Just when will it be ‘Toni’s time to storm?’ The phrase was first tossed around when Friday Night SmackDown star Toni Storm was still a snarky heel on NXT. With the spring 2021 call up of arch-rival Rhea Ripley to Monday Night Raw, it seemed Storm was poised to dominate the “Black and Gold” brand’s women’s roster, at last. Instead, she lost a shot at the NXT women’s title to then-NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai. In the last days of the ThunderDome at Amway Center, Storm was tapped in to work dark matches before SmackDown tapings, for the eyes of WWE officials, along with Scarlett Bordeaux and Shotzi Blackheart. Out of the three women, Blackheart and Storm were chosen for midsummer main roster call-ups to SmackDown.
Toni Storm on SmackDown
The Former NXT UK Women’s Champion Beginning
Storm’s “blue brand” debut came on July 23, in a match against Zelina Vega, in which Storm was victorious. Her rebranding as a babyface began here, but in the months that followed, Storm was largely absent from SmackDown. When she did appear, it was in comedic backstage segments in which her “Child of the 80s” character seemed to be prevaricating towards a romantic angle with fellow rocker Rick Boogs. Luckily, things changed streams for Storm when she was added to SmackDown’s women’s Survivor Series team. Though the SmackDown team fell to Monday Night Raw women’s team, Storm’s momentum didn’t dissipate. On the Thanksgiving-themed November 27 SmackDown, Storm’s confrontation with SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair led to pies flying. The women have traded pies and insults in the following weeks. On December 10’s broadcast from Staples Center in Los Angeles, Storm graduated from food fights to full gear, finally getting Flair where she wanted her, all along: in the ring.
Toni Storm vs. Charlotte Flair
The match was Storm’s finest moment on SmackDown thus far. In heelish fashion, Flair dismissively dominated Storm in the match’s opening minutes, countering her every maneuver. The winds changed when Storm threw herself into a crossbody on Flair, getting a cover on the champion that Flair escaped from looking visibly diminished. The Staples Center crowd liked what they saw, and broke into robust cries of “Let’s go, Toni!” Storm followed up her gutsy crossbody with a series of uppercuts to Flair and vivaciously evaded “The Queen” as the two ran the ropes. When Storm found herself backed into the post, she held Flair off with a big boot kick. Flair returned it in kind, laying out Storm, earning boos of consternation from the crowd who were vocally “Team Toni”.
As commentators Michael Cole and Pat McAfee touted Storm’s pro wrestling history and proficiency, Flair dove from her double moonsault into a cover on Storm, which Storm narrowly escaped; Flair followed this up by assaulting Storm’s legs with repeated figure eight locks. Storm turned the tables by rolling Flair up, shoulders down. Flair escaped, and as the women scrambled to their feet Flair delivered another kick to Storm. Storm clasped Flair’s midsection for a German suplex, the effort of which wrenched a scream of determination from Storm. From here “The Queen” was all malice, unleashing on Storm with a brutal snapback on the ropes, driving her head into the post, and kicking her relentlessly as Storm was trapped in the corner of the ring.
The Result of the Match
It was this which led the match to be halted, and Storm was declared the winner via disqualification. Despite this, December 10’s match was still a dynamic performance from Storm. Finally, her babyface character had a chance to shine, proving herself a capable and courageous athlete, earning the admiration of the crowd with her abilities and its sympathy as Charlotte savagely unloaded on her. So often, Storm’s career has trailed at the heels of Rhea Ripley’s. But where Ripley’s and Flair’s Raw feud was bogged down by too much scripted story, now that they are past trading pies Flair and Storm tell a simple story in the ring: two women, champion and challenger, the cold and calculating Flair meting out her aggression when it can best serve her, and fiery Toni Storm charging in with heart and determination. Where she thrived in domination on NXT, the Toni Storm of SmackDown is beginning to lean into being a sympathetic, vulnerable figure the audience can get behind.
Although Flair is headed to an inevitable collision with Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women’s Championship, the inconclusive finish to her December 10 match with Storm indicates that the two are in for another collision. If their compelling chemistry and Storm’s growth in her new role continue, it is sure to be another delightful duel of fire and ice.
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