Sherri Lynn Russell went by many names, Sherri Martel, Sensational Sherri, Sister Sherri, Sensational Queen Sherri, Sensuous Sherri, and yes was even known as Scary Sherri to some fans. However the one thing she was always known as was successful. She was a force inside the ring as well as out of it. She was a WWF Women’s Champion for fifteen months. In today’s business that’s unheard of.
Sherri made her presence known in WWF, WCW, ECW, AWA, USWA, SMW, IWA, and TNA. More than anything she gave the “rub” to several famous Superstars that would not have been the same without her guidance. Names like Macho Man Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, and the Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase just to name a few.
Sensational Sherri | Manager of Superstars
She was also, believe it or not, in the corner of a certain Elvis impersonator that at the time was the self-proclaimed “greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time”. Let’s take a look at Sensational Sherri’s clients and how her affiliation with them made them household names.
Playboy Buddy Rose and Doug Somers – AWA
Like many of the stars of the ’80s, Sherri Martel got her start in the American Wrestling Alliance. This was Minneapolis Minnesotas’ mecca of pro wrestling. Owned by Verne Gagne, the AWA includes a whos who of pro wrestling before they were stars. Hulk Hogan, Jesse The Body Ventura, Ric Flair, Nick Bockwinkle, Harley Race, Curt Hening, Ravishing Rick Rude, Scott Hall, Shawn Michaels, Larry Zybysko.
It is no coincidence that several of those names Martel would either manage or feud with over the next twenty years. Speaking of that, It was in AWA that Sensational Sherri first met a very young Shawn Michaels. Unfortunately at this stage in the game, Sherri would always end up embarrassed by the future Hall of Famer. Sherri managed Shawn Michaels and Marty Janettys hated rivals Pretty Boy Doug Somers and Playboy Buddy Rose.
In one match in particular Rose and Somers left Michaels and Janetty laying in a pool of their own blood. Even then Sherri was not the woman to mess with. She guided Rose and Somers to the AWA World Tag Team Championship. The run was cut short when they were defeated by the Midnight Rockers aka Shawn Michaels and Marty Janetty for the titles on January 27, 1987.
In a 2004 Shoot Interview, Sherri had this to say about that feud;
“Marty and Shawn were very young. Buddy Rose and Doug Somers were not pretty boys like them but they complimented each other very well. Here I am, I’m new and I was scared. They pushed me through it. I became more confident. To this day I am so proud of them. They have given me so many memories.”
Honky Tonk Man – WWF
He was cool, cocky, bad, and arguably the most annoying Elvis impersonator of all time. He was also the current WWF Intercontinental Champion. He defeated Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat on June 13th, 1987, to become in his words “the greatest intercontinental champion of all time. He had sideburns, hair slicked back, and a pink Cadillac but Honky Tonk Man had no main squeeze, except maybe Jimmy Hart.
Enter Sensational Sherri Martel. Keep in mind at this time in WWF history Martel was the current WWF Women’s Champion. She was in the middle of her historic 15-month reign. The WWF believed that Honky could benefit greatly from Sherri’s ringside assistance. However, they also knew she couldn’t be herself. Peggy Sue (Sherri in disguise) soon joined Honky Tonks’s entourage.
She was his onscreen girlfriend. He had Peggy sue beside him, the Colonel( Jimmy Hart) in the back, and he was coming to your town in a pink Cadillac. Peggy Sue’s main role was to antagonize Honky Tonks opponents long enough so Honky Could get the win. Can you imagine being in the ring and knowing that both Sensational Sherri and The Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart were in your opponent’s corner?
Sherri proved to be a major asset in Honky Tonks Mans’s greatest hits. More than anything she antagonized none other than the Icon Macho Man Randy Savage. Ironically enough Savage and Sherri would both solidify themselves as royalty in the wrestling business in the very near future.
Macho King Randy Savage – WWF
As mentioned earlier, Sensational Sherri and Macho Man Randy Savage had not always seen eye to eye. In Machos’ words, he was “blinded by Hulkamania”. However, everyone knew he was blinded by the beauty of Miss Elizabeth. Miss Elizabeth was more than Savages Manager, she was the love of his life. In 1988 Macho Man Randy Savage won the WWF Heavyweight Championship on March 27th, 1988 at WrestleMania IV.
There is no more of an iconic picture than Randy Savage with Elizabeth on his shoulder holding the WWF title. To this day that story gives me goosebumps. It was told to perfection. Sensational Sherri was an integral part of that story.
Macho Man began teaming with Hulk Hogan calling themselves the Mega Powers. For a brief time, Elizabeth managed both Macho and Hogan. Savage noticed that Hulk Hogan was beginning to get close to Elizabeth. Blinded by rage, Savage lived up to his name and attacked Hogan. Savage eventually lost the WWF title to Hulkamania at WrestleMania V, and Elizabeth left the WWF.
On an episode of the Brother Love Show, Macho Man said he had a new manager. It was none other than Sensational Sherri. The two were like peanut butter and jelly. Sherri was sensational, but she was also savage. As many will tell you Sherri could defeat all the women and most of the men. Many times Savage’s only offense was that iconic top rope elbow drop. Sherri took care of the rest.
Many times she would get more than physically involved. Every Macho Man match was controversial because of the use of a loaded purse, a heel, or anything else Sherri could get her hands on. Due to her pairing with Savage, both Sherri and Savages’ star rose. They even became royalty, literally. In September of 1989 Macho Man became the Macho King and Sherri was now known as Queen Sherri.
The two diabolical duos would come to the ring on thrones being carried by developmental wrestlers. Savage now had a scepter that he used to drill into the skull of his opponents, most notably the Ultimate Warrior. Warrior was the current WWF Champion. Randy cost him the title at Royal Rumble.
This set up for a career match Macho King vs Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII. Sherri was described as a witch or wicked queen. She played the part up very well. Just look at her promo on Hulk Hogan when she talks about stirring her cauldron. Also, who can forget that iconic evil queen look she had against Dusty Rhodes and Saphire? She was WWF’s evil queen.
Unlike Elizabeth who was Snow White-like, Sherri was vindictive, cruel, and manipulative. WrestleMania VII was thought to be Savage’s farewell for real. Macho Man gave the performance of his life, but in the end, even after 3 elbow drops, the Warrior won. Seeing her meal ticket go out the door, The Evil Queen Sherri attacked Savage and berated him. Out of nowhere Miss Elizabeth appeared grabbed Sherri and threw her off Savage.
Macho Man and Elizabeth reunited, as the evil queen scurried back to her castle. Arguably this was the best wrestling angle ever told, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. All that wouldn’t have been possible without Sherri. She was the reason for Elizabeth to reunite with savage.
“I can honestly say in my heart everything that we did was so that audience could enjoy that match It was something that will be remembered for all times.”
Its 2022 Kayfabe is over, there is a picture that was taken that night backstage of Sherri, Savage, and Warrior together all with smiles on their faces knowing they pulled this off. Sadly all four icons have passed away, but that night lives forever. It arguably wouldn’t have meant as much had the evil queen not been a part of it. She even said that backstage Randy and Liz gave her a present for being a part of that two-year story. Oh Yeah!
Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase – WWF
After parting ways with Randy Savage, Sherri traded in a Macho Man for a Million Dollar Man. She was such a professional that before she worked with someone she would make sure her proteges’ wife was ok with that. She wanted everyone to feel at ease and not threatened by a pro wrestling storyline. Ted Dibiase was probably the most hated man in wrestling at the time.
His motto was everyone has a price for the million-dollar man. He was a brilliant technician with a mean streak. Sherri complimented him well. She helped her “teddy bear” attack WWF Legend Rowdy Roddy Piper. She also helped Dibiase with his feud against his former bodyguard Virgil.
“Take a long look at this lady. This lady is 100% class from head to toe. this woman has all of the qualities you don’t have”.
On his podcast, Something to Wrestle WWE head of creative Bruce Prichard spoke about how Sherri wasn’t needed but how she added to the package. It wasn’t just Sherri getting her protege over as it was they were adding to Ted Dibiase and Randy Savage. You’re putting two complete talents together to make a whole new storyline. In 2004 Sensational Sherri was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Ted Dibiase
Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels – WWF
No one can forget the sexy boy entrance music for Shawn Michaels. Originally it was Sherri who sang that song as an homage to her crush. Sherri appeared to have dropped money for love. She claimed she was in love. On WWF Superstars she announced that her crush was none other than recently turned heel Shawn Michaels. A few weeks before this Michaels turned on his former partner Marty Janetty. He threw him through a plate-glass window on the set of the Barber Shop.
This became the most infamous heel turn ever. Immediately heel managers and superstars praised Michaels. Bobby The Brain Heenan even claimed that Janetty dove through the barbershop window to “escape”. Michaels had a new attitude and with Sherri, at his side, he became the must-see star. You could even go so far as to say as, without Sherri, Shawn Michaels would have never become the Icon he is today.
Sensational Sherri was in love, so was Shawn but he was in love with himself. Sherri guided Shawn to two high-level feuds. One was at Summerslam 92 where Michaels faced Rick Martel in a match where you couldn’t hit anyone in the face. This was a heel vs heel match. Sherri’s antics, especially fainting when HBK actually did get hit in the face, was comedy at its best.
Another feud was with a returning Marty Janetty. Shawn Michaels had been carrying around with him a full-length mirror. On one particular episode of WWF Superstars, Marty Janetty returned grabbed the mirror and went to hit Shawn with it but HBK pulled Sherri in front of him instead. Michaels left Sherri and ran back to the locker room. After that Sherri briefly aligned herself with Marty Janetty and Tatanka.
On Bruce Prichards podcast Something To Wrestle, he went into how that pairing came to be.
