Doink The Clown
According to a Chapman University survey, 7.8 percent of Americans have “coulrophobia,” otherwise known as a fear of clowns. That means 25 million Americans are scared of men in white face-paint with a squishy red nose, dishevelled, coloured-hair and polka-dotted outfits. When Doink The Clown debuted in 1993, that year’s Wrestlemania buy-rate was 430,000 with 62,000 in attendance. Out of the 25-million Americans that feared clowns in 1993, there was guaranteed to be a few individuals out of the 492,000 wrestling fans that watched Doink at Wrestlemania IX, that feared the man. I should be a scientist.
Photo credit: Clownopedia
Steiner math aside, the WWF knew what they were doing when they brought along Matt Borne to play the sinister, miserable clown known as “Doink” in 1993. If any medium out there is able to play with its consumers’ emotions, it’s professional wrestling. On the same night that Bret Hart would give kids in the front row his trademarked pink sunglasses, Doink would play cruel jokes on the same children. What started out as innocent pranks, such as spraying fans with water eventually turned into more dangerous “jokes” which often saw fan-favourite wrestlers being put in danger at the hands of the clown’s antics. Some of these pranks included “accidentally” poking out Tatanka’s eye and attempting to injure the Big Boss Man with tripwire. After countless parents would tell their children that there’s nothing to be afraid of and that clowns weren’t actually evil, Doink was there to only reinforce their fears.
Doink would eventually turn babyface after turning on one of the New Generations era’s biggest heels, Jerry Lawler. He was soon fired from the company, however, after repeatedly failing company wellness policy tests. The gimmick would soon be transferred over to Ray Apollo, as Matt Borne’s good-guy run as Doink the Clown was slowly but surely becoming popular with fans.
By this point, Doink was primarily a comic-relief character, becoming managed and followed to the ring by his midget sidekick, Dink. To give you some idea of the character’s position on the card, at Survivor Series 1994, Jerry Lawler’s team of “little kings,” Sleazy, Cheezy and Queazy fought the clown team of Doink, Dink, Wink and Pink.
Knowing the silliness of the character couldn’t last as professional wrestling was getting edgier by the month, and fans were getting smarter to the business, Doink became a jobber, often losing to midcard heels such as Hakushi and Jeff Jarrett.
Doink met Steve Austin in 1997 and the arena was filled with “kill the clown” chants, as The Rattlesnake attacked the then universally hated gimmick. Pro wrestling changed and the fans grew impatient to characters they perceived as silly and childlike. Despite this, however being his last true appearance, Doink would sporadically return to the company as the punchline to many jokes, and was always a nice taste of silly, nostalgic 90s WWF.
Matt Borne would further evolve the gimmick on the independent circuit, as well as a really solid ECW run which darkened the clown’s backstory and reinstated him as a legitimately scary character.
Borne died of an accidental drug overdose in 2013 and his legacy as Doink The Clown is fondly remembered by the fans who feared him, jeered him and laughed with (or at) him. Despite the character being played by a total of 11 different men over the last 30 years, Doink is most synonymous with Matt Borne, the most memorable clown in all of professional wrestling.