She was called the Ninth Wonder of the World, bigger and stronger than other female competitors of her time. She revolutionized the business, but fell victim to many of the pitfalls of the industry before coming to a tragic end.
Real Name: Joan Laurer
Stats: 5′ 10″, 200 lbs.
Born:December 27, 19 69
Chyna, born Joan Marie Laurer on December 27, 1969, in Rochester, New York, was a professional wrestler, actress, and bodybuilder. She had a challenging early life, marked by familial issues and personal struggles, but her resilience eventually led her to a groundbreaking career in the world of professional wrestling.
Growing up, Chyna’s home life was unstable, with her parents separating when she was just four years old. As a result, she spent much of her childhood moving between the homes of her mother, father, and various family members. This constant upheaval contributed to her difficulty in building lasting friendships and a sense of belonging.
Chyna was an academically gifted student and developed an interest in sports and fitness from a young age. She participated in various sports, including track and field, gymnastics, and tennis. Despite facing challenges in her personal life, Chyna managed to graduate from high school and began pursuing higher education.
After high school, Chyna enrolled at the University of Tampa in Florida, where she studied Spanish Literature. She graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Following her graduation, Chyna joined the Peace Corps and taught English in Costa Rica for a brief period. Upon her return to the United States, Chyna held several jobs, including waitressing and singing in a band.
Her interest in fitness and athletics eventually led Chyna to the world of bodybuilding. She began training and competing in various bodybuilding competitions, developing an impressive physique that would become her trademark in the wrestling industry. Chyna’s dedication to bodybuilding also served as an escape from the difficulties she faced in her personal life, providing her with a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
Chyna’s journey into professional wrestling began when she met professional wrestlers while working at a gym. Inspired by their passion for the sport and recognizing the potential her unique physique could bring to wrestling, she decided to pursue a career in the industry. She enrolled in Walter “Killer” Kowalski’s wrestling school in Massachusetts, where she honed her skills and began her journey to becoming one of the most iconic female wrestlers of all time.
Chyna’s early training in professional wrestling began when she enrolled in Walter “Killer” Kowalski’s wrestling school in Malden, Massachusetts. Kowalski was a renowned wrestler and trainer, responsible for grooming some of the industry’s top talents. Chyna’s decision to train under Kowalski was driven by her desire to learn from the best and make a name for herself in the world of professional wrestling.
During her time at Kowalski’s school, Chyna trained diligently, learning the fundamentals of wrestling and developing her in-ring skills. She stood out among her peers not only because of her impressive physique but also due to her determination, work ethic, and commitment to mastering the craft. She quickly gained the respect of her trainers and fellow students.
Kowalski’s rigorous training program focused on technical wrestling, ring psychology, and conditioning. Chyna’s background in bodybuilding and fitness provided her with a strong foundation, allowing her to excel in her training and adapt to the physical demands of professional wrestling.
In addition to her physical training, Chyna also worked on developing her character and persona, embracing the role of a powerful and intimidating female wrestler. She was determined to break the mold of traditional female wrestlers, aiming to compete with male wrestlers on equal footing.
Chyna’s hard work and dedication paid off when she began wrestling on the independent circuit in 1995 under the ring name “Joanie Lee.” She wrestled for various promotions, gaining valuable experience and refining her skills in the ring. It was during this period that she caught the attention of prominent wrestling figures, ultimately leading to her signing with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1997.
Chyna made her debut in WWE in February 1997, portraying a bodyguard for Triple H. She soon became a founding member of the influential and controversial stable D-Generation X (DX), alongside Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and later, X-Pac, Road Dogg, and Billy Gunn. Chyna’s intimidating presence, combined with her ability to compete against male wrestlers, made her a standout member of DX.
Chyna achieved several firsts for female wrestlers in WWE. In 1999, she became the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble match, a significant milestone that showcased her ability to compete on equal footing with her male counterparts. Later that year, Chyna also became the first woman to participate in the King of the Ring tournament.
Chyna’s most notable accomplishment came when she defeated Jeff Jarrett at the No Mercy pay-per-view in October 1999 to become the first (and only) female Intercontinental Champion in WWE history. This victory solidified Chyna’s status as a trailblazer for women in wrestling, demonstrating that female performers could hold traditionally male titles.
During her tenure as Intercontinental Champion, Chyna engaged in memorable feuds and alliances with top WWE Superstars, including Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero. Her on-screen relationship with Guerrero, in particular, showcased her versatility as a performer, as she displayed her comedic side in various segments and storylines.
Chyna’s appearance in Playboy marked another significant milestone in her career and further solidified her status as a cultural icon. In November 2000, Chyna became the first professional female wrestler to pose nude for the magazine, gracing the cover and being featured in a pictorial spread.
