Chyna Laurer was a wrestler, bodybuilder and actress who wrestled for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as the "Ninth Wonder of the World" (André the Giant was billed as the eighth.) She often wrestled with men and beat them. In 1999 she became the first, and still the only, woman to win the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Intercontinental Championship. In 2001, she won the WWE Women's Championship in front of 67,000 fans. She was featured in Playboy magazine and numerous television shows and videos. On April 21, 2016, she died at age 46, apparently from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.
Tough Early Years
She was born Joan Marie Laurer in Rochester, NY, in 1969. Her parents divorced when she was four and after that she had three fathers and two mothers. Her mother was married five times, twice before she was born and twice after, so she had her biological father and two stepfathers. Her father remarried, so she had her real mother and her father's second wife as a stepmother. She wrote that at age 12, she was kissed by a teacher and subsequently developed bulimia. In her teens she spent a lot of time in the gym lifting weights. She ran away from home at age 15 and finished high school in Spain.
She went to the University of Tampa where she says that she was raped by two men at a party. She must have been very bright as she was graduated in 1992 with a grade point average of 3.9, even though she spent her last six months of college traveling in Europe. She went to Spain and became fluent in Spanish, to France where she became fluent in French, and to Germany where she learned German. From 1993 to 1995, she served in the Peace Corps in Central America. When she returned to the United States, she worked as a cocktail waitress, bartender, rock singer, saleswoman and belly dancer, and spent a lot of time lifting weights in a gym.
World Champion Female Wrestler
She moved to Massachusetts and took wrestling lessons from retired world champion "Killer" Kowalski. At age 25, she was 5'10" tall, weighed 180 pounds and had what every man really wants — huge muscles and the ability to bench-press 350 pounds. She entered professional wrestling and in 1996, won the Rookie of the Year award for the Women's Wrestling Championship.
That year she met WWF wrestler Paul "Triple H" Levesque. The next year, she made her worldwide television debut as a bodyguard for Triple H and they became a couple. By 2001 she was drinking too much and was released from her WWE contract. She blamed Triple H, saying that without telling her, he was dating Stephanie McMahon, the daughter of WWE owner Vince McMahon.
The Sean Weltman "X-Pac" Years
Soon she was competing with some of the toughest men in the WWF. She was the only female Intercontinental Champion and the only undefeated Women's Champion in WWF history. In 2002 she became engaged to Sean Waltman, a former professional wrestler known as X-Pac. They did a television reality show together in which she sometimes appeared intoxicated and they argued frequently on-air. In one episode, she confessed to attempting suicide by overdosing on prescription drugs and said that she had no friends. Waltman accused the television producers of aggravating Chyna's mental problems by focusing on them to attract more viewers. In 2005, she was arrested and charged with beating Weltman.
Alcohol, Drugs and Death
She had an off-and-on problem throughout her adult life with addiction to alcohol and drugs. After breaking up with X-Pac, she appeared intoxicated and irrational on the Howard Stern show. She slurred words, rambled incoherently and said that she wanted to stop taking drugs. She said that she sought treatment for her deep depression soon after that show. In 2007 at age 37, She appeared on a television show, Fame Games, and made a movie called Illegal Aliens. In 2008, she appeared on Celebrity Rehab and admitted that she might be an addict. In December of that year, she was hospitalized after passing out after a night of drinking and had large cuts on her arms. In 2009, she released the first of five more films. In 2010, she was hospitalized for an overdose of prescription drugs. In 2012 she was hospitalized after passing out at a video convention.
At this point, she was very depressed and wanted to get away, so she moved to Tokyo where she taught English to Japanese students for three years . In 2014, her father died and she made peace with her mother after almost 30 years of estrangement. In 2015, she moved back to the United States, but she began to act strangely and talk with slurred speech in public appearances and in videos on social media.
On April 20, 2016, police responded to a call from her Redondo Beach, CA apartment, where a friend found her unconscious in her bedroom. The most likely cause of death was an overdose of two tranquilizers, Ambien and Valium, prescribed by her doctors.
Lessons from Chyna's Story
I have never seen Chyna's medical records and I have never met her, but if you look at photos and videos of her, you will see incredibly large muscles and incredible acts of strength. You can see her picking up, and throwing across the ring, men who weigh more than 200 pounds. She earned her title of Ninth Wonder of the World, but the sport she chose virtually required her to take steroids. Use of male hormones is now banned in nearly every checked competition that requires strength, speed or endurance because it gives athletes taking them an unbeatable advantage over those who don’t take them.
What Steroids Do to Women
When men take steroids, they develop exaggerated male characteristics, but when women take steroids, they develop characteristics that they would not normally have. Female athletes whose bodies naturally produce the largest amounts of male hormones are usually the strongest athletes. However, when women take high doses of anabolic steroids, they can develop strength and muscle size that women cannot gain without the drugs. They also often develop acne, oily skin, male pattern hair loss, an enormous sexual appetite and changes in sexual organs.
How Steroids Increase Strength
Athletes who have ever taken anabolic steroids would tell you that they knew that they were gaining advantages within a few days after they started taking them. If you don’t exercise vigorously enough to feel a burn when you are exercising, you cannot enlarge a muscle. You have to damage a muscle to make it stronger. Athletes in sports that require strength and speed use a program of workouts called "stress and recover." On one day, they take a very intense workout in which they feel their muscles burning to signify that they have damaged their muscles. On the next day, they have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) so they take less intense workouts. When the soreness is gone, usually after 48 hours, they take their next intense workout.
Soon after starting steroids, athletes notice that they recover faster. They find that after their hardest workouts that used to require a day or more for recovery, they suddenly have recovered by the next morning. Since they now recover faster, they can lift far more often. It is this increased amount of lifting that makes them stronger and grows larger muscles.
Steroids Come with a High Price.
Competitive athletes often take very high doses of anabolic steroids. The higher the dose, the more likely it is to make the person manic. You start to act crazy and you think that you can do things that you can’t do. One college athlete on high doses of steroids thought that he could fly and jumped out of a second story window. Others start fights without provocation, or are so aggressive that they make enemies wherever they go. Side effects of steroids include:
• heart attacks
• high blood pressure
• higher levels of the bad LDL cholesterol and lower levels of the good HDL
• liver disease
• skin infections
• irritability, rage, aggression and violence
• uncontrolled and manic behavior
• addiction to other drugs
When people who have been taking anabolic steroids stop taking them, they often become depressed and extremely tired, and lose the desire to eat.
This smart and capable woman appears to have been overwhelmed by her unhappy early years and the disastrous effects of what it took to become the strongest female wrestler of her era. She tried to overcome her insecurities by working harder than everyone else and was outstanding in the field that she chose, but she was overwhelmed by depression and addiction. Her brain has been donated to the researchers who are studying the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
December 27, 1969 – April 21, 2016