The Club: Back in Business at Last

Last week on RAW, wrestling fans were reminded of a quite defining visual. Luke Gallows, Karl Anderson and AJ Styles, a reunited trio that three years ago, stood central within the wrestling landscape. Along with Shinsuke Nakamura, all three famously exited NJPW after Wrestle Kingdom 10, ending an era in stunning fashion and completing a transcendent chapter within the Bullet Club’s tale. Anderson was a founding member and Gallows not far behind him while for almost two years, Styles had been the faction’s ace, a gaijin standout that quite obviously belonged among the industry’s elite.

Those days were now over though, with the trio leaving the group behind as they headed for an anticipated stint with WWE. Styles unforgettably arrived first, making an iconic Royal Rumble debut and making his own impact until Gallows and Anderson debuted just over two months later. They entered in fitting fashion, appearing as an outside threat and whether he liked it or not, swiftly standing alongside Styles. Though some questioned elements of the execution, the premise itself was perfect. Effectively, ‘The Club’ was standing opposite Roman Reigns and The Usos, an intriguing clash to say the least.

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Styles soon accepted their assistance too and as villainous rogues, the band was officially back together. Their next foe somehow got grander as well, targeting John Cena for a pivotal piece of Styles’ astonishing WWE ascension. The trio looked at home, increasingly comfortable on the main roster stage as their chemistry only accelerated the transition. However that reunion would be short-lived, with the brand split’s re-implementation surprisingly taking Styles away from his familiar good brothers. The trio felt as though they were just getting started in WWE but in an instant, they’d now be separate entities.

On SmackDown Live, Styles was immediately a central figure, swiftly becoming WWE Champion and establishing himself as a key part of the brand’s fabric. His journey has rightly been well-documented, a staggering success story entrenched in persistence, conviction and most of all, excellence. One of his generation’s finest performers, Styles had now answered the final question skeptics could ponder. Not only was he viable within WWE, he was actually one of their greatest assets. In the meantime, Gallows and Anderson experienced some success of their own, even if in admittedly muted fashion by comparison.

Though obviously not as pivotal to RAW as Styles was to SmackDown, ‘The Good Brothers’ certainly remained a major element of their tag team division, eventually winning the titles in January 2017. The feat was validating in itself for the charismatic tandem, each taking different routes to that very point. For Gallows, this appeared to almost be a redemption of sorts. A decade after his first foray onto the main roster, he’d now finally claimed WWE gold. Ironically, Gallows’ greatest career success came as himself, no longer hampered by the outlandish presentations plotted by others.

In addition, Anderson finally had something to show for his decision to sign with WWE. Though their handling had drew criticism from some, Anderson’s glittering tag team resume had now extended once more. For years, Anderson had been one of the industry’s most reliable performers, a trusty foundation that NJPW could build almost anything upon. In Bullet Club, Anderson was the glue, often acting as the group’s spokesperson and keeping the faction’s initial ethos flowing throughout. Anderson never required much spotlight to shine but proved himself as a headliner nonetheless, having memorable showings against some of NJPW’s greatest stars.

Anderson’s decision to depart the promotion was in truth, quite daring. He was leaving behind an incredibly secure position, starting fresh after amassing immense respect and appreciation during his eight years in NJPW. He was now RAW Tag Team Champion though and while things may not have been perfect, Anderson remained alongside Gallows and once again, they had gold around their waists. In truth, the tandem’s WWE stint peaked at that point, with their usage steadily declining since. Physically, both men appeared in the best condition of their careers but on television at least, appeared sporadically rather than consistently.

That developing trend resulted in unsurprising reports soon emerging. It appeared that Gallows and Anderson wouldn’t be signing new contracts and instead, their days in WWE looked numbered. In contrast, Styles stature had never felt grander, an almost unparalleled figure in the main event scene. That’s not to say that Gallows and Anderson had failed either, it was just hard not to consider their stint to have been anything but a somewhat missed opportunity. They’d arrived amid such excitement and speculation, showing promise alongside Styles only for their eventual impact to feel unfortunately minimized.

As of late though, it became clear that maybe just maybe, this chapter wasn’t yet complete. It appeared likely that Gallows and Anderson would quietly bid farewell, appearing rarely until their contracts were complete. That wouldn’t be the case after all though, with things as usual, changing rather swiftly. In an unexpected backstage segment, Styles reunited with Gallows and Anderson, asking the duo to reignite the fire that had followed them to WWE. On-screen, this almost provided a conclusion to their recent aimlessness, providing the opportunity for at long last, a fresh start.

Interestingly, that opening appeared in the form of a replay. Three years ago, AJ Styles was separated from Gallows and Anderson and in history, their famed allegiance had been muted more than maximized. That could now change though, with the timing suddenly appearing perfect for a genuine revival. Perhaps this once incredibly anticipated alliance could form again, righting the wrongs that situation and circumstance caused in 2016. Those hopes came to fruition on Monday, as Styles reignited his own vicious, spiteful fire and once again, stood united with Gallows and Anderson.

That image almost served as a reminder of what could’ve been but more importantly, a reiteration of what still could be. As far as mystery and intrigue, this may not be the story it once was but as pieces of talent, these three men remain the same. Their history and chemistry, well that’s simply impossible to erase. As a tag team, Gallows and Anderson can be a wonderful piece of the puzzle and as singles star, AJ Styles’ importance can’t be overstated. As a trio though, these three men can virtually anchor the RAW brand.

Considering everything that’s happened since, the Bullet Club story is a truly fascinating one. However, it can never be told without these three names. Not only due to their work in NJPW either, but also because of the buzz and excitement that surrounded their WWE transition. That particular moment is now lost in time, an exciting spark that unfortunately, was unable to expand far beyond that. Three years later though, those same three men stand side by side. It’s hard to predict what the future holds but after Monday night, one thing appears clear: this story isn’t quite complete yet after all.

Instead, The Club is back in business and frankly, everyone is better off for it too.

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