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Day 1

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9

Senshuraku Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
If youre anything like me (and trust me, youre not, but as a rhetorical flourish, just go with it), youre very disappointed about two things: First, that no temporary amnesia drug exists to make sex with your partner occasionally more exciting (lets call it "Forgetiton"), and second, Kisenosato is the Sergio Garcia of sumo. I mean, look at this guy. Sunday he shows up for a bout that, if won, will put him squarely in the Yokozuna promotion chat during Nagoya, with a visage so red faced and flushed youd think a donkey with a urinary tract infection had just peed in his eyes. He then proceeds to choke on a hunk of cheese (dick cheese, in this case) rammed into his gob by a man who hasnt beaten him in a year. Dude ought to pay someone with a PhD in the Heimlich Maneuver to follow him everywhere he goes, just to be on the safe side.

Yes, I know, I am not the one with the full weight of a nations hopes and dreams resting on his shoulders (tho I did once have the full weight of a womans lovely naked breasts riding on my shoulders at the unofficial Best River Bank Barbecue and Chicken Fights Picnic Ever, and unlike Kisenosato bore the burden well), so just ease up on the lad, willya? Youre all such enablers!

So, after six days of having everyone somnambulate into his lame assed tachi-ai and chuckle as their heads were handed to them (Harumafujis grinning Day 13 mug still keeping me awake at night), the Ozeki was flustered a bit as Hakuho whipped out the silliest and most gratuitous henka in recent memory on Day 14, all with the purpose of giving Kisenosato a chance he would mosdef not have had had Hakuho clashed with him proper. We all know how it went down as Kisenosato was unable to take advantage of at least two clear delay tactics by Hakuho, who finally decided to throw them both down hoping he might hit the clay before Kisenosato, only to see that Kisenosato bent his knee like a big fat pussy and lost.

Knowing he blew what he may well one day end up viewing as "My One Chance," he came blinking into Day 15 about as focused as a subterranean mole rat on three hours rest. He hit his fellow Ozeki with the explosiveness of a soap bubble, getting not simply owned but chained, flogged and shipped off to the New World to be separated from his mama. How does a man with so much at stake, a man who had this tourney taken out everyone from W2 on up save the guy who will go down as the greatest Yokozuna ever, give up moro-zashi easier than a catholic school girl her first tit? Doesnt anyone tell him to keep his elbows in tightly when wrestling guys like Kotoshogiku, who sniff out two-handed inside grips like Mike sniffs out bear claws?

To say he had no plan is to ennoble it. He looked as lost as, well, Harumafuji on Day 13. If it were Geeku needing the win to try and force a playoff, Id think Kunta Kintenosato threw the match. But evidently the green light at Sadogatake was AWN and the Naruto Ozeki was exposed for the bundle of nerves that he is. I will give him one thing, though. He did not henka when it might not have been all that difficult to do, assuming as he could have that Geeku would come in legs and arms firing on full throttle.

Anything is possible in this wacky sport, but I dont see how they could start any talk of a possible promotion to Yokozuna after this bout. Yokozunas simply do NOT get beaten like red-headed stepchildren on their way to the rank from Ozeki. Once there they can do as they please, like, again, HowDo on Day 13.

Speaking of doing as he pleases, with the yusho in the bag, Hakuho had but one thing to think about, and that was whoopin his Mongol buddy Harumafujis ass. Toward that end, he let the Yokozuna come firing in, absorbing the blast and easily keeping up with Harumafujis immediate spin to the left. With the #2 man in sumo firmly against the ropes, Hakuho showed classic form, dropping his hips low enough to take most luau limbo titles and bringing both feet forward in tiny but forceful increments to deny the slippery HowDo any hope whatsoever of winning.

Yet another 15-0 for the king of swing, fling, and yorikiri-ing. We will never know what he had in store for us had Kisenosato done what he ought have and taken down Geeku. He might have allowed Harumafuji a better shot, and then had he lost that match ruined Kisenosato in a playoff, or not. Point is, when it comes to the Yokozuna, I dont think anyone tells them what to do. The oyakata are free to make their opinions known, and a good Yokozuna will keep the big picture in mind, but when its all said and done, they do as they see fit. We all know Hakuho saw fit the past few years to dial it back to create a semblance of the pack catching up, but these past two basho have shown us that when he REALLY wants it, he takes it. Personally I think he is probably disgusted with the way the JPese rikishi are unable to rise up and take things when they (their Mongol overlords) are clearly being amenable. He gave Kisenosato the opening on Day 14 like all Kises foes had since Day 8, and he could not sign on the line that is dotted.

As for the other match of "importance," Kotooshu put both hands down and then pulled them back, but Kakuryu had already exploded out of his tachi-ai and hit the kadoban Bulgarian. The gyoji actually stopped it, which I thought was shit. At any rate, I thought now Kakuryu would be pissed and perhaps not feel sorry for his fellow Ozeki. On the refire, tho, we discovered that the Ozeki Back Scratching Club is alive and well. Kakuryu left his left arm out to dangle into a weak armbar by Kootoshu, and did not even attempt to turn his hand into the direction of the belt. His answer to escaping the armbar was to spin around, resulting in Kotooshu getting behind him and riding him out in the good ol manlove position. Utter crap sumo by Kakuryu, and one has to, one does not, cause there is no way this was straight up rasslin. Fine, someone or someones want Kotooshu around as Ozeki a while longer. I can live with it. Hes a horror show to watch, but I can live with it.

Well, not up to covering the rest of the bouts this time, drained as I am by all the "drama." Im sure Mike will put the basho, and especially the final three days, through the Large Hadron Collider that is his sumo brain and well get to see all the funny heavy particles that are born. Till July, this is your intrepid reporter PC Kelly wishing you, as always, would stay the hell off his lawn!!

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Day 14 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)

Hakuho Wins! Does the Japanese Hope Have Any?

The bout we had been waiting for since Day 9, when the field was pared down to two undefeated rikishi, finally arrived! Hakuho against Kisenosato on Day 14. The winner would have the inside track on the Emperor's Cup, the loser looking at an uphill battle and needing help. SumoTalkers surely would not be surprised by the Japanese Hope picking up Win number 14 here, especially with the way that his last group of opponents have just walked into the Kid's loving arms at the tachi-ai. In some minds, perhaps the question was only how it would go down.

In an interesting indicator of just how this might go down, Hakuho made Kisenosato wait in the pre-tachi-ai squat a few extra seconds. The Kid didn't like it, so he stood back up to reset. In retrospect, I see that this was Hakuho marking his territory, letting the Kid know that he is the man. A different outcome would have meant a different interpretation. And unlike the past few opponents that Kise has faced, Hakuho actually moved after hitting at the tachi-ai, bouncing to his left. Kise must be reading Mike's reports, though, because he kept his arms in tight and actually got moro-zashi! Unfortunately for him, he had no grip and his right was pinned pretty well by the Yokozuna. So the Kid pulled out his right arm and secured a strong outside grip with it. At this stage, the two men were in tight, so they locked into hidari-yotsu, all the while moving and fighting for position. Hak had only a single fold of the mawashi with his outside grip; the Kid had no inside grip at all.

Kise quickly made the first offensive move, driving Hakuho back. The Kid is obviously very strong to be able to attempt that from a more-or-less neutral position. Hakuho threatened some throws to counter, and pretty soon he had the Ozeki halfway off his feet as he used his power to swing the bigger man back and forth. Watching it in real time, it looked very close, like anything could happen and Hakuho could have been forced out. But after a few replays of watching their feet, it's clear that Hakuho gained near total control and wrenched the Ozeki off balance. Having done that, there was no toying with this dangerous opponent. Hak planted his right foot, threw with his left inside grip, and followed through by using all his weight and falling on Kise. If there was any doubt about Hakuho's arm hitting first, it was erased when replays showed the Kid's knee hitting the clay prior to the fall.

And there you have it -- the final match lived up to the billing. Both men were constantly moving and shifting their feet and body position while also establishing arm position and mawashi grips. Both men showed serious power. In the end, the threat of Kise's ability forced Hak to make a somewhat risky and just-short-of-spectacular finish, rather than a safe, dominating maneuver of the sort we see from him about 13-14 times each basho. This is the sumo we want to see at the top level, and it's the kind of sumo that very few opponents can force Hakuho into. If Kisenosato can become a regular threat, maybe we can hope to see it come out more often.

Finally, this does leave us with the question of putting a native boy back into the rafters. I'm not sure that it happens this time. One way it could still happen is if Hakuho wanted to prevent Kise from going 15-0 and beating him once, even if he loses in the playoff. But it's a risky strategy. Earlier in the week, I sensed some nerves coming from the Ozeki. While I expect him to beat Kotoshogiku, I wouldn't guarantee it right now coming down after a big loss and/or possibly feeling nervous. If Hakuho had wanted to let Kise win it without losing on Day 14, he should have dropped another match or two along the way. I think he takes the cup, ties Asashoryu, and makes us all wonder who's pulling what strings over there after all.

Sanyaku: Kotooshu Can't Keep His Feet

Turning to the other news of the day, we'll start with Kotooshu, who lost his last, best chance for a legitimate kachi-koshi today against little tough guy Shohozan. If you're not familiar with the koshikudake kimari-te, it means "inadvertent collapse", which pretty well sums up the Bulgarian's run this basho. From the tachi-ai, the two men got into a pushing match. Surely, Oshu wanted to find an opening to get inside and a belt grip, but his hands kept slipping off of Shohozan's hairy elbows. Perhaps getting a bit desperate, like Clancy trying to convince some guy that's just a very pale Japanese guy to get into a soapland, the Ozeki reached over the E5's back for an outside left. And while, unlike Clancy, he actually succeeded, Shohozan shifted to his left in a bit of dancing that Kotooshu was unprepared for. When he mixed up the steps to this routine, his legs crossed and he tumbled with nary a push or pull against him. Shohozan will gladly take the kachi-koshi, while Oshu will surely get a little Ozeki-club help from Kakuryu tomorrow if he can manage to not trip himself up.

Speaking of Kakuryu, Mike's favorite Ozeki took on the West Yokozuna today in the musubi-no-ichiban. And what a letdown it was following today's climactic showdown for the top spot. Kak appeared to get the better of the tachi-ai, but he immediately slipped on the dohyo. Haramafuji quickly took advantage with a slapdown attack, spun to his left, got a left outer belt grip to go with the back of Kak's head and converted for the easy win. It's too bad -- this should be one of the better top-end matchups for a while and a good gauge of Kakuryu's progress or lack thereof. But a simple slip is death against HowDo -- hopefully next basho will go better.

Well, as I had been saying, Kotoshogiku is good for 10 wins when he's healthy and on his game. Not much more -- 12 wins would require him to score at least one clear upset win over a Yokozuna, a healthy Baruto, or Myogiryu, and run the table on the rest -- but he's not destined to creep over the line for 8 every basho either. He got his double digits today against Toyonoshima, who drops to 7-7. Tugboat tried to get inside at the tachi-ai, of course, but Geeku locked down on the W4's inside left and managed to get inside position with his own left arm. The Ozeki used active footwork to get inside and power his aite back, thrusting up with that inside left arm to set up the oshidashi finish. Tugboat is up against Takekaze for his KK tomorrow.

What is M10 Chiyotairyu doing up here? Kicking Goeido's ass to get to double digit wins, apparently. Yes, it was initially called for Goeido, and Chiyotairyu's charge was reckless. But the youngster completely dominated the tachi-ai. Right now, Goeido would win this match after a tachi-ai like that half the time by evading, pulling a throw at the edge, or slapping down (and not stepping out at the edge like he did today), but if this Chiyo keeps moving forward in his sumo, he will grow to dominate guys like Goeido in time.

Takarafuji was totally overwhelmed for the first week, as happens to a lot of rikishi their first time at a rank like M3 and their first taste of Ozeki and Yokozuna-caliber opponents. With a win today over three-win Komusubi Okinoumi, though, he's won five of six to prevent a total freefall. We'll look forward to a bit more confidence from him the next time he gets up here, while Oki-Doki needs no further comment after we've ragged on him all basho long. What? The match? You want me to comment on the sumo? Well, it was a long yotsu battle (nearly a full minute), and not particularly memorable and we won't learn anything from watching it again carefully. So, let's just pretend we talked about it, m'kay?

In a battle of two guys who are headed in opposite directions on the banzuke (but will they pass each other?) Tochiozan took on Takayasu. Oh Snap doesn't belong quite this high up at Komusubi -- a look at his schedule so far and I have him as the favorite against exactly one guy (Kitataiki) and only about five matches in which he's up against roughly even competition, including today's bout. Takayasu, meanwhile, is looking at a nice promotion, with nearly everyone from Sekiwake through M4 dropping like flies.

So ... with this kind of setup, you'd expect Takayasu to have won today, right? Not so fast, mon ami ... er ... ore no tomodachi. When these guys lined up, Takayasu looked a bit too Yoshikaze-y (one triple espresso too many), and I felt like he might lose to a slap down by going in too fast. And indeed, as our two combatants started off their pushing-thrusting battle, Takayasu showed more aggression with Oh Snap was holding his own. Instead of a slap down, though, the green-belted Takayasu's left arm seemed to slip off his opponent's chest, creating an opening that the Komusubi quickly took advantage of. A few thrusts combined with Takayasu's slipping feet at the edge meant an oshi-taoshi win for Tochiohzan and a more respectable 6-8 record with Okinoumi up tomorrow for a possible 7-8. Takayasu, who will not surpass today's opponent on the Nagoya banzuke, has his KK already and faces 7-7 Toyohibiki tomorrow.

Other Bouts of Note: Myogiryu Shows His Power

We all know that Myogiryu is good and that he should be able to beat Gagamaru, even when the big white beachball is on his game like he is this go around. I'd expect him to lay a nice hit at the tachi-ai and then shift to one side, looking for an opening to exploit the poor balance of the Georgian. Let me be clear -- Lordy Gaga does great considering that his body is shaped like this (with only two legs instead of four):

-- but it's obvious that the path to victory is to make him dance. What I didn't expect was for Yogi Bear to just plow straight into the bigger man (56 kg bigger!) and drive him back like a truck. Damn! And it's not like Gagamaru is all size and no strength -- when one of his thrusts connects, it's pretty sure to drive anybody back a decent amount. That didn't seem to matter today, though. Nice win for the E1, and both men at 10-4 and sniffing at prizes.

Tokitenku also made it into double digits with a nicely planned slap down win over Masunoyama, who remains one win from a kachi-koshi. The vet's plan was to use his long arms to keep the smaller-limbed Masu from getting effective thrusts in. This would make he of little lungs and round body work, always a good tactic against Masunoyama, while waiting for an opening. In this case, everything happened fast, but the tactic still paid off. Masunoyama got spun around by one early thrust and move by Toki-doki and came back into the fray off balance. That was all the, um, can somebody give me another word for veteran here? Anyway, Tokitenku won.

Kitataiki picked up his third win by being granted a match with Mr. Natsu Cannon Fodder, Daikiho (now 2-12). The youngster has risen fast, so expect him to be back and a lot closer to ready next time up.

Kyokutenho earned his KK against 5-9 Aoiyama. Classic good stuff from the veteran (seriously, the thesaurus is very much not helpful here. "old hand"? no -- that sounds like what happens when you go to a "special" massage parlor and the only gal on duty is reapplying her Polydent). He worked for the inside left after the tachi-ai, used inside position to body the doughy Bulgarian up and off balance, and then shifted gears while pulling with his righthand outer grip.

Takekaze scored his KK against Ikioi, who already has his at 8-6. Typical, but well-executed, stuff from the windy one. Quick hit at the tachi-ai, then pull down immediately.

And we round out the KK picker-uppers with Kaisei, who gets his first winning basho in many moons with today's victory over Azumaryu. The Brazilian has been exposed as slow, however, so I'm not sure how this is a sign of much of anything. The weak competition down here will allow him to survive in Maegashira, but I find it hard to imagine him beating the wily veterans who know his weaknesses and rising back up near the upper ranks. As for the Mongolian rookie, he didn't spend enough time in Juryo to be ready and has not shown anything so impressive in the days that I've bothered to watch him, but has gotten six wins anyway. We can expect to see more of him.

And that's it folks! Day 15 and we still have a yusho race. Tomorrow, we get to see if Clancy has to never mention funny bizness in a sumo report again! (see the comments section to understand...)

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I think at times there tends to be a misconception about Sumotalk that we are in the business of making predictions. Now, every tournament in my pre-basho report, I do make predictions on how I think every rikishi will finish record-wise, and I do try and predict the yusho and Sansho rikishi, usually with very little success, but I'm quite confident that you don't visit Sumotalk just to read my predictions prior to the tournament. Furthermore, one of the reasons that I rarely get my pre-basho predictions correct is because I always make my picks assuming that the sumo will be fought straight up, and I also can't forecast injuries, and so sometimes I'll get burned there as is the current case in my prediction that Baruto would win the Ginosho.

That type of prognostication is all fun and good, but Sumotalk is not about predicting things or conjuring up conspiracy theories; we are all about clarifying to the readers exactly what happens atop the dohyo, and if we happen to state that something was not straight up in a particular bout, many people will infer such analysis as a prediction that the rikishi receiving the benefit will take the yusho, be promoted, or whatever. I need to stress that that is never the case--at least in my comments. I am simply stating what happened and then speculating as to why I think it happened based on basho trends and media reports.

