The Life of Chyna: WWE’s Ninth Wonder of the World

You probably know Joanie Laurer by her professional wrestling name, Chyna. As Chyna, Laurer broke down many of the barriers woman wrestlers were facing and became of the WWE’s most popular figures in the 1990s. Because of her size, Laurer was able to work with male and female wrestlers, to become the first woman to hold the Intercontinental Championship and the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble.

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While the fighter managed to reach dazzling heights of success, her fall from grace is also a fascinating story. After being one of the most popular wrestlers on the planet, in the 2000s, Laurer found herself outside of the industry, and her life was in shambles. Laurer appeared to be haunted by these issues until she died of an accidental drug overdose in 2016.

Stellar Role Models

While Laurer had a seemingly ordinary childhood, she also had a dysfunctional family, which impacted her relationships throughout her life. Laurer was a straight-A student who liked to learn languages and play musical instruments in her free time.

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However, Laurer also witnessed her parents’ abusive relationships and watched them both struggle with drug-related issues. Her father was an alcoholic with a gambling addiction and was frequently abusive to his wife and cheated on her. Laurer admitted that she once saw her father accidentally stab her mother during an argument. When Laurer was 16, she was kicked out of her mother’s home.

Little Miss Smarty Pants

After her high school graduation, Laurer attended the University of Tampa, where she got to study several languages, including Spanish, French, and German, while majoring in Spanish Literature. She really enjoyed what she was learning.

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In 1992, Laurer graduated from university and served in the Peace Corps, where she was stationed in Guatemala. She really wanted to get a job with the FBI or DEA after college, as she believed her knowledge of languages would come in handy. During this time, she worked several odd jobs, as a cocktail waitress and a belly dancer.

Sexualization Started Early

Perhaps it was a red flag of what was to come, but reportedly, Laurer was being sexualized by men from a very early age. She admitted that while in school, one of her teachers kissed her. If that isn’t disturbing enough, Laurer claimed she was sexually assaulted on several occasions growing up.

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Laurer shared that while she was studying in Tampa, she was attacked by two men who were drunk and raped her. Laurer also accused WWE wrestler X-Pac of drugging and raping her while they were dating – something X-Pac strongly denies.

Training for the Future

At a certain point after graduating, Laurer found herself training and competing in fitness competitions. She sometimes trained with the legendary Killer Kowalski at his wrestling school in Malden. Kowalski was the one who booked Laurer in her very first wrestling match, which helped her establish herself in the independent wrestling scene. Kowalski also taught Paul Levesque, who would play a key role in Chyna’s life and career.

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Another legend who also had a significant role in Laurer’s early career is former WWE Women’s Champion, The Fabulous Moolah. In Laurer’s autobiography, she noted that Moolah booked many of her early wrestling appearances on the independent wrestling scene before she was ultimately signed by WWE.

Her WWE Debut

WWE and WCW began showing interest in Laurer in 1996; they wanted to sign her to a major deal for their promotion. According to her autobiography, WCW approached Laurer to join the popular NWO stable alongside Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan. But Chyna chose to sign with Vince McMahon and WWE instead. This was reportedly due to the insistence of Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and his son Shane.

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Laurer made her first WWE appearance at In Your House: Final Hour. During the event, Hunter Helmsley was defeated by Rocky Mavia because of a distraction from Goldust. As the two squared off in the ring, Chyna reached over the barricade and proceeded to apply a chokehold to Goldust’s valet, Marlena.

D-Generation X

After the event, Laurer joined Triple H and Shawn Michaels’ matches to hype them up. She would often interfere in the matches, allowing Helmsley and Michaels to win their matches by cheating. Chyna would usually target male wrestlers and hit them with low blows. Reportedly, it caused tension backstage, with male fighters hesitant to be overpowered by a woman.

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Laurer landed the name Chyna as an ironic reference to fine china. She is silent but powerful, making her popular alongside Michaels and Triple H. To pump everyone up, Laurer liked to bring T-shirt launchers and fire them at the crowd.

