83. PAUL ORNDORFF
Aliases – Mr Wonderful
Debuted – 1976
Titles Held – WCW World Tag Team; WCW Television;
NWA National Heavyweight
Other Accomplishments – inducted into WWE Hall of Fame in 2005; inducted into University of Tampa Football Hall of Fame in 1986; Pro Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year Award 1985 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ with Roddy Piper vs, Mr. T and Hulk Hogan; PWI Feud of the Year 1986 vs. Hulk Hogan; PWI Most Hated Wrestler 1986
Like many of the other athletes on our vaunted list, the man who would be called Mr. Wonderful got his start on the grid iron. Also like many of the wrestlers on this list college success was met with apathy by professional scouts. While Orndorff was not able to catch on as a running back after success at the University of Tampa, he turned to legendary wrestling trainer Hiro Matsuda, who also trained Hulk Hogan and many other top wrestlers out of Florida, to teach him the noble art of professional wrestling.
Early in his career he was a top star in many of the NWA member federations winning titles in Georgia, the Mid-Atlantic, Tri-state, and Mid-America regions. He even was tapped to pursue Ric Flair for the NWA world championship. He was unable to win and soon headed “up NorthÃ¢â‚¬Â where he would achieve his greatest notoriety.
Upon his arrival to the WWF he aligned himself with “RowdyÃ¢â‚¬Â Roddy Piper and Bob “AceÃ¢â‚¬Â Orton. These three soon became the top heels in the company feuding with the likes of the Junkyard Dog and Jimmy Snuka. Orndorff competed at the infamous “War to Settle the ScoreÃ¢â‚¬Â defeated Tony Atlas before interfering on behalf of Roddy Piper against Hulk Hogan to set up the main event for the first ever Wrestlemania.
Orndorff took the fall in the first Wrestlemania main event, and was subsequently left behind by his former allies Orton and Piper. Over the next few months he became the unlikely ally of Hulk Hogan against Piper and Orton. This alliance was not to last though, as Orndorff soon became resentful of Hogan’s popularity insisting he was the better wrestler and in better shape. Mr. Wonderful turned on the beloved Hulkster and the result was the feud of the year for 1986. Their hatred culminated in one of the best cage matches ever after both simultaneously escaping the cage the match was restarted and Paul succumbed to the Hulkamania machine. Orndorff spent a few more years in the WWF before heading south for a “cup of coffeeÃ¢â‚¬Â in the NWA.
He disappeared from the wrestling scene for a few years before resurfacing in Smokey Mountain Wrestling. It would not be long before the big time would call again. This time it was in the form of WCW and in short order he won a tournament for the vacant WCW Television title. After a short run with that belt he teamed with “PrettyÃ¢â‚¬Â Paul Roma as “Pretty Wonderful.Ã¢â‚¬Â Say what you will about Roma, but the tandem did win two WCW tag team titles.
Injuries eventually sidelined Orndorff’s in-ring career, the worst of which was a stinger that led to an atrophied right side of his body. This is where Orndorff’s toughness and character truly shined through. He has stated in interviews that despite the atrophied look of his right side in many ways his right arm was much stronger. He worked very hard to make sure that this setback would not set him back at all.
Orndorff capped off his stellar career with induction into the 2005 WWE Hall of Fame. He shared this honor with Hulk Hogan, Bob Orton, and Roddy Piper with whom he shared some of his biggest moments in his WWF career. Paul Orndorff will always be remembered for his devastating Pile Driver finishing maneuver and his all around toughness as a wrestler and a human being.
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.