Shock and Awe: The oral history of the Shockmaster incident

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August 27, 2014

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In 1993, the sports-entertainment world was shocked to its very core. At WCW’s Clash of the Champions XXIV, a grand unveiling was planned during Ric Flair’s “Flair for the Gold” talk-show segment: The Dirtiest Player in the Game would assist Sting & The British Bulldog in revealing their mystery partner for the upcoming WarGames match that would ultimately pit them against Sid, Vader & Harlem Heat. (A pre-face paint Dustin Rhodes would complete the team of fan favorites.) Sting proclaimed the mystery man would “shock the world” and he certainly did: Introduced with the fanfare of a conquering king and clad in a piecemeal outfit right off the clearance rack, The Shockmaster — aka Fred Ottman, previously the WWE Superstar Tugboat/Typhoon — crashed through a wall between two sets of bargain basement pyro and promptly fell on his face, losing his glitter-glued, “Star Wars” Stormtrooper helmet in the process (his furry vest remained intact).

The debut immediately lodged itself in wrestling infamy, and The Shockmaster’s legend has only grown over the last two decades. As it turns out, the incident wasn’t just an aberration, but an odd connecting point for the careers of several intersecting Superstars, all of whom remember things just a little bit differently. So, 21 years after the world was shocked, four of the players involved spoke with and shared their thoughts and memories of the most infamous debut in the history of professional wrestling.


BOOKER T: The Shockmaster wasn’t supposed to go like that.

STING: If I remember correctly, he was going to be a machine, a crusher, invincible, like a [human] wall.

THE SHOCKMASTER: I thought the idea was pretty cool. It was basically supposed to be like a superhero costume.

DUSTY RHODES: The original plan when I brought in Shockmaster was just working toward that 8-Man Tag Team Match and that kind of group-oriented deal. Plug him in for a real quick fix — well, not a fix, but a character just to kind of even up the sides.

BOOKER: As far as the character goes, I thought the character sucked from the beginning. It was totally outdated. Ole Anderson was doing the voice-over; I don’t think it was something that could have lasted more than six weeks without the fans hating it and saying, “God, please, just let this go away!” So that’s what I thought about the character ... But for it to happen like that I felt bad. I felt bad for Fred, because he was a really, really nice guy, you know?

SHOCKMASTER: I’ve never said no to a gimmick … and it sounded like a fun thing that would have been cool to work with.

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RHODES: Really, [the costume] was thought up as something really wonky, off-the-wall. The helmet originally was designed to be something like Vader’s. It was supposed to be more elaborate.I basically became a human teeter-totter.

SHOCKMASTER: What I wore on “Flair for the Gold” wasn’t the original outfit. That was just for going out on that segment. I still have the original outfit, matter of fact. It’s blue and it has gold lightning bolts going down the legs … and a Mexican-style mask with a lightning bolt going through the face and the top was where my hair would come out. So that was an actual wrestling outfit. The outfit you saw was what they wanted me to go out in, you know. Just take the shirt off, put on the top, which actually belonged to one of the Colossal Kongs. And the helmet itself was a “Here, put this on and see if you can see out of it” kind of deal. Last minute. [Laughs]

BOOKER: It had like a boatload of glitter on it. It looked like somebody took hours getting the glitter on there.

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SHOCKMASTER: They put it over my head, and the glitter was coming through the eyeholes and into my eyes. So they got a pair of dark pantyhose from a secretary, cut out two pieces, glued them and put ‘em over the eye holes so the glitter wouldn’t come into my eyes.


BOOKER: We actually went out and rehearsed it, but right before we actually went live, for some reason they had put a 2x4 right down at the floor and I don’t think Fred could see that with the mask on.

RHODES: There was sabotage involved, I really believe that. [Producer] David Crockett was on the payroll with us at that time … the takeover had just begun, with Eric Bischoff and the Hogan era and all that stuff. We rehearsed it during the day, it went perfectly, and like I say, sabotage came into play — building up about four or five different floorboards and not telling him about it. “When the smoke goes off, he trips and falls on his ass and we make big fun of it, and Dusty falls on his ass.” There was a lot of that going on back then in our business.  Any chance you get to take someone out of power and just have a big laugh, they took. I’ve done it! I’ve been the [saboteur]. When I say sabotage, I don’t mean like, “Boy, this is serious stuff.” It’s just the wrestling business. “You got an extra board? Put it on there, maybe he won’t see it.” Well, he didn’t see it. Or maybe it’s just my imagination.

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SHOCKMASTER: The wall itself was just built like a wall in your house, like sheetrock with a 2x4 every 12-15 inches off-center — kind of like you’d build a normal wall in your house. And there was a board just below my knee that was there for support. I got there, and when it was time to go, they said, “You’re going to have to hit this wall really hard to bust out,” because it wasn’t a gimmick wall. So I put my hands above my head, double-axe handle, and when I got the cue, I was going to blast through the wall. Well, I blew the top out, but didn’t take that bottom board out, so I basically was a human teeter-totter.

There was sabotage involved, I really believe that.BOOKER: He just barreled through, like we did at rehearsal, but he ran right into the piece of wood and tumbled over, and the mask came off, of course.

RHODES: I would’ve looked down. I would’ve looked it over right before I came out.

SHOCKMASTER: I blew out the top of the wall and I actually flipped over. And when I felt myself go, all I could think about was turning my head to protect my identity when I did hit the floor, because the helmet popped off.

RHODES: Holy cow! His head’s rolling across the floor like “Game of Thrones” and he’s trying to pick it up and put it back on? The only thing that would have been funnier is if he’d have put it on backwards.

SHOCKMASTER: I hit the floor, popped the helmet on my head and jumped up so that Ole could do the promo, because there was no way to mic the helmet, so Ole did the voice-over. And the rest is history.

Next: Dusty rolls with the punches, and Shockmaster finally finds his niche. Does inner peace await at the end of the road?

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