NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — “Hoot! Hoot!” reverberated throughout the Scotiabank Convention Centre on Saturday. The startled patrons attending the Niagara Falls Sports Expo must have thought a tugboat was approaching or perhaps a natural disaster warning was being sent out. Well, they were both correct. Fred Ottman, the former WWE star know as Tugboat and later as Typhoon was drawing a crowd, signing autographs and shaking hands.
The 57-year-old Ottman energetically greeted the crowds who came to meet the sporting legends of yesteryear. He took the time to listen to the fans’ stories and genuinely enjoyed talking to everyone.
Flashback to 1989 when a much younger Fred Ottman made his WWE debut as the red-and-white clad Tugboat. The Tugboat character was a kid-friendly guy who dressed like a cartoon sailor, and made the sound of a fog horn on the way to the ring.
Initially Tugboat was a good guy and best buddy of WWE champion Hulk Hogan. Together the two behemoths fought against Earthquake and “Canada’s Strongest Man” Dino Bravo. Tugboat was a member of The Hulkamaniacs at the 1990 edition of the Survivor Series. Hulk Hogan, Tugboat, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Big Boss Man defeated The Natural Disasters: Earthquake, Dino Bravo, Haku and the Barbarian. Hulk Hogan was the sole survivor of the team challenge. He was even an early opponent of the Undertaker.
While being a fan favourite was nice it did nothing to help him get the winners share of the purse (Gorilla Monsoon would be proud of that one). In 1991 Tugboat joined Jimmy Hart’s stable of wrestlers and changed his name to Typhoon. With his new tag team partner, Earthquake, they choose the moniker of The Natural Disasters to aptly describe the team.
The new team quickly moved up the tag team ranks of the WWE. Ottman thoroughly enjoyed his new role in the WWE and his partner as well. “I was with my brother from another, Earthquake, the most fantastic partner and my best friend,” recalled Ottman for SLAM! Wrestling.
In 1992 the team dumped their evil manager Jimmy Hart and turned their attention towards his new team, Money Inc. It was on April 5, 1992, at Indianapolis’ Hoosier Dome that Ottman had his special moment at Wrestlemania VIII.
“It’s the most exciting deal of the year. It is the Super Bowl of wrestling. It is larger then life,” Ottman said excitedly when describing his Wrestlemania experience. The veteran of the mat game was not immune to stage fright as his first Wrestlemania match loomed. “I was nervous, sweatin’. I went through the curtain and it all disappeared in front of all those people. You know it is live worldwide. It is just incredible!”
That night the Natural Disasters defeated Money Inc. by countout. “My opponents, Money Incorporated, Ted DiBiasie and IRS, (were) phenomenal.” A few months later The Natural Disasters won the WWE tag team titles.
When reflecting on that night Ottman’s eyes began to water as he thought about his old tag team partner, Earthquake, who passed away in 2006. “I miss him greatly. He is dead now,” Ottman reflected. “He was wonderful and is still in my heart. He is main eventing up in heaven. He’s got a room full of pros and champions that are up there with him, so God bless him.”
Soon the Typhoon subsided and Ottman left the WWE. A few years later he was selected to participate in a special attraction at WrestleMania X-7, which took place on April 1, 2001, at the Reliant AstroDome in Houston, Texas. Ottman reprised his role as Tugboat for the Gimmick Battle Royal which featured former WWE superstars such as Brother Love, the Bushwhackers, Jim Cornette, Doink, Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, Earthquake, Gobbledy Gooker, The Goon, Michael Hayes, Hillbilly Jim, Kamala, Kim Chee, One Man Gang, Repo Man, Sergeant Slaughter, The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff. The event was won by former WWE champion the Iron Sheik.
While his days appearing at Wrestlemania are over, he has a family connection at this year’s Wrestlemania weekend. Fred Ottman displayed the power of a typhoon in the pride for his son who is involved at WWE Fan Axxess. “My son, he’s being trained to be a timekeeper. He’ll be there,” pointed out Ottman. “He’s the good looking one; he doesn’t look like me, thank God. He looks like my ex-wife, his mom.”
Ottman has a message for his fans that will be at Axxess on Wrestlemania weekend. “He’ll be doing all the timing on the matches at Axxess. So if you’re there, his name is Berkley Ottman, and if you see him, tells him I love him and his Dad says ‘hi’.”
It is not shocking to her that Fred Ottman enjoyed his time plying his trade on the wrestling world’s biggest stage. “It’s just awesome. What a great experience.” Perhaps an Ottman will get another shot at Wrestlemania. Only time will tell.
- June 13, 2019: Shockmaster debuts at Chinlock Wrestling legends convention
- Oct. 14, 1998: Experiencing a Natural Disaster with Typhoon
Caleb Smith’s arm got sore holding his recorder high above his head to interview Tugboat. Thank you to Greg Oliver for showing off his swimming skills, Quinn for being a fun guy and Dan Murphy for letting me sit under the PWI tree.