There is no denying the impact that the 9th Wonder of the World Chyna had on the wrestling industry when she debuted in the WWF as the new bodyguard for Hunter Hearst Helmsely in 1997. For two years, she dared to rough-house with the men in a way that was rarely seen before between male and female combatants. But on October 17, 1999, Chyna did what no one ever dreamed could happen – a women’s wrestler defeated a male superstar to win a major title in a major promotion. And not just any promotion, but in the WWF during the height of it’s mainstream appeal, The Attitude Era. At No Mercy ’99, Chyna defeated Jeff Jarrett – in what would be his final match in the WWF – to win the Intercontinental Championship and make history.
The “Good Housekeeping” Match was hardly Chyna’s first foray into competing against men. While the majority of her appearances were manhandling opponents of D-Generation-X during matches with Triple H, Shawn Michaels or the others, she had actually had matches long prior to the Intercontinental title match. Her debut match was as part of a 2-on-1 handicap match, when she teamed with X-Pac in a losing cause against “The World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry on September 14, 1998’s Raw is War. On January 11, 1999, she won a Corporate Battle Royale against the likes of Triple H, Kane, Test, X-Pac and Mr. McMahon himself on Raw to win the right to compete in the 1999 Royal Rumble, another historical milestone. In June that same year, she defeated Val Venis on Sunday Night Heat to qualify for the 1999 King of the Ring Tournament, but unfortunately lost in the first round to “Road Dogg” Jesse James. In August, she defeated The Undertaker and Triple H in a triple threat match on Raw, and on August 31, defeated “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn to win the #1 contendership for the Intercontinental title that was around Jeff Jarrett’s waist. She even had two unsuccessful attempts to take the title from Double J, first at Unforgiven ’99 in September and then again at the UK PPV, Rebellion, in early October.
Chyna’s intergender match-ups in the WWF, while powerful due to it’s platform of mainstream accessibility, weren’t even in the industry’s first intergender match-ups. Three years prior to her match with X-Pac against Mark Henry, Luna Vachon defeated Stevie Richards in a match with ECW in July of 1995. Andy Kaufman faced women in a more comedic light in the late 70’s, and in the early days, it wasn’t uncommon for women’s champions to face men at touring shows. But Chyna’s was the first on a truly large and mainstream platform and it was inspiring – women could now be seen as viable opponents to men with the right story and the right character.
Chyna would leave the WWF as a 3x Intercontinental Champion when all was said and done, and her place in history cemented as the first woman to win a men’s major singles title in a major promotion and pave the way for intergender matches in wrestling. Unfortunately, it just didn’t continue in the WWF. There were small glimmers – Beth Phoenix in the Royal Rumble, Jacqueline beating Chavo Guerrero Jr. for the Cruiserweight title – but intergender matches were practically silence by the mid-2000s and haven’t been seen since.
But on the independent scene, intergender matches are a common occurrence. Candice LeRae has arguably fought more men than women in her career, and is a former PWG World Tag Team Champion alongside Joey Ryan in The World’s Cutest Tag Team. Their match against the Young Bucks in PWG, where they won those titles, is proof positive that a woman can indeed work in a ring with a man and not “ruin” anything (as the old boys may say). Princess Kimber Lee (now Abbey Laith in NXT) made history winning CHIKARA‘s Grand Championship in 2015, becoming the first woman to hold a major promotions top male title.
But it was on this day, 18 years ago, that the 9th Wonder of the World pinned Jeff Jarrett 1-2-3 to win the Intercontinental Championship, changing the possibilities for women in wrestling forever.