Joan Marie Laurer (December 27, 1970 – April 20, 2016) was an American actress and retired professional wrestler. A former bodybuilder, she was best known for her career with the World Wrestling Federation from 1997 to 2001, where she was billed as "Chyna: "The Ninth Wonder of the World" (with the eighth wonder being André the Giant).
Training and Independents
Joanie Laurer trained at Wladek "Killer" Kowalski's professional wrestling school in Malden, Massachusetts. Her first match was in 1995 against a male wrestler dressed as a woman. While attending the school, she also worked for various independent promotions as Joanie Lee. Some of her earliest matches were set up by The Fabulous Moolah.
Laurer met World Wrestling Federation (WWF) performers Paul "Triple H" Levesque and Shawn Michaels after a professional wrestling show in 1996. After watching tapes of her matches, they decided to bring her into the WWF as a bodyguard. Vince McMahon, the owner of the WWF, initially did not want her to join the company because he did not believe the audience would find a woman beating up men believable. While waiting for the WWF's decision, Laurer was approached by World Championship Wrestling (WCW), who wanted her to be the sole-female member of the New World Order. She initially accepted the offer, but later turned it down when Shane McMahon, Vince McMahon's son, informed her that she was about to be hired by the WWF. Kowalski, her former trainer, however, maintains that he got her hired by the WWF after introducing her to Shane McMahon and telling him of WCW's interest in her.
World Wrestling Federation
D-Generation X (1997–1999)
Vince McMahon later changed his mind by hiring Laurer, and she made her WWF debut on February 16, 1997 at In Your House 13: Final Four; her character emerged as a plant from a ringside seat, choking Marlena while Goldust was in the ring with Triple H. Her original role in the promotion was as the iconic enforcer/bodyguard for Triple H and later, his D-Generation X group (which included Sean "X-Pac" Waltman). She often helped Triple H (then, a rising villain) cheat to win by physically interfering in matches by executing her trademark low blow to the groin. She was later introduced as Chyna, a play on words; fine china is delicate and fragile, which was a sharp contrast to her character. Off-screen, however, the male wrestlers were hesitant at first to let a female over-power them on-screen.
On January 25, 1999, Chyna was the 30th and final entrant in the Royal Rumble match, becoming the first woman in history to ever enter the Rumble match; she was eliminated by Steve Austin. The following day on Raw, Chyna became a villainess by betraying Triple H and aligning herself with his enemy Vince McMahon and Kane. Chyna teamed with Kane at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre pay-per-view in a victorious effort against former DX allies X-Pac and Triple H. At WrestleMania XV, Chyna turned on Kane in his match by helping Triple H defeat him, appearing to rejoin DX. Chyna and Triple H, however, turned against DX later that evening when they helped Shane McMahon defeat DX member X-Pac. The duo then became part of The Corporation (and later, Shane McMahon's Corporate Ministry). Following the dissolution of the Corporate Ministry, the evil Chyna remained at Triple H's side.
Intercontinental Champion (1999–2000)
In June 1999, Chyna became the first woman to qualify for the King of the Ring tournament. She was also the first female to be the number one contender for the WWF Championship, but lost the spot to Mick Foley before SummerSlam in August. Later that year, Laurer became a fan favorite again during her long feud with Jeff Jarrett. At Unforgiven, she had a match for the WWF Intercontinental Championship against Jarrett, which she lost. She defeated Jarrett for the title at No Mercy in his last WWF match, a Good Housekeeping match, on October 17 at No Mercy, in the process becoming the only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship. She also gained the services of his valet, Miss Kitty. Laurer claims that Jarrett demanded (and received) $300,000 from Vince McMahon in order to lose the title cleanly to a woman. His contract had expired on October 16, and he was therefore not contractually obligated to appear on the pay-per-view. If he had not appeared, the WWF would have been criticized for false advertising, and the lineage of the title would have been broken.
Chyna then feuded with Chris Jericho over the belt, defeating him at the Survivor Series, but losing the title to him at Armageddon. The two faced off again in a match on the December 28 edition of SmackDown!, which ended controversially with both wrestlers pinning each other. As a result, then "head of authority" Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley declared them co-champions. At the Royal Rumble, Jericho and Chyna defended the title against Hardcore Holly in a Triple Threat match to determine the Intercontinental Champion, which Jericho won. Afterwards, Laurer briefly teamed with Jericho.
Eddie Guerrero; Women's Champion (2000–2001)
On the April 3 edition of Raw, Chyna turned villainous by attacking Jericho and causing him to lose the European Championship to Eddie Guerrero. After her heel turn, Chyna claimed that she sided with Guerrero because she couldn't resist his "Latino Heat." Guerrero and Chyna, originally villains, later became fan favorites during the summer of 2000, with Guerrero dubbing her his "Mamacita". The couple faced Val Venis and then-rookie Trish Stratus in an intergender tag team match at SummerSlam with the Intercontinental Championship on the line. Chyna won the match, but lost the belt two weeks later to Guerrero in a Triple Threat match with Kurt Angle. They officially split in November 2000 after Chyna, in storyline, found Eddie cavorting in the shower with two other women.
At the same time, Laurer posed nude for Playboy magazine's November 2000 issue. Her Playboy modeling was also worked into a WWE storyline, in which it drew the ire of the Right to Censor (a group of morally conservative and self-righteous wrestlers). Shortly after, Laurer began a feud with Ivory, a member of the Right to Censor, over the Women's Championship. This culminated in a storyline at the Royal Rumble where Laurer appeared to reinjure her neck while performing a handspring back elbow. In order to better convince the audience that she was injured, color commentator Jerry Lawler left the commentators' booth and entered the ring to check on Laurer's condition, something he had not done since the in-ring accident that killed Owen Hart in 1999. When Laurer returned from the "injury", she won the Women's Championship from Ivory at WrestleMania X-Seven in a squash match, a short match where one performer defeats the other with ease. Laurer also defended her title against Lita at Judgment Day in 2001. Although she won the match, she soon vacated the Women's Championship, as this was Laurer's final WWF match. The relationship between Triple H, her former real-life boyfriend, and Stephanie McMahon (with whom Laurer claims he had an affair and then left her for), was a major factor in her departure. She left World Wrestling Federation on November 30, 2001, several months after she had been taken off of television. Jim Ross later claimed that she was not fired, but rather chose to leave for personal reasons.
Independent circuit and New Japan (2001–2004)
Laurer's in-ring career after WWE was limited. In 2002, Laurer joined New Japan Pro Wrestling and made her first appearance at the New Japan Thirtieth Anniversary Show, refereeing a bout between the Steiner Brothers and Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kensuke Sasaki. In September and October 2002, she wrestled four matches for the promotion. After losing to Masahiro Chono on October 14, 2002, Laurer performed her final match on October 26, teaming with the Fake Great Muta in a loss to Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kenzo Suzuki. Laurer also was scheduled to appear with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, but she did not appear due to having pneumonia.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2011)
During the May 3, 2011, tapings of the May 12 edition of Impact!, Chyna made her TNA debut as Kurt Angle's business associate and tag team partner at Sacrifice, where they will face Jeff Jarrett and Karen Jarrett. During the taping she also took part in a battle royal, from which she eliminated Jeff. According to reports, Chyna had not signed a contract with TNA, but instead agreed to work the taping and the PPV on a handshake deal.
Laurer's breast implants were custom-made for her after her first implants were ruptured during a wrestling match. She had also complained to her plastic surgeon that their largest implants did not suit her frame in the way she desired. Laurer's custom implants became the model for the Chyna 2000s, a model of breast implant now marketed to large-framed women and female bodybuilders. Laurer claims to have paid $6,000 for them.
From 1996 until 2000, Laurer dated fellow wrestler Paul "Triple H" Levesque. They initially hid their relationship from their co-workers because Laurer felt that people might think she "[slept] her way to the top". The duo also lived together for some time. Beginning in 2003, however, she had a tumultuous relationship with wrestler Sean Waltman. They were engaged for a period in 2003, then broke up, and then became engaged again, a pattern that continued for the next two years. In 2004, Laurer and Waltman made a sex tape. Eager for a repeat success, the company that released Paris Hilton's celebrity sex tape obtained the footage, edited it, and released it under the name 1 Night in China. The video sold over 100,000 copies, with both Laurer and Waltman earning a share of the profits. Laurer, however, maintains that she did not earn any money from the release. In January 2005, Laurer was arrested for domestic assault after allegedly beating Waltman.
On February 8, 2007 (the date of Anna Nicole Smith's death), a visibly upset Laurer appeared on Larry King Live to speak about her late friend. On the program, Laurer claimed that she "knew it was coming" because of the way the media had ridiculed Smith, and she drew parallels between the plight of Anna and herself. The wife of the CEO of Trim Spa, Monique Goen, however, claimed that Smith did not consider Laurer a friend.
After leaving the WWF, Laurer was unable to use the name "Chyna" because of its trademark. Therefore, she began to use the name "Chynna Doll" for public appearances. In November 2007, however, Laurer filed papers to change her name legally to Chyna.
Laurer has also had problems with substance abuse. She claimed that her "life was spinning out of control" around the time she made the sex tape. In January 2005, Sean Waltman claimed that she was battling drug and alcohol addiction, as well as mental illness. Days after the domestic dispute between Waltman and Laurer, it was reported in the New York Post that she had stripped naked and jumped into a fish tank in a New York nightclub. That same month, she made another appearance on The Howard Stern Show, where she was slurring her words and going off on random tangents. On the program, she claimed to not want to do drugs anymore, but said that if a line of cocaine was in front of her, she would do it. After her appearance, she entered a facility specializing in helping people with depression, and she decided to stop drinking. In early 2008, Laurer appeared on the VH1 reality TV show, Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, but she claimed on the show that she did not consider herself an addict. On December 27, 2008, she was rushed to the hospital after her birthday party, where she was found passed out with cuts on her arms.
Laurer had a strained relationship with her family. She last saw her mother at the age of sixteen, and she claimed that her father never got over her decision not to join the FBI. She also alleged that her father took out several student loans in her name and without her knowledge, leaving her with $40,000 in debt. On an episode of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2008, Laurer claimed to have a bad relationship with all of her family members, including her siblings. In September 2010, Laurer was hospitalized after overdosing on sleeping medication. As of February 2015, Laurer had reestablished a good relationship with her mother; her father died in May 2014.
Laurer taught English in Japan.
On February 9, 2015, during a WWE Network podcast with Steve Austin, Triple H mentioned that Chyna deserved to be in the WWE Hall of Fame but that problems with children Googling her prohibited it. After being in contact with Vince Russo she claimed in an interview that Triple H had hit her, which he later called a false statement.
On April 20, 2016, Laurer was found dead at her home in Redondo Beach, California. She had been taking medication for anxiety and sleep deprivation. An official statement was posted to her Twitter account, saying "It is with deep sadness to inform you today that we lost a true icon, a real life superhero ... She will live forever in the memories of her millions of fans and all of us that loved her."
- Chyna and the late Anna Nicole Smith have worked together in the past, participating (along with KISS) in the Lane Bryant fashion show. When asked about Anna Nicole by Steve Gerweck, Chyna said: "Anna is a great friend. She was a true professional and a very funny lady. Despite what you read about her in magazines she is not crazy. She is very intelligent and very talented."
- Chyna's favourite WWE moment was winning the Intercontinental Championship at No Mercy.
- Chyna speaks four foreign languages and loves to read and write.
To me wrestling is not what it use to be. There are a lot of politics. When I began my career we did not have all of that, everyone looked out for everyone else, now everyone is in it for themselves.
On why she left the WWE:
On winning the Intercontinental Championship:
On working with Eddie Guerrero:
What she misses the most about wrestling:
The instant gratification from 20 thousand fans, there is nothing like the reaction of thousands of screaming fans, it is a complete adrenaline rush.
When asked if she'll return to the WWE:
- Finishing and signature moves
- Gorilla press slam
- Low blow
- Handspring back elbow
- "Ninth Wonder Of The World"
- Tag teams and stables
- Wrestlers managed
- Theme music
Championships and accomplishments
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- World Wrestling Federation