New Japan Pro Wrestling wrapped up the 2020 New Japan Cup this past weekend, their first major event since returning from hiatus due to the global pandemic. It’s safe to say that they returned to action in a huge way, not only by providing the world with a shocking victory in the finals of the Cup tournament but also following up with an equally shocking championship win the next night at Dominion.
Los Ingobernables de Japon member EVIL walked away with his first New Japan Cup win, defeating ‘Rainmaker’ Kazuchika Okada in the tournament final, an astonishingly mammoth career win for EVIL after meandering in the mid-card scene for the most part of his 9 year NJPW career. Aligning himself with Tetsuya Naito, Bushi, Hiromu Takahashi and Sanada, EVIL has frequently been featured on major NJPW cards, capturing various championships including the NEVER Openweight Championship and the IWGP Tags/Trios titles.
EVIL has competed against a selection of New Japan’s best and brightest, but had yet to compete at main event level until the New Japan Cup happened to lead him to his titanic clash with Okada, a man that many consider to be the Ric Flair of his generation. Giving EVIL such a mammoth rub could only mean one thing, that NJPW officials were incredibly high on making him this year’s breakout star for the promotion. With his New Japan Cup victory, he was awarded a shot at stablemate Tetsuya Naito’s IWGP World and Intercontinental Championships in a match that would take place the next night at the company’s annual Dominion event. Naito hit the ring to congratulate his friend and partner, raising his hand for the traditional LIJ fist bump.
What happened next would shake NJPW to its very core.
Instead of returning the gesture, EVIL would raise his hand into a Too Sweet, the calling card of the Bullet Club. Out comes the rogue faction, joining EVIL in beating down Naito and standing tall over the IWGP Champion for the first time since Jay White dropped the title back to Okada last year. EVIL was now a fully-fledged member of the black and white clad crew, making for one heck of a title match the next evening.
EVIL and Naito’s sudden feud had become very personal very quickly, making their match a must-see from start to finish. Having a live audience really helped make this a surefire match of the year, it provided the show with the emotional weight that has been sorely lacking from all wrestling productions as of late. Having achieved such a spectacular heel turn the night before and seeing EVIL, a babyface mainstay of the company, now making a break for the big time as a cocky villain, only riled up the New Japan faithful, making it a louder affair than usual.
New Japan used this match as an opportunity to give New Japan an overhaul, refreshing the main event scene by bringing in EVIL and debuting Dick Togo, who gave EVIL the edge over his former friend and ultimately led him to winning the match and his first IWGP World Championship. With Bullet Club now once again on top of the roster, EVIL has ushered in a new era for the faction, perhaps making them the most relevant they’ve been since the departure of Kenny Omega and the Elite.
After those aforementioned names parted ways with New Japan in favour of establishing AEW in the States, ‘Switchblade’ Jay White took over the helm as leader of the Bullet Club and even though he was met with quite substantial success, he never truly rekindled the same aura that the stable had generated for many years prior. Now that both EVIL and the recently debuted KENTA (formerly WWE’s Hideo Itami) have respectively broken out as credible threats to anyone on the roster, there’s plenty of talent on offer to put Bullet Club in a prominent position across all divisions. Much like the Club under Prince Devitt, there’s never been so much reach within the faction, with so much potential to once again take over the entire company.
With LIJ seemingly imploding before our very eyes, the IWGP Championship picture is going to be very interesting over the next year. Hiromu Takahashi entered the fray in the concluding moments of Dominion, staring down his former stablemate, suggesting that he may be next in line to take a shot at the newly initiated BC member.
Faction warfare has been a staple of NJPW programming for decades, this could very well be the defining chapter of this era, with EVIL’s Bullet Club going head-to-head with Naito and Hiromu’s LIJ, tugging the IWGP World and IC titles back and forth between the two groups. Even though the two sides have battled in the past, most recently with Naito challenging Jay White, it’s never seemed as emotionally charged as it is right now.
This could very well be the second coming of the Bullet Club, a total re-invigoration of their status in Japan. EVIL might also take the company through to a new era, much like how Keith Lee is shaking things up in NXT, EVIL could do the exact same overseas. Who knows where this will lead over the coming weeks, now that New Japan is back for good!
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