1982, US Champion Sgt. Slaughter enlisted two recruits to his army and
promised to make them champions. And he was successful.
Nelson and Don Kernodle became known as Private Nelson and
Private Kernodle and had the Sarge’s back in his battles with Wahoo
McDaniel, Ricky Steamboat, and others. They went on to win and
successfully defend the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Championships in 1982,
forming a hard working team that raised the ire of Mid-Atlantic fans
everywhere. But the Sarge would boot Pvt. Nelson out of his Army, and
that young private went on to bigger and better things as the wild
Russian Boris Zhukov, who would go on to hold the AWA World tag team
championships and later a successful run in the WWF.
He was an integral part of the
storylines surrounding the legend of Sgt. Slaughter in Mid-Atlantic wrestling.
Learn more about this successful 20 year career which began in the
Mid-Atlantic area, as Jim Nelson tells his story.
How did you get your start in wrestling? Who trained you and where did
you first work?
I started serious weight training for wrestling my senior year in high
school back in 1977. Much thanks to Coach Jim Hicham at Northside High
School and Steve Agee with Holiday Health Spa and the YMCA, all in Roanoke, VA.
I was off to a great start. Steve Agee also worked out with Tony
Atlas. In May of 78, I was introduced to Ric McCord who took me down to
the Roanoke City Market Boxing gym. There I met Eclipso and Steve Savage
who ran an independent group in Virginia and North Carolina. They really
put me through a workout that night. The ring was very hard. On Saturday
morning I could hardly move, much less walk. They were very dedicated to
the Mid-Atlantic wrestling style, hard, rough and solid. They decided to
give me a chance and helped train me.
Do you remember your first opponent and in what city you first wrestled?
Chief Greywolf - New Castle VA. End of May 1978
When did you start wrestling for Crockett Promotions?
Ole Anderson helped me get a 10-day to two-week run in the summer
of 1980. In September 1980, I moved to Charlotte N.C. and went to work
for Jim Crockett Promotions. I had been in the GA territory since Jan 80.
Do any wrestlers stand out to you that helped you out as you were
getting started in Jim Crockett Promotions?
I would honestly have to say everybody there helped me and worked
with me, which I was forever grateful. This was a very professional and
Who were some of the wrestlers you tagged with early in your
career? Did you have a regular partner before being hooked up with Don
First tagged with my good friend Eclipso.
Then there was Charlie Fulton, Swede Hanson, and Brute Bernard.
Did you have anyone you particularly liked to travel with?
Charlie Fulton, Gene Anderson, Swede Hanson, Ivan Koloff, and the
During 1981, you functioned primarily as enhancement talent on
the heel side of Crockett’s ledger. Who did you like working with at
Johnny Weaver, Paul Jones, Don Kernodle
You wrestled Don Kernodle, who would later become your tag team
partner, often during 1981 when Don was a babyface and you were a heel.
Can you describe those matches against Don?
I always felt my matches with Don were pretty solid; we always
tried to go at it as hard as we could, which we both liked. Once on a
Monday at the Memorial Auditorium in Greenville SC, Don threw me hard
into the turnbuckle, I was so sweaty, I sled right over the top into the
post, hit hard above my left eye and was split wide open. The blood was
pumping so fast; my eye was swelled shut instantly. Blood was just going
everywhere, I was knocked so silly, and so Don ended it. It took 7
stitches to stop the bleeding and close it up. The cut was very deep. I
always felt weird at that arena because of Ole Anderson being stabbed
there and that being the last place Lynyrd Skynyrd played before their
tragic plane crash Oct’77. Those boys sure are some special people
also, I got to meet one of them during my years on the road and they
sure helped me a lot, too. After having a few close calls on planes
myself, especially with the Freebirds and Jimmy Garvin in late 83, I
never gave up and, like Skynyrd, just went after it more than ever.
We have a particular (some say peculiar) interest in the TV
studios where Crockett taped TV. The promotion switched its television
production from Raleigh to Charlotte during the summer of 1981. Do you
have particular positive or negative memories about either studio or how
it worked for TV?
I personally liked the Raleigh (WRAL) studio the best, because it
was bigger and they could get a bigger crowd in the studio. The studio
in Charlotte (WPCQ) was smaller, but most of the boys were at home.
Later in the summer of 1981, Sergeant Slaughter entered the
Mid-Atlantic area from the WWF. What were your early impressions of
Slaughter was just a super guy, great worker with the perfect
gimmick for him; nobody could have done that any better. He also took
time out to work with me, encouraged me and pushed me along to give it
my best. Roddy Piper was the same way. Everybody who worked there wanted
the Mid-Atlantic area to be the very best.
