Koko B. Ware
James Ware (born June 20, 1957), better known by his ring name Koko B. Ware is a semi-retired American professional wrestler who made his professional wrestling debut in 1978. He rose in popularity during the mid 1980s, while appearing in the World Wrestling Federation, where he was initially a strong mid-carder before he eventually briefly became a jobber to the stars. Ware came to the ring with a blue-and-yellow macaw named Frankie, and would flap his arms like a bird while dancing before and after his matches. Before joining the WWF, Ware worked as a part of several tag teams, first with Bobby Eaton in Memphis and then later on with Norvell Austin as one half of the P.Y.T. Express in several promotions. Ware also holds the distinction of having competed in the first ever match on the first episode of Monday Night Raw in a losing effort against Yokozuna.
|Koko B. Ware|
Ware in 2011
|Birth name||James Ware|
|Born||June 20, 1957|
Union City, Tennessee, United States
|Residence||Collierville, Tennessee, United States|
(1???–2009; her death)
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Koko B. Ware|
Sweet Brown Sugar
|Billed height||5 ft 7 in (170 cm)|
|Billed weight||228 lb (103 kg)|
|Billed from||Union City, Tennessee|
Professional wrestling careerEdit
Early years (1978 - 1986)Edit
Ware spent his early days in the sport in the Mid-South, Georgia and other NWA territories. Early in his career, "Koko Ware" (as he was then known) did not find great success, learning the ropes and paying his dues both in Jerry Jarrett's Continental Wrestling Association and Nick Gulas' territory in the south.
It was not until late in 1980 that Ware's fortunes changed when he participated in a battle royal to crown the first ever Mid-American Television Champion. The crowd favorite was Jimmy Valiant, who Ware accidentally knocked into Danny Davis and eliminated. Moments later, Koko dumped Davis to the floor and won his first title. After the match, Valiant returned to the ring and beat Ware down. Ware's feud with Valiant was quickly expanded to include the heel Tojo Yamamoto and Ware's ally, Tommy Rich. When Dutch Mantel returned to the CWA in early 1981 he quickly defeated Ware for the TV title making Ware's first run with the gold a short one.
Ware floundered until September 1981, when he was chosen to referee a Southern Heavyweight Championship title match between Jerry Lawler and the "Dream Machine". Ware unfairly counted Lawler out to give the Dream Machine the victory, a decision that did not sit well with Lawler nor the fans in Memphis. Koko quickly aligned himself with manager Jimmy Hart and his First Family and changed his ring name to "Sweet Brown Sugar". Sugar never got the best of Lawler but did taste tag-team success alongside Steve Keirn and then with Bobby Eaton. Eaton and Sugar won the AWA Southern Tag Team Championship.
After successfully teaming for a while, Sugar and Eaton started to show signs of dissension, during their last run with the tag-team title Eaton beat Jacques Rougeau for the Mid-American Heavyweight title. During an interview where Eaton and Hart bragged about the victory, Sugar complained that he was unable to win the Southern Title from Terry Taylor. After being fed up, Hart finally slapped Sugar and sent the sulking superstar back to the dressing room after which Eaton commented that Sugar had been "whining like a woman". Later that night the duo defended their title against Taylor and Bill Dundee, losing the title when Sugar "accidentally" kicked Eaton and then left the ring. Eaton and Sugar contested a series of grudge matches centered around the Mid-America title and their issues with each other. The feud got so out of control that it had to be settled with a "loser leaves town" match, a match that Eaton won, driving Sugar out of the arena. Later, a masked man calling himself "Stagger Lee" debuted; the fact that he looked and wrestled like a masked version of Sugar helped make him instantly popular. Eaton, along with the rest of the First Family, tried in vain to unmask Lee but could not manage to do so.
Pretty Young ThingsEdit
Bobby Eaton later turned face, he teamed with "Stagger Lee" for a series of matches. During a tag-team tournament in 1983, the masked Stagger Lee teamed up with fellow face Norvell Austin to take on "Fargo's Fabulous Ones" (Tommy Rich and "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert). During the course of the match Stagger Lee's mask was removed to reveal the man beneath it, prompting a heel turn for Ware. Austin and Ware became a regular tag team dubbed the Pretty Young Things or ("the PYT Express"). The two men soon began wearing red leather jackets, and each had a single white glove on, in an obvious imitation of Michael Jackson to further enhance their "pretty boy" image.
