Don Kernodle, who was best known for his time wrestling in the Carolinas for Jim Crockett Promotions, has died at the age of 71.
Kernodle was a Mid-Atlantic staple from the early ‘70s and was a part of Sgt. Slaughter’s Cobra Corps along with Private Jim Nelson a.k.a. Boris Zhukov. The team of Kernodle and Nelson won the Mid-Atlantic tag team titles for the first time in May 1982 from Jay Youngblood & Porkchop Cash. The title reign lasted a little over a week before regaining them on June 17, 1982, and lost them for the final time to Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood.
From there, Kernodle began teaming with his famous partner, Sgt. Slaughter (Robert Remus). This was when the territory was booked by Dory Funk Jr., with a committee consisting of Gary Hart, Wahoo McDaniel, and Ernie Ladd.
As NWA World Tag Champions, Slaughter & Kernodle feuded with Steamboat & Youngblood that culminated in one of the biggest matches in the history of the territory. “The Final Conflict” took place on March 12, 1983, at the Greensboro Coliseum with a turn-away crowd for the steel cage match where Steamboat & Youngblood would have their final chance at the titles. They defeated the champions allowing Slaughter to exit Mid-Atlantic and join the World Wrestling Federation.
Kernodle would also work for the WWF during 1983 before returning to the Carolinas in 1984.
It was estimated that thousands of people were turned away as a gauge of how massive the interest was in a relatively small market that Greensboro, North Carolina was.
The success of the match was the impetus behind the first Starrcade event in November 1983 at the Greensboro Coliseum as a natural extension from the annual Thanksgiving night tradition in the Carolinas going back to 1961.
Despite it being billed as ‘The Final Conflict’, they took the match all over the territory through May, including a match in Toronto in late March.
Kernodle would win the NWA tag titles with Bob Orton Jr. in January 1984 in Charlotte. His final championship reign came in May 1984 with partner Ivan Koloff as the duo defeated Wahoo McDaniel & Mark Youngblood in Raleigh and would drop the belts to Dusty Rhodes & Manny Fernandez in October that year.
During the tag title reign, Kernodle & Koloff along with Nikita Koloff won the NWA Six-Man tag titles. In early 1985, Krusher Kruschev replaced Kernodle in the team with the Koloffs throwing Kernodle out to spark their feud.
In his final years with the company, Kernodle would team with brother Rocky.
Kernodle worked for the Puerto Rican-based WWC group winning its heavyweight title in 1980 and holding its Television Championship twice in 1992.
His final matches took place with the CWF Mid-Atlantic promotion with his final match listed in August 2006 where he teamed with brother Rocky against Gregory Vercetti & Jay Sin.