A Twisted Romance

Right before she signed with WWE, Laurer began a romance with fellow wrestler Triple H.; it was her most serious relationship. The couple dated from 1996 to 2001, and the relationship seemed to have had a positive impact on Laurer’s life. She would later accuse Triple H of abuse, but they reportedly stayed on good terms after the breakup.

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These troubling conflicts are why the relationship fell apart. But Laurer’s sister seems to have different views on their split. Laurer’s sister Cathy explained that Triple H wanted to have children, and Laurer didn’t. It is also rumored that Laurer’s personal issues were the reason for the breakup.

Breaking the Barriers

Chyna broke down the WWE barriers that were previously unthinkable for females. According to WWE Commentator Jim Ross, many of her male counterparts were initially hesitant to be overpowered by Laurer, despite her obvious strength and size. After working with wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Jeff Jarrett, Chris Jericho, and Mankind, the protests of other wrestlers slowed down.

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Laurer also achieved many firsts for a female wrestler during her time with WWE. In 1999, she became the first female wrestler to enter the Royal Rumble match type. Later that year, she defeated Jeff Jarrett in a “Good Housekeeping” match to earn the Intercontinental title. Not only was she the first one to win the Intercontinental title, but she was the first female wrestler to hold the belt, marking the first time a woman held a traditionally male belt in WWE history.

Drama and Heartbreak

The reasons for the breakdown of Laurer’s relationship with Triple H are disputed. Laurer’s sister continued to maintain that the couple broke up because of different priorities, but Laurer says there were other reasons. Triple H had a romance with Stephanie McMahon in the early 2000s, and the two eloped.

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This love story had real-life ramifications. Laurer claimed she found a love letter from Stephanie to Triple H during that time. Laurer maintained that Triple H was cheating with Stephanie McMahon. The accusation seemed to be true in the eyes of fans when Triple H and Stephanie made their relationship public.

Her WWE Departure

Just like the end of her relationship with Triple H, the reasons for Laurer’s departure from WWA also have several different explanations. Laurer said the company sent her home after she reported an issue with the affair between Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Reportedly, WWE CEO Vince McMahon told Laurer that the promotion had nothing to do with her.

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WWE, as well as others that worked with the promotion, dispute that this was the reason Laurer and the company went their separate ways. Jim Ross, the head of talent relations at the time, explained that Laurer was asking for a massive amount of money to continue wrestling for the promotion. Ross said that WWE and Laurer had a mutual agreement to let her contract with the promotion expire, allowing her to “explore other options.”

Her Acting Career

After leaving WWE, Laurer made a few on-screen appearances in 2001 and 2002. The star tried to capitalize on her WWE success to begin an acting career. During her time with WWE, Laurer made a cameo in the sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun, where she played an officer named Janice.

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After splitting ways with WWE, Laurer made appearances on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Relic Hunter, and Tracker, along with several guest appearances as herself. She also acted in the critically slammed movie Alien Fury: Countdown to Invasion, Frank McKlusky, Cl, and Hunter: Black in Force.

Post WWE Wrestling

The 2001 Judgement Day pay-per-view event where she defended her Woman’s Title against Lita was Laurer’s last appearance for the WWE. After leaving, she took time away from professional wrestling after jumping back into the ring the following year. In August 2002, she wrestled a simple match for a Japanese promotion UFO Legends, before signing a wrestling contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling.

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In New Japan Pro Wrestling, Laurer competed against male wrestlers because they do not have a women’s (or Joshi) division. Therefore, Laurer would often wrestle in multi-person tag team matches. However, in 2003, Laurer returned to the United States to pursue an acting career.

She Was a Drug Addict

Laurer struggled with drugs and alcohol for a significant part of her adult life. She inherited her addition issues from her father, who was addicted to alcohol and gambling when Laurer was growing up. Laurer would drink Jack Daniels straight from the bottle as if it was juice, according to her friends.

