, better known to fans
as "Mr. Wonderful," died on Monday at the age of 71, according to his family
His cause of death
was unknown at the time
, but he had recently been diagnosed with dementia
As the WWE
, then known as the WWF, rose to prominence in the 1980s
, Orndorff was primarily a "heel" or villain, and a large part of his act revolved around his own effusive praise of himself. He frequently performed with "Mr. #1derful" written across the back of his trunks.
He wrestled in the main event of the first WrestleMania in 1985, where he and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper competed in a tag-team match against Mr. T and Hulk Hogan, with Muhammad Ali serving as one of the referees.
He and Hogan frequently fought alongside and against one another, including a steel cage grudge match in 1986:
Travis Orndorff, his son, announced his father
's death on Instagram
“Most of you will remember him for his physique. Many will remember his intensity. But if only I could 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.”
In honor of his Hall of Fame
induction in 2005, WWE shared the following video:
Inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff brought a swagger and style to the WWE Universe that made his talent a prototype for the modern-day Superstar. pic.twitter.com/mFgPdEWZma — WWE (@WWE) July 12, 2021
Orndorff was diagnosed with dementia this year after struggling with memory loss for years, which his family blamed on brain injuries sustained during his wrestling career.
“I hope the world will start to notice the brain damage
and the consequences of this lifestyle
,” his son wrote on Instagram, adding, “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.”
Orndorff was one of several wrestlers who filed a lawsuit
against WWE in 2016 alleging that their work
for the company had caused them to suffer from long-term neurological problems.
In the suit, Orndorff stated that he had been experiencing headaches, dizziness, and memory loss.
The case was dismissed, and the Supreme Court
declined to hear an appeal this year.
His family has set up a GoFundMe
page to raise funds for his funeral expenses.
On social media
, wrestlers and fans alike paid tribute:
PAUL ORNDORFF. MY BROTHER. YOU WERE THE TOUGHEST. WE TRAINED AND RIDED TOGETHER. YOU WERE EXCELLENT BUBBA. I AM SO SAD I LOVE YOU FOREVER REST IN PEACE pic.twitter.com/RXovORjxVp — The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) July 12, 2021
I was saddened to learn of Paul Orndorff's death. As a fan, I enjoyed watching him. As a wrestler, I enjoyed working with him. He brought intensity and believability to every match and promo. Truly one of the all-time greats. #RIPPaulOrndorff pic.twitter.com/0YgngeUX2P pic.twitter.com/0YgngeUX2P
Damn. Orndorff. I went to a WCW house
show at the uic pavilion once, around 1995ish. He and Sherri were the best on that show with working the crowd. I think I have his autograph on a patriot mask somewhere. Rest in power, Mr. Wonderful. — player/coach (@CMPunk) July 12, 2021
#WrestleMania main eventer, @WWE Hall of Famer, and one of the industry's best bad guys, our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time. https://t.co/7UKP1s2yiI
— Triple H (@TripleH) July 12, 2021
I was just 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
Paul Orndorff was the first wrestler I despised and feared as a child
. I was at the Big Event in Toronto
. Changed my life. Years later, the morning before WrestleMania 21, I trained with him and Hulk. I was a little kid again. One of my fondest memories. Thank you for all of them Paul. pic.twitter.com/h7crlyHme6 — Adam (Edge) Copeland (@
My heart and prayers go out to the family of Mr. Wonderful, Paul Orndorff. Great wrestler and many great memories. Rest in Peace my friend. pic.twitter.com/wmmAxtNpA5 — Ted DiBiase (@MDMTedDiBiase) July 12, 2021
Paul Orndorff, one of wrestling's all-time greats, has died. RIP, Mr. Wonderful. — Kane (@KaneWWE) July 12, 2021
Paul Orndorff was a true man's man. A stud. Our condolences to his family and friends
— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) July 12, 2021
So Sorry To Hear Of The Death Of Paul Orndorff, aka Mr. Wonderful, aka The Brandon Bull. Great Guy, Legit Tough! He Was Another Amazing Athlete That I Had The Pleasure Of Wrestling An Hour For The NWA Championship On Many Occasions! Rest In Peace! pic.twitter.com/5dFDmqZh2N — Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) July 12, 2021