Bensonhurst-born Jason Calabrese knew he had a fascinating story to tell and decided he would be the one to tell it. The 40-year-old Brooklyn native and alumni of Lafayette High School believes that his childhood in the borough helped inspire his career as a professional wrestler and personal trainer.
Along the way he decided to write a play about his chosen profession. The problem was that he had no formal training in writing and so he bought a book about playwriting and proceeded to use his own life and the people he knew as inspiration for the characters in his play, “Conquer Pro-Wrestling Presents: We Don’t Play Fight.”
Calabrese, whose WWE ring name is Jason Static, debuted his play in Orlando, where he currently resides. The play proved successful and will be coming to New York in 2019. He calls it a “crossover of the arts production,” because it combines his two passions – wrestling and theater – with the end result being a hybrid production encompassing the best of both genres.
“I started my professional wrestling career in 2002,” Calabrese said. “I trained in a wrestling school in Jamaica, Queens before moving to Gleason’s Gym in DUMBO where Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson trained.”
Calabrese continued training as a wrestler and in 2007 he went to Ohio Valley Wrestling in Louisville, Kentucky, which was the WWE’s developmental territory at the time. He stayed there for four months until the WWE closed the school and then went back to Brooklyn. In 2009, he moved to Orlando to continue pursuing his wrestling dream.
Ultimately, he became a WWE enhancement talent, and a regional favorite on the wrestling circuit in the Northeast. He performed with the WWE when it would come to venues like Madison Square Garden or the Nassau Coliseum.
Calabrese admits that he never really was a theater buff and did not go to see any shows on Broadway when he lived in Brooklyn. “I kind of regret it now,” Calabrese said. “I wish I had experienced New York theater when I was living there. The first play I went to see was ‘Jersey Boys.’ My dad took me to see ‘Jersey Boys’ this past December and it was the first time I experienced New York theater.”
That’s especially interesting to note since Calabrese’s “We Don’t Play Fight,” combines sports and performing arts much the same way that “Jersey Boys” blends music and theater. Just as anyone who loved pop music of the ‘60s and ‘70s would love “Jersey Boys,” anyone who loves pro-wrestling will enjoy “We Don’t Play Fight.”
At a point when Calabrese was losing a measure of passion for wrestling he decided to channel his frustrations into writing. “I was feeling kind of burned out,” he said. “I was losing my love of the sport so I just started writing. I never went to school for writing but I really enjoyed it.”
Calabrese did attend the Actor’s Theater Workshop in New York when he was living in Brooklyn. “I enrolled in about 10 or 12 acting classes,” he recalled. “I was the only pro-wrestler in the acting school. I was just there to learn how to better my communications skills. I never had a dream of stepping on stage as a performer.”
After writing a short story and receiving praise for it, Calabrese was encouraged to continue writing. Shortly after he saw a play called “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” by Brooklyn playwright Kristoffer Diaz. It was an award-winning play that incorporated a pro-wrestling theme.
Calabrese felt that the actors in the production were only going through the motions and not accurately portraying pro-wrestlers. And he determined that was because they were actors and not professional wrestlers. “So right then I decided I was going to write a play about wrestling and incorporate real wrestlers,” he recalled.
The first performance of the play was at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater on June 4, 2016. The show nearly sold out. Calabrese and the production garnered positive reviews and attention from all local newspapers. As a result, Fox’s “Good Day Orlando,” invited him and the play’s star, WWE pro-wrestler Jesse Neal, to sit for an interview.
So far there have been nine performances of the play. Calabrese is looking to bring the production to New York between June and Sept. 2019, after a stint in Chicago in March.
Calabrese believes that he’s found a new vocation and will continue to write. “I hope to write about topics other than wrestling that I have in mind,” he said. “It’s just a matter of finding the time to sit down and do it.”
But for now he is focusing on continuing to develop and promote “We Don’t Play Fight.” “I’d love to take it to Vegas or New Jersey, anywhere that has a theater or a wrestling ring,” he added. “I want to continue to share the stories in the play that are taken from my childhood. It all goes back to the people and places I knew growing up in Bensonhurst.”