The wrestling world mourns the passing of a pioneer. Yes, her career path after leaving WWE was questionable .. but what people will remember of Joan Laurer was how she became a household name as Chyna during The Attitude Era. She made everyone look differently at women and their role in professional wrestling.
She was a strong figure, one who wasn’t afraid of her male counterparts, and many female fans saw her as their role model. She wasn’t model pretty. She wasn’t a woman who got in the business because of her looks. She was a woman who was ridiculed for looking like a man; but she overcame it and gained everyone’s respect. And she was never afraid to square up to the guys. Today, I would like to tribute her life with some career highlights.
Just like Triple H, and many others, Chyna was trained by the legendary Killer Kowalski. She was a hot prospect in 1996, as both WCW and WWF showed interest in signing her. She was going to be the sole-female member of the New World Order. Initially, Vince didn’t think anyone would believe a woman could beat up a man, so he remained skeptical of signing her. Triple H and Shawn Michaels met her one day after an independent show, and after viewing some of her tapes, wanted her to become their bodyguard. After Killer Kowalski introduced Chyna to Shane McMahon, and informed him of WCW’s interest, she was hired a short time later.
Chyna continued to play the bodyguard/enforcer role for Triple H, and D-Generation X. This continued til 1999, and it was at this time WWF gave her the opportunity to be the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble match.
The day after the Royal Rumble, Chyna turned on Triple H and DX and became a heel once again. She aligned herself with Vince McMahon and Kane, and fought her former stablemates. Kane and Triple H fought at Wrestlemania XV, with Chyna at Kane’s side. The crowd popped loud as Chyna turned on Kane, and again after the match as she jumped in to the arms of Triple H. The fans were excited to see a DX reunion .. but a twist was coming.
Later in the night, after reuniting with Triple H, they showed their true allegiance during a match between Shane McMahon and X-Pac. Triple H and Chyna attacked X-Pac, which revealed Triple H had joined The Corporation, not the other way around. They stayed together in The Corporation, and The Corporate Ministry, til they split up later that year.
She became the first woman to enter the King Of The Ring tournament. She defeated Val Venis in two minutes, but lost to Road Dogg in the quarter-finals. She was also the first and only woman to become number one contender to the WWF Championship, but she lost it to Mankind before she could challenge at Summerslam. She turned her attention to Jeff Jarrett, which turned her in to a fan favourite once again. After failing to beat Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship, she challenged him again at No Mercy.
After winning the IC Championship, she began a feud with Chris Jericho. She won the first match, but lost the title to Y2J at Armageddon. During an episode of Smackdown, Chyna and Jericho pinned each other at the same time, so Stephanie McMahon declared them “co-champions”. Originally the title reign added to Chyna’s original, but at a later date WWF decided her co-champions reign would not be recognized in the history books.
After the feud, Chyna aligned herself with Eddie Guerrero. They were heels in the beginning, but soon enough, Eddie’s charisma shone through as he referred to her as his “Mamacita”. The fans enjoyed their chemistry, so they became fan favourites and faced Val Venis and Trish Stratus for the Intercontinental Championship, which Chyna won. Two weeks later, Chyna lost the title to Eddie in a controversial triple threat match involving Kurt Angle.The fans grew to hate Eddie as he selfishly used her to keep the title.
She split from Eddie after finding him in the shower with two other women. It was round this time she posed for Playboy, and it was used in an angle involving Ivory and the Right To Censor. At the Royal Rumble, Chyna was put on the sidelines with a kayfabe neck injury, which was further sold by Jerry Lawler entering the ring to check on her condition. She returned at Wrestlemania X-Seven to challenge Ivory for the WWF Women’s Championship. Her last WWF match took place at Judgement Day; she defeated Lita to retain the Women’s Championship. The title was later vacated.
Chyna left the WWF a few months later. She was never officially fired, as she left due to personal reasons. In a 2015 interview with Vince Russo, she stated that after a meeting with Vince McMahon about the Stephanie McMahon situation, she was sent home and was later sent a fax telling her she was not needed.
After leaving WWF, she wrestled a few matches in New Japan before starting her porn career in 2004. Chyna never got over the personal issues between herself, Triple H, and Stephanie, and the heartbreak remained for the rest of her life. She turned to drugs, and often told her story through shoot interviews. She became a shadow of her former self, which many found to be unfortunate, but ultimately her own choice.
In 2011, Chyna made an Impact in TNA Wrestling by showing up to team with Kurt Angle. They teamed together at Sacrifice to take on Jeff & Karen Jarrett. This would be her last match.
So there you have it. Chyna became a household name in a few short years, and she remains in the hearts of wrestling fans. What she did after leaving WWF can take nothing away from the passion and dedication she showed during The Attitude Era, and she will be credited as a pioneer who broke down barriers, and showed women can be just as tough as the men. She will go down as the most dominant women’s wrestler WWE has ever seen, and we may never see another like her.
RIP Joan Laurer. (1969-2016)