaderboard looks like:
Hakuho 11-2 faces Kakuryu on day 14, likely Harumafuji, maybe Takayasu on day 15
Kotoshogiku 11-2 faces Takayasu on day 14, likely Goeido on day 15
Takayasu 11-2 faces Kotoshogiku tomorrow, maybe Hakuho or Kakuryu on day 15
Kakuryu 10-3 faces Hakuho tomorrow, probably Kisenosato or Takayasu on senshuraku
Goeido 10-3 faces Terunofuji next, and after that Kotoshogiku is most likely

Given Takayasu’s 11 wins, they might just decide to rearrange the tori-kumi so Takayasu can’t run away with it without facing all contenders, which would mean pairing him with Hakuho. The only other option I can see is keeping the top Yokozuna match-up but giving Kakuryu to Takayasu (Kisenosato is mathematically out of it anyway, but his rank is lower than Ama’s). Anything else, like pairing the young contender with the likes of Kisenosato or Goeido, will screw up the other matches pretty badly (Kakuryu and Kotoshogiku are still in the yusho race and those two guys are the toughest opponents they need to face). (Spoilers end)

Alright, first the bouts, then the possible scenarios, which make for delightful speculation for a change. Since I’m in an instant reward mood today, I’ll just start off with the musubi-no-ichiban, which saw Hakuho get thrown at the edge by kote-nage and relinquish his lead. Leading with a tentative left hari-te, Hakuho was definitely the more active of the two throughout the match, opting to keep away from the mawashi and just push his opponent right out. It seemed to be paying off, too, as Kisenosato was driven back near the edge. But that’s when it got really interesting. Kisenosato put up a fight to hold his ground, so Hakuho took a quick, effective swipe at the Kid’s right arm and pulled him off balance, briefly getting him turned around. Hakuho chased him down to the other side of the ring to finish him off, only to meet with brick wall-like resistance at the edge and get thrown to the dirt by a standard desperation move. The above description is pretty neutral, so, if your stomach is weak for yaocho, you can stop reading here. To make it crystal clear, I’m 99.9% sure the bout was not legit, i.e. Hakuho was not giving his all.

First and foremost, Hakuho was never looking for a belt grip. The guy builds a career out of yori-kiri and uwate-nage and against an arguably much tougher opponent than the average he never ONCE tries to use his strengths? He’s either suffering from temporary brain-deadness or taking it easy. Then there’s the great opportunity mid-bout. Hak’s swipe at Kisenosato’s arm is nearly perfect, the guy is sent stumbling across and briefly has his back to Hakuho, but Hakuho makes sure he takes his sweet time to square up with him instead of just okuridashi-ing him into the 3rd row. And last, for artistic impression, when they’re at the edge, Hakuho, still not trying to get anywhere near the mawashi, leans forward ever so slightly and then dives, gently and fluidly, at the slightest sign of pressure from Kisenosato. In his defense, it was a really good sell, but still not good enough.

As for the reasons, this is where it gets really exciting. Instead of having a boring old Hakuho-alone-in-first-place leaderboard, we’re treated to the beauty I showed above. Plus, it’s Kisenosato, the closest thing (sadly) the Japanese have to a Yokozuna hope. Moreover, let’s look at Hakuho’s losses in the last 7 basho (or the last 9, they’re exactly the same). You got a big fat ZERO against anyone ranked Komusubi or below (which also means Hakuho is really cost-effective kinboshi-wise for the NSK), 3 against Harumafuji, 3 against Kisenosato, 3 against Goeido (!), 2 vs. Kakuryu, both of them occurring during the Kak’s uncannily improbable and dubiously successful Yokozuna run, and a single one against Kotoshogiku (who finished 8-7 in that basho). That’s it, 12 losses in 133 matches. That’s f-u-c-k-ing it. Hakuho is currently standing atop a hoard of 29 yusho and is in danger of winning this one as well. It doesn’t really hurt anyone if he occasionally tries to give the impression he’s human after all. Can you imagine him going 86-4 again? I’m sure there aren’t many Japanese fans out there who feel the least bit excited thinking about it.

Now let’s go back up to that very promising leaderboard and speculate on the variety of possible outcomes. Let’s start with the beginning and put Takayasu out of his misery. He’s not the favorite tomorrow and he sure as hell isn’t the favorite against either Hakuho or Kakuryu, so pencil in that 11-4 record and a prize, whatever they decide to throw at him. If he somehow does win tomorrow, though, senshuraku will become that much more worth anticipating. Goeido is next on the list chance-wise, with three losses and not enough sumo in him. I see him as a slight favorite against Terunofuji tomorrow, but I won’t be too surprised if he gets “upset” by the gigantic Mongol. I don’t, however, see him as the favorite against Kotoshogiku. Next up, it’s Kakuryu also with a 10-3 record, with Hakuho and Kisenosato/Takayasu left to fight. 12-3 isn’t entirely out of the question, but I’m afraid it might not be enough. Because Kotoshogiku’s 11-2 with Takayasu and Goeido left means the chance for a kettei-sen is his to lose. As I stated in the beginning, I still think Hakuho is the favorite to win it all, most likely in a two-way playoff, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did it outright. There is also the mathematical possibility of a monster four-way playoff, or a three-way tomoe-sen. A tomoe, for your general information, is a design like the one in the image at right. It looks pretty awesome, doesn’t it?  It’s pretty obvious why a three-way playoff in sumo would be called a tomoe-sen (巴戦 – literally “tomoe fight”).

Now, after all the anticipation I hope I’ve created, let’s slowly make our way down the banzuke. In the clash of the two Yokozuna, Harumafuji stiffed Kak with a well-disguised henka, but a henka nonetheless, shifting to the left and grabbing the insurmountable left uwate which he used, along with Kakuryu’s own momentum, to get behind him and show him the door. I can only imagine the possibilities for the basho outcome if only Kakuryu had won that one. Harumafuji improves to 9-4, which is too little, too late.

Osunaarashi was half a step slow with his kachi-age charge, which gave Kotoshogiku just the advantage he needed to finish the job by oshi-dashi in about 3 seconds. The Ejyptian falls to a dangerous 6-7 and needs to win the remaining two in order to get that Shukun-sho prize.

Takekaze lived up to his infamy attempting yet another henka against Goeido, but the Father fortunately read it fairly easily and pushed the compromised Takekaze straight out. The fat Kaze slows down to 8-5, but I’m already looking forward to his drubbing in the meat grinder next basho (he could make it as high as Sekiwake, the slippery bastard, which would be a new high or a new low, whichever way you want to look at it). Goeido improves to a seemingly honorable (on paper) 10-3, but has his work cut out for him these last two days. Like I said before, I won’t be surprised if Terunofuji dismantles him.

Tamawashi sidestepped Aminishiki just enough to gain a crucial advantage, standing him upright with a right paw to the throat while pushing to the side with the left. The result was a quick, merciless, and somewhat amusing oshi-taoshi, as Aminishiki reaped the gyoji with his extended right leg in the process of digging into the tawara. The old guy in the dress didn’t seem too affected by the incident and kept his eye on the pair of combatants even as he was down on all fours. After the dust settled, both guys walked out of the dohyo with 3 wins and 10 losses, and Aminishiki with a limp as a bonus.

Endo lost a little bit more of his status as “the next big thing in ozumo” when he was schooled by Yoshikaze, who used his superior speed and reflexes to win the pushing/thrusting game and worm his way into a deep inside grip which proved too much to handle. Endo falls to 6-7, and to the same mark improves Yoshikaze, which isn’t really bad for an M2 like him.

The only thing left mentioning is the strange conclusion to the Terunofuji-Takayasu bout which, as seen above, had some implications in the yusho race. Takayasu came out firing some mean tsuppari, which is always his first option, but when the sheer size of Terunofuji rendered the thrusts nearly useless, Takayasu adapted his game plan and grabbed a very solid double grip with the left inside and the right outside, which he used to force his larger foe all the way to the edge. Terunofuji seemingly recovered and took control of the hostilities, only to find his action interrupted by Dejima, now on shinpan duty, who noticed Terunofuji’s foot had grazed the sand outside the tawara at that first charge. The large Mongol falls to 8-5 with the tough loss, but he will be interesting to watch come Aki in his first jo’i basho (we’re already getting glimpses of that and it looks damn promising). Takayasu shares a slice of the top spot on the board, but, as I’ve said before, he should enjoy it while it lasts.

And speaking of big, bad Mongols, before I go I’d like to draw your attention yet again to Ichinojo (12-1) who started getting Makuuchi opponents after running amok in Juryo (he gave Wakanosato little chance today in a one-sided, albeit slow, match).

That’s it from me for now. Be sure to tune in tomorrow, though. With all the commotion, I heard Clancy decided to come out of his retirement and grace us once more with his unique presence. (click for details)

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Before we get to the day 12 bouts, let me just start off by saying I know that I often give takes that are hard for many people to hear. To illustrate what I mean by that, allow me to take a stroll down memory lane...back to when I was in the sixth grade. This new show began airing on Saturday mornings at 11 AM called AWA or All-star Wrestling Association. I happened to play basketball as a kid, and our games were Saturday mornings, so I vividly remember rushing home in time to watch "the wrestles" as my dad called them. Back then, the WWF had yet to come into fruition so guys like Hulk Hogan, Nick Bockwinkle, Ken Patera, etc. were part of the gig and then Bobby "The Brain" Heenan managed the group of bad guys. Mean Gene Oakerland provided the interviews and hyped the show up, and I was totally hooked.

Well, that Saturday routine continued for about six months and then one day my world changed when Mean Gene actually announced that the wrestles were coming to Salt Lake where they would hold a Battle Royal at the Salt Palace! He also mentioned about five bouts on the undercard and immediately my brothers and I turned to my dad and began asking every ten seconds or so, "Can we go? Can we go? Can we go?" Tickets back then were $5 for the cheap seats, $7 for the lower bowl, and $9 for the floor seats. My dad finally relented and agreed to take us to the wrestles.

Well, the day finally came and I couldn't wait, so we headed for the Salt Palace, bought the $5 seats, and then snuck down into the lower bowl (something I would later learn to do when the sumos came to Fukuoka!). I was fascinated from the very first bout and was enthralled by the action in the ring, but about halfway through the event, I noticed something extremely disturbing. My dad, who was sitting at the end of the row, was just howling with laughter. I had never seen him so animated or having such a good time, but he would occasionally look over to us and shout, "That was so phony!" while slapping his knee in fits of laughter. It really was one of those moments for me in life where I was at a crossroads. My brothers and I were just riveted to the action and didn't think anything was funny about it; rather, we were rooting for the good guys and nervously waiting the result of each bout, so to have my dad just sit there and make a mockery of the event stirred this huge conflict within me.

I loved my dad and trusted him and thought he was a smart guy, but what was he seeing that I wasn't? I still vividly remember discounting his opinion in my mind during the event and thinking, "You know...he says it's all fake, but on this one he's wrong. I mean, that guy there has blood spurted all over his head! How do you explain that?" There I was a sixth grader making that determination because what my dad was saying was essentially "hard to hear." So I watched the program faithfully every Saturday morning and continued to beg my dad to take me to all the events that came through town, but there was always that inner conflict in my mind because my dad thought it was all scripted.

Even my subconscious noticed things like "yeah, that blood does look a bit thin and pinkish, but I'm sure some people bleed like that." Or you had a guy just laid out and lying there on the mat seemingly unconscious for a few minutes, and then 20 minutes later when they announce the lineup for the Battle Royal, he comes bounding down the aisle like he's just had a shower and 8 hours of sleep. My subconscious was saying, "shouldn't he be at the hospital?" but I overrode that intuition because it was just too hard to accept at the time.

Now, I'm not implying that my sumo takes like my father are correct by using this example, nor am I saying that sumo is scripted like professional wrestling because it's not. I'm just illustrating that I know exactly what it's like to hear things that your conscious mind wants to reject. Kane, Matt, Martin, and myself are simply presenting our views on what takes place atop the dohyo. Right or wrong, they are merely presented for you to read and then make your own decisions as to what actually occurred. Remember, I'm a free market guy, and so as long as Sumotalk has a sizeable audience willing to tune in, we will continue to give our viewpoints on the sumos, so how you want to perceive them is entirely up to you.

With that said, I last reported on day 9 where I started off presenting some interesting numbers on how Hakuho compares to the two rikishi he's chasing for the record books in Taiho and Chiyonofuji. I summoned up my whole take by stating "weak Japanese rikishi = high number of yaocho." Now, when I or someone else calls a yaocho, many people will wait with baited breath for when it doesn't happen and then come out of the woodwork and say, "See? Why would they let Goeido win that bout and lose today? It just doesn't make sense. A Japanese rikishi hasn't won in 8 years."

That's a reasonable line of thinking when things are hard to hear, but let me explain it with another definitive statement: if you use yaocho to propel a rikishi to a higher rank, you must use yaocho to sustain him at that rank. We all know that yaocho is a very slippery slope, and so the Association has to be extremely careful as to how much they let occur. Did anyone notice besides me that NHK abruptly stopped using the super slow motion replays after about five days? In my opinion, the yaocho occurring during select bouts was so obvious that the super slow mo vids were just poison and too risky, and so we haven't seen them now for about a week.

Furthermore, contrary to what many people think, I never predict yaocho; I only call it when it occurs, so many misconstrue that a yaocho call implies that the rikishi receiving the benefit should go onto yusho. There is absolutely zero precedent to that line of thinking, and it's entirely false. I don't know why yaocho occurs for any given bout and can only speculate as to the reasons, but when it happens, I will always point it out if it makes sense to do so.

With that in mind, let's get to a clean, refreshing day of sumo where the bouts that mattered were all fought straight up.

Once we're in the middle of week 2, the leaderboard is primary with rikishi looking for early kachi-koshi secondary, so let's start with the leaders first. Due to Hakuho's gift to Goeido yesterday (perfect call on that one, Matty), the leaderboard heading into the day was as follows:

10-1: Hakuho, Kotoshogiku
9-2: Kakuryu, Goeido, Takayasu

With Yokozuna Hakuho and Ozeki Kotoshogiku squaring off today, the winner would be guaranteed sole possession of first place. Both rikishi quickly aligned chests from the tachi-ai hooking up in the migi-yotsu position, and from this point, the Ozeki just didn't have the length to even attempt an outer belt grip. He flirted briefly with thoughts of a maki-kae with the left arm, but Hakuho was settled in tight and wouldn't budge. On the other side, Hakuho took his sweet time grabbing the left outer grip for whatever reason, and when he really made his move for it, Kotoshogiku tried to squirm away only to be dumped easily to the clay by a left kote-nage throw. This was a pretty straightforward bout where Hakuho took his time and dominated in the end. You know, for whatever reason, we haven't seen that wham bam thank you ma'am sumo from Hakuho where he blasts his opponent back while masterfully securing the right inside position and following up with the left outer near the edge for insurance. Regardless, the Yokozuna moves to 11-1 with the win and is in sole possession again of the lead. As I stated in my day 9 comments, I believe the Japanese viewers are being prepped to have Hakuho surpass the all-time yusho mark within the next year. As for Kotoshogiku, he falls to 10-2 and gave it a good effort, but the gap between these two is just too vast.

With Hakuho in the clear, let's stay in the Yokozuna ranks where Kakuryu entertained M4 Tamawashi who wasted his time with a left hari-te attempt at the tachi-ai while Kakuryu completely took advantage and just jumped into moro-zashi from the start and had Tamawashi sent back and across in mere seconds. Uneventful bout as Kakuryu moves to 10-2 while Tamawashi is the inverse mark.

Yokozuna Harumafuji came in low against Sekiwake Goeido, but the Sekiwake displayed about as good of a tachi-ai from him that we've seen this basho rebuffing the Yokozuna over near the edge. Goeido had his gal set up and pounced, but he was careless allowing Harumafuji to grab the left uwate and square back up in migi-yotsu. Goeido's short arms kept him far away from the uwate on the other side, so he went for a counter right inside throw aided by a kake-nage that was decent, but he just didn't have the positioning behind it to knock the Yokozuna off of his perch. From there, Harumafuji pinned Harumafuji up against the tawara and then reversed gears dumping him forward and down into a face plant with that outer grip that proved the entire difference in this bout.

I was actually quite impressed with Goeido's sumo, and like Chiyotairyu, I wonder why he doesn't try this kind of sumo every single bout. Did he think that Harumafuji would possibly let up, and so that gave him the motivation to charge hard and forward? Could be. Regardless, Goeido's sumo had direction today, something we rarely see from him. I remember hyping this guy hard when he broke into the division in late 2007, but somewhere along the path, he lost has way and fights on most days with little confidence. I mean, how do you lose to a two-win Ikioi this basho by tsuki-dashi? Regardless, Goeido falls off the leaderboard at 9-3 while Harumafuji clinches kachi-koshi at 8-4.

Our final bout from the leaderboard featured M11 Takayasu against..wait a minute...a 6-5 Endoh? How in the hell did Endoh enter day 12 at 6-5 after that awful start? Okay, I know the answer to that. Anyway, Elvis looked to establish his position from the tachi-ai with a tsuppari attack, but it only lasted about two shoves before Takayasu fired his own tsuppari in return that knocked Endoh back a step and half. Takayasu pounced into the hidari-yotsu position and while Endoh tried to wrench his way this way and that into some sort of attacking position, Takayasu grabbed the right outer grip and then just bullied Endoh over and out. I actually picked Endoh to win this fight coming in because I reasoned that Takayasu had padded his record low in the banzuke, and I thought his rising up to fight an M5 would make a difference. I guess it depends on which M5 we're talking about.

If I can get a bit personal here, my boys all play baseball and are affiliated with so-called travel teams. The basic premise of a travel team is that you put together the best possible team with whomever you can find with no geographical restrictions, but the only caveat is the players all have to be within one year of age with the deadline May 1st. So I have boys playing 12U, 14U, and one ready to play high school. Anyway, you go into some of these tournaments, and the opposing 12U team for example, has kids taller than me (I'm 180 cm) that look like they have to shave twice a day. Pound for pound, my son's team can compete, and they actually give an opponent like that a decent game for maybe two innings, but after taking the best shot my son's team can give, the game usually gets out of hand from there in the later innings.

And that's exactly what this Endoh bout reminded me of today. Takayasu took Endoh's best shot from the tachi-ai, and yes, it did back Takayasu up a step, but once Takayasu got established, there was nothing that Endoh could do to counter due to a difference in size. I learned from watching these competitive baseball games, that sheer size and speed will win in the end regardless of the other team's talent level. Endoh is in serious trouble in this division, not because he doesn't have game; rather, he doesn't have the size to enable his outstanding technique to shine through. Dude falls to 6-6 while Takayasu stays on the leaderboard at 10-2.

So, as we head into the final three days of the tournament, the leaderboard is whittled down by one (Goeido) with four rikishi remaining as follows:

11-1: Hakuho
10-2: Kakuryu, Kotoshogiku, Takayasu

Hakuho draws Kisenosato, and I'll already say that if Kisenosato wins, it will be by yaocho because Kisenosato physically cannot beat this Yokozuna. I don't expect that and would bet against it , but we've seen stranger things happen.

Kakuryu draws Harumafuji, and I'd be surprised if Harumafuji wins that one for reasons I won't get into, and then Kotoshogiku draws a very interesting opponent in Osunaarashi. I kind of feel as if Osunaarashi lost his sumo virginity this basho, and what I mean by that is he was such a pure, raw kid who was fun to watch, but that stretch midway where he "beat" two Yokozuna and then suddenly forgot about his bruising kachi-age tachi-ai against Goeido and Endoh was disheartening. I kinda feel like we lost something there from the Ejyptian. Anyway, whether or not this bout is straight up will be determined by Osunaarashi's tachi-ai. Let's see how hard he brings that kachi-age. And by the way, if the bout is straight up, Kotoshogiku is the clear favorite, but don't overlook Osunaarashi's ability to grizzly bear swipe the Ozeki down in a few seconds.

As for Takayasu, I love that they've matched him up with Terunofuji. I'd say Takayasu is the underdog in that one. If he beats the Thug, give him a special prize.

In other bouts of interest on the day, M4 Takekaze henka'd slightly to his left against Ozeki Kisenosato, but it was more of his jumping in the air and going for the back of the Ozeki's head. Kisenosato wasn't able to adjust and just plopped forward and down in the one second affair. I thought Takekaze's means of picking up kachi-koshi at 8-4 was weak, but an average rikishi should be able to survive that henka. Kisenosato ends the day at 8-4 himself.

M3 Kaisei entertained Komusubi Aoiyama in a brief tsuppari affair, but Aoiyama kept his head low just asking to be pulled over, so Kaisei went first with a right kote-nage that sent Aoiyama lower and off balance to where his feet just slipped out from under him. If I didn't know any better, it looked to me as if Aoiyama just took a dive. I'm not sure what would have warranted such a decision, but this bout didn't look natural to me as both rikishi end the day with make-koshi in hand at 4-8.

Komusubi Aminishiki leaned out left in an effort to avoid M3 Osunaarashi's kachi-age at the tachi-ai, but with Aminishiki leaning awkwardly to the side, Osunaarashi rushed in, grabbed the left uwate, and then easily disposed of Shneaky from there with a dashi-nage throw. Credit Osunaarashi for making that quick adjustment to his opponent's quirky tachi-ai and ending the funny bidness in mere seconds. He's still alive for a kachi-koshi and sanyaku berth at 6-6. Aminishiki's falling to 3-9 will open up one of those spots.

M1 Shohozan tried his tsuppari attack against M7 Tochinowaka early, but SloWaka got a right arm to the inside lifting Shohozan up, and as Shohozan looked to duck back down, Tochinowaka just slapped him down from there sort of improving to 4-8. Shohozan is a step worse now at 3-9.

How bad has M1 Ikioi been this basho? In an ugly affair against M9 Takarafuji where neither rikishi really threw any shoves and no one was at the belt, Ikioi slowly retreated staying low trying to manufacture anything, but in the process, he just stepped his foot carelessly across the straw giving Takarafuji (6-6) the isami-ashi win. I know they ruled it oshi-dashi, but this was a sloppy isami-ashi from Ickyoi who falls to just 2-10.

M2 Yoshikaze worked his way into moro-zashi against M6 Terunofuji from the tachi-ai, but that doesn't mean much because you next have to move the beast beyond the straw, and the former Komusubi couldn't do it. Didn't really come close as Terunofuji dug in with a left kote-nage counter throw that rendered the Monster Drink flat enough to where Terunofuji turned the tables and bludgeoned Yoshikaze out kime-taoshi style. This reminded a lot of Terunofuji's first ever Makuuchi bout against Myogiryu. Dude picks up kachi-koshi at 8-4, and the elders in the Association are already aware of this kid's potential. And yes, he's Mongolian. Yoshikaze falls to 5-7 in defeat.

M6 Myogiryu's plan was to keep M5 Chiyootori away from the belt, and while he never did bully his foe around, the tactic worked as Myogiryu was quick and crafty enough to stay on the move until he could pull Chiyootori off balance and then assume the lower attacking stance. Chiyootori gave it a great effort, but he never did settle into his brand of sumo as Myogiryu scored the eventual push-out win in the end. mYogi Bear picks up kachi-koshi at 8-4 while Chiyootori falls to 5-7.

M16 Chiyomaru met M7 Jokoryu with the moro-te-zuki and forced the bout to oshi sumo early on rebuffing Jokoryu's advances for about 10 seconds. Jokoryu next committed on getting to the inside but gave up the careless left outer grip in the now migi-yotsu affair, but Chiyomaru looked a bit lost at the belt, and after both rikishi grabbed their breath, Jokoryu pulled the trigger on a right inside belt throw that threw Chiyomaru off balance and all the way over to the edge setting up the yori-kiri win and Jokoryu's moving to 9-3. Chiyomaru is denied KK yet again at 7-5.

M8 Toyohibiki actually faced M15 Gagamaru at his own game--yotsu-zumo--and still schooled him. After taking advantage of Gagamaru's hands that were up high by securing moro-zashi, the Hutt began to settle into his stance when Gagamaru went for a maki-kae with the right arm, but the move was as smooth as a baby giraffe taking its first steps, and Toyohibiki easily cleaned up the mess with the quick force out win. Great stuff from Ibiki today as he moves to 6-6 while Gagamaru is dangerously on the brink at 5-7.

M8 Chiyotairyu psyched himself out prior to the tachi-ai against M10 Toyonoshima thinking he was an easy pull-down target, and so after failing to offer a single shove against Tugboat, he found himself with only a weak left kote-nage position that Toyonoshima easily exploited by securing moro-zashi and showing Tairyu the door straightway. Both fellas have been decent at 8-4.

M15 Tokitenku wasted his tachi-ai going for a slow developing hari-te with the left against M9 Kitataiki backing to the side a bit in the process, and while he did gain a shallow moro-zashi for his efforts, Kitataiki of all rikishi pinched in hard from the outside and forced Tokitenku over and out kime-dashi style. Both fellows are 5-7.

M10 Tokushoryu stalled at the tachi-ai, and all that did was give M14 Azumaryu more time to think, and his decision was a henka to his left that threw Tokushoryu off from the start. Azumaryu came out of the fray with moro-zashi and then used it to chase his opponent to the edge, around a bit, and finally out. Nothing good came of this bout as Azumaryu moves to 7-5 while Tokushoryu falls to 3-9.

M11 Sadanoumi was close to moro-zashi from the tachi-ai with the left firmly inside and the right flirting with the inside, but M13 Okinoumi cut off that right leaving them in hidari-yotsu. Sadanoumi was impatient, however, and went for a quick maki-kae with the right giving Okinoumi the momentum shift he needed to pounce into the force out win. Bad move by the youngster as both rikishi end the day 5-7.

It was at this point in the broadcast that they announced the retirement of Takanoyama. The announcers gave him his due props still amazed that he was able to make it to Makuuchi several times despite his beanpole frame. You gotta hand it to the dude. He did take his lumps and the usual kidding from us at ST, but what he accomplished was admirable considering his physical resources.  It's not yet clear what he'll do after retirement, but I know we do have one avid reader whom Takanowaka considers family, and so we'll all find out soon.

What? Have I covered every single bout today? Not sure what's gotten into me, but M12 Kyokushuho leaned inward at the tachi-ai looking for the inside, but he simply gave up the left outer to M14 Kagamioh in the process. All Kagami needed was a firm position on the right, which he got, and he easily bullied Shuho over and out from there leaving both dudes at 4-8.

M17 Arawashi moved right to grab the cheap outer grip which he used to just drag M12 Kyokutenho over to the edge sending him out with a shove to the back'a the right shoulder. Picking on the elderly with a henka is uncouth as Arawashi moves to 7-5 while Kyokutenho falls to 5-7.

Finally, M13 Sokokurai moved cheaply to his right also in order to grab the outer grip against M16 Wakanosato, and when you gain such an advantage against a guy in his late thirties, it wont be close. Sokokurai moves to 7-5 with the win while Don Sato's make-koshi is official at 4-8. The first two bouts on the day were total monkey see monkey do where young'un exploited their elders with lame henka.

That does it for me and day 12. Martin will give it another go tomorrow, and just where can I go to make comments in the meantime?

Day 11 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)
Well, I've been gone for four months, and it looks like I came back at just the right time. Readers are up in arms, tinfoil hats are being tossed around like grenades, and now, it's suddenly a yusho race again (spoiler alert!). Gotta love the Sumotalk action, even when the action on the dohyo isn't always up to par.

Let me start with a mild defense of the banzuke, which Mike has been ripping, directly and indirectly, for a long time. While I appreciate that the level of sumo talent dropped, especially after the yaocho scandal, I think we're seeing things start to pick up. A lot of the guys in Makuuchi have been around a while now, with fresh faces only sticking around if they show a lot of promise. There is a lot of young talent, like Takayasu, Chiyotairyu, Tochinowaka, and Jokoryu, who have been getting schooled on the big stage for a while and are still just entering their primes. 101 Kg. skinny white guy Takanoyama would not be able to sneak up to this level any more. And for as much as I liked watching him, that's a good thing for the state of sumo.

Where the banzuke has been weak is just under the top. By top, I only mean Hakuho. There's no real competition or consideration for that. The gap is so wide right now, even with two other Yokozuna, that we have to worry each basho about someone being able to step up and even challenge for a yusho. It's bad enough to have lost Asashoryu. But we really need a healthy, motivated Baruto right about now. I know the big guy's not coming down that path to the dohyo again, but I hope this could be a wake up call. The Association is going to have to get a modern perspective on injuries in sports and think a little harder about how to keep the best and most exciting rikishi on the banzuke. (Here, I'll admit defeat for the near term, since we know how progressive sumo is.)

What's with all the wind-up? Well, it does lead us back to the match today, where the competition looks quite weak. Here's the setup: Hakuho is undefeated and looking his usual self, handling the upper Maegashira by letting them take their best shots and then turning the tables. One loss back are W11 Takayasu and Ozeki Kotoshogiku, and you can guess their chances in a fair fight with El Yokozuna Grande. Geeku has never won more than 12 in Makuuchi, and that one occasion just happened to come at his Ozeki promotion. The regular Japanese hopeful, Kisenosato, just lost his third bout yesterday. Harumafuji, who is the closest thing to a serious challenger we've got (he once won three out of four yusho -- all zensho yusho! -- but that was starting two years ago in Nagoya), already had his third loss. Kakuryu's lone loss to Osunaarashi made him nominally the main challenger until Day 10, when he dropped one to Goeido. Gak.

Oh, but Mike has been telegraphing this all basho long. Because, Goeido may have lost two of his first six, but two losses puts him into this ugly yusho race. If only Hakuho wasn't so dominant ...

Goeido Totally Overpowers Hakuho?

Well, well. A chance for the Ozeki hopeful to not only get a win on the Dai Yokozuna, but a chance to pull within one win on the leaderboard. Sorry, those of you on the anti-Mike bandwagon. Debate amongst the writers here would be more fun, but I can't help you out with a match like this.

Hakuho starts with a solid tachi-ai and gets inside position and a chance at moro-zashi. If this match is straight up, it's over and done right here. I don't care if it's a healthy Baruto, Asashoryu in his prime, you name him, he's toast. He could grab a strong right mae-mawashi grip, go either inside or outside with his left, and control the match. Even the commentator says "Oh, he had moro-zashi. He lost it." Which is all he could say, since Goeido did absolutely nothing to take it away.

At the moment that Hakuho gives up inside position with the left, he uses his inside right hand in the least effective way he can without actually waving a white flag with it. He just puts it in Goeido's armpit and leaves it there. An actual sumo move would be to push up with that right hand to create leverage and prevent Goeido from getting an outside left. Another actual sumo move would be to establish a grip on the mawashi before giving up his left inside position to get an outside grip (although even that would mean giving up moro-zashi on purpose). He did neither of these and instead opened himself up to attack like a can of tuna in front of a hungry cat.

Goeido's getting used to this Fancy Feast treatment by now and knows to act quickly. He took the Yokozuna to the edge right away, forcing Mr. Zenshou to bend his back like he's in the fight of his life. After circling around a bit, they ended up in migi-yotsu, in what looked like a pretty neutral position. So the Yokozuna attacked this time, but it was incredibly awkward. He put his feet together, almost one on top of the other, which breaks rule number 0 in sumo. Rule number 1 is "Don't align your feet." Rule number 0, which is normally too obvious to state, is "Don't put your feet together." And it's probably followed by "Baka da na!" ("idiot!") if it needs to be said to someone who actually does sumo. So when he breaks rule number 0, surprise!, he falls over.

It's an ugly way for Hakuho to lose a match, failing so badly to execute a throw that he's done professionally one gross (144) times before. I can't even say that his feet slipped -- they appear to go exactly how he intends. Sigh.

The Rest of the "Leaders"

I'm also going to have to call it a soft match (I'll whip out the mukiryoku call for this one) for Harumafuji against now co-leader Kotoshogiku. Granted, Harumafuji often has a tough time with the bigger Ozeki. I'd call most of those losses clean enough. But if he wants to win, he has to play to his strengths and move around the ring (a fine example from May). Trying to just drive straightforward basically ensures a loss, and that's what happened.

Geeku certainly has looked springier this go around and maybe he's more completely shook off his various injuries, but that was a gift. The most generous interpretation here is that the Yokozuna is drinking heavily each night and is not on his game. And I certainly can't rule that out.

Kakuryu remained one back by slapping Takekaze around. The Yokozuna is 17-0 against the Windy one, and this was just a breeze (sorry ... but not really sorry).

Takayasu could have gotten a share of the lead today. He's only paired with W5 Endo tomorrow, which is pretty dumb from the association. He had his KK and should have gotten a couple of jo'i lined up by now. In Aki of last year, he was Komusubi, so it's not like Jokoryu and Endo were impossible for him to beat. And he would then be sitting with a share of the lead at 11-1 after 12 days, with no significant wins. Yuck.

Fortunately, that thought became just mental masturbation (Double Yuck! I just grossed myself out here) when Takayasu laid a big egg against Jokoryu. The pair came out all pushy-slappy at the tachi-ai, and Takayasu went for the Shohozan-style 1-2-3-4 quick thrust attack, with Shohozan-style ineffectiveness in those thrusts. Then the two rikishi each took turns with nodowa attempts, again not particularly effective except at keeping each other at bay. Finally, Joker tried something different. He got a left outside grip, spun Takayasu halfway around, and led him out in a hurry. Jokoryu gets his kachi-koshi, while Takayasu likely saves the association from having to pair him with a Yokozuna on Day 14.

