Another week, another in-memoriam special, unfortunately. Last week, one of the focal points from the Attitude era left us too soon, when Joan Laurer, best known to fans as Chyna, was found dead at the age of 45.
Originally starting as a valet before transitioning to an in-ring career, it’s amazing what sort of impact she had – for good or for bad – given that she barely had 100 matches. So, with a rather limited pool for our random reviews, we take a look back at the career of the 9th Wonder of the World.
Joan Laurer vs. Bad Brad – date unknown (1995 – viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8KJTdp4itc)
This is a weird one, footage leaked online a few years back of Chyna’s early indy matches, and by God, her opponent looks so skinny, even by today’s standards. It’s the usual big vs. small contest, with the smaller Brad being easily knocked down as he tries to charge off the ropes into Laurer, before a Gorilla press slam ended up turning into a normal press slam as they seemed to mix up spots.
There was a pointless trip by Laurer’s manager as Brad got back to his feet, and bizarrely that seemed to give him a comeback, as he took down Laurer with a back elbow. Immediately remorseful for hitting a woman, Brad walks into the trap as Laurer grabs a claw on his groin. The ball-hold is kept tight, and gets used to take Brad down in something (God help me for saying this) would probably be used as Joey Ryan’s variation on an STO.
For some reason the referee remains oblivious to the ball claw, even though Brad is constantly screaming “oh God”, as the ref is distracted by Laurer’s second. That’s a horrible ref there, folks! After almost two minutes, the ref finally orders the hold to be broken, at which point Brad crawls to the corner, only to be choked by Laurer’s second.
This became virtually two on one, with Laurer’s manager taking shots from the outside without the ref doing anything about it, and we finally get the first pin attempt, when Laurer hits a handspring into a clothesline for a count of two. The wrestling continues with a Torture Rack, which displayed how thrilled Brad was to be in this situation.
Laurer’s second threw in a chair, just because, but it’s caught by Brad, only for Laurer to dropkick it into his face. Brad got thrown to the outside where he got a back rake, but he managed to take down Laurer with a facebuster, then a hair pull, before sending her to the outside.
Back in the ring, Brad gets taken down with an Airplane Spin, but he manages to bodyslam Laurer, then scores a win with a sunset flip off the top rope. That’s his finisher?!
This was just a horrible, horrible match. It went on way too long, and Laurer’s manager at ringside seemed to be hell bent on getting herself over. It didn’t help that a large portion of this match felt like it was someone’s apartment wrestling fantasy held in front of a live crowd… thankfully, not all of Chyna’s matches were this bad.
Road Dogg vs. Chyna (WWE King of the Ring, June 27, 1999)
In 1999, Chyna became the first female to enter the King of the Ring tournament, and her first opponent in the tournament-proper would be against the Road Dogg. His first move was to be shoved into the corner, before they traded hammerlock.
The ongoing gimmick was that Chyna would power out of any hold that Road Dogg attempted, whilst Triple H at ringside kept interjecting himself in the match – verbally at first. They kept it really basic, as Road Dogg would get whipped into the corner and bump, before taking a few shots, before the Dogg reversed an Irish whip, sending Chyna sailing out of the ring. Enter Triple H, who remonstrated with the Dogg, allowing Chyna to shove him into the steel post… and Triple H added some more damage whilst Chyna had the ref distracted.
Road Dogg tried to fire back with shots to the midsection, but totally telegraphed a DDT that gave Chyna a two-count, before audibly calling for her to give him a sleeperhold. The crowd started to boo as the Dogg looked to be fading, but he fought out and returned fire with a sleeper of his own. Triple H put Chyna’s foot on the rope and created a distraction for the Dogg to be rolled up for a two-count, before a ref-bump allowed Hunter to give him a cheap-shot with a chain. Earl Hebner stirred to make the two-count, just in time for the WWE commissioner Shawn Michaels to stroll out.
Road Dogg his his comeback, and as Triple H went to interfere, Shawn pulled him off the apron and sent his former DX buddy to the back… which almost created a distraction for Chyna to win, but her low blow on the Dogg hit nothing but a protective cup. One pump handle slam, and the Road Dogg advances to the next round!
This was a basic, idiot-proofed match – almost to the point of embarrassment. Whilst on one hand, Chyna wrestling with men was quite the spectacle, perhaps it wouldn’t have hurt for her to have been able to do this without the audible spot calling? I guess having the right partner helped!
Chyna & Eddie Guerrero vs. Val Venis & Trish Stratus (WWE SummerSlam, August 27, 2000)
So, the rules to this are that whomever gets the pin gets the Intercontinental title… unless you were Trish Stratus. This was in the middle of Eddie Guerrero’s run where Chyna was his “mamacita”, and the first time that Eddie was showing character in WWE. This was also during the time where Val Venis was trying to reinvent himself, with an outfit looking like tighty-whiteys and coming out to a techno mix of his old “Hello Ladies” theme.
Eddie and Val start off trading blows, with Eddie scoring an early cover from a Northern Lights suplex. After a blind tag, China comes in and clotheslines Venis to the mat, before teaming with Guerrero to hit a double team flapjack on Venis. Chyna’s offence was limited to elbows and clotheslines early on, and needed a distraction from Trish to let Venis have any offence.
Venis dropped Chyna with a suplex that saw Guerrero come in to break up the pin, but Venis missed a top rope elbow that almost let Guerrero in for a hot tag. Actually, scrap that, it wasn’t needed – a low blow almost set up Chyna for a powerbomb, but Venis powered out.
