Kate's Notes

Monday, February 26, 2007

Joanie Chyna Laurer

Joanie (Chyna) Laurer

Joan Marie "Joanie" Laurer (born December 27, 1969), better known as Chyna, has become notorious for her professional wrestler’s physique; so much so that she earned the nickname "The Ninth Wonder of the World," right behind Andre the Giant, who garnered the title of the Eighth Wonder. This former bodybuilder became an icon of the World Wrestling Federation from 1997 to 2001, and since then has made quite a name for herself as an actress and reality television star.

Given her career, her physical prowess is well documented and followed, and at 5’10 she weighs 200 pounds of pure muscle, she can bench press an astounding 325 pounds.

Early Life and Career

Born in Rochester, New York, to her father, Joe and mother, Janet, Laurer’s parents divorced when she was still very young. Her mother remarried five times, and Lauren has described her mother as having "revolving door marriages," saying that it seemed as if her mother had a new guy every year. In addition to her mother’s tumultuous relationships, her father was an alcoholic. She has said that her childhood was "very dysfunctional,” and that she never got along with her parents, claiming that they were very cruel and abusive. Subsequently, she was raised by her sister, Kathy. Laurer claims that Kathy meant everything to her, as both her best friend and "mother."

Laurer started lifting weights at 15, and left home at age 16, when she traveled to Spain under a scholarship with the United Nations. She graduated high school in Spain 1987, and then went onto spend the next five years at the University of Tampa, where she graduated in 1992 with a double major in Spanish Literature.

She travelled around Europe during her teenage years, spending two nights in Spain, and then off again for four nights in France, and so on. Though, she ended up spending two months in Germany.

Laurer then joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to Costa Rica to teach literacy to underprivileged youths. Before being discovered Laurer tried her hand at various jobs, including selling beepers, singing in an "old geezers" band, bartender, airline attendant, a singing telegram, and a belly dancer. She also once sought employment on the U.S. Secret Service.

Introduction to Wrestling and WWF/WWE Career

Joanie began displaying her physique in the year 1995 and worked for various independent promotions as Just Joanie and Joanie Lee. She regularly entered fitness competitions, and in 1996 Laurer competed in the New York City regional of the Fitness America Pageant.

Laurer trained at Wladek "Killer" Kowalski 's wrestling school in Salem, Massachusetts. During this time, she briefly dated Perry "Saturn" Satullo.

However, her career really took off when she met World Wrestling Federation employees Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a bar in 1997. Struck by her dominating and intimidating physical appearance, they helped her get into the WWF. Laurer is a licensed boxer, and was preparing for her first boxing match when she was hired by the World Wrestling Federation.

Insider Wrestling: Storyline and Moves

She made her WWF debut on February 16 at In Your House 1997 choking the wrestler known as Marlena. Her original role in the company was as Chyna, the laconic bodyguard of Triple H and later D-Generation X, often getting physically involved in Triple H's matches during his feuds with Goldust, Mankind, Owen Hart, and The Rock.

The day after the Royal Rumble 1999, Laurer betrayed Triple H and aligning herself with his enemy Vince McMahon and Kane, his future opponent at WrestleMania XV. Laurer teamed with Kane in her WWF in-ring debut at the St. Valentine's Day Massacre 1999 Pay-Per-View against former allies X-Pac and Triple H. The Corporate pair was successful within the industry, although a Triple H vs. Chyna encounter did not occur. At Wrestlemania XV, Chyna turned on Kane in his match by helping Triple H defeat him, appearing to rejoin DX. However, Chyna and Triple H turned against DX later that evening when they helped Shane McMahon defeat DX member X-Pac. The duo became part of The Corporation, and later Shane McMahon's Corporate Ministry, feuding with heels and faces such as Steve Austin, Kane, X-Pac and The Rock. Following the dissolution of the Corporate Ministry, Chyna remained at Triple H's side, implying there was a romantic relationship, although the two were never affectionate to one another on-screen.

In late 1999, Laurer became a face again during her long feud with Jeff Jarrett. At Unforgiven 1999, she had a match for the WWF Intercontinental Championship against Jarrett, but lost by disqualification. The next night, Chyna and Debra took on Jeff and Tom Prichard hoping to be rewarded a re-match at No Mercy 1999. Chyna and Debra won, and Chyna was awarded her rematch for the Intercontinental Championship. She defeated Jarrett for the title in his last WWF match, a Good Housekeeping match, on October 17 at No Mercy 1999, in the process becoming the first and only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship. She also gained the services of his valet, Miss Kitty. According to her autobiography If They Only Knew, Laurer claims that Jarrett demanded (and received) $250,000 from Vince McMahon in order to lose the title cleanly to a woman. His contract had expired on October 16, 1999 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 Survivor Series 1999, but losing the title to him at Armageddon 1999. The two faced off again in a match on the December 28th 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 2000, Jericho and Chyna defended the title against Hardcore Holly in a triple threat match to determine the Undisputed Champion, in which Jericho won.

