Happy 5th Anniversary: The Past, Present and Future of Bullet Club

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Bullet Club
Credit: New Japan Pro Wrestling

On May 3, 2013, five years ago today, at Wrestling Dontaku 2013, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, “The Real Rock N Rolla” Prince Devitt, and his bouncer, “The Underboss” Bad Luck Fale, entered the ring following a match between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Karl Anderson, which Tanahashi had won. The duo attacked Tanahashi and were quickly joined in the assault by Anderson and Tama Tonga. Thus, the Bullet Club was born.

In the five years since Devitt and co. formed the wildly popular all-gaijin stable, Bullet Club has climbed to tremendous heights. Almost 30 men and three women, have been a part of the stable in its history. Five of these men have held the leadership mantle. The Bullet Club has been seen throughout the world, with wrestlers representing the stable in Ring of Honor (U.S.), New Japan Pro Wrestling (Japan), Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (Mexico), and throughout the independent circuit. And while its wrestlers don’t actively wrestle under the Bullet Club banner, even WWE has employed their own versions of the stable with both the Balor Club (Finn Balor, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows) and The Club (AJ Styles, Gallows and Anderson).

Bullet Club has completely transcended likely what anyone especially the four originals, had ever imagined it to be. It has become one of the most well-known and undoubtedly most merchandised stable in the industry. It has survived five years and while its fate is currently uncertain at the moment, there will always be Bullet Club influences throughout the world of professional wrestling. Like the nWo before it, Bullet Club has become much more than the men (and women) who have been a part of it. It’s become symbolic of international expansion that NJPW probably never even dreamed of back on that May 3rd, 2013, when a couple of gaijins (foreigners) got together and formed a faction. Even more importantly, however, it’s become an institution. Because while members may come and go, there is denying that Bullet Club is 4-4-4-4 Life!

The Past

The seeds for Bullet Club had been planted about a month prior to the group’s actual formation when Prince Devitt (2013-14) turned on longtime Apollo 55 tag team partner, Ryusuke Taguchi after the two failed to capture the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Devitt, with the help of Bad Luck Fale (2013-present), attacked Taguchi along with tag team champions, Alex Shelley and Kushida, the Time Splitters. Devitt also unmasked Captain New Japan and was led out by Fale while wearing the man’s mask over his own head.

The reception to Devitt’s turn was so well-received that New Japan decided to ditch plans of just Devitt and Fale being a duo, and instead decided to bring the two together with Karl Anderson (2013-16) and Tama Tonga (2013-present) to form the stable. The name Bullet Club was chosen because of Devitt’s finger gun hand gesture as well as Anderson’s nickname of “Machine Gun.”

Under Devitt’s leadership, Bullet Club began to immediately show dividends for all wrestlers involved. The foursome engaged in their first feud with then-IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Hiroshi Tanahashi, where he and Devitt had several brutal matches among them, including a lumberjack deathmatch. Fellow Bullet Club members, Rey Bucanero (Sept-Oct 2013) and Tonga, also became involved with Tanahashi, when they feuded with him and his partner Jyushin Thunder Liger, for the CMLL World Tag Team Championships. In CMLL, Tonga and Bucanero aligned with CMLL World Heavyweight Champion Terrible (Jul-Dec 2013) and La Comadante (Oct-Dec 2013), who managed their stable of Bullet Club Latinoamerica and who was the group’s first female member, later followed by Amber Gallows (2015-16) and Brandi Rhodes (2016-present).

Back in Japan, the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) (2013-present) joined the stable as the group’s first American tag team, debuting with NJPW as official Bullet Club members at the 2013 Super Jr. Tag Tournament. The two won the tournament and then defeated Suzuki-gun, represented by Taichi and Taka Michinoku, to become junior heavyweight champions. Bullet Club was also represented in the 2013 World Tag League as Devitt and Fale teamed up in addition to Anderson and a new BC member in Doc Gallows (2013-16). Anderson and Gallows won the whole thing and then defeated K.E.S. (Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer) to become IWGP Tag Team Champions at Wrestle Kingdom 8.

Following Invasion Attack 2014, where Devitt turned face and ended his association with Bullet Club as well as NJPW (he was NXT-bound), the club fell into the hands of Anderson, who was a transitional leader. Anderson led the club in Japan while another man who made his debut at Invasion Attack was considered the leader of the new ROH contingent. That man was of course, AJ Styles (2014-16).

