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 Wednesday afternoon at the age of 46, according to her manager. No cause of death has been announced.
— Chyna (@ChynaJoanLaurer) April 21, 2016
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, 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, Chyna 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, 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."
Upon hearing the sad news, WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon tweeted the following:"
— Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) April 21, 2016
Triple H also tweeted Thursday morning on Chyna's death: