Attitude Era icon and occasionally controversial media personality Joanie “Chyna” Laurer shuffled loose the mortal coil on April 20th, 2016 at the age of 45. While her cause of death remains officially unknown as of this writing, the odds that she lost a well-publicized, ongoing battle with substance abuse seems likely. If this is indeed the case, it places her on a tragically growing list of wrestling greats who were taken too soon by drugs, also including “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, Eddie “Umaga” Fatu, Axl Rotten, and too many others to name here.
But Chyna left a legacy totally incomparable to any other pro wrestler and perhaps going beyond that, a legacy unlike any other professional athlete or celebrity before her. From one perspective, Chyna was a groundbreaking figure in the WWE - who accomplished feats in the company no other women had or has since. From another perspective, she was a casualty of a celebrity culture that props people up, often for dubious reasons, and tears them down, sometimes for equally dubious reasons. Plenty of wrestlers become famous, some become legendary, but Chyna was relevant.
In the years preceding her death, fans and Chyna herself petitioned for her induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Popular wisdom indicated that her history with Triple H, who she was once in a serious relationship with, and Stephanie McMahon, who Triple H allegedly left her for, precluded any chance of that happening. Rumor has it, there also may have been some concern about Chyna’s ability to deliver a Hall of Fame induction speech without showing up too drunk and/or pilled up to remain coherent, or perhaps more pertinently, what she might say during such a speech should she have the opportunity to deliver one.
Or maybe WWE just used that as an excuse to keep Triple H and Stephanie McMahon happy.
However, as wrestling fans, our obligation is not to preserve the squeaky clean image WWE wants to project in order to sell more TV shirts to children. Our obligation is to cheer when things we want to happen happen, boo and/or post snarky comments on the internet when things don’t go out way, and, when we really have a good reason, our obligation is to riot. What follows is a list of reasons why if Chyna is not inducted into the 2017 WWE Hall of Fame, we should all start breaking windows and looting stores, preferably in the vicinity of the building formerly known as Titan Towers.
At this point in their lives, things are going pretty well for Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. They’re poised to take over a multi-million dollar company when Vince McMahon either retires or dies. They’ve got daughters who will be WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions for life when they grow up. Trips is an Infinity-Time World Heavyweight Champion. Isn’t it high time those two were taken down a peg?
They’ve been trying to downplay Triple H’s past with Chyna - an episode in his life with an unpleasant ending, if not an outright blemish on his existence - for, like, a decade. Let’s fly it up the flagpole, for all to scrutinize!
Paul Levesque was certainly no slouch when he first debuted as “Hunter Hearst Helmsley” in 1995. But there had been plenty of other snobby rich guy characters before and he didn’t have the charisma to make his iteration of the archetype memorable or unique. Trips wasn’t remotely interesting or different until the amazonian Chyna arrived as his new valet. Without the 9th Wonder of the World, Triple H may have never risen up the WWE ranks and, today, he might be remembered mostly as Shawn Michaels’ onetime close friend.
It’s possible that without Chyna, the man now known as “The Game,” “The King of Kings,” and the WWE COO would instead still be only, and vaguely, remembered as “The Connecticut Blue Blood” and sit next to Marty Jannetty at the Wrestling Nostalgia Reunion Con autograph table.
The WWE very much wants its stars to succeed in mainstream entertainment, for obvious cross-promotional reasons. But how often has a former WWE standout retained any of their notoriety after they’ve flown out of Vince McMahon’s proverbial nest? The Rock pulled it off. So did Hulk Hogan and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Then there’s Batista, who will stay in the public eye for as long as Marvel keeps making Guardians of the Galaxy films, CM Punk if he can hold his own in UFC, and aside from Chyna, that’s about all.
Regardless of how you might personally feel about reality television or adult entertainment, those are unquestionably two spheres of mass media Chyna made second and third careers out of, without the slightest bit of help from the WWE.
When asked on a Stone Cold Podcast if Chyna deserved to be in the Hall of Fame, Triple H famously said Yeah, but “I’ve got an 8-year-old kid, and my 8-year-old kid sees Hall of Fame, and my 8-year-old kid goes on the internet to look at Chyna. What comes up?”
The answer is “Well, a lot of stuff,” but we’re pretty sure Trips was referencing Chyna’s forays into adult entertainment. As Jezebel pointed out, Triple H’s 8-year-old could just as easily google her dad’s old buddy X-Pac, who appeared at WrestleMania 31, and co-starred in the 9th Wonder’s inaugural 'tape', 1 Night In Chyna. Trips’ daughters could also look into Snoop Doggy Dogg, a class of ‘16 inductee, and director of the wildly successful adult film Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle.
So, by Triple H’s logic, X-Pac and Snoop Dogg get a free pass on their involvement in adult entertainment, but Chyna does not. Could that possibly be because of sexist double standards?
Sadly, Marvel has yet to produce any female-led additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe series of films. But if they plan to continue releasing two or three new movies every year indefinitely, eventually, they’re going to have to when they run out of male characters who haven't already had their own movie!
We’ll probably get a Captain Marvel flick first, but somewhere off in the distance of the 2020s, there’s a definite She-Hulk movie, or at least a Netflix series, in the works.
Until that day comes, Chyna’s will remain the only, and therefore best, live action incarnation of Jennifer Walters of the modern era, even though she only put on the green body paint for an Avengers adult entertainment parody. Until literally anyone else plays the part in a real movie, Chyna is the best She-Hulk we’ve got.
