Chappell: When you were doing the Privates angle with Nelson, that was the first time as fans we’d heard Don Kernodle on the mic, doing promos and interviews!


Kernodle: That’s how you learn. And Nelson and I were a great tag team.


Chappell: Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champions!


Kernodle: (laughs) I’ll tell ya’ll something funny about a title match me and Nelson had for the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Titles. Nelson and I wrestled at that black college just on the other side of the Virginia border…Lawrenceville?


Chappell: Oh yeah?! I work in Lawrenceville! Talk about a small world!


Kernodle: You work there?


Chappell: Yep…in Lawrenceville! You’re talking about St. Paul’s College…wrestling at the Taylor-Whitehead Gym!


Kernodle: That’s it! That’s where me and Nelson won the Mid-Atlantic Championship for the first time! We won it there…we beat Jay Youngblood and Porkchop Cash.


Chappell: Dick, looks like Don has filled in a missing title change for us!


Bourne: That was one of the holes in our title history!


Chappell: Little ol’ Lawrenceville…home of a Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling title change! Unbelievable!!


Kernodle: But guys, get this, we didn’t even know we were going to win!


Chappell: Say what?


Kernodle: Yeah! Ole was booking…and he didn’t tell us!


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: We had a finish that we thought we were doing…to lose! We hadn’t been champions yet…we were just wrestling together.


All of a sudden, we were going into our deal and we thought we were gonna lose…and I covered Youngblood. The referee counted ONE, TWO and I thought Jay was gonna kick out…and then THREE!! I said, ‘HOLY CRAP, we’re in ALL kinds of trouble! Why the hell didn’t he kick out?'


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: But they pulled a joke on us! They didn’t even tell us we were gonna win the belts that night! And I came in the dressing room and I said, ‘Son of a bitch…we’re in trouble now. He didn’t kick out! We beat these guys and we weren’t supposed to!! What the hell!!’


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: Come to find out…Ole was laughing his ass off!!


Chappell: So, the title change in Lawrenceville held up?


Kernodle: Oh yeah, we were supposed to win the belts. They just didn’t tell us ahead of time. They did it as a joke!


We won the damn belts, when we thought we were losing!


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: The first time Nelson and I won the Mid-Atlantic Championship, we won it there in Lawrenceville, and we didn’t even know we were gonna win!


Chappell: What a great story!


Kernodle: That was a spot show. That wasn’t a regular show like in Richmond or Lynchburg. It was just a little ol’ spot show!


But I swear that happened!


Chappell: Oh, I have NO doubt, Don! I can’t imagine you’d ever remember Lawrenceville, Virginia unless something REALLY unusual happened there!!


Kernodle/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: Ole pulled a damn rib on us! He was one of the worst at doing that! He could pull some crap on you!


Chappell: Wasn’t this about the time Crockett was doing some big shows in Canada?


Kernodle: Yeah, that’s about when Crockett opened up Buffalo and up in Toronto. And some of the big boys down here really didn’t want to go up there, because it wasn’t a bread and butter situation. They were making huge money down here, so they didn’t want to go up there.


Chappell: But you and Nelson did, didn’t you? I seem to remember you all being in a lot of promo ads from Toronto.


Kernodle: We went up there! Weaver was the boss. He and Boogie Woogie [Jimmy Valiant] were partners. And me and Nelson were a top tag team up there.


Like I said, we were Mid-Atlantic Champions. And we went up there, and we were a great team. We really got over good up there. We were like the hottest tag team up there. And when we got that thing going, then everybody else wanted to go up there then!


Chappell: Figuring there was money to be made!


Kernodle: Yeah, all the big boys wanted to come up there and make a lot of money! But we’d pioneered it…I guess that’s what you’d call it.


Weaver was the boss, and Weaver really liked us.


Chappell: Were the angles and such different up there in Canada?


Kernodle: I used do some crazy interviews up there!


Bourne: I would have loved to have seen all that!


Kernodle: I told Weaver one time that I wanted to do an interview with a dozen roses…and say that the Queen of England sent them to me!


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: At that time, I was the Canadian Television Champion and one half of the World Tag Team Champions.


