#RIPKamala: WWF legend James 'Kamala' Harris dies at 70, fans mourn loss of 'one of a kind' wrestler

The wrestler was battling health issues for years but the exact cause of his death is yet to be specified

                            #RIPKamala: WWF legend James 'Kamala' Harris dies at 70, fans mourn loss of 'one of a kind' wrestler
Wrestler Kamala (Flickr: 'swiftwj'/Wikipedia Commons)

In a piece of tragic news, wrestler James ‘Kamala’ Harris died at the age of 70 on August 9. The news was confirmed Sunday evening by the Cauliflower Alley Club and WWE released a statement following his death. He was also referred to as ‘The Ugandan Giant’. His long time wrestling agent Eric Simms announced the death on his Facebook page, according to a report by Last Word on Pro Wrestling. Even though no cause of death has been disclosed, according to the report Harris has had multiple health issues in recent years, including having both legs amputated below the knees due to complications with his diabetes.


WWE released a statement on August 9 following his death, as reported by 247 Sports.com. It read: "WWE is saddened to learn that James Harris, known to WWE fans as Kamala, has passed away at age 70. 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. He terrorized opponents and thrilled audiences in Mid-South, World Class Championship Wrestling, WCW and WWE until 2006. WWE extends its condolences to Harris' family, friends and fans."

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 was at the NWA United States Tag Team Championships alongside Oki Shikina. The wrestler worked at many Southern territories, including Jerry Lawler and Jerry Jarrett‘s Continental Wrestling Association in Memphis, Georgia Championship Wrestling and Championship Wrestling From Florida.

According to Fightful, Kamala was born in the Memphis territory. The report states, Jerry Lawler has shared the story of shooting vignettes for the debut and character in the backyard of Jerry Jarrett and admitted that he was the one who initially painted the stars and moon on the body of Harris. He also made many appearances in WWE. In the late '80s, he was a regular arrival of Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan. In the '90s, he participated in the first-ever “Coffin Match” at the 1992 WWE Survivor Series.

The Last Word on Pro Wrestling reports, in 2001, he made a surprise return to the WWE as part of the Gimmicks Battle Royale at WrestleMania X-7, which made him 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. He fully retired in 2010 due to health conditions.

Wrestling and Harris fans paid their tributes on Twitter. One user remembered: "Kamala was one of Hulk Hogan's better-drawing house show opponents. From late 1986 to early 1987, they did good business. It's kind of forgotten because it's right before WM3. #RIPKamala."


One clarified, "Political Twitter is about to be so confused...Kamala was a pro wrestler real name James Harris...ye like I said political Twitter gonna be confused #ripkamala."


A fan wrote: "Rip kamala i just saw the news he was one of my favorite wrestlers growing up Rip to the legend kamala  #ripKamala."


Another wrote: "#RIPKamala. Man was plagued with health problems for many years. If there is an afterlife may it truly be filled with Paradise and he is no longer in pain. Godspeed Kamala, Godspeed..."


One fan said, "Kamala was one of the first characters of pro wrestling that I remember being scared of as a kid. His mannerisms were so unorthodox and bizarre, but that's what made him stand out. I'm sad to hear the news that he's gone. #RIPKamala ."


Another fan wrote: "Growing up, one of my favourite wacky characters was Kamala. He was an African American guy who main evented Madison Square Garden and made a massive name for himself in pro wrestling against everyone from the Von Erichs to Hogan to Taker. One of a kind #RIPKamala."


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