With that in mind, let's get to the Day 12 action focusing on the leaders, who were conveniently paired together in the day's final bout. First up was the eagerly anticipated Ozeki Kisenosato - Yokozuna Harumafuji matchup...eagerly anticipated because we wanted to see if Harumafuji would lose on purpose, not whether or not Kisenosato could beat the Yokozuna straight up (he couldn't). The Yokozuna welcomed the Ozeki with both arms extended to the outside ready to give the charging Ozeki a big hug, and embrace him he did allowing Kisenosato to get both arms deep to the inside, which is also known as moro-zashi. From here, there was no direction for Harumafuji to go but back and Kisenosato complied driving HowDo back and out in a few seconds with no resistance to speak of 'cept for a weak pull attempt that was just for show. I mean, look at the pic at right that depicts the moment the Ozeki won: the Yokozuna is completely hands-off, laughing, and obviously searching for any sign of that maid sweeping the dohyo as depicted in Kane's day 10 report.

There is just nothing to break down in this bout. Harumafuji allowed Kisenosato to win, and he didn't even bother to put up a fight because you don't want the Kid accidentally screwing it up on his own. The result is that Kisenosato moves to 12-0, maintains at least a share of the lead depending on Hakuho's bout, and fires up the domestic fans heading into the weekend. The Sumo Association knows they have a barnburner on their hands now, and frankly, I can't wait to see how it plays out because who doesn't love a good script?

Okay, maybe I shouldn't say script because I do not believe at anytime during the previous two or three weeks that a council of elders was held where they determined "let's let Kisenosato yusho." As I've stated previously, I believe that bouts such as these occur because the stable masters can read the situation at hand and give their rikishi the proper guidance. It is my strong opinion that Aran's stable master spoke to the Russian prior to day 11 saying something to the effect of, "hey, don't try and win today," and I believe that Isegahama-oyakata gave his prodigy similar instructions the morning of day 12.

Now, I could very well be wrong in that speculation, but if I am, it was Harumafuji reading the situation today and knowing what would be best for the sport as a whole. Hakuho knows damn well how to manipulate the outcome of basho, and whether or not that comes as advice from his stable master or whether or not he determines it himself, the point is that rikishi strategically lose on purpose to assist a greater cause. That's exactly what happened in this bout today, and it doesn't mean that Kisenosato is necessarily going to yusho. It only means that Harumafuji showed up today with zero intention of winning, and his sumo was proof of that.

Before we move to the next bout featuring the other two leaders, let me just comment on the headlines from two major newspapers in Japan, the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun. Yomiuri's headline was "NHK to restore sumo magazine cancelled after the yaocho scandal." Previously, NHK would produce a bi-monthly magazine in conjunction with the hon-basho that contained interviews, rikishi profiles, key points of the basho, etc. Well, that magazine will now be redistributed starting with the July issue (available June 19th) under the title, "NHK G-Media Sumo Journal."

The other headline from Mainichi reads, "Kotoshogiku is the key to the yusho race." The article itself talked nothing of the yusho race; rather, it focused on how Kotoshogiku is in fine form and looking to win in double-digits this basho. Then, the last line of the article states, "It appears as if Kotoshogiku will become a key player in the yusho race." They actually use "key man" in katakana, but I presume the headline was derived because the Geeku has yet to face either Hakuho or Kisenosato, so don't be shocked if he's able to pull off an upset!

So why did these two headlines jump out at me from among the others? Well, if they were going to reinstate that magazine, I could think of no better way to reprint it with the leading story about a Japanese candidate for Yokozuna. And remember, Kisenosato doesn't even have to yusho in order to be up for promotion because the rule stipulates two consecutive yusho or two consecutive basho with records worthy of the yusho. Regardless of what Kisenosato does here on out, his performance already will surely be touted as worthy of the yusho, and he will at least reach 13 wins as he has yet to fight the key man in Kotoshogiku.

And I'm not saying this is why those two headlines were published directly after day 12. I'm just commenting that I found it extremely curious for the Yomiuri Shimbun to hype the new magazine now instead of waiting until after the basho, and if any of the Japanese fans read the Mainichi headline and article, well then it wouldn't be surprising if Kotoshogiku were able to upset Hakuho because the Geeku is fighting well. I must emphasize that I'm not predicting a day 13 win for Kotoshogiku over Hakuho, I'm just saying that I found the headline curious, and if the upset were to take place, the fans have been sufficiently programmed.

Regardless of all that, with Kisenosato safely ushered to the 12 win plateau, it was now a question of could Ozeki Kakuryu take down Yokozuna Hakuho. In the straight up tachi-ai, Hakuho secured the right inside and left outer grip to boot, and Kakuryu knew there was no way to win from this position, so he went for a maki-kae with the left arm. Before he could finish the move, Hakuho attempted a hurried belt throw with the right that sent Kakuryu to the edge but not down, and after a second of separation, Hakuho dove back in getting the right arm inside that set up the powerful yori-kiri in the end. The way Hakuho makes it look so smooth as he literally bodies his opponents off the dohyo is a thing of beauty to watch, and today was no exception as the Yokozuna keeps pace with Kisenosato at 12-0. The Kak falls to 10-2 and is out of it for all intents and purposes because I don't see him trying to beat Kisenosato on senshuraku. While we're on the subject, I think the most likely scenario this basho is for both Kotoshogiku and Kakuryu to defer to Kisenosato meaning it all comes down to Hakuho. It always comes down to Hakuho.

In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Kotooshu got the easy right arm to the inside of M4 Aoiyama and just kept his feet moving forward driving Aoiyama back and off the dohyo. For good measure and as he is wont to do, Kotooshu overdid it and ended up tackling Aoiyama into about the third row. Kotooshu moves to 7-5 and only needs to pick up one the last three days to stave off demotion while Aoiyama is on the brink at 5-7.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku faced M3 Aran meaning there'd be no defense on the part of the Russian to penetrate through as exhibited in today's bout where the Geeku secured moro-zashi from the tachi-ai and drove Aran back and across with little argument. This was really an uncontested matchup and waste of time as Kotoshogiku, the Keyman, improves to 9-3 while Aran suffers make-koshi at 4-8.

I'm not quite sure what the hell Sekiwake Goeido and M5 Shohozan were doing from the tachi-ai, but I did detect a sloppy kote-nage attempt from Shohozan with the right arm a second in that was so bad his knee hit the dirt before Goeido fell flat on his face. The kimari-te was ruled tsuki-hiza, which can be loosely translated as horrible sumo. Goeido is about the ugliest 6-6 you'd care to see while Shohozan is, well, just plain ugly at 6-6.

Komusubi Okinoumi and M2 Kitataiki hooked up in the slow hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, and neither looked to make a huge effort to grab the right outer first. The two stood chest to chest in this manner for about 20 seconds before Okinoumi ended the funny bidness with a right kote-nage throw. We would have appreciated more effort here as Okinoumi squeaks his way to 2-10 while Kitataiki is even worse at 1-11.

Komusubi Tochiohzan's quest for kachi-koshi continued today in his hidari-yotsu bout with M4 Toyonoshima. Once Tochiohzan got the left to the inside, there was really nothing Tugboat could do, and as he tried to back outta the hold, Oh got him with the right outer grip, and as is frequently the case with the good rikishi, that outer grip is what sills the dill as we say in Utah. Oh improves to 5-7 with the win and is still in the running for a Shukunsho if he can win out. Toyonoshima is 6-6.

M1 Myogiryu used a nifty moro-te-zuki at the tachi-ai against M1 Aminishiki to keep Shneaky upright and off balance. All Aminishiki could do was to go for a meager pull attempt, but Myogiryu answered that with a shove to the gut that sent his opponent down in a matter of seconds. Myogiryu improves to 9-3 while Aminishiki is the inverse.

Since you can YouTube the bouts these days, let's liberally work our way down and finish with bouts of interest. M14 Chiyootori really shoulda pasted M6 Takekaze, but he fell into Kaze's trap of using light pushes to set up the pull. The two grappled for about 10 seconds before Takekaze ducked in for the deep right grip that he used to force Chiyootori upright and over to the edge where the push out was academic. Had Chiyootori used a committed thrust attack and sound de-ashi, he could have crushed Takekaze (7-5). Chiyootori falls to 5-7, and it's too bad because of the four rookies, I think he's got the most promise.

M10 Chiyotairyu moved a step closer to double-digits by crushing M9 Kyokutenho back so hard from the tachi-ai that he pushed himself out of moro-zashi. As Kyokutenho looked to cozy back in, Chiyotairyu used a right kote-nage to throw the Chauffeur over to the edge where a final wham bam thank you ma'am moved Tairyu to 9-3. Kyokutenho falls to 6-6 and is just getting creamed by the elite rikishi now.

Is M16 Azumaryu the the second coming of Hakuba? Today he used an ugly henka to his left against M10 Toyohibiki who really should have recovered and won this bout, but Toyohibiki just couldn't keep his wheels from spinning, and the slippery Azumaryu pulled him down about three seconds in. Shame shame everyone knows Azumaryu's name as both rikishi end the day 6-6.

And finally, I'm not sure how I missed this before, but I think I've discovered M16 Daikiho's problem: the dude fights with his feet aligned, which is the cardinal sin in sumo. His careless footwork was on display again today against M15 Homarefuji whose sumo ain't much better, but he took full advantage of Daikiho's awkward position alternating pushes and pulls before finally knocking Daikiho off balance and onto his back in the corner of the dohyo with a potent oshi-taoshi attack. The reason Daikiho can't force anyone back with an attack and the reason he's being thrown around like a sack'a potatoes in every bout is because he keeps his feet aligned. The proof is in the 1-11 pudding while Homarefuji meekly reaches 4-8.

I cannot wait to see what happens the last three days this basho but probably for different reasons than most fans. Same place same time tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
It's been over seven years since a Japanese rikishi has taken the yusho, and the Sumo Association has been pimping various domestic candidates the last two years through the media only to leave the fans disappointed basho after basho. Then, prior to this basho the Association all of sudden stopped the hype, and look what is brewing with Kisenosato's personal best 10-0 start. Despite the position the Japanese Ozeki finds himself in, I don't sense a whole lot of excitement from the Japanese fans, and it has nothing to do with the lack of pre-basho hype. First, it's been so long since Tochiazuma hoisted the cup in Hatsu 2006 that a lot of Japanese fans have given up. And second, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Hakuho and even Harumafuji are superior rikishi to Kisenosato, and so the odds are slim that Kisenosato can actually pull it off. Now, it wouldn't surprise me to see either of the Mongolian Yokozuna go mukiryoku against Kisenosato, but you can't go seven years with such foreign domination without even the staunchest of fans realizing that a little help from his friends is necessary for the Kid to pull this off. I don't mean to pooh pooh Kisenosato's run, but I just don't see the hysteria surrounding it, and I believe that has to do with the reasons previously stated.

As long as we're on the subject, let's start the day's analysis with the Ozeki Kisenosato - M3 Aran bout. Aran's tachi-ai was half-assed allowing Kisenosato to score on some well-placed shoves, and even though the Russian survived the first volley with his foot against the tawara forcing the action back to the center of the ring, Kisenosato jabbed his way close again forcing Aran to retreat, and the end result was Aran going for a stupid pull that caused him to back himself out of the ring altogether. They ruled it tsuki-dashi, but this was just poor sumo on the part of Aran, and I'm pretty sure that Aran's stablemaster told him this morning, "kyou, kattcha dame yo!"

With the win, Kisenosato continues his best ever start extending his record to 11-0, and it's also the first time in nine years that a Japanese rikishi has been perfect through 11 days. Continuing with the theme in my intro, you just can't have the fans' hopes be beaten down for that long and then suddenly expect them to turn on a dime and go crazy for the Kid. Now, if he can manage to start out 12-0 heading in to the weekend undefeated, the momentum will being to build, but beating Aran (4-7) like this means nothing.

All Hakuho needed to keep pace with Kisenosato was to best Ozeki Kotooshu, who has frankly looked horrible after that 4-0 start. Kotooshu was so slow at the tachi-ai that Yokozuna Hakuho got the easy right arm to the inside, and with the Ozeki standing completely upright, Hakuho quickly pulled the trigger on the left outer grip ending this one before it really began. There's really nothing more to it than that. Kotooshu (6-5) gave up similarly to Aoiyama, and Hakuho didn't even need a shower afterwards. With the win, Hakuho moves back into a tie with Kisenosato, and this basho won't really get interesting until Hakuho loses.

One back of the leaders heading into the day was Ozeki Kakuryu who sparred with M4 Aoiyama. Aoiyama used a moro-te tachi-ai to keep the Ozeki away from the belt and the inside, but he had no de-ashi to speak of and allowed Kakuryu to easily swipe his extended arms away, and with Aoiyama stumbling forward a bit, the Kak easily dispatched him in hataki-komi style. The Kak barely broke a sweat as well firmly holding onto second place at 10-1 while Aoiyama falls to 5-6.

With three leaders down and two to go, that leaves us with Yokozuna Harumafuji and Ozeki Kotoshogiku, two rikishi coming into the day tied at 8-2. I won't even try and drum up any excitement regarding this bout that saw Harumafuji lightly strike Kotoshogiku at the tachi-ai as he moved left in order to grab the quick outer grip. I would equate this type of charge to a change-up in baseball: it looks like the fastball--or full frontal charge--is coming, but the Yokozuna avoid bumping chests resulting in Kotoshogiku stumbling forward a step. Before the Geeku could square back up, the Yokozuna placed his right hand against the Ozeki's thigh (fresh!) and just bowled him over with the outer belt throw obtained from the tachi-ai. This wasn't a henka on the part of the Yokozuna, and if Kotoshogiku had any game, he'da been able to square up and recover. Regardless, the Geeku is knocked out of the yusho race he was never in to begin with while Harumafuji still controls his own destiny at 9-2.

With all of the basho leaders accounted for, the yusho race now looks like this:

Perfect: Hakuho, Kisenosato
1 loss: Kakuryu
2 losses: Harumafuji

Sure, Kisenosato is tied for the lead, but I look at that leaderboard and all I can see are three Mongolian sharks circling the Kid, and what are the odds that he can pull off the trifecta? Doesn't even need to be explained.

In the sanyaku, Sekiwake Goeido used a nice kachi-age with the right arm that knocked M4 Toyonoshima upright and set the table, but Goeido mounted his charge without a firm grip of his opponent, and so as the two neared the tawara, Toyonoshima spun right and used a well-placed shove into Goeido's side sending him out of the ring for the comeback win. Why is it that whenever Goeido (5-6) actually mounts a forward charge, he never has the sufficient yotsu position to do so? Toyonoshima improves to 6-5 with the nice win.

Komusubi Tochiohzan got the shallow moro-zashi position against M2 Kitataiki who ducked in low, but he eventually worked Kitataiki upright, got in deep with dual insides, and gave the fat lady her cue scoring the emphatic force-out win in the end. Oh's strung together two in a row now to eke to 4-7, and we've seen Komusubi make huge runs in week two before. Kitataiki's anti-run continues at 1-10.

Speaking of 1-10 records, that's where our next two combatants ended the day in a bout that saw Komusubi Okinoumi gain moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M2 Tochinoshin, but he was way too upright, so Tochinoshin just brought his gal in close aided by a pesky left outer grip that would prove the difference in the end. Okinoumi had Shin on the brink several times, but the gorgeous Georgian was able to survive with counter belt throws at the edge, and once Okinoumi's power was drained, Tochinoshin was eventually able to work Okinoumi to the edge and dump him with that left outer grip. Okinoumi shoulda had this one early, but his nonchalant attitude in the keiko-ba was certainly reflected in today's bout.

In other bouts of interest, M1 Myogiryu henka'd to his left throwing M5 Shohozan off balance from the start, and while Shohozan did briefly recover, he was never able to square back up providing the easy oshi-dashi target in the end. Myogiryu clinches a ton in this bout including kachi-koshi at 8-3, a Shukunsho, and a guaranteed return to the sanyaku, but it was all achieved today after unsavory sumo. Shohozan falls to 6-5 after the lube job.

M1 Aminishiki gave a little hop at the tachi-ai against M6 Takekaze, but it left him flat-footed and upright. Takekaze instinctively backed up making it appear that Aminishiki was in charge, but after bracing his foot against the tawara and slipping into moro-zashi, he drove Shneaky across the enter length of the dohyo and sent him into the third row leading with a right arm pushing into Aminishiki's teet for the shweet mune-dashi win. Takekaze quietly moves above .500 at 6-5 while Aminishiki's make-koshi is official at 3-8.

M7 Fujiazuma was just plain bad today standing straight up at the tachi-ai and allowing M5 Takayasu to bully him around the ring with tsuppari, but Takayasu hasn't exactly bloomed in May and actually gave Fujiazuma the clear path to moro-zashi at the edge, but Fujiazuma failed to read it and allowed Takayasu to pull him down as he retreated along the straw. Bad sumo all around here as both parties end the day 6-5.

M9 Ikioi looked to have a frontal grip of M6 Yoshikaze's mawashi at the tachi-ai, but instead of pursuing forward-moving sumo, he quickly backed up and attempted a pull with both hands. The reward was Yoshikaze pouncing and driving him clear off the dohyo leaving these two fellas at 6-5 as well.