Some Other Bouts

In one of the better bouts of the day, Kisenosato was up against Tamawashi. Tamawashi had a great tachi-ai, with solid inside positioning backed up by effective de-ashi that drove Kise back to the straw. The Kid, of course, had committed his usual sumo flaw of starting outside-in with his right arm aiming wide. Compare that with Hakuho's bout, where Hakuho starts with sound sumo and then undermines it on purpose. Kise has this habit of just starting in the bad position. Either way, your opponent will generally take advantage and drive you backwards.

At the edge, however, Kisenosato got a grip (pretty sure that line's never graced these pages before ...). A left inside grip to be precise, and then a right outer. And while you'd think it would be pretty academic from there, Tamawashi retained a lower body position and a left inner grip to work with. So Kise had to muscle his partner around a bit, before Tamawashi sensed the danger and seemed to try a shitate-nage with his left hand. Kise was in position to counter, kept mostly bodied up to his opponent, and ended up on top as they fell into abise-taoshi. The Kid gets his KK, but leaves the crowd looking to others for Hope. Tamawashi has looked OK to me, despite being 2-9, and may yet make a run at Komusubi in the near future if he learns from these beatings.

Kaisei enjoyed a nice headlock on Aminishiki today. Both guys with the MK.

Osunaarashi won what looked like a clean bout today. ^_^. A quick hit and shift at the tachi-ai got him a cheap left grip, followed by a throw and slap down combination. Lame stuff considering what these two could have put together in heavy thrusting battle.

Shohozan and Ikioi had a spirited but unaesthetic tsuppari battle to start their match, with Shohozan making a bit more headway. Ikioi seemed to understand that a grappling battle was a better bet, got bodied up but without any grip, and tried to move forward. Shohozan took advantage of the hasty move by using a quick maki-kae to get his left arm inside, slipping to his right, and grabbing an arm bar on Ikioi's left in quick succession. The resulting kote-nage was pretty much textbook. Both guys are already headed down the banzuke.

If you're down here in my report, looking for a take on Endoh, then here it is: Elvis won yet again with backwards moving sumo. Kitataiki is skilled on the mawashi, so it's not a huge surprise that he took control of the match in the middle. But it's hard to make a big case for your future in sumo when that's happening.

There is surprisingly little to say about the Myogiryu-Terunofuji bout. These are two guys I would like to see in a lot of bouts. Myogiryu attacked hard from the tachi-ai, as he is wont to do, but his left hand had a glancing blow on Terror-of-Fuji's chest/shoulder and went up into the sky. Mr. Terror jumped on this to get under Yogi Bear's left pit. Hey, Hakuho -- you should have tried this! Because that was enough leverage to turn the match around and let the big Terror bully mYogi around and throw him down sukui-nage style. Both are solid at 7-4.

And a (likely) final shout out to the Croc! A nice recovery after losing the initial charge led to an outside right grip that kept him alive throughout a long match, which was enough when Kyokushuho stepped out accidently. An appropriately generous yori-kiri call for Wakanosato.

That's it for me. It should be a wild final few days. Take it for what it is, which is entertainment. Have fun! Let Mike be one source of trying to make sense of the mess, or complain about it in the comments. Either way, we'll see you at Aki, maybe with a new Ozeki.

Day 10 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
It's been a wild basho hasn't it? Lot's of say whaaaaat to go around a few times and back again?

Just as we thought, the outrageously dominant Mongolian Mafia started the basho like He-Men, easily tossing nihonjin into every corner of the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. But then suddenly these guys…lower ranked consistently drubbed guys, guys who never been in the Yokozuna neighborhood before, "low on the totem pole for who knows how long" kinda guys, started beating down on the Mongoru triumvirate.

First Yoshikaze grabs kin-boshi number 1 by taking down Harumafuji in a slap happy fisticuff affair that saw Monster Drink dictate the whole bout.

Then on his first time ever facing a Yokozuna, the alibaba of brouhaha, Osunaarashi, tossed Kakuryu off the hill (kin-boshi number 2). The very next day he tears off another Yokozuna scalp and throws down Harumafuji, AFTER the Yokozuna had already gently eased himself to the turf (kin-boshi number 3) . The thug tried to get in on the action. He really did!

And just when we least expected the unexpected, Sir Henka himself, Takekaze, who has NEVER faired well against Yokozuna types, beats Harumafuji for yet another surprising kin-boshi (number 4).

Equally surprising for me was Osuna's lack of kachi-age against Endo a few days earlier…we all remember how Elvis took a taxi to queer street courtesy of Osuna's forearm last basho.

And the rikishi weren't the only ones acting strange…what about all that whining about Hakuho roughing up Homasho? We love Sho-Am-Sweet but this is a man's sport…it can and should get violent (that's why we're not up there genius)…it's wrestling for C O L!

Yes, once again, it feels as if there are two entirely different contests every night - the first half (lower ranks) = smash mouth, honest bouts…the second half ("elite" rikishi) = well not so much. Last night we were treated with a graphic demonstration of just how pronounced that contrast has become as young bazookas, Terunofuji and Osunaarashi, went at it like two lions fighting over a fresh kill…but more on that fracas later.

So coming off all of these bizarro world results and the Sumotalk theories that spun around them, I've surmised that sumo is much like the Push Up or Push Pop. You remember…the delicious frozen treat you gotta push through a cardboard tube with a stick. I'll explain…

The sinking feeling that something's amiss is consistently slammed up against the heartfelt enthusiasm we all share for sumo, thus creating a kind of inner turmoil (thanks Mike, it's all your fault!). I mean as much as we don't like to rain on our own parades, the fact is yaocho exists and the pursuit of truth does (and should) temper our excited responses to everything we witness on the dohyo (and the rest of existence as we know it on YouTube). All things considered, it's a lot to go through for any sport right?

Well to that I say - "So what?".

The lower ranks provide me with mucho excitement AND when the jo'i spits out hard fought pure sumo goodness it feels Bubble Yum sweet. The drama when these men fight to stay "in the show" is an emotional ride (the lovable Wakanosato comes to mind) and I also dig the fact that a goodly portion of the Japanese culture swirls around every minute of these broadcasts. Like you, sometimes I gotta rewind the "tape" repeatedly trying to understand why that rikishi tumbled over when his opponent was pushing him in the opposite direction. And I get that Mike's searing reviews and surgeon like analysis may kick that "jump up and cheer" moment right in the walnuts - but it's worth it. Yeah, it does seem like a lot of work. Beyond putting on the right sweat pants and properly loading up the snack tray, watching sports is supposed to be effortless. But the greatest pleasures ALWAYS require at least a little massaging (Playboy magazine taught me that years ago).

So sumo is kinda like the Push Pop. "You gotta work to get it. Massage it a little. A lot of people don't wanna put in the time, but not this guy." And when something sublime takes place on the odd mound of clay, you know nothing's gonna keep you from digging your way through to the next day of Japan's national sport.

Well whatever is afoot, the venues ARE getting filled on a nightly basis and right now I'm glued in front of my flat screen, Push Up in hand, ready for Nagoya Basho 2014 - Day 10!

This basho has given us all the opportunity to take a closer look at M16 Wakanosato's career. On Day 9's interview he verbalized his unabashed love for sumo and how, just like life, sumo bouts turn on a split second.

On Day 10 the erratic M9 Takarafuji got the jump on him and hit the line a second before Don Sato, pushing him back to the rope. The Gangstuh fought back, twisting and shoving his way to the center of the ring and both men settled into a brief hidari-yotsu stalemate. Wakanosato grabbed at T'fuji's belt with his right arm but he's not called the Croc for nuthin' and he failed to reach mawashi. Takarafuji locked his arms underneath Don Sato's armpits and worked him to the line and out for an oshi-dashi win. T'fooj is at 4-6 and we may have to savor the remaining moments of Wakanosato's (3-7) return to Makuuchi 'cos it's lookin' a heap like his swan song.

M8 Chiyotairyu has somehow backed up into a 7-2 record while M11 Takayasu has displayed a relatively strong variety of kimari-te to earn an early kachi-koshi. The two rikishi met with solid contact at the gun but Takayasu quickly stepped to his right and yanked ChiaPet around by his belt preventing Mike's bugaboo from throwing up his usual tsuppari attack. Chiyo played along and grabbed Taka's belt but alas his foe had achieved moro-zashi and easily walked him into the loss column. Chiyotairyu (7-3) has to wait for kachi-koshi while Takayasu's yori-kiri keeps him (numerically) in the yusho race at 9-1.

M13 Sokokurai got worked mightily by M7 Jokoryu who seems to be finding himself in Nagoya. After announcing his arrival by making a scary face at Sokokurai, he drove hard off the tachi-ai (keeping his hands low against Soko's chest) standing him up and then shoving him back in 2 seconds flat. Jokester is on the verge at 7-3 and Sokokurai (6-4) heads back to his heya to work on his game plan for the Chiyotairyu bout on Day 11.

Before his bout, veteran beach ball M10 Toyonoshima employed his own scary face to try and strike fear in M6 Myogiryu's heart, but I don't think it worked. Yogi has been huntin' for bear in Nagoya and gotta say its been great seeing him man up so hard again. From the gate Myogiryu's first order of biz was to keep Toyo away from his belt. Every time Toyo would lean into Yogi's body and reach for his mawashi Myogiryu would tsuppari him back with energetic shoves. The two men separated briefly and Yogi straight armed his left hand against Toyonoshima's shoulder and held him at bay. Suddenly Myogiryu said enough of this and just drove into Toyo's body and bullied him back and off the dohyo for a confident yori-kiri vic.

As much as I believe in M5 Endo's ability to recover from this first set of eye opening losses, it's not helping him to be chaperoned towards kachi-koshi so blatantly (after his first basho, his Makuuchi reality check has been an initiation of fire for the kid and I'm thinking he'll begin to come on stronger as the hard earned lessons set in) . I mean come on, M3 Kaisei shouldn't be cutting Elvis slack like this. Take a look at the photos. When a guy touches and lets go of his opponent's belt (twice) and then eases himself out of bounds, you gotta at least scratch your head. When you view the match you can't help but wonder what Endo did to win this really?

At the tachi-ai Endo got shoved back precariously aligning his feet, but Kaisei suddenly decided to back up while Endo searched for some kinda belt hold or positive body positioning. Kaisei's long arms allowed him to repeatedly reach Endo's mawashi but he chose instead not to grab it nor did he plant his feet to stop his unearned backward motion (Endo was just too powerful?). The crowd goes wild as Endo skates to 5-5 while Baby Huey hits the skids at 2-8.

Mike and I emailed each other at the same time after seeing the M6 Terunofuji / M3 Osunaarashi bout. Hey, you wanna see sumo when it's full on, no BS, kick out the jams wrasslin'?! Compare this action with the previous (Endo) match…place it next to most of the goings on in the last 30 minutes of each night. Every real match won't be this good but if this fight don't make you ask some questions about the waltzing around we've been seeing in the joi…well "Mozart", you probably think some notes are louder than others on a harpsichord.

I was hoping these two young beasts would go at it (Mike has been touting Terunofuji's skills and mindset for a while) and man did they…44 seconds of kick ass sumo by two guys that know how to brawl, like to mix it up and want to win!

Osuna greeted Terunofuji with a vicious kachi-age that tore his head back and arched his torso, but Fuji the Terrible shrugged it off and kept moving into the body. Osuna did NOT want Teru to gain any kinda zashi whatsoever so he circled away and began his preferred tsuppari bombardment, connecting numerous times to the iron jawed Mongolian. Teru did not strike back…he's seen the Egyptian's game before…he sought instead (and found) some hidari-yotsu and the two giants leaned into each other center ring. It was NOT the usual mid-ring sleeper…quite the contrary because they strong armed each other…yanking and fighting for leverage. At one point Osunaarashi seemed to get moro-zashi but Terrible make-kaed quickly and got the inside belt. It felt like the young Mongoru had a plan…like this was his territory. They each jockeyed for a better grip and then suddenly Terunofuji had both hands right where he wanted them…securely gripping The Thug's belt!

The end of the match was stupendous as Osu lifted his opponent and attempted a powerful uwate-nage, but Terunofuji was too aggressive…his footwork too strong and he turned Osu around brought him across the dohyo and gave him his own taste of serious uwate-nage…tossing him out of bounds. Teru gave him a look at the end as if to say "You ain't so bad". Although the customary smile was on the Egyptian's face he knew he'd been in a real bout. Both men receive 5 stars for a great effort that should serve as a paradigm for how it's done. Osu falls to 4-6 while Terunofuji rockets to 6-4.

Ozekster Kisenosato who seems to be sleep walking through his matches (and still has risen to 7-2) faced off against the newly revitalized O Z Kotoshogiku. Kotoshogiku simply bulldozed Kise back and off the dohyo like a pile of yellow snow (yori-taoshi was the call). The surprisingly dainty Kisenosato attempted a weak kotex-nage at the end but he knew (as did we all) he was goin' down. Koto (who looked at one point like he was leaning against Kisenosato for balance) is at an atomic 9-1 while the Kid tiptoes through a field of 7-3.

At the tachi-ai, another supreme powerhouse, Ozeki Goeido, whiffed on a woefully insincere kachi-age against Yokozuna Kakuryu, but it was still enough to scare his opponent into running for shelter. KookooClock kinda grabbed at Goeido's noggin' but decided instead to just give up and step out of the winner's circle. Kudo's for Goeido (8-2) for attempting to keep up with the much faster Kak (8-2). The loss was attributed to Kakuryu (oshi-dash- awayski).

M4 Tamawashi, who finds himself in the forest of the giants, achieved a solid nodowa into Harumafuji's neck and did his best Fred Flintstone imitation running in place. The Yokozuna quickly turned and allowed his foe's momentum to carry him out of bounds. Tama gets an A for effort but well you know. To-tari was to-tally the right call as Haru strolls through the glen at 7-3 and Tamawashi struggles amongst the redwoods at 2-8.

Finally, dai Yokozuna, Captain Interview, faced M4 "Yokozuna Killer" Takekaze. After a rapid harite to Take's mug Hakuho just walked forward and achieved a quick yori-kiri. Hak is a perfect 10 and Take (who dared not henka the King) is a surprising 7-3.

Well that's it for me in Nagoya, and I again want to thank all of you in this angry mob of sumo fans for reading my take on stuff…know that I'll be watching all the action right along with everyone. And if I'm ever not available I'll ask this obvious sumo fan what I missed…

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Today was a holiday in Japan, and so you had a dynamite combination providing color with Mainoumi in the main broadcast booth and Takamisakari in the mukou joumen chair. NHK and the Association followed that up with a theme that permeated the broadcast focusing squarely on Hakuho and how he currently compares with the two rikishi he's chasing for his place in history, Chiyonofuji and Taiho.

We've seen a lot of yaocho the first eight days, and I'm quite sure we're not through, but I don't see Hakuho dropping more than one bout and falling out of contention for the yusho, so I think the large audience was being prepped today for Hakuho crossing over that 30 yusho threshold and ultimately reaching the 33 yusho mark to set the all time record. It's my opinion that Hakuho dropped a lot of bouts and sacrificed a lot of yusho the last five years in order to prolong his run, but the banzuke is so weak that Hakuho's becoming the greatest of all time is a given.

The first graphic they showed was the current yusho tally that looks like this:

Taiho: 32
Chiyonofuji: 31
Hakuho: 29

That was followed up by another graphic depicting how many times the three reached kachi-koshi by day 8 (called nakabi kachi-koshi). Those numbers look like this:

Hakuho: 34
Chiyonofuji: 25
Taiho: 22

Hakuho just destroys the other two in that category, but that can best be explained by the third graphic they showed, the number of kin-boshi given up by the Yokozuna (a kin-boshi is a Yokozuna's losing to a Maegashira rikishi). Those numbers are as follows:

Hakuho: 8 (spanning 42 basho)
Taiho: 28 (spanning 58 basho)
Chiyonofuji: 29 (spanning 59 basho)

Normally, a Yokozuna will give up a kin-boshi every two basho as reflected in Taiho and Chiyonofuji's numbers, but Hakuho only averages one just over every five basho. That doesn't spell Hakuho's greatness nearly as much as it spells a horrible banzuke and weak competition the last seven years. It's just a different sport these days, and the Japanese people are about as interested in sumo as the rikishi, and so that's why the Mongolians are dominating to this extent.

It's also indicative of why there are so many yaocho in favor of the Japanese rikishi. If sumo were fought at a free market level, you'd rarely have a Japanese rikishi win more than about nine bouts. Using yaocho, the Association can at least create the semblance of Japanese Ozeki and strong Sekiwake although the current crop could be nothing further from the truth.

