Tuesday, April 22, 2008
In the late 1990s, Sherri Martel worked on the independent circuit. Early in 1999, Martel competed in a mixed-tag team match for the AWF World Heavyweight Title (a men's title). Martel teamed with Squeegee Kid against Missy Hyatt and Ms. B Haven. Hyatt scored an upset and pinned Martel to win the title. In the summer of 1999, she appeared on the Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view managing George Steele against Greg Valentine. Also in 1999, she was awarded the AWA Superstars Women's Championship.
In 2000, Martel made a brief return to WCW to wrestle Madusa and Mona, but turned down a long-term commitment. This was during the promotion's short-lived attempt at recreating a women's division. She was originally contacted to manage the newest incarnation of Harlem Heat, but due to a management transition the plans changed. Since she was already backstage, the promoters had her wrestle Madusa on the January 19, 2000 edition of WCW Thunder. She returned and wrestled Mona on the March 11, 2000 edition of WCW WorldWide. After the match, she and Madusa had a confrontation.
In 2002, she made appearances in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) feuding with Victoria and managing Rob Conway. In 2005, Martel appeared at "Wrestle Reunion" in an 8-woman tag team match (teaming with Peggy Lee Leather, Krissy Vaine, and Amber O'Neal wrestling against Wendi Richter, Bambi, Malia Hosaka, and Jenny Taylor). Martel's team was accompanied by Joyce Grable.
In 2005, she was married, and was on her honeymoon in Japan when WWE contacted her and asked her to take part in a storyline with Kurt Angle shortly before WrestleMania 21.
She made a return to WWE SmackDown! as part of the Shawn Michaels/Kurt Angle feud leading up to WrestleMania 21. There she sang a parody of Michaels' theme song with Angle, but a video showing Shawn's history moved Sherri emotionally. Kurt then saw this and applied the Ankle Lock to her.
She was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Ted DiBiase on April 1, 2006. She and the rest of the inductees (excluding Bret Hart) made an appearance at WrestleMania 22 when they were each introduced to the crowd. She was accompanied by DiBiase during her appearance.
Prior to appearing in TNA, Martel turned down an offer from Jeff Jarrett to work a program with Trinity. The reason Martel turned down the offer (as well as the long-term commitment offer to return to WCW in 2000 to feud with Madusa) is because she did not want to put herself in the position to potentially travel back down the dark road that accompanies the physical and emotional stresses of professional wrestling .
On September 4, 2006, she worked for Total Nonstop Action 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.
On June 15, 2007, WWE.com announced that Martel had died that morning at her mother's residence in Birmingham, Alabama. Dave Meltzer stated on his Wrestling Observer Live radio show that Martel's passing was a result of a possible drug abuse, and that the case was still under investigation by law enforcement. On June 19, 2007, police confirmed that Martel did not die of natural causes, but foul play was not suspected. Based on what was known, Martel had gone to bed at her mother's home (where she was living recently) because she wasn't feeling well. Her husband found her unresponsive later that afternoon. Sherri's sister Vickie claimed Sherri died while drinking coffee with her mother on the front porch of her mother's home. Vickie suspected Sherri was taking some sort of medication/drug for her heart..
A cause of death for Martel was not initially known due to the autopsy and toxicology reports needing 5-6 months to complete, but on September 11 homicide investigators in Tuscaloosa, Alabama released their report stating that she died of an accidental overdose with multiple drugs in her system, including high amounts of oxycodone. The UK's Sun ran a story on the death of Sherri Martel entitled "Hillbilly Heroin killed Sherri." The article notes that the autopsy report on her showed six different drugs in her system at the time of her death. A lethal concentration of the powerful painkiller Oxycodone, also sometimes referred to as "Hillbilly Heroin," was discovered in her system.
Sherri was buried on June 28, 2007.
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