At 24 years old, Mike Droese realized his dream of becoming a WWF superstar. Like so many of the good folks inducted into the hallowed halls of Wrestlecrap, that dream came with a really dumb gimmick.
I mean, a price. And that price was… well, I already gave that part away.
But unlike the Isaac Yankems and Mantaurs of the world (wrestling federation), it wasn’t Vince who cooked up the Duke “The Dumpster” Droese gimmick, but Droese himself.
According to James Dixon’s Titan Sinking, Vince McMahon gave Duke Droese a tryout on a dare when someone in Titan Towers showed him Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s PWI 500, where Droese was ranked #500 under the name, “Garbage Man”. The idea was that Vince could use his creative powers to turn anyone into a star, even a wrestling sanitation worker.
However, Droese has gone on record saying that he approached Vince at a media convention and pitched him the “Dumpster” character, then got a call back a week later.
It’s completely possible that both stories are true, and that Vince didn’t realize that Droese and the aforementioned Garbage Man were the same person.
Remember, this is the same man who had eaten a burrito every day for years and still had never heard of a burrito.
The Dumpster hailed from Mt. Trashmore, Florida, which, astonishingly, is a real place.
Duke’s lethal tilt-a-whirl powerslam, known as the Trash Compactor, led him to countless victories against the likes of the Brooklyn Brawler and Steven Dunn.
As for his entrance theme, the Dumpster had a rockin’ tune set to the sound of a garbage truck backing up. I can only imagine that “Surfin’ Bird” by the Trash Men was too expensive to license.
Not only did Duke call himself, “The Dumpster”, and not only did he empty out dumpsters by day…
…but he also slept in a dumpster by night. Apparently, despite working two full-time jobs, Droese was homeless. Maybe the WWF was making a comment on the hidden face of homelessness in the supposedly prosperous 1990s.
The destitute Dumpster caught a big break one night on Raw when he emptied out his trusty garbage can and found a hundred dollar bill under a banana peel. Could it have been a ploy by Ted DiBiase to lure the humble sanitation worker into his Million Dollar Corporation?
Nope. He just found 100 bucks and was really, really proud of it.
One obvious plus to a garbage man gimmick was that, in theory, he could hit opponents with his trash can. Alas, the cartoony mid-90s was an inopportune time for a trash man gimmick in the WWF – yes, you read that right – because Duke was forbidden from ever using the waste receptacle as a weapon.
Once, Jerry Lawler smashed Duke over the head with the can, at which point the production truck switched to a wide shot of the action.
By the end of the live episode of Raw, Gorilla Monsoon was apologizing for the incorrect use of a garbage can (yes, that was literally what he apologized for), promising that we would never, ever see such a thing again in the WWF.
That proscription, uh, didn’t last.
Still, it’s a wonder Duke never had to apologize for this improper use of a trash can lid.
Duke never won a title in the WWF; in fact, the highest honor he ever won in the Federation was the 1994 Slammy Award for Smelliest Wrestler, an honor he had to share with Henry O. Godwinn, who tied him in the voting (1-1).
Despite displaying natural charisma and an enthusiasm for his gimmick lacking in other wrestlers who were simply saddled with one nutty persona or another from Vince McMahon’s juvenile imagination, Duke had few storylines and was rarely given a chance to speak.
Sure, there was only so much a garbage man could talk about, but if IRS got to cut the exact same promo about tax cheats every night for four years, why couldn’t the Dumpster get a turn on the mic?
It was a classic case of less con-versation, more san-itation.
Droese’s WWF run was a Catch-22, as he couldn’t advance past low-card novelty act status while saddled with the “Dumpster” gimmick, yet he wouldn’t have been hired in the first place if it weren’t for that same gimmick that he created himself.
One can only imagine what kind of havoc a 6 foot 6, 300+ pounder could do…
…unless you’re Earl Hebner, in which case, you didn’t need to imagine it at the 1995 Royal Rumble.
Speaking of Royal Rumbles, Dumpster’s career highlight came before the 1996 edition when he defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley by reverse decision to win the coveted #30 spot in the battle royal. He lasted 70 seconds.
Helmsley got his revenge on the trash man by cutting his hair, leading Droese to adopt a buzz cut. Clearly, Droese was going to change his look, so he got Vince to work it into a story line, which is just good business sense.
This Helmsley guy, on the other hand, would go on to buzz off the trademark locks he’d worn for twenty years without any hype or cameras rolling. That, my friends, is why today Triple D is a bigwig in the Stanford office (I assume) and Helmsley is toiling away in hot, muggy central Florida.
Droese was last seen getting his face plunged by evil plumber TL Hopper after losing a “Home Improvement” match in the summer of 1996…
…before making one final appearance as the Dumpster at Wrestlemania 17’s gimmick battle royal. This time, he lasted 105 seconds.
Duke’s WWE career is over and done with, but he still has the memories…
…the hundred dollars…
…and the knowledge that he is no longer responsible for the single dumbest garbage-related moment in WWE history.