Voices of Wrestling along with the rest of the internet wrestling community were stunned by the sudden passing of 411Mania’s Larry Csonka. VOW contributors came together to say a few words about Larry, what he meant to their lives and why his loss leaves such a void in the community. We also want to pass along a GoFundMe organized in Larry’s honor:
Robin Reid: Larry was a guy whose work ethic put everybody else in the sphere to shame. Nobody was more reliable; he’d watch everything so that you didn’t have to. To this day on my phone browser the auto-generated most frequently visited page is a link to a page of his work. For years my morning routine would start with me opening up his latest reviews from the night prior and finding out what wrestling needed watching; you could set your watch by his consistency and you could always trust his opinions. I’ll always have incredible respect and admiration for his work.
More than that though, Larry was always such a lovely guy to interact with, and a guy who brightened a timeline up with such clear love for his family. In our twitter world where everybody has dumb gripes and vendettas with each other, nobody ever had anything bad to say about him as a person. I will dearly miss him, both as a writer and as a person, and our community is going to be way worse off without him. Thoughts go out to the family he’s leaving behind.
August Baker: Few things in life were more reliable than a Larry Csonka review. No matter the promotion, if it was viewable, Larry would have a review of it posted just a few minutes after it ended. Anyone who has tried to review a show every week knows how hard it is, and Larry reviewed every show, every week, for years and years. I’ve been reading his reviews and columns for over a decade, and I know I wasn’t the only one who followed some shows solely through his words. He could always be relied on to have a review, rating, and two paragraphs on even the most mundane matches. People might say he was a machine, but there’s no way a machine could muster up his excitement when things were good or his frustration when something sucked
I never met Larry, or even talked to him save for a few exchanges on Twitter, but it’s no exaggeration to say he was a crucial part of my wrestling fandom. Some people would use Dave Meltzer, some cagematch, but when I needed info on a match or show, I’d Google the match with “411 Larry.” His promotion of matches, companies, and even other writers led me to see things and meet people I never would have otherwise. He was a Top 5 member of the wrestling community and an invaluable resource for two decades of professional wrestling.
Andy LaBarre: I took about a decade off from wrestling. Between 2003 and 2014, my pro wrestling consumption consisted of a handful of $5 Wal-Mart dvd sets that I threw in when I was bored, or sick from school or work – hoping that reminiscing about my youth would cure my mood. When I somehow decided in 2014 to get back into wrestling, I had missed an entire generation of “relatively” easy to access puroresu, the DVDVR/PWO yearbooks, and most of all – I came back to a WWE that was littered with people who participated in an “indie boom” that I didn’t experience. The first (and still to this day, only) “wrestling news” website that I found and regularly visited was 411mania, and was immediately drawn to Larry’s consistent, level-headed and thorough reviews. He helped me understand who these people were, how they had been booked recently, why he (and thus I) should care about them – and more. The last time I regularly watched WWE was all the way back in 2015, but in the 5 years since, I would still open up every single review that Larry posted, whether it was Main Event, Raw or Wrestlemania to get his take on whatever he watched.
He wasn’t without snark, he wasn’t without anger or hot takes – but that was never the core of his character online nor his writing for 411. Larry was Larry, a wrestling fan who put more time into this hobby than any of us could ever come close to. Many have already said it in passing, but EVERYONE in this field of wrestling fandom and discussion has used Larry as a reference point and either claimed it to be their own opinion or used it as a basis to form one. He is a legend, and his writing and ratings will live on forever. Thank you Larry.
Steve Case: Back around 2012-2013, when I learned that wrestling matches received praise and shame via “star” ratings and written reviews, I settled on three places that seemed to more or less share my views of the medium. They were the Internet Wrestling Database with Meltzer’s ratings, this site, and Larry Csonka at 411 Mania. Larry was always the first I would go to since he was usually the first to post his thoughts. WWE, NJPW, Lucha Underground, ROH, PWG, and any other random show, you could always count on Larry to give his thoughts almost immediately. He was just as instrumental in growing my fandom as anyone with his reviews of shows from promotions all over the world, giving me an endless list of quality matches and shows to watch from the past and present.
Over the last year I even began listening to his podcasts and became an even bigger fan of the man. They confirmed what I always could sense through his writing. He was a very down to earth, regular guy. A family man with many other hobbies who happened to be a tremendous wrestling writer and fan. He got through several ups and downs, and did it with an incredibly upbeat attitude where many might have packed it in and felt sorry for themselves. He had humor, strength, and immense knowledge that was just as much informative as it was entertaining. I’m sad I won’t get to read his thoughts after shows minutes after it ends, but more than that, I’m sad for his friends and family. I never met you, but I want to thank you. Rest easy brother.
