Last night's Stone Cold Podcast on WWE Network featurning Triple H was fascinating, if a little on the softball side (at least compared to Steve Austin's interview of Vince McMahon in the same forum last December).
Business picked up, so to speak, when Austin used a reminisence of past glory as a segue to ask about Chyna, who ran with Triple H in D-Generation X and was romantically involved with the man behind The Game, Paul Levesque, in real life.
In the scripted world of professional wrestling/sports entertainment, Chyna was a groundbreaking figure who represented a rare foray into intergender 'competition' for WWE and twice held the Intercontinental Championship. In the real world, the woman behind the character, Joanie Laurer, has publicly struggled with substance abuse issues and dealt with personal trauma as well as her mental health - often publicly via 'reality' television. Perhaps for those reasons, perhaps because it offered her the best way to earn a living, Laurer worked in the porn industry on and off for about a decade after splitting with WWE in 2001.
For personal and professional reasons, Austin asking Hunter about Chyna potentially having her prominent role in on of wrestling's most celebrated eras honored with a Hall of Fame induction was riveting. The Vice-President of the company, a man who has negotiated peace deals with disgruntled Legends Bruno Sammartino and Ultimate Warrior for entry into the same company-created and controlled club that Stone Cold was asking about, had this to say:
You know, that's one of those questions... Does she deserve to go in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. ... It is a little bit of a double sided edge. It's not just as easy as 'should this person go in the Hall of Fame?' Completely 100-percent transcended the business, changed the business, paradigm shifter of the business, right? Did what no woman ever did before and was awesome at it, and a phenomenal talent. All the other stuff that happened happened and I don't need to get into any of the other stuff but there is no beef on this side with anything, and I mean that 100 percent. From a career standpoint should she be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely.
It's a bit difficult, though, and this is the flip side of the coin that nobody looks at... You have a, I've got an 8-year-old kid. My 8-year-old kid sees the Hall of Fame, and my 8-year-old kid goes on the Internet to look at... 'oh, this is Chyna, I've never heard of her, I'm 8-years-old, I've never heard of that.' So I go type it in, I go punch it up, and what comes up? And I'm not criticizing anybody, I'm not criticizing lifestyle choices; everybody has their reasons. I don't know what they were and I don't care to know. It's not a morality thing or anything else. It is just the fact of what it is. That's a difficult choice.
The Hall of Fame is a funny thing in that it is not as simple as 'this guy had a really good career, a legendary career. He should go in the Hall of Fame.' Yeah, but we can't because of this reason, we can't because of this legal instance, we can't because of this. ... It's different than any other Hall of Fame in the world and at the end of the day, it's for our fans.
Triple H is right that the WWE Hall of Fame is unlike any other Hall of Fame - because there is no induction committee, no documented standards for inclusion or exclusion. Vince McMahon and his team have 100% control over who goes in and who gets left out.
It makes the question a particularly tricky one, because it means he can't defer to a third party's decision like the National Football League or deflect due to a "character and morals clause" like Major League Baseball. But the reason that he decided to go with last night doesn't hold up to a lot of scrutiny, and illustrates the company's double standards for women and their sexuality.
A Google search of a very prominent name, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, will bring up several news stories about ongoing legal questions about his involvement in the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Argentino in 1983. Dig into what's been written about 2014 inductee Carlos Colón, and you'll find a lot of questions about his role in covering up the murder of Bruiser Brody in 1988. The man sitting across from Hunter last night has documented domestic abuse charges on his record.
Removing gender from the equation, the Hall of Fame includes Sunny - real name Tammy Sytch - whose life has over the last few years closely mirrors the reports of Laurer's in the second half of the last decade. Even with multiple arrests and an easily verifiable trail of soft-core pornography and selling her "companionship" to fans, her name and image are still promoted on WWE's Hall of Fame materials, accessible by Trips' eight year old.
Maybe it's because WWE was a partner in Sunny selling her sexuality during her days in wrestling? Her Hall of Fame bio includes that she was "AOL's most downloaded woman of 1996" while she was in Vince McMahon's employ.
This is a company who spent ten or fifteen years selling swimsuit calendars and actively promoting their female talents' pictorials in Playboy magazine. Current workers like Lana and past women's champions like Mickie James have nude photos one can find with a quick search of the web.
Pornography is different from naked pictures, but is it a bigger issue than steroid or spousal abuse?
If Hunter or any fan comes to the uncomfortable discussion of sex and pornography with a child, what is the harm in centering that discussion around a woman who has chosen to leave that career, who has tried to address her personal issues and is working to start a different kind of life for herself? Laurer has kept herself out of the news and claims to be working on becoming a teacher. The WWE public relations machine couldn't spin the Chyna story in the same way they did the Scott Hall and Jake Roberts ones - tales that don't feature on camera sex but do include damaged families and wrecked childhoods?
Either Triple H is demonstrating a continued issue with his company, where women are called out for daring to possess sexual agency or prowess that men are celebrated for having, or he's using that as an excuse to cover for the fact that his ex continues to have negative things to say about his wife.
Probably it's a combination of factors. But that he publicly claims that a sex tape and a handful of X-Rated movies are somehow worse than allegations of murder and the other litany of bad PR in the WWE Hall of Fame roster is indicative of why his company is so far away from presenting anything like a level playing field for female talent - regardless of how many anti-bullying campaigns they promote or #LikeAGirl videos they release.
Chyna, for her part, is taking the high road. She even offers the company a loophole by which they could induct her without heavily publicizing her name - by putting all of D-X in the Hall...including her sex tape partner Sean "X-Pac" Waltman. Over a series of tweets on her social media account, she said the following:
I understand that the question was asked why am I not in the HOF? I have my reason as to why however, let me make this clear. If the WWE was ever to say that I was going to be inducted, either as part of the groundbreaking DX or as an individual, Well, my answer would be what a friend of mine us to say in the ring, O HELL YEAH!
WWE will face a dilemma when they'll surely want to include Attitude Era factions nWo and D-X in their Hall of Fame, but the latter will force them to address these questions again. Maybe by the time it comes to putting The Game's first famous stable in, the company will have matured to where it can deal with Chyna's life story humanely and without hypocrisy.