On 3rd May 2019, Toni Storm returned to World Wonder Ring Stardom, a Japanese wrestling promotion where she enjoyed much success prior to her signing for WWE. It was Storm’s first non-WWE appearance in quite some time, and was the first match in what has been dubbed as her ‘World Challenge.’ Her first opponent? Tam Nakano.
Even before the bell had rung, and the two women had locked up, there had been a number of exciting moments here. For one, Storm even entering a non-WWE ring is something that hadn’t seemed to be on the horizon until only a few weeks ago, when these dates were announced. Secondly, this was the first time that the NXT UK Women’s Championship had appeared in another promotion, and on foreign soil, too (if we ignore it’s appearances at the WWE Royal Rumble and WWE Wrestlemania Axxess events). For a fan like myself, the excitement level was already beginning to max out, and not a single punch had yet been thrown.
The match didn’t have a long running time, coming in at approximately ten minutes or so, but it felt much shorter because of the speed both performers worked at. There was no slow build here, as Storm and Tam Nakano went for each other right from the start.
Despite her position as a champion in the largest wrestling organisation on the planet, Storm was never presented as being superior to her opponent. In fact, Tam Nakano had some wonderful offensive moments that stayed with me long after the match had ended. From her brutal Super Kick to Storm’s head, which knocked the champion down clean, to her equally effective cross body from the top turnbuckle to Storm at ringside. To say the standout moments were purely hers would be incorrect, though, as Storm unleashed a devastating moveset of her own, and one that it felt like we hadn’t seen in quite some time, due to the general rules that are in play in WWE rings regarding safe manoeuvres, etc. This felt like the chains were off for Storm, so much so that she even hit the real Storm Zero, a brutal piledriver that understandably put Tam Nakano down for the three count. I’d forgotten how much I missed that move, until she hit it immediately after she’d also successfully landed her new WWE-approved finisher of the same name.
Before the match, Storm delivered a promo where she told us that she was looking forward to getting her face kicked in. I’d say that Tam Nakano definitely attempted to do just that, and Storm left the match knowing she’d been in a fight. For this Toni Storm fan, however, I was delighted to see her leave the building with a win in her first match back in Stardom.
For anyone who is a long-time fan of her work, or has just found her through NXT UK, this match is definitely worth seeking out. It will take up no more than 15 minutes of your time, is a fun watch from start to finish, and shows Toni wrestling a style we haven’t really seen from her in a number of months.
This match is available to view at Stardom-World.com