Over the past two weeks there have been no hotter names in WWE than Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. After months of speculation that they’d signed, the duo debuted on last Monday’s Raw when they attacked The Usos. This week they made a much larger impact by attacking WWE World Heavyweight Champion Roman Reigns, thereby inserting themselves into the Reigns versus AJ Styles Championship program. Fans who are only familiar with WWE programming may be confused as to why Gallows and Anderson have already ascended to such a high level in the company. However, in truth they have been huge stars for the past several years.
Karl Anderson, who also has gone by the name Machine Gun, began wrestling professionally in 2000. He was moderately successful on the American independent scene for several years, however his career didn’t truly take off until he entered New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2008. Anderson was immediately successful as a “gaijin” (which roughly translates to “foreigner” in Japanese and has traditionally been used to refer to American wrestlers specifically) to the point where he almost exclusively worked for NJPW, a rarity for a foreign competitor. He’d eventually form a tag team with Giant Bernard aka Matt Bloom that would become one of the most successful gaijin duos in Japanese history with a reign as the IWGP tag team champions and winning the 2009 G1 Tag League championship.
In opposition to Anderson’s long road to success, Luke Gallows was initially signed to WWE less than a year after he began wrestling. Outside of a brief main roster run impersonating Kane, Gallows spent several years in the company’s developmental system before making it to the main roster as the mentally challenged Festus. After some success as a tag team competitor, Gallows was made a member of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society stable. Once that group disbanded, Gallows floundered in the undercard a bit before being released by the WWE. He spent the next several years bouncing around the indies, interspersed with a TNA run as a member of biker stable Aces & Eights.
The duo first came together in 2013, when Gallows was brought in to team with Anderson as part of the 2013 World Tag League. This pairing also led to Gallows becoming a member of the Bullet Club stable by proxy, as Anderson was one of its founding members. The group, initially led by Prince Devitt aka NXT Champion Finn Balor, was a heel faction made up of foreign competitors who ran roughshod over NJPW. Despite their heel statism, the group became popular in Japan and overseas for using gestures and slogans made famous during the late 90’s wrestling boom, especially after the additions of AJ Styles and tag team The Young Bucks. The success of the stable led to Gallows and Anderson becoming cornerstones of the company’s tag team division, leading to three reigns with the IGPW Tag Team Championships. The duo also parlayed their popularity into several appearances in the United States, including a run in Ring of Honor.
Rumors began to spread earlier this year that Gallows and Anderson, along with Styles, would be leaving NJPW to sign with WWE. Styles debuted at the company’s Royal Rumble event in January, immediately leading to speculation on when the other two would debut and if WWE would acknowledge their history with Styles and introduce their own version of the Bullet Club. With the events of this past Monday, the company has certainly acknowledged the past, though it remains to be seen what direction they’ll take from here.