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

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Yo! Spent the morning planting rice and usually this would give me time to salivate in anticipation for the day's bouts, but with Kotooshu taking the yusho on Day 14, there wasn't much to chomp on. So after finishing the rice I biked over the mountains, played a few sets while drinking some Super Dry, biked back at dusk eating bugs along the way, all the while trying to think about sumo. Wouldn't come. 

But once I got settled down in front of the telly (and recalled that I wouldn't have to watch Rasputin, who'd been beaten, stabbed, shot and drowned into kyujo on Day 13), the fire in the belly returned, and it was with rapt attention I watched Toyohibiki slam into Homasho and use very well place thrusts to pin him to the edge, and with sicko glee I watched his foot slip just as he shoved Homasho out, causing his own pimply form to hit the dirt first. You can't win any more of a bout you lose.

Someone let Hakurozan in on a secret, which is, Leave well. Knowing Iwakiyama needed his 8th win, Mr. Clean decided to fight fair. Naturally after a few seconds he couldn't resist scratching that slapdown itch, but Rozie is about as mysterious a commodity these days as onigiri, and Iwonkeykong was on him like a hound on a hare, yes barreling him out and back to Juryo.

I think W10 Croconosato's tachi-ai pimp slap actually did help him get his left arm quickly inside vs. Kotokasuga, which he used to work the wildly worming E16 back to the edge, where he employed a tight right arm lockdown to twist his foe into the clay and his 10th win! Old man rookie Kotokasuga was wearing a black armband. Not sure if it was due to injury or to honor his imminent demotion to Juryo after a 4-11. Still, dude gave it the good college try. Will he ever return? I hope so; he fought straight up pretty much every bout.

In major league baseball the veterans are always playing tricks on the rookies. Seems they do the same in sumo, because no one had the decency to tell young Tochinoshin to get the hell out of the way when the Dejima 4:45 storms out of the station. Another pastblast for me from the Degyptian, who steamrolls his way to KK. Way to hit, baby. Tochinoshit, at W14, may just stay in the top flight with his 7-8, but he took himself out of his game with that Day 8 henka of Tosanoumi, which sent him spiraling to four straight losses. However, on the bright side, he recovered nicely to beat Homasho (via a cheeky utchari), Takekaze and Futenoh on consecutive days. His first time out, kid was having a Huck Finn-like adventure. Can't really fault him for his bad decision to play on the tracks today. 

Fellow rookie Hakuba finished 4-11 as well, after getting shoved out by Takekaze, a man half his size and half his rank. An ill wind blows for Kaze at 6-9, but he shouldn't fall too far from W8, whereas Hakuba is Hakubyebye at W16.

Tochinonada picked up win 9 vs. Kakizoe, who hit and shifted at tachi-ai, gaining the advantage. GiGi put on the brakes at the edge like he usually does, standing sideways on one leg while sticking the other up into his foe. Sweet Zoe kept it coming, but the E8 slid back and circled away then slapped him and his late arriving feet down. At E13 6-9 Kakizoe stays in, but just barely. While he is no doubt randy at home with that fine wife of his, dude better find his dohyomojo (say that three times fast) by July. I don't think Uchidate would be happy watching Makuuchi if there weren't at least two Kaks waiting for her each basho.

Speaking of that horror show, my youngest daughter recently found my eldest daughter's discarded doll, one that had been at the bottom of a toy chest for years, face all worn and banged up with it's hair a true nightmare of snags and barbs and strands of gum and muck. No lie, my two year-old asked me, Who's this? I told her, That's Makiko. Looked. Just. Like. Her.

Father Goeido Sarducci got the quick outside left belt and looked to be in position for a throw, but Tamanoshima leaned onto him and broke his grip, then quickly used his two hands on the inside to drive him back and out. Peter wins 9 and Goeido wins 8.

Takamisakari took a head blast in the chin and neck from Tosanoumi that would make a deer stagger and still managed to move forward, getting the inside right and outside left. As big Tosa pushed him toward the edge, Bean showed he's got sumo chops by expertly swinging his foe around and running him out backward. Dude poured it on, winning four of his last five, but was a day late, dollar short due to that needless loss to King Tama yesterday. Still, contrary to what Arbo and Matra nastily write, he ain't no clown. Just unique.

Remember that incredible scene in Road Warrior when the little feral kid wings a sharpened boomerang at the band of mutated bad guys and buries it into the forehead of the crazy Mohawk guy's boytoy, who looked an awful lot like the American 70's pop sensation Leif Garrett? Then Mohawk goes nuts when he sees his piece of ass dead on the ground and runs up to the Lord Humungous' vehicle screaming No, we go in, we kill them all, and the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah, trying to calm his migi ude down, patiently bearhugs him till he passes out? No? Well, that's essentially what Tochiohzan did to the ever manic Yoshikaze, who was eager, to say the least, to get his 8th but instead became the only 7-7 on the day to falter. Oh finishes with a disappointing 5 wins.

Hoaxatoriki and Wakanoho had a domestic dispute, as the fatherly Hoax went at the boyish Ho with two hands to the chin ("While you're living in my house, damnit!"), holding him up but not moving him back a hair. From there the teenager made short work of the W6 ("And keep your hands off Ma!"). Still, and yikes, did the Hoaxster really beat Aminishiki, Tokitenku, Tochinonada, Wakanosato and Homasho? The 19 year-old Whack's cheating sumo left me at the altar on Day 14, but I'll be ready to date him again in July.

Kyokutenho, 4-10 and not in any danger of promotion, clung as gently to Tamakasuga as a baby koala to it's mum, and when he felt the King had had enough, he meekly tugged on Tama's head inviting him in and gifting him the easy push out win. At W12 King Tama reaches KK and rockets up to M11 or so while The Chauffer will be doing his hairpins down around the M7 neighborhood. They'll meet in Nagoya, and I'll say now the King goes down if it isn't Day 15.

Kak sprung out to the left vs. Baruto (boing! how many of you gals have had that happen to you before?) but the Biomass took a good hold of the twitching Kak and squeezed him out to his 10th loss. Baruto was the same 5-10 and the chance that he and his unstable body will ever make Ozeki is diminishing with each tourney. For me the surprise of the basho, though, was Baruto beating Kisenosato on Day 10 (course you couldn't read about it on Sumotalk).

Kokkai got off to a fast start vs. Tokitenku (contrary to his basho this time out at E1) and had a two-handed stranglehold on the puzzling Mongolian, but as usual Toki-Tenki weathered the storm, this time by latching onto the front of Georgian's belt and dragging him across the dohyo while slapping on the back of his head like an organ grinder on his naughty monkey. The White Knight recovered and got himself into a nice upright position, nice enough for the Weatherman to find a two handed morozashi and drive his foe out for the yorikiri push out win. Those two early losses this time out to the Hoax and the Kak loom large for this talented but assuredly disappointed 6-9 rikishi.

Aminishiki won six of his last seven, including a Day 9 besting of Mitsuki and a Day 13 hammering of the yusho winner, to finish a nice 10-5. Bonus for all of us is, he wasn't Shneaky at all about it this time out. Today he and Sexy both moved to their left at tachi-ai and after some head butting Aminishiki got a strong outside left and used it to wring Asasecretary around to where he was backed to the edge, and then bellied/pushed him out. With Sexy falling out of his Komusubi slot, question is, does Wakanoho, 8-7 from W2, or Aminishiki, 10-5 from W4 take his place? Maybe they both get it and Kisenosato becomes the third Sekiwake. Darwin knows the NSK can afford three Sekiwake, now that they have the fickle sumo public (aka the average Nipponese looking to be part of some trend) in the palm of their hand (heya killers being punished, cute white guy taking yusho) and coming out in droves.

The abovementioned Kisenosato used textbook pushing sumo to force Miflobbyama back and out, with no sweat breaking out on either fella. The 10-5 record with the defeat of Asa on Day 1 ought to propel Kisenosato to Sekiwake, but as I just mused, will the NSK loosen or tighten the purse strings? I say loosen, with this blossoming Nipponese rikishi being a big draw for fans. The Kid should have been better this time out, though, having no bidness losing to Pup, Biomass, or the Ho.

Am I drinking (nothing but tea) or do I see Futenoh in the last five bouts of Day 15? Yowza. He certainly was not put here to simply gift Geeku his 8th win, because he locked up with the Sekiwake in a belt battle, Geeku outside right, Fruity inside left, and they stayed in this configuration for the length of the match. Both men tried for that second belt grip but couldn't get it, and as time marched on and they gyoji started yanking off their tassles, I cued up Love Spreads by The Stone Roses (not because it's such a long song but because it is debatably among the best rock songs ever written and helped me forget my ennui). Finally Geeku sensed a weakening (and maybe realized Futenoh's grip on his belt, despite being an all strand grip, was fingertip tenuous like a rock climber's) and bellied Fruity back once, causing the E6 to resist and come forward with just enough momentum that Geeku could twist him around while lifting under the armpit and then mash him out.

Maybe the whispered word was out, that we'd prefer to see some nice long bouts in the final five to help everyone forget the basho is over, because in the next match Ama asked Toyonoshima to the prom and they spent the night in each other's arms swaying softly to the musical chanting of the gyoji. Sure, they had the occasional spat, but for the most part looked like lovebirds. With both guys as tired as Mike after wrestling the hotel manager (a sumo fan) for a reduction in our fortnight bill, Toyo was able to push Ama back, and even though Ama kept his foot from touching the dirt before Toyo's, they gave the win to the Nipponese. Save your crap about "in the air" or "below the dohyo", cause I don't need any of that. Toyo touched first and they jobbed Ama. You can view it on the wonderful French website,

Like Laptop did in his outstanding Day 14 report (I'll say it again, English is Martin's second language, and yet I defy you to find me a line that betrays that fact) I'll do the final two bouts and then finish with the big Bulgar.

Mitsuki came in low and grabbed the quick outside right. Kaio knew he was in trouble and spun around, whether to avoid losing or throw a monkey wrench into Martin's guarantee of a Mitsuki yorikiri win. Hit simply chased him out and gave him some of the same shweet bidness Kotooshu gave Kak on Day 10. Grrrrrr! I know that Kaio would gift Kotomitsuki the win if it was necessary, but Mitsuki can slaughter Kaio on his own any day of the week. Two Day 15 KK and a yusho for the "classy" Sad Oh Gloat Take beya.

Asa and Hak went at it with some fierce chest slapping for a second or two, then Asa expertly pulled Hak's right arm, dumping him down in a lightning quick decision. Genghis then sort of bellied into Hak, who was in the position of someone getting up from doing pushups, and extrashoved him a touch while he was down. As Kublai stood up he banged his shoulder into Asa's torso, who glared at his junior like he was surprised, and for a moment it looked like a boxing match was going to break out

The British announcer on the English side tried to stir up trouble, saying Asa has a long way to go to become a sportsman, and claiming that's not the way one "yakuza should treat another yakuza". Yakuza? Maybe they might want to get some fresh blood in that booth? 

My feeling is this. Asa didn't get to 22 yusho by being a normal guy. I think he goes into a zone when he is pumped up to wrassle, as I think he was today, and surprised as he was to see Hakuho go down so quickly, it was difficult for him to switch off his body's muscle memory, his brain still telling him to Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill. Plus he also may want to create some controversy to keep the public talking about the Yokozuna rank in the face of their matchup having no meaning for the yusho this time out. Either way, it's fun stuff. Now watch, he'll probably be forced to retire, and we'll have that lisping Brit to thank for it. 

It was amusing to see Chiyotaikai even try to slow down Kotooshu today, but it was fart in a pool time as the Big Bulgar took him back and out toute de suite for his 14th win. Wow. Impressive.

However, it would be more impressive if I could honestly say that I think we have a new era dawning, an era where an Ozeki is going to step up and keep the Yokozuna honest, or even perhaps become a Yokozuna himself. But I just can't. It's nice that Kotooshu got his yusho, and I think he may just get a couple more in his career, but Mixmaster Mike's assessment is dead on (vide his Day 12 report), so I'll let that stand as my take on it. We're close; it's okay.

Course this puts the big guy in the position of, drumroll, Yokozuna Promotion Run! Briefly let's consider. First, Chiyotaikai, Kaio, and Tochiazuma were each unable to handle the pressure of such a run, time and again, so there is little reason to think Kotooshu, who has shown himself to be as much, if not more, a head case as these three great/great/good Ozeki are/were, can do it. But let's say for the sake of argument he can, and next basho at that.

Question then is, should he do it? Huh? Kelly, are you suggesting he intentionally sabotage his own Yokozuna promotion? I don't think he'll face that dilemma, but if it comes to that, might not be such a bad idea. Think about it, if he somehow manages to become a grand champion by taking Nagoya, then he is faced with the mandate for the remainder of his career of performing up to Yokozuna standard. It's that or retirement. He'll have no kadoban fallback like he does now, nor can he be demoted to Ozeki. If he starts sucking he can sit out a few, but in short order the NSK will lay it on the line--Either wrestle at Yokozuna level or get lost. Up until this basho he has shown that he can maintain Ozeki level sumo, and now even win an occasional yusho, but we have seen nothing to suggest he can perform basho in and basho out up to Yokozuna standard.

There have been Ozeki promoted to Yokozuna who retire without taking the yusho as Yokozuna, like Wakanohana III (who was also one of two Yokozuna, along with Onokuni, to ever finish a basho with a MK), and some like the late, great Kotozakura, Kotooshu's former Oyakata, who took one yusho only as grand champion before retiring. But the catch is Kotozakura had been Ozeki for a long time, and became Yokozuna in his early 30's, and then retired at 34. He had a long, fulfilling career. 

But Kotooshu just turned 25 a few months back. If he becomes Yokozuna now, he could conceivably be gone from sumo by the time he's 27 or 28. I'm not trying to rain on any parade, but every fan of Kotooshu should stop and take a good look at the manner in which he took this yusho--great sumo on most days, but pansy assed, backyard barbecue sumo when the real pressure was on (their wasn't any real pressure vs. Ama on Day 14). You really think Hakuho is going to lose to him again like he did this time out? Please, he'll be ready and prepared. And he is still susceptible every basho to defeats from guys like Kisenosato, Toyonoshima, Takekaze, and Ama. With the two Yokozuna, it is truly a shock when they are beaten by more than one of those guys per basho. (Kotooshu is lucky he doesn't have to face Kotomitsuki or Geeku.)

You might rejoin by pointing out that Hakuho his bad self henka'd his way to the first of his two consecutive yusho to earn promotion, so Kotooshu might conceivably follow the same route. True, and I raked Kublai over the coals for it last March (vide Archives Haru 2007 Day 15). But as for promotion, the crucial difference between the two is thus: Hakuho was clearly Yokozuna material, and there wasn't a single pile of twisted DNA calling itself human in sumo or in sumo fandom who thought otherwise. Kotooshu doesn't come close to that level of certainty.

So, to sum up, I like Kotooshu as a person and congratulate him on his first yusho, but his sumo is s'picious enough to make me doubt he will be or should be a Yokozuna anytime soon. Perhaps oneday. If he fixes that tendency to panic in big fights. Perhaps.

Thanks for tuning in for this summer basho. I enjoyed the whole spectacle; hope you did, too. See you in Aichi in July.

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Day 14 of the basho is upon us again, and that means you get me on the main page again. Not that happy, are you...well, to be honest, I'm not that happy to be here either. Sure, there's been all sorts of excitement in this Natsu, so most fans will be happy with it, but most of us die-hards have been left with a persisting bitter taste in our mouths. Yes, I AM talking about Kotooshu's henkas that kept him in the Yusho hunt at first and then turned him into the major favorite. But more on that later, right now I'll get to the bouts in the order of importance.

First off, HemoRohoid pulled yet another henka in his bout, this time dodging his opponent, Kakizoe, by a couple of miles as he went kyujo once he secured his kachi-koshi in yesterday's dastardly henka against the ailing Tochiohzan. Kakizoe already has a losing record, so he'll gladly take the win that almost guarantees his stay in Makunouchi for one more tournament.

Next up, 4-9 Hakuba got a date with equally hapless Juryo dweller Kaiho. He wasn't going to fare any better, though, because he leaned to the left at the tachi-ai, looking for an uwate, but relinquished morozashi in the process. Kaiho disposed of him quickly via sukuinage just so we can get to the more important stuff without wasting much time with Hakuba's impending Juryo demotion.

Former Ozeki Dejima met Roho's balding bro, the Henkarozan. True to his name, the capillary challenged Ossetian henka'd to his left, but the old veteran could smell the move on him, because he guessed it perfectly and was on his every move. After surviving the inevitably weak pulldown attempt, Dejima grabbed not one, but BOTH Hakurozan's legs at the knee, sending him out of the dohyo on his back by one of the best watashikomi moves I've ever seen. It's beyond my comprehension why those blind Geezers in Black named it yoritaoshi, but who cares? Dejima gets a chance at kachi-koshi, while Hakurozan gets a chance to score 11 losses. I hope they both get it.

Veterans Tosanoumi and Wakanosato went at it in a rather long and boring affair, Wakanosato leading with a right harite and halting his foe's tachi-ai with unusual ease, getting a short-lived left inside in the process. Tosanoumi isn't exactly comfortable fighting yotsu, though, so he backpedaled a bit and slapped Wakanosato away from his mawashi. The Crocodile feigned a quick pull, getting a migi-zashi first, then wrangling his way into migi-yotsu and eventually marching his bigger foe out to makekoshi. Wakanosato isn't looking so bad with 9 wins so far.

Another pair of veterans displayed some solid sumo in a much shorter bout than the last one, with late bloomer Kotokasuga getting an early morozashi against the larger, stronger and more skilled Tochinonada. The former Sekiwake kept his cool, though, and just when Kasuga moved in for the yorikiri, Nada unleashed another one of his deadly counter techniques, wrapping Koto#4's head with his left arm and throwing him to the dirt. The kubinage in general is great to watch, but it usually requires a dangerous situation to be used as a last resort against, since it's not always successful, and its failure usually compromises any position for the rikishi attempting it (i.e. the kubinage victim usually gets behind his attacker for the easy okuridashi/taoshi win). Tochinonada finally gets his hard-earned kachi-koshi, whereas Kotokasuga confirms his reservation for the mid-Juryo flight.

M15 Toyohibiki did good to read Mike's report yesterday, because today he didn't go for the usual tsuppari right after the moro-te tachi-ai, trying to keep his feet under him instead and steadily keeping the much smaller Takekaze at bay and on the defensive. Inevitably outmatched, Kaze tried some evasion to the side, but the Hutt was all over him, pushing his sorry behind to the 9th loss and earning kachi-koshi in the process. Keep that up, boy, and you might even last in high Maegashira for a while.

Veteran Tamakasuga took on class clown Takamisakari with his usual slow, old man tachi-ai, which was enough to withstand the clown's own weak charge. Kasuga was successful in denying Takamisakari any hint of the mawashi, with a solid sashi on his right and a good push at the shoulder on the other side. Useless without the belt, Takamisakari was already getting into gear for his usual resistance at the tawara, but Kasuga shifted into pull-mode faster than Mark can finish a shot of tequila and slapped Robocop to his makekoshi. Don't look now, but Tamakasuga can still pull off 8 wins after his bad 3-6 start.

Heh, maybe I was indeed too eager to crown Goeido as a future Yokozuna. Today he charged too low against the lackluster Yoshikaze, and he soon found himself pressed on the head and pulled towards the clay. To his credit, he survived the first time, but only to be easy fodder for the okuridashi. Goeido is at an uneventful 8-6 while Yoshikaze gets the chance to fight for his kachi-koshi, again, after a bad 4-7 start. If he ever wants to even make it up there, Goeido should not lose to these lesser guys so easily. He's young, I guess, and still has time to learn.

Ranked at a rather comfortable M6, Futenoh charged without using his head (well, not literally), because rookie Tochinoshin got an easy morozashi. Still, Futenoh wouldn't give up easily and blocked Shin's left arm, putting serious pressure on the elbow, and proceeded to march him to the unlikely kimedashi win. For half a second, he looked like he actually had a chance to get it, but the skilled Georgian managed to get a few fingers on Orange's mawashi, heaving him clean off his feet and depositing him on the tawara, where he became easy yorikiri meat. 7-7 for the whitey with the spectacular overturn, while Futenoh still has a chance at 10.

Homasho was the victim of the most blatant false start I've seen this basho (and there were a few, too), because Hokutoriki's arms were like 20 inches above the dohyo when he deployed his rushed charge. In fact, it was so bad that Hokutoriki actually made impact even before Homie could cross his own damn starting line. The Joke used some ferocious tsuppari together with the unfair momentum to quickly drive Homer to the edge, only to fall for the quick sidestep and end up with his back turned to his foe. For a split second it looked like there would be some justice, but Hokutoriki is no rookie and he showed some ring awareness by pushing Homie out with his back for the rare and embarrassing ushiromotare win. No doubt about it, Homasho was robbed blind in this one, there are no doubts about that. And, to add insult to injury, Hokutoriki might sneak to an undeserved prize, thanks to today's grease-job. Way to go, ref.

Toyonoshima got ever so closer to that prestigious technique prize, showing good adaptation to his opponent's strengths, against the larger Tamanoshima. Getting a shallow but expected morozashi right from the tachi-ai, Toyonoshima would not try to get any deeper, since he certainly knows Tama is pretty good at locking arms at the elbow (he has a few kimedashi wins, definitely not good news for a little guy like Toyo). Instead, the 168 cm tall, teal-belted rikishi opted for a quick ottsuke (push to the side of the opponent), to take Peter off balance and to the edge, where he found himself in the same morozashi/kimedashi dilemma as before. This time he went for a quick pull to get Tama off balance, to finally finish him off by oshidashi. Both men already have kachi-koshi.

In the process of getting to 7-2, Iwakiyama has been looking great, but after the knee injury he got in his 3rd loss, he's never been the same. Today, against Tokitenku, he looked in control at the tachi-ai, but he just couldn't keep up with the retreating Mongol, getting pulled all the way out of the dohyo by the back of the head. Iwakiyama may get that elusive 8th, though, against the one guy that looked worse than his injured self (you guess that one, I'll give you a clue, he's white and bald). Tokitenku is just weak at 5-9.

Following his great success last basho, when he seemed to favor yotsu, Georgian Kokkai seemed overconfident in his skill against the real heavy hitters. It looked the same today against the yotsu expert Kyokutenho, who got a quick double grip (I don't know if it was a double inside, but it doesn't matter, really) and ejected Kokkai from the dohyo in less than 2 seconds. Both guys have heavy double digit makekoshi so they'll probably meet again next basho. So what?

