This edition of Spotlight is on WWE Hall of Famer Sherri Martel. Sherri was successful as both a wrestler and a manager in the 1980s and 1990s. She won multiple women’s titles and guided the careers of many legendary wrestlers including Randy Savage and Shawn Michaels.
Sherri first became interested in pro wrestling as a child in Mississippi when her mother would take her and her sister to local shows. She was trained by “Mr. Personality” Butch Moore in Memphis, Tennessee and later the Fabulous Moolah. After spending time in Japan in the early 1980s, Martel traveled back to the Memphis area where she was managed by Jim Cornette. Shortly thereafter she began her managerial career by managing the Heavenly Bodies.
In the mid-1980s Sherri sustained an injury while wrestling and spent some time away from the ring to heal. After recovering, Sherri joined the AWA with the help of Larry Zbysko. On September 28, 1985 Sherri won the AWA Women’s Championship at Superclash, defeating Candi Devine. She won the title from Devine two more times before vacating it.
She was also involved as a manager at the time, managing “Playboy” Buddy Rose and “Pretty Boy” Doug Somers to the AWA World Tag Team Championship. “Sherri stood out with her managerial style, she pulled no punches and was never afraid to get physical in or out of the ring,” AWA fan Jim Drake recalls.
With the help of Jesse Ventura, Sherri signed with the WWE as “Sensational” Sherri and debuted on July 24, 1987, defeating The Fabulous Moolah for the Women’s Championship. She held the title for an impressive fifteen months before losing it to Rockin’ Robin on October 8, 1988 in Paris, France. By the end of the 1980s, WWE had phased out its Women’s Division but Sherri remained with the company, focusing her career on managing.
After Randy Savage lost the WWE Championship to Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 5, Sherri began managing Savage. The pair feuded with Hogan and Miss Elizabeth for most of 1989 with Savage taking on the moniker of the “Macho King” and Sherri appearing as “Sensational” Queen Sherri. The two feuded with Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire in 1990 and even appeared together on an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Robin Leach. The business relationship between Sherri and Savage ended in dramatic fashion at Wrestlemania 7 when Savage lost a career match to the Ultimate Warrior and was forced to retire from the ring.
An irate Sherri began attacking Savage after realizing her managerial career was put in jeopardy with Savage’s loss. “That was an unforgettable moment,” recalls WWE fan Nicole Lopez, “I was shocked Sherri attacked Randy but was happy he reunited with Miss Elizabeth in the end.”
For the remainder of 1991, Sherri managed the career of the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, helping him during his feud with his former bodyguard, Virgil. By early 1992, she became interested in Shawn Michaels and managed him for most of the year as his singles career began to take off. Sherri sang vocals on Michaels’ original entrance theme. Unfortunately, their partnership dissolved at the end of the year when Shawn’s former tag team partner Marty Jannetty returned and attacked Shawn, accidentally injuring Sherri in the process.
Sherri returned in early 1993, siding with Marty Jannetty during his short feud with Michaels. By April of 1993, Sherri began aligning herself with Tatanka, who helped her with her feud with Luna Vachon and Bam Bam Bigelow. She was released from WWE during the Summer of 1993.
Sherri spent some time managing and occasionally wrestling in both Smoky Mountain and ECW in 1993 and 1994. She eventually signed with WCW as “Sensuous” Sherri in early 1994 and teased an alliance with WCW International Champion Sting. At Clash of the Champions XXVII Sherri revealed she sided with Ric Flair instead, who unified the WCW World and International Championships by defeating Sting at the event. Sherri remained with Ric throughout most of 1994, managing him during his feud with Hulk Hogan.
Later in her WCW career, Sherri found success managing the tag team of Harlem Heat and went by the name “Sister” Sherri. She managed the team to 7 WCW Tag Team Championship reigns and had an onscreen romance with manager Colonel Robert Parker, whom she faced once in the ring at World War 3 in 1996. She continued to manage Harlem Heat until July 7, 1997 when she was fired from the group on WCW Monday Nitro.
Over the next few years, Sherri made several appearances for independent promotions and even a few more for WCW, stepping in the ring with both men and women on a few occasions.
In 2005, she participated in a WWE storyline with Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle shortly before Wrestlemania 21. Sherri appeared on an edition of Smackdown singing a parody of Michaels’ theme song with Kurt Angle. In April 2006, Sherri received the honor of being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Her last television appearance occurred later that year when she appeared in a backstage vignette for TNA Wrestling.
Sherri passed away on June 15, 2007 from an overdose of multiple drugs. She was survived by her husband and son. Sherri Martel will always be remembered as a strong pioneer for women in wrestling, never once shying away from mixing it up with either men or women inside or outside the ring.