I’m not sure how many yo-yo’s I’ve played since I first picked up a Midnight Special in the late 80’s. In any case, the number has been significant enough for me to feel appropriately entitled to write this article, whether or not my opinion has merit. Though most people know me as a pretty positive (and/or flakey) guy, and it may not seem like the kind of thing I’d say, there really IS such a thing as a bad yoyo. A yoyo can be “bad” in a few distinct ways. For example, it can not perform as intended or as advertised. It can be fragile, breaking into a dozen poorly-designed pieces upon its first tentative throw. It can LOOK or SEEM so hopelessly dorky that even massive dorks will, themselves, wish to eschew yoyoing so as to improve their social standing.
I have no hope of possibly encapsulating everyone’s least favorite yoyo’s in any top 5, as this kind of list could only ever be subjective. In terms of play, I bet the old Bandai/Yomega Firestorm could probably run literal circles around the first Flores models. Does that alone make them “better”? Sweet lord, child, NO IT DOES NOT. You have to consider the historical context, and in so doing recognize that by the time the hopeless Firestorm came out, there was SUCH A THING as an awesome yoyo, making its craptastic qualities shine all the brighter in relief. And keep in mind, that piece of garbage didn’t even make the list!
It’s definitely important to celebrate the good in our community. Honestly, I think we do that quite a lot. However, there’s also a place for pointing out the idiotic, absurd, and downright horrific, not necessarily to jeer (although in this case, I probably will) but to say, collectively “Good lord, how did the world allow that to happen?!” And thus, I present for your consideration my Top 5 Most Egregiously Awful Yo-Yo’s of All Time:
5. Yomega Panther: This was such a trainwreck on so many levels. I’ll grant you I’ve only played it once, at the home of Virginia yo-yoer Tony Basch, who gingerly presented it as a mad scientist might some medical oddity in a jar of formaldehyde. Anyway, that was plenty. Honestly, it’s kind of like when Gandalf ALMOST touches the Ring of Power and senses the Eye of Sauron’s presence within it. Where true evil is concerned, a touch is all you need. So Yomega wanted to make a wooden fixed axle yo-yo, which given their yeoman’s effort spent popularizing transaxles, I guess, seemed like a no-brainer (PUN!). Unfortunately, they elected to take a brick-like wooden profile, paint it black, and emblazon on an exquisitely boring graphic which looks more like a double-jointed kid’s sock puppet than an actual panther. All this would be forgivable, had Yomega not then opted to slap a pair of rubber rims over the gap’s circumference. Ostensibly, the rims were there to “protect the yo-yoer’s hands”, which is kind of funny since their addition makes the yo-yo snag unpredictably and somehow dart directly for the user’s skull (JUST LIKE A PANTHER!). Even at a time when Yomega dominated the scene and decent yo-yo’s were relatively few and far-between, there was no risk of running into any sane person who would admit to liking the Panther, which legitimizes its position on this list.
4. Duncan Yoffy: I’m sorry, Drew Tetz. I know you can do awesome stuff with it. Honestly, you could probably do awesome stuff with some bungee cord attached to my idiot beagle who, just like this yo-yo, eats cat poop. Is this even a yo-yo? I dunno. It seems like the manifestation of some marketing executive’s 2-day-old sushi-infused dream. You know how Pizza Hut is always coming up with new things to DO to pizza (the Insider™, the Edge®, the CheesyBites© – HOW BOUT YOU JUST MAKE A GOOD PIZZA)? The Yoffy is basically the yo-yo equivalent of the P’Zone©™®, and was just as gross. I really want to know how the idea was initially pitched. “Ok guys, let me ask you… what is it that kids love more than anything? RAINBOW RIBBONS, right? And we KNOW they love not being able to make a yo-yo work…” It was a marriage made in the putrescent, bile-stinking sewers of heaven. Needless to say, the Yoffy is pretty much an Imperial, but with one of Mork’s suspenders replacing the string. As such, the only hope this thing ever had for redemption was to be picked up by Drew as a novelty. I’m being merciful in placing it at #4.
3. YoYoJam Big Kahuna: YoYoJam is kind of like the Jurassic Park of the yo-yo scene – just because you have the TECHNOLOGY to wrap a yo-yo in purple lightning bolts does not mean you HAVE TO USE IT. Indeed, when running down the list of yo-yo’s which cause me to barf in my mouth a little, roughly half of the offenders are YoYoJams.
The Triple Jam. The JamBoo. The Phat Boy. Oh sure, YoYoJam knows how to make an ugly yo-yo. But unfortunately (for this list), most of their stuff plays pretty well. There have been some fragile models (original X-Con), some horribly named ones (Speed Maker?), and some abysmal players (Evo) in YYJ’s history, but nothing that represents the perfect storm of awful play and aesthetics which would land them the dubious distinction of inclusion on this list… Nothing that is, except The Big Kahuna. This model was released way back in YYJ’s early history, and they’ve certainly righted the ship since. Still, this thing was a sucktastic wrecking ball (or would be, if wrecking balls were thin and cylindrical with heavy, bladelike rims). The Kahuna had no response mechanism aside from its tapered gap, which was so narrow and unforgiving as to snag unbidden more often than not. As a result, the yo-yo would dive-bomb its user at random, bludgeoning his knuckles and palms into a pulpy, quivering mush. Add in the hot-stamped party font and the striking graphic (which may or may not represent a breaking wave), and we’ve got a winner. By which I mean loser. To their credit, YYJ discontinued this guy after just a few months, but that’s still a few months of kids beating themselves about the head and neck with a sharp, ugly yo-yo.
