Throughout her career, Martel competed in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) as Sherri Martel, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as Sensational Sherri, Sensational Queen Sherri, Peggy Sue, and Scary Sherri, and in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as Sensuous Sherri and Sister Sherri.
In 1974, Martel approached Grizzly Smith for advice on becoming a wrestler. Smith questioned her conviction and told her to come back to him in five years when she was an adult. She eventually married and gave birth to a son named Jared, but she soon divorced her husband and began working as a stripper. During this time, she again became interested in becoming a professional wrestler and sought training from Butch Moore in Memphis, Tennessee, as well as from Debbie Johnson, a former pro wrestler. In the latter part of 1979, she went to The Fabulous Moolah's school on Johnson's recommendation. In January and February 1980, she wrestled on a tour in Japan. Upon returning to the United States, she began wrestling in Memphis working as both a wrestler and manager to Pat Rose and Tom Pritchard. During this time, she was managed by Jim Cornette. During a mixed battle royal, Martel suffered an injury that removed her from wrestling for a few years.
American Wrestling Association (1985–1987)
After recovering, Larry Zbyszko helped her join the American Wrestling Association (AWA). He felt she had a little bit of potential and thought she just needed to learn how to do wrestling interviews. She eventually debuted the AWA, and on September 28, 1985 at SuperClash she defeated Candi Devine for the AWA World Women's Championship. Later that year, the title was taken from Martel and awarded to Devine, but Martel regained the title on October 17, 1985. On April 20, 1986 Martel won a battle royal at WrestleRock '86 that included Devine, Debbie Combs, Rose Devine, Joyce Grable, Kat LeRoux, Despina Montegas, Misty Blue Simmes, and Luna Vachon. On May 10, 1986, she helped Buddy Rose and Doug Somers win the AWA World Tag Team Championship. Having previously vacated the AWA Women's Championship, Martel defeated Devine on June 28, 1986 to begin her third reign as champion.
In the spring of 1987, Martel began managing Kevin Kelly. She interfered in an arm wrestling match between Kelly and Tommy Rich on ESPN's AWA Championship Wrestling. Rich got immediate revenge by cornering the escaping Martel and ripping her dress off to reveal a strapless pink teddy and black stockings. In the following weeks, Rich came to ringside during Kelly's matches and taunted Martel with her stolen dress. On May 2, 1987 Martel defeated Madusa Miceli at SuperClash 2.
World Wrestling Federation (1987–1993)
On July 24, 1987, Sherri Martel debuted in the WWF and defeated The Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women's Championship. At this time she was still the AWA's Women's champion, but she lost the AWA title three days later. Renaming herself Sensational Sherri, she reigned as WWF Women's Champion for fifteen months, taking on opponents like Debbie Combs, Velvet McIntyre, and Desiree Petersen. At the Survivor Series in 1987, Martel's team consisting of Martel, The Glamour Girls (Leilani Kai and Judy Martin), Dawn Marie, and Donna Christanello lost to The Fabulous Moolah's team consisting of Moolah, Velvet McIntyre, Rockin' Robin, and the Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki). It was on October 8, 1988 that she was finally defeated for the title by Rockin' Robin. In the early months of 1988, she portrayed Peggy Sue, the valet of The Honky Tonk Man, while appearing as Sherri in the same period (Peggy wore sunglasses and a blonde wig, so she was not recognizable). Peggy Sue was often jealous of Miss Elizabeth and even attacked her during one match. When the WWF phased out its women's division in 1990, Martel remained with the company and turned her attention to managing male wrestlers.
At WrestleMania V, Martel appeared backstage and mocked both Rockin' Robin and Miss Elizabeth. After the main event, Martel confronted Miss Elizabeth, which led to a brawl between Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. Throughout the remainder of 1989, Martel and Savage feuded with Hogan and Elizabeth. At SummerSlam, Hogan and Brutus Beefcake defeated Savage and Zeus. After the match, Elizabeth knocked out Martel with her purse, and she, Hogan, and Beefcake cut Martel's hair (a long ponytail hair extension). Shortly after, she became known as Sensational Queen Sherri, as Savage defeated "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan to become King of the WWF. At the Royal Rumble in 1990, Martel appeared on the Brother Love Show with Sapphire. After insulting the "common woman", Martel was slapped by Sapphire. At WrestleMania VI, Martel and Savage lost a mixed tag-team match against Sapphire and Dusty Rhodes after Elizabeth, who was in the corner of Sapphire and Rhodes, interfered and shoved Martel. At SummerSlam in 1990, Martel defeated Sapphire by forfeit when Sapphire failed to appear for the match. At WrestleMania VII, Savage lost a career match against The Ultimate Warrior. Martel attacked Savage but was thrown from the ring by Elizabeth, who was watching from the audience. When she and Savage parted ways following the career match, Martel became the right-hand woman of the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase.
