Matt Borne Passes Away: A Look Back at His Non-Doink Roles
Matthew Osborne passed away on June 28 at the age of 55, a man mostly known for his portrayal of Doink the Clown with WWE in the early '90s even though he won championships and had success outside of that role.
Osborne is pictured in the WWE.com article in full clown attire, high-fiving fans. That painted face is the only one fans knew despite Osborne's varied experience.
It was a gimmick that brought him the most mainstream success of his career, but one that didn't let him show off his mat skills as much as his other personas did.
Doink became the scapegoat for when fans and critics wanted to label the WWE as cartoony. Fans longing for less showy days of wrestling could focus their frustration at Doink as he was one of the most obvious cases of over-the-top gimmicks.
Osborne's success as Doink was like an indie band becoming famous because of a pop song or a novelist making a name for himself with a romance novel. It may not have been what he sought when he began his career, but that's how it panned out.
Who was Doink without the face paint and without the attention-grabbing gimmick? He was a talented wrestler who didn't gain mainstream traction until donning one of the sillier gimmicks in wrestling history.
In both the Mid-South territory and World Class Championship Wrestling, Osborne wrestled as Matt Borne.
Even when he took the "Maniac Matt" nickname, it was a non-frills gimmick. He wore dark trunks and traditional boots and portrayed an aggressive wrestler.
Without the clown garb, Borne was far more physically intimidating, a stout man with wide shoulders. He was a powerful man who tried to win fans over primarily through his grappling ability.
This was the most successful period of his career in terms of championships, even if his work as Doink eclipsed it in terms of fame.
Teaming with Jeff Jarrett and Buzz Sawyer, Osborne won tag team titles in both Mid-South Wrestling and WCCW. His most well-known partnership was with Ted DiBiase and Jim Duggan, a trio known as the "Ratpack."
DiBiase and Duggan would both find success in WWE with more colorful characters.
Matt Borne was also the non-nonsense persona he worked with when he faced Ricky Steamboat at the first-ever WrestleMania.
Watching this match or most of his other work, Osborne's talent was clear. WWE and wrestling, though, was becoming a bigger spectacle and performers needed more flash to get noticed.
Osborne spent much of his time in WCW as Big Josh, a fight-loving lumberjack character. While not as over-the-top as Doink, this was a far cry from his days as simply Matt Borne.
Osborne wrestled in red flannel, a red ski cap and rolled-up jeans.
This helped him stand out to a degree, but Big Josh is not one of the stars that fans remember most from WCW. The distinctness of this character made sense in an era when action figures were beginning. The Big Josh action figure was sure to catch more eyes than a Matt Borne version.
Osborne won US tag titles with Ron Simmons as well as six-man titles with Dustin Rhodes and the Z-Man. He also had a handful of pay-per-view matches including a win over Ricky Morton at WrestleWar 92.
However, he only lasted a year with WCW. The idea of an outdoorsman as a heroic wrestler didn't catch on enough for him to sustain momentum.
It did feel, though, that Osborne was closer to finding a point of entry to the fans. WWE was his next stop and his gimmick there had not a touch of subtlety to it. He was a mischievous clown, a role that got him noticed in a major way.
He later ventured into ECW with the Doink gimmick intact. That was a marriage that was never going to work. There are few things less extreme than a clown.
ECW was a safe-haven for more serious wrestling fans. Blood, sex, broken tables and unchecked aggression were the staples of that promotion. Doink didn't belong.
As a result of that strange fit and backlash from the fans, Osborne morphed into a darker version of his clown character.
Calling himself "Borne Again," he stripped away most of his makeup and didn't wear his wig. He looked like a clown gone insane.
In a way, he was symbolically stripping himself of the colorful and childish elements of his character. One could interpret this as a symbolic act of stripping away the WWE from himself.
This was a gimmick he did only briefly. Osborne followed his short ECW run by appearing sporadically in the indies. He often reverted back to his Matt Borne name.
Maybe that's the role he most closely associated himself with. After all, it was the one with the least amount of artifice.
Osborne's career was one of struggling to find the balance between entertainment and sport, seriousness and silliness, self and gimmick.
As many bumps as he took as Matt Borne or all the matches he had as Big Josh, for better or worse, he'll forever be known as Doink.
Rest in peace, Matthew.
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