Chyna was one of the most-recognized individuals from the “Attitude Era” that changed the face of professional wrestling in the 1990s. Unlike the majority of the women who made up what became the Divas Division in the World Wrestling Federation, Chyna was a bodybuilder who could hold her own in the ring versus male wrestlers. While Chyna’s run in World Wrestling Entertainment ended in a way she probably could not have envisioned at the time, she remained in headlines over the years because of her involvement in reality television programs. After it was clear that no return to the WWE was in the cards, Chyna starred in multiple adult movies.
Chyna was not shy during interviews as it pertained to talking about her problems with substance abuse. During a subscriber-only podcast on the Wrestling Observer website that was uploaded only hours after it was learned that Chyna had passed away on April 20, 2016, wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer spoke about how Chyna’s personal problems had continued up through the spring of 2016. We now know, of course, that the Chyna story had a tragic and unfortunate end, and Chyna will go down as one of far too many individuals associated with the pro wrestling industry who left us far too soon.
15. She Had A Rough Childhood
The woman who would become known as “The Ninth Wonder of the World” was born Joan Marie Laurer on December 27, 1969. Chyna was born in Rochester, New York (pictured above). Following her days in the WWE, Chyna discussed in interviews that she had a rough upbringing. She described her father as an alcoholic, and she also claimed that she was abused as a child. Chyna credited her sister Kathy for helping to raise her, and it is believed that Chyna was viewing WWE programming with that same sister when she first became interested in getting involved in the pro wrestling business.
14. She Earned A Degree In Spanish Literature
Some may assume, from remembering how she looked during her run in the WWE that Chyna was merely a “jock” who fell into the wrestling business. That was not the case. Well before Chyna was beating up men on WWE programming, she earned a degree in Spanish literature from the University of Tampa. That was not all that big of a stretch for Chyna, as she finished high school in Spain. Chyna’s plan was to join the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Drug Enforcement Administration, but she ultimately ended up in the Peace Corps.
13. She Had Many Pre-Wrestling Jobs
Like many other people who never locate fame and/or fortune, Chyna spent a good deal of time attempting to find herself before she became involved in wrestling. Chyna was a singer in a band, and her vocal skills also led her to receiving a gig with a 900-number chat line. Her impressive physique allowed her to find work as a belly dancer. Chyna also trained to become a flight attendant. It would turn out, however, that none of those jobs were long-term solutions for Chyna. Chyna eventually became compelled to train as a wrestler, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
12. She Was Trained By The Same Man As Triple H
Chyna was trained to become a wrestler by Killer Kowalski (pictured above) at Kowalski’s Massachusetts gym. The irony there, of course, is that it was Kowalski who also trained Triple H. While Triple H and Chyna will forever be linked for a variety of reasons, the two were not immediately paired together following training sessions. Triple H, as diehard wrestling fans know, started out as the character “Terra Ryzing” before he eventually made his way to World Championship Wrestling. Interestingly enough, Chyna could have followed in Triple H’s footsteps. Neither Chyna nor Triple H would, however, find a true home in WCW.
11. WCW Wanted Her
Stories of Chyna’s first potential breaks in the wrestling industry vary per the source and when that tale was documented. According to Kowalski, WCW approached Chyna about signing for the company in the 1990s. It was around that time when Kowalski approached Shane McMahon, son of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. Kowalski informed Shane that the WWE’s main competition wanted to acquire Chyna, and Kowalski has also claimed that it was he who pushed Chyna to instead join the WWE. After she signed with the WWE, Chyna was paired up with Triple H as a bodyguard and valet. It did not take long, however, to see that she had bigger things in her wrestling future.
10. The Name
The WWE has a long history of renaming wrestlers so that the company can hold trademarks for those names. It was no different with Laurer, who eventually became known as “Chyna.” According to ABCNews.com, Chyna was given this name as a play on words. Fine china, after all, is easily broken and delicate. That was not the case with Chyna, who was tough and who often got involved in Triple H‘s matches during her days by his side. It is a sad irony that she was given the name Chyna, though, as we know all too well just how fragile the person was following her days in the WWE.
9. She Had A Lot of Firsts
Chyna was unlike any other female performer in the WWE at the time of her debut, and her build and her physical abilities helped her make history on multiple occasions. She became the first woman to ever be awarded with a berth in a King of the Ring Tournament. Chyna was the first woman to be named the No. 1 contender for the WWF Championship, a title that she never held while working for the company. Chyna was also the first woman to be given a spot in a Royal Rumble match, and she will go down as the first woman in history to ever eliminate a wrestler during a Royal Rumble.
