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Fourth-Generation Wrestler David Finlay Has Bullet Club Headed in a New Direction

The son of the great Fit Finlay is Bullet Club’s new leader.

An intense restructuring of Bullet Club is underway.

Just shy of its 10th year, Bullet Club is New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s premier collection of stars. It has featured breakout performances from Finn Bálor, AJ Styles, Kenny Omega and Jay White, each of whom has served as the group’s leader.

While most of America sleeps, David Finlay is the architect behind the Bullet Club revival.

“We lost sight of what Bullet Club is designed to do,” says Finlay. “We became obsessed with selling T-shirts. That isn’t our intent. Bullet Club is here to disrupt and destroy.”

Bullet Club has run the wrestling world for the past decade, with its mantra and members affecting story lines in WWE, AEW, Ring of Honor and Impact Wrestling. And Finlay wants the famed faction to return to its roots.

“This is my Bullet Club,” says Finlay. “It’s going to be the most violent, ruthless version, and it’s going to be defined by blood and championship gold.”

Finlay is projecting a viciousness not previously displayed throughout his career. He defeated AR Fox on Saturday in Washington, D.C., at New Japan’s Capital Collision, a performance that was among the best of the night, even on such a loaded card. Yet the most compelling part occurred after Finlay’s hand was raised in victory, and he called Clark Connors to the ring.

Articulating to Connors how he was overlooked and undervalued, Finlay promised the future would be different if they were fighting together in Bullet Club’s customary black and white. Connors accepted the trademark Too Sweet gesture, and the new-look Bullet Club—officially featuring Finlay, Gedo, Bad Luck Fale, Kenta, Chase Owens, Taiji Ishimori and Connors—continues its assault on the New Japan roster.

“That is my Bullet Club,” says Finlay. “Accept no imitation. That is the real Bullet Club.”

A career babyface, Finlay is an intriguing choice to steer the group. A fourth-generation wrestler, and son of the great Fit Finlay, he spent his infancy in Germany before moving with his family to Atlanta.

Finlay’s odyssey was inevitable, leading him on a direct path to pro wrestling. He was an amateur wrestler in high school—and, not surprisingly, a four-year varsity starter and team captain. It all served as a prelude to where he is now.

When Finlay was only 11, he informed his mother he was not going to college. His mother was displeased, and Finlay can still remember her pulling aside his dad.

“My dad was like, ‘Where he’s going, he’s not going to need college,’” says Finlay. “I’ve always wanted this life. I’ve prepared the past 29 years for this moment. Now the chains are off.”

A life that shaped him to become a pro wrestler began with his debut match at 19 in Germany. Finlay opened the card against Walter (better known now as Gunther in WWE) and closed out the night teaming with his father against Robbie Brookside and Danny Collins, which was his father’s retirement match.

Since then, watching Finlay’s progression is a study in the pursuit of perfection. His matches are crisp and his move set is solid. Working as a villain now allows him a whole new state of opponents. This includes Will Ospreay, who he wrestled a spectacular match against in Kobe last September at NJPW’s Burning Spirit.

“We go all the way back to 2015 as young kids in New Japan,” says Finlay. “There’s always been a bit of contention between the two of us. We’ve never seen eye to eye, we’ve never got along. I’m not his friend; he’s not my friend. I wouldn’t call it chemistry. There’s animosity between us. We just straight up don’t like each other.”

Ospreay won that match, but it was Finlay who was greeted with a standing ovation from his peers when he stepped back through the curtain. Multiple members of the locker room confirmed that industry icon Hiroshi Tanahashi even cornered Finlay to compliment his work. The next time Finlay and Tanahashi share the same space will be in the ring. Tanahashi is the perennial rival for Bullet Club. When that does take place, Finlay’s unrelenting commitment to the craft will be visible.

There are so many subtle elements to Finlay’s repertoire that should be highlighted. The way he reacts to his opponent’s offense, from being hurled into the turnbuckles to taking his array of kicks, is sensational. His dropkick looks so precise, a clear indication he wants to be the best inside the ring.

“I watch wrestling every day,” says Finlay. “My three go-tos to watch are Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and my dad, Fit Finlay. The last year, year and a half, living in Tampa, I live pretty close to [WWE’s] Tyson Kidd and Nattie Neidhart, and I’ve trained with them in their ring.

“I’ve been picking [Kidd’s] brain for the last year and a half in their version of the dungeon. I grew up with a ring in my backyard, just like Nattie did. I’m in there on a regular basis fine-tuning my skills. It’s not so much training. It feels more like a Fight Club, and that’s translated well for me in New Japan.”

Finlay’s use of stunners as counters is especially creative. Initially, he started using the stunner as a finisher after completing his stint as a Young Boy in the New Japan Dojo. That was the result of a brainstorming session with his father before his very first tour. He sought a finisher that could be hit on any and everyone, which led them to the stunner. Finlay slightly modified it—he did not do the kick to the gut, yet rather just jumped right into it.

Through trial and error, he realized the move is far more effective as a counter. That is representative of his commitment to the craft and in-ring IQ. As a wrestler, it shows he can be dangerous from any position, particularly as a momentum-changer. Following a solid G1 Climax tournament last summer, and a deep run into the finals of the New Japan Cup last month, Finlay has arrived at the realization he is as talented as anyone in New Japan.

“I’ve been wrestling for a decade,” says Finlay. “For too long, I was trying to be someone I’m not.”

Finlay’s transformation into Bullet Club leader took place in February at the Battle in the Valley in San Jose, Calif. This was the night that Finlay drilled White with his shillelagh, especially meaningful because it was during White’s farewell to New Japan and prevented him from giving his farewell remarks to the crowd.

Months later, White has now emerged as a player in AEW. He and Juice Robinson have formed Bullet Club Gold, which Finlay quickly established as nothing more than a Bullet Club replica.

“Juice and Jay, whatever they’re doing in AEW, I don’t know what that is,” says Finlay. “Make no mistake—they are not part of the real Bullet Club.”

Before turning 30 in May, Finlay plans to put the NEVER openweight championship around his waist. That title currently belongs to Tama Tonga, and it would be a positive start to his run as Bullet Club leader—yet he would be a made man if he ever wore the IWGP world heavyweight title.

“This isn’t the world title, but it is a belt that tells the world you’re the baddest motherf---er in New Japan,” says Finlay. “That is a statement I’m going to make.”

Finlay is boldly attempting to break new ground in New Japan. He has the potential to add a vigor and ferocity that the Bullet Club sorely needs, and he can make it happen in a way unlike anyone before him.

“I’ve been preparing for this moment for the past 29 years,” says Finlay. “This is my life; it’s always been my life. And I’m just getting started.”

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