Kamala, also known as the “Ugandan Giant,” was a beloved professional wrestler who rose to fame during the 1980s and 1990s in the WWE. His real name was James Harris and he was known for his imposing size and unique wrestling style. Kamala quickly rose amongst the rankings and became a classic heel character but also a fan favorite to many.
James grew up in Senatobia, Mississippi where he was a troubled youth who ran into some issues with the police. Dropping out of school led him down a bad path where he become a petty theft until he was kicked out of town. At age 25, he relocated to Michigan and met wrestler Bobo Brazil who kick-started his wrestling career.
Kamala’s wrestling career spanned several decades and included some of the most memorable matches and moments in the history of the WWE. Let’s take a closer look at Kamala’s life and career, examining what made him such a beloved figure in the WWE and why his legacy continues to endure to this day. So grab a ringside seat and let’s delve into the world of Kamala, the Ugandan Giant.
Kamala (James Harris) Update:
Sadly after his wrestling career was over he ran into many health problems, mainly due to diabetes, and had to have both his legs amputated. Unfortunately, in 2020 he contracted the COVID virus and passed away shortly after.
Twitter Handle: @KamalaSpeaks
Kamala WWE Career
Kamala’s wrestling career in the WWE spanned over two decades and was filled with some memorable matches and moments in the history of the sport. From his signature finishing moves to his iconic rivalries with Hulk Hogan, Kamala left an indelible mark on the world of professional wrestling.
WWF Debut: 1984
Main Character: Kamala, The Ugandan Giant
Manager(s): Kim Chee, Harvey Wippleman, Mr. Fuji
Billed From: Uganda, Africa
Signature Moves: Belly Slap, Overhead Chop, Savate Kick
Finisher Moves: Air Africa, Kamala Splash
Kamala was billed as the “Ugandan Giant”, a simple-minded man who needed to be controlled by his trainers. He wore a loincloth and had body paint, most notable was the yellow moon painted on his big belly which he routinely slapped out of delight. At first, Kamala was presented as a savage and almost animalistic figure. But as he gained more exposure, his character became more nuanced and he was given more opportunities to showcase his humor and personality.
If you grew up in the eighties watching wrestling Kamala was one of the more memorable characters of the era. The Ugandan Giant was entertaining and unique, to say the least. What made him stand out besides his face and body paint was his sheer size. The man was a monster 6 ft 7 and 380 lbs but he had decent agility for a big man and would routinely pull off the leapfrog move over his opponents. His gimmick was perfect and it’s what really put him over the top with fans.
One of Kamala’s most famous matches came in 1992 when he faced The Undertaker in a coffin match. The two wrestlers had been embroiled in a bitter feud, and fans highly anticipated the match. The Undertaker emerged victorious, but the match is still remembered as one of Kamala’s best performances. He would sell his over-top-fear of the Undertaker’s coffin perfectly which made the match highly entertaining and humorous.
Kamala’s other main foe during his peak WWE days was Hulk Hogan. The two wrestlers faced off in a series of matches throughout the 1980s and 1990s, with Kamala often coming close to defeating Hogan for the championship. Although he never quite managed to clinch the title, Kamala’s battles with Hogan helped cement his place as one of the most notable heels in wrestling during that time.
Overall, Kamala’s wrestling career in the WWE was nothing short of remarkable for a guy who started out as a petty criminal in his younger days. He was a true original, and his influence on the wrestling world is still felt today.
Kamala’s WWE Stats
Wins: 213 (52%)
Losses: 188 (45%)
Draws: 12 (3%)
Most Wins Vs
Brooklyn Brawler (38-0)
Most Losses Vs
Hulk Hogan (2-1-40)
Most Notable Wrestlers He Defeated
King Kong Bundy
Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Post Wrestling Life
While Kamala was an iconic figure in the world of professional wrestling, the man James Harris’s personal life was not without its challenges. James’ life outside of the ring was marked by health struggles, family problems, and a difficult post-wrestling career. One of Kamala’s biggest health issues was his battle with diabetes.
He was diagnosed with the disease in the early 1990s, and it had a significant impact on his life and career. In 2011, Kamala had to have both of his legs amputated due to complications from the disease, which was a devastating blow for him and his family.
In addition to his health struggles, Kamala also faced challenges in his post-wrestling life, as many wrestlers do sadly. Despite his fame and success in the ring, he struggled to find steady work outside of wrestling. He worked a series of odd jobs over the years, including as a truck driver and a security guard. In 2015, he released an autobiography called Kamala Speaks which is still available on Amazon. Despite all the challenges, Kamala was dealt in his life he remained a legendary figure among wrestling fans. He continued to make appearances at wrestling events and conventions, and his legacy in the sport lived on.
In 2020, however, Kamala passed away at the age of 70, due to a combination of the COVID virus and his other health issues. Kamla left behind a legacy that will always be remembered and celebrated among WWE fans.
Kamala Action Figure Checklist
1984 – LJN Wrestling Superstars, Series 4
1993 – Hasbro Series 7 (Star On Belly)
1993 – Hasbro Series 7 (Moon On Belly)
2000 – Figures Toy Company, Legends of Wrestling, Series 10
Shop On eBay
2006 – Jakks Pacific, WWE Classic Superstars, Series 9
Shop On eBay
2010 – Matel, WWE Legends, Series 2
Shop On eBay
2016 – Matel, WWE Elite Collection, Lost Legends
Shop On eBay
2020 – Exclusive Micro Brawlers
Shop On eBay
Video Games With Kamala Character
Kamala didn’t make the roster of many video games unfortunately but there were two notable ones where you could get to play as the Ugandan Giant.
WWE Legends of Wrestlemania
- Released: 2009
- Gaming Systems: Xbox 360, Playstation 3
- Match Types: Singles, Tag Team, Triple Threat, Steel Cage, Ladder, Submission, Iron Man, Handicap Match, Hell in a Cell, Royal Rumble
WWF Rage In The Cage
- Released: 1993
- Gaming Systems: Sega CD
- Match Types: Singles, Tournament, No Holds Brawl, Steel Cage Match
Assuming you still have an old Sega CD system you can still purchase the game online at the following retailers:
WWF Rage In The Cage
Kamala Closing Thoughts
Kamala was one of the most memorable characters in the world of professional wrestling. While he faced his share of challenges in his personal life, I think it’s fair to say Kamala will always be remembered as one of the best gimmicks ever created by the WWE.
Throughout his wrestling career in the WWE, Kamala created countless unforgettable moments and had memorable feuds with some of the biggest names in the sport, including Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker. He left an indelible mark on wrestling fans in the late 80s and continued well into the 90s when his character developed into a more humourous role. I know for myself I will never forget his tribal body paint and classic belly slap.
More Wrestler Spotlights: