The Inevitable Ones
If you strip away The Outcasts, DMD, and the other AEW originals who’ve weaved their way into the current storyline ruling AEW’s women’s division, you’ll find that the story of Toni Storm and Jamie Hayter doesn’t start on Dynamite, in fact, it starts in a land far, far away. The year is 2018, New Zealand-born Toni Storm is undoubtedly one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world, and she has the hardware to prove it.
In fact, Storm started the year off as a top champion in three different countries, holding the PROGRESS Women’s Championship (U.K.), the WxW Women’s Championship (Germany), the SWA Undisputed World Women’s Championship (Japan), and most notably the World of Stardom Championship (Japan) simultaneously. Toni Storm reigned as queen in Europe and as the top foreigner in Japan’s World Wonder Ring Stardom promotion, proudly wearing & defending two singles belts at the same time while barely over 21 years old.
By the end of that year, Storm had dropped most of her titles, now looking ahead to her next great adventure, the newly formed NXT UK in WWE. Around the same time, a new queen in the U.K. was being crowned with Jamie Hayter winning the RevPro Undisputed British Women’s Championship for the first time. Toni Storm wrestled one of the biggest matches of her career in Blackpool at the beginning of 2019, defeating Rhea Ripley to become NXT UK Women’s Champion after winning the second-ever Mae Young Classic.
Also within that time period, Jamie Hayter had a match that seemed inconsequential at the time but carried big implications. On a Saturday in March 2019, Hayter faced a babyface Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D in Pro Wrestling EVE, a small but well-respected women’s wrestling promotion in the U.K. known for showcasing some of the best female talents in the world. The match came barely two months after the announcement of the formation of All Elite Wrestling with Baker as its first female signee. When Baker returned to the States after her match in England, she raved to AEW CEO/Founder/GM Tony Khan that Jamie Hayter needed to be a part of the new promotion they were building.
AEW’s flagship weekly television show, Dynamite, launched on TNT in October of the same year with Hayter making her debut on the fourth episode, facing Baker in a rematch. This time around, she was representing the Stardom promotion where she had joined and become a part of the Oedo Tai faction, tagging with good friend, Bea Priestley. It had become crystal clear that Jamie Hayter was a rising star to watch in women’s wrestling. She kicked off 2020 with a bang, becoming the first non-Japanese team (alongside Priestley) to win the Goddesses of Stardom Championships. One week later, she defeated Stardom’s prodigy, Utami Hayashishita, to become the SWA Undisputed World Women’s Champion, officially beginning the age of the “Champ Champ”, an era of dominance that hadn’t been seen from a foreigner since Toni Storm’s monumental run in 2018.
Over in WWE, Toni Storm lost her NXT UK Women’s Championship in August of 2019 after a fairly long reign and joined the stateside NXT roster for Survivor Series: WarGames. She too would start off 2020 on a high note, entering as a participant in the second-ever women’s Royal Rumble match.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Hayter was forced to vacate both of her Stardom titles due to pandemic restrictions, returned to primarily wrestling in England’s RevPro, and officially signed with AEW in August of 2021. Storm ended up off TV for months in the early times of the pandemic. By the time she returned and debuted on the Smackdown roster, her time in WWE had begun to take a sour turn, and at the end of December 2021, Storm requested her WWE release and it was granted.
Looking to inject new life into her career, Toni Storm debuted for All Elite Wrestling on March 30, 2022, on Dynamite (coincidentally the company’s South Carolina debut which I was in attendance for). She was a surprise entrant in the Owen Hart Women’s Tournament, easily defeating The Bunny in the first round.
The tournament wouldn’t stay simple for long. The world-renowned Toni Storm was scheduled to face Jamie Hayter in the quarterfinal who was now sporting a new look and had a cult-like following amongst AEW fans. Several backstage segments took place to hype up this match but the actual match felt like more of a teaser than a main course. These women are two of the most decorated women’s wrestlers of their generation and only got an 8-minute match on Dynamite that had to also compete with commercial breaks. Storm got the win that time but it was evident that fans wanted to see these two women lock horns again in the near future.
