Professional Wrestling trailblazer, and adult entertainment star Joanie Laurer, more popularly known as Chyna: the Ninth Wonder of the World, has passed away at the age of 45. News of Laurer’s death spread online late Wednesday after posts by her managerment team on her official social media accounts. According to a statement released by Redondo Beach police, a friend had gone to check on Laurer at her home after she failed to answer her phone for several days, and found her in her bed not breathing. The friend called 911, and officers arrived to find Laurer deceased. LA County coroner’s office Lt. Larry Dietz told reporters that investigators were still on scene with the body, and no further information is currently available.
Trained by Killer Kowalski, Chyna made her World Wrestling Federation debut in February 1997, at the age of 28. During a match between Hunter Hearst Helmsly and Goldust at the In Your House 13 pay per view event, Chyna emerged from the crowd to attack Goldust’s manager Marlena. She would then be revealed as the bodyguard of Helmsly, and became a founding member of the wildly popular Degeneration X stable during WWF’s “Attitude Era.”
During her time in the WWF Chyna would break down barriers including becoming the first female participant in both the Royal Rumble, and the King of the Ring tournament, as well as becoming the first and only female Intercontinental Champion. In November 2000 she became the second WWF female wrestler to appear in Playboy magazine.
In 2001 Laurer’s real life relationship with Helmsly ended, and he began to date WWF owner Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie. In what would go on to become her final WWF match, Chyna defeated Lita at the Judgement Day pay per view in May 2001 to defend her WWF Women’s Championship. Due to increasing bad blood over the Helmsly/McMahon relationship, Chyna was removed from television, and the title was later vacated. She officially parted ways with the company in November 2001. She appeared in Playboy once again in April 2002, and then later in the year briefly appeared in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
In 2004 a sextape made with then fiance Sean Waltman was released by Red Light District titled “1 Night In China.” The tape would become one of 2005’s most popular adult titles, and would win the 2006 AVN Award for Best Selling Title.
After appearing on VH1’s the Surreal Life in 2005, Laurer’s battles with addiction became very public as she spiraled out of control in the public eye. Waltman pleaded publicly for VH1, and “anyone else who has profited from doing business with her to step up and help save this woman’s life.” This public battle with her personal demons led to an appearance on the VH1 series Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2008.
In 2009 Red Light District released a sequel to “1 Night In China” titled “Another Night In China.” While the second title didn’t match the success of the first, it was still a popular release, and would open the door to a multi-title contract with Vivid that started with the 2011 release “Backdoor To Chyna,” which would win the 2012 AVN Award for Best Celebrity Sextape. She would go on to to perform in three more titles for Vivid, including Avengers XXX: A Porn Parody, Chyna Is Queen Of The Ring, and She-Hulk XXX: An Axel Braun Parody.
In recent years, Chyna had been petitioning to see herself inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Helmsly, now a key figure in the WWE offices, has publicly stated that it’s unlikely that would happen citing her post wrestling adult entertainment career as the WWE has embraced a family friendly image. Only time will tell if the Ninth Wonder of the World finds her way into the WWE Hall of Fame, or even if her passing is acknowledged on WWE programming. Regardless, hopefully Chyna has found peace in death that she so desperately lacked in the last years of her life.