- Associated Press - Monday, April 17, 2017

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Gov. Jay Inslee, sitting alongside masked wrestlers, signed a bill Monday that creates a license for theatrical wrestling schools.

Inslee called the sport the “richest cultural tradition in the United States.” The bill aligns theatrical wrestling - popularly known for chair-throwing, body-slamming, and rehearsed matches seen on television - with other schools that operate under the same licensing framework such as martial arts studios and boxing facilities.

“Sometimes one size does not fit all,” Inslee said at the bill signing ceremony. “The regulatory requirements right now just don’t make sense for Lucha Libre.”

Lucha Libre is traditional Mexican style wrestling featuring masked participants.

House Bill 1420, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Zack Hudgins of Tukwila, passed the House on a 95-2 vote last month and received unanimous approval in the Senate. Legislators often refer to the legislation as the “Lucha bill” because Lucha Libre Volcánica had been heavily involved in previous versions.

Under the measure, any licensed theatrical wrestling school would be allowed to schedule a certain number of public performances and must have an emergency aide present at events. Trainees or students are exempt from obtaining a license.

One of the masked wrestlers who stood by Inslee, Rey Jaguar of Lucha Libre Volcánica, said after the bill signing he’s excited to see how it changes wrestling in the state.

“I’m happy because this means it’s going to be more easy for us to put on shows around the state,” Jaguar said, who added they perform about one show per month.

For years, the Department of Licensing required promoters to pay 6 percent of the cash made from any event, plus $1 for every ticket sold at the show. Promoters also had to buy licenses for all participants and pay for paramedics and an ambulance to stand by during shows, which can cost over $1000.

Jake Stratton of 3-2-1 BATTLE, one of the groups that advocated for the bill, said the main event in the state has been the World Wrestling Entertainment because smaller organizations can’t afford the burdensome fees and regulations. However, he said even WWE superstars have to travel outside of the state to train because Washington lacks theatrical wrestling facilities.

“The goal of this legislation has been to help stimulate smaller scale wrestling shows and allow promoters and students to grow their skills,” Stratton said.

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