Triple H has had a long, illustrius WWE career, in which started out facing the likes of hog farmers and trash men.
Duke "The Dumpster" Droese was the trash man in question, and was a part of his biggest storyline of his career in January 1996. During a pivotal time in WWF history, Droese and Triple H squared off on the Royal Rumble pre-show. The winner, to be the 30th entry, the loser, first.
"At the time I was ecstatic about it," Droese recalled to Fightful. "Because it wasn’t just a Free For All, it was, ‘We’re going to set up this angle and you’re going to go on to another pay-per-view with him.’ I was like, ‘Finally, I get to do a pay-per-view singles match. It’s not just the Royal Rumble for once.’ But, it was just weird the way it went about. But, yeah, we were wrestled at a lot of house shows. We kinda went back and forth winning and losing against each other. We were trying a lot of things. It was always fun to work with Paul [Triple H] because he was always willing to do anything. I mean, he busted his ass for me. He flew all over the place ‘cause I threw him all over the place. He never complained once. He took all the bumps. I gotta say he was a champ in that respect. He took them bumps ‘cause Duke threw his ass all over the place."
Droese left WWE later that year, but what happened? Droese was finally prominently featured, and even though he wasn't winning, he had storyline progression. He even had a physical change, cutting his long hair.
"Well, the way that came about was, the whole Triple H thing came about at the end of my two year contract because I was really frustrated with how they were using me. They were just beating me with any new heel that came in. One night the new heel happened to be Steve Austin, the Ringmaster. That was the night I took a stand and told Bruce [Prichard] I didn’t want to do it. They said, ‘You don’t have to do it.’ Of course, I explained to Steve [Austin] why. He understood and we became good friends after that. But, it was at the end of a contract, so I think they gave me the Triple H thing to appease me to get me to sign the next one year deal, right? During that time I also told them I wanted to change. I wanted to turn heel. I wanted to change my appearance, So, when we’re in the discussions about what we were doing, Jim Ross came up with the idea that since I was talking about wanting to cut my hair, change my image, Triple H could cut it off as part of the angle. It was interesting to me because I was like, ‘Yeah. I’d be willing to do it as long as I get some kind of revenge at the end. I know I’m not going to beat him.’ I knew I wasn’t gonna beat him ‘cause he was in the Kliq. I knew I wasn’t gonna cut his hair. ‘So, if we creatively think of a way for me to get a good comeback out of the deal so I’m strong and then we turn me heel, then I’ll absolutely do it. That’s fine.’ So that’s why I agreed to do it. But, he cut my hair, we did the match, he beat me. It’s interesting, he beat me on the Free For All with the brass knucks and that got reversed, like Gorilla Monsoon, but he beat me on the pay-per-view by hitting me in the face with a garbage can lid, I just guess Gorilla Monsoon wasn’t watching the monitor that night," Droese chuckled.
It's worth noting, Gorilla Monsoon -- WWE President -- wasn't watching the monitor that night. He'd been attacked by Vader in January, and wouldn't return to WWF until WrestleMania XII.
Droese would only have ten televised matches after the February In Your House show, and only seven after his Triple H feud wrapped up. However, he was working with the likes of Vader, Mankind, British Bulldog and Owen Hart. Looking at the lights wasn't satisfying Droese.
"After the Triple H deal, they just kinda put me right back. I didn’t turn heel. They just put me right back to putting over heels on TV. At that time I was using a lot of painkillers. I had gotten hurt in one of the house shows wrestling Triple H, pretty bad. In Middlelands I fell out of the ring, I flew over the top rope, and missed the top rope so I just fell free fall right to the cement floor and landed on my butt. Couldn’t move for a couple seconds. It screwed my back up really good. So, the taking of pain medicine got really bad after that. So, I became irrational. I was pissed off. Unhappy. Complaining a lot and I think they just kinda got sick of me. One day Vince [McMahon] sent Gerry Briscoe to come tell me I could go head on home. It was shortly after WrestleMania 12, actually. But, yeah. That’s kinda how that went down," said Droese.
Even though Droese went home, he had just signed a new contract. He just rode it out until it ended, but he wasn't rolling in the dough of a downside guarantee.
"I had just signed a new one year deal. They said go home. I still had eight months left on it and I just went home. First I said, ‘You need to release me from the contract.’ Of course Briscoe was like, ‘Yeah, yeah. Okay, whatever.’ Then I went home and J.J. Dillon called me, he was still Talent Relations. I told him, ‘You know, I’m just gonna hang out at home for a while. I needed to relax and get my head screwed on straight. I didn’t care about the contract. They didn’t have to release me or whatever.’ They weren’t paying me anything. There was no money, man. Very few guys were making any decent money. A lot of us were living on just $200 draws every night. ‘Cause the houses were so low that there wasn’t much money being made. So, if you didn’t take your $200 draw, you would get less than $200 in the check. So, some of us learned to look and see how many people were out there and judging by the numbers we would know whether or not to take the draw on how much money we would make in a check if we didn’t. We knew they didn’t have the balls to send us a negative invoice for $10 or something. So, yeah, that’s how bad it was for a while," said Droese.
You can see our full interview with Duke "The Dumpster" Droese at the top of the page, and follow him on Twitter at this link.