After struggling with several demons following her wrestling career, Joanie “Chyna” Laurer passed away at the age of 45 on Wednesday, as first reported by her official social media accounts.
#RipChyna???????????? all of us on team Chyna love you and will love you forever babe.
— Chyna (@ChynaJoanLaurer) April 21, 2016
Laurer’s manager confirmed to Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet, reported shortly after the initial posts, that she was found dead at her home. George Pennacchio of ABC 7 adds that she was in her bed. She was reportedly on medication for anxiety and sleep deprivation, leading those close to her to believe that her aforementioned demons got the best of her.
According to a police statement, Laurer was found at her Redondo Beach, California home. She had not been heard from for several days.
— ABC News (@ABC) April 21, 2016
Making her debut with the WWE in 1997, Laurer amazed professional wrestling audience with her mammoth physique and ability to overpower the male portion of the roster. She began as a bodyguard for D-Generation-X during the Attitude Era before transitioning into a full-time role as a wrestler.
Her popularity with the audience resulted in her achieving several firsts for a female competitor. Laurer was the first female Intercontinental champion, number one contender for the WWE championship, Royal Rumble entrant, and King of the Ring tournament participant. Many view Laurer as a pioneer for both women’s wrestling inter-gender competition, something that has become more widely accepted in the pro wrestling industry.
Some of my favorite memories of Chyna.. Her and Eddie were awesome together.
— Thea Trinidad (@TheaTrinidadTMT) April 21, 2016
Laurer remained with WWE until Wrestlemania X7 in 2001, winning the WWE Women’s championship in her final match. Her real-life relationship with Paul “Triple H” Levesque had experienced some troubling times, and the current executive vice president of talent, live events, and creative began dating Stephanie McMahon. Laurer stated on numerous occasions that her relationship with Levesque was the reason her WWE career ended after just five years.
Following her exit from WWE, Chyna had brief runs with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) in 2002 and Total Nonstop Action (2011). She also appeared in popular television shows such as Fear Factor, The Surreal Life, and Celebrity rehab. Laurer also posed nude for Playboy on two different occasions.
— Chavo Guerrero jr. (@mexwarrior) April 21, 2016
In 2004, Laurer made her adult movie debut with the release of 1 Night in Chyna, a home movie featuring fellow professional wrestler Sean “X-Pac” Waltman. In the years to come, Laurer starred in several more adult films, including Another Night in Chyna (2009), Chyna is Queen of the Ring (2012), Avengers XXX: A Porn Parody (2012), and She Hulk XXX: A Porn Parody (2013).
Laurer’s work in the industry did not go unnoticed as she won the AVN (Adult Video News) award for the best-selling title of the year in 2006 and best celebrity sex tape in 2012.
In the years following the initial sex tape with Waltman, Laurer made several claims, including that she was raped, lied to, and did not want the footage to be revealed to the public. This caused several years of tumultuous exchanges between herself and Waltman.
“I decided to make lemonade out of lemons and that’s when I went to Vivid,” Laurer said to VICE last year about her making a career in the adult movie industry. “My only problem with actually was the insecurity of not feeling beautiful enough or feeling broken or thinking about what other people were gonna think. But it was all about this past experience until I could get my mindset to where I could say ‘okay, this happened and I’m going to do this. You know why? Because I want to and I’m gonna work through it and I’m gonna to make it my own.”
“I felt safe, I felt safer with Vivid than I would with an ex-boyfriend.”
I just heard the tragic news that @ChynaJoanLaurer has passed. She was truly a pioneer in our industry, and she will be missed. #RIPChyna
— Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) April 21, 2016
In recent years, Laurer moved to Japan to teach English to remove herself from the issues she was dealing with in the United States. She also petitioned on numerous occasions to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. While the company has mostly neglected to mention Laurer, her former boyfriend Levesque did answer a question about her on “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s podcast last year, saying that she deserves to be inducted, but it would set a bad example for kids who Google her name and see her past career choices.
This is the second major death in the wrestling world this past week as ECW original Balls Mahoney passed away last week at age 44.
[Featured Image via WWE]