M7 Jokoryu whiffed on his hari-zashi tachi-ai, but it didn't matter as he was fighting M16 Daikiho, so the two ended up in hidari-yotsu but not for long as Jokoryu pulled the trigger on an outer grip that spun Daikiho around 180 degrees whereupon Jokoryu just rammed a shoulder into the rookie's back sending him flying into a heap into the corner of the dohyo. I don't think I've ever seen a rikishi be bullied around in this fashion as Jokoryu limps to 3-8 while the Daikon is a bitter 1-10.

Notice how M8 Tokitenku wasn't included in my list of leaders at the top of this report? It was for good reason as Tokitenku shifted to his left slightly at the tachi-ai against M12 Wakanosato as the two settled into migi-yotsu, but Wakanosato snuggled in tight keeping Tokitenku upright, and there was nothing Tenku could do as Wakanosato took him to school scoring the win in about eight seconds. Croconosato improves to 5-6 while Tokitenku is officially booted off the leaderboard at 8-3.

M10 Chiyotairyu used a wicked right paw to M14 Kaisei's face to lift him straight up as he grabbed the quick left outer, but his right arm couldn't recover fast enough to get to the inside, so while he dominated the tachi-ai, he didn't set up a position that led to the swift kill. With the right arm to the inside, Kaisei looked for moro-zashi, but his effort was half-assed as he allowed Chiyotairyu to keep his left arm to the outside simply by holding Kaisei's wrist. As the two giants stood in the middle of the ring for over a minute, Chiyotairyu finally grabbed the right frontal mawashi and finished off his bidness clinching kachi-koshi in the process at 8-3. Kaisei has cooled off the last few days falling to 5-6.

M13 Masunoyama used a a right hand to the neck and a left paw at the armpit to knock M10 Toyohibiki upright at the tachi-ai, and once he got the left arm firmly to the inside, he used his girth to force Toyohibiki back and across without argument. This may have been the best sumo I've ever seen from Masunoyama, who evens up his record with the Hutt at 6-5.

M14 Chiyootori looked nervous at the tachi-ai agin M11 Gagamaru, and it showed once the two charged with the rookie unable to budge YubabaMaru in their migi-yotsu contest. With Chiyootori low and hips back, Gagamaru just grabbed Chiyootori around the right arm and wrenched him down with a painful kote-nage throw. Gaga's 8-3 now if you need him while Chiyootori falls below .500 at 5-6.

In a bout that included a helluva lotta tsuppari and zero de-ashi, J1 Tamawashi and M15 Homarefuji's contest was reduced to a girl slapfest where Tamawashi was able to turn the rookie around 180 degrees and push him out from behind. Looks like we'll see The Mawashi back up here in July as he scores kachi-koshi at 8-3 while Homarefuji must clean out his locker on senshuraku officially suffering make-koshi at 3-8.

And finally, M16 Azumaryu came forward fast at the tachi-ai, but then he couldn't back up fast enough aided by a J2 Takanoiwa right hand to Azumaryu's neck, and when the rookie went for a quick pull, Takanoiwa used perfect de-ashi to get moro-zashi and polish Azumaryu off. Takanoiwa has exhibited the soundest sumo this basho of anyone ranked M10 or below, and I'm so excited to watch this guy in July that I've already added his shikona to my spell checker. Azumaryu falls back to 5-6 after the ass kicking.

At the end of day 11, we now have four rikishi on the leaderboard, and all four clash tomorrow as follows:

Hakuho vs. Kakuryu in the penultimate bout
Kisenosato vs. Harumafuji in the musubi-no-ichiban

I'm not sure why the Sumo Association is pairing them up this early, but be reminded: the yusho race really doesn't start until Hakuho loses.

Day 10 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
All I could say is "WOW" when I saw the fight card for Day 10 of the Natsu Basho 2013!  The Yokozuna, the Ozeki and the recently exorcised "evil one" all sporting some sexy numbers!

Hakuho - 9-0
Kisenosato - 9-0
Kakuryu - 8-1
Kotoshogiku 8-1
Harumafuji 7-2
Tokitenku 7-2

There were even some incredibly crappy records!
Tochinoshin 0-9
Okinoumi 1-8
Kitataiki 1-8
Sadanofuji 1-8
Daikiho 1-8
Takarafuji 1-8

We're simultaneously witnessing a goodly portion of great sumo mixed with equal parts decidedly unimpressive scores, and it signals a different dynamic is afoot. It makes me dizzy just to think about the ups and downs these guys exhibit (well except for Signor Ho), but maybe this is what happens when we're not hindered by the marketing geniuses in management and the basho plays out the way the gods intended it to play out.

And as if that ain't enough, a bunch of the lower ranked athletes are workin' it hard throwin' down some fine efforts as well! So with some serious frikkin' bouts on today's docket, I couldn't ask for anything more! Except maybe for the Sumo Association getting some hot maids to sweep the trampled clay.

Now fire up the popcorn machine, loosen up your top knot and lets get ready to RUMBLE - Day 10...!

Juryo visitor Tamaasuka dropped in to say wuddup to promising newcomer Chiyootori.  Chiyo has some physical power, some youth and some sumo ability ...the sum of which could keep him around for a while. At the tachi-ai he fumbles occasionally when he's not met with at least equal force and, as in this match, his momentum (plus some mild hataki-komi by Tamaasuka) sent him to his 5th loss. Tamaasuka is all smiles at 9-1 and Chiyootori is feeling the heat at 5-5.

My main man M12 Wakanosato (3-6) was lookin' fine as he sauntered around the dohyo scopin' out the joint for sumo groupies under 800 years old. He was feeling pretty good I would imagine because he was about to face "Toyohibiki faced" M15 Homarefuji (2-6).

At jump street both men smacked chests and with their similar body density Waka's famously low center of gravity payed off as he was able to fight off Homarefuji's twist down attempts and grab some green belt. Sounds like a perfect formula for yori-taoshi and yup he forced his opponent down and out earning him a 4-6 record while "Toyohibiki faced" Homarefuji slid within an inch of make-koshi at 3-7.

Shotenro has shown an energetic flash of desire to win here and there...enough to get him a 5-4 record so far and he probably felt pretty confident he could handle the Mongoru, Azumaryu. Turns out, Shotenro didn't notice Azu's resemblance to the newly "squeaky clean" Tokitenku and he got worked over by one of the fruitiest henkas in recent memory.

Azu hopped and patty caked to a 5-5 record while Shotenro wonders if he fought Tokitenku's escaped evil spirit and settles for the same tally. By the way Shotenro seemed sincerely appalled by Azu's henka.

M10 Chiyotairyu and M13 Masunoyama are both relatively new to Makuuchi, they both need kachi-koshi to maintain decent status, they both have proper fighting spirit and they're both very round (although Masunoyama seems to have been assembled by a famous ball company).

Chiyo opted for a tsuppari / hataki-komi combo while Masuno kept his head down and went for some yotsu action. Then it was game on as both men alternately pulled and shoved with each gaining belt grips only to be yanked across the dohyo by their opponent and forced once again into defensive mode.

Finally, Chiyo drove Masunoyama back and out for the yori-kiri win but not before Masu made one last attempt to pull his opponent down with a hail mary twist (Was "mary" supposed to be capitalized? Did I spell capitalize correctly?) . The mono-ii was called but the damage was done and Chiyo is sitting on a 7-3 pile of digits while Masu is lugging around a 5-5 tally.  I was relieved when they deemed Chiyotairyu the winner because dayum I worry when that kid gasps for air.

Fading veteran M9 Kyokutenho (who's still showing some spunk...not that kinda "spunk" Clancy!) squared off against faded rookie M16 Daikiho, and although I'd love to see the youngster make his folks proud, I really want the pleasant faced Mongoru-jin guy to do better than worse.

Right off the gun, Kyokutenho lifted the flailing Daikon root up from the soil, walked him backwards and out and fell on top of him for good measure - All hail the abise-taoshi victory! Kyoku is 5-5 while Daikon's cooked at 1-9.

As I stated in my last "Kotoba Matsuri," I dig M9 Ikioi's honest sumo performances and I do hope he sticks around because we need that kinda thang don't you agree? Today he met another youngster M15 Chiyonokuni, who's enthusiasm and polite demeanor has made him sorta popular with the steaming thong...uh I mean teeming throng.

I got the feeling that Chiyonokuni really wanted to win because he outdid even the ever fidgety Yoshikaze with a frenetic barrage of frenetic barrages that stymied Ikioi's efforts to do well...anything. Chiyono kept dancing back and slapping and pulling while Ikioi pursued him trying to grab hold of the impish rikishi and establish some semblance of order, but a mighty side slap delivered to Iki's shoulder turned him around and then the Frenetic One shoved him into shame. Chiyono is another even steven guy at 5-5 and Ikioi stares at a "could be worse" 6-4.

M8 Tokitenku's heya, Tokitsukaze, must have been visited by Tangina because he has expelled the Demon Tenku and GONE INTO THE LIGHT.

And so far...Tokitenku is looking at 8-2 and not one henka, kick, eye gouge or ear chomp to speak of after 10 days. Not that I don't trust the guy but I'm officially on Tokitenku Henka Watch from here on out! Uh, now that he's Mr. Nice Guy dude's gotta work on his smile though.  He picked up the freebie against Kyokushuho who withdrew this morning.






Baby-faced Daido faced "Sadanofuji-faced" Sadanofuji. They met head on at the tachi-ai. When big fat guys (even with their heaping helping of muscle underneath) lean forward it don't take much for gravity to get them kissing turf and most assuredly that was to be both their destinies. BUT...Daido was the first to serve up some hiki-otoshi stew and Sadanofuji chomped on dirt first. Daido is onaka ga ippai at 6-4 whilst Sadanofuji is kimochi warui at 2-8.

M11 Monsieur G. G. Maru has made a bit of a comeback when he climbed into the sumo cage to meet the slippery M6 Cpt. T. K. Kaze. Gaga appearing ever so Yubaba in his blue "for-the-love-of-god-somebody-please-wash-me" belt, had decided somewhere along the line to throw down what he does best. Solid powerful tachi-ai (Takekaze's infamous henka be damned!), head low, hands locked on his opponent and then drive forward with leg power and aligned footwork. I dig it when Yubabamaru shows that kinda stuff and so does he when it gets him the well earned yori-kiri win! Mr. Maru 7-3, Cpt Kaze joins the 5-5 squad.

The strange tale of M2 Tochinoshin intrigues me. I don't think the guy's overloaded with talent, but he's put in some good performances and it makes me wonder who's allowing the guy to flounder so consistently. I understand it's disheartening to hit what appears to be an insurmountable wall but does his oyakata bear any of the responsibility for getting him at peak performance? Toyonoshima, yet another 5-5-er, beat his ass into a 0-10 record.

Myogiryu is a legit star. He's good looking, displays dohyo savvy, he's not intimidated by the upper echelon rikishi, he has some youth left in him and he's got some straight up skills that serve him well in a variety of bout circumstances.

Today, the man who was dubbed "Yogi Bear" by sumotalk's toastmaster general Clancy Jessel, faced the uneven Okinoumi. Oki-homey seemed to be comatose through much of this basho and then suddenly showed real fire against the wounded Kotooshu, so I was wondering which Okinoumi would show up against the upstart Myogiryu.

Yogi was picture perfect driving off the line with a low tachi-ai and then proceeded to stand Oki (who seems to have found his bottle of Sominex) upright and out of bounds. Yogi was all like "I got plenty of Jennies be tryin' to hound dog me Simone" and has his very own 7-3 score while Oki-homey is like "don't be clownin' me homes" with a sorry 1-9.

Now take notice... we be walkin' into some big gun territory...

9-0 Ozeki Kisenosato looks "for real" this basho. He's all business so far and on this day he was swinging that 9-ner like he owns the joint. Ozeki Kotooshu's cream puff syndrome has been further exacerbated by injury so he's mos def looking for some relatively quick and clean wins.

At the line of scrimmage the two Ozeki struck hard, but Kisenosato hopped and committed a "no no" of leaving the ground with both feet. This allowed Kotooshu to gain some momentum and shove the Kid back and throttle his neck for good measure (in many ways Kotooshu is one of the dirtiest tricksters in sumo, often giving an extra shove when his opponents are on the ground or catching air off the dohyo). Kise pushed back, lowered his stance and worked Ooshu up and off the dohyo. Good effort by both dudes. Kisenosato is a whopping 10-0 (maybe when the sumo association lays off these guys they find their stride?), while Kotooshu is ridin' the snake at 6-4.

7-2 Ozeki Kotoshogiku is also looking serious. He's been eating up his competition like candy all basho and he was looking for a day 10 kachi-koshi and I for one was rooting for the much maligned, rotund fellow.

Big kid M4 Aoiyama (5-4) had other plans as they both met with low hard tachi-ai. Aoiyama's head was down and Kotosho-am-sweet was first to strike with a hard slap down upside Blue Mountain's head, but the big kid kept his resolve and maintained his balance. When they both strong armed their way to opposing yotsu belt grips it was any man's game. Koto bumped and dug in and worked a little harder and he treated us all to a "sweet as okashi" uwatenage win! 8-2 for the Shogiku and yet another 5-5 for Aoiyama.

8-1 Ozeki Kakuryu's only loss was to the aforementioned candy man, and it's evident he's at least kicked open the kennel halfway (note: it seems like so far it's been "hands off the banzuke" by the sumo assoc. and things seem quite right in the sumo universe). When he stepped into the ring with everyone's favorite caveman, 4-5 M3 Aran, Kak's only concern was walking into a well executed henka or some such nonsense, but honest tachi-ai was served up by both men, and I for one was relieved.

Kak immediately grabbed the double belt "death grip" and after some muscular dance steps he got it done. Yori-kiri is the call and Kak is feelin' good at 9-1 while Fred is yabba dabba doo-ing his best, but most likely will seek comfort with Betty and Wilma at 4-6.

Yokozuna Hakuho was 9-0 coming in and every soul on god's green earth knew he was leaving with a 10-0 zensho. Ozeki "wanna be and probably was told he was maybe gonna be" Goeido agreed to go through with the formalities and participate in the Hakuho 10th win ceremony. There also was the distinct possibility that Goeido hoped Master Ho would play nice like before but that ain't this basho. Hak struck hard and fast and employed the リップ アーム オフ  "rippu amu offu" technique and it was all over in about 2 seconds.

Finally...Yokozuna Harumafuji has the eye of the tiger this basho. Something woke up some kinda sumpin' inside of him because I believe we've witnessed Super Haru the last few days.

He fears no one at this point and you may ask "who does he want to fight?" Well I think just like Gary Oldman in The Professional he would say:

I mean the dude looks seriously ticked off about those early losses and a quantum attitude shift has taken place. Let us hope he keeps it molten hot right up to senshuraku!

Harumafuji eyeballed Shohozan briefly and then struck with his signature explosive tachi-ai (and that cannot be taken can't be easy to charge with that much accuracy and juice...just look at the rest of the field). The grumpy dude with the gold belt stumbled back and said "Hey that hurts!" He shoved once and stepped away from Harumafuji and off sacred territory into the loser's moat. Yokumafuji is a nuclear 8-2 while El Grumpo Maximo is a respectable 6-4.

And that does it for Day 10, which in truth feels like a smokin' pre-cursor for Day 11. So although Sumo isn't the only sport I'm addicted to...I mean the Bruins and Kings are kicking ass in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and here's the current Snail Trail champion doing her thing...

...I have to say that I'm hyper excited to see the rest of this bitchin' basho! And thanks again everyone for allowing me to spill the beans on Sumotalk.

Oh and for those that need it (and yes I mean you Mike)'s some MMA ring girls doing what every girl wants to do...Rock The F... On!

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I commented earlier in the basho that the 4-0 start by the Ozeki meant nothing to me, and that I would start paying attention once the Ozeki consistently finished basho with 12 wins. Now, we're still a long ways away from an Ozeki finishing with such a stellar record, but I think I know where the optimism exhibited in Clancy's day 8 comes from. The start of week two always brings out the NHK leaderboard, and once you whittle away the crap (i.e. Ikioi, Toyohibiki, and Tokitenku), based on rank alone you have as solid of a leaderboard that one could hope for consisting of two Yokozuna and three Ozeki as follows:

Zero losses: Hakuho, Kisenosato, Kakuryu
Two losses: Harumafuji, Kotoshogiku

That's the way it oughta be every basho, and I realize that Kotoshogiku is a shaky member of that group, but all it's going to take is a loss or two from Hakuho "for one reason or another" (to quote Clancy), and we will have an interesting yusho race on our hands. That's not to say that Hakuho is going to drop a bout, but if Kisenosato can keep on winning, believe me...anything is possible.

Now, that's my optimistic take on the basho's dee-No-ooh-ment as they say in France, but my pessimistic view is best summed up by the most anticipated bout of the day, the Ozeki duel between Kakuryu and Kotoshogiku. Kakuryu charged a split second early and got the left arm to the inside from the tachi-ai, but instead of burrowing in tight and keeping his head planted beneath the Geeku's jaw, he actually positioned himself up higher than his fellow Ozeki so that Kotoshogiku had the lower stance. And the Japanese Ozeki knew exactly what to do with his opponent's hips up that high (koshi ga takai) as they say in sumo. The force-out win occurred in two seconds flat, which was a surprising contradiction after Kakuryu dominated the tachi-ai. Now I don't know if the Kak just made a stupid, critical mistake or if he gave his opponent that position on purpose, but one aspect that makes me uneasy about the prospects of the basho's conclusion is that I just don't see guys performing at a high level other than Hakuho.