Two other guys in trouble this basho produced another weak bout, with the big Estonian Baruto nearly missing his left harite and failing to get a mawashi grip at his tachi-ai against youngster Tochiohzan. After a bit of a hassle in the center of the ring, Oh initiated an oshi attack and started driving his larger foe towards the edge, but Baruto just pulled a bit on his left hand (the one not visible from the angle of the clips I'm watching) and let his defective balance take care of the rest. Oh falls to his 10th loss while Bart gets his 4th win.

Next up, Aminishiki charged poorly against the much larger Kisenosato, fishing for a right mae-mitsu while pushing at the foe's armpit on the other side, but Kissie's momentum was just too much for Sneaky to handle. The Kid manhandled him with a series of ottsuke and nodowa, only stopping when he was safely resting on the dohyo, face down. Both guys are 9 and 5, and Kisenosato might even get a prize for his big oshitaoshi against Asashoryu. While we're on the subject of Sneaky, let me take a look at yesterday's bout against the then 12-0 Kotooshu. Not much to say, really. It was a typical Aminishiki henka powered ass kicking. Kotooshu's charge was inexistent, he just stood there, extending his left arm for a frontal grip on the mawashi, while Aminishiki was going with his thrusters at 110%. It's for the 3rd time it happens in as many tournaments. Kotooshu will likely henka next time, because Sneaky is turning into a major bogey.

Speaking of henkas, Komusubi Asasekiryu, in danger of makekoshi, decided to get an easy win over the Fatman, but Miyabi is too experienced to fall for that too often, especially when it's so telegraphed. Not-so-sexy did manage to get to the side, but Miyabiyama recovered nicely and started pounding on the Mongolian's face with his usual lumbering tsuppari. With Asasekiryu on the run the whole time, the inevitable pulldown came, and, while it did fell the Fat Man flat onto his face (for his first four fake foes to frown upon in fear!), it didn't win him the bout, because by that time he was already out of the dohyo. A deserved 6-8 for both guys.

Possibly inspired by the earlier perpetrator (but more likely because of a childhood trauma caused by his dad, who made him walk on hot coal), the Ho henka'd Kotoshogiku to his 7th loss. I'll admit it, it was perfectly executed (Bernie would have probably wet his pants, were he alive), but it was everything I don't want to see in sumo. I hope Hokutoriki tsukitaoshies his white hide into the third row tomorrow, but with 7-7, I'm sure the Whack has other plans.

Oh, while we're on the subject of henkas, guess how Kakuryu can win a bout against Chiyotaikai. What? A henka? Brilliant, how'd you know? Fishy jumped to his left, grabbing the cheap uwate in the process and soon after getting himself into morozashi. Curtains for Taikai, who was gradually humped to the edge and over. Still, Kakuryu's best moment of the tournament has to be that sweet mounting he got from Kotooshu. I think he'll dream about it for years (I'll remind you about it every time they meet).

With Kaio in the green already and the 7-6 Mitsuki meeting him on senshuraku, Asashoryu was free to go all out on his personal patsy. The two charged hard, but it was Asa who would get the left uwate while denying his foe one of his own. After a bit of groping in the center of the ring, Asashoryu suddenly pulled out from under Kotomitsuki's armpit, placed that hand on his head and deployed the ferocious, Chiyonofuji-type uwatenage that sent the Ozeki to the dirt. Now THAT is what a legitimate Asashoryu looks like. Compared to the one yesterday, it was like Giselle Bundchen vs. the granny across the street.

The other Yokozuna fought the aforementioned Kaio. Well, at least there was no reason to hold back from any of them, but at the same time there was no real reason to go all out, either. The result was a light, somewhat upright charge from both men, with the younger Hakuho getting a couple of tsuppari in before securing the left uwate, while denying the veteran on the other side. He then walked Grandma Kaio across the tawara for the expected yorikiri win.

Something's missing, you say? Yeah, I've been trying to save the best for last this time, and the definite highlight of the day was undoubtedly going to be the possibly Yusho-deciding Ama-Kotooshu match. The crowd was cheering wildly when the two guys climbed the dohyo, and the stare-down was so intense I could almost hear the space between them cracking from the penetrating gazes. At the final stare, while the usually meek Kotooshu was walking towards his corner, Ama kept staring at him from the crouching position he hadn't yet abandoned. At that moment, Kotooshu did something I've never seen him do before, he actually stopped and stared back at Ama over his shoulder. At that moment, I, and all the others watching, whether in the Kokugikan or at home in front of the TV or the NSK stream, knew there wasn't going to be any funny business at the tachi-ai. And straight on and violent it was, with Ama going for his usual thrusts to the throat, while Kotooshu ducked and delivered a perfect harite with the right, the slap of which could be heard outside the arena. Ama was quickly overwhelmed and found himself with the whole Kotooshu wrapped around him in a smothering morozashi. The last-ditch kubinage attempt only got Kotooshu in the position to finish his foe quicker, with the okuri-taoshi I was mentioning at the Tochinonada bout earlier. It was a compelling win that makes up for a little of the damage Kotooshu has already done to this basho by his lack of mental strength. 13-1 and the outright Yusho on day 14 for the Bulgarian Ozeki, while Ama is still in the cards for the Shukunsho for his victory over Hakuho.

Now, you all know I'm the biggest Yaocho crackpot in the Sumotalk business, and some of you will be asking: was this bout legit? I'll admit it, I do have my doubts, but my entire being wants it to be for real, otherwise, we'd all look like fools on Sumotalk. Hell, if it's ever proved that the yusho is decided by yaocho, I'll start myself. I simply see no reason why Ama would throw the bout, unless he got a huge payoff or something. I think it was simply a case of overpowering and a great tachi-ai by Kotooshu. At least I hope so. Clancy will dissect the whole thing tomorrow, and, while we're on the yaocho page, I can guarantee you that Kotomitsuki is gonna beat Kaio by yorikiri. Cheers.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Usually day 13 is the most pivotal and exciting day of the basho because the pretenders have usually been weeded out at this point, and the top dogs are positioning themselves for that final push into the weekend. This basho, however, has taken a drastic turn thanks to the tachi-ai henka, and even though it didn't rear it's ugly head today--well, with Roho sitting nervously on seven wins you knew THAT henka would occur--you could still see it's effects in the later bouts of today's sumo. If you thought I was down on sumo after my report yesterday, you'd be right. And judging by the non-reaction of the crowd today, I think everyone is pretty much worn out at this point. But like the stock market taking its usual dive heading into the summer, we will ride this one out and look for brighter days to come.

We actually entered the day with the possibility of Kotooshu clinching the yusho if he beat Aminishiki and Hakuho lost to Kotomitsuki, so let's get right to the action and see how the day played out starting with Kotooshu facing Aminishiki, a rikishi who had beaten him four straight times coming in.

Aminishiki stalled big time at the tachi-ai with his knees locked as he sorta bent over looking to charge. After some bobbing up and down, he put out his hand excusing himself to reload. As the two reloaded, Ami next jumped the gun with Kotooshu looking calm and collected throughout, but when it came right down to it, Kotooshu hesitated just a bit before the charge. He went anyway, and Aminishiki was onto the jugular from the beginning taking a page out of Ama's book driving the Ozeki back with the fiercest right choke hold you've ever seen. Kotooshu fished for the left frontal belt grip as he backpedaled, but Ami next threw his shoulder into the Ozeki knocking him upright and setting him up for the forceful tsuki-dashi win. Wow, what an ass-kicking, but it goes back to what I've always preached: you take yourself out of your game with the tachi-ai henka. Kotooshu got away with it on day 7 against Kisenosato because his next three opponents were a battered Kaio, and softies Tokitenku, and Kakuryu, but he was completely manhandled today at the hands of an M4 no less. This bout was over in two seconds and Kotooshu never had a chance although he should take some consolation in the fact that he threw a perfect pass of Aminishiki's sagari from the base of the dohyo into the waiting arms of the victor clear across the other side.

Let's go back to the tachi-ai in this one. Kotooshu looked calm and collected before the bout, but he had to have been unnerved by Sneaky's shenanigans. What goes around comes around in sumo, and I don't think the Ozeki charged as hard as he could have because he knew the possibility of the henka was there. When he has been doing his straight up sumo this basho, he has taken charge at the tachi-ai without fail, but today he was brutalized by the smaller Aminishiki. Make of it what you will, but I am not surprised by the loss, and you shouldn't have been either. The writing was on the wall after day 7, and then the Ozeki took himself out of his game on day 12 paying the price on day 13. He has got to regroup tomorrow because he's going to get a similar opponent in Ama. Ama's shorter than Aminishiki, but he's quicker, he's better, and he probably didn't appreciate Kotooshu's comments in the press yesterday that it was the Bulgarians who stopped the Mongolians from invading central Europe. Sumo is such a team sport, and you don't have to be in the same stable to play along. At any rate, Kotooshu suffers his first loss and now stands at 12-1 while Aminishiki is buckin' for a special prize at 9-4.

With some much-needed new life after Kotooshu's loss, Yokozuna Hakuho stepped into the dohyo against Ozeki Kotomitsuki in really a do-or-die situation. Hakuho's charge was tentative, however, leading with a cautious right hari-te and allowing Kotomitsuki to pounce in for the left outer grip that was deep enough he had Hakuho upright. The Yokozuna countered with the right inside position, but Mitsuki had him in tight leaving no wiggle room for the Yokozuna. The two danced around the center of the ring briefly with Hakuho testing the waters, but when he realized he had no chance in his current position, he went for a maki-kae with the left arm in hopes of gaining morozashi. But Kotomitsuki played it perfectly keeping their chests aligned solidly denying the attempt. With Hakuho now compromised after going for the maki-kae, Kotomitsuki took his cue and drove the Yokozuna back to the straw. Hakuho dug in as best he could, but Kotomitsuki is too good to blow this one as he bodied the Yokozuna down to the ground via yori-taoshi sending Hakuho to a costly third loss.

Like the previous bout, I think Hakuho had henka on his mind in this one and held up in his charge. During yesterday's broadcast as NHK was hyping the Hakuho - Kotooshu matchup, they had to go back to last year's Nagoya basho for footage of the last time Kotooshu beat Hakuho. It was a henka of course, and it was also a henka from Kotomitsuki that sent Hakuho to his first loss in that tournament. It's no coincidence that when the yusho is on the line for a Sadogatake-beya rikishi that the stablemates will use the henka to their advantage. Hakuho was greased yesterday, so why wouldn't he be cautious today? He was, and he paid the price. I know some may say that I am exaggerating things and crying wolf when there's nothing to get upset about, but there's a reason why you are reading me and I'm not reading you. If the henka-philes don't think that the move affects sumo negatively, answer me this question: why weren't any zabuton thrown after Kotomitsuki's win? It was a legitimate, straightforward win today over a Yokozuna, so why no zabuton? Alright...there may have been three flying in the air, but that's it. The reason why the crowd isn't worked up over things is because they've had it. Even if it's subconscious for them, they're sick of paying money and taking time off of work to watch crap sumo. What does it say for sumo to have the top three rikishi this basho perform as follows the last two days?

Asashoryu: two losses, one by henka
Hakuho: two losses, one by henka
Kotooshu: one win by henka, one loss to an M4

What is the common thread there? Something has sucked the life out of this basho, so what is it? You already know my thoughts. As for Hakuho, he falls to his third loss (10-3), which has him hanging on by a thread in terms of yusho hopes, but looking at this face after the loss, I don't think he really cares. That's okay though...he has Kaio tomorrow, which is a guaranteed win, and then he has Asashoryu on senshuraku who will give him the win if Kotooshu somehow blows it the next two days. Getting back to Kotomitsuki, he improves to 7-6 with the win, but I don't think Asashoryu gives him the freebie tomorrow. Let's hope for a good bout.

Closing out the day, Yokozuna Asashoryu was noncommittal at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kaio who attacked to his right in order to grab the easy outer grip (I didn't think it was a henka watching the Ozeki's feet). Kaio got it even though it was one fold of the belt and was able to stand to the side of the Yokozuna in complete control. Asashoryu dug in to make it look good and fiddled with Kaio's left arm, but after about six seconds of supposed jockeying, Kaio just swung the Yokozuna around and harmlessly down to the dohyo picking up his eighth win in the process. I mean, I guess you could argue that this bout was legitimate, but there was no counter sumo from Asashoryu whatsoever. As I said yesterday, I think this was the gesture of a good friend who respects his opponent. I'm fine with it as Asashoryu falls to 9-4 and has one more freebie to give if necessary on senshuraku. Kaio clinches his eighth as usual with a little help from his friends.

In an absolutely meaningless affair, Ozeki Chiyotaikai and M3 Miyabiyama treated us to old-timer push sumo with Miyabiyama looking to be in control throughout forcing Chiyotaikai this way and that and even getting him off balance with a leg in the air a few times, but after about 10 seconds of sloppy sumo, Mittomonai-kai finally managed to escape a thrust attempt from the Hutt at the edge and dodge to his right causing Misloppyama to just crash forward to the clay. The Sheriff blew it in this one and suffers make-koshi as a result. The Pup is also 5-8.

In the battle of our Sekiwake which Kotoshogiku surprisingly leads head to head at 12-3, Ama made up a little ground by using his right nodowa tachi-ai that kept the Geeku off balance and retreating from the start. Ama alternated nodowa shoves as Kotoshogiku tried to swipe his arms away, but the attack was fueled with the lower body, and Ama was just too good today enjoying a rare win over his rival. Good stuff from Ama who looks to legitimately win in double digits for the first time in four basho. He gets Kotooshu tomorrow and will hopefully bring the same sort of attack to make the Ozeki work for the yusho. The Geeku settles in at 7-6.

Komusubi Kisenosato enjoyed an early tachi-ai against M3 Kakuryu throwing a harite his way before getting his left arm on the inside. The Kak countered with a left inside position of his own, but the Kid muscled his way into a right outer grip and just bellied the Kak back and out leading with that right outer grip. Fortunately, Kisenosato doesn't have any hair on his chest or navel area, so the Kak didn't leave a mark as he peters out to 4-9. Kisenosato clinches kachi-koshi and a likely Shukunsho as well, but he was vulnerable at the tachi-ai today. Lose the hari-te son unless you're really gonna gouge someone's eyes with it.

In a boring affair, Komusubi Asasekiryu (he has been so boring this whole basho I even forgot to comment on his bout yesterday!) stayed low against M4 Tokitenku working his way into an eventual left outer grip. His low stance forced Tokitenku to fight low as well leaving the two jockeying for some sort of position with hands at each other's shoulders. After about 20 seconds of this nonsense, Seki managed a good frontal grip with the right hand and forced Tokitenku out from there. At 6-7 Asasekiryu stays alive and must push to keep Sneaky from taking his slot come next basho. Tokitenku is 4-9.

In a somewhat compelling bout today between M1 Kokkai and M1 Baruto, Kokkai got an early left arm on the inside and then beautifully wiped away Bart's left frontal grip attempt from the inside out now giving the Georgian moro-zashi. Baruto countered with a left outer grip and briefly tried for two outers over the top (with Takanonami in the booth...why not?), but Kokkai's too big for anyone to give up morozashi, and in the end, the Georgian won out with a pretty easy yori-kiri win. Uneventful description of a bout between two rikishi who have been quite uneventful this fortnight. Both of these dudes at 3-10? Shame, shame, everyone knows your name.

In a great display of yotsu-zumo M2 Wakanoho and M2 Kyokutenho hooked up in the quick migi-yotsu position, but the Ho one-upped the Chauffeur grabbing the left outer grip as well, and the Russian pressed straightway never allowing Kyokutenho a sniff of an outer grip with his right and forcing his opponent to move just enough that he could never dig in. Took about 10 seconds, but Wakanoho scored the impressive yori-kiri win over a yotsu master in Kyokutenho. The kid should be geeked at his 6-7 record; I know I am. Tenho flounders with the M1's at 3-10.

Let's see...M9 Roho is sitting on seven wins...M5 Tochiohzan is enjoying a four bout win streak, which means he's fighting fairly well again...time for the tachi-ai henka. Rasputin actually set it up with a right hari-te, but he was goin' left all the way and shoved the tumbling Tochiohzan down with ease. A couple of old guys applauded Raspy as he left the arena, but that was like when you were a little kid walking through the neighborhood alone and a couple of older kids were coming the opposite way. You played nice and offered a nervous hello in hopes that they wouldn't stop and kick your ass. Enjoy the kachi-koshi, dude, I know I won't. Tochiohzan drops to 4-9.

M11 Homasho won the tachi-ai against M5 Toyonoshima keeping the former Komusubi completely off the belt and away from the inside, but he didn't pursue his successful charge further and settled in low against his opponent as both rikishi put heads against each other's shoulders and fought off simultaneous advances with their busy hands. Homasho slowly worked Toyonoshima back to the straw, and it was at this point that I suddenly thought of my workplace and how I just didn't fit in with my coworkers (I'm in the IT industry), so I went down to the local video store to rent the Lord of the Rings Trilogy--special edition director's cut of course--but on the way back I was behind this really slow, old lady who had her blinker on the whole time, but I just managed to arrive home and burst through the door to see Toyonoshima force the action back to the center of the ring where he quickly...just stood there again. Having some time on my hands again, I next popped in the first DVD and watched the whole thing thinking I was now ready to debate with my coworkers on the differences between the movie and the book, and that's when I realized the sumos were still on, so I switched off the DVD player just in time to see Toyonoshima say enough of this funny bidness and begin pushing Homasho back to the straw, but Homie evaded suddenly at the edge throwing Toyonoshima down to the dirt in the process. But as the former Komusubi fell, he pushed at Homasho's right leg getting it close enough to touching outside the ring that a mono-ii was called. Great...prolong things more!! Not wanting to be outdone by the action they had just witnessed in the ring, the judges conferred for a long, long time while video replays showed that Toyonoshima clearly hit the dirt first. When it was finally over, Takanohana--the head judge on duty--began, "we called the mono-ii to confirm that Homasho's leg and Toyonoshima's hand touched down at the same time...", and as he said this, the crowd gasped because it sounded like they'd have to do it again. Taking things in stride, I next reached for the text of the Kama Sutra but quickly realized the folly of my ways as my co-workers wouldn't have a clue what I was talking about, so I set the book aside just in time to hear Takanohana continue, "but Toyonoshima's foot stepped out first, so gunbai-dori." Whew...that was close. Just like that Homasho clinches kachi-koshi while Toyonoshima falls to 9-4.

M6 Futenoh stopped M12 Tosanoumi in his tracks at the tachi-ai coming out of the fray with a left inside and quick right outer grip. He wisely attacked straightway, and while Tosanoumi admirably held his ground and forced Futenoh to work for the win by moving across the entire dohyo, there wasn't anyway Tosanoumi could escape or counter leaving him the force-out victim in the end. Futenoh moves to a sweet 9-4 from the M6 rank no less! Tosanoumi's a respectable 6-7.

M6 Hokutoriki looked to extend his 9 bout winning streak (when did that happen?!) against M13 Tamanoshima today using his usual tsuppari attack, but Tamanoshima basically laughed it off, got on the inside, and easily forced the Joker back from there picking up his kachi-koshi in the process. Hokutoriki falls to 9-4 and sadly as Fujii Announcer proclaimed is officially out of yusho contention. Oh cruel world!

M7 Takamisakari easily got a right arm on the inside of M15 Hakurozan's slow, lame tachi-ai, and true to form, Hakurozan went for his usual pull two seconds in. The problem is when your opponent is nigh unto getting morozashi and you offer a slow pull attempt, you're just setting yourself up as the easy yorikiri fodder. The Robocop complied and easily had Hakurozan forced out to the delight of the faithful crowd. Takamisakari moves to 6-7 with the win, and one thing we could all use this basho is a Takamisakari kachi-koshi interview. Sorry for the jinx. Hakurozan is 4-9 and officially Juryo material next basho.

M7 Goeido adjusted his style to meet M13 Kakizoe which is usually a no-no, but against an inferior opponent, it worked for him today. Kakizoe kept on the move throughout looking for any pulldown attempt, and instead of muscling in for the belt, Goeido played the same game. The problem for Zoe is Goeido's pretty good at it scoring more hataki-komi wins than he should, and today was no different as Goeido's strength and stability allowed him to pull Kakizoe off balance enough to where he launched him off the dohyo via oshi-dashi. Goeido picks up kachi-koshi with the win, but he is not living up to his potential. I liken him a lot to Kisenosato. He's good., and we know it, but he's still young. Give him time. Kakizoe's makekoshi becomes official with the loss.

M15 Toyohibiki used an excellent tachi-ai sans tsuppari as he crashed into M8 Tochinonada's upper body drving the Gentle Giant back a coupla steps before finally unveiling the shoves that finished Nada off in short order. Perhaps Toyohibiki should save his tsuppari after a crushing tachi-ai as he did today. When he immediately uses the thrusts, it appears that his footwork is always out of alignment. Regardless, Toyo the Hutt picks up win number seven while the Giant falls to the same 7-6 mark.

In one of the better bouts of the early half, M8 Takekaze fired jabs into M14 Tochinoshin's chest as he danced around the ring denying the Georgian a sniff of his belt, and after a few seconds of the tactic, Takekaze timed it perfectly and grabbed morozashi. Tochinoshin used his long arms, however, to grab first a right uwate and then a left outer grip...both over the top in Takanonami style. At this point Shin had the poise to start forcing Takekaze back and then throw him off balance with an outer belt grip using the right hand. Takekaze survived that but lost morozashi and subsequently the bout as Tochinoshin re-grabbed an outer grip and forced his opponent back and across the straw. Good stuff all around here as Shin (6-7) probably needs one more win to keep himself in the division. Takekaze makes his make-koshi official at 5-8.

M10 Dejima pushed M16 Hakuba back quickly from the start, but Hakuba was able to slip to his side and wrangle out of the Degyptian's grasp leaving Dejima nothing but a neck to hold on to. Hakuba never stopped and squirmed out of his neck hold dumping Dejima to the clay in the process. It's all trivial in the end as Hakuba (4-9) is guaranteed a trip back to Juryo while Dejima falls to 6-7.

M10 Wakanosato used his skill to easily get on the inside of M11 Iwakiyama with the left arm, but Iwaki responded with an immediate kotenage attempt. He couldn't shake the Crocodile, however, and the two ended up back in the center of the ring with Wakanosato still maintaining his left inner and Iwakiyama countering well using his girth on the other side as he extended his elbow outward and forced Wakanosato's right arm up around his neck. At one point Iwakiyama actually went for a ke-kashi trip move, but in the end Wakanosato was able to lower that right hand, grab the uwate, and force the Hutt back and out. Wakanosato picks up kachi-koshi at 8-5 while Iwakiyama drops to 7-6.

M12 Tamakasuga kept M16 Kotokasuga completely at bay with his tsuppari attack for four seconds or so before yanking him down to the dirt for the easy win. KingTama is 6-7 while Kotokasuga joins Hakuba at the 4-9 party.

