Icons of Wrestling #36 – Koko B. Ware

Jamie Lithgow

Height: 5’7″
Weight: 228 lbs
Hometown: Union City, Tennessee
Glory Days: 1986-94
Fun Fact: Koko B. Ware made his WWE television debut in a tag match where he teamed with Paul Roma. A couple of years later the pair had a backstage fight. He may be shorter than most wrestlers, but you don’t mess with Koko!


Ah the bio section of an ‘Icons of Wrestling’ post. This is where I typically place my tongue firmly in my cheek and cover the highlights, major feuds and accomplishments of our newly christened ‘Icon’. Koko B. Ware spent 8 years in WWE and is a Hall of Famer, so surely I’ll have plenty to talk about, right? Well, despite being a full-time member of the WWE roster from 1986 to 1994, Koko never won a title, never recorded a big win on TV and never had any kind of prolonged feud with anyone. Well, here goes…

Wrestlemania III was the pinnacle of a lot of careers, not just Koko’s

‘The Birdman’ Koko B. Ware came into existence when James Ware moved to the Mid-South territory in the mid-1980s. Ware had previously wrestled as Koko Ware, Sweet Brown Sugar and Stagger Lee across various territories. So, while WWE in the 1980s may have had the reputation for being a gimmick factory where the biggest names from around the territories would come in only to be repackaged as colourful characters, ‘The Birdman’ was one of a handful of acts that arrived ready-made.

Starting as he meant to go on, Koko lost in his television debut – he teamed with Paul Roma against The Hart Foundation. Koko was typically colourfully attired and always accompanied by Frankie, his pet macaw. As such, he was a kid-friendly babyface for his entire run in WWE.

The highlight of ‘The Birdman’s’ run in WWE, and probably his entire career, was his match with Butch Reed at Wrestlemania III. He lost, of course, but just to be booked on what is still considered one of the biggest wrestling shows of all time is a hell of an achievement. Some other interesting achievements for Koko include being the first person to take both Mr. Perfect’s Perfectplex and The Undertaker’s Tombstone Piledriver on TV. Koko actually left the company very briefly in 1991. In trying to break up a potential confrontation between WWE executive Jim Troy and Shawn Michaels, Koko ended up beating the shit out of Troy – a former hockey player – instead. The incident occurred on a European tour – shit always goes down on those European tours – with Koko receiving his marching orders when he got home. However, it was revealed that Troy had directed racial slurs towards Koko which led to Troy’s resignation from the company and Koko’s reinstatement shortly afterwards.

Thumbs up lads, looking good!

In 1992, Koko began teaming with Owen Hart in a tag-team known as High Energy. This was basically The New New Foundation because Owen had been teaming with Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart as The New Foundation, only for Koko to take Anvil’s spot… and his parachute pants. Due to an injury to Owen, High Energy’s run was cut short and are probably best remembered for their ridiculous outfits. That said, they did make a solitary pay per view appearance at the 1992 Survivor Series – they lost to The Headshrinkers – and also managed to defeat Tag Team Champions Money Inc. on an episode of Wrestling Challenge in early 1993, albeit via disqualification.

Around this time Koko was also involved with WWE’s talent exchange with the USWA, where he managed to win their World Heavyweight Championship on two occasions, once from Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler and once from Kamala. Koko would continue to work for the USWA after his departure from WWE. Speaking of which, Koko’s 8 year run in the WWE came to end in May 1994 when he lost to his former partner, Owen Hart, on an episode of Superstars.

Koko and, presumably, Frankie II at the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony 2009

Koko B. Ware went into semi-retirement in 1995 and was briefly featured in the 1999 documentary Beyond The Mat. He went on to make occasional special appearances on WWE TV at certain milestone shows and events. Sadly Frankie is no longer around to share the spotlight. The poor little guy reportedly died in a fire at Koko’s home in the early 2000s, meaning the macaw he can be seen with these days must be Frankie II. We won’t be seeing Koko any time soon though. He is one of several former wrestlers who are currently suing WWE due to concussion based injuries, and WWE are reportedly counter-suing.

In 2009 – before he decided to sue them – Koko was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, by The Honky Tonk Man for some reason. His inclusion in the Hall of Fame is often cited by fans who question the credibility of the honour. While one could sum up Koko’s WWE run by simply stating that he was there and not much else, he did cram a lot into his pre-WWE career. He is former NWA US Tag Team Champion, 7 time AWA Southern Tag Team Champion and 6 time NWA Mid-American Heavyweight Champion as well as being a former 2 time USWA Heavyweight Champion. Is that a Hall of Fame worthy career? We’ll leave that for you to decide. What is for sure is that Koko B. Ware is most certainly an ‘Icon of Wrestling’.

All previous ‘Icons of Wrestling’ can be read here.


6 thoughts on “Icons of Wrestling #36 – Koko B. Ware

  1. Damn shame they never did anything much of note with Koko considering how solid he was and how over he was with the fans. I guess at 5’7″, he was considered too short to “hang” with the big boys Vince creamed about so much.
    RIP Frankie


  2. I remember seeing Koko in the early 1980’s on tv with norvelle Austin, They were A tag team called the “Soul brothers”. Name of the program was ‘Bedlam from Boston”. Killer Kowalski ran the program. Killer was the champ. great times.


  3. Honky Tonk Man inducted him into the HOF because they trained together when both of them started out in the biz. Someone hasn’t watched his induction speech 😉


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