She managed Ted DiBiase until early 1992 and then parted ways with him after she announced that she was in love with Shawn Michaels; she also sang Michaels theme song called "Sexy Boy". She managed Michaels during his feuds with Bret Hart and Rick Martel (who had a flirtatious relationship with Sherri). During this time, Michaels had a brief feud with Savage, and Sherri attacked both Elizabeth and Mike McGuirk at ringside during the matches. One night in late 1992, Marty Jannetty, Michaels' former tag team partner, entered the ring before one of Michaels' matches. He grabbed Shawn's mirror (a mirror that Sherri carried in before matches for Shawn to admire himself in before the fight), and when he swung the mirror at Michaels, Michaels pulled Sherri in front of him, and she was smashed with the mirror. Sherri disappeared but returned to the WWF at the Royal Rumble in 1993. She was in a neutral corner for the match between Michaels and Jannetty. Near the end of the match, Martel confronted Michaels outside the ring and slapped him. At the end of the match, she entered the ring to smash him with her shoe, but he ducked, and she hit Jannetty instead. Michaels finished the match and won, while Martel fled the ring in tears. Backstage, Michaels confronted her, and Jannetty came to her rescue. The following week, Martel thanked Jannetty, and she later appeared in his corner for a match against a jobber. After Jannetty left the WWF, Martel was soon left without anyone to manage and found herself accompanying Crush and Randy Savage to the ring for their matches against Michaels at house shows.
At WrestleMania IX, Martel accompanied Tatanka for his match against Michaels, who brought Luna Vachon with him. After the match, Luna attacked Martel, and they began feuding. On the April 12, 1993 edition of Raw, Martel attacked Luna in the first women's segment on Raw. This erupted into a catfight that spilled into the audience, and both women ripped each other's clothes off. Throughout April and May 1993, Martel also appeared in United States Wrestling Association (USWA). She wrestled Miss Texas (Jacqueline Moore) and helped Randy Savage in his feud against Jerry Lawler (who ripped off Martel's dress after she interfered in a steel cage match). On May 31, 1993 Martel appeared in the returning Jannetty's corner for his match against Bam Bam Bigelow on Raw. After the match, Martel called Luna into the ring for a fight. Bigelow interfered, and Tatanka ran to her rescue. During this time, Martel and Luna began having matches at WWF house shows. A couple of weeks later, Martel interrupted an interview with Bigelow, and Tatanka again came to her rescue. When Martel was scheduled to face Luna on television one week, Luna came to the ring with her arm in a cast (she had broken it in an earlier match against Martel). Bigelow and Luna attacked Martel, and Tatanka yet again saved her. This was going to lead to a mixed tag team match pitting Martel/Tatanka against Luna/Bigelow at SummerSlam, but Martel was fired for not passing a drug test.
National Wrestling Alliance
Martel re-emerged in Smoky Mountain Wrestling later that year and feuded with Tammy Sytch. She also appeared in the independent National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). On October 22, 1993 at the NWA Weekend of Champions, Martel accompanied Terry Funk against Kevin Sullivan (with Woman). After the match, Martel attacked Woman and put her in a head-scissors. She then appeared at the NWA Bensalem Bash on October 30, 1993. Martel, with Kathy Fitzpatrick in her corner, defeated Jim Cornette (with Tammy Sytch in his corner) in a "loser gets spanked" match.
Extreme Championship Wrestling (1993)
She began working in ECW in autumn of 1993 and soon managed Shane Douglas to the ECW World Championship. ECW began promoting a feud between Martel and Madusa and scheduled a match between them at November to Remember on November 13, 1993. Madusa had just signed a WWF contract, so Martel faced Malia Hosaka instead. At ECW Ultraclash '93, Martel wrestled in a battle royal against Tigra, Angel, Don E. Allen, Jay "Six Pack" Sulli, Freddie Gilbert, and Hunter Q. Robbins, III.
