Indeed a sad day for the true wrestling fans, as numerous media outlets reported today that the WWE’s original “Doink the Clown”, Matt Osborne has died today.
He was 55, passing away a month before his next birthday.
According to the reports, Osborne was found by his girlfriend, at his home in Texas where he has been staying lately. Thus far, no reasons on the passing have been revealed.
The WWE has officially expressed its condolences to the passing of the wrestler, who really was one of the great WWF attractions in the mid 90’s.
Never really a top dog, Doink was a solid wrestler, and most of all – really entertaining. He was a tremendous heel in the WWF, which later turned face. Doink has battled some of the best wrestlers of that time, including Bret “The Hitman Hart”, and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Henning.
The character of Doink, needless to say, was quite successful, as Doink stayed in the WWF/WWE up until 2012, and aside from Matt Osborne, was portrayed by 4 more wrestlers.
Osborne began his wrestling career in World Class Championship Wrestling and, in addition to time spent as Doink in WWF/WWE, he also wrestled for WCW and ECW.
The Doink the Clown character was portrayed by others after Osborne left WWF in 1993 due to drug problems, but he returned to the company in 2007 to take part in the Raw’s 15th Anniversary Legends Battle Royal.
So, why did the original Doink the Clown (portrayed at the time by Matt Osborne) left World Wrestling Federation? For the same reason Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) left WWF. Drug problems.
The history has it like this: Matt Osborne was still in WCW in 1991, but couldn’t stay there due to his personal demons.
Shortly after leaving WCW, Vince McMahon hired him to play Doink The Clown, and despite the scorn of the industry and his peers, it worked for Borne, who has recalled it years later.
“The most success I ever had in the business was Doink,” Borne said. “When I started it, the only two people in the entire industry that believed in it was Vince and myself. I had a lot guys make a joke about it, nobody took it seriously. But I knew in my heart that if I could make it work with Vince, Vince was going to give it a push.”
Borne was a good choice for Doink. He was a jokester, and fun guy.
“Vince McMahon just has a knack for bringing out characters in people that they maybe have a little piece of inside. He’s very creative with that, like he’s done with Steve Austin … it’s just a part of his personality exploited.”
He never doubted that he could pull off the Doink character, making it believable.
“It was kind of a fine line to walk. Nothing like that had ever been done in this business before, and that’s why it was looked down upon by so many.”
His good friends Jesse Ventura and Roddy Piper both questioned his involvement in the gimmick.
“Even those two guys who I looked up to, I always had them on a pedastal, even their negative outlook on what I was doing as Doink, that even didn’t deter me. I’d get off the phone with them and say ‘they just don’t know.’”
Eventually, Matt Borne was unable to control his drug problems, and the “original Doink” was fired from WWF at the end of 1993 for his re-occurring drug abuses.
“I had a very bad cocaine problem and then when Vince fired me at the end of ’93, I really went off the deep end for about a year and a half. That’s when I really tried to run from it. It kept coming back to me, it kept coming back to me,” Borne recalled.
McMahon fired Borne, but kept the Doink character alive, since he knew what the public wanted. Borne admits that he was hurt that McMahon wouldn’t bring him back as Doink, even after cleaning up his act.
Seeing other people, like Keirn, Steve Lombardi and Ray Apollo portray Doink The Clown was also incredibly frustrating for Borne. Plus there were all the other independent promotions doing evil clown knock-offs.
Doink was great for his career, a peak that he scaled only to fall off the other side.
“Win or lose, I had a lot of success with Doink and I feel grateful for getting that opportunity,” Borne said.
The Doink character has been around for quite some time. Last time Doink was seen in 2012 at a Monday Night Raw show.
On July 2, 2012, Doink (this time portrayed by longtime WWE veteran Steve Lombardi) made a surprise return and had a losing effort against Heath Slater in a match on Monday Night RAW.
He then reappeared on the actual 1,000th episode on July 23 with other WWE Legends to again take down Slater.