Where Are They Now? Tugboat
Depending on who you ask, Fred Ottman is best known as either the loveable sailor- Tugboat, the oversized Natural Disaster - Typhoon, or the stumbling Storm Trooper mask wearing Shockmaster. While there may be some debate as to which is the most recognizable of his many aliases, fans around the world will widely agree that Fred Ottman was one of sports-entertainment's most memorable personalities.
When Ottman first arrived to WWE in the late ‘80s as Tugboat, he was paired with the legendary Hulk Hogan, forming a tag team to counteract the evil actions of the man who would eventually become his partner, Earthquake. The Tugboat character was an instant favorite of WWE fans, especially kids, and was a role that Ottman says was a natural fit.
"I always loved kids," said Ottman. "It was an easy role, and I liked being a good guy. It was the perfect character for me."
The Tugboat persona, however, didn't last forever, as Fred soon made the transition into a role that was the complete opposite of the friendly sailor. As "Typhoon," the oversized veteran ventured into the tag team ranks, teaming with the only other man in the WWE who could claim a similar waist size: Earthquake. Together, they dominated the tag team scene, capturing the World Tag Team titles in 1992 when they defeated Money Inc. Ottman told WWE.com that his late friend was more than a tag team partner.
"We were like two big kids," laughed Fred. "I loved working with John, he was awesome. Unlike a lot of teams, we really got along outside the ring. Quake and I spent a lot of time together. We traveled together, ate together and went to the gym together. We had a great time and I couldn't have asked for a better partner or friend. I was very sad when he passed, and I still think about him today."
Following his WWE career, Ottman moved South and worked for WCW. His shocking on-screen debut as "The Shockmaster," in which he donned a Storm Trooper helmet and tumbled through a wall in front of a live pay-per-view audience is considered to be one of the most unintentionally funny moments in sports-entertainment history. While he was furious at the time, Fred is able to look back on that night and share a laugh with millions of wrestling fans.
"I was part of the most infamous moment in wrestling history," said the former Shockmaster. "They put me in a Storm Trooper mask which they painted and covered in glitter, I couldn't see a thing. I got to the wall and put my hands up like a double axe handle and bust through. The top broke perfectly, but the bottom didn't give. The momentum took me through the wall and to the floor."
In the end, Ottman had the last laugh. The Shockmaster character survived its shaky beginnings and went to be a part of some of WCW biggest matches of the mid ‘90s.
Today, Ottman is retired from in-ring action and, along with his family, operates out of his home base in Lakeland, Fla. Unlike his former career where he abused his colleagues on a daily basis, Ottman now spends his days looking after his co-workers as the safety manager for Gaffin Industrial Services, a company that specializes in industrial waterblasting and vacuum services all over the Sunshine State.
"I made a career out of killing guys in the ring," joked Ottman. "Now, I get paid to keep them safe. I've got a lot of roughnecks working with me now, and we have a good time. It's like being back on the road."
When he's not on the job, Ottman can be found in the gym, working on an old hot rod, or more likely, at the diamond playing his favorite role: Little League dad to his three kids Berkley, Bailey and Beau.
"I live for my children," Fred says. "They are the best gift that God has ever given me. I try to spend as much time as I can with them."
While Ottman has moved on from life on the road, the days he spent competing all over the world remain fresh in his mind as some of the most enjoyable years of his life. Ottman told WWE.com that his love for sports-entertainment is as strong as it ever was.
"I loved being a part of the business," said Ottman. "I enjoyed every minute of it. From the times I was struggling, living with two other guys in a one bedroom apartment, or traveling thousands of miles for little or no money, it all meant something to me. I loved being a part of it, and I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to do it."