The Young Bucks vs. WWE

The Young Bucks, Matt and Nick Jackson, are widely considered the best tag team in the world today. Members of the Bullet Club, the stable launched by Finn Balor in 2013, Matt and Nick became wildly popular for their over-the-top personas and amazing aerial ability.

The past five years of New Japan Pro Wrestling are quite the story. The promotion that the legendary Antonio Inoki founded in 1972 was responsible for some of the most memorable moments in the history of the sport. Inoki, the Japanese grappler that famously fought the iconic Muhammad Ali in a primitive type of MMA fight in 1976, was a student of Rikidozan, one of the pioneers of Japanese professional wrestling. After Inoki worked for JWP, the first national organization in the country, he founded the previously mentioned New Japan, and began a respectful rivalry with Rikidozan’s other star student, Giant Baba, who went on to start All Japan.

After the boom period of the 1980s and success in the 1990s, the Japanese market fell off a cliff. The death of Baba in 1999 led to the late Misawa forming Pro Wrestling Noah the following year. Many top stars opted to launch their own projects instead of working for the established organization, which led to a flood of alphabet soup groups that completely over saturated the landscape. In the early 2000s, Inoki attempted to capitalize on the popularity of Pride FC and booked a new philosophy that included mixed martial arts fighters within the pro wrestling environment, a decision that led to disastrous results. Perhaps the most obvious example of this was when former NFL player Bob Sapp won the IWGP Heavyweight title after a series of clumsy matches. The belt was illogically vacated after Sapp lost a K-1 fight to Fujita, who eventually won the championship.

By 2005, Inoki’s wrestling empire was on the brink of collapse, and he was forced to sell a majority of the promotion to Yuke’s, a division of the THQ video game company. In 2012, THQ sold to Bushiroad before the video game company went bankrupt. Bushiroad, the parent company of a popular trading card franchise, looked to modernize the New Japan product, both from a booking and marketing prospective.

Ironically, when Eric Bischoff borrowed the concept of the UWFI invasion of New Japan as the basis for the New World Order in WCW, it launched the Turner organization to a new level. In a throwback to that same NWO angle, it was New Japan that borrowed the angle as the foundation of the Bullet Club, a group of foreigners that stormed onto the scene to challenge the native heroes. Jado and Gedo, wrestling veterans that became bookers for NJPW after the Bushiroad purchase, did remarkably well in their role, and built compelling angles using a mixture of stars. Along with AJ Styles, The Young Bucks, Adam Cole, Kenny Omega, Adam Page, Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows, and Marty Scrull are all among the gaijin talent that played a role in the extremely popular stable over the past four years. At the same time, native talent like Okada, Nakamura, Tahanshi, Shibata, Suzuki, and others have delivered stellar in-ring performances.

Aside from the basis of the angle, the Bullet Club borrowed the “too sweet” sign from the NWO and the DX chop as a retro tribute to two of the most popular acts of the attitude era. In many ways, what was old became new again, and Bullet Club put a renewed spotlight on the Kliq era the industry. However, the group’s popularity wasn’t just a result of hand gestures or catchphrases, but rather their incredible in-ring ability.

Last week, after the Ring Of Honor pay-per-view in Las Vegas, members of the Bullet Club were in California near the venue that hosted Raw. On their Youtube series, “Being The Elite,” the stable often spoofed “cease and desist” scenarios from WWE, including Cody Rhodes prohibited from using his last name post-WWE. In another retro moment, the Bullet Club “invaded” Raw, similar to DX’s infamous invasion of Nitro nearly two decades ago.

It was no coincidence that the next day the WWE sent the Young Bucks a legitimate cease and desist letter about the use of the “too sweet” hand sign. While under contract to New Japan and Ring Of Honor, Matt and Nick Jackson are still independent contractors that hustle to sell merchandise as well as take other indy bookings when their schedule allows. The bottom line is, The Young Bucks are two real-life brothers that wrestle to make a living and support their families.

Reportedly, the WWE filed for a trademark of the hand gesture in 2015, but it remains unclear if it was secured. The Young Bucks, along with the other members of BC were using the hand sign before that, but establishing a prerequisite for that would involve an expensive legal process. In fact, any legal proceedings against the WWE is an expensive process, which is why the Bucks announced earlier this week that they will discontinue the “too sweet” pose. Considering that WWE may or may not actually own the rights, doesn’t it seem a little petty to threaten to sue? Is World Wrestling Entertainment really going to lose any revenue from their global, publicly traded company if a tag team uses a hand gesture in Japan? Don’t get me wrong, if WWE owns the rights, they have the ability to send the cease and desist letter, but it seems unnecessary, especially when The Bucks make a living because of their ability in the ring, not a retro gesture.

After numerous independent stars, many former BC members were signed to WWE deals, rumors began about if the Bucks would join them. I would guess it’s still possible at some point in the future, but threatening to sue doesn’t exactly seem like the best way to entice The Bucks to sign a contract. So, The Young Bucks won’t use the “too sweet” pose, but as I said earlier, that won’t do anything to hinder their status. Matt and Nick Jackson will continue to be a draw within ROH, New Japan, etc. because of their incredible athlete ability. The same could be said for Cody Rhodes, who bet on himself and it paid off, after he requested his release from the WWE. Maybe it’s sour grapes, but management claimed they had the rights to the Rhodes last name, a name that his father Dusty used decades ago. Cody, the current Ring Of Honor champion, has been on a tremendous run, wrestling literally around the world since his release. Cody gets those opportunities because of his ability, not his last name. Aside from the possible lawsuit, a cease and desist letter more or less recognizes that an alternative product was established within the industry.