Overlooked Wrestling Superstar Paul Orndorff Gone At 71

Mr. Wonderful may be gone. His accomplishments will not be forgotten. Rest in peace. 

Even people who were not big wrestling fans in the 1980s can probably name a number of popular wrestlers from that era. Hulk Hogan usually tops the list. Guys like “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Andre The Giant. Rowdy Roddy Piper. Ultimate Warrior. Jake “The Snake” Roberts. George “The Animal” Steele. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. I could go on for quite some time. One name that seems to slip through the cracks too often is Paul Orndorff. Monday he passed away at 71 years old. It is safe to say that “Mr. Wonderful” had an extremely underrated WWF run. Although Orndorff’s wrestling career was much more than just his time in WWF, Paul was absolutely one of the company’s top stars between his arrival in late 1983 and his final WWF rivalry in 1987 (against Ravishing Rick Rude). Records indicate that Orndorff battled Rude one final time in early 1988 before departing the company. 

There were so many epic moments featuring Orndorff. Let’s start with 1984. Hogan won the title in January at Madison Square Garden. That ushered in what many people consider to be the golden age of wrestling. Hulk’s first challenger at MSG a month later? You guessed it. None other than Orndorff. He challenged Tito Santana for the Intercontinental Title in March. Basically whoever held that belt was considered second in the company. April held a special place in my heart. Orndorff was part of a card held approximately one block from my house at a high school gym. In fact, he participated in the main event and was on the winning team. There were more clashes with Hogan and Santana throughout 1984, and Tito squared off against Orndorff at MSG again in May. Orndorff prevailed. Since Santana was counted out, the title did not change hands. He also claimed wins against Hogan, but with Hulk getting counted out or disqualified. 

By 1985, Orndorff had really taken off. Perhaps people forget that he competed in the main event at WrestleMania. Back when it didn’t have a number, as Roddy Piper once said. The original. Eventually he would become a good guy. Fans were cheering him. Orndorff became wildly popular. His action figure was one of the early ones made by LJN. Orndorff began taking on former manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. He also tangled with Piper, who was a former manager of Orndorff himself. They had also teamed up in the big WrestleMania main event. 

1986 was the peak of Orndorff’s WWF career. He was teamed up with Hogan in a match against King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd. Following the bout, Orndorff turned on Hogan. He surprised him with a clothesline before delivering a piledriver that left the Hulkster in a heap. This generated incredible heat, and resulted in an epic feud. Orndorff even stole Hogan’s music and tried to claim it as his own. The two battled across North America, including an outdoor show at Toronto’s CNE Stadium. Approximately 70,000 fans gathered to see the event, which set a new World Wrestling Federation record at the time. With 1986 coming to a close, Orndorff and Hogan would collide in steel cage matches throughout the United States. Their cage match in Hartford was aired on NBC’s Saturday Night’s Main Event. Despite being taped in December, that air date was January 3, 1987. It actually aired hours after one of the worst playoff losses ever suffered by my New York Jets. This memorable clash was billed as the first steel cage match in network television history, and helped ease my pain.

A huge crowd saw Hogan battle Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III in March of 1987. About 90,000 fans were in attendance. Another record. Orndorff was suspiciously left off the card. There was talk of Orndorff being held out as a possible substitute because Andre’s health was a serious question mark. However, Paul had his own issues to deal with. He had injured his arm during a weightlifting accident. Instead of taking time off, Orndorff continued to wrestle Hogan in front of large crowds. Finally, he stepped away after the profitable program had concluded. Shortly after his return, Paul once again fired Bobby Heenan. He turned face, or good, once more. The first annual Survivor Series took place in November of 1987. Yet again, Orndorff found himself in the main event. He was part of Hulk’s team in the big showdown on Thanksgiving night. 

Another legend has left us. Maybe you hadn’t heard of him, or perhaps this terrific career was somehow lost among the greats. It truly is amazing that he was somehow overshadowed by the other giants of 1980s wrestling. He deserves his flowers. The guy stacked up with everybody. He had the look. A body of work. Put fannies in seats. Had memorable interviews. He did everything you could have possibly imagined. Mr. Wonderful may be gone. His accomplishments will not be forgotten. Rest in peace. 

Remembering the Late Wrestling Superstar ‘Kamala’

Another great has left us. The Ugandan Giant Kamala, whose real name was James Harris, died this weekend at age 70. Despite being from Mississippi, he had many fans convinced that he was just an uncivilized savage. A lot of people who got to know him had nice things to say. It seems that most considered him a gentle giant.

Kamala feuded with the biggest (literally and figuratively) stars in wrestling. His first WWF stint featured matches against Andre The Giant. In 1986, Kamala returned to the World Wrestling Federation. Again, a string of three bouts against a rival at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens culminated with a steel cage match. This time, the opponent was Hulk Hogan. These two wrestled twice at Madison Square Garden. Both cards were sold out. A match between Hogan and Kamala at Boston Garden also brought a sold-out crowd. There were even bouts between Kamala and King Kong Bundy. It was very odd for two major stars who were both bad guys to battle at that time, but this only added to the intrigue.

I can remember being on vacation in 1987 and watching wrestling from a store television as Paul Roma and Jim Powers were on the receiving end of top rope splashes from Kamala. My eyes were glued to the action. Kamala’s team was counted out, but it didn’t matter. The message was sent. This man needed to be feared. Hulk Hogan had a title defense on NBC against Sika less than two months later. It seemed like an odd and random match.

Years later, I found out that Sika was a substitute for Kamala. This would have been an awesome match with incredible hype. That was the night when Hulk Hogan became friends with Randy Savage after Elizabeth ran back for help. She was brutally shoved down by the Honky Tonk Man. Hogan came out and was triple-teamed before gaining the advantage. I remember a comment about how Hogan could possibly lose his title after he already had been worn down. You couldn’t really buy in. However, if Kamala was his opponent, you could believe!

In September of 1987, Kamala left the WWF over frustrations with his pay. He claimed that they would tell him none or only a small amount of his action figures sold. Between the crowds he drew with Hogan and his action figures, Kamala should have been well compensated. I wish he had stuck around longer for selfish reasons. His third WWF stint was much different. Kamala became a good guy, but lost most of his matches. The character became a joke. It made no sense. The character didn’t know how to roll over opponents and pin them. He had been doing it for years. Pretty ridiculous. Even for wrestling. There was one other major feud before his face turn. Kamala battled the Undertaker. Their match at Survivor Series was the first-ever televised casket match. They also met a few months earlier at Summerslam. Kamala claimed that he was paid $13,000 for that bout, while Undertaker’s pay was $500,000.

Although his wrestling run as a good guy was awful, there is one funny moment that lives on. Kamala learning to bowl is pretty funny.

There were numerous health battles in Kamala’s life. Each leg was amputated below the knee in recent years. Last week he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Four days later, he was gone. His death apparently took place in Brooklyn. I had no idea that he was there. If his health was better and we were in different times, it would have been very cool to see him. Definitely one of my favorite characters ever. Rest in peace, big man.


Remembering ‘The Fink’: WWE’s Howard Finkel Gone at 69

Many celebrities and athletes are called legends. The term is thrown around way too often. However, few people earned that title more than ring announcer Howard Finkel. We lost him today at age 69. The cause of death was not announced, but in 2018 Finkel was slowed by a serious stroke.

He was hired by the World Wide Wrestling Federation more than four decades ago. In fact, he became the company’s first employee. WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon confirmed this on twitter today. Kids growing up in the 1980s and 90s were fans of the WWF. It became WWE in 2002 following an agreement with the World Wildlife Fund.

Howard was much more than a ring announcer. He came up with the name for Wrestlemania, and was affectionately known as a walking encyclopedia for his terrific memory. WFAN’s Maggie Gray described him as the soundtrack of our childhood. She mentioned him voicing an introduction for Jimmy Traina’s podcast. He also recorded an introduction for Frank Isola that was played on WFAN. “The Fink” can be seen on youtube doing introductions for a wedding party. Other WFAN personalities have been talking about their interactions with Howard over the years. He was definitely a major part of so many lives.

I grew up watching Finkel on television, and also attended events at MSG when he was working. In the last 10-15 years I have spent countless hours watching wrestling from my youth. Howard is almost always there. He was a big Mets and Jets fan. Finding out that Howard enjoyed listening to WFAN was exciting for me. Obviously that was something I could relate to. Also, it made me think that Howard actually might know who I was!

The Jets were a playoff team in 2010. That season technically finished in early 2011. Their regular season concluded on January 2. I assumed they would be playing on NBC against Indianapolis the following Saturday, but wanted confirmation. Howard Finkel confirmed it. I tweeted to him asking how he knew that for sure, and he answered me. Howard followed media members who covered the Jets. He was locked in. I had not been on twitter for very long at the time.

NBC then announced that the Jets-Colts game would indeed be Saturday night on NBC a few minutes after that. Finding out for sure was good so I could tell my friend, but getting a tweet from Howard was definitely a thrill. He loved wrestling and sports. Howard was one of us, and we wanted to be him.

RIP Howard. Heaven must have needed you to introduce some really big matches.

The Sinking WWE Continues to Frustrate Its Fans

Luckily, I have not watched much new wrestling in the last 25 years. When I do, I’m always reminded why I’ve lost interest and found other things to do with my time. Don’t get me wrong.

Watching stuff from about 30 or 35 years ago is still enjoyable. Obviously WWE does not really need to target me. I’m already gone. The problem is that their current fans seem to hate today’s product. Although there are obvious differences between today’s world and how things were when I grew up, some ideas from the glory days are worth trying again. I think the company would have a lot of trouble selling monthly PPVs with the old format, but now people can see them with their monthly subscription to WWE Network. It is very hard to believe that most fans would continue to fork over about 50 bucks each month for a lousy product.

However, I guess the fact that people keep complaining means they have not completely stopped watching. Even things that are not necessarily major issues make me shake my head at just how stupid and unreasonable Vince and whoever else makes decisions has become when compared to my youth. Years ago it was revealed that certain words are forbidden. The list includes phrases like “professional wrestling” and “title shot”, which were synonymous with wrestling when I grew up. Also words such as “wrestler” and “belt”. I even see that for some strange reason the word “interesting” is on this list.


Clearly Vince McMahon is a psycho. Decades of classic wrestling were defined by rivalries. A great feud captivated an audience. Then, people were not even allowed to say the word. Yes, “feud” also made the list.

On to more pressing issues. Months of great battles had audiences coming back for more. Feuds, or storylines, were key. Tag team wrestling was exciting. Guys were paired together for years. These things seem to have gone by the wayside. WrestleMania goes for 7 hours. Are we still allowed to say that word? Vince’s son-in-law has to wrestle for 40 minutes as other matches are cut or shortened. WWE has about 57 championships. I would say that the belts have been devalued, if I could say that. WWE decided to address this by creating another championship. Talent is on different shows. In the 1980s, we didn’t have certain superstars who only competed Sunday on Wrestling Challenge. Now, WWE has created a Wild Card Rule. Thank goodness certain performers can cross over to the other show.

Monday, fans complained that there was no match for the first 50 minutes of Raw. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a regular wrestling program that went so long with no match. The only possible exception coming to mind is the Slammy Awards, but that should not really count. Maybe there wouldn’t be such a problem of too many performers if they actually had matches in the first hour. Every time I am unfortunate enough to be stuck in front of a television when Raw comes on, it begins with somebody babbling in the ring. This makes for a boring first 15 minutes as people look at their phones. It’s not unpredictable, or interesting. Someone’s music starts to play. Another person walks out and joins in meaningless chatter. It seems like the “main event” is also usually more speaking in the ring.

They do the same things, constantly. Weeks go by. Then, months. Eventually, years. Same garbage. They can change writers, fake GMs, and whatever else. It never gets any better. I actually wonder if they are intentionally making their fans miserable because the loyal crowd is apparently not going anywhere regardless of how terrible the product is. Brock Lesnar goes months without defending championships. Nobody cares. Actually, they brag about it. How is that good for business? Look up how many times Hulk Hogan and other top stars in say 1987 would wrestle. Usually over 300 times in a year. Possibly up near 400. Guys performed twice on Saturday and Sunday. Finally, WWE hypes up their women. Then, they sign a 10-year deal with Saudi Arabia. The female superstars are not allowed to compete there.

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Watch the old WWF. See how much better it was. Maybe somebody in charge of today’s mess will do this as well. We can dream.

Hulk Hogan Claimed Bam Margera Was Dead In A Tweet Even Though Bam Is Still Alive

Classic Mix up!

The Hulkster, baby! Hulk Hogan is an awesome Twitter follower. Ever since Hulk was fired from WWE, he has been trying to get back in the good graces of the public. To his credit, it’s working because there have been rumors of an imminent WWE return. That being said, Hogan’s Twitter account is the typical “old man trying to use the Internet.” The account is all over the place. There’s always tagging issues, bad grammar, and his signature “HH” at the end of every tweet. The Hulkster is notorious for mixing up his Twitter account with text messages.

Hulk also tries to be super inspirational, which makes me laugh every single time because it’s usually accompanied with a picture of him flexing or smiling.

Now, Hulk mixes up Bam Margera and Ryan Dunn. To Hulk’s defense, grouping the Jackass stars together is not uncommon. However, I actually had to google if Bam was still alive or not. When I found out he’s still alive, I laughed, thinking of Hulk’s friends sending him texts about a guy who is still alive. You’ll get em next time, brother DG.

R.I.P. Bruno Sammartino: The Passing of an Ultimate Legend

Wrestling icon Bruno Sammartino has passed away at age 82. His two title reigns lasted a combined 11+ years. Bruno held the championship for 2,803 days during his first reign, which is the longest in company history. Your parents and grandparents may not have watched wrestling in decades, but chances are they know about Bruno. If they’re Italian, they definitely know. Bruno probably got them into wrestling and was the reason it became popular.

Therefore, he is probably one of the major reasons you watch it today if you’re a current fan or watched it 30 years ago if you’re old like me. Either because Bruno brought the business success or because he initially made your family interested and watching wrestling became a family tradition.

If you are fairly young and watch his matches for the first time today, you’ll probably be shocked at his style. Lots of punching and kicking. Bruno was certainly not a high flyer. Obviously wrestling has changed dramatically in the last 50 or 60 years. The fact that he was so loved and his bosses wanted him to remain champion for years is even more impressive when you consider that he wasn’t flying off ropes like today’s wrestlers. I remember him mostly as an announcer.

Bruno wrestled some matches during the mid and late 1980s. Vince McMahon wanted to cash in on his popularity when Hulk Hogan was not on the card. Sammartino appeared in Boston and New York as either a wrestler or Piper’s Pit guest. Even at 50 and 51 years of age, Bruno’s name carried weight in Northeastern cities. Few stats convey his popularity better than selling out Madison Square Garden 187 times.

After leaving the WWF, Bruno had his differences with McMahon. I’m glad that they eventually made peace. In 2013 Bruno took his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame. It was good to see him getting the proper recognition. Hopefully, he enjoyed the spotlight. People have been quick to praise him for being a great guy. Whether it’s somebody calling WFAN or men involved with wrestling on Twitter, there have been stories about how nice he was. It seems like Bruno treated both fans and people in the business with respect.

RIP Bruno. Thanks for everything.

Remembering Eddie Guerrero 12 Years Later

Viva La Raza. I lie. I cheat. I steal.

If you can believe it, Eddie Guerrero tragically died 12 years ago today. He would’ve been 50 years old and who knows, maybe he would’ve been on a part-time legends deal with the WWE, still mustering up enough strength to do a PERFECT frog splash.

When Eddie Guerrero died, the whole wrestling community stopped. Every single one, not just WWE.  Raw, Smackdown, TNA, OVW, and ROH all had touching tributes for Latino Heat. Eddie was one of the best in-ring performers of all time. All-time. Ric Flair said Eddie was a Top 10 opponent. Kurt Angle said Eddie was the second best wrestler of all time behind HBK. Y2J said when Eddie was on, there no was better performer in the world.

For me, there are two Eddie moments that will stick out. The first one is when he beat Brock Lesnar for the WWE Title. A lot of people will call this their favorite Eddie moment and rightfully so. I thought Eddie had ZERO chance to dethrone Brock but boy was I wrong as this is one of the most memorable title wins in the championship’s history.

However, my favorite moment came in a loss. I’m talking about Eddie Guerrero’s frog splash off the cage vs. JBL for the WWE Title. The Eddie / JBL rivalry was one of the best rivalries of the 2000s. It made Smackdown must-watch TV and this frog splash is Eddie’s “iconic moment.” The look he gave before doing the move is one I’ll never forget. It looked personal. The slapping of his chest. Cole and Taz screaming “Don’t do it.” This was the passion that fans grew to come and love.

No doubt about it, Eddie Guerrero was one of the greats. He was taken too soon from this world, but his spirit still lives on. Thank you, Eddie.

ESPN’s “30 For 30: The Nature Boy” Gave An Honest Look Into The Life Of Ric Flair

ESPN’s highly anticipated “Nature Boy” aired last night and it lived up to the hype. Ric Flair is a living legend and I want to stress the word living because I have no idea how this man is still alive. Even if you have never watched wrestling before, my guess is you have heard of Ric Flair. Besides Hulk Hogan, Flair was the most recognizable wrestler in the 1980s and he didn’t even wrestle for WWE, which is NUTS. The robes. The flashiness. The promos. The in-ring work. Ric Flair had it all and then some. Everyone wanted to be like Ric Flair even if you didn’t like wrestling. LeBron James called him the inventor of swag. Snoop Dogg called him a major influence in how he wanted to portray himself to the public. He was the dirtiest player in the game.

The man had promos for days. To be the man, you gotta beat the man.


I haven’t even touched on his in-ring ability and performances. For those who don’t know wrestling, in simplest terms, you need to be able to talk and you need to be able work in the ring. Talkers and Workers. Most of the time, you fall on one side or the other. The all-time greats and the legends of the sport can do both. Ric Flair is at the top of the list. If you watched the 30 for 30, you heard about how he was an absolute workhorse, wrestling for an hour almost every night. Most champions in wrestling are supposed to be the aggressor and look dominant. Ric was the exact opposite. He brought out the best in his opponents and sold like a mofo just to get a crowd reaction. Look at this flop!

Did I mention he liked women and booze? It’s INSANE that this man is still alive. Here are the two quotes that most people will remember.

“I’ve been with 10,000 women…maybe.”

“‘How much do you drink a day?’ I said, ‘I’ll drink at least 10 beers, and probably five mixed drinks.’

10,000 women and 15 drinks a day. I don’t think I’ve seen 10,000 people and I for sure would be dead if I drank that much. Ric said he did that for almost 30 years. THIRTY YEARS!

However, the quote that will stick with me is from Shawn Michaels.

“Ric is my friend, for better or worse. I knew he couldn’t stay away from this stuff. And again, I knew when they wanted him to go that he didn’t want to go. … Ric doesn’t love Richard Fliehr. I don’t know that he’s ever taken the time to get to know him, or to find out who in the world he is. He only knows who he is through the image and gimmick of Ric Flair.”

Ric Flair was Ric Flair both in and out of the ring. His gimmick took over and he did not know how to separate them. I actually worked for WWE for close to 4 months. I traveled every week to shows all over the world. It’s a brutal, brutal grind. I saw firsthand how some superstars could not be themselves outside of the ring. They were in character 24/7. It was sad to see, but it happens all too often. Between the lack of support from his parents to his son’s tragic death, Ric lived a tough life. He struggled with alcoholism and he didn’t really know how to be a father at times. Heartbreaking stuff. It was not all glamorous.

I’m glad the 30 for 30 ended on a positive note with Ric celebrating with his daughter, Charlotte (Ashley), after she won her first championship. It’s inspiring to see that Charlotte really didn’t want the wrestling lifestyle, but she’s doing it in honor of her brother. A truly touching moment.

If you have not seen the 30 For 30, I highly recommend it even if you don’t like wrestling. I had the honor of spending some time with Ric while working at WWE. He was the nicest guy you could ever meet. He also was the most charismatic person in the room. That’s just how the Nature Boy rolls.