Pop Culture

Lifer 11: Summer Wrap-Up

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Welcome back, Baseball Lifers, to the August Edition of Lifer by All Heels on Deck!

Who else is excited to read that line again? We are thrilled to share what we’ve been working on during our summer hiatus. Our Summer Wrap-Up has a little bit of everything. 

Last month, the world of sports celebrated #WomenInBaseballWeek. I’m sure you saw it all over Twitter, with everyone associated with baseball shouting out their favorite women who are dominating the world of baseball. The Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory hosted a week-long celebration of “the cultural significance of women in baseball”. We’ll give you a closer look at their unique lineup of events.

Women’s Baseball has been a hot topic in the baseball world lately. With Maddy Freking becoming the 19th girl to compete in the Little League Baseball World Series during this year’s tournament, we’re reminded of all the women who have come before her as pioneers in the sport. But, what if you want to physically show your support for women’s baseball? We have you covered with some apparel you won’t want to miss out on.

Minor League Baseball Teams are always thinking of innovative ideas to make fans’ ballpark experience as unique and memorable as possible. Everything from pop culture theme nights and discounted food items to creative giveaways are used each year to drive crowds to the ballpark. This season, the Hartford Yard Goats have decided to go beyond promotions to create an extra-special atmosphere. We’ll share some of the details that made headlines earlier this summer.

We've officially reached the Dog Days of Summer, which means our teams are headed into the home stretch of the season.  Wouldn't it be fitting to have your team represented right in your backyard as you get in those final summer BBQs? We’re sharing some items of décor that all you Baseball Lifers might want to add to your collection.

We’re back with the second installment of Hit ‘Em, our new segment dedicated to the intersection of baseball and music, where we feature a new baseball themed song each edition. This month, you'll be getting two songs! Jessica Quiroli and I will be showcasing some country songs that will definitely make you think baseball.

 

 

~RoseAnn Sapia

 

 

 

Louisville Slugging Women

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

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Last month, the world of baseball made it a point to acknowledge the women working in the sport we love. Many fans tweeted about the impact of women in their lives, while several teams celebrate by hosting a special theme night during the season. This year, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory made it a point to highlight the history of women in baseball in some of the most creative way.

 

Think you know the history of women in baseball? As part of the celebration, museum goers had the opportunity to compete in some trivia. Questions ranged from the AAGPBL and A League of Their Own, to general Women in Baseball facts. The person who answered the most questions correctly got to take home a personalized bat!

 

When you hear Jackie Mitchell, what comes to mind? This is the woman who infamously struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and the Louisville Slugger Museum brought these moments back to life. Twice during the week-long celebration, a Frazier History Museum teaching artist performed a live portrayal of this incredible story for fans of all ages to appreciate.

 

 

 

The Museum went even deeper into the history of women in baseball by highlighting the importance of Bloomer Girls Baseball, a league that was active between the 1890s and 1930s, which coincided with the suffrage movement.

 

Basically, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory hosted a week-long immersion into the history of Women in Baseball, and we absolutely love the idea.

 

To learn more about the celebration, click here.

 

For more information about Bloomer Girls Baseball, click here.

 

 

 

A League Of Our Own

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

With Women in Baseball Week last month and the USA Women’s National Team competing this month, now’s the perfect time to flaunt your support for the trailblazing women who play the sport we all love. There’s no better way to do that than by rocking some women’s baseball merch!

 

Penny Marshall. That name holds a lot of status for many baseball fans. Her film, A League of Their Own, was the first to showcase the groundbreaking All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) and highlight just how significant a role these women played in history.

 

It’s fitting that the International Women’s Baseball Center (IWBC) kicked off their Penny Marshall Celebration in honor of her life and accomplishments just last week with apparel that honors the iconic director and her beloved film.

 

 

Choose from a vibrant tee commemorating the Penny Marshall Celebration and a tee that features the IWBC logo with the phrase, “Step up to the sport”. Top it off with a Rockford Peaches cap, and Baseball Lifers everywhere will know exactly where your heart lies.

 

The US Baseball Women’s National Team is currently riding a seven game winning streak, so now’s the perfect time to show them you’re cheering them on with Team USA gear!

