The Lonesome Death of Sherri Martel


The world of sports entertainment provides us with treasured memories and an escape from everyday stress. That doesn’t mean its stars – like Sensational Sherri – are immune from troubles of their own.

Sherri Russell (AKA Sherri Schrull, Sherri Martel) was best known to WWE fans as Sensational Sherri. During her time with various wrestling promotions, she managed some of the most popular tag teams of the 1980s and 90s even won the WWE Women’s Championship in her debut match against The Fabulous Moolah in 1987. Her lone title reign would last for 15 months.

She was outspoken. She was outlandish. She was 49 years old when she died.

Martel began her career wanting to be a wrestler and was enrolled at (ironically) The Fabulous Moolah’s school in Columbia, South Carolina. Her first contract came with the AWA in 1985 where she not only won the AWA World Women’s Championship four times but also served as manager for “Playboy” Buddy Rose and “Pretty Boy” Doug Somers who had a lengthy feud with future WWE superstars Midnight Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty).

Martel’s friend and former AWA co-worker Jesse Ventura referred her to the WWE where she made a statement by immediately winning the Women’s Championship. After she dropped the belt, Martel transitioned into a managerial role after the WWE dismantled its women’s division in 1990. During her time with the company she served as manager for some of the most outlandish personalities of the Golden Era such as The Honky Tonk Man, Macho Man Randy Savage, and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase.

Like other women of the day, Martel often used her looks to distract opponents and was even subjected to more degrading performances such as having her dress ripped off by both Jerry “The King” Lawler and The Ultimate Warrior in separate incidents. After a brief alignment with Shawn Michaels (which ended after she was hit with a full-length mirror) as well as a feud with Luna Vachon, Martel’s career with WWE ended. In a tragic twist, Vachon would die at the age of 48 from a drug overdose three years after Martel.

Martel continued to work with high-profile stars such as Shane Douglas and Ric Flair when she was employed with ECW before signing with WCW in 1994. Now working under the name “Sensuous” Sherri, she continued to work alongside the biggest stars in the business such as Sting, Hulk Hogan, and Jimmy Hart. Martel’s most notable performance in WCW came when she was booked as the manager for Harlem Heat (Booker T and Stevie Ray) where she changed her name once more, this time to Sister Sherri. During her 3 years as manager, Harlem Heat would win 7 of their 10 WCW Tag Team Championships.

Related Story: The Lonesome Death of Miss Elizabeth

On June 15th, 2007, Martel was found dead by her husband Robert Schrull at her mother’s home in McCalla, Alabama. The toxicology report stated that Martel had multiple drugs in her system and this lethal combination directly led to her overdose. Her life was filled with tragic coincidences and so was her death, which came exactly one week before Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son.

Martel distinguished herself from other female wrestlers and managers of her time by wearing outrageous costumes and face paint. She didn’t want to be a carbon copy of fellow manager Miss Elizabeth; she wanted to make her own unique mark on the wrestling world and she succeeded. Martel was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 and managed to give the wrestling world one final act of serendipity before she died. In September of that same year, Sherri’s final televised appearance was in TNA as she attempted to offer her managerial services one last time. Her potential client was current WWE superstar Bobby Roode.

A sensational career indeed.