Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: Tugboat Shoot Interview

Presented by RF Video 


Tugboat Shoot Interview

Fred Ottman was born and raised in Miami. He watched Florida Championship Wrestling religiously and saw all the biggest stars.

He wrestled and played football in high school. After he graduated he spent 4 years preparing for the Olympic trials as a shot putter.

Several wrestlers saw him working out and after the US boycotted the 1980 Olympics, he began to give pro wrestling a real look for being his career.

He spent almost two years training with Boris, Dean, and Joe Malenko.

Tugboat is glad the territories still existed because they gave him a chance to learn from a variety of people and places.

Ottman was admittedly horrible at first. It was hard to focus on the fans and their reaction when you were trying to focus on putting a match together.

The Guerrero Family worked a bunch with Ottman in Texas.

Jerry Lawler was hated by a lot of talent in Memphis because he would put some guys down, the payoffs sucked and Lawler always went over.

Ottman was there (Rumble ’93) when many guys in the WWF locker room took turns shitting in Lawler’s crown.

We jump to talking about the Road Warriors refusing to lose the WWF Tag belts to Typhoon and Earthquake. Ottman stormed out of the meeting. Vince McMahon was surprised that the normally quiet Ottman exploded. Tugboat told Vince he always does as he’s asked and it’s BS that these guys won’t play ball.

Bill Dundee was a great worker, but he had issues because he was so small. Napoleon Complex.

Stan “Uncle Elmer” Frazier was funny but he wasn’t the brightest bulb.

Gary Hart was tremendous to be around and Ottman loved his character.

Bruiser Brody liked Ottman, so they got along. Brody believed big guys sell tickets and you had to protect yourself.

Al Madril was the funniest guy in the locker room. He had to work with Ottman when he was still green and super stiff. Gory Guerrero came into the Texas territory to defend his sons against Madril. Gory took a piledriver from Madril to add heat to the angle.

The Texas wrestling scene was rough. Barbed wire, steel cages and other weapons were common. Ottman had to survive with Buck Robley, Brody, Ox Baker, Mark Lewin and other crazy men in matches.

Ottman became Big Steel Man in Florida in 1989. He got to work with Gordon Solie, Dusty Rhodes, Steve Kiern, Mike Graham and many other greats.

Rhodes still had his mastery of ring psychology so it was a pleasure to headline against him in Florida.

Dustin Rhodes was a good kid. He made some wrong turns in life but he remains a good talent.

The Goldust gimmick was a big leap for a guy who grew up as a redneck with Dick Slater, Dusty and others bringing him along on their adventures.

DDP had an ego, even when he was just breaking into the business.

Kevin Sullivan tried to bring Ottman into WCW but Gordon Solie, Mike Graham and Steve Kiern convinced him to go to the WWF instead.

Ottman was in awe of Vince McMahon. Pat Patterson was great with finishes and hilarious behind the scenes.

The WWF didn’t use him on TV for a while but he worked house shows. Ottman traveled with Dusty, Quake, The Hebners, The Ultimate Warrior and Lex Luger. The latter two were a bit nutty and would demand food NOW because of their work out plans.

Author sidenote: I can remember the Apter mags talking about Big Steel Man signing with the WWF. Slick supposedly was hiring him to possibly team with the Big Bossman – this was probably the summer of 1989 or so.

Ottman didn’t mind the Tugboat gimmick because he was a goof in real life and he loved that the kids were fans of him. Turning heel was actually sort of a disappointment.

Nikolai Volkoff would cook steak and oatmeal every morning. Volkoff loved listening to classical music while traveling show to show.

Typhoon and Earthquake went to DisneyWorld together with their families. Ottman thinks the sight of two 500 pound men in Mickey Mouse ears had to have been hilarious.

Earthquake lost his gig working in All-Japan for Giant Baba because he started dating a Filipina woman. This was considered an insult by Baba. (I just read in an old Wrestling Observer that Quake asked out of his contract in order to jump to the WWF -maybe a little of both is true?)

Honky Tonk Man is the most sarcastic person you’ll ever meet.