In February 1994, Martel was going to join WCW to feud with Missy Hyatt, but Hyatt left the company. She later made appearances in WCW aiding Kevin Sullivan and Dave Sullivan in spring 1994. On February 5, 1994 Martel accompanied Shane Douglas for a triple threat match against Sabu and Terry Funk. Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) attacked Martel before the match, but she recovered and was active throughout the match (which ended in a time limit draw).
Martel made a brief appearance in the Mexican Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA) promotion and accompanied Jake Roberts against Konnan, wrestling some dark matches with Mexican ladies Vicky Carranza, Sexi Boom, and Martha Villalobos. She returned to ECW to accompany Shane Douglas in matches against Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond and then officially joined WCW in May 1994. Martel stated in later interviews that she loved her time with the promotion and working with Shane Douglas. She feels ECW was more lenient with what they would let the women do, which she liked.
World Championship Wrestling (1994–1997)
Martel appeared in World Championship Wrestling in 1994 under the name Sensuous Sherri. She appeared at Slamboree scouting potential new clients in May 1994. She announced that she would manage who she felt was WCW's top star. At Clash of the Champions XXVII, just as the match between Ric Flair and Sting got underway, Martel approached the ring wearing face paint identical to Sting's. Indeed, she was cheering for him to defeat Flair. Late in the match, Sting attempted to dive over the ropes onto Flair, but The Nature Boy yanked Martel into his path. Sting spent the rest of the match totally distracted and concerned for her, giving Flair the chance he needed to grab Sting's tights for an illegal pinfall and become the WCW Champion. Martel then entered the ring to embrace Flair. The new couple attacked Sting until Hulk Hogan ran them off. She helped Flair in feuds against both Sting and Hulk Hogan.
After Flair lost a retirement match to Hogan, there were rumors that Martel was going to be paired with Steve Austin, but Austin was soon injured and on his way out of WCW at the time (Martel had previously managed Flair and Austin in tag team matches. She was also scheduled to manage Austin and Shane Douglas in a tag team match in ECW, but Austin was replaced by Brian Pillman due to his knee injury). Behind the scenes, Kevin Sullivan wanted her to be the manager of Ron Simmons, but this was during the time of the Nicole Brown and O.J. Simpson investigation, so they thought that might be pushing it. Instead, Martel began managing Harlem Heat (Booker T and Stevie Ray) using the name Sister Sherri.
In late 1994 (while still managing Harlem Heat in WCW), Martel made a return appearance in ECW managing Shane Douglas and Brian Pillman (substituting for an injured Steve Austin) against Ron Simmons and 2 Cold Scorpio. It was soon evident that Martel only returned to ECW to humiliate her former protege on behalf of Ric Flair. Late in the match, Douglas tried to pin Scorpio but Martel grabbed Scorpio's foot and placed it on the rope to break up the count (which Douglas didn't notice). Then Martel went to the top rope and came off with a double axe handle on Douglas. Simmons and Scorpio won after Simmons pinned Pillman. Martel was on the outside showing no remorse for accidentally hitting Douglas. Pillman then went outside and tossed her back in the ring by her hair. Douglas pointed to her chest after Pillman ripped off her jacket and she had a picture of Ric Flair taped to her dress. Douglas ripped the picture off and tore it up, then gave Martel a piledriver for revenge.
Back in WCW, at one point in 1995, it was planned for Martel to manage the tag team of Jean-Paul Levesque and Lord Steven Regal. The duo was slated to capture the tag team title with Martel as their manager and feud with Rick Steiner and Scott Steiner. The plotline was for Martel to turn on Harlem Heat during a title match but Levesque decided to go to the WWF despite offers from then-booker Eric Bischoff of working fewer days for more money. At Clash of the Champions XXXI, Harlem Heat and Martel defeated Bunkhouse Buck, Dick Slater, and Col. Robert Parker when Martel pinned Parker. Martel hit her head on the mat and suddenly fell in love with Parker. At Clash of the Champions XXXII Martel and Parker were going to get married, but Madusa interrupted the wedding. She and Martel engaged in a catfight, and then wrestled in the first women's singles match on WCW Monday Nitro on January 29, 1996 (Martel pinned Madusa).
Martel was then fired in February 1996 for not being in proper condition to work at a television taping resulting from developing an addiction to prescription pain killers but cleaned up and returned to WCW by summer of that year, reuniting with Harlem Heat, and she even became involved in a catfight with Debra on an episode of Nitro. At the 1996 World War III pay-per-view, Martel defeated Col. Robert Parker by count-out. Martel left WCW in the summer of 1997.
