Fred “Tugboat” Ottman Recalls Final Conversations With Road Warrior Animal (www.wrestlinginc.com)

Fred Ottman was happy to be back among his pro wrestling friends and fans on October 10. The WWE and WCW alum appeared alongside Jimmy Hart, Tony Atlas and Gangrel during Toomey Tools’ Oktoberfest in Belleview, Florida. The group signed autographs and posed for photos at the outdoor event.

“Everyone has their own cup of tea and tries different events and goes to different things. I’m going to go to New York to do an auction and event up there. With events like today, independent wrestling is coming back little by little,” Ottman said.

“Everyone is social distancing for the most part. Although the governor for the state of Florida has basically said, “Let ‘er rip. Let them go where they want to go.” It’s awesome. The fans out here are awesome. I’ve been signing a ton of autographs meeting kids, parents, grandparents. They are having a good time. I love this business. Once a wrestling fan, always a wrestling fan.”

The 64-year-old cherishes the time he gets to spend with his former running mates, knowing how much time is fleeting. Ottman was sad to find out about the passing of his friend Road Warrior Animal (Joe Laurinaitis) in September. He recalled speaking to him a week before he died.

“We would send messages. I post a lot of messages on my Facebook page,” he said. “A lot of wrestling photos and where we worked and wrestling posters. He would comment and say something. We would comment back and forth. He would send me messages because my wife has been in dire health. For the last two months I’ve had issues with my lower legs. He would talk to me online a lot about that stuff.”

Ottman has learned to appreciate every experience like spending time with his former Natural Disasters manager Jimmy Hart. A Hall of Famer he refers to as the busiest man in the business.

“Between music and promotion, he is there and able to do everything,” Ottman said. “He is the wrestler’s manager, wrestler’s wrestler, whatever you want to call him. Jimmy is just awesome. When I get to see him and have the opportunity, he has a lot of stuff still with Hogan. Just being a part of it and doing these events and the wrestling cons, that’s the best part of this.

“Seeing guys. We were just talking today about how we are losing guys and just lost Animal. I posted a picture of all four of us [Road Warriors and Natural DIsasters] in the ring together. People were like, “Oh my God.” I miss my friends. I’ve been on the phone talking to Animal. I talk to Bobby Fulton. There are a lot of guys. Luke the Bushwacker is a friend of mine. I like to talk to him once a week or every couple of weeks. I feel that way about a lot of guys. These events you also get to meet some of the new and young talent. I’m still a wrestling fan.”

Ottman also shares a collective passion with Hart of collecting. He has a massive assemblage of wrestling memorabilia at his house in Nashville.

“I have probably got two to three thousand pieces. At the new house in Tennessee I’m doing a man cave room…I bought this 40-foot trailer because usually when I do events there will be figures that I would sell, autograph figures with virtual shows I do,” he said. “I have posters. I have a poster when all of them were destroyed. Jimmy brought me back a 1992 SummerSlam from Wembley Stadium where we broke Michael Jackson’s record. They were outside selling bootleg posers, which were actually better than Vince’s posters….

“Jimmy is the collector’s collector. He has sporting goods. Every time he goes to Canada, it’s the uncut sheets of sports cards from the card manufacturer. You would need a semi to transport all that stuff. He actually took two bays of his garage when I was living over there. He had rolls and rolls and rolls of uncut stuff from card manufacturers.”

When it comes to some of his most prized pieces, the veteran names a board from Survivor Series signed by “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Of course, he also has the original Shockmaster helmet. A relic from a WCW gimmick that didn’t get started on the right foot, literally when Ottman found himself tripping and falling over the set. The scene has pretty much given Ottman cult classic status within the wrestling community. The helmet is a popular photo opp and conversation piece at events years later.

“My prized possession is Quake’s [Earthquake] singlet his son sent me,” he said. “His son has a set, and I have a set. I’m going to get it mounted and put it up with the [WWE tag team] belts in Tennessee.”

Fred’s full interview aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it’s released Monday – Friday afternoon by clicking here.