By Thomas Chamberlin - Wrestling Digest, Dec, 2000
Joanie Laurer breaks into the mainstream
AS CHYNA, JOANIE LAURER HAS been blazing a trail for women in professional wrestling since early 1999. In the WWF ring, she was the first female to compete in the King of the Ring tournament (June 1999) and the first female to capture the WWF intercontinental rifle (October 17, 1999).
Outside the ring, the mainstream media have adopted Chyna as the leading lady of professional wrestling. First. Chyna completed the talk show circuit. She then had a recurring role on NBC's "3rd Rock From the Sun." To top it all off, she also appeared in the November issue of Playboy.
In a candid and revealing interview, Chyna discusses her hectic schedule, her personal growth in and out of the ring, and what s next for the "Ninth Wonder of the World."
WRESTLING DIGEST: It seems your mainstream media presence has increased substantially. How has that affected your schedule?
CHYNA: It has been crazy, no doubt. I was on "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee", "The Late, Late Show With Craig Kilborn," and in "USA Today." It has been a lot, but I'm trying to do it all. It's nice to know you're wanted to do some of these things. And, a lot of the extra work just comes up unexpectedly. I was supposed to be on only one episode of "3rd Rock From the Sun," but I ended up doing three. Then, I started working on my fitness video. It is a lot of extra work, but I'm happy to do it.
WD: Those are certainly varied appearances. Are you branching out?
C: That's really my goal. I wanted to branch out as an entertainer and be recognized more than just as a wrestler. I wanted people to know that I have other abilities as an entertainer as well. When I first started doing more media, it started with the talk shows. Slowly, though, the extra work started coming.
WD: For what specific reason do you. think you started getting more opportunities?
c: People finally started, looking beyond the Chyna character. When I first started, I had never studied acting, even though before wrestling I wanted to girls like me. It was like the way I looked was frowned upon. began to change, and I think a lot to do with that. That character credibility to girls who were muscular, because she was such a strong character. She looked like she could get in there and kick butt on guys because she could. And, she did. People finally began to take notice of those kinds of characters. Chyna created a who could be strong and still be sex symbols at the same time. In the role I'm in now with the WWF and in the other things I do, you can see that kind of, character come out.
WD: When people who aren't familiar with wrestling see you on television or in person, what are some of the criticisms you hear about yourself and about the business?
c: I've been called ugly, been called a man and told I would never be able to do this or that because of the way I look or because I'm in wrestling. People talk about what we do on TV, which is kick guys in the nuts. I hear it all. Wrestling has always been the stepchild as far as entertainment goes. But you can't argue with what has happened. When I first started, the buildings were half full. Now, we're full every night at every show. And, the ratings don't lie.
WD: Lately your character has gotten a lot of exposure. What are your thoughts on working with Eddy Guerrero in the "Latino Heat" gimmick, which is substantially different from your previous storylines?
c: Working with Eddy is great. He is so respectful, and the way he performs is unbelievable. It has been a little different program, but I kind of wanted a different program. For the longest time, all I worked was either the butt-kicking woman program or the program where I didn't do a whole lot. Working with Eddy has allowed me to get both the in-ring time I wanted and allowed me to be a sex Symbol as well.
WD: Generally, not much is known about you personally. You are a college graduate who has an interest in languages. Where did that come from?
c: I got into learning languages in school, because I thought I wanted to be in the FBI or the DEA [Drug Enforcement Agency]. I prided myself on education, and I worked hard. I graduated from the University of Tampa with a degree in Spanish literature. I also studied French and German. I can speak Spanish, French and German well enough to hold a conversation. After I got out of school, I quickly found out I couldn't be an international spy. That's when I turned to the entertainment world and found that wrestling was the best place for me.
WD: A lot has been made of your relationship with Triple H. Where does that relationship currently stand?
c: I am single. But I will accept roses, jewelry or any other gifts that a guy wants to give me.
WD: What else would you like to do?
c: It may sound old and overused, but I am simply looking to grow and expand as an entertainer. It has taken a while, but I think people are finally realizing I have other abilities as an entertainer. It's a good time for me right now, but I have to take advantage of it while it's good. It makes for a lot of work and time away from home, but when it's out there waiting for you and the opportunities are there, you've got to take it.