With Styles at the helm, Bullet Club grew leaps and bounds and began to experience levels of unprecedented success. Styles, who won the IWGP championship from Kazuchika Okada, just a month after his BC debut which was also Bullet Club’s one year anniversary.  Styles, who became just the fourth American to hold the belt, won thanks to the help of new club member Yujiro Takahashi (2014-present), who turned on Okada and the Chaos stable to join Bullet Club, becoming the formerly all-gaijin group’s first Japanese member.

By the start of July 2014, Styles was still IWGP champion, Gallows and Anderson were still tag team champions, Fale had captured the IWGP Intercontinental Championship and Takahashi was NEVER Openweight Champion. That meant that Bullet Club was simultaneously holding all of the heavyweight titles New Japan had to offer. For a brief shining moment, Bullet Club, which had added new member Jeff Jarrett (2014-15), the only man to be in both Bullet Club and its spiritual predecessor, the nWo, was on top of the world. But the titles began to drop just a few months later and by October 13 at King of Pro-Wrestling, Bullet Club had lost all of its gold save for Anderson and Gallows, who held the tag team titles until January 2015.

Without the gold, Bullet Club turned to new member and soon-to-be third leader, Kenny Omega (2014-present) who joined NJPW in November 2014. Going by the nickname, “The Cleaner” as he was there to clean up the junior heavyweight division, Omega wrestled his first match as an official BC member at Wrestle Kingdom 9 where he became the new junior heavyweight champion. It was at the same event that Gallows and Anderson lost their titles, leaving Omega as the only member of Bullet Club with a belt.

After adding new members in “young boy” Cody Hall (2015-16) and Mephisto (Jan 2015), who joined as part of the relaunched Bullet Club Latinoamerica, Bullet Club once again climbed back to the top of the mountain having its most successful event yet. On February 11, at New Beginning in Osaka, the Young Bucks, Gallows and Anderson, and Styles, all regained their respective titles. Coupled with Omega still being the junior heavyweight champion, that meant that Bullet Club was holding the top titles in singles and tag team wrestling, in both the junior and heavyweight divisions. The titles would bounce around though, especially the tag belts as both the Young Bucks and Gallows and Anderson picked up multiple reigns over the next year-plus.

As the end of 2015 neared, Bullet Club had added another new member in Chase Owens (2015-present), and saw the Young Bucks and Styles represent the stable during CHIKARA‘s 2015 King of Trios tournament where they lost in the finals to Team AAA (Aero Star, Drago and Fenix).

Present

With 2016 came new leadership changes as speculation ran rampant that Styles was finally WWE bound much like Devitt/Balor before him. That speculation was all but confirmed as Styles unsuccessfully challenged Shinsuke Nakamura for his intercontinental championship at Wrestle Kingdom 10 and a day later was kicked out of Bullet Club when Omega assumed leadership (2016-18).

Now leading the stable, Omega and the Young Bucks began to distance themselves from the rest of Bullet Club by creating the sub-group, The Elite. Omega claimed that the departures of Styles, Anderson, and Gallows watered down the club and that when people talked about its success, they were clearly talking about himself and the Bucks. In many ways, Omega was not wrong and thanks to the Bucks, Bullet Club’s merchandising hit an all-time high. The trio sold t-shirts like no one’s business and seemed to keep up with WWE in the number of new designs which were always hitting shelves. They became the first non-WWE group to get a t-shirt deal with Hot Topic, where their shirts have reportedly been the best-selling time and time again. The trio also launched the web series “Being the Elite.”

Elsewhere in Bullet Club, Fale, Takahashi and Tonga were doing their own thing. Tonga joined with new member and real-life brother, Tanga Loa (2016-present) to become the Guerrillas of Destiny. Together, GOD won the tag team championships three times and alongside Fale, are two-time NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions.

Another sub-group formed in 2016 as ROH wrestler Adam Cole (2016-17) was revealed as the newest Bullet Club member at the Global Wars co-promoted event. Cole and the Young Bucks began competing in ROH as the Superkliq. A day later, Adam “Hangman” Page (2016-present) was also added to Bullet Club, bolstering the club’s presence in ROH and in turn, the United States. Also joining Bullet Club in 2016 was King Haku (2016-17), who briefly joined sons, Tonga and Loa in representing the stable.

