His son, Travis Orndorff, revealed the news in an Instagram post. Last month, he said his father had CTE and was declining in health.
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“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my father, Paul Parlette Orndorff Jr.,” Orndorff wrote. “He is better known as ‘Mr. #1derful’ Paul Orndorff. 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.”
Orndorff began wrestling in 1976 and was best known for his time on the World Wrestling Federation roster during its golden era in the 1980s. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper became his manager in January 1984, and named him “Mr. Wonderful” and helped him get into the main event of the first WrestleMania. Orndorff would go on to face opponents that included Hulk Hogan, Tito Santana, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, “The Tonga Kid” and “Mean” Mark Callous.
Many of his former competitors posted on social media to honor the late fighter. Hogan wrote, “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 U4Life.”
The Iron Shiek wrote, “PAUL ORNDORFF. MY BROTHER. YOU WERE THE TOUGHEST. WE TRAIN TOGETHER. WE RIDE TOGETHER. YOU WERE EXCELLENT BUBBA. I AM SO SAD I LOVE YOU FOREVER REST IN PEACE.”
Ric Flair, who faced off against Orndorff during the summer of 1982 wrote, “So Sorry To Hear Of The Passing Of Paul Orndorff aka Mr. Wonderful aka The Brandon Bull. Great Guy, Legit Tough! He Was Another Amazing Athlete That I Had The Pleasure Of Wrestling An Hour For The NWA Championship On Many Occasions! Rest In Peace!”
Professional wrestling booker Eric Bischoff wrote, “So sorry to hear this news. I always enjoyed working with Paul. He was a good friend to my son Garett and I and we shared some memorable times away from the wrestling business. Rest easy my friend.“
Adam “The Edge” Copeland, who trained with Orndorff and Hogan wrote, “Paul Orndorff was the first wrestler I hated & feared as a child. I was at the Big Event in Toronto. Changed my life. Years later the morning before WrestleMania 21, I trained with him and Hulk. I was a little kid again. One of my fondest memories. Thank you for all of them Paul.”
Orndorff left the WWF in 1988 with an untreated neck injury, yet continued to wrestle in the WCW and won the World Television Championship and the WCW World Tag Team Championship. He suffered another neck injury after delivering a piledriver at the 2000 Fall Brawl, which led to his final retirement. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 and appeared in a few WWE events after that, including WrestleMania XXX.
Before starting his wrestling career, Orndorff gained popularity as a running back at the University of Tampa, where he scored 21 career touchdowns and gained more than 2,000 all-purpose yards. After being picked in the 12th round of the 1973 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints, he failed to pass the physical. Orndorff played for the World Football League’s Jacksonville Sharks for one year before kickstarting his training as a professional wrestler.
His son has launched a GoFundMe page to assist with his father’s funeral expenses. Full details are available here.
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