Paul Orndorff, the WWE Hall of Famer who was part of the main event at the first WrestleMania, died on Monday, his son, Travis, announced on social media. He was 71 years old. Orndorff was dealing with a number of health issues over the years, including cancer and dementia.
"It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my father, Paul Parlette Orndorff Jr.," Travis wrote in an Instagram Post. "Most of you will remember him for his physique. Many will remember his intensity. But if I could only get you to understand and see his heart. He will always be Pop, Paw Paw, and Daddy at home. And as much as many of you hated him as a wrestler, he absolutely loved you for it. He was an amazing father that showed me more love than I ever deserved. I love you Daddy." A GoFundMe page has been launched to help the Orndorffs with Paul's final expenses.
"WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Paul Orndorff, known to fans as 'Mr. Wonderful,' passed away at the age of 71," WWE said in a statement. "Orndorff was a standout running back at the University of Tampa and joined Mid-Southern Wrestling after a brief stint in the World Football League. Early rivalries with Jerry Lawler, Ted Dibiase and Jake 'The Snake' Roberts gave way to NWA North American Heavyweight and National Heavyweight Championship reigns." WWE legends such as Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair sent their condolences to the Orndorff family when learning the news.
Orndorff joined in 1983 and worked with the late "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. In 1984, Orndorff started a feud with Hogan and would team up with Piper to take on Hogan and Mr. T and the very first WrestleMania in 1985. He would then join WCW in the early 1990s. He had his share of success, winning the Television Championship and the Tag Team Championship twice with Paul Roma.
Orndorff retired in 2000 and became a trainer at WCW's Power Plant. At the time, Orndorff would help train Mark Jindrak, Stacy Keibler and Goldberg. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 and the NWA Hall of Fame in 2009.
Just got slammed with the Paul Orndorff news,RIP my brother,love you and thank you for always making me fight for everything in our matches,heaven just got even more Wonderful,love U4LifeHH— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) July 12, 2021
In 2014, Orndorff appeared on Under the Mat Radio and talked about what got him into professional wrestling. “I was drafted by the New Orleans Saints, and quite frankly, I got worn out playing football," Orndorff said, "I got tired of it. With wrestling, there were so many variables that could go with it so many directions you could go. Every night it was different every night, it was a different town 7 nights a week and twice on Sunday."