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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)
I despise the phrase "110 percent." Not only does it demonstrate the sick, twisted logic of our greedy world (give more than you have; try harder than you can), its one of the more commonly used examples of how a poor understanding of mathematics can lead to shoddy thinking. A perfectly rational concept like "100 percent" is not enough for these bozos; no, they need to get "mathemetaphysical." 

You see, I love Numbers, the most beautiful language known to our species, and the power it has to prove (as in "beyond a reasonable doubt") lots of sheeott. Like Kaio, 37, 9-6 proves...outcomes can be arranged. Hakuho, 15-0, 2 times straight, 1000s of empty seats proves...domination is boring (and suggests his sports personality is as well, because domination with personality CAN fill seats [see Asashoryu]).

Of course, to be fair, Hakuho is a victim of timing as well. When Genghis went on his five-year tear of dominance, there were a few "never seen befores" attached. First furry to be such a beast, first non-American (why do they always call Takamiyama and Akebono and Musashimaru and Konishiki "Hawaiians" and not "Americans"--does anyone really believe that if America had not come to incorporate Hawaii into its union that the natives there would have become big, fat, rich, international stars?), first wrestler to take seven straight yusho, first to nab all six in a calendar year, etc. Its quite plausible to imagine the Japanese are now sated with such domination and its just Kublais bad luck to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. More likely its a bit of both, timing and bland personality. For better or worse (better in the case of attendance), color and controversy fill seats. 

Theres also the fact that a glut of furries has crowded the top while all the good homegrown has gotten smoked. The casual fan just doesnt have the munchies for sumo anymore, myan.

And dont misunderstand, I loves me some Hakuho. He is a superior wrestler in every way, a class act, and in interviews and on tv shows seems to be a fun, lovable guy. But hes no Asashoryu and it shows. Where? In the numbers, baby.

Well, the numbers show he IS an Asashoryu if were talking about owning slaves, aka The Sanyaku. If his 86 wins last year didnt prove it, his second straight no-hitter, made official today, ought to. As if responding to the record setting low attendance, Hakuho decided to mix it up today with Harumafuji, employing an unusual (for him) tsuppari slapping attack, one which got the joint jumping and one which the Ozeki (who often wins via such strategy) was only too happy to reciprocate. After a 360, both men were back at their starting positions, but this time Hakuho had a belt grip and Hrmph! was looking as beaten as a red-headed stepchild. A 007 second pause was followed by a powerful force out 15th win for Golddinger while Pussy Galore finishes at 9-6. Ill leave the analysis of what it all means for the post-basho report from The Maddening MixMaster Mike and His Magnificent Mawashi Mending Mechanism.

Earlier in the day Hiro called Kaio, whose been "inexplicably" hanging on for years now "an Ironman." Well, as far as I know, no Japanese currency is currently fashioned from iron, so...

Seriously, tho, it was evidently more important for Ozeki Kotooshu to enter the record books as Kaios 1000th victim than to bother exerting even as much energy as a newborn panda (yes, thats Kaios hand; dont know what the red thing is). After getting a deep inside left, Kotooshu patiently waited with heart-a-flutter for Kaio to take his turn and get his fingers into the SadOhGodTake Me beya mans mawashi. Once thus caught, he leaned in against the Mare like a thirty-five kilo freshman dancing with the senior quarterback of the football team. When Millennium Man made his yori-kiri move to his T-Bird out in the parking lot, the Bulgarian primly straightened his skirt and went along, saying "Be gentle, youre my first!" (which we all know is a lie, the tramp). A decidedly sub-par showing from the European, but how sub-par I will know only after I check in with The Fantastic Spastic Captain Kadastik and His Positronic Particle Perambulator

Hit or Mitsuki was all Yoshikaze today vs. shit...uh, I mean shin-Ozeki Baruto, bringing a fierce throat and chest attack that had the Biomass in a defensive retreat from the start. Things settled down with Hit holding a strong right hand-inside belt while keeping his head pressed against the Estonians mammaries. Oddly though Baruto did not try and reach down for what looked to be an eminently reachable outside left grip, choosing instead to sort of cradle his foes right arm and rest for a spell. Kotomitsuki, however, didnt fall off the daikon truck yesterday, and dude went for the kill. He let go off the belt with his right hand, which caused Baruto to try this spectacularly lame defensive armbar throw, and then pulled on the front belt with his left hand. Hit tried to take out some insurance by also sort of refingering the back of the mawashi where it ties together, but Baruto was already plummeting like a lead zeppelin. 

Im still floored by the henka Bio pulled on Kisenosato on Day 13, which Mike, with his usual ST Yokozuna insight, points out is worrisome "because it reveals he's a typical Euro headcase." (Thats a cut and paste quote from our IM session on Friday. Yeah, Im not just some hired gun, I actually KNOW Mike and were like, pals.) Many of you may now recall (after years of trying to forget) my Day 1 report from January 2007, when Kotooshu henkad the same Kisenosato and I drew a picture with my mouse showing my disdain.  I can only but wonder how hijinks like that makes The Marginally Munificent Martin Matra and His Confoundingly Complex Kimarite Crammed Cranium feel.

Asasekiryu finished a relatively strong basho by flashing us a little Mainoumi, leaping slightly over the shoulder of The Kid and coming up with a deadly outside left belt grip. As the Sekiwake hurried to equalize matters, this Sexy thief added an inside right to his ill-gotten goods and once that happened, well, the overly large female fired up her dulcet dirge. 

No matter, as Kisenosato retains his East Sekiwake rank to counter Geeku at West Sekiwake in July. Should be interesting to see who gets Komusubi. My guess is Sexy and Shiny, with Hakuba and Aran at M1. In case youre wondering, thatll be eight furries and four JPese in the top twelve spots. Im sure attendance numbers will shoot up in Nagoya (actually, they prolly will because, like Kenji, Nagoya only gets it once a year--badda boom). 

In a bout that mattered to their mothers only, Shneaky held up Kokkai for a second, and then moved and let him fall. Basho couldn’t finish quickly enough for the 3-12 Corporal, who hurried back to the locker rooms to find hed been busted down to buck Private, while his countryman Tochinoshin, who earlier in the proceedings got his third KK out of his last four basho, was made a Technical Sergeant. Aminishiki, nephew to Yokozuna Asahifuji (seen last week on NHK history highlights taking a yusho playoff by henkaing the American Konishiki--maybe shneakiness is genetic?), wins half as many as he lost. 

The only difference between Hakubas henka today and those he does most other days is that Kotoshogiku literally fell head over heels for it, cartwheeling like a goddamned Oompa Lompa off the dohyo.  Best bout of the day for that sight alone. Gene Wilder should have been the gyoji today, with his tophat and summoning pennywhistle. Definitely the kind of sumo enjoyed by The Remarkable Mark Arbo and His Barbaric Bludgeoning of Betrothed Bucolic Beaver Boodle.

Now Im not the kind of guy who picks on people for things they cant help, like being short, having no arms, or being born in New Jersey, so I was NOT laughing at the English guest announcers peculiar speech pattern (not out loud, at least). But when he said, with all apparent wide-eyed innocence, "It looks like Hakuba was READY to do that maneuver," I nearly shat myself from laughing. Where, oh where do they FIND these hayseeds? Do they teach some NHK bigwig English? And of course he followed up that diamond encrusted insight with the classic assfaced line, "Kotoshogiku fell for it, plunging ahead." Why do these numbnuts continue to fail comprehending that there is a huge amount of TRUST inherent in sumo, trust that your foe will give you a fair fight STARTING WITH an honest tachi-ai? Holy shit, I get so tired of hearing them spew their "take" on the henka. Seriously, for those of you new to the sport, take any honest bout and freeze-frame it at the point where the two men crash into each other. Now imagine one of them not there. Whaddya thinks gonna happen? Why dont we ever hear these Eigoholes say, after a tachi-ai where both men violently meet, "Well, they both foolishly plowed ahead?" Because thats what a fucking tachi-ai IS, you miscreants. Mike, please find a way for us at ST to do a live feed. 

In the last bout of the day with KK on the line, 7-7 Tochiohzan partied with 7-7 Tokitenku. Pushing is Tokidokis game, and Oh Snap was amenable to playing along for a while, knowing hed find his opening and get the belt, which in all likelihood would spell his remaining in Sanyaku. But the Mongolian anticipated the incoming youngster and gave him a powerful double handed, back-of-the-head yankdown (kinda like randy Kaio was doing to wispy Kotooshu out in the T-Bird). Bummer for Summer as Oh Pooh soils himself by losing to schleps like, uh, like, Hakuho, Mitsuki, Kotooshu, HowDo, Baruto, Kid and Kaio. Okay, so today was his second schlep (he kinda sorta had to lose to the first on Day 3).

Yoshikaze sodomized 7-7 Kakizoe good, henka'ing even though he had his own KK in hand, then getting around behind him and McLovin him out. Disappointingly ugly sumo from Starbuck. Must have been getting revenge for some Hazing Week prank his older schoolmate Sweet Zoe pulled on him at university.

Wakakoyu went 2-1 vs. Juryo and 8-4 vs. Makuuchi this basho, and should see a hefty bump up. Goeido got things together against some lesser competition, going 5-1 in the final six days to finish 9-6. Dudell be regularly spending time in Sanyaku next year along with the Tochis Ohzan and Noshin.

(With all due respect to my Scandinavian cousren, I have to wonder if having the name "Knut" causes others, however subconsciously, to think of you as kind of a "kunt.")

With Hokutoriki looking for his KK, Aran was not going to be dumb enough to come charging in. His cautious tachi-ai paid off as the Jokers thrusting had all the pop of a soap bubble, and The Bouncer stormed in, grabbed the belt, and lifted the potentially Makuuchi departing Hokutoriki out. I wouldnt be surprised to learn that he didnt try the henka cause he was reasoning that theyd be more likely to let him stay in the top division even if he went MK, so long as he played fair today vs. one of this bashos stars. I mean, theyre always telling us they care very much about the content of the sumo (for example, Henkuba getting squat for his 10 wins).

Shimotoori dumped Handsome Okinoumi with a textbook sukui-nage armpit hugging throw in their 16th bout of the basho, after both men hit the clay together at the end of their first match. 

Takekaze used some good thrusting to open up Mokonami like a Japanese pizza and get the two handed inside moro-zashi. Though much smaller than our flambéed friend, Piglet was able to somehow wrangle the Mongolian to the ground for his KK. There will be hard drinking joy in the Hundred Acre Wood this night.

Its been a long, uneventful basho and I for one am glad its finished. Excellent sumo by the Yokozuna and some good bouts elsewhere, though they dont exactly leap to mind. One last shout out to The Amazing Andreas and His Anatomically Asymmetrical Amorous Alpine Adventures. Well leave the light on.

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Veteran Tamanoshima came low and hard against veteran Shimotori and took him a few steps back, but he was never in danger of either finishing the job by oshidashi or getting a half-decent mawashi grip. The in-form Moo only needed a right paw on Tama’s shoulder to drag his old ass (complete with crack™) down to the clay for double digit losses. Shimotori overachieves at 9-5.

Yoshikaze had the right game plan today against the Little Slab of Butter that Could, ducking right out of the tachi-ai, trying to avoid Wakakoyu's tsuppari and looking for moro-zashi. It almost worked, too, but Koyu is about 25cm shorter than a certain Bulgarian Schmo-zeki, so he was able to keep the slippery Kaze out. Yoshikaze kept trying to get on the inside, but the weight disadvantage showed, as Wakakoyu was able to keep him in the run throughout with well-placed tsuppari to the chest. The win puts Wakakoyu in contention for double digit wins, while Yoshikaze will have to settle for a single digit kachi-koshi.

Mokonami was coming into today at 7 wins. Tokusegawa was coming in at 8 wins. Mokonami is from Mongolia. Tokusegawa is also from Mongolia. Now, I'm not suggesting yaocho or anything, but in a bout where maki-kae (a maki-kae is a grip change, usually from the outside to the inside) were exchanged more generously than bribes at the US Senate while no real offensive intentions were showed, only one rikishi could walk away with the win. And he got his kachi-koshi. Props to Tokusegawa for coming up with a plausible excuse for his loss (uhm, Moe's mawashi was SOO tight I just couldn't get a good hold on it, not even a pinky--take my advice, dude, don't ever try to become a defense attorney).

Aran continued his great run with a convincing win against hapless Okinoumi, standing him up right at the tachi-ai with a vicious thrust to the neck and taking him right to the edge. There, the Thug threw (if you're a non-native and don't tie up your tongue while trying to pronounce that--you have my respect) Okidoki off balance long enough to grab an insurmountable double mawashi grip and escort him out for his 11th win and a good chance at a prize. Okinoumi is an expected 5-9.

Veteran Tochinonada fell to his 11th loss at the hands of the younger and better Tosayutaka, who absorbed Nada's tachi-ai easily and got the right uwate, giving up GG's favorite inside grip. Some years ago (you know, when Nada was scalping Yokozuns for the kin-boshi bonus) there was absolutely no way Tochinonada could lose from that position against a guy with crocodile arms like Tosayutaka, but time forgives no one, so Croco #2 outmuscled his bigger foe to improve to 6-8 with the yori-kiri win. Nada packs up for Juryo.

Goeido continued his evasive style with a quick retreat after a good head-bonking tachi-ai against the Pretender. Hiki-otoshi isn't exactly the kind of kimari-te I want to see next to Goeido, but I'll cut him some slack this time, coming off an injury and all that. The Jokester falls to 7-7 and has a daunting task tomorrow against Aran, who's gonna want to make sure he wins a prize. Double henka anyone?

Kimurayama surprisingly didn't henka in his bout against Kakizoe, but with a 25kg advantage, I guess he didn't need it. The big guy readily absorbed whatever charge Zoe could throw at him and turned the tables on him, pushing him down and out easily. Both men are still alive at 7-7.

Toyohibiki produced one of his more vicious tachi-ai, steamrolling the overwhelmed Takamisakari right out of the dohyo for his 8th win and a healthy kensho reward. Takamisakari shares the same mark. And I must confess I'm now curious how Hiro Morita looks in a tight muscle shirt. You can blame Ross Mihara for that called shot.

As if the basho weren't bad enough as it is, Koryu henka'd Tamawashi for the cheap tsuki-otoshi win, avoiding his 10th loss for another day. Tamawashi falls to a disappointing 3-11 record.

The fat Kaze charged low against the Chauffeur, looking for moro-zashi and getting it for a second, but the taller Tenho was very quick to react, locking Kaze's stubby right arm, turning on a dime and throwing his smaller foe to the dirt like a sack of potatoes. The former Mongol gets his 8th win, while the 7-7 Takekaze will be looking for his tomorrow against 8-6 Mokonami (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

Georgian Kokkai started off his bout with veteran Wakanosato with the worst hari-te you'll ever see, giving up moro-zashi in about a second and getting yoritaoshi'ed faster than you can say make-koshi. Kokkai's nightmare just won't end, while Wakanosato recovers a bit with a 4 bout winning streak after a lousy 1-9 start (with that sole win a fusensho against 0fer Homasho).

Mongolian Tokitenku was getting desperate for a win, so he henka'd Tochinoshin to his left, hoping to get the cheap uwate and finish it off quickly with a dashi-nage, but the Private wouldn't fall for that. Still, Tenku's evasion was enough to get Shin into big trouble at the edge, unable to put up much of a fight. The shifty Mongol then shifted into reverse and pulled his compromised foe to the clay by kata-sukashi. Both men will be looking to get their 8th against guys with similar predicaments. I have to say I'm very disappointed that Tochinoshin couldn't follow up on his great run against the Ozeki with an early kachi-koshi, but I think he'll eventually learn how to win consistently (after all, he IS the youngest guy in the division).

The Kak did all things right against stubby Toyonoshima, charging with tsuppari to the face and neck and standing him upright for a couple of seconds, then completely changing the flow of the bout and pulling the Tugboat down violently. Too bad Kakuryu is already make-koshi, because that means he might not meet any joijin next basho--he always gives those guys a run for their money when he doesn't clean their clocks outright, just ask Kotooshu and Baruto. Toyonoshima will be taking a vacation to mid-Maegashira with the double digit losing record.

Kotoshogiku quickly got the left sashi he needed against the Fatman and humped him out of the dohyo doggy-style. The Geek checks in at 9-5 with the yawner win and will be taking over the West Sekiwake slot from Aminishiki, while Miyabiyama unsurprisingly falls to 5-9.

Tochiohzan got the upper hand at the tachi-ai against the only Asa left in Makuuchi, grabbing a solid right uwate while denying his foe one of his own. With only the left inside mawashi grip, Asasekiryu could only hope to stay low and stop his taller foe from capitalizing, and he actually managed to hold him off for a good minute and a half. However, Oh wisely lured Sexy into rushing forward, only to take him off balance with a good sukui-nage effort and work his way into moro-zashi. Knowing his goose was in the oven, Asasekiryu went for the last chance kubi-nage, but Oh saw right through the move and ducked just in time, leaving Not-so-sexy grabbing at thin air and pushing him out gently from behind. Great sumo from the young Japanese hope, and don't look now, but he might just get that unlikely kachi-koshi from sanyaku (he needs to beat Tokitenku tomorrow, butt barring a very well executed henka, I don't see how he loses that one). Asasekiryu falls to 8-6, but I'm betting he's happy with that.

Kisenosato exposed Henkuba for the fraud he is (I can't remember how many times I've read or written that, but I hope I'll do it more from now on), by charging cautiously and pushing at Henkuba's throat with one hand (Hakuba is many things, most of them bad, but a freight train ain't one of them), then turning to his shifty foe after the inevitable... shift, and pushing him straight out. Take notes, you pale excuses for Ozeki, this is the proper way to do it. Kisenosato finally gets his kachi-koshi with the freebie, while Henkuba (9-5) still has a chance for a prize (ugh) if he somehow finagles his way to a win against Kotoshogiku tomorrow.

OOOOK...the day wasn't so bad up to now, but boy are you in for a treat. You thought yaocho was bad in the past? You ain't seen nothing yet. Basic math tells you a 7-6 Kotomitsuki taking on a 9-4 Harumafuji will have extra motivation to win. And I'm not talking about fighting spirit or grace under pressure here, no, I'm talking cold, hard ¥. But they weren't happy doing it the old fashioned way, they actually charged before the gyoji even gave them the final call. I can't remember the last time a jikan-mae took place in Makuuchi (in fact, I don't remember seeing one in all my years watching sumo, much less by two Ozeki), but it doesn't surprise me at all they chose to put one on display today. They were probably hoping the crowd would be too busy yawning or fingering their I-Phones to notice the shite going on inside the dohyo. Kotomitsuki used his usual no-fists-even-near-the-ground cheating tachi-ai, but Ama withstood that pretty well and choked Mitsuki upright with a vicious right nodowa. Then, out of the blue and completely inexplicably, Hmph's right arm (which was also inexplicably fiddling around Mitsuki's own arm, neither fishing for the uwate or trying to lock said Mitsuki arm) quickly and almost instinctually reached for the Sadogatake man's neck, in an attempt for a surprise non-defensive kubi-nage (great strategy, I wonder why they don't do it more often!). Needless to say Ama was left with his back turned to his aite, and moving towards the edge. So, congrats to Mitsuki for the deserved KK. Ama falls to 5 losses, but if you believe he was injured before the basho, that's pretty good. Do you?

Are you sick yet? No? There's more. Sporting a similar 7-6 record, Faux-zeki Kaio was meeting Aminishiki. So far, so good. Aminishiki knew the big, bad Kaio was gonna be very motivated to get his kachi-koshi so he pulled an evil henka to his right (yawn), but Kaio miraculously survived it and surprised Sneaky with a lightning quick pull on the noggin (urp) which caught him so off guard he could only stumble forward to the edge with his back turned to Kaio (hey, is that a fly on the wall?). In all seriousness, though, you could tell Aminishiki wanted no part in winning that bout, because they both stopped completely way before the now ex-Sekiwake stepped out. Kaio clinches his mandatory kachi-koshi with a Razzie-worthy performance, while Aminishiki (4-10) will be regrouping in mid-Maegashira next basho.

Like I said before, I know fixing is an important part of sumo, I can even accept it as a necessary evil--sumo is a business, its primary purpose is to make money so it can keep on running, and that money will come from fans who want to see the popular top rankers do well. But, for fuck's sake, learn how to make it look good! By far the best fixed bout of the day was staged between two Mongols relatively new to the division. Props to them, maybe the old fokkers could take notes.

To continue in the spirit of general suckitude, Baruto was completely out-sumo'ed by a much better opponent technically, but he got away with it on size and strength again. What else is new? Kitataiki (7-7) attacked hard and low, blasting the bigger Estonian right back, but failing to make that final push before Bart could stop the hurt. With an arm on the inside at the very last moment, Baruto tried to throw Taiki at the edge, but Mike's mancrush survived the maneuver and got a solid inside right and drove the giant back again. However, Baruto's longer arm made the difference, as he was able to grab an insurmountable left uwate, which he quickly used to throw the frustrated Kitataiki to his 7th loss. Kadastik's compatriot gets a lackluster 10-4 record with the lucky win, while Kitataiki will have to work hard against Tochinoshin for his own kachi-koshi.

Which leaves us with just the musubi-no-ichiban. I was telling you on day 7 that about the best thing one could look forward to was Hak's gold mawashi tribute to Wajima, after pulling even with him at 14 Yusho. Well, sealing the deal on day 13, Hakuho could show off his new gear as early as today. Let me tell you, after seeing him today, I'm at a loss as to why he ever wore any other color, or why he'd ever want to wear anything else ever again. Spectacular. Pure, sheer awesomeness. Grandiose, radiating display of self-confidence, with a statement stopping inches short of hubris. OK, alright, maybe it wasn't THAT great, but it certainly got my attention for a few seconds after the pathetic display that preceded it.

As for the bout itself, Kotooshu actually won the tachi-ai, getting a decent grip on the front of the golden wonder wrapped around Hak's waist and a solid right arm on the inside. Hakuho wasted no time in shaking that mawashi grip off, though, so the two were now exchanging shitate, a position which usually leads to long stalemates. The Bulgarian wasn't really happy with the way things were going (he never wins the longer bouts), so he took matters into his own hands, forcing a maki-kae after a little push forward. Hakuho immediately responded with one of his own, so they settled down again, but this time with double hidari-yotsu grips. Well, Hak couldn't have asked for a better setup to complete his tribute to the man with the golden left arm, and he made good on it, breaking Kotooshu's seemingly superior grip with an impressive shitate-nage and establishing his own preferred left uwate, while leaving Kotooshu without a whiff of his mawashi. The yori-taoshi finish was a mere formality. If I didn't know better, I'd say this whole thing was staged, I couldn't think of any better way to emulate Wajima the day after equaling his Yusho count. If they did, they deserve an Oscar for it. Hakuho cruises to his 31st consecutive win, while Kotooshu is business as usual with 9-5.

Great as this last bout might have been, it still doesn't compensate for the endless stream of shite we've been receiving all the way through the rest of the basho. So let's just get the whole thing over with, shall we?

Shukun-sho: Hakuho, for his fashion sense and his second zensho Yusho in a row. Really, I think we're in for a LOOONG drought of outstanding performances.
Kanto-sho: Aran. A+ performance, my man. Carry on.
Gino-sho: Ugh... I have a bad feeling Hakuba will undeservedly get this one with an upset over Kotoshogiku tomorrow. I'd give it to Kotoshogiku myself (if only for stopping Henkuba from getting it).
Of course, the MIB have (you guessed it) their own obscure criteria, so don't be surprised if tomorrow's winners don't make sense.

There's little else to say, except that I'm really hoping the young ones will finally grow up and bring a little more consistency to their sumo. I'd like to see Goeido and Kisenosato with a big O before their shikona instead of stiffs like Kaio or Mitsuki.

See you in about a month and a half. This time the inter-basho break should fly right by, with a LOT of stuff going on - RG, Wimbledon and the 2010 World Cup. 

Clancy bakes you cookies, gives you flowers, and, if you're lucky, even a massage tomorrow. And, if he somehow has any time left, maybe he'll even write a small conclusion to this train wreck of a basho in his predictably short senshuraku report.

Day 13 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
The yusho picture is down to 4 foreigners: 3 Mongolians and a Russian. The 3 Mongolians vying for the title all have the character "White" atop their shiko-na, or fighting name, which I'll wager is a first in sumo history. Just a bit of trivia to kick off the day 13 proceedings. Gotta find something interesting, heck, Hakuho is running away with this thing. An outright win today gets him his 14th career yusho. 

Let's start in the rank-and-file where 2 of the aforementioned foreigners clashed in an elimination bout. M10 Aran met M5 Hakuba, both 9-3, in a bout of strength vs. finesse. Hakuba's sumo reminds me of Aikido; never attacking but using the opponent's momentum to his advantage. Probably not the way an Oyakata likes his deshi to develop, but hey, it's working for him so far. Anyhoo, strength won out today as the two locked into migi-yotsu with Aran getting a firm grip on the left uwate. Surprisingly there were no gimmicks from Hakuba as he seemed content to keep it a straight up belt bout. As a result, Aran eventually overpowered Hakuba for an easy Yori-kiri. Aran is 10-3 and still mathematically in the picture; Hakuba drops to 9-4 and is officially out.

The 3rd hopeful to catch Hakuho, Ozeki Harumafuji, was tasked with Kotooshu. Haruma went in there with a bang, but Oshu was like a magnet getting the left uwate. This pulled Haruma in toward Oshu, disallowing the separation Haruma wants. It also forced Haruma to retreat on his bad left knee, which he cannot do with any kind of resistance. So just like that, it's a Yori-kiri win for Kotooshu (9-4) and Harumafuji (9-4) is also out of the Yusho picture. 

Baruto resorted to side swiping Kisenosato today, resulting in an anticlimactic win in a bout many were excited to see. You could certain argue that Baruto (10-4) has no place employing such a cheap tactic in his new Ozeki rank. On the flip side, you just as easily argue that Kisenosato (7-6) shouldn't be looking down and drop so easily for a guy desperately trying to string together a Ozeki run of his own. With this loss he cannot get the 10 wins he needs to keep that run alive, so it will be back to the drawing board for Kise next basho.

Now Kaio on the other hand, we'll take a 'W' any which way we can get it. That's why his pull against Kakuryu (5-8) was met with cheers opposed to jeers for Baruto in the previous bout. Kaio (7-6) with 998 wins keeps his hopes alive for notching his 1000th career win this basho, but he'll have to win out to do it. Don't hold your breath.

Say what you want about Kotomitsuki, but you gotta love how he went in balls out against Hakuho today. Might as well give it hell, right? The clash at the tachi-ai was prodigious. That's the kind of impact you can really appreciate when you're in the arena watching sumo live. Hakuho stopped the furious onslaught, but Mitsuki also kept the Yokozuna off his belt which kept the bout interesting. Mitsuki actually had the upper hand but found the low stance he needed to keep Hakuho off his belt too restrictive to mount any offense. Another thing I liked is that he went for it anyway. The valiant effort ended with a Kote-nage win for Hakuho (13-0), who records his 14th career Yusho. The Yokozuna doesn't even need a grip to make it look easy.

Let's appreciate what Hakuho's doing for a moment. This is 30 wins in a row for him, dating back to January. It's the third time in his career he's achieved 30 in a row, which is second only to Taiho (4 times). The stat I like best is that Hakuho has not lost since Asashoryu retired. When we said let's usher in the Hakuho era at that time back in January, this guy is delivering on that notion in spades. Like sports teams who are dynasties, great athletes aren't often appreciated until well after their careers are over. Whether you're a Hakuho fan or not, it would behoove us to take a step back and appreciate the skill and dominance this Yokozuna is displaying in our beloved sport. Enjoy the last 2 days, and see you next basho.

Day 12 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
This morning I woke up early(ish) and hit the road. But this time it wasn't about the yummy yummy squid. With board, wax and wet suit in tow, I took off for the beach. I drove an hour and a half to Keiya on Itoshima. Sure there are closer places to surf but this is my favourite point. A beautiful cape with 33.3 Km of shoreline, most of it sandy beach. Just about my favourite place in Japan now that I think about it. The weather man had told me it was going to be warm and sunny. The oceanographers told me there were going to be waves. 

I would liken my excitement this morning to a pre-basho euphoria. Knowing what is about to happen and speculating on all the things that might happen keeps a spring in a man's step and keeps him from snapping and killing a homeless man in the dead of night for one more day.

I don't know where my sun, warmth and waves went but would like to make abundantly clear that I saw nothing of the sort. I would describe the rain that fell as a slow and constant piss but this unfortunately lacked the warmth and color of what Martin unhygienically calls his weekly “ Golden Shower of Power” (Bloody Euro Trash ... that's just sick ...).

This basho has been a lot like my day of surfing. Hours upon hours wasted all for something grey, boring and flat.

You know what?  I don't think that accurately exaggerates how shite this basho has been ... not by a long shot. 

Let me try again - I know the sumo memory of many of our readership doesn't extend back much past Asashoryu Akinori. Some of us go back to the Hawaiians, and a few even go back to the glory days of Chiyonofuji. This, however, is just a long weekend in the history of such an ancient sport. But I know some of you, not finding enough to geek over in the present have looked rearward to the likes of Tanikaze Kajinosuke and 11 year Yokozuna Hitachiyama Taniemon to keep you from having to talk to girls.

So, to those solitary losers I ask, do you remember reading about the basho when Hitler was amongst the international dignitaries in the audience? I know some of you probably didn't even know that happened. Pretty nuts, eh?  71 years ago.  Look it up.  Remember how he said he was “unimpressed with the resiliency of the Asian man”, remember that? And remember how he had brought 43 angry and amorous elephants that ran rapid through the stands? Remember how Jessie James and Michael Vic had jimmied all the doors close so no one could escape, allowing the pacaderms to trample, gore and hump all in attendance to an early grave (all but one actually ... It is only from the account of “Lucky Koichi” that we even know what transpired that dark day ... btw, I never agreed with the moniker “Lucky Koichi”, he went through a lot ... they should have called him “Comparatively Lucky Koichi “ at best). Remember that? We'll this basho has somehow found a way to be worst that that one. That's how bad this basho has been ... and will continue to be.

I was so down that I had picked up my phone to call Boss Man Mike and tell him that I just couldn't do it this time around. I was gunna henaka you, the reader. But then, just in the nick of time, like being licked by a puppy while getting tickled by a monkey, I saw a Takamisakari KK interview and I knew I too could press on and do jibun no sumo ... writing.

Tochinonada stayed at a meager 3 wins when his ill-timed shoulder blast at the tachi-ai was so late that, by the time it made contact, Goeido had popped him hard and was sliding his hand deep in the back of Nada's mawashi. Goeido used the deep outside left to throw Tochinonada rolling off the dohyo. At 6-6 Goeido's fate has yet to be decided. Nada has given us nada this time around ...

A Riki/Biki battle can only mean one thing and one thing only. BELT WIZARDRY. Today however, to the total shock of the fans, neither one even looked for a belt grip. I quickly assembled a Think Tank (made up of Dr. Mario, 7 Gyoji, A black cat who ceased to wash himself some time ago, myself and a girl who works at Mosburger of whom I can't decide if she is cute or not) to crack the code as to why, and the general consensus is that they are both so strong at the belt that they cancelled each others mastery out. 1 billion minus 1 billion is still O, ya know? So today Hokutoriki and Toyohibiki settled matters tsuppari style. Lil' Zuna came out strong but, as is his usual way, slowed down quickly when it became apparent that this one was going to go past the 5 second mark. After weathering the initial storm, Toyohibiki took over and showed the Joker the door. Watching the replay I winced at just how close Riki's stubby thumbs were coming to the freshly healed eye of Biki. These guys to are all even with 6's no matter how you slice it.

Aran has put together a fantastic basho but there was no evidence of that today. From the tachi-ai he gave Asasekiryu two really deep inside grips. From this position Aran held on as best he could with his freak Russki superhuman strength. But with his measured amount technique it was only a matter of time. That's The Bouncer's third loss and a KK for The Sec.

From the tachi-ai, Kakizoe dove inside on Kakuryu, pushed up and chugged forward. When he was sure he had created the opportunity, Zo switched gears with a quick pull and the Mongol dropped to the clay. After a horrible week 1, Kakizoe has won every day this week. Kakuryu is swimming in dangerous waters with 7 losses and a few days to go.

Tochiohzan kept his (slim) KK hopes alive when he steamrolled Tugboat right off the dohyo from the tachi-ai. Tochiohzan has to run the table from here, while the less said about Toyonoshima's basho the better.

Having cooled a great deal in week two, Shin needs to get his act together just to make sure he gets his 8. Today he came out with haphazard tsuppari but, despite his age, Kisenosato is a veteran round these parts and has seen (and fought his way through) dozens of better tsuppari attacks than Shin will likely ever muster. Kissy planted two hands firmly on the Georgian's chest and pushed him straight back and out.

Aminishiki's sumo has sucked this basho, but when he got moro-zashi on Kotoshogiku I was sure he was on his way to what was to be just his 4th win. But The Geeku impressed me here. He had foolishly given the inside grips, but then he intelligently countered with not only power but careful foot/hip work and poise as well. Geeku used lateral motion to avoid giving Nishiki a flush target to push against. He forced the action back to the centre of the dohyo and then fell Aminishiki with a kote-nage.

I can guarantee you that there was no yaocho in Kaio's fight today. The telltale sign was when Ama kicked his ass. Harumafuji came with a series of shoves while a relaxed Kaio sauntered backward half attempting a couple pushes and a couple pulls but in no way committed to anything save his own eviction. I guess he was saving his energy for his win tomorrow.

Kotomitsuki usually gets the better of just about anyone at the tachi-ai, but today he was a step behind as Kitataiki came in hard burying his head in the Ozeki's chest. Retreating, Mitsuki attempted a desperation pull but, with momentum and his head still firmly on Mitsuki's chest, Kitataiki plowed the Ozeki over the straw.

I have a great friend. His name is Andrew. Andrew is an accountant who has spent much of his adult life in Yemen and never been within an 8 hour flight of Japan. Andrew has never seen a single sumo match and couldn't name one rikishi for 10 million dollars. ANDREW KNEW HAKUBA WAS GOING TO HENKA TODAY!! At the tachi-ai Hakuba slid left and Kotooshu leaned in delivering a shove to the M5's chest. But Ba just kept on sliding, got on the outside and isolated Shoe's right arm. Torquing it, he swung the Ozeki around and, with Kotooshu's feet on the straw, he jumped inside and pushed Yogurt out. Kotooshu did push Henkaba to the clay as he stepped out but he was too late. So here is the deal- a) Shoe is retarded. He just didn't think there was a serious possibility of a henka today, or b) This was Kotooshu's best plan to deal with the scrupulous and slippery M5 and he just isn't that good at strategy. At all. You be the judge. 

This Just In- Upon re-watching the Japanese broadcast (and paying attention this time), former Sekiwake Kotonishiki who was in the muko-jomen chair today accepted responsibility for all the ugliness, saying he had told Kotooshu to lead with the moro-te. So I guess you now have an option c) Shoe trusts incompetent advisors.

The Hakuho/Baruto match was supposed to be a Yusho decider. The king tangling with the crown prince. But no matter how hard the NSK wishes it, they can't make Bart better, and they can't make Hak worse. So by the time this fight rolled around, it had the same yusho relevance as the Tamawashi/Wakanosato paring a little earlier. And to make matters worse and exacerbate the point, the fight wasn't nearly as exciting. Hak flew threw Bart every bit as quick as Tochiohzan steamrolled Tugboat. Sad. If I could be so cocky (correct) as to quote myself, “Let's hope he is only using the Warm Welcome tachi-ai on smaller guys cause if he comes out like that against Hak he may end up in the 3rd row.” In the past these two have had some bouts that gave me hope for a budding rivalry, but today wouldn't even have qualified as light keiko.

Ok, here is some homework to keep you out of trouble till we meet again.

-Get outside and and stoke up the BBQ. There is no better time of the year to enjoy fresh veggies and copious amounts of charred flesh. Just a little aside to go with that, if you should happen to be one of our valued readers and also a vegetarian, would you be a dear and never read my reports again ... or better yet go have a hotdog or something.

-If you can be bothered to turn your TV on tomorrow, Harumafuji/Kotooshu and Kissy/Bardt may produce halfway ok fights. 

-I'm trying to make beer for the first time. Here is a pic of my wort (not to be confused with those green things growing on your junk). I don't know that it will be any good but a) drinking is awesome and b) try to keep learning new things. Pick something you think might interesting and give it a go.

-Read Kenji's report tomorrow. It'll only take a second.

-I want my fav Fanboy to know that my thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.

And that's me for nasty Natsu 2010. Good riddance to bad basho.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I was feeling all good about myself coming into the day knowing that I'd get the only matchup that mattered this basho--Hakuho vs. Baruto, but I see the Sumo Association threw me a curveball by prolonging that contest in hopes of extending the yusho race just one more day. The move backfired, however, due to Kotooshu's upset over Baruto that ruined the yusho race for good (as if it really mattered), so the Sumo Association resorted to plan B in order to keep everyone's interest piqued, which was to put that yellow doll in the booth with Osaka Announcer and Mainoumi. It's working, it's working!

It's working so well, in fact, I can't even keep my mind on the sumo anymore. This is the latest I have ever posted a report, and the reason is I can't think of anything new to say. But if Ross had to comment on the day 11 bouts, then I guess I'll pull my load as well.

Starting from the top this time and working our way down, Yokozuna Hakuho welcomed Ozeki Kaio in the day's final bout exhibiting a passive tachi-ai because as Mainoumi pointed out, there was no way Kaio was going to blow him off of the starting lines. Hakuho kept his arms in tight looking for the early grip, but Kaio employed the best strategy possible after failing to gain any positioning from the tachi-ai, which was to get the hell out of there. Hakuho's size and reach kept him within arm's length of his opponent, however, so he fired a few tsuppari to keep Kaio on his heels before lunging for the Ozeki's belt coming away with the left inside grip. Kaio complied with a left inner of his own, but Hakuho forced their chests to align ensuring the Kaio was far too upright to even flirt with a right outer grip. Hakuho fished for his own right outer for several seconds, but in the end, he casually dumped Kaio softly to the dirt with a left scoop throw. Replays showed that Hakuho had plenty of time to think about what he would do when he was in the clinch with the Ozeki, and you wonder what Kaio must have been thinking because he was helpless at that point. Hakuho showed his class by setting the veteran down easily to a 6-5 record while the Yokozuna strolls to 11-0.

So with Hakuho breezing to his eleventh win and guaranteed yusho, let's move onto the featured bout of the day where Ozeki Harumafuji looked to knock fellow Ozeki Baruto out of the yusho race once and for all. Baruto used his moro-te-tsuki tachi-ai that brought him so much success last basho, but unlike last basho, Baruto's lower body wasn't driving the move, so Harumafuji simply backed out of the choke hold leaving the two Ozeki completely separated. As the two rikishi began to circle each other cautiously in the ring, Harumafuji connected on a shweet jab with the left hand into Baruto's neck that forced the Estonian to look into the rafters, and although the Estonian was able to escape the hold, Harumafuji had just found the formula to victory. The two circled for another few seconds before Harumafuji struck again with the left hand directly into Baruto's neck that drove the Estonian so upright that Harumafuji pounced into the moro-zashi position. As Baruto tried to escape, Harumafuji caught him by the left thigh with his left hand and unleashed an inner belt throw with the right inside grip lifting Baruto's leg up in the process. The result was as incredible of a throw as you please with Baruto crashing to the dohyo while Harumafuji flipped himself backwards and down to the dohyo in order to complete the throw. Leave it to a Mongolian to completely pick apart the giant in this manner. Wow!  Incredible sumo from Harumafuji who has shown the most toughness of the Ozeki as he clinches kachi-koshi at 8-3. Baruto falls to the same mark and is out of the yusho race he was never really in after losing to Kakuryu a few days ago.

Komusubi Tochiohzan took full advantage of Ozeki Kotooshu's lollygagging at the tachi-ai, so that when the Bulgarian finally touched his fists to the dirt, Tochiohzan was in his grill like grease lightening with the moro-zashi position intact. Oh wasted no time driving the Ozeki back and out, but he did manage to waste the victory by stepping out isami-ashi style before Kotooshu had been backed completely out. The referee actually got the call right, but a mono-ii was called just to make sure Tochiohzan did indeed step out first because the bout was that lopsided in the Komusubi's favor. To Kotooshu's credit, his kote-nage style grip with the left arm wrapped around Tochiohzan's right arm aided the Komusubi's exit stage left, but Tochiohzan completely dominated this one from the tachi-ai to his brilliantly cutting off Kotooshu's right outer grip to the perfect positioning of his body as he forced Kotooshu back and out.  It sucks that Tochiohzan has to settle for a 4-7 record while Kotooshu clinches kachi-koshi in defeat.  Typical Oshu.

