Steve Cook looks back at the loss of an IWC legend, and more importantly, a friend.
There are a lot of bad things about the Internet.
I could go on all day listing aspects of the World Wide Web that piss me off. I’d rather not. Not today. Instead, I’d like to talk about my favorite thing about the Internet.
No, not porn.
It’s the fact that it’s never been easier to connect with people that share your interests. When I was a young wrestling fan, there weren’t exactly a ton of other kids I could share that interest with. Sure, there was always that group at school that watched pro wrestling, but it was only so big, even during times when wrestling was mainstream. And, to be honest, most of the people I knew that watched wrestling were still true believers deep into their teenage years. You couldn’t really have a dignified conversation about who the best workers were, or why that particular angle fell flat, or who you thought was going to be the next big thing.
It wasn’t until Owen Hart’s passing that I learned there was a world of Internet wrestling opinion outside of promotion-sanctioned websites. I was hooked immediately. These writers had such passion behind their words & talked about things that I’d always wanted to hear more about but didn’t know where to look. 411wrestling.com (now known as 411mania.com for way too many years because I’m old) quickly became one of my favorites.
It also became the place where I started posting on message boards. This opened up a Pandora’s Box of interesting characters that I soon became acquainted with. Of course, like most major message boards, 411 spawned a plethora of off-shoots, and I had my hand in a couple of them. One was The Wrestling Talk Franchise, run by my dear friend Voodoo Penguin. TWTF’s hook that made it different from the other off-shoots was they wanted to have a serious wrestling main page. It ended up giving a number of successful writers a start in the early to mid 2000s, including myself.
Also including Larry Csonka.
Larry had taken issue with what he perceived to be 411’s bias against TNA Wrestling and started posting his own TNA PPV reviews in their TNA Forum. He got hooked up with the Penguin and started posting them on TWTF’s site. We became friends quickly because we shared many of the same opinions concerning pro wrestling. Even though he insisted on rooting for the detestable Pittsburgh Steelers, I couldn’t help but like the guy. His passion for wrestling was contagious. He even did the weekend warrior thing, training under the legendary Ivan Koloff & having matches as “Tremendous” Tom Lawrence in Carolina feds that wouldn’t pop up on indy video sites of the era. Unfortunately, injuries led to the end of his in-ring career, but they couldn’t end his voice or his insatiable appetite for pro wrestling.
I mean, seriously. Go to his 411 archives sometime and marvel at the ridiculous number of shows he reviewed. I honestly have no idea how he managed to father children, fight various physical battles and review all those damn wrestling shows. That speaks to Larry’s incredible work ethic.
Gonna jump ahead in the timeline here, but that’s ok. Dude lost most of a leg last year. If I lost most of a leg, y’all couldn’t count on another wrestling column from me for at least a year. Maybe two. That’s how long it would take me to regain some composure. I tried to help fill in for Larry on 411 for a little while, then I got word that he was back in the saddle. I would have asked “Really?”, but I knew Larry. I knew the second that guy could get back in front of a TV screen and a computer, he would have plenty of things to write.
That was Larry.
So of course 411 noticed Larry’s work on TWTF and hired him to do TNA reviews. He ended up doing everything else too, of course. Websites are picky about their work being cross-posted, so Larry couldn’t recap TNA for TWTF anymore. That’s when I came into the fold, and it was good timing because TNA had a new TV show called Impact. I don’t know why I said “good timing” in relation to the early days of TNA Impact, because that timeslot of 3 PM on Fridays on Fox Sports Net was the drizzling shits. It was fine for me though! I got to have some fun recapping a show, while also doing a news column for TWTF since Dave Schilling (there’s a blast from the past some of you might recognize) made the mistake of encouraging me to fill in for him one week. I had some interactions with former 411 writer Joshua Grutman (GRUT!) previously that made me feel like I could possibly do this whole wrestling writing thing.
So then the fabled 411/Inside Pulse split happened. Widro took pretty much any 411 writer with name value off to a new site because…well, I’ve never asked Ashish why though I’m sure he’d be glad to talk about it now considering how things ended up. Larry was one of the few hands left on deck, because apparently Widro and the rest of the old guard didn’t see any potential there. I’m not going to say whether or not Larry would have gone, because I don’t know, but I do know that not getting Larry on board was their fatal mistake. Ashish turned to Larry, and they made 411 better than ever. They brought in fresh writing talent like J.D. Dunn, Mat Sforcina, Andy Clark, Bayani Domingo, JP Prag, James Thomlison and countless others that hopefully don’t get mad I neglected to mention them. Greg DeMarco came along a bit later, so I’m not leaving him out here.
I will mention myself.
Larry brought me on. Ashish agreed with it, and I would never sell his contributions to my writing career short, but I can’t see Ashish bringing me on without Larry’s recommendation. I did the Impact Insight thing for awhile, then got the news column, and then the rest is pretty much history. Larry, myself and the rest of the 411 Young Guns kicked some Inside Pulse ass and sent most of them into retirement. I think most of them were headed there anyway, but NAME VALUE!
