Todd Pettengill says WWE Will Improve Because of AEW’s Growth, Denies Being “Fondle Me Elmo” with Sunny, more

Sep 28, 2021 - by James Walsh

Show: Wrestling Epicenter
Guest: Todd Pettengill
Date: 09/27/2021
Your Host: James Walsh

Todd Pettengill was the quick, funny WWE host and interviewer from 1992 to 1997. Conrad Thompson recently called him “The “Mean” Gene Okerlund to a younger generation of fans” and he’s absolutely right

Not just a wrestling guy, Todd also was the morning host for 95.5 WPLJ in New York City for decades, many alongside veteran DJ Scott Shannon. But, just a few decades after WPLJ was the largest station in the United States, it no longer exists. We discuss that as well with the iconic host!

You can check out Todd’s production company at this link.

To listen, visit www.WrestlingEpicente.rcom. You can download an MP3 file of the conversation as well as stream it on YouTube. If you use this content on your respective website, and we hope you do, please remember to link back to our site. Thank you!



Todd Pettengill :

On what he’s doing now:
“I actually moved out of New York to Texas about 5 years ago – Just outside of Austin, after living my whole life on the East Coast. I’ve always had a production studio, since about ’94 I guess, and we’ve just sort of built upon that since I stopped with the radio about a year ago. The radio was about a 40 year run. But, it was time to take a little break, be able to stay up late, and sleep in! For almost 40 years, I got up at 3, 3:30 in the morning. So, that was a nice change! We’re doing a lot of video production. As you said, a lot of stand-up comedy but also TV shows, motion graphics… We just produced 2t6 episodes of the kids show Wonder-rama. So, we’re picking some fun projects and staying in it. And, I’m still doing some fun projects for the WWE. Whatever little fun projects that we find and that I am passionate about, we take.”

On how he got involved in WWE years ago:
“Well, it is kind of an interesting story. Vince and Linda (McMahon) were listeners of the show (Scott & Todd on 95.5 WPLJ in New York) and called me out of the blue. They said, “Hey, do you know anything about wrestling?” I said, “Not really.” Vince said, “Perfect! I want someone with an outside take.” He asked if I’d be willing to go to Stamford to audition. I said, “Absolutely!” And, I did. With Vince, you either get a broom or a bottle of water to sell to him. I got the bottle of water. I guess he liked it. And, the rest is history!”

On working for WWE and doing a daily Morning show being a grind:
“Yeah, it was. And, that basically is why I had to leave. I basically went without a vacation for 5 years because I used all my vacation time to do the pay-per-views. For a while there, I was working 7 days a week when they started Live Wire and I was on the first Monday Night RAW. It was kind of a grueling schedule. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t something I could keep up. That is the reason I left but it was on good terms and I think that attributes to them still calling and us still doing stuff together 26, 27 years later. It is kind of fun!”

On WWE skewing for a young audience when he first got there:
“I wouldn’t say it was “kiddie” programming but you could see it skewed a little bit younger. But, during my time there, you could see it begin to change. The Attitude Era was approaching. It was the New Generation but things were starting to change. I think that is a credit to Vince. You have to know that the audience is changing and change your program to fit that audience. I think that is what he did just to keep pace with what was going on in the world. It was definitely moving that way in my time but when I left, it went further to that area. But, it was always topical and relevant which is to Vince’s credit.”

On working alongside “Macho Man” Randy Savage early in his WWE Mania run:
“He was just a kind, genuine person. He didn’t have any kind of ego about being on the show and treated me as an equal. We developed a pretty good friendship. It wasn’t something I expected. When they told me, “The Macho Man is going to… (co-host). I was like, “Oh, wow. Sure! But, is this guy going to want to work with me?” They were like, “Oh yeah!” He was terrific. We had so many laughs. And, it was such a great, great journey. I miss him a lot.”

On taking shots at WCW and its talent during his WPLJ Radio Show Which Didn’t Cover Wrestling:
“No, I wasn’t encouraged to do it. I just figured I had a platform and I’m loyal to who I’m loyal to. (laughs) It is just one of those things. And, I didn’t go out of my way to do it. But, if it fit, I was never afraid to take a little shotsky if I had to.”

On if there was ever noticable tension in WWE when business went down in the mid ’90’s:
“Not at all. As you know, the business is very cyclical. But, with the direct competition from WCW, it was always on. There was never, at any point, a time where we were like, “Oh boy. The product is just not there.” We felt the exact opposite. I think we all felt we had something special. And, it put everyone at the top of their game when you had Turner jump in with a competing organization and you’d see a guy or two go over (to WCW). It was kind of hot and heavy there for a while! But, when you’re in it, you’re in it. And, again, not coming from a wrestling background, it was all still so new to me. Obviously, I had watched some programming before. But, never as into it as when I started to work there. But, I never felt that way at all. I always felt we were trying to be at the top of our game and put on a great show.”

On what kept WWE in the fight:
“You have to remember, you still had incredible matches! When you have a Shawn Michaels or a Bret Hart on the roster… At one point, they brought Hogan back (in ’93) and they brought Piper back (in ’94, ’96). There were so many great matches and some you could still consider some of the greatest of all time. Some of those ladder matches that happened in the 90’s? They were unparalleled!

