You knew Joan Laurer as Chyna, the bodybuilder who broke through the gender lines of professional wrestling and became a superstar with the WWE when it was still known as the WWF in the late 1990s. Billed as “The Ninth Wonder of the World,” Chyna became the first and only woman to win the wrestling league’s International Championship belt, but after she left in 2001, the wrestling community turned its back on her.
She made sex tapes and porn films, and fell into reality shows whose titles described her circumstances: The Surreal Life; Celebrity Rehab.
Last summer, though, Chyna seemed to turn things around — thanks in part to her new friendship with a Boston comedian, Rob Potylo. Potylo performed as Robby Roadsteamer for years in Boston, an iconoclastic rock ‘n’ roll comedian who also worked for a while as a radio DJ, and made the finals of the 2009 Andy Kaufman Awards. He moved out to Los Angeles in June 2015 to help produce a documentary about Chyna, and they made several silly web videos along the way, wearing colorful leggings and mixing wrestling moves with yoga poses.
Potylo told friends today, including me, that while Chyna “was battling her demons big time…at the same time, we were so close to helping her turn the page.” He wishes they had found a way to showcase Chyna’s art in comedy clubs instead of in Comic-Cons.
Laurer died this week in her home. She was 45.
“I made this playlist below featuring a bunch of videos we did for her fans, and ourselves,” he said. “I hope you enjoy them, as much as we did making them.”