WWE's Golden Era, spanning the 1980s and early 1990s, marked a significant milestone in professional wrestling as it popularized the sport on mainstream television. Larger-than-life characters like Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage emerged as pioneers, bringing wrestling into the cultural limelight.
However, it is essential to acknowledge the lesser-known but equally important figures of this era, such as "The Ugandan Giant" Kamala, who competed against some of the greatest superstars of his time. The Golden Era of WWE is best remembered for its roster of imposing giants, with "The Eighth Wonder of the World," Andre the Giant leading the pack.
This period saw professional wrestling primarily focus on showcasing physically massive wrestlers as its main attractions, a stark contrast to the more diverse size range seen among today's talent. Superstars like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior, with their superhero-like personas, rightfully earned their place in wrestling history.
However, other real-life cartoon characters, such as "The Ugandan Giant" Kamala, portrayed by the late James Arthur Harris, deserve recognition for their contributions to the industry. James Harris began his wrestling career in the late 1970s and wrestled for various organizations over three decades.
In 1982, while wrestling for the Continental Wrestling Association, Harris adopted the "Kamala" gimmick, created by promoters Jerry Lawler and Jeff Jarrett. The character was portrayed as a Ugandan headhunter who wore warpaint and an African mask during his entrance.
His move set included chops and even biting his opponents, with his signature finishing move being the Big Splash.
Kamala's Storied WWE Tenure
Kamala had multiple runs with WWE throughout the 1980s and 1990s. During his first stint in 1984, he had high-profile matches against Hulk Hogan for the WWE Championship and a series of bouts with Andre, the Giant.
He was also involved in a controversial angle in which he supposedly ate a live chicken on an episode of Tuesday Night Titans. Kamala returned to WWE in 1986 and 1992 before retiring from full-time wrestling. Despite the controversial nature of his gimmick, which some critics argue promoted stereotypes toward Africans, Kamala's portrayal by James Harris was praised for being believable and menacing.
Over the years, Kamala continued to make special appearances in WWE and other promotions, including a one-off match with Randy Orton in 2005 and a bout against Bryan Danielson for the ROH World Heavyweight Championship at an NWA event in 2006.
Kamala's Lasting Wrestling Legacy
Kamala passed away on August 9, 2020, due to complications from diabetes. He leaves behind a remarkable legacy in professional wrestling. He has been considered by many as a potential inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame as fans remember the giants of WWE's Golden Era; Kamala's contributions should not be overlooked, as he played an essential role in shaping the industry.