This is the 36th post in a daily series. Read about it here and see the list of previous posts here. A new post about “Star Wars” will be posted every day for 40 days leading up to the franchise’s 40th birthday on May 25th.
“Star Wars” became a force of pop culture almost immediately after it came out, inspiring spoofs, parodies, and ripoffs. Its influence on movies, TV shows, music, and other media cannot be overstated. “Star Wars” has been referenced in a variety of ways, and even played a role in one of the most bizarre incidents in the history of professional wrestling.
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, World Championship Wrestling was an alternative to Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation. There were many wrestlers who vacillated between two organizations, including Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Ric Flair.
Another such wrestler was Fred Ottman, who had wrestled in the WWF under the name Tugboat. Later, he switched his name to Typhoon and formed a tag team with Earthquake called The Natural Disasters.
In 1993, Ottman joined the WCW. He was slated to debut at Fall Brawl in September as part of a four-man tag team that also included Sting, Dustin Rhodes, and Davey Boy Smith. Ottman was to be a mysterious masked character called The Shockmaster. He was introduced a month earlier at Clash of the Champions XXIV.
That introduction did not go well.
At Clash of the Champions, Ric Flair interviewed Sting and Davey Boy Smith about the upcoming tag team match. During the interview, Sid Vicious and Harlem Heat — three of the opponents in the upcoming tag team match — showed up to talk trash and ask Sting and Smith more about their new partner.
Sting then said, “All I have to say is, our partner is going to shock the world, because he is none other than the Shockmaster!” The plan was for Ottman to then bust through a wall like the Kool-Aid Man, saunter onto the stage, and intimidate Vicious and Harlem Heat.
The problem is that when Ottman tried to break through the wall, he tripped over a 2X4 and fell through the wall, losing his helmet in the process.
He tried quickly to recover, but even the other wrestlers involved couldn’t hold back their laughter. And they can’t be blamed. Ottman looked ridiculous, because not only had he fallen over, but he had done so while wearing a wooly vest, jeans, and a stormtrooper helmet covered in glitter. Ottman explained:
The wall itself was just built like a wall in your house, like sheetrock with a 2×4 every 12-15 inches off-center — kind of like you’d build a normal wall in your house. And there was a board just below my knee that was there for support. I got there, and when it was time to go, they said, “You’re going to have to hit this wall really hard to bust out,” because it wasn’t a gimmick wall. So I put my hands above my head, double-axe handle, and when I got the cue, I was going to blast through the wall. Well, I blew the top out, but didn’t take that bottom board out, so I basically was a human teeter-totter.
More than two decades later, Rhodes has voiced suspicion that the 2X4 was purposefully planted as an act of sabotage. He won’t say who he thought did it, though he has said that was just what went on back in those days.
The WCW tried to salvage the character, but the Shockmaster could not reinvent himself as some sort of menacing badass now that he was introduced as a klutz. The character was eventually phased out, though the debacle has remained ripe for ridicule.
Ottman has long since retired from wrestling, though he still travels for conventions and promotions. And even though it’s been almost a quarter of a century, he still gets attention for the Shockmaster incident. Ottman said:
The Shockmaster travels with me when I do autograph signings and stuff like that. I bring the mask with me, I have fun with it. You’d be surprised how many people take pictures of it; they want to wear it. So it is what it is.
As iconic as that glittered helmet has become, it was not meant to be the Shockmaster’s disguise. Rhodes said the look “was supposed to be more elaborate.” Ottman said that what is now seared in the minds of WCW fans was supposed to a one-time look:
What I wore on “Flair for the Gold” wasn’t the original outfit. That was just for going out on that segment. I still have the original outfit, matter of fact. It’s blue and it has gold lightning bolts going down the legs … and a Mexican-style mask with a lightning bolt going through the face and the top was where my hair would come out. So that was an actual wrestling outfit. The outfit you saw was what they wanted me to go out in, you know. Just take the shirt off, put on the top, which actually belonged to one of the Colossal Kongs. And the helmet itself was a “Here, put this on and see if you can see out of it” kind of deal. Last minute.
…They put it over my head, and the glitter was coming through the eyeholes and into my eyes. So they got a pair of dark pantyhose from a secretary, cut out two pieces, glued them and put ‘em over the eye holes so the glitter wouldn’t come into my eyes.
On the surface, the Shockmaster’s only connection to stormtroopers or anything “Star Wars”-related seems to be the glittered helmet. But because this is “Star Wars,” there’s a fan theory. Because of fucking course there is.
One astute (or overzealous) Reddit user wrote:
I was just watching Star Wars: A New Hope (the very first one ever) and I noticed at 1:17:18 a Stormtrooper falls through a hole in the wall very similar to the Shockmaster.
We all know that Shockmaster wore a Stormtrooper helmet…maybe it was meant to be.
This fan was not the only one to notice the parallels. An entry on Simple Darthipedia said:
The Shockmaster, also known as Fred Tugboat Typhoon Ottman, was a clumsy stormtrooper whose DNA was heavily influenced by That Stormtrooper That Hit His Head On A Door In Episode IV. His unconventional uniform consisted of blue jeans, a frilly black vest, and a glittery purple stormtrooper helmet.
The personal project of Rom Mohc and Darth Vader, Shockmaster was injected with 17 different brands of anabolic steroids and muscle stims. His strength training involved lifting a barbell with TIE fighters on each end. He could punch holes through the walls of the Death Star. Rom Mohc and Vader were planning to debut their new muscleman by having him wipe the floor with Kyle Katarn and show the galaxy the invincibility of the Empire.
At this point we should point out that any theory discussed in 40 Days of Star Wars is no longer the weirdest theory we’ve heard. Not the theory that Jar Jar had Sith capabilities, or that Snoke could could be Mace Windu. This now wins the title of most fucking ridiculous idea put forth by a fan, which is funny considering this is contest we didn’t know we were holding.
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