The Legacy Of Chyna: The Complex History Of WWE's 9th Wonder Of The World

The late star Chyna was unlike any woman who came before her in WWE, hence earning the nickname "The Ninth Wonder of the World". She made a lasting impression that stands the test of time, but along with the success that came her way, controversy plagued her career. After trying out various jobs and dabbling in professional bodybuilding, Chyna signed a contract with WWE in 1996 before making her first official television appearance in February '97

She came from the audience at In Your House 13: Final Four to add shock value when she choked out Marlena as Goldust and Triple H were in the ring. Chyna became the enforcer and bodyguard for D-Generation X, which would typically entail her interfering in matches and helping Triple H and Shawn Michaels.

Once she made the transition to in-ring action in WWE, the career-defining moments began to rack up. Chyna is recognized as the only woman to ever qualify for the King of the Ring tournament, the first woman in a Royal Rumble match, and the only woman to ever be the No. 1 contender for the WWE Championship, which she eventually lost the opportunity to Mankind.

She was also the only woman ever to capture the Intercontinental Championship and did so on two separate occasions. Chyna retired from WWE as the reigning women's champion in November 2001, something few women have ever accomplished.

Why Chyna left WWE

There are conflicting reports about what happened regarding Chyna's departure from WWE in 2001. Many point to the past romantic relationship she had with Triple H as a contributing factor. Though they were still involved romantically, Chyna found a love letter that Stephanie McMahon had written to "The Game," which was devastating for her to read. 

"They wouldn't have lasted whether Stephanie came into the picture or not," Chyna's sister Kathy said in a 2016 interview. "I have no animosity toward Paul (Triple H). He was very good to Joanie (Chyna). He cared about her deeply, but she just had too many issues. Still, I really do think Paul was the only man she ever truly loved. She was devastated."

It's also been mentioned by others in the industry that money played a big role in her departure from WWE. Chyna was requesting a deal around the $1 million dollar range due to her increasing popularity. She had recently been on the cover of "Playboy," her autobiography, "If They Only Knew" made the New York Times bestseller list, and she also appeared as a guest on "The Tonight Show." 

But this was an era much different than it is now when top women stars like Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey maintain contracts in the millions with WWE. The company wasn't willing to pay that much, so Chyna transitioned to working with New Japan Pro-Wrestling for about a year before taking a long hiatus from the squared circle.

Chyna's downfall

In 2004, an adult film was released titled "1 Night In China," which documented Chyna and Sean "X-Pac" Waltman engaging in sexual intercourse. Though it's been stated that the duo both consensually approached Red Light District Video to distribute it, interviews with Chyna later on in life painted a different picture. Chyna claimed that the video was filmed after Waltman drugged and raped her.

Waltman has refuted this many times and emphasized that they both signed a contract with the company to distribute the video. In a video she posted prior to her death, Chyna explained her decision was to make lemonade out of lemons by continuing to pursue a career in adult film. "Another Night in China" was released in 2009, followed by her first professional pornographic film titled "Backdoor to Chyna." She also had a series of adult videos parodying She-Hulk, the final work she did in the industry before her passing in 2016.

Around this same time, Chyna's issues with law enforcement and drug use began emerging in the press. She was arrested for domestic violence after allegedly attacking Waltman in 2005, and around this same time, reports said that she had inexplicably stripped and jumped into a fish tank at a New York nightclub. During that same month, she appeared on "The Howard Stern Show," noticeably slurring her words while discussing her struggles with drinking and drugs.

The legacy Chyna left behind

After various attempts at rehabilitation, things seemed to be on an upward trend for Chyna. But that changed on December 27, 2008, when she was found unconscious due to cuts on her wrists. The suicide attempts would continue in the years that followed and she was hospitalized after overdosing on medication in September 2010

In April 2016, she passed away in her California home at the age of 46. An autopsy examination determined that she had died three days prior from an overdose of alcohol, combined with anxiety drugs diazepam and nordazepam, painkillers oxycodone and oxymorphone, and sleeping aid, temazepam.

Despite such a tragic conclusion to one of WWE's most impactful women, her legacy continues to live on. D-Generation X celebrated their 25th Anniversary in WWE in October 2022, and during the ceremony, the group made sure to give credit to the late star, with X-Pac calling her "the magic ingredient in the DX recipe." She was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame alongside the other members of DX in 2019

Her style and presence live through modern-day WWE stars like Rhea Ripley, who has welcomed the comparisons between her and Chyna. Rhea has shown that she's not afraid to tussle with the men or interfere in their matches -– something Chyna made famous.