On Wednesday the WWE universe, and the Playboy family, lost one of its own. Chyna, the larger-than-life professional wrestler and entertainer, was found dead in her California apartment. She was 46.
Chyna, birth name Joan Marie Laurer, was born in Rochester, NY, in 1969 and graduated from the University of Tampa before embarking on a wrestling career. After several years in the independent circuit, she graduated to the WWE (then known as the WWF) from 1997-2001, where she broke new ground for female wrestlers by regularly feuding with some of the top male wrestlers in the company. She was the first woman to participate in the WWF’s Royal Rumble and King of the Ring tournaments, had a long-standing in-ring feud with Chris Jericho and held the coveted Intercontinental Championship in 1999. Before parting ways with the company, she became WWE Women’s Champion, performed as the on-screen girlfriend of fellow WWE star Eddie Guerrero and was a member of the D-Generation X squad.
After leaving the WWE, Laurer went on to wrestle as a part of the New Japan Pro Wrestling company and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. In 2001, she released an NYT-bestselling autobiography If They Only Knew and appeared on major shows like 3rd Rock From the Sun and The Surreal Life throughout the 2000s. She also spent time teaching English in Japan.
Twice, Chyna graced the cover of Playboy during her career in and out of the ring: once in November 2000 and again in January 2002. She also appeared in the Women of the WWE spread in 2007. Her first appearance in the magazine was worked into her WWE storyline, using the 2000 cover as a plot point to draw the fury of the Right to Censor band of wrestlers.
As recently as February, Chyna was producing short comedy videos called “Creepy Yoga Moves” with collaborator Rob Potylo. She was also in the midst of overseeing a documentary on her life and planned comeback with filmmaker Erik Andra, which was successfully funded on Kickstarter last year. As of yesterday morning, Angra assured contributors that work on the film would still be completed.
WWE company members past and present took to Twitter to mourn Chyna.
Someone who wasn’t afraid to blaze her own trail & create a path for those who would follow. A pioneer whose star shined bright. #RIPChyna— Triple H (@TripleH) April 21, 2016
Tragic to hear about the passing of Chyna. A true pioneer. #RIPChyna— Rebecca Quin (@BeckyLynchWWE) April 21, 2016
Devastated over Chyna passing,she dated Brutus years before wrestling,such a beautiful soul and so kind to my children,rip Joanie love u. HH— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) April 21, 2016
We join them in celebrating the life of a woman who richly deserved her title of “ninth wonder of the world.”