News of Hulk Hogan's racist remarks came as a shock to an African-American wrestler who was once his biggest in-ring foe.
"That's not the Hogan I know," said James Harris, who earned international fame in the 1980s and '90s as Kamala "The Ugandan Giant." "Hogan always treated me like a gentleman."
Matches featuring Hogan and Harris drew sellout crowds at arenas across the country, including New York's Madison Square Garden in 1986. Hogan often expressed concern that Harris wasn't being compensated fairly during their main event run.
"He genuinely cared about me," Harris said. "He was my friend. He'd tell me, 'Brother, I'm getting my money. I hope you're getting yours, because you're putting asses in the seats.'
"When it came to our matches, he valued my input. He'd always say, 'What do you want to do out there, brother?' I'd tell him, and then we'd go out there and do it. He's a sweetheart of a guy."
Harris said he wasn't angry when he learned that Hogan had secretly been recorded using racial slurs in a sex tape transcribed by the National Enquirer last week. He said Hogan simply "got caught with a hidden recorder and said something he probably didn't mean."
The WWE disassociated itself from Hogan—removing all references to the Hall of Famer on its website—when news of the tape surfaced last week.
"I'm not mad at him at all," said Harris. "Deep down, he's really not like that. He's a super-nice guy. I don't believe he's a racist at all, no matter what he said."
Asked what he'd say to Hogan if he saw him now, Harris said, "The first thing I'd do is shake his hand and hug him, just like we always do. That wouldn't change. Then I might say, 'Hey man, what happened?' But it'd be with a smiling face."
Harris, 65, has fallen on tough times since his retirement from wrestling, as diabetes forced doctors to amputate both of his legs. His biography, Kamala Speaks, was released in January. Fundraising efforts to assist Harris with medical bills are approaching $40,000.
Jason King primarily covers college sports for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JasonKingBR.