Matt Osbourne, better known as "Maniac" Matt Borne, Big Josh and the original Doink the Clown in the WWF, has passed away.
Details on his passing are still developing. PWInsider.com can confirm Osbourne was found this morning in Texas, where he had been staying of late, by his girlfriend. Osbourne would have turned 56 next month.
A second generation star, Osbourne was the son of "Tough" Tony Borne, a star who challenged for the NWA World title during his career and was most prominently known in the Texas and Pacific Northwest territories.
It was that same Northwest region that Osbourne debuted after being trained by his father, working for Don Owen's promotion. Billed as "Maniac" Matt Borne, he was a tough, bruiser of a wrestler and was a natural for the business. It was his streak for wild behavior outside the ring that often prevented him from having big money runs in the business and causing the premature end of a number of pushes in different companies.
After making his name, Osbourne worked a number of different territories, including Mid-South Wrestling, where he teamed with Ted DiBiase and Hacksaw Duggan as babyfaces known as the "Ratpack", playing off the famous entertain trio of the era by the same name. He and Duggan actually ended up having heat with each other during that time period, which actually turned into a legitimate shoot decades later during a PWS independent event in New Jersey just a few years back.
Osbourne moved to Georgia Championship Wrestling, where he and Arn Anderson were tapped to become a top duo there. Allegations against Osbourne and a potential legal case led to his quick exit.
Osbourne's travels took him to the WWF in the early 1980s and he worked the first Wrestlemania card, losing to Ricky Steamboat, who had just started with the promotion.
He wasn't long for WWF and Osbourne moved around for most of the 1980s working for all the major territories as they dried up one by one. He had a big push in World Class Championship Wrestling, teaming with Buzz Sawyer to win the World Class Tag straps and also had a run as The Texas Heavyweight champion. But, the territories were fewer and fewer as the 80s went on, making it harder and harder to find work, so the journey never ended for the journeyman.
Osbourne returned to national TV was brought in by Dusty Rhodes to World Championship Wrestling in 1991. Although he was an old school guy in how he protected the business and presented himself, this time, he was not Matt Borne. Instead, he was given a makeover and became Big Josh. His past in the business was completely ignored as he morphed into a fan turned wrestler. The idea was he was a simple country outdoorsman, complete with an entrance accompanied by bears on major PPVs. If you think Hillbilly Jim in the 1980s WWF, it was similar in vein to Big Josh.
While in WCW, Osbourne had several title runs (United States tag belts with Ron Simmons and a WCW Six Man Tag run with Z-Man and Dustin Rhodes) but was never pushed as anything more than just an undercard babyface character. That sort of character seemed out of place in WCW, even in 1991 where the company was floundering creatively after the loss of Ric Flair. Osbourne left the company after a year.
Osbourne was brought back to the WWF in 1993. With the advent of the Monday Night Raw era, a slew of new personalities were introduced. The knock on WWF had been that it had become a circus among old school wrestling fans. With Osbourne, WWF now had their clown - dressed as a clown with bright green wig, white, red and blue facepaint and a colorful polka-dotted outfit, he began appearing in the audience at shows.
Over time, it was revealed that Doink was an evil clown. He would pull cruel pranks on fans at ringside and eventually, on the late Bryan "Crush" Adams, attacking him with a fake arm he pulled out of a sling. Doink was off to the races, including a Wrestlemania 9 appearance where he defeated Crush after a second, identical Doink (Steve Keirn) came from under the ring. It was twin magic well before there was a Bella Twin in sight.
The multiple Doinks became the calling card of the character and also allowed Doink to appear on multiple events taking place at the same time on the road. Steve Lombardi (the Brooklyn Brawler) would often end up playing a Doink on the road as well.
For most of 1993, Osbourne was in the WWF mix, working Bret Hart at Summerslam that year and having an extended series of matches with Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig in a tournament for the vacant Intercontinental championship.
Having done his run as a heel, the decision was made to turn Osbourne babyface, although that turn would eventually see the end of his career on a national level. Following a number of personal issues, WWF opted to let Osbourne go, instead hiring Northeastern independent wrestler Ray Apollo to portray Doink from that point on. Apollo officially debuted in a vignette at the 1993 Survivor Series. Osbourne never played the character for WWF again, with the exception of the Raw 15th Anniversary show, where his old foe Steamboat, now an agent, suggested he be brought in for the role.
Osbourne hit the indy scene as Doink almost immediately, working all over the United States as well as overseas as the character. Doink on the indy scene was a hot draw. The character was all over WWF TV, allowed Osbourne (and others who had no business playing the role) to make decent money with bookings and merchandise money.
Osbourne also had a short run in the original ECW, debuting as Doink in a tournament for the NWA title. Doink was a mystery opponent for ECW mascot 911, who quickly destroyed him with a series of chokeslams. This allowed Paul Heyman to rip on the WWF by declaring that this, "Wasn't the circus, it was E-C-W!" That night, Shane Douglas won and rejected the NWA title, instead declaring the ECW belt the "ECW World Heavyweight championship" and that he was going to bring the sport back to pro wrestling.
As part of that plan, initially was Matt Borne. Christened "Borne Again", the idea was that Douglas had brought the wrestler back out of the clown. Borne was muscle for Douglas and worked alongside him for several months. When it came time for ECW's big November to Remember weekend, Osbourne had overseas dates that conflicted. He later claimed in an interview here on PWInsider.com that he was told by Paul Heyman to take the overseas dates, but when he returned, there was no longer a spot for him.
Over the ensuing years, Osbourne continued to be an old school journeyman wrestler, working independents where he could find bookings, making the convention circuit appearances and working as a mentor and trainer to different wrestlers in areas where he was located at different times. He also tried his hand in promoting in the Garfield, NJ area a few years back.
PWInsider.com would like to express our deepest condolences to Osbourne's friends, family and fans during this sad time.
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