Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. John Bunyan. Tammy Sytch.
Many of history’s greatest authors have written from behind bars, and with A Star Shattered: The Rise & Fall & Rise of Wrestling Diva Tammy “Sunny” Sytch…
…WWE’s “Original Diva” followed in that tradition.
While I was definitely on Team Sunny in 1996, the good will a celebrity earns from a year or two of being really hot lasts only so long. As WWE debates whether to remove her from its Hall of Fame…
…rescind her Best Buns Slammy…
…and overturn her Karate Fighters tournament victory, there’s no better time to revisit her memoir. And, like a mugshot, it doesn’t make her look good.
Sunny wrote most of Shattered during her 114 days in a Connecticut jail, scrawling her life story from memory on legal pads. It shows.
During that time, Sytch seems to have found God, opening chapter one with her favorite Bible verse. Not to doubt Tammy’s scriptural knowledge, but she also calls a young niece who’d died, “my fallen angel”.
By chapter two, God has taken a backseat to one of this book’s major themes: Sex! Tammy goes into uncomfortable detail about her and Chris Candido’s first time. Her porno with Tickle-Me Elmo was more erotic than this.
And speaking of kids’ toys, phrases like “finger action” belong in a GI Joe ad, not page 13 of an autobiography.
Besides unpleasant sex prose, the book contains many stories Tammy has told a million times in shoot interviews over the years, but this time, the book’s editors were able to fact-check her version of events. They didn’t — at all — but they were at least able to if they’d wanted.
After Sytch gave up a scholarship to the University of Miami to stay with Chris in New Jersey, she started taking photos at all his matches. The following spring, she moved with Chris to Memphis, where he was to wrestle for Jerry Lawler. However, Lawler only invited young Chris Candido to Tennessee so he and Eddie Gilbert could try and shag a 17-year-old Tammy, which she only discovered years later in Lawler’s book1. And sure enough, the story is in there, minus the part about her being a minor. Shocking, I know.
But it turns out the real reason Lawler left out that incriminating detail is that it isn’t true; Sytch states, correctly, that this happened in the spring of 1991, meaning Sytch (born December 7th, 1972) was already 18 by then. Tammy paints the quasi-sex-trafficking tale as an hilarious anecdote and not an attempt to circumvent the Mann Act, so maybe in her mind, her exact age isn’t important to the story…
…but in the same chapter she tells a perfectly plausible anecdote that nonetheless could not have possibly happened. According to the book, because she wasn’t yet 18, she couldn’t rent a motel room on her own in Memphis. She found this out the hard way the first time Chris went away to Dallas for a TV taping. By her recollection, she was denied a room on account of her age, so Eddie Gilbert had to rent it for her. Maybe she was as bad at math then as she is now, because, again, she had already turned 18 the previous year.
The only other explanation is that Tammy made the story up to dispel rumors that she and Eddie were shagging while Chris was out of town2.
These “errors” set the tone for the entire book, which covers a lot of hot topics with room-temperature BS. Topics like:
“Skip & Sunny” debuted in the WWF in the spring of 1995. But by late 1996, she says, she and Chris Candido were on a break. This is when she started hooking up with Shawn. First, they did a segment together where Shawn pretended to kiss her, then faked her out.
After cameras stopped rolling, they then had a borderline R-rated make-out session on the canvas. The next week, they had their first unscripted sexual encounter, which Tammy delicately describes thusly:
“Yep, he banged me good, right there in the locker room. It was so dirty and sexy and so not allowed within the crew that it made it even hotter. Oh my God! It was mind-blowing sex!”
Ah, there’s God again!
But could you blame Tammy for the tryst? She had been in love with Shawn Michaels since she was 13…
…although contemporary evidence proves that not only was Shawn not her favorite wrestler in the world, he wasn’t even her favorite wrestler in the Rockers.
Nonetheless, Sunny and Shawn soon started gettin’ it on anywhere and everywhere backstage. The only other people who knew were Vince and the Clique, despite the couple’s brazenness and the fact that there was no Clique after May ’96.
