Growing up in Camden, New Jersey, Lince Dorado knew little about life outside of school and home.
Until he was 13, Dorado wasn’t allowed outside as poverty, drive-bys, and drug deals outside his home were commonplace. It’s no coincidence either as Camden, New Jersey, is one of the most crime-ridden areas in the United States. In 2012, the Daily Mail rated the city as the most dangerous in the country, and just last night, Camden’s 15th homicide of the year took place (via NJ.com).
The adversity then shifted into Dorado’s personal life when he watched both his father and grandfather die in front of him — under different circumstance — in the same year.
“[My dad] was in jail for a while and he came out to surprise me but I wasn’t home,” Dorado recalled. “So he went out with a bunch of friends and he was on a ‘hit list’ but he was the wrong person at the wrong time. What ended up happening was somebody poisoned his drink with battery acid and it kind of destroyed his insides.
He came home that same night and he was hunched over the toilet. The next thing I know, I’m trying to wake him up and say ‘come on, wake up, wake up, dad!’ But they pronounced him dead like an hour later.”
In regards to his grandfather, old age was the culprit. Dorado describes him as somebody who tried to help those around him, give jobs to young people to keep them out of trouble, and make the neighborhood he lived in the best it could be.
Without his grandfather, Dorado says he wouldn’t be bracing himself for the upcoming WWE Cruiserweight Classic as one of its entrants.
While his grandfather is gone physically, his spirit lives through professional wrestling. When Dorado was younger, it was his grandfather who gave “The Golden Lynx of Lucha Libre” his first introduction to the genre.
“One day, he showed me this Mexican wrestling from CMLL, AAA, and Puerto Rican wrestling,” Dorado said. “I was just mind blown, it’s the first thing you see growing up and it’s these colorful guys, colorful guys, guys flipping, and telling these great stories – whether you understand it or not.”
Within the same month, as Dorado was attending school, his uncle came over. That day was an expansion of Dorado’s wrestling fandom.
The uncle brought with him a VHS tape of the 1994 Survivor Series. That event featured Bob Backlund winning his second WWF championship from Bret “The Hitman” Hart and several Survivor Series five-on-five bouts. However, it was the main event, a casket match between The Undertaker and Yokozuna (with Chuck Norris as the special guest enforcer) that caught Dorado’s attention.
“If your first introduction to American wrestling is The Undertaker, who is the most respected man in the business, and Yokozuna, who’s probably the most gifted big man athlete out there, you’re hooked.”
With Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) across the bridge from Dorado, he became a frequent tape trader. He fondly recalls the first tape he ever acquired, a New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) Super Juniors event.
The names he saw on that tape just rolling off his tongue: Tiger Mask, Dos Caras, Mil Mascaras, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Psychosis, and Rey Mysterio. Those performers became an inspiration for Dorado to pursue a career in professional wrestling.
Training for a Dream
As a wrestler in high school, Dorado became friends with fellow wrestlers Amasis and Ophidian. Dorado and Amasis started in the same school, but Amasis moved and began attending a rival school. Despite being in the same amateur wrestling weight class, for some reason, they never faced each other – at school.
Alongside Ophidian, the trio decided that they wanted to train for wrestling. However, Dorado was not aware that a world outside of WWE, a company that is the monopoly of pro wrestling, existed.
It wasn’t until that Dorado’s buddies took him to Combat Zone Wrestling’s (CZW) Best of the Best V at the former ECW Arena in 2005. That’s when Dorado discovered his path to success. One performer, who eventually had a hand in training Dorado, caught his eye immediately.
“The first guy I saw and I was like ‘wow, this guy is pretty awesome’ and it wasn’t just because of his look, or athleticism but also his music…it was Claudio Castagnoli [Cesaro]. Later on, he was one of the guys who trained me so it was a cool foreshadowing of things.”
Dorado praises Quackenbush for his mentoring, Hero for his technical ability, Castagnoli for his outlandish strength, Skayde for his overall work with CHIKARA/CZW, and El Pantera for his thriftiness.
“He was one of the guys who showed me how to make gear,” Dorado said of the former WWE, CMLL, AAA, and AJPW star El Pantera. “It’s one kind of taking money from yourself but he entrusted me with his secrets of mask-making and tights-making.”
When it came to choosing his own identity, Dorado didn’t have much choice in the matter.
Starting in CHIKARA
Dorado made his debut with the promotion in 2007. Before his first match, however, he was given something that is wrapped around him to this day.
“Back in the day, when I first started with CHIKARA, a mask was given to me and I never changed that mask as far as colors. It was always the same, gold and black, maybe I changed it to black and gold but ultimately, it was all the same.”
Now, a company called Masked Republic and artist Jesse Hernandez work with Dorado to help him design new masks, color schemes, and other variations on his look. Sometimes, Dorado wants to emulate something in pop culture or pay homage to a luchador that inspired him.
