Chappell: You continued to wrestle as a good guy in 1985-86. And in fact you were involved in Starrcade 1985, seconding the Rock and Roll Express, and at Starrrcade 1986, when you and Rocky teamed. After that you pretty much wound it down…but what a career!


Kernodle: Sarge and I had so many ideas. That thing with Steamboat and Youngblood was great and it was huge, but it was building for the Russian thing.


Chappell: Really?


Kernodle: See, Don Kernodle went from a nice young boy to a real bad-ass, and then he was going to become another nice older boy as a good guy, fighting Russians for the American flag. The Americans against the Russians!


A Drill Sergeant and a man calling himself the Pride Of The USA fighting the Russians for flags, all over the United States, trying to honor their country.


Chappell: Hard to imagine that wouldn’t have gotten over big-time.


Kernodle: So that early stuff was just a stepping stone…to go even bigger into that.


We knew we were gonna come up with the Russian deal. We were just building for that. And it would have been even bigger if Sarge had come back, and we could have done it the way we wanted to.


We could have brought Steamboat in with us. When Krusher Krushchev came in running his mouth, we could have said, “Steamboat, come wrestle with us against the Russians!”


Chappell: Can you imagine Don Kernodle, Sergeant Slaughter and Ricky Steamboat as a six man tag team combination?!


Kernodle: Wrestling, if it’s done right you can just go on and on and on! There’s no end to it.


So, Steamboat and Youngblood was gonna springboard into the Russians, and then after the Russians it was gonna be something else!


Chappell: Had you and Sarge planned any angles coming after the Russian thing ran its course?


Kernodle: We always wanted to team some guys up, put masks on them, but not regular wrestling masks. Make ‘em look like terrorists.


Terrorists! No country! In other words, you didn’t want them to look like a wrestler. You wanted them to look like a terrorist…an assassin. You wanted them to look like a killer, and not get in the ring and do anything like a wrestler!


Chappell: Scary!


Kernodle: Exactly. They’d sneak around. Their arms would be covered…you couldn’t see anything about them. Sarge and I would wrestle these terrorists, these assassins.


We had another idea. Who do we hate probably worse than anybody, and they’re only 75 miles from our border? Cubans! We were gonna get something going, wrestling some Cubans…


Chappell: Those kind of patriotic angles usually strike a chord with most fans.


Kernodle: You got a Marine Sergeant fighting some terrorists…it doesn’t really matter where they’re from! It doesn’t matter where they’re from. They could be the whitest guys in the world…you could put gloves and long shirts and pants on them!


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: And they wouldn’t act like regular wrestlers. Like when I used to wrestle Sarge after we got out of the business…I wrestled him like the Masked Russian or something like that. I’d wear sweat pants and stuff like that. And I wouldn’t get in the ring like a regular wrestler. I’d step on the announcer’s leg, and step up on his table, and get in the ring like I was the meanest sorriest thing in the world!


I wouldn’t get in the ring like a regular wrestler…I wanted to look like a Russian terrorist! Like a Russian assassin! I’d do anything to act like a real a-hole!


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: A terrorist wouldn’t act like a regular wrestler. He’d do all kinds of crazy crap like he’s a damn killer…like he’s paid to kill somebody! He don’t mess around!


It’s infinite…you can just go on and on and on in professional wrestling!


Chappell: The only limit is your imagination!


Kernodle: We knew when we were wrestling Steamboat and Youngblood, that someday we’d be wrestling some Russians, and then the terrorists. We went on down the line.


Bourne: It’s too bad things got changed, and we didn’t get to see some of these ideas come to pass…


Kernodle: I can’t complain…it was a great ride! I’ve had a great life!


Wrestling is a fun business…a great business. But it’s changed so much now.


Chappell: And you really haven’t wrestled much at all in recent years…


Kernodle: I'm not one to be wrestling at this time in my life. I like to wrestle, but I’m 59, and I have a good income coming in.


Chappell: 59 and going strong!


To wrap things up, Don, how would you describe your philosophy about profession wrestling, and the relationship between the wrestlers and the fans?


Kernodle: Wrestling is all psychology. Like I said, I’d watched wrestling from when I was seven years old. And I know what the people want to see.


