A little later, in the middle of 1981, you
feuded with Ric Flair in concert with Gene and Ole
Anderson. This was just before Ric became the World
Champion for the first time. I would suspect you
found then that Ric had matured considerably from
those days back in 1974?
That was a pleasure, too. I was very proud of
the fact that Ric had come along so well. Indeed, at
that point, he had surpassed a lot of us. I mean,
you could see then that he really wanted it.
that definitely gave you incentive. When you get
guys like Flair in the area who are all producers,
it makes you work harder…try harder.
Probably your biggest feud in your second tour
with Crockett was your program with ‘Boogie Man’
Jimmy Valiant in 1982. I spoke with
Jimmy recently, and he said you kept him in shape
during that program!
(laughing) It worked both ways, I tell you!
Because we knew we had to produce, you know? Oh
Jimmy and I had a great run together.
How did you and Boogie get hooked up in that
The promotion came to me, and they said they
were putting me together with this
Jimmy Valiant. I had heard of him, but I had never met
You had never met Valiant before this?
Not that I recall. I knew he had done a thing in
New York with Johnny Valiant and had become very
successful. And he had been a big draw in
Tennessee…I had heard about that. I had watched
him wrestle some, and said to myself, ‘Whoever
gets that guy is gonna be lucky to wrestle
By this time, George Scott had gone and Ole
Anderson was the booker for Crockett, correct?
Yes. Ole came up to me and said, ‘Can you do
something with [Valiant]? Do you wrestle that
I don’t think ANYBODY wrestled Valiant’s
style! (everybody laughs)
I said, ‘You kiddin’ Ole? Yeah…I’d love
to.’ So, Ole put us together and it just took off.
Jimmy…he was a gentleman and did great
work---everything. To this day, he’s a tremendous
gentleman. He’s a good friend.
That program with you two in 1982 went nearly
the entire year…it never really cooled off.
Jimmy got to prove himself with me then. He had done
well in New York and Tennessee…
But that was with the ‘Handsome Jimmy’ persona…this was a completely different
character against you as the ‘Boogie Woogie
That’s very true. And after me, he had that
big run with Paul Jones and his guys.
After being out of the Mid-Atlantic area for
most of 1983, you came back to Charlotte and were a
Crockett Promotions until the promotion ceased to
exist late in the 1980s. You hit the ground running
in 1984…and really became more of a tag team
specialist in your final stint for Crockett.
It was really great, because I was getting into
more tag team situations when I went to Florida and
Georgia. You know, they would team me with Saito or
(Alexis) Smirnoff…people like that.
between territories, a year here and a year there,
really was good for me. I always thought you needed
to keep on the move to keep a fresh name in the
business. That way they’d feature you more, you
know? But I did more tag team work as the years
During the early part of this period, you were
tagged up with the ‘Pride of the USA,’
Kernodle…and held the NWA World Tag Team Titles
for a good while.
I think they put us together, because
Donald…Kernodle, had really been hot when they teamed
him with Sergeant Slaughter a little ways before
put us together in ’84, sort of the best of both
countries type of thing.
(EDDIE CHESLOCK PHOTO)
How was it teaming with Kernodle?
Oh…great. Yeah, he was good…a real good
was not afraid to wrestle…he could go! 45 minutes
and hour matches were no problem to him.
little later, matter of fact, I ended up wrestling
Right…you turned on him late in 1984. I
remember you all had some rough ‘Flag Matches’
in early 1985…battling for the respective flags of
the two nations---the Soviet Union and the USA.
Yes! Oh, [Kernodle] was very good…particularly
as far as being in shape and knowing his wrestling.
He was a good amateur wrestler, too. You really knew
you were in the ring with somebody when you were in
there with him.
me, to be able to have a strong match at that
time…I had to be in there with someone that could
be aggressive. Because if I had someone in there who
didn’t really want to get up, it killed the match.
Were all the tag team matches at this point a
concession to your advancing age at this time…or
to other physical reasons?
