Chyna's book for fans only
By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Wrestling
For once The Right To Censor, the heel faction sworn to remove all "filth"
and "immoral" behavior in the WWF, is right on the money. Ivory, the
incarnation of Betty Crocker herself, spoke the truth on the Raw Is War
broadcast last week. Chyna's book -- If They Only Knew
-- is not for
impressionable readers. Unlike Mick Foley or The Rock's biographies which
were written for a diverse fan base, Chyna's is not suitable for very young
readers. Some of the explicit material and "colourful" language would make
a seasoned sailor blush. Chyna (real name Joanie Laurer) and writer Michael
Angeli aren't afraid to discuss sensitive circumstances like when Chyna
admits to being sexually assaulted at a college party. It is one
disheartening incident in the somewhat turbulent life she has lived.
Also unlike the previous WWF wrestling biographies, If They Only Knew
more concerned with telling Chyna's personal story rather than giving fans
any sort of behind the scenes glimpse into the wrestling world. Born in
Rochester, New York, to parents who divorced when she was three, Joanie
Laurer doesn't have many nice things to say about her mom and dad. She
portrays her father as a nomad-like conman and her mother as an extremely
unbalanced woman. Believe it or not, it is WWF owner Vince McMahon who
Chyna refers to as her "StairMaster stepfather". "Vince McMahon did more
for me than my biological father and all three of my marginally legal
step-fathers put together," she writes. If that doesn't give you some idea
of how shoddy her support system was as a youngster, nothing will.
Like most, it was a long road for Chyna to become a WWF superstar. She
details her work as a phone sex operator, a cell phone salesperson and a
flight attendant. During the moments in-between she is training hard and
competing in aerobics and bodybuilding competitions while battling several health scares. The men in her pre-WWF
life don't treat her well. Most are abusive or in trouble with the law.
Fed-up with the direction her life is heading, Chyna signs up with Wladek 'Killer' Kowalski
's Institute Of Professional Wrestling hoping it will lead to fame
and fortune. Kowalski trained Hunter-Hearst Helmsley, Prince Albert and
Saturn to name a few, and by the numerous times the WWF has mentioned
Chyna's and Triple H's affiliation with him, you'd think that Kowalski's
training facility in Salem, Massachusetts, is a high-class gym. Not so,
according to Chyna. It's basically one large room in a dirty warehouse with
a converted boxing ring, mats and a few weights to heft. Though she is
thankful for Kowalski introducing her to the indie wrestling circuit and
supporting a woman breaking into the business, Chyna blames him for being
too overprotective of his students to the point of holding them back from
their "big break".
Chyna's break came through a friend who happened to be sleeping with a WWF
booker -- referred to as the mysterious Agent Orange in the biography. Her
subsequent meeting with him and a chance run-in with Triple H and Shawn
Michaels paved the way for her stint in the WWF once Hunter began nagging
McMahon about bringing in a "female bodyguard" for his character. The rest
is history, as they say.
Chyna isn't too fond of other professional females and maybe that's because
of the manner in which they've treated her in the past. The attacks on
other women are very vicious. In one tirade, she dresses down director and
actress Diane Keaton with whom she appeared on The Tonight Show. Why?
Because she looked at her funny. She rips on ring rats (wrestling
groupies), Sable and a host of other females. Actor Matthew Broderick, who
accidentally bumped into her at the Emmys, takes his lumps too. If the
voice (or tone) in which the book is written is truly representative of
Chyna, it is quite sad. She comes off as a bitter high school bully who
takes her personal problems out on other people. Someone who inflicts the
same type of pain and humiliation they've suffered on others as a way of
righting past wrongs done to them. I hope that is not the case.
Nonetheless, that's the impression one gets.
The most interesting tidbit in the book that almost makes it worth wading
through the other 303 pages is the story behind Jeff Jarrett's final match
in the World Wrestling Federation. Let me save you $20 or $30 dollars.
Though nobody can prove it, it seems as though Jarrett and booker friend
Vince Russo might've conspired to pull one over on Vince McMahon. Before
leaving the WWF to head to WCW, Russo was instructed by McMahon to put
Jarrett in a program with Chyna. Because McMahon wasn't going to re-sign
Jarrett once his contract ran out, Jarrett would have no leverage to fight
the booking decision.
Before Russo jumped ship he postponed the climax of the feud, the Good
Housekeeping match for the Intercontinental Title at the No Mercy
pay-per-view on October 17, 1999. What Russo and Jarrett didn't tell anyone
is that on October 16th, Jarrett's contract officially expired with the
WWF. To make a long story short, Chyna says that it is rumoured that
Jarrett forced McMahon to pay him "just a hair under a quarter of a million
dollars" to wrestle that night on pay-per-view as he was no longer a WWF
employee. If the story is genuine, you can bet you won't ever be seeing
Jeff Jarrett or Vince Russo in the WWF ever again.
I wouldn't dare take anything away from Joanie Laurer. She has risen above
harsh circumstances to improve herself and her life. That type of will and
dedication is commendable and a positive example to others enduring similar
hardships. However as Chyna, I believe her perception has become somewhat
clouded and she herself quite jaded. For example, she criticizes WCW's Bill
Goldberg calling him a "phony" and stating that "he doesn't even know how
to wrestle". True or not, a pot shouldn't be calling the kettle black.
Chyna's matches haven't exactly been classics either. In the book, she
makes herself out to be more important or influential on the business that
she actually is. Chyna is a notable personality in the WWF to be sure but
she isn't a cornerstone by any stretch of the imagination. Case in point,
her current absence from the WWF has had no effect on the product
whatsoever unlike when others such as "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The
Rock took time off to heal or pursue outside interests. It seems as though
what Chyna sorely needs is a dose of cold, hard reality. To remember where
it is she came from and to ditch the negative diva mentality.
With no inside information (besides the aforementioned Jarrett reference)
to be found within its pages, If They Only Knew
is for the devoted Chyna
fan and them alone.
More Chyna stories