R.I.P. Chyna: Remembering a Wrestling Icon
For wrestling fans who grew up in the 90’s (and for many who didn’t), the WWE (formerly the WWF) will always be defined by The Attitude Era. It was the period of wrestling that produced some of the most memorable stables in professional wrestling history – Degeneration X, the NWO, The Nation of Domination – promotional icons like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, and Triple H, and legendary Divas like Trish Stratus and Lita.
At the center of all this was Joan Marie Laurer, better known as Chyna. Often billed as “The Ninth Wonder of the World,” Chyna quickly rose to become not only one of the WWE’s most popular stars, but the only undefeated Women’s Champion in WWE history.
And now, sadly, she has passed away.
According to CNN, Laurer was found dead in her Redondo Beach apartment on the evening of April 20th, and while no signs of foul play were suspected, police are not ruling out an overdose as the potential cause of death.
"It is with deep sadness to inform you that we lost a true icon, a real life superhero. Joanie Laurer aka Chyna, the 9th wonder of the world, has passed away," said a post on her website.
While there were many women that fit the prototypical “Diva” profile, there were few before that possessed the raw athleticism and power of Laurer, a former fitness model and bodybuilder who turned to wrestling after graduating college in the early 90’s. Standing 5’ 10” and weighing 180 pounds of pure muscle, Chyna was one of the few Divas who actually posed a threat to both her male and female competitors. She was the only female competitor to ever reach the #1 contender status for the WWE Championship, and scored victories over multiple-time champions like Triple H, Kurt Angle, and Chris Jericho.
After leaving the WWE in 2001, Laurer continued to find success appearing in several reality shows, posing for Playboy, and even penning a best-selling tell-all book, If They Only Knew. She also turned the release of her “private” sex tape, 1 Night in Chyna, into a temporary career in adult films, for which she won two AVN Awards. The woman had range, is what I’m getting at.
Looking back on her career, it’s hard not to look at Laurer as an icon of feminism in many regards. She shattered stereotypes and challenged gender norms in the most widely-watched and highly-regarded era of professional wrestling, and built an empire through pure grit and determination. She will be dearly missed.
R.I.P. Joan Marie "Chyna" Laurer. And thank you for all you did to entertain us.