How The Young Bucks Transformed Themselves Into Wrestling's Best Storytellers

“We’ve made a career out of working with a chip on our shoulder.”
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Unlike former Roman dictator Julius Caesar, the month of March is a historically good month for the Young Bucks.

The Bucks’ Matt and Nick Jackson are coming off a March in 2016 that saw them give increased stature to New Japan’s NEVER Openweight six-man titles with Kenny Omega, then March of 2017 saw memorable battles against WWE legends Matt and Jeff Hardy. A year later, the Bucks remain atop the wrestling world as the most talented and innovative tag team.

This month is equally appetizing, with upcoming matches that include a “Vegas Street Fight” at the Ring of Honor 16th Anniversary pay per view March 9 against SoCal Uncensored and a must-see affair during New Japan’s March 25 live show on AXS TV against the team of Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi.

Yet the Bucks face their own Ides of March. They are, seemingly, constantly criticized for their in-ring performance.

Common complaints include: little to no selling, a lack of psychology, and an insistence on synchronized gymnastics in wrestling matches. But when you take a step back from the bell-to-bell action and have a better view of their work, the depth of the Bucks’ Matt and Nick Jackson becomes that more apparent.

“We’ve made a career out of working with a chip on our shoulder,” admitted Matt Jackson. “Maybe that’s why we work so hard? To prove others wrong? The pool of doubters has thinned in recent years, but it’s definitely still around.”

So much of the wrestling world is missing the Big Picture with the Young Bucks, who are organizing the All In show–which promises to fill a 10,000-seat arena–with Cody Rhodes on Sept. 1 at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.

The Bucks created a revolutionary business model that extends beyond their work in the ring and is very sustainable. They are part of an emerging culture that has discovered new ways to distribute content. Incredibly, the Bucks have not even needed the WWE marketing machine to accomplish their success. They have the own YouTube channel, Being The Elite, a line of merchandise in Hot Topic stores across the country, and the Ring of Honor stars continue to make money in wrestling without WWE in the corner.

“But we definitely feed off of the negativity,” said Nick Jackson. “It keeps me motivated, and at the same time it makes me realize not everyone will always love us.”

Too many critics are fixated on the psychology of the Bucks’ matches instead of focusing on their cutting edge approach to business. Their ability to tap into the modern climate of how people are consuming content and their ability to monetize themselves outside of a system is remarkable.

“People said our careers were over when the ‘Too Sweet’ hand gesture was taken from us,” said Matt. “Now, it doesn’t even feel strange not doing it. People said we only knew how to work one style. Then we switched it up completely. People said Bullet Club had peaked for years now. Yet, here we are, as we continue to help it stay interesting and popular.”

“We’re not everyone’s cup of tea,” added Nick. “But as long as you know we work hard, that’s all I’m looking for from the critics.”

Ultimately, the two brothers from California feel the world is a better place when the Bucks can continue to prove their detractors wrong.

“Maybe it’s not just us trying to prove the doubters wrong, but maybe it’s us wanting to prove something to ourselves as artists,” continued Matt. “We’re never not thinking about the next phase. I hope fans continue to enjoy how we feel wrestling should be viewed in 2018.”

The Bucks have never had the benefit of a cohesive national marketing campaign during their time from Sinclair-owned Ring of Honor, yet they are the most popular tag team in the world not currently employed by WWE. Imagine what they could do with WWE entrenched firmly behind them?

Their current focus is on the Vince McMahon-controlled northeast, but only because of this weekend’s travel itinerary.

The Bucks just traveled cross-country for tonight’s meet-and-greet at Northeast Wrestling’s Wrestlefest XXII show in Waterbury, Connecticut, and will also wrestle at Ring of Honor’s show tomorrow at the Manhattan Center’s Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. The trip serves as a rare chance to connect in-person with their East Coast fans.

“We most certainly look forward to meeting fans from the area–we don’t venture that way enough,” said Matt. “It’s definitely a rare occasion when we are at a wrestling show and not actually performing on the show. That’s going to feel strange. It’ll definitely be nice to take our time with each fan at the Northeast show, not feeling the pressure to get to the back to prepare for a match.”

The WWE Headquarters are also in Connecticut, so the Bucks were asked if there were any other wrestling landmarks worth visiting during the trip to the Nutmeg State.

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“I remember certain cities and towns by the energy the fans bring and Connecticut has always been good to us, and I look forward to it,” said Nick. “We unfortunately won’t have time to visit anything. That’s usually the case anywhere we go.”

Of course, excitement of the unknown is forever in motion with the Bucks. The possibility always exists that there will be a trip to the WWE offices in Stamford, Connecticut during their brief trip north.

“We’ll definitely be filming for our show,” confirmed Matt. 

The friction in the Bullet Club is one of the most compelling storylines in wrestling, and the ability to play out that story arc on Being The Elite is being presented in a format that is original and organic. The show, which is closing in one 100 episodes, details subtleties, nuances, and character traits that do not have time to air on weekly ROH programming. The series even breaks news, and it is set to reveal the location of the “All In” show on the next episode.

“I always knew it was going to be big for us, but I’m not sure that I thought it would be this big,” said Nick. “Originally I just wanted it all to be shot like a documentary on a weekly basis, but Matt thought of adding storylines and I think that’s what has brought it to heights we didn’t know it would reach. It’s pretty awesome to see and I’m flattered anytime someone says they watch every week.”

“We’re very proud of the way everything is going down,” continued Matt. “This is the most hands-on we’ve ever been with a wrestling angle, so to see people are enjoying it is very rewarding. When we first started using Being The Elite to supplement storylines, it was just a little extra bonus reward for the fans who watched. Something fun to follow along with. Whereas now, it feels like some of the stuff we’ve included on recent episodes are actually must-see, if you’re trying to follow along. Actually, recently, our show has given more detailed content than you might not see from watching only ROH or New Japan.”

The Bucks have capitalized on every available platform to tell their unique story.

“We do not have the luxury of having a three hour weekly cable show seen by millions,” said Matt. “But we do have a 12-15 minute weekly YouTube series, we have ROH TV, New Japan World, and we all have Twitter accounts. We’re going to try to get the most out of all of those things. We’re going to provide continuity with content that doesn’t insult our viewers.

“I think the success of our angles have proven that wrestling fans are ready for long-term, sophisticated, multi-layered storylines. The wrestling ring is only one of the canvases to paint on. Having a great wrestling match will only get you so far these days, because everyone is a phenomenal wrestler.

The Bucks move left when the right of the world is turning right. Paul Heyman famously championed the “zig when they zag” mentality at ECW, and Matt and Nick Jackson understand that wrestling is evolving faster than many others realize.

“Great matches have the shortest shelf life in history,” said Matt. “Now, you’ve got to have an interesting story, to be remembered. We need to be thinking more like HBO and Netflix and less like wrestling.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.