They are popping up everywhere. These black T-shirts with pictures and writing in a white font saying “Bullet Club” on them. So what the heck is “The Bullet Club”? Is it a clothing line? A reference to a TV show? Some musical act? It’s none of those. It’s the wrestling business.
The Bullet Club comes from the world of puroresu or Japanese based pro wrestling. More specifically it is the creation of the company New Japan Pro Wrestling. NJPW, as it is called for short, is the biggest wrestling company in Japan right now and the second biggest wrestling company in the world just behind WWE. NJPW is also trying to expand its reach, specifically in the United States. They have a weekly clip show on AXS TV, hold a live show in the US every year, and are planning to open a training dojo located in California.
The company started in 1972 by big-time Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki and now is owned by Bushiroad, a Japanese trading card and entertainment company. NJPW pulled itself from near bankruptcy in the early 2000’s to emerge as a major powerhouse in not only the wrestling business but in popular culture as well. Trying to rival the American WWE with a focus on more realism, athletic ability, and the factions. NJPW divides almost all of its roster into groups.
There is the CHAOS faction whitch is born out of a tough guy/strong style type of wrestling, Los Ingobernables de Japon who are more the obstinent youthful group who buck authority, Taguchi Japan, named for Ryusuke Taguchi that is like a comedy good guy group based around being a baseball team, The trainees, and the older wrestlers who are used to train them (sometimes called the “Tokyo Dads”) and the Bullet Club who are a group of bad guys and mostly money hungry foreigners who are obsessed with selling merchndice. They use old catchphrases and hand signals from the 1990’s from the WCW created group The NWO to sell T-shirts.
And while The Bullet Club was invented by whatever brain trust that runs NJPW, on screen the group got its start from Prince Devitt, who nowadays is known as Finn Balor in the WWE here in the states.
Devitt had been a popular Junior heavyweight who was the champion of that weight division but had turned into a bad guy in February of 2013 and started forming allegiances. Others that joined him include Karl “Machine Gun” Anderson (also now in the WWE), a large former rugby player from New Zealand named Back Luck Fale, and a Tongan wrestler named Tama Tonga who is the adopted son of former WWF wrestler Haku. They teamed with each other (the major point of all these groups in NJPW is so they can form teams during the lesser shows during the year) and would interfere with each other’s matches. More and more members would join as time went on to grow it into an army since then.
Devitt eventually left the group and New Japan itself in 2014 to come to the United States to be Finn Balor and was replaced by international star A.J. Styles. Styles himself left the company in early 2016 along with Karl Anderson and his partner Luke Gallows for the WWE as well. Styles was then replaced as “leader” of the Club by Canadian wrestler Kenny “The Cleaner” Omega who much like Devitt, had been in the junior heavyweight division but was moved up to the heavyweight division and became a big star in NJPW despite never actually winning the big title.
Now, besides Japan, the Bullet Club also has reach into the United States. The wrestling company Ring of Honor works in an agreement with NJPW and often feature NJPW’s stars on their shows and weekly TV. So a number of their roster members are part of the Bullet Club. ROH gives an American outlet not only for New Japan but also for its merchandise as The Bullet Club shirts and other goods are being sold through Hot Topic clothing stores and American websites.
So if there was a way to define what the Bullet Club really is, it’s a wrestling story that became a hot merchandise seller as well as a way for a Japanese company to make a big culture splash in the United States and the world.
So no need to worry that there is some terrorist group or street gang invading the country. It’s just business, The wrestling business.