Paul Orndorff, wrestler known as Mr. Wonderful, dies at 71

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Paul Orndorff, a tanned, muscular star during the boom era of professional wrestling in the 1980s and ’90s and known for his athleticism in the ring and his arrogant charisma in interviews, died Monday at his son Travis’ home in Fayetteville, Ga. 71.

His wife, Ronda, said the cause was dementia.

Mr Orndorff, nicknamed Mr. Wonderful, envisioned a brand of athlete supremacy. He’s been a gym rat since he was 13, has a chin as sharp as a mountain ridge, and even in the midst of battle he had a bowl-cut hair in his hair. At the signing boxes, “Mr. #1derful” behind them.

“Every time I look at the cameras” declaration“Another woman is leaving her husband for Mr. Wonderful.”

In 1985, he joined Mr. T, Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan at his main event. WrestleMania I, an event that started a permanent franchise for the World Wrestling Federation, known today as World Wrestling Entertainment. (Muhammad Ali officiated and Liberace rang the opening bell.)

During the era of Mr. Hogan’s superstardom, or “Hulkamania” as he is known, Mr. Orndorff often fought for or against Mr. Hogan, portraying himself as a rare figure to match the epic braggadocio associated with wrestling’s main attraction. Their was a steel cage fight specification as the “clash of super egos”.

At WrestleMania, an announcer compared Mr. Orndorff’s physique to “a Greek god” and he proved to be one of wrestling’s most talented acrobats. In a match with Mr. Piper in 1985, he found himself pinched with all of Mr. Piper’s weight on his chest. His muscles tensed, Mr Orndorff lifted himself almost upright, turned Mr. Piper on his back and, in one continuous motion, lowered him to the mat.

A heel who likes to provoke crowds, Mr Orndorff had to deal with fans who tried to topple his taxi, cut car tires and threw a whiskey bottle at him while he was in the ring, and he had 27 stitches. lip.

“People went to the cuckoo,” he recalled in a 2018 video interview with wrestling historian Matthew Merz. “But – you know – the more they did, the more money I made.”

Paul Parlette Orndorff Jr. He was born on October 29, 1949 in Brandon, Fla. He grew up with his father, who was a butcher, in a trailer that he estimated was 22 feet tall. His mother, Eileen (Speak) Orndorff, left the family when Paul was young.

As a child, he started going to a Tampa Bay gym run by a man named Harry Smith. Paul admired Mr. Smith’s arms, which were about 20 inches thick. “He was Mr. America,” she recalled in a 2018 interview. “When I saw him, I said, ‘I want to be like this.’”

He ran for the University of Tampa and graduated in 1972. He was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the 12th round of the 1973 NFL draft, but instead pursued a career in professional wrestling. In his youth he had already participated in street fights for money.

Mr. Orndorff won his first championship, the Memphis area’s Mid-South Heavyweight title, in 1977, according to the University of Tampa Hall of Fame, which he won in 1986. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. He’s in the same class as Mr. Hogan.

In Instagram posts before Mr Orndorff’s death, his son Travis expressed concerns about the brain damage he received from wrestling.

Three days before Mr. Orndorff died, Travis posted a picture of one of his father’s notebooks. Instagram with a phone number.

“If you can’t read, it says ‘boy, I guess’. I haven’t had this phone number since 2005,” Travis Orndorff wrote. “I hope the world starts to realize the brain damage and the consequences of this lifestyle.”

Mr Orndorff has been involved in several lawsuits brought against World Wrestling Entertainment by a group of former wrestlers. Former wrestlers have claimed to have suffered neurological damage, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, “as a result of the physical trauma they experienced while performing.”

Cases were dismissed after the statute of limitations had expired or because allegations were filed because they were “meaningless,” court documents show.

Mr Orndorff married Ronda Maxwell in 1968. In addition to himself and his son Travis, he is survived by another son, Paul III; a sister, Patricia Orndorff; a brother, Terry; eight grandchildren; and 13 grandchildren.

Despite his concerns about brain damage, Mr Orndorff expressed pride in his tough years of sport and violence in an interview in 2018. “I had a concussion, I broke my neck and all,” he said, “and I don’t regret any of that.”



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