WrestleMania star Paul Orndorff, a.k.a. Mr. Wonderful, dies at 71
WWE Hall of Famer Paul Orndorff, who was known as Mr. Wonderful, has died at the age of 71.
His son Travis Orndorff revealed the news in an Instagram post on Monday, though he did not disclose a cause of death.
Hulk Hogan, who feuded with Orndorff in the ring in the '80s, shared a tribute to his former foe on Instagram, including a photo of the two.
"Just got slammed with the Paul Orndorff news, RIP my brother," Hogan wrote. "love you and thank you for always making me fight for everything in our matches, heaven just got even more Wonderful, love U4Life."
Orndorff was a college football star at the University of Tampa before being drafted by the New Orleans Saints in 1973. But he didn't pass his physical and never played in the league, and instead began his wrestling career three years later. Orndorff signed with the World Wrestling Federation in 1983 and was given the "Mr. Wonderful" nickname.
He appeared in the main event of the first WrestleMania in 1985, with WWF World Heavyweight Champion Hogan and Mr. T facing off against Orndorff and his manager Roddy Piper.
Mr. Wonderful left the WWF for the WCW in 1988, where he went on to win the World Television Championship and the WCW World Tag Team Championship.
He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 and the National Wrestling Alliance Hall of Fame in 2009. After retiring, he trained other wrestlers. In 2014, he made an appearance at WrestleMania XXX.
Orndorff's son Travis mourned his father's death on social media Monday, writing that while others knew his father for his "physique" and "intensity," he wished they could "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," Orndorff added. "He was an amazing father that showed me more love than I ever deserved. I love you Daddy."
"He was so much more than a wrestler," he captioned more photos of his father.
Days before his father's death, Travis posted a message on Instagram about Orndorff's confusion with his memory, writing that he hoped people realize "the brain damage and the consequences of this lifestyle. I do not blame the WWE or Vince McMahon as you might think. No one knew this would happen. But we can do something now."
In 2016, the wrestling legend was part of a class-action lawsuit against WWE alleging that wrestlers suffered "long term neurological injuries" and that the company "routinely failed to care" for them and "fraudulently misrepresented and concealed" the nature of injuries. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2018, with the judge ruling that some of the claims listed were frivolous and other claims were filed after the statute of limitations expired.
Travis's wife Amayou Smith has set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for funeral expenses.
Read more tributes to late wrestler below: