Joanie Laurer died about 2 years ago. At 46, she waqs way too young, but she was deeply troubled.
Originally bursting onto the wrestling scene as a dominant force in 1997 as Chyna, she was unlike anything seen in a ring. She started as a bodyguard for DX, but soon began wrestling. She won the Woman's title once, but she also wrestled men, winning the Intercontinental title twice. She was also in a relationship with Triple H, who would eventually marry Stephanie McMahon.
After leaving the WWE, Laurer dealt with a lot of issues. Substance abuse and relationship problems plagued her. She died in 2016 from a combination of alcohol, painkillers, anxiety medication and sleeping pills. It was ruled an accident.
I've written several times about how great she was in my dealings with her. Back when I was running a literacy program at Lerner Newspapers, Laurer contributed several autographed pictures and cd's. She offered to send more whenever needed. It was especially nice, because she was near the peak of her career in the WWE at the time, yet she gave so much stuff to the program. When I met her a couple years later, I thanked her and she greeted me warmly. From then on, she remembered me and was just a real sweetheart.
She just seemed like a sad soul to me. She was kind of used and then forgotten in the wrestling business. More importantly, she seemed forgotten in life. I was happy that promoters like David Herro brought her in for appearances. Hopefully, she felt the love of the fans at these events. She always seemed happy there.
Laurer isn't in the WWE Hall of Fame yet, but I hope she makes it someday. I know the WWE HOF isn't a real entity, but I'd like to see Laurer get some recognition anyway.
Chyna and me in Waukesha, WI-December 2015.