The Confusing History Of WWE’s Doink The Clown, Explained

The character of Doink the Clown has become something of a punchline in WWE history. He represents the company going too far with occupational gimmicks and cartoonish characters in one fell swoop. The spectacle of a literal clown having not only one, but two featured matches at WrestleMania (the second of which saw him team up with his sidekick Dink) is all enough for fans to look back on him with disdain. However, his history is more complicated than it appears at first blush, including much more compelling beginnings than endings and changes to who played the gimmick.


Matt Borne Was A Respected Veteran Wrestler

When Doink the Clown beat Crush at WrestleMania 9, it was not the first WrestleMania match for the man beneath the paint. That was Matt Borne, who had actually put over Ricky Steamboat in one of the stronger matches of the original WrestleMania event.

More than a journeyman who’d lucked into that match with The Dragon, Borne was a respected who’d worked for different NWA veteran before that first WWE residency territories. He went on to spend time in World Class, WCW, and in Memphis in the late 1980s and early 1990s before finding himself back in WWE and ready for the biggest push of his career. Indeed, Doink the Clown was no gag character, but rather an ambitious new kind of heel that Borne gamely made his own.

Doink The Clown Appeared In The Crowd

The beginnings of the Doink the Clown character were slow and subtle. Rather than appearing in preview vignettes or debuting in the ring, this was a character fans first saw among the crowd watching WWE events. From that position, he pranked fans before building up to playing tricks on babyface wrestlers as well.

That run came to an end when Crush put him in his place. Rather than meekly retreating after the Hawaiian big man apparently injured his arm, the clown went on the attack. He wielded a prosthetic arm as a weapon to level Crush and set them up for an in ring feud.

Doink The Clown Vs. Crush At WrestleMania 9

While the match between Doink the Clown and Crush at WrestleMania 9 wasn’t a classic by any definition, there is a case to be made that this duo—or, perhaps more aptly, trio—offered the most engaging WrestleMania moment of 1993. Doink still a curiosity, and Crush’s raw power making him a babyface on the rise, there were a lot of eyes on this match, and a lot of intrigue when a second Doink, played by Steve Keirn, got involved to help the original Doink win .

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It was a simpler time in wrestling, and having a wrestler produce a double of himself only enhanced an underlying sense that Doink was fundamentally different from the other heels around him. How far might this heel mastermind ago, after his machinations had carried him to a WrestleMania victory?

A Different Doink And A Face Turn

As it turned out, Doink the Clown peaked at WrestleMania 9. He’d have just one more noteworthy PPV performance, getting woven into the complicated feud between Jerry Lawler and Bret Hart at SummerSlam. Though the match was good, Doink quickly became an afterthought as Lawler attacked The Hitman to recenter the focus on their issue.

The bloom was off the rose for Doink, as not long after he made a face turn. This shift neutered one of the edgiest characters of the day. To make matters worse, WWE parted ways with Matt Borne around this time, leading to Ray Apollo taking on the character. While Apollo had talent, he didn’t own the character the way Borne had. Add on little person clown wrestler Dink, and the act became the farce fans now remember it as. A coda to Doink’s full-time run in WWE came a year and half after he’d stopped having matches on TV. At the front end of the Attitude Era, Stone Cold Steve Austin pummeled him while bloodthirsty fans chanted “kill the clown!”

Doink The Clown On Smaller Stages And Making WWE Cameos

For better or for worse, the fact that multiple wrestlers played Doink in WWE opened up additional space for Matt Borne and others to hold onto the character on the indies. Other wrestlers, with far more tenuous connections to the clown persona, took it on for other small-time appearances.

And WWE returned to Doink, too, usually as a gag with wrestlers including Eugene, The Brooklyn Brawler, and Chris Jericho either playing the part or disguising themselves as Doink for various shenanigans. Most recently, among the cameos and hidden details from Money in the Bank 2020’s was a Doink appearance at WWE headquarters.

Doink the Clown was distinctive enough to live on the lore of WWE history, despite largely being buried as a farcical mistake of a character. Digging deeper into the early work of the character, though, he might also be considered Matt Borne’s masterpiece—a deceptively original and complex villainous persona, realized at a high level by a veteran with a good grasp on wrestling psychology.

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