Joani "Chyna" Laurer burst onto the wrestling scene as "The Ninth Wonder of the World." She competed against me. She won titles. She was a star in the WWE.
Unfortunately, a series of problems and issues derailed her career and life. Her battles have been well-documented and she has received more than her share of criticism. Even more unfortunate, Laurer passed away earlier this week.
A lot will be written and said about Laurer. I don't claim to have been great friends with her, but she did help with a literacy project I ran years back at Lerner Newspapers and I have met her several times.
For the literacy program, Laurer sent us several signed 8x10's and cd's (she released some music at the time). She also offered to give us more if needed or help us in any other way. We had hundreds of celebrities and athletes contribute to the cause, but Laurer gave us more than most and especially among the young girl students, Laurer was very popular.
As part of the press, I also got to meet and talk to her more than the average fan at several conventions. She was extremely sweet and I found her delightful. At the first convention, I reminded her of the ad series and she remembered and gave me a huge hug. From then on, at every convention, I received the same treatment. At the last one (Blizzard Brawl last December), she stopped the regular fan line to do some pictures with me, even suggesting a few fun poses.
Chyna will go down as a bit of a controversial figure in wrestling history. Hopefully the WWE will induct her into their Hall of Fame, not because she died, but because she deserves it.
I will always have my memories of Laurer and they are all good. Rest in Peace Chyna and thanks for some great memories.
Joanie Laurer, Jason Fleigel and me in Schaumburg, IL-November 2015.