The Rise And Fall Of Wrestling Sensation Kamala Shows The Real Problem With The WWE
A few weeks ago, Bleacher Report released an in depth video about the rise and fall of professional wrestler James Harris, better known as Kamala. The famous athlete wrestled with various organizations, including an incredibly successful stint with the WWF — better known now as the WWE — from 1984 to 1993. He did return briefly to the organization in 2001 and from 2004-2006, but has seen a varying degree of success with TNA, WCW and various independent circuits.
The video follows his rise with wrestling legend Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler — who helped create the Kamala persona — and his various bouts with Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior and even Andre the Giant, with the latter resulting in an all out fist fight. On top of this, it shows how Kamala, who would consistently play the villain, was not getting proper compensation for matches, with majority of the profits going to the bigger names. Even Hall of Fame wrestler Mick Foley admitted that Kamala “was one of those guys who drew money literally everywhere he went.”
Harris does not completely blame Vince McMahon and the WWE, “I wish things had worked out better for me. I believe the reason I got done that way is because I’m just a poor boy from down south in Mississippi. If I had been a better talker — you have to negotiate — that probably would’ve helped me.” At the same time, his current medical state and debt — which again is partially blamed on his own ignorance — furthers the open dialogue about the WWE and how they treat their employees.
Yes, Harris did not get dialysis treatment, which directly resulted in his double amputation from diabetes. But Kamala was a character that put people in the stands. The public usually hears stories about wrestlers and how they squandered their riches, yet Harris never had a chance because he did not get the suitable compensation in the first place. And this is just like the hundreds of other athletes who left or had to leave the WWE because of disputes: most recently, the very public feud between the wrestling organization and fan favorite CM Punk, who claims the company was negligent to the wrestler’s health and also did not properly compensate him for his input throughout the years.
But regardless if CM Punk’s accusations of negligence are correct or not, it is public knowledge that the WWE has treated wrestlers like garbage over the years. And they have done this through legal loopholes: meaning they only hire the performers as independent contractors and by doing this “[the athletes] are personally responsible for acquiring their own health insurance, life insurance and financial planning.” So by using this dated system, the more famous wrestlers are able to negotiate bigger deals, while the lower employees have to pay for traveling expenses and other work related accessories with their alleged five figure income.
And to bring this rant full circle, Harris admits his current bodily state is his own fault, but his financial state is not. The fact that an organization like the WWE washes their hands of these wrestlers is sickening, especially since their blood, sweat and tears built the foundation of this company. It is just sad that no one has forced the WWE, whose net worth is just under a billion dollars, to reevaluate the way they treat their employees — oh wait, I mean independent contractors.