Day 1
Kenji
Day2
Mike

Day 3
Simon

Day 4
Kenji
Day 5
Mike
Day 6
Simon
Day 7
Mike
Day 8
Clancy
Day 9
Kenji
Day 10
Bernie
Day 11
Mike
Day 12
Mike
Day 13
Simon
Day 14
Martin
Senshuraku
Clancy

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
"I love you, you love me..."

I know that most of you come to these pages on Day 15 knowing that I am writing and therefore expecting lots of jocularity, a mildly clever turn of phrase, perhaps a new nickname, or some nice fanciful ruminations on grown men's breasts (like Futenoh's nipples--can you say stilettos?) Unfortunately, today I must disappoint you. I'd like to be serious for a change. 'Cause you see, it's a sad day here at Sumotalk.

The quick-witted among you will have no doubt noticed that Bernie and George were conspicuous by their absence this time out. I wish I could sit here and lie, say it's just a temporary thing, something to be ironed out lickety split and that we'll soon have their unique musings gracing our hallowed site once again. I wish, but as the old adage goes, "If wishes were bacon fat, I'd be making fried eggs right now, where you sort of tilt the frypan and then use the spatula or some people even use a spoon to drizzle the hot fat over the top of the egg until the yolk cooks nice and hard and the egg is left with this greasy, salty, cured taste". (I know, it's a damnably long adage, ergo it don't get much usage anymore.)

On or about May 22, 2007, at approximately 11:45 pm, Bernard "Big Mac Daddy" McManus and George "It's An "a" Not An "o" So Don't Call Me "Guido"" Guida were gunned down in a hail of gunfire discharged from the rifles of three officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Skookumchuck, British Columbia. Early indications are the Mounties stumbled upon the pair together in the brush (evidently Skookumchuck is, like, 85% brush) engaged in what one unidentified source has cryptically referred to as "actions unspecifiable". When the locked and loaded officers approached, one of the victims was heard to call out, "Oh, man, I'm gonna shoot BIG TIME!" The Mounties, perhaps a bit skittish after spending the better part of three days tracking a family of recalcitrant badgers, opened fire with their standard issue DSA SA58 FALTactical .308 Cal. Carbine Rifles, making the corpses of Bonnie and Clyde resemble summer festival Kewpie dolls by comparison. There were no guns found on the victims, so I guess you could say they were found "packing but unarmed".

Naturally we were all shocked at the news (Kenji even cancelled a lecture entitled "Yeast and Warmed Flour: Proof of the Existence of God" he was "shedjeweled" to give in Paducah, Kentucky and came rushing back to Tokyo to commiserate over the loss of our buds). Yet, as we sat there stunned, barely able to comment on the new mini bar selections we were quaffing like polar bears eating seal livers, odd recollections of the last few months began to surface: Bernie's outburst in January when Mike moved him to a suite on the opposite side of the hotel from George; George getting married to a lady he never brought around or showed us a photo of, a "super good looking gal who loved sumo", he boasted, part Japanese part Scottish/Canadian; the subsequent snubbing of all Sumotalk contributors, who were not invited to the wedding; Bernie's telephone call to the hotel on May 13 claiming that "George Bush had ordered all flights from Canada to Japan cancelled for the foreseeable future" and that therefore he could not attend this basho; and finally Martin confiding that in March George had asked him privately if he imagined his Mongol ancestors sometimes "got lonely out on the steppes".

So, for now it's all Churchillian, riddle, mystery, enigma and, I should note, entirely unconfirmed. But I figured since Martin was touting a "clash of Mongolian Yokozuna" for Day 15, confirmation is a formality we needn't stand on here at Sumotalk.

It's pretty clear the story of this day, in fact the story of this entire basho was a certain Mongolian from a certain heya called Miyagino who stormed to a number of wins that guarantees him promotion to a lofty position in sumo that everyone expected him to reach since he first entered sumo only several years ago. Of course I'm talking about E14 Ryuo, who posted a 10-5 record with wins over the likes of Kasuganishiki, Ushiomaru, and the youngest of the Hutt Brothers, Iwakiyama. Today he blew his chance to win one of those bullshit prizes invented by someone on a slow news day (he had been given an ultimatum--Win, or no prize money!) Or maybe I should write the dudes who set the matches blew it by pitting him against the wolverine none of the top guys want to face in Takekaze, who was prowling for his 8th win. E5 started out 0-3, then began taking the starch out of much bigger fellas, destroying Wakanosato, Takamisakari, Kasugao, and Kotooshu, while using great timing and skill to whoop on Kokkai and The Geeku. Ryuo came hard at tachi-ai but Takekaze stood him up by grabbing him on both sides of his face (looked like Michael Corleone telling his brother in Cuba, "I know it was you, Fredo. You broke me heart."), then kept moving forward, ignoring a mild rebuke from Ryuo near the edge, slipping out of a last second desperation headlock attempt by the Mongolian rookie and depriving him of a good chunk 'o change in the process (which is the only reason for anyone to give a flying phug about those stupid awards).

The other guy on the horns for prize money was the super intense E10 Dejima, pitted against another man looking for number 8, WK Kotoshogiku, a man who unfortunately has Ozeki Kotooshu in his heya and seemed to rip a page out of his senpai's book today, jumping to the side at tachi-ai. However, Dejima obviously needs that cash, bro, and so with those much healed gams of his he righted his bulk and came back ferociously for the quickly emphatic push out 12th win.

As for the other rikishi seeking 8th wins, Tochinonada and Ama both prevailed. Tochi took E6 Tokitsuumi out in a display of power sumo that looked almost too easy. Shin-Sekiwake Ama dismantled W8 Sexy, who was assured of his prize money after an excellent 12-2 first 14 days. This one, too, looked too easy, but Ama is unquestionably the better rikishi and his win was no surprise for me. Who among us CAN'T imagine Ama as an Ozeki one day?

That said, for all the chatter about yaocho and fixed bouts and gentleman's agreements, let me just say this: Japan is the ultimate Boy's Club, with more greased palms than a KFC food handlers convention, and it's private as well as public institutions have about as much transparency as a warm, still pond. We could go back and forth all day about the maybes and the I don't knows but it is an ultimately futile endeavor. I wouldn't be surprised to find out the whole thing is as staged as theater in the round.

The day began with four wrestlers up from Juryo kicking the living shit (doesn't the phrase "living shit" sort of mess with your head?) out of the W 13, 14, 15, and 16. These newcomers, with fantastic names like Jumonji and Tosanoumi and Hakurozan will be wrestlers to watch in the coming years, mark my words.

8-6 Takamisakari went up against 9-5 Hokutoriki. As usual Circus absorbed the strong thrusting attack of his foe and then slipped to the side. Hokutoriki oddly then grabbed the belt, a huge mistake vs. P.T.'s boy, who then easy as you please took the Pretender out all nice and yorikiri like. It's hard to say what will happen with the lovable lunk in the coming year. After he broke that freaky long string of 7-8s with a nice 10-5 last Nov. in Kyushu, he lost 6 of his last 7 in Jan. to go 7-8, then lost 5 of his last 7 to go 7-8 in March. This time he lost only 4 of his last 7. Maybe he has starting to learn how to close it out.

Futenoh let the aforementioned Dejima pick his pocket by winning 2 of his final 7 to finish at 10-5 and blow prize money. Today he annihilated Kakuryu with textbook sumo, taking the 6-9 W5 out with a big hug in a big hurry (I'm fairly certain the Mongolian got cut up pretty badly by those diamond tips on Fu-fu's chest).

Two Henkatown Heroes I could not give less of a shit about, the surly E9 Roho and the wildly overrated Aminishiki, fought. One won, one lost. Okay, Roho actually looked good, avoiding a cheap pulldown attempt from the E4 and then thrusting him out for his not altogether unimpressive 10th. Do it again in July from M4 or so and we'll talk.

(Right here NHK showed replays of past Asa/Hakuho bouts, incl. the famous Nagoya bout last year, where Asa lifted Hakuho up at the edge and then let the Ozeki fall right on top of him. I was just thinking how tough Asa has to be to withstand that kind of crushing force. I'd bet 70% of the people on Earth would be killed, literally, by having Hakuho land on them like that. As Si says, great stuff.)

W4 Tochiohzan looked like an NFL blocking sled as Tamanoshima just ran him back and out, with the youngster's feet not lifting off the dirt the entire time. Both guys finish 6-9. At W3 Tama had as tough a schedule as anyone in the division, with 8 of his losses coming in his mandance with the 'zuna, 'zeki, 'zeki, 'zeki, 'seki, 'seki, 'subi, 'subi (repeat that three times over a bossanova backbeat). Guess that's why they call it MakunOUCHi (bada bing).

Wakanosato capped his basho with his most impressive win, a rear push out of W1 Tokitenku, who, it turns out, really needed that chickenshit henka of Ama on Day 13 to make his 8 wins. The Mongolian got a quick belt but the former Sekiwake had two hands on the inside no belt and just muscled his foe back, dismissed a one legged stall from Tokitenku and turned him around and ran him out. A 10-5 at W7 may look good, and it is, but it may get some people wondering if he could he possibly make sanyaku again. I have a very difficult time imagining that. The way they group matches, a M7 is near the top of his group, and therefore fights almost exclusively lower ranked rikishi (I think Waka fought three or four above him). There is no chance he will ever again get majority wins from M3 or higher. Maybe they will give him W4, which would help him avoid high altitude sickness one more basho. Yes, I know it was less than two years ago he was a sanyaku regular, but in the meantime the competition has gotten younger, faster and tougher. Like Miyabi, he is on the downside of a slightly underachieving yet still laudable career.

W3 Kisenosato found fortune in a last second belt grip on a charging E1 Homasho that allowed him to pivot rather impressively at the edge and toss down the man who by all rights should have won the bout. It was sweet to see, and while both horses had losing records this time out, theirs will be a rivalry to enjoy for some time to come.

Don't misunderstand me, I like Toyonoshima, but with his bandaged leg, his presence was a daily reminder of the bullshit load Asashoryu carries. A dai-Yokozuna getting lambasted by oyakata who were never much of anything themselves because he is a harsh taskmaster during practice. Boofuckinghoo. Asa is simply trying to make all the weak Japanese rikishi stronger, in order to revive sumo and provide himself with some worthy adversaries. Like a second Yokozuna (cleared throat).

Anyway, Hit and Mitsuki got win 12 vs. Chiyo, taking the initial pounding from the Ozeki (who didn't really move forward at all) and then getting in on the belt with a pitbull grip, twisting him back giving him an emphatic throat thrust that sent the Pup packing. The announcer said that it was his first ever back to back double digit winning basho in the top division. Wow, I knew he was a hot/cold rikishi when I gave him his sobriquet, but I didn't realize it was THAT clear.

So, does he get his 11 in July? Let's assume he loses to Asa and Hakuho. He knows how to beat Chiyo and Kaio, doesn't fight his stablemates Kotooshu and Geeku, so he can afford two more losses, from among Ama, Tokitenku, Takekaze, maybe Sexy and Circus and Roho, plus any rikishi who pile up the wins down below and rise up for Week 2 to fight the top guys. Plus the MIB would love to see him at Ozeki, I think. This is a golden opportunity for the Sekiwake. Let's hope Hit shows up instead of Mitsuki.

Should I write about Kaio's henka of Kotooshu? He did grab the Bulgar's arm, but it wasn't necessary as he was already heading toward the clay. You have to get up quite a head of steam to hammer into a guy as big as Kaio, and Kaio knows it. Not sure what was in it for the old man, maybe double digit wins?

(I've seen more henkas than Martin has made Google inquiries into NAMBLA, so I'd like to digress here a bit and explain why Kaio's move IS a henka and why Ama's move on Kotooshu on Day 10, while sly and not overly manly, was NOT a henka. Basically, it's all about the feet. If your feet are in the same place when you collide with your foe as they were when you began your launch, or are moving forward and perpendicular to the shikirisen, it is not a henka. If, on the other hand [or foot as the case may be] either of your feet are moving to the side FROM THE START, it's a henka, and there usually is no collision to speak of. Please visit Banzuke.com and watch Ama/Kotooshu Day 10 frame by frame, just stop the video and use your arrow buttons to see what I mean.)

The reason Hakuho won his showdown with Asa is obvious: He needed the kensho to pay for all his relatives who flew to Nippon to watch him fight! How many banners were there? 60? And was that his sister behind his Dad and Mom? She's a hottie from the cold Gobi! R-r-r-ow!

The bout played out much like most of their bouts do, usually with some initial hand slapping giving way to belt grips, usually deep and usually two handed and usually by both guys. Today was no exception, as they stalled in the middle after some vicious looking lifting/throwing attempts by both combatants.

Then something odd happened. As they stood there leaning in on each other looking like Kotomitsuki vs Kotonowaka (in 3-D dream sumo, of course, those two having never met), Hakuho changed his stance from right leg back left leg forward to right leg forward left back, but Asa acted as if nothing at all took place. Seems to me that one of the hallmarks of the Yokozuna's sumo is his ability to capitalize on a foe when the foe tries a major shifting of body parts, be it leg or arm or head or ass.

So just after this puzzling bit, Hakuho went back to his previous stance and as he did gave a sort of lift up using his strong hips, and then yanked Asa down to the right, game, set, match.

There will be all sorts of speculation now about Asa, about whether he will ever be dominant again. Huh? If Hakuho doesn't henka Asa in the playoff in Osaka, we probably have as the story line coming into this basho Asa having won 5 straight tourneys and Hakuho looking to start another push for Yokozuna after his 10-5 in Jan. and runner-up 13-2 in March. Timing is everything in life. When George Bush won the fixed 2000 election thanks to his brother the governor of Florida and his pals on the Supreme Court, it was disheartening but not the end of the world. But after 9-11 gave him an excuse to wage endless war, it very well could be.

Similar thing here. The disheartening henka yusho followed by an untimely off basho by Asa (and I could speculate at length on what brought that about) and bada boom, new Yokozuna. Hey, I love Hakuho, his 15-0 was outstanding, he has become what we always said he would, and I wish him the best. I look forward to my beloved Day 15 reports now more than ever. But if any of you out there are thinking this basho represents a changing of the guard, and that Asa's days are numbered, take another little purple pill and think again, Jack: It's game on!

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
The With the yusho decided on day 13, Asashoryu allegedly injured and Hakuho's promotion in the bag, there's not much left for me to speculate on. There is Bernie's strange absence, and I really hope she was worth it, because from what I've heard since, we're talking pregnancy and shotgun wedding. In any case, we won't be seeing him around for a while, which isn't all bad, because now Sumotalk's stance on the henka is unanimous. There is also a new yaocho story from the Shukan Gendai that I'm sure you're already familiar with. The bottom line in this story is that the Shukan people seem to have the Association by the bollocks, because they've been strangely silent on the matter. I'm not going to speculate on this, though, because there's obviously more to it than meets the eye. Hell, Miyagino's apology is practically equivalent to pleading guilty in a court of law. Instead, how about focusing on some sumo for a change?

Alright, let's start with Kotooshu, uh...the Asashoryu-Kotooshu bout. Simon makes a hazardous speculation in yesterday's comments, that Chiyotaikai didn't come out with tsuppari against the big Bulgarian. He did, but Kotooshu clamped him right away and kept him close until he could get the belt grip he needed. There's a perfectly scientific explanation why tsuppari don't work so well against Kotooshu: he's so damn tall, and for the thrusts to be effective you have to aim higher, away from the center of gravity, to produce the torque necessary to drive him back, because he's got some of the strongest legs in the division.

Anyway, let's get back to today's bout with the Yokozuna. Previous losses against Aminishiki and the two veteran Ozeki got everyone to think Asashoryu was injured. I thought so too, at first, but...the injured arm is supposed to be the right one, but today Asashoryu showed up with the strap on the left! If there's a reasonable explanation for this, I'd certainly like to hear it. One can reasonably speculate he injured his left worse than the right and just ran out of bandages. Inconsistencies aside, Asashoryu didn't seem his usual self today, because right after a tachiai with both hands to Kotooshu's neck, he made absolutely, positively zero effort to keep him away from the belt, instead focusing on tsuppari. Eventually the Bulgarian grabbed a solid double uwate and pressed the action quickly, throwing Asashoryu's ass to the dirt. What the hell was that, Mr. Yokozuna? Were you trying to show Chiyotaikai where he went wrong yesterday? You certainly made your point. Those of you who understand the terms über-micro, n00b and gosu will certainly understand this: "Hell, it's about time!"

This may well be the spark Kotooshu needed to get back on track, but don't be fooled. He needed a huge tactical error from the Yokozuna and a possible injury to win. Still, it's a win against Asashoryu and he enjoyed every second of it (you can tell that by the big smile on his face and the subtle flicker of the eyebrow from when he was receiving the thick stack of kensho envelopes). Kotomitsuki may well have missed his greatest chance to beat Asashoryu in this lifetime, because these last few days the Mongolian's been looking very vulnerable.

Whew, onto the next. Believe it or not, Sekiwake Kotomitsuki is building an Ozeki run. After more than a year of erratic performances, he's finally posting steady double digit records. Today he was already 10-3 before meeting Ozeki Kaio, who's having a decent basho himself (hell, anybody can say they're having a decent basho after throwing Asashoryu). The tachiai wasn't particularly strong, with Kotomitsuki keeping Kaio's deadly right at bay, blocking his shoulder with his left. After a one second long pause, Kotomitsuki quickly stepped to his right and got the solid uwate while burying his other arm deep under Kaio's armpit. From there on he just took Kaio back and over the edge for the 11th win. With a similar performance next basho the NSK might just give him the promotion (if he makes 33 wins, of course). Still, I think it's a long shot. Kaio's hanging on at 9-5.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai did today against Hakuho what he always does: tsuppari. The Yokozuna (it's just a matter of formality now) tried to keep up at first, but since that's not his specialty he was quickly driven back. He didn't panic, though, and cautiously went for the belt, aware of a possible pull-down attempt. When Chiyotaikai eventually missed a couple of shots, Hakuho snuck his way into a deep morozashi, which he used to lift the 160kg Ozeki clean off his feet. He couldn't finish it right away, though, but Chiyotaikai had nothing left to do. With 14 wins, Hakuho is making his third yusho mathematically official. Chiyotaikai is another one having a decent basho.

