AJ Styles debuted in WWE by making a huge and immediate impact at the Royal Rumble earlier this year. Styles continued to rise up the card and once he found himself in contention for the WWE Championship, the long awaited rumors were proven correct when Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson joined AJ at the beginning of May. The group identified themselves as The Club, and Gallows and Anderson showed they were as big impact players as AJ in short time, assisting him in his feud against The Bloodline.
The Club already seems to have broken up as a trio with Gallows and Anderson turning on AJ, but those two will probably continue as a tag team throughout the unforeseeable future. The group also has far more history than just a few weeks, as WWE is often alluding to, but not completely explaining. There are also a great deal of facts about The Club WWE is actively ignoring, and probably hoping that fans have forgotten. Our duty is to make sure fans never forget, so in lieu of the group’s apparent break-up we’re going to look back and talk about 15 things WWE don’t want you to know about The Club.
15. Gallows Was The Impostor Kane
AJ Styles and Karl Anderson both made their full time debuts in WWE in 2016, only a few months apart from one another. Luke Gallows, on the other hand, had already had a few stints with the company, and none of them were exactly flattering. Gallows first gimmick in WWE was as the Imposter Kane who haunted the real Kane in anticipation of the debut of his film See No Evil. The two feuded briefly in June of 2006, and their battles culminated in a match at Vengeance 2006. The Imposter Kane won the match, and the next name the real Kane attacked him violently, removed his mask, and threw him out of the building. While normally that would imply the feud was far from over, the angle was abruptly ended without any particular explanation following that incident. One explanation could be that the fans clearly hated the angle, and despite constant efforts, wrestling fans have been quite clear that they don’t like rip-offs. There is a certain appropriateness to the nature of an Imposter Kane, however, in that Kane himself briefly portrayed the Fake Diesel in 1996, in an angle that also needed to quickly be dropped when fans violently and negatively reacted to from the start.
14. Gallows Was Involved In A NSFW Incident With Bill DeMott
Bill DeMott wrestled for WCW as Hugh Morrus and General E. Rection, later joining WWE as a jobber and commentator under his real name. He’s better known as the disgraced NXT trainer who left his position in 2015 after serious allegations of bullying became public. Dozens of DeMott’s former students have come forward and spoken out about his actions, but arguably the most insane story comes from wrestlers Hannibal and Kevin Matthews. Both were trainees around the same time as Luke Gallows and Zack Ryder, and present a story with photographic evidence claiming DeMott smiled and laughed while Gallows stripped naked in the ring and performed a Stinkface on Ryder while others dangled a jelly donut in front of Ryder’s face. It went from weird to downright sexual harassment when Gallows did the same thing to female wrestler Melissa Coates. DeMott somehow defended the incident by saying it was the wrestlers’ idea to get out of training, which we admit does mean it isn’t bullying, but it’s still a trainer and authority figure completely failing at their job. DeMott resigned in March of 2015 despite his many denials of any misdoings, claiming he only left the company to ensure WWE would “avoid any embarrassment or damage.”
13. Gallows Was Festus
After the brief saga of the Imposter Kane came to a crashing halt, Gallows was repackaged into a tag team with Terry Gordy, Jr. Gordy was known as Jesse at the time, and Gallows played his mentally disturbed kind of brother, Festus. The idea behind Festus was that he was extremely dimwitted to the point of an omnipresent blank stare, but once the bell rang he became a killer in the ring. Gallows gave the role his all as the duo steadily rose up the ECW and SmackDown ranks in 2007, but they never became a true success or won any titles in WWE. The character had strong overtones of mental disabilities, which as per usual meant that it wasn’t without some serious controversy. Jesse attempted to explain Festus by saying he was emotionally driven, but most fans saw him as mentally challenged, and presented in a supposedly comedic and obviously insensitive way. Although his gimmick implied he was a bit of a simpleton, Festus was actually the monster of the group, and was undefeated himself until he challenged then World Heavyweight Champion The Undertaker in November of 2007. Eventually the team broke up and after a few months Gallows was repackaged yet again…
12. Gallows Was In The Straight Edge Society
After working as an imitation and an imbecile, Gallows finally found himself in a significantly more serious role as the enforcer to CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society. It was in the Straight Edge Society that Gallows would debut the name he uses to this day, and his wrestling talent actually started to become apparent in absence of his silly gimmicks. WWE actually did their best at reconciling Gallows’ embarrassing past as Festus and the Fake Kane by having Punk explain that he was a recovering alcoholic, and abusive and enabling friends manipulated him into drinking himself into an easily manipulated state. Punk got him to sober up and finally act like himself, creating the Luke Gallows character the he still essentially adheres to today. Punk ultimately fired Gallows from the Straight Edge Society, and WWE made the same decision about his contract only a few months later. Although this was the first time Gallows started to show signs of becoming a respectable talent in the future, the fact CM Punk has such a bad relationship with WWE means this entire era will likely be glossed over for the indefinite future. Unfortunately for Gallows, it was the end of his WWE career for the next six years, as he was released from his first contract in 2010.
11. Gallows Was Once Trapped In Nigeria
Like many wrestlers on the independent circuit, Gallows traveled all around the world with random bedfellows booked on the same cards as him. While traveling in Nigeria with former WWE wrestler Cliff Compton, Gallows was briefly trapped in a hotel room and held hostage by the incredibly hostile staff. Gallows and Compton were stuck with other American wrestlers who had been jilted by a shady promoter, and found themselves unable to pay for their hotel rooms. While that would land them in trouble anywhere on the planet, in Nigeria where the police force is less organized than we may be used to, this meant the hotel staff pointed guns at the wrestlers’ faces until they found the cash. Somehow they managed to pay and were able to go home safely, but the near international incident had families and friends deeply worried. Cliff Compton is better known to WWE fans as half of the former WWE Tag Team Championship winning duo Deuce ‘n Domino, a pair of ‘50s Greasers managed by Cherry. Deuce, Domino, and Cherry all had extremely short-lived tenures in WWE, but if nothing else the association with Gallows proves that any wrestler can eventually be repackaged and turn into a star all over again.
10. Gallows Was D.O.C. In TNA
Luke Gallows has had far too many bad gimmicks for such a talented wrestler, and it wasn’t just in WWE that he was struggling to be seen for the talent he is. Gallows debuted in Total Nonstop Action in late 2012 as a member of the much-maligned Aces & Eights stable. In the group, Gallows was known as D.O.C., or the Director of Chaos. Although Aces & Eights were a major focus of TNA storylines for the better part of two years, D.O.C. never actually made that much of an impact on that story. The biggest problem with the group is generally considered how bloated and directionless they were, with endless new surprise leaders that made virtually no sense in the first place. Despite a big debut that had D.O.C. teaming with D-Von Dudley in a main event match against Sting and Kurt Angle. He and D-Von lost, but the caliber of their opponents implied it may have finally been time for Gallows to be taken seriously in the wrestling world. Alas, it was not to be, as he only lasted a few months in TNA and mostly participated in losing efforts tag team matches and battle royales. Gallows finally started to get respected in Japan, but not until he met a seasoned tag team veteran to become his partner…
9. Anderson’s Original Partner Was Albert
While his future partner was fighting some silly gimmicks stateside, Karl Anderson was already making a name for himself as one of the best gaijin (foreign) tag team wrestlers in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Years before The Club was formed, Anderson joined the major Japanese stable Great Heel Bash, and while in that group he formed an extremely successful tag team called Bad Intentions. Notably to WWE fans, Anderson’s partner in Bad Intentions was current NXT head trainer Matt Bloom, then known as Giant Bernard. The team held the IWGP World Tag Team titles for a record setting year and a half, and also managed to win the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Tag Team of the Year in 2011. The team disbanded when Bloom left Japan to return to WWE in 2012. Giant Bernard is probably best known in the WWE Universe as Albert, the name he used for his first several years in the company, and with which he once won the WWE Intercontinental Championship. He also had several years of success as A-Train, and more recently was decently successful as Lord Tensai. Bloom is retired from active competition today, and his years of experience as a teacher before going pro aide him in his role as NXT head coach.