Over the summer, Omega’s rise to the top began when he won the G1 Climax in his first attempt. Omega was the first non-Japanese wrestler to win the tournament and used that momentum to go on to have three absolutely stunning, classic matches against Okada, the current champion. The feud between these two wrestlers was the underlying story driving Bullet Club and one that saw the first real seeds of dissension being planted.

Following the addition of Bone Soldier (2016-17), Cody (2016-present) was revealed as Bullet Club’s newest member in December, turning heel in the process. He was joined, only briefly, by Frankie Kazarian (Feb-Mar 2017), who allied with Bullet Club in a ruse to help longtime friend and tag team partner Christopher Daniels, capture the ROH World Championship from Cole, in his third reign. Cole, who had begun to show tension with Omega, tried to fire the Young Bucks following the loss. Nothing came of this until Omega turned the tables on Cole, firing him instead and giving his spot to ROH World Television Champion, Marty Scurll (2017-present).

The Bullet Club, once again a cohesive unit, began to bring championships back to the stable as both the Young Bucks and Guerrillas of Destiny captured their sixth and third respective tag team titles at Dominion in June 2017. It was at that same event that Omega had his rematch with Okada, a match that went to a 60-minute draw and received Dave Meltzer’s highest-ever rating of 6.25 stars. The match almost didn’t last that long however as during it, Cody tried to throw in the towel, claiming he was doing it to prevent Omega from getting badly injured.

Future?

The tension between Omega and Cody only grew from there as Omega teased throwing the towel in on Cody when he took on Okada at the G1 Special in the USA in July. The escalating rivalry between ROH’s Bullet Club leader and the overall leader played out both in the ring and on Being the Elite. The web series which began as a vlog where the Bucks and Omega chronicled their travels and the behind-the-scenes side of wrestling in Japan and around the world, turned into a kayfabe avenue where the bitterness and hostility among the faction worsened, seemingly week by week.

Cody’s distaste of Omega was clear as he looked to undermine the inaugural IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion at every turn while also planting seeds of doubt within the group. Despite holding three out of ROH’s four titles by August and new member Hikuleo (2017-present), brother of the Guerrillas of Destiny, joining the stable, it was clear that Bullet Club was indeed not fine, despite claims to the contrary.

Things reached a boiling point at New Year Dash! 2018, as with Cody leading the charge, Bullet Club attempted to attack Kota Ibushi following a 10-man tag team match. Much to the shock of Cody and the audience, Omega stopped the attack, reuniting with his former Golden Lovers partner in the process. After Omega lost his United States championship to Jay White at New Beginning, Cody and Page attacked him, with it being Ibushi’s turn to make the save. This led to a series of matches in ROH and NJPW seeming to split the club down the middle as iterations of Bullet Club were pit against each other throughout both promotions.

The leadership power struggle extended beyond just the cast of Being the Elite as the other members were dragged into things.  Led by Tonga, the newly named BCOGs refused to take sides, which caused Cody to go after them as well. Consumed by a drive for leadership, Cody attempted to manipulate the members of Bullet Club to get them to turn on not just Omega but each other. The Young Bucks eventually grew wise to this and tried to re-align with Omega by helping him win a match against Cody with control of the club on the line. However, the Bucks mistimed a superkick which allowed Cody to win the match and control of Bullet Club, where he is currently recognized as its fifth leader (2018-present).

Bullet Club continued to crumble as the NEVER Openweight 6-Man titles were on the line.
Credit: New Japan Pro Wrestling

As of today, the five-year anniversary of Bullet Club, the fate of the faction truly hangs in the balance. The in-fighting has created divisions, some of which are unlikely to be repaired. Most recently, in fact it was just a few hours ago, that the BCOGs, represented by the Guerrillas of Destiny and Fale, lost their NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships to a fellow BC trio, of Scurll and the Young Bucks. For the first time in the faction’s history, a title changed hands from one set of members to another. As a result, it was announced that at Wrestling Dontaku Night Two, which is taking place on May 4, for the first-time ever on such a large scale, Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Tonga Loa, Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega) would be facing Bullet Club (Cody, Hangman Page, Marty Scurll, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson).

So at least for today, on its fifth year anniversary, Bullet Club, while in tatters, still exists. Its fate might not be the same come tomorrow.

3 COMMENTS

  1. It will be interesting to see what happens for sure. But Tama did just get to introduce the new Bone Soldier. Plus, at the end of night two, all members of Bullet Club except Cody and Kenny did the too-sweet together after that giant tag team match. So who knows!

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