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Wrestling / Kamala

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"The Ugandan Head Hunter"

James Arthur Harris (May 28, 1950 – August 9, 2020) was an American professional wrestler from Senatobia, Mississippi best known for his work in the 1980s and 1990s as Kamala. His gimmick was of an Ugandan "savage" (and was in fact nicknamed "The Ugandan Giant"). He competed primarily in Memphis, in World Class Championship Wrestling in Dallas, Texas, in Mid-South Wrestling (Louisiana/Oklahoma), in the American Wrestling Association and for WWE. He made his PPV debut at SummerSlam '92 against The Undertaker. He was a four-time USWA (Memphis) Unified World Heavyweight Champion. His last run with a major promotion was as a member of the Dungeon of Doom in WCW from June through October 1995. He also competed for All Japan Pro Wrestling, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, various National Wrestling Alliance territories, W*ING, Ring of Honor and many independent promotions, including defeating Ring of Honor/CHIKARA regular "Sweet 'N Sour" Larry Sweeney at a Women Superstars Uncensored event, WSU Ultimate Impact Phase 2 on May 18, 2007, when the promotion was still known as Wrestling Superstars Uncensored. He was inducted into the Texas Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012.

He held the distinction of being one of the few wrestlers who slammed André the Giant before Hulk Hogan did it at WrestleMania 3.

A hypertension, diabetes and COVID combo cut his life short, passing away at 70.

No connection whatsoever to Kamala Harris.

"Head Hunting Tropes":