However, while maintaining close to the same look throughout his run in CHIKARA, “the Sultan of the Shooting Star Press” enjoyed a successful run in the promotion. Dorado was able to share the ring with some of his trainers, such as Castagnoli, Hero, and Quackenbush. Dorado also wrestled guys like Tim Donst, Chuck Taylor, and Eddie Kingston.
“It was a little bit time consuming and money lost [by] traveling back and forth,” Dorado said of the commute from Florida to the Northeast. “After a couple of shows, I just decided it wasn’t for me. I did what I could do in CHIKARA; at that time what I could do and it was time for me to venture out. I knew exactly what I wanted to in wrestling and the only way to do that, no offense to CHIKARA, was to leave CHIKARA.”
Making a [Brief] Impact
Dorada had two opportunities to showcase his talents for a major wrestling company. The time first time was a dark match at Total Nonstop Wrestling’s (TNA) television tapings on October 4, 2012.
Originally, Dorado was scheduled to face Kid Kash, but the veteran’s flight was delayed and he arrived late to the show. TNA was debating utilizing Dorado in another capacity or scrapping his opportunity altogether.
However, fellow TNA veteran Kazarian came over and volunteered to wrestle Dorado. Kazarian ended up replacing Kash, and Dorado’s scheduled dark match took place.
“We went out there and I thought for the 8-10 minutes that they gave us – which for TV time is a lot – we hit all of our spots crisp and clean.”
Current WWE superstar and former TNA original AJ Styles approached Dorado after the match. “The Phenomenal 1” gave Dorado high praise but did have one critique.
“It was my lock up,” Dorado recalls. “Lucha libre it’s a little bit different but I fixed it. He came over and said it was a great match and would enjoy watching any other match I’m in.”
Kazarian and his tag team partner Christopher Daniels were also impressed by Dorado’s performance. As he describes it, that first night played a big role in getting a second opportunity.
Just a few months later, Dorado was invited to TNA’s One Night Only: X-Travaganza on January 12, 2013. Unfortunately, that day did not go as smoothly as his first night at the company.
A competitor from a scheduled fatal four-way threat match did not show up. So, the company decided to throw those three competitor’s into the fatal four-way cage match Dorado was scheduled for. Therefore, Dorado’s match became a seven-way cage match featuring Christian York, Alex Silva, Jimmy Rave, Matt Bentley, Puma, and Sam Shaw.
“I can’t understand why TNA didn’t just have a triple threat match. I really didn’t. But hey, it’s their show, their money.
“It is what it is. My first experience there was great, my second experience wasn’t so great. Since then, I’ve reached out to them, they’ve reached out to me but we just haven’t seen any opportunity that would be worthwhile for both of us.”
Dorado has also worked with World Wrestling Network’s Full Impact Pro (FIP) in recent months. He’s even worked on a different character named Balam. Dorado says that it’s possible WWNLive helped him get his upcoming shot with WWE.
Recently, Dorado began working out more, eating better, and trying out new gear. People around him became suspicious and started realizing that the new regimen was part of a bigger picture. The WWE was intrigued by Dorado’s in-ring versatility and proficiency in the Lucha libre style.
Then, the morning of Wrestlemania 32, Joey Styles sent out this tweet confirming Dorado’s inclusion in the WWE Global Cruiserweight Series (now Cruiserweight Classic).
In addition to Dorado, these are the confirmed names for the WWE Network special: Drew Gulak, TJ Perkins, Zack Sabre Jr., Jack Gallagher, Noam Dar, Rich Swann, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Akira Tozawa, and Ho Ho Lun.
“You’re going to see top notch, top of the level, all-around guys from all over the world,” Dorado said of the tournament.
You’re going to see a lot of different styles, different characters, a lot of different ‘gimmicks’ that people have probably never seen, heard of, or even would think existed in professional wrestling.”
Dorado admits that the ultimate goal is to sign with WWE, start with NXT, and take it from there. In the meantime, however, he’s focused on impressing the wrestling universe. The Cruiserweight Classic is set to begin on July 13 and run through mid-September, at which point a winner will be crowned.
“I’ve been training really, really hard and really focusing hard on what makes me different: the Lucha libre style,” Dorado said. “I’ve thought about ways to how can I market myself so I look different and that goes with gear, ring entrance, ring gear, how I move in the ring, and how I interact with the fans.”
After dealing with death, poor living conditions, uncertainty, Dorado’s life — much like his move set — are no strangers to flips, twists, and crashes. That’s why the 28-year-old isn’t phased by the idea of the big stage.
“The pressure is going to be there but will the pressure get to me? No, I don’t think so.”
[Image via Tabercil | Wikimedia Commons| Cropped and Resized | CC BY-SA 3.0 ]