 

There’s a wide selection of merch for Baseball Lifers of all ages including sweatshirts, caps, popsockets, and pins.

 

 

 

 

On the apparel side, Team USA gear covers everything from hoodies, fleeces, and pullovers to caps, tees, and shorts for men, women, and children. With sizes ranging from S-XXL, you’re sure to find the style and size of your preference.

 

The accessories are where you can get a bit more creative with how you rep Team USA’s Women’s National Team.

 

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Popsockets are definitely the current trend, and now you can get a Team USA branded one! Nothing shows support like attaching a team logo to an item you have with you at all times.

 

 

 

 

A lot of the Team USA merch can be used on the baseball field. Branded canteens, batting gloves, bracelets, cooling towels, and wristbands are all items you see baseball players at every level sporting on the field. What better way to support these women than by representing them while you’re playing baseball?

 

For more information about the IWBC’s Penny Marshall Celebration, click here.

 

All USA Women’s National Team gear can be found at their official team shop, here.

 

 

 

“Buy Me A Hot Dog And Yard Goats Cap”

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

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When you think baseball, what’s the first food that comes to mind? For many, the first is peanuts.

 

Based on data collected as recently as 2018, about 1.8 million children in the United States are allergic to peanuts. Despite the efforts of the Commissioner to attract the youth of America to baseball, there’s a large population that isn’t able to attend games at the ballpark even if they wanted to because of their allergies.

 

One Minor League Team, the Hartford Yard Goats, has decided that it’s time to change that narrative.  

 

The Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies has officially gone peanut-free for the 2019 season, making them the first ballpark to go peanut-free for an entire season. Peanut and peanut-related items are no longer offered at concession stands at any home game. This is in an effort to make Dunkin’ Donuts Park more family friendly, since many children suffer from severe peanut allergies.

 

Because peanuts are part of the traditional baseball experience, many families that have children with these allergies have been unable to attend games. That is, until this season.

 

Now that there’s finally a peanut-free ballpark, many children are attending baseball games for the first time. Just last week, a tweet circulated of a young girl with peanut allergies at her first ever baseball game.

 

 

The Hartford Yard Goats have created an accommodating environment that allows children who otherwise wouldn’t get to experience the thrill of watching a game at the ballpark to finally get that chance. There’s something special about being at the field, and now a whole new group of baseball fans will finally get to make those same memories.

 

You can learn more about the Yard Goats peanut-free initiative here.

 

 

 

Yard Of Dreams

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

When you’re not at the ballpark this summer, wouldn’t it be nice to have a yard that gave you a glimpse of it? An outdoor space that conveyed just how much baseball means to you? A balcony that, from the second your guests step outside, they know belongs to a Baseball Lifer?

 

Well Baseball Lifers, now you can bring your baseball lifestyle to your outdoor property with Fanatics MLB Themed Outdoor Furniture! All 30 MLB teams are represented, and there are A LOT of products and décor to choose from to express how you do baseball.




 

 

 

Want everyone to know what team’s colors you bleed from the moment they step foot on your porch? Then a team-branded Door Mat may be exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Choose from Coir or Vinyl Logo Mats to subtly inform everyone from your friends to your mail-carrier of your baseball fandom.

 

 

 

 

If you’re looking to be the center of social gatherings this Post-Season, why not create the bar atmosphere with a baseball twist? With team-themed Billiard Table Covers, Cue Sticks, Cue Racks, and Billiard Ball Triangles it’s easy to add a hint or four of team spirit to your Pool Table. If Darts is more your scene, the team branded Dart Cabinets would be the perfect reminder of what team has your heart. Now your favorite pastime can meet your game room to create the ultimate baseball fan social scene.

 

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If you have a larger outdoor space, you’ll need some place to relax. Whether you have a garden, deck, or lawn the team-branded Park Bench would be a unique addition to a yard favorite. The team color schemes make them look like they could’ve been taken straight from the ballpark, and who wouldn’t want to catch that vibe?

 

You can find every item mentioned here, plus more outdoor décor and furniture on the Fanatics website.

