Joanie Laurer, better known by her wrestling name Chyna, was found dead Wednesday in her California home, the New York Times reports. She was 45 years old. Police have said there are “no indications or signs that the death was a result of foul play.”
Laurer was born in 1970, in Rochester New York. After graduating from the University of Tampa, she served in the Peace Corps in Central America before turning her sights to professional wrestling. Laurer was not a fan of the sport, but realized that she could make a mark within the field. “I could go out and be this big, huge female and entertain people,” she once said. “That’d be my niche.” Laurer was hired by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), and became the only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship in 1999, when she defeated Jeff Jarrett. She deemed herself “The Ninth Wonder of the World.”
After leaving the WWF, Laurer started appearing on television sitcoms and reality shows. She acted in 3rd Rock From the Sun, Mad TV and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and joined the reality series The Surreal Life. She also appeared on the addiction show Celebrity Rehab with Doctor Drew. Laurer had long been open about her struggles with substance abuse and revealed on the Surreal Life that she had once attempted suicide. In 2005, she was arrested for beating her boyfriend, pro-wrestler Sean “X-Pac” Waltman.
Laurer is survived by her mother, sister, and brother. A commented posted today on her website reads: “It is with deep sadness to inform you that we lost a true icon, a real life superhero. Joanie Laurer aka Chyna, the 9th wonder of the world, has passed away.”
Read the full story at the New York Times.