Matt Osborne, the wrestler most famously known as Doink the Clown, died Friday, June 28 at the age of 55.
Osborne’s career started in 1978. While Cedar Rapids wrestling fans might not remember him until he first appeared as Doink in 1992, he actually made an early WWF appearance at the very first Wrestlemania. Wrestling under his frequent ring name Matt Borne, he fell to Ricky Steamboat in the third match of the card.
From there, Borne went on to team with Buzz Sawyer in World Class Championship Wrestling where he won the World Tag Team titles with Buzz Sawyer in his debut. He would hold the belts for two months before dropping them to the Dingo Warrior (soon to jump to WWF to become the Ultimate Warrior) and Lance Von Erich.
Borne quickly jumped to WCW where he became Big Josh. As Big Josh he was an outdoorsman, a loveable oddball not unlike WWF’s Hillbilly Jim. He would team with Ron Simmons to win the US tag titles and Dustin Rhodes and Tom Zenk to win the Six Man tag belts, but neither reign would prove very fruitful. The gimmick faded and he disappeared quietly in early 1992.
He wouldn’t be off television long, quickly debuting in vignettes as a maniacal man in full clown makeup. Inspired by the recent television miniseries “It” and Jack Nicholson’s turn as the Joker in “Batman”, Doink quickly became a malicious force known for tying his opponents in knots as he laughed with insane glee.
While the run would make him famous, it would ultimately be far too short. He would use his evil ways to pick up wins over Crush, Marty Jannetty and 1-2-3 Kid, but would come up short against the likes of Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart. He was quickly on the rise as a gimmick though, even as Osborne battle drug problems outside the ring.
Shortly after an ill-advised face turn, WWF fired Osborne. He would be replaced as Doink by Ray Apollo, but without Osborne behind the makeup, the gimmick quickly devolved into bad comedy and faded from television.
After cleaning himself up, Osborne would have a short run in ECW. He debuted under the Doink gimmick, but was reviled by the Philadelphia-based fans. Ultimately he would tear apart part of his costume and become Borne Again, a dark take on the character even more twisted than his early WWF incarnation.
He would work only sporadically after that, usually as a special guest on independent shows. He would try to reinvent himself after the popularity of “The Dark Knight” with a new take on the Doink gimmick based on Heath Ledger’s Joker, but his run with the character did not serve to earn him many more bookings.
Matt Osborne was found dead by his girlfriend in his Plano, Texas home. At this time, no cause of death is known. WWE released a simple statement on their website in remembrance of Osborne:
“WWE is saddened by the news that Matt Osborne, aka the original Doink the Clown, has passed away. A rugged brawler in promotions like Mid-South Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling, Osborne made a major impact in WWE under the greasepaint of a prankster named Doink — one of the most enduring personas of the early ’90s.
Our deepest condolences go out to Osborne’s family, friends and fans.”
Share your favorite Doink moments in the comments section. For more wrestling news, subscribe to the Cedar Rapids Pro Wrestling Examiner.