20 years ago at the 1996 Royal Rumble event, in the Free for All match, Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese defeated Hunter Hearst Helmsley to become the 30th entrant in the Rumble match. Today we ask Whatever Happened to Mike “Duke” Droese?
Mike Droese was born on October 13, 1970 in Lodi, California. After being trained by Bobby Wales, he debuted in 1990 on the Florida independent circuit.
He first came to national wrestling attention in 1992 thanks to Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s first annual PWI 500 (top 500 wrestlers in the world) where he was placed at #500.
In 1994, Droese was signed to a contract by the World Wrestling Federation and during his early days with the company, fans changed “500” at him. He was given the gimmick Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, a garbage man who carried a trash can to the ring.
His debut came late in 1994 against Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler. During a confrontation with Lawler, Lawler struck Droese on the head with Droese’s trash can which, as an indication of how wrestling has changed during the 22 years since, Lawler was obliged to legitimately apologising for “demonstrating such a brutal amount of violence.”
In late 1995, he began feuding with Hunter Hearst Helmsley and at the 1996 Royal Rumble the paired faced each other in a Free for All match where the victor would enter the Rumble later on in the night as entrant number 30 whilst the loser would enter number 1. Despite winning the match and entering 30th, Droese failed to win the Rumble – being eliminated by Diesel and Kama.
The Droese and Helmsley feud culminated in at ‘In Your House 6’ with Helsmley winning in 9 minutes. Droese left the WWF in the summer of 1996 after a mutually agreed contract release. Droese requested a release due to the toll that touring was taking on him.
The following year, Droese wrestled with the European Catch Wrestling Association (CWA) as ‘Marshall Duke’. In August of that year, he defeated Ulf Herman to win the vacant CWA World Heavyweight Championship – a title previously won by Road Warrior Hawk and Ludvig Borga. The date that Droese lost the title is unknown, according to the CWA wikipedia page.
In the late 1990s, Droese began wrestling for Florida Championship Wrestling and won the FCW Heavyweight Championship. He went on to form a stable with Drake Dexton, Hack Meyers, and Tony Carlone with Droese and Dexton – “The Beach Bullies” – competing in the promotion’s tag team division.
At WrestleMania X-Seven he returned to the WWF for one night only at the event’s “gimmick battle royal” that also featured, amongst others, The Repo Man, Earthquake, The Bushwhackers, Kamala, Sgt. Slaughter and The Iron Sheik. Duke Droese was eliminated 8th by Doink the Clown in a match eventually won by The Iron Sheik.
After retiring from wrestling, Droese worked as a special education teacher in McMinnville, Tennessee. In September 2013, Droese was indicted for three counts of delivery of a controlled substance, having unknowingly sold oxycodone and buprenorphine to an undercover police informant.
You can read all previous ‘Whatever Happened to’ pieces here.