“Once you’re Bullet Club, you’re Bullet Club for life” -Adam Cole
Hi folks! It has been a long time coming, but today we begin a series on New Japan’s Bullet Club faction. The aim of this is to educate yourself and I on its history, as Adam Cole and others tease a crossover. It has already taken up regular airtime on Impact Wrestling, so I think it’s a matter of time until we see it on AEW Dynamite.
The pieces are there. To appreciate the gravity of the situation, we need to understand what it means for the future of professional wrestling. Remember the last time we had a group like this on TNT or TBS? It was the New World Order on WCW over two decades ago. It could also affect WWE, if it were to decide to team former BC members together.
With that said, I’m bringing this in four parts because we’ll be looking at the four eras of Bullet Club. The first will touch on its origins while it was led by Prince Devitt, otherwise known to WWE fans as Finn Balor. In the second, we’ll see how AJ Styles & Karl Anderson took the club to another level. The third will cover Kenny Omega’s leadership, as he took the faction to arguably the height of its popularity. To finish, the fourth will show how Jay White kept it going, and what his latest moves could mean for the future.
Also Read: 20 AEW Wrestlers Getting Lost In The Shuffle
#1. Prince Devitt – Founder & 1st Leader (May 3, 2013 – April 6, 2014)
Working in New Japan’s junior heavyweight division wasn’t enough for Prince Devitt. He wanted more after being under a contract with New Japan since 2006. From 2009 to 2013, he formed a tag team with Ryusuke Taguchi as the team Apollo 55, and together they won the IWGP Junior Tag Team titles. After developing a cocky attitude, Devitt turned on Taguchi before revealing his new allegiance with Bad Luck Fale. Not so long after, Karl Anderson and Tama joined Devitt & Fale in beating down Hiroshi Tanahashi, who was the IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
This was the birth of Bullet Club, a villainous gaijin (foreigner) stable looking to take control. The aim was to claim the IWGP Heavyweight title. After beating Tanahashi (who had since lost it) to become #1 contender, Devitt challenged Kazuchika Okada for the championship. It took a while, but he finally got his opportunity on July 20. Despite interference, Devitt did not win the title, making him the only main event Bullet Club leader not to win the biggest prize. Karl Anderson didn’t either, but he was always more of a tag team specialist.
As leader, Devitt expanded the group and remained as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion for fourteen months, before losing it to Kota Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom 8. It was at this event where he began wrestling in full face and body paint, and continued to do so for important matches. Taguchi returned from injury and feuded with Devitt, which became his last program in New Japan. During a match with him, Devitt repeatedly told The Young Bucks not to interfere, which led to them turning on him. He lost to Taguchi, and they shook hands. This was his last match before signing with WWE and joining its NXT brand.
While Prince Devitt is the shortest reigning leader in Bullet Club history, he may be the most important. It wouldn’t have started without him, and the factions’ impact is still felt almost a decade later. There remain fans who would love to see him team up with AJ Styles, along with The Good Brothers when they were still in WWE. They will never forget what got him to where he is, and neither will anyone who owes him for starting a faction which continues to provide for its members.
#2. Bad Luck Fale – Founder & Longest Serving Member (May 3, 2013 – Present)
Nobody epitomizes the Bullet Club lifestyle more than Bad Luck Fale. He is the only member to never leave or be kicked out and is the only founding member to have survived each era. As a big man, he relies mostly on his power moves, and even when he doesn’t have to, taking the easy way out via cheating. His biggest achievement as a singles wrestler is winning the IWGP Intercontinental title, which he did during a dominant era led by Karl Anderson. He has also won the NEVER 6-Man Tag titles three times with different BC members.
What many fans may not know is that Fale is the cousin of Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga and Hikuleo, meaning he’s also related to Haku. He is of Tongan ethnicity and is fluent in Tongan, English and Japanese. Jay White was a student of his wrestling school in New Zealand. He was in a relationship with guest member Pieter, although it’s unknown if this is still the case. His legacy is one of being the glue that keeps Bullet Club together, and he may play this role for life.
#3 & 10. The Good Brothers, Karl Anderson (Founder & Joint 2nd Leader) & Doc Gallows – Anderson from May 3, 2013 to February 20th, 2016 / Gallows from November 11, 2013 to February 20th, 2016 — Both rejoined on February 19, 2022.
Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows are the first to claim a tag team title for Bullet Club, when they defeated Davey Boy Smith Jr & Lance Archer at Wrestle Kingdom 8. Anderson had already proven himself in teams with Hirooki Goto, and more famously Giant Bernard (aka Albert/A-Train), so this wasn’t new territory for him. Yet, it was the beginning of a run which saw Anderson & Gallows pick up several accomplishments:
- World Tag League (2013)
- IWGP Tag Team Championship (3 times)
- NJPW Strong Tag Team Turbulence
- WWE Raw Tag Team Championship (2 times)
- Impact World Tag Team Championship (2 times)
They have travelled the world and remained together through it all. But it’s not just about tag team action for Anderson. After Prince Devitt left for WWE, he took over leadership of Bullet Club in New Japan, while AJ Styles oversaw their activities in Ring of Honor. This became a glorious time, as the faction won all the major titles and reigned supreme. He had some shots at the IWGP Heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada, but fell short each time.
When his leadership with AJ Styles ended, and Kenny Omega took over, the team remained in the Bullet Club. However, WWE came calling for them, much like they had with Prince Devitt and AJ Styles. The offer was enticing enough, and the team left on February 20, 2016. Anderson’s departure meant that two of the four founding members were no longer around, leaving Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga to represent. AJ Styles, Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows paired up again in WWE, this time going by the name “The O.C”, meaning Original Club. It was clearly a lighter version of Bullet Club for PG programming.
