Gracias Dorada: A Farewell to the Golden Mask
Occasionally I have to take a step back and remind myself that I haven’t been around lucha libre as much as it seems. Like most I was introduced to it as a kid thanks to WCW’s wonderful cruiserweight division and always saw it around in some form in WWE thanks to the likes of Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, and Juventud Guerrera. But it wasn’t until American wrestling (and by American wrestling I pretty much mean WWE) continued to latch onto archaic practices that I stopped watching, found Lucha Underground and found myself engulfed in the wacky, flawed, beautiful world that is lucha libre. Why am I telling you this? Because even though it hasn’t been that long it feels like I’ve been watching lucha libre all my life. Once you find the place you belong, once you find something/someone that appreciates you the same way you appreciate them then the newest thing can become the oldest friend. That’s what lucha libre has become. I’ve been so fortunate to interact with many cool people since I started covering lucha and even more fortunate to see some of the most unique talent in wrestling that helps make lucha so special. And that is where we get to Máscara Dorada.
I don’t recall much about the first time I saw Dorada wrestle, aside from the fact that he was working against Mephisto because of course they were. I can tell you that I instantly knew that he was special. I’ve seen many special wrestlers over the years of course but there weren’t many that I instantly realized were as such; most either needed to work their way towards it. But every once in awhile someone would come along and you’d see that they had it instantly, guys like Ric Flair, Sting, Mysterio, Juvi, Eddie, Steve Austin, The Rock, Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Dean Ambrose, Kenny Omega, Prince Puma, Fenix, Pentagon Jr., Angelico, Jack Evans, Aerostar, Atlantis, Negro Casas, Kamaitachi and Dragón Lee. Dorada fell into that category thanks to a number of reasons, but only one that I can keep coming back to. Unlike many of those other guys I listed (save for Atlantis, Casas, Lee and Kamaitachi) Dorada was confined to a company in CMLL that, while not lacking for OMG moments, doesn’t have the same freedoms as a Lucha Underground or a AAA. You don’t see many people doing something new, something innovative every time out. And yet that is Dorada. Like Aerostar he is willing to try anything; like Angelico, Juvi and Rey from a younger time he’s willing to go beyond normal limits. It’s hard to stand out and be different in CMLL even if you’re a great luchador. Máscara Dorada has always stood out, which is what got him the notoriety that’s led to this day.
We all know by now that Máscara Dorada will be no more after tomorrow night’s Super Viernes show; he will instead become Gran Metalik, WWE’s newest superstar that (along with Akira Tozawa and Jack Gallagher) hopefully becomes the savior to the Mother Ship’s flailing Cruiserweight Division. With that all quickly becoming reality I thought it would be best to say a few words about Dorada. But what angle could I take? I could give unknowing WWE fans (who sang Dorada’s praises during the Cruiserweight Classic and then conveniently ignored anything about him that didn’t involve WWE when you approached them about it) a glimpse at how he got to where he is today, but I already did that months ago. I could tell you what makes him unique, but I kind of just did that in the last paragraph. I could break down Dorada’s chances of succeeding as Gran Metalik in WWE but that can easily be summed up by this statement; provided WWE creative doesn’t lock everything that made Dorada great up into the Phantom Zone, he’s the best Cruiserweight that they have for the foreseeable future (I’d argue he should’ve won the CWC) and could be the next Rey Mysterio with the right backing. So as you can see, there are not really many angles I can take here. Except for one, which is taking a couple of moments to thank Dorada.
I know, I know; the whole “thank you insert wrestler A” angle is largely played out and all that jazz. And yet I feel compelled to thank Máscara Dorada, for one specific reason. Not the fact that he’s a great wrestler who I’ll miss watching regularly, not that he’s a great guy (I’m told he is) and not because of any of those usual reasons. I want to thank Máscara Dorada because this past summer into the fall, as he took on the Gran Metalik persona in WWE and worked his way to a job there, he continued to show up to CMLL week after week whenever they needed him. Now you may not see anything out of the ordinary with that; most guys in wrestling without a full commitment from one organization will work two for as long as they can. How does that make Dorada special? Well it’s not that he showed up all the time; it’s that he never, ever allowed the WWE experience to slow him down, change him, or make him work less in the ring for all us lucha fans.
The dirty secret (one of the many) you learn about wrestling is that when wrestler’s get their big break (aka their WWE contract) and are filling out their remaining dates, most choose to simply take it easy. And I can’t blame them, because one bad move and suddenly your contract is going the way of M. Night Shyamalan prior to The Visit. Maybe playing it safe isn’t ideal for us fans but it’s understandable from the performer’s perspective. Well Dorada never played it safe. After he wowed Full Sail fans with moves they had only dreamt about doing, he came back to CMLL and did them all over again. When it seemed like it was time to take his foot off the pedal, he went faster. When it seemed like it was time to retire stage dives or running hurricanranas from the Arena Mexico ramp into the ring (a Dorada staple), he simply did more of them. And when it seemed like maybe he should just keep things simple all the way towards hitting the Dorada/Metalik Driver, he hit a hurricanrana by jumping over the turnbuckle and going all the way to the floor. I sadly can’t find any video of the spot I’m referring too (which only happened a month or so ago), but it looked something like this.
And so you see I have to thank Máscara Dorada, for all he’s done for CMLL, newer lucha fans like myself and the dozens of long suffering, hardcore lucha fans whose emotions regarding this man surpass anything I could possibly comprehend. He wowed us, he amazed us and when he no longer had to he continued to do so anyway because the fans, the company that gave him his break and lucha libre truly meant that much to him. How can we not be inspired by him? How can we not be grateful for a performer like him? When CMLL surprised an emotional Dorada following his last match in Arena Puebla this past Monday with the entire locker room coming out to thank him, I could feel tears forming. When it happens again tomorrow night in Arena Mexico I expect to be bawling my eyes out, because whether or not you’ve been watching lucha libre for two months, two years or two lifetimes, you know that Máscara Dorada is someone special in every way. And at the risk of sounding like the biggest sap in the history of the western hemisphere, let’s close this out as such.
Gracias Dorada. For everything you’ve done for us and everything you’ll do.