8. The Original Bullet Club
When Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows debuted at the beginning of May, they were introduced as friends of AJ Styles. Not much was explained outside of the fact they knew each other from outside of WWE. Hardcore fans however know the truth, which is that they were members of arguably the most famous heel stable in modern Japanese wrestling history: The Bullet Club. The Bullet Club started as a group of foreign wrestlers attempting to take over New Japan by infecting Japanese wrestling with their cheating American-influenced style. The group was extremely popular, so it makes sense WWE would keep them together and wink to the name, but they probably won’t ever spell it out for us and explain in full what The Bullet Club is, or why they got together in the first place. The idea of a major American wrestling company stealing a hugely successful stable from NJPW is actually nothing new, as the world famous nWo angle that helped put WCW on the map was highly influenced by a Japanese angle, as well. In both cases, a dominant unit of heels destroyed the top names of the era and redefined wrestling, so we really can’t blame WWE for trying to recapture what worked so well in the past.
7. Anderson Is The Only Original Member
Now that we’re in the clear about The Club actually being The Bullet Club, it’s worth pointing out that out of the three members who wrestled under the name in WWE, only one of them is actually an original member. The Bullet Club formed in May of 2013 when Prince Devitt turned on his partner Ryusuke Taguchi and joined with fellow non-Japanese wrestlers Karl Anderson, Bad Luck Fale, and Tama Tonga. Gallows joined the group in November of that year immediately after signing with the company, and started his famous association with Anderson as a tag team by winning that year’s World Tag League tournament. They remained the foundation of The Bullet Club until jumping to WWE in 2016. Devitt lead the group for nearly its first year, while Fale and Tonga actually remain in the group to this day. Another way in which The Bullet Club, and The Club, are arguably the nWo of their era is the huge and fluid roster of wrestlers that move in and out of the group throughout it’s existence. As The Club goes international, many fans are hoping that previous members join the new iterations, and no doubt Japanese fans are waiting in anticipation for the day when someone inevitably jumps back to the original Club.
6. The Bálor Club
The original leader of The Club wasn’t AJ, nor was it either Anderson or Gallows. The original leader of The Bullet Club was Prince Devitt, better known to WWE and NXT fans as Finn Bálor. Devitt created the group to team with Anderson after turning on his former tag team partner in Apollo 55. Devitt and Anderson acted as co-leaders, but with Anderson regularly focused on tag team competitions, it occasionally felt like Devitt was the true star of the group. Devitt left New Japan Pro Wrestling and therefore The Bullet Club in April of 2014. Now that the main members of the group have found their way to WWE, fans have been clamoring for a full-on reunion of what has been termed The Bálor Club. Unfortunately, with Bálor in NXT and the group immediately joining the main roster, it seems unlikely they’ll find themselves together. Nonetheless, rumors persist, and nearly every Raw and major event, fans speculate it will finally be the day Bálor confronts The Club either to attack them or to join them. Bálor is still heavily embroiled in major NXT storylines so it may be some time before it finally happens, but fans waiting so long for The Club to be in WWE in the first place chances are they’re willing to wait.
5. AJ Joined The Group By Usurping Leadership
Once Prince Devitt/Finn Bálor left New Japan for NXT, Karl Anderson may have briefly assumed sole leadership of The Bullet Club, but he didn’t hold that power for long. In the very next segment of Invasion Attack 2014, AJ Styles made his return to New Japan Pro Wrestling and challenged IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada. In doing so, Styles also revealed himself as the newest and highest profile member of The Bullet Club. Styles immediately presumed the leadership position, and his unrivaled success in Japanese solo competition proved he was in every way the most dominant member of the group. Less than one month after his debut with the company, AJ defeated Okada for his IWGP Championship belt and took The Bullet Club to an even greater height. During AJ’s title reign, he defended the belt both in Japan and in America for shows co-promoted by Ring of Honor. Although AJ won and loss the title on several occasions, he remained the highlight of the show and assured that The Bullet Club would remain the most important name in Japanese wrestling for a long time. It could be argued his presence built the Club up highly enough they could survive without him, but it can’t be forgotten that the other members of the group all have a great deal of success under their belts, as well. After all, AJ wasn’t the only member of the group winning major titles…
4. They’ve All Held Major Titles
2/3 of The Club is arguably too new to WWE to have earned any championship success, and the other third was forced to suffer through gimmicks that could never gain any titles regardless of the length of their tenure. However, all three members have held a seemingly endless number of titles in Japan and around the world. Gallows and Anderson held the IWGP Tag Team championship three times, and Anderson held the title an additional time with Giant Bernard. Styles is a 2-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, in addition to holding dozens of singles and tag team titles during his time in Total Nonstop Action. While competing for TNA, AJ was actually the first wrestler to win the Triple Crown or Grand Slam Championships, and is actually the only wrestler to have actually won every single title in company history when considering the split between the NWA and TNA World Championships. He has also won major titles in PWG, FWE, ROH, WWA, and RPW. On top of their title success in the wrestling world, they’ve also received unprecedented fan support as a unit, winning countless Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards. It’s probably just a matter of time before The Club start racking up titles in WWE, but their past success is far behind them.