The final set of numbers NHK showed were the number of times each of the three Yokozuna went kyujo in their careers as Yokozuna. These numbers are broken out as follows:

Hakuho: 0
Chiyonofuji: 11
Taiho: 12

Once again, Chiyonofuji and Taiho are par for the course while Hakuho's number is a huge outlier, and the way to interpret these numbers is to factor in the toll taken on the bodies of these guys as they perform(ed) sumo. Hakuho hasn't had anyone capable of roughing him up since he was promoted to Yokozuna whereas the other two constantly fought on banzuke with legitimate Yokozuna, Ozeki who would easily qualify for Yokozuna in this day and age, and Sekiwake who would easily qualify as Ozeki.

Hopefully these Hakuho numbers help explain why I am calling so much yaocho because the number of yaocho present in sumo is directly related to the level of strength of the Japanese rikishi. In other words, weak Japanese rikishi = high number of yaocho. Hakuho is great, but he's not that much greater than Taiho and Chiyonofuji as the aforementioned statistics suggest.

With that said, let's get to the leaderboard working our way up in chronological order meaning we start with M11 Takayasu and his most difficult opponent to date in M6 Myogiryu. This bout wasn't even close as Myogiryu slammed into Takayasu at the tachi-ai getting his right arm to the inside and using his left arm like a delayed kachi-age driving it into Takayasu's gut and sending him off balance and off the dohyo in two seconds flat. Takayasu falls to 8-1 with the loss and was never a serious yusho threat anyway. Myogiryu sails to 6-3 with the nice win.

Yokozuna Hakuho breezed his way into the right inside / left outer grip position against the hapless M4 Tamawashi and just dragged The Mawashi by the mawashi all the way over to the edge setting up the easy okuri-dashi win. Hakuho moves into sole possession of the lead at 9-0 while Tamawashi falls to 2-7.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku's keeping pace with Hakuho would have to come at the expense of our only one loss rikishi coming in, Yokozuna Kakuryu, but the Kak wasn't cooperating getting his right arm to the inside early and then just moving out left and pulling Kotoshogiku over to the edge and out with ease. That Kakuryu beat the Ozeki with such average sumo shows just how fake Kotoshogiku's 8-0 start was. The result is both rikishi sitting at 8-1 along with Takayasu as Hakuho moves into sole possession of first place at 9-0.

In other bouts of interest, M4 Takekaze henka'd Yokozuna Harumafuji to his left and pulled the Yokozuna off balance to the point where he was teetering on the edge and only required a final shove out from Takekaze to pick up the quick and dirty win not to mention his first career kin-boshi. Takekaze moves to 7-2 with the cheap win, and we'll see if Harumafuji (6-3) even cares to pay him back later.

M5 Chiyootori had the clear path to moro-zashi against Ozeki Kisenosato but failed to partake keeping his hands extended upward and away from the deep inside position even though Kisenosato was completely upright. Kisenosato finally began a weak oshi attack that apparently sent Chiyootori back forcing him to escape around the ring's edge, and in the process, Chiyootori was thrust wildly down to the dirt...by his own volition. With his feet sprawling upwards in exaggerated fashion, Kisenosato went for a slap down, but it was too late...Chiyootori already took care of that for him by executing as ugly a dive as you'd care to see. This is getting so ridiculous, I'm not even going to bother posting a video of this as Kisenosato moves to 7-2 while Chiyootori falls--emphasis on the word fall--to 3-6. The only legitimate move this entire bout was when Chiyootori did the hussle and knocked his hip into the ref's body sending him over and down at the edge of the ring. It took the old man forever to pull himself back up off the dirt and point the gunbai in favor of Kisenosato, but the Ozeki still muttered in the gyoji's direction, "man that dude is fast."

Sekiwake Goeido absorbed M1 Shohozan's moro-te-zuki charge and then just backed up outta the way allowing Shohozan to stumble straight forward and down onto all his girth. This sumo was so lame that hardly anyone in the audience even reacted, but as quiet as the response to this one was, it was a rock concert compared to the ending of the Kisenosato bout. Anyway, you look at Goeido's record at 7-2 and think that he's having a good basho, but it couldn't be further from the truth. When his opponents don't let him win, he scrounges wins against inferior rikishi like this. Shohozan's 2-7 defines inferior.

In my comments yesterday, I explained how Osunaarashi was given two for one with two wins over Yokozuna in exchange for a loss to Goeido. Well, that assessment was entirely wrong I'm sorry to say as I failed to notice Osunaarashi fighting Endoh today, and the math finally worked itself out as Osunaarashi offered another lame kachi-age with the right arm allowing Endoh to grab the early right outer grip with the left inside position to boot, and as Endoh moved in close, he gave up the right outer to Osunaarashi as well, but winning wasn't on the Muslim's mind. After a brief struggle in the center of the ring and a half-assed outer belt attempt from the Ejyptian, Endoh ended the funny bidness with an outer belt throw of his own sending the Nagoya faithful into a frenzy. Both rikishi fall to 4-5, and just like that, Endoh is now on par with Osunaarashi and also the two Yokozuna whom Osunaarashi beat heading into the weekend. Pretty nifty how it all works innit?

M8 Chiyotairyu and M6 Terunofuji treated us to a bout that lasted three minutes. I guess "treat" isn't the best word to use as the two bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai and then settled into the hidari-yotsu position where Chiyotairyu wisely kept his can so far back that his torso was parallel to the dohyo. Sensing I'd have a bitta time on my hands, I pulled out Physical Graffiti and listened to that timeless Zeppelin classic, In My Time of Dying. When that was through, I thought I saw Terunofuji go for a counter right kote-nage, but I turned back to my record collection and next selected Wish You Were Here and pondered a little bit to Pink Floyd's Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and just as the song ended, I remembered that I was reporting on the sumos and looked back up at the TV just in time to see Chiyotairyu commit on a charge lifting Terunofuji upright, grabbing moro-zashi, and ending the contest nearly as fast as it had begun. How in the hell did Chiyotairyu creep into a 7-2 record? Terunofuji falls to 5-4.

And finally, they featured M16 Wakanosato prior to the bouts (and why wouldn't they?!), and dude's a pretty good painter. Leading the life of a Gangstuh can be distressing, and so Don revealed that he unwinds by doing oil paintings. Pretty sweet. It musta been good karma to feature him like that because he came out against M10 Tokushoryu and survived a weak henka to Tokushoryu's left coming out of the fray with the left inside position and right outer grip to boot. As Tokushoryu tried to counter with a left inside belt throw, Wakanosato one-upped him with a right outer that sent Tokushoryu down to the clay in about four seconds.

Kane saves me from myself tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I'm not sure where Martin's day 7 report is, but the biggest talking point by far from the day was the easy win by Sekiwake Goeido over M3 Osunaarashi. I wasn't sure why the two Yokozuna just gave Osunaarashi wins on consecutive days Thursday and Friday, but as I speculated in my day 6 report, a Goeido win over Osunaarashi fresh off of his two kin-boshi would really make Goeido look good. I wrote those comments under the assumption that the Goeido - Osunaarashi bout would be fought straight up; it didn't hit me that Osunaarashi would actually just lie down and let Goeido win.

His usual kachi-age tachi-ai was half-assed and his feet were completely aligned. When Goeido moved a bit left at the tachi-ai, Osunaarashi didn't even bother squaring back up but left his right arm up high allowing Goeido to get the easy left on that side. With Osunaarashi just standing there straight up, Goeido bulldozed him back and out in two seconds. The Ejyptian did go for a token counter pull, but he didn't move laterally ensuring that the Goeido win would be decisive. So, I guess the two for one was Osunaarashi's official baptism into the jo'i, and how things really work at the top of the banzuke.

Now that we're moving into day 8, let's turn our focus to the leaderboard, which holds about as much excitement of one of those shogi broadcasts on NHK. Heading into the day were three rikishi at 7-0 in Hakuho, Kotoshogiku, and Takayasu. Hakuho is a given, Kotoshogiku has clearly been propped up so far, and Takayasu is putting forth a fine effort, but when was the last time anyone from the Maegashira really threatened for the yusho? Sitting back at one loss is Yokozuna Kakuryu and M16 Chiyomaru, so let's start with those five.

The most compelling match of the day featured Yokozuna Hakuho and M3 Osunaarashi. It's my opinion that the Ejyptian hasn't been involved in a straight-up match for the three days now, so what would happen today against the best ever? The two hooked up early in the migi-yotsu position where Hakuho gained the left outer grip first, but curiously, the Yokozuna just stood there and ultimately let Osunaarashi grab a left outer grip of his own. As the two dug in, Osunaarashi made the first move going for a right scoop throw, but Hakuho just laughed it off and dug back in. At about the one minute five second mark, Osunaarashi went for two more right scoop throws that Hakuho easily survived and then he finally threw Osunaarashi over and down with a good left belt throw.

Hakuho could have won this bout in under 10 seconds had he wanted, so it was curious to watch him prolong this for over a minute. As I alluded to in my intro, I think the three Yokozuna have buoyed Osunaarashi up because it makes Goeido's win over him that much more impressive. I mean, can't you make the argument that Goeido beat Osunaarashi in three seconds while it took Hakuho 1:25? It will come up as part of the discussion of promoting Goeido to Ozeki, and so that's why I think we've seen the three Yokozuna go so easy on him. When was the last time a Hakuho bout lasted over a minute? It had to have come against Baruto, and while Osunaarashi has the potential to become a Baruto, he's not even close to the former Ozeki right now, so to see this bout go so long with about seven total seconds of action was a joke. Regardless, Hakuho moves to 8-0 with the win, but I'm sure there's a loss for him somewhere in week 2. Osunaarashi is now level at 4-4 and his debut among the jo'i has been totally tainted with at least five unsavory bouts.

Next up, M4 Tamawashi let Ozeki Kotoshogiku off the hook after catching him squarely at the tachi-ai with his tsuppari attack and driving the Ozeki quickly back to the straw. Kotoshogiku moved right but only to survive, not to counter, and Tamwashi was onto him again, but for some reason he relented, turned his back to the tawara facing the Ozeki, and then kept his arm up high waiting for Kotoshogiku to get the deep left inside position. Once obtained, Tamawashi just stood there and didn't even try to counter with a right kote-nage just allowing himself to be pushed back and out by Kotoshogiku, who picks up kachi-koshi with the gift moving to 8-0. Tamawashi falls to 2-6 and had his way with the Ozeki until he decided to let up. Not only did he stand there and wait for Kotoshogiku to assume the left inside position, but he didn't try and evade at the edge, which is a clear sign of yaocho. Kotoshogiku has become Kaio in that former Ozeki's late career, and I imagine they are keeping him around until Goeido gets promoted.

Our final leader, M11 Takayasu, had a rough go against M16 Chiyomaru who fired out of his stance with the moro-te-zuki and bullied Takayasu this way and that. Finally at the ring's edge, Takayasu managed to get his right arm to the inside while Chiyomaru countered with the left outer, but Maru didn't have his opponent braced squarely in front of him with the right arm, so Takayasu moved out left and felled Chiyomaru over and down with a nice tsuki-otoshi counter move at the edge of the ring. I guess it was a good win, but a leader doesn't get bullied around like this by an M16. Still, Takayasu is having a good basho as he picks up kachi-koshi at 8-0 while Chiyomaru falls a notch down the leaderboard to 6-2.

Our final bout of the day involving a leader was Yokozuna Kakuryu who was henka'd by M2 Yoshikaze who moved to his left, but the Yokozuna survived easily, and when Yoshikaze moved forward to attack, Kakuryu henka'd him so to speak moving to his right and pulling Yoshikaze down with ease moving to 7-1 in the process. Yoshikaze falls to 4-4 with the loss.

The biggest bout on the day outside of the leaders was the matchup between Sekiwake Goeido vs. Ozeki Kisenosato. The strange thing was...this matchup would guarantee that there wouldn't be any yaocho on the day involving the two!! Goeido stayed low at the tachi-ai pushing up into Kisenosato's face and easily gaining moro-zashi on the wide open Ozeki. From there, Goeido just drove his legs forward and threw Kisenosato back and out with a nice right scoop throw. Wasn't even close as both rikishi end the day at 6-2, and while Hakuho better not fall all the way back even with Goeido, they key is to get the Sekiwake promoted to Ozeki.

Before we move to the rank and file, it should be mentioned that Sekiwake Tochiohzan withdrew from the basho citing a shoulder injury giving Harumafuji the freebie as he parks at 6-2.

M6 Myogiryu looked for moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M3 Kaisei, but he couldn't quite work the left into position, so as the two settled into the migi-yotsu fight, Kaisei used his long arm to gain the left outer grip, and just like that, Myogiryu didn't have a pot to piss in as Kaisei easily dragged Myogiryu over to the edge and forced him out in seconds. Myogiryu falls to 5-3 with the tough loss while Kaisei picks up his first win at 1-7.

M4 Takekaze had been one of the better rikishi this basho, but he just henka'd to his right against M8 Toyohibiki dragging the Hutt down to the dirt a second in picking up the quick and dirty win. Nothing good about sumo like this as Takekaze moves to 6-2 while Toyohibiki falls to 4-4.

M8 Chiyotairyu displayed a horrible tachi-ai with his palms extended and arms outward, but M5 Endoh couldn't get in close slipping off of a frontal belt grip attempt. With neither rikishi having established position from the charge, the two began firing tsuppari in desperation, and that favors Chiyotairyu who is used to this type of fight. It showed as he easily moved to his right and dragged Endoh down in a lop-sided victory drawing more terrifying bleats from the sheep in the crowd. Normally, Chiyotairyu would have been beaten with a tachi-ai like this, but Endoh doesn't have the strength to take advantage. Chiyotairyu quietly moves to 6-2 with the win, but Endoh is now just 3-5 and could probably use a little bitta help...the kind of help he got from Takarafuji yesterday who had Endoh on the ropes and then suddenly stopped letting Elvis drive him out for the cheapie.

M6 Terunofuji and M10 Toyonoshima bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai, and as Terunofuji looked for the inside position, Toyonoshima ended up in moro-zashi. Still, Terunofuji pinched in hard from the outside totally neutralizing Toyonoshima's moro-zashi and forced Tugboat out with ease via kime-dashi. The reason I comment on this bout is to point out just how big of a beast Terunofuji is. Sure, he's only 5-3 and suffered that knockout punch to Osunaarashi, but this guy is a blob and along with Osunaarashi and a dude named Ichinojo in Juryo, he is one of the leader of the next generation of wrasslers. Toyonoshima is also 5-3.

M12 Kyokutenho's losing to M14 Azumaryu in mere seconds after the two hooked up in the immediate gappuri yotsu position is not a good sign. A second in, Azumaryu shook off Kyokutenho's outer grip and then felled the veteran to the clay with an easy belt throw moving to 4-4. Kyokutenho falls to 3-5, and at M12 has a little breathing room in order to stay in the division for the Aki basho where he'll turn 40, but he's definitely looked his age of late.

I missed my chance to report on a Gangstuh-no-sato win on day 2, so no way I'm going to make that same mistake today. Against M14 Kagamioh, the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Kagamioh grabbed the early right outer, but Don dug in tight, shook off the outer grip once, and then countered with a powerful left scoop throw as Kagamioh (3-5) regained the outer grip and tried to apply pressure. Good stuff from Wakanosato who moves to 2-6 with the win.

And finally, it spells bad news when M15 Gagamaru can't take care of visiting J1 Sadanofuji. The two hooked up in gappuri hidari-yotsu, but it was Sadanofuji who stood firm, shook of Gagamaru's outer grip, and scored the force-out win with easy. May as well swap these two for Aki as Gagamaru falls now to 4-4.

Week 2 means the sanyaku and higher will all be fighting each other, and there will be plenty of drama...just not with the sumo.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Over the past two days I've talked a lot about yaocho in sumo because...well, because there's been a lot of it going on so much so that yaocho is thee story of the basho up to this point. I don't like it going into the day when I'm thinking, 'okay, who's gonna throw what today?' but that's just the reality of the Nagoya basho so far. Day 6 brought another doozy, and this one was the most obvious that I think we've seen in some time--which is saying something, but the peculiar thing is that it involved two foreign rikishi. That's not really something we've seen at all, so I wonder what the reasoning is behind it.

As I stated yesterday, the why and how is just pure speculation on my part, and so when I see two foreigners involved this early in the basho, I wonder if the Sumo Association is just happy to generate headlines. If you can get a guy to do something historic, the media will blast that out and it generates headlines because you can't be out there posting, "Kotoshogiku is undefeated so far thanks to brilliant sumo." I don't know why we're seeing so much yaocho early on in the basho, but for me, finding out why is far more interesting than the yusho race.

