The complicated history of Bullet Club and the “Firing Squad” incident

With the exit announment made by The Elite (Young Bucks, Cody, Adam “Hangman” Page, and Kenny Omega) in October 2018, the one-year long civil war within the Bullet Club between them and the founding members Bad Luck Fale and Tama Tonga, and with the addition of defected Chaos members “Switchblade” Jay White, longtime manager of the former group leader Kazuchika Okada, Gedo, who is also the booker in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Gedo’s longtime tag team partner Jado, and the returning Yujiro Takahashi and Chase Owens.  It may seem the Bullet Club has finally returned to its root.  However, their departure have also closed yet another chapter in the faction that have seen many, many changes within such short time.  With that said, let’s take an extensive overview on its complicate history.

The formation of the Bullet Club began with now-WWE superstar Finn Balor, who went by the name Prince Devitt during his career at New Japan Pro Wrestling, betrayed his Apollo 55 tag team partner Ryusuke Taguchi and with his bodyguard Bad Luke Fale by his side, the duo made their marks alongside Tama Tonga and Karl Anderson after the latter duo blindsided then-former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, who had lost the title in the main event of Invasion Attack 2013 against Chaos member Kazuchika Okada, after his match against Anderson, with Anderson and Tonga joined the beatdown committed by Devitt & Fale after Anderson pretended to assist Tanahashi. This was the beginning of Devitt’s new faction and its quest to be the best in the world, during which he was the defending IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. After Devitt successfully defended the championship against Okada’s manager Gedo, who works as a booker for New Japan behind the scenes, and defeated Tanahashi (with assistance from Devitt’s stablemates, of course) at Dominion 6.22 (2013), he made a vow of becoming the first person who holds both junior heavyweight and heavyweight titles simultaneously. Okada, however, had other ideas as he defeated Devitt on July 20, 2013. Despite the setback, they continued their run in both CMLL and NJPW, in the meanwhile they have also welcomed The Young Bucks, whom had wrestled under “Generation ME” in their 1-year TNA/IMPACT run, as their newest recruits and they immediately set their targets for the junior heavyweight tag team championship, and they didn’t take long to accomplish their goal by defeating Taichi and Taka Michinoku, whom had an epic run during his stint with WWE as a founding member of Kaientai alongside current WWE Japanese announcing team Sho Funaki, of Suzuki-gun, a faction that has its own history that I might give a thought of doing a separate article for it somewhere down the road. Alongside the Young Bucks was Luke Gallows, whose claim to fame prior to his NJPW run included as an enforcer of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society, in late 2013/early 2014.

While other members had won titles, same cannot be said about Devitt – with a silver lining – as he was recruited by WWE shortly after the loss against Taguchi for the JHW championship, and when he decided to join WWE by May 2014 under the NXT banner, we also witnessed the beginning of another violent trend within the faction as Young Bucks had superkicked Devitt after losing his challenge to Taguchi for that same belt, only then he and Taguchi reconciled before leaving Japan. No sooner than that, former TNA Champion AJ Styles and then-Chaos member Yujiro Takahashi joined BC and both also enjoyed success by winning more titles alongside their stablemates. Then, entered Kenny Omega, who has been building his own repertoire in the worldwide independent scenes since leaving the WWE developmental program via Heartland Wrestling Association, an aficionado in the Japanese culture at large made the choice seemed logical until the departure of Styles, who had decided to join the WWE and returned home back in the stateside after 21 months, during which he had enjoyed two reigns of IWGP Heavyweight Championship run as a member of the Bullet Club (more on that later). Omega, meanwhile, was initially listed as a junior heavyweight; however, it was during that time that his close association with the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) may have unintentionally led to the “Firing Squad” incident in San Francisco.

