Joanie Laurer, AKA The 9th Wonder of the World, Chyna in the WWE has passed at age 45, her twitter account announced last night.
Chyna rose to prominence in the late ’90s as a member of Degeneration X with Triple H and Shawn Michaels. Laurer played the group’s bodyguard, originally played somewhat for laughs, but her physical stature was certainly imposing enough to make it believable. Chyna later went on to become a legit superstar in the company entering into feuds with male competitors, in an era when women’s wrestling was treated as little more than an excuse for titillation. Having matches with the likes of Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero, even becoming the only woman to ever hold the Intercontinental Championship.
In November 2000, Chyna appeared on the cover of Playboy and it was one of their highest selling issues of all time. After wrestling, she went on to have guest roles in various television shows and was involved in Vh1’s The Surreal Life and its various spin-offs. It was those reality show appearances that showed off a darker, sadder side to Chyna. Often appearing intoxicated, nude and out of control while the cameras were rolling.
In 2004, Laurer and her then boyfriend Sean Waltman (WWE’s X-Pac) released a celebrity sex-tape entitled, 1 Night in Chyna, which would go on to win a 2006 AVN for “Best Selling Title of the Year.” From then on, Laurer’s career consisted mostly of pornography, appearing in another celebrity sex-tape and several professional films. That part of her career is what Triple H said was keeping her from the WWE Hall of Fame as he said on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast,
From a career standpoint, should she be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. It’s a bit difficult, though, and this is the flipside of the coin — and this is the side nobody looks at — I’ve got an eight-year-old kid, and my eight-year-old kid sees Hall of Fame, and my eight-year-old kid goes on the Internet to look at Chyna. What comes up? And I’m not criticizing anybody. I’m not criticizing lifestyle choices. Everybody has their reasons. I don’t know what they were. I don’t care to know. It’s not a morality thing or anything else. It is just the fact of what it is. That’s a difficult choice.
She certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but I can understand the hesitation on the part of a publicly traded, billion dollar company. In this modern WWE, where the Women’s Championship no longer has a butterfly on it and Women’s wrestling is portrayed of a comparable quality to the men’s bouts, none of it would be possible without the 9th Wonder of the World, Chyna. She opened the doors for so many competitors after her, especially the ones who did not fit the “Diva” mold. Sadly, she’ll probably only get the credit she deserves now, in the hour of her death.