Over the next few months, Jamie Hayter’s popularity would continue to grow as fans began to call for her to break free of her alliance with Britt Baker and go on a single run. Meanwhile, Toni Storm proved herself to be the workhorse of the AEW women’s division, wrestling sometimes twice a week, a feat that would become even more impressive once she captured the Interim Women’s World Championship in a fatal four-way match at All Out that included Hayter and former champions Baker and Hikaru Shida. Toni Storm was once again on top of the women’s wrestling world and she was putting on great matches nearly every week to back it up.
The word “interim” (due to Thunder Rosa’s injury) was the only stain on Storm’s reign (and was later retroactively removed). Otherwise, AEW Women’s World Championship had been to restored to prestige it hadn’t seen since the great pandemic reign of Hikaru Shida. However, Jamie Hayter, who still had never won the big one for any major promotion especially since the pandemic cut her hot streak in Stardom short, was hungrier than ever for gold and racked up wins on Dynamite and Rampage to lay down the gauntlet as the undisputed #1 contender.
A faceoff between the champion and the challenger was announced for Full Gear and fans around the world rejoiced. In the build to the match, Hayter and Baker frequently attacked Storm. In addition, video packages for the match revealed that Jamie Hayter and Toni Storm were once the best of friends when climbing up the ranks of the U.K. wrestling scene. Fast forward to November 19, 2022, and they were violent foes finally having a match worthy of their high in-ring caliber. For 15 minutes, these women beat the hell out of each other, showcasing how they became top foreigners during their respective times in Japan. Despite being the heel in the match with several run-ins from Britt Baker and Rebel, fans were on their feet cheering for Jamie Hayter to win the title.
As a person who was in attendance that night, it’s very rare to experience crowd investment in a women’s match as I witnessed with this match. Hayter showed off her incredible strength throughout the match but Storm displayed her incredible heart. She survived Haytbreakers and sliding lariats but after a particularly stiff strike from Hayter that broke her nose, the Hayterade (short-arm lariat) finally put the champion down for the count. Jamie Hayter was finally a world champion and fans everywhere were pleased.
Toni Storm was out of the spotlight for a few months while her face healed from injury and returned with a new attitude. The roles were now reversed with Hayter & Baker as heroic babyfaces and Storm joining Saraya and later Ruby Soho as arrogant heels. Despite how you may feel about The Outcasts’ instincts, it’s no question that Toni Storm continues to be the best pound-for-pound wrestler in the group.
On an episode of Dynamite, Storm revealed the chip she had on her shoulder for carrying around the interim label during her world title reign and for the crowds who continued to cheer Jamie Hayter even though she became champion in a match with multiple heel interferences. It was no surprise when Jamie Hayter vs Toni Storm 3 was announced for Double or Nothing, this time with reversed heel-face dynamics and the AEW Womens World Championship on a new shoulder for this one.
These women have unfinished business with both Hayter and Storm holding one win each in this rivalry. As we’ve continued to see in 2023, women’s wrestling is expanding & growing to new heights and these two have acted as standard bearers for their generation all around the world and now they’ve brought that high standard to AEW. However, when they clash for the third time in Las Vegas, it will be as equals, two kindred spirits who know what it feels like to rule at the top of the mountain as a world champion and will do whatever it takes to stay there or in Storm’s case, get back. If you’re looking for some matches to watch to get properly pumped up for this match, here are some suggestions:
- Stardom X Stardom 2016: Osaka Summer Solstice Celebration – Toni Storm vs Io Shirai for the SWA Undisputed Women’s World Title
- WWE NXT UK Takeover: Blackpool – Toni Storm vs Rhea Ripley for the NXT UK Women’s Championship
- EVE She Slams On Saturdays 3.9.19 – Jamie Hayter vs Britt Baker
- Stardom 9th Anniversary In Osaka (2020) – Jamie Hayter vs Utami Hayashishita for the SWA Undisputed World Women’s Title
- AEW Dynamite 5/11/2022 – Jamie Hayter vs Toni Storm – Owen Hart Women’s Tournament Quarterfinal
- AEW Full Gear 11/19/2022 – Jamie Hayter vs Toni Storm for the AEW Interim Women’s World Title
AEW Double or Nothing takes place on Sunday, May 29, 2023, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Buy-In kicks off at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT and the main card starts at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m PT. Double or Nothing can be purchased on PPV in the United States via BR Live. Tickets are on sale at aewtix.com