Sad news have hit the airwaves as the passing of former WWE superstar Chyna, whose real name was Joanie Laurer, has been reported. Chyna was only 45 years of age at the time of her death. According to TMZ Sports, her passing is being investigated as it may have been as a result of an overdose to prescription drugs.
Given her accomplishments inside the ring, it will be interesting how Chyna is remembered. That is due to how her persona was perceived outside the ring. Regardless of how fans will memorialize Chyna, the question will be a difficult one – does her polarizing life away from wrestling outweigh her wrestling ability?
You get a fuzzy feeling about her death. You have somewhat of a guilty feeling. There is a part of you that is surprised upon hearing the news, if that is, if you know Chyna’s story.
Chyna’s death is just the latest of a recent string of deaths of former wrestling stars. It was just last week that the death of Jonathan Rechner, who performed under the name of Balls Mahoney, caught the wrestling world by surprise. Former WWE tag-team champion Blackjack Mulligan passed away just short of a month ago.
The latter was heavily celebrated, while Balls Mahoney was not. Chyna, just judging from what she has done for wrestling, deserves to be celebrated.
Chyna is the only woman in the WWE who was undefeated as the women’s champion. Among her other accomplishments, Chyna became the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble. She is also the only woman to hold the Intercontinental Title and she is the lone woman to become the number one contender to the then-WWF Championship Belt.
What Chyna has done to pave the way for women in professional wrestling can hardly be explained through words. The fact that she suffered from such an unceremonious departure from the WWE is shocking.
Many wrestling insiders have cited jealousy as the primary reason for Chyna’s WWE departure. Several incidents point to the building rift between her and Stephanie McMahon. Certain details including relationships involving Chyna and WWE superstars X-Pac and Triple H have been cited as the reason for much of the ill will. The trouble did not exist in the beginning.
As a founding member of the stable Degeneration-X, Chyna came out and made it known that despite being a woman, she was not taking any trouble from anyone. She became the D-X enforcer. Chyna instantaneously was billed as a serious performer who gave trouble to just about everyone on the roster.
It did not matter if a WWE superstar was a male or a female. Chyna was seldom taking the punishment, but she sure gave it out. So much so that the WWE, then known as the WWF, began marketing her as someone who could take on just about everyone on the roster. This is when the accolades and accomplishments started piling up.
Chyna’s resume is worthy of being inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame. It always has been. It is a given that politics is the chief reason why she has not made the cut.
Via the United Kingdom-based website Mirror, Triple H did acknowledge Chyna’s mark on wrestling, which still stands this very day.
“It is obviously tragic and clearly my well-wishes go out to her friends and family.
“Brilliance sometimes, and that ability to push barriers and boundaries and be a pioneer, is often connected closely with other things that aren’t so positive sometimes, and demons, and unfortunately that is the case.
Chyna thrived in the WWE ring, but the real Chyna, Joanie Laurer, suffered with a lot of problems outside the ring. Those issues included substance abuse and depression.
“Man, [she was] just a great person, an amazing talent, a ground breaking pioneer, that was never afraid to go out on a limb and blaze her own trail through life.
“She never took, and when you’re choosing a path [you can say] ‘hey here is a path let’s go down that one’ or you can blaze your own path and burn it up and create something for others to follow, and that’s what she did, and that star shone bright, but unfortunately burned out way too fast.”
For all the success she enjoyed, there were expectations that she had to live up to.
Stardom, and how to deal with it, was somehow part of Chyna’s undoing. When her star began to shine, injuries started taking place. Then she bounced back.
Everything seemingly came into place when she began a partnership with the now-deceased Eddie Guerrero. Joanie Laurer’s in-ring persona was painted as happy and in love during this time period. It was the polar opposite of what she was going through, which was her having to deal with being far removed from her ex-boyfriend Triple H.
As the courtship between Triple H and Stephanie McMahon grew, Chyna became aloof and her depression began. She wanted to be loved. She wanted to be accepted. She wanted to be important. Her role in the WWE would soon diminish, until she was no longer there.
Not being a part of the WWE machine made Chyna’s depression worse. Imagine being one of the main reasons why a company is successful, only to be told that you are not important enough anymore. This was now Chyna’s life. Her name, made famous because of what she was able to do in wrestling, began to mean nothing.
Her downward spiral continued as she dealt with money problems. She had to pay bills and the WWE checks are no longer coming in. Once she was out of options, she turned to adult film as a means to keep the lights on. Her time as an adult film actress is what the WWE points out as one of the reasons she is not in the WWE Hall of Fame. Ignored were the cries for help as her tough times were developing while she was on the roster. Her hard work went for naught it seems. Those fears disappeared as fast as she faded from the company.
How we remember Joanie Laurer depends on what chapters of her life we choose to focus on the most. We can talk about her times after wrestling and try to struggle with the things she has done. We can remember when we were first introduced to Chyna and remind ourselves why she was must-see television twice a week.
You will have some people who will only dwell on her troubles, suggesting that they were self-imposed. Even they have to remember why they know her name in the first place. When we think of Chyna, that is all that should matter.
[Photo by Kevin Winters/Getty Images]