8. D-X Versus NWO
Those who grew up watching wrestling in the 1990s most likely remember Chyna as being associated with the first version of the stable D-Generation X. An interesting note about this is that Chyna could have been in a different famous group that was formed in WCW. According to her book If They Only Knew, the plan for Chyna, had she agreed to join WCW, was for her to ultimately be placed in the New World Order. The group formed by former WWE talents Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan eventually welcomed wrestlers with no WWE past into the group, and thus it is not a stretch to believe that Chyna could have been in NWO black-and-white.
7. Chyna’s Rise Was Helped By Triple H
According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer, Chyna was protected in matches and in the creative process because of her relationship with Triple H. Triple H became a favorite of Vince McMahon in time, and thus Triple H was able to open opportunities for Chyna. Chyna not only earned victories against male wrestlers because of her spot in the company. She became the first woman in history to hold a title that was held by all-time greats such as Ultimate Warrior, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, “Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock and so many others.
6. Jeff Jarrett Was Paid To Lose His Title To Her
Chyna became the first woman in history to win the Intercontinental Championship in 1999. That historic feat is not, however, why her title victory remains remembered by wrestling fans. Jeff Jarrett was the holder of the championship when his contract with the WWE expired. Jarrett had agreed to make a return to WCW, and he refused to drop the championship to Chyna unless he received financial compensation for doing the job. According to Dave Meltzer, Jarrett received roughly $200,000 to lose to Chyna at the 1999 edition of No Mercy. It is believed Jarrett’s actions in 1999 are why he has never been welcomed back to the WWE.
5. Her Turbulent Departure From WWE
The personal and professional downfalls of Chyna can be traced back to 2001. Chyna and Triple H had ended their relationship, and Triple H had begun an on-screen and a real-life relationship with Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of Vince McMahon. A combination of Chyna allegedly wanting an increase in pay, Chyna supposedly being upset about the fact that Triple H and Stephanie were dating, Chyna losing her political protection within the company after she and Triple H broke up and her contract expiring all resulted in her and the company parting ways in November of 2001. Chyna never again worked for the WWE.
4. She Signed With New Japan Pro Wrestling
Chyna did not retire from the wrestling industry after he relationship with the WWE ended. She instead ventured overseas and found employment in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Just as was the case during her early days in the WWE, the idea behind Chyna being given a shot in NJPW was for her to face off with and defeat male wrestlers. Chyna even notched a victory over a young Hiroshi Tanahashi. Unfortunately for Chyna, however, she did not get over among crowds as she did while working in the WWE. She was not with NJPW for even an entire year before she and the company parted ways in the fall of 2002.
3. She Signed With Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
You may not have noticed – and judging by the television ratings at the time, you probably didn’t – but Chyna was one of the many former WWE talents to link up with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling for a period of time. Chyna debuted in TNA when the company was taping shows in May 2011, and she was placed in an angle (no pun intended) involving Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett and Karen Jarrett. Her stint with TNA did not last long, however, and she explained in September 2011 that she went home following the completion of her storyline and then “I never heard from them again.”
2. Accusations of Abuse Against Triple H
Chyna once made very serious allegations regarding her famous former boyfriend. During an interview that took place in 2015, Chyna claimed that Triple H had struck her near the end of her relationship. Triple H responded to these claims and stated that the statements Chyna made were “false and reckless.” The WWE statement added: “While Joan has had significant struggles in life, this does not justify making such claims.” Chyna spoke about her problems with substance abuse in interviews and also during programs such as Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. It would appear, based on reports that have been floated out there since her passing, that she was unable to conquer her demons.
1. Her Hall of Fame Induction Is Unlikely
It will be interesting to see how the WWE handles any future mentions of Chyna. While speaking with Steve Austin in February 2015 for a WWE Network special, Triple H hinted that Chyna would not be in the WWE Hall of Fame because of what kids may find if they were to search her name on the Internet. Chyna starred in multiple adult films following her wrestling career, and at least one of those involved parodies of well-known wrestlers. Chyna was also critical of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon during certain interviews. Chyna will never know the joy of being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and that is a shame. She was an important figure during the “Attitude Era,” and wrestling fans everywhere should be thankful for what she gave the WWE during her time with the company.