Not sure if you guys were tuning in to WWE’s Monday Night Raw this week, but if you’re an old school wrestling fans like myself, you got quite a treat. The WWE put on another version of their Old Timer’s Day, Old School Raw. We saw the return of several stars of the 80s (the Hogan Era) and the 90s (the Attitude Era), including “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Bob Backlund, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Rikishi, tag team Too Cool and one of my personal favorites, The Godfather (gotta love that hooooooooooo train). The WWE saved the best for last, however, as the end of the main event (a pretty great match between Roman Reigns and CM Punk) featured a run-in from none other than Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
For you younger fans who don’t know who Roberts is, I’ll do a brief career retrospective for you. However, as usual, I only really know him from his days in the WWF, so the focus will be mostly on that. Aurelian Smith, Jr., aka Jake Roberts, was born in Gainesville, Texas to wrestler Aurelian “Grizzly” Smith. According to Jake’s story in the 1999 documentary Beyond the Mat , Smith was dating Jake’s grandmother, raped her 12-year old daughter and that’s how Jake was born. If it’s the truth (Jake was heavily into drugs while the documentary was being made), that’s pretty awful stuff. We’ll discuss this a little more later on.
Jake started wrestling in the southern territories in the mid-to-late 70s, until he got his big exposure in Fritz Von Erich‘s WCCW in Texas in the mid 80s. It was then that he was noticed by Vince McMahon, and he signed with the WWF in 1986. His gimmick basically made him an instant legend, in my eyes. He portrayed a really creepy, dark character who carried a real python in a burlap sack that he used to terrorize his opponents. Every time he won a match with his patented DDT finishing move, he would lay the snake out on his knocked out opponent, which led to a pretty messy wake up for the poor soul he’d left laying just seconds earlier. If that’s not entertainment, I don’t know what is.
Jake switched from heel (bad guy) to face (good guy) throughout his first tenure in the WWF, notably feuding with such legends as Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, The Honky Tonk Man, “The Model” Rick Martel, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase and even The Undertaker. The most notable things that I remember from Roberts were the guitar shot from The Honky Tonk Man (one done before gimmicked guitars that allegedly really injured Roberts’ neck), when Rick Rude wore pants that were spray painted with Roberts’ wife’s face on the crotch and when he had Damien take a bite out of “Macho Man” Randy Savage (We previously covered this long ago). You might not rank these up there, but for me, they stand out the most. I loved this character when Jake was a good guy, and I hated him when he was a bad guy, which is what every wrestler hopes to inspire in fans.
One of the Most Traumatizing Moments of My Childhood:
Jake eventually left for a two year stint in WCW and, after a couple of years in the independents and Mexico, he came back to the WWF in 1996 as a bible thumping, Christian version of his Jake “The Snake” Character. This run was pretty unremarkable, but it was at the King of the Ring pay per view in 1996 that a young “Stone Cold” Steve Austin beat Jake in the finals and uttered the memorable line:
“You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn’t get you anywhere! Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16… Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!”
That line sort of kicked off the entire Attitude Era, and quickly became one of the best selling merchandise catchphrases in the world. At least Jake can say his character inspired the line that basically led to the one of the most profitable periods in WWF/WWE history.
After this time in his career, Roberts became a real cautionary tale in the wrestling business. The demons from his early life, as well as pain caused by injuries during his professional wrestling career, had led him to become a functioning drug addict pretty early on, but things got out of control for him. His appearance in Beyond the Mat, in which he looked grossly overweight and pathetically addicted to crack, was pretty hard to watch. He then famously showed up to a Heroes of Wrestling pay per view event completely shit-housed on what I imagine to have been a combination of whatever drug and alcohol he was able to get his hands on. He made sporadic appearances in the independents, and even in ECW, but nothing ever lasted. He was even arrested in Great Brittain, where he was working, for allowing his snake to die of starvation in a garage.a We’re talking full blown addict here.
A couple of years ago, Roberts started training with former WCW and WWE superstar “Diamond” Dallas Page (in real life), and became a student of Page’s latest business venture, DDP Yoga. Wrestling fans had a bit of a laugh when they heard about this pairing, sarcastically wishing Page good luck in his attempt to clean Roberts up, but the treatment and training has been a resounding success. The two even recruited another drug addled wrestler, Scott Hall, to join them, and he’s said to be doing pretty well too. I cannot overstate how good Roberts looked on Raw the other day. He’s an old man now, nearing 60 years of age, and his hair was probably dyed, but he looked fit and trim, and he still had the snake (and the mustache). It was great to see him back in WWE’s good graces, and I hope that leads to a Hall of Fame induction this year.
Congratulations, old friend. It was great seeing you on our TV again! Check out the video below.
Roberts Returns to Monday Night Raw:
Featured image courtesy of: WWE
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/beds/bucks/herts/3972907.stm (back)
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