On April 17, 2016, the professional wrestling world was shaken with the news of the death of Chyna. She died at her home in California at 46 years of age. According to her autopsy, her passing was due to an overdose of alcohol and a mixture of drugs. Her brain was donated to science to study the effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which affects many in sports. On his podcast, The Steve Austin Show, Austin spoke of her impact on the sport and how her legacy should have been remembered.
Steve Austin on Finding Out About the Death of Chyna
"When I learned [about the death of Chyna], the news just shocked me, just stunned me. I just couldn’t believe it.
"I miss a phone call and get a text message ‘Hey man, call me ASAP,’ so I call this guy ASAP. And he proceeds to tell me that Chyna had indeed passed away, and he had discovered her in her apartment in Redondo Beach. This was in the evening, but this was hours and hours before this broke on a nation-wide scene or worldwide scene, and I was one of the first people to know. When that guy called me, this hit me so hard, and I couldn’t believe it; I said to him three times, ‘Dude, you’re shooting me! Chyna’s dead?!’ And he said, ‘Steve, I’m shooting with you.’ He speaks the language, and I said, ‘Dude, this is not a rib, right?’ because you don’t, you don’t just rib like that, it would be a morbid rib. But I knew this guy, a very close acquaintance of Chyna’s, so I knew it was a shoot, but I could not believe it…"
Austin Opens Up About His Regrets
"Man, I hadn’t seen Chyna in quite some time, but she’s just one of those people… I know she’s had a rough couple of years, and I know she had a rough childhood coming up, and I don’t know the specifics of any of that, so that I won’t get into any of that. And I thought she was in a place in her life where I had assumed she was drug-free. I had recently sent her a couple of direct messages, and she had sent me a couple back, and we were talking about doing the podcast. And I know she had been talking to Jim [Ross] about doing his podcast as well. And I remember the last time I had sent her a direct message, and in return, she said, ‘I’m looking forward to talking to you,’ and I direct messaged her back, ‘I’m looking forward to it, let me know when you’re ready,’ and I, of course, never heard anything back. And I was just figuring, me and Chyna or Joanie; we didn’t talk a lot, we were just very good friends from our relationship in WWE.
"Man, all of a sudden I get that phone call. I was about 99% sure that I could believe the source and that she was gone, but that 1% of me, you know… I told the dude this, and he said, ‘Hey man, you can call people and let them know if you want to,’ and I said, ‘Hey man, I’m not going to call anybody. First of all, I’m shocked. Second of all, I don’t have any confirmation [on the death of Chyna]. Dude, I take your word for it, but that ain’t my thing."
"I hung up my phone. I looked right at my wife; she was in there making dinner. And I said, ‘You ain’t going to believe this,’ and she said, ‘What?’ and I said, ‘Chyna is dead,’ and she said, ‘Oh my god!’ My wife didn’t know Chyna. She didn’t watch wrestling, she didn’t watch wrestling when I was in it, but she knew of her. And I had been speaking to her or direct messaging her, and she knew I was working on getting ready to have her on my show. And she could see what kind of impact it had on me; it was just like someone hit me in the head with a baseball bat.
"I’m coming out of this anesthesia [from rotator cuff surgery]. I’m pretty clear-headed, and then someone calls me and just tells me that someone that I care deeply about and have many, many good times with was gone. And she was only, I guess, 46 years old. And again, I was under the assumption, I knew she had some issues, but I was under the assumption that she was straightened up or clean or whatever."
Steve Austin on Meeting Chyna For The First Time
"Man, I tell you what, I just stood around, and I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do. There was nobody to call. There’s nothing to talk about. It’s just so heavy duty; I remember the first time I met Chyna, it was somewhere up in the Northeast. For some reason, I might’ve been sharing a car with Shawn Michaels and Triple H, or I met them at the same hotel at the same time, whatever happened. And Chyna shows up, and she’s going to make her debut the next day, I believe, and there’s a connection there because Triple H was trained by Killer Kowalski. Chyna had just completed Killer Kowalski’s wrestling school, and I guess someone had given off a buzz, ‘Hey man, there’s this real big chick, and she looks pretty badass, and Killer Kowalski trained her, and she’s got a real good look.’
"I don’t know how the dynamics and all went down, but I remember meeting her that night for the first time. And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Man, this chick is BAD.’ She looks great. She’s built like a million bucks. You can see she’s been spending hours and hours in the gym and watching her train, the textbook form she had. I mean, her form was better than most of the guys. And she was serious about what she was trying to do, and she was a smart lady, as I would come to find out.
"I hit it off with Chyna from day one. And as I got to know her, I got to know her silly side. Me and her always had this kind of, what a great relationship, but just goofy, silly sense of humor that probably only me and her got. There’s obviously all the guys she worked with in DX… many people knew Chyna better than I did, but I got the chance to hang out with her a lot, do business with her a lot, watch her learn the system, watch her understand the push, and watch her get over and watch her operate. And she got over big time in the Attitude Era, and she had a monster run, and she had a definite impact in the business. And she was helping draw some of those houses. And she was a force to be reckoned with. I just remember her taking care of her business and learning the business side of the business, and climbing up the ranks.
"Man, she was working with guys. I remember about a time there where they brought in, shoot, Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Chris Benoit. I remember one time we were at a television taping, and it was going to be three of those guys. It was going to be a six-man tag, and it was going to be Chyna and Billy Gunn, who were a strong part of DX, and myself. We were in the finish room, going over how things were going to go down in the ring, and so the three guys from WCW, the Invaders, were going to be down there. And then here comes Billy Gunn and Chyna and I remember we were talking backstage. The agent said, Now Billy, you and Chyna get down there, there’s three of them in the ring, so you two just wait at the bottom, wait for Stone Cold, but when he gets there, y’all go in the ring, and y’all start the match and start doing everything.