 

 

 

Hit 'Em: Country Edition

 

Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats"

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

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“Right now…”

 

As soon as you hear the opening chords of this one, it’s almost impossible to refrain from singing along. This is an ultimate throwback, and baseball is an integral part of the chorus and message of this song. Bet you already know the exact lyrics I’m referring to.

 

I dug my key into the side
Of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive
Carved my name into his leather seats
I took a Louisville slugger to both head lights
I slashed a hole in all four tires
Maybe next time he'll think before he cheats

 

A Louisville Slugger represents power in baseball. It gives a batter the ability to shift the flow of a game. Hitting a baseball just might be the most difficult feat in all of sports, so those who can do it with the highest skill instill a sense of fear in the opposing team.  Afterall, the Silver Slugger is the awarded to the best offensive players in all of baseball.

 

There’s something foreboding about a Louisville Slugger because the batters that can really swing it are most dangerous. When Carrie chose to open the music video with a montage of her Louisville Slugger wrecking a car, you can’t help but think of the allegory.

 

Taking a Louisville Slugger to shatter someone’s pride, be it their headlights or their perfect ERA, paints a vivid picture. It’s a symbol of revenge, power, and destruction.

 

“Before He Cheats” is a song essentially about competition; someone trying to one-up the person who wronged them. Like a hitter getting revenge on a pitcher who made them look foolish by hitting a moonshot with that Louisville Slugger his next at-bat, Carrie gets revenge on a cheating boyfriend by destroying his car with that same Slugger.

 

 

Miranda Lambert's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"

By: Jessica Quiroli 

The gritty, house-on-fire sound of Miranda Lambert's 2007 single, from her album of the same name, is certainly what we've come to expect from the country star who made ACM Awards history in 2018 with her ninth consecutive Female Vocalist of the Year (surpassing Reba McEntire)['; Every album contains a song or two that sounds like Lambert is off the rails, unapologetic about her state of mind. 

But with 'Crazy Ex," she sounds, perhaps, the most unhinged she's sounded in any song, with the possible exception of her first ever single "Kerosene".

She looked at my man like he didn't have on a stitch

Somebody tell that girl to step up to the plate

I wanna pitch, little bitch

These pretty girls can play their game

but they damn well gonna know my name

 

The unbridled wildness of her rage, mixed with a baseball metaphor is fun, but unmistakably dangerous, like the most intimidating player going to the plate or, in this case, the mound. And that's what also makes this revenge romp even more fun--where most writers tend to use hitting metaphorically (see Underwood), Lambert makes a unique turn as a pitcher, waiting for the hitter to "step up to the plate." She finished the thought with the repeated line about being unafraid to face "pretty girls" playing "their game." She might not win, but the "damn well better know" Miranda Lambert's name. 

Btw, just in time for the MLB wildcard chase, Lambert announced her forthcoming album will be named, heyyyy, "Wildcard." And ALSO btw, here's Lambert as a Rockford peach a few years ago. Maybe that Charisma bat she's holding is the one Carrie used.

ML Peaches


A Little Bit of Pop: Musical Theatere & Baseball Make Perfect Music

A Little Bit of Pop A Little Bit of Pop

 

An ode to the perfect pitch of baseball and musical theatere merging.

 

By Helen Silfin

This is the debut of a regular feature focusing on pop culture and baseball. 'A Little Bit of Pop' will run several times a year, with a mix of writers contributing. In this first installment, Helen Silfin, an avid fan and attendee of musical theatere and baseball games, focuses her eye on baseball references and appearances of America's pastime in another of America's beloved traditions--going to a Broadway (or local) show. 

At first glance it seems like musical theatre and baseball would go together about as well as ice cream and hot sauce. However, upon further review you realize baseball references in musical theatre are more like M&M’s in trail mix - sweet, surprising, and there are truly never enough.

 

Shows like Falsettos, Ragtime, and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown all have individual scenes revolving around baseball. The baseball references are fun, do not get me wrong, but once the scenes pass you know you are about to step into a world without baseball once again and therefore they really are not the best intersections of baseball and musical theatre.

 

My favorite baseball references come when I am least expecting them, without warning from the song title, setting, or plot. Newsies and Wonderful Town reference baseball just enough for me to geek out without actually making it a part of the show at all. I find these moments so satisfying because I feel like I am appreciating little Easter Eggs in the shows, only noticed by super-attentive audience members.

