His cause of death was not immediately known, but he had recently been diagnosed with dementia.
Orndorff was largely a “heel” or villain, and part of his act revolved around his own effusive praise of himself. He often performed with “Mr. #1derful” written across the rear of his trunks as the WWE ― then called the WWF ― shot to popularity in the 1980s.
He performed in the main event of the first WrestleMania in 1985, where he and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper fought Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in a tag-team match, with Muhammad Ali acting as one of the referees.
He and Hogan often fought both with and against each other, including a 1986 steel cage grudge match:
His son, Travis Orndorff, announced the death in an Instagram post, writing in part:
“Most of you will remember him for his physique. Many will remember his intensity. But if I could only 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.”
WWE shared the video from his 2005 Hall of Fame induction in tribute:
"Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff, inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005, brought a swagger and style to the WWE Universe that turned his talent into a prototype for the modern-day Superstar. pic.twitter.com/mFgPdEWZma
— WWE (@WWE) July 12, 2021
Orndorff was diagnosed with dementia this year after years of struggling with memory loss, which his family has blamed on brain injuries suffered during his wrestling career.
“I hope the world will start to take notice of the brain damage and the consequences of this lifestyle,” his son wrote on Instagram. “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 among a number of wrestlers who took part in a 2016 lawsuit against WWE over long-term neurological problems they said were a result of their work for the company.
Orndorff said in the suit that he had been suffering from headaches, dizziness and memory loss.
His family has been raising money for his funeral expenses on GoFundMe.
Wrestling stars and fans alike paid tribute on social media:
PAUL ORNDORFF. MY BROTHER. YOU WERE THE TOUGHEST. WE TRAIN TOGETHER. WE RIDE 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’m so sorry to learn of the passing of Paul Orndorff. As a fan, I loved watching him. As a wrestler, I loved 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
— Mick Foley (@RealMickFoley) July 12, 2021
Damn. Orndorff. I went to a wcw house show at the uic pavilion once. Maybe 95ish. Him and Sherri were the best on that show with working the crowd. Think I have his autograph on a patriot mask somewhere. Rest in power Mr. Wonderful.
— player/coach (@CMPunk) July 12, 2021
— Triple H (@TripleH) July 12, 2021
Just got 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 hated & 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 (@EdgeRatedR) July 12, 2021
My heart and my prayers go out to the family of my friend and colleague, 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 the all-time greats, has passed away. RIP, Mr. Wonderful.
— Kane (@KaneWWE) July 12, 2021
Paul Orndorff was a true, man’s man. A stud. Condolences to Paul’s family and friends. 🙏🤠 https://t.co/e1wDZVGEcO
— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) July 12, 2021
So Sorry To Hear Of The Passing 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