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Martel began her professional wrestling career as a manager. She joined the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in the mid-1980s and held its AWA World Women's Championship three times. In the late 1980s, she joined the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), where she held the WWF Women's Championship. Also in the WWF, Martel continued to act as a manager to wrestlers such as Randy Savage, Ted DiBiase, and Shawn Michaels. She appeared in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in the 1990s. In the latter, Martel acted as the manager for the tag team Harlem Heat. After leaving WCW, she made a few wrestling related appearances until her death in 2007.
 Professional wrestling career
 Early career
Martel was first introduced to professional wrestling as a child, when her mother took her and her sister to shows in Mississippi. In 1974, Martel approached Grizzly Smith for advice on becoming a wrestler, but he questioned her conviction and told her to come back to him in five years when she was an adult. She eventually married her second husband and gave birth to a son named Jared, but she soon divorced her husband. During this time, she again became interested in becoming a professional wrestler and sought training from "Mr. Personality" Butch Moore in Memphis, Tennessee. She started wrestling as Sherri Martine, but decided she needed more training. She continued to train at The Fabulous Moolah's school, where Moolah changed her name to Sherri Martel and sent her to wrestle in Japan in 1981. Moolah claims that Martel frequented night clubs and liked to party, which resulted in Moolah kicking her out of the school.
After leaving the school, she traveled back to Tennessee. In Memphis, she was managed by Jim Cornette. During a mixed battle royal, Martel suffered an injury that removed her from wrestling temporarily. She then worked as both a wrestler and manager to the Heavenly Bodies Pat Rose and Tom Prichard).
 American Wrestling Association
After recovering, Larry Zbyszko helped her join the American Wrestling Association (AWA). She eventually debuted in the AWA and, on September 28, 1985, at SuperClash in Chicago, she defeated Candi Devine for the AWA World Women's Championship. She traded the belt with Devine, and on June 28, 1986, at "Battle by the Bay," Martel defeated Devine to win the AWA World Women's Championship for a third and final time. Martel, however, only held the title briefly before vacating it.
During this time, in addition to wrestling, Martel acted as the manager for the team of "Playboy" Buddy Rose and "Pretty Boy" Doug Somers, whom she managed to win the AWA World Tag Team Championship. Rose and Somers then engaged in a lengthy feud with The Midnight Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty), who defeated Rose and Somers for the tag team title on January 27, 1987, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
 World Wrestling Federation
After former AWA wrestler Jesse Ventura referred her to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), she debuted on July 24, 1987, defeating The Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women's Championship. Renaming herself Sensational Sherri, she reigned as WWF Women's Champion for fifteen months before losing it to Rockin' Robin. 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 defeated for the title by Rockin' Robin. 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 confronted Miss Elizabeth, which led to a brawl between Elizabeth's ally Hulk Hogan and her former ally Randy Savage. Throughout the remainder of 1989, Martel and Savage feuded with Hogan and Elizabeth. At SummerSlam, Hogan and Brutus Beefcake defeated the team of Savage and Zeus. After the match, Elizabeth knocked out Martel with Martel's purse, and she, Hogan, and Beefcake cut Martel's hair.
At WrestleMania VI in 1990, 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. During that same year, Martel and Savage appeared on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Robin Leach. At WrestleMania VII, Savage lost a "retirement match" against The Ultimate Warrior, where the loser would be forced, in storyline, to retire. After the match, Martel attacked Savage but was thrown from the ring by Elizabeth, who had been watching from the audience. When she and Savage parted ways following the career match, Martel managed the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase until 1992.
Subsequently, Martel began managing Shawn Michaels after Pat Patterson convinced Michaels to participate in the storyline. She also sang Michaels theme song called "Sexy Boy". As part of his gimmick, Michaels would admire himself in a full-length mirror before his matches. In 1992, before a match, his former partner Marty Jannetty grabbed the mirror and attempted to hit Michaels with it, but Michaels pulled Martel in front of him. After being hit with the mirror, she was absent from television until the Royal Rumble in January 1993. At the Rumble, she was in a neutral corner for the match between Michaels and Jannetty, but she turned on Michaels during the match. Backstage, Michaels confronted her, and Jannetty came to her rescue. The storyline, however, was cut short as Jannetty was released from the company in the midst of the feud. Martel spent the remainder of the year aligned with Tatanka, who aided her in her feud with Luna Vachon and Bam Bam Bigelow. She was released from the World Wrestling Federation during the summer.
 ECW and WCW
Martel appeared in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1994 under the name Sensuous Sherri. In WCW, Martel managed Ric Flair in his feuds with Sting and Hulk Hogan. At Bash at the Beach, she tried to help Flair to defeat Hogan in a match by giving him brass knuckles but failed.
Next, Martel began managing Harlem Heat (Booker T and Stevie Ray) using the name Sister Sherri. She managed the team to seven WCW World Tag Team Championship reigns. In late 1994 (while still managing Harlem Heat in WCW), Martel made a return appearance in ECW managing Shane Douglas and Brian Pillman against Ron Simmons and 2 Cold Scorpio. Back in WCW, Martel had a brief on-screen romance with Col. Robert Parker.
 Later career
Early in 1999, Martel competed in a mixed-tag team match for the Apocalypse Wrestling Federation's Heavyweight Championship, a title held predominately by men. Missy Hyatt pinned Martel to win the title. In October 1999, she appeared on the Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view managing George Steele in a match against Greg Valentine. Also in 1999, she was awarded the AWA Superstars Women's Championship.
In 2005, she took part in a World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the WWF) storyline with Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle shortly before WrestleMania 21. She made a return to SmackDown!, singing a parody of Michaels's theme song with Angle.
She was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Ted DiBiase in April 2006. Later that year, she worked for TNA Wrestling, 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.
 Personal life
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. On September 11, 2007, homicide investigators in Tuscaloosa, Alabama released the toxicology report stating that she died of an accidental overdose with multiple drugs in her system, including high amounts of oxycodone.
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