||WWF NY, Times Square:
McDonald's Vs. McMahon.
Over the past few years, the World Wrestling Federation's popularity grew to heights previously thought of as impossible. Certainly that's been the case - I've been a wrestling fan since Wrestlemania III, well over a decade ago, and I never thought I'd see the day where this part-sport, part-circus act would develop such an intense following and amazing revenues that they'd be able to afford their very own restaurant, right in the heart of Times Square. They call it 'WWF NY' - the city's finest eatery if you're a wrestling fan - and possibly one of the worst if you're not.
I'd imagine for wrestling fans making the trip to the place for the first time, a lot of great visions pop into their heads. Personally, I had really great daydreams about what it'd be like. I figured the place was littered with the superstars of yesteryear - like a ranch for horses with broken legs who were no longer valuable in the races, I imagined that the old WWF stars' pension plans included lots of free meals at WWF NY. I thought it'd be like their career hospice, where they live out their starpower's dying days signing autographs and eating free cheeseburgers.
So, going in, I expected to see Kamala sitting at a far table, alone, eating stewed monkey heads. I expected to see Tatanka breaking hearts at the bar by telling people he's really 100% German. Unfortunately, what WWF NY is really about isn't like that at all.
Don't get me wrong, if you go there on a night when the wrestling shows are on television or pay-per-view, it's definitely the place to be for a wrasslin' fan. On those special nights, there's hundreds of screaming fans there, video cameras, and usually, one of the federation's second-tier stars making the rounds, shaking hands, and putting people in Boston crabs. It's a great place to go and a wonderful wrestling experience if you're there on a night usually devoted to wrestling. For the rest of the week, well, it pretty much sucks and I'm shocked that the WWF wouldn't use the opportunity they have to do more than promote themselves as a worldwide entity and to get a few Kodak moments on their television programs. It's like they don't give a crap what goes on there for the rest of the week - and this isn't something I say with malice or because it's easier for me to poke fun at something than to praise it. I love the WWF, I love it when they succeed - but I sincerely believe that they need to put this place under better management or do something a bit more special with it on the off-days. It's not just a restaurant on the corner of the street or anything. It's a place that people travel across the country to visit.
It's a place where people travel across the country to visit in the hopes to see Kamala eating stewed monkey heads, god dammit. I understand that Kamala can't eat stewed monkey heads seven days a week, but come on, I know they can give the fans a little bit more than this. So with that, here's my review of WWF NY, as truthful as I can put it without having the moral highground that keeps me from outright lies. If you're thinking about going there on an 'off-season' night, you may want to read this one first.
The first thing you see when you walk in is an impressive WWF store where you can buy all the latest wrestling collectibles, videos, t-shirts, and whatnot. And I admit, the scene is very impressive. They've got this huge video wall up high that shows clips and flicks from the shows, and pretty much every fan who wanders in stands there with their heads straight up for a good ten minutes. It's a great visual and an interesting experience, but it makes it hell trying to wander through the place. If you know any wrestling fans, then you probably know how hard it is to get their attention off the television set when the Rock is elbowing someone or when Triple H spits water. It's damn near impossible. The fans become totally entranced. Likewise, in the WWF NY store, you've got to make your way through dozens of totally dead-to-the-world zombies with their heads permanently fixed in an upward position. I can only pray that there's never a fire in the place during a main event match, because you'd never get those people out of there in time, and with the current declining ratings and revenues, I don't think the WWF can handle any more lawsuits.
Remember, for every time someone wins a court settlement from the WWF, that's one less time we'll see Kane shoot lightning bolts out of his fingers. Kane's super powers aren't cheap.
Some of the merchandise seems to be exclusive to the restaurant, which is cool for those looking to pick up a neat memento from their trip. They aren't low-priced, but this is Times Square after all and we can't fault the WWF for following suit with the neighborhood's tendency to exploit the standard suggested retail price tenfold.
Plus, where else are you gonna find a water bottle shaped like the Rock? More important, outside of a wrestling event, where else are you gonna find a suitable place to drink from it without getting entirely too embarrassed? I think that's why God invented the walk-in closet. They aren't meant for storing your clothes or old record collections. They're to give you sanctuary - a place where you can drink from Rock-shaped water bottles without fear of being made fun of. It's not like you're gonna drink water from the head of some really tan guy in black underwear anywhere else.
