By Mike Mooneyham

June 16, 2007

Sherri Russell, better known to a generation of pro wrestling fans as “Sensational Sherri” Martel, died Friday at the age of 49. She passed away at her mother’s home in Birmingham, Ala.

No other details were available at press time.

Russell, who was regarded as one of the greatest female heel managers in the business, was the only woman ever to win the Manager of the Year award.

Russell competed in most of the major wrestling organizations during her career and was enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.

Sherri Martel

Sherri Martel

She also was an accomplished in-ring performer and was a former WWF and three-time AWA women’s champion.

Among her charges were Randy Savage, Shawn Michaels and Ted DiBiase. She managed 16-time world champ Ric Flair in WCW during his 1994 feuds with Hulk Hogan and Sting before moving on to guide Harlem Heat (Booker T and Stevie Ray) to seven WCW tag-team titles.

“She did a lot for our business,” Flair said late Friday. “She was very unselfish. She was a very special person.”

Among the many names given to her were Sensational Queen Sherri, Sensuous Sherri and Sister Sherri. The Louisiana native made her WWF debut in 1987 and defeated The Fabulous Moolah, who had trained her nearly eight years earlier, for the WWF women’s title. Martel also was AWA women’s champ at the time and became the only wrestler to hold the world title for two major organizations at the same time. She dropped the AWA crown three days later.