Looking at Paul Orndorff's three main-event runs in the McGuirk/Watts and Mid-South territories

One of the biggest pro wrestling stars of the 1980s, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff, passed away in July 2021. Before his big run with the WWF, he, like many other wrestlers, competed for various territories over a several year period. He had three separate stints in the territory I have been heavily researching for the last few years, first coming in late 1977 when it was still owned by Leroy McGuirk and returning for two later stints after Bill Watts took over and named it Mid-South Wrestling. Using the statistics I have developed for Charting the Territories, I decided to take a snapshot look his three stints here.

There are three charts below, each providing what is basically the equivalent of a "stat line" for Orndorff in each of his three separate stints in the territory. These concepts may be new to readers, so here's a brief explanation:

The SPOT Rating is a statistic that measures a wrestler's average position (or spot) on the cards. The advertised main event for a house show automatically gets a 1.00; matches lower on the card get a progressively lower score based on the total number of matches. The SPOT Rating is measured on a weekly basis; this allows you to see a wrestler getting "pushed" up the cards via an increasing week-to-week SPOT Rating. Each week's SPOT is actually based on a weighted, rolling five-week period of time. 

As a broad general rule of thumb:
a SPOT of .80 or above is a Main Eventer;
a SPOT of between .60 and .80 is an Upper Mid-Carder;
a SPOT of between .40 and .60 is a Mid-Carder;
a SPOT of .40 or below is a Preliminary Wrestler

In addition to displaying the actual weekly SPOT Ratings, they are color-coded and use different levels of shading. The darker the shading, the higher the SPOT. When a wrestler is a babyface, their SPOT is shown in shades of blue; when they are a heel, it is shown in shades of red.

Below the SPOT Rating are charts for Frequent Partners and Frequent Opponents.  These two statistics uses the same weighted, rolling five-week method as the SPOT Rating. They are scaled such that 100 is a theoretical "high score". It is technically possible to have a score higher than 100 when we have complete house show records, but in my experience it is almost impossible to hit above that mark.

The Frequent Partners stat takes into account how many times a wrestler teams up with someone else, and includes traditional tag team matches as well as six-mans and other various combinations of team bouts. The Frequent Opponents stat takes into account not only how many times a wrestler is matched up against another wrestler (regardless of whether it is a singles match, tag team match, etc.) but also where on the card that match occurs. Thus, it gives you a clearer idea of who a wrestler was feuding with. A "feud" typically occurs higher up on the cards, so if a wrestler just happens to face another wrestler frequently in the prelims or the mid-cards, that likely wouldn't show up on these charts.

The Frequent Partners charts use shades of yellow while the Frequent Opponents charts use shades of green. The darker the shading, the higher the weekly scores.

In addition, I also show the overall average SPOT for Orndorff during each stint, as well as the total number of bookings per week (listed as B/W) we have for him in our house show records. This helps give you an idea of how complete the records are; despite the literally hundreds of thousands of house shows listed on sites such as wrestlingdata.com and cagematch.net, records for most pro wrestling territories are incomplete. If we accept that most wrestlers worked 6-7 nights a week (it varies over time and in different territories), looking at how many bookings per week we have in our records can give you a ballpark idea of how complete they are.

Now that that is out of the way, let's look at the "stat line" for Paul Orndorff's first run here, which began in late 1977.


Looking at the SPOT Ratings from left to right, we can see that Orndorff began in the preliminary matches, as his SPOT Rating the first 2 weeks was below a .40. Virtually all newcomers to a territory, unless they have been there before or had a nationally-known rep, started in the prelims, working their way up the cards with a series of wins over progressively more "difficult" opponents. He then moves to the Mid-Cards and stays there for four weeks, and in mid-January 1978 his SPOT Rating crosses above a .60 for the first time, putting him in the Upper Mid-Carder category. By the end of January he starts facing The Brute (Bugsy McGraw) regularly, and this is his first "feud" in the territory. As the feud continues, it is positioned higher up on the cards and by mid-February, Orndorff's SPOT crosses above a .80 for the first time, making him a Main Eventer. The feud with The Brute goes through mid-April (where Orndorff won a series of loser leave town matches).

Following that, Orndorff transitions into a tag team with Skip Young, the two team up regularly, and these matches are generally a little bit lower on the card. They do face Bobby Jaggers & Jerry Brown occasionally, and over the course of a few weeks those matches are placed higher up on the cards, plus Orndorff is also facing the two of them in singles bouts (Brown more so than Jaggers). Jaggers & Brown were the United States Tag Team champions, so you can picture Orndorff & Skip winning non-title matches on the house shows to set up title bouts that are higher up on the cards. Since Orndorff & Skip don't win the titles, the singles bouts that Orndorff has with Jaggers and Brown allows the babyface to "win" the feud to an extent even without a title change.

Orndorff did, however, win a singles title right after the feud with Jaggers & Brown ran its' course. Depending on your source for title history information, Paul had either 2 or 3 brief runs with the North American title in 1978, trading it back and forth with Ernie Ladd over the summer (and possibly a quickie switch with Stan Hansen as well). The last few months of Orndorff's run sees him feuding with both Ladd and Ron Bass. He also had a small number of matches against The Brute, who had returned after his "leaving town". Orndorff dropped the North American title back to Ladd in August, and finishes up with rematches around the house show loop, which presumably saw Orndorff either lose or, at the very least, not win clean.

