Former professional wrestler Chyna, who appeared in the VH1 reality TV shows “The Surreal Life” and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” was found dead Wednesday in a Redondo Beach, California, apartment, police have confirmed. ABC-owned station KABC also confirmed Chyna’s death with her manager.
Chyna, born Joan Marie Laurer, was 45.
The Redondo Beach Police Department said in a statement, “there are no indications or signs that the death was a result of foul play,” and added, “events leading up to the death of Joan Lauer is under investigation by the Redondo Beach Police Department to assist in the determination if the death was natural or accidental.”
The nature and cause of her death are under investigation by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s department.
A statement was also posted on Chyna’s verified Twitter account Wednesday evening, confirming the Rochester, New York, native’s death.
“It is with deep sadness to inform you today that we lost a true icon, a real life superhero,” the statement reads. “Joanie Laurer aka Chyna, the 9th wonder of the world has passed away. She will live forever in the memories of her millions of fans and all of us that loved her.”
Stephanie McMahon, the chief brand officer of the WWE, also tweeted about Chyna’s death, describing her as a “pioneer in our industry.”
Chyna’s rise to fame kicked off in 1997, when she made her debut with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), known today as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Her ring name “Chyna” was intended to be a play on words on fine china, which is fragile and delicate — the polar opposite of Chyna’s wrestling persona.
Chyna became the first woman to qualify for the King of the Ring tournament in 1991, and she was also the first female to be the number one contender for the WWF Championship.
Chyna left the WWF in 2001, but continued to be involved with professional wrestling until her retirement in 2011.
Outside of wrestling, Chyna embraced her femininity and sexuality: She appeared in “Playboy” magazine twice, and in six adult films, one of which was with fellow wrestler Sean Waltman.
She was also no stranger to the reality TV genre, appearing on “The Surreal Life: Fame Games” in 2007 and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” in 2008.