Chyna’s WWE Hall of Fame Induction is Long Overdue


Inducting Chyna into the WWE Hall of Fame next year is the right thing to do–heck, she should have been in already.

It’s hard to imagine that Joanie Laurer didn’t grow up feeling like an outcast misfit. A child of a broken home, the future WWE Superstar dealt with parental alcoholism and domestic abuse, collecting step-parents like action figures and getting subjected to horrific punishments from her mother. It wasn’t until she left home at 16 and discovered weightlifting and fitness that she found an escape, a world that would accept her misfit self for who she was.

Pro wrestling is the land of misfits, after all, having never really shaken its carnival sideshow origins. Turn on a WWE program in any given calendar year and you’ll likely run into Vince McMahon’s latest dog-faced boy, bearded lady or Eighth Wonder of the World. From Andre to Kamala to Giant Gonzalez to The Undertaker to Kane to the Great Khali, Vinnie Mac loves his “special attractions.”

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Gather ’round, everyone, and witness such larger than life sights! An undead Solomon Grundy and his hideously deformed brother, burned in a childhood fire and forced to don a mask lest the villagers grab their torches and pitchforks! Our very own Irish Leprechaun! A gargantuan backwoods cult member who will terrify you with his black sheep mask! Pro wrestling wants, demands, and accepts freaks, and it’s hard to imagine that the woman who became known as the Ninth Wonder of the World didn’t feel a kinship with such a menagerie.

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None of this, though, is meant to disparage Joanie Laurer, aka Chyna. We as wrestling fans are freaks and misfits in our own right, and as such, we fans quickly accepted Chyna as one of our own. At first, she was a novelty, a spectacle, and the less civilized citizenry demeaned her as such, waving signs at Pay-Per-Views with messages like “Hunter and Chyna, who wears the pants in the family?,” because people are awful. Yes, in the late 1990s, the Attitude Era wasn’t ready for non-binary gender roles, and a distinctly masculine-looking female was confusing for a lot of WWE fans, who channeled their confusion into cruelty. But Chyna grew up knowing a little something about cruelty, having dealt with way worse than mere taunts. Sticks and stones.

Chyna was much too special, much too unique, to be relegated to the sideshow for long. Refusing to stay pat in her role as bodyguard to Hunter Hearst Helmsley, she eventually struck out on her own, preferring to mix it up with the men instead of the women. And over the course of four short years, she evolved from “special attraction” to pop culture icon. She was the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble and the King of the Ring Tournament. She was briefly recognized as number one contender to the WWE World Title. And in 1999, she shattered the gender barriers she had been weakening when she defeated Jeff Jarrett to win the Intercontinental Championship.

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  • Meanwhile, the next generation of WWE women were watching intently. Women like Bayley, Liv Morgan, Dana Brooke and Summer Rae testified to her inspiration, likely seeing her accomplishments early on as proof that women could not only hold their own with the men of pro wrestling, but outshine them as well (which Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks arguably did just this month at Wrestlemania). Without the inspiration of women like Chyna and her contemporaries Lita and Trish Stratus, how many of these young girls, drawn in by a performance art generally thought of as a boys’ pastime, would still feel empowered to give it a go? Who knows? Yes, the fans didn’t know how to handle her at first, but eventually, she was worshiped.

    The battered misfit New York girl smashed down doors in WWE on her way to ascending to a goddess whose accomplishments left an indelible mark on WWE’s Attitude Era. No history of that time period can be complete without including the exploits of the Ninth Wonder of the World. Chyna is a helix in the Attitude Era’s DNA alongside Stone Cold, The Rock and Mankind. She changed the landscape of pro wrestling and left it a different world than the one she entered. There should be absolutely no question that Chyna is deserving of enshrinement in WWE’s Hall of Fame–and let’s be frank: she should be in there already.

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    But WWE’s Hall of Fame, like the WWE itself, is largely artifice. The qualifications for entry are nebulous at best, often boiling down simply to what will garner the most goodwill and publicity leading into a Wrestlemania. And unfortunately, Chyna’s journey through WWE was not without its drama. Yes, the relationship between Chyna and the world that once accepted her as its own rapidly soured, and both sides can share much of the blame. But let’s not assign that blame here. Is it so hard to believe that someone who never knew a safe childhood home would have a hard time ever being comfortable, even in a world full of fellow misfits?

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    Sadly, it seems that Chyna was never entirely comfortable no matter where she landed, whether it was wrestling, adult film (another haven for those who don’t fit in to traditional society, like it or not), or even the Peace Corps. Tragically, she has left us, and hopefully now knows the peace she never completely seemed to find in real life. So it’s left to those of us she left behind to find her that permanent home that she was never able to settle into in real life. Hopefully next year WWE, the land of misfits made good, does their part to bring Chyna back home again, even if it’s posthumous.