Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: The Natural Born Thrillers vs. Paul Orndorff

Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: The Natural Born Thrillers vs. Paul Orndorff – WCW, 2000

On the August 30, 2000 edition of Thunder, Tony Schiavone had a backstage interview with Paul Orndorff. Orndorff, although retiring from the ring, had continued working in WCW’s training program – which had just seen a new stable called the Natural Born Thrillers (Mike Sanders, Sean O’Haire, Chuck Palumbo, Mark Jindrak, Reno, Johnny the Bull, and Shawn Stasiak) emerge.

Orndorff explained some of the training regimen, which included doing 600 push-ups, and then cleaning up the facility. Schiavone then pointed out that the NBTs didn’t respect Orndorff. Orndorff pointed out that he’d made them into stars. He got madder as he talked about how ungrateful people could be.

While this was going on, the NBTs made their way out to the arena carrying signs that said (among other things), “Too bad your best match was against Vader,” “Orndorff equals JOB (Jealous Old Bastard),” and “Aren’t you dead yet?” They then turned the signs around so they formed the words “We rule.”

Later in the show, Stasiak called out anyone in the back for an arm wrestling challenge. Of course, this brought out Orndorff. After some stalling from Stasiak, the two locked up and the match began. Orndorff had Stasiak halfway down when he punched Stasiak in the face and turned the table over. He ducked a clothesline and gave Stasiak a piledriver before grabbing a chair. He blasted the other NBTs with the chair to close the segment.

The following week, the Thrillers paid a visit to the Power Plant. First they beat up some trainees, then headed into Orndorff’s office and gave him a beatdown as well.

That brought us to Fall Brawl, where the Thrillers were scheduled to take on the Filthy Animals and Big Vito in an elimination match. However, we soon discovered that the Animals and Vito had a mystery partner with them to even the odds a bit.

The partner was, of course, Orndorff.

Konnan was the first to be eliminated by Mark Jindrak. Next was Reno’s turn to put away the Disco Inferno. Reno followed that up by sending Vito to the back. Finally the Animals got some good news as Rey Misterio Jr. eliminated Reno. O’Haire turned things back around for the NBTs by taking out Juventud Guerrera, leaving Rey and Orndorff for the Animals.

Orndorff had had enough and hit the ring. He put down Johnny the Bull with a piledriver. After that, things got ugly. Orndorff tried to piledrive Mark Jindrak and collapsed. O’Haire quickly covered Orndorff for the pin to get him out of there. Trainers and referees started coming out to check on Orndorff while O’Haire, Rey, and Tygress fought to keep things moving. Finally Charles Robinson called for the bell in order to get Orndorff medical attention in the back. Orndorff received a standing ovation from the crowd as he was stretchered out.

That was the end of the feud, and was also Orndorff’s final match (as far as I can tell). The good news was that Orndorff was finally diagnosed as suffering a stinger from muscling Jindrak up and has made a full recovery.

This one felt rushed all along. First, we have the NBTs feuding with Orndorff on Thunder and doing Vince Russo’s bidding on Nitro. I suppose that the feud could have been built to a one-on-one match between Orndorff and Mike Sanders (the NBT leader) or Kevin Nash (the NBT coach). In the end, nothing was gained from the entire angle, other than WCW getting to bring out Orndorff again for a final match or two.

Where are they now?
Mike Sanders was sent to Les Thatcher’s Heartland Wrestling Association (at the time, a WWF development territory) after the WCW buyout. He soon became the booker of HWA and was beginning to impress WWF management. However, while backstage, there was apparently an incident where he disrespected Triple H, and his career began to slide. He wound up released from his WWE deal in 2002. He did a couple of tours with the World Wrestling All-Stars, and made his way to TNA in January of 2003. In August of that year he was released. Today Sanders still does the occasional independent show, but his main job now is as a stand-up comedian in Florida.

Mark Jindrak was brought into the WWF in 2001 as part of the WCW/ECW Alliance, but found himself in HWA in August of that year. He made his way up to OVW and returned to WWE television in 2003, where he formed a tag team with Lance Cade. In the 2004 Draft Lottery Jindrak was switched to Smackdown, where he took on a narcissistic gimmick and began referring to himself as the Reflection of Perfection. In June of 2005 he was sent back to Raw and released less than a week later. Since, Jindrak has teamed with Matt Morgan in Japan’s HUSTLE promotion as Sodom and Gomora and has also done a solo tour with New Japan. Today Jindrak competes mainly in Mexico’s CMLL promotion as Marco Corleone.

Chuck Palumbo was also brought in to the WWF as part of the Alliance. After the Alliance’s defeat at the 2001 Survivor Series, Palumbo became part of an infamous tag team with Billy Gunn and manager Rico. In September of 2002, Palumbo got down on one knee in the ring and presented Billy with a ring, asking him to be his “partner for life.” Just before the vows were spoken, both Billy and Chuck began yelling at Rico, calling the ceremony a publicity stunt that had gone too far. The minister then unmasked to reveal Raw GM Eric Bischoff, who had brought Raw superstars Three Minute Warning along to disrupt the ceremony and embarrass Smackdown GM Stephanie McMahon. In February of 2003 Palumbo joined Nunzio and Johnny Stamboli in the Full Blooded Italians. The following March Palumbo was sent to Raw and was released in November. Palumbo began touring with All Japan, where he became a member of the Voodoo Murders faction. In 2005, news was leaked that the WWE was interested in bringing Palumbo back. Today he is back with the WWE and appearing in Smackdown dark matches, although he has not yet appeared on any WWE programming.

Reno was sent to HWA after the WWF buyout. He wound up released in 2002. Reno competed on some World Wrestling All-Stars shows before he retired from wrestling later that year.

Shawn Stasiak also found himself as part of the Alliance. In November, he suffered a knee injury that would see him being sent to HWA in early 2002. In late March he returned to Raw and soon became known as Planet Stasiak. He was released in September of that year. Stasiak still makes occasional indy appearances, although he has since returned to school and become a chiropractor. In August of 2006 he earned his doctorate.

Sean O’Haire debuted as part of the Alliance in mid-2001 as he and Chuck Palumbo continued their WCW tag team. By September of that year, he had been sent to OVW. O’Haire returned to Smackdown in January of 2003, and was given Roddy Piper as a manager a few months later. In June of that year Piper was released and O’Haire found himself floundering. In late 2003 he was in a motorcycle accident and sent back to OVW. He was released in April of 2004. Since then, O’Haire has begun an unsuccessful MMA career and in October of 2006 began expressing interest in returning to pro wrestling.

Johnny the Bull found himself in HWA after the buyout. In June of 2002 he joined Nunzio and Chuck Palumbo in the FBI. In November of 2002 he was released by the WWE and headed to All Japan where he also joined Chuck Palumbo in the Voodoo Murders faction. He has also competed in CMLL as Stamboli.

Paul Orndorff remained as a trainer in the WCW Power Plant until the WWF buyout. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005.