Joanie Laurer, RIP: the sports entertainment machine spits out another dead body

#RIPChyna – former WWE superstar becomes the latest victim of an industry where people are disposable and life is cheap (because that’s what’s best for business)

chyna - Joanie Laurer.png

Joanie Laurer: “Chyna,” the 9th Wonder of the World

I woke to the news this morning of Joanie Laurer’s death. Known to professional wrestling fans as Chyna – “the 9th Wonder of the World” – Laurer was only 45. Details aren’t available yet, but if you follow the industry you’re not going to be surprised if it turns out to be drug-related. And if you have followed Laurer at all, you might immediately wonder if this is was suicide.

Laurer was a groundbreaking performer. There was nothing diva about her. Chyna was big, ripped and intimidating, and was the first woman in the history of the industry who could be booked as having the power to credibly face down the men. She represented a new model of feminine potential – she was sort of the Serena Williams of sports entertainment.

But the WWE is a cold, hard place, sitting at the pinnacle of a business that chews up bodies and spits out lives as a matter of routine. A quick perusal of dead stars and how they left us is sobering. Overdoses and suicide are all too common. Yes, Laurer had been out of WWE for a few years, but not everyone seems to escape its imprint.

In this context, Laurer may have seemed like a tragedy waiting for a moment to happen. She might have been before her time, but she was still viewed by many as a freak, I think. After leaving the WWE she wound up in porn, where there’s an unending appetite for all kinds of women. More recently she quit “adult entertainment” because she wanted to be a teacher, and there was hope that she was finally on a productive path.

The 44-year-old got herself a Master’s degree in education and moved to Tokyo, Japan, where she’s been teaching English. She also took up yoga and meditation and, according to the wrestler, has “pulled her life back together.”

Of course, she had to move to Japan, right? I imagine there are a lot of administrators in the US who wouldn’t want that résumé in their classrooms, and how hard would it be, anyway, standing in front of a class in a world where students and their parents have ready access to Pornhub? I have no idea if this was a concern in the Far East.

Joanie Laurer always struck me as a good person who found herself perhaps a little overmatched by her circumstances. I won’t pretend that this morning’s news surprises me, but it very much saddens me. Now we turn back to the dead pool and wonder who’s next.

One final note. WWE chief brand officer and former wrestler Stephanie McMahon posted a tribute to Chyna on her Twitter account.

When she was in WWE Laurer was involved with Paul Levesque (Triple H), one of the company’s top stars. Unbeknownst to Joanie, though, “Hunter” was having an affair with McMahon, the daughter of company owner Vince McMahon. According to Laurer, when she figured out what was going on behind her back she went to Vince and asked him straight-up. Vince knew about the affair, of course, and admitted to Laurer that it was true.

And then fired her.

Nobody who follows Clan McMahon closely really expects much in the way of humanity out of them – “do what’s best for business” is more than an on-screen catchphrase. But this little heartfelt tribute is a a tad rich, even by their standards.

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