I just heard the tragic news that @ Chyna Joanie Laurer has passed. She was truly a pioneer in our industry, and she will be missed. #RIPChyna – @StephMcMahon
With this tweet, the WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon broke the tragic news of the passing away of WWE star, Joan Laurer a.k.a. ‘Chyna’.
The former World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler Joanie Laurer, better known by her in-ring name of Chyna, was found dead at her Redondo Beach, Calif., home on Wednesday afternoon.
She was aged 45.
According to her manager, no cause of death has been announced.
Known for her bodybuilder physique, Chyna made her WWE debut in 1997 and joined Shawn Michaels and then boyfriend Triple H in the group, “D-Generation X.”
Chyna wasn’t just eye candy for Michaels and Triple H — she was a bodyguard, an on-air role up until that point was primary reserved for men.
Chyna eventually made the transition from bodyguard to wrestler and became the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble in January 1999.
She made more history as the first and only female WWE Intercontinental champion, defeating Jeff Jarrett for the title in October 1999.
During the height of popularity in the WWE, Chyna graced the covers of “TV Guide,” “Newsweek” and “Playboy” magazines.
She abruptly left the WWE in 2001, reportedly in part due to Triple H ending his relationship with her in favor of Stephanie McMahon.
McMahon was the daughter of WWE chairman and owner Vince McMahon.
The two were having an on-camera relationship and hit it off.
“He was in love with her at one time.
“By the time I came around, things weren’t so good as I understand it,” Stephanie McMahon said on the “Howard Stern Show” in 2002.
“They were still living together … but there’s a whole lot more detail that I’m not going to get into.”
After leaving the WWE, Chyna briefly wrestled for New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2002 before returning back home.
Her wrestling career was placed on hold as Chyna jumped into the world of pornography in 2004 with the release of “1 Night in China” alongside ex-WWE wrestler Sean “X-Pac” Waltman.
Chyna went on to appear in five more pornographic films over the next decade.
Chyna’s non-porn acting credits included cameos on “3rd Rock from the Sun,” “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and “Mad TV.”
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Joanie Laurer was never able to return to WWE programming despite being such a trailblazer for women in the professional wrestling business.
The WWE released the following statement Wednesday evening:
“WWE is saddened to learn of reports that Joanie Laurer, best known for competing in WWE as Chyna, has passed away.
“A physically striking and talented performer, Chyna was a true sports-entertainment pioneer.
“Not only was the Superstar dubbed “The Ninth Wonder of the World” a founding member of the groundbreaking faction D-Generation X.
“She also holds the distinction of being the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble Match and the first and only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship.”