On if he was in the Elmo costume during the infamous “Fondle Me Elmo” Sunny Sex Tape from Shotgun Saturday Night:
“(laughs) I was not! (Elmo laugh) Nah, it wasn’t me! Bruce (Prichard), that’s the second time today I heard his name today. Bruce is a great guy. (laughs)”
NOTE: James had mentioned that Bruce Prichard outed Todd as being in the Elmo suit during a recent Something to Wrestle With podcast. He was not implying Bruce was the lucky Elmo in question.)

On working with Sunny:
“I had Stephanie Wiand as a co-host but we didn’t have the same chemistry as I did with Sunny. She’s doing better! I just saw she (Sunny) got on Instagram about a month ago. She is a dear person. Listen, who among us hasn’t had our own personal ups and downs? She was a genuine person who was very willing to play her character and she did that very, very well. I have a lot of respect for her.

On Live Wire being ahead of its time:
“You didn’t know you were ahead of the curve because you were in it. But, again, that is a credit to Vince. He saw it and he went with it. There were so many things, back then, that were kind of cutting edge. When you look back now, you have to be like, “Wow! For us to have tried to do something like that back then!” (laughs) On live television? It was a very gutsy show to do. I, coming from live radio, loved doing live live. You do it once and that’s that. There isn’t a chance for you tape it and go, “Oh, I don’t know if that was so good.” You do it live and whatever happens happens. And, I think that added a lot of energy to the show.”

On Vince Russo saying bad stuff about Todd when he jumped to WCW in 1999:
“I didn’t have a lot to do with Vince Russo. I worked directly with the segment producer. So, I didn’t have a lot to do with him but I did know he was involved, big picture, in the show.”

On his musical numbers at the beginning of the Slammy Awards and if they were scripted for him:
“No, that was mine. I went to Vince (McMahon) and Kevin Dunn and said, “Hey, Billy Crystal does these musical numbers. I could do that.” So, I wrote it and demo’d it for them, they loved it, and we went with it.”

On if he ever offended anyone with his humor and sarcasm:
“(laughs) I don’t think so. If I did, I was never aware of it. You can’t take yourself too seriously. It is entertainment, first and foremost. The action is very athletic and you have to be an incredible athlete. But, you also have to be an entertainer. And, if you take yourself too seriously, you’re not going to have a very long run. The thing with me, I went after their characters and their public personas. I didn’t go after the guys themselves. And, nobody ever really had a problem with that.”

On if WWE ever pushed the envelope too far during his time there:
“I don’t think so. I think it was all in fun. We never really crossed over the line at that time… We may have walked up to it a couple of times. But, if you compare it to other things that were on at the time, it was still a pretty clean version of life. Because we knew the audience was skewing a little bit younger, we didn’t push things too far. But, again, the evolutionary process was taking it there. I was never uncomfortable with it. I just felt it was the evolutionary process.”

On returning for WWE NXT Takeover: In Your House:
“It was nice to be asked. Last year was the 25th anniversary of In Your House. It just does not feel like it was 25 years ago that I was doing those monthly In Your House pay-per-views! Hunter was there, Shawn Michaels was there, I saw Ted DiBiase. And, a lot of crew members that were still there. Of course, there were a lot of new faces. But, it was so nice to be asked and I really did have a lot of fun.”

On AEW beating WWE RAW in the key demo recently:
“I think competition is good. I really do. I think you put out a better product when you’re competing for something rather than putting out a daily product because you think about so many other things. When you’re alone in the stratosphere, you operate completely differently than you do when you have neighbors. When you have competition, in any business, it drives you. It makes you put on a good product. And, that is good for everyone including the fans. You have so much loyalty for the WWE but then you have a new company (AEW)… But, you also have to remember that a long time ago, WWF was a new company too. It is brand building! I think it (competition) is only good for the sport and I think it is going to be really, really good going forward.”

On if his phone scams were real or staged:
“(laughs) Everyone thinks they were set up. They weren’t! I think because it was in New York… As you know, New Yorkers will argue with you. Some of my favorite ones were ridiculous like the one where I called the lady about her air conditioning unit and tried to convince her she had to put a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in. It was absurd. But, those were some of my favorite calls.”

On the end of 95.5 WPLJ New York which Closed a Few Years Ago:
“You know, it is sad. Unfortunately, radio really hasn’t reinvented itself. As we talked about earlier, Vince (McMahon) always spotted trends and adjusted. Sadly, radio didn’t. There is a lot of people who have been effected by that. Many of my peers are out of work because of it. There is so much competition with Apple and with Spotify, you have to adjust. Radio, as a whole, did not. That played a big part in… While radio still exists, it is not on the same level that it was. That is not to say there are not a lot of talented people in the business – There still are. I hope radio exists forever – I hope that it does. You have a number of operators today that are in charge of these huge groups who don’t really have a passion for radio, they have a passion for numbers and for making money. That doesn’t always get it done. I was very sad to see a heritage radio station go away. I think that I was probably there the longest of anyone that ever worked for the station. 30 years at WPLJ. It is very sad. When I started there, I was 25 years old. It was a long, long journey. I’m sad to see it go.”

One Response

  1. Dree says:

    According to Bruce Pritchard, it actually was Todd in the Elmo suit.

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