Tampa Bay area community remembers former resident, wrestling legend Chyna

Joanie Laurer. Image 2008 AP

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Friends of wrestler Chyna, whose real name was Joan Marie Laurer, are remembering the larger-than-life personality Thursday. Laurer was found dead in her California apartment Wednesday. A coroner’s official is saying a possible overdose might be her cause of death. She was 46.

Laurer graduated from the University of Tampa.

“Joanie, obviously very tall, blonde short hair, made a presence. We were a very small campus back in the late 80s, early 90s. Joanie, you would see her everywhere. She was so tall, she would stand out,” said former classmate and current UT Alumni Association chair John Holton. Holton and Laurer served as resident assistants during their time at UT.

The Minaret image via Eric Cárdenas
The Minaret image via Eric Cárdenas
The Minaret image via Eric Cárdenas
The Minaret image via Eric Cárdenas

“I’m curious about what had evolved but kind of sad that it had to end this way so early and abruptly,” said Dr. Linda Devine, vice president of operations and planning at the University of Tampa who selected Laurer to be a resident assistant.

“I think it was kind of shocking in some ways to juxtapose the Joanie I knew with the Chyna the world knows. So it was a little strange to me to watch that evolution. I hope she was happy in what she did,” Devine said.

Laurer spent years in the WWF and WWE. She also modeled for Playboy, wrote a book, and appeared in films and television throughout the years.

Recently, Laurer posted a YouTube video, mentioning she was in the Tampa Bay area. “I had the early to the Fanboy Expo in Tampa, actually outside of Tampa. I really would’ve loved to have gone and seen my school and gym people and friends,” she said in the video.

Laurer also talked on YouTube about her broken relationship with the WWE saying “to see them now and feel awkward because of the repercussions of the battle with the WWE, it’s just something that I would love to resolve.”

In a YouTube video posted Sunday, she alluded to sadness when talking about business associates. “Last week when they came over I did not want to see anybody,” she said.

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