Friday, June 15, 2012

Gone, But Not Forgotten: Sherri Martel

Sherri Martel as WWF Women's Champ
Photo courtesy: WWE
By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Five years ago today I was on vacation in Mexico.  This was long before my smart phone, but because I knew our resort had Internet hookup, I packed our laptop to stay current on things in the news and of course wrestling.  I wasn't on Facebook or Twitter at the time, so I relied on regular ol' websites for information.

On the afternoon of June 15th, I logged in to WWE.com and read a headline that caught me off guard.  Legendary diva Sensational Sherri had died.  She was only 49 years old.

I remember very well watching Sherri Martel in the AWA.  It was the mid 80's and not only did she wrestle, she served as a valet for the tag team champions, "Pretty Boy" Doug Somers and "Playboy" Paul Rose.  This was the mid 80's, around the same time that Wendi Ritcher was lighting things up in the world of women's wrestling in the WWF.  The two never crossed paths and I think that's unfortunate.

Sherri did get to wrestle an aging Fabulous Moolah and beat her for the WWF Women's title when she arrived on the scene in 1987.  By then though women's wrestling was treated even worse than it is today, despite the fact that there were plenty of talented ladies.  Sherri dropped the women's title to Rockin' Robin in 1988 and I think that's pretty much the last we saw of the belt for a number of years.  Sherri stayed active in the WWF, most notably pairing up with the "Macho Man" Randy Savage when he and Elizabeth "broke up."

The King, the Queen, and Zeus
Photo courtesy: WWE
Sherri of course was the exact opposite of Liz.  As an active wrestler, she wasn't afraid to mix it up with the guys.  I can remember her getting involved in matches Savage had against Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Hulk Hogan, and The Ultimate Warrior.  I know on more than one occasion Hogan atomic dropped the Sensational Queen.  She wrestled a few times in that period but it was against Sweet Sapphire and no offense to her, she wasn't much competition.  In fact, I think she no showed the one singles match they were to have at SummerSlam 90, only meeting in that mixed tag match with Savage and Dusty Rhodes as their respective partners.

At Wrestlemania 7, Sherri and Savage split as the Macho Man and Liz reunited.  It didn't take long for the Sensational one to find a new mate though.  The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase hired her to replace Virgil.  The two made a good couple, but I liked her pairing with Savage the most I think, even though she got really outrageous with her makeup.  The partnership with DiBiase lasted for about a year, until a newly turned heel Shawn Michaels needed a valet.  Shawn became Sherri's "boy toy" even singing his theme song (which he still uses when he comes back to the ring)

Like all good relationships, the union with Shawn came to an end too after Sherri got hit in the head with one of the Heartbreak Kid's mirrors.  I think she briefly worked with Shawn's opponents, including Marty Jannetty and Tatanka.  She backed him at Wrestlemania 9 and brawled with Shawn's second Luna Vachon.  I know somewhere in her stint in the WWF she also played "Peggy Sue", the Honky Tonk Man's girlfriend, but she wore a wig and sunglasses so it was hard to tell it was her.

"Sister" Sherri & Harlem Heat
Photo courtesy: WWE
Eventually she left the WWF and briefly worked in ECW before heading south to WCW.  Instead of "Sensational" Sherri was "Sensuous" and aided Ric Flair in his feuds with Hogan and Sting.  Flair "retired" and Sherri moved on to Harlem Heat, even picking up the new name "Sister Sherri"  She played the part well, even dressing like Booker T and Stevie Ray.

In 2006 I was lucky enough to see Sherri get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  At that point, she was only the second woman to receive the honor (Moolah was the first) Unfortunately though, there were some annoying fans in the crowd who continuously did cat calls and shouted while she tried to give her induction speech.  Since then, the WWE has cracked down on fans being obnoxious during the event.  She was so excited that night and seemed so full of life.  It's hard to believe that just over a year later she would be found dead.  I don't want to dwell on how she died, but instead would rather remember how she lived and made a difference in so many lives.

Hall of Fame Happiness
Photo courtesy: WWE
No doubt Sherri Martel influenced a generation of women wrestlers.  I think it's unfortunate she was in the WWF at a time when women's wrestling just didn't seem to matter.  But when she was in that ring, she always put on a great show.  Rest in Peace Sherri.  You are missed.

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