 

So in truly fitting fashion, when I finally got a prop newspaper from Newsies I ended up with the sports section of the paper, which was full of baseball box scores. The paper - dated July 20, 1899 - is incredibly detailed. There are brief descriptions of each game, lineups, and line scores.

Unfortunately, none of the scores are real. The big story in the paper describes a Brooklyn victory over Chicago, while a search for the real July 19, 1899 scoreboard tells us the Brooklyn Superbas played the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Orphans played the New York Giants. Despite the fact that the scores are not real, I still marvel at the attention to detail in this little Broadway prop. It would have been easy to make a few pages of generic news with headlines and pictures just big enough for the audience to kind of see. So I do give major props to the props department for creating names and scores and even game stories.



The baseball surprise in Wonderful Town comes during the song “One Hundred Easy Ways To Lose A Man.” The second verse goes as follows:

 

He takes you to a baseball game

You sit knee to knee

He says, "The next guy up at bat will bunt, you'll see"

Don't say, "Ooh, what's a bunt? This game's too hard for little old me"

Just say, "Bunt? What are you nuts? With no outs, two men on base

And a left-handed batter coming up, he'll walk right into a triple play

Just like it happened in the fifth game of the World Series in 1923"

That's a sure way to lose a man

 

The fifth game of the World Series in 1923 was on October 14 and the New York Yankees beat the New York Giants 8-1 on their way to the championship. The game featured a double play but no triple plays. However, there was a triple play in the fifth game of the World Series in 1920, but I guess Betty Comden and Adolph Green found 1923 more poetic than 1920.



Both of these references are fun because they are completely unexpected and unprompted. They both made me immediately want to find out if they were real - if the people who included them were as big a baseball nerd as I. They also reminded me that having two seemingly completely different interests only means twice the fun when those interests intersect.


Special Report: "Chyna," WWE's Cautionary Tale, Had Big Impact on LGBTQ Youth

Why has the WWE taken so long to honor Joanie Laurer's popular alter ego?

By Em Burfitt

The end of Joanie Laurer’s story is far too common. The perils of an addictive personality mixed with a cavernous need to be loved inside of anyone can be damaging. Why should the Ninth Wonder of the World be any different? 

As a kid in the 90’s, the WWE—then the WWF—was everything. More in, as a girl in the 90’s who was wild about it, there was nobody greater to watch than Chyna. Lying in a bath of bubbles around Summerslam may have taught me the meaning of “viewer discretion”, but I was never particularly advised.

I stopped watching wrestling around the time that the WWE let Chyna go, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time. Rumors swirled around the wrestling forums I used to lurk, where we’d each have terribly pieced together banners of our favorite wrestlers done in Paint. For years, the circumstances over her no longer appearing in the squared circle was because of the love affair between Paul Levesque—known as Triple H—and Stephanie McMahon, the boss’s daughter. Equally, for years, that tale was canon.

Turns out, according to Jim Ross, she’d bitten the hands that fed her by asking for more money than the company could handle for one superstar. This explains why she was let go, but as for being left out of the Hall of Fame when the stars already in its annals are, arguably, just as screwed up. Arguing to separate the art from the artist can only go so far, but Joanie certainly never killed anyone. 

Even though I stopped watching years ago, I still kept quite a bit of the memorabilia I’d amassed over the years. There’s a cover of RAW magazine with Chyna on the cover; on it, she’s holding up a metal globe on a background of stars. The last time I rifled through this box was right after she’d died. Another thing I hadn’t realized was that, in the time between when I’d been a teenage obsessive and that moment, this iconic woman many of us had looked up to had fallen on the wrong side of the tracks.

At the root of it all, Jim Ross said that she just wanted to be loved. Who can’t relate to that?

When I began reading more into Joanie’s post-WWE life, it was a mix of feeling empathy for her, and wonder. A wonder of how the same woman who pinned Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship received more flack for doing porn than she did praise for the entire legacy she’d left in the wrestling world. There was a feeling of disconnect. 