Rounding out the Ozeki, you could say that Kotomitsuki gambled in his bout against M5 Hakuba today by charging straight forward. The move paid off as Hakuba stayed put while the Ozeki easily grabbed the left outer grip. Hakuba tried to move out of it and grab a left outer of his own, but Kotomitsuki circled the starting lines with his opponent reeling him into the migi-yotsu position where Kotomitsuki had an uwate, and Hakuba had none. With the odds definitely in his favor, the Ozeki wasted no time forcing Hakuba over to the edge with that left outer grip and doubling down with a wicked choke hold from the right hand. All bets were off for Hakuba who was forced back and across without argument. Kotomitsuki moves to 7-4 with the win while the house takes it's cut from Hakuba who falls to 8-3.

In the Sekiwake ranks, Kisenosato showed just how much power he has by stifling M1 Miyabiyama at the tachi-ai to the point where the Sheriff wasn't able to fire off a single thrust. Kisenosato was looking for moro-zashi, so Miyabiyama went on the defensive by backing up a step and staying low, but Kisenosato took full advantage of that awkward stance by pulling Miyabiyama forward and down with a single hand to the back of the head. Kisenosato has a bit of breathing room now at 6-5 while Miyabiyama's on the brink at 4-7.

Sekiwake Aminishiki came out looking for moro-zashi gaining a right inside grip straightway against M2 Tochinoshin, but the Private fought Aminishiki off with two kachi-age, one with the left and another with the right that forced the two fighters largely upright. With the right inside secured, Ami went for a maki-kae with the left to get moro-zashi, but Tochinoshin cut that off and dragged the Sekiwake over to the edge of the ring with a left kote-nage. Aminishiki countered with a right inside belt throw, but Tochinoshin had all the mo and snuffed out the Sekiwake for good by pushing him down and out by the neck. It wasn't pretty, but as Clancy mentioned on day 8, you go into an alley with Tochinoshin, you're not coming out. Tochinoshin moves above .500 again at 6-5 while Aminishiki's demotion is unavoidable at 3-8.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Kotoshogiku demanded the left inside position against M4 Kitataiki and quickly bellied up to his opponent ensuring that the fight would never leave the belt. It didn't allowing Kotoshogiku to use his advantage in the girth department and overall experience to force Kitataiki up the bales where Kitataiki dug in admirably causing Kotoshogiku to quickly shift gears and push Kitataiki down by the right side beneath his armpit in the beautiful tsuki-otoshi move. Both rikishi are now 6-5, and both have been a bright spot in Natsu.

M1 Toyonoshima failed to charge hard at all against M3 Wakanosato, and when Wakanosato stubbornly kept both arms down low and tight denying Toyonoshima moro-zashi, it was as if Toyonoshima just gave up. Wakanosato managed the sufficient left inside position, and then he pulled his gal in tight to where their chests were perfectly aligned, and from that position, the taller rikishi always wins. As slow as he's become this last year or so, Wakanosato wouldn't blow this one forcing Toyonoshima methodically back and out picking up just his second win in the process. Toyonoshima's make-koshi becomes official at 3-8.

M3 Kakuryu and M4 Asasekiryu hooked up in the immediate gappuri-migi-yotsu contest, and it's always a treat when two Mongolians fight like this. Asasekiryu pressed the action first managing to drive Kakuryu up against the tawara, but the Kak was never really threatened, and when he recovered forcing the action back to the center of the ring, you just knew that Kakuryu was the better rikishi. Round and round the two went for about ten seconds before Kakuryu finished the Secretary off with a soto-gake leg trip as neat as a bowtie sending Asasekiryu on his back where Kakuryu promptly mounted him adding insult to injury and causing Ross Mihara to declare, "we have a mancrush!". This was actually as well'a fought bout that we had seen this basho until Harumafuji did Baruto a few bouts later.  Kakuryu inches forward to 5-6 while Asasekiryu cools down a bit at 7-4.

M11 Mokonami latched onto the left frontal belt grip against M6 Tokitenku pinning Tenku's right arm in so tight rendering Tokitenku largely useless throughout their contest. Mokonami bullied Tokitenku this way and that, and while Tokitenku stood his ground admirably, he was never at a point where he could counter. In the end, it took Mokonami about 15 seconds, but he dominated this one showing why he's on his way up and Tenku (5-6) on the decline. Moe moves to 7-4.

M9 Goeido lowered his head against M6 Kokkai and charged straight forward into the abyss as Kokkai just jumped to his right and slapped the hapless Goeido down for the half-second victory. Kokkai's tachi-ai henka was as bush as they come, but Goeido has to at least keep his eyes on his opponent, especially against someone as unstable as Kokkai. This was ugly stuff all around as Kokkai moves to an undeserved 3-8 while Goeido is now underwater at 5-6.

M7 Tamawashi ducked his head and drove M11 Tokusegawa straight back with a nice nodowa from the tachi-ai, but Tokusegawa used the firm left inside position to hold on at the edge, and with Tamawashi upright and desperately trying to overcome Tokusegawa and the raised bale of straw, Tokusegawa countered with a left soto-gake leg trip that caused Tamawashi to flinch to the point where Tokusegawa secured moro-zashi, which is exactly what Mario ordered allowing Tokusegawa to force The Mawashi clear across the diameter of the ring and out for his sixth straight win moving his record to 7-4. Tamawashi has been awful this basho at 2-9.

M7 Kyokutenho is still one of the best belt fighters in the bidness, but M10 Aran showed just how strong he is by driving Tenho back a step from the tachi-ai and not shying away from the migi-yotsu contest. Kyokutenho grabbed the left outer first, but Aran pulled his date in tight grabbing his own left outer and baited Kyokutenho allowing the Chauffeur to push Aran back near the edge where the Russian sprang his trap and used his strength to pivot firmly and swing Kyokutenho around and across the straw in a fantastic bout for Aran who moves to 9-2, which is good enough for sole possession of second place. Kyokutenho is 6-5.

M13 Takamisakari was asleep at the tachi-ai against M8 Kakizoe, who not only seized the day but got moro-zashi as well. Kakizoe went for a quick scoop throw that didn't quite fell Gump, but he had him off balance to the point that when Takamisakari tried to recover, Kakizoe was able to yank him down to the clay by the neck in a rarely seen sokubi-otoshi. Sweet Zoe Jane is 6-5 if you need him while that Takamisakari KK interview waxes elusive at 7-4.

M15 Shimotori decided to go for a tachi-ai henka to his left today against M8 Toyohibiki, but when the henka has never been part of your arsenal, why even try it at this point? The henka was awful...and the proof of that was Toyohibiki kept his balance, so now with the Hutt pissed, he squared right back up gaining moro-zashi and pushing Shimotori to an ignominious death by one armpit and one tit. Way to strike a huge blow to your Kantosho chances, Shimotori, who falls to 8-3. Toyohibiki takes another melatonin at 5-6.

M13 Yoshikaze faked a sound tachi-ai but couldn't back up to his left fast enough pulling M9 Tosayutaka off balance. Yoshikaze was able to parlay that into moro-zashi and had Tosayu-croca forced back and out before you could yawn. Tosayutaka is 5-6 while Yoshikaze should KK at 7-4.

M10 Okinoumi showed his best sumo of the basho, but fighting M16 Tamanoshima will do that for you. Peter was higher than a hippie at a Grateful Dead show at the tachi-ai enabling Okinoumi to gain moro-zashi straightway, and the sophomore didn't disappoint leading with a left inside grip as he forced Tamanoshima back and out with ease. Still, with both of these rikishi standing at 3-8 there's nothing to get gaga about, right Doc? 

M12 Takekaze instantly pushed M12 Kimurayama back from the tachi-ai with hands pressed into both of Kim's teets, but if you want a good lesson of why not to align your feet in sumo, go back and watch this bout again. Wait a minute...what am I saying? Why in the world would anybody want to see a replay of this? The point is, Takekaze had Kimurayama driven back to the edge, but Kimurayama saved his evasion for after the tachi-ai and escaped left forcing the action back in the center of the ring where it was now Kimurayama's turn to take advantage of the hesitant Takekaze getting him in a dual choke hold and driving him back and down for the oshi-taoshi win. Takekaze is 5-6 if anybody cares (they don't), but don't look now because Kimurayama is in danger of picking up his first ever Makuuchi kachi-koshi at 6-5!

M16 Koryu has looked decent in his return to the division, but for some reason his tsuppari were so high against M14 Tochinonada that he just gifted the Gentle Giant moro-zashi. No sense 'splaining what happened after that as Nada threw his opponent down via an easy sukui-nage to move to 3-8. Koryu's on the brink at 4-7, but I haven't minded him as much in the division this time around.

J1 Gagamaru looked to be a shoe-in for the Makuuchi ranks early on in the basho, but the Gentleman has run into a bit of bad luck lately, namely, rikishi who don't want any part of him. M14 Hokutoriki used a moro-te tachi-ai today, but couldn't switch gears and pull down at Gagamaru fast enough spilling the Gentleman to the clay via hiki-otoshi. Gagamaru's obviously the superior rikishi at this point, but it will take him some time to adjust to these Makuuchi veterans who know how to win.  At 7-4, we'll likely see him next basho, and who can wait for all the jokes when he gets here? I all seriousness though, there's a reason why I spent most of this paragraph talking about Gagamaru and not Hokutoriki (6-5).

And finally, M15 Wakakoyu welcomed J2 Shotenro in a bout that saw Wakakoyu go for an early pull attempt after the tachi-ai and Shotenro unable to capitalize. Instead, the former Makuuchi rikishi went for a pull attempt of his own after the two traded tsuppari again, and Wakakoyu has been too alert this basho to miss out on such a gift. The oshi-dashi win was swift moving Wakakoyu to 6-5. Looks like Shotenro will still be a "former" Makuuchi guy in Nagoya at 4-7.

So, at the end of day 11, the leaderboard looks like this:


It's not all bad, though.  You can still scroll down a few lines and enjoy that soft porn shot of Lady Gaga courtesy of Mario.  Something tells me that Mark tries to top it tomorrow.

Day 10 Comments (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
After two thirds of the basho there's so much to talk about in the top division as there is at a conference of mutes about mutes. So instead let's talk about weather. After the recent volcanic eruptions (no Clancy, I really mean the actual volcano, not other things) people claimed that it'll be a darn cold summer here in Europe, but guess what, we've been demolishing all heat records the past week. So here I am, dripping of sweat with a cool cocktail in hand looking at some fat men in diapers touch each others boobs... Well at least the excitement has fallen down to the level that the average newcomers description of sumo is quite well describing what's going on right now. 

When I first turned the enormous machinery on today to have my remote spy satellites hack into NHK broadcast satellites and through those to the NSK cameras, I thought the Makuuchi bouts had started already for the two who fought will very likely be featured in Makuuchi next basho. The two Juryo yusho favorites, Gagamaru and Daido, went at it like Lady Gaga in heat with her  The heat won out as Gaga scored with her toy via force-out. Both are likely to be around to pleasure us next basho in the top division. 

With the Juryo done I could ask for the waiter for a refill while the guys were showing off their kesho mawashis during the ring entering ceremony and Hakuho showed us how wide his legs and arms go. With a fresh cold drink and the parade out of the way the actual first bout started with Takamisakari standing up to a moro-zashi grip and walking Wakakoyu out. Yawn. More cocktail please!

About as much excitement could be expected from the meeting of Koryu and Kimurayama, but boy was I surprised. This was a huge tsuppari fest from both sides with Koryu leading the dance throughout the bout, but not being able to move around the fatter Kimurayama enough. At times Kimu retaliated and used his thicker bulk to push Koryu back only to be stopped in his tracks a bit further down. Once I had read the daily newspaper, moved the whole gear to a new spot to avoid the blazing sun and had a few more refills that the guys on the dohyo probably would have liked to share, it was visible they started to wind down and go for pulls more often than not. Finally during yet another lean-on-your-opponent moment, Kimu managed to slap Koryu's hands away getting Koryu way off balance and even though the latter managed to stop his fall he was easy push-out fodder from there. My guess is that this was about the best bout today. But let's see further. 

Moe and Shimotori locked into migi-yotsu with a test of strength ensuing. Both tested the waters trying to lift the other off balance without effect. After tens of attempts by both it was a working accident that Mokonami balanced himself at the tawara or at least thought he did when his toe missed and he pushed back from outside the ring. Oh well, there went that sure win by Moe, and I need another cold drink. While the waiter's getting it, I'll let you know that Shimotori's got kachi-koshi and is only two down from the lead so ... Yusho?

Hmm... Out of three bouts two have actually been good. Does this mean that the rest will suck utter bollocks or did I happen to get the long straw this time and get a day that's actually worth commenting? We'll see. 

One could see the Jokester was up to no good when Hokutoriki didn't look into his opponent's eyes at the tachi-ai. So without any great surprise he instead pulled a henka to his left, but Tokusegawa wasn't surprised and instead locked into a yotsu battle. A belt-fight isn't something Hokutoriki wants to be in, so it's no surprised that he was thrown within seconds of the two settling down from the initial grappling. Good reaction to the henka and props to Tokusegawa for not letting Jokester get away with it. Jokey goes to 0.5 while Tokusegawa needs just two more for his KK. 

When I was looking at the banzuke early on I wasn't sure what to think of Aran. He was utter crap last basho going 1-14 with no apparent injury so I wasn't sure he'd not continue to be craptastic. But it seems his recovered weight and the break of two months has done miracles as he's 7-2 coming in for his KK. Yoshikaze of course wanted to hear nothing of it starting with a double nodowa and pulling back from there. What continued from there on needs a separate youtube link or something as it was just hilarious slapping sitting raising pulling slapping sitting pulling raising dipping running sitting falling. Well all of it together resulted in a KK for Aran, but this is the second bout today that looks as if I'd be watching "Dancing with stars" not ozumo. 

After a few bouts with some actual sumo happening it was time for a small break to go and take a leak of all the cocktails while Okidoki took the left in right out grip, moved Nada back a bit and sent him flying with an uwate-nage. Both are 2-8 looking awful (not counting the win today, that was good sumo by Okinoumi or more likely bad sumo by Tochinonada). Waiter, where's my drink?

In a normal situation with a Goeido that is the guy who gave Mike a stiffie and looked like the next best thing after sliced bread, you wouldn't even contemplate on the winner of the next bout, but with the ugly losses this basho I wasn't sure who'd win the bout between Goeido and Tamanoshima. Well then again Tamanoshima isn't in any kind of shape either, so the two charged with Go going for moro-zashi, but failing to gain it. Not having a good grip and being moved slightly backwards by Tama he instead swiped the veteran to the right and from the side it was no longer a question how he'd escort the oldster out. Not much to talk about really, Goeido needed to recover in a bout where he should have gone in and killed Tama without getting moved backwards. He'll probably still get his kachi-koshi while being fed stiffs, but his sumo isn't anywhere where it should be. Tamanoshima is already packing for Juryo as I seriously doubt he'll pull a five day winning streak out of his mawashi.

Sweet Zoe Jane took on the other Kaze with his usual ferociousness attacking and quickly backpedaling to the side sending Takekaze off balance to the tawara. From there Takekaze recovered, but quickly had warm shit all over him pushing Takekaze upright and then going for the pull which fell the fatter Kaze. Both guys now have equal number of wins and losses (keep an eye on that statement for me, will ya). 

The Mawashi looking to avoid make-koshi took on Tosayutaka today. To accomplish this he went with double nodowa to the neck and chin area keeping Yutaka looking at the ceiling and moving him backwards, but the problem with moro-te-zuki is that you give up moro-zashi to your opponent fairly easily. Tosayutaka nicely used the moro-zashi first to attempt a tsuri-dashi, but not being Baruto or Tochinoshin he couldn't pull it off, so he just pushed Tamawashi backwards. Being at the tawara with literally the skin of his teeth between him and his make-koshi, The Mawashi did the only thing he could and went for the utchari throw and even though he was able to twist Yutaka around him while falling, he wasn't able to twist him fast enough as he himself crashed down. Tosayutaka continues with equal wins and losses while Tamawashi will be in damage control mode from now on. 

The last bout we have to tolerate before yet another pee break (this time not just for me with all the cocktails, but also for the MIB and others) is Mike's mancrush taking on veteran Kyokutenho. Kitataiki charged low and had Kyokutenho moving backwards and out. Writing the sentence or even thinking it took longer than the actual thing. Kyokutenho did try to recover by pulling Kitataiki down during the backwards movement and Taiki fell at the same time Tenho stepped out, but the call was for Kitataiki and even though it looked close, I'd call it to Kitataiki too for he was the driving force throughout the short bout. The two share a score of 6-4 now (hint...). 

The windmill Toyohibiki had the Secretary come over, but instead of behaving like a nice and meek Secretary, Asasuckiryu went for a deep right hand grip that panicked the inviter. Hibiki tried to use his own left outer grip to throw too, but that deep inside grip wasn't to be shaken, so Asasekiryu pulled a throw sending Toyohibiki rolling while he himself softly landed a good second later. Having the belt on Hibiki is the key, and deep belt grips are a favorite of sexy so no big surprises there. Asasekiryu now needs one more over the last five days to breathe easily, but he'll be minced meat next basho in the meat grinder. 

The guy who upset the shin-Ozeki went to stroke da Kokk the wrong way. Kokkai charged right into Kakuryu giving the latter a nice right inside grip. Even though Kokkai had Kak upright he didn't have a real grip nor did he have any power in his lower body to move Kak backwards. So he went for plan B and put his hand on the back of Kak's neck and tried to pull Fishface down while backpedaling, but with this move he opened himself up for the easy force-out win by Kakuryu. After a bad start, Kakuryu has shown some better sumo and is now 4-6 with still a shot at a positive score with Kokkai's make-koshi official. Talking of which, does anyone have the stats on how often Kokk's plan B has ever worked?

The Barometer is showing low pressure with a make-koshi already in his pocket. So it should have been an easy pushout win for Tokitenku, but instead Wakanosato showed teeth and denied Tenku his favorite grip. Waka didn't have anything usable himself, but instead tried to just manhandle his opponent without the belt really. However this isn't the kind of sumo where you can deny your opponent the belt indefinitely, and once Tenku had both hands with at least one fold of the belt it was time for the kill. That it took so long against an opponent who is obviously out of form tells tales about Tokitenku himself, who improves to 5-5. 

So after a lot of lopsided matchups, we come to Kotoshogiku vs. Tochinoshin the Ozeki slayer. The history is indeed for Kotoshogiku, but it's from a time when Tochinoshin was a youngster and still learning. Now Tochinoshin pulls baruto-dashis and eats Ozeki for lunch so one would expect a reasonably balanced bout, right? No. Tochinoshin did the one thing he should not have, namely let Giku have the moro-zashi from where he was thumped to oblivion by a dog in heat. Good stuff from Kotoshogiku who balances both of the guys to 5-5. It seems you need to be Ozeki to lose to Tochinoshin. 

Next up we had the Fatman taking on Oh poo with both guys featuring sub 0.5 records coming in, but neither quite officially MK yet. The surprise today was that Tochiohzan decided to play Miyabiyama's game and traded tsuppari with tsuppari. Probably still tired from yesterday's long bout with Tochinoshin, the Sheriff wasn't able to move Tochiohzan enough and instead got himself tsuppari'ed out. Great stuff from Tochiohzan and both are now 4-6. Now if you've paid any attention you'll notice this isn't the first bout I claim this. Actually so far out of the fifteen bouts a full third have ended with both guys leaving the dohyo with the same score. Wonder if that continues?

Toyonoshima quickly gained a left inside grip and even though Aminishiki used his left to block Toyo's right arm, he wasn't able to gain any kind of angle of attack himself nor could he resist the urge of Toyonoshima to satisfy his need for wins, so after a few seconds of slow struggling Toyo got the right hand grip and escorted Aminishiki back and out. Oh and surprise surprise, they are now both 3-7. 

The yaocho bout went as it was going to go. With Kotomitsuki at more wins and getting a few stiffs instead of Giku and Oshu, he bowed to Kaio and lost. Ah you want to hear how it happened? Well Mitsuki charged hard into Kaio, who absorbed the charge and sidestepped pulling Kotomitsuki slightly off balance. Then with Mitsuki off balance the Bear grabbed him and escorted a fully complacent Mitsuki easily out. Yawn. They could at least make it look good, some jungyo bouts or something. Oh well. Waiter, where is that damn drink I ordered half an hour ago!!!

Probably the most meaningful bout in his life for Hakuba came when he was upgraded to face Ozeki Harumafuji. Hakuba knew that he couldn't take Harry straight on so he pulled a small henka to his left. With both guys slightly off balance Harry went for the kill, but as the youngster was taken back he slid to the side and tiptoed the tawara while Harry landed with a face full of fury. A brilliant win for Hakuba, who no one would have expected him to actually pull it off today. A kachi-koshi, win over an Ozeki and an interview to boot. This guy's getting drunk tonight. Which in turn might mean that Kotomitsuki is a fair bet in kicking his sorry hungover ass tomorrow.

The bout of the day (this time for real) has to be Baruto as shin-Ozeki meeting Kotooshu, but with his craptastic tachi-ai this basho it wasn't that close as I'd like it to be. Kotooshu charged low and got immediately left hand inside while denying Bart any kind of belt grip. As Kotooshu lunged for the right hand outside grip a second into the bout he got it and in the process gave up nothing more than just a single layer of his own belt. As soon as you saw Bart locking his right hand around Oshu's, that single layer of mawashi in his hands and Oshu with two good grips you knew that this bout was all over. As soon as Kotooshu was satisfied with the grips he immediately went for the kill by attempting to push Baruto back and going for a maki-kae at the same time. The two separated for a moment with Oshu losing the right outside grip, but immediately lunged in to go for the inner beltless grip that he used to raise Bart up and twist him to an awkward position out of balance and out. I hope Baruto draws the right conclusions from this awful basho that his old tachi-ai just won't do, and the one he employed last basho is the one to go for if he wants to ever challenge Hakuho and possibly become a Yokozuna. 

Out of a handful of guys who have at least a small shot of taking down Hakuho, one is for sure Kisenosato. The two charged and Hak tried to go for the belt, but as he couldn't reach he swapped gears for a tsuppari bout and the two traded thrusts. Funnily enough at one point both decided to go for a slap of which Kise's actually connected, but it was nowhere close to the bitch slap Wakanoho delivered us a few years ago. As if embarrassed by the slap, Hak charged and used the armpits of Kisenosato to push him back and out. It may have looked like an actual bout, but it was Hakuho's from the start. 

According to a normal schedule, Hakuho should be meeting Baruto tomorrow, but with the current level of "excitement" the NSK had decided to postpone that bout and instead gave Baruto Harry and Hakuho gets Kaio to at least have some kind of Yusho hunt going on. It would have been exciting with Baruto one loss behind, but after today's loss to Kotooshu I'm not sure Bart won't meet Hakuho on day 12. They might still stretch it out to Senshuraku for a possible excitement if one of the Ozeki manages to upset Hakuho, but I seriously doubt this is going to happen. So congratulations to yet another Yusho to Hakuho and a likely zensho at that. 

Mike will rub you the right way tomorrow.

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The basho never truly begins until the Yokozuna loses, so when the only guy who has a chance to steal the yusho loses first, you have to downgrade that initial statement to "the basho never truly begins until the Yokozuna loses twice." With Baruto's loss to Kakuryu yesterday, any excitement this basho promised was sucked out of the Kokugikan like a popped balloon. Sure, there is still a possibility that Hakuho could lose along the way, but twice? The odds are against it. So I'm sure it's no coincidence that NHK went hard today with all of their flashbacks to classic basho and classic bouts. You have to keep the viewers interested in something, and the first half of today's bouts sure as hell didn't do the trick.

M15 Shimotori fended off a seldom-seen tsuppari attack from M14 Tochinonada with some thrusts of his own before rushing in and grabbing Nada around the neck and pulling him forward and down from there. It was curious to see these two yotsu-zumo fighters avoid a belt fight at all costs. Perhaps Shimotori was respecting the legend that was Tochinonada's hidari-yotsu attack while Tochinonada knew he'd get his ass kicked in a straight up belt fight. Regardless, Shimotori improves to 7-2 while Tochinonada is on the brink at 2-7.

M13 Yoshikaze moved left at the tachi-ai against M13 Takamisakari in an attempt to capitalize on a quick tottari throw, but the gangly Takamisakari easily weasled out of the pickle and forced the bout to hidari-yotsu. With Yoshikaze still trying to spin Takamisakari around with an ill-gotten left grip, Takamisakari raised Yoshikaze upright with the left inside position before shifting gears on a dime and slapping Café down to the clay with his right hand at the left shoulder. Both rikishi are 6-3, and I dare say the biggest reaction from the crowd the entire day was Takamisakari's committing a false start.

But how could it have not been the highlight with the next bout being M12 Takekaze vs. M16 Koryu? From the tachi-ai, Takekaze got his left stub (most people call it an arm) firmly planted beneath Koryu's right armpit, and with Koryu monkeying around for any sort of position, Takekaze (5-4) used his right arm at the back of Koryu's neck to easily pull him to the dirt in a few seconds and not to mention a 4-5 record. There's no point further discussing these two, so let's move on.

M16 Tamanoshima showed what not to do with your right arm at the tachi-ai by raising it high and attempting to push it into M11 Tokusegawa's neck in some sort of freak kachi-age move. With Tamanoshima keeping his right arm so high, Tokusegawa seized the left inside position, gathered his wits, and then pulled Tamanoshima in tight enough to grab the right outer grip. From there, youth prevailed as Tokusegawa executed the methodical force-out charge moving to a quiet 5-4 while Tamanoshima falls to 3-6.

M10 Aran continued his feast of the Makuuchi rank and filers by easily surviving Wakakoyu's moro-te tachi-ai and quick pull attempt only to counter with a series of quick jabs directly into Wakakoyu's face. Wakakoyu wanted no more of the Russian at this point going for a stupid pull attempt, which Aran read like a dirty magazine pushing Wakakoyu back and out in a flash. Aran's a cool 7-2 if you need him while Wakakoyu is 5-4.

Hokutoriki used a henka to the back and left putting both hands at the back of Tosayutaka's head going for the quick pulldown. Tosayutaka survived the classless move but had no footing and was the perfect target for Hokutoriki's tsuppari attack. To his credit, Tosayutaka dug in and tried to force the fight to the belt, but he could never overcome the advantage the Lil' Yokozuna gained at the tachi-ai with his henka. Sucks for Tosayutaka who falls to 4-5 while Hokutoriki is a quick and dirty 5-4.

Countrymen M11 Mokonami and M7 Kyokutenho hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu contest from the tachi-ai that saw Mokonami grab the early right outer grip, but Tenho used his length to perfection pressing into Mokonami's chest with his upper body threatening his own right outer grip not to mention keeping Mokonami too upright to gain any momentum. About eight seconds in, Kyokutenho grabbed that right outer grip, pulled his date in close, and then escorted him back and out for the textbook yori-kiri win leaving both rikishi at 6-3.

M7 Tamawashi lowered his head and went full boar into M13 Kimurayama...well he thought he was driving straight into Kimurayama, but Kim was nowhere to be found having moved to her left capitalizing on a stumbling Tamawashi by simply pushing him out with two hands to the back. Is it any wonder why NHK preceded this bout by showing Chiyonofuji clinch his first ever yusho in a playoff against Kitanoumi? They had to have known they'd lose a good chunk of their viewing audience with the type of sumo that Kimurayama displayed today. Tamawashi falls to 2-7 while Kimurayama is 4-5.

M6 Kokkai continued his slide against M8 Kakizoe in a bout that saw Kakizoe strike and then slightly evade in an attempt to make Kokkai keep up with him. Kokkai used what looks like a dual kachi-age parlayed into his dual wingspan tsuppari, and just as he seemed to get confidence in that approach, Kakizoe easily read the Georgian's next attempt and skipped to the side as Kokkai pushed into thin air rendering himself off balance in the process. Fish in a barrel for Kakizoe who moves to 4-5 while Kokkai is in a rut at 2-7.

M6 Tokitenku and M10 Okinoumi hooked up in the immediate migi-yotsu contest from the tachi-ai that saw Okinoumi gain the early left outer grip, but Tokitenku disposed of it like a bad date and pressed in closer to his opponent. Okinoumi was lost at this point and allowed Tokitenku to grab a left grip of his own before just bullying the Sophomore back and out to a 1-8 make-koshi. Tokitenku improves to 4-5 for his troubles.

M9 Goeido brilliantly dominated M5 Hakuba throughout their bout but still managed to lose in the end. Henkaba moved slightly to his right at the tachi-ai, but Goeido read the move perfectly and latched onto a right outer grip with his left hand securing an inner grip as well. Goeido only had one fold of the mawashi, so he quickly reloaded and looked to hand Hakuba his second tsuri-dashi loss in as many days, but for some reason Goeido wasn't comfortable with his outer grip and didn't finish off the tsuri-dashi attempt. At this point, Hakuba's mawashi was falling apart, so when Goeido grabbed another right grip and used it to try and swing Hakuho over and down while pulling at the back of his head, Goeido just didn't have enough to pull on enabling Hakuba to counter with a sukui-nage at the edge sending Goeido to an improbable loss. I mean, how crazy is it that Goeido is 4-5 while Hakuba is 7-2?  I realize Goeido is coming off of a kyujo, but dude's a headcase.

M8 Toyohibiki forced his bout against M4 Kitataiki into a tsuppari contest, but you could just see that the Ibiki was asleep at the wheel failing to drive with the lower body, so Kitataiki was able to hang around and threaten the inside position to where Toyohibiki finally became frustrated and went for a pull down that Kitataiki read pushing the Hutt out in the process. Kitataiki inches towards kachi-koshi at 5-4 while Toyo the Hutt is under water at 4-5.  And speaking of Hutts, how irresponsible was it for Martin to brand Gagamaru a Hutt in his day 7 report?  Surely Martin is aware of the discriminating rule that limits Hutt participation to just one foreigner, so does he really want to take that title away from Russian Orora?

The winner of the M2 Tochinoshin - M1 Miyabiyama contest was clearly going to be determined by the style of the bout...yotsu for Shin and oshi for the Sheriff. Miyabiyama dictated the pace early by using what else but the lumbering tsuppari to keep Tochinoshin away from the belt. Tochinoshin looked for any sort of opening attempting to swipe Miyabiyama's arms away and using a few thrusts of his own, but after a Miyabiyama pull attempt half way through the bout, it looked as if Tochinoshin accepted and committed to the tsuppari affair. Bad move as Miyabiyama is too powerful in his thrusts to be bested by a youngster like Shin. After forcing Shin off balance after the Private attempted a pull of his own, Miyabiyama pushed him up to the straw and then shifted gears pulling Tochinoshin forward and down for the grueling win. Both fellas are fighting well with Tochinoshin standing at an incredible 5-4 considering his schedule while Miyabiyama improves to 4-5.

Komusubi Kotoshogiku has M1 Toyonoshima's number, and it showed again today as the Geeku struck hard actually getting both arms on the inside. Toyonoshima executed a quick maki-kae before Kotoshogiku could get settled, but the Geeku still had a right outside grip and excellent left inside position. Toyonoshima thrives on getting deep on the inside, but with Kotoshogiku's shorter stature and big gut, there simply wasn't room to maneuver. Well, no room for Toyonoshima. Kotoshogiku would take care of that by bellying up to his opponent and forcing him back without argument. Kotoshogiku moves to 4-5 with the win and should kachi-koshi with a lighter week 2 schedule while Toyonoshima is all but down and out at 2-7.

Our two Sekiwake clashed today with Kisenosato using a hari-zashi approach slapping at Aminishiki's face with the right while getting the left on the inside, but Aminishiki was unfazed and grabbed a solid right outer grip in the process while the Kid had none. As Kisenosato bellied up in an attempt to grab an outer grip of his own, Aminishiki forced the two to move around the ring still in the hidari-yotsu position keeping Kisenosato at bay by threatening an inside leg trip as they danced. The uchi-gake attempt was the key because in order for Kisenosato to shake it off, he aligned his feet ever so briefly, but that was all Shneaky needed forcing his counterpart clear across the dohyo and to the edge before finishing a Kisenosato escape attempt off with a coupla shoves. This was great sumo from Aminishiki who moves to 3-6 while Kisenosato is caught off guard a bit at 5-4.

In the Ozeki ranks, Kotomitsuki gave up the early left outer grip against Komusubi Tochiohzan in the migi-yotsu contest, but nobody outside of the Yokozuna rank can shake off an outer grip better than Kotomitsuki, and he did just that wrenching those hips that not only cut Tochiohzan off but gave Hit a left outer grip of his own. From this position, Kotomitsuki made sure his chest was aligned with his opponent before forcing him back and out for the great win. You could see the frustration on Tochiohzan's face as he took that last step backwards across the straw attempting a weak pull in the process because Kotomitsuki simply dissected him on the dohyo. Pretty win for the Ozeki who moves to 6-3 while Tochiohzan falls to the inverse.

Ozeki Kotooshu welcomed M4 Asasekiryu in a lopsided affair...only that it was lopsided in favor of Asa's Secretary. Sexy used a two-handed push at the tachi-ai to keep the Ozeki off of the belt before diving into a deep, inside belt grip with the left hand while keeping his arse way back as he is wont to do. Kotooshu countered with his own left inside position and fished for his own outer grip with the right hand, but before he could get settled, Asasekiryu surprisingly stood upright into the Ozeki's chest, grabbed a right outer grip in the process, and then used his body perfectly as a fulcrum to lift Kotooshu clear off his feet and fell him with an uwate-nage as pretty as you please. Incredible stuff from Asasekiryu in what I consider the best-executed bout of the basho so far. This was ginosho-worthy stuff as Asasekiryu moves to 6-3. Kotooshu falls to the same mark.

Ozeki Harumafuji demanded moro-zashi against M3 Wakanosato from the tachi-ai leaving Croconosato with no option but a counter kubi-nage throw (i.e. nary a pot to piss in). With Wakanosato sliding out of his neck throw attempt, Harumafuji sent him forcefully to the dirt with a shweet okuri-taoshi shove finishing off his bidness in two seconds flat. Harumafuji improves to 7-2 after shaking off that slow start while Wakanosato's make-koshi becomes official at 1-8.

Rounding out the ranks are the two final Ozeki, Baruto and Kaio, in a bout that saw Kaio play it as well as he could have hoped for crashing hard enough at the tachi-ai to deny Baruto an outer grip before settling into the hidari-yotsu position with his hips as far back as possible. Baruto fished for the right outer grip over the top a few times, but he knew Kaio wasn't going anywhere, so he wisely abandoned his attempt at an outer grip pivoting on a dime, grabbing around Kaio's left arm with a tottari grip, and yanking the Oldzeki across the dohyo standing Kaio perfectly upright to where he had two oshi-dashi targets painted on his teets. Baruto complied keeping Kaio's dignity in tact as he sent him back and across the straw recovering from that devastating loss yesterday to stand at 8-1. Kaio is 5-4, but with the other Ozeki comfortably nearing their kachi-koshi, the Old Gray Mare will undoubtedly find a way.

In the Yokozuna rank, Hakuho welcomed M3 Kakuryu who showed his slippery side by moving to his left at the tachi-ai, but Hakuho reacted so well that he caught Kakuryu in mid-air with his right arm on the inside gripping the back of the Kak's belt and his left hand enjoying a firm outer grip. But Hakuho was unable to finish the pest off due to the unorthodox tachi-ai, so Kakuryu was able to force the two to move in the ring preventing Hakuho from planting his feet and setting up the kill. When the dust settled from this initial spat, Hakuho went for an uwate-dashi-nage throw, but Kakuryu be damned slipped right out of the grip leaving the two completely separated in the center of the ring. At this point anything could have happened because who is going to make the first move without a redo of the tachi-ai? Both rikishi extended their arms, and Hakuho's length enabled him to get his right paw at the back of Kakuryu's head while the Kak fought off the Yokozuna's advances on the other side. In the midst of this awkwardness, Hakuho said enough of the funny bidness and just pulled down at the back of Kakuryu's head forcing him to stumble forward to the edge where the Yokozuna pushed him out of the ring from behind first and then exhibited as fine of an oshi-dashi as you care to see sending Kakuryu clear off the dohyo and up the aisle. I doubt anything will be said of Hakuho's dame-oshi, but it's completely within a Yokozuna's right to do it when someone doesn't fight him straight up (remember Kakuryu's henka that started it all). In the end, the result is the same with Hakuho moving to 9-0 while Kakuryu dribbled but failed to shoot at 3-6.

I'll see you again on senshuraku (day me) while Doc Mario preps me for surgery tomorrow with a clean shave.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Ive decided to make my intro twice as long as usual to make up for Martin jamming your faces into Tamanoshimas crack from the word go on Day 7. Seriously, I feel for Martins girlfriend. Dude prolly walks into her flat, says Salut, my little dulceata, and then whips out an anal rubber dam! Reminds me of Eric Idle at the 3:00 mark in this scene from The Meaning of Life.

Martin here: Clank has a point, foreplay is one of the defining traits that separates us humans from most animals. If you want a proper intro, click here.

Happy?  OK, now get outta here.

I spent the better part of my day (I say "better part" because the rest was spent watching sumo--badda boom!) painting the doors to the entrance of my home. My wife wanted the doors "spruced up," which in this case meant her deciding to paint them the same color the avenging angel Clint Eastwood painted the town Lago, a town whose citizenry sat by and watched him get bullwhipped to death in his previous incarnation as the towns young Marshall, in High Plains Drifter--as awesome a film as you could ever wish to see. 

Anywho, I was down at the family garage painting while listening to Radio Free Sumo. Great-grannie and her sidekick (another 83 year-old in a bonnet wielding a scythe) were perched on two chairs inside the garage, just out of the reach of the late afternoon sun, silently marking the time, when suddenly GG mutters, "Boring." I can only assume she was referring to the sumo. I suppose she COULD have been referring to her day, but since she has wiled away the hours nearly every day for the last fifteen years in pretty much the exact same manner, I doubt it.

So, thats how bad its gotten. An 83 year-old woman who hears life through what amounts to a tapioca pudding is knocking sumo. Where did they go wrong?

Well, while there are certainly myriad factors, booting out their second Yokozuna was a big mistake, in particular the timing. Apart from the obvious need for balance, with Hakuho ascending, Genghis was the only guy who could be counted on to give the fans that ticklish feeling that Kublai could be going down. Plus Asa brought vim and spunk and chutzpah, and there are lots of fans who like that in their sports heroes. Unfortunately, those fans tend to be bandwagoneers, showing up mainly when sumo is the hot ticket in town, not the hard core fans that attend come hell or high water. Hence your empty seats.

Theres also the lil fact that Japanese Sumo has morphed into Mongolestobulgorgian Sumo, but thats a discussion for the sociology textbooks, NOT a Day 8 report.

Sure, they could ask Asa to come out of retirement, unprecedented yes, but much of what Asa did was unprecedented, so there is precedence for the unprecedence. What? But no way in Latvia they do that. Sumo is like the rice culture here, subsidized to the tatas by the gummint, wholl do anything to keep at least a few Japanese traditions extant. The NSK will absorb the low income and the weather the lack of interest and soldier on, knowing that since theyve capped the foreign gusher with their "one furry per heya" limitation, one day a JPese rikishi or two will arise and the fickle fans will return, but like the priestly caste they are, not REALLY caring when or whether they ever do.

Now that Ive gotten you probably lubricated, on to Le Action! (I thought itd be cool to use the French word for "action" but was disappointed to learn its "action.")

Not having time to watch tape of Wakakoyu cost Tochinonada dearly as he leaned fully into the two hands on his chest, so that when the hands disappeared, so too did GGs support. Timber for the former Yokozuna Rouster as he has fallen and, sadly, cant get up. 

Piglet got henkad by The Jokerman, but Takekaze, too fisticated to stand there stammering, Oh d-d-d-ear-dear, turned and came toward Hokutoriki with arms a whirlin. Thus a slapfest was born, and after a few seconds, it was Takekaze who got the better of his faux, pulling Lil Zuna down by the back of the head. After eight days, each man has lost as many as the other has won.

Tamanoshima got henkad by Kimurayama, but recovered and was squared up and firing away at him at the edge, where Kimu-ee just timed it well and slapped his Peter to the dirt. To this point we had three tori-kumi that all needed a kumi-tori.

