Wrestle Ohio

Huskie Howard Interviews Wrestling Legend Boris Zhukov

Boris Zhukov

Boris Zhukov

Huskie: Wrestling fans, welcome back to Wrestle Ohio. Today I am joined by wrestling legend Boris Zhukov. Mr. Zhukov, how are you today? Thanks for joining us here at Wrestle Ohio.

Zhukov: I am doing great and it’s wonderful to be your guest today!

Huskie: First off, let’s get the answer to the question that everyone wants to know. What is Boris Zhukov up to these days?

Zhukov: I am still running the roads. I have been driving 18 wheelers for over 20 years. I pull a flatbed trailer hauling construction and building materials for McElroy truck lines out of Cuba, Alabama.

Huskie: Very interesting profession. Are you still involved in the wrestling business?

Zhukov: Oh yes! Here at home in Rocky Mount, Virginia. I am the Commissioner for American Championship Wrestling.

Huskie: When did you start wrestling? How did you get into the business?

Zhukov: I broke into wrestling in May of 1978. I had graduated high school in June of 1977. I played football and lifted weights year round in high school. I had a dream and a goal to make it into pro wrestling. I met Rick McCord in 1978, he got me a try out with an independent group here in Virginia, my partner now, Eclipso helped train me. I worked a year with them and in May of 1979, Ole Anderson gave me a shot on Atlanta television for Georgia Championship Wrestling. After that I never looked back!

Huskie: What was it like going from Indy shows on to Georgia Championship Wrestling, AWA and then on to the WWF?

Zhukov: Big difference! I started getting paid every night, and paid well too! What was best was getting to work every night, week after week. That is when you can learn. Keeping an open mind and busting your butt, you never stop learning and you stay booked!! But I worked out all the time in the gym and in the ring while on the Indy scene. I knew I had to if I wanted to make it big and do it for a living!

Zhukov squeezing the life out of Jim Powers.

Zhukov squeezing the life out of Jim Powers.

Huskie: What was it like wrestling for the big promotions back then?

Zhukov: A very big honor and a privilege! I got a chance to be there and take part in pro wrestling during many of its greatest years. But most importantly, I got to work with so many of wrestling greatest names that ever stepped into the ring. I had a big dream and it all came true! It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Huskie: Who were your influences in wrestling?

Zhukov: Johnny Valentine, Anderson Brothers, Ivan Koloff and Boris Malenko.

Huskie: Who were some of your favorite wrestlers to work with?

Zhukov: That’s a tough question! Ricky Steamboat, Ric Flair, The Briscos, Paul Jones, Jake Roberts, Don Kernodle, Sgt. Slaughter, Wahoo McDaniel, Anderson Brothers, Johnny Weaver, British Bulldog, The Hart Foundation, The Rockers, The Funks. I could list names all day to that question (laughs). There was hardly anybody at all I can recall that I did not enjoy working with!

Huskie: What is your favorite match of all time to watch?

Zhukov: It was the cage match at Final Conflict in Greensboro, North Carolina, March 12th 1983 for the NWA World Tag Team titles, between Sgt. Slaughter & Kernodle vs. Steamboat & Youngblood.

Huskie: What was your favorite match that you were involved in?

Zhukov: AWA title match against Rick Martel, but that’s a tough question! I had more than I could ever list!

Zhukov being escorted by security at Richfield Coliseum.

Zhukov being escorted by security at Richfield Coliseum.

Huskie: What was it like being on the road all the time traveling from show to show?

Zhukov: Fun and exciting at first. But day in and day out, week after week, month after month, it took its toll. You get road weary and when you did finally get some time off, you did not want to go anywhere, not even move! (laughs)

Huskie: Where was your favorite place to go to wrestle?

Zhukov: Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Also at home Roanoke Civic Center in Roanoke, Virginia.

Huskie: What are your thoughts on wrestling today?

Zhukov: It’s terrible! It’s convoluted, scrambled eggs. There is nothing much to follow. The angles are hard and difficult to follow. Heels can no longer get real heat. Good vs. Evil is so simple and it still works. I have no use for today’s product. I no longer care to watch it at all.

Huskie: How does today’s talent compare to the talent of your era?

Zhukov: There is a lot of great and young talent today. They look good, but I don’t care about how a lot of them dress. You are a professional wrestler, dress like one! I don’t care for t-shirts and a lot of this spandex that does not resemble wrestling tights. I like tights and boots PERIOD! So many guys worry more about their looks, much less be able to wrestle or work. There is no psychology in matches at all. They can not tell a story on their own. In my time and long before, one had to be able to ad-lib. If they miss a move, they insist on doing it over. Nope, you move on, grab a hold. The key word is WRESTLE! So many have no clue what that is! They never try to pin their opponent, just spot, spot, spot! Try to make them give up. I prefer submit, I do not care for the tap out. The worst part is all of mystique associated with wrestling is gone. It’s just not that special anymore!

Zhukov laying the boots to his opponent.

Zhukov laying the boots to his opponent.

Huskie: In your opinion what do you think could be done to make today’s product better?

Zhukov: IF THEY WOULD GO BACK TO WRESTLING! There is nothing else left to do, they have done it all! Terry Funk told me that years ago.

Huskie: In the era you wrestled in there were a lot of tag team wrestling and managers. Today you don’t see either one of those much anymore. Do you think those two elements would help make today’s product better?

Zhukov: Absolutely! Tag team wrestling was very big in my day. This is where great psychology was so important. So many ways to run a tag match. If done right you can build suspense, heels keeping the baby faces in their corner. Making them fight for that tag. We called it “milking the marks”, drive them into frenzy and then let them tag when the time is right. Baby faces explode and make that big comeback, time for the heels to bump and fly! Managers were great too. Get heat by distracting the ref, during interviews, interfering during the finish of a match. If done right it got great heat. But today they are just clueless on the basic fundamentals of pro wrestling! It’s just sad and pathetic to me!

Huskie: Do you think the state of wrestling will ever get better?

Zhukov: I can hope and pray! So many people, I both hear and read about are fed up! Today’s product to me is nothing but garbage. I think the best thing to happen would be that Vince starts showing all the old wrestling shows that he owns. I believe if he did, the ratings would soar for these good ol’ matches. The ratings for his new junk and TNA would drop like a stone. For me I watch more of the old television shows than I do the new. Andy Griffith, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Rifleman, Gilligan’s Island, etc! They can’t make shows like this anymore!

Huskie: Also in your era of wrestling the titles meant a lot. These days titles don’t seem to mean squat. What are your thoughts on the way they treat titles in today’s product?

Zhukov with his The Bolsheviks partner, Nicolai Volkolff.

Zhukov with his The Bolsheviks partner, Nicolai Volkolff.

Zhukov: The mystique of pro wrestling as a whole is completely gone. There are too many belts. Everyone including fans can buy one. They mean nothing now-a-days. Years ago, there were only a couple of places to have belts made and to purchase them. Only liable promotions could get them. They were not made just for anyone. Belts are props, but with wrestling completely exposed they just don’t mean squat anymore. Like I said, it’s the mystique and when that is lost it is all meaningless!

Huskie: What does it mean to be a promotion’s champion?

Zhukov: I reckon you are talking about back in the old territories. Each local promotion or territory had their local champion. Like Mid Atlantic Heavyweight Champion. These titles were very prestigious because it would put you in line for the U.S title and even a shot at the World Champion when he would come into that territory to defend his title! This is the time when title belts meant something!

Huskie: How do you want people to remember you?

Zhukov: To me, that’s not a big deal. I know people back in the day when I was wrestling may remember me. I suppose with a lot of videos out there and YouTube, the younger fans will and have seen me. For me, I would like to be remembered as someone who always gave it my all. I always tried to give 110% every time I stepped into the ring. I was very fortunate to be a part of something that I loved and enjoyed with all of my heart. I had a big dream and I got to live it. It does not get any better than that!

Huskie: You worked for many different promotions and traveled all over the place. Do you have any good stories you would like to share with the fans?

Zhukov: Sure! Once up in Virginia at the Harrisburg High School. This was the fall of 1980 when I was with Jim Crockett Promotions out of Charlotte, after the matches were over on a Thursday night. We were off to Richmond, Virginia. I was riding with Roddy Piper and Gene Lewis. We were all talking about Ray Stevens and his wife celebrating their anniversary. So we ended up flying past them on I64 East. Roddy remembered that he had a red rotating cop light that he could plug into the cigarette lighter. So we got on a ramp and killed the lights, as soon as Ray went by us, Roddy hit it and as we flew up behind Ray, Roddy hit the lights on high beam with the red light on the dash flashing away. We started seeing items getting thrown out by Ray’s wife. You can use your imagination as to what the items were. Ray pulled over and stopped. Roddy pulled up beside Ray and we laughed and shot Ray the moon!

