Behind every great man is a strong woman. No one knows this better than Sharmell Sullivan-Huffman.
Better known to millions of wrestling fans as Queen Sharmell, the former Miss Black America has stood by her man, Booker T, on- and off-screen, recently leaving World Wrestling Entertainment to join her husband in TNA. Arguably the biggest acquisition in the company’s history, the Huffmans have been showing Kurt and Karen Angle that there’s a new power couple in TNA--and they couldn’t be happier.
“Everything’s been going great so far,” Sharmell told SoCal.com just days after Final Resolution. “The fans have been amazing, and everything’s been really positive. Plus, at this point in our careers, it’s nice to have a break in our [travel] schedule so that we can live life. We’ve literally lived in our house for seven years and just last week we finally furnished three of the rooms in it. We’ve been tailgating, going to basketball games…after working so hard, it’s nice to finally be able to enjoy life.”
Since making her TNA debut at Genesis last November, Sharmell’s definitely made an impact in the six-sided ring, facing (and mouthing) off against everyone from Karen Angle to Traci Brooks. However, even more interesting than what’s been happening inside the ring is Sharmell’s story on how she got there in the first place.
A former professional dancer, Sharmell first appeared on the wrestling scene when she became a Nitro Girl for WCW. Back then, sports-entertainment didn’t interest her that much.
“I wasn’t a fan,” Sharmell admitted. “Dance was my passion back then. But being a Nitro Girl sparked my interest and once I got involved I loved it. Seeing Rey [Mysterio], Juventud and Rob [Van Dam], all these high flyers in the ring…I was a huge fan of Booker’s, too--I just loved the way he moved in the ring. He used to be a dancer, and I recognized that initially. Anyway, I started training and, let me tell you, wrestling is nothing like dancing (laughs). It’s a lot of hard work. It always makes me laugh when someone’s watching from their couch and thinks they can do it. I just want to say, ‘Oh yeah? Get up and try.’”
While Sharmell may have been bitten by the wrestling bug, she wasn’t royalty just yet. When asked when she knew Booker was her king, Sharmell surprisingly said their love connection didn’t even happen in the ring.
“I didn’t talk to Booker much while we were in WCW,” Sharmell said. “But when we were filming Ready to Rumble, we were in Los Angeles for like a month-and-a-half or two months. We striked up a conversation, and I realized we shared a lot of the same values and goals. Plus, we both loved to dance. But it didn’t hit me at first that what we had was something special; at first, I just thought Booker was someone who could end up becoming a good friend.”
Although Sharmell “never imagined” she would end up marrying a wrestler, the two exchanged vows in 2005 and went on to become one of WWE’s most popular Mr. and Mrs. The perfect pair on- and off-screen, Sharmell credits Booker with much of her current success.
“Most people don’t know that I’m painfully shy because my alter ego comes out whenever the cameras come on,” Sharmell said. “I mean, I’m really shy, so it helps that my husband is so loud and talkative because he camouflages my shyness.”
Booker credits Sharmell with much of his newfound success as well, making them that rare real-life couple who manages to successfully mix their professional and personal lives.
“We’re lucky we work so well together because it’s really difficult to be around someone 24/7,” Sharmell said. “But I think since we’ve both been involved in the industry separately, we understand the commitment it takes. We’ve also adapted the ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’ theory, and I think that’s another reason we work so well together.”
Another reason the two work so well together, Sharmell said, is because of their competitive streaks. When asked if the two were signed on to any outside projects now that their travel schedules weren’t quite so busy, Sharmell admitted that both she and Booker T were accepting scripts and interested in pursuing some acting roles so long as they didn’t interfere with their TNA schedule. But when asked what her dream project would be, Sharmell went back to her and Booker’s roots in search of some friendly one-on-one competition.
“I would love to do a husband versus wife ‘Dancing with the Stars,’” Sharmell said excitedly. “One of the guys backstage just asked me the other day if I still dance, and I just said, ‘Have you seen the way those kids move nowadays? I couldn’t do that if I wanted to!’ But I do miss it, and I bet I would beat Booker if we went head-to-head.”
While Sharmell may be itchin’ to show off her fancy footwork outside of the ring, she hasn’t forgotten about her past completely. In fact, Sharmell credits her beautiful wardrobe with her dancing background.
“I’m very fashion conscious, even outside of the ring,” Sharmell said. “I was just telling the Knockouts the other day that they need to take me shopping for jeans because I don’t know how to shop for them. I think it goes back to when I worked for James Brown, though. He would fine us if we wore jeans or sweats, so I always made sure to dress nice because I didn’t want him takin’ my money (laughs). Really, though, I don’t know if it’s become a problem for me. I have 40 to 50 gowns. It’s crazy.”
As Sharmell waits for an up-and-coming designer to step forward and offer to become her “exclusive TV designer,” she continues to buy whatever catches her eye, much to Booker’s dismay.
“I’m out of control,” she said with a laugh.
Being a shopaholic recently benefited one of Sharmell’s best friends, though, as the queen visited WWE Diva Torrie Wilson’s store in Houston over the holidays and spent “way too much money.” When asked if she still keeps in touch with anyone else from “SmackDown” or “Raw,” Sharmell said she talks to some of “her girls” electronically via text messaging, phone calls and e-mail, but because of WWE’s hectic travel schedule, she doesn’t see them nearly as much as she’d like. And while she “selfishly” wishes Wilson and Michelle McCool would follow in her footsteps and join TNA, she’s more than happy with its current roster.
“Torrie and Michelle are my best friends, so I would love to see them or RVD here because it’s such a great place to work; it’s so family-oriented and laid-back,” Sharmell said. “I always say, ‘The more, the merrier.’ But I love seeing what Gail Kim is doing. I worked with her in WWE and I’ve watched her grow so much. My hat goes off to her. And Awesome Kong and ODB are just awesome. Really, there’s no shortage of talent in TNA. Even when Booker and I were in WWE, we couldn’t watch TNA as much as we would have liked because of our travel schedule, but whenever we caught it I always saw something special in TNA. There are just so many great athletes on the roster, especially in the X Division, and I really think as TNA gets more exposure it’s just going to explode. It really is a major competitor, and as more huge names sign with the company, they’re just going to bring more attention to TNA.”
When asked who she would like to get in the ring with next after recovering from the “injury” she received at the hands of Robert Roode during Final Resolution, Sharmell said she’d love to face off again with Karen Angle.
“She has no in-ring experience and I just have a little, so I would love to mix it up,” she replied with a laugh.
No matter who Sharmell fights next, though, one thing is for certain: Booker T will be in her corner, as TNA’s newest power couple continues to prove that the odds are always in your favor when it’s two against one. And for anyone questioning just how strong Booker and Sharmell’s relationship is once the cameras are off, rest assured that Booker treats his lady like a queen both inside and outside of the ring.
“I remember back when Booker was in, what was then, WWF,” Sharmell replied when asked about the most romantic thing Booker’s ever done for her in real life. “It was my birthday, but he had to be in Canada for business. Well, he worked it out so that I could fly in to be with him and I ended up being the only passenger on the plane. So really it was by default, but it seemed like he had chartered a private plane just for me. And when I landed, he had a limo waiting and took me to a five-star restaurant. Even though he had to work, he knew it was my special day.”
"I'm just glad they didn't cancel that flight," Sharmell concluded with a laugh. "I would have cried so hard!"
TNA “iMPACT!” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. only on Spike TV.
TNA Against All Odds airs live on pay-per-view Sun., Feb. 10.