Before They Were Famous: Toni Storm

Toni Storm

Sporting black warpaint under her eye and throwing up the sign of the horns, few rock World Wrestling Entertainment like Toni Storm. Since her start in 2009, she has evolved into one of the brightest stars in wrestling. From her early days in Australia to her current position under the bright lights of WWE, her story is nothing short of incredible. It wasn’t always “Toni Time,” but to get a full understanding of the story in question, we must start at the beginning.

Toni Storm lived in Australia for most of her life, but many people may not know that she was actually born in New Zealand. She was a quiet child but found different interests, professional wrestling being the most prevalent. When she discovered wrestling in her formative years, Storm eventually decided to pursue it as a career. At the age of thirteen, the future NXT UK Women’s Champion started her journey early in life.

Toni Storm
Photo / World Wrestling Entertainment

The Rookie Years of Toni Storm

Storm learned in the Queensland, Australia-based organization known as Impact Pro Wrestling. She wrestled her first match in May of 2011, facing Sara Jay in a losing effort. She also found herself working for other promotions, including Pro Wrestling Alliance Queensland and All Action Wrestling. It wasn’t until February of 2012 when Storm received her first taste of gold. Ending Imogen Jane‘s nearly year-long reign, Storm became AAW Women’s Champion. She held the title until August, dropping it back to Jane.

The wrestling efforts of Storm continued into 2013. She debuted for Pacific Pro Wrestling early in the year, even challenging Madison Eagles in a match to determine the inaugural PPW Pacific Women’s Champion. Storm continued to work the Australia scene in 2014, appearing for Melbourne City Wrestling and Riot City Wrestling, just to name a few organizations. She also participated in her first WWE tryout camp during this year. Toward the tail-end of the year, Storm shifted her focus on a global front.

Toni Storm Learns Abroad

She spent roughly five years honing her craft in Australia, but Storm decided to take her efforts to England, where most of her family was from. With her mother’s permission, Storm moved to England. Storm lived with her grandmother in Liverpool, where she received further training. It was here she learned under Dean Allmark, an English wrestler who spent many years in All Star Wrestling. Needless to say, Storm grew up on the move.

Living in England, Storm found herself wrestling all over the United Kingdom, including Italy and France. 2015 saw Storm make her mark in international promotions, including PROGRESS in April. It was here she faced such names as future fellow NXT UK star Jinny. May saw Storm compete for Westside Xtreme Wrestling in Germany and Revolution Championship Wrestling in Spain. During the summer, Storm traveled to Wales, where she worked multiple matches for ASW. Though 2015 yielded little for Storm in terms of championships, the experience she gained traveling was undeniable.

Storm vs. Iwatani
Photo / World Wonder Ring Stardom

Early Success in Japan

Storm’s globetrotting continued into 2016. In May, she competed in an SWA Undisputed World Women’s Championship Tournament. Though Storm bested Heidi Katrina and Santana Garrett in the first round and semifinals, respectively, she fell to eventual winner Io Shirai in the finals. Starting in July, Storm worked for World Wonder Ring Stardom. Storm saw success early on, besting Shirai for the aforementioned championship. She also competed in that year’s 5STAR Grand Prix, amassing eight points in Block A. Storm’s success would continue when she returned to England, winning the British Empire and TNA Women’s Knockout Championships in a three-way match featuring Rosemary and Nixon Newell, the latter currently known in WWE as Tegan Nox.

The success of Storm persisted heading into 2017. In Stardom, she defended the SWA Undisputed and British Empire Women’s Championships. April saw Storm compete in the Cinderella Tournament, which she won by ultimately defeating Mayu Iwatani. May proved to be a history-making month for the Auckland native, as she competed in a three-way main event to determine the first-ever PROGRESS Women’s Champion. Defeating Jinny and Laura Di Matteo, Storm captured the PROGRESS Women’s Championship, which she held for 357 days before dropping to Jinny.

A Classic Impression

In July, Storm achieved arguably her greatest mainstream fame yet when she competed in WWE’s inaugural Mae Young Classic. Additionally, she was one of the first participants WWE announced. Storm saw considerable success in her first WWE stint, picking up victories over Ayesha Raymond, Lacey Evans, and Piper Niven, before eventually falling to eventual MYC winner Kairi Sane. This would be neither Storm’s final MYC participation or WWE appearance.

Back in Stardom, Storm competed in her second 5STAR Grand Prix. She triumphed in Block A, earning 11 points, which propelled her to the finals. Besting Yoko Bito, Storm won 5STAR Grand Prix, which made her the first competitor to win two Stardom tournaments in the same year. September saw Storm defeat Iwatani for the World of Stardom Championship, albeit in an unplanned finish. During the match, Iwatani dislocated her elbow while attempting a running low dropkick. As Iwatani was unable to continue, Storm was awarded the victory and the championship. Storm went on to hold the World of Stardom Championship throughout the remainder of the year, even defending it in RISE Wrestling in December.

Committing to WWE

Capturing the wXw Women’s Championship from Killer Kelly in January of 2018, Storm started the year on a high note. Storm was active all over the world, from wXw to Stardom to SHIMMER Women Athletes. However, during the spring, it was reported that Storm signed a deal with WWE. She worked a number of WWE events early in the summer, including an NXT Women’s Championship match against Shayna Baszler in June. Not long after, Storm competed in the second Mae Young Classic. During this same time, as NXT UK was picking up steam, Storm found herself in the hunt for the NXT UK Women’s Championship.

Though Storm failed to become the first NXT UK Women’s Champion – this would be achieved by Rhea Ripley – she fared much better in the second Mae Young Classic. Storm triumphed over the likes of Hiroyo Matsumoto and Meiko Satomura en route to the finals. At WWE’s first all-women’s pay-per-view, WWE Evolution, Storm faced fellow MYC finalist Shirai. In a little over 10 minutes, Storm won the match and the tournament.

Toni Storm
Photo / World Wrestling Entertainment

Becoming a Star in NXT UK

2019 proved to be the biggest year of Storm’s wrestling career to date. At NXT UK TakeOver: Blackpool in January, Storm bested Ripley to become the second NXT UK Women’s Champion. She was a strong champion, successfully defending the title against names including Nina Samuels, Bianca Belair, and Nikki Cross. However, she eventually faced a deeper challenge in the form of Kay Lee Ray, who personally attacked Storm and her upbringing.

This led to an emotional title match at NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff in August. At this event, Ray defeated Storm, ending her title reign at 231 days. During the fall, Storm became involved in the build to Survivor Series, joining forces with Belair, Shirai, Ripley, and Candice LeRae to face Superstars from RAW and SmackDown. During the 5-on-5-on-5 Survivor Series triple threat elimination match, Storm was the first NXT star eliminated courtesy of a double submission by Natalya and Sasha Banks.

NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff
Photo / World Wrestling Entertainment

The Future of Toni Storm

To say that 2020 has seen its ups and downs would be an understatement. Storm competed for her second NXT UK Women’s Title at TakeOver: Blackpool II in January, but was unsuccessful. Later in the month, Storm competed in her first Royal Rumble match. She entered the match at number 20 and was eventually eliminated by Baszler. However, this match was another example of the Auckland native receiving mainstream. From there, Storm became absent from WWE programming, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, she returned with a bang at NXT TakeOver: 31. Following Shirai’s successful NXT Women’s Championship defense against LeRae, Storm appeared on the nearby screen. She congratulated Shirai on said defense. However, Storm quickly made it apparent that she was gunning for the NXT Women’s Championship. In that moment, the landscape of NXT would prepare for “Toni Time.”

Toni Storm has one of the most interesting stories in professional wrestling. She left Australia at a young age, betting on herself by pursuing professional wrestling. She traveled around the world, from England to Japan to the United States, winning titles and wrestling incredible matches along the way. However, it has been her rock and roll style and attitude that made her especially unique. Better check your clocks, for it won’t be long until it’s “Toni Time” once again.

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