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Chyna, Former WWE Superstar, Found Dead in Apartment

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2016

Joanie Laurer aka Chyna Doll arrives at the
Matt Sayles/Associated Press

Former WWE women's champion Joanie Laurer, aka Chyna, died Wednesday at age 46, her manager, the coroner and police confirmed, per ABC7's George Pennacchio.

The Redondo Beach Police Department said Laurer's death is under investigation, per David Caplan of ABC News:

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 [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.

The statement explains, 'On April 20, 2016, Redondo Beach Police Officers were dispatched to an apartment unit in the 900 block of Esplanade. The Redondo Beach Police received a 9-1-1 call from a friend of the apartment unit resident that the female inside was not breathing. 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.'

TMZ reported on Thursday morning that Chyna did not commit suicide and had been dead for at least one day before being found:

Law enforcement sources tell us there was no suicide note left in her Redondo Beach, CA home. We're also told it appears the WWE legend had passed away a "day or two" prior to Wednesday evening ... when a friend found her body. The last known contact she had with anyone happened on Sunday evening.

As we first reported ... there were no illegal drugs, but officers did find legal prescription bottles. Our sources described the number of bottles as 3 or 4 ... "nothing out of the ordinary." Also, the bottles were not emptied. 

We're told several neighbors told investigators they suspected "overdose" as the cause of death since she'd seemed "under the influence" lately.

"It is with deep sadness to inform you today that we lost a true icon, a real-life superhero," a statement on her official Twitter account said. "[Laurer], the Ninth 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."

WWE also released a statement:

WWE is saddened to learn of reports that [Laurer] has passed away.

A physically striking and talented performer, Chyna was a true sports-entertainment pioneer. Not only was the Superstar dubbed 'The Ninth Wonder of the World' a founding member of the groundbreaking faction D-Generation X, but she also holds the distinction of being the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble Match and the first and only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship.

... WWE extends its condolences to Laurer's family, friends and fans.

Chyna's manager, Anthony Anzaldo, said he is seeking permission to have Chyna's brain examined for CTE by Dr. Bennet Omalu, whom Will Smith portrayed in the movie Concussion, per Nancy Dillon of the New York Daily News.

"We want to donate her brain. We want to know what made Chyna tick," Anzaldo said, per Dillon. 

"When she died, they called me again and asked, 'Can we have her brain. My hope is that we can do it. I'm in the process of getting the permission to speak on behalf of family to tell the coroner it's OK to release it."

WWE EVP Talent, Live Events & Creative Triple H, WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, former women's champions Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria and Jacqueline, and current WWE Superstars Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, Charlotte and Natalya passed along condolences:

Triple H @TripleH

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

Stephanie McMahon @StephMcMahon

I just heard the tragic news that @ChynaJoanLaurer has passed. She was truly a pioneer in our industry, and she will be missed. #RIPChyna

Trish Stratus @trishstratuscom

Shattered glass ceilings, kicked down doors, broke gender barriers, she was an anomaly & untouchable. Rest now-ur legacy lives on #RIPChyna

Nikki & Brie @BellaTwins

Chyna was key in paving the way 4 women in WWE. She is greatly loved & will b greatly missed! Thx 4 inspiring us women wrestlers! #RIPChyna

Charlotte Flair @MsCharlotteWWE

Chyna was fearless to no man & a huge part of #womenswrestling her impact will never be forgotten. thoughts & prayers are with her family 💜

Nattie @NatbyNature

My prayers go out to Joanie Laurer and her family. It's very sad to hear this news. Chyna was revolutionary for women in wrestling.

Chyna broke into WWE as Triple H's enforcer during his feud with Goldust in 1997:

Terri Runnels, who participated in that program, tweeted her condolences:

Terri Runnels @TheTerriRunnels

Tell people what you should while you can...You NEVER KNOW if you will have the chance again! :(

Terri Runnels @TheTerriRunnels

I got this news a few hours ago and have been simply GUTTED since! Hate these 3 letters, RIP "Ms. Big Joanie" #FoundPeace

Their partnership continued when Triple H and Shawn Michaels formed D-Generation X and also when Triple H joined The Corporation. During that time, she became known for her trademark low blow:

Stablemate Road Dogg Jesse James, as well as Hulk Hogan, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho, also released a statements on Twitter after the announcement:

Brian G. James @WWERoadDogg

Today I pray that I cherish the time I have with family and friends. I pray that I let them know how much they mean to me. #OUDK #RIPChyna

Brian G. James @WWERoadDogg

The struggle is real. Each and every day is a struggle but at least her struggle is over, may she rest now. She was my friend!

Hulk Hogan @HulkHogan

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

Mick Foley @RealMickFoley

Joanie, I'm so sorry. I will always treasure our friendship and will never forget your kindness to my children. RIP https://t.co/pVV0KjbkFt

Kurt Angle @RealKurtAngle

#RIPChyna you made an everlasting impression on ALL of us. #LoveUJoanie

Chris Jericho @IAmJericho

Sorry to hear about the passing of #JoanieLaurer. We didn't always see eye to eye, but we had a… https://t.co/F6UzrhtBGb

After leaving Triple H's side, Chyna began an impressive singles career. According to WWE.com, she held the WWE Women's Championship for 231 days in 2001, and she's the first and only woman to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship, capturing the belt in October 1999 and then again in August 2000.

According to the Internet Wrestling Database, Chyna's final match in WWE came at Judgment Day 2001, and after that, she had brief spells with New Japan Pro Wrestling and TNA.

The timing of her departure from WWE meant she missed out on the resurgence of women's wrestling in the promotion. While Stratus, Molly Holly, Jacqueline and Lita were all with the company, it would be another few years before the division really started taking off.

Still, there's no question Chyna was one of the most recognizable wrestlers during her prime, and she helped set the stage for the likes of Stratus and Lita to take women's wrestling even further.

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