Former wrestler Matt Osborne, best known for playing the twisted Doink the Clown character in the early '90s, died Friday at a local hospital in Plano, Texas.
Before his stint as Doink the Clown, Osborne worked the independent circuit and even wrestled on the inaugural WrestleMania card against Ricky Steamboat in 1985 at Madison Square Garden. Osborne would go on to compete in World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) before returning to the WWE in 1992.
Clowns are already pretty creepy to begin with, so when Osborne slapped on the greasepaint, green wig, and came out to a theme song that likely still haunts kids to this day, he and the WWE had struck gold with a great heel character. So great that Doink often made children cry at ringside thanks to his pre- and post-match antics. If you thought one Doink was disturbing enough, the WWE soon introduced a second Doink character (played by Steve Keirn) to torment and confuse his opponents and audiences during matches.
His run in the WWE was cut short after Osborne was fired by Vince McMahon in 1993 for substance abuse issues. "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," Osborne said in an interview with SLAM! "That's when I really tried to run from it. It kept coming back to me, it kept coming back to me."
Even though Osborne was gone, the Doink the Clown character would live on in the WWE thanks to wrestler Ray Apollo until 1995. His gimmick was so popular that several knock-off characters would also pop up on the independent scene. Osborne would wrestle briefly in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) before returning off-and-on to the indies until his death.
The day before Osborne died, he posted a Facebook message explaining how it was shaping up to be a busy summer.
World Wrestling Entertainment issued the following statement on Osborne:
WWE is saddened by the news that Matt Osborne, aka the original Doink the Clown, has passed away. A rugged brawler in promotions like Mid-South Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling, Osborne made a major impact in WWE under the greasepaint of a prankster named Doink — one of the most enduring personas of the early ’90s.
Our deepest condolences go out to Osborne’s family, friends and fans.