Vice digs into the story of the rise and fall of pro wrestler Chyna, who died in 2016 after a fatal overdose, in new documentary Vice Versa: Chyna.
Besides offering the first look at footage from Joanie “Chyna” Laurer’s last days, the documentary also considers what it means to be famous in America, as well as look at the toll that addiction takes.
Laurer was one of the World Wrestling Federation’s (now WWE) brightest lights until she was abruptly dismissed from the organization, who claimed the rights to her name and left her without work or identity. To survive, she turned to drugs and started participating in such reality series as The Surreal Life and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. She also briefly dabbled in adult film, tried teaching English in Japan and joined the Mormon church.
The unseen footage that’s included in the Vice documentary was recorded as part of a production started by her inner circle of friends and family, but the production ended when the star unexpectedly died.
“Joanie aka Chyna’s meteoric rise and fall is the stuff of Shakespearian drama, but underneath all that flash, she was an intelligent and sensitive person who struggled with addiction,” said Vice Versa: Chyna director Marah Strauch in a statement. “This documentary will give viewers an intimate and unfiltered view of her personal journey as a pop culture icon and beyond and will compassionately tell the true story of Chyna’s last year of life.”
Besides the previously unseen footage, the documentary also includes interviews with Laurer’s sister Kathy Hamilton; her mother Jan LaQue; Chyna’s former fiancé and WWE Hall of Famer Sean Waltman; renowned wrestling star and friend Mick Foley; noted addiction medicine specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky, who treated Chyna during Celebrity Rehab and worked to get her treatment during her final year; celebrated wrestler Billy Gunn; noted wrestling pundit Vincent Russo; and many close confidants and members of her inner circle.
“I participated in this documentary because, as Joanie’s mom, it was important to me to have the opportunity to tell my side of the story,” said Chyna’s mother Jan LaQue, also in a statement. “Joanie was an awesome human being not only in the ring but, more importantly, beyond the ring. She was a wonderful person. Joanie’s story is important to tell because people should know the vast extent her life’s positive impact had on so many others. Her gentle, loving and caring way was astounding despite the inner grief and sadness she carried at the same time.”
Vice Versa: Chyna is part of Vice’s Vice Versa strand, a series of independent documentary specials Other specials under the Vice Versa banner include Vice Versa: College $ports, Inc., in which former Olympian, NFL star, and NCAA athlete Jeremy Bloom investigates the NCAA’s mistreatment of its student athletes (premieres June 9th @ 9 pm ET/PT); Vice Versa: The Neglected Pandemic, 40 Years of HIV & AIDS, a comprehensive look at what it is to be HIV positive in the USA in 2021 narrated by Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness; and Vice Versa: Meghan Markle Escaping The Crown, which explored if institutionalized racism drove the U.K’s first black princess to flee the crown.
“With the critical acclaim and success of our hit series, Dark Side of the Ring, we wanted to expand our wrestling content through this installment of Vice Versa,” said Catherine Whyte, executive vice president and head of production, Vice TV. “Vice TV is known for its fearless approach to storytelling and giving voice to stories no one else will. Chyna’s story is so powerful—she was a disruptor and an icon. While some may have prefered Chyna’s last days remain in the past, Vice TV will continue to shine a light on stories others are afraid to tell.”
Vice Versa: Chyna is produced by Citizen Skull and Rock Salt Releasing. Executive producers are Daisy Hamilton and Mark Myers. Produced and directed by Marah Strauch. Co-producer is Eric Bruggemann. Whyte executive produces for Vice TV, while Tara Naholny is senior development manager. Vice Distribution distributes worldwide.
Vice Versa: Chyna airs Thursday, June 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.