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

Senshuraku Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I have to hand it to the Sumo Association. Despite a struggling product on the dohyo, they have been able to turn things around and increase popularity in the sport once again among the domestic fans. Sumo will never again revisit its past glories (sorta like men's tennis in the USA), but the venue was completely sold old out on a weekday for the first time in 17 years, and ticket sales for the 2014 Natsu basho were brisk overall. In my opinion, straight up sumo is being sacrificed here and there in order to maintain fan popularity, but the organization has got to do what it has to do. And I have the same responsibility here: to give sumo fans the straight up talk as to what I'm seeing transpire atop the dohyo. I know many people don't like it when I freely talk about yaocho or yudan sumo, but I will stop talking about it once the rikishi stop doing it, so on that note, let's get right to the senshuraku bouts and see if there were any shenanigans on the day.

Let's kick off the day with the Yokozuna Kakuryu - Ozeki Kisenosato bout because if Kisenosato drops this one, Hakuho picks up career yusho #29 without even stepping into the dohyo. From the tachi-ai, Kisenosato exhibited a surprising tsuppari charge that knocked Kakuryu back a half step and caused him to run a bit. With Kisenosato showing nice de-ashi coupled with his thrust attack, Kakuryu moved side to side going for wild pull attempts, but Kisenosato was a man on mission chasing Kakuryu to the edge and shoving him out in about seven seconds or so.

The two points to take from this bout are: 1) If Kisenosato would actually fight like this every day, he'd have a decent shot at obtaining the Yokozuna rank and becoming the first Japanese rikishi to yusho in over eight years. Normally, the Ozeki leaves himself wide open at the tachi-ai and just stands there in a reactionary mode, so it was great to see him actually go on the offensive today. 2) After having praised Kisenosato's sumo here, it didn't look to me as if Kakuryu was interested at all in getting to the inside of the Ozeki. His counter slaps were also so half-assed, I think he had zero intention of winning this bout. When the final push-out came, Kakuryu took it straight on instead of dodging to either side, so while I thought Kisenosato's sumo was quite good, Kakuryu was also yudan all the way. At 13-2, Kisenosato posts a record worthy of the yusho, but more on his prospects in Nagoya in my post-basho reports. As for Kakuryu, going 9-6 as he did here or going 12-3 this basho wouldn't have made any difference. Whatever the YDC says about him post basho will just slide off his back like a drop of water on a slippery leaf.

With Kisenosato moving to 13-2, it was now up to Yokozuna Hakuho to defeat fellow Yokozuna Harumafuji in the tournament's final regulation bout in order to pick up the yusho. Dropping this bout and then dropping a playoff to Kisenosato would have been too much of a beg, so Hakuho approached this bout with the intention of winning. As is usually the case between these two, the tachi-ai was unorthodox with Hakuho offering a quick hari-te with the left hand as he stepped left to grab the outer grip on that side while Harumafuji also circled to his left in an attempt to keep their chests aligned. He was a day late and dollar short, however, as Hakuho dug in with the firm left outer grip with the right on the inside for insurance and just dumped Harumafuji nearly as fast as the bout began. Harumafuji went down quite easily with an exaggerated roll, and I don't think he was trying to lose; he was just had and he knew it, and so he went into one of those rolls that the rikishi are taught early to do when they're thrown in order to avoid injury.

With the win, Hakuho finishes at 14-1 picking up his career 29th yusho in the process while Harumafuji falls to a harmless 11-4. Just after the bout, Mainoumi chirped up from the mukou-joumen chair and said, "No offense intended for Hakuho, but it's regrettable that Kisenosato failed so badly at the tachi-ai in their bout." The nuance in the statement and the subsequent conversation was that Kisenosato would have had a chance to defeat the Yokozuna had he exhibited a better tachi-ai. And therein lies the formula for Kisenosato as we head into Nagoya. Improve your tachi-ai and establish any sort of sumo...the tsuppari attack he showed today would be nice, and if he can do that, I think the Mongolians will be okay to go yudan and let Kisenosato surpass them for the yusho. It's all up to Kisenosato, however. You could just see early on that he was lethargic yet again this basho, and then when Aoiyama kicked his ass and Yoshikaze took that fake dive, everyone knew that he wasn't yusho material. The Mongolians have not shown a willingness to defer to the Ozeki when he's fighting that poorly, so let's see what happens in Nagoya.

With talk of the yusho completed, let's touch on other bouts of interest on the day keeping things brief since I want to save as much ammo for a post-basho reports as possible.

In the kore-yori-sanyaku bout, Sekiwake Goeido took full advantage of Ozeki Kotoshogiku who just stood there like a bump on a log with a meager right inside grip on a single fold of Goeido's belt. With the Ozeki standing back at an angle, Goeido had a firm left outer grip, but he couldn't get anything going with the right inside, so it took him a bit to finagle the Ozeki over to the edge where he finally dumped with an outer belt throw. Kotoshogiku's cute summersault as he was thrown was the cherry on top as Goeido picks up kachi-koshi, the ugliest Shukunsho award you'll ever see, and a sweet arrow awarded to the winner of the kore-yori-sanyaku bout.  As for Kotoshogiku, he falls to 5-10 and didn't make a single effort here to try and win the bout, but that shouldn't have been a surprise.

M5 Ikioi picked up the Kantosho for his efforts this basho, but things were put into better perspective today as Sekiwake Tochiohzan sent him upright at the tachi-ai with a shove to the neck and then easily survived a lame pull attempt from the M5 coming out of the fray with the established right inside position. Ikioi's lack of skill at the belt was on display at this point as Tochiohzan wrenched his gal in tight and then dumped Ikioi quickly to the dirt with a left belt thrown that surprised everyone including the ref who was also knocked over by Ikioi's crashing to the dohyo floor. Ikioi has his reward at 11-4, but his basho was way inflated. Tochiohzan on the other hand posts a legitimate 10-5 record with steady sumo.

M1 Aoiyama picked up kachi-koshi against M6 Kaisei by planting his left hand deep into Kaisei's right side and pushing him over and out in front of the chief judge in about two seconds. With Kaisei coming in to the day at 8-6, I'm sure he gave this one little effort.

I've really been impressed with M2 Takarafuji the last few days. Dude hasn't given up and has stuck to his brand of sumo despite that 0-11 start. He's been rewarded with wins of late due to fighting other guys with equally bad records, and he salvaged his basho just a bit today against the hapless M2 Chiyotairyu who was unable to get off any decent shoves or use his feet.  Takarafuji managed his favored left inside position and grabbed the right outer during the force-out charge making it official. Both rikishi end the tournament at 4-11, but Chiyotairyu had the worse basho by far.

It was about at this point in the broadcast where NHK ran a promo for an upcoming show set to air May 31 on NHK at 8:00 PM, and the premise of the show is a surprise visit by Masunoyama and the rikishi from the Chiganoura-beya to Masunoyama's mother, who is Filipino.  Masunoyama's brother is also a barber in the Sumo Association, so he was shown as well, and some of the scenes from the show looked absolutely hilarious.  You can click this link to see a preview of the show from a TV company in the Philippines that was also obviously in on the surprise.  I hope they end up showing this in the US as well because it looks like a wonderful piece.  NHK wasn't able to promo it after Masunoyama's bout today because he lost dropping to 4-11 in the process, but he is such a marketable character that I hope he's right back up in Makuuchi come September.

In a compelling bout between two rikishi with very similar styles, M3 Aminishiki took advantage of an ill-advised pull attempt by M7 Homasho to drive Homie back and out quickly, but Homasho never gave up on the pull and had Aminishiki pulled down just as Homasho stepped offa the dohyo himself.

A mono-ii ordered a redo where the larger Aminishiki got the deep inside right grip from the tachi-ai and used his much bigger body to just force Homasho back and out. I thought Aminishiki deserved the win the first go-around (sorry Kane), and he improves to 10-5 from the M3 rank while Homa Sho Still Am Sweet at 9-6.

I cannot believe that the Sumo Association paired M4 Endoh with M12 Takanoiwa. Okay, I can believe it, but it's lame that they did it. At 6-8 coming in, Endoh was still three wins ahead of Takanoiwa, and their ranks are so far apart that the pairing made no sense...unless they wanted to give Endoh the biggest chance of winning and staying near the jo'i with a 7-8 record.

Endoh used a right neck shove at the tachi-ai that did little to drive Takanoiwa back, and the two ended up in the migi-yotsu position with neither able to grab a left outer grip. Endoh did body Takanoiwa back to the edge, and then when he resisted at the tawara, Endoh shifted gears dumping Takanoiwa over and down with a pretty cool inside belt throw. Still, Endoh had no business fighting such a patsy on the final day. His 7-8 virtually keeps him at the same place on the banzuke while Takanoiwa (3-12) will have to rehab in Juryo for a basho or two.

I thought that M9 Terunofuji made a statement today surviving a left nodowa from M5 Shohozan at the tachi-ai and then surviving the moro-zashi position gained by Shohozan after a bit of grappling. Pinching tightly around both of Shohozan's arms, Terunofuji just lifted his gal upright and escorted his opponent across half the ring and out with a nifty tsuri-dashi win. Great stuff from Terunofuji who finishes 9-6 while Shohozan won't forget this one at 8-7.

M17 Sadanoumi has been my favorite rikishi to watch this basho, and he had the chance to pick up a Kantosho with a win over M6 Tamawashi. That's not small task when you consider Tamawashi's experience in the division, but damned if the newcomer didn't do it taking advantage of a rushed tsuki attack by Tamawashi that allowed Sadanoumi to move left at the edge and dump his foe out of the ring with a counter tsuki-otoshi. Sadanoumi finishes a sweet 10-5 while Tamawashi still has kachi-koshi at 8-7.

In a great battle of two 7-7 rikishi, M16 Arawashi grabbed the left frontal belt grip at the tachi-ai and had M8 Myogiryu by the short hairs from the start, but Arawashi may have rushed his force-out charge as he allowed Myogiryu to counter with a right frontal belt grip of his own and kake-nage that sent both rikishi off the dohyo where the ref ruled in favor of Myogiryu as a mono-ii confirmed that Arawashi's right hand just did touch the mound before Myogiryu crashed down. This was a great bout of sumo, and it's a shame we don't see bouts like this the last 30 minutes of the broadcast.

M10 Osunaarashi picked up his tenth win the hard against M15 Kyokushuho (9-6). After securing the right inside and left outer grip, he let a mediocre right scoop counter throw from Shuho throw him into a panic where he abandoned his force-out charge in a favor of a sloppy pull. Fortunately for the Ejyptian, Kyokushuho wasn't able to capitalize, and Osunaarashi regained his wits and forced his opponent out in the end. After the bout, Osunaarashi was limping down the hana-michi due to an injured right heel.  With all the weight these guys put on their feet, that could be a red flag for the future.

M14 Tokitenku was denied his kachi-koshi bid in a migi-yotsu contest against M10 Tochinowaka. Tenku actually had the early left outer grip, but his footwork was sloppy and the chief judge actually called the bout early as Tokitenku's left toe carelessly touched across the straw before he could really dig in and counter. Tochinowaka had a decent basho at 9-6.

And finally, M11 Toyohibiki (8-7) picked up kachi-koshi by tsuppari-ing M11 Chiyomaru back from the tachi-ai and forcing him across the straw bales before the late left outer grip Chiyomaru grabbed could really take effect. Chiyomaru falls to 5-10 with the loss and will be on the brink of demotion to Juryo for the Nagoya banzuke.

I do have some takes for a post-basho reports, so watch fer one in the next few days.  In the meantime, it's time to gear up for the greatest sporting event in the world, the World Cup.  Just wish someone would go yudan for the USA.  Now I know what's it's like to be a die-hard fan of Kisenosato and Goeido.

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Day 14 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Let's keep today's comments short and sweet since I need to save some ammo for a post-basho report, and then my intention is to also comment on the senshuraku bouts. The leaderboard has remain unchanged for the last couple of days, but we were guaranteed movement today as Yokozuna Harumafuji and Ozeki Kisenosato would face off in the day's final bout. Before we get to that one, however, let's start the day with M5 Ikioi who faced the precarious task of battling Sekiwake Goeido. Precarious because Ikioi wants to stay in the yusho race, but at 6-7 coming into the day, Goeido could ill-afford another loss.

At the tachi-ai, Goeido henka'd to his left grabbing the cheap outer grip while Ikioi responded with the right arm sufficiently to the inside. With Goeido having already sacrificed his de-ashi, Ikioi could have lifted him upright on the spot wrenching up with the right arm, but Ikioi instead attempted a senseless move of abandoning the nice inside position in favor of brining his arm to the outside above Goeido's shoulder and then bringing his left hand up around Goeido's dome as if to threaten a pull. Problem is, he never offered a pull attempt nor a right kote-nage counter throw nor an attempt to evade Goeido's subsequent force-out charge. Ikioi made a series of bone-headed mistakes in just a few seconds that defy logic in my eyes, and the result was a very lopsided win in favor of Goeido.

It looked to me as if Ikioi totally took one for the team in this one as he falls out of yusho contention at 11-3. He had nothing to lose by deferring in this bout, however. There was no way he was going to take the yusho; he's already guaranteed the Kantosho; and 11 wins from the M5 rank makes him a shoe-in for a Komusubi berth come July regardless of what he does on senshuraku. Oh, and handing Goeido his eighth loss of the basho was about the last thing he wanted to do. With the gift, Goeido moves to 7-7 and must overcome an ailing Kotoshogiku tomorrow in order the pick up kachi-koshi. The suspense is maddening innit?

With Ikioi done and gone, let's fast-forward to the day's final bout to see who would be eliminated from contention in the Kisenosato - Harumafuji bout. From the tachi-ai, Harumafuji threatened the right frontal belt grip and had the path to the inside with the left as well since Kisenosato's only offering was a lame right hand to the Yokozuna's face. Instead of driving into his opponent and going for moro-zashi, Harumafuji brought his hands up high and opted to go for a pull attempt. As part of said pull, Harumafuji grabbed a fist full of hair with the left hand and pulled the Ozeki down face first by his mage. This was a pretty obvious call for the judges who gathered in a mono-ii while replays showed the Harumafuji clearly dragged the Ozeki down by the hair. This was yet another bizarre ending to a high-profile bout this basho that sent Kisenosato to a 12-2 record by virtue of his opponent's being disqualified. Harumafuji falls out of yusho contention at 11-3, and like the Ikioi - Goeido bout earlier in the day, the Yokozuna abandoned excellent inside position to go for a senseless pull. Personally, I'm not buying such sloppy sumo from Harumafuji. If I know that Kisenosato keeps himself wide open at the tachi-ai, the Mongolians sure as hell know it, so to see Harumafuji just abandon that frontal belt grip and moro-zashi attempt doesn't make sense.

With Harumafuji now out of the mix, it was up to Yokozuna Hakuho to maintain his one bout lead in a bout against fellow Yokozuna Kakuryu. At the tachi-ai, Hakuho attempted a hari-te that didn't really connect while Kakuryu ducked low and sniffed for the left frontal belt grip causing Hakuho to go for a quick shoulder pulldown getting his right arm to the inside for insurance. When it was clear the pull wouldn't work, Hakuho quickly settled into migi-yotsu sumo grabbing the left outer to boot. The last thing the Kak wanted at this point was a chest to chest belt fight, and so he went for a quick maki-kae with the left arm, but Hakuho was too entrenched. Left with no other options, Kakuryu settled into the gappuri migi-yotsu position, but there was no way he was going set up an offensive maneuver despite his best intentions. After a bit of wrenching and wrangling, Hakuho used sheer strength to force Kakuryu over and out finally treating us to a bout of o-zumo, the kind of sumo I've been calling for all basho from the elite rikishi.

This was really a beautiful bout of sumo from Hakuho to behold after the botched tachi-ai. Watching the strength in his hands as he adjusted his grips and lifted Kakuryu upright just enough to finish him off was refreshing to see since we've seen very little of this sumo from him to this point. Furthermore, after watching this bout today, to think that he couldn't have gotten inside on Goeido is just laughable. There is more distance between those two guys than there is between Brad Pitt and myself, and sorry Brad to compare you to Goeido, but you know what I mean. With the win, Hakuho moves to 13-1 and is in complete command of this basho. As for Kakuryu, he falls to 9-5, familiar territory for him when his intentions are to just lurk in the shadows.

Having covered the leaders, the yusho race is now whittled down to two rikishi:

13-1: Hakuho
12-2: Kisenosato

Kisenosato fights Kakuryu on senshuraku, and if he loses, Hakuho will clinch the yusho at that point. If Kisenosato is given the win and Hakuho loses to Harumafuji, the two leaders would then fight in a playoff to determine the yusho. I'm not even going to try and predict what's going to happen, but I will say that Kisenosato physically cannot beat any of these Yokozuna in a straight up contest.

In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Kotoshogiku looked awful again against Sekiwake Tochiohzan. The Geeku's legs were non-existent at the tachi-ai, and offering a cautious right shove, Tochiohzan shaded to his right causing the Ozeki to just stumble forward and down to the dohyo in a bandaged heap. I'm not sure if Kotoshogiku is playing the sympathy card here as an excuse for his 5-9 record, but in his current physical state, he's only good for about five legitimate wins a basho as it is. 5-10 or 6-9 in the end makes no difference as to his kadoban status, so expect Goeido to walk all over him on senshuraku. As for Tochiohzan, he just laughed Kotoshogiku off in this one as he moves to 9-5. I know he's three behind Kisenosato in the loss column, but I will reiterate what I've said for a few basho now: Tochiohzan is the best Japanese rikishi on the banzuke.

Komusubi Yoshikaze and M4 Endoh traded tsuppari at the tachi-ai with each connecting on a few blows, but Yoshikaze owns this style of sumo, and it showed as he quickly moved left grabbing Endoh's right arm in the kote-nage grip and throwing Elvis wildly off balance and dangerously near the edge. For some reason, however, Yoshikaze just stopped the throw and failed to body Endoh across the straw when he was clearly vulnerable, and still maintaining a grip around Endoh's right arm, he just stood there waiting for Endoh to knock him out of the ring. Yoshikaze fell on his widdle bum just beyond the straw in an unnatural fall that we haven't seen since the likes of...I don't know...his bout against Kisenosato? Yoshikaze drops to 5-9 after the loss while Endoh improves (wink, wink) to 6-8.

And finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't cover the M7 Homasho - M10 Osunaarashi bout. the Ejyptian came hard once again with the right kachi-age, and even though Homasho knew it was coming, he dove right into it, took the blow like a man, and came out of the fray with the sweet inside right position that he would never relinquish. Osunaarashi grabbed the right inside for himself and the yotsu contest was on, but Homasho enjoyed the lower stance keeping his hips away from an Osunaarashi left outer grip. After pressing forward for a few seconds, Homasho went for a maki-kae with the left, and while it failed, the change in momentum allowed Homasho to slip out right and dashi-nage Osunaarashi over and down with the right belt grip obtained from the tachi-ai. A seasoned rikishi prolly makes Homasho pay for that failed maki-kae, but Osunaarashi ain't seasoned.  How sweet was it to see Homasho's refined sumo skills best Osunaarashi's sheer thuggery? Both rikishi end the day at 9-5.

I'm simply outta time, and so you'll have to YouTube the other bouts on your own and make your own determinations. I really enjoyed Sadanoumi's defeat of Okinoumi, and I liked how Takarafuji simply schooled Chiyomaru in a yotsu contest. Takarafuji took his lumps among the jo'i, but it's always nice to see guys like that put the lower-ranked rikishi in their place.