Martel said in later interviews that working with Ric Flair was an honor (she considered him a friend and says she learned a lot from him), and she called Harlem Heat her "two big brothers" and she maintained a friendship with Stevie Ray and Booker T after leaving the company for the final time. The reason she left WCW in 1997 is because she was fired ("I pissed Eric Bischoff off and he pissed me off and that was just it.")
In the late 1990s, Martel worked on the independent circuit. Early in 1999, Martel competed in a mixed-tag team match for the AWF World Heavyweight Title (a men's title). Martel teamed with Squeegee Kid against Missy Hyatt and Ms. B Haven. Hyatt scored an upset and pinned Martel to win the title. In the summer of 1999, she appeared on the Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view managing George Steele against Greg Valentine. Also in 1999, she was awarded the AWA Superstars Women's Championship.
In 2000, Martel made a brief return to WCW to wrestle Madusa and Mona, but turned down a long-term commitment. This was during the promotion's short-lived attempt at recreating a women's division. She was originally contacted to manage the newest incarnation of Harlem Heat, but due to a management transition the plans changed. Since she was already backstage, the promoters had her wrestle Madusa on the January 19, 2000 edition of WCW Thunder. She returned and wrestled Mona on the March 11, 2000 edition of WCW WorldWide. After the match, she and Madusa had a confrontation.
In 2002, she made appearances in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) feuding with Victoria and managing Rob Conway. In 2005, Martel appeared at "Wrestle Reunion" in an 8-woman tag team match (teaming with Peggy Lee Leather, Krissy Vaine, and Amber O'Neal wrestling against Wendi Richter, Bambi, Malia Hosaka, and Jenny Taylor). Martel's team was accompanied by Joyce Grable.
World Wrestling Entertainment
In 2005, she was married and on her honeymoon in Japan when World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) contacted her and asked her to take part in a storyline with Kurt Angle shortly before WrestleMania 21. She made a return to SmackDown! as part of the Shawn Michaels/Kurt Angle feud leading up to WrestleMania 21. There she sang a parody of Michaels' theme song with Angle, but a video showing Shawn's history moved Sherri emotionally. Kurt then saw this and applied the Ankle Lock on her.
She was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Ted DiBiase on April 1, 2006. She and the rest of the inductees (excluding Bret Hart) made an appearance at WrestleMania 22 when they were each introduced to the crowd. She was accompanied by DiBiase during her appearance.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling
Prior to appearing in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), Martel turned down an offer from Jeff Jarrett to work a program with Trinity. The reason Martel turned down the offer (as well as the long-term commitment offer to return to WCW in 2000 to feud with Madusa) is because she did not want to put herself in the position to potentially travel back down the dark road that accompanies the physical and emotional stresses of professional wrestling. On September 4, 2006, she worked for TNA, taping a backstage vignette trying to offer her managerial services to "free agent" Bobby Roode that aired on the September 21, 2006 TNA Impact!; it was her last television appearance.
By 2003, she and her husband Robert lived in Tennessee, where she helped him renovate homes. She was married and divorced at least twice during her life, and Booker Huffman gave her away at one of her weddings. She had one son.
On the morning of June 15, 2007, Martel died at her mother's residence in McCalla, Alabama, near Birmingham. She was 49 years old. On September 11, 2007, homicide investigators in Tuscaloosa, Alabama released the toxicology report stating that she died of an overdose with multiple drugs in her system, including high amounts of oxycodone.
- Finishing and signature moves
- Big Splash
- Wrestlers managed
- Buddy Rose (AWA) (1986-1987)
- Doug Somers (AWA) (1986-1987)
- Kevin Kelly (AWA) (1987)
- The Honky Tonk Man (WWF) (1987-1988)
- Randy Savage (WWF) (1989-1991)
- Ted DiBiase (WWF) (1991-1992)
- Shawn Michaels (WWF) (1992)
- Marty Jannetty (WWF) (1993)
- Shane Douglas (ECW) (1993-1994)
- Ric Flair (WCW) (1994)
- Booker T (WCW) (1994-1997)
- Stevie Ray (WCW) (1994-1997)
- George Steele (Heroes of Wrestling PPV) (1999)
- Greg Valentine (Heroes of Wrestling PPV) (1999)
Championships and accomplishments
- AWA World Women's Championship (3 times)
- AWA World Women's Championship (1 time)