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Chyna's Death Highlights The Harrowing Existence Of Women In Pro Wrestling

Chyna's Death Highlights The Harrowing Existence Of Women In Pro Wrestling
By Donny Mahoney
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Last night in California, Chyna died from what TMZ are reporting as an overdose on prescription drugs. For wrestling fans of a certain generation, Chyna was one of the first prominent female characters in the WWF/WWE. Her life after wrestling has been dogged by drug addiction and she is just the latest in a long list of well-known characters from professional wrestling to die in their 40s.

Much has been made of the physical toll that pro wrestling takes on the male body - Roddy Piper predicted his own death on HBO - but a number of prominent female characters from the wrestling world have also died tragically.

Miss Elizabeth

Miss Elizabeth, real name Elizabeth Ann Hulette, was the original queen of the WWE. She was the manager of the Macho Man and was at the heart of the massive Megapowers Explode subplot. She became a sort of female wrestling archetype in her years beside Savage.


Elizabeth's life after wrestling was a trainwreck. She married wrestler Lex Luger and the pair enjoyed a torrid romance that ended tragically. In 2003, Luger was charged with beating Hulette. Two months later, Elizabeth died from an overdose of prescription pills. David Shoemaker eloquently told the whole sordid story of Miss Elizabeth's death on Deadspin. Luger explained the circumstances of his wife's death years later.


Scary Sherri


Sensational Sherri, aka Scary Sherry, aka Sherri Russell, was the evil to Elizabeth's good, the night to Elizabeth's day. She started wrestling age 20, trained under the Fabulous Moolah and would manage the Macho Man after Elizabeth.





Sherri would go on to manage Shawn Michaels and was something of a proto-Chyna. She even cut a version of the famous HBK intro. In 2007,  she died due to a drugs overdose in Alabama. She was 49. According to her local newspaper, 'she lived loudly, but died quietly'. On wrestling, the paper explained:


Professional wrestling managers hardly perform typical managerial duties. They function as sidekicks, usually for villains, whose antics turn the audience against the wrestler.

Diva Era

Over the last two decades, the WWE have sought to give their female performers a bigger stage. They've also slowly moved away from the porn star depiction of women. We live in the Diva era now and one of the highlight's of this year's Wrestlemania was the three-way battle for the women's title that involved Ireland's Becky Lynch.

On the fight itself, Kyle Mulholland wrote on Balls.ie:


Competing in a three-way match for the belt was Becky Lynch, a Dublin native who looks like the main character of Pixar’s Brave as played by Ke$ha and Sasha Banks who was walked to the ring by her cousin, Snoop Dogg, which was nice. Family is important. Finally, the current champion Charlotte Fliehr strode out in some kind of wizard's robe followed by her dad. The family focus of this segment was very touching.

The match was a whirlwind of multi-colour extensions, flips, and eventually devolved into the three women thrashing about on the mat in a way that made me feel profoundly catholic. Charlotte emerged as the victor after making a spirited attempt to remove Becky's arm.

Perhaps the game has changed now. But Chyna's death reminds us that it's not only men who struggle with the lifestyle demands of professional wrestling. For the women presented as bimbos, princesses and warrior queens, life after wrestling is desperately fraught.

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