Sad news for old time WWF fans, as “The Ugandan Giant” Kamala – real name James Harris – has passed away at the age of 70. His death was reported by long time wrestling agent Eric Simms on his Facebook page. Harris has had multiple health issues in recent years, including having both legs amputated below the knees due to complications with his diabetes. ESPN and Bleacher Report writer Jason King reports that according to Kamala’s wife, he tested positive for COVID on Wednesday and was hospitalized that evening. He went into cardiac arrest on Sunday afternoon and passed away.
Harris made his pro wrestling debut in 1978 as “Sugar Bear” Harris, competing in the NWA Tri-State territory (which would become Mid South Wrestling the following year). In 1979, managed by Percy Pringle (the future Paul Bearer), he would capture the NWA United States Tag Team Championships alongside Oki Shikina. Harris would work many Southern territories, including Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarrett‘s Continental Wrestling Association in Memphis, Georgia Championship Wrestling, and Championship Wrestling From Florida.
In 1982, he adopted the persona that would make him an international superstar, becoming Kamala in CWA (although it was originally spelled Kimala), and in June, he won the AWA Southern Heavyweight Champion in Memphis as the Giant Kimala. He would remain a monster heel throughout the South, particularly in Mid South, CWA, and in Texas with the Von Erich’s World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), before the WWF came calling in 1984.
In 1984, he briefly joined WWF for a several month program in July, managed by “Classy” Freddie Blassie and his handler, Friday. His biggest angle was one that pitted up against the WWF’s top star, WWF World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan in August that ended in a double count-out. Following his title match against Hogan, Kamala would begin to feud with Andre the Giant, before departing the WWF in November.
Kamala returned to his usual NWA territories, as well as working with Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling, Stampede Wrestling, NWA Central States, as well as Verne Gagne‘s American Wrestling Association (AWA). In November of 1985, he made his Japanese debut, working with All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW).
In August of 1986, he made his return to the WWF, now managed by The Wizard and a new handler, Kim Chee, and was soon targeting Hulk Hogan, who was still WWF World Champion. For much of the latter part of the year, Hogan and Kamala were headlining WWF events and shows alike. The feud against Hogan lasted through May of 1987, upon which he transitioned to the tag team division, paired with Sika of the Wild Samoans. He left the WWF in September of 1987.
He returned again to CWA, WCCW, and AJPW, and in 1990, headed to Mexico to begin working with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). He also moved over to Lawler’s new promotion, United States Wrestling Association (USWA), where he became a 4x USWA Unified World Heavyweight Champion.
He returned to WWF for a third run, this time in 1992. Now managed by Harvey Wippleman (but still “handled” by Kim Chee), he began facing “Macho Man” Randy Savage for the WWF World Championship, but after that feud, his presence once again began to dwindle. Following a series of attacks on Kamala by Wippleman and Kim Chee, he was saved by Slick, who took over as his new manager who attempted to “humanize” the Ugandan “savage”. But by the summer of 1993, Kamala once again left the WWF.
Upon his third departure from the WWF, Kamala went into a state of semi-retirement, although he would make appearances with other companies, such as WCW in 1995 as part of Kevin Sullivan‘s Dungeon of Doom stable, where he once again feuded with Hulk Hogan.
In 2001, he made a surprise return to the WWE as part of the Gimmicks Battle Royale at WrestleMania X-7, which prompted a return to pro wrestling on a more frequent basis. In 2006, he faced Daniel Bryan (then Bryan Danielson) for the Ring of Honor World Championship. Apart from several other WWE appearances over the years, he also worked for multiple US indies until he fully retired in 2010 due to health conditions.
Last Word on Pro Wrestling sends our deepest condolences to James Harris’ family, as well as his friends, peers, and colleagues in the pro wrestling and acting community. Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.
WWE is saddened to learn that James Harris, known to WWE fans as Kamala, has passed away at age 70.https://t.co/d0kGY4GcTO
— WWE (@WWE) August 10, 2020
The CAC family wishes to extend our sincerest condolences to the family friends and fans the world over upon the news that the legendary James "Kamala" Harris has passed away at the age of 70. Rest in Peace James. pic.twitter.com/7p0LUkkU4P
— CauliflowerAlleyClub (@CACReunion) August 9, 2020
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) August 10, 2020
Just been told that Kamala has passed away. pic.twitter.com/oBGnezmujn
— Jerry Lawler (@JerryLawler) August 9, 2020