The job squad: 10 wrestlers who competed in work clothes
It’s less common today, but back in the early 1990s, it wasn’t so unusual to see a construction worker battling a tax collector in the ring or a crazed plumber cramming his plunger into the face of a garbage man. For whatever reason, there was a brief and bizarre time in both WWE and WCW when a group of working stiffs — from firemen to lumberjacks — decided to supplement their income by taking on grappling as a part-time gig.
Strap on your tool belt, pack a lunch and head to the office with these grapplers who brought their blue-collar work ethic to the ring.
Irwin R. Schyster
Everyone dreads getting audited during tax season. WWE Superstars never dreamed they’d have to face that prospect in the squared circle. Their worst nightmares came true when Irwin R. Schyster (a.k.a. IRS) entered the ring in 1991.
Opting to do battle in a neatly pressed shirt and dress slacks held up by bright red suspenders, IRS hoped to rid the WWE Universe of “tax cheats.” Unfortunately, anyone and everyone fell under that category.
The evil taxman tried to repossess a sacred headdress presented to Tatanka, claiming that the proud Native American failed to pay a gift tax on it. Most fittingly, though, Schyster engaged in a rivalry with The Undertaker. It was truly a battle to see which was more certain: death or taxes. IRS managed to claim The Deadman’s urn, but The Phenom eventually added Schyster to his collection of souls.
Hey, if cops can wrestle, why can’t firefighters?
Teaming up with former soldier Todd Champion, Firebreaker Chip left his job at WCW Special Forces (seriously, that’s where they were from) to enter the rough-and-tumble world of in-ring competition. Donning a firefighter’s helmet and the heavy-duty pants needed to combat flames, Chip looked like he jumped out of a beefcake calendar.
Once the bell rang, however, the fireman proved to be a formidable competitor. He and Champion shocked WCW fans when they defeated the legendary Fabulous Freebirds to win the WCW United States Tag Team Titles in August 1991.
After they lost the titles, though, Chip and Champion hit a rough patch, never regaining the same success. They split up and Champion went AWOL, while Chip tried to become a singles wrestler. Things didn’t pan out and Chip was back on the fire truck shortly after.
Duke "The Dumpster" Droese
With the sorts of lowdown, dirty Superstars that can occupy the WWE Universe, sometimes the trash needs to be taken out. In 1994, Duke “The Dumpster” Droese arrived on the scene to clean up the squared circle.
The 6-foot-6, 300-pounder from Mount Trashmore, Fla., hopped off the back of a garbage truck and into the ring, impressing fans with his strength and agility. Some snobbish Superstars didn’t take too kindly to Droese and his outside-the-ring work, like Jerry “The King” Lawler, who battered “The Dumpster” with his own garbage can.
In his ritzier days, Triple H turned his nose up at Droese, engaging in a brief rivalry with “The Dumpster.” The two collided on the pre-show to Royal Rumble 1996, with the coveted No. 30 spot on the line. Droese dumped The Game and was the freshest competitor in the over-the-top-rope melee.
Men at Work
Chris Kanyon and Mark Starr must have picked up some wrestling gigs when their union went on strike. Instead of floating around the swimming pool on an inflatable raft, the two signed up as a tag team on WCW’s ever-expanding roster.
Clad in jeans, boots and hard hats, the duo known as Men at Work strapped on their tool belts and made WCW programming their own personal construction site. Starr and Kanyon even lifted a few traffic cones and signs from their job for their entrance, so any OSHA inspectors wouldn’t write them up for safety violations.
Though Men at Work tried to make WCW work around their schedule — down to the union-mandated 10-minute coffee break — things usually didn’t go their way in the ring. Kanyon eventually got on the right path and had a long career in both WCW and WWE.
If a wrestling garbage man wasn’t enough to kick your sense of smell into overdrive, how about a pugilistic plumber? TL Hopper was one of a number of blue-collar workers to make the jump to wrestling in the mid-1990s.
Brought to the ring, rather appropriately, by the sounds of a clogged toilet, Hopper competed in a ratty tank top and tattered khakis. His trusty plunger, Betsy, was never far from his reach. Anyone who fell victim to Hopper’s vicious brainbuster got to meet Betsy, as the evil plumber humiliated his fallen foes by plunging their face with his disgusting apparatus.