Last and certainly least, M14 Yoshikaze was pushed around pretty good by Juryo Kimurayama, but in the end, Yoshikaze was able to dance around the perimeter of the ring to his left scattering harite into Kimurayama's grill as he went. Yoshikaze was in deep trouble at times, but in the end he was able to turn the tables and push Kimurayama out picking up his sixth win in the process.

With the dust settled, only Kotooshu and Hakuho remain in the yusho race. Separated by two losses, a Kotooshu win or a Hakuho loss the final two days gives the Bulgarian his first ever yusho, an event long awaited by Kotooshu fans, but one that has already lost its luster. Ama has at least a 50% chance of beating Kotooshu on day 14, but if Oshu does indeed get Chiyotaikai on senshuraku, it's pretty evident where the Pup's allegiance lies. Hakuho has two freebies the final two days, but things are completely out of his hands.

Martin tries to salvage something from this mess tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Prior to the day's bouts, I was primed to start off my day 12 report talking about how sweet it is that we actually have an Ozeki competing for the yusho and duking it out with the Khan creating some fierce drama as we near the end of the basho. Since Asashoryu's return, we've had some great basho, but the problem was there was zero drama until senshuraku. After the excitement of the first coupla days wore off for Hatsu and Haru, we found ourselves so bored here at the hotel waiting for the final day we were actually picking each others' noses. But this basho was different. We had drama and suspense early with the fast starts of Kisenosato and Kotooshu, and then by Wednesday of week two things were really heating up, especially after Kotooshu pounded Asashoryu to his second loss. We were all gearing ourselves up for a fantastic finish, a possible threesome the likes of which haven't been seen since the time Arbo snuck into the NHK newsroom cornering Miki Yamamoto AND that dude going gray. We were all preparing for a great finish to Natsu. That was until the sumo got in the way.

There was so much that was wrong at the end of the day, and you know if you have that disgusted feeling in your stomach after the bouts that you can trace it to one thing...the tachi-ai henka. You will be disappointed if you're expecting me to go on another rant today. I would only be repeating myself again in saying that the tachi-ai henka can ruin sumo, and today was a perfect example why.

I'm going to actually start off with the Asashoryu - Chiyotaikai matchup, the day's penultimate bout. The Pup had just sealed his make-koshi fate on day 11, which for an Ozeki usually means you withdraw and take the rest of the basho off. I read, though, in the headlines that Chiyotaikai begged his stablemaster to let him continue, and the Wolf said okay as long as your sumo isn't mittomonai;. I translated that term yesterday on our news page as "crap sumo", but if you ejucated types want to get technical, it can also mean degrading, disgraceful, stupid, or undignified. So how was Chiyotaikai's sumo today? Take your pick from the previous list. The Ozeki jumped to his right at the tachi-ai and yanked at Asashoryu's left shoulder as he stumbled forward sending the Yokozuna rolling across the dohyo to his third loss. The move all but eliminates Asashoryu from yusho contention, but I think we could see after he was beaten by Kotooshu yesterday that he was probably only third in line anyway. Ama opened the door for him big time by beating Hakuho on day 10, but Asashoryu couldn't capitalize. Still, it burns me to no end to see a yusho candidate get knocked out of the race by a rikishi who had no chance in hell of beating him straight up. Furthermore, when said rikishi is an Ozeki, it's a disgrace. I know, I know, Asashoryu henka'd Chiyotaikai at last year's Haru basho, but that's a completely different scenario. Chiyotaikai wasn't in the yusho race, he wasn't in danger of make-koshi, he wasn't gonna beat Asashoryu anyway, and it was more of a statement by Asashoryu saying "bring on Hakuho". Also, what the hell was Chiyotaikai's reasoning today? Did he need the kensho money? I actually like Chiyotaikai. He's an old school rikishi, and I admire the way he puts a lot of the younger guys in their place, but today's act was baffling not to mention completely unacceptable. And Wolf...are you gonna pull the plug on your man now after he disobeyed your orders and performed undignified sumo against a Yokozuna in the yusho race? Didn't think so. Credibility is just oozing from the Kokonoe-beya these days. As for Asashoryu, he was forced to sit back down on his pillow and watch the final bout, so the cameras showed his face up close, and he was quite reserved with a look on his face saying "what could I have done?". Nothing. And that's the problem with the tachi-ai henka. Still, as I mentioned, Asashoryu was largely knocked out of the yusho race, so it didn't sicken me as bad as what happened next.

The matchup of the day featured Hakuho - Kotooshu, a huge hurdle for Kotooshu to jump on his way to his first career yusho. A win by Hakuho all but guts Kotooshu's hopes down the stretch because you know that Asashoryu will defer to Hakuho if necessary on senshuraku. A win by Kotooshu, however, would thrust the Ozeki into a two-bout lead with three days to go (sound familiar Kotooshu fans?). I took a little heat after my day 9 intro, and even Clancy commented to me that he was surprised by how hard I was on Kotooshu, but I was simply calling a spade a spade. Tell me Kotooshu fans that you weren't already planning your emails to me after he beat Asashoryu yesterday. In case you have no idea where I'm going with all this, let me get to the bout itself: Kotooshu used a tachi-ai henka to his left grabbing the uwate in the process using it to spin Hakuho over towards the tawara where he forced him out from there in a matter of seconds. Game, set, match...just like that. Another tachi-ai henka that greatly affects the yusho race. It's easy to see what Kotooshu has gained from all this as he's got a virtual stranglehold on the yusho now, but what has he proven? One thing he has proven is that my assessment he couldn't handle the pressure of the yusho race was spot on.

After the bout they showed Kotooshu in the tunnel and Sadogatake-oyakata came out to greet him and tell him job well done. Somehow I can't imagine the late Kotozakura being so thrilled over such a display of sumo. Kotozakura was so intense they called him the Boar. He wouldn't tolerate injuries, and he pushed his rikishi like no other. He muscled his way to Yokozuna and had a respect for the rank. I can't say the same for Kotonowaka who Clancy once amply described as a Bore himself. Seeing Kotonowaka and Kotooshu giggle in the tunnel as if they accomplished something today is insulting. My whole frustration lies in the fact that Kotooshu has the ability to beat these guys straight up, so why cop out and pick up the freebie wins when the pressure is on? Kotooshu is a rikishi worthy of a yusho. I have touted him as a legitimate yusho candidate in every report this basho, and I have praised his sumo more than anyone in my opinion, but the bottom line is he's a choker and he knows it. That's why he uses that one escape that doesn't have it's equivalent in any other sport. And all day yesterday every single news agency reported Kotooshu as saying "I'm not going to think about anything and just do my brand of sumo." That looked like a pre-meditated attack to me today. Then there was the excuse on day 7 that Kisenosato poked him in the eye causing his tachi-ai henka when the Kid clearly whiffed on the hari-te attempt. So not only does Kotooshu run from the pressure like a girl, he's a lyin' sumbitch too. Forgive me if I don't celebrate this yusho.

After both Yokozuna losses today, there was a smattering of zabuton flying in the arena, but that was probably from angry fans who were pissed about not getting their money's worth and wanted to throw something because of it. If a Yokozuna is beaten legitimately, you'd think Moses himself had entered the building and ordered a plague of red locusts the air is that thick with the cushions. But when a Yokozuna is beaten with a henka, next to nothing. The crowd doesn't respect such a win, sumo fans don't respect those wins, and I know you Kotooshu fans don't respect them even though you may try to justify it to yourself otherwise. The person that has really gotten screwed here is Hakuho. From the start of the basho, he has been flawless and dominating, but Ama got him with a henka on day 10 and now Kotooshu has greased him on day 12. He has clearly been the best rikishi this basho but now finds himself two losses behind on day 12. Incredible. Goddamn henka is all I can say.

As for the yusho race, Kotooshu is not quite out of the woods yet. He has the two rikishi in Aminishiki and Ama, and he could also get nemesis Toyonoshima. I think he gets tripped up once before the basho is through just because I don't think he's gonna get a straight up tachi-ai, but he's only gotta win two of 'em. I don't see how anyone can get excited about the rest of day 12 after the way it ended, but since we're here, let's get to the rest of the action.

Sekiwake Ama just schooled Ozeki Kotomitsuki today hitting him straight up at the tachi-ai and then retreating a step and moving to his left to grab the quick outer grip. Wasting no time, he spun Kotomitsuki around and pinned him up against the straw before manhandling him across picking up his eighth win and a Shukunsho to boot. This was an excellent exhibition in speed, and it's also a good lesson on how to handle a bigger rikishi without using the henka. Yeah, Ama shifted, but he did it after bellying up with Mitsuki at the tachi-ai. This was good stuff and a refreshing bout to talk about after the bullshit final two bouts of the day. Hit and Mitsuki falls to 6-6, which now gives him double incentive to henka the Khan down the stretch. Have fun stormin' the castle.

Rounding out the Ozeki, Kaio crept ever closer to his kachi-koshi by standing in tough at the tachi-ai against M3 Kakuryu in a bout that quickly went to hidari-yotsu. Kakuryu actually enjoyed the right outer grip while Kaio went without, but the Ozeki dug in and bearhugged the Kak to the point where he couldn't spurt and take advantage of that outer girp. After some yotsu jockeying for 10 seconds or so, Kaio mounted his force-out charge and pushed Kakuryu back across the straw with relative ease. At 7-5, he should find someone to cooperate for that last win. I wouldn't be surprised if Asa was the benefactor providing Kotooshu wins tomorrow officially knocking Genghis out of the yusho race; the Yokozuna gets it and has a good heart. The Kak is 4-8 to the delight of Martin.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku delivered a good tachi-ai himself against M1 Kokkai who failed to come with any tsuppari in hopes of a yotsu-zumo contest, but the Geeku stood his ground and flirted with a left outer grip. Sensing he was in trouble, Kokkai lowered his head and hunkered down, but Kotoshogiku just evaded a bit to the side and slapped the Georgian down to the dirt in short order. No, it wasn't pretty sumo by the Geeku, but it was straight up. He's just a better rikishi as he moves to 7-5. Kokkai is lost in these parts at 2-10.

Komusubi Kisenosato took a right harite at the tachi-ai from M2 Wakanoho that caused the Kid to align his feet and give up the early left outer grip. Kisenosato readjusted and tried to get the equalizing outer on the other side, but the young Russian pressed the action straightway forcing Kisenosato dangerously back to the edge. The Kid is one of the best at evading at the edge and slapping down at his opponent's shoulder, but not today. Wakanoho's momentum was too strong as the youngster picks up a great win moving to 5-7. Kisenosato falls to 7-5.

M1 Baruto is out of his element in a tsuppari-ai with Miyabiyama, but that's what he opted to do. It all goes back to Baruto's bad tachi-ai where he is unable to dictate the pace of his bouts. In fact, I can't recall a single bout of his this basho where his opponent didn't force the action. After the two shoved each other back and forth, Baruto briefly got a sniff of a left inside grip, but before he could dig in, the Sheriff spun to the side knocking Baruto off balance with a desperate scoop throw. Both rikishi hit the dirt seemingly together, but replays verified that Bart's right hand hit down first. Another bad loss for the Estonian who is just 3-9. Miyabiyama stays alive at 5-7.

M4 Aminishiki used his right arm brilliantly at the tachi-ai to push inwards at M8 Tochinonada's left and deny him the inside position. Ami had to twist the two upright to do so, but as soon as Nada relented and switched the left arm from inside to outside, Ami pounced securing the quick yori-kiri win not to mention his kachi-koshi at 8-4. He gets Kotooshu tomorrow, so we'll see what he has up his sleeve if anything. the Gentle Giant falls to 7-5.

M8 Takekaze enjoyed a quick charge at the tachi-ai against Tokitenku and yanked him sideways by the neck throwing the Mongolian off balance and slapping him down by the shoulder in the end. This was a quickie, but Takekaze won it at the tachi-ai giving us yet another rikishi at 5-7. Tokitenku suffers make-koshi with the loss.

M5 Toyonoshima lunged into morozashi against M10 Wakanosato from the tachi-ai, but Wakanosato pinched in tight with both arms. The Crocodile isn't tall enough to do anything with that kime position, but he had Toyonoshima wrapped up so tight the Tokitsukaze-beya rikishi could do nothing. Frustrated, Toyonoshima finally relented settling for a right outer grip, but that was the opening Wakanosato needed as he forced him out form there. 9-3 can we now remove Toyonoshima from the leaderboard? Wakanosato skips to 7-5.

M5 Tochiohzan continued his too-little-too-late win streak by easily shoving M12 Tamakasuga straight back and out from the tachi-ai in a three second affair. This wasn't even a fight as Oh moves to 4-8 while the King is still alive at 5-7.

In an entertaining affair, M6 Hokutoriki challenged M11 Iwakiyama with his tsuppari attack to his neck--wait a minute...Iwakiyama doesn't have a neck. He fired tsuppari thrusts somewhere in that area while Iwakiyama tried to endure them and get any sorta grip, but the Joker prevailed in the end fueling his thrusts with proper lower-body positioning and was rewarded with the sweet oshi-dashi win. Don't look now, but Jokutoriki is 9-3! Put that man on the leaderboard. Iwakiyama suffers is third loss in a row now and stands at 7-5.

M6 Futenoh showed the difference in rank today by halting an M13 Tamanoshima charge where Peter got a nice left arm on the inside and used his right to keep Futenoh's own left arm from the inside. Still, he couldn't finish his opponent off, and as Futenoh dug in and constantly kept on the move, he was finally able to shake of Tamanoshima's advances and get his left arm sufficiently on the inside to where he immediately backed his opponent up to the straw. Tamanoshima is as good as they come at evading that last moment at the tawara and slapping his opponent down, and he did just that, but Futenoh's positioning was too good. Gunbai to Futenoh and his 8-4 record. Tamanoshima must wait another day 7-5.Futenoh.

In an ugly affair, M7 Goeido came half-assed at the tachi-ai probably fearing an M9 Roho henka, but the Russian came straight on leaving Goeido with no momentum and standing straight in front of his larger opponent. Goeido has a huge flaw in his sumo where he goes for the pulldown instead of digging in and fighting at the belt, and it bit him again today because the last thing you wanna do is get into a pullfest with a guy that makes his living doing it. After circling the ring a time or two, Roho finally put the sorry Goeido on his ass with a nice shovedown. Both dudes are 7-5.

M13 Kakizoe went early against M7 Takamisakari, but the Cop said "what the hell" and quickly shoved his fist down even though he wasn't ready. Zoe used an ineffective harite before trying to burrow into the morozashi position, but Takamisakari wisely danced around the center of the ring taking away Kakizoe's legs and grabbing an outer grip in the process, which he quickly pulled the trigger with and dumped Zoe Jane down to the dirt and to a 5-7 record. The Cop shares the same mark.

M15 Toyohibiki struck M10 Dejima with his hands at the tachi-ai while henka-ing to his left with the body. Luckily Dejima read the move--hell, it was that slow--and bulldozed Toyohibiki to the side and clear off the dohyo for the easy win. Have you heard the term Toyohibiki-itis? It's what happens when a rikishi gets out to fast start only to blow it in the end and make-koshi. Both fellas are 6-6.

In one of the better matches of the day, M11 Homasho struck M14 Tochinoshin well enough to deny him the grip while grabbing a left outer of his own, but Shin is just too strong to push back without getting in close. Homasho committed going for an all-or-nothing charge, and Tochinoshin reacted well by grabbing a left outer of his own and despite being pushed back against the straw, he was calm enough to dig in and twist Homasho around and down for the beautiful utchari win. Tochinoshin will fight another day at 5-7 while Homie needs that last step at 7-5.

M14 Yoshikaze hit M12 Tosanoumi straight forward and then immediately pulled him down thanks to the Blue Collar Man charging with his head way too low. They talk negatively all the time about adjusting your sumo to meet the style of your opponent, and this was the case today as Yoshikaze leaves himself hope at 5-7. Tosanoumi ain't too shabby at 6-6.

M16 Kotokasuga just lunged into the quick moro-zashi position against M15 Hakurozan so quickly that Ro didn't even have time to go for the usual pulldown. Kotokasuga immediately drove his opponent back to the straw where Hakurozan showed some resistance, but he's too slow to evade to either side, so after a three second stalemate or so tiptoeing the tawara, Kotokasuga finally scored the inevitable yorikiri win. Both rikishi are 4-8.

And finally, OldTsukasa made an appearance from Juryo against M16 No-Hakuryoku-ba and lifted him upright with a right nodowa deep into the rookie's throat that setup the left outer grip on the other side. OldTsukasa did us all a favor by ending this one in three seconds with an uwate-nage throw sending Hakuba to a 3-9 record.

That's a wrap on a terrible day of sumo. Tomorrow's key bouts include Asashoryu vs. Kaio where we may see the Yokozuna give his friend a kachi-koshi; Hakuho vs. Kotomitsuki where I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a desperate Kotomitsuki kill two birds with one stone by handing Hakuho his third loss with a henka; and Kotooshu vs. Aminishiki, a tough matchup for the Ozeki because they don't call him AminiSneaky for nothing.

I'll see you then.

Day 11 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
I'm excited. Ol' Hump Day sometimes gets the ungreased rusty shaft when it comes to big matches. As Mike was pointing out 'The Man' likes to put the marquee parings on weekends. But today I got a BIGGIE. Today defending champion Yokozuna Asashoryu was paired up against undefeated Ozeki Kotooshu. No matter how it went down this bout would have huge implications for the yusho. 

If you haven't fully fried your brain with Grand Theft Auto and spray cheese, remember back to Mr. Kell's wacky first day conspiracy theory. Clancy was pointing out that Asa seems to be getting the harder pairings on the first few days each and every time. Like 'The Man' is out to get him or something. But I'm sure it's just bad luck. Come on, let's all just trust 'The Man'. If it wasn't ok to trust 'The Man', why would The Man have said it's ok to trust 'The Man'? Anywho, today's pairings are only going to encourage that theory. Today Asa drew a powerful, young Ozeki who, fighting some of the best sumo of his career, is once again being considered a yusho contender. And Hak, also by nothing but chance, got to manhandle Chiyotaikai, a lame duck, who has been beaten by every one from Kokkai to that guy from Spinal Tap. In all honesty there is a generally adhered to system that today's allotments didn't really deviate from. But still, luck's a bitch. 

Ready. Set. Go!

Today from J1 Wakakirin picked up "L" number 6. Here's hoping he can pick up a few more "W"s and be back unsuccessfully 'bitch slapping' the big boys come Nagoya.

Wakanosato looked set to yorikiri Kakizoe but at the rope Zoe was able to twist and throw the over zealous Sato to the sand. That's 5 wins now for Kakizoe and Sato has 6. I'm kind of pulling for both of these dudes to scrape out 8-n-7s.

Dejima had a solid Dejima like tachi-ai but, pushing with his head straight down, but he had no idea where he was going, and his foot slipped out. M16 Kotokasuga picks up only his 3rd win. Dejima has 6 losses now. This really isn't the kind of basho The Dej needs to be having from M10.

Roho fought today. If you don't care click here -> "I don't care."

In the very next fight Bald-Ro also fought poorly, going for a halfhearted pull-down that let Takekaze on the inside where he quickly toppled the spindly-legged, shiny-topped Russian.

True story- I once had a fairly long confab with one of the sumo hairdressers. He was telling me how hard it is to style Hakurozan's hair (or lack thereof). We had a good laugh at the Ro-tarded and then ate usagi onigiri. Good times. 

Tochinonada and Tamanoshima had a 2 minute and 9 second fight with about 15 seconds of action. Tochinonada got his left hand inside and later on used his right to hold on to Shima's wrist. After several long breaks the elder Tochinonada finally got an oshidashi win. Both these guys have been looking pretty good and will have no problem getting their KKs.

The Thigh-Master got his firstest ever shot at Takami today, and therefore his firstest ever shot at sweet sweet kensho-yen. But Sir Takami needs that money for his Romanian mail order bride, and he hit Shin so hard at the tachi-ai that the youngster looked like he had taken a brick to the chest. Takami got an easy double inside and an easy yorikiri. Both gents are walking the wire with 7 losses.

At the tachi-ai Toriki stood Hibiki up with two hands to the throat and then took the easy pull-down that presented itself. Ranked this low I had expected a little more from Big Red. I guess the boys have got him figured out. Congrats to Hokutoriki on an early KK.

Today against Homasho, Futenoh seemed to be kind of lost. He didn't want the belt but he wasn't that into pushing or tsuppari either. Homey on the other hand wanted him some belt. When he got it he pushed Futenoh out in a powerful showing. With 7 apiece, these guys are as happy as gay dolphins. 

As some of you might remember I am somewhat taken with NHK announcer Miki Yamamoto. Unfortunately she wasn't doing the 5:00 news today. One announcer who isn't looking so good these days is post-sumo news man Junichi Tosaka. What has 'The Man' been doing to this poor suffering bastard??

In a battle between two dudes who are having great basho, Mt. Iwaki allowed Toyo Island 2 bizarrely easy inside grips. The little butterball showed the big butterball the door. Toyonoshima still has just two losses.

Perhaps fearing a henka, Goeido came out with no pop in his tachi-ai against Ami-N. Nishiki capitalized and was inside pushing quicker than you can read a Kenji report. Goeido inexplicably was never in this one. 

Miyabiyama held off an imminent MK today by hitting Tokitenku with a series of effective rights to the throat. Tokitenku tried a last second pull down but he couldn't get much leverage with Miyabi's paw on his throat. Both guys are 4-7.

Kyokutenho and Toke-chiohzan have only managed to corral four wins between the two of them. Today Ohzan added one more to that when Kyokutenho lost his footing in the process of pushing his opponent out. This fight took place at 5:19 local time, but with docile Tokey it's always 4:20.

Bart already has his MK but he has been, and will continue, picking up the odd win here and there. Today he bellied up against Asasecretary and smothered him, pushing him out and into a dangerous sixth loss.

I was pretty stoked for the Kisenosato /KotoGeek match-up today. But the resulting fight was less than a thing of beauty. Geek got inside form the tachi-ai and, as Kissy went for a pull-down ,was able to push him back a few steps. Koto-G turned on his 'hump-jumper' to seal the deal but Blinky spun at the straw, and the Geek was dropped for yet another tsukiotoshi. The belt was right there Giku, why not grab a handle!?

Ama came in very low on M1 Kokkai today and took a somewhat unorthodox double mae-mitsu (hands on the very front of the belt) grip. With Ama so low Kokkai may have been better off if he had just taken his chances with a gung-ho pull-down attempt, but instead he focused on trying to remove Ama's hands from his mawashi. He wasn't able to do it and, backing up and spinning to create leverage, Ama was able to swing Kok across the dohyo and then push him the last few inches. You could tell Ama's hands were sore as he shook them after the bout. This was a smart, strategic win for always fun to watch Ama. 

