Like many children who grow up around the business of professional wrestling Matthew Osborne would idolize wrestlers growing up. He has recalled in recent years that one of his biggest influences as a teenager was Moondog Mayne. Although born in North Carolina, Osborne would grow up mainly in Portland where his father Troy Borne (Wrestling name) was a mainstay wrestler.
Before getting into wrestling though, he would go to college unsure of what he wanted to do with life, until he decided wrestling was his path in life. Osborne tells stories of hanging around with Jesse Ventura whilst he was at college whenever the 'Body' would come back home from wherever he had been working.
Initially his father was against Osborne becoming a wrestler, but after testing him, seeing if Osborne really did have the passion for it Osborne's father agreed to train him. It's fairly well documented that one of the biggest helps in his young career was Roddy Piper who arrived in the Portland area shortly before Osborne's career began. The first match I find recorded took place on December 6, 1978. Matt adopted his father's surname of 'Borne,' and they teamed together to defeat Kurt Von Steiger & Race Bannon in Portland, Oregan, for the Pacific Northwest Wrestling (PNW) territory.
Originally put with his father to aid him in the ring as a guiding presence, Borne would quickly pick up the required skills to move into full time singles competition by the end of spring 1979. He would spend his time competing against the likes of King Parson, Ron Bass, and he wrestled regularly with Buddy Rose who was also the last recorded match he had in PNW. The bout took place on January 28, 1980, Matt Borne lost to Rose. It was during his single run that he first picked up the nickname, Maniac Matt Borne.
Using his fathers contacts moved on to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (MACW). Borne's first match there took place on February 2, 1980, against Mr. X #1, Matt went over in the Memorial Auditorium, Spartanburg, South Carolina. Borne wrestled in singles and in tag-team matches with a variety of partners against Luke & Butch Miller, the Sheepherders (Better known as the Bushwhackers), including Paul Jones and a man he would have much success with later on in his career with, Buzz Sawyer.
The last match I find for Borne in MACW took place on December 14, 1980 in a losing effort to Cy Jernigan from the famous Greensboro Coliseum. Two nights prior to this he lost to The Iron Sheik in Richmond, Virginia. He headed back to PNW and arrived on December 20 to defeat Tiny Anderson from Portland, Oregan. Matt would wrestle solo and in tag-team matches again teaming up with father from time to time. It was during this run that Matt Borne began to team with Steve Regal.
On July 11, 1981, the duo defeated The Destroyer and Rip Oliver to capture the NWA PNW Tag-Team Championships in Portland, Oregan. The reign would last for a little over a month as they dropped the belts back to Rip Oliver, but this time he had a new partner in Buddy Rose on August 8. Just a few days later on September 5 they regained the championships and held them until November 4 of that year when they dropped the belts to Stan Stasiak & Buddy Rose.
Following the title loss Matt Borne would drift into solo competition mainly fighting Rocky Johnson going from 1981 into 1982. The brief feud would continue when Matt Borne formed a team with former adversary Rip Oliver. The pair would challenge Rocky Johnson and Iceman King Parsons for the titles they had previously lost. On January 16 they picked up the belts and held onto to them for nearly four months. It would be the father and son duo of Larry and Curt Hennig who defeated them on April 27. Borne and Oliver would quickly regain the titles on May 1, but only hold onto them for a month this time as they lost to Brett Sawyer and Rocky Johnson on June 2.
That would be the end of tag-team gold for Matt on this run in Portland. Shortly after losing the gold he headed back to MACW after he defeated Buddy Rose in a street fight on June 15, 1982. Kelly Kiniski was his opponent in Harisonburg, Virginia on June 17, however, the result is not recorded. Borne would do a couple of TV tapings for MACW in July. In August he made his first recorded appearance for Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) on the 15th teaming once again with Buzz Sawyer as they lost to the Freebirds.
From that summer of 1982 through to the August of 1983 Borne traveled through many territories including the two previously mentioned territories and Houston along with others. Whilst in GCW teaming with Arn Anderson Borne would be accused of sexual assault and that ended his run in GCW.
Around this time Borne began competing for Bill Watts in the Mid-South territory. Borne is well remembered for his time there as being a part of the Rat Pack with Ted Dibiase and Jim Duggan. On October 27, 1982 Dibiase and Matt won the NWA World Tag-Team Championship (Mid-South Version) in Shreveport, Louisiana. They would hold onto that gold well into 1983, losing it on March 12 to Mr. Wrestling II and Tiger Conway Jr.
On August 4 though he returned back to PNW as a singles star. He would compete in matches with the likes of Siva Afi, Jules Strongbow, Al Madril, Curt Hennig, and former partner Rip Oliver. After working until the end of 1984 in Portland, Born went up to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE). The first match I find for him went to a time-limit draw with Rick Mcgraw in the Boston Gardens on March 2, 1985.
Borne would wrestle a variety of stars over the next 20 plus days including, Bret Hart, David Sammartino, Barry O, Mike Rotunda, Jimmy Snuka, and Tony Atlas some of which were for TV. Matt would then actually competing in the very first Wrestlemania on March 31, from Madison Square Garden in a losing bout against Ricky Steamboat that went 4 minutes and 37 seconds long.
Borne's run with the WWF continued through-out April and most of June, but, he only ever competed against lower to mid-card talent sometimes winning, more often losing, matches were being aired for TV though. On June 28, Borne appeared for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW)) for the Burning Spirit in Summer tour, he competed to a double count-out with his partner King Kong Bundy against Kengo Kimura and Seiji Sakaguchi at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel Ice Arena, Tokyo.
Matt was featured heavily on the Japan tour and wrestled in a variety of tag-team, six-man tag-team, and singles matches. After the tour ended in August he headed back to be used sporadically for the WWF. He stayed with the expanding North Eastern company until April of 1986 embarking on another tour of NJPW whilst there and also a tour of Austrailia. The last match I find for him took play on the 29th from the famous Cow Palace in San Francisco, Borne lost to George Wells.
May 26, 1986 Steve Simpson would be Matt Borne's opponent. Borne would be victorious in his opening match for the World Class Wrestling Association (WCWA) out of Fort Worth, Texas. It'd be in the WCWA that Borne really came into his own and as his second most famous character, Maniac Matt Borne whilst teaming with the Mad Dog Buzz Sawyer.
Within the first couple of months of arriving he was hooking back up with Sawyer in the ring to defeat a variety of opponents, however, he would still wrestle as a singles guy against competitors like Lance Von Erich and Gentleman Chris Adams. It would be on the first day of September, 1986 that the tag-team of Buzz Sawyer & Matt Borne was cemented when in a tag-team tournament to crown the new WCWA Tag-Team Champions, they got the surprise victory.
With gold in hand the duo started to take conquer the opposition in tag-team and six-man tag-team matches, normally in the six-man matches they would team with either the Dingo Warrior (Better known as the Ultimate Warrior) or Black Bart. Osborne recalled in an interview:
"It could have transpired into a great tag-team. If we each could have been a little more mature and diplomatic and level-headed and this and that. We had the psychology down. But we just always butted heads outside the ring and it always carried over. I have to say, usually mostly on his part because he would be this dick, like he was going to outshine me instead of working with me. Buzz was a phenomenal worker. He could do things I couldn't do."
During their run as champions the alliance was broken off with Dingo Warrior turning the Warrior face, and siding with the Von Erich family. During the mayhem of this angle Buzz Sawyer would be injured forcing Matt Borne to defend the titles with Master Gee as his partner, the team would lose the belts to the Dingo Warrior and Lance Von Erich in Fort Worth on November 17.
At the Thanksgiving Star Wars event, Borne and Brian Adias lost to Mike and Lance Von Erich during the fourth match of the night on November 27 from the Reunion Arena in Dallas. In the midst of the feud with the Dingo Warrior and the Von Erich's, Borne participated in the January 1987 WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship tournament, making it to the semi-final before being defeated by Bob Bradley.
In April of that year Matt traveled to NJPW for another tour. On return he took part in mainly singles competition for WCWA and began a series of matches with a wrestler known as Al Perez. Borne recalled:
"We would have great matches, hour broadways all the time. We went an hour one night, my dad in one corner and Gary Hart in his corner. The timing of it was perfect. When that hour was up, the bell rang. Gary and my dad each asked for 15 ore minutes. This was in the heat of the summer. I looked at Al, I'm going, 'Holy shit' because I just lost 10 pounds of sweat in that hot Sportatorium. But we kicked. I was in my prime and so was he. We went 15 more minutes. We went an hour and 15 minutes, and we got a standing ovation. The place was packed, and everyone in that place stood up. It was believable. We had those people for an hour and 15 minutes. It's a tough thing to do, let alone keep your wind and be able to go, go, go, but to have the people with you too! That's probably the best match I ever had, with Al Perez."
