Very rarely in the world of pro wrestling do fans get to see something that is new and original? Most of the gimmicks and stories are recycled variations of things that we saw before. When the wrestling world first laid eyes on Chyna they knew that they were getting a one of a kind original. In the middle of the Monday Night Wars the WWF had just stumbled upon their new secret weapon.
Dubbed the 9th Wonder of the World (Andre being the 8th) Chyna made an immediate impact upon her arrival. Breaking in with Triple H as his new valet, she made him instantly more dangerous to all of his opponents. Along with Hunter, Shawn Michaels and Rick Rude, Chyna went on to found the popular group Degeneration X. Starting her career as most a background player in the group the lady born Joanie Laurer proved that she had a lot more to offer than just being a sidekick.
In the male dominated world of professional wrestling the women rarely get to see the primetime. Chyna quickly established that she did not play by the gender rules that anybody had in mind for her. When she started her in ring career she did not compete against other women. It seems almost impossible to think about in today’s wrestling and it was something that wasn’t ever thought of before.
In 1999 she became the first women to ever enter the Royal Rumble match. Later that year she also had a brief stint as the number 1 contender for the WWF World Title. The most notable achievement of her career came on October 17th 1999 at the No Mercy pay per view. She defeated Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship making her the first and only woman to ever hold that honor. Chyna would actually go on to have two reigns as the IC Champ.
Chyna also went on to be the first and only woman to participate in the King of The Ring tournament. At the height of all of this in ring success she also got a chance to showcase her skills outside of the ring. There was a visible change in Chyna as she became a force in this brutal masculine world of sports entertainment she made sure she didn’t let you forget she was a woman. Her ring gear became a little more glamourous as she dropped the gym gear. She made various television cameos and was the cover model for Playboy magazine.
She also changed from a quiet background player on screen to someone who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. Chyna also showed she had a fun side when she became the on screen love interest of Eddie Guerrero affectionately known “Mamacita” who couldn’t resist Eddie’s “Latino Heat”. After splitting with Eddie on screen, Chyna’s life got a little rough behind the camera. Splitting with long time partner Triple H as he began his relationship with Stephanie McMahon, Laurer had a hard time adjusting to changes in her personal life. Having a rift with a top star and the boss’s daughter also could make for hard workplace environment. She subsequently left the company in 2001.
After leaving the WWE, Chyna worked in New Japan for brief stint and was not really seen much in the public eye until she appeared on VH1’s, The Surreal Life. On the reality show her battle with substance abuse became public knowledge and was something she struggled with until her untimely death. In recent years she showed signs of possibly getting her life back together but the demons of substance were just too much. It is not an uncommon story unfortunately in the wrestling business. As fans we will remember the good times with Chyna and the can do anything spirit that she had that allowed her to break down so many barriers in pro wrestling.
Keith B. Holt
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