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Sharmell Before Booker T: The Storm of Paisley

A lifelong fan of professional wrestling, Koriander takes a look at the lighter side of the squared circle.


From the Runway to the Ring

On March 14, 2022, WWE announced that Queen Sharmell, wife and valet of now fellow Hall Of Famer "King" Booker T, was going to be inducted into the 2022 class for the WWE Hall of Fame.

Reactions from wrestling fans were mixed.

While Sharmell has plenty of fans who recognize her place in terms of her over-the-top character on earlier episodes of WWE SmackDown, her feud with fellow Hall of Famer Kurt Angle, and her original on-screen WWE role as a backstage announcer, some fans were not certain if she had experienced a long enough career worthy of the WWE Hall of Fame.

That latter sentiment seems laughable when the WWE Hall of Fame is also home to non-wrestler celebrities, such as Drew Carrey and Star Trek's William Shatner, to WWE Divas and contracted celebrities with minimal in-ring expertise, like The Bella Twins and Donald Trump.

Yet beyond her years on SmackDown and her subsequent time with TNA/Impact Wrestling, Sharmell actually had her own career, long before demanding fans hailed her husband, King Booker.

Before finding her way to the squared circle, Sharmell as Miss Black Indiana won the contentious and controversial Miss Black America pageant of 1991. She was likely unable to enjoy her victory, as then judge and fellow WWE Hall of Famer Mike Tyson would later be convicted of raping her fellow contestant, Miss Black Rhode Island, Desiree Washington.

But not long after getting through the contest, Sharmell kickstarted a career as a professional dancer, appearing on tours with a verifiable who's who in the music industry, with her most famous and longest lasting tour being with "The Godfather of Soul" James Brown.

Her career in the music industry helped her ease her way into the glitz and glam of the WCW, when in January of 1999, she joined the then hot wrestling company as Nitro Girl Storm. She would begin the year dancing between segments on WCW Monday Nitro and at various WCW special events and pay-per-views.

It wasn't long before people started to take notice of Storm's sultry beauty and outgoing personality.

As 1999 trucked along, Storm would be re-christened as Paisley, and she quickly found herself on the arm of "The Artist Formerly Known As" Prince Iaukea as his valet. Each week, she would appear at ringside in purple costumes, matching his elaborate outfits.


Storm Thunders Into Paisley

Around the time that Paisley was appearing more frequently beside The Artist, the WCW Powers That Be had decided that Nitro Girls not only needed to be involved with storylines for each of the TNT and TBS programs, the Nitro Girls also needed to learn how to wrestle.

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From 1999 to early 2000, plans were put into place to get Paisley ready for the ring, and on January 3, 2000, Paisley wrestled in an untelevised match taped at WCW Saturday Night in Bismarck, North Dakota. She went up against Billy Kidman and Torrie Wilson with The Artist in her corner. The match, which saw Paisley taking a loss, would spark a few rematches, this time on television, for that following March.

Her first few matches resulted in losses, which is not uncommon for a rookie wrestler, but it was understandably disappointing for fans. That disappointment wouldn't last, as on April 25, 2000, Paisley picked up her first ever singles win in her first ever solo match against then future WWE Hall of Famer Sunny/Tammy Lynn Sytch on WCW Thunder, just 18 days after Paisley was spotted in the wrestling comedy, Ready to Rumble.

By late August, Paisley was on the arm of Kwee Wee, after The Artist parted ways with the WCW, and after some on-screen tension with the former Nitro Girl, but being a fashionable valet would not be Paisley's only legacy in the WCW.

A Future Queen Hears the Roar of Tygress

While Paisley was getting used to scoop slams and DDT's, her fellow Nitro Girls were also gunning for their own solo spotlights.

Tygress had started her wrestling training with the WCW Power Plant a year before Paisley and had already been in a feud with fellow Nitro Girl Spice that previous November. Paisley would face each other on WCW television off and on during the summer of 2000.

The two of them would find themselves on the wrong side of Major Gunns, a rookie wrestler and member of The Misfits in Action faction, who would face Paisley several times that year, occasionally in three-way bouts with Tygress.

But Paisley's most enduring off and on rival must have been Torrie Wilson, who was not only Paisley's first female opponent, but would go on to have the most matches against Paisley during Paisley's entire WCW career.

While the Nitro Girls were considered "broken up" as far as television goes, a number of them, including Paisley, would open 2001 by entering into pop music as the girl group Diversity 5.

Paisley would appear in special promotional advertisements with fellow Nitro Girls Fyre, Spice, Chae, and her off and on rival, Tygress to promote Diversity 5's debut album, but just before the group had a chance to take off, Paisley unexpectedly left the WCW for the then WWF, now WWE.

WCW quickly replaced Paisley with fellow Nitro Girl Chiquita, but almost immediately thereafter, the WCW would cease to be, as the WWE absorbed them on March 26, 2001.

Diversity 5 attempted to bypass needing the wrestling world by continuing on as their own separate group, but after releasing just two singles, I Promise and Shake Me Up, and getting cruelly booted off of the Fox reality show 30 Seconds to Fame with barely a chance given, the Nitro Girl breakup became real.

As for Paisley, she returned to the squared circle as Sister Sharmell for OVW via a WWE training program, before eventually finding her way to SmackDown in late 2001. Marred by injuries, she wouldn't wrestle again until 2005, and would go on to have sporadic matches in the WWE and in TNA/Impact Wrestling, until quietly retiring from in-ring competition in 2009.

While nine years of off and on wrestling competition may not seem like a lot, especially when you compare her limited number of matches to her husband Booker T, having his first match in 1986 and still wrestling sporadically in the 2020's, it was longer than the in-ring careers of many of the celebrity and part-time inductees in the WWE Hall Of Fame.

At the start of the 2020s, Sharmell was still making occasional appearances, and the week before the announcement of her induction, "Legacy" 8x10's and action figures of her were still selling at impressive prices on such websites as eBay and Highspots, proving that while her in-ring career may have been short-lived, she had still earned her own fan base, and subsequent induction into the 2022 class of the WWE Hall of Fame.

© 2022 Koriander Bullard

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