On Monday night, WWE announced the first members of the 2019 Hall of Fame class: D-Generation X. The renegade faction, which dominated the late ‘90s and early 2000s in pro wrestling, will go into the hall as a unit, and will include every main player in its history: Triple H, Shawn Michaels, X-Pac, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn, and Chyna.
From the moment of her departure from the company in 2001 to her death in 2016, WWE did whatever it could to pretend that Chyna didn’t exist. Born Joanie Laurer, Chyna battled addiction from the time of her release up until her death. She also had a couple of public incidents involving former DX members: Laurer was arrested on charges of domestic violence against X-Pac (real name: Sean Waltman) in 2005, and she accused Triple H of assault during their relationship in the late ‘90s (Triple H, who is now WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative, has vehemently denied these accusations).
Maybe the most infamous and, in WWE’s eyes, damning aspect of Laurer’s post-WWE life was her foray into the adult industry. Not only did she and Waltman release a sex tape in 2004, titled 1 Night In China (a play off the Paris Hilton sex tape, 1 Night In Paris), she also starred in wrestling porn parodies, including one that spoofed Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. This led to Triple H, while on a February 2015 episode of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast, explaining WWE’s decision to distance itself from Laurer by citing concern over what might happen if children googled Chyna’s name to find out more about her.
Those same standards were not applied to Waltman, the other participant in Laurer’s sex tape, who has been welcomed back with open arms. He appeared at Raw’s 25th Anniversary as part of DX, and has regularly shown up in the crowd of NXT TakeOver events throughout the years. And WWE has honored plenty of sketchy figures in the past; Mike Tyson, convicted rapist, is in the Hall of Fame, a fact that Laurer herself pointed out on Twitter before her death (the tweet has since been deleted):
Perhaps her omission was due to the fact that Laurer’s adult industry career was so closely tied to wrestling, or the fact that she refused to be quiet in her post-WWE days. Either way, when she was alive, there was a sense among wrestling fans that WWE was refusing to honor her purposefully. On the same Stone Cold podcast interview mentioned above, Triple H admitted that he believed Laurer belonged in the Hall based on her merits as a wrestler:
Does she deserve to go in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely… There’s no beef on this side with anything, and I mean that 100 percent. From a career standpoint, should she be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely.
Laurer passed away just over a year later (for her part, she responded to Triple H’s comments with an “O HELL YEAH”). Now, she will finally get her Hall of Fame induction, and will hopefully be remembered as one of WWE’s biggest stars from its most popular period. If the main argument for Hall of Fame induction across all sports is that you should include anyone without whom you could not tell the story of that sport, then Laurer deserves her place. Triple H said as much, in an interview published shortly after the news of DX’s induction broke:
When I said a few years ago on the Austin podcast, or show, or whatever you want to call it, there’s complexities around it. But absolutely, definitely deserves to be in there. It’d be tough to pick a female that was more impactful on the business. She did something that was completely so out of left field that it wasn’t even being considered when we first brought it up for her to come in. It wasn’t even a consideration ... it wasn’t an easy thing, and against all odds she did all of that. She earned everybody’s trust. She won over the fans. She won over the boys. She did all of it.
He’s right: Today’s Women’s Evolution—which WWE has branded to shit but which also has provided modern female wrestlers the opportunities they didn’t have as recently as five years ago—had its foundations built by women like Laurer, who stepped into the ring and demanded respect. She was the first woman to hold the prestigious Intercontinental Championship, and she was the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble.
For wrestling fans growing up in the late ‘90s, she wasn’t just “one of the guys,” a token inclusion for group diversity. She was the Ninth Wonder of the World, and it’s about time that WWE shared her story with a new generation of fans.