A cornerstone of the Hulkamania era, few women stood out as much as Sensational Sherri. More than capable of holding her own, Sherri was a rare talent. One that neither surpassed nor was eclipsed by the larger than life personalities that surrounded her. Whether she was in the ring or a valet, she elevated everyone around her.
With the new age she helped usher in, fizzling out soon after it started, Sherri Martel is a name lost on modern fans. And who can blame them? The evolution of wrestling over the last 40 years has been drastic. Anything before the early 00s does not gel with our modern sensibilities from a storyline and in-ring perspective. Combine that with WWE’s failure to treat these women with the reverence and awe they do of other wrestlers of the era. I do not blame modern fans if Sensational Sherri is not on their radar.
Despite all this, Sherri still endures. She is a name that stands out and, along with Miss Elizabeth, as one of the defining characters of the Hulkamania Era. For those not in the know, here are a few of Sherri Martel’s finest moments to show why Martel’s name continues to be synonymous with 80s/90s wrestling.
5. Sherri Martel Wins the WWF Women’s Championship on her Debut
Debuting at the Sam Houston Arena on July 24th 1987, Sherri stood across the ring from, at that point, the biggest name in women’s wrestling, The Fabulous Moolah. The two were polar opposites, Moolah, a grizzled woman in all black, Sherri pretty and in 80s neon colours. In a massive upset, Sherri won the title on her first night in the company, a rare feat that only Paige and Gail Kim have achieved since.
By modern standards, the match is slow. Yet, that fact doesn’t dampen the impact of what was a passing of the torch moment. With the departure of Wendy Richter, Sherri looked posed to be one of the staples of the division. The match marked the beginning of Sherri’s 440-day title reign, making her one of the longest-running women’s champions. Sadly the division never had the opportunity to flourish. Three years after her title victory, the division would dissolve.
4. Sherri’s Induction into the Hall of Face
2006 was a stacked year for WWE’s Hall of Fame. Headlined by Eddie Guerrero and Bret Hart, Sheri was also inducted and the second woman to receive the honour. The accolade shows not only her popularity amongst fans but amongst the boys. Having earned the respect of Ted DiBiase, Jessie Ventura and Shawn Michaels, Sherri proved she was just as deserving of her spot as any man.
3. Managing Shawn Michaels
Managers are like wine. When paired with the correct dish, the end result can be a total game-changer. They can elevate something already good into something truly outstanding. For Shawn Michaels, his perfect accompaniment was Sensational Sherri.
Fresh off valeting for Randy Savage and Ted DiBiase, Sherri lent her star power as a heel to Shawn Michaels, who was fresh off throwing his best friend through a glass window. Shawn had been a babyface opening act as one half of The Rockers. Now on the verge of moving up the card, Shawn needed someone to give him that extra boost to really get the fans to hate him.
Coming in as Shawn’s side piece, Sheeri was the missing piece of the puzzle, helping to elevate Shawn’s new ‘Boy Toy’ persona. Most iconically, Sherri lent her voice to Shawn’s entrance music. Singing the words to Sexy Boy went hand in hand with the obnoxious persona of the couple. The song was so iconic that it continued to follow Shawn for the rest of his career, well after the ‘sexy boy’ moniker lost its meaning. Sherri was the special ingredient that helped lift The Heartbreak Kid from talented tag team specialists to main-eventer.
2. No Holds Barred Promo
If you distilled everything about the Hulkamania era into a promo, this is it. It’s loud, it’s colourful, it’s downright insane, and it is one of the first things that springs to mind when I think of Sensational Sherri. It shows the true power she had as a presence in wrestling. Any lesser performer would be swallowed by the massive personalities of The Macho King and Tommy “Tiny” Lister. Sherri matches their insanity, going full Saturday morning cartoon villainess. 80s wrestling in its purest form.
1. Sensational Sherri at Wrestlemania 7
In one of the few genuinely touching moments in WWE, Sherri’s moment in the spotlight in the reuniting of Macho Man Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth is Sherri’s crowning achievement. It is Sherri doing what she does best, elevating a scene. The way she dashes away from the Ultimate Warrior to her putting the boots to a semi-conscious Savage. She may not be the focus of the moment, but Sherri plays a pivotal role. She is the inciting incident in an iconic moment in WWE History that outshone the main event of that year. It is a must-watch moment, made all the better by Sherri’s presence.