Written by Skylar Russell and Steven Conway
When Toni Storm was granted her release from WWE yesterday, it was yet another situation in which a main event level talent that WWE failed to capitalize on, but this time in the desperately lacking women’s division.
Storm started making waves in 2016 in promotions like wXw, Progress, and more notably Stardom. She had it all; the wrestling ability, charisma that jumps off the screen, serviceable promo skills, and a ‘superstar’ look. When she worked the Mae Young Classic in 2017 and got to the semifinals, the writing was on the wall that she had a chance to be a big deal in one of the three WWE brands.
In the following year’s edition of the once-prestigious tournament, she had a classic semifinal match with Meiko Satomura before going on to beat Rhea Ripley in the finals. The year after that, Storm captured the NXT UK Women’s Championship and the future seemed to be bright for the New Zealand native.
The first sign of trouble on the main roster was the 2020 Royal Rumble, in which Storm was thrown in at Number 20 and was eliminated unceremoniously by Shayna Baszler. Still, her fans could hope it was just a blip and she’d receive a better push upon being a full-time main roster star.
She moved to NXT and was quickly thrust into the title picture. While she didn’t win as Io Shirai was being protected as a long-term champion at the time, Storm was always figured in. She turned heel and participated in a WarGames match.
Fast forward to present day where Storm was missing in action for long stretches of time in 2021. When she was used, it was sparingly and in an inconsequential role. Despite years of evidence to the contrary, the company seemed to see Storm as just another woman on the roster. They gave her a throwaway gimmick as a “Child of the 80s” and never bothered to make it mean much. A low point was her losing to Zelina Vega in the first round of the Queen of the Ring tournament. It left many fans perplexed, and the next couple of months did little to clarify why WWE didn’t realize they had a star sitting in front of them. It’s safe to say they are just about the only company to miss the boat on her.
Storm is just another example of WWE not recognizing the sheer amount of genuine talent that they don’t use consistently or in a proper manner. Instead, the spotlight is still centered directly on the four horsewomen (and a few select others) and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
It’s a shame because WWE’s women’s division (on all three brands) is in a state of constant regurgitation of the same old stories, matches, and faces. Toni Storm could have easily been a bonafide main eventer if the company would have treated her like one right out of the gate. When she was drafted to Smackdown, you could’ve penciled her in as a favorite to win the 2022 Women’s Royal Rumble.
Whether her character’s treatment was the reason or it was something else, Storm is one of the best female talents in the business. Whenever she is able to and decides to work for another company, nearly everyone should be in a rush to sign her on. No doubt Stardom would love to have her back. AEW seems like an excellent spot for her to shine in a way WWE never allowed.
Storm will land on her feet. WWE main roster fans are left to lament the fact the company didn’t see its ring as the place for her to stand tall.