Their relationship deepened when Shawn got beaten up in Syracuse and Sunny (having studied pre-med) helped nurse him to health. An obviously confused Tammy is describing an event that famously occurred in late 1995, not late 1996. I guess the concussion must have been contagious.
While Shawn took time off, he took Sunny on a secret trip to Jamaica, which they treated like a honeymoon. That meant they were makin’ bacon everywhere, ten times a day. “In our private pool, our private Jacuzzi, in the public pool, in the ocean, on the beach under a blanket, against a tree on the plantation; sex was everywhere!”
Shawn Michaels’s one kink was doin’ it in front of the bathroom while Tammy applied coat after coat of lipstick. Makes you wonder why nothing ever happened between Shawn and Doink.
Sunny says she “dated” Shawn for about nine months until they broke up in Las Vegas at the NATPE convention (which occurred in January 1996). She may be confusing this with a licensing fair that she attended with Shawn in New York that June. Shortly after, reported Dave Meltzer, she and Chris got engaged3.
On the other hand, nine months from the start of their fling would put their break-up around April 1996, when the Clique pooped in her food.
But what’s indisputable is that the Shawn-Sunny affair started in 1995 and ended in 1996. So why does Tammy consistently push back all these dates on her timeline an entire year? Because otherwise readers would know it took her only two months in the WWF to start cheating on her long-term boyfriend. Still, it’s a lot more accurate than Shawn’s version of events at the time of publication, which was that it never happened at all.
Tammy’s explanation for the break-up is as follows: Shawn wanted Sunny to break things off with Chris and move in to his new home, but when she wouldn’t, Shawn ended the relationship. Within four months, Shawn met, knocked up, and married his current wife. This all supposedly happened in 1997, but, as already established, the break-up really went down in 1996. Moreover, Michaels didn’t even speak to Rebecca until late 1998, culminating in a March 1999 wedding in Vegas4. So although there were actually 2-3 years between the relationships, Tammy portrays a desperate Shawn settling for a replacement Sunny.
I feel the worst for Shawn’s oldest son, who must now wonder whether he was born in 1998, or in 2000 as his parents and birth certificate say.
After the break-up with Shawn, Michaels became jealous of Bret Hart, suspecting him of hooking up with Tammy; Shawn’s on-air reference to Bret’s “Sunny Days” even sparked the two men’s real-life feud. Here, Tammy sets the record straight:
Bret Hart used to use Sunny’s dressing room, which, as the only woman on the road (besides Sable, Marlena, and Chyna, who momentarily don’t exist in this anecdote), she had all to herself. Bret and Sunny always took turns and were never in the room together, but Michaels assumed they were making babies in there. Truth be told, she and Bret did kiss just once, but there was no passion or chemistry, so it went nowhere.
So there you go: if you had even the slightest doubt of Hart’s adamant and consistent denials regarding Sunny, there’s no way in hell you’re going to believe him now.
Shawn and Bret’s feud, of course, culminated in the controversial and mysterious Montreal Screwjob. “To this day,” says Sytch, “I don’t think anyone really knows the truth—except Bret, Shawn, and Vince—and they’re not telling.”
It’s indeed a secret — one that, like his opinion on Bill Goldberg, is something Bret Hart has never discussed publicly. But Tammy thinks it was all a work, and she has some compelling circumstantial evidence regarding Bret and Vince’s supposed altercation after the match.
Exhibit A: The timing. It takes much longer than a minute for a black eye to form. If Bret had really punched Vince in the locker room, he wouldn’t have gotten a black eye so quickly. Look at that nasty shiner.
Exhibit B: The walk. Despite supposedly getting punched just a minute earlier, Vince walked out of the locker room cool as a cucumber.
Exhibit C: The southpaw. Vince’s left eye was bruised, meaning he was hit with a right hand. Sunny attests, from experience doing countless autograph signings with the Hitman, that Bret is left-handed.
Bret therefore wouldn’t punch with his right hand.
Through this breathtaking detective work, Tammy cracks the whole “Screwjob” case wide open. Bret Hart didn’t punch Vince McMahon, meaning they were in cahoots. Nor can you blame them for that part of the ruse — only an idiot would let someone punch him in the face for real, off-camera, with no witnesses, just to further a storyline.
So how did Vince get the black eye? He let someone else punch him in the face for real, off-camera, with no witnesses, just to further a storyline. But not Bret Hart.
It was his own son, Shane McMahon.
And he didn’t do it after the match, but during. “Vince’s son was in the locker room with Vince the entire length of the match… “
“…long enough for him to punch his own father in the eye and give it 30-minutes to blacken up.”
Inevitably, Tammy would turn to the subject of Sable, her supposed rival. However, the author insists that, while she certainly disliked Rena Mero, she had no professional jealousy.
As she explains, there was no competition among the women of the WWF, as all their characters were completely different: Sunny was “the all-American girl next door”, Marlena was the mysterious femme fatale, and Sable was a whore. At least that’s how Sunny tells it, ignoring Vince McMahon’s heavy-handed insistence on commentary that Sable was “a classy lady”.
How could she not be jealous when, after just a few months of being the WWF’s undisputed “It Girl”…
…her boss became positively infatuated with another, less talented blonde? Well, because according to Sunny’s recollection, Sable didn’t even arrive until mid-1997. By then, SunnyMania would have run wild for a year and a half.
If Sable says Sunny was jealous, that’s just Sable being a compulsive liar. Tammy says Sable would lie about everything, including her age, but she takes great pleasure in reporting that she has aged horribly (To clarify, that’s Tammy Sytch saying Sable has aged horribly). Plus, Sable has a grandchild, which Tammy finds hilarious and embarrassing.
Another lie Sable used to tell about Sunny involved Playboy. According to this book, the magazine offered to put Sunny in the magazine, but she turned it down. Later, Sable would claim that there was never such an offer for Sytch. “I was offered a Playboy spread a full year before she even started with the company, so how would she even know?”
A full year! Since Sable debuted in the WWF on March 31st, 1996, this would mean Hugh Hefner saw Tamara Murphy read the WWF Live Event cards and insisted she pose nude.
Without a hint of irony, Sytch writes the following in the very next paragraph:
“You see, that’s what self-centered people do. They convince themselves of their own lies so others will believe them, too.”
This quote is on page 70, but it should have gone on the back cover.
But aside from one short chapter, Tammy proves she’s the bigger person by not writing anything else about Sable…
…except the list of funny ribs in chapter 27, which for some reason includes items about her being an ex-stripper and shagging Ken Shamrock while her husband was home injured. I doubt Marc Mero found that last rib very funny.
You can’t talk about Sunny’s WWF career without talking about her backstage heat — at least that’s what I thought before I read Sunny’s book, which makes no mention whatsoever of her unpopularity with the locker room. No one resented her for being a prima donna (or even a Body Donna), and no one even knew she was cheating on Chris with Shawn Michaels.
The infamous story of the Clique pooping in her food and driving her off the European tour5? Not in this book.
The Godwinns slopping her? Sunny cites that as the highlight of her WWF run and one of her proudest moments. She even made the slop herself and guarded it all night. See, the Godwinns used to leave their half-full slop bucket unattended so that the boys in the locker room could help fill it themselves (with urine and… well, let’s just say urine). The Godwinns themselves have admitted this. Well, sort of. They say they did it to Sunny and almost no one else6.
Just to give you an idea of how much the Godwinns must have hated Sunny, the Legion of Doom once fractured Henry Godwinn’s neck…
…and the next time it came to slop them, they filled the bucket with dinner rolls and lettuce.
But again, there’s not even a hint in this book that Sunny ever even got on anyone’s nerves. In fact, she makes herself sound quite popular backstage and on the road, doing things like upgrading guys up to first class on flights, smuggling ten thousand pain pills at a time from Tijuana every month, and paying for guys’ breakfasts.
