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Chyna, Pioneering Wrestling Star And Actress, Found Dead At 45

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Chyna, the Ninth Wonder of the World (Photo courtesy of WWE)
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Chyna, a professional wrestling legend and entertainer born as Joan Marie Laurer, was found dead in her home in Los Angeles at the age of 45. On Wednesday around 3:25 p.m., police responded to a call from the former wrestler's manager Anthony Anzaldo and when officers arrived, they found Laurer dead on a bed in her Redondo Beach home, according to the L.A. Times. The cause and timing of her death are under investigation by police and the L.A. County Coroner's office, but, according to Lt. Todd Heywood, no obvious signs of foul play were found at the scene.

"The Redondo Beach Police received a 911 call from a friend of the apartment unit resident that the female inside was not breathing," the Redondo Beach Police Department said in a statement. "The friend told Redondo Beach police that the female had not answered her phone in a few days, and went to the location to check on her welfare."

Laurer, who also went by the name Chyna Doll and billed herself as the "9th Wonder of the World," had been a star with World Wrestling Entertainment since the mid-1990s. She was a member of the wrestling squad known as “D-Generation X." Considered a pioneer in the world of wrestling, Laurer often competed with—and at times defeated—her male counterparts. She also went on to become the only woman to qualify for top tournaments, including the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring, as well as the Intercontinental Championship, according to NPR.

Later in her career, Laurer modeled and performed in both adult and mainstream films. She also publicly battled with substance abuse problems over the years.

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Born in Rochester, New York on Dec. 27, 1970, Laurer went on to graduate from the University of Tampa where she studied Spanish literature. She also served in the Peace Corps in Central America. And while she was not initially a fan of the sport, according to the New York Times, she later joined the wrestling school of wrestling star Walter "Killer" Kowalski.

Laurer was hired by the World Wrestling Federation—which later became WWE—and became the first and only woman to win their Intercontinental Championship in 1999 and later went on to win Women’s Championship in 2001. At 5'10" and 180 pounds, she could reportedly bench-press 350 pounds, according to the N.Y. Times.

After departing WWE in 2001, she went on to pose for Playboy and appear on reality shows, including “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" and "The Surreal Life." She also made appearances on TV shows like “Mad TV” “3rd Rock From the Sun" and “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," and starred in the straight-to-DVD movie “Illegal Aliens" with Anna Nicole Smith, as well as several adult films. In 2005, she was arrested and charged with beating her former boyfriend, pro wrestler Sean Waltman.

In recent years, Laurer taught English in Japan. She is survived by her mother, a sister and a brother.

News of Laurer's death caught the world of wrestling by surprise, and many took to social media to share their thoughts on her passing:

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