The team defeated Elijah Akeem and Kareem Mohammad for the AWA Southern Tag Team Championship in February 1984; almost two weeks later, Akeem and Mohammad regained the title. The PYT Express remained in Memphis for a period of time after this before moving on to other promotions such as Mid-South Wrestling, World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas and Championship Wrestling from Florida. On February 26, 1985 Austin and Ware defeated Jay and Mark Youngblood to win the NWA Florida United States Tag Team Championship. Two weeks later on March 5, 1985 the team re-lost the title to the Youngbloods. After dropping the gold in Florida, the Pretty Young Things returned to the federation that first put them together, the Continental Wrestling Association. There, they won the AWA Southern Tag Team title twice, both times from The Fabulous Ones (Steve Keirn and Stan Lane) as they feuded with the top face team of the promotion.
After the PYT's disbanded, Koko moved on to Bill Watts' Mid-South/UWF territory, where he started calling himself Koko B. Ware. Ware's persona was that of a face who entered the ring to the theme of Morris Day's "The Bird", doing an arm-flapping dance.
World Wrestling FederationEdit
The Birdman (1986–1992)Edit
In 1986, Ware signed with the World Wrestling Federation, where he continued his fun-loving "Birdman" Koko B. Ware" persona, complete with a macaw named "Frankie". Ware made his debut as a fan favorite on the September 6, 1986, episode of Superstars, teaming with Paul Roma against Hart Foundation (Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart) in a losing effort. His first victory was on the September 7 episode of Wrestling Challenge against Bob Bradley. He made his entrances dancing to the ring to the tune of Morris Day and The Time's "The Bird", flapping his arms and carrying Frankie, who sat on a perch at ringside while Ware wrestled. Bright outfits, colorful sunglasses, a constant smile and his vibrato singing voice made Ware popular, especially with the younger crowd that the WWF mainly catered to during the 1980s. Ware also sang the title track of the 1987 WWF album Piledriver, which then became his entrance music. The song's video featured top wrestlers of the day like Hulk Hogan and The Honky Tonk Man, as well as WWF owner Vince McMahon wearing a red "Hulkamania" shirt and hard hat.
Ware garnered his first big win of his initial WWF run when he upset Harley Race at a house show in East Rutherford, NJ, on October 13. On television, his first major showcase was at the November 29, 1986 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event where he defeated Nikolai Volkoff. He was then granted an Intercontinental Title match against champion Randy Savage on the November 16th edition of WWF Superstars, a bout which went to a double countout. The same taping later saw Ware defeat Savage by countout in a dark match.
Ware, however, would often be on the losing end when he came up against other established stars, stars as Butch Reed, Hercules, Greg Valentine, and The Big Boss Man. From 1987 to 1993, Ware appeared on several WWF PPVs (including WrestleMania III where he lost to Reed) and editions of Saturday Night's Main Event, being used mainly to make established or rising stars look good. Ware was the first wrestler on television to fall victim to the Perfect-plex of newcomer Mr. Perfect on the January 7, 1989, episode of Saturday Night's Main Event, while at the 1990 Survivor Series, Ware became the first wrestler to fall victim to The Undertaker's Tombstone piledriver in the Undertaker's WWF debut match.
During a 1989 European tour, Ware was fired for his part in a physical altercation with WWF executive Jim Troy. Troy had used racial slurs during an argument after which the dispute turned physical. Ware was later rehired, a little over a month later, when Troy resigned.
High Energy (1992–1993)Edit
In 1992, Koko teamed up with Owen Hart to form the high flying team known as High Energy, well known in wrestling circles for their gigantic baggy brightly colored pants and checkered suspenders. High Energy feuded with (and generally lost to) The Nasty Boys, The Headshrinkers, and Money Inc.. They made only one PPV appearance as a team, a loss to the Headshrinkers at the 1992 Survivor Series. Koko appeared in the first match on the very first episode of Monday Night Raw on January 11, 1993 where he was defeated in a squash match by Yokozuna. The team ended in March 1993 after Hart injured his knee. High Energy's final match came in a loss to The Headshrinkers at a live event on March 10.
