Legendary pro-wrestler Joan Laurer, better knows as Chyna, has passed away at the age of 45. According to CNN, she was found dead in her apartment, although the cause of her death is so far undetermined.
"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," said a post on her website.
Chyna began wrestling in 1996. Her size and build were remarkable, as well as her charisma and in-ring talent. With the WWE (then called the WWF), she became perhaps the most notorious female wrestler of all time and was an undefeated Women's Championship title holder. Although it was less rare to see men and women battle each other back then, Chyna became one of the few women ever considered legitimate competition by her male opponents. Breaking ground in almost all divisions, Chyna was the only woman to have ever held the Intercontinental title and the first woman to have ever entered the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring events. Laurer held notable victories over male heavyweight and world champions like Triple H, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and Jeff Jarrett.
For those who didn't grow up with pro-wrestling, it is hard to summarize Chyna's impact. At a time when women's matches rarely showcased actual female talent and instead more readily relied on misogynistic and sexist tropes, Chyna stood out in a beyond impressive way. There were far fewer examples of intimidating kick-ass ladies back then; feminism and representation weren't the buzzwords they are today. Women were hardly considered physically powerful; they simply weren't comparable to the dudes. But Chyna was proud, she was strong, she was scary, she was sexy. Men feared her. There was no one else like her in all of the entertainment industry. There might never be again.
Laurer would eventually leave the WWE due to her tumultuous relationships with various personalities in the company including Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. She would go on to compete in smaller wrestling leagues like New Japan and Total Nonstop Action.
Chyna also infamously pursued a career in the adult entertainment industry and on reality television, appearing on a handful of shows including The Surreal Life and Celebrity Rehab, where she publicly battled drug addiction.
It remains to be seen how the current WWE will handle her death and her legacy. Many have speculated that the company has and will attempt to eradicate Chyna from its history due to her less than squeaky clean image. Stephanie McMahon, currently the Chief Brand Officer of the company and beloved villain of the industry, tweeted the following:
The WWE posted a short statement to their website as well.
Our thoughts are with Chyna's family, friends, and fans.