The WWE has had to say goodbye to yet another one of its longtime greats, as wrestling legend Paul Orndorff, better known by fans as Mr. Wonderful, has died at the age of 71. As is the case with most superstars of his era, Orndorff was integral to the early success of the WWE and was around for many historic events within that organization and others.
News of Paul Orndorff's death was shared by his son Travis, who shared a brief statement about his father on Instagram. The message was short and touchingly sweet, and offered fans a bit of the story about who Orndorff was beyond the character fans watched on television and in arenas for so many years.
It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my father, Paul Parlette Orndorff Jr. . 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.
Travis Orndorff also shared a donation page for fans to help the family pay for funeral costs. Wrestlers who knew Paul Orndorff are also being encouraged to contact his son if they wished to speak at the upcoming funeral. Orndorff's cause of death was not revealed in the statement, though Wrestling News reported that Travis Orndorff shared a video (now deleted) in which he believed his father had dementia (a condition that has been known to plague older wrestlers as well as other professional athletes) as a side effect of CTE. It's worth noting that CTE cannot be officially diagnosed until a person's death.
Paul Orndorff was absolutely an icon back in the early days of the WWE and was one of the first the challenge Hulk Hogan for the world title at the start of the "Hulkamania" movement. The icons' feud would carry over to the very first WrestleMania in 1985, in which Orndorff and Rowdy Roddy Piper (who died in 2015) teamed up to take on Hogan and Mr. T. The success of the pay-per-view event really helped elevate the WWE as a brand and is still talked about today. Fittingly, Hogan reacted to the news of Orndorff's death on Twitter and shared a few words about his former colleague.
Paul Orndorff attempted to maintain a full-time wrestling career well into the mid-90s with WCW, but was forced to retire when he developed atrophy in the entire right side of his body. Though unable to wrestle consistently, Orndorff found work in WCW as both a road agent and trainer, and would occasionally get in the ring for matches in the years that followed.
Just to give an idea of how long Orndorff wrestled after his injury, one of his final matches took place in 2017 when he was 67 years old. His legacy was forever cemented within the WWE with his induction to the Hall of Fame in 2005. He will be missed by those he left behind, but at least he also left behind tons of classic matches for fans to revisit in his memory.
CinemaBlend would like to extend well wishes to the family and friends of Paul Orndorff and wish them well during this troubling time.