Even after all these years Fred Ottman remains a proud pro wrestling fan. The veteran performer is known for his portrayal of a multitude of gimmicks including Tugboat, Typhoon and The Shockmaster throughout his days in WWE and WCW. He was appreciative of every experience and opportunity.
One that didn’t happen was potentially working as the Sheik Tugboat an Iraqi sympathizer in a similar role of what Sgt. Slaughter became. Bruce Prichard mentioned a few years ago on Ric Flair’s “Wooooo! Nation” podcast there was some early discussion about Ottman taking on Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 7 in that position. When this was brought up during a recent Florida appearance for Toomey Tools’ Oktoberfest in Belleview, it brought a smile to his face.
“I know very little about it. It’s skuttlebutt. You never know,” he said. “They always do stuff. They flipped Sgt. Slaughter. He became part of the Iran Connection there. ‘Forsaken America jabroni!’ That’s the way it is in the wrestling business. It’s all behind the scenes business until they come to you and say, ‘This is what you’re going to do tonight.'”
If approached about the controversial character, Ottman would have been on board.
“I’m open to everything,” he added. “I get questions all the time about what gimmicks I like the best. I liked them all. Through my period of 30 years I’ve had several wrestling gimmicks that I started with and have gone through one after another.”
Tugboat got a big endorsement early on from Hulk Hogan, revealed as the man who trained him onscreen. Everything from his “Toot-toot” to his red striped ring attire captured the imagination of young fans of the time.
There is a beloved nostalgia, even though the stint was short. To the point where even Jeopardy legend Ken Jennings tweeted that “the best gimmick in WWE history belonged to ‘Tugboat Thomas.” Vince McMahon had other plans for the imposing 6-foot-3, more than 300-pounded with a character of the weather variety.
“Quake (Earthquake) had finished his run [with Hogan],” Ottman, reflecting on when he found out his days as Tugboat were coming to an end. “As a matter of fact I got to see the Hasbro Tugboat figure that was never released. I was excited about it. They had a Tugboat t-shirt that was never for sale.
“My first wife had it as a sleep shirt that she wore. I’m sure she got rid of it after our parting ways. I met backstage after I just had the photoshoot on tugboats. I came back to TV. Vince and Pat Patterson call me into the office with the powers that be right there?”We’ve got this idea. We want to team you up with Quake with Jimmy Hart as your manager.” I loved the Quake because he was a great wrestler and worker and a great guy.”
Earthquake and Typhoon formed the Natural Disasters and were met with success in the form of a run with the WWE world tag team championship. It’s a time Ottman will never forget and looks back on fondly. Earthquake passed away in 2006.
Fred’s full interview aired as part of today’s episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it’s released Monday – Friday afternoon by clicking here.