What started as a group of dastardly foreign baddies defiling the sacred traditions of Japanese wrestling culture is now a group of highly-adored, zeitgeist-grabbing, meta throbbing ultra-tweeners. Bullet Club, it could be argued, are the epitome of the modern wrestling landscape.
Between the strong style V-trigger knees, complete rejection of the WWE machine, and the complete ripping of the curtain of wrestling, the House of Bullets is more than a stable; they are a fashion statement, wrestling movement, and a bridge between the West and East all rolled into one.
But just as they were inspired by the too sweets and black and white motifs, have the Bullet World Order now reached their peak? Has the seemingly unlimited ammo finally run out?
Unfortunately, I don’t keep up with all the storylines of New Japan – which is to my detriment as I do wish to learn more about the history of Naito and Okada, the legend of Takashashi, or the storied career of professional angry-man Minoru Suzuki.
The extent of my knowledge covers the saga of Bullet Club and everything that has involved. This has included the rule of demigod-wrestler Kenny Omega, ascendance of WWE protege Cody (formerly Rhodes), and the emergence of the popular sub-division, The Elite.
When I’m not overhearing the developments of New Japan, I am watching Being The Elite, a YouTube show created and edited by one of the most greatest (depending on who you ask) tag teams ever, The Young Bucks.
Whether it be how ingrained Western storytelling is in my mind, the easy to digest segments, or the way they deliver their own journey, I find Being The Elite the easiest way to keep up with what’s going on with these talented wrestler’s lives and how it is developing.
And from watching the shows, it’s clear to see that things haven’t been right in the Club for a very long time.
Betrayal in Bullet Club is like your body’s respiratory system; natural and nothing new.
Between Finn Balor, AJ Styles, and Adam Cole, many members have fallen victim to a bullet in the back – as recently experienced by Kenny Omega.
What makes this different to a normal backstabbing (backshooting?) is that Omega is such a huge figure in professional wrestling today – he is only one of two “six-star” wrestlers in the world – and he arguably has the most comrades in the stable, notably the Young Bucks and Marty Scrull.
However, that has been the downfall of the Cleaner. He has become so fixed on the development of The Elite (the, the, the, Elite) that he has ignored his duties from leading and protecting the main stable.
This has been addressed by founding member Tama Tonga. In the most recent episode, the Bucks say they have been in Bullet Club “since day one” – and as much as I like the Bucks, that is simply not true. At this stage, Tonga and Bad Luck Fale are the only originals left, and they have all been swept under the surge of new recruits.
The Tama Rebellion was quelled by Omega, and everything seemed fine – enter the American Nightmare.
Like an amalgamation of Ric Flair and Patrick Bateman, Cody in Japan has become a twisted version of his father’s original message. No longer an everyman of the people, Cody is a Lex Luthor-like supervillain, bent on wrestling world domination.
Between this and Omega being revered as a wrestling deity in Japan, and in the end more beloved than Cody, tensions have spilled over to the point of what is looking like the beginnings of a Bullet Club Civil War.
The Cleaner and The American Nightmare are similar in many ways. Both are incredibly passionate about the art of professional wrestling, both are regarded as some of the world’s best, and both have rejected the WWE-saturated machine to carve out a demand to watch different kinds of wrestling.
But where one has spent years in Japan, embracing its culture and way of living, becoming an icon of a brand not known too well in western countries, the other has spent years in the machine, developing under the ‘Sports Entertainment’ umbrella before reaching his breaking point and becoming a modern-day wrestling cowboy of old.
Cody was one of the most lauded debutants of Bullet Club – and that went to his head.
Having become more and more unstable recently, with his bleached blond hair and hooded capes, it was somewhat inevitable that Cody would make a power play to become Club Lord.
Omega himself is no stranger to usurpation, stripping the de facto leadership away from AJ Styles. Cody is following in Omega’s exact same footsteps, but there is something more malicious and more calculating about this however.