Sekiwake Ama faced M5 Takekaze in his quest for kachikoshi from the third highest rank. Takekaze employed another of those half-impact henkas Clancy hates so much, but failed to finish the job and the Mongolian snapped right back at him to get both arms inside. He survived a late kubinage attempt by his round opponent and drove him out to his seventh loss. Both men will need a win tomorrow for kachikoshi. I'm giving Ama a 95% percent chance of getting his (with the 5% cushion for inadvertent collapses or such). Takekaze will have to work for his 8th, as he's facing Mongolian Ryuo, another guy with a dubiously round outline.

Komusubi Kotoshogiku slammed hard into an upright M3 Kisenosato, who's seen better days. The impact was so hard that Kisenosato was taken all the way back to the tawara in one second with little resistance and pushed over with some gaburi in another two. I don't know what's wrong with this guy...oh, wait, it's his tachi-ai. With 9 losses already, Kisenosato's heading the wrong way, while Kotoshogiku gets one final chance at kachikoshi tomorrow against Dejima.

Next up, injured Komusubi Toyonoshima met fellow Japanese hope Tochiozan in a damage-control bout. Both men exhibited a cautious tachi-ai going for grips and it was Toyonoshima who got the right uwate. Tochiozan shook it off, though, by dropping his hips, taking advantage of Toyo's shorter arms, and surged forward to push his opponent out with little resistance. A healthy Toyonoshima would have put up quite the fight, but it wasn't the case today. Tochiozan (6-8) hit his first wall this basho, but he's got a bright future ahead of him. Toyonoshima did well getting 4 wins and could even get the fifth, against hapless Korean Kasugao.

M' bitch Kakuryu got the makekoshi that was coming to him against fellow Mongolian Tokitenku (speaking of Mongolians, a little note to Simon: did you know the word ‘huzzah' has Mongolian origins? I'm Mongolian, remember? I'm supposed to know). Both rikishi charged with arms up, probably both aiming for the quick, cheap pull-down. Well, Tokitenku was quicker to grab his opponent by the back of the neck and pull him off balance, finishing the job with a couple more slaps, right before crashing out of the dohyo himself. Tokitenku secures eight wins and will be back to Komusubi in July, after Toyonoshima's inherent demotion. Kakuryu...well, seriously now, he's not that bad. Compared to cowards like Kotooshu and the Ro brothers, he's a testament of courage. In four basho he only pulled one henka, compared to at least 1-2 per basho by the others. And 6 wins from this rank is an achievement indeed, albeit by mostly evasive sumo. Hey, if it works, he deserves to win.

M1 Homasho got schooled today by savvy veteran Wakanosato, who's slowly getting back into it. Homasho came slightly lower at the tachi-ai, but his pretty face ate a hefty dose of Wakanosato shoulder (Did I just say pretty? Every time I see that guy's face I can only think about animals from the Equidae family . That gave the old guy enough time to plant a thick right paw on Homasho's back and another one on his head to slap him down to his ninth loss. He'll be back, just you wait. Wakanosato (9-5) is back where he belongs, but age is starting to catch up with him.

Korean M6 Kasugao can hardly get anything going these days. M2 Tamanoshima wisely kept him away from the belt, and when the Korean finally did manage to get a shallow right inside, Tama just locked his arm and stood him upright, ultimately thrusting him down by tsukiotoshi. Tamanoshima got his ass handed to him at M2, but still managed to get 5 so far.

Unlike Georgian Kokkai or Japanese Tokitsuumi, who got ground into fine powder this time around. The whole affair was rather messy, with Tokitsuumi getting a bothersome grip on the front of the Georgian's mawashi and keeping a low stance in the process. Normally, I'd expect Kokkai to go right for the pull-down but today he didn't, instead trying to shake off the grip, which he eventually did. With a quick push to the side Tokitsuumi managed to spin Kokkai around, but the Georgian somehow stayed in it. Finally, Tokitsuumi slipped the right deep under Kokkai armpit and performed a nice sukuinage, earning him his third win of the tournament. Kokkai's numbers are similar and both can take some time off next basho down in the netherworld.

One of this basho's heroes, M4 Aminishiki (who handed Asashoryu his first defeat), met former Ozeki Dejima (who was cruising through the lower division). Dejima delivered his usual strong tachi-ai, but Aminishiki survived the charge and, although taken back to the straw, he threw Dejima off balance by brilliantly pushing upwards into his armpit. The maneuver was so effective Dejima had little time to do anything before he was pushed out of the dohyo by an embarrassing okuridashi. He looked devastated by the loss, but it was all his fault, for attacking recklessly and allowing his sneaky (and very underrated) opponent to get inside. Aminishiki gets his 9th and will get the shukunsho for the Yokozuna and Ozeki scalps. Dejima might get a kantosho himself, but being a former Ozeki and all, I doubt it.

The next bout featured one of the strangest tachi-ai I've ever seen. Mongolian debutant Ryuo came high and just tried to wrap both arms against class clown Takamisakari's neck, but the latter's own tachi-ai was just as bad and he couldn't capitalize. Ryuo retreated to the side and deflected Takamisakari's charge to turn the tables and force him down and out by oshitaoshi. Personally, I think Takamisakari charges with his eyes closed, because today he didn't seem to have any idea what his opponent (who was right in front of him, by the way) was doing. Ryuo makes an impression by getting double digits right from his debut, and it will be interesting to see how he fares next. Takamisakari is 8-6 and he's already raked in more dough from kensho then most sanyaku. Gotta love it.

Russian Rohoho came too high at the tachiai against Mongolian AsaseUgly, instantly allowing him a solid left uwate on the front of the mawashi. The man in the red mawashi kept sliding to the side, trying to get the easy dashinage win, but Roho stayed alive long enough to force a little stalemate in the center of the dohyo. Asasekiryu then capitalized on his better position and stood the Ossetian up to force him out for his 12th win out of 14 matches. Special prizes are on his way, and with a little slip-up from Kotoshogiku he might even make sanyaku. Roho is ugly.

Miyabiyama, a former Ozeki, sure ain't what he used to be. Today you could see clearly at the tachi-ai that his center of gravity was well outside his area of support. That's why M11 Tochinonada's (a former Sekiwake himself) pull was so effective, sending the blob across the dohyo and near the edge. From there it was a simple job for Nada, who got morozashi and sent his fat foe across the straw for the easy yorikiri win. With only 7 wins at this lowly rank Tochinonada isn't looking too good. He's looking better than Miyabi though, who should be mowing his opponents like a chainsaw through a hollow tree trunk.

M11 Otsukasa was a millisecond quicker than M15 Ushiomaru and stood the latter up at the tachi-ai. After which he pulled him down by the face to get his 4th win on his way to Juryo. Ushiomaru will be helping him pack and they'll probably share the ride as well. Neext.

M13 Futeno fizzled out near the end of the basho after a dreamy 8-0 start. He took serious abuse to his face from Hokutoriki's tsuppari, and just when he was getting ready to finally turn the tables on the Joker, he was avoided at the edge and thrown to his 4th loss in as many days. Wow, getting thrown by Jokutoriki must suck even worse than doing the henka on Dejima and losing. Both rikishi are 9-5.

Satoyama got his make-koshi against Tochinohana in a bout where lack of size was the key word. Kantosho, Mike? Also, there were some guys dropping in from Juryo, but those bouts are highly irrelevant.

So, what do we have left to look forward to? Let's see...We have the clash of the two Mongolian Yokozuna. From what I've seen these last 3-4 days, Hakuho should win easily, but let's not take Asashoryu lightly yet. Then there's Ozeki hopeful Kotomitsuki (that sounds just plain weird, dunnit?) against Chiyotaikai, and Koto has to win this one in order to stand a chance to get it next basho with 11. There's also some yaocho watch, with Ama needing his 8th against Asasekiryu who already has 12 wins, prizes and promotion guaranteed. There are also some other guys with 7-7 and, oh, yeah, some four guys coming over from Juryo to pay their respects.

I'm more curious, though, about the whole Yaocho scandal. It seems there's more to it than even we Sumotalk conspiracy crackpots thought. I can't possibly imagine the yaocho going all the way to the Association arranging the outcomes of all the bouts, that's just plain ridiculous, but I'm sure some rikishi throw strategic bouts for money or future favors. Remember, though, that Sumotalk called last year's Nagoya yaocho long before there was any talk about it in the papers. Anyway, the whole thing stinks to high heaven, and the NSK shutting up about it isn't helping either. I already see them dropping all charges against the Shukan Gendai for their last piece on yaocho. If that's not evidence for foul play, I don't know what is.

Clancy rides the purple dinosaur on senshuraku.

Day 13 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
The inevitable is almost a reality. Hakuho's feet and upper thighs are in the Yokozuna door and we'll soon be subjected to yet more soul searching in the Japanese press about the foreign dominance of their national sport. Hakuho is only 22, and will surely be around for many years to come. To make things worse for the Japanese, Asashoryu is some distance off 27. Is there a credible Japanese challenger in the works? Without substantial improvement from the home contingent, I'm afraid I don't see it at this time. Homasho might look the closest thing to the real deal, but he's 26 now. Still, he is improving in leaps and bounds, looking pretty comfortable among the top boys. Hmmm.

Back to the man of the moment, we have been treated to an imperious display from Hakuho. The only bout in which he looked even slightly in trouble was the Kaio one, but he showed power and skill to turn that one around. Asashoryu is surely injured – yeah, Chiyotaikai did some great sumo yesterday, but I don't see a fully-charged Asashoryu losing to anything the Ozeki can bring on any day of the week. And what about that balancing act at the edge? Astonishing.

Turning to today's action, Ozeki Hakuho (13-0) fended off a determined attack from Sekiwake Kotomitsuki, who showed a hell of a lot more verve than he did against Asashoryu. The new Yokozuna hung in there and finally got a right-hand grip. With Kotomitsuki desperately fending off the left hand, Hakuho attacked and got what he wanted (hidari uwate) to force the Sekiwake out with an unstoppable double belt grip. More fine sumo from Hakuho, and he can wrap up the yusho tomorrow against Chiyotaikai. I don't see any other outcome. Still, it will be exciting to see him go for a zensho yusho against Asashoryu on senshuraku, and with the Yokozuna clearly at 50%, he will surely get it.

Yes, there's something definitely wrong with Yokozuna Asashoryu as he uncharacteristically held back at the tachiai against Ozeki Kaio, allowing his opponent to wrap up the left arm. The right arm of the Yokozuna is clearly next to useless so that was out of the equation.  Kaio was pushed back, ultimately forced to give up left uwate to the Yokozuna, but he stayed calm and forced a mid-dohyo stalemate, while trying to get his favoured migi-uwate, and he got it as Asashoryu went for an ill-advised twisting attempt that brought his mawashi into range of Kaio's grasping right hand. Asashoryu seemed at a loss with what to do next so it was up to Kaio then to pounce with a nice pull on the belt for the uwatedashinage win. 9-4 for the Ozeki. Asashoryu is 10-3, and can no longer do anything about his compatriot's promotion to the top rank. This is gonna be a tough time for Asa, who hates losing more than most. But I don't expect him to pull out – he has way too much Yokozuna pride for that. And he is a big enough man to accept that Hakuho's promotion is inevitable and deserved.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai (10-3) has had a fine basho. It really is great to see him going with forward sumo again. Ozeki Kotooshu (8-5), on the other hand, has looked, frankly, poor. Today, however, the Bulgarian got away with it as Chiyotaikai elected (???) not to come out with tsuppari – his arms were way too low, giving Kotooshu the chance to neutralize them. This, basically, was suicidal stuff, as Kotooshu was able to fight the bout under his own terms. I really don't understand what Chiyotaikai was doing here – poor concentration perhaps. Kotooshu took control and it was game over once he snagged the belt and swung Chiyo around to the side, from where he could easily push out.

In an all-Mongolian affair, Sekiwake Ama (6-7) fell victim to a blatant henka from M1 Tokitenku (7-6). Ama ran straight past his opponent in spectacular fashion, as Tokitenku gave him a playful push on the back of the mawashi to help him along. Well, another one for you henka fans. Did you get your jollies? Was it fun? What a marvelous display of timing and technical ability...and cowardice.

Komusubi Toyonoshima (4-9) has put up a real fight with that injury, even managing to pull off an improbable win over genki Ozeki Chiyotaikai along the way. M3 Kisenosato (5-8) was looking to snap a six-day losing streak. It was another stirring performance from the walking wounded but Kisenosato proved to be just a little too much for him as he kept on the case, avoiding the pitfalls of three mid-bout evasions. Kisser finally got Toyo on the edge but the Komusubi miraculously survived, but was fatally off balance, leaving the way open for Kisenosato to push his opponent down to the clay. It was over before that, however, as Toyo's foot slipped out inadvertently.

Komusubi Kotoshogiku fell victim to M5 Takekaze, who employed his usual pulling tactics to devastating effect as he came in low at the tachiai and wasted no time at all in going for the back of his opponent's head. OK, Takekaze has had a fantastic basho, somehow picking up seven wins so far from a tricky rank, but this was not pretty at all. Kotoshogiku will be moderately pissed off with this poor loss and falls to 6-7.

In a battle between two of the great hopes for Japanese sumo, M1 Homasho met up with M4 Tochiohzan, who reminded us how dangerous he can be as he kept the pressure on his decidedly unsteady-looking opponent. Tochiohzan stayed patient and kept his stance low as Homasho failed to get any kind of grip or control. Homasho's ankle finally collapsed as he tried a dramatic leap to the side in an attempt to turn the bout. Not the most beautiful bout in sumo history, but it was a deserved win for Tochiohzan. It is the second day running that Homasho has lost badly to opponents he should be beating. Both men are make-koshi with eight losses. Disappointing.

M8 Asasekiryu has been having a dream basho with ten wins out of twelve. Against giant-slayer M4 Aminishiki, he came out pushing and thrusting, keeping Ami right in front of him and on the defensive, despite his opponent shifting to the side at tachiai. Aminishiki charged blindly forward but Sexy was on the case, pulling on the neck while somehow managing to keep his collapsing knee from touching the clay as his opponent crumpled. This looked a scrappy bout against an out-of-sorts-looking Aminishiki, but in fact great awareness and split-second thinking was shown by Sexy to give him the unorthodox win (kubihineri – neck twisting throw.) He improves to 11-2 and a probable special prize. Aminishiki has a fine 8-5 record from the M4 rank with some notable scalps under his belt. For me this bout demonstrated one of the reasons for the success of the Mongolians in sumo – rarely would we see a Japanese rikishi winning with this kind of technique. The Mongolian rikishi have a broader range of techniques in their arsenal, with all-round superior agility. This gives them a decisive advantage.

M10 Dejima got away with it big time as M7 Takamisakari executed one of his trademark switches at the edge as he took Dejima's charge in his stride, getting straight into morozashi. The former Ozeki did not capitulate, however, and pulled off a remarkable twisting escape to disengage and give himself one more pop at Circus. He made no mistake the second time, charging his foe out. Dejima improves to 11-2 and stays in the yusho race (ahem). To get a special prize, however, he will probably need 13 wins in view of his former Ozeki status – he is expected to perform well at this rank. Takimasakari is 8-5.

I had to drag my gaze away from the big Roho poster I have on the wall next to my bed to watch the Russian M9 kick M16 Hokutoriki's arse in emphatic style, holding the jokester off at the tachiai to get morozashi and walk him out with no resistance whatsoever. That's nine wins for the world's most cheerful man. Hokutoriki might have fought like a potato left out for two days in the rain today, but he will nonetheless be satisfied with his 8-5 record.

M13 Futenoh (9-4) has gone off the rails somewhat, losing three times in the last four days. Matched up against super-genki M14 Ryuo (9-4), he was forced off balance right from the start as the Mongolian newcomer cleverly pulled back from the tachiai. Futenoh never recovered as he staggered forward, unable to get into his own sumo at all. Ultimately, he was easy meat for the oshi-dashi win as Ryuo attacked with vigour. This lad does not look bad at all, does he now?

The fat lady is singing, my friends. Dejima and Asasekiryu are now the only ones who can catch Hakuho, but they both have tough bouts tomorrow, and need to win both of their final bouts, while Hakuho would need to lose his remaining two. Ain't gonna happen, I'm afraid. We have a new Yokozuna at last. He will secure the yusho tomorrow, zensho on Sunday, and be promoted next week. Did anyone really have any doubts?

Oh, and Baruto strolled to the Juryo yusho today!  Huzzah!

Over and out for me. Martin comes out of the closet with Kakuryu tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
In what was shaping up to be the best basho in years has taken a rather unexpected turn these last few days once again producing a rikishi who is head and shoulders above the rest of the field--at least through the first 12 days--leaving the others to battle it out for a second place that nobody cares about. But who'da ever thought that star rikishi wouldn't be Asashoryu? Here's a trivia question for you: who was the last rikishi to blow a two bout lead over Asashoryu with just three days to go? The answer in a bit.

But first, let's focus on the day's events. Rewind back to senshuraku of the Haru basho and recount the final bout of the tournament (the playoff doesn't count). Yes, Yokozuna Asashoryu greased Ozeki Chiyotaikai with a tachi-ai henka that set up a yusho playoff between Asa and Hakuho. Was revenge on Chiyo's mind today? Dunno, but something inspired this Ozeki. As the two rikishi went through their pre-bout rituals, they gave the audience a couple of good staredowns. Not anything that appeared canned or that was too prolonged...just a coupla solid staredowns like the good old days. It added a little bit of excitement to another blow-out win for Asashoryu, right? Not today as Asashoryu was a millisecond late with his tachi-ai and that's all Chiyotaikai needed storming into the Yokozuna leading with a right nodowa that Asashoryu would never shake. Chiyotaikai muscled Asashoryu back to the edge in a flash, and even though he didn't finish the Yokozuna off with some oomph sending him into the crowd, he had beaten him to the point that not even a fantastic balancing act by Asashoryu on the straw could save his Yokozuna hide.

This was fantastic stuff from the Ozeki, who scores his biggest win in ages moving into position alongside Asashoryu at 10-2. Chiyotaikai has proven that he can still step up in the clutch with the win. Kadoban-shmadoban...with a little help from his friend (Asashoryu), Chiyotaikai is still in the yusho race if he can beat Hakuho. Okay, okay, now I'm getting carried away. It's just nice to see the Ozeki have an impact on the basho when previously he'd grab that eighth win and suck the rest of the way. As for Asashoryu, he made no mistakes today. He just lost to a more determined guy at the tachi-ai. And how great was the Yokozuna in defeat? I mean the dude has been driven back to the straw a second and a half, his right leg is in the air parallel to the dohyo in his opponent's grasp, and yet he still doesn't go down without a fight. It took Chiyotaikai longer to finish Asashoryu off at the edge in that position than it took him to get him there. Just incredible stuff all around. Regarding the Yokozuna, he's in a position now that he has never been in before. Oh sure, he's failed to take the yusho, and he's even been down two losses heading into the final three days, but never after having dropped the yusho the tournament before. Let's not count Genghis out just yet, though. With a chance to hand Hakuho a loss on senshuraku, he only needs Kotomitsuki or Chiyotaikai to trip him up the next two days. Remember Hokutoriki several years ago at the Natsu basho. Asa's just a henka away from getting right back into this thing.

Let's move on to the other marquee bout of the day featuring Ozeki Hakuho vs. Ozeki Kotooshu. Kotooshu grabbed the early left outer grip from the chest thumping tachi-ai, but Hakuho countered just as fast with a left outer of his own only he one-upped the Bulgarian by taking the initiative first going for the outer belt throw with the left while pulling down at the back of Kotooshu's neck with the right. Kotooshu managed to slip out of the move but was too low and too out of position by then. Wasting no time, Hakuho regained the advantage slipping his left arm around Kotooshu's right and wrangled Kotooshu to the dirt with a nifty tottari move picking up his 12th win in as many days. This was a great example of where both of these rikishi are in their careers right now. The tachi-ai in this bout was a stalemate although you could argue that Kotooshu had the slight advantage. So from this 50-50 position, it was Hakuho who took the risk and went for the kill straightway. It didn't seem to me that Kotooshu even had a plan of how he wanted to attack his foe, and he went down far too easily even though he had an uwate. Simply put, Kotooshu shoulda done more with that good tachi-ai than he did. It speaks volumes to me at least. So, who was the last rikishi to lead Asashoryu by two bouts with three days to go? Yes, it was Kotooshu at the 2005 Aki basho.

As for Hakuho, this was solid stuff again, and you can see his confidence just soaring right now. Mathematically, he can secure the yusho tomorrow if all of the other two-loss guys lose and Hakuho wins, but hat's extremely unlikely, though, especially when Asashoryu faces Kaio on day 13. Hakuho is the definite favorite now, but Asashoryu can sure as hell beat him on senshuraku, so the Ozeki must continue to concentrate and take care of bidness these next two days. Kotomitsuki has been a pain in the ass for Hakuho of late, and we just saw what an inspired Chiyotaikai can do, so it's not over. As for Yokozuna promotion? Who cares. I honestly don't think Hakuho is even thinking about it at this point, and that's why he's surging like this. The word out of Hakuho's mouth most this basho is "concentration." It's as dumb as sports clichés get, but Hakuho is truly taking them one bout at a time. I love the guy's mindset right now, and his physical abilities are a given. I don't see him getting beat the rest of the way, but there's this nagging five-letter word that I can't get out of my paranoid mind called h-e-n-k-a. Ruins everything.

Let's move on. Talk about a love him hate him kind of guy. M4 Aminishiki used a dirty tachi-ai henka to his right against Ozeki Kaio grabbing the cheap right uwate that he used to push him to the side and eventually completely around setting up the bum rush victory in the end. This was dirty pool if I've ever seen it. Let me walk you through Aminishiki's mindset. He pulled off the upset of Asashoryu on day 10 suddenly moving him to 7 wins. He knows that one more win will give him his kachi-koshi and the shukunsho, so after failing miserably against Kotoshogiku yesterday in a straightup fight, he wusses out today and goes for the henka of Kaio (8-4) at the tachi-ai. Yeah, Aminishiki looks good at 8-4, but I think this was his third dirty win of the basho. There ya go. Love him and hate him. And is it too much to ask that no one does the tachi-ai henka on the days that I comment? Who makes up the reporting schedule around here anyway?

See that drain over there? That's M3 Kisenosato circling it. Today against Sekiwake Ama, both rikishi shared a neutral tachi-ai where it seemed as if neither could get solid footing on the dohyo. With both rikishi unstable and flopping in low stances, you knew this would be a pull-fest. And the two didn't disappoint each going for slap downs of the other. The difference proved to be Kisenosato's poor footwork as Ama took advantage in the end pouncing on the Kid whose feet were aligned slapping him down to the clay. Ugly comments...ugly bout. Ama improves to 6-6 while Kisenosato makes the make-koshi official. Please tell me we don't have another Futenoh on our hands with Kisenosato.

M5 Takekaze attempted to work his magic again today against Sekiwake Kotomitsuki, but the latter kept his arms in tight cutting off any sort of effective attack from Takekaze and easily set him up for the push out taking mere seconds. Solid stuff from Kotomitsuki (10-2) who should spur talks of Ozeki promotion again with double digit wins in consecutive basho (he went 10-5 in March). Forgive me for rooting against his promotion. The last thing we need is an Ozeki who's hit and miss and can win in double digits about one basho in every four. We've already got three of 'em, so we don't need one more. As for this basho, Kotomitsuki is the wild card along with Chiyotaikai now. Both have yet to face Hakuho; both are sitting on two losses; and both are still well in this thing if they can beat Hakuho. Judging by how Mitsuki handled his bout with Asashoryu yesterday, I'll check him off the list. Takekaze falls to 6-6.

M4 Tochiohzan's strong, forward-moving attack fueled by his lower body has been absent this entire basho, and while the M4 seemed to have the advantage at the tachi-ai today, Komusubi Kotoshogiku endured the hidari-yotsu contest well frustrating Tochiohzan to the point where he went for an ill-advised pull down attempt. From there, it was gravy as the Geeku set the hook and scored the easy force-out win. Experience wins today as the Geeku moves to 6-6. Tochiohzan makes it official falling to 4-8.

Komusubi Toyonoshima seemed to let up at the tachi-ai a bit against M2 Tamanoshima hoping he'd walk into the moro-zashi grip. It didn't work out perfectly, but Toyonoshima enjoyed the early frontal belt grip with the right hand. Tama countered with a left forearm pressing against Toyo's face, but the Komusubi pressed throughout and forced Tamanoshima to the edge where his final force-out attempt didn't have the necessary punch. Tamanoshima managed to twist Toyonoshima back and out while Toyonoshima grabbed the back of Tamanoshima's leg as the equalizer. Both rikishi crashed to the dirt and seemed to hit at the same time, but the gunbai went to Toyonoshima. A mono-ii was called and it was so damn close, but I can see why they gave it to Toyonoshima as Tamanoshima's left elbow seemed to barely touch first. Prolly shoulda been a do-over, but Toyonoshima (4-8) will take the charity...he's been through enough already. Peter ain't the rock this basho falling to a paltry 3-9.

Today's Homasho - Tokitenku matchup was ruined by the referee's failure to call a false start. Neither rikishi was synched up at the tachi-ai and M1 Homasho stumbled forward when M1 Tokitenku wasn't ready, but the Mongolian stood up anyway and the referee yelled out "nokotta!". I think Homasho let up a bit thinking it was a false start because he offered no attack and was pushed back in uncharacteristic fashion by some Tokitenku thrusts. Near the edge, Tokitenku shifted gears and went for the pulldown that finished the job, but they should have called this one back. Neither rikishi had the advantage over the other, so the end result was fair. It just could have been better with a sound tachi-ai. Tokitenku moves to 6-6 with the win while Homasho is on the brink at 5-7.

M2 Kokkai picked up a much-needed win thanks to M3 Kakizoe's withdrawing form the basho earlier in the day. I think the injury suffered by Kakizoe was to his pride. In lieu of the bout, however, we were treated to one of my favorite moment's of a basho...Takamisakari's kachi-koshi interview!! Even if you can't understand him, watching his interviews are priceless. First, he's like a little kid speaking into the microphone for the first time where he breathes hard into the thing, and then you have his beady eyes shifting back and forth while he gives the most honest, candid answers. I agree with Kitanofuji-oyakata who was in the booth today when afterwards he said, "I'd like to see more of the interview." Takamisakari is a national treasure in my opinion, and the Sumo Association should do everything in their power to keep him around for a long time.

I guess I just ruined the suspense of Takamisakari's bout today, but oh well. The Robocop continued his excellent display of sumo this basho by hitting M5 Kakuryu well at the tachi-ai and despite giving up the early right outer grip, he had his left arm in such great position that he lifted Kakuryu upright breaking of the outer grip and easily set him up for the swift force-out win. This was great stuff yet again from the Robocop who clinches kachi-koshi in his first opportunity. Kakuryu falls to 5-7 but has done well so far this basho considering his rank.

M7 Wakanosato just crushed Makuuchi rookie Satoyama with a right forearm at the tachi-ai that caught the M12 right in the neck/face and lifted him upright and off balance. Waka immediately went for the pull down at this point and dragged his compromised opponent across half of the ring and down in one fell swoop. This looked like dominating stuff, but Wakanosato's positioning and footwork was terrible. He got lucky in that Satoyama (5-7) charged with his head too low and looking straight at the dirt thus allowing Wakanosato's initial forearm to play such an impact. Bad sumo from both rikishi. Wakanosato moves to 7-5.

The high point of the tournament so far in the lower Maegashira ranks has been the performances of Dejima, Futenoh, and Asasekiryu...and actually a few of Takamisakari's bouts. Today, M13 Futenoh and M8 Asasekiryu locked horns where Seki employed a nice tsuppari attack whose aim wasn't to drive Futenoh back but to keep him off of the belt. It was an excellent strategy because Seki was the one who dictated when the bout went to the belt, and he was rewarded with the better left-handed inside grip. Asasekiryu tested the force-out waters straightway, but Futenoh was in the good position to grab the right outer grip, so Seki kept his hips back and jockeyed for a few seconds before brilliantly using his right arm to push at Futenoh's left side (the ottsuke move) lifting him upright and enabling him to combine the attack with that left inner grip to force Futenoh back and out. This was great strategy throughout from Sexy who moves to 10-2, just two off the pace. Futenoh falls to 9-3.

You knew that the M9 Miyabiyama - M16 Hokutoriki affair today would be a tsuppari contest, but I didn't think it would be that ugly. Both rikishi seemed hesitant to instigate the charge (I think they both knew the other had "pull down" on his mind), so they stood there with stiff arms at each other's necks just kinda holding each other at bay for a few seconds. Finally, Miyabiyama went for the move first and slapped Hokutoriki off balance and eventually down to the clay for the ugly pulldown win. Miyabiyama will take this one, though, as he moves to 7-5. Hokutoriki is 8-4.

M9 Roho picked up his kachi-koshi today by exhibiting an excellent tachi-ai where he leaned to his left and grabbed the firm outer grip. M14 Hochiyama's own charge was so weak, that Roho had more than sufficient time to plant that right foot and launch Hochiyama (5-7) over and down into a heap for the powerful win. The Russian is 8-4.

Today, you could liken Makuuchi rookie, Ryuo, to a prisoner who hasn't received his conjugal visit for six months. In other words, he only lasted about eight seconds. The Mongolian looked great against M10 Dejima from the start using a moro-te tachi-ai and forcing Dejima back with his tsuppari attack, but as mentioned Ryuo reached the climax of his sumo at about 8 seconds in and then just went limp. From there, Dejima spun him completely around and then easily pushed him out from behind. Dejima had really done nothing the whole bout, but he took advantage of Ryuo's lack of stamina nicely moving to 10-2. Ryuo falls to 8-4.

M15 Ushiomaru looks to have an injured left knee. Wearing a brace around it that looked like a doughnut (Mmmm...doughnuts), he pressed the action against M11 Tochinonada, but the gentle giant just went with the flow and backed up a bit before timing a perfect slapdown of the Ushi (5-7) with the left arm. Nada reaches the .500 mark at 6-6.

I knew it was coming....a two bout winning streak for M11 Otsukasa! And even after a retarded tachi-ai where he went for an ineffective harite. This is the same tachi-ai he used against Wakanosato where he jumps off the dohyo a couple of centimeters while he swings his left arm. Wakanosato took clear advantage when he saw it, but M13 Tochinohana proved why he is 2-10 by just standing there and watching the move. After the display, Otsukasa was the one attacking, and he managed a belt grip that was enough to force the stagnant Tochinohana back and out for the ugly win.

Juryo rikishi, Kitazakura, clinched his kachi-koshi in the division today taking advantage of a late M12 Tamakasuga tachi-ai and grabbing an early left uwate. Tamakasuga ain't a belt fighter, so the duck was able to force the veteran out with ease. Kitazakura was so excited afterwards he hopped off the dohyo only to forget that there was actually a kensho for the bout. I know, who in their right mind would pay to sponsor the Tamakasuga - Kitazakura matchup? But someone did god bless 'em. Kitazakura skipped back onto the dohyo, collected the cool 30,000 yen, then delivered a "guts pose" (a clenched fist) to the crowd creating quite the disturbance in the arena. You would have thought they had announced my entrance into the building. It was a good moment even though the Sumo Association frowns upon rikishi displaying emotion on the dohyo. Give the crowd something to cheer for I say. I mean this is the bottom of the barrel. Tamakasuga falls to 4-8.

And finally, M15 Iwakiyama kept his kachi-koshi hopes alive by throwing a fierce left elbow into J1 Yoshikaze's grill at the tachi-ai and driving the Juryo rikishi back near the tawara where he next dangerously went for the swipe down. He seemed to catch Yoshikaze's right arm as the smaller YK fell to the dirt. No matter. At 5-7 Iwakiyama is spared the make-koshi for now, and Luigi's excitement is put on hold as barrels won't be rolling down the Donkey Kong scaffolding just yet.

With Asashoryu's stunning second defeat and Hakuho's twelfth win, Yokozuna promotion is in the bag. Still, there's plenty of potential drama left if someone can trip Hakuho up before the final day. Your leaderboard is as follows:

12-0: Hakuho
10-2: Asashoryu, Chiyotaikai, Kotomitsuki, Asasekiryu, Dejima

Bryce types right-handed tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The irony of it all just burns me up to no end. Rewind to the final bout yesterday between Asashoryu and Aminishiki that saw an extremely close finish that demanded a judges conference; yet, the men in black keep their hands down and butts planted in those cushions whistlin' Dixie as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. What a joke. Then to add insult to injury, I settle onto the couch in my underwear with trusty laptop in hand to watch the day 11 bouts, and I'm thinking, "first up is Yoshikaze vs. Tochinohana...don't need to comment on that" until the bout ends with another close finish and the men in black are off their asses faster than teenage kids can evacuate a parked car after someone lets a hot fart. In fact, day 11 saw three mono-ii that included two do-overs and one reversal. Can it be anymore clearer than that? Why doesn't a Yokozuna get the same respect as a Sekiwake, some Maegashira scrubs, and even a Juryo rikishi for hellsakes?

Fact is a double standard does exist, and the judges will rule against Asashoryu at any opportunity just because they're bitter that a foreign rikishi is kicking their asses and is on pace to take down the greatest of the greats. This isn't my opinion. This is a fact. A big deal is currently being made over yaocho and whether or not it exists in sumo. Can't have anyone compromising bouts can we? Well, when the judges blatantly turn a blind eye towards a bout that involves a Yokozuna--a Yokozuna who has been carrying the sport for four years--it compromises the integrity of the sport the same as if a bout was fixed. I am so pissed off right now that Kotooshu could henka Takekaze today and I'd run around the neighborhood in my wife's panties out of sheer joy.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking are my wife's panties the cotton ones or those silky kind. That, and "you're just mad because you like Asashoryu and wanted him to win." Well, you're not gonna get the answer to the first question, and as for the second question, I don't have a rooting interest for Asashoryu, and I thought Aminishiki won the thing fair and square. I thought he won the bout when I watched it live, and I thought he was the winner after watching the replay over and over and over. That's not the point. The point is the bout warranted a mono-ii as Aminishiki clearly touched the dohyo before Asashoryu hit anything, and you have to at least call the judges conference out of respect for the Yokozuna rank. Even Asashoryu couldn't hold back afterwards in the press blurting out in not so polite terms that he at least deserved a mono-ii.

Damn straight he did. And the funny thing is I was quite calm at the end of the bouts yesterday. I'm used to Asashoryu getting jobbed by the judges, so I didn't think anything of it until the judges were so actively involved in the meaningless bouts today. It just hammered home the point that the judges are consciously going to rule against Asashoryu at every opportunity. I get hot because they don't respect the rank itself. Furthermore, if that had been a Japanese Yokozuna at the end of Aminishiki's push out, there would have been a mono-ii called. That's indisputable. And that's also racial prejudice. I know the mainstream press isn't going to say it, and the public won't discuss it among themselves, but everyone knows it.

As for yesterday's happenings, I gave Bernie a whole ten minutes after curfew before I finally had to call down to the front desk and have the hotel doors locked for the night. Hey, as long as she was worth it, you're forgiven my man. As for the Aminishiki - Asashoryu matchup, the Yokozuna blew it with the worst tachi-ai I can ever remember seeing from him. His feet were aligned and Aminishiki pounced. In order to post a perfect basho, you can maybe make one mistake. Ozeki Hakuho made his against Toyonoshima by going for that early pull down, but the hobbled Komusubi couldn't close the deal. Asa made his mistake with a horrible tachi-ai against a wily veteran and paid the price.

Enough of that. Let's get to the day 11 action before my wife wakes up and catches me wearing her undies.

Whenever Asashoryu and Kotomitsuki meet, NHK tries their best to at least make it appear that Kotomitsuki has a chance, but he doesn't...especially if reports from Hit and Mitsuki himself that he has a bad back right now are true. Asashoryu proved as much making amends for his tachi-ai yesterday by using a brilliant charge today where he pushed up at Kotomitsuki's left arm turning the Sekiwake completely to the side. From there, the Yokozuna wasted no time pushing Kotomitsuki out from behind for the solid okuri-dashi win. Simple as that, and nothing else to break down as Asashoryu improves to 10-1 all but knocking out Kotomitsuki from the yusho race at 9-2.

Ozeki Hakuho looked to storm to an easy victory against fellow Ozeki Kaio coming in, but not so fast. After a stalemate at the tachi-ai, Hakuho used his annoying tsuppari to keep Kaio away from the belt until Hakuho could work his way in for a brief left inside grip. Hakuho used that position to mount a charge, but Kaio evaded around the ring and actually got his own right arm on the inside of Hakuho's left lifting Hakuho's limb up in the air (captured at right), but the problem was Kaio was retreating when he pulled the move off...not attacking. Had he been moving forward with that position, he would have handed Hakuho his first loss, but it wasn't to be as Hakuho bullied his way into the quick moro-zashi position that Kaio could not counter. It was easy in the end but a struggle to get there as Hakuho remains perfect at 11-0. Kaio falls to 8-3, but what does he care? The eight's in the bag.

