Kamala (wrestler)

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Kamala
Kamala.jpg
Birth name James Harris
Born (1950-05-28) May 28, 1950 (age 64)[1]
Senatobia, Mississippi[1]
Resides Senatobia, Mississippi
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Jim Harris[2]
Harris[2]
Kimala[2]
Kamala[2]
The Mississippi Mauler[2]
Sugar Bear Harris[1]
"Ugly Bear" Harris[1]
"Big" Jim Harris[1]
The Ugandan Giant
Billed height 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)[3]
Billed weight 380 lb (170 kg)[3]
Billed from Uganda[3]
Trained by Tiny Tim Hampton[4]
Mario Galento
Debut 1974[2]
Retired November 7, 2011

James "Jim" Harris (born May 28, 1950) is a retired American professional wrestler and author For much of his career, Harris wrestled under the ring name Kamala, using a "wild savage" gimmick.

Early life[edit]

Harris was born in Senatobia, Mississippi and grew up in Coldwater, Mississippi, where his family owned a furniture store. He had four sisters. When he was around four, his father was shot dead during a dice game. The family collected welfare to help pay the bills.[4] He became a habitual burglar in his teens and, in 1967, local police suggested he leave town. As Harris put it, "Back then if you didn't leave like they said, you would be found dead somewhere."[4] So he relocated to Florida, where he picked fruit.[4] At age 25, Harris moved to Michigan, where he met wrestler Bobo Brazil. Harris then began training as a wrestler, under Brazil's friend, "Tiny" Tim Hampton.[4] He moved to Arkansas to continue training, and to escape the snow in Michigan.[4]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Early career[edit]

Harris trained alongside Michael Hayes, Percy Pringle, and Terry Gordy. He debuted in 1978, facing The Great Mephisto. Harris originally wrestled as Sugar Bear Harris, then "Ugly Bear" Harris and "Big" Jim Harris.[1]

He wrestled in the United Kingdom for several years, developing his skills and the character of The Mississippi Mauler (which had some similarities to the Kamala gimmick which later made him famous).[1] Harris then returned to the United States.

While acquiring a new costume in Memphis, Tennessee, Harris was asked by Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarrett to adopt a new gimmick. Harris agreed, and, together with Lawler, created Kamala (originally spelled Kimala), drawing upon ideas for a character originally developed for Harris by The Great Mephisto.[4][5] Jarrett and Lawler decided that portraying an African wrestler would help Harris succeed, despite his limited technical wrestling ability and poor interview skills. There are two stories on the origin of the name; Jarrett said he took it from a National Geographic Magazine article he'd read, about a Doctor Kimala, a researcher in Uganda.[4] Lawler says it was derived from Uganda's capital, Kampala. The character was a vicious and simple-minded Ugandan cannibal, with face and body paint copied from a Frank Frazetta painting.[6] He wrestled barefoot and in a loincloth.[1][7]

Kamala wrestled for Mid-South Wrestling, Memphis, and World Class Championship Wrestling in the early 1980s. In Mid-South Wrestling, Kamala was nicknamed "The Ugandan Giant", managed by General Skandor Akbar and billed as a former bodyguard of President of Uganda Idi Amin.[8]

World Wrestling Federation and United States Wrestling Association (1984–1993)[edit]

Kamala in a wrestling match in 2009

Kamala had several runs in the World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s and 1990s. His first began in 1984. As a heel, flanked by Skandor Akbar and "Classy" Freddie Blassie, he competed in a series of matches against André the Giant, including a high-profile steel cage match, which he lost after André twice sat on his chest. Kamala also appeared, along with Blassie, in a segment of the WWF's Tuesday Night Titans, where he (in kayfabe) ate a live chicken on the air; a cutaway shot was shown of feathers flying out of Kamala's mouth to create the illusion.[9]

Kamala briefly left the WWF, returning in 1986 with a masked "handler" named Kim Chee (who was usually portrayed by Steve Lombardi), and managed by The Wizard. In this run, Kamala battled Hulk Hogan and Jake "the Snake" Roberts, the latter feud beginning after Roberts exposed Kamala's fear of snakes. He was then managed by Mr. Fuji and formed a short-lived tag team with Wild Samoan Sika, before leaving the WWF in late 1987.[3]

He then wrestled for the Memphis-based United States Wrestling Association, feuding with Jerry Lawler and Koko B. Ware, and winning the USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship four times.

