Wrestling fans are currently living in one of women's wrestling's most remarkable periods. From WWE, AEW, NJPW, and the indies, these women athletes repeatedly break glass ceilings, records, and expectations. Just three years ago, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Ronda Rousey headlined Wrestlemania 35. Bayley and Sasha Banks had an unforgettable 30+ minute Iron Woman match, regarded as one of the greatest single matches of all time. It feels great that I can go on and on about the amazing things women in wrestling have achieved, considering the outlook of the Attitude Era or the underutilization of the division in the early 90s.
One sad thing I notice when we have returns of legends like Lita and Trish Stratus or the combination of strength and beauty of wrestlers like Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley is that Chyna/Joanie Laurer is not here to enjoy it. Imagine Chyna at her peak, mixing it up with some of today's top talents – dream matches galore. There could have been a fantastic Chyna indie run that many legends of her caliber are having now.
Instead, there’s tragedy and a bunch of “what if’s” that A&E’s Biography chronicles within an hour and thirty minutes. Every time this story is told differently, one conclusion remains – that it shouldn’t have been the end. For the Ninth Wonder of the World? Chyna made it a point to break down barriers – she was the first woman who appeared in a Royal Rumble, King of the Ring, and two-time Intercontinental champion. Given how she overcame a rough home life, stereotypes within the wrestling world, and her physique, it just doesn’t feel right for her not to be here to get her flowers properly.
Still, she has not gotten a lone WWE Hall of Fame entry to this day. Hopefully, this gets rectified soon, granted people from the company spoke about Laurer’s undeniable impact in this documentary. The biography goes through her early life and how tumultuous it was, her foray into bodybuilding, and eventually, how she ended up as the firm hand of Degeneration X. Yes, it also touches on her relationship with Paul “Triple H” Levesque, the letter she found that Stephanie McMahon wrote, and an interview with Shawn “X-Pac” Waltman about how turbulent their union became due to drug use.
Given everything she accomplished, it’s hard to see that it wasn’t a missed opportunity for the WWE, and Laurer couldn’t agree to a new deal. Look at how Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and, later, John Cena crossed over as movie stars. If Laurer had been able to use the Chyna name, things could have been a lot different. Unfortunately, there was no AEW back then that she could go to. WCW and ECW were both dead and under the thumb of WWE, and outside of a New Japan stint, that was it.
It was nice to hear those in the wrestling community speak fondly about Laurer, but one has to think it would have been greater if they didn’t forget about her after her contract expired. WWE welcomes back legends all the time – from Hulk Hogan to the late Ultimate Warrior, who reportedly tried to ransom Vince McMahon for money. Some wrestlers have done worse than adult videos (which the A&E thankfully does not touch on), so it all feels like a missed opportunity.
While the biography chronicles Laurer’s downfall, it contrasts the attempted documentary by her former manager, and the later Vice documentary feel that much crueler and even exploitative. In her last days, it felt like Laurer was surrounded by people who looked at her as content and not interested in trying to help her. That’s no fate that any legend should see.
As we continue to speak about Chyna’s impact, I hope her story brings awareness that we should keep her accomplishments alive and not predicate her by her worst moments. Much of the advancements you have today wouldn’t be if Chyna didn’t (literally) kick those doors down.