By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Pro wrestling legend Paul Orndorff died on Monday at age 71. Orndorff had been living in a medical facility while battling dementia. The news of his death was announced by his son Travis, who also included details regarding a donation page for funeral expenses that can be read below in his Instagram post.
Powell’s POV: Orndorff was a college football star as a running back for the University of Tampa, but he failed to pass physicals when he tried out for NFL teams. He ended up playing one season in the WFL before starting his pro wrestling career in 1976. Orndorff teamed with Roddy Piper and took the pinfall loss to Hulk Hogan and Mr. T at the first WrestleMania event. My favorite memory of Orndorff is his legendary heel turn on Hulk Hogan and the feud that followed. I saw one of their early house show matches at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minnesota and the heat that Orndorff generated was amazing. His career was never the same after a neck injury caused atrophy in his right arm, but he continued to wrestle and eventually went on to work behind the scenes as an agent in WCW. My condolences to Travis and the family, as well as Paul’s friends and many fans.
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Orndorff was the second biggest draw against Hogan, trailing only Andre. That speaks volumes about how over he was as a heel at that time.
That run in 86 drew 74,000+ in Toronto and the 84 run did great business as well. He was a great heel worker that didn’t need a run with the belt to cement his legacy.
My favorite memory of Orndorff was when he fired Bobby Heenan as his manager in his face turn after the matches against Hogan. He OWNED the words “You’re Fired” long before Vince McMahon or that guy that hosted the Apprentice.
RIP Mr. Wonderful