Roddy floored it and Ray just blew up. Ray caught up and hit our rear bumper and pushed us down the interstate. I know we got up over 80mph. Ray was very angry, but he got even. We all laughed about it the next day. Just one of the many crazy days on the road! (laughs)

Zhukov holding up the WWF Intercontinental Belt.

Zhukov holding up the WWF Intercontinental Belt.

Huskie: Bet there was never a dull moment being around Roddy Piper.

Zhukov: (Laughs) No not at all. Super guy, super worker and performer. He helped me a lot and pushed me hard!!

Huskie: How did he do that?

Zhukov: Coaching me before and after my matches and interviews. Roddy encouraged me a lot, too. Also got great advice when I got to work with him. I got taught, coached and helped by all the greatest names the wrestling business will ever know. That is what helped me make it. I could not have made it without them. I could list names all day! (Laughs)

Huskie: Speaking of great names, how did you get teamed up with Nikolai Volkoff? What was it like working with him?

Zhukov: Jack Lanza, who I worked with and for at the AWA, and Sherri Martel both put in a real good word with Vince McMahon. When Vince decided that he wanted a Russian tag team, I was very lucky and fortunate to be chosen. Nikolai and I already knew each other. It was good and easy for both of us to work with each other. Nikolai is a good man, just a super guy. He had been working for years and just fantastic to travel with and to train with. He helped me a lot and taught me a lot. But he is also a superb chef!!! No one can cook like Nikolai!! I had a great ride and run with him. But the two people who helped me the most were Sgt. Slaughter and Don Kernodle.

The Pvt. Nelson gimmick got it all kicked off for me. I got to learn so much about wrestling from Don, who had so much experience with high school and college wrestling. plus all of his pro experience. Slaughter also had so much experience, plus he taught me how to work and do interviews. He taught me how to feed off him, with him being the Sarge and me the Private. I could not have asked for a better break, not just for a push but for all the valuable experience that I obtained. I could never have done what I was able to do in this business without all of that valuable experience. But getting to work every night, day in and day out. That’s so very important, valuable experience is not possible today, young men who want to try to make it in wrestling. I just hate it; you can not learn to be at your very best unless you can do this on a regular basis. I mean no less than four or five times each and every week!

A very early photo of Zhukov, as Pvt. Nelson, with Sgt. Slaughter.

A very early photo of Zhukov, as Pvt. Nelson, with Sgt. Slaughter.

Huskie: What was it like going from being Pvt. Nelson to being in a Russian tag team as Boris Zhukov?

Zhukov: This was what was so great about territories. You got to go to an area where nobody knew you unless they spotted you in a wrestling magazine. A lot of times people who traveled a lot and were big wrestling fans would check out the local wrestling television shows. But you could go and have a chance to work and get your new gimmick down pat. This is what Vince McMahon Sr. told me in a phone call I had with him. This is a major problem with today’s product. Nowhere to work and get your experience and get a good gimmick down. Getting in front of those TV cameras and doing your own interviews, shooting from the hip! No scripts, working in the ring six or seven nights a week, every week. Nowhere for experienced, good new talent to come from. So very sad!

Huskie: Do you have any advice for those looking to get into the wrestling business?

Zhukov: Give it all you got! Don’t hold back! Expect the worst, hope for the best! There are only two places where you can draw a regular paycheck, WWE and TNA! GOOD LUCK! I wish I could be more optimistic. But the chances I could make it today! SLIM AND NONE!

Huskie: Is there anything that you would like to say to your fans?

Zhukov: Thanks for all of your support! I always tried to give you all my best every time I stepped into the ring! I hope for you all I did! THANK YOU ALL!

Huskie: Boris, we have a question from a fan. Charles Stone asks “What was your most memorable moment in professional wrestling?”

Zhukov: The first time that I ever stepped into and wrestled in Madison Square Garden!

Huskie: How can fans follow you online?

Zhukov: They can keep up with me on my Facebook Profile and on the ACW Wrestling Facebook Page!

Huskie: Mr. Zhukov, it has truly been an honor, but unfortunately our time is up. I would once again like to thank you for your time.

Zhukov: You’re welcome, it was my pleasure sir!

Huskie: Alright wrestling fans, remember to “friend” Mr. Zhukov on Facebook, and also to the younger fans out there, go look up some of his matches on Youtube. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. Until next time, you have been Hanging with Huskie!

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