It’s another sad day for personal wrestling. I woke up early this morning to the news that Chyna passed away. We’ve had a lot of wrestler deaths in the last few months. And this one just has me numb. I’ve been doing this full time for about five years. And the more I write about this industry that had given me so much joy the more sadness seemed to come from it. The saddest thing about all this really is I thought I would be writing this piece a lot sooner than I am.

Looking back at the 1997 debut of Chyna on WWE television, it was definitely revolutionary. Her physique next to the pompous Hunter Hearst Helmsley character was something that the industry had never really seen before. A female bodyguard. She was an attraction with her stonefaced demeanor at ringside. Chyna’s physicality also separated her from every other woman on the roster at the time. WWE was exactly giving women great opportunities on television at the time. We were still in the era of jiggle TV. That’s what made the Amazon heavy standout so much. Chyna wasn’t afraid to go toe to toe with the men giving women equal footing against the men.

When the Chyna character transformed into a more feminine presentation that luster was lost a little bit. She looked like every other woman. But her career still skyrocketed as The Ninth Wonder of the World continued to break down walls for the female performers in the industry. Most notable of these accomplishments was being a multitime Intercontinental champion.

Everything being done with the modern women in their physicality and perception can be linked to Joanie. She showed that women in the WWE can be more than eye candy. It was this perception change that also led to her losing her aura a bit. As female wrestling quality increased in the WWE, her role became much less important. Someone say that was due to backstage reasons. But I truly believe that the character and run its course. After you’ve seen her battle some of the top men in the company. Fighting women just doesn’t have the same luster. After a while she was just another one of the pretty faces. She would find new life as the love interest of Eddie Guerrero posing for Playboy during the run.

With the magic faded in America, Chyna would go overseas and continue her run for a couple of dates in New Japan. But her lack of in ring skill did not really play as well to the more physically demanding audience. She quickly moved into using her celebrity to appear on reality shows and try to launch her singing career as Chyna Doll. And that’s where true problems came to the surface.

On the 2003 edition of VH1’s Surreal Life, she appeared and lived up to her new name. While she was strong on the outside, emotionally she was fragile. This would continue on for many years on Howard Stern, TV shows and other media outlets as she showed certain outbursts, health scares and rather disappointing behavior. It seems that the woman couldn’t figure out who to trust. She wanted to feel beautiful to someone. Anyone. So in retrospect, her porn career should not be that much of a shock to any of us. Joanie just wanted to be loved and feel accepted. After she quit the porn industry, Chyna would try to get her life back on track teaching English to Japanese students. She also tried a holistic approach doing yoga. For a while she went off the radar and everything seemed to be going well. That was until she got on social media. Joanie’s insecurities were on full display on Twitter and her YouTube channel. She couldn’t seem to put to bed her issues in past relationships. For the last year she had issued campaign to get herself in the WWE Hall of Fame after comments from Triple H talked about her adult past stopping her from getting in.

Ironically enough, it is in her passing that I think she will her just do us today indicates. Chyna was a character that broke the mold of what women were. But Joanie was a woman struggling to find a place in the world.

Of all things, I think her WWE theme song said it best

“Don’t treat me like a woman. Don’t treat me like a man. Don’t treat me like you know me. Treat me for just who and what I am.”

Rest in peace.

About The Author

Dan is host of Shooting from the Hip which you can hear every Sunday at 8pm EST, 7pm CST right here on PWpop.com.