Saturday, February 11, 2012

Black History Month: Kamala

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger on Twitter

About a year and a half ago I dedicated a "Freak of the Week" blog to the Ugandan Giant, Kamala.  I shared some of my memories of him, and figured I'd update those thoughts after hearing some bad news about the former USWA champion.  Many of you already know, Kamala had a portion of his leg amputated late last year.  He's continuing to recover from that.

My first memories of Kamala come when he showed up in Texas as a part of World Class Championship Wrestling.  They did these vignettes of him out in the wild and manager Skandar Akbar and Friday talked about the destruction he would inflict once he arrived.  And he did, rolling over jobbers left and right.  But when it came to challenging the all powerful Von Erich brood, the monster was no match.  Kerry Von Erich slammed the 350+ pound beast on more than one occasion.  He also had a tough time with Bruiser Brody.

Kamala vs. Hogan (WWF)
Then he headed to the WWF where he feuded with Hulk Hogan right before his big show down with Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania 3.  I don't remember much of that stint with the company, just that he went over a lot against jobbers.  I think he also had a brief feud with Jake the Snake Roberts.  I do recall a Saturday Night's Main Event when Jake was wrestling Kamala and about to DDT him, but Friday (or Kim Chee) interfered.  Turns out it was Honky Tonk Man under the mask and he helped Kamala get the win.

Through the years Kamala jumped from various wrestling companies, including the WWF, USWA, Midsouth, AWA, WCW, and Japan.  On his last big run with the WWF he feuded primarily with the Undertaker, losing a Casket Match at Survivor Series 92.  I believe that was the first time WWF had done such a match (at least on TV).  A short time after that, he turned face and was paired with Rev. Slick.  I didn't feel like the gimmick worked at all for him, as Kamala should always be that savage heel character.  He won the USWA heavyweight title, I believe after that fun with WWF.  He then played a role in the Dungeon of Doom in WCW, a group hell bent on ending Hulkamania (they failed)

Gimmick Battle Royal (WWE)
He made a few more appearances with the WWE after WCW got bought out.  Kamala was in the Gimmick Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 17.  He was a surprise during the Divas Search contest and also put Randy Orton over during his "Legend Killer" gimmick.  He was also an option during to team with Eugene during Taboo Tuesday in 2005, but the fans picked Jimmy Snuka.  I think Kamala and the other faces still came out that night and did something in the ring.  It wasn't long after that that the big man was back on the Indy scene.  Chad and I got to see him at Ring of Honor during Wrestlemania 25 weekend in Houston.  He didn't actually wrestle, but did make his way to the ring for a segment.  He also signed autographs for fans, completely breaking character.

One fascinating thing I've learned about Kamala through the years is that he's one of the few guys to ever body slam Andre the Giant.  I know back in 1987, the WWF claimed Hogan was the first, but there were a handful of others who had done it, including the giant from Uganda.

Since his surgery last year, it's all but certain that Kamala's wrestling career is over.  I wish him nothing but the best as he continues to recover and adjust to his new life outside the ring.  I know he's not got a great relationship with the WWE at the moment, but I hope one day he's inducted in to the Hall of Fame.  He'll always be one of my favorite "gimmicks" in the world of wrestling.

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