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Joanie Laurer, former professional wrestler and reality television star, passed away on April 20. Laurer was best known for her work in the WWE as Chyna and was a true pioneer in professional wrestling.

Laurer began training and performing on the independent circuit in 1995. In 1996, she was being considered to sign with the World Wrestling Federation, but owner and CEO Vince McMahon was hesitant because he wasn’t sure how believable it would be for a women to be beating up men. Eventually he changed his mind and Chyna made her WWF debut in 1997 as a bodyguard for Triple H and Shawn Michaels as part of D-Generation X. She’d often interfere in their matches, using her trademark low blow to the groin of their opponents to help them win.


An imposing figure at 5’10”, 180 pounds, Chyna wasn’t your ordinary female wrestler. She wasn’t arm-candy, she wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. The Ninth Wonder of the World was a beast, a titan, and the WWE rightfully billed her as such. She’d hold men above her head before dropping them to the canvas. She was the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble, the first to enter the King of the Ring tournament. She holds singles victories over the likes of Triple H, Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle, all of whom are multiple-time world champions. She is the only woman ever to hold the Intercontinental Championship. Of course, the WWE booked her to accomplish these feats due to their shock value. But no other woman would have made it feel like more than a gimmick, no other woman would’ve made it believable, no other woman would’ve been able to prove that she belonged in the lion’s pit with all the other gladiators.

After leaving DX and her stint as intercontinental champion, she aligned herself with the late Eddie Guerrero both as his rival and love interest. She won the Women’s Championship from Ivory at WrestleMania X-Seven and defended it against Lita at Judgment Day in 2001 in what would be her final match with the company.

Chyna broke barriers and transcended gender roles. It was she who was the enforcer in DX. The lone female member of the group, she was the intimidating presence that struck fear into opponents, not Triple H or Shawn Michaels. She set the precedence for women competing against men. Jacqueline won the Cruiserweight Championship from Chavo Guerrero in 2004. Beth Phoenix and Kharma followed Chyna’s lead into the Royal Rumble in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

When she left the WWE, Chyna missed out on the resurgence of the women’s division led by Trish Stratus, Lita and others. But it was Chyna who paved the way and set the foundation for the women’s division, and her influence is still evident in today’s crop of WWE Divas. Chyna will be remembered for her lasting impact as a woman who wasn’t afraid to enter a male-dominated world and prove that she was not only just as good, but better than them all.

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