For some reason, M3 Kisenosato was 0-7 against Ozeki Chiyotaikai coming into today's bout. Is it because he can't take tsuppari to the face? Could be because today he offered no resistance again allowing Chiyotaikai to work his tsuppari magic and quickly drive Kisenosato back and out. This wasn't that dominating tsuppari attack where Chiyotaikai strikes once, twice, three times and you're in the first row, but it was feisty enough that Kisenosato had no answer. Chiyo moves to 9-2 with the win while, the Kid hasn't had an answer for much anything this basho falling to 4-7.

Uh, Kotooshu...would you like to explain yourself? What in the hell was that? No wonder this dude is evading the likes of Kakizoe. Today against M5 Takekaze, the Ozeki's tachi-ai was half-assed as he allowed Takekaze to take the initiative with a brilliant left ottsuke move that turned Kotooshu around and upright. Takekaze seized the opportunity from there and drove the Ozeki back to the straw to the point where Kotooshu had no options left to counter his opponent. It was a bit of work, but Takekaze finally pushed Kotooshu across the straw for the unbelievable win improving his record to 6-5. Maybe Kotooshu shoulda henka'd the guy after all. In all seriousness, I harp on Kotooshu so much because he's wasting his potential. I hate the henka, and I hate it e'en more when an Ozeki or Yokozuna does it. But in Kotooshu's case, his crap sumo takes him out of basho altogether. You can just see the inner turmoil in his noggin'. He admitted that he felt guilty after greasing Kakizoe and that he surprised even himself by doing it. Kotooshu has gotta learn to trust in his ability win or lose. And Kotonowaka...if you're reading this...how bout a little vested interest in your prodigy who's lost three in a row and now finds himself at 7-4. Sorry Kotooshu fans...the frustration continues, especially since your dude hasn't fought the Khan yet.

In an entertaining affair, Sekiwake Ama attacked M1 Homasho too high from the tachi-ai allowing Homasho to get on the inside in the moro-zashi position, but as Homasho forced Ama back towards the straw and his certain death, Ama pulled off the move of the basho. Digging in to force Homasho to strong-arm him to the clay from the moro-zashi position--which Homasho did, Ama used the tip of his right foot to kick out Homasho's leg just enough so that both rikishi crashed to the dirt at the same time. The referee ruled in favor of Homasho, which looked to be the correct call, but a mono-ii was called for and the bout was correctly declared a tie forcing a rematch. In the do-over, Homasho was a half-second late at the tachi-ai, but he read Ama's hari-te tachi-ai and stayed low securing the insurmountable inside position again. Ama looked too tired to fight back resulting in the easy force-out win for Homasho. Both rikishi are 5-6 but could be heading in different directions.

If Asashoryu's tachi-ai was bad yesterday, M2 Kokkai's initial "charge" was even worse today. What in the hell was that? Against Komusubi Toyonoshima the Georgian just hopped a bit on two feet failing to move foward at all allowing Toyonoshima to move in and square up with his opponent in the yotsu-zumo contest. In a pickle, Kokkai could offer no offensive attack, so after waiting about 10 seconds, Toyonoshima forced his way into the moro-zashi position and bulldozed Kokkai back and out brilliantly swiping at Kokkai's leg at the edge fending off the counter pull attack at the straw. Toyonoshima limps to 3-8 while Kokkai spirals to just 2-9.

M4 Aminishiki can look so good one day and then suck so bad the next. Today against Komusubi Kotoshogiku, Aminishiki charged way too high allowing Kotoshogiku to slip into the lower position with a solid right arm on the inside and an outer grip with the left that he used to drive Ami quickly back to the straw with. Aminishiki offered some resistance, however, breaking off Kotoshogiku's outer grip, and even though he managed to force the action back to the center of the ring, the Geeku never relinquished his favorable inside position, so he used the flow of the bout to set up another force out charge that Aminishiki had no answer for. Ami fails to gain kachi-koshi for now at 7-4 while Kotoshogiku improves to 5-6.

M1 Tokitenku was a half second late in his tachi-ai, and it cost him today against M2 Tamanoshima. Tokitenku did manage to halt Tama's initial charge with a right hand into Tenku's neck, but he was leaning back keeping his opponent at bay, a position from which he could not attack....well, except a move backwards. The feeble pull attempt came, but Tamanoshima was right there waiting to push Tokitenku back and out with little effort. In such an important bout for Tokitenku in terms of kachi-koshi, he had no answers falling to 5-6. Peter moves to 3-8.

M3 Kakizoe is so hapless this basho that he had morozashi twice against M6 Tokitsuumi (just 1-9 coming in) but could do nothing with it thanks to aligning his feet throughout and staying too upright. Tokitsuumi just wriggled this way and that until he used a left outer grip to throw Kakizoe clear off the dohyo. Ouch. Kakizoe falls to 0-11 and would it be too much to ask the NSK to pair him against Otsukasa already? Tokitsuumi "improves" to 2-9.

M4 Tochiohzan used an ottsuke from the left at the tachi-ai similar to what Tochiazuma would often employ, but the move had little punch as M5 Kakuryu slipped out of the position and pushed Tochiohzan back to the straw with a brief left outer grip. Tochiohzan dug in and actually worked himself into the morozashi position, but he failed to dig in with his feet, so as he drove Kakuryu back with the upper body, Kakuryu just slipped to his right and felled Oh with a sharp kote-nage throw. Tochiohzan looks listless on the dohyo these days as he falls to 4-7. It was reported that Kakuryu was chastised by his oyakata for not attacking forward all the time, but he displayed great counter sumo today to jump to 5-6.

M7 Takamisakari just pounded M13 Futenoh today possibly putting Futenoh's run in a little more perspective. Takamisakari's sumo was his best of the basho as he completely halted Futenoh's initial charge and then used his left arm to pull Futenoh forward by his own left arm twisting Futenoh just enough to where his right side was open allowing the Cop to latch onto a solid left belt grip. Futenoh tried to slip out of the hold with a pirouette, but Takamisakari caught him squarely with an inside position that was so dominating, Takamisakari drove Futenoh to the corner of the dohyo where he launched him a meter and a half into a heap at the edge. Takamisakari's attack was so quick and precise that Futenoh was completely dominated in this one. Great stuff from Takamisakari who moves to 7-4. The Cop quoted to the press afterwards that he's the king of 7-4 but never able to pick up number eight. He'll do 'er with sumo like today's. Futenoh falls to 9-2.

In a nostalgic affair, M7 Wakanosato took on veteran M12 Tamakasuga in a chess match that saw Tamakasuga employ a tsuppari attack that was effective just enough to keep Wakanosato away from his belt drawing a hilarious comment from Iwasa Announcer in the booth that Tamakasuga's sumo was "shitsukoi" or a pain in the ass. After Tamakasuga tired a bit, Wakanosato made his attack with a quick evasive move and pull attempt that dangerously gave Tamakasuga another opening pushing the now compromised Wakanosato towards the edge, but Waka was just savvy enough to grab an uwate on his way down and force Tamakasuga to the clay before he hit himself. The gunbai went to Tamakasuga (4-7), but it was correctly reversed in favor of the Wakanosato (6-5) after a judges conference.

In a battle of two of the hotter rikishi (uh, I'm talking in terms of sumo here although I know a lot of you admire Dejima's rack) in the Maegashira ranks, M10 Dejima shook off his two-bout losing streak by delivering a sharp right shoulder into M10 Asasekiryu's body at the tachi-ai that completely halted Seki and stood him upright to the point where Dejima latched onto the back of Seki's belt with a right arm. From there, Dejima just kept the wheels rolling forcing Asasekiryu (9-2) back and out with little fanfare. This was powerful stuff from the former Ozeki, who hopefully brings this kind of sumo next basho among the jo'i. Dejima moves to 9-2, but I'm tellin' ya now bro, Ryuo's gonna stick and evade in the bout tomorrow so beware.

And speaking of the Makuuchi rookie, M14 Ryuo greeted M9 Roho with two hands to the neck that got there so fast it cut off Roho's swinging right hand that was going for the hari-te but instead just glanced off of Ryuo's left shoulder. With Roho's plan A ruined, he wasn't in much position to grab the belt straightway, but before he had time to think about it, Ryuo immediately shifted gears and backed up pulling Roho forward. The Russian tried to get his body in front of Ryuo to force him out as he stumbled, but the Mongolian just evaded at the edge sending Roho to a lapdance of the judge sitting on the dohyo's West side. Ryuo secures a nifty kachi-koshi while Roho falls just short at 7-4.

M9 Miyabiyama finally moved above .500 with some dangerous sumo against a not-so-dangerous opponent in M14 Hochiyama. With bad footwork from the tachi-ai, Miyabiyama came with the moro-te that would have invited a quick pull down from most of the other rikishi, but the Sheriff took the initiative today swiping down quickly from that initial moro-te position to throw Hochiyama off balance enough to where Miyabiyama was able to get on the inside for a brief moment before cornering Hochiyama at the edge and shoving him out from there. Wun't pretty, but he'll take the win moving to 6-5 while Hochiyama falls to 5-6

Don't look now but M16 Hokutoriki has sealed the kachi-koshi deal, which means he's ours for at least another basho! Today against M13 Tochinonada, he never let the gentle giant sniff his belt keeping him at bay with rather ineffective tsuppari that put him in harms way a few times, but got the job done in a sloppy affair. Nada falls to 5-6.

And finally, if M15 Iwakiyama was fired up to go against a Juryo rikishi a few days ago, he was just as ready to prove a point against Makuuchi rookie, M12 Satoyama, today. Problem was Iwakiyama failed to go for Satoyama's belt opting for a tsuppari attack, and when Satoyama ducked under Iwaki's thrusts for an instant, Iwakiyama sealed his fate by going for the slightest pull down. That shift in momentum was all it took, and Satoyama pounced using his weight behind a series of tsuppari that sent Iwakiyama back and out to a dangerous 4-7 record. After a horrific start, Satoyama has begun to get his bearings in the division as he improves to 5-6 with his fourth straight win.

So, with four days to go the leaderboard gets thinned down ever so slightly. Here's how it stands:
11-0: Hakuho
10-1: Asashoryu
9-2: Kotomitsuki, Chiyotaikai, Futenoh, Dejima, Asasekiryu

And I'm being very generous even listing the two-loss rikishi. Asta la pasta.

Day 9 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Today marks the 13th time in Asashoryu's tenure as Yokozuna that he has stood at 8-0 coming into day nine. In all 12 cases so far, he has gone on to yusho. Naturally this makes him the favorite, but this basho is unique in that there are still plenty of top contenders still in the mix- three more at 8-0 and five others who are 7-1.

That being said, two of the four undefeateds promptly lost for the first time today. That would be M13 Futenoh and M10 Dejima, who were a combined 1-11 in their career against their opponents (Miyabiyama and Roho, respectively). Futenoh initially negated Miyabi's lumbering tsuppari well and took the offensive, but got caught up in Miyabi's inashi and maneuvering about (if you can believe that) and eventually succumbed to an oshi-dashi. Dejima was greeted with a stiff harite and tachi-ai henka that totally derailed his game. Roho used the left slap to garner the right uwate grip, which he used to quickly usher Dejima out.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki (at right) improved to 8-1 by securing moro-zashi against M4 Tochiohzan (4-5), locking his hands behind the youngster and forcing him out.

Chiyotaikai was not successful in improving to 8-1. M1 Homasho would have none of it. If you've followed Chiyotaikai's career the last few years, you know what he does when his opponent does not wilt in the face of his rapid fire tsuppari. He resorts to the pull. Homasho wouldn't have any of that either. So what's Chiyo to do? Well, tsuppari again then pull, tsuppari again then pull. Three strikes and you're out- on the third attempt, Homasho pushed Chiyo out to his second defeat. At 3-6 I believe Homasho can use this win as a catalyst to come back and get majority wins. Even though Chiyo is predictable, this was a commendable effort to withstand, three times over, significant forward pressure then avoid falling forward.

Kaio and M3 Kisenosato locked horns in hidari-yotsu position. This is Kaio's favored position, but Kise did a good job keeping that dangerous right outside hand of Kaio's off his belt. Kaio twice tried to maki-kae and Kise twice tried to block it. On the second attempt it looked as though Kise's knee buckled, thus giving Kaio an excuse-me 8th win. Kisenosato is 4-5.

Kotooshu started strong against M4 Aminishiki and looked as though he was on his way to joining Kaio with 8 wins. But in an 11th hour turn of events, Ami (6-3) showed his agility and ring sense by turning Oshu's kote-nage into a shitate-nage win by slipping his arm out from under Oshu and avoiding hitting the clay for a split second before the Bulgarian.

Hakuho almost suffered the same fate as Chiyotaikai with an ill-advised pull down attempt in the middle of his bout against Toyonoshima (1-8), but recovered nicely for a tsuki-otoshi win to stay undefeated. Aside from today's near miss, Hakuho has been settling down and looks very good for a potential showdown with Asashoryu.

Asashoryu's strategy today looked to be "overwhelm even Ama's speed", and he did just that. He jolted Ama with a slap at the tachiai and didn't give the Sekiwake a chance to grab the belt. While Ama was trying, Sho kept the pressure on with well timed thrusts for a powerful oshi-taoshi.

So while we still have five at one loss after day 9 (Futenoh, Dejima, Asasekiryu, Kotomitsuki and Kaio), we're down to two who are undefeated- Hakuho and Asashoryu. It took nine days but we're here where we're supposed to be- on a crash course to a 14-0 clash between the two pre-basho favorites.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Allright, put away your bell bottoms and jettison the 8-tracks, "Retro Week" as Simon called it on Day 7 is now officially over. If you don't know what he meant by that, click on "About" at the top of the front page and figure it out for your bad self. I have reporting to do.  And as if that ain't enough, just found a centipede on my bedroom door. If you're thinking, So what?, think again!

Props to Messrs. Mike and Simon for heralding my Day 8. (Damn, my jaw hurts. I would offer the usual, My lips are sore, but my homeys M-Dub and Si-borg don't go in for simple ass kissing in exchange for name dropping. Call me soon, will 'ya, fellas? Rinse!)

As you all know, last basho ended rather strangely, and in lieu of some sensible answer, Mike decided he saw Bigfoot and Nessie hanging around Asa's dressing room and, well, you read his take. Anyway, I had thought all that harum scarum was out of his system, but evidently not because we chatted the other day and, well, you're not going to believe this, but Mike is under the impression that, it's ludicrous to even write it, he actually is convinced that the banzuke is...is...FIXED! I shit you not (and why would I shit you, you're my favorite turd). He told me, in dead earnestness, that he thinks the men of sumo get together and DECIDE who is going to fight where and in what order and on what day even! I know, I was dying inside, trying to keep a straight face. First Asa gives Hakuho a yusho, and now this. Dude's got me, for one, concerned.

But this should be about the sumo, no? The first bout of the day that mattered was Futenoh, with his "bludy" good 7-0 from E13 (urp). He went after W11 Tochinonada like a kid going after his Rotten Ronnie's Happy Meal toy and once he got that belt Tochi was instantly transformed into another thing in one of those meals, namely dead meat. Everyone was oohing and aahing over that bout vs Kasuganishiki, and it WAS a good'n, one of the best of the tourney (and I think Kasuganishiki was about to win and got screwed by the overly mother hen Kokonoe's insistence on stopping the bout) but what I really loved was that lightning bolt of blood running down his face after whoopin' a determined Roho yesterday. Am I getting all hot for Futenoh because of his start? No.

The very next bout had 7-0 E10 Dejima showing that he read the scouting report on Jokeutoriki. Knowing that the W16 would henka Stephen Hawking, the Degyptian wisely reigned in that massive tachi-ai of his against the advent of his foe running away. This kept him in the bout but at a disadvantage as Hoku poured on the shoving attack, with Dejima retaliating in similar fashion, serious kangaroo fight, mate. Course, this bout is about as close as you'll get to two completely nude men going at it in sumo, because both men normally wrestle as if his foe is not wearing a mawashi. Finally Hokutoriki tired and sort of leaned on Dejima, who stepped away pretty as you please and let gravity do the dirty work. 8-0 is sweet, but little chance he beats Asa or Hakuho this time out.

Winless E11 Otsukasa looked like a kid trying to get into a bar with a fake I.D. with W7 Wakanosato playing the part of the bouncer. Waka goes to 4-4.

Hey, check out all the hot foreign chicks at the sumo arena! Hoo ah! Maybe they are there to see the Japanese Barney Fife, today's celebrity sumophile. Personally I prefer that Kiss imitator.

Martin's new boyfriend W5 Kakuryu beat W9 Miyabiyama like a red-headed stepchild, slapping the former Ozeki at tachi-ai and then expertly holding him up by the throat for a split second before backing off and letting Muad Dib dive down for some more of that tasty dohyo spice. Yum! I told you all a few basho ago, when Miflobby let his Ozeki chance go, that he would never grace the upper ranks again, and I stand by that assertion (much as I stand by my assertion that it is physically impossible to buy a box of donut holes).

E7 Takamisakari finally beat Aminishiki (it'd been years) by keeping the tricky shit directly in front of him, using superior footwork and precise application of big body to shove the E4 out to his third loss.

W6 Kasugao was under the impression that he had the sack to take on future Ozeki Tochiohzan in a belt battle. He found out he was wrong pretty quickly as W4 Tochi used perfect leg placement to leverage a huge throw down for his splendid 4th win (including a payback win, biggies in my book, over Tokitsuumi from his debut in March).

Loved the look on 2-6 W2 Tamanoshima's face after he throat trusted out the aforementioned winless Tokitsuumi (best looking rikishi in sumo, tho) in a flash. Face said, Pff, that was REAL tough. Ever notice how much Tama looks like Peter in that U.S. cartoon, Family Guy?

E1 Homasho used his solid build to fend off EK Toyonoshima for his 2nd win. Homasho had a chance for an easy slapdown win, but passed on it and instead shifted and let Toyo hammer away at his face and chest until he sensed the shin-K was tired and just eased him back and out. Three wins combined for the two men tain't good, but Homasho is headed for a long career at no lower than Komusubi once he figures it all out. Toyo I'm not as sure about. Could be another Futenoh.