Day 13 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
We here at Sumotalk have recently been accused of not putting enough effort into our writing. At the time I gave an immediate knee-jerk reply to the tune of “Think you can do better? Go ahead, have a shot.” In hindsight, though, it’s probably true – just look at the number of remaining active writers: there are no remaining visible traces of George (who?), Bernie (whom, unfortunately, I never got to see in a kilt), Simon, Kenji, Mark, Andreas, Mario, Clancy or even Oscar. There are many reasons, of course, and it’s most convenient to blame the quality of the sumo, but the fact of the matter is that, ultimately, we do what we do for the intrinsic reward. Whether that be filling a niche (Mike’s overtly stated reason for starting the site in the first place is the lack of English language sumo commentary on the internet), making oneself visible, interacting with others of similar interests, practicing one’s writing or simply getting involved in something (yes, that in itself can occasionally be rewarding, believe it or not), I agree it is statistically apparent that at the moment there isn’t a lot of desire to go around. But we’re doing our best.

Before we get back to the old “X fought Y and defeated him with the K kimari-te and now stands at W wins and L losses”, let me bring up a few keywords. Illuminati. Monsanto. New World Order. HAARP. 9/11. Area 51. Al Qaeda. Cloud Atlas. The Matrix. Marx. Eric Blair. Pink Floyd. Jacques Derrida. Transistor. Confusion. This last one isn’t a keyword, it’s just the reaction of most of you – like, what’s this guy high on? I want some! It’s also my reaction when contemplating the complexity of existence (if this were any deeper, I’d open my own geothermal power plant!). Seriously, though, think 1’s and 0’s. Bits, if you will. The building blocks of information. Well, not necessarily, but certainly a damn good way of representing and manipulating it. Think about lines and crossing them, think oppositions and hierarchies questioned, violently overturned and ultimately restored in order to provide some form of relative meaning where there are no absolutes. Think about the strong oppressing the weak, the weak oppressing the weaker and the weaker getting stronger and becoming the oppressors in turn. Think about global conspiracies and widespread misinformation. Think about... the future! Done thinking? Alright, now give me one good reason why Kisenosato shouldn’t take the yusho.

Can’t? Neither can I. Enter Hakuho (who can). 38-4 before, 39-4 after, that’s what the head to head record looks against kozeki (or KO-zeki, if you will) Kotoshogiku. The details are just that, details, but if you must know, Hakuho absorbed Giku’s tachi-ai without much trouble, slipped his right hand inside and then quickly moved to the left, pushing the Geek down with the left on the shoulder for the routine tsuki-otoshi. Kotoshogiku is make-koshi, which is a rare occurrence for an Ozeki – they usually avoid it by withdrawing, claiming injury. Hakuho rules supreme at 12-1.

Harumafuji stays one behind with a yori-kiri win after a dubious tachi-ai vs. the new Yokozuna, Sakanagao. Ex-Ama stepped visibly to his left in order to gain a deep left mawashi grip which ultimately proved insurmountable, as Kakuryu was kept upright throughout and unable to mount any sort of offensive. Fishy falls to his 4th loss.

Kisenosato kept things entertaining before that, stying one win away by neutralizing Goeido at the initial charge by inserting his left very deep, so deep, in fact, that Goeido immediately tried that thing he does so well, i.e. wrapping the outside arm around his foe’s head and leaning in for the throw. It failed, as it so often does, so Kisenosato formalized his victory with an inside belt throw. At 6-7, Goeido is in danger of losing his rank (not that he doesn’t deserve it).

Endo made his make-koshi official as he didn’t seem to have any plan of attack against the bigger and more experienced Tochiohzan. Oh simply stood his ground after the tachi-ai and didn’t let Endo get to his side or grab any sort of mawashi grip, pushing his way to the edge little by little. Even as he was resting his soles on the tawara, Endo seemed equally clueless as to where to go next, so Tochiohzan kindly showed him the way out with one final push to the chest. Oh is 8-5.

Toyonoshima (4 wins) withdrew from the basho with a case of acute lumbago, gifting Yoshikaze his 5th win as a debuting Komusubi. (See, this is exactly what our recent detractors mean – I hardly wrote a line here. But despite the 5 wins looking good-ish in paper, especially considering Kaze’s size, this basho’s been utterly forgettable, except maybe for that 1st day win against a careless Harumafuji – just what the heck is there to write?)

Chiyootori has put in a good effort this basho in general, as well as in today’s loss against a rikishi with a ton more experience. The younger of the Kokonoe brothers seemed to get the upper hand, resisting Aminishiki’s tachi-ai and subsequent pull, and mounting a charge of his own. Aminishiki finagled his way out of trouble at the edge, though, and immediately capitalized on the youngster’s ill-advised pull, winning in the end by oshi-dashi and getting kachi-koshi in the process. Chiyootori falls to 5-8 but will definitely benefit from the san’yaku experience.

Ikioi (who sports a serious bump on his right shoulder, probably because of his propensity to lead with that shoulder at the tachi-ai, I dunno) improved his record to an incredible 11-2, showing skill and resilience in fending off Aoiyama’s tsuppari. When the Bulgarian committed just a little too much and whiffed, Ikioi sent him down and out by the back of the mawashi. Aoiyama still has a decent chance of getting 8, needing one win in the last 2 days.

Shohozan spent exactly 3 seconds in dismantling Takekaze, using superior timing, coordination and determination to dominate his arguably more experienced opponent and push him out with little argument. Takekaze (5-8) should return to where he belongs, whereas Shohozan (7-6) is still in with a chance.

Mongol Terunofuji (7-6) used his huge size and strength to push around Gagamaru (!), using a deep left inside to neutralize any resistance the huge Georgian might have had to offer. Gaga falls dangerously close to make-koshi at 6-7.

Osunaarashi was yet again in thug mode, leading with the right elbow to Sadanoumi’s face (ouch!) and simply bulldozing him out of the dohyo for his 9th win. Sadanoumi was already kachi-koshi, which is not bad for a guy who was in Makushita three tournaments ago.

That’s about everything that caught my eye on this glorious day 13, but before I slither away under my rock again, I feel compelled to mention the huge Mongol Ichinojo whose size is comparable to that of Baruto.  He started out at Ms15 at 20, made Juryo two basho later and is now at 9-4 at J10, well on his way to Makuuchi. Some say that these two are the future of sumo along with Osunaarashi, but I’m hoping, for the sake of sumo’s popularity (and continued existence), the Chiyo brothers have something to say about that.

In any case, I’ll catch you next basho. In the meantime, Mike should make up for any important points I might have missed, as he wraps up the last two days of the tournament. Cheerio.

Day 12 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Day 12 was a crazy day of sumo, and there's not really that single headline that sums it all up. You had Hakuho calling a mono-ii in a bout and actually getting the judges to react; it was revealed that Endoh's got a glass jaw; a Yokozuna won by disqualification for the first time ever; and Ikioi scored another win by a pull down. What isn't reflected in the headlines is any semblance of a legitimate yusho race. Oh sure, we do have a yusho race on paper with four rikishi within one bout heading into the day, but you could argue that none of the four have actually reached that status with standout sumo.

Early on in the basho I suggested that this tournament really lacked any teeth in terms of solid sumo, and by the end of day 12, I think that statement still applies. I'm sure we all have our various reasons for watching sumo and get different things out of it, but my expectation is solid, sound sumo, especially from the upper echelon rikishi, and I still can't point to a single bout where both parties just went all out and put on a great show. Make no mistake, there are still plenty of headlines flying around, and there are reasons to tune in each day, but I don't get the feeling that in ten or twenty years when NHK looks back at great basho or great bouts that we're ever going to see anything from the 2014 Natsu basho.

To put a small twist in the leaderboard...and to finish my thought, I'll list the rikishi in the lead and then provide a small blurb of my impression regarding their sumo this basho.

Hakuho (10-1): Has looked great on some days and casual on others. It is of course my opinion that the Yokozuna is holding back and has been for years now, so his sumo in May has not been ippouteki (one-sided) as they like to say in the industry.

Kisenosato (10-1): There's been a lot standing around; a lot of inaction; and not a single memorable performance, but somehow the Ozeki always seems to be on the right side of the yori-kiri at the edge. If the mononucleosis foundation needed a poster child for it's awareness month, Kisenosato would definitely qualify in May.

Harumafuji (9-2): All over the map; bouncing around the dohyo like a pinball; and a few shining moments from the tachi-ai, but it has been impossible to brand Harumafuji's sumo this basho. I like to see rikishi establish a style that works, stick with it, and then dominate from it. Past examples from Harumafuji would be his nodowa tachi-ai and strict de-ashi or his insistence on staying low and working from the front of his opponent's belt. Like Hakuho, it is my opinion that Harumafuji is letting up in his sumo for reasons explained over and over the past few years.

Ikioi (9-2): Lots of pulls; more pulls; and the occasional change-up by attacking from the side. I love to see mid-Maegashira rikishi on the leaderboard when they get there from an established style of straight-forward sumo that they've displayed all basho. Ikioi certainly doesn't qualify there.

With that analysis in mind, let's break down the leaders and their bouts starting with M5 Ikioi who survived M5 Shohozan's initial tsuppari from the tachi-ai and then quickly backed up and pulled Shohozan down as he reloaded for his second volley. You can't really fault Ikioi here, and he did stand his ground at the tachi-ai, but once again, I'm looking for sumo where you move/drive your opponent back, not where you display impressive timing on a pull down that wasn't even set up with offensive sumo to begin with. Ikioi improves to 10-2 and will surely win at least the Kantosho unless he loses his last three. Shohozan falls to 6-6.

Looking to keep pace, Yokozuna Harumafuji gained the quick left outer grip at the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku, but he had nothing established on the inside, so he went for an early dashi-nage to keep the Ozeki off balance. The Geeku was put on the defensive, but he still had too much energy to be bullied out by a quick dashi-nage throw, and so the two hooked back up in migi-yotsu with Harumafuji still maintaining a solid left outer grip. On the other side, he did have his right arm sorta on the inside, but it wasn't anything that could anchor an attack, and so Harumafuji went for another dashi-nage, and this time it worked sending Kotoshogiku over to the edge where he was pushed out from behind giving Harumafuji the dominant win. Solid, smart sumo from the Yokozuna who took advantage of the bout from the tachi-ai and simply schooled the Ozeki in all facets. Harumafuji is definitely still in the mix at 10-2 while Kotoshogiku is on the brink at 5-7.

The marquee matchup on the day featured our two one-loss rikishi in Yokozuna Hakuho vs. Ozeki Kisenosato, but as I alluded to earlier, Kisenosato has shown nothing this basho that would suggest this bout would even be close. One of two things were going to happen: Hakuho was going to throw the bout as he did yesterday against Goeido, or he was just going to kick Kisenosato's ass. Thankfully, the latter occurred as the Yokozuna used a right kachi-age and left hari-te turned nodowa at the tachi-ai to set up the easy moro-zashi all with Kisenosato doing absolutely nothing. This was a linear force-out win in two seconds where the Yokozuna had so much control he was able to drive the Ozeki back across the straw yet still hold him in close to keep him atop the clay mound.

I really do wonder what goes through the mind of your average fan who takes everything s/he sees on the dohyo at face value. First, you just witnessed Hakuho unable to cross the starting lines against Goeido and get beat the day before; you have Kisenosato who rides into the bout at 10-1 supposedly on a hot streak and with momentum; and then the biggest bout of the basho so far turns out so lopsided in favor for the Yokozuna that nothing really makes sense. Kisenosato was so lethargic in this one that even Susanne Eman vowed to drop a few pounds after watching. The result is that Hakuho is back on top at 11-1 while Kisenosato falls a notch to 10-2 joining Harumafuji and Ikioi.

I get the sneaky suspicion that Hakuho will drop at least one more bout over the final three days. Kotoshogiku could sure use a favor tomorrow as he sits on seven losses, and then a loss against either of the Yokozuna to drop Hakuho into the two-loss category just makes the yusho race that much more interesting. Regardless of how it plays it, we currently stand as follows:

11-1: Hakuho
10-2: Harumafuji, Kisenosato, Ikioi

Touching on other bouts of interest, today's finale between Yokozuna Kakuryu and Sekiwake Goeido was bizarre on multiple levels. Kakuryu somewhat pressed the action from the tachi-ai with mediocre tsuppari that lacked de-ashi, and after the two rikishi traded sides still hovering over the starting lines, Kakuryu just ducked down inviting a pull attempt, but this was more Kakuryu just diving forward than it was Goeido actually applying any pressure to make the Yokozuna fall forward and down, and so it looked as if Goeido was handed his second gift in as many days but wait...there's more! Hakuho who was sitting ringside raised his hand calling for a mono-ii, and the judges actually granted it. After reviewing the video, it was determined that Goeido grabbed Kakuryu's top-knot for an instant on the way down, and so they disqualified Goeido for pulling the Yokozuna's hair. I mean, this was such a bizarre bout from start to finish that it really sums up the Natsu basho for me: plenty of drama, twists, and turns and plenty of bad sumo to go along with it. If we're on day 12 and a guy whose been ranked at Sekiwake for like two straight years is fighting a Yokozuna, I expect a helluva fight, not a girl slap-fest with someone taking a dive.

The hair pull was quite incidental and Kakuryu was going down even without the unsavory tug, and then to have Hakuho of all people call for the mono-ii just added to the craziness. Hakuho raised his hand so fast and straight up, he reminded me of that kid in Sunday School who as all the answers that you just want to slap around.  I was sitting there thinking is it too much to ask for a classic nage-no-uchi-ai (bet most of you don't even know what that is anymore) or a migi-yotsu contest where both rikishi strain to see who can get the left outer first? I am still waiting for a good bout of sumo the last 20 minutes of the broadcast, especially the later we get into the week. As a result of today's playground melee, Kakuryu accidentally finds himself at 9-3 while Goeido is now a precarious 6-6. After his defeat of Hakuho yesterday, I read the headline, "Goeido re-establishes himself as an Ozeki candidate." Oops. Tomorrow the Sekiwake draws Ozeki Kisenosato, so I guess one of these guys will be forced to attempt an offensive maneuver. Good luck with that.

Meanwhile, Sekiwake Tochiohzan survived a weak tachi-ai henka from M1 Takekaze who jumped to his left. In fact, Tochiohzan recovered so easily that he shoved Takekaze back and out earning the tsuki-dashi win in the process. At 7-5, Tochiohzan is the closest thing Japan has to an Ozeki while Takekaze falls to 5-7.

Well, well, well, M2 Takarafuji finally picked up a win this basho when Komusubi Chiyootori slowly worked his way into hidari- yotsu with a right outer grip, but hidari-yotsu is Takarafuji's favored position, and it showed as he lifted Chiyootori straight upright and drove him back across the straw with little argument. You can't really fault Chiyootori for not knowing Takarafuji's strength (it's the stable master's responsibility to tell him going in), and maybe he did know, but the way he's been fighting this basho, it's not a huge surprise that he lost in a belt fight to Takarafuji (1-11). The Komusubi drops to 3-9 with the loss and needs to retool a few things.

M3 Aminishiki ducked in low surprising Komusubi Yoshikaze who finally found himself higher than someone at a tachi-ai, and the new circumstance caused the Komusubi to panic with a pull attempt. Problem was his feet were totally aligned, and Aminishiki read it so well he shoved Yoshikaze straight up the hana-michi moving to 7-5 in the process. Yoshikaze's debut at Komusubi ends in a disappointing make-koshi as he falls to 4-8.

M1 Aoiyama is primed to move into one of the vacated Komusubi slots coming into the day at 6-5. Against M4 Toyonoshima, he used a hard charge and effective tsuppari that sent Toyonoshima back across the straw with ease. The key here was Aoiyama's watching Toyonoshima the entire way leaving him no room for escape. The Bulgarian is on the verge now at 7-5 while Toyonoshima suffers make-koshi at 4-8. While we're on the subject of Aoiyama, dude could actually slip into the Sekiwake rank if he can win one or two more and see Goeido drop two of his last three. You look at the way that Aoiyama has handled his bidness--especially against Kisenosato, and he's proving himself to be a rikishi to be reckoned with.

I was encouraged by M2 Chiyotairyu's nice tsuppari from the tachi-ai, but he didn't have the legs behind them to move M6 Kaisei sufficiently, so he immediately went into pull mode and scampered around the ring, but Kaisei caught him with the deep right inside and left outer grip, and Tairyu had a fork stuck in him at that point as he drops to a terrible 3-9. Kaisei stays in the hunt for kachi-koshi at 6-6.

M13 Masunoyama used a right nodowa and left kote-nage grip to drive M3 Kyokutenho all the way to the brink, but Masunoyama had no legs to finish his gal off, so Tenho got the left inside and drove Masunoyama all the way back across the ring and out the other side sending Masunoyama to a 3-9 record. Ranked at M13, Masu has to win out in order to stay in the division. I expected Kyokutenho (2-10) might show a little bit of mercy today as he is wont to do, but I guess when you only have one win yourself coming into the day, it's okay to get greedy.

I wonder what the typical Japanese fan today was thinking after the M4 Endoh - M10 Osunaarashi matchup? As Endoh crouched down at the starting lines, the Thug inched back just a bit ready to spring forward, and as the two finally charged, Osunaarashi caught Endoh square in the jaw with a right kachi-age that was thrown with the effect of an uppercut. As the announcer in that classic video game Punch Out!! nasally says after someone lost, "KNOCK OUT!!" It's been awhile since we've seen a guy get done in like that, and to have it happen to Endoh at the hands of a foreigner only adds insult to injury. We've known that Endoh is a middleweight fighting in the heavyweight division, and today was yet another example of that reality. Dude's got skills for sure, but against the type of brute force exhibited today by Osunaarashi, he doesn't stand a chance. The Ejyptian clinches kachi-koshi today with that single punch while Endoh wilts to a 5-7 record and is probably still seeing stars.  This one was so brutal it's worth one more look:

M13 Kitataiki picked up kachi-koshi today after M6 Tamawashi abandoned his feisty tsuppari attack from the tachi-ai in favor of an early pull attempt. Kitataiki (8-4) was ready for the move turning the tables in a flash with the linear push out after getting knocked back a bit from the start. Tamawashi falls to 6-6 but has still shown well this basho.

M7 Tokushoryu suffered his first make-koshi in three basho after another stupid henka to his left that was easily read by M11 Toyohibiki who pushed Tokushoryu (4-8) back and out as he tried to escape his blunder. Toyohibiki sits pretty (figuratively of course) at 7-5 after the win.

M11 Homasho shaded left at the tachi-ai, and as M8 Takayasu attempted to square up, Homasho got him with a right palm under Takayasu's left armpit lifting him completely upright and off balance to where the tsuki-dashi came in about 3 seconds. Homa Sho Am Sweet now at 7-5 while Takayasu's struggles continue at 5-7.

M8 Myogiryu's tsuppari from the tachi-ai were too ineffective allowing a big pull from M15 Kyokushuho that nearly worked, but Myogiryu kept his footing and tsuppari'ed his way back into contention. Kyokushuho next greeted him with some shoves to the face and then pounced into the right inner left outer position, but Myogiryu mawari-komu'd well and dumped Shuho barely at the edge with a counter right scoop throw. This was simply a case of Myogiryu (6-6) having been in a brawl like this before and knowing how to survive while Kyokushuho (8-4) will figure it out soon enough.