On that note, let's touch on bouts of interest only today working our way up the ranks. As much as it pains me to say it, there is no way that M16 Wakanosato can beat M15 Gagamaru. Gagamaru is simply too fat for Don Sato to get any kind of position, and it showed today as Wakanosato actually got moro-zashi after the two bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai, but he couldn't sustain it because his arms couldn't reach around and into Gagamaru's girth sufficiently to apply any pressure. As a result, he released the moro-zashi and went for a right outer grip, which he got, but Yubabamaru had one too and used it to easily survive a counter left dashi-nage from Don and then use the uwate to finish the Gangstuh off for the force out win. Gagamaru has somehow managed to right the ship at 3-3 while Wakanosato falls to 1-5.

M16 Chiyomaru blasted M13 Okinoumi back from the tachi-ai with dual tsuppari, but as he advanced towards his opponent, Okinoumi was able to turn the bout to the belt. Chiyomaru's only hope now was to force the bout back to a push affair, but he backed his way out of the yotsu clash giving the momentum to Okinoumi at that point. While Chiyomaru was able to tsuppari again, the momentum was in the favor of Okinoumi now, and he was a pest at forcing things chest to chest, so Chiyomaru eventually kept pulling his way backwards allowing Okinoumi to lunge into him and force the tip of his toe to touch out of the dohyo before Okinoumi flew out. Chiyomaru drops to 5-1 and needed to be a bit more patient keeping things at oshi-zumo. Okinoumi is 3-3.

I normally would pass over M12 Kyokutenho, but the way he countered against M13 Sokokurai in their hidari-yotsu affair was brilliant. Just as Sokokurai made a move, Tenho slipped outside and maki-kae'd in the process not only turning Sokokurai's back to the tawara, but he now had moro-zashi which led to the easy force-out from there. Both dudes are 3-3.

M10 Tokushoryu's weakness is that he gives up the inside position way to easily. Today he drove M14 Kagamioh back quickly from the start, but he allowed moro-zashi in the process causing Kagamioh (3-3) to turn the tables on the force-out win. Tokushoryu is now just 1-5.

M11 Takayasu moved to 6-0 in a sloppy affair against M14 Toyonoshima that was too wild to break down. The point is that Takayasu was 1-6 head to head coming in, so you know this run of his is for real when he can break precedent like that and defeat Toyonoshima (4-2) at his own cat and mouse game.

M9 Takarafuji and M11 Sadanoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu where Sadanoumi worked his way into an outer grip with the right hand, but just as he went for a soto-gake attempt, Takarafuji (3-3) countered with a left scoop throw that completely turned the tables for the win. I think Sadanoumi (2-4) had this one in the bag if he goes for yori-kiri instead of the soto-gake, a move he seemed to go back to time and time again last basho.

M8 Toyohibiki is an absolute beast so why M8 Chiyotairyu decided to finally do his power sumo against a tough opponent like the Hutt is beyond my comprehension. Make not mistake, he kicked Toyohibiki's ass earning the tsuki-dashi kimari-te, but the real question is why doesn't he try this every day? He's 4-2 and should come with the same sumo the rest of the tournament. Toyohibiki falls to 3-3.

The M5 Chiyootori - M7 Jokoryu bout is worth watching again, just so you can see two guys who are both trying desperately to win. You watch sumo like this most of the day, it's easy to tell when guys let up during the final 30 minutes.

For what it's worth, M7 Tochinowaka had the inside position at times with both arms but didn't even try to grab the belt or go up high into M5 Endoh's pits. Tochinowaka does have the nicknames SleepWaka and SloWaka for nothing, but he had a chance to force this bout into yotsu-zumo but never did. Endoh picks up a rare win moving to just 2-4 while Tochinowaka likely dines on Endoh's dime tonight in Nagoya proper.

Who is that rikishi wearing the Takekaze mask this basho? The M4 didn't display the best of sumo today focusing on pulls and slaps, but he never let M6 Myogiryu get close in a wild slap affair that ended in about 8 seconds with a Takekaze slapdown. He's 5-1 if you need him while Myogiryu is no slouch at 4-2.

As frequently as rikishi have been throwing bouts in Sekiwake Goeido's favor, they can't do it forever, so for whatever reason, it was decided that M1 Ikioi would go straight up. After all, Goeido led his fellow Osaka'n 5-0 coming in, so it was a safe bet right? Uh, no. Goeido moved left in order to grab the cheap outer, but Ikioi was onto him forcing him close to the edge, so Goeido tried to evade the entire time with Ikioi giving chase, and after about five seconds, Ikioi got him in the end fairly easily sending the Ozeki "hopeful" off the dohyo altogether by tsuki-taoshi. Afterwards, the word I head most as the Japanese announcers described Goeido's sumo was "nigeru," or "to run away." Ozeki Shmozeki. Go figure, Ikioi picks up his first win against the supposedly red-hot Goeido who falls to 4-2.

Looks like Sekiwake Tochiohzan has been snooping around in Aminishiki's chest of drawers because he's got quite the bedroll around his left leg. Tochiohzan set up his gal with some effective tsuppari and had Shohozan on the ropes, but he couldn't pounce for that kill allowing Shohozan to completely turn the tables and force the ailing Sekiwake back and across. Tochiohzan has been useless as tits on a boar this basho as both rikishi end the day 2-4.

Remember how bad Komusubi Aoiyama destroyed Ozeki Kisenosato last basho? I think everyone did, so Aoiyama was less tame in his tsuppari attack today. He still threw some shoves, but there were no de-ashi, and about seven seconds in Aoiyama just let his legs slip out from under him as he dove to the clay. Pure yaocho here yet again in favor of Kisenosato who moves to 5-1 while Aoiyama falls to 1-5.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku and Komusubi Aminishiki hooked up in hidari-yotsu, and as the Geeku made a bit of progress moving forward, Aminishiki went for a maki-kae with the right hand, and that was the moment the Geeku pounced scoring the easy yori-kiri win from there. So was this one fake? I'll let you make that determination, but I will point out that once Aminishiki got moro-zashi, he just stayed in front of the Ozeki the entire time without making any attempt to move to either side. I just didn't see any defense from Shneaky the entire way as Kotoshogiku remains perfect at 6-0 while Aminishiki falls to 1-5.

Could M3 Osunaarashi pull off the kin-boshi upset a second day in a row...this time against Yokozuna Harumafuji? Yes!!! Harumafuji went for that ever powerful stance of do nothing with the left hand even though the belt was right there in front of it, and then with the right hand he employed that oft-seen move of grabbing your opponent's sagari. I mean, with the ease at which those strings get pulled out of the mawashi during a bout, I don't know why guys don't do that more. At any rate, Harumafuji plowed forward with nothing but a grip on those sagari, and as Osunaarashi moved to his right, Harumafuji just Robben'ed to the clay. The main NHK broadcast wisely only showed one reply from the safe angle, but more replays exist as seen on our Facebook page or at this link. It's really obvious when you watch from all angles.  In the pic at right, Harumafuji has taken a knee and his elbow is touching the dohyo, and Osunaarashi's hands have yet to even slap down on him.

I'm perplexed as to why they'd give Osunaarashi two wins over Yokozuna like this, and as I speculated in my intro, it could be that they want to generate headlines, but it could also be that Osunaarashi fights Goeido tomorrow, so how great would it look to see Osunaarashi beat two Yokozuna only to fall to the mighty Goeido the day after. Goeido's actually got the yotsu skills ot defeat Osunaarashi if they turn him loose against the Sekiwake tomorrow, but if he pulls and evades, he's in trouble.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho and M3 Kasei hooked up in the immediate gappuri hidari yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but Kaisei couldn't budge the Yokozuna while Hakuho just gathered his wits about him pinching in harder and harder on Kaisei's inside position and then pulled the trigger on a lethal left outer grip. Thinga beauty as Hakuho skates to 6-0 while Kaisei is 0-6.

The sumo hasn't been great, but something has gotta be in store this basho because some of the bouts are just whack. Martin spells me tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
With the jobansen or first five days complete, I'm kinda getting an uneasy feeling about this basho. Slow starts from Goeido and Kisenosato have now been answered with a series of obvious yaocho, and Kotoshogiku is being propped up as well. Then when you have two Yokozuna fall in untimely fashion to rikishi they shouldn't be losing to, I start thinking where are they going with all of this? I do not believe that the Association has an agenda as to how they would like things to play out prior to the tournaments. I think they actually did try that during the first half of 2012 when you had Takanohana predicting the promotions to Ozeki of Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku before either had come close to fulfilling the conditions, and then it culminated with that disastrous Natsu basho of the same year, but since then, I think the elders in the Association are kind of doing things on the fly.

When I was first living in Japan and trying to absorb all things sumo, someone gave me a book in Japanese that was kind of like the equivalent of Sumo for Dummies. I remember reading in there that during the hon-basho, all of the different committees meet daily at the venue in the morning. You have the judging committee, the PR committee, the security committee, the bout organization committee, the board of directors, etc. And I remember finding it strange that the committees met every morning of the basho. I mean, what is there to talk about every single day?  I've sat through those kind of meetings in Japan countless times.  Everything's already determined before you even sit down and whoever is in charge passes out the agenda and you just read through with the higher-ups making the usual bland comments.  They already know whose going to be judging when and on what days and they already know beforehand whose gonna be in the booth providing color and who will be in the mukou-joumen chair, so the meetings every day are largely pointless unless they are discussing other matters.

Regardless, I think currently that when yaocho occurs on a given day it stems from these morning meetings and the small talk that precedes them. I'm quite sure that Kitanoumi Rijicho does not come out and order a particular oyakata to have his guy lose that day, and I'm also sure they don't try and orchestrate a basho. I think was does happen is someone like Kitanoumi will come into a meeting and say something like, "we could really use more youth in the Ozeki rank" or "Does the media have other things to focus on besides Endoh's losses?" It probably isn't a formal part of the meeting; rather, just a comment or too out of the blue before they get to the official agenda. If Isegahama, an official in the Association, is at the meeting, he doesn't need any more instruction than that. Kitanoumi is not telling anyone to do anything, but if an oyakata feels as if his rikishi losing a certain bout would benefit the Association as a whole, I think he takes that discussion back to the stable with the rikishi in question, and then it's up to the two of them to decide what to do.

Now, that is all pure speculation. I have no idea how it really works and can only guess as to the why and how. Regarding the what, however, today was another clear example that certain rikishi are being buoyed up, so perhaps we must wait for the end of the basho before we understand the why. It's just a bit troubling to me, though, to see so much blatant yaocho so early in the tournament all surrounding the same band of merry men.

Before we get to the suspicious, however, we must start at the beginning where M16 Wakanosato attempted moro-zashi getting the right hand in early, but he just wasn't able to establish the left inside ultimately allowing M14 Azumaryu to maki-kae and turn the bout to migi-yotsu. Wakanosato dictated the pace inasmuch as he maintained the left outer grip, but the instant he gave up the same left outer to Azumaryu on the other side, the throw came a split second later. Azumaryu moves to 3-2 with the win while Wakanosato falls to 1-4.

M15 Tokitenku was lazy in his tachi-ai giving M14 Kagamioh the immediate left outer grip in their migi-yotsu affair, and by the time Tenku got a sniff of an outer left of his own, Kagamioh had him completely upright and forced him out with some gusto. This may have been the best fought bout by Kagamioh that I've seen so far as both dudes end the day at 2-3.

M16 Chiyomaru's sumo today was beautiful against M13 Sokokurai as Maru stuck to his bread and butter tsuppari and never panicked as the crafty Sokokurai looked to get to the inside. It would never happen, though, as Chiyomaru trusted in his de-ashi and scored the oshi-dashi win in about five seconds. Great sumo early on for Maru who is 5-0 while Sokokurai settles for 3-2.

M13 Okinoumi used a lazy right kachi-age attempt at the tachi-ai failing to raise M17 Arawashi up enough to grab the left outer belt, and so Arawashi pounced on Okinoumi's extended left arm, moved out right, and threw Okinoumi down with a nice kote-nage throw. A veteran like Okinoumi should never be done in by a greenie like Arawashi as these two fellas also end the day at 2-3 apiece.

How funny was it to watch M15 Gagamaru hold up at the tachi-ai today making sure he didn't jump the gun? But the plan worked as M12 Kyokushuho dove right into a deep outer left from Gagamaru accompanied by a right choke hold that kept Kyokushuho at bay and allowed Gagamaru to fire up his de-ashi, and he took care of bidness straightway forcing Kyokushuho back and out in mere seconds. If I can go back to my explanation of yaocho yesterday and contrast that to what a real bout looks like in defeat, just watch on our Facebook page how Kyokushuho uses his hands in defeat and compare that to the three rikishi who took dives yesterday. Kyokushuho grabs the belt with the left hand in an effort to twist his foe at the edge and then he abandons his right outer grip at the last instant to go for the counter tsuki-otoshi with the right. It doesn't work, but still, he's giving it his all even as he's being driven to certain death beyond the straw. To me, the differences in effort and use of the hands is so obvious that it's easy to see that Kyokushuho really wanted this bout. Regardless, these two combatants both stand at 2-3.

M10 Tokushoryu finally picked up a win against M12 Kyokutenho today in a hidari-yotsu affair where Tokushoryu grabbed the right outer while Tenho had none. Tokushoryu used his girth nicely to pin Kyokutenho in so he could only retreat back and not to the side, and he was rewarded with a swift force-out win. This was Tokushoryu's first victory at 1-4 while Kyokutenho falls to 2-3.

Why are so many guys stuck at 2-3? It's because dudes like Chiyomaru and M11 Takayasu have gotten out to such quick starts. Takayasu lost the tachi-ai to M9 Kitataiki giving up the early left outer grip in their migi-yotsu affair, but a few seconds later, he righted the ship by using his strength advantage to shake the grip off, and when Kitataiki flirted with a maki-kae with the right arm, it gave Takayasu the opening he needed to grab his own left outer. From there the complexion of the bout completely changed as Takayasu constantly looked for more folds in his outer grip, and even though Kitataiki shook him off once, he was already in position to refocus on that outer grip and force out Kitataiki in the end. You watch a display of sumo like this, and you see why Takayasu is 5-0. I'd love to see this kind of technique from guys like Kisenosato and Goeido, and I realize the competition is different, but a decade ago, this is the kind of sumo Ozeki and Sekiwake actually exhibited against far tougher competition than what Kisenosato and Goeido are facing the first week.

M8 Chiyotairyu must have scented blood in this one because he didn't even think about retreat crashing into M11 Sadanoumi with an effective left kachi-age/right choke hold combo, and the tachi-ai was so good, Tairyu was able to score the quick hataki-komi win. I would have of course loved to have seen a tsuki-dashi, but you take what is given I suppose. Loved me some Chiyotairyu today regardless, but that love will be short lived (sigh) as he moves to 3-2 while Sadanoumi is the inverse.

M7 Jokoryu stayed low at the tachi-ai and used good tsuppari to completely keep M10 Toyonoshima away from the inside. Of course the result was the grapplin' position near the edge, and that sort of stance favors the smaller rikishi as Toyonoshima showed by suddenly darting to his right and pulling a surprised Jokoryu forward and down. Pretty ugly sumo, but Toyonoshima needs to scrap together whatever he can at this point of his career. He's now 4-1 if you need him while Jokoryu falls to that pesky mark of 2-3.

M8 Toyohibiki used a great nodowa with the right and teet dashi with the left hand to knock M7 Tochinowaka upright and back to the straw, and Slowaka was so undone by Toyohibiki's tachi-ai that he couldn't move laterally and took a final few shoves to the chest that knocked him back across the straw in seconds. The key of course were Toyohibiki's de-ashi that fueled the entire shebang (see, Kane's not the only one who can use such fancy words!) as Toyo the Hutt improves to 3-2 while Tochinowaka is a paltry 1-4.

M6 Myogiryu failed in his attempt at a right kachi-age at the tachi-ai, and it put him in a bad position from the start against M9 Takarafuji leaving the pair in hidari-yotsu which favors Takarafuji if their chests are aligned. Myogiryu made sure that didn't happen, however, keeping his arse way back and moving laterally just enough to where he wouldn't give up the outer grip. After 15 seconds or so of grappling, Takarafuji was caught sleeping giving up the maki-kae to Myogiryu's right arm, and the bout was done at that point. Takarafuji maki-kae'd in return as he was being driving back, but Myogiryu now had the lower stance and forced Takarafuji back and across for the nifty comeback win. Myogiryu prolly shouldn't have won this one, but props to him for finding a way as he shines at 4-1 while T-Fuj falls to 2-3.

I think guys are quickly figuring out that the way to defeat M5 Endoh is to keep him away from the inside. Today, M5 Chiyootori was masterful in his approach keeping his head low and striking hard totally keeping Endoh away from the inside, and Endoh knew he was in trouble and quickly moved to his left, but Chiyootori reacted on a dime and caught his evading opponent with a few thrusts to the chest that sent Endoh back and across with some force. Chiyootori had to have been ecstatic as he grabbed that fat stack of envelopes fulla caish. As for Endoh, he cannot win a tachi-ai thus his 1-4 start.

