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WWE wrestling star Chyna dies at 45

Published 21/04/2016

FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2000 file photo, WWF wrestler Chyna arrives for the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Chyna, the WWE star who became one of the best known and most popular female professional wrestlers in history in the late 1990s, has died at age 45. Los Angeles County coroners Lt. Larry Dietz says Chyna, whose real name is Joan Marie Laurer, was found dead in Redondo Beach on Wednesday, April 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2000 file photo, WWF wrestler Chyna arrives for the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Chyna, the WWE star who became one of the best known and most popular female professional wrestlers in history in the late 1990s, has died at age 45. Los Angeles County coroners Lt. Larry Dietz says Chyna, whose real name is Joan Marie Laurer, was found dead in Redondo Beach on Wednesday, April 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2003 dil photo, Joanie Laurer, former pro wrestler known as Chyna, flexes her bicep as she arrives at the 31st annual American Music Awards, in Los Angeles. Chyna, the WWE star who became one of the best known and most popular female professional wrestlers in history in the late 1990s, has died at age 45. Los Angeles County coroners Lt. Larry Dietz says Chyna, whose real name is Joan Marie Laurer, was found dead in Redondo Beach on Wednesday, April 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
FILE - APRIL 20: Former professional wrestler Joanie 'Chyna' Laurer passed away on April 20, 2016 in Redondo Beach, California. She was 45 years old. HOLLYWOOD - DECEMBER 03: Actress Joanie "Chyna" Laurer arrives at the premiere of Samuel Goldwyn Films' "Dark Streets" held at the Arclight Theaters on December 3, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 20: Former professional wrestler Joanie 'Chyna' Laurer passed away on April 20, 2016 in Redondo Beach, California. She was 45 years old. HOLLYWOOD - OCTOBER 02: TV personality Joanie "Chyna" Laurer arrives at the 2007 Fox Reality Channel Really Awards held at Boulevard 3 on October 2, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Fox)
FILE - APRIL 20: Former professional wrestler Joanie 'Chyna' Laurer passed away on April 20, 2016 in Redondo Beach, California. She was 45 years old. BURBANK, CA - JULY 22: Actress Joanie Laurer aka Chyna arrives at the Comedy Central Roast of Flavor Flav at Warner Bros. Studio Lot, Stage 23 on July 22, 2007 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
FILE - APRIL 20: Former professional wrestler Joanie 'Chyna' Laurer passed away on April 20, 2016 in Redondo Beach, California. She was 45 years old. LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 21: Former professional wrestler and adult film actress Chyna arrives at the 29th annual Adult Video News Awards Show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino January 21, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

US wrestling star Chyna has died in California at the age of 45.

The WWE star, whose real name was Joan Marie Laurer, became one of the most popular female professional wrestlers after rising to prominence in the late 1990s.

She was found dead in Redondo Beach on Wednesday, said the Los Angeles County coroner's office .

The tall, muscle-bound, raven-haired wrestler billed herself as the Ninth Wonder of the World because her wrestling predecessor Andre the Giant had already called himself the eighth.

She was a member of the wrestling squad that dubbed itself D-Generation X, often competed against men and at one point was the WWE women's champion.

A statement posted on her official website reads: "Today 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."

Laurer was a native of Rochester, New York, and graduated from the University of Tampa in Florida before taking up wrestling.

She joins a long list of WWE wrestlers who have died relatively young, including Rick Rude, Curt "Mr Perfect" Hennig, the Ultimate Warrior and Owen Hart.

After leaving WWE in 2001, Laurer posed for Playboy and appeared in adult films and on reality TV, including the shows The Surreal Life and Celebrity Rehab with Dr Drew.

Police said they found Chyna dead in her apartment after responding to a 911 call from a friend.

Redondo Beach police said the friend had gone to check on the wrestler after she had failed to answer her phone for a few days, and told the 911 operator that she was not breathing.

She was dead when officers arrived.

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