Death of WWE Superstar Chyna Sheds Light on Sexist Double Standards

April 21st 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

Professional wrestling fans across the world are mourning the death of WWE Superstar Joanie "Chyna" Laurer, who passed away at the age of 45 in her Southern California apartment on Wednesday.

Laurer, who was a pioneer in the world of wrestling, and one of the first WWE performers to regularly compete against men, had also publicly struggled with drug addiction for years, and appeared on "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew" in 2008.


A photo posted by Chyna (@chynajoanlaurer) on

Chyna's accomplishments in the ring were unparalleled for a woman. She was the first female wrestler to appear in major pay-per-view events like the Royal Rumble and the King of the Ring, and was the first woman to hold WWE's prestigious Intercontinental Championship.

Laurer's death at such a young age is sadly uncommon among professional wrestlers. However, the specific hardships faced by Chyna because she was a woman in a male dominated industry have been hard for fans to ignore.

Perhaps the most glaring example of the sexist double standard Laurer faced revolves around the sex tape she recorded with fellow professional wrestler Sean "X-Pac" Waltman, which was released in 2004. Laurer accused Waltman of slipping her drugs to make the sex tape. He denied this. The tape and her porn career that followed is often used as an excuse to keep her out of the WWE Hall of Fame. Laurer's exclusion persisted despite the fact that legend Hulk Hogan was invited to host Wrestlemania 30 even after he appeared in a sex tape.

WWE C.O.O., and former boyfriend of Laurer, Paul "Triple H" Levesque appeared on Stone Cold Steve Austin's podcast last year to talk about the "problems" with inducting Laurer in to the WWE Hall of Fame.

"It’s not just as easy as, 'should this person go into the Hall of Fame?'" he said. "She completely, 100 percent transcended the business, changed the business, paradigm shifter of the business," he said. Levesque then implied that Laurer's sex tape from the early 2000s would make her a bad role model for young wrestling fans. "I’ve got an eight-year-old kid, and my eight-year-old kid sees Hall of Fame, and my eight-year-old kid goes on the Internet to look at Chyna. What comes up?"

Ironically, just last month, the WWE inducted WWE Superstar "The Godfather," who wrestled as a pimp:

Laurer also said in her 2001 autobiography that she was raped by football players at The University of Tampa. Waltman, who Laurer accused of drugging her to make the "rape tape," alleged that Laurer also fabricated those allegations. No one was ever charged in that college case.

Laurer is not the first woman to be scorned for talking about sexual assault and fear of that scorn keeps many women silent. The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault said that only 16 to 35 percent of sexual assaults are reported to police. Survivors list the reasons for avoiding an official report as not wanting their friends and family to know and not wanting to get the perpetrator in trouble.

Despite the tragic circumstances of her death, many wrestling fans are choosing to celebrate the impact she made during her life with the hashtag #ChynaTaughtMe

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