For once The Right To Censor, the heel faction sworn to remove all “filth” and “immoral” behavior in the WWF, is right on the money. Ivory, the incarnation of Betty Crocker herself, spoke the truth on the Raw Is War broadcast last week. Chyna’s book – If They Only Knew – is not for impressionable readers. Unlike Mick Foley or The Rock’s biographies which were written for a diverse fan base, Chyna’s is not suitable for very young readers. Some of the explicit material and “colourful” language would make a seasoned sailor blush. Chyna (real name Joanie Laurer) and writer Michael Angeli aren’t afraid to discuss sensitive circumstances like when Chyna admits to being sexually assaulted at a college party. It is one disheartening incident in the somewhat turbulent life she has lived.
Also unlike the previous WWF wrestling biographies, If They Only Knew is more concerned with telling Laurer’s personal story rather than giving fans any sort of behind the scenes glimpse into the wrestling world. Born in Rochester, New York, to parents who divorced when she was three, Laurer doesn’t have many nice things to say about her mom and dad. She portrays her father as a nomad-like conman and her mother as an extremely unbalanced woman. Believe it or not, it is WWF owner Vince McMahon who Laurer refers to as her “StairMaster stepfather.” “Vince McMahon did more for me than my biological father and all three of my marginally legal step-fathers put together,” she writes. If that doesn’t give you some idea of how shoddy her support system was as a youngster, nothing will.
Like most, it was a long road for Laurer to become a WWF superstar. She details her work as a phone sex operator, a cell phone salesperson and a flight attendant. During the moments in-between she is training hard and competing in aerobics and bodybuilding competitions while battling several health scares. The men in her pre-WWF life don’t treat her well. Most are abusive or in trouble with the law.
Fed-up with the direction her life is heading, Laurer signs up with Wladek “Killer” Kowalski’s Institute Of Professional Wrestling hoping it will lead to fame and fortune. Kowalski trained Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Prince Albert and Saturn to name a few, and by the numerous times the WWF has mentioned Laurer’s and Triple H’s affiliation with him, you’d think that Kowalski’s training facility in Salem, Massachusetts, is a high-class gym. Not so, according to Laurer. It’s basically one large room in a dirty warehouse with a converted boxing ring, mats and a few weights to heft. Though she is thankful for Kowalski introducing her to the indie wrestling circuit and supporting a woman breaking into the business, Laurer blames him for being too overprotective of his students to the point of holding them back from their “big break.”
Laurer’s break came through a friend who happened to be sleeping with a WWF booker — referred to as the mysterious Agent Orange in the biography. Her subsequent meeting with him and a chance run-in with Triple H and Shawn Michaels paved the way for her stint in the WWF once Hunter began nagging McMahon about bringing in a “female bodyguard” for his character. The rest is history, as they say.
Laurer isn’t too fond of other professional females and maybe that’s because of the manner in which they’ve treated her in the past. The attacks on other women are very vicious. In one tirade, she dresses down director and actress Diane Keaton with whom she appeared on The Tonight Show. Why? Because she looked at her funny. She rips on ring rats (wrestling groupies), Sable and a host of other females. Actor Matthew Broderick, who accidentally bumped into her at the Emmys, takes his lumps too. If the voice (or tone) in which the book is written is truly representative of Laurer, it is quite sad. She comes off as a bitter high school bully who takes her personal problems out on other people. Someone who inflicts the same type of pain and humiliation they’ve suffered on others as a way of righting past wrongs done to them. I hope that is not the case. Nonetheless, that’s the impression one gets.
The most interesting tidbit in the book that almost makes it worth wading through the other 303 pages is the story behind Jeff Jarrett’s final match in the World Wrestling Federation. Let me save you $20 or $30 dollars. Though nobody can prove it, it seems as though Jarrett and booker friend Vince Russo might’ve conspired to pull one over on Vince McMahon. Before leaving the WWF to head to WCW, Russo was instructed by McMahon to put Jarrett in a program with Laurer. Because McMahon wasn’t going to re-sign Jarrett once his contract ran out, Jarrett would have no leverage to fight the booking decision.
Before Russo jumped ship he postponed the climax of the feud, the Good Housekeeping match for the Intercontinental Title at the No Mercy pay-per-view on October 17, 1999. What Russo and Jarrett didn’t tell anyone is that on October 16th, Jarrett’s contract officially expired with the WWF. To make a long story short, Laurer says that it is rumoured that Jarrett forced McMahon to pay him “just a hair under a quarter of a million dollars” to wrestle that night on pay-per-view as he was no longer a WWF employee. If the story is genuine, you can bet you won’t ever be seeing Jeff Jarrett or Vince Russo in the WWF ever again.
I wouldn’t dare take anything away from Laurer. She has risen above harsh circumstances to improve herself and her life. That type of will and dedication is commendable and a positive example to others enduring similar hardships. However as Chyna, I believe her perception has become somewhat clouded and she herself quite jaded. For example, she criticizes WCW’s Bill Goldberg calling him a “phony” and stating that “he doesn’t even know how to wrestle.” True or not, a pot shouldn’t be calling the kettle black. Laurer’s matches haven’t exactly been classics either. In the book, she makes herself out to be more important or influential on the business that she actually is. Laurer is a notable personality in the WWF to be sure but she isn’t a cornerstone by any stretch of the imagination. Case in point, her current absence from the WWF has had no effect on the product whatsoever unlike when others such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock took time off to heal or pursue outside interests. It seems as though what Laurer sorely needs is a dose of cold, hard reality. To remember where it is she came from and to ditch the negative diva mentality.
With no inside information (besides the aforementioned Jarrett reference) to be found within its pages, If They Only Knew is for the devoted Laurer fan and them alone.