In 2000, Laurer briefly teamed with Jericho before becoming the on-screen girlfriend of Eddie Guerrero. Guerrero and Laurer, originally heels, became very popular during the summer of 2000, with Guerrero dubbing her his "Mamacita". The couple faced off against Val Venis and then rookie Trish Stratus in a intergender tag team match at SummerSlam 2000 with the Intercontinental title on the line. Chyna won the match, but lost the belt two weeks later to Guerrero in a triple threat match, which also involved Kurt Angle, causing friction between the two. They officially split in the Autumn of 2000 after Eddie was found cavorting in the shower with two of The Godfather's "hos", Mandy and Victoria. At the same time, Laurer's appearance in Playboy attracted the unwanted attention of Right to Censor, a strait-laced group of wrestlers who lampooned the Parents Television Council. Shortly after, Laurer was announced as injured after a vicious double team piledriver at the hands of Ivory and Val Venis.

Laurer returned a few weeks later and began a feud with Ivory over the Women's Championship. This culminated in an angle at the Royal Rumble 2001 where Laurer appeared to re-injure her neck while performing a handspring back elbow. In order to sell the injury, 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. The highly publicized return of Laurer from the (kayfabe) "injury" culminated in her winning the Women's Championship from Ivory at WrestleMania X-Seven in a squash match.

In an interview with the TV Guide Channel, former professional wrestler turned Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura said that Chyna was his favorite wrestler and that she's the "the best wrestler out there as we speak".

Release from WWE and TNA conflict

Laurer was an extremely dominant champion, easily defeating challengers Molly Holly and Trish Stratus. She also defeated Lita, arguably the WWE's second toughest female, at Judgement Day 2001 – Laurer's final WWE match. She vacated the Women's Championship in the process. However, during her contract re-negotiations, it was said that Laurer was unhappy with the pay she was offered and the fact that she was expected to compete principally in the women's division rather than against men. It was also rumored that the relationship between Triple H, her former boyfriend, and Stephanie McMahon, with whom Laurer claims he had an affair then left Laurer for, was a factor in her departure. She left the company on November 30, 2001, several months after negotiations had broken down and she had been taken off television.
Laurer's in-ring career since then has been very limited. She sang and wrestled at an Ultimate Pro Wrestling event, and was scheduled to appear on a talk show hosted by Jonny Fairplay on a Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) pay-per-view. She did not appear, supposedly due to a dispute over travel costs. It was later revealed Laurer had told organizers that she would not wrestle at the event, so she was not informed of plans to have her wrestle Fairplay, which Laurer had previously refused.

She subsequently made several appearances for New Japan Pro Wrestling. During this time, Laurer engaged in a wrestling match with Masahiro Chono, but Chono despite winning was disappointed with the match's outcome.

Her finishing and signature moves became the “ChynaBomb,” or “Powerbomb.” She was also known for her signature illegal move, Chyna Downstairs (low blow), and finishing moves, the Jackknife Powerbomb (Release Powerbomb), and the Pedigree (Double Underhook Facebuster). Additional trademark moves were the “DDT,” the “Sleeper Slam,” the “Gorilla Press Slam,” the “Handspring Back Elbow,” and the “Low Blow” (from behind).

Lauren as Chyna is one of only two women to have an undefeated reign as WWE Women's Champion, along with Trish Stratus. She is, however, the only one to remain undefeated and defended her title until she left the WWF.

Laurer is the only woman to have held the WWF Intercontinental Championship, and the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble match and King of the Ring tournament. She is the first woman to become the number 1 contender for the WWF Championship, though she lost her contendership before she could challenge for the title.

Championships and Accomplishments

She garnered several awards, and recognition during her reign including, Pro Girls Wrestling Association, Rookie of the Year (1996), International Wrestling Federation, Women's Championship, World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment, WWE Women's Championship (1 time), WWE Intercontinental Championship (3 times), Pro Wrestling Illustrated, PWI ranked her #235 of the 500 best wrestlers in 1999, and #106 of the 500 best wrestlers in 2000.

Modeling, Acting and Other Media

In 2001, Laurer became an author after penning the book Chyna: If They Only Knew, published by Harper Collins out of New York.

