Music And Wrestling Collide At WWF New York Kick Off

It had to have been, undoubtedly, one of the strangest moments of Sugar Ray's career.

As the band worked through an extended version of its signature hit "Fly," frontman Mark McGrath and company were swarmed by more than 20 World Wrestling Federation superstars. Crash Holly grinded against WWF Women's Champion The Kat while Mark "Sexual Chocolate" Henry swiped the mic from McGrath for a bit of freestyling. The Big Bossman then grabbed the stick to claim New York as WWF territory before passing it to the 497 lb. Viscera for a bit of beatboxing.

Such was the scene Wednesday night at the grand opening of WWF New York in Times Square, an event that provided one of the oddest pop culture melting pots of recent memory. MTV's own DJ Skribble worked the turntables while the WWF's Road Dogg and Mr. Ass worked a small corner of the dance floor. Elsewhere, TV's Judge Joe Brown got his groove on to Juvenile's "Back That Thing Up." Even for the WWF's traditionally over-the-top

performers, it was a lot to take in.

"This is the ultimate show," WWF heavyweight champion Triple H told MTV News of the spectacle. "What else would you expect from the WWF?"

In all, some 35 WWF superstars turned out (including Triple H, The Rock, X-Pac, Shane McMahon, and a host of others), but it was Sugar Ray who managed to capture the spotlight (at least momentarily) during a 45-minute set that helped the sports entertainment empire mark its launch into the world of "destination" marketing.

"Anyone who enjoys live music has to like Sugar Ray," WWF head honcho Vince McMahon told MTV News as he took in the band's set. "That's what separates the truly great performers from those who just make good music."

"Sugar Ray was good, but they would have been better if they had let me on stage to sing 'Mean Machine,'" noted Chris Jericho, one of the current holders of the WWF Intercontinental title. "I was ready to jump up there, but I didn't want to get beat up."

The band seemed just as jazzed to be there as it delivered a set thick with hits like "Every Morning," "Falls Apart," "Someday," and the aforementioned "Fly."

"I'm a fan of their songs, but I didn't put a face to them until I saw them on Howard Stern's show," observed Chyna, the other co-holder of the Intercontinental title (it's a long story). While providing a kick start to the Federation's latest undertaking, the band's set also provided a taste of what lies ahead for WWF New York, at least according to Vince McMahon. The WWF owner plans to make musical guests such as Sugar Ray a regular occurrence at the venue and also hopes that visits from WWF superstars and a strong interactive element (through www.wwf.com) add to WWF New York's reach.

After a virtual theme restaurant explosion in the '90s that saw Planet Hollywood, the All Star Café, ESPN's Sports Zone, and many others germinate in New York (and numerous other

cities as well), the last year has seen the market fall on harder times with the Fashion Café, the Motown Café, and other establishments close their doors. However, the WWF carries its usual swagger into the "destination" business, and plans to be more than a theme restaurant.

"Once you've been to a theme restaurant, you've been to it. There's no reason to go back," Vince McMahon said of what he feels will make WWF New York different.

"This isn't a theme restaurant, it's an interactive experience," added Stephanie McMahon, Vince's daughter and the woman who currently runs the show on-screen with her husband Triple H (again, it's a long story).

Undoubtedly, the company's exposure through its various weekly television programs and live road shows won't hurt either. "Millions of people don't watch Motown artists on a weekly basis," Chyna said of what may give the WWF the edge where others have failed. "We give our fans everything," she explained. "In the WWF,

everything we do, we give 110 percent, and our fans are very loyal."

"The brand we have is a living brand, and it's constantly changing," Vince noted.

The brand got some extra juice this week as The Rock hosted MTV's "Total Request Live" on Wednesday, and the Federation also received word that his book, "The Rock Says: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports-Entertainment," will top the "New York Times" best-seller list next week. The WWF hopes to keep the ball rolling with its "Royal Rumble" pay-per-view event coming live from New York's Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.

If you are keeping tabs at home, here's who came out for the launch of WWF New York: Vince McMahon, Triple H, The Rock, Chyna, Stephanie McMahon, Shane McMahon, The Mean Street Posse, Edge, Christian, Test, Matt and Jeff Hardy with Terri, Chris Jericho, Crash Holly, Kat, Road Dogg, Mr. Ass, Godfather (complete with a truncated two-passenger version of his Ho Train), Val Venis, The Acolytes, X-Pac,

Al Snow, Big Bossman, Viscera, Mark "Sexual Chocolate" Henry, Too Cool, Rikishi, The Headbangers, Steve Blackman, and Gangrel.