Kamala returned to the WWF in 1992, along with Kim Chee, and managed by Harvey Wippleman.[3] After losing to The Undertaker in the first televised Coffin match at the 1992 Survivor Series, Kamala turned face, abandoning Wippleman to take the newly ordained Reverend Slick as his manager.[7][10] Slick set out to "humanize" Kamala, by such means as teaching him to bowl (in a segment taped for Coliseum Video).[11] He was scheduled to compete in the 1993 Royal Rumble,but did not appear at the event. He also had a match scheduled against Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleMania IX but it was canceled without explanation before the event began.[12]

Post-WWF[edit]

After leaving the WWF in July 1993, Kamala returned to his previous job of driving a truck for two years. He was advertised to return in the 1994 Royal Rumble match, but was replaced by Virgil. On January 29, 1994, he appeared at an independent wrestling show in a Hamilton, Ohio school, challenging a group of local personalities to slam him.

World Championship Wrestling (1995)[edit]

At Hulk Hogan's suggestion, Kamala joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW).[1] He was introduced as part of Kevin Sullivan's Dungeon of Doom stable, whose goal was to end Hogan's career. In his first WCW pay-per-view appearance, he defeated "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan at Bash at the Beach 1995. He lost a singles match to Hogan at Clash of the Champions XXXI. In his second and final WCW PPV, he was part of the "Dungeon of Doom" team at Fall Brawl 1995, which lost to Hogan's team, "The Hulkamaniacs". Kamala was scheduled to wrestle Randy Savage at Halloween Havoc 1995 but was on a pay-per-appearance deal and WCW was not interested in offering him a full-time contract. Because of this he was replaced by The Zodiac at the event and Kamala left the company.

Return to World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment (2001, 2004-2006)[edit]

After making sporadic appearances on the independent circuit for the next few years[citation needed], Kamala participated in "The Gimmick Battle Royal" at WrestleMania X-Seven and was eliminated by Sgt. Slaughter.[13][14] On July 26, 2004, he made a surprise return to World Wrestling Entertainment, participating in a Raw Diva Search segment on RAW, in which the female contestants were instructed to try to seduce him.[15] Kamala faced Randy Orton on the August 11, 2005 edition of SmackDown! (accompanied by Kim Chee) but the match was interrupted by a message from The Undertaker to Orton, and ended in a No Contest.[16] Kamala appeared at the 2005 Taboo Tuesday event, as one of the choices for Eugene's tag team partner.[17] He lost the fan vote to Jimmy Snuka, but came to the ring after the match to deliver a big splash to Tyson Tomko.[18] On June 25, 2006, at Vengeance, he accompanied Eugene to the ring (along with Doink the Clown and Hacksaw Jim Duggan) to take on Umaga. Umaga quickly won the match, after which he attacked Eugene, Doink, and Duggan. Before Kamala and Umaga could fight, Umaga's manager, Armando Estrada, intervened.[19] Kamala faced Umaga the following night on Raw and lost the match.[4]

Independent circuit and retirement[edit]

In 2003, Kamala wrestled for Juggalo Championship Wrestling. Accompanied by The Masked Negotiator, he defeated jobber Tom-Dub in a "Loser Leaves JCW" match. At the 2007 Gathering of the Juggalos, it was announced Kamala was to make a one-night return at JCW's first Bloodymania show, but he no-showed the event, leaving his scheduled opponent, C.J. O'Doyle, to work as a referee in one match instead.

Books[edit]

Kamala Speaks

In September 2006, he wrestled to a non-finish with Bryan Danielson, in a match for the ROH World Championship.

He has dabbled in a singing career, releasing his debut album, The Best of Kamala Vol 1 through his official website. The album features a ballad, dedicated to the memory of Stanley "Tookie" Williams.

Kamala appeared at Total Nonstop Action Wrestling's Slammiversary pay-per-view in June 2008, as a guest at Jay Lethal and SoCal Val's storyline wedding.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Harris was married to Sheila Stover from 1974 to 2005. After the couple divorced, Harris married Melissa Guzman.[21] As of 2007, Harris lives with his niece Ashley in Senatobia, Mississippi.[4]

Since 1993, he has been writing, performing, and producing his own music. He has written over 100 songs. Some of his songs discuss his frustration with the working conditions he experienced in the wrestling industry, most notably the low pay.[4] In an interview, Harris spoke about the payouts for SummerSlam 1992. He said he received $13,000 and heard his opponent, The Undertaker, had received $500,000.[1]

In July 1993, Harris was called away from a WWF tour after an Oakland, California show when his youngest sister and her stepdaughter were shot to death. The killer attempted suicide, but only severely disfigured himself. After his WWF release that August, Harris pushed for the man's arrest and conviction. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, and died in 2013.[22]

On November 7, 2011, Harris had his leg amputated below the knee due to complications of high blood pressure and diabetes, forcing him to retire.[23] His right foot was amputated in April 2012 and a campaign was launched seeking donations to cover his financial needs.[24][25]

In wrestling[edit]

Kamala performing a nerve hold on Sgt. Slaughter.

