Icons of Wrestling #33 – Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese

Jamie Lithgow

Height: 6’6″
Weight: 305lbs
Hometown: Mount Trashmore, Florida
Glory Days: 1994-1996
Fun Fact: Before signing for the WWF, Mike ‘Duke The Dumpster’ Droese wrestled on the Florida independent scene as Garbage Man. He even made it onto the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Top 500 Wrestlers of 1993. Granted he was number 500, but it still counts.


The World Wrestling Federation was always a wacky place, but no more so than the mid-1990s. While the likes of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were carrying the company into a ‘New Generation’, the lower reaches of the card were populated by plumbers, ice hockey players, cowboys, country music singers and mythological creatures. With so much garbage kicking around it was only common sense to hire someone to take out the trash; enter Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese.

The Dumpster was hired after he gate-crashed a television executive convention to personally hand Vince McMahon a tape of his work. Somewhat surprisingly, McMahon must have watched the tape and figured the WWF could use a wrestling garbage man.

The WWF’s attempts at censorship make this look even more violent than it was

After some introductory vignettes where Duke came across as the Mr. Perfect of the junkyard, he made his in-ring debut on April 27th 1994 at a Superstars taping. The Dumpster defeated journeyman enhancement talent Mike Bell. The wrestling bin man then went on a bit of a winning streak. That said, save for a count-out victory over Jeff Jarrett, all of Droese’s appearances came against job guys. That was until Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler upset him with his line of questioning – more like insults – in a post-match interview in July. Big Duke responded by emptying the contents of his trash can over the King’s head. A few weeks later Droese was invited onto Lawler’s ‘King’s Court’ interview segment. Having been insulted again, Duke decided to leave. However, as he tried to walk down the aisle Lawler attacked Droese with his own trash can. When I say attacked, I mean Lawler beat the shit out of him! So violent and prolonged was Lawler’s attack – especially by 1994 standards – that commentator Gorilla Monsoon stated that WWF officials in no way condoned or supported Lawler’s actions and such a thing would never happen ever again in the WWF – oh really?! Such were the complaints about this segment that King had to apologise for real. Ever the professional, Lawler stayed in character to deliver the apology, thus doing what was demanded by the viewing public yet still maintaining his heat. The pair met in a match shortly after this, which The Dumpster managed to win by count-out when Lawler was distracted after Dink jumped out of a garbage can and ran around the ring. Yes, this really happened and it acted as the segue for King to begin a programme with Doink The Clown.

A more streamlined Duke strikes a pose

Back to Big Duke and after suffering his first defeat in the WWF – to Bam Bam Bigelow – he drifted into a routine of beating job guys but losing to every other contracted performer. That was until the 1996 Royal Rumble. The Dumpster faced Hunter Hearst Helmsley on the Free 4 All show. The winner of this match would enter the Rumble match at number 30 while the loser would be number 1. Hunter originally won the match, however President Gorilla Monsoon reversed the decision due to the blueblood’s use of brass knuckles. Despite his advantage, Duke did not win the Rumble and go on to headline Wrestlemania. That said, this did lead to possibly his biggest feud to date. The following weekend on Superstars, Droese was attacked after his match with the 123 Kid – which he won, believe it or not – by Helmsley who proceeded to cut The Dumpster’s long flowing locks. Sadly for Duke, not only did he lose his hair, he also lost this feud. Helmsley defeated him at In Your House 6 in a spirited contest. In fact, this entire feud was pretty good for what it was. While it was clearly a vehicle to get Helmsley over, Droese more than held his own in the ring and on the microphone. The Dumpster slipped back down the card after this and ultimately asked to be released from his contract due to the effects that being a WWF wrestler was having on his beat-up body.

Duke would make a one-off return to the WWF as an entrant in the Gimmick Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 17, which was also his Wrestlemania debut. Having gone back to college to obtain a master’s degree, Mike Droese now works as a special education teacher and is also a strength and conditioning coach at his local high school.

All previous ‘Icons of Wrestling’ can be read here.


One thought on “Icons of Wrestling #33 – Duke ‘The Dumpster’ Droese

  1. The Mr. Perfect of the junkyard haha. Just started following you on Word Press. Great site BTW, always entertaining.


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