The NJPW/ROH partnership allows cross-promotions between the two promotions, which means talents can be exchanged depending on the needs for a certain numbers of events, and also find ways to extend storylines when talents are wrestled in another promotion.  In the case of the Young Bucks, their traveling schedules between Philadelphia and Japan led them in recruiting talents who (at least in their opinions) is valuable to Bullet Club or fancy themselves in traveling to Japan and test their skills against NJPW elites.  It was during one of those tours with Ring of Honor when they met Omega, resulting the latter to be inducted into the faction by then-NJPW veteran Karl Anderson and named him “The Cleaner”.  Slowly and maturely the tandem of Omega/Young Bucks would initiate their own programs to supplement the factional activity, and they dubbed themselves as “The Elite” perhaps did so via tongue-and-cheek.  That was the beginning of Tonga’s subgroup issue that he and the rest of the Tongans would harbor the disgust ever since.  At first, the Tongans and the rest of the origninal members of Bullet Club didn’t really put much of a thought, the change of mind slowly zipped in during the leadership changes during Devitt’s departure in 2014; however, it was during the swerve on Styles at New Year’s Dash on January 5, 2016 when it really reared its head.  Earlier in that fateful day, Styles, Anderson & Gallows gave their notices to NJPW officials that they have soon joined WWE, and NJPW booker Gedo (who managed then-IWGP HW Champion Kazuchika Okada) their final matches at NYD with Anderson & Gallows challenged unsuccessfully for the IWGP Tag Team Championship against Tomoaki Honma and Togi Makabe of G.B.H. (Great Bash Heel), which had a history of its own that preceded Chaos, while Styles and Omega defeated Chaos’ Yoshi-Hashi and Shinsuke Nakamura, latter whom had also given his notice at the same time as BC trio.   Then, Styles was gang-assaulted by his own stablemates beginning with Omega, joined by Young Bucks, and eventually A&G also joined in the beat down, in which Styles has since stated that he sides were ” Firing Squad” when asked during Mattel/WWE panel at 2018 San Diego ComicCon. With Omega at the helm (though Tama Tonga disagreed), his attempt to the “rebranding” of BC slowly matured by introducing “The Elites”, which consists of The Young Bucks and Omega, though Gedo would rather hold off the notion, at least temporarily. But it was during Omega’s declaration of joining the heavyweight division that the genesis of the factional civil war slowly manifested after G1 Climax 26 tournament final, when Omega accomplished the feat in becoming the first ever “gaijin” (外人) to win the G1 tournament, but not before one of their own, Cody Hall, had sustained a neck injury during YB’s loss of NEVER Openweight Tag Team Championships to the trio of former IWGP HW Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, and former WWE Superstar Yoshitatsu, via a swanton bomb off the arena balcony and soon left both the faction and the promotion for recovery before joining NOAH. Then, the civil war erupted as the latest addition to the faction, Cody Rhodes, who was released by WWE months prior due to “creative issues”, joined in. Cody, whom NJPW would later be known, was the step-sibling of “Goldust” Dustin Rhodes, and the son of “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, had accomplished quite a bit since his debut in 2007 as he had won the WWE Tag Team Championship for more than one occasion (including one with Goldust) and WWE IC title. However, his persona has evolved when he joined ROH (Ring of Honor) as “The American Nightmare”, and the rivalry between Omega and Rhodes slowly emerged during Omega’s IWGP title rematch with Kazuchika Okada at the Dominion event in June 2017, in which the match ended with a 60-minute draw, though Cody almost ruined it in an attempt to throw in the towel to stop the match.  Three weeks later, while Cody lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship match with Okada during the first night of G1 Special in USA at Long Beach Convention Center, Omega won the US Heavyweight Championship in the inauguaral title tournament.  Six months later, the rivalry escalated when Cody attempted payback for his lost against Kota Ibushi during the beatdown at New Year’s Dash & the New Beginning in Sapporo in January, which the former led to Omega’s futile attempt in recruiting “Switchblade” Jay White to BC, only to have White turned against BC, however, his turn became a ruse much later as the unthinkable would occur later in the year; during the latter event, Cody assailed Ibushi again in the aftermath of Cody’s BC unit victory against Ibushi’s team, which drew Omega into an heated argument that led to the internal strife between Omega and Cody.  

