The 80s and early 90s was all about occupational gimmicks in WWF whether it was TL Hooper as a plumber, Skinner as an alligator hunter or Repo Man as… a repo man. Another that comes to mind is Duke “The Dumpster” Droese who was a garbage man by day and a WWF Superstar by night.
Droese’s gimmick seemed to catch on a little better than many of the other “job” gimmicks and he explained why in an interview on Interactive Wrestling Radio.
“Well, I think the reason is because I came up with it. I was wrestling as ‘The Garbage Man’ Rocco Gibraltar down in Florida. I worked on it for a long time. The reason I did it is because I knew that was the kind of thing that Vince McMahon would probably grab ahold of,” revealed Droese. “I remember the Big Boss Man as the police or prison guard gimmick and it just felt like something the World Wrestling Federation would have in the late 80s/early 90s.
“It worked. It got me in. I pretty much just kept doing what I was doing except they changed the name to Duke ‘The Dumpster’. The creative staff maybe went a little more in that [day job] direction after I came in. I don’t take any credit for that. If I had something to do with it, great! But people now seem to be looking back at those years in a nostalgic way. I’m really kind of proud of that and I’m meeting a lot of new fans because of that era I came from. It was a blast!”
A few weeks after making his WWE debut, Droese squared off against Jerry “The King” Lawler. This was in 1994 so WWE was still in its PG “The New Generation” era and didn’t have that much gratuitous violence compared to The Attitude Era.
As a result, Droese’s match with Lawler had ramifications afterwards due to his trash can being used as a weapon. He recalled the leadup to the match, what happened in the match and why Lawler had to issue a public apology afterwards.
“It was on the King’s Court on RAW and it was live. Live! Live! Live! Live as you could get [laughs]. Jerry and I talked about it. He wasn’t going to let me in the ring; he was going to make fun of me, tell a bunch of stupid jokes, and I was going to get sick of it and walk away,” recalled Droese. “The heat was I had dumped garbage on him in my debut match on Superstars because he was goofing on me. The plan was he was going to run up on me and attack me from behind as I was walking away. That is all they wanted. He asked me, ‘Would you mind if I hit you with the garbage can?’ Down in Florida, man, I was hitting everyone with it. I was even getting hit with it some! It was a free for all! You could hit anybody you wanted. I said, ‘Yeah, of course!’
“We were working with Jack Lanza who was the agent. It was like the perfect storm – Jack Lanza wasn’t going to go ask Vince! Jack said, ‘Just go ahead and do it [laughs]! So, he hits me once and I go down. He hits me again and – if you watch it, it is probably still on YouTube – just as he hits me for the second time the camera goes way wide. Way, way, way far away [laughs], like, way to the other side of the arena so all you could see was the trash can coming up and going down. But you couldn’t see him hitting me anymore because they deemed it too violent for the product at the time because it was considered family entertainment… Like the 80s.
“So, we got to the back and Shane McMahon came up to us and was like, ‘What happened?’ I was like, ‘Well, we talked about it and we decided this was going to be good.’ So, anyway, immediately after they had Gorilla Monsoon and Macho Man Randy Savage come on and apologize for it on live TV. They were doing the commentary at the time. They said, ‘You’ll never see anything like that again.’ And then, they turned it into another thing… I think it had to do with TV stations and sponsors. They cared about that a lot. But, then they had Jerry Lawler do this ridiculous apology thing. When I saw it, and I didn’t know a lot, I knew it was kind of killing off a lot of the heat. They made him do that and if you listen to that apology, the studio voice that is telling him to continue is Shane McMahon [laughs]. Shane had filmed a lot of the vignettes with me for my debut. But, when they did that, I know they had taken a bucket of ice water and thrown it on our heat.”
Backstage during this time there were several cliques including, of course, The Kliq as well as the Bone Street Krew led by The Undertaker. Droese wasn’t a member of either group but got along with both as he explained.
“Yeah, and I tried to. I mean, you could see things you didn’t like. Especially Shawn [Michaels]. He had so much power – too much power for a lot of people’s liking. But that is just the way things were. For me, man, I was just having a good time. I’ve said this before but I was clueless to a lot of things. I was just having a blast,” said Droese. “In a lot of ways, I was still just a wrestling fan working with all these guys [laughs]. I wasn’t making much money. I was just happy to be there.
“And, I was not an official member of BSK. Let me just clarify that. There was a time, though, that everyone that wasn’t in the Kliq was kind of an honorary member of BSK. Owen Hart had hats made for everybody [laughs]. We were just a bunch of guys hanging out in the same place. We were at the back of the bus playing dominoes on the European tour. But the thing was, a lot of the time, the Kliq guys were back there playing dominoes with us. The folklore isn’t all exactly true. You had to get along or you were going to just be miserable.”
Droese left WWF in 1996 and then left pro wrestling in 2001. He then went into teaching but ran afoul of the law in 2013 when he was arrested for illegally selling pain medication. Since then, Droese has attempted to turn around his life and started his podcast aptly named “Road to Recovery.”
Droese discussed how the podcast is more than just about substance abuse and also revealed which other former WWE star is part of the podcast network.
“My podcast is called Road to Recovery. A large part of my life now deals with working with people who have substance abuse problems which I had my issues with in the past which is why I disappeared for so long. It is called Road to Recovery but we don’t just talk about substance abuse. We also talk about people who come back from difficult situations and find a way out, find redemption in their lives, and find a way to recovery,” stated Droese.
“We have some really good guests on there and we also have a really good time. We play some funny games on there and have some really good conversations. I’m part of the same podcast network, WWAB – Wrestling with Anything But started by Avi Klein. He’s got about seven of us wrestlers under his network now. I’m really just thrilled and privileged to be part of it. Things are going great and, yeah, Del Wilkes (The Patriot) is such a great guy.”