Finishing moves

Signature moves

Managers

Nicknames

  • "Bad News"
  • "Big"
  • "Giant"
  • "Sugar Bear"
  • "The Ugandan Giant"[7]
  • "The Ugandan Headhunter"
  • "Ugly Bear"

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Continental Wrestling Association

Great Lakes Wrestling Association

  • GLWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

International Wrestling Association

NWA Tri-State

Southeastern Championship Wrestling

Pro Wrestling Illustrated

  • PWI ranked him # 144 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003.

Southeastern Xtreme Wrestling

  • SXW Hardcore Championship (1 time)

Texas All-Star Wrestling

  • TAS Six-Man Tag Team Championship (1 time)

Texas Wrestling Hall of Fame

  • Class of 2012

United States Wrestling Association

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Laroche, Stephen. "Jim Harris: The man behind the Ugandan Giant". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Kamala profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "WWE Alumni: Kamala". WWE. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Nation, Ryan (2007-09-16). "Kamala sings! Learning about the recording career of The Ugandan Giant". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  5. ^ Kleinberg, Adam; Adam Nudelman (2005). Mysteries of Wrestling: Solved. ECW Press. p. 11. ISBN 1-55022-685-1. 
  6. ^ Steve Austin Show SAS-EP$47, "Jerry Lawler Pt.2", PodcastOne.com (8 minutes in)
  7. ^ a b c Price, Joseph L. (2005). From Season to Season: Sports as American Religion. Mercer University Press. p. 209. ISBN 0-86554-961-3. 
  8. ^ "Breaking Kayfabe with Kamala". Mid South Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  9. ^ Ellison, Lillian (2003). The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle. ReaganBooks. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-06-001258-8. 
  10. ^ McAvennie, Mike (2007-05-28). "Kamala Matata". WWE. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  11. ^ Invasion of the Bodyslammers (VHS). Coliseum Video. 1993. ISBN 6302715636. 
  12. ^ Laroche, Stephen. "Breaking Kayfabe with Kamala Jim Harris: The man behind the Ugandan Giant". SLAM! Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  13. ^ "About ICW's Kamala". International Championship Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  14. ^ "WrestleMania X-Seven Results". WWE. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  15. ^ Keith, Scott (2006). Wrestling's Made Men: Breaking the WWE's Glass Ceiling. Citadel Press. p. 88. ISBN 0-8065-2771-4. 
  16. ^ "Insult and Injury". WWE. 2005-08-11. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  17. ^ "Taboo Tuesday 2005 Results". WWE. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  18. ^ Sokol, Chris (2005-11-02). "Taboo Tuesday delivers decently". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  19. ^ Zeigler, Zack (2006-06-25). "The streak continues". WWE. Archived from the original on 2008-03-31. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  20. ^ Waldman, Jon (2008-06-08). "Slammiversary: No gimmicks needed for thumbs up PPV". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  21. ^ "Wrestler Profiles: Kamala". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  22. ^ Piper's Pit, Episode 23, "King Kamala Speaks!"
  23. ^ "A message from Kamala". Retrieved 2013-01-13. 
  24. ^ "'Ugandan Giant' Kamala To Have Foot Amputated", by Daniel Pena, WrestlingInc.com
  25. ^ "Mick Foley’s comedy act coming to Ocala, Remembering Malenko, Helping Kamala". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2012-06-10. [dead link]
  26. ^ a b c d e "Kamala profile". Wrestlingdata.com. Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  27. ^ Johnson, Steven (2004-02-09). "Devastation Inc. re-incorporates at Wrestlecon". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  28. ^ a b "1982". Memphis Wrestling History. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  29. ^ Oliver, Greg (2004-07-15). "Jimmy Hart as busy as ever". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  30. ^ "Jimmy Hart profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  31. ^ Martin, Adam (2008-06-18). "Georgia Wrestling News, Notes, and Nostalgia: 06/17/2008". WrestleView. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  32. ^ Baer, Randy; R.D. Reynolds (2003). Wrestlecrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 147. ISBN 1-55022-584-7. 
  33. ^ McAvennie, Mike (February 15, 2007). "List This #9: Harvey's whipped". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  34. ^ "NWA Southeastern Heavyweight Title History". Solie's Title Histories. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  35. ^ "USWA Unified World Heavyweight Title History". Solie's Title Histories. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 

External links[edit]