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By Mike Johnson on 2016-04-21 00:41:00

The management of Joanie "Chyna" Laurer, a former WWE Intercontinental and Women's champion, announced about 30 minutes ago that Chyna had passed away at the age of 45, releasing the following statement via her social media accounts:

"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."

Laurer first trained to get into professional wrestling with WWE Hall of Famer Killer Kowalski in the mid 1990s after competing in a number of fitness competitions.  She had been a member of the Peace Corp. and had toyed with becoming an FBI agent. Shawn Michaels and Triple H discovered her and brought her into WWF as Triple H's bodyguard and she became a founding member of the original incarnation of DX in the late 1990s, the muscular, giant female who glared as she played off the obnoxious antics of the duo. 

Chyna would soon be a couple with HHH, on camera and off and she would soon become a star - the first WWE female to be played up as a physical threat to the men.  With her largely muscular frame and her signature jaw, she was a unique and fearsome sight, although she would later have plastic surgery to soften her features.  There is no doubt that she was one of the top stars of the era.  In the Attitude era, the top initial females were Sable and Chyna - one a boxum blonde and the other a powerful dark-haired woman.  They were the yin and the yang to what became the Divas division and each personally led to the beginning of the evolution of what it now the WWE Women's division.

During the Attitude Era, Chyna would become the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble as well as the first woman to capture the WWF Intercontinental champion, defeating Jeff Jarrett to win the championship.   She feuded with Chris Jericho over the championship and the pair ended up co-champions after both defeated Bob Holly in a Triple Threat bout for the championship.  She feuded with Kane and was a major part of every incarnation of DX through that era.

After a storyline where she was paired with Eddie Guerrero, Chyna became the first WWF Diva to pose for Playboy, a massively successful issue.  She would later pose for the magazine a second time.  She won the WWF Women's championship from Ivory but would later leave the company, while champion, when real life events turned sour as her relationship with Triple H ended and she learned he was now with Stephanie McMahon, who he would later marry.  Chyna would be released from the company shortly thereafter in November 2001, a departure that in many ways, she never seemed to recover from.  She went from being one of the company's most recognizable female performer with a New York Times best-selling autobiography, to being a non-factor for the promotion, largely ignored in their history.

WWE went after her for using the Chyna name, so she would use the moniker "Chyna Doll" and make attempts to legally change her name to Chyna.

Although she would make appearances for New Japan (the first woman to do so, an experience she treasured as she would always praise Antonio Inoki publicly) and TNA, the remainder of her public appearances seemed to be defined by controversy and chaos.  She released an adult film with then boyfriend Sean Waltman, one she would later decry, although Waltman claimed she had signed off on and made money on the film.  She appeared on VH-1's "Surreal Life", a reality series featuring celebrities living together, and it was obvious that she was not of sound mind due to heavy partying during the taping of the series.  This led to appearances on "Celebrity Rehab" on the cable network.  There were multiple hospitalizations and stories of her being allegedly incoherent at events.  She was once thrown out of a nightclub in NYC for ripping off her clothes and diving in a massive fish tank. Appearances on TV and radio shows where she was rambling and going off into wacky tangents with extravagant claims and charges about others.  She was arrested at one point for assaulting Waltman, who years later, would admit he and Laurer were each in a terrible place personally during their relationship.

Eventually, Laurer began making adult films - a decision that would later be pointed to publicly by Triple H as a factor as to why she wasn't a candidate for the WWE Hall of Fame.   He noted during an episode of the Stone Cold Podcast that he wouldn't want his daughters or other children to Google and learn about her adult career if she was inducted into the Hall - comments that led to an upset and angry Chyna attacking him and making accusations that he physically assaulted her while they were together - allegations Triple H immediately went on the record to deny.

For the remainder of her life, Chyna would float around the periphery of Hollywood, making appearances in occasional low-budget films while drawing decent crowds for signings at wrestling conventions, but where she wanted to be was back with WWE, something that obviously wasn't going to happen for a number of reasons - the porn connection, the personal issues and meltdown she suffered in the wake of her breakup with HHH and the self-destructive way she had acted out in the years that followed.  Sean Waltman noted publicly in interviews she was dealing with addiction and mental illness and even just a year ago, called her up on the air during a radio appearance to shoot down claims she was making about himself, Triple H and others.

Over the last year, Chyna had been filming a documentary about her life and her attempt to reconcile with WWE.  She had removed herself from the porn industry and for a time, lived in Japan, where she taught English.  Upon Laurer's return, there were still signs of some odd behavior.  Missed appearances.  Some videos where she seemed to ramble that were posted online. 

Attempts to contact WWE, including once showing up and walking into the lobby of their HQ in Stamford, CT to take a photo showing she had "returned" there, went nowhere.  A video her manager posted online where he called WWE asking to speak to Talent Relations about allegedly owed royalties led to him being disconnected when he identified who he was representing.  At Roddy Piper's funeral, Laurer sought out Triple H and spoke to him briefly, apologizing for any trouble she had caused.  Unfortunately for her, those brushes with her past were as close as Laurer would ever come to a WWE return.

Her last public appearance would have been at Wrestlecon in Dallas a few weeks ago, but she no showed the event.  Her last appearance related to wrestling appears to have been a signing and appearance for Maryland Championship Wrestling a few months ago.

Whether the documentary on Chyna, designed to show her return to the United States and return to some form of prominence will ever see the light of day remains to be seen. 

On behalf of everyone associated with, we'd like to express our deepest condolences to Chyna's friends, family and fans.

Joanie Laurer was 45 years old.




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