In today’s journey back in time, Brian looks back at one of his favourite superstars growing up, Paul Orndorff, and one of the greatest managers ever, Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, and the fact that ‘Mr Wonderful’ fired him as his manager not once, but twice.
One of my all time favorite wrestlers growing up was none other than ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Paul Orndorff. In the 1980’s, he was both one of the top faces and heels of the World Wrestling Federation. While not as effective as a babyface considering Hulk Hogan dominated the top of the card for so many years, Orndorff made a truly great heel.
He was brash, cocky and could flat out work a solid match. His body seemed to be chiseled from granite and his gravely voice could cut a good promo too. Back in the 1980’s, when a wrestler worked as a heel, it was almost guarenteed he would have a sinister manager leading him to ringside. Only a few like Rowdy Roddy Piper were the exception to that rule…but even Piper had a ‘second’ in a bodyguard named Cowboy Bob Orton. Getting back to Mr. Wonderful, when he was a heel, the person managing his career was Bobby ‘the Brain’ Heenan.
Bobby Heenan and Paul Orndorff had a certain chemistry that just clicked every time they were together. While they were magic on screen, they were also poison to each other. Not off screen, but as a duo on TV, fans got to see their relationship splinter, not once, but twice with Orndorff firing his manager on two separate occasions.
The first time came a little after the inaugural Wrestlemania back in 1985. The match itself was a tag team affair that pitted Orndorff and Piper versus Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. The ending of the Wrestlemania main event saw Bob Orton accidentally knock out Orndorff to allow him to be pinned and lose the match. Afterwards, Piper and Orton left the unconscious Orndorff alone in the ring.
That spurned bad feelings between Orndorff and Piper which led to Orndorff doing a guest appearance on Piper’s Pit which led to the two fighting and eventually Orndorff getting double teamed by both Piper and Orton. In the same period of time, Orndorff and Bobby Heenan were guests on Tuesday Night Ttitans hosted by Vince McMahon. During that interview, McMahon grilled both Orndorff and Heenan about the Wrestlemania loss.
Heenan started going on and on about how he and Roddy Piper were “going over strategy” which seemed to catch Orndorff off guard. Paul Orndorff started asking his manager why wasn’t he included in the meetings and Heenan insisted he called his hotel room but nobody answered. Orndorff wasn’t buying that excuse and the conversation quickly started to head south. Paul Orndorff feeling left out and disrespected grabbed his manager and fired him on the spot!
Paul Orndorff would go on to a pretty successful face run…teaming with Hulk Hogan and fighting Roddy Piper and other members of the Heenan family.
His time as a babyface wouldn’t last all that long because in 1986, Orndorff would turn heel again and announce his new manager to be the man he once fired, Bobby Heenan. This time around, Orndorff was catapulted to the top heel spot and in my opinion, should have had at least a short run with the WWF title. Alas, that never came to be but it was a great top heel run nonetheless.
By the year 1987, Paul Orndorff was no longer the top heel in the company and was relegated to the middle of the card. Around this time, Bobby Heenan signed a new client named ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude. Heenan would go on and on bragging about Rude’s physique and it left the WWF announcers wondering, what does Mr. Wonderful think about Rick Rude?
During an interview segment with Craig DeGeorge, Bobby Heenan would finally lay to rest all the “jealousy rumors” between Orndorff and Rude. He brought out Orndorff and Heenan asked Orndorff to tell all the fans that there was no jealousy and everything was okay inside the Heenan Family. Heenan then went on to continue to brag about Rude’s body and an obviously ticked off Orndorff grabbed the microphone and started yelling at his manager.
As ridiculous as this angle was considering two dudes arguing over who had the better muscle tone to their body…(hey, it was still the 1980’s after all) It led Paul Orndorff to utter the words Heenan was all too familar with…You’re fired! This time however, Orndorff announced he hired a new manager and introduced Sir Oliver Humperdink leaving Heenan alone and embarrassed once again.
Paul Orndorff didn’t have a great run as a babyface this time out as he was clearly overshadowed by other younger babyfaces like Bam Bam Bigelow among others. Paul Orndorff would leave the WWF not long after.