Skip to main content

WWE pro-wrestling legend Chyna found dead at 45

Written By | Apr 21, 2016

REDONDO BEACH, Calif., April 21, 2016 – WWE pro-wrestling legend Chyna, 45, was discovered dead in her Redondo Beach home Wednesday. According to several reports, her body was discovered by Redondo Beach Police. They entered the home in response to a 911 call by a friend who said she hadn’t heard from Chyna for several days.

“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,” noted a post appearing on her website.

According to a CNBC report, Chyna, whose real name is Joanie Laurer, was “found lying peacefully’ on her bed Wednesday afternoon, her manager, Anthony Anzaldo, said.”

In a public statement, police Sergeant Shawn Freeman also noted. “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.”

However, Laurer had dealt with substance abuse issues in the past, and according to sources, had recently been taking medications to deal with anxiety issues and an apparent sleep disorder. Police continue to investigate Laurer’s death, but have already stated their belief that foul play was not involved.

Laurer had overcome a difficult childhood and a broken home to eventually attend college, graduating from the University of Tampa in 1992 with a major in Spanish. She could also easily converse in French and German. She was a member of ROTC while in college, hoping to join law enforcement or even the FBI. But she eventually joined the Peace Corps after graduating.

After working a number of dead-end jobs, she became a fitness nut, which led to her enrolling at a wrestling school run by Wladek “Killer” Kowalski, a former professional wrestler who was a fixture on televised wrestling bouts in the 1950s and 1960s. She also entered some early regional matches that were set up for her by the original Grand Lady of Wrestling, the Fabulous Moolah.

Depending on the source, Laurer was either discovered by the WWE (formerly WWF) or promoted to them by Kowalski. Whatever the case, the organization initially hired her to perform as a “bodyguard” during matches before they were persuaded to put her in the ring. She soon became a big-time draw after her WWF debut in 1997, initially billed as a villain and winning several titles during her time with the wrestling organization.

Given her size and stamina, she occasionally competed against WWF’s male wrestlers and was romantically linked with several of them. But after an alleged dispute with wrestler Triple H, her former boyfriend, and Stephanie McMahon, WWF boss Vince McMahon’s daughter, Laurer and the WWF parted company in 2001.

Laurer had something of a checkered career after that point. Having earlier posed for Playboy magazine while still with WWF, she took things a bit further by occasionally appearing in porn videos, most recently in “She-Hulk XXX,” a superhero spoof, in 2013. She also periodically battled substance abuse, although she claimed on “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” that she didn’t regard herself as an addict.

Laurer also still occasionally appeared in wrestling matches on other circuits and periodically appeared on commercials and in reality shows and cameo spots on TV.

Final arrangements for Laurer have not been announced.


Terry Ponick

Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Senior Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17