And as Weaver would tell you, once you got in the business, you listened to the people. A great worker, and I’m not saying I was a great worker, but a great worker like Weaver can listen to the people…and he knew what the people wanted to see.


Chappell: Weaver was clearly a master of that.


Kernodle: If Weaver was here, he could also tell you how these hot shot angles are no good. You can’t run a territory like that. You might have a few months of hot business…and then, nothing.


Bourne: Especially if a wheel falls off like in that summer of ’86 when things were clicking, and then Magnum gets hurt, and you don’t have a plan, you don’t have things that you can build from.


And it was like a snowball going down hill.


Kernodle: You see how Vince [McMahon] does now? If something happens like Batista gets hurt again, Vince has somebody to come right in there.


Just because Magnum was hurt, you could have done something different…


Chappell: Rather than immediately turn Nikita babyface out of desperation.


Kernodle: That’s one thing about Vince McMahon, like him or hate him. When we were wrestling, it was wrestlers doing the booking. And if you’re a booker, who’s going to be the top wrestler?


Chappell: Easy answer there!


Kernodle: [The booker], of course. Now, Vince is the booker, he’s not a wrestler…


Chappell: Not for the most part, anyway!


Kernodle: But you see what I’m saying, David, Vince has more of a reason to give the wrestlers the chance to make money that deserve it. See what I’m saying?


Chappell: Right.


Kernodle: See, when I was wrestling, if a booker didn’t like you, he could starve you to death. He might only book you 2-3 times a week, and there wouldn’t be a damn thing you could do about it. You could either like it…or go.


They were the only two choices you had.


Chappell: Like it, or lump it!


Kernodle: Ya’ll probably never been told this before…this is one of my trade things that I’ll tell you.


People don’t realize it, but wrestlers are puppeteers. We’re working their strings. We’re in the ring wrestling, but we’re working the people’s strings…they’re puppets. We could have a riot EVERY night, if we wanted to take it that far! Every night we could have had a riot.


So, we’re working their strings, and they don’t even know it! You know what I’m saying? You’ve never heard that before, have you?


Chappell: That’s a great analogy.


Bourne: Which is what’s so sad about wrestling today. They work it out ahead of time, practice it, and have every move laid out in their head before the match. And then it doesn’t matter what the fans react to, they still gotta do their match.


Kernodle: Yeah, we never did that. We called the match in the ring, listened to the people, and we knew what they wanted to see.


Bourne: That’s gone today.


Kernodle: And also your interviews…


Bourne: (laughs) You never had to have a writer, did you Don?


Kernodle: We didn’t rehearse NOTHING! We just went out there and said what we wanted to say.


You know what you wanted to say…


Chappell: And sort of what the people expected you to say.


Kernodle: I knew I had to be a smart-ass, and say something crazy!


Chappell: Give us a couple of those smart-ass promos that you really remember!


Kernodle: One time I did one for Charlotte, I said, ‘You know, just maybe, just maybe, when we get done beating Steamboat and Youngblood tonight, they’ll change the name of Independence Boulevard to the Pride Of The USA Boulevard!’


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: Then I did one for the Greensboro Coliseum one time, I said, ‘You know, Sarge, one time the Kernodles owned this land up here where the Coliseum is at. They didn’t want it, it’s just a piece of trash like a dump, so we just gave it to the city of Greensboro!’


Chappell/Bourne: (laughing)


Kernodle: It was like the thing with the Queen sending me flowers…like the Queen of England is really interested in a wrestling match! Crazy stuff that people take notice of!


Like I said, it was a fun business. But it’s changed so much now, that it probably wouldn’t be as fun.


Chappell: Since we’re talking about having fun…Don, it’s been a blast talking to you today. I know I speak for Dick, in thanking you for spending so much time talking with the Mid-Atlantic Gateway boys today!


Kernodle: Oh, it’s been great guys! I’ve got lots more…let’s sit down again soon, and we can talk with my brother, too.


Chappell: It’s a date! Stayed tuned for more with Don and Wally Kernodle!


Kernodle: Thanks guys…see ya’ll soon!


Recognition Presented by CWF Mid-Atlantic Wrestling June 2009 in Burlington NC.




Copyright © 2009 Mid-Atlantic Gateway