"Chyna without hesitation looks over at the agent and says, ‘Well, why would we wait for Stone Cold? Aren’t we going to look kind of look dumb, just waiting there by ourselves? Why wouldn’t we get in there and start kicking their ass?’ [laughs] And on the one hand, I’m sitting there thinking, ‘HELLO! Hey, I’m Stone Cold Steve Austin. I’m the hottest cat in the business right now. And first of all, there’s 3 of them, and there’s 2 of you. And also, you’re female.’ Billy Gunn didn’t really care because he knew that they were outnumbered, but my point is the moxie that Chyna had to say that because she believed in herself, she believed in her gimmick, and she believed how over she was.
And on the one hand, I couldn’t believe the audacity of it, but on the other hand, I always gave her credit because, hey man, she was looking out for herself, she was looking out for her character. She wasn’t out there messing around, she was a very funny person and very smart, but she was serious about the business. So it ended up, they waited for Stone Cold to show up, and I remember we went out there and had the match. I don’t remember the specifics of the match. But I just remember her taking herself and that character very seriously, AND as she took herself seriously, she pushed seriously, and the fans took her seriously.
"And for a female to come in and basically be a guy’s heater or backup or muscle… Man, she really helped out the Triple H character. They were such a package together, that was money. And her and DX was, obviously, money. Man, I’ll never forget one time working with Triple H in Germany and were working in front of people that just loved Triple H and Chyna. Of course, Stone Cold is going over; I stun Triple H, pin him 1-2-3, Chyna comes in, stun her, and then here comes a dude, he starts jumping on me. I thought it was a rib. I thought one of the boys from the back had hit the ring and was pulling a rib on me. Well, it was one of the German fans that were pissed off that I stunned Triple H and Chyna. Triple H gets up and starts beating the hell out of the guy who jumped me."
Favorite Memories of Chyna
"I was going over some Chyna clips before I started this podcast, and I didn’t realize that I actually eliminated Chyna from the Royal Rumble in 1999 seconds after SHE eliminated the world’s strongest man, Mark Henry. She turned around, fed right into a clothesline over the top rope, down she goes.
"I remember another time, I can’t remember which PPV it was, but it was a deal where Stone Cold and Chyna met face to face in the middle of the ring. And I’m trying to get by her, or something, and she won’t let me by, or she’s dissing me, there’s something that’s going on there. I go to get out of the ring, I couldn’t find this clip on YouTube, but I’ve seen it before. She just double-fingers me and gives me the double birds. And then she turns around and I kind of look at that crowd, and I’m working that crowd, and I’m like ‘Uh-uh, that’s not gonna work. That’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.’ And so I turn around, I guess I spun her around, kicked her in the gut, and dropped her with a stunner.
"Chyna was one of the funniest, sweetest people that I’ve know in the business of pro wrestling. And I think if you go back and ask all of those people that were in that locker room when she was there, when she was hot, universally, you’re going to get thumbs up [for] her. I think all the guys respected her; everybody knew she was over.
"Whatever happened with why she left the WWE or who was responsible for that, I don’t know any of that – that’s soap opera stuff that I didn’t get into, but I respected Chyna, I liked Chyna. I thought she was a badass and an absolute sweetheart, and she was very intelligent. I know Chyna had her issues after she left the WWE, but man, she had made a comeback from that. And I knew she was teaching English out there; she had just come back to the States.
"And I guess they were filming a documentary about her life and man, it’s just uh, [pause] I don’t think it’ll ever be right because she didn’t go into the Hall of Fame while she was alive, living and breathing with us, and I thought she earned the right to be in the Hall of Fame. And to put her in there posthumously, man, it’s just not good enough. So I don’t know how you rectify that, how you deal with that because things are just screwed up and man, her going into the Hall of Fame is just so small in comparison to the fact that this young lady is no longer with us. I don’t know what to make of it.
"I’ll wrap up my thoughts about Chyna by saying I thought she was a super sweetheart lady, she had her issues, hey man, we all do. She weathered a lot of storms, she had a tough life, but on the big stage, she got out there and performed. She gave her heart and soul to everything she did, and she loved the business, and she was a pleasure to be around, and she was a breath of fresh air, and I was sorry to hear on April 20th, when I got that phone call, that she had passed away and it was indeed true.
"Chyna, I always called her Chyna; some people call people by their first name, depending on how you know them. Joanie, man, I’ll miss you. I had so much fun with you and enjoyed all of our time we got to spend together and our stupid brand [of] sense of humor. That time I busted my ass at the Houston Summit, right before I was fixing to go out there and wrestle Mick Foley, and you were sitting on that anvil case. I was putting my water on and slipped in a pile of water and busted my ass right in front of you. I will remember all the good times, and I remember you and wish you were still here."
Wrestlers Comment on the Death of Chyna and Why She Should be in the WWE Hall of Fame
In an interview shortly after the death of Chyna, Triple H said that she "definitely warranted" a place in the Hall of Fame. Stephanie McMahon said she was sure Chyna would be inducted but was not sure what year it would happen.
Chyna was honored in a sign of respect by wrestler Beth Phoenix on March 31rd, 2017, during her Hall of Fame induction, citing her as an inspiration to herself and a significant contributor to the wrestling business. However, she never got to meet her.
In 2019, Chyna was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class of 2019 as part of D-Generation X. However, her accomplishments in the business more than warrant her to be inducted on her own. Will this ever come to fruition? Only time will tell.
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Thank you to Moris for the above transcription.