Where Are They Now? Sunny

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January 12, 2011

Is Sunny the first Diva in WWE history?

It's a topic that's been debated by the WWE Universe for years, so WWE.com was quick to ask the woman herself during a phone conversation on a particularly cold day in December of 2010. Home in New Jersey with two feet of snow outside her door and three pit bulls running around her kitchen, the beautiful blonde took a moment to consider her response even though she'd undoubtedly addressed the issue a thousand times before.

"My definition of a Diva is that all-around, well-rounded performer," Sunny said. "The girls who came before me were so one dimensional and then I came along and anything they threw at me I could do. I could get in the ring and have a match, I managed at ringside, I co-hosted TV shows, I did broadcasting, I did the modeling. I was the first one." (PHOTOS)

Sunny's claims aren't without merit and she has had an influence, impact and popularity that cannot be denied. Despite some real life tragedies and an endless stream of controversies — many of which are not suitable topics of discussion for WWE.com — she has maintained a special place in the hearts of wrestling fans that isn't hard to explain. In the summer of 1996, the then-23-year-old stunner appeared in a bikini on the cover of RAW Magazine and pubescent sports-entertainment fans suddenly had a woman to love. Sure, Miss Elizabeth was beautiful and female ring announcer Mike McGuirk looked great in a powder blue tuxedo, but Sunny was a pinup, a fox, Pamela Anderson in a pair of spandex shorts. Now, the kids who wanted to grow up and be Bret "Hit Man" Hart wanted to grow up and marry Sunny. And they've never forgotten that feeling.

But the woman born Tamara Lynn Sytch did not grow up wanting to be Sunny. As a high school teenager in the late '80s, she was the prototypical all-American girl. A blonde-haired cheerleader with a bright smile, she made high marks in school and planned to attend the University of Miami on a full academic scholarship after graduation. Her dream was to become a doctor, but that was before she met a kid named Chris Candido.

A tough, but sweet guy who had dreams of becoming a WWE Superstar, Candido charmed Sytch to the point that she turned down her scholarship and followed him to Knoxville, Tenn. where the budding grappler was about to begin a stint with Jim Cornette's now-defunct Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion. The idea was she'd attend the University of Tennessee while Candido wrestled, but it wasn't long before Cornette got an eyeful of the young beauty and pitched an idea of his own.

"We were there for about a month and Jim Cornette took us out to dinner. We figured he's going to talk to Chris about his career, but within two minutes he looks at me and says, 'I need a girl,'" Sytch revealed.

The fast-talking promoter wanted her to come on board as an abrasive college student from up north who idolized Hillary Clinton and threatened sexual discrimination lawsuits against anyone that crossed her. Interested in making some extra money, Sytch agreed and was soon managing a bruiser by the name of Brian Lee.

"Even though this wasn't the thing I wanted to do with my life, it was a pretty easy thing to pick up," she said of becoming an evil manager. "I'm a smart girl. You can show me a few Bobby Heenan or Sherri Martel tapes and I know what to do. And I had Jim Cornette as my mentor."

Sytch had no prior experience in sports-entertainment, but she possessed the same natural abilities as Vickie Guerrero and could incite audiences to the point that they'd often attack her from the crowd.  This transition from mild-mannered college student to the target of fans' hatred should have been jarring, but Sytch loved the reaction she was getting.

"It was so much fun," she said. "I don't know why. Maybe it's just the evil in me."

She continued to raise hell in SMW on the weekends while attending college during the week, but all that would change when WWE invited her to Stamford, Conn. to try out for an on-air role.  Sytch auditioned in December of 1994 and bombed ("It was probably the worst audition anyone's ever done or seen," she claimed.), but WWE hired her anyway. Now known as Tamara Murphy, she provided information about upcoming live events during WWE television shows for the first six months of her career. It wasn't until Candido was hired by WWE in late '95 that she finally got a chance to do what she was really good at.

Sunny celebrates a victory with Zip & Skip.Paired together, Sytch and Candido became Sunny and Skip, a pair of smug fitness freaks called The Bodydonnas who did jumping jacks in the ring and insulted the physiques of everyone in the WWE Universe.

"I loved it," Sunny said. "I got to go out there and be my snotty little brat self, which wasn't hard to be. Nothing was holding me back."

Soon forming a trio thanks to the addition of Skip's brother, Zip, The Bodydonnas went on to win the WWE Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania XII. It was around this time that Sunny started to become more than just a brat in spandex. Her RAW Magazine cover had hit and her popularity was truly starting to take off. The Bodydonnas were still villains, but Sunny was getting cheered by the WWE Universe whether she liked it or not.

"Seriously, once you put a girl in a bikini she's not going to get booed," she said.

Sunny wasn't just getting cheered though, she was getting a following. Fans snatched up T-shirts and posters and tested the resolve of their 56k modems so they could look at pictures of her on the burgeoning Internet. She was so popular on the Web that AOL christened her the most downloaded woman in the world in 1996

It was all very strange for a woman who just a few years prior had been preparing to attend medical school.

"The whole sex symbol thing was not natural for me," Tammy admitted. "I could be in a bikini for 24 hours a day getting my picture taken, but when they would do a lingerie layout with me? I was the most uncomfortable person in the earth."

This didn't deter her popularity, but for a personality so closely associated with WWE in the '90s, Sunny's time in the spotlight was surprisingly brief. After managing three different World Tag Team Championship duos in '96, she seemed to drift through '97.

"They were kind of at a loss of what to do with me," Sunny said. "I wanted to be active, but my main job at the time seemed like modeling 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin and Undertaker T-shirts."

She bounced back in '98 after linking up with a recharged Legion of Doom, but that quickly fizzled out. It would prove to be her last major run in WWE. Something was building up inside Sunny and she was about to make a move few people saw coming.

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