WWE superstars have all sorts of gimmicks, many of them on the weird side. When they succeed, you get a gem such as The Undertaker, a wrestling mortician. Failure includes such forgotten characters as T.L. Hopper, a wrestling plumber. Doink The Clown would seem to have more in common with Hopper than Undertaker. He became an unlikely success because the first man portraying him embraced the role in spite of its silliness.
Wrestling fans across the world are remembering that man, Matt Osborne, today after learning of his death Friday. Osborne’s girlfriend found him unresponsive in their Plano apartment, and he died later at a hospital. He was just 55 years old. Sadly, that is old enough to be an elder statesman among wrestlers.
A report by newsletter the Wrestling Observer notes that 25 percent of the grapplers who worked 1991’s Wrestlemania VII are dead, many through some side effect of drug use. Doink was from that early 90s era. Osborne’s run in WWE ended after McMahon fired him in 1993 for substance abuse.
Because the character’s costume hid his face, it was all too easy to slip another wrestler into the greasepaint. Those other guys didn’t have the same charisma or wrestling skill, so the evil clown faded into history.
Before his stint as a sadistic clown, Matt Osborne was best known as a rugged brawler of a character. He used the “Maniac” Matt Borne persona in Texas and other regions. When WWE chairman Vince McMahon suggested he don greasepaint and a green wig, one can only speculate what went through his mind. But Osborne took on the challenge of portraying a diabolical clown. Let’s face it, clowns are kind of scary anyway. Doink the Clown was such a hit that McMahon hired a second clown played by Steve Keirn. Then Doink “turned face,” or started being a good guy instead of a bad guy. As mentioned earlier, WWE kept the persona going even after firing Osborne. Every so often it would factor into a story, such as when Chris Jericho dressed up as Doink to fool William Regal.
The original evil clown appeared briefly in ECW as “Borne Again” and wrestled on the independent circuit. The lowest rated WWE show reaches ten times more people than the best indy show since McMahon has an effective monopoly on the business. Thus despite a career decades long as “Maniac” Matt Borne, Osborne was Doink the Clown to most people that know him. That’s how he listed himself on his own Facebook page, where friends and fans are posting some of their remembrances.