The sudden passing of legendary WWE women's wrestler Chyna was one of many shocking deaths this 2016. And while it isn't sure whether Chyna will be in the WWE Hall of Fame's Class of 2017, her ex-boyfriend, WWE Executive Vice President of Talent Paul "Triple H" Levesque, believes that she deserves to be enshrined among the company's all-time greats.
Born Joan Marie Laurer in 1969, Chyna made her WWE debut in 1997 as a bodyguard to her then-real-life boyfriend, Triple H, who was then known by the extended version of his ring name, Hunter Hearst Helmsley. As the snobbish Helmsley transitioned into the roguish, yet more realistic Triple H, Chyna remained by his side when they teamed up with Shawn Michaels to form the iconic D-Generation X stable later that year.
Originally used for interference purposes, Chyna then transitioned into actual wrestling matches, and by 1999, she became the first female Royal Rumble entrant, the first female King of the Ring qualifier, and the first woman to win number one contendership for what was then the WWF Championship. She had also become the first and only woman in WWE history to win the Intercontinental Championship, holding the title twice and engaging in memorable feuds with Jeff Jarrett and Chris Jericho.Unfortunately, the good times didn't last much longer for Chyna, who was taken off television in May 2001 and out of the company that November. She had also broken up with Triple H, who was, by then, in a relationship with his future wife, Stephanie McMahon. Chyna had often claimed that Triple H had an affair with Stephanie while they were still dating, and rumors had suggested that it was the messy breakup that led to Chyna's exit, but she said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun in 2002 that that was not the case. Instead, the muscular 5-foot-10 women's wrestler wanted to try her luck in Hollywood.
Up to this day, the circumstances behind Chyna's WWE exit are still mostly a case of he-said, she-said. And many still wonder what could have been had she not descended into substance abuse and other personal issues after she left the company. But there has been a lot of support from fans and industry people who want to see Chyna in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2017, in recognition of her contributions to women's wrestling. Shortly after her death in April 2016, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin had gone as far as saying on his podcast (quotes c/o USA TODAY) that a posthumous induction for Chyna is "just not good enough."
As for Chyna's ex, Triple H, he spoke to Newsweek in an interview published Thursday, talking mainly about WWE's United Kingdom expansion, but also touching on other WWE-related topics. And when the publication asked about Chyna and a possible WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2017, Triple H kept it as coy as possible, saying that he believes the topic has "been brought up," and that due to the sheer number of candidates, "you can only put so many people in per year."
He did, however, admit that Chyna is still a worthy Hall of Fame candidate, her untimely and unexpected death notwithstanding.
"I don't think her passing signifies any change of her accomplishments. Her accomplishments are documented and were massive in our industry. Nothing has changed. She's a part of the Hall of Fame conversation, but she would have been anyway."Be that as it may, it can be argued that it took death for some WWE Superstars who had left the company on bad terms to get inducted into the Hall of Fame. One example is "Macho Man" Randy Savage, who died in 2011; despite being one of wrestling's biggest names in the '80s and '90s, he was only inducted in 2015. That's a discussion that may eventually come about if and when Chyna makes the WWE Hall of Fame, may it be in 2017 or at a later date, but as Triple H himself had said, there's no arguing with her accomplishments in the world of pro wrestling.
[Featured Image by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images]