The Man That WWE Forgot
Sometimes, it’s almost surprising to remember that I once cared about the place known as WWE. Alas I did; for over a decade I lived and died with the company, partially because I loved wrestling and partially because WCW was gone and TNA was, well, TNA. In many ways I was one of those fans you see all over the internet these days, the ones who believe wrestling begins and ends with WWE and that everything else is merely unimportant or a feeder ground for the big leagues. In a parallel universe there may be a version of me that still believes that and who can’t imagine believing anything else. Here in reality though, that person no longer exists. With the exception of the NXT Takeover: Dallas show, I haven’t seen a full WWE card in two years and, to be honest, I haven’t really cared too much for the company at all in at least a year and a half. Sure I keep up with what’s going on because a) its good to be informed and b) several friends of mine still watch and it’s a good topic of discussion, but beyond that WWE is as dead to me as Derek Zoolander was to his father…with one exception. I couldn't care less about almost everything in WWE, but there is one performer, one wrestler that I still care very much about and am invested in seeing him succeed. His name is Gran Metalik.
You may ask; why is Gran Metalik my last connection with WWE? That’s primarily because I’ve been a fan of him from the time he went under another name; Máscara Dorada. The funny thing is that, still being a lucha libre noob, I didn’t get to see Dorada wrestle until early last year, when he returned to CMLL after a yearlong excursion in New Japan. A month later it felt like I had been watching him for years. That’s how exciting, how amazing, how unbelievable an experience it was for me to see Máscara Dorada in the ring. When he then was announced as part of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic a few months later, it was bittersweet. It’s always great to see your favorites get a huge opportunity of any kind; unfortunately that opportunity was for a company I no longer supported, on a streaming service I no longer had (and wasn’t willing to shill over the cash to get back) and in a situation that had seen many other great luchadors used up and thrown out worse than they came in. It was basically one of those “I’m thrilled for the guy, but hopefully WWE doesn’t take him away.” Then, just like that, my fears were silenced when Dorada took up the name Gran Metalik, kept on winning matches and ultimately outlasted favorites like Kota Ibushi, Cedric Alexander and Zack Sabre Jr. (who Metalik actually beat) to make it to the finals, where he lost to fellow luchador T.J. Perkins. Just like that there was hope. If the WWE treated both Dorada and Perkins that well in the CWC, then surely they’d do the same when the two were moved up. Along with the signing of Dorada’s former coworker La Sombra (Andrade “Cien” Almas) it looked like WWE was finally turning a corner on how to use luchadors.
Let that last few sentences prove that even after all these years I can still be played like a sucker by Vince McMahon. Why do I say that? Because none of that happened. Since the CWC ended, Dorada has made a grand total of three televised appearances as Gran Metalik; on the September 5th episode of RAW (where the cruiserweights were disastrously rolled out), on the February 14th episode of 205 Live (where he defeated Drew Gulak) and the May 15th episode of 205 Live (where he lost to Noam Darr. Gorram Noam Darr!). Beyond that Dorada’s appearances have been confined NXT Live shows and the long lost Main Event…except that’s not even the case anymore. According to Cagematch, cubsfan and every other credible source I know, Dorada’s last appearance 38 days ago. Thirty eight days ago! That’s over a month off of TV, off of 205 Live, off of Main Event, NXT house shows; the WWE has literally used Gran Metalik, one of its best wrestlers on the entire roster, zero times in the past month! Forgive me for the all caps and my obvious bias but… that is merely unacceptable. The only thing keeping me from getting really upset about it is cubsfan’s hilarious milk carton meme he made of the situation and this!
Now, even if you’re not the biggest fan of Dorada/Metalik, you’ve surely thought it’s odd that WWE hasn’t done more with a guy who went really far in the CWC. You’re surely thinking to yourself “there’s got to be an explanation for this!” And there are indeed several theories. One is that WWE is taking things slow with Dorada because he can’t speak English, hasn’t worked the US style and doesn’t want another Mistico/Sin Cara/Myzteziz/Carístico situation on their hands. Another is that Dorada so thoroughly unimpressed in his match with Gulak (where he did admittedly botch a move or two) that WWE pulled the plug until he proved himself. Some think that 205 Live just uses a certain cycle of guys at a time, and that Dorada will eventually get his chance when WWE needs a new challenger for Neville. For Grodd’s sake, I’ve even read a theory about that Dorada, who most believe was never used to his full potential in New Japan, is the common denominator. After all; if a talent can’t get pushed well in either of the two biggest promotions in the world, perhaps the problem is him and not the companies. There’s all those theories and more, and from where I stand they’re all full of shit. Dorada not speaking English and not adapting to the US style was no problem when he was in the CWC, where they let him speak Spanish and watched him deliver Match of the Year candidates. Yes the Gulak match wasn’t perfect, but the rave reviews Dorada has gotten in almost every other match he’s had would suggest that was a fluke more than a trend. And the idea that he’ll be around when 205 Live cycles through is laughable considering 205 Live has been using the same group of seven dudes since the show began (last I checked, Cedric Alexander is still feuding with Noam Darr, despite the fact that the program’s naturally concluded at least twice). It leaves you with only three other possibilities; injury, WWE fearing Dorada could wind up like Carístico and Dorada being a problem child.
