In January 2016, at the annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view event, WWE finally gave fans a moment they’ve eagerly awaited for many years: the debut of "The Phenomenal” AJ Styles. It was a surreal moment because WWE has made it almost taboo to recognize that any pro wrestling outside their bubble exists, but there was absolutely no way to pass Styles off as an “up and coming” performer. The entire wrestling world knew AJ Styles, as he’s one of the most popular grapplers in the world. WWE acknowledged that by referring to him as a seasoned, world-traveled megastar.
A few months later, a couple of guys named Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson made a forceful WWE debut when they attacked Jimmy and Jey Uso on Raw and aligned themselves with AJ Styles. The group started calling themselves “The Club,” and the hardcore wrestling fans were celebrating the arrival of something great. The casual fans, however, may have felt left in the dark. If a fan doesn’t keep up with wrestling outside WWE, they probably have no idea that there was a pre-existing connection between Styles, Anderson and Gallows. But there is and it goes so much deeper than it may appear.
The truth is that The Club has its roots in Japan under the umbrella of perhaps the second biggest wrestling organization in the world, New Japan Pro Wrestling. Many of WWE’s newer wrestlers have worked extensively in Japan before coming to America to work for Vince McMahon and their pasts are forgotten on WWE television. The Club, however, is setting a new standard. Let’s delve into The Club’s past and examine some things you may not know about the stable that began as the “Bullet Club.”
15 Finn Balor Was The Original Leader
Finn Balor became an overnight sensation in NXT when he debuted in 2014. His "Demon" body paint makes him incredibly marketable, especially to children in the form of action figures and other merchandise. He’s got an interactive entrance that makes for stunning television and he rarely has a match that isn’t completely breathtaking. Finn Balor is easily one of WWE’s most valuable talents in years.
14 Finn Balor Named The Bullet Club
Not only did Finn Balor serve as the original head of The Bullet Club, he was also responsible for naming it. The original faction consisted of Balor (known as Prince Devitt), Karl Anderson, and two Tongan professional wrestlers known as Bad Luck Fale and Tama Tonga. Balor and Anderson had something in common which Balor decided to use as inspiration in naming their newfound alliance.
13 Bullet Club Was Made Up of Foreigners
As noted, The Club got its start in New Japan Pro Wrestling as the Bullet Club. The stable took formation after Finn Balor turned on his partner Ryusuke Taguchi, turning heel in the process, and aligned himself with American wrestler Karl Anderson and Tongan wrestlers Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale. Originally, Balor was to only be associated with Bad Luck Fale, but plans were changed and the other members were added to the equation.
12 Versions Still Exist In NJPW And ROH
Much has been made of WWE’s use of the term, “The Club,” for AJ Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson as opposed to using the “Bullet Club” moniker under which they became world famous. WWE’s always been known for skating around names in order to land on something they can secure a copyright on. It’s how Bullet Club’s former leader, Prince Devitt, became Finn Balor. The company seems to be easing up on that practice lately with new signees Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode and Austin Aries all holding on to the names that made them famous on the independent scene.
11 The Young Bucks Are Members
WWE’s tag team division is the strongest and fullest it has been many years. With The New Day dominating as WWE Tag Team Champions for almost an entire year now and new challengers filing in like The Vaudevillains, Enzo Amore and Big Cass, and The Club itself, it’s an exciting time to be a fan of tag team wrestling. But there are still some teams among the indies that WWE hasn’t yet seen fit to sign to NXT deals and perhaps the most popular among them are Nick and Matt Jackson.
10 The Club Has Connections to Kevin Owens
Whether you refer to them as The Club or Bullet Club, the group has gone through a lot of changes. There has been a slew a new members since the original four, with many members eventually leaving (most of whom have wound up in WWE). But then there are those wrestlers who have become so notorious for feuding and occasionally teaming with the members of the Bullet Club that they are often spoken of in the same breath.