Today was a perfect example. What should have a been a decisive bout in terms of the yusho race left me scratching my head and thinking what's going on here? Kakuryu dominated Kotoshogiku at the tachi-ai today but then was dominated in two seconds flat. I guess what I'm saying is that such unnatural consequences bother me and put me on high alert. Regardless, Kotoshogiku kept himself in the race with the win at 7-2 while Kakuryu suffers his first loss dropping him to 8-1.

Of the rikishi not ranked Yokozuna, you'd have to say that Kisenosato has looked the sharpest. I haven't seen the unnatural wins in his bouts that I've seen with some of the others, and ever since the Association began hyping him and propping him up, this is the first basho that he's actually started out 8-0. He looked to grab the early right outer grip today against M4 Toyonoshima, but Toyonoshima might have had moro-zashi (they never showed the reverse angle), and so the Kid back out of it going for a left kote-nage resulting in a Wild, erratic start that left the two settled into the hidari-yotsu position with Toyonoshima keeping his arse way back away from the outer grip. The two jockeyed in this manner for about 20 seconds before Kisenosato bumped Toyonoshima upright looking for an opening, and the shift in momentum caused Toyonoshima to back out quickly and retreat in an effort to counter, but he couldn't escape the reach of the Ozeki and was an oshi-dashi target in the end taking another wicked shot to the face as Kisenosato jumped out to a rare 9-0 start.

It wasn't a great win and certainly not the caliber of sumo we've seen from Harumafuji the last few days, but Kisenosato has looked solid and should continue to do so against the competition at hand. I would be shocked if Hakuho won this thing 15-0 and Kisenosato finished 14-1, so the Kid still has to continue to do his part and good things will happen. Ne'ertheless, he's 9-0 and firmly planted at the top of the leaderboard...something the Association and Japanese media can market from here.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho looked for the right inside at the tachi-ai against M4 Aoiyama, but Aoiyama kept both pits in tight denying the Yokozuna a path to the inside, and so as Hakuho quickly backed out looking for a pull, Aoiyama just fell forward in a second flat. This bout was a case of Aoiyama coming in with no intention of competing because he assumed the standing fetal position from the tachi-ai and just fell over with minimal contact. The win moves Hakuho to 9-0, and he's the clear favorite to hoist the cup in the end, and as I've said for years now, Hakuho will determine who takes the yusho.

Yokozuna Harumafuji and Sekiwake Goeido bumped heads with HOwDo getting the right arm into Goeido's neck lifting him upright and grabbing the back of the left belt. From there the uwate-dashi-nage was in order as the Yokozuna dragged Goeido towards the edge and threw him over uwate-nage style...all in about three seconds. As is the case with most bouts, they are determined at the tachi-ai, so this was a matter of one of the best on the board in Harumafuji exploiting a guy whose never had a strong initial charge...and it showed. Harumafuji has overcome his early hiccups to stand now at 7-2, well within reach of the yusho if Hakuho manages to drop one along the way.

Let's pause here and review the updated leaderboard:

9 wins: Hakuho, Kisenosato
8 wins: Kakuryu
7 wins: Harumafuji, Kotoshogiku

Once again, I love the leaderboard in terms of the ranks involved, but this is really a three-horse race among Hakuho, Harumafuji, and Kisenosato. With Kisenosato the highest ranked Ozeki, we'll basically have a three man round robin the final three days of the tournament if Harumafuji and Kisenosato can make it that far with no more than two losses.

With talk of the yusho race complete for today, let's move onto other bouts of interest.

Ozeki Kotooshu used duel tsuki shoves at the tachi-ai to keep M2 Kitataiki upright, but the Ozeki himself was standing tall signaling an ugly bout to come. Kotooshu was actually waiting for a Kitataiki surge so he could go for a pull, but Kitataiki's attempt was lame allowing the Ozeki to get away with his poor strategy, and with this bout still having no sense of order, Kotooshu finally ducked in low and used a left scoop throw to dump Kitataiki (1-8) and put us all outta our misery. Kotooshu picks up a much needed sixth win but still has little room for error.

Komusubi Tochiohzan sorta offered a right kachi-age at the tachi-ai, but he was committed, so M1 Myogiryu was able to slip out right as he pulled causing the hesitant Tochiohzan to stumble forward. From there, he was the easy shiri-dashi target as Myogiryu moves to 6-3 and is in commanding to position to kachi-koshi, win the Shukunsho, and regain a sanyaku berth for July.

Rounding out the sanyaku, Komusubi Okinoumi just turned his hip inward at the tachi-ai giving M1 Aminishiki the clear path to the left inside, and when Ami gained moro-zashi, Okinoumi tried to slip backwards looking for a pull. Bad move as Aminishiki reaffirmed his position with the left outer and pinned Okinoumi against the edge setting up the easy force-out win. No sneaking around needed here as Aminishiki limps to 3-6 while Okinoumi's make-koshi becomes official at 1-8.

Strike up the band and let's take a stroll down memory lane once again commemorating sumo's 60 years on television. Today's bout was actually extremely compelling because it was the 1975 bout between Kitanoumi and Takanohana that the Shukan Gendai alleged was yaocho in one of their articles. I nearly dropped my drawers in anticipation of this one as Kitanoumi shaded right grabbing the cheap right outer grip from the start and using his left do absolutely nothing. He sloppily gave up moro-zashi letting Takanohana deep to the inside; yet he persisted to attack with that outer grip instead of a kote-nage attempt or kime position. Anyway, Takanohana scored the fairly easy yori-kiri win picking up his first ever yusho, and the crowd was going nuts. To me it wasn't obvious yaocho, but Kitanoumi may as well have been fighting with his left arm tied to his mawashi.

Speaking of sloppy sumo, in a bout featuring two rikishi who had a total of zero wins coming into the day, M2 Tochinoshin was up way too high at the tachi-ai giving M3 Takarafuji moro-zashi, and Takarafuji is tall enough to keep Shin's hips up high, so he simply bullied NoShine over and back without argument.

M6 Takekaze's push attack was ugly, and M3 Aran's retreat and pull tactic was ugly, so this bout would come down to whomever was better at being...well, ugly. It was close, but Aran (4-5) pulled it out in the end slapping Takekaze (5-4) down near the tawara.

One of my favorite rikishi to watch so far this basho has been none other than M10 Toyohibiki, but M5 Shohozan was just the quicker rikishi today pulling Hibiki's right arm at the tachi-ai and using quick if not effective tsuppari to keep Toyohibiki away from any sort of position. The Hutt went for a desperation pull at the edge as Shohozan leaned into him for the do-or-die kill, and Toyohibiki just stepped out first before Shohozan crashed to the clay. Toyohibiki was actually unsure of his whereabouts as he was pushed outta the ring causing him to step backwards awkwardly and fall off the dohyo altogether. Toyohibiki just lay there on his side unable to move for a long time, so Shohozan did the victory crouch without him, and just as they dispatched some dude to come draw a chalk line around his body, Toyohibiki finally picked himself up off the floor and limped back to the dressing room.

M7 Jokoryu caught M5 Takayasu with a right paw completely taking away his forward momentum, but Jokoryu wasn't good enough to finish him off at this point, and he even allowed Takayasu to secure the hefty left outer grip in their migi-yotsu contest. From this point, Takayasu just had to finish Joke-oryu off, but as he drove him back to the edge, Jokoryu countered with a desperate left tsuki-otoshi that actually worked sending Takayasu (4-5) to probably his worst loss in the division. If you have aspirations of making the sanyaku one day, you cannot lose to a 1-7 Jokoryu when you have the stifling outer grip and he has none.

Rookie M14 Chiyootori is proving to be the best of the newcomers as he stayed low against M7 Fujiazuma, but the rookie offered nothing but a target for Fujiazuma's tsuppari, and so the veteran Fuji pushed him around and about and eventually out without Chiyootori implementing a single offensive maneuver. Uh, that ain't gonna get it done in this division as Chiyootori falls to 5-4 while Fujiazuma reaches the same mark.

M15 Chiyonokuni was way too high in his weak left kachi-age attempt at the tachi-ai, and so M8 Tokitenku just kept him upright until Chiyonokuni (4-5) leaned in too far, and at that point Tenku slapped him down to the dirt improving to 7-2 in the process and keeping himself on NHK's leaderboard (not mine).

M8 Sadanofuji used his might to pulverize M16 Daikiho this way and that before felling him with an accidental shove near the edge of the dohyo. I mean, the Sadamight whiffed on a kill shot and accidentally made contact with the rookie, but that was good enough to send Daikiho (1-8) to the clay and draw the tsuki-otoshi kimari-te. When you get your picture in the funnies and it depicts Sadanofuji (2-7) kicking your ass, it's not good.

M12 Wakanosato and M9 Kyokutenho hooked up in migi-yotsu with Wakanosato able to keep Kyokutenho upright by pinching inwards with the left arm disabling Tenho's right to the inside. Tenho became frustrated and moved the arm to the outside in sort of a reverse maki-kae at which point Wakanosato got moro-zashi and easily finished the deal. This bout is worth noting because as slow as Wakanosato (3-6) has become, it illustrates perfectly how Kyokutenho (4-5) has lost a step or three over the past year.

M9 Ikioi got the right inner at the tachi-ai and rushed a force-out charge of M13 Daido, but he was never truly squared up with his gal, and so at the edge Daido went for a desperation pull with the left causing Ikioi to slip down quickly and slam his right palm outside the dohyo just before Daido (5-4) stepped out himself. The ref pointed in Ikioi's direction because he was that dominant but then quickly reversed the call sensing that Ikioi's hand touched down first. A mono-ii confirmed the gyoji's instincts were correct, and just like that, Ikioi (6-3) is thankfully removed from the leader board.

M10 Chiyotairyu kept M12 Kyokushuho flailing at the tachi-ai with a well-placed shove to the neck, and as Kyokushuho tried to lean back in, Chiyotairyu just swiped from the face downward to the dickey do sending Kyokushuho to the clay in seconds. Shuho tweaked his right knee as he fell and limped back down to the hana-michi and has since withdrawn from the tournament with a decent 5-4 record. Chiyotairyu is on fire of late at 6-3.

M14 Kaisei and M11 Gagamaru bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai and looked to hook up in the migi-yotsu position, but neither dude wanted to get in too deep. From this position, the rikishi who goes for the pull first loses, and it was Kaisei, but credit Gagamaru (6-3) for his slightly lower tachi-ai that allowed him to keep Kaisei (5-4) on the defensive.

As long as I've come this far, I may as well mop up the final two bouts. M13 Masunoyama struck high and quickly moved left using a quick tsuki-otoshi shove at the side of M15 Homarefuji who went down like a house of cards. Bad tachi-ai and bad footwork from both parties as Masunoyama moves to 5-4 while Homarefuji as done well just to stand at 3-6.

And finally, M16 Azumaryu went for right outer grip at the tachi-ai but wasn't moving forward leaving himself wide open. Still, his opponent was the visiting J1 Tamawashi, who wasn't able to capitalize on the rookie's mistake, instead offering such a lame charge that Ryu easily side-stepped on his way to the pull-down win. This was just bad sumo all the way around as Azumaryu moves to 4-5.

Finally, before I turn the reins over to Kane tomorrow, I'd be remiss if I didn't reveal the answer to Clancy's multiple choice question he posed at the end of his report. The obvious answer is C, and I oughta know since I was the English teacher he was referring to.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
One of my favorite things about Japan (apart from the rice, slim gorgeous girls, freshly caught raw fish, lack of crime, baths fit for Odin, fresh ramen, and New Year week; politeness, sake, beautiful food presentation, love hotels, and on time, fast, and clean trains; well maintained and well lit highways, heavenly spray toilets that have eliminated the terror of the dingleberry, traditional festivals, nurturing primary schools, and vending machines that always work; wispy female body hair, friendly cops, tasty mom and pop restaurants, rugged elderly, ancient temples, setsubun, non-existent open container laws, and free tissues; bicycles as common transport, letting children learn through adversity, tasty domestic beers, respect for the aged, snugly fitting condoms, cherry blossoms, and a well washed, clean smelling populace; yakiniku, capsule hotels, taxis driven by respectable older gentlemen, general absence of tattoos, school children who say hello to strangers, dragonflies, and the widespread, "give it the old college try" spirit of women in the bedroom) is...uh...I forget.

At any rate, I do also like sumo, and one of the things I like about this tourney is the fact that we have three top rikishi at 7-0 as well as a dangerous Yokozuna at 5-2 who ought to be looking to get back into the mix in the final week. I remember someone saying after Day 7 that "the yusho is but a foregone conclusion" (I think it was Kenji but Im too lazy to go back and check), but Id more readily agree with the statement, "Hemorrhoids are lovely when you have jury duty" than with that silliness.

However it has come about (and despite the occasional odd tactic, Ive yet to see or feel much in the way of shenanigans in Tokyo—which is actually fairly standard for most basho in the first ten days or so—I mean, as incestuous and self-preserving as sumo can be, it aint pro rasslin), Im pumped for the run up to the grand finale (or the "Day New Ma" as Kane puts it—is that anything like having a harem of MILFs?) I, for one, feel Kisenosato and Kakuryu stand a damnably good chance of hanging in there, and a brain fart of a bout is nothing we have not seen Hakuho go through before, for one reason or another. Kublai is still the favorite, natch, but the stage is most def set.

Kisenosato continued his winning ways today vs. Goeido, who lost the match when he lost the tachi-ai. From the gun the ballsy Gonado ducked and brought his arms in looking for the moro-zashi, but the Ozeki managed to deny the Sekiwakes right arm while at the same time lifting up on his left to keep it off the belt. From that point he was an easy walkout win for the undefeated Naruto lad.

GoAwaydo looked about as strong as litmus paper in this one, and perhaps the analogy is apropos of what is in store for the once and future king, the former Hagiwara (no relation to this beast). If the match is any indication, The (soon-to-be 26 year-old) Kids opponents might try and take him straight on the rest of the way instead of hit and run or pull, you know, the kinds of things he is not particularly good at defending. The symmetry of his record thus far is pleasant: Hes beaten both M2s, both M1s, both Komusubi, and both Sekiwake. 8-0. Now hes got 3 Champions and 2 Grand Champions to pee on. Does he have the leg to finally lift Lord Stanleys Cu...I mean, the Emperors Cup? We shall see.

Speaking of marking your territory, Kakuryu opened the gate to let in hungry Okinoumi, a big dog who has had a first week more suited to a cur with mange. After his Day 7 dismantling of Kotooshu for win 1, he came in with fangs bared looking for another Ozeki. Kakuryu made sure there be no moro-zashi today as he got a very strong and deep left hand belt right from giddyup to which he swiftly added an outside right (but crucially only the outer strand of the Komusubis mawashi). Though a bit high in his stance, Okinoumi is somewhat taller than Kakuryu, and he used this advantage to press down on the Ozeki while he got his own left belt.

After a brief pause, both giants leaning in on each other and me waiting to see if Okinoumi was really going to contest this battle, he did in fact signal his intention to win by pulling The Kak in for a light second and snagging a similar outer strand only right belt. Kak immediately pressed him back but Okinoumi turned him and the Mongolian had to hook his right leg around his dance partners left to avoid being taken down.

The crowd was drooling at this point, with the men cheek to cheek and looking a bit fagged. Kak made an exploratory push but it was rebuffed, and then Okinoumi made his. This took Kak back to the edge but he turned the Komusubi and almost got him out, and Okinoumi immediately returning the favor and almost spinning the Ozeki out.

By now officially stamped "Epic" (at least for this basho) they rested on each other in the center of the ring for 23 seconds, until the gyoji called out, "The fuck, guys?!!" (thanks for the translation, Mike). Kakuryu obeyed the command and pressed his foe back, only to meet resistance and be forced to once again return to the leg hooking wrestling skills he learned before he was a big Kak in Japan and just a weewee livin on the Asian steppes. By now holding nothing but stretched out single strands of mawashi (looked kinda like he was giving two wedgies at once), Kak pressed Oki (who was def NOT "doki" at this point) back once and then twice, until finally the Komusubi ran out of counter move power and was pulled back to the center by the Ozeki, where he lost his belt grips and was pulled/slapped down like a disorderly drunkard.

An incredibly honest and hard fought bout, of the sort that made me want to join sumo in the first place (wait, Im just a shitbag commentator on a free website—my mal). All I know is, theyve officially set the bar high now for the final week, and if the bouts next weekend are not fought with the same kind of never say diet attitude as this bout, there will be an uprising in Japan the likes of which weve never seen as millions of JPese, angered over the way sumo has been handled for the past fifteen years, take to the streets to demand...and then I woke up and had to pee SO badly!

8-0 Hakuho took on Aran, and to his credit the W3 did not go gently into that good night. Banging in low and hard sniffing for a front belt, he managed to fend off a swift underarm swinging slap down from the Yokozuna, and even recover to get a strong inside right belt. Hakuho, with his own inside right belt, stayed low with excellent feet placement as he leaned in on Aran cheek to cheek.

Then Freds nephew surprised me by shoving in and lifting up enough to get a good outside left belt. Sweet move, but just one thing: It gave Hak "Call Me 24" Uho the same. Knowing he has more belt skills than seven Arans put together, the Yokozuna turned his foe so Arans back was parallel to the ropes, and then dropped his hips and muscled him out for the win. Despite ending up on his keister on the floor of the Kokugikan, Im betting Aran earned some major props today from the Yokozuna. As for Kublai, hes got three major battles left with HowDo, Kid, and Kak. Im betting at least two of them are as good as this one was.

