WWE Diva Rewind: Sensational Sherri

Jen PrestonSenior Analyst IApril 3, 2009

"I know you all want me, but you can't have me!"

Sherri Russell was born in New Orleans, Lousiana, and grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, dreaming of joining the circus. She even ran away as a child to join the Ringling Brothers, only to be told that certain people were just destined to be in the circus.

If only they knew what they were giving up.

The woman would be later known best as Sensational Sherri fell in love with the sport while going to matches with her mother and sister. She'd begin asking for advice in 1974, and would seek training from Butch Moore and Debbie Johnson, who sent her to train with one of the greatest female wrestlers in the business: The Fabulous Moolah.

Sherri would wrestle in Japan before wrestling in Tennessee in 1980, where she was managed by another name that would wrestling, Jim Cornett. An injury would derail her aspiring career.

After returning to the ring and jumping to the American Wrestling Association (AWA), and became AWA Women's Champion after defeated Candi Devine on September 28, 1985. Not only would Sherri have two more successful title reigns of her own, but she'd help Doug Somers and Buddy Rose become AWA Tag Team Champions.

It would be Hall of Famer Jesse "The Body" Ventura who would refer to the stage that would make her one of the most popular female personalities in wrestling: the WWF.

Her debut match for what was then the World Wrestling Federation was against her trainer, then champion Fabulous Moolah, in 1987. Martel would go on to enter her only WWE Women's Championship reign, which wouldn't end until October of the following year, when she was defeated by Rockin' Robin.

During 1988, Martel wrestling not only as herself, but her manager alter ego, "Peggy Sue", managing the Honky Tonk Man. Disguised with a blonde wig and sunglasses, Sue was supposedly jealous of fellow manager Miss Elizabeth and would even attack her.

Martel fully began managing once the women's division was dumped by WWF.

WrestleMania V would see Sensational Sherri became infused in the feud between Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage when she insulted her nemesis Miss Elizabeth. The feud would even leave Martel to lose her hair after Summerslam, when Savage and tag partner Zeus lost to Hogan and Brutus Beefcake. However, the pair's fortunes would turn around when the "Macho Man" became the King of WWF, dubbing his manager Sensational Queen Sherri.

The pair would dissolve after WrestleMania VII when Savage lost a career match against the Ultimate Warrior; Martel turned on her King, but was thrown out of the ring by his real life wife Miss Elizabeth.

Afterwards she would join forces with The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase.

"Money is not everything," Sherri told Bret Hart. "But money is the only thing. And frankly, the Million Dollar Man has more money than you will ever have in your entire life, and that makes him a better man."

However, the relationship ended in a million dollar minute when the Sensational one announced that she had fallen for another Superstar: The Heart Break Kid Shawn Michaels. She'd even sing the original version of the entrance HBK uses to this day, "Sexy Boy".

An arrogant Michaels and Sherri would even carry a mirror to the ring, and Michaels would feud with the likes of Savage, Rick Martel and Bret Hart. In 1992 he and former tag partner Marty Jannetty began a feud, resulting in Sherri being hit with her mirror by Jannetty, putting her out of action until the Royal Rumble the following year.

Martel's return would see her turn against Michaels in favor of Jannetty at the end of the Royal Rumble, when an attempt to knock out Michaels with her shoe failed. With the partnership between she and Michaels over, Sensational Sherri began to manage Savage and Crush, and eventually Tatanka, in their matches against the Heart Break Kid.

Luna Vachon, however, would be the next woman to face Sherri's wrath, when the two attacked each other on the first ever Diva segment of RAW on April 12, 1993.

"You know, I thought you'd have a little bit more class than to bring a half bred woman up to Monday Night RAW and disgrace the World Wrestling Federation!" Sherri screamed.  

Following the segment, Sherri traveled down to the United States Wrestling Association (USWA) as "Miss Texas," occupying Savage to the ring during his feud with Jerry "The King" Lawler. Returning to RAW at  the end of May in Jannetty's corner, her feud with Luna would be reignited.

Before Luna and partner Bam Bam Bigelow could face Martel and partner Tatanka at SummerSlam in 1993, Martel was released by WWF for failing a drug test.

Her release would send her back to Smoky Mountain Wrestling and to the NWA, where she worked with Tammy Sytch, Terry Funk, Kevin Sullivan, Woman (Nancy Benoit), and Jim Cornette.

Toward the end of 1993, Sensational Sherri would make her debut in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), where she began wrestling again. Shane Douglas was the first ECW superstar to acquire her services, winning the ECW World Championship with her aid. Sherri would also begin wrestling again, feuding with Madusa before she left for WWF.

Martel would make several appearances for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) with Kevin and Dave Sullivan and also made appeared for Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA) out of Mexico. She'd manage Douglas back in ECW before she officially jumped to WCW in mid-1994.

Known now as Sensuous Sherri, Martel first managed the legendary Ric Flair during his feuds with Sting and Hulk Hogan. When Flair lost his retirement match to Hogan (like Savage lost to Ultimate Warrior five years earlier), Sherri was left without someone to manage.

She was next scheduled to accompany "Stone Cold" Steve Austin who was subsequently injured. Because of the O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson case grabbing headlines across the country, plans for Sherri to manage Ron Simmons were scrapped. She did, however, begin to aid the Harlem Heat, made up of Booker T and Stevie Ray, changing her name again to "Sister Sherri."

Managing the Heat, Sherri would also appear on ECW again to embarrass Douglas and Brian Pillman (who was replacing an injured Austin at the time). Tossing her into the ring by her hair after she hit him, Douglas would piledrive her for her efforts, and sent her back to WCW.

Again, Martel's future as a manager was put into jeopardy when plans for her to manage Jean-Paul Levesque and Lord Steven Regal before Levesque left for the WWF. She then managed the Harlem Heat at Clash of the Champions XXXI, hitting her head as she went for the pin on Colonel Robert Patrick.

The following Clash of the Champions would see a wedding between Patrick and Martel interrupted by Madusa, who she would go on to pin in January 1996 in her first singles match with the company before she was fired.

Due to an addiction to pain killers, Martel was released by WCW when she showed up to a television taping in bad shape, but was rehired shortly thereafter once she cleaned up. Her time back would be short lived; after she pinned Patrick at World War III 1997, Sherri once again left the company.

"I pissed Eric Bischoff off and he pissed me off and that was just it."

Sherri would work on the independent circuit and make a returned to WCW for a short while to again feud with Madusa and also Mona. In 2002, she began a feud in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) with Victoria. Martel also managed Rob Conway, and would wrestle in an eight woman tag at "Wrestle Reunion."

Sherri would make a brief return to WWE before WrestleMania 21 for Kurt Angle's feud with Shawn Michaels, even doing a parody for Angle of "Sexy Boy."

Her last appearance for the wrestling world would be on Total Nonstop Action (TNA). While she turned down a long term deal to first feud with Trinity, Sherri did offer to manage Robert Rudde in September 2006. It would be her last appearance on television.

Sensational Sherri was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase in 2006, a year before she died at the age of 49 in Birmingham, Alabama. Her death is believed to be caused by the multiple amounts of drugs in her system; among them Oxycontin.

Vince McMahon paid for the funeral, while her "big brother" Booker T paid for her gravesite. Several of WWE's best, including Shawn Michaels, Jake Roberts, Booker T and Sharmell, and Madusa attended the funeral.

Whatever difficulties occurred in her personal life, one thing is certain: in the ring, Sherri Martel was simply "Sensational".

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