It’s never good to wake up and hear that one of your favorite wrestlers has passed away. That’s what happened today. Joanie Laurer, better known as Chyna, died last night in California. The medical examiners don’t know the cause yet, so I won’t speculate. All I can really talk about here are my feelings.
I’ve been a wrestling fan all of my life. Growing up in NYC, that means that you’re a WWF fan (Madison Square Garden is still considered by old school fans to be the home of the WWF/WWE). As a kid, I collected WWE trading cards (and still have some). I booed Roddy Piper, Paul Orndorff, and Bobby Heenan. I marked out whenever Hulk Hogan’s music would hit. When I saw Hogan slam Andre at WrestleMania III, I believed that anything in the world was possible, and good would always triumph over evil (I was 10, cut me some slack).
As a teen, I drifted away, becoming more interested in music, books, and art. Those were the dark times for the WWF anyway, with the congressional investigation over steroids. But I came back in college, and a big part of that was because of D-Generation X, and Chyna.
She was unlike any woman that I’ve ever seen. Immensely strong and muscled, but still beautiful. She broke the bounds of female wrestlers. No woman could match her, and the WWF often had her wrestling, and defeating, men. It wasn’t unbelievable.
When I say that she was beautiful, I mean it. She was a true sex symbol. My college roommate had a poster of her, half naked from behind, flexing to show off her corded muscles. Underneath, it said “Made in Chyna.” Maybe not everyone could get over her “masculine” body, but it was a revelation to me. She was beautiful because she was powerful. She wasn’t a “girly-girl.” She was Wonder Woman.
From all reports, she was a very warm person outside of the ring. She wasn’t afraid to hug her fans, children, adults, it didn’t matter. I never got the chance to meet her. I’ve met quite a few of my Attitude Era heroes, but never her. I regret it.
Mick Foley expressed his feeling much better than I can here.
She didn’t have an easy life. She was estranged from her family, put in debt by her father, and unceremoniously booted from the WWE, probably due to the conflicts between her, her ex, HHH, and his wife Stephanie McMahon. Drug and alcohol abuse plagued her. She had terrible relationships, especially with wrestler Xpac. They made a porn tape, but I never saw it. i refuse to ruin my image of her by watching her in such a personal act. I did own a copy of her Playboy issue though. I wish that I still had it.
She was the only reason that I watched shows like “The Surreal Life.” It was heartbreaking to watch that decline, but I rooted for her at every corner. I wished desperately that she would change her life around, but she couldn’t. Addiction is a festering wound that refuses to heal.
Did you know that she was in the Peace Corps? Did you know that she taught English in Japan? She contributed in and out of the ring. She had heart to go with the muscle.
I hope that she died in her sleep, feeling no pain. She suffered enough in life.
Farewell, Chyna. You’ll always be Wonder Woman to me.