ON THIS DAY IN PRO WRESTLING HISTORY... The WWE held its first "Corporate Rumble" on January 11th, 1999. In preparation for the Royal Rumble 1999, then named World Wrestling Federation (WWF) had a mini-Royal Rumble with a 5 on 5 Rumble match competition between the Corporation (heel stable of Vince McMahon stooges) and Degeneration X. Degeneration X was coming off their feud with the remaining pieces of the Nation of Domination stable and had a side feud with the Corporation simultaneously with Steve Austin also going up against the Corporation.
For Royal Rumble 1999, Vince McMahon proudly boasted that there would be NO CHANCE IN HELL that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin would win the Rumble match to become #1 contender for the WWE Title. Vince even created a theme song for Rumble 1999 and that's the theme song that you hear Vince McMahon use to this very day. Austin had to actually defeat the Undertaker at the previous Pay Per View, In Your House: Rock Bottom 1998, to win a spot in the Royal Rumble. However, Vince McMahon on RAW performed a random drawing of who would be #1 and #30 in the 1999 Royal Rumble match. Vince's random drawing just so happened to select Steve Austin as the #1 Rumble entrant while Vince McMahon selected himself as the #30 entrant.
Luckily for Austin and the WWF, Shawn Michaels had a brief stint as a Commissioner and actually overruled Vince (!!). While Michaels retained Austin at #1, he forced Vince to become the #2 entrant. Then, Michaels set up the 5 on 5 Corporation vs. Degeneration X "Corporate Rumble" Royal Rumble style match to determine the #30 entrant in the Rumble match. For the Corporation, it was Vince McMahon (trying to still get #30), Big Bossman, Test, Ken Shamrock, and Kane. For Degeneration X, it was Triple H, X-Pac, Road Dogg Jesse James, "Badass" Bill Gunn, and Chyna (Joanie Laurer). The last person in the ring from this 5 on 5 mini-Rumble would become #30 in the 1999 Royal Rumble match to create a nice "sense of urgency" in the match.
Vince McMahon brought his A-game this night. The psychology of trying to stop Steve Austin from winning the Royal Rumble at all costs was excellent writing by the WWE Creative Staff at the time with Vince McMahon overseeing the staff of Jim Cornette, Bruce Pritchard, and Vince Russo (Ed Ferrara was probably around at this time, too), with input from television producer Kevin Dunn and ongoing input from former WWWF/WWF stars who were loyal to the McMahon family (Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco, etc.). The rigging of the Royal Rumble order was hilarious as was commissioning someone to make the "No Chance in Hell" theme song. The "Corporate Rumble" match saw back and forth between DX and the Corporation but Vince McMahon was able to appear to survive (tossing out Bossman and Triple H fighting each other along the ropes) as the winner of the match and become #30 in the 1999 Royal Rumble. He didn't count so well that day:
Chyna, the 5th entrant of Degeneration X into the Corporate Rumble, arrived to Vince's shock. The crowd popped hard for this and then nearly lost their minds when "Stone Cold" Steve Austin joined the match to cause chaos. Austin taunted Vince on the outside and it distracted Vince enough to let Chyna toss him over the top rope (SICK bump that Vince took, too... That bottom rope, OUCH!). Chyna was #30 in the 1999 Royal Rumble!
But, this is where the storyline picks up and this night, ON THIS DAY IN PRO WRESTLING HISTORY, was the beginning of the end for the Degeneration X group and would become the building blocks storyline that would make Triple H a huge superstar in the WWE. Weeks later after Chyna won the Corporate Rumble, she turned on Triple H and Degeneration X and thus joined the Corporation. At the following Pay Per View, she teamed up with Corporate Kane to take on Triple H/X-Pac. However, in a brilliant swerve, the WWE acted like Chyna reunited with Degeneration X and Triple H at Wrestlemania 15. But it was a swerve! It was really Triple H joining the Corporation and leaving the rest of DX behind. Triple H's rise to the top, as the Main Event level heel, had begun. Reportedly, Triple H signed a big contract before or during early 1999 and he was ready for the Main Event.
The WWE had to dissolve Degeneration X as a face stable to enable this to happen. By picking off the key members in Chyna and later Triple H, one of the greatest stables of all time was over. Degeneration X was one of the biggest things to happen to the WWE and was a key part in their rise during late 1997. In fact, the RAW after Wrestlemania 14 that began the real popularity surge to eventually defeat WCW Nitro, RAW ended with Degeneration X adding its 2nd and 3rd members of the night (added X-Pac earlier in the night). DX sold lots of shirts and merchandise and put on a great show with their appearances outside WCW Nitro shows. They were a key part of the early WWE "Attitude Era", but in order for fans to take Triple H seriously as a main eventer, the group HAD to dissolve as a face act. No big worries for Road Dogg, X-Pac, and Billy Gunn... They would reunite with Triple H to form a HEEL version of Degeneration X.
Chyna, however, went her own separate way after the Corporation stable whithered through 1999. She attempted a legitimate singles career and and began actually wrestling male wrestlers, even winning the Intecontinental Title twice (though, about everybody won that belt during 1999-2000). How did she actually seem credible to wrestle males in the first place? It was all about how the WWE marketed her, starting with her debut. The person behind the "Chyna" character named Joanie Laurer who was a legitimately trained professional wrestler by former pro wrestling vetern "Killer" Kowalski. In addition to being a wrestler, she was also a bodybuilder having competed in local fitness competitions. She looked quite dangerous and after some internal pushing by Triple H and Shawn Michaels who were impressed meeting her after a wrestling show and pushed her wrestling tapes onto Vince. She debuted with the WWE during February 1997 as Triple H's bodyguard. She punished any Triple H opponent who was thrown of the ring Chyna also won Triple H's heart. HHH and Chyna began dating.
