Yesterday (Friday 28 June 2013) the wrestling world lost Matt Osborne, perhaps best remembered as playing the first Doink the Clown in the WWF, after he was found dead in his Texas residence aged 55.
Osborne debuted in wrestling in late 1978, performing for various independent promotions including Mid-South. During his stint in the indys, Osborne participated in the inaugural Wrestlemania in 1985 when he faced Ricky Steambeat, in a losing effort, at Madison Square Garden.
It would take him a further 7 years – after stints with World Class Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling – for him to resurface in the WWF. In WCCW he would win the tag titles with Buzz Sawyer and defeated Ted Arcidi for NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship in November 1987. He dropped the belt to Terry Taylor in February the following year. He would have to wait until May 1990 to regain the title when he defeated Kerry Von Erich but the future Texas Tornado won the strap back the next month.
He would spend a year in the WCW from 1991 onwards. He performed as Big Josh, an outdoorsman, in what was essentially WCW’s version of Hillbilly Jim. He would achieve tag team success winning the US Tag Team Titles with Ron Simmons and the Six Man Tag Championship with Dustin Runnels and Tom Zenk.
When he made it to the WWF, he initially wrestled under his own name before adopting the gimmick of the villainous clown named Doink. He would perform traditional clown tricks on both fans at ringside and the wrestlers themselves including throwing buckets of confetti and the use of a water squirting flower.
Doink quickly entered into a feud with Crush, after attacking him with a prosthetic arm and that lead to their match at Wrestlemania IX which ended when a second Doink – played by Steve Keirn – came from under the ring and attacked Crush again with a prosthetic arm allowing Osborne to get the win.
The multiple Doinks became the calling card of the character and also allowed Doink to appear on multiple events taking place at the same time on the road. Steve Lombardi (the Brooklyn Brawler) would often end up playing a Doink on the road as well.
He remained feuding with Crush and he and Keirn distracted him in his Intercontinental Title match at King of the Ring 1993. Doink was hired by Jerry Lawler to face Bret Hart at Summerslam 1993 but soon afterwards poured water over Bobby Heenan to turn face. However, Osborne was released due to drug issues and Doink would be played by Ray Apollo afterwards.
After his release, he took the Doink character on the indy scene and with the gimmick’s prominence on WWF TV at the time, it allowed him to make decent money. Osborne resurfaced soon afterwards in Extreme Championship Wrestling where he reprised the Doink character. However, the ECW fans who viewed the promotion as an alternative to the cartoon world of WWF and WCW hated the gimmick. After a defeat to Shane Douglas, Douglas cut a promo on Vince McMahon for turning a talented like Osborne into a joke.
He then changed his ring name to Borne Again, and continued wearing the clown suit, albeit without the wig, wearing a minimal amount of face paint, as well as growing out his hair and beard. After victories, he would make his opponents dress in clown outfits. However, his tenure with the company was short-lived due to personal problems.
Return to Indies
After leaving ECW he appeared sparodically on the independent scene for various promotions and at several reunion shows. He reprised the Doink the Clown role in the now WWE at the Raw 15th Anniversary show when he took part in a Legends Battle Royal.
On Friday 28 June 2013 he was found dead in his Texas residence. Unfortunately his wild streak outside of the ring prevented him from being able to have big money drawing runs in the business and led to the end of his stints with various promotions.
Ring the Damn Bell would like to send condolences to Osborne’s family, friends and fans.