I used df -T before umounting the SD card to make sure that the partitioning / filesystem creation had been successful and it seemed so, seeing as how the kernel would at least boot before giving me the panic error I figured something was going right.
However, after doing a more thorough sweep of the sd card using df -T and fdisk -L I noticed that, don't ask how, an 'other' type partition (unused) had mysteriously superimposed itself over the Linux one! It had the same start and end blocks, size, et cetera. And of course trying to use Wiiload to install from a USB medium always ended in nothing but a lost+found folder being placed on the ext3 partition, so, I think the SD card is probably just toast. I have always had this problem trying to boot Wii-Linux and it has always been that same card. Can I just do the same partitioning / filesystem processes on a USB hard drive and boot it that way?