Matt Osborne, a wrestling lifer who will forever be known as a symbol of the WWF's cartoonish early-'90s era, was found dead this morning in Texas. He was 57.
WWE has released a statement on Osborne's passing:
Reports indicate 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.
WWE is saddened by the news of Osborne's passing. Our deepest condolences go out to Osborne’s family, friends and fans.
We're hard-pressed to think of a wrestler who was more defined by a single gimmick. A second-generation wrestler active for 35 years, he portrayed Doink in the WWF for less than one year—and he'll never be remembered as anything else.
Osborne debuted in 1978 as "Maniac" Matt Borne, plying his trade on the regional circuit. His big break came when he jobbed to Ricky Steamboat at the very first Wrestlemania, but wasn't signed by a national company until WCW took him on in 1991. They packaged him as Big Josh, an outdoorsman who was occasionally accompanied by bears during his ring entrances.
In 1992 he moved to the WWF, where he was slathered in greasepaint and dubbed Doink the Clown, a malicious prankster who never managed to win any matches of importance, but somehow became the most notable oddity on a roster that included an IRS agent, a mountie, an alligator hunter, an evil barber, and a voodoo priest.
Osborne left the WWF in 1993 after a number of substance abuse issues, though the role of Doink was filled by a series of replacements through 1995. Osborne had a quick stint with the character in ECW before fans vociferously rejected him. Sporadic appearances as Matt Borne continued, even occasionally as Doink (though WWE presumably owned the character), up until his death.
PWInsider has a detailed account of the career of the prototypical journeyman who ever-so-briefly made the big show.