Well I sure was wrong about the basho Kaio was going to have. Kaio has won a respectable 4 of his last six bouts and will probably find himself in a position to scrape out a KK (by hook or by crook). Today Waka-Ho also gave an easy double inside from the tachi-ai where Kaio had no problems pushing him out.

Fresh of his overly "intimate" outing with Kotooshu yesterday Kak seemed to be able to do no better against stable mate Kotomitsuki today. Kak let Mitsuki get deep belt grips and push him out in just a few seconds. But just as Laptop was starting to take his pants off a judge's hand went up. Martin began a long rant of English potty language when he heard the word "isamiashi". Mitsuki had beaten himself.

Against Yokozuna Hakuho, Chiyotaikai came out with a little more zest than I expected (if your a fan please insert you own line about his "Ozeki pride" or some other cliché). Instead of his, as of late, ineffective jazz hands, Chiyo took the Miyabi rout and started pushing at Hak's throat. While I can't say that the Yokozuna was ever in much trouble, this did hold Hak off for a few seconds. But then Hak slipped by a push and got inside where Chiyo offered 0 resistance.

That brings us to the main event. As they walked to the ring and went through their shikiri, Asa looked confident while Kotooshu looked kind of rattled. Asa was glaring at the Ozeki but Koto looked too nervous to even make eye contact. 

The first time they went down to start the fight Koto apologized and stood back up. They went down again and the result was a very very strange tachi-ai. I have watched it more times than I care to count and this is how it goes- Asa starts a little lower than normal with his right fist already on the ground. Koto's fists and Asa's left touch the ground at exactly the same time. Koto came forward like a normal tachi-ai but Asa, making no forward motion, stood up tucked his arms in and just received the blow. I felt like I was watching keiko and Asa was about to scream at Shoe to push him across the ring. Kotooshu secured a great looking outside right and a left on the front. 

Kotooshu needs the belt to beat Asa. So why did Asa give him his choice of belt positions and a running start? I'm not calling yaocho. From this point on his defense seemed spirited enough. It's certainly possible Asa was fearing a henka. But if that is what was on his mind he would/should have come up with something better than just standing up and taking it. I just don't get it.

As Koto was taking the outside right Asa obviously grabbed the inside left and then went to work trying to counteract some of the damage his tachi-ai caused him. Asa is a magician when it comes to hand positions, but Koto wasn't stupid enough to give him the time or the chance to turn the tables. Kotooshu pushed him out, taking as easy a legit win over Asashoryu as your ever going to see.

Asa reaction to his loss was a little hard to read (as it often is), but Koto couldn't hide his joy. The Bulgarian had a smile on from ear to ear. It's normal for there to be an interview after someone downs a Yokozuna, but the announcer said that Shoe couldn't do it because he was overwhelmed with emotion.

Last week a sexy man wrote, "Asa is getting caught napping at the tachi-ai over and over again and his record is going to show it." The Yokozuna needs to use the time before Nagoya to rework his starts and practice an aggressive tachi-ai.

Tomorrow The Kid gets the Ho and Ama gets Mitsuki, but the one not to miss with be Hak/Kotooshu. The winner of that one will be the odds on favorite hoist the cup.

Well I'm off for a night unadvised rebel rousing. Tomorrow Mike will judge your character by your blood type.

Day 10 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
This basho just got more interesting today. We've got a surprise key player alone at the top now with two juggernauts nipping at his heels. 

Yes, the mighty Hakuho went down today to scrappy little Ama (5-4). The Sekiwake shifted slightly to the right and settled into migi-yotsu position. But when Hakuho managed to get the inside grip and pull Ama close, I was almost certain we could chalk up another win for the Yokozuna. However, Ama successfully defended two under arm throw attempts, the latter being done at the tawara and matched with an equally effective outer arm throw of his own. The result was that Hakuho (9-1) broke the tawara with his feet just ahead of Ama's knee hitting the clay. And just like that, we've got Kotooshu atop the leaderboard all alone. 

Asashoryu, meanwhile, took care of business against Kotoshogiku (6-4) by applying a stiff harite at the tachi-ai, getting the outside grip, and not allowing Giku to get his own grip (which was a primary cause of his loss to Giku last basho). After confirming his grip, Sho (9-1) forged ahead quickly for a relatively easy yori-kiri win. Once again, Sho disallows consecutive defeats to the same person. 

Kyokutenho managed a 5th win in 31 tries against Kaio by getting the right outside grip and turning Kaio sideways from the tachi-ai. Without any leverage, Kaio couldn't mount any semblance of an attack, thus resulting in a force-out loss. Kaio drops to 5-5 while Tenho improves to 2-8. 

Kotomitsuki got a left arm around Chiyotaikai's tsuppari to grab the Ozeki's belt enough to send him tumbling down via uwate-dashi-nage. Chiyo falls to 3-7, dangerously close to his umpteenth kadoban campaign. Kotomitsuki improves to 6-4. 

The star of the basho so far, Kotooshu, continued his run against Kakuryu. Oshu stayed perfect at 10-0 by meeting Kakuryu (3-7) at the tachi-ai for a tsuki-oshi affair. With a well timed pull, Oshu sent Kakuryu belly first to the dohyo via okuri-taoshi. 

The first rank-and-filer to garner majority wins is Toyonoshima, who toppled Roho in improving to 8-2. It's interesting that the announcers speculate Toyo's run to a 4-kilogram weight gain since last basho, while they attribute Kotooshu's stellar performance to a 3-kilogram weight loss. Anyway, not far behind Toyo at 7-3 are the likes of Goeido, Futenoh, Tamanoshima and Iwakiyama. 

So, Kotooshu is the man to beat. And looky here, he's matched up against Asashoryu tomorrow. Now we're getting to the good stuff.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It was quite the interesting weekend in sumo, and I would be remiss if I didn't give my two yen on two particular bouts that represented opposite spectrums of the sport. The first of course was the Kotooshu - Kisenosato matchup on Saturday. Leading up to the bout, Japan was experiencing a sort of "Kisenosato fever" thanks to his win over Asashoryu on day 1 and subsequent 4-1 showing against Ozeki and fellow sanyaku rikishi. The Kid was offering Japan a renewed glimmer of hope in regards to seeing one of their own actually threaten for the yusho not to mention become the first Ozeki candidate for them in over six years. Furthermore, the Association scheduled the bout for a Saturday, an important day for sumo because of the weekend sports highlight shows. You always want to have marquee matchups on Saturdays and Sundays because that's when the bulk of the nation is watching, and if you're lucky, the sports shows will lead in with you. It's no coincidence that Kisenosato was paired with Kotooshu on Saturday and then against Hakuho on Sunday. It was a big weekend, and Sumo was trying to capitalize. Kotooshu was fully aware of how big the bout was, and he simply couldn't handle the pressure.

I know that you Kotooshu fans have fast forgotten that bout, and you're all abuzz that your dude is undefeated, and you're already looking ahead at the schedule trying to calculate who he still has left to face and whether or not he can beat one of the Yokozuna, but you're simply jumping the gun. Regardless of how good he looks this basho (so far), Kotooshu still hasn't fixed the underlying core issue that lies right between his ears. Kotooshu's act on Saturday was insulting...first to the sport that makes him fat and allows him to get chicks, and second to the Ozeki rank. Since when does an undefeated Ozeki run from a Komusubi on day 7? The bottom line is Kotooshu can't handle pressure, and of his first 9 bouts this basho, only one of them had any sort of pressure, so the Ozeki of course ran from it. I'm just trying to let you down easy. Some of my comrades mocked me for making a big deal early on about Kotooshu's sumo saying "who has he beaten?" That's not the point. He's facing the same competition he always faces. The point is HOW he was beating them...and how he still is beating them minus that day 7 bout. Save day 7, Kotooshu's sumo has looked great the entire basho, and that is something to get excited about for Oshu fans, but the writing is on the wall. Dude would rather go in for a pap smear than face the pressure of a yusho race.

The other bout over the weekend that I just have to comment on was the Ama - Wakanoho contest on Sunday. When a performance gets me up off of the couch, you know it's good. Coincidentally, Ama was the last rikishi who made me stand up back in Aki when he bounced then basho leader Goeido off of the dohyo via tsuri-otoshi. That win propelled Ama to do the best sumo of his career and invite talk of promotion to Ozeki. If you remember, Ozeki talk stopped in January...just about the time Ama started losing confidence in his nodowa-push tachi-ai. The Sekiwake had not been the same since, but we'll see if his epic performance against Wakanoho will change all that. The point is a brilliant win can propel a rikishi to new heights; a win via tachi-ai henka sends them in the wrong direction. Just ask Tochinoshin if anything good has come from his failed tachi-ai henka against Tosanoumi yesterday. For Kotooshu's sake, he has to go out and generate that spectacular win if he ever hopes to yusho. Running from the competition only sends his mind in the wrong direction.

Enough of that. Let's get down to our day 9 bidness.

M15 Hakurozan used that effective morote-for-half-a-second-go-for-the-quick-pull-down tachi-ai against Tamanoshima...well, effective if your opponent is Michael Jackson. Against Tamanoshima, who obviously knew a pull was coming, the tachi-ai was worthless and got Hakurozan pushed back and out in two seconds and to a 3-6 record. Tamanoshima looks here to stay for another season at 6-3.

Watching M16 Hakuba it reminds me a lot of Asasekiryu's debut. Seki started at M10 after a fantastic basho in Juryo, but he had no punch and looked like a lightweight out there. The difference with Hakuba, however, is he's ranked M16, and he's still getting pushed around like the stinky kid in the schoolyard. He took a vicious right paw to the throat today from m12 Tamakasuga that drove Hakuba back to the straw, but he was able to slip out of it on the brink and actually squirm his way into a right uwate. To his credit, Hakuba went on the attack and actually survived a meager counter kotenage throw or two from the King before shoving him down to the dirt for a rare win. Hakuba's 2-7 ain't cuttin' it though. KingTama is 3-6.

M15 Toyohibiki is back to his usual ways of quick-start-slow-ending. He looked good against M12 Tosanoumi for about two steps and four seconds implementing his usual tsuppari attack, but the attack was too soft and enabled Tosanoumi to time a perfect sidestep as he pulled the Pimp by the arms for the easy victory. Tosanoumi moves to 5-4 while Toyohibiki eases up at 6-3.

In a scrappy affair, M11 Homasho survived two quick M13 Kakizoe morote thrusts, before Zoe ruined his momentum by whiffing on one of those useless downward swipes at your opponent's chest. Homasho took advantage with a left arm into Kakizoe's neck that took away Kakizoe's momentum for good. After about 6 second of grappling in close with neither rikishi touching each other's mawashi, Homasho timed a perfect oshi-dashi charge picking up his sixth win. Zoe ain't so sweet this basho at 3-6.

NHK rightly reviewed M14 Tochinoshin's failed henka attempt yesterday prior to this bout with M11 Iwakiyama. Fujii Announcer reported from the tunnels that he talked to Tochinoshin prior to the bout and reported that the Georgian regretted his actions yesterday. Good, but it still doesn't change two things. 1) You've already displayed a lack of confidence in yourself after a good start, and 2) you've taken yourself out of your sumo and lost any momentum in the process. Today against the Hutt, the two ended up in the migi-yotsu position after a stalemate at the tachi-ai with neither enjoying a left outer grip. Tochinoshin fished for it several times, but in the process he played his hand, so as he went for the left outer a third time or so, Iwakiyama timed it perfectly throwing Tochinoshin over and down with his right inner grip. If you gotta really stretch to get that outer grip, you're compromising your balance ever so slightly. The veteran knew it and made Tochinoshin pay schooling him to a 4-5 record. The Hutt is an impressive 7-2.

M14 Yoshikaze moved a bit to his left at the tachi-ai, but if you're gonna henka, then henka for hellsakes. M10 Dejima read the move it was that bad and had Yoshikaze pushed back to the straw in a second. Yoshikaze briefly squirmed away from his attacker, but with no momentum, Dejima was able to finish off his bidness with a nice push out win moving to 5-4. Yoshikinaikaze is 3-6.

M9 Roho knew he was up against an inferior opponent in M16 Kotokasuga and being in no danger of make-koshi this basho, it enabled him to charge straightforward at the tachi-ai. The Russian whiffed on a right harite attempt, but that was partly due to Kotokasuga's moving to his left at the tachi-ai in order to grab the cheap left uwate. Roho responded well, however, and secured a left outer grip leaving Kotokasuga right inside. Roho had to have been confident in his chances because he gifted Kotokasuga moro-zashi and then was brazen enough to solidify it by grabbing a firm right outer grip as well. Kotokasuga couldn't budge Roho, so he knocked away his right outer grip, but the Russian easily grabbed it again and ended the nonsense with a solid throw from the left outer. The difference in strength was clear in this one as Roho picks up his sixth win. Kotokasugassed is just that at 2-7.

After some sleepy sumo up to this point, M7 Takamisakari created some buzz just by showing up, but he gave up the quick right inside position to M10 Wakanosato and that was all the former Sekiwake needed as he is a master at fighting from the inside. Takamisakari did try a counter inner belt throw as Wakanosato drove him back, but Wakanosato (6-3) just smothers you when he gets in deep, so the counter move was ineffective rendering the Cop (3-6) the easy force-out fodder from there.

In a solid bout today, both M6 Futenoh and M8 Tochinonada hooked up in the hidari-yotsu position, a stance that both rikishi prefer. Futenoh had the slight advantage with a right outer grip on one fold of Nada's belt, but it wasn't enough to overcome the gentle giant AND his ability to brace himself against the tawara. After about three failed force-out attacks, Futenoh changed plans next driving his head low into Tochinonada's chest using his right hand to pinch in at Nada's left in the process. This tactical move paid off as Tochinonada (5-4) was no longer able to dig in leaving Futenoh (6-3) the shweet force-out win in the end.

In one of the most compelling bouts on the under card, M7 Goeido smacked M5 Toyonoshima upright from the tachi-ai grabbing an advantageous right outer grip in the process, which he used to make a quick throw attempt, but he only had one fold of Toyo's belt, and Toyonoshima countered nicely with his left leg threatening to trip Goeido's right. Goeido abandoned the attack and dug back in this time grabbing all folds of Toyonoshima's mawashi with the right hand. Toyonoshima had gained morozashi in the process, but thanks to his winning the tachi-ai, Goeido had Toyonoshima too upright rendering his double inside grips useless. Still, realizing the danger of giving Toyonoshima morozashi, Goeido wisely executed a makikae bringing his right hand on the inside now settling to attack from this position instead of the outside. Toyonoshima tried to counter with a left kotenage/trip move, but Goeido was just too good in this win and drove Toyonoshima back the other way guessing right on which way Toyonoshima would move at the edge thereby smothering him into a heap beyond the straw for the dominating yori-taoshi performance. While I've admired his sumo throughout the basho, can we get Toyonoshima (7-2) off the leaderboard already? Sheesh. Goeido is a slick 6-3.

Why is it that some rikishi require an 0-8 slide before they finally wake up? Course having M8 Takekaze as your opponent will help. M5 Tochiohzan stood his ground well at the tachi-ai completely halting Takekaze's momentum leaving the former Komusubi to weakly pull down at Tochiohzan's neck as he danced around him. Tochiohzan wouldn't flinch, however, and stopped the funny bidness with a solid left inside position that spelled Takekaze's doom. Now in the clutches, Takekaze tried to worm this way and that, but Tochiohzan solidified things with a right outer grip before forcing Takekaze (3-6) back and out with little argument. Tochiohzan picks up his first win against 8 losses.

In a bout between two grizzled veterans, M3 Miyabiyama used a potent right paw at the tachi-ai to keep M2 Kyokutenho completely at bay and set up the seldom-seen morozashi position for the Sheriff. Kyokutenho's yotsu-zumo skill is great, but even he can't work his way out of a morozashi grip by a Hutt leaving Miyabiyama (3-6)the easy force-out win from there. Tenho is a measly 1-8.

In a battle of two heavyweights, M1 Baruto used a morote tachi-ai against M2 Wakanoho that stood the teenager upright and gave Baruto the silly lift inside position, but the Estonian failed to do anything with it allowing Wakanoho to hunker down and grab a one-fold uwate with the right hand while the two played fresh on the other side. At this point, it was obvious to me that Baruto's next move would have been to wrench Wakanoho upright with the left inside position and grab the right outer grip in the process giving him the insurmountable grip, but Bart just stood there like a bump on a log and allowed Wakanoho to position his left hand at the front of his belt and lift up on Baruto as he forced him back. Baruto's size allowed him to dig in valiantly, but his lack of urgency gave Wakanoho the momentum, and the Ho was too young and powerful to be denied in this one as he muscled the Estonian back and out improving to 4-5. Bart is a very disappointing 1-8 as well.

Moving into the sanyaku, M1 Kokkai opted to charge low against Komusubi Kisenosato keeping the Kid away from the belt, but in the process, Kokkai wasn't able to drive Kisenosato back, so the Komusubi persisted by lifting up at Kokkai's right side with his left arm while hooking Kokkai's left arm from the top in order to twist his body closer to an outer grip. He got it about four seconds in, and despite Kokkai's attempting a counter left scoop throw, Kisenosato had positioned himself well enough to fight it off and dump Kokkai to the clay with the right outer grip. The Kid is cruising at 6-3 with most of the beef behind him. Kokkai also joins that under-achieving 1-8 club.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku helped to further soil the Sadogatake name by committing a tachi-ai henka to his right against Komusubi Asasekiryu masking the move by grabbing the back of Seki's belt instead of slapping his sorry ass down outright. Asasekiryu survived--briefly--and was able to align chests with the Sekiwake, but the advantage gained at the tachi-ai by Kotoshogiku was too much allowing him the easy force-out win from there. I guess I shouldn't be too hard on Kotoshogiku (6-3); after all, somebody needed to pay back Asasekiryu (4-5) for his weak tachi-ai henka on day 3.

Ozeki Kotooshu played M4 Tokitenku perfectly today charging in low with both hands on the inside that enable the Bulgarian to obtain a wicked right inside position that was so good his hand was at the back of Tokitenku's belt. In the process, Oshu managed the inside position on the right side as well giving him an insurmountable morozashi. Tokitenku tried in vain to pinch Kotooshu's arm inward with the left hand as he wasted his time grabbing a right outer grip over the top because Kotooshu just dug in for a few seconds before marching Tokitenku back on out for the dominating yori-kiri win at slick 9-0 record. Nobody will praise Kotooshu more than I for good sumo, and as I've done all basho, I'll continue to say the Bulgarian looked great. But...he ain't the favorite to yusho by a long shot. Tenku falls to 4-5.

The Kaio - Chiyotaikai matchup was compelling because these two are a tandem sorta like Asashoryu and Hakuho meaning they will work together to ensure that at least one survives (or one comes away with the yusho in the case of the Khan). You had Kaio stuck on 4-4 and the Pup coming in at 3-5, so do they give it to the Pup leaving both Ozeki at 4-5 with a vicious week two schedule or do they give Kaio the boost heading into the second week? Chiyotaikai came with a right nodowa at the tachi-ai, but he wasn't looking for blood in this one, which allowed Kaio to lift up at the arm, twist Chiyotaikai 90 degrees, and then assume the manlove position. Kaio complied in short order softly driving Chiyotaikai to edge. I don't know if the charge from behind was soft because he didn't want to hurt Chiyotaikai or because he was enjoying that hump position with his hands squarely on both of the Pup
s breasts. Regardless, Chiyotaikai deferred to Kaio (5-4) in this one and now must call up Musoyama for advice on how to fake an injury so he can withdraw.

M4 Aminishiki took charge today against Ozeki Kotomitsuki using a right choke hold to drive Kotomitsuki upright from the tachi-ai, but the Ozeki refused to move backwards and actually fought off Ami's nodowa, but in the process, Kotomitsuki was pushing forward too hard and allowed Aminishiki to dance backwards towards the straw and pull the Ozeki down in the process. Kotomitsuki made it close by attempting to push at Aminishiki's leg that was balancing on the straw, but he just missed it hitting the dirt before Ami's heel touched out. The gunbai went to Aminishiki, but a mono-ii was called it was that close. Replays showed the the referee got it right the first time giving Aminishiki an ugly but impressive win at 5-4. Kotomitsuki falls to the same mark.

Yokozuna Hakuho continued his flawless sumo playing the part of brickwall at the tachi-ai against M3 Kakuryu and coming out with the left frontal grip in the process. Kakuryu opted to work his right arm on the inside of Hakuho's left grip rendering it an uwate, but it made no difference. Hakuho planted his feet and just choked the Kak over to the side dumping him out across the straw with that left outer grip. Hakuho has been toying with the competition thus far and deserves his position atop the leaderboard. Kakuryu is 3-6, but look at some of the other rikishi who are worse off this basho. The Kak's doin' just fine.

The featured bout of the today also happened to be the musubi-no-ichiban with Sekiwake Ama stepping into the box against Yokozuna Asashoryu. These two normally treat us to some fireworks, and after Ama's incredible comeback win yesterday, you thought anything was possible, but this was a rather passive affair as neither rikishi impressed at the tachi-ai opting for low stances in the center of the ring as they jockeyed for position. Asashoryu came out of the fray with the left outer grip basically neutering his countryman on the sport because all Ama could hope for from there was some sort of uchi-muso move or fluke leg trip, but no way was Asa going to give him an opening as he gathered his wits about him and forced Ama to the edge with the outer grip before dumping him across the straw. Genghis moves to 8-1 with the win and stands on equal ground with Hakuho and Kotooshu as far as I'm concerned. Ama is a respectable 5-4.

That wraps up day 9 and the leaderboard has been whittled down to three worthy candidates in Hakuho, Kotooshu, and Asashoryu. The yusho line is not dropping below two losses, and I don't see a zensho in the cards either, which means we're going to have a great finish. Because Kotooshu is going against the two Khan--who are a team despite what you might think--his only hope is some henka help from his stablemates down the stretch.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Kenji speaks tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Rough Sunday here in the Land of Wa. Stripped two of my tatami rooms to do some cleaning under the house, and let me tell ya', if lifting tatami mats isn't part of the sumo rikishi regimen, it bloody well should be. Think of a hardened gymnastics mat and double the weight. To add to the problem, discovered rotten support beams under the floor (my house is older than Martin's copy of 500 Clever Things To Say In English) and so had to measure, saw, lift, place, fit, yada yada. A projected morning long chore turns out to last until 7:00 pm. Life: Can't live with it, can't live without it.