Chris Samsa: Just the other day, I was making a list of wrestling companies that I could justify compiling statistics for as I build a library outside of NJPW. As I thought through the companies that interest me, I had the thought “if Csonka reviews it, it’s probably worthwhile.” And that was my list. Good, bad, or ugly, Larry Csonka watched and reviewed everything in a way that was objective, honest, and simple to understand. Larry has already gotten truck loads of praise for the quantity of work he published over his time covering the industry and that aspect of his work is absolutely unmatched, but Larry was also one of the most genuine and approachable people in the pro wrestling space.
Larry was kind and gracious to me as I found my way in pro wrestling coverage. I knew that if I needed a cross-check on a fall or a match time, “Csonka” was the word to add to my google search. Without fail, those searches always returned a result. I dropped him a note once, just to let him know that I appreciate his consistency and that I use his work to cross-check my notes and he seemed genuinely thrilled by that. I was thrilled to hear he enjoyed my work. Whether you were looking for an objective review of a show, a respectful hat tip for work done well, or an honest take on life in general, Larry Csonka was a man you could set your watch to. Rest easy my friend, we’ll miss you. (*****)
Ricardo Gallegos: I didn’t personally know Larry and I highly doubt he knew my name, but he was an inspiration for me. You could find positivity, reason, knowledge and intelligence in his work. Always responsable, always trustworthy, Larry was a beacon of contagious wrestling passion and his work ethic was admirable.
I’ve always wanted to pass my limited knowledge to the spanish speaking audience that is hungry for it and at some point, I looked at his enormous amount of writing and I just knew I had to work harder. He pushed me to up my game. He was an important pillar of our community and I’m sure his legacy will live on through many conversations, reviews, articles and wrestling memories. Thank you, Larry.
Griffin Peltier: Larry’s reviews provide a perfect time capsule of wrestling from 2004 on. He reviewed every promotion that mattered, no matter the size of the show, and it helped me greatly whenever I wanted to historically fantasy book a promotion. Larry’s in depth analysis provided a snapshot of a company that helped me unleash my creativity. Many of Larry’s reviews gave me a launching pad for many a TEW game. He knew it all, reviewed it all, and helped us understand it all. Thank you Larry.
Joe Lanza: I was always envious of Larry’s work ethic. From this point forward, I will measure myself against it.
Jack Beckmann: I don’t remember the first time I encountered a Larry Csonka review. What I can say, though, is that the man is a formative part of my wrestling fandom. For the last four or so years, I have visited 411mania daily, where I always made sure the first (and often only) thing I read were Larry’s reviews from that day and the day prior. Larry had the best work ethic of any person involved in professional wrestling media that I know of, as he somehow made time to watch every minute of WWE TV as well as practically every other televised wrestling show. The man even watched and reviewed WOW, which I personally saw no one else doing. That’s how dedicated the man was. He did all of that on top of caring for his family, as you could tell he very much did. There will never be another Larry Csonka. Thank you, and may your soul rest in peace.
Jon Hernandez: When the wrestling bug bites you, whether it’s your first foray or a return from an extended hiatus, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed at what you find below the surface. Dense, tangled webs of promotions, characters and feuds with decades of context to unravel. Thankfully, Csonka reviewed it all, so we all stood a chance.
Considering just how prolific the guy was, it’s remarkable how his work so consistently shone with enthusiasm, and so rarely with vitriol. And if you didn’t believe he watched all those shows, he’d type up the goddamn play-by-play to back it up. Most importantly though, I hope he knew that thousands and thousands of folks are more easily able to take part in this insane and wonderful niche of a hobby, largely because he drew up the map. RIP.
Mike Spears: I only had a few interactions with Larry, but it’s clear through everyone’s remembrances of him that he left an indelible mark within the wrestling community that no one can replace. More so than being a critic, Larry Csonka chronicled wrestling better than anyone else. We live through a time of too much content, but he strove to make every company, show, or match wasn’t forgotten. Wrestling is an ephemeral experience. It lasts as a moment in the match, or as a memory in the viewer’s mind. Decades of wrestling had very little physical record, let alone in depth reviews. Larry made sure that everything was remembered, that the smallest wrestling shows would get just as much credit as the largest.
Lately, I find myself trying to research shows or companies that existed over a decade ago. The resources available aren’t great, you’re going off of hopes that maybe something was archived or that search engines cached the review. Everytime I’d search, the first page of every search would have a very familiar “Csonka’s Review of XYZ.” I’m going to think of him each time I do this, and be forever grateful.
