“Jake was such a strong character, such a strong persona, he never needed to be champion, he just needed to be Jake The Snake.” Those were the words of Arn Anderson to Inside The Ropes recently when he discussed the legacy of the WWE legend that is Jake Roberts.
Roberts would cement his legacy as one of wrestling’s biggest characters through his incredible promos, wonderful in-ring psychology and affinity with snakes but, as detailed in our recent Wrestler Spotlight on Jake in Issue 6 of Inside The Ropes Magazine, it was his battles outside the ring that made headlines after being bitten by addiction and suffering several health woes. Thanks to some assistance from Diamond Dallas Page, though, Roberts is a man reborn – and is now ready to tell the tale of the start of his life and career in an upcoming book, as Roberts recently told Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy.
So thank you so much for taking the time. The first thing I have to ask, last year, obviously, you announced that you were suffering from COPD. We wouldn’t know it from your recent appearances in AEW and you said on Twitter recently that your lungs will actually outlive the rest of you if you don’t smoke again. I need to ask firstly, how are you doing health-wise? Are you feeling good?
You know, I’ve got some issues that I have to watch, but it’s getting better all the time because I did quit smoking. That’s really hard to do. I will be around for a long time, I have grandkids I want to hang out with now. I want to make somebody else miserable, so have fun. Yeah, I’m doing much better.
That’s absolutely great to hear. It looks like you’ve been doing a lot better, at least. We’re going to talk a lot more about the start of your career, because I know you’ve got a book coming out, but I think I need to ask you a couple of things first, if that’s OK. I normally start off by apologising for my accent, but I know you’re actually quite familiar with Scotland and Glasgow. You actually ran a now-legendary seminar in East Kilbride, in a post office, where you pointed to former WWE Champion Drew McIntyre as being someone that was going to make it big. Do you remember much about that seminar, and why did you think he was going to make it?
Sure, I remember it, I remember saying, “He’s going to make it.” But, yeah, he’s a hell of a talent, man. I’m so happy for the guy.
The best thing about that entire thing is just knowing Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts was teaching a future WWE Champion in a post office in Glasgow. I actually heard that you lived in Glasgow for a bit! Is that true?
I don’t remember if that’s true or not, bro.
We’ll forgive you for that! In the words of DDP, you’ve had more lives than a cat! Your upcoming book covers a lot of your early career, I believe, pre-WWE, leading up to your first run with the company. Do we have a name for the book yet, or a release date?
I don’t have a title for it yet. I don’t have a date. I would say within the next three months, four months at the most. It will be worth worth waiting for. It’s going to be special, man.
I can’t wait for it. I recently wrote an article for the Inside The Ropes Magazine, all about your first run in WWF and doing my research on leading up to that point made me excited to read it! I need to ask. Your run as a heel in WWF was absolutely incredible but, despite doing despicable things, the crowd cheered for you so much, it essentially put the kibosh on a potential WWF Title run. Some of the things you done to be hated… You slapped Elizabeth, you had a snake bite Randy Savage’s arm. How easy or difficult was it to do those things? Did you struggle with any of your more sinister actions?
No. Me just being myself, going out there and having fun, that’s what I was doing, and I was very fortunate at the time to have people in place to take care of me. It was good, man.
Definitely – and it did all build this incredible character that’s one of the most iconic in wrestling history. Another of those is The Undertaker, who recently said you gave him advice on character during his earlier years. Do you recall that, and do you have any fond memories of working with the Undertaker or how he was in the locker room?
Yeah. When Mark first came up there, I realised he was going to be special and, if given the opportunity, and he was given the opportunity and he went along with it – we all know that – but I told him in the beginning that he was going to be a superstar, you know, that he would have that opportunity.
Vince picks who he wants and Vince picked Mark to go a long way, and he did. I’m happy for him, very happy for him.
One person I spoke with yesterday about an iconic Jake the Snake moment that I love is Jon Moxley. You’re both in AEW now but, back in WWE, you returned to RAW, hit Moxley, then Dean Ambrose, with a DDT, you put the snake on him and he had the biggest smile on his face. What do you remember from that, and were you meant to do more in the ring after that? It seemed like you were kind of teasing more appearances.
Yeah. Well, at the time, I was trying to get in line for the Rumble, but that didn’t happen. It’s probably a good thing it didn’t. But that’s done.
At the time, actually, Moxley… It really wasn’t Moxley’s fault because CM Punk, who was right there, told Moxley, “Oh, my God, the snake s*** on your chest,” so that’s why Moxley couldn’t stop laughing.