I don’t know…maybe a little bit. In ’83
when I was in New York, I did get my first major
injury…as far as my knees were concerned. I had
torn cartilage, and that used to lock up on me until
I had it scoped out.
You did that finishing move off the top rope,
where you led with that knee behind the opponent’s
Yeah…that was it.
I stayed in pretty good shape as the years went on.
I did a lot of running, and actually got down to
about 210 pounds during that part of my career.
You were actually dwarfed by Nikita and Krusher
Khrushchev during that time period…in a physical
sense. Tell us about your nephew, Nikita, and also
When Nikita came in during ’84, indeed, it
really gave me some more life. At that point, I’d
been around for a while…and teaming with him and
playing off him really helped.
was brand new to the business, but he was very
dedicated. And he adjusted better than anyone I had
ever seen in wrestling. You know, he never had the
benefit of a wrestling school.
Did you and Nikita have a good relationship?
Oh yeah…to this day. During those years when
we were wrestling together, he was probably
disgusted with me at times, but he always showed
great respect for me---because I was the mentor and
the guy that tried to help him.
knew that I was doing the best I could…to protect
him all the way around. Not just for the idea of his
paycheck, but for him as a person and as a
wrestler---his career. I think he respected that.
When you say that Nikita might have been
disgusted with you at times, are you referring to
some of your personal habits?
He knew what my personal life was like, being
captive to the drinking and the drugs, and he
didn’t like that.
remember, he used to stick his head out of the
window when we were riding down the road…with the
smoke and all. He wasn’t a big drinker and all
that, but he put up with it for me. He was always
respectful, and he always worked hard.
And as you said earlier, Nikita really
reinvigorated your career at that point.
Yeah, he definitely gave me some more years in
the business. Being my partner…and Krusher, too.
Tell us about Krusher.
Krusher was a tremendous wrestler. And he was
part of the World Six Man Championship with Nikita
and myself for a while there. We were quite a
You always sort of functioned as the spokesman
for the group.
Yes, and that worked out very well. It was the
type of thing, where you were trying to build
Nikita. By me doing the talking, it was like I kept
the steam on myself, even though I got beat up in
And it was a natural, too, because I wasn’t as
big and strong as Nikita was.
(EDDIE CHESLOCK PHOTO)
In the mid 1980s, you Russians had some great
matches with the Rock and Roll Express. Tell us
about those times.
Rock and Roll…they were business all the way
down the line. Girls went crazy over those
guys…just like Elvis Presley! Back then when they
did autograph sessions, the lines went on forever!
traded the World Tag Team belts with them a couple
Another great tag team during that same general
time period, were the Road Warriors.
They were the exact opposite kind of team from
Rock and Roll…as far as size and the way they
wrestled. But they were really over, too.
Without a doubt!
With their bodies and everything…guys looked
at them and said, ‘Nobody’s gonna beat them.’
indeed, when they were against Nikita and Krusher of
our team…there had to be big guys on the other
side like that---to make it worthwhile, I suppose.
The Road Warriors also had lots of great matches
with the Four Horsemen.
Yes, those were the days when the Horsemen were
in their infancy. You had the Midnight Express
around, also. What an awesome time for tag teams!
They had some big-time talent in then.
As we got in the later 1980s, the unthinkable
happened…Ivan Koloff eventually became a babyface!
Yeah…I think they were grasping for straws at
that point! What had happened, was that Magnum T.A
had his accident, and then Dusty (Rhodes) took
Nikita as his partner.
That really made it tough on you then, Ivan.
I can’t blame him…[Dusty] had the book, and
it made for a better payday for him. But it hurt
mine, of course.
As I recall, you were then sort of shuttled over
to the program with Paul Jones?
I was put in that category, but I was grateful
for it…the idea of working with Paul Jones and the
(Russian) Assassins. I always enjoyed working with
Paul Jones, you know. We had a good run then.
