On March 10, Pro Wrestling Tees announced a collaboration with Uber Eats meant to please the wrestling/pizza/t-shirt lover crossover that defines more than a few of its customers: Powerbomb Pizza.
I had some questions: is it a cynical marketing ploy? Does it actually benefit wrestlers? Most importantly, is the food good?
Powerbomb Pizza takes a page right out of Robert Earl’s cookbook. Earl, the man behind Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo, Chicken Guy, and the eponymous Earl of Sandwich, found pandemic-era success with co-branding efforts between celebrities and ghost kitchens. Earl’s Virtual Dining Concepts, a delivery-only model that provides menu oversight, promotional material, and specialized wrappers to struggling brick-and-mortar restaurants, which are delivered through contracted app workers, gained traction when in-restaurant dining fell to an all-time low.
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Perhaps the prime example of this widespread phenomenon is MrBeast Burger, named for YouTuber Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson, which quickly grew to over 1000 locations, more than national staples such as Cinnabon or Jersey Mike’s. However, the food at these ghost kitchens has been criticized as inconsistent at best and “consistently shitty” at worst. Regular listeners to the Doughboys podcast may have heard of delivery-only flame-outs such as Tyga Bytes, a nugget concept co-branded between Earl and rapper Tyga, the second-lowest rated chain ever to appear on the program.
Having been a delivery driver over this long, long pandemic, the ghost kitchen model is predatory on almost every level. Restaurant margins are already paper-thin, and so, in desperation, restauranteurs take contracts to cook food that has no business being cooked there. For example, many ghost kitchens that house MrBeast Burger are Buca Di Beppo’s. There are other issues with the model, too. First, wrestlers likely have no input on how their name is used or the end product. Second, delivery drivers are paid a pittance, and gas prices are cresting over $6.00/gallon in the greater Los Angeles area. Beyond the very real issue of driver cost, 2020 saw Uber, along with Lyft and DoorDash, spend over $200 million to fight Proposition 22, which would have classified drivers as employees and given them things like health insurance and mileage stipends. It went down as one of the most expensive ballot measures in history.
As with all ghost kitchens, Powerbomb Pizza has no discernible cross-location quality control whatsoever. While I went to the Huntington Beach, CA location, I can’t tell you what the Vegas location tastes like, let alone the other projected locations in Portland, Dallas, New York City (home of pizza), Chicago (home of other pizza), Philadelphia, or Miami. The Huntington Beach Powerbomb Pizza is operated out of a Zpizza franchise, but the Vegas location is a true ghost kitchen called Lucky 3 with no restaurant space attached.
Pro Wrestling Tees is a bit of a ghost kitchen itself. Run out of One Hour Tees in Chicago, which hosts this snarky, dismissive FAQ, PWT claims to benefit the wrestlers working with them, though the exactly what they receive is a trade secret. According to their website, Ryan, the owner of One Hour Tees got an emergency order from Colt Cabana on behalf of CM Punk in 2010 for a shirt to wear on TV that night. Since then, they’ve grown to be the official apparel shops for hundreds of wrestlers and employ a full-time staff of 30. WWE handles their own merch and likely stipulates an exclusivity clause, so you won’t find your favorite active Superstars here (except for the very recently re-signed Amy Dumas). Still, it seems like every notable AEW wrestler and dozens of legends, refs, and deceased wrestlers, including Andy Kaufman, are accounted for. Since wrestlers, like delivery drivers, are technically contractors, they’re allowed to freelance their image rights. Pro Wrestling Tees makes it easy to earn passive income by providing an all-in-one platform designing, printing, and distributing merchandise so the wrestlers never actually have to look at it if they don’t want to. Such is the likely case with Powerbomb Pizza.
Let’s Break Down the Menu
Eddie Guerrero’s Latino Heat Wings
Gangrel’s Fangtastic Garlic Breadsticks
All pizzas come in sizes Jobber (Small), Mid-Card (Medium), and Main Eventer (Large).
The Four Cheeses of Foley
The Godfather’s Pimpin’ Pepperoni Pizza
Vader’s Mastodon Meat Lovers Pizza
Rob Van Dam’s That’s a Lot of Veggies Pizza
The Legion of Doom’s Chicago Street Fight Pizza
Kevin Nash’s “Big Sexy” Sausage Pizza
Piper’s BBQ Pit Pizza
Bret Hart’s “Best There Ever Was” Supreme Pizza
Brutus the Barber Cheesecake
Everything is named after a wrestler. A+ already. I would argue this does a better job at naming than other Wrestle-raunts. Las Vegas’s WCW Nitro Grill (1999-2000) had an extensive and batshit menu featuring the Slamboree Swordfish, Booker T-Bone, and the Crippler Crossface Cheesesteak *shudder*. Meanwhile, Times Square’s WWF New York/WWE The World (1999-2003) was notable for having no themed menu items. Powerbomb Pizza goes the extra step to inject a little of that razzle-dazzle wrestler humor in there and really stretch the wrestler/pizza pun milage. Would I have liked to see Iron Sheik’s Make You Humble Pie? Sure, but I’ll take what I can get.
