Before the was Guy's American Kitchen and Bar, there was WWF New York in Times Square.
It was a sprawling 46,000-square-foot pro wrestling temple complete with a restaurant, nightclub, and fenced-in "cage room." WWF New York opened with a bang in 1999, with A-list faces attracting thousands of fans, and closed with a whimper in 2003 before becoming a Hard Rock Cafe.
And before WWF New York, there was Pastamania, Hulk Hogan's ode to Italian cuisine opened in the Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota, with both traditional and Hulk-shaped noodles. Back in the 90s, WWF title fights could draw more than 10 million viewers—one out of six TV sets in American that had cable at the time.
Much like Guy Fieri today, the bleached hair, sunglasses, and macho aesthetic of pro wrestling captured America's imagination in the 90s and began affecting the way people ate, with many WCW and WWF stars taking a stab at opening their own restaurants.
The menus, naturally, left something to be desired. The Pastamania menu looks more like the specials menu from your local greasy-spoon diner than the offerings of a celebrity-owned restaurant. But those prices can't be beat! (Also interested in what "pasta nuggets" are...)
Restaurants also provided the ideal setting for wrestlers to assert their manliness, such as in legendary vignettes like Razor Ramon eating and trashing a restaurant after being asked to pay his bill.
Or Razor Ramon breaking hearts and objectifying women over a glass of white wine.
Back in the day, when pro wrestlers were our gladiators, no restaurant was too difficult to get into—albeit with a little bribing and physical intimidation. Like the time "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase greased the wheels at La Touraine, a swanky French restaurant. Needless to say, when uptight patrons object to his fast tracking, DiBiase wastes no time making threats of violence.
As they are for other violent subcultures of society (ex-gang member bakers and chefs are decidedly a "thing"), the restaurants also became a place where wrestlers could go when they were over the hill. Take, for instance, the time when Triple H found legendary heel Shawn Michaels had become a cook—sorry, chef—in a corporate cafeteria.
"I am not a cook," a washed-up Michaels tells Triple H. "I'm a chef—chef hat, chef shirt—they just don't give these to anybody, you know?"
Predictably, Michaels is not the best chef (or Chris Farley impersonator) and a young girl promptly throws food in his face, yelling, "These tater tots suck. Shape up, monkey!" Inevitably, he starts a grease fire and kicks his manager in the face before becoming a wrestler again.
Similarly, Kane became a waiter at a diner, only to serve younger, more relevant fighters, though not without reminding them that he had put a chump cook's head in the deep fryer earlier that day.
In more recent years, restaurants became more neutral territory where legends like Sting, Diamond Dallas Page, and Vader could finally squash their beefs or reflect on the good ol' days, when wrestlers were gods and their fuel was anger and mall food.
And say what you want about Guy and his American Kitchen and Bar, but we will probably look back at him and his donkey sauce with the same kind of nostalgia as when we think of Hulk and his pasta nuggets.