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Laurer also self-medicated with painkillers to deal with the various injuries athletes suffer throughout their careers. During her relationship with Waltman, Laurer reportedly started taking methamphetamines, during the couple on their notorious binges. Laurer took other recreational substances as well, like cocaine and Xanax.

Another (Alleged) Abusive Relationship

After her professional wrestling career, Laurer had a romance with former D-Generation X member and fellow professional wrestler, X-Pac, whose real name is Sean Waltman. Waltman and Laurer would regularly engage in drug-fueled binges during their toxic relationship. They were often seen taking copious amounts of drugs, from pain killers to crystal meth.

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The couple filmed a sex tape in 2004 called 1 Night in China, inspired by the sex tape with a similar name featuring Paris Hilton. Like many other events in her life, Laurer and Waltman have different stories about what really went down. Waltman and the distributor claim that Laurer was in on it, and the couple shared the profits. Laurer says that she did not consent to the sex tape’s distribution and that Waltman gave her drugs and raped her.

Reality Television Star

After not making it into the acting world, Laurer resorted to reality television. In 2005, the former wrestler was cast to appear on The Surreal Life. Her season also featured Christopher Knight, Verne Troyer, and Da Brat.

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Laurer also appeared on the reality series Celebrity Rehab in 2008. The show is hosted by addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky. Laurer joined the Season One cast alongside Daniel Baldwin, Seth Binzer, and Bridgitte Nielsen. Despite all her stints and rehabilitation, Laurer was sadly never able to fully recover from her drug addiction issues.

Transition to Adult Films

Chyna signed a deal with Vivid Video in 2009, where she made her first porn movie entitled Backdoor to Chyna. It was extremely controversial since you could literally see her having sexual intercourse with actors dressed like her former WWE colleagues, including Vince McMahon and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.

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Laurer explained her transition to adult film as making the best of a bad situation. In her final two adult films, Laurer portrayed She-Hulk in superhero porn adaptations. Her role was based on the character of the same name, which was introduced in 1992.

Back in the Ring

By the time 2011 rolled around, a decade after leaving WWE and nine years after her last in-ring wrestling appearance, Laurer returned to the professional wrestling world. She was at TNA in Impact that May and was introduced by former WWE superstar Mick Foley. Laurer was announced as a business associate for another WWE star, Kurt Angle.

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She joined Angle during his feud against Laurer’s former rival, Jeff Jarrett. Angle was involved in a feud against Jerret, which also included Angle’s ex-wife, Karen. Laurer’s TNA career only lasted a single match in a mixed-tag team event against Jeff and Karen Jarrett at the 2011 Sacrifice pay-per-view. Laurer forced Karen to submit with an ankle lock and picked up the victory with Angle.

Stepping Away From the Limelight

Despite a long career of chasing fame, Laurer seemed to be taking a break from the spotlight in 2012. After her brief stint as an adult actress, Laurer moved to Japan, where she was reportedly working as an English teacher. While in Japan, she converted to the Church of the Latter-Day Saints and became religious.

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Although Laurer had a religious awakening in Japan, her addiction issues still plagued her. Reportedly, Laurer was hospitalized after trying to harm herself while living in Japan. She was arrested in Japan in 2015 for public intoxication and threatening police officers with a knife.

Her Final Days

In 2015, Laurer returned to the United States and connected with her fans through social media. According to reports at the time, the wrestler was training for a comeback! Laurer was posting frequent training updates. At the same time, Erik Angra was making a documentary about Laurer’s life which was commissioned by Laurer’s manager, Anthony Anzaldo.

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Despite clearly trying to get her life on track, Laurer never made it back to the ring before her death. In the days before she passed away, Laurer posted a video sounding very weak, while drinking a spinach smoothie. Then, fans started to worry when she went a few days without posting anything online.

WWE’s Angel

Laurer was found dead in her apartment by her manager, Anthony Anzaldo, in early 2016. Anzaldo went to check on his client after noticing that she hadn’t posted anything on social media for a few days. Initial police reports claimed that Laurer died of either a drug overdose or natural causes, but they ruled out foul play as there was no sign of a suicide note.

