Despite Vince’s blockbuster announcement on WWE Monday Night RAW about the Royal Rumble Match and news that Brock Lesnar will be returning to WWE programming next week, reports that technically haven’t even been confirmed by WWE — WWE.com was “declined” when they asked for a comment from Triple H about the rumors — are taking the Internet Wrestling Community by storm. If you follow professional wrestling outside of World Wrestling Entertainment, then you’re probably familiar with the Bullet Club. Some of the most popular wrestlers working with New Japan Pro Wrestling are coming over, and current NXT Champion Finn Balor was a part of the Bullet Club before making his debut at Full Sail University.
For those unfamiliar with these international wrestling talents, it’s important to understand who they are and why the IWC is so excited about these NJPW talents coming under the WWE umbrella.
Bullet Club: a brief history
Known in NJPW as Prince Devitt, Balor was initially a face in the Japanese world of professional wrestling. However, after turning on his tag team partner and becoming a heel, he aligned himself with some other wrestlers from outside of Japan, forming a heel stable of foreign wrestlers (not unlike the WWE’s League of Nations). As with all wrestling factions, the exact line-up changed over the years. While the group formed in NJPW, they also have a presence in such organizations as Mexico’s CMLL, as well as Global Force Wrestling and Ring of Honor in the United States. The biggest names — in terms of an American following — that were ever a part of the Bullet Club include AJ Styles and Jeff Jarrett.
Luke “Doc” Gallows — formerly of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society — and Karl Anderson were both members of the Bullet Club. Shinsuke Nakamura — one of the four wrestlers rumored to have been signed from NJPW — was never a member of the Bullet Club, but did feud with them in Japan. When Devitt/Balor left NJPW for NXT, AJ Styles eventually replaced him as their leader.
Members remaining in NJPW include current leader Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, Cody Hall, The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), Tama Tonga, and Yujiro Takahashi.
Easily the most recognizable name to the casual American wrestling fan, he was a major player in TNA for over a decade. His time spent with Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling gave Styles further “indie cred” with the IWC. He is often considered one of the most talented professional wrestlers not currently signed to WWE or NXT.
As confirmed by Sporting News, AJ Styles competed at NJPW for the last time at Wrestle Kingdom 10. Unlike the other three talents rumored to have been signed, Styles was competing at NJPW without a contract. A transition to WWE’s Performance Center should be smooth.
From the perspective of a professional wrestling fan in Japan, the biggest news may be the assumed departure of Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura held the IWGP Heavyweight Championship — the most prestigious title defended in NJPW — on three different occasions.
Shinsuke is the only one of the four NJPW stars that is Japanese.
Luke “Doc” Gallows
For anyone that has been a fan of WWE for the last six or seven years, you may remember Luke Gallows as a member of the Straight Edge Society, along with Joey Mercury, Serena, and leader CM Punk. Before being converted by Punk, he performed as Festus, a wrestler with a mental disability.
WWE SmackDown 07/02/10 Kane vs Luke Gallows Luke Gallows https://t.co/iKY2J4gUMu— Abdulrahman.H (@eminem6608) January 2, 2016
As the Straight Edge Society disbanded, Gallows was released by WWE. He would go on to compete in TNA, NJPW, and GFW.
Like Nakamura, Anderson has never wrestled for WWE under any persona. Domestically, he has competed with the NWA, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Ring of Honor, and GFW.
Anderson really came into his own in Japan while working for Pro Wrestling NOAH and NJPW.
Details are still pending for these four signings. Rumors include their debut happening at the Royal Rumble, or as part of a new-comer faction that could play out like anything from the acquisition of The Radicalz to the Nexus takeover to the revolutionary NWO angle from WCW.
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