When it comes to pioneers in women’s wrestling, Joanie “Chyna” Laurer is often on people’s lists. Chyna became a focal point of WWE television during the late 90s’. At five feet, eleven inches, Chyna decimated her female opponents, while also going toe-to-toe with the bigger men on the roster.
From 1997 to 2001, Chyna was one of WWE’s top stars. Aside from wrestling, she also transitioned into mainstream success with her “Playboy” cover and guest roles on TV programs such as “3rd Rock from the Sun.” Yet, Chyna’s life was also one filled with tragedy, which cumulated in her death in April 2016 at the age of 46.
Chyna joined WWE in February 1997 and was paired onscreen with her real-life boyfriend and fellow wrestler Triple H. She became Triple H’s bodyguard and before long the pair along with Shawn Michaels, Billy Gunn, X-Pac, and Road Dogg formed the stable D-Generation X. The group pushed boundaries with their raunchy and humorous actions, which often consisted of mooning the audience.
After the group’s break up, Chyna went on to have a successful singles career. In 1999, she made history by becoming the first women ever to compete in the Royal Rumble match. But her historic moments didn’t stop there. Several months later, she defeated Jeff Jarrett to become the first woman to win the Intercontinental Championship.
Throughout 2000 to 2001, Chyna would go on to have a heated rivalry with Chris Jericho. She would also be paired in an onscreen romantic relationship with Eddie Guerrero. Chyna and Eddie became a fan favorite due to their opposites attract nature.
In April 2001, Chyna added another title to her resume when she won the Women’s Championship. The following month she would defend the title against Lita, and came out the victor. However, afterwards Chyna was written off television. Six months later in November 2001, it was announced that Chyna had been let go from WWE. Chyna’s departure came shortly after news broke about her split from Triple H, and that he was now dating Stephanie McMahon.
Life Filled With Tragedy
Sadly, like many wrestlers, Chyna’s life was filled with personal problems. Her issues started during childhood, growing up with alcoholic and drug-addicted parents. Her parents’ addictions spiraled so out of control that at one time during a heated argument her father accidentally stabbed Laurer’s mother.
Chyna’s personal problems would continue into her adult life. After her break up with Triple H, Chyna began dating former WWE star Sean Waltman aka X-Pac. Chyna and Waltman’s tumultuous relationship was filled with drug addiction, domestic violence, and the release of a sex tape.
After leaving WWE, Chyna distanced herself from the wrestling business, although she did make brief appearances in New Japan Pro-Wrestling and TNA Wrestling. She tried her hand at acting by appearing in low-budget comedies along with a few reality shows. However, her battle with addiction raged on, and lead to her untimely death in 2016.
Wrestling fans know about Chyna’s life, but now they’re getting a glimpse into the infamous wrestling personality. Vice TV, which is famous for it’s “Dark Side of the Ring” series, is chronicling Chyna’s life in new documentary. The two-hour documentary titled “Vice Versa: Chyna” is set to premiere tonight.
The film includes interviews with Chyna’s family and friends. Her wrestling pals Vince Russo and Mick Foley are also featured, discussing Chyna’s contributions to wrestling. The documentary will also include never before seen footage of Chyna during the final weeks of her life as she tearfully discusses her life. In a short trailer for the film, she’s eerily states “there’s not another Chyna, and there never will be.”
Gone, But Not Forgotten
One of the discussions in “Vice Versa: Chyna” is the star’s name being erased from WWE. Despite her many accomplishments, the company failed acknowledge Chyna’s name in any form. Although, WWE claimed her adult film career was the reason, many believe that Triple H and Stephanie had something to do with her name being erased from WWE history.
Following her death in April 2016, WWE finally acknowledged Chyna with a touching tribute. In 2019, Chyna was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of D-Generation X. Although, it was an honor, fans believe she also deserves her own induction for her singles career.
Despite the hardships Chyna faced, she was and still is beloved by plenty of wrestling fans. Although, she’s gone, her in-ring accomplishments has not been forgotten by fans and colleagues, who consider her a pioneer in women’s wrestling.