Up until 2010 the tournament format was that of eight tag teams facing off in a one night, single elimination tournament, sometimes with a match to determine the seeds for the tournament. In 2010 the field of competitors was doubled to 16 and the tournament would take place over three shows, with eight teams facing off in Block A, the other eight in Block B and the two block winners would wrestle the following week. All tournament matches except the finals are single fall matches, while the finals are a best two-out-of-three falls per lucha libre traditions.
The concept of the tournament is to team a young up-and-comer with a veteran and use the tournament to help showcase the younger talent, the young winner is often someone CMLL has plans for, although at times it has not always had the desired result.
Último Guerrero and Carístico are the only wrestlers to have won the tournament three times. Último Guerrero won in 1999 as the rookie and in 2008 and 2011 as the veteran of the team. Carístico, then known as "Místico" won in his rookie year in 2004 and then as a veteran in 2007 and again in 2017. Héctor Garza and Rey Escorpión have both won the tournament twice, once as a rookie and once as the "veteran" and Emilio Charles Jr. has won it twice as a veteran. Complete results have not been found documented for the 1998 event, but based on known information at least 187 individual wrestlers have participated in 22 tournaments as of 2017. Atlantis is both the wrestler and the veteran with most tournament appearances, 15, and has always been on the veteran side of the teams. Último Guerrero is second with 13 tournament appearances. Astro Rey Jr. and Sangre Azteca has worked the most tournaments on the novato side, five in total and none as a veteran.
Starting in 1994 the Mexican professional wrestling promotionConsejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) created a special tournament concept where they would team up a novato, or rookie, with a veteran for a single-elimination tag team tournament. The tournament was called El Torneo Gran Alternativa, or "The Great Alternative Tournament" and became a recurring event on the CMLL calendar. In 1996 and 1999 CMLL held two tournaments, but since then has held one a year at most. CMLL did not hold a Gran Alternativa tournament in 1997 and 2000 held on each year from 2001 through 2014, opting not to hold a tournament in 2015. The 2017 Torneo Gran Alternativa was the 22nd version of the tournament.
As of the 2017 tournament, 187 wrestlers have competed in one or more of the 22 tournaments held to date with Atlantis holding tor record for most tournaments, a total of 15. He is also the wrestler to have worked most tournament as a veteran as all his appearances were on the veteran side. Sangre Azteca and Astro Rey Jr. (now known as Mephisto) are tied for most tournaments as a novato, with five each. Raziel is the novato that has gone the longest between his first and most recent appearance as a novato, seven years between the 2010 tournament and the 2017 tournament. Último Guerrero and Místico/Carístic are the only wrestlers to win the tournament three times, once as a novato and twice as a veteran each. Héctor Garza and Rey Escorpión are the only other wrestlers to have won the tournament as both a novato and a veteran. Silver King has appeared under three different ring names, Silver King, Bronco and Black Tiger. Several others have worked different tournaments under different names/masks, usually without CMLL officially acknowledging the connection; El Sagrado as both Genetico and Sagrado, Fuego as Flash and Fuego, Máscara Dorada as Metalik and Máscara Dorada, Tritón as Metal Blanco and Tritón, Ramstein as Fugaz and Ramstein, Titán as Palacio Negro and Titán.
In 1996 decided to host two Torneo Gran Alternativa tournaments, with the second one being held on November 15, 1996, in Mexico City, Mexico. Unlike any of the other Torneo Gran Alternativa tournaments before or after, this tournament featured a preliminary round of 20 rookies in a league style tournament to qualify for the actual tag team tournament. The rookies were divided into four groups of five, in a round-robin series of matches where the top two point earners would advance to the tournament. Qualifying for the tournament were Máscara Mágica, Rey Bucanero, Olímpico, Mr. Niebla, Astro Rey Jr., Atlantico, Karloff Lagarde Jr. and Jaguar. Emilio Charles Jr. and Rey Bucanero won the Torneo Gran Alternativa by defeating the teams of Lizmark Jr. and Jaguar, Satánico and Karloff Lagarde Jr. and Héctor Garza and Mr. Niebla. Rey Bucanero became one of CMLL's main players as he would become a key member of Los Guerreros del Infierno.
The 1998 Torneo Gran Alternativa tournament was held on July 14, 1998, in Mexico City, Mexico. The finals saw Emilio Charles Jr. and Tony Rivera defeat Bestia Salvaje and Guerrero de la Muerte. Unlike previous tournaments the finals was more storyline driven as Emilio Charles Jr. had been feuding with Bestia Salvaje and Tony Rivera and Guerrero de la Muerte already had a Luchas de Apuesta, hair vs. hair match scheduled. The win did not provide any extra momentum for Tony Rivera who remained in the same position for the rest of his CMLL stint.
The 2001 Gran Alternativa was held on August 14, 2001, and was the first tournament to feature a Battle Royal between the eight rookies to determine the seeding for the first round of the tournament. Virus won the battle royal, getting the number one seed for himself and Blue Panther. Order of elimination in the battle royal: #1 Alan Stone, #2 Sicodelico Jr., #3 Enemigo Publico, #4 Sangre Azteca, #5 Tigre Blanco, #6 Volador Jr. and #7 Doctor X. The final saw Olímpico and Sicodelico Jr. defeat Black Warrior and Sangre Azteca to win the Gran Alternativa tournament. Sicodelico worked for CMLL until 2003, not achieving much of note with the promotion.
The 2003 Gran Alternativa was held on January 1, 2003, and featured a Battle Royal between the eight rookies to determine the seeding for the tournament. Sangre Azteca won the battle royal, getting the number one seed for himself and Cien Caras. Order of elimination in the battle royal: #1 Marchall, #2 Loco Max, #3 Genético, #4 Ramstein, #5 Chris Stone, #6 Mr. Power and #7 Alan Stone. The final of the tournament saw Villaño IV and Alan Stone defeat Genético and Máscara Año 2000 in the final to win the tournament. Alan Stone did not receive much of a "reward" after the tournament, he continued teaming with his brother Chris Stone until the brothers left CMLL for rival promotion AAA. In contrast the rookie "loser" of the final, Genético would be repackaged as "El Sagrado" in 2003 and given a push.
The 2004 Gran Alternativa was held on August 20, 2004, and once again featured a Battle Royal between the eight rookies to determine the seeding for the tournament. Místico won the battle royal to earn the top seed for El Hijo del Santo and himself. The order of elimination for the rest of the rookies is unknown, except for Misterioso Jr. who was eliminated first, as for the elimination order of Sangre Azteca, Volador Jr., Neutron, Doctor X, El Sagrado and Alan Stone it has not been found recorded anywhere. Místico and El Hijo del Santo qualified for the finals by defeating the teams of Misterioso and Misterioso Jr. and Atlantis and Volador Jr. Último Guerrero and Doctor X qualified for the finals by defeating Último Dragón and Neutron in the first round and Shocker and Alan Stone. Místico and Hijo del Santo won the Gran Alternativa, a victory that set off Místico's rise to the top of CMLL, where he was the number one tecnico from 2006 until his departure in 2011.