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In December of that year, Laurer’s autopsy revealed that her cause of death was due to an overdose of alcohol, anti-anxiety drugs, pain killers, and sleeping pills. The autopsy stated that the athlete had a mixture of alcohol, diazepam, nordazepam, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and temazepam in her system when she passed away. Anzaldo claims that all the drugs she was taking were prescribed by a doctor but he admitted that she had a tendency to abuse them.

Remembering Chyna

Upon her death, Laurer’s body was cremated, and her ashes were spread at sea. Laurer hoped to donate her brain to science to help investigate the effects of CTE in wrestlers. However, the donation was rejected because of the condition her brain was in. Her manager spread her ashes in the Pacific Ocean, and a dozen close friends and relatives attended.

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Before spreading her ashes, a memorial service took place in Los Angeles for fans to pay their respects. Other than fans, wrestlers Rob Van Dam, Melina Perez, and Sean Waltman attended the memorial service. Actors Barry Williams and C. Thomas Howell also showed up at the memorial with rappers Coolio and Baby Bash performing for fans.

Her Legacy Lives On

Chyna certainly changed the landscape of professional wrestling. Before Laurer broke onto the scene, women always stuck to the women’s division and were mostly used for their looks and not their talent. When Chyna signed for the promotion, the female roster was better suited for a fashion show than a sporting event.

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She broke down the barriers in professional wrestling, and her absence left a huge hole in WWE. In 2004, WWE signed Beth Phoenix, another amateur female wrestler, by which time the promotion’s women’s division had reverted to the sideshow that it was before Chyna joined the company.

Made It to the Hall of Fame

The WWE management had been hesitant to induct Laurer into the Hall of Fame for quite a long time. Triple H said that his biggest concern was her post WWE career in the adult film industry. There were also worried about Laurer’s controversial statements accusing Triple H and X-Pac of rape and abuse. Given the WWE was trying to promote their renewed women’s division, it was only a matter of time before Laurer was inducted.

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Laurer wanted to be inducted into the Hall of Fame while she was still alive, according to her friends. In 2019, Chyna was finally inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, but as a member of D-Generation X, many fans stated that she deserved to be on the Hall of Fame considering they inducted other wrestlers who did adult films, like Sunny. But WWE remains silent and reluctant to induct her due to her personal issues.

Next is the bumpy relationship of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Did Triple H really cheat on Chyna with Stephanie? We’ve got the scoop!

The Controversial Romance: Triple H and Stephanie McMahon

Paul Levesque, better known by his stage name Triple H, married Stephanie McMahon back in 2003. They are probably the biggest power couple in the WWE world, coming in behind only Stephanie’s dad, head-honcho Vice McMahon, and his wife, Linda.

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While Stephanie McMahon is an heir to Vince McMahon and currently serves as the chief brand officer for the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, Triple H worked his way up from an in-ring performer to one of the most influential fighting figures working behind the scenes as an Executive Senior Advisor. But their relationship is filled with controversy.

The couple’s love story has been subject to cheating allegations as well as other hurtful rumors. Needless to say, their rise to the top was not a smooth one. Here is the truth about the WWE power couple.

Prior Love Lives

In the late ‘90s, Triple H was famously dating and living with fellow WWE figure Joanie Laurer, otherwise known as Chyna. They met when Chyna was training with wrestling icon Killer Kowalski. According to Triple H, he was the one who convinced Chyna to sign with WWE, and she was introduced as his bodyguard before they formed D-Generation X with Shawn Michaels.

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Not much was known about Stephanie’s life before her romance with Triple H. There had been tons of rumors going around suggesting that Vince McMahon’s daughter had an inappropriate relationship with Macho Man Randy Savage, but that allegation has never been confirmed. Stephanie had been in an on-air relationship with Test, but it never blossomed into a real back-stage romance.