M4 Takekaze exhibited another brilliant tachi-ai today striking low and in an upwards motion into M6 Terunofuji's girth, and the veteran never let Terunofuji get a sniff of the belt or the inside. The key was a left palm to the youngster's shoulder followed by a second palm to the teet with that same left, and Terunofuji didn't have a pot to piss in at this point. Fantastic display of sumo from Takekaze who is at least a decade older than his last two opponents, yet he's schooled them both improving to 4-1. Terunofuji falls to 3-2 for his troubles.

M1 Shohozan managed the right outer grip from the tachi-ai against M4 Tamawashi in this hidari-yotsu contest, but the outer grip was just one fold of the belt, so Shohozan didn't have sufficient leverage to finish off the deal. Not wanting to give the longer Tamawashi a right outer of his own, Shohozan kept his can back, which resulted in a long stalemate that lasted pritnear a minute. In the end, Tamawashi attempted a left inside belt throw, but Shohozan slipped left just enough to where he was able to drag Tamawashi over and down as Shohozan tip-toed the tawara. Tamawashi briefly looked at the head judge hoping for a mono-ii but to no avail as he falls to 2-3. Shohozan picks up his first winna the shootin' match.

Completely different sumo today from Komusubi Aoiyama who actually used his hands this time to tsuppari fellow Komusubi Aminishiki upright at the tachi-ai with a few chokeholds to the point where he was nothing but a tall target for Aoiyama to just thrust back and off the dohyo altogether earning the tsuki-dashi winning technique! Both Komusubi are a scant 1-4, but at least Aoiyama has been playing his role to an extent ifyaknowhadduhmean.

In a clash between the two Sekiwake, Tochiohzan employed an awkward kachi-age with the left as he turned his hips inward as if to say to Goeido, 'grab the left outer bro,' but the hapless Goeido was completely lost, so when Oh next tried a meek shoulder slap, it actually resulted in Goeido's getting spun around 180 degrees. Instinctively, Tochiohzan pounced and went for the right back belt grip, but then for some inexplicable reason, he abandoned the attempt at the okuri-dashi win, stood upright, and let Goeido turn back around and force Tochiohzan clear across the ring and out. Afterwards, the two fellas in the booth were speculating the cause of Tochiohzan's bone-headed loss mentioning his ailing left shoulder or wondering if his feet were aligned. I mean, what else are they gonna say about this one? I'm not even going to bother to post this one to Facebook it was so damn obvious. I think this is the first time that I've seen a guy get spun around 180 degrees like that...and still win the bout! I mean sometimes, you get 30 second cat and mouse sumo where the two guys are running all over the dohyo in a wild affair, but a straight up bout like this? If your intelligence wasn't insulted by this bout, you should prolly try and obtain some.

M1 Ikioi moved to his right at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, but he made no attempt whatsoever to try and pull the Ozeki down or cheaply grab his belt. The Geeku was able to respond and turn 90 degrees grabbing the firm left inside and pressing the action from there. Ikioi actually had the right outer grip, which he could have used to apply pressure, but like his actions after the tachi-ai, he just stood there always making sure to stay in front of Kotoshogiku as the Ozeki pressed instead of moving laterally. Ikioi made it look somewhat realistic, but it wasn't. Kotoshogiku moves to 5-0, and in the words of Kane this morning, these guys are throwing the Ozeki a bridal shower this basho. As for Ikioi, the sting of his 0-5 start will be rewarded in another way I'm sure.

With Ikioi throwing his bout against Kotoshogiku, would M3 Kaisei now throw his against Ozeki Kisenosato? Don't answer that. Kaisei completely won the tachi-ai against Kisenosato and actually had moro-zashi with de-ashi to boot, but he quickly pulled his right arm out letting Kisenosato back to the inside. With Kisenosato unable to do anything, Kaisei next went for a lame maki-kae where he actually stepped laterally over to the ring's edge as if to say, "c'mon already ya dumbass!" And Kisenosato still couldn't make the Brasilian pay, and so Kaisei finally for no reason turned around 180 degrees and let the Ozeki just drive him back and out from there. This is getting so ridiculous I don't have the words to express it. I think the crowd kinda senses it as well because the venue was just dead after these so-called "wins" from the two Ozeki and Goeido.

M2 Yoshikaze henka'd left again against Yokozuna Hakuho, but it was a harmless move only resulting in separation between the two. With Hakuho waiting and threatening those grizzly bear swipes, Yoshikaze looked for some sort of opening, but Hakuho ended the funny bidness early spilling the Monster Drink down in about five seconds. I cannot stress enough how ugly the sumo has been the last 30 minutes each day during week 1 of this basho and the first week last basho. But hey, if it works for the Japanese fans, it works for me I guess. Hakuho improves to 5-0 while Yoshikaze falls to 3-2.

Wow, M3 Osunaarashi actually moved out left at the tachi-ai in order to grab the cheap left outer against Yokozuna Kakuryu. The Kak responded well enough grabbing a left outer of his own as the two spun around in the middle of the ring, and as the dust settled, the two found themselves in the gappuri hidari-yotsu position. Kakuryu doesn't want to get into a chest to chest contest with this beast, and so he went for the quick maki-kae with the right arm, but Osunaarashi moved out to his left and then countered with a right scoop throw that actually knocked the Kak around 180 degrees leaving him slumped over allowing Osunaarashi to only give the Yokozuna a slight push to the arse sending him across the straw. Did Kakuryu throw this one? I don't have any clear evidence, but I suspect he did. It just doesn't happen where a young, raw guy like Osunaarashi who doesn't have the greatest of sumo skills can topple a Yokozuna in his first try. My personal feeling is that had Kakuryu wanted this one, he woulda found a way, but who knows? Something interesting that Kane also pointed out to me this morning...there were no zabutons thrown after the bout, which shows you just how little the Japanese fans recognize Kakuryu as a Yokozuna. Excellent observation as Kakuryu falls to 4-1 while Osunaarashi picks up his first kin-boshi moving to 3-2. I think you have to go back as far as Konishiki to find someone who toppled a Yokozuna so early in his career (it took the Ejyptian just 15 basho in the sport).  When they asked Osunaarashi how he felt afterwards, he gave them his favorite expression in Japanese which is "itsumo doori" which can be translated as "business as usual," "just stickin' to my guns," or "same shat different day".  You decide.

In the day's final bout, Harumafuji focused squarely on M2 Homasho's neck with a few tsuppari until Homasho quickly backed out of it creating separation. Homasho stayed low with arms extended just daring Harumafuji to come in and pull him down, but the Yokozuna was cautious feeling Homasho out with a few slaps here and there forcing Homasho to at least try and move laterally. When he did, Harumafuji pounced shoving Homasho down with some oomph, but unfortunately, Homasho's right foot was jammed against the straw with his knee locked, and it caused him to severely twist his knee as he awkwardly fell forward to the dirt. Homasho couldn't get up afterwards and had to roll himself to the edge of the dohyo where a yobi-dashi and oyakata acted as his crutches helping him back to the hana-michi. What, did the fellas at Pawn Stars finally sell that antique wheelchair because they didn't bring it out to whisk Homie away. Homasho is clearly done this baho, and this type of injury to a dude his age could spell retirement. Let's hope not, but you just have to admire that Homa Sho Am Sweet went down swinging. See, there's a way to lose when you're actually trying, and Homasho has exemplified that his entire career. Harumafuji moves to 4-1 with the win.

Back at it tomorrow same time same place and hopefully not the same sumo.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Apologies on the day 2 comments, and the key points that I still remember for the day are these. Kisenosato got beat by Aminishiki he resorted to a quick pull attempt. If you'll remember, Aminishiki tried that exact stunt on day 1 against Hakuho, so go back and look how Hakuho and Kisenosato handled the same attack from Aminishiki. You'll clearly see who is the Yokozuna and who is the Sekiwake.

The next point had to do with Terunofuji. Dude struggled his debut basho, but he is a beast and probably the strongest guy on the banzuke next to Hakuho. The Thug may give Terunofuji a run for his money, but their styles are so different. Terunofuji is this blob who wants to suck you inside and work you out by the belt while Osunaarashi seems to avoid chest to chest sumo quite a bit opting to just bounce his foes from the dohyo with open handed punches. Anyway, Terunofuji has huge upside, and I could see him being a sanyaku mainstay within about 18 months. I know I've said the same things about Chiyotairyu and Endoh recently, but what's the key difference between Terunofuji and those other two yayhoos? One of 'em isn't Japanese.

The third point is that it should be no surprise to our readers that Endoh is basically getting his ass kicked like this. The screams in the venue when Endoh gets pulverized are hilarious, but you need to understand that the fans are getting their information from the Japanese media, and there's total spin involved. Hell, I was even victim to it a couple of basho ago, but it's clear that Endoh can't pull his weight in the division. It's not due to skill whatsoever; rather, he just doesn't have any size. It be like pounding a railroad spike in with a framing hammer while the Mongolians all carry around 16 pound sledges.

The final point after day two is that Kisenosato, Goeido, and Endoh were a combined 2-4, and whenever that chit starts happening, it's time for many of their opponents to go Arjen Robben and start diving as I will demonstrate today.

But before we get that far, let's quickly work our way in chronological order staring with M17
Arawashi who turned his right shoulder inward too much looking for the right inside position, so M14 Kagamioh shifted left, grabbed the outer, grip, and escorted Arawashi over and out lickety split leaving both gentlemen at 1-3.

M16 Wakanosato and M13 Okinoumi immediately hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai with chests aligned, but Okinoumi is too tall for Don to ever get a sniff at an outer grip. His foe befuddled, Okinoumi pulled the trigger on a left inside belt throw not even waiting for an outer grip during the ambush. Wakanosato (1-3) has trouble with guys who have length due to his stubby limbs. Okinoumi improves to 2-2.

M15 Gagamaru jumped the gun at the tachi-ai and then held up. But nobody called a false start and so M13 Sokokurai slipped into moro-zashi and that was that as Sokokurai scored the easy force out win. Gagamaru made sure to give the head judge a look before he stepped off the dohyo as if to say WTF? On one hand I agree, but on the other hand, nobody cares dude. You're not 1-3 because of the officiating. Sokokurai is a cool 3-1.

M16 Chiyomaru used a good moro-te at the tachi-ai to completely deny M11 Sadanoumi the belt and as Sadanoumi strained forward, Maru slipped to the side and just pulled his foe down with ease soaring to 4-0 in the process. In a match like this, the hataki-komi is perfectly acceptable because it was set up with a solid tachi-ai and sweet moro-te. Sadanoumi cools a bit to 2-2.

M11 Takayasu came with a good, hard tachi-ai that set up the early left belt grip that was an outer, but near enough to the front to do sufficient damage. M15 Tokitenku (2-2) tried to spin away, but Takayasu kept that grip and easily forced the Mongolian over and out joining Chiyomaru at 4-0.

M10 Toyonoshima (3-1) easily slipped into moro-zashi thanks to a lazy tachi-ai from M14 Azumaryu (2-2), and there was no way he could counter Toyonoshima's force-out charge.

M9 Takarafuji got the right inside and left outer grip against M12 Kyokutenho, but he was so timid with his footwork (coming in 0-5 against Tenho will do that to you) that the Chauffeur easily slipped left and dragged Takarafuji over and down via a shoulder slap. I thought Takarafuji would end his streak today, but no dice as both rikishi are 2-2.

M8 Chiyotairyu used that useless tachi-ai where his hands are mostly to the outside with palms forward. Not having been throttled back at the start, M12 Kyokushuho just backed up and easily pulled Chiyotairyu down in a second. To me, Chiyotairyu should never lose to Kyokushuho, so to see him go down like that so quickly just takes that last ounce of air outta my balloon for him.

M10 Tokushoryu and M7 Tochinowaka started in hidari-yotsu where Tokushoryu had the left outer grip, but Tochinowaka can be a bitch to force-out as was the case today, and Tokushoryu just gave up too early after pressing the action and getting Slowaka to the edge. The result was Tochinowaka grabbing a right outer grip and showing Tokushoryu how it's down going gaburi stytle as he escorted his gal all the way across the dohyo and out picking up his first win in the process. Tokushoryu is still an o'fer.

M9 Kitataiki looked timid in his charge against M7 Jokoryu as the too hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai, so Jokoryu moved out right and felled Kitataiki with a right kote-nage throw quick and easy. I thought it was a good adjustment by Jokoryu as both guys end the day at 2-2.

M8 Terunofuji blew a chance with a M8 Toyohibiki wide open at the tachi-ai, and then it looked as if Teru's feet kind of slipped (ashi ga nagareru) and the result was a left uppercut to the jaw from Toyohibiki that hit the sweet spot causing Terunofuji to just collapse in a heap to the clay. Terunofuji was likely knocked out momentarily, and that will happen when your foe connects on a lucky punch. Dude suffers his first loss now standing at 3-1, but he's a presence. Damn straight any of the oyakata would trade Endoh's body for Terunofuji's if such a thing was possible. Toyohibiki ends the day at 2-2, and he'll remember how sweet that punch felt for awhile.

M4 Tamawashi slipped left at the tachi-ai throwing M6 Myogiryu's charge off just enough that he could never catch Tamawashi square in the chest with any tsuppari. Myo did have Tamawashi backed up to the dohyo, but it was mostly with high, ineffective shoves, and so once Tamawashi hit the edge, he finally burst with a tsuppari attack of his own that knocked Myogiryu off balance sending him back clear across the dohyo and out. This was Myogiryu's first lossa the tournament, but when your opponent moves laterally at the tachi-ai, anything can happen. Tamawashi ends the day 2-2 for his trouble.

Two things I haven't quite figured out are why Japanese fans clap in unison prior to overhyped bouts and why soccer fans whistle when they don't like something they see on the field (a pitch is what you do in baseball). Anyway, that must mean that I'm about to comment on the M5 Endoh bout where M4 Takekaze displayed one of the better tachi-ai you'll see from him hitting hard and upwards into Endoh looking to get inside. Elvis was totally rebuffed, and before he could think of plan B, Takekaze reversed gears and slapped Endoh down before the bout could really get started.

I really don't think this was a bad loss for Endoh (1-3); he just got beat by one of the best tachi-ai we've seen from Takekaze (3-1). It's also not helping that 14 kensho get paraded around the ring before each of his bouts. Suppose you made 10 grand a month, and the winner of your bout on the day would pocket $4,200 just for winning. You think that'd inspire a few rikishi? I'm also going to call a few yaocho here in second, so before you ask, 'why aren't they throwing the bouts for Endoh then?' I'll give you the three answers. First, they will...just wait. Second, the money is too tempting. And third, Japan is still a heavy senpai-kohai thing, and Endoh hasn't even been around in the division for a year, so to have a veteran guy like Takekaze pass up 4grr and change by taking a dive? Sorry Charlie.

I love Kane's enthusiasm for sumo of late. I'll admit that I get quite cynical, but as I've explained before, I expect all rikishi to go at it 100%, so I get irritated when they don't. But on the subject of enthusiasm, Kane is spot on regarding his excitement for M3 Osunaarashi who used a blistering right kachi-age that set M5 Chiyootori upright enough that he plowed a left thrust into the side of Otori sending him over and down with some oomph. In Chiyootori, you have a guy already with Komusubi experience, and Osunaarashi just kicked his ass. Great stuff today as the Ejyptian improves to 2-2 while Chiyootori's slide continues at 1-3.

Okay, let's get to the first thrown bout of the day where Komusubi Aoiyama left himself open at the tachi-ai easily letting Sekiwake Goeido to the inside with the right, and although Aoiyama had the left outer grip, he quickly abounded it for no reason and was half-assed in his charge totally allowing Goeido to establish himself, grab his own left outer, and then step to his left dumping Aoiyama over by uwate-nage. You could see that Aoiyama sensed when the throw was coming and was already on his way down when Goeido pulled the trigger.

This basho NHK has introduced super slow motion, but they might want to be careful about using it for a bout like this. I've actually posted a link on our Facebook page to this bout (and a couple others) in slow motion where you can clearly see yaocho taking place. I know people hate it when I declare yaocho, but put yourself in my position. I have to break down a bout and list the key moves and occurrences where one rikishi won it and the other lost it. I just don't see how anyone could analyze these slow motion replays and not be alarmed that Aoiyama gave up his outer grip for no reason, but more than that, if you follow his setup side (the inside position) with the right hand, he does nothing with it keeping it out of harms way and totally letting Goeido dictate the pace. The reason Aoiyama had Goeido close to the edge is because the Father backed up as he is wont to do. Anyway, check out the slow motion replay here on our FB page.