You did a double-take, didn’t you? But you read that right; she’d let Steve Austin and others put their meals on her company tab.
As for the drug trafficking, Tammy explains how she’d walk across the border pretending to be a tourist, buy cheap prescription pills from a dealer, then purchase some cheap blankets to hide the pill bottles in. She went with Louie “Rad Radford” Spicolli the first time and retrieved drugs for, among others, Sean “1-2-3 Kid” Waltman (putting this story in early 1996). She reflects that, had she ever been caught, she’d to this day be in a Mexican prison (Whether this would have been a net positive for the world, I leave to the reader).
Now imagine exposing someone to that kind of risk for a personal favor and still pooping in her food box.
By 1997, Sunny was bored in the WWF and started hanging out at ECW shows, where Chris was working. She even helped produce ECW’s first pay-per-view, April 1997’s Barely Legal, giving time cues to the wrestlers and referees. “Shortly after”, she says, Paul Heyman made her an offer to join ECW for more money than the WWF was paying her.
“Paul Heyman has a way of convincing people of anything”, writes Sytch. “He could put dog s*** on a platter and convince you it’s a $250 plate of steak tartare.” X-Pac was the same way.
Foolishly, she believed Heyman, so “a few weeks later”…
..she got herself fired on purpose. Showing up on an unnamed ECW pay-per-view, she declared ECW her new home. The next day, the WWF released her three years early from her contract.
That’s certainly one way to get fired. Another is drugs.
That’s not to say that Sytch denies abusing pills. She does, however, draw a clear distinction between “recreational” drugs and illegal prescription drugs (even if Customs wouldn’t). “I’ve never been a recreational drug user”, Sytch insists. “I was a heavy drinker and I took prescription pills. I have never smoked, snorted or shot anything!”
I guess she used painkillers to deal with all those bumps she took in the ring.
The rest of the book chronicles her various tragedies, binges, and benders, culminating in a string of six arrests and a long stint in jail. Naturally, she assigns the blame entirely to her manipulative scumbag boyfriend, Damien. This man ruined her life, put her behind bars, and gave her HPV that developed into cancer. She doesn’t hate him enough, however, not to describe his “attractive penis” or graphically detail their four-day sex marathon.
Given all these terrible events, and Tammy’s portrayal of herself as fundamentally incapable of taking care of herself, you might be wondering about the book’s title. What could it possibly mean by her “Rise & Fall & Rise”?
Well, the second “rise” refers to Tammy’s burgeoning porn career and the publication of the book itself, whose royalties Sytch seems to think she’ll be able to retire on. And of course, there’s her emergence from incarceration. This book came out in 2016.
Sunny says she was so popular, the media called her, “The female Hulk Hogan”. Judging by the accuracy of their respective memoirs, I’d say that’s not so far-fetched.
All in all, the book is fascinating and revelatory for all the wrong reasons, depicting a deeply deluded woman who started believing her own lies decades ago. Rather than careless mistakes, the many factual errors seem to be deliberate distortions, carefully crafted to absolve Tammy Sytch herself of accountability.
Except for the Montreal stuff. That’s just dumb.
Sure, why not. Bear in mind that, as you’ve already seen, you should take all shoot interviews with several handfuls of salt. The Godwinns, for instance, mention Razor & 1-2-3 Kid in their Sunny slop story, even though they had left the company the previous month. They are probably confusing this with the well-attested European food-pooping story.
1 Jerry Lawler (2002), It’s Good to Be The King… Sometimes, pg. 306
2 KC O’Connor (2022), Shoot interview, Wrestling Shoot Interviews
3 Dave Meltzer (July 8th, 1996), Wrestling Observer Newsletter
4 Shawn Michaels (2005), Heartbreak & Triumph, p. 280-3
5 Tammy Sytch (1997), quoted by Jim Cornette (2022), Jim Cornette’s Drive Thru
6 Godwinns (2011), Shoot interview, RF Video