Let’s go back to a simpler time, a time when Hockey Players and Garbage men, gathered together to do battle inside the squared circle. That’s right, I’m talking about the professional wrestling in the 1990s. A time where talented wrestlers were given over the top, ridiculous gimmicks that did nothing other than destroy their careers. Many men fell victim to the 90′s desire for goofy wrestlers with stupid back stories, but none more so than Doink the Clown.
Doink is a veritable legend in the world of professional wrestling, he also isn’t real. Doink is a character, one that has been played by no less than three people since his debut in 1992. So to be a little more accurate I should say that Doink’s career was not squashed by the absurd gimmick, Doink was the absurd gimmick that squashed the career of a talented wrestler. We’re talking about Mathew Osborne, the first man to fill the floppy clown shoes of Doink.
Long before donning the face paint and entered the then World Wrestling Federation ring (Now World Wrestling Entertainment) Matt Osborne had made a strong name for himself on the independent wrestling scene. A second generation superstar, (his father was “Tough” Tony Borne) Matt made his wrestling debut using the ring name Matt Bourne on December 6th 1978. Early in his career Borne teamed with wrestling greats like Ted DiBiase and Jim Duggan, two men that have since entered into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Throughout the late seventies and early eighties Bourne gained notoriety in promotions such as Portland Wrestling and Mid-South Wrestling. With the latter Bourne and DiBiase would hold tag-team gold. Although arguably one of his greatest accomplishment came in March of 1985, when Bourne climbed into the ring in New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden in front of over nineteen thousand people to do battle with future hall of famer Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at a little event known as WrestleMania. (Maybe you’ve heard of it.) That’s right the man who would be Doink was at the very first WrestleMania, in the third match on the card wrestling Ricky Steamboat. Steamboat would get the win after a flying cross body, but still Matt Bourne, a man who became known for dressing up like a clown was part of wrestling history.
Bourne’s career continued steadily for the next few years. In 86 Bourne went on to join World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) where along with tag-team partner Buzz Sawyer he would become one half of the world tag-team champions. In ’87 Bourne would captured the WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship, a title that had been held by the likes of The Dingo Warrior (AKA The Ultimate Warrior) Kerry Von Erich, and Jerry Lawyer just to name a few. He even successfully defending this title against the Iron Sheik. In the years that followed Matt Bourne climbed the ranks in the world of pro-wrestling, signing with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and winning the United States Tag Team titles with Ron Simmons (Faarooq) and The WCW World Six-Man Tag Team Championship with Tom Zenk and The American Dream Dusty Rhodes. It should be fairly clear by now that Matt Osborne kept pretty good company in the wrestling industry, working with many big names and future legends.
So what happened? The ’90′s and the World Wrestling Federation is what happened. Bourne signed a deal with the WWF in 1992 and was assigned to work dark matches. (Matches that take place before the live tapings) In these Dark Matches Bourne worked as himself, but alas it was not to be. Some hot shot writer said “You know what would be great? An evil clown!”
And sure why not clowns are creepy right? There’s just this something about them that doesn’t sit well with a lot of us, making an evil clown the perfect bad guy in the now gimmicky world of wrestling. Through some unlucky series of events Matt Bourne was transformed into Doink the Clown, a memorable character that still appears from time to time today. Unfortunately Doink over shadowed the man behind the face paint, and Matt Bourne drifted into obscurity.
After leaving the WWF Bourne did a very brief stint for ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) Where he played a dark spoof of the Doink character renaming himself Bourne Again. He, and then ECW Heavyweight Champion, Shane Douglas, would criticize Vince McMahon for misusing Bourne and failing to see the natural talent he possessed. Personal issues forced Bourne to leave the company in ’94. Ever since Bourne has made sporadic appearances on the Indy’s once again as Matt Bourne, but the damage was done. No longer does anyone know who this amazing performer is. A man who in his over thirty year career has held an upwards of fifteen different championships; a man who has competed alongside and against some of the greatest wrestlers of all time; a man who appeared on the very first WrestleMania; a man nobody remembers. Matt Osborne is without any doubt one of the most talented and well decorated wrestlers, and his entire career has been reduced to a foot note in the history of a fictional clown.
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This article was first posted on February 7, 2013