At the Labor Day Star Wars event on September 7, Borne lost to Ted Arcidi in the Tarrant County Convention Center at Fort Worth. Whilst in WCWA Borne would also compete back in his home territory of Portland, as always he'd wrestle a combination of solo and tag-team bouts. On November 10, 1987 Borne defeated Ted Arcidi for WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship in Midland, Texas.
For the next three months Borne would defend the title until dropping it to Terry Taylor (Also known as the Red Rooster) on February 26, 1988 in Dallas. Matt continued to work shows for both territories for the rest of 1988. He then kicked off 1989 with the NJPW New Year Golden Series on a 25 day tour ending with a loss to Masa Saito on February 10 at the Korakuen Hall, Tokyo.
Returning from Japan Borne would continue working in his home state as well as WCWA sticking with them through the merger with the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) based in Memphis to form the unified United States Wrestling Association (USWA). Teaming with Jeff Jarrett, Borne would win the WCWA World Tag-Tean Championships on June 39, 1989, by defeating Robert Fuller and Brian Lee in Dallas.
They would drop the belts just over a month later to Scott Braddock and Cactus Jack on August 4, also in Dallas. During Braddock's and Jack's reign the aforementioned merger took place leading to Jeff Jarrett and Matt Borne recapturing the newly named USWA World Tag-Team Championships on August 11, from the duo that had defeated them.
Again the reign would be short only lasting until September 15, when they lost to Sheik Braddock and Mark Star, once again the match took place in Dallas. Not to be deterred Jarrett and Borne would continue competing for the belts forcing them to be held up on September 22 following a controversial finish to a match. In the rematch on the 29th the duo for the third time recaptured tag-team gold holding it until October 6 when Matt Borne was pinned in a Loser of the Fall Leaves Town Match whilst teaming with Jarrett against Sheik Braddock and Ron Starr, forcing the champions to vacate the titles.
Continuing in the USWA, Portland, and NJPW Borne worked up until 1991 before landing a job wiht one of the two big companies in North America. It should be noted here that during his time in the territory system he did also make trips to Europe and Egypt, although I could not find exact dates for these tours.
February 19, 1991 Matthew Osborne appeared on WCW TV for the first time as a new character, called Big Josh. He competed in an eight-man tag-team match with partners Ricky Morton, Tommy Rich and the Junkyard Dog against Sgt. Buddy Lee Parker, Lt. James Earl Wright, and Magnum Force, Josh's team won. Osborne recalled of the 'avid outdoors-man' character:
"It was different, that's for sure,' laughed Borne. " I didn't have a model to go by. I was given that, asked if I minded changing. I was okay with that because I wanted the job. I was told what it was. So actualy I just did what I was told. I really didn't have a chance to give it much thought. Didn't have anybody to role it after, but it was probably actually a great opportunity and a great thing for me as a precursor to me doing Doink, getting out of my own self."
As Big Josh he would have moderate success in WCW winning the World Six-Man Tag-Team Championship with Dustin Rhodes and Tom Zenk on August 5, 1991 defeating the Fabulous Freebirds in St. Joseph, Missouri. They would hold the titles until October 8, 1991 where they lost to The York Foundation in Montgomery, Alabama.
He also won the United States Tag-Team Championship with Ron Simmons on January 14, 1992, holding onto the belts for a month before Terry Taylor and Greg Valentine toppled them on February 17. The last recorded match I find for Big Josh took place on the WCW Great American Bash Tour of 1992, on Day 21, August 10, like many other wrestlers, Matt was struggling with personal demons.
Prior to that though he defeated Diamond Dallas Page at the Clash of the Champions XIX from the McAlister Field House in Charleston, South Carolina in a dark match and he went over with the Junkyard Dog and Tom Zenk in the dark match of Beach Blast at the expense of Tracy Smothers, Richard Morton, and Diamond Dallas Page. His actual last PPV appearance though was at WrestleWar on May 17 where he beat Richard Morton.
