Mick Foley posts blog on the death of Matt Borne
RIP MATT BORNE
The wrestling world lost a bigger star, a finer worker, and a larger influence than many would realize with the passing of Matt Borne. Though best known for his stint as the original Doink the Clown in WWE, Matt’s left a trail of hard work and tough, believable matches wherever he went – from Portland to Mid-South Dallas, to WCW, ECW and 100’s of independent cards in a career that began 35 years ago.
I remember seeing the a photo of “Maniac” Matt Borne the first day I walked into the Dallas Sportatorium – on a wall with all of the greats who had graced the ring in the historic arena. A few months later, Matt was back in World Class, scheduled to team up with one of the top good-guys in the territory – maybe Jeff Jarrett, maybe Eric Embry…I really don’t remember, in a match against me and Gary Young What I do remember is Gary telling me that matches with Matt weren’t likely to be easy. “He has an unusual style of selling”, Young told me. “He makes you work for everything you get.” Veteran World Class referee Bronco Lubich stopped by to give some friendly and very sound advice. “When you get on Matt, stay on Matt. Otherwise, he’ll eat you up. He’ll sell for you, but only if he thinks you’ve earned it.” The Bronc was only looking out for my best interests. He’d seen me grow in my short time in World Class, and thought I had the potential to be very good, but until that point, the babyfaces I’d been regularly matched up against were like the stuff dreams were made of for a young heel. Guys like Jeff Jarrett and Chris Adams were great baby-faces, and sold my mediocre offense like I was the beddest man on the planet. Eric Embry, despite being an unlikely good-guy had the ability to make every encounter we had seem like a near-death experience that he barely survivied.
But wrestling Matt Borne that first day at The Sportatorium was like riding a bucking bronco. True, to Gary Young’s words, he made me work for everything I got. I heeded Lubich’s warning and stayed on him – probably with more intensity than I’d ever stayed on anyone before. He’d sell momentarily, and then come firing back, forcing a young wrestler like me, for whom in-ring aggression was never a strength, to dig deeper, work harder and become meaner than I’d ever needed to be. But when Matt Borne finally did sell for me, I absolutely, positively knew that I’d earned it. More importantly, I had a seed planted that day – a seed that would grow into the vision I had for myself of what I wanted to be when I one day would have that inevitable babyface turn.
While there were other, more acknowledged influences in my career – Jimmy Snuka, Bruiser Brody, Terry Funk, even Dynamite Kid – when it came to being the guy who wouldn’t stay down, the guy who made Attitude-era bad-guys work a little harder for what they got, and who did his best to make matches believable, Matt Borne was as big an influence as anyone.
Years later, on a WWE Legend’s round-table, I had a healthy argument with a couple of my colleagues, who felt that Doink the Clown was among the worst gimmicks of all time. I loved the gimmick – done Borne style. With no disrespect to the other men who wore the greasepaint, Borne’s Doink was the only scary Doink – the only version of the character that transcended what was, on paper, a one-dimensional character. I’d watch Matt at work and think back to the lessons I learned during our time together. “A heel doesn’t do bad things because he has to”, Matt once told me. “He does them because he wants to.” A rake of the eyes, for example, always a move of desperation, became a move done for the sheer enjoyment of it.
I saw Matt infrequently over the past few years, In some ways, he was a different person; an older, wiser Matt who seemed to have taken responsibility and gained control over the demons that had derailed what could have been an amazing world. But in that ring, he was the same old Matt. A little slower, a little heavier, but still forcing his opponents to earn everything they got in that ring. Well past the point where even the best wrestlers settle into a routine during their time on the independent scene, Matt Borne was still putting performance first, bringing out the best in the workers he faced in each town – still hitting hard, still coming off the top-rope, still making the suspension of belief during his matches fairly easy for the fans.
Rest in peace Matt Osbourne. You made men like me better for having known you.