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I woke up this morning to the news that Joanie Laurer, best known to millions as Chyna, has passed away at the age of 45.
You can say what you want regarding her appearance, her involvement in the pornography business, or her work-rate in the ring, but you can deny that Chyna was a huge star in the whole of the wrestling industry during the late 90s/ early 2000s. I would say that Joanie was very influential for what she accomplished in her career. She really changed the way women were portrayed in wrestling. Normally women were just the eye candy standing at ringside looking pretty. That wasn’t the case at all with Chyna. She was introduced as Triple H’s bodyguard and she stood at ringside, arms folded and looking menacing. She was the first, and only, female to win the Intercontinental championship and she also competed in both the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring.
I remember sometime in the summer of 1999, management were seriously considering making her the WWF champion! She was involved in the title picture at that time, became the number one contender, but nothing came of it. She really was that big of a deal and it just showed the level of confidence Vince had in her at that time. I also remember WCW creating a Chyna rip-off going by the name of Asya (see what they did there, kids?). That in itself tells you how popular she was.
Since leaving WWE in 2001, Chyna’s life has been on a constant downward spiral. She did the rounds on reality TV, including Celebrity Rehab and Celebrity Boxing, but her wrestling career just nosedive. She also fell into the trap of addiction, too. She was supposed to do a signing at Wrestlecon during WrestleMania weekend but she no showed and from the reports I’ve read it was something tied along those lines and she was completely out of it when the event organisers rang her. Just recently she was having a full on conversation with herself on Twitter!
The debate of inducting Chyna into the WWE Hall of Fame has come up a lot over the years and I think it’s going to come up a lot more now. I do think there are a lot of bad double standards in WWE when it comes to the criteria for what makes someone Hall of Fame worthy. Triple H has ruled her out because of her involvement in the porn industry, yet they’ve got no problem with showing X-Pac on TV. That and the allegations she’s made about Hunter being abusive during their relationship. Will she ever be inducted? I honestly don’t know, but she deserves the recognition for her accomplishments in wrestling alone.
I remember reading about her moving to Japan to teach English and feeling pleased for her hoping that it would give her a new lease on life, but the Wrestlecon incident showed that her addictions were still there. I just wished that she took on board the help she received from her stints in rehab. It just sucks seeing someone die so young.
Rest in peace, Joanie. Thank you for the memories.