Okay, where were we? Komusubi Aminishiki beat Sekiwake Tochiohzan last basho with a cheap henka to his left, and he tried it again this basho! Oh was ready, however, and caught Shneaky with a right thrust that totally set him off balance allowing Tochiohzan to charge forward and push Aminishiki out before he could really evade anything. Tochiohzan rebounds to 2-2 but hasn't looked great this basho while Aminishiki's only win came against Kisenosato.

And speaking of Ozeki Kisenosato, M1 Ikioi charged forward at the tachi-ai feigning a right kachi-age, but it was just for show as he quickly backed up flailing his arms but not doing anything allowing Kisenosato to just shove him back and out in a few seconds. Ikioi purposefully let the Ozeki have his way as the replays showed (posted on our Facebook page with my comments), and when a guy falls out of the ring unnaturally as Ikioi did today, it should raise a red flag. This one is a bit trickier to detect, but total yaocho all the way as Ikioi falls to 0-4 while Kisenosato moves to 3-1.

The most undeniable yaocho on the day featured M3 Kaisei and Ozeki Kotoshogiku who clashed in migi-yotsu, but it was absolutely comical watching Kaisei bumble around with his right hand refusing to grab the belt or lift up high into the Ozeki. As the slow-mo replay shows, he first had his right in in a fist on the inside; he next got fresh with his gal and put his hand on Kotoshogiku's they; and then he began feeling up the side of Kotoshogiku's mawashi somehow forgetting to grab the damn thing. All the while Kotoshogiku easily grabbed a firm left outer grip, but he actually whiffed on his first attempt and had to retool with a grip further back. Anyway, Kaisei was just waiting for the throw in this one has the Ozeki ended the funny bidness with an uwate-nage where like Aoiyama, Kaisei did half the work himself diving to the clay. Kotoshogiku is 4-0, and this is a clear sign that he will be handed his eight wins this basho. Remember when Kaio was in a similar situation? As for Kaisei, he falls to 0-4, but he has his reward...trust me.

This bout was the last of the three that I posted to our Facebook page, and if you see something beyond what I pointed out, feel free to comment. I think it's healthy to have disagreement and debate, so point out what I'm missing in all of this.

Finishing things off with the three Yokozuna, M1 Shohozan's tsuppari against Kakuryu had good intentions, but Kakuryu patiently stood his ground swiping away at Shohozan's extended arms until he was off balance enough to where the Yokozuna could pounce and slap his foe down. Nothing really to break down here as Kakuryu moves to 4-0 while Shohozan is still winless.

M2 Yoshikaze slipped slightly left at the tachi-ai and sent Harumafuji to the side with a swipe at the butt, but the Yokozuna didn't bother to re-establish his position grabbing a left frontal grip but actually backing up instead of aligning chests with his foe (I didn't bother posting this one on FB, but there were tons of red flags for me in this one). Yoshikaze next attempted a right kote-nage that spun Harumafuji around, but he was still on his feet and in perfect position to grab a right outer grip, and he actually instinctively went for the belt and got it, but let it go as quickly as it begun. So with the two in hidari-yotsu, Harumafuji just allowed Yoshikaze to spin him around with an inside belt grab and eventually slap the Yokozuna down by the shoulder. Make your own conclusions here as the Monster drink ties up the Yokozuna at 3-1 with the win.

And finally, M2 Homasho moved right at the tachi-ai, but Hakuho was alert and easily squared himself back up although the two rikishi were separated. Homasho next darted to his left and grabbed the Yokozuna's belt from the outside, but Hakuho easily got his right arm to the inside and used it to secure moro-zashi, and there ain't nothin' Homasho could do from there as Hakuho scored the easy and uneventful force-out win staying atop the leader board at 4-0. Homasho falls to 1-3 and after watching this bout, I thought Harumafuji should have responded in kind to Yoshikaze's henka left, but for whatever reason, he was mukiryoku.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Day 3 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
Not gonna compare sumo to other sporting events…the Stanley Cup Playoffs rocked my world, I witnessed the epic Wimbledon final…I never once thought of the dynamics of sumo. Fat guy sports are just so different don't you agree? Besides, Mike bloodied up the joint as he wielded his granite Shillelagh (shalaylee) re soccer dives.

I will say I just love the modernized NHK Sumo broadcast booth design…big improvement over the old version.

And as my brain wanders and threatens to have me wax dyslexic, I've decided instead to grab my oyatsu snack tray, crack open an ice cold anything, kick back on my oversized L-shaped sofa and get me some fat guy action! Wind it up and hit play doll face…it's Day 3 Nagoya Basho 2014!

This Nagoya basho deal is much ado about the "Thug" (Osunaarashi) and the "Gangstah" (Wakanosato) - two guys that can't hide their love for the game. But let's get our props wound up over Don Sato first since he's the veteran of the two and has an abundance of qualities that every rikishi should seek.

Our favorite lovable and honest rikishi, Wakanosato, has burrowed his way up from the dregs of Juryo back into the shimmering glow of the big show! No small feat when you consider he just turned 38 and has been through some head rattling bashos that were rich in sumo giants. Dude has gone up against (and beaten) guys like (many in their prime) Wakanohana (1 win - 1 loss), Asashoryu (7 wins - 12 losses), Chiyotaikai (5 wins - 27 losses), Akebono (1 win - 1 loss), Dejima (12 wins - 6 losses), Hakuho (6 wins - 11 losses), Kaio (11 wins - 11 losses), Kotomitsuki (11 wins - 8 losses) etc and always displayed straight up, hard nosed sumo.

Don Waka Sato entered the top Makuuchi division for the first time in May 1998 (dayum that was a while ago). He was holding his own that year and even recorded his first kin-boshi against Yokozuna Wakanohana, but the very next day he broke his ankle in a match with Musōyama and had to miss the last day of the tournament and all of the following tournament. He suffered a more serious injury in November 1999, rupturing anterior cruciate ligaments and then sat out two successive tournaments after having surgery and was demoted to the Jūryō division . Being tough as nails, the Gangstah won consecutive Jūryō championships upon his comeback, in July 2000, and was promoted back to Makuuchi. He quickly made the titled sanyaku ranks, making Komusubi in November 2000 (recovering from 2-6 down to finish 9-6!). As a result he was promoted to Sekiwake for the first time in January 2001.

Waka withdrew from the March 2009 tournament after breaking a metatarsal bone in his right foot during his 11th day bout with Kotoshōgiku. He had surgery in April which put him out of action for at least two months, meaning he had to sit out the following tournament in May. He came back in July, winning his fourth Jūryō championship with a 14-1 record! He reached Maegashira 1 in March 2010, his highest rank in over four years. After that he comfortably maintained a position in the mid-to-upper Maegashira ranks until he was injured in the November 2011 tournament, resulting in yet another fall to Jūryō. However he immediately returned to Makuuchi after scoring 11-4 in January 2012.

Some comebacks work, others well…

Although Wakanosato's career has been beset with a slew of injuries, he's thrown down hard to fight his way back from adversity and perform admirably every time. So here's to you Gangstah for showing monstrous nad and defining Fighting Spirit…Rock On!

M16 Chiyomaru has a few things going for him when he's facing M16 Wakanosato. Never mind youth and arm length, Maru is one of the young turks coming out of Chiyotaikai's stable, and that doesn't bode well for the Gangstah when you consider his record against the former Ozeki (5-27). So it was no surprise to see Chiyo employ a purposeful and confident tsuppari attack against Don Sato preventing the veteran from grabbing his favorite migi-yotsu grip and sending him into the loss column lickety-split. Wakanosato resisted hard at the rope, pushing back and twisting Chiyomaru's rotund physique, but the well coached youngster was moving forward like a politician glossing over the truth. Sato 1-2 / Maru 3-0 (win by oshi-dashi).

The talented M13 Okinoumi's career is inexplicably headed in the wrong direction. Whatever the reasons are I often walk away from his bouts (usually to grab a buffalo wing and an ice cold Yoohoo from the fridge) feeling like he woulda coulda shoulda done better if he tried harder. His foe (who has his number (1-5), M11 Takayasu, on the other hand always has his heart in the right place, and at Nagoya he's showing his old self and may be on his way back from his slump.

Taka got the slight edge off the tachi-ai by hitting a bit harder than Okeefenokee and immediately employed so hard mitts to the mug of his enemy. Okinoumi survived the initial cargo and chugged forward pushing Takayasu to the edge but after some aggressive grappling, the match settled into a yotsu stalemate. After a minute of both men vying for two handed mawashi grips Takayasu lower his center of gravity, achieved the full throttle yotsu and yanked Okinoumi up and out of the ring. A good performance by both dudes and it was Takayasu's edge in strength and desire that won the day. Okeefenokee 1-2 / Takayasu 3-0 (yori-kiri).

M9 Kitataiki has more batter box moves than a pro ball player and a third base coach combined. Dude is pulling on his knee wrap, stretching his arms, jerking his mawashi like someone's gonna steal second. Sadly, M11 Sadanoumi had no moves before during or after the bout. Kitataiki stood him up at the gate, locked his arms under his pits and dose doed the Sad guy around and off the dosey dohyo. Yori-kiri win for the K man (2-1), yori-kiri loss for Sadanoumi 2-1).

M10 Toyonoshima is all biz this basho as he immediately drove into M7 Tochinowaka's gut (which ain't all that hard to do), straightened the taller dude up, and drove him into the dark in text book fashion. It's great to see the older guys show mental strength and break out of bad habits by successfully re-committing to classic sumo law.
Toyota is 2-1 (oshidashi) and Slowaka is 0-3.

Mike's Day 1 heads up on Mainoumi's praise of M6 Myogiryu's keiko performance appears to have been prescient because Yogi's showing the skills that garnered him a semi regular room at the Jo'i Hotel. On this night Yogi Mahesh Mahoney faced M8 Chiyotairyu who's exclusive "in bout" employment of the retreating hitaki-komi technique has got to be driving King Mike batty.

Both men pounced off the line hard, as Chia Pet teed off with a nice tsuppari attack that drove is foe back a step or two. But Myogiryu stared him down and started to push back and that was enough for Chiyotairyu to back pedal and attempt yet another head pull down. Unfortunately for the Chia pet, Yogi's feet here moving too fast and he kept his center of gravity high enough to shove his way to an oshi-dashi win and a spit and polish 3-0 zenshou record. Chiyotairyu learns nothing as he falls to 2-1.

Right minded Mongolian youngster, M6 Terunofuji, refuses to go down easy. He's rapidly finding his sumo sea legs (sumo sea legs? What the heck…I'll let it slide) and successfully employing his physical gifts to a greater degree with each basho. On this day he faced another promising (albeit injured) youngster M8 Chiyootori and right off the tachi-ai, Fuji chose yotsu-zumo. Chiyo also succeeded in grabbing strong migi-yotsu, but Terunofuji used his height and strength to throttle the big kid down, forcing Chiyo to shoot his foot past the rope for balance. It looked as if the last thing Chiyootori wanted to do was use his bandaged left arm to break his fall so let's hope he heals quickly). Terunofuji yori-kiri's his way to a strong 3-0 basho start while Chiyootori stumbles to 2-1.

So what's up with Elvis? Has he already entered his donut era? Is he still finding his sumo bad self? Will he lose his signature pink wash cloth? Is the red light on at Krispy Kreme?

Whatever the case may be, M5 Endo's story will be told under the intense glare of a jacked up media spotlight and that's nothing to sneeze at. He's not only supposed to win every match, Elvis has to be the next "fill in the blank" not only to the fans but a slobbering Sumo Association as well. His semi epic battle with Terunofuji the night before ended with a big ole "L" tattoo and if he wants to keep hearing the adoring cheers when he steps onto the clay, he best take care of the newly re-vitalized M4 Tamawashi in short order.

At the gun, Mama Please Wash Me throttled Endo with a vicious nodowa bending him backwards, but Endo showed strong intent and fought his way to a migi-yotsu belt grip. At this point Tamawashi backed up and attempted an aggressive blend of hitaki-komi and kote-nage, swinging Endo around and towards the edge of paradise. But Elvis showed great resolve and not only held on but gained a two handed belt grip and chugged his opponent back and out for a sweet yori-kiri victory. His fans clapped and cheered (as did I) and we all yelled "More of this please!". Endo needs to get a tougher de-ashi from the git go but this was a cool bout. Endo and Tamawashi both sit at 1-2.

Monster drink finds himself in the big leagues, and I kinda like him up there if for no other reason than he's fully awake for every bout.

M2 Yoshikaze spun the seemingly bewildered west Sekiwake Tochiohzan around and dry humped him off the dohyo. Monster drink gets the okuri-dashi win (2-1) while Tochiohzan slides to 1-2.

thug [thuhg] noun
1. a tough and violent man, a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.

When the lights went down and Osunaarashi's silhouette appeared as he strode into the arena, the crowd chanted "Thug, Thug, Thug"…
Well maybe not but I'll bet that's the way he sees it when he walks towards the dohyo.

M3 Osunaarashi can't wait to fight. Don't matter who they are, what their rank or what kind of hype may be juicing up their reputations let's git 'er done. He's a big dude, he's increasing his bully status by training with some serious weights, he's got his sneer on…and like every true thug he's eager to mix it up. You combine that with his unbridled love of everything sumo and at the very least you got the potential for some hard nosed action every time he steps into the spotlight!

When the ruffian faced off with Ozeki Kisenosato for the first time ever you could sense a. he was fearless and b. his unbridled eagerness to get it on and whatever the result it for sure wasn't gonna be an elegant affair.

At the tachi-ai Osu got his baseball bat forearm (with a closed fist) up and into Kise's mug stunning the erstwhile Ozeki and almost breaking his bloodied honker. As he is wont to do, the Thug stood up straight and started taking quick steps (his feet aligned) as he jostled for position. Doc Wesemann schooled us on the importance of sound footwork and although Osu was holding his own and shoving the Kid around, he didn't achieve good leverage as the Ozeki starting toughing his way forward.

The more experienced Kisenosato drove to gain yotsu and began the hard work of moving the powerful youngster over the line. As a last ditch attempt the thug lifted Kisenosato onto one leg in an enthusiastic uwate-nage throw but Kise kept his center and shoved Osunaarashi off the dohyo.

The result: a winners rose and a bloody nose for the Ozeki (2-1) and a 1-2 record for Osunaarashi who seemed happy just to be there (check out his demeanor walking away). I get the feeling he's gonna bring the same attitude to the other sumo elite and that's something I'm looking forward to…long live the thug!

Although he gets worked rather soundly in the upper ranks, M1 Shohozan has the rep for bringing it as well, and you get the sense every athlete that faces him knows it. He doesn't possess a truckload of physical attributes, but his aggressive tsuppari attack is in our collective faces every basho. Yokozuna Haru "Slappy" Mafuji has an impressive variety of fighting styles in his database so as expected right from the start he blocked much of Shoho's fisticuffs and slapped back at Shoho with equal aplomb. The two men separated briefly and Haru kept his man at bay until he executed a strong hataki-komi. 3-0 for the Yokozuna and 0-3 for Shohozan.

M1 Ikioi looked across the tape at Supreme Yokozuna, Count Hakuho's welcoming gaze, and repeated the mantra "I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid!". The younger man ponied up at the gate and drove into the dai-yokozuna hard and fought like he had a shot at some kinda kin-boshi, and there's no denying his strength and desire were in full effect.

Captain Interview out everythinged Itchy Koo Park for the muscular uwate-nage, but at least the kid made his master break a sweat. Hak is a shocking 3-0 (not) as the Icky one is takin' a beatin' just like an egg at 0-3.

Finally Yokozuna Kakuryu got down to the type of sumo most people associate with his vaunted status. M3 Kaisei (who often seems as confused as Larry Fine after the tachi-ai) is 0-5 against Kak and 0-6 was just around the corner as the Yokozuna got double belt status on first contact and then proceed to duck walk Baby Huey over the hemp you don't wanna smoke. Mongolian Yokozuna sweep is complete as the K man saunters to 3-0 and Kaisei says hello to 0-3.

This was a good night for yours truly…saw the Gangstah, the thug threw down hard, Myogiryu was full on, that Terunofuji kid was impressive again…of course there ARE other ways to spend your time:

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Spending the last two weeks in Japan, I thought that I'd be able to provide ample pre-basho coverage including a pre-basho report, but there's just too much to do here and too much to eat to really chase down sumo news. And I say "chase down" because I did watch news broadcasts and follow the current headlines in Japan assuming that I'd see some nuggets on sumo, but it just wasn't there unless I went directly to the wires to find it.

Regardless, I don't have much new to say prior to the Nagoya basho that I didn't beat like a dead horse back in May, but I would like to comment briefly on the World Cup. As an American, the sporting event I look forward to the most each year is the NFL playoffs, but I do acknowledge that the World Cup is the world's premier sporting event, and I rank my anticipation of this event above anything else including the NFL. From start to finish, I am riveted to the World Cup as is the rest of the globe, and I'm sad to see it end between Day 1 and Day 2, but I can't help but draw some similarities to the two sports as I watch World Cup soccer.