Around 8 years after he had last competed in a WWF ring, Osborne was called back up to what was now the definitive company in professional wrestling. On September 21, 1992 he defeated Bill Jordan for a WWF TV taping in Canada as the widely popular now, but criticized initially, character of Doink the Clown. Osborne recalled:
"The most success I ever had in the business was Doink. When I started it, the only two people in the entire industry that believed in it was Vince and myself. I had a lot of guys joke about it, nobody took it seriousluy. But, I knew in my heart that if I could make it work with Vince, Vince was going to give it a push.
"Vince McMahon just had a knack for bringing out characters in people that they maybe have a little piece of inside. He's very creative with that, like he's done with Steve Austin ... it's just part of his personality exploited."
After initial short run at the end of 1992, Doink would travel up to the USWA for a brief stint there before coming back down to the WWF to be integrated properly into storylines. Almost immediately Doink was in a serious program, with another star who WWF saw potential in, Crush (Also known as Brian Adams). This would also be one of the most memorable of Doink's feuds due to what was at the time a shocking turn of events, when Doink appeared to remove his own arm and beat Crush round the back of the head with it. It turned out the arm was actually prosthetic, and he had lured Crush into a false sense of security.
These actions led to an encounter between the two at Wrestlemania IX, from Las Vegas, Nevada in the make-shift Roman Coliseum venue. Doink would be victorious after some clown magic and hijinks allowed a second Doink to appear and knock Crush unconscious with a prosthetic arm also.
Following the run with Crush Doink went through an array of opponents including Randy Savage on July 25, 1993 for WWF television. At Summerslam on August 30, Doink would act as Jerry Lawler's replacement against Bret Hart. Hart would win the match after Jerry Lawler interfered causing Doink to be disqualified. In late 1993 Doink started to make a transition from heel to face. The once evil clown who pulled sinister tricks on the good guys and even members of the audience, was now using these tricks on the bad guys, and the fans loved it.
Unfortunately Osborne would be released by the WWF for reasons surrounding his personal demons. Following his release Osborne worked for several independent promotions using the Doink the Clown gimmick before ending up in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). When the fans rejected his clown character Shane Douglas would be the one to take Borne under his wing, claiming the WWF had wasted his talent. Osborne would then adopt the moniker of Borne Again whilst in ECW. It would be a very short stay though.
As far as major appearances in wrestling go, that was the end of the for Matthew Wade Osborne. It was not the end of his road though. Matt continued to compete on the independent scene using a variety of his characters. He appeared in promotions such as, Far North Wrestling (FNW), Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling (ECCW), Juggalo Championship Wrestling (JCW), Wrecking Ball Wrestling (WBW), and the Pro Wrestling Syndicate (PWS) where he fought old his old partner Jim Duggan, and there have been reports that the two had formed a disliking for each other which lead to a break down in their match at the Vendetta show.
Borne was a regular attender to fan fests and other legends meetings such a WrestleReunion, he also appeared on the WWE Raw 15th Anniversary special in a Legends Battle Royal that took place on December 10, 2007. Whilst he had cut down his time spent in the ring following getting sober from his drug problems, Osborne continued to help promote independent shows most notably for Sandy Barr in Portland.
It came as shock when it was reported yesterday (June 28, 2013) that Matthew Osborne had passed away. Many jumped to speculation that when it was his girlfriend who found him alone at home that may-be he had fallen off of the wagon and had succumbed to his personal demons. It has since been reported that the police have started a homicide investigation.
Whatever the cause of his death though, Matt Borne, was a very talented wrestler who most will agree had all the potential in the world. He could talk, he could wrestle, he could brawl, and could pretty much do the whole package. If he could have suppressed his demons earlier in his life, who knows how far he could have gone, it was clear Vince was behind the gimmick. Considering Osborne's run as the evil Doink only lasted a relatively short period of time, it is still fondly remembered to this day, which shows just how good Matthew Wade Osborne truly was.
By Jimmy Wheeler
As unique content strictly for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society
Source for Interview Segments: SLAM! Wrestling
Source for Interview Segments: SLAM! Wrestling