The Bullet Club. Just the name alone is enough to stir the passions of any pro-wrestling fan. Formed in 2013 by Prince Devitt and Bad Luck Fale after the future Finn Balor turned on his tag partner Ryusuke Taguchi, what was initially rumoured to be the birth of a new duo in NJPW quickly morphed into a foursome with the additions of Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga, setting in motion a juggernaut of epic proportions that would see some of the hottest foreign talents team up to wreak havoc on a style of wrestling that wasn’t used to North American tropes, such as blatantly cheating to win and mob-handed beatdowns. The Bullet Club became such a massive success that it helped to make global stars of wrestlers that may not have caught on with fans only interested in the WWE, as well as laying down the roots for what would eventually become AEW. Let’s face it, at one point The Bullet Club was the hottest ticket in town.
Lately, however, I’m not so sure that the same could still be said. There seems to be something not quite right with the faction and they don’t seem to have the same impact as they used to. This leads me to question if The Bullet Club has lost its way?
Right, before we get into this and you all start sharpening your pitchforks and lighting your torches, I should explain a couple of things. First off, I’m a huge fan of The Bullet Club and rep their merch with pride every time I put it on. Secondly, this in no way reflects on any of the wrestlers—past or present—that have donned the black and white skull and guns as I honestly don’t think there’s been a single member that’s not been able to hold their own in the ring and then some. No, what this is about is that I genuinely don’t think anyone involved with the faction currently needs to be.
For example, would Chase Owens and Bad Luck Fale be any less of a great tag team if they didn’t have the BC moniker attached to their graphics and on their ring gear? Of course they wouldn’t. Would Jay White be less worthy of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship if he wasn’t the de facto “leader” of the organization? Again, the answer is no.
When the Bullet Club first formed nearly a decade ago its main purpose was to bring a group of outsiders—wrestlers who weren’t native to Japan—under one banner where they could get up to all kinds of dodgy shenanigans that Japanese wrestling fans just weren’t used to. And it succeeded in that better than anyone could’ve expected. In fact, it was such a roaring success that—as I said in the intro to this piece—it made megastars of nearly everyone that came to embrace The Bullet Club banner. It served a purpose, but that purpose has since been and gone.
Wrestling fans around the world are a lot more tuned in to what is happening in other countries and other promotions now, more than they’ve ever been. It’s not like back in my day when you got what you could, where you could, usually on a 13th-generation hand-me-down VHS tape. Christ, all you need to do is jump on YouTube and type in any obscure wrestler you can think of and 8 will get you 10 that there’s at least one video of them on there.
Look, I’m not saying that 9 years ago people were still unaware of the internet as that’d be f*cking stupid, but there were still sections of wrestling fandom that either didn’t want to acknowledge the existence of anything outside of what they’d chosen to get behind, or didn’t have the time to hunt it all down. But with the emergence of The Bullet Club and the stars it was producing, people started to sit up and pay more attention than they had been.
Nowadays there are so many Forbidden Doors kicked open that wherever and whenever a member of BC shows up, the crowds in attendance are savvy enough to know who they are and what they can do, and usually tear the roof of the place in acknowledgement of whoever it is that’s stepped through the curtain. This makes me feel that The Bullet Club moniker should be put out to pasture before it becomes an over-bloated parody of The nWo. And considering that they’re already clocking in at about 17 members at the time of writing, they’re not that far away from it.
But will it? Or will I be back here in about 10 years’ time writing the exact same article with just a few name updates? If I had to put money on it, I’d say that it’s going to be the latter. The reason for this is two-fold. To start with, if you’ve ever played the brilliant Fire Pro Wrestling games, you’ll know that you never break up a faction. It’s frowned upon by Japanese wrestling fans and can see a promotion take a big hit financially for doing so. And while I’m on the subject of filthy, filthy money, The Bullet Club still shifts warehouse loads of merch each month and there is no way that NJPW is going to shoot the golden calf.
So, has The Bullet Club lost its way? Perhaps a better explanation of it is that The Bullet Club has just mutated into a different monster, one that is fed solely on the money that it brings into NJPW and one that is always hungry. The wrestlers involved don’t need the BC brand outside of shifting shirts, meaning the only people who can take it out behind the woodshed old yella style is NJPW themselves. And we’ve got more chance of Kenny Omega and Jim Cornette going out for a five-course meal than we have of that ever happening.