Australian WWE superstar Toni Storm has the world at her feet, now a major drawcard in the wrestling industry, she admits being snubbed at an early age was the best thing that ever happened.
Following a lengthy journey of wrestling overseas before spending four years perfecting her craft on WWE's developmental brand, NXT, New Zealand-born Storm was finally given her shot on one of the industry's biggest brands - SmackDown.
Storm, 25, was handed her SmackDown debut just last month and made headlines around the wrestling world by defeating Zelina Vega.
Joining what's recently become a long list of Aussies to appear on WWE SmackDown - a list that includes Daniel Vidot, Buddy Murphy, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay - Storm admits it took her a while to come to terms with the promotion in her career.
"To be honest, I didn't believe it for so long," Storm told Wide World of Sports.
"I was so excited and it felt like an out-of-body experience and then I walked around like nothing had happened... it was weird.
"It's starting to sink in now and I'm at a whole different level of focus and I'm ready to get into it.
Storm revealed she was given the nod to move from NXT to SmackDown after a number of "dark matches" before the live weekly tapings of SmackDown.
'Dark matches' are essential warm-up fixtures, which don't go to air and are typically only seen by those in attendance.
"I did a few dark matches before the shows in the weeks leading up [to the SmackDown debut] and I didn't think too much of it, I didn't know if this meant if they were interested. I didn't know if anything would happen," Storm said.
"After a while, I had (WWE talent executive) John Laurinaitis call me in and told me I would be moved up. It was an excellent moment.
"It's a huge honour [to be moved up], but also a lot of pressure.
"But for me, I enjoy the pressure and really getting into it and putting my head down and stuck in.
"It's exciting, it's been a rollercoaster ever since."
Opening up on her WWE journey, Storm admits she's thankful the iconic wrestling company snubbed her seven years ago when she was a teenager competing for a spot at a try-out event.
"It was in Melbourne (2014). I just turned 18, I did an intense two-day Melbourne try-out and obviously didn't get signed from that," she said.
"But it was good because I was far too young and I wasn't ready at the time.
"I still had a lot to do, a long way to go and I needed to develop more as a person and not so much as a wrestler. I was a crazy 18-year-old, I needed to get some partying done like a human, I needed to get some life.
"But as I went through those years, I stayed wrestling, I kept training and travelled the world. I learnt from as many different places as I could, and I had fun doing it."
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After not being signed at 18, Storm, who grew up in Australia after moving from New Zealand at the age of four, then headed overseas.
The performer spent the next four years travelling around the world, stopping in Japan and the United Kingdom where she wrestled on independent promotions to learn more about the industry.
"[Not getting signed at 18] I got to see what it was really like, I got to see what I needed to do to be good enough," Storm revealed.
"It set the tone of what would be expected of me If I was to be signed.
"So, I went away and just learnt from whoever I could. I would seek advice from anyone who had been there or trained there. I learnt the ins and outs and I kept grinding, working hard and getting that experience.
"You don't want to go in unprepared, so I made sure I got the best training that was available."
Then, in 2017 while working with British independent wrestling organisation 'Progress', Storm was noticed by the WWE.
The 'Progress' promotion was performing at Axxess - A WWE hosted event for fans in the lead-up to WrestleMania, which gives attendees access to watch independent brands perform, along with meet and greet opportunities.
"I was working for Progress in the United Kingdon and they were doing WWE Axxess before WrestleMania, and I got go and be on Axxess with them as a member of the Progress team, and that was where they (WWE) got their first look [at me]," she said.
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