Then Larry wanted to do some podcasting. Between you and me, I still don’t understand why anybody would listen to several hours of people rambling on about the wrestling. Are people that bored whilst traveling? But when Larry asked me if I wanted to co-host his show, the answer was pretty obvious. Our first show wound up being a tribute to “Macho Man” Randy Savage after he’d died earlier in the day, so that was a positive note to start on. We did a bunch of happier podcasts later on, trust me.
I think a large part of the reason he had me podcast with him was he knew my interest in writing about wrestling would fluctuate. I’ve never had the work ethic Larry had. That guy could write four columns in a day, while I look at four columns in a week like an impossible thing. I enter these phases where wrestling just doesn’t interest me, and I check out of writing about it. I still watch, because of my addictive personality, but I don’t have much to say sometimes.
Then again, I might be over-analyzing things. Maybe he just liked talking about wrestling with me. Which, considering his stature in the Internet wrestling writing world, is a pretty big deal. I never took it for granted. In fact, I assumed he would get tired of it eventually. Most people do.
If there’s one weakness our podcasts had, other than whatever I would have blown on a breathalayzer during many of them, it’s that we didn’t disagree enough. Early on, I had a bit of an ego and really wanted to talk about things. Eventually I figured out (on my own because Larry would have never said it to me) that Larry was the draw, and the best thing I could do was let him talk. Could I have disagreed more? Sure, but the problem there was that we naturally agreed on most things, and I wasn’t going to do the First Take thing and purposely argue the opposing viewpoint.
I was Larry’s sidekick.
My most recent Top 7 column for 411 listed the best sidekicks in pro wrestling. I mentioned in the intro that I was Larry’s sidekick, and I thought I did a good job at it. There’s nothing wrong with being a good sidekick. Ed McMahon made a career out of announcing Johnny Carson and laughing at some bad jokes. Arn Anderson was fucking great as Ric Flair’s Enforcer. And Hey Now…Hank Kingsley!
The only problem is…what does a sidekick do when the main attraction leaves?
That’s the part I need to figure out. It’s gonna take some time. Larry had some serious health issues over the years, I knew that. I also knew that he kept coming back, seemingly stronger than ever. It seemed certain to me that out of the two of us, it was more likely he’d be writing something like this about me. Nothing about any of this makes sense.
The best thing about the Internet is that it introduces you to people that share your interests. I never met Larry in person. The closest we came to meeting was when Larry attended a CHIKARA show in Kingsport, TN. I gave some serious thought to making that town even though it was many hours and some strange roads away, but my car at the time didn’t seem likely to make it. The car I have now wouldn’t have made it either. Some things never change.
Thing is, even though I never met Larry in person, I can count him among the top five people that have helped me along my way. I can also count him among the best five friends that I’ve had. Most people only knew Larry through his reviews & columns. I got to know him through MSN Messenger convos & podcasts. I’m a very lucky man.
I just wish more of you got to know him like I did, and I hope I’ve done at least an adequate job here of describing his greatness. He had a family he adored, and I wish I got to know them better because they seem like wonderful people. I’ve met a lot of amazing people thanks to Larry, like my USB family of Dustin James, Jeremy Lambert & Todd Bergman. Too many to name here, and again, I hope nobody gets offended by being left out.
I made sure Larry knew how important he was to me. I’ve written about it multiple times & said it many times through the course of convos & podcasts. You never really know if that sinks through. Especially as a writer…we writers are a pretty self-loathing bunch. I hope he knew.
And I hope that someday down the road, we’re in a better place sitting on that balcony drinking scotch & smoking cigars like Alan Shore & Denny Crane. Boston Legal was something else we shared a fandom of, and even if I can’t claim to have a tenth of the charisma James Spader has on my best day, I always noted the similarities between the friendships between Denny & Alan and Larry & me. Denny & Larry were legends in their fields. Alan & I were controversial folks that had a tendency to make enemies and ramble through closings. Which I’m doing right now, now that I think about it. I don’t want to end this column, because ending the column means I have to say goodbye to one of the best men I’ve ever known.
Goodbye, Larry Csonka. We were flamingos. Rest In Power, my friend.
A GoFundMe page is being run to help out Larry’s family during this time, you can click here if you’d like to contribute, or click on the image below.
AJ’s Controversial? Wrestling Opinions 10.12.21
AJ feels like spouting off about a few wrestling topics that bug him. How controversial are they though?
As Eric Bischoff, President of WCW once said, Controversy Creates Cash…no I’m serious; it’s even the title of a book that he did. Everyone has their hot takes on professional wrestling and some are always wide eyed and kind of shocking to some. There are some of us that will have same opinions or chastise me on a show or an article maybe but hey, don’t hate the player, hate The Game.
Maybe there are some that the readers at home agree with or you want to also be the one to chastise me, @PhenomenalAJB on Twitter. This one is going to be fun!