Their last WWE booking was in the Boneyard match involving The Undertaker & AJ Styles, which turned out to be Undertaker’s last. Shortly after, WWE released them because of budget cuts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and soon turned up in Impact Wrestling. Later on, The Good Brothers reunited with former BC members Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks in AEW, and implied Bullet Club was back together, which got a response from Tama Tonga on social media.
Bullet Club began appearing on Impact Wrestling, first with Jay White, and later with the Guerrillas of Destiny. During a tag team title match at No Surrender, White helped The Good Brothers to defeat GOD. Turns out that he was bringing The Good Brothers back in to the club, while kicking out GOD, six years (almost to the day) on from when they left for WWE. This is a record for the longest time between runs. It will be interesting to see what follows, because The Good Brothers have close links with Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks.
#4. Tama Tonga – Founder (May 3, 2013 – February 19, 2022)
As one of Bullet Club’s founding and longest serving members, Tama Tonga has done more for it than most. With his brother Tanga Loa, they are the longest reigning non-Japanese, 7-time IWGP Tag Team Champions. Not only that, but they won World Tag League and several 6-man titles. He’s also known for branching Bullet Club out in to Mexico during his run in CMLL, which held together between 2013 to 2015. While Bullet Club was split in two during a civil war, one side was called “The Elite”, and the other “Firing Squad”. Tonga represented the Firing Squad as the true, original version of the faction.
Jay White later took this over, following The Elite’s departure for AEW. This remains a major question for anyone who knows the history of Bullet Club. Was it The Elite who took it to another level by bringing it worldwide? Or will it always be best known as a New Japan faction? Has it lost its way since The Elite departed? Or was it The Elite who took it away from its roots? This is something only Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale could answer as its longest serving members. We could say that The Elite are again having an effect, as Jay White replaces Guerrillas of Destiny with The Good Brothers. The question is, how will other members take the news?
#5. El Terrible – 1st Mexican Member (July 5, 2013 – December 13, 2013)
At the time of recruitment, El Terrible was the CMLL World Heavyweight Champion. After going on a New Japan tour in the core version of Bullet Club, he returned to CMLL and formed a group with Tama Tonga, Rey Bucanero and La Comandante.
Not much is known about their time, but the subgroup Bullet Club Latinoamerica, otherwise known as TRT: La Máquina de la Destrucción (“TRT: The Machine of Destruction”) won many CMLL titles. It was a good way to introduce Bullet Club to the Latino fanbase.
#6. Rey Bucanero – Founded Bullet Club Latinoamerica with El Terrible & Tama Tonga (September 5, 2013 – October 13, 2013)
He is one of the shortest serving members of Bullet Club, before returning to CMLL to form Bullet Club Latinoamerica. Bucanero is a tag team specialist, holding the CMLL World tag titles once with Tama Tonga, and three times with Último Guerrero. He has made rare appearances for WWE, and won TNA’s World X Cup with Team Mexico in 2008.
#7. La Comandante – 1st Female Member (October 11, 2013 – December 13, 2013)
La Comandante made history as the first female member when she joined Bullet Club Latinoamerica as a wrestler and in a managerial role. After struggling to get work early in her career for working too stiff, she dropped a controversial gimmick and became La Comandante. Her accomplishments include twice becoming Reina Tag Team Champion.
#8 & 9. The Young Bucks, Matt & Nick Jackson – 1st Tag Team (October 25, 2013 – October 30, 2018)
One of the more popular and controversial additions to Bullet Club came as its first tag team. With an invitation from Kazuchika Okada (who they befriended in TNA), The Young Bucks made their debut. They represented Bullet Club from the get go, and were heavily featured in main events against Okada’s Chaos stable. This was big for New Japan, because The Young Bucks had become a popular act in America, having won titles in Ring Of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Chikara, and more.
Twice during their time in Bullet Club, the Young Bucks held the IWGP Junior, ROH & PWG Tag Team titles simultaneously. They also remain the only team to have won all of New Japan’s tag titles, including 6-man. While they began under Prince Devitt’s reign, we know them as mainstays during the eras of AJ Styles and Kenny Omega. With the YouTube show “Being The Elite”, along with Kenny Omega, helped to lead The Elite side of Bullet Club. It may be the most successful tag team in Bullet Club history, but also one that didn’t care for loyalty. The Young Bucks have always sided with whoever will bring the group more success.
This first became clear when they took Prince Devitt’s calls not to interfere in his match as weakness. The point of Bullet Club is to use the numbers game, and showing respect to an opponent is heavily frowned upon. This happened again when the group kicked out AJ Styles, just before he signed with WWE. The Young Bucks & Kenny Omega formed The Elite to stick it to NJPW management, because they didn’t really want to be part of Bullet Club, but did so because it made them a lot of money. This eventually created a rift in the faction, over those who claimed to be elite, and those who represented loyalty to its origins.
With this came the departure of The Elite to promote their own shows. Dissatisfied with New Japan’s reluctance to branch out in to America, and Tony Khan showing interest in forming a new promotion, The Young Bucks, Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega and others produced the show All In. It was a tremendous success, which encouraged Tony Khan enough to where they formed All Elite Wrestling, which may not have happened without the buzz created by Bullet Club & The Elite in New Japan. Or if it did? It wouldn’t have been the same.
And this concludes the era of Prince Devitt. There’s much more to cover on the Bullet Club, so please be patient as I work through the other three parts. I should have the era of AJ Styles posted in the next few days. Thanks for reading!
Also Read: Bullet Club for Life: Listing Every Member in the Faction’s History (2/4)
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