While it’s a bit of a stretch to call Gangrel a wrestling legend, good for him for getting on the menu. That said, it’s a monumental task to make the Fangtastic Garlic Breadsticks look remotely appetizing, even in the pictures. Other highlights include Kevin Nash’s “Big Sexy” Sausage Pizza because of the penis joke, Rob Van Dam’s That’s A Lot Of Veggies Pizza because it leans into the weed thing, I guess, and Brutus The Barber Cheesecake for eliciting a legitimate chuckle.
The Powerbomb Pizza Experience
On a Saturday morning, I drove down to Huntington Beach to track down to Powerbomb Pizza. I had planned on going the day prior, but like all good pizzerias, Powerbomb Pizza is only available from 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM.
I placed my order through the UberEats app while walking in the door. Pizza boxes are piled high on the way to the bathroom, which is out of service. The guy there seemed confused about what he was making and consulted a sheet since the pizza I got wasn’t a standard menu item.
About 25 minutes later, everything came out in a custom box and sealed with a tamper-proof sticker. I took it to a table outside.
I ended up getting The Legion of Doom Chicago Street Fight Pizza, an Italian beef pizza smothered in giardiniera (spicy pickled vegetables), Eddie Guerrero’s Latino Heat Wings, and the aforementioned Brutus the Barber Cheesecake. The app is weird because it suggests that it’s normal to get a side of spicy dippin’ sauce along with it.
I’m not sure why they used the “Legion of Doom” branding instead of the less entangled but still copyrighted “Road Warriors” for this pie. Hawk and Animal are listed under the Road Warriors moniker on the Pro Wrestling Tees website, even. While the other pies at this joint are tried-and-true classics like “pepperoni” and “cheese” with a wrestler’s name attached, the Chicago Street Fight Pizza stands above the others as looking legitimately insane, borrowing its ingredient combination from Windy City’s signature Italian beef sandwich. Some hail giardiniera as the best pizza topping you’ve never heard of. But it, like One Hour Tees and two kinds of pickles on a single hot dog, is a Chicago thing.
Legion of Doom Chicago Street Fight Pizza
The sauce is too sweet, overpoweringly so. Sweeter than Domino’s old recipe. The crust is crispy but tastes stale. The giardiniera is actually good, but there’s not much of it, especially compared to the picture. The beef is thin and doesn’t taste like anything. This thing is mercifully small, but even so, I tapped out after two slices. This was awful while hot, so I can’t imagine what this would be like with added delivery time.
On the wall, there’s an advertisement for the pizza sizing: small is 10 inches, medium is 14″, large is 18″, but I brought my own tape measure, and I suppose that’s the pre-cooked size because this thing is barely 9″.
Eddie Guerrero’s Latino Heat Wings
Wings are fatty. Bland. Almost no Latino heat to speak of. They have distinct wetness even though this is ostensibly a dry wing instead of one covered in sauce. The ranch was fine.
These did the unthinkable, which is make me think less of Eddie Guerrero and his legacy.
Brutus the Barber Cheesecake:
For a nearly nine-dollar slice of cheesecake, this thing is insultingly tiny. By comparison, the Cheesecake Factory sells a whole one for a little over $20.
It’s pretty good, actually, but it does taste like it wasn’t made on-site. The texture was a little mealy.
This is $16.25-$18.75 for a small. The pricing is bizarre, too, because while you would expect relative consistency for upsizing options, it’s all over the place. Despite having the same Jobber (small) price, the Main Eventer (large) Four Cheeses of Foley Pizza is $27.25, but the large Rob Van Dam That’s A Lot Of Veggies Pizza is a whole dollar less. The equivalent Zpizza from the same restaurant is about five dollars less, so whether that extra cash goes to UberEats, ProWrestlingTees, the restaurant, or the wrestlers is anyone’s guess. But this was $43.37 for a one-person meal. Two if you’re not that hungry.
Parasocial Pizza vs. Good Pizza
You can get apparel and mugs sporting the Powerbomb Pizza logo from the Pro Wrestling Tees website, but it isn’t available for delivery with the food. Kind of an oversight if you ask me, but that seems to be a running theme with this endeavor.
I have always hated the trope about low-quality fast food making you feel sick, but I legitimately feel disgusting about half an hour later. I could keep it together, but I don’t think I’d get it again, even if I didn’t have to drive two hours to get it.
I like wrestling, and I like pizza. But why anyone would choose this co-branding Frankenstein beyond an exercise to live out a parasocial relationship through consumption over, say, a good pizza is beyond me.