“The two already had chemistry. Vince felt that no matter what you did with Shawn there will always be a segment of the audience that will still like him. No better way to make sure he gets booed than pairing him with a consistent heel like Sherri.”
He also elaborated on the origin of the Sexy Boy theme music
“Sherri was not really set to sing it originally. She was mouthing the words in the studio and I was like wouldn’t it be great if Sherri sings this as an homage to Shawn Michaels. It was so bad it was good.”
Shawn Michaels himself also had nothing but positive things to say about his time with Sherri In his book Heartbreak and Triumph the Shawn Michaels Story.
“I wasn’t sure. I was trying to find myself. I needed direction. Unbeknownst to me, Sherri was actually on tv doing the promos and I didn’t know it. I didn’t like it until Pat Patterson brutally said you go by yourself no one is going to care. Sherri has been with two guys Ted, and Savage. It elevated their stock. He was right.
She was awesome. There were guys that didn’t want to work with me. I would throw them to the outside and Sherri would help them ‘change their mind’. I owe a lot to her.”
Ric Flair – WCW
In 1994 Sherri Martel arrived in World Championship Wrestling. She made her debut on WCW Saturday Night on April 23, 1994. Immediately every WCW fan was a buzz about what Sensuous Sherri Martel was doing there. That night she answered all questions.
“I am here for a reason and that is to find a man that can fulfill all of my needs. My needs are to take a man and get the World Heavyweight Championship. That is what I want.”
On June 24th, 1994 at WCW Clash of the Champions the main event was a title unification match between WCW World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair and WCW International World Heavyweight Champion Sting. Sherri appeared wearing facepaint solidly in Stings corner. Was Sting the man Sherri needed? It was all a ruse. Sensuous Sherri was in support of Ric Flair. She and Flair walked out of the Clash the new WCW Unified Champion.
Sherri was up to her old tricks guiding the career of the dirtiest player in the game. While in WCW Sherri ran into an old friend rather enemy in Hulk Hogan. Hogan challenged Flair at WCW Halloween Havoc in a Steel Cage. At the finish of the match, Sherri scaled the cage to help The Nature Boy but was caught by Hogan. The Hulkster pulled off her dress and left her dangling from the cage in her lingerie.
It was just another day’s work for Sherri. She loved giving the fans that moment of payback for everything she had done.
“In terms of getting my spots they were always very generous. Ric Flair did not have to do that. They could have just used me as eye candy but they involved me in the match. He and Randy always agreed they could not use me too much. I complimented them. When they needed rest time I took that attention of the fans away.”
Harlem Heat – WCW
Sensuous Sherri was no stranger to heat. This was a different kind of heat. She aligned herself with the up-and-coming tag team of Booker T and Stevie Ray Harlem Heat. Sherri now Sista Sherri led Harlem Heat to 7 WCW tag team titles. Talk about adding fire to the heat. Many accredited the success of the Heat to Sherri.
“I don’t need to be credited with Harlem Heats success. They are man enough to back up everything that they say and do. The only thing that I do is make sure the competitors sign their names on the line. Your names signed now the Heat will turn the heat up to 5000 Harlem Heat degrees.”
In 2009, Booker T stressed how important Sista Sherri was to Harlem Heat’s success.
“We knew immediately that was going to be what would legitimize it for Harlem Heat. Sherri had been with great names. Every name she was with had been champion. If we got with Sherri Martel we knew there would be fire.”
Martel again found love on screen with Colonel Rob Parker. They got married at the Little White Chapel in Las Vegas Nevada. Interestingly enough the Little White Chapel would make several other wrestling appearances later on. Parker was also the Harlem Heats manager. Eventually, Harlem Heat fired Parker. Sensational Sherri actually had a match against her ex-husband at World War 3. She won but Harlem Heat also fired her on July 7, 1997. She left WCW shortly after.
On 83 weeks Former WCW Executive Producer Eric Bischoff gave the sensational one her due.
“I would probably tip my hate to Sherri. She was exceptional. I love her voice. She had this badass voice. She was sexy as hell but also tough. She had all these attributes. When you put her in with Booker T and Stevie Ray it was great. She could be a babyface. She could be a heel. She could be the most frightening character on the planet.
She was credible. So when people talk about the pioneers in women’s wrestling go back and watch Sensational Sherri.”
No doubt about it Sherri was one of a kind. She drew more heat in her career than a lot of the men. Sensational Sherri was an accomplished, in-ring athlete. She was also a genuine person outside of the ring. All those guys I listed that she managed all said that Sherri Russell took care of them. She loved the business like no other. She never upstaged any of her clients. They were all grateful to be associated with someone with as much pull as Sherri.
Sensational Sherri – Manager of Champions
Unfortunately, Sherri Russel passed away in 2007. However, the memories she made will live forever. You can call her Sherri Martel, Sensational Sherri, Queen Sensational Sherri, Sensuous Sherri, Sista Sherri, or even Scary Sherri but just remember to call her successful.