Chyna, the undefeated WWE female champion and celebrated adult actress, was found dead on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, inside her Redondo Beach apartment south of Los Angeles, California. Police authorities called at around 7:30 p.m., are investigating the case as a possible drug overdose due to her history with drugs.
According to TMZ Sports, Chyna, 46, was found unresponsive in the bedroom of her apartment by a friend who called the police. The friend had gone to check on her because she had not been seen or heard from for a few days. Though prescription bottles were found in the home, there were no illegal drugs, and investigators have not established any signs of foul play.
A statement was posted to Chyna’s official Twitter account by Felix, Team Chyna, confirming the death.
“It is with deep sadness to inform you today that we lost a true icon, a real life superhero. Joanie Laurer aka Chyna, the 9th wonder of the world has passed away. She will live forever in the memories of her millions of fans and all of us that loved her.
According to CNN, Chyna started training in the world of professional wrestling after graduating from the University of Tampa. An entry on her website noted that in 1996, she was named the “Rookie of the Year for the Women’s Championship.” She wrestled in the Royal Rumble and King of Ring tournaments and became the only undefeated Women’s Champion in World Wrestling Federation history.
Born Joan Marie Laurer on December 27, 1969, Chyna first rose to prominence in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) in 1997. She adopted her ring name Chyna and was billed as the “Ninth Wonder of the World,” André the Giant having been named the eighth.
Chyna was a founding member of the stable D-Generation X, by which she gained the distinction of being the only female performer to hold the WWF Intercontinental Championship and the WWF Women’s Championship. Not only did she become the number one contender to the WWF Championship, she was also the first woman to participate in the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring events.
After leaving the WWF in 2001, Chyna wrestled sporadically with New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2002 and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in 2011. TMZ Sports reported that Chyna went on to pose for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy before transitioning to reality TV. She appeared on The Surreal Life in 2005.
Later, in what some fans described as “straying,” Chyna got involved in acting for adult motion pictures, and starred in 6 films from 2004 to 2013, winning two Adult Video News awards. During her tumultuous relationship with fellow wrestler Sean Waltman, she filmed a sex episode with him that made her a target for negative criticism. Another digression took her to Japan to teach English. The troubled Chyna revealed her struggle with addiction for years when she appeared on Celebrity Rehab back in 2008.
Online followers found a video posted to her YouTube page days before her death, a Chyna who looked as if she were going through some kind of struggle.
Chyna made a strong impact on the public consciousness by her convincing foray into a male-dominated world. Her singles victories over prominent male wrestlers included multiple-time world champions Triple H, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and Jeff Jarrett. Her legacy as “the most dominant female competitor of all time” is indisputable.
Us Weekly recorded tributes from celebrities stunned by the news of Chyna’s death.
“Crystal Hefner ✔@crystalhefner
Rest in peace Chyna. So sad.
2:14 AM – 21 Apr 2016
KEN SHAMROCK ✔@ShamrockKen
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
2:00 AM – 21 Apr 2016
Brooke Hogan ✔@MizzHogan
Not even believing @ChynaJoanLaurer is gone. She’s graduating early…God must have needed an angel.
1:41 AM – 21 Apr 2016
Trish Stratus ✔@trishstratuscom
Shattered glass ceilings, kicked down doors, broke gender barriers, she was an anomaly & untouchable. Rest now-ur legacy lives on #RIPChyna
3:07 AM – 21 Apr 2016
Hulk Hogan ✔@HulkHogan
Devastated over Chyna passing,she dated Brutus years before wrestling,such a beautiful soul and so kind to my children,rip Joanie love u. HH
7:33 AM – 21 Apr 2016”
[Photo by Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images]