Return to singles competition (1993–1994)Edit
With Owen Hart out of action Koko would return to singles competition and immediately entered a house show series with Skinner. At the same time, Ware made appearances in the USWA as part of a talent exchange program with WWF. He continued wrestling in the promotion through the remainder of the year.
Koko returned to WWF in 1994 when he appeared on the March 21 episode of Monday Night Raw and faced Jeff Jarrett. He would then appear on the April 9 episode of Superstars in a loss to Irwin R. Schyster. Koko picked up his first victory of his return by defeating Bastion Booger on the April 16, 1994 episode of WWF Mania. Koko then embarked on a house show tour in England where he faced Jarrett and Kwang. On May 19, he defeated The Genius and followed it up a night later with three more wins over Poffo later that month. Koko faced his former partner Owen Hart on the June 18 episode of Superstars. He ended his WWF run with three straight victories as he teamed with Bushwhacker Luke Williams in overseas house show matches against Reno Riggins and Barry Horowitz.
United States Wrestling Association (1992 –1995)Edit
In 1992 the WWF and the United States Wrestling Association started a talent exchange agreement which saw Koko B. Ware return to Memphis. In the USWA Koko was more successful than in the WWF, winning the USWA World Title twice, once from Kamala "The Ugandan Giant" and once from USWA icon Jerry Lawler. Koko also hooked up with Rex Hargrove and won the USWA Tag Team Championship once. Koko B. Ware competed in the USWA until his semi-retirement in 1995.
Semi-retirement and returnEdit
After leaving the WWF, aside from his USWA appearances, Koko made a few appearances for the American Wrestling Federation but did not become a regular before going into semi-retirement in 1995. Koko was interviewed briefly during the 1999 wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat.
In 1999, Koko made a short-lived return to the World Wrestling Federation where he put on the "Blue Blazer" mask during the Owen Hart angle. When Hart died, the angle was dropped and Koko's services were no longer needed.
In 2003, Koko began competing once again in the Memphis area for the Memphis Wrestling promotion. He also competed at the "World Wrestling Legends" PPV on March 5, 2006 where he defeated Disco Inferno. He also appeared at "WWE Homecoming", Raw's return to the USA Network, on October 3, 2005. He fought (and was defeated by) Rob Conway on the October 28, 2005 edition of WWE Heat. In April 2007, he wrestled in a tag match (while managed by special guest Slick Rick) and lost at Ultimate Clash of the Legends '07 headlined by Hulk Hogan vs. Paul Wight (Big Show).
Koko appeared at the 2010 edition of "Night of Legends", a card promoted by the International Wrestling Cartel (IWC), where he defeated "The Genius" Lanny Poffo.
On June 8, 2008, Koko made a special appearance at TNA's Slammiversary as a groomsman in the wedding for "Black Machismo" Jay Lethal and SoCal Val, along with George "The Animal" Steele, Kamala the Ugandan Giant, and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
On April 4, 2009, Koko was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by The Honky Tonk Man.
On February 15, 2011 Koko made an appearance on Tosh.0.
On July 14, 2017, Koko appeared in Big Time Wrestling in Newark, CA and teamed with Shane Kody to defeat the Ballard Brothers.
On July 28, 2018, Koko appeared in Eastern Wrestling Federation and teamed with Blackcat Johnson in a winning effort.
Ware was named as a defendant in a 2015 lawsuit filed by WWE after they received a letter from him indicating that he intended to sue them for concussion-based injuries sustained during his tenure with them. He is represented by attorney Konstantine Kyros, who is involved in several other lawsuits involving former WWE wrestlers.
Championships and accomplishmentsEdit
- Badger State Pro Wrestling
- BSPW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- BSPW Tag Team Championship (2) - with Juicy Johnny
- Championship Wrestling from Florida
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Florida version) (1 time) - with Norvell Austin
- PWI ranked him #406 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the "PWI Years" in 2003.
- Real Wrestling Federation
- RWF Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Supreme Championship Wrestling
- SCW Supreme Championship (1 time)
- WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2009)
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