A satisfying smashmouth tachi-ai from ES Kotomitsuki and E2 Kokkai started off a good battle where Kokkai brought some furious thrusting to the head and neck of his foe, who kind of shrugged it off a few times and slid under the Georgian's arms to get the belt. Once gained the Sekiwake went into the mandatory Kotomitsuki Stall. I logged onto YouTube and watched JFK's inaugural speech twice while they played handsies.

Then Hit, that dirty little boy, went for a "hidarikintamahippa", which translates to "left testicle yank down", but instead hit Kokkai on his upper thigh (Fresh!) which sent the White Knight to his, ouch, 7th loss. Still, I'm pleased to see Kokkai tain't being no puddy this time out, just getting whooped by his betters, izall. Kotomitsuki stays in the running for Yusho Not Including Hakuho and Asashoryu.

Evidently Ozeki Kaio let that Day 6 Tamanoshima bout get to him, because he passed up what looked to me to be several chances to grab Ama by the arm and kill him. Don't really understand what all the fuss is about with that arm thing, nor am I sure how to read Tama's quote about Kaio's "weapon". If your foe has your arm locked up, then you've got a choice: Try and keep fighting or let yourself be run out/thrown down. Your foe should be taking care anyway, keeping those arms in tight to the body and countering traps with 'fisticated sumo technikyooz, nyawhaw!

The "cutest kitten in Holland" (now here is a case where the word "holes" makes sense, as in citizens of Poland=Poles, citizens of Holland (including cats)=Holes) continued his plummet down the banzuke after being assaulted by Ozeki Chiyotaikai, a man whose sumo has been, I am unafraid to admit, sterling this basho. Sure, Asa and Hakuho will grind him up like 3 lbs. of turkey, but he isn't retreating or going for cheap pulldowns, (at least not yet) and like Dejima his opponents, excepting Toyonoshima yesterday, are fighting him straight up. Could there have been a general alert sounded in the shady back halls of super tight sumo (Can I have your attention please? Kokonoe and The Elders might be tickled if there happened to be no henkaing or excessive evasiveness used on Chiyo or Kaio this basho
—pssst, pass it on)? Kakizoe must be fighting through an injury. Like I paraphrased Simon at the start of this paragraph, he looks like a pussy Hole.

Gotta feel for Mixmaster Mike. He gets fuax-zeki Koto-No-Show on days 5 and 7, but Simon and I get Mr. Universe on days 6 and 8. Today he was perfect, using that orangutanesque reach to snag Tokitenku's belt with an outside left, then wasting no time in driving forward and lifting up. Unfortunately for those of us who like quick deaths, Tokitenku's mawashi was wrapped by a three year-old named Percival today, and by the time they settled into a short but unequal stalemate, the Mongolian's mawashi had become a sash and he looked more like an honorary marshal of the Rose Parade than an W1 about to be viciously slammed to the dirt. Like Not So Simple Simon (who really IS a pie man ladies!) said on Day 6, 'twas like the good ol' days.

It's got to drive all of his fans crazy, to see a man who ran roughshod through sumo (remember, he unbelievably did not have a losing record in any basho at any level until he made Komusubi!) doing such dragass, chickenshit sumo. I really think it's because he is just too nice to hammer the living crap out of the top boys like Asa has been doing for years and now Hakuho, hammering that one needs to do if one wants to be a Yokozuna. He has all the tools, those great huge legs and long arms, those powerful muscles, that hairy chest and that...sorry, starting to sound like Bernie. Point is, go see a shrink, get it straight, you need to DEVOUR people, hate your foes from the time you throw that first salt, then kiss and make up over chanko. Next!

Must have been a weirdly empty spiritual feeling today for Kisenosato, taking the chikara mizu (Powerade) from Kotooshu after that bus ride to Sodom they took together on Day 6, tickets courtesy of the Ozeki. Still, no worry that Hakuho would be trying to remove the youngster's mawashi, as THIS Ozeki knows that when you're driving for Yokozuna, every win should look commanding. Hakuho was not above using a bit of poker face with his nemesis, though, as he sauntered down to the shikirisen looking for all the world as if he was going to take his time and suss things out, like he'd just remembered he left the stove on, but instead lunging at Kisenosato like Kenji at a Krispy Kreme. Lords and Ladies, what a huge forearm blast he applied to the W3, who incredibly did not move his feet back one bit. That's right, he soaked up a bomb from the next Yokozuna and came forward looking for more. He kept his legs perfectly positioned and his body squared (whoever is most responsible for young Kisenosato's training [Qui-Gon Jinn?] knew what he was doing), but Hakuho timed his defense exquisitely, twice diverting Kise's thrusts to the side. The Ozeki marched forward, and Kise backed away from his insistent foe until one well placed shove sent the youngster out. Great match that normally would have ended at tachi-ai, with most guys succumbing to the veracity of the ferocity. Hakuho is 8-0 if you need him (as Mike often says) and we DO need him. Think of how different the feel of this basho is from so many in the last four years, knowing that Hakuho will keep the yusho outcome in doubt until the final day or days.

Asashoryu maintained his perfect record with a convincing throw down of big W Komusubi Kotoshogiku. Asa looked relaxed to the point of boredom as he got close to The Geeku at tachi-ai, grabbing the belt with his right and using his powerful left to position the Komusubi for the payoff, which came in the usual way with the Yokozuna using his great strength and unparalleled stability to shake his foe just enough to destabilize him and then throw him down or push him out.

The July Yokozuna have two things in common. One, they are both as strong as tungsten, the two strongest guys in the sport, with Hakuho having put himself in Asa's class with his increased lifting regime. How many times have we watched them simply muscle out opponents? Two, like M-Dub and Si-borg, they both believe they are always the better man (and also like my two compatriots, they ARE, 99 times out of 100). Separately, Asa has the finest footwork in sumo, and can sense when his foe shifts weight or lets up the tiniest bit to immediately take advantage of the opening. Hakuho on the other hand has his height and bulk (remember Asa is lighter and shorter than most of the other top guys) and lightning quick hands, which counter thrusts as well as anyone in sumo. And of course they both have that Mongolian wrestling training, which seems to dovetail nicely into sumo success.

Nothing most of you don't already know, I'm sure. So, on to the final seven days with much relish. At the close of business on Day 9, Asa and Hakuho will have met (and likely bested) the exact same nine opponents. Futenoh will not be brought up to the fight the be-hweemoths just yet, meaning he may be able to remain in the yusho picture up until Day 15 like Si hinted at. Dejima's bouts will be tantalizing, as we have seen that man's man manhandle both Asa and Hakuho in the past. Kaio and Chiyo and Kotooshu and Kotomitsuki are all technically in it, so at the very least the anticipation for their bouts with Genghis and Kublai will make our tummies flutter (oh, admit it, your tummy flutters). I'm totally stoked, but now must go play Bouncy Bouncy with my sweet little gal (jaysus, I'm talking about my one year-old, she likes to bounce on the gigantic exercise ball I use both as a chair and a weapon against my son [Look out below!])

Kenji (who despite his lust for Krispy Kreme is fitter'n a racehorse) will give you the lowdown on ALL the great bouts sure to come on Day 9. Catch you on Day 15.

Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Just two days ago I was hinting at a bit of boredom with this basho emphasizing that the only two rikishi who really mattered where Asashoryu and Hakuho. And while the yusho will be decided between those two, we are seeing some great sumo throughout the division. Heading into the day an incredible 7 rikishi were undefeated. Two of those slipped up today, but I find myself enjoying pretty much the entire Makuuchi division bouts thanks to the likes of Futenoh and Dejima down below and the Yokozuna and Ozeki (save one) above. With four more rikishi spread throughout the division with just one loss, we are going to enjoy a fantastic final 8 days of sumo. Let the action begin.

Yokozuna Asashoryu was so focused from the tachi-ai today against M2 Tamanoshima that he willed his way on the inside into the quick morozashi position. Tamanoshima attempted to counter to the Yokozuna by handcuffing inwards on the Yokozuna's arms, but Asa would not be denied. After forcing his way inside, he drove Tamanoshima back and out with little fight. Asashoryu is obviously dialed in this basho because his adrenaline led to his swinging his arm towards Tamanoshima as if to punch him outside of the ring. The swipe didn't connect, and I'm sure Asashoryu had no intention of hitting Tamanoshima (1-6) afterwards, but he may draw some criticism in the press for the action. No matter. The only thing Asashoryu is worrying about this basho is drubbing his next opponent. With talk of those yaocho allegations having all but vanished, it's back to business as usual for Asashoryu who shares the lead at 7-0.

After Ozeki Kaio's powerful kotenage win over Tamanoshima yesterday, there was significant talk afterwards in the press about how dangerous Kaio's armbar throw is. Kaio was obviously affected by the talk because he had his right arm draped around Homasho's left arm from the tachi-ai, and he easily could have unleashed the throw...two or three times. He refrained; however, and actually let Homasho get to his side and briefly sniff a right outer grip, but Kaio moved well and never let Homasho settle in. If Kaio was tentative to pull the trigger on a kotenage throw, Homasho was even more tentative to just hunker down and go for a force-out charge. His hesitation cost him as Kaio was able to wrench Homasho back upright and off balance setting him up for a push out win. Kaio shoulda won right away then shoulda lost after that, but the sumo gods must have forgiven him for sparing Homasho's right arm from possible damage. The Ozeki is an improbable 7-0, but has as much chance to yusho as I do of watching a single minute of WNBA "action". Homasho drops to 1-6, but he's just fine. What he's gotta take from this first basho among the jo'i is the experience of it all. Besides, he'll be able to make up some ground against his Maegashira peers in week 2.

Just how effective Chiyotaikai's attack is was measured today against Komusubi Toyonoshima. The Ozeki came out delivering some fierce nodowa into Toyonoshima's throat alternating rights and lefts, but if the thrusts are truly effective, they drive the crippled Toyonoshima back and out in two or three seconds. Problem was Chiyotaikai's lower body was tentative to follow his shoves, and all Toyonoshima had to do was time a perfect evasive maneuver to his right allowing Chiyotaikai to tsuppari his way into the dirt. This was a careless loss for Chiyotaikai (6-1) who largely beat himself, but the only thing he's concerned about is grabbing two more wins. After securing his eight, he'll fade faster than George Bush's popularity. Props to Toyonoshima for hanging in there and scrapping out his first win.

Ozeki Hakuho was solid today from the tachi-ai hitting M1 Tokitenku so effectively that the taller Ozeki gained an insurmountable moro-zashi position straightway. With his left arm gripping the back fo Tenku's belt, Hakuho lifted his opponent off of his feet, and as Tokitenku came back to earth, Hakuho traded his left inside position to a left outer, which he wasted no time in using to throw Tokitenku over and down with some force. It took maybe five seconds, but this was precise stuff from Hakuho who is indeed fighting like a Yokozuna this basho. Still, I don't think promotion is really on Hakuho's mind. He's not forcing anything and is just picking his opponents apart day by day. I think he's just focused on the yusho and keeping pressure on Asashoryu. Promotion will work itself out. Tokitenku is a very respectable 3-4.

With Ozeki Kotooshu in his current state of insecurity, the last person he wanted to see across the starting lines was rival M3 Kisenosato, and you could just see a fired up Kisenosato at said starting lines. Problem was Kotooshu could see it too and wanted no part of the Kid, so he cowardly--I can't state it anymore clearly than that--he cowardly jumped to his left at the charge not wanting to even mask the girly move by going for the belt. This was a spineless pull down, and the second one in three days from the faux-zeki. Kotooshu is a puss and makes me sicker than eating a vat full of natto flavored with tooth decay and crotch sweat. I just don't know what else to say. I also don't know how this guy has any fans left. He flat out ran from the pressure situation today, which reveals what we already know: Kotooshu has zero confidence in his ability. Kotooshu is just reverting back to those days when Ozeki promotion was on the line. When he really needs the win, he can't get it straight up. And screw Tochiazuma who said from the booth today, "er...uh...Kisenosato charged too low." Oh, yeah? Stop sticking up for your peer in an effort to justify your own tachi-ai henka. Screw 'em all I say. The henka ruins sumo. Kowagari-oshu moves to a 6-1 mark that is so overrated. Kisenosato falls to 4-3 and was rightfully pissed after the bout.  Thanks for the artwork Clancy.

The two Sekiwake did battle today in a fine yotsu-zumo contest that saw Ama hit low to try and get on the inside of Kotomitsuki. The Mongolian succeeded in gaining a decent right inside grip, but in the process, he carelessly let Kotomitsuki grab a deafening left uwate grip. The reason I say careless is because Ama won the tachi-ai. Ama dug in well after giving up the left outer, but Kotomitsuki kept his can way back and out of the way from Ama's left arm reach. A chess match ensued with Kotomitsuki enjoying the clear advantage, but as he regularly does, he just took his sweet time backing Ama back a half step every five seconds. Ama repeatedly tried to grab Mitsuki's belt with his left, but to no avail....Kotomitsuki had him in a vice grip. After about 25 seconds, Kotomitsuki went for the kill and there was nothing Ama could do about it. Solid force-out win for Kotomitsuki who moves to 6-1. Ama falls to a dangerous 3-4.

M2 Kokkai has been exhibiting great tachi-ai all basho, but he has failed to follow them up with his tsuppari attack. That was until today against Komusubi Kotoshogiku. Kokkai's tsuppari didn't drive Kotoshogiku to the brink, but they kept him at bay to the point that when the Geeku tried to duck in and force the bout to the belt, Kokkai was right there to grab the smothering right outer grip. Normally, Kokkai doesn't want to get into a yotsu-zumo affair especially with Kotoshogiku, but you can't pass up a right outer grip like that. As Kotoshogiku tried to wrench his opponent in order to grab a right outer of his own, Kokkai planted and unleashed a huge uwate-nage throw that sent the Geeku hard to the clay. Kokkai picks up just his first win, but he's shown promise this basho. The Geeku finishes week 1 at 3-4...good marks for a Komusubi.

M4 Tochiohzan received a scrappy test from M3 Kakizoe, who struck and then went for the immediate pulldown. Tochiohzan survived the move well as Kakizoe just doesn't have the pep that he used to. Oh smartly realigned himself with his opponent, and even though Kakizoe gained a morozashi position after the pull attempt, his lower body wasn't in any position to drive Tochiohzan back with force, so while he did push Tochiohzan back a few steps, Oh wrapped his arm around Zoe's neck and threw him viciously down to the clay. Not so fast, however, as Kakizoe refused to let go of his opponent causing Tochiohzan's arm to touch down in order to break his fall the same time that Kakizoe hit the dirt. The referee ruled in favor of Tochiohzan and no mono-ii was called for. Replays clearly showed that both rikishi touched at the same time, but I agree with the decision as Kakizoe (0-7) wasn't implementing any sort of technique. Who cares anyway? Tochiohzan limps to 3-4.

M4 Aminishiki knew exactly what M5 Kakuryu would bring today, so as Kakuryu hit and backed up at the tachi-ai, Aminishiki was on his every move charging in low and grabbing the quick morozashi position that he used to throw the evading Kakuryu (2-5) to the clay with. Easy peazy as Ami moves to 5-2.

M6 Tokitsuumi is a nifty 0-7 if you need him. Today he let himself get pushed around by an uninspired M5 Takekaze (3-4). Nuff said there.

In a boring affair, M6 Kasugao halted M11 Otsukasa at the tachi-ai keeping the fight in close where the Korean was able to eventually grab a right outer grip that he used to throw Otsukasa down so spectacularly it looked as if he was throwing a bowling ball. The only reason why I mention this bout is to get my jollies by typing 0-7tsukasa. Kasugao improves to 3-4.

In a back and forth affair that had more twists and turns that I even want to attempt to describe, M7 Takamisakari used his speed advantage to overcome M11 Tochinonada, who had his preferred left inside position twice in the bout. It's rare, but after a solid tachi-ai from Takamisakari that gave him the quick right outer grip, the Cop kept Tochinonada on the move with the migi-uwate. As Tochinonada attempted to counter with the left inside position, Takamisakari spun him sideways with a dashi-nage twist and looked to have Nada finished off, but Tochinonada pirouetted out of harm's way and the battle ensued. Once again Takamisakari managed a firm belt grip that he used not to force Tochinonada straight back with (a tall order for anyone), but to keep him moving side to side. Again Takamisakari had Tochinonada spinning 180 degrees out of harms way, and when it looked like Nada had the upper hand, Takamisakari slipped to the side and behind shoving out his opponent for the crazy win. Bottom line in this bout was that Takamisakari (5-2) forced such a frenetic pace, that the gentle giant simply couldn't keep up. Nada falls to 4-3.

Today's bout between M9 Miyabiyama and M7 Wakanosato was a perfect example of where the Sheriff is failing this days. Miyabiyama came with the tsuppari, but his feet weren't moving a centimeter in either direction, so with the attack only coming from the upper-body, Wakanosato just took a half step to his right and pulled the hapless Miyabiyama down to the clay in an unspectacular affair. Miyabi's gotta drive with those legs or his tsuppari is useless. As Simon pointed out, though, seeing Miyabiyama fall forward flat on his face as Konishiki used to do is some consolation for the bad sumo. Both rikishi are 3-4.

M8 Asasekiryu looked to continue his perfect start against M13 Tochinohana, but the Mongolian elected to focus on a tsuppari attack instead of getting inside of Tochinohana and besting him at the belt. After a good tachi-ai where I thought the inside position was open for Seki, he opted to fire away a series of nodowa thrusts that kept Tochinohana at bay for a season, but didn't drive him back. With no clear plan B in place, after about eight seconds of throat shoves from Asasekiryu, Tochinohana began to evade laterally and as Asasekiryu chased him sideways, Tochinohana managed a slap from the side that turned not-so-Sexy this bout around 180 degrees. From there it was the complimentary bum rush across the ring and out as Tochinohana accepts the gift win. Asasekiryu blew it this bout and he knew it. He had several chances to go for the belt, but his stance was too upright, and his charge was focused on a tsuppari attack, something that doesn't give him an advantage, especially against a bigger rikishi like Tochinohana (2-5).

