Pioneering WWE Wrestler Chyna Dead at 45

Chyna aka Joanie Laurer
Joanie Laurer, aka Chyna, arrives at the 5th Annual TV Land Awards in Santa Monica, California, April 14, 2007. The former WWE wrestler has died aged 45. Frazer Harrison/Getty

Pioneering WWE wrestler Chyna has died at the age of 45, her manager has confirmed.

A statement on the former grappler's Twitter page stated: "It is with deep sadness to inform you today that we lost a true icon, a real life superhero. 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."

#RipChyna 😢😢😢 all of us on team Chyna love you and will love you forever babe.


— Chyna (@ChynaJoanLaurer) April 21, 2016

Chyna—real name Joanie Laurer—was found dead in her apartment in Redondo Beach, California, on Wednesday afternoon. Police were called after concerned friends hadn't heard from her in the days prior to her death.

"The Redondo Beach Police received a 911 call from a friend of the apartment unit resident that the female inside was not breathing, the police department told the Los Angeles Times.

Laurer gained notoriety as one of WWE's breakout stars in the 1990s as a member of the group D-Generation X. She broke gender barriers in the male-dominated sport by wrestling almost exclusively against male rivals including Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle and The Rock.

The wrestler made WWE history as the first and only woman to win the prestigious Intercontinental Championship in 1999, and was also the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble match and the King of the Ring tournament.

At the height of her popularity, Chyna featured on the cover of Playboy magazine and appeared in a recurring role on sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun.

She left WWE in 2001 amid an acrimonious real-life split from fellow wrestler and boyfriend Triple H, who she alleged cheated on her with co-star Stephanie McMahon—the daughter of WWE CEO Vince McMahon and now the company's chief brand officer.

McMahon led tributes to Chyna on Twitter as news of her death broke in the early hours of Thursday morning. She wrote:

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

— Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) April 21, 2016

In later years, Chyna turned to pornography, appearing in a handful of movies for Vivid Entertainment.

More tributes from the world of wrestling include:

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.

— NattieByNature (@NatbyNature) April 21, 2016

I can't believe @ChynaJoanLaurer is gone. I'm grateful I was able to tell her how amazing she was to me. #ToTheCelloPlayingAngel #RIPChyna 💔

— 🄼🄴🄻🄸🄽🄰 (@RealMelina) April 21, 2016

I'm sure Eddie is welcoming u into God's Kingdom #RIPChyna #RIPEddie RT @maxthephotog: @mexwarrior @ChynaJoanLaurer

— Chavo Guerrero jr. (@mexwarrior) April 21, 2016

I had been in contact recently with @ChynaJoanLaurer to guest on The Ross Report.

Unfortunately now that will never happen.

RIP Joanie 🙏

— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) April 21, 2016

All I can say is that Chyna was always incredibly kind to me. I never forgot that. Life can be rough even to the strongest amongst us.

— Hurricane Helms (@ShaneHelmsCom) April 21, 2016