Just when we were getting sick of the same old manner of winning, or kimari-te, up jumps Mokonami out of his crouch and to his left, leaving Koryu charging past and out. Or not, as the E16 was able to halt his mo before stepping out, and turned to delightedly discover that Numbnuts had come down from his kangaroo leap on the palms of his hands to lose by a tsuki-te (pro: ts-key-tay), not even an official winning technique. More like a "Youre a douchenozzle" kimari-te. A fourth straight shit bout, but at least we all got a snicker out of it.

The yotsu belt battle gods of sumo finally deigned to present us with a decent if bland bout, Aran and Shimotori. Both gents got the outside left, inside right belt and locked in chest to chest. The Bouncers bulky strength was the diff as he yes, inexorably muscled out the lighter W15. After eight days, both men have won three times as often as theyve lost.

For the billionth and one time, Takamisakari gave ground at the start (have we EVER seen him cross his foes line at tachi-ai?) and tried a half-assed pulldown, which only let Tosayutaka in close and warm like a toasty yukata. Im not sure if what happened next was intentional or just the result of one of those crazy, scratching ticks he has, but Gump exploded downward in a spasm, causing Toasty to assume the pushup position. Now THIS is what a good hiki-otoshi looks like. Run, Forrest, run and get three more for KK. As pathetic as it is, youre the guy they all look forward to.

(The English commentary on NHK today was surreal, or more surreal than usual I should say, with Hiro and some psychotic 74 year-old professor who does every martial sport known to man and has an accent that would be right at home inside a NYC taxi. Since Id already listened on RFS, I heard their patter only when I viewed the actual bouts for this report. At one point the prof said he gets up at 6:30 and takes his "dog and wife" for a walk. Hiro then said, "Wow, I just touched your thighs and theyre all muscle. Very hard." O-o-o-kay then.)

Like Mario on a blind date, Goeido came in low and hard, but Yoshikaze was able to squirm away. Lots of slapping ensued, with Café bobbing and weaving like a prizefighter. Finally Goeido got him with his back to the edge and went in for the kill, but oddly he put his hands up around Starbucks shoulders and not down near his mawashi. Given this opening, the Caffeinated One grabbed the belt that was offered, got in close, abandoned the grip and twisted the Father down using the ever popular armpit. Hard to imagine Goeido right now as the Ozeki he ought to one day become.

Okinoumi played the protesting wife, and Tamawashi was the drunken husband pushing her out of the way so he can leave the house and go the pub. Okinoumi: A real looker, but lords above is he getting pwned this time out.

If I told you that Kyokutenho was involved in a lengthy belt battle that ended with a leg tripping win, youd assume the W gunbai went his way. And youd be wrong today as his opponent grew up doing the same wrestling the Chauffer did, namely Mongolian. Tokusegawa took SIX full years to go from Go to Juryo, then less than a year to Makuuchi, so maybe the lad is a late bloomer. The men took turns working each other all over the yard like barrels of leaves, and finally Tokusegawa neatly hooked his leg around his foes leg, tripping the W7 backward for his 4th win.

Kakizoe got mugged, literally, as Tokitenku kept his huge paws on Sweet Zoes mug for the better part of the bout. Kakizoe was tough enough to not wither, limber enough to not fall to a pulldown attempt, and then agile enough to dance deftly backward, waxing off the hard charging Mongolian and skimming the edge of the squared circle as Tokitenku fell to the clay.

Saw some clip of Roger Federer whiffing on a match point forehand vs. Nadal at the Madrid Open, and the only thing I noticed was that the Spanish use college age Playboy bunnies as ball girls. There are things to poopoo about Spanish culture, but daytime naps and blatant hottie worship are not among them!

Its the kind of ass kicking that Kokkai got today from Toyohibiki that makes some guys decide to turn to the dark side and start to henka. The Snore woke up and came full bore at tachi-ai, slamming back the Corporal, who scampered away but got hammered today. About as oshi as ones dashi is going to get. Had he henkad, 2-6 Kokkai would surely have won, so watch for him to try it from Day 9.

Ozeki slayer Tochinoshin had Hakubas number today, anticipating the tachi-ai sidestep well enough to get an inside right belt and then, after a short tussle, the outside left. From here it looked like a kid having a tantrum being forcibly removed from a birthday party as Shine lifted the literally kicking and figuratively screaming Suckuba about a meter into the air and set him down in foul territory. Martin made note of Hakuho on Day 7 repressing an urge to beat Tochinoshin to a bloody pulp, but the fact is if the Yokozuna and this Gorgeous Georgian brawled outside of sumo, Hakuho would be a dead man.

He may be one of the chunkier specimens in the top division, but no one works quite as hard as Miyabiyama to get er done. Today he was up against a crafty foe in Toyonoshima, who is flexible enough to bend not break as Flobby shoves at him with those meaty paws. An endless series of shoves to the chest, neck, face, hell, the PSYCHE kept Tugboat from getting inside, where he was oh so eager to be. After resisting all over the dohyo, Tug was unlucky enough to leave a breast hanging out, and Miyabi kneaded it like bread dough to finally drive the E1 out.

If we take a dreamtour to Bizzaro Sumo World, where Takamiyama was a mean bastard who pissed the JPese off so badly that they never invited another furry to enter sumo, todays bout between Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku would not have taken place. Rather it would have been on Day 13 or 14, because both of these guys would be at least Ozeki. But it did happen today, and Geeku made the mistake trying a lame pull on the back of the head, which only served to strengthen The Kids inside movements and led to a double inside for the Sekiwake. Nothing the Geeku could do now as he goes out and at 3-5 needs to scramble for his eight. 

We had a first (hatsu) face (kao) meeting (awase) today with the Norseman Kitataiki vs. Kotooshootmyselfinthefoot. The Ozeki kept his head screwed on today, tho, by wrapping up the much smaller Viking and taking him out toute de suite. The fly falls to 4-4, and the windshield moves to 6-2.

Tochiohzan was the aggressor in todays match vs. Harumafuji (whose name, as some of you may have noticed, is in no way pronounced "Harry"), staying centered and moving forward nicely. But HowDo is a master of evasion, his timing on waxing, both on and off, impeccable. Once he had stymied OhPoo to the point of frustration with all the backpedaling Three Stoogedness, he was able to get a left outside belt and use his head to ram the Komusubi out. Not exactly John Holmes Ozeki sumo, but at least there was some tension about who would win.

You know the Fans of Euro were all fretting the same thing, namely that Kakuryu the Dirty "Mongol" would henka poor Baruto the Brave and fell the mighty Biomass using dastardly deeds. So it must have come as a bit of shock to see the Kak displaying nads the size of Saitama, rising proudly and stiffly from the tachi-ai, going in hard and straight to the soft areas of the Estonian Ozeki, then giving him a smegma laden roundhouse, once, twice, thrice! staying close enough to smell yesterdays lunch on his breath, and then pulling his arm as the Ozeki came forward, slinging him around and out and down into Kotomitsukis lap like a sorry pile of wet tissues. Yuck! Scintillating sumo from the Mongolian Marauder, who brings to an end what little suspense there may have been about who would take the yusho. Not since the glory years of Asashoryu have we had a basho so clearly decided by Day 8. Wonderful or woeful, depending on your p.o.v.

Wakanosato kept his left arm pinned to his gut at tachi-ai and ergo walked straight into a Kaio outside right belt grip, the grip that has won him something like 500 bouts. Little surprise that Kaio then worked him out for his 5th win. Cant wait to see if he manages a wining record this time out. Im all on pins and needles. Its killing me! 

In the next-to-last tussle of the day we had Asa vs. Mitsuki. At one point in this heated rivalry Morning Dragon had beaten Hit or Mitsuki something like 32 times in a row...oh, wait, this is Asas SECRETARY. I keep forgetting, sumo didnt need the contumacious Asashoryu so now we get this level of bout instead. So, was it, like, awesome? Only if you find a downspiraling Ozeki doing to a W4 Sexy what Genghis used to do to HIM awesome. To be fair, after a coupling tachi-ai, Hit wasted no time in expertly wrenching on the belt and swinging his man around and down, and it looks like even the Sadogatake man, who started 1-3, will manage a KK. Happy, happy, happy. Joy, joy, joy.

Aminishiki nicely denied Hakuho the inside right and also managed to get his own inside right, but the Hakuho we are seeing now can take whatever is offered and use it to his advantage, sort of the sumo version of that "When life hands you lemons" bullshit. The Yokozuna, sensing trouble if he ignored Shneakys right arm, decided to lock down on it. With the Sekiwake stalled perpendicular to him, Hakuho used his left leg to lift up his foes right leg, judo style, and this caused Shneaky to counter by aligning himself parallel to Kublai. Bad move, as he was now easy yori-kiri pickins. Just another day of awesomosity by Hakuho, who will surely hold the all-time zensho yusho record by the end of 2011, if not the end of 2010.

Mike lowers the boom tomorrow.

Day 7 (Martin Matra reporting)
Veteran Tamanoshima, who's past his sell by date in Makuuchi, played some mind games with Koryu at the tachi-ai, jumping the gunbai (hi, Ross!) twice before finally taking the charge straight on and pushing his weaker opponent out in a couple uneventful seconds. Pete and Koryu share the same dubious 3-4 record.

With Yamamotoyama and Ichihara struggling in the sixpence division, and Iwakiyama out on kyujo, someone had to step up and defend the honor of the Hutts. With a low, powerful charge reminiscent of Dejima and a mass in excess of 200kg, Georgian Gagamaru steamrolled right through future Juryo mainstay Tochinonada, upping his record to a Makuuchi worthy 6-1 (he's ranked J1). Nada sinks to 2-5, if anyone cares.

Yoshikaze saw right through Hokutoriki's strategy for their match and henka'd to his left, yanking on the Joker's extended arms for the cheap win. The Pretender falls to 4-3 with the loss, while Kaze checks in at 5-2.

What little excitement this basho had produced so far in the lower ranks was extinguished today thanks to a henka (not full-blown, but to the left, no less) by Kimurayama. Shimotori survived it (it would be hard not to, unless you're blind or drunk), but it gave Kimurayama enough of an advantage so that he was able to constantly stay ahead in the bout. Eventually, Shimotori fell for the push/pull game and his first loss. Kimura "improves" to 2-5 (yawn).

Wakakoyu (ko-YU, Clyde, not ko-RYU--but I guess the soft Japanese r is about as close as you can come to the real thing, so why not show it off?) is finally starting to be exposed for the weak slab of lard he really is. The Tan Man beat KoYU at his own game, methodically brushing off the tsuppari and pouncing at the exact instant, felling Wakakoyu to the dirt by hiki-otoshi. Mokonami is a very respectable 6-1, while Koyu falls to his 3rd loss. Yeah, I know, using big words doesn't make up for the dearth of action, but whaddyagonnado.

0fer 0kinoumi evolved into 1kinoumi with the upset win over Takamisakari, winning the tachi-ai and gaining moro-zashi after a brief struggle. Strong as he may be at the edge, there was little the Clown could do from that position against the lanky sophomore, so he was yorikiri'ed to his 3rd loss.

The notable feat of the next bout was Tokusegawa's lengthy attempt at a soto-gake (he's a Mongol, so I guess he doesn't take it well when those fail, especially against European thugs like Aran). So, as I was saying, the two furries went to yotsu from the get-go, both grabbing right-inside double grips. The leg hook was all pretty looking, but had little effect in even remotely getting Aran off balance, so Tokusegawa pulled back in time. But before Aran could get comfortable, the Mongol deployed the ample inside throw, helping Aran down with a grab on the back of the head and landing on top of him as a bonus (ouch). Aran cools down to 5-2 after a perfect first 5 days, while Tokusegawa improves to 3-4.

By far the most disappointing rikishi this basho has to be Goeido (only 4-3). OK, he was recovering from injury and had little keiko, but his trouble these days stems from a wrong approach to the bouts. Why the hell would anyone want to give Takekaze an inside position? It's about the only thing that allows him to put up any fight against a bigger and stronger guy like Goeido is supposed to be. So, anyway, Takekaze (3-4) snuck his way into moro-zashi, and, though shallow, it was enough for him to dominate and finish it off by yori-taoshi. Before the bout, my attention was caught by a little discussion Ross and Clyde were having about animals they'd like or not on their kimonos. I'm sure Clyde's would be a snake.

Tosayutaka used his superior sumo skill in his match with the bigger and stronger (and also whiter) Kokkai (who, ironically, has black in his shikona), brushing aside the Georgian's flailing arms and getting deep into moro-zashi. Kokkai didn't want to just give up, so he tried some outside desperation throws, but the grip the Gorilla had was just too good, so soon Kokk found himself in one of the shinpans' lap. Tosayutaka recovers nicely from the 1-3 start, while Kokkai is an expected 2-5.

Mongol Tokitenku kind of stood up at the tachi-ai in his usual, passive way, but this time he deflected Toyohibiki's charge with a well-placed left hari-te, setting himself up for the insurmountable migi-yotsu position. Hibiki squirmed for a while, but he was only delaying the inevitable, because Tenku soon put things in motion by testing the waters with a kake-nage on the shita-te side, only to react to Toyohibiki's resistance with the best uwate-dashi-nage you'll ever see, flipping the overmatched Hibiki clean over and onto his arse. Top notch yotsu-zumo from Tokitenku, who improves to 3-4. Toyohibiki shares the record, but not the perspective.

Henkuba must have heard Mr. Mihara in the commentary booth praising his dohyo ability and decrease in henka numbers, because he henka'd Kakizoe and pulled him to the dirt after some spinning. Hakuba soars to 6-1 with the dubious win, and I must confess that his sumo was decent this basho, if you're willing to overlook all the shite at the tachi-ai. I'm not, so I wish Henkuba a happy make-koshi. Kakizoe slumps to 2-5.

Asasekiryu tried to finagle his way into a comfortable left uwate he likes at the tachi-ai, but Kyokutenho denied that by getting an inside position on the other side, forcing not-so-sexy to take the shitate. With the longer arms and all, Tenho got the right uwate and methodically forced his foe out, eventually breaking his resistance. Both Mongols have 5 wins.

Mike's darling Kitataiki stalled the tachi-ai as much as he could, then went ever so early, rushing Tamawashi and getting himself into yotsu. With no mawashi skills, it was only a matter of time before the Mongol was yorikiri'ed to his 6th loss. You can stop grinning now, Mike.

Wakanosato got his best win of the basho, going through Homasho like he wasn't there. Homie falls to 0-15 with the no show.

Sadogatake man #3 Kotoshogiku was never quite able to get a good grip on Tochiohzan, who kept him at bay and upright, forcing him to over-commit and slapping him down to his 4th loss. Tochiohzan has the same score, and my report is going to be frustratingly short. At this rate, by Nagoya we might have to start to compensate for the lack of excitement in sumo.

At least ex-Ama made up for his abysmal 0-2 start by reeling off 5 straight wins, culminating with today's demolition of the limp Kak. Hmph charged particularly hard using his head (literally), drove Kakuryu back a step or two, took him off balance with a vicious swipe to the side of his head and finished him off with a sideways push, ignoring the meek pulldown attempts. This was kamikaze sumo from the top Ozeki (well, on paper...), but without any henka to foil it, it paid off bigtime. Kak falls to 2-5 and his future isn't looking too bright right now. But don't write that kachi-koshi off just yet.

Baruto didn't take any chances today and just stood up at the tachi-ai, easily absorbed Miyabiyama's weak forward movement and pushed his ass straight back and out. That's it. Really. 7-0 for the Estonian giant, while Miyabiyama falls to the ever-present 2-5. These guys should form a club or something.

Toyonoshima further exposed Kaio for the fraud he's become, lunging straight into a double inside grip, bellying his bigger foe to the edge and throwing him down by sukui-nage instead of pressing for the force-out. The shorty stops the hurt with two wins after a bleak 0-5 start, while Kaio plummets to his 3rd loss in as many days. However, don't really believe the illustrious Mr. Newton when he says Kaio might have trouble getting those 8 wins, because Kaio didn't pay that bunch of yen to Tochiohzan and Kisenosato for nothing. Kotomitsuki, Kotooshu and Harumafuji are waiting just around the corner - the show must go on, you know. Wouldn't it be ironic if Kaio was henka'd by Hakuba to his 8th loss?

Aminishiki charged hard and leaned into Kotomitsuki, practically begging for the hataki-komi that duly followed. Mitsuki will gladly take the freebie to rise above the .5 mark for the first time this Natsu. Aminishiki successfully applies to the 2-5 society.

Ozeki Kotooshu finally managed to look the part in his convincing defeat of Kisenosato, by crashing hard into him and demanding the left inside and the right uwate. To his credit, the Kid managed not to get flattened immediately by yori-taoshi in the usual fashion, and even survived an uwate-nage. It was short-lived, however, because Kotooshu just reloaded the throw with a little extra oomph and a patently Mongolian grab on the same side thigh. Nice eye candy, but hardly any good can come of this for the basho as a whole. Kisenosato (4-3) struggles to get 8 or 9 wins, Kotooshu (5-2) probably sleepwalks to a convenient 8-3 only to fold and lose to the bunch of Ozeki and Yokozuna (yes, Kaio too) and we're back to business as usual. Remember,

Tochinoshin was naïve enough to think he could just slip to the side with his arm extended and an uwate would conveniently land in his lap (he must have been studying tapes of Kotooshu from 2008), but he was quickly brought back to reality by a stinging hari-te from the Uber-Yokozuna which was so powerful and well aimed it deflected poor Shin to the point of missing Hak's mawashi by a good 10 inches. Turning on a dime to face his shifty foe, Hakuho quickly suppressed his urge to beat Shin to a bloody pulp and settled for exchanging right inside grips. Of course, the apparent stalemate lasted only as long as Hak needed to get the left uwate (i.e. about 5 seconds). The finish was only a mild yori-kiri, but Tochinoshin will soon get stronger, so Hakuho might have to upgrade his finishing move to uwate-nage, like he did with Kotooshu. Tochinoshin cools down to 4-3, while Hakuho stays on course for his 2nd consecutive zensho.

What more could be said? Zilch, except that I can't wait for this bloody mess of a basho to be over, because it just happens to end when the French Open starts. Well, OK, almost nothing - I'm kind of looking forward to Nagoya, but just because Hakuho promised he'd show up in a new gold mawashi a la Wajima.

Clancy picks up the pieces tomorrow.

Day 6 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Normally at the big city basho (Tokyo and Osaka), Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are always a sell-out, but the crowd was nearly as sparse today as it has been all week. I expected attendance figures to drop after the retirement of Asashoryu, but I didn't expect it to happen quite this fast. But when you take a step back and consider things, where is there any drama in sumo right now? It's as simple as this: Hakuho is a boring Yokozuna, and Baruto is the only guy right now who has any sort of chance to wrestle the yusho away from Hakuho. In his day, I thought Takanohana was a boring Yokozuna, but at least you had two strong Hawaiians in Akebono and Musashimaru to challenge Takanohana every basho. In Baruto's case, there's still a huge gap between him and the current Yokozuna, so while we furreners still show an interest in sumo, the Japanese public under 65 just doesn't care anymore.

On that note, let's examine the day's bouts that started when M16 Koryu welcomed J3 Chiyohakuho, and before we get to the action, I must comment that I've seen maturity in both Koryu and Hakuba this basho. Up unitl now, they were the laughing stock of the division, but Koryu has put some punch into his tachi-ai, and he's focused on moving forward. The result is a decent 3-3 showing so far that saw him keep his footing well today as Chiyohakuho had nothing but pull and evade on his mind from the tachi-ai. The Juryo rikishi had Koryu close to losing his balance at one point, but on about the third pull/evade attempt, Koryu guessed right as to which way Chiyohakuho was moving and easily polished him off for the win. Good stuff from Koryu who would deserve his eight should he get it. As for his opponent, c'mon Chuck, you gotta bring more to the Makuuchi division than that. He's 2-4 for a reason I suppose.

As weak as M14 Tochinonada has become, he was still too strong for sumo's badass, M14 Hokutoriki, to push back from the start. A lack of solid footwork from Hokutoriki allowed Tochinonada to easily swipe upwards at Hokutoriki's arms forcing him to retreat in hopes that a pull attempt would form. It never did resulting in an easy oshi-dashi win for Tochinonada. When Tochinonada (2-4) wins by oshi-dashi, you know his opponent did something very wrong. Hokutoriki falls to 4-2 for his troubles.

Yusho favorite, M15 Shimotori, was solid again today against M13 Yoshikaze who struck at the tachi-ai and promptly aligned his feet allowing Shimotori to pull him down in the center of the ring less than two seconds in. Is it me or have we seen an abnormally high amount of hataki-komi wins where the loser aligns his feet at the tachi-ai and gets slapped down a second later? Oh right, Kaio has four wins already coming into the day. As for Shimotori, he moves to 6-0, which was good enough for sole possession of the lead for the next 85 minutes or so. Damn, did I just give away the Hakuho - Wakanosato result? As for Yoshikaze, he falls to a respectable 4-2.

M13 Takamisakari took the usual blows to the face from M16 Tamanoshima but somehow staved them off to obtain a left outer grip and decent right inside position on the other side. Tamanoshima backed off of the push-into-Takamisakari's-face strategy, and executed a fine right inside scoop throw that had Gump stumbling over to the edge, but as he always does, Takamisakari dug in at the last moment and turned the tables for the force-out win moving to 4-2 in the process. Tamanoshima is 2-4.

At this point, NHK took a break in the action to show the Sumo Association's latest marketing plan, a big yellow doll named Sekitori-kun. They gave away something like a hundred handheld fans to the first 100 visitors to the Kokugikan that had Sekitori-kun's image on the front in yellow and back in red. Former Ozeki Kirishima (current Michinoku-oyakata) was on hand to help pass out the fans, and he was also in the booth today providing color commentary, so he and Iwasa Announcer both held fans in their hands as they gave the obligatory spiel on the current advertising campaign to increase sumo's appeal to young children. I've never seen Kirishima more uncomfortable in my life as he was forced to talk about Sekitori-kun, and how can you blame him? Exactly zero young children were watching the broadcast, and every person in line to receive a free fan was over the age of 70. And the Sumo Association wonders why attendance is so bad this basho? I'm sorry, but a yellow doll is not the answer.

Well, if I took that much time talking about Sekitori-kun then you know the M12 Takekaze - M15 Wakakoyu matchup musta lacked any flash, which was true as Wakakoyu was mainly concerned about using his tsuppari into Takekaze's neck (yes, Takekaze actually has a neck!) only to setup a pulldown. Takekaze wasn't buying it, however, and followed the retreating Wakakoyu's every move securing the the easy push-out win in the end. Takekaze improves slightly to 2-4 while Wakakoyu falls to 4-2.

M12 Kimurayama actually charged straight forward against M11 Mokonami, and it showed why Kimurayama needs to henka each bout as Mokonami connected on a few bitch slaps before grabbing the easy left outer grip of his opponent who was standing way too upright the entire bout. Mokonami swung Kim around a few times with that outer grip and then put his right hand at the back of Kimurayama's head sending him down to the dohyo in a heap with a nice dashi-nage throw. Mokonami is a quiet 5-1 while Kimurayama is the inverse at 1-5.

M10 Aran, a strong 5-0 coming in, executed a sound tachi-ai against M9 Tosayutaka staying low and grabbing a firm left outer grip, but on the right side, he used his hand to push up into Tosayutaka's jaw. Tosayutaka naturally countered with the right inside position, and with Aran's own right hand up high trying to choke Tosayutaka back, the smaller Yutaka slipped out of the choke hold with his left arm right there on the inside giving him moro-zashi. From this point, it was easy-peasy as Tosayutaka backed the Russian out in a flash. Aran falls to 5-1 and has to realize that the only way Tosayutaka beats him is by moro-zashi, so leaving his right arm up high pushing into Tosayutaka's throat instead of taking the inside position was a huge mistake that cost him. Tosayutaka evens things out at 3-3.

M8 Kakizoe used a henka to his left against M11 Tokusegawa, but to his credit he didn't go for the pull down. I'm not sure exactly what Kakizoe hoped to achieve by the move, and he apparently didn't know what to do either because Tokusegawa just squared himself back up and reached a long right hand over grabbing Kakizoe's belt. With Kakizoe off balance, Tokusegawa threw him across the dohyo and down in one fell swoop to pick up the shweet dashi-nage win. Both rikishi are 2-4.

M10 Okinoumi managed moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M7 Kyokutenho, but the veteran Tenho pulled the youngster in so tight that Okinoumi was too upright to take advantage of his position. The result was Kyokutenho using a firm left outer grip to wrench the protesting Okinoumi this way and that before throwing him down to the dohyo by the belt. Okinoumi is now 0-6 and a victim of a pretty strong mid-Maegashira. Kyokutenho breezes to 4-2.

M9 Goeido finally got to the inside of his opponent and stuck to him. Against M6 Tokitenku, Goeido actually had a light moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai, but Tokitenku easily shook that off with a maki-kae with the right arm leaving the two in the migi-yotsu position, but when in tight, Goeido is a bulldog in a belt contest and it showed as he demanded the left outer grip, used his left leg to trip at the back of Tokitenku's right, and then forced Tokitenku back and out with some vigor. Watching Goeido use his lower body in a yotsu contest is a treat, so the key for him is to keep the fight at the belt instead of bouncing around in a pull/slap fest. He's 4-2 for his troubles while Tokitenku has lost four in a row to sit at just 2-4.

I mentioned in my intro that M5 Hakuba has matured a bit on the dohyo, but this success he's having is all being set up by his constant tachi-ai henka. Even when he doesn't henka, he makes his opponents guess. In other words, he's using everything but sound sumo basics to win. Today against M8 Toyohibiki, he didn't jump to the side, but he held up backing up half a step waiting for Toyohibiki to extend himself too far before retreating himself in an effort to score the cheap pull-down win. Toyohibiki kept his balance well, however, and had Hakuba on the ropes, but the wily Mongolian evaded grabbing Toyohibiki's right arm, which he used to twist Ibiki down to the dohyo via a spectacular tottari throw. Hakuba moves to 5-1, but he's still got too much crap in his sumo for my taste. Toyohibiki is 3-3.

M4 Kitataiki and M6 Kokkai hooked up in the immediate hidari-yotsu context, but Kitataiki enjoyed the lower stance using his chest to burrow Kokkai more upright than he wanted to be, and the result was a right outer grip for Kitataiki followed by a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'm force-out that took three seconds. Great stuff from Kitataiki who evens things at 3-3. Kokkai is 2-4.

M7 Tamawashi and M4 Asasekiryu were completely out of synch at the tachi-ai with Tamawashi a step late, and the result was Asasekiryu gaining the moro-zashi position with his right arm on the inside and his left hand at the front of the Mawashi's mawashi. The veteran Asasekiryu wasted no time driving Tamawashi back as the latter attempted to counter with a kote-nage throw, but with his feet against the straw, Tamawashi had enough strength to reverse the angle of attack and send Asasekiryu to the dohyo with a right ottsuke moved that resembled an utchari throw without the belt. But Asasekiryu has been in the bidness too long and was smart enough to lean his body into Tamawashi forcing him down hard to the dirt a split second before Asasekiryu crashed himself. This one was so close that it could have warranted a mono-ii, but I agree that Asasekiryu was the victor. The new Asa is 5-1 while Tamawashi is a paltry 1-5.

M2 Tochinoshin's fantastic run this basho would come to a halt today for the simple reason that he wasn't fighting the Ozeki any longer. His opponent today was M1 Toyonoshima who stayed low at the tachi-ai getting his right arm firmly on the inside. Tochinoshin was forced to prevent his opponent's moro-zashi by pinching inwards on Toyonoshima's left arm, but in this defensive stance, Tochinoshin couldn't set himself up into an attacking migi-yotsu stance. Toyonoshima continued to body Tochinoshin upright until about six seconds in when he finally secured moro-zashi by getting his left arm to the inside of Tochinoshin's right pit. Toyonoshima knew how to please his gal from there as he quickly escorted Tochinoshin back and out leaving the Georgian grabbing desperately for the back of Toyonoshima's belt. Toyonoshima incredibly picks up just his first win while Tochinoshin cools off a bit at 4-2.

Sekiwake Kisenosato showed his strength advantage over Komusubi Tochiohzan today getting his left arm on the inside and keeping Tochiohzan on his heels as he threatened the right outer grip. As Tochiohzan resisted the Kid's advances, Kisenosato threatened a maki-kae, and as Tochiohzan looked to fight that off, Kisenosato reversed gears and just pulled Tochiohzan forward and down by the back of his shoulder. It wasn't pretty, but Kisenosato's power won out in this one as the Sekiwake moves to an expected 4-2. Tochiohzan is par for the course at 2-4.

In the Ozeki ranks, Baruto lost the tachi-ai big time against Sekiwake Aminishiki, who just stood the Estonian upright with a nice moro-te tachi-ai, but it looked as if Aminishiki failed to plan his attack beyond that move, and with his lower body unsettled on the dohyo, Baruto simply backed up a step and pulled Aminishiki forward and down to the dirt with some oomph. On one hand, Baruto lost the tachi-ai again and could have been in trouble, but on the other hand, it doesn't really matter unless he's fighting Hakuho. Perhaps Kotooshu or Kisenosato could have taken advantage today, but no one else has a shot to beat the Estonian, so he moves to a cool 6-0 while Aminishiki is floundering at 2-4.

Komusubi Kotoshogiku wanted no part of Ozeki Kaio's shenanigans, so he moved to his right in a classless tachi-ai henka, grabbed the right outer grip, and then dry-humped the Ozeki back and out without argument. Kotoshogiku improves to 3-3 but henka'ing Kaio these days is akin to stealing candy from a baby. As for Kaio, he falls to 4-2 and is still looking for a forward-moving win this basho.

Speaking of henka, M2 Homasho used yet another tachi-ai henka against Ozeki Kotomitsuki, but Homasho's henkas are more a matter of fearing for his life than a tactic to set up a win. Kotomitsuki had to expect it because he reacted well squaring himself up quickly with Homasho and then just pushing him back and out for the ridiculously easy win. Kotomitsuki moves to 3-3, and it's not official, but wins over Homasho (0-6) now may become classified as fusensho.

Ozeki Kotooshu got his ass kicked by M3 Kakuryu who used a potent right hand to the Bulgarian's face followed by a left slap to the side of his head followed by another right paw driving into the Ozeki's throat. Kotooshu was on his heels at this point and perfectly upright, so Kakuryu shifted gears and just dragged Kotooshu forward and down by the back of the head. There was absolutely no shame in Kakuryu's hataki-komi win today as he moves to 2-4, but there was plenty of shame in Kotooshu's dropping a second bout to a Maegashira rikishi. Yes, he's 4-2, but what really matters is that he's already out of the yusho race.

After four unorthodox Ozeki bouts that involved two tachi-ai henka, Ozeki Harumafuji made damn sure that we wouldn't get a single clean bout from the rank today. Against M1 Miyabiyama, Harumafuji simply jumped to his left in a tachi-ai henka slapping at Miyabiyama's head with the left hand and then pushing down at the back of the Sheriff's belt as he was on his way down. Ugly, ugly stuff from Harumafuji who tried to mask his move with a quick hari-te, but fact'a the matter is, he wanted no part of Miyabiyama today. And we wonder why no one is showing up to the sumos these days? Harumafuji is 4-2 while Miyabiyama falls to 2-4.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho simply demanded the inside position with the left, turned M3 Wakanosato to the side, and then forced him out with vigor. The carnage lasted maybe two seconds, but Hakuho dismantled his opponent so fast, I couldn't even find a picture of the bout online. And just like that, Hakuho is a cool 6-0 while Wakanosato falls to 0-6.

Martin does the Macarena tomorrow.

Day 5 (Mark Arbo reporting)
Living in Japan will change a man. Perhaps living anywhere will change ya. Perhaps just living changes all who are blessed to go on doing so. 

Yesterday before sumo I drove out to my favourite squid place. It's a little BBQ place by a secluded beach on the far tip of a peninsula that darts deep into the Tsushima Strait. Sure there are closer places that sell squid. Hundreds I suppose. But this place is my favourite and the long drive through mountains and farm land is just part of the experience. 

How strange this would have seemed to me a few years back. I had eaten squid before I came to Japan. It was a dare. Now I have a "favourite squid place". I recommend it to friends and when I haven't been there for a while I find myself missing it. "Life is change. Growth is optional." Indeed.

Sumo is the exact same thing. There was a time when sumo seemed as exotic as it did funny. I first saw sumo live in 2000 and it was years before I even thought to go again. Now here I sit, pecking, hoping to impart my passion and perhaps just a little knowledge to unmet friend from the 4 corners of the globe. Neat.

Now that I got that of my Sean Connery From Russia With Love chest, let's get to the "action"...but I'll warn you now...there was little very little.

"Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle with you" And you know a basho is a dud when 37.672% of the "excitement" comes from the long since curdled tit of one Hokutoriki. Add to that Takamisakari having, as Mike pointed out, "lost a half step" as of late and you've got yourself a Lil' Zuna sighting. Today he pulled the clown down with a frown. The Joker strutted off huffed up like a princely proud prancing peacock...with an erection.

Yoshikaze picked up his 4th by grabbing moro-zashi on Tamanoshima showing him the door. Shima seems to have a "hisashiburi" trip to Juryo in the works.

Shimotori has proven that his sumo is AT LEAST on par with that of Baruto and Hakuho by jumping out to a 4-0 record. Today he took a mighty inside right on a helpless Tokusegawa . Like Casey At Bat, he worked the crowd into a frenzy, slightly retreating and allowing Toku a right of his own. But this one was never in doubt. How could it be? As Tokusegawa pressed forward, Tori easily swung him out with the grace of a swan and the power of a lion...with an erection. I'll go on record now calling a Shimotori yusho. In fact, pencil him in for every yusho till mid 2013. The man is damn near undefeateable.

Aran is another guy who is perfect after 4 days. Today he came at Takekaze with two palms to the jaw that were so powerful that the little piglet went flying backward several feet. Looking to get back toward the centre of the ring, Kaze dove in low but, off balance, and gifted Aran and easy pull down.

After taking his customary false start,s Kakizoe slid into moro-zashi on Goeido. Goeido has always shown some serious skills at defending against the double inside grip and today gave us another kubi-nage. Goeido picks up his 3rd win but his sumo has become far too reactionary. All but forgotten is the speed and aggression that brought him here...with an erection.

Tokitenku and Kyokutenho fought today. One of them won. But since I can't tell them apart, let's just say that a tall Mongol who has an old lady face won. He goes to 3-2 while the other guy drops to 2-3.

Don't look now but Asa has once again been kicking ass and taking names. Today The Dragon finally dropped one when Kokkai came in with some tsuppari that set up an inside left and pulled a beautiful uwate-dashi-nage. Until he saw the replay Murray seemed to be pushing the idea that The Secretary had slipped, like Kokkai couldn't be responsible for such sweet ass sumo. But this was just great sumo from the Georgian who who shows flashes of brilliance from time to time.

Miyabi worked the push/pull on Wakanosato, and I think I kinda dozed off for a bit (With and erection?). Before I could wake up, Tochiohzan had done the same to Aminishiki.

"Who isn't happy to see Kaio at 3-0 after a win over Tochiohzan (1-2)?" Hmmm, well me for one. In fact, I can honestly say that every (non-Japanese) fan I have talked "isn't happy".  I'm tempted to go on a Kaio bashing tirade here, but I don't think I should bother. 1) Mike already gave us a great one on day two, and 2) I have given great ones once a basho for a few years now.

Tochinoshin exposed several of Fauxzeki Kaio's many many weaknesses. His tachi-ai was better. He got better hand position. His footwork was better and he was insurmountably faster. I think I have already beaten the dead horse (Grey Mare actually) enough about Kaio so let's talk about Tochinoshin for second here. How good is this guy? 5 days, 5 Ozeki, 4 wins. And it's been decent sumo too. I've been saying all week that I quite like this new batch of Euro Trash. I'll say Shin has Komusubi wrapped up already and a slim shot at Sekiwake if The Geeku doesn't start humpin' fast.

So like I was saying, the past few years has seen waaaay too much of washed up Ozeki fighting crap sumo. But I am still shocked at just how fast Kotomitsuki has declined. Over just a few basho he went from a handful for anyone to a handful of "pretty bad at sumo". Today after a false start Mitsuki came full bore at struggling Kakuryu and after a pull attempt found a deep inside right. Once locked up, usually slippery Kakuryu had no recourse and meekly accepted his fate. That's Mitsuki's 2nd while Kak stays at just one.

Did someone say "struggling"? Cause at this rank Homasho looks like Mike in a Lebanese brothel. Remember his 1-14 basho? A really really easy yori-kiri win for Kotooshu. 

When I last saw Harumafuji practice I was shocked how bad his knee was. He joked that it was all a hangover, but it was more than apparent that this guy is seriously banged up. Today at the tachi-ai it looked like Ama's knee might give out, but he hung in there and locked up with Kissy in the centre of the ring. Sato pushed forward and backed the Ozeki to the straw but he blinked (again) and that was all the time Ama needed for a beautiful kubi-nage that sent Kisenosato to the clay a split second before Harumafuji himself. Today he gutted another one out and he will in all likelihood eek out a KK when it's all said and done. But the smartest thing Harumafuji could do after that is take next basho off and give his body a chance to half way heal up. Knee injuries are not like a Charlie horse; they don't usually heal for no real reason and if you keep doing whatever hurt them (keiko) they often never do. Ama has heart and all the talent in the world. He needs to get healthy to ensure us exciting matches for years to come.

0-4 vs. 4-0. Tugboat vs Bart. You do the math. Toyonoshima got moro-zashi, but he couldn't have won this one with moro-zashi and a bat. Bart is winning the ones he needs to, but his sumo, especially his cuddly hug of a tachi-ai, has yet to be tested this basho. Let's hope he is only using the Warm Welcome tachi-ai on smaller guys cause if he comes out like that against Hak he may end up in the 3rd row.

At this point I found myself hoping Hak would (somehow) lose to The Geeku cause up until now there had been almost nothing to talk about. But Hakuho is not in the habit of losing these days, and this was (no surprise) as quick and uneventful as the previous bout. Hak denied any hint of a belt grip, put Kotoshogiku in a headlock and threw him down. Murray, ever the kimari-te geek spent some time speculating how the judges might label it (as he does after 15 of 21 bloody matches every day) but it matters not. Nothing more to write about there...

Now for your homework.

-After a hard day of busboying or rhubarb picking or whatever it is you kid yourself into thinking is a carrier, pour a liberal amount of Old Grand Dad 114 over ice. Add a splash of amaretto (not to much, we're not making a Godfather here) and a dash of bitters and you have got yourself the cocktail that has been my muse for weeks now. I'm drinking one right now. You should be to.

- You think Tokyo's attendance is bad!? Remember that Fukuoka will be offering a "buy one get 150" ticket deal this November.

-Tune in early tomorrow cause the highlight will be Shimotori crushing Yoshikaze in the 3rd fight of the day. Lets just hope Kaze can continue to compete after being flattened by the Shimotorain.

-"Forget that the content isn't great" "We're looking for the "W", period ..." Henkas and yaocho be damned! Kaio has earned the right to be in no way held accountable for his actions! "join me in rooting on his longevity" Huzzah Kaio!! Huzzah!! Thank you for exposing all the flaws in the Ozeki system and teaching others how to exploit them to the point that many respect the rank only slightly more than that of Burger King Night Manager. 

-Enjoy Mike's report tomorrow. But please enjoy it responsibly.

Day 4 (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
Ah, we are finally there. The era of Ozeki Baruto. It is still something that I have to get used to, but considering we all hope Baruto will be cementing his position as the #2 guy in ozumo this shouldn't be too hard. Now the first three days of Natsu basho have been kind of mood killers when one is expecting some real action and excitement, which is I think best illustrated by the fact that NSK decided Baruto - Homasho match was the highlight match of the day on day two. But why rant about the boringness when NSK thinks that every day the best bout of the day is that one in which one of the wrestlers is Baruto. Of course that means that we all know who is running away with the Yusho in the background. I guess the only time people will mention Hakuho is on day 11 when he meets Baruto and people will hold their breath to see which giant takes the cup home.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's look at what everyone does on day four and we start with two Juryo guys of Kotokasuga and Wakakoyu. Yes, I know Wakakoyu is technically in Makuuchi, but let's not fool ourselves. The bout itself wasn't much to talk about. Wakakoyu manhandled Kasuga with his tsuppari thrusts and when Kasuga leaned in he just swiped his arms away to send his foe to take a bite of the dohyo. 

The meeting of the two veterans is difficult to predict as neither is in any comparable form to what they used to have. The two immediately locked with Tamanoshima getting the better grip, but unable to finish off Nada. As the two struggled Tochinonada funnily decided to neutralize Tama's left hand by using his right hand to lift it on top of the head. After some further struggling the two then stood there with Tama content on having Nada's manboob in his hand and Nada not minding. Finally Tma was able to break that grip on his left hand and grab for the belt and from there on it was just a formality in escorting the other veteran back and out. 