M13 Futenoh met his match today in M9 Roho, who charged low yet again catching Futenoh in the jaw and raising him upright from the tachi-ai while grabbing the early left inside grip. The Russian quickly dug in and charged with the lower body--as he should have, but the critical point came in the bout about four seconds in when Roho failed to wrench Futenoh off balance as he forced him back. Futenoh would do the wrenching instead as he pivoted close to the tawara and forced Roho to shift his weight...a move that halted Roho's momentum and let Futenoh position himself to grab the right uwate. Once secured, Futenoh's sumo experience won out in the end as he was able to wrangle Roho back and out for the yori-kiri win. This was fantastic stuff from Futenoh, who was clearly beat at the tachi-ai, but countered well and won one of the best bouts of the basho so far. Futenoh is perfect while Roho falls to 4-3.

M10 Dejima was absolutely nails yet again today against the struggling M14 Hochiyama. The former Ozeki led his freight-train charge with his noggin keeping Hochiyama far away from the belt or any inside position. And since Hochiyama isn't a rikishi who can make quick decisions mid-bout, before ya knew it, Dejima was in the morozashi position and had Hochiyama (3-4) pushed back and out in about three seconds. Dejima (7-0) looks unbeatable right now...unless you henka him. Let's hope it doesn't happen.

Makuuchi rookie, M12 Satoyama, looked lost on the dohyo yet again today seemingly indecisive whether or not he wanted to try and get inside of M16 Hokutoriki and grab his belt or battle him in a tsuppari duel. Taking advantage of Satoyama's late tachi-ai and fickleness, Hokutoriki used his size advantage and experience to pummel Satoyama back and out in about five seconds. Couldn't be any easier for the jokester who moves to 6-1. As for Satoyama, he falls to just 1-6, and who was it that said pre-basho this guy would take the Kantosho?

Makuuchi rookie, M14 Ryuo, continues to cruise along this basho taking advantage of his little-known tsuppari attack that caught M16 Kasuganishiki off guard today. Ryuo used a fierce right paw into Kasuganishiki's throat driving the taller rikishi clear back to the straw where the Mongolian then switched gears slapping Kasuganishiki (2-5) forward and down with the left hand for the dominating win. Ryuo's style ain't the prettiest, but he's simply out-hustling the competition right now...maybe 'cause he doesn't know any better. He moves to 6-1.

And finally, there was nothing like a little veteran pride to help M15 Iwakiyama get his arse in gear. Facing the 22 year old Juryo 4, Masatsukasa, Iwakiyama came out with some passion as he spanked Masatsukasa in a yotsu-zumo contest quickly grabbing the firm left outer grip before bulldozing his opponent back and off the dohyo. Iwakiyama fell over himself at the edge of the ring...an indication that the adrenaline was flowing today. Iwakiyama breathes a bit of new life at 3-4.

I'm extremely satisfied with the first week of sumo, and week two only promises to get better. And why wouldn't it as Clancy is on deck for tomorrow.

Day 6 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
Decent basho so far – I'm sure you'll agree. The weather's OK. In my head, the birds are singing. Clancy has finally extracted himself from the waste compactor and will be ready (he says) for his day 8 report no matter what. Yes, folks...it's spring and the rikishi seem to know it. But who gives a shit? All I care about is the possibility of an amazing six or seven rikishi going into the second week unbeaten. And yet - as Duke Michael pointed out yesterday - don't let those fine numbers delude you into thinking that this basho is about anything other than the two titans who currently straddle the sumo world. Nevertheless, it will be serious drama ahoy as dreams go up in smoke in the second week.

Let's kick off with the highlight bout between Ozeki Hakuho and Sekiwake Ama. It was almost like watching one of those old bouts from the 1960s as Ama was so fast that it looked as if he hadn't crouched at all at tachiai before going off (he had). This forced Hakuho to employ tsuppari and remain patient, not to mention on his feet. Fortunately for the Yokozuna-in-waiting, there were no slip-ups and he was able finally to pull down on Ama's head, making him stagger towards the tawara. It was then a case of finishing the little guy off by oshidashi. It could have been tricky but Hakuho dealt with this in calm, assured fashion. Job done. Hakuho remains on track with six out of six. Ama looks a steady Eddie at 3-3.

Yokozuna Asashoryu (6-0) could have sent a clone in to fight M3 Kakizoe (0-6) today. Kakizoe came out scrapping but it was like watching the cutest kitten in Holland fighting the biggest lion in Africa as Asa simply stood his ground, lazily watching Kakizoe flail around, until finally getting bored and pulling him down. It was hardly worth getting out of bed for – Asashoryu obviously thought so because he couldn't be bothered employing Yokozuna sumo and just wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. The top two Mongolians are so far ahead of the field in terms of quality that Mike may well be right in saying that the two could be 14-0 on senshuraku.

Ozeki Kotooshu (5-1) just doesn't seem to have much presence on the dohyo these days, and I rarely watch a bout expecting him to win easily. We got a little reminder of the good old days today, though, as M2 Kokkai (0-6) came out with his usual tachiai, thrusting to Kotooshu's neck like a nodowa gorilla, even managing to push the Bulgarian back for a moment. However, as soon as Kotooshu got a right-hand belt grip, it was game over as he closed down in spectacular fashion, forcing Kokkai out into the third row at a run in the opposite direction. Easy win, but can Kotooshu bring it against the top two? The answer begins with the letter N.

Ozeki Kaio (6-0) kept up his fine first-week streak against M2 Tamanoshima (1-5), but could have been in trouble had it not been for that trusty old kotenage. The two lads neutralized the belt-grab attempts with the help of their respective girths, but Kaio used that experienced noggin of his to discard this approach and pull on one arm while disengaging from the other side, dragging Tamanoshima round and making him easy prey. For a time it looked as though Kaio has injured someone yet again with that throw as Tamanoshima stayed down for quite a while. However, Tamanoshima said after the bout that he was OK and didn't need to go to hospital. That means very little, though, as most rikishi would say that even if they had just been decapitated. Let's wait and see. Personally I think he's fine.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai always kicks the raw, red bottom of M4 Aminishiki (11-0 head-to-head record coming into today's bout) so I was expecting business as usual...and that's what we got, although Chiyotaikai was not able to use his tsuppari attack to push Aminishiki back. Ami sniffed the Ozeki's mawashi (ugh) and almost got inside, but the Ozeki was waiting for that and pulled him down. Another easy win for Chiyotaikai, and he will surely get the two more wins he needs to keep his rank. Aminishiki falls to 4-2.

No one clearly had the best of the tachiai in the bout between Sekiwake Kotomitsuki (5-1) and M1 Homasho (1-5) but the youngster was a bit low and not looking where he was going meaning Kotomitsuki could better control the bout – and that he did with a well-placed hand on the back of his opponent's head. Homasho was all over the place, unable to get any kind of grip. In the end, Koto took advantage of the overextended stance of Homasho and slapped him down by the head. Kotomitsuki will breathe a sigh of relief to get past this guy unscathed.

Komusubi Toyonoshima (0-6) is so screwed that he couldn't even win when gifted morozashi against Komusubi Kotoshogiku (3-3). In reality all he is doing is handing out easy wins to the other top lads and frankly shaming his rank. We all admire you, Toyo-sama – you don't need to prove anything. Pull out before you damage yourself further!

M4 Tochiohzan (2-4) was bamboozled by M1 Tokitenku (3-3), who used a strong harite to throw his inexperienced opponent off balance, allowing him to take complete control and reach over the back with calm ease to throw his opponent down beneath him. This is where Tokitenku is so dangerous – when his pre-bout tactics come off as planned, his technical excellence makes him very difficult to beat. The technique, by the way, was Katasukashi. No...me neither.

M3 Kisenosato seemed to go a bit early at the tachiai but no one else seemed to care as he made easy work of M5 Takekaze, despite coming in too high. Kisser smothered his opponent's charge and then pulled back, letting Takekaze's momentum carry him over and down. Easy win. Kisenosato is 4-2 with Asashoryu out of the way. Takekaze is well worth a dabble at 2-4, not a bad score at all for him at this rank.

M8 Asasekiryu had to keep his wits about him as M5 Kakuryu began well with some good offensive sumo. However, his old tricks came into play as Asasekiryu resisted well – Kakuryu retreated, trying to pull his opponent off balance. Asa bided his time and was finally able to get morozashi following a botched nodowa attempt by Martin's new boyfriend – and from there it was a simple matter of driving him out. 6-0 for Asasekiryu. Kakuryu (2-4) is having a bit of trouble at these heights, but should rack up four or five at least by senshuraku.

M9 Miyabiyama (3-3) is looking like shit this basho, meaning he probably hasn't fully recovered from his injury. M6 Tokitsuumi (0-6) did everything right here, getting a decent migi-shitate grip and limiting his massive opponent to a weak belt grip of his own. Miyabiyama, however, kept things moving, successfully neutralizing Tokitsuumi's attempts to consolidate things, and finally went for the push before reversing momentum and throwing his opponent down by tsukiotoshi. It wasn't very pretty, but a win is a win.

This basho M10 Dejima has been fighting like Thomas the Tank Engine's sinister, cross-dressing half brother. Today he met the ever-dangerous M7 Wakanosato, an ex-Sekiwake and former Ozeki candidate who is having a scrappy basho. Sadly, Waka has never been the same since that serious injury a while back. Surely Dejima is going to eat a henka any day now as most opponents won't be able to handle the magnificent de-ashi he has been employing. Not today, though, as Waka rarely resorts to cheating. The big guy took the tachiai like a man and stopped Dejima dead in his tracks with a left shitate belt grip. Cue a short stalemate and things were beginning to look bleak for Dejima, not a belt fighter by any stretch of the imagination. However, as Waka went for the throw, Dejima kept his stance perfect to counter and plop his opponent down. Dejima goes to a fine 6-0 record. Waka is suffering at 2-4.

Vulcan Sub-Commander M13 Futenoh has been a real warrior this basho, which is fine, but it would be nice to see him using that fine sumo body and fighting spirit to good effect in the upper ranks where he surely belongs. He kept up the good work today, overpowering M13 Tochinohana in a tight yotsu battle, keeping his stance nice and steady as he finally manhandled his opponent out. That's 6-0, for those of you keeping count. Tochi falls to 1-5. Futenoh yusho, anyone?

Oh, and I'll just mention that M7 Takamisakari (4-2) showed some lovely technique today to twist down M11 Otsukasa. Yes, OK, the opponent was hardly Asashoryu, but it gave us a glimpse of the often underrated technical abilities of Circus. Otsukasa is wasting everyone's time at 0-6.

So, we have Asashoryu, Hakuho, Kaio, Chiyotaikai, Asasekiryu, Dejima and Futenoh perfect, and four other lads one win behind, among them Kotooshu and Kotomitsuki. Even better, none of these lads face each other tomorrow. Could these amazing stats possibly continue for another day? The main threat to that proposition looks to be Homasho, who really would hope to get something from Kaio. Roho will give Futenoh his toughest bout so far, and Kotomitsuki could well have trouble with Ama. In what concludes a retro week of Sumotalk reporting, Mike will be here to tickle your undercarriage tomorrow, while Clancy will machine gun anyone into tantric meditation on Sunday. See you on day 11, my little budgies, and stay naughty.

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The more this basho moves along, the more I say we have better than a 50% chance that Asashoryu and Hakuho will be tied at 14-0 on senshuraku. We are just not getting a solid effort from the Komusubi on down, and when the Yokozuna/Ozeki/Sekiwake all begin clashing in week 2, the two Khan will likely emerge unscathed as they battle for the yusho. So I know right now it seems as if we're listening to a Doors live album where Jim Morrison recites his "poetry" for ten minutes talking incoherently about his lizard, but those first few riffs to Roadhouse Blues will come soon enough. This is already shaping up to be the best basho in two years, and no, not because of what any of the faux Ozeki are doing, but because of the potential matchup between the two Khan on the final day. One epic matchup can carry a basho, and we need one.

Speaking of the Khan, let's start as usual at the top with Genghis who looked to do battle with M2 Kokkai. I guess "battle" is too loose of a term here because thanks to this weird hop-skip-and-a-jump tachi-ai from Kokkai, Asashoryu simply moved to his right, grabbed the outer grip on the Georgian's belt, and had him pushed out of the ring before Kokkai finished that last skip. Up until today, Kokkai's tachi-ai have been excellent as he implements the kachi-age move (leading with forearm into opponent's throat), but he just isn't following it up with his bread and butter tsuppari. Boring stuff today as Asashoryu sleepwalks to 5-0. Kokkai is 0-5 and needs his mommy.

I guess the most anticipated bout of the day was Ozeki Hakuho vs. M1 Homasho; hence, Homasho's stablemaster Shikoroyama-oyakata (former Terao) in the broadcast booth providing color commentary. As part of NHK's coverage, they showed clips of the recently-completed Shikoroyama-beya facilities focusing on the dohyo. Talk about a mud pit. Dudes, take it easy on the watering can unless you plan on inviting some chicks in bikinis to keiko for some mud wrasslin'. Can you tell my mind is already losing focus on the day's bouts? Anyway, the matchup failed to provide much excitement as Hakuho had his man scouted perfectly stopping his momentum at the tachi-ai and then taking swipes downward on Homasho's melon as he ducked down low reminiscent of when Hakuho first entered the division and fought like a grizzly bear trying to maul his opponent. Homasho (1-4) fended off the swipes somewhat, but he was in no position to offer any counter moves, and Hakuho finally pounced getting his right arm deep on the inside of his opponent setting up the precise force-out victory. This was smooth stuff from Kublai who was never in trouble and moves to 5-0. Hakuho usually trips up very early on so to see him out to a 5-0 start and looking so solid is good news in terms of Yokozuna hopes. And speaking of Yokozuna, I remember seeing a stat somewhere that Asashoryu has never lost the yusho when he doesn't lose within the first six days (or something like that), so we are building up for a huge senshuraku that should make up for the doldrums now.

Moving on to the rest of the field, what exactly was that, Kotooshu? Let me see if I have my math straight...Kakizoe is 0-4 coming in...he is so far out of his league these days this high on the ranks that a good sneeze could knock him down...and you think you need to henka the dude to beat him? That was embarrassing stuff. No wonder the Bulgarian fans don't email anymore and complain that we give you a hard time. You deserve it pal. Why would anybody henka Kakizoe these days? I actually have the answer in Kotooshu's case. Having lost yesterday, his already fragile self-confidence vanished into thin air sortuh like Britney Spears' locks right before a mental breakdown. And don't think you can mask the henka by grabbing Kakizoe's belt instead of just slapping him down. That 4-1 record of yours will be exposed soon enough. Kakizoe falls to 0-5 after the cheap yori-kiri loss.

I think Kaio showed a bit of mercy towards Komusubi Toyonoshima today. From the tachi-ai the quicker Komusubi managed a good inside position coupled with a right outer grip, but Kaio immediately countered with his left arm on the inside while latching his right arm around and under Toyonoshima's left giving him the ability to snap Toyonoshima's limb in two with a vicious kote-nage through. He didn't need it to win; however, due to Toyonoshima's bad left leg, so Kaio simply ignored Toyonoshima's uwate, lifted him upright a bit, and forced him out with little fanfare. I actually think a 100% Toyonoshima would have smoked the Ozeki after his tachi-ai today, but Kaio will take what he can get at this point. We all love the dude, but we know that 5-0 start ain't gonna last. Kaio's last three opponents have really been burning things up with their collective 0-15 record.

Same goes for Ozeki Chiyotaikai, whose armor of confidence showed it's first sign of cracking today against M2 Tamanoshima. Make no mistake, I have been impressed with Chiyotaikai's effort so far and have appreciated his forward moving wins, but it just looked to me today that when Tamanoshima didn't succumb to the Ozeki's tsuppari attack within the first five seconds, Chiyotaikai began to rethink himself. The bout actually lasted about 15 seconds (if the second-hand of my trusty Tissot watch is correct) and saw Chiyotaikai flailing away with the tsuppari and Tamanoshima just standing there waiting for a good opening to counter. Before that opening would come, Chiyotaikai switched gears on the M2 and went for a pull down that succeeded in dragging Tamanoshima to the dirt. Tamanoshima's failure to really try and exert himself by getting on the inside was his downfall today. Normally, he's ready when that Chiyotaikai pull comes, but today he wasn't. Despite the pull-down win, this was still good sumo from the Ozeki. Hey, if what you're doing doesn't work for more than 10 seconds, switch gears and try something else. It's just that the fact that Chiyotaikai had to resort to the pull down to win instead of bullying tsuppari shows you that he's fighting this tournament for third place at best. Expect a major letdown once that eighth win is secured. Tamanoshima falls to 1-4.

You could just see it coming with Sekiwake Kotomitsuki. Sure, the dude was 4-0 coming in, but his sumo hadn't exactly been of the savory variety where he moves forward in his wins: hataki-komi, hikiotoshi, koshikudake (whatever the hell that is), and okuridashi against Toyonoshima. M1 Tokitenku exposed Mitsuki's lack of de-ashi this basho by standing him up at the tachi-ai and pulling his sorry arse to the clay faster than it takes the judges to raise their hands to overturn a close Asashoryu victory. Nothing's changed with the Sekiwake while Tokitenku is in great position at 2-3 considering his first five opponents.

Sekiwake Ama sputtered again today against Komusubi Kotoshogiku when the former Sekiwake locked the Mongolian up at the tachi-ai. Neither rikishi had the clear advantage, but Ama was handcuffed enough that he decided to go for a quick pull down of his opponent, but the Geeku was on top of the move easily forcing Ama back and out handing him his second loss in as many days. This is the kind of sumo we need from the Komusubi and upper Maegashira rikishi who have really posed no threat this basho to the elite. Like Tokitenku, Kotoshogiku breathes new life at 2-3 while Ama cools off a bit at 3-2.

M3 Kisenosato made short work of M6 Tokitsuumi keeping himself low and driving with his legs the entire bout. This was key because after being pushed immediately back to the edge, Tokitsuumi (0-5) tried to duck away and turn the tables, but Kisenosato was right there to finish his opponent off. Previously, we'd often see Kisenosato lose at this point because his body was too upright, but he had things figured out today as he improved to 3-2.

