In the 1980s and early '90s, professional wrestler Jake "The Snake" Roberts reigned as one of the WWE's biggest and baddest superstars. Distinguishing himself with the menacing live python that he wore around his neck as well as his legendary feuds with rival wrestlers Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, and Ultimate Warrior, Jake managed to rack up an impressive list of wrestling accomplishments before his career was sidelined by drug and alcohol abuse. The biographical documentary PICK YOUR POISON revisits The Snake's remarkable legacy with interviews, vintage promos, and 10 of his most memorable matches, including the 1988 Rude Awakening vs. DDT Match against "Ravishing" Rick Rude, the 1996 King of the Ring Final against Stone Cold Austin, and the 1996 Summerslam against Jerry "The King" Lawler.
When you think of a professional wrestler, especially from the late 80s, you probably think of a juiced-up behemoth yelling threats into a microphone. Well, the focus of our feature wasn't a hulking bodybuilder, never held any WWF championship, never feuded with any of the top names, but he still ranks right up there among the greats. You see, when he had the mic in his hand, he didn't scream, he didn't yell. He didn't have to. His tongue was golden, and through words alone he could raise the hairs on your arm. Unfortunately, both his life and career would be derailed by a host of personal demons. Tonight, we take a look at the infamous Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
Primarily narrated by Jake himself, with input from a few others, Pick Your Poison starts off by revealing the downright horrible nature of his childhood. Hell, his very conception (the result of Jake's father raping his girlfriend's twelve year old daughter) is traumatic, so right from the word "Go" you can see the kind of shit he was dealing with. As he tells the tale, you sit in disbelief, unable to digest that one kid lived through so much trauma. Part of his father's abuse included ridiculing his son's choice to become a professional wrestler. Well, proving his father wrong was all the motivation he needed to join the territories (the equivalent of the minor leagues). He bounced around for awhile, creating one of the most popular moves in wrestling's repertoire, the DDT in the process, before eventually joining the WWF in 1986. He was wildy effective at what he did, but the years of excessive drink and drugs quickly took their toll. Once again, Jake's voice is his greatest asset, and his skill only adds chills as he takes us through his life. Hell, Jake's thoughts are perhaps the most powerful part of the documentary. He describes everything with honesty and candor, but it's obvious that he's not exactly proud of the life he's led.
As powerful as Jake's storytelling is, he's joined by a myriad of legends who also weigh in on Roberts' career. Ted Dibiase, Ricky Steamboat, Bruce Pritchard, Hulk Hogan, Jim Ross, Gene Oakland, John Cena. A who's who if ever there was one. Most of these men were right in the thick of things with Jake's late 80s/early 90s run, and you could tell just how much respect they have for him. And how much it breaks their hearts to see his fall from grace. Ted Dibiase in particular tells a story about finding Jake in a hotel room, obviously stoned after what had been a prolonged sober run, and even years later, the sadness in his voice is palpable. On the other hand, that was all ring announce Hugo Savinovich could talk about. His input rarely had anything to do with the subject on hand. I mean, at one point everyone's talking about the power of the snake he carried to the ring and he comes out with how it was a metaphor for his drugs and demons and yada yada. It's an important part of the documentary sure, but they could have edited him in there better to actually go along with the flow.
Aside from the documentary, the three-DVD set has a host of extras including a bunch of matches throughout his career, a few interviews, and a trio of episodes from his talk-show segment The Snake Pit. WWE has taken pieces throughout his entire career, and we're treated to some of his early work in smaller territories, that iffy match that defines his WCW career, a few encounters from ECW, and even one from the oft-ignored Smokey Mountain Wrestling. On the one hand, it was nice to encompass the full range of his career, but it sure is depressing seeing how far he's fallen when you get to the late 90s. It goes right along with the theme of the documentary itself, and I'm sure it was done on purpose, but damn. The full match list consists of:
vs. Ricky Steamboat (The Big Event 1986)
vs. The Honky Tonk Man (Wrestlemania III)
vs. "Ravishing" Rick Rude (WWF 10/24/86)
with Rick Steamboat vs. Jim Nelson & Mike Miller (Mid-Atlantic 9/9/81)
vs. Ronnie Garvin - World TV Title Match (Georgia Championship Wrestling 12/3/83)
vs. "Leaping" Lanny Poffo, and afterwards where Jake has an actual cobra bite Poffo's brother, Macho Man Randy Savage (WWF 3/18/86)
vs. Earthquake (Superstars 04/27/91)
Attacking the "Macho Man" Randy Savage With a King Cobra (Superstars 11/23/91)
vs. Sting - Coal Miner's Glove Match (Halloween Havoc 1992)
vs. Dirty White Boy - Smokey Mountain Heavyweight Title Match (Smokey Mountain Wrestling 5/7/94)
vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (King of the Ring 1996)
vs. Jerry "The King" Lawler (SummerSlam 1996)
Run-in during Tommy Dreamer vs. Jerry "The King" Lawler (Hardcore Heaven 1997)
with Tommy Dreamer vs. Justin Credible & Jack Victory (November 2 Remember 1998)
To be perfectly honest, it's amazing that Roberts didn't die a long time ago, but he's hung in there. Sometimes against his best efforts. Recently however, he's found a new lease on life. In the Fall of 2012, fellow wrestler Diamond Dallas Page took Roberts into his home, and started him on his patented yoga system. Roberts has now been sober for more than six months, lost over sixty pounds, and after asking the fans for a little help, has gotten surgery on some of those nagging injuries. There's even been light discussion of a comeback at 2014's Royal Rumble (I don't want to get ahead of myself, but if an up-and-coming heel came out with Jake as a manager, I'd mark out like a six-year-old Cena fan). Obviously, recovery is going to be a life-long journey, and after Pick Your Poison puts into perspective just exactly how far he'd fallen, it's amazing seeing the man climbing back to his feet after a lifetime of torment. Wrestling fan or no, the story told here will send shivers up your spine. Trust me. 9/10
- added 01/28/2014, 03:08 AM
Jake's miraculous rebirth continues. It's just
been announced that he's being inducted into the
WWE Hall of Fame! Congrats Jake!