The decision to pose for Playboy was a bold move for Chyna, who had already made a name for herself as a trailblazer in professional wrestling. Her appearance in the magazine broke down barriers and highlighted her fearless approach to challenging societal norms and expectations.
Chyna’s Playboy issue was a commercial success, selling out rapidly and becoming one of the best-selling issues of the magazine at that time. This accomplishment not only boosted Chyna’s mainstream appeal but also further demonstrated her ability to captivate audiences both in and out of the wrestling ring.
Her appearance in Playboy also had an impact on her wrestling career, leading to a storyline feud with the Right to Censor, a conservative and censorship-themed faction in WWE. The faction sought to “clean up” WWE programming and targeted Chyna for her decision to pose nude, leading to a series of matches and segments that culminated in her winning the WWE Women’s Championship from Ivory, a member of the Right to Censor, at WrestleMania X-Seven.
Chyna’s Playboy appearance remains an iconic moment in her career and serves as another example of her groundbreaking approach to challenging traditional boundaries in both wrestling and popular culture.
In addition to her accomplishments in the men’s division, Chyna also competed in the Women’s Division. In 2001, she captured the WWE Women’s Championship by defeating Ivory at WrestleMania X-Seven, further cementing her legacy as one of the most dominant female wrestlers of her time.
Chyna’s relationship with Triple H, born Paul Michael Levesque, began in the late 1990s when they were both rising stars in WWE (formerly WWF). The two first met through their work in the wrestling promotion and quickly formed a close bond, both professionally and personally.
On-screen, Chyna and Triple H were initially paired together, with Chyna serving as Triple H’s bodyguard and enforcer. Their chemistry and dynamic as an on-screen duo helped both performers gain traction and popularity with the audience. Eventually, they became founding members of the influential and controversial stable D-Generation X (DX), alongside Shawn Michaels and later, X-Pac, Road Dogg, and Billy Gunn. Chyna and Triple H’s partnership in DX further solidified their status as top stars in the company.
Off-screen, Chyna and Triple H developed a romantic relationship, becoming a couple outside of the wrestling world. Their relationship was reportedly strong and supportive during its early years, with the two often traveling and working together as part of their WWE commitments.
However, as time went on, their relationship faced challenges. Rumors circulated that Triple H had become romantically involved with Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. These rumors eventually proved to be true, and Triple H’s relationship with Chyna came to an end.
Chyna’s departure from WWE in 2001 was said to be partly due to her personal issues with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, as well as contract disputes. After leaving WWE, Chyna’s life took a tumultuous turn, with her struggling to find her footing outside of the wrestling industry. Meanwhile, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon’s relationship continued to grow, and they eventually married in 2003, both personally and professionally becoming one of WWE’s most powerful couples.
Chyna’s life after leaving WWF (now WWE) in 2001 was marked by a series of personal struggles and attempts to reinvent herself outside of the wrestling industry. While she experienced some successes, her post-WWF life was often tumultuous.
Chyna pursued an acting career after leaving wrestling, appearing in various television shows and movies. She had guest roles in TV series such as “3rd Rock from the Sun” and “Fear Factor.” Chyna also appeared in several low-budget films, including “Just Another Romantic Wrestling Comedy” and “Illegal Aliens.”
Chyna participated in reality TV shows to maintain her visibility in the entertainment world. In 2005, she appeared on the reality series “The Surreal Life,” where she lived with other celebrities in a shared house. She was also featured on “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” in 2008, where she sought help for her struggles with addiction.
In 2001, Chyna published her autobiography, “If They Only Knew,” which detailed her life, wrestling career, and personal struggles. The book received mixed reviews but provided fans with a glimpse into her experiences and the challenges she faced.
Facing financial difficulties and seeking new avenues for income, Chyna entered the adult film industry in the late 2000s. She appeared in several adult films, including a few that parodied her wrestling persona. While her adult film career generated some controversy, it also provided her with a temporary source of income and further exposure in the entertainment industry.
Chyna’s life after leaving WWF was fraught with personal struggles, including issues with substance abuse and mental health. Her difficulties were often documented in the media, and her appearances on reality TV showed her attempts to seek help and confront her challenges.
In the mid-2010s, Chyna made some attempts to return to the wrestling world, appearing in independent wrestling promotions and expressing a desire to reconcile with WWE. Unfortunately, these efforts did not lead to a full-fledged comeback or renewed relationship with her former employer.
Chyna passed away on April 20, 2016, at the age of 46 due to an overdose of alcohol and prescription medication. Her struggles and accomplishments after leaving WWF serve as a reminder of her resilience and the complexities of life outside of the wrestling spotlight. While her post-WWF life had its share of challenges, Chyna’s legacy as a trailblazer in the wrestling world remains undeniable.