Koryu charged into the birthday boy with a nasty nodowa and was able to move the Robocop back a step, but Takami locked his right arm for a moment there neutralizing the charge and pivoting his foe. The two struggled for a while both slipping from the others grip until Takami was able to turn Koryu around and from the manlove position send him towards the ropes. Koryu did manage to recover enough to be sent out ass first making the technique Yorikiri, but the happy crowd couldn't have cared less, all they cared was that Takamisakari, the birthday clown, was victorious. 

The fat Kaze took on Shimotori for some damage control, but the lossless Shimotori was to have none of it as he absorbed Takekaze's charge and sent him backpedaling in turn, which only stopped once fat Kaze was off the dohyo. Shimotori's shooting like a rocket to 4-0, but that won't last. Takekaze at 1-3 is not having a good basho.

Hokutoriki came out with his trademark nodowa and Kimurayama henka'ed to his left. Any surprises? Well not at the get-go except that both came with a third of the power to their respective tricks. They then went for tsuppari, but neither was able to finish the other off with plenty of ooh and aah moments until Kimurayama at some point lost the balance and landed on his ass all by himself. The call was hiki-otoshi, but it was mostly just a screw-up by Kimu. 

With the other Kaze taking up Tokusegawa we are reaching the first half of the first half. Interesting so far? Didn't think so. Well Yoshikaze did a quick job by charging with a vicious nodowa that raised Tokusegawa upright and looking at the ceiling and then stepped to a side and pulled him down. Quick work from espresso to improve to 3-1. Tokusegawa needs to regroup seriously. 

The awaited bout of the first half for me is the next one. Mokonami vs. Goeido. Go charged and went for the left outer grip, but he was too far to the left. He tried to slap Mokonami down from the position, but Moe didn't want a piece of this pie and instead pulled Go down himself. Good movement from Moe and really crappy sumo from Goeido. And there I was expecting Go to go double digits this basho. Bah. 

Next up Aran the recovered took on sweet Zoe the angry fur ball. But to be honest I don't want to talk about this bout as this was about as ugly as possible with a vicious slap to the back of Kakizoe's head that sent the fur ball to the clay before the Gyoji managed to even start the bout in fact. Terrible pull and even that empty leg-sweep didn't make it any better. But Aran is 4-0 now of which three have been good wins and this one was just plain ugly. 

Hibiki thought his opponent was Okidoki and he was right. Confused? Good. Well don't miss the actual match then for Toyohibiki came out with his A game and even a decent charge from Okinoumi didn't help as Hibiki charged with his upper body and followed through with good and precise tsuppari moving Okidoki backwards and then just before the tawara going all in for the belt and sending his foe to his fourth loss. Good stuff from Toyohibiki, carry on.

Tosayutaka came out with all guns blazing and was able to move Tenho around a a bit, but in the end Kyokutenho's experience and power just were that much better that it didn't take long for Tenho to wrap the youngster up and escort him out. 

Da Cock took on the Mawashi, but Tamawashi thought differently as the two crashed and locked in the middle of the dohyo. From there it was all Tamawashi, who overpowered Kokkai and sent him out. A fine job for Tamawashi to equal the score at 1-3. Both have about as many wins as they deserve. I have been waiting for Kokkai to re-discover the winning side of things, but that one visit to Sanyaku a few years back must have been a freak accident as he's barely scraping his wins together in the lower Makuuchi now.

After the pee-break and swap of MIB we were given the match of Asa Secretary meeting Tokitenku. Usually the secretary is sacked the same time when the master is, but it seems Asasexy managed to hang on. Today he charged, grabbed the left outer and pulled Tenku down. It was over so fast that even on the replay I was baffled how Tenku fell into that trap as there was no real sideways movement from Asasekiryu. To be honest I expected Tokitenku to perform better from this range, but I guess I was misled by wishful thinking. 

Henkuba (a name neatly picked up by Ross and used rightly on international television) was given today the Barometer, but I guess he thought he'll get the actual tool not Wakanosato for he looked like he wanted to be anywhere but here. So he went slightly to his right, raised Wakanosato up and then went for the pull with a twisting motion sending Wakanosato rolling off the dohyo sideways. I have to admit, this was unexpected, thou shall not surprise Hakuba like this for he will actually do some sumo. 

Leg-humper and Fishface decided to have a dance with Kakuryu sending Giku for a nice turn holding his hand, but Giku didn't want to do a full 360. So Kakuryu re-charged and went for the belt. As Giku was already close to the tawara it wasn't that hard for Fishy to send him to the ropes, but it did take him quite a lot of effort and time to get Giku over this barrier. Interesting how much trouble a centimeter of straw can make. 

Kitataiki is cruising in regions he shouldn't be and today he was again fed to the wolves to be eaten by the veteran Sekiwake Aminishiki. The initial charge that he took on straight was a wrong start and the second attempt was a huge henka to Kitataiki's left. Ami was pulled into it and as Kitataiki kept on going and keeping Ami off balance there was no recovery for the veteran as he finally was escorted out backwards. Ugly stuff and I hate it when they do it on my reporting days. Why not reserve all henkas to days that are handled by Kenji? 

Tochinoshin has been on fire in the past few days having finally found his mojo in the Jo'jin ranks and having taken Kotooshu's and Harry's scalps. So Kotomitsuki, who has been looking really shaky and has lost to wankers like Fatman had to be scared of this matchup, which showed as he again stole at the start being already running towards Tochinoshin while the latter was still putting his hands down. Just look at the picture I took with my 10 year old mobile phone at left just as the two were charging. Mitsuki did move Shin back a bit, but he gave his foe a good belt grip in the process and was unable to keep a good one himself so the angered Georgian just kept at the belt and working steadily to break any grip Kotomitsuki had to slowly but steadily send him back and out. Tochinoshin improves to 3-1 after having met four Ozeki and he's getting the final one tomorrow, where I do believe he's the favorite this basho. 

The first European Ozeki grappled the Japanese mountain of fat, Miflobbyama. And from that tight grip Fatman didn't have anything to do as his A game was already gone. Kotooshu took Fatty to the tawara and then more twisted than threw him down. A solid win by the Ozeki to go 3-1 while Miyabiyama cruises away with the mirror score. 

The legless Ozeki Harry of Ama took on the technician Toyonoshima. Knowing he has only seconds to kill Toyo he charged extremely hard and seemed to be taking Toyo quickly out, but somehow miraculously Toyonoshima slid and pivoted around Harry and it then looked like the turn of events would take Harry to yet another loss, but he managed to keep his right arm on Toyo's belt. From there on it was a long and slow struggle as Harry had no leg power. Understanding that if he has trouble taking Toyo even as far back as the tawara he won't be getting him over it Harry went for a right handed uwate-nage throw assisted with his leg to raise up Toyo's leg. A very nice victory to a bout that looked lost about 1.5s in, but who knows what that leg raising did to Harry's knee. We'll see tomorrow when he meets a real test in Kisenosato. 

And now coming to the "featured bout of the day" with the other European Ozeki Baruto taking on Tochiohzan with a history of seven kickasses by Baruto. The tachi-ai was a real soft one from both. I guess Bart expected a henka for that could be the only explanation to such a upright tachi-ai. The two then re-charged with Bart locking Oh Poo's left arm and going for a right inner and from this position there was not much that Oh Poo could do. As soon as Bart got the right outer he escorted Tochiohzan back and then used his left arm for a beltless underarm throw. Not a good bout yet again, but enough to win. Let's hope this was just Bart faring a henka and rust from Ozeki parties for such form will not be enough against Kisenosato and Kotooshu and definitely not Hakuho.

The Kid and the Old man is an interesting matchup by the sound, but in the real life with Kaio being an ailing veteran who barely scrapes together his eight and the young Japanese hope in Kisenosato. But today this didn't seem to matter or it was Yaocho for Kaio absorbed Kise's charge and as Kisenosato's legs didn't follow his upper body he just slid slightly to the left and used his right arm on the back of Kisenosato's head to slap him down. This was stiff sumo from Kisenosato and has a smell attached to it that I don't like. Anyway, with Kaio that smell is there 90% of the time. The other 10% it's beyond just a smell. 

In the musubi-no-ichiban the sole Khan met the poor broken-necked Homasho. Now, if there is a reader out there that actually honestly thinks that Homasho has even a small shot at winning this, please do e-mail me. Really. Hakuho came with a slap like the one Asa used to do (is he picking that up for him?) and then slapped away in various directions sending Homey back and out. There really isn't much more to comment on this bout, Hakuho decided for a slapfest and went with it. 

Mark will rub you tomorrow.

Day 3 (Kenji Heilman reporting)
OK, so far we've had a couple of eyebrow raisers in Harumafuji and Kotomitsuki's 0-2 starts, and in contrast perhaps the 2-0 start from Kaio. Let's see how the boys faired in day 3...

In a battle of two tall gaijin, it was Tochinoshin who from migi-yotsu gappuri swung around Kotooshu (2-1) to gain an advantage and rode that out for an impressive Yori-kiri win. With consecutive wins now against Ozeki, Tochinoshin (2-1) is looking better and better. Could we be looking at a breakthrough in his 4th campaign against the jo'i?

Harumafuji (1-2) finally looked his normal self today with a blend of nodowa oshi and good movement, but it was the wincing of left knee pain after the win against Homasho (0-3) that is of concern here. Let's see how it holds out for him through 12 more days of stress. 

In today's feature bout, it was Baruto who stayed undefeated against Kotoshogiku (2-1), who had been a nemesis coming in with a respectable 6-7 record against the much bigger Estonian. Baruto (3-0) displayed patience holding his ground and working to grab the right uwate. The Yori-kiri win was much more Ozeki-like than his previous two somewhat iffy wins.

Who isn't happy to see Kaio at 3-0 after a win over Tochiohzan (1-2)? Forget that the content isn't great, it's Kaio of 994 career wins for crying out loud. The days of lamenting poor quality from Kaio (and Chiyotaikai, remember?) are over from this commentator. We're looking for the "W", period, and an extension of his career for one more basho (or even one more day). Actually I think Kaio is moving around quite well for a 37 year old with a bad back. So let's throw textbook commentary out the window for this guy, and join me in rooting on his longevity.

Kotomitsuki (1-2) finally picked up his first win via Oshi-taoshi vs. Toyonoshima (0-3), following the same aggressive strategy that hasn't worked in days 1 & 2. The TV analysts didn't like his angle and high center of gravity, but I personally like the spirit he's showing. If he can harness it a bit, I think he'll be just fine. It's refreshing to watch Mitsuki's smash mouth approach; it's one that you might see from an up an coming star TRYING TO REACH Ozeki, not one you see everyday from a 33 year old Ozeki who has already peaked and is holding on to his career.

Poor Miyabiyama (1-2). The guy never had a chance. Hakuho (3-0) looked like a vacuum zooming in with the left front shita-te at the tachi-ai. From there he used the grip to pull Miyabi closer and kill any hopes the veteran had of keeping the bout off the belt. An easy Yori-kiri resulted, bringing Hakuho's undefeated streak to 20 matches dating back to January.

Check in with you next week. Here's hoping for a stellar rest of the way...

Day 2 (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Living in the States, I record the sumo bouts in the middle of the night and watch them after I get up the next morning. Since I have them recorded, I usually can't push that fast-forward button enough in between bouts, and while today was no different, I had to push play and go to the live feed just before they showed Hakuho entering the arena for his dohyo-iri because for a brief moment I thought this was Fukuoka due to all the empty seats in the arena. Somebody please email me and tell me this is Tokyo. To be fair, I'm sure plenty of fans would drift down from the rafters and fill in those mean, plenty of fans arrived late, but looking at this shot, I think it surpasses even the 30% reduction in fans that the dude from the YDC predicted. It's not all bad, however. My man, Ross Mihara, was in the English booth, and Hakuba lost to a henka, so let's get straight to the action.

The day began with M15 Wakakoyu facing J1 Gagamaru, who can best be described as a boulder-sized tub of lard. Gentleman Gaga (stole that from Ross) didn't really need to employ any tactics; he just stood there and let his opponent try and push him around. Wakakoyu couldn't budge him, so Gagamaru just kept his opponent in front of him by pivoting in the center of the ring until Wakakoyu had worn himself out. After about 10 seconds, Gagamaru just rolled forward pushing Wakakoyu out with ease. Gagamaru's 2-0 now if you need him and a shoe-in to make the Makuuchi ranks for Nagoya. Wakakoyu is 1-1.

I thought day 1 consisted of mostly ugly sumo, and the ugliness continued into today with M14 Hokutoriki pushing M16 Tamanoshima around the dohyo by the face. If the Joker's charge really was potent, he'da had Tamanoshima out of there in two seconds, but the entire bout was fought with both rikishi separated that saw Hokutoriki push and Tamanoshima evade. In the end, Hokutoriki pushed Tamanoshima up to the edge but not across with Tamanoshima standing there upright at the edge...but he was still in. He teetered on the rope for a second or two and could have jumped back into the ring, but just stepped out ending the ugly affair once and for all. For what it's worth, both of these dudes are 1-1.

M16 Koryu executed the best tachi-ai I've seen from him in the division, but it probably helped that M13 Yoshikaze false started twice before then breaking up his rhythm. With Koryu taking charge with a fierce tachi-ai, Yoshikaze reacted by putting both hands at the back of Koryu's head, a move that even Koryu couldn't screw up. And he didn't enjoying the nice oshi-dashi win leaving both rikishi at 1-1.

M13 Takamisakari got what he wanted in an early and deep right inside grip against M15 Shimotori, but today's bout was a good example of how I think Takamisakari has lost a half step because instead of digging in, setting up a maki-kae, or swinging Shimotori off balance, the Robocop couldn't do anything as Shimotori pulled his gal in tight, gave a few belly thumps to knock him upright, and then executed the textbook yori-kiri win. Shimotori is solid at 2-0 while Takamisakari at 1-1 is going to have to scrap for that kachi-koshi.

In a sterling affair, M14 Tochinonada floated to his left as M12 Takekaze charged straight forward and low. It looked as if Tochinonada was trying to set up a cheap kote-nage throw, but before he could really do anything, Takekaze was on his way down having taken the henka hook, line, and sinker. This one didn't even last a second as Tochinonada picks up the cheap hiki-otoshi win. And I don't necessarily think Tochinonada was trying to be cheap. Takekaze's haphazard charge just contributed to the anti-bout. Both rikishi are 1-1.

You could just tell as M10 Okinoumi lined up against M12 Kimurayama that the youngster had no idea what was coming. True to form, Kimurayama henka'd to his left, and before Okinoumi could recover, Kimurayama had him pushed upright and too off balance to dig back in and sufficiently grab his opponent in an attempt to counter. Kim never relented enjoying the cheap yet effective push out win in three seconds as she moves to 1-1. Hakkaku-oyakata has GOT to tell his prodigy that Kimurayama will move left at the tachi-ai. I put this loss on him as Okinoumi falls to 0-2.

M11 Mokonami played with some serious fire today against M9 Tosayutaka by settling for the left outside grip that was so unassuming Mokonami had to forget about that grip and keep his right arm in extremely tight to keep Tosayutaka from getting moro-zashi. In the end, Tosayutaka shook Mokonami's right arm to the outside obtaining moro-zashi, but alas, with every maki-kae comes that brief instant when you have to give up an ounce of momentum to get it, and to Mokonami's credit, he pulled the trigger on a left outside belt throw at the perfect moment throwing Tosayutaka into a position where his feet where aligned allowing Mokonami to spill his opponent to the dirt on the second throw attempt. Mokonami escaped one here but skates to 2-0 while Tosayutaka falls to 1-1.

M9 Goeido has lost that bulldog mentality where he latches on tight to his opponent's mawashi and doesn't give it up. Against M11 Tokusegawa, Goeido secured the early left outer grip, but aligned his feet in the process allowing Tokusegawa to actually gain the moro-zashi position. But the Mongolian wasted his chance going for a stupid soto-gake leg trip despite the advantageous position, and Goeido seized that slight momentum shift by grabbing Tokusegawa around the neck with the right arm and throwing him down to the clay a split second before Goeido crashed down himself from Tokusegawa's yori-taoshi attempt. A mono-ii was actually called in this one, but it was gunbai-dori all the way as Goeido took full advantage of Tokusegawa's ill-advised leg trip attempt despite moro-zashi. To Goeido's credit, his pinching inwardly with the left arm on Tokusegawa's right could have prompted the leg-trip, but Goeido's footwork was a mess from the start. At 1-1, Goeido's still got some work to do. Tokusegawa falls to 0-2.

M10 Aran was sly as usual at the tachi-ai against M8 Toyohibiki moving ever so slightly to his left using both hands at Toyohibiki's throat to keep the Hutt at bay. Toyohibiki shifted gears to realign himself with Aran going for his own pushes to the throat, but in the process, Aran grabbed a left outer grip and used it to force Ibiki over to the edge where Toyohibiki tried to dig in and then use a soto-gake attempt to throw Aran off balance, but the Russian's left thigh was positioned perfectly inside of Toyohibiki's right allowing Aran to throw Toyohibiki down hard bouncing him off the edge of the dohyo on his way to the arena floor. All in all, the bout was a sleeper with NHK showing one obligatory replay, but Aran will take that 2-0 start thank you very much. Toyohibiki is 0-2.

M8 Kakizoe jumped the gun twice against M7 Tamawashi. The first one was called back as a false start; the second one wasn't. Tamawashi clearly wasn't ready when Kakizoe charged that second time, and even though he flinched with that final fist to the dirt, it didn't quite touch but it was game on as Kakizoe just bulldozed Tamawashi back and out for the ill-gotten oshi-dashi win. Whatever happened to the shinpan tightening up the tachi-ai? I mean, I don't care about the outcome of the bout, but this was a clear example of an out of synch tachi-ai where one rikishi gained a favorable advantage over the other. Anyway...Tamawashi falls to a hard-luck 0-2 while Kakizoe picks up his first win.

For some odd reason, M6 Kokkai dominates M7 Kyokutenho, and today was no different as the Chauffeur charged way to high allowing Kokkai to get on the inside. Kyokutenho did have a right outer grip, but it was only one fold of the mawashi, so Gorgeous Georgian easily brushed that aside securing the quick, decisive yori-kiri win leaving both rikishi at 1-1.

My mancrush on M4 Kitataiki continued today against M6 Tokitenku that saw the rikishi bring mild charges that ended up with both in a clinch similar to a boxing match where Tokitenku nudged Kitataiki back towards the edge without really committing on a charge. This allowed Kitataiki to evade with ease, and since neither of these guys were donning gloves, each eventually grabbed the obligatory right inside grip, and the bout was finally on. Kitataiki saw an opening to the right outside belt position and grabbed it straightway immediately forcing Tokitenku back to the edge where he went for the right inside throw with the left hand at the back of Tokitenku's thigh in watashi-komi fashion, but Tokitenku countered nicely with an utchari throw that actually caused Kitataiki's arm to hit the dohyo before Tokitenku's body touched down. Since Kitataiki was the one to press the action, the gunbai was awarded to him as it did appear that he was the victor while watching live, but replays showed this one shoulda been reversed or deemed a do-over. No mono-ii was called, however, which sucks for Tokitenku. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

You can imagine the tears shed when M4 Asasekiryu henka'd M5 Hakuba by moving to his left and throwing Hakuba down with a left outside grip in less than a second. Tears of joy that is as Asasekiryu moves to 2-0. The Takasago-beya must be proud to see the way that Asasekiryu has carried on Asashoryu's legacy. Hakuba falls to 1-1.

Komusubi Kotoshogiku took full advantage of M3 Wakanosato's age and weak tachi-ai that saw Wakanosato actually try and fight the Komusubi off with pushes to the neck as he actually retreated. Problem is, though, when your arms are that short, even if you extend them into your opponent's neck, he's still right there close to your body, so Kotoshogiku slipped his left arm under Wakanosato's right armpit and executed two complete dry humps to move Wakanosato back across the edge for good. Yes, Kotoshogiku looks good so far at 2-0, but Wakanosato (0-2) did half the work for the Geeku in this one.

