Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Gateway Interview  -  Jim Nelson

Interview by David Chappell & Dick Bourne, January 2003



July 2007: 1982 Roanoke Times Article on the success of Pvt. Jim Nelson

Nov. 2006: Photo Feature Added - Roanoke 1983: Weaver & Nelson vs. Anderson & Lane

Sept. 2005: Roanoke Times 2005 Article

Feb 2004: Jim talks about the Final Conflict and the urban legend video that exists of that show.



In 1982, US Champion Sgt. Slaughter enlisted two recruits to his army and promised to make them champions. And he was successful. 


Jim 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.



Q. How did you get your start in wrestling? Who trained you and where did you first work?

A. 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.



Q. Do you remember your first opponent and in what city you first wrestled?

A. Chief Greywolf - New Castle VA.  End of May 1978



Q.  When did you start wrestling for Crockett Promotions?

A.  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.



Q.  Do any wrestlers stand out to you that helped you out as you were getting started in Jim Crockett Promotions?

A.  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 well-polished territory.



Q.  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 Kernodle?

A.  First tagged with my good friend Eclipso.  Then there was Charlie Fulton, Swede Hanson, and Brute Bernard.



Q.  Did you have anyone you particularly liked to travel with?

A.  Charlie Fulton, Gene Anderson, Swede Hanson, Ivan Koloff, and the Iron Sheik.



Q.  During 1981, you functioned primarily as enhancement talent on the heel side of Crockett’s ledger. Who did you like working with at that time?

A.  Johnny Weaver, Paul Jones, Don Kernodle



Q.  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?

A.  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.


Q.  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?

A.  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.


Q.  Later in the summer of 1981, Sergeant Slaughter entered the Mid-Atlantic area from the WWF. What were your early impressions of Slaughter?

A.  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.


Pvt. Kernodle & Pvt. Nelson

Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions


Q.  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?

A.  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.



Q.  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 cities?

A.  I believe we did but I can't remember for sure. That was alot of headshots and concussion's ago.



Q.  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?

A.  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.



Q.  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?

A.  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.


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Kernodle & Nelson with the Camouflage Cadillac, 1982

Click For Larger Images


Q.  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.


A.  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.  


Continued in PART TWO




Sgt. Slaughter and the Privates




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David Chappell (top) and Dick Bourne with Boris Zhukov, aka, Private Jim Nelson.

What's Boris Zhukov up to today?

Roanoke Times Article