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Washington gives Lucha Libre wrestlers a break on some licensing rules

UPDATED: Thu., April 20, 2017, 12:04 p.m.

Gov. Jay Inslee prepares to sign a bill that loosens some of the regulations on a style of theatrical wrestling known as Lucha Libre as Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, far left, and two masked practitioners of the sport, El Rey Jaguar and Maritza Hernandez, look on. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
Gov. Jay Inslee prepares to sign a bill that loosens some of the regulations on a style of theatrical wrestling known as Lucha Libre as Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, far left, and two masked practitioners of the sport, El Rey Jaguar and Maritza Hernandez, look on. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

OLYMPIA – Luchadors will have an easier time donning costumes and getting into the ring in Washington for a bout of theatrical wrestling under a new law signed Monday.

With two masked adherents of Lucha Libre looking on, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that loosens the headlock some people thought the state Department of Licensing had on the mixture of wrestling and performance art made popular in Mexico now spreading in the United States.

It is part of the state’s effort to recognize a wide range of cultural traditions from many countries, he said.

The department licenses athletic competitions like wrestling, boxing, martial arts and kickboxing. Its definition for wrestling doesn’t include the kind seen in high schools and colleges, but does include wrestling competitions in a ring with predetermined outcomes.

To get such a license, promoters would have to put up a fee equal to 6 percent of the gross receipts and have an ambulance or paramedic unit on-site. Wrestlers also pay a license fee.

“Sometimes, one size does not fit all,” Inslee said as he prepared to sign the bill. “The regulations now in place just don’t make sense for Lucha Libre.”

Under the new law, schools that teach Lucha Libre won’t need a promoter’s license if they hold a limited number of events a year as long as they feature mostly amateur wrestlers, or luchadors and luchadoras.

They will, however, have to keep an ambulance or paramedic unit on-site.

Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila, the new law’s sponsor, said it started a few years ago with a complaint he received from a constituent about the problems and expense of getting a license for an exhibition by Lucha Libre Volcanica, a school for the wrestling form in Seattle. The regulations seemed to be more stringent than necessary when he looked into it, and a bill he introduced last year passed the House but didn’t make it out of the Senate.

Lucha Libre adherents started a Facebook page, Legalize Wrestling Washington, on which they placed a drawing of George Washington in the pose used on the state flag and state seal, but wearing a luchador mask.

This year, the bill seemed to catch lawmakers’ fancy, with Reps. Mike Volz, R-Spokane, and Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, introducing the floor vote with their best imitations of the tone of “let’s get ready to rumble” announcers for professional wrestling. For the Senate vote, some members donned masks.

For all the fun and games, Hudgins insisted it was a pretty simple bill with an easy-to-grasp concept.

“It really is about trying to make government work better,” he said.



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