Monday night the WWE announced they were inducting Sunny into the WWE Hall-of-Fame. They showed a video package reviewing who she was and what she did. I realized that I could not explain to my wife what she meant to wrestling and what she meant to me as a fan during the era she reigned supreme. She was Sunny.
Who was the first “Diva?” Sherri Martel wore skimpy outfits and caked on the make-up. Missy Hyatt definitely has her place in the great canon of women in wrestling. Miss Elizabeth was definitely seen as a sex symbol, even though she was always treated with class and elegance. Nancy Benoit was a great female manager, but she was more wicked, and people didn’t tune in to see her. Sable was the first WWE superstar to pose nude for Playboy. But what made Sunny special?
I’m going to be honest. I started watching wrestling in early 1996, before Wrestlemania XII. I was 15. I was at the height of my hormonal teen years. Sunny was every 15-year-old boy’s dream. And in the WWE at that time, Sunny reigned supreme. Todd Pettengill used to host a show called WWF Mania on Saturday mornings. WCW Pro was at 8 am. WWF Mania was at 9am. That’s what I did with my Saturday morning. When I first started watching the show, Sunny was the host. And yes, my little 15-year-old heart pitter-pattered.
I have a lot of great memories watching Sunny. I remember her coming out with the LOD at Wrestlemania XIV and forming LOD 2000. I remember the feud with Dawn Marie (“Tamara Lynn Bytch”) in ECW. I remember her showing off those buns of steel to the live crowd in Dallas at Raw. And of course, who could forget her getting slopped by Phineas I. Godwinn (a then-clothed Naked Mideon)?
Last night they showed a video package that showed Sunny’s greatest moments. Tamara Lynn Sytch was a pretty girl. She was athletic, naturally very pretty and had lots of charisma. She was the girl you wanted but you knew you could never have, but you were going to dream about her anyway. She was one of the first Divas to draw. What makes her the first Diva, you might ask? Here is what I think. I think she was one of the first females in wrestling to do lingerie shoots and bikini shoots and, at some point in her career, served no other purpose than to come out and wave to the crowd. Sherri was a manager. Woman/Nancy Benoit was a manager. Miss Elizabeth was a manager/valet. And while Missy Hyatt did her share of bikini modeling, she pushed the envelope nowhere like Sunny did. Sunny was a pioneer who set the standard for every Diva we watch every week.
That being said, when I watch her footage, while she was the highlight of my mid-adolescent years, her stuff actually was pretty tame, all things considered. Her character was pretty simple. “I’m the drop-dead gorgeous woman you want. You can’t have me because I’m with Chris Candido.” That’s all she needed. Her body also looked like something that would be a foreign concept to Divas nowadays. She was natural. Her breasts didn’t enter the rooms three days before she did. Her lips didn’t look like flotation devices. And her hair didn’t look like Extension City. She was an insanely beautiful woman. And speaking from the fantasies of a 15-year-old boy, she more than got the job done. And I’m not alone. She was the most downloaded celebrity in 1996 on AOL.
The woman has earned her place in the annals of WWE history, and for what little it’s worth, I wish her congratulations for this time.