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lucha libre, Lucha Libre Volcánica, Mexican wrestling, Professional Wrestling, Washington, wrestling school

All Politics is Local III: Back at the Capital

As some of you may remember from last year, myself and other local performers took to the capital in attempt to change Washington’s strict regulations on pro wrestling. Because many of you asked about the legislation, and it’s a consistent inquiry from colleagues and fans, I thought I’d share a recent statement I gave to Seattlish.

Lucha Libre Volcánica was established in 2011 as the premier lucha libre company and training school in the Pacific Northwest. Since our inception, we’ve had a successful training school, and have performed for regional festivals such as Seattle’s Taco Truck Rodeo, to our own annual show scholarship fundraising show at the University of Puget Sound.

Theatrical pro wrestling has innate hazards like any other athletic endeavor. Accordingly we’ve always emphasized proper technique, safety, and protection amongst our students and performers. Unlike athletic competition, the competition in lucha libre is more akin to theatre—it’s an intellectual and performative competition. Our acrobatics almost always require cooperation between two or more individuals, an essential characteristic that both pro wrestling and lucha libre share. Because of this important distinction between combative sports and pro wrestling, the regulations that have hitherto hindered any development of a pro wrestling scene in Washington are superfluous, and horribly misguided—they demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of pro wrestling.

Fortunately a handful of active supporters managed to gain attention of the Washington State Reps and the DOL, both of whom agreed that the regulations are constrictive, not constructive. Through a series of meetings with the DOL, 3-2-1 Battle’s Josh Black, local performer Jake Stratton, and Lucha Libre Volcánica’s Michael Leveton and owner José Gómez have been able to shape a series of regulations that will hopefully cultivate an active pro wrestling scene in Washington State. While we have been actively petitioning our State Reps, the DOL’s cooperation has been integral to any victories pro wrestling has won in Washington.

Hitherto the regulations have been cost-prohibitive, particularly for small family-owned companies like LLV. Paying for performers, a venue, and promotional materials is already an assumed cost. However the previous regulations would hold that a promoter would also have pay for the following: ringside security; an ambulance and an EMT on site; a promoter’s license; $1 from each ticket sale to the DOL; 10% of the overall door to the DOL. While some companies like the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) may be able to afford these costs, the average promoter cannot. Furthermore these costs deter any would-be trainers from operating a training facility school, as the performance opportunities are scarce.

HB 2388, in conjunction with the changes made with the DOL, will create and incentive for wrestling companies to operate in Washington by removing some of the restrictive and costly regulations imposed upon promoters, owners, and performers. By doing so, we hope not only to create a opportunities for touring companies such as Lucha Libre USA and WWE to visit Washington, but also for small business entrepreneurs such as LLV’s José Gómez.

Further, because of the current restrictions many companies end up hosting guerilla shows and operating underground training facilities. The removal of the regulations will attract professional companies, sincere entrepreneurs, and higher-quality performers, thereby increasing the legitimacy of the professional wrestling scene in Washington. Such competition will increase the accountability of self-described (read: hack) “trainers,” and therefore both the safety of performers and the quality of performances.

With the (hopeful) passing of HB 2388 and the less restrictive DOL regulations, we’re hoping to build a better and more robust pro wrestling scene in Washington State.

...color me surprised.
art, lucha libre, Mexican wrestling, performance, Performance Art, school, school of lucha libre, Seattle, Washington

All Politics Is Local – Freeing Lucha Libre in Washington State

As some of you may have noticed on Facebook, both myself and Lucha Volcánica recently expressed support for Washington State HB 2573, which would help to lower the initial costs to host a lucha libre show—for that matter any type of professional wrestling show—in Washington State.

I am in no way a deregulation mongerer, but the rigor of the State’s requirements is as such that opening and maintaining a professional wrestling promotion—both financially and logistically—is nearly impossible. Based upon the requirements, here’s a rough breakdown of expenses a wrestling promotion incurs for a single event:

  • A promoter’s license: $500
  • 6% of the gross receipts paid for admission must be paid to the state
  • …plus $1 per ticket sold
  • Protective guardrail around the ring: $100-$170
  • An ambulance plus 2 EMTs must be onsite for the entirety of the event (usually 2-3 hours): $110 per hour, plus a minimum charge of one hour of drive time.
  • “Adequate” (definition unclear) security staffing, but clearly this could create additional costs.

This of course, is all before the promoter pays any space rental fee, and pays her performers, the emcee, ring announcers, DJs, and so on.

Additionally when a promoter intends to have an event, he or she is required to have an inspection by a state licensed inspector. The DOL site lists only three inspectors: two of whom have expired licenses and one of whom is “pending documentation.” The latter of which illustrates that even if a promoter wants to eat all of the costs to have an event, odds are she would have trouble doing so legally by the State by the sheer inaccessibility of an inspector.

It’s also worth noting that each individual wrestler must be licensed. This Combative Sports License must be renewed and paid for annually by the performer, and requires:

  • a physical examination
  • an STD blood panel
  • a urine test
  • a $25 fee to the state

In my experience, the full cost of this exam is roughly $150-$200 to the performer.

A priori these costs alone appear crippling to a small company. This is perhaps best illustrated by the Washington Department of Licensing’s numbers. Of the 27 promoters licenses for the state, only 2—WWE and TNA—are active. Similarly only two Pacific Northwest announces are licensed, with the remaining 10 or so licenses belonging to WWE announcers. Further, of the 200 viewable wrestling licenses listed, the only active licensed belong to WWE wrestlers°. This lacking diversity within the licensure illustrates a system that prevents small companies from flourishing, or pushes them underground often forcing performers to wrestle in less than ideal conditions. In either case the State is not benefitting financially, and the potential for a lucha libre or pro wrestling scene—and all of the business therein—is being squandered. The net gain for performers, local business, and the State alike ultimately lies in changing the current regulations, which are proving to keep lucha libre and pro wrestling in a perpetual chokehold.

News footage: Seattle-area performers talk about problems with Washington State’s regulation of wrestling.

° Only A-D portions of the alphabet are viewable on the DOL website.

Sources:
Licensing statistics: WA State Department of Licensing: http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/athletics/prowrestler.html

EMT & Ambulance Pricing Quote: American Medical Response: http://www.amr.net/Locations/Operations/Washington/Tacoma—-Pierce-County.aspx

Guardrail rental quote: National Barricade Co. 6518 Ravenna Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98115