First, the incessant diving that occurs in an effort to draw a free kick reminds me somewhat of the tachi-ai henka. In sumo, the tachi-ai henka is used as an unfair advantage against one's opponent to gain the upperhand without putting in sufficient work at the tachi-ai. In soccer the dive is used of course to warrant a free kick, and the acting gets really good once the athletes are inside of the penalty box. Whether a rikishi wins using a tachi-ai henka or whether a free kick is rewarded to due an obvious dive, it leaves a similar taste in my mouth.

One of my favorite teams to follow in the World Cup was the Nederlands, but that win over Mexico just didn't seem right. Arjen Floppen...er...uh...Robben is the current Yokozuna of diving, but the art is practiced by everyone and stains many matches in my opinion. I'm curious to know how people around the world where soccer is the #1 sport (i.e. non-Americans) feel about the athletes diving. In my opinion, it's part of the game and there's not much that can be done about it, but it just doesn't feel right...like a tachi-ai henka.

While we're on the subject of diving in soccer, why is okay for soccer athletes to dive but it isn't okay for sumo wrestlers to dive? I'm of course asking this question to the crowd who thinks that all sumo bouts are fought straight up, but I find it interesting that a sports fan can accept diving in one sport but not the other. Oh, and does yaocho exist in soccer as well? It seems as if a World Cup can't come and go without allegations of match-fixing in this league or that (this time around match-fixing allegations involved Cameroon). I don't even need to go into the details of how easy it would be to lose a soccer match or play for a draw, so why couldn't a sumo wrestler to the same thing if he thought it would be beneficial to lose? You blow a defensive assignment on purpose; you give up moro-zashi intentionally.  What's the difference?

I will always consider yaocho to be an integral part of sumo until they change these two rules:

- Rikishi from the same stable may not fight each other during a hon-basho
- Biological brothers may not fight each other during a hon-basho.

The exception to that rule of course is if two stablemates/brothers happen to meet in a playoff for the yusho, but other than that, the rules stand. My question is...why do those two rules even exist? Answer that question first before completely discounting the role that yaocho plays in sumo when necessary.

And sticking with the whole soccer theme, why are the final matches of group play between the four teams in a particular group played simultaneously?

Answer that question and then tell me that match-fixing does not exist in soccer.

I see many similarities in the two sports, and I'm curious how non-American fans react to yaocho in either sport. As far as Japan goes, one of the best dives early on came in the very first match where Fred (a favorite Brasilian name of mine if there ever was one) feigned being pulled down in the box against Croatia earning a penalty kick late into the second half that completely changed the complexion of the match for the host country. Coincidentally, the referee who called for the penalty kick was Japanese, and so I was extremely interested to see how the Japanese press would cover the controversial call. NHK of course showed the play, but there wasn't a single mention of any controversy. Rather, the sportscaster said, "And Nishimura referee firmly stands behind his call" as NHK showed all of the Croatian players surrounding the ref and complaining about the obvious dive while Nishimura stood there defiantly. And just like that, any sort of controversy was actually spun to the viewers as if Nishimura actually did a fine job of referring the match. Nothing was further from the truth, however, as he blew the call that resulted in a penalty kick and then missed a Neymar elbow in the first half that could have warranted a red card.

The only reason I'm talking about this is to illustrate how the Japanese media will spin coverage of an event to fit an agenda...in this case standing up for a native referee on the world's largest stage who obviously had an off night. Instead of even mentioning a possible mistake, suggesting that any controversy was involved, or mentioning that the innernet was abuzz with complaints after the game, they turn the ref into a hero by showing how he emphatically stands up to his calls...as wrong as they may have been. This discussion is absolutely applicable to sumo and the way that guys like Endoh are hyped to the extent that his bouts have nearly twice as many kensho involved as the next guy even though he hasn't accomplished anything. Then there's Goeido and Kisenosato and the constant hype surrounding their pushes to Ozeki and Yokozuna respectively even though they're about as worthy of those ranks as I am of working as a geisha in the Ginza district of Tokyo.

I know this is a really long intro, but in lieu of a pre-basho report, I thought it'd be pertinent to illustrate some of my thoughts regarding sumo and how it compares to the beautiful game. Then when you see how the Japanese media covers both events, it just adds that next dimension that hopefully explains why I make the comments in my reports that I do, and why I'm always pointing out the latest spin in the media.

Enough of that for now, though; let's get to the day's bouts going in chronological order starting with M17 Arawashi who managed a left frontal belt grip from the tachi-ai, but he couldn't burrow inside with it due to M16 Chiyomaru's tsuppari from the start-ai that kept Arawashi well away from a position that would allow him to attack. Arawashi was persistent with the grip until Chiyomaru went for a pull that freed his opponent from the mae-mawashi, and while that's not a great move to use, if you're a superior rikishi to your foe as is the case with Chiyomaru, you can get away with it, which is exactly what Chiyomaru did as he picks up a shaky first win.

Talking to Kane right before the bouts, I knew we'd both be fired up for M16 Wakanosato's return to the division, but our hopes were dashed when he got into a gappuri migi-yotsu clash with M15 Tokitenku with little momentum. Wakanosato briefly attempted moro-zashi with the left hand, but Tokitenku's long left arm foiled that plan and left the younger and taller Mongolian in a stalemate with the older, stubbier, Gangstuh-no-sato. From that point, Tokitenku easily worked his right leg to the inside of Wakanosato's left tripping him up for the uchi-gake win. You can bet that Gangstuh will brush himself off and be ready tomorrow.

After a false start that was M14 Azumaryu's fault, he decided to jump to his right against M15 Gagamaru and henka his way into the cheap right outer grip. As Gagamaru tried to square back up, his left arm flew to the outside giving Azumaryu the deep right inside and clear path to the ill-gotten force-out win. Azumaryu actually looked to get the right arm to the inside that first attempt when he jumped the gun, so after playing his hand prematurely there, I guess he thought his only hope after that was a henka. We all lose here.

I could swear that M14 Kagamioh and M13 Sokokurai fought an hour ago during the Juryo bouts, but I guess all of this yaki-niku is gettin' to me brain. The bout may as well have been fought in Juryo as Kagamioh went for a tachi-ai henka that was so lame he only moved to his right about half a meter. Sokokurai may be dull, but he's not that dull to miss out on an opportunity like this as he pivoted his way into moro-zashi and showed Kagamioh the door in about two seconds.

M12 Kyokushuho found himself in the excuse-me moro-zashi position after leading with the right arm and aiming for the outer grip with the left against M13 Okinoumi, but for some reason, Okinoumi just gave up his right inside position for nothing gifting Kyokushuho moro-zashi. While it wasn't planned, Shuho knew exactly what to do when he got both hands inside scoring the easy force-out win in a matter of seconds. I watch sumo like this from Okinoumi, and I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he has fallen this far so fast.

One of our Heisei-born rikishi in M11 Takayasu was up against M12 Kyokutenho who is almost on the wrong side of forty, and the difference in age showed as Takayasu got the easy left arm to the inside from the tachi-ai while Kyokutenho was largely flat-footed and upright. I never did get a glimpse live or from the replays whether or not Takayasu's right arm was to the inside or out, but it didn't matter as his legs did the work driving the Chauffeur back and out with little resistance.

M10 Toyonoshima looked for moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M11 Sadanoumi, but his effort was half-assed despite getting both arms into position. With no legs driving the charge, Sadanoumi had the wherewithal to grab a firm left outer grip and then back up near the edge pulling Toyonoshima sideways and down via a dashi-nage move. More than great sumo from Sadanoumi, this was a result of Toyonoshima presenting no de-ashi.

M10 Tokushoryu and M9 Kitataiki were involved in an ugly pullfest where Tokushoryu struck first from the tachi-ai trying to bait Kitataiki into a belly flop to the dirt. Kitataiki held his ground, however, but instead of just riding his forward momentum to victory, he decided to counter with a pull himself, and it nearly cost him. Tokushoryu just didn't have the forward momentum, though, and so Kitataiki was able to barely escape to the side with a left outer belt grip and drag Tokushoryu to his demise in an ugly bout that low-lighted the first half bouts which have already contained a bunch of ugly bouts.

M8 Toyohibiki looked to take charge against M9 Takarafuji with his dual tsuppari attack, but Takarafuji connected on an upward swipe of Ibiki's right arm that threw him off balance, and as he tried to recover still lumbering forward, Takarafuji retreated and swiped upwards at Toyohibiki's left arm throwing him even more off balance resulting in Takarafuji's ability to push the off-balance Hutt down to the dirt.

M8 Chiyotairyu struck M7 Jokoryu hard with both hands at the tachi-ai winning the initial charge, but much to my chagrin, he then backed up going for the cheap pulldown win. The move worked and was set up by Chiyotairyu's winning the initial charge, but I can't figure out why he wouldn't just continue his forward momentum with his powerful tsuppari attack to win via tsuki-dashi. Until that question is answered, Chiyotairyu will continue to succeed only in the mid-Maegashira ranks.

M6 Myogiryu got his push for a return to the sanyaku off to a good start by staying low and driving both hands into Tochinowaka sending him upright. T-Wok attempted to mawari-komu to his right, but Myogiryu was onto him like stink to bait shoving Tochinowaka back and out in mere seconds. Afterwards, Mainoumi couldn't rave enough about Myogiryu and how well he looked at practice pre-basho. Hakuho spent some time at the Sakaigawa-beya for de-geiko, and Mainoumi must have seen something there in Myogiryu that he really liked. If Mainoumi knows his stuff (and he does), Myogiryu should have a great basho. Hopefully it mirrors his first bout which was flawless.

Next up was M5 Endoh who would surely dispatch of M6 Terunofuji. Or not. After taking charge at the tachi-ai getting the left to the inside, Endoh couldn't drive his larger foe back opting to duck low in an effort to keep Terunofuji away from a right outer grip. Endoh looked to be in the better position, but Terunofuji had a stubborn left inside grip that kept him in play despite his upright stance. Endoh briefly flirted with a leg trip after about 12 seconds, but he wasn't going anywhere with it, and it actually gave Terunofuji just the momentum he needed to reach over and grab an equalizing right outer grip. Once obtained, there wasn't anything Endoh could do from this point as Terunofuji turned his shallow left inside position into the deep left inside that he used to knock Endoh completely upright setting up the counter force-out near the edge where Terunofuji displayed beautiful patience and sweet counter sumo to put a chill into the Endoh fever (pronounced "fee-bah" here in Japan).

This had to have been an oh-snap moment for the fans because Endoh seemingly had the insurmountable position from the start against a largely unknown. I go back to the talk in my intro about the Nishimura referee who didn't have a good first match. To the Japanese fans, Nishimura did a great job when it wasn't actually the case. In the case of Endoh, he's being spun as this big hope and great tactician when it obviously isn't the case, and so the fans see a loss like this and can't understand how it happened. Hopefully this bout didn't surprise anyone who reads ST.  A couple more of these and expect the match-fixin' to begin as much as it pains me to say that.

M4 Takekaze looked to take charge against M5 Chiyootori from the tachi-ai, but his tsuppari were too weak and his position too upright suggesting he would have taken the first pull opportunity that came. Chiyootori was patient and allowed himself to be worked back because he knew his foe wasn't presenting a threatening position at all. Near the edge, Takekaze played his hand trying a surprise move to the side in an effort to pull his foe out of the ring, but Chiyootori caught Takekaze with a left arm to the gut that sent the lame Takekaze back for good.

In a sure sign of respect for his opponent, M4 Tamawashi henka'd to his left against M3 Osunaarashi, and Tamawashi's lack of confidence showed here as Osunaarashi connected on some vicious face slaps that resulted in Tamawashi's just crashing down to the dirt. Osunaarashi didn't really mean to go for a pull in this one and was just standing his ground, but his shots to the face were so potent that Tamawashi just stumbled forward lost from the beginning.  I hope the Ejyptian is not intimidated by the onslaught that is sure to come.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan moved to his left at a tachi-ai that saw M3 Kaisei just plop to the dirt in a half second. Thing is...it wasn't that potent of a henka from the Sekiwake, and the quick finish was more a result of Kaisei just falling forward. While I never like to see a rikishi henka...especially from the elite ranks, Kaisei's gotta react better than he did today. Sheesh.

M2 Yoshikaze was a split second early at the tachi-ai, but Sekiwake Goeido went anyway standing completely upright and offering the lamest pull attempt that you could hope to see. After the disastrous tachi-ai, there was no way the Sekiwake could recover as the two spun around the ring a bit looking for pulls with Yoshikaze scoring the winning hataki-komi after having taken complete control at the tachi-ai. This was awful sumo, and once again, I have to wonder what is going through the minds of the Japanese fans when they see guys like Endoh and Goeido go down in such fashion.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku committed a false start against M2 Homasho and tripped over his feet so badly that he plunged right into Homa Sho Am sweet knocking him clear off the dohyo. After an appropriate apology, Homasho moved to his right at the tachi-ai and used a tsuki-otoshi attempt into the back of the Ozeki's left shoulder, but it looked as if Homasho abandoned his forward momentum resulting in Kotoshogiku's getting the left arm to the inside. Once obtained, the Ozeki attempted a balls to the wall force-out that seemed to knock Homasho back onto his arse across the straw, but a mono-ii was surprisingly called where it was even more surprisingly ruled that Kotoshogiku's arm and Homasho's heel touched out at the same time. I thought Kotoshogiku was the clear winner, but that's why I'm playing hunt and peck at a typewriter instead of sitting ringside in a sweet black robe.

In the do-over, Homasho moved to his right yet again and then backed up to the tawara bracing his feet against the straw, and so the Ozeki just swiped his paw at the back of Homie's head knocking him to the dirt with ease. Homasho displayed curious sumo in both bouts, but the end result is that Kotoshogiku picks up an important first win in his quest for eight.

Ozeki Kisenosato stood his ground well as M1 Shohozan charged early at the tachi-ai, but his moro-te shoves had little effect in moving the Ozeki back. Kisenosato picked his spots well connecting on a face slap and then a shoulder shove that sent Shohozan back on his heels, and with the M1's momentum completely halted, Kisenosato made his move connecting on a couple more wicked slaps to the face and torso of Shohozan sending him forcefully back across the straw and giving the fans a needed reward after Endoh and Goeido both laid eggs. This was a good, forward-moving win for Kisenosato, and while I liked to see him win moving forward, it was also an example of how he often finds himself upright and no offensive position at the tachi-ai. His size and ring experience kept him in this one, so let's see how the basho plays out. Regardless, I thought it was a great start for Kisenosato especially compared to what we usually see from him early on.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Kakuryu led off the festivities striking M1 Ikioi hard, but as we've seen of late from the Yokozuna, he wasn't hellbent on using de-ashi which kept Ikioi in the bout. Ikioi could only offer a series of pulls in response, and so the Yokozuna methodically moved him back, but in the process Ikioi sprung to life after connecting on a counter pull that moved Kakuryu near the edge with Ikioi having moro-zashi in the process. I say moro-zashi because both arms were to the inside, but Ikioi didn't gain the position of his own volition, and so before he could even react and capitalize on the dual insides, Kakuryu quickly moved to the side and pulled Ikioi beyond the straw for good. This bout was par for the course regarding both rikishi.

Komusubi Aoiyama actually connected on a nice kachi-age with the right arm at the tachi-ai, but his response to that was to immediately back up and go for a feeble pull. Harumafuji's been in enough brawls in his day that he easily recovered from the initial charge and drove his retreating opponent back and across offering a dame-oshi at the end for good measure causing Aoiyama to hop down to the arena floor. While Aoiyama's tachi-ai was good, he didn't back it up with anything else, and against a Yokozuna, you'll get your ass kicked every time with this bout being exhibit A.

In the day's final bout, Yokozuna Hakuho looked to get to the inside with the right arm as he is wont to do, and Aminishiki's response was to bail to the left and go for a desperate pull. The pull actually worked in getting Hakuho to the ground, but not before Aminishiki was clearly sent back across the straw and down to the mat below the dohyo by a few Hakuho shoves. It was business as usual in Hakuho's quest for 30 career yusho, and before I sign off, I should mention that the Japanese media has give Hakuho his due props as he's on the cusp of entering territory only shared by two other rikishi in the history of the sport.

Overall, it was a pretty boring day 1 with little excitement, and I'd have to say the best sumo exhibited on the day came from Terunofuji who overcame a quick Endoh tachi-ai and a helluva lotta hype to pick up a sweet wad of envelopes filled with caish. Good on the lad as I make my return late tomorrow after a flight back to Merica.


Ha! Made you look! I lied. Get ready for yet another dose of Mike.
























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