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LONG STORY SPORT

My Journey Into Lucha Libre Through Mascara Dorada 2.0 in 2024

A little over a year ago, I mentioned in my arena bucket list countdown that I had always felt a bit of a disconnect with Lucha Libre. While there were many things about the culture, the history, and the wrestling itself that I had always appreciated, I could never jump in completely like I had with the Japanese scene years prior.


However, my thoughts have started to dramatically shift over the past month or so after a friend of mine from work (shoutout to you, Rob) sent me a link to a Google Drive owned by the creator of "Lucha Blog" (@LuchaBlog on X) which was filled with full shows from the Mexican scene, including many from the oldest continuously running promotion on Earth, Consejo Mundial De Lucha Libre. I swiftly noticed upon watching CMLL's "Super Viernes" cards that this company had the intangible traits necessary for me to finally take the plunge into the beautiful sub-genre.


While there've been several wrestlers who have impressed me during this short period of time like Templario, El Barbaro Cavernario, and Mistico, the guy who's stood head and shoulders above everyone else so far has got to be the young wunderkind, Mascara Dorada 2.0, and today I thought I'd say a few words about who he is and what makes him connect so well with me.



Mascara Dorada 2.0, whom I'll be calling Mascara Dorada moving forward as that's what CMLL calls him today, has seemingly been a big deal, or at least viewed as a future superstar in Lucha Libre since even before he made his debut in April of 2021. Like many other luchadores, Mascara Dorada comes from a family of pro wrestlers. In his case, we know for sure at least that his father is Panterita Del Ring, a man who began his career in the 1980s and has been a fixture on CMLL shows since 2000, his uncle is another current CMLL talent named Luciferno, who's similarly been with the company since 2002, and finally a cousin named El Rebelde, who had a short run in the mid-2010s. Dorada would take from his family lineage in his first few years in the ring as he took the name "Panterita Del Ring Jr." for a little while.


As Panterita Del Ring Jr., Dorada quickly impressed fans all around Mexico and the world with his tremendous body control, willingness to do some genuinely crazy moves, and natural charisma that led him to become one of the fastest rising fan favorites, or "technicos", in Arena Mexico. He spent most of his first year in the business working alongside his father in multi-man tags and trios matches, however he would have his first bit of major tangible success in December of 2021 when he defeated Electrico to become the youngest to ever hold the Mexican National Lightweight Championship, an honor he would have for 529 days, only dropping it after he elected to move up a weight class to welterweight.



One thing that I found funny when I was looking at old reviews of some of Dorada's early career as Panterita Del Ring Jr. came from a quote from the aforementioned Lucha Blog, where in his review of CMLL's 6/25/22 show, "TheCubsFan" would write that after Panterita seemingly botched the finish of a match, the luchador was "apparently human" after all.


Just think about that for one second. How many wrestlers, male or female, have gained such a sterling reputation as a flawless worker that when he or she does make a mistake, it's downright jarring because of it's rarity? I've watched wrestling for a long time, and the only people in recent memory who fit that bill are AJPW's Yuma Anzai and possibly Stardom's Suzu Suzuki. There maybe a couple more, but it's still rarified air for Dorada to have found himself in at the time.


While 2022 would see Mascara Dorada botch for the first time, it would also see him take that next step up toward the top half of the CMLL pecking order as he linked up with one of the promotion's biggest stars of all time, Mistico, for that year's Gran Alternativa tournament. I won't get too deep into the weeds trying to explain who Mistico is, but for all you WWE fans, think of someone as beloved and popular as Daniel Bryan, except he's wearing a lucha mask, and you get a general idea of who we're dealing with. In hindsight, this tag team was a sign from CMLL management saying that they viewed Dorada as a potential future ace of the company. Oh yeah, Dorada and Mistico would go on to win the tournament.



Mascara Dorada would continue to elevate his game in 2023 in a variety of different ways. He became one of the most consistently great wrestlers in CMLL's main event scene, especially in singles contests. He broadened his horizons past Mexico as he made his first appearances for some of CMLL's allied promotions like NJPW STRONG and Revolution Pro Wrestling. And on June 30th, he shed the Panterita Del Ring Jr. name and became the second ever man to don the Mascara Dorada mask, following the original who now wrestles today as Metalik.


If you ask me, the most pivotal moment of 2023 came that summer when he challenged Rocky Romero in the finals of the "Torneo La Leyenda De Plata" tournament on July 28th. And after a terrific clash, Mascara Dorada stood tall as the shocking victor.


With that victory, Dorada became the youngest luchador to ever win the tournament in it's history, as well as the de facto number one contender to the top prize in his weight class, the World Historic Welterweight Championship. The contest also gained high marks across the entire wrestling fandom, not least of which from Dave Meltzer, who gave it 4.75 stars in his famed Wrestling Observer. Speaking for myself, I first became acquainted with Dorada after finding this match on YouTube.



Five months after their first classic meeting, Mascara Dorada would challenge Rocky Romero for the Welterweight strap in front of over 9000 screaming lucha fans in the semi-main event of a Super Viernes event which also featured the long-awaited return of CMLL legend Andrade El Idolo. And just as he had done in July, he survived Romero's onslaught and defeated the champion in a sub-20 minute classic. Not only was it a massive win because he won the title, but it served as the ending to Romero's incredible run with the title after 329 days.


Since that match, Dorada has yet again skyrocketed to another level in the wrestling world. Not only did he begin 2024 with a bonafide banger against his constant rival Templario on January 5th, but he continued his torrid run of form with another exciting clash against El Barbaro Cavernario on January 19th as well as an awesome tag clash that also featured his one time ally Mistico in the finals of the Gran Alternativa tournament. Unfortunately, he would lose that contest.


While all of this was going on, Mascara Dorada continued to improve upon his game more and more. Not only did he continue to dazzle with his truly transcendent aerial offense, but he went on to work on his technical and striking as well. But above everything, the thing that truly makes me gravitate to this guy is how magnetic a personality he is. He exudes charisma, coolness, and confidence in a way only a master at psychology can. And I think one of the most recent examples of his mastery came on February 7th, 2024, when he made his AEW Dynamite debut alongside Hechicero and Volador Jr. in a match against three of the very best in American pro wrestling, Claudio Castagnoli, Jon Moxley, and GOAT himself, Bryan Danielson.



Even though the year is young and we're not even in March just yet, I can safely say that Mascara Dorada has been one of the most exciting wrestlers to watch. He's been a part of five must-see matches in my estimation across two countries, and he had a few that just missed the mark for a few more while he was on his first tour in Japan. His ability to appear to fly without any semblance of resistance or restriction is frankly unbelievable unless you actually see it yourself. I can't help but to compare his immediate wow factor to that of a young Rey Misterio Jr. in WCW or when I first saw Bandido in PWG. He's THAT good.


He's so good, in fact, that he makes watching CMLL worth it all by himself. On a roster with several talents the world should know, Mascara Dorada stands alone as the guy every wrestling fan should experience for themselves. I hope that with this blog post I've helped to shine a light on this immaculate talent.

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