Beth Phoenix recently detailed her respect for WWE Hall of Famer Chyna, crediting the ‘Ninth Wonder of the World’ for her female star power during a heavily male dominated era of wrestling.
Pheonix was the subject of the second instalment of the ‘WWE Icons’ series. The show details her humble beginnings on the high school amateur wrestling team to a Hall of Fame Superstar who redefined the role of women in sports entertainment.
During the documentary, Beth would open up about her struggles with body image during her younger life. When discussing her journey to acceptance that would ultimately lead to the WWE, Beth pointed at another trailblazing Superstar who changed the course of pro wrestling for women, Chyna:
“I felt that pressure to fit in and to fit a stereotype and fit a mould, so I started unhealthily trying to lose weight. I was really obsessed and focusing on my weight. There was a point where the school counsellor and my parents had to intervene and end up helping me get counsel through that time period. It was a point in my life where I realised body image was going to be a challenge for me and I had to find a way to learn to accept myself for who I was.
Female representation was sparse in wrestling in the 80s and 90s. When Chyna came on the scene, I was just enamoured. I’d seen female bodybuilders before, but Chyna was more than that. She was an athlete. She had that star power alongside all the men. It was just a lightbulb for me, and I was inspired like hell by Chyna. Anytime Chyna had a feature anywhere, I was scooping up fitness magazines to unlock those secrets of ‘how did she get that strength? How did she get that body?’ I want to be like that. So in my own mind, in my own journey of how I’m going to make it to WWE, I said, ‘I got to start with the wrestling team.’”
Chyna became a household name as part of D-Generation X and the ‘Attitude Era’ in the 90’s. Debuting as a bodyguard for DX, her dominating strength and physical stature was unlike any other female character at the time. China would compete with male wrestlers for the vast majority of her career, becoming the first female wrestler to hold the Intercontinental Championship and enter the Royal Rumble match. Posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2019, Chyna is widely credited as one of the most influential female performers in sports entertainment history.
Following in the footsteps of her idol, Beth Phoenix would become the second female ever to enter the men’s Royal Rumble, in 2010. Phoenix would also pay tribute to the legacy of Chyna during the 2007 No Mercy pay-per-view, the event in which Beth would win her first Women’s Championship:
“The day of No Mercy 2007, I didn’t have a great costume made. The match was booked last minute and I didn’t expect it. I brought this corset to our seamstress Julie, who used to make Chyna’s outfits. I told her, ‘I really want to give a Chyna vibe. A powerful woman.’ The idea of the Glamazon was to be halfway between Chyna and Trish. I wanted to bring forward some of the things Trish did but at the same time, I want to be a powerful and mold-breaking woman like Chyna was.
Julie blinged out [the corset] with crystals and I brought her a pair of briefs and she put a hunk of leather on it and gave me more crystals. For the little wrestling fan at home and in my heart, it was so special. I would continue to have parallels with Chyna along the way that was meaningful. It’s such a mind-blowing thing because it’s the same title I watched Chyna, Trish, and Molly win. This piece of history was held by my heroes. What was really special was, I won the WWE Women’s Championship when I stopped trying to be the next Trish and I started being the first me.”
Beth Phoenix had previously taken to social media to pay tribute to Chyna. In a 2020 Twitter post, the ‘Glamazon’ credited the ‘Ninth Wonder of the World’ as a major influence on the women’s evolution:
Joanie redefined the role and image of a woman for me. I can’t tell you how much I wanted the chance to make this moment happen. Chyna’s influence on me and the evolution of the female role model cannot be forgotten or understated. #ThankYouJoanie
Though Chyna would tragically pass away in 2016, her legacy lives on today as one of the most important female figures in WWE history.