WWE Forgotten Legends 3: Mr. Wonderful Paul Orndorff

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2010

Mr. Wonderful, that's a name you don't get unless you are damn good at what you do, and Paul Orndorff was a damn good wrestler.

Orndorff was born on October 29, 1949. He was a collegiate athlete, who excelled in football at the University of Tampa, where he was a clear standout to join the NFL. 

He was drafted to the New Orleans Saints, but unfortunately he failed the physical.

This should be interesting to some, considering Orndorff was known throughout his career for his physique and athleticism.

After playing in the short-lived World Football League for a season, Orndoff began training to be a professional wrestler, as so many ex-football stars tend to do.

Orndorff joined Mid-Southern Wrestling (MSW) in Memphis, Tenn., and was thrown into a high-profile feud very early in his career against a young Jerry Lawler. Lawler was the MSW heavyweight champion at the time, and Orndorff pinned Lawler to claim the title.

Being Ornforff's first title win, it was a big deal that it was over Lawler, since at the time "The King" Lawler pretty much ruled Memphis.

After leaving Memphis for other territories, Orndorff became more of a tag team specialist, gaining titles with partners like Jimmy Snuka, Dick Slater, and Norvell Austin.

Orndorff would soon find himself in the hunt for the National Wrestling Alliance's (NWA) North American title. The Grappler held the title, and when Orndoff was set to face him, he kayfabed that he'd overslept, causing management to find a replacement in Jake The Snake Roberts.

Roberts won the title, and this infuriated Orndorff to the point where he demanded a title match against Roberts. Since they were both baby-faces at the time, it was Orndorff who took the heel turn.

Orndorff eventually won the title, and went on to feud with some of the most legendary wrestlers in history, grappling with the likes of Ted Dibiase, Dusty Rhodes, The Junkyard Dog, and Dick Murdoch.

After years in the territory wrestling scene and numerous championships, Orndorff made his way to the then WWF promotion.

He debuted with Rowdy Roddy Piper as his manager, who is credited with nicknaming Orndorff, "Mr. Wonderful." The name has stuck ever since.

Mr. Wonderful was pushed to the top right away, and was given a shot at Hulk Hogan's WWF title. He was unsuccessful in gaining the title, but he would still have more issues with Hogan.

After he "attacked" Cyndi Lauper, Orndorff and Piper became favorite targets of Mr. T and Hogan. This feud culminated in a match at the very first WrestleMania.

After losing the match, Orndorff was attacked during Saturday Night's Main Event by Piper and Bob Orton. Later in the night, Orndorff made a save for Hogan against his two attackers, officially making Orndoff a baby-face.

He soon teamed-up with his one-time nemesis Hogan to face Piper and Orton.

Over the next couple of years, Orndorff would continue his feud with Piper and Orton, teaming with a variety of opponents. It was not until Adrian Adonis came along did Orndorff turn heel again.

Adonis mocked Orndorff's relationship with Hogan, calling him Hulk Jr. Orndorff faced Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy with Hogan in their last match as a team. Hogan got double-teamed after accidentally knocking Orndorff to the mat below.

Orndoff made the save, but after raising Hogan's hand, he gave him a piledriver, officially making him a heel once again. 

Hogan and Orndorff fought many times again, but without a decisive outcome. It was then decided that the two would face off in what would become a legendary steel-cage match.

So they faced off on SNME in the cage. The two men traded offensive blows frequently during the match. During the match, both men climbed over the top of the cage and landed on the floor at the same time.

After reviewing the footage, the match was restarted after it was deemed to be too close to call. Hogan would go on to win the match, thus ending their six-month feud.

Hogan and Orndoff's feud is said to be one of the most profitable in wrestling history, drawing fans from all over the country to see the two titans face off.

After suffering a near career ending arm injury, Orndorff took a break from the ring.  During his time off, many newspapers had somehow gotten the idea that Orndorff had died, and printed articles about his death. They were clearly wrong, as he returned to WCW in 1990.

At first, Orndorff was teamed with Sting, Luger, and the Steiners in a team known as "Dudes with Attitude."  They feuded with the Horsemen for a short time, until the team was disbanded.

Orndorff set his sights on the TV title, and gained the belt after winning a 16-man tournament. Orndorff defended the title against many different competitors, from Cactus Jack, to Ron Simmons, to Dustin Rhodes.

He would eventually lose the title to Ricky the Dragon Steamboat in 1993. Soon after, he began teaming with Pretty Paul Roma to form a team known as "Pretty Wonderful." The team was quite heelish in their ways, and played-up their superior physiques.

The duo won the tag team titles from Kevin Sullivan and Cactus Jack, after injuring both men separately before the match.

Orndorff and Roma went on to feud with The Nasty Boys, and later traded titles with Stars and Stripes. S and S consisted of Marcus Bagwell and The Patriot. The two teams handed the titles off several times, before Stars and Stripes won the final match by winning after a controversial double pin.

After the team broke up Orndorff would pursue the TV title again. He was unsuccessful in gaining the title from The Renegade, and began to hate himself for losing match.

He was visited backstage by a kayfabe psychologist, who convinced him he was still Mr. Wonderful. This advice made Orndorff ever cockier than before, and he began carrying a mirror to the ring so he could watch himself as he made his entrance.

Eventually Orndorff's previous nerve damage had begun to affect his in ring work, and he was forced to retire after his right side began to atrophy. He was given a retirement angle of being injured, after a spike piledriver by Flair and Arn Anderson on the floor.

After his retirement from full-time wrestling Orndorff became and agent and trainer for WCW, and over the years would make occasional appearances if needed.

It was announced that he would join the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, and he was inducted by his one time manager and real life friend, Bobby the Brain Heenan.

Orndorff lives in Fayetteville, Ga., with his long-time wife and high school sweetheart.

Mr. Wonderful left a legacy in the wrestling world that will not soon be forgotten.

His legendary feud with Hogan is considered by many to be the best feud of 1980s professional wrestling.

I have so many memories of Orndorff that bring back feelings of good times, and great wrestling.

Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment.


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