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Bad Pro Wrestling Gimmicks Hall of Fame: Duke The Dumpster Droese

This is another WWE gimmick that I actually enjoyed as a child. The friendly neighborhood garbage man! I have since realized that it was pretty damn terrible, and so it made the list. Ladies and gentlemen, our latest inductee into the Bad Gimmick Hall of Fame, Duke “The Dumpster” Droese!

As we did in the last BGHOF post, let’s first meet the man behind the gimmick. Mike Droese was born in Lodi, California in October of 1970. Droese eventually moved southeast and wrestled in the Florida independent circuit throughout the early 1990s. He soon began wrestling as “Garbage Man,” and eventually got noticed by the people in New York (actually Stamford, CT… but who cares).

Droese debuted in the WWF in 1994, wrestling exclusively as Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. He was a garbage man, complete with a sleeveless garbage man’s uniform, a backwards hat, and those gray gloves that everyone’s dad has in the garage for when they work on stuff outside the house (you know the ones).

His theme music even, started with the sound of a garbage truck in reverse. Good commitment to a gimmick, WWF! One thing I didn’t realize was that Duke was actually a pretty imposing figure once you ignored the little garbage cans all over his wrestling pants (what else are garbage men going to have on their pants?). He was billed as being 6’6″ and 305 lbs, and used a tilt-a-whirl power slam that he dubbed the “Trash Compactor” as a pretty effective finishing move.

Because of his size, ability and “working man” character, Droese was a fan favorite right away. Plus how great was it to hear Vince McMahon say “It’s time to take out the trash!” when Droese was getting ready to hit his finisher? I don’t really remember, but I’m assuming that pun got run heavily into the ground throughout Droese’s time in the WWF.

Anyway, early on in his run with WWF, Duke was involved in a feud with color commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler. The most notable instance of this feud was in June of 1994, when Lawler had Droese as a guest on The King’s Court, and ended up hitting the garbage man in the head with his own trashcan. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but this was 1994. We were in the lollipop and gumdrops era of the WWF, and Lawler ended up having to apologize for his actions on national television. The rest of Droese’s career was kind of ho hum.

He never held any titles and his only other notable feud was with the then Greenwich blue blood, Hunter Hearst Helmsley. By 1997, Droese and the WWF parted ways and he returned to the independent circuits and smaller federations throughout the country, including the FCW (before it became a WWF breeding ground). He did make one more WWF appearance, at the Wrestlemania X-Seven gimmick battle royal, but, like all his other big WWF matches, “The Dumpster” was dumped (see what I did there?) over the top rope.

There’s one thing I’ll never really understand when it comes to older “themed” professional wrestling gimmicks like that of Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. Whether the wrestler is a correctional officer, a repo man, a farmer, a garbage man or a hockey player, they’re pro wrestlers now, right? Like when they leave the arena, they don’t go back to the farm, the prison, the hockey rink, the dump or the repo office, right? So why do they wear their professional outfits to the ring?

If they do return to their day jobs, don’t you think they’d have time to go home and change before getting to the arena? Were we, as fans, supposed to believe that they were really regular professionals by day that just wrestled on the weekends? That always bothered me. Duke Droese even brought his garbage can to the ring. Did he think someone would steal it if he left it in the locker room? Also, if he had showed up in his outfit without the trash can, would that have ruined the credibility of the gimmick? If Duke wrestled in regular wrestling gear, but put a garbage can on his trunks or boots, and the announcers told us that he was a garbage man by day, would that have made it stupid? Why the hell would someone choose to wrestle in a garbage man’s uniform and clunky boots when they could wear normal wrestling gear?

These types of gimmicks have basically been eliminated (thankfully) from the product today. The era of patronizing fans is pretty much over and everyone is acknowledged to be a professional wrestler first. I guess I’m happy about this because it is a much more intelligent and realistic presentation, but I think it might be funny if the next big FCW call-up was given one of these types of gimmicks.

Maybe they could have a creepy football defensive coordinator heel character? …What, too soon? Remember when nothing was off limits to Vince McMahon? Damn political correctness standards… Anyway, “The Dumpster” definitely entertained me as a kid, even though he didn’t do much with his WWF career, but this terrible gimmick is definitely Hall of Fame worthy.

Martin Stezano is a lifelong wrestling and sports fan. You can read more from him at his sports blog, http://www.jobus-rum.com, and check out his lighthearted look at his corporate day job at http://www.iworkwithdumbasses.com.

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