In Memory of the Great Chyna

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A look back at my interview
with the great Joanie Laurer…RIP


“China”Joanie Laurer
1970 – 2016

haunce Hayden: You left the WWF, and in the process gave up the trademark name Chyna, to pursue an acting career.
Joanie Laurer: That’s right.

Are you afraid of the risk?
It’s scary. But you don’t get anywhere if you don’t take a risk in life. My whole career has been based on taking risks. It’s also scary to think of signing another contract with the WWF for five more years, and then at the end of those five years that will be it. I’ll be done. That’s even scarier.

Would it be fair to say that you didn’t leave the WWF on bad terms?
Exactly. That was what I was just about to say. The difference with me is number one, my decision to leave the WWF was a mutual one. I had done so much in the wrestling world for six years. I made Chyna a household name. Not only did I do Playboy magazine, but it was the number-one best seller in Playboy magazine history. I also wrote a book that was number two on the New York Times Best Seller list. I did a fitness video that won international awards for best content. I fought men on an equal par. I am completely different than any other woman that has ever been involved in professional wrestling.

It seems that you had everything going for you at the WWF. I have to ask, why leave if things were going so well?
I worked very very hard to get to that point. The problem was, where do I go from there? Opportunity started to come my way, and just like you, I want to wake up and be able to know that I can grow professionally and financially. I just got to a certain point in wrestling where I wasn’t able to do that anymore.

So are your wrestling days over for good?
I can still wrestle when I want to. But I can also take advantage of those other opportunities. I would be a fool not to do that.
Many who follow the WWF are claiming that the reason you left the WWF is because you were dating fellow wrestling superstar Triple H.
And the relationship fell apart.
That is correct.

Did that have anything to do with you leaving the WWF?
No. It was very difficult for me, but the rumors are true. If you want me to be more specific, that’s okay too. But I think my main objective has always been my career. And in spite of what happened between me and Triple H, I walked in and held my head up high every day at work. I did my job 110 percent, and I fulfilled my contractual obligations and I knew that my personal life was a separate issue. Whether I feel that it was handled correctly or incorrectly, or whether it was right or wrong, I had a job to do. What happened behind the scenes is something that, by looking at my face, you would have never have known. I would never let something that happened to me personally affect my career. I got into wrestling when I wasn’t with Triple H, and I left the same way. I will continue to be a success without him.
So whose heart was broken here? From what you’re telling me, I get the feeling it was your heart that was bodyslammed to the mat.
My heart was absolutely broken!


Isn’t there a no-date policy with other wrestlers at the WWF?
No, but I believe this, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dating the people you work with, because those are the people who you’re around every day. You can’t pick what happens. I think there was a certain point in time when Triple H and I were wonderful for each other. It worked very well. I have no regrets. I think he got so involved in this business that he started to fall out of love with me and started falling in love with Stephanie McMahon [the daughter of WWF founder Vince McMahon]. He was surrounded 24 hours a day with his storyline and what he was doing on television, and that’s what he lived for.
That’s insane. That’s also what she lives for. The only thing I can say now is that we’ve all moved on. It sucked when it happened. But now I can say that maybe it’s best that the two people that love the business the most are together. The truth is, it will be great for business.
I can tell by the tone of your voice you’re still very hurt by what happened between you and Triple H. It hurt me at first, but I’m okay with it now.

How do you think you’re perceived by the public?
It’s difficult to say, because I think the public’s perception of me has changed over the last year or so. I think that at first I was considered to be horribly aggressive and masculine. I think people thought I was a nasty woman who had an overly developed body and I just kicked guys in the nuts a lot. (Laughs) And it was important for me to be that way at first to gain credibility and to be able to do what I did. If I had walked into that arena the way I am now, I would have never have made it to where I am today. So that negative early perception actually helped me. Then I got the chance to be Joanie a little bit more, and to talk about me and to talk about what I want to do in life, like Playboy and television shows. And none of those things were handed to me, by the way. These are things that I got by going out to California on my days off and meeting with people like Hugh Hefner and others like him, to ask if I could do all this stuff.

Why did you feel so compelled to be in Playboy and on television? Why wasn’t the WWF enough for you?
I wanted to make a statement. I keep going back to Playboy. I wanted to be different, and I felt that I was different. I think so often we expect women to look a certain way and to be a certain way and act a certain way. I was just so opposite from all that. And I just wanted the chance to talk about it, and once I got that chance, people started to look at me very differently. It’s like that first person that takes a step forward and talks about something that they’re not supposed to talk about. Then other people come out and go, “Yeah, what she said!”

You’re referring to your body size, and the perception that you can’t be feminine and at the same time be a large, muscular woman?
Yes. Now other women are coming out and saying, “I want to wrestle too!” or “I want to lift weights!” or “Gosh, you really are beautiful!”

Why do you think you’ve been able to change the typical stereotype of big, strong women?
I’ve given people a different perspective, and some of that was due to the things I spoke about in my book about my childhood. People can relate to me. The book completely changed my image. Not just for wrestling fans, but for everyone. Even if you never watched wrestling, you can still read my story and say, “God! It’s amazing what that girl did!”
At 5’9”, 185…
I’m actually only 165 now. Which goes along with that whole image thing I was talking about. People just think I’m this Amazon woman who weighs 300 pounds.

Do you ever wish you weren’t so masculine?
No. Absolutely not. I’m very proud of who I am. It sets me apart. I think I am the epitome of the overall woman.

What is the overall woman?
I think that you should have strength, beauty, and intelligence. I’ve always aimed at having all of those things. Trust me, I don’t have a problem getting a date. Things like Howard Stern … (Pause) Let’s face it, it’s an audio show and I’m not the typical beauty. I’m not going to take my top off and be drunk out of my mind. So what is he going to do? Try and upset me and make good radio, and I came for that. That’s fine with me. It’s not any different doing that than somebody who goes through rehab and goes on the show, or that’s dated 50 people. We all have our jugular vein that he can go for.

So then you’re saying that your size is your jugular vein?
Not for me, but maybe for him it is. He was just hoping that was my jugular. It’s all for radio. Off the air, he kept telling me how incredible he thinks I am. It’s all entertainment. I’m just very proud that at one time what I have was thought of as an oddity, and it’s now a very marketable, unique commodity. I’m very proud of that.

Why do you think Vince McMahon is so strict about all his wrestlers staying in character and not letting their real personalities show off the mat?
It’s odd. Vince McMahon sees the characters of his wrestlers as the promotional vehicle. So realistically, he doesn’t want me to go out and be Joanie. He wants me to be Chyna, because that promotes his vehicle more. It’s difficult, because I love going out in front of all the crowds and having people saying they love me. It gave me an adrenaline rush like there’s no tomorrow. But when I went home, I felt like I still had to be Chyna. They wouldn’t let me be Joanie. I wanted the fans to meet Joanie, but that couldn’t happen. I kept saying “My name’s Joanie” and everyone kept saying “It’s Chyna!” It started to be very upsetting. The storylines got crazy. Sometimes I felt like a clown going out there. Like the Vince story. We never know what’s real or what’s fake. By the way, a lot of the guys don’t want to be themselves. If you talk to Triple H, he’ll tell you he doesn’t want you to call him Paul. He wants to be Triple H, because that will lead him to the next Pay-Per-View or the next TV commercial.

Well speaking of Joanie, you turn 30 this year. Does the big three-o bother you?
Maybe for a second. But I feel that I look better than I ever have. I feel more confident, and I’m excited to be moving on to the next phase of my life. It’s just very exciting. So the number doesn’t really bother me. I mean, I wouldn’t have these same opportunities at 25. And I would never want to start all over again. Thirty is the perfect age and perfect timing. Everything is falling into place right now. Especially since it started off as something really sad. I was very sad and upset to leave my friends who I consider my family, and who I traveled with nearly every day of my life for the past six years. Especially when the guys have been calling me non-stop, telling me that they miss me.

Did anyone try to talk you out of leaving the WWF?
Nope. I think they all knew it was time for me to go.

Are men intimidated by you?
I think they were at one time. Now I think they’re more intrigued. For the most part, men love me. But then again, that’s just the men who are approaching me. I think for a lot of guys, it might be easier for them to go after the typical eye candy. But there are a lot of men who love my personality and love the way I take care of my body. They think it’s cool that I can go out and wrestle and also pose nude for a magazine. I think it’s cool, too.

What about you would surprise people the most who don’t know you?
That I’m very girly. That’s what surprises people the most about me. People are shocked that I’m very beautiful and very feminine. I just happen to be a lady with muscles. I still like getting the car door opened for me. If I meet you, I won’t kick you in the nuts. (Laughs)
Last question. One hundred years from now, how would you like people to remember not Chyna, but Joanie?
As a well-educated, fun, happy person. Somebody who smiles a lot and people enjoy being around. I want to be remembered as somebody people looked up to. I want people to think of me with respect.



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