Former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstar Kamala, whose real name is James Harris, passed away late Sunday. He was 70 years old. His wife confirmed that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 on August 5.
Harris made his pro wrestling debut in 1978, working for such promotions as Continental Wrestling Association, Mid-South Wrestling and World Class Championship Wrestling before making his World Wrestling Federation debut in 1984.
As Kamala, he portrayed a fearsome and simpleminded Ugandan who wrestled barefoot in war paint and a loincloth, and approached the ring wearing an African mask and carrying a spear and shield.
Harris, whose character Kamala was that of a Ugandan giant, started his career in several independent organisations before joining the WWF (the old name of WWE) as a heel (villain), but turned babyface (hero) after turning on his on-screen manager and ‘tamer’.
Kamala was one of the main draws in the 1992 Survivor Series where he fought The Undertaker in the very first casket match in the WWE history. The match was so popular that it gave rise to several other casket matches. His in-ring ability was praised by many people, who would be astounded by his movement in the ring despite his size. Only a handful of ‘big men’ have had this ability, which makes Kamala’s career special.
Besides his time in the WWE, Harris was a regular in the professional wrestling independent circuit and even made a couple of trips to India where he wrestled at Mumbai’s NSCI, which was more popularly known as the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Stadium. He even competed in independent events that were held at Andheri Sports Complex that also hosted a WWE event in 1996-97.
Despite his persona as a ‘Ugandan Savage’, which he too had deemed racist by the WWE, Harris was considered one of the nicest people in the industry. Although in 2014, he did admit that racism was predominant in WWE. While talking about the Survivor Series match with The Undertaker, Kamala said that he earned $13,000, while The Undertaker was paid $500,000 for the match. “There was a lot of racism in the WWE. I remember so many times when I was there, I would get there early and find me a nice dressing room; the agents would (kick me out and) let (the white stars) have the dressing room. When I went out to the ring, I was a superstar; backstage I was a nothing," he said in an interview to Wrestling Inc. He, however, has high praise for The Undertaker, who he said treated him with ‘nothing but respect’.
Towards the end of his career, Harris suffered from diabetes that resulted in both his legs getting amputated. In another interview in 2014, Harris told Bleacher Report that he relies on a disability check, sells handmade wooden chairs, and recently wrote a book about his life.
These are the tributes that poured in