During one promo day (where the guys spent hours cutting interviews for each market) Jake the Snake hit his snake in the head to make it pop up for the camera during every promo. After hours of doing this, the snake died.

Iron Sheik would load up on drinks and drugs after each show. Sheik was hilarious, so Ottman didn’t mind driving him. Sheik would pretend to not be able to drive in order to skip his turn at the wheel.

Sheik was buzzed up heading to the ring with Jake the Snake once. He was also covered in baby oil, and so he flew all over the ring while Jake stiffed him out of frustration. The guys in the locker room thought it was hilarious.

Kerry Von Erich’s suicide was a shock since despite being slow and mellow, he loved the fans and his family so very much.

Wrestlemania 8 was marred by time constraints. The Natural Disasters and Money Inc. were told to end their match fast, but Dibiase said screw that, we’re doing our match. McMahon exploded at them in the back.

Roddy Piper had a massive ego and his own personal assistant when he came back to the WWF in 1989.

Andre the Giant farted on a steel chair in the locker room one time. It sounded like a lion’s roar and Ottman jumped from the sound. Everybody laughed.

Andre once drunkenly pissed on a guy changing his car tire outside of a bar. It was the funniest thing Tugboat had ever seen.

The Road Warriors were working with Typhoon and Quake in the Tokyo Dome and again refused to sell for the heels. Ottman and Quake had to fight for everything they got in those matches.

Money Inc liked to work technical matches, so the matches with The Natural Disasters didn’t fit their style.

The Nasty Boys were great guys. A bit sloppy in the ring, but fun and tough.

Tatanka’s girlfriend was cheating on him with Paul Diamond. The Nasties took his suitcase and filled it with piss and beer. They also sung songs about this infidelity over an airplane’s intercom.

While on a tour of Germany, a German man was trash talking the Americans ability to drink compared to his people. The Nasties slipped him a mickey then shredded his clothes, drew swastikas on his face and colored his private parts black.

Typhoon was witness to Nailz throwing a fit backstage in Green Bay, grabbing Vince McMahon by the neck and chucking him to the floor.

Hacksaw Duggan is blind without his glasses, which made him a stiff worker.

Ottman confirms the Macho Man being overly protective of Elizabeth stories. Ottman talks about how Hawk and Savage had heat in the late 90s and Hawk ended up shoving Macho Man’s head in a toilet.

The Feds witch hunt over Vince McMahon distributing steroids was baseless. The steroid talk haunted the business for years afterward.

Vince starting the WBF to compete with Joe Weider was all ego. You can’t go up against the top dog like that and not expect to take a licking.

The Shockmaster was suppose to be a superhero gimmick. The mask was designed in a way that Ottman couldn’t see anything. Mike Graham told him to just bust through the wall – however the bottom part of the wall didn’t break and he fell over. Since it was live TV, the gimmick was blown. He drank a half a pack of beer that night.

Booker Dusty turned him into clumsy Uncle Fred after that.

Ricky Steamboat is quite funny despite his quiet demeanor.

Steve Regal was a master in the ring. The Brits trained their wrestlers right.

Ottman was in the locker room when Paul Orndorff KO’d Vader during their backstage fight. (Uhhh…I don’t think he was…) Orndorff was being disrespected, so Vader had to learn a lesson.

Typhoon was given a spot in the WWF again after Earthquake quit the WWF over a dispute in 1994. Typhoon was worried he would get heat for replacing a guy like that.

The WWF contacted him for a big angle in 1996 but he turned them down because he had to keep his own personal business running at that point.

Ottman still loves wrestling and he’s not going to question the direction it has headed now.

The business allowed Ottman to travel to all 50 states and a ton of overseas countries and he’s grateful for that.

Final thoughts: A solid interview overall, clocking in at just under two hours. Ottman didn’t have the most remarkable of careers but he was part of the big time for a half decade or so and it was worth picking his brain. That being said, RF didn’t really ask him a lot of specifics regarding PPV matches or angles, which didn’t really open up the chance for Ottman to share his memories.


Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

Leave a Reply