He was a standout on the football field at Brandon High School and went on to headline the World Wrestling Federation’s very first WrestleMania. “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff has died at the age of 71, according to the Tampa Bay Times. His son shared the sad news on Instagram.
Orndorff played for the Brandon High Eagles in the late 1960s. He attended the University of Tampa and went on to get drafted by the New Orleans Saints. When his football career didn’t pan out for medical reasons, Orndorff trained to become a pro wrestler. By the mid 1980s, he was at the top of his game, headlining arenas around the world for the WWF.
When Vince McMahon Jr. wanted to create a Super Bowl for pro wrestling, Orndorff, Hulk Hogan, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Mr. T appeared in the main event at the very first WrestleMania in Madison Square Garden. After a run in Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling in the 1990s, injuries led to Orndorff’s retirement in 2000. He would later be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame five years later. [Source: TBT]
Some of my WWF parking lot encounters from the ’80s…
Paul was one of my favorites when I watched the WWF as a kid in the 80s. I got to see him live many times. A few years ago, I found these photos from my Kodak Disc (remember those?) from the parking lot behind the Cumberland County Civic Center World Wrestling Federation events in Portland, Maine where I grew up.