An iconic figure in the world of professional wrestling, Jake “The Snake” Roberts enjoyed a storied career before falling victim to alcoholism and drug addiction. His story could have ended in tragedy, like so many of his fellow grapplers, but Roberts was given a new lease on life thanks to an old friend: Diamond Dallas Page.
A former wrestling star himself, Page reinvented himself as a health and fitness guru, and is the creator of the immensely popular DDP Yoga workout program. Determined not to let his old friend suffer in solitude, Page invited Roberts to move into his Atlanta home, where he spent more than two years helping Roberts lose more than 80 pounds, kick his addiction to booze and cocaine, and get his life back in order.
The journey was captured in The Resurrection of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, a warts-and-all documentary that tells the tale of Roberts’ recovery and redemption, which culminated in his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014. The film premiered to stellar reviews at the Slamdance Film Festival, and is expected to be released later this year.
These days, Roberts can be seen at any of his numerous public appearances at pop culture conventions, or during his Unspoken Word stage performances in venues across the country. You can even hear him voicing himself in the animated comedy Lucas Bros. Moving Co., which airs as part of FXX’s Animation Domination lineup.
Earlier this week, we were fortunate enough to speak with Roberts via telephone during a special episode of the Drinks and Discourse podcast. You can listen to the entire episode via the embed below (or download here), or keep reading for some of the highlights.
On discovering that professional wrestling wasn’t real:
“It was horrible, man. All my life, I had always been worried for my father’s health. The matches he was going through, he was a main eventer, so he was doing a lot of cutting and bleeding… he was the focus on all the cards he was on. So to be terrified, as a child, thinking your dad’s gonna get killed… it really broke my heart, man.
I was very upset, because I realized my father had played all of us kids. All those years, when we were scared to death for his safety, he was playing it… You look at your dad as the guy that would never lie to you, and never do anything wrong to you, and then you find out he’s a total con artist… I really wanted to throw up, man. I was devastated.”
On the difficulty of masking his real-life fear of snakes:
“Hell yeah, it was [difficult], man. Being bitten as many times as I was bitten by those damn things? Having a python get around my neck and put me out? One night during a match in Indianapolis, I was wrestling [Ricky] Steamboat, and it got around my neck and put me out before I knew what had happened. It just happened so quick.
Messing with the cobra wasn’t a problem, because it was devenomized. But those damn pythons, man, they’ve got long gnarly fangs that just rip the shit out of our skin… I wish I had come up with something like Carl the Cockroach or something. It would have been a lot easier to carry around.”
On his struggle with addiction:
“I went off the deep end, man. Sometimes you do that when you lose your family, and you lose your dreams. I wanted to get rid of the pain, and I chose alcohol and cocaine to try to do it, man. I was in that fog for nearly twenty years, and I survived, and I came out the other side… I feel absolutely wonderful. I don’t miss it at all. I’ve got new dreams in my body, man.”
On his recovery and induction into the WWE Hall of Fame:
“I didn’t think it was ever going to happen… When we started that journey, there wasn’t a person in the world who believed that I could get clean, other than Diamond Dallas Page. He believed it, I didn’t. But through his love and his way of inspiring me and putting that fire back into my heart, it made all those things possible.
I had given up on life, man. I was trying to die. So to have that opportunity to come back, and be up on that big stage getting that ring that I didn’t think I would ever get… it’s the shit movies are made out of, you know? And by the way, we did make a movie out of it.”
On the positive receptions to The Resurrection of Jake “The Snake” Roberts documentary:
“It feels great, and it also feels great when I’m getting feedback from people who are struggling with the problem that I had, or people that have maybe washed their hands of somebody in their family. Or maybe it’s a great friend they’ve washed their hands of, because that person has a problem. These people now are rethinking, they’re going out and giving that person another chance, and trying to help them.”
On whether he’ll return to the WWE ring:
“I hope so. I’m going to talk to Vince McMahon [about it]at WrestleMania. I would like my last match, forever, to be at WrestleMania next year in Dallas, Texas. I would love to be on that show. I want to go out and give it my best, and I would be in much better shape than I probably was at the end of my career.
I still believe there’s a lot of people out there who would like to see me have one more match. I would certainly like to do it… That would certainly be the greatest way to go out. I think that would be awesome, man.”
On a possible opponent for his final match:
“I’d like it to be a situation where it would help him. I can think of a thousand scenarios… ideally, it would be something with Bray Wyatt… [but]he doesn’t need Jake Roberts. So it’s gotta be somebody that’s on the way up, that needs a little extra ‘oomph’ like Steve Austin did. And we’ll see if I can’t help them out.
Maybe it could be a situation where the winner must use the DDT, and from that point on, they’re the master of the DDT. How about that?”
Catch Jake providing the voice of his animated counterpart in Lucas Bros. Moving Co., part of FXX’s Animation Domination lineup. And be sure to follow him on Twitter @JakeSnakeDDT to keep up to date with his personal appearance schedule.