In an interview with Broadly, Joanie’s mother Jan LaQue, said that she’d advised her daughter not to go back to California. She told her to get away from the “Chyna” persona, and to just be her. After 30 years of not speaking as the result of a tumultuous decade that ultimately led to Joanie leaving home to live with her father, they’d been exchanging emails in the years preceding her last. In the course of the emails, LaQue thought her daughter wanted to escape the persona and return to who she was. 

I bring this up because, as a wrestling fan in my teens, the superstars were who they were on television. Despite relentless searches on dial up internet connections about wrestlers’ real names, Chris Jericho was Chris Jericho, Kane was Kane (and given his current political standings, if only that were still the case), and Chyna was Chyna. So if Joanie was Chyna to many of us who idolized her, then presumably, that was the path to being loved. And those of us who loved her or not, should know how solid her standing should be in the legacy of the WWE: the Hall of Fame.

Something I also remember from the wrestling days was a barrage of comments about how “Chyna is a man!” or “Chyna is a lesbian!” I’m a queer kid from a tiny town, so there was always an interesting level of what I like to call Whatthef-kery going on there. If being muscular means you’re “a man” or a “lesbian”, aren’t both of those terms, directed at a woman, meant as an insult? Statements like that not only affected Laurer—a woman who wanted to be seen as sexy and feminine—but gay kids like me who heard we weren’t “good enough” either. And, unfortunately, even after the WWE, these insults towards Joanie herself only increased after her sex tape with Sean “X-Pac” Waltman.

On that same note, is a sex tape really that much of a big deal?

In the PG-rated world of wrestling—all holds barred matches and playing with nails is fine—apparently, yes. 

But even if the first of many sex tapes didn’t exist, would Chyna have been inducted into the Hall of Fame? 

In the November 2000 issue of Raw magazine, which is both the one I mentioned earlier and also has an article about Chris Benoit, there’s an exclusive “sneak peek” into Chyna’s Playboy shoot. In the sneak peek, Laurer talks to the magazine about how she hopes the shoot will be inspiring. She says that from a Joanie Laurer standpoint, “There’s a lot of bodies that are not shown because they’re not the norm.” Later, she asserts that she can be bigger and stronger and still beautiful, regardless of outsider voices. “The great thing to me is that I can show [who I really am] in all of those aspects.” Maybe her personal downfall that would happen just a couple of years later came from not getting to be who she was at the same time as being part of her wrestling family.

I reached out via email to an incredible entertainment writer who might be one of the best voices on the topic of wrestling, LaToya Ferguson. I wanted another woman’s view on what happened with Joanie, as I navigate this strange world I was once so familiar with, from the outside, it’s often difficult to split what happened in the ring from what happened in reality. As the author of an in-the-works book on women’s wrestling—covering both sides of the McMahon/Levesque/Laurer divide—she was certainly the right person to ask.

In doing this, my internal search for reasoning behind wanting to know more ended up taking a different path to the same argument: Chyna should be in the WWE Hall of Fame. She should have been long before she lost the cage match to addiction. However many people out there say she wasn’t a good wrestler, I’d put my left foot on the line in saying there’s three times the number of people who say and think otherwise. I’m one of them.

Chyna should be in the Hall of Fame for a legion of reasons, but now, in ways, I understand there were things she did that destroyed the chance. Or liabilities that, when under the influence of who knows how many substances, she might. LaToya said it best via email, that there was always going to be a chance she’d go off script and maybe if she’d have gotten fully clean and apologized, just maybe, she’d have gotten back into the fold. Unfortunately, it sounds like there were other forces at work. When you’re surrounded by demons, it’s often difficult to see the lighthouse through the storm. And see who’s good for you, and who’s bad.

I’m 13 when I see Chyna enter the Royal Rumble. The first woman ever to do so. We only had video tapes of matches, so as far as we knew, the Corporate Rumble and Raw didn’t exist. I’m sure they’d mentioned her taking part on a title card at some point, but none of those stick. Entrances, on the other hand, were everything. Each entrance was a surprise to us, and at 30, when Chyna appeared, I was suddenly aware that girls could do anything. 