You know those rare individuals who have their senses all out of whack, who hear a word and taste, say, avocados? Or put their hand on a door and smell chili? That there door tastes like gumbo!, or You sounds like a tater tot! I'm not one of those numbnutz, but I do on occasion have bits of songs come to me when watching sumo matches (and they don't necessarily make a scintilla of sense) and today I thought I might open up and share with you, make your reading experience more multimedia what. Check my blog for the complete list of song artists and titles.

Toyohibachi took one look across the way at undersized Yoshikaze and figured, Gonna slip this shrimp on the barby, but it was the Pimp who got torched as they butted heads at tachi-ai and Yoshi immediately locked up his foe's right arm, using it to twist away and start a slapping attack. This seemed to bother the Nikibi enough that Yoshikaze was able to get an inside left, outside right and just muscle the bigger man out. A great first bout, helped me forget the laughably cliché rusty nail I stepped on earlier in the day (I step on rusty nails, Arbo relaxes with them).

Tochinoshin attempted what many men have vs. Tosanoumi, the sidestep tachi-ai followed by the quick hatakikomi, which I'm sure he thought would be enough. The old man was wise to the ways of the white guy though ("Oh, and do I deserve to be, is that the question, and if so, if so, who answers, who answers") and turned on a dime, using a well placed throat thrust to escape from the edge, then employed an armpit shove down to move both men to .500.

Iwakiyama used a stifling chokehold to grab the belt and swing Hakuba around, and when the youngin' went for the outside right belt, Jabba placed Hakuba's left arm into custody, real thuggish like, and twisted him into a sorry heap of parrot droppings. Don't look now but the Worm sits at 6-2. Rookie Hakuba at W16 looks to be headed to Juryo for some more prep work ("Will you recognize me, call my name, or walk on by, rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling").

Homasho and Kotokasuga started with some good head butting and hand slapping until Homer called an end to the odyssey by timing a move to the side perfectly and letting the rookie fall. There are many who think this Greek has peaked, yours truly among them, but M11 is too low a rank for a classically trained guy like this.

So far Dejima looks halfway to embalmed at E10, but today he shook the fluid out and took us on a whirlwind tour of yesteryear with his patented hug and chug ("So please, stay off my back, or I will attack, and you don't want that") of Tamanoshima, who is old enough to know the drill and acted accordingly: Big mummy come, Peter back away.

Wakanosato put a hurtin' on Rasputin's kid bro by running him back and out double time ("Fallout and take the bait, eat the fruit, and kiss the snake goodnight"). Baldorozan really has nowhere left to turn, does he? It's either pull a henka and keep your testicles crossed hoping enough guys fall for it, or play it straight up and live a decent life in the ten cent division. 

I know that it occurred during the Makuuchi bouts, but I could swear Tamakasuga was just offering up some resistance for Tochinonada to push against, like they do in practice. I have not seen a tussle with such a low level of energy since Mike took on the hotel's courtesy bar lady for not stocking Mr. Pibb in shot size bottles. The Giant eventually guided the King out to go check on his tama ("Crest fallen sidekick in an old café, never slept with a dream before he had to go away"). This was not one for the ages, but for the aged.

Kakizoe ("I want to hold you, protect you from all of the things I've already endured") went up against another man with towering energy in Takekaze ("Well I called my congressman and he said quote: "I'd like to help you son but you're too young to vote""). Zoe put just a little too much hoof into it, however, and just as he was driving Takekaze out in blitzkrieg fashion, he got red caped and bulled into the ether ("Well I've never been to heaven, but I've been to Oklahoma"). Ole for the W8 as both men have three wins.

I looked up from tickling my two year-old girl--btw, there is not one thing more life affirming than tickling your two-year old girl--and saw that Roho was on tap ("Grandma take me home, grandma take me home, grandma take me home, grandma take me home"), but then I saw Circus was his foe, and I was able to breathe again. Problem is Takamisakari is exactly the type of bone Cujo likes to gnaw on, i.e. a guy who never moves to the side and has as predictable a tachi-ai as it gets in sumo ("When all logic grows cold and no thinking gets done"). The mutt was free to move Bean back and out once he was unable to grab the front belt that he always tries to get. Those hot chicks who have swarmed back to sumo because its now "cool" don't pay good cash just to see their funnyman lose so quickly to the Czarina's boytoy.

Goeido practices a lot with Asashoryu, but maybe he should also practice with Kotomitsuki, a man who is an expert at snagging belt grips and hanging on for dear life. The Father misfired on two attempts to grab Fruitenoh's belt ("I have climbed, highest mountains, I have run, through the fields") and from then it was a simple matter for the E6 to press him out. I must say, though, the Prince of Orange's mawashi looked to be wrapped tighter than a python on a pig.

The antithesis to the Tochi/Tama bout, Kasugao came after Toyonoshima like dude stole his kimchi pot and had it stashed somewhere in his mawashi, lunging first for Toyo's outside right and then, as they frenetically whirled, the outside left. Toyo kept his wits about him though, quickly closing the gap and expertly stepping forward with his left leg and tripping the big Korean down hard ("Long distance, directory assistance, area code 212"), so hard in fact poor guy had to ride a wheelchair out. 

You could be forgiven for grinding your closed fists into your eyes as you watched Hokutoriki impossibly recover from an Aminishiki armbar and run him back across the ring and out. Shneaky is nothing if not tenacious and clever, and for him to allow The Jokester of all people to slip out of that grip says one of two things: Either Shneaky is hurting, or Hokutoriki will be putting something big in the W4's stocking this Xmas.

MiFlobby presented a nice big fat immovable target for the young hellion Tochiohzan, but wouldn't you know it, after a clashing tachi-ai the Sheriff moved a tad to the side and Tochi-oh-fer went down quicker than a cold beer after a sento ("Breaking rocks in the, hot sun"). 

The Kak, after getting schooled by Asa on Day 7, slipped himself some Viagra ("She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean, she was the best damned woman that I've ever seen") and went after former countryman Kyokutenho. The turgid pup showed no respect for the elder statesman of Mongolian sumo, gaining a nice two-handed inside and shoving a retreating Tenho to the edge, where a well-placed pube grab forced the E2's capitulation.

Could you believe that story in the Sumotalk News about Asa's doc Honda, whose fiancé called off their wedding because she didn't like the way he slurped his noodles? Bet the little minx didn't mind the noises he made when he was slurpin' something else!

A guy I'm starting to like a lot, Wakanoho, took a pimp slap from Sekiwake Ama and came with his own hand to the face, but Ama, fighting longer in the arm than you'd think a guy that size could, was able to make it a yotsu zumo contest. After about three seconds of looking like two locked up cobras swaying back and forth at each other, the teenager made his forward push and at the same time unsuccessfully tried to wrap his left gam around Ama's right. The Sekiwake quickly went for the twisting pulldown, but the M2 righted himself and drove Ama back to the edge. The tension was as thick as Mark's middle as they raced toward the bales, and what should have been a massive crushout for Wakanoho turned instead into a classic comeback as Ama pulled off one of those moves that the average person might recall years from now had it come vs. a bigshot (and they still might) and that we sumo freaks here at ST will never forget. With his back to the edge, Ama planted his right leg, lifted up with his two handed belt grip, raised his left leg right into Wakanoho's upper thigh, and completely flipped his foe over and out, cushioning the blow to himself by landing on the big fella. Think of one of those incredible backward diving scissor kicks soccer players do to score a goal, but in slow motion with a baby elephant being carried along for the ride. Just to show you what a dork the former Yokozuna Musashimaru is, he commented on the English side that Ama's slightly emphatic shove into the prone Wakanoho, as Ama stood up, was bush league. Right, after the most exciting finish to a bout in a couple of years. Dude's adrenaline must have been in the red, Moose. Wakanoho went into the back area and screamed Shit!, but he should have been screaming Thank you to Ama, who was adroit enough to fully spin the youngin' around onto his back, avoiding what could have been a nasty face in the clay or shoulder injury.

Baruto made a halfassed attempt to block Kotoshogiku from getting inside, but he is a sad sight to see this time out, and once The Geeku slammed his belly into Baruto exactly eleven times for what has become his signature yorikiri win ("The bigger the cushion, the sweeter the pushin', that's what I said, the looser the waistband, the deeper the quicksand, or so I have read") the Biomass moved to within one loss of a losing record.

In a battle of "kai"--that's about all the kanji love you'll be getting from me, folks--, Kokkai got his first win vs. the precariously perched Chiyotaikai ("I can't mold this stage, anymore, recognize me, anymore") by employing exactly the brand of sumo that the Wolf's Pup has used his entire career to lay foes to waste, namely arms fully extended and blasting one after a nuclear other into the chest and face until the guy is out.

Hit or Mitsuki was all Hit today as he quickly gained the outside right vs. Asasecretary and while fishing for the inside left decided he didn't need it and just walked the Komusubi back and out. When his foes don't play tachi-ai tricks like Tokitenku did on Day 7, Hit is clearly one of the top four in sumo.

Kaio has been enjoying a bit of resurgence this basho with some cracking wins over Geeku and Ama, but today he went up against the undead in Kotooshu, who has been nothing short of resurrected as he storms toward his zensho yusho ("I can't control my fingers, I can't control my toes, oh no oh oh oh oh"). He has been looking a lot more Mitsuki and Geeku this time out, and maybe his oyakata has found the secret to his success. He is getting close and dispensing with the slapping, then once grabbing the belt he is using his SEXY SEXY OH SO SEXY legs, Arbo, in a wide stance to triangulate his foes back and out. Personally his only hiccup was vs. The Kid yesterday, and although the Mad Matralineated Mongolian Master Martin Matra wrote that no one saw it coming, I refer you back to my Day 1 report for the Jan 2007 basho. Still in all, the Bulgar is showing the chops that once made him top o' the pops. Now we'll see, like Miguel pointed out, if he'll keep the heat on in Week Two or wilt like a little girl.

In the day's penultimate match, Asashoryu washed over Tokitenku like a tidal surge ("When the flood calls, you have no home, you have no walls, in that thunder crash, you're a thousand minds, within a flash") parlaying a quick inside left into the morozashi with the subsequent expected bum's rush. When you're this good and fast, why should it be otherwise? Still, today the Sadogatake beya boys made it clear that beating all three of them to reach 13-1 ain't necessarily going to be a cakewalk for ‘ol Genghis Benghis.

Just as the NSK planned it, Hakuho finally got his deserved Day 1 opponent on Day 8, and by now he has so much momentum and confidence that Kisenosato presented not much in the way of trouble. The Yokozuna grabbed a lightning quick inside left that forced The Kid back to the edge, but he is one of the best at leaning forward and using his weight to leverage things back to the center. Hakuho was more than happy to oblige him, and as Kisenosato come forward thinking, I'm doing it, I'm really doing it! Hakuho twisted, slapping his head and almost getting the topknot in the process, and flung him down no sweat ("Well I've got some advice for you little buddy, before you point your finger you should know that I'm the man").

So there ended an exciting Day 8, with promises of lots of fun for Week Two: Will Chiyotaikai retire, will Kotooshu return, will Asashoryu wreak or will Hakuho revenge? I'll be present and accounted for on senshuraku, while your five days in purgatory come to a thankful end when my pardner Mike moseys down from the mount, tablets in hand, to lay down the law.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
I thought Mark had drawn the short stick with his trainwreck of a day 4, but wait until I finish with what I have to say. Let's see, after day 6 we have an indestructible Yokozuna Hakuho, sweeping the dohyo with the limp husks of his opponents, a hungry Asashoryu chasing his countryman, a solid Kotooshu displaying smothering, flawless sumo, all sanyaku performing well and several Maegashira devouring the local competition. In other words, the premise for a spectacular basho. Well, not today!

But where do I even begin? I'll follow Mike's example and start from the chronological beginning. The first Makuuchi bout of the day was contested between two true Caucasians, Ossetian Hakurozan and Georgian shin-nyumaku Tochinoshin. After a rather slow and upright tachi-ai, the two settled into the gappuri-migi-yotsu position (double left-outside, right-inside grips) for several seconds. Hakurozan was the first to try something, attempting to lift his taller opponent and driving him back to the edge, but the Georgian recovered almost immediately with a lift attempt of his own. Another short pause in the center of the ring was followed by yet another trade of tsuri attempts from both, and it was Tochinoshin that got his opponent to the edge this time, but to his credit the skinny-legged one didn't give up as we're used to see him do, and managed to return to safety in the center of the ring. After another longer stalemate, Tochinoshin finished the job by yorikiri, returning above the .500 mark after a 3 day losing streak. Hakurozan keeps sucking at 3-4.

At 1-5 coming in, M14 Yoshikaze seemed doomed to early makekoshi, as well as a sound defeat against resurgent former Sekiwake Tamanoshima, but the little guy approached the fight more determined and won the tachi-ai, driving Tama a step back and peppering him with some bothersome tsuppari to the throat. Before the man with no neck could snap out of it, Yoshikaze pulled him down to his second defeat. It was great stuff from Yoshi, but it won't save him from Juryo nonetheless. Tamanoshima (5-2) will be looking for a speedy recovery against Dejima tomorrow.

A similar "little guy befuddles big guy with sheer speed and determination" almost took place in the next bout, with Kakizoe and the younger Hutt in the respective roles. After the initial tsuppari storm, Kakizoe executed a perfect push from the side, spinning the much larger Hibiki and for a second getting behind him, but somebody clearly spiked the Hutt's nabe this basho, because, instead of falling on his flat face like he used to do in the last couple of tournaments, he recovered immediately and launched a deadly counter-offensive, only stopping after Kakizoe was safely resting in the front row. Toyohibiki cruises to a solid 6-1 and it's good to see him back to winning ways. Kakizoe falls one step closer to Juryo.

Veteran Tosanoumi played a little cat and mouse game with newly promoted Kotokasuga, unable to finish him straight up. The two pushers traded shoves and thrusts, timing pulls in-between, and in the end it was the bigger Tosanoumi who had the last word. Hardly worth the time or bandwidth, this bout, but it's good to see Kotokasuga giving it all he's got (even though his 2-5 is saying it's not that much). Maybe it's an inspiration for his higher ranked heya mates (hear that, Koto-no-show?!). Tosanoumi is an uneventful 3-4.

The last one of the debutants, Mongolian Hakuba, got his ass handed to him again, confirming what some people saw clearly even before the basho started: he's not Makuuchi material (due to lack of size and strength, mostly). Veteran Wakanosato led the initial charge with an almost missed harite and quickly got his left hand on the inside, getting the uwate on the other side. The Mongolian was swiftly swept to the edge, but he managed to resist heroically, tip-toeing on the tawara for a split second. The hostilities resumed in the center of the dohyo, but Hakuba was never able to initiate any kind of offensive, due to Wakanosato's smothering grip. Eventually, the veteran pressed the action, drove his foe to the edge again and finished him for good, crashing him out of the dohyo with a nasty looking uwatenage. 4-3 four the grizzly veteran, while Hakuba gets to pack for a nice Juryo ride.

There's no doubt about it, Dejima still has some of the most powerful de-ashi in the business, as it could be seen today, but there's a reason why he's ranked all the way down to M10. After pushing Homasho to the edge with relative ease, the Locomotive was quickly derailed by Homie's lateral movement and felled with a perfect pull. It was so effective that Dejima thought he had lost way before he was actually out of the ring, seemingly stepping out by his own free will. Maybe that's the problem right there, maybe he's just too old and wrecked to actually want to keep on trying. Dejima falls to 3-4 while Homasho improves to 4-3.

Next up, one of my favorite bouts of the day, featuring Iwaki-Kong and Dick Dastardly. Roho produced possibly one of the worst tachi-ai this basho, practically standing up with his arms extended and receiving a solid double thrust to the throat, enabling Iwakiyama to get a solid right uwate and deny the Russian one of his own. With a quick nage attempt, Yama worked his way to Ugly's side and proceeded to chase him around the dohyo, fending off a couple of half-assed pulldowns and throwing him into the front row. I don't even want to know what Roho was thinking when he got up, because he could kill small animals with that stare.

Old Man Tamakasuga kept Korean Kasugao from his belt with some firm shoves to the chest, finishing him off quickly by a spectacular oshitaoshi. 3 wins for both guys, and we're moving on to more interesting stuff.

Probably motivated by the significant sponsor attention, M6 Hokutoriki charged like there was no tomorrow, instantly getting M7 Oddball to the edge with a solid nodowa. Takamisakari escaped a brief morozashi, but Hokutoriki's determination was just too much, because never relented until his hapless foe was out of the dohyo. Once more you can see that Hokutoriki isn't really as impotent as he usually looks, it's just that he needs a little motivation. 4 wins for the Jokester, while the clown will have to settle for 3.

M8 Takekaze hit low and hard, head first, at his tachi-ai against M6 Futenoh. With the left arm deeply lodged under Fruity's armpit, the short Kaze denied his foe the uwate, while getting one of his own on the other side. Still, size wasn't his ally this time, because Futenoh successfully resisted a few twists and turns and a meek sukuinage attempt, muscling his way to the solid yoritaoshi win. Takekaze is mostly useless with only 2 wins so far, while Futenoh is above the .500 mark at 4 wins.

Toyonoshima's small frame, on the other hand, proved to be an advantage in the next bout, vs. former Sekiwake Tochinonada. Right after the tachi-ai, this basho's best Maegashira worked his way into a morozashi, albeit a shallow one, that prevented Nada from attacking decisively. Tochinonada felt he was going nowhere, fast, so he tried to muscle his way into the kimedashi win, but the only problem was that Toyo's arms weren't locked, so he had no trouble slipping slightly to the left and taking Nada down with a pull under his shoulder. Size matters, but skill is decisive most of the time. Toyonoshima is having a great basho with his shiny 6-1 so far, but if he wants prizes, he's gonna have to take down some sanyaku in the second week (they'll probably feed him to Ama and Kotoshogiku, after the Yokozunas are done with them, and possibly to Kotooshu if by some miracle Toyo keeps winning). Tochinonada ain't nothin' special with 4-3.

Possibly this basho's biggest disappointment, (disregarding Baruto and Kokkai, who were expected to get thrashed in the meat grinder M1 spots) M5 Tochiohzan fought his arch-rival M7 Goeido by the book, using his superior oshi skills to keep the future Yokozuna away from his belt. Goeido, however, kept his wits about him, slipped to his left, and when Tochiohzan turned after him, he used his superior speed to quickly get out of the way and slap the still winless Oh to the dirt. It wasn't by any means cheap, but Tochiohzan should have been able to win this one. Goeido isn't looking bad at all with 5 wins so far.

Ok, alright, you'll say, but how about all the crappy stuff I promised, because so far, there hasn't been anything blatant. Enter the one, the only, The Ho! Were it not for this crappy day, I'd have nothing but praise for the youngster, because, if you remember, a couple of basho ago he was made a fool of by Iwakiyama, who caught him mid-air in a flying henka, and ejected his sorry behind into the audience, and since, he promised he'd steer clear of the dastardly maneuver, and kept to his word. All my hopes in the human race have been dashed today, when Ho broke his promise and pulled another show-stopper (heck, indeed it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy, but that's little consolation), standing right up and spreading Aminishiki all over the dohyo like a giant pancake. Some of you may argue it wasn't a henka, because there was no lateral movement, but you know what? To Hell with that, Aminishiki never had a fighting chance (and the fact that maybe he didn't deserve one is irrelevant). The Ho ‘improves' to 3-4, but I'd like to see him go 3-12 now, while Aminishiki receives his 3rd loss.

Estonian monster Baruto had his first decent tachi-ai today, trying to deny Japanese Kyokutenho any favorable position. Tenho eventually made his way into migi-yotsu and quickly pressed forward, only to be, as once he himself put it, sucked into the giant machine. Bart lifted him clean off his feet and staved off his meager attack in the wild cheers of the crowd. The two resumed in the center of the ring, and Kyokutenho repeatedly tried to shake Bart's left from his mawashi, but the Estonian timed a perfect makikae, securing morozashi and wasting no time in finishing the job by yorikiri. It was the first real sumo I've seen Baruto do all basho. 1-6 and the hurt stops for now, and, with all the heavy hitters out of the way, 6-7 wins isn't a stretch. Tenho is an unflattering 1-6 himself.

Georgian Kokkai reverted to his old-style kachi-age (forearm to the face) tachi-ai, in an attempt to change his luck, but he overcommitted to the move and soon found himself with Asasekiryu wrapped around him from the right. Not-so-Sexy wasted little time in driving Hairy to the edge, where he finished him off with a painful-looking shitatenage, that looked more like Kokkai's knee giving out that an actual throw. He'll go kyujo if he knows what's good for him. Asasekiryu is doing rather well at this rank, but a couple of henkas might have something to do with that.

Next up, the old bear Kaio showed again why he was once in contention for a Yokozuna slot in possibly the best bout of the day. Both he and his opponent, Sekiwake Ama, charged hard, but Kaio swept Ama's thrusting arms from his chest and steamrolled the lighter guy clear out of the dohyo and into the second row in less than 2 seconds, while holding his right arm locked at the elbow. It's beyond me why the judges didn't call the kimedashi, but who cares? It was great sumo from the former great, who now improves to 4 wins. Ama has 4 himself.

Tokitenku moved slightly to the side in his bout against Mitsuki, who charged recklessly again. All Tenku had to do was push a bit to his side and down Koto-missed-me went, to his third loss. It wasn't stellar sumo, but the Mongolian will take the win gladly. Kotomitsuki is just average this basho.

Moving on to what was expected to be the highlight of the day, but turned out to be the biggest disappointment of the entire basho so far. Komusubi Kisenosato was 5-1 coming in, with a great victory over the Man himself on shonichi, while Ozeki Kotooshu was undefeated and looking great throughout. With a 10-9 record head to head, this match promised to be a closely contested yotsu affair, with possible implications in the Yusho race. Heh, that's when the whole thing started to stink. Kotooshu forgot how well he's been fighting and decided the only way he was gonna win was with the evil henka he pulled. It was clearly premeditated, and, of course, nobody, and I mean NOBODY saw it coming. And, while I could forget the young Ho, on the count that he's young and unproven, there's no way an Ozeki can be forgiven for this kind of shit. Especially since it has MAJOR implications on the yusho race. First off, it takes away any momentum Kisenosato may have had, and he's probably gonna get creamed By Hakuho tomorrow, and secondly, it's gonna shatter Kotooshu's own confidence, so bye-bye Yusho hopes (yes, he WAS in the race before today). This man remains a mystery to me.

But wait, the implications don't stop here. Kotooshu's stablemate, Sekiwake Kotoshogiku, decided to follow suit and pulled a nice residual impact henka of his own do fell Ozeki Chiyotaikai to the dirt. Sure, not a standard, flagrant henka, but almost as cheap. Taikai is heading for kadoban pretty quickly, but yaocho works in mysterious ways, so don't be surprised if he somehow gets his 8 (my guess...if Asashoryu loses bout #2, to say, Kotooshu or whoever, he's gonna let Taikai have one on the house). Giku is at an undeserved 4-3.