On-Screen Start

Stephanie and Test were supposed to get married in the ring in 1999. Triple H interrupted the in-ring ceremony. He didn’t run down screaming, “I object.” Instead, he showed a video of himself and a drugged Stephanie eloping in a Las Vegas drive-thru chapel.

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The story made it seem like she got married without her consent, but it was later revealed that Stephanie McMahon was all in on the plan to get revenge against her father. The union of Stephanie and Triple H led to the creation of the McMahon-Helmsley Era, where Triple H held the WWE championship, and Stephanie held the WWE Women’s Championship.

On-Screen Love Triangle

Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were together on and off-screen as their relationship flourished in the early 2000s. Their romance wasn’t the first to start off as an on-screen relationship. Stephanie and Triple H were entangled in a love triangle involving rising star Kurt Angle.

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During that time, Stephanie started appearing in Kurt Angle’s corner as his manager. Stephanie was ringside when the Olympic Gold Medalist defeated The Rock for the WWE Championship. Angle discussed how awkward that situation was, explaining that Vince MacMahon was directing the segments, including a segment where he kissed Stephanie.

Rumors and Accusations

As we mentioned, Triple H was previously in a committed relationship with fellow wrestler Chyna. Triple H and Chyna both tell different stories about why they broke up. Chyna said she discovered a love letter between him and Stephanie and accused them of having an affair. Chyna also accused them of getting her fired. That story has also been disputed.

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Reportedly, Chyna’s relationship with Triple H crumbled due to a difference of priorities. Stephanie and Triple H always maintained that their relationship only began after Triple H and Chyna broke up. Chyna’s sister claimed that the relationship crumbled because of Chyna’s growing dependency on drugs and alcohol, while Triple H led a sober lifestyle.

He Broke Chyna’s Heart

When things with Triple H fizzled out, Chyna started dating fellow wrestler Sean Waltman. During that bumpy relationship, Chyna was arrested for domestic assault in 2005. Her drug and alcohol dependency only increased, until in 2016, she died of an accidental overdose at age 46.

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Famed wrestling commentator Jim Ross believes Chyna’s breakup with Triple H and her subsequent departure from WWE were all factors that contributed to her downward spiral. In 2020, he said on his podcast that “the love of her life and her had a breakup and I think that she never recovered from that to a large degree, quite frankly… I think that she had to start healing again after WWE, and she could just not get over the hump.”

She Thought He Was Gay

Surprisingly, his history with Chyna wasn’t the biggest roadblock in Triple H’s relationship with Stephanie. Stephanie apparently already had her eyes on Triple H from his early D-Generation X days, but she thought his relationship with Shawn Michaels was… a little more than just friendly. Although Michaels married two different women and had a public affair with WWE employee, Sunny, Stephanie said she wasn’t sure about Hunter’s sexuality.

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Vince McMahon also came in between the couple since he forbade his daughter from dating wrestlers. Obviously, they were eventually allowed to date. But ironically, the WWE now has a rule against performers dating employees, which would have banned the two from dating.

Married, Divorced, Married

Triple H tore his left quadriceps muscle almost completely off the bone in 2001 during a tag team match. As a result of the injury, Triple H missed the entirety of the Invasion Angle, which showed Stephanie McMahon claiming ownership of ECW and leading a storyline insurrection against her father and WWE.

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In 2002, Triple H returned when Stephanie faked a pregnancy in order to trick him into staying with her. Then the couple went through an on-screen divorce, with Triple H staying on Raw while Stephanie worked as the General Manager for SmackDown. Stephanie would ultimately be written out following No Mercy 2003 to get married to Triple H in real life.

The Real-Life Wedding

Although they technically eloped in 1999, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon didn’t officially tie the knot until 2003. It’s fair to say that at the beginning of their relationship, Stephanie’s family didn’t approve. Other than her father Vince, her brother Shane didn’t want her to marry a wrestler either.

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Despite dating for several years, the couple didn’t get her family’s blessing until their actual wedding day, and the WWE didn’t acknowledge the marriage for years. Although Stephanie was high up in the company and Triple H was a World Champion, their union was kept as an off-screen secret.

