It's Time To Formally Recognize Chyna
Although she has already been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of D-Generation X, many people feel that Chyna should be honored as an individual performer, as well
Once in a while, an athlete, entertainer, or personality comes along that truly changes the way we see the world. They give us a new perspective on some long-held beliefs and stereotypes, and we are left changed forever in our views.
Joanie 'Chyna' Laurer was one of those people.
In all three facets: As an athlete, entertainer, and personality, Chyna was truly unique. But even more than that, she was special as a human being, who overcame a lifetime of adversity to leave behind a lasting legacy. And the soul burning inside her is what drove her to become an iconic figure in the annals of WWE history.
Known as 'The Ninth Wonder of the World', she truly did fit that lofty billing. Unlike most of the valets or lady wrestlers before her, Chyna sold steak instead of sizzle. She was an athlete, first, and everything else came a distant second. That seriousness drove her to success, but would sometimes have an adverse effect on her psyche.
At 5'10" and a rock-solid 200 pounds, Chyna could overpower most average men, let alone her female counterparts. A dedicated powerlifter, she began competing in bodybuilding and fitness competitions before her arrival in sports entertainment.
Unfortunately, when she first burst on the scene, many people didn't know what to make of her. Because of her size and look, she was already an anomaly. And the fact that Chyna was assuming the role of a bodyguard for a male wrestler seemed a bit unusual.
But it didn't take long before her dour demeanor and fantastic feats of strength gained the attention of the fans. People began to debate about what would happen if she ever competed against other women. Then, another thought came to mind... What if she actually fought a guy?
I mean, that could never happen, really. But it was still pretty crazy to think about, right?
Well, it turned out to be not so crazy after all.
Chyna would soon be setting new standards in the world of professional wrestling. The likes of which no one had ever envisioned - much less attempted - before
As she and her real-life boyfriend Triple H were running roughshod over WWE, they aligned themselves with the brash and cocky Shawn Michaels and the legendary Rick Rude to form D-Generation X. Suddenly, she went from a curiosity to a captivating character. One that was a heavily-featured player in the theater of the Monday Night War.
As time passed, she went on to become a star in her own right. In many ways, Chyna was outshining most of her male roster mates. That didn't sit too well with the old boy's club, and she paid the price with snide remarks, cold shoulders, and some tasteless pranks. Through it all, she continued to get stronger professionally, even if she was personally fragile.
What many people didn't know at the time was that this tower of power was sometimes a shrinking violet on the inside. Some abusive and traumatic events in her life had left her wounded, yet she was living and working in a world where weakness was not welcome. After all... pro wrassling ain't for the tender-hearted, right?
So, Chyna tucked many of her feelings down deep inside - to whatever dark places they needed to go - in order to continue entertaining audiences. And despite all the weight that this warrior could lift in the gym, the burdens of fame and battles with depression eventually proved too heavy for even the mighty Chyna to bear.
Passion, Power, & Playboy would dominate her life in the following years
With her fame at an all-time high, Chyna began to take some steps to soften her appearance. She would admit years later that repeated teasing about her powerful, masculine appearance led to her decision. Some of it was warranted, as she had her jaw re-shaped and it gave her a more feminine look. At the same time, a lot of that yapping was (again) from those jealous of her accomplishments. The fact that she didn't fit the mold of what was considered 'traditional beauty' made her a convenient target.
Meanwhile, her personal life was falling apart. Her long-term relationship with Triple H came to an end when she discovered his onscreen romance with Stephanie McMahon had turned into a very real-life situation. When Chyna found love letters between The Game and the Daughter of the Boss, she had a sinking feeling that she was going to be on thin ice after that.
As Hunter and Stephanie solidified their relationship, Chyna was left on the outside of everything, looking in. And she knew it. She would say later that she felt like the couple, and Stephanie specifically, did several things behind the scenes to sabotage her spot.
It was also another blow to her ego, as she became the butt of many jokes. She was mocked, with many people joking that Triple H had 'traded up' by ditching Chyna for McMahon. Then there were more wisecracks about her femininity thrown in, just to add extra salt to her wounds.
