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Posted in: LOP Hall Of Fame
2016 LOP Hall of Fame Inductee: "Sensational" Sherri Martel
By Ryan "Leaf" Plant
Mar 29, 2016 - 7:36:05 AM

“Sensational” Sherri Martel
Class of 2016

Hello Lordsofpainers, my name is Ryan “Leaf” Plant and I am honoured to attempt to perform the unenviable task of inducting a very special lady into the LOP Hall of Fame. I say it’s unenviable but that’s not due to her talent; there is an awful lot that I can say. I just worry about whether I can give this performer the justice that she deserves.

It’s not justice that she was most well known for, however. Today, I have the pleasure of inducting one of wrestling’s great bad girls: Sherri Martel.

Born Sherri Russell on February 8th 1958 in Birmingham, Alabama, Russell would take on her most famous ring-name of Sherri Martel as early as 1981, only going by the slight variation of Sherri Martine for one year prior. That was the beauty of Martel, she established herself early on. Much of the credit has to go to THE Fabulous Moolah who not only gave her that name but also trained her.

She was then sent to work in Japan by Moolah. Think about that for one second. If you were a young wrestler who was beginning your career, can you think of a better way to gain experience than by being trained by the longest reigning Women’s Champion of all time and then being thrown thereafter into the wilderness that lay beneath the rising sun? That's incredible. It’s almost as if she was destined for greatness and yet…

Greatness almost never came.

Unfortunately, Sherri was ousted from the wrestling school for her notorious party antics but some might argue that she had already acquired all of the knowledge that she needed to, as she became a major force in her next venture, the American Wrestling Association,where she became a three time women’s champion. This same success followed her to the WWF, as she defeated her own former mentor, Moolah, and gained not just retribution but also the WWF Women’s Championship.

As far as her in-ring career was concerned, nothing would ever compare to defeating the woman who once shunned her, the same woman who had held the title for 10,708 combined days with all of her reigns considered. That is an amazing Hall of Fame worthy moment in itself, but my friends, I almost feel like I am not here to discuss her in-ring career, as superb as it was.

“Superb”, “Amazing”, “Incredible”, all true phrases that I have used thus far to describe her, but none could ever come close to “Sensational” when describing Sherri Martel. I choose to finally use it here because I truly believe that the name is most apt when we look at how successful Martel was as a manager. It’s not simply a case of flashy alliteration, Sherri really WAS a sensation; her feeling was contagious. Though an accomplished wrestler, her talents are no doubt best remembered within a managerial capacity for the reason that she was able to give even the biggest names in the wrestling new life, a new feeling of unrivalled excitement if you will…

A new sensation.

On the subject of phrases, it would be rude not to say that the managerial chapters of Sherri Martel’s career were the epitome of the saying “behind every great man is a great woman”. When we look back at the extended list of superstars that she represented throughout her time within numerous federations, it becomes quite clear that she was the female Bobby Heenan, collecting names as if they were cards, and it’s hard to deny that she collected many shinies in her time.

Ever the heel, her best and most notable clients blossomed by her side as she became the representation of the darker side of a character's soul. As Randy Savage’s jealousy reared its ugly head, Martel appeared like a warped version of Miss Elizabeth. Born from the scorn, she was everything that Miss Elizabeth was not. Her eyes were blackened by the charms of the night, her hair was as unkempt as her intentions, the glitter on her face only served to illuminate the darkness below it. Most of all though, her vibrant attires proved that she was willing to match her client in every way imaginable. You see, the classy but quiet and calm-mannered Miss Elizabeth helped to soften the most overbearing traits of the Macho Man. Instead, Sherri Martel was the illegitimate twin of madness; she was able to allow Randy Savage the exuberation of his radical persona.

Shortly after Shawn Michaels sent Marty Jannetty through the window of opportunity, Sherri was there to play the cougar, the living breathing representation of his loss of innocence as a character. It extended far beyond her dressing up like a lovestruck bride in order to play the parallel to Shawn in his own white get-up, she found other ways of perfecting her art. Michaels’ “Rhapsody In Blue” was suddenly put to rest, replaced by a louder than life affair. Whaling his compliments in the original version of “Sexy Boy”, generally being a bigger banshee than Sixousie Sioux, Martel’s voice transformed the Shawn Michaels character. He was more than just a disrespectful punk who turned against his friend and mentor, he was now the all-star with the prom queen. If you were to question the impact that she had on Michaels, you would only have to listen to the soundtrack that accompanied his greatest successes, his biggest title wins: it was the redux of this particular theme. Again, Sherri Martel planted those seeds of life, ever the twisted Goddess.

It seems that no matter what former star of hers that you look at, Sherri’s influence was undeniable. When she debuted in World Championship Wrestling in April 1994, she instantly laid her eyes in Sting’s direction though went on to pull the classic femme fatale switch, siding with his rival Ric Flair in their Clash Of The Champions encounter. That’s what Sherri brought to the table. Even with her track record as an untrustworthy character, if she wanted to make you believe something, you would. She enabled that. In spite of everything that she had done elsewhere, we were tricked by the face paint and the gushing over her apparent man. You felt that maybe just maybe she believed in Sting that night. We were wrong, for she continued to be this walking piece of art who sucked you into her craft.

It’s strange to think that with all of the above in mind, I am still missing a pivotal moment of her career. It was with her time with Harlem Heat in which Sherri was perhaps the most successful. Again, remolding herself in the image of those she managed, “Sister Sherri” would turn street for the heat, and led them to WCW’s bling - the Tag Team Championships - on SEVEN different occasions.

When I think of Sherri, I think of the woman turned the “Man” into a “King”, the hapless “Rocker” into a “Sexy Boy”, and who once again brought the heat, both to Harlem and when she turned the Flair into pure fire. They are just the notable examples though, for the entire list of clients is sensational, and includes further names such as Greg Valentine, Jake Roberts, Ted DiBiase and Terry Funk.

Though Sherri would sadly fall to the one constant that even the greatest of sports entertainers have been unable to defeat, their demons, I wouldn’t be surprised if God himself has since chosen her as his hand-picked valet, and has gone on to rechristen her as “Miraculous Martel”. For in many ways, “Sensational” Sherri Martel should never have even happened. We know of Moolah kicking her out of the door, though to be quite honest, the door to the wrestling business itself once seemed shut entirely. This astonishing career came after Sherri had given life to somebody else entirely: her son. To me, the fact that she even walked through, no, blew the door of the business open is the biggest example of the gutsy persona both in and out of the ring that we loved to hate but secretly, loved to love.

For everything that she was, and for everything and everyone that she represented in the wrestling world, I invite you all to raise a glass to the Sensational One.

Make mine a Sherri.