"Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff Passes Away

The master of the piledriver was 71 years old

Paul Orndorff, known to generations of fans as the villainous and tenacious "Mr. Wonderful", passed away Monday from presently undisclosed causes at age 71. News of Orndorff's passing was first made by his son, Travis.

Known for his well-sculpted physique and his long-time finishing move, the piledriver, Orndorff was the ideal bad guy - cocky and self-important, but with a hardened mean streak that matched up well with opponents of the highest regard.

A former football standout at the University of Tampa, Orndorff entered into professional wrestling in 1976, initially working for Mid South Wrestling.

For the first seven years of his career, Orndorff made his mark throughout numerous southeastern NWA territories, including in Alabama, Georgia, and the aforementioned Mid-South, where he reigned five times as North American champion. He also unsuccessfully challenged Ric Flair for the NWA World title.

Orndorff also held various territorial Tag Team titles with the likes of Brian Blair, Ted Dibiase, Jimmy Snuka, Dick Slater, and others.

In 1983, Orndorff joined up with the World Wrestling Federation, and aligned himself with fellow heel Rowdy Roddy Piper. In March of 1985, Orndorff worked the main event of the first ever WrestleMania, teaming with Piper in a loss to Hulk Hogan and Mr. T inside Madison Square Garden.

Orndorff then embarked on a face turn, after Piper and Cowboy Bob Orton blamed him for the loss. His feud with the two ran throughout 1985, while he aligned himself with former rival Hogan.

In one of the most famed heel turns in promotional history, Orndorff eventually double-crossed Hogan, aligning himself with manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. During the rivalry, Orndorff would mockingly make his entrances to Hogan's "Real American" theme song.

Hogan and Orndorff's subsequent WWF title bouts throughout the touring circuit did monumental business. Noted matches include their clash at The Big Event before over 70,000 fans in Toronto, and a steel cage match on Saturday Night's Main Event.

After another face turn in 1987, Orndorff feuded with Heenan's various clients before departing from the the company, and the business in 1988, owed to long-untreated neck and arm injuries. By 1990, he returned to wrestling, turning up in WCW as a babyface for a brief run.

Over the next few years, Orndorff worked for Herb Abrams' UWF and Jim Cornette's SMW before returning to WCW at the end of 1992. Now in his early forties, the still-impressively muscular Orndorff had classic battles with the likes of Cactus Jack and Ricky Steamboat. For over five months in 1993, Orndorff reigned as WCW Television champion.

Orndorff went on to reign twice as Tag Team champion with Paul Roma, under the team name Pretty Wonderful. By the end of 1995, Orndorff was forced back into retirement, due to years worth of injuries (and the atrophying of the right side of his body). He subsequently began working as an agent and trainer for WCW.

Orndorff did manage to wrestle a few more matches, including participation in a multi-person elimination match at Fall Brawl 2000. His final match was a six-man tag in Brandon, MB in May of 2017.

Orndorff was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, and the Tragos/Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2017.

Cultaholic extends its condolences to Mr. Orndorff's family and friends.

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Justin Henry

Written by Justin Henry

In addition to writing lists and commentaries for Cultaholic, Justin is also a features writer and interviewer for Fighting Spirit Magazine, and is co-author of the WWE-related book Titan Screwed: Lost Smiles, Stunners, and Screwjobs.