Kamala (wrestler)

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Harris in 2009.
Birth name James Harris
Born (1950-05-28) May 28, 1950 (age 67)
Senatobia, Mississippi, U.S.
Spouse(s) Sheila Stover (m. 1974; div. 2005)
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Jim Harris[1]
The Mississippi Mauler[1]
Sugar Bear Harris[2]
Big Jim Harris[2]
Ugly Bear Harris[2]
Billed height 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)[3]
Billed weight 380 lb (170 kg)[3]
Billed from Uganda[3]
Trained by Tim Hampton[4]
Debut 1978[4]
Retired 2010[4]

James Harris (born May 28, 1950), better known by the ring name Kamala is an American retired professional wrestler and author. As Kamala, Harris wrestled under a "wild savage" gimmick, and was usually accompanied by a handler as well as a manager. He most famously feuded with Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), the Von Erich family in World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) and Jerry Lawler (who created his gimmick) in the United States Wrestling Association (USWA), the latter leading to four USWA Unified World Heavyweight Championship reigns.

Early life[edit]

Harris was born on May 28, 1950 in Senatobia, Mississippi.[2] He grew up in Coldwater, Mississippi, where his family owned a furniture store. He has four sisters. When he was around four, his father was shot dead during a dice game. The family struggled to pay the bills.[5] 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."[5] He relocated to Florida, where he picked fruit.[5] At age 25, he moved to Michigan, where he met wrestler Bobo Brazil. Harris then began training as a wrestler, under Brazil's friend, "Tiny" Tim Hampton.[5] He moved to Arkansas to continue training and escape the snow in Michigan.[5]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Early career (1978–1984)[edit]

Harris debuted in 1978, facing the Great Mephisto. Harris originally wrestled as "Sugar Bear" Harris, then "Ugly Bear" Harris and "Big" Jim Harris.[2] 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).[2] 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.[5][6] 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.[5] 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.[7] He wrestled barefoot and in a loincloth.[2][8]

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.[9] He also feuded with both David and Kerry Von Erich in 1983.[9]

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 (WWF) in the 1980s and 1990s. His first began in 1984. As a heel, managed by a masked "handler" in safari clothing known as "Friday" (who was played by a variety of different people depending on where they were performing) 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 and Friday, 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.[10]

Kamala briefly left the WWF, returning in 1986 with the masked handler now named Kim Chee (and 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 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.[9]

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 Survivor Series, Kamala abandoned Wippleman to take the newly ordained Reverend Slick as his manager.[8][11] Slick set out to "humanize" Kamala, by such means as teaching him to bowl (in a segment taped for Coliseum Video).[12] He had a match scheduled against Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleMania IX, but it was canceled without explanation before the event began.[13]

World Championship Wrestling (1995)[edit]

At Hulk Hogan's suggestion, Kamala joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1995.[2] 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. He lost a singles match to Hogan at Clash of the Champions XXXI. He was part of the "Dungeon of Doom" team at Fall Brawl, which lost to Hogan's team, "The Hulkamaniacs".

WWF/E appearances (2001, 2004–2006)[edit]

Kamala participated in "The Gimmick Battle Royal" at WrestleMania X-Seven and was eliminated by Sgt. Slaughter.[14] On July 26, 2004, he made a surprise return to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), 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 was defeated by Umaga in a match on the following night on Raw.[5]

Independent circuit, TNA and retirement (2006–2010)[edit]

Kamala had a lengthy run on the independent circuit.[4] In September 2006, he wrestled to a non-finish with Bryan Danielson, in a match for the ROH World Championship at a National Wrestling Alliance event in Bridgeport, Connecticut.[20] 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.[21] His last match was in 2010.[4]

Other media[edit]

Harris completed his autobiography along with one of his wrestling managers, Kenny Casanova, to help him offset medical costs. Kamala Speaks was funded on Kickstarter and self-published in December 2014. It tells his life story, his wrestling career, and the loss of both of his legs to diabetes.[22]

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.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Harris was married to Sheila Stover from 1974 to 2005. After the couple divorced, Harris married Melissa Guzman.[24] Harris lived with his niece Ashley in Senatobia, Mississippi until moving to Oxford, Mississippi.[5][25]

Since 1993, he has been writing, performing, and producing his own music. He has written over 100 songs. Some discuss his frustration with the working conditions he experienced in the wrestling industry, most notably the low pay.[5] 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.[2] Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer responded to this claim, saying: "I'm not saying he's lying, but that's hard to believe ... for there to be that big of a disparity wouldn't make any sense."[26]

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.[27]

Harris told Bleacher Report in 2014 that he relies on a disability check, sells handmade wooden chairs, and recently wrote a book about his life.[22][26][28]

In July 2016, Harris was named part of a class action lawsuit filed against WWE which alleged that wrestlers incurred traumatic brain injuries during their tenure and that the company concealed the risks of injury. The suit is litigated by attorney Konstantine Kyros, who has been involved in a number of other lawsuits against WWE.[29]


On November 7, 2011, Harris had his left leg amputated below the knee due to complications of high blood pressure and diabetes, a condition he has had since 1992, but not accepting dialysis treatment, forcing him to retire.[30] In April 2012, his right leg was also amputated below the knee and a campaign was launched seeking donations to cover his financial needs.[31][32]

On November 19, 2017, Harris underwent "life-saving" emergency surgery to clear fluid from around his heart and lungs at a hospital in Oxford, Mississippi.[33][25] Following it, he was put on life support due to complications.[33] The next day, his daughter said he showed signs of improvement, but remained on life support.[25] On November 22, 2017, it was reported that Harris was able to breathe on his own yet is unable to talk and remains under intensive care.[34]

In wrestling[edit]

Kamala performing a nerve hold on Sgt. Slaughter.

Finishing moves

Signature moves



  • "The Ugandan Giant"[8]
  • "The Ugandan Headhunter"[44]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

  • Great Lakes Wrestling Association
    • GLWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
  • Southeastern Xtreme Wrestling
    • SXW Hardcore Championship (1 time)


