Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Keeping In Touch
Finally! In my last post I talked about keeping in touch with friends and told you that I had spoken to Pork Chops Cash and Izzy Slapawitz both of whom are doing great, and that I was still trying to get in touch with another old friend. Well today I talked with my friend James Harris from Senatobia, Mississippi. I know many of you are wondering who James Harris is, so I am about to tell you. I first met James in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1978 at one of our weekly wrestling events at the Sportatorium. This is during the time that we were running our own AWA Wrestling Promotion and we were bringing in new talent since we had broken away from the Mid-South promotion. Some of the talent we brought in was on recommendations from other wrestlers already here and The Great Mephisto Frankie Cain, who was our Booker, brought a few guys in that he had worked with in different territories. We also received a lot of letters and photos from young guys wanting a chance to work. I don't remember if James had sent us a letter and pictures or if someone else knew of him but since he was not too awfully far from Greenwood we told him to come in early, bring his wrestling gear just in case and we would talk and possibly get him on the card, no guarantees. None of us knew what to expect. Well, a car pulls up in the parking lot early before the crowd started arriving, a bit earlier than we had told him to be there and this huge guy gets out with bag in hand and I happened to be outside the door at the time. He introduced himself, we walked in the building, I took him to the ticket office and then went and got my father and Frankie. When they came in we began talking, well actually I was mostly listening, and Frankie began asking him questions as to who he had trained with, what he could do, etc.. James was very mild mannered and seemed a bit nervous and the whole time I am standing there thinking how comical this actually looked because Frankie was maybe 5'8" tall looking up at this huge man of around 6'7" and 300+ pounds and grilling him with questions! Come to find out that James had been "training" with an old timer Mario Gallento in Memphis but so far had only been running around a track and doing exercises. He had never had a single match! And no real wrestling training! After a bit Frankie told him to go get dressed and get ready for the opening match... against HIM... The Great Mephisto!! James was Really nervous now! Frankie was great at seeing potential in guys and making the most of it and being creative, and since he (Frankie) was already wrestling in the Main Event that night we announced this opening match as a special added Challenge Match, or something of that nature. That way if it looked like it was going to be a real stinker of a match Frankie would have just eaten him up and ended it quick. If however, Frankie saw that the guy had any potential at all to learn and his attitude was right, then he would try and stretch it out and see how the crowd reacted. Well, the crowd reacted well and so began the career of "Sugar Bear" Harris, later known as "Ugly Bear" Harris here in Mississippi when Percy Pringle began to manage him.
If you were a wrestling fan during those days in Mississippi you remember this well. If not, then you remember seeing James as Kimala or maybe The Ugandan Warrior in territories such as Memphis, WCW, WWE and others. He became a huge star and I am proud for him! Super nice guy! For those that are not aware James has been through some very difficult times since November 2011 when he had one leg amputated due to Diabetes and high blood pressure then shortly after that had to have his other leg removed. We had a great talk today. His spirits are high and I was so glad to hear him laughing in that low, child like laughter I remember so well. Of course I had to pick at him a bit about some funny memories but it all goes back to the Brotherhood and friendships that were formed during those days. And by the way, the last time I actually saw James was in the summer of 2011 when I went to a match that Pork Chops promoted in Madison, Mississippi. I went just to see some old friends and "Kimala" was on the card in the main event. So happens one of the wrestlers was unable to make it and Chops had to juggle the card around a bit and asked me if I would do him a huge favor and referee the Main Event. Of course I did. It was fun. Another story for another time.
Till next time, Stay Tuned! And, Keep In Touch!!