The Legend of Jake “The Snake” Roberts
It’s hard to pinpoint when someone becomes a legend in our eyes. It can be something as simple as the way they talked or acted. Maybe it was their entrance music. Or all of the above and more. The latter would be what best describes the legend of Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
From the first time he appeared on our televisions, he held out attention. He froze us in our seats with an intense gaze that was both scary and laughing. He kept us enthralled with his gruff, hypnotic-like voice. But it was what he did after the match that sold him for a great number of us.
Few equals in the ring
Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ ring psychology was second to none and is reminiscent of Ted DiBiase’s skill on the mic.But that wasn’t all.
We were used to wrestlers carrying all sorts of items to the ring like Freddie Blassie or Mr. Fuji’s cane, Jimmy Hart’s microphone, or Koko B. Ware’s bird, a macaw named Frankie. But there was something about the plain line-green or gray sack Roberts carried over his shoulder.
After hitting his DDT finisher and pinning his opponent, Roberts would let his pet python, Damien, out of play. He’d slide it out of the bag and set it on his unconscious opponent’s body. Sometimes, he’d even wrap Damien around his opponent. Or course, his opponent would salivate and twitch like he was being strangled by the python.
One of his most memorable feuds was with Randy “Macho Man” Savage. During this feud, one of Roberts introduced us to another snake he had, a defanged King Cobra named Lucifer. In one of the more grizzly and terrifying moments in WWE history, Savage was tied up in the ropes and Roberts had Lucifer bite Savage on the arm. What made this memorable was the fact the cobra wouldn’t let go no matter what Roberts did and Savage’s paranoia that the snake wasn’t really defanged. Prior to the match, according to Roberts, Savage made Roberts let the snake bite him. Without that, Savage refused to do the bit.
Demons be damned
Jake Roberts has a long history with drug and alcohol abuse and had tried to get clean multiple times throughout his life. In 2008, he spent some time in a WWE paid program (The WWE had started a policy of paying all of the expenses for former tent that wanted to enter a drug rehabilitation program)and seemed to be on the right track, but his demons returned in 2012 when he was in financial trouble.
It was during this time that he moved in with Diamond Dallas Page in Atlante, Georgia. His struggles were chronicled in the documentary, The Resurrection of Jake the Snake.
Having kicked his demons to the curb, he was diagnosed with muscular cancer below his knee in 2014. TMZ reported it, to which he replied, “If the devil can’t defeat me, cancer doesn’t stand a chance in hell! Pray for sick children who face this horrible disease ’cause The Snake will be just fine.” In July of that year, he announced he was cancer free.
He may have saved the WWE
This may be a stretch, but I’ll let you decide.
During the Monday Night Wars, the WWE was on the verge of going bankrupt, forever changing the landscape of professional wrestling as we know it. The WWE needed a hero, someone to carry their banner and lead them onto the battlefield. In the 1996 King of the Ring tournament, they found the man who started a phenomena with “Austin 3:16 says I just kicked you’re a–.”
Yep, according to an interview, Roberts admitted he was one of the only ones pushing for Steve Austin as McMahon didn’t think he was a main eventer.
Given how they were unable to find a gimmick for Austin before throwing their hands in the air and letting him be himself, there’s little reason to not believe this account.
Nothing like one snake looking out for another, right?
Sometimes, legends are made from what we don’t see.