Have you ever had great sex, and right after noticed how uninterested you were in more sex? Thats kind of how I feel about writing the rest of this report!

A murder took place on the dohyo today, and the perps name was Harumafuji. Hitting Toyonoshima like a train carrying Jon Voight, he rammed the helpless, hapless, any kind of slapless W4 back and followed with a left hand that ran from his clavicle to his throat before stopping on his chin and nearly taking his head off. Tugboat gave one last "toot toot" as he resisted for a millisecond on one leg and then was SLAMMERED to the dirt and bounced to the gym floor. Might as well call this kimari-te "shotgun blast." Its been at least four or five years since Ive seen such a dismantling (coincidentally about as long as its been since Martin wrote a real intro instead of making excuses about not being able to write a real intro).

Weak, injured, washed up Ozeki Kotooshu, tired of gettin no satisfaction after his losin streak the past three days, henkad Tochiohzan and yet still had to crash out with the Komusubi in order to get the win. Sadly, itll be a case of baby baby come back, maybe next week as it seems the Bulgarian will hang around looking for KK. Cant see where hes going to get them, though, with all his fellow Ozeki and both Yokozunas in the hunt for the yusho. 3 more wins or else hes a Sekiwake with Baruto. Its going to take major "magic" for him to do it, yep, plenty of ATM action.

Kotoshogiku got the train HowDo would later use to commit fratricide on Toyonoshima warmed up by using it to plow Tochinoshin back and off the dohyo with little fanfare but much less bloodletting. At 6-2 Geeku could and ought to play a spoiler role in the final week, but Id not put money on him upsetting either Yokozuna or Kakuryu. Best bet would be screwing Kisenosatos dream.

Sorry to disappoint cause while Id love to cover each bout as I did on Day 1 and likely will again on Day 15, Im a biddy man these days, teaching a new gig at a nursing college (seriously) and have to actually write a quiz for tomorrows class. The first multiple choice question reads something like this: "Your English teacher comes in to the doctors office with a rash on his upper, inner thigh. He strips and you bend over but cannot get a good look at it. Do you: a) Ask him to lie on his side?; b) Alert the doctor?; c) Call another young, tightly clothed female nurse to help you lift his inordinately thick and lengthy penis out of the way? Mike provides the answer and more on Day 9.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
When even Mike has trouble finding stuff to put into his intros, I know I'm in trouble in that respect. One thing I'd like to mention, though, is that the new tune they put on the NSK live feed is very poorly chosen given the context of sumo. They probably have it there to attract the younger audiences, but… if those guys aren't watching in the first place, really, what's the point? Anyway, let's get right into it.

Hakuho routinely took care of business in his match, slapping Takarafuji at the tachi-ai and working his way to his side, then pushing him to the edge from behind, where oshi-dashi was a simple formality. 7-0 and par for the course for week 1 for the Mongolian, whereas Takarafuji is an expected 0-7.

The other top Mongol charged straight and very low into Aoiyama, immediately getting the left uwate, and took decisive action, dragging his opponent down by dashi-nage. Really, there isn't much more to it. Ex-Ama is a couple of losses behind, at 5-2. The Bulgarian shares the same mark.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku was aiming for moro-zashi from the beginning (when isn't he?), but all he could muster was a shallow left inside. However, against Tochiohzan it was all he needed to win by straight yori-kiri and improve to 5-2. Oh mirrors that record.

Soon-to-be-Sekiwake Kotooshu cooled his fast start to a freeze when his charge was easily stopped by Okinoumi, who got into moro-zashi and wasted no time securing the yori-kiri win. The Bulgarian falls to 4-3 and is not the favorite to get his 8. Incidentally, Okinoumi wins his first.

In one of the stranger bouts of the day, Baruto looked to be in control when he got the right uwate and denied Kisenosato any grip of his own, but the Estonian shot himself in the foot when he tried to sort of throw the Kid behind his back and crumbled under the Ozeki's momentum. Baruto sinks below the .500 mark with the loss, whereas Kisenosato stays on the hypothetical leaderboard alongside Hakuho and Kakuryu.

Speaking of the Kak, today he stood proud and stiff at the tachi-ai, getting a deep right inside and a decent left grip on the front of Tochinoshin's mawashi and quickly escorting the Private to his 7th loss in as many tournament days. I remember someone saying Kakuryu's start was shaky (I think it was Mike, but I'm too lazy to go back and check), but, by comparison… it's as good as it gets, except, of course, Hakuho. I'm not saying he's going to be a legitimate threat for the yusho, but he definitely has the chance to go 12-3 or 13-2 or something. As for No Shine… double digit losses are definitely in the cards.

Aminishiki tried some sneakiness, moving to his left ever so slightly at the tachi-ai and testing the waters for a pulldown, but Goeido was on to him like flies to stink and pushed him back and out without relenting. The Father improves to 5-2 with the win. Aminishiki only has one to his credit.

It was sweet to see Aran get headbutted after committing a false start – his timing for the henka was off – and even sweeter to see him give up moro-zashi after a completely useless tachi-ai when they reloaded and get flattened over the tawara. Myogiryu improves to 5-2 with the win, while Aran slumps to 3-4.

Toyonoshima survived a lame-ass henka attempt from Kitataiki by not fully committing to his charge. Without any sort of momentum, Kitataiki was a sitting duck for moro-zashi, which the Tugboat duly got and used to take care of business, improving to 4-3 in the process. Kitataiki slumps to 1-6.

Shohozan henka'd Yoshikaze, although the fault doesn't all lie with the Tan Man, as Yoshikaze went at it full-bore, head down, come what may. Cheetos gets his 5th win with the lube job, while Yoshikaze is 3-4.

In one of the better bouts of the day, Takayasu came out on top against Sadanofuji after a complex affair which involved a tsuppari exchange, mawashi grips and being forced to the edge. After all of these came and went, Takayasu took a moment and finally deployed the twisting throw, felling Sadanofuji (1-6) like the log he is. Takayasu limps to 3-4.

Shotenro beat Takekaze in the weirdest of ways, as Takekaze's timing for his pulling attempt was so off that he took himself out of the dohyo… literally. 5-2 for Big Shot, 4-3 for the fat Kaze.

Speaking of fatties, Fujiazuma won the battle of the Hutts, surviving everything plus the kitchen sink Masunoyama could send his way and eventually finishing the job by yori-kiri.  Masunoyama slows down to the tune of 4-3, while Fatty-azuma recovers a bit at 3-4.

Joke-oryu jumped to his right in order to get the cheap uwate, but Chiyotairyu read the move well and stayed with him long enough for both to leave the dohyo together. The punchline? There was no mono-ii, much to Jokoryu's surprise, and Chiyotairyu (4-3) was declared the winner. Jokoryu stays winless.

Tokitenku's timing was yet again off at the tachi-ai, so his charge was about as effective at stopping Kaisei's momentum as a curtain in front of a 120mm shell. The inevitable result was oshi-taoshi, which propels Kaisei to 5-2. Tokitenku (ironic that he has the kanji for ‘time' in his shikona, eh?) shares the same mark.

Chiyonokuni knew he was toast if Kyokutenho got any sort of grip on his belt, so he did his best to keep the old guy away. Tenho managed to advance, nonetheless, but he couldn't quite get the job done at the edge without the mawashi, and Chiyonokuni was able to slip both arms deep on the inside and twist his larger foe right down. Both guys are lackluster at 3 wins apiece.

Chiyootori, this basho's Makuuchi rookie, is something of a promising young talent, only 20 years old and hailing from Kokonoe-beya, with a physique resembling Chiyotaikai, less muscular, but with better mawashi technique. Which isn't saying he prefers yotsu-zumo, as could be seen today when he kept Ikioi at bay with a paw to the face. It wasn't going to last forever, though, and Ikioi eventually got in close, grabbing the right uwate. However, his larger foe's momentum and shallow inside left were enough to get the job done, and Chiyootori improves to 5-2 with the yori-taoshi win. Ikioi falls to the same score.

There isn't much else worth mentioning, as it is. The yusho is but a foregone conclusion, with Hakuho firmly in the driving seat, but maybe Kisenosato will receive some help down the line in order to maybe start a (faux) push towards Yokozuna. Of course, he still has to win 4 or 5 of the remaining bouts on his own. We shall see.

Clancy is up on day 8, as usual. See you next basho.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Today marks the beginning of the chuban-sen or middle five days, and it's usually by this time that we have a good sense as to the direction the basho is headed. The fast start by the Ozeki ended nearly as soon as it began with that group playing .500 ball since their ballyhooed 4-0 start, and as Matt emphasized yesterday, Harumafuji's second loss really pares the yusho contenders down to...well, one rikishi. It was an interesting pre-basho in that the Sumo Association really wasn't hyping anything or anyone, so I'm still interested to see where this is all going and what their modus operandi is for the short term.

So as to not force the intro any further, let's get right to the bouts starting with M14 Kaisei who fished for the left frontal grip at the tachi-ai while getting the right arm to the inside. M13 Daido actually grabbed the early left outer, but it was Kaisei charging forward, not Daido, and so Kaisei was able to use that right inside position to pin Daido into the corner of the dohyo and send him out clear off the dohyo. The outer grip doesn't do one a damn bitta good while retreating as Daido learned today falling to 3-3. Don't look now, but Kaisei is 4-2 after that slow if he's really accomplishing something here by beating up on the dregs.

M12 Wakanosato got the early left inside against M13 Masunoyama, but Masu simply has too much girth for Wakanosato to truly get inside, and so Masunoyama inadvertently kept Croconosato at bay with his teets while unleashing a quick left kote-nage throw that worked like a charm. Wakanosato is winless against Masunoyama and falls to 1-5 in Natsu, while Double-D-yama improves to 4-2.

M12 Kyokushuho came in firing tsuppari up high, and so all M15 Homarefuji had to do was connect with a coupla paws to the body, and when he did just that, Kyokushuho was knocked back to the edge of the ring and off balance. As he tried to recover and come back forward, Homarefuji sent him to the side of the ring and out with a few more well-placed hams into his smaller opponent. Homarefuji has figgered something out as he improves to 2-4 while Kyokushuho cools off a bit at 4-2.

Oh brother, M16 Daikiho has become so desperate now that he's resorted to the tachi-ai henka. The problem is it was so bad he couldn't even fool M11 Gagamaru who barely survived at the edge with the shallow left to the inside and the right arm wrapped around Daikiho's left. When Daikiho was unable to capitalize despite the deep left and right outer grip, Yubaba just twisted his hapless opponent down with that beefy right arm. Gagamaru is skating at 4-2 while Daikiho may be nothing more than a bloated Takanoyama.

Ever heard the term monkey see monkey do? M16 Azumaryu also henka'd to his right in desperation against M10 Chiyotairyu, but Tairyu would have none of that nonsense beating Azumaryu around the ring and out with a series of potent shoves fueled by shweet de-ashi. Both rikishi end the day at 3-3 but are heading in different directions.

M10 Toyohibiki instigated a cautious tsuppari charge against M15 Chiyonokuni not knowing if his opponent would sneak out to the right or left, and when it became clear that he wouldn't evade, Toyohibiki gained more confidence in his legs and moved forward for the straight up oshi-dashi win. Nothing more to see here as Toyohibiki improves to 4-2 while Chiyonokuni in the inverse.

Rounding out the Kokonoe threesome, M14 Chiyootori's tachi-ai was so good against M9 Kyokutenho he actually had moro-zashi there for the taking, but since he's not a yotsu guy, he focused on the left inside and solid de-ashi. Kyokutenho's reaction was to shift into reverse and go for a cheap pull, but Chiyootori's de-ashi just kept plowing forward, and they were so effective he actually got moro-zashi for good and used it to drive Kyokutenho back and off the cliff Thelma and Louise style. The rookie moves to 4-2 in the process while Kyokutenho idles at 3-3.

M11 Shotenro and M8 Tokitenku charged into the immediate gappuri migi-yotsu position with a Tokitenku hari-te mixed in for good measure. An oshi guy like Shotenro simply can't get sucked into the yotsu trap, and it showed today as Tokitenku pulled his gal in extra close and executed the yori-kiri to perfection leading with the left outer grip. It's interesting to note here that when an oshi guy gets get an outer grip, he usually uses it for defensive purposes as Shotenro did today, and that renders the grip rather useless. Shotenro is still 4-2 while Tokitenku is soaring at 5-1.

M6 Yoshikaze moved left at the tachi-ai in an effort to evade M8 Sadanofuji's lumbering tsuppari attack, and it almost cost him as Sada connected with a left choke hold, but with no clear de-ashi involved, Yoshikaze ducked out of the attack, ducked away from a few more tsuppari for good measure, and then timed an evasive maneuver to the left pulling on Sadanofuji's extended arm to send him to the clay. Yoshikaze improves to 3-3 while Sadanofuji falls to 1-5.

M5 Shohozan caught M7 Jokoryu with a wicked moro-te-zuki that had Jokoryu staring into the rafters. It was all Jokoryu could do to close his eyes and lean back into his opponent, but a few more neck shoves and body shots followed up by a quick pull slew the beast in short order. Shohozan moves to 4-2 with the effort while Joke-oryu falls to 0-6.

M6 Takekaze had moro-zashi wide open at the tachi-ai, but as he usually does, he was looking more to shift back and to the side. As he realized the potential of his position, he did finally moved forward into M5 Takayasu, but he didn't have that momentum usually gained from the start, and so Takayasu deftly moved to his right and felled Takekaze with a nifty kote-nage throw. Good to see the struggling Takayasu win as he improves to just 2-4 while Takekaze falls to 4-2.

M4 Aoiyama was more than hesitant in his tsuppari attack against M9 Ikioi likely in anticipation of shenanigans, and so with Aoiyama standing straight up with arms extended only to ward off his opponent, Ikioi simply moved to his right and pulled Aoiyama forward and down by the arms. Twas a curious tachi-ai from Aoiyama who suffers his first loss at 5-1 while Ikioi enjoys the same record.

M4 Toyonoshima fished for the left inside against M7 Fujiazuma, but Fuji just shoved him outta the hold and back towards the tawara with some oomph. With Toyonoshima in serious trouble, he evaded and tiptoed the tawara as he pulled Fujiazuma forward, but his big toe touched out just as Fuji was pulled to the ground. A redo was correctly called for that saw Toyonoshima go toe to toe with Fujiazuma in a tsuppari affair, and Toyonoshima was able to move just enough to keep Fujiazuma off balance and slip into moro-zashi where he used a left scoop throw to make it official. When Toyonoshima struggles against Fujiazuma (2-4), it helps to explain his 3-3 start.

M2 Kitataiki schooled M3 Takarafuji from the tachi-ai gaining the left inside position and the right outer grip, and while Takarafuji made it look close with a counter left belt throw at the edge that actually cut off Kitataiki's grip, Kitataiki stayed in control thanks to his superior position from the start, so he sent a forearm chivvy into his foe nudging him that last step across the straw. Kitataiki picks up his first win while Takarafuji has drawn nothing but blanks, and I apologize for not posting a picture of this bout.  I musta scoured the wires for an hour but just couldn't find anything.

I'm actually putting myself to sleep with this report, so we couldn't ask for a better time for NHK to strike up the merry band and take us back down memory lane in celebration of sumo's 60 years on television. Today we were first treated to a Chiyonofuji yusho, which was followed up by grainy shots of the Sumida River and Ryogoku Kokugikan from the outside, and then grainy shots of the venue from the inside. I had to chortle because these are the same exact shots we see every broadcast, so who wants to see grainy footage from the 50's when we can see live footage inside the venue now, especially when there's a gaggle of uniformed Japanese high school girls sitting in the rafters? The producer in the truck called for the shot of the girls probably half a dozen times during the broadcast, which tells you where his mind was at...and everyone else's.

Getting back to the action, Sekiwake Baruto was too slow at the tachi-ai allowing Komusubi Tochiohzan to bulldoze his way to the inside with moro-zashi and immediately drive the Estonian back to the tawara. Baruto tried to move right and counter with a kote-nage using the right arm, but Tochiohzan was too tall and in too tight as he easily forced Baruto back across the straw for the overpowering win. It's one thing for Kakuryu and Kotooshu to use finesse sumo to outsmart the former Ozeki, but when Tochiohzan just kicks his ass, it's a little bit eye opening. Baruto falls to 3-3, and to his credit, he has had a tough schedule the first six days while Tochiohzan is in decent position still at 2-4. If a Komusubi can end the first seven days with two wins, he's doing well; if he can finish the first week with three wins, he'd doing great. And in Tochiohzan's case, he's got a win over a Yokozuna, so a Shukunsho is in the cards as well.

Ozeki Kisenosato struck M2 Tochinoshin hard with both hands pushing in at Shin's torso, and with sufficient de-ashi in tow, Tochinoshin's reaction was to back pedal and look for a cheap pull. Wouldn't happen today as the Ozeki was completely offensive-minded shoving Tochinoshin off the mound requiring little effort. Kisenosato will take easy wins like this any day till Tuesday as he moves to 6-0 and is the remaining factor in terms of breathing life into the basho. Tochinoshin is an uneventful 0-6.

