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.
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.
Orndorff joined WWE in 1983 and was tabbed with the “Mr. Wonderful” nickname by his then-manager “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. With his awe-insipring in-ring style and umatched swagger, “Mr. Wonderful” turned his talent into a prototype for the modern-day Superstar. He made a memorable debut on January 23, 1984, with a win over Salvatore Bellomo at Madison Square Garden and launched right into the main event picture with matches against World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan. Mr. Wonderful achieved sports-entertainment immortality by competing alongside Piper to face Hogan and Mr. T in the main event of WrestleMania I.
In the early 1990s, Mr. Wonderful began competing for WCW. It was here that Orndorff captured his first major championship when he defeated Erik Watts in a tournament final on March 2, 1993, to become Television Champion. Orndorff’s championship reigns did not stop there, however, as he was also a two-time WCW Tag Team Champion with Paul Roma in 1994.
When Orndorff’s in-ring days came to an end, the former master of the piledriver became a trainer for WCW’s Power Plant. As a trainer, Orndorff molded a generation of promising stars, including Mark Jindrak, Stacy Keibler and Goldberg.
WWE extends its condolences to Orndorff’s family and friends.