History of the legendary faction
On May 3 at Dontaku 2023, BULLET CLUB marked a full decade as a force in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. As the group continues into its eleventh year, a look back at the origins and evolutions of one of the most influential factions in wrestling history.
<– Year eight Year ten–>
With the wrestling landscape and the world at large still heavily affected by the COVID pandemic, year nine for BULLET CLUB progressed in fragmented form. As NJPW STRONG grew in presence in the United States, Switchblade Jay White would see an opportunity to use the US brand as a platform to break down barriers in American wrestling for BULLET CLUB; after winning NEVER Openweight Championship gold at Wrestling Dontaku 2021, he took the title over to the States and made some intriguing plays.
David Finlay had been quick to challenge the new NEVER Champion, but with events cancelled in the coming weeks, their title match would be moved to the return of crowds at US events at Resurgence. As Finlay made guest appearances at IMPACT Wrestling, Jay White would follow, and shocked the world by emerging at IMPACT’s Slammiversary event. There the Switchblade went face to face with former generations of BULLET CLUB, confronting Kenny Omega and the Good Brothers, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows.
White would battle with the Good Brothers in the coming weeks, recruiting a new prospect in Chris Bey along the way. When Resurgence rolled around, the Switchblade would retain NEVER gold against Finlay, while Gallows and Anderson, victorious over Yuji Nagata and Jon Moxley, would be confronted by the Guerrillas of Destiny.
A feud with Zack Sabre Jr and Taichi over the IWGP Tag Team Championships and Taichi’s iron fingers would resolve itself in a grueling ladder match at Dontaku, and while Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa would confront the Good Brothers in Los Angeles that August, the bulk of their attention would be on Japan, and in singles competition at that. Tanga Loa would enter his first G1 Climax in the autumn of 2021, and Tama would also join for the first time in a long while; Loa would impress and show a new side of himself, while Tama would tap into some incredible performances, his biggest being a win over eventual tournament winner Kazuchika Okada. As Jay White was busying himself overseas, Tama as a member of the original core four especially would take pride in flying the flag for BULLET CLUB in Japan.
KENTA, El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori would do the same through the remainder of 2021. While Hiroshi Tanahashi would leave Resurgence in LA with the IWGP United States Championship, KENTA would leverage a G1 win into a title shot at Power Struggle in November, and with a violent approach, overcame a High Fly Flow through a table to leave with the red and gold he had been pursuing for well over a year.
Meanwhile, ‘BULLET CLUB’s Cutest Tag Team’ of ELP and Ishimori had their best success in 2021, recording a third IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship reign and remaining a threat to the rest of the division- mainly as a result of El Phantasmo’s secret weapon. A steel insole would see a wave of contenders meet with a Sudden Death end, and a wave of protestations following suit as referees were unable to catch ELP red handed.
BULLET CLUB’s disparate parts were nonetheless successful in their own right- until the end of 2021. Jay White would lose NEVER gold to old foe Tomohiro Ishii in November, while Wrestle Kingdom proved a disaster on all fronts. Ishimori and Phantasmo found themselves disqualified from a three way for the IWGP Jr. Tag titles when ELP’s in sole was finally revealed to the world and the referee, while KENTA would leave a no holds barred streetfight over the US title against Hiroshi Tanahashi with a litany of injuries.
From back in the States, Jay White sensed a need for change, and a unity of purpose. Dedicating himself to NJPW STRONG, the Switchblade began a ‘U-S-of-Jay Open Challenge’ to show his in ring efficacy with or without a championship. On the tag team front, G.o.D would head to IMPACT Wrestling at the start of 2022 to finally engage with the Good Brothers over the IMPACT Tag Team Championships.
On February 19 2022, G.o.D would challenge the Good Brothers at IMPACT’s No Surrender event, only for a shocking twist to emerge in the tale. Jay White would strike Tama Tonga with a Bladerunner, welcoming Gallows and Anderson back into the BULLET CLUB fold while expelling Anderson’s protege Tonga and his brother.
Confusion would reign in BULLET CLUB in the ensuing weeks. With the rest of the crew in Japan at the time of the attack, and getting ready for the ensuing New Japan Cup, a directive came via Gedo from Jay White- make a choice and pick a side. While fans speculated who would be on Team Tama, and who would be on Team Jay, the New Japan Cup would reveal a landslide.
As Tama Tonga faced HOUSE OF TORTURE’s EVIL in his first cup match, Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo headed to ringside, ostensibly to chase off an intervening Yujiro Takahashi and SHO, only for ELP to blast Tama with Sudden Death. With the H.O.T members joining the attack, Tanga Loa and Jado tried to break things up. They too would be beaten down, with brass knuckles from Gedo to his ‘business brother’ of over 30 years.
Along with Jado, the Guerrillas of Destiny would be accepted into Hontai with hesitant but ultimately open arms and to the delight of the fans. As Jay White celebrated his power play, with even the Guerrillas’ youngest brother Hikuleo seemingly on the Switchblade’s side after a singles challenge in Hollywood affirmed his loyalty, BULLET CLUB prepared for a big ninth birthday.