A DDT let Chyna make the tag seconds later, with Eddie getting a near fall with a springboard ‘rana out of the corner. Trish was begging to tag in, and got it… but her cover on Eddie was only good for a two, and he tagged in Chyna for the home straight. Clotheslines, bodyslams followed, but Val got involved again for a moment, at least until Eddie pulled him out of the ring. One gorilla press slam on Trish later, and Chyna is your new Intercontinental champion. Yep, as per the stipulations, we got a new Intercontinental champion with Chyna pinning a woman. Cheers, Vince Russo!
Chyna vs. Ivory (WWE WrestleMania X-Seven, April 1, 2001)
Onto Chyna’s final WWE title – and it came at the best-received WrestleMania to date. Ivory came into WrestleMania as a fully fledged member of the Right to Censor group. Yes, that group with the annoying siren as “entrance music”. In comparison, Chyna got a full blown entrance video, and the rebranded Johnny B. Badd blaster to send pyro into the crowd.
There was a bit of history to this, as Chyna “injured her neck” in a match between the two at the Royal Rumble, and supposedly had to sign a waiver to even get this match. How would the neck play into things… barely, to be honest. At least she rubbed the back of it on the way to the ring, I suppose.
Chyna pushes the ref aside before the bell rings, and that allows Ivory to get in a belt shot, and our match is underway! Ivory kicks at Chyna’s neck, and pounds away at a motionless Chyna on the ground. But we don’t need selling! Chyna grabs Ivory in a kick, and tosses her across the ring before laying in some forearms in the corner.
Chyna manages to pull off a hiptoss and a couple of clotheslines, before flipping Ivory with a back body drop. Chyna hoists up Ivory for a rotating powerbomb, but she lifts up Ivory at the count of two… so she can follow up with an Ultimate Warrior-like gorilla press slam. No running splash here folks, as China leans on Ivory to get the three-count and get the Women’s title. Short, sweet and just about passable!
Ivory & Molly Holly vs. Chyna & Lita (WWE Raw, May 14, 2001)
Oh goodie, the Right to Censor theme again… and this is a parejas incredibles match, as Molly was still the wholesome Holly cousin here, taking on Chyna and the number one contender to her title, Lita. This was on the go-home episode of Raw before Judgment Day, where Chyna and Lita were to face off in what was Chyna’s last WWE match.
Lita and Ivory start off, with Ivory scoring an early facebuster, before Lita takes down Ivory with some headscissors. Lita was audibly getting the most cheers here, whilst Chyna’s look seemed to have toned down to that of someone who was just about to head to the gym. After taking a few kicks, and hitting a neckbreaker, Lita goes to make a tag, but Molly comes in to stall things… and she just waits for Lita to make the tag. Chyna refuses, so Lita stays in this.
Lita hits a rolling armbar, forcing Molly to the ropes, but moments later Molly hits her Molly Go Round (top rope somersault into a pin), which gets a two-count as Chyna breaks it up. In the melee, Lita pulls off the twist of fate on Molly, then follows up with a moonsault for the win.
Well, it’s a good job I’m not rating these, because Chyna did the square root of nothing in this match…
Jeff Jarrett & Karen Jarrett vs. Kurt Angle & Chyna (TNA Sacrifice, May 15, 2011)
We end with what turned out to be Chyna’s last ever match, a mixed tag pitting her and Kurt Angle against the Jarretts.
The running story of this was that Jeff didn’t want Chyna anywhere near Karen, so we end up with Kurt and Jeff opening up with some basic spots, before Kurt gets an armwringer and tags in Chyna… and by the rules, that means that Karen should be coming in too. Karen stalls forever as the crowd chants “Chyna’s gonna kill you”.
The referee finally starts to count her out, but then they change the rules to keep Jeff in as he’d not tagged out. I’m not sure that’s how mixed tags work… Jarrett goes to leapfrog Angle, but gets caught in an ankle lock, but Karen tries to sneak in as Chyna inadvertently distracts the referee. Kurt picks up Karen and goes to his own corner, teasing bringing in Chyna, but Jeff nails a chop block and prevents the tag.
Jeff nails a crossbody off the top rope for a two count, which Angle responds to with a belly-to-belly for another near fall. Rolling German suplexes follow from Angle, but Jeff blocks an Angle Slam before calling for the Stroke. That’s blocked, and Angle ends up hitting the Angle Slam, but Jeff kicks out.
That becomes the point where Angle starts to have fun, and grabs Jeff’s hand to forcibly tag in Karen, but Karen drops down and Jeff hits a low blow. Fed up of waiting, Chyna comes into the match anyway, and just about pulls off a bodyslam on Jeff, dropping to her knee in the process. We finally get Karen vs. Chyna, and that gives us a Pedigree on Karen (or as Mike Tenay calls it “a DDT style move”), before Chyna locks in the Ankle lock for the win via submission.
It was entertaining enough for what it was, but by this point Chyna was a shadow of her former self.
In a weird way, I wish I could have gotten a hold of some of her 2002 run in Japan for this, but New Japan World (as did YouTube and other sources came up blank). Whilst these matches didn’t represent the whole of her work, it’s probably fair to say that Chyna’s rise to the top was too meteoric for her to have been good enough in the ring to capitalise – and whilst she did indeed break down barriers, her skills were nowhere near developed enough for her to have had a hope of maintaining this without any political favours.
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