The story has broken and it is a sad one: WWE / WWF legend, reality star and wrestler Chyna has died tragically at the age of 46 after a suspected overdose. It’s news far too familiar for wrestling fans. Just this year the wrestling world lost another legend (Axl Rotten) to an overdose and there are countless other incidents of former WWE performers perishing far too earlier due to the demons substance abuse. Whilst I agree it isn’t the responsibility of the WWE to baby their former performers and the WWE-sponsored rehab offered to some former performers deserves nothing but praise, I feel they failed Chyna by ostracising and punishing her.
Born as Joanie Laurer in New York in 1969, Chyna suffered a difficult childhood. After her parents divorced when she was four, Chyna experienced a myriad of step-parents (three stepfathers and one stepmother) and different homes. It was during her teenage years that Chyna first claimed to have been the victim of sexual abuse, claiming an older teacher kissed her and then later in her college years claiming to have been raped multiple times.
It is after college and those difficult teenage years, Chyna began to excel. She entered the independent wrestling circuit at the age of 25 and soon garnered a reputation for her size and ability to wrestle against males. Within two years, Chyna was wanted by some of the biggest wrestling federations in the world and after declining a contract offered by the WCW, she signed to the WWE (then WWF) to a contract and debuted as the bodyguard of Hunter Hearst Helmsley better known as Triple H and a member of DeGeneration X alongside Shawn Michaels and X-Pac.
Towards the end of her life, it was clear Chyna was in a very bad way. She’d made several allegations against former boyfriend, fellow WWE legend Triple HHH of domestic abuse, and against former boyfriend, fellow WWE legend X-Pac of rape. It is widely disputed, but it was the behaviour of an out of control woman fighting back against a company that had privately persecuted her and publicly ignored her.
For those of you who don’t know, Chyna was only in the WWE between 1997-2001, but she made an impact like no other. Her popularity and success soared, scoring much outside attention, and even the WWE themselves have admitted she “left a lasting legacy as the most dominant female competitor of all time.”
And yet Chyna wasn’t ever placed into the WWE Hall of Fame. And yet, unlike the majority of WWE legends, Chyna never reappeared in the WWE again, even for a one off appearance.
The reason for all of this was explained by ex-boyfriend and now WWE Vice President Triple H on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s WWE podcast. After admitting Chyna deserved to be within the Hall of Fame, Triple H alluded to her pornography career as the reason for her absence, saying: “It’s a bit difficult, though, and this is the flipside of the coin — and this is the side nobody looks at — I’ve got an eight-year-old kid, and my eight-year-old kid sees Hall of Fame, and my eight-year-old kid goes on the Internet to look at Chyna. What comes up? And I’m not criticizing anybody. I’m not criticizing lifestyle choices. Everybody has their reasons. I don’t know what they were. I don’t care to know. It’s not a morality thing or anything else. It is just the fact of what it is. That’s a difficult choice.”
It fails to hold weight when you remember just who is in the WWE Hall of Fame. Hulk Hogan, a performer that was caught on camera using racial epithets and having sex. Mike Tyson, a man convicted of rape. Steve Austin, a man arrested and charged for domestic abuse on an ex-wife. I do not think Hogan and Austin should be removed from the Hall of Fame, but I do not think Chyna should be discriminated against for her choices either. The WWE is honouring people on their achievements in wrestling, not their choices outside of it.
Why wasn’t Chyna inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, then? Many reasons have been offered, but the one most parties agree on is Chyna’s relationship with one of the WWE’s top performers and now Vice President, Triple H. Chyna and Triple H lived together and had dated for several years until Triple H allegedly began an affair with Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. The affair led to Chyna’s departure from the WWE and it is her rocky relationship with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon that is believed to have prevented her induction.
Chyna wanted to be inducted to the Hall of Fame badly. “I have contacted the WWE several times over the years. They have not responded back,” read one Tweet. Another: “If the WWE was ever to say that I was going to be inducted, either as part of the groundbreaking [sic] DX or as an individual. Well, my answer would be what a friend of mine us to say in the ring, O HELL YEAH!”
Is the WWE and its hierarchy solely to blame for her problems? Absolutely not, but it does have to accept some responsibility. Who knows what the induction could’ve done for her? If the WWE reached out and offered her a legends contract where she could make occasionally appearances? If they’d offered her the WWE-sponsored rehab that they’d offered to so many? It might just have put her back on the right path. To me, the recognition she deserved seems like that’s all she ever wanted, but the WWE refused to put aside the backstage politics to allow it, and that is how I feel the WWE failed Chyna.
A posthumous induction is speculated this morning and Chyna could be placed in the WWE Hall of Fame as soon as next year or a couple of years from now, but Joannie Laurer, a woman that wanted recognition for her achievements, won’t be alive to see it.