It was another stunning round of releases by WWE on Thursday, that saw such stars as former NXT Champion Keith Lee, former RAW Women’s Champion Nia Jax, former NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon, and other top stars like Franky Monet (Taya Valkyrie), former NXT Champion Karrion Kross, and many more being “future endeavored”. But of all the names, there was one that stood out, not because of the success they had in the WWE Universe but for the lack thereof, a man who was one of the top international stars in the world prior to signing with WWE, one who fell into the all too familiar trap of being underutilized and reduced to a throwaway bit player, the masked luchador Gran Metalik. But now that he’s finally received the release he’s been seeking since earlier this year, it may soon be the time for Máscara Dorada to refind his position in the world of professional wrestling.
The man who would become Máscara Dorada began his career in his native Mexico at the age of 16. The son of El Gitano (and trained by his father), he initially wrestled as Gitano Jr., before taking the mantle of Plato II. He only competed briefly as Plato II, before changing to Metalik, and soon he was becoming a YouTube sensation with his innovative offense in the ring. In 2007, he signed with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) and soon began competing for the company. He was pushed early, winning the Occidente Welterweight Championship in 2008. But Metalik wasn’t doing as well as he had previously to signing and he was cooled off. Soon after, CMLL brought in the mini superstar Mascarita Sagrada from AAA Lucha Libre, but due to AAA holding the rights to his name, he was renamed as Mascarita Dorada in CMLL. In a change of the norm, CMLL announced they were introducing a “big size” version of the mini (usually it’s the opposite), and Metalik was repackaged as Máscara Dorada. He was pushed heavily, but the flaws in his training were starting to be exposed and CMLL revamped their training staff. This led to Máscara Dorada getting deeper training with new CMLL trainers Gran Cochisse and El Satánico, and the new mentorship proved to be just the catalyst needed to hone Máscara Dorada’s potential and create an exciting new star for CMLL. In May of 2009, he won the CMLL World Super Lightweight Championship.
Máscara Dorada went on a belt collecting spree the next year, winning the Mexican National Trios Championship with Metro and Stutka Jr. in January of 2010, followed a few months later with the CMLL World Trios Championship with La Sombra (now Andrade El Idolo in AEW) and La Mascara, the latter two with whom he created the faction La Generacion Dorada (La Sombra & La Mascara would break off in 2014 and create Los Ingobernables). That September, Máscara Dorada would claim more singles gold, defeating the legendary Negro Casas to become CMLL World Welterweight Champion. Máscara Dorada now held four titles at the same time with CMLL and was one of the company’s hottest young stars. That year, Máscara Dorada and stablemate La Sombra would make their debuts for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) as well – La Sombra debuted earlier that year in the Best of the Super Juniors XVII, but Máscara Dorada would debut alongside La Sombra as a duo in the fall’s Super Junior Tag Team Tournament (now Super Junior Tag League). The following year, Máscara Dorada made his own debut in the Best of the Super Juniors XVIII, where he picked up an upset victory over Jushin Thunder Liger in his first match of the tournament, as well as standout matches against the likes of KUSHIDA, Kota Ibushi, and Great Sasuke. That year, at NJPW Dominion 2011, he defended his CMLL World Welterweight title against New Japan’s Ryusuke Taguchi. Máscara Dorada would become a regular with NJPW over the next few years, and competed in three more Best of the Super Juniors (2014, 2015, and 2015) and in 2015, Máscara Dorada and Atlantis won the Fantastica Mania Tag Team Tournament in Tokyo in the CMLL/NJPW co-produced event. He also sought to unify his CMLL World Welterweight title with the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title but failed in his quest when he lost a huge match against Kenny Omega at NJPW Invasion Attack in Tokyo. It led to Máscara Dorada feuding with Bullet Club for the rest of the year. By early 2016, he was one of Mexico’s most exciting high flyers following a breakthrough year in New Japan. And then WWE came calling.
Following the expiration of his contract in early 2016, he began to branch out into other Mexican indies, such as The Crash Lucha, Desastre Total Ultraviolento (DTU), and RIOT, as well as doing small bookings in the U.S. indies. But on June 13, 2016, he was announced as being one of the 16 international competitors to compete in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. But while his mask was undeniable, his name had changed – he was announced as Gran Metalik. He went on to have an impressive run in the tournament, defeating Alejandro Saez, Tajiri, Akira Tozawa, and Zack Sabre Jr., losing only to TJ Perkins in the tournament’s final. During the tournament, it was revealed he had signed with WWE and following the tournament, it was announced that WWE was relaunching their Cruiserweight division and that Gran Metalik would be a part of the division alongside several other standouts. Following a brief start on Monday Night RAW, the Cruiserweight division was soon given its own program/brand, 205 Live, while they routinely competed on the NXT house show circuit and made limited appearances on WWE Main Event. But Gran Metalik continued to shine, in what brief TV appearances he could get. By the time he was paired with Kalisto and Lince Dorado in 2018, Metalik never received one televised challenge for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.
WWE continued its tradition of never truly understanding how to market lucha libre when they created the Lucha House Party trio of Kalisto, Gran Metalik, and Lince Dorado in the spring of 2018, and soon it became apparent that the three super talented high flyers were now relegated to a children’s novelty act. When given the opportunity to perform, they all did their best, but it was clear that they were now an afterthought in WWE Creative – they were simply fodder for other tag teams they wanted to push higher.In early 2020, the trio seemed to finally find their ground, competing in tag team title matches at WWE Elimination Chamber and WWE Money in the Bank, as well as on both Monday Night RAW and SmackDown Live. This past July, Gran Metalik & Lince Dorado scored a victory over T-BAR & MACE on RAW. But despite the seeming success, the cracks were showing. In April, Kalisto was released from WWE. In early September, reports out of Mexico were that Gran Metalik had requested his release from WWE. And now, two months later, Gran Metalik has gotten his wish. And in 90-days, the world will finally get Máscara Dorada back.
And if there’s one non-WWE wrestler out there that is salivating at the chance to work with Máscara Dorada once he’s able, it would be a recent AEW signee, Bryan Danielson. Back in early March, while still Daniel Bryan in WWE, Danielson told the Bleacher Report that one name on the WWE roster he wanted to compete against was Gran Metalik. “There are people whom I think are fantastic and want to wrestle, and it’s hard to not mention the other people,” he said in March. “There’s this dream match that I’ve always had and people will look at me and say, ‘What?’ But that’s only because they haven’t seen him wrestle in Mexico, and that’s Gran Metalik. That guy’s awesome.”
Well, American Dragon. You just may get your wish.
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