Legendary WWF era wrestler Fred Ottman wrestled under several gimmicks including Tugboat and Typhoon. However he is remembered by a cult following as the Shockmaster. Fred’s debut as Shockmaster is remembered as being one of the funniest bloopers in the history of the business.
Now running the Legendary Professional Wrestling Academy, he spoke to us about his remarkable career and contribution to wrestling, the now infamous Shockmaster gimmick and working with legends like Hulk Hogan.
What was it like going from the territories to international success with the WWE in the early 90’s?
It was incredible, absolutely incredible. I went from working in territories to working in huge international venues where everybody knows your name. When I was starting in the business there were two to three state territories and you were known in your area. Then I made the transition. I had just got back from Europe and I got the call to go up there [WWF]. Being up there with the best guys from everywhere in the world; UK, Japan, US, Germany and every great champion from every territory Vince had. It was just incredible.
You eventually went to work for WCW along with many other wrestlers. This was a time when WWF was struggling, what was that like?
It was great. It is something that is missing from the business now – competition. Competition is good in any business. When there is only one company, people get lazy and content. You have to have competition there to spark excitement and to feed them, like the WCW and WWF rivalry. They had to do better and put together better angles.
Do you think the modern WWE product is suffering due to the lack of competition?
I love the program and there is a lot of great talent there but when I wrestled, Vince [McMahon] used to surround himself with a bunch of wrestlers to meet and discuss angles. It wasn’t solely up to writers who have never wrestled. I think that has a bit to do with it. They also have so much on their plate that they are pushing for the numbers and it’s a PLC now. They have stockholders they have to answer to and it pushes them. You can be a great screenwriter in TV or movies but if you have never laced a pair of boots you really don’t get the big picture. They also don’t give things enough time to be appreciated by the fans.
You had several gimmicks in your career. How do you rate your gimmicks?
I love them all. You have to own that character. You get these guys saying “I can’tbelieve they gave me this gimmick.” You can’t be that way – you have to be business.Whatever they gave me be it Shockmaster or Uncle Fred I love and embraced all ofthem. I remember when they gave me the Tugboat gimmick, which they felt comfortable with and it was good for merchandising. Tugboat allowed me to be a cross between Popeye and Brutus, which I could have a lot of fun with. I got to work with [Hulk] Hogan during the Tugboat deal and he had the Midus touch. He moved so many careers. He had that persona that whoever he worked with made those people.
How about the Shockmaster incident?
I love the Shockmaster and I still own the helmet. I take it with me everywhere and I will bring it to Swindon Comicon when I come to England in June. It is like the holy grail, it has such a cult following. You tell people it’s the original and they can’t believe it. So many fans want a picture with the helmet.
So what did you think when you got given that gimmick?
Well the whole idea was to conceal my identity and it was done at a live event, it wasn’t taped. So I had to bust this wall that wasn’t gimmicked, it was 2×4’s every 12 inches and because of the height of the wall they added extra materials. About an inch or two below my knee was a big piece of material. Mike Graham was the guy who was going to give me the cue as there was no way to mic the helmet. Ole Anderson did the voice-over and he said -Fred you’re going to have to hit this thing pretty hard. I had two little pin holes and then they took a girls pantyhose off because the glitter was coming through the eyeholes. So I double-axehandled the wall and the momentum of hitting it so hard made me a teeter-totter. So I flip over and the helmet popped off like a champagne cork. The rest is wrestling history. So I jump up put the helmet back on my head to cover my face, remember it’s live and I am supposed to be the mystery partner. It was so funny. It was a hell of a way to make a debut.
Tell us about the promotion you are now running?
I’m very proud of it and I have a great bunch of kids. We have several cruiserweights and a couple of big boys. It is small school. I actually talk to my good friend Marty Jones who does a hell of a job over in England. Some of the guys have been working for years and we also got some new guys who are cutting their teeth. I’m so proud of it.
We have a YouTube channel for Legendary Professional Wrestling – we post the matches on there. I’m a big Lucha fan and I like the guys to have several different styles. We have so many legends living in the area that pop by the school and don’t have a problem getting in the ring with my guys.