The latter two theories aren’t only, by my estimation, way off base but incredibly insulting. Yes Carístico failed in WWE as Sin Cara, but that wasn’t just because he couldn’t pick up the style/didn’t speak English; it was because he’s a raging egomaniac. He also was a guy, once he was announced as coming to WWE, who immediately left CMLL high and dry, seemingly burning his bridge on the way out. Dorada couldn’t be any further from that. How do I know this? Because as he was competing in WWE all last summer into the fall, I watched him work in CMLL and Lucha Libre Elite (CMLL's then associate promotion). That’s right; the entire time Dorada was tearing it up as Gran Metalik, he was still fulfilling dates for CMLL, including challenging for titles, working main events and even getting on the Anniversary Show card. And during that entire time he never, never, once stopped giving it his all. That is no small fact to overlook sports fans. Dorada had a contract with WWE soon after he appeared on the CWC and had every incentive to take it easy, protect himself and not go all out for his remaining CMLL dates. Instead he did shit like this.
So you see, I refuse to believe that Máscara Dorada, a man who killed himself for company’s he had no long term commitment with, is the problem in this occasion. This is a guy who cared so much that he continued to give it his all, even though WWE was probably telling him to tone it down so to not jeopardize his contract. This is a guy who respected CMLL so much that he actually asked permission of CMLL owner Paco Alonso to appear in the CWC, even though he could’ve just left without giving notice at all. More importantly, Máscara Dorada is the same dude who, in his last match for CMLL to date, was treated to one of the most emotional farewells I’ve ever seen in wrestling ring, when the entire CMLL locker room emptied to wish him well. It was such a scene that Dorada actually became overcome and briefly collapsed, having to be helped out by CMLL legend Negro Casas. I’ll remember that moment for the rest of my life, not just because it was beautiful but because it told you everything you needed to know about Dorada. He gave his everything to CMLL even when he didn’t have to, and you just knew that he would do the same for WWE if given the chance. Which makes it all the more insulting to us lucha fans and, most importantly, to him that WWE hasn’t given it to him. Unless there has been an injury no one knows about, there is no excuse. Máscara Dorada, Gran Metalik, whatever you want to call him, is one of the best performers in the world and he cannot even get on a show long enough to lose to gorram Noam Darr. In what world is that acceptable?
You know what the funniest thing about all this is though? The fact that it hasn’t worked out for Dorada stuns me, when it shouldn’t. WWE’s history in regards to luchadors, despite what some will claim, is horrible. Juventud Guerrera, Psicosis and Super Crazy, three of the most exciting luchadors ever, were made into stereotypes who rode around in a lawnmower. Konnan, the biggest star in lucha libre history, was turned into a cyborg called Max Moon (though in fairness, Konnan has himself said he contributed to that idea). Legends Negro Casas and El Hijo del Santo were confined to the D List show Super Astros and never got a chance beyond that. Even Carístico and Alberto Del Rio, as big of assholes as they can be, were put in positions to fail time and time again, which is even more alarming when you consider WWE was doing everything they could to bring them success. To this day Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero remain the only two luchadors to truly shatter the glass ceiling, and even then they had to scratch and claw to get to the point. That Máscara Dorada would find no work as Gran Metalik while Kalisto, Sin Cara II and Lince Dorada are nowhere to be seen and Andrade “Cien” Almas tries to recover from WWE (unintentionally) sabotaging his debut isn’t shocking. And yet somehow I was surprised anyway. Even after all this time and my lack of caring towards anything else WWE related, they still managed to sucker me in and make me believe that Dorada had a shot. I am truly fortunes fool.
But hey, for all I know maybe it will work out. Maybe WWE will suddenly drop everything else going on with the Cruiserweight Division and do Gran Metalik vs. Neville at Summerslam in a match that would surely be one of the best of 2017 for any promotion. Hell I’ll just settle to know he’s being booked on shows again. Just do something! Whether you believe, like me, that Máscara Dorada is one of the best wrestlers in the world or merely think he’s a unique talent who deserves a better shot, the simple fact of the matter is that WWE isn’t doing nearly enough with him. So if anyone from WWE is reading this, I implore, neigh I beg you of this; please, PLEASE give Gran Metalik something to do. Prove me wrong and give me reason to care about one thing you guys are doing. And if not, well then do the right thing, the thing you should’ve done if you’ve never intended to use him anyway; let Gran Metalik fade away. Let him fade away and let him come home, to the place that loved him, to the locker room that loved him, to the fans that loved him. I don’t know if he’s better off that way or not. I just know than he’s better off than being the subject of a now popular Twitter question; what the hell happened to Gran Metalik?