Duke Droese on WWE Having Jerry Lawler Apologize to Him Once, the Gimmick Battle Royal at WM 17

Interactive Wrestling Radio recently interviewed former WWE Superstar Duke Droese, who spoke about his run in WWE and more. Below are some highlights from Duke Droese.

Duke Droese on his “day job” persona being more genuine than a TL Hopper the plumber: “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. I remember the Big Bossman as the police or prison guard gimmick and it just felt like something the World Wrestling Federation would have in the late 80’s, early 90’s. 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 jobs) 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!”

Duke Droese on when WWE made Jerry Lawler apologize to him for hitting him with a trash can: “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. 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 working with us. 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 deamed it too violent for the product at the time. Because, it was considered family entartainment… 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, immediatelya fter 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 ahd 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 (Lawler) 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.”

His thoughts on The Undertaker saying current wrestling is “soft”: “I don’t really watch much modern wrestling. If something really cool happens, usually I’ll watch it on YouTube. I don’t really have TV. I don’t have the Network or anything like that. So, I don’t really keep up with it. But, I would tend to agree with Taker. It was just a different time. We had a much tougher road schedule, It was a much different company. It was still very much a “Mom & Pop” operation, Mom & Pop McMahon, obviously. There weren’t share holders and all of that stuff. There wasn’t a bunch of writers and a team a doctors in the back to help you if you got hurt. You know, we had to get along on our own. You had to be a certain kind of tough to make it on that schedule. It was rough! And, it was just a different breed of people. You know, later on when Vince opened up the “Entertainment” part of it and made it “World Wrestling Entertainment” and started doing movies, you had an influx of people who were not necessarily pro wrestling minded who were just trying to use it to get into movies or into different aspects of entertainment. It was just a different breed of guys. Now, that is not to say that people today aren’t tough. They still beat their bodies up in all kinds of ways I’m sure. Certainly not as much… It is more of a TV product now than a road show. It was flipped back then. We were doing tons of live dates. But, I’d tend to agree with Taker on that. The talent has softened a bit. (laughs) That is not to say that they’re weak or they’re wimps. Bt, it took a special kind of tough to handle that road schedule back then.”

Duke Droese on if he got along with The Undertaker, Bret Hart & The Kliq backstage: “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. 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 (Undertaker’s group opposite the Kliq). 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 hanving out in the same place. We were at the back of the bus playing Dominos on the European tour. But, the thing was, a lot of the time, the Kliq guys were back there playing Dominos with us. The folklore isn’t all exactly true. You had to get along or you were going to just be miserable.”

Duke Droese on leaving wrestling before the boom of the Attitude Era: “For a long time, I regretted not being part of that. You talk about a time that was tailor made for me. If they would have let me bring some of my personality to my character, it would have been a totally different story. But, I will say this. At the time that I left, I was getting pretty heavy into taking the pain killers and the drugs and all of that stuff. Shortly after I left, Savio Vega called me and told me they (WWE) sent out a memo that they weren’t drug testing anymore. They had stopped drug testing for a while. Where I am now, finally being away from drugs, I realize that if I had been around then, I probably would have become a statistic.”

His memories of the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania X7: “First let me say that Bobby (Heenan) and Gene (Okerlund) were two of the best people and biggest class acts I ever met in the wrestling business and in life. I got to sit with Gene some at conventions here more recently before he passed and it was always a blast. They were both very nice and very gracious to me. At the time of the Gimmick Battle ROyal, I was still living down in Miami, Florida and I was in a bad place. I was so messed up on drugs that I had to go to the methadone clinic where you would stand in line in the morning to get their little methadone shot so you don’t get dope sick from a lack of the opioids you were addicted to. When I went to WrestleMania, I had to get 3 days worth for the weekend so I wouldn’t get really sick. If you look at me, I was really white and really skinny compared to when I wrestled… And, of course, I had a shaved head. As far as in the ring, we didn’t really have to do much. We just walked around and punched each other and laughed. (laughs) Everybody goofing off. Eventually, Doink clotheslined me out of the ring on the wrong side and double twisted my shoulders.”

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