Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
The Godfather, Papa Shango, Kama in WWE
Currently Known For:
Night Club Manager
1989 - 2002
May 16, 1961
The Godfather, Papa Shango, Kama in WWE
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It can be hard enough to find success in pro wrestling under just one gimmick, but imagine trying to do it with several ones. That’s what Charles Wright did for many years in the business, even though he didn’t have plans on becoming a wrestler. When the movie “Over the Top” was shooting, many of the wrestlers that were featured in the film frequented a bar where Wright happened to work, convincing him to get into the business.
That’s when Wright started working with Jerry Lawler, getting his first matches with USWA and NJPW as The Soultaker. The WWF had noticed Wright, bringing him over in 1991 as Sir Charles, though he wouldn’t be featured much on television. Instead, the company had an idea to repackage him, giving him the name Papa Shango. This time around, he was wearing heavy makeup on his face to give him a witch doctor look that practiced voodoo.
To prepare for the character, Wright said that “I used to read books on voodoo, in fact I built an entire voodoo library. Everything I said in my promos was real and legit. All the props were from voodoo stores. It was totally authentic. The effects guys worked with staffs and sticks so that they all did something different. I had a bunch of them - some would shoot sparks, others had smoke and lights that came out of them.”
Papa Shango was involved in some pretty big feuds with the likes of Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. While the fans weren’t too crazy about the gimmick, it was a nice way for Wright to get his feet wet with the biggest wrestling company in the business. When the Papa Shango character wore off, Wright returned to USWA to re-train, and he came back in 1994 as Kama “The Supreme Fighting Machine”.
The original run as Kama didn’t last too long as he was taken out of the company once more in 1996, and he almost joined WCW to become Hulk Hogan’s enforcer. “I named my price, the contract was being drawn up, and then at the last minute, I got a call saying the contract was being retracted and there was no longer and offer for me,” he said. “I was stunned...I asked why and it turned out that Virgil offered to do it for a third of the price because he wanted to be back on TV so bad.”
Wright would be brought back the next year, using the full name Kama Mustafa. The Nation of Domination stable had become a popular one in the WWE, and Wright joined the group. After a brief time, Wright became known as The Godfather, leading to a gimmick where Wright played a pimp character. It seems like something that shouldn’t have worked, but it did.
When the Nation of Domination broke up, Godfather would work his way to an Intercontinental Championship. He hardly ever lost matches, as he’d offer up “hoes” to his opponents in exchange for a forfeited match. It was the ultimate sign of the Attitude Era and borderline R-rated television, but it was an insanely popular gimmick for Wright. Of course, there was backlash from certain circles about the gimmick overall. Wright says that his boss Vince McMahon loved the gimmick, though, and stood up for the character against television networks and executives.
Because of that, the WWE decided to take a personal shot at those groups that included the Parents Television Council. They formed a group of wrestlers called Right to Censor, portraying them as loud, annoying and not actually looking out for everyone’s best interest. The Godfather became The Goodfather, and he even won a Tag Team Championship under this short lived gimmick.
In 2002, the Attitude Era had started to die down and the focus became more family friendly programming, though they tried to bring back The Godfather. It only lasted for a couple of months this time around and once he left the WWE, Wright announced his retirement from wrestling. Over the years, The Godfather has returned on WWE television a handful of times, but only a couple of those have been matches, including the 2013 Royal Rumble where he was quickly eliminated.
Outside of WWE, Wright would spend the first 10 years of his retirement by wrestling just a couple of matches as Pimp Fatha. In 2013, he started wrestling more frequently, and the 56 year old can still be seen wrestling a match every now and then. His biggest headline came in 2016, however, when it was announced that Wright would be entering the WWE Hall of Fame as The Godfather, and he was inducted the night before WrestleMania 32.
These days, Wright is living in Las Vegas, which has been a popular destination for many former wrestlers. There’s a famous gentlemen’s club there called Cheetah’s, and Wright is working as the manager. Judging by his former gimmick that got him into the Hall of Fame, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. After all, Wright said that “My favorite character was by fat The Godfather. That was the character closest to really being me.”
Wright also manages a handful of clubs outside of Las Vegas, and says that he doesn’t have to travel as much as he did while wrestling, making it a welcome change. “I’m the happiest and most content I’ve ever been in my life,” he said. “I’m out here spending time with my family after missing so much time watching them grow up while on the road. I have a (son) now who I can still have my time with.”
If you find yourself in Las Vegas and don’t feel like heading into a gentlemen’s club, you might be able to catch Wright driving his motorcycle out in the desert or even playing disc golf. He doesn’t look like your typically disc golf player, but he’s said that he’s gotten good at it and has played in courses around the United States. “Every place I go, I take my discs with me,” he said.
Looking at The Godfather gimmick, Wright is still surprised by what he got away with, including open drug references. “(Network executives) didn’t understand the slang,” he said. “They had no idea what a ‘fatty’ or a ‘blunt’ was, so I was able to say all this stuff and they had no clue.” Overall, Wright says that he “had a good time” in professional wrestling. In fact, he was having such a good time that Vince McMahon once joked that it was Wright that should be paying him because of all of the fun he was having.