Joanie Laurer, also known as Chyna, died of an overdose in April 2016 and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of D-Generation X three years later

By Jason Duaine Hahn
June 04, 2021 09:30 AM
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A new documentary from Vice will dive into the life of Joanie Laurer, the pioneering WWE performer better known by her ring name, Chyna, who died of an overdose in April 2016.

"Joanie aka Chyna's meteoric rise and fall is the stuff of Shakespearian drama, but underneath all that flash, she was an intelligent and sensitive person who struggled with addiction," Vice Versa: Chyna director Marah Strauch says in a statement to PEOPLE.

The film will premiere on Vice TV on June 17 at 9 p.m EST/PST, and features interviews with Laurer's mother, Jan LaQue, and other WWE legends including Mick Foley, Sean Waltman, and Billy Gunn.

"This documentary will give viewers an intimate and unfiltered view of her personal journey as a pop culture icon and beyond and will compassionately tell the true story of Chyna's last year of life," Strauch explains.

Laurer rose to fame as a member of D-Generation X, the six-member faction that helped to cement the WWE as a powerhouse entertainment brand in the 1990s and early 2000s. The group — made up of Laurer, Gunn, Waltman, Paul "Triple H" Levesque, Shawn Michaels, and the Road Dogg Jesse James — was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2019.

chyna
Chyna
| Credit: MARLIN LEVISON/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Laurer became a prominent figure in WWE for her portrayal of the towering and muscular Chyna, who was D-Generation X's enforcer and bodyguard. She also became the first female wrestler to win the Intercontinental Championship, and the first woman to enter the Royal Rumble.

Laurer left the WWE in 2001 and would later become a reality TV star, with brief appearances in other wrestling organizations before moving on to a career in the adult entertainment industry. She was found dead of an overdose in her Redondo Beach, California, apartment in April 2016 at the age of 45.

"I participated in this documentary because, as Joanie's mom, it was important to me to have the opportunity to tell my side of the story," LaQue, Laurer's mother, told PEOPLE in a statement. "Joanie was an awesome human being not only in the ring but, more importantly, beyond the ring. She was a wonderful person."

"Joanie's story is important to tell because people should know the vast extent her life's positive impact had on so many others," she added. "Her gentle, loving and caring way was astounding despite the inner grief and sadness she carried at the same time."

chyna
Credit: MARLIN LEVISON/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Vice Versa: Chyna will also include interviews with Laurer's sister, Kathy Hamilton, and Vincent Russo, who worked with WWE during the Attitude Era.

chyna
Chyna
| Credit: Vice

"Chyna's story is so powerful- she was a disruptor and an icon," Catherine Whyte, executive vice president and head of production at VICE TV, says. "While some may have preferred Chyna's last days remain in the past, VICE TV will continue to shine a light on stories others are afraid to tell."