The previously indestructible Yokozuna Hakuho fought his worst bout of the basho against the Fat Man. Failing to grab the front of the mawashi at the tachi-ai, the Mongolian went immediately for the hataki-komi, failing that too, then bitch-slapping Miyabiyama some more before finally taking him down. Never in real danger, but it was ugly. I was expecting something spectacular like a yoritaoshi or a severe nage, but when he failed to get the mawashi, Hakuho panicked and went into pull-mode. He'll get over it, though, tomorrow, when he destroys the broken Kisenosato. Hm… Kisenosato, henka? Let's hope not.

Finally, Asashoryu displayed his awesome speed again against the listless Kakuryu, starting with a lightning fast harite (and before watching the replay closely, I would have sworn that tachi-ai was a false start) and immediately worked his way into morozashi. Kakuryu has sparred with the Demon before and knows what usually happens when Asa gets into that particular position (ask Kotomitsuki… twice!), so, smelling the tsuri-otoshi in the air, spread his legs and wrapped himself on the Yokozuna's arm. Asa tried and tried, but he got bored when he couldn't break him, so he just opted for the safe yorikiri, with a small extra shove at the end, just to send a little message about who's still the boss around here.

Of course, in the end it's gonna come down to the two Khans again, now it's painfully clear. My money's on Hakuho this time around, but who knows? Asa's still dangerous, albeit not in his prime anymore. Kotooshu should have no trouble getting 11 wins, but he just shot himself in the foot earlier, and for the love of Ktulu, I don't understand why. Kisenosato will get the Shukunsho and Toyonoshima the Fighting Spirit Prize. If all goes well, Goeido will get the technique prize, but don't hold your breath. Clancy is going on his typical rampage tomorrow, so be sure to come back. I'll be on again on Saturday the 14th.

Day 6 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Well folks, we're a third of the way in and find ourselves with only three rikishi unscathed at 5-0 coming into day 6: A Yokozuna (Hakuho), an unlikely Ozeki (Kotooshu) and a scrappy little rank-and-filer (Toyonoshima). Let's see how these three and the rest of the field fared as we enter the chubansen, or middle 5 days, of Natsu Basho. 

Starting at the top, Asashoryu clashed with M2 Kyokutenho for the 32nd time. Tenho looked good for a brief moment upon the tachi-ai, but it was short lived. Once Sho got the left front, the bout was over in a New York minute. Sho used the advantage to charge right thru Tenho (1-5), who had no grip, for an easy Yori-kiri win. Make that 30 W's out of the aforementioned 32 meetings. 

Likewise, Hakuho made short work of M2 Wakanoho by zooming in for the left front grip at the tachi-ai, then immediately twisting the young Russian to the side in a Kote-nage like fashion. By which time Wakanoho (2-4) was already back-pedaling. All it took was one more thrust from the Yokozuna to notch the easy win. Haku remains atop of the field, unbeaten at 6-0. 

After a rather entertaining matta in which Ama went flying past Chiyotaikai and almost clear off the dohyo, the little Sekiwake proceeded to whup up Chiyo (3-3) at his own game. Ama (4-2) brung the heat in the form of a tsuki-oshi A-game that our embattled Ozeki can no longer match. Is it just me, or does Chiyotaikai look particularly smaller, weaker and older this basho? 

In contrast to Chiyotaikai, Kaio matched the vigor of his young opponent today, which was refreshing to see. Although Kaio never got a secure grip on the belt, the old man managed to muster up enough vinegar to mix it up well with 12-years-his-junior Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (3-3), and executed a well-timed slap down to even his record at 3-3. 

In a clash of two towering foreign rikishi, Kotooshu continued his impressive showing this basho by staying low at the tachi-ai and gaining the advantage on the belt. He had both grips in hidari-yotsu position and used it to keep the pressure on M1 Baruto, who falls to a paltry 0-6 enroute to an easy force out win. Kotooshu's record remains unblemished at 6-0, which is rare ground for him at least in recent memory. 

Ozeki Kotomitsuki, who's been hot and cold so far, looked mostly cold against M3 Miyabiyama initially as he bore the brunt of Miyabi's lumbering tsuppari and looked to be headed for his third loss. However, amid one of the thrusts Mitsuki (4-2) got inside on both sides and turned the tables quickly for what turned out to be an easy Yori-kiri win. Miyabiyama falls to 1-5. 

Komusubi Kisenosato may finally be breaking through to fill the potential everyone tagged him with. By way of his scoop throw victory today in a spirited bout with counterpart Komusubi Asasekiryu (3-3), Kise is off to his best start ever at a Sanyaku rank, where he's generally been solid but unspectacular for a couple of years now. Is the Great Japanese Hope coming of age? We'll see, but it's looking favorable for his fans. He's 5-1, and that includes victories over a Yokozuna and two Ozeki already. 

Scrappy M5 Toyonoshima, who came into today as the lone remaining rank-and-filer still undefeated, lost his bid to stay that way as Robocop Takamisakari put a stop to that madness thank you very much. Robes (3-3) got under Toyo (5-1) from the right and lifted him into an awkward position right away. The eventual result was an okuri-taoshi. 

The leaderboard now shows Hakuho and Kotooshu tied at 6-0. The feature bout tomorrow is surely Kotooshu vs. Kisenosato, the resurging Bulgarian against the maturing National Hope. Stay tuned for Martin tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Alex Brohm reporting)
"A Ho by Any Other Name" 

People often ask, "What does a sumo wrester's fighting name mean?" The answer is often a dry direct translation of the Chinese characters that rarely make much sense, but the real danger is in believing in the translations that do make sense. For example, although Hakuho is often translated as "white phoenix" it would be a mistake to accept this translation at face value, but the real problem isn't the answer, it' s the question.

A sumo wrestler's fighting name, his "shikona", is a bit like a racehorse's name. Take Seabiscuit, if you heard two Japanese guys arguing over the best translation of Seabiscuit into Japanese you'd probably laugh till it hurt. A little research shows a boring connection. Seabiscuit's paternal grandmother was called Teabiscuit. Another famous horse, War Admiral, is named after his sire, the legendary, Man o' War. Like a racehorse sumo wrestlers names reflect a link to who begot them, but are also often where they're from, their actual given name or something thought up during a drinking binge.

So, rather than ask, "What does Hakuho mean?" a better question to ask would be, "Why is Hakuho called Hakuho?" The answer to this is more satisfying and explains all these guys named Ho running around. The "ho" comes from the powerful former yokozuna, turned toshi-yori oyakata, Taiho. To be named after the auspicious Taiho is a great honor. Personally, I consider generally accepted translation of "ho" as phoenix to be of dubious accuracy. In Japanese a phoenix is called "houou" and written with a different "ho" than Hakuho's "ho." Phoenix's "ho" is written with Juryo big man Shimootori's "otori" and that Chinese character has a similar meaning to Hakuho's "ho", so one could say it kind of means the first half of the word phoenix, but basically it just means "big bird." So, Taiho means "great big bird" and Hakuho is "white big bird" And before I get any further, I'll answer "why haku?" Kumagaya-oyakata gave him the "haku", which means white, for his light skin. Yawn!

Roho gets his "ho" from Taiho as well. He was recruited into Taiho's heya and was his prize sekitori. When Roho made it to the juryo rank he was given a Winnie the Pooh rug for private room by Taiho as a way of congratulating him. The rug is one of Roho's prize possessions. Roho's "ro" is from the Chinese character for Russia. So, his name simply means "the Russian that Taiho recruited." After Taiho retired, his recruits were given to Otake-oyakata, but Taiho still takes great pride in his namesakes, like Roho and Hakuho, and often gives them advice during their keiko sessions.

Yes, I know that it's funny that Roho likes Winnie the Pooh, but Kisenosato has Hello Kitty on his kesho mawashi. Don't believe me? Just take a good look next dohyo-iri. Bottom right corner, you can't miss it.

Like a pyramid built from the bottom to the top let's start with today's Makushita tori-kumi highlights, Tosayutaka (1-2) lost to Yamamotoyama (2-1) by yorikiri, and Aran fell flat on his face at the tachi-ai and goes 2-1.

In Juryo, Kitazakura's bead crafted reign of terror hit its first speed bump, going 4-1, that leaves Kimurayama in the lead at 5-0.

Alright, it's time to shake the crumbs out of your pajamas, kids, and start the big show!!

Hakuba - Tamanoshima: Veteran Tamanoshima taught Hakuba how we do things in the Makuuchi by demonstrating his famous left-handed scissor grip yorikiri. See you soon in juryo, Hakuba.... Hakuba? Hakuba who?

Kakizoe - Kotokasuga: After two false starts, the unimpressive match ended with a pull down hikiotoshi from Kakizoe. The honeymoon in Makuuchi has officially ended for Kotokasuga.

Toyohibiki - Tamakasuga: When you hear these two names you know there's gonna be some forward moving sumo and rocket-man Toyohibiki started things off right with a nodowa, then a couple of sharp thusts, and finally helping himself to a win by oshidashi. Tamakasuga was pretty helpless and showing his age, but he'll manage.

Tosanoumi - Hakurozan: In this humdrum match-up of two returnees from juryo, Hakurozan won the only way he knows how, by hatakikomi.

Yoshikaze - Homasho: Yet another match with a false start, Yoshikaze kept Homasho off his game with some tsuppari, and got Homasho a little off balance, took him to the edge, but when he went in for the kill, Homasho gave a well-timed defensive pull and got a win by hikiotoshi.

Tochinoshin - Wakanosato: After yet another false start, that cuddly breed of Japanese pug, Wakanosato, beat the latest European hopeful by yorikiri. Tochinoshin's forward sumo is flawed in that he can't get momentum against human speed bumps like Wakanosato and his stunt double Tamanoshima. Will he find a non-henka solution? To be continued next basho...

Kasugao - Iwakiyama: Kasugao started things off badly with a failed henka, then a failed throw, then played right into Iwakiyama's style of sumo, but in the process tired Iwakiyama out so much that after about 1 minute and 57 seconds Iwakiyama was easy pickin's for a yorikiri.

Tochinonada - Roho: A dirty henka! Wait, sorry, reflex, a nice but an unfortunately underpowered attempt at a throw by Roho blossomed into a defensive ballet around the ring of tulips, ending in a rude, but show stopping yorikiri from Tochinonada. Season tickets are available at reasonable prices. Opera glasses offered upon request.

Dejima - Goeido: Goeido foolishly tried to convert a solid tachi-ai into a Henkarozan-style pull down, but Dejima oshidashi his inexperienced foe with a nice two-hander.

Takekaze - Toyonoshima: Straight out of Kochi and here to represent, Toyonoshima made short work of heavily favored Takekaze. Long story short, a weak defensive effort by Takekaze allowed Toyonoshima to oshidashi him. Toyonoshima stays on the leader board at five-aught.

Tochiohzan - Takamisakari: The way he walks down the hanamichi up to the dohyo, like a pouty toddler demanding his toy train, is an embarrassment to sumo, but if Uchidate can have an on camera cat nap waiting for Asashoryu to be disgraceful, I guess it's a big enough dohyo for us all, except women, of course, gotta keep it cootie free. 

Where was I? Oh yeah, Tochiohzan totally had Robocop by the rivets, great de-ashi, got his mawashi with both hands, pushed him to the edge, but oh snap! Ozan forgot that the cop's chrome shines brightest at the edge. Takami's powerful hydraulic arm tossed Ozan out with an uwatenage that is a marvel of cybernetic engineering and preschool showmanship.

Futenoh - Aminishiki: Poor Futenoh got harite'd in the throat till he was upright, then Aminishiki got an outside grip on his mawashi and Voilà! Uwatenage!

Tokitenku - Hokutoriki: The king of the Moleman, Hokutoriki came out of his subterranean lair to do battle with the evil Dr. Grip. Dr. Grip was caught by the un-kingly Moleman's paws and defeated by a dirt-encrusted hikiotoshi right at the tachi-ai.

Kakuryu - Wakanoho: Why do bad things happen to fish-faced people? Kakuryu after causing matta, he innocently henka'd Wakanoho. Then, Wakanoho used his reach advantage and grabbed Kakuryu's mawashi. Winning by yoriki. That's all well and good except that Wakanoho clearly touched the dirt with his hand when he got henka'd. In fact, Wakanoho's other "win" he got by poking Chiyotaikai in the eye, accidentally, of course, but it's only day five and I'm already complaining about the shimpans! I need a drink! No, I need at least two drinks!

Ama - Kyokutenho: Let's spell it out Y-A-O-C-H-O! I guess somebody owed somebody for a gimme match last basho. OK, OK, I'll pretend it was clean. Wink, wink, Ama's pull down attempt was paired by Kyokutenho, but in the end Ama got the morozashi and yorikiri'd his countryman right over the edge. Riiiight.

Asasekiryu - Kotooshu: It is a proud day in my life to finally have a decent Kotooshu bout to report on. I won't spoil it by crying. Asasekiryu was quaking with fear while waiting for the gyoji to give the signal, and then an in control Kotooshu blasted him at the tachi-ai, knocking him off balance right from the start and keeping him that way till he was yorikiri'd out. Kotooshu's 5-0 but how long can he stay spotless? He's now just three short of ending kadoban, but I'll try to maintain my cynicism, lest I be disappointed.

Chiyotaikai - Baruto: The only person surprised by today's bout was Baruto. Classic nodowa, thrust, push, push, and pull back. Let's hope Bart has a short learning curve. It was a hikotoshi that Chiyotaikai will likely be watching on an endless loop during his off-season bubble baths.

Kokkai - Kaio: A likely injured Kokkai was completely useless against Kaio today. Kokkai's balance was ruined by Kaio's tachi-ai then, he was easy prey for one of Kaio's favorite grips right from the middle of the ring. With his iron grip set, Kaio carried Kokkai toward the straw and planted him out with an uwatenage.

Kotomitsuki - Kisenosato: Starting off with a solid taichi-ai, Kisenosato generated momentum driving Kotomitsuki back and even trying to, do my eyes deceive me? Gaburi Mitsuki? It was not to be Mitsuki as shook it off, but he couldn't make any room, then young Kisenosato sensing a moment of weakness in the ozeki knuckled down again and drove him out with a yoritaoshi anyway.

Kotoshogiku - Hakuho: Hakuho taught Kotoshogiku the meaning of overpowered, toying with him as he crushed him back against the edge. Almost allowing Kotoshogiku enough of a grip to rekindle his hope, the young yokozuna dashed out that spark of salvation with a cruel jerk back toward the dohyo, sending Kotoshogiku crashing down into a defeat by uwatenage.

Asashoryu - Miyabiyama: Asashoryu wasn't playing around today. He gave Miyabiyama a signature slap to the side of the head at the charge, followed by a couple of hard shoves. Miyabiyama tumbled out by oshidashi. Nothing fancy from Shoryu, just trying to maintain himself at only one loss.

Kenji expounds tomorrow.

Day 4 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
Hisashuburi friends! It's been quite a while. Let's see if the pirated copy of MS Word is still in good working order ...

Loyal reader, I'm would not lie to you. I mean I would lie to you about your breath, or money, or what did and didn't transpire between your girlfriend and I, but NOT about sumo. Mike's comments about "better sumo" do not apply to today. May 14th was an ugly train wreck of pathetic tachi-ai, blown advantages, and sub-par sumo in general.

Here is a perfect example- Kakizoe is a prince. To many he embodies everything that is good about Ozumo. He rarely resorts to cheep "Ineeedawin" tactics. He is always there, on the line, ready to fight, and despite his relatively humble stature he has been consistently overachieving for many years now. In opposition, Hakurozan is tall and strong as The Green Fairy, but his sumo is devoid of technique, pride or courage. Rozan puts up lackluster performances basho after basho. In today's good vs. evil match up the powers of darkness were too powerful and Ugly Jr. scored a quick and deliberate pull down. If the Rotard-Brothers are "making a bit of an effort to return to sound sumo", than Clancy is making a bit of an effort to return to the priesthood. Zoe and Zan are both batting .500.

Now, I still likes me the ladies, but for some reason, as of yet undefeated Levan Gorgadze has been making waves with the other writers not only with his sexy sumo but also with his sexy legs. Today however, the Thigh Master got worked by Tama-Chan who after a crisp tachi-ai got tight inside and pushed the Georgian over and out in a sprawling heap of homoeroticism.

Iwakiyama has been starting way south of the border, a la Hibiki, as of late. Today he got a quick yorikiri win and, once again, is disgusting in slow-mo. Conceal your eyes!! Kasuga is still stuck at one win.

Homasho looked good for 99.3% of his fight today. He came out and seemed to be having his way with Tosanoumi, pushing him back to the straw rope, but at the last instance Umi gave the pushing Homasho a hard left to the side of the head that must have had some power behind it because it sent the Home Boy two or three steps to the side and out of the dohyo. Yochidaiya could be seen cackling in the replay as Homasho blew it.

Kasugao got a deep inside right on Wakanosato off the tachi-ai. Sato did his best to stay upright and mount any type of push but Kimchi just kept nage-ing his shita-te till the workhorse toppled. These lads are both 2-2.

Instead of wasting yours and my time by covering Roho's "fight" I think I'll just write about something (anything) else. So, here are a few slightly obscure songs that I recommend. They are all worth a download. 

1) Martin Sexton- Candy
2) Nekromantix- Haunted Cathouse
3) April Stevens- Teach Me Tiger
4) Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes- Don't Leave Me This Way (you need to track down the 8:47 version)
5) Dan Bern- Tiger Woods
6) Martin Denny- A Taste Of Honey

Takekaze got his first win today, moving slight to Takami's left before the initial contact and then continuing in that direction till he got both hands inside on the clown. He wasted no time throwing Takami to the giggles of a semi-sadistic crowd.

Goeido is another guy who snatched a defeat from the hands of victory. At the tachi-ai he took a side step to the north and grabbed an outside right. With the kind of momentum you only generate with a really solid tachi-ai or a cheap sidestep, he spun Tochinonada around and looked to be about to push him out. But the problem with an outside right is that your opponent obviously must have an inside left, right? Goeido got a good lesson and his first loss this basho from veteran Tochinonada sukuinage-style. Goeido, you blew it too.

Tochiohzan and Hokutoriki came to the dance with nary a win between them. Tochiohzan had a half second head start out of the gates but still got his mawashi handed to him. This dude has lost his motivation. And with that long hair and blank stare... I think he may be into the jazz cigarettes. A little Acapulco gold, if you know what I mean ... and I think you do...

Futenoh and Toyonoshima came in with naught but wins, and they didn't want to blemish either record too quickly so instead they just found a comfy position and leaned on each other for a spell. When the action finally started up again Futenoh seemed about to yorikiri, but Shima responded with what was inaccurately called a katasukashi. In reality it was a "swim move" from football.

If you have seen Martian strolling around downtown Tokyo, or perhaps in Starbucks or soapland with a goofy smile on his face, it is because Kakuryu has not been able to pick up one win this basho. But today he wiped that smug smile of Matian's face with a nasty henka of countrymen Tokitenku.

Today Ama's tachi-ai was like Clancy's love, aggressive, powerful and funnier to watch than to receive. In an instant he had Kissy against the rope, but Kissy pivoted away and pulled down on the back of Ama's head. Ama fell to the clay and was declared the loser. But Kissies pivot landed him outside too, and a mono-ii was probably warranted (I believe it would have found that Kissy did indeed win by a fraction of a second ... it's just the point of the thing) but no one, including Ama, was looking for it to be called. Ama knows he blew it. Kissy gets the "W" but he blew it too.

Aminishiki got both hands inside on the Geek today but the youngster handled it perfectly. He locked up Shiniki's arms and began repeating his mantra "Hump 'em long. Hump 'em strong. Hump 'em long. Hump 'em strong. Hump 'em long. Hump 'em strong.". With arms locked up and a 300 pound man humping you like a genki Rottweiler, there is no room for sneakiness.

That reminds me, one of my best friend's families had a Rottweiler named "Duke" when we were in high school. Duke was exactly what you would imagine, a "Duke" to be: a big scary dog. He was also entirely friendly ... too friendly at times. Anywho, once my friend's family had asked this repairman to come have a look at their broken washer. No one was going to be at home, so the arrangement was for him to just let himself in. While the repairman was hard at work the dog took a shining to him and then got friendly ... and then too friendly. Though he had been told that the dog was harmless, the repairman just couldn't bring himself to be aggressive enough against the beast to break the dog's love embrace on his leg. So in the end, the repairman just stood there and took it. TOOK IT!! Till the dog finished. FINISHED!! 

But I digress... 

Fresh off his own Mongolian on Mongolian lube job, Asa'secretary thought he would use "sumo" to get his win today. Seck dove inside quickly grabbing the Pup's belt. With tsuppari neutralized, Chiyotaikai made that "Oh Snap! I blew it." face he so often makes and passively backed out.

Mt. Miyabi also ate some sweet sweet Ozeki-pie as Kaio tried an ill-advised tachi-ai harite.& nbsp; Problem is that kaio hasn't been fast since Asashoryu was ranked M12. So, the old gray mare's hands were everywhere but where he needed them. Chugging forward with no grips or plan, M-Yam just brushed him to the side and down the Ozeki fell. He has 900 and tomorrow against struggling Kokkai is his best chance to get to 901 before Nagoya. He should get it but it doesn't matter, he will be Kadoban a week from now anyway. 

Our promising M1's have had a less than stellar start. That's forgivable.  Against THESE two Yokozuna who would have? But now that they have the big boys out of the way their basho really starts. It's time for them to start kicking some ass, right? Wrong.

Bart started great against KotoM, He took an outside left and denied Koto any useable hand positioning at all. I really thought Bart had this one wrapped up. But Bart didn't drive forward. Instead, Mitsuki somehow got Bart to play his game. And Mitsuki's game is all about long boring waits in the center of the ring. Bart got his first taste of what the NHK announcer called Kotomitsuki's "Nagai (long) Sumo". Kotomitsuki bent down lower and lower burying his head in Bart's chest. A good "swim move" could have sent Mitsuki into Gold Hat guy's lap. But by this point Koto had seemingly completely hypnotized Bart who just stood by meekly until Koto fell him with an uchimuso chop to the inner knee. Perplexing and discouraging. Bart blew it too. Let's hope he learnt something from this one.

The smile on Martin's face is about Kak, but that bulge in his pants is all Kotooshu. Even stoic Mike talked about him "coming out of his funk". It's a sad state of affairs when Kotoshoe (an Ozeki for goodness sake!!) wins three fights in a row (against guys with a combined 2 wins), and we make a big deal about it. Well, today he got another win (kill a pig and shoot off the fireworks!), so now he has won four in a row against four guys that have a combined 3 wins in 16 fights. Chiyotaikai starts 10-0 every third basho and still no right minded commentator talks about him as a yusho threat.

Don't get me wrong. I'm rooting for the guy, and I think he has a decent chance of turning some heads down the stretch for the first time in a couple of years. But forgive me if I keep the Dom corked for a few more days.

All that being said Kotooshu has looked pretty good and today was no exception. Kokkai collided dangerously at the tachi-ai with his head bent down so far that his chin was touching his chest. Coke's upper body was saying tsuppari, but his lower body looked like a drunk Jamaican exchange student who ran out on the ice at a college hockey game. Shoe got a few shoves in but sadly, even if he hadn't, Kokkai would have taken care of himself.

Kokkai got up slow and was limping a bit as he walked back to the dressing room. I think Bart will pick up a handful of wins and still has an outside shot at 6 or 7, but Kokkai's basho is looking like a bust.

Asa stared Wakanoho down but good before their tachi-ai. A couple of years ago I think we would have seen a trickle streaming down Ho's leg at this point, but Asa has lost a step in his tachi-ai, and Ho wasn't frazzled. Actually Ho delivered a great tachi-ai. He backed Asa up a few steps with a Geeky Hump-Jump before Asa threw him hard with a kotenage. I'm not sure how much trouble Asa was in (Wakanoho certainly THINKS he blew this one), but there is still a lot that can be read into this one. Asa was beaten badly at the starting line. Asa can have a horrible start and still beat most of the banzuke most of the time, he IS that good. But as Martian rightly pointed out to me, if that had been Kotooshu, Shoe would have won. Hakuho would have destroyed him. Asa is getting caught napping at the tachi-ai over and over again and his record is going to show it. Fighting like he is now, Asa can yusho but his destiny will never be in his own hands. Hakuho will need to drop one or two in the first 14 days just for Asa to have a shot.

Hakuho showed once again that he is the man to beat this time around with another dominant performance. Today he had a solid tachi-ai against Kyokutenho. He took an outside left and kept his inside right on Tenho's back. He calmly took Tenho down with a powerful uwatenage 3 seconds into the fight. He could just as easily have pushed him out. His sumo was deliberate and controlled. 

Asa is still in the race, but at this point Hak is the guy fighting superior sumo and with his perfect record is clearly the man to beat.

Tomorrow should be a better day. Chiyotaikai/Baruto and Geek/Hak both look fun, but the fight I'm looking forward to the most is Mitsuki/Kissy. Kissy has beat him the last couple of times they locked up. 

Mike has been up late gambling with the janitors again tonight, so I have no idea who you are going to get tomorrow ...

Day 3 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I've said it before, but it seems as if the basho in Tokyo are more stable and produce better sumo. We've definitely seen that so far through the first three days of the tournament. Asashoryu has been nicked once already, but we haven't had a 15-0 performance in a year, so don't start getting your hopes up until he suffers his third loss. It's fine to root for the Yokozuna to lose, but what you want to see is rikishi beat them who actually have a shot at the yusho. Kisenosato did a good job of blowing it yesterday, and I don't even dare mention the name of the other non-Yokozuna who has a shot because Kotooshu hasn't proven himself well in those situations. There's a 95% chance that one of the Yokozuna will yusho, but it still doesn't mean we can't enjoy some of the younger rikishi coming of age and the aforementioned Ozeki coming out of his funk. With that said, let's get right to another solid day of sumo.

M16 Hakuba creeped into the moro-zashi position at the tachi-ai, but he didn't demand the pose with a solid charge that forced M15 Hakurozan upright, so the result was two firm outer grips from Hakurozan who was able to bring Hakuba in so close that the rookie's chin was resting on Hakurozan's shoulder. After a brief tsuri attempt and a force out charge that was going nowhere from Hakuba, Hakurozan pivoted towards the straw and swung Hakuba wildly out with a left uwate-nage. Good stuff from Hakurozan who picks up his first win while Hakuba falls to 0-3. The rookie needs another loss like I need a bigger forehead, but it doesn't look as if either of us will turn things around soon.

Call me crazy, but the best bout of the basho so far was today's M14 Tochinoshin - M16 Kotokasuga affair, a battle of two rookies. Kotokasuga played it perfect from the tachi-ai keeping his arms tight on the inside looking for moro-zashi. Shin fought it off well and managed a left outer grip, but Kotokasuga shook that ass a few times breaking off the grip and managing a left outer of his own now forcing Tochinoshin to grapple for position. The Georgian settled for a firm right inside grip that he wasted no time to use in a throw attempt. The throw didn't fell Kotokasuga to the dirt, but it knocked him off balance to where Tochinoshin could secure morozashi and execute the subsequent force-out. Why was this the best bout so far? Because you had the veteran Japanese rikishi who knew he was overmatched, so he employed a tactical tachi-ai and stuck to his guns throughout the bout keeping Tochinoshin upright and away from a smothering outer. On the flip side, you had a patient Tochinoshin who countered so well, and who was so smooth in the dohyo, you could just see that he was raised properly in his stable. Great stuff in only our second bout of the day. Tochinoshin is on a roll at 3-0 while Kotokasuga falters to 1-2.

Leave it to a crafty old veteran to stop M15 Toyohibiki's streak. The Nikibi opened up with his usual tsuppari, but M13 Tamanoshima kept his arms in tight and didn't necessarily block the thrusts, but he swiped at them enough to keep Toyohibiki from driving him back. After about six seconds of the chess match, Tamanoshima timed a perfect swipe at Toyohibiki that knocked him slightly off balance and allowed the veteran to jump into the morozashi position from where he felled Toyohibiki with a nice scoop throw. Both dudes stand at 2-1.

M13 Kakizoe repented of his mistakes yesterday and never relented in his tsuppari attack of M14 Yoshikaze. Zoe drove Yoshikaze back towards the straw straight from the tachi-ai, but his opponent countered briefly at the edge with a shove of his own and then movement to his left, but instead of swiping at Yoshikaze sideways as he did to Tamanoshima yesterday, Kakizoe positioned himself in front of his opponent and drove him back. With Yoshikaze on the move, there was nowhere to go for him now but back and out. Good, persistent win from Kakizoe today who improves to 2-1 while Yoshikaze is 1-2.

M11 Homasho failed to make an impact from the tachi-ai today against M12 Tamakasuga, but he grounded himself well enough to the dohyo and kept his arms extended and moving just enough to thwart a serious counter tsuppari attack from the King. As the two circled slowly in the center of the ring looking for an opening, the younger Homasho got it first and pounced in for a solid grip with the left hand, which he smartly used to drive Tamakasuga straight back and out with. Shikoroyama-oyakata would be the first to say that Homasho's gotta work on his tachi-ai. He got away with it today as he usually will at this position in the ranks, but he can't survive with that tachi-ai much higher up. He'll breathe easy at 2-1 while the King falls to 1-2.

And speaking of tachi-ai that have lost their punch, M12 Tosanoumi failed to budge M11 Iwakiyama in their bout today. The gorilla just stood his ground as Tosanoumi spun his wheels pushing into Iwakiyama's chest, and after about three seconds of the nonsense, Iwakiyama delivered one one of those rogue barrels that come crashing down in a random course that always crush poor Mario to the dirt. Iwakiyama moves to 2-1 with the hataki-komi win while Tosanoumi ails at 1-2.

Good ole Roho....going for a pull of his opponent at the worst time. Today against M10 Wakanosato, the Russian had good intentions charging straight and a bit low to cut of any sorta inside position from Wakanosato, but it took all of two seconds to panic and go for a pull down that Wakanosato was waiting for and used to seize the inside position forcing Roho back and out with little fanfare. I think I can actually see both Hakurozan and Roho making a bit of an effort to return to sound sumo, but the crap sumo is so ingrained into them at this point, it's prolly hopeless. Both rikishi are 2-1.

M9 Kasugao showed just how uncomfortable he is fighting from the migi-yotsu position today against M10 Dejima who charged low but was unable to force Kasugao back. The Korean grabbed a left outer grip and attempted a force-out charge but was rebuffed rather easily at the tawara by Dejima. As the action slid back into the center of the ring the stalemate was on causing me reach for my Wish You Were Here CD. After listening to both Shine on You Crazy Diamond tracks, I returned my gaze to the television just in time to see Kasugao go for a left belt throw this time aiding the attack with his left leg planted firmly inside of Dejima's right using the leg to flip Dejima over and down as he threw him. Good the end. Both rikishi are 1-2.

M8 Takekaze really looks lost this basho. At the starting lines, M7 Goeido was hunkered down and ready to go while Takekaze was still upright and as shifty as a shoplifter before he purloins the goods. When the two did attack, Takekaze merely put both hands weakly at Goeido's shoulders offering no force upon impact, so Goeido just pivoted to his left and slapped Takekaze's ass down to the dohyo. My guess is that the pull sumo was the result of fear of a tachi-ai henka from Takekaze. Nonetheless, Goeido quietly moves to 3-0 while Takekaze drops to 0-3. In the booth today, Kariya Announcer was flanked by Oguruma-oyakata, who musta had a rough day watching both of his Makuuchi rikishi get their asses kicked. Course, when Yoshikaze and Takekaze are your only two dudes, you're gonna have those days more often than not.

M7 Takamisakari committed a false start today against M8 Tochinonada drawing huge laughter from the Kokugikan crowd, but the Japanese will laugh at anything (believe me...I've watched their "variety" shows before). When the two finally did hook up Tochinonada enjoyed the firm left inside position, which he used to swing the Cop over to the edge but not out. With a right outer grip of his own, the gangly Sakari countered nicely forcing the action back into the middle of the ring where it was his turn to attack, and he did so brilliantly first lifting up at Nada's left side by the belt keeping Tochinonada from planting his left leg and attempting another charge of his own, and second by pinching inwards on Tochinonada's left arm near the straw disabling any sorta counter position. Great stuff today as the Cop picks up his first win. Too bad his quirkiness overshadows his great counter sumo for most observers. Tochinonada falls to 2-1.

After too long of a pause by M6 Hokutoriki at the starting lines against M5 Toyonoshima, you just knew he was thinking of something. That something was a weak henka to his right where Jokutoriki went for a meager shoulder slapdown that failed miserably and setup Toyonoshima with the inside position, a stance that allowed the Tokitsukaze-beya prodigy to waste no time in driving Hokutoriki across the ring and out. Toyonoshima stays perfect while Hokutoriki is winless.

M5 Tochiohzan and M6 Futenoh created medium impact at the tachi-ai that saw Futenoh grab his favored inside position with the left, but gaining no momentum from the tachi-ai, Tochiohzan was able to hold his ground and grab a right outer grip in the process. Oh first looked to hunker down and plant his head into Futenoh's jaw, but Futenoh brushed him off like a dog shaking fleas breaking Tochiohzan's outer grip in the process. With nothing to hold onto and counter with, Tochiohzan was as easy as Paris Hilton leaving Futenoh the clear force-out path from there. Don't look now but Fruitenoh is 3-0 from the M6 slot while Tochiohzan needs to rethink things at 0-3.

M4 Aminishiki and M3 Kakuryu traded a flurry of weak tsuppari from the tachi-ai, shoves that were more of an attempt to feel the other guy up--I mean out--and set up an attack. Aminishiki pounced first grabbing a left outer grip in the melee and using it straightway to drag Kakuryu over to the ring's edge and hoist him out from there in spectacular fashion. Kakuryu (0-3) has gone soft on us again while Aminishiki's experience in these parts was on full display. He moves to 2-1.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku had to have been aware of his 3-10 history coming in against M4 Tokitenku because he was tentative at the charge. It didn't help that Tokitenku connected with a perfect hari-te with the left hand that setup the quick outer grip on the same side. The Geeku tried to dig in with the right on the inside, but his left was nowhere near an outer grip due to Tokitenku's height and positioning, so Tenku wasted no time in using that left outside position to mount a solid yori-kiri charge. Make that 3-11 as Kotoshogiku suffers his first loss. Tokitenku is a quiet 2-1 as well.

A fairly good day--no make that basho so far--of tactical sumo was ruined at this point by a tachi-ai henka from Komusubi Asasekiryu against Sekiwake Ama. Asasekiryu barely moved to his right but jumped straight up in the air and just mounted Ama from up top driving him down to the clay in an ugly affair. Ama was stretching his elbow afterwards, so let's hope he's alright. His 2-1 record is no consolation for being done like that. Asasuckiryu moves to 2-1 as well.

At least Komusubi Kisenosato salvaged a bit of pride for the rank as he pounded Ozeki Kaio grabbing an early right grip from the tachi-ai and using his left arm to cut off Ozeki's right. Kaio shifted a bit to counter, but the Kid drove him back towards the straw where a nonsensical pull attempt from Kaio was all Kisenosato needed to deliver that final force-out blow. Kisenosato improves to 2-1 after having fought one Yokozuna and two Ozeki and is prolly still kicking himself for blowing that bout against Chiyotaikai yesterday. Kaio suddenly looks shaky at 1-2.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki hooked up with M2 Kyokutenho in the gappuri migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but when Kyokutenho tries as he's done the last coup'la basho, the only rikishi who I'd favor over him in a gappuri yotsu contest are Hakuho, Kotooshu, and Baruto. If I left Asashoryu off of that list then you know Kotomitsuki won't be on it either, and today was the perfect example why. The Ozeki knew he was had early on as he abandoned first his inner grip only to grab it again and next his outer grip only to grab that again as well. Kyokutenho is so good in this position because of his height advantage, and he just smothered Kotomitsuki disallowing any hopes of escape or a counter maki-kae. The damage was done in a matter of seconds as Kyokutenho picks up his first one while handling Mitsuki is first loss.

Ozeki Kotooshu continued his roll today against M3 Miyabiyama opting for a tsuppari tachi-ai...something I think all tall rikishi should implement from the start. Miyabiyama tried to counter with tsuppari of his own, but Kotooshu dug in, kept his chin up, and shortly found an opening that knocked Miyabiyama to the side and off balance. With his lower body sufficiently grounded from the get-go, Oshu was ready to pounce and drove Miyabiyama back and into the second row for good measure. A rare oshi-dashi win for Kotooshu (3-0), but he continued his spotless sumo again today. Just keep it up AFTER picking up that eight win...that's all I ask. MiFlobbiyama is 0-3.

Just how impotent Ozeki Chiyotaikai has become was on display today against M2 Wakanoho, who showed great maturity to just stand his ground at the tachi-ai and time a perfect slap to the side of the Pup's face with the right hand that sent the Ozeki sprawling as an Ozeki never should. Not much more to it than that as Wakanoho picks up a solid win moving to 1-2. Chiyotaikai suffers his first loss after lucking out yesterday.

In the most compelling bout of the day, Yokozuna Hakuho hit M1 Baruto at the tachi-ai harder than I've ever seen anyone else do it. The Estonian just bounced off of the Yokozuna the attack was that good. With Baruto having been knocked straight up and a step back, Hakuho slapped him ferociously to the side and then assumed the manlove position. The fun only lasted for a second though as Hakuho just dragged Baruto backwards by the front of the mawashi spilling him awkwardly to the clay causing me to flinch just a bit, but when he stood back up he seemed fine. Considering his competition, it's okay for Baruto to be 0-3 at this point, but is it me or does he look like an old man out there the way he moves? He may never fully recover from that knee injury. As for Hakuho, he sent a message today moving to 3-0, but we still have a lot of territory to cover.

In the day's final bout, Asashoryu did an awkward hop from the tachi-ai that M1 Kokkai didn't make him pay for, so the Yokozuna followed that with a late kachi-age using the right arm. The blow was effective enough that Asashoryu was able to stand Kokkai upright just a bit and then move to his right causing Kokkai to stumble forward as he reloaded. With the Georgian now fumbling forward, he was the easy pushout fodder from behind. Clancy mentions this oft, but Asashoryu coulda really sent Kokkai packing in their bout today, but he mercifully kept him atop the clay mound in the win today. Like Baruto, there's no real shame in Kokkai's 0-3 start, but these two sure could have added more excitement these first few days with better efforts. Asashoryu moves to 2-1 and has already faced his toughest competition until he greets Kotooshu next Wednesday or so.

Three days in, and I've really been encouraged by the sumo we've seen so far. Let's hope Kitanofuji's fears can be allayed by some of these horses keeping pace with the two Yokozuna. If I need a break from myself, then so do you. Mark gives it to you tomorrow.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
One of the best parts of the day 1 broadcast is the minute or so before the rikishi step atop the dohyo for the first Makuuchi bout of the day. The dohyo-iri and other hype is all out of they way, and NHK puts the focus on Fujii Announcer and Kitanofuji in the booth as the two enjoy a candid conversation about the basho. Being the professional that he is, Fujii Announcer wasted none of the conversation on who was going to yusho as it's pointless before the whole thing starts to debate between Asashoryu and Hakuho, so instead he asked Kitanofuji about potential jun-yusho rikishi. Kitanofuji paused a bit and then frankly replied, "the problem is none of the Ozeki can win 13 bouts right now." It was a brilliant remark and probably one made out of frustration that there is no clear cut number three guy in sumo these days.

Back when Takanohana was dominating in the mid-nineties, you always had other rikishi just one or two off the pace in the end. Musashimaru...Takanonami...Wakanohana...and of course Akebono. And even after Asashoryu was crowned Yokozuna, the Ozeki still gave the Yokozuna a run for his money and took every other yusho for that first year and change. One of the problems with sumo right now is that the Ozeki collectively are weak, and any potential candidates for the rank peter out faster than Vanilla Ice's career. Having said that, it was nice to see the Ozeki get off to a good start on day 1 because they really are key to adding excitement to a basho the first 14 days. Let's get to the day 2 bouts going in chronological order.

M15 Toyohibiki showed great de-ashi from the start as he used his tsuppari attack to drive M16 Kotokasuga around the ring and to the edge, but as happens in seemingly every bout with the Nikibi, he gave up the advantage at the edge allowing Kotokasuga to slip into the moro-zashi position. The rookie turned the tables quickly and looked to force Toyohibiki out that last step, but the Nikibi lifted up at Kotokasuga's left arm and evaded to his right dumping Kotokasuga across the straw for a nifty hiki-otoshi win...not to mention a 2-0 start. Kotokasuga suffers his first loss in the tough luck bout.

In a compelling match early on, the two remaining rookies, M14 Tochinoshin and M16 Hakuba, bumped chests in a solid bout of sumo. The two hooked up immediately in the migi-yotsu position from the tachi-ai with both enjoying left outers, a stance that obviously favors the taller Tochinoshin. The Georgian swiftly forced Hakuba back to the edge, but Hakuba wouldn't go easily unleashing a swell scoop throw attempt with the right arm that nearly threw Tochinoshin to the brink, but the younger Shin showed excellent ring presence as he was able to plant his right foot and loft Hakuba across the straw as he himself flew completely off the dohyo. It was close, but gunbai to Tochinoshin who has looked great the first two days. Unlike most of the other Eastern European rikishi, this guy has a lot of potential. His sumo is based from the ground up, and he can't spell the word h-i-k-u. I attribute his sound sumo to his hailing from the Kasugano-beya, an established stable with a handful of good sekitori and a sharp oyakata in the former Tochinowaka. Shin's a keeper for sure at 2-0 not to mention that this kid is only a score and six months old! Hakuba has now lost to his fellow rookies on consecutive days.

The brother's Ho just don't get it. You don't give away your size and strength advantage by pulling your opponent two seconds in, especially when he's M1`4 Yoshikaze, but that's exactly what M15 Hakurozan did today. After a solid tachi-ai, he immediately went for the pull with the right hand, but Yoshikaze (1-1) was onto it like flies to stink, and Hakurozan couldn't recover as he was pushed out in four uneventful seconds or so to an 0-2 record.

In battle of crusty ole veterans, M13 Tamanoshima looked to have pull on his mind from the get-go because a half second after the two bumped chests, Peter evaded to his left pulling M12 Tosanoumi in the process. Tosanoumi kept his feet and looked to briefly have a shot at survival as he countered at the edge, but Tamanoshima was too swift in his attack has he danced back around the straw and pulled the Blue Collar Man down for good. I didn't like Tamanoshima's tactic today of immediately going for pull sumo, but he gave Tosanoumi a fair fight. A stronger tachi-ai from Tosanoumi would have worked today, but he kept his head too low and didn't generate enough impact. Both dudes are 1-1.

M13 Kakizoe timed his tachi-ai perfectly and used his tsuppari to drive M12 Tamakasuga back to the straw in a flash, but they don't call him the King for nuthin'. With his right foot braced against the straw, KingTama looked as if he'd evade to his right, so Kakizoe complied by shoving him that way instead of back and out that last step. With Tamakasuga now dancing along the edge and Kakizoe in tow, the latter was too low in his attack, and Tamakasuga was able to drag him down for the improbable win after that tachi-ai. Both rikishi rest on 1-1.

M10 Dejima jumped for the bottom hammer against M11 Iwakiyama today looking to grab an insurmountable inside position, but Iwakiyama kept him it bay with a solid tsuppari attack, and after about three seconds in, I-Kong took the initiative and just barreled Dejima back and out despite the latter briefly grabbing moro-zashi at the edge. This was good stuff from Iwakiyama who takes the girl to the next level at 1-1. Dejima (1-1) better figure out how to punch out those yellow rivets tomorrow.

In a battle of likeable rikishi, one old and one new, M11 Homasho was his usual passive self at the tachi-ai against M10 Wakanosato, but you never want to let Wakanosato get the early position because he can beat anybody not named Khan once you give him the inside position. He got it with the left arm and quickly drove Homasho back to the straw where Homie briefly tried an utchari counter-throw, but Wakanosato's grip was too smothering, and Homasho only lifted his opponent back and on top of him in a bout that equated to an ass-kicking. Both rikishi are 1-1.

Just a side comment here, but who relegated the man in the gold top hat to the seats along the hanamichi instead of his usual cushion four rows back on the muko-jomen side? For the second day in a row, top hat has actually had to use the stairs to get to his seat. He musta pissed somebody off at the Association. Prolly got caught rooting for Asashoryu.

Anyway, in a battle of yotsu heavy-weights, the solid sumo contest would not pan out as M8 Tochinonada slipped back and to his left at the tachi-ai in an effort to deny M9 Kasugao anything with the right hand. Kasugao kept his footing after the henka and charged low into Tochinonada, but pull sumo was on Nada's mind, and he was able to dance backwards and keep Kasugao guessing. After five seconds or so of sloppy sumo, the two rikishi became separated and standing upright. In this position, Tochinonada just lunged forward this time using a sound attack by pushing at Kasugao's right side with his left arm knocking the Korean off balance to where he was pull-down material in the end. Wasn't pretty 'tall but I guess Nada will take that 2-0 start. Kasugao is winless.

