Former pro wrestling superstar Paul Orndorff, best known to fans as “Mr. Wonderful,” died Monday at the age of 71, his family announced.
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:
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.
That lawsuit was dismissed, and the Supreme Court this year declined to hear an appeal.
His family has been raising money for his funeral expenses on GoFundMe.
Wrestling stars and fans alike paid tribute on social media: