One of the most predictable—yet still among the best—heel turns was when “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff betrayed Hulk Hogan in 1986, leading to a memorable feud between the two during Hogan’s first reign as WWF Champion.
Orndorff had already wrestled Hogan many times as a heel shortly after Hogan won the title in 1984, including Hogan pinning Orndorff in July 1984 at the old Boston Garden. In 1985, Orndorff went babyface to battle Roddy Piper.
But the heel turn in ’86 was a much bigger deal because Orndorff had been teaming with Hogan, with the plotline being “Mr. Wonderful” was aggravated that Hogan was getting more cheers and appeared to be ignoring Orndorff.
There was the famous “phone call” where Orndorff tried to reach Hogan during Championship Wrestling, only to be told by someone that Hogan was too busy training to take the call. My friend used to do a great impression of Hogan in a later scene where Hulk would plead with Orndorff, “Let the thing go about the phone call!” (about 1:40 into this clip).
The turn happened in a match during which Hogan and Orndorff faced King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd. Everyone who watched WWF pro wrestling knew Orndorff was going to put the boots to Hogan during match, but the angle was still effective.
Orndorff is great during the match on the apron, getting aggravated when Hogan takes charge in the ring, and then really playing up an eye injury after Hogan accidentally runs into him. Vince McMahon on commentary really egged this angle on. When Hogan is getting double-teamed as Orndorff nurses his eyes, Vince says, “Come on Paul, get in there!”
But then McMahon outdoes himself when Orndorff clotheslines Hogan and then piledrives him. “Oh no!” Vince screams. “Oh … what? You gotta be… No, no, no.”
Hogan and Orndorff ended up drawing 61,000 for match in Toronto at an outdoor stadium, which Hogan won by DQ. The feud culminated on a Saturday Night’s Main Event taped in December 1986, when Hogan beat Orndorff in a steel cage match, but not before the bout got halted after both men climbed out and hit the floor at the same time. The referees restarted the match, and Hogan soon was victorious.
Hogan vs. Orndorff was a textbook feud with logical progression and a blow-off that everyone wanted to see. It’s too bad such simple booking doesn’t happen often in today’s WWE, because the feuds nowadays rarely draw the interest that Hogan and Orndorff did.