WWE star, UT alumna Chyna remembered by friends

- "Probably as close to André the giant for the women," said former WWE wrestler and Bay area resident Brian Blair.

Blair has known Chyna since her start in the ring.

"She was on top of the world in women's wrestling and she even dominated a few men, she was so strong," he said.

After her wrestling career ended, Chyna's personal life would begin to spiral downward. She struggled with drugs, and even appeared in some adult movies.

However, that's not the Joanie John Holton knew.

She's known as the 9th Wonder of the World. Joanie Laurer, AKA Chyna, would become one of the biggest female wrestling stars in history.

The 46-year-old's sudden death this week has sparked tributes from former colleagues:

Stephanie McMahan tweeted: "She was truly a pioneer in our industry, and she will be missed."

Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson called her a "trailblazer in the world of WWE."

"Outgoing friendly people liked her, people were drawn to her," Holton said.

They were resident assistants together at the University of Tampa. She graduated with a Spanish major in 1991.

"Here at UT, she graduated early, she spoke multiple languages, she looked like she had a lot going for her, but behind the scenes, you don't know what's going on. Fame and fortune can take a toll on people," Holton said.

Initial reports seem to indicate Chyna died of a drug overdose. She joins a growing list of wrestlers who've died young.

Up Next:


Up Next

  • WWE star, UT alumna Chyna remembered by friends
  • 13 dogs dead following Pasco home explosion
  • Woman shot after allegedly pointing shotgun at deputies
  • TPD: Suspect shot after attacking officers behind house
  • Man who allegedly shot Kissimmee officers makes first appearance
  • N-word painted on Citrus Co. family's house
  • Local firefighter catches massive grouper
  • Search underway for missing jet skier in Clearwater
  • MOSI hosting eclipse-viewing party
  • Total Solar Eclipse: Millions converge across US to see sun go dark