Canadian Bulldog's True Wrestling Stories: Jake "The Snake" Roberts
Contrary to what some of you stupid marks may believe, Jake Roberts wasn't always a fat, drugged-out, alcoholic. For a period of time, he was quite svelte.
And the truth of it is -- Jake was one of the most dominant wrestlers of the 1980's, a grappler who was always well-regarded because of his knowledge of ring psychology, bankable gimmick and devastating moveset. He should have been a world champion, or at the very least, champion on SmackDown.
Yet it wasn't meant to be. Instead of driving down the Path of Straight and Narrow, Jake took a Road Less Traveled, en route to his own personal Highway To Hell, stopping briefly to take a piss at the Truck Stop of Destiny, before receiving a Tune-Up Call of Doom to get his life in order (and his muffler repaired).
Oh, and don't worry -- I'm not going to keep this "road" analogy going throughout the entire column the way I sometimes do; that would be overkill. Also, I've already run out of jokes. So buckle up and let's begin... The True Wrestling Story of Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
During his early days, he was known as Jake "The Parrot" Roberts.
Jake was born Aurelian Smith Jr. in 1955. Now, no offense here, but you just know that with a name like "Aurelian Smith Jr.", the guy wasn't exactly going to be headlining pay-per-views one day.
In fact, that sounds like the name of the kind of jobber that would team with Terry Gibbs on a 1987 episode of WWF Wrestling Challenge against Strike Force. Or have his hair cut by Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake. Or get DDT'd by... well, you get my point.
Roberts... sorry, I mean, "Aurelian Smith Jr." (ugh) was born into a wrestling family. His father was one-time WCW commissioner Grizzly Smith. His stepsister was former WWF Women's Champion Rockin' Robin (real name: Rockin' Roberta) and his stepbrother was scrawny WWF jobber Sam Houston, who was married to Baby Doll. Lesser-known facts: Jake's second cousin was Virgil and his uncle was Max Muscle.
His grandmother? Missy Hyatt.
A photo taken during the days of Jake "The Dog" Roberts. And no, I have no idea what he's doing with that poor pug...
So Aurelian decided to become a wrestler and changed his name to the more soap-operaish Jake Roberts ("It's true, Brock. I've been having an affair with Dr. Jake Roberts for six months now."). He plied his trade in the territories, such as the Mid-South, the Southwest, the Northeast, the Deep West, Outer Texas, Lower Missouri, Southern Indiana, Mideastern Iowa, Upper Cleveland, Deepest, Darkest Africa, and, finally, the prestigious NWA East West, before moving to the World Wrestling Federation.
Seriously. That's all I know about the pre-WWF Jake. Leave me alone!
Jake "The Bear" Roberts chats with Mean Gene Okerlund and little-known mascot "Charlie".
Jake took to the circus-like atmosphere of the WWF immediately, fitting in with sideshow acts like George "The Animal" Steele, "The Bird Man" Koko B. Ware, The British Bulldogs (no relation) and Bruno Sammartino.
His gimmick was that he would carry a huge snake around in a green sack, yanking it out later and spreading it on prone opponents. Which, eerily enough, is exactly how I describe my early years as a porn star.
At first, most of Jake's wins came at the expense of DL's ("Designated Losers", which is what we used to call jobbers back in the day) such as George Welles, Leapin' Lanny Poffo, Siva Afi (Fijian for "I suck ass"), S.D. "Special Delivery" Jones and Aurelian Smith Jr.
Then he got his big break on an episode of Saturday Night's Main Event (I believe it was the one where Bobby "The Brain" Heenan was ejected from ringside and "Mean" Gene Okerlund said something stupid).
Instead of wrestling opponent Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Jake DDT'd him on the concrete floor, using the little-known "fake head" trick to make it look he'd seriously injured the future Intercontinental Champion. He then added insult to injury -- literally -- by pouring his python Damien (real name: "Alice") on top of Steamboat.
Steamboat and Roberts battled in house shows around the country, including one memorable encounter in Toronto before about 750,000 fans (source: Billy Red Lyons) that ended with both men bloody and exhausted (which - again - could also be used as a description for my porn career).
Jake "The Tiger" Roberts.
Shortly after the Steamboat feud, Roberts was given the opportunity to host his own talk show. But instead of taking that job (he was originally going to be "Arsenio"), Jake began hosting an interview segment on WWF programming called "The Snake Pit".
It was on that very segment that Jake was accidentally hit over the head repeatedly with a guitar by shoot-interview specialist The Honky Tonk Man. That incident culminated in a match at WrestleMania III, witnessed live by 950,000 fans (source: Hulk Hogan).
From there, Jake was turned "babyface" (industry jargon for a rulebreaker) so that he could face the company's top "heels" (fan favorites). This included prolonged rivalries with Ravishing Rick Rude over the honor of wife Cheryl Roberts; with Andre The Giant over the honor of his snake Damien; with Ted DiBiase over the honor of the Million Dollar Belt; with Rick Martel over the honor of his vision; and with Earthquake over the honor of his squashed snake Damien.
At one point, the WWF began monkeying around with Jake's gimmick. Get it? Monkey? Huh? Huh? Awww... never mind...
A turning point in Jake's career came when he convinced The Ultimate Warrior to "trust him" as he prepared the nutcase for a feud with The Undertaker.
"FOOK YOU!" Roberts shouted at Warrior after he refused to shake his hand at an autograph show. "WHAT THE FOOK ARE YOU DOING TO ME? I KNOW HEEM FROM GEORGIA, MAN! FOOK YOU! YOU BRING ME HERE AND HE TREATS ME LIKE THAT? FOOK HIM, AND FOOK SECURITY!"
These days, as anyone who has been watching wrestling since the Vince Russo era could tell you, whenever someone says they can be trusted, it means they can't be trusted. But despite Warrior's legendary fanatical multidisciplinary intelligenceism, he fell for the oldest trick in the book.
Jake the Snake had returned to his evil roots, and he would never quite be the same again.
... OR WOULD HE???
As Jake "The Hippo" Roberts, he often let his mascot violate opponents.
... he wouldn't.
After Warrior returned to Parts Unknown (Town motto: "Come see the world's largest wrestling mask, off Interstate 22"), Roberts turned his attention to "Macho Man" Randy Savage. During Savage's wedding to Miss Elizabeth, Roberts gave them a pet cobra as a gift. Personally, I would have gone with a gravy boat or something off of their registry...
When that feud ran its course, Roberts began a program with The Undertaker that culminated in a match at WrestleMania VIII in front of 860 million fans (source: James Guttman). Following that, he left the World Wrestling Federation, never to return, or at least not for several years.
Roberts then moved to World Championship Wrestling, but because that promotion sucked, we're just going to sort of gloss over it.
Because Jake "The Personal Demons" Roberts would have been tough to illustrate.
Around this time, it became apparent to top insider sources (such as myself and Dave Meltzer) that Jake may have had something of a substance abuse problem.
In painstaking detail, he revealed on World Wrestling Federation programming how, for years, he had struggled with alcohol, cocaine, speed, pot, dexatrim, IcoPro ("You've got to want it!"), LSD, steroids and Stacker 2 ("The world's strongest fat burner!").
To many, it was a sign that professional sleazeball Vince McMahon was finally acting responsibly towards the many addictive personalities his company's lifestyle had encouraged.
To show just how supportive they were, the World Wrestling Federation placed Jake in a program with Jerry "The King" Lawler, who sensitively forced him to chug alcohol against his will.
Oh, and then another alcohol-loving king, 1996 King of the Ring winner "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, sensitively renounced Jake's newfound religious beliefs in an acceptance speech.
Oh, and then after sensitively changing his role from "active wrestler" to "road agent", they sensitively fired him.
Jake "The Bigmouth Bass" Roberts doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it?
Towards the end of the twentieth century, Jake Roberts partied like it was 1999. Which... um, it was, but I couldn't think of another way to get into this section without that lame play on words.
First came the Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view in October 1999, an event so lame that it was universally declared the lamest wrestling in history. And, yes, I've seen most of the TNA ones.
Roberts was scheduled to face Jim "I can't believe I'm the only Hart Foundation member left who isn't dead or permanently injured" Neidhart. Before the match began, Roberts gave an interview that was
almost Khali-like in its delivery
stumbled to the ring
, re-did his entrance for no apparent reason, and then
got uncomfortably intimate with his snake
(I LOVE YouTube!).
The match soon turned into a tag team affair featuring Canadian Bulldog favorite King Kong Bundy and a weather balloon that kind of looked like Yokozuna. Is it wrong of me that I'd rather watch this match than a typical ROH show?
The other event that happened in 1999 was Jake's involvement in the documentary "Beyond The Mat", in which he wrestled at an independent show, got stoned and mumbled incoherently. Which is kind of where I see Rob Van Dam in about two years' time...
Jake "The Horse" Roberts -- Ugh. Thank goodness there's only one chapter left to go after this...
Humiliated by the two events, Roberts moved to England where he trained wrestlers, competed at sparsely-attended shows, and rejected Canadian Bulldog's attempt to
star in a new reality-television show
In 2004, Jake was charged by U.K. authorities for allegedly letting his pet snake starve to death (and don't snakes eat, like, only every three or four weeks? Geez, remind me never to let him water my plants). He then moved back to the U.S. and in January 2005, was arrested for
alleged possession of cocaine
Come on - you have admit that two out of five YouTube videos featuring The Iron Shiek is rather impressive...
No, this wasn't done to show you Jake "The Orangutan" Roberts; I'm just making an editorial comment about Randy Orton.
Clean, sober, and (to be honest) kind of fat, Roberts made his triumphant return to World Wrestling Entertainment last year (motto: "Anything can happen in WWE... so long as Vince and Stephanie approve it."), warning Randy Orton that he was going to lose to The Undertaker at WrestleMania. Fuck, I don't know why they flew Jake in; I could have told Randy that.
Capitalizing on Roberts' newfound sobriety, WWE filmed what turned out to be an excellent DVD chronicling his life and times in the industry. Roberts then had a brief stint in Total Nonstop Action wrestling, but because that promotion sucked, we're just going to sort of gloss over it.
Now that he's on the right path again, one can fully expect great things to come from the twisted mind of Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
For True Wrestling Stories, I'm Canadian Bulldog.
Canadian Bulldog is a borderline journalist who writes weekly for
World Wrestling Insanity
and has published
his own book
of nutty e-mails to wrestlers. See his obscenely expensive
for more details. He welcomes your comments at Bulldog@worldwrestlinginsanity.com