We’re sad to report that Joan Laurer, better known as the trailblazing wrestler Chyna, was found dead in her home last night. The cause of death is still under investigation, but a message on her web site was updated this morning to say, “It is with deep sadness to inform you that we lost a true icon, a real life superhero. Joanie Laurer a.k.a. Chyna, the ninth wonder of the world, has passed away.”
Over the past 10 years or so, Chyna was better known for antics on VH1’s The Surreal Life (and The Surreal Life: Fame Games), as well as publicly fighting her struggles with addiction on Celebrity Rehab. But that really overshadowed the legacy Chyna leaves behind: We can’t forget that she was one badass woman, who dove headfirst into the male-dominated world of wrestling without letting anyone tell her she couldn’t. Here are some inspiring ways that Chyna lived up to the decree that The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been reinforcing, “females are strong as hell”:
1. She Pushed Her Way Into the Boys’ Club: Even though she impressed major wrestling stars Paul “Triple H” Levesque and Shawn Michaels after they saw her at a professional wrestling show—they even gave her a ringing endorsement to WWF (World Wrestling Federation) owner Vince McMahon to hire her—McMahon wasn’t into a woman entering the ring. Reports say that he did not believe the audience would find a woman beating up men believable. Rumor has it that after the World Championship Wrestling (WCW) wanted her to be their sole female wrestler, she got an offer from the WWF that she accepted.
2. She’s Kicked the Butts of Major Male Wrestlers: Chyna wasn’t initially a star in her own right—she still had to step out of the shadows of the rough and tough guys. She actually made her WWF debut as Triple H’s enforcer/bodyguard—and later on was introduced in the ring as “Chyna.” She won single victories over several male wrestlers—including her pal Triple H, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and Jeff Jarrett—and she’s still considered the most dominant female competitor of all time
3. She Holds Major Accolades in the Wrestling World: Chyna became the only woman to qualify for the Royal Rumble (a major pay-per-view wrestling event) and King of the Ring (a single elimination competition) tournaments and became the only female Intercontinental Champion (one of the WWE’s secondary titles that’s a stepping stone to the WWE World Heavyweight Championship). She’s also the only undefeated Women’s Champion in WWE history.
It’s quite a legacy to leave behind. RIP, Chyna.