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Doink the Clown

WWE Elite Collection
by yo go re

Ah, the '90s - when professional wrestling paid so poorly that everybody needed a day job!

Sometime between Series 30 and Series 34, Mattel dropped the character-specific bios from the back of the figures' packaging, because writing something clever and interesting is harder than just parroting facts.

Doink first appeared in the WWF in 1992, with no buildup. For several weeks he was simply seen in the crowd with no explanation or followup - eventually he was hanging around ringside and teasing and harassing the wrestlers. When one finally confronted him, Doink begged for mercy... then pulled off the fake arm he was wearing and attacked him from behind. He was a sinister prankster, and the only one laughing at the end of one of his gags was him. And while they treated the character that way, he was golden - when he was turned face (that's wrestling parlance for "made into a good guy"), the magic was lost.

Surprisingly, it was Hawk who came up with the idea for a wrestling clown (though there was a healthy dose of It added before the upper management was through). But the man who brought it to life was Matt Osborne, a second-generation wrestler who'd worked in lots of regional promotions and was friends with Rowdy Roddy Piper. He based Doink's mannerisms on a contemporary of his father's, "Moondog" Lonnie Mayne. This figure is sculpted with the mouth open in a boisterous laugh, and you can clearly see the line where his mask ends and his painted face begins.

Osborne didn't have the superhuman physique Vince McMahon has always loved, so the fully painted singlet did a great job of hiding his body. He'd come down to the ring wearing a colorful coat over top, but that didn't make it onto the toy. Most of the body looks like it could be plain skin - there are only wrinkles on the trunks and shins, and the rest is smooth. He even has a visible navel! His hands and chest are the only bare skin he's showing, then there's white for the forearms and shins, blue with yellow stars on the thighs and upper arms, a bright red center, and a yellow "shirt" with a green polka-dotted necktie and a blue outline for the collar. There are two pockets on his backside, with blue dots to match the tie.

Unhappy with the change from heel to face, Osborne soon left the company. But since all that facepaint meant no one was likely to recognize him anyway, the WWF was able to pass the gimmick on to another wrestler on a permanent basis - but there had always been multiple Doinks, and not only when it was time for a second to appear from under the ring to cause some confusion during a match. Since WWF was running numerous house shows (ie, local, non-televised events) at once back then, they'd often have different Doinks in different cities. And then the Doink who made appearances and signed autographs was a different guy, too! The magic of heavy makeup.

Actually, that makeup led to another famous element of Doink's character: his speed. Since facepaint wears off quickly in the ring - thanks to the constant sweating and rubbing [giggity! --ed.] - most of Doink's matches were squashes, lest he be bare-faced by the end of the match. You'd expect that from a gimmick character, right? Thing was, Matt Osborne was a very good wrestler, and wasn't afraid to show it when given a chance - so WWF had to walk a fine line between having Doink run all over people, and allowing one of the best workers room to perform.

You can show off that proficiency thanks to Doink's plentiful articulation: like most of the Mattel WWE figures we bother to review, he has a balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel/hinged wrists, hinged torso, swivel waist, balljointed hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel boots, and ankles that pretty much refuse to move even slightly, despite having visible hinges. It's enough articulation to perform his "Whoopee Cushion" finisher (a seated senton off the top rope), but he can't quite achieve the finisher he used as a heel, a single-leg inverted Boston crab dubbed the "Stump Puller" - or more accurately, no other figure is flexible enough from him to do it to them.

Doink comes with a most unique set of accessories! Well,
there's a bucket, which isn't that unique, but it totally suits him - like the Harlem Globetrotters, the "bucket full of confetti instead of water" was a trademark Doink gag. The surprising pieces are three different wigs: one curly, one puffy, and one stringy. Not since Andre the Giant and his Franc-fro have we seen a feature like this! Doink had different hairdos over the years; picking just one of them might have left some fans disappointed, so Mattel opted to include a bunch. They connect to the figure via a peg in the back of the head, which holds them on very securely. Nobody would have ever minded (or noticed) if these hadn't been included.

Doink was a gimmick that shouldn't have worked, but did because of the man playing it. It coasted along for a little while after Matt Osborne's drug problems got the better of him and he had to leave the WWF, but it was never as good again (and honestly, neither was he - all his post-WWF gimmicks traded on Doink to one extent or another). Knockoffs are so plentiful that pretty much any indie promotion that comes through your hometown is likely to bill "The Famous TV Wrestling Clown" as part of its show. Osborne created a character that transcended him, to the point where the first story to break the news of his death in 2013 used a picture of his replacement in the costume. With this figure, you can decide for yourself which Doink it represents: the emotionless sight gag he eventually became, or the surprisingly effective villain everybody seemed to forget ever existed.

-- 02/10/16

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