Komusubi Tochiohzan showed his maturity today by completely kicking M3 Kakuryu's ass standing the Kak up with a right choke hold from the tachi-ai followed by a left ottsuke that was too much pressure for Kakuryu to handle. As Kakuryu tried to lower his body back into some sort of positioning, Tochiohzan shifted gears on a dime and slapped Kakuryu to the dirt in about two seconds picking up his first win. Kakuryu falls to 0-2, and I wonder why the NSK gave both Komusubi M3 opponents on just the second day? Whatever happened to demoralizing these guys the entire first week? Could it be that they have two native upstarts occupying the rank, and they are going easy on them? They'll eventually get all of the heavy-hitters, but it's curious to see them go easy on the Komusubi this early.

In the Ozeki ranks, Harumafuji is showing he's all bark and no bite this basho as M2 Tochinoshin easily brushed HowDo's nodowa charge and subsequent thrusts aside gaining a right inside position on the Ozeki that was so intense, it allowed Tochinoshin to turn Harumafuji to the side, grab him around the left thigh from the outside with the left hand, pick Harumafuji completely off the dohyo, and dump him into Kimura Tamamitsu's lap ringside. Call it tsuri-dashi or call it komata-sukui or call it what it really was...a thorough ass-kicking. People fail to realize how important footwork is for little guys like Harumafuji, so with a bad left knee, he's no match for at least half the guys he's gonna fight. He'd better withdraw or figure something out quickly because he's already 0-2. Tochinoshin picks up a shweet win to move to 1-1.

Was I mistaken or did I actually see someone sitting a few rows back from the dohyo with a "Homasho" banner? That's like showing up at a Harlem Globetrotters game with a Washington Generals sign, especially when the Generals are fighting Ozeki Baruto. Homasho got his best shot in with a false start, but when the two went for good, Homasho ran for his life at the tachi-ai jumping to his right and leaving Baruto staring at nothing but thin air. I don't know if this is good or bad, but Baruto didn't necessarily lunge forward at the charge. His passiveness enabled him to survive the henka today, but if he's that passive at the tachi-ai against others, he could be in trouble. Nonetheless, Homasho had nothing up his sleeve beyond that henka, and despite Homie's desperate thrusts into Bart's mid-section trying to throw him back and off balance, the Ozeki eventually caught hold of his opponent by the belt with one arm and the pit with the other hoisting him completely over the edge and out via our second tsuri-dashi win in as many bouts. Homasho is a desperate housewife at 0-2 while Baruto survives a non-threat to move to 2-0.

I appreciate Ozeki Kaio's attempt to get that career one thousandth win, but it's meaningless when he wins with the type of sumo he displayed today against M1 Miyabiyama. Miyabiyama dictated the pace from the start using the lumbering tsuppari to keep Kaio away from the belt before forcing him to evade around the dohyo trying to time a Miyabiyama lunge so he could pull him down for the cheap win. The two danced around the ring for six or seven seconds with Miyabiyama forcing the Ozeki this way and that before Miyabiyama connected with a thrust that sent Kaio over to the edge and turned 90 degrees. At this point, Kaio actually faked as if he was done slumping over and looking ready to just give up, but you could see him peering at Miyabiyama out of the corner of his eye so that when Miyabiyama went for the kill, Kaio suddenly sprang to life and out of the way of his opponent pulling Miyabiyama to the dirt an instant before he stepped out himself. A mono-ii was called because Kaio's heel was close to touching the dirt, but the referee's initial ruling in favor of Kaio was upheld.

Just a couple of things. With the win, Kaio moves to 993 all time in his career (that's counting non-Makuuchi bouts as well). The record-holder is Chiyonofuji at 1,045, but if you watched Chiyonofuji at the end of his career, you certainly didn't see this kind of crap sumo. I was living in the states at the time, but a Japanese friend sent me the 1991 Natsu basho on video tape, the same tournament where Chiyonofuji retired. At that tournament, Chiyonofuji lost to Takanohana on day 1, he won his day 2 bout, and then he lost to Takatoriki on day 3 and promptly retired. There was no shenanigan sumo at all. He got beat two out of three days by two young upstarts, and that was it. He retired on the spot. Sure, he was one yusho away from the all-time yusho record and prolly coulda bought that final victory, but he went out with his pride in tact. Regarding Kaio, I just can't take any of this seriously when I see the type of sumo he did today. When you end up in the first row after your bout that's won by hataki-komi, you should probably consider retirement. That some of the Japanese are being duped by Kaio's longevity explains some, but when even more Japanese fans are no longer buying this nonsense, it tells you even more. Enough already as Kaio moves to 2-0. The Sheriff blew this one falling to 1-1.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki slammed into Sekiwake Kisenosato hard at the tachi-ai, but there was just no substance to his sumo. Kisenosato dug in well fighting off the Ozeki's faux tsuppari to the face before grabbing him by the right shoulder with the left hand, twisting him to the side by the shoulder (which showed just how powerful the Kid is), and then pushing him out with a right hand to the side of Kotomitsuki's head that connected just below the Ozeki's ear. Kisenosato's sumo was reactionary today, but he showed great patience even when Kotomitsuki had driven him back a step or two. Know who you're fighting, and there's no reason to panic. Kisenosato exemplified that today as he moves to 2-0. Kotomitsuki is 0-2.

With Ozeki Kotooshu looking across the starting lines at Sekiwake Aminishiki, you just knew it wasn't going to end well for the Ozeki. Well, Kotooshu actually won the bout, but it didn't end well. Since when has Ozeki sumo become this ugly? I mean, every bout is so unorthodox it's driving me crazy. Aminishiki drove hard into Kotooshu's mid-section, but he failed to grab anything, so the Ozeki slipped out of the move going for a pull-down in the process. Aminishiki survived that, but now both rikishi were separated and looking for nothing but a pull-down victory. After a few more bitch slaps from both parties, Kotooshu managed to slap/drag Aminishiki down to the dirt by the shoulder for an ugly win. In fact, if both combatants had let down their hair instead of tying it up into a mage, this would have been a true girl fight. Kotooshu improves to 2-0, but I'd like to see more solid sumo from all of the Ozeki. Aminishiki blew this one falling to 1-1.

I know there's really not a lot of drama these days with Yokozuna Hakuho completely dominating things, but at least we end each day with a display of perfect sumo. Hakuho kept his right arm straight in front of him at the tachi-ai denying M1 Toyonoshima moro-zashi as he slammed into his opponent aligning their chests. Toyonoshima was had at this point, but if you must know the rest, Hakuho toyed with the idea of grabbing a left outer grip but instead opted to shift gears on a dime pivoting outside while pulling Toyonoshima forward dashi-nage style with that right inside belt grip resulting in Toyonoshima hitting the dirt like a sack'a potatoes. Hakuho moves to 2-0 and already NHK is counting up his current win streak which stands at 19. Toyonoshima is 0-2.

Kenji briefs you tomorrow.

Day 1 (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Greetings and welcome to the Natsu, or Summer, Grand Sumo Tournament. I know, some of you are still chucking the occasional icy sludgeball at your ugly neighbors ugly car, and even here Ill sit around at night with a blanket on my legs (removing it only to better get at my dick when some hottie pops up on tv) but in Japan they start the seasons regardless of the weather. 

I have just searched my "Awesome Future Sumo Jokes" file and all I found were tiny black ants, Japanese condoms (I use them as gag gifts for my pals overseas) and a compromising photo of a blitzed Remarkarbo "congratulating" the bride at the wedding reception of a well known transgendered Moldavian celebrity. I find myself with not much to go on.

But then again, the remainder of the Makuuchi division is in quite the same predicament as they try to stop Hakuho. Seems like a short lifetime ago when the Yokozuna, in his top division debut tourney, henkad Hokutoriki on Day 15, and I dont mean just some run-of-the-mill step to the side henka, but a full on, chicken shit, flight of the Enola Gay slaughter of that proud Nihonjin, saying "Nyet!" to his one and only chance at a yusho and forcing him into a playoff with Asashoryu (for those of you who dont know the name, he used to be a wrestler in sumo, one of the top guys), a playoff he was destined to lose. No wonder why The Joker has strutted around like a Lil Yokozuna ever since; it took two of them (one current, one future) to deny him the yusho.

Now Hakuho rules the roost, hes cock-of-the-walk, and like the NY Yankees in Boston this past weekend, he doesnt just defeat his foes, he f**cking sells them into slavery.

But it wont do to rain on any parades in the intro to the first report of the basho, as there is always the possibility that he will bollocks things up and lose, so with that tasty yet unlikely morsel tucked into our mouth pouch, lets go and see what happened today.

Bird was the word as Tamanoshima rather urgently got around behind Juryo vizeetore Sagatsukasa (who really has one of the finest sounding names in sumo, trust me) and showed him the order of things, namely Peter top, Other bottom.

Shimotori and Koryu locked up into a short stalemate in the center, but Koryu was in the sumo no-no position, perpendicular, and so though he fussed and fought, he was not going to slip away from a veteran stud muffin like Shimotori. 

Speak of the devil, Hokutoriki started todays match like he has pretty much every match in his lifetime, by pushing at his foes chest and face. And like theyve recently done, his foe Wakakoyu slipped to the side at the right moment and down went The Pretender (who, with his eroded skill set and much to Kenjis chagrin, will prolly never pretend again).

I have not read Mikes Pre-Basho report yet, but Ill go out on a limb and say he did not predict Tochinonada, who has yo-yoed between Juryo and Makuuchi for the past several basho, to get more than a clutch of wins. Today he charged hard at Takamisakari, but PTs Boy simply retreated a step and twisted a touch and that alone seemed to cause the Gentle Giant to fall to his tits. Bean is going to need every win he can get, cause hes got his head on the chopping block at W13. May sound like Im joking, but sumo can take losing the most badass Yokozuna ever and one of the greatest Ozeki ever, but it can ill afford to lose its comedy relief. 

Kimurayama gave a Yoshikaze a shot, not of espresso but to the eye, yet it fazed Starbuck not as he put the Kasugano beya man on the rails and ran him out of town. Yeehaw!

As has often been the case this year, the Kazes are right next to each other in the banzuke rankings, and so it was up to Takekaze to emulate his heyamate and get er done vs Tokusegawa. The tiny one came in low straight to the neck, and when the larger Tokusegawa resisted by bulling forward, Takekaze flashed his red cape and Ole! got his first win.

Mokonami got the best of Makuuchi sophomore Okinoumi by beating him as he did in March, this time with a tasty yoritaoshi crush out. After a series of shit bouts, things were heating up a bit.

But leave it up to Aran to throw a wrench in the proceedings, and lets give Goeido a big hand for helping him do it. Both men came in low and Goeido allowed himself to be pushed several times, then ignominiously slapped down. Iggy is recovering from that injury in March, so well give him the bendoubt, but in order to reclaim the name Father Goeido, he has got to start showing some steel (and not the lameass steel I show when those aforementioned hotties pop up on tv).

Okay, here we are. Finally a spectacular finish to a decent bout. Tosayutaka weathered a series of slaps and shoves from Toyohibiki and managed to get in tight. After a few seconds of tussle, they reached the edge where they ended up both going for an uwatenage, which is trying to throw your foe down with one hand gripping the back of his belt while turning away from him. Since the thrower of an uwatenage often ends up with one leg high in the air, we were treated to an outstanding sight, both men standing on one leg with the other high in the air and bent at a 90 degree angle, noggins scraping the dirt. NHK smartly slowed the video replay down at this point in order for the fans to fully appreciate this rare pose. They looked like some four-armed, two-headed, upside-down beast from out of a Dr. Doolittle tale. I do hope Mixmaster Mikenstein can find this freeze frame and paste it in next to these comments. After the judges talked it over in a mono-ii, Toasty was given the win as seven hairs of Ibikis mage brushed the dirt before the E9s. 

Kakizoe came in fast looking for blood (is there any other way for this man?) but The Chauffer was able to staunch the flow long enough to swing the door open and escort his much smaller foe out to the curb. Kakizoe may be Sweet Zoe Jane, but like the Red Rocker, he cant drive 55!

In the last bout of the first half, Tamawashi went for a headlock on countryman Tokitenku, but the sometimes crafty Tokidoki slipped out of it, got around to the back of The Mawashis mawashi, and motored on down the Hershey Highway to win number one.

It says something about the state of sumo when a schlep like Hakuba can get an 8-7 in March from E9 and get shot all the way up to W5. But perhaps looking to redeem the banzuke makers, today Henkuba brought the fight straight to Kokkai, and the Gorgeous Georgian had no answer, letting himself get lifted up and slid back NFL blocking dummy style. Embarrassing. 

Asasekiryu got hold of Kitataiki and never let go, which translated into a very predictable yorikiri push out win. 

Aminishiki used a stellar tachi-ai to plow through Wakanosato like he was George Hamilton and the Croc was some Hollywood tart looking to make it big in moving pictures.

Kisenosato, aka Kisenogeeku, clung to Kakuryu from the get go and humped, chugged and bamboozled his foe back and out. What, should I pause and say that if The Kid could only do this on a regular basis, to the lesser foes, then he could move up and...?

Barutozeki drew Tochinoshin for his debut dance and it was tachi-ai shove followed by a Barutal slap and down went No Shine. Go look up the word "pummel," Ill wait.

When you see Kaio and Homasho on paper, you could be forgiven for thinking, Ah, dude will step to the side, perhaps after a brief collision, hoping to get the cheap win because at this stage, any win is a win. Well, that’s kind of what happened, as Homasho stepped to the side while giving a slight chest bump, but instead of picking up a cheapie vs Kaio, the Old Grey Mare kept his feet and Homer got his dishonorable ass slapped down.

Two Ozekis, two easy slap downs. Yawn.

Kotomitsuki came in with that wild, raised, snake arm tachi-ai he has, and Miyabiyama retreated like a mongoose, just waiting for the opening, and when it came he deflected Mitsuki to the side and the Ozeki had nowhere to go but down and out, which is also what he is at this point in his career, no? 

Used to be that Toyonoshima could be counted on to take out Kotooshu, but in the last two years hes only beaten him once out of six tries, so todays bout was not that much of a nailbiter, especially once the Ozeki got a firm outside right belt after allowing the smaller Tugboat to steam in close at tachi-ai. As they pressed into each other Kotooshu added the inside left belt and at this point Tug knew he had to try some desperation move, so he began to twist the Bulgarian down. But the Ozeki was on top of things as he leaned into the torquing he was receiving, which put him in position to slowly grind Toyonoshima into the clay and got him his Day 1 win. One disaster averted. Aminishiki waits somewhere down the line.

In the penultimate bout of Day One of the fortnight, Harumafuji looked to avoid the routine beating he gets at the hands of Kotoshogiku, but as usual he could not. He got a left inside at tachi-ai, then showed how bereft he is of ideas on how to beat the Geeku by wrapping his right arm around the Sadogatake beya mans neck. This only served to raise his center of gravity and make it easier to drive him back and out. We all have our nemeses, I suppose. Arbo has absinthe, Mario has The Daleks, Martin has Vlad the Impaler, Andreas has Latvia, Kenji has Krispy Kreme, Mike has Buckminster, Contributor Emeritus Simon has Shane Deisel, I have Whitney Houston, and HowDo has Geeku. Its that simple.

I thought Tochiohzan had a great chance to upset Hakuho today. I also thought Bad News Bears: Breaking Training was a FAR better film than the Godfather. Nothing much to describe here, as Oh Poo tried some weird arm blocking move on Hakuho after the tachi-ai, which the Yokozuna barely noticed as he used his left arm to slam the Komusubi sideways and out. "Over before it started" never seemed a more apt phrase.

One bit of bidness I need to address before signing off until Day 8. Andreas, who had been putting together a nice little string of lol reports, will be taking a hiatus (which doesnt mean he hate us). The reason is actually a very sad one. Evidently dude has somehow come to believe recent Internet rumors that the late Sumotalk contributors George Guida and Bernard MacManus were NOT killed by the Canadian Royal Mounted Police in the bush of Canada while engaged in "mawashi-less sumo" if you know what I mean, but are instead alive and well somewhere in same-sex marriage tolerant Patagonia, selling herbal infused drinks to seal poachers and writing their memoirs. Its stupefying to think a guy as bright as Andreas would fall for such crap, but there it is. If he ever wakes up from this delusion we will welcome him back with open arms.

Mike throws a little chin music atchya on Day 2. 

Note: The paragraph below is from Martin's Day 14 report:

Day 14 (Martin Matra reporting)
Hmph, so Tamanoshima's crack just doesn't do it for you anymore, eh? OK, then let me tell you what I'd rather be doing right now instead of following the current basho. Right now I'd like to sit back in front of my wide screen TV and watch a 5+ hour long Roland Garros final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both having cruised past their opponents in straight sets up to that point, both healthy, well rested and in the form of their life, in front of a 15,000 strong crowd lusting for greatness and historical achievements. The French Open starts tomorrow, so I guess it's only a matter of time before I get my wish--Nadal just won the Madrid Masters, edging Federer in a final in which he scored only 2 points more than him and climbing to #2 in the ATP rankings, thereby guaranteeing they'd be on different halves of the draw and they could only meet in the final stage. While the potential for an upset is certainly there*, I'm pretty sure I'll have (most of) my wish in about two weeks.

Unfortunately, that anticipation does extremely little for this coming senshuraku. Hakuho cruised to yet another very likely zensho, making his victory mathematically official on day 13. The even bigger problem is that this state of things isn't an isolated occurrence, it's the general rule - Hakuho crushes his opposition, cruises to his nth zensho. To make the long story short (I DO want you to stay awake long enough to read the rest of the report), what Ozumo needs right now more than ever is a rivalry akin to Federer-Nadal in tennis. If we were to force the comparison a little, you could say it already has its Federer in Hak: calm, proud, majestic, naturally gifted and with an unnervingly easy execution of all techniques. So that leaves it requiring a powerful rival for Hakuho, strong, aggressive with a steely determination and a burning desire to not only win, but to crush his opponent. Someone like...oh, yeah, that guy they booted some time ago, what was his name--Asasomething? The current crop doesn't offer anyone remotely threatening to even come close to 1% of what Asashoryu could do up there.

The even sadder part is the total lack of any Japanese contenders. Looking at the numbers, Japanese rikishi outnumber foreigners in Ozumo 13 to 1, yet somehow in Makuuchi this ratio goes down to a mere 2 to 1. Sure it could be explained by the greedy Oyakatas' tendency to go out there and bring only the most talented foreigners after extensive searches, but that shouldn't make Japanese rikishi any weaker. What's the best Japan has to offer right now? A couple of ancient Ozeki in Kaio and Kotomitsuki and a few almost burned out prospects, like Kotoshogiku, Kisenosato or Goeido.

While I'm at it, I think I'll try to give an explanation. Think about a region with some irregular terrain and some guy trying to reach the highest point (for his own inscrutable reasons). One easy but not particularly efficient or effective way is to always take the route with the highest upward slope. That eventually gets you to a highest point, but there's absolutely no guarantee that point is the global maximum--it may well be just a little mound. Now, an immediately visible better way could be to take out a map, see what the highest point is, plot a route from your current point and start doing it. You WILL have to go descend at times, but in the long run you should reach your goal. So, where am I going with this? Well, let's compare some mentalities:

Japanese rikishi: I must always go forward, respect my superiors and traditions.
Foreign rikishi: I must win at all costs, respect myself and generally adapt. These local guys are all nice and polite, but they don't know shit. I know better.
What's wrong with this picture? Well, the Japanese guy is using the greedy algorithm in the above terrain problem, while the furry takes out his map and compass.

Well, OK, it's a little forced, but you get the idea. The way I see it, foreigners just go about their business in a more open-minded, big picture kind of way, with a different set of precepts, work ethics and expectations. I truly believe the average Japanese rikishi needs to stop aiming for just his majority if wins and start aiming for Yokozuna. They could also take a good look at what those foreigners are doing and try to do the same. It can't get much worse than it already is, so what the hell have they got to lose?

But enough philosophy for now, there's actual sumo to discuss (albeit not much).

* Federer hasn't got much to worry about until the quarters, where he could meet a young fireballer from Latvia, Ernests Gulbis, who kicked his ass in the Rome Masters and was up a set and a break in Madrid before choking and gifting him the match. He also took a set off Nadal in Madrid, which is something most players on the tour can only dream about. Sorry, British readers, your Murray is no match for him on clay, get over it. Nadal's draw isn't particularly dangerous, with the notable exceptions of Djokovic/Ferrer in the semifinals and Verdasco/Almagro in the quarters. But neither of these guys ever managed to beat him on clay, not even in 3 sets. So, all in all, both titans are favorites to clash in the final – with much at stake for both. Money, fame, records and, last but not least, their rivalry.











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