After a week of several surprise debuts, it appeared that every wrestler getting called up from NXT to WWE’s main roster had made their first appearance on Raw and Smackdown. Yet this Monday’s Raw showed the ‘E had one more big surprise in store: the debut of Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows.
Anderson and Gallows (born Chad Allegra and Andrew Hankinson) made a name for themselves in New Japan Pro Wrestling over the last few years as part of the popular Bullet Club faction, which incorporated elements of WCW’s nWo and WWE’s D-Generation X for a modern take on the rebellious factions. Rumors from the dirt sheets and even WWE.com claimed that the tag-team supposedly left the Nagano-based company and were headed to the big leagues. (If this sounds familiar, that’s because Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles also left New Japan for WWE in January.)
Nonetheless, WWE never released an official confirmation on their signing. Sure, Finn Balor’s constant references in tweets and during live events only piqued further curiosity, as did NXT head trainer Matt Bloom’s image of Anderson working out at the WWE Performance Center. But since nothing was official, fans could only speculate.
Now, Anderson and Gallows have finally debuted on Raw, apparently with an invasion angle in the vein Scott Hall and Kevin Nash’s 1996 WCW debut. But while we still know little about what storylines the two will take part in, let’s take a look at how they got to WWE, and where they could potentially go from here.
Luke Gallows started training in Pennsylvania and West Virginia in 2005 before signing to the WWE and reporting to their Deep South Wrestling developmental branch. In the middle of 2006, he debuted as a masked Kane impostor, wrestling a single match with the real Kane before being tossed out of the arena as part of an abrupt end to the storyline. After working in Deep South for another year, Luke Gallows appeared on Smackdown as Festus, a dim-witted, aggressive giant who would snap out of a drooling, catatonic state when the ring bell rang. Along with his then-tag-team partner, Jessie, Festus was part of several mid- and low-card storylines for the next two years.
In 2009, Festus was rebranded as Luke Gallows after being “saved” by CM Punk and his famed Straight Edge Society heel faction. They feuded with several top-tier wrestlers and imposed their anti-drug beliefs on the crowd and the talent, all while comparing Punk to Jesus. After this convoluted yet popular gimmick ran its course and the group dissolved, Gallows was released from his WWE contract in 2010.
After wrestling the independent scene for a while and joining TNA for a couple of years in a biker gimmick as D.O.C. (Director of Chaos), Gallows joined New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2013, teaming with Karl Anderson as part of the heel Bullet Club stable. Gallows and Anderson fought against popular Japanese wrestlers like Kota Ibushi and Kazuchika Okada for three years, making his last appearance with Anderson in February before leaving New Japan.
“Machine Gun” Karl Anderson started training in 2000 at the age of 20, but made his debut in 2002 after a training setback concussed him and left him on the injured list for a while. After working and training in Cincinnati’s Northern Wrestling Federation territory, he moved to Los Angeles in 2005 to study at New Japan’s dojo. It was there where he met Fergal Devitt — now NXT’s Finn Balor.
Anderson wrestled in the states for Ring of Honor, the National Wrestling Alliance, and Pro Wrestling Guerilla for several years before setting his sights on Japan and working with New Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Noah. From 2008 to 2012, he was part of Bad Intentions, a tag-team with Giant Bernard (now NXT Trainer Matt Bloom) that won both the IWGP Tag Team Championship and Noah’s GHC Tag Team Championship. Bernard eventually returned to the WWE in 2012.
After wrestling numerous singles matches, Anderson formed Bullet Club with Gallows, Fergal (Prince) Devitt, Bad Luck Fale, and Tama Tonga. As powerful heels, Anderson and Gallows further cemented themselves as a dominant tag-team, winning the company’s IWGP Tag Team Championship together on three separate occasions before leaving the company in February.
WWE recognized the Bullet Club’s popularity for quite some time, going so far as to try and trademark the group’s “too sweet” hand gesture (once popularized by The Kliq), before ultimately withdrawing their application. When Finn Balor grew in popularity on NXT, they released a series of “Balor Club” and “Bulletproof Balor Club” shirts, aping the design while not outright infringing on it. (The Bullet Club trademark is owned by New Japan.)
Yet Finn Balor and AJ Styles, both former Bullet Club members, are now at main event status in NXT and WWE, respectively. Upon the all-but-confirmation of Anderson and Gallows’ signing to the WWE, there were rumors aplenty about them debuting as part of a “Balor Club” with Finn as their leader. For all we know, their debut could be a slow build to the inevitable Finn Balor debut, which would eschew the Bullet Club title and possibly add existing members of the WWE roster.
Right now, we can only speculate about their direction, including the possibility of working as a tag team outside of the Bullet/Balor Club gimmick. After all, Anderson and Gallows only appeared for the first time on Monday, while working a dark match segment at Tuesday’s Smackdown tapings, so there’s plenty of time to see where these two end up on the program. Still, you should expect exciting things from this duo in the near future, as well as a few more surprises in WWE’s thrilling post-WrestleMania season.