Joanie Laurer, the groundbreaking female wrestler known as Chyna, has died.
Police in Redondo Beach, California, confirm that Laurer, 45, was found dead in her apartment on Wednesday. Police say they were notified by a friend who went to check on her and found Laurer unresponsive. The cause of death is under investigation, but police say there are no signs of foul play. READ MORE.
I feel the need to talk about this because, in a way, it almost seem unfair that her death is being so overshadowed due to Prince’s death. It reminds me of what happened when Farrah Fawcett died a few hours before Michael Jackson did. Now, while I can hardly say that Chyna’s death affected me anywhere near as strongly as Prince’s did I am also sad about this.
There was about a 5-year period in my life, beginning around late 1997 until around 2002, where I was a pretty major fan of Pro-Wrestling (or “Sports Entertainment”, if you will), after a friend got me into it. WWF (and I still can’t get used to saying WWE), WCW, ECW, XPW, I watched it all. I was even subscribed to I think about 5 different wrestling magazines (this was pre-internet, for me) just to read about wresting. During this time Chyna, the “9th Wonder of The World”, was a major player. First, she was mostly just an enforcer for the wildly popular wrestling clique, Degeneration X, and then as a sole performer in her own right. Over the years I watched as she rose in popularity, eventually reaching the stage where I, and many other fans, thought, she could have been seen as a legitimate WWF World Champion (the highest she got was Intercontinental Champion, WWF’s 2nd-highest belt at the time).
Eventually my interest in wrestling waned. I still follow some news about it online, but don’t really watch any shows. But I was aware of Chyna’s downward spiral. From what I could see, she really got screwed over. She was originally dating Triple H, but then in a storyline they had him marry Stephanie McMahon, and then Triple H ended up dumping Chyna and dating Stephanie for real. Dang, that had to hurt. And right there you knew her days were over. Her ex was now dating the boss’ daughter. How much effort do you really think they were going to put into promoting her, after that? So they fire her (supposedly via Fax) and they don’t even let keep using the name Chyna, so she had to come up with “Chynna Doll.” But she’s still Chyna to me.
A few years later I watched VH1’s “Reality” Show The Surreal Life, in which Chyna was a cast member for one season. And there were signs of her various emotional problems there. I’ll admit I didn’t pay much attention to any news about her after that. A year or so ago I did catch the The Avengers XXX porn film, in which she played She-Hulk. And while I have nothing against porn (OBVIOUSLY), I couldn’t help but feel it was a shame that this was now what she had been, I guess, reduced to, in order to earn a living.
And that’s the thing, the WWF simply went on without her, which exemplifies something I’d noticed, and have come to hate, about many hardcore wrestling fans. Their loyalties will always be, first and foremost, to the Federations, not the wrestlers. They’ll love the wrestlers, cheer for them, buy their merchandise, etc, as long as they’re on the show. But when the wrestlers time is up, for whatever reason, those same fans will just move on, and even turn on them in a heartbeat. Sure, plenty of folks online complained about Chyna’s treatment by the WWF, but that didn’t stop them from watching RAW and SMACKDOWN after she was gone. So I hope all the wrestlers realize how disposable they ultimately are. I hate seeing older wrestlers past their prime continuously coming back to the ring, or refusing to retire, or young wrestlers doing all these crazy moves, just to get over with the fans. It’s not worth it. Don’t jeopardize your body and your life too much for these fans who, in the long-run, won’t appreciate it anyway. But I guess that’s a whole other rant. . .
Anyway, I don’t know the circumstances surrounding Chyna’s death yet, but she is just the latest in a disturbingly long list of fomer wrestlers who have died too young. And the world is a little emptier without her.
I have noticed certain unfortunate parallels between the WWF / WWE and the “big two” of comic books, Marvel and DC. Vince McMahon’s organization ultimately views their wrestlers / performers as interchangeable and dispensable. Marvel and DC ultimately view their library of characters as what is truly important, and the various writers, artists, colorists, letterers, editors and so forth as easily replaceable. Just as the WWF has chewed up & spit out many of their wrestlers once their appeal and ability to perform has declined, so to have Marvel and DC done that with creators who are getting on in age or not bringing in huge amounts of publicity or who simply don’t have someone in management to stand up for them. It’s really sad, but at least within the last 20 years various alternative to the Big Two have sprung up in the comic book biz.
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That is a very good comparison. And, again, I blame the fans. The majority of the fans will praise certain creators, but their ultimate loyalty will be to the publishers. Over the years I’ve seen so many stories of various writers and artists getting screwed over but a publisher, whether it’s something like not getting paid proper royalties or given due credit, or having their work messed with (see: the Late Dwayne McDuffie’s treatment by DC when writing JLA), and all the fans who pay lip service to creator’s rights all ultimately side with the publishers. Whatever it takes to keep getting their Batman or Spider-Man “fix” every month.
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It took me a while, but over the last several years I have almost completely stopped buying any new comic books from either Marvel or DC. There are several reasons for that, but one of them is their abominable treatment of creators. Another is cost. Four dollars is the typical cost of a new comic book. If I am going to spend four bucks, usually it is going to be to support a creator-owned project, or a series published by a smaller company that doesn’t treat their freelancers with such contempt.
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