Rochester native Joanie Laurer, known to the pro wrestling world as “Chyna,” will be inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame.
She was named as part of the faction known as “Degeneration X,” along with Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and X-Pac.
In the world of women’s pro wrestling, Chyna was something of a novelty. She was treated as someone who was physically dominating and could hang with the men as well as the ladies.
“It’d be tough to pick a female that was more impactful on the business. She did something that was completely so out of left field that it wasn’t even being considered when we first brought it up for her to come in” said Triple H, known in real life as Paul Levesque, Chief Operating Officer of WWE. “She earned everybody’s trust. She won over the fans. She won over the boys. She did all of it.”
Joanie was born in 1969. She attended Penfield High School, but moved to Spain when she was 16. She graduated from the University of Tampa in 1992.
After attending a wrestling school run by Wladek “Killer” Kowalski, Joanie had her first match in 1995. She debuted in WWE (then WWF) in 1997, where she initially portrayed a “bodyguard” figure for members of the Degeneration X group, but later began wrestling in matches.
In 1999, Chyna became the first woman to participate in the company’s Royal Rumble match. In October of that year, she defeated Jeff Jarrett to become the first woman to win the Intercontinental Title, which she’d later lose to Chris Jericho. At WrestleMania X7 in 2001, she defeated Ivory to win her first WWF Woman’s Championship. Joan left the company in November 2001; she later had brief stints with New Japan Wrestling and TNA Wrestling.
She published an autobiography, “If They Only Knew,” in 2001. She also appeared on various films and television shows, including a recurring role in “3rd Rock from the Sun” on NBC.