M1 Aminishiki's tactic of standing straight up at the tachi-ai isn't exactly working wonders, but Ozeki Kotooshu wasn't charging hard and couldn't capitalize. The result was the two rikishi offering cautious shoves as they looked for an opening, and Aminishiki actually won this battle sneaking his way into moro-zashi. It was a shallow grip, however, and allowed Kotooshu to pinch inwards with both arms from the outside and kime-dashi Aminishiki over to the edge and seemingly out, but a surprise counter utchari sent the Ozeki crashing out as Aminishiki himself fell to the dirt. A redo was correctly called for, and this usually favors the fitter rikishi, who I assumed was Kotooshu, but Aminishiki snuck to his right at the tachi-ai and grabbed the Ozeki's extended arm twisting him around and setting up moro-zashi. This time it was deep allowing Aminishiki to just bulldoze Kotooshu back with such force that Shneaky's foot actually stepped out first before the Ozeki landed. No mono-ii was need here, though, because by the time Aminishiki's foot touched the sand, Kotooshu (4-2) was flying in the air beyond the dohyo proper.

Kane and I were talking offline yesterday and discussing some suspicions regarding the collective Ozeki 4-0 start, and then when I see Kotooshu fight twice against an obviously hobbled and winless opponent and fail to put him away in two tries, it makes me wonder if Kane and I were seeing things for a reason.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku committed a false start against M1 Myogiryu by failing to touch his left fist down, and he knew it too, so he paused as he came up out of his stance allowing Myogiryu to pounce into the moro-zashi position. When it was clear the bout wouldn't be called back, it was too late as Myogiryu was in so deep and had the Geeku so upright, it was all academic as Myogiryu drove the Ozeki back and out in two seconds flat. Myogiryu moves to 3-3 and has a coupla shukun victories under his belt while Kotoshogiku falls to 4-2.

In an ugly affair, Ozeki Kakuryu and Sekiwake Goeido just bounced off of each other at the tachi-ai resulting in Goeido standing there flat footed while Kakuryu fired shoves here and there into his neck and head. Goeido persisted in getting to the inside, but Kakuryu really never let him come close evading around the ring as he jabbed and then pulling Goeido down near the edge as he tried another fruitless charge to get to the inside. I would love to see a straight up yotsu bout between these two fellas, but that has yet to come to fruition as Kakuryu moves to about as shaky a 6-0 as you'll ever see while Goeido falls to 4-2.

Yokozuna Hakuho looked to get the right inside from the tachi-ai and left outer against Komusubi Okinoumi, who looked to quickly abandon the yotsu contest and pull Hakuho's right arm from the outside. Hakuho adjusted in stride and with the two now turning in the center of the ring, the Yokozuna just pulled Okinoumi to the dirt with little effort. For a second there, it looked to me like Okinoumi assumed the standing fetal position at the tachi-ai, and that's largely been his attitude the entire tourney as he drops to 0-6. Hakuho is just toying with these guys at 6-0.

In the day's final bout, M3 Aran actually henka'd Yokozuna Harumafuji jumping to his right, but as he did a few days ago against Tochinoshin, Harumafuji sufficiently read the move and grasped Aran's legs as he landed on the dohyo. Aran was in prime position for the easy slapdown win a this point, but the henka took away any momentum to execute the move, and so the Yokozuna, who was visibly pissed at this point, ducked inside hard and sent the Russian flying off of the dohyo. This lack of respect for the Yokozuna rank is a bit troubling to me, and it's a reason why foreign rikishi aren't as well accepted in Japan. It's just ridiculous for these two Eastern Eurapes to diss the Yokozuna rank. Thankfully, Harumafuji recovered and won the bout improving to 4-2, but it's too little too late in terms of the yusho race. Aran falls to 3-3 and is hopefully reprimanded by his stable master for his stunt today.

Martin speaks tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Matt Walsh reporting)

Haramafuji Loses Again

The major storyline in terms of the shape of the basho so far is Harumafuji's second loss in five days. HowDo has established that on any given Day 1, he is the main threat to take the Emperor's Cup away from Hakuho for that basho. Unfortunately, he has not established a consistency that he will still be a threat by Day 12. And it looks likely to me that he never will establish it.

Unlike many of the top sumos, the West Yokozuna is not a big or even average size rikishi. As such, he relies on technique, speed, and timing to an even greater degree than most. And boy does he have those three things -- in spades. He's surely one of the fastest guys on the dohyo, and that doesn't seem to come and go, due in large measure to the fact that he's been relatively healthy so far. But the high precision needed to make his technique and timing so effective are prone to lapses.

When HowDo's got it going on, he seems nearly unstoppable. Only Hakuho measures up, and even he probably wouldn't with five fewer centimeters and 20 fewer kilograms backing up his skills. If Ex-Ama's a little bit off, though, and you're suddenly not sure if he's even Ozeki material (though compared with the current crop there wouldn't be any question). He's just another guy out there, and a little one to boot.

He's like a team full of three point shooters in the NBA. When he's on fire, he's going to score 150 points and crush his opponents. But when he's cold, he's going to get punished.

For example, in today's match against previously winless Tochiohzan, he came in a bit tentative (although facing two henkas in three days might do that to you) but got into a solid hidari-yotsu position. His left inside grip wasn't so great, though, and when he went to adjust, Oh Snap shifted a bit and created an opportunity to get moro-zashi. With the double inside settled, the Komusubi quickly attacked, and then could shift gears and dump HowDo via kata-sukashi ("swinging shoulder takedown"). For Tochiohzan, it's a nice win and should help boost his confidence going into the latter part of the basho. But for the Yokozuna, it's a sign that he's gone cold.

If you play Fantasy Sumo (as I do), and you pick Harumafuji (which I did), it's like pushing half your poker chips in on a flush draw. If you hit it, it's a big payday. But there's a good chance you lose half your chips. Having watched Harumafuji so far, I'm ready to dump my hand for this basho.

Other Top Dudes

Hakuho dominated winless Tochinoshin to get to 5-0. No Shine isn't the kind of rikishi who can give Hak trouble, as he generally just walks into a mawashi fight and doesn't go for moro-zashi, as was the case today.

Kisenosato also got to 5-0 by beating Aminishiki. I'm doing this mostly based on YouTube videos today, and no Kise-Shneaky vid, but Shneaky has not looked good this basho.

Kotoshogiku dropped his first (yes, the streak ended) match against Goeido. Another missing video! Sorry, dearie.

was the first Ozeki to lose (chronologically, not in this report), getting picked off today by Myogiryu. Yogi Bear came fast and hard at the tachi-ai, and if there's two things that the Bulgarian isn't in to, it's fast and hard. Oshu was so not into it that he stepped back a few times and out of the ring and all the way off the dohyo before the gyoji reminded him to get back up and bow before leaving. Myogi is on track for another solid basho, having picked up the (henka-aided but well-executed) kin-boshi and now an Ozeki scalp. Yet, it honestly feels like he's underperforming with his losses to Geeku and Kise. A bit more consistency and experience will see this guy butting Baruto and Goeido out of the way for a real Oz run.

And speaking of our other Sekiwake ... Baruto wrapped up Okinoumi's head and spun him down for the kote-nage to get to 3-2. Not a great run so far for Big Bart, but at least he's looking healthier for the first time in a while. Oki-Doki will need a serious game upgrade if he's going to stay in the upper ranks.

So that's it for today, as I'm hoping to get this report to Mike before the ghosts start coming from my kid's closet again...

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I cited a lack of storylines heading into this basho, and over the first couple of days, nothing was really formulating, but by the end of day 3, the media finally has something to get a stiffie over. For the first time in 6 years, four Ozeki on the board all started out 3-0. It doesn't sound like much of a feat to ask four Ozeki to take care of Maegashira scrubs early on, and so when I see a statistic like that, I don't think: gee, how neat to witness something for the first time in six years! Rather, the first thing that comes to my mind is "what in the hell have the Ozeki been doing the last six years?" But gets even better! If all four Ozeki manage to win on day 4, then it will have been the first time in 23 years that such a feat was accomplished.

I get why the media is plastering this headline all over because there's nothing else out there to latch onto, but the fans aren't getting any more excited just because the Ozeki are doing well, and the reason is the Ozeki have been so disappointing over the last few years that there's just no attachment to the rank anymore. On paper, the Sumo Association can't stand not to have a Japanese rikishi occupy a prestigious rank, and so Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato were prematurely knighted as Ozeki just after Kaio's retirement, but the fans haven't been coming back in droves thanks to the two domestic Ozeki. There's just not the same amount of respect out there for the Ozeki rank anymore, so the media may as well be pimping the headline, "Aoiyama, Takekaze, and Tokitenku all start out 4-0!" because no one is going to decide to buy a ticket just to see if the Ozeki can keep up their current streak. Sumo will start becoming popular again when the Ozeki are able to consistently win 12 bouts per basho, not when they manage to all start off 3-0. Regardless, the four Ozeki back then--Konishiki, Kirishima, Hokutenyu, and Asahifuji--all started out the 1990 Natsu basho at 7-0, so the storyline will fade after today regardless of how the four Ozeki perform on day 4.

Since you're all dying to find out the Ozeki results for today, I will shamelessly tease that to the very end and start from the bottom up as usual. M15 Chiyonokuni henka'd slightly left but Kaisei reacted well keeping his right arm in close as the two hooked up in gappuri migi-yotsu, a position which does not favor Kuni. He knew it too and went for the quick outer belt throw dragging Kaisei along the edge, and it looked to work except for Chiyonokuni's big toe that touched just outside of the dohyo before the giant was felled. That's what you get, though, when you try and steal candy from the Baby with that tachi-ai henka. Both rikishi end the day at 2-2.

M16 Daikiho struck well at the tachi-ai, but m13 Daido did his best impression ever of a brick wall easily halting the rookie's charge. As Daikiho lamely offered his right arm to the inside, Daido grabbed it in the kote-nage position, backed up, and just dragged Daikiho down to the do'h!yo. Sad start for Daikiho who falls to 0-4, and boy am I glad I didn't pick him for my Fantasy Sumo stable. Daido improves to 2-2.

M16 Azumaryu won the first two days just by standing there and letting his opponents beat themselves. Well, he employed that same strategy today standing up at the tachi-ai as m12 Kyokushuho rushed into the migi-yotsu position that included the left outer grip. A second later, Azumaryu found himself on his back, the result of a nifty left outer belt throw from Kyokushuho, who is shining now at 3-1 while Azumaryu sloths his way to 2-2.

It looked like the last thing M14 Chiyootori wanted to do was charge against M11 Shotenro as the rookie stalled and bounced around before charging, but when he did go, it was straight-forward and hard enough that Shotenro's planned hataki-komi was befuddled from the get-go. Chiyootori nearly lost his balance, but then I nearly got to first base on my first date. The result was I came home with no bragging rights just like Shotenro was pushed back and out as soon as Chiyootori gathered his wits. The rookie is 3-1 if you need him while Shotenro suffers a mild case of the blubes at 3-1 himself.

M15 Homarefuji stayed tucked in tight at the tachi-ai in an effort to deny M11 Gagamaru the inside position, but there was just too much pasty flab in his path keeping him out of moro-zashi. Gaga the Hutt eventually worked his left arm sufficiently to the inside allowing him to force the rookie back and out before offering the slow, guttural laugh, "ho, ho, ho,...Solo." Gagamaru is 3-1 while Homarefuji is still an o'fer.

I've talked about how weak M9 Kyokutenho has suddenly become, and that still holds true, but the reason I bring it up here is to illustrate just how light M13 Masunoyama is. Masunoyama offered a few tsuppari from the tachi-ai, but he was standing straight upright and so Tenho accelerated right into him using a left nodowa to fuel the oshi-dashi attack that had Masunoyama impounded about two seconds in. Kyokutenho is even steven at 2-2 while Masunoyama is cooled off a bit at 3-1.

M9 Ikioi quickly secured moro-zashi against M12 Wakanosato at the tachi-ai, and that was all she wrote as Ikioi quickly drove Wakanosato back so fast the veteran's false teeth nearly flew out. Ikioi's in his comfort zone down here as he speeds to 3-1 while Wakanosato is on the brink at 1-3.

M10 Chiyotairyu was hesitant at the tachi-ai knowing M8 Tokitenku's tactics all too well and the reward was a vicious hari-te from the left hand of Tenku that stopped Tairyu in his tracks and allowed Tokitenku to hook up in hidari-yotsu sumo outta the gate. Chiyotairyu is totally out of his element here, and despite his efforts to finagle an outer grip, it was Tokitenku who denied his date's passes and grabbed the left outer of his own, which was the determining factor in his yori-kiri victory. I'm not a fan of Tokitenku (4-0) at all, but that was one of the sweetest hari-te I've ever seen. Chiyotairyu is prolly still seeing stars at 1-3.

M10 Toyohibiki used a rushed charge with his hands to the face against M7 Jokoryu, and normally a rikishi up this high makes me nervous, but Jokoryu isn't experienced enough yet to take advantage. the result was the easy oshi-dashi win for the Hutt that for some reason left the Kokugikan as silent as a library...after closing time. Toyohibiki moves to 2-2 while Jokoryu is already looking at his day planner to see when he fights Daikiho and Homarefuji.

M6 Takekaze employed an ugly henka to his left, and a guy with little game like M8 Sadanofuji will fall for that move hook line and sinker. So let it be written, so let it be done as Takekaze oils his way to 4-0 while Sadanofuji is the inverse.

M5 Shohozan welcomed M7 Fujiazuma with two hands to the face, but his lower body wasn't into it allowing Fujiazuma to press forward and charge. Through the grace of the gods, Shohozan was able to grab the front of Fuji's shime-komi and desert to the side slinging Fujiazuma outta the ring an instant before he stepped out himself. Wasn't pretty, but Shohozan will take it as he evens himself with Fujiazuma at 2-2.

M4 Aoiyama greeted M5 Takayasu with a beefy right paw to the neck followed by an equally robust ham with the left, and as Takayasu tried to keep his momentum by leaning forward in order to stave off the attack, Aoiyama switched gears and slapped him down...all in less than two seconds. Aoiyama soars at 4-0 while Takayasu is a lame 1-3.

M4 Toyonoshima charged upright into M6 Yoshikaze and looked for absolutely no offensive position resulting in Yoshikaze just slipping to the side and pulling Toyonoshima down by the shoulder about a second in. Not sure what Toyonoshima's intentions were here, but the result was a bad loss that left both rikishi at 2-2.

I'd be remiss if I didn't pause at this point and comment on NHK's commemoration this basho of sumo's 60 years on television. Each day they've produced about a 30 second clip of a classic bout followed by the most random scenes you could imagine from the last 60 years. Today's featured bout was Kashiwado putting an end to Taiho's 45 bout winning streak, but after that things really got fun as they showed the door to the NHK video room, three old television sets on a wooden table, and then two rikishi and an oyakata sitting on a couch all with lively elevator music from the 50's in the background that really makes one feel gay and lively. Hellifiknow what's going on with these little productions, but I hear Goeido's riveted each day.

Back to the sumo, M1 Aminishiki's feet were completely aligned at the tachi-ai against M3 Aran disallowing any sort of attack from Shneaky. It took the Russian a second to figure it out, but he finally moved forward drawing a weak pull attempt form Aminishiki, but the last thing he wants to do is evade with that bedroll wrapped around his leg, and Aran showed why easily slapping the hapless Aminishiki to the clay in a few seconds. Aran improves to 2-2 while Aminishiki falls to 0-4.

Sekiwake Goeido secured the left arm to the inside of the listless Komusubi, Okinoumi, and just forced him back and across in a few seconds. Is it too much to ask Okinoumi to give even a shred of effort? I mean, look at that pic at right.  Okinoumi is on the brink, and he's just staring across to the other side of the arena.  Granted, if one of Kane's hotties was in attendance, I'd understand, but I've seen close-ups of the crowd, and one's hard pressed to find someone below the age 60.  Needless to say Okinoumi's 0-4 while the Father improves to 3-1.

Okay, the moment you've all been waiting for: the Ozeki bouts!! I called my Otolaryngologist when I heard the NHK Announcer say just prior to the Ozeki Kotoshogiku - M3 Takarafuji matchup, "Takarafuji no chousen wo ukemasu," or in other words, "Here comes the challenge from Takarafuji." Apparently I do have too much wax in my ears because Ozeki Kotoshogiku bellied into Takarafuji hard getting the right to the inside, which he used to immediately force Takarafuji back and out.  No challenge to speak of here as the Geeku glides to 4-0 while Takarafuji gets his hair done at the same salon as Okinoumi.

M1 Myogiryu wasn't using any de-ashi at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kakuryu allowing the Ozeki to survive the average tsuppari attack and then duck away to the side turning the tables and grabbing the right frontal grip and left outside position. From here, the yori-kiri was swift as Kakuryu (4-0) finally rights the ship when facing the pesky Myogiryu (1-3). That's two down and two to go if you're scoring at home...and if anyone at this point was cognizant that all four Ozeki still had a chance to start out 4-0, I can guarantee that you weren't scoring at home.

Komusubi Tochiohzan just blasted Ozeki Kisenosato off of the starting lines causing tens of fans inside the Kokugikan to shudder at the thought the streak ending here, but even as Tochiohzan dictated the pace from the tachi-ai, Kisenosato dug in thanks to his left arm to the inside forcing the action back to center of the ring. Tochiohzan (0-4) had a persistent right outer grip keeping this drawn out bout a stalemate for a long while, but the Kid finally got him with a left scoop throw in the end setting up the ultimate climax with the next bout.