Kernodle & Pvt. Nelson
Tag Team Champions
Early in 1982, you got your real break with Crockett when you
became “Private” Jim Nelson, a “recruit” of U.S. Champion
Sergeant Slaughter. Who came up with the idea of turning you into
Private Jim Nelson? Who was booking for Crockett when you were given the
Pvt. Nelson role?
Slaughter came up with the idea, ran it by me, and then went to
Ole Anderson who was booking at the time. Helping Ole at that time was
Louie Tillet and Ray Stevens. So they all talked it over and then got me
to go out and purchase what I needed for the Marine Pvt. uniform.
Slaughter and I were very serious about this, but Ole and Louie thought
this was a funny rib on me. They just had no idea how wrestling fans
would react to this. Slaughter would be the big, tough, bad D.I. and I
would be the new recruit trying to make something of myself. The idea
was that Sgt. Slaughter could take anyone who wanted it bad enough into
a champion, who was willing to pay the price. Together we practiced
interviews over and over, I would have to take orders, do pushups, and
everything was "yes sir" or "no sir" for when we did
TV interviews and during all matches. Also, when we would arrive and
depart all arena's and TV studios.
While you and Kernodle would run interference for Slaughter, you
two also became an accomplished tag team. When JCP was running one-night
tournaments as part of a massive effort to fill the vacant NWA World Tag
Team belts in early 1982, did you win a tournament in any of the
I believe we did but I can't remember for sure. That was alot of
headshots and concussion's ago.
Sergeant Slaughter and Wahoo McDaniel had a memorable TV match
against each other in May 1982, one of the greatest matches ever
wrestled on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television. In this
match, you attempted to interfere on behalf of Slaughter but were headed
off by Don Muraco. What are you recollections of that epic bout and the
feud that they had?
I thought all of Slaughter and Wahoo's matches were just
classics, they were always rough and brutal. I always had to pay for
interfering in those matches, Wahoo would just chop me to death but I
loved it. I felt so green and inexperienced at that time because I was
still so young in the business, but Wahoo still worked with me and
helped me along even though this PVT gimmick was not his idea. Roddy
Piper really encouraged me and pushed me, he said you may only get one
shot in this business, go all out for it, do not hold back. Yes sir, Sgt
Slaughter and Chief Wahoo McDaniel matches were all epic bouts.
You and Don Kernodle held the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles during
two reigns for the majority of the spring and summer of 1982. Can you
tell us about your most vivid memories of being a champion and
titleholder in the Mid-Atlantic area? What are your memories of those
title reigns, your opponents, defenses, etc?
Don and I got to work with all the great babyface teams back at
that time. We first won the straps from Porkchop Cash and Jay
Youngblood. I really felt like we had some very good matches with them.
We got to work with the Briscos, Jake Roberts and Paul Jones, Terry
Taylor and Johnny Weaver, Mike George, Mike Davis, Tim Horner, Ron
Ritchie, etc. We lost the belts to Porkchop Cash and King Parsons, then
we won them back from that team. We then got work some with Ricky
Steamboat and Jay Youngblood, those guy's were so great to work with
because they were so over with the fans, it made it so very easy.
& Nelson with the Camouflage Cadillac, 1982
For Larger Images
Later in 1982, “Private” Nelson was booted out of the
military, and Don Kernodle was anointed Sgt. Slaughter’s sole tag team
partner and those two had a great run as NWA World Tag Team Champions in
late 1982 and early 1983. You then became a babyface, and primarily
wrested mid-card matches after that. Describe what happened that caused
the demise of Private Jim Nelson, and why Kernodle was the one that got
the mega-push with Slaughter.
Well to begin with Pvt. Nelson wasn't kicked out of Sgt
Slaughter's camp until about a week before the big cage match finale in
March 12 1983. Ole and Gene Anderson had sat down with us when
they saw this team idea of Slaughter's could work and said you work
together as a team, you must handle business as a team. We had worked
quite a bit with Ricky and Jay and I felt these matches had worked out
just great. Thanks to Sgt Slaughter, Don and I had some great heat and
we were working and improving better and better as a team night after
night. Don already had paid his dues as they say, was more experienced
than I was and was a very hard, good worker in the ring. He deserved the
push more than I did. At one point, I felt bad about some things that
happened, but in the end, Don was the guy that deserved the push. It
wound up working out, I got great opportunities in Mid-South, Alabama
and then the AWA that propelled by career.
in PART TWO