Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
Duke “The Dumpster” Droese in WWE
Currently Known For:
Special Education Teacher
1993 - 1997
October 13, 1970
Repo men, dentists, barbers and even trashmen. All of these were gimmicks that were used in pro wrestling during the late 1980s and early 1990s. As for the last one in that list, it belonged to Mike Droese, who got his start in 1990 while wrestling around the state of Florida in smaller scale promotions. Early in his career, Droese adopted a gimmick that called him The Garbage Man, and he drew some interest from the WWF.
In 1994, he held onto the trashman gimmick when he made the move to WWF, and his full moniker was Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. Coming out to the ring, just in case you couldn’t tell by his attire, WWF made sure you knew that Droese was supposed to be a garbageman. He carried a trash container to the ring, and it was announced that he was from the non-existent (of course) city of Mount Trashmore, Florida.
The gimmick wasn’t ever really supposed to happen in the beginning. According to author James Dixon who wrote about the WWE’s struggles in the mid 1990s, he said that Vince McMahon hired Droese out of “bravado and arrogance.” McMahon was convinced that he could make any wrestler and gimmick into a star. When they pulled out the list of Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s yearly Top 500 list, they handpicked Droese because he was listed all the way at number 500. Dixon says that McMahon shouted “Hire him! I’ll prove it! We’ll make him a star!”
Droese started feuds with the likes of Jerry Lawler and Triple H early on, and it was teased that he would actually win the 1996 Royal Rumble. Even though he had the easiest road as the final entrant, he didn’t come through with the win. Droese went through the motions for a couple of months, but then had a conversation with Vince McMahon. Droese said that he couldn’t take the extensive travel and he parted ways with the WWF.
Since leaving more than 20 years ago, Droese has returned to the WWE ring just once, participating in a gimmick battle royal at the 17th WrestleMania. Droese didn’t have much interest in professional wrestling once the new millennium started, and got away from the business altogether. With that, he moved to McMinnville, Tennessee.
“I realized I couldn’t wrestle anymore and I had to do something else,” he said. “I always wanted to teach kids, so I went back to school and got a master’s degree and became a special education teacher.” When he started his job, Droese said “I work at a great school with a lot of great teachers. Out school is one of the top-scoring in the state test scores. I take a lot of pride in that.”
Droese said that he used a lot of his professional wrestling skills to help captivate his students when talking, and used his physical tools to become the strength coach for the athletics teams at his high school. They knew who Droese was, too, as he said “There are so many WWE fans at my school, so it’s really cool that one of their teachers used to be in that big company. They go online and see my old matches and they’re all really excited about it.”
There were some fond memories for Droese within the WWE, but he knew that life on the road was going to drain him both emotionally and physically. “It takes a very special athlete to work in WWE at that level,” he said. “I have all the respect in the world for the guys who can last five, 10, 15, 20 years in the business.”
Things seemed to be going very well for Droese in his second career, but then his life hit a snag in 2013 when something surprising happened. Droese was arrested for delivery of a controlled substance, as he sold prescription pills to an undercover informant. Droese was in jail for two hours before making bail, and he had been suspended from his teaching career. People around him were shocked as even Sheriff Jackie Matheny said “Everybody has a lot of good things to say about him.”
Droese didn’t have to do extensive jail time, though there wasn’t an official update to be found. Typically, this means that Droese simply had to serve probation and community service. Because of the case, Droese has been hoping to stay out of the spotlight. This means that he stays away from social media, as well, and seeing him signing autographs at conventions is a very rare occurrence.
It might have been an unceremonious end to an odd career, but Droese did enjoy his time as a pro wrestler who, for the most part, has enjoyed retirement. If there are updates on the case, wrestling fans are sure to hear about it, but thankfully he has avoided being sent to prison.