Joanie Laurer, better known by her pro wrestling name, Chyna was found dead in Redondo Beach, California on Wednesday. She was 46 years old. According to the LA Times, police initially reported the death as a "possible overdose or natural death." The exact nature and cause of the death, as well as the general time of death, is under investigation by the Los Angeles County Coroner's department, says a Redondo Beach Police Department press release. According to the statement, "there are no indications or signs that the death was a result of foul play."
Police have reported that they received a 9-1-1 call from a friend of Laurer's saying that she was not breathing. The friend told police that Laurer had not answered her phone in a few days, and went to the location to check on her wellbeing.
Laurer, who billed herself as the "9th Wonder of the World," had a strong physique and an almost six-foot frame. Truly a pioneer in the industry, she broke the glass ceiling for women in wrestling in the 1990s when she entered the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) scene as the bodyguard of male wrestler Triple H, before breaking into the ring itself soon after. There, she would compete with—and defeat—top male wrestlers. She later became the first woman to qualify for prestigious wrestling tournaments such as the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring.
Eventually, a private sex tape of hers was leaked and she went on to have a post-ring pornography career, which incurred ire from the WWE. But, according to the Washington Post, she had moved to Japan to teach English and escape the adult entertainment world, returning to America only last year.
When asked about her death, a spokesperson for the WWE shared this comment with Broadly:
"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, but 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. WWE extends its condolences to Laurer's family, friends and fans."
Saddened by the untimely news of Laurer's passing, Broadly reached out to other women of wrestling fame to see what they had to say about the legend.
Two-time WWE Divas Champion, "Paige" Saraya-Jade Bevis said:
"She made a huge impact in not just women's wrestling, but wrestling in general. One of the first women who got taken seriously. I always admired her. I like to stand out and be different, and she was one of the first 'divas' I saw do that and accomplish it. She will be missed and we will never forget her. She was the 9th wonder of the world."
Pro-wrestler Laura James said:
"I think her death has definitely hit the women of wrestling a little harder. What she did for women in wrestling paved the way for all of us. People may not have the best things to say about what she did after her wrestling career but that should not discredit anything she did for the business. She's one of the biggest names in wrestling out of both men and women, if you ask people who don't know much about wrestling to name some famous wrestlers she would surely be on that list. I don't know if I could do the things I do today without her. I hope she will finally be honored the way she ought to be and remembered for all the good she has done within the wrestling world."