Rich Kraetsch: The news of Larry Csonka’s sudden death hit the internet wrestling world with a swift gut punch. Larry was a consummate professional in the industry and one of the most prolific, hell, he may be THE most prolific reviewer in wrestling history. Larry is such a constant in the wrestling writing scene dating back to the early 2000s. Others have come and gone, fallen out of favor with wrestling or just faded into obscurity but not Larry. Literally until the day of his tragic passing Larry was there, writing reviews, sharing his words with the world that loved to read them. I dare you to search for any major or semi-major wrestling show in the last 15-20 years and not be met with a link to one of Larry’s reviews. You can probably do this historically too. The man was an absolute machine.
More than that though, he was a delightful human being. A big reason why VOW even exists today was the support early on from Larry. He didn’t need to RT or interact with this dopey start-up website, this man was on top of the internet wrestling world, writing for 411Mania, 15 years in the game. But he did. He was there with advice, there with support and he helped legitimize this website in its very early days. I’ll never forget his gratitude and I’ll always be appreciative of what he did for me and for this website.
On days like this you wish you reached out to people more, you wish you took the time to just say hello and ask folks how they are doing. These days are always filled with regret and I absolutely feel that now. I talked with Larry quite a bit on Twitter, in direct messages, etc. but most of our conversations focused around wrestling and content. I wish I had asked a few more times how he was doing, how were his kids… What I’ll always remember about Larry, even more than the work ethic or the prolific reviewing is how much he loved his children. When he had his leg amputated last year, I remember his entire goal was to get back on his feet and get healthy so he could go back to being a full-time father. It was inspiring at the time and will remain a source of inspiration moving forward. My heart goes out to the Csonka family who lost a great husband, father and friend this week.
Jeff Hawkins: I first interacted with Larry after his first or second column for 411 when I suggested he use another pseudonym because while Larry Csonka might only be known to football historians or the most avid of American Gladiators fans, it was still a fairly famous name. The email I got back was “It’s my real name. You’re doing great with Palm Computing.” Needless to say I stuck around. I just didn’t have time to watch wrestling as I was pursuing comedy at night so I’d read Csonka. Csonka watched everything and was consistent. When I started doing Shake Them Ropes and Fightful is when we started interacting a bit more even though he remembered our first interaction. Much like Rich he was an early supporter of whatever it is I do and we bonded as we have similar frames of reference. When I started traveling to shows I’d check certain people if they were coming, Larry always wanted to wait until his daughter was older instead of going solo. But it went from being peers to a friendship after the accident. I had messaged him some jokes to keep his spirits up after one of those “cryptic” tweets you sometimes do when you’re in a room alone with your thoughts. He had written back about his frustrations with both being able to get around like normal and dealing with insurance. We’d go into rabbit holes of bad 80s movies references, bad wrestling gimmick ideas they might say yes to, and other just general stupid time wasters when you live in front of a keyboard. I remember he was very excited because his insurance company was going to get him a top of the line prosthetic and how absolutely devastated he was when they said no. I had offered to try to put together enough to make up the difference in cost and he at first kindly said no, and then it became a rather firm rejection. I hated it but I respected the hell out of it. I was always the kind of comedian when I did comedy that I wanted a certain kind of person to laugh, and I tend to think on twitter, Larry was my target and the likes he gave were validation. I wrote him some (in retrospect) shallow words of encouragement after his last tweet about being tired and not getting anything done. I think the greatest compliment to him would be he wouldn’t have viewed them as such or at least wouldn’t have told you. He’d always be supportive. He will be missed.
Case Lowe: There’s nothing worse than reviewing a bad wrestling show. I don’t do this to mock other people’s professions, I do it because I’d like to lift up those that are producing greatness. So when I review a show that doesn’t click, whether it is because of poor booking decisions, bad wrestling, or all of the above, it annoys me. Larry Csonka probably watched more bad wrestling than anyone else, but he continued to review shows at a machine-like pace. Larry is one of the most valuable resources pro wrestling has had since the turn of the century. There is not a column I’ve written where I haven’t somehow, in some way, glanced over his work to double check my sources. He’s seen it all, he’s reviewed it all, and in some ways, he was the end-all-be-all of pro wrestling reviewers. My personal interactions with him were brief, but I could tell he was an incredibly kind person. The outpouring of support over the last 24 hours have only validated that sentiment. Larry will be missed dearly.
Andrew Rich: My interactions with Larry were few and far between, but he was without question the most dedicated and hardest working wrestling reviewer I’ve ever known. The second that a televised wrestling show, pay-per-view, or network special went off the air, chances are you could go to 411Mania and read Larry’s review right away. Even with his health problems later in life, Larry found a way to power through them and keep up his machine-like pace. There would be a random New Japan Road to Wrestling Dontaku show on at 4:30 in the morning and Larry would post that GIF on his Twitter feed from Ash vs. Evil Dead of Lucy Lawless rising up out of the fire pit. His work ethic was truly second to none, as was his kind spirit and his love for family and friends. And that love was returned to Larry in kind. When the news of his death broke, tributes came pouring in from every corner of wrestling social media. There wasn’t a single bad word from anyone. He was a universally beloved figure in the online wrestling community, which to be honest may be the most impressive thing about him! You know how hard it is for everyone to like you on the internet?! Rest in peace, Larry. We love you and we’ll never forget your enormous contribution to the pro wrestling world. You will be missed.
John Carroll: I didn’t know Larry at all outside of a couple interactions so I don’t want this to be the longest write-up here, but the wrestling community has suffered a massive loss. He was a prolific reviewer and the rarest of things in this weirdly tribal community that’s as prone to forming cliques and cliques of cliques as any I’ve ever encountered: someone who legitimately was loved by everyone. People have a tendency to only say positive things about folks who recently passed away, so I want to stress that this is 100% accurate and not something I’m just saying because of his tragic death: everyone loved Larry. I’m fairly certain that I never came across a single person with a bad word to say about him, and if you know anything about wrestling spaces online you’ll understand just how rare that is. He was just this extremely nice guy who went about his business, and his business just so happened to be reviewing every show known to man. Larry was incredible and will be sorely and deeply missed.
Andrew Sinclair: The news of Larry’s passing hit me like a ton of bricks. Even though my interactions with him were limited, his importance to my wrestling fandom is almost impossible to quantify. For the best part of the last 7 years, throughout school, university and now work, the first webpage I look at every day is the TV Reports page on 411mania to read Larry’s thoughts on pretty much any and every significant show that happened. I even went there today to read his Raw review, only for my heart to sink when I realised it wouldn’t be there.
As someone who has always struggled with Imposter Syndrome, lacking confidence that my work is good enough for anyone to read, Larry’s reviews of every TNA/Impact show, past or present, were a godsend. He was my first port of call if I needed to check something. His reviews were a frame of reference for everything I wrote – good, bad or otherwise indifferent – I was able to grasp whether someone was seeing similar things to me. But Larry wasn’t just someone. He was the doyen of wrestling reviews, an ever-reliable machine who would watch an interminable amount of wrestling because a) he loved it and b) he loved the fact that he got to review wrestling every day for a living. His unerring commitment and chronicling of the sport we all hold dear will live on for decades to come – chroniclers like him live forever.
My last interaction with him was a little over a week ago, when he replied to my Impact column. His kind words meant an awful lot and they symbolised everything that Larry was, a kind and gentle soul who had time for everybody. I wish I’d reached out more and told him how important his work was to me.
I had to stop multiple times reading everybody’s tributes here and over at 411 because they got me all choked up. Larry was a benchmark against which I measured myself for the last 2+ years and someone who’s work I’ve savoured for the better part of a decade. The outpouring of emotion from the wrestling community over the last 24 hours, an easily divided and highly tribal place, shows how universally loved and respected the man was. Like everyone else, my heart goes out to his family, who have lost a special, irreplaceable soul. Rest in power, Larry.
Kelly Harrass: In our little wrestling writing community, it’s hard to find someone as universally loved as Larry was. He was the Tin Woodman of our corner of Oz. An absolute machine with a big heart. Larry’s creative output was pretty much unmatched. The rest of us can only hope to barely reach his level of work ethic. Most importantly though, he was a great guy. I can’t say I knew Larry well, but in any interactions we had, he was always incredibly nice. There was always a sense of pride I felt whenever he shared a review I had written. For him, I’m sure it was just another button click, but for me, it was incredibly validating. So thank you, Larry, for every retweet and every kind word. Thank you for all the work you put in over the years. We’ll try our best down here to fill the massive hole you’re leaving behind. But please, don’t worry about us. Enjoy your rest. Smoke some meat and watch some wrestling. You deserve it. Rest in peace, Larry.
Sean Sedor: When it came to reviewing wrestling shows, Larry Csonka was an absolute machine. I probably stumbled upon Larry’s work long before I even knew who he was, but once I became aware of him and his work, I really grew to appreciate and admire him and his work immensely. Over the last several years, one of the first things I would do after watching a show is check Larry’s Twitter for his review of the show. It didn’t matter what promotion it was, you could always count on Larry to have a review out very quickly. I always viewed his reviews as a great measuring stick in the wider world of wrestling reviews and wrestling coverage. Honestly, it would be easier to list off the wrestling shows that Larry didn’t review/write about. The fact that he was able to watch and cover so much wrestling, from the biggest shows imaginable to the smallest, is nothing short of incredible. Aside from (maybe) Dave Meltzer, I don’t think anybody on this planet has written as much about the crazy world of pro-wrestling as Larry did. He leaves behind a massive hole that will be next to impossible to fill, because I can’t imagine anyone else putting in the same amount of time and effort into this field that Larry did over the years. I hope he rests in peace, and I pray for his family and friends.