You know, I didn’t get out there and act tough or growl…try to be mean. I was a smart-ass! I’d smile, show my dimples and say crazy stuff. People knew it was BS, but that’s how I got my heat…


Chappell: It was very effective!


Kernodle: Sarge used to tell me, “Kernodle, you can get more heat than anybody I’ve ever seen!”


Chappell: And that was a big difference, Don, because before you became Private Kernodle, you had been the consummate good guy…the Mid-Atlantic good guy!


Kernodle: See, David, I was from here. I am a Mid-Atlantic wrestler…


Chappell: Right…right.


Kernodle: I wrestled high school here, I wrestled college here, and I wrestled most of my [professional] career here. I am a Mid-Atlantic wrestler…from the start to the finish.


Chappell: I think you’re the only wrestler in the Mid-Atlantic era that can say that, Don!


Kernodle: You’re right.


So, yeah, I told Weaver that I got an idea tonight. I want to buy a dozen roses, and come out and act like the Queen of England sent them to me. Weaver said, “I’ll get ‘em; I’ll get ‘em!” So Weaver brings me a dozen roses!


Chappell: Sounds like Johnny got into it!


Kernodle: Yeah! And I made me a little card…like the Queen had sent it to me. I pulled it out, and I said, ‘Oh…from the Queen??’


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Chappell: And I’m sure you had to read its contents to the TV audience?


Kernodle: It said, ‘To Don Kernodle…the GREATEST Canadian TV Champion and World Tag Team Champion EVER! I really appreciate you coming from the United States up here. You’re the greatest champion of all time…may you reign forever! Signed…Queen Elizabeth.’


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: Man, that got some heat!


Chappell: I bet!


Kernodle: Me and Nelson had so much heat up there, man, and there wasn’t enough security up there. I’m telling you, man, I used to leave Weaver bleeding in the ring…and you’d have to fight your way back to the dressing room. They were mostly converted hockey rinks up there. It was unbelievable!


Chappell: You and Jim Nelson really worked well together.


Kernodle: I love Jim Nelson! He’s a good friend. Nelson was a good partner. And he was a great worker...excellent worker. He was young, and he was a fast learner.


Chappell: But it was Private Kernodle, rather than Private Nelson, that would soon after become NWA World Tag Team Champions with Sergeant Slaughter. How did that go down?


Kernodle: How it happened about me and Sarge becoming World Tag Team Champions…Jim Crockett just asked me one day whether I’d be interested in doing it. What are you going to say, ‘No, I’m not interested in doing it!’


Chappell: (laughs) Yeah, tell Crockett I’ll get back to you later on that!


Kernodle: They were gonna get rid of Nelson, the whole 'Privates' angle had run its course. But we convinced them to let him stay. And we did stuff with him. You remember the deal where he showed Steamboat and Youngblood how to get out of the cobra clutch?


Chappell: Definitely…


Kernodle: That was all our idea…Sarge and me. We didn’t want Nelson to leave. We told Crockett, ‘Naw, naw…we can use him. He can help us make a lot of money.’


Bourne: Jim [Nelson] told us that the whole thing where he was the “spy” for Steamboat and Youngblood…you and Sarge came up with all of that.


Kernodle: Yeah, we did all that. Sarge and I were wrestling in Myrtle Beach one night and we said, “We’ve got to do something to make some money.” We were wrestling in Savannah the next day, so we stopped at a mini mart and got a composition book. I was driving and Sarge was writing, and between Myrtle Beach and Savannah we wrote that whole program---from start to finish!


Bourne: You mean the program with you and Sarge against Steamboat and Youngblood?


Kernodle: Yeah, Steamboat and Youngblood…and that thing with Tommy Peterson!


Chappell: (laughs) The Tommy Peterson thing was so great!


Kernodle: Tommy Peterson was the sick boy, and we tore up the picture! Do you know how that picture came about?


Chappell: No!


Kernodle:  Sarge’s wife did the picture and everything…she did the drawing!


Chappell: The Tommy Peterson segment is one of my favorites of all time. The drawing was of Steamboat and Youngblood as the uncrowned World Tag Team Champions. Sarge put his cigar out on the drawing, and then tore the picture up!


I remember Steamboat and Youngblood bringing Tommy Peterson some gifts, and ya’ll tore them up as well!  Greg Valentine also participated. Ya’ll seemed to be having such a good time tearing that stuff up!