One other thing that had been speculated – you were mentioned on-screen as possibly being the “Higher Power” on RAW by Vince McMahon. Was that ever talked about behind the scenes as a potential plan at all?
Just using the iconic Jake Roberts name to generate some buzz! So, a lot of people always bring up the fact that Jake Roberts didn’t win a championship in wrestling. My argument for that is that your arm was busy carrying something more important, in Damien or Lucifer, and that the very same arm created one of the most iconic moves in wrestling – the DDT. I won’t ask about the name as I know you’ve said many times it was from a bottle of poison (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) and NOT Damien’s Death Trap. I want to ask your thoughts on that move, though, and how it’s used so regularly nowadays. Has it been diminished, or is it a good thing as no-one will ever do it like Jake Roberts?
Well, you know, the guys have really messed with using it as a high spot just to show all the fans that they’re not as good as I was. So, every time they use it, it reminds people how good I was. So I think it was pretty funny.
You know, today they just… They don’t use a lot of things properly and it’s sad but hopefully AEW is trying to do some things a little differently, I know I’ve met some people there and they’re trying to change the way things are done in the ring, so we’ll have to wait and see. Good wrestling may be coming.
The one thing I love about AEW is how they treat and use legends – the way you joined the company was incredible, you’ve got people like Arn Anderson, who you shared the for the first time ever in AEW, which is mind-blowing. Obviously, Sting is going to be wrestling there. DDP had a match. Tully Blanchard’s going to have a match. Does Jake The Snake have one more match in him? I know your last match was a six-man in 2018. Might we see some more physicality in AEW?
Probably. [He laughs]
You know, even though I shouldn’t. But if my health starts to get to a point where I feel like it’s safe, I definitely would, because I still love it. it’s hard to give it up, man, it really is.
Yeah, we definitely saw that from The Undertaker’s documentary, that thing of always chasing a dream match. He found the perfect final opponent in AJ Styles. Is there anyone you have your eye on if it were to become possible to have one more match?
No, not really.
I still want to do Bray Wyatt. I think we should have a Stripper’s Pole Match.
Well, that brings me perfectly to something else I wanted to talk about! Being 30, I’ve had to go back to watch most of the iconic Jake Roberts stuff I saw as a child, but one of my key memories from your career was actually in WCW. The Coal Miner’s Glove Match against Sting! How did that come about, and how do you look back on the Coal Miner’s Glove Match?
Yeah. It was tit for tat, we just had to go for it. I hadn’t wrestled Sting much and he obviously hadn’t seen much of me. We’re still professionals, man, so you’ve got to go out there and, when the bell rang, you’ve got to be ready to go. I thought the stripper’s pole, the Coal Miner’s Glove was probably the worst idea. There ain’t no way in hell I’m going up that pole.
One of the other things that sticks in my mind, and one of the most heartbreaking moments for me was Earthquake killing Damien. How did that come about? And with Lucifer replacing Damien later, was it an immediate regret when it happened or was that something that you wanted to do?
Well, that was an idea that was brought up and we went with it and the only thing that I called attention to was, Vince wanted it to happen where and I didn’t see Earthquake do the damage to Damien, but I argued with him on that and said it’s more important this guy ties me to the ropes, and this guy to show me what he’s doing. Because that’s really evil.
That really shows a lot of strong hate, man. For anybody, you’re caught in that position of being tied in the ropes, you can’t do a damn thing about what’s going on… It really gets to people and that got a lot of people. RSPCA gave me a hard time!
That brings me on to something else! You mentioned that you actually used to be scared of snakes, but it became crucial to your character. What people didn’t see was you actually travelled with, and shared a hotel room with, the snakes – which changed weekly! I’ve heard you played chicken with the snakes in your hotel room. Can you tell me about that? What was that relationship like of having to get used to a new snake every week and having to teach them while being scared of them?
You can’t really get used to them, you know, they don’t have much of a personality, you know. They really give you a hard time, in a hotel room, they really didn’t like hotel rooms. They destroy rooms.
I played chicken with the cobra because I knew that I could beat it, you know. The only time it got me was when the phone would ring or something and I’d forget what I was doing, turn my attention to the phone and then he would get me, but he doesn’t have fangs, he has teeth, so it didn’t really hurt that bad – so it was fun, man.
I think a lot of people may have a different perception of fun than Jake Roberts! Recently, I interviewed Diamond Dallas Page, a man you obviously know really well, and he mentioned how different you are now. He said, you’re a whole different cat, you’ve got a whole new life and doing your one man shows and being with AEW is something you love. What’s your relationship with Diamond Dallas Page? What do you think of DDP?
He’s done very well. You know, we had friendship a long time ago that started this whole thing, so we’re still living off of that.