They have a broad selection of videos for sale, but really, you can pick most of these up at video stores. But putting them on display here does serve a purpose, because let's face it, it's pretty shameful to stand in a Blockbuster reading the back of the Lita video box. At least it's expected here at WWF NY.
No matter what anyone says, the decor is great. Real high ceilings with tons of broken pieces of metal and spotlights everywhere really makes the wrestling fan feel at home. There's television screens everywhere, not to mention loads of WWF-themed teddy bears so macho fans can get in touch with their inner child. Or maybe those were meant for the kids? I dunno, it's hard to tell...I didn't see many kids there, but I saw plenty of 40-somethings wearing nWo t-shirts. It's one of the few restaurants in Times Square where you feel overdressed wearing pants that don't have holes in the crotch area. Personally, I just rolled around in a puddle outside before going in so I'd fit in a bit more. And I referred to the people I was with, respectfully, as my manager, business associate, and stable-mate if anyone asked.
Of course, they were also stocked with all the latest wrestling action figures and toys. I dunno though, for me, nothing will ever beat the glory of the old WWF LJN Stretch Wrestlers. I mean, it's great that the new figures are so detailed and that all of the wrestlers look perpetually constipated, but there's something to be said for wrestling figures that you can stretch one or two feet and tie into pretzel knots. Especially if you're using them to beat someone up. They don't leave any marks, and technically, you could blame the damages on Randy Savage since, in theory, it was him causing the pain. Ooooh yeah.
Anyways, that's the 'store' part of the establishment in a nutshell. Very nice for what it is - a way to cash in on impulse-buying in a setting where wrestling fans can feel like they're at a very WWF-ish part of the world. If this was all WWF NY was, everything would be fine. It's a nice little store with video screens and a competent sales staff. Unfortunately, the meat of the place is downstairs in their bar/restaurant, which they sometimes refer to as a nightclub and live act arena. Either way, this is where most of my complaints about the place stem from, so let's tip toe downward and check out the wrestling world's premiere eatery...
It looks great. It's huge, there's so many video screens that you literally can't avoid motion sickness, it's slickly designed, and there's not much more you could ask for. Unfortunately, I was there on a Tuesday night, and the place was dead. Kinda kills the excitement when there's only twenty-five people there, 40,000 tables open, and somehow, you still have to wait 10 minutes before someone seats you. And this is my main gripe with the place - the staffing.
Off-night or not, there's really no excuse for having so few people on-hand at a restaurant so large and in such a central location, especially with the way the WWF advertises the place. It also doesn't help that the people on their staff can be, at times, very uninterested in the cliental, bordering on rude. Now I've been there twice, and this has been the case both times. I'll admit that one shouldn't make any huge static judgments on an entire establishment on one bad experience, but I've talked to enough people to know that I'm not alone with the griping.
The last time I went there, my friends and I actually skipped the bill. It wasn't because we wanted to be rebellious like Steve Austin or because we were poor like Nikolai Volkoff. It's because the service was so bad that there was no way, absolutely no way that we were going to pay for it. Especially considering the prices. This isn't fast food, it's Times Square-level pricing and you'd expect the same level of service. We didn't pay the check after 25 minutes of waiting for the check, after two hours of mixed-up orders, missing waiters, and an incident where a member of the team literally dragged a garbage pail through the middle of the eating area, hitting us with it repeatedly. I'm sorry, I know it's a wrestling restaurant, but if they want to treat you with the same respect you'd expect at a wrestling event, then just sell hot dogs and popcorn so we can keep the bill below 80 bucks.
But that was then, this is now, and I'm sorry to say - things really haven't gotten any better.
Okay, so we place an order from the menu. This is after a 30-minute stretch with the waiter - it took that long for him to return with our two waters to take our order. That's a pretty big strike one, especially considering that the guy seemed like he'd rather slice our throats than bring us fries. So we're waiting for the drinks - they arrive, and we're about to place our order when the guy takes off again for another ten minutes. So we're rapidly approaching an hour in the place and we haven't even placed our order yet.
To compensate, the video screens show various clips of WWF programming, past and present. It's a nice tough but I don't like eating red meat while watching Ric Flair with a crimson mask. It doesn't make food seem to palatable, y'know? But it's still kinda fun. Of course, we were in there long enough to watch every video clip repeated 15 times, and the maximum amount of times I can watch Chris Jericho play hockey is three.
