Monday, December 15, 2008
yo-yo #'s 12 and 13: throw down luchadors
totally familiar, and yet so very alien.
maybe i should have written that in reverse-order. i don't know.
i have always loved this yo-yo, and yet it's always been kind of... edgy (and yes, i meant the hell out of that pun). the luchador was the first yo-yo that i had any kind of input on regarding design. around 2006, i was a frequent visitor to the extremespin message board (which back then boasted a pretty good yo-yo store to go with the forum). that forum has always been pretty small and familial; not unlike visiting extended family on thanksgiving. you still get the drama you see everywhere else, and you sometimes get tired of the same old people saying the same old stuff... however, a consistent level of respect is maintained, at least between the regular contributors. the fact that the forum continues to exist a year after the store folded is telling... though i'm not sure of what, exactly.
anyway, one day in the early fall, i got a pm from jubei (whom i would later learn went by the name of nate weddle in "real life"). in the previous year, nate had put together a little start-up yo-yo company to sell an idea for press-in/snap-fit freehand zero weight rings. i remember having been excited about their release, but apprehensive about anyone actually buying them. as it happens, they were pretty well liked, and other companies released similar upgrades thereafter. well, now nate wanted to make a yo-yo.
there have always been metal yo-yo's. i remember seeing a die-cast bandalore from the 1904 st. louis world's fair. however, in 2006, the market had not been inundated by the inexorable swell of metals that we have today. by this time, yoyofactory had 1 (one) metal yo-yo on the market in the 401k. (by comparison, they have at least 5 different models in multiple colorways, available on the yoyonation right now, and at least one more dropping next week). this was before clyw, before one-drop, and when the idea of an absolute beginner buying an unresponsive all-metal yo-yo was an anomaly. so when nate pm'd me about wanting to send me a metal yo-yo to try out (for nothin'!), i was shocked, gratified, and also maybe a little concerned for his ability to pull it off.
although i knew nothing of his mode of operation, he must have had this thing "spec'd out" for awhile, because he had protos made and one in my hands by christmas. when i first opened it, i remember being downright alarmed. the yo-yo was more angular than any i had seen. it looked like a cylindrical "batarang". it was badass, but would anyone buy it in a million years? the proto had a slight wobble, but that was due to a shoddily cut axle. i traded it for one of my dif's and it plaed brilliantly (like a bare bones that means to disembowel you). nate had cleverly branded his company "throw down yo-yo's" (a reference to his martial arts and submission fighting experience), and the luchador just oozed meanness. having had years of tae kwon do, aikido, and traditional japanese sword arts training, i felt like i fit well into his "angle". i liked the silly idea of "tough yo-yo's for tough people", and this first offering fit brilliantly.
nate and i both took some pictures to get a sense for what people thought. though it was mainly positive, we got some vibes from steve buffel, the owner of spyy yo-yo's, who felt that throw down was trying to rip off his design for the hub-spikes on his popuar "radian mk-2" model. nate and i discussed it, and the spikes were changed. nate incorporated of one of my ideas, and from that moment i really appreciated his willingness to listen to his product testers. after a little back and forth on the boards, steve and i reconciled, and became friends at worlds 07. he is a super-cool guy, and his yo-yo's speak for themselves. steve brown was also pretty vocal about hating the design. he felt it "wobbled like it had the dt's", was too sharp to snap start well, and was just generally uncomfortable. to each their own. it IS kind of uncomfortable to catch on a snaggy bind, and don't get me wrong, it COULD kill you... but i kind of like a yo-yo that i have to pay attention to; that i won't always take for granted. i ended up trading the original prototype back to nate, and then i sold the second proto to a collector. although i bought one of the raw ones when they came out, i still really regret that.
after another proto run, the luchador launched in early 2007. nate chose a blue/gray combo for the production run that i never really dug all that much. but it suited the design and incited still more "batman" remarks. the engravings looked great, as did the packaging. the only issue with it from a design perspective was the axle. the luchador launched right up against the 888's, the peak, and the milk, as well as other yo-yo's that had a refined bearing seat, thin axles, and silicone response. by contrast, with its dif-e-yo styled axle set-up, the luchador was a little behind the curve. however, it played as well as any of those yo-yo's, and people liked it a lot.
in addition to the freebie nate sent me, i eventually bought one of the second run. i alwas hear people mixing up (or wildly inventing) which run was which. it's pretty easy. the first run had small lettering, darker ano, and no mask on the blue side. the second run had slightly lighter ano, bigger lettering, and a mask on both sides. that's it. the second run looks a little cleaner to me, and i almost never play it on account of the fact that my original still rocks the party.
my 1st run luchador is definitely in my top 5 yo-yo's. although there's always been something about the luchador that didn't quite speak to me, it's a solid yo-yo. i've probably spent more time with this thing in my pocket than any other bearing yo-yo (btw, if you have a luchador in your pocket, DO NOT fall down. it's worse than big keys). i've taken it everywhere. i'm not sure if it's the aluminum or the ano, but i've been able to "spark" my first run several times while walking the dog on pavement. since that's one of the most-requested tricks from kids everwhere, my luchador is pretty heavily scarred, and i like it that way. the sharp angles kind of make it look like it SHOULD be scarred. it took me a long time to find the perfect setup. for me it's the same as my eetzilla setup: a kk bearing, one thin dif, and one black kentaro (broken in), always with yyn highights (yell-o).
since we started prototyping the ronin (more on that someday soon), which is essentially a "modernized" luchador with some new angles tossed in, even my main one generally hangs out on the shelf. but, it still finds its way into my pocket or onto my finger sometimes, and when it does i'm flooded with a wonderful year's worth of wonderful memories.