Factions in wrestling are typically only successful if there is something special about the group. There is often a buzz about them that secures their popularity, or notoriety. This is something that can be said about the faction known as the Bullet Club.
In 2013, a collection of talent came together and created something very special. It was the brainchild of New Japan Pro Wrestling, but was as much about friends coming together as it was an alliance of wrestlers.
When Was the Bullet Club Formed?
It came about when Fergal 'Prince' Devitt, now known as Finn Balor, turned heel and betrayed his ' Apollo 55' tag team partner Ryusuke Taguchi. It didn't appear to be a premeditated attack by Devitt; or was it? After being unsuccessful in their attempt at capturing the IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team championship, Devitt attacked, but not alone; he was assisted by the returning King Fale, who was not only renamed Bad Luck Fale, but also given the nickname 'The Underboss' as well. Fale had a presence, and this new alliance with other gaijin certainly stood out. With Fale by his side, Devitt was now known as the 'real rock ‘n rolla'.
Taguchi sought retribution, and on May 3rd, 2013 Fale and Devitt defeated Captain New Japan and Ryusuke Taguchi at Wrestling Dontaku 2013. It was also on this day that the group began to grow. After Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Karl Anderson in the singles competition, Devitt and Fale attacked. It at first appeared as though Anderson would come to the aid of Tanahashi, but he proceeded to join the attack.
It was also at this time that Anderson's recent tag team partner, Tama Tonga, joined the trio in the ring. In a post-match interview, this collection of non-Japanese talents revealed they had joined together and would now be known as the Bullet Club. While the stable consisted of four men, it was clear that Devitt would be the one to lead the group. Unlike in most factions where the leader would be a heavyweight, for the Bullet Club the smallest man was the leader.
Growth & Internal Feuds
Now entrenched as leader of this group, Devitt participated in the 2013 Best of the Super Juniors tournament and didn't just win his block, but the entire tournament. It was his last act as a Junior, as the following day Devitt had stated he would join the heavyweights and would become the next IWGP Heavyweight champion.
Image courtesy of King of Sports
It would have been an unprecedented feat to hold both the Junior and Heavyweight championships at the same time. However, with the aid of the other members of Bullet Club Devitt defeated Tanahashi to earn an opportunity to face Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight championship.
While Devitt was gaining notoriety as the leader of the faction, the remaining members had a number of significant feuds that they engaged in as well. They also embraced new, albeit temporary members, such as Terrible and Bucanero who were from the Mexico Bullet Club, as the faction grew in mass and relevance.
It was in Mexico's CMLL where Tama Tonga was building bridges and working alongside the above-mentioned talent, adding to the group's exposure. They were also set to add to their strength, as one of the most notable tag teams in the world joined the group.
The Young Bucks & Further Success
On October 25th 2013 Nick and Matt Jackson, better known as The Young Bucks, not only joined New Japan Pro Wrestling but were introduced as the newest members of Bullet Club, joining at the 2013 Best of the Super Juniors Tag Team Tournament. The brothers Jackson eventually won that tournament, and followed this up by becoming IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team champions for the first time.
With success came challenges, and the group faced the obstacle of having four of its members involved in the 2013 World Tag League. Fale and Devitt wrestled as a team in one block, while Anderson teamed with the recently added Doc Gallows in the other block. In the end, the duo of Anderson and Gallows won the tournament and, in the process, earned an opportunity to compete for the IWGP Tag Team championship at Wrestle Kingdom 8. At that event, they defeated the duo of Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr, the Killer Elite Squad, to become the new champions.
What Caused Devitt’s Departure?
With the faction having either singles or tag team championships in their possession at one point or another, they also went about addressing old issues. Devitt resumed his rivalry with Taguchi, roughly a year after the two men had ended their friendship. They began a series of matches intended to finally bring their issue to an end. At the Invasion Attack 2014 event, it would end for one of these men, as they had a 'loser leaves town' match.
Image Courtesy of NJPW
During the match, there were hints of dissension within the Bullet Club as Devitt told the Young Bucks to refrain from interfering in the match, but they didn't listen. In fact, Devitt was attacked by his teammates. As a result, he was not only unsuccessful in his match, he was forced to leave New Japan Pro Wrestling. In the process, he relinquished his role as leader of the Bullet Club. What would become of Bullet Club after Devitt's departure? Check back next month for part two of the history of the Bullet Club!
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As a wrestling enthusiast for over 30 years, my fondness for professional wrestling explores the irrational in a rational way. I will explore the details inside and outside the ring and hopefully have a laugh with you in the process. I've had the fortune to interview wrestlers from Lucha Underground, TNA, Ring of Honor, GFW, and former WWE talent as well. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and feel free to visit my website Pro Wrestling Post.