M12 Takanoiwa and M9 Okinoumi hooked up in hidari-yotsu with Takanoiwa maintaining the deeper stance, but instead of really driving Okinoumi back, he looked to just inch forward, so Okinoumi countered with a mammoth right kote-nage throw that threw Takanoiwa off balance, and he never could square up from there as Okinoumi moved left and pulled Iwa down near the edge. Takanoiwa is no longer charging hard into the craw of his opponent, and so the result of this lightweight yotsu-zumo is his 2-10 record. Okinoumi is still alive at 5-7 after a horrific start to the basho.

M14 Tokitenku used a left hari-te from the tachi-ai, but by the time he was done with it, M9 Terunofuji already had the right inner and left outside grip established, so he bodied Tenku around and out from there. I've actually enjoyed Terunofuji this basho as he moves to 6-6, and I can't recall a single bout from Kisenosato or Goeido where they actually dug in and persisted at the belt as Terunofuji has. Tokitenku falls to 5-7 in the loss.

Aw hell, I've covered every other bout to this point, so I may as well get them all. M15 Sokokurai and M10 Tochinowaka settled into the uneventful migi-yotsu position from tachi-ai, and as Sokokurai tried to evade out of a left outer grip attempt, SleepWaka stayed along for the ride and bodied Sokokurai out for the easy win. T-Wok is 7-5 with the win while Sokokurai (8-4) doesn't give a shat anymore now that he's clinched kachi-koshi.

M16 Arawashi got the pesky left frontal grip at the tachi-ai, and when M11 Chiyomaru tried to push the arm away, Arawashi moved to the side throwing Chiyomaru (5-7) off balance and simply pushed him down from there. I cannot believe how bad the Kokonoe-beya guys look collectively this basho, and who knows how ugly it would've gotten if Chiyonokuni didn't withdraw on like the second day. Arawashi inches closer to kachi-koshi at 7-5.

My man M17 Sadanoumi needs to learn a little bit of patience in the ring. Today in a hidari-yotsu contest with M12 Jokoryu, Sadanoumi felt as if he had to do something after about a five second stalemate with his dance partner, and so he went for an unnecessary maki-kae with the right arm, but Jokoryu was all over the move forcing Sadanoumi back and across before he could even finish. You'll remember Sadanoumi's utchari win in week one when he went for a dangerous maki-kae like this and actually got away with it, and he needs to learn that that was the exception, not the rule, especially against a belt-savvy guy like Jokoryu who picks up kachi-koshi for his efforts leaving both brethren at 8-4.

Last and certainly not least, J3 Gangstuh-no-sato made his return to the division facing off against M14 Gagamaru. Problem was the lack of size and speed in the Juryo division that allowed Wakanosato to start out 8-4 doesn't apply here, and that was evident as Gagamaru demanded the left inside and applied so much pressure that Wakanosato couldn't even muster a counter pull attempt. The Gangstuh did run for his life, however, but Gagamaru somehow kept pace and was able to force Wakanosato back and across with little incident. If you watch Gagamaru's feet in this as he chased Wakanosato down, they weren't driving forward suri-ashi style. Rather, he looked like a quail that's too lazy to fly trying to beat your car as it runs across the street. Yubabamaru is 6-6 for his efforts while Wakanosato falls to 8-4 taking the froth offa Kane's root beer float.

Nothing that happens over the next three days will surprise me, but at least the one remaining constant is my man Martin coming back tomorrow.

Day 11 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
At the start of the day's broadcast, the first real talk of the yusho race began, but then again, it's all about the yusho race as we enter the shubansen, or final five days of the tournament. I haven't been as excited about the yusho race this basho because as long as Hakuho is in sole possession of the lead--a circumstance he found himself in as early as day 5--he simply doesn't give it up. Well, let me rephrase that. He doesn't give it up by getting beat legitimately atop the dohyo, but he has shown a willingness to drop bouts in week 2 in order to keep things interesting, and so that's the situation we find ourselves in once again at the Natsu basho. Do you favor straight-up sumo that will inevitably result in an easy Hakuho yusho? Or do you favor a bit of yudan sumo to keep things interesting for as long as possible? We would definitely get that question answered today, so let's get right to it beginning with an examination of the leader board.

As we entered the day, we had five rikishi still in the yusho hunt as follows:

10-0: Hakuho
9-1: Kisenosato, Ikioi
8-2: Harumafuji, Sadanoumi

Three of those rikishi are Japanese, so there's great potential for an exciting finish, especially since the Japanese rikishi outnumber the foreign rikishi. With Mainoumi sitting in the broadcast booth today providing excellent color analysis, NHK jumped on the yusho theme out of the gate showing the current leaderboard, the day 12 pairings, and then their expected matchups the final three days, so let's follow suit as well and focus the brunt of today's comments on the leaders.

Kicking off the day was M17 Sadanoumi, the rikishi I've most enjoyed watching the entire basho. He was paired against M15 Kyokushuho, who was looking for the upset in an effort to secure kachi-koshi, something Sadanoumi achieved the day before. The two hooked up in migi-yotsu with Sadanoumi gaining the left outer grip first, but Kyokushuho absolutely knew what was coming: the soto-gake attempt. Sure enough, as Sadanoumi positioned himself for the move using the left leg, Kyokushuho slid to the side and dragged Sadanoumi over to the tawara setting up the inevitable force-out in the end. I can't really fault Sadanoumi for going to the soto-gake well yet again, but I think ST identified his penchant for the move as early as day 5 or so, so you know a savvy Mongolian rikishi like Kyokushuho is going to be prepared for it. Both rikishi end the day at 8-3, and there's no harm done to Sadanoumi. He wasn't going to take the yusho anyway, so he needs to regroup and shoot for a special prize now that kachi-koshi is in the bag. I was also a little bit disappointed by how quiet the arena was after the loss. The fact that 99% of the crowd had no idea who Sadanoumi was or what he was accomplishing this basho shows how the content of sumo atop the dohyo is not the number one selling point right now.

Yokozuna Harumafuji looked to keep himself in the hunt by battling Sekiwake Tochiohzan in the day's final bout, and he used a right nodowa from the tachi-ai to set the pace and drive Oh back a step. Tochiohzan was trying to shake the pesky Mongolian by moving laterally, but you could see it on his face that he was gearing up for the next slap from the Yokozuna instead of setting up a legitimate counter move. With Tochiohzan too defensive--thanks to Harumafuji's good tachi-ai, the Yokozuna battered him towards the tawara and pushed him across in about four seconds. Good sumo from Harumafuji who moves to 9-2 and stays in the hunt. Tochiohzan is still above water at 6-5.

The most anticipated bout of the day in the Japanese media featured our two one-loss rikishi in Ozeki Kisenosato and M5 Ikioi, and if I can describe my overall impression of these two guys this tournament, it's that Kisenosato has done a lot of standing around while Ikioi has done a lot of attacking from the side. Anyway, the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu from the tachi-ai with Kisenosato content to stand his ground as usual and Ikioi content with the right hand pressed up high in a tsuki-otoshi position opposite his left inside grip. Kisenosato just dug in for five seconds with Ikioi choosing not to move laterally, and so the Ozeki pounced on the quick force-out that was easy peasy Japanesey. The difference here was that Kisenosato's left inside position was much deeper than Ikioi's, and so add the extra bulk in the Ozeki's body and it was an expected outcome. The result is that Kisenosato keeps pace at 10-1 while Ikioi gets bumped down a notch at 9-2.

With Kisenosato safely through, let's next turn our attention to Yokozuna Hakuho who faced Sekiwake Goeido today in an effort to keep himself unblemished. Hakuho easily gained the right inside position from the tachi-ai, but he kept it in no man's land failing to grab the belt or raise the arm up tight into Goeido's left pit in order to keep the Sekiwake upright and off balance. I knew the outcome of the bout at this exact moment because everything Hakuho does is set up with that inside position, so when he refuses to do anything with the arm, it's now just a matter of acting.  With Goeido doing absolutely nothing and at the complete mercy of the Yokozuna (look at the inaction from Goeido's hands in the pic above), Hakuho jumped to the side offering a meager kata-sukashi attempt that had as much torque to it as a cordless drill three seconds before its battery dies. With the two now separated, Hakuho mounted his next "charge," that Goeido easily read (which tells you how bad it was), so he just moved left and offered a mediocre pull causing Hakuho to stumble to the edge with his butt out waiting for the push out from behind. When Goeido failed to react, Hakuho moved around the tawara offering a weak right pull as he went, but Goeido figured things out after a few seconds and pushed the fleeing Yokozuna out in the end. The crowd reaction was positive of course, but they didn't exactly erupt as they had to have sensed that this bout was fishy.  I mean, just look at the pic at right.  Are you trying to tell me that Goeido set up the Yokozuna in that position by doing absolutely nothing?  If one's intelligence isn't insulted by this bout, little probably exists in the first place.

Afterwards, Mainoumi stated, "This now makes the yusho race extremely compelling, and you could say the momentum has shifted to Kisenosato." Mainoumi wasn't necessarily forecasting a Kisenosato yusho there, but he did imply that this thing is going down to the wire and a Japanese rikishi is in contention!

The Japanese fans will of course be excited, and the media will do their part to continue feeding them the usual lines, but my reaction is 'why didn't Hakuho do the same thing today that he did against Endoh?' You have two rikishi with very similar statures; neither is going to henka you; and both like to go for the belt at the tachi-ai, so why not just bulldoze Goeido back and out the same as you did with Endoh? It's a rhetorical question of course, but I'm just pointing out that someone truly trying to analyze what's happening in the ring will think like that. Someone who is trying to comply with an agenda will grasp at straws for an explanation or just avoid that thought process altogether...like Goeido himself. Afterwards in the interview room when they asked him about his sumo, his reply was simply, "I don't remember." Gee, thanks Bill Clinton.

I remember when I first started watching sumo in Japan, I was watching with a hottie and the rikishi being interviewed after an upset said, "I don't remember" when asked about his sumo. I just laughed out loud and said "what an idiot! You just fought one minute ago and you don't remember?!" I was then promptly chided with the explanation that the rikishi are so humble and don't want to show up their opponents, so they say they can't remember their sumo. There you go...my Western way of thinking and the Japanese way of thinking. If I had only known then that "I don't remember" really meant "Why are you asking me you jackass? You could clearly see for yourself that it was thrown in my favor!"

I guess I shouldn't go off on this too much more, but this bout was just so ridiculously fake that I'm trying to find words to express it. How fitting was it that Kane used that pic yesterday of the Sherman Tank with Hakuho's head popping out of the driver's seat ready to crush Endoh? That should be the focus of this "loss" today...why didn't Hakuho do the same thing to Goeido? I mean, the Yokozuna was so meek today with his sumo that even the good Lord was irritated with him. It just doesn't calculate to the rational mind that Hakuho couldn't do exactly as Mr. Miyagi instructed Daniel-san and "squash Goeido just like grape." Regardless, the loss drops Hakuho to 10-1 while Goeido picks up the freebie to sit at 6-5. It also really makes things interesting on the leaderboard which now shapes up as follows:

10-1: Hakuho, Kisenosato
9-2: Harumafuji, Ikioi

If Hakuho loses again, we may start listing three-loss rikishi, but let's just see how it plays out. A lot can happen over the span of four days, and what scares me is that a lot can happen over the span of four days. This also isn't the first time we've seen manipulation like this in Kisenosato's favor, but the Ozeki hasn't been able to capitalize before, so there's nothing that leads me to believe that he's going to do it this basho. Dude simply can't handle the pressure, even when the Mongolians let up a bit.

In other bouts of interest, Yokozuna Kakuryu established the left inside position from the tachi-ai against Ozeki Kotoshogiku and then quickly grabbed the front of the Geeku's belt with the right hand. The Ozeki had no legs at this point, so Kakuryu relinquished that right grip and just slapped the Ozeki's left side sending him over to the edge where he was the easy okuri-dashi fodder in the end. Pretty lackluster match as Kakuryu picks up kachi-koshi at 8-3 while Kotoshogiku is going to need some help from either Harumafuji or Hakuho at 5-6. I'm not sure if I can bear to watch.

M2 Chiyotairyu fired off a good first volley against Komusubi Yoshikaze at the tachi-ai, but he was too slow on the second attempt, so Yoshikaze just stepped outta the way and let Chiyotairyu run himself straight out of the dohyo and to a 3-8 make-koshi in the process. Yoshikaze limps to 4-7 with the win.

M4 Endoh surprised a bit at the tachi-ai drilling a few tsuppari directly into Komusubi Chiyootori's face in an effort to set up the inside with those shoves, and instead of going toe to toe with Endoh, Chiyootori went for a pull moving out left, but Endoh finally caught him with a right palm to the left armpit and sent the Komusubi out in style. Endoh halts his losing skid at 5-6 while Chiyootori suffers make-koshi at 3-8.

M1 Takekaze pressed the action well with the left under M1 Aoiyama's right pit getting Aoiyama pushed back to the edge, and Aoyama all but gave up opting to spin 180 degrees out of trouble, but in the process, his hips nudged Takekaze's hip causing the two to do the hustle right there in the dohyo. After both rikishi recovered from that bizarre moment in the ring, Takekaze charged again only this time he did it without de-ashi allowing Aoiyama to pull him down at the edge in an ugly bout. Aoiyama is poised to take over a Komusubi slot at 6-5 while Takekaze falls to 5-6.

Would today be the day for M2 Takarafuji who needed to solve M6 Kaisei in order to pick up his first win? The two hooked up in migi-yotsu with Takarafuji staying low trying to change things up, and the tactic worked to a degree as Takarafuji was able to force Kaisei to the brink, but the Brasilian countered with a neck throw with the right arm at the edge, and as both rikishi crashed to the dohyo, Kasei kept his arms up while Takarafuji compromised and let his elbow touch down first. It's bad enough that Takarafuji is now 0-11, but losing by kubi-nage? Kaisei escapes with a 5-6 record.

M3 Aminishiki and M4 Toyonoshima settled into migi-yotsu with Toyonoshima pressing the action, but the longer this bout went on, the deeper Aminishiki's right inside kept getting finally enabling him to grab the left outer grip and turn the tables in this yori-kiri affair that saw Aminishiki improve to 6-5 while Toyonoshima falls to 4-7.

M3 Kyokutenho and M9 Okinoumi also clashed in migi-yotsu, and Tenho enjoyed the early left outer grip, but he couldn't do anything with it, so he lazily let Okinoumi oil his way into moro-zashi, and there was no going back from there as Okinoumi somehow keeps kachi-koshi hopes alive at 4-7 while Kyokutenho his 1-10. At least he daydreaming about fine women in these losses.

M5 Shohozan used his feisty tsuppari vs. M10 Tochinowaka who used his long arm to try and latch onto a belt grip. Shohozan just wanted it more, however, and came harder from the tachi-ai setting things up with a series of nodowa that led to the tsuki-dashi win. Both fellas end the day at 6-5.

M6 Tamawashi was completely committed to his tsuppari attack focused in tight against M11 Chiyomaru, and it looked like Chiyomaru really didn't want to get in a shoving match but relented anyway. The problem was that his tsuppari were from the outside and had little effect, so Tamawashi (6-5) took charge and had Maru back and out so fast he too was awarded the tsuki-dashi win. Chiyomaru dips back below .500 at 5-6.

M12 Jokoryu welcomed the right inside position from M7 Homasho and flirted with his own left inner grip as well to go with his right inside, but before he could really set up moro-zashi, he just spun Homasho over and out in mere seconds. The key here was that Jokoryu (7-4) never let Homasho (6-5) get settled.

M10 Osunaarashi was a bit late at the tachi-ai, but M7 Tokushoryu was up way too high giving Osuna the deep deep right inside. In fact, it was so deep that Osunaarashi was able to pin Tokushoryu in place with the right leg around his opponent's left stump, and as Tokushoryu tried to escape out of the hold, Osunaarashi was on him like stink to bait and pushed him out for a dominating win. The Ejyptian is 7-4 if ya need him while Tokushoryu falls to the inverse record of 4-7.

There's something about M8 Myogiryu and the way he lives rent free in M14 Gagamaru's head. Today he got the right inside from the tachi-ai, positioned his left hand underneath Gagamaru's right teet (and what a splendid teet it is!) and used perfect de-ashi to drive Gagamaru straight back and out in two seconds flat. Whenever the flow of a bout is strictly linear, it means that one guy kicked his opponent's ass so hard that he couldn't even counter. Both dudes end the day at 5-6.

M15 Sokokurai stayed low forcing the grapplin' position against M8 Takayasu, and as Takayasu made his intentions known, Sokokurai backed up and scored on the left tsuki-otoshi shove down. This was the first kachi-koshi for Sokokurai (8-3) in the division in something like three years although his sumo has not been great. Trickery, yes. Sumo, no. Takayasu falls to 5-6 and prolly shouldna let Sokokurai dictate this one from the beginning.

M9 Terunofuji and M16 Arawashi engaged in the gappuri migi-yotsu meaning both had right inners and left outers, and the bout of o-zumo was on. Arawashi actually had the better outer grip at the front of Terunofuji's belt, but Terunofuji wormed his right inside deeper and deeper forcing Arawashi to retool his left outer, and once that occurred, the advantage went to the bigger dude in Terunofuji as he scored the yori-kiri much to the appreciation of the fans. He ekes closer to even steven status at 5-6 while Arawashi has had a good basho ending at 6-5.

M12 Takanoiwa got the left frontal grip from the tachi-ai, but M11 Toyohibiki kote-nage'd the grip away and had his de-ashi working, so after cutting off Takanoiwa's outer it was just a matter of staying in front of him and drubbing him out of the ring. Good, attacking sumo as Toyohibiki moves to 6-5 while Takanoiwa has visions of fighting Kyokutenho and Takarafuji.

And finally, let's end with M13 Kitataiki who shamelessly henka'd to his left and scored the cheap pull down win against M13 Masunoyama sending the Trout to his make-koshi fate at 3-8. For an encore, Kitataiki (7-4) will next demonstrate how to trip up an old lady crossing the road and steal candy from a baby. Weak, bro. Weak.

Ya know, I gotta admit that as skeptical as I was about the finish to this basho, Hakuho's act today will definitely have me tuning in the rest of the way just to see how it all unfolds. Back again tomorrow.

Day 10 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
The broadcast started with Kitanoumi stating (paraphrasing) "Kakuryu is fighting at a disadvantage because he has suffered some bad losses and he henka'ed the other night. This is NOT his style of sumo and unfortunately no one can help him but himself".

Debut basho for new Yokozuna are mos def a lot of pressure and Kak's been taking some harsh criticism recently, but I believe he may very well have carried the burden of "basho outcome manager" for a while, giving up the necessary loss here and there and that's gotta wreak havoc with your childhood dreams. Remember when he broke onto the scene with a hard ass de-ashi / yotsu / creative style that was a joy to watch?

Yes he's gotten the upgrade, but it's in the same operating system so we'll just have to sit back, belch and watch while others sweat the big stuff.

Now this basho has brought some good sumo outta some unheralded guys that to my way of thinking deserve brief mention:

Shohozan has taken his hard jo'i lessons to heart and is now performing at a much more confident level. Grumpy now fights like he wants it and is not afraid to mix it up no matter who is staring at him, squatting half naked across the tape. Without hesitation he fearlessly got it on with Harumafuji, so much so that instead of a nodowa powered dame-oshi into the high-priced kimonos, Haru (reluctantly?) gave him a "nice fight kid" slap on the back at the end of the bout.

Ikioi is a big kid with forward moving sumo juice in his veins and after a few more trips into the bigs he'll hopefully gain more tactical smarts. His footwork has been pretty solid this basho and he hits hard at the tachi-ai and we like that over here in the peanut gallery. Yayyyyyy!

