The women’s division of the WWE has, in layman’s terms, Really Gone Through It lately. From heightened competition from bonafide superstars at brands like AEW to a hiring and firing spree that’s lasted for months now, wrestling’s corporate champion has been putting its women’s roster on increasingly shaky ground.
Clearly, the division needs new blood, and in the WWE’s defence, we are getting some. Women from NXT and NXT UK have been brought up to the main roster, propelled by huge outpourings of support from fans. Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox from NXT are a breath of fresh air in the floundering women’s tag team division, and bringing up Piper Niven from NXT UK was an inspired choice that could pose a real threat to physically dominant competitors like Rhea Ripley and (sighs) yes, even Charlotte Flair. But perhaps the most exciting new addition was announced this week, with promos released online teasing the arrival of beloved NXT star Toni Storm. It’s finally, Toni Time on the WWE Roster.
Honestly, I can’t wait. Aside from the firebrand that is Io Shirai, Toni Storm’s been one of my favourite NXT competitors for a good while. Her ‘I quit’ match with Kay Lee Ray at NXT UK was what got me watching that show, and her performances at stellar pay-per-views like War Games have solidified her as one to watch going into a new decade of women’s wrestling.
In terms of her technical skill, Storm always delivers; her aerial assaults, in particular, have a devastating reputation, and in recent months her new twisty lil’ finisher has quite literally floored competition. In the main roster, particularly on her new home of Smackdown, she’d make a believable opponent for wrestlers like Carmella and Sasha Banks, who tend to try and psych out their challengers but haven’t had many people to truly feud with other than each other. A bit of clever writing could craft some genuinely bitter feuds for fans to really sink their teeth into. We love our powerhouse competitors in the women’s division, but whip-smart wrestlers who can keep a match engaging even when the pace is slowed are absolutely invaluable right now. The “budget cuts” made to the women’s division have resulted in championship feuds starting to feel repetitive. A challenger like Storm, however, could just bring out the best in the current crop of wrestlers.
Of course, a technical skill only gets you so far in the world of wrestling; you’ve also gotta be a strong performer. You need personality, and Storm has it in spades. She typically goes over with fans a little better as a babyface, an underdog competitor with the unshakeable confidence associated with the glam rock moguls she styles herself after. However, this rocker edge could work brilliantly for an arc as either a fan-favourite heroine or a cocky heel. The following her persona has already garnered with fans through her (Toni) time in NXT should absolutely be harnessed to build hype for her arrival on the main roster; if done right, Storm could be a showstopper right from her first eye-catching entrance into the ring.
If the WWE does drop the ball when it comes to Storm, it’s probably going to be in how she’s portrayed character-wise. I mentioned Piper Niven earlier, and while I’ve been a fan of her on NXT UK for ages, she’s definitely an example of how bringing up a fan favourite to the main roster can backfire significantly. In positioning her as the protégé of returning star Eva Marie, they’ve traded in her old persona to fit another wrestler’s mould. The hard-nosed punky lass with a famed “killer instinct” in NXT UK had her name and persona swiftly changed on the main roster, but this was met with most eye rolls from fans online. Many saw the portrayal of Niven as a giddy child as patronising and inauthentic, undoing an image she’d worked hard to create for herself. I’m a little nervous the main roster will do the same with Storm. The persona she’s built up doesn’t need to be shoehorned into a pre-existing mould; the momentum she has should be allowed to propel her forwards. Toni Time is upon us, and hopefully, she Storms the competition!