Paul Orndorff, WWE Hall of Famer and one of the four men to main event the first ever WrestleMania, died Monday at the age of 71. The news was announced by his son, Travis Orndorff, in an Instagram post. The cause of death was not immediately given.
"It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my father, Paul Parlette Orndorff Jr." Travis Orndorff wrote. "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."
Orndorff was a college football star at the University of Tampa before being selected by the New Orleans Saints in the 1973 NFL draft. Orndorff did not pass his physical and never played in the NFL before beginning his wrestling career three years later.
After a run in several different territories, which included winning several secondary championships, including multiple runs with the NWA national heavyweight title, Orndorff signed with the WWF in 1983, where he was eventually managed by Roddy Piper and given the "Mr. Wonderful" nickname.
The association with Piper landed Orndorff in the main event of the first WrestleMania, with the pair teaming up against Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. Shortly after WrestleMania, Orndorff turned face and began working alongside Hogan for a period before eventually turning heel by attacking him.
The issues with Hogan led to a massive match at The Big Event in Toronto, drawing more than 75,000 fans, and a steel cage match on Saturday Night's Main Event that brought the massively successful Hogan vs. Orndorff feud to a close.
Just got slammed with the Paul Orndorff news,RIP my brother,love you and thank you for always making me fight for everything in our matches,heaven just got even more Wonderful,love U4LifeHH— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) July 12, 2021
Orndorff would eventually leave WWF for a few stints in WCW and various other promotions.
He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 and made a few appearances at WWE events after that, including at WrestleMania XXX.