The shocking news broke last night that former WWE Women’s and Intercontinental champion Joanie “Chyna” Laurer was found dead at her Southern California home from a possible drug overdose. She reportedly had not been heard from for several days, and it’s believed that Laurer was dead for at least one day.
It’s a sad end to a life and career that blazed a trail for female performers in the professional wrestling industry. However, the way Laurer’s former employer has come out to acknowledge and celebrate her career when she’s no longer around paints a critically hypocritical picture.
I just heard the tragic news that @ChynaJoanLaurer has passed. She was truly a pioneer in our industry, and she will be missed. #RIPChyna
— Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) April 21, 2016
Someone who wasn’t afraid to blaze her own trail & create a path for those who would follow. A pioneer whose star shined bright. #RIPChyna
— Triple H (@TripleH) April 21, 2016
Laurer dated Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the WWE’s executive vice president of talent, live events, and creative, for several years during their early stint in the company. Levesque was later paired with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon’s real-life daughter, Stephanie McMahon, for an on-screen romance that eventually turned into a real-life romance. Laurer was quickly phased out from WWE before and after her departure in 2001 following Wrestlemania X-7.
A multitude of rumors and news reports since then indicated that McMahon was the driving force in Laurer’s blacklisting from WWE. Laurer herself spoke about the tumultuous period, including this 2011 interview with Wrestling Inc. Laurer said that she found a love letter from McMahon to Levesque dating back one year. She confronted McMahon about the situation, and it cost her everything.
“Then Stephanie stepped up. She took me into the room, we talked, and she goes, ‘Well, I love him [Levesque]. He’s my man. I’m sorry if you feel that way…’ and I shut her up. I said, ‘Shut up. Call your dad in here because I’m going to choke you out.’ ‘If you really feel that way, take control of yourself,’ then Vince came in and said, ‘Let’s do a new contract. I know this is tough for you but it’s going to be okay.’ Then I went home and I got a fax saying they didn’t need me anymore.”
Just like that, Laurer had lost her significant other and her dream job; she had to start over from scratch. Her influence as a dominating female figure in a male world was seemingly forgotten. It didn’t help that WWE owned all of the intellectual property, and Laurer could not use the “Chyna” name or likeness for any outside projects. She tried to continue her in-ring career with promotions like New Japan Pro Wrestling (2002) and Total Nonstop Action (2011) to no avail.
Obviously troubled, Laurer began appearing on shows such as Celebrity Rehab, obviously showing that she needed help. Before that, the release of her first adult movie, 1 Night in Chyna, alongside Sean “X-Pac” Waltman, showed that Laurer was in a fragile place.
This is where WWE’s hypocrisy sets in.
It appears to be okay for Waltman to work with WWE, including making appearances on RAW, having WWE licensed action figures, and being included on promotional content associated with the brand. But as soon as Chyna asked for a helping hand, she was given a cold shoulder.
Levesque was asked on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s podcast last year about Laurer’s legacy and possible Hall of Fame candidacy. He said she deserved to be included, but the issue would be little kids who’ve never heard of Laurer Googling her name and seeing her past career choices. Meanwhile, a current WWE Hall of Fame inductee, Tammy “Sunny” Sytch, is starring in her own porn video, Sunny Side Up, where she’s wearing her HOF ring (via Hollywood Life).
There’s no denying that Laurer had her issues, even accusing Levesque of being physically abusive during their relationship and accusing Waltman of raping her during their adult movie. Throughout all of those troubling times, all Laurer was looking for was a chance to be accepted.
Mick Foley wrote and shared a moving post on Facebook about Laurer. The attached photo showed their recent meeting after many years of no contact.
As Foley writes, “I was told later that Joanie wasn’t sure how I would react to her, and that it meant a great deal to her to be accepted.”
That’s all Laurer wanted: acceptance back into the hearts and minds of the people who she always thanked. Then, you have Stephanie McMahon, the person who is arguably responsible for her exclusion from the WWE Universe, tweeting pleasantries about Laurer following her death.
Let’s take a look back at ESPN’s E:60 documentary about Scott Hall for which McMahon was interviewed. She revealed that the company had spent “in the six figures” sending the troubled Hall to rehab.
“It’s the right thing to do reach out, once you’re a part of the WWE family, you’re a part of us for life.”
What makes Laurer any different? She was a part of the WWE family, she had serious issues, so why was she neglected help? Things got so bad for Laurer that she moved to Japan to teach English for several years. She told Vince Russo on his podcast that it was the best move she ever made.
Laurer made several attempts to meet with the company and get her life back on track. There were reports last year that Laurer “bum rushed” Levesque at “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s funeral, reports she later addressed and debunked.
The fact is, it’s too late to do anything about it now. Laurer has passed on, and sadly, she’s remembered more fondly in death than she was in life. Where were these kinds of posts from WWE about her impact on the professional world when Laurer still had breaths in her body and beats in her aching heart?
One shame is that Laurer will likely take her rightful place in the Hall of Fame soon. As WhatCulture pointed out, WWE can now honor her without worrying about her bringing negative attention to the company. Also, Levesque spoke to the Mirror about her candidacy once again.
“You know it’s not my decision, but I definitely think, as I have said before, that what she did in her life certainly warrants it.There was never anybody like her before her, and there will never be anybody like her after. It’s certainly warranted and I’m sure at some point when the time is right, hopefully, that could happen.”
It’s sad that much like “Macho Man” Randy Savage before her, Laurer will not get the satisfaction of feeling the respect she yearned for. Instead, she rests eternally as her career hopefully lives on.
[Image via WWE]