Like the Sith Empire, power is constantly tested and tried in the Bullet Club. But this clash is sending ripples across the stable, and battle lines are being clearly drawn.
Cody and Kenny have always seemed to have it in for each other. Between both their respective battles “The Rainmaker” Okada to Omega’s crowning as the very first New Japan US Champion and their very first US-based show.
Omega started as a deceitful turncoat and is now revered as a valuable member of the New Japan roster. Cody was heralded as an underrated star who held the world in his hands when he came into the independents, now he is a crafty knave who believes he is better than the peasants he wrestles.
The roles have been reversed. And with this change comes tension, which breeds conflict, which may result in all-out war between these two figureheads.
The Elite vs Bullet Club
It’s the equivalent of Avengers: Civil War, two teams – both powerful – coming to blows with little chance of surrender on either side.
This all strikes similarities to the nWo split, dividing into nWo Wolfpac and nWo Hollywood. Though in this case I doubt we’ll see a Bullet Omega and Bullet Nightmare as this has been building up for months, and teams are already being decided along the lines of The Elite vs Bullet Club.
These plot points revolve around Omega accidentally pushing The Young Bucks, Marty Scrull ironically acting as the diplomat and voice of reason, Hangman Page being a loyal subject of Cody, and the hitting of the Cross Rhodes by Cody on Omega.
As much as the other members (Bad Luck Fale, Guerillas of Destiny, Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi) may want to say they are not the players of this story, they may be forced into the role of supporting cast, at least, as it is clear the split will be caused by the “kliq”, if you will.
Omega had recently rescued his old tag-team partner and bromantic interest, Kota Ibushi, who together were one of the most popular tag-teams in New Japan.
Plot twist: this rescue was from a beatdown by the rest of the members of Bullet Club.
In turn, Ibushi saved Omega from Rhodes and Page, with Scrull in the background trying to control the situation.
The Ibiushi/Omega reunion culminated in a hug. A hug so emotional it made confetti to rain from the sky.
This leaves several questions as to the state of Omega’s leadership in Bullet Club, the Bullet Club faction itself, and the alliance between Omega and the Elite.
It would be foolish to say this is set in stone, but to evoke a bit of fantasy booking for one minute, here’s how the teams may look:
|The Elite||Bullet Club (Cody’s Reign)||Neutral|
|Kenny Omega||Cody||Chase Owens|
|Kota Ibushi||Hangman Page||Yujiro Takahashi|
|The Young Bucks||Guerrillas of Destiny|
|Marty Scrull||Back Luck Fale|
Although Cody and company will be Bullet Club by name, it won’t be like that in nature. For just over a year, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks have been Bullet Club. Where they may not have always waved the Bullet Club flag, they have been synonymous with the brand. Not down to their loyalty to the cause, but for how popular they have made it.
Cody, despite constantly heightening the peak of what it means to be an independent wrestler, still isn’t as popular as Kenny Omega in Japan, hasn’t achieved a six-star match, and isn’t regarded as the best wrestler in the world today.
And this plays on the well-renowned volatile mind of the previously Un-Dashing one.
Whatever the result may be, there is only going to be one thing that will be truly defeated: the unity and following of Bullet Club.
The Empty Chamber
It is clear to see Bullet Club is slowly falling apart. From the tweets, Being The Elite videos, to New Japan and Ring of Honor, what was once there is now evaporating.
Bullet Club has been a modern-wrestling legend for the best part of five years. Evolving, adapting, changing, and recruiting to something that has become more than just a wrestling stable – all away from the Sauron-like gaze of Stamford, Connecticut.
But to use a forced cliché, all good things must come to an end. Bullet Club has not been a group of heroes.
Members include a demon, a machine gun wielding maniac, a cleaner, a villain, guerrillas, a phenomenon, a pimp, underboss, hangman, and nightmare.
They are the rogues who you can’t help but root for, bandits that who you know are bad, but just look so good doing it. Cowboys in a Western.
And like any Western, the sun must set, and the Bullets must run out.