As the faction’s new ace, Kenny Omega quickly claimed the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, vacated by Shinsuke Nakamura, the very man who defined the title as a symbol of ‘Strong Style.’ Now, Omega set about painting the title in his own image, with high-risk, high-impact wrestling and constant Young Bucks-flavoured interference. The trio gained the title of “The Elite”, and eventually captured the NEVER Openweight Six Man Championships. They also began a series of YouTube vlogs on their personal channel, known as Being the Elite, a series that is ongoing to this day. It would do wonders during this period for the group’s popularity, reaching an even greater audience than Styles’ era, which was certainly no mean feat.
This unstoppable wave of momentum carried Omega into the history books, as in August 2016 he became the first ever non-Japanese competitor to win the G1 Climax. Omega was handed the New Japan flag to wave in victory following the match, however in a display of loyalty to the faction that got him to this point in his career, Omega opted to instead wave the flag of Bullet Club, as it became apparent that the group were once again on the brink of domination. Omega’s G1 victory granted him a spot in the main event of 2017’s Wrestle Kingdom 11, challenging Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Title.
As is a running theme with Bullet Club however, descension was once again starting to emerge, as some within the group grew tired of The Elite’s growing influence. Bullet Club had welcomed Marty Scurll, Hangman Page, Adam Cole, and Cody during this period, and one founding member in particular took issue with his stable falling away from the image that it used to hold. Tama Tonga welcomed in a new member of his own, introducing his brother Tanga Loa and announcing themselves as the Guerrillas of Destiny (G.O.D.), the duo quickly became one of New Japan’s most formidable tag-teams, but it was Omega who made the headlines at Wrestle Kingdom.
Hailed as one of the greatest pro-wrestling matches of all-time, Kenny Omega vs Kazuchika Okada at the Tokyo Dome was an outstanding match. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter even shattered his star-rating system for the match, giving it a history-making 6 stars, something the duo would astonishingly top in future bouts. On this attempt, Omega proved unsuccessful, but opportunity would come knocking later in the year at June’s Dominion, with Omega and Styles facing off once again. Leading into this match, Cody’s ego had begun to rival that of Omega’s, and it was clear that two superstars with world championship ambitions would be unable to coexist much longer.
Omega and Okada battled valiantly to a 60-minute time limit draw, but there was a brief moment during the contest that almost brought the match to an abrupt end. With Omega struggling, Cody sought to throw in the towel in what originally appeared to be a show of compassion for his stablemate. In the post-match media conference however, Cody’s true intentions were revealed, as he challenged Okada for the title his faction’s leader couldn’t win for himself. Despite also being unsuccessful, Cody’s plot to gain control of Bullet Club continued.
Conscious of keeping the rest of his stablemates on his side, Cody decided against directly attacking Omega, and instead took aim at his heart instead. At Wrestle Kingdom 12 in 2018, Cody got what he wanted in the form of a singles match between himself and Kota Ibushi, although Ibushi had other plans and defeated ‘The American Nightmare’ following a Phoenix Splash. The next night however, Cody looked to right the wrongs of his WK12 defeat, attacking Ibushi with the help of a number of Bullet Club members. Just as Cody looked drive a knife through the heart of Kenny Omega by attacking Ibushi with a chair though, Omega hit the ring, saving his former ‘Golden Lovers’ ally.
Omega was looking to try and quell the disruption and bring unity back to Bullet Club, and saw a promising, returning youngster as the key. Omega called out ‘Switchblade’ Jay White to the ring, offering him a t-shirt and welcoming him to the club. Initially, it appeared as though White had accepted Kenny’s offer, putting on the shirt and embracing Omega. This alliance proved to be incredibly short-lived, as White had fooled Omega, delivering a Bladerunner to the unsuspecting Bullet Club leader. Whilst this seemingly put an end to White’s Bullet Club future, it wouldn’t be the last time that ‘Switchblade’ would don the BC’s black and white.
White would defeat Kenny Omega at New Beginning in Sapporo, becoming the second ever US Champion in NJPW history, although the post-match scenes would gain the most attention, as ‘Hangman’ Adam Page came out to challenge the new champion, before Omega handed White his newly won title, making sure the moment was his. An argument started between the two BC members, and sensing an opportunity to cause further division, Cody began to provoke Omega. Kenny snapped, pushing Matt Jackson of The Young Bucks to the canvas, unaware of who he had assaulted. Omega was apologetic, but the Bucks weren’t ready to forgive him yet and made their way to the back. With only Cody and Omega left in the ring, the two appeared to be about to leave on good terms, before Cody planted Omega with a Cross Rhodes, and invited Adam Page to aid him in a further beatdown. Mirroring the events of Cody’s post-Wrestle Kingdom attack, it was Ibushi who saved Omega this time, with the pair finally embracing and reuniting as the Golden Lovers.
Whilst the Golden Lovers had reunited, Bullet Club had never been more divided. The Young Bucks saw Omega as disloyal, forgetting about their trio that had brought them so much success in favour of his longstanding friendship with Ibushi. At the home of the Jackson brothers, Los Angeles, California, the two teams squared off in an all-time tag-team classic, with emotions running higher than imaginable. Ultimately, a Golden Trigger from the Lovers sealed the deal, and whilst Bullet Club was decoratively stronger than ever in terms of gold, there was still a clear divide. Whilst Marty Scurll reigned as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Tama Tonga looked again to introduce his own Bullet Club junior, revealing Taiji Ishimori to be the ‘new and improved’ Bone Soldier.
Omega himself reached the pinnacle of New Japan around this time, finally besting his perennial rival Kazuchika Okada at Dominion to become IWGP Heavyweight Champion for the first time. Before holding up the title he fought for so long to gain however, Omega made sure to remember those that helped him get there and embraced The Young Bucks in an emotional display of unity, before also being joined by Kota Ibushi. In the background, a plot to oust The Elite from Bullet Club was developing, as BC OGs Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale’s frustration with the direction their stable was heading in had reached its boiling point.
Cody and Omega finally faced off in San Francisco in July 2018, with Omega coming out on top before the pair showed mutual respect after the bell had rung. As they made their way to the back, the BC OGs saw prime opportunity to attack, as the self-proclaimed ‘Firing Squad’ decimated The Elite. Bad Luck Fale made the message clear, as far as The Elite were concerned, “F*ck em”. The Firing Squad made the divide between Bullet Club irreparable, and it was clear the two sides would do battle until one of them were gone from Bullet Club for good. On October 24th, 2018, Cody announced via his twitter account that he was no longer affiliated with Bullet Club.
On the Talk is Jericho podcast shortly after, Matt Jackson confirmed that The Young Bucks, Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, Marty Scurll and Adam Page had all departed Bullet Club and would be leaving both NJPW and ROH, collectively being known as The Elite moving forward. The Elite (minus Marty Scurll) would eventually go on to form All Elite Wrestling, seeking to capitalise upon the surge in popularity they had seen in pro-wrestling outside of WWE, offering a true competitor on American soil. Its fair to say that AEW has been nothing short of a success, wiping the floor with NXT in the TV ratings war on Wednesday nights, and only adding more star power as the months have rolled on. One must consider how the landscape of pro-wrestling would look today had The Elite not come together under the Bullet Club banner. There would certainly be no AEW as we know it, and for that we all have Bullet Club to thank.