The Return of Pvt. Jim Nelson

by Dick Bourne

Other Resources:

A Message to fans from Jim Nelson

Photo Album: Sgt. Slaughter with Pvt. Nelson and Pvt. Kernodle

Photo Album: The Privates and the Camo Cadillac

Jim Nelson Interview on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

1982 Roanoke Times Article: The Success of Jim Nelson

1983 Roanoke Match Photos: Johnny Weaver and Jim Nelson vs. Gene Anderson and Red Dog Lane

2005 Roanoke Times Article on Boris Zhukov

Reunion with Johnny Weaver, Sandy Scott, Rich Landrum, and the Kernodles

ACW Website

NICW Website

Smoke Filled Rooms

Mid-Atlantic Gateway lobby







On Saturday, September 8, in Rocky Mount VA, a wrestling legend retired. Boris Zhukov, who wrecked havoc in the Southeastern Wrestling territory in the early-to-mid-80s, was one of the the top heels in the AWA in the mid-80s, and was part of tough tag team called the Bolsheviks with partner Nicolai Volkoff in the WWF (including appearances in Wrestlemania) in the late 80s, had decided to call it quits. Zhukov, whose mainstream ring career ended in the World Wrestling Federation some years ago, had made a comeback recently for longtime Roanoke area wrestling group ACW (American Championship Wrestling) and Floyd VA based NICW (National Independent Championship Wrestling), allied with local heels Eclipso and Ken Steel. Steel and Eclipso (along with manager Douglas J. Wentworth, III) had recently turned on Zhukov, resulting in the big Russian becoming a big fan favorite. But following a recent injury to the arm of Zhukov, he was forced into a wrestle-or-retire stipulation and to the surprise of the fans in attendance, announced he would indeed retire. But Zhukov told the fans that someone was in the building that night that would step in for him and take over the fight, someone with deep roots in the tradition of the Mid-Atlantic area.

And later that night, when Pvt. Jim Nelson stepped through the curtain into the arena, things had come full circle. Twenty-five years ago, in 1982, U.S. Champion Sgt. Slaughter had drafted young Jim Nelson to be his first recruit, and made him Pvt. Jim Nelson. Later joined by veteran Don Kernodle, the two Privates became a respected tag team, winning the Mid-Atlantic Tag Team championship, but more importantly to Slaughter, they watched their Sergeant's back and took care of a lot of his dirty work.

In 1983, following months of verbal abuse at the hands of Slaughter and Kernodle, Nelson became an underground agent for Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood who at that point were hot after Slaughter and Kernodle's NWA World Tag Team Championships. Nelson fed them key information that assisted them in finally defeating the Marines for the world titles at the legendary Final Conflict cage match show in Greensboro in March of 1983. In retaliation, Slaughter and Kernodle double teamed Nelson on Mid-Atlantic television, putting him out of wrestling with the Slaughter Cannon and a prolonged Cobra Clutch. Pvt. Jim Nelson was not heard from again.

Until that September Saturday in 2007 in Rocky Mount VA, 24 years later -

You see, Boris Zhukov and Pvt. Jim Nelson are one and the same. After Nelson left the Mid-Atlantic area, he took the persona of the mad Russian Boris Zhukov and got great experience working for Bill Watts in Mid-South Wrestling and for Ron Fuller and Bob Armstrong in the Alabama territory, better known as Southeastern Championship Wrestling. His big break came when he went to work for Verne Gagne in the AWA and quickly became one of the top heels there. He was in the first main event when the AWA debuted on ESPN, against Sgt. Slaughter, who had by that time become an American hero. Zhukov held the AWA world tag team championships before going to the WWF and forming the Bolsheviks tag team with Volkoff.

That September 2007 night in Roanoke, after delivering a retirement speech to the fans, Zhukov went to the back, shaved off the beard, donned the camouflage, and was once again Pvt. Jim Nelson.

Except this night he would be promoted to Sgt. Jim Nelson, the story being that Sgt. Slaughter wanted to reward him for getting through that Paris Island boot camp. Later that night, Nelson defeated ACW champ Eclipso to win the ACW belt - - or did he? You can read all about that controversy on the ACW website. Let's just say that regardless of the outcome of that situation, Jim Nelson was a winner that night, back in the persona he loved the most, where he got his first break in wrestling. 

That night, after victory in the ring, Sgt. Jim Nelson led the crowd in saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Things had come full circle indeed.


- Dick Bourne

Mid-Atlantic Gateway

September 2007


See this special video from that night on YouTube, produced by Thom Brewer.

UPDATED! See match photos from Rocky Mount below.

2007 Photos above of Boris Zhukov retiring and Sgt. Jim Nelson with the ACW title belt by Thom Brewer

A Message to Mid-Atlantic Wrestling fans from Jim Nelson:

First of all. I want to thank God for allowing me to still be able to step in the ring and do this. It has been 25 years now since Sgt. Slaughter and Ole Anderson gave me this opportunity.

I was so young and green at the time and Sgt. Slaughter really took me by the reins and led me the right way. I got teamed up with just a great guy Don Kernodle who had helped me so much being in the ring against him. I could not love or respect anybody more than Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle. Being able to have been a part of their team with Jim Crockett Promotions in the early 80's was the highlight of my career.

And with all the sad tragedy we have all seen Pro Wrestling suffer as of late, it just means so much more. I have had the pleasure of several great reunions as of late with Sgt. Slaughter, Don and Rocky Kernodle, Sandy Scott, Johnny Weaver, Rich Landrum and so many others who were at Fanfest this year. I just love and will always treasure and cherish all these great memories.

But, most of all I want to thank all the wrestling fans who came out and cheered us on, who have helped keep all of these great wrestling memories alive for all of us. I just love and thank you all so much and I will never forget you. It has all come full circle for me and I will always do this with the utmost respect for Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle. Each time I can get in that ring, I always remember the great friends I had and met who are no longer with us and dedicate it to them. And I do hope and pray that one day. Sgt Slaughter, Don Kernodle and I  can all get together just one more time for all of our great wrestling fans. Thank you all!

- Boris Zhukov, aka. Pvt. Jim Nelson

September 9, 2007

Action Photos from Sgt. Jim Nelson vs. Eclipso for the ACW Heavyweight Title

Photographs by Thom Brewer

Photos Thom Brewer

2007 Mid-Atlantic Gateway