Still, she was a sex symbol to many fans. Her strength, mixed with a seductive stare, came wrapped in all black and appealed to men who didn't mind a take-charge lady. That domineering draw led Playboy to feature her and her amazing body in its November 2000 issue.
Soon, she was making the rounds on talk shows, red carpets, commercials, and cameo appearances worthy of a true WWE Superstar. Her genuine likability gave her an appeal that was rare, and even though she looked like a brooding, hulking figure, she was considered very approachable by fans and media.
Suddenly, she was no longer 'the ugly girl' that thoughtless others tried to make her out to be.
She was a centerfold. And a very worthy one, at that.
While at the apex of her career, Chyna made some huge in-ring history, also. In what would be her crowning achievement, she became the first woman to hold a men's championship in WWE history. She captured the Intercontinental Title from Jeff Jarrett in a 'Good Housekeeping Match' at No Mercy 1999.
She would continue to rack up victories in the promotion, eventually moving back to the women's division and winning the title there. But things continued to go south. Chyna started asking for more money and some long-term guarantees that WWE Chairman Vince McMahon wasn't ready to concede on. The fact that her ex was dating the boss' daughter wasn't exactly going well for Joanie Laurer, neither personally nor professionally.
By late 2001, her relationship with the company now in tatters, she was let go by WWE.
Then & Forever.
Like many a shooting star, Chyna burned brilliantly before fading away far too quickly
Everyone knows her history after her time with World Wrestling Entertainment. There was a lot of heartaches, pain, and even addiction. Relationships and career choices didn't go well, and for a time, her life seemed like it was one, big sideshow.
She became involved in the adult film industry, a genre that - much like pro wrestling - uses you for all your worth, only to leave you when you're no longer deemed useful. She was carted out for interviews and exploited on reality shows. All by the same types of people who had always manipulated her. Except now, Chyna could no longer shield herself from all the loud noises in her head.
On April 17, 2016, with her prime passed and her spirits saddened, Chyna was found dead in her apartment in Redondo Beach, California. It came as the result of a mix of alcohol, combined with the drugs diazepam, nordazepam, oxycodone, and oxymorphone, and a sleeping aid, temazepam.
She was 46 years old at the time of her tragic passing.
Chyna may have had a golden heart, but it came with a tortured soul. And while she knew that there was probably no chance she would ever work for World Wrestling Entertainment again, she did have the desire to be acknowledged for her amazing achievements. Without a doubt, she's an important and historical figure not just in WWE history, but the history of women in the industry as a whole.
Chyna would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the DX faction in 2019. However, many fans and several of her peers have been calling for her to be honored a second time - but as a solo performer. Considering how unique an athlete and person she was, it seems only fitting that she would be remembered in a special way.
While WWE once would have never considered such a thing, it's now entirely possible. Whatever 'Coming-To-Jesus' moment that Triple H has had about his past with Chyna seems to have changed his outlook. He used to justify reasons that she might not ever be inducted into the Hall. Now, he says she should be in the rarest of companies there.
Both The Cerebral Assasin and Shawn Michaels have publicly discussed the idea of her being inducted a second time, and they're in favor of it. HBK even stated how vital she was to that special group of DX delinquents:
"Of all the people in this group... and D-Generation X as a whole is deserving, but I don't think there's anybody that would argue that Chyna is not the most deserving of (being honored a second time)."
Sadly, Joanie 'Chyna' Laurer was not here to accept her flowers the first time they were handed her way in 2019. And she can't be around if she is shown her proper appreciation again.
But for the fans who still adore her, and especially the family that still loves and misses her, it would be a sweet kiss of gratitude. The warm embrace that Chyna was so desperately looking for from the world of professional wrestling and those around her.
The respect she warranted, and the affection she should have received while she was still on this Earth, all rolled into one final salute. A way of saying, It's okay, you're all the way home now, kid...
That's what Chyna truly deserves.
One more Hall of Fame induction. And one final 'thank you' for changing an industry.
Both in front of our eyes, in our hearts, and somewhere in our souls.