RIP: Chyna, “The 9th Wonder of the World”

ChynaI’ve thought about Chyna (Joanie Laurer) all day. If you’re familiar with her story, the early part of which is documented in her autobiography If They Only Knew, you’d know her road to iconicism was arduous. Despite her struggles, Chyna blazed a path to become the “9th Wonder of the World,” an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime performer.

As a professional wrestler, Chyna was a huge part of the “Attitude Era” and is recognized as a 2-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, a WWE Women’s Champion, and is the only woman to compete for the WWE Championship. She was the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring events, and was ranked 106 in the PWI 500 (the highest rank by a woman) in 2000.

She underwent reconstructive jaw surgery while under contract, and as a result, became a Playboy cover model. In 2001, one of the founding members of the mainstay group D-Generation X (Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chyna, Rick Rude – later with X-Pac, Billy Gunn, Road Dogg and Tori) was curiously thrust into a place she didn’t really belong – into the resurging women’s division.

After making a grand entrance at WrestleMania X-Seven, Chyna defeated Ivory to become the Women’s Champion, but it wasn’t long before events in her personal life saw her WWE career ended. Whatever happened in 2001 (the rumors are out there) sent Chyna into a depth from which she would never emerge.

Her struggles with domestic violence, depression, drug abuse and the porn industry are well-documented, and have played a speculative role in her omission from the WWE Hall of Fame, an honor she was – and still is – most deserving of.

As a fan, I feel cheated. WWE has had 15 years to induct one of the most recognizable industry stars into its hallowed Hall of Fame. Chyna had been vocal about her desire to be inducted, and to be happy again. Every passing year, I hoped that time would come and that her achievements would be recognized, finally. Now, when that long overdue moment does come, we won’t be able to hear her story in her words. We won’t be able to experience, and join her, in celebration of finally.

I thought, “Typical.”

Then I saw news that Prince died – and immediately, I said, “Even in death, she can’t just have her moment. This day will be overshadowed by a man.”

I don’t say that to diminish Prince’s legacy, or his contribution to the recording industry – and I have no ill feelings toward him. His death is newsworthy on a cultural and artistic level. I simply wish it hadn’t happened today – I wish today had simply belonged to Chyna. It seems like a universal irony – that here was a woman who’d made a significant contribution to her industry, despite the odds –  and even in death, she just couldn’t have her day.

I’d been rooting for Chyna for years – hoping she’d make a full recovery; that she would emerge victorious – and would someday return to the “squared circle.” I can’t express how excited I was to see her return, albeit in TNA, in 2011. I hoped every time D-X reformed that Chyna would get her due credit. I hoped that she’d finally be immortalized and that her memory would be everlasting.

She deserves that much.

Final Note: Chyna was a known animal lover and activist. I made a donation to National Geographic’s Cause an Uproar in her honor – because like the lioness, she was queen of her domain. #RIPChyna