  • Acrofatic: At his best. His speed and agility were often acknowledged by commentators during the 1980s. He was usually over 400+ lbs. and regularly came off of the top rope.
  • A Friend in Need: After losing both legs due diabetes, it was Koko B. Ware who get him a power scooter so he could take care of his trucking business, thus still supporting his family.
  • Animal Motifs:
  • Arch-Enemy:
  • Ascended Fanboy: Both him and his mom were huge wrestling fans, to the point the lady always thought wrestling was real, Jim never had the heart to tell her otherwise.
  • Bald of Evil: To help his skull paint
  • Bash Brothers: He teamed most often with Giant Kamala II, Kevin Sullivan, Wild Samoan Sika.
  • The Cameo: Went to a double-DQ with Ring of Honor World Heavyweight Champion Bryan Danielson at a Liberty States Wrestling (now NWA On Fire) show in Bridgeport, CT on September 30, 2006.
  • Choke Holds/Neck Lift: A regular feature of his matches. He actually did an early two-handed prototype of the chokeslam for years before the move was officially named in the U.S.note 
  • Cool Mask: A fearsome African tribal-style mask was part of his entrance attire.
  • Dice Roll Death: An unfortunate and literal case. Jim's father was killed while playing craps over a gambling dispute when he was only 4.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: While doing commentary for an early Kamala match in WWE, Vince McMahon said:
    "Ladies and gentlemen, don't adjust your television sets!! This is KAMALA!!"
  • Drugs Are Bad: In his song "Push It" (see below under Take That!), he explains that he never used steroids because he didn't want to mess up his body, adding "What might work for you might not work for me."
    • Unfortunately, his body ended all messed up in another way via diabetes. Losing both legs during his last years for that cause.
  • Dumb Muscle: Tried to pin guys when they were face down, leg hook and all.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Originally, his gimmick's name was Kimala. Incidentally, that was the name he was known with while working in Mexico.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Introduced to WWE on its USA Network talk show Tuesday Night Titans in 1984 in an interview with manager "Classy" Freddie Blassie and his "handler", Friday (Later renamed Kim Chee in 1987 and played by Steve "Brooklyn Brawler" Lombardi since 1992). Blassie had brought a cage with a live chicken in it and said that "it was time for the chicken to do a disappearing act. He's going to eat him alive!," with host Vince McMahon saying "No! No! No!" as Friday opened the cage and Kamala reached for the chicken. Cut to Kamala still sitting on the couch with feathers around his mouth and a completely insane look in his eyes.
  • Expy:
    • According to JJ Dillon, Lawler had done a guest shot in Florida against Dillon's Japanese heel Kendo Nagasaki, giving Lawler the idea to create his own face-painted "foreign" monster, leading him to turn Harris, then a struggling Jobber, into one of the most famous wrestling monsters ever.
    • His gimmick was, in a sense, a re-invention of that played by Abdullah.
    • Later spawned several copies, most famously Giant Kamala II aka Uganda, "The Botswana Beast" and Atkie Malumba (real name Ben Peacock), best known for his work for All Japan Pro Wrestling.
  • Finishing Move: Air Uganda: A Big Splash either performed at ground level or top rope... even when his opponent was prone (See Dumb Muscle).
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: In his very early days as "The Mississippi Mauler", he was an evil American wrestling in Great Britain. More specifically, an evil Creole, which must've been very foreign and exotic to the British audience, while in Memphis, he was an evil Ugandan.
  • The Giant: It was part of his name, after all. He was a bit on the short side for a giant, being billed as 6'7", but he was massive enough to pull it off.
  • Gimmick Matches: His first Pay-per-View was up to Summer Slam '92, in a Casket Match against the Deadman.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Split from manager Harvey Wippleman in late 1992/early 1993, taking Kim Chee with him and siding with Slick, who told Kamala "You are a man!" and tried to teach him to bowl.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Jim Harris was also an accomplished musician, singer and songwriter.
    • Despite of his apparently limited moveset, he knew and perfomred a quite decent amount of throws, locks and holds in Mid-South, Southeastern and Britain.
  • I Have Many Names: "The Mississippi Mauler", "Big" Jim Harris, Sugar Bear Harris, Ugly Bear Harris, Bad News Harris, Superfly, El Gigante Kimala and Giant Kamala 1.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Implied in the gimmick's early years - the cover of one issue of WWF Magazine featured a picture of Kamala cooking Hulk Hogan in a cauldron.
  • Legacy Character
    • Giant Kamala II
    • Also, "The Nigerian Nightmares" (Maifu and Saifu).
  • Lightning Bruiser: By the standards of his day. When many other giant wrestlers did little besides punch and stomp, Kamala could throw superkicks, hook kicks, dropkicks, and even come flying off the top rope.
  • Monster Heel: After winning his match against Motoshi Ohkuma (As described on the Awesome page) he was walking to the back when a fan tried reaching out and touching his hand and he reacted with surprise.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "The Ugandan Headhunter."
  • No-Sell: In his match with Yokozuna on the May 17, 1993 Raw, they did the big collision spot, and, even though Yoko was fatter, wider and outweighed Kamala by probably around 100 lbs. or so at the time, Yoko looked to be on the verge of falling over while Kamala wasn't visibly affected at all.
  • One-Steve Limit: Called "The Ugandan Headhunter" because of the presence of Andre The Giant
  • Papa Wolf: Toward anyone who threatened his managers or "handlers".
  • Power Stable: Was part of many over his career:
  • Red Baron: The Ugandan Giant/Head Hunter.
  • Retcon: Made his WWE debut in 1984 managed by "Classy" Freddie Blassie, and they appeared together on "Piper's Pit" on the August 25th (taped July 30) episode of WWF Championship Wrestling. During his second run, in 1986, he, the Wizard (aka King Curtis Iaukea) and Kim Chee (Steve "The Brooklyn Brawler" Lombardi) appeared on Piper's Pit on the November 22 (taped October 28) WWF Superstars, and Piper had to act like he had never seen him before. But then, every time Kamala returned it seemed like his previous runs with the company were forgotten.
  • Ring Oldies: Started in the late 1970s and competed in independents up until 2010.
  • Scary Black Man: The dude was a wrestling monster and was also black.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Left WCW in October 1995 right before the Halloween Havoc PPV out of frustration with not getting paid.
  • Signature Move: He threw a lot of chops of various types, which he was instructed would be good for the gimmick because no one wanted to tell him his working punches sucked...his real punches were alright, as Andre could tell you, but he couldn't throw a good working punch without hurting people. Back kicks were also a regular feature in his matches. Oh, and let's not forget biting people!!
  • Spot the Imposter: Played for laughs: Weirdly enough, at CWA he had a feud with the original "Giant Kamala 2"... one who was nothing like him.
  • Squash Match: Often. Especially when first entering a territory.
  • Squee: Just listen to the crowd's delight in this old Mid-South clip of Kamala beating up on a young Shawn Michaels as he and manager General Skandor Akbar throw various referees out of the ring and Kamala beats up on whoever tries to save Shawn until Terry Taylor is able to take out Friday.
  • Stout Strength: Kamala was fat, but very strong. He was one of the few men to slam Andre, doing the deed in Mid-South.
  • Take That!: His song "Push It", where he slams WWE's Wellness Policy as a sham and bashes Pat Patterson, the Brooklyn Brawler, Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior, among other targets.
  • This Means War Paint/Tribal Facepaint: A skull on his face, stars over his pectorals and a moon on his stomach - his paint is some of the most recognizable of wrestling's last 30 years.
  • The Voiceless: Rarely spoke intentionally while in character, since he wasn't supposed to be able to speak English, thus providing work for his various managers, though at times something beyond grunts and screaming came out, such as when he shouted "HEY REF!" during a match with Lawler at a Jersey All Pro Wrestling event on January 18, 2003. What makes it funny is the name of the event: Actions Speak Louder Than Words.
    • There is a famous interview from his WWE days in 1986 with Kamala, Sika, the Wizard, Kim Chee and "Mean" Gene Okerlund where Kamala is grunting and Sika is speaking Samoan and Gene asked if they were actually communicating with each other.
  • Wrestling Doesn't Pay: A rather sad Truth in Television case: Despite of his notoriety and fan support, he claimed in his book "Kamala speaks" he wasn't very well paid, even in some cases never paid at all! The biggest figure he'd reach to was in his Summer Slam '92 match against The Undertaker. He made ends meet off-season owning two trucks he made local deliveries with, reporting him sweeter earnings at times.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: His feud with, of course, Jake Roberts where it turned out that Kamala was afraid of snakes and Jake used the fear to play mind games with Kamala.