Joanie Laurer (Chyna)

April 21. 2016 6:51PM
Wrestling great Chyna, born Joan Marie Laurer, died this week in California. (Courtesy Chyna website)

WWF's Chyna, also known as Joanie Laurer, was born in 1970 in Rochester, New York. Laurer went to school at the University of Tampa, where she majored in Spanish and Literature. Laurer served in the Peace Corps after college, but her athleticism would take her in a different direction.

In 1995, Joanie attended Killer Kowalski's Wrestling School in Massachusetts, where she met Triple H (born Paul Levesque in 1969 in Nashua), her now ex-significant other. The two lived together in New Hampshire for a time and could be seen working out at the former Gold's Gym on Amherst Street in Nashua. Named Rookie of the Year by the PGWA in 1996, she joined the World Wrestling Federation the following year. Called the "The Ninth Wonder of the World" by ringside announcers due to her 5'10" height and muscular build, Joanie decided to take on the men's wrestling division due to a lack of quality competition in the women's.

She was the first ever-female Intercontinental Champion and was named "Diva of the Year" in 1999. The year 2000 saw her first of two appearances in Playboy and an injury that allowed her time to promote her workout video.

During 2001 she sustained another injury that allowed her to promote her biography entitled "If Only They Knew." She also did another Playboy shoot.

Unfortunately 2001 also saw the end of her career with the WWF due to a contract dispute. She now makes personal appearances and does guest appearances on various television programs. She appeared in MTV's Surreal Life in 2005 which led to a role in The Surreal Life: Fame Games in 2007. She also played the role of female wrestling champion Lu Lu Lebrowski in the 2005 film The Romp, directed by Adam Pollina. In 2007, she co-starred in the B-movie Illegal Aliens with the late Anna Nicole Smith.

The wrestler did own a home in Salem in 2001 and was featured on an episode of "MTV Cribs."

Laurer was featured on a documentary-style reality show called Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew which aired in January 2008. The show chronicled a handful of celebrities and their road to wellness after drug and alcohol addiction.

On April 7, 2009, Chyna released "Paper Doll," an autobiographical art book that features many one-of-a-kind photographs, poems, and vignettes.

In February 2011, she told TMZ that she was taking classes at UCLA where she studied to teach English as a second language to kids in Japan. She claimed to be finished with television and said she was was ready to move on.  In 2011, she made her debut with TNA (Total Nonstop Action Wrestling) on Spike TV. Her role there was short-lived however, and she left that same year.

Laurer did go to Japan to teach English to children for several years. She returned to the U.S. in 2015.

On April 20, 2016 Joanie Laurer was found dead in her Redondo Beach, Calif. apartment. The cause of death was not immediately known. 

WWF Superstars: Chyna If They Only Knew

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