Kitataiki at 6-4 has shown some of the shine he initially displayed a year or so ago. He's been kinda not so good of late but in Tokyo he's pulling together some half decent bouts and not giving up easy wins to his enemies.

Sadanoumi ain't a kid anymore and yes his comfort zone is most likely gonna be the lower ranks, but his performance this week has been aggressive, solid sumo, and it's evident he seeks control of each match.

Osunaarashi gets on this list for his unabashed joy of being a rikishi and his visible desire to win. I love that smug frown he throws down as he faces his opponent.

He has the physique and juiced attitude to do well but he needs a lot of kimari-te / tactical schooling still and his frenetic footwork ain't helping' much either. Maybe 60 keiko matches with Kakuryu might get his sumo in line. They do that for everyone you know!

And Chinese rikishi Sokokurai gets on my list not so much for his "not extremely awful" sumo on the dohyo as much as his pre-sumo name being Enhetubuxin. It's rumored that, much like Mr. Mxyzptlk of Superboy fame, if he says his name backwards he disappears.

Wait! I see the lights are going down and two fat guys are strutting into the arena through the laser lights and oil smoke! So let's get it on! Time for some real deal Japanese Sumo on Day 10 Natsu Basho 2014!

One of the most anticipated bouts of the day, J3 (38 Year Old Tough Guy) Gangstah Wakanosato vs. J10 (Strong 21 Year Old Mongolian Kid) Ichinojo. Both men were at 7-2 goin' in and Wakanogangstah has him some sumotalk mainstays pulling for him to fight his way back to Makuuchi orgy for one last hurrah.

At the tachi-ai, as always, Mr. Sato met the big kid straight on and powered him upright and back a few feet on impact. But the Mongoru youngster quickly gained a secure hidari-yotsu grip, spun Wakanosato around and strong armed the veteran for a solid uwate-nage win. Waka is a hopeful 7-3 while Ichinojo (a kid to watch) is all piss and vinegar (who came up with that phrase?) at 8-2.

M14 Gaga-Yubaba-maru gave the audience what he believes they clamor for and steamrolled M14 Tokitenku (who has dominated their bouts at 8-3) straight back and out of bounds. Oshi-dashi was the no brainer call. Both these dudes are on the Juryo tightrope as Gaga is a balanced 5-5 and Toki hopes there's a net as he falls to 4-6.

M13 Masunoyama's (2-7) having a rough go of it lately. When he doesn't hit the mark off the tachi-ai he does demonstrate sound "in bout" instincts, but his footwork breaks down faster than his breathing apparatus. He has to work so hard for properly balanced positioning and much like Osunaarashi he takes numerous small steps rather leveraging his weight and momentum with powerhouse foot placement.

And yes, you can't help but love Spalding's gumption, but if a match goes over 5 seconds I start to feel like I'm living the drowning scene in The Abyss.

Against J2 Sotairyu (6-3) Masu quickly looked to drive his dude back with some hard shoves to the upper body, but Tairyu bounced inside and the two men grappled for position. Masunoyama continued his tsuppari onslaught and chased his man around the dohyo, and at this point (18 seconds in) everyone in the audience started feeling their lungs tighten up. Time and again Sir Spalding would push Sotairyu to the straw and his opponent would jump to the side and try a cheap pull on the kid.

Finally Spalding said I'm "So Tired Of You" and pulled off a heroic kote-nage for the 3-7 win that would've made Kaio proud. For me when this kid wins it's the feel good movie of the week! Rock On Masunoyama for doing something few of us could ever dream of pulling off!

7-2 M17 Sadanoumi squatted and looked up at the towering M10 (6-3) Tochinowaka like he knew exactly what he was gonna do with the tall guy. At the gun Slowaka rolled out his usual high approach expecting nodowa or some kinda accommodating counter offensive but instead Sadanoumi only wanted belt.

Tochinowaka got some mawashi of his own, but Sada was already working him back towards the bad place. Tochi lifted and got his man airborne for a second but when Sadanoumi landed he got his right leg under Waka's left and threw him off the hill for a sweet kachi-koshi vic! Sadanoumi's bout adjustments and purposeful yotsu strategy even got the referee wearing the Krispy Kreme kimono aroused!

Okinoumi and Myogiryu are having quite a time of it even in the lower ranks. Pity 'cause there's a lot of talent between these two guys and Mike's comment about Kotooshu's lack of mental strength (and Kitanoumi's words re Kakuryu's Yokozuna jitters) line up pretty tight in the face of this.

I expect Myogiryu (4-6) to get his mawashi in order since he's working his way back from an injury, but this tournament his losses are having their way with his head. Okinoumi (3-7)…well can't figger this guy out other than to say I shudder at Mr. W's comment about Japanese rikishi lacking the hunger necessary to tear it up like bosses. Mainoumi suggested it during his rant on Kotooshu the other night and M nailed it down. I can't handle the truth!

So far, M7 Homasho-am-sweet has earned a hard fought 5-4 record and we all know the man of the perfect bow ain't gonna back down. Takanoiwa may have a 2-7 record going in but I like his footwork and and he plays to win.

At the gun Homasho absorbed the brunt of the impact and turned to his left and achieved an uncustomary hidari-yotsu grip. Takanoiwa locked his arms under Ho's armpits and shoved him back towards the hayfields but the Sweet One worked his way back to center ring.

Takanoiwa broke free from Ho's yotsu hold and they settled into Homasho's shove and separate routine. Time and again the two men butted heads and separated in kind of a cumbia rhythm so popular at indigenous Mexican Festivals.

At one point Taka pulled Sho AmSweet's arm and almost sent him packing but Homasho got his balance, grabbed Taka's belt, pushed and pulled until he shoved the dude off the clay for an oshi-dashi win and a 6-4 tally.

M5 Shohozan (5-4) and M10 Osunaarashi (5-4) knew going in that whatever the outcome they were gonna be in a brawl. Both men are know for throwing down a bitch slap festival (although Osu's occasionally seem a bit more bitch than slap) and they both got some serious attitude they're not afraid to unleash.

At the tachi-ai Shohozan struck first and high but Osu kept moving forward. First Sho turned Osu with a shoulder slap and then the Egyptian returned the favor and as Grumpy recovered he stumbled forward and down. Osunaarashi (who appears to be favoring his right leg) gets the win (tsuki-otoshi) and at 6-4 is approaching kachi-koshi while Shohozan is not smiling at 5-5.

At the tachi-ai, 8-1 M5 Ikioi struck 5-4 M8 Takayasu as he stepped to his right to quickly yank down and dispatch his guy to turf. Iki grabbed a little of Taka's armpit in process so the call was kote-nage but a lot of Takayasu's problems resulted from his overly single minded momentum. Ik stands at 9-1, Tak sits at 5-5.

M4 Endoh (4-5) got another hearty cheer from the "we don't care if you win" crowd (on a 4 bout winless streak) as he mounted the dohyo. Facing guys like Hakuho must feel like he has to yori-kiri a Sherman Tank! His opponent M2 Chiyotairyu (2-7) has recently resorted exclusively to back pedaling and pull down sumo and his record shows it.

After the loss the commentators told a touching story about Makushita Sumo dude Tanzo and Endoh. When Endoh was a small kid, Tanzo lifted him up onto his shoulders (kata guruma or "shoulder car") and Endoh never forgot it. Elvis credited much of his love of sumo to Tanzo's playful gesture.

Wouldn't you know it, at the "git go" Chia Pet (3-7) back pedals and executes a quick hataki-komi for the win. Against Endoh (4-6) it worked! Elvis will kick some serious ass in sumo but not this day…not this day.

The dual 0-9 duel was next as M3 Kyokutenho and M2 Takarafuji jumped in front of the cameras. Both guys have hit the high mark on the wrong side of success so it's easy to imagine what each was praying for…

Right off the gate both men grabbed for belt handing some of the advantage to the longer armed Kyokutenho. For a while they stood in the middle of the dohyo as the suspense in the air was palpable. Finally, once the veteran Mongolian had fully secured both mawashi grips he turned Mr Fuji and walked him yori-kiri style into a perfect 0-10.

As if the winless wonder match wasn't exciting enough, heads up pilgrims…our Ozeki crew be in da house! 8-1 Kisenosato (who's seemed extra bewildered this basho…he just kinda held on during that Yoshikaze match) and 5-4 Kotoshogiku (who seems extra Kotoshogiku this time around) lumbered atop the sacred clay to loud applause (not quite Endoh level but…).

Koto got off the mark fast and furious and immediately employed his patented belly bump technique. But Kisenosato, as he's been want to do this basho, merely held on and the aging Koto couldn't budge the Kid.

When they paused center dohyo the audience gave them another round of applause which inspired Geeku to try and shove his way to victory again, but Kise lifted and powered him back to the rope. Koto gave up early and it seemed to me he was in pain. With a cute little dame-oshi for good measure Kise improves to 9-1 (yori-kiri) and Kotoshogiku…well sheeza not too good at 5-5.

Yokozuna Kakuryu (6-3) gained a solid migi-yotsu grip and proceeded to push and pull M3 Aminishiki (5-4) back and forth and eventually across the straw (yori-kiri). Kak rockets to 7-3 and Aminishiki (5-5) (who seems to choose when wants to mix it up) wonders if he has another leg to bandage.

Sekiwake Goeido (5-4) often seems to let his opponent lead the dance. His footwork reminds me of a nervous quarterback who stutter steps before releasing the ball. When 7-2 Yokozuna Harumafuji cracked open a hard tachi-ai Goeido went for a quick hataki-komi but Haru obliged him with his own head pull that sent the Sekiwake walkin' into the half-eaten bento boxes. Okuri-dashi is the call as Harumafuji gets kachi-koshi and must wait for an opportunity to slap another waterboy.

Master Cylinder Ooki-Sugi Yokozuna Hakuho (9-0) and Sekiwake Tochiohzan (6-3) found themselves staring at each other again. Last time Tochi pissed off the King with his false start and took a beatin' just like an egg (props to Everlast on that phrase). When Oh-Snap mis-fired again he was flabbergasted and slapped and pulled at his face in frustration.

Hakuho decided to back up at the tachi-ai allowing Tochiohzan to stay upright for a bit longer than usual. He shoved Hak once to his left, but Hakuho (10-0) side-stepped and swiped Tochi (6-4) to a tsuki-otoshi defeat.

This pic kinda sums up the upper ranks with the whole Mongolian Japanese disparity kinda thing we seem to harp on but has some validity all things considered and….yatta yatta yatta….

All in all I'm digging' on this basho and the story has yet to be told no matter who or what is deciding the outcome. So I'm gonna leave you with this thought…aww you know what? I talked enough…let's stare at this instead...

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The big news of the day as we kicked off week two was the sudden death of former Hanaregoma-oyakata. Hanaregoma, who retired from the Association last year, was out practicing golf with members of his family on Sunday when he complained of not feeling well and then subsequently collapsed. An autopsy revealed heart disease, and so the former oyakata likely suffered a heart attack leading to his death. It's always a somber moment when a prominent member of the Association passes away, and in the case of Hanaregoma, he was a former Ozeki in the 70's when the banzuke was just loaded, and he was also appointed the sport's commissioner (Rijicho) when Kitanoumi finally stepped down due to the yaocho scandal.

I didn't make the connection then, but it became obvious to me yesterday as I was reading the different biographies on Kaiketsu and one thing that was often mentioned was that he was dubbed as the Clean Kaiketsu due to his "sincere attitude on the dohyo" as one newspaper described it. What the newspaper was really trying to say is that Kaiketsu was a gachinko, or a rikishi who refused to compromise himself in the ring to let another rikishi win. Touting him as the temporary commissioner in light of the yaocho scandal was a way for the Sumo Association to say we are coming clean with Kaiketsu. Whether or not the sport really has come clean is up to the individual fan to decide, so let's refocus our efforts on week two and a yusho race that isn't shaping up.

We have quite an eclectic leaderboard forming, and heading into day 9 it looked as follows:

8-0: Hakuho
7-1: Kisenosato, Ikioi
6-2: Harumafuji, Kakuryu, Kitataiki, Sadanoumi, Sokokurai

Normally, I would say that no one has a chance of overcoming Hakuho, but that precedent was clearly broken in March, so anything could unfold down the stretch.

Let's start first with Yokozuna Hakuho vs. upstart M4 Endoh, who I realize is technically still in the jo'i as the #16 guy on the banzuke with the retirement of Kotooshu. Before we get to the bout, I should mention that the arena was in a complete buzz prior to this match. For the first time in 17 years, day 9 of the Natsu basho was a sell-out, and you could really feel the energy in the arena as these two stepped up to the starting lines. Hakuho got the easy right inside from the tachi-ai, and he was exploding forward with his de-ashi unlike any other bout we've seen this basho, and Endoh--already in trouble--went for an ill-advised maki-kae with the left arm resulting in Hakuho's bulldozing him out of the ring in a second flat. Elvis officially left the dohyo as well falling down to the arena floor, and if anyone was questioning how close Endoh was getting to the upper echelons of the sport, today was your answer. Now, he's going to continue to score the upsets, and don't be surprised if he defeats Hakuho before the year is up, but today was a good example of the gap between these two rikishi. With the win, Hakuho moves to 9-0 while Endoh's quick start is erased just like that as he falls to 4-5. Still, having Endoh just fight in the last 20 minutes of the broadcast is huge, and so there's absolutely no harm in his losing to the top guys like this...as long as he stays snug with the jo'i for Nagoya as well.

Contributing the electricity in the arena prior to the previous bout was Ozeki Kisenosato vs. Komusubi Yoshikaze. The best word to describe Komusubi Yoshikaze's sumo in this one was "busy." Yoshikaze never stood still and forced the action all across the dohyo throwing jabs and connecting on just enough nodowa to keep the Ozeki on his heels. Throughout the contest, Yoshikaze also had full access to the inside left and used it from time to time to try and catch the Ozeki off guard, and at one point he had the momentum with Kisenosato up against the edge, but Yoshikaze curiously stopped driving his legs and let the action flow back towards the center of the ring. At this point, Kisenosato got his first position inside with the left albeit a feeble hand beneath Yoshikaze's armpit, but it wouldn't matter as Yoshikaze just fell over of his own volition after about 12 seconds of excitement. Yoshikaze's dive was so bad that Kaiketsu's relatives thought they heard a distinct thump as he rolled over in his casket. They panned in close to Kisenosato's face after the bout, and he really looked confused not quite sure how to react. They ruled this one yori-taoshi, but it was technically abise-taoshi since it came in the middle of the ring, and they should have called it koshi-kudake and chalked it up to Yoshikaze's exhaustion. Regardless, Kisenosato keeps pace at 8-1 while a thespian Yoshikaze ain't at 3-6.

Our final rikishi in the one-loss column coming into the day was none other than M5 Ikioi, a rikishi I've actually enjoyed watching for the most part this basho. Today was an exception, however, as Ikioi easily halted M3 Aminishiki's momentum at the tachi-ai but quickly move out left on Shneaky pulling him off balance with a hataki-komi attempt. Aminishiki barely kept his footing after the move, but Ikioi was right there to drive him out from behind in the end safely picking up kachi-koshi at 8-1 and keeping himself on the leaderboard. Half of me doesn't mind Ikioi's total abandonment of forward-moving sumo today because the only way Aminishiki (5-4) has won this basho is by cheap, evasive tactics, so it's good to see him get his comeuppance now and then.

With Hakuho and the one-loss rikishi safely through, let's now turn our attention to the two-loss rikishi heading into the day.

Yokozuna Kakuryu came with his usual half-assed tachi-ai, and so Sekiwake Tochiohzan struck him hard and then backed up pulling at the Yokozuna's head with the left-hand and his shoulder with the right hand. The result was the Yokozuna defeated in less than two seconds giving the crowd a bit of compensation as they exited the arena following Hakuho's mammoth defeat of Endoh the bout previous. With the loss, Kakuryu falls to 6-3 and out of the yusho picture altogether, but I am not going to criticize his sumo this basho. As I stated a few days ago, I think he's in full o-kaeshi mode after being crowned Yokozuna and these mediocre tachi-ai are there in order to give his opponents with game openings. I didn't even mind his henka of Takarafuji yesterday. If you're coming into the day 0-7, I think a Yokozuna has every right to add insult to injury with a henka. I mean, it's not like he's running from anything. Regardless, Tochiohzan pulls himself even with Kakuryu at 6-3, and now you can go and say, "see...the Japanese rikishi is on par with the Yokozuna."

M5 Shohozan gave Yokozuna Harumafuji all he could handle in a wild affair that saw Shohozan connect on a few tsuppari that had Harumafuji on the brink, but neither rikishi could really establish themselves, and so neither was able to set up or capitalize on a kill shot. Around and around the ring the two went with the crowd in a frenzy, but in the end, Shohozan found himself in moro-zashi while Harumafuji had the stifling left outer grip. Normally, moro-zashi trumps an outer grip, but it was the Yokozuna who was positioned better with his grip while Shohozan just found himself in moro-zashi by accident. Accident or not, Harumafuji didn't want to fiddle around any longer and stepped out left dragging Shohozan over to the edge where he finally put him away with a force out even offering a love tap at the end on both shoulders indicating that Shohozan had fought the good fight. Harumafuji stays alive at 7-2 while Shohozan has nothing to be ashamed of at 5-4.

The final two-loss rikishi I'll cover squared up against each other in M13 Kitataiki who charged with his head at the tachi-ai getting the lower stance in a migi-yotsu belt fight with up-and-comer M17 Sadanoumi, but Kitataiki couldn't quite grab the left outer grip as the two dug into the clay. Sadanoumi wanted the left outer to set up his favored soto-gake move, but when he didn't get it straightway, he gambled on a left maki-kae that seemed to fail miserably, but just as Kitataiki looked to score the quick yori-kiri win, Sadanoumi executed an utchari at the edge swinging Kitataiki over and causing his left foot to touch down first outside of the dohyo. This was an incredible win for Sadanoumi, and it was so unbelievable they had to call a mono-ii just to make sure the ref got the call right. He did as Sadanoumi sails to 7-2 and is the clear favorite in my opinion to win the Ginosho while Kitataiki is knocked off of the board at 6-3.

As for M15 Sokokurai (6-3), he was thoroughly manhandled by M14 Tokitenku (4-5) from the tachi-ai in a yori-kiri bout that needs no splainin' when you watch it on YouTube.

In other bouts of interest, Ozeki Kotoshogiku secured the left frontal belt grip against M3 Kyokutenho and followed that up with the right inside position, so the de-ashi and gaburi belly shoves were a given from there. At 5-4 and all three Yokozuna and Kisenosato coming up, expect more lame tachi-ai from Kakuryu and Harumafuji if necessary. Kyokutenho falls to 0-9 and can't be paired with Takarafuji soon enough.

Sekiwake Goeido actually looked good at the tachi-ai standing M4 Toyonoshima straight up, but his feet were aligned (again) and so he didn't have the power to drive Toyonoshima back. He did have the deep right inside position, however, and raised Toyonoshima's left arm upright forcing Toyonoshima to try and back out of the move. As Goeido looked to advance further, Toyonoshima (4-5) just belly flopped to the dohyo, and I'm not sure if it was because he was fishing for the tawara with his feet and mis-judged his location, or if he was just going to give Goeido the win. Regardless, Goeido moves to 5-4 and did exhibit a good tachi-ai.

Komusubi Chiyootori jumped the gun against M1 Aoiyama on the first go-around, and I think it was in his head for round two because he just didn't have the same pop. Aoiyama did with his bruising tsuppari and churning de-ashi, and Chiyootori could barely even attempt an evade-and-pull he was driven out that quckly. Aoiyama (4-5) has definitely had his moments this basho while Chiyootori has looked completely lost falling to 2-7.

M1 Takekaze knew that M2 Chiyotairyu would be half-assed at the tachi-ai, and so he went Chiyotairyu on Chiyotairyu slamming into him hard at the tachi-ai and lifting him upright by the teets as he drove his legs perfectly freight-training Chiyotairyu back and out in less then two seconds. The best part of it was Takekaze walking back to his side of the dohyo strutting like a bad ass and dusting off his palms as if he does this kind of sumo every day. As if. Still, dude has seen Chiyotairyu's horrible tachi-ai this basho and knew exactly how to exploit it. This may have been my favorite bout of the day (next to Sadanoumi's act against Kitataiki), and I am/was a huge Chiyotairyu fan. Takekaze moves to 5-4 with the win while Chiyotairyu (2-7) is yet another Kokonoe-beya rikishi taking it in the teeth this basho.

M6 Tamawashi and M2 Takarafuji engaged in an interesting bout with Tamawashi not wanting to give Takarafuji a sniff at the belt and Takarafuji not making any effort to get there. The result was Tamawashi throwing jabs Takarafuji's way and connecting on a few of them as he made sure to keep on the move. After about fifteen seconds of Takarafuji absorbing these jabs, Tamawashi (4-5) pounced into the right outer grip and easily forced Takarafuji (0-9) out from there.

Kane surely popped an extra root beer float last night as M7 Homasho stood toe to toe with the much larger M11 Toyohibiki and took thrust after thrust swiping them away just enough to where Homasho got his left arm deep enough to the inside allowing him to bulldoze the tiring Toyohibiki down and at out the edge. Both rikishi end the day at 5-4.

M8 Myogiryu struck and moved left looking to catch M8 Takayasu off guard, but Myogiryu hurried his pushout charge allowing Takayasu to mawari-komu to his right, and while Myogiryu (4-5) gave chase, he never really did connect on a good shove attempt, so Takayasu's pull got him in the end as Takayasu tiptoed the tawara. Takayasu one-ups his foe at 5-4.

M9 Terunofuji used a wookie-like kote-nage shortly after the tachi-ai that nearly ripped M9 Okinoumi's right arm out of its socket. Somehow Terunofuji stays around at 4-5 while Okinoumi is circling the drain at 3-6.

M10 Osunaarashi used a right kachi-age tachi-ai again versus M12 Jokoryu, and today he actually shoved it hard into Jokoryu's neck standing Jokoryu upright and giving the Ejyptian the left inside position and right outer grip to boot. Osunaarashi wasted no time going for the outer belt throw, but it was sloppily executed, and he ended up largely whiffing on the move. Luckily Jokoryu was spun around 90 degrees or so, and so Osunaarashi was able to rush in and finish off his yori-kiri bidness, but Osunaarashi definitely has a lot to clean up. Namely, he's too upright at the tachi-ai, and so he doesn't quite get the power out of that kachi-age that he could. Second, he's got to establish his footwork properly before he goes for the belt throw. It all worked out today due to the sheer difference in power between the two rikishi, but this unpolished sumo won't work higher up the ranks. Both rikishi end the day at 5-4.

M13 Masuoyama was content to endure a tsuppari-ai against M11 Chiyomaru, but that's not Spalding's game, and so after a brief flurry from the tachi-ai that sent Chiyomaru back a step, Chiyomaru dug in causing Masunoyama to go for a pull that would lead to a momentum change in the bout. The pull didn't really connect, but it allowed Chiyomaru to force the bout to hidari-yotsu where he also enjoyed the right outer grip, and as Masunoyama now looked to dig in, Chiyomaru shifted right and dumped his foe with a dashi-nage throw. You gotta feel for Masunoyama (2-7) because I've caught trout that gasped less in my net than this guy does walking down the hana-michi, but you can't rewrite the rules for him. Chiyomaru slowly gets back into kachi-koshi contention finishing the day at 4-5.

And finally, let's end with M15 Kyokushuho who forced the migi-yotsu contest with a sharp tachi-ai against M16 Arawashi (5-4), and with Kyokushuho pressing the issue, he got the left outer grip first, and that proved the difference as he ends the day a nifty 6-3.

As I flipped on the TV this morning, the channel was already on NHK, and it happened to be right at the sports segment of the late night news broadcast, and the main announcer dude said, "Today's sumo was so interesting!" I quickly changed the channel not knowing the results and waited for a big upset that never came as I watched the recording (you can imagine what I was thiking prior to the Hakuho - Endoh bout), but it emphasized the fact that what I find interesting in sumo (a solid yusho race and solid sumo) may not necessarily be what the Japanese fans are looking for (upsets over foreign rikishi and feel-good moments). The reason I even bring this up is because I see absolutely zero potential in a legitimate yusho race, but that's not what sumo seems to be about right now.

Kane helps clear up the confusion tomorrow.

Day 7 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
For those of you that missed the day 6 broadcast, NHK brought Kotooshu into the booth to provide color commentary on the day. It was broadcast gold as I like to say because they relived the former Ozeki's career with plenty of highlights, and it was great to see Kotooshu when he first entered sumo and just how talented he was. The last few years made us all forget what a truly brilliant rikishi he was, and I don't know that we've ever seen a rikishi with better technical skills than Kotooshu (the "gi" part of shin-gi-tai). Kotooshu also had a great body (tai), but his weakness was his shin (mental strength). Had he enjoyed the mental toughness of a Hakuho or Asashoryu, he perhaps could have become the greatest rikishi of all time.

Following on the strength of Kotooshu on Friday, NHK brought out Takamisakari today and sat in him the mukou-joumen chair to provide analysis, and so you can see the Association really marketing hard when they know their audience is the largest. Unfortunately, there hasn't been much atop the dohyo to market, and in my opinion, you can only keep the fans interested so long in the absence of great sumo. Endoh is still marketable since he's young and can't tie his hair into the formal top-knot called oi-cho, but like Kisenosato and Goeido, you can only sustain him so long before he needs to start posting real results in the ring.

On that note, let's quickly review the day's bouts starting with the one and only Gangstuh-no-sato visiting from Juryo and taking on M14 Tokitenku. Unfortunately, the excitement ended there as Wakanosato was lazy with his left hand trying to get it to the inside at the tachi-ai, and he ended up granting Tokitenku moro-zashi and could never recover. Gangstuh falls to 5-2 with the loss while Tokitenku needed the win moving to 3-4.

M17 Sadanoumi got the left inside and quick right outer against M14 Gagamaru, and instead of going straight up chest to chest, he wisely moved right to the outer grip side and dashi'ed Gagamaru over to the edge and off balance before bodying him out. I'm liking Sadanoumi more and more each day I see him, and he's 5-2 if ya need him. Gagamaru falls to 3-4.

M13 Masunoyama got the quick hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, but it was anything but secure against M16 Arawashi. Furthermore, Masunoyama hurried his charge allowing Arawashi (4-3) to move right and counter with a nifty kote-nage aided by a left kake-nage that sent Masunoyama (1-6) over and down yet again. Masunoyama is simply over-thinking things and trying to do things he's not built to do. He needs to recall the type of sumo that earned him a spot in this division in the first place and get back to it.

M12 Takanoiwa and M12 Jokoryu traded shoves at the tachi-ai trying to set up the inside, and Takanoiwa got there first with the right inside, and when Jokoryu responded with a pull attempt, the shift in momentum gave Takanoiwa the solid left outer grip, and once he retooled his right grip to the front of the belt, the yori-kiri was decisive. Solid sumo from Takanoiwa as he moves to 2-5 while Jokoryu is 4-3.

M11 Chiyomaru hasn't looked anything like the guy we saw in his first two go-arounds in the division. His tsuppari today against M15 Sokokurai were ineffective allowing Sokokurai to get moro-zashi, and even Sokokurai couldn't blow a position like that. When you get worked by Sokokurai (5-2), you're in a huge slump as seen by Chiyomaru's 2-5 start.

M15 Kyokushuho and M10 Tochinowaka hooked up in hidari-yotsu, but Kyokushuho went for a dumb pull, so Tochinowaka used his left frontal grip to set up the the easy force-out win leaving both fellas 4-3.

M10 Osunaarashi used a right kachi-age again at the initial charge, but I thought the move was effective today against M13 Kitataiki as it set up the left inside. With the two in hidari-yotsu, Osunaarashi persisted in attacking with the right kote-nage grip, but you really need to be slightly positioned to the side of your opponent for the move to work.  Osunaarashi on the other hand was attempting the move chest to chest, and as a result, Kitataiki held on over and over and stayed burrowed in, so when Osunaarashi got the right outer towards the end, it was one fold of the belt meaning it was virtually useless. On his final uwate attempt, Kitataiki countered with the left scoop throw and won the bout after Osunaarashi did all the work. Kitataiki is still on fire at 6-1 while Osunaarashi (4-3) has got to clean up those fundamental mistakes (like a chest to chest kote-nage throw).

As M11 Toyohibiki and M8 Takayasu entered the dohyo, Yoshida Announcer said, "this is the first bouts today were both rikishi are Japanese." Actually, Takayasu is half Filipino, but since his father is Japanese, that technically makes him Japanese in their eyes. While we're on the subject, only 6 bouts on the day were fought between rikishi who were full-blooded Japanese. Furthermore, the rule is in place that a stable can only house one foreigner, so for every foreign rikishi on the banzuke, there has to be at least 12 Japanese rikishi. If that ratio held true in the Makuuchi, you'd only expect maybe four bouts a day to contain a foreign rikishi. That the Makuuchi division is dominated by the foreigners where about 70% of all bouts fought includes at least one foreigner just re-emphasized the point I was trying to make two days ago following Mainoumi's comments that the majority of Japanese non-sekitori are receiving financial support from back home. Simply put, the Japanese rikishi have become soft while the foreign rikishi still have that hunger to succeed, and you can totally see it in the sumo atop the dohyo.

After all that build up, the actual match between Toyohibiki and Takayasu was short-lived as Toyohibiki got the left inside and smothered Takayasu (4-3) back and across in seconds moving to 5-2 in the process.

The long arm of the law tsuppari from M6 Tamawashi was too much for M7 Tokushoryu to handle as The Mawashi pushed his gal up against the tawara and then finished Tokushoryu off with the sweet moro-teet dashi leaving both dudes 2-5.

M6 Kaisei and M9 Okinoumi began in hidari-yotsu, and Kaisei attempted and failed at a maki-kae with right arm just after the tachi-ai allowing Okinoumi the momentum to score the easy force out as these two yayhoos end the day 3-4.

M9 Terunofuji pinched inwards at M5 Ikioi's left inside attempt at the tachi-ai, so Ikioi panicked and went for a shoulder slapdown with the same left hand instead. Terunofuji ain't that dumb, however, and took advantage of the momentum shift to force Ikioi to the brink. Somehow Ikioi held on with counter right kote-nage throws, and he incredibly turned the tables in his favor and worked Terunofuji across the dohyo and out barely throwing his foe down before he crashed to the dirt himself. Ikioi was playing with serious fire in this one, but he survives to the tune of a 6-1 record. Such sumo will not succeed as he sees better competition in week 2. Terunofuji is a frustrated 3-4.

M5 Shohozan and M8 Myogiryu engaged in a wild tsuppari affair, but the guy fighting higher on the banzuke of late was the dominant factor, and once he connected with a left nodowa, he used his de-ashi to crush Myogiryu back and out for the forceful win. Shohozan has definitely had his moments this basho as he moves to 5-2 while Myogiryu falls to 3-4.

M4 Toyonoshima and M7 Homasho clashed in a straight-up hidari-yotsu affair, but once Toyonoshima secured the right outer, it proved the difference as he easily forced Homasho (3-4) back and out from there. Toyonoshima improves to 4-3.

Wow, get your houses in order quick because we had a straight-up oshi-ai between M3 Aminishiki and M1 Takekaze. The shorter Kaze enjoyed the lower stance by default enabling him to muscle Aminishiki back and out in fairly short order limping to 3-4 in the process. Aminishiki (4-3) has lost three in a row now so that will learn him to fight straight up in the future.

We saw another hidari-yotsu contest between Komusubi Yoshikaze and M2 Takarafuji, and when Yoshikaze got the right outer first, the straight-forward yori-kiri followed as Cafe posts a solid week one effort at 3-4 considering his schedule. Takarafuji is still winless.

Sekiwake Goeido connected with sweet right nodowa against Sekiwake Tochiohzan, but he had no de-ashi behind it. Once he realized he had gained the upper hand, he started a forward charge, but he ended up waltzing into moro-zashi because of a lack of footwork from the beginning. From that point, it was all Tochiohzan who dictated the pace forcing Goeido over and out for the easy yori-kiri win in the end. Both Sekiwake are even now at 4-3.

M1 Aoiyama used towering tsuppari to blow Ozeki Kotoshogiku back from the starting lines and drive him backwards and out of the dohyo with nary a peep. Keeping the Ozeki from the inside was key, and Kotoshogeeku just doesn't have the speed anymore to mawari-komu his way outta trouble when someone like Aoiyama blasts him from the start. Aoiyama makes the second Ozeki look silly as he improves to 3-4 while Kotoshogiku falls to 4-3.

M2 Chiyotairyu showed initiative with tsuppari up high, but he really wasn't busting his way forward by aiming at Ozeki Kisenosato's torso, and so the Ozeki easily evaded causing Chiyotairyu to slip and then clumsily allow his left foot to drift across the tawara in an entirely uneventful bout...featuring two Japanese rikishi of course. Chiyotairyu flat out stinks at 1-6 while Kisenosato is about as unimpressive of a 6-1 as I've ever seen. Not even NHK is hyping him yet...for good reason.

Do-I-Have-To-Still-Call-Him-Yokozuna Kakuryu used a lame tachi-ai taking a half step forward but really not attempting any offensive, and on the other side, Komusubi Chiyootori's tachi-ai was probably even worse, but Kakuryu graciously backed up and didn't really pull and didn't really slap opting to just stand there and let Chiyootori stumble his way into the oshi-dashi win. This was so bland that Kane pointed out to me earlier in the day that not a single zabuton was thrown afterwards. I noticed just how quiet the arena was after the bout, which doesn't happen after a Yokozuna is beat. Thing is...it didn't feel as if a Yokozuna had just gotten beat.

What's happening here is that Kakuryu is giving back (they call it o-kaeshi in Japan) for his having obtained the Yokozuna rank. Do you really think that his two losses against Endoh and Chiyootori are just a coincidence? Dude is picking his spots and willingly losing to young, Japanese rikishi as a way to give back to the sport that just crowned him their most prestigious rank. At 5-2, Kakuryu is on a peace mission at the Natsu basho. At 2-5, Chiyootori technically picked up a kin-boshi for his efforts, but I've been around sumo for over two decades now, and that wasn't a kin-boshi.

Yokozuna Harumafuji stopped M4 Endoh in his tracks at the tachi-ai with a good moro-te tachi-ai, and once denied from the inside, Endoh agreed to trade tsuppari with the Yokozuna. That's not his game, however, and Harumafuji was able to shove Endoh down with a left jab to his right side picking up the tsuki-otoshi win nearly as soon as the bout had begun. Endoh cannot align himself to his opponent's brand of sumo if he expects to succeed in this division. He still looked green after this one as he falls to 4-3 while Harumafuji scoots to 5-2.

And finally, Yokozuna Hakuho got the right inside position straightway from the tachi-ai, but then again he was facing M3 Kyokutenho. Hakuho let Kyokutenho stay around for a bit taking about 6 seconds to force him back and across, but this was akin to a Mini Cooper trying to run a tank offa the road. Hakuho quietly moves to 7-0 but he's not exactly going out there and opening up a can of whoopass on his opponents. And by that I mean he could if he wanted to, but he's choosing to just go through the motions for whatever reason. Kyokutenho joins Takarafuji in the winless category at 0-7.

Starting tomorrow, we will begin focusing on the leaderboard...which doesn't look promising.

Day 6 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Six days ago on Sunday two things happened that I consider relevant to this report. First of all, the basho started, and second, Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori came oh so close to passing the ultimate test in tennis, i.e. defeating Rafael Nadal on clay, and doing it in Madrid, in a Masters tournament final to boot (just to get an idea how unbelievably tough that is, Nadal’s record on clay is 310-23, which means he’s been winning a little above 93% (!) of those matches). Nishikori was leading 6-2 4-2 and dominating Nadal when an injury in his back flared up and he couldn’t win another game - Nadal himself admitted he was lucky to win. The point I’m trying to make is that there’s no problem with Japanese sportsmen succeeding, provided they put in the work and have the proper guidance – except that Nishikori, despite representing Japan, lives and trains in the USA and is fluent in English. Maybe that’s the problem right there, but whether it has to do with mentality and motivation is beyond my ken.

Moving on to sumo, the 6th day ended in familiar fashion, with Hakuho the only undefeated rikishi left and Kakuryu, Kisenosato, Ikioi and Kitataiki one win behind at 5-1. What that means in terms of the yusho is that it is statistically very likely that another Mongol will win it. As for Endo or any other Japanese hope, those guys should at least hire a sports psychologist and shake off the beta dust if they want to succeed in this particular individual sport.

On to the action, then. Last and certainly least, Sokokurai employed a classless henka in winning against Juryo visitor Kagamioh, which he duly did by hataki-komi. The Inner Mongolian stands at 4-2 with the dubious win.

Gagamaru was defeated straight up by the much lighter Arawashi (there’s a difference of about 80kg between them, I think), who used his quick hands and lower stance to deny the Georgian any sort of mawashi grip. Both guys are 3-3.

If I gave you only the kimari-te in the Sadanoumi – Tokitenku bout, soto-gake, you’d be rightfully tempted to assume Tokitenku won, but today it was a bit different. The two locked into hidari-yotsu from the start, with Sadanoumi the first to take offensive action, pushing Tenku towards the edge. Tokitenku was not to be undone, so he deployed the counter-throw, but in the process Sadanoumi managed to hook his left leg from behind and fell him to the ground at the last moment to improve to 4-2 in his Makuuchi debut basho. Tokitenku falls to 2-4.

In another duel of two Mongols, Kyokushuho used his superior height and arm length to dominate Takanoiwa at the mawashi, duly winning by yori-kiri after denying his shorter foe any convenient belt grip. Kyokushuho improves to 4-2, whereas Takanoiwa is in danger of falling to Juryo at 1-5.

Kitataiki did hit at the tachi-ai, but it didn’t seem like he had offense on his mind at all. Luckily for him, he retreated faster than Jokoryu could follow and ended up winning by hataki-komi in not the prettiest of bouts. Jokoryu cools down to 4-2, while Mike’s ex-mancrush improves to 5-1.

Toyohibiki’s big man tsuppari proved largely ineffective against bigger man Masunoyama, so their bout was quickly forced into yotsu, a position which should favor the latter. However, Spalding failed to get the uwate and Toyohibiki didn’t, and so Toyohibiki came out on top in the end, improving to 4-2. Masunoyama falls to 1-5 with the loss.

Osunaarashi went into thug mode from the tachi-ai, but a couple of seconds in, when it became clear his slaps were not going to be enough, he adjusted his stance to a lower one and latched on to the mawashi, gaining a deep left uwate. Tochinowaka was clearly at a disadvantage, but somehow stayed in it and even managed to break his opponent’s mawashi grip for the shortest of times. The Arab regained it, though, and forced Lee to the edge where he eventually spun him around and pushed him out from behind for the 4th win. Tochinowaka drops to 3-3.

