Pioneering female wrestler Chyna found dead

One of the most popular female wrestlers in WWE history has been found dead at the age of 45.

Chyna, whose real name was Joan Marie Laurer, was found dead in Redondo Beach, southern California, on Wednesday.

Police confirmed they were called by a friend who became concerned after not hearing from Laurer for several days.

Sergeant Shawn Freeman said: “The exact nature and cause of the death, as well as the general time of death is under investigation by the Los Angeles County Coroner’s department.”

A message on her verified Twitter account confirmed the news:

“It is with deep sadness to inform you today that we lost a true icon, a real life superhero,” it said. “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.”

TMZ quoted anonymous sources as saying police were investigating a possible drug overdose, adding that prescription bottles – but no illegal drugs – were found at the home.

Laurer turned to the fitness industry to escape a difficult childhood and came to prominence as the character ‘Chyna’ in the WWE during the 1990s.

She initially worked as an enforcer for Triple H, before going on to establish herself as the leading female wrestler in the world.

Chyna is the only female wrestler to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship and also held the Women’s Championship for 231 days in 2001.

Her final WWE appearance came at the Judgement Day pay-per-view in the same year.

In 2004 she began a career in pornography, with her work in the adult industry the reason she has not been inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame.

The WWE’s Chief Brand Officer, Stephanie McMahon, posted a tribute message on her Twitter page.

The WWE also added their condolences on Twitter.

Laurer’s passing is the latest in a long line of deaths to hit the wrestling industry, with ‘Iron’ Mike Sharpe and Axl Rotten two of the leading names who have died in 2016.

Some huge names were on the list of wrestler deaths in 2015, including ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, Dusty Rhodes and Buddy Landel.