Kernodle: We came up with everything…all the way to the cage match.


Bourne: Who was actually the head booker for Crockett at this time?


Kernodle: Dory Funk, Jr. That’s another thing, Dick. Crockett told Dory, “I want them to run their program. Let them do whatever they want to do.” And that’s what happened. Sarge and I ran that program. Usually you have to do what they want you to do. You might disagree, but you have to do what the boss wants. But [Crockett] let us do that. If we wrestled in Mount Airy [North Carolina], we controlled it. If we wrestled in Greensboro, Richmond…we had control over it.


Chappell: Pretty unusual.


Kernodle: That’s why that program went so long. Most programs don’t go that long. It lasted a long time, and we made a LOT of money!


Chappell: That was a program for the ages! Particularly that March 12, 1983 cage match, where Steamboat and Youngblood won the titles from you and Sarge. If they had lost, their tag team combination would have been dissolved.


Kernodle: We sold out that cage match. We sold out the Greensboro Coliseum, and they turned away 20,000 people!


Chappell: Wow…that many people were turned away?


Kernodle: The police told us that…the police told us that 20,000 people were turned away.


Chappell: And I remember hearing the stories about how far the traffic was backed up on I-85 in Greensboro.


Kernodle: Even with the ACC Tournament…nothin’ ever happened like that.


Chappell: Why do you think that program with Steamboat and Youngblood caught fire like that?


Kernodle: The main reason that it was hot…is because I was a good guy; I was from here. I had never let the people down. I had always been an ass kisser, you know, doin’ stuff for the fans and hugging babies.


They couldn’t believe that Don Kernodle did that. They couldn’t believe it!


Chappell: You certainly did surprise everybody when you went over to the dark side!


Kernodle: I left my partner in the ring like a piece of crap, getting his ass whipped. Left with Sarge on TV that night in Charlotte. And it pissed the people off.


They couldn’t believe I did that to ‘em. I’d been that good boy for so long, the All-American boy.


Chappell: Shocking conduct out of you, Don!


Kernodle: Then Sarge talked with me, “Come on, you come with me and I’ll make you a champion.”


Like a Drill Sergeant does. He takes an 18 year old boy, and turns him into a man. It was all real…it came off as real.


Chappell: It really did.


Kernodle: He said, “Okay Kernodle, you’re a good wrestler, but you just need some guidance. I’ll turn you into a real man; I’ll turn you into a champion. Come on, go with me.”


Chappell: I remember in the weeks leading up to your heel turn on TV in mid February of 1982, Sarge had been “recruiting” you to be a Private.


And the week after your turn, Johnny Weaver and Ray Stevens were really putting you over on TV in your first tag match teamed with Jim Nelson!


But back to the cage match in Greensboro on March 12th, that was bloody!


Kernodle: That was the bloodiest match I can remember, and it was on me! I lost the World’s Championship that night, and lost a ton of blood!


Chappell: Did you ever!


Kernodle: And you know, when we were in the ring, Sarge and I thought about having Sarge turn on me in the ring that night!


Chappell: Whoa!


Kernodle: That would have been the hottest thing…


Chappell: Oh yeah!


Kernodle: There I was bleeding like hell. We were talking about it in the ring! Sarge was saying, “Can you imagine how big it would be if I turned on you right now?!” And I was saying, ‘Yeah it would…it would!’ I always wanted to be a good guy in my hometown…in that type of situation.


Chappell: That could have been huge…


Kernodle: Here’s another thing that older wrestlers used to tell us…they said the people don’t believe in younger wrestlers or local wrestlers. Local guys, like me…


Chappell: Sounds like they were trying to keep you down…


Kernodle: Yeah! You’re not old enough, you’re local, blah, blah, blah. That’s crazy!


If Duke and Carolina play in basketball at Duke…Duke’s the good guy. If they go 20 miles over to Carolina and play the next night…Carolina’s the good guy. Now, who in their right mind ain’t gonna pull for a home town person?


Chappell: Absolutely.


Kernodle: You’re gonna pull for somebody that you love and they’re from your home town. Like Kellie Pickler…who’s not gonna like her if they live in Albemarle, [North Carolina]? Or like Dale Earnhardt…if they’re from Charlotte?


