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The fight of his life
Duke in the ring - GOOD.jpg
Photo courtesy Ashley Bunn Mike Droese was back in the ring as Duke the Dumpster earlier this year.
Duke with prosthetic - GOOD.jpg
Even with a left foot that's been amputated, Droese can still lift a staggering 585 pounds on the leg press.

Mike Droese is a McMinnville resident with a turbulent past and a promising future. 

Droese is a former WWE wrestling superstar known as “Duke the Dumpster” Droese in the ring. During his time on the WWE roster from 1994 to 1996, his skit was to take out the trash. Suited up as a garbage man, Droese would enter the ring carrying a trashcan.

After leaving pro wrestling, Droese began to struggle with an addiction to pain pills he received to help him cope with his injuries from wrestling. In 2003, Droese went to a rehabilitation center and moved to McMinnville, becoming a coach and special education teacher at Centertown Elementary School. 

He remained sober for seven years, went back to college to further his education, and successfully moved forward in life.

In 2009, Droese began to work out heavily and aggravated an old wrestling injury causing his foot to collapse. During this time, he was prescribed pain medication again, causing him to fall back into the cycle of addiction. 

The injury required surgery and his foot was filled with metal and screws to correct the problem. Ignoring orders from the doctor to not walk on it for a certain amount of time, the foot was never able to heal properly.

For two years, Droese continued seeking drugs and allowed his foot to become a mangled mess of bone and metal fragments, causing it to turn to the side. Droese sank deeper into addiction, becoming an intravenous drug user and selling pills he was prescribed in order to have money to purchase stronger pain medication, such as morphine.

After undergoing a second surgery, a staph infection destroyed the inside of Droese’s foot. The medical options given were to fuse the foot together with no guarantee of alleviating the issue or amputate, relieving the pain felt for the previous two years, and get a prosthetic. 

Droese chose the second option of amputation. 

After surgery, he had to learn how to use the prosthetic limb and become comfortable doing so.

In July of 2013, Droese’s life changed after being indicted on three counts of delivery of a con-trolled substance when he sold OxyContin and Suboxone to an undercover police informant. Through a plea deal, he was ordered to serve 18 months in drug court and he successfully com-pleted the program.

“The drug court program saved my life,” says Droese.

During his time in drug court, Droese began replacing drugs with food and reached a weight of 400 pounds. He decided to live a healthier lifestyle by working out and taking care of himself. Droese was hired as a peer case manager with drug court four years ago where he still success-fully works. 

“I am passionate about helping others in recovery because I know how dark it is during active addiction,” said Droese. “I know it’s a very lonely and hard place to come back from. When I see people struggling as they are just starting to get clean, I understand how painful and men-tally taxing it is. I really try to help people get past those things and move forward successfully.”

After 23 years of not wrestling, a promoter convinced him to do an appearance at Soddy Daisy High School in August 2018. After the appearance, fans reached out to message and contact him. Droese began writing stories about his life experiences and gained more bookings and ap-pearances.

“The allure of fame and fortune can eat you alive,” admits Droese. “It is a drug in itself, and that is where it all started. I’m going into it this time with the mentality of having fun.”

Droese was recently offered ownership of the production program “60 Minute Broadway” based in Georgia, where he does YouTube podcasts. He also has appearances booked around the country, such as WrestleCon in New York City in April and has just begun wrestling again with Revive Pro Wrestling in McMinnville. Although he has a prosthetic, it hasn’t held him back from climbing into the ring and even slamming opponents.

Droese is passionate about helping others escape addiction. He is hoping to move to Chatta-nooga to be a counselor’s assistant at a rehabilitation center to gain the training needed to be-come a drug and alcohol counselor in a rehab. He is also attending school in the LADAC pro-gram to get his counseling license. 

Using his experiences and fame, Droese sends a message of hope in recovery and life. He is currently training people in the gym and sharing his story at elementary and middle schools to warn young people about the dangers of substance abuse. 

Droese advises, “Figure out what you’re passionate about, find a way to pursue that, do some-thing you really enjoy in life and on top of that, try to become a healthier person both physically and mentally since they go hand-in-hand with being a happier person.”