Find Part 1 of our ‘What is the Bullet Club?’ series here.
During Prince Devitt's leadership, the Bullet Club was laying the foundation of what was still to come. With his departure for WWE imminent, the group was approaching a period of transition, with Karl Anderson as interim leader. But they virtually immediately welcomed a new gaijin into the fold, an addition that would take the faction from being great to becoming phenomenal.
The Rise of A.J Styles
In the early part of 2014, during the NJPW Invasion Attack event, A.J Styles made his debut for NJPW, and it was also at this event where Styles also became the newest member of the Bullet Club faction. His debut was a memorable one, as he attacked an unsuspecting IWGP Heavyweight champion, Kazuchika Okada. Styles suggested that Okada was nothing more than the 'young boy' that he knew during their time in TNA Impact Wrestling years earlier. The statement Styles made was all in an effort to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight championship.
Styles' role and position within the faction continued to grow. While he never outright claimed to be the leader as such, that was a statement that others made about his role within the group. Styles felt the group governed themselves rather than needing someone to lead them per se. In the follow-up to his challenge to Okada, Styles beat the champion at Wrestling Dontaku 2014 and became the new IWGP Heavyweight champion. This came about due to the aid of Yujiro Takahashi, who betrayed Okada's CHAOS faction and joined the Bullet Club, becoming the first Japanese wrestler to be a part of the group.
A New Direction
In the wake of this, the group had a new feel about them as they held all of the major championships within NJPW. As the group continued to grow in popularity, they also took part in a cross-promotional event with American promotion Ring of Honor. They also experienced some mixed results; while the Young Bucks lost their IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag team and Ring of Honor World Tag Team championships. Takahashi and Bad Luck Fale captured the Never Openweight championship and IWGP Intercontinental championship respectively. The group could still claim to have held every championship within the promotion within a short period of time, even if not concurrently. The distinction was quite remarkable.
More than half of the faction's members took part in the 2014 G1 Climax tournament. Styles and Okada once again faced each other, and the result was rather unfavorable for the Phenomenal One. He lost their match, contributing to his second-place finish in their block. The group's growth would see the additions of temporary members; former WWE Intercontinental and TNA world champion Jeff Jarrett joined the group and helped when they collectively beat down Hiroshi Tanahashi. Styles' reign as IWGP Heavyweight champion would come to an end in the fall of 2014 when Tanahashi would defeat him to capture title for a third time.
The Introduction of Kenny Omega
It was at that same time that seeds began to be planted for what would later come to fruition. Kenny Omega joined the group around that same time after he had initially rejected suggestions that he would join. He didn't see himself as gaijin, as he had been a part of the company for nearly half a dozen years, and despite being Canadian, Omega had embraced the Japanese culture, seeing himself as a fellow countryman more than anything else.
Image courtesy of ChrisJerichoCruise.com
Or at least, this was what he led many to believe, as his rather humble nature was nothing more than a ruse. He revealed he wanted to exploit the company for its money. This was furthered along with his newfound refusal to speak Japanese and only communicate in his native English. Omega now referred to himself as 'The Cleaner,' which had a double meaning: one is that he planned on cleaning up the rest of Junior Heavyweight challengers, and the other being that a cleaner is someone that removes the dead bodies left after a murder.
During this time, the remaining members of the Bullet Club were active members in the 2014 World Tag League, including the team of Yujiro Takahashi and AJ Styles competing in block A, and the teams of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale competing in block B. Though none of the three teams won the tournament, Gallows and Anderson did have the distinction of advancing to the finals.
Emerging Success – and a Shock Decision
With a new year came change and evolution within the group. Following Wrestle Kingdom 9, the Bullet Club brought in a second-generation talent who was as impressive in stature, as his father was. Cody Hall, the son of WWE Hall of Famer Scott Hall, was granted the distinction of being a 'young boy' within the group. The title meant he was to be used as an understudy and learn from those around him during this time. As the group grew in popularity so did their international ties and growth. In January 2015, Bullet Club Latin America would be created in what would be a cross-promotional excursion between Mexican promotion CMLL and NJPW.
The year saw its ups and downs, however. Championships were both won and lost by the group members. One team that never rested on their laurels during this time was The Young Bucks. Their popularity grew regardless of whether or not they were winning championships. Fans continued to show their admiration for the duo and fans would flock to see them, showing their support for the Bullet Club in the process. Later that year Chase Owens would be added to the group, bringing the total number of members to 10. It appeared as though everything was as it should have been for the group with their increase in notoriety, success, and merchandise sales.
However, things were about to change. The faction would soon make a decision to go in a different direction moving forward. There would be an act of treason, and someone would take over the role of leader within the group. Who would that be? Check back next month to find out!
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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.