“Includes: Hat” I read out loud from the face of the figures boisterous package as a “chesire cat” smile overtook my expression.
A toy that costs upwards of $25 and its marquee accessory is a white sailor’s cap… How could I not spend money on this for the sheer hilarity alone? As I took a cell phone picture and texted it around to all of my pro-wrestling friends, I felt validated in making my purchase. Hours later, after we all had a brief chuckle, I hung “Tugboat” on the wall with the other “Elite’s”, right between Terry Funk and “Ravishing” Rick Rude and out of nowhere, it happened. The buyer’s remorse began to set in. I thought back to the defining moments of Tugboat’s in ring career and immediately thought about how uncomfortable I felt dressed in a tux going to my high school prom. Why you ask? Because this is the only emotion Tugboat ever made me feel; one of sheer discomfort. Why a company would invest in a large man dressing in white pants and a candy cane striped tank top was beyond me. I would watch Tugboat walk to the ring, going through the hand motions of pulling the cord to an imaginary ship’s horn and cringe. “Toot, toot” he would tell the crowd, looking more like a big, menacing man who just so happened to have a multiple personality disorder involving a child pretending to be a “real life” sailor. He looked uncomfortable and definitely not much like an opponent you would fear and respect. Such is the tale of Fred Ottoman and his famous/infamous gimmicks, though. As most of us know, the man once known as “Tugboat” later went on to become “TheShockmaster” in WCW, forever cementing his spot in wrestling history as the man who tripped and fell through a wall while wearing a bedazzled “Star Wars” Storm trooper helmet, never knowing how the gaffe would later make him a wrestling legend. Maybe it wasn’t the most customary road to glory paved with title shots and accolades, but there is some kind of magic to the “road less traveled” and no one traveled it better than Fred Ottoman, a man I have never heard one wrestling fan or person in the business say anything negative about, aside from a few illicit chuckles and eye rolls based on the characters his employers pushed in his direction.
Fast forward to 2016, decades after the Tugboat and Shockmaster gimmicks and Ottoman is still collecting royalty checks for two characters most might’ve believed would fade into obscurity. Somehow, in just one year’s time he has also managed to grab my personal awards for both best and worst WWE Elite action figures of 2016. His Tugboat toy, including white wedge cap being not only the worst “Elite” figure of 2016 (in my opinion), but the stupidest piece of wrestling merchandise I threw money at this year overall. On the other end of the spectrum, his “Elite” Exclusive Shockmaster figure, packaged to look like he is falling head over heels through a wall, is nothing short of “Bobby Roode” if we are measuring its existence on a chart of all things “Glorious”. How is that for irony?
To Fred Ottoman, thank you for entertaining us through the years, I in no way mean any disrespect to you as a person and I sincerely hope you know that you have had nothing but a positive effect on the world of pro wrestling. I hope that fellow wrestling fans won’t read this and think I am being incredibly mean spirited when I say the world would be just fine without a Tugboat action figure, though I am more than certain there are a great many of you out there that feel the same and agree with me. If your biggest character accomplishment is you woke up, looked uncomfortable in your clothes and you threw a hat on, then odds are I could have my own Elite action figure by 2017, and i’ll be damned if all they include is a “hat”. Until that day comes, the next time I decide I am going to waste money on an action figure based on how much it makes me laugh, I can look to the man in the candy striped tank top hanging on my wall, pull down my imaginary ships horn and let out a little “Toot toot” under my breath as I cut my Visa card in half.
Sorry, Tugboat fans, but this is one “Elite” that deserves a “thumbs down” as far as you can get them.