You can watch episodes of Preachers' Daughters on Lifetime today, the full schedule is at this link. Here is the interview, in its entirety: Yeah, I graduated college and was training for a pro football tryout when Road Warrior Animal gave me the phone call.
He was actually approached by Don Kernodle, who was Ivan Koloff's partner at the time. They were the world tag team champions in the NWA. Don had approached Road Warrior Animal and, actually, what he asked was, 'Do you know any big guys who wouldn't mind shaving their head and becoming a Russian? Did you watch wrestling as a child? Not really, that's kind of the irony behind it.
My passions as a child was football, and I had my sights on playing football one day. I was familiar with it, but i wasn't necessarily what you might call a fan of it. I was certainly familiar with it because during my college days, I trained at Jesse Ventura's gym and I befriended Jesse back in those days. If I followed it at all, it was just because I knew Jesse. You were booked in squash matches and tag team matches early on in your career.
Did you get the feeling that pro wrestling was the right career move during that time? I didn't know what to expect and it was a very unique story.
Jim Crockett gave me an opportunity with no amateur background, no professional training, literally just having a conversation with me over the phone, sight unseen. I showed up at his office in Charlotte, North Carolina the day he said to be there. He really took a roll of the dice. He literally put me right on the interview set that day with Ivan and Don and then said, 'Be in Raleigh tomorrow night, you're going to wrestling on TV of all things.
So, he really took a chance but -- if you go by the career -- it was a great roll of the dice for Crockett. You learned really fast. You were involved in those tag matches. Who do you credit for learning so quickly on the job? Well, if was literally that: First couple of months after that initial match on TV and having my first professional wrestling in eleven seconds on television. And, of course, Ivan and Don.
I have to give all the credit to Don and Sgt. Slaughter for coming up with the original idea of a nephew for Ivan. Then, Ivan and Don teaching me the ropes -- no pun intended -- those first couple of months in and out of the ring, on the road and sitting in their corner. Then, just dialogue, discussing the psychology of the business. Certainly it helped that I was a quick study, as far as the student learning. But at the same time, I have to give credit where credit is due and that's to Don Kernodle and Ivan Koloff.
What about your accent? Your promos were so memorable and you said you didn't have much experience beforehand. Where did you come up with the accent? Was that something you just came up with on your own or studied? Well, you know, part of the storyline was that I didn't speak any English -- which I didn't do for about the first six months other than in the car I drove in, the dressing room.
During that time, I got a hold of some Russian work books and cassettes -- some listening won't even know what a cassette is [laughs]. But I learned to sign my name in Russian and was listening to Russian words.
I just thought to myself, OK, if I really was from there and I was just learning the English language, how would this word sound? What would that word sound like? So it's just something that really developed over the course of time. Before you had your big feud with Magnun T. Is there any truth to that?
That would be rumors to me. Obviously, the magazines really hyped that up and pumped that up. Certainly, the Russian wrestler against Hulk Hogan would have been a pretty good draw, without a doubt. He originally wanted me to be a part of Demolition with him. I just really didn't have an interest in doing that. I worked very hard on the Nikita Koloff character as well as I just felt a real sense of loyalty to Jim Crockett for giving me my break.
Could I have went there and probably made ten times the money or more? There's no doubt in my mind that I could have. But loyalty and integrity were very important to me. Always have been and still are. You then had the huge feud with Magnum T. What was only being in the business a few years and being involved in such a huge feud like?
It was very memorable and probably the absolute most talked about feud in my carer. I certainly had a lot of incredible matches over the years. On and on it goes. But, certainly, the best of 7 with Magnum for the U. Heavyweight title -- probably the most talked about series of matches that I had in my career. It was just natural chemistry. So, it made for as you might say, a story-book type of series of events.
Certainly, without a doubt, very memorable. Your face turn after Magnum T. It's one of those things you don't see done very well nowadays. It was kind of a simple story done so well and it was such a big success. Did you have any idea that it would be as successful as it was? No, I don't think anybody -- certainly Crockett had many years of experience in the wrestling industry and Dusty as a booker certainly had lots of experiences as well.
But, there's never been a Russian good guy, Russian babyface. So, I don't think any of us knew what to expect. I certainly didn't because I was just two and a half years in the business at the time. Certainly, from what I'm told, it's one of the absolute best kept secrets in terms of a turn that I doubt could even be done anymore with the internet and the exposure of wrestling. But, at the time, I believe it was the best kept secret in wrestling.
Of course, I think that had a lot to do with the success of it. Teaming with Dusty as the Superpowers and then of course pitting us against the Four Horseman in whatever combination lead to the success. Pro Wrestling Illustrated, I say this, too: Bill Apter was instrumental in helping with that as well. They did that cover shot where I cried a tear for Magnum T.
I think it was the first time that the fans thought that the heartless Nikita Koloff actually had a heart. That played a big part in the turn as well. What did you like better: You know, I get asked that a lot. Honestly, I enjoyed both equally. I'm glad that I got the opportunity to play on both sides of the fence and experience both. I don't know that I loved one better than the other. They were both a great experience. You eventually left wrestling all together after your wife at the time contracted Hodgkins disease.
I took a sabbatical at the top, main event level to take care of her during her illness, and later on her passing at a young age, before I returned to the ring.
When you did return on the national stage with WCW, did you have the mindset back in that it was going to be a long-time thing or were you just going to see how you felt? I walked away really in my early's, what is the peak, many times, of wrestlers. I walked away on top of the business which was a goal of mine.
I broke in and I had been at it for about two weeks, and I said, 'I'll be out of this business by the time I'm Not knowing it was wrestling when I was young but, nevertheless, I was determined to walk away. So, I was 33 on my way to turning 34 when I made that decision to walk away from the career.
I certainly look back with fond memories and no regrets from doing that. Did you enjoy your second stint with WCW? It was a mom-and-pop operation with Crockett and became a chapter in Ted Turner's portfolio.
He loved wrestling but it stepped into corporate America.