Toni Storm Leaves WWE: What Does it Mean?

WWE ends the year with one more talent departure as Toni Storm is no longer with the company. Fightful.com broke the news yesterday afternoon, and Wrestling Observer reported that Storm quit due to burnout.

According to the timeline of reported events, Storm was booked for Monday’s WWE Live Event in Washington DC at 8:00 am the same day. Storm wrestled Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair in Triple Threat Match.

Storm arrived in Baltimore on Wednesday, where she was expected to work that evening’s Live Event, requested her release, it was granted, and she flew home the same day on her own dime.

The 26-year-old New Zealand native signed with WWE in 2018 and won the second Mae Young Classic. Storm was a standout performer in NXT and NXT UK, where she held that brand’s Women’s Championship. In June, Storm announced her engagement to New Japan Pro Wrestling star Juice Robinson.

Storm was called up to the main roster in June, and Michael Cole described her gimmick on commentary as someone who loves all things 80’s. Not much of a character to go on. Maybe, WWE skimped on the gimmick because they never had any real plans for her. Perhaps, that’s why her release was granted so quickly.

Interestingly, Toni Storm quit amid a world title feud with Charlotte Flair but what looks good on paper isn’t always the same in reality. Storm was portrayed as a less than worthy babyface challenger in a program that was all about Charlotte. She got a couple of pies thrown in her face on the way to her title match and cried after her loss to Charlotte last week.

Wrestlers leaving WWE due to burnout is nothing new. Travel is hectic, injuries pile up, and the miles are long. Many who have abruptly left in the past, such as Stone Cold Steve Austin, eventually come back. Storm sought out and succeeded in ending her employment with the company.

Burnout can mean many things. People can only work in an unfulfilling position for so long until they move on. In Storm’s case, smart money says she was unhappy with how she was being used and couldn’t take it anymore. Storm most likely has the standard 90-day no complete clause in her contract.

Looking at the peripheral aspects of Storm’s departure, WWE’s recent youth movement reveals a lot. Despite Storm checking all the boxes; age, looks, and talent in droves, it’s clear WWE didn’t value what Storm brought to the table.

Tiffany Stratton, 21-year old U.S. National Team gymnast, and Lash Legend, a 24-year old college basketball standout, signed with WWE under a year ago, and both have already debuted on television. Neither had prior wrestling experience. Unlike Storm, Stratton’s rich daddy’s girl gimmick and Legend’s Wendy Williams-Esque persona are archetype characters.

Stratton and Legend are sports entertainment from the ground up, while Toni Storm is too pro wrestling for WWE. Storm is one of the best wrestlers in the world; however, that’s not enough, on its own, to be a star in WWE, now more than ever.

When examining the women on the main roster, Becky Lynch and Bianca Belair are the leads on Raw while Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks occupy the top spots on SmackDown. Meanwhile, everyone else inhabits the bottom rung, making it impossible to book compelling challengers, much less create new stars.

Toni Storm on SmackDown and Liv Morgan on Raw were/are the top contenders this cycle. Next month, they’d be at the back of the line, and two different wrestlers will take their place. Wash, rinse, repeat. WWE should want to create as many stars as possible. However, they seem to prefer this arrangement.

Sadly, no matter the reason for Toni Storm’s departure, it’s another message that now more than ever, WWE wants their talent to perform their way exclusively, regardless of talent, with no surprises. In other words, WWE wants the action inside the ring as scripted as their promos.

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