In 2006, 1 Night In Chyna was the year’s best-selling adult entertainment video featuring a celebrity. Six years later, Backdoor To Chyna won Best Celebrity Tape of the Year at the AVN Awards. Before that, she posed nude in Playboy twice (and WWE certainly didn’t try to keep that quiet).
So if Chyna managed to make a bunch of money and win a handful of awards for her work outside of wrestling, why is that something to be ashamed of? Why should it disqualify her from being honored for her ample contributions to pro wrestling? If you don’t consider working in adult entertainment “real” work and you don’t acknowledge that adult entertainers provide a valuable public service, you’re either deeply oblivious or a hypocrite.
One can’t deny that Chyna’s rise to prominence followed by her public downward spiral hardly stands as a fairy tale, rags-to-riches story. Here we have someone WWE probably didn’t treat as well as they could have while she was alive and died quite young. So if they finally give her a long overdue HoF induction, at least McMahon and company could pretend they cared, retroactively. They could even rewrite history a bit so they don’t look like bad guys, much in the way they made nice with The Ultimate Warrior just in time to induct him before his also too-young passing away. Putting Chyna in the HoF isn't just the right thing for WWE to do, it's also the smart thing.
Naturally, loads of Chyna’s former co-workers issued social media condolences upon news of her death. However, Chavo Guerrero’s tweet about his uncle Eddie welcoming Chyna into heaven was a particular tear-jerker. The late, great Eddie Guerrero enjoyed a memorable run with Chyna as his on-screen girlfriend during his “Latino Heat” phase, so we can surmise that were Eddie Guerrero among us and able to say so today, he would strongly support Chyna’s 2017 HoF induction. And after all Eddie gave to the business, shouldn’t WWE do what we can guess he probably would’ve wanted them to do?
Not too long after Chyna’s passing, Mick Foley blogged about their final encounter, in which he basically told her not to worry about getting into the HoF too much. Chyna is already in the Hall of Fame that exists in the hearts of wrestling fans, he pretty much wrote. However, is it safe to speculate that Mick Foley wouldn’t mind at all if Chyna got into the literal, non-metaphorical Hall of Fame that exists outside of wrestling fans’ hearts? Why wouldn’t he want to see his friend honored? Mick Foley is the greatest and we should all do what we think would make him happy.
Back in 1986, police found Nancy Argentino - “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka’s girlfriend - dead in his motel room, with multiple cuts and bruises. Inexplicably, Snuka faced no charges until 2015. During the years in between, he engaged in his legendary feud with Roddy Piper, was the first ECW Champion and, of course, was induced into the WWE Hall of Fame, class of 1996. All the while, it was more-or-less common knowledge that he allegedly beat his girlfriend to death years prior, though he was removed after he was formally charged.
So, are we to understand WWE really believes starring in a few adult movies is worse than murder?
If we’ve determined that her side-career in adult entertainment either wasn’t or shouldn’t have been the real deal killer, then what other legitimate reason was there to keep Chyna out of the HoF? She claimed WWE owed her royalties and obviously had a rocky history with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. But let’s not forget The Ultimate Warrior got inducted despite a much nastier track record with dealing with his former employers. So if the real problem was simply that WWE didn’t trust her to make a speech without embarrassing herself or the company, tragically, that’s no longer an issue.
This means WWE used to have an almost, maybe, credible reason to keep Chyna out of the HoF, but don’t anymore.
It’s been argued that Chyna had tremendous personality and presence between the ropes, but wasn’t especially gifted when it came to, y’know, actually doing good pretend fighting. While that may be true-ish, she was definitely a better wrestler than Sable. That’s a pretty low bar to step over, we realize. Maybe that fact is of dubious relevance given Sable is not in the HoF, nor has there been any talk of adding her to the ranks of the WWE-verified all-time-greats. But it’s nonetheless worth keeping in mind. It's also very possible that Chyna was a much better wrestler than The Ultimate Warrior.
I’m sure WWE would prefer to celebrate Chyna for her trail blazin’ Attitude Era heyday, not the deluge of personal problems that plagued her (or at least made her an easy target for celebrity gossip blogs) after her de facto retirement from wrestling. But perhaps Chyna’s struggles allow WWE a rare chance to address the oft-overlook human, vulnerable-side of its performers? After all, if the once-invincible 9th Wonder of the World could lose an ongoing battle with addiction, it could happen to anyone.
The problem with wrestling fan rage is it’s almost never inspired by authentic unfairness or wrongdoing. For instance, wrestling fans got mad when Roman Reigns won the World Title from Triple H at WrestleMania 32, but not really. They only got mad because Roman Reigns was scripted to win. We’re constantly urinating ourselves with fury over pretend injustice. If WWE snubbed Chyna the year of her death, this would give us an opportunity to lose our minds over something that’s actually unfair, in real life.
Chyna was the first woman to qualify for the King of the Ring tournament,the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble, the first woman to be the number one contender for the World Title, and the first female Intercontinental Champion. She remains the first and only woman to accomplish all of those feats - except for the Royal Rumble thing, as of Beth Phoenix’s participation in 2010, and Kharma’s in 2012.
And if all that wasn’t enough, she’s also the only former WWE Intercontinental Champion to win an AVN award. Plenty of wrestlers have made 'tapes', but Chyna was actually good at it.