James Ware (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 gained most of his popularity in the World Wrestling Federation when he was known as the Birdman. Ware came to the ring with a blue-and-yellow macaw parrot 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 The P.Y.T. Express in several promotions.
Professional wrestling career
Koko spent his early days in the sport in the Mid-South, Georgia and other NWA territories where he impressed fans enough to vote him the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Rookie of the Year in 1979. 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 Koko’s fortune changed when he participated in a battle royal to crown the first ever Mid-American Television Champion. The crowd favorite was Jimmy Valiant, who Koko accidentally knocked into Danny Davis and eliminated Valiant. Moments later, Koko dumped Davis to the floor and won his first title. After the match, Jimmy Valiant returned to the ring and beat Koko down. Koko’s feud with Jimmy Valiant was quickly expanded to include the heel Tojo Yamamoto and Koko ally Tommy Rich. When Dutch Mantel returned to the CWA in early 1981 he quickly defeated Koko for the TV title making Koko’s first run with the gold a short one.
Koko 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 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 & 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 Bobby Eaton beat Jacques Rougeau for the Mid-American Heavyweight title. During an interview where Eaton and Jimmy Hart bragged about the victory, Sugar complained that he was unable to win the Southern Title from Terry Taylor. After being fed up, Jimmy Hart finally slapped Sweet Brown Sugar and sent the sulking superstar back to the dressing room after which Bobby Eaton commented that Sugar had been “whining like a woman". Later that night the duo defended their title against Terry Taylor and Bill Dundee, losing the title when Sugar “accidentally" kicked Eaton and then left the ring. Eaton and Sweet Brown 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 Sweet Brown Sugar out of the arena. In one of those “wrestling coincidences" a masked man calling himself Stagger Lee debuted; the fact that he looked and wrestled like a masked version of Sweet Brown Sugar helped make him instantly popular. Bobby Eaton along with the rest of the First Family tried in vain to unmask Stagger Lee but could not manage to do so, winding up frustrated at every turn.
Pretty Young Things
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 managed to defeat the team of Elijah Akeem and Kareem Mohammad for the AWA Southern Tag Team title in February 1984, although they only hung on to the gold for a little under two weeks before 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 asMid-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 lost the title back 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.
World Wrestling Federation (1986–1994)
In 1986, Ware signed with the World Wrestling Federation, where he was repackaged as the fun loving “Birdman" Koko B. Ware. Koko 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 September 7 episode of Wrestling Challenge against Bob Bradley.
He would make his entrances dancing to the ring to the tune of Morris Day and The Time's The Bird, flapping his arms and carrying his pet macaw “Frankie", who sat on a perch at ringside while Koko wrestled. Bright outfits, colorful sunglasses, a constant smile and his trademark vibrato voice instantly made Koko a big hit, especially with the younger crowd that the WWF mainly catered to during the 1980s. Koko also sang the title track of the 1987 WWF Album "Piledriver". The song's video featured top wrestlers of the day like Hulk Hogan and the Honky Tonk Man.
Jobber to the Stars (1986–1991)
Koko’s first major showcase in the WWF was at the November 29, 1986 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event where he defeated Nikolai Volkoff. Koko, however, would often be on the losing end when he came up against other established stars, stars as Butch Reed, Greg Valentine, and The Big Boss Man. From 1987 to 1993 Koko appeared on several WWF PPVs and Saturday Night's Main Events being used mainly to make established or rising stars look good. At the Survivor Series in 1990, Koko became the first wrestler to fall victim to The Undertaker’s Tombstone Piledriver in the Undertaker’s debut match.
High Energy & Departure (1992–1994)
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 Incorporated. The team made only one PPV appearance as a team, a loss to the Headshrinkers at the 1992 Survivor Series. The team ended in 1993 after Owen Hart injured his knee. After High Energy ended Koko was mainly used as an enhancement talent until he left the WWF in 1994.
United States Wrestling Association (1991–1995)
In 1991 the WWF and the United States Wrestling Association started a talent exchange agreement which saw Koko B. Ware return to his old stomping grounds in Memphis (same area, different promotion). 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 return
After leaving the WWF, 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 returned to the spotlight 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).
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 So Cal 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 September 5, 2009 Ware's wife died after a battle with cancer.
On February 15, 2011 Koko made an appearance on Tosh.0.
- Finishing and signature moves