Ozeki Kotooshu and Sekiwake Baruto hooked up quickly in the hidari-yotsu position with Kotooshu maintaining a razor thin outer grip with his right hand on one fold of the Estonian's mawashi. The Bulgarian was unable to really attack, however, opting to keep his arse as far away from Baruto's right paw as possible, but he wisely never settled in one place methodically moving this way and that forcing Baruto to follow suit and react to his opponent instead of establishing an attack of his own. After about 20 seconds of wrangling, Kotooshu pounced into the moro-zashi position, and from there the yori-kiri was swift making it official: the four Ozeki have all started a basho 4-0 for the first time in 23 years! At this point, it was all I could do to wipe my brow and take a long drag on a cigarette.

Baruto falls to 2-2 with the loss, and the obvious highlights of the basho so far have been watching Kakuryu and Kotooshu charge straight into him and dismantle the Sekiwake in the end with brilliant sumo.

Moving up to the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho attained the methodic right inside position against M2 Kitataiki and then used a left tsuki-otoshi three seconds in to send Kitataiki to an expected 0-4 start. It goes without saying that Hakuho is cruising at 4-0 while Kitataiki is hapless at 0-4.

And finally, M2 Tochinoshin actually henka'd to his left against Harumafuji, but the Yokozuna saw it coming and literally caught Tochinoshin before he landed from his jump and dumped him quickly with a left inside throw with his hand at the back of Shin's belt. What is it with dudes thinking it's okay to henka Harumafuji? Fortunately, a kin-boshi wasn't in order today as Harumafuji keeps pace with the pack at 3-1 while Tochinoshin falls to 0-4.

As I emphasized in my introduction, this collective 4-0 start by the Ozeki means nothing to me. Having two or three of them finish the basho with 12 wins or better does, and so hunker down and get ready for Matt tomorrow.

Day 3 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
I'm loving this basho because of the keen sense of order the association has knocked together for us all. It's ALL about balance - kinda like Johnny Depp's character, Sands, in Robert Rodriguez's - Once Upon A Time In Mexico, who killed the worst men and best men to establish a sense of order. I get that there's not a truckload of surprises yet, but this basho is playing out like a well conceived script, and I for one am looking forward to the dénouement (2 bit, french word alert).

This basho has been, so far, like sitting in a comfortable chair with a bag of kettle corn just waiting to grab the tastiest kernel. And as a general rule I've decided not to take for granted what some of these rikishi have achieved...its a tough road to get where they are, and I'm mos def digging it when they throw down the nad sumo skills baby! Also, as an added treat, the hyper ambitious Baruto hanging around the Sekiwake crew makes for some supremely interesting bouts early on!

So lets fire up the T Rex, bang the gong and get down to the Natsu Basho 2013 Day 3!

The most somnambulatory of all the rikishi (Kaisei) called upon his somnambulant sumo style as he somnambulated his way to victory atop the dohyo. He and newcomer Homarefuji met at the tachi-ai and made obligatory grabs for the belt and then engaged in an upper body strength battle.

Homarefuji (who is hoping they spell Harumafuji's name wrong and he gets to use the Yokozuna bathroom) was all like "WTF" as he tried "this and that" to move his sloth-like opponent and on occasion he did turn him to the side, but Baby Huey just hung on to him like a sticky sack of cannonballs.

Once Homarefuji began to tire, Kaisei quickly bitch slapped the drowsy man down to the clay. Kaisei earns the win with a nifty hataki-komi and zombies his way to up to a 1-3 record while the 0-3 Homarefuji better get a wake up call sooner than later.

Extremely round-headed Masunoyama seems loaded for bear this basho and his energy was once again enthusiastically displayed as he shot his load at Daikiho, a similarly arranged stack of spherically shape flesh balls. Both youngsters struck high at the tachi-ai and ballstack number two proceeded to back up and try to pull Masunoyama (ballstack number one) somewhere (not sure where exactly) and then well...anyway Masunoyama was victorious. He rockets to 3-0 while the other dude rolls down hill to an alarming 0-3. Love Masunoyama for the same reasons other people do, plus who doesn't love a ballstack.

0-2 Daido faced "Tokitenku faced" Azumaryu, and I was digging on their honest tachi-ai. Both dudes grabbed each others belt in back - Daido obtained the hidari-yotsu and Azu had his own migi-yotsu. They both fell to the clay at the same time and a justified re-match was called. Round two found the two men with the same side mawashi grips, and I suddenly felt I like I was watching Hoobastank open for Linkin Park (you know like - hurry up will ya). Finally, Azu fell down to a 2-1and Daido was credited with the uwate-nage win and my eyes re-focused.

OK so yeah, kinda boring...uhhh so here:

Now back to the action at hand...the hyper Chiyonokuni really pumped himself up and earnestly tossed the salt for purification and good luck. But alas he may have chosen the wrong crystals of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of ionic salts.

Kyokushuho displayed half decent tsuppari while Chiyonokuni demonstrated for the kids in the audience some seriously lameass footwork. Chiyo leapfrogged his way to a loss and Kyokushuho oshi-dashi'ed himself a cool 2-1 record.

M12 Wakanosato, he of the short limbs and "spot on" sumo attitude, fought a strong newcomer in Chiyootori and the whole affair just felt nothing but good.

When the Croc gets in his crouch and stares at his opponent, I just know that when he do it he gonna do it straight on up. Sure enough the veteran's hari-te shook Chiyootori's mug and both men grabbed onto some big belt real estate.

Chiyo tried to muscle the "old man" but Croc belly bumped his younger opponent towards the edge of the ring and then executed one of the finest (and quickest) uwate-nage finishes I've seen in a long while. I stood up and cheered as Mr. Sato gets his first win and the hopeful Chiyootori (2-1) learns a lesson.

The previously attractive Gagamaru, who also has to have been WTF'ing like a mofo as of late, has seemed a tad less cocky this basho and has gotten back down to basics (nothing like dropping to M11 to get you looking at the manual again). Gotta say it's paying off because he faced another "no around" wrestler in Toyohibiki, and they both met each other straight on. Once again I found myself in Mikeville as Toyohibiki's crime was clearly a case of bad footwork.

Yubaba worked Toy Factory back with steady forward moving legs while his opponent's dogs were either lined up or off the dohyo. Toyohibiki, being the mensch that he is, resisted at the edge but to no avail as Yubabamaru crashed down on top of him for the victory. Gagayubabamaru is at 2-1 while Toyohibiki stumbles to 1-2.

As soon as M10 "man about town" Chiyotairyu heeds Mike's about not backing up for the cheesy pull down, I believe we'll all see a very promising rikishi make some serious noise in this beloved sport. Yeah he should have taken it to Shotenro and as always he started off doing just that, but he fell into an all too familiar pattern of retreating while attempting a combo tsuppari/pull down mess and that just ain't gonna cut it. Chia Pet is 1-2 and Shotenro earns a sweet 3-0.

I like this Ikioi kid 'cause no matter what's thrown at him he relentlessly seeks the advantage. Sadanofuji is a big guy with a vigorous tsuppari and let's face it...he's harder to lug around than say - Takanoyama, but Ikioi worked his way past the rain of slaps and face smears to grab the belt. He powered Sadanofuji into the moat and I for one dug his action. The yori-kiri win earns Ikioi a promising 2-1 while Sadanofuji is a depressed 0-3.

M8 bad guy Tokitenku so far is shenanigan free. Now ain't that an odd dynamic to witness? I mean the dude's tactics have made all of us (and especially his opponents) expect some kinda rotten sumpin' sumpin' and then he goes and fights clean as a whistle for 3 days straight. On this night, he also showed off some text book skills against his fading country mate, nice guy Kyokutenho (1-2), by quickly grabbing a two handed belt grip off the tachi-ai and a yori-kiri win. Mr. Clean gleans himself a perfectly shiny record of 3-0.

Large breasted Aoiyama and flash in the pan Shohozan were embroiled in a sloppy tsuppari slap fest, the big blue mountain dude choosing to slap and blithely dance backwards while the eternally sulking Shohozan slapped and danced forward.

Dancing backwards is evidently the superior tact as Aoiyama eventually Watusied upside his opponent's head sending the gold mawashi'ed Shoho to the dirt. Credit the bigger blue guy for moving his giant frame so well. Tsuki-otoshi was the call as Aoiyama two steps to a perfect 3-0 and Shohozan joins the "Gold Mawashi Was A Mistake Club" at 1-2.

I always enjoy when W-M3 Aran (1-2) accesses his natural gifts and fights a confident powerful brand of sumo. Mike and Clancy pointed out long ago that the Russian wrestler is capable of having a real impact on the sport if he'd rely more on his strong upper body and ability to drive low and hard at the tachi-ai. Against Tochinoshin (0-3) he almost did that. Collectively, their tachi-ai was hella weak (Harumafuji's T&A being an example of a sweet tachi-aii) but Aran got his head down , hugged his opponent for a classic two handed grip and forced the yori-kiri win. Tochinoshin makes all of us that saw his potential years back feel like crap and falls to 0-3 while Fred Flintstone's nephew steps up to a 1-2 record.

Somehow Sekiwake Goeido always seems focused and a bit lost at the same time. Like he's full throttle "game on" but also wondering why Kisenosato rocketed past him...and even when he wins he looks a tad befuddled or he's like "OK I think now I hold that little wooden water thing for the next guy".

He and Komusubi Tochiohzan rammed opposing shoulders and Goeido found himself flailing around with no belt in his mitts and his right arm straight in the air. Unfortunately Tochiohzan was unable (or completely unwilling...uhhhh) to reach for the belt that was gift wrapped and addressed to him. Goeido bear hugged Tochiohzan's shoulders and spun him down for the kubi-nage victory. He then turned around and wondered "WTF just happened, did I just win?" Personally, I think he misses Asashoryu.

I am convinced that day in and day out, Kakuryu is whoever he wants to be. Though lacking a bit in size he possesses a formidable sumo intellect and an innate sense of what's necessary to win. And when he jumps off the line with a well conceived plan holstered he has a damn good shot of racking the O no matter who he's slapping shoulders with (yeah Hakuho requires a 5 step plan).

Tonight the Kak stood face to face with the much bigger and highly motivated Baruto. I believe Kak sensed that the Estonian is still walking the mile to feeling confident on the dohyo and yes - Kak had a plan.

So on night 3 of this Natsu Basho the Kak stated very clearly "I am the man that executes the low tachi-aii...I am he who shall grab the belt and shove and twist until i get a two handed belt grip favored by the Hell's Angels...I will lift when my opponent attempts to lift me and I will not line up my feet...and yes_I will slay the Baruto dragon with solid sumo technique because on this night - that is who I am." "PS I will also hook Baruto's leg with mine at the edge of the dohyo and risk seriously jacking the dude well beyond immediate repair.

Ozeki Kisenosato and the handsome Komusubi Okinoumi had a slightly odd affair. Having attended Wesemann Univ I've become sensitive to hands that kinda play around with the mawashi instead of clawing and grasping for it and holding onto it like your life depends on it.

The two NIHONjin Rikishi met at the line of scrimmage and Kise immediately began to slide the somewhat comatose Okinoumi back towards the rope. By the time Kise had won by yori-kiri, Okinoumi had caressed and tickled Kise's belt, relaxed his body at the edge and obligingly stepped back into the "OMG I Lost" zone. I yelled "Do over!" but to no avail. So I figured maybe I was being set up for an exciting Day 3 finish. The victorious Kid is 3-0 while the loser Okinoumi willingly crashes to 0-3. (kisebar.jpg) "We like each other. I swear we really DO!"

Still recovering from a serious injury, Ozeki Kotooshu was handed one of the stars of the last basho M3 Takarafuji. Fuji is feeling the heat of standing with the big trees and was winless going in so he needed to up his game if he wanted to get some respect y'all. At the gun, Osh stayed low and kept Takarafuji away from body and belt and then pulled his eager opponent to the ground for the ever popular hataki-komi win. I like when Kotooshu sticks to a plan and digs in hard and I believe the "kadoban" pressure he's under is forcing him to do just that! Kotooshu is sporting a fancy 3-0 record and going out, Takarafuji is 0-3.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku seems more focused...more energetic and agile at least for the first few days of this basho and since I'm sitting here on Day 3 I choose to ponder the possibility that it's a welcome indicator he'll show some stuff in Tokyo. Against the Sneaky One he wasted no time in using his hefty frame to rock Aminishiki at the line and then proceed to stay low and relentlessly drive forward. Aminishiki was worked back and out of the winner's dinner in quick order as once again the resultant records are a mirror reflection - Koto is 3-0 while Amin is 0-3 (a comforting sense of order right there).

Yokozeki Harumafuji is coming off a not so pretty loss to Myogiryu and most likely feels the need to establish some semblance of dominance here on out (I'm thinking "Semblance of Dominance" would be a half decent band name).

The thing is that, although Hakuho's devastating stature strike's a fearful note across the banzuke, such is not the case with Mr. H. Fuji Esq. At least a gaggle of Rikishi think they got a shot at beating him and after some recent "un-Yokozuna" losses he's gotta be a little off his game.

Walking into Day 3 Harumafuji knows he needs some clean wins that demonstrate strong sumo skills! Kitataiki didn't receive the memo and went at the tentative yok hard. Harumafuji was never in severe danger but he was fighting on his heels for no good reason. Kitataiki slid Hara back to the rope and threw the kitchen sink at him to get the kin-boshi hat but instead suddenly found himself on the receiving end of a loss by slightly wild uwate-nage. Harumafuji (2-1) knows he can do better while Kitataiki (0-3) knows he can't.

Hakuho has been showing a variety of techniques over the last few basho. He knows he can successfully practice solid sumo technique with thunderous power and efficiency but of late (maybe to create a little excitement / maybe to entertain himself / maybe to just slap around whoever he feels like) he's met some rikishi on their own terms and just kicked their asses into the expensive glute cushions.

He met the talented and dashing upstart Myogiryu with an aggressive chest and shoulder shoving attack that just indicated to me that he wanted to BRAWL a little. Myogiryu grappled momentarily and then danced to his left and basically waited to get worked into a loss. It really seemed like the longer Myogiryu hung around the worse it was gonna get.

I'd also like to add that Hakuho, though Mongolian, appears to have has grown into a powerful symbol for Japan's national sport. His stately demeanor and tremendous presence on the dohyo transcend the stunning numbers he's racking up and this bears testament not only to his skills but his respect for the sport. No one straps on the keshõ mawashi better than he and yeah it must be a trip to face his gaze and physicality just before a match.

So yeah, damn straight I'm looking for this to be a cool basho for a variety of reasons not the least being I need a cool basho and f... I'm gonna see one!

Oh and if this whole affair was well, you know...boring...uhhh here ya go:









Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I know I sounded a bit bleak about the prospects of the Natsu basho in my pre-basho report, and the sumo the first two days hasn't necessarily changed my view, but the Sumo Association did make one move today that really made me perk up and get excited:  they put Furiwake-oyakata (the former Takamisakari) in the mukou-jomen chair for today's broadcast. Clad in a pink tie and his Harry Carey glasses, the oyakata offered comments and insight that were so bizarre and out of the ordinary from what the usual guys talk about that at one point early on, Funaoka Announcer who called the action today laughed out loud at one of Takamisakari's answers. He was able to keep his composure as the broadcast got rolling, and it's a good thing because the cameras focused on Furiwake a they should have because I am exhibit #1 of someone who found myself eager to get through each bout just so I could hear Takamisakari's comments afterwards.

At one point during the broadcast, they showed a clip as the majority of fans began entering the Kokugikan of Takamisakari standing at the front door and giving everyone a high five as they entered the venue. I assume he probably gave a thousand fans at least a high five, but the NHK producer chose to show a clip just as three hotties were coming through the door. NHK ain't stupid, and I like how they're making Takamisakari a focus of the basho early on. Ideally, you want the sumo to carry the load, but when it's as bland as it's been the first two days, it's nice to have Furiwake-oyakata in your bullpen in a pinch.

As long as we're talking about bizarre figures in sumo, let's begin today's comments with rookie M16 Daikiho. Whenever a new guy is promoted to the division, they'll of course focus on him with interviews and little vignettes to help us get to know the guy better, and I've noticed with Daikiho that he's trying to create this personality about him almost as if he's auditioning for Japanese variety TV shows. For example, they had all of the rookies introduce themselves outside of Ryogoku Kokugikan and say their name, their stable, where they're from, their brand of sumo, etc. and after Daikiho said all this, he raised his arm with a fist and gave a little shout...something that goes against protocol for a sumo rikishi's behavior, but it was an obvious attempt to start creating a name for himself as a unique character.

Then, prior to his bout today against M15 Chiyonokuni he went spoonman from that Soundgarden video slapping his body all over and creating a ruckus before he grabbed his last handful of salt. Dude's already starting to annoy me, and I've only watched him for two days now. It's one thing to act like that and win, but it's a different story when you act like a fool and then get your ass kicked on the dohyo. Today he struck well against Chiyonokuni but couldn't back up fast enough from there, and once the bout turned to a pull-fest, it favored the more experienced Chiyonokuni who was just too nimble for Daikiho to land a solid punch. Thanks to his retreating opponent, Chiyonokuni (2-0) scored the easy oshi-dashi win in the end while the winless Daikiho has got to focus less on his quirks and more on sound sumo.

In a bout featuring two more rookies, M15 Homarefuji showed a decent tsuppari attack, but his lower half is about as potent as dude in his 90's. M16 Azumaryu really didn't do anything other than hold his ground at the tachi-ai and then move laterally a bit allowing Homarefuji to shove himself into a belly flop for the second day in a row. When this kind of sumo happens repeatedly, you have to examine the rikishi's footwork, and as we say around these parts, Homarefuji ain't got none. It's shown in his 0-2 start while Azumaryu has been defensive in notching his two wins.

Our final rookie, M14 Chiyootori, struck with a left kachi-age against M13 Daido but then couldn't move fast enough forcing his opponent to chase him rather than go for an all-out thrust attack. As much as I disliked the choice, the strategy worked as "Daido" and "quickness" have never been typed in the same sentence allowing Chiyootori to pull and knead the Dough off balance in a few seconds. Like Azumaryu, Chiyootori's sumo hasn't been straight-forward from the gate, but credit him for picking up two wins in as many days. Daido falls to 0-2.

I know that Daikiho is sorta campaigning to become Takamisakari's replacement as the class clown, but M13 Masunoyama has kind of assumed that role already by default judging by the reaction from the crowd. Today against M14 Kaisei, he henka'd to his left and quickly dispatched his foe with a shove to Kaisei's side. Yes this was a henka, but Kaisei was going down before Masunoyama could even offer a token shove, which means Kaisei is fighting only with his upper body resulting in these unsightly losses. This one was ugly all the way around as Masunoyama moves to 2-0 to the delight of the fans while Kaisei still looks horrible at 0-2.

M11 Shotenro struck hard into M12 Kyokushuho inviting a quick pull attempt, but Shotenro had all the momentum and went for the do-or-die shove near the edge. Kyokushuho (1-1) evaded left and tried to keep his feet, but Shotenro's been in a million bouts like this one and dispatched the youngster via oshi-dashi in the end. He's 2-0 if ya need him.

M11 Gagamaru kept a right paw square into M12 Wakanosato's throat keeping Croconosato far away from the belt, and the perfect tachi-ai set up the left hand at Wakanosato's side pushing the veteran back and out in about two seconds. Gagamaru's domination of Wakanosato continued today as he picked up his first win. Wakanosato's in trouble at 0-2.

M10 Toyohibiki caught M12 Kyokutenho with a left nodowa raising him up and preparing him for the quick force-out despite Kyokutenho's feeble right inside grip. When caught at the tachi-ai like this, Kyokutenho can no longer evade nor counter at the edge, so this is a good example of what I was talking about in my pre-basho report when I forecast his demise before the end of the year. Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

M10 Chiyotairyu blasted M9 Ikioi back from the tachi-ai with two hands to the chest, but he just couldn't trust himself to finish off the job and continue moving forward. As a result, he let Ikioi back into the bout by committing one of those phantom swipes down Ikioi's torso, but all that netted was Chiyotairyu slipping off balance, so after a few more seconds of cat and mouse sumo, Chiyotairyu just flopped to the dohyo as a result of poor balance. Both combatants are 1-1.

M7 Fujiazuma and M8 Sadanofuji butt heads at the tachi-ai drawing blood from Fujiazuma's forehead, but it didn't stop the chubbier Fuji from turning Sadanofuji's upright stance into a big target pummeling him across the dohyo and back. You gotta love it when a rikishi gets bloodied and wins the bout as Fujiazuma did improving to 2-0. Sadanofuji falls to 0-2.

In thee worst tachi-ai two days in, M7 Jokoryu and M8 Tokitenku just stood up at the "charge" anticipating the other guy's shenanigans...well, it actually was mostly a case of Jokoryu suspecting something from Tenku. When no funny bidness occurred, the two just assumed the gappuri migi-yotsu position that saw Tokitenku use his superior yotsu skills to force Jokoryu back and across without argument. This is a perfect example of how Tokitenku (2-0) is in a lot of his opponents' heads even if it is the for the wrong reason. Jokoryu falls to 0-2.

M5 Shohozan was too hesitant before the tachi-ai taking himself out of rhythm from the start, so when he finally lunged into M6 Takekaze for real, his feet didn't come along for the ride, so with him leaning forward stiff as a board at a 45 degree angle, Takekaze just slapped his sorry arse to the dirt. Not exactly the way you want to make another run at the sanyaku as Shohozan falls to 1-1 while Takekaze is a quiet 2-0.

In a wild push/pull affair, M6 Yoshikaze looked to strike and evade, but M5 Takayasu eventually caught him with the left to the inside and right outer to boot scoring the solid force-out win in the end. Takayasu evens things up at 1-1 while Yoshikaze is a bleak 0-2.

M4 Toyonoshima easily secured moro-zashi against M3 Takarafuji and forced his gal back despite an early hiccup as he went for a one-handed pull when Takarafuji attempted to retreat. Didn't matter, though, as Takarafuji isn't even looking to win this basho, and so Tugboat bodied back up with his foe and forced him across with ease. Toyonoshima picks up his first bunny while Takarafuji (0-2) will be lucky to win 2 the entire fortnight.

In another slow motion tachi-ai, M3 Aran just looked to the side and stood up straight allowing M4 Aoiyama to initiate a beefy tsuppari attack for which Aran had no answer. The Russian was flat footed and nonchalant as Aoiyama drove him back and across the straw without argument. What is the 10th bout in a row that was so lopsided and boring that I actually began to YouTube old episodes of Japanese shogi matches to keep myself awake. Aoiyama moves to 2-0 while Aran is a listless 0-2.

In the sanyaku ranks, M2 Tochinoshin drove straight into a hidari-yotsu contest with Sekiwake Baruto, and the Estonian easily reached around Tochinoshin's side to grab the right outer grip. From here it was a two second wait for Baruto to gather his wits before going for the uwate-nage kill that was as spectacular as you please. Another sleeper as Baruto moves to 2-0 while TochiNoShine is just that at 0-2.

Once I saw Kitataiki step atop the dohyo, I knew our luck would change...or not. Against Ozeki Kisenosato, the two charged into the quick hidari-yotsu contest that saw the Kid drive Kitataiki back methodically while fishing for the right outer grip. His fingers finally caught hold on a single front flap of the belt prolonging the yori-kiri at the tawara as Kitataiki arched his back and dug in, but he had nowhere else to go and eventually stepped out. Kisenosato breezes to 2-0 while Kitataiki is 0-2.

Sekiwake Goeido charged in low getting the right arm inside against Ozeki Kotooshu, but with the Bulgarian upright, Goeido made no effort to parlay his charge into moro-zashi opting instead to back out and go for a stupid pull. Kotooshu was on the move and forced the bout back into migi-yotsu, and once again, Goeido made an epic mistake trying to get the outer left crocodile arms and all. Kotooshu had to have been laughing at this point as he strangled Goeido over to the edge and dumped him off the dohyo via yori-kiri picking up a much needed second win in his quest for eight. Goeido falls to 1-1 and thankfully there's no hype surrounding him today. He coulda had moro-zashi twice and failed to read the situation instead keeping his arm to the outside.

Ozeki Kotoshogiku briefly had moro-zashi at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Okinoumi but wisely opted to attack leading with the left arm which was in deeper. He quickly moved his right arm from the shallow inside position to the solid outer grip and easily dispatched Okinoumi from there. Uneventful as Kotoshogiku moves to 2-0 while any feelings of wanting to root for the 0-2 Okinoumi are quickly dissipating.

Komusubi Tochiohzan won the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kakuryu with his size standing his ground as the Kak fired tsuppari into his neck, but Oh failed to grab moro-zashi when it was there instead opting for cat and mouse sumo where both rikishi offer shoves and then evade. Tochiohzan maintained the advantage thanks to his tachi-ai, but when he had Kakuryu on the ropes and on the run, Tochiohzan just couldn't keep up in his footwork allowing the Ozeki to escape along the edge while Oh ran out of room stepping out in the process. This was a tough luck bout as the Komusubi falls to 0-2 while Kakuryu is an ugly 2-0.

Yokozuna Hakuho looked for the right inner at the tachi-ai against M1 Aminishiki, but Shneaky ducked low and stayed in tight denying anything to the inside, so the Yokozuna easily readjusted and just shoved Aminishiki over with a right paw to Aminishiki's left shoulder. Easy peasy Japanesey as Hakuho improves to 2-0 while Aminishiki falls to 0-2.

We've come this far without a single entertaining bout, and even though a Yokozuna would go down in the day's final contest, it was still as uneventful as they come. M1 Myogiryu moved to his left against Harumafuji throwing the Yokozuna off balance a bit, and as the Yok tried to recover, his arms were too wide to the outside allowing mYogi Bear to connect with a fierce right shove to the neck knocking HowDo further upright. As Myogiryu drove forward, Harumafuji tried to slap him away but was quickly running out of room, and when Myogiryu went for the do-or-die shove, Harumafuji's foot touched out before he could pull Myogiryu outta the dohyo.  The response from the fans was lukewarm despite the kin-boshi effort, but whenever a henka is used to defeat a Yokozuna, it takes away the excitement and significance of the bout.  Both rikishi end the day at 1-1.

I hope today's report isn't perceived as negative, but by far the biggest clash on the broadcast was the outfit worn by the chick sitting behind Takamisakari. I mean, I love my flower jeans as much as the next girl, but I'm so sure...wearing them with a polka dot blouse? Puh-lease!

Speaking of dudes and glam, Kane rocks your world tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
When we read the opening line of Mikes pre-basho, where he told us he had "scrutinized" the headlines and found zip vis a vis talking points, we knew we were, well, "scrud." Weve always been bored to tears by the May basho, frankly. January is exciting cause its the new year, and March cause its Osaka. But May takes us back to Tokyo (an overrated venue for sure) right after the Golden Week when weve drank/eaten/shagged ourselves stupid for four or five days. It is just not that easy to get excited by it.

So with few talking points in the media, we figured its bound to be a ho hum tourney. Day One seemed to bear this suspicion out as there was nary a single upset in the second half of action. So I here I sit, with a broken heart, trying to write, but I can only (insert rude mouth noise). Still, Im game if you are.

Started out with two rookies, (or "wookies" in babytalk) Daikiho vs. Azumaryu (or "Whats the matter with you?" in Italian). The Mongolian is big and tough looking, and he went in with a rather upright stance and locked down on his foes left arm, in a very Kyokutenho manner. The smaller Daikiho spun them around looking for the kill, but Azzamaddyu maintained balance and control, lifting up to get the moro-zashi double inside and driving Daikiho out and down. Some judge sitting ringside wanted to make a name for himself and called a conference, but it was much ado about nothing and the E16 was awarded his first ever Makuuchi win. Id say that calls for a drink! (Course, I would say that after how much I drank in Golden Week. Example? I was drinking beer and sake all day at a friends house about an hours bike ride from home. Next thing I can recall I woke up in my own bed the next morning. My bike was out front, and I had no injuries and my clothing no blood stains. Id call that "a win," but only by a hair.)

Another newcomer in Homarefuji went up against Chiyonokuni, who played it like his senpai Chiyotaikai did in his waning years, getting hammered back at tachi-ai and resorting to desperate slap and pull down for the win as he leapt out. This wasnt even a case of Homarefuji leaving his feet behind him as he charged. He just succumbed to a perfectly placed shoulder/neck pulldown. Had Chiyonokuni miscalculated just a tiny bit Homarefuji would be staring at his first win in the top division rather than a big ol bagel.

The final rookie was next as Chiyootori got handed the mighty Kaisei. The Brasilian won the tachi-ai, but the much smaller Chiyootori managed to swing around and get a belt, which he used to come close and lift up. Kaisei still had a very good outside right belt and inside left pit, but as he made to wing the rookie to the dirt, the rookie used a beltless left arm throw to fling the E14 down. This bout is worth you running to YouTube to see. Incredible strength and balance by the newbie as Kaisei strikes out.

I think Masunoyama did a kind of "hop-skip thrust arms down" guts pose after absolutely slaughtering Daido, but quickly realized hed better cover it up so started huffing and puffing like hed just finished building a pyramid on his own and kept it up all the way through the presentation of the few envelopes. His act gives everyone the chance to claim it wasnt a guts pose (which is a strict no-no in sumo), just his natural energy flowing. Thats not to say he didnt work hard for a few seconds, just pounding his foe at tachi-ai in the throat, hitting him once again, expertly timing Daidos rebuttal with a good slap on his forearms, and then one last shove that sent him hard to the clay, but not so hard as to warrant looking like Martin after copulating with the Queen of England (have no idea where that line came from). On a side note, mightnt Musoyama become the fans new Takamisakari? Hes quirky and wears his emotions on his sleeve.

Wakanosato, ageless, timeless took on young and hungry Kyokushuho, who was up in these parts early last year for a short visit but then fell all the way to Makushita (evidently due to injury). Showing the kind of power that led him to a jun-yusho in Juryo in Jan and then the Juryo yusho in March, today he forced Wakanosato back at first, but the veteran leaned in on his foe as he is wont to do. Kyokushuho danced them backward and went for the belt throw from the lower back grip, but the Croc somehow hopped his way out of it, balancing on the straw long enough for the Mongolian to lose his grip. As the E12 was twirling on one foot Kyokushuho spun himself around and immediately came back at the former Sekiwake, smashing him out and to the floor of the building.

Shotenro and Gagamaru went man to man, with both guys pushing attacked nicely centered and solid, but in the end the Georgian was slowly but surely driven out by the Mongolian after he gained the moro-zashi.

Chiyotairyu began with a strong slapping attack but quickly shifted gears and let Toyohibiki come to him as he backed up. As they neared the edge it looked like The Hutt would prevail, but with his back to the straw, the third Chiyo of the day used his left hand on the back of the belt and flipped the living crap out of the W10, crashing to his knees himself in the process. Wild win.

Yet another stupendous flip (which does not mean great sumo, btw; nor, necessarily, poor sumo) as Kyokutenho used a strong left back belt grip to sling down Ikioi after an energetic belt battle. But should we really be surprised when the Chauffer shows someone the door? Arfarf.

A very similar belt battle ensued next twixt Tokitenku and Sadanofuji. Tokitenku was able to resist a determined press by his foe, with the high point being driven back and having his heel hover about seven sand grains above the outside clay before he forced it back to center and got Sadanofuji turned around and drove him out.

Takekaze brought his Eh game with him as he slid to the side at tachi-ai and his foe, the hapless Jokoryu, hollered, "Eh?!" Up the long ladder and down the short rope for THIS kind of sumo.

The sides of the dohyo had changed, but not much else as Fujiazuma whooped on Yoshikaze on Day for the second basho in a row. At least this time Starbuck was able to remain on his feet and on the dohyo as he was shoved out, unlike in Osaka when he landed off the dohyo on his ass, hard! Lil Fuji has got the power.

In front of gold Hat Man gold belted Shohozan repeatedly gave Takayasu all ten of his golden fingers until the Dub5 was crashing to his gluts on the (ouch) edge of the dohyo. Calling the fall "inglorious" would be ennobling, but propers to Takayasu for making his foe finish the job instead of just stepping out like some do. There must be a general order for this day to all the rasslers—fight till you win or die!!

Toyonoshima lent his chest to Aoiyama, and the pirate prince pounded on pecs till he powered his puny peer to perdition. Seriously, though, the final hit to Tugboats chest made it look like the W4 got his with an uppercut as he went out in the Matrix style.

Baruto and Aran hooked up into a belt battle, but with two very good grips, the former/future? Ozeki methodically eased his opponent out for the win.

Goeido moved nicely at tachi-ai, getting up and under Takarafuji, who had no answer and was quickly removed from the equation in style. Also Takarafuji showed us all what his nads are truly worth by putting his hand down to brace his fall. We shall not forget.

Kotooshu won. Sorry about being so blunt and short, but I kind of just wanted to see how it felt to type those words. In todays bout, he got Tochinoshin turned around damnably easily and from there it was a hop, skip, and belly bump to win #1. Must be watching Geeku in practice.

Speaking of the Big Bopper, he had about as much trouble with Kitataiki today as Mike had with his first front clasping brassiere, which is to say None, dude!!

Another dunce of a MIB decided that what everyone had seen, namely Kisenosato escaping from a moro-zashi and using Myogiryus arm to swing him out and down into the expensive seats, was not that clear and called a lengthy conference only to be told to STFD! Not sure how Myogi bears this loss. Ugly, to lose after getting in so nicely and having your enemy back to the edge.

Cheap win for a Yokozuna as Harumafuji was already pivoting as he hit and grabbed the back of Okinoumis belt, which led to simply using his momentum to escort the Komusubi out. But seeing as how Harumafuji is one of the all-time zensho winnings Yokos, whos to say whats what, eh?

Finally, Tochiohzan escaped a Hakuho onslaught at the edge by deftly lifting up on the Yokozunas arm and managing to get pushing on him near the center. Of course Hakuho was intent on winning, so he lowered his hips and resisted, and when Oh Snap went for the final push, Hakuho, with his feet on the bales, got a deep belt moro-zashi and Tochi knew he was dead, basically giving up and moving back as Kublai turned him to the side and placed him outside the ring. In case youd like to know what would have happened had Tochiohzan pressed in when Hakuho had the double grip on his belt? He would have been lifted off his feet and possibly maimed as the Yokozuna spun and crushed him down on the edge of the dohyo or floor. And really, who wants to see THAT? (Answer: Me!)

Ill be back on Day 8. Tomorrow sees Sumotalks Yoda explain why the sumo watch you should, myes.

And btw, Im not a heavy drinker. I weigh only 80!









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