|Ring name(s)||"Big" Jim Harris
"Sugar Bear" Harris
"Ugly Bear" Harris
"The Ugandan Giant"
The Mississippi Mauler
|Billed height||6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)|
|Billed weight||380 lb (170 kg)|
May 28, 1950 |
|Trained by||Tiny Tim Hampton|
|Retired||November 7, 2011|
Harris was born in Senatobia, Mississippi and grew up in Coldwater, Mississippi, where his family owned a furniture store. The family collected welfare to help pay the bills. 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." So he relocated to Florida, where he picked fruit. 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. He moved to Arkansas to continue training, and to escape the snow in Michigan.
Professional wrestling career
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.
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). 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. Jarrett and Lawler decided that portraying an African wrestler would help Harris succeed, despite his limited technical wrestling ability and poor interview skills. The name came from a National Geographic Magazine article Jarrett read, about a Doctor Kimala, who was conducting research in Uganda. The character was a Ugandan cannibal, with a painted face and body. He wrestled barefoot and in a loincloth.
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.
World Wrestling Federation and United States Wrestling Association (1984–1993)
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.
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 formed a short-lived tag team with Wild Samoan Sika, before leaving the WWF in late 1987.
Kamala returned to the WWF in 1992, along with Kim Chee, and managed by Harvey Wippleman. 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. Slick set out to "humanize" Kamala, by such means as teaching him to bowl (in a segment taped for Coliseum Video).
After leaving the WWF in mid-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)
At Hulk Hogan's suggestion, Kamala joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW). 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)
Kamala participated in "The Gimmick Battle Royal" at WrestleMania X-Seven and was eliminated by Sgt. Slaughter. 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. 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. Kamala appeared at the 2005 Taboo Tuesday event, as one of the choices for Eugene's tag team partner. He lost the fan vote to Jimmy Snuka, but came to the ring after the match to deliver a big splash to Tyson Tomko. 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. Kamala faced Umaga the following night on Raw and lost the match.
Independent circuit and retirement
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.
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.
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. 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.
On November 7, 2011, Jim Harris had his leg amputated due to complications of high blood pressure and diabetes, forcing him to retire. On March 27, 2012, Harris's son, Kamala Jr., stated in an interview that his father might also have his other leg amputated. His right leg was amputated shortly afterwards and a campaign was launched seeking donations to cover his financial needs.
- Signature moves
- Skandor Akbar
- Freddie Blassie
- Kim Chee
- Eddie Creatchman
- James J. Dillon
- Mr. Fuji
- The Grand Wizard
- Jimmy Hart
- King Curtis Iaukea
- Paul Jones
- Adnan El Kassey
- "Mr. Terrific" Tim Lawler
- The Masked Negotiator
- Percy Pringle
- Kevin Sullivan
- Harvey Wippleman
- "Bad News"
- "Sugar Bear"
- "The Ugandan Giant"
- "The Ugandan Headhunter"
- "Ugly Bear"
Championships and accomplishments
- Great Lakes Wrestling Association
- GLWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- International Wrestling Association
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Tri-State version) (1 time) - with Oki Shikina
- PWI ranked him # 144 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003.
- Southeastern Xtreme Wrestling
- SXW Hardcore Championship (1 time)
- TAS Six-Man Tag Team Championship (1 time)
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