Joanie “Chyna” Laurer was indeed a trailblazer in WWE women’s wrestling. While there were numerous names who helped paved the way in women’s wrestling, such as The Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Wendy Richter, Madusa, Rockin’ Robin, Sensational Sherri, and Leilani Kai, no one created a dominance like Chyna.
The Rochester, New York native started her career and competed in her first professional wrestling match in 1995 after training at the wrestling school of Killer Kowalski. Even with graduating from the University of Tampa with a 3.9 GPA, Chyna decided that pro wrestling was going to be her future. It did not take long for WWE to notice the work of Joanie Laurer, as she debuted at the 1997 In Your House: Final Four pay-per-view, just two years after she first stepped in the ring.
Chyna played the bodyguard of D-Generation X upon her WWF debut, joining Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Billed as the “Ninth Wonder of the World,” Chyna did not make her World Wrestling Federation in-ring debut as a professional wrestler until 1998 when she teamed up with “X-Pac” Sean Waltman in a two-on-one handicap match against Mark Henry.
In fact, during the first couple of years of her time in WWE, she mainly kept the DX enforcer role. By 1999, she was competing in more matches, even becoming the first woman to ever compete in the Royal Rumble match. Chyna entered the Royal Rumble at No. 30, and even eliminated Mark Henry before being eliminated by Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Not only did WWE continue to heavily push “The 9th Wonder of the World” as a singles wrestling star, but the company also made a bold move by integrating her into the men’s division. Her move to battling against male competitors led to being the first female wrestler to be a part of the Ring of the Ring, as well as the first and only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship. After defeating Jeff Jarrett in a Good Housekeeping Match at No Mercy, she retained the title for nearly two months before losing it to Chris Jericho at the Armageddon pay-per-view.
Also, during this time, Chyna became the No. 1 contender for the WWF Championship. In 2001, she defeated Ivory to become Women’s Champion at WrestleMania 17. Another key moment in her WWE tenure was her on-screen relationship with Eddie Guerrero, which focused on Chyna’s femininity as Eddie became infatuated with her.
When Chyna left WWE in 2001, she competed in Japan, having a brief feud with former NWA World Heavyweight Champion Masahiro Chono. She also released a book of her life in 2001 – titled “If They Only Knew” – and it was mostly positively received by readers. After 2002, Chyna stopped competing, with the exception of teaming with Kurt Angle to defeat Jeff Jarrett and Karen Jarrett at the TNA Sacrifice PPV in 2011.
Chyna’s Death & Legacy
Chyna’s WWE depature also led to many issues in her personal life. After splitting from her relationship with Triple H, Triple H would go on to date and marry Stephanie McMahon. There have been numerous rumors as to whether Triple H and Chyna splitting contributed to her departure, but she was blacklisted from WWE for quite some time due to her transition from a pro wrestler to adult film. However, in 2019, Chyna was finally inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a part of the DX faction.
After leaving WWE, Chyna was a part of a couple of reality TV shows, including Celebrity Rehab and The Surreal Life. There was also many times in the media where she was portrayed in a negative light, dealing with drug addiction. Unfortunately, on April 20, 2016, Chyna was found dead in her home in Redondo Beach, California in Los Angeles Country, and it was later determined that she died from a drug overdose. She 46 years old.
While there was a long period of time that Chyna’s personal decisions affected her relationship with WWE, her induction into the WWE Hall of Fame was well deserved.
Not only did Chyna’s career propel the women’s division, but it also paved the way of put women’s wrestling on the same level as men’s wrestling, which is now the case in the current era. While Paul “Triple H” Levesque stated on the Steve Austin Show that WWE did not want to be affiliated with Chyna, her resume was so impressive that they had no choice but to induct her into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Joan Marie Laurer created a legacy in the WWE that may never be duplicated, which is why fans were very happy with the announcement of her going into the HOF with DX.
This article was originally published July 15, 2019. Rest in Power to one of the all-time greats.