"Bullet Club is done."
That train's never late. It happens about once a year at this point. Is it finally true?
Bullet Club has been a force in wrestling since 2014, and has extended so far beyond being a modern day New World Order/D-Generation X clone or hybrid. They've become something much more, and even much less.
The group in all iterations have been merchandise monsters for over five years. That's longer than the nWo. It's longer than D-Generation X. They've spawned huge events in American that raked in millions of dollars or revenue. The tag of Bullet Club has opened up opportunities for many to step up and even outshine the stable they belong to.
Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks duo of Nick Jackson and Matt Jackson wisely owned the name "The Elite," and have branded it accordingly. "The Villain Club" is more of a playful moniker, but one synonymous with Marty Scurll. The "Golden Elite" became one of the hottest merch sellers on Pro Wrestling Tees this year. This can't be on accident, as we've heard from former members of Bullet Club how little money they typically saw out of the sales of their mega-popular shirts.
When Prince Devitt was rechristened Finn Balor, many expected Bullet Club to fade away. Instead, AJ Styles became the leader and was at the forefront for the next 21 months until heading to WWE. Several pundits wondered aloud if Kenny Omega could really be "the guy" to lead Bullet Club. He was, and took them to heights they'd never reached. But if you'd listen to longtime members, he took them to lows they'd never reached as well.
Bad Luck Fale and Tama Tonga are the only members to remain in Bullet Club from its original incarnation to its current iteration. This made the in-fighting between Cody and Kenny Omega all more interesting, as so much of it was done to gain the allegiance of members of the stable. Anyone who has watched Fale or Tonga in or out of the ring know that just because they were silent about the situation, doesn't mean they were without opinion or plan.
Fale, in particular said that the leadership of Kenny Omega fractured the group, even though he understands why.
That’s why the Bullet Club worked, because nobody pegged themselves as ‘I’m the leader, I’m the leader’. Because when you become like that, it becomes about the one guy and not the group. So to AJ’s credit he never called himself the leader. That way we were all on the same level. So if someone had a push, everybody supported them. Everybody would be there to say ‘this guy’s the best wrestler in the world’, and we could all rely on the same support."
"That’s why is to us as the OGs, it all fell apart when Kenny (Omega) took the helm. (The Elite) took it somewhere else and it felt like we weren’t part of the narrative anymore. It was so different to what we had started.
"I don’t blame Kenny," stated Fale "He’s used to focusing on himself, and he took things in a direction that he believed was right. At the same time though, it went against what we had been building for years. It felt like what we had wasn’t there anymore. That brotherhood wasn’t there anymore."
It's hard to decipher how much of what Tama Tonga says is real and how much is work. He wears his heart on his sleeve, which is what makes the experience of watching him so intriguing. How much of this does he really mean?
“There is only one Bullet Club, and we’re fighting for it,” Tonga told Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated. “This ignited in San Fran, and we’re at war for Bullet Club. This is where we’re at, it’s the North vs. the South fighting for the United States. You have their side—the ROH side—against the Japan side of me, [Bad Luck] Fale, and [Tanga] Loa. Bullet Club was born in New Japan, but the Young Bucks ain’t signed in New Japan. Cody ain’t signed in New Japan. Adam Page and Marty Scurll ain’t signed with New Japan. From my understanding, a lot of them are becoming free agents at the end of this year. So, let’s see, who really is Bullet Club?”
Thus far, Bullet Club's formula has been being led by Super Juniors or former Super Juniors, in most cases who can work circles around most other wrestlers in the world. With the explosion of All In, you have Cody, Hangman Page, Marty Scurll and The Young Bucks with higher profiles than almost any of the new "Firing Squad" gang, also known as BCOG's, and only a newly returning Ishimori somewhat fitting that role, but unable to connect with North American fans in the way others can.
This was by design. The Tongans lurked in the shadows, almost allowing the Elite to take center stage and the spotlight. Tama Tonga seemed poised to make an adjustment one way or another -- on his time. That's been done, as we saw in San Francisco. As things stand, Tonga, Hikuleo, Tonga Loa, Fale and Taiji Ishimori sit on one side of things, Omega, Cody, Scurll, Hangman Page, The Young Bucks, Chase Owens and Takahashi on the other. To American fans, this could seem lopsided, as the latter are clearly the higher profile.
Tama Tonga doesn't care. “We are expanding and enlisting,” said Tonga. “Inside of Japan, outside, everywhere, this is real. I have been given the green light to recruit, and that is not a storyline. That is real. Inside New Japan, America, the U.K., anywhere in Europe, Africa, India. I’m looking for talent.”
Neville is the most blatant name out there, who fits the profile of former "leaders"-- but the BCOG don't seem interested in having anyone adopt that role. There are also some intriguing figures like Punishment Martinez, Pentagon and others who could provide something completely different than the Bullet Club norm.
If this is eerily reminiscent of the NWO Wolfpack/Hollywood/Black and White/B-team split, that's okay. It is similar, but hopefully with a much more satisfying conclusion. And much like many of the people involved in that angle, I'm not sure that Cody, The Bucks and Omega "need" Bullet Club's tag since they have the elite. As far as Tonga and Fale, maybe they don't "need" it either, but it's theirs to defend.