Wrestling legend Kamala passes away at age 70

Kamala, who wrestled for WWE, CWA, WCCW and other promotions, has died

James Harris, who was best known to professional wrestling fans as “The Ugandan Giant” Kamala, died on Aug. 9. He was 70.

Born and raised in Mississippi, Harris met future fellow wrestling legend Bobo Brazil in Michigan when he was 25. Not long after, Harris began training to become a professional wrestler under the mentorship of “Tiny” Tim Hampton.

After starting his career in regional NWA promotions, Harris joined Jerry “The King” Lawler’s Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) in 1982. It was there where he, Lawler and Jerry Jarrett first developed the idea for the Kamala character.

Legendary wrestling superstar Kamala, real name James Harris, passes away

The character, in which Harris was covered in face and body paint, had the backstory of being a former Ugandan headhunter and former bodyguard of Idi Amin, president of Uganda during the 1970s.

Between 1982 and 1986, Harris wrestled for the CWA, Mid-South Wrestling and World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), defeating Lawler for the AWA Southern Heavyweight Championship in June 1982.

As Kamala, Harris had three stints in the WWE in 1984, 1986-87 and 1992-93. His stints in the 1980s saw him feud with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, while his time with the promotion in the 90s saw him feud with The Undertaker and Bam Bam Bigelow.

“WWE is saddened to learn that James Harris, known to WWE fans as Kamala, has passed away at age 70,” the promotion said in a statement on Harris’ death. “Under the frightening face paint of Kamala, the 6-foot-7, 380-pound Harris battled the greatest Superstars in sports-entertainment history, including Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker and Andre the Giant.”

Between his WWE stints, Harris would bounce around various other promotions including the AWA, Jim Crockett Promotions, All-Japan Pro Wrestling and the United States Wrestling Association, along with a return to WCCW. His stint with the USWA between 1990 and 1992 saw him win the promotion’s world heavyweight championship four times.

He would also briefly spend part of 1995 in WCW as part of the Dungeon of Doom.

In his retirement years, Harris had a number of health issues. Both of his legs were amputated below the knees between November 2011 and April 2012. In November 2017, Harris underwent emergency surgery to clear fluid from the area of his heart and lungs.

As of press time, the exact cause of Kamala’s death is not yet known.

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