We made the critical mistake of ordering an appetizer, which dragged out the meal by, approximately, three weeks. The waiter seemed to think that eating five slices of bruschetta would easily take us 30 minutes, because that's how long it took him to get back and take the order for our actual dinner. I really gotta take part of the blame for this one, though. Who the hell orders bruschetta in a wrestling restaurant? What was I thinking, I'm not Salvatore Sincere. Anyways, it gets worse - keep in mind that any time we did see our waiter, he dropped whatever he was bringing on the edge of our table and took off again without a word.
I was tempted to knock his head with a steel chair, but I wasn't sure how far we were supposed to take the WWF experience there. Besides, he was much bigger than me and I didn't want to go through any tables, precut or not.
Well, there's one of the meals. Notice the empty part of the table where mine's supposed to be? I had to wait an extra twenty minutes because as he was bringing us our food, he slipped and spilled half a beer into my plate. The best part of this was watching him try to give the half a beer to someone at another table. He wasn't too happy about it. The whole experience felt like watching Jack Tripper stumble and fumble through his first night at the Bistro, only our waiter was black and Mr. Furly was replaced by some cowboy guy who kept pointing to the television screens whenever they showed a clip featuring Mr. Fuji.
Oh yeah, and ketchup? Bring your own, because if you want to use some in WWF NY, there's a 15-minute wait. I guess they're loaning most of their tomato talent out to New Japan or something.
It was just terrible, terrible service, and it totally killed the atmosphere there. I really wish I could get someone from the WWF to read this - I honestly feel that they must have no idea how bad things get there on the off-nights. Granted, the crowd isn't full of intellectual slimeballs who want their arugula neatly pressed, but c'mon, they can do better than this. It shouldn't take two hours plus to get through an appetizer and two sandwiches. No wonder Kamala doesn't eat here.
Finally, there's also a small arcade in the restaurant, featuring night-glow air hockey. They had my weakness too, the almighty claw machine. It costs a dollar to play and there's absolutely no chance of winning anything. The claw game is fixed worse than the actual shows. I guess it's the claw's fault though - it seemed pretty loose, maybe too many people were trying to win yellow Undertaker sponges. The claw screwed the claw.
Overall: I'm imploring the WWF - don't blow the opportunity you've got. The place is in such a prime location that there's no reason non-wrestling fans shouldn't be able to go eat there. They could turn this place into such a fantastic business even on the off-nights, it doesn't have to be a mere photo op for the Monday and Thursday shows. If I was them, I'd show old school pay-per-views on the off-nights, maybe charge a five dollar cover, and bam, instantly, wrestling fans would have a much better reason to get down there fairly often. There's no excuse for the place to be as empty as it was in prime time, nor is there an excuse for staffing so many bumbling idiots. As it stands now, I can't imagine this place surviving a long and healthy life. Obviously I don't have a profits tally, but if you saw what I saw, you'd just know they were missing the boat to cash in and deliver so much more.
Case in point - in the middle of eating, in the middle of the somewhat-upscale Times Square, some teenage girl comes up to us and starts trying to get us to buy dead flowers to help her raise money for a computer. JESUS - doesn't anyone on the team keep an eye out for things like this? What's next, are they gonna let some bootleggers sit by the entrance peddling dubbed copies of the last Wrestlemania? Whomever's managing that place is in serious need of a Stone Cold Stunner - hell, I'd even take a Scott Hall Stunner. Anything. Just fix the place, it could be so much nicer for wrestling fans and non-fans alike.
Before I go...
Outside the place, we noticed some guy wearing a big posterboard sign reading: '452 Sex Positions, 1.00'. And sure enough, upon giving him the dollar and his insisted upon tip of another dollar, we got a printout sheet featuring...452 sex positions! Some of them seem to require an antigravity chamber or the efforts of accomplished gymnasts to do successfully, but for a buck, I did learn a lot about how we can use our own heads as balancing beams while doing the nasty.
Oh yeah, please don't plan on parking in the vicinity. It cost me 45 bucks. With the meal, we're rapidly approaching 150 bucks and all I have to show for it are a few stolen packets of WWF NY sugar. For that kinda money, I could probably buy Kamala. I'm not saying don't go there - moreover, I'm saying don't expect too much. Don't expect the Iron Sheik to roll out the red carpet while Terri Runnels flashes her tits out you. Don't expect to eat cheap. Don't expect the waiters to know how to talk or even walk properly. Don't expect free replica championship belts. Just expect an experience - leave the 'good' prefix off, and you won't be disappointed.