#1- There are more things than just WWE/AEW and are better majority of the time
There are many people that will rant, rave and complain that the mainstream product is so bland and boring and the classic, “Who even watches this trash?” Whether you love the flippy dippy do’s like I don’t or long drawn out storylines that peter out very quickly because fans aren’t invested in a story or character. To those people, I will say something very bold, very confusing and very… very controversial…
THERE ARE OTHER COMPANIES YOU CAN WATCH ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS IN VARIOUS MEANS ON YOUR OWN TIME!
I don’t know how and I don’t know why that this is even a topic. “TNA has been dead for years” No it hasn’t. Pay $1 USD for Impact Plus on YouTube so you can watch it without commercials at 8:30 Eastern. “Two hours is too long!” NWA and MLW both go for an hour on their respective YouTube Channels as well and if you want to watch, you can hop in at any time. Everyone has something for everyone and you might find your new favorite wrestler in a matter of minutes into an episode. I would never have known who Eli Drake (now LA Knight on SmackDown Live), Alexander Hammerstone or even in the early stages of TNA Impact, AJ Styles, was! You can watch more than what is broadcasted on your TV. Is it easier? Of course but, there is so much more than just the popular option.
#2- Belt Collecting now is just redundant and moronic
Back in 1996, Ultimo Dragon famously has a picture of him holding TEN championships looking like an amazing superstar with amazing defenses. What people don’t know is, that was because eight championship belts were united in a tournament called “The J-Crown Championship” with the adage of ‘All or Nothing’. He lost them one by one but, it was to show that he was the best Junior Heavyweight (or Cruiserweight/Light Heavyweight) out of everyone in various promotions.
People after that really haven’t belt collected other than unifying championships to a grand caliber… then Austin Aries showed up. Aries kind of revised the gimmick and brought it back to light. Newer fans might have thought this was cool but older fans kind of groaned and grumbled. I was one of them but, nothing is original in anything anymore so it’s a fresher concept at the time back in 2018. He did surpass Ultimo with ELEVEN championships but it seemed everyone started doing it to an extent after. Matt Cardona, after being released from WWE, started doing it, getting up to six championships before dropping them. As of right now, not necessarily solo belt collecting, The Bloodline has a stranglehold of the World Championships for both Singles and Tag Teams, we had Becky Two Belts, Bayley wanted Dos Straps but nothing makes this worse than Kenny Omega’s stint as a belt collector.
I am not and will never be a Kenny Omega fan. I don’t see the appeal, I don’t see the amazement or anything like that out of him. I’m impressed he did three 35+ Minute IWGP Championship matches against Okada because that takes a lot of stamina to do so but, that’s about it. When he won the AEW Championship, alright. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that since he helped build the company up. The Triple A Megas Championship… nothing too wrong here. I hate that he had five defenses in two years but he vacated it due to his injuries. It wasn’t until Don Callis and Omega popped into Impact and made the Hogan Era of TNA look like a dream… okay ALMOST but still. Kenny defeats Rich Swann and Moose in two different matches and has everyone else carry the belts while holding the AEW Championship. I understand heel tactics and mentality but at one point in an interview about going for the Impact Championship, he compared it to a common Comic Book and the AEW Championship as Superman Issue #1. I understand trying to be a heel in this story but you boost your clout, not rain on what you are going after. Heel or Face, belt collecting has just been a cluster within itself in the past four years and it honestly needs to stop.
#3- Overuse of Certain Moves
This one is a more recent problem that I have seen and no, I wish EC3 paid me to say this but it is true and very annoying to even bring up but here I am, wishing for Carter money and a fifth Rum & Coke…
Stop. Overusing. Moves. Because you think. They were cool.
If I had a shot for every time a Canadian Destroyer, Superkick, Suicide Dive, Avalanche (Insert High Spot here), Dual Dropkick spots where they cancel each other out or opposing members do back to back high spots on the prone partner spot… I would not have written this article due to death… even if it was water, I would have died due to drowning. They don’t look cool anymore when everyone does it. It’s bland. When Petey Williams wrestled in his last return to Impact, the Destroyer looked very… stale. Superkicks are the new DDT apparently (another Finisher turned common everyday move) and most people that do dives mess it up in some way shape or form whether it’s their feet get caught in the ropes, they didn’t get a full launch or they overshoot it. Having your own move special to you is difficult now but different wrestlers do their own styles or the pay homage to a family member or a wrestler that they interact with or ask permission… or asked to stop.
How’d you feel if you watched WCW and WWF in 1997 and saw DDP do the Diamond Cutter and HHH did the Pedigree Pandemonium and say they do the same move? That is exactly what happened too if Dallas didn’t ask Hunter to stop using it. We might not have the RKO out of nowhere or an iconic move that seldom bigger names use today.
That’s my list. I said before if you agree with my list and if you don’t and want to throw hate my way… @PCTunney is the hate mail account so enjoy!
AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.
With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.
1. Johnny Gargano
Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?
WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.
2. James Storm
This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.
Watch your Money and your Alcohol.
Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”
3. Big Cass
Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.
Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.
4. Bronson Reed
The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.
Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?
5. Bray Wyatt
And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.
To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.
– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!
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