Chiyomaru was rolled around a bit by Homasho, who used his great leg strength and superior mobility to dominate his younger opponent, eventually winning by yori-kiri. Maru falls to 2-4 and is finally getting a taste of what being a Maegashira is like. Homasho improves to 3-3, but is in for more trouble as his opponents can only get better from here on.

Mongol Terunofuji used skill as well as strength in defeating the more experienced Kaisei. Terunofuji grabbed the left outside immediately after the tachi-ai and kept Kaisei at bay throughout. When the opening presented itself, the sophomore forced his way into moro-zashi and wasted little time finishing the job with an underarm throw, evening both men’s scores to 3-3. While we’re on the subject of Terunofuji, some have speculated he might be the next in line for golden Mongol glory, but I am compelled to manifest my skepticism. The guy has the tools, he’s big, he’s strong, he’s got technique, but for some reason I’m still not 100% convinced. I’ve been wrong before, and there is even a notorious example.

Okinoumi was all offense right from the start, but having Tamawashi as his opponent must’ve had some contribution to that behavior. Tamawashi could hardly cope with Okinoumi’s pushing attack and he was thoroughly beaten the moment Okinoumi forced his way into yotsu. Okinoumi improves to 2-4, Tamawashi remains with one sole win.

Takayasu and Shohozan provided a little extra excitement when they decided to start the bout early, i.e. before the usual sequence of salt throws was completed. The situation is called jikan-mae in Japanese and it means, literally, ahead of time. It is also very rarely seen, and even less now that Kitazakura retired. In any case, Shohozan was the more determined rikishi, his relentless thrusting attack ultimately proving too much for Takayasu, who did get one opening at some point, when Cheetos missed on one of his thrusts and went off balance, dangerously close to the edge. Shohozan improves to 4-2 with the oshi-dashi win, the same score Takayasu has.

Ikioi was a bit too eager to play the pulling and he paid the price for it, allowing Myogiryu to gain a very deep moro-zashi, but Yogi could not capitalize, as his forward charge was derailed by a superb kote-nage, which flipped him over and on to his sorry arse. Ikioi surges to 5-1 with the 5-strong winning streak. Myogiryu slumps to 3-3.

One bout which, in my not so humble opinion, has no place after the break at the middle of the Makuuchi bouts, is Takarafuji vs. Tokushoryu. Takarafuji seemed to gain the upper hand, getting the left uwate vs. his opponent’s right shitate, but then a nearly eternal stalemate followed. When Takarafuji finally decided to go for it, Tokushoryu was quick on his feet and pushed his hapless foe down by tsuki-otoshi. Takarafuji is still out looking for a win, while Tokushoryu already has two of them.

Aoiyama seemed to charge a little early against Chiyotairyu, but nobody with any authority said anything so we’ll just assume it was legit. Still, Chiyotairyu was clearly caught off guard and immediately pushed all the way to the edge. The dragon awakened and put up quite some resistance on the tawara, but overextended himself in the process, falling prey to the inevitable pull-down. Both guys are in a bit over their heads at 2-4 and 1-5 respectively.

Chiyootori, who at the moment is the youngest wrestler in Makuuchi, is continuing his learning process, getting schooled today by Yoshikaze, who carefully avoided getting too close, but did so decisively when the time was right, getting a critical left arm on the inside and ending the whole messy affair by yori-kiri. 1-5 with a win over Kotoshogiku is pretty good for Chiyootori, and Yoshikaze is downright overachieving at 2-4 from the Komusubi rank.

Goeido was exposed yet again for the pretender he is, when Takekaze kept just the right amount of pressure of him from the tachi-ai. Goeido immediately went into pull mode, Takekaze pounced and drove forward, Goeido tried to resist, Takekaze yanked him down. Goeido (4-2) is safely out of Ozeki talk, while Takekaze improves to 2-4.

Kisenosato didn’t panic when Tochiohzan so eagerly went for the moro-zashi Kisenosato so often relinquishes and did a solid job of keeping his foe honest and in front of him. Kisenosato did take a long time, but got the job done in the end, using a single left arm on the inside to control hostilities and finishing with oshi-dashi. At 5-1, Kisenosato is still in contention, at least on paper. Oh snaps to 3-3.

Kotoshogiku was at his offensive best in his own schooling of Endo, leaving the not so young Japanese hope no room to breathe as soon as they went at it. Endo didn’t go down too easily, though, as he managed to get his grubby hands on Giku’s mawashi. The Ozeki shook him off easily, though, by digging in low and doing that thing with the belly he does so well. Fast forward to the edge, Endo almost got Giku with the desperation tsuki-otoshi, but the Geek was just too stable to fall right away and grabbed his foe’s left leg from the outside, pushed him down and fell on top of him for good measure. Both men are in good standing at 4-2, but look for those numbers to worsen soon, as the Mongol tide is just around the corner.

Speaking of Mongols, Harumafuji blew his bout with Toyonoshima in the most awkwardly hilarious way. Ex-Ama was all legs from the start, pushing so hard and so fast that Toyonoshima was at the edge faster than the Yokozuna could follow. Harumafuji rushed it and overcompensated, stepped forward a little too much and Toyonoshima’s resistance at the edge took him right off balance and had him reeling backwards, unable to recover again. The Tugboat stays afloat with the lucky win (3-3), while Harumafuji slips out of contention at 4-2.

Aminishiki tried a bit of funny business when he shifted ever so slightly to the left at the initial charge, trying to keep Hakuho upright and away from the belt with some pushes to the side. When that didn’t quite work, Sneaky tried to get the left uwate, but Hakuho neutralized it and grabbed the right inside himself. From there on, yori-kiri was a matter of mere seconds. Despite looking somewhat out of sorts, Hak was never in any trouble and his 6-0 record is proof. Aminishiki cools off to 4-2.

Finally, Kakuryu took a little time in dispatching Ex-Mongol Kyokutenho and looked hesitant doing it. The two exchanged left outside grips and the new Yokozuna was the first to make a move, going for a maki-kae. Tenho didn’t allow it, but in neutralizing it he lost precious momentum, and Kakuryu quickly had him on the back foot, sweeping said foot from under him in what looked like a half-soto-gake-half-kiri-kaeshi, but was ultimately called the former. At 5-1, the Kak is still in contention, at least on paper, but I can easily see him losing 2-3 more, because, crow pie be damned, a Yokozuna he is not.

That’s it for now, I’ll be seeing you again at some point in the second week, most likely on day 14. As we’re understaffed again and nobody’s slated to do tomorrow, you’d better get ready for more of Mike. Vamos!

Day 5 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
As we conclude the joubansen, or first five days of the basho, it's hard to pinpoint any one rikishi and say "Now that guy is dialed in this tournament." There were five rikishi standing undefeated heading into the day in Hakuho, Aminishiki, Takayasu, Kitataiki, and Jokoryu, but those latter three are not going to impact the basho because they're simply ranked too low (Takayasu is the highest-ranked at M8), and Aminishiki has achieved his record through nothing but crap sumo. Hakuho has normally been invincible when in sole possession of the lead, but we saw how that changed on a dime in Osaka. Then you have Endoh who finished the day (spoiler alert) at 4-1, but how can you get excited about someone who had his ass handed to him by Shohozan? It just seems like there's been a lot of fluff this basho and too few bouts of o-zumo. In my case, I am only anticipating the yusho race just to see how the script plays out, not because I'm looking forward to any head to head clashes down the stretch.

With that in mind, let's kick things off with M15 Kyokushuho who attempted a tsuppari attack against J2 Sotairyu, but after two seconds of ineffectiveness, he went for a stupid pull that Sotairyu pounced on sending Kyokushuho (3-2) back and out of the ring so fast I was half expecting the tsuki-dashi kimari-te.

M14 Gagamaru secured the left inside and right kote-nage grip against M15 Sokokurai, and there was simply no chance at that point for Sokokurai to run and hide. The yori-kiri was swift and decisive as Gagamaru inches forward to 3-2. Sokokurai shares the same mark.

M17 Sadanoumi grabbed the left frontal grip accompanied by a right outer against M13 Masunoyama at the tachi-ai, and with Spalding's ability to attack neutralized, Sadanoumi moved in for the kill planting his right leg to the back of Masunoyama's left stump tripping him over for another soto-gake win. Speed won out here as the rookie improves to 3-2 while Kane's prime Photoshop model is in grave danger at 1-4.

Getting back to my intro, the reason why you can't get excited about M12 Jokoryu is because he was completely outclassed by M16 Arawashi (yes, I typed "Arawashi"!). The two began in the hidari-yotsu position, but Jokoryu hurried his charge allowing Arawashi to plant his feet and counter with the right kote-nage throw that easily felled Jokoryu (4-1) down to the sand. Arawashi limps to 2-3, but he looked like an Ozeki today.

M12 Takanoiwa looked to get inside while M14 Tokitenku was intent on the pull, and so this was largely a cat and mouse bout with Takanoiwa giving chase and Tokitenku on the run. Takanoiwa barely managed to shove Tokitenku (2-3) across the straw before being pulled down to the dirt, and a mono-ii probably should have been called here, but I think the judges were thinking, "what if it was a tie and we have to watch these two fight again?" Gunbai to Takanoiwa (1-4).

Our next undefeated coming into the day was M13 Kitataiki who looked to get inside as he is wont to do, but M11 Toyohibiki fended him off well with his tsuppari attack and slow legs a churnin', and the end result was a pretty straight-forward oshi-dashi win by Toyohibiki (3-2). Kitataiki suffers his first loss of the tournament falling to 4-1.

At this point in the broadcast, the NHK cameras focused on former Ozeki Kotooshu, who was working security detail in one of the hana-michi. Mainoumi who provided color today commented that he was talking to Kotooshu about why he entered sumo, and the Bulgarian's response was that a big reason he joined sumo was because he wanted to be able to help support his family back home. He also went on to say that Kotooshu was shocked to learn that the majority of the younger rikishi in sumo--the non-sekitori--are actually receiving support from home. In other words, their parents or relatives are sending the younger rikishi money in order to help them get by as they work their way up the ranks.

I think I've been trying to sum up the last decade what Mainoumi explained so so easily in about twenty seconds of air time. If you really want to know why the foreign rikishi are kicking ass against the Japanese rikishi, you can trace it directly to this mentality of the foreigners coming here to earn money to help support themselves and hopefully their families back home. I don't know exactly at what point it became common for non-sekitori rikishi from Japan to receive an allowance from their parents, but it was that moment in time that forever changed the paradigm of sumo wrestling in Japan to the extent that Japan will never regain its dominance in sumo...ever...as long as foreigners are allowed to participate. I mean, just take note of which countries the foreigners are coming from. I guess the most polite way to put it is that they hail from countries where no one is really clamoring to build a retirement home. It really is all about socioeconomics and a chance for the kids from the poorer neighborhoods to show their worth. Anyway, great stuff from Mainoumi, and it's comments like this that make watching the Japanese broadcast so valuable.

M10 Osunaarashi finally showed us some thug sumo today countering M11 Chiyomaru's more balanced oshi-attack with errant swipes and brute force. Never letting Maru get settled, Osunaarashi finally slipped into moro-zashi setting up the yori-kiri win. Osunaarashi's brute strength was the difference as he moves to 3-2 while Chiyomaru is spinning his wheels at 2-3.

Up next was another undefeated rikishi in M8 Takayasu, but he found himself on the wrong end of a tachi-ai henka executed by M10 Tochinowaka who lamely moved to his right, grabbed the cheap right outer, and forced Takayasu out in seconds. I don't know that anything bugs me worse than an undefeated guy or someone with a legitimate shot at the yusho getting henka'd. Tochinowaka (3-2) gets added to the shitlist with the cheap move while Takayasu falls to 4-1.

M7 Tokushoryu and M9 Terunofuji hooked up in hidari-yotsu with Tokushoryu gaining the right outer while Terunofuji tried to shake him off with a series of left scoop throws. This is was actually a pretty entertaining chess match, but Tokushoryu never let go of that grip and finally threw Terunofuji out of the ring in the end. As the two stood near the edge in a nage-no-uchi-ai stance, Terunofuji's left grip on Tokushoryu's mawashi was just too shallow, and so the classic dual throw never materialized. Regardless, Tokushoryu looked good in this one picking up his first win at 1-4 while Terunofuji continues to struggle in the division at 2-3.

M9 Okinoumi and M7 Homasho connected in the hidari-yotsu position from the tachi-ai, and Okinoumi was content to just let Homasho burrow in deep, so that's what Homie did driving Okinoumi (1-4) back with little resistance. Kane can celebrate with a bag of kettle corn as Homasho ekes his way to 2-3.

M8 Myogiryu got moro-zashi from the tachi-ai against M6 Kaisei and wasted no time forcing the Brasilian back, and when Kasei dug in near the edge halting the momentum, Myogiryu switched gears on a dime and dumped Kaisei over with a left scoop throw. Fantastic sumo from Myogiryu as both parties end the day 3-2.

Endoh killer, M5 Shohozan engaged in a tsuppari-ai with M6 Tamawashi (1-4), and it came down to Shohozan's connecting with more effective shoves into Tamawashi's chest. Dude even earned the tsuki-dashi kimari-te for his effort as he improves to 3-2.

M4 Endoh used an effective nodowa against M4 Toyonoshima at the tachi-ai getting him upright, and as Toyonoshima tried to press back forward and lower, Endoh complied with the quick pull down win. This one was set up completely with a good tachi-ai and good offense, so there's no shame in this hiki-waza from Endoh who moves to 4-1. Toyonoshima falls to 2-3 with the loss.

M5 Ikioi gained the easy right inside grip against M3 Kyokutenho, and he smartly just drove straight forward hard never letting Kyokutenho veer one way or the other. I've enjoyed Ikioi's sumo thus far as he moves to 4-1. As for Kyokutenho, he drops to 0-5, but don't talk retirement just yet. At M3 he's still considered a jo'i rikishi, so what that proves is that Kyokutenho no longer belongs this high on the banzuke, but just watch...he's got a few more kachi-koshi in him from the lower half of the charts.

In the sanyaku ranks, Sekiwake Tochiohzan grabbed the early left outer and kept moving left in dashi-nage style never letting Komusubi Chiyootori get settled. Pulling down at Otori's dome with the right hand, Tochiohzan dictated the pace throughout felling the Komusubi in the end with that initial uwate-dashi-nage grip. Chest to chest, I think it's fiddy-fiddy between those two, and Tochiohzan (3-2) knew it, so he stayed with the cat and mouse sumo winning on experience. Chiyootori falls to 1-4, and I was hoping for a better start from the youngster.

M1 Aoiyama extended his arms in the tsuppari pose, but he had no de-ashi, so Sekiwake Goeido slipped left and pulled him down swiping at Aoiyama's extended arms. On one hand, I'd like to see Goeido (4-1) win with forward moving sumo, but on the other hand, I see him working and simply taking what was given. Aoiyama falls to a paltry 1-4.

The last thing Komusubi Yoshikaze wanted against Ozeki Kotoshogiku was a belt contest, so he attempted feisty tsuppari from the tachi-ai where he stayed on the move with the Geeku just trying to catch him. The Ozeki finally got him a few seconds in snagging Cafe with a right kote-nage grip, and he dumped him in short order from there for the nice win. Kotoshogiku breathes a bit easier at 3-2 while Yoshikaze has been decaffeinated for the most part at 1-4.

M3 Aminishiki decided not to use any trickery against Kisenosato, and so the Ozeki was able to keep him in front and push him out in four uneventful seconds. Both rikishi end the day at 4-1, but neither has impressed at all with their sumo.

It is not right that Hakuho is being forced to fight in the third to last bout of the day, but oh well. M2 Takarafuji actually came in with a plan today keeping his arms in tight refusing the Yokozuna's inside advances, so the two sort of created some separation, and it was Takarafuji getting the quick left inside and mounting a surprise yori-kiri charge that actually would have defeated the Yokozuna if the ring were half of it's normal size.  But it's not, and so a somewhat surprised Hakuho quickly countered with the left inside of his own and slapped Takarafuji (0-5) down by the right shoulder squelching the upset bid nearly as quickly as it began. Hakuho waltzes to 5-0, but I think he's doing what he's done for about the last year, which is fighting so that he leaves himself just a bit open in case a rikishi with game is able to take advantage and score the upset.

Well, well, well, Yokozuna Kakuryu finally went forward in a bout this basho using methodic tsuppari against M1 Takekaze before slapping him down near the edge as Takekaze looked to dig in. Sure, Kakuryu picked up yet another pull win today, but this was considered forward-moving sumo. Funny how he refrained from even taking one step forward until he was beaten by Endoh. As for the winning technique seen at left, the Sumo Association had to chose something from their official list, but I think they devoted a whole chapter on that position in the Kama Sutra.  Anyway, at 4-1, Kakuryu will likely be content to just be a role player this basho whil Takekaze falls to 1-4.

And finally, M2 Chiyotairyu used that retarded open palm tsuppari stance again from the tachi-ai against Yokozuna Harumafuji, but the problem is he doesn't actually shove his hands forward, so there he stood like a giant target with sweet sideburns, and Harumafuji complied in short order using de-ashi and well-oiled shoves to push Chiyotairyu back across the straw and off the entire clay mound without argument. I don't know what's going on in Chiyotairyu's thick skull, but this dude is just wasting his potential as he falls to 1-4. Harumafuji cruises to 4-1 with the easy win.

Martin makes his Natsu debut tomorrow, so get out your thinking caps.

Day 4 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I've been wondering since the start of the basho how the Sumo Association would be able to compensate for three Mongolian Yokozuna on the banzuke and the prospect of a Japanese rikishi taking the yusho as slim as Jared Leto in Dallas Buyer's Club. Despite this curiosity, ticket sales appear to be brisk; the venue sold out completely on day 1 for the first time in over a decade; and the supposed Endoh phenomenon put eight grand in the seats for a free keiko session open to the public. I wonder if the Association is willing to sacrifice the banzuke and the yusho for the short term in exchange for small moral victories the likes of which we saw today. Before we go there, however, let's start from the bottom as usual and work our way up the charts.

M17 Sadanoumi picked up his second win of the tourney in a migi-yotsu contest against J1 Daido, and with the rookie pressing first, Sadanoumi was able to get his right leg behind Daido's left stump and trip him up soto-gake style before Daido could really pull the trigger on his own counter left kote-nage.

M15 Kyokushuho used a quick right inner and superb de-ashi to just freight train M15 Sokokurai back and out in perfect linear fashion. Sokokurai lazily drifted left looking for the cheap outer grip, but Kyokushuho was onto him so fast it resulted in the ass-kicking. Both rikishi end the day at 3-1.

After a cautious tsuppari-ai between M13 Masunoyama and M14 Gagamaru led to a stalemate, the two hooked up in gappuri migi-yotsu. Gagamaru was just too huge to move, and to make matters worse, Masunoyama's outer was just on one fold of the mawashi, so as Masunoyama tried to evade, Gagamaru (2-2) held on for the ride and ended up mounting his opponent near the straw as Masunoyama (1-3) tripped himself over leading to the yori-taoshi win.

M13 Kitataiki secured hidari-yotsu and the right outer grip against M16 Arawashi and simply schooled him with the straight up yori-kiri win. Arawashi attempted a feeble counter throw with the inside left, but this is a man's game as Kitataiki sails to 4-0. Arawashi is 1-3 for his troubles.

M11 Toyohibiki employed a right nodowa but hurried his attack against M14 Tokitenku, but he just didn't quite have the de-ashi to finish the deal, so Tokitenku evaded left (mawari-komu) and just managed to pull the Hutt down before he could connect on that lethal thrust. Both gentlemen end the day at 2-2.

M9 Terunofuji and M12 Takanoiwa were involved in a bout of o-zumo that lasted more than three minutes. Basically, Terunofuji used his bulk to just stand firm in the dohyo daring Takanoiwa to figure out a way to beat him. He couldn't and just collapsed in the end due to exhaustion giving Terunofuji the oshi-taoshi win because they had to come up with something to call it. Terunofuji is even steven at 2-2 while Takanoiwa's troubles continue at 0-4. Takanoiwa just doesn't have any pop to his sumo right now. Terunofuji literally stood around like a bump on a log today and still won.

M9 Okinoumi looked to put a stop to M12 Jokoryu's hot start in their hidari-yotsu contest where Okinoumi gained a step at the tachi-ai. Problem was Okinoumi was content to dig in while Jokoryu feigned reaching for the right outer, but after a few seconds, he sprung the trap spinning left and completely catching Okinoumi off guard with a left dashi-nage from the inside. Sheesh, when you're schooled by Jokoryu (4-0), it's time to rethink a few things as Okinoumi falls to 1-3.

M11 Chiyomaru greeted M8 Myogiryu with a moro-te tachi-ai, and as Myogiryu pressed forward anyway with no real grip anywhere, Maru backed up to his right and spilled Myogiryu to the dohyo largely using his own momentum against him. Once Maru got Myogiryu upright, his de-ashi were gone and feet aligned, and it's easy peasy Japanesey from there as both combatants finish 2-2.

Takayasu obviously took notes sitting ringside during the Jokoryu bout because he employed the exact same tactic to fell M10 Osunaarashi. From the hidari-yotsu position, Takayasu fished for right outer grip, fished again for the right outer grip and then suddenly sprung the left inner throw trap that worked to perfection sending Takayasu to a 4-0 start while Osunaarashi falls to 2-2. The Ejyptian has so much potential, but once again, he came with this lame right kachi-age at the tachi-ai. That does nothing but let your opponent get to the inside. Osunaarashi needs to read Kane's day 3 and realize the thug within and start acting like it. Finesse sumo = losing sumo for this guy.

M7 Homasho got the deep left inside position and put his right hand into M10 Tochinowaka teet, but he just didn't have the strength to finish Bruised Lee off , and so Tochinowaka (2-2) turned the tables at the edge and showed Homasho to his table. At 1-3, Homasho just doesn't have any life in him.

M5 Shohozan's mind was willing but the tsuppari were too weak and with M6 Kaisei bearing forward with sweet de-ashi, Shohozan was vulnerable at the edge with his feet aligned, so Kaisei reached across the threshold and pulled him down with ease. This was a complete drubbing as Kaisei moves to 3-1 while Shohozan has cooled off fast at 2-2.

M7 Tokushoryu moved left at the tachi-ai but not quick enough as M5 Ikioi (3-1) grabbed him in migi-yotsu and politely escorted his gal outta the ring in about two seconds. Tokushoryu's 0-4 and is starting to get desperate.

One of the more poorly fought bouts of the day featured M6 Tamawashi against M4 Toyonoshima. After a weak tachi-ai from both, the two found themselves in the grappling position and there they largely stood doing nothing. After a minute and a half, Tamawashi looked to tsuki-otoshi his opponent at the edge, but he stepped out isami-ashi style with the right foot before pulling Toyonoshima (2-2) down. This looked like a clear Tamawashi (1-3) victory, but he got lazy with his feet, and it cost him the win.

Now for the most anticipated bout of the day. M1 Takekaze displayed great de-ashi from the start against M2 Takarafuji and pushed him out with ease with his left hand at Takarafuji's right teet. Over so quickly darn it as Takekaze picks up his first winna the contest while Takarafuji is still sporting a bagel.

Entering the sanyaku, Sekiwake Goeido stayed low disallowing Komusubi Chiyootori anything and quickly grabbed the left frontal grip that was actually an outer meaning the Komusubi's right armed was rendered useless. On the other side, Goeido persisted and got the right frontal as well, and once secured it was curtains as Goeido scores a very good force-out win moving him to 3-1. Chiyootori has disappointed a bit at 1-3. It's okay for Komusubi to actually start off with a bad record, but Chiyootori just hasn't shown well in his bouts.

Sekiwake Tochiohzan scored the early left inner from the tachi-ai against Komusubi Yoshikaze, and then Cafe just gifted him the right inner as well , so from the moro-zashi position, Tochiohzan immediately executed the force-out charge that was so dominant that Yoshikaze's attempted spin out of the move only resulted in a 180 that rendered the kimari-te, or winning technique, okuri-dashi. Tochiohzan moves to 2-2 with the win while Yoshikaze is struggling a bit as well at the Komusubi rank checking in at 1-3.

Has the Ozeki rank ever looked so pathetic in the history of sumo? I think the reason they haven't been hyping Goeido for Ozeki of late is because the Sekiwake rank actually has more credibility. Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku would actually be in more elite company if they got demoted from their present ranks. Today against M1 Aoiyama (1-3), Kisenosato was blown off of the starting lines and pushed back in mere seconds unable to offer a bitta resistance. I realize that Kisenosato is still 3-1, but an Ozeki doesn't get worked like that at the hands of a gimpy M1

As for Kotoshogiku, he hurried his charge that allowing M3 Aminishiki to mawari-komu (retreat and evade around the perimeter of the ring) and dump the Ozeki down with both hands pulling in a bear hug at the Geeku's left arm. I'm still trying to figure out how Aminishiki is 4-0 with that crap sumo of his while Kotoshogiku can ill-afford these early losses with this brutal week two schedule around the bend.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Kakuryu stepped into the ring with M4 Endoh, and the way Kakuryu has been fighting so far, it was obvious he was vulnerable. To review, the Yokozuna's 3-0 start has been decorated with nothing but pull techniques. The Kak has yet to advance past the starting lines at the tachi-ai, and offered pull attempts to his first three opponents, so why would today be any different?

Using a half-assed right kachi-age at the tachi-ai (notice I how didn't use charge), Kakuryu once again backed up of his own volition, and Endoh, who adjusts so well on the dohyo anyway, pounced into moro-zashi, and as the Yokozuna tried to turn and evade, Endoh stayed square and drove Kakuryu across the dohyo and out barely surviving a right tsuki-otoshi attempt from the Yokozuna at the edge that might have caused Endoh's right knee to touch down first. The ref couldn't point his gunbai in Endoh's direction fast enough, however, and of course there would be no mono-ii, so just like that, Endoh has the first kin-boshi of his career and is second only to Musoyama in terms of quickest to nab that first win over a Yokozuna.

I honestly can't remember so far back to when the Japanese media actually had a bigger stiffie than they do now over such a non-event. Kakuryu has been telegraphing his style from day 1, Endoh knew what was coming, and the rest was just a spot on a match. Funny how I'm not reading any mention in the news reports about Kakuryu's marathon keiko sessions with Endoh prior to the Haru basho where the Kak dominated him something like 60-3 over three days of keiko where some of those wins in the keiko ring had to have been Kakuryu just being nice. That no one questions the oddity surrounding this whole scenario is comical to me, but this is simply a morsel to alleviate the fact that the Japanese rikishi are being dominated by the foreigners. As the dust settled, both Kakuryu and Endoh end the day at 3-1.

I guess we're obligated to finish off the day, so let's move to Yokozuna Harumafuji who employed a right nodowa against M3 Kyokutenho that set up the easy left inside, and it was academic from there as Harumafuji (3-1) scored the easy force-out win. Kyokutenho has been as useless as tits on a boar this basho as he falls to 0-4.

And finally, M2 Chiyotairyu once again failed to fire a single tsuppari at the tachi-ai opting to just bump chests with Yokozuna and take his medicine. Unwise move as the Yokozuna secured the right inside and left outer as the fat lady sang. Hakuho moves to 4-0 and is in sole possession of the lead...which means absolutely nothing after that Haru basho. The yusho race is inconsequential at this point. The next milestones of the basho in this order are: Endoh's bid for kachi-koshi, Endoh's quest for double-digit wins, Endoh's being in the hunt for a special prize, and speculation as to whether or not Endoh will be ranked in the sanyaku for Nagoya. We may never get as far as that last category, but the yusho will just become this secondary occurrence compared to Endoh's achievements atop the dohyo.

Back again tomorrow to talk about what else...Endoh!

Day 3 Comments (Kane Roberts reporting)
As the guy with the sticks and drums strolled down the hip streets of Tokyo slapping out a singularly Japanese rhythm to herald the coming Natsu Basho Sumo festivities (the pre-basho drum thing is called fure daiko) one nagging question hung in the air…what's with this Kakuryu guy? There's another Yokozuna? He's what-olian? OK three questions were hanging in the air.

Earlier in the week I'd stumbled upon a morning Japanese sports/news broadcast and NHK color commentator Mainoumi (standing in front of a wall sized projection of the current 3 Yokozunas) talked extensively about the dominance of the Mongolians. He added that some of the younger Japanese sumo hopefuls are starting to practice with Mongolian wrestlers to try and figger out why, how and WTF. That must've rolled a few guys over in their ohaka (grave).

As an unabashed gaijin who snuck into the sumo world behind Asashoryu, I'm less concerned with Kakuryu's nationality as I am with his sawdust personality. His mono-toned interviews (fluent Japanese by the way) make Hakuho's Cat Clock, left to right eye movements seem exciting. Kak's slack jawed mug looks like he found a Frosted Flakes sized box of botox at Costco.

Oh and Harumafuji's no better (he now strikes me as bored if he's not slapping someone).

These three dudes may rule the wasteland in Sumo but if they were TOP TIER SPORTS FIGURES in any other sport they'd be franchise killers…if only Dennis Rodman would take up the sport.

But then I noticed my feet were up on the coffee table, I had a frothy root beer float in one hand and my other hand was cradling an Omaha Steak hot dog in a steamed bun, a dark-haired girl I barely knew was sound asleep on my recliner and sumo was just coming on my flat screen and I thought, "WTF do I care…it just doesn't get much better than this!"

Well maybe another Hot Dog would improve things but let's get 'er done on this Day 3 of the Natsu Basho 2014 - Tokyo Japan!!!!

Normally I wouldn't have commented on this first bout but it gave me an opportunity to once again credit Sir Clancy (we miss ya brutha) with naming J1 Azamaryu - Wazzmaddayou. M16 Arawashi walked into Wazzamaddayou's lightning fast hidari-yotsu grip and was immediately turned around and cart-wheeled over uwate-nage style. A nifty and solid bit of action by Aza (3-0) while (1-2) Arawashi was left wondering wazzamaddame?

The spirited young uber orb M13 Masunoyama has been fighting balls to the wall to stick around his current Makuuchi circle of friends. Staying inside the kachi-koshi bubble has been a struggle of late as early basho losses have ballooned over the last 3 tournaments.

But he's a tough kid that rarely draws from the Takekaze book of desperate sumo tactics and at the gun he fearlessly charged straight at M15 Kyokushuho, driving his opponent back towards the rope.

But…at the straw Shuho jammed on the brakes, locked his left arm under Sir OrbsALot's right armpit and rolled him over like a Georgia Peach (no not THAT kind of Georgia Peach…OK I'll change the analogy) like a beach ball and flipped him onto his twin orbs at the dohyo's edge for a sweet sukui-nage. Masu faces another slow start as he falls to 1-2 while Kyokushuho bounces to a cool 2-1 record.

At the gate, the semi-tough M12 Jokoryu and the wily M14 Tokitenku greeted each other with equal force between the tapes. Always the crafty fellow, Tenku turned sideways and tried to lock his leg under the Jokester for what may very well have been a weak kake-nage throw…But the J Man (while amazed that Tokitenku didn't try and henka his butt) grabbed the back of Mr T's belt and showed no pity on the poor fool as he drove his opponent across the line. Toki who is seeing Juryo in his headlights skids to 1-2 while Jokoryu yori-kiris his way to a spiffy 3-0.

Super Mensch M11 Toyohibiki has been throwing down some serious attitude of late. The intensity of his sumo, which is always straight the f… up, has been on a vertical curve because of the added octane fuel he's been running on. Conversely, M9 Okinoumi's sumo has been…well nonchalant. In the face of all that's happening above, below and everywhere around him he's been kinda sliding around and down for a while as if content to reside in Middle Earth.

After a solid tachi-ai by both men, Toyo got the bounce on Oki and started his best Dejima imitation 18 wheeler push towards victory. What happened next was a footwork display that would have made the dancing hippos in Fantasia blush! Okinoumi tip toed and pliéd his way along the ropes while Toyo (who really DOES look a bit hippo-like) hit the dirt first. Okinoumi glissades his way to 1-2 with a lovely tsuki-otoshi win while Toyohibiki (2-1) pounds clay.

Now if there's one guy out there that loves being out there it's Half Hollywood Headshot / Half Thug M10 Osunaarashi. When they face off he gives his opponent the smug snarl then he throws an Elvis (sorry Endoh) lip curl at the audience as he lumbers toward the salt. Dude just can't contain himself when he enters the arena. He's all "Listen up bitches…da man is here and he be all up in it!"

Now M8 Myogiryu is all business and now that he's healthy he's got a lot more experience and skills in play than the Egyptian upstart. When the two men met at center clay Myo got the jump off the tachi-ai and more often than not that will cause the opposing rikishi to step back. At the snap Myogiryu was almost all the way into Osu's territory with two hands on his opponent's chest before Headshot could react.

Myogiryu was shoving all over the rookie and yes, Headshot DID retreat but he (like Okinoumi) tripped the light fantastic along the rope and stayed afloat until Myo hit the floor first! They called it kote-nage but I think it was more like a myogi-nage meaning Myogiryu won this and lost it all on his own. Osu limos his way down Sunset Boulevard at 2-1 while the better rikishi, Myogiryu (2-1) drops one all by himself.

Superstah M4 Endoh stepped onto the dohyo to a joyful cheer from the mostly 20 something hip crowd filled with stunning models, pimps, bento boxes and mostly really old people. It was all old people.

When he and the dapper (newly revitalized) Mongolian M6 Tamawashi slammed heads Elvis threw a vigorous leg churning tsuppari attack while Washi sorta flailed away looking for a different kinda match. When Endoh connected square on Tamawashi's chest it was a done deal bro…Endoh bear hugged his foe and shoved him into the dead zone.

Elvis, a few basho away from finding his stride, says "Stick a fork in it Chief" for a cool yori-kiri 2-1 tally while Tamawashi gets stuck at 1-2.

What can be said about the ubiquitous and abundantly gauzed M3 Aminishiki. The Shneaky One has been there and done it for a while now and he can still get his thumb in the eyes of men who's "mighty" shadows have been legitimately as well as artificially sized up and projected. His unabashed henka he threw at Tochiohzan was a resounding F U to all that mattered…and then the ass kicking he gave Goeido are contrasting reminders of this tough guy's ability to pony the F… up when he wants to.

The resoundingly gifted Baruto complained of a gimp leg and dropped out of the dohyo battlefield almost immediately (as most would) but Aminishiki has been fighting for years with a consistently injured leg and when he squared off with M5 Shohozan, BOTH legs were bandaged to the hilt!

At the bell Aminishiki quickly slapped Sho's left arm up and then brought his own arm down hard on the back of the younger rikishi's head. A quick and ugly hataki-komi for the 3-0 Shneakster and a bad loss for Shohozan who ought not sleep during his matches.

A brief feature on Komusubi Yoshikaze and his sanyaku debut started off the NHK broadcast and he spoke of a supportive text message he received from a local, loyal fan (on the super cool LINE App - check it out!).

The message stated that he and his friends were excited just to see Y'Kaze and they didn't come just to see him win. Good thing because Monster Drink had his feet perfectly aligned (Mike says "I gotta tell him No, No, No!") allowing Sekiwake (2-1) Goeido to steam roll Yoshi (1-2) onto his rump.

Komusubi Chiyootori was never impressed nor was he ever in danger of losing to Ozeki Kotoshogiku. Time and again the uber veteran Geeku tried to man handle Chiyo and although he'd slide him to the ropes he lacked finishing power. Each time Taikai's pupil staved him off by turning his body and keeping his feet akimbo.

After the two men danced back and forth a few times Chiyootori wisely grabbed the belt and worked the dissolving Ozeki hard sending him to bed with no dinner. This was a highlight match for me, not so much because of the action but because (as Mike has stated) Chiyootori belongs with the upper ranks and wins like these will get him the necessary confidence.

Chiyo who shows early signs of finding his true stride gets his first win at 1-2 while Ozeki Geeku (now 2-1) drops another match that indicates an opposite trend.

M1 (really?) Takekaze stumbled to the dirt while trying to get out of Yokozuna Harumafuji's tsuppari attack. 0-3 for Tak, 2-1 for Haru.

At the gun, Yokozuna Hakuho met M1 Aoiyama with his right shoulder and credit Blue Mountain for cutting off Hak's first attempt to gain his deadly migi-yotsu by with his left arm. The Yokozuna spun the big kid around and after a quick hari-te slap to the face he dug inside grabbed the back of Aoiyama's mawashi and sent him into cheerleader section. Yori-taoshi was the verdict leaving a bloodied Bulgarian at a respectable 1-2 and Hakuho at his usual 3-0.

Amidst all the action Kaio still had time to text Yoshikaze...

As I watched this match I noticed how adeptly the Yokozuna strategizes even in the midst of the action. Once his customary right handed belt grip had been thwarted he quickly spun Aoiyama around and had his left hand immediately cocked and ready to unload. The difference between King Ho and the rest of the field is the next set of moves were already in his mind. Slap, drive inside, gain rear belt, work to edge, throw on ass (or something to that effect. Similar to Sherlock Holmes' (Robert Downey's version) ability to map out an entire battle in his brain before any action takes place.

Against new Yokozuna Kakuryu, M2 Chiyotairyu stumbled to the dirt after a brief tachi-ai. After the tsuki-otoshi victory, Kakuryu did NOT pump his fists and kiss the ring girl nor did he moon walk back to his corner.

All in all Day 3 of our first Kotooshu-less basho was a smashing good time…Myogiryu is firing on all pistons, Endoh is getting his sea legs, Osunaarashi shows promise to shake up the dohyo, Chiyootori got an Ozeki scalp, Homasho won (1-2), Hakuho kicked butt and J3 "Gangstah" Wakanosato is on the plus side with a 2-1 record.

So let's get ready for a wild week as we join the Tokyo audience of hip youngsters, sexy celebrities and super hot babes at this the Natsu…it's all old people.

So maybe this basho won't be legendary…but who's to say really? I mean duuuuude…it's sumo! Let's get in the fighting spirit…all it takes is a little effort and you can make anything your own! Kind of like Snoop last Easter…

Oh and so you don't think I've lost the spirit…

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
After a tepid start to the basho, day 2 really didn't offer anything in the way of steam. In fact, a couple of the Japanese hopes would go down today creating an even bigger hole for them to dig out of if they hope to impact the basho. With a lack of excitement atop the dohyo, NHK made up for it (or didn't) by focusing on the yobi-dashi during the day 2 broadcast. At least they showed the yobi-dashi in their roles as playing the drums both the day before the basho starts as they visit each stable and then at the end of each day when one gets to go Rapunzel and play the taiko at the top of the tower in front of the venue.

Before I get too carried away, let's turn our attention to the bouts that started off with M17 Sadanoumi looking to make it two in a row today against M16 Arawashi. The rookie led with an early left frontal and right inside, but he focused on the outside, so while he did have the right inner, it was too light. Arawashi on the other hand had the deep right with a belt grip to boot and he easily countered at the edge with a nice scoop throw to leave both rikishi at 1-1.  Arawashi looked so good today in fact he got his picture in the funnies.

M15 Kyokushuho used a low tachi-ai and deep left inner as he methodically backed M 14 Gagamaru up a few steps and then pounced on the force-out charge. Gagamaru has been sleep walking so far as he falls to 0-2 while Kyokushuho picks up his first win.

M14 Tokitenku managed two shallow inside grips against M13 Kitataiki, but Taiki pinched inwards hard on both of Tenku's arms completely neutralizing the Mongolian's moro-zashi, and before Tokitenku could think of Plan B, Kitataiki had him swung out of the ring via kime-dashi. Kitataiki's 2-0 if ya need him while Tokitenku falls to 1-1.

M13 Masunoyama secured the left inside position firmly planted up into Takanoiwa's right pit from the tachi-ai , and the force-out took 1.5 seconds from there. Masunoyama never stopped moving his feet while Takanoiwa struck and then dug in, so once his feet were aligned, it was curtains...just like his 0-2 start. Masunoyama gets off the shneid at 1-1.

M12 Jokoryu employed a slight henka to his left that threw M1 Chiyomaru off just a hair never letting him get established to connect with a thrust. With Jokoryu dodging throughout, it ended up in migi-yotsu where Jokoryu dodged a final time at the edge and dashi'ed Maru out with the left outer grip at the back of Chiyomaru's belt. Jokoryu will take that 2-0 start, but the henka to set it up was lame. Chiyomaru agrees at 1-1.

M10 Osunaarashi fooled around with a light kachi-age that left his feet aligned with no forward momentum while M11 Toyohibiki worked his thrust game early catching the Ejyptian with a left hand under his right pit, and he exploded from there scoring the tsuki-dashi win in mere seconds and improving to 2-0. Osunaarashi falls to 1-1 and has got to stop tinkering with finesse sumo. Just use your strength and go out there and kick some ass.

M9 Okinoumi failed to establish anything at the tachi-ai opting to just lean forward with his arms in tight, so M10 Tochinowaka made the first adjustment bringing his left arm from the underside up top where he slapped Okinoumi (0-2) down via kata-sukashi picking up his first win in the process. Like Osunaarashi, Okinoumi has got to make better use of his large frame.

M8 Myogiryu got the right outer from the start going for dashi-nage while M9 Terunofuji countered with the left inside. With Myogiryu standing to the side of Terunofuji maintaining that ominous right outer grip, neither rikishi was in a position to attack, and so the stalemate carried on for about two minutes where Myogiryu just wore his opponent out in the end scoring the eventual force-out. Myogiryu breathes easier at 2-0 while Terunofuji is still an o'fer.

M8 Takayasu and M7 Tokushoryu hooked up in hidari-yotsu, and with neither guy wanting to make an early move, Takayasu said 'enough of this funny bidness' and pulled the trigger on a left belt throw that sent Tokushoryu down with little resistance. Takayasu will take that 2-0 start while Tokushoryu is like that kid I saw at my son's high school the other day wearing a band shirt that said 'Clarinet Ninja' (he's yet to score).

M6 Kaisei applied way too much pressure as M7 Homasho looked to evade, so with Kaisei bearing down hard, Homasho simply lost his footing enabling the easy hataki-komi for Kaisei (2-0). Homa Sho Ain't Sweet thus far at 0-2.

M6 Tamawashi shaded left at the tachi-ai, but M5 Ikioi easily kept pace in the wild tsuppari-ai where the two looked to feel each other out (as opposed to up). During the fray, Ikioi caught Tamawashi with a right hand at the back of his armpit near the edge and sent The Mawashi down so hard he garnered the tsuki-otoshi winning technique. Both rikishi stand at 1-1.

M5 Shohozan looked to spoil M4 Endoh's party, and can you blame him after their bout back in March?  Shohozan had Elvis on the ropes again and again last basho, but somehow Endoh pulled out the win at the edge by a hair's breadth leaving Shohozan hot and bothered. And it showed today as Shohozan used a moro-te tachi-ai that was so swift and good it left Endoh flat-footed straddling the starting lines. Shohozan was definitely a man on a mission as he pulverized Endoh back and across the straw so hard he earned the tsuki-dashi technique. Why doesn't Shohozan fight with this much fire all the time? Or even say Kisenosato or Tochiohzan or Goeido or (insert any JPN rikishi here). Shohozan improves to 2-0 with the win and true sumo fans can appreciate his effort today after what transpired in Osaka. Endoh falls to 1-1.

M4 Toyonoshima had a light moro-zashi made lighter by M3 Kyokutenho's tight kime hold from the outside in, but as Tenho stepped back to set up a counter throw, his rear left wheel accidentally stepped across the yellow line giving the checkered flag to Toyonoshima for he uneventful yori-kiri win. Tugboat improves to 1-1 while Kyokutenho is still winless.

M3 Aminishiki used a wicked shoulder to the jaw of Sekiwake Goeido followed by a blistering right inside position leaving Goeido with only a kubi-nage attempt with the right arm albeit a shatty one at that. Aminishiki buckled a bit at the counter attempt, but he kept his composure and easily defeated Goeido via yori-taoshi sending the Father down to his first loss while Aminishiki does his good turn for the day at 2-0.

M2 Chiyotairyu's thrusts were feisty enough that they kept Sekiwake Tochiohzan away from the inside, but it's troubling that Chiyotairyu was still thinking retreat instead of explode forward. Sure, he did manage to get Tochiohzan off balance and tsuki-dashi him in the end, but it was set up with retreat sumo. I ain't impressed as Chiyotairyu moves to 1-1 while Oh is still winless.

Ozeki Kisenosato got a left inside that had Komusubi Chiyootori's right arm up high, and the Komusubi's only hope was to retreat outta the hold. Didn't work as the Kid showed nifty footwork to make it look easy he read Otori's every move and shoved him across the straw with relative ease. Kisenosato is a quiet 0-2 while someone has to drill it into Chiyootori's thick skull that he belongs at this level of the banzuke, so settle down and start fighting like it.

M2 Takarafuji and Ozeki Kotoshogiku settled into the hidari-yotsu position from tachi-ai, and the methodical gaburi-yori from Kotoshogiku ensued sending (yawn) the Geeku to a 2-0 start while Takarafuji is the inverse record.

Yokozuna Hakuho used right kachi-age turned to right inner turned to right outer after a left maki-kae by the busy M1 Takekaze, but this was akin to a fish trying to escape the net. Yeah, you can move around all you want, but that hook is still planted firmly in your craw. After Takekaze tried to thrust into separation, Hakuho secured the right inside position setting up the inevitable yori-kiri in the end. No need to list records here.

Yokozuna Kakuryu fished for the right inside with his feet dangerously aligned, but Komusubi Yoshikaze feeling just light pressure rushed forward only to be welcomed by the Kak moving left and hataki-komi'ing Cafe down to the dohyo floor in two seconds. Those paying attention to Kakuryu for the first time this basho are prolly thinking, 'wow, this guy really is boring.' He's a quiet 2-0 and just asking to get beat while Yoshikaze falls to 1-1.

And finally, Yokozuna Harumafuji was non-committal at the tachi-ai allowing M1 Aoiyama to move right and offer a hefty slap that sent the Yokozuna near the brink, but instead of pouncing, Aoiyama (0-2) was content to evade and pull, and the Yokozuna took advantage in the end scoring the yori-kiri that was so easy, Harumafuji gave the 196 kilo Aoiyama and extra shove (dame-oshi) causing him to land on an old guy sitting in the front row. I know you're all saying, 'What? There are old guys at the sumos?' and I'm here to tell you yes! This particular old guy was squashed by Aoiyama to the extent that he was taken to a local hospital by ambulance. The head judge on the day already deemed Harumafuji's move a dame-oshi, and now they will convene to see if a formal warning or other punishment is in order. Harumafuji picks up his first win in the process, but all that stupid dame-oshi does is give the locals more reason to loathe the furries.

I know I haven't had the most positive attitude the first two days, but if anyone can find a silver lining in things it's Kane who rocks the house tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The Natsu basho is a difficult tournament to get up for. The Association releases the banzuke early to beat the Golden Week holiday, but during the next week when everyone's off, there are barely any media reports. By the time everyone gets back to their normal schedule, it's May 6th and the really interesting keiko reports are just winding down. To make matters worse, Endoh was finally able to tie his hair into a top-knot, and the media stiffie over that meant there was little to go off of in terms of pre-basho reports. Those facts coupled with my being on the road the last few days means there's no pre-basho report this time around, but I really only had two thoughts heading into the basho.

First, with Kakuryu's promotion to Yokozuna that brings the number of Yokozuna to three, and of course they're all Mongolian. The problem is that a Yokozuna is expected to win 12 or 13 bouts per basho at a minimum, so if the three Yokozuna live up to that standard, there are no extra wins to spread around to the other rikishi. If the three Mongolian's don't consistently maintain that mark, it means that they're letting up and handing out freebies, so it's really a precarious position to be in. I'm not even going to try and predict what's going to happen, but the Sumo Association cannot maintain interest in the sport with the Mongolian triumvirate consistently winning 40 bouts per basho.

Second, the headlines the day after the general keiko session held back on April 29th said the Endoh effect put 8,000 fannies in the seats, a number not seen for something like seven years.  Add to that the fact that today was the first complete sellout the Natsu basho has seen on day 1 in 17 years.  Many of you have likely attended the sumos and seen the sellout banners lowered even with empty seats still visible.  They'll lower those banners thanking everyone for the full house when they get to something like 90% capacity, but today every seat in the arena was sold out.  I know that everyone wasn't coming to see Kakuryu, so this incessant hype of Endoh may be finally paying off.  I mean, I get the Endoh hype and why they have to do it, but there's so much more going on that is being overlooked not the least of which is the youngest guy in the division who happened to reach the sanyaku this basho...something The Endoh hasn't been able to do yet.  The Sumo Association needs to be careful because it's going to be Endoh against the likes of the three Mongolian Yokozuna, Osunaarashi, and a fellow by the name of Ichinojo, and there's simply no way that he can overcome those foreign rikishi and rise to the top of the banzuke.

Other than that, there's been very little to go off of prior to this basho, so let's dive right into the day 1 bouts starting with M17 Sadanoumi--our lone rookie--vs. M16 Chiyonokuni. Chiyonokuni came out wildly throwing tsuppari this way and that, but Sada-don't-call-me-Fuji showed great poise dodging the thrusts just enough before getting his right arm at the back part of Chiyonokuni's belt whereupon he sent Kuni flying into the second row. Mainoumi commented afterwards that this wasn't the kind of stand we normally see from a rookie on his first day. Great start for Sadanoumi while Chiyonokuni who already looked desperate broke his right heel due to his fall off of he dohyo causing him to go kyujo just like that.

Isn't it interesting after that wild start between two Japanese rikishi that we have two sound belt contests that involved four foreigners? Sokokurai never abandoned his left inside position against Arawashi picking up the nice yori-kiri and then Tokitenku and Kyokushuho put on a huge display of o-zumo including a kake-nage attempt from Tokitenku that kept both rikishi on one foot for two or three seconds. The difference in this gappuri-migi yotsu contest was Kyokushuho's outer grip with the right hand was with one fold of the mawashi while Tokitenku had several folds enabling him to score the uwate-nage in the end.

M14 Gagamaru had no footwork from the tachi-ai and just leaned into M13 Kitataiki and while Kitataiki couldn't get to the inside, when Gagamaru finally got fresh and made his move, Kitataiki just dodged to the side in the end sending Gagamaru out onto the head judge's lap using his own momentum against him.

M13 Masunoyama made a similar mistake charging with a left inside position against M12 Jokoryu that really wasn't established. The result was Jokoryu having enough room to step outside, grab the back of Masunoyama's belt, and bowl him clear offa the dohyo.

M11 Chiyomaru's gut sticks out so far, I still can't believe it didn't win the part of Bubba's lower lip in Forrest Gump. Oh well, he's having more success in sumo, and today he scored the one-second hiki-otoshi against M12 Takanoiwa by getting his foe at the tachi-ai with two hands and then quickly swiping downward. It was ugly, but he'll take it.

M11 Toyohibiki used a sweet nodowa from the tachi-ai to drive M10 Tochinowaka back to the edge where he next used a left shove into the right armpit (a move called hazu) that left T-Wok so off balance that when he tried a counter move out of desperation, Toyohibiki caught him with a forearm sending him back across the straw for good.

The M10 Osunaarashi - M9 Okinoumi bout was compelling because you have Okinoumi who was recently in the sanyaku and dancing with the jo'i rikishi the last few basho and up and coming Ejyptian. After a brief tsuppari-ai, Osunaarashi got the right arm deep to the inside and just bullied Okinoumi back and down as if he were visiting from Juryo. I can't believe Osunaarashi is still at M10, but he's already strong enough to fight in the sanyaku. Just what Japan needs...another foreign rikishi with huge upside.

I was interested to see if M9 Terunofuji could do anything against the slumping M8 Takayasu, but he really wasted his chance at the tachi-ai going for a hari-te. Having missed that opportunity as the two hooked up in hidari-yotsu, it was Takayasu who grabbed the early right grip, and there was nothing that Terunofuji could do from that point. You trade the outer grip for a lame hari-te any day of the week.

M8 Myogiryu looked as good today as he has in months against M7 Tokushoryu moving forward at the tachi-ai, gaining the left to the inside, and setting up a right outer grip so fast that Tokushoryu had no time to counter. This was wham bam thank you ma'am in favor of Myogiryu.

M7 Homasho has owned M6 Tamawashi head to head, but Tamawashi has been the one fighting among the jo'i recently, and it showed as Tamawashi employed solid footwork to stay in Homasho's grill from the get-go shoving Homie out with his long arms as he tried to evade around the ring.

M6 Kaisei latched onto M5 Ikioi's outer belt early in their migi-yotsu contest and Ikioi just couldn't do anything to counter. He attempted to wrench his way out of the grip, but Kaisei never let it go and scored the sweet yori-kiri win in about 10 seconds.

M5 Shohozan used wild tsuppari against M4 Toyonoshima and somehow managed to come away from the fray with moro-zashi. Still, with Toyonoshima threatening just a neck throw, Shohozan was not only unable to dispatch of his foe using moro-zashi, but he lost it near the edge after a half-assed charge. With the two now in the hidari-yotsu position, Shohozan still had the lower stance and a right outer grip while Toyonoshima could only stretch for an outer of his own with those stubby arms. Before he could get close, Shohozan finished him off for good in a hotly contested bout.

There was no way that M3 Kyokutenho was going to come out firing on all cylinders against M4 Endoh, and the youngster took full advantage getting the left to the inside and a right outer grip to boot, and with Kyokutenho standing largely upright and doing nothing with his left inside to counter safely keeping it in no man's land, Endoh easily wrenched him across the straw picking up 14 envelopes full of cash in the process. At least he crowd was impressed.

M3 Aminishiki henka'd to his left with Sekiwake Tochiohzan biting hook, line, and sinker. Not exactly the way to show Japan's best rikishi proper respect.

If there was one positive to the lack of media coverage prior to the basho it was that nobody really hyped Sekiwake Goeido and mentioned possible promotion to Ozeki. Today against M2 Takarafuji, Goeido got the early left inside from the tachi-ai but then promptly aligned his feet even with the shikiri-sen allowing Takarafuji to get the firm left inside grip on Goeido's belt. But no worries as Goeido stepped out right grabbing Takarafuji's left arm around from the outside before yanking him down via tottari in spectacular fashion. I question Takarafuji's will to win in this one. After Goeido aligned his feet giving Takarafuji the dominant inside position, Takarafuji just stood around like a bump on a log waiting to be thrown. A real Ozeki would have never given his foe that left arm to the inside after winning the tachi-ai. to begin with

Moving right along, M2 Chiyotairyu showed no desire to move forward at the tachi-ai keeping his palms up as if he would attempt to pull down at Ozeki Kotoshogiku's shoulders, but before he could even try that, the Ozeki was onto him like stink to bait using the right arm to the inside to shove Chiyotairyu back and out in mere seconds. Like Takarafuji, I question Chiyotairyu's effort in this one as well. That's such a dumbass tachi-ai there's no way that someone serious about winning would use it.

The strange sumo would continue as M1 Takekaze briefly flirted with moro-hazu (remember what hazu means?) against Ozeki Kisenosato who backed up and kept his foe at bay with a left arm to the side while standing straight up. Why Takekaze didn't burrow in at this point and go for a force-out defies logic, but there the Ozeki stood completely vulnerable but somehow keeping Takekaze from charging further. Without ever gaining a grip to the inside, the Ozeki somehow backed Takekaze up across most of the ring and forced him out in the end. I don't know what it is, but when two Japanese rikishi fight each other, the sumo turns out so lame more often than not.

And that brings us to the Yokozuna ranks where Kakuryu starts things off against M1 Aoiyama, who apparently attended scout camp with Aminishiki in between basho because he's sporting a bedroll himself worthy of an Eagle around that left leg of his. At the tachi-ai, Kakuryu stayed low and cautious as he looked for an opening to the inside while Aoiyama stayed low himself rebuffing the Yokozuna and creating a bit of separation. As the two looked to hook back up in the migi-yotsu position, Aoiyama's feet just gave out from under him as he collapsed to the dohyo without really any move on the part of the Yokozuna. I'm not sure what happened here, but the Yokozuna picks up an easy win.

While we're on the topic of Kakuryu, the general pulse in Japan is that nobody really knows who he is. The last two years or so, Kakuryu has just been hanging around in the Ozeki shadows averaging about 10 wins per basho, and then all of a sudden he's a Yokozuna and nobody has really heard about him. He also has a personality that equals a pile of rocks, and he's a pesky Mongolian to boot. To kick off the broadcast this morning, Fujiya Announcer and Kitanofuji were obligated to talk about the new Yokozuna, but both men couldn't have been more disinterested in the topic. In fact, Kariya's voice sounded so pained you would have thought he was announcing the death of the Emperor. I go back to my intro where sumo is going to lose a lot of viewers if the three Mongolians run away with each basho.

Next up was Yokozuna Harumafuji who went for a stupid pull with the right hand at the tachi-ai against Komusubi Yoshikaze who read the move like a dirty manga on the subway during rush hour. In a second flat, Yoshikaze had the Yokozuna pushed back out of the ring dumping him to the arena floor below. Who knows what the Yokozuna was thinking, but you go for a pull at the tachi-ai with your opponent moving forward, it ain't gonna end pretty.

Finally, Yokozuna Hakuho used a quick hari-te with the right hand while getting the left to the inside against Komusubi Chiyootori, and before the youngster could even react, Hakuho had the right outer grip and was forcing his foe towards the edge. Chiyootori looked to try and spin out of the hold, but the Yokozuna had him pinned so tight that it was a fruitless move, and the Komusubi is lucky Hakuho kind of held him up at the end after forcing him across instead of sending him three rows deep. There's no way that a youngster has a chance against the best Yokozuna in the modern era, and it showed today.

I thought it was a shaky start to the tournament where all of the significant bouts ended in mere seconds with nary a sniff of o-zumo, but something tells me that's going to be the norm for the Natsu basho.

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