‘Good Ol’ JR’ Jim Ross has told the story of the last ditch attempt World Wrestling Federation made to keep Chyna under contract.
Following the dissolution of D-Generation X and the collapse of her celebrated storyline with Eddie Guerrero, ‘The Ninth Wonder of the World’ Chyna found herself in no-man’s land when it came to her place in the company.
After laying waste to Ivory to capture the WWF Women’s Championship at WrestleMania X-7, the powerhouse went on a rampage through the female division which included a victory over Lita at Judgment Day 2001 – her final bout with the promotion.
However, the star was suffering from personal demons and her demands to stay with the company – to be paid the same as the tope male stars – were felt to be unreasonable. Vacating the WWF Women’s Championship, Chyna was removed from television and walked away from the company in November 2001.
Now, Jim Ross has detailed Chyna’s final months with the promotion as well as the $400,000 contract offer put her way in a final bid to keep her as a WWF talent, on his Grilling JR Podcast:
“The 400k was probably more than she was making when she was making a million. She gets an increase in her downside, she’s going to make about $8,000 a week. If she gets back rolling and gets creative rolling again and invests in herself like she did before in her character, then the chances of her making more money and being higher up on the card is obviously there. Her deal to me was: ‘I’m as valuable as Stone Cold is to WWE.’ Chyna is as valuable to WWE as Stone Cold Steve Austin is?
She knew there were a handful of guys that were making a million dollar downside and he was one of them. That was the magic number. At that time, that was the number you strive to attain if you’re a talent because that was the top of the pay grade, $19,000 a week. A lot of guys just took it as they earned it.”
Jim Ross’ skepticism was warranted. While Chyna was an integral part of WWF programming during the Attitude Era with D-Generation X, her role had diminished through 2000-2001 to the point where she was installed as the head of an ailing women’s division.
However, had the star chosen the much speculated WWF Championship offer rather than Playboy, there was every chance that she would have been given everything she had requested.
Jim Ross then moved on to talk about how, if Chyna had taken the offer, she would have easily made a million dollars in incentives:
“Jericho and I talked about that the other day, he had some 2 or 3 million dollar years on a $350,000 downside. It’s there to make. That’s the incentive of it, that’s why it worked so well. You’re incentivised. [Chyna’s] deal was: ‘No, I don’t want a $400,000 downside guarantee, I want a million dollar guarantee.’ She wanted exactly what Austin, Undertaker, some of those cats were making. She was never going to be cast in their light or used in their way.
It would not have been a good investment for us to make. If Vince had said to me her heart was broken, she’s had some bad luck here, give it to her, well I would’ve given it to her. If that’s what he wants, it’s his money. But that’s not what he wanted.”
Speaking of the man who signs the pay cheques, Ross then spoke about how Vince McMahon looked upon the star’s contract and what he told JR in regards to dealing with it:
“[Vince told JR] ‘Give her her raise and put it in the level of a lot of these other guys earning seven figures, not being guaranteed it, and let’s call it a day. Quite frankly, I’m not crazy about keeping her.’ Which is what I wanted to hear, it was an ongoing saga. [I told her] every time you come to work, you see Hunter or Stephanie, it’s going to eat you alive, you’re going to be miserable. I was just trying to be honest with her.
Kids never came into it. Vince was not sure we, the WWE, could manage her in a successful way any longer based on what has transpired. I don’t disagree with that. It’s going to sound like JR wanted her out of the door so he had less issues to deal with. It was a situation that was built for failure. No one can convince me that she would eventually be okay. If you sat in those meetings with she and I, fly on the wall thing, you’d see exactly what I’m talking about.
Her heart was broken. I don’t know how you mend a broken heart, I really don’t. I think we made the right call, I tried to end it with no hard feelings. If we saw going forward down the road that we could’ve brought her back on even keel or level footing because of the Hunter Stephanie thing, if it could draw money, I’m sure Vince would bring her back. I never thought that she would get to a place in her life where she would feel comfortable walking the halls. She created this monster around herself.”
The interview went on to note that after a while, Vince McMahon stopped meeting with the talent but she would continue to turn up at television tapings in the hope that she would be used.
Chyna eventually got the message WWF were attempting to send her and she found a fleeting home in New Japan Pro Wrestling and in 2011 returned to the ring following a career in adult movies for IMPACT Wrestling but lasted less than two weeks.
Joanie ‘Chyna’ Laurer passed away on April 17, 2016, at 46 years of age but her body was not discovered until April 20. Her cause of death was ruled as an overdose of alcohol and anxiety medication.
Credit for the interview: Grilling JR Podcast
h/t for the transcription: Wrestling Inc.