The thing with Dallas is, the reason I helped Dallas was because he was so hungry, he wanted to learn. And I’ve always been one that felt like it’s my duty to teach people how to do it right. That’s the reason I helped the guy. He took it and he went with it, and he did pretty damn well, so kudos to him. We still talk all the time, and he’s done very well with the yoga and some other projects that he’s done. So keep going, man, just keep going.
I know your book is going to cover everything up to your first run and we’ve spoken a little bit about that run. One of the most iconic Jake the Snake things you’ve been involved with was in your second run, and the iconic Stone Cold Steve Austin ‘Austin 3:16’ promo at King of the Ring in 1996. Can you tell me about that? What are your memories of that time?
It was very smart. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and he did it, man. He took the pieces that were on the table and he made them go together. He was a great worker, he twisted and turned. As far as the 3:16 thing, man, that had been it’s been coming for a long time. I mean, in the States mostly, you seen it at all the football games, there was always somebody with that sign, so it was just Stone Cold doing it at the right time because there was a lot of focus on the match.
Another kind of sad thing that I always remember that was pretty emotive seeing on-screen… Obviously your battles with addiction have been well-documented and how you’ve amazingly overcome them, we got the Resurrection of Jake the Snake, but you were involved in a famous rivalry with Jerry the King Lawler, where he tried to force feed you a bottle of Jim Beam. How did you cope with that? Was that the kind of thing that you had any reluctance or hesitancy to do – or did you see it as part of the storytelling?
Well, I thought it was a horrible thing for McMahon to ask me to do. It was cheap, it was disrespectful, it didn’t prove a damn thing other than the fact that Vince McMahon’s an asshole, so there you go. Lawler, he’s in the the same boat. Both assholes.
It was particularly difficult to watch so I can only imagine how difficult it was to actually be part of. You’re in AEW now and working with Lance Archer, and even had a “first” recently when you shared the ring with Arn Anderson! I know you only signed for ten appearances then Cody was so happy with your work, he wanted to keep you around. What’s it been like working with Cody and how long will we see you in AEW?
Well, they’re going to see me as long as they want me. I think that there’s a great opportunity for them to use my knowledge.
If they don’t, it’s a mistake, but I think Cody Rhodes and the powers that be… Mr. Khan is a very wise man, he’s a great man, a good man, and I wish AEW nothing but the best, but I think they’re going to get some knowledge out of this old man and put it to use out there for some of the guys. It’s certainly my dream.
As far as how long? As long as they want me, man.
Fingers crossed, and obviously you are one of the most iconic characters in wrestling. You mentioned passing on that knowledge to the Undertaker in the past and in AEW now. Is there any younger talents in AEW that you look at and go, “Oh, they’ve got potential, they are going to be huge at one point”?
Yeah, absolutely! Darby… The Latin Sex God…
Yes. There’s a couple other guys that have it too but it’s all about evolving. You can’t just stop in the middle of the song and quit. You’ve got to keep on going. So it will be interesting to see these guys develop.
Yeah, I can’t wait to see how it goes. I’ve got two final questions, just to bring it back to your WWF days. I was a little bit young for this, but looking back, I always wondered, it seemed like yourself and Bret Hart were on a collision course in 1992 that never quite happened as you didn’t both stay in the company. Were there any plans, in 1992, for a Jake the Snake vs Bret Hart rivalry?
One of the things I had to ask as that would have been an incredible rivalry! We did see some incredible Jake the Snake matches. Your incredible promo ability and character work somehow seem to overshadow your legacy of being a great worker in terms of in-ring psychology. You shared the ring with some of the greats – Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage, Rick Rude – but who, for Jake Roberts, is the best in-ring worker of all time?
I don’t know. I don’t know. You need different guys for different reasons that are just phenomenal. Steamboat was known for his ability to sell, I was known for my ability to talk and get the most out of anything, because of my psychology. There’s a lot to be said for the fact, then you start going on the other side of the fence and you’ve got the Road Warriors and guys like that just went in there and brutalised people, tossed people around – that’s not great wrestling. That’s not great wrestling. Yeah, so I don’t know. I don’t know, but it could be me. I don’t know.
I’m most definitely not going to argue with Jake Roberts, I’ll tell you that much. Thank you so much for taking the time, Jake! I can’t wait to read the book, and best of luck with your health and career in the future.
I appreciate you very much. Thank you for having me on, let’s do it again sometime – and you know, do me a favour and help somebody. Just help somebody. That’s all. If we all help somebody, we’ll all live better lives.
Thank you so much to Jake Roberts for taking the time.