Also in 2001, Laurer was a guest on a special celebrity edition of “Fear Factor.” Each contestant played for a charity of his or her choice, and she received $25,000 for the Freedom Families Scholarship Fund. Her competition included Brooke Burke, David Hasselhoff, Kelly Preston, Donny Osmond, and the winner Coolio. She appeared on the celebrity game show, “Hollywood Squares,” where she was introduced as 'Joanie Laurer' of New Japan Pro Wrestling. She also was featured on MTV Cribs showing off her home.

She also appeared in the movies Chyna Fitness and Alien Fury: Countdown to Invasion in 2000, and On the Line in 2001.

Laurer posed several times for Playboy magazine; the first issue which featured a pictorial of her was one of the ten best selling issues in the magazine's history. In 2002, following her departure from WWF/WWE, Laurer also appeared in a Playboy Adult documentary, entitled "Joanie Laurer Nude", with the sub-title "Wrestling Superstar to Warrior Princess", the documentary followed Joanie on-set of her second Playboy nude pictorial.

Laurer has made numerous guest appearances on television series, including “3rd Rock from the Sun,” “Pacific Blue,” “Relic Hunter,” “Sabrina, The Teenage Witch,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?,” and “Tracker.” She also boxed Joey Buttafuoco on a Celebrity Boxing special (Buttafuoco won the decision).

She also auditioned for, but did not win, the role of the female Terminator in Terminator 3, even though many claimed that Arnold Schwarzenegger personally endorsed Laurer. In the end, the part was awarded to Kristanna Loken. She also appeared in a Touchstone picture called Frank McKlusky, C.I.

In 2002 to 2003, she appeared in Joanie Laurer Warrior Princess (2002), Hunter: Back in Force (2003), and Alien Tracker (2003).

In early 2005, she appeared on “The Surreal Life,” with housemates Da Brat, Jane Wiedlin, Adrianne Curry, Christopher Knight, Marcus Schenkenberg, and Verne Troyer. She remains good friends with Adrianne Curry, and made a brief cameo in her reality show “My Fair Brady.”

In late 2005, Laurer signed to star in a new movie entitled Illegal Aliens. She did a lot of promotional work for the movie, including appearances on talk shows and radio shows. On August 31st of 2006, she appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" as a singing barber singing with three other veterans. Laurer also appeared on "The Howard Stern Show," "Queer Edge," and "Opie and Anthony." In November 2006, Joanie revealed on the Dr. Keith Ablow show that she did not leave the WWE because of money issues, but left because Stephanie McMahon wanted her out. Also in November 2006, Joanie announced a new musical project with the band "Plastic Jones."

She also appeared in the films, The Last Guy on Earth (2006), and Cougar Club (2006).

In January 2007, Joanie did an interview with "Lifted Magazine" where she talked about finding religion, overcoming a past full of drugs and violence, and promoted her new movies and TV series. These included “The Surreal Life: Fame Games,” which began to air on VH1 in January 2007. The filming took place in April 2006, during which she formed a close friendship with Brigitte Nielsen.

Media Spotlight and Controversy

Laurer has dated Perry Saturn, Triple H, Sean Waltman, and Joey Fatone of 'N Sync, and on a February 2007 edition of the Bubba the Love Sponge radio show, Sean Waltman claimed that Laurer also previously dated Ed "Brutus Beefcake" Leslie.

In her best selling autobiography, If They Only Knew, Laurer revealed that her breast implants were custom made after she complained to her plastic surgeon that their largest implants didn't suit her frame in the way she desired. Laurer's custom implants became the model for the specialized breast implants, the “Chyna 2000s,” which were marketed to large framed women and female bodybuilders. Though, Laurer revealed that the structural integrity of the Chyna 2000 prototypes was relatively weak, and that one of them ruptured during a wrestling match, necessitating emergency surgery.

Since 2003, Laurer has had a tumultuous relationship with wrestler Sean Waltman. They were engaged for a period in 2003, then broke up, then became engaged again, a pattern which continued for the next two years. In 2004, it was claimed that Laurer and Waltman made a sex tape during a vacation to China earlier that year but Laurer did not go to China with Waltman. 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 – it proved to boost both their careers.

In March 2005, Laurer re-appeared on the Howard Stern Show, where Howard noted that not only did Laurer look better than she did during her previous visit, but her entire general appearance and attitude were much better.

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. However, a close friend of Smith, claimed that Smith, in fact, did not consider Laurer a friend.

On February 14, 2007, Laurer and the Barbi twins led an animal rights protest at UCLA. The trio led other protesters to the door of the Neuropsychiatric Institute, a scientific lab where they perform tests on monkeys. The group had to be split up by the police, but not before a violent protester, who was no where near Laurer or the Barbi twins, shouted obscenities and attempted to harm the workers.


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