3. The Bullet Club Still Exists In Japan
One confusing aspect of The Club existing in WWE is that The Bullet Club still exists in Japan. Although the WWE version contains some of the most important members and their name stands as a winking reference that makes it feel like the original might be gone, The Bullet Club continue to play a major role in all of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s storylines. These days, the group is lead by Kenny Omega, as long time members like The Young Bucks and Bad Luck Fale join him and newer members like Adam Cole alike. The Bullet Club remain quite possibly the most dominant and noteworthy group in the history of New Japan Pro Wrestling, but regardless of what they or WWE do with their Clubs, neither side will bring the other one up on television. The Bullet Club will, however, likely to continue in a cross-promotional manner across various independent promotions in the United States including Ring of Honor and Mexican promotions like CMLL. Through their association with CMLL, there is actually a second Bullet Club offshoot known as Bullet Club Latinoamerica. El Terrible and Mephisto are the highlights of that group, having won the CMLL World Heavyweight and Mexican Heavyweight titles respectively.
2. Anderson Is A Successful Solo Wrestler
Karl Anderson has only wrestled a handful of matches for WWE, and thus far they have all been tag team or 6-man tag matches. Fans know AJ Styles is an accomplished singles star, but considering the fact Gallows and Anderson have been together since they joined, fans may not realize Anderson has significant success as a solo wrestler, as well. In between Bad Intentions and The Bullet Club, Anderson entered the 2012 New Japan Cup as a solo wrestler. In the tournament, Anderson scored some major victories against Japanese legends like Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Shinsuke Nakamura. Anderson received several shots at the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships during this time, but remained unsuccessful in championship contests until forming his team with Gallows. WWE is well known for their propensity to eventually split up teams and turn one of the two into a solo star, and although Gallows may be the larger of the two with the more traditional look, Anderson’s wrestling skills prove he could easily become the future standout star when The Club inevitably go their separate ways. Anderson also won a variety of singles titles for independent promotions while he was starting out in the industry, which shows a career in singles competition is definitely not out of the question for him.
1. They Signed The Same Day As Shinsuke Nakamura
While The Club made it clear straight from the beginning they were entering WWE as a unit, fans might not realize there was actually a fourth superstar who announced his signing with WWE the exact same day as they did. Shinsuke Nakamura, like The Club, was a huge star in New Japan Pro Wrestling, and all four announced their resignation from that company and decision to sign with WWE on the same day. In fact, earlier that very day, Nakamura and Styles had wrestled in an instant classic match at Wrestling Kingdom 10. Nakamura was IWGP Intercontinental Champion at the time, but returned the title in exchange for a clean break from the company and a chance to shine in WWE. Since they’ve all signed on the same day, the WWE Universe has been begging for a chance to see Nakamura get another chance to lock up with Styles—or any member of The Club for that matter. Nakamura is currently one of the major selling points of NXT, and though he has only wrestled a handful of classics, he’s already proved himself as one of the most charismatic and individualistic superstars in wrestling history, so perhaps WWE should simply speed things up on this matter and give the fans what they want instead of having Nakamura effortlessly steal the show against audiences with less than 500 people in them.