Clancy's definition of M9 Roho's shikona held true again today against M8 Takekaze as he struck and immediately moved out to his left pulling at his opponent in the process. Takekaze, probably sensing a henka, didn't pop the Russian as sufficiently at the tachi-ai as he needed to resulting in an easy pull-down win for Roho. It was ugly again for Roho, but he is 2-0. Takekaze is still an o'fer.

M7 Takamisakari celebrated his 32nd birthday today against M6 Futenoh and was obviously in a giving mood because he didn't do anything at the tachi-ai except stand straight up and allow Futenoh the solid morozashi position, which he promptly used to drive the Cop straight back and out in two seconds. I initially thought that Takamisakari wasn't ready and was caught off guard from a false start by Futenoh, but after watching the replays, it was sound. Takamisakari just got caught napping today and falls to 0-2 fer the lapse. Fruitenoh is 2-0.

And speaking of jumping the gun, M6 Hokutoriki looked to get the early advantage today against M7 Goeido but ended up committing a false start. In the process, though, he played his hand, and Goeido was savvy enough to make him pay for it. As the two reloaded, Goeido complied this time pounding both fists to the dirt in time with Hokutoriki, but instead of coming up out of his crouch, he just stayed low causing Hokutoriki to throw both hands into a moro-te hold that wasn't there. Goeido promptly came out of his stance at this point and bearhugged the Joker back and out in mere seconds. Wow...that was a ballsy move on Goeido's part, but it worked to perfection. Give that boy a 2-0 start while Hokutoriki has some answering to do to the missus at 0-2.

M4 Tokitenku and M5 Tochiohzan hooked up in the early migi-yotsu position that saw Tenku grab the shallow outer grip with the finger tips on his left hand, but Oh shook it off a few seconds in and grabbed a left outer of his own. Tochiohzan looked to have the advantage at this point, but Tokitenku pulled him in close and aligned chests leaving Tochiohzan more upright than he wanted to be. To his credit Tochiohzan tried to attack using the left outer position, but he had no punch, and you could just see that Tokitenku had the clear advantage. On about Tochiohzan's third force-out attempt, Tokitenku said enough of the funny bidness and just turned the tables bellying Tochiohzan around and out with his solid right inside position. It means nothing for Tochiohzan (0-2) to have good basho from low in the ranks against inferior opponents. He's gotta learn to beat the guys in the upper half of the division. Solid stuff from Tenku as he moves to 1-1.

M4 Aminishiki was proactive at the tachi-ai in using tsuppari into M5 Toyonoshima's throat to keep him at bay, but that really isn't Sneaky's game, and Toyonoshima was able to duck inside getting his left arm deep on Aminishiki's right side. As Toyonoshima immediately drove Aminishiki back, Ami went for the counter right outer grip throw, but Toyonoshima's position was too good and crushed his now committed opponent back and down into a heap in the corner of the dohyo. Toyonoshima actually has some momentum at 2-0 for the first time in a a few basho. Sneaky settles for 1-1.

Sekiwake Ama got back on track big time today against M3 Kakuryu going back to the tachi-ai that prompted talk of Ozeki in the first place. The Sekiwake used a right paw to the neck of the Kak, choking him all the way back to the edge where he used a few final shoves at the edge causing the Kak to shoot off the dohyo altogether in short order. I'm guessing Ama was confident he could use that tachi-ai today against the smaller Kakuryu, but he's gotta trust in himself and use it against all of his opponents, even the big'uns like Miyabiyama and Hakuho. Ama moves to 2-0 with the win while the Kak has barely come at 0-2.

Sekiwake Kotoshogiku showed just how to fight M3 Miyabiyama, which is to be persistent and fend off the tsuppari until you can get on the inside. These days Miyabiyama's thrusts from the tachi-ai are largely with the arms only, so you just gotta be patient. The Geeku did just that taking a few shoves to the neck before getting his left arm on the inside of the Hutt's right. He lifted up perfectly at Miyabiyama's right arm twisting the Sheriff back towards the straw and securing the insurmountable moro-zashi position. Twas swift as Kotoshogiku picks up his second win while the Miyabiyama falls to 0-2.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kotomitsuki bullied his way into the moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai against M2 Wakanoho and had the youngster forced back and across the straw without argument. The Ozeki's attack was perfect as he first secured both arms on the inside, and then lifted his opponent upright eliminating any chance of a belt grip over the top. I hope Wakanoho (0-2) brought his pencil box because school's in session this basho. Kotomitsuki was perfect as he moves to 2-0.

And speaking of perfect, Ozeki Kotooshu has been just that this basho. Today against M2 Kyokutenho he gave up the early left outer grip at the tachi-ai, but instead of panicking and retreating as he was wont to do the past...oh...two or three years, he dug in using his right arm to lift up at Kyokutenho's left side as he fished for a left outer grip of his own on the other side. After a 10-second stalemate, Kotooshu bullied his way into that left outer grip, but Kyokutenho used the shift in position to attack. It was to no avail, however, as Kotooshu dug in and used Tenho's momentum to swing him around and across the straw with the initial right inside grip. This was fabulous stuff again from Kotooshu, and the difference this basho is that his sumo has been from the legs up. He's trusting in his size and strength knowing he has the advantage in the end. My only concern is that Kotooshu (2-0) is shooting for eight wins and not higher. Guess we'll find out in week 2. Kyokutenho is 0-2.

Ozeki Chiyotaikai looked to be the first Ozeki to fall this basho as Komusubi Kisenosato laughed off the Ozeki's tsuppari from the tachi-ai and shoved him back near the tawara, but in the process the Kid gave up the sound position he had gained, and even though Chiyotaikai awkwardly stumbled off balance to his right as he evaded, Kisenosato couldn't capitalize. Chiyotaikai quickly regained his footing and used his feisty tsuppari to force Kisenosato back and upright to where Chiyotaikai actually grabbed morozashi and forced the Kid back those last few steps setting up the oshi-dashi win. The difference in this one was Kisenosato not wanting to take a few more slaps to the grill in order to get the insurmountable inside position. Credit Chiyotaikai for never giving up in this one as he moves to a shaky 2-0. Kisenosato falls to 1-1 with the ugly bout, and it goes back to Kitanofuji's initial frustration that no other rikishi besides the Yokozuna can win 13 bouts in a basho.

Rounding out the Ozeki ranks, Kaio was the first one to fall as Komusubi Asasekiryu moved to his right at the tachi-ai grabbing the back of Kaio's belt with his left hand and twisting the Ozeki around and back. Kaio actually dug in valiantly, but if he's forced to do a 360 in the ring, he ain't survivin'. Asasekiryu had him pushed back and out in about three uneventful seconds as both rikishi now stand at 1-1.

In the Yokozuna ranks, there was no way that Asashoryu was going to belly up to M1 Baruto and align chests with the Biomass, so he shifted to his right and grabbed Baruto's left arm in the kote-nage position from the tachi-ai. Baruto also stepped forward with his right foot at the start causing no bump from the tachi-ai...only some grappling with the arms for position. Asashoryu came away with the left inside position at the front of Baruto's belt, but the Estonian leaned down on top of him and countered with his right arm wrapped around Asa's left from over the top. As the two grappled for position, Asashoryu was able to work his right arm into an outer belt grip on the other side, and as Baruto adjusted his footing to counter, Asashoryu twisted him around with the inside belt grip and dumped him to the clay lifting up with the right outer. This was yet another unorthodox bout from the Yokozuna, and I still can't figure out how 
he sent Baruto back on his ass without using his legs to trip him, especially when only yesterday the Yokozuna was complaining of a bad back. I mean, Asashoryu's good, but he ain't no Alexander Karelin. Nonetheless, Asashoryu picks up his first win and still controls his own destiny, which is all he can ask for. Still, judging from the first two days of sumo, Hakuho is the Yokozuna who seems better grounded in his attack.

In the day's final bout, the said Hakuho easily lunged into the left inside position from the tachi-ai and used it to lift M1 Kokkai upright to the point where he grabbed the right inside on the other side spelling moro-zashi. It was curtains at this point as Hakuho methodically drove Kokkai back and out with llittle fanfare. Hakuho has been flawless the first two days while Baruto and Kokkai haven't provided much excitement.

Two days in and the surprise so far has to be Kotooshu. It's no surprise that he's 2-0 at this point as kadoban Ozeki always seem to find ways to get their eight. What is surprising is how he's doing it...with solid, forward-moving sumo. Keep it up.

If Clancy thought Kotooshu's legs were gorgeous, wait until I flaunt mine tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hey ya'll, you are welcome to the "Natsu" basho, which means "summer" in Nipponese, and it's summer the way it ought to be. Warm all day long bordering on hot for only two hours or so in midafternoon and then cooling down at dusk with nary a mosquito in sight, and a pleasant night without the sound of those billion frogs that will invade the rice fields/ponds once everyone has planted this year's crop.

I'm going to give you two lists to read over. 1.) Dejima, Tokitenku, Takekaze, Asasekiryu, Asasekiryu, Kokkai. 2.) Kotoshogiku, Kisenosato, Kisenosato, Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Baruto. Just off the top of your noggin, which list would you rather face, given your druthers? Yeah, I thought as much. Many of you will be unsurprised to learn that List 1 is Hakuho's foes since Jan. on Days 1 and 2, while List 2 is Asashoryu's.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the NSK will do most anything in their power to somehow subvert and derail Asashoryu, plain and simple. Many of you are probably thinking, Whoa there Kelly, the Yokozuna fight the Komusubi on Day 1 and usually the Maegashira 1 on Day 2. Right. But let's look closer. In Jan and Mar, when Asa was WY, he got for his Day 1 and Day 2 foes EK, E1, EK, W1. Now in May as EY he gets EK, W1 (with the W1 being Baruto the Biomass). I'm not going to waste bandwidth arguing what is plain to see: Of the two Yokozuna, Asa gets scheduled the tougher foes on the first two days. In not one of those matchups would you choose Hakuho's foe as the more dangerous one (yes, even in the Kak vs. Sexy March Day 2, as Sexy and Kak are, in terms of their ability to beat certain others, roughly the same guy at the moment).

There are those who will cry, Hey, myan, they want the best matchup! Right, sure, so then why in Jan did they pit Asa vs Geeku on Day 1 when Geeku had BEATEN Hakuho on Day 1 in Nov? Doesn't it stand to reason that seeing if the Geeku could do it twice in a row would be more dramatic then Hakuho vs. his purple majesty, The Degyptian? Please.

Others of you may protest that it doesn't really matter because both Yokozuna will have to fight each K and M1 during the basho anyway. Right. And have you ever stood at the startline of a relay race running Leg 1, served first in a tennis final, been first up in a porn shoot, or taken the first tee shot in a foursome with your boss and his two important clients? I have, and though I kicked ass each and every time (well, in the porn shoot I didn't exactly kick ass), that doesn't mean Asashoryu can do the same! These guys of course are going to claim it doesn't matter when they take on whom, but we all know it does, which is why every language has phrases like "butterflies, nerves, jitters, rocky start, settled down, found his rhythm, shaken off the cobwebs" et cetera. Anyone who has been in heated competition knows how vital it is to start off well, not only for your record but also for your peace of mind. Catchup is great with fries, but sucks when you're chasing Hakuho.

So did the NSK's gambit pay off today? We shall see.

First bout had Koto vs. Hak, which seems like a mindblowingly good matchup until I type the rest of their names, Kotokasuga and Hakuba. Kotokasu is the feel good story of the basho, having spent a shitload of time in the minors until getting this his first shot at Makuuchi. Took him eleven years to reach Juryo, and then three and a half to reach Maegashira. His foe is yet another Mongolian, from the same heya as former Makuuchi boy Toyozakura. Hakuba took 7 years to reach Juryo, and then only eight basho to get to the top division. East beats West in this one as Kotokasuga parlayed a stiff throat hold into an inside left which he used to perfection, lifting up Hakuba's right arm and twisting him into the clay. Good to see some new blood.

And not so nice to see old blood. Baldurozan is back with all his glorious slop, and today it was up to The Zit to take care of bidness. After two nervous purvis false starts, Hakurozan used a tachi-ai harite which accomplished precisely zip, and as Toyohibiki, like an angry Horton came menacingly forward, the younger of the Wickersham Brothers took a shine to the slapdown, but someone forgot to tell him to keep his feet in the ring while he plays silly games, and although The Nikibi flew out, he flew out with win numero uno!

21-9 during a two basho stay in Juryo, rookie Tochinoshin from Georgia (and though looks can be deceiving, not kin to Kokkai) showed he may be Tochinoshit by niftily blocking Yoshikaze from getting the front belt grip, weathering the inevitable face/neck slapping, getting in his own face push and locking up Yoshi's left arm, which he used at the edge to wrench his foe around until he stepped out. Yoshikaze isn't the most dangerous rikishi, but he's full of piss and vinegar and was a solid first day test for Kokkai's unkin. (He also has some of the Kotooshu feel about him, given his meteoric rise and huge thighs. Let's hope he has more "head" than the Ozeki.)

Kakizoe and Peter had at it, and Zoe kept to what works for him, hard low tachi-ai then lifting up on the arms and keeping as little separation between the two as possible in order to run the other guy out. Sadly, Tamanoshima went along with this plan to the letter, letting himself be dismissed while offering only the amount of resistance Arbo offers drunken 45kg women who need rides home to their lonely apartments from his bar.

The two oldest wrestlers in the top flight locked up (no, not rigor mortis) with Tosanoumi, our boy back in Makuuchi where he belongs, doing essentially the same thing as Kakizoe did, staying low and right in on Tamakasuga and driving him out via yorikiri. King Tama put up a bit more fight than Peter did in the previous bout, but the outcome was the same.

In a bout that looked good on paper and was even better in flesh, Homasho and Iwakiyama gave us the first head cracking tachi-ai of the basho followed by some kangaroo-ish slapping. When Iwonkeykong managed to slip to his right, Homario almost tripped on one of the barrels, but righted his bad self and came back at the big ape to get the two handed inside morozashi grip. Though the elder Hutt had his arm wrapped Homa3PO's neck, the W11 kept lifting him and bouncing him and finally he backed him out. 99.999% of Earth's population would be unable to sleep from the lower back pain after lifting that weight. Nice win for Homasho.

In a match we would have been watching in the final thirty minutes four years ago, Dejima took on Wakanosato and steamrolled him out too fast for analysis. Waka actually tried to forearm Dejima to the chin. Uh, yeah, that's gonna upset a 3000 year-old man, duh!!! Put the tape of this bout in the sarcophagus already. 

I did some research between basho, and I discovered that the shikona "Roho" actually means "to yank in a downward direction, then back roughly in an upward direction in an effort to cause friction". Today he masterfully baited Kasugao into opening up and allowing the Russian a quick belt, which I must say Roho used to perfection, slinging the Korean down in a flash. Both men, however, were moving to their left at tachi-ai, so the writing is on the wall. Rasputin will be up to no good this fortnight (Mike has made that last word mandatory for all contributors this basho).

People (usually those who ate lead paint as children) go on and on about Takamisakari's pre-bout warm up ritual, with all the funny slapping and goofy eye blinking and scratching and whatnot, but if you're looking for a guy who does it cool as sheeot, look no further than the Gentle Giant himself, Tochinonada. Today he did the two handed inside knees, then outside knees, then thighs, then ass, then left shoulder, right shoulder, then the back of each hand (interesting), then slapped his hands together, brought them up to his face and pounded them flat against his face a couple of times, then whacked his belt before bending over and grabbing some salt and making this tiny throw in front and behind, so smooth you might not catch it. The man is a great sumo guy, period. And the runner stole second!

In the fight, Takekaze shot himself forward at tachi-ai, determined to bring the bout to a quick end, then swiftly changed tactics and tried to drag Tochi forward but the E8 righted the ship and then Takekaze tried a leg trip that didn't work and now they shifted to the middle of the ring and Takekaze bent down and using a decent belt grip went into the big forward push one more time but the venerable veteran vexed his foe by using his momentum against him, throwing to the dirt the W8, who won the battles but lost the war. Yes, that was one sentence.

Mr. Bean took on Goeido and while he was able to keep the young man at bay for a while, eventually Goeido got in and using a front belt grip (mae-mawashi) moved Takami to the edge where he predictably put up a stiff resistance. Goeido knew it was coming, however, and countered perfectly, pulling down and forward with that front belt grip and spilling Circus to the ground. Criticizing Takamisakari's tachi-ai is like pointing out poor locution by members of the Hee Haw troupe, so nothing to say there, but the manner in which Goeido won was not entirely unlike Asashoryu, with the lightning quick change in attack and the expert execution. Do this against Kotomitsuki and we'll talk.

Last bout of the first half had Fruitenoh and the Joker, and true to form Hokutoriki used the hand to the face at tachi-ai, but Futenoh got in under the pits and crushed him out like dried red pepper. I'd rather spend 24 years locked in a cellar with my insane, horny father than watch Hokutoriki wrestle.

Given his recent form, Tochiohzan had to be the favorite going in to his match with Toyonoshima, but Toyo got low at tachi-ai and stood his foe up, and with the morozashi, just bellied him out like Dejima or Geeku do on their good days. 

Tokitenku had Aminishiki dead to rights at the edge, but Shneaky somehow managed to square his shoulders and push Toki away, and when the Mongolian came charging back at Shneaky, he forgot to bring his legs along and Aminishiki two-handed slapped the back of Toki's head with expert timing and moved to 1-0. Like not getting back on defense when the ref doesn't call a foul on your defender during your drive to the hoop, or blowing that second serve because your opponent called your obvious ace out, Tokitenku suffered a classic case of losing your focus because you're thinking you should have already won the bout.

(After this bout the English announcer called Aminishiki "tricky tricky". Sounds a lot like Martin's "Aminishneaky" to me. Think they nicked the idea from Laptop?)

Are we supposed to be catching wood because of all the Nipponese who are coming out to watch sumo now that it's popular again? To Hades with these fair weather freaks (who incidentally can't throw a zabuton to save their lives). I took the good times, I'll take the bad times, I'll take you just the way you are. Billy Joel is a huge sumo fan.

The Kak took on the Geek and got an inside right, and just as the forward charging Geeku grabbed for an outside left belt, the Kak shot his load at the edge, planting his left leg straight with knee locked and almost twisting down the Sekiwake. Kotoshogiku managed to keep his feet under him and blew the now flaccid Kak back and across the ring and out. Seemed to me that Kakuryu should have used his left hand to shove down on the back of Geeku's head as he tried to throw him down.

Ama pulled the first henka of the tourney, greasing Miflobby with the tachi-ai sidestep and escorting him out in the manlove position. Did the same thing to him on Day 13 of the January basho (and he manloved out Dejima in Jan. as well). What is it with Ama and the biggest, fattest of these big, fat guys? That loathsome henka carries a stink that will color my dreams tonight.

Wakanoho and Kotooshu got right off into the Big Man Classic Sumo stance, chest to chest with each guy having at least one strong belt grip. Kotooshu showed he is the stronger rikishi for now by hugging the teenager back and out in a very controlled manner. No two ways about it, Kotooshu has gorgeous legs and if they are involved in lifting people, he will win that bout nearly every time. This bout was also a bit of payback for the tough loss Kotooshu suffered to Wakanoho in Osaka, when the youngster beat him on Day 9 as if he wasn't even there.

Chiyotaikai used one of those masked henka-ish tachi-ai he is good at, throwing his tsuppari bombs while not moving forward at all and actually moving a bit to his left. This caused Kyokutenho to rush in and fall forward, but his positioning had been compromised to the point where the Ozeki was able to drive him out from the side. Looks to me like Chiyotaikai is not waving, but drowning.

Ozeki Kaio stole a page from The Pup's book, shifting cheaply at tachi-ai and flummoxing Baruto enough where he was unable to block Kaio from getting the belt, which he did and used to drive Baruto back and out, despite the Biomass' patented (and desperate) last ditch over the shoulder wedgie attempt. I'd like to praise Kaio, but tachi-ai shenanigans from an Ozeki are bush league in my book.

So Kotomitsuki had a chance to make sure the Ozeki escaped Day 1 at least 50/50 in the respectability department, and he delivered emphatically, deftly snagging an outside right (while remaining firmly in front of Kokkai and taking the blow) and torquing him around while pushing down with his hand on the back of the Georgian's neck quicker than you could say, Hakuho's Day 2 foe. I'm sure that Kublai is shitting himself worrying about tomorrow. Don't misunderstand, I dig Kokkai, love his new self, and wish him all the best. But if he beats Hakuho tomorrow I'll sleep the entire night in my bathtub, and feed a video of the feat live to Oprah's website.

So next we had Sexy dig in vs. Hakuho, who hasn't come close to beating Hakuho in a long time, and may never beat him again. Kublai used the harite and then came in and slapped the back of his head, causing the Komusubi to bend over in abject subjugation, and though he got back up but was off balance now and Hakuho just slapped him down, this time for good. I really feel that many of the wrestlers are totally at a loss as to what to do when fighting Hakuho, but they know it has to be 100%, so they get a bit wild and with Hakuho being as big and as strong as he is, he just hits/spins/swings them until they don't seem to know their up from down and then picks them off. I truly think we are only now about to see what kind of dominating Yokozuna Hakuho is going to be. His only weakness is the bane of any sportsman but Tiger Woods: Focus. He's too big and fast to take on in a belt battle, and he's too big and fast to take on in a slapping battle. If not for Asa being around, he'd be doing five or six yusho per year.

So, back to the opening question: Did the NSK get what they wanted? Yep. Asa lost the tachi-ai as Kisenosato came in with abandon, getting a quick inside right and driving Genghis back. Asa tried for the twisting throw, and even had his paw on the back of his foe's head, but The Kid did an outstanding job of pogo sticking his leg and bounding sideways into Asa, who had extended his right leg too far out underneath his body making the pivot throw, and as he tried to draw that right leg back to halt his backward momentum, he couldn't quite get it back far enough, and was damned lucky he didn't injure himself as the leg buckled and he crashed to the dirt.

Asa has no one to blame for this loss but himself, with his lack of ferociousness at tachi-ai costing him against the young and hungry youngster, who with this second win in three basho over Asashoryu may well be signaling his readiness for that long awaited Ozeki run.

It was all good for Hakuho as he strode down the hanamichi, kissed a young boy and went home to study tapes of his dangerous Day 2 opponent. Meanwhile Asa has to make absolutely sure he doesn't fugiddup vs. Landslide. 

Mike tests the pH balance of the dohyo tomorrow, while I skulk in the wings until Day 8. Skoal. 












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