It was only natural that the grimy Hopper square off with another Superstar who wasn’t afraid to get dirt under his fingernails: Duke “The Dumpster” Droese. The plumber and the garbage man met head to head in summer 1996. To the surprise of the WWE Universe, it was Droese who had his hopes flushed down the drain by TL Hopper.
The State Patrol
WCW fans had to make sure their tail lights were working for most of the 1990s, or else The State Patrol would quickly hand them a ticket. The team of Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker and Lt. James Earl Wright saw the ring as their highway and were on a mission to clean up the Atlanta-based promotion, one citation at a time.
Clad in their police uniforms, The State Patrol proudly displayed their badges, flaunting their authority in the faces of their opponents. On the way to the ring, Parker and Wright searched for reasons to give out tickets. In our background check on The State Patrol, we saw several fans written up for cheering then-WCW Champion Hulk Hogan.
Much like their citations, The State Patrol didn’t command much respect in the ring. Parker and Wright ended up on the losing end of their matches most of the time.
Making his way from the woods of the north to the rings of WCW, Big Josh set out to chop down the biggest trees in WCW. The lumberjack opted to grapple in his everyday work clothes, donning a cutoff plaid shirt and rolled-up jeans with a pair of steel-toed boots.
Big Josh also carried an axe handle with him to the ring, for some reason. There was no blade on it, so the odds of him felling any trees (or ring posts) were slim to none. The mighty lumberjack briefly engaged in a rivalry with another axe-wielding Superstar, the masked executioner Black Blood. The two met in a Lumberjack Match, naturally, with Big Josh scoring the win.
The outdoorsman proved to be a formidable competitor as part of a team, capturing WCW’s United States Tag Team Titles with WWE Hall of Famer Ron Simmons, in addition to winning the WCW Six-Man Tag Team Championship with Dustin Rhodes and Tom Zenk.
The Big Boss Man
Many have tried to ensure that law and order was upheld in WWE, but few were as successful as The Big Boss Man. A corrections officer from Cobb County, Ga., The Boss Man chose to wear his blues in battle.
Promising to make his opponents serve “hard time,” The Big Boss Man twirled his trusty nightstick as he made his way to the ring, an ever-present threat to anyone who stood across the ring from him. Handcuffs dangled from the 300-pounder’s waist, ready to be slapped on the wrists of anyone who got out of line.
When he returned to WWE in 1998 as Mr. McMahon’s bodyguard, The Big Boss Man updated his look for the Attitude Era. Ditching his corrections officer uniform for the black riot gear of a SWAT team member, Boss Man made it clear that he was now working outside the law.
Isaac Yankem, D.D.S.
WWE Superstars had to make sure they brushed and flossed after every meal in the mid-1990s, or else Isaac Yankem, D.D.S., would give them a thorough, painful cleaning.
The personal dentist of Jerry “The King” Lawler, Yankem was introduced to the WWE Universe in a series of vignettes where the nefarious dentist took pleasure in the screams of patients unlucky enough to get up-close and personal with his drill. The chilling sounds of the dentist’s office were never far behind, as Yankem’s entrance music was a morbid mash-up of his whirring drill and the annoying Muzak from your last tooth cleaning.
Yankem took that passion for pain into the squared circle. He also wore his scrubs to the ring, perhaps to symbolize that he could pick his opposition apart, tooth by tooth, if he wanted. Thankfully, Yankem left his drill at the office.
For much of his career, The Big Boss Man represented true law and order in WWE. It was only a matter of time before some twisted lawman took umbrage with the corrections officer’s manner and tried to uphold his own manner of justice.
That corrupt cop came in the form of The Mountie, who arrived on the scene from Canada in 1991. Wearing the bright red uniform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, he loudly boasted that “The Mountie always gets his man,” before viciously shocking his opponents with a cattle prod.
The Mountie and The Big Boss Man collided at SummerSlam 1991, where the loser of the bout would be forced to spend a night in jail. The Canadian cop lost and went to the slammer, emerging even angrier. He set his sights on then-Intercontinental Champion Bret Hart and succeeded in dethroning him. The Mountie’s title reign, however, was almost as short as a Dudley Do-Right episode, lasting all of two days.