In the months ahead, both Omega and Cody attempted to recruit other members for their causes, however, the Tongan contingents stayed neutral throughout the conflict, and managed to recruit former NOAH superstar Taiji Ishimori in the process.  Before that, though, Tama Tonga faced Kenny Omega during G1 Climax 27 tournament matchup, in which Tama vented his frustration with Omega’s way of leadership that led to the fracture of the stable during the match, even went so far as proclaiming, “You think you are the leader, BE A LEADER, and f*** The Elite!” While they may have seemed to be loyal to the faction, they weren’t celebrate with Omega for his victory against his Chaos rival Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in a best-of-3-falls with no time limit stipulation match, instead The Young Bucks and Ibushi shared the moment with Cody walked away from ramp wondering what could have been.  Then, the unthinkable happened during the aftermath of Omega/Cody title match, in which the Tongans (including the returning Haku) brutalized Omega and the Elite, alongside the neutral Yujiro Takahashi and Chase Owens, and even the returning Cody, who had initially thought of joining the Tongans but opted against it, Cody and Omega later reconciled their difference immediately after the beatdown.  However, that also meant that the Old Guard and The Elite were fighting for the bragging right to become the real Bullet Club, during which, The Young Bucks and Cody were involved their own venture known as “All In”, though the OG weren’t being invited to the event.  The success of “All In” event also meant a validation to what Omega-led Bullet Club had hoped for with larger popularity than merely keeping within Japan, something that Tama Tonga still has a hard time understanding the concept of breaking out as such really originated with Styles’ debut with NJPW and BC just 4 years prior.  Sadly, the OG resented that notion in its entirety, and the impact was felt in the most negative fashion as OG’s participants to G1 Climax 28 tournament was marred by constant disqualifications throughout.

logo-1-188x133Here’s a look at Fale and Tama Tonga’s records during G1 Climax 28 Tournament: 

  • 6 DQ losses by Fale:
    • Page (Day 1),
    • Tanahashi (Day 5),
    • Evil (Day 7),
    • Michael Elgin(Day 13),
    • YOSHI-HASHI (Day 15),
    • Minoru Suzuki (Day 17) 
  • 3 DQ losses by Tama Tonga:
    • Omega (Day 6)
    • Hirooki Goto (Day 14)
    • Toru Yano (Day 18)
  • 2 Losses by Tama Tonga
    • Sanada (Day 4)
    • Tetsuya Naito (Day 8)

While the OG scored a few more victories, they were largely kept apart as Omega focused in his defenses of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship that he won in perhaps one of the most grueling matches in pro wrestling (best of 3 falls w/ no time limit) at Dominion.  But everything changed during the main event of Destruction in Kobe show, as Jay White assaulted both Tanahashi and Okada after Tanahashi successfully defended his briefcase.  Gedo, meanwhile, came out in the guise of assisting the former champion but instead attacked him with a chair, signaling the switch of allegiance to White.  Two weeks later, OG’s Guerillas of Destiny defeated the Young Bucks for the IWGP Tag Team Championships at Fighting Spirit Unleashed in Long Beach, CA.  A week later, although White lost to Tanahashi for the #1 contender match, the assault on Tanahashi led to Okada halting the attack; however, during the, pardon my pund, ensuing chaos, Jado and the rest of BCOG have also arrived, and little did Okada know, Jado’s entrance was a deliberate trap as White’s switch of allegiance, alongside Jado & Gedo, were complete.  BCOG has returned to unity once again.  Prior to Power Struggle, meanwhile, a special announcement was made on Talk is Jericho podcast during the Chris Jericho’s Rock ‘N’ Wrestling Rager at Sea event, as Cody, Page and Scurll have officially joined The Elite while also announced that the faction have officially part ways with Bullet Club, thus ending the Bullet Club Civil War.  Jay Whilte’s victory against his ex-faction Chaos leader Okada cemented his new role that was personally anointed by Tama Tonga as the new “leader”, while AEW was officially announced as a brand new wrestling promotion following the success of All In event; however, what’s coming up with the revamped Bullet Club and The Elite remains to be seen.