Orndorff then went to Heart of America (Central States) briefly before going to Mid-Atlantic in November to begin a big run there. He returned here in January 1980; as mentioned previously, by this time the territory was named Mid-South Wrestling and run by Bill Watts.


Since Orndorff had been a main eventer here previously, he was inserted into the Upper Mid-Cards upon his return. He is wrestling against the Freebirds (Michael Hayes & Terry Gordy) regularly early on, but with various different partners and not part of a "regular" team. Title history sites do list Orndorff & Ted DiBiase having a brief run with the Mid-South Tag Team titles in March, beating Hayes & Gordy and then losing them back to the 'Birds about a week later.

In April, he begins a feud with Ken Mantell; the beginning of this feud coincides with Orndorff's SPOT Rating moving up to Main Eventer status. This feud began with the finals of an arm wrestling tournament on TV, where Mantell (who had been cutting locks of hair off of his defeated opponents) attacked Orndorff and did a butcher job on his hair. The feud built to a hair vs hair match that saw Orndorff win and shave Mantell's head. But the feud appears to have been drawing really well at the house shows, because they kept it going for a while even after the head-shaving, which many of us would have presumed to be the blowoff. In fact, in looking at Orndorff's SPOT Rating during the feud with Mantell, they were usually higher up on the cards than the North American champion Ted DiBiase, who was feuding with Killer Khan. Mantell took to wearing a "protective headgear" during his matches, both so that fans couldn't see him bald and so that he could slip a foreign object under the headgear. This built to Orndorff, a former football player, being allowed to wear a football helmet for his rematches with Mantell, which presumably saw Paul win and remove the headgear from Mantell's head, allowing the fans to finally see him bald. There were also a handful of matches with Paul teaming with his younger brother Terry to face Mantell and his younger brother Johnny, though this didn't occur frequently enough or high enough up on the cards to be shown on the above chart.

Orndorff then had a brief series of babyface vs babyface title matches with Ted DiBiase which saw no clear winner. Paul then left for a New Japan tour in October. While he was gone, Ernie Ladd & Leroy Brown "injured" his younger brother Terry. This led to Paul coming back in late November and teaming up with Junkyard Dog for a brief feud against Ladd & Brown before Paul left again, this time going to Southeastern for a few months.



Paul returned to Mid-South in late April 1981. Since he had only been gone a few months, they didn't feel the need to "build him back up", so he was inserted into main events from the get-go, facing various opponents with Leroy Brown being the most frequent. He then turned heel at a TV taping that made its way through the territory in late May and early June. Paul had been scheduled for a title match with North American champ The Grappler, but ended up "oversleeping" and missing the match. Grappler ended up facing Jake Roberts and Jake scored a shocking upset to win the belt on TV. As he was celebrating, Paul showed up and blamed Jake for not "waking him up". As the weeks went by, he also started blaming JYD for his brother's injury back in 1980.

Paul won the North American title from Jake in early July at the Superdome, and found himself often wrestling twice on house shows. He would defend the title against Jake early on, and then come back for a "lights out match" with Junkyard Dog in the last match on the show. Since lights out matches in the territorial era were generally non-title (since they were "not sanctioned by the NWA"), this allowed the babyface to win but maintaining a heel champion. Orndorff then had a brief feud with Jim Garvin that saw him retain the title.

Paul had been presented as a 'lone wolf' of sorts for the first few months of this heel run, but he eventually formed an alliance with Bob Orton Jr and Bob Roop. He also begins a feud with a returning Ted DiBiase, with Ted now in the role of challenger. DiBiase wins the North American title in the fall, and Orndorff transitions to a tag team role, teaming regularly with Orton and feuding primarily with Mid-South Tag Team champs Junkyard Dog & Mike George. He also continues to have regular matches against DiBiase all the way up through March of 1982. Orndorff then turns babyface; the main TV episode with this turn is the subject of this episode of the Mid-South Wrestling Television Review podcast and also this article from Retro Wrasslin'.

This led to Orndorff feuding with his former ally Bob Roop around the house show loop for the last several weeks of Orndorff's run here. He leaves at the end of May and goes to Georgia.

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It is difficult to "quantify" a wrestler's achievements in professional wrestling, due to the very nature of wrestling. There are no fixed start and end points or "seasons" like in traditional sports, and wins and losses don't always mean what they mean in other sports, both team and individual. By measuring where on the card a wrestler is placed, we get a much clearer idea of their "role". Even if they're losing more often than they win, a wrestler who continues to be booked in main events clearly has "drawing power".

Similarly, it's hard to quantify a feud; in particular there is nowhere near enough data on house show attendance to measure which feud "drew the most". In the territorial era, if a feud was successful (ie it had a combination of both good/heated matches and drawing power), they would continue to book it on the house shows until it lost its' luster. The Frequent Opponents statistic represents a new way of looking at this. Taking the Orndorff/Mantell feud into consideration, it lasted a full six months, which is far longer than most feuds last. Even when it looked like the feud was going to be blown off with the hair vs hair match, they continued to book it for quite a while afterwards. This, more than anything else, is a clear indicator that the feud was a success in the eyes of the promotion; it had staying power that other feuds did not.

My goal with Charting the Territories was to create the equivalent of a "back of the baseball card" stat line for professional wrestlers. We know lots about the top superstars and main eventers, but we haven't been able to discuss the rest of the men and women who made a living in professional wrestling past using terms like "journeymen" without any numerical data to back it up. The SPOT Rating allows to attach numbers to terms like Main Eventers and Mid-Carders, and can help us see the overall career arc of professional wrestlers.

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