Earlier this week, WWE officially reinstated Hulk Hogan to the WWE Hall of Fame. This comes just three years after severing ties due to a racist rant that was captured as part of a sex tape involving Hogan and Heather Cole. Their trysts were arranged and secretly videotaped by Cole’s husband, radio host Bubba “the Love Sponge” Clem. For many fans, this decision reignites frustration that Chyna’s career in porn is cited as the reason she has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Shortly after WWE’s announcement of Hulk Hogan’s reinstatement, fans weighed in on Twitter:
Chyna (real name Joan “Joanie” Marie Lauer) was a groundbreaking wrestler and entertainer who competed in intergender matches and twice held the Intercontinental Championship. She was the first woman to participate in both the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring tournament. Chyna also won the Women’s Championship in 2001, eventually vacating the title and leaving the promotion. Her in-ring success with the WWE led to more mainstream appeal, including a successful appearance in Playboy Magazine.
During her career with the WWE, Chyna was in a real life relationship with on-screen partner Triple H. The couple was together from 1997 until 2000, when Triple H began a relationship with Stephanie McMahon. Chyna and Triple H eventually broke up with Triple H marrying McMahon in 2003.
Chyna and Triple H square off in the ring:
After Chyna’s departure from WWE in 2001, she made some appearances for New Japan Pro Wrestling and Impact Wrestling. As her in-ring career wound down, she began appearing in pornographic videos, beginning with a homemade video with then boyfriend and former WWE wrestler X-Pac. Later, in 2011, Chyna appeared in her first of several professional adult films. Ostensibly, Chyna has not been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame due to this work. In 2015, Triple H spoke about this when he was a guest on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast:
“You know, that’s one of those questions… Does she deserve to go in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. … It is a little bit of a double sided edge. It’s not just as easy as ‘should this person go in the Hall of Fame?’ Completely 100-percent transcended the business, changed the business, paradigm shifter of the business, right? Did what no woman ever did before and was awesome at it, and a phenomenal talent. All the other stuff that happened happened and I don’t need to get into any of the other stuff but there is 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.
It’s a bit difficult, though, and this is the flip side of the coin that nobody looks at… You have a, I’ve got an 8-year-old kid. My 8-year-old kid sees the Hall of Fame, and my 8-year-old kid goes on the Internet to look at… ‘oh, this is Chyna, I’ve never heard of her, I’m 8-years-old, I’ve never heard of that.’ So I go type it in, I go punch it up, and what comes up?”
This rationale does not ring true for many fans. Wrestling Rumors spoke with Rob Potylo, who was a close friend of Chyna’s and who now leads Twitter and Facebook efforts to push for her induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Potylo had the following to say:
“Hulk Hogan, you know, he himself was in a sex tape. After the sex tape, he was still in the WWE Hall of Fame and still welcome to make appearances at WrestleMania or whatnot. It wasn’t until he said racial slurs on the same sex tape that all of a sudden now Hulk Hogan should be in the doghouse.
Chyna had the opportunity to push just as far as a woman could go in wrestling . . . She was the number one contender for the heavyweight title. She beat Undertaker and Triple H. Like we’re like discussing whether or not this woman is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, when we should be discussing whether or not she should be on the Mount Rushmore of wrestlers.
It’s a complicated legacy. It’s complicated because it’s Shakespearean that basically the man who brought her into the fold, Triple H, pretty much turns out to be the heir to the throne. I really hope for the day where the WWE doesn’t just shy away from her name, but is proud to show off this amazing strong woman .”
The WWE Hall of Fame is unlike any other Hall of Fame. There is not objective criteria or specific rules on what it takes to qualify or to be disqualified. There is no third party committee to help overcome biases or weigh in when controversies emerge. The decisions made are made by Vince McMahon and his inner circle. Though WWE is certainly not known for caving to the demands of fans, Chyna’s accomplishments, along with the groundswell of support for her induction, may ultimately prove far too compelling to avoid indefinitely.
Here is Stephanie McMahon’s response after being asked if Chyna will ever be inducted:
Do you think it’s time for Chyna to be inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame? Or do you think her porn career is more problematic than the controversies surrounding Hulk Hogan or other Hall of Famers such as Sunny, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka or Fabulous Moolah, whose name was removed from the WrestleMania women’s battle royal in a matter of days earlier this year? Sound off in the comments below!