Unable to reach Ms. Laurer by telephone for several days, a friend went to her apartment, found her not breathing and called the police, according to Sgt. Shawn Freeman, a spokesman for the city’s Police Department. Officers found her dead when they arrived, he said.
“There are no indications or signs that the death was a result of foul play,” Sergeant Freeman said in a statement. “From the preliminary investigation, it appears that the deceased passed away prior to being discovered by the friend.”
The case has been referred to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office to determine the cause and timing of death.
Ms. Laurer, who also used the name Chyna Doll, had publicly battled substance abuse problems for years.
Joan Marie Laurer was born in Rochester on Dec. 27, 1969. She graduated from the University of Tampa with a degree in Spanish literature, was a trainee with the Peace Corps in Costa Rica and once contemplated a career in law enforcement.
Though she was not a fan of the sport, Ms. Laurer eventually joined a wrestling school led by Killer Kowalski, one of the sport’s dominant figures from the 1950s to the ’70s.
“I’d been rejected at everything,” Ms. Laurer told The Boston Herald in 1999, describing unsatisfying efforts as a bartender, a saleswoman and a singer.
Watching a televised match, she said, she realized: “I could go out and be this big, huge female and entertain people. That’d be my niche.”
The World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) hired her. Five feet 10 inches tall and weighing 180 pounds, she could bench-press 350 pounds, and she occasionally took on male competitors.
She was the first and only woman to win the company’s Intercontinental Championship, defeating Jeff Jarrett in 1999, and won its Women’s Championship in 2001 by beating Ivory.
That year, Ms. Laurer left the company and released an autobiography, “If They Only Knew.” She billed herself as the Ninth Wonder of the World. (The French wrestler André the Giant had claimed the mantle of eighth wonder.)
While she continued to compete occasionally, including a brief stop in Japan, she set her sights on mass entertainment.
She made appearances on television programs like “3rd Rock From the Sun,” “Mad TV” and “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.” She acted in “Illegal Aliens,” a 2007 straight-to-DVD film starring Anna Nicole Smith.
“I’m not looking to win an Academy Award, I just want to entertain people,” she told The Houston Chronicle in 2001. “It’d be a shame to waste my physique and desire. I think I can be the female Arnold Schwarzenegger.”
Ms. Laurer posed for Playboy in 2000 and later made a number of pornographic films. In 2002 she boxed Joey Buttafuoco, a Long Island man who had become notorious after a teenager with whom he was having an affair shot and injured his wife at the couple’s home. (Ms. Laurer lost.)
Ms. Laurer made many appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show, and she was a cast member of the reality television series “The Surreal Life,” which documented the antics of past-their-prime celebrities who were placed in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills for two weeks at a time.
She also took part in the VH1 series “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew,” which featured the addiction specialist Dr. Drew Pinsky.
In 2005, Ms. Laurer was arrested and charged with beating her former boyfriend, the pro wrestler Sean Waltman, known as X-Pac, after returning from the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.
Ms. Laurer had confided on “The Surreal Life” that she had once tried to commit suicide by taking pills and that she had no friends. Mr. Waltman later accused television producers of using her to attract viewers, despite her unstable state.
Ms. Laurer is survived by her mother, a sister and a brother.
Correction: April 21, 2016
An earlier version of this obituary, using information from two biographical sources, misstated Ms. Laurer’s birth year and her age. She was born on Dec. 27, 1969 — not 1970 — and therefore she was 46, not 45. Her age was also misstated in the headline.