Such wasn't the case for Tochiohzan in a very similar bout. The M4 looked like a rikishi in only his second Makuuchi tournament today as he wasted a golden opportunity against veteran M4 Aminishiki. Tochiohzan dominated the charge and used a right nodowa to drive Ami completely back to the tawara, but a stubborn right inside grip on Oh's belt allowed Aminishiki to somehow survive. Tochiohzan blew it by keeping his body too upright and by not effectively using his left hand on the other side to help push Aminishiki across the straw. When Ami sensed Tochiohzan had exhausted his strength with that right nodowa move, he simply stepped to his side turning the tables on the 20 year old and forcing him out from there. No worries, though. We've seen this from all of the young'uns, and it's only a matter of time before Tochiohzan (2-3) wins these close bouts. How is Aminishiki 4-1 at this point? I'd rather put a fistful of dirty coins in my mouth than watch his brand of sumo this basho.

M5 Takekaze did well to shift gears on a dime against M7 Takamisakari after charging hard and low into the cop and then immediately shifting sideways and going for a pull down. The move didn't fell Takamisakari in one swoop, but it did throw him completely off balance and allow Takekaze to gain such good inside position that not even Takamisakari's gangly arms could counter the eminent force out. Good stuff from Takekaze who suddenly comes to life this basho with two decent wins now over Wakanosato and Takamisakari. The Cop falls to 3-2.

Wait...just hold everything! We need to redo day 5 because M9 Roho's opponent didn't touch his right fist completely to the dirt before he got his ass kicked. I'm using Roho logic here of course, which means I sound utterly ridiculous as I attempt to cover up my other flaws. Today against M5 Kakuryu, the Mongolian was completely lost at the tachi-ai, first seeming not to want to go when the two actually did charge and then whiffing on a morote attempt due to Roho's charging extremely low. With Kakuryu shoving into thin air and Roho coming up from below him, it was easy as Roho timed some potent thrusts into Kakuryu's neck that were so effective they not only drove Kakuryu back and out in seconds but disabled him from calling out "matta" to the referee. Sucks for you Kakuryu (2-3). I'll be looking forward to reading your harsh comments towards the referee and judges in the press later on today. As for Roho (3-2), wouldn't the classy thing have been for you to stop the fight and call for a redo? After all, your opponent's right fist wasn't even close to the dirt when you two charged. Oh I see. A double standard exists when you're the benefactor.

M7 Wakanosato easily outclassed M6 Kasugao in a yotsu-zumo contest that saw Kasugao actually charge straight forward in an attempt to set up the left outside position from where he could grab Waka's belt or go for his patented kotenage throw, but Wakanosato's charge was just too effective has he kept his noggin low and armpits in tight working his left arm up and under Kasugao's bent right elbow using his opponent's limb to just dump him over and down with a tsuki-otoshi throw...sort of. Both rikishi are 2-3.

One of the most enjoyable bouts today was the M8 Asasekiryu - M11 Tochinonada matchup that saw the undefeated Asasekiryu gain the right outer grip at the tachi-ai only to give up Tochinonada's favored left inside position. A chess match ensued with Asasekiryu unable to mount a force-out charge in fear of Tochinonada getting his left arm further on the inside, planting his feet, and mounting a throw, so Sexy wisely lowered his position and kept Tochinonada moving around just enough to where he couldn't get planted. After a few attempts to capitalize on a forward charge with the outer grip, Asasekiryu wisely changed the direction of the bout lifting Tochinonada upright and then pulling him down by the side with the outer grip for the uwate-dashi-nage win. Asasekiryu's too sexy for his mawashi this basho as he moves to 5-0. o-Nada is 3-2.

One of the biggest surprises for me this basho is that M9 Miyabiyama isn't just shredding the competition this low in the ranks. So the former Ozeki had to be thrilled to see M11 Otsukasa across the starting lines from him today. Still, Miyabiyama's tsuppari attack just wasn't there. Make no mistake, he came out thrusting, but he couldn't budge Otsukasa back at all. That's a bad sign especially when your opponent's name is in fact "Otsukasa" and his record is 0-4 coming in having even failed on a tachi-ai henka this basho. Otsukasa eventually forced the faux shoving match into the belt, a place where Miyabiyama is terrible--unless he's fighting an equally bad belt fighter like...well...um...like Otsukasa. Miyabiyama enjoyed the smothering left outer grip, which he used to suffocate O-5tsukasa back and out. Miyabiyama led throughout, but this should have been a 3 second affair instead of 12. At 2-3 Miyabiyama's going to struggle to even win eight in this condition.

The only way that M12 Satoyama was going to beat veteran M10 Dejima today was to go Kakuryu on him. Unfortunately, he led with his head trying to counter Dejima's forceful charge. Bad move. Dejima smote the youngster so hard at the tachi-ai that Satoyama was thrown completely off balance making him easy tsuki-otoshi fodder. 1,000 yen says Satoyama (1-4) never tries that tachi-ai again. Dejima is a cool 5-0, but someone will figure out right quick how easy it is to henka him.

Two rikishi with similar styles met up today in M12 Tamakasuga and M14 Ryuo. Problem was there was a huge difference in age and fighting spirit, which meant that Ryuo toyed with the veteran using a perfect right nodowa from the tachi-ai and flawless de-ashi to drive the veteran back and out without argument. Ryuo's doing everything right when it comes to applying the sumo basics, so there you have his 4-1 start. Tamakasuga has already began packing his bags for Juryo at 1-4.

M13 Futenoh may as well have been practicing against a non-sekitori today in M15 Iwakiyama, but Futenoh was brilliant nonetheless in his sumo securing his favored hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai and patiently keeping Iwakiyama at bay until he had moro-zashi. Even with two inside grips, Iwaki the Hutt's right outer grip and sheer mass was proving difficult to work with, so Futenoh performed one of my favorite counter moves, cutting off the uwate, by poking his left shoulder up and into Iwakiyama armpit breaking off the outer grip and allowing the easy force out win from there. Futenoh is yet another rikishi at 5-0 while Iwakiyama will want to buddy up with Tamakasuga and share the cab fare down.

And finally, M16 Hokutoriki's yusho run was put on hold today by M14 Hochiyama, who obviously knew what the Jokester would bring from the tachi-ai. Hokutoriki (4-1) actually delivered a nice nodowa, but Hochiyama (3-2) simply waxed on waxed off swiping upwards at Hokutoriki's arms spinning him around 180 degrees and bum rushing him out from there. Mr. Miyagi, watching from the grave, had to have been pleased by such defense.

Simon waxes eloquent tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
We enter today having seen something the sport hasn't experienced since 1934. Through the first 3 days, all Sekiwake and above are undefeated. When this last happened 73 years ago though, the lone Yokozuna was out and so was one of the Sekiwake- leaving 2 Ozeki and 1 Sekiwake. Not a major feat when you're only talking 3 people. The fact that we have 7 total who are all 3-0 in 2007 makes this feat pretty remarkable. But alas, with today's bout pitting Chiyotaikai against Sekiwake Ama, the streak cannot continue. But it was an interesting trivia nugget nonetheless.

Did anyone actually think Asashoryu would lose to Tokitenku today after being embarrassed last basho by him? Just wasn't going to happen. Like a vacuum, Sho got the front right mawashi upon the tachi-ai, then changed grips quickly and threw Tenku to the clay from the left with a uwate-dashi-nage (open outside grip throw). The Yokozuna improves to 4-0 while Tenku sinks to 1-3.

Chiyotaikai is showing shades of his prime this basho. Today he continued his dominance against the ubiquitous Ama, not letting the previously undefeated Sekiwake inside from which he can wreak havoc. It was a powerful tsuppari tsuki-dashi through and through for Taikai, who improves to 4-0.

Hakuho got by M3 Kakizoe to stay undefeated. Haku seemed to change strategy mid-bout in this one, as he began looking for the belt and switched gears a couple seconds in as if to say "to heck with it, I'm firing back with tsuppari". He did it well. It was a relatively easy push out, even though he once again fell forward at the end for a somewhat close call. Hakuho looks good so far, but his feet aren't following him quite enough as he finishes opponents off. This may come back to bite him if it isn't rectified. Kakizoe is still looking for win number one.

Kotooshu became the first Ozeki or Yokozuna to bite the dust. It came compliments of Tamanoshima, who got inside on the right and suffocated Oshu by not allowing any space to use those long limbs. They gave him an atsuki-otoshi decision even though it was sort of like a throw.

Kokkai made a bonehead tactical error against Kaio to remain winless. Why in the world would you throw yourself into Kaio, leading with the LEFT shoulder at that, and invite that big right paw to land straight on your left side? Who knows, but that's what he did. It really doesn't matter that Kaio's uwate didn't stick. The fact remains you gave Kaio his favored position. And since the uwate did slip off the belt, Kaio simply drew upon another favorite move, the kotenage, coupled with his uniquely effective arm pull from the other side to completely get Kokkai off balance for an easy okuri-dashi win. Kaio is still shining at 4-0.

Kotomitsuki, who had the ugliest 3-0 record of anyone, actually deserved to win today for the first time. It came via okuri-dashi vs. poor Toyonoshima, who is trying mightily but can't buy a win at 0-4.

Down in the ranks, I wanted to mention Roho, who evened his record at 2-2 with a win over Rookie Satoyama (1-3). Not because I wanted to comment on his sumo, but rather his behavior. I've had enough of his antics. This guy needs to be fined. On day one, yes he had a beef calling for the matta and not getting it. But no need for the angered stare down of the shimpan two and three times over. Then yesterday with the bout over for a good two seconds, an over-the-top unnecessary pushing down of Takamisakari off the dohyo after winning the bout. Asashoryu's occasional such "dame-oshi" are subtle compared to Roho's yesterday. It's one thing to have your game face on and show intensity, it's quite another to exude such a negative attitude and smugness. This guy isn't doing sumo any good in my mind. Apparently he was "reflecting" on his actions yesterday. I say let him reflect on parting with a big chunk of change while he's at it.

Three others still stand undefeated in the maegashira ranks. They are Asasekiryu, Futenoh (who won a bloody bout vs Kasuganishiki) and- don't look now- Hokutoriki. Yes, the Pretender is back and wreaking virtual havoc once again. For now, anyway.

Day 3 Comments (Simon Siddall reporting)
It's all systems go at the Natsu Basho. It's a pretty rare sight for all the lads in the top three ranks to be perfect after two days. Could they keep their plague-ridden humungous peckers up for day three? Let's just see about that, shall we?

Today's highlight-twilight bout was obviously the musubi-no-ichiban, in which Yokozuna Asashoryu faced crybaby M3 Kisenosato. The tension factor was pretty high and I saw at least fifteen old geezers down with myocardial infarction (well, that was how it looked) as well as a few old ladies with what looked like tweezer wounds to the head. To the bout, then, Asashoryu launched a vicious harite at tachiai, knocking Kisenosato to the side. It was then a display of the speed of light as Asa got in at the side and wrapped up the left arm of the youngster to push out. Like a genetically engineered rabbit, Kisenosato tried a desperate jump as he was launched over the tawara but it was in vain as Asashoryu kept his footing with ease. The Yokozuna strolls to 3-0. Kisenosato is 1-2. Asa looks deadly, but he is not controlling bouts as he usually does. And is it me or is he looking meaner than usual?

Ozeki Hakuho has looked unbelievably calm so far in his tsuna-tori quest. In today's bout, he demonstrated once again his awesome power as he threw the huge M2 Tamanoshima (0-3) like a rag-doll via kotenage (the dangerous arm-bar throw that Kaio has famously broken arms with.) Hakuho (3-0) went with this after failing to get a belt grip from the tachiai, despite employing a quick harite, but this bout showed once again that he can think on his feet, an important skill for a Yokozuna. The signs are all good so far – he looks assured and - dare I say it – Yokozuna-like, dominating the dohyo with his immense size and force of character. Surely he will go all the way this time. Expect two Yokozuna in Nagoya.

Ozeki Kotooshu met up with M4 Tochiohzan, a rikishi I'm considering as my main man following the retirement of Tochiazuma. Sadly, the youngster had no chance today as Kotooshu launched a harite and took advantage of Tochiohzan's poor tachiai, which was far too low, and switched to the side to grab the belt (almost got morozashi) and push his opponent out with ease. This was an easy win for the Bulgarian and a demoralizing loss for Tochi, who will need to improve significantly if he wants to survive at these heights. He is showing the classic inconsistency we see so often in inexperienced rikishi (and badgers) and he may need some time to emulate the improvement of young rikishi like, ooh...Kisenosato and Homasho.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai (3-0) once again demonstrated non-metrosexual (thanks, Mike – brilliant) sumo as he massacred Komusubi Kotoshogiku (0-3) with a blinding display of power tsuppari. This was vintage Chiyotaikai – and his sumo this basho so far has been his best for years. It looks like his injury problems are behind him and he may well have a few more basho in the tank. If he fights like he did today, I welcome that. Kotoshogiku was simply not in this bout and needs to get his head together pronto.

Ozeki Kaio got an easy win over M3 Kakizoe, pulling the left arm of his opponent at the tachiai and turning him round for the embarrassing okuri-dashi win. Kakizoe has looked awful so far, and today he lost because he's fighting all from the upper body. With better lower body stability, he would have been able to resist being spun like that. Kakizoe (0-3) will be lucky to pick up four wins this basho. Kaio keeps the Yokozuna/Ozeki/Sekiwake ball rolling at 3-0, but hasn't looked too impressive to me.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki (3-0) survived a switch to the side (kind of a half henka) from M4 Aminishiki (2-1), who then spun Koto around and – pulling out the instinctive technical brilliance he shows from time to time - attempted a kiri-kaeshi. Kotomitsuki, however, kept his awareness well to stay on his feet and Aminishiki fell victim to his own quick thinking.

Sekiwake Ama (3-0) kept luckless Komusubi Toyonoshima (0-3) away from his belt at the tachiai with the old stiff-arm to the neck. Toyonoshima pushed valiantly forward on his one leg and almost scraped the win as Ama screwed up trying to yank on the arm for a throw. Fortunately for Ama, he managed to grab a frontal left-hand grip on Toyonoshima's belt, which gave him the leverage to survive on the tawara. He then took advantage of Toyo's inability to turn quickly (because of the injury) and switched to a side attack for the easy push out. Ama is doing a fabulous job in his first basho at Sekiwake, making sure he racks up the wins before the going gets hairy in the second week. Toyonoshima, frankly, should pull out, and no doubt will by Friday at the latest.

M1 Homasho (1-2) has had a pretty tough start, losing to Kotooshu and Asashoryu. No shame there – we've all done that. Matched up against an inferior rikishi for the first time this basho in M2 Kokkai (0-3), his fans (me included) were looking for some sign of that potential he has in such abundance. And we got it. Kokkai launched an awesome whack to Homasho's face with his left elbow at tachiai, but Homasho took it like a man and wrapped up Kokkai's arms with devastating effect, slowing pushing him back to the edge and being cautious to avoid the last desperate escape of the Georgian. Very impressive stuff and a first win on the board, along with a bloody nose. Kokkai isn't looking awful but has yet to chalk up a win for his efforts. And Roho...take a few lessons from this guy Homasho in sumo manners instead of strutting round and saying a 24-hour eff-you to the people who pay your wages.

I know Martin and Mike think M5 Kakuryu (2-1) is a bit of a ponce, but I see potential in the guy, even if he does employ evasion tactics some of the time. He isn't the only one to do this, my friends, and I see it more as a temporary annoyance more than anything else. He just needs to learn to use it as a fall-back option when things aren't going well. He had a tough bout on paper today and I was wondering how we would approach turning over the mountain-esque (is that a word – it should be) M7 Wakanosato (1-2). He did exactly what he had to do today; knowing that he was never going to beat Waka in power, he took the tachiai in his stride, making no mistake in grabbing right uwate, and used his opponent's momentum to calmly throw him at the edge. Textbook sumo for a weaker rikishi looking to beat a strong one. Yeah, it ain't Yokozuna sumo, but so what! Kakuryu has the technical ability to stay exactly where he is, if not go higher. The key here was his calmness in executing the win – this was not desperation stakes at the edge – it was calculated slaughter. End of story. I've said it before and I'll say it again – Kakuryu is Tokitenku in the making.

M9 Miyabiyama (1-2) looked an even bigger tit than usual falling for the wily M6 Kasugao (2-1), who executed that swinging-arm smash tachiai that Asashoryu used on Homasho on day two. As Kasugao made contact, he pulled back and enjoyed the show along with the rest of us as Miyabiyama lumbered over onto the shikiri-sen in not dissimilar fashion to the way Konishiki used to. Miyabiyama had better start motoring soon because the former Ozeki should really be making mincemeat of opponents at mid-Maegashira. He will be concerned that his only win has come courtesy of Roho's dumb behaviour.

It was likely that the only people on this sorry planet rooting for M9 Roho (1-2) in his bout against M7 Takamisakari (2-1) were his brother, his mother, and...er...well, there really is no need for me to add to Mike's comments on his shenanigans the other day so let's leave it at that, shall we? Roho dominated here with a strong left uwate grip from the tachiai, totally overpowering his foe and pushing him out. He even pulled an extra shove-you (thanks, Clancy) on Circus for effect. What, was he trying to increase his popularity? Or was it an overblown sense of poetic justice. It really is a shame Roho is such a surly, miserable, innately unlikable soul because his sumo was spot on today. Takamisakari was well beaten and he knew it. Poor guy.

M14 Ryuo (3-0) kept M12 Satoyama (1-2) at arms length, showing plenty of smarts, allowing his opponent to do all the work as he kept back and out of danger while waiting for the chance for the easy push-out win. It wasn't exactly pretty to watch, but Ryuo demonstrated tactical awareness today. Not just a pretty face and a dream start to his Makuuchi career.

In other bouts, M14 Hochiyama (2-1) made M16 Kasuganishiki (1-2) look decidedly average while M16 Hokutoriki (3-0) is threatening to repeat THAT run with an utter domination of M13 Tochinohana (1-2). M13 Futenoh (3-0) continued to outclass the field with a bread-and-butter win over the labouring M15 Ushiomaru. Surely ten or eleven wins are going to be had at this level. And M10 Dejima kept up his steady positioning with an easy win over potted plant M12 Tamakasuga.

So there you have it: day three and everyone is smiling. The top eight rikishi stand at 3-0, and this equals carnage in the lower ranks. However, the proud record of the top rankers will end tomorrow when Sekiwake Ama faces Ozeki Chiyotaikai. As Mike pointed out yesterday, there is the potential for an explosive second week with all the top guys in contention. More power to their arms.

As always in my first report, I like to screw everything up by making some predictions based on what I've seen so far. Hakuho and Asashoryu look destined (as expected) for a showdown for the yusho. Chiyotaikai looks to have enough in reserve to escape kadoban, and Kaio might scrape eight as well despite not being able to get into his own sumo. Kotooshu looks genki but we all know the demons residing in his head – and the same can be said of Kotomitsuki! Ama is already looking like special prize material but will need to prove it's not a fluke with a few upsets in the second week.

