Wrestling With Legacy: The Post-WWE Career of Chyna

On April 20, 2016, the world was shocked to learn of the sudden death of Joanie Laurer, most commonly known as the female wrestler Chyna. Chyna truly earned the moniker of the “9th Wonder of the World” as her physique and in-ring ability set her apart from any other woman on the WWE roster at the time. In her death, Chyna’s accolades and her many contributions to the WWE have been peaches from any news outlet to report on her death and in the tweets of various current and past wrestling super stars. Chyna did things in the WWE that no woman has yet to repeat. Her legacy is all but cemented in the hearts and minds of any fan of WWE’s Attitude Era. However, even with all of her success in the squared circle, Chyna may never receive WWE’s ultimate honor of being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

In the mid 1990’s the WWE was on the brink of extinction at the hands of Ted Turner and his World Championship Wrestling promotion (WCW). Turner’s deep pockets lured many wrestlers away from Vince McMahon’s WWE, most notably Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, known as The Outsiders. Nash and Hall gave new life to the WCW and brought about a whole new era of wrestling when they joined forces with wrestling icon Hulk Hogan to form the nWo. The new faction and reality based story-telling was a stark contrast to WWE’s family friendly programming. Ratings went through the roof for WCW and WWE needed to act quickly if the business was going to survive. In 1997, WWE’s Attitude Era began; pro wrestling was on its way to becoming an entertainment powerhouse.

The Attitude Era was edgier, sexier, and bloodier than anything the WWE had televised before. The WWE had “T & A” (Tits and Ass), lingerie matches, evening nightgown matches, bra and panties matches (the winner was the first woman to strip the other one down to her bra and panties), a pimp character that was escorted to the ring by his ho train (who was inducted into the HOF in the 2016 class), and a male porn star character who’s promos and the names of his signature moves were almost exclusively sexual innuendos. In 1999, WWE partnered with Playboy Magazine for a cover and full nude pictorial of one of WWE’s biggest female wrestlers at the time, Sable. In the fall of 2000, Chyna followed in Sable’s footsteps and had her own cover and nude pictorial. From 2004 until 2008 WWE and Playboy teamed up annually for a cover and nude pictorial released in time to promote that year’s Wrestlemania. Oh, how things have changed In the house that Vince built.

In 1999 the WWE went from a privately owned company to a publicly traded corporation. This move would eventually lead to WWE transitioning back to family friendly PG programming. In the age of PG there are no more Playboy covers, bra and panties matches, or T and A. Instead of Divas the women wrestlers in WWE are just that, women wrestlers. As of Wrestlemania 32 they are no longer referred to as Divas and the former Diva’s championship belt was retired and replaced with the WWE Women’s Championship belt. The women’s revolution is in full force and it’s good for business.

This brings us back to Chyna. After leaving the WWE, she and former flame Sean “X-Pac” Waltman shopped their sex tape around. It was released by Red Light District in 2004. That would be Waltman’s first and last appearance in porn and he eventually signed a legends contract with WWE and still appears on WWE programming every now and then. Chyna, however, would return to porn in 2011 in the professionally made film Backdoor to Chyna. She would do three other pornographic films between 2012 and 2013.
In WWE’s PG era, there is no room for a woman who has been featured in hardcore pornography. Recently former WWE superstar and Hall of Famer Sunny released her own hardcore sex tape, denounced the WWE, and allegedly sold her HOF ring at a pawn shop. When asked if Sunny would be removed from the HOF, WWE’s former head of talent relations and ring announcer Jim Ross wrote on his website “My take would be no but that’s new ground for me to even think about. Allowing someone into the Hall that is perceived to have a dubious past is one thing but banishing an existing member from the Hall is another matter altogether”. Read that last sentence again… “Perceived to have a dubious past”? Excuse me WWE, but your past isn’t exactly pristine. You can’t groom someone to monetize their sexuality, then punish them because they take it “too far”. Check out this clip from the Stone Cold Podcast where Steve Austin asked Triple H when Chyna would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Triple H’s answer differs from Jim Ross (It should be noted JR does not work for WWE anymore and does not represent the company) in that he does not attribute not allowing Chyna into the HOF to morals and says it has to do with what kids will find out if they Google Chyna, if ever she is given the honor of HOF induction. To that I say this: Parents, please turn on Safe Search so that Chyna can be inducted into the hall of fame. Triple H himself lists her accomplishments and says that based on her career she deserves to be in the HOF. Triple H gave the absolute weakest argument for Chyna not to be in the HOF and he doesn’t even believe it. When it comes down to it, it’s not his decision and he has to save face and present a united front for those who don’t want her in the HOF. In death, the question has come up to Triple H again, while the answer is still no, it isn’t as resolute and leaves room for hope that one day Chyna will be posthumously inducted into the WWE HOF.

I fully expect to see a tribute to Chyna tonight when I watch Monday Night Raw. She deserves a montage and she deserves a 10 bell salute. She does not deserve for her foray into hardcore adult entertainment to be used against her as a reason not to go into the HOF. I understand WWE is PG now. I understand that even at the peak of the Attitude Era the WWE would not have condoned one of its superstars to perform in hardcore pornography. On the other hand, I understand that sex work is still work. Adult entertainment is still entertainment. There are currently two Hall of Famers (Hulk Hogan and Sunny) who have sex tapes that have been leaked or released by a major distribution company. If I Google Jackie, the WWE’s most recent female HOF inductee, it wouldn’t take long to find a photo and GIF set of her in the ring at a show in the UK getting her WWF branded shirt ripped off and exposing her bare chest and there is nothing wrong with that. In order to see Chyna’s sex tape or professionally released pornography one would have to be looking for it. For all she did for WWE, it’s truly sad that she is being disgraced for behavior outside of the ring. When it comes down to it, the WWE Hall of Fame should be based on what someone did in the ring. Chris Benoit will never be in the HOF because he murdered his family. I can understand that. Porn is in no way on the same level as murder.

Rumor has it, and Chyna spoke on this as well, that Chyna may have had sexual relations with various WWE talent outside of X-Pac. One of those men being Triple H himself. I can only wonder if that has anything to do with her absence from the HOF. It is possible that Stephanie McMahon, Vince’s daughter and Triple H’s on and off screen wife, is one of those in the higher ranks that are pushing against Chyna’s induction. That, however, is only hearsay, but given the facts that I have the rest just doesn’t add up. I have to wonder if there is some other reason and that’s the most obvious.

Chyna was one of the greatest. She was the 9th Wonder of the World only because Andre the Giant, WWE’s first ever superstar to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, was the 8th Wonder of the World. That in and of itself speaks volumes about her contribution to the WWE. The more I hear about all of her accomplishments in the wake of her sudden death, the more I will question why the WWE has not, and maybe will not, induct her into the Hall of Fame. Even if you can’t celebrate the person, Joanie Laurer, celebrate Chyna. Put her where she belongs among the rest of the superstars immortalized in the HOF.