It is a sad day for the wrestling world as James Harris, who wrestled professionally for years as Kamala “The Ugandan Headhunter” passed away. He was 70 years old.
Born in Sentanobia, Mississippi in 1950, James Harris did not begin wrestling until 1978. At 6’ 7” and well over 350 pounds, Harris was an imposing sight, but he was not a great performer. After stints using his own name, “Sugar Bear” Harris, “Ugly Bear” Harris, and the Mississippi Mauler, he performed mostly in the American South and later the United Kingdom.
It was not until 1982 where in Memphis, Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler developed the character of “Kamala” for him, where he was discovered by manager, James J. Dillon when he was in Africa. Now barefoot, wearing a loincloth and with a painted face, stomach and chest, one of the greatest monster heel characters of all-time was born. Kamala fought Jerry Lawler, winning the Southern Heavyweight Title and selling out arenas across the Memphis area. After Lawler took back his title, Kamala would put over other faces (good guys), but this would be the template for years to come, where he would go into a territory and challenge a champion to sold out shows before putting someone over and going off to the next territory.
Kamala wrestled all across the United States, namely for Bill Watts in the Mid-South promotion where he competed against Andre the Giant in the Louisiana Superdome. He also had a big run in Dallas for World Class Championship Wrestling, feuding with the Von Erich family. He also wrestled at the Great American Bash for Jim Crockett Promotions, and the AWA in Minnesota.
Kamala wrestled for the WWF on three different runs, the first in 1984, where he main evented against World Champion, Hulk Hogan and also Andre. He was back in 1987, where he once again sold out multiple arenas challenging Hogan for the title. His last run in the WWF was in 1992, where he famously feuded with the Undertaker.
Following a brief run in WCW in 1994, Kamala wrestled sparingly and his main source of income was driving trucks. Kamala gave many interviews over the years, where he detailed his low payoffs, but everyone who ever knew him would talk of his kindness.
We were blessed to have had a conversation this past March on our audio show, where we talked about his career and musical interests (he was quite the amateur singer). In our latest list of those to consider for the WWE Hall of Fame, Kamala was ranked #32.
We here at Notinhalloffame.com would like to extend our deepest condolences to the friends, fans and family of James “Kamala” Harris.
When James Harris adopted the gimmick of a “Ugandan Headhunter”, he stumbled upon one of most bizarre yet memorable personas in wrestling history. With his painted face and stomach, Kamala was a large savage who looked like he could destroy anybody and then eat them for dinner.