Joanie Laurer – known to wrestling fans worldwide as Chyna, has died, aged 45.
Laurer was found dead at her home in Redondo Beach, California, after local authorities visited following a call from a concerned friend who had not heard from Laurer in several days. Reports say that there were no signs of foul play.
Breaking into professional wrestling in the early 90s, L was trained by Killer Kowalski and soon discovered by Shawn Michaels and Paul ‘Triple H’ Levesque. She was brought into the WWF as the intimidating bodyguard for the two, and was a founding member of the original D-Generation X.
Her and Levesque soon became a couple outside the ring as well as in it, with her position in the company strengthened by her association with DX. She would later venture into the ring herself, making history as the first-ever female to win the Intercontinental championship after defeating Jeff Jarrett. She would have further runs with the belt, becoming co-champion with Chris Jericho during a rivalry with he and Bob Holly.
A storyline with Eddie Guerrero led to her posing for Playboy in November 2000, increasing her celebrity and profile. In the ring, she captured the WWF Womens championship, before behind-the-scenes drama later in the year involving her now-former partner Levesque and his burgeoning relationship with Stephanie McMahon led to her bitter exit from the company.
Now going under the moniker of Chyna Doll or her given name, Laurer would make wrestling appearances in Japan and TNA over the years. The latter part of her life would unfortunately be mired in controversy, however, with the release of an adult film she and Sean ‘X-Pac’ Waltman took part in. For years after, the two had a very public and ugly war of words over the movie and its release.
She would later sign a deal with an adult film company to star in their movies, something that was considered the main reason for her never being included in the WWE Hall of Fame. Levesque himself acknowledged the issue, stating that he wouldn’t want his daughters or anyone else searching for Chyna on Google and discovering her adult film career, as opposed to her achievements and contributions to the wrestling industry. Following this, she publicly blasted Levesque and made accusations against him dating back to their relationship, something he vehemently denied and she apologised for when the two met at the funeral of Roddy Piper.
WWE have commented on Laurer’s passing, as well as a host of wrestling personalities taking to Twitter to pass on their condolences.
— Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) April 21, 2016
Such a sad day. I will be staying off social media for a few days. This news broke my heart
— Lisa Marie Varon (@REALLiSAMARiE) April 21, 2016
RIP chyna great memories good times you will always be a great part of my life during a great time of my life you will be missed
— KEN SHAMROCK (@ShamrockKen) April 21, 2016
— Chavo Guerrero jr. (@mexwarrior) April 21, 2016
Rest in peace Joanie Lauer aka CHYNA. You were a kind, gentle and a misunderstood soul. Godspeed my friend. #RIPChyna
— Brian Heffron (@BlueMeanieBWO) April 21, 2016
— ✨Velvet Sky✨ (@VelVelHoller) April 21, 2016