Working Her Way Up

In the early 2000s, Stephanie McMahon had a leadership position in WWE. It wasn’t until 2010 that Triple H received an official role when he was hired as ab Executive Senior Adviser. He was later promoted to Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and Live Events. Triple H is also partly responsible for WWE’s developmental territory of NXT.

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Stephanie started in the lower ranks before working her way up to a management position. She was the director and Senior Vice President of the creative team in the early 2000s and in 2013. She was promoted to Chief Branding Officer for WWE – a huge position that helped her get to her current net worth of about $150 million.

The Authority

Stephanie McMahon and Triple H became an on-screen power couple in 2013, for the first time since the final days of the McMahon-Helmsley era of the early 2000s. The rise of power came when Triple H was the special guest referee for the main event match between John Cena and Daniel Bryan. The Authority also included Randy Orton and The Shield.

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The group would later include Kane, The New Age Outlaws, Batista, J & J Security, Big Show, Vince McMahon, and referee Scott Armstrong. The group would eventually fall apart due to tension between Kane and The Shield. Seth Rollins took a break from the Shield and rejoined the Authority in 2014. The group was eventually disbanded in 2016 in the lead-up to WrestleMania 32.

Raw Drama

After WrestleMania 23, Vince McMahon announced that Stephanie would be running Raw and Shane would be running SmackDown. Mick Foley worked as Stephanie’s General Manager, and Daniel Bryan served as Shane’s General Manager. Although he isn’t an official authority figure, Trip H would randomly pop up on Raw, where he feuded with Seth Rollins and assisted Kevin Owens in winning the Universal Title.

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Triple H would also join Team Raw for Survivor series alongside Kurt Angle, Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, and Samoa Joe. During the match, Triple H turned on Angle and hit him with the pedigree. Then, Triple H and Stephanie started a feud against Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle, which resulted in a mixed-tag match at WrestleMania 34.

A Happy Family

Triple H and Stephanie McMahon have three children together, all girls. Their first child, Aurora Rose, was born in 2008; their second daughter Murphy Claire was born in 2008, and their last baby Vaughn Evelyn was born in 2010. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon hope their daughters will join the family business.

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The couple’s eldest daughter, Aurora, already admitted that when she grows up, she wants to be a wrestler. Stephanie said that Aurora had already started training for her future career dreams. The girls have been out of the spotlight for the most part, but they were photographed in 2017 during a visit to the White House.

In-Ring Career

On occasion, Triple H makes in-ring appearances, going against Batista, Randy Orton at WrestleMania 35, and as Super ShowDown in 2019. Triple H also made special in-ring appearances while touring Japan and wrestled alongside The Club and Shinsuke Nakamura in multi-man Tag Team matches.

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As for Stephanie McMahon, it seems she ended her in-ring career in 2014 and returned for a one-off match in 2018. Stephanie ended up tapping out Rona Rousey with an armbar during the mixed tag match.

Their Charity Work

Triple H and Stephanie created a pediatric cancer foundation called Connor’s Cure in 2014. The organization was named after Connor Michalek, a WWE fan who died when he was eight years old after battling Medulloblastoma. Before he died, Michalek was invited to WrestleMania XXX, where he got to meet Daniel Bryan, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H.

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Through WWE, Triple H and Stephanie were also part of an anti-bullying program called Be a Star. The couple has also worked to raise money for Susan G. Komen, a charity that researches cures for breast cancer.

The Future Is Bright

Many people speculated about what will happen once Vince McMahon retires as the CEO of WWE, with many people assuming Triple H or Stephanie McMahon will take over once Vince steps aside. In the 1980s, Vince McMahon took over running the promotion from his father, Vince McMahon Sr.

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Triple H appears to have taken the first steps in this process. He took control of WWE’s developmental program. Triple H worked endlessly building up NXT, as well as NXT UK, and creating both the American and British Performance Center. Triple H and Stephanie each own large amounts of WWE shares.