Matt Osborne, a wrestler known to millions as “Doink the Clown,” has passed away. After spending much of his life building up a reputation as a no-nonsense brawler, Osborne found his greatest success as a twisted clown. The 90s were a great time for the wrestling industry, and for video game lovers. Now defunct Acclaim kept our thumbs sore with a collection of games replicating the action in then WWF arenas.
A surprisingly fun title was Wrestlemania: the Arcade Game on the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and Sony PlayStation among other systems. Developer Midway made a wrestling game in name only, instead making a fighter more in the style of Mortal Kombat. Matches had rounds and to emerge victorious you had to win two of three. There were also flawless victories, only they were called perfect. Fighters had projectiles and other attacks. Undertaker could summon ghosts, while Doink worked a joy buzzer and oversized hammer. Hey, maybe that’s where Triple H got the idea from!
Now in real life, Osborne probably knew any shot at a WWF belt went away the second he put the clown shoes on. But in the video game, if I may steal a phrase from John Bradshaw Layfield, Doink The Clown was a “wrestling god.” The game’s cast was relatively small, only eight wrestlers. Midway wanted wrestlers with characters that would easily translate to an MK-like fighter. An evil clown was perfect. Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game was the one time when you could line Doink up against the likes of Ravishing Rick Rude or the Ultimate Warrior and have someone say, “Go with the clown, he fits our project better.”
In Wrestlemania, Doink didn’t have to languish in the middle of the card. We held countless pay-per-views in the privacy of our homes. My friends and I battled until the wee hours of the morning over the fictional “Southern Hills Heavyweight Championship.”
As I have said numerous times, one of the reasons I love video games is because they are a time capsule for our childhood heroes. If I want to run the Showtime era Lakers in NBA 2K, I can. A fight between Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson is as easy as putting in Fight Night. And should Doink the Clown want to make an improbable run at the WWE championship, he can. Here’s hoping 2K Sports adds Doink to WWE 2K14 as a legend character.