Despite the personal and professional differences between Joanie Laurer and Vince McMahon, with all of the private goings on put to one side, there’s simply no excuse strong enough to leave the Ninth Wonder of the World out of the Hall of Fame. This is a Hall of Fame that have lobbyists who want to see Benoit inducted, and unless the gender divide is bigger than I imagined, I’d say murder-suicide is worse than revenge porn ten years later. But even Benoit aside, the hall is full of wrestlers and celebrities, men and women, with their pasts just as dark as Laurer’s. 

Tammy Lynn “Sunny” Michaels was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011; since then, she’s been arrested various times and has also starred in her own adult film. She’s still in the Hall of Fame. Rightfully. For the 186 individual inductees in the Hall of Fame—including embarrassments in the “celebrity” ring such as Donald Trump, Pete Rose, and Kid Rock—there are 16 women. That’s across individual and legacy inductions. 

The Fabulous Moolah, whose brutal pimping ways have come to light in the last few years, was inducted in 1995. Not only did WWE not take her out of the Hall of Fame, they also nearly named a Battle Royal after her, only reconsidering after fans had made their ire known. Hulk Hogan, arguably the WWE’s most famous wrestler of all time, was involved in a scandal that included not only a sex tape, but a racist rant that meant it wasn’t just his mini-Hogan caught on tape. (You can find out more about this in the Gawker vs. Hulk Hogan Netflix documentary and sports journalist Dave Dyer’s column, about the WWE Hall of Fame’s hypocrisy). 

For those who don’t know, in short, Hogan received a suspension from the Hall of Fame after the scandal. Great, in ways, but what about 2014-inductee Scott Hall’s multiple arrests for domestic abuse and drunk and disorderly actions? Or Steve Austin’s spousal abuse? “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka allegedly killed his mistress in the early 80s, and granted, WWE pulled him out of the Hall of Fame, it doesn’t explain the countless superstars that have had the same kind of problems as Joanie had. What is it that makes her different?

If Hogan was making the WWE so much money via merchandise that he got reinstated because of his legacy, how about the legacy of Chyna?

In an interview with Jim Ross, Stacy Carter—who was once, as Miss Kitty/The Kat, Chyna’s manager and also one of her good friends while they were in the company—said that they didn’t talk a lot after Joanie left the WWE. Carter left, too, remarking to Ross that it was getting away from the wrestling world that saved her, but in the case of Laurer, the comfort and stardom of being a WWE superstar was, ultimately, what she craved. She also remarked on how much Joanie’s personality changed with the drugs. Like she was barely the person she knew anymore. Also, that she shouldn’t have gone back to LA so soon. (Statements that were echoed by Laurer’s sister, Kathy).

At the Judgment Day Pay-Per-View in 2001, Laurer had her last match as Chyna against Lita. Chyna would continue to hold the women’s championship for months after she’d left the WWE, but that match was the start of the women’s division being taken seriously. And when Chyna took Lita’s hand and raised it up over the ring, even not knowing we’d never see the Ninth Wonder of the World the same again, it felt like there was a shift. It breaks my heart, as a fan, that she was so deeply affected by circumstances that she’d never get to experience that thrill again.

Joanie Laurer had a difficult life. In the WWE, she found acceptance, family, and love. These are the kinds of purity that drugs take away. They don’t mesh with alcohol or meth or coke or steroids. But it’s those drugs that take away the pain. If people she knew and who knew her and loved her didn’t recognize her by the end, then we have to ask whether who she was around was a good influence. After reading the Broadly article, I’m even inclined to ask whether she knew that the WWE offered her their rehabilitation program or not. Did she know? Or were there voices that spoke for her?

After all, it wouldn’t have been the first time.

Chyna was a force to be reckoned with. But it’s with Laurer that her legacy lies. It was Laurer who brought a force to the ring so powerful for kids like me and thousands of others. It was Laurer who was unapologetically strong, who did dozens of things in the then-federation for the first time. She had problems, she made stupid decisions, she said and did stupid things—but why should that take away her legacy when it didn’t the countless others?

WWE will induct Chyna into the Hall of Fame eventually. I hope.

It just should’ve happened a long time ago. 

Because she was the Ninth Wonder of the World, but more importantly, she was human.

 

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Thank you to LaToya Ferguson and Dave Dyer for your wise words and knowledge.