Lower down the order, I've liked Homasho so far and Aminishiki looks dangerous. Ryuo is having a party, and Futenoh is a different class to the other muppets around him. I wouldn't be surprised to see Hokutoriki race to eight wins either.

Kenji chokes his chicken tomorrow. See you on day sex...I mean six. The old ones...

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As Kenji pointed out in his day 1 comments, everyone from Yokozuna down to Sekiwake won on opening day, which meant there would have been little else to comment on if it wasn't for Roho. Good ol' Roho. In case you missed it yesterday, Roho was having trouble at the starting lines getting synched up with Miyabiyama resulting in a false start from the Russian. As the two reloaded, Roho was out of synch again and stood back up, but at the exact moment he moved upright, Miyabiyama charged and the referee called out "nokotta" which meant the bout was on. Roho claims he called out "matta" or false start but to no avail as he was pushed back and out with his arms still extended as if to say what's going on here? Afterwards, Roho berated the referee in the press making fun of his hearing, and he took a sideswipe as well at the head judge for the bout, Kokonoe-oyakata. Then, the best part of it was, Roho called for the Sumo Association to reprimand the referee. Uh, I don't think it's gonna be the referee who gets reprimanded here.

My take on the bout was that the referee did make a mistake as Roho's right fist never touched the dirt, but so what? Rikishi do that all the time and it's never called back. And since when do rikishi get to call their own fouls? What, is this street sumo in the hood? Since Roho fought from the East, his right hand was away from the referee and may have been shielded, but it doesn't matter. Roho cannot criticize anyone in the Sumo Association for something he had complete control over--his tachi-ai. Here's an idea...why don't you get your tachi-ai in order so you don't look like a bumbling idiot? Roho is nothing but a black eye for sumo and for foreign rikishi trying to make it in the sport. The Association should come down hard on Roho for this, especially since it's been less than a year since his last incident. The dude's disrespectful in a sport that commands complete respect. If I were the Sumo Association I'd be galled that Roho is getting fat off of their sport and giving nothing in return but bad press. I'd make him sit out a day or two saddling him with further losses. Don't bother with a fine, though. Is it me, or has Japan not figured out how to fine people. You have these athletes and organizations making millions, and when they get fined, the amount is like $500. I can make that in a good day of pachinko. Let's turn our focus to the day 2 bouts.

The most anticipated bout today was the first ever meeting between Asashoryu and Homasho, and if you didn't get the live feed, you missed out on what caused Asashoryu to implement that stupid forearm tachi-ai to Homasho's neck. As the two went through their pre-bout repetitions, at one point Asashoryu gave Homasho a mean stare in hopes of starting a nice pre-bout glaring match across the starting lines, but Homasho just stood up and turned his back on the Yokozuna. I'm sure the move infuriated Asashoryu because at the tachi-ai, he wound up his left arm and slammed it into Homasho's neck from the side. The move didn't phase Homasho, however, and left Asashoryu in a horrible position with no leverage to get any real sumo going. Homasho didn't take advantage, though, opting to just hold his ground as Asashoryu offered a one-handed shove into Homasho's upper body. Homasho retreated with the shove attempting to evade and pull Asashoryu's extended arm and use it against him, but the Yokozuna just caught enough of Homasho's torso near his left shoulder to force the M1 across the straw deflating the Kokugikan crowd who was ready to erupt. This bout was a lot closer than it looked, and it was due to Asashoryu's temper getting in the way of sound judgment. Poor decision by Asashoryu to try and prove a useless point at the cost of compromising his sumo. If the Yokozuna has any weakness it's that he loses his cool at times to the point where his precision sumo is sacrificed. A more experienced rikishi would have made Asa pay in my opinion, but as it stands, Asashoryu is off to a 2-0 start while Homasho has yet to pull off an upset at 0-2.

Also playing with fire today was Ozeki Kotooshu who was thrown around like a rag doll yet again by Komusubi Toyonoshima. Fortunately, for the Ozeki, his finger got stuck in just the right place and Toyonoshima has no lower body this basho. I guess it's almost impossible for Toyonoshima not to get morozashi against Kotooshu, and today was no different from the tachi-ai. Toyonoshima wasted no time after securing the position in going for an inside throw with his left arm, but as Kotooshu was getting twisted down, he used his right arm to grab at the back of Toyonoshima's belt managing to catch his middle finger in the loop at the back of Toyonoshima's belt providing just enough momentum to throw Toyonoshima towards the dirt as well. Due to that pull from Kotooshu coupled with a lack of strength in his lower body to aid his throw attempt, Toyonoshima was forced to make a quick decision: faceplant into the dohyo and win, or put his right arm down and lose. He chose the latter, and I don't blame him. I'm sure it was as much a subconscious decision as any. He's already injured, so why add further insult? The result was an uwate-nage win for Kotooshu...barely. The Ozeki moves to 2-0 but does not look ready to break out of his funk anytime soon.

I don't know how Komusubi Kotoshogiku didn't beat Ozeki Kaio today. The youngster attacked to his right from the tachi-ai swinging his hips away from any chance of Kaio grabbing a right outer grip, and then the Geeku burrowed his head underneath Kaio's chin and just drove the Ozeki back to the straw, but Kaio dug in thanks to a left arm on the inside of his opponent that allowed him to fend off certain death. At this point Kotoshogiku's legs were sliding too far outwardly on both sides allowing Kaio to step away from the tawara and out of danger. Kotoshogiku adjusted and went for a second yori-kiri attempt, but Kaio awkwardly slipped to his left and pulled the hapless Kotoshogiku forward and to the clay. Kaio was not impressive this bout, and the replay from the camera angle directly overhead showed that Kaio's footwork was just as bad as Kotoshogiku's, so I'm left with the question is Kotoshogiku really this bad right now or is he letting up a bit out of deference to Kaio? Regardless, the Ozeki enjoys a 2-0 start while the Geeku falls to 0-2.

For some reason, M1 Tokitenku cannot solve Ozeki Chiyotaikai. The Ozeki entered today's bout with a 6-0 advantage and showed why. From the tachi-ai he focused his attack straight at Tokitenku's neck and never relented until Tenku was pushed back and out. It took three seconds, and my only explanation is that Tokitenku has a glass throat. I'm not saying that I can take throat shots myself, but sumo rikishi have that gruff voice for a reason. How about a little defense, Tokitenku? His lack thereof drops him to 0-2. It's great to see Chiyotaikai resort to his forward-moving tsuppari attack to get out of this kadoban hole rather than donning the skirt and metrosexualing his way around the ring for his victories. Nice 2-0 start.

Part of Hakuho's dominance is his sheer strength. I guess those reports of his having improved his benchpress weight by 150 kilos (something I can relate to, of course) the last couple of years has something to do with it. Against the dangerous M2 Kokkai today, Hakuho opted for a cautious tachi-ai that allowed the Georgian to slam straight into him full boar, but the Ozeki was hardly fazed easily standing his ground and working his right arm on the inside of Kokkai. With Kokkai's tsuppari attack neutralized, Hakuho took his time to grab the left outer, and once secured, he muscled Kokkai back and out with a great display of power. Kokkai's sumo was not bad today, and his tachi-ai was great. Hakuho just showed good maturity and better force to counter anything that Kokkai threw his way. That was Yokozuna sumo today from Hakuho, who has looked solid and relaxed the first two days. His weakness has been his poor starts, but that ain't an issue so far this basho.

Sekiwake Ama looked great today against former Sekiwake Tamanoshima, taking it to the veteran at the tachi-ai with a nice push attack. Tamanoshima managed to halt the attack at the edge and actually locked Ama's left inside grip tight against his body eventually breaking the grip, but Ama used his speed to work himself to the side of his opponent where he reached his right arm around Tamanoshima's left and used his own left arm to pull at Tamanoshima's limb as well executing the textbook tottari throw down. Ama improves to 2-0 and wins this one with speed while Tamanoshima drops to 0-2.

Sekiwake Kotomitsuki is 2-0, but he's already got the pull down fetish working in full gear. Today against M3 Kakizoe, he just welcomed Zoe's charge with two hands at the back of his head slapping Kakizoe down to the clay in one second. I don't even think Kotomitsuki moved his feet. While Kotomitsuki would have beaten Kakizoe regardless today, I don't like how he's in the pull down mindset so early. He's gonna pay for it down the road. Kakizoe is 0-2.

One of the best bouts of the day featured struggling M3 Kisenosato against upstart M4 Tochiohzan. As much of a roll as Tochiohzan is on, he's in different territory now, and as the two rikishi split the tachi-ai each gaining left arms on the inside, Kisenosato wasted no time in unleashing an attack by going for the right outer grip that forced Tochiohzan to compensate in order to stave off the move. The Kid managed a weak grip on the right side, but never stopped driving with his legs using the left arm to push at Tochiohzan's side. The attack was just too subtle for Tochiohzan to handle, and Kisenosato had him back-pedaling and forced out of the ring in short order. I love both of these rikishi, but it's quite gratifying to see the more experienced rikishi pick apart his younger opponent like this. Both rikishi are 1-1, and I think Tochiohzan suffers more losses like this at Natsu.

In a sloppy affair, M5 Takekaze plowed in low against M4 Aminishiki, but the latter somehow managed to retreat a bit and then just duck under Takekaze's already low attack. Takekaze had both hands at the back of Aminishiki in the perfect pull down position, but Takekaze was attacking forward...not retreating. The pint-sized rikishi really seemed confused at this point as he allowed Aminishiki (2-0) to step to his side and hurl Takekaze (0-2) down to the clay in an ugly affair, kinda like two fellas who realize that each is...never mind.

Martin has really pegged M5 Kakuryu in this division in asserting that Kakuryu wins only when he evades his opponent. Today against M6 Kasugao, he disallowed the Korean any sort of grip, but he didn't evade opting to stand and grapple in the center of the ring. Kasugao eventually used his bulk to body Kakuryu back, around the ring a bit, and out in an uneventful display of sumo leaving both rikishi 1-1.

M6 Tokitsuumi left himself wide open at the tachi-ai allowing M7 Takamisakari to surge into the moro-zashi grip. We're so used to watching counter sumo from Sakari as he gets himself in trouble with poor tachi-ai, but Tokitsuumi obliged today allowing the Cop to grab the inside position with both arms, which he then used to force Tokitsuumi back and out in two seconds to the delight of the crowd. At 2-0 Takamisakari improves his scoring in terms of kachi-koshi, but judging from the pre-basho news, he's on o'fer with the chicks. Tokitsuumi is 0-2.

M9 Roho is in big trouble, and it's not because he opened his trap and criticized the referee and judges after yesterday's bout. I've given my take on that incident, but Roho is in trouble because his sumo basics have vanished. From the tachi-ai, he allowed his right leg to just slide outwardly (ashi ga nagareru), which puts a rikishi in the perfect position to get pulled down. The veteran M7 Wakanosato easily recognized this and went for the early pulldown. Roho survived that initial attack but made yet another critical mistake by failing to counter attack from his current position after Waka's pull attempt. Instead, he took an extra step to realign himself in front of his opponent before trying a stupid counter pull down move of his own. I think Wakanosato has lost a step and will never regain his previous dominant form, but a guy that has been around this long is going to filet someone who shows such poor sumo skills and bad judgment. This was so easy for Wakanosato I felt like crying, but I had used all my tears up earlier watching a Japanese drama. You know...that one where the main character gets hospitalized after a fake car accident and loses her memory. Wakanosato is 1-1 while Roho falls to 0-2.

M9 Miyabiyama exhibited a great tachi-ai against M8 Asasekiryu, but his de-ashi (push from the legs) ended there as he wasted the tachi-ai a few seconds in by trying to surprise Asasekiryu and move a step to his left in hopes that Sexy could be pulled forward. Asasekiryu survived, and even though he didn't have any offensive position at all, Miyabiyama's attack from the lower body was done. The Sheriff continued to flail away tsuppari after tsuppari, but with no legs to drive the show, Asasekiryu simply bided his time before sneaking in to a moro-zashi grip. From there it was gravy for the Mongolian who scored his second win in as many tries. I wonder if Miyabiyama's leg is still giving him problems because his tsuppari were mostly upper body today. Without that drive from the lower body, he cannot just show up and win against the competition this low. Miyabi's 1-1.

M10 Dejima secured morozashi from the tachi-ai against M11 Tochinonada, and even though Nada briefly broke the hold with a slap down attempt, Dejima's positioning was just too solid, and he easily regained the dual inside position forcing out Tochinonada (1-1) with ease. Dejima is 2-0 if you need him.

Makuuchi rookie, M12 Satoyama, got off the snide with a win over M11 Otsukasa, and if you've already seen the result on paper, you thought "easy oshi-dashi win for Satoyama." Not exactly as he had to overcome a cowardly tachi-ai henka to his left from Otsukasa. That Satoyama survived the henka goes to show how ring-savvy he is. Once he regained his composure with Otsukasa pushing down at the back of his head the whole time, he was finally able to turn the table once he got his tsuppari going. I really think this kid's gonna be great as he picks up his first win. 0-2tsukasa deserves the loss today.

When M12 Tamakasuga's veteran magic doesn't work this low in the ranks, it spells retirement trouble. Today M13 Tochinohana used a nice head butt at the tachi-ai to probably daze and confuse Tamakasuga just enough that he offered nothing by way of a tsuppari attack, and it was such an easy oshi-dashi win for Tochinohana (1-1), I can't believe I just typed two sentences describing it. Tamakasuga is 0-2.

In the battle of two rikishi I think waste so much of their potential, M14 Hochiyama failed to dominate the tachi-ai against M13 Futenoh, so as both rikishi settled into a hidari-yotsu stalemate in the center of the ring, Hochiyama had no momentum and just seemed to wait for Futenoh to grab that right outer grip. Once secured, Futenoh drove his hapless opponent back to the edge, and on the way back Hochiyama attempted a maki-kae, but counter sumo ain't in the cards for this youngster. Easy win for Futenoh who improves to 2-0 while Hochiyama falls to 1-1.

Makuuchi rookie M14 Ryuo looked solid again using his tsuppari attack to focus on M15 Iwakiyama's throat using that nodowa from the tachi-ai and pushing Mount Iwaki back to the edge. On the brink, Iwakiyama looked to show a bit of life by refusing to go out without a fight, but as he finally pushed forward with an attack of his own, Ryuo took the change of pace in stride and stepped to his side dragging Iwakiyama down to the dohyo face-first. Just what Iwakiyama needed...to flatten up that face even further. This was Ryuo's sumo through and through as he moves to 2-0 while Iwakiyama is still stuck on the doughnut.

M16 Kasuganishiki used a slight henka to his left coupled with a bad tachi-ai from M15 Ushiomaru (0-2) that allowed Kasuganishiki (1-1) to easily grab the groom-to-be's belt and escort him out of the ring. And finally, M16 Hokutoriki scored a predictable pull down win against visiting Juryo rikishi, Tosanoumi, to start out 2-0.

For the first time in who knows when, the Yokozuna, Ozeki, and Sekiwake all start out 2-0, which means not much excitement now, but the potential for a great week 2. Simon brings the daisies tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
"Monkey off my back" may best describe day one of Natsu-basho 2007. Hakuho, who is embarking on his third quest for Yokozuna promotion, had suffered critical opening day losses in his previous two attempts. The stars were aligned this time, I suppose. He was facing Kotoshogiku, an opponent he has handled with no issue in 4 prior meetings. Today would be no different as Haku showed a lightening quick attack to push out the Komusubi out in a matter of seconds. If there was one sliver of concern, it was that he did fall forward at the end which indicates he may have been slightly tight amid all the pressure of the situation. But a win is a win, baby.

In the musubi-no-ichiban, Asashoryu made quick work of shin-Komusubi Toyonoshima, who he had injured in a pre-basho practice session. You had to feel for Toyo as he was tasked to face Sho on day one with his right knee and ankle both heavily wrapped. When the bout ensued, it was obvious Toyo was not 100%. Shortly after the tachi-ai, one of Sho's thrusts sent Toyo flying backward as if his balance momentarily escaped him. My take on it was that he was concerned about his ailing leg too much and therefore was trying too hard not to put undue pressure on it. Thus the resulting anti-climactic oshi-taoshi.

In keeping with the "monkey off back" theme, Kotooshu did just that against rising star Homasho. Oshu had yet to win in two bouts against the youngster, who was coming off a strong 11-4 showing in March. Well, it wasn't pretty but Oshu got the job done staying low the whole time and eventually prevailing via hiki-otoshi.

It's a bittersweet basho for Chiyotaikai. He enters May as Ozeki for the 50th basho, which ties him with Takanohana I for most basho at that rank. Quite an accomplishment for the grizzled veteran. On the other hand, it's his 10th kadoban campaign. Fortunately he gets off on the right foot with a win against M2 Kokkai via his trademark tsuppari followed by a hataki-komi decision.

Speaking of grizzled veteran Ozeki, Kaio, who himself enters May for the 41st time as Ozeki, joined his counterpart with an opening day win. Kaio's foe was M1 Tokitenku. It was a pretty uneventful bout as Kaio garnered morozashi and patiently marched forward for the yori-kiri, wary the whole time of Tenku's contorted leg tactics and unorthodox throwing tendencies.

Not only did all the Ozeki and Yokozuna make it through day one unblemished, the two Sekiwakes Kotomitsuki and Ama both got by their opponents (Tamanoshima and Kakizoe, respectively). Ama is a newly promoted Sekiwake while Kotomitsuki is holding the rank for the 10th consecutive basho.

Way down in the rank and file, the two top division rookies showed grit even though only one came away with a win. Ryuo, the 9th Mongolian Makuuchi rikishi, got the win in an impressive oshi-dashi effort against veteran Tochinohana. The slight Satoyama, who now takes over the distinction of smallest Makuuchi rikishi from Ama at 120 kilos, wasn't as fortunate despite a valiant effort against Futenoh. Sato "stuck and moved" like a champ, leaving the larger Futenoh wavering about, but the lack of weight really showed as he couldn't put the finishing touches on Futenoh even though he had him off balance at ring's edge. You've got to love guys like this though- you just can't not root for the guy.

Overall, a pretty uneventful opener in the end. Let's hope the whole basho doesn't follow suit.

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