When Triple H and Shawn Michaels formed Degeneration X, she was tagged along with Triple H to be a legitimate 3rd member of the group. "Ravishing" Rick Rude joined and then left the group and then on the RAW after Wrestlemania 14 during 1998, X-Pac, Billy Gunn, and Road Dogg joined the group with an injured Shawn Michaels departing. As noted above, the group began its break up after the Royal Rumble 1999 with HHH and Chyna joining the Corporation while the New Age Outlaws were on their own. Eventually, the Corporation dissolved as the McMahon/Helmsley Era was about to begin... Chyna tried to wrestle male wrestlers during 1999-2000...
However, during late 1999 and early 2000, the WWE stacked itself with some serious in-ring talent. During late 1999, the WWE added Chris Jericho, Dudley Boyz, Kurt Angle while during early 2000, the WWE added World Championship Wrestling imports, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko. Existing WWE wrestlers, like Matt & Jeff Hardy, Edge, and Christian began to step up their games. Suddenly through 2000, the WWE had a stacked roster of tremendous in-ring wrestlers. Thrust into that sea of workrate, Chyna found herself drowning. Those tremendous in-ring talents (multiple World Titles among them) began to work circles around Chyna who was noticeably slow compared to them. The muscle mass and the abnormally large breast implants made it difficult to compete against those impressive all-time great wrestlers that the WWE acquired during 1999-2000. BAD timing, indeed.
The WWE observed this workrate issue and changed her role up a bit. They initially placed her with Eddie Guerrero as a love interest, falling for the "Latino Heat". She then entered the Women's Division where she was aimed directly at the Right to Censor stable's female wrestler, Ivory. In fact, she had a pretty prominent role at Wrestlemania 17 defeating Ivory for the Women's Title quite easily. She has a pretty famous Wrestlemania entrance at that event where she shoots fireworks from a bazooka like gun. This was probably her last HUGE role in pro wrestling, as it was all downhill after this night. As champion, the WWE figured she'd draw better as a heel... They turned her heel and Lita was the babyface female wrestler as an opponent. Some of the Chyna promos were bizarre during this feud, as she kept saying she wanted to "spank" Lita. After the Lita feud, through late 2001, she was GONE from the WWE for good.
Behind the scenes, things were probably getting weird. Chyna was dating Triple H in real life and it was a serious relationship. Just watch MTV's True Life: I'm a Pro Wrestler and you can how serious they are as a couple and how much Triple H loved her. Reportedly, sometime during late 1999 or early 2000, the couple split. Depending on whose story you hear, which is typically Chyna's versus everybody else, it appears that their relationship seemed to cool down through the time the Triple H character began his "marriage" storyline with Stephanie McMahon. X-Pac (Sean Waltman) cited in a few interviews that he could see the relationship stalling, as it felt weird or cold during car rides together on road trips between WWE events. Possibly wanting something more serious with Triple H, possibly marriage, Chyna became possessive and HHH/Chyna were still together during the beginning of the Triple H/Stephanie "marriage" storyline (also known as the McMahon/Helmsley Era), tension probably occurred within the relationship. Chyna has contended that Stephanie began sending Triple H love letters and they were sneaking the relationship behind her back.
After she left the WWE during late 2001, as Triple H suggested she asked for too much money while Chyna contended she was owed money by the WWE and relationship with HHH/Stephanie was a factor, Joanie Lauer without the WWE trademarked name of Chyna struggled. She did do some work for New Japan Pro Wrestling during 2002 and appeared for TNA during 2011, but most of her work was aimed getting into the entertainment industry. She figured that acting roles were lining up... But they weren't. After being a finalist for the Terminator 3 female Terminator role, the roles weren't there without the "Chyna" name and without the WWE hype machine behind her. She would turn to personal demons during the mid to late 2000's while also having a turbulent relationship with Sean Waltman (X-Pac), even getting arrested for domestic violence. Many thought she could turn it back around with her 2011 appearance in TNA, but surprise surprise, she opted for a career in Pornography instead. Her sex tape with Sean Waltman was "released" years ago named 1 Night in China and while with TNA wrestling, it was revealed that she did a porno to be released soon named Backdoor to Chyna. She has since starred in an Avengers parody where she was able to play the She-Hulk and plans for a She-Hulk porno spinoff are reportedly under way.
Returning full circle, today, her ex-boyfriend Triple H is thriving as EVP of Talent for the WWE Corporation and happily married for going on 10 years with Stephanie McMahon. In addition to ridding himself of the babyface Degeneration X group, he had to get out of the Chyna relationship, both in character and in real life. Triple H needed to grow as a heel on his own and to also use a McMahon relative to quickly elevate himself up the WWE ladder. The love between Triple H and Stephanie is truly genuine, but it's hard to deny the powerplay he was able to easily make during 2000 to become one of the most dominate heels of all time.
THUS, On This Day in Pro Wrestling History...... Chyna won the "Corporate Rumble" on 1/11/1999, but it was the beginning of the end for many things as the storyline arc was just beginning. Degeneration X was about to dissolve and Triple H was about to get pushed. The DX vs. Corporation feud was the beginning of this significant change that would influence the WWE forever.