She is the Ninth wonder of the world, and has become a favorite amongst women (and men) throughout the wrestling industry and beyond. Able to dominate the women’s division, she turned her sites towards the men’s division to become a force to be reckoned with.
Real Name: Joanie Laurer
Stats: 5′ 10″ 200 lbs.
Born: December 27, 1971
In the history of professional wrestling, never has a female wrestler had the impact that Chyna has with her entrance into the sport. Billed as 6′ 0″, 200 lbs.(actually 5′ 10″), the muscularly imposing woman so dominated the ring that she quickly jumped from women’s competition in order to fight with the big boys.
Joanie Laurer was an intelligent and athletic student in high school and at the University of Tampa where she majored in Spanish and Literature. Fluent in several languages, she spent time after college serving in the Peace Corps and contemplated where her life would take her. Capable of entering many different fields, she was drawn to follow her interest in physical fitness. She trained for physical fitness contests and was very active in the weightroom. Eventually she found her way into a wrestling school where she came under the tutelage of wrestling legend Killer Kowalski.
In 1997, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was looking for a bodyguard as he entered a feud with Goldust (Dustin Runnels) and Goldust’s manager Marlena (Terri Runnels). He looked to Kowalski’s school, where he had trained years earlier, to “recruit” Laurer (in reality, the two had been dating in real life for some time). Her size, strength and poise caused her to be feared by men and women alike throughout the World Wrestling Federation, so much so that she was openly referred to as “the Ninth Wonder of the World.”
Chyna began interfering in matches as a member of Degeneration X, often throwing low-blows to the male opponents in the ring, helping to secure important, albeit tainted, victories for her team. Often the men would confront her but were too “chivalrous” to physically attack her. This changed when an irate Ken Shamrock suplexed her during a nationally televised match. She finally got an opportunity to test her mettle against a male opponent as she took on Val Venis in a match in June of 1999 when she scored a pinball after delivering a face buster to Venis.
Her new success led her to enter the King of the Ring tournament where she was defeated by the Road Dogg, but she moved up the charts as a serious competitor to males in the WWF. Finally, in October of 1999, she got the opportunity she was looking for, a shot at a WWF title belt, this time the Intercontinental Championship held by Jeff Jarrett. In a huge upset at the No Mercy pay-per-view, Chyna upset Jarrett to become the first woman to hold a WWF title.
In addition to her success in the ring, Chyna became very popular amongst female fans because of her willingness to break through the glass ceiling and compete on the same playing field with the “big boys.” Here popularity allowed her to crossover into acting where she became a favorite guest star on the “3rd Rock from the Sun” television show. She has also put out a fitness video and appeared on many talk shows discussing her life and the obstacles she has faced. Although not entirely comfortable with being viewed as a role model, she found atisfaction in knowing that younger women followed her lead in maintaining a healthy self-esteem and going after their dreams.
At her young age, Chyna could dominate the women’s division for years to come – but she has already had a far greater impact on the sport of professional wrestling.