9 Karl Anderson Was Once the Leader Of The Bullet Club
Currently, the vast majority of pro wrestling fans probably know The Club in its current state with Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and their leader AJ Styles. As previously mentioned, upon the inception of the Bullet Club in 2013, the original leader of the group was Prince Devitt, now known as Finn Balor. But when Finn left New Japan Pro Wrestling to come to WWE’s NXT, the faction needed a new leader, at least until AJ Styles would arrive and eventually take over the role himself.
8 AJ Styles And Finn Balor Never Crossed Paths
As can be seen on WWE television currently, AJ Styles is the leader of The Club and there have been references on more than one occasion to the trio’s past in Japan’s NJPW. Hardcore wrestling fans already know this very well, along with the fact that Finn Balor used to lead the group as Prince Devitt before coming to NXT two years ago, something even the casual fans may have gotten wind of if they’ve followed Balor’s NXT career closely.
7 Connection To The Anoa’i Dynasty
The Bullet Club was created three years ago and has included around fifteen members at one point or another. And, as you know, it would seem that one out of every three professional wrestlers has some sort of tie to the Samoan wrestling family known affectionately as the Anoa’i dynasty, so there was bound to be a connection within the Bullet Club.
6 Anderson And Gallows Have Been Tag Team Champions
We’ve seen Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson chase the WWE Tag Team Championship already in the brief time since their WWE debut. First feuding with former Champions Jimmy and Jey Uso, Anderson and Gallows quickly moved on to newer rivals in WWE Tag Team Champions The New Day, and though The Club has yet to win the gold, fans know it’s only a matter of time as they’ve quickly been established as one of the top teams in the company.
5 Luke Gallows Was Festus And Imposter Kane
Luke Gallows joined New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2013, debuting as a member of the Bullet Club alongside his new tag team partner Karl Anderson. The team would go on to great success, but this was not the first rodeo for the big guy. Known as Doc Gallows in NJPW, he was coming off a varied wrestling career which included a role as D.O.C. in TNA’s Aces & Eights faction and, before that, wrestling in WWE as a part of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society under the name he uses now, Luke Gallows.
4 Bullet Club Has Hall Of Fame Connections
Bullet Club’s influence on the pro wrestling industry has been great. Not only have they broken into the fortress of WWE and changed the way that company acknowledges the independent wrestling scene, but they’re one of the longest running wrestling stables in recent memory. Even The Shield, perhaps the most famously known wrestling faction to come along in recent years, only survived around a year and a half before they were split up. The Club’s appeal stretches far and has attracted the attention of wrestling legends from around the world.
3 “Too Sweet” Hand Gesture Pays Homage to nWo
The edgy mentality of the villainous Bullet Club is not the only thing that makes them so iconic. They’ve taken over the independent wrestling scene with their evolving roster of members, but one thing that identifies a wrestler as a member of the Bullet Club is a hand gesture you’re probably pretty familiar with. The “too sweet” hand gesture is used by members of the faction to signify their unity, but it originated long before The Club came into existence.
2 AJ Styles Has Wrestled Everywhere
When AJ Styles debuted with WWE at the 2016 Royal Rumble, he had the entire wrestling world talking. Even the most casual of wrestling fans that only ever follow WWE knew of the name AJ Styles and that he was a hot commodity; the WWE Universe had been begging the wrestling giant to sign him for many years. Some of those fans might even be vaguely aware of his success in TNA over the past decade, but few know just how world traveled Styles really is.
1 Kenny Omega Is The Current Leader Of The Bullet Club
Prince Devitt led the Bullet Club in its debut year in 2013, but the following year was signed to NXT and Karl Anderson took over the leadership role. After a time, AJ Styles took the lead until he, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows were all brought to WWE. In need of a new leader, the Bullet Club turned to indie sensation Kenny Omega to assume the helm.
Kenny Omega became the leader of the Bullet Club in NJPW in 2016, but he’s been making waves on the independent wrestling scene for years. He has found some success in Ring of Honor and been closely associated with fellow Bullet Club members The Young Bucks, but in New Japan Pro Wrestling Omega has really flourished. Omega is a former IWGP Intercontinental Champion and one of the biggest international stars yet to be signed by WWE, although Omega has stated that WWE has shown interest in him several times.
Could Kenny Omega be the next Bullet Club star signed to NXT?
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