When I spoke to
Jimmy Valiant recently, he told me that you were one of
the veterans that opted not to relocate to Atlanta
in late 1988 when Crockett was sold to Turner
They would give you an option at that time.
George Scott had just started back booking for them
again, for a while there.
said to them, ‘What’s going on here?’ At that
time, I had done the thing with Nikita, and the
thing with the Assassins. Pretty much everything was
over then…nothing was happening. Nothing much was
happening with anything else either…the territory
was pretty bad.
I’m sure it was a bad situation during that
They were restructuring, and doing the thing
with George Scott. I just told them, ‘Hey, I
can’t afford to stay around with this…bye.’ I
just left…I didn’t even give a notice or
anything like that. I figured they gave my notice,
by the checks I was getting then! (laughs)
that was it. But overall, I enjoyed my last stay
with Crockett, and made money. That was the last
good run I had in the business…with Nikita,
Krusher and the Road Warriors and those guys.
Your final stint with Crockett had Dusty with
the book almost the entire time. How did you
perceive Dusty? A lot of people are critical of him,
saying he promoted himself at the expense of other
Well…I think he would have been stupid not to
promote himself---in a sense. He was a proven
Maybe ‘over promoted’ would be a better way
to phrase it! (laughs)
Well, yeah, maybe over promoted. But if you have
the pencil, you have the say, why not? Because, by
doing it, he was still able to get the job done…as
far as drawing.
know, even if you packed the card underneath, you
still had to have somebody in that slot he was
in…and he always fulfilled the job that was
required. Whether it was against Flair, (Harley)
Race or in tag team situations.
So…I can’t get you to say anything bad
against Dusty Rhodes? (laughs)
, I don’t have anything against Dusty! I always
made money with him…from Florida to Houston to
was a smart man. He was trained by one of the
best…Eddie Graham. [Dusty] knew how to spot
talent, and just as importantly, he knew how to
compliment the talent that he had.
After you left Crockett/Turner, what did you do
then? You said earlier that was your last major run
in the business.
From 1989-94, I ran a wrestling school. I had
all kinds of athletes as my students…football
players, bodybuilders, martial arts guys, every type
of athlete you can think of. Most were in great
shape. After the tryouts, the ones that came back
said, ‘Man, I can’t believe this hurts so
goes to show you what kind of damage the body goes
through in wrestling.
Being out of the ring for a number of years,
what do you think about professional wrestling
, looking back on it now, what wrestling is like now
compared to then…I can really appreciate what we
did. We laid the groundwork for wrestling. We had to
put in those hour matches, 90 minute matches, and
you had to really be in shape to do that every
kiddingly say, and a lot of the old timers will tell
you, most people couldn’t keep up with the party
life back then, let alone the wrestling life!
The whole professional wrestling lifestyle is
just so incredibly difficult…the constant pounding
in the ring and life on the road. In your case,
Ivan, I know that there was a darker side of your
life back when you were wrestling that we as fans
live a far different, and better, life now than you
did during the days we remember you as an active
competitor in the ring. Please tell us about your
amazing transformation, and the life you lead today.
I appreciate that,
. You know, you had to be nearly a robot to do what
we did in wrestling. You know, seven days a
week…year in and year out. For a person who has
never done it, they probably wouldn’t know what
I’m talking about. But if you’ve done it, even a
little bit, you’d understand it.
get through a career of that, I resorted to taking
the easy way out.
What do you mean by ‘taking the easy way
The drugs and the alcohol. Unfortunately, during
the times that fans remember me in the ring, I was
using that stuff. It got progressively worse from
the 70s, when drinking was the problem.
had always looked at [the drinking] as being a
socially acceptable, type of recreational activity.
Some beers while on the road with the boys, that
kind of thing?
Yeah…you know, a six pack for 100 miles,
twelve pack for 200 miles and so on. That’s the
way it pretty much went.
get up the next day, go to the gym and sweat it out.
That was the routine.