Just five years ago, it seemed impossible that WWE would even mention Chyna's name, let alone induct her into the Hall of Fame. Now she, along with her D-Generation X cohorts Triple H, Shawn Michaels, The New Age Outlaws, and X-Pac will join the ranks of Randy Savage, Jaqueline, Beth Phoenix, and Stone Cold Steve Austin to receive that prestigious honor. It's an achievement that, sadly, comes posthumously. She died in 2016 at the age of 46.
Admittedly, Chyna's life since leaving the company in 2001 had been tumultuous. She did porn, became a reality star, and was frequently mocked in the media for her appearance while battling an addiction to prescription drugs. It's the part of legacy that most of us, including the WWE, would like to forget. Still, those public struggles don't invalidate her incredible accomplishments during her far too short run in the WWE.
"It's undeniable, her impact," Paul Levesque, WWE's executive vice president of live events and creative who performs as Triple H, told TV Guide of Chyna's legacy. "She should be in the Hall of Fame for herself. She should be in the Hall of Fame for DX."
Chyna, whose real name was Joanie Laurer, came to the WWE (then WWF) in 1997 as DX's bodyguard, the first woman in the company's history to play the part of an enforcer. Standing at 5 feet 10 inches and packing serious muscles, she was the only woman who could go toe to toe with the men at that time and thrived as DX's backup, becoming a fan favorite in the process. While her role as an enforcer was groundbreaking, it was also restrictive. She rarely talked and usually hovered in the background while Triple H and Shawn Michaels hammed it up for the cameras. But that was what she was hired to do and she did it well.
Once Chyna broke away from DX and started branching out on her own, we finally got a clearer picture of who she was. Both feminine and masculine, strong yet incredibly vulnerable, Chyna was a woman of multitudes, even if the WWE and its male-oriented audience didn't recognize it. Sure, she packed muscles bigger than half the men on the roster, but she was also unapologetically feminine, adorning her face with makeup and rocking risqué ring attire. At a time when most of the women wrestlers were relegated to two-minute bra and panties matches, Chyna was teaming with Triple H to take on The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. A former Women's Champion, she was a force of nature who didn't just open the door for the women who came after her -- she ripped the damn thing off its hinges.
In 1998, she broke ground as the first woman to qualify for the King of the Ring tournament as well as the became the first female number one contender for the WWF Championship. In 1999, she was the first woman to enter the all-male Royal Rumble battle royal, laying the groundwork for Beth Phoenix to do so nearly a decade later. That same year, Chyna also became the first and only woman to hold the Intercontinental Championship when she defeated Jeff Jarrett at No Mercy.
Chyna was a trailblazer. When there wasn't a path for women in the WWE to be more than just eye candy, she created her own lane and proved that being sexy and a serious competitor aren't mutually exclusive. In doing so, she made it possible for the next generation to be more and to do more. Her influence is everywhere, from Hall of Famer Lita, who wouldn't have been able to raise the bar for women's wrestling alongside Trish Stratus if Chyna hadn't walked that road before her, to current superstar Nia Jax, who is also subverting tropes about what a successful woman wrestler should look like.
Chyna's induction into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of DX is just a small step towards recognizing her monumental efforts for the company. There's no denying that she deserves to go in by herself but there's still a question of whether or not the WWE will ever make that leap. For Levesque, it's a huge possibility but he sees the public outcry from fans for it to happen sooner rather later as a bit premature.
"It's a funny thing that people look at it now and they say, 'Well, it took so long.' The group of people she's being inducted with are like the Honky Tonk Man. That was a generation before her and he's just getting voted in there now," he said. "I think some time had to pass and people had to get past some things. We did, they did, the media did, the world did. I think it's just a matter of time."
"I've read some things where people are saying she should go in by herself," he continued. "Well, I'm going in with DX too. And so is X-Pac, Road Dogg, and Billy Gunn as a part of that group before they go in any other way. Yeah, I do think she should be in there on her own for her own accomplishments and she will, I'm sure, at some point in time. But this is the right thing for right now in this moment."
Chyna's induction with DX makes it clear that the WWE is more receptive now than ever to honor her in the way that fans have demanded for years. If we're going by Levesque's comments, it's no longer a matter of if she'll enter the Hall of Fame on her own but when. There's hope in that.
WrestleMania airs Sunday, April 7 at 7/6c on WWE Network.