  1. ^ a b c d e "Kamala profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Laroche, Stephen. "Jim Harris: The man behind the Ugandan Giant". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "WWE Alumni: Kamala". WWE. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Kamala; Cagematch – The Internet Wrestling Database". Cagematch.net. Retrieved November 27, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Nation, Ryan (2007-09-16). "Kamala sings! Learning about the recording career of The Ugandan Giant". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  6. ^ Kleinberg, Adam; Adam Nudelman (2005). Mysteries of Wrestling: Solved. ECW Press. p. 11. ISBN 1-55022-685-1. 
  7. ^ Steve Austin Show SAS-EP$47, "Jerry Lawler Pt.2", PodcastOne.com (8 minutes in)
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ a b c "Breaking Kayfabe with Kamala". Mid South Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  10. ^ Ellison, Lillian (2003). The Fabulous Moolah: First Goddess of the Squared Circle. ReaganBooks. p. 169. ISBN 978-0-06-001258-8. 
  11. ^ McAvennie, Mike (2007-05-28). "Kamala Matata". WWE. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  12. ^ Invasion of the Bodyslammers. Coliseum Video. 1993. OCLC 28384779. 
  13. ^ Laroche, Stephen. "Breaking Kayfabe with Kamala Jim Harris: The man behind the Ugandan Giant". SLAM! Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  14. ^ "WrestleMania X-Seven Results". WWE. Archived from the original on 2007-11-19. 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. Archived from the original on 2008-07-05. 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. ^ Dolan, Adam (October 2, 2006). "NWA Pro Wrestling In Bridgeport, CT Live Report: Kamala Challenged for the ROH Title (Not A Typo), Rock N' Roll Express vs. Midnights, Crowbar & More". Pro Wrestling Insider. Retrieved November 27, 2017. 
  21. ^ Waldman, Jon (2008-06-08). "Slammiversary: No gimmicks needed for thumbs up PPV". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  22. ^ a b "Kamala Speaks: The Official Autobiography of James "Kamala" Harris". WOHW Publishing. Dec 13, 2014. Retrieved Dec 13, 2014. 
  23. ^ Nation, Ryan (April 3, 2016). "Kamala sings!". Canoe.com. Slam! Wrestling. Retrieved November 22, 2017. 
  24. ^ "Wrestler Profiles: Kamala". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  25. ^ a b c "Kamala Medical Update, Hospitalized Due to Complications from Diabetes". Pro Wrestling Sheet. November 20, 2017. 
  26. ^ a b Jason King (Nov 19, 2014). "From Wrestling Legend to Double Amputee, Kamala Keeps Fighting". Bleacher Report. Retrieved Nov 19, 2014. 
  27. ^ Piper's Pit, Episode 23, "King Kamala Speaks!"
  28. ^ "Kamala the wrestling headliner is now a double amputee". Fox News. Nov 23, 2014. Retrieved Nov 22, 2014. 
  29. ^ "WWE sued in wrestler class action lawsuit featuring Jimmy 'Superfly' Snuka, Paul 'Mr Wonderful' Orndorff". FoxSports.com. Fox Entertainment Group (21st Century Fox). July 18, 2015. Retrieved July 20, 2016. 
  30. ^ "A message from Kamala". Retrieved 2013-01-13. 
  31. ^ "'Ugandan Giant' Kamala To Have Foot Amputated", by Daniel Pena, WrestlingInc.com
  32. ^ "Mick Foley's comedy act coming to Ocala, Remembering Malenko, Helping Kamala". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2012-06-10. 
  33. ^ a b "WWE LEGEND KAMALA FIGHTING FOR HIS LIFE AFTER SURGERY". TMZ. November 20, 2017. Retrieved November 20, 2017. 
  34. ^ "Some positive news about the health of WWE legend James 'Kamala' Harris". Cage Side Seats. November 22, 2017. Retrieved November 24, 2017. 
  35. ^ a b c d e "Kamala profile". Wrestlingdata.com. Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  36. ^ Johnson, Steven (2004-02-09). "Devastation Inc. re-incorporates at Wrestlecon". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  37. ^ a b "1982". Memphis Wrestling History. Archived from the original on 2008-09-19. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  38. ^ Oliver, Greg (2004-07-15). "Jimmy Hart as busy as ever". SLAM! Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  39. ^ "Jimmy Hart profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  40. ^ Martin, Adam (2008-06-18). "Georgia Wrestling News, Notes, and Nostalgia: 06/17/2008". WrestleView. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 
  41. ^ "Kamala". Juggalo Championship Wrestling. Archived from the original on October 1, 2011. Retrieved November 27, 2017. 
  42. ^ Baer, Randy; R.D. Reynolds (2003). Wrestlecrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 147. ISBN 1-55022-584-7. 
  43. ^ McAvennie, Mike (February 15, 2007). "List This #9: Harvey's whipped". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2008-09-23. 
  44. ^ Simpson, Scott (December 27, 2012). "WWF ends 1986 by feeding Hulk Hogan to Kamala". Toronto Wrestling. Retrieved November 23, 2017. 
  45. ^ "NWA Southeastern Heavyweight Title History". Solie's Title Histories. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  46. ^ "Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, hall of famers". 0362dc8.netsolhost.com. Archived from the original on October 26, 2016. Retrieved October 22, 2016. 
  47. ^ "IHWE Texas Wrestling Hall of Fame". IHWE Texas Wrestling Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on September 5, 2014. Retrieved November 23, 2017. 
  48. ^ "USWA Unified World Heavyweight Title History". Solie's Title Histories. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 

External links[edit]