2. Throw Down Lucha Libre: It’s hard for me to put this on here, because at one point I was sponsored by Throw Down, but the Lucha Libre definitely finds a home on this list. It’s not every day that a yo-yo is released which is so hopelessly bad that it results in the complete obliteration of the company which made it. The Lucha Libre was intended to be a delrin version of the popular Luchador, an angular metal model which sold out in 3 different versions. The first prototype of the LL I received was way too light, but played great. It had one of the enormously thick Dif-e-Yo style axles and recessed silicone response. I was worried that the plastic bearing seat would develop problems, but other models (the Gung Fu and the Silk) had similar guts and were reasonably well-liked. Without consulting its team on the design, however, Throw Down elected to go with a cockamamie, over-complicated design, using a thinner axle, spiked hex-nuts, metal shims, and [most unfortunately] paper-thin walls around the bearing seat. The final version was never tested by the team, and I received a pair of them in the mail on the day after they released at Yoyonation.com. The first one broke within an hour of playing it, cracking in a concentric circle around the hex nut. As became clear to everyone who bought it, the Lucha Libre would fall apart under the lightest contact imaginable, either in the way I experienced or with the bearing seat itself snapping off. I heard of LL’s breaking when they hit the ground, when overtightened, when regular-tightened, when CAUGHT. How does a yo-yo break when it hits your fleshy palm?!?! Throw Down’s owner was a good guy, and he promised to refund or replace any and all broken Lucha Libre’s. Unfortunately, in the span of a few weeks, at least 90% of the run had fallen apart in this way. Financially, Throw Down was just as fragile as its yo-yo’s, and there was no way it could afford to replace an entire run of failed stock. The company folded under the weight of its impossible promise and broken reputation. A sad but cautionary tale to all manufacturers who would try to bypass adequate testing.
1. Revolution Rev-G: This is so obvious that I’m afraid it may be an anticlimax, but I guess that alone tells you something about the legendary Rev-G. Personally, I have never been more disappointed with a yo-yo than this one, and that includes the Lucha Libre, which ended my first yo-yo sponsorship. I first tried a Rev-G in my local shopping mall around Y2K. Most yo-yo’s were still pretty cheap back then, and its $80 price point put it right up there with the Cold Fusion and SB-2 in terms of “luxury” expectations. And honestly, I’ll admit that my late-90’s ridiculously-wide-jeans, bleached-hair self thought the Rev-G looked pretty flippin’ sweet. For one, it had a carbon fiber body. CARBON FIBER. Like in Formula One cars and the bones of those Avatar aliens! And yet again, it not only had rubber o-rings stretched around the rims, but also came with a protective, adjustable, silicone finger sleeve which further cushioned your squishy hands from that evil bully, yo-yo string. It was like Yo-Tape that you could use again and again… or would have been, if ANYONE had EVER wanted to use the Rev-G more than once. Sadly, this is the kind of product you get when otherwise intelligent people get together to design something they know nothing about. Revolution was a kite company. Know what would happen if I tried designing a kite? Me either, but it would probably involve some kids in a park with subdural hematoma and a whole lotta lawsuits.
There were a couple things wrong with the Rev-G to put it in this echelon of suck. Most notably, it just didn’t work. Like the aforementioned Kahuna, it had a super-thin gap and a huge diameter, making it uncomfortable to hold and difficult to catch. It was “rim-weighted”, sure, but the whole structure was way too light and unstable. Like some horrible belligerent drunkard, it would wobble and convulse and constantly try to pick a fight. And despite its “aerospace” billing and luxury accoutrements, it was easily outplayed by far less expensive yo-yo’s. Most people will buy an expensive yo-yo, and after doing so will attempt to defend it from criticism, even if it stinks. No one wants to feel like a big dummy for being duped into dropping $80 for a carbon fiber paperweight (which is only heavy enough to hold down like 8 papers). Incredibly though, I have NEVER spoken to anyone who has played or owned a Rev-G who had anything good to say about the way it played. (Granted, it’s hard to talk to most of the people who bought one, since they have changed their name and left the country, their reputation in shambles). Over the years, the Rev-G’s legend has only grown, as like a mighty Spartan warrior, it has fought and clambered its way over the corpses of the most atrocious yo-yo’s to sit, unchallenged, atop the throne of ultimate lameness…
And there you have it! Hopefully, I didn’t tick anyone off too bad. I’m actually a big believer in having fun with any yo-yo. Still, I can’t imagine that even in a vast internet world populated by flame-spewers who will say anything for attention, no one will cop to really liking any one of these. And I have to assume that most of the people responsible for their design either inadvertently blew themselves up in a makeshift lab somewhere or else are incarcerated. If nothing else, each of these yo-yo’s certainly represents a “crime against humanity”. Got a problem with my picks? Have a better awful yo-yo in mind? Let me hear it in the comments. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go heat up this P’Zone.