I found out later, stuff like that was the older wrestlers trying to keep you down. It was always, “just wait till you get a little older; just wait a little while longer.”


Chappell: Well, if Slaughter had turned on you at the end of the cage match on March 12th, we wouldn’t have gotten to see all those great return matches for the next two months with you and Sarge against Steamboat and Youngblood!


Being the local guy and living in Burlington during this red hot program…how was it being a heel when emotions were running so high?


Kernodle:  (pauses) I did have a home here, and another home as well. It was hard…there was a lot of heat.


See, Sarge and I had a lot of heat, and we were a tough team. But, also, the people respected us.


Chappell: For sure.


Kernodle: They respected us as wrestlers. You know, they didn’t see us pull a lot of hair and do all that stuff like a lot of heels had done.


They just knew we were rough, tough guys…we came to wrestle. We’d do whatever it took to win. But we weren’t doing cheap heat stuff, you know…like pulling tights.


We were tough enough to just really wrestle…that’s the reason we got over. That, and we also did things that never had been done before…


Chappell: That’s right, you all did do some awesome new moves like the atomic bomb…


Bourne: And the Slaughter cannon…


Kernodle: We tried to use a lot of new wrestling holds. Our strategy, and we tried to make it believable, was we’d work on the neck. If somebody is not working from [the neck] up…they’re finished.


You know, their head and brain controls everything…so if we work from the neck up and injure their neck---they’re done. That was our philosophy.


Bourne: Along those lines, I remember that match from Greensboro that they showed on TV, where you injured Jay Youngblood with that clothesline off the top rope. Holy cow, that was unbelievable!


Kernodle: Oh yeah, we got a lot of heat for that too!


And you know, guys, Steamboat and Youngblood were such a great team! If you couldn’t get over wrestling them, then you never could! And if you have Sergeant Slaughter as your partner, and you’re wrestling Steamboat and Youngblood and if  you can’t do any good, then buddy you might as well go on back home!


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: But you know, guys, everything just happened to gel with that program. It was at a time when the business was down a little bit around here. Everything just fell into place.


Our matches looked believable. They were tight, solid…solid matches. If we had to hurt each other a little bit, we didn’t care!


Bourne: Do you still have that shirt you wore to the ring for that cage match?


Kernodle: Oh, I still got that! I wasn’t a bad-ass, hollering, growling type heel. I was a smart-ass. So that’s why I put that shirt on that night. The date…


Bourne: And it was the date after the show, right?


Kernodle: It was the date of the show, March 12, on the front. And on the back it said something like “March 13--Slaughter And Kernodle Still World Tag Team Champions.”


Bourne: Okay…I gotcha!


Kernodle: See guys, we did everything we could do in that program. We had to lose that night…or Steamboat and Youngblood’s credibility was gone.


But we still did that finish to give us a little opening…


Chappell: How so?


Kernodle: See, we really didn’t lose that night! You noticed that?


Bourne: I was trying to remember the finish…


Kernodle: Steamboat put Jay on top of me…in other words, I really didn’t get beat---legally. That was my and Sergeant’s finish. Because we always wanted to leave it like that just in case…


Chappell: You could always use that as future angle…


Kernodle: We could have come back with it, you know.


We could have said, “Kernodle didn’t really get beat…if you look right here, Steamboat put Youngblood on Kernodle. Youngblood was out, and he just laid him across there. He didn’t beat Kernodle!”


Chappell: A very logical argument, there, Don!


Bourne: I used to love it when you explained things rationally like that. You’d get David Crockett spittin’ mad! He couldn’t give you an answer in return…he just sputtered!


Chappell: And, Don, as great as the March 12th match was in Greensboro, I think people sometimes forget how amazing those return matches were. You and Sarge chasing to get the titles back, with the losing team never able to wrestle in that town again!


Kernodle: Oh yeah…and that was all our idea, David. You see, Steamboat and Youngblood never had anything to do with planning this program. It was all me and Sarge. We just went to them, and asked if they’d be willing to wrestle us with such and such idea…and